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.

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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!

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