Tag Archive | gratitude

Raging Spring

Dramatic weather on the national news: record heat in the Northeast. Katie reports it was 91 in New Hampshire, Julie said 86 in New Brunswick. This afternoon I sawed a large limb off the wild plum, once the snow had dropped off it. Last night late, when I let the dogs out for midnight whiz, I was staggered by the weight of snow on all the trees and shrubs in the yard. With all their spring leaves on, their fading blossoms and baby fruits, they’ve so much more surface to hold the snow.

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A twelve-foot tall New Mexico foresteria outside the front door, flattened by snow. Behind it, that white mound between two junipers is the Amur Maple, easily a fifteen-foot tall sapling, limbs bent to the ground.

This was an especially dense wet snow. Limbs were down all over town.

I’ve felt particularly useless all day. Some national and some extremely local politics have drained me. I woke up anxious, felt like a fish out of water all day. My head is full of spaghetti. I am uncharacteristically dark; or perhaps I am cyclically dark. I gather this is the kind of matrix that causes spring’s swelling suicide rates. Winter has gone and things remain the same; snow returns with vigor. This too will change.

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The wild plum tree, broken under melting snow. Below, the same tree forty days ago…

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The massive pink honeysuckle, its fragrant blooms just opened days ago and covered in bees, bent this morning under a thick blanket.

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The flowers were resilient. Irises so recently in bloom I’ve haven’t begun to photograph them, bowed but not broken, standing nearly straight by afternoon, after everything melted. Before it started snowing again.

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Everything all gorgeous last weekend when I started planting annuals in pots, bringing out herbs and dahlias, potting up tomatoes, sprouting peppers.

Tonight I find surprising relief in watching the Weather Channel. Powerful storms rage across the central plains. Twelve tornadoes so far today, again. The winds this spring and last have been planetary. The atmosphere whips itself into a frenzy. We see only a small segment of the world’s weather on our television, maybe it’s different in other countries. We only see, for the most part, the weather over the continental US.

I might have been driving across the continental US this very day. If so, I’d have been glued to the Weather Channel, on TV if I could get it, or on my laptop, if I could get internet wherever I was hunkered down for the night, at whatever state park or back road hotel. Many’s the night I’ve fallen asleep to the weather, having memorized my place on the map, what county I was in so I’d know the name if I heard it under a tornado watch or warning, knowing the nearest towns in each direction, my exact location on the weather map as it flashed on the screen so I could track the radar at night.

There was a thrilling sense of aliveness on those treks across the country; knowing how near I was camped to a train track, so I would know if I heard a freight-train that it might actually be a train and not a tornado; knowing whether I was above or below a nearby dam, in case it blew; taking my chances having weighed all factors I could conceive of, always having an exit plan. I let myself escape the frustrations of today, my own harsh judgments, in the shiver of excitement watching weather. Feet of snow in the Rockies. Trailer park flattened in Kansas, tornado vortex signature in Missouri, spectacular lightning in Oklahoma. I might have been any one of those places today, but I’m not.

I inhale deeply, and exhale, my first relaxed breath of the day: I could have been there, driving my dogs and camper across the country to be with my dear auntie next week for her ninetieth birthday. I had planned to be on the way. But I decided a couple of months ago not to go, and I could not be more grateful. I did something right today, anyway: I stayed home.

Spring as Sure as Anything

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Brief glory Iris reticulata varieties, budding and blooming between the challenges of single digit nights, blowing snow, and someone biting their little heads off.

The big winds we had Sunday and Monday must have blown open the mechanical room door. I hardly went outside the whole 48 blustery hours, after battening down (almost) all the hatches in the hours before the “wind event” started. Once the clouds cleared the night dropped to nine degrees, and the water pipe between the pump and the pressure tank froze. When I woke yesterday morning all I knew was that there was no water in the house.

