Tag Archive | snow

A Surrogate Ski

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When I woke this morning to an inch of fresh snow and a clear sky with bright sun, I thought of my friend who got thrown by her horse last week. She is couch-bound for a long time, and in a lot of pain with some fractures and other injuries. I can’t say for sure, but I imagine her body wasn’t the only part of her aching when she looked outside this morning. We ski together sometimes, and I think when she looked out at the snow-covered junipers in the sun, her heart ached to be out there sliding through the woods on her skis.

I feel a cold coming on, and it was bitter this morning, below 20 degrees. I could have done what I did the past few snowy grey days: made coffee and sat warmly in the living room, working on the computer or reading a book. But I thought of my friend wishing she could ski and being unable, and I hauled my lazy, grateful ass out of bed, dressed, went out into the glorious morning, and snapped on my skis. With the balmy weather the past month melting what little snow we’ve had this winter, we haven’t skied in six weeks.

There is nothing graceful about me skiing through sagebrush and juniper on eight inches of crusty snow. But the dogs were thrilled and beautiful, flying away and back to me kicking up powder as I stuttered along the Typewriter Trail to the rim of the canyon and back. Snow blew from the trees in sparkles through brilliant air. She would have loved it.

I wish she could have skied today. Even immobilized, she is an inspiration. Because she would have and I wouldn’t, because I could and she couldn’t, I skied this morning. This one’s for you, neighbor.

 

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Rapid Change in an Ambivalent Season

The return of bees to the early crocuses thrilled and salved my soul.

The return of bees to the early crocuses thrilled and salved my soul.

The first few days after the crocuses opened there were no bees. When I was outside and I paused the noise in my head for a moment and just listened, the silence was eerie. I felt so sad. The naturalizing irises and daffodils began to open, and they were empty. It’s all starting for you, I’ve done everything I can to make it good for you, so please come! I thought to the bees I knew were somewhere near. I saw plenty of flies, even some small fucking grasshoppers. On Valentine’s Day! It was too weird.

Chris called that morning. I was just heading out to hand-water some things. “Already?!” she said, aghast. “Your damn onions!” I said. “They dried out over winter in that hoop house.”

In truth it wasn’t just the onions. The whole spring bed, the border on the south side of the house with the early bulbs and groundcovers (the crocuses, naturalizing irises and tulips, the thymes, veronicas, mat penstemons, mat daisies) was desperate for snowmelt. My approach to this bed in particular is “Prolong snowmelt.” This year I began prolonging snowmelt in earnest the second week in February. In previous years I haven’t had to water until late March or April, rarely as late as May. For all the fun of the balmy weather we needed snow badly.

We talked as I watered, and the conversation quickly turned to the bees. She said, “I thought you might tell me about your ambivalence.” I knew it was going to come to this, I’ve just been putting it off. What are my deeper, more complex feelings about the loss, the death of the beehive? What are and were my responsibilities? How did I succeed and fail? What did I learn? Shall I choose to feel guilt?

Chris talked about really learning to let go, and being amazed every day at how much she thinks she knows and then finding out how little she really knows. I think it was her way of encouraging me not to feel guilty, and it helps, but I still have this fundamental feeling that it was my fault the hive died because I didn’t know enough; going into this project, I acted in confident ignorance rather than in a “beginner’s mind” spirit of learning. I’m still unpacking my feelings. Meanwhile, as we talked, I saw a bee in a crocus!

“Gotta go!” I said, hung up the phone, and ran for the camera. For a few hours I was ecstatic.

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The Bee Doctor told me two years ago that these bees chose me, and the reason was mine to figure out. All along my intention was for the hive to act as an incubator, to grow enough bees for them to swarm out into the forest and the canyon, year after year, to populate the wild. The experiment was to try to establish a hospitable habitat for wild bees, not for me to get honey. I hoped they would manage themselves appropriately with minimal intervention from me.

I forgot the beekeepers’ wisdom, “When in doubt, wait it out,” and I made a mistake at the end of their first summer. Their hive was pristine before I opened it that time. I flooded it with honey and dead bees, I stole their larvae accidentally, and they were righteously angry. I can’t help but wonder if I derailed their success in that one stupid move. They had been calm until then; after, they were defensive. I went in the following spring with the Bee Doctor, and he told me they were more ancient, more wild, than any other hive he’d seen around here. When we opened the hive he mentioned that some of their behavior was more like Africanized bees. “Don’t wig out,” he said, clarifying that it was just an example of their wildness, not that they were Africanized. But in that moment, they were cast in a more primal light for me. It’s the honeybee not the bear, but it’s still a wild and dangerous organism.

