Living – Places: 34

I reflected that everything happens to a man precisely, precisely now. Centuries of centuries and only in the present do things happen….
– Jorge Luis Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths


As I headed out early the first morning of this new year to start shoveling snow, I couldn't help but feel incredibly grateful.

Yesterday, we were stunned and saddened when hundreds of people lost their homes in just a few hours to a raging wildfire in the suburbs south of nearby Boulder, Colorado, a fire that was driven by truly frightening winds that were gusting above 100 miles per hour. In the evening, the winds finally calmed down and it began to snow; alas, too late for all those families whose homes burned.

This snowfall was the first significant precipitation we've had in months and months, meaning we've had a frightfully dry summer and fall. So as I stood looking at our little home blanketed in snow, deeply appreciating the incredible natural beauty surrounding us, relief and thankfulness flushed through me that we are safe and warm for another day.

New Year's Day: first snowfall of winter

I'm always so grateful for the glow of a sunny morning the day after a big snow.

Ponderosas glowing with snow in the early morning sunlight

Yesterday, we had some very strange weather. Although the temps hovered between 20 - 25 F the entire day, it also was foggy and misting all day long. I guess the temps were warmer higher up? By evening, everything was more slippery than I've ever experienced before in the 20+ years we've lived here. Even the gravel driveway. This morning, too. Can't even step out the door without Yaktrax ICEtrekkers on my boots. The upside is that the trees and wildgrasses are simply stunning in today's early morning sunshine!

Frost covered ponderosa trees

After a significant snowfall yesterday, the temp fell to well below zero overnight. Although it remains quite cold this morning—the kind of cold that makes the snow squeak underfoot—it's a glorious, sunny, bright blue sky kind of day.

Looking towards the north from our place
One of our grandmother trees all decked out in white highlights
Looking towards the east

We've had an interesting late winter: days of cold weather and snowfall alternating with days of warm weather and sunshine. It's a beautiful experience to take a walk in sunshine the day after one of the periodic snowfalls.

Barn blanketed in snow

After standing tall all winter long, these golden wild grasses on a little hillside were laid down like combed hair by heavy springtime snows. The fresh green grasses of spring are just about to burst through these beautiful strands.

Last year's golden wild grasses lying down after heavy springtime snows

Climate change frightens me. Understanding what is happening and what is likely coming creates a constant gnawing anxiety, especially given the hugely damaging wind-driven fires that are occurring more frequently here. So I feel like it's even more important to celebrate moments of unexpected beauty.

Yesterday was hot for this time of year, in the 70s. Then overnight we had the first rainfall in many weeks, not enough to make a big difference, but still gratefully welcome. By morning, the temperatures dipped to just touch freezing.

When I went out to put out a couple handfuls of birdseed for our little feathered friends, I noticed something that left me in awe: swirls of frost on the hoods and roofs of our cars in patterns that were a cross between ferns and feathers. Within minutes, the sun rose and it was gone.

It was challenging to get any kind of photo, and the best one isn't great, but I want to keep it just so I can look back and be reminded of this moment (zooming in reveals a bit more of the incredible patterns).

Swirls of frost on hood of car

I was a bit distracted on my daily walk yesterday. I was listening attentively to an intense audiobook, so I wasn't paying as much attention to my natural surroundings as I usually do. Suddenly though, I literally was stopped in my tracks by a wonderful fragrance! The first wild plum blossoms of spring are filling the air with their delicious scent.

It's incredible: a heart-wrenching war is devastating Ukraine, we are in a severe drought, wildfires are breaking out across the West (one burned ferociously a few miles north of us for a couple days just last week), COVID-19 infections are increasing once again in our county, and yet this moment of absolute grace.

Wild plum blossoms

Another springtime bonus … the beautiful deep red male catkins of the Freemont Cottonwood are emerging. This wonderful tree is mainly found on the western side of the Rockies, but we're fortunate to have one growing nearby.

The emerging male catkins of the Freemont Cottonwood

And a couple days later when the catkins have opened.

