Here’s a little color for anyone who needs it right now. These photos were taken on July 15, 2021, on the Oh Be Joyful Trail outside Crested Butte, Colorado. I don’t have the energy to research the first two species (so if anyone knows, educate me :)).
This last is Fireweed which I first grew to love while living in Alaska.
Another hiker was crouched next to a patch of them along the trail that day, photographing the blooms with the biggest smile on her face. “This is my favorite flower of all,” she said.
Today is the selection meeting for the Writing Roosters Scholarship for the Michelle Begley Mentor Program. Michelle was a dear friend and critique partner who created an amazing mentor program for the Rocky Mountain kidlit community. When she tragically died in a car accident, our critique group established a scholarship fund in her name. Each year, we get together (zoom again…sigh), along with Michelle’s mother and two sisters, to discuss applications and select a mentee to receive the $500 scholarship.
This year, we have ten applicants! I’m still writing notes for our meeting that begins in less than an hour, but wanted to document this event.
July 3, 2021
The sunflower is nearly as beautiful as Michelle whose light still shines on through her legacy to our writing community.
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.
Here are two of my favorite things: honey bees and lavender.
July 18, 2019
We still have a few late-blooming stalks of lavender (this photo was taken a couple summers ago), but not a lot of bees around. Which is why I was surprised over the weekend while reading outside on a bench I’d pushed up against the side of the house to avoid the wind. Surrounded by concrete and brick, engrossed in the pages, I became aware of a faint buzzing that got louder and louder. A honey bee flew next to my outstretched leg before landing on my arm and then my chest. After a brief pause there, it flew to my collar. Much closer to my ear (bzzzz bzzzz ). And face.
Bees fascinate me more than freak me out, however, I admit to feeling a bit nervous about this buzzing visitor. Still, I maintained my calm, congratulating myself on the chill attitude. Until . . . the honey bee moved down to the end of my sleeve and crawled in my sleeve. Chill attitude officially over! I shrieked and shook my arm to dislodge the bee, which seemed to take forever due to the layers I wore.
When the bee safely flew away-away, I chided myself for panicking. And then I remembered the terrifying bees-in-clothing experience I had years ago, and cut myself slack.
Fortunately, this latest bee interaction was entirely friendly and bees still rank among my very favorite things.
This Red-winged Blackbird and Mourning Dove shared a tree as the sun went down on our first day of camping in Moby, the Great White campervan, in late April. We were walking around Lake Hasty (John Martin Reservoir State Park) at the end of a lovely day when I spotted them.
April 28, 2021
We receive many doves (Mourning and Eurasian-collared) here at our backyard feeder, but Red-winged Blackbird sightings are more rare. I have childhood memories of them singing their beautiful song as they perched on cattails along the train tracks.
I’m posting this picture to commemorate the end of our camping season. Yesterday we unloaded Moby in preparation for a trip to the shop to have a pop-top installed. Next year, we’ll be able to stand up inside. Can’t wait to get back out there to bask in the glories of the natural world.
Michelle would have been 51 years-old today. Here’s one of the many sunflowers in my yard that remind me of her spirit and generous heart.
July 3, 2021
Thank you for brightening my life with your friendship, Michelle. I’ll keep tilting my face to the sky and endless possibilities.
I photographed this Black-billed Magpie at the beginning of the pandemic when I escaped to the open space with a blanket, binoculars, and my camera. It’s not a particularly good photo, but it captures the elegance of a magpie’s flight feathers. I remember the emotional boost I experienced while watching and listening to this bird and the other magpies. They were so raucous that day and I felt honored when several gathered in a tree close to my blanket, squawking and carrying on.
April 1, 2020
Yesterday, I shared some sad magpie news. Today I’m filled with sorrow over that senseless death, but also gratitude for my many magpie sightings, visits, and interactions over the years. They never fail to enchant.
Yesterday I bid farewell to our 17-year-old Prius, a reliable car that carried me and mine over 164,113 miles. We donated it to a local non-profit and I watched as it was loaded on the truck. Even though it was just a car, a possession, I choked up . So many memories.
- I went to the dealership in November of 2003 to place an order for the 2004 Prius model (the first year with a hatchback) which were in high demand. Because Zippy was less enthused about buying a hybrid vehicle and was busy at work, off I went. Alone, but armed with a ton of research on buying a new vehicle. The two salesmen wanted to treat me like a joke, but I insisted they deduct various costs including fees for taking up space on the lot (since the car would go straight to me upon arrival), advertising, rust-proofing, and upholstery treatment. When they pushed back on one of those demands, I said if they couldn’t accommodate me I’d buy from another dealership in the area. One scoffed: “You’d drive across town to save $150?” I assured him I would. They dropped that fee and we made a deal. When I walked out, I was shaking with adrenaline. I also felt pretty kick-ass.
- There were so few Priuses in those early years that whenever two passed on the street, the drivers always exchanged a grin and a wave.
- The summer of 2004, we took a three-week vacation to drive the Prius across the country to visit family and friends. Wildebeest and Zebu were nine and seven. It turned out to be our very best family trip. Ever. No fighting. It was glorious.