Here is an instance where I can recognize the benefits of daily meditation. I said Oh, and was glad I had filled the pitcher the night before, poured some for the cats and the coffee kettle. I broke the thin ice on the pond to bring up a bucket of water to flush the toilet. Suddenly the orchids I forgot to water the previous two days were in desperate need. I left a faucet open while I meditated, and when it began to trickle I ran all the faucets one by one. Once they were all primed I felt competently satisfied. A little later I heard a strange sound: out in the room with pump, water heaters, solar controllers and batteries: a geyser shooting at the north wall!

I flipped the pump breaker and shut the valve to the house. I realized later I could have run inside and run water into the sinks to help empty the pressure tank, cutting down the flood in the mechanical room. But I never felt the frustration and blame I once would have in this situation. I called my regular plumber. He was swamped, but said he’d come at the end of the day if I couldn’t find someone else. I called a number of plumbers, spoke to several pleasant people, and found one happy to come by around four. Then went back to work. All with remarkable calm.

I knew I washed my hands a lot during a day; I was more amused than frustrated to note just how many times I reached for the faucet or wished I could. Oh the sweet relief of hot water and soap! I felt so grateful to be able to wash the dishes. I had a lovely day despite the in-house drought. And I filled the pitcher and watering cans just in case last night.

This morning I was still thrilled to have running water! I tried out this turmeric lemonade recipe: 4 c. cold water, 2 T powdered turmeric, 4T maple syrup, and the juice of one lemon. Eh. I added the juice of one whole lime and a splash of cayenne, all in a quart jar, shook and chilled it and shook before drinking. Yum, finally! I’ve tried the capsules, but can’t even remember my regular vitamins half the time; I’ve tried the golden milk but don’t want to mess with that at bedtime and don’t really care for the flavor. This will be a great tonic to sip on throughout a hot summer day when I’m in and out gardening.

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Turmeric lemonade, anti-inflammatory and touted anti-depressant.

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Little yellow irises were just getting ready to open when a late February snow buried them. They waited just so for a week before it was warm enough to open. Below, the purples at ten am, and an hour later. 

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OK, this happened in December, but it sure felt like this when snow blew in while the buds were trying to bloom. Then perhaps this same doe came and ate their tops off.

In between editing audio meditations and video yoga, I’ve been getting outside to dabble in the garden again, on mild days for the past month. The first slow flat stretch of the roller coaster has begun. Cutting back dried stems, mindful of possible preying mantis or other egg cases; raking winter windfall leaves and snowbreak stalks, pruning broken limbs, trimming thymes, pulling off old iris leaves where new green tips stick up. Clearing the early-spring bulb bed. These first splashes of color signal the end of winter. We’ll see more snows, maybe some big snows, but they’ll melt within a few days and the flowers will appreciate the moisture. As sure as anything, there’s no stopping their reach for the sun.

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The Right Tools for the Job.

 

And the Sun Shines Again

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Raven on leash restriction for a few weeks after her annual New Year’s veterinary emergency, and happy Stellar bounding up the driveway on a rare sunny break between snowstorms.

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Most days looked like this when we all walked up the driveway, two dogs, two cats, and me.

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The garden in winter. Lots of shoveling.

It’s been a pretty good month, despite various personal, climatological, and political frustrations. Raven’s annual New Year’s veterinary emergency wasn’t too bad or too expensive, just ripped the annular ligament, separating her little toe on her front foot, and nothing to be done about it but time and rest. Lots of health challenges for me, but all turned out well, including my new bionic eyes, two cataract surgeries in the past three weeks. I can see the dirt and dust bunnies in the house so much better, and also the wrinkles on this almost-60 face. But also, read the computer and see the mountains without glasses. How white the snow is!

Things look brighter than ever this morning, and that’s partly due to the new eyes and partly because the sun is full on shining for the second day in a row. That’s only the fifth time so far this year we’ve had any sunshine, which poses challenges for anyone living off the grid on solar power. I was sick over my birthday and all my festivities got cancelled; but Dawn dropped off cake with candles and designer cupcakes along with a magnificent puzzle, Cynthia dropped off homemade ice-cream cake, and Kristian brought lunch and genuine pound cake. Deb had me up for dinner later that week and gave me Godiva truffles, and Suzi left bacon and sausage gift-wrapped in my freezer. So it was a great birthday after all.

