Gratitude

This morning started out rough as the weight of all we’re enduring hit me. Sometimes I wish I could live in a happy state of denial (“the pandemic is over and X, Y, Z aren’t happening, either!”), and eagerly greet each new day. Alas, I’m not wired that way.

The good news is, I’m feeling better now.
The birds are singing and the sun is shining.
Gratitude!

Backyard. August 4, 2022

And I’m forever grateful that sunflowers exist.

My mother-in-law was no stereotype

Monday evening, my mother-in-law died.

Bouquet from yard in vase made by young Wildebeest, given to Alice on day before her death.

Contrary to what books and movies would have us believe, not all mothers-in-law are control freaks who believe no one is good enough for their sons. Some are kind, loving, and supportive.

It didn’t feel that way at the start. The first time I met Alice was when Zippy brought me to his parents’ home in Colorado for Christmas in 1988. At the time, he and I had a long-distance relationship between our two California cities. When it was bedtime, Alice showed me where I’d sleep, which wasn’t where Zippy was sleeping. I remember the depths of loneliness I felt lying in that room in an unfamiliar house filled with people I didn’t know. Loneliness plus resentment for the uptight mother of my boyfriend.

That’s the first and last thing she ever did to upset me. No exaggeration. And after I got to know Alice, I realized her decision to put me in that bedroom by myself wasn’t a comment on me or my relationship with her son, but because she didn’t want to make assumptions.

Alice welcomed me with open arms and later extended her endless love to Wildebeest and Zebu. If Alice was a stereotype, it was as a devoted grandmother. She genuinely loved spending time with her grandchildren. Wildebeest told me a story yesterday about the time Alice and Stu took care of Zebu and him for a weekend while Zippy and I went out-of-state for my high school reunion. He’s foggy on the details — maybe he and his brother were fighting over a toy or complaining of boredom — but he remembers it was the only time Grandma got mad at them.

I believe it. Alice was the queen of easy-going. She loved family and friends, and was always the first to laugh at herself. She’d do something — such as accidentally sitting on her camera in the church pew at her other son’s wedding — then let out her trademark “woooo,” followed by a giggle. One time, she agreed to help me make curtains for the boys’ bedroom. After many, many laughter-filled minutes trying to figure out how to thread the sewing machine needle and bobbin, we gave up and called her capable seamstress neighbor who set things right while Alice and I laughed some more.

Once, Alice agreed to accompany me to a doctor’s appointment where she stayed out in the car with the boys. Toddler Zebu was still very attached to me and didn’t handle separation well. When he began crying, Alice struggled to get him out of the car seat, growing more confused as his wailing reached epic proportions. In later years, Alice told the story of how Wildebeest leaned in at that moment to say, “Read the directions, Grandma.” She then read the instructions on the car seat and was able to release Zebu and calm him. But in her telling, all credit went to Wildebeest.

Alice was generous to a fault. She feared and disliked cats, yet cut out cat pictures for the birthday cards she’d make me. When she flew to Alaska to help out after Zebu was born, she told me to let her know if any of her behavior bothered me. She said this knowing that the recent visit from my own mother had caused more problems than it alleviated. Once, after Stu and I had a spirited conversation about our differing political views, in which he was literally hopping mad and called me a communist, Alice forced him to phone me the next day to apologize. Honestly, I thought it was pretty funny seeing my father-in-law so wound up, but Alice didn’t want to risk hurt feelings. Family mattered.

Alice was nineteen when she had Zippy (Stu was twenty-one). Alice had four children by the time she was thirty, a mind-boggling realization when I had my first child at 30 years and barely considered myself mature enough to be a parent. Over the years, Alice and Stu apologized to their kids for supposed mistakes they’d made and opportunities they hadn’t provided. But from my perspective, that young and very poor couple accomplished a miracle: they raised four well-adjusted children who not only loved their parents very much, but also love and support each other.

