Under the Red Umbrella

Wren helps me read under the red umbrella this morning. I had turned the chair toward the house so that I could watch the most exciting development here at Mirador in a couple of years. The phoebes are nesting again under the deck!

They only just committed to it today. I’ve been seeing a solo phoebe flying in and out, singing from the top of the tower or the birch tree, occasionally for a couple of weeks, and was happy yesterday to see a pair flitting around the house a few times. This morning one of them flew up to the nest platform multiple times and flew off again, and then from inside the house I heard a long musical conversation, a gentle chirruping trill that went on and on as he sat on the cable swing, and she on the cat ladder, the nest platform above and between them. After that, there was steady traffic to the platform with fluff in beaks all day.

I kept my distance to give them time to get established in their apartment before settling into my outdoor living room. The old nests I had taken down when I reset the platform so it would have better protection for them, I had set in a pot on the edge of the patio. Several visits were made to pillage the old material for the new nest. I have been filled with joy and gratitude all day that these lovely, personable, flycatchers are back. Not only was I lonely in their absence the past two summers, having grown accustomed to their lively presence, I also missed their voracious appetites for flies and grasshoppers. I’m so grateful that the phoebes are back.

Seasonal Surprises and Joys

It’s been a long time since we had Boyz Lunch, and I’m grateful that we were finally able to get together this afternoon. I made the celery-white bean ragout that was so delicious awhile ago, and used green beans instead of zucchini. On the side I served the leftover asparagus salad, and a piece of buttered sourdough toast with cheddar cheese. Along with the obligatory iced vanilla lattes. It was a perfectly gorgeous day, sunny but not too hot, with a steady breeze. We were all a little giddy to be gathering again, and thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely visit. Dessert was raspberry cheesecake thumbprint cookies.

After a busy day, after gratitude for hosting an online evening meeting, Wren and I stepped out of the yard for the first time today. As we started up the driveway the familiar fragrance of Fremont holly assailed us, letting me know instantly that the giant bush next door was in bloom. So we made our first of our annual seasonal visits to hang out with it. I’m grateful for the cycle of seasonal surprises and joys.


I know I just posted my gratitude for lilacs a few days ago, but I can’t help myself. They are here so fleetingly, and with such a powerful presence. I can smell them from various places in the yard, their aroma a tender reminder calling me to come and stand or sit with them for a few minutes and inhale their cleansing fragrance. Like the wildflowers, their blossoms are more abundant this year than ever. Every couple of days I snip a few sprigs to bring inside and perfume the house.

I received a good-natured complaint today of a paucity of Wren images in recent posts, so we sat with the lilacs and rectified that omission. It looks like she’s diva posing, but the truth is that she didn’t want to sit still and kept snapping at gnats that were circling our heads.

I’m also grateful today for this fabulous Crispy Coconut, Asparagus and Green Bean Salad from Yotam Ottolenghi. I used the last of the wild asparagus and some green beans from last summer’s frozen harvest, and was grateful to have every other element in the kitchen including Aleppo pepper flakes and shredded unsweetened coconut, as well as fresh cilantro in the garden. It was an extraordinary combination of flavors and textures. I’ll be grateful tomorrow for the leftovers.

And I’m grateful that sourdough is so forgiving. I fell asleep this afternoon and let it rise too long, and ended up with a very wet, very flat loaf, which still cooked through with a beautiful crust, and will provide some very flat cheese sandwiches for this week’s lunches.


It’s so easy to go through the day on autopilot, attending to the usual things, whatever they are. I’m grateful for the practice of expanding my attention beyond the habitual. Moving a hose this morning next to the yucca, the habitual attention is to make sure I don’t poke myself on the sharp leaf tips; closer attention reveals a bud emerging from deep inside.

I walk past this bed several times a day sometimes without a glance. I’m grateful that today I paused to notice the first iris in bloom, and all the buds beyond, with blooming nepeta in the background.

With this lovely little dog, who seems content with much less exercise than the big dogs used to demand, I often don’t walk in the woods for a couple of days in a row. Today we went outside the yard twice, south in the morning where the screaming orange globe mallow welcomed us, and north in the afternoon, where there are more wildflowers in bloom than I’ve ever seen. This is the payoff for the long, cold, wet winter.

If I’ve ever seen white phlox here before, I don’t remember it. There was just one small patch of half a dozen clusters along the trail, amid a swath of pink. A few arrowleaf balsomroots are blooming

A few arrowleaf balsomroots are blooming in their usual corner of the trail, and just beyond them, tucked in the shade, a single wild larkspur.

There were many other thoughts and goings on that I might have spent my attention budget on instead, but I’m grateful that I took the time today to pay some attention to the forest and the profusion of wildflowers growing there. May is always the best season on the forest floor, and this year it’s more colorful than it’s been the whole thirty years I’ve been walking it.

Right Tool for the Job

Tomato last resort: I’ve surrendered to the late planting and cold spring. Time for extra effort. I saw this mini greenhouse hack on Instagram last night and knew it was the last chance for my seedlings. I’m grateful to have the right tools (almost) for the job: I haven’t been without a cordless drill in my adult life, I just lack the right bit for plastic but used a wood bit and barely cracked the box drilling vents. I’m grateful I had a spare craft storage box. This setup should bring them up to speed. We’ll know more later!

One thing I learned this week is that the seed-starting mix I used is crap. So though I was hoping to plant them directly, I also potted up the peppers this afternoon into a rich compost.


Lost the internets in a magnificent THUNdersnow yesterday afternoon and having all manner of challenges connecting to anything tonight. So I’m just grateful for the overarching illusion of Shangri-la this weekend.

French Toast

Thick homemade bread, local happy-hen eggs, whipping cream, cinnamon-sugar, butter, real organic Vermont maple syrup, all the people and effort and resources that went into getting all these ingredients into my kitchen just in time for me to make lunch today: I am grateful.