Perhaps I subconsciously arranged their demise with my reluctance to try again, to persevere with this hive. Last fall I did have, in the most private inarticulate place in me, the thought that maybe they would get honey-locked this spring and leave. I could start over with more mild-mannered bees. When I saw how few bees were in the dead hive, I hoped it was because they had swarmed. But then, a few days after pulling the last combs from the hive, I found this:

It pains me to share this picture.

It pains me to share this picture. In front of the hive, behind the insulating straw bale, a mass of bee carcasses. Maybe they didn’t swarm. Maybe they were busy all summer and fall hauling out mite-killed bees, and that’s why there were fewer bees going into winter. Maybe there just weren’t enough healthy bees for the hive to survive.

How did the mites get into the hive, anyway? Where did they come from? Unfortunately, as one local beekeeper said, “The mites win all too often.” From what I’ve read, these mites arrived in this country in 1987, and spread rapidly through the wild honeybee hives. Originally parasites on another species of bee, Apis cerana, the mites jumped species, and Apis mellifera has not been able to cope well with them. In combination with neonicotinoid pesticides and possibly other environmental factors, the varroa mites are wiping out honeybees everywhere. I’ve read that they can travel from one hive to another on the bodies of drones, which are apparently allowed to enter any hive. In a sense, the mites are like a sexually transmitted epidemic. Once inside a hive they reproduce inside brood cells, raising a whole family in the time it takes a larval bee to mature, and compromising that bee’s health.

It’s time to really let go. I know today how much I don’t know about bees and how to keep them. If I’m going to continue to try to help save them, I’ve got to do it with Beginner’s Mind, and a lot more courage and skill. I hope that more good than bad has come out of my first foray into bee guardianing. Either way, I need to forgive myself my assumptions and mistakes with them and move on. Forgiving and moving on have never been easy for me, but I’m learning, and not just with the bees.

Honey candy, dense crystallized honey and comb.

Honey candy, dense crystallized honey and comb.

The last honeycombs from the salvage operation, three on the right from the middle of the hive and four on the left from the front.

The last honeycombs from the salvage operation, three on the right from the middle of the hive and four on the left from the front. There’s not much honey in the front combs, I may do something else with them.

Honey in various stages of salvage.

Various stages in the honey salvage.

Experimenting with the best way to get the honey out of the combs.

Experimenting with the best way to get the honey out of the combs.

I’ve got one loaded comb left to process. The honey is so thick it’s taking a long time to drip out of the combs. After slicing the caps off sections of comb and letting them drip, then flipping them over and letting the other side drip, I squish them and let them drip again. Not very efficient, but I get to lick my fingers a lot.

Meanwhile, outside I’ve been cutting back and raking paths and pruning shrubs and trees. This is the best place to be on any day in any season in the garden: I can look out with pleasure at what I’ve accomplished thus far, and simply sit with the joy of it, a dog rolling at my feet, far more done than undone at this point in the season, the whole garden vista ahead of schedule.

A bitter wind blew in a few days ago, ahead of the snowstorm that started yesterday morning. Evening grosbeaks peck in a frenzy at the sunflower feeder. The patio rug blows up with a thump against the table. I scramble to batten down the hatches. This constantly shifting spring weather heightens minute to minute uncertainty: A cold shadow falls over the yard with a bleak wind, the mood becomes more urgent; the sun blows free of the clouds and optimism surges. There is this apocalyptic deep fear: what will happen next? The clouds exacerbate that, the sun relieves it; being thirsty exacerbates it, a drink of water relieves it.

Just yesterday morning when this snowstorm was starting.

Just yesterday morning when this snowstorm was starting.

Twenty-four hours later we have eight inches of snow. All the little flowers and shoots are buried, and getting a deep drink. More snow is expected later this week. What do we call the spell of spring that lasted almost a month and brought so many species out of their winter sleep? If the warm weather that follows the first cold spell in fall is called Indian Summer, what is the name of the first warm spell that precedes actual Spring?

I never thought I’d be grateful to live in Colorado because of the mild winter! Though we loved this balmy break in our short winter, everyone is celebrating the return of the snow. We think about “percent of normal” snowpack in the mountains, and what it means for our water this summer. Skiers are ecstatic with feet of new snow in the high country. Down here at 6800′ we welcome the moisture in fields, yards, gardens that were already drying out. The almost non-winter this year is as eerie as the absence of the bees. So with deep relief, after a brief frenzy of garden cleanup, I settle back into winter pace. When the snow melts again the garden will be well ahead of itself, and maybe the grasshoppers will have frozen.

