Sunday in the Park Record
Most mornings, this time of year, I wake up a bit chilly. It is by design. I’ve turned off the heat now and I open the door in my bedroom out to the little porch each night, before I go to sleep. The cool night breezes whisper me to sleep and back to sleep again should I wake in the night. It is a seamless kind of sleep that eluded me most of the winter. When the first colorless light of day appears, I am rolled up like some human burrito of sheet, blanket and quilt. Yes, I live alone.
For years now I have awakened without a clock. My body has learned to wake itself without rude buzzing or radio music I did not select for some appointed hour. In the spring, my body wakes earlier but better rested. The often-chilly start requires the robe and slippers that in a toasty winter home often feel more like accessories than necessities. I heat the tea water and I have a silent ceremony to start the day. I honor the birds that have started singing long before I have left my nest. Sometimes there are signs of others who have spent the night. Rabbits have returned to our neighborhood. Giant rabbits of mythic proportions. Sometimes fox, deer, raccoons and very often, skunks. We are such a strange mix of suburbia in the mountains. A 30-year-old housing development with long-time neighbors and flat streets that butt against rugged hills of sagebrush and rocky mountains above.
In spring, I am most aware of this shared environment of man and nature. The return, the rebirth, the new chance, the start over. I count on it.
Out in the yard I am reminded I am a steward of my tiny plot of land. Responsible for the trees, the grasses, the tulips ready to pop any day now. Last weekend with some help, I removed the decaying aspen leaves from the flowerbeds. Cut back the old stems from the hollyhocks and bleeding hearts. Thanked the herbs for returning, the lilac bush for budding, despite its rather shady location, and cheered at the tiny shoots of peony that are already pushing through the soil. The polished rocks in the tiny vegetable garden returned after a winter of snow and ice to create a Zen path to divide the strawberries from the carrots.
I have, for weeks no, for months actually — been collecting seed packets. Half a dozen at the market, a dozen at the bird seed store, a few from a catalogue. One day, in the not too distant future, I will declare it planting day and in a flurry I seem to repeat each spring, I will plant everything I have taken months to gather. There will be new berry bushes added, bulbs of springtime flowers, and seed balls that will, over time, release tall sunflowers along the back fence. When my kids come up with their kids, we will reap much pleasure from these earlier tasks that feel more like meditations. The digging in the soil, the patting it down, the planning for a riot of color, well timed.
Most of the outdoor furniture has been returned to the deck and the lawn, though the cushions are still inside and so are most of the planters. The return to living in and outdoors for the months ahead is a process, which I savor. Maybe this weekend I will reconstruct the end table made of wine crates and the circle of glass. Maybe I will stick some yard art out, knowing it will look a bit exposed until the greenery has a chance to blossom out and shield it, in part. Maybe I will just sit on the back porch swing and listen to the newest additions of children play for hours on end in the safety of our cul de sac.
Years ago, many years ago, when I was a new reporter for this paper, I went on a trail ride about this time of year with the folks from the Division of Wildlife. We rode over the hills by Strawberry Reservoir to see how the wildlife had wintered. It was a term a city gal like me had never heard of. Wintered. And it is a concept I grew to rather like. Winter in the mountains can be harsh or mild depending upon the conditions — the availability of food, other predators and shelter from the storms. I sprained my ankle 10 minutes into that ride but I didn’t tell anyone. So I rode for five hours with it swelling inside my boot. By the time I reached the OK Clinic, which was then just a trailer in the Mt. Air Market, yes market, parking lot, the docs laughed, gently, at my city bred stubbornness. But no one on the ride ever knew anything except they didn’t have to stop for the new reporter after all. They had, I learned, made a bet on me.
This is a good time to reflect on just how I’ve wintered this year. The conditions were, on occasion, harsh. The predators, no more than usual. The food abundant, when someone else prepared. But the spirit, ah, the spirit requires different conditions to survive a winter in the mountains of a resort community fueled by an economy that sells a lifestyle it is changing by its very sales. After nearly 30 years here I find myself in the confusing mindset of still feeling like a new kid when I’m around, say, Jim Santy, and an old timer when I listen to debates about city projects, whose roots 20 years ago, I reported on in exhausting detail. It is a kind of time traveling we Westerners do more than most.
Soon I will wake one morning and know the time has arrived to pack the car, grab the tunes and head out. Because just for myself, I know the best way to appreciate someplace, someone, something, is to remove yourself from it awhile. To be open to new adventures, new people, new tales in the making. In this season of rebirth, jump starting myself for another season is a process that often occurs away from here. It gives me perspective, renewal and often, new appreciation for the months ahead of Sundays in the Park
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Columnist Tom Clyde’s family lights a hat on fire each Labor Day to mark the end of another summer on the ranch. It was only recently that he realized not all families partake in that tradition.