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My own private birthday party.

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Van Gogh’s flower trio on loan from Karen, to make my enforced quarantine bearable.

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While friends across the country marched in cities large and small, I provided pussyhats to some of the women from our valley who went to Denver. This photo from my goddaughter Melody in DC.

Girlfriends wore the pussyhats I knitted to the Women’s March in Denver, and the spectacular turnout in support of “women’s rights are human rights” in large and small cities across the globe kept tears of joy and hope streaming for two full days. Last night I used some of the Christmas money Uncle Charles sent to order a new Liberty puzzle, On the Ngare Ndare River, one I’ve been unable to get out of my head since last puzzle season. Then I got reacquainted with my literary crush of last January, David Foster Wallace, reading a gift from John, the philosophical treatise All Things Shining, which devotes Chapter Two to discussion of Wallace’s genius.

I’ve taken in small bites reports of the disaster in DC that is our new president, presciently predicted twenty years ago in Wallace’s masterpiece Infinite Jest. But the fear, anger, and helplessness swirling through me and many who love this planet and revere all life on it took root in my subconscious. I’m told it’s tedious to tell people your dreams, so I’ve served last night’s up another place. When I awoke this morning to the warm bodies of dogs, and the black cat nuzzling my armpit, it took awhile to get enough air, but each gulp was a little epiphany.

This is real. This bed, this house, this glass of water; these animals, those mountains out the window, this breathing feeling body, this breath. And this breath. These neighbors, this snow-covered yard, this wonderful life. Despite the nightmare, and because of it, I climbed out of bed this morning with more energy and joy than I have had in a long time.

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Stellar is nine years old today. My new eyes allow me to see the white hairs showing up in the fur around his big brown eyes. He is such a remarkable animal; each year that he lives is a tremendous gift. Nine is getting up there for such a big dog, well over half his life expectancy. We haven’t gotten out much this month, with all the snow, the cold (minus five yesterday morning, but also the head cold I had for two weeks), the eye surgeries. I promised him a big walk today, so after coffee (mine) and breakfast (theirs) I strapped on snowshoes and took the dogs on a long ramble to the canyon.

Cottontail and jackrabbit tracks criss-crossed elk and deer prints through the sagebrush. The red fox left a tell-tale trail across the snow. Juniper limbs bent to the ground under heavy snow. The dogs bounded and punched through while I crunched along the top of the crust. At the canyon a redtail hawk soared from the top of a piñon snag. A few songbirds called through the crisp air. When I reached the bench I sat in splendid silence for a long while, feet resting in the built-in footstool of upright snowshoes.

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A brilliant day full of gratitude and hope for all the gifts of this year so far.

Food, Despair and Gratitude

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For me, taking pictures of food is a prayer of gratitude. A few weeks ago I traded Ruth some kefir grains and a jar of milk for some sourdough starter and four cups of flour. This is what I got! I need a ready supply of bread for the winter so I can eat all that jam I’ve been making while the world unravels.

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Peach jam on warm bread. I’m not a big fan of sourdough, but this starter and recipe doesn’t actually taste sour; it couldn’t be easier or more delicious.

 

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Or more convenient. The next loaf didn’t do so well, a little flat, but still the perfect vehicle for plum jam and rose hip jelly. 

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I’m on my third loaf, roughly one a week, and still have fresh tomatoes in late October. I savor each sandwich as I deplete the tomato basket, down to the last few ripening from green I picked before the first freeze.

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Grilled white cheddar and garden tomato on one of the few cold days we’ve had so far this fall. Uncanny how warm it’s been: This is no brief return of mild weather as we usually get before Thanksgiving, after some serious cold and snow has already come; this is still-summer weather broken by a few cold snaps. It’s been the longest, mildest autumn I can remember. Looks like we may be winning the climate change lottery here in western Colorado.

