Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Saturday Morning on the Cusp of Autumn

Autumn,
it's been in the air.
I sense a meteorological shift that I usually don't feel this early in the year at this altitude.

Some mornings or evenings, the air is so cool and crisp, I think I am again living in the mountains.
"Close enough," I think to myself.
While I don't live in the mountains,
I live in the next best place:  in a valley that begins at the foothills of the Front Range of Colorado.

Hints of atmospheric changes surround me.

  Fresh cool air soothes me as I fall asleep at night.
The sounds  of the six o'clock bells from the church at
 Mount St. Francis,  
carried a mile down the valley to my house by gentle valley breezes, 
awaken me each morning at 6:00 as they drift into an open bedroom window.

For many school has begun.
Autumn is on its way.

We are on the cusp of autumn.

Cusp

[kuhsp] 

noun

a point that marks the beginning of a change
a point of transition: turning point, edge, verge

Transition is never an easy thing for me.
I've never been able to transition from one point of time to another easily.
I stay firmly planted in the time in which I find myself,
even as I wish to transition to another time.
I'm in no hurry to transition to autumn.

I recognize that the days and nights are changing.
Another season will soon draw to an end, and we will be entering another one.

Today, a Saturday on the cusp of autumn,
wishing to hang on to the few summer days we have left,
I ask my husband if he would like to go to the 




It is no secret that I love going to the Margarita at Pine Creek.
It is only two miles from my house.
One of my favorite summertime things to do is to have breakfast outside on one of the patios for this restaurant on a Saturday.
It is unbelievable that today is the first time this year we have attended the Farmers' Market held here.

It is windy when we arrive.
We both are hungry, so we decide to eat before we shop for produce.
Jim knows what I love to eat on these special Saturday mornings:  artichoke and feta egg puffs.
"Of course I will also share some coffee cake with you." I say to him with a smile.
The coffee cake is also one of my favorite things.
Yum!

He orders my breakfast treat as I search for a table in the shade.
Tables are hard to find.
Tables in the shade are even harder to find.
I find us a place just as the wind really begins to kick-up.
One of the helpers comes over to the table and takes down the umbrella that provides shade.
She says, "This wind is making this table a dangerous place with the umbrella up.  If you want shade, you may go into the lower patio."

Usually, I would want to be where the action is among all the other folks who are enjoying the ambiance of The Margarita.
Today, there is no live band, so I really am quite happy about going to the patio where there is shade and no other people.

In this quiet and sheltered place,
one of my favorite places to be,
a place where I have memories of meals shared with loved ones and dear friends,
I am able to eat, reflect, and takes photos without any distractions.

I find a table under a rustic canopy made of native tree branches.


I admire the unique designs of the building that houses the main restaurant.
"I love this place."
I think to myself,
These summer Saturday mornings are nearly gone for this year; enjoy the gift of today in this place.

I admire the ponderosa pine that gives us additional shelter from the sun.
The wind has stopped.
"Look at the size of that ponderosa," I say to Jim.
I wonder how long it has been in this spot.


Gazing at the tree, and the perfect setting for a table,
I remember playing under a favorite tree during the carefree days of childhood.
 Inspired by the stories about pioneers and native American Indians,
my cousins, sister and I would build make-believe tepees under pine trees.
We would pretend we lived in the wild and lived under trees.
We would sweep pine needles into a pile, cover them with doll blankets and put our "babies" to bed.

I notice a delphinium planted in a pot and placed next to our table.
Note to self:  Next year think outside the box.  
Plant a delphinium in a pot on the porch where the deer can't get it.  
Sometimes we must look at things with a new slant 
if the way we have always done things is no longer working. 

After I have eaten, I go exploring with my iPhone camera.

I've been on the patio before, but it was always filled with people.
I'm excited to find all the great spots where great food can be enjoyed during lunch and dinner.


Nasturtiums growing in boxes create a nice background for this spot.


I've never seen this area before.


I guess the funkiness of design is what always fascinates me about The Margarita at Pine Creek.
Everywhere I looks, I see small touches that add to whimsical charm of this place.
See the dog footprints in the cement.
I love that.


We lingered at our table under the trees enjoying the surroundings and the beauty of the day.
A unique circumstance of a gust of wind had allowed us to have this private place to enjoy our breakfast today.
It was the perfect place to enjoy a late summer Saturday.

Too soon, I remember we came for produce,
so we made our way to the Farmers' Market in the area just below our quiet place of retreat.

