Up in the North Country: Pt. 3

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Here’s the last smattering of pictures from our trip. It was joyful, restful, and filled to the brim with amazing wildlife. Aside from the previously depicted chiselers, grizzly bear, buffalo, elk, moose, bluebirds, goldfinch, and antelope, we were fortunate enough to see a Western Tanager on our hike up by String Lake. My mom always says they look like a roll of lifesavers, a bright and cheerful bird among the soft colors of this landscape. We also saw a hawk hovering in our backyard one morning, no doubt hunting. I was lucky enough to catch him in a moment of poised searching before he swooped away.

Last but certainly not least, Kevin and I were lucky enough to see a red fox on our last evening in the valley. We were just returning from a pre-dinner drive when we stumbled across the fox dipping in and out of the sage near the road. A nice family pointed her out to us, and as she hopped in and out of the brush she looked almost like a dolphin cresting waves in the sea. Foxes are my favorite animal, my “spirit animal” if you will, so of course this last special offering from the valley seemed extra meaningful as we prepared to leave the next day.

Homecomings are always a swirl of various emotions. I’m always sad to leave, but there’s something comforting and calming about returning to a daily rhythm. When we go away to travel, we gather new experiences and perspectives and bring them home with us. I feel so lucky I gathered these lovely memories to bring home with me!

Up in the North Country: Pt. 2

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When we return to nature, we come closer to a part of ourselves often forgotten in the hubbub of daily life. The stillness of a mountain lake at midday, the whir and warble of birds, the slow deliberate grazing of moose or elk, remind us of the need to slow down and exhale. There’s no posting or updating or checking “just to make sure” on the trail – there’s only sky and pine and dust. I think I needed this reminder. How magical to see a moose so close up by Jenny Lake, and how amazing to see an elk in velvet antlers.

At night, we looked at constellations in the sky: Orion, Cassiopeia, Taurus, the dippers, the milky way. The air was clear and cold, and I snuggled down under layers to look up at the frozen stars. Later, we had peppermint tea to warm us up. How special it feels for us city folk to see the stars, and how bittersweet too.

 

Up in the North Country: Pt. 1

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But first… we stopped by my favorite Harrison’s Yellow rosebush last Sunday. It grows right on the edge of my old Waldorf Kindergarten and boy oh boy it smells like heaven! I made sure to visit before we left Monday morning because with all the hot sunny days ahead in Denver, I was afraid it would be done by the time we return. I’ll report back soon if there are still blossoms.

And on Monday morning… away we went to Jackson, Wyoming!

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I wish I had taken more pictures of the drive up… Kevin wisely snapped this shot of prairie and sky while I was driving.

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Up on Togwotee Pass we saw a grizz cross the road in front of us!!! I was EXTREMELY glad we were driving and safely in the car and not hiking. Nevertheless it was so breathtaking!

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Later we saw Bison down on the valley floor. Alas, I didn’t get a picture but the whole herd started crossing the road in front of us!

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Six full days up in Wyoming and they were so full to the brim with adventures and fun. I’m always an uneasy traveler (something my mom and I share) so there are many lists, last minute checks, worries about sleeping or being exhausted, and then finally once I actually hit the road I exhale. We drove up last Monday, through Ft. Collins and on through Laramie, Rawlins, Lander, Dubois and finally over the pass and into the valley. The drive is always something I really look forward to, I love the way the land cracks open and how HUGE the sky is. I remember when I was living in England trying to explain to some of my British friends how big the sky is in the Western US, and they didn’t understand what I meant. It seems like you can see the curve of the globe. It definitely gives me chills imagining navigating this vast landscape in nothing but a covered wagon. But there is still so much beauty in the open prairie, high skating clouds, and distant peaks.

Of course the most exciting part of the drive was seeing a Grizzly Bear up on Togwotee pass. I’ve never seen a grizz in the wild before -perhaps once in Yellowstone really really far away… – and it was incredible to watch this amazing creature from such a close distance. Kevin and I pulled our car over and watched her cross the street in front of us and then root around on the side of the road, enjoying nibbling on the green mountain floor. As I mentioned above, I’m extremely glad we weren’t hiking, as I was able to catch some wonderful pictures from the car and I didn’t have to worry about being exposed. How amazing that this powerful animal chose to saunter across our path on Kevin’s first visit to the valley. He must have been my lucky charm.

The first few days in Jackson, we ate Thai food, hung around the cabin, and Kevin and I took so many pictures of the little chiselers who live out back. They were cracking us up with their antics and their upright silhouettes dotting the yard. We took a drive down Antelope Flats road, drove up into the park at dusk, and watched the moon rise over Teewinot. There is definitely magic in the mountain air in the West. When the wind is up after a rain storm you can smell sage perfuming the breeze.

I have so many pictures of this trip I decided to break this post up into several parts, otherwise it would be an overwhelming number of pictures crammed into one post (and even then I’ve had to edit out so many shots).

