Summer Vacation

For most of us the childhood dream of  ‘summer vacation’ is probably more ideal than  reality.  A few days off to explore–the mountains, the beach, a national park, maybe even a trip out of the country–then it’s back to the routine.

When I was a kid growing up in Kansas I waited all year for that week or two. For my family that often meant a trip to Colorado or New Mexico.  In 1966, before we started camping, we stayed at a rustic cabin in Decker’s Corner in the Pike National Forest not too far from Denver.
Decker's Corners, 1966. Photo by: Paula Nixon

Decker’s Corners, 1966. Photo by: Paula Nixon

I was eight and taking my first pictures with an old Brownie camera given to me by my Uncle Douglas. For this post I considered cropping the trash can and Coors box out of the photo, but decided it was part of the memory–the trip wasn’t a perfect one.  We arrived just in time for the fourth of July and the locals celebrated not only with fireworks, but also by firing their shotguns into the air, making my parents uneasy.

Twenty or so years later Dave and I took another trip to Decker’s.  We were living less than forty miles away and it was an easy place to get to for an overnight camping trip.  We took off late on a Saturday afternoon, somehow managing to forget our tent poles.  We gamely rolled out our sleeping bags on top of the flat tent, but didn’t last the night fearing we were too close to a dirt bike trail head.  We woke the next morning in our own bed. I haven’t been back to Decker’s since.

This summer, instead of one long vacation, we have taken a couple of short trips to new locales: a weekend in Silver City and the Gila Wilderness and a jaunt along a short stretch of the Oregon Coast.  It’s always an adventure to see how unknown places square with our ideas of them once we finally get to visit.

Otherwise, it’s been a summer of rediscovering old favorites:  a trip to the Albuquerque BioPark to see a new pair of Mexican wolves, Kawi and Apache, and weekly visits to the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market where tomatoes and corn have finally arrived.

Although the end is in sight, there’s still lots of summer left to enjoy.

Early this morning I got up to watch the Perseid meteor shower, one of my August favorites.  Twenty or thirty streaking stars later, I went back to bed thinking that I should go outside more often in the middle of the night to enjoy the dark skies, cool air, and quiet.

I may be groggy all day, but it’s worth it to squeeze every last bit of summer out of the season!

The Halloween Owl

The Warm Little Owl
by John Vance Cheney

Darkness, grow and blacker fold,
Rattle, hail, and blast be bold.
Old trees, blow together
In the cold, roaring weather;
Louder you howl
The jollier he,
In his nest in the breast of the hollow tree,
The warm little owl, the little warm owl.

Pay up, wild pipes i’ the forest bare,
Gallop, goblins, down the air.
Ride, hug to the back
Of the scudding rack;
Fiercer it scowl
The jollier he,
In his nest in the breast of the hollow tree,
The warm little owl, the little warm owl.

Photo Credit: Joyce Nixon

Photo Credit: Joyce Nixon

Halloween and owls.  They just seem to go together.  And yet, the one pictured here appeared on a Sunday morning in June.  He perched on a second-story roof-overhang at my folks’ house.  The neighbors gathered below:  pointing, chattering, taking pictures while the great-horned owl took it all in with his big yellow eyes.

All About Birds calls the great-horned the story-book owl–the one we dream about.  Not uncommon, they show up in deserts and forests, backyards and city parks, but I have never seen one.

 Tonight it will be chilly in the foothills of New Mexico, clouds flitting in front of the waxing moon, a few days short of being full.  Beyond my backyard, a few yards to the west, standing tall among the pinyons and junipers is an old cottonwood, leaves still hanging on, rattling in the breeze.  That’s where I’m sure he’ll be. Perched on a limb, still as a gargoyle.  whoooo . . .whoooo .  . .whoooo. . .

Happy Halloween!

Springtime in the Rockies

Tis a month before the month of May,
And the Spring comes slowly up this way.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Spring in Colorado!!  When I found Mom’s email on Thursday morning with that subject line, I was certain the photos attached would be of her garden–tulips and daffodils and hyacinths, all in full bloom.  Instead, this . . .

Photo Credit: J. Nixon

Photo Credit: J. Nixon

Winter is slow to retreat here in the Rocky Mountains.  I live 350 miles south of Mom near the bottom of the 3000-mile long range.  On the same day I received her email I was bombarded with a flurry of snow pellets when I stopped, on my way to the mailbox, to admire a forsythia shrub bristling with yellow flowers.

Spring is making inroads each day; a black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia) has been hanging out at the bird bath in my backyard. I’ve scanned the still-bare trees looking for a pile of sticks that could mean she has nested nearby, but have yet to find a sign.  Inside, the Siamese cat sits near the fireplace, head cocked, listening.  I strain my ears to hear what she hears and wonder if the birds have built a nest near the chimney.

By the time I talked to Mom late Thursday afternoon, most of the snow had melted and she said the crabapple tree in her photo was covered with buds and would soon be full of pink flowers..



Winter Walk – Centennial, CO


It’s a rare day that I am the first person to put my footprints on a path frequented by dog walkers and joggers, but it happened this morning.

Dave and I arrived in Denver last night and woke to a light dusting of snow. The temperature was a chilly twenty degrees, but the sun was shining brightly compelling me to take a walk along the dry Willow Creek while Dave did his jobsite review.

Overhead a flock of Canada geese was flying south in formation and I noticed small paw prints on the trail.  I wasn’t the first creature out and about after all.