- As Zebu got older and became driving-age, he insisted the Prius had no guts. He was wrong. I could drive up Highway 93, from Golden to Boulder, and blow past most every other vehicle whenever there were passing lanes.
- Zebu also disliked the Prius because he was too tall and his head touched the ceiling.
- Wildebeest loved the Prius and its money-saving gas mileage (which averaged about 44 mpg over the years) and often offered to take it off our hands.
- In those 17 years, we had to replace the battery two times with refurbished batteries.
- I went through a phase in which I tried to convince Zippy we should start a battery refurbishing business. He never succumbed to my entrepreneurial pitch.
- The Prius wasn’t great in snow and sometimes I had to abandon it on the side of our hilly street because it couldn’t quite make it to the driveway. We eventually bought snow tires which made a huge difference but some years, due to climate change, there wasn’t much snow so we didn’t bother putting them on. It was like a game of roulette: would we get huge snowfalls and regret the lack of traction?
- Pre-snow tires I once got the carpool stuck and all four elementary-age kids had to get out to push the Prius from the snowy gutter where it’d slid.
- Something about our silver Prius attracted accidents. Zippy and I were both rear-ended multiple times** and once I sat with Zebu at a stop sign in the rain and watched as an SUV turned right onto that street and slow-motion slid over to smack into the front of the Prius as Zebu and I yelled, “Noooo!”
- (** one woman who rear-ended me was named C*rmen Riskey which somehow felt like a perfect name for the situation).
- When the valiant Prius was taken away yesterday, it bore zip ties and packing tape on various parts of its body.
- One of the times it got hit resulted in extensive damage that required a body shop. While the Prius looked good as new after that, the gas bladder was never the same and would only accept 5-6 gallons of gas at a time which meant that one of the greatest perks of owning a Prius –fewer trips to the gas station–was no longer the case. Over the years I swore even more than usual as the pump handle clicked off and on as I tried squeezing in a tiny bit more gas.
- Once I loaned the Prius to a friend who’d only driven later models and she called me to say the fob wasn’t working. Apparently, the newer models would start if the fob was in the driver’s pocket so I had to explain that my Prius fob had to be inserted in a slot in the dashboard. (The same thing happened with the donation pick-up driver last night; when he couldn’t get it to start, he thought we were donating a dead car as opposed to just a seriously wounded car).
- My brother-in-law drove it once and somehow triggered what Prius drivers refer to as the “red triangle of death.” He was in a panic but we’d become somewhat nonchalant about its appearance over the years and talked him through it.
- Several weeks ago, Zippy decided to have the snow tires put on rather than buy new tires. While the Prius was driving very well at that point, it was increasingly touchy so we didn’t want to invest in new tires. After paying an unbelievable $150 for that switch plus disposal of the old, bald tires, there was an immediate change. Like, immediate-immediate. The red triangle of death had returned. When Zippy floored the gas pedal to get up our hill, our beloved old Prius could only muster 10-miles-per-hour.
- It was time to say goodbye.
- That goodbye dragged on and on for a whole week because the pick-up company got WAY behind due to the blistering hot weather across Colorado. Several of their trucks died in the heat and one nearly caught fire. But at 6:30 last night, Eduardo arrived to carry my dear little car away.
Here’s the Prius making its final trip down our street. I’m not ashamed to admit there were tears in my eyes as I waved goodbye.
Western Scrub Jay. June 21, 2020
This isn’t a great photo, but I resonate with its vibe. Grumpy-looking scrub jay hunkered down in a hideaway sheltered by green foliage. I spent lots of my childhood seeking these same kinds of spaces, whether I was grumpy or not. Unlike this bird, I’d usually have a book and peanut butter sandwich which always made everything seem better. Unfortunately, this picture was taken a year ago so it’s too late to offer a book or snack . . .
Zebu’s 12th birthday
Thirteen years ago
birthday pie and toothy grins
slice of happiness
I took this photo a year ago today. As I recall, it was a balmy day filled with bird songs and busy bees. We were in the early days of the pandemic and communing with backyard nature was balm for my soul.
April 27, 2020
Today, plenty of birds are singing on this cool and rainy day. However, the shrub in the photo is behind last year’s schedule –buds still folded up tight –and I’ve yet to see a bee in the yard. We’re still experiencing a global pandemic, but the blooms and bees are on their way. And when they arrive, I’ll be out there again, drinking in all their glory.
The snow has started falling again, much to the delight of these four kids.
It’s been fun seeing the many snow caves and tunnels and quinzhees around the neighborhood. When I lived in Anchorage, my good friend Anne S. did a weekend wilderness class during the winter in which they had to build quinzhees and then spend the night in them. She invited me to take the class with her, but I declined. When Anne returned, she regaled me with stories of a woman named Betsy who struggled throughout the weekend, constantly complaining about cold, wet, hunger, discomfort, etc.
I looked at Anne and said, “I would’ve been the Betsy of the quinzhee.”
True then and true now.
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of Wildebeest’s graduation from Fort Lewis College. It was a happy day for all of us (including Wildebeest’s childhood friend, Kyle) and there was much laughter throughout, including the lengthy and bitterly cold search for our car in the crowded parking lot after the ceremony.