The open male catkins of the Freemont Cottonwood

The flower buds are just popping on my favorite old apple tree that I pass on my daily walks. As they unfurl, they become fragrant white blossoms with just a hint of pink.

Red apple blossom buds

About a week later, after the rainfall I mention in the following post:

Apple tree in flower
Closeup of apple blossoms

Since we moved to this place a couple decades ago, I've become so much more aware of rain. Shortly after we moved here among these beautiful Ponderosa trees, we had a 3-year drought. It was then that I understood just how small and helpless we are in the face of the forces of nature.

For years now, I've measured rain by whether it is a surface rain—an amount of rainfall that feeds the grasses and shrubs—or a rain that is significant enough to soak in and nourish the trees, too.

More recently, I've also become keenly aware of fire danger. Any rain helps, at least for a short time, but a tree rain makes a bigger difference because the moisture content of the trees increases, decreasing how quickly fire will spread in the trees.

When it gets really dry, I also experience a deep-rooted tension that builds and builds until we finally get some rain. After a very, very dry April, my shoulders were up around my ears!

Finally, we had some rain at the beginning of May. Because the ground was still damp from the first night of rain—it was cloudy/foggy the following day, so the sun didn't wick the surface moisture away—the next night's soaking rain was a tree rain. My heart rejoices! I love our trees so much.

Springtime raindrops on birch branches

Now the grasses, shrubs, wildflowers, and trees will all have a nice period of spring growth, our fire risk will be reduced for at least a couple of weeks, and my shoulders can relax for a bit. Whew!

A week after the rain, the chokecherry blushes are blossoming.

Chokecherry blossoms

As are the Boulder Raspberries.

Boulder Raspberry blossoms

Yesterday afternoon, just 24 hours ago, it was in the mid-80s. Our forecast is calling for up to 7″ by tomorrow. But we really welcome the moisture!

Snow falling on our deck

By the next morning, we had 6″ of very dense snow, but the sun was shining and the snow quickly disappeared by afternoon. Crazy!

Next day's sunshine

Whenever we're out for a walk, we take a handful of horse cookies for our favorite friend along the way, Ranger (with his human's permission, of course). The cookies smell delicious with all natural ingredients: oats, wheat bran, cane molasses, rolled barley, and fresh apples. Ranger absolutely loves them, so when he sees us, he always makes a happy chuckling sound as he walks over.

Garima and Ranger

The fragrance of the wild grape blossoms floating in the air at this time of year is simply divine.

Wild grape blossoms

It has been incredibly and unseasonably hot with the sun shining ferociously, something I find frightening and depressing. Every year it gets hotter. Still, there have been moments of beauty to appreciate.

Curly dock is considered a weed around here, but it's so gorgeous. This one is growing along the roadside where I try to walk each day, even when it's really hot. I love its abundance of seeds and subtle coloration.

Curly dock with thousands of seeds

In the evening, as I was taking in the bird feeders (there are bears around), the full moon was visible for just a few moments before being obscured by cloud cover.

Full moon rising about the hills

And the following morning, the first evening primrose of the season said hello.It must've opened as the full moon rose the evening before. Having shared its glory overnight, an hour or so after this photo was taken it was already fading away.

Glowing yellow evening primrose flower

Years ago, Garima planted lavender along the front edge of the garden that runs along our deck. She uses the flowers in the skin care products she creates for herself. Over the years, the plants have become more and more robust. This morning, their wonderful fragrance fills the air in front of our house, and the plants are buzzing with the gentle sounds of happy bees.

Lavendar in bloom

Another hot day, following a string of previous hot days. Everything is baking dry, so it's such a delight to see this delicate yellow blossom on one of the Prickly Pears, with a tiny bee enjoying it just as much as me.

