I’ve definitely been feeling glum, unusual for this time of year when the weather starts getting good and the cranes are here, and and and and… I think it’s the result of the political events of the past several years, Covid, life’s ordinary (sometimes immense) challenges. The cherry on the sundae was falling and hurting my shoulder, an injury that is only now starting to feel like it might be healed. I fell on August 2. It’s fucking November now. “Just stop it already!” Right?

I’m tired and discouraged. I felt like I needed a break (but from WHAT????) “The mind is its own place and, in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.” – John Milton 

For a while I thought it would be good to take a little journey over Christmas. I soon discovered that the ONLY place I wanted to go was Descanso, California. I wanted to take Bear up on the trails I trod so often in the Friendly Mountains.

I even found the perfect cabin in my former mountains complete with a fenced yard for the dogs. I even KNOW the place and the spot. Four days total in the car, three nights in the cabin, something like $2000. Wow. Still, I marked the cabin with a ❤ and closed my laptop having realized that I don’t necessarily want to go to Descanso. I want to go back in time 18 years, before my first hip went south, when I was running/hiking 12 miles at a stretch. Ha ha ha ha!!!


I don’t know when it happened — probably I was raised with it, definitely had an exemplary role model at home in my father — but I’ve always been a stoic. Lest you think that means someone is like a statue and doesn’t feel anything, that’s not the case. Part of life is feeling. Stoicism is just a way to live (IMO). It means that a person is prepared to accept (possibly after a little whining 😉 ) the “vicissitudes of fortune” (fancy language for “rock with it” or “hang in there” or “take the bitter with the sweet” or “put a good face on it” — even “bite the bullet”).

One of the most beautiful expression of stoicism is in Blake’s little poem:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

We humans aren’t easily satisfied or, in any case, not easily satisfied for long. Maybe we always want something we can’t have. Maybe we always think that there is something ELSE that will fix everything, fix our lives, whatever. The thing I “want” is something I’ve seldom found and then only for moments at a time. That is also the nature of human experience. So I’m here, now, with this imperfect body and a dirt road across the ancient lake. It’s perfect, and there is no time machine and no $2000 either!

I guess I’d better just put a good face on it and go clean up the dog shit, a bit challenging in 3 inches of fallen leaves. 😀

Featured photo: My oil painting of the Friendly Mountains (Garnet Peak) in winter, 2004, a few months after the Cedar Fire when the trees looked like vine charcoal against the white paper snow.

Lupo and my house in Descanso, 2004

27 thoughts on “Limitations…

  1. Very nice painting! I’m sorry to hear of your problems and hope you feel better soon! As far as the dissatisfaction is concerned, maybe one of the causes – Huxley put it very nicely in a nutshell that from the perspective of Alpha +, our main task is to consume. In order for us to do this, we are constantly being bombarded with advertising, the aim of which is to create dissatisfaction so that we can buy – (mistakenly) assuming that we would then be more satisfied. Anyone who is satisfied does not jump on every hype. (Of course, my comment does not refer to you but to the basic tenor in our society).

    I don’t have a television set, I read selected newspapers, I forbid direct mail with advertising (we do this with a sticker on the mailbox) ….. Of course, some people ridicule me for this, which I don’t care about, but I think I have no indefinable longings.

    Another reason for this is probably my intensive engagement with Buddhism and thus with the explanations that it offers to the phenomenon.

    How can it be that there is such great dissatisfaction in highly industrialized countries. Why do they not have that in Bhutan?

    • The root cause of my dissatisfaction is the fact that I am struggling with arthritis and growing older. It’s not awful; may people have a lot more to deal with, but painfully injuring my shoulder on top of everything else? It just hit me hard (ha ha). I WANT to do a lot of things I can no longer do. That’s a very definable yearning. 🙂 I think that frustrates and demoralizes most people and maybe it’s one of the things that ultimately makes us OK with the final destination. I’m not there yet, but… I realized what I really want are two sound legs that will carry me anywhere, up any hill, up any mountain, at any speed. I don’t have that now. BUT I have two legs that will take me to all the places I need to go. I think happiness is affected by remembering to remember what I CAN do rather than moaning about what I CAN’T do.

      Huxley was right in that our entire system depends on people’s dissatisfaction, but I can’t “buy” anything to fix this — I do know people who have tried! Over the past year, I’ve seen how EVERYTHING in this country depends on people getting up and going to work every day so that after work they can go buy things. That’s (it seems to me) the operative definition of “freedom” here in the US. People feel that if the government taxes them the government is stealing from them; they don’t see what they could actually GET for those tax dollars — healthcare, public transportation, education, better physical infrastructure. These ignorant shits who want to keep their money in their pockets call that “communism.” They share that wonderful illusion that money can buy what they want. Maybe that’s why non-industrialized countries look elsewhere for happiness? I don’t know.