Over the three weeks following Alice’s heart surgery at the end of July, those four children worked together to help their ailing mother. They coordinated efforts so Alice, who was deaf and suffering dementia, would never be alone in an unfamiliar place. Under increasingly scary and difficult circumstances, those four hung together in their shared goal to ease their mother’s discomfort.

And now Alice’s smile and laughter are only memories. Our hearts are shattered, but I’m deeply grateful for the years I had with my mother-in-law. My wish for her now, wherever she is, is that there are buffets rather than menus. Because for her many fine qualities, Alice struggled to make decisions. Eating out with her was a study in patience. But maybe there are menus and waitstaff. In which case, as Alice was fond of saying, “I hope it all works out.”

Bobcat next door

Emma’s barking got me out of bed at 6:00 this morning. Turned out, there was a bobcat on the other side of our fence. Zippy saw it when he went to investigate and I was consumed by envy after he came inside and described peering over the fence at the growling bobcat.

Ah, well, I thought. Maybe someday I, too, will  have a bobcat sighting.

Fast forward five hours when I was in my writing room with the window open and heard a strange sound coming from outside. It took a moment for my brain to kick in: growling bobcat! Emma’s brain kicked in right after mine and she began barking near the fence. I looked out my window and, sure enough, the bobcat had returned to the yard next door.

As it listened to the barking Emma, the bobcat’s tail moved side-to-side. Oddly, it moved more like a wagging dog’s tail than an irritated cat flicking its tail. The unperturbed bobcat remained there until Zippy came out into the yard to get Emma to stop barking. At that point, Zippy didn’t know what was happening, but the bobcat went on alert at Zippy’s approach.

After assessing the situation, the bobcat leapt onto the back fence. (Look at the size of those back paws!)

It settled in to watch Zippy and Emma for a bit as I continued to snap photos from the second-story window. When first photographing the gorgeous cat, I saw a flash of white on one ear and thought maybe it’d been tagged by a wildlife agency.

Then I realized both ears had white patches. I’d known about the tufts on their ears, but learned today bobcats have false eyes on the backs of their ears. I didn’t capture any images of both ears so here’s a photo from the linked site. I knew about false eyes on moths and butterflies, but was unaware mammals also have them.

Wow. Wow. Wow. And as if the bobcat excitement wasn’t enough, a few minutes later I looked out another window and was gifted the sight of a Turkey Vulture riding the air currents. I watched for several minutes, filled with gratitude for the local wildlife. This day’s a WIN!

 

Bee grateful

Today I’m grateful for many things, including the pollinators in my backyard. Here’s a sampling of the different species I spotted. A hardworking honey bee on the fern bush:

A cheery bumble bee tucked deep in one of the many sunflowers blooming right now:

I believe this is a rusty spider wasp (a better image than what I captured last summer):

And a black wasp that was very, very busy — moving from bloom to bloom and then suddenly circling my head before flying away over the sunflowers and out of sight:

No butterflies or hummingbirds in this session, despite this being The Summer of Hummingbirds. I’ve heard and seen more hummingbirds these past months than the twenty-five years I’ve lived here.

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for:
beautiful surprises along the trail,

Lynx Pass Campground. July 13, 2022

creatives & their creations,
hitting SEND on a brand new manuscript to my agent,
rain last night & cooler temperatures today,
and my family, friends, and comrades in this beautiful & brutal world.

Twofer Tuesday: raincatcher edition

Birds frequently perch on the wire outside my kitchen window, but I’ve never seen this before:

June 6, 2022

It’d started to rain and these two Mourning Doves each lifted first one wing and then the other to catch the moisture, and then proceeded to groom themselves.  It was almost like watching synchronized swimmers (although I’m pretty sure the doves didn’t have to hold their breath) and I felt strangely honored to witness their routine.

I just did a quick online search for information about this phenomenon and came across a few posts on forums stating the equivalent of “I didn’t know doves did this” and “Very cool to witness.”

Have any of you seen doves bathing in the rain?

