Settling In and Some Good News

Tomorrow marks a month since I arrived in Santa Fe. In that time, I've overseen the kitchen renovation (when the back splashes are installed Wednesday, that job will finally be finished) plus installation of a new furnace. Almost all of my furniture is now here–I'm still waiting for dining chairs and two bookcases. I've unpacked, set up my office, and given away four dozen moving boxes. 

My cozy living room, with couch and easy chair, and a very happy Arabella, who is in full bloom right now. 

I've met some of my neighbors who also walk at dawn every day, along with their canine companions. (The photo at the top of the post is sunrise shot from my walking route, with the Cerrillos Hills and Sandia Mountains in the far distance.) I am learning to recognize coyote tracks in the arroyo, and to discern which rabbitbrush clumps hold desert cottontail dens. I listen for spotted towhees' "meh! meh!" calls as they scratch for insect larvae in the duff under the junipers, and smile at the chickadee chatter from the branches overhead. 

Tomorrow, I'm having a belated holiday open house for my circle of writing women-friends, a group that welcomed me to their monthly gatherings long before I had any idea I would be here for good. I'm grateful to these creative women for their friendship, inspiration, and their enthusiasm for my move to their midst.

Eggnog in progress (and missing back splashes!)

Today I finished a batch of my Sinfully Delicious Holiday Eggnog, the first I've made since the move. I say "finished" because it takes two days to make the eggnog, along with a dozen eggs, separated; a quart each of heavy cream, half-n-half, and whole milk; a pound of confectioner's sugar; three cups of dark rum, and other decadent ingredients, finishing with freshly grated nutmeg. 

And I baked a Lavender-Lemon Cheesecake to celebrate a birthday in our circle. I know I'm settled and happy when I take the time to make eggnog and bake a cheesecake! Both require a serious investment in time, and an organized kitchen. 

Lavender-lemon Cheesecake just out of the oven… 

I confess to being wildly optimistic about how long it would take me to make this transition. I was sure that by New Year's, I would be back to writing fulltime, and would have checked off at least one of the big projects I need to finish in the coming weeks: an essay due at Wildflower Magazine, a presentation to write for the Landscaping With Colorado Native Plants Conference next month, and a book proposal that my literary agent is waiting for.

My corner office, as in the corner of my master bedroom suite. It works for me!

Um. No. But in between moving and renovations and settling in, I did write a commentary based on the book proposal. The title of the commentary summarizes the idea: How Gardeners Can Help Grow the Green New Deal (and Stop Climate Change). After I rewrote the commentary a few times, I sent it out to various friends in the writing and garden worlds. And then revised the commentary again several times in response to the their comments. (Special thanks to Priscilla Stuckey, Alia Malek, and Marielle Anzellone!)

Then I wrote a pitch and sent the whole thing off to an editor at the New York Times. He emailed back within an hour! He had a couple of questions and said he'd pass it around to colleagues, and get back to me. I haven't heard back yet, but really: I. got. a. personal. response. from. an. editor. at. The. New. York. Times. That made my year… 

My other bit of good news is that my Cody house is under contract, with closing scheduled for a month from now. I have my fingers crossed for a smooth sale process. The inspection is Monday, and then there's the appraisal and financing and other details. It will be a huge relief to know that someone is happily living there and loving the place.  

Wish me luck with both the commentary and the house sale!

Oh, and one more bit of good news: My "Natural Partners" feature that took the cover of the fall issue of Wildflower–thanks to the gorgeous illustrations by Samantha Peters–is now online. It's not as pretty as the hard-copy version, but it's readable. (To see the original layout, go to Samantha Peter's website. Her illustrations are outstanding!)

Illustration by Samantha N. Peters, from Wildflower Magazine, Fall 2018

In the meantime, Monday I'm going to settle in at my desk and get back to writing and working to further my life-mission:

To heal and restore this glorious living Earth, and we who share the planet–that all may thrive. 

Fifty-eight Boxes, 3,200 pounds, and 775 miles later…

After packing, numbering, and inventorying 58 boxes and half-a-dozen un-numbered metal crates, hauling them to the garage, bubble-wrapping and loading 37 pieces of wall-art into Red along with other belongings not suitable for mover-transport, and then driving 775 scenic but very long miles from my Cody house to my Santa Fe condo with the movers several days behind me, I am finally settling in.

