I’m grateful for another beautiful fall day. The brief brutal cold of ‘pre-winter’ has passed. Nights are mild in the twenties and thirties, and days warm up thirty degrees or more. The moon has filled and slowly wanes, days are bright with sun in bluebird skies. (I never understood the ‘bluebird sky’ until I saw a mountain bluebird male.) It’s perfect weather. I’m grateful the old dog is still alive to enjoy a few short wobbles through the woods with Topaz tagging along. Grateful to be learning from him just how much gentleness I possess, and how much more I can stand to grow.
I’m grateful for the golden beauty of my imperfect little aspen tree, its symmetry twisted by a heavy snow years ago. Like me, the tree is flawed but doing its best. I’m grateful for awareness and humility. I’m grateful for the winding down that comes with fall, a welcome transition between the rollicking thrill of garden season and the respite of winter’s hibernation.
I’m grateful too, for the first ever two-part Zoom Cooking with Amy. Tonight we snacked with cocktails, then whipped up a sweet, soft dough for morning. After the dough rests in the fridge overnight, we’ll reconvene with coffee to bake…to be continued!
I might as easily have chosen to highlight my gratitude for the Bibiliofillies, but I am grateful today for letting go. I’m grateful for the capacity to quit reading a book, or watching a show, or otherwise removing my attention from one thing and turning it to another. This is the very essence of mindfulness, the ability and willingness to choose where we place our attention.
Tonight, the Bibliofillies met on zoom to discuss our month’s selection, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, by George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, which we read awhile ago. The latter was a work of fiction; tonight’s subject, an academic analysis of numerous classic Russian short stories, and the arts of writing, and of reading. (I can’t tell you how many stories, because I didn’t get past the first chapter.) A few fillies loved it; some were almost neutral; the rest of us, well, to say we despised it would be an exaggeration, but needless to say the various opinions made for lively discussion. This is why I’m grateful, at least once a month, for the Bibiliofillies.
I bristled at the author’s (a middle-aged white man) initial assumption that he knew what I was thinking. From there it went downhill. Though I did find some redeeming features in what I read, I did not want to keep reading, one of Saunders’ essential criteria for a successful short story. My perspective aside, (for what does it matter anyway?), having this safe place to express it, laugh about it, adapt it, is… priceless.
It’s essential to adapting to be able to let go. There is so much to let go of every single day. I’m grateful that I can let go of attachment to ‘my’ point of view more and more often these days.
Life is so much easier now that I’m simply letting things be as they are, instead of trying to control them. I also used to bristle when people told me, “You think too much!” Turns out they were right, but for the wrong reasons. And if I didn’t hang onto an emotion, I couldn’t consider that it mattered. Letting go was never easy for me. So I clung to, among other things, my own judgements, expectations, mistakes; I harbored grudges, fed them with repetition. Michael was right: I did have a ‘victim mentality.’
Death is certain, time of death uncertain.
I’m so grateful that I’m learning to let go, of everything. Emotions can actually flow through, and that doesn’t make them less real or less valid. The faster I let go, the faster I learn the lesson. The lesson I learned this month was that I don’t have to finish reading every book, or watching every episode of every season of a show, or a movie to the end. I don’t always need to know what happens next: as in a bad dream, I can take my attention by the hand and walk away. I can choose where to spend my precious attention. I don’t know how much I have left. I’m grateful for letting go of things that don’t nurture me.
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.
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.
And of course a couple of peach pies.
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.
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 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.
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…
Bees flying in and out of the hive on an extra warm day last week show up as golden specks against the still-green rosebush.
I’m glad I got the beehive all set during October, with insulation panels and straw bales around the pedestal. Working early on a few cold mornings I was able to get the panels on and the straw bales situated without disturbing anyone. We had such a mild, long, lovely autumn! The colors in Buck Canyon, the Smith Fork, and along the North Fork seemed to last longer than usual and shine more brightly. Did I say that last fall? Each fall is such a delicious season, each fall unique; each fall a new and wondrous season unfolding like you’ve never seen it before, feeling so like the first fall you can’t remember another; each fall a treasure, maybe the last fall ever.
Rocky on the rim of Buck Canyon two weeks ago.
Stellar surveys his domain.
At a leisurely pace, I have been cleaning up the yard for winter, which is almost here. Light snow overnight here, still falling in a haze over the mountains. Not a lot of cover up there, just a freshening of the white blush that’s remained since our last snow weeks ago. All the trees have lost their leaves, except the almond, oddly green. But they’re fading fast. Planted on the southeast corner of the house, its microclimate, backed by an adobe wall that soaks up sun from early morning til late, mulched with pink gravel, and edged on two sides with brick and concrete, allows it extra warmth.
One of my favorite junipers on the rim, with Needle Rock and snow-covered Coal Mountain far beyond.
A walk in the woods the other day captures the spirit of impending winter.
Stellar in the Sitting Tree
The first icicles form and fall in Ice Canyon. Raven watches, flummoxed by the sound of their crashing down.
A sharp wind blows this morning. I continue to revel in all the deciduous leaves that flutter and clutter the paths, the beds, the yard. It’s been so long since I’ve had autumn leaves to enjoy, their colors first, then their scents and sounds. The giant rose is dropping yellow leaves everywhere around the tower. Beech and aspen, elder, nanking cherry, snowberry have all now lost or are losing their leaves, their baring branches showing this summer’s growth. This cold, drizzly day foreshadows winter. Already I’ve settled into hibernation mode. Such early dark brings closure to the day with so many hours left to stay awake. A time of deep interior begins.
