Passing Through

This is monarch migration time here at Meadow Knoll. We don’t see as many as we did when we first settled here in 1986. When we do see them, we treasure the sight, like these, taking a break from their journey in our woods. Also with us this time of year: queens, fritillaries, giant swallowtails. The queens adore the blue mist flower and flutter up in a cloud when I walk past. And overhead, a flock of magnificent sandhills flying south, crying that wild, clear call that makes my heart race.

Also passing through, most mornings: a little coterie of four or five wild turkey toms, which appear to be roosting in the woods. The hens are still flocking with this year’s poults, now nearly as big as their moms. The two flocks will get together in the spring for . . . well, you know.

In the evenings, the deer–six or seven in our little herd–come down to the creek. It’s hunting season, but most of the ranchland in our area is posted, so we’re hoping that these lovely animals will make it through the next two months.

And one other interesting creature, a fugitive donkey, out and about in the dark. Her photo began appearing on Bill’s critter cam a week or so ago. He phoned the sheriff to report a lost animal, and the owner gave us a call. The donkey, a rescue animal, has apparently been raised on the range and objects to being penned in. She challenged a gate, skipped out, and has been on the lam ever since. It’s not likely that she can be caught–she’s now free to live her Best Life, with plenty of graze and water. Maybe you remember this 1930s Cole Porter song?  “I can’t look at hobbles and I can’t stand fences/Don’t fence me in.”

On the desk this month: research and writing on the Georgia O’Keeffe/Maria Chabot project, which continues to yield interesting little surprises, not just about the unlikely, up-and-down friendship of these two women but about the house Maria built for Georgia. This is one of those idiosyncratic projects that may be of interest just to the writer. I’m glad to be at a place in my writing life when I can indulge myself in a project simply because I love it.

Also on the desk: the publishing tasks associated with The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker. The files for the print interior, ebook, audio, and cover went off last week. Looks like the book will have an April publication date.

A few weeks ago I did a podcast for Greenleaf Book Group. Most of the questions had to do with writing series fiction, but I also spoke about the writing process. If you’re interested, you can find it on YouTube and on Apple Podcasts.

Whatever is passing through your life right now, I hope it is a pleasant experience–and that you’re looking forward to the holidays, always a magical time of year.

Reading Note:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
― Mary Oliver




34 comments on “Passing Through

  1. I can’t believe I haven’t discovered your China Bayles mysteries until now! A corporate riser turned herbalist myself in the early 80s, I definitely identify with your protagonist – except I am no sleuth. Instead, I became an acupuncturist and author, focusing on herbal healing. I loved your first, Thyme of Death, especially since you include Chinese herbal information as well.

    Our local monarch migration has also declined unfortunately, as has our local mountain bird population. I generally come to Lake Buchanan every couple of years to visit a dear friend so I appreciate your Texas hill country.

    My husband and I have often thought about writing herbal fiction and are thrilled to find you have done so and beautifully. I am looking forward to reading many more of your books!

    Lesley Tierra

  2. Live in Illinois so our Monarchs left a while ago. We live in a end townhouse that has land to plant so we had milkweed, butterfly weed and butterfly bush to name a few for monarchs. We also have wild bird feed trays, safflower trays and peanuts for chipmunks and squirrels plus a rabbit. Took down our hummingbird feeders too. Love having a little bit of nature in our front and side yards 💯Thanks for all your books, monthly newsletter and blog. Just finished Hemlock and trilogy. Enjoyed both🆒

  3. I love your books and hope the Georgia O’Keeffe and Maria Chabot story becomes another book! I would find it very interesting. I live relatively close to what is now West Texas A & M University where O’Keeffe taught many years ago. I got a chance a few years ago to see some of the letters and other material that the school has from and pertaining to Georgia. O’Keeffe. She was a little much for a small, very conservative town! She is such an interesting person and a great artist.

  4. Oh, my! Nothing like that here now, I’m sorry to say. But it has been a great delight to walk through the woods and see them flutter up all around me, shards of brilliant color lifting into the sky.

  5. Pygmy bunnies are new to me, Patricia–had to look them up. Thanks for mentioning. I hope the beavers can stay around and enjoy their pond. Too often they’re removed from urban settings because their pond-building gets out of hand and flood parking lots, yards, etc. Our neighbors had beavers in their tank (Texas-speak for pond), but we haven’t seen them in our section of creek.

  6. That episode gives us an interesting insight into Georgia’s personality, doesn’t it, Nancy? Robinson’s biography is a long read, but worthwhile.

  7. Georgia, what a challenge for you. I hope you’re in a place in your life where you can get whatever help you need. With so many books in audio these days, you won’t run out of reading.

  8. I love to see the Monarchs. Years ago when we lived in the lower Rio Grande Valley they were so thick during migration that I literally could not see the house across the street. It was just enchanting.

  9. Every now and then I see video of a bear cooling off in a swimming pool. Always makes me smile. Our favorite birds arrive in early summer and leave in September: the painted buntings. Such a treat to see them.

  10. Carolyn, what a treat to hear your story about raising monarchs! Thank you for being part of the solution.

  11. The deer must have thought that fruit was there especially for them. Love to hear the geese calling as they fly overhead!