Magic is welcome here

Poppy’s world is a magical place, and it’s the most free part of the entire universe.
~ Poppy

June 19, 2022

Confession: I didn’t know there was a singer-songwriter-YouTube-personality named Poppy, but when I went in search of a poppy-related quotation and happened upon their above quote, found myself in complete agreement.

A poppy is most definitely a magical place. How else to explain these other-wordly images of my neighbors’ front yard poppy-crop?

Gratitude to these trippy flowers for helping me find joy and wonder during these very difficult days. Magic is always welcome here.

Today’s gift

This morning’s trail run offered up the usual delights that included wildflowers, singing birds, and chirping insects. But I was also gifted with something unusual.

A Bullock’s Oriole! The bright feathers caught my eye and I stopped twice on the trail to watch the brilliant flash of orange as it flew and landed on various yucca plants and rabbitbrush shrubs.

Flight
Alight
Flight
Alight
Flight
Alight
Flight
and then out of sight.

I let out a happy sigh and continued on my way with a smile.

My reign as Domestic Goddess

I am incredibly grateful for the domestic gifts Zippy bestows upon me. Namely, handling all the cooking and grocery shopping. Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t have to cook or shop. Except when it’s absolutely necessary, such as when Zippy has Covid. (Note: he is feeling better although still testing positive).

He first tested positive a week ago tomorrow and hasn’t had much of an appetite. Lucky for both of us. Him, because that meant he wasn’t subjected to my lack of cooking skills and me, because I wasn’t forced to exhibit my low-level kitchen intelligence. Zippy tolerated my quinoa and steamed broccoli (that I daringly “spiced up” with some snap peas and cut green beans) and the minimalist spinach “salads” garnished with halved cherry tomatoes and a splash of balsamic dressing. I skated by until last night.

It all started because I’d noticed a head of kale in the drawer.

Image by azboomer from Pixabay

I worried it was getting a bit droopy and asked what I could make with the kale before it went bad. Zippy replied, “Lots of things” in a tone that implied those many “things” were most definitely beyond my reach. “Like what?” I pressed. “Like “kale and potatoes,” he replied. “I can do that!” I proclaimed.

And Reader, I’m pleased to announce I did do just that. I successfully prepared a meal.  All it required was for Zippy to stay on speakerphone through the entire preparation. Halfway through the conversation when I apologized for being so inept that he had to talk me through the process as if I was defusing a bomb, he admitted our cooking conversation was the most exciting part of his day. Sad commentary on a week spent isolating in the basement. But for me, the excitement I derived from the experience was the fact that (with Zippy’s guidance) I didn’t botch the timing on everything as I have in the past when attempting to create something in the kitchen. I successfully timed:

  • the cooking of the kale
  • the browning of the onions, kale stems, and sprig of rosemary
  • the boiling of the potatoes
  • the adding-in of the kale
  • the final combining and cooking of all ingredients

Okay, that last step took too long and the kale still came out a bit undercooked/chewy. Other than that, I killed it!

But wait, there’s more! Today I went grocery shopping, at two different stores. Not only that, I’ve already returned home and put away the groceries . . . and it’s still daylight! So what if Zippy could have accomplished the same amount of shopping in a fraction of the time it took me? So what if I had to call him from the first store to help me locate the sliced sourdough bread? At the next store, I figured out all on my own where the salad dressing was shelved and confirmed there were no avocados. And is ketchup really necessary?

So, yeah. This past week has been a stark reminder of my very privileged life in which groceries and meals magically occur. For many, many reasons, Zippy and I are both looking forward to a full recovery and him resuming his reign.

Thankful, mostly

After staying safe and healthy for the past 2-plus years, Zippy has Covid and is quarantining in our home. I’ve done two rapid tests that came back negative and this morning felt good enough to do a 4-mile run. That’s very good news. The other very good news is Zippy no longer has a fever (his temperature was 101 on Tuesday when he tested positive). The bad news is I am very much aware that a “mild” case of Covid can cause long-term health issues and am trying hard not to think about the possibility of Long Covid.

