Welcoming Spring


Happy Vernal Equinox! I’m so happy to be spinning into the warmer months of the year. I know, I know, I’m always the first to say I’d like more snow and rain – but this year I’ve been feeling ready for long sunny evenings. Bring on the warmer weather! I can’t wait to be outside in the garden more.

Last Sunday, Kevin and my mom and I planted some spinach and radishes. Any day now we are expecting to see the first few shoots peeking up through the soil. We also spent some time cleaning up the beds from winter detritus. The apple garden (we call our herb / wildflower garden “the apple garden” since there used to be a big old apple tree there) was surprisingly green for how early in the season it is. Herbs were already regenerating, and even little shoots from the tarragon were coming up. I’m so excited to continue to plant! We are staggering our spinach crops this year so hopefully they won’t all be ready to harvest at the same time and we can have yummy greens for longer.

We had a fun birthday celebration for Kevin last week, serving mussels cooked in beer for dinner. Has anyone tried this cooking technique before? It’s DELICIOUS and even better if you drink the same kind of beer with your mussels. YUM. We also celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday! It was a fairly simple celebration, with a new little shamrock to brighten up the table and Irish soda bread smeared with the best Irish butter. Kevin and I also listened to some Irish tunes on the way to see some of my students in their high school play. All said and done, a lovely festival day. No one is surprised that I’ve already been cooking up plans for St. George’s Day (on April 23rd). St. George is the patron saint of England, so this festival is like English St. Patrick’s. We are already musing over dinner at a local English style pub or some cream tea in the afternoon. Either way, I’m glad to have other festivals coming up soon, especially since Easter is so early this year.

Speaking of festivals – let’s talk about the Vernal Equinox! We celebrate mostly by acknowledging the burgeoning spring with flowers and lovely spring-themed foods. At the moment, I’m teaching creative writing in a high school and for our writing prompt today I had the students write about what they are excited for during their spring break. This was a lovely way to meditate on the wonderful changes a shift in season can bring. I think of this time of year (and any time of year that involves transitions) as an opportunity for new beginnings. In particular I find the equinoxes to be moments of deep change in our seasonal rhythms. The transition from winter to spring or summer to fall always feel like the biggest shifts of the year, demarcating the warm months from the cold months. Now, at the turning point between winter and spring, the air is still cool in the mornings and evenings, but the light lingers a bit longer, and sometimes the wind feels a bit warmer. We just had a snowfall on Sunday, reminding us that winter isn’t quite gone. But as I write, it’s still light outside and birds are chirping their lullabies as they go to rest for the night. Kevin and I have also noticed our inclinations changing from winter hibernation to more external pursuits. We crave the outdoors, lighter foods, cool drinks, and spend more time socializing rather than cozied up with a book or movie. It’s an odd thing, these deeply rooted rhythms, but every year I feel moved by them.

I’m off to go help with dinner. Sending spring sun and daffodils.


Festivals in Late Winter


Wow it’s been a little while since I was last here! We have certainly been busy over in this little corner of the world.

On February 13th we celebrated Pancake Day (AKA Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday). Traditionally, this day was the last chance to party and eat fatty foods before Lent began on the next day, Ash Wednesday. Pancakes are associated with this day because often all the fat needed to be used up before Lent began, and what better way than making buttery delicious pancakes? We played New Orleans Jazz, wore masks, lit candles and made some delicious flapjacks! This was a new holiday for me to celebrate, but I have to say, it was just the pick-me-up I needed this time of year when everything is still cold and dreary and I’m itching for spring.

The next day was St. Valentine’s day (they sure all seem to come at once don’t they?) Kevin and I celebrated by going to see the Degas exhibit at the Denver Art Museum and cooking a yummy dinner. I always enjoyed St. Valentine’s Day, but have found a new love for it after doing research about the origins of the holiday. You can read my post from last year about the ancient history of St. Valentine’s Day. I was looking over this article and I had forgotten Valentine’s Day greeting cards date back to the Middle Ages. They were popularized in the 17th and 18th centuries in England, and were mass produced at the start of the 20th century. Definitely not a Hallmark holiday! I also read a new little tidbit about a Valentine’s Day folkloric custom in my book “Animal Speak” by Ted Andrews. Apparently there used to be superstitions that the first bird a young woman spotted on Valentine’s Day symbolized the man she would eventually marry. So a crow might bode well, or a sparrow might disappoint, depending on the qualities you were looking for in your man. I can’t remember who I saw first that day…

We celebrated my birthday the next week, and since then, have been enjoying a little lapse in festivities. I’m looking ahead to next week when we’ll celebrate St. Patrick’s Day AND Kevin’s birthday. Us Pisceans have to stick together!  We’ve tucked into our first loaf of Irish Soda Bread… The flavor is totally nostalgic and wonderful, and I’m looking forward to getting more before St. Patrick’s Day.

