Home (Briefly)

Sunday, May 18th, 2014
The wide-open San Luis Valley with the Sangre de Cristo Range on the left, on the road to Durango. The wide-open San Luis Valley with the Sangre de Cristo Range on the left.

I've been on the road teaching and speaking so much this spring that I sometimes forget what is next.

Last week's trip was to Durango, Colorado, to give a talk and teach a workshop for the Durango Botanical Society, an all-volunteer group that not only has established a lovely garden at the Durango Public Library showcasing plants native and adapted to the Four Corners Region, the group also offers an amazing range of programs and aims to establish educational gardens throughout the area.

Going over Wolf Creek Pass in the San Juan Mountains (that's an avalanche shed ahead). Going over Wolf Creek Pass in the San Juan Mountains (that's an avalanche shed ahead).

I drove to Durango Thursday morning (200 miles and four hours), did a quick interview for Inside Durango TV at the garden, spoke to a welcoming and receptive audience Thursday night, taught a "Field Notes" creative writing workshop to a smaller but no less interesting and interested group Friday morning, and then drove the 200 miles and four hours home.

Speaking about "Plant Magic," how plants are key to restoring the everyday landscapes where we live, play and work. Speaking about "Plant Magic," how plants are key to restoring the everyday landscapes where we live, play and work.

I stayed with friends Doris and Bill (and their sweet pound-pup, Maya). They once lived nearby and joined Richard and me once a month for Buddhist/Quaker worship; in fact, they were with us when he died. Spending time with them counts as one of the unexpected blessings of my too-full travel schedule this spring.

Normally, I savor road trips for the time to watch the landscape go by, to parse the patterns that plants, animals and humans draw on the skin of the earth, and to let my thoughts run as wide as the western skies.

Historic ranch above Pagosa Springs. Not the pattern: meadows in the valley bottom on glacial soil, forest on the volcanic layers of the mountainsides. Historic ranch above Pagosa Springs. Note the pattern on the landscape: meadows in the valley bottom on glacial soil, forest on the volcanic layers of the mountainsides.

But when the road-trips come every week or nearly every week, they begin to blur. By the time I topped Poncha Pass Friday night half an hour from home, I was exhausted.

I've been home two days; I have two more to prepare for the next teaching trip. I've made the most of the time.

New plants with their nursery tags, and new plants sprouting from the native meadow seed mix. Tags identify the new plants in my front-yard habitat-restoration project.

Yesterday was my day to plant the next batch of vines, shrubs, native grasses and perennial wildflowers for my front-yard pollinator/songbird habitat restoration project. I renewed my acquaintance with the mattock while prying 39 holes in my stony soil and then carefully planted an equal number of plants. After which, I soaked my aching shoulders and back in the bathtub.

Red insulating "teepees" protect the newly planted tomatoes in my stock-tank kitchen garden. Red insulating "teepees" protect newly planted tomatoes in my stock-tank kitchen garden.

Today was take-care-of-household-chores, including mundane stuff like paying bills, plus finally planting the tomato, basil and oriental eggplant starts I've babied inside since March.

I cope with my crazy travel schedule by focusing on the current work trip and ignoring what comes next. But I don't forget to revel in being home, no matter how short the stay.

Which is why when I finished the accounts, planting the kitchen garden, watering, spraying deer repellent, and a work phone call, I went out on my almost-finished front deck and just stood there enjoying the beauty of a May day: no wind, birds singing lustily, the sweet smell of chokecherry blossoms wafting through the air....

Ditch Creek, running again after two dry months. Ditch Creek, running again after two dry months.

And under the town sounds of passing cars, bikes whizzing by on the trail, a siren wailing, and dogs barking, I heard something else. And smiled: the little urban creek I have worked for the last 17 years to restore to health is chuckling again.

I am home. Alone, struggling a little to manage on my own, but grateful to be here and to hear the creek's voice.

(Listen by clicking the "play" arrow below and I bet you'll smile too.)

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