I hate to admit that I’ve been taking ‘outside’ for granted recently. Or at least, I haven’t been spending as much time in it as I ‘should.’ There is this sense of clinging to the natural world on this refuge, of imminent loss, exacerbated by smoky skies; a sense of foreboding. My spatial consciousness contracts and expands according to my capacity to hold all things in awareness: moments of tenderness and beauty, of brief connection with other souls human and non-human, of empathy and compassion, of color and life, and at the same time this clutching void of mortal uncertainty. I am perpetually aghast, with a thick sugar coating of delight. Holding it all together in desperate equanimity. Growing pains.
I’m grateful for all the pollinators. I haven’t even cracked the manual for the new camera, and the current lens won’t give me the crystal clarity of the macro lens on the old camera, but I’ll get there eventually. Meanwhile, playing around with it this morning I caught a few pollinators doing their thing. Imagine where we’d be without them! So grateful for pollinators, and the fruits of their labors.
I’m grateful for the 4000 species of native bees in North America, and the dozens that forage and nest in my yarden. They’re responsible for pollinating about three-quarters of all our food plants, but their very existence is not well known to the general public. I didn’t know about them until I started raising and photographing honeybees, and paying attention to all the other pollinators I discovered through my camera lens. There aren’t nearly as many individual bees or bee species in the garden this summer, making me cherish them all the more. You can learn to identify and plant for native bees with the Wild Bee ID app put out by the Center for Food Safety, and enjoy some of my better photos while you’re at it.
I was sitting at the patio table watching the phoebes take turns bringng food to their newly hatched chicks when one of them paused to watch me. I’m so grateful for these intrepid little birds! They commonly nest in human structures and don’t seem bothered at all by our activity. Below, papa brings a delicious grub to chicks still too small to be seen above the nest rim; mama feeds a hungry little mouth (my first glimpse of this brood); and then she carries away a poop pellet. I remember this from last year: she’ll feed a baby, wait a moment until it upends itself, then grab the pellet as it pops out. How efficient!
Meanwhile, in the vegetable garden, the perennial onions are in bloom and full of bees of all stripes. This digger bee made its way around a whole blossom (with a mineral tub planter in the background), sharing the bounty with a tiny sweat bee.
Resting at the patio table again after planting out the first tomato and the scarlet runner bean, this Bullock’s oriole caught my eye on a hummingbird feeder. I immediately went inside and sliced an orange in half to supplement the sugar water, which is hard for them to get from the small hummingbird-tongue sized holes. They are infrequent enough visitors during migration to make buying an oriole feeder impractical, so I try to keep oranges on hand for the few weeks in spring that I sometimes see them. Each sighting is a real treat.
On another break, I took the camera over to the single pale iris by the tortoise pen, where I’d seen a bumblebee earlier. No bees, but this lovely beetle which I remember from last summer was the main feeder on the white irises. Then the juniper titmouse caught my attention, bringing food to its babies in the hollow juniper in the center of the pen. Noticing me with the camera trained on its hole, it took awhile to approach, before darting into the hole with a flick of its tail feathers, and remaining there til I left. So cute! I’m grateful for the winged residents of the yarden, and for the luxury of time in my day to observe and connect with them.
I’m grateful I celebrated these tulips yesterday, before one of them got eaten. A couple of others that hadn’t bloomed yet also got – nipped in the bud! And, I’m grateful I heard the first hummingbird today! I rushed inside and boiled some nectar, set it in the mudroom to cool for a few hours, and put the first feeder up. I wish I’d thought to make nectar ahead of time like Deb did, so when I heard that first unmistakable zzzzip! through the air I could have put the feeder out right away. Oh well! It’s out now, that’s all that matters.
I’m so grateful to see bees of all stripes and colors back just today! Yesterday was too cold, and the day before they just weren’t here yet. Today, bees everywhere!
It was a joyous morning in the garden. I got a quarter of the seed potatoes planted, but the sprouts on the rest were too short. I’ve read several places they should be ¾ – 1″ long before going in the dirt, so I’ll wait til the rest are a bit stronger to plant them. Heading back to the house I spied the first bumblebee in the grape hyacinths, a big yellow one, but didn’t get the camera in time to capture her. I was immediately sidetracked from other garden tasks to hang out with the camera and chase bees: one of my favorite pastimes, still, seven years after I began photographing them. I’m grateful for this wondrous passion I never could have predicted.
It’s been a quiet week here in Lake Weobegone — wait, no! It’s been a challenging month here at Mirador. Lots of life happening hard and fast, life including death, of course. Without the garden, exquisite pollinators, and five years of serious mindfulness practice under my belt, the weeks since Raven’s death would have been even more tumultuous.