Around here, we’ve had lots of wind and sun. The March winds seem to be blowing winter away, and I’m starting to feel that itchy “I want to be outside all the time” feeling. There are crocuses blooming everywhere, johnny jump-ups in the garden, and some hellebore or “Lenten Rose” blooming in our neighbors’ yard. I’m getting over a little cold, and I’m looking forward to feeling better in the next week so I can go outside and enjoy the sunshine more. Kevin and I were commenting on how we are growing more excited to sit outside and drink a beer after dinner. A true warm weather activity.

One last little thing – the leeks are back in full force. Do you remember my leek-fueled health kick last spring? Well I completely stand behind that old folk medicine, and we just made a huge batch of bright green leek and spinach soup. Perfect to get us ready for warmer weather and to bolster us up!

Sending leeks and sunshine!

Fellows of the Wood and Water


Dawn during the blue moon eclipse. Unfortunately it was cloudy so the moon wasn’t visible, but the lake sure did look blue as the sun rose!


Orange blossoms at the Denver Botanic Gardens Orangery! The air smelled so incredible.


Spring is on its way! Snowdrops are adorning the earth, and a few crocuses and hellebore are peeking through the dead leaves. We have had more visitors to the lake in the last few weeks, including common mergansers, hooded mergansers, northern shovelers, and goldeneyes. Every time I walk to the park I’m excited to see the new travelers resting a while! We are so lucky these birds stop by Colorado during their migrations. In a few months the pelicans and egrets will begin to arrive.

In the thickets and wooded areas we’ve also had many new faces (and plenty of old ones too). The squirrels are in fine form, darting about the yard and nibbling up scraps from the suet feeder. We’ve had our usual flickers, finches, chickadees, nuthatches – red and white breasted – and juncos. They are our winter companions, visiting the feeder through the hardest months of the year. Last week, we had a brown creeper visit the yard. These little birds are extremely shy, and this little guy was enjoying the shelter of the big pine tree in our yard. I love imagining all the different types of birds who come through the yard that we never even see!

We just had another big snowfall yesterday, and today the world feels scrubbed clean and fresh. I’m still working on my de-cluttering project, and am about to embark on my next category this afternoon. It feels so good to be more mindful about the possessions I have, and to have fewer of them! I’m looking forward to some Valentine’s day celebrations next week, and I’m planning on making some chocolate mendiants to celebrate. I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures!

Sending birdsong and good cheer!

Midwinter Snow

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The weeks just keep rolling by and now all of a sudden it’s February! Though Colorado has experienced a fairly severe drought this winter, Old Man Winter did visit us a few weeks ago with a wonderful snowstorm. I have to admit, I still feel like I haven’t quite finished hibernating and am hoping we get more snow in the coming weeks.
We made butternut squash soup and brownies, and hunkered down to play games while the snow came down outside. The garden was blanketed in a thick layer of snow, and our green man acquired his own dusting. We are all hoping this snow will provide moisture for the spring blossoms.

In folklore and fairy tales, snow represents cleansing and transformation. In our lives it can make our familiar streets, houses, and trees into the stuff of magic. Snow is also often associated with death – as is winter –  mirroring the inward journey of the natural world as plants sleep beneath the earth and animals retreat into their dens. During this time of year, we are fortifying our inward selves rather than interacting with external forces. I like to think of death during this time of year as an opportunity for rebirth come the spring.

A winter blessing for you all: may you find solace in days spent by your hearth and in your home! I have a few things to catch up on here, as I managed to capture some wonderful pictures of our feathered friends out on the lake, and maybe even a couple little springtime surprises… Sending snowdrops!

New Year Wonder

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Occasionally when the sun sets, you are blessed with the sudden and total illumination of the sky. A few weeks ago, Kevin and I witnessed the most stunning sunset I think I have ever seen! Even when we were past cold, ready to be home and eating dinner, we lingered by the lake because we could not bear to part with that radiant sky.

