Yesterday I glanced out the window and saw a flock of birds in the distance. I grabbed the binoculars and watched as they descended into two treetops. Despite the added magnification, I couldn’t see well enough to identify them. But I kept watching them, hoping the image would miraculously sharpen. Alas, no miracles. However, at one point I thought I saw a little crest. Soon, the flock took off and I watched it wheel across the sky as the birds synchronized their movements. Tears filled my eyes as the mass of birds “shimmered” while it swooped low over the foothills and out of sight.
Later, I described the beautiful sighting to Zippy. I was so sad not to have identified the birds, but when I mentioned thinking I’d seen a crest when watching as they perched in the tree he suggested maybe they were waxwings. A ping went off in my head as I replied, “Maybe.”
Fast forward to this afternoon when I went for a run. Halfway up our street, I heard a commotion in trees on either side of the street. I stopped to observe and, sure enough, the birds had crests. Cedar Waxwings!
Probably about fifty of them, flying back and forth between those two trees (one of which was covered in berries). Some were on the pavement, drinking puddled water from the melted snowbanks. A glorious sight and sound!
I got to see/hear them several times as I ran back and forth on that sunny stretch of street (it was cold with 20 mph winds!) and then they were gone. It was such a gift. I don’t think I’ve seen a waxwing since we lived in Anchorage and would see them (Bohemian Waxwings) flying drunk on fermented mountain ash berries, and I’m extremely grateful for the timing of my run. If I’d procrastinated going out into the cold and wind, I would’ve missed them.
All gratitude to those beautiful, social birds!
We camped at Mueller State Park last week and were gifted with this view out the back windows of our campervan:
October 21, 2022
It’d started out as “Hey, look! There’s a deer. Wait, there’s another one.” And then we lost count of them browsing and moving through the trees. Zippy saw two bucks with their antlers locked, but I missed that sighting. Still, I’m grateful to have seen these beautiful creatures.
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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!
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 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 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.
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.
This morning I met my pal Laura Perdew in Golden where we walked the paths next to Clear Creek. It was sunny, but cold and windy. After we adjusted, though, it was absolutely beautiful. We walked and talked. Walked and took in our surroundings. Laura spotted a duck on the water, a species neither of us recognized, and I lamented that I’d forgotten my camera. Later on, we circled back to where we’d started from and there was the duck again. These photos were all taken with my phone. I had on my prescription sunglasses that are polarized and couldn’t really see anything. Basically, I held up my phone and optimistically clicked away.
The above image on the left shows two mallards on the ice while the duck we didn’t recognize paddled about. (We later identified that paddler as a hybrid Common/Barrow’s Goldeneye, a perfectly stunning specimen). The Goldeneye is also in that photo on the right which was captured as I blindly clicked away.
These ice photos were taken from where I sat on a boulder in the sunshine, so very happy to be out in the natural world. I swear I could spend hours looking at ice formations.
It was a glorious morning and I’m going back there soon with my camera. Clear Creek is balm for my soul.
(Note: Right before waking this morning, I dreamt I was out in public and realized I’d forgotten to wear my mask. As I fumbled to put it on, I realized the throngs of people around me were all mask-less. I called through mine in a panic: “Where are your masks?” I was ignored. Fortunately, I’m pleased to report my real life experience was totally different and probably 95% of the people I saw today wore masks.)
Black-billed Magpie in open space. March 31, 2020.
This morning, for the second day in a row, I got up and ran on the trails.
Black-billed Magpies perched on yucca alongside the trail and flew ahead of me as I chugged along, bringing smiles and lifting my spirits.
I’m excited to regain the strength and endurance I’ll need for the many fights ahead on behalf of the people and planet.
Day by day, I’m inching closer to FINALLY understanding my protagonist in my new novel project. That’s the good news. The bad is there’s a very good chance the 4k words I’ve written thus far will end up in the trash and I’ll be back to 0 words. However, I’m feeling more solid and at peace with this newer understanding.
While knotty writing problems sometimes amp up my frustration, they also take my focus and provide a refuge from our current (and future) reality. Hooray for an inner creative life!
I haven’t gone for a run in months, mostly due to the unhealthy air quality from our wildfire-filled summer and autumn. But we got snow on Sunday and Monday, and the air is better than it’s been in a loooong time, so I got Zippy to join me on a run.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
We look nothing like this couple. And our workout was nothing these two incredibly fit individuals would do, but that’s okay. We drove to another neighborhood that’s flat (ours is a constant up and down) and ran for 5 minutes then walked for 1 minute. Repeat. Our pace was slow, our muscles felt tight and heavy, but we were out on a beautiful blue-sky day. Moving. Breathing hard. Feeling (mostly) alive for a grand total of 3.45 miles. Woot!
Today I’m grateful for clean air and running once again!
Hard days on the planet, yo. However, this morning I sent my revised manuscript to my agent and that feels so very good. While that project has definitely been my refuge, there were times it was hard to focus because of *gestures* everything. But after two months, the revisions are complete and I’m very proud of my tenacity (call me Tenacious T) and the finished product. Huge shout-out to all the readers who offered their insights, suggestions, and support at various stages of the process. ❤️
Blue Jay, Florida. May 3, 2019.
I’m also grateful for birds. They never, ever let me down. No matter what — watching them, listening to them, studying them — always soothes my soul and returns me to balance. More birds, please.
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.