Looking forward to sharing more!

xx

Around the May Garden

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Our Green Man from Teresa’s Ceramics on Etsy. Check her out here!

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The May garden is full of blossoms! We are excitedly planting feverfew, cosmos, tomatoes, and herbs and cutting lovely Victorian Climbing roses for our table. We are so lucky to be surrounded by so much beauty.

We recently added a Green Man to our garden. Green Men are benevolent forest spirits, said to watch over growing things. We wanted to infuse some magic into our garden, so our new green man now watches over the newly planted herbs and flowers. Hopefully he will bring us a good harvest! From what I’ve read, Green Men are a pre-Christian symbol of growth and fertility and can be found depicted in many locations primarily across Europe. Despite their status as “pre-Christian icons” Green Men are often found carved on churches, a curious occurrence that I can’t seem to find much explanation for online. I regret that I didn’t go searching for Green Men more when I was living in England! Next time I’m in Devon I’ll go looking…

We are soaking in the sunshine and eating more and more fresh things from the garden (and hopefully from the Farmer’s Market this weekend). I’m excited for my upcoming travels, though I may be off the blog for a week or so… I’ll see what I can do.

Sending sunshine xx

For more on Green Men go here: http://bit.ly/1TdY55l
and also here: http://bit.ly/1HtH4M4

Slow Days

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It’s been a slow, sleepy mid-May around here. We’ve had a couple late weather systems, (we were so afraid the last snowfall would kill our baby cherries, but they survived!) and the days have been cooler and grey. Perfect cozy weather! Last week, during our snow/rain cold spell, the lake at the park began to billow with steam. I suppose this must happen more often in humid climates or perhaps it was just the right combination of cold rain and warmer lake water, but it was absolutely magical. I stood on the bank getting soaked, but snapping some pictures with my phone. The large flock of Barn Swallows flitted in and out of the mist, darting down to the water’s surface to grab a bite to eat. At once, they all took off and flew in a hazy cloud through the fog!

Adventures around here have included a lot of cooking. Last week Kevin and I made a slightly ill-fated tomato soup. The recipe called for bread as a thickener, and though that method definitely worked, the resulting gelatinous quality was not our favorite. Next time we’ll go old fashioned tomato basil. I also made a olive oil cake! I used this recipe originally from Cook’s Illustrated but found in Homesong’s archives. Yum! We served the cake with berries and homemade whipped cream. I definitely recommend it, especially during these sleepy rainy afternoons.

Looking forward to some upcoming travels and late afternoon thunderstorms. Oh, and a little surprise for this space!

xx

This Lovely Month of May (and embracing minimalism)

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1. Some pretty yellow flowers at the Denver Botanic Gardens. DSCN1731
2. Tulips blooming in lovely rifts at the DBG.DSCN1714.JPG
3. Welsh Onions at DBG! (I didn’t realize these existed…)DSCN1712
4. My friend Timmy (and Kevin too of course <3) looking at the flora.unnamed
5. Timmy and Jake (left to right) out for a night on the town with Kevin and I!DSCN1768
6. A surprise late April / early May snowstorm! The tulips got a shock.DSCN1783.JPG
7. A sweet house finch in the snow.DSCN1822
8. Red-winged Blackbird.DSCN1816.JPG
9. A “teenage” Red-wing.DSCN1870
10. Part of a huge flock of Barn Swallows – at least as far as my identification knowledge goes! DSCN1919
11. One of Kevin’s squirrel friends!DSCN1929
12. An orange poppy and a little visitor to the right.DSCN1930
13. One of many seeded dandelions waiting for wishes.DSCN1960
14. Our local goslings with mama.DSCN1942
15. Pelicans at Grasmere Lake.DSCN1965
16. A pelican with a black cap on his head. I can’t seem to find anything about this type of marking online, perhaps a more immature bird?DSCN1944
17. taking the dive for some fish!DSCN1975
18. A duckling swims against the tide in the “City Ditch” at the park.DSCN1982
19. A shy snowy egret from across the lake. DSCN1999
20. My lovely mom enjoying her mother’s day breakfast.DSCN2016
21. Anemone and ranunculus! What could be better?DSCN2002
22. A little pollinator visits the garden!DSCN2003
23. My dad and I built my mom an herb garden for Mother’s Day using cross-sections from old aspen timber we had removed from our yard a few years back. We decided on a whimsical curvy wall to add some fun to the space.DSCN2017
24. Last but certainly not least – the Harrison’s Yellow is beginning to bloom!

What a busy vibrant few weeks it’s been! I feel like each day is packed to bursting with fun and things to do. I decided to caption all the pictures in this post, since there are so many! Hopefully it’s a helpful way to glance through my last few weeks.

Earlier this month, some dear friends from college (Timmy and Jake pictured above) visited us, and it was so lovely to show them around the city, cook dinners, and go for late night pizza! They are such wonderful friends, and I feel so lucky we’ve stayed connected after graduation.

