I’m grateful today and every day for the gorgeous sunset. I’m grateful to have live through another precious day, a day that will never come again, in a life that continues to be blessed with so many opportunities. I’m grateful to live in a beautiful old-growth forest with ancient tree beings, and fleeting foxes, and an abundance of phoebes, among the many lives that make up this rich ecosystem. I’m grateful for the awareness to appreciate all this precious, ephemeral life, including my own. More about that tomorrow.
I’m grateful we all lived to experience another sunset (all in my immediate circle); grateful for cooler, more appropriate summer weather; grateful for reclaimed garden space in the dog pen:
I’m grateful for another effective day in the garden!
It was a long, slow, cold, dark winter. A few days of sunshine sprinkled amongst weeks, months of clouds, fog, and snow. Driveways in our neighborhood drifted more times this winter than in the full decade past’s winters. These photos are sequential, from Valentine’s Day through last week, showing just some of the excitement of this turning season. Some have days between them, others only hours.
This is the first day in over a month that I’ve been able to spend a whole morning outside. I usually get to spend two, at the very least one day a week devoted to the yard and gardens. With oppressive smoke and heat outside all day and night these recent weeks, and inside flames, of love, fears, blame, I’ve been neglecting my garden, my center, my path. I am still learning to walk.
The patio pots are out of control, in desperate need of deadheading and trimming. Stellar can’t stand that I’m talking to myself about it and not to him. He flops onto his left side and rolls his head toward me, then tries to roll his bulk onto his back, pawing at the path and making little noises. Rolling after running and eating is dangerous, so I go to him, get up baby, such a fine boy… He comes to standing, shakes, leans against my knees as I fold over him rubbing his belly, my cheek pressed to his velvet ear, his chocolate cheek, murmuring love words as he emanates his whole-hearted response. I’ve been neglecting the dogs as well as the garden.
A light shower last night and an even cloud cover this morning gave hours of enjoyment and work, nurturing the place that gives me succor: pulling prostrate knotweed and bindweed from paths, deadheading rampant gladioli and snapdragons, cutting back early salvias and dahlias, pulling from cracks between flagstones the errant catmints; leaving thymes and gourmet salad-size purslane. All the pots are buzzing with bees and other aerial creatures. Below, honeybee drinks from abundant Gaura in the pink clay pot.
The sky has also been abuzz. The Buttermilk Fire at the west end of our mesa held my attention for a full week. I readied the Mothership for evacuation though I didn’t really think it would be necessary. This time. To date, around 750 acres have burned, mostly in wilderness piñon and juniper in steep canyons and ridges. Firefighters have contained 15% of the burn area and remain focused on keeping the fire heading south and east into the wilderness, protecting human habitations at the northeast edge and minimizing the threat of an ember rain.
What blooms along the seam of the path and the patio foundation varies year to year depending on what seeds sow, what weeds grow, what gets mowed down by the tortoise, dogs, garden cart or hose in daily passing. I keep hoping snapdragons will self-sow here, as they do at Rosie’s house, but so far the seeds haven’t landed in optimum conditions. As I trim and weed around the patio I wear gloves and watch closely. There’s always a chance of a black widow, though they don’t tend to inhabit this kind of niche, they prefer a deep and secret place with little or no traffic of any sort.
Leafcutter bees have been crazy for the dahlias this week. I’ve finally figured out how to overwinter them: leave them in pots, bring the pots into the mudroom after the foliage dies back, and keep a paper bag over them. All those I saved in a box or a bag over the past few years since I started growing dahlias have withered, despite occasional misting, and failed to revive in the ground. Those I kept in pots last year grew again in abundance. Next spring when I bring them out I’ll divide them into even more pots. They bloomed early this year, like everything else, but they keep on going as long as I keep tending to them, and it’s hard to name a more cheerful flower.
All the west is burning. Smoke obscures horizons for days. This is chaos, not change. The practice is to witness. The work is love. Our living planet needs each of us to rise up. Some hearts burn with passion, some with shame. Mine smolders with both but at least I’m on fire again.
The breeze is finally cool tonight, and it wants to rain. It’s been a merciless summer so far, except for last Friday night. Relentless heat in the nineties, and no rain for months. The aridification of the West. My field like most on this mesa is at least half brown, with meager green grass. Fires rage, and we’re lucky, with nine reportable fires in the state, and more than twice that many from Oklahoma west, that we are not oppressed with daily smoke, and have not had to evacuate. I feel for those closest to the fires, how the smoke settles down at night and it’s all there is to breathe. Even here sometimes, dawn brings smoky air that sends me downstairs early to close windows and doors. With the heat of the day the smoke lifts, though we get a hint of it from time to time, but otherwise skies are simply hazy. We are desperate for rain.
My skin is turning lizard. Our skin is dry always, and hot by midday, and almost no one has air conditioning, because heretofore we have not needed it. Nights in the high sixties never cool us down enough to make it through a closed-in day. This is climate chaos at play.
But last Friday night, unbridled joy erupted: At last, rain! The band won’t soon forget that night, nor will any of us who happened to be there when it rained. First there was a lightning show in the mountains north and east of town, but the music was good so we stayed, despite the obvious risks: Gobs of electrical equipment, cables across the lawn, the church steeple right across the road, lightning cloud-to-cloud around us in a constant thunder rumble.
