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Autumn Equinox

Aspen forests begin to turn gold on the slopes of Mendicant Ridge. I’m grateful to have enjoyed another full day of life today, three full seasons into this gratitude practice. And grateful, as always, to have spent this day in the company of this sweet old dog, and these ancient junipers.

Bonsai

I’ve been fascinated by the art of Bonsai since I was a child. I’m grateful that my mother brought awareness of this art, as she did many other arts, into my life. Most of my adult life I’ve kept a variety of trees and shrubs, mostly jades, in miniature, but never really learned the skills of Bonsai. The attraction has intensified in the past few years, and I’ve started several bonsais in training, including a couple of French lilacs, a pink honeysuckle, lemon geranium, culinary sage, and my pride and joy, a redwood. After hearing a friend in Australia wax eloquent about the fragrance of the jasmine hedge outside her house, I ordered a jasmine bonsai which arrived yesterday. I’ve always loved the scent of jasmine, too, and long intended to have one potted in the house. It’s not blooming at the moment, of course, and arrived dry but not desperate. It seemed like the perfect splurge.

I’m grateful to know about Bonsai, to have seen several astounding Bonsai shows and collections through the years, to have the facility and leisure to pursue this interest; grateful for the whisper of mortality to motivate me to get on with it already, and ramp up my focus on this pastime. Pastime. Pass time. Past time. No time like the present. Passing time, not killing, wasting, or spending it. Choosing to pass my time among yet more living beings, with the art of miniature trees. Why not? I’m grateful for choice, internet ordering, transport services, and other people with similar interests; grateful to live in a world where, all other things being as they are, I’m able to derive some small pleasure and satisfaction from a few little potted trees that conditions have allowed to take root in my house. I think Jasmine will be very happy here. I look forward to potting down some of the trainees this fall, and setting up a dedicated bonsai table in the sunroom for winter.

Apricot Tree

A resilient survivor, this apricot tree! She suffered the same brutal freeze last October as the almond tree who died, and the peach tree who lost half her limbs, and the desert willow, who has emerged finally this summer like a Dr. Seuss tree. The apricot tree simply curtailed her blossoms and turned her attention to her leaves, filling out beautifully.

And not only her leaves! She did make maybe a tenth of the blossoms as last year, maybe fewer, and now has some nice fat fruits. In the whole canopy, though, this is the densest concentration I found. But most of them are still green, and smaller, so she could surprise me. I doubt I’ll be making jam; and the Raspberry Queen down in Hotchkiss has only harvested a cup or two of berries from her prolific patch. Indeed, the fruit trees and shrubs have suffered this past year, from erratic weather in this new climate of extremes.

Today I’m grateful for the first few apricots, ripening on the resilient tree.

Sunset

I’m grateful today and every day for the gorgeous sunset. I’m grateful to have live through another precious day, a day that will never come again, in a life that continues to be blessed with so many opportunities. I’m grateful to live in a beautiful old-growth forest with ancient tree beings, and fleeting foxes, and an abundance of phoebes, among the many lives that make up this rich ecosystem. I’m grateful for the awareness to appreciate all this precious, ephemeral life, including my own. More about that tomorrow.

All Ten Feet

I’m grateful for all ten feet that enable Stellar and Topaz and me to walk through the woods most every morning. After visiting the Survivor, whom we haven’t been to see in a couple of months, we came home and rested by the pond, where they both drank and I meditated.

I’m grateful that I got all but a few cantaloupe starts planted, and all the soaker hoses set up, yesterday morning before my hand was curtailed. This will make the next month in the garden much easier. I’m grateful for the splint on my left hand because it hurts a lot less.

Help

While I try to be ‘self-sufficient,’ at least as much as a human can be in this interconnected world, I still really appreciate help. This morning Mr. Wilson brought a helper, Juan, and together we all got a whole lot done in the yarden. We started out by trespassing on the land next door, to liberate an old juniper from a former fence. The poor tree had been tangled in barbed wire for so long it had grown around some of it. I’d already pulled some coils free of the bark but it took the young men to untangle the wires completely and cut them off where they’d been absorbed into the tree. We salvaged two vintage fenceposts from the mess to use in the next project.

Another salvage operation: the old old shed in the dog pen that was here when I moved in almost thirty years ago, but was badly leaning with a rotten roof by now. They took off the old roof, straightened the shed, and braced it with numerous old posts, and will finish the job next time. I’ll have a shade structure for more garden work and storage, and Stellar and any future dogs will have a safe shed over the old old dog house, which was already old when Thelma gave it to me in 1994 – but so well constructed it’s still perfectly sound. The cardboard boxes will carpet the ground under wood chips as a ‘natural’ weed barrier.

