Another sunny day! Another lunch outside, and more hours to winterize the yarden, draining more hoses, storing plant pots, tidying garden tools. Each ‘last sunny day’ a respite before the strongly predicted storm due to arrive now in about three hours. We’ll know more later!
The aspen has lost all her leaves, but the crabapple still clings to color. I’m grateful for the small display of deciduous trees in the yard, and sometimes wish I’d planted more. I was limited by how much water I had for them, but now that they are all established maybe I can add another one… or two… in spring. A sour cherry, and a red maple, those are my dream trees.
I’m grateful for another delicious zoom cooking with Amy. I can no longer recall which of us spotted this recipe on Instagram, but Amy tracked it down so we could read it easily and then alerted me this afternoon that the salmon had to marinate for at least an hour and the rice had to be completely cooled. I got those things done just in time to get online with her for assembly and cooking, and then we sat down to enjoy our meal.
Nori squares, sushi rice, and salmon marinated in soy sauce, honey, hot sauce, ginger and some other yummies, all tucked into muffin cups and baked hot for fifteen minutes; then glazed with another delicious concoction and served hot and crispy, sweet and sour and salty, crunchy and sticky and soft. I will definitely be making these again!
Shortly after we toasted our salmon ‘muffins,’ she got a call from a friend who needed an urgent ride to the emergency vet for a badly injured dog. Amy is just the kind of friend you need in a situation like that. She didn’t bat an eye. She explained, and I said “Bye!” and ended the zoom. I’m grateful for that kind of friend whether mine or someone else’s; we all need them. And I’m grateful that you’re the kind of friend who is now worried about a dog you’ve never met, so I’m glad to tell you that though it was ghastly it was only a flesh wound, and Boone is going to be fine with some stitches and a night or two in the hospital.
Yesterday I stopped to visit an old friend I had not seen since before the pandemic began. Besides the risk of contagion there were a couple of other reasons I hadn’t seen her for so long, but as soon as I sat down with her I regretted my long absence. “It’s so wonderful to see you!” she exclaimed. “I love you so much!”
“Your face is so beautiful,” she went on. She patted her forehead, “Your head, with the beautiful mind, and your eyes, and your beautiful mouth! To make words!” as she rubbed her fingers around her lips. I laughed and said, “It’s wonderful to see you, too, and I love you so much.”
“We’ve been friends for a very long time,” she said, “since we were just little girls,” and she held her hands child-high above the deck where we sat. “It’s been a long time, for sure,” I said, “maybe not as long as all that.” I reminded her how and when we had met.
“It’s so wonderful to see you!” she exclaimed. “I love you so much!” I echoed her words back to her. “You’re so beautiful,” she said, “your hair, and your earrings look so good on your ears, and your pretty hat.” My heart was breaking. I moved my chair around to sit next to her and held her hand. She had quite the strong grip for someone over ninety, though she had moved ponderously and seemed quite frail when she stepped outside to sit with me.
The propane truck arrived just then to fill the house tank, with its engine and pump cacophony, and so we sat quietly, taking in the fall colors in the trees and shrubs around us, smiling at one another and making occasional hand signs and mouthing “I love you,” until they were done and left. Quiet thundered down.
“God bless us and keep us safe from all harm, in Jesus’ name, Amen,” she said. In thirty years I had never once heard her pray. “It’s so wonderful to see you! You look lovely. We’ve been friends for such a long time, since we were just little girls, and here we still are. We took to each other right away.”
That was true. “Like ducks to water,” I said, and she laughed.
“We’ve been friends for ever so long,” she said, “and look at us now, still friends!”
“Yes,” I said, “two little old ladies sitting on the porch, still friends after all these years,” and she said, “Will we be friends forever?”