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Basil and tomato open-face on toast. I brought in one pot of basil for winter, one each of mint, oregano, and rosemary.

Why, though? Why this obsession with fresh food and homemade jelly and bread? Because I can, here; because we have this great good fortune to live in a hospitable clime where many good things grow in abundance, and water, air and land are wholesome; because we have the luxury to tend and appreciate beauty and bounty in our gardens. Because we are lucky to live here. As the world seems to harshen and disintegrate around us, I savor more intensely quotidian joys in the moment.

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Maybe the best apple pie I’ve made all season, from the Fujis that grew on the little tree by the gate, with brown sugar and spices and butter crust, topped with Cynthia’s homemade cinnamon ice cream.

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All that homesteading the past few months, freezing and canning… whew! Reaping the rewards with a peachtini by the pond in October: peach-infused gin and peach brandy, garnished with frozen peaches.

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Life as Art. Every little thing.

I’ve been meditating a lot on gratitude recently. My whole life I’ve had so much to be thankful for! Yet there’s always been, below that awareness, this undercurrent of despair. When I was a child I dreamed of how it is now in the world: greed seems to prevail, and our fragile planet is always at stake in some urgent battle. Solastalgia has had me in its grip since I was nine years old.

Dwelling in this remarkable valley for more than a third of my life, I finally begin to shed the anxiety that has plagued me since childhood. Gratitude and compassion have been wrestling with guilt and despair inside me for half a century; most of these days gratitude wins. It helps to live in this community that values nature, eats responsibly, and celebrates our interconnection with the earth.

Now this peaceful valley stands at a precipice: the Bureau of Land Management gets to decide the 20-year game plan for the public lands that surround us, and it wants to open 95% of them to lease for fracking and other extractive industry. Anyone can submit comments to the BLM by November 1, opposing oil and gas leasing in the North Fork Valley.

We are just one front among many in the larger fight to save the planet from fossil fuel gluttony. We will do what we can and what we must to save our small island of life from the encroaching tentacles of corporate greed. It’s an uphill battle, but we have everything to lose.

 

 

 

 

An Opportune Concatenation of Events

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Deborah brought a trugful of apples from her trees…

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… and I got a big bowl full from the Fuji.

I’ll be honest, I have a fraught relationship with apples. At one point I decided they’re more trouble than they’re worth. If you don’t at least slice them, or better yet peel then slice them, and you just eat one out of your hand: you have to bite hard, chew a lot, and the skin inevitably slides up between my teeth and gets stuck, sometimes even slicing my gum.

One day I embarked upon a quest to find an apple that was worth the trouble. After many months of many tastings, I did find one. It became clear that for me the only apple worth eating off the tree is a Fuji. So I bought a tree. And now, that little tree that has struggled with not the best placement, with insufficient protection from deer year after year, with frost at just the wrong time, that little tree by my front gate is feeding me plenty of apples worth eating right off the tree.

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Pamela loaned us this amazing gadget that peels, cores and slices all in one! Apples will never be too much trouble again!

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Meanwhile, the almond tree, who I knew would let me know when it was ready to let go, has let me know.

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Half the tree in a big wooden bowl, the other half so high I’ll need to pick them from the deck or knock them down, my vision for this tree finally come to fruition.

Almonds, broken open or nearly so, losing their green, taking on autumnal hue. Inside leathery fruit already drying in desert winds lies an almond in the shell, some of these already consenting to crack. Inside the tawny shell not quite set, a milky tan or brown-skinned gem… Bitter. Those with the brown skins are bitter, and even some of the skinless ones a little bitter. They will benefit from blanching.

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After husking I lay the nuts out to dry in their shells, and will freeze them shelled or unshelled when I can hear most of them rattle in the shell.

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Rose hips almost ripe and ready to be turned into jelly.

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How many frogs? Through benign neglect of my fish ponds they’ve become frog ponds. I counted a total of seventeen northern leopard frogs in both ponds at once this afternoon, an all-time record.

