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.

Thankful Thursday: new paint now peace

Today I am grateful the week-long paint exterior paint job was completed several hours before the season’s first snowfall.

Image by Wilfried Pohnke from Pixabay

I’m grateful we resolved a big mix-up. Turned out they’d matched the trim color incorrectly, which I didn’t realize until last night. I spent sleepless hours fretting about it and woke all out of sorts. When I spoke to them and didn’t get much satisfaction, I wisely went for a 38 degree run on the trails. The cold air and beautiful open space cleared my mind. Afterward, we talked more, they listened to my concerns, and agreed to return at a later date to repaint the trim the correct color.

It’s been 12 years since the exterior was painted and the southern and eastern exposures were brutalized by sun and weather. I hadn’t anticipated the incredible noise and disruption that would come with three guys sanding-drilling-pounding on various walls, often simultaneously. Not to mention occasionally being caught off-guard when I spotted strange men through the windows.

One more time: I am grateful the exterior paint job is complete! (For a while, anyway).

I’m very thankful for our home and our ability to pay for its upkeep. (And hooray that the supply chain issues only slightly affected the timeline for completing the job!)

It’s a good Thursday on the planet.

Thankful Thursday: moose

As we hiked around Lower Cataract Lake, we were gifted with a moose sighting.

September 27, 2021

This young male had stood perfectly still, watching us watching him, before starting his slow slog across the lake. The mud and water created a loud squelching that brought smiles to our faces. And we were happy to again encounter (from a distance) this moose on the other side of the lake as it headed into the aspen.

One of the hardest parts of leaving Alaska for me was saying goodbye to almost daily moose sightings. There was a large bull that used to run out of the forest and abruptly stop in the clearing next to the road I drove home. The dewlap below his chin would swing wildly as he stood motionless. I loved that moose and am grateful I got to see this youngster. They are magnificent beings.

Thankful Thursday: focusing on fun

A friend who knows my love of birds passed along this 500-piece puzzle after she’d put it together. I started working on it late last night. First, I turned all the pieces right-side-up on the table and took a quick pic which I texted to her with “Let the puzzling begin!”

Her reply: “I hope you don’t get addicted like I did and have a hard time stopping.” 😬

I told her not to worry, that even if I did get addicted, it was fine by me.

Welp, I spent more time today working on this puzzle than attending to most other things on my To Do list. But it felt good for my brain and mental health, so I don’t begrudge the distraction. Plus, it’s birds!

Focusing on tiny miracles

A friend and I went to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge last Friday where we walked, talked, and communed with the natural world. First up is a Gray Hairstreak Butterfly on a Rocky Mountain Bee Plant.

This was one of two dragonflies that moved incredibly quickly as they darted together up-down-off-to-the-side-then-up-again as we spun around, trying to keep them in sight before they abruptly came to rest on these rushes.

Sometimes we didn’t know what we were looking at and took time to investigate. 

No matter what we saw, whether it was old or new to us, we took delight in the many tiny miracles. Even a much-maligned thistle made us pause and reach out a gentle finger to touch its wondrous beauty.

All gratitude to Mother Nature.

Thankful Thursday: improved outlook

Two hours ago, my innards were a mass of writhing anxiety and I (briefly) considered cancelling out on a zoom call with some local activists. I’d signed up to learn about the coalition they’re putting together to help the most vulnerable in our community, but felt so overwhelmed I thought it might be best to bail rather than run the risk of falling apart onscreen in front of strangers.

Fortunately, I joined the call and am now feeling much better. Possibly as stellar as this Steller’s Jay. (sorry, not sorry!)

Photo by Zippy. August 6, 2021

Seriously, the folks I met with are doing good work and I’m excited to join their efforts. The current global reality is layered with multiple ongoing traumas and much of it is outside my control. But this local effort stands a very good chance of actually making a difference in people’s lives.

I’m grateful that today I, once again, learned it’s much healthier for me to choose taking action over wallowing in debilitating anxiety.

Inner sunshine

I just had a session with my therapist and feel really good!

July 4, 2021

Lighter.
Liberated.
Exhilarated.

Wishing those same feelings for everyone out there. Happy Monday!

Oh Be Joyful

We did end up going to Crested Butte last week and were blessed with rain almost the entire four-hour drive. That much-needed precipitation cleared the air of wildfire smoke and the drive over Cottonwood Pass was absolutely delicious. Green-green-green with a smattering of wildflowers.

We spent one of our nights at Oh Be Joyful Campground and hiked partway in on the Oh Be Joyful Trail. Here’s a taste of what we saw:

July 15, 2021

The wild asters were more abundant than we’d ever experienced, but this wild rose also caught my eye.

Zippy and Emma

The five-mile afternoon hike was balm for our souls. And after running three-plus miles that morning, we eagerly welcomed bedtime.

Especially the short-legged doggo who  could barely keep her eyes open after we returned to camp.

A truly joyous experience.

Thankful Thursday: full heart edition

I got up this morning and went for a run on the trails.

Hayden Green Mountain Park.  June 24, 2021

While this photo was taken a week ago, I enjoyed the same view today (these three dragonflies may or may not have been present this time around as I tend to watch the trail more than the sky due to tripping hazards) and grinned pretty much throughout the entire run. My body felt sluggish, but my soul overfloweth with gratitude as I drank in the natural beauty.

*happy sigh*

Thankful Thursday: in which we divest

Wildebeest and Zebu are both home for a visit. We haven’t seen Zebu since he moved to Seattle last August and it’s been five months since we last saw Wildebeest. I’m grateful to spend time with them, laugh at old jokes, and create new memories.

I’m also grateful they cooperated with my plan to get rid of some things. We carved out time yesterday to go through the enormous double closet in the basement that was filled with games, toys, LEGOS, dress-up clothes, etc., etc., etc. It was definitely a trip down memory lane to sort through everything. There was much laughter. We ended up keeping most of our board games, but it was an easy unanimous decision to say goodbye to TWISTER. Zebu commented that he’s always thought it was a really weird and uncomfortable game.

All these things will be loaded in the car and donated to ARC. More items are ready to go, but I’m going to check with the local elementary school to see if they can use them in the preschool and other classrooms. There’s also an electric guitar and bass plus an amp. Maybe the high school band would like them? Either way, we’ll find a home for those, too.

Hooray for letting go of possessions! I’m thankful for the many hours of enjoyment they brought us and wish them well in their new homes.

Natural refuge

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
~John Burroughs

Canada Goose on nest at Sawhill Ponds. May 6, 2021

It feels as if there’s been an acceleration of the cruelty and inhumanity happening in the world and while I feel the need to bear witness to the suffering (notably that which is sponsored by my government to the tune of $10 million/day which allows Israel to commit genocide against Palestinian people), it wears me down. Nature helps me keep going. Nature is my refuge.

 

As always, I am exceedingly grateful for its many splendors.