Tag Archive | junipers

Swallowing

I’m grateful I got to spend a lot of time outside today, sitting quietly in the yarden, mowing grass and weeds, reading, watering, attending to the little vegetables, walking the little animals through the woods and admiring the little wildflowers. As I was pondering what specific gratitude to express about today, though, I took a long drink of cold tap water.

Everybody chokes on their own saliva once in a while, or has a sip of something go down the wrong pipe, but I’ve been aspirating a lot lately, as often as once a day sometimes, and that’s got me a little concerned. As I poured the water into my mouth tonight and swallowed gulp after gulp, I thought about my mother, and other people with multi-system atrophy diseases, and how one of the systems that goes is swallowing. They have to drink thickened liquids after awhile which is pretty awful–I tried my mother’s thickened water once. And so as that clear thin water went down my throat cleanly I felt keenly aware of my gratitude for swallowing a glassful effortlessly.

A delight to see snow still on the mountains this late in May

Letting Topaz Lead

It’s been many awhile since I strolled through the woods without an agenda. It was so relaxing this morning to let Topaz lead the way. She doesn’t stay on the main paths, and often goes under, over or up into places I can’t follow, but I’m content to more or less trail her along a nearby deer track.

The first spring flowers are up in the woods, the little native buckwheats. It’s heartening to see some natives among the dazzling green carpet under the trees, most of which is invasive weeds. There will be plenty of dry fuel this summer. We can only hope the planetary winds settle down soon.

In addition to little treasures off the main trail, there were some hazards.
But nothing fazed our fearless leader.
Letting Topaz lead is a new concept for Wren, but she seemed to enjoy it.

After another busy day grateful for being alive, Wren took a little nap on my lap before bedtime.

Stellar’s Last Days: Friday Walks

First walk, eight a.m.

I’m grateful that Stellar’s so agreeable. “Which way do we go? Which way do we go?!” He’s eager for anything we do together, but especially a walk.

“Do you want breakfast?” I ask him. “Oh, okay.

“Do you want to come inside?” “Do you want dinner?” “Oh, okay.”

“Do you want to lie down?” “Do you want to get up?” “Do you want to go outside?” “Oh, okay.”

“Do you want to go for a walk?” “Where?! When? Now? Yesyesyesyes! Arooooo!”

Second walk, ten-thirty a.m.

Peaceable kingdom. “You pretend I don’t exist, and I’ll pretend you don’t exist.” We walk right through them, with barely a ripple, sometimes. Other times they scatter and flee. Who knows why?

Fourth walk: five p.m.

Topaz walks with us every afternoon these days, up the driveway and back through the woods. This evening she walked all the way up beyond the top gate, the farthest she’s ever come. Usually she lags far behind and waits for our return. Show showers swept like walking rain along the south flank of Grand Mesa, driven by bracing west wind, some grazing the ground, some just snow virga not touching down. Do I need to take a picture of every cloud? Kinda.

Late March late day light on middle-aged junipers. Stepping among them slowly with my dear old dog and companionable cat smooths the ruffled feathers of a hectic week. It’s Friday night and the weekend beckons full of promise. Two full days of perfect spring weather to putter in the garden. I’m grateful to look forward to tomorrow.

Cousins

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese buttercream frosting, shared virtually today with Cousin Jack for his birthday. I’m grateful for this cousin who has been unfailingly kind to me since we were little kids, and he was pitching a softball I couldn’t possibly hit, so he rolled it to me, and I actually ran a base because everyone watched stunned when I actually knocked it back past him. When he rolled that ball, it didn’t matter that everyone else was laughing at me ~ there was no judgment in his eyes, only kindness, in his an unorthodox effort to help me play the game rather than hang my head in shame.

Today I’m grateful, as I have been most Sundays since last summer, for my newfound, longlost cousins on my mother’s side. Cousin Jack initiated a weekly zoom call among his siblings and their mother, and kindly included me, Auntie, and Auntie’s daughter in his invitation. It’s been heart-filling to be back in touch with these four boys and two girls with whom I spent many special occasions through our growing up years. Sometimes my brother shows up, sometimes some of their grown children show up, and even young grandchildren. In each session, their mother Clara is there at 93 with tech assistance from granddaughter Amanda or one of her visiting children. In the first couple of months, Auntie Rita was able to attend also, even though for half of those times she struggled with the effects of her stroke.