The harvest is another reminder that summer is nearly over.
Autumn can't be far off.

Cusp

a noun: person, place or thing

Cusp - a place

Like it our not, summer is drawing to a close.
We are on the cusp of autumn.

This is a time of transition.
What will the next season bring?






Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I've Been Reading...

Summer is for reading.  
I remember when I was in high school, I could hardly wait to lose myself in a great novel.
I haven't changed.

I still love to lose myself in a great novel.  I wish I had kept a list of all the books I've read throughout my lifetime.  I did attempt to put a list together on Goodreads.  Then, I neglected putting in the latest book I finished because it felt too much like I had to write a book report.  I hated writing book reports in school.  I guess deep down inside I felt guilty when I used to assign book reports when I was teaching.  I could feel my students' pain at times.  Book reports were a necessary evil in the high school English/Language Arts classroom.  It was an expectation that students read and then write about what they read.  

I have a few friends whom I can always count on to ask, "What are you reading?"  I love to discuss the books I read.  And I love hearing what other people are reading.  Only reading itself is better than having a good book talk.    I guess one of the things I miss the most about not being in the classroom either as a student or as a teacher is "book talks."  Even though I might really dislike writing about a book, there is also a bit of an empty feeling that I get if I can't talk about a book I just finished.  So, here is a bit about what I've been reading.  

I've been hooked on Susan Howatch lately.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How did I miss reading Susan Howatch until now?  I've just finished reading three of her novels.  Now, I am hooked on reading her books.

As another reviewier has said, "reading The Rich Are Different made me remember why I love reading." This was true for me also.  I love reading when I've found a great story that allows me to become immersed in the book. I find it hard to put the book down.  I think about the story lines.  I think about the characters as if I know them personally.

Early in this story Howatch introduces the reader to Paul Van Zale, a millionaire investment banker from New York who during the 1920's has gone to England on bank business.  He is a flawed, but powerful character, whose worst fear is being known for the weakness he must hide from the world. He is a man interested in the classics.  Powerful, ruthless, rich, he constantly worries about appearances.  He longs for intimacy, but sees relationships as transactional only.  He is a banker after all.

While he is in England, he is introduced to Dinah Slade,  a much younger damsel in distress.  By a wily scheme she is presented to him in the most creative and fantastical way.  She is smart, ambitious, and also interested in the classics.  Paul Van Zale has met his match in Dinah.  Cunning and intelligent, she is destined to become a rich and powerful woman in her own right.  She just needs to find someone to fund her ventures and save her ancestral  home. Paul is that person.  Duplicitous to the core, Paul can't be trusted, and he cannot trust.  This truth provides a foundation for a classic struggle that will be a theme  that forms one of the central plot lines in the book.   Will Paul ultimately solve Dinah's problem of saving her beloved home and heritage, or will she in the end be the only one who can save it?

Some have compared the story to a retelling of the story of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, and Cleopatra.  Certainly all the  themes of greed, ambition, love, and deception are found in the story.

This story is timeless.  The setting is brilliant because where can one tell a story about greed, excesses, and amoral behavior better than in the setting of the banking industry during the 1920's.  The characters are developed excellently as the narrator changes throughout the novel.  In the beginning, the story is told through Paul Van Zale.  Then, the other main characters develop the telling of the story through their voices.  I admire Howatch's character development.  She is the master at doing that.

She weaves together a story so well that even through one is sad to finish the book, one is also deeply satisfied by the reading of a good piece of writing.  Few write sagas as well as Susan Howatch.

Now, I am off to read the next book in this series.  I am hooked.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Celebrating Colorado

Colorado turned 139 years old this past Saturday.
We decided to celebrate both the birthday and the State of Colorado by visiting one of her treasures:
Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

I'd never been to Red Rock Canyon Open Space before.
In fact, as a third generation Coloradan, born and raised in the City of Colorado Springs, I am ashamed to say I'd never even heard of Red Rock Canyon Open Space until a few years ago.
I grew up spending many happy days throughout my childhood exploring Garden of the Gods.
I couldn't even tell you how many times in my lifetime I have driven past the 787 acres that comprise this spectacular treasure tucked unnoticed in the canyon along side of Highway 24.
How did I miss it?
How did I not know it was there?

The short answer is that until the early 2000's it was owned for over eighty years by a private family.
It was not on public lands.
It was private and inaccessible.
The story of how the City of Colorado Springs acquired this area will not be recounted here in this post, but I have provided a link for those of you whom might be interested in reading about about it.