“We’ll be friends forever,” I said. “We’ll be friends in the next life too, and I’m sure we were in our past lives.” She laughed again. It felt so good to make her laugh. The Alzheimers that began attacking her beautiful mind so many years ago had advanced dramatically since the last time I’d seen her. Though I’d called every month or so for the past few years, I had not seen the change, and the conversations had followed the same repetitive pattern though with a different theme: How are you, what have you been up to, how are you, what have you been doing, how are you… Her seeing me in person added a new element. Each time she told me how beautiful I am and how much she loves me, my heart cracked open a little bit more.
I sat with her for about half an hour and could tell when she closed one eye that she was beginning to tire, so I tapped on the door and her partner came out to help her back inside. I told them I’ll come back next week. “You promise?” she said. “I promise.”
“God bless us and keep us safe from all harm, in Jesus’ name, Amen,” she said as I left. I’m grateful for the heartbreak that made me softer.
I was grateful for the serene beauty along the road home, and the quiet time it afforded me to metabolize the emotions moving through me. I was grateful to return home and find the internet still out, and grateful it remained out until after I went to bed. None of my usual entertainments (read, ‘distractions’) were available to me, and so I nursed the heartbreak quietly, letting it soften more and more the hard edges of my prolonged voluntary solitude.
Into the softness of the heartbreak I let flow the joy of finishing the puzzle. Another pair of dancers, as my friend had danced the last time before this that I’d seen her. The precious tiny star in the dancer’s hand, and the simple pleasure of spotting the piece that fit it across the board and knowing exactly where it went.
That moment that comes late in almost every puzzle, where you’re sure, you are certain, there’s a piece missing because you’ve looked all over for it — and then, suddenly, it’s right in front of you and has been all along.
And then that sense that there’s not enough room for all the pieces you have left, especially the big groups — where can they possibly fit?
And then you find where they go, and the rest of the pieces flow into place smoothly one right after another…
… and then the puzzle is complete, put back together, and so is your heart.
Even as the aspens are just past their peak in the high country, canyon cottonwoods are turning golden. I’m grateful for the spectacle of fall colors across the valley and on the mountain slopes, more glorious this year than it’s been for many past. Grateful for a long wet autumn.
It’s a bit challenging to be grateful that my friends and family seem to have escaped the worst of Hurricane Ian, though the fate of my brother’s house in Naples remains to be determined, and Charleston cousins await the second landfall. Of course I’m grateful for the safety of my beloveds, but this catastrophe really hammers home our interconnectedness on this planet: the destruction of so much habitat, humans’ and other species alike, affects us all. As I experience relief, many thousands of others grieve their losses; and many non-human sentient beings have lost their lives or homes as well. This is a spiritual conundrum that requires strength, courage, and equanimity to be able to hold awareness of both the horrors and losses, as well as gratitude for the joys and blessings, of life in the Anthropocene.
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.
Not quite last, this very tired young hummingbird roosted on a broken sunflower stalk a couple of inches above the ground for hours on October 2nd. Intermittently he’d fly up and drink some nectar from the bountiful hummingbird mint, Agastache, that seemed to be a godsend for a lot of late birds. It’s still blooming! I’ve seen two more since this one, the latest last Wednesday, October 8th: a record in my 14 years taking note.
Not only the hummingbirds but bumblebees and wasps are enjoying the long-lasting blossoms of this licorice-scented Agastache.
Sandhill cranes spiral and soar overhead on their raucous way south.
A lone monarch was lucky to find some nectar left in late-blooming Gallardia.
Snapdragons still blooming profusely are also providing late nectar for hummingbirds and bees, their colors and velvety texture keeping some hot spots in the garden’s yellowing autumn palette.
A honeybee seeking something along the turning leaf of the Amur maple beside the hive.
For a few weeks, rabbitbrush was buzzing…
Preparing for a show in spring, we’re naming all the bees again. This one is Saddlebags.
…and in photographing bees, I found this tiny little creature which appears to belong to a group called Micromoths.
A honeybee hovered at a single late flax flower at my feet; I ran in to get the camera. In that one minute, the bee flew and its breeze blew four petals off the bloom.
Checking on the medicinal herb I found this tiny white spider.