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Two color morphs of the leopard frog, brown and green, communing at the edge of the pond. Each summer for the past few years I’ve seen a few more frogs. At least in this hazardous world where amphibians are declining at an astonishing rate, my little pond has become a haven for this wonderful native species.

And on a more somber note, with a threadbare segue, a plea for our own endangered haven, both here in our valley and on this fragile, spinning planet as a whole:

These next few weeks create our future, in so many ways. Will we make it be the one we want to see? A future honoring our planet, mother nature, our atmosphere, father sky, brother sun, sister moon? Will we choose reverence for life in a meaningful way before it’s too late?

We don’t often have a concatenation of events that provides us with as much opportunity to influence our future as we have in the next four to six weeks; right now, we have two such opportunities, one on a local level and the other on a global level. We are in a bardo now between great potential for harm and great potential for slamming on the brakes to slow the decimation of Earth.

Until November 1, we have a window to make our voices heard and direct the policy guiding the public lands that surround our valley for the next two to three decades. This is not another one-time fight. What’s at stake this time is the Resource Management Plan (RMP) that will direct the use of public lands surrounding and within our valley for the next 20-30 years.

“Because BLM did not consider new information on earthquakes, human health impact, climate change impact, and environmental damage caused by hydraulic fracturing, injection wells, and ongoing oil and gas operations, along with its inadequate risk analysis, its draft Resource Management Plan is fundamentally flawed.” ~citizensforahealthycommunity.org

We have a singular opportunity with this RMP. Let’s flood the Bureau of Land Management with ten times as many letters as we sent last time, four years ago, when this fight was for a one-time lease sale. Let’s send ten thousand letters, twenty thousand, thirty thousand. We have the chance to say now, in the policy that’s set for the next two generations: NO!

Our local conservation groups have made it so easy to submit comments. The cogent letter is written for you. Fill in a few blanks, add any personal comments, and mail or email your letter today. You can submit as many comments as you like; unlike voting, you’re not limited to one. And you don’t have to live here to take a stand. Please share and share this plea and these links to help save the organic foods capital of Colorado.

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North Fork Valley organic fruit for sale in one of many markets our farmers supply throughout the summer. photos by Cynthia Wilcox

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Though the industry strives to convince us otherwise, there’s a lot of indisputable evidence that fracking fluids are toxic to life, human and otherwise, that the effects of drilling and wastewater injection can spread far from the site, that spills devastate land and water, that transport by pipeline, train or truck can cause massive explosions. The list of deleterious effects goes on and on, from air pollution and habitat destruction (human and other) to induced earthquakes. According to the USGS, induced earthquakes have risen dramatically in the past five years as a result of drilling activities in states including Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

We need to stake our claim to our public lands, our air, our watersheds, and not let them be exploited for profit by a few powerful corporations. We must protect all that is essential to our lives: The sights and sounds and experiences that make life here so precious, the food, the water, the soils that nurture not just human health but whole ecosystem health. We must speak now, loud and clear, spread the word, and enlist the voices of all our neighbors, of our friends and families far and wide, of anyone who has ever lived here or hopes to, of anyone who has ever enjoyed visiting this valley or hopes to, of anyone who enjoys the fruits and meats and wines of this valley.

We can make change if we undertake it at the right time, not so much when the stars align as when good intentions and political schedules coincide; in these few transformational moments what we say and do can actually make a difference. This is the time to make our choices, raise our voices in a way that counts. This is not the time to be resigned.

Portentous Winds of Autumn

Russet tones of autumn emerge first in the Amur maple seedlings, already dried and set with seed. This maple never does as well as the other, on the south side of the house. They’re in different soils, one in native clay and the sad one in more sandy soil. I need to deep water with some extra nutrients.

Russet tones of autumn emerged first last month in the Amur maple samaras, now already dried and set with seed. This maple never does as well as the other, on the south side of the house. They’re in different soils, one in native clay and the sad one in more sandy soil. I need to deep water with some extra nutrients before fall gets away.

