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.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
Today I am grateful the week-long paint exterior paint job was completed several hours before the season’s first snowfall.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I just had a session with my therapist and feel really good!
July 4, 2021
Wishing those same feelings for everyone out there. Happy Monday!
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.
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.
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.
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
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.
Despite the National Weather Service’s warning that a boatload of snow was headed our way last night, we woke to only three inches this morning.
Vinca blooming among the snow. May 11, 2021
And they were incorrect again when they predicted a whole bunch more snow this afternoon. It did snow quite hard at times, but it didn’t stick. It’s been a mix of rain and snow and more rain. And rain
beats melts snow.
The trees and shrubs are intact. Hallelujah!
I spent the afternoon at Sawhill Ponds and Walden Ponds in Boulder. I’d never been before. My goodness, it’s a lovely place to wander. At one point we were on a tiny trail along the shoreline, scrambling over fallen trees and uneven terrain, when we heard several plops.
Oops. There’d been an entire logful of turtles before we startled them away. Laura pointed out we wouldn’t even have noticed any of them if not for the sound. But lucky us, we were alerted to the presence of this lone turtle that remained. Resolute. And completely still. (I didn’t even notice the mirror image until I was cropping the photo.)
Ponds are magical places and I’m happy to have another soul-replenishing destination on my radar.
I spent the afternoon with friend Laura at Barr Lake State Park which I’d never visited, despite living in Colorado for 24 years. It’s embarrassing, really. Tons o’ birds hang out there and I didn’t know about the park until Laura asked if I’d ever been there.
We remedied the situation today and it was a glorious three hours. I took gobs of photos, some of which I’ve already deleted. Many, though, make me smile.
American White Pelican
Throughout the afternoon, Laura wondered about the bump/horn on the pelicans’ bills. I finally took the time to pull out my little bird guide and then read this to Laura: Breeding adults also usually grown a flat fibrous plate in the middle of the upper mandible. The plate drops off after eggs have hatched.
Laura’s response: “But why? Why do they grow that?”
Well, I just did a little online research and still have no idea why breeding adults temporarily grow what appears to be enormous warts on their bills. However, that lack of knowledge in no way detracts from my gratitude for walking and talking with my friend on a beautiful, sunshine-y spring day in a bird wonderland.
Today I’m grateful for Zippy, pictured here when he traveled with me to the Chiricahua Mountains to see birds. He shops and cooks for us, lets me sleep in as long as I need, and supports me in whatever I set out to do. He will even sometimes laugh at my jokes.
Cave Creek Canyon. May 16, 2019
This guy’s got a good heart and I’m oh so grateful he chose to share it with me.
Today I am grateful for the ongoing generosity and kindness of others, especially during these difficult days.
August 18, 2019
I wrote something in an email that could have easily been misinterpreted and this woman read past my fumbling and clumsy words to recognize the intent buried within. In that moment, she granted me peace and tranquility. Her kindness changed the trajectory of my day.
It’s a gray day here and the high will be 23 degrees colder than yesterday.
Purple Coneflowers. July 16, 2020
I’m beneath a blanket on the couch, reading Bryan Stevenson’s JUST MERCY: A Story of Justice and Redemption. It began as research for my work-in-progress, but I’m grateful my project brought me to this book. It’s fierce and tender, all at once. Both rage-inducing and strangely calming** in its depiction of humanity at its worst and best.
Change is possible. Spring is on its way. And today, I am grateful for both those truths.
(** ETA when I wrote about the calming aspect of this book, I was in opening chapters. Having read for much of day, I have to admit there’s more content that enrages rather than soothes. We are a messed up and deeply racist society.)
We love the sight of the brown and ruddy earth;
it is the color of life, while a snow-covered plain is the face of death.
Yet snow is but the mask of the life-giving rain; it, too, is the friend of man,
the tender, sculpturesque, immaculate, warming, fertilizing snow.
~ John Burroughs
Out my window, February 25, 2021
Today I’m grateful for the foot of snow we received during the night. Colorado is experiencing extreme drought and wildfires are definitely in our near future, but right now I’m embracing this gift from the skies. And because this is a climate emergency, I don’t care if this sounds greedy: “More, please.”
Today I’m grateful for my wavy hair that hides scissors-related mistakes. I haven’t had a professional haircut in over a year and just cut my own for the third time during this no-end-in-sight pandemic. Does it look like a pro cut? Nope. Do I care? Not at all. Do I feel better now? Absolutely!
Tracy post-cut. February 8, 2021
Here’s a photo taken with my Android phone camera (that takes incredibly low-quality selfies). Looking at it, I already see some too-long strands here and there. Not to mention I appear slightly cross-eyed. 😂
Whatever. I’m relieved to have less hair to deal with and am now ready to face the coming week.
eta: adding this other photo because it shows more egregious hair errors!:
May this bold, beautiful bloom brighten your day, as well.
Daylily, July 19, 2019
My Writing Roosters critique group had our zoom meeting last night to discuss my work-in-progress. As mentioned here and here and here, I was paralyzed with indecision for several weeks because I’d become convinced my story was an irredeemable hot mess. Guess what? It’s not! As one member said on our call, “I think maybe you were getting inside your own head.”
Me? Inside my own head? How could that possibly be?! 🤣 🤣 🤣
I’ve got some plotting issues to sort out, but the two main characters got a thumbs-up from the group. Whew. Color me noodly with relief.
Poppy blooming in front garden. May 16, 2020.
I chose the poppy image for this post because (1) it’s a very cheery and vibrant color and (2) last night one of my critique partners caught a reference to a previous manuscript about a girl named Poppy Valentine.