Free at last, thank Dog, I'm free at last!

Free at last, thank Dog, I’m free at last!

And once she was off the leash, Stellar just had to make her play.

And once she was off the leash, Stellar just had to make her play.

Big goofball heeling for no reason.

Big goofball heeling for no reason.

A dark-eyed junco fluffs in the desert willow outside my office window.

A dark-eyed junco fluffs in the desert willow outside my office window.

A young buck mule deer passes in front of the lion gate after digging and browsing around under the snow in the garden.

A young buck mule deer passes in front of the lion gate after digging under snow and browsing in the garden.

Snowfleas

Raven leads the way, leashed, on a forty minute ski this afternoon.

Raven leads the way, leashed, on a forty minute ski this afternoon.

After our walk this morning Raven came inside and rolled onto her back, tentatively, for the first time since her surgery exposing her Jiggy-belly for a rub. Avoiding the incision I gently massaged her tummy on each side, and rubbed the little white star on her chest. She is 95% out of the woods, says Doc, after we skied through the woods early this afternoon. “I bet you never thought you’d be this excited to see a dog poop,” he added. So her system is functioning again, though sluggishly and painfully. “She’ll be sore for another week or so, she might strain a little and that’s okay. As long as she doesn’t strain and strain. Something can still go wrong in the next day or two, but she’s doing really well. You’ve done a great job.”

“So did you,” I said. “Oh, I just closed my eyes,” he said.

It’s been a full-time job, tending this little bad dog and her stitched up intestine. I’m exhausted. My usual exercise of walking them half a mile a day then letting them in and out as they like has burgeoned to well over two miles each day in three or four forced marches. This morning and evening we walked to the top of the driveway and back, more than half a mile each trip. In between, we skied up and back then continued on through the yard and out toward the canyon, another mile plus at a good clip. But even my skiing downhill is no more than a brisk walk for Raven, and she helped me up the hills. My hips are feeling it, and my left foot throbs, but my stamina has already increased, and I can feel those starches burning up.

Among the many benefits of our forced marches up and down the driveway is the beauty of the view,

Among the many benefits of our forced marches up and down the driveway is the beauty of the view.

Ice Canyon begins to earn its name at last this winter.

Ice Canyon begins to earn its name at last this winter.

The snow so far this year has been great for cross-country. This year, I mean this whole winter, which seems like it’s been months but in fact actually started on time: We had a long mild autumn with only a couple of cold snaps, and snow and arctic blasts only began in earnest right around the solstice, the alleged first day of winter. It occurred to me today that in less than two months I’ll be photographing bees on crocuses. So no complaints here about this winter, which when it finally did arrive arrived with commitment. Snowpack in the mountains is above normal throughout most of the state, after alarmingly low measurements just a few weeks ago. But back to the snow down here, on the plateau.

It’s been crisp and dry, and ideal for skiing through the woods. Some years it’s just heavy and wet all winter, and sticks to the bottoms of skis and holds you back. Like so many things can, if you let them. This short bright season, we just glide along. I understand the allure of fresh powder for those crazy downhill skiers, it’s great for nordic as well. Brutally cold temperatures also help. But I’ve noticed before that ski conditions deteriorate as soon as I see snowfleas.

Those little pepper specks are living beings.

Yes, snowfleas. Those little pepper specks are living beings.

Maybe this year will be different. It was still plenty cold this afternoon when we encountered them. But usually they signify warmer weather, which means melty snow, which can impede skis. I didn’t believe in snowfleas when I first heard the word, but have since come to be quite fond of the little critters and greet them with delight. On closer inspection, they look almost like thistle seeds! But smaller, and they bounce. You don’t have to watch long before you see them popping and hopping off the snow. Also, they cannot kill your dog. In fact, snowfleas are beneficial arthropods, decomposers who live in the duff under trees and break down decaying matter, making its nutrients more accessible for growing plants. They are also prey to beetles, ants, and other tiny predators. Just one more species living its life among the rest of us, one more unique manifestation of the divine.

Believe it, or not.

Believe it, or not.

While they are always there in the fertile decay of the forest floor, at an astounding density of a hundred thousand or more per square yard, you can really only see them in the snow, when they sometimes rise to the surface. Why? I’m not sure anybody knows. Snowfleas remind me there is so much I don’t yet and may never know about the world we inhabit. Divine mystery can be immense or tiny.

