Spring and Change

Spring is springing in my garden thanks to the huge dose of moisture from that pre-Earth Day snow, and there’s change ahead for me as well.

Uintah penstemon blooming today in my rock garden.

Uinta penstemon blooming today in my rock garden, offering its nectar and pollen to native bees.

What’s up?

First, if all goes well, this will be the last post you’ll read on my current website. A new website–which will include all the blog posts currently on this one–will go live sometime in the next week or so (same URL, just a new platform).

The project has been months in the making, and wouldn’t have taken nearly as long if I had kept up. My friends who make up the programming/design/editing team have done their part, but I’ve lagged at writing new content, partly because I was on the road a lot in March and April, partly because of the infection in tooth #23, which has really zapped my energy.

The new home screen--I accidentally snapped the screen shot as the slide show was changing images....

A peek at the new site–I accidentally snapped the screen shot as the slide show was changing images….

The other big project absorbing my time now that I’ve wrapped up a season of successful habitat-gardening talks is what writer/editor/fiber expert Deb Robson calls a “French polish” of Bless the Birds. Here’s how Deb describes it (through finishing wood):

You rub the surface with 0000 steel wool and then brush off the tiny bits of wood, shellac, and steel and then coat with another dilute layer of shellac: repeat until the wood gleams gently as if lit from within.

It’s a great metaphor for the kind of fine work I hope to accomplish with this pass through my memoir.

I really thought I was done after the last major revision. Only in the weeks since I emailed the manuscript to my agent (who in one of those twists of a complex universe, never received the email), I’ve had snatches of memories float into my consciousness, small details of the sort that speak to the life Richard and I lived and the people we were. Evocative details, necessary, I think, to the success of the whole story.

Like this passage from Richard’s first-ever night in the hospital, long before we knew the bird hallucinations presaged a brain tumor that would eventually kill him:

I remember vividly that first night in the hospital when the cheerful aide delivered a dinner tray filled with food I couldn’t imagine Richard ever choosing: chicken-friend chicken buried under gravy, mashed instant potatoes and anemic canned peas; a plastic container of waxy fruit cocktail floating in sugar syrup, and another container of chocolate pudding whose ingredients, I would have bet anything, contained no actual nutritional value at all.

“I could go to the deli over on Colorado Avenue,” I said, “and bring you a real dinner.”

Richard thought for a moment. “No. I’m going to submit wholeheartedly to the treatment my doctors recommend, and that includes eating hospital meals.” He poked the slice of squishy white bread sealed in plastic next to the plate and added, “Except perhaps the bread.”

I’m five chapters in (out of 34) and feeling good about the work.

Then there’s tooth #23, lower jaw, front. It’s abscessed and can’t be fixed by a root canal. Choice number two is orthodontia and some kind of cap. Last week I drove to Colorado Springs to talk to the orthodontist; next comes another consult with my dentist to determine the final plan. The cost and time commitment are both staggering. But it’s got to be taken care of.

And it’s spring: I’ve a new website sprouting, I’m working on Bless the Birds, and my restored mountain grassland yard is beginning to bloom.

As are the annuals I just planted for pollinators in the galvanized steel window boxes I designed for the faux window that decorates the street-side wall of my house.

Real windowboxes with real flowers on my faux window...

Real windowboxes with real flowers on my faux window…

It’s spring, when as ee cummings wrote, “the world is puddle-wonderful”–or here in the puddle-deficient high-desert, the air is at least intermittantly showery and smells delicious, full of life waking up.

It’s hard to be gloomy in this season of possibilities!


Earth Day: Snow

Last Thursday morning, I woke before dawn to the orange glow of light I associate with snowflakes diffusing the street lamp glare. When I opened the blind, I saw sticky wet flakes piling up.

Snow falling before dawn on Thursday.

My view before dawn on Thursday.

I was thrilled. During March and early April, normally one of our wettest times of the year, we received zero, zip, nada precipitation and the weather was unusually warm and dry. Spring was looking brown.

Of course, it would snow after I had planted my tomato seedlings outside. I reminded myself that they were protected by water-filled tomato tepees, which function something like mini-greenhouses. Good thing I had thrown a layer of insulating row-cover fabric over the tepees the night before.

Daylight and more snow....

Daylight and more snow….

As the snow continued to fall, I reassured myself the tomato plants would be just fine. When it finally stopped snowing at mid-morning and the sun came out, I peeked and, sure enough, each plant was unharmed.

The snow melted that afternoon, and the creek rose and chuckled. I checked the official precipitation total: 0.6 inches, about a third of what we needed to bring us up to normal.

That evening, clouds rolled in and more feathery flakes began to fall. Great, I thought, more moisture. (I covered the tomato tepees again.)

View down the front steps as feathery clumps of flakes begin to fall Thursday evening.

Flakes begin to fall on Thursday evening.

I woke Friday morning at five o’clock to the “pow!” of an electrical transformer exploding somewhere nearby. I got up sleepily and checked the clock in the kitchen–the power was still on, so I went back to bed.

The next transformer blew at twenty to six, and when I pulled up the blind and looked outside, it was snowing hard and downtown was dark–no street lamp glow.

A blanket of snow so clumpy it shoveled up in slabs like wet cement.

A blanket of snow so clumpy it shoveled up in slabs like wet cement.

I pulled on a jacket on over my night-tee and tights, added a cap and mittens,  grabbed the snow shovel from the front door and shoveled a path across the front deck and down the front steps so I could shake the heavy, wet accumulation off my crabapple saplings, which were bent entirely double, their canopies on the ground.

I was afraid the trunks had snapped, but when I released the upper branches from the weight of the snow the trees slowly straightened up. By quarter past six, I had shoveled my front sidewalk and my neighbor’s too, and my back was feeling the effort. I went inside to write and then do yoga, carefully stretching my back.

At seven-thirty, it was still snowing, so I donned layers again and went back out to shovel another six wet inches that had accumulated atop the eight or so inches from earlier.

A pause in the snowfall....

A pause in the snowfall….

I heard tree branches break nearby, cracking like rifle shots. Plows groaned, moving the heavy accumulation. The power came on downtown, went out again, and flickered back on again. The snow kept falling.

I was relieved when the snow finally quit a few hours later. (My back was relieved too.) I measured the accumulation: 20 inches, for a total of 26 inches including Thursday morning’s snow.

Sunshine, sloppy snow, and soon, birds perched on every clear spot, even the streets.

Sunshine, sloppy snow, and soon, birds perched on every clear spot, even the streets.

By the time the sun returned to melt the wet blanket Friday afternoon, birds were perched on my front walk, on the streets, in every clear spot. Cerulean blue mountain bluebirds, robins, juncos, and horned larks with their patterned faces–all exhausted by the storm and in search of dry spots to rest. If the snow hadn’t stopped when it did, I wonder how many of them would have survived.

Our total precipitation from 48 hours of spring storm? One-point-six inches of water, almost a quarter of what we receive in an average year. I guess that storm was our early Earth Day present.

And my tomatoes? They survived just fine.

A stupice heirloom tomato plant, cozy inside it's wall-o-water "greenhouse." (Thanks, Renee's Seeds!)

A Stupice tomato plant, cozy inside its water-insulated tepee. (Thanks, Renee’s Garden, for the hardy and delicious varieties!)