Which is why I was exceedingly grateful to be able to run today. It was my first run since the BolderBoulder and I ran up our street to the trailhead, eager to be in my happy place again. About fifteen feet in, there was a broken robin’s eggshell in the middle of the trail. No sign of a nest or baby robins, but that bright blue shell was my first bird-related sighting. A few minutes later, four magpies few over head as another flapped-flapped-flapped to catch up. Farther along the trail, Spotted Towhees sang “sweet-sweet-teeaaaaa.” Later, a Western Meadowlark sang from its perch on a rabbitbrush. Absolute bliss.

But that wasn’t all: a bunny ran across the trail right in front of me! Insects chirped! Several other runners and hikers passed with dogs happy to be out on adventures! A good day to be alive.

There was some sadness, though. For the past couple months, I’ve checked a little round cactus at the turnaround spot, hoping to see signs of life. Hoping it was only temporarily dormant. Today I had to face reality and admit it will never bloom again. Fortunately, Zippy photographed it for me years ago so I have documentation of it in all its prickly and pink glory. Here it is again:

Thank you for the joy you brought me over the years, little cactus. You won’t be forgotten.

I receive these gifts

This morning, I ran on the trails for the first time in a while and my heart soared. A Red-winged Blackbird sang its song as I chugged up the first hill, but from then on out it was a magpie-rich experience. They raucously called from trees and flew overhead. One perched on a bush next to the trail and I watched it as I ran closer, regretting that my approach would startle it away. The regal corvid remained there until I was nearly within arm’s reach before flying across the ravine.

Black-billed Magpie out my window.  September 1, 2019

Just up the trail and around the corner on the approach to what we call the Bunny Run (because, you know, bunnies frequently seen there), two more magpies perched on either side of the trail, silhouetted against the sky. That sight prompted me to open my arms wide and proclaim out loud, “I receive this. Thank you!” And as I did, another gift appeared.

Photo by Jim Kennedy (Metzger Farm Open Space)

A coyote about 50 feet away, loping through the brush behind one of the magpies. The dark-faced coyote* stopped to watch me. I stopped and watched it, speaking in a low voice. Reassuring it that I came in peace. Then it took off again and I resumed running. When I reached the top of the Bunny Run, I stopped to look back. The coyote had also stopped to watch me. I waved, shouting my thanks and good wishes, and resumed the run with a smile and a little more pep in my step.

Farther up the trail, I saw two people. As I got closer, I realized one was sitting. In a chair? And then I noticed a hawk circling overhead. I watched the hawk as I ran, wondering at the flash of white underneath the wings. And just as it hit me that it wasn’t a hawk, I heard the loud buzzing sound. That non-hawk was a drone. Ugh. No more bird sounds. No more solitude. No more smile on my face.

But after grumpily running past the people and their drone, I reminded myself of all I’d already been gifted. So I less-grumpily continued up to the turnaround point at the top of The Slog (because, you know, never-ending uphill) and did my stretching. Then I raced down toward the people who sent up an even larger and louder drone right as I passed, and focused on the joy of movement. The only thing that mattered was being out on the trails again. Moving. Alive.

Thank you, universe. I receive these gifts.

* my search for images of dark-faced coyotes was unsuccessful

Happy Monday, I mean, Tuesday!*

Just popping in to wish everyone a good week!

South Boulder Creek Trail. March 1, 2022.

It was sunny and warm here in this part of Colorado, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to get outside with a friend. We walked a somewhat muddy trail that passed through a small prairie dog town with some gregarious inhabitants.

*I truly thought today was Monday. Oops…

Thankful Thursday: glimpses of joy

Life’s hard on a personal and global level these days, and I’m trying hard to find the joy.

  • Here are this morning’s writing session partners (Emma in the front row while Marcel sits in solidarity behind the laptop). The three of us made good progress in our middle-grade novel revisions (and we now have over 100 revised pages).