Zebu, Wildebeest, Zippy, and creepy lurker friend, Kyle. December 20, 2019
Younger brother warming older brother’s head.
It’s a huge relief Wildebeest completed his degree before the pandemic hit (and it’ll be even better if/when he lands a job during the pandemic). In the meanwhile, he used the time off to come back home to help care for his grandmother. He’s a good soul.
All hail Wildebeest!
Because I’m an introvert, I’m maybe better equipped for this quarantine than others. But even though I recharge my batteries by being alone, that doesn’t mean I don’t still crave the company of others. And today, I’m missing my friends of the Sunrise Movement.
Phlox. August 6, 2020.
The entire time I fought alongside them, I was mindful of my very privileged position as a young-at-heart welcomed into the ranks of passionate young people fighting for a livable future. I was also completely unprepared for how quickly that situation could shift. I had no idea that in the very near future I wouldn’t see them regularly at hub meetings, trainings, art builds, and actions. While I didn’t take any of it for granted, it never occurred to me there’d come a time in which we wouldn’t trade smiles across a room and share hugs. I’m writing this with tears in my eyes and a hole in my heart. In addition to the obvious, this pandemic and our government’s botched response has destroyed so much. It hasn’t stopped Sunrise Colorado or those friendships, but it’s completely altered the landscape of each. Today I’m grateful for what we had and mourning all we’ve lost.
I took this photo last March, at the beginning of the quarantine.
Western/Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, March 20, 2020.
Little did I know what was in store for everyone. I’m quite sure I stood at the window that day, focusing on the scrub jays and bushtits visiting the feeders, knowing the best and healthiest path forward was to seek out beauty and moments of quiet joy.
I hope this scrub jay is still alive and well. I hope the forecast for snow this weekend comes true (because Colorado needs moisture). And I hope I never stop seeing the beauty around me.
Yesterday I felt optimistic and filled with anticipation of good things to come. Today? Those glorious feelings have already faded and I’m in need of a boost. So I went to my photo archives in search of wildflowers.
August 28, 2019
These are Parry’s Primrose, spotted while hiking to Square Top Lakes with friend and critique partner, Laura Perdew. That was a very good day and these lovely little flowers are a reminder there are more good days in my future.
Yesterday, Zippy told Wildebeest a story from when we lived in Alaska (before Wildebeest was born). It was a summer night, and Zippy and our dog Packy were out in our large yard where there was a pile of branches and grass clippings left by the previous owners. (We, being basically lazy people, had left it there with the rationale that it provided wildlife habitat). Zippy noticed something white in the branches, something he thought was a volleyball.
He proceeded to poke at the “volleyball” with a stick. (I know, I know. Who arms themselves with a stick when approaching a piece of sports equipment?)
Well, you can guess what happened. BEES!
Zippy yelled, “Run, Packy! Run!” The bees swarmed them as they ran to the safety of the house.*
As I listened to his story, a memory tickled my brain. And then I remembered: Have I Got a Story for You. Read it and weep (with laughter).
*Zippy wasn’t stung and as far as we know, no stingers penetrated Packy’s thick fur.
Grand Island, NE. June 2, 2020
These are hard days and I’m trying to find joy wherever I can. This photo lifts my spirits not only because I love the composition, but also the memory of taking it. I sat outside my little KOA cabin last June, watching the birds and bunnies moving about, and was completely engrossed in my surroundings. I remember the joy I felt aiming my camera at all that activity. So much life on display.
It’s a beautiful planet.
State Forest State Park. June 12, 2019.
June 2019 seems like a lifetime ago (hell, February 2020 already feels like historical fiction), and I just spent time looking through photos from one of last summer’s camping/hiking trips. I remember how hot it was in the Bockman Campground when the sun rose in the sky and how happy our doggo was every time we came upon a patch of snow during our 8-mile hike. I remember waking up to a moose grazing next to our tent. I remember photographing this old building, thinking that with a little fixing up, it might make a nice place to spend my days.
We didn’t camp this summer. We’ve only hiked in the nearby open space. Until this country gets its collective act together, it seems I’ll have to make do with memories.
From long ago hike
when husky met porcupine
a pointed exchange
We’re still in lock-down mode here in Colorado as the wildfires continue to burn. Air quality is poor (although a bit better after a tiny rain episode yesterday) and I’m staying inside. Instead of walking Emma this morning, I opted for a hoop-dance session in the living room.
Horse Gulch Trail, Durango, CO. July 31, 2019
And rather than going on an actual hike, I’m reliving one from July of 2019 when Zippy, Emma, and I visited elder-son Wildebeest. I remember that hike. It was quite hot that day, but still very nice to be out and about in nature.
I’m looking forward to the day we can do it again.
Square Top Lakes hike. August 28, 2019.
A lifetime ago
laughing, talking on the trails
little did we know
Your mileage may vary, but today I find this perspective quite comforting:
Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. ~ Carl Sagan
Rustler Gulch Trail. Crested Butte. July 26, 2018.