(Big thank-yous to my Cody neighbor, Kate, who supervised the loading after I left; to my Salida friend, Denise, for the much-needed massage on the way; and to my Santa Fe neighbor and friend, Liz, who welcomed me with a place to stay before the condo was ready.)

Sierra San Antonio, a volcanic dome marking where the Taos Plateau of northern New Mexico becomes the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. 

The photo at the top of the post is my new living room, and yes, it's missing some furniture, which will arrive in about a week. Still, it's already inviting! The photo below is my Cody garage, all staged for the movers to load up. (That's what 3,200 pounds of my household looks like, if you were wondering.)

When I got to Santa Fe, my kitchen looked like… well, like it was in mid-remodel. The photos below give an idea of the destruction. Believe it or not, what you see there is a big improvement over the 1984-vintage kitchen of before. 

New counters are in, old appliances are out, and the cabinets are stripped and ready for a face-lift. 

New sink too, but not hooked up yet. 

Oh, the difference a week, a lot of scrubbing, a diligent carpenter (thank you, Alan Baca!), and a tidy plumber can make! The kitchen still lacks back-splashes, but the counter guys will return for that. It also lacks a microwave-range hood, which will be installed tomorrow if the weather allows. I've already filled the cabinets and am happily enjoying cooking in the galley-sized space. 

It's been a bit of a challenge figuring out where everything goes, not just in the much-smaller kitchen, but in the whole condo. I downsized from 2,483 square feet on two levels into 848 on one. I still have two bedrooms and two baths, but no garage. (Red is surviving outside–it's not generally as cold in Santa Fe as it gets in Cody!) 

I've hung almost all of the art, set up my desk in the office area of the master bedroom, organized linens and closets and bathrooms, arranged the furniture I have in the living and dining areas, and in the guest bedroom. I also assembled two new bar-stools for the curved breakfast-bar counter between the kitchen and dining area, and assembled the mid-century modern bar cart for the dining area. (Go, Tool Girl!)

The breakfast bar with new barstools and bar cart

Next comes unpacking several dozen boxes of books, but that has to wait until my bookshelves arrive. One set comes tomorrow, along with my dining table, and my bed. (I am sleeping perfectly comfortably on a mattress on the floor, but it will be nice to have an actual bed.) 

The sunny master bedroom with my office in the corner, awaiting bookshelves.

I love every cubic inch of the condo, especially with the warm sun streaming in on these cold and snowy winter days. My absolutely favorite space is the living room (photo at the top of the post), with the patio outside, and the tall cottonwood tree shading it in summer. The light and colors make me smile. Come spring, I'll grow a garden in pots on the patio, adding wildflowers and native plants to provide beauty, and food and shelter for native bees and hummingbirds. 

This small space already feels like a refuge to me, a place I can hide away and write without interruption. I have always been drawn to small spaces, whether the little writing hut in a yard, the tiny houses on wheels, or this cozy condo.

Which I know raises the question of why I bought my gorgeous but terribly run-down mid-Century modern house and yard in Cody. Because the project it was then called to me. Restoration–whether of land or houses–is my passion, and that house definitely deserved to be brought back to life. Now that it's ready for its next 60 years, I look forward to finding someone to love and care for the place.

For the next phase of my life though, I want a nest, and that's what I'm creating here. As the old year ends, I say, "Welcome Home!" to the new one.

My wish for all? May 2019 bring more kindness and compassion to everyone, everywhere, and less turbulence and pain. And may we all be welcomed home, wherever  and whoever we are. 

Moving in a Contrarian but Positive Direction


My house looks like a home for wayward boxes. There are boxes everywhere: Boxes form a half-wall between the living room and the kitchen in the “great room,” boxes hide under the built-in desk in my office and stack up to the lowermost bookshelves; boxes are tucked under the workbench in the workshop and fill the pantry.


Boxes line the garage shelves, and there are even boxes in the studio. All neatly labeled and numbered to correspond with the inventory sheet I’m keeping so I’ll be able to find things once the movers deliver my shipment to Cody in a week or ten days.


(Yes, I am a double Virgo, which means I’m organized. Richard would say “hyper-organized,” but he wasn’t above admitting that he benefited from my tendency to keep our things in their places and accounted for during our many moves, and at other times.)