Last Day to Order Bee Calendars, among other things

Just a friendly reminder, if anyone wants bee calendars I’ll be placing the final order tomorrow night. Email subscribers have pointed out that there is no order form in the email version of the blog; to fill out the form you’ll need to click the link to go directly to dukkaqueen.com, and follow the post to the bottom of the page. I’ll get the final tally tomorrow night and your calendars will begin buzzing their ways to you!

Everlasting snapdragons kept budding and blooming through the first snow, the second snow... Finally, after some six degree nights, they have wilted.

Everlasting snapdragons kept budding and blooming through the first snow, the second snow… Finally, after some six degree nights, they have wilted.

Ice Canyon putting on ice. We've only had a couple of one-inch snows so far, but the snow has stayed on the ground with nights dipping into the teens and days barely up to freezing, for the most part. The roller coaster has slid to a stop, and now there's time to breathe into winter hibernation.

Ice Canyon putting on ice. We’ve only had a couple of one-inch snows so far, but the snow has stayed on the ground with nights dipping into the teens and days barely up to freezing, for the most part. The roller coaster has slid to a stop, and now there’s time to breathe into winter hibernation.

The dogs continue their vigilance on daily walks to the canyon, monitoring wildlife, scenting the bucks in rut, the lions laying low.

The dogs continue their vigilance on daily walks to the canyon, monitoring wildlife, scenting the bucks in rut, the lions laying low.

Just enough snow last week to build a Rocky-sized snowman. He had so much fun and was so proud when we finished!

Just enough snow last week to build a Rocky-sized snowman. He had so much fun and was so proud when we finished!

Cynthia's sensational sesame-semolina bread.

Cynthia’s sensational sesame-semolina bread.

Earlier this month, I had a few last yellow Brandywine tomatoes that Chris and Rosie had let me pick from their drooping vines. The plants were so thick with foliage that some of the fruits in the center of the cluster had survived a hard frost. All I wanted was one last tomato sandwich. I texted up the hill to see if Cynthia wanted to trade a couple of tomatoes for two slices of her delicious bread that we’d had at Halloween.

That bread was all gone, she said, but she was baking right then, and would bring me some shortly. Around two that afternoon she arrived with a precious bread round, warm and fragrant right from the oven, in a tin she was returning. I worked the rest of the afternoon, savoring the aroma, thinking from time to time about the delicious sandwich I’d have when I quit for the day. After four or five hours, I turned off the computer, and went into the kitchen to prepare my delectable repast. The last tomato sandwich of the season! I’d been salivating all afternoon.

I took the bread out of the tin and set it on the cutting board. Then decided I’d better go pee before getting the sandwich all ready to eat. So I did that, and washed my hands, and returned to the kitchen in about two minutes. The perfect loaf of bread was gone. Disappeared. Two minutes. Vanished. Not a crumb anywhere. I looked in the microwave, thinking well maybe I had stuck it in there automatically to keep the bad dog from snagging it. Alas! I had not. It was nowhere. And there was a skulking girl catahoula in the living room, and also a slightly anxious boy dog. GRRRR! I knew who had scarfed it down in one gulp. Just the one bad dog, Raven.

I tossed her out into the cold and made her stay there a full twenty minutes, while I railed and raged about my lost dinner. It surprised me how angry I got, and mostly at her. Though I knew deep down it was my fault for leaving the bread out. Usually I take precautions with food, conscientiously putting it in a box or in the microwave or out of reach on the windowsill. But the one time all year I drop my guard, and she steals the gift bread, made special for me, special for that last tomato sandwich… Such a blow! A real first-world problem, though. I could laugh at myself and at her after a short while. And when Cynthia heard of the mishap, (as in, got my text saying I am going to fucking kill Raven!), she offered immediately to bake me another. The next evening, all was well: fresh bread, last tomato, plenty of mayonnaise, and the forgiven dog on my lap afterwards. These little disappointments, tempered by the gifts and grace of good friends and the overriding sweetness of sneaky animals. Life is always in flux.

Bad Dog forgiven, sitting on my lap.

Bad Dog forgiven, sitting on my lap.

I have it on good authority that Jigsaw Puzzle Season officially started on Thanksgiving Day, but I got the jump on game season when I found this mystery card game while cleaning the mudroom.

I have it on good authority that Jigsaw Puzzle Season officially started on Thanksgiving Day, but I got the jump on game season when I found this mystery card game while cleaning the mudroom.