Rapidgrass played through the rain at the Old Mad Dog Café downtown, speakers and amps covered in tarps. Many left before the rain, but those who stayed remained until the band was through, well after dark. Some ineffable unity came to the band and the crowd: strangers and friends danced together, streaming onto the dance floor as rain came down; laughing, swinging, cheering, whistling, weeping. Grizzled old-time ranchers whose livelihoods depend on water danced with young hippie transplants, confirmed hermits splashed in puddles with dark-eyed children. We stuck our heads under downspouts, laughing, getting drenched in the welcome shower, dancing, dancing, and the band played on.
A double rainbow heralded a slight break in the rain. At sunset a downpour began in earnest: dancers and drinkers poured inside, and the band followed us through the double doors, continuing acoustically with Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain and a few other tunes, before taking their only break.
People headed to cars and trucks or nearby houses to refresh themselves or change clothes, and most returned for the next set. The band kept trying to quit at the end of their second set and we kept them going for an hour more with piercing whistles and cries of Play all night!!! For the rain of course, I realize now, but in the moment it felt like for the frenzied joy.
It’s been a joyful summer in so many ways, so far. Cousin Melinda came from Kentucky for relaxation therapy, including the best fish tacos ever, chihuahua for a day, a day over the pass at Iron Mountain Hot Springs, and our ritual cocktail party at the Black Canyon right down the road.
In(ter)dependence Day brought more beloved company and festivities to our neighborhood pod, and days before that Felix turned 100. His dearest friends concocted the party of the century. More than 200 people enjoyed live music from Swing City Express (featuring vocals from various local talent), great barbecue from Slow Groovin’ in Marble, and visiting with long-ago and seldom-seen friends. People came from across the globe to honor our favorite centenarian, who was not the oldest person at his party! Felix got covered in lipstick kisses.
Meanwhile, midst all this partying, the garden struggles along in the hottest driest summer I’ve seen in my 26 years here. The magpies have fledged and gone, the redtails in the canyon are learning to fly, and the baby hummingbirds are almost too big for their nest, with tail feathers out one side and sweet faces peeking out the other. Despite myriad fears and stresses over weather, climate, and the demolition of democracy, there is so much wonderful life to cherish and celebrate, every day, right here in our own back yards. Open your eyes. Let me remember to be grateful, every living moment of every day.
First a word about my breakfast. I am so aware of where my food comes from. I realize it might seem off the deep end to friends in other places, other lives, other worlds. But here, in this fertile creative valley, it feels so easy and right to be mindful of every bite. Or nearly. Time to focus on slowly consuming what’s in the freezer, because in a couple of months or less we’ll have half a pig to put in there. I found a couple of rolls from Monica’s brick oven bakery, so I thawed and toasted them. Pamela’s hens are laying and I’ve got a dozen fresh eggs. Suzi called the other night and squealed “I picked up your birthday present today!” That’s when I started thinking about a homemade eggamuffin. She’d asked me a few weeks earlier which part of her pig I would like for my birthday present. Bacon! I cried without hesitation.
This year when friends announced a joint birthday party for Elena and me, she said “no presents.” Great idea, I thought. I have too much stuff! But I’d already told a couple of friends all I wanted was socks. Socks used to be a bit of a disappointment at Christmas. Imperceptibly over the years I came to appreciate the gift of socks. Maybe it began after my mother died and I no longer routinely got socks for Christmas or birthday presents. Auntie sent me socks in recent years, and I’ve been delighted to get them. So I replied to the group invitation, “Me too! No presents. Unless I can wear them or eat them.” Because I suddenly remembered the fresh oranges and other gifts of food I’ve received since living here, and I didn’t want to discourage more of those. So it was a meaningful breakfast, chock full not only of pure and local nutrients but also full of neighborly friendship and love. A fulfilling and tangible taste of community. Yum.
The lettuce was store-bought organic. The garden is crazy early waking up, but no edible greens yet except the early blue mustards, whose bright green rosettes are popping up in vibrant patches as the snow melts. All manner of other little green shoots are poking up or unfurling, crocus and iris leaves, miniature daffodil tips, curly grape hyacinth leaves, and the hardier perennials like Ratibida, Gallardia, and columbines. I’ve been puttering in the garden for at least a week, and the past few beautiful days we’ve started spring cleanup in earnest.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since the snow has melted off the front of the hoop house, and when I opened it the other day I realized I should have done so as soon as the east side was free of snow. The Vidalia onions survived! At least, some of them did, and when I checked, expecting frozen ground a finger depth down I was stunned to find the dirt was bone dry. So I dragged out the hoses and watered the bed deeply through the afternoon.
Three years worth of amaryllis add color and structure to the sunroom in winter. I can’t eat it or wear it, but each year a friend gives me one for Christmas. This year’s amaryllis popped open this week, while the other two are growing great green leaves. One of them bloomed twice last summer out on the patio. Raven, all well again, naps outside the windows.
With all this rejuvenation in the garden I was surprised to notice in these recent warm days that there were no bees coming out of the hive. I went closer and listened; no buzzing from inside. I realized with mixed emotions that the hive had died. Deborah came over yesterday afternoon to help cut back penstemon stalks and other seedheads, and we embarked upon the adventure of opening the hive, which revealed a Bee Tragedy…