The moving van is due to pull up at the curb in front of Creek House sometime on Tuesday, less than two days away. I am as ready as I can be, given everything else I’m juggling, most particularly the innumerable details in keeping two real estate deals moving forward, and now the decisions involved in beginning what will be months of careful house renovation. And when I have any spare brain cells, thinking about the two talks I am scheduled to give at two different garden conferences on two consecutive days in early February…


I have spent most of the last two weeks packing, packing, packing, plus making a three-day trip to Cody with a van-load of things difficult to consign to movers, thanks to my friends Nicole and Harry Hansen, the silversmith and blacksmith who together form Sterling & Steel, makers of fine custom tableware, jewelry, flatware and other functional art. Nicole and Harry not only managed to fit my odd-shaped load in Sylvia, their amazing Mercedes-powered panel van, Harry safely drove us out of the blizzard that was blasting Salida the morning we left, and all the long and wintry drive to Cody and back.



Harry, in ready-for-Wyoming cowboy hat and sunglasses, is reflected in the rear-view mirror. Nicole’s beautiful cranberry-colored cowboy hat sits on the dashboard. 


Along the way, we talked about everything from kids and family cultures to politics, art, branding, ethics, geology, and history. Our amazing conversations made the 1,260 miles there and back, and all those hours in the van together go by incredibly quickly. 


While we were in Cody, I closed on my new (old) house, and got my contractor, Jeff Durham, started on the most urgent of the work the house needs. 


It has occurred to me that this move is thoroughly contrarian: Not only am I moving many latitude lines north at a time of life when most folks dream of moving south, I am moving from a new, custom-built-to-my-specifications house into a house built the year I was born (1956). My new-old house was well-designed and custom-built too, but it’s sixty years old now, and has been seriously neglected for at least the past decade, and unoccupied for most of the past 16 months. 



I’m also up-sizing when the trend is toward downsizing. I’m moving from two small buildings with a total living space of about 1,300 square feet plus a single-car garage to a 2,400 square-foot house with a two-car garage. (The main floor is 1,700 square feet; the rest is a furnished basement I will use only when I have a house-full of guests.)


And I’m moving from contemporary–I call my Salida place “industrial chic”–to Mid-Century Modern. Check out that vintage kitchen, complete with original sunshine yellow metal cabinets, and aqua wall oven in the photo below.



I’m even up-sizing my yard, moving from a lot of just under 7,000 square feet to one twice that size, and from a basically finished yard (given that to a gardener, no landscape is ever truly finished!) to one needs a radical beauty-enhancing, water-saving, habitat-providing makeover.  


Why? 


The moving north part is simply me heading home to the landscapes and community that have spoken to my heart for decades. I confess to loving snow, even blizzards. And I am fortunate to have friends in Cody who are excited about my return. 


Also, Cody is a whole day’s drive closer to my 88-year-old dad and my brother and his family in western Washington, including my nieces and their kids. (Except my middle niece and her family, who are in Germany for another year and a half.) If something happens to Dad, I can take I-90 west to Seattle, and drive there in a long day (or a two-hour plane flight from Billings, Montana). 


Dad is so excited about my move that he’s already planning a visit this summer, accompanied by my brother and sister-in-law. He hasn’t traveled since after Mom died in 2011, so I’m thrilled. The downside is I’m a bit farther from Molly, in San Francisco, but she’s being very gracious about that.


The up-sizing part wasn’t my plan. I was looking at small houses, and then I stumbled on this one. One look at the spacious rooms, great light, wood floors, and that fabulous kitchen, and I fell in love. 



The living and dining areas–look at those windows! That fireplace! And the floor…. 


Of course, I also noticed the 60-year boiler that runs the hot-water baseboard (I call it Igor). Igor was top-of-the-line when new, but he’s about 20 years past his retirement date. (Which he proved by quitting the weekend before Christmas in the middle of a blizzard–fortunately, my contractor had an appointment to evaluate the house the following Tuesday, and he and my wonderful real estate agent, plus the plumber, walked into the house just as the pipes began breaking. They were able to save the place without too much damage, which I was grateful for. More grateful than the owner, who grumbled about the cost of repairs. Maybe he shouldn’t have neglected the house…)


And the wiring, which includes a sub-panel in the basement so old I had never seen one like it, and yes, it has to be replaced. I noticed the lack of insulation in the crawl space under the bedrooms, and the half-bath in the basement, which is so awful it looks like you’d need a tetanus shot before using the shower. And the garage, partly insulated, and partly dry-walled. And a host of other things that need updating. 