Speaking of flux, I found this card game out of the blue while rearranging some furniture, and that led to a whole ‘nother string of lessons about life, or maybe just a series of delightful reminders about how the rules are always changing, and the means, and the goals. I’ve felt especially up in the air these last few days as I await a doctor visit tomorrow morning. This past year has been fraught with several physical challenges, from a dislocated clavicle to plantar fasciitis, to the lingering effects of a dizzy virus. All these pale in comparison to the news that may come tomorrow. I try not to think about it; everything can change in an instant all the time, a lion attack in the woods, a rockfall on the highway, a maniac at the movies, stroke, aneurism, pneumonia; why worry about a biopsy before you get the result?

Maybe the only thing that will be different will be a new lease on life, and renewed commitment to be grateful every living moment of every day.

Morning Rounds, 7:30 p.m.

A sweet spring snow came down in fat round flakes, coating everything.

A sweet spring snow came down in fat round flakes, coating everything.

The tower beds are ready for planting, one half of the big third coming up garlic and the other half I don’t know, I’ll have to check the book; the second third calendula, the happy orange flower that blooms profusely. I didn’t want to cut them back at first, Katrina made me. “You’ll see,” she said, and she was right, as she so often is about these growing things. Calendula is prolific in this one patch and as long as it continues to self-sow I welcome it. And the third third, what did we choose to do with it? I don’t know. I’ll have to check the book. Thank god for keeping records. Planting time approaches.

Chris came and weed-whacked last year’s good grasses gone to seed so they can scatter and regrow, spread; and took to the ground some nasty bad grass. I guess the bad grass is not the worst thing in the world to cover some of this ground. There are things I’d far prefer, though, like the purple mustards that are moving in; I just need to keep the bad grass down. And afterwards, a sweet spring snow followed by a hint of rain. All the grass has grown inches in the few days since it was cut. The roller-coaster approaches the first crest. All I want to do is be outside and work in the garden, stay ahead of the weeds and the bad grass. My focus is consumed by the tasks ahead. And the Stardog stands on his head then lies on his back in the wet grass and wags his tail at me. He knows where my energy goes. He follows its direction and when it veers too far from him he comes nearby and does something unbearably cute.

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Just a handful of dried rosehips remain on the canes. Tiny green buds begin to peek out. Maybe I will increase my apricot crop this year threefold or fivefold, from two to six or ten, maybe even twenty, who knows. The tree so recently laden with fertile flowers flocked with honeybees is now a haggard brown. A few blossoms remain in every stage of opening from tight white ovals through barely open to full-on bloom. Maybe I’ll have a few apricots after all. Maybe we all will.

The almond blossoms appear to have been protected from the freeze.

The almond blossoms appear to have been protected from the freeze.

The almond on the other hand looks like most of its blooms have survived. There are a few brown, many wide open, many in bud and some wilting, perhaps from the natural course of things. Tiny green leaf buds emerge in shoots from the tips of all the twigs. The dormant winter apple buds begin to swell, and the first jonquil releases its paper shell. Hardy red tulips and royal purple pasqueflower bloom even after snow; these flowers bloom in sequence, ramping up. The forsythia didn’t suffer too much from the freeze, up against the west side of the house.

Jonquil buds in snow Monday are closer to opening today.

Jonquil buds in snow Monday are closer to opening today.

No time for a proper dog walk tonight, but I open the gate and let them run into the woods. I want to be a dog for whom going is its own reward. When I step out into the leech field full of winterfat, I can see the sunset. It just takes stepping out the east gate and I can see the glorious sunset to the west, peach and violet, light blue, and yellow-tinted white.

 

Practical Math

The river runs full and red yesterday through Paonia.

The river runs full and red yesterday through Paonia. 

Welcoming snowmelt.

Welcoming snowmelt, roaring down to fill reservoirs and bigger rivers.

Going with the flow.

Going with the flow.

More found time this morning. A phrase I’ve recently become quite fond of. All week I’ve been finding time, or being given found time, which is more accurate I think. A gift from the universe in this peculiar spring; three appointments were canceled last week, giving me hours more time for my devotions. Time added to my days.

This morning, one neighbor planned to come over at ten and pick up some boxes for a yard sale and another was to pick me up at eleven to drive over and look at my fields across the canyon, make plans for him to harrow or mark or do whatever spring maintenance is needed in order for hay to grow bountifully. We awoke a little after eight, when Rocky wanted out; he was prescient. Half an hour later when I had to get up, the rain was starting and the big dogs wouldn’t leave the door. I fed the cat and went back to bed for the half hour until I could give him his shot.

Our new normal. Each morning Brat Farrar gets homemade, raw food, weighed in grams; half an hour later I give him an insulin shot. Half an hour longer, more or less, and I take away any food he didn’t eat, weigh it, do the math, and record how much he ate. We are doing science. The goal of the calculations, and weekly blood draws to measure sugar, is to bring the kitty back into balance. Beautiful Brat Farrar, my special special cat. Always so fragile and timid.

