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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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.

 

This Lovely Month of May (and embracing minimalism)

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1. Some pretty yellow flowers at the Denver Botanic Gardens. DSCN1731
2. Tulips blooming in lovely rifts at the DBG.DSCN1714.JPG
3. Welsh Onions at DBG! (I didn’t realize these existed…)DSCN1712
4. My friend Timmy (and Kevin too of course <3) looking at the flora.unnamed
5. Timmy and Jake (left to right) out for a night on the town with Kevin and I!DSCN1768
6. A surprise late April / early May snowstorm! The tulips got a shock.DSCN1783.JPG
7. A sweet house finch in the snow.DSCN1822
8. Red-winged Blackbird.DSCN1816.JPG
9. A “teenage” Red-wing.DSCN1870
10. Part of a huge flock of Barn Swallows – at least as far as my identification knowledge goes! DSCN1919
11. One of Kevin’s squirrel friends!DSCN1929
12. An orange poppy and a little visitor to the right.DSCN1930
13. One of many seeded dandelions waiting for wishes.DSCN1960
14. Our local goslings with mama.DSCN1942
15. Pelicans at Grasmere Lake.DSCN1965
16. A pelican with a black cap on his head. I can’t seem to find anything about this type of marking online, perhaps a more immature bird?DSCN1944
17. taking the dive for some fish!DSCN1975
18. A duckling swims against the tide in the “City Ditch” at the park.DSCN1982
19. A shy snowy egret from across the lake. DSCN1999
20. My lovely mom enjoying her mother’s day breakfast.DSCN2016
21. Anemone and ranunculus! What could be better?DSCN2002
22. A little pollinator visits the garden!DSCN2003
23. My dad and I built my mom an herb garden for Mother’s Day using cross-sections from old aspen timber we had removed from our yard a few years back. We decided on a whimsical curvy wall to add some fun to the space.DSCN2017
24. Last but certainly not least – the Harrison’s Yellow is beginning to bloom!

What a busy vibrant few weeks it’s been! I feel like each day is packed to bursting with fun and things to do. I decided to caption all the pictures in this post, since there are so many! Hopefully it’s a helpful way to glance through my last few weeks.

Earlier this month, some dear friends from college (Timmy and Jake pictured above) visited us, and it was so lovely to show them around the city, cook dinners, and go for late night pizza! They are such wonderful friends, and I feel so lucky we’ve stayed connected after graduation.

At the park, the local wildlife is thriving! The pelicans continue to astound me. As they fish, they swim in graceful formation to dip under the lake for a bite to eat. We’ve also seen quite a few Red-winged Blackbirds around the lake, singing their warbly song and flashing their scarlet wings. Of course, the baby ducks and geese are too cute, and I’ve been playing the delicate game of getting close enough for a picture without alarming their mamas too much.

Last weekend we planted herbs in the garden (chives, basil, sage, and rosemary) and created a new garden space and border wall. I was reminded yet again how satisfying and good it feels to work outside – especially when making such tangible progress. I also sprinkled some “flower fairy” seeds around, and am hoping to see some emerging shoots in a few days. We are planning on planting tomatoes, bush beans, (hopefully) tomatillo peppers, and carrots in that plot as well. We still miss the grand old apple tree that used to stand there, but I must say all this new space for extra flowers and veggies is a lovely silver-lining.

As for minimalism – I feel a bit chagrined mentioning the concept after such a maximal post! I should have only included a simple picture of a blossom instead of an excess of such colorful images (just kidding). Minimalism doesn’t mean having no pictures in a blog post – what I’m talking about is the impulse to live more simply. I watched this documentary about minimalism and combined with reading this absolutely lovely blog I’ve started work on the ongoing project of living a more simple life. I started to wonder why I had so many things I don’t love and don’t use (this harkens to Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I haven’t read but am interested in investigating further). Three big bags of clothes, a bag of books, and another of jewelry + knick knacks later, and I feel like I’ve barely made a dent. Let’s just say there’s always more tidying one can do! After watching Minimalism I will say I had reservations about how sparse and unfriendly many of the minimal spaces appeared. This is where Homesong fits in so well, as she discusses the benefits of having a minimal space but never at the expense of that space being cozy and welcoming. This is something I can wholeheartedly get behind. I’ve pretty much completely organized and tidied my room and now I’m on to the more daunting project – the basement. I think I’ll have to have Kevin on hand for spider wrangling. Yikes!

We are preparing for another spring snowfall this weekend and my heart contracts when I think of our poor little cherry buds. Take time to smell some of the roses before the snow comes!

xx T

Here’s the url for the Minimalism documentary again. I watched the film on Netflix.
https://minimalismfilm.com/
Read more about “the minimalists” here: http://www.theminimalists.com/
Also, here’s a more specific post from Homesong about their minimal lifestyle:
http://www.homesongblog.com/spring/homestead-tips-on-maintaining-simplicity-and-joy-at-home/

Compromise

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A little green shamrock plant for St. Patrick’s Day.

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Pardon the blurriness – but I thought I should include this photo anyway.

This week I’ve been meditating upon compromise. Originally, I’d planned a big celebration for St. Patrick’s day (Irish beer, soda bread, fairy stories, and our very own Clootie Tree in the garden) but for reasons out of my control almost none of those things came to fruition. Kevin didn’t get the night off work and it seemed there wasn’t much energy to continue the celebrations, especially since Kevin and I had planned most of the merrymaking. So I had to compromise, accepting the change in pace and letting go of the evening I’d envisioned. Of course I was disappointed, but sometimes compromise is okay.