So here I go, taking up a house and yard project at sixty (me, the house and the very neglected yard–we’re all the same age). Unlike Igor, I’m not ready for retirement. I’m thrilled to be moving home, and excited about bringing my new-old house back to life, and turning a lawn-and-too-many-huge-spruce-trees yard into something more beautiful, sustainable, and healthy for all. 


Mostly, I’m grateful to have a positive project to work on in these negative times. I refuse to succumb to negativity and fear. Perhaps I can’t change the state of the nation, but I can serve as an example of how to live with love, compassion and generosity.


I suppose that’s contrarian too; regardless, it’s me being who I am and doing what I do best: healing this earth and we humans, one house and yard, one creek, one community at a time. Onward!



Chokecherry buds along the creek last spring, on a tree Richard and I planted as a bare-root sapling almost 20 years ago. Treehouse and Creek House are in the background. 

Gratitude: My Word for 2017

Every year around Winter Solstice, I remind myself of the word I've chosen for the year, consider what it meant and how it was expressed in the way I lived my days, and then ask myself what next year's word will be. Sometimes I hear the answer right away; other times it takes a while. 

For 2016, my word was abundance. Not in the sense of an abundance of stuff or money, or any other material thing: abundance in the sense of plenty, as I wrote in my blog post when the word came to me just after Winter Solstice in 2015:

Abundance as in "plenty": plenty of joy, plenty of time, plenty of ideas and words and readers, plenty of money, plenty of fruitful opportunities, plenty of energy and vigor, plenty of love…

Turns out abundance was a good word for my personal year, if not for the horrors of national and international events. 2016 was a year that brought all sorts of gifts, including a lot of love from family and friends.

Family love: Molly Cabe and me in February; with my brother, Bill Tweit, last month when he and my sister-in-law, Lucy Winter, and my youngest niece, Alice Tweit visited for the holidays.

So as the days grew shorter and Winter Soltice came and went last month, I listened for my word for 2017. And listened, and listened. Because I didn't like the word I heard first: gratitude

Gratitude? Really? 

After that painful election season? With the hatred and divisive politics that have overtaking my small town, the shootings in this country, the violence around the world, the refugees dying as they flee wars in the Mideast and ethnic cleansing in Africa, Burma and other places around the globe, the extinctions of other species? 

What, I thought, is there to be grateful for in these scary and turbulent times? 

Still, each time I listened, the word I heard was gratitude.

I looked up the definition: "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." 

Humph. 

The last part of the definition stuck with me though: to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

I think the world needs a whole lot more appreciation, and many tons of "returning kindness." So I adopted gratitude as my word for 2017, and in particular that latter meaning. 

Which, come to think of it, I do every morning (show appreciation) in my yoga and prayer routine. As I complete my asanas, I bow to the four directions, along with earth and sky, in gratitude for this place, and the living community that animates this planet, humans and the myriad of other species with whom our lives are intertwined. 

And then I speak aloud a prayer to the spirit of life, asking that I be able to live my day in love and balance, that I treat others with compassion and kindness, that I am strong but not rigid, that I walk in balance, beauty, and yes, gratitude for this existence. 

As in the view of Venus near the new moon last night…

Gratitude, I realized, the showing of appreciation and returning kindness, is not a Pollyanna sort of attitude. It doesn't preclude being engaged in the world, witnessing and working to alleviate fear, injustice, hunger, poverty of all sorts, or hatred.

It means recognizing the good, small or large, staying open and receptive to that "ocean of Light" that will overcome the ocean of fear and darkness. It means remembering to value what is positive, taking time to respect and acknowledge the blessings each day brings. 

And there are blessings, even when our days are full of pain and sorrow and anger and grief. The sun still rises and sets, snowflakes are still crystalline and beautiful, the ocean still laps or pounds the shore, this planet is still bursting with an abundance of life as dazzling as the stars in the dark night sky. 

We still have friends and family and community; we have work and art and song and dance; we have food and housing and clothes. We are alive, a gift I have learned is very precious indeed.

So yes, gratitude is my word for this new year.

I am grateful for all of you; I am grateful for the home I am leaving, my sweet little complex here in Salida (photo at the top of the post), and the home I am moving to in Wyoming (photo below). I am very grateful for life, both the capital 'L' kind and my quotidian existence.

May 2017 bring each of us much to appreciate, and may it reward our kindness abundantly. Blessings!

Sunset behind Cedar and Rattlesnake mountains just outside Cody, Wyoming