My rancher neighbor called before I was up for real as rain poured down outside in sideways sheets. “I think we should go over and look at those fields now, don’tcha think?” My first belly-laugh of the day. We postponed it til tomorrow. I postponed the yard-sale neighbor as well and settled in for a day of quiet introspection.

Change is afoot in the neighborhood, as the road crew carves a new curve before paving the  county road.

Change is afoot in the neighborhood, as the road crew carves a new curve before paving the county road.

Forsythia fills the window where I park at Small Potatoes Farm to pick up the week's bread from the brick oven bakery.

Forsythia fills the window where I park at Small Potatoes Farm to pick up the week’s bread from the brick oven bakery.

Snow blew down in spirals, an inch in an hour, fat wet giant flakes like daisies spinning from above. After a cup of coffee and a melt-in-your-mouth, gluten-free, ginger-pecan scone from the Brick Oven Bakery, I turned my attention to my neglected kitchen.

Tulips in snow, this fleeting bittersweet beauty. A friend in sunny Florida fights for her life.

Tulips in snow, this fleeting bittersweet beauty. A friend in sunny Florida fights for her life.

This afternoon, I continue cleaning the deepest recesses of the house; I finally accomplished the pantry last week, the mudroom yesterday, and today, that hell-hole corner cupboard left of the sink. With small cardboard boxes salvaged from the recycle pile stacked yesterday, and colorful duct tape, I made small bins for daily cleaners, rarely used cleaners, oils and waxes, dusting all the containers and washing down the cupboard boards before implementing the new organization. I feel desperate to reduce clutter and mess in my life. I believe this ties in with my overall health as it gradually improves. On every level, bringing my life into balance in this season of upheaval.

A candle for Karla.

A candle for Karla.

Before the cleaning frenzy began, I turned on the Found Music and lit candles in loving ritual for friends and family gone, going, or in duress. I’ve spent the day in wholesome cleansing and reflection. For the first time in months I have the energy to tackle a winter-dirty house full of seasons of clutter. Motivated by the music library serendipitously shared by a friend, tunes and artists that I mostly don’t know but songs which suit my endeavor, I move through the day lightly despite the heavy weather.

Through snowy almond blossoms...

Through snowy almond blossoms…

... the apricot is also covered in snow. I watch it all day through the window as snow melts and blossoms show pink, then watch it get covered again. Each blooming tree a singular gift of changing beauty.

… the apricot is also covered. I watch it all day through the window as snow melts and blossoms show pink, then watch it get covered again. Each blooming tree a singular gift of changing beauty.

Snow tapered off in the afternoon. During a break we got out to run around the yard and fill the bird feeders (the dogs the one, and I the other), check the rain gauge, feed a friend’s cat. A cacophony of finches in the feeder trees. How many is that? Practical math: If you add .40 inches of warm water to the slush in the rain gauge and swish it around til it’s all liquid, then pour it back into the measuring tube and have .68 inches of water, what is the water content of the snow so far today?

This evening white rain pelts down again, a hybrid snow and rain that isn’t quite sleet and definitely not hail. Or maybe tiny, tiny hail. I light a fire in the woodstove and prepare a meal, leftover salmon mixed into salad with fresh chives and basil from pots in the sunroom, on a bed of chopped baby spinach and arugula with a ginger/sherry vinaigrette. On the side, one half a Brick Oven garlic bagel toasted, with butter, cream cheese, and thinly sliced farm-fresh red onion. Oh the way we eat around here.

Tonight I’ll decant the kefir I made from kefir grains that Touffic gave me and start a new batch with the organic milk in the fridge. A new way to get probiotics, from an heirloom strain passed on through community like sourdough starter. Bread and yogurt will be the next new staples on my homemade journey.

“You look great,” said Deb when she came to pick up Rocky around three. “What have you been doing?”

Adding gratitude, finding time, subtracting dirt, losing burdens, measuring snow. Practical math. “Rejuvenating,” I said. “Choosing Life.”

Mary holds a margarita.

Mary holds a margarita.

Every day takes learnin’ all over again how to fuckin’ live. ~ Calamity Jane

…through all kinds of windy weather

The crabapple tree in bud. I planted this sweet tree beside the grave of Little Doctor Vincent, one of the most amazing cats I've ever known.

The crabapple tree in bud. I planted this sweet tree beside the grave of Little Doctor Vincent, one of the most amazing cats I’ve ever known.

