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.

Welcoming Spring

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Happy Vernal Equinox! I’m so happy to be spinning into the warmer months of the year. I know, I know, I’m always the first to say I’d like more snow and rain – but this year I’ve been feeling ready for long sunny evenings. Bring on the warmer weather! I can’t wait to be outside in the garden more.

Last Sunday, Kevin and my mom and I planted some spinach and radishes. Any day now we are expecting to see the first few shoots peeking up through the soil. We also spent some time cleaning up the beds from winter detritus. The apple garden (we call our herb / wildflower garden “the apple garden” since there used to be a big old apple tree there) was surprisingly green for how early in the season it is. Herbs were already regenerating, and even little shoots from the tarragon were coming up. I’m so excited to continue to plant! We are staggering our spinach crops this year so hopefully they won’t all be ready to harvest at the same time and we can have yummy greens for longer.

We had a fun birthday celebration for Kevin last week, serving mussels cooked in beer for dinner. Has anyone tried this cooking technique before? It’s DELICIOUS and even better if you drink the same kind of beer with your mussels. YUM. We also celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday! It was a fairly simple celebration, with a new little shamrock to brighten up the table and Irish soda bread smeared with the best Irish butter. Kevin and I also listened to some Irish tunes on the way to see some of my students in their high school play. All said and done, a lovely festival day. No one is surprised that I’ve already been cooking up plans for St. George’s Day (on April 23rd). St. George is the patron saint of England, so this festival is like English St. Patrick’s. We are already musing over dinner at a local English style pub or some cream tea in the afternoon. Either way, I’m glad to have other festivals coming up soon, especially since Easter is so early this year.

Speaking of festivals – let’s talk about the Vernal Equinox! We celebrate mostly by acknowledging the burgeoning spring with flowers and lovely spring-themed foods. At the moment, I’m teaching creative writing in a high school and for our writing prompt today I had the students write about what they are excited for during their spring break. This was a lovely way to meditate on the wonderful changes a shift in season can bring. I think of this time of year (and any time of year that involves transitions) as an opportunity for new beginnings. In particular I find the equinoxes to be moments of deep change in our seasonal rhythms. The transition from winter to spring or summer to fall always feel like the biggest shifts of the year, demarcating the warm months from the cold months. Now, at the turning point between winter and spring, the air is still cool in the mornings and evenings, but the light lingers a bit longer, and sometimes the wind feels a bit warmer. We just had a snowfall on Sunday, reminding us that winter isn’t quite gone. But as I write, it’s still light outside and birds are chirping their lullabies as they go to rest for the night. Kevin and I have also noticed our inclinations changing from winter hibernation to more external pursuits. We crave the outdoors, lighter foods, cool drinks, and spend more time socializing rather than cozied up with a book or movie. It’s an odd thing, these deeply rooted rhythms, but every year I feel moved by them.

I’m off to go help with dinner. Sending spring sun and daffodils.

Merry and Bright

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I told myself after last year that I would do a better job of blogging around the holidays… turns out it’s a busy time of year and that’s a hard promise to keep!

Filled to the brim with friends and family, the last month has been such a wonderful reminder of the bounty and joy in my life. I always forget just how much making and preparing, baking and cooking and gathering happens this time of year! We celebrated several smaller festivals before Christmas. On December 6th, Kevin and I celebrated St. Nicholas Day, exchanging small presents (placed in our shoes!) and enjoying the Christmas tree. My mom and I also observed Santa Lucia day, by making “Lussekatter” or “Santa Lucia Buns.” In keeping with the theme of celebrating light during the darkest time of year, the Lussekatter include saffron to give the buns a golden luster.

My only qualm with this holiday season is there doesn’t seem to be enough snow! Day after day I check my weather, peer at grey skies, and sniff the air for that metallic fresh smell. Alas, we’ve been in the midst of an intense dry spell in Colorado and snow has been scarce. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more in the new year!

Now that Christmas is over I find myself slowing down and turning inward. After all the socializing and celebrating, I find I need time to recharge and regenerate before the new year kicks in. I’ve been thinking a lot about themes of hibernation and rest, particularly pertaining to Terri Windling’s post about bears and yearly rhythms. Terri explores Terry Tempest Williams’s ideas about bears and the natural hibernation rhythms that come with creative work throughout the year. An inhale and an exhale if you will. During these months of winter, the focus of the writer is on creating. I’ve been struggling to get back in touch with my writing rhythm and create space for myself to move forward with my creative work. My rhythms surrounding reading and writing seem to be off kilter now that I’m not longer consumed with lesson planning! Nevertheless, I find it soothing to know that this is a time to look inward, and to wrestle with the flighty muse.

I hope to make more frequent use of this lovely space in 2018. Wishing everyone a peaceful and joyous new year!

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 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.

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

Be well xx

 

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.