I’ve seen first hand how leaving a cluster of peaches on a limb will result in crowded misshapen small fruit, how even two opposite on a stem can smash together and provide haven for earwigs, how too many along a slender limb can bend it to the ground; all the things Fred warned me about as he urged me to thin thin, thin.

I’ve seen first hand how leaving a cluster of peaches on a limb will result in crowded misshapen small fruit, how even two opposite on a stem can smash together and provide haven for earwigs, how too many along a slender limb can bend it to the ground; all the things Fred warned me about as he urged me to thin thin, thin.

Nevertheless, my sweet tree delivered bowl after bowl of delicious peaches, that I gave away, froze, cooked into peach jam, infused into vodka, gin, and brandy, and canned in a special syrup...

Nevertheless, my sweet tree delivered bowl after bowl of delicious peaches, that I gave away, froze, cooked into peach jam, infused into vodka, gin, and brandy, and canned in a special syrup…

Canada Peaches! In a twist on the bourbon peach recipes found online, I packed each half-pint jar with peaches, adding about a tablespoon of maple syrup, then filling with half simple syrup and half Canadian whiskey, before processing in a boiling water bath. I hope these last long enough to eat some mid-winter by a toasty fire.

Canada Peaches! In a twist on the bourbon peach recipes found online, I packed each half-pint jar with peaches, adding about a tablespoon of maple syrup, then filling with half simple syrup and half Canadian whiskey, before processing in a boiling water bath. I hope these last long enough to eat some mid-winter by a toasty fire.

And of course a couple of peach pies.

And of course a couple of peach pies.

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I ate the last fresh peach this morning, and harvested the two remaining apples on the heirloom tree, I’m so sad I can’t recall its name. Are the finches feasting on wild sunflower seeds also marauding the Fuji apple? It doesn’t appear so; the leaves are grasshopper eaten but the fruit is sound, and so much of it, more than ever before, dozens of apples, I’m so happy I thinned them! At least 59 Fuji apples. I’ve got my eagle eye on these, watching for predation by those pesky birds.

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September is like the last hill on the roller coaster. You’re near the top, the wild rush of August harvest has unwound behind you, there is that last push of fall fruits and vegetables to get in before the varmints git ‘em. Rosie has a big squirrel in her garden. I’ve got a stray deer here and there reminding me it’s time to put up fences around trees and shrubs whose protective rings I’ve repurposed on smaller plants throughout the summer. Someone ate two fat cheeks off the biggest tomato of the season; just yesterday I thought that’s about ripe, maybe I should pick it, but it wasn’t ready to let go, and I didn’t come back. This morning’s rising sun highlighted the glistening dips in its flesh when I chanced to glance over from the patio, where I sipped coffee and listened to the raucous sound of morning.

Cynthia led a meditation on sounds last week that’s reminded me to cherish more the wild sounds and deeper silence where I’m blessed to live, like the cacophony of finches in the wild sunflower patch that sprang up on the south side. It’s been years since I’ve lived with a constant musical soundtrack, and for the past several I’ve lived with only intermittent music through the course of my waking day. More and more I find myself eschewing external music, to simply hear, and listen to, the music of nature: birds, crickets, wind, bees, coyotes at night, more coyotes this summer than I have heard in many years.

A great-horned owl has come a courting me. It must be me he woos, because I’ve listened long and faraway and do not hear another. And so I croon back to him a few times, though Stellar doesn’t like it and tries to make me stop, and soon I do stop, because it isn’t fair; I can’t give the owl what it’s looking for. But I sure do enjoy exchanging hoots with it for a few minutes on a clear full-moon night, or any other.

Rain moved through again last night, this time early enough to leave a double rainbow in its wake. I alerted the Bad Dog Ranch that they were centered underneath it. The next day I received a rainbow alert from them. I love this about where we live, that we care about rainbows.

Rain moved through again last night, this time early enough to leave a double rainbow in its wake. I alerted the Bad Dog Ranch that they were centered beneath it. The next day I received a rainbow alert from them. I love this about where we live, that we care about rainbows.

