"Coming Home to Westcliffe"

Blog Spot for My Mountain Nest & Other Musings...


Coming Home to Westcliffe

The Art of Observing & Good Mamas

“Sometimes I just sit back and observe. I learn more that way.” Sonya Telcai

There are so many sayings about mothers, that, for me, didn’t totally ring true. That is, until I had some invaluable life experiences, hard knocks and matured. For others, motherhood herself backs them up. I remember, particularly as a teen, being almost offended when people would say I was like my mother. Now, I wish I would have celebrated that compliment, as not only true, but as worthy of my mother and her care of her oftentimes stubborn and sometimes ungrateful child. Although her mothering was not perfect, it was couched in context of her generation and her life experiences, it was always full of hope and best intentions. Mother was a good mama. I miss her and am glad I AM like her in so many ways, despite my willfulness to the contrary. Thank you, mama.

I found myself thinking about and appreciating mothers this week, as Bill is expecting his first grandchild, a grand-daughter. Being a teacher and a “critter mom” are as close as I’ve gotten to being a mother. I love to care for and “to mother” the creatures we live with and alongside at Foxhaven. I am learning to listen to them and learn from them. Our relationship deepens as I do so. It is in the silent observation, in the quiet of the spirit, in the whisper of emotion & body language that much is revealed. Things shift, meaning happens and hearts merge.


I’ve been watching and learning from Rose this week. The puppies are four weeks old, a mere 28 days on this planet. Rose is a good mama. She is alert, but calm, patient and kind. It appears, too, that things are shifting as she lets go a little and partners with me, trusting me to help with the nurture  (especially poo clean up). She is beginning to spend some time away from the puppies, but knows just when to return to check, nurse or just sniff pushing them about a bit, leaving to curl up outside their pen on her Kuranda cot she loves and watch her puppies.

Puppy Culture is teaching me to allow Rose and puppies to be in the “driver’s seat”. I am in the proverbial backseat watching. This watching allows me to learn when and how to offer developmentally appropriate enrichment to a particular puppy or puppies. It is a blessing to marvel at the art of motherhood. A fine example of this was the puppy’s first outside experience. I wanted to take advantage of a warm day before our snow storm. The puppies were a few days shy of four weeks, the time they normally have first outside adventures. I observed that they were ready, with their mom’s help, of course.

First, a pen was set up in the shade with Rose watching and enjoying some sunshine herself. She easily went into the pen to sniff about and inspect. Next, we brought out the puppies, two by two, so no puppy was ever left alone in their weaning pen upstairs. Bill and Rose stayed outside and watched over everyone. The puppies squinted a little at first, but seemed to enjoy the grass texture and smells, then Rose laid down for a picnic lunch. It was so serene, and everyone seemed to enjoy this sweet blush of a summer day.

Rose seemed content with herself and her puppies. A happy family. After about 10 minutes, she seemed to want a stretch. I have learned to trust her instincts and saw that the puppies seemed fine with their new surrounds. Rose trotted off; so cute as she paused to sniff a volunteer sunflower that had grown up beneath our bird feeder. The puppies played and napped. Bill brought me a glass of wine. I laid down in the grass near the puppies, and watched the clouds dot the blue sky. I realized that this was the first time I had lain in grass in many years. It was bliss and I was stunned by the beauty that surrounded me. Perhaps, the green, the blooming flowers and the bird chatter were even more poignant knowing the snow and frigid temperatures were just a day away.

All was going well. I wondered if it was time to let the puppies out onto the lawn. Rose had laid down near me, watching and waiting. It was my cue. Out they came.

What a precious day! My heart is full and the brightness of the day, the colors and the sweet calm will always be a cherished memory.

So, with the change to winter in a single day, I set about configuring an indoor play space complete with all the romper room toys. The intent is to provide orchestrated opportunities exploration and enrichment. Play mats and a tunnel will be central objects this week. Novel items and experiences will include a toddler Step2 slide, supervised visits from other dogs in our home (they can’t wait), visits from a few friends, a small open crate / “cave” to crawl into, and toys to shake, rattle and roll.

Most importantly, we will be learning to communicate as our socialization continues. Yummy soft treats (check), clicker (check), box game ready (check) and observation skills in tune (check). More to share on this “communication trinity” next week.

The storm did bowl into Westcliffe. We got about 16 inches and temperatures tumbled from the mid-seventies to a mere twenty degrees. All the plants I could were brought inside. Our guestroom looks and smells like a greenhouse. Outside garden beds were covered, but I don’t think much survived; I had to try. I am mothering the horses with blankets, warm mash and electrolytes. Bird feeders are full and suet basket are out. Hummingbirds are still flitting and, of course, I have ‘nectar solution’ ready to trade out and fill feeders, so the tiny jewels have energizing food to help them make it through this cold snap. I recall my mother doing the same thing. Both of us willing the plants to survive and worried together about the birds in the cold.


It will warm up again as the week progresses. I will be bringing the puppies outside again for more adventures, and transforming our deck to their very own outdoor gymnasium. I wish my mother could have seen them play and helped me recover my garden. Like mother, like daughter. 

Posted 201 weeks ago