The pictures above are from Kevin’s birthday! We went to the botanic gardens and marveled at an apricot tree, which was blossoming and smelled heavenly. We also had fun walking up and down in the Orangery – there were ripening Meyer lemons (pictured above) as well as grapefruit and blood oranges. For dinner, we ate salmon, grilled asparagus, and leeks in anchovy butter from this recipe. To top it all off we enjoyed hot chocolate cake and a rollicking game of cards after dinner.

Now that we have entered Spring (or at least almost – tomorrow is the equinox!) I’ve noticed how much lighter the evenings are, and how many more flowers are blooming in the garden. We have one little red tulip starting in the garden (I’ll try and get a snap for my next post) and the trees are becoming greener. Additionally, I’ve been trying to incorporate springtime foods that nourish the body into my diet, and therefore have been experimenting with leeks! As I mentioned above we made a gorgeous leek with anchovy butter dish last week, but my mom and I also made a wonderful leek soup. We used this recipe from the New York Times cooking website. It was delicious!

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Once the leeks are cooked, they are blended with raw spinach making this soup bright green!

I hope everyone is out and about enjoying the springtime. Here’s a little picture of St. Patrick from the Nuremburg Chronicle.

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Image sourced from Wikimedia.

 

 

St. Valentine’s Day

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From my Valentine, sweet Kevin!

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The nature table perks up for spring with a snowdrop fairy and a little heart gnome.
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Can you see my hands in the reflection?

A belated happy St. Valentine’s Day to all! I’ve been caught with a nasty bought of illness in the last week, so I wasn’t well enough to post this in a timely fashion, but better late than never. We celebrated St. Valentine’s day this year with a lovely breakfast, complete with chocolate chip pancakes (of course) and tea! Kevin brought me the lovely flowers and the sweet card and we all enjoyed the sunshine and the good food.

I’ve always had a weaker connection to the celebration of Valentine’s day, thinking of it as a “Hallmark” holiday to break up the February dreariness. However, I’ve been doing some reading and have been trying to embrace the themes of love and renewal this holiday inspires. I was reading this article about the history of St. Valentine’s day and discovered it was originally celebrated as the Roman holiday Lupercalia, the pagan celebration of fertility and renewal. During the Roman era one of the St. Valentines – there were several martyrs named Valentine – used to perform marriages in secret, in defiance of Roman law, garnering an early link between St. Valentine and celebrations of love. After the Christianization of Rome, partially because of his ties to love and marriage, St. Valentine’s day replaced Lupercalia as the fertility celebration in mid February. As an additional seasonal connection, St. Valentine’s day was thought to be the start of the mating season for birds (I’ve certainly noticed confirming data in the garden). According to this article, Valentine’s Day as we know it wasn’t widely celebrated until the 17th century. Still, the history and tradition of celebrating love, in its many forms, has been linked with this time of year since 270 A.D.

With all of this history in mind, I have been contemplating the themes love and renewal as we journey through the middle of February and look ahead to March. Though of course love should be a year-long endeavor, during this time of transition and these last bitter months of winter, it seems more important to express appreciation for loved ones each day.

A last little note of joy: the snowdrops are blooming!

Sending snowdrops and good wishes to all.

Online resources:
History.com Staff. “History of Valentine’s Day.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 14 Feb. 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day

 

Celebrating Martinmas

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Last week we celebrated Martinmas. As I mentioned in my last post, Martinmas is a continuation of the celebration of Michaelmas, as we continue to carry light with us into the darkest time of year. Martinmas draws inspiration and meaning from the story of St. Martin and the beggar. One very cold November night, Martin – a Roman soldier – was riding home to his city when he encountered a beggar at the city gate. Having nothing else to give the beggar, Martin took off his red wool cloak and sliced it in two with his sword, giving half to the beggar and keeping the other half for his own warmth. Later that night Christ appeared to Martin wearing half of the red wool cloak, and proclaimed that Martin would thereafter be a saint.

Though we don’t celebrate this holiday in the Christian faith, we do celebrate the message of generosity and light that this story exemplifies. Over the last week, I’ve gathered a bag of warm clothes to donate for those who need extra layers this winter. To celebrate the holiday at home, we made a simple dinner of soup and cornbread, and lit candles. In the Waldorf School, Martinmas is usually celebrated with a lantern walk. The children make handmade lanterns of paper, paper maché, or beeswax, and gather at dusk to parade around the neighborhood singing lantern songs together. The lanterns are a way to physically manifest each individuals’ light and spirit of kindness and generosity.

For me, this holiday came at a particularly appropriate moment. The last week has been difficult, and I’ve been filled with uncertainty, fear, and anger. Now more than ever I think it’s important to embrace the things in life that give us joy (listening to podcasts, visiting the art museum, gluten free chocolate chip cookies!) and to try and see the light in one another. I’m not naïve enough to think that this will magically solve all the world’s problems, but in moments of worry and sadness, I’m trying to take care of my own light, and share it with others instead of giving way to fear. This desire for connection and compassion is one of the most human things I can think of, and when, if not now, should we share our humanity with each other? This week, I’m trying to reach out to friends, call them on the phone, write a letter, send a funny picture. I’ve also resolved that as we forge our way through this difficult time I’m not going to be passive or fearful, but instead am going to work on transforming those emotions into determination and action.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others” – from “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson

Sending love and light to all.