Living – Places: 31

"Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer."
– Shunryu Suzuki Roshi


Mysticles on our Rocky Mountain Birch tree. There's a gentle westward mist meandering through today, forming delicate pointed icicles on the east face of every branch, pine needle, and dried grass blade.

Delicate mist-formed icicles on birch twigs

Same birch branch 24 hours later, after an overnight snowfall. The mysticles provide an excellent anchor for the fresh snow.

Snow weighing down birch branch

Yet another 24 hours later and after still more snowfall, the skies have cleared and the high country morning sun is lighting up the world. For me, mornings like this are among the most beautiful experiences of life.

Snow on the birch branch glowing in the morning sunshine
Snow on a ponderosa lit by the morning sunshine

It has been an exceptional spring in several ways, for example, in 28 years of living here, I've never seen as much Ponderosa pollen as floated on the breeze this year. At times it looked like the entire valley below us was shrouded in a golden mist. Today, the first day of summer, we took a walk along the South St. Vrain Creek and saw drifts of Cottonwood fluff unlike any we've seen before. In places it looked like the ground was covered in the aftermath of a gigantic pillow fight! Looking up, we could see the trees bursting with massive amounts of more fluff ready for the next breezes to carry the millions of seeds away. Stunning.

Thick layer of Cottonwood fluff nearly burying wild plants

Visited a friend who lives on the east side of town earlier this summer and took this photo on the drive up to his place. This is looking west at downtown (and, frankly, at most of the town), with Mount Meeker and Longs Peak towering beyond. I feel so fortunate to live here.

Town of Lyons, Colorado

Most years, our Thanksgiving tradition is to take a walk up in the nearby mountains and enjoy lunch while feasting our eyes gratefully on the beauty surrounding us. This was the view from our dining room this year, from a lookout point just a short walk from Lily Lake.

We're looking northwest across Rocky Mountain National Park toward the Mummy Range (from left to right: Mount Chapin, Mount Chiquita, Ypsilon Mountain, Fairchild Mountain, Hagues Peak, and Mummy Mountain). In the middle of the photo to the right is Bighorn Mountain (it's a bit shorter than the other peaks, so not yet snow capped). At the foot of Bighorn, just to the left, you can see an open area, Moraine Park, which is a favorite destination of ours. Not only do we often see herds of elk grazing there, it's also where Cub Lake and Fern Lake Trailheads are located, which are a couple of our favorite hiking trails.

The Mummy Range in Rocky Mountain National Park


Sometimes the simplest things are delightful. Yesterday afternoon, it was raining gently. The wild grasses are just beginning to emerge, bringing the first tinge of springtime green. We awoke to several inches of snow, the kind that coats everything, making even the most mundane things look surprisingly beautiful. The forecast predicts it will all melt away within a couple hours.

Spring snowfall on cage

Ah, the little things! We really appreciate being able to dry our clothes outside, but our old clothesline poles broke early this past winter, and we had to wait until the ground thawed before we could dig new holes for the new poles. We did that this past week. The most difficult part of the whole thing was digging those holes, as our soil here is so full of rocks and boulders. Fortunately, we were able to find two spots where we could dig deep enough, and it came out nicely. It's the first time either of us has worked with concrete, which was an interesting experience.

At the same time, the the first signs of springtime are emerging, the fresh green of the new wild grasses, which is like a balm for my eyes, the first leaves are emerging on some of the deciduous trees and bushes, and the evergreen pine trees are just beginning to show signs of new growth at the tips of their branches. This photo of the new clothesline gives a glimpse of that spring freshness.

New clothesline in our backyard

Life in our Rocky Mountain Foothills amusement park! We've been having a ping-pong springtime, beautifully sunny, though unusually warm one week, raining and snowing the next. Back and forth. Last week, we had some days in the 80s. This morning, we woke up to 7″ of heavy snow!

The snow enabled us to see that we were visited by a bear just before dawn this morning. I think I heard it, but was still too half asleep at that point to get up and check out the sound. It walked up onto our deck (one of our bedroom windows opens onto the same deck) to the place where our bird feeders usually hang.

Bear prints in the freshly fallen snow

The pictured prints are from our gravel driveway where a lot of the snow had melted in. The prints on the left are from its front paws, about as big as my hand to the wrist when it's closed in a fist. The right print is from its rear foot after I shoveled off the top layer of slushy snow, not much smaller than my size 11-1/2″ boots, maybe 8 - 9″. So I think it was a pretty big one. Yesterday evening, it was cold and raining (reminded of when I lived in Seattle), so I really had to push myself to go out and bring in the feeders at dusk. Sure glad I did!

We've had, for here, a good amount of rain this spring, spread out nicely. Consequently, it is a green spring with an abundance of wildflowers. On one hand, it seems a bit silly to have a favorite flower, but there's no doubt that it fills me with joy to see salsify blooms, more so than any other, and this year there is a wealth of them. I'm equally delighted when their gorgeous seed heads emerge later on. And yes, I know that some people consider them invasive weeds, but to me, they are a gift from the universe. (The bees love them, too.)

Another sunlit salsify

Came across Gaillardia on my walk today unlike any I've seen before, tinged with a beautiful reddish blush. It's interesting because there are Gaillardia blooming all along the several mile walk I take, but this is the only cluster with the reddish blush. Nature is always surprising me.

Blushing Gaillardia

With all the rain we've had this spring/ early summer, lots of other flowers are blooming, too, like an abundance of oxeye daisies and six-foot-high wild golden glow.


Six-foot-high coneflower

What an amazing early summer we're having! Even though we had some quite hot weather during the spring, we also had lots of cooler weather, rain, and even late snowfalls. Usually by this time of summer, everything is turning gold, tan, and brown, but it's still quite green this year, and there are lots of wildflowers blooming later than usual.


This bunch of wild blue flax has been blooming every day for weeks and weeks now. The blooms usually last until late in the afternoon.

Wild blue flax

Look at the richness of the colors of this Black-eyed Susan!

Black-eyed Susan

This caught my eye the other day. Not sure what it is; some kind of gall wasp or perhaps a fungal growth? Whatever it is, it sure is beautiful. It's difficult to make out in this photo, but those orange protuberances are actually little tubes (click the image to see a larger version in which they are clearer).

Mystery guest

Wild lettuce flowers basking in a bit of early morning mid-summer sunshine.

A cluster of small, yellow wild lettuce flowers

When I reach the halfway point of my daily walk and turn around, this is the view that greets me. A bit different every day, it almost always invites me to pause for a few moments.

View across South St. Vrain Creek

A few minutes later, I pass alongside this beautiful overhanging cliffside.

View along Old South St. Vrain Road

If I don't get too lost in my thoughts and stay aware of my surroundings, I also see this beautiful moss covered boulder nestled in the wild grasses along the way.

Moss covered boulder nestled in wild grasses

Back at home (another day): Right next to the stairs up to our deck and front door, a beautiful sunflower has grown from a seed that must've fallen from the bird feeder above. It's nearly 6' tall, so is welcoming us home right at eye level.

Sunflower in full sunlight

Freshly fallen snow
Morning after sun's first glow
Oh beautiful world

Looking across the valley

There doesn't seem to be any normal to the weather anymore. Fortunately, though, we've had a good bit of snow so far this winter (in our area, we depend on the winter snowpack for our next summer's water supply). One snowfall in mid-December dropped 26″ of dense snow overnight. Sure was beautiful when the sun rose the next morning, though it took us two days to shovel out from that one! I took this two days later when we finally were able to drive down to the mailboxes at the bottom of our neighborhood.

Snow piled up on our mailboxes

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