  • A much-needed zoom therapy session with Sara, who I now refer to as Saratonin (thanks to another client who bestowed the nickname).
  • Twenty minutes in the sunshine after the therapy session, in which I bundled up and stood on the south-face deck as I breathed in cold, clean air, listened to twittering birds, and felt immense gratitude for the natural world.

Snow-laden Mountain Mahogony.    February 24, 2022

Golden Yarrow. 2.24.22

Sunday Confessional: lost and found

Today I took advantage of the last day of warm weather before the coming week of frigid temperatures and spent time outside cleaning flower beds. The last several years I’ve kinda been on a gardening strike and let things run wild. That laziness plus the neighbors’ enormous, beautiful pine trees that loom over our yard, distributing tons of boughs, needles, and pine cones, resulted in quite the mess.

In fact, as I excavated the debris I came across something I’d temporarily forgotten was there: our cat Lebowski‘s grave marker. I’d tried in vain to locate it in January when Zebu was here. Even though I knew where it was, I couldn’t find it beneath the layers of needles and cones. That saddened and made me feel a bit disloyal to my feline friend. So when my hand brushed against the slab of flagstone this afternoon, I experienced a moment of confusion followed by a flood of memories.

Lebowski was a wonderful cat.

The Dude in June of 2009

This photo is a bit misleading because he was an indoor cat although I let him outside with me now and again for supervised outings (and he spent his final months outside with me as much as possible). What isn’t misleading about this photo is that The Dude was a very large fellow.

I’m grateful to have located his grave again. Unfortunately, the words and dates we’d inscribed on the flagstone have worn away, but the marker is now in full sight and I intend to keep it that way. In honor of our magnificent Lebowski, temporarily lost and now found again.

Some good stuff

I met my goal to hoop-dance for 24 hours in 2021! While hooping for approximately an hour each day ended up being a bit much, the experience was mostly joyful. My official stats are 1,446 minutes: 24 hours and six minutes of dancing in the spin. One entire day of this exceedingly difficult year was devoted to an activity I love. 

Post-challenge victory photo. December 31, 2021

And if that’s not enough of a WIN for this last day of the year, right before my final hooping session, we took a walk during the first substantial snowstorm of the year for this part of Colorado (which comes the day after two wildfires in nearby Boulder County as a result of extreme drought and hurricane-level winds).

Emma in her sweater, straining to identify an intriguing odor. 

At this moment, I’m focusing on the good stuff. The array of birds visiting the yard as I hoop-danced this morning (Black-capped Chickadee, Bushtits, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-billed Magpies, American Crow, Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay) and the glorious feel of snowflakes on my face as we walked three miles around the neighborhood.

Happy New Year! Wishing you much joy. ✨

My tail’s wagging

Photo by Skyler Ewing from Pexels

Today, I ran for the first time in six weeks since injuring my foot while trail-running with Wildebeest. The boot‘s been off a little over two weeks, but I stayed on the streets and ran at a leisurely pace. Although there was no pain, I forced myself to walk before hitting 2.5 miles. Just to be safe. And I iced my foot upon my return.

I’m so happy! Man, I’ve missed the runner’s high.

Each of us, magnificent

Today’s reminder for anyone who needs it: show up as yourself. You are magnificent, warts and all! (Or, in this pelican’s case, bumps that form on the bill during breeding season.)

Barr Lake State Park. April 8, 2021

Remember, when you show up as your magnificent, authentic self, you’ll find your squadron.

Shout-out to all who’ve engaged and connected with me in real life and an online capacity: thank you! ❤️

Thankful Thursday

Today I am grateful for much, including:

  • My first walking boot-free day in which I walked about 1.5 miles in the neighborhood.
  • An overdue appointment with my behavioral optometrist who’s been taking care of my eyes for a looong time and who, as always, knew exactly what needed to be done to get me back on track.
  • Arriving home after my appointment to find Zippy putting lights in the yard.