But she was there fully for a few sessions before the stroke diminished her capabilities, and it was delightful to observe her and Aunt Clara speak together, sharing their thoughts and lives, their concern for each other, much as they had for around seventy years as sisters-in-law. Remarkably, these two women were born on the same day of the same year. And it was wonderful that Auntie was able to see many of her nieces, nephews, and grand-nieces and -nephews a few times before she died, and they her. For me, it’s been a real gift to feel connected to family again as I haven’t since my mother died. And I hadn’t felt connected to these grown cousins for decades before that, as we all went our separate grownup ways, and because I’d been branded a black sheep by their father, my Uncle the General: for my radically compassionate philosophy he considered me a communist, and said so, which is how I know.

Oh well! We don’t all ~ or even many of us ~ share the same political views, which has been a little challenging for me. But the camaraderie, the teasing, the humor and affection that we shared as children chasing each other around the grounds of the Distaff Hall, playing hide and seek in the Knoll House, sharing holiday dinners at one another’s homes, feels stronger than it ever did as we have all lived through enough of life to be tender and accepting with one another. The three siblings ~ a father and two mothers ~ that bind us as family have all died; only Clara remains, one mother among us, and they are kind enough to share. I’m protective of my time these days, but our Cousins’ Zoom is an event I prioritize each weekend, because it brings me such joy, and a feeling of connection I realize I have longed for since long before The Time of the Virus.

Also bringing me joy, on a daily basis, the health of the dog of my heart, Stellar the Stardog Son of Sundog, continues to stabilize after his episode last weekend, and he’s as excited and ready as ever when he hears the word walk.
Unrelated to this photo of a splayed old juniper (for which I’m grateful), I’m grateful for seeing the first American Robin of the spring this afternoon, hunting in the damp earth of the south yard.

Friends I’ve Never Met

This little girl lives across the country. I’ve never met her, nor her mother, in person. But her mother is one of a number of friends I’ve made virtually along the mindfulness path I embarked upon in earnest five years ago. She and I have met almost monthly with a small sangha on zoom for that whole time – even pre-Coronaverse, a new world in which I’ve become friends with a number of other people on the path this past year. I’m grateful for all of these dear people who’ve come into my life online, and hope to meet some of them in person eventually.

Little R will be three in June. Her mom texted me this picture with the caption, Look what R found in her drawer and wanted to wear. Still fits!! She’s wearing a bunting I knitted for her ‘welcome to the world’ present, which she received when she probably could have fit inside one sleeve. I’m grateful my hours of knitting are still keeping this little girl warm, that she wanted to wear it, and I’m grateful her mom made my day with this surprise picture. My joy in this simple text and all it conveys brings tears to my eyes.

I’m grateful again today, as always, for waking up alive, and finding my dear Stellar alive downstairs in his bed. It still breaks my heart that he can no longer climb the stairs to sleep with me, but he seems content in his own bed. And I’m grateful that he feels so good these days that he eagerly strays from the trail. For most of last year, he was so feeble that he could only plod along ahead of me, head down. Nowadays, he’s always following his nose out into the trees, and sometimes gets so far ahead of me I can’t see him. I’m grateful that he always stops and waits for me. From our walk this morning – he’s blurry in most of them, that’s how well he’s moving!

Senses: Smell

I’m grateful for the sense of smell. I know several people who have lost it to Covid, some temporarily, others for longer, going on six months. One friend is always hungry; another is gaining weight in constant search of flavor. Saut√©ing onions this evening for Mushroom & Beet Green Panisse, I savored their aroma, and thought with sadness of all those who have lost this vital sense for short or long term.

I know some other people who have lost their sense of smell for years at a time from other unusual ailments. It saps them. Scent is so essential in our nourishment, our sense of taste. So I’m grateful for the sense of smell, for frying onions, baking bread (saved by the scent from burning this morning as I dove again into Apple tech purgatory for a few more hours); grateful for all the aromas of cooking and the flavors they enhance. Once again grateful for recipes online: just type in what you’ve got and get some ideas. I’m grateful I had mushrooms, beet greens, and chickpea flour in fridge and pantry. Grateful for supportive friends and community.

Adding sliced portobellos gradually so as to not crowd them…
… then chopped beet greens with spices tossed on top til wilted…
…mixed well into panisse (chickpea flour and water) on the stove, then pressed into a pan to cool…
…cut into slices and fried: crispy and light outside, creamy and delicate inside, absolutely delicious. Such a simple food, served on top of romaine, with a dab of mayo and a sprinkle of spiced salt, scent and flavor like a five star restaurant, in about half an hour right here at home.
I’m grateful for Stellar’s sense of smell, too, which often leads the way.