They also unearthed some more rocks in the forming rock garden, and removed more weeds and grasses to increase my creative palette. I’m grateful for young muscle.
After they left, I was hungry and tired, and pulled a leftover breakfast burrito from the freezer. I’m grateful for a freezer, grateful I’ve learned how to make flour tortillas, grateful I learned to like beans, grateful for the peppers I grew last summer and the recipe I learned online to make fermented hot sauce straight from my garden; grateful for sour cream, and eggs, and the foresight to freeze a burrito for later. Next time, I’ll make half a dozen extra to freeze individually for some quick, delicious lunches when there’s nothing else handy.

I couldn’t do any of these things I’ve done today without the help of other people. I like to think of myself as self-sufficient, but when I really pause to examine everything good in my life it all comes back to education or assistance from other human beings. I don’t know about you, but I really am interconnected with everyone else. I rely on help from others for everything from the luxury of yard work to the fundamentals of feeding myself. I’m grateful to recognize this truth, and it motivates me to want the first question I ask in any situation to be How can I help?

And I’m grateful for this new King Arthur sourdough pizza crust recipe that takes half a day instead of overnight to be ready to cook, and for the experience I’ve gained making pizzas over the past year so that I can indulge in healthy, homemade pizza anytime. Among the best pizzas yet, with homemade tomato sauce, local andouille sausage, red onions and mozzarella cheese.

Wild Plum

I’m grateful for the wild plum that grew from a shoot I chopped from the rootstock of the almond many years ago, and planted. It blooms reliably, and even produced a few tart plums last year. The bees love it, and it frequently hosts the first butterfles of the season. I’m also grateful for the view!

Small Joys

A flat grey cloudy morning revealed an old tree in a new light I’d never quite seen like this before. I’m grateful for shifting perspectives.
On an afternoon walk, another delightful surprise in the woods, the tiniest globe cactus I’ve ever seen in bloom.
I’m grateful for horseradish from the Bad Dog Ranch a few years ago that’s now making babies, and for the mineral tubs given by my Garden Buddy to supplement the raised beds with more growing space; and I’m grateful for regionally adapted seeds from across the big canyon. Here I planted carrots in concentric circles starting from the horseradish. Why? It seemed like a good idea. We’ll know more later!
Inspired by the circle idea, I then tucked in radishes around the edge of this tire planter. The’ll grow and mature quickly, and not long after the tulips are done I’ll be able to pull radishes, and then grow something else in this pot. I’m grateful for the tire pots given by some neighbors when they moved, and for every color in these gorgeous yellow tulips. Here in the filtered light of an overcast midday…
… and here closed up this evening.
I’m grateful today also for a second attempt at homemade corn tortillas, much better than the first, filled with cheese, beans, avocado, sour cream, homemade salsa and hot sauce, and fresh pea shoots, for a fun, fulfilling and delicious lunch. I’m grateful for the small joys of living this particular life.

The Forest

The mysterious little anemone on the forest floor last month turns out to be what I thought it was, Indian paintbrush. I experienced a little time warp back then, thinking It can’t be paintbrush, it’s way too early. Then I remembered, it’s late April when it blooms, not when it emerges. And it’s scarlet flowers coincide regularly with the arrival of the first hummingbirds, usually around April 24.
The little buckwheats I mentioned the other day. Though this juniper forest doesn’t get ‘carpeted with flowers’ as some wetter ecosystems do in spring, I’m grateful for its delicate gems tucked and scattered about the forest floor.
I’m grateful for this early morning light on The Survivor, and that Stellar was able to walk all the way down there yesterday. This amazing ancient juniper was cut deeply with a saw, probably 70-100 years ago. Whether the tree was down first, or fell as a result of the attempted murder, the sawyers gave up and the tree survives. I’m grateful for this inspiration to never give up.
I’m grateful to walk through the forest in all different lights at all different times of day, and occasionally stumble upon the perfect slant of sun to light a tree’s face without shadows.
I’m grateful for even a little bit of snow today, and for a lot of apricot blossoms, and for the magical beauty of the two juxtaposed.
I’m grateful for the distinctive song of the Western Meadowlark, and for hearing a new sound from one this evening, perhaps an alarm call, which startled the heck out of me as we walked past at dusk. I had just put my hand in my coat pocket and touched my phone when this loud stuttering whistle went off. I pulled my phone out to see if it was some signal from it! In short order I realized it had to be a bird, and Stellar was off with his nose to the ground so I looked for a ground nest before I spied the meadowlark on the fencepost straight ahead. Checking the field guide later I learned that indeed meadowlarks build their nests on the ground. We’ll have to be more careful walking through there from now on. I’m grateful for filters which can turn a pretty bad photo into an impressionistic ‘sketch.’