Our somewhat haphazard display with bonus feature: Loki in the window.     Dec 2, 2021

  • Afterward, a nice visit with our neighbors and the beautiful and quite-large Rainbow Dash who put her paws on my shoulders to say Hello . . . without knocking me over!

Sunday Confessional: I invited myself over

It was 35 years ago today that Zippy and I had our first date. At the time, I lived in North Hollywood and he lived in Bakersfield. It was a tough time for me and I desperately needed to get away from my tiny apartment for a day or two, but was living in poverty and couldn’t afford anything. I knew Zippy through my brother (they’d gone to college together) and we’d recently reconnected via several  phone conversations, so I brazenly invited myself for a visit.

Bakersfield is no one’s idea of a getaway, but I was thrilled at the prospect of being somewhere else. When I arrived that Friday evening (knuckles scraped and bleeding as a result of my hand slipping while prying a very stubborn lid off a bottle of the engine additive needed to keep my poor old car running), Zippy suggested we go hear some live music. Chris “Hammer” Smith and his blues harp were at Suds Tavern which was located in the Wall Street Alley. The tiny place used to be a fire station and fire horse stable, and reeked of character. And cigarette smoke (of which I was a contributor, ahem). We had so much damn fun, drinking beer and dancing dancing dancing. During Hammer Smith’s break, we ran across the alley to Guthrie’s Alley Cat where there was a pool table and even cheaper beer, then dashed back for more live music.

Guthrie’s Alley Cat

Fast forward: I ended up moving to Bakersfield for two years (before we moved to Anchorage) and we logged a lot of hours dancing at Suds and shooting pool at Guthrie’s. Turns out, plenty of people thought that alley was in  “the bad part of town” and stayed away. To my mind, that scene was one of the shining lights of that hot, dry, and dusty city. I was thrilled when I met a fellow teacher who shared our love for that alley.

Alas, Suds is no more.  It’s apparently now a restaurant called Two Goats & The Goose and, because I couldn’t find a photo of Suds, I’m including this image to show the exterior (with an accessibility ramp that was not present in the 80s).

Turns out, Guthrie’s Alley Cat is still in business which makes me very happy. All these years later, I’m very glad Guthrie’s was part of my introduction to Bakersfield. Mostly, though, I’m grateful Zippy graciously accepted my self-invite.

Thankful Thursday: out my window

It means even more to me than usual to have winged visitors to my yard. Because I’m currently stuck in a walking boot, I haven’t been venturing out much at all. So, today I dedicate my gratitude to these four birds, in the order in which they appeared.

First up, is a House Finch that immediately flew to the bath right after I’d cleaned and filled it this morning:

Moments later, this Red-breasted Nuthatch came for a drink:

Then another male House Finch posed in the maple tree:

And this afternoon, while taking a break from revisions, I spotted a radiant Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay:

It’s only Day 4 of my walking-boot-sentence and the Herman Munster clomp-clomp-clomp is already wearing thin. All gratitude for birds!

Monday Monday

November 8, 2021

It could be worse. Much worse. After all, instead of stopping when I felt pain after landing on a rock while running the trails on Friday , I ran another couple miles (and then spent the weekend in serious pain whenever I accidentally put weight on my left foot). Doh.

But today’s x-rays didn’t show a stress fracture so it’s possibly only soft tissue damage. I have two weeks in this fine dancing boot and then go back for a follow-up. (Shout-out to Zippy for somehow finagling a podiatry appointment for me this afternoon!)

Thankful Thursday

It might be nearing the end of the day, but it’s never too late to share gratitude. Today I am grateful for a productive critique session with my critique group last night.  As always, the Writing Roosters had good insights and offered suggestions that will make my beloved novel shine.

And to celebrate, here’s a bouquet of wild asters  that remind me of a fireworks display. I photographed them last summer as we hiked the Oh Be Joyful Trail.

July 15, 2021

Oh, to be joyful and filled with gratitude.

Light my fire

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. ~ Albert Schweitzer

October 21, 2021

I’d also extend thanks to autumn’s vibrant foliage for doing the same.