Snow

Snow started falling heavily late yesterday and continued into the night. iPhone night vision is amazing!

Gratitude practice today begins with SNOW, for obvious reasons. Western Colorado is among the regions hardest hit by climate chaos in the Lower 48. We are in Exceptional Drought, the driest, most dangerous category, expected to suffer both short (agriculture) and longterm (hydrology, ecology) drought. The state has activated its municipal drought response for second time ever. Any moisture is good moisture, and snow is the best. Our fundamental water reservoirs are snow-capped mountains.

Grateful Stellar can still wobble through snow this deep, and it’s good PT for his hind legs, too. Grateful I can still wobble through snow this deep!

I’m celebrating the biggest snow of the year, a really big snow! Compared, anyway, to past years. This morning’s accumulation measured only 5.2 inches, with .38 inch moisture content. I’m grateful for CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network, a citizen-science initiative that began with a few weather geeks at the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University in 1998. Now thousands of regular folks (also, I guess, we are all weather geeks) report daily precipitation from our own backyard weather stations across the Northern Hemisphere.

And I’m grateful for Julia Kamari-Drapkin, who started a now-global interactive climate change platform called I See Change in the North Fork Valley in 2015, in collaboration with KVNF and NASA. As part of her yearlong residence here, exploring climate change through the eyes of local ranchers, farmers, beekeepers, and weather geeks, Julia invited Nolan Doeskin, then Colorado State Climatologist, to do a little workshop at the radio station, where I got turned onto CoCoRaHS and started daily precipitation measurements with an inexpensive rain gauge and special snow ruler. I’m grateful to weather geeks the world over for their citizen science, and for that matter to birders, too, who are in the midst of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, for their contributions to global climate research.

You can get a sense of how snow shapes trees through the many winters of their growth…
Grateful for Neighbor Ken who plowed our driveways this morning, and for other neighbors who do the same.
Grateful for sunshine after snow, too.

So much to be grateful for today! Among other things like chocolate, soap, a functional woodstove, and the propane truck that got stuck for awhile in plow drifts at the bottom of the driveway, I’m grateful to Deb for calling me on my dark side in a conversation yesterday, which allowed me to see something clearly and ultimately laugh at my silliness, before I did any harm. Grateful for daily mindfulness practice, which enables me to live each day in better alignment with my core values.

Finger-combing

Lambs' ears filling in around the crocus patch.

Lambs’ ears filling in around the crocus patch.

Finger-combing. I love it. I love the word, and I love doing it in the garden. I can’t remember when I first learned the concept. I’m sure it had to do with hair, finger-combing hair when a brush or comb was not at hand. I learned years ago it’s the best way to freshen lambs’ ears in the garden, and it’s so much fun! With loose wrists and spread fingers you just sweep through the old dead leaves and they fly off the plant and scatter around it, revealing the tough-though-tender-looking new green leaves. I’ve always waited until spring to “cut back” the lambs’ ears so that I can finger-comb them instead of try to trim them with clippers.

One advantage to leaving most of the fall cleanup until spring is it turns out there are a lot of other plants you can finger-comb instead of clip, because the dry stalks or stems have softened just enough to break off easily. So you save your arthritic thumbs the work of squeezing clippers, and engage your whole hand, both of them in fact, in the more tactile experience of finger-combing. Other plants that respond well to finger-combing are partridge-feather, silver horehound, all those low-growing fuzzy-leaved plants similar to lambs’ ears, and anything else whose stems aren’t too woody. I spent much of my gardening time this week finger-combing grasses, gallardia, poppy mallow, and even the pond plants.

Partridge feather with miniature irises and the hunk of petrified wood that June Stewart, my landlady in Jensen, Utah, twenty-five years ago, gave me.

Partridge feather with miniature irises and the hunk of petrified wood that June Stewart, my landlady in Jensen, Utah, gave me twenty-five years ago.

Curly rushes, cattails, and water iris, a mess after winter, benefited from finger-combing yesterday.

Curly rushes, cattails, and water iris, a mess after winter, benefited from finger-combing yesterday.

Finger-combing the pond plants revealed the goldfishes' favorite hiding place, but something unusual was going on...

Finger-combing the pond plants revealed the goldfishes’ favorite hiding place, but something unusual was going on… A Goldfish Vigil, apparently.

... A Goldfish Vigil.

The Snowfish lay dying on her side on the pond floor, as her cohorts and spawn all hovered over her.