This morning, rain-washed and crisp, the golds of autumn jingle forth. Last Saturday we noticed the first hint of aspen turning up on Mendicant Ridge. By Tuesday the yellows were distinct, and after that storm moved over Wednesday night,  the golds are glowing bright, clearly delineated patches among shades of greens, siennas and ochres, treed and rocky slopes. Air is brisk and the dogs are frisky.

Great cumulus clouds march in close formation lockstep briskly through blue sky, white tops glowing, their grey treads gliding low. It's too spectacular not to walk the frisky dogs up the driveway, where I meet my sweet neighbor and we stroll our rural, precious neighborhood.

Great cumulus clouds march in close formation lockstep briskly through blue sky, white tops glowing, their grey treads gliding low. It’s too spectacular not to walk the frisky dogs up the driveway, where I meet my sweet neighbor and we stroll our rural, precious neighborhood.

Fall blows in on these winds that feel portentous. March winds last longer than they used to, and winter winds start early, in late summer. The breeze sometimes is just a bit too strong; I feel the atmosphere whipping up, winding up all this energy, that later, maybe elsewhere, will unwind with a fury. Ever since I watched the film Melancholia earlier this summer, I’ve viewed this world differently, trusting and allowing myself to sense and feel the changes, the subtle shifts in seasonal events, in their timing, likelihood, or nature. Something is coming, and all I want to do is make jam.

Apricot jam, peach jam, plum jam, chokecherry jelly, salsa hot and mild, and the new house specialty, Canada Peaches. Also plum brandy, peach vodka, plum syrup, plum sauce, pickled beets and cukes, and all the blanched greens, peeled and unpeeled fruits, tomato sauce and peppers in the freezer, let me feel I’ve made the most of the garden this summer.

At the end of the day, though, it’s not about my garden and what I’ve grown and what I’ve put up and what I’ve enjoyed this summer. It’s about what we’ve all tended and grown and loved and eaten and shared and put up for winter, it’s about what we all do in our lives here on this fragile planet. It’s about not just this apple, but all them apples, too! The change that’s in the wind is about me and you, and the choices we make in the next few weeks. To be continued…

Summer Trees

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Mindfulness teaches us to be with all things as they arise, and let them pass through us in the moment, and move on. May I remember to be with both despair and joy as they come, and let them play on through.

The fruit trees are generous this summer, and none more so than the apricot. Throughout the valley, peaches, pears, apples, all ripen extravagantly. A banner cherry harvest for the commercial orchards, and I’ve enough in the freezer for three pies thanks to Ellie and her prolific sour cherries, tiny shiny scarlet globes best pitted with a simple squeeze between fingers and gentle tug on the stem, too small for the pitter. No one has seen a fruit year like this for a very long time. Everyone is grateful.

Everyone is rolling in apricots. Neighbors are having a cookout to lure people to take away theirs. Suzi is generously drying the first round from my tree, and I’ve just picked the third. As many remain on the tree as I’ve already harvested. I’m staying just ahead of the birds; they peck the very ripest and every few days I pick what’s almost perfect and finish ripening on the counter. I get lucky and find some at their peak unpecked.

The more I pick the more I see I never saw before. Fred tried to warn me: Don’t be greedy, he said, and encouraged me weeks ago to thin them to a fist width apart. I couldn’t do it. I did thin them some, a couple of times, as I did with the peaches both before and after he gave me a hands-on lesson. Eight or ten peaches on a limb this size, he said. Maybe I should go thin them again, if the apricots are any indication. Which, of course, they are. I’m so grateful for his pruning, his advice, his instruction.

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I have three times more apricots in one wooden bowl than I’ve ever had on this tree in all its fifteen years. (When did I plant it? Fifteen? Twenty years ago? Somewhere in between? I’m grateful I can no longer remember everything. It makes interacting with people easier, but it doesn’t really help in the garden.) Fresh apricot recipes are stacking up in my recipe folder. The tortoise and the mule deer eat those that drop, or that I throw over the fence if they’re scarred or nibbled or too green, or if there’s a wasp feasting inside.