A lot has happened in the garden in the past few weeks. Many days were cold and windy, overcast or outright snowing. Little popcorn snowballs blustering in with a dark cloud, pounding down and coating everything quickly, and melting in an hour. The bees kept largely to themselves on days like that. The past few days have really felt like spring, though; waves of purple mustard splash across the ‘dobies between Delta and Hotchkiss, along the roadside from Hotchkiss up to Crawford. Sandhill cranes have all but completed their migration through here, just a stray spiral or vee of them now and then. Snow covers the mountain tops; all the summer brown fields and ‘dobie hills are green, lush or barely brushed. Soon the surprise of some of those rare wildflowers that bloom only once a decade or two may pop up in swaths of white or blue.

Forsythia in bloom a week ago one morning in a brief spring snow. I planted this forsythia in remembrance of my mother long before she died, knowing this day would come: she'd be gone and it's blossoms would remind me of her and eastern Easters.

Forsythia in bloom a week ago in a brief spring snow. I planted this forsythia in remembrance of my mother long before she died, knowing this day would come: she’d be gone and its blossoms would remind me of her.

Everything is full of promise, lifting my spirits with inordinate optimism. The river is muddy with snowmelt and the redtail hawk is sitting in her nest above the Smith Fork. Yesterday I watched her soar out of sight, circling slowly up and up, smaller with each revolution, a glint, a speck, a recollection. The bees, the bees are out around the grape hyacinths, blue and white; after snow two days ago the first little yellow tulips opened, their buds like almonds finally pushed up from underground and flowers spreading like the sun.

Tall coral tulips have been cross-pollinated with the splashy red short ones to produce a unique hybrid.

Tall coral tulips have been cross-pollinated with the splashy red short ones to produce a unique hybrid.

Blooming Veronica creeps across a sandstone slab.

Blooming Veronica creeps across a sandstone slab.

The years unroll, one season following another. Truer words were never sung. The golden currant is full of small bright green new leaves. All the columbines are up with their rounds of feathery foliage, daylily spikes are four to six inches tall. More Veronica blooms have opened, and Nepeta is taking over everywhere. Chicory keeps spreading its rosettes farther into the path. This garden gives me great delight. I broke back the Basin Wild Rye last evening and pulled a patch of bur buttercup, that precious nasty weed I took such care to spare the first year I saw it, decades ago. Some almond blossoms are already open up against the stucco house, the apricot’s about to burst; the first dandelion has bloomed and Nepeta is taking over everywhere.

Apricot buds ripening...

Apricot buds ripening…

...unfolding...

…unfolding…

...opening!

…opening!

The bee tree today is as thick with bees and flies and tiny undecipherable lives in the later stage of these clusters. I must come back with the camera when it’s less breezy.

The bee tree today is as thick with bees and flies and tiny undecipherable lives in the later stage of these clusters. I must come back with the camera when it’s less breezy.

I baked a halibut filet on top of some tender tarragon shoots the other night. Winter arugula is already sending up flower stalks in the covered garden, still feeding me several salads a week, and baby spinach will soon be ready to eat. Down at the pond a leopard frog emerged a few weeks ago. I’ve spooked it three or four times, and it spooked me when it splashed from the curly rush through the water, in one smooth arc, to bury itself in silt.

The resident leopard frog hides at the edge of the pond. I first spooked her weeks ago finger-combing the rushes, and still she sits there every day.

The resident leopard frog hides at the edge of the pond. I first spooked her weeks ago finger-combing the rushes, and still she sits there every day.

Sneaking up on her to catch a shot ~ such camouflage!

Sneaking up on her to catch a shot ~ such camouflage!

Another frog watches over European pasqueflower and iris shoots by the bottle wall.

Another frog watches over European pasqueflower and iris shoots by the bottle wall.

A greenbottle fly on grape hyacinth.

A greenbottle fly on grape hyacinth.

And a honeybee drinking deep in another.

And a honeybee drinking deep in another.

Though they've been blooming about a week today's the first time I've seen a bee at the white ones.

Though they’ve been blooming about a week today’s the first time I’ve seen a bee at the white ones.

From the songs in each of our individual heads, our unique threads, our song lines, springs the meaning in our lives.

The last cat, Brat Farrar, struggles through a health crisis, striving, like me, for balance.

The last cat, Brat Farrar, struggles through a health crisis, striving, like me, for balance.

 

 

 

 

The Next Few Days

The last apples from Ruth and Jeff's cellar, made into a delicious pie to say goodbye to our dear friends Connie and John, who've chosen to move back to Wisconsin to dwell among their large, expanding family.