This winter I am writing the book that has been in me since I completed Killing Mother. I continue to delve into the love and disillusionment between my parents, in hopes of understanding all of us better. Reflecting on their lives and histories before I knew them, and exploring who we all were, in that military culture, as I grew from a bright-eyed happy child into the woman I am today. But, it’s a novel, so I can make shit up. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, to jump start this story that has been murmuring in the back of my mind for years. By November 30, I need to have written 50,000 words, more or less in a rough draft form. As of this morning, I’m up to 20,963; not quite halfway there and just over halfway in time.
The last little core of the tiniest ripe apple ever, the tenth and last from my Fuji tree this year. Apple production at Mirador went up more than 100% from any previous year!
Yet apples appear to come of their own volition from friends with bigger trees than mine.
The apricot tree just keeps on giving. After a full fruit crop enjoyed by birds, chipmunks, and me, she gave golden color for weeks last month.
I marvel at the things I’ve planted and nurtured and what they have done this autumn. I haven’t seen a mature fall here in my yard for a long long time. All these shrubs and trees I’ve planted, Nanking cherry, chokecherry, aspen, birch, maple, apricot, honeysuckle, lilac, snowberry, sumac, plum, roses, and more, their leaves turning all kinds of colors all fall long, then dropping to color carpet the garden ground, they’ll mulch and then break down to feed the soil. Such a rich gift. All the grasses going blonde and orange and shades between yellow and green, swaying in the breeze and popping off seeds. I have been visually wallowing in this waxing embrace of autumn.
“May I be a bride forever married to amazement,” Janis quoted Mary Oliver, and yes, may I. We have cold now, the trees in a day lost their leaves. Until just this last week, even as rifle shots reverberate from just up north along the canyon, honeybees still found nectar and pollen in the reproducing salvias, each multi-headed stem holding one, two, a few single tiny blue blossoms. Nepeta reblooms a third or fourth time. There’s an art to cutting back, knowing what to cut back how far and when.
The bees are put to bed, their hive surrounded by straw in a configuration that I hope will insulate the hive and prevent snow from blowing in their front door, now well fortified with a propolis barrier lined with a few bee-sized holes. I wish I could see a cross-section of this cold-barricade, it looks as though some of the holes go straight in, and others curve or angle with yet more protection behind. On warm days they continue to come and go a few at a time; but often when I stop to check on them there is not a bee to be seen, or just one, looking slow and cold, guarding the threshold.
Meanwhile, the last fresh tomato sandwich of the season has been eaten, on Halloween.
And the first spinach of winter harvested this morning! Just a few thinnings from the spinach, cilantro, and mustard greens thriving in the caterpillar. Such a treat to harvest fresh greens in November, and it looks like the setup will provide well into winter.
A cottonwood leaf falls into the scene at Crawford State Park, where the reservoir is the lowest I’ve ever seen. The apparent sandbar just under the leaf is actually the bed of the old highway from before the dam.
The ball of bees has grown even from three days ago, and they appear to be starting comb just behind the main ball.
I started watching bees around 11:30 today and they were very active. I moved closer after about an hour and saw them above me, making two clear circles overhead then taking off. As they came in, three or four of them stopped to check me out, one landed on my shin. I watched another hour or more, off and on. At about two, some drones began to emerge. Every few minutes one would stop at the door and wash its face, then fly off. At four, they were very sedate.
At five o’clock, deep gray roiling clouds to the south crept over us, deepening toward a storm. Only half a dozen bees at a time in front of the hive now, and 99% of them coming in to roost. Tomorrow morning I move back the false back. Do it while they’re cool in the morning, so they don’t get annoyed.
By 5:10 they are all back in the hive, by 5:15 the rain has begun and thunder cracks. It looks as though we caught just the edge of the storm as the rainwall moves east toward the mountains. Sometimes what you end up doing is what you had planned, you just didn’t know it yet.
I pull the weeds from soaked ground around the rhubarb, curly mound. Weeds are not too bad right now, I worked hard last year. A few cheat grass, one or two fucking clover deeply soaked, dandelions stay, cheatgrass and salsify go, thyme and feral garlic grow. Fernbush babies stay, rabbitbrush and wild rose go. Pulling weeds, the rich meaning of my life.
Every summer I come back alive. I need to manage my time more wisely to avoid that despair that comes in late winter, that this year preceded, surrounded, my father’s birthday. It was sheer grief again. Year after year, sheer grief oppresses me in spring. But now that I am resigned to the fact of seasons turning, change, loss, death, and endings, I can celebrate the sunset as fully as I do the dawn. I have always loved sunset, moonrise, and the moments between from fleeting to eternal.
Now with bees, I celebrate more deeply evening twilight. The bees have gone to bed. I can peek at them. Learn the structure of their hive, follow their timing through the seasons. This is a relationship I have long known was coming, and now it’s here I am relieved. A level of stress is gone. Guidelines for my daily living have arrived with the bees, more so even than with the tortoise. Bees can sting me, make honey, move faster.
Inspired by bees, bees have given fresh breath to my living. Bees made me watch where I exhale, bees need me to be calm.