What with Raven dying, auntie’s stroke, Michael’s imminent demise, another friend in major-medical limbo, Stellar on his last legs… the cherry tree dying, the phoebe nest knocked down and chicks devoured… the little and the big, all against the national backdrop of socio-political upheaval (and hopefully, awakening), and the slow-moving catastrophe of climate chaos; it’s been like log-rolling in a swift river, but I’m no longer a beginner: I’ve stayed afloat, dancing on the rolling crashing logs, keeping my balance. That takes practice.
Each spring, time with lilacs becomes more precious. Each year, time on earth becomes more precious. Various plants in the garden command their share of my attention during their unique brief windows, and my devotions keep pace as well as I can. A hidden blessing during this Time of the Virus for me has been more time, more time, what most people ask for on their deathbeds. More time than ever before with the lifegiving lilacs.
Suffering keeps going deeper, taking a turn you hadn’t anticipated. How does anyone ever think It can’t happen to me? The more I learn of what can happen, the limitless, infinite array of possibilities that might occur in any moment of any day, that expanding cone of possibility that flows outward, infinitely, from every individual sentient being based on the sum total of conditions present within and without that individual in that precise and only moment, the more gratitude I cherish for each and every moment of my life that holds beauty and serenity.
Bee sightings ramped up over the past month, from crocuses and grape hyacinths to dandelions and tulips, to blooming fruit trees. First the apricot, then the wild plum, then the crabapple. A butterfly I haven’t seen much in the past is also prevalent in the past week, the Anise swallowtail. Hummingbirds have also come to the fruit trees, but so fast I haven’t been able to catch one with the camera.
Despite the lockdown, or perhaps because of it, I am busier than ever outside in the garden. I can’t tell you where my days go, except to say that they are filled with as much color, light, love and joy as I can manage between sunup and bedtime, most of it outside in the garden. Work is of course diminished, as is almost everyone’s in this dire time, but I am doing my best to make the most of extra hours in the day. Fortunately my body is in better shape than it’s been for years, thanks to physical therapy and a healthier attitude, and I’m able to work more in the yard than now than ever before. I’m so tired by the end of the day that I just don’t sit down and post the pictures I’ve taken. Off to bed now, with more thoughts and images to come. Wishing for everyone to lay low, look close to home for joy and beauty, and stay well during this continuing pandemic. Please don’t be impatient and too quick to seek the old normal, which I hope never comes back. The planet and all its non-human inhabitants has appreciated the break from our reckless pace.
How is it that with all this extra time on my hands I still can’t unclutter my house? Oh yeah… the garden is waking up.
I simply don’t have words to convey the maelstrom of emotions that swirl within like March winds this spring. Above all there is gratitude for the many blessings this life has given me so far. I’m grateful to be an introvert who works from home anyway. I’m grateful that I have a reasonably healthy body, though my immune system is not robust and neither is my right lung, which never quite fills all the way. I consider myself to be fairly high risk, and so I’m grateful I have friends willing to shop for me and deliver necessities. I’m grateful I’ve worked hard for nearly thirty years to create this beautiful refuge, which now offers solace and peace amid global turmoil, and I’ll be grateful when I am again able to share it with people.
Other emotions may be less healthy but are also valid: rage at the rampant greed and graft manifesting at the highest levels of government during this pandemic when all humans should be working together to stave off despair and death; disgust at the ignorant response by trump cult believers that is causing so many more Americans to sicken and die; despair that the dying petroleum industry and the politicians that subsidize and profit from it take advantage of our distraction to rape and pillage even more egregiously our fragile planet. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention: Broaden your information horizons.
Meanwhile, the Say’s phoebes are back shoring up at least two nests around the house. A day after they first fluttered into the yard, I took last year’s nest off the top of the ladder leaning against the north wall, and lay it down so I could use it this summer if I needed to. The next day I felt so bad that I gathered scrap wood, tools, and screws to build a little shelf in the same spot where I could replace the nest. But once I stood there with all the materials I realized it would be way too complicated, so I propped up the ladder against a joist to provide corner stability, and tucked the old nest securely back into place. It’s one small thing I can do…
Thankful for the physical well-being and energy I’ve had this summer that has enabled me to keep up with the garden (though not with sharing its joy online!). Above, a selection of late-summer delights, starting with a plumtini, just a martini shaken with a very ripe plum, yum!
Thankful for half a dozen perfect strawberries gleaned from as many plants. Maybe next summer they’ll do better, but each fruit was certainly a burst of flavor as bright as its color.
The past months have been a whirlwind of harvesting, pickling, canning, freezing, cutting back, drying, fermenting and other fun fall festivities. I’ve been spinning through each day drenched in gratitude, swimming in astonishing colors, savoring and storing for winter the flavors of summer.
It’s almost impossible to believe I am the same person as that awkward little girl in the DC suburbs who spent every free minute curled up in an armchair reading books. How did I come to be here? Living close to the land in this fertile valley for almost half my life now has allowed me to approach some understanding of my true nature, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.