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After the third harvest... still plenty for people and other animals.

The apricot tree after the third picking… still plenty ripening for people and other animals. Never in any of my gardens through the years have I seen such bounty.

I’ve harvested three big bowls and one small one in the past week, with more to come. A generosity of apricots. And still they glow in abundance on the bright green tree, strolling grey storm clouds behind them. An uncontrollable satisfaction rises in my soul, the joy of a gardener. Because of me, the time, the water, the help tending through the years, this fruit tree thrives and gives back lavishly this summer.

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Another summer tree didn’t fare so well last week, a big juniper. We had a knock-down drag out lightning storm. People were talking about it for days. It was right on top of us, some said. I felt the electricity, said others. It was SO loud! more exclaimed. At Tai Chi, Deborah said The whole sky lit up, you could see every leaf, and there was a bolt through it, and in the bolt a fireball. Twice I saw that. I saw it and thought, Did I really just see that? And then it happened again.

In twenty-four years in this valley I haven’t experienced a lightning storm quite like that. An occasional strike too close for comfort in a wide-spread or fast moving cell. Once while I was standing in my open French door lightning struck a juniper not far in front of me and knocked me back a step. But never an intense cluster for fifteen minutes right on top of the neighborhood, one hard bolt after another, sky lighting up and crashing in the same instant, over and over. The dogs pressed close on the couch where I lay watching a movie. Then it passed, and we all started to relax.

After awhile I smelled smoke. Oh no! From the tower I scanned all directions and could not see flame or flickering, but the strong smell blew on a steady wind from the south. I called dispatch and learned that a truck was on the way to a burning tree somewhere in the next block.

I couldn’t sleep for hours. I climbed the tower again and checked the air before turning in, and found it sweet and pure.

It turned out Cynthia had also smelled smoke, ventured out with a lantern toward the canyon, and found the burning tree, initiating the chain of calls that led the brave fire laddies to it. Grass was burning all around it, she said. It was scary! It could have lit the woods on fire and burned down all our houses if she hadn’t located it right away. It was scary. The volunteer fire department put it out and chopped up the tree with chainsaws to make sure the fire didn’t lie down overnight, to spring up again the next hot dry day with a breeze.

It happens sometimes that a fire lies down in a snag or a hollow and smolders for hours or days before just the right wind ignites it and literally blows it up into a sudden monster fire, like the Wake Fire outside Paonia in ’94. A guy dutifully went out that night and put out the tree, but it blew up the next morning while the whole community was downtown celebrating July 4th at the Cherry Days Festival. The fire burned 6000 acres and three homes in just two days, at that time the fastest fire on record in the state.

Or just across the mesa in ’05 when a ditch burn crept into a stump and lay down for days after the rancher thought he’d extinguished it. Ladies started arriving for a Clothes Exchange, and when I greeted them at the gate after setting up the patio, they said What’s that behind you? A thick plume of black smoke rose beyond the trees. A dozen women ate and drank and tried on each others’ cast-off clothing as a helicopter hauled water from the reservoir and the slurry plane flew overhead. We were half naked anyway and flashed our tops. The pilot dipped his wing. Ellie called to report that a half dozen more guests were turned away at the fork in the road, the mesa was closed at all roads leading in, and we might be evacuated in ten minutes. There was a scramble to load up the Mothership with pets and valuables just in case.

The day after Cynthia’s Tree burned up, a gullywasher, a real Florida frog choker my visitor called it, dumped half an inch in half an hour, with only a few thunderclaps and lightning bolts in the distance. The monsoons are upon us. That evening we went down the road for dessert. It was a relief to know the smoke that greeted us came from the fire in the metal pit that would toast our marshmallows, on a perfect cool summer night in the warm company of our million dollar neighbors.

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Gourmet s’mores made with Lindt salted caramel chocolate, pre-melted in a skillet in the fire.

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