I wish my uncles were alive.
No doubt in their days of exploration of the Colorado Springs area during the 1920's and 1930's, I have ever reason to speculate that they visited this place while looking for arrowheads and places to climb and explore.
They knew about such secret places.
They had explored them.
I doubt that rumors of a man with a gun protecting the place would have kept them out.
I just wish I could ask them about it.

This area, known as the "secret Garden of the Gods," is truly, as the article I linked for you says, 
a geological wonder.

If you have been to the Garden of the Gods, you have seen similar outcroppings of red sandstone rock as you will see in this open space.
In fact, both areas are one whole geographic ecosystem.
Only in modern times have they been viewed as separate systems.

I am not a geologist, though I wish I had studied more of this field, but the rock formations in my hometown have always fascinated me.  


Having never been to Red Rock Canyon Open Space,
Jim and I did not know what to expect when we set out for our adventure.
We tried to explore the area last summer when son Jonathan and grandson Atticus were here.
We only got a photo to commemorate the start of the hike when the rains came.

This year, we again took a few photos to commemorate the day and
hoped rain would not end our hike.
(Typical blogger activity: take photos for the blog at the start of any adventure.)

The smile is a real one.
Feeling well and energetic,
I was so excited to finally get out and do a hike with my man and my dog.
There is no better way to celebrate Colorado Day than by taking in her beauty 
with the ones you love.

Our first task was to choose a trail to explore.
We started down the path.
The day was warm, but the clouds were not threatening a storm.  
They provided a welcomed cloud cover from the sun.

I love that blue Colorado sky.
I love those red rocks.
Yes, Colorado is colorful.
Colorado means:  colored red.
Now you know how Colorado got her name.


Enjoy photos from our walk.


I believe this peaceful looking lake is not without its controversy.
It was built by the previous owners of the area to catch and store rain water.
That is against the law in the State of Colorado.
Colorado Water Laws are very strict.
Retaining pools are illegal.
Pools like these have been dry during periods of drought.
Spring rains caused them to flood and damage the surrounding trails.
On this day, the pool was beautiful and serene.
You can read about the damage and the water controversy here if you are interested.


Look, the sky is changing.
That is a part of celebrating Colorado.
Her weather is quite unpredictable.



I honestly don't know what this monument is commemorating.
I failed to record it in my notes.
I was more interested in getting a photo of the Peak (Pikes Peak).
It is the distant mountain in the center of the photo.


This past spring many of the hiking trails in Red Rock Canyon Open Space were washed out by spring rains.

This waterlogged field, covered in natural grasses,  was quite marshy and wet.


Look closer.
Can you see the dragonfly?
(It's barely visible in the center of the photo.)


Dragonflies, symbols of change
a change in perspective and self-realization,
have been showing themselves to me on several long walks Jim and I have taken this summer.
They have become an important symbol of what I have been experiencing this year.

This self realization has at its source the type of change that comes from
mental
and 
emotional 
maturity,
and from the 
understanding 
of the deeper meaning of life.  

Dragonflies have become my symbol of the entry into my seventies.
I am seventy.
I am learning to embrace the changes in my life and in my perspective of life.
I am reminded how important this time of life is when I encounter unexpected sightings of the dragonfly.

They are so magical.
Their iridescence
 reminds me that it is good to end
one's self-centered illusions.
It is time to have
a clear vision of the realities of life.*

Live in the moment.
Live life to fullest in that moment.

   Few things are more healing to the mind and the soul than walking through areas where one can observe and reflect upon nature.

I recognize and acknowledge the awesome power that created this geological specimen.


Since my earliest days I have marveled at the trees that seem to grow out of rocks.
It is a reminder that while the soil may seem unfriendly,
and
it may appear as if nothing will grow in such circumstances,
there are examples all through nature that show us
that environment is not the only predictor of growth or of survival.
Life springs forth under the worst of circumstances.
I love the lessons of nature.


Colorado,
you give us much to celebrate.
I love this place, the place of my birth.
I'm so grateful to have this beauty just a few short miles from my home.


The hike ends with a reflection.



We have found a new place to explore and enjoy.
We will be back.

Jim and Boston posed for one final photo,

while I counted these two among the blessings of my day.

* Reflection on the dragonfly were recorded in my journal earlier this summer.  I don't know where I found these definitions to the meaning of the dragonfly.  No doubt they were found on some internet search.  I did not cite the reference before I wrote these line in my journal.