  12. Amazing you should post this today; we saw two chrysalises (chrysali?) outside the Meetinghouse this noon, right where the last of the milkweed had withered in the first frost. One of the tiny bundles was actually partway opened, with a beautiful wing hanging down to dry out. I can’t imagine why they were so late, and hope and pray they will be able to make the journey safely down from central Maine to western Texas and beyond!

  13. Down near the Los Angeles Harbor, we have a blue butterfly area, non-migratory. When a housing area for women veterans was built fairly close, but not disruptive, they named the entry road Blue Butterfly Way. There are also blue butterflies near the Los Angeles airport. We don’t have bears or deer near the harbor, as far as I know. We do have raccoons, skunks, and occasional possums. It’s not a problem as long as they don’t get under a house.

  14. Oh…I’m so jealous you’re on the Monarch migration route! I raised a couple of them some years back and also took part in a Monarch tagging workshop. It was very cool. I am on the migration route for the Canadian geese though. I saw a couple hundred of them yesterday honking their little heads off! I live across the street from a 200+ acre state agricultural farm and the geese love it there. I also get foxes, bears, coyotes, bobcats, wild turkey and occasionally a deer or two. I don’t get the turkey or deer as much as in the past because the farm put up a high perimeter fence. Apparently the deer were eating the orchards!

  15. Good to hear about the Monarchs coming through. I raise Monarch, from wild eggs that I gather from my 50 acres in New York State, slightly west of the Finger Lakes Region. I always hope some of “mine” make it to Mexico and this year I tagged 25 of the 80 that I released. Very unlikely that I’ll ever “hear” reports of any of the tags, but you never know.

    Such a sweet story of the donkey. Hope she stays around.

    And the Georgia O’Keefe info sounds interesting when I get a chance to look it up, thank you!

  16. Thank you so much for recommending and linking the article in the New Yorker about Ida and Georgia O’Keeffe. Glad I got a chance to read it today.

  17. A couple of years ago, a lovely blue butterfly migrated through the west end of the San Gabriel Valley – thousands of them for most of a week. It was spectacular. Up in this part of Southern California, in the foothills, we have a lot of wildlife – most of them are scornful of us humans. Raccoons, skunks, possums, bobcats, squirrels. Deer – well yes, in the foothills, but not as many as you would expect. Up in the foothills by Monrovia, bears stroll down the streets every so often. They love the swimming pools (there are some great Facebook postings). There is a mountain lion (maybe 2?). They are solitary animals with huge ranges and they are very shy so we rarely see them. They do come down when a large fire comes down the mountain.
    Of course, there are coyotes. lots and lots of coyotes. This is their home territory. They feast on rabbits and small dogs and cats that have been let out without human guardians. Here in Arcadia, we have a large peacock population. They’re huge, aggressive and very messy. Also very beautiful in the spring.
    What other birds do you see? There are the usual ones, like sparrows and hummingbirds and some owls and hawks and crows. I’m sure there are some other ones, but I’m not a bird person and don’t recognize most of them.

  18. So glad the Monarchs and donkey on the lam have you to give them shelter – along with all the other fauna and flora that surrounds you, and that you tell us of them so beautifully. You do, do my heart good!

  19. your Mary Oliver quote is perfectly placed at the end of your very beautiful commentary. I just love your perspective on the natural world! never stop writing.—waiting for the next nostalgic “DD”. I taught lit and government, but now am losing my sight your descriptive writing is superb. thank you.!

  20. This piece about passing through arrived at just the right time in my life. Thank you!

  21. Thanks, Stephanie. I hope that donkey hangs around the area–few cars on our country road, plenty to eat/drink. The only thing she’s lacking is company of her own kind.

  22. Living in a city (Seattle), I’m thrilled with the wildlife we do see. We have two species of hummingbirds visiting our feeder; year around, the Anna’s and warm weather, the rufous. Raccoons were visible in our old neighborhood. We see pygmy bunnies hopping around and therefore we see coyotes once in a great while. Most surprising to me are beavers. We have a family living one block away from a mall in a pond of their own making.

  23. Wanted to share my response to the writing prompt I drew from a jar this morning. The prompt was “What inspires you?” My response was “Susan Albert! Her life, blogs, novels. I’m so glad Cheryl and I got to see her in Beaumont years ago. Her books and blogs have been a joy and inspiration~ (I’m about to start _Hemlock_)

  24. Janet, not just Ida, but Catherine–and thereby hangs a not-very-pretty tale. The best source: Roxana Robinson’s biography of O’Keeffe, around pp 490-495. And here’s a more accessible piece in the New Yorker about Ida and Georgia, although the writer doesn’t take Ida’s life-situation into account, IMO. You can find examples of both sisters’ work online.

  25. Beautiful post, Susan. I love seeing the Monarchs too. They’ve been fluttering around my garden. I also love your donkey on the lam. May he live out his days in peace and plenty. Big hugs.

  26. The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is a wonderful museum here in Santa Fe and I have visited multiple times. I was surprised recently to learn that Georgia had a sister who was also an artist. While the sister probably be mentioned in your book, where can we learn more about her sister?

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