Garlic chives are the early October “bee-tree,” swarming with honeybees, flies, and small wild bees…
Riding with my neighbor down the hill I realized I had an opportunity not to miss. I asked her to pull over at the bottom, in the hairpin turn where Buck Canyon emerges and crosses under the road on its path to the Smith Fork River. She opened the sunroof and let me stand on the seat and ride like a prom queen up the hill to Crawford, slowing down or stopping when I asked.
Looking back uphill from the hairpin turn.
Heading towards the Smith Fork.
Crossing the Smith Fork.
Looking down into the Smith Fork past the power line.
Towards the Crawford Reservoir dam, and beyond, Mendicant Ridge.
On the other side of town, coming down Buckskin Pass to Piburn Flats.
Rocky on my knee looking out the window to Needle Rock with the Sleeping Indian beyond clothed in snow.
Heading home, we took the back road cut from 92 to Hotchkiss to scoot past the stripe painters poking along the highway.
We stopped at the Hotchkiss bridge so I could shoot the river…
Yesterday the winds before the storm blew through the yard, and the birch tree, splendid yellow until then, lost its leaves. I stood for quite awhile in the glory of their blowing flying falling, watching and hearing the essence of autumn. Potted snapdragons, pansies and petunias still punctuate the patio with pops of vivid color, while the trees and shrubs I’ve planted in the past decade have finally filled the yard with fall color. The peach tree orange, scarlet maple, and one rosebush somewhere between; the tiny aspen quaking gold, and the beautiful big birch showering me with lovely yellow leaves like petals. Leaves! I have leaves!
Leaves of all colors blow, from snowberry and sand cherry, honeysuckle and rose, apple and crabapple, lilac, foresteria, forsythia; the apricot alone holds out, still mostly green but turning. I have leaves enough in my yard to rake, at last! But I will likely leave them where they lie, except I’ll rake the pink gravel paths; elsewhere they will stay in layers and piles where they fall, enriching the ground. All the grasses tawny and the seed heads tan and brown, the garden proves itself as gorgeous in late October as at the height of summer bloom. It’s been a long, lovely, and loving autumn. Today is grey with rain and snow on the way, and still the garden glows. A few more days or weeks, if we’re lucky a month, some short span of time, and winter will be upon us.
October 2, the Amur maple in full scarlet splendor, the birch tree still green.
October 6, morning walk to the rim of Buck Canyon with Raven and Stellar. The cottonwoods are beginning to peak and the oaks are still green.
October 9, suddenly all the deciduous shrubs and trees in the canyon are glowing.
October 12, the colors continue to intensify.
Gloves and digger in the garden.
Pulling another batch of carrots and harvesting more parsley. Both have been bountiful and delicious, making me feel oh so healthy. A couple of carrots grated super fine, mixed in with a big bunch of finely chopped parsley, a few cherry tomatoes, some lemon or lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, makes a wonderfully energizing and refreshing salad.
Second harvest of Sangre de Cristo potatoes yields abundant spuds. Allegedly good keepers, we’ll see.
October 13, the Wall of Inebriation holds back the flow of color from the berm, notably burgundy hardy plumbago, and another Amur maple. This one never has gone scarlet, but tends toward orange.
October 13, the maple in the bee bed has lost half its leaves, as the birch begins to turn yellow.
Back at the canyon on an afternoon walk. Living inside a kaleidoscope…
October 20, the canyon just keeps on giving. This is undeniably its most glorious time, and this year it’s been especially spectacular.
Looking northeast across Buck Canyon toward the West Elk Mountains.
Picking up poo in the yard a couple of times a week is a quiet meditation that I actually enjoy. More about that some other time. Here, a colorful surprise, Nicrophorus marginatus, a burying beetle; I left that load for later.
The bees still fly about a lot on a fine day like this one, but other colder days are hunkered down in the hive. Time for straw bales and insulating panels.
October 28, the day the birch tree lost its leaves.
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.