The last apples from Ruth and Jeff’s cellar, made into a delicious pie to say goodbye to our dear friends Connie and John, who’ve chosen to move back to Wisconsin to dwell among their large, expanding family.

All that week it was two days forward in my healing and one day back. Friday, the 21st, I stumbled through a step-back day, sweeping and cleaning counters, preparing dinner for the Pilots Club. I’d put it off twice already because of the dizzies, and ran out of time. John and Connie were practically packed for their big move out of our valley after twenty years. I met them shortly after they moved here, while I was building my adobe house and they were planning theirs, in a synchronicitous way. The story of our friendship is too big and long to tell all of, but some years ago I thought it would be fun to gather the three pilots I knew for dinner: Robert, a single neighbor, and John and Jeff, with their wives my dear friends. The six of us have enjoyed dinners or cocktails a couple of times a year since then, and I was determined to fit in a farewell dinner before Connie and John moved away. 

I roasted one of Pamela’s extremely local free-range organic chickens from my new freezer, stewed down the last of the red potatoes from my garden with onions, turmeric, fresh ginger, cumin, dry mustard, coriander, and a little balsamic vinegar, and tossed a big green salad with some homemade shiitake dressing. Connie brought her famous smoked salmon spread and some hummus for hors d’oeuvres, Robert brought bottles of wine and rye and the best vanilla ice cream, and Ruth brought another bottle of wine and the last apple pie of their 2013 harvest. Though I was staggering like a drunk when they arrived just from the infection in my head, I allowed myself a few sips of red wine with appetizers, a few more sips with dinner. In the warm light of the dark house, the fire in the wood stove, the laughter and chatter of friends, the vitality of the food we ate for dinner, the gift of the last apples, something shifted. I sat back after dinner and watched my friends tell stories and laugh; Ruth took one of my feet and gave it a good strong massage, then the other. By the time everyone left I felt the best I had in three weeks. Everything about the evening was healing.

Among the first moss revealed by snowmelt, this patch grows at the base of a piñon seedling.

Among the first moss revealed by snowmelt, this patch grows at the base of a piñon seedling.

The next few days I ventured regularly into the woods. Despite my best efforts to nourish myself and keep going, the dizziness just wouldn’t let go. I trudged through the woods day after day more for the dogs than for me, though I did appreciate the greening forest. Still balancing with ski poles, still crossing big pillows of snow, dodging patches of mud, I noticed more and more green on the forest floor.

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Ice Canyon began to melt as the days gradually warmed.

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I walked farther one day than I have in a long while, wandering more or less around the medium loop, finding joy again in photographing trees. I stopped to rest in the Lounge Tree. This beautiful juniper with its extravagantly twisting limbs provides a comfortable seat for the weary traveler, offers a different perspective:

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While shooting this lovely split tree, zooming in and out with my feet, caressing up and down the trunk with my camera, I caught sight of a bald eagle high in the distance. She did show in some of the shots, but she was even smaller than some of the artful specks of this imaginary lens, so I won’t try to persuade you she’s here. Step by unsteady step I walk steadily back into my life.

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Friday, light snow and fog

East from the patio, agave pods cling to the stalk, mountains shrouded in clouds.

East from the patio, agave pods cling to the stalk, mountains shrouded in clouds.

With a small fire in the wood stove, all day, and a white cloud outside. Light snow falling off and on, a thin crust of ice on things this afternoon. It’s an inside day, and soft as… a snowflake, a down pillow, a requiem. A black and white day, starting with vintage news coverage of Kennedy’s assassination. Back when anchors had time to process the news they were delivering on TV. Then classic rock on KVNF all day, interspersing dishes and sweeping and stoking the fire with writing toward my 50,000 words in November. Morning Rounds didn’t happen til almost five o’clock; an owl whoooed out through foggy junipers somewhere toward the canyon, softness continued to fall.

Beehive under birch in lightly falling snow.

Beehive under birch in lightly falling snow.

Blue Avena grass, dusted.

Blue Avena grass, dusted.

May all beings be free from suffering.

May all beings be free from suffering.

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Stellar poses by the Lion gate as snow quickens.

Stellar poses by the Lion gate as snow quickens.

 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

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.

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.

Rocky on the rim of Buck Canyon two weeks ago.

Stellar surveys hid domain.

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.

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.

A walk in the woods the other day captures the spirit of impending winter.

Stellar in the Sitting Tree

Stellar in the Sitting Tree

The first icicles form and fall in Ice Canyon. Raven watches, flummoxed by the sound of their crashing down.

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.

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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.