Writing In The Rockies

A Christmas Goodbye

A Christmas Goodbye

Decking the halls of our Panhandle Creek cabin.

After our separate Thanksgivings, our family hopes to be together for a string of December holiday celebrations. Mom will help us finish decorating the tree this weekend and we’ll celebrate our small cabin Christmas on the 18th with four generations. On Winter Solstice, we’re having a special reading at Mom’s Independent Living Facility, with readings by members of our writing group, other residents, and two special guest readers, Vicki Lindner and Sandra McGarry. Christmas Eve we’ll enjoy a quiet celebration in town with Mom, then the next morning we’ll see what Santa brought the grandkids. All of this depends, of course, on continued health. With the bugs circulating through schools and the community-at-large, we’ll take precautions where reasonable and hope for the best.

This Christmas will be bittersweet. If all goes according to plan, it will be the last year we enjoy Craig’s stonework. When we moved here five years ago, the previous owners had placed an old woodstove on tiles nearly in the middle of the floor. One of our first improvements was to purchase a stove that could be placed closer to the wall. Craig researched the codes and built the beautiful stone hearth and surround, and the pine mantle above it. I love those rocks, and I hope we can keep at least some of them, but next year the stove will move to new living quarters over the garage.

In the spring, we hope to break ground on our bed and breakfast. A longtime dream, the addition will dramatically change the configuration of our livingroom, while adding two gorgeous guest spaces with views of the creek and the valley. In this room, we’ll add a new stone fireplace, along with room for my piano.

In our family, we have always appreciated the extra goodness that comes with building, or baking, or creating with our own hands. When the grandkids ask for my carrot cake for their birthdays, or Craig’s homemade bread for sandwiches, it’s because these things taste a little better when they’re made with love. We’re excited about the changes, and look forward to being able to share our mountain B&B with friends and family. Like everything we apply ourselves to, these changes will be made with love. But now, working at the table while snow falls on the forest around us, I am looking through the white lights of our tree to the woodstove on Craig’s beautiful hearth. I’m grateful for him and the many ways he shows his love.

 

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

 

Patience of the Season

Patience of the Season

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.  ~A. A. Milne

Patience is at the forefront of my mind this Thanksgiving week.  The holiday season can be a difficult time for those of us who have suffered loss during the year. As families come together, tensions can run high. Small things that normally wouldn’t bother us can grow larger and more jagged. Patience gives us the opportunity to overlook our differences and remember the many reasons we love each other.

This year, we are also thinking about how to keep each other safe. The CDC is warning of a tripledemic whammy this season – Covid, flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV). So far, our family has been hit with two of the three. We are all recovering – something to be truly grateful for. While the guidelines on masking and distancing seems to vary from day to day, we’ll take precautions where it doesn’t cause too much hardship. In our case, Craig and I are still testing positive for Covid, so it seems wise to postpone our family get-together until after Thanksgiving.

Patience isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but I’m using this time of increased solitude to catch up on reading and writing.

Wishing you all a safe, healthy, and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

Cutting a Trail

Cutting a Trail

On Tuesday, we got a notice that the Asgard was blocked with fallen trees. We had adopted this trail a few years ago, cleared and marked the path and built several bridges. It’s fun work. We thought, at the time, that we might make it a weekly project and adopt a few more. The gods of nature and impermanence must have had a good chuckle over that.

Craig was evacuated by helicopter at the beginning of the season. He was in wildfire training when the chest pain came on, surrounded by medics. They knew exactly what to do, and not a second was wasted. I’ll be forever grateful for that.

Our life changed after his heart attack, but it was more than just cardio rehab. Our family needed more of my time. We began renovating the new cabin and mitigating the property around it. Craig started a new job that required more travel. And, if I’m being completely honest, I found the local politics disheartening.

We considered pulling out of the trail adoption program all together, but my friend and Greenbelt Management Committee co-chair convinced me to give it some time, assuring us that the trail was in good shape. I’m glad we did.

With snow in the forecast for Thursday, we took a long lunch on Tuesday and headed out. There were 8 or 9 trees down that Craig cut with his chainsaw. Together we rolled them aside and pulled the slash off the trail to redirect hikers. It was a beautiful day – the kind that reminds you what’s important. I’m grateful for my co-chair, Rachel’s, sage advice, and the reminder that life is always changing.

While we can do the work, we will. Happily.

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

Love

Love

“Love is a river. Drink from it.”

~Jalaluddin Rumi

 

 

 

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

Mountain Stewardship

Mountain Stewardship

Craig covers a load of slash.

This land nourishes us. It provides shelter, feeds our bodies, our senses, our minds, our spirits. I believe we owe something in return. As mountain residents, we have a stewardship responsibility to this land, for the ecological welfare of our individual acreage, as well as the 563 acres of community Green Belts.

