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.

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

 

Alma Mater

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The road Kevin and I walked down every day.

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My house from last year! The two dormer windows were my bedroom windows.

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The record wall in the radio station.
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The broadcasting booth (the red door leads to the sound mixing room for the studio)

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Kevin and I spent last weekend visiting our Alma Mater, Kenyon College in Ohio. We went to celebrate WKCO’s 70th birthday and to say goodbye to the old radio station (they are knocking down the station this summer to build a new home for WKCO). We both worked for the station during college – I was the programming director and Kevin worked as the intern director and social media director – so of course this occasion was bittersweet. Nevertheless, it felt good to have a last moment in the booth, looking at old records and chatting, and in a way it felt as though nothing had changed. To celebrate, the station held a big music festival on Saturday, featuring student bands as well as bands from out of town. It was lovely so see so many friends and familiar faces and to say a last goodbye to an important part of my time at Kenyon.

We spent our days strolling around campus, drinking coffee, and meeting with favorite professors. It was a perfect way to say a final farewell to my college years (I daresay I won’t visit again until my five year reunion). Circling back to college, I remembered how much I loved Kenyon, the people I met there, and everything I learned, yet it felt as though this part of my life has come to a close. I was surprised that visiting again made me feel more at peace with graduation.  It’s lovely to be back home, at my desk, and looking forward to pursuing graduate school and writing poetry.

Yesterday we were home in time to celebrate Easter with a simple – but delicious! – dinner. I’ll be back soon with a bit more on our Easter celebrations (we celebrate Easter as the fertility and new growth of spring rather than as a Christian holiday). Hopefully I’ll have time to dye some eggs this evening…

Happy trails to all!

Reinvigorated

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A red-tailed hawk at the botanic gardens.

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It’s been far too long since my last post! I had so many pictures to sort through I fear the photographs today are a bit of a spring whirlwind. Many are from Kevin and my frequent trips to the Botanic Gardens (you can see the Victorian glasshouse in the background of the first “checkered lily” photo), and some are from daily walks around the neighborhood. We’ve been enjoying magnolia trees (my mom’s special tree), apple blossoms, and PELICANS in the park.

A few weeks ago, my dad and I were walking and we found an absolutely lovely temporary art piece. Stones and seed pods had been decorated and painted and were arranged in a ring around some benches. They all shared positive messages about love, kindness, and hope. We walked around admiring the beautiful designs and the silly pea-pod and pepper. When I returned to the same spot the next day, they were all gone! I feel so happy we stumbled across that little moment of magic when we did.

As the spring blossoms here in Colorado, I feel reinvigorated and excited about my creative pursuits. It’s definitely been a hard year for me creatively, and I finally feel like I have the ground beneath my feet. I’ve been trying to work more on poetry and finding discipline and space in which to write. With a mug of tea in hand (always an indispensable part of any creative pursuit) I settle down at my desk and see where the muse takes me. I’ve been trying to call out my “boggarts” – fears and doubts that nag at me while I’m writing. I’ll name them: fear of failure (failure to complete something, failure to get published, failure to be successful), fear of judgement (what if everyone hates what I write?!), fear of mediocrity, and the kind of unattainable personal standard that places a fledgling draft of a poem next to my own polished work or even next to that of a famous poet. What are all these boggarts doing in my head? And when on earth did they sneak in? Now at least I’ve called them all out by name. This is my first step to a reinvented creative process, acknowledging that I do struggle with these questions many writers face, and letting them go. I’m also working on creating a “writing routine” so it’s easier to slip into a creative space. I’m starting with tea and something inspirational to read, and seeing where that takes me.

I’ll be out of town for a few days, back soon in time to celebrate Easter!

To close: a lovely song performed by Anna & Elizabeth.
Wishing you all strength and insight in the coming week!

Ritual and Rhythm: Daily Walks

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A few days later…

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A Double-Crested Cormorant (harbinger of warmer weather) made an appearance.
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The whole flock of Northern Shovelers took off at once, flying in a cloud away from the lake.

I’ve been trying to find time to take a walk every day. I realized when I was at Kenyon, I had to walk at least 30 minutes each day to and from the dining hall or to and from class. The rhythm was intrinsic, part of my comings and goings on campus and the only way to navigate our little college on the hill. Now however, walking has become a choice, a luxury, a non-essential part of my daily life. My commute to work is a bit too far to walk (without setting 30 minutes aside) so I rely on my trusty hatchback to drive around the city. Of course, I do still take walks frequently, but without the necessity of making it to class on time, or eating dinner, my excursions lost regularity. So, in order to remedy this situation, my dear friend Chloe and I (Chloe is currently studying baroque violin in the Netherlands) have decided to hold each other accountable for daily walks. We send little updates about the weather, pictures of puddles or squirrels, and it’s become a new part of my rhythm, once again an essential part of my day. A few days ago at the lake nearby, I watched an entire flock of Northern Shoveler ducks “hoovering” the algae and little bits of vegetable matter from the top of the lake. As I continued past them and made my way to the other side of the lake, the entire flock took off, whirling up into the air and growing smaller in the distance. How amazing!

Meanwhile around the garden… daffodils are blooming! New shoots poke up from the sleepy earth, squirrels, finches, and robins visit and quench their thirst at the bird bath. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, a bluejay will alight.

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The nature table is beginning to reflect the burgeoning spring! I had to move its location in the house, but I think the new table is a better size – a little smaller, but more intimate and therefore each fairy or twig or blossom has to be even more carefully selected.

Sending peaceful thoughts to all.