It’s been a while since making a blog post has been forefront in my mind, but images have a way of collecting themselves and at last insisting that I do something with them.
I enjoyed a lovely long winter break from school over the winter holidays, during which we made a trip out to west Texas (another post for another time); Travis and I took long walks nearly every day; and I made the inexplicable decision to participate in a 30/30 challenge: write thirty poems in the month of January. Done. Haven’t even begun the work of editing them yet.
With so much time and fair weather on our paws, my good dog and I developed the habit of walking around the ‘hood in such a way as to arrive at a place called Blue Valley, where the Homeowners’ Association is headquartered along with a pretty excellent swimming pool, multiple tennis courts, and a playscape. There’s a pond there that’s currently receiving some desperately needed rehabilitation. Travis and I like to watch the ducks hurry down to the water quacking away at one another like gossipy teenagers.
There’s a blue heron in residence as well. Until recently I’d only had a glimpse of him (her?) high in a cedar tree; but one morning s/he was wading down at the end of the pond and by some miraculous twist I actually had my camera with me. The one with enough a zoom that I could snap the cover photo from about 70 yards away even without a tripod. Herons are pretty amazing to look at, whether bouncing around in the highest branches of an old cedar, or wading in murky pond water, or taking off in flight like pterodactyls. I can’t help but be impressed.
So many thing impress.
Leaves on a sidewalk, for example.
Or finches on the backyard feeder: they may not stir the astonishment a blue heron does, but the dozens who come to the yard every day never fail to elicit a smile. Who could not smile at finches?
Ours have two kinds of seed from which to choose: the black oiled sunflower in the back yard, or twelve million billion Nijer seeds in the side yard outside the kitchen window. Finches make an impressive mess no matter where they are, I can tell you that; and still they make me smile.
It’s the first week of February and we haven’t had a freeze yet at our house. Some spots in Austin have had frosty coats of a morning, but unless there’s a sheet of ice on the birdbaths I call No freeze! Consequently, the sidewalk garden is still populated with purple lantana, and it breaks my heart to trim it to the ground. Bees and the occasional butterfly are still feeding. So I’ve been cutting them back one by one, a necessary bit of maintenance if I don’t want to send lantana across the street. At my age it’s best to attack these chores little by little anyway.
Still, it’s cold enough that Travis and I feel free to walk in the greenbelt again. Most of the venomous snakes are sound asleep and the woods are chilly. Although coyote sightings are up, I have little fear of attack at this time of year. In the spring when there are pups it will be a different story. Travis is about the size of an adult coyote and I am slightly larger, so they shy away quickly. He doesn’t roam far from me as we hike, and would never dream of attacking a dog-looking animal (squirrels are another story). The several coyotes we’ve encountered in recent weeks have not even caught his attention – some sheep dog he’d make.
So on many days we hike the rough trails down to the creek.
My back was to the waterfall when I took this photo with my phone this morning. The landscape here has changed quite a bit with a down rush of these white rocks. A spit of land has been created, pushing the creek into a channel through which it is rushing quite swiftly. A day without stick-diving is a day without sunshine, for Travis, and nowadays if he drops his stick in the water it’s a hundred feet downstream before he even knows it’s gone. Oh, well, there’s always another stick.
On the rare days when I don’t let him swim, much disappointment. Many sorrow. How else will he rinse that little stick-crumb from his nose? How?
The water here is perfectly clear, pulling at the algae as it hurries down toward Zilker Park where people swim every day of the year. Not me; I like my swimming water warm.
So it’s been a pleasantly lazy stretch. I’ve spent a fair amount of time cooking, as the time had come for me to get serious about dropping excess poundage. Not one to go for hunger or deprivation, I took to prepping meals on weekends and carrying my lunch. If I’m going to get by on 1200 calories a day including my wine and chocolate, those 1200 better be good. Down 35 pounds since early September and not feeling much need to lose a whole lot more, which is nice. Nicer still is being able to take long hikes without the old plantar fasciitis making me regretful!
While the garden is still on its vacation, maybe I’ll follow up with some of the excellent food I’ve been indulging in for the past few months. I’ll leave you today with one of the January verses, in keeping with all that coyote talk.
We walked by you in the woods today,
my good dog Travis and I, having stepped
off the sidewalk onto an unfamiliar trail
because the sunlight through bent cedars seemed
especially beautiful, or for no reason at all.
As we walked the trees closed behind us,
blanking out traffic sounds and the blasts
leafblowers make. No noise or movement
registered. I don’t know why I turned
to the left, but I did.
And there you were: stock-still
on a low berm between young trees,
roughly Travis’s size but gold in color
and round-faced. You could have been a dog
to run and play with, or fetch a stick.
We locked eyes for a moment, considering
the possible and the impossible.
And then you turned back to your
and my good dog and I went down
along the rock-strewn trail toward home.