Rejoicing in the Moment

Buffalo Peaks, on the way up Trout Creek Pass, one entrance to South Park

Buffalo Peaks, on the way up Trout Creek Pass, one entrance to South Park

I left home Wednesday on one of those glorious sunny spring days with the temperature headed for a high in the 70s and almost no wind. The peaks stood out crisply white against a bluebird sky.

I watched idly for wildlife as I cruised across South Park, winding up and over three high passes. I spotted mountain bluebirds, ravens playing on the wind, red-tailed hawks soaring in lazy circles as they scoped the mountain grassland for prey, and a herd of about 50 cow elk grazing near a looping stream. All very bucolic.

Elk in South Park

Elk grazing in South Park

When I drove home last night, fluffy clouds draped the highest peaks, the wind was blowing hard out of the southwest, the bluebirds had found shelter, the hawks and ravens were perched, and the herd of elk had swelled to 200, bunched tight as commuters waiting for a subway train.

The wild ones were preparing for a storm.

Dawn clouds hint at a storm coming.

Dawn clouds hint at a storm coming.

This morning dawned still with fat clouds clogging blue sky. Over the course of the day, the wind shifted to the southeast and the temperature dropped steadily from 46 degreesF at dawn to 29 degrees.

Around noon, rain splattered the windows as a shower passed by. Then came the rattle of hail, loud on my metal roof and photovoltaic panels. After the hail came flakes of wet snow.

Snow clings to tiny crapapple leaves and other surfaces.

Snow clings to tiny crabapple leaves.

Showers of snow blew past, none sticking—the ground was still warm from the balmy weather earlier. Until the temperature fell far enough that a thin white veneer accumulated on roofs, fences, lawns and cars.

After finishing my outside chores, I spent most of the day cozily inside, catching up on bills and taxes and other details of household life, happy at the drizzle of moisture.

As dusk fell and flakes continued to spill out of gray-bellied clouds and the pavement shone with water, I curled up on the couch, feeling rich. Not in the financial sense.


Wet snow begins to coat the grating of the deck and the chair.

Rich in abundance. This wet snow probably hasn’t totaled more than a quarter-inch of precipitation, which may not sound like much.

It’s enough though. Enough to fill the air with moisture and the smells of life waking up—the microbes in the soil exhaling at the touch of life-giving water, the plants breathing a sigh of relief because for the moment, they aren’t losing more water vapor to the air than their roots take in; the earth itself welcoming moisture and life.

That rare-for-here feeling of water-saturated air plus the heady fragrance of respiration make me feel rich, like opening the pantry door in winter and seeing jar after jar of food. Rich in life, rich in spring, rich in the joy of water where water is always scarce.

That feeling of abundance reminds me that I am rich in other ways: Rich in nurturing family, friendships and love; rich in having this cozy home to return to after exciting and exhausting work-trips.

Daffodils, quite sure it's spring...

Daffodils, quite sure it’s spring…

Rich in the seedlings sprouting on the windowsill (tomatoes and basil for the kitchen garden) and outside under sheltering layers of mulch (wildflowers and native grasses that will weave their living tapestry over my formerly unloved industrial yard). Rich in daffodil leaves sprouting through the snow.

I don’t always feel rich. Sometimes I feel impoverished, worn down and sorry for myself from the continuing effort to figure out this unlooked-for life as Woman Alone.

Snow at the front door

Snow at the front door

Just now though, writing about my quiet joy with the snow still falling in a thin rain of flakes outside, I think perhaps what makes my existence worthwhile is precisely that ability to feel joy, to see the beauty and promise in an April snowfall.

That I can rejoice in the abundance of life in this moment is itself a gift worth celebrating. And practicing for those times when it does not come easily.

One of Those Days…

Spring snow on the high mesas above the river canyon.

Spring snow on the mesas above the river canyon.

I had planned to curl up on the couch and write a blog post last night, as I usually do on Sundays. Only Saturday wore me out. I taught back-to-back wildscape workshops in Pueblo for the Habitat Hero project, and then hopped in the car to make the two-hour trip home into the mountains.

It had been sunny and beautiful the day before when I left home. But Saturday evening, snow showers dangled over the high ridges as I wound into Bighorn Sheep Canyon.

Wet snow falls as fog fills the Arkansas River Canyon below Salida.

Snow falls as fog fills the Arkansas River Canyon below Salida.

Those showers dragged lower and became rain, and then wet, sloppy snow. Hence the windshield shot above, taken right before the snow got so bad I just drove.

Still, I made it home in time to dash into Ploughboy Market before it closed to buy milk–fresh and sweet in a returnable glass bottle–for my morning hot chocolate.

The next morning I lazed around, letting my energy seep back as I read the newspaper, drank that hot chocolate, paid a few bills, and answered emails. By afternoon it was so lovely out that I decided to just move a few rocks in my new landscape….

The dry stream bed-to-be: the upper part is cobbled and has a flagstone "bridge"; the lower part I'm still digging.

The dry stream bed-to-be: the “headwaters” is cobbled and has a flagstone bridge; the lower part I’m still digging.

Moving half a dozen buckets of rocks led to spreading a cubic yard or so of mulch, moving a little gravel for the beginnings of a path, pulling some early weeds, and then getting out the mattock and digging another section of the dry stream bed that will drain the courtyard between the house and the garage/studio.

"Lower falls," where the dry stream will cascade down the slope below the house.

“Lower falls,” where the dry stream will cascade down the slope below the house.

By the time I finished all that and came inside to clean up, I was exhausted all over again, but in a righteously sweaty, physical way. I figured I’d make dinner and curl up on the couch to finally write that blog post.

Only my nephew Andrew came over, the one who has Richard’s woodworking meme, and we hung out for a couple of hours to catch up. (Andrew lives in Fort Collins has two kids and a crazy-busy life.)

Andrew with the cabinet he installed over the stove in the guest cottage at Terraphilia

Andrew with the cabinet he installed over the stove in the guest cottage at Terraphilia.

By the time he left, it was late, and my energy really was shot.

Today I was itching to write but I had busy-work to do after being on the road, and then suffered through a conference call where “giving constructive criticism” really meant defensiveness and finding fault.

After that, I was feeling low and whiny. So I sent myself outside for an attitude adjustment.

The view from my front door, including deck railings.

The view from my front door, including new deck railings.

And smiled when I remembered that my front deck now has railings. (It’s a complicated custom deck, and Lex Johnson, my steel guy, is very good, and very busy. So it’s been a slow project.)

And the daffodils were poking up around the crabapple trees in the front yard, which themselves have tiny red leaves.

Daffodil leaves poking through the mulch.

Daffodil leaves appear through the mulch.

And the sun shone.

Pretty soon, I felt better.

Some days are like that: Things go south and I feel sorry for myself. I mope and whine. In truth, I have good reasons to wallow, not least of which is figuring out this life after Richard.

Wallowing and whining is not really how I want to be though. So I send myself outside.

Where it’s still spring, the mountains still draw snowy rick-rack on the horizon, where if I look I can find tiny green sprouts of wildflowers and native grasses under the mulch the wind hasn’t blown away…

And I’m alive to feel the joy of it all. Which is what matters most. Especially when it’s been one of those days.