We are only now beginning to understand the impact of 150 years of wildfire suppression.  This massive overgrowth of trees restricts light to the understory, reducing plant, insect and wildlife diversity. As the planet warms, these dense forests become more susceptible to drought and disease which, in turn, increases the risk and severity of wildfires. Unlike the clearcutting of past eras, current forestry science calls for restoring our forests to something closer to their pre-suppression state. It’s beautiful landscaping that takes into consideration the contours, soil and moisture, old growth, and micro climates of the land.

At the Slash Depot.

With the Cameron Peak Fire still fresh in our memories, we follow these new guidelines, working to mitigate fire risk through the cultivation of a healthy forest. Here, we’re fortunate that Crystal Lakes provides a Slash Depot for residents to bring their dead and dying trees. When snow conditions are adequate, the volunteer fire department will supervise the burning of this fuel. This year alone, Craig and I took down approximately 40 dead and diseased trees, and brought over 20 cubic yards to the Slash Depot.

We’re grateful for the proximity of the Roosevelt National Forest, with miles of beautiful hiking trails a short walk from our front door. But, if you look behind the cabin in the photo below, you’ll see the remnants of the pine beetle infestation on the slope behind us. Much of that terrain is difficult and costly to mitigate. National foresters are working to procure the funding and technology to make that mitigation possible.

Beetle kill still evident on the slope behind the cabin we’re renovating.

On our property, the beetle kill had mostly been removed by the previous owners, but we still had trees in distress.  The primary culprits were rust, a fungal infection, and mistletoe, an insidious parasite that disguises itself as needles. We removed trees with severe infections, then pruned and thinned areas where the infection might be controlled with some diligence. We left the aspen grove with more light and room to flourish. Next year, we’ll check the remaining conifers, prune infected branches and hope for the best.

In the distance, the Cameron Peak burn scar visible from just around the corner from our cabin.

 

 

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

“Shadows of a thousands years rise again unseen, voices whisper in the trees, ‘Tonight is Halloween!'”

~Dexter Kozen

There’s no snow in the forecast here until Thursday, and the weather is even milder in town. Good news for Trick or Treaters! Growing up in Alaska, our Halloween costumes were purchased extra-large to fit over our snow pants and parkas. When darkness fell, about 6:00pm, the procession of children waddled up the snowbanks, bags in hand, fingers and toes turning into icicles inside our mittens and mukluks.  At the mercy of our parents and their flashlights, the evening never lasted long — though we protested we weren’t cold at all.

 

 

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

The Great Turning

The Great Turning

“While the responseometer or our collective mobilization doesn’t yet show the high degree of universal engagement needed to address our planetary emergency, if you look for them, you can see impressive steps toward what is required. In every country, in all walks of life, people are turning up with an intention to play their part. They are turning away from behaviors and ways of doing things that cause harm. They are turning toward ways of doing and thinking and being that support the flourishing of life. This is the Great Turning — and you are likely part of it.”

~ From ACTIVE HOPE: How to Face the Mess We’re in with Unexpected Resilience & Creative Power, by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone

 

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

 

Oil, Cement, and Music

Oil, Cement, and Music

“In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds us closer together, and the music that brings harmony.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

The fawns have lost their spots. They are gangly teenagers, still following their moms, but with distinct minds of their own. It’s not uncommon to see a doe on one side of the road and her fawns grazing on the other side. They don’t realize how dangerous these roads are, but often their parents don’t, either. Drivers beware.

The moose calves almost look like yearlings. They are still smaller than their parents, but losing their baby faces. Their ears are more proportionate to the rest of their heads but, like the fawns, they are not yet wary of the world.

Like our wildlife neighbors, our own family is a blend of ages, ranging from age 4 to 85. We’re all growing and making mistakes. We create messes and beauty, and beautiful messes. We do our best, learning to love and forgive each other, to celebrate the milestones and accomplishments, to laugh and grieve together.

Love deepens through the many ways our lives intersect. It is, as Nietzsche said, the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds us closer together, and the music that brings harmony.

 

 

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

A Truing of Vision

A Truing of Vision

Good art is a truing of vision, in the way a saw is trued in the saw shop, to cut more cleanly. It is also a changing of vision. Entering a good poem, a person feels, tastes, hears, thinks, and sees in altered ways.  Why ask art into a life at all, if not to be transformed and enlarged by its presence and mysterious means? Some hunger for more is in us — more range, more depth, more feeling: more associative freedom, more beauty.  More perplexity and more friction of interest. More prismatic grief and unstunted delight, more longing, more darkness. More saturation and permeability in knowing our existence is also the existence of others. More capacity to be astonished. Art adds to the sum of the lives we would have, were it possible to live without it. And by changing selves, one by one, art changes also the outer world that selves create and share.

~Jane Herschfield, from TEN WINDOWS: How Great Poems Transform the World

 

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.