The New Leaf

Three years ago day-before-yesterday I first arrived back in Colorado to stay. Was it a new leaf?

Yes in that I no longer get up before dawn to drive to Mexico (or nearby) to teach people basic English skills at the college level. I no longer must bend the knee to some guy who doesn’t know anything about what I teach. I no longer have to deal with any of the dark sides of teaching.

But, of course, I’m still the same person and a new leaf beyond the obvious and mechanical is pretty unlikely ever. That’s one thing I’ve learned. “I yam what I yam.”

I also came here imagining I would want to put my energy into writing and marketing books — and I did — but the upshot of that is bitterness I’d rather never to have experienced. That damned tree of knowledge. πŸ™‚

While there’s no going back to the Garden, it came with an understanding of myself and that, after nearly four decades of “performing,” I don’t want to perform any more. I don’t want to be “invested in an outcome” and get someone’s approval and recognition. That’s something I didn’t know when I arrived here three years ago carrying a half-finished novel. I no longer even want to be a famous writer. It’s too late for me to be completely unknown, but I think I can still achieve a decent level of obscurity.

Three years ago my dogs and I were in a small cabin in South Fork, Colorado. I knew I was glad to be here, but I had no idea where I would live and that was very stressful. I was exhausted from months of packing, the stress of selling a house, a terrible summer class. I wanted to sleep, but Lily T. Wolf (RIP) — my Siberian husky — always heard sounds in the early morning and had to go outside, so out we went at 4 or 5 am every day. There were coyotes and bears in “our” field, and after seeing bear scat, I began taking a flashlight. I loved the sound of the river in those dark, silent walks and the stars seemed so close and so bright. For the first time in 30 years I watched the aspen turn and felt the air turn chill with fall.

Yesterday one of my neighbors joined us for a walk at a wildlife area beside the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande) which is now looking like the Rio Cansado (Tired River). Two days earlier, I had disturbed a great horned owl at his/her lunch, and yesterday my neighbor and I saw two owls — a male and a female. The larger of the two — the female — watched us. The smaller was only interested in us for a few seconds then off he flew.


The female great-horned owl

The leaves in town have started turning. The aspen in the mountains have been at it for a week or so. Everything according to its right time. When I left Colorado in the mid-eighties, I wasn’t as “involved” with nature as I am now and didn’t notice the clock of the four seasons, but it is quite precise I’ve learned here in the San Luis Valley.

Today is the official first day of fall. Daytime highs will (rather suddenly!) drop ten degrees during the coming week. Frost will hit the tomatoes, the flowers and even the sacred zucchini. For a brief time, snow was forecast for Sunday, but that’s been changed. This is a very beautiful season here — and it’s a full three months long. It’s no “transition;” it’s something in its own right.

20 thoughts on “The New Leaf

  1. Bravo Martha!!! I can relate so well with your words regarding a new start and how you feel about the past. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog! πŸ™‚

  2. What a wonderful life you lead. I have never seen an owl, I just hear them sometimes from the near forest. And all those other animals, I only get to see in a zoo – poor things. But isn’t it wonderful not to have to do stuff that only annoys and now to do what you want to do (within a certain scope).

    • Yep. It is wonderful, and I honestly didn’t realize at the beginning that I wasn’t going to be harassed any more by students and bosses. Other people DID harass me but I learned I don’t have to take it any more.

  3. I find I can’t be very invested because I forget whatever I was thinking about as soon as something else comes up. I have lost my focus along with my drive. I like writing because I like writing and taking pictures because they are pretty and make me happy. I can’t even imagine investing in an outcome. I don’t think I could, even if I wanted to.

  4. I, too, slowly realized that I no longer cared about outcomes other people wanted me to help them achieve or even my personal outcomes I’d long thought I’d pursue in retirement. It’s a liberating realization. You hit on three things at the top of my enjoyment list in this post: Colorado, fall as a distinct season, and great horned owls. How could I not think of you as a great writer?

    • I guess maybe my idea of what makes a “great writer” has changed. ❀ My neighbor holding "Martin of Gfenn" to her heart and saying, "I loved it." Wow. That you love what I wrote about. Wow. That my Aunt Dickie loves my novels and used one in her reading group last year. Wow. Really, that's it. That a Swiss intellectual read Martin of Gfenn on the train to his vacation in Spain and was moved. Wow. That people hate a character I created who really is worth hating — wow. I don't know what happens, but I think it's like my taking my skis to Canton when I taught there thinking I'd go to Tibet. I didn't know how far away Tibet really was — not just in miles but in the complicated travel necessary to get there! I think that's a good metaphor for life and the realization of our youthful dreams.

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