Now that we are past the holidays, the days around here are slow and cozy. I had a big rush of work right after New Year’s, but now find myself with more time to think and dream and write. I’ve been trying to chase this freedom as much as I can. I’m also embarking upon a huge cleaning spree, inspired by Marie Kondo’s book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up.” I was ambivalent going into this method, because I had my own assumptions and opinions about this book based on its popularity. Needless to say, I read the entire thing in a day and feel so inspired and ready to tackle my cleaning project! I’m starting with all my clothes tomorrow…

This is a magical time of year, when we are still in the embrace of winter, and signs of spring haven’t yet appeared. I’ve been choosing to spend this time returning to the things I love the most: studying folklore, reading, writing, and YES some music. I hope you too, can find the space to reconnect with that is most important in your life.

I’ll end with a lovely little wintery poem I stumbled across on my search for January inspiration.

“The stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course
The sea running high.
Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
Cold has seized the birds’ wings;
Season of ice, this is my news.”
–  Irish poem, 9th Century

Merry and Bright

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I told myself after last year that I would do a better job of blogging around the holidays… turns out it’s a busy time of year and that’s a hard promise to keep!

Filled to the brim with friends and family, the last month has been such a wonderful reminder of the bounty and joy in my life. I always forget just how much making and preparing, baking and cooking and gathering happens this time of year! We celebrated several smaller festivals before Christmas. On December 6th, Kevin and I celebrated St. Nicholas Day, exchanging small presents (placed in our shoes!) and enjoying the Christmas tree. My mom and I also observed Santa Lucia day, by making “Lussekatter” or “Santa Lucia Buns.” In keeping with the theme of celebrating light during the darkest time of year, the Lussekatter include saffron to give the buns a golden luster.

My only qualm with this holiday season is there doesn’t seem to be enough snow! Day after day I check my weather, peer at grey skies, and sniff the air for that metallic fresh smell. Alas, we’ve been in the midst of an intense dry spell in Colorado and snow has been scarce. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more in the new year!

Now that Christmas is over I find myself slowing down and turning inward. After all the socializing and celebrating, I find I need time to recharge and regenerate before the new year kicks in. I’ve been thinking a lot about themes of hibernation and rest, particularly pertaining to Terri Windling’s post about bears and yearly rhythms. Terri explores Terry Tempest Williams’s ideas about bears and the natural hibernation rhythms that come with creative work throughout the year. An inhale and an exhale if you will. During these months of winter, the focus of the writer is on creating. I’ve been struggling to get back in touch with my writing rhythm and create space for myself to move forward with my creative work. My rhythms surrounding reading and writing seem to be off kilter now that I’m not longer consumed with lesson planning! Nevertheless, I find it soothing to know that this is a time to look inward, and to wrestle with the flighty muse.

I hope to make more frequent use of this lovely space in 2018. Wishing everyone a peaceful and joyous new year!

In Betweens {and Martinmas}


Making a nest I daresay – look at how STUFFED his little mouth is.


There is a stillness this time of year as we settle into the darker days and colder weather. It’s an in-between time, falling after the vibrancy of October yet before winter truly sets in. We are inhaling, readying ourselves for the bustle and excitement of the holiday season. Around here, days are filled to the brim with teaching! I’ve been so busy creating lesson plans, grading, and reading my mountainous stacks of folktale books. It’s good to feel connected to learning again.

I’ve also been attempting to keep up my daily walks. It’s certainly more difficult as the weather gets colder, but the fresh air and open sky always changes my frame of mind if I’m juggling a million things at once. The geese in the park have been particularly active recently, and it’s not unusual to see five or six different formations fly over, honking to one another. The diving ducks have also returned for the winter. Goldeneyes and Buffleheads are now populating the lake with the usual collection of Mallards. Winter birds always make me think of Gladys Taber. She writes about how the birds that stay over the winter are her true favorites, because they weather the storms with her. She distinguishes this as the difference between true friends and fair weather friends. I couldn’t agree more. I love the chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, and blue jays who visit our feeders in the back yard all year round.

We also celebrated Martinmas on Saturday. We were going to dip candles, but the entire process was curtailed because the wax I bought smelled TERRIBLE, and the dipping pot was too light and floated to the top of the double boiler. Sigh. I will try and procure new wax and a new pot and try again another time. We salvaged the night by making yummy roasted carrot and parsnip soup and lighting candles. Martinmas is all about nurturing your inner light during the darkest time of the year, a message I always feel I need to be reminded of as the days grow shorter. For more on the holiday click here.

Next week we are planning a slow Thanksgiving at home. I’m so excited to cook some delicious food, and have a chance to relax. We also might be getting a certain tree for another certain holiday at the end of next week… Is it too soon?

Sending warmth and light to all.