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This Week in Tiny Lives

Her name is Wren. It came to me last week as I pondered “Ready,” which she responded to, and “Fen,” which I kind of liked better. Then those two merged into Wren, a sweet, delicate, little brown bird. Wrennie. She doesn’t know it starts with a different letter than Ready, and she came to it immediately; maybe thinking I’d developed a sudden speech impediment with that middle consonant.

Then, several people said, “Oh, like Ren and Stimpy?” What’s that? I had no idea there was a cartoon about some revolting creatures called “Ren, an emotionally unstable and sociopathic Chihuahua; and Stimpy, a good-natured yet dimwitted cat.” So no, NOT like that Ren; like a canyon wren, or a house wren, or a Carolina wren…

In the woods, May is the blooming month. Lots of little lives burgeoning.

Topaz is adapting to walks with Wren, and continues to examine the kittens from a few feet away now and then, but mostly just continues to live her prima donna life, going about her routine with her pretty little nose in the air.
Wren is fascinated with the kittens, as they are with her. When I open the crate to bring them out to eat, she is right there, and helps corral them as they scatter.
After his setback, Smokey went back on the bottle for a few days, but is now eating a slurry of canned kitten food mixed with formula.

Little Tigger fluctuated between eating well and gaining a bit, then losing weight. Last Wednesday he seemed listless. We had an appointment with a vet for the next day, and I had to go to the audiologist that afternoon, so I called a local foster expert, and she suggested giving him straight honey with a syringe. I did that for a couple of doses and he vomited after each dose. I cut back the dose and lengthened the interval and he seemed to keep it down and perk up. That night I offered him the food/formula slurry and he ate it well. Thursday morning he ate well again. I took them all to the vet with some stool samples, and the diagnosis was that he was “loaded with parasites.” He was also tested for FIV, and fortunately was negative. They gave him subcutaneous fluids to hydrate him. All three kittens were dosed for parasites, and we were sent home with medicine to administer daily for a week.

Tigger ate well Thursday and Friday, cleaning his own bowl and finishing off Smokey’s when he left some in it. I was so relieved to have him sorted out and on the mend. This morning, when I came down at seven, he lay limp in the corner as his brothers climbed and called for breakfast. I set them in their boxes with food, and picked up the tiny boy. It was clear to me that he was dying. I cradled him in my shirt and sang to him. He lay there, softly ticking… I thought it was a death rattle. After awhile, it dawned on me that it was a slow-motion purr.

I remembered Foster Friend telling about holding a dying puppy on her chest overnight, dosing it with honey, and how it came back to life. I thought about dehydration. I mixed a little water with maple syrup, and began to drip little bits into his mouth. He swallowed, his eyes brightened; I thought either I was prolonging his agony or I was reviving him. When I saw him lick his paw, I committed to the revival story. For the next few hours I gave him intermittent drips of fluid. He meowed a few times, yowled a few times, rested quietly, swallowed more, looked up at me… As I meditated and then talked with friends on zoom, he got very quiet and still. By the end of our conversation he was dead. I wrapped him in a cotton square, and buried him in the garden with Stellar.

I felt sad. I’m grateful for the skill of equanimity. Through the morning I kept things in perspective. Even as he lay warm and loved against my heart, there were thousands of kittens around the world dying of parasites in awful surroundings; there were human babies suffering malnutrition, neglect, and worse; there were species going extinct, and wars ravaging lives and cultures; there were politicians lying and corporations conniving; there were good people dropping dead in the prime of their life, and a pandemic surging again with a new, even more contagious variant. In a world of suffering, I loved a tiny kitten through his short little life and his inevitable death. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

Meanwhile, more little lives continue sprouting in the garden. The first potato leaves emerge from mulch as tiny peach buds open. I turn my attention to the ample beauty and life that remains to be nurtured as the garden rollercoaster ramps up…

Orange tulips gladden the end of a raised bed…
…and the crabapple tree glows gloriously.

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.