At the park, the local wildlife is thriving! The pelicans continue to astound me. As they fish, they swim in graceful formation to dip under the lake for a bite to eat. We’ve also seen quite a few Red-winged Blackbirds around the lake, singing their warbly song and flashing their scarlet wings. Of course, the baby ducks and geese are too cute, and I’ve been playing the delicate game of getting close enough for a picture without alarming their mamas too much.

Last weekend we planted herbs in the garden (chives, basil, sage, and rosemary) and created a new garden space and border wall. I was reminded yet again how satisfying and good it feels to work outside – especially when making such tangible progress. I also sprinkled some “flower fairy” seeds around, and am hoping to see some emerging shoots in a few days. We are planning on planting tomatoes, bush beans, (hopefully) tomatillo peppers, and carrots in that plot as well. We still miss the grand old apple tree that used to stand there, but I must say all this new space for extra flowers and veggies is a lovely silver-lining.

As for minimalism – I feel a bit chagrined mentioning the concept after such a maximal post! I should have only included a simple picture of a blossom instead of an excess of such colorful images (just kidding). Minimalism doesn’t mean having no pictures in a blog post – what I’m talking about is the impulse to live more simply. I watched this documentary about minimalism and combined with reading this absolutely lovely blog I’ve started work on the ongoing project of living a more simple life. I started to wonder why I had so many things I don’t love and don’t use (this harkens to Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I haven’t read but am interested in investigating further). Three big bags of clothes, a bag of books, and another of jewelry + knick knacks later, and I feel like I’ve barely made a dent. Let’s just say there’s always more tidying one can do! After watching Minimalism I will say I had reservations about how sparse and unfriendly many of the minimal spaces appeared. This is where Homesong fits in so well, as she discusses the benefits of having a minimal space but never at the expense of that space being cozy and welcoming. This is something I can wholeheartedly get behind. I’ve pretty much completely organized and tidied my room and now I’m on to the more daunting project – the basement. I think I’ll have to have Kevin on hand for spider wrangling. Yikes!

We are preparing for another spring snowfall this weekend and my heart contracts when I think of our poor little cherry buds. Take time to smell some of the roses before the snow comes!

xx T

Here’s the url for the Minimalism documentary again. I watched the film on Netflix.
https://minimalismfilm.com/
Read more about “the minimalists” here: http://www.theminimalists.com/
Also, here’s a more specific post from Homesong about their minimal lifestyle:
http://www.homesongblog.com/spring/homestead-tips-on-maintaining-simplicity-and-joy-at-home/

The Muse

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My Greenman tile from artist Dwight Davidson.

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That flighty player, the temptress, the mercurial muse! The harder we try to grasp her, the more out of reach she becomes. We curse her, sigh, throw our pens across the room and make yet another cup of tea (in hopes she will lie in wait at the bottom). We do a crossword, write a letter, do ten jumping jacks and still she won’t appear. But the inability to reach the muse lies in our own misunderstanding. We imagine that suddenly she will swoop down to our shoulder and give us an idea, when in reality the muse springs up from days upon days of hard work. I believe in inspiration, dreaming and epiphanies, but with a caveat. I don’t believe great works of writing appear, or great bouts of inspiration descend, without sitting down and writing, that is, doing the hard labor. Writing is a practice, something we must embark upon day by day even when its hard, and even when what we write will never see the light of day. There are no shortcuts, no real “muse” to do the work for us. The magic of writing is in the dedication, even if you are tired or your feet hurt or you are preoccupied with your new job, you write anyway.

In the last few weeks I’ve truly turned a corner in my writing practice, writing for at least 20 minutes every day (of course I try to write for a few hours if I have enough time). Some of these writings are timed, more like an athlete’s stretch than the winning goal of the game. But this allows some self consciousness to be stripped away. Criticism dissolves when your writing is the result of ten minutes non-stop scribbling across the page. Then it’s time for business, and I work on my longer poetry project and developing my portfolio (some of which I’ll use for graduate school applications – fingers crossed).

In helping me overcome writing challenges I’ve been inspired by a few different writers and artists. I highly recommend Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg, as a guide to writing and an interesting perspective on a writer’s life. If you want to watch an inspiring short video, I recommend author Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk where she talks about the frustration and hard work that comes with creativity and inspiration. I also have been reading Terri Windling’s blog Myth & Moor, where she has several excellent posts about creative processes and self criticism. This is probably my favorite blog out there, I highly recommend it!

I hope everyone finds time this week to follow their own passion, whatever that may be!

The Greenman image is by the artist Dwight Davidson, visit his website here: http://www.davidsonsculpture.com/.
Natalie Goldberg’s book: Goldberg, Natalie. Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life. New York: Bantam, 1990. Print.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk is here: https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius
Terri Windling can be found at http://www.terriwindling.com/blog/. Her posts on creative processes are here: http://www.terriwindling.com/creative-process/.