I was going to call them “miracles,” but that isn’t quite right. A miracle is certain. My backyard’s ecosystem is less likely.

A hawk just soared over the neighborhood, out of the literal blue, as if to emphasize the point. Meanwhile, a hummingbird rests uncharacteristically still on our phone line under the big maple tree, occasionally flitting about with blurred wings. It’s a nervous energy, away from the perch and back again, as if a windup spring has to be released every few seconds. There’s a companion that emerges from higher up, greeting the partner in a swirl of darting to and fro, up and down.

A squirrel sprints along the power line above our back fence, an unrecommendable gallop, headlong and elevated 30 feet above the ground. There’s a leap, and a few seconds later it’s twice as high, twice as unlikely, gnawing at a pinecone in our tree. It will spend the day traversing wire and branch, harvesting apples and cones.

The neighbor cat, black and white and scrawny and wary, slinks through the side fence. Looking back, he spots our dog, and as their eyes meet the cat reproportions itself to slide under the shed and out of sight. The dog is lying down, her head up and attentive to any new sign of invasive feline.

The bees in the hive, tens of thousands of them, catch the new light as they emerge and return. Their flight paths are calculated and direct, south and east, over the garden and then fanning out to places I only imagine. The front yard’s sage and lavender, if they make a win u-turn around the neighborhood? Or, I like to imagine that they find stream-side flowers in the mountains, or maybe a neighbor’s clover.

Besides the promise of honey, there’s tomatoes ripening on the vine. Peaches are still green, noncommittal but suggestive. Maybe by the end of the month, they seem to tell me as each day their shade is a little more yellow, a little more distinguishable from the canopy of leaves. There’s some Oregon grape that I’m just noticing in the bramble I don’t know what to do with. It’s out of place, I think, in the mountains of Utah, but I’ve come to realize that this is a good home. Maybe I should pull out the other oddities, unnamable invasive plants that are hedging it in.

The hummingbird had left but now is back, first on a narrow branch and then to the wire again. It flits out, looking for something, and a few seconds later the friend returns and together they fly and squeak. And now she’s back again, her feathers of iridescent green alight in the sun’s rays, a color as improbable as the bird itself.


I got a good deal on some hiking sandals at the local shop. Vibram soles and adjustable straps, they’re last year’s model in the few remaining colors and sizes. Turns out that the ones in dark blue with the extra toe loop that I’d extracted from the box labeled “Men’s 8” were exactly what I wanted. I toured them around the store for a few laps to come to the easy conclusion that they were made for me.

Except, later that day, sitting on the the grass and glancing at the heal of each shoe, I noticed that while the left shoe was labeled “M8,” the right shoe was labeled “M9.” That is, I had two different sized shoes, even though they’d come from the same box.

Here’s the funny thing, though. My feet are actually different sizes, and it turns out that my right is slightly bigger than my left. I hadn’t realized until this moment that this was substantial enough to not realize a difference if the shoes were appropriately scaled. I stood up to verify: each of my toes is exactly the same distance from the end of the footbed.

It took me a few minutes to resolve that this combination really is the ideal. I don’t know how long my feet have been accommodating my uneven gait, one side feeling just a bit less comfortable than the other. Now, for the first time, toes and heels all have the same spacing. My own imbalance is perfectly matched with the unmatched pair of shoes.

I took the shoes and their appropriate box back to the store, not so much to protest but to make sure I hadn’t messed up another box and forcing someone else to buy mixed sizes. But apparently someone else is the proud owner of another unmatched pair of sandals; my mirrored twin wandering around with a slightly larger left foot. In one way or another, all was made right. And left.

fringe benefits

The new establishment just three doors from my favorite sandwich shop advertises on the sign over the door, “Social Axe Throwing.”

Below, a small card in the window offers “Free Firewood.”

admission: I may not ever become a rock star

I don’t think that it’s particularly surprising to the reader or to any random stranger meeting me for the first time that I am not currently nor will I ever be a rock star.

The revelation here is that I’m having to admit to myself that I will not become a famous musical performer. Or, a musician of any caliber whatsoever. It’s the fact that I have a playlist in my head — mostly covers, embarrassingly — that changes from time to time. And, it’s hard to admit, I have in the back of my mind a scenario that I may, in some public setting or at some concert, be called upon: Does anyone know how to block out this chord progression in G on this piano? Or, we’ve been looking for someone to sit in with the band to do this cover of Only Living Boy in New York, and you look like just the person. And: We were lucky enough to have Adam suggest to us that we could make our dreams come true with this rendition of Rocket Man, and fortunately he’s here to play along tonight, so Adam come on up to the stage …

None of these things will ever happen.

The neurosis is not so much in the fantasy as it is in the belief that lingers. If you walk by some evening when I’m alone, listen closely as you approach the driveway. I could be improvising on a bluesy version of Rocket Man, seeing if it works in E-minor as well as the original G-minor; or I could be trying to hit the notes as I sing the lines, “Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where; we don’t know where.”