      One of my ways of addressing Weltschmerze is to do a task I’ve put off because then I have done at least a little something to improve my life. Today I went out to the garage and opened a bin of stuff — family stuff, my stuff — to sort through and throw away. In it I found a lot of letters from my parents to each other the majority of which I’ve tossed. I kept a couple from my dad that seemed to want me to read them (I did). One of them described happiness as an “elusive commodity.” It is elusive (I think it’s supposed to be) but I don’t think it’s a commodity.

      He didn’t know when he wrote these letters that he was going to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis which makes them wonderful to me. I didn’t really know him before that; I was only 2 when he got his diagnosis and began having trouble. Anyway it was a good task for me this morning.

      I don’t have TV, either. I’m not much of a consumer, either. I don’t think there’s ever been a way to buy what I want, which is an active, creative life — that’s always been pretty much up to me. I guess some days are just better than others and I enjoy reading your comments.

      • Sorry again to about your health problems! But as I can see you are getting along pretty well on the whole. As we get older this is probably part of the game.

        Our views are pretty much the same and I don’t have to add much. But 2 more points. The net profit of the listed credit card companies (some are not listed on the stock exchange) i.e. what is left after Alpha + has paid off its exorbitant salaries and bonuses (and operating costs, advertising, employees …) is higher than the entire budget of the USA education sector.
        Long topic – and the kids don’t even learn in school how this trap works.

        I have had friends or business partners from the USA visiting here a few times. Some originally had fundamentally negative attitude towards the term social democracy but probably changed their mind then. Yes, I pay a lot in taxes and I do it without complaint (sometimes 🙂 . My 8 year long studies didn’t cost me a cent, I even received a grant from the government -enough to get along without any job. Health sector – almost free, well-developed transport network, hardly any beggars or homeless … You know that anyway. So my taxes not only help the general public but also give me a pleasant life.

        I am sure you know that I just want to emphasize that it is a question of education or propaganda whether I see what I get for my “tax dollars”.

        Are our governments stealing from us? Sure, all around the world. They print money out of thin air without end and then exchange the printed stuff for the real work I actually did 🙂

        • Americans are willing to pay taxes for defense and the military (God bless our troops) but not to develop alternative sources of energy (for example). It’s brain washing. For one long period (long ago) I didn’t pay my state taxes because the state was paying me to teach. It was Martha logic. It didn’t work… 🙂

          For the last generation and a half, the education system in the US has gone steadily downhill — it’s for the purpose of brainwashing them. One of the effects is creating an environment in which the students become naturally hostile toward their teachers. About 15 years ago, in my university classes, I noticed the result of this shift for the first time. I was really saddened by it. My students were afraid to take risks, afraid they’d fail, convinced I was out to hurt them. They’d been conditioned to study for exams on which the ONE discrete right answer was everything. Since I was teaching business communication and as you know communication in business never has a discrete single answer, it was really daunting for me to teach them to accept that as a reality of life. “You might be wrong. You might have to mitigate that. It might not matter. There is no way to know without a crystal ball. Other people are unknown quantities.” Then came.

          “Why should I listen to you? When I graduate I’ll make 3x what you make.” The idea that a person might choose the direction of their life based on what they love did not occur to them. Happiness was measured in $$$ and success in school was measured in grades, not in learning. It was pretty sad. Oh well.

          I could probably write a book on the question of “freedom” as Americans seem to see it. Where I live, people consider well-marked hiking trails as an infringement on their freedom. They don’t consider what their traipsing around everywhere might be doing to the ground beneath their feet. 😦

          • You are so right! And again it would be a long topic to talk about.

            As for your quote “freedom” – If I were a cynic a song by Chris Cristofferson (Janis Joplin) would come to my mind “freedom ‘s just another word for nothing left to loose 🙂

            And if we think of that time the song was written: If I had been sitting with friends in my late hippy days and someone had said that one day a certain Mr. “T” would become President of the USA, I would have advised him to smoke less weed.

  2. Lots of glum and disbobblement (my word) around. The election may be “over”, but the discord is not. Covid is not over. In some ways we are more divided than ever and over everything. Self-care through dogs, hiking, being outdoors is so important. Hope you heal quickly. Hang in there.

    • Thank you, Sarah. My