Friday, September 28, 2012

Changing of the Feathered Guard

It's been nearly a year since I moved here, but this time, as autumn moves in, I know what to look for as the seasons change. The hummingbirds are long gone, as are the lazuli buntings. For a while, the house finch fledglings ate all the seeds in the feeders almost as soon as I refilled them, but this week, things seem quieter. Instead, the robin fledglings are poking around the yard, fully grown though dusty in color, picking through the regreening grass. A dark-eyed junco or two have been spotted, returning from Canada to their southern winter home. More red-breasted nuthatches and mountain chickadee-dee-dees have been hanging around, hopping back and forth between the trees and the feeders. Today a pair of northern flickers came down from the canopy and have been picking through the fallen leaves and berries from the Russian olive trees. House sparrows were pulling at the juniper bark and some kind of wood warbler peeked between the Russian olive leaves.

These are normal comings and goings, but I wonder what will be different this year now that word has gotten out about the bounty to be found here. What's different this week is the Steller's jay that has been sharing the feeders and hopping brazenly around the porch. It seems to have lost its way, since although I live in the foothills, my neighborhood is hardly like the higher elevation forests it usually calls home. Could all of the forest fires this year have chased it away, caused it to seek temporary shelter in an area with trees and guaranteed food? I wonder if it's here to stay, or whether it will return home when rain and snow extinguish the fires for good.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I went to synagogue today. I hadn't been to a religious service in seven years. Being immersed in a Jewish community had burned me out on the whole thing, and anyway, I decided a while ago that the words found in a prayer book don't express my heartfelt views. I believe in the existence of something bigger out there, which I call God because I don't know what else to call it, but I worship no supreme being. The nail in that coffin came when I stood at the base of some mountains here in Idaho and stared up at their peaks, towering above wildflowers I had never seen and creeks so unbelievably clear, I thought for sure I was in another world. When I need to feel grateful, to cower beneath grandeur and beg for the chance to spend another day on this planet, I go to the mountains. When I need to feel grounded, to seek out meaning and to understand life's big questions, I go to the rivers. When I seek out my purpose, a way to leave this world a little bit better, I look inward for the answers. I thought I had no use for religion, and so I gave it up.

But now I have a special person in my life, three months and counting, and he is actively practicing another faith. Our spiritual views are mostly aligned, so we can spend lovely nights on a small mountain beneath the setting sun and talk about what that means to us. But because he cares too, and because he shares that with his children, I feel the need to balance his religion with mine. To teach him ha-motzi lechem min ha'aretz to say sometimes when he says grace and to explain the holidays to him, even if I don't observe them. To understand better what I do believe so that we can have more meaningful conversations about what keeps us going during the darker moments of our lives. While researching some tidbits about the Jewish New Year to share with my special someone, I came across videos of people blowing the shofar, a ram's horn played with four different notes to inspire us to consider our lives and vow to live better in the coming year. It moved me deeply, like it always did, one of the few things I loved about the high holidays as a kid.

So I went to synagogue for Rosh Hashanah in this small town populated mostly by Mormons and Christians and everything that isn't Jewish. The hall was filled with people, many more than I had expected. The service was some of what I remembered, peppered with new tunes for old prayers and new ways of saying things. The rabbi quoted Wendell Berry and Terry Tempest Williams, and the people called to chant the prayers and read from the Torah were all women, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the first woman ordained as a rabbi. The West may be very different from what I grew up with, but Jews in all places are mostly the same, and I felt at home in this foreign land.

I still don't believe most of what's in that prayer book, but I'm glad I went to services today. I'm glad I challenged myself to think about the traditions in which I find meaning, to question why I still cling to them, and to appreciate the spiritual road I have consciously headed down. I don't rule out going back to synagogue some day, but I'm glad to know that here in Boise, I can bring the mountains and the rivers with me if I do.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Unintended Bounty

My garden was pretty much a flop this year. I'm chocking it up to poor soil, wrong placement, and bad timing. Next year, I think I will do a mixture of container gardening and some raised beds. In the meantime, there's a small tree in my yard, on the hill by the sidewalk, beneath the conifers, that has provided excellent shade for the cheatgrass. The tree produced little green fuzzy knobs that I suspected were apricots, but over the whole summer, they never ripened. Until now. Except that they are peaches. Tiny, but ripe. The tree is small enough that the tiny peaches cause the branches to bow and bend under their weight. So I am off to relieve the tree of its burden. When life gives you tiny peaches, make tiny peach pies.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Down, But Not Out

The outpouring of support for my friends recovering from the terrible attack last month has been so encouraging, and based on his wife's updates, every day brings new hope that TC will pull through this with the same vigor he approaches everything he does in life. If you want to follow his recovery through the eyes of his wife, read her touching, inspiring blog posts at Love for the Maslins (this is different from the fundraising site I mentioned before). I can't even begin to imagine the range of emotions she goes through every day, watching the love of her life struggle to heal, knowing that she can only do so much to help him. Please cheer them on - every little bit counts. In the meantime, the police have video of someone trying to use TC's credit card at a gas station, so maybe they'll get some good leads and eventually catch the person or people who assaulted him. Watch this video, pass it around, and let the police know if you see or hear anything.