In Betweens {and Martinmas}

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

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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.

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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.

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

Swans and Kite Flying

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We journeyed back to Wyoming for the eclipse in late August. Because Jackson is so much further north than Denver, the trees were already turning and there was a slight chill in the air. Autumn is my favorite season, so I relished the anticipation of cooler temperatures and cozy evenings. We ate out at our favorite Thai restaurant and had coffee almost every morning at our favorite coffee shop. On the way back to the cabin from town, we spied the Trumpeter Swans lazily gliding along the river. During our last trip to the valley in June, every time I remembered to bring my camera there was nary a swan in sight, and yet every time I forgot my camera we would see the whole swan family. This time, I finally caught them when I was prepared. I love watching how smoothly they swim through the river, and how striking their white plumage is against the grey water. We don’t get swans in Denver, as we are too far south, so they are quite a special sight. Swans seem to bring their own quiet magic to the rivers in Wyoming, and I feel so lucky we witnessed a mother and her signets.

One blustery afternoon (the day before the eclipse), Kevin fished out the old kite from the basement and we went out back to enjoy some old-fashioned kite flying! I hadn’t flown a kite since I was a kid and I have to say it was just as much fun as I remember. Though there were many failed launch attempts, the greatest difficulty turned out to be getting the kite back down to the earth after we unleashed it to a great height. We had to have my dad help reel it in, especially since I was nervous about someone getting a finger caught in the extremely tense kite string. Despite this, I can’t wait to find our old kite at home and give it a whirl some windy autumn afternoon.

I have a forthcoming post about the eclipse that I intend to share in the next few days. For now, I’m trying to endure the last lingering summer heat. 97 degrees today! At least the tomatoes are happy. I certainly am ready for autumn and am already thinking about hot chocolate and apple crisp.

p.s. I finally started to run short on WordPress photo storage. You can now view my new Flickr account here! I’m using Flickr now to embed URLs into my posts. So far, so good!

Rain in the Desert

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A few weeks ago we were in Sedona, AZ for a short visit to my grandparents. Though much of our time was spent with them, we did explore the beautiful desert around where they live. One specific afternoon, my mom and I walked while it was raining. The air in Sedona smells of pine and dust, and the rain intensified the aromas and cooled the hot day a little. We saw some hawks up in a tree along our way, and even heard one calling from his perch. The red and yellow leaves we spied had turned from the heat if you can believe it! It felt odd to see those colors of cooler weather in the desert in the middle of July. We also encountered a dead tarantula on the side of the road… I am happy to report that this was the only arachnid of this variety we saw, dead OR alive.

Walking in the rain was peaceful and rejuvenating, reminding me once again of the importance of our daily rhythms even when away from home. It was so lovely to soak in the beauty of a new landscape, and equally lovely to return to our comparatively verdant surroundings at home.

Sending wishes for summer rain. x

Early Summer

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Hazy, scummy, and sparkling with little gnats and flies, it lulls me to sit beside it. The pond in summer. Its stillness intensifies in midday, the geese are dormant on the bank, ducks float and bob sluggishly, but there is a strange paradox at work. Through the muggy slowness of the afternoon, dragonflies zip in and out of view, landing once on this cattail, then on that weedy tuft. Pelicans too gyrate in the water, dipping under briefly for a swallow of fish. They swim in synchronization, an odd echo of Swan Lake perhaps, as they dip and glide and turn. Here, I am in this moment.

There is a word for pelicans: primeval. They seem like harbingers of luck, guardians of a different kind of age. In flight too, they seem impossible, black wingtips suddenly and thrillingly visible. It seems like I need them. Or perhaps it’s just hard to imagine the hardened blue-white lake in winter without them. Now they settle on the water, gathered as they drift, ducking under, then emerging again.

*       *       *

I will be back soon with some photos from July 4th and some gardening updates. 

Be well xx

 

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!