I am inordinately fond of my goldfish. I may have mentioned this before. Five years ago I bought eight feeder-fish for 28 cents each at the pet store, and settled them into the pond. Four of them died within the first week, but the other four have thrived, and founded a colony of generations of spawn. I named the originals, Snowfish, Lou (after the saleslady who kindly let me pick each of the eight), Finn (also white but with an orange spot at the base of his tail fin), and AmytheFish, the little red-haired girl, after my childhood friend who told me the fastest way to kill a goldfish was to name it. AmytheFish has defied the odds, as have her companions. Snowfish is the first of these originals to meet her demise, but she leaves Snowfish Junior and a handful of other snow-white fish behind to take her place.

At least one new generation a year shows up first as tiny grey fry an inch or less long. Many of these feed frogs or snakes or salamanders, or indeed even their progenitors, but always a few survive. Over a period of time, the grey fry grow into their colors, mostly orange, but some white, some black and orange (the Halloweens, which usually lose their black eventually), and some orange and white, like Snout, and Snout Junior, who each are all orange with a white, of course, snout. This year, I think a couple of the Halloweens may keep their black, also, and add a new variety to the gene pool, as they’ve exceeded the size when most of them lose their black. Ridiculous, I say, that I should be so invested in these little creatures. But I am, and so I was sad yesterday to see Snowfish lying on her side when I finger-combed the rushes. Then this afternoon, when I went to the pond to meditate, I noticed that Lou, Finn, Snout, and dozens of smaller fish, were all hovering over Snowfish, as though sitting vigil with her as she transitioned. It was very moving. Despite the possibility that I instantly recognized that they might just be waiting for her to die so they could begin feasting on her flesh. Oh well. Either way, an interesting phenomenon.

Meanwhile, AmytheFish swam alone at the far end of the pond, alone in her grief perhaps, or just because.

Meanwhile, AmytheFish swam alone at the far end of the pond, alone in her grief perhaps, or maybe just because.

This week I removed the insulation panels from the beehive, extending their doorway a couple of inches on each side, and revealing the propolis they laid down to seal the winter doorway (upper left). Also shown in the center, a propolis track along which, with the winter door in place, the bees came in and out.

This week I removed the insulation panels from the beehive, extending their doorway a couple of inches on each side, and revealing the propolis they laid down to seal the winter doorway (upper left). Also shown in the center, a propolis track along which, with the winter door in place, the bees came in and out.

All the bees I’ve photographed so far this spring have been new bees, evidenced by their pristine unbattered wings. Back in early February, there was a great buzz of activity around the hive door which I noticed in passing. This was during the worst of my dizzy-head, and so I didn’t pay too much attention. It never occurred to me that they might be swarming that early. I’ve since learned that indeed they could have swarmed in February, and I wonder if they did. The line they constructed ¬†might have been an indicator for the new bees, much like the mound these bees built when they first arrived in the hive nearly two years ago; I noticed then that they crawled over the mound and spent some time on it leaving and returning to the hive. Then after awhile, some bees did that while others zoomed straight out and straight in. Presumably as the bees became familiar with the hive and the course in and out they no longer needed the marker mound. I think this line served the same purpose. Within a few days after removing the winter panels, the bees had removed the line, and are now using the corner of the door again. Amazing.

Leaving and returning

Leaving and returning.

But where are they going? Several new patches of irises have opened, but bee visits to them have tapered off. This bee is drinking from between flowers on the narrow-leaved irises, the last of the four varieties to open.

But where are they going? Several new patches of irises have opened, but bee visits to them have tapered off. This bee is drinking from between flowers on the narrow-leaved irises, the last of the four varieties to open.

The next flower to bloom, European pasque-flower, opened just three days ago, and so far I've not caught any bees on it.

The next flower to bloom, European pasque-flower, opened just three days ago, and so far I’ve not caught any bees on it. There are a few more patches, and I hope the bees or someone will discover them as they continue to bloom.

But where are the bees going? They come and go from the hive at a great rate, many straight east into the woods. They must have found a new source of food; perhaps some wildflowers are beginning to open.

But where are the bees going? They come and go from the hive at a great rate, many straight east into the woods. They must have found a new source of food; perhaps some wildflowers are beginning to open.

So the dogs and I explore the forest, looking and listening for bees.

So the dogs and I explore the forest, looking and listening for bees.

But finding mostly only the splendid juniper trees.

But finding mostly only the splendid juniper trees.

And with the advent of Spring, Ice Canyon begins to melt. Winter's splendor gives way to the joy of Spring.

And with the advent of Spring, Ice Canyon begins to melt. Winter’s splendor gives way to the joy of Spring.