Prickly Pear flowering

It has been a few years since we've noticed any foxes hanging around. Recently a scrawny, skittish, and very alert little juvenile—who we have named Kiddo—has been showing up to eat some of the sunflower seeds we scatter in the parking lot for the birds, especially the little native mourning doves⩘  who grace our area with their presence. Amazingly, Kiddo is able to easily pick up the seeds from amongst the gravel, and then thoroughly chew-chew-chews each seed. Warms our hearts.

Kiddo the fox

Like many people around the country and the world, we've had an extraordinarily hot and dry summer, leaving the land parched and turning brown. But in the last couple of weeks, we've unexpectedly had several nice rainfalls, which cooled things down and turned things greener. Over the past couple of days, small mushrooms have been showing up all over the place. This morning, nestled down between the grasses and weeds growing at the side of the road I walk along, this grand specimen, nearly four inches across, had popped up. Nature can be so surprising and amazing.

Roadside mushroom

Another exquisite gift along the road: Queen Anne's Lace, first in the form of a bird's nest as the flower is unfolding, and then in all its glory.

Queen Anne's Lace flower looking like a green nest as it's unfolding
White Queen Anne's Lace flower in full bloom

Most days, I take a walk along South St. Vrain Creek. At one point, these views towards the north open up, revealing the hills and buttes of Hall Ranch park. I enjoy pausing for a few moments to just breathe in this beautiful panorama.

View towards Hall Ranch park hills and buttes
Second view towards Hall Ranch park hills and buttes

A really beautiful mushroom popped up through the duff under one of our old, towering ponderosa trees, creating a lean-to tent out of the fallen pine needles, and then growing larger each day. A few days later, we found four more of these on the other side of this grand tree, so we suspect there may be a mycelium ring around the tree. Two weeks later, after a rainfall, 13 more popped up in an arc around the tree. Definitely a mycelium ring.

Brown and white pattered mushroom
Brown and white pattered mushroom - umbrella cap
Brown and white pattered mushroom - mature

Garima keeps planting natives and scattering native plant seeds around the property. The latest to happily take up residence is this Prickly Pear.

White Prickly Pear blossom

The native Thicket Creeper berries are ripening. (The birds are very happy!)

Thicket Creeper with deep blue berries on bright red stems

The lane I walk along each day has lots of fruit trees, vines, and shrubs: apple, pear, cherry, grape, Wild Plum, Chokecherry, Service Berry. Consequently, it is a banquet feast for the bears in the autumn. They are mostly active at night, so all I normally see is branches stripped clean of fruit and leaves, as well as piles of scat filled with various fruit seeds. But a few other walkers have been telling me they caught sight of a mama bear and her two cubs, so I stay alert. Today, I glimpsed mama and one of her cubs napping way up in the branches of a big old tree that is alongside the lane, after what was presumably a long night of foraging. They looked pretty mellow, but I was very happy they weren't any closer!

Mama bear and cub napping in a tree

Rabbitbrush grows all along our roads and driveways here. It's a super tough native that flourishes in tough environments, and right now its beautiful yellow-orange flower clusters are bursting forth. I think I love them as much as the bees!

A bee feasting on a Rabbitbrush flower cluster

The first hints of autumn on display with the sun shining through the glowing trees.

Trees with leaves beginning to turn yellow glowing in the morning sun
Trees with leaves beginning to turn yellow glowing in the morning sun
Trees with leaves beginning to turn yellow glowing in the morning sun

More hints of autumn today. I think one of the most beautiful autumn colors here is the red that Thicket Creeper leaves turn, especially when seen in full sunlight.

Thicket Creeper that has climbed up a tree

The Wild Plums are turning, too!

Orange-tinged Wild Plum bush framed by the hills beyond

Sometimes it pays to space out. I was just working at my computer as a brief thunderstorm blew through outside bringing a little bit of rain and cool dip in temperature. Then I happened to space out a bit and ended up looking up from my computer and out the window.

Double rainbow after a thunderstorm
Closeup of the rainbow glowing through the big Ponderosa trees

Life can be so amazing.

We are really fortunate that our little piece of partially natural property has a lot of beautiful lichen boulders on it, which we really appreciate. I've shared photos of a few of them over the years (for example, here⩘  and here⩘ ), noting that the lichen colonies may have been growing for many decades, if not centuries. As much as I've walked around our place in the couple of decades we've lived here, I still get surprised once in awhile, as I just was when I noticed this stately old lichen boulder nestled in the wild grasses that has both a young Ponderosa pine tree and a little Mountain Mahogany bush growing out of the top of it.

Lichen boulder with a young Ponderosa pine tree and a little Mountain Mahogany bush growing out of the top of it

Autumn brilliance is lighting up my morning walks. This morning, I was walking in the shadow of the cliffs that line parts of the road when I came around a bend and was stopped in my tracks by this awesome tree glowing in the early morning sunshine.

Large old broadleaf tree with autumn yellow leaves glowing in the morning sunshine

And on other stretches along the way …

Red Maple glowing
Cottonwood glowing brilliant yellow
Looking up above the now tan willows lining the creek bed and towards one of the last cottonwoods that still has flame-bright leaves

What a difference a day and a half makes! I took the previous photo Wednesday afternoon while enjoying a pleasantly warm 70 degrees. This next one is from this morning, Friday, 24 degrees.

Snowy trees

Years ago, a friend gave us a little pot of Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata). Since then, it has thrived in the jungle in our sunporch (one of the most beloved rooms in our little house) and is now in a big pot surrounded by three more big pots of siblings. They actually flower happily throughout the year, sometimes those in one pot, other times several. Right now, they're all blooming vigorously in a symphony of vibrant red amongst a field of green. Pure eye candy.

A flower with bright red petals and delicate yellow-tipped stamen emerging from a thicket of green cactus stems

Wow, what a glorious morning. Our first big snow of the season has transformed our world. One of my favorite things in life.

Fresh snow blanketing Ponderosa pine trees on a beautifully sunny morning after

From our afternoon walk the next day, one of the best examples I've seen of a snow frosted cliff face, and the very best example I've seen of the term "snow blanket."

A cliff face made up of a jumble of boulders, each with a frosting of snow on top. Below the boulders is a steep hillside with Mountain Mahogany bushes whose branches are full of balls of snow.  The cliff is silhouetted against a rich blue sky.
A zigzag log fence with a blanket of snow wrapped around the top rail and reaching down almost to the middle rail. Beyond the fence is a hillside with Ponderosa pine trees sihlouetted against a deep blue sky.

It was a beautiful late afternoon for a walk along the creek. We were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one of the rare and elusive Western White Tortoises wandering alone above the hills far off in the distance.

A half-frozen creek winds its way down from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains beyond, across a winter landscape of dried golden wild grasses and trees bare of leaves. In the mostly clear sky beyond, a single cloud somewhat in the shape of a tortoise floats above the hills.

My beloved create this cairn, which is a celebration of living in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where the land is abundant with pieces of redstone scattered around, many hosting lichen colonies, as well as occasional pieces of quartz.

A conical stone cairn made from pieces of redstone and topped with a piece of white quartz positioned on a sloping, east-facing hillside, and surrounded by Ponderosa pine trees.

Yesterday, the forecasters predicted 1 - 3″ of snow. They were a bit off, to say the least. We actually received 7″ of wet, heavy snow overnight, eventually knocking out our power this morning for a few hours and making for some backbreaking snow shoveling (we have a long, steep driveway). Worth it, though, for the opportunity to be surrounded by such quiet magnificence.

A conical stone cairn covered in snow, positioned on a sloping, east-facing hillside, surrounded by snow-covered Ponderosa pine trees, with a deep blue sky beyond.

After a recent overnight snowfall, the morning view here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains was simply breathtaking.

A view of a steep, snow-covered hillside. In the foreground, a couple Ponderosa pine trees with big balls of snow around all of their needle tips are framing the view. Beyond the hilltop is a beautiful blue sky with just a few whisps of clouds leftover from the previous night's snowstorm crossing the sky.

< Previous · Next >