On Wild Ponies and Cathedrals

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There is something rare and magical about visiting a cathedral. I simultaneously feel small but also filled with light, energy, and importance. The vaulted ceilings turn my attention to the infinite, the heavens, and the stars – yet around every corner are small details that demand attention to detail and appreciation of beauty. Cathedrals to me are simultaneously awe inspiring and also extremely personal. The pictures in this post are from Exeter Cathedral, located in Exeter where I spent a semester studying during my junior year at Kenyon. This is definitely the cathedral I’ve visited the most, but I find that each time I visit, I discover new nooks and crannies and places to sit and contemplate. I enjoyed following a trail of acorns on this visit, discovering them on floor tiles, carved on pews and adorning the walls. I have a particular soft spot for acorns as they were my cubby symbol in kindergarten.

The remainder of the photos in this post are from a walk we took in Dartmoor National Park. The moorland is similar in many ways to my experiences in cathedrals. The open space creates a feeling of being small and surrounded by the wide world, yet if you look closer there are tufts of wild pony hair caught in the grass and old stone circles. These landscapes speak to me, and I can’t wait to return for another visit.

I have one more set of photos from this trip that will be going up later today!

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Buffalo in the Yard {playing catch-up}

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A common grebe at the park – this is the first time we’ve seen one of these birds in Colorado!

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Kevin recording evening birdsong.

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An owl at dusk on a rainy night.

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The funny thing about summer is that I always simultaneously feel like I have all the time in the world, and no time at all. The days seep past so slowly – hot and loud with cicadas screaming in the trees and sprinklers whirring next door. But somehow, every year, summer slips past me. It’s a strange paradox, since these hot months are the hardest for me – I prefer cooler weather – yet I feel like I need to relish each moment before it’s gone.

These pictures are largely from a trip we took to Wyoming in mid May. The most astounding thing was a herd of buffalo who came by our cabin each day, lounging in the backyard and rubbing their itchy winter fur off onto the fence and the playhouse. Every day around 2pm they would appear, staying for a few hours until some spirit urged them onward. I’ve been doing some reading about buffalo medicine recently, and realized that the message of the buffalo is to take the path at whatever pace is right for you, and to persevere through hardship. Buffalo are methodical animals, using their great strength to survive the harsh and cold winters up north. They arrive at their destination when the time is right. I’ve been trying to keep this in mind as I move through this season of life, and this season of the year. Things will move at whatever pace they need to, and I will arrive at my destination when the time is right.

We just returned from a three week trip to Europe and the U.K., and I’m trying to parse how to include those photos on the blog. As you can imagine, I took SO many pictures, and want to share them without being too overwhelming or too vacation centric. I also have some thoughts about summer celebrations to share, and am looking forward to doing some tidying and improving in this space.

Walking with Crows

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The days of October are filled with so much magic. I’ve been walking almost every single day for the last month, and it’s been incredible to see the slow shift around me. The light is certainly enchanted looking. The shadows are beginning to stretch further and further. I think I’m unusual in that I love the darkening of the year. As someone who doesn’t often feel anything spiritual is present in my life, this time of year creates an opportunity for me to reflect and to have quiet space to think. I think I’m the only one who is happy that daylight savings is over! I’m ready to light candles and to create a warm space in the home.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about crows. Sometimes portrayed as sinister, sometimes as tricksters, crows represent magic and healing. This time of year it’s not unusual to see a whole tree filled with crows, cawing and cackling as they eat acorns. I’m not sure if they migrate, but I suppose they must for they gather in such enormous numbers. I saw a huge flock while walking last week, zooming back and forth between the elm and oak trees at the edge of the park. I’m so grateful for their presence, as it encourages me to think about magic even in my little corner of the world.
I’ve also been thinking about the crow’s message of healing, especially during some of these hard weeks for our country. It can feel isolating and frustrating when we are faced with hard news, and I don’t know if I have any answers. What I do know is that things often feel less lonely under an open sky, and things feel better when we connect with one another. Reach out, send a letter, make a phone call, write an email. Send some magic and healing into the world.

Minutiae

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Little things in the big land! From tiny mushrooms on a hike at the lakeshore to autumn leaves on the ground – I tried to notice the details in the grandeur while we were in Wyoming. Around every corner were more hints of the changing season. The underbrush was turning red and yellow, the air chilly enough in the shade to warrant a light jacket.

Our favorite little visitor was a chipmunk by Phelps Lake. He scurried around our feet before eventually venturing close enough to put his little paws on my aunt’s shoe. Kevin – a big fan of squirrels and chipmunks in particular -was so excited when the little chipmunk came over and put his front paws on his shoe too! We were definitely suspicious that this little one’s gregariousness came from park visitors feeding him tidbits. He gained no such handouts from us (though I suspect Kevin would have eventually acquiesced).

I’m still catching up with several posts that have been on the back burner. Stay tuned for some thoughts on Michaelmas and glorious October days at home.

Wishing everyone crisp days and cozy nights.

Elk Songs

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This post has been a long time coming — please excuse its tardiness. Life is so full and messy and wonderful and busy that sometimes I forget to take a step back to reflect and work in this space. So here’s a post about our trip at the end of September.

In the autumn, the elk sing at night. We went up north to hear them this year, and I’m always filled with wonder to hear them calling to each other, their song echoing off the mountains. For me, elk song is a symbol of the turning of the year, a reminder that the nights are growing colder and longer, but are still filled with so much magic. The moon and stars seem brighter too as the nights grow longer. My cousin and I found Cassiopeia, Hercules, the Pleiades, Taurus, and the dippers one night while stargazing. At the end of the road to the west we could hear elk by the river, and coyotes howling and barking to the south.

While we were in Jackson, my grandpa passed away. It felt peaceful to know we were in the valley he loved so much, surrounded by the mountains and sagebrush. That afternoon, two buffalo wandered down the road and stood behind the cabin watching us. The herd was up in Yellowstone still, so these two travelers were the only bison we saw in the valley – magically appearing that chilly afternoon.

After seeing them, I read about how buffalo represent abundance and prayer. Buffalo’s lesson is also that of arriving at a goal or destination at the time that is best for you. Buffalo never hurries or cuts corners, but takes the time to complete the entire journey from start to finish.

I thought about how my grandpa’s life journey led him to this beautiful place, and how the roots he created here allowed my family to share a part of this land. I will always be grateful for his love of this beautiful valley. Standing on the deck of the cabin and looking out at the two buffalo in the grass, I felt they had stopped here to rest, just for a little while, on their journey north.

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Early Autumn

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And so we slip into the magic time of year again.

Though the days are still warm, each morning a chill is in the air and in the evenings the crickets are slowing down. Walking at night, you can hear a solitary cricket creaking slowly in the underbrush, the last solo singer from the deafening August chorus. On particularly chilly nights there is a smell of woodsmoke in the air, and the full corn moon glows in the east. Birds are migrating again too – the pelicans are gone from the lake – and the cormorants and egrets will be next to depart for the winter. Mums are on the porch, apples on the kitchen counter, and soon we will fill our house with squash and pumpkins in October.

Last week, Denver was overrun with Painted Lady Butterflies. Walking to the park, clouds of butterflies flew up from the pavement and hovered in the air. They too are heading south for the winter, traveling 2000 miles from California to Mexico. It was such a lovely sight to see them all, fluttering among the last tomato blossoms, darting amongst the Black-eyed Susans.

The kitchen is shifting for the fall. My mom is a pie baker, and often our house is filled with a lovely smell of peach pie and cinnamon. There is nothing better in the world than a slice of warm homemade peach pie! The tomatoes are bountiful now, and I’ve made our favorite “Valeria’s Pasta Sauce” with garden tomatoes as well as Caprese salad. They come in all different shapes and sizes: Julia Child, Black from Tula, Dr. Wyches Yellow, Ananas Noire, Cherokee Purple, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Green Zebra, and Sungold.

As the season shifts, I’ve been on a new quest for self-care, specifically sleep. Dealing with anxiety, it’s difficult to make sure I get to bed early, especially when I need time to wind down at the end of the day. The night hours are fickle, carrying promises of comfort and solitary time, but in reality only creating loneliness and exhaustion. Going to bed earlier and waking up earlier is my Autumn resolution. Additionally, I’ve been dealing with another typical bout of sinus illness and sore throats. I’m once again reminded of the importance of rest to keep myself healthy as the season shifts to colder and longer nights.

This week, we look forward to Michaelmas on the 29th (read about our Michaelmas celebration from last year here). As the days grow shorter, I’ve been thinking of the inner courage and strength that’s ignited in the Autumn in order to forge through the darkest months. Now is the time to create new resolutions, and to confront the darker parts of ourselves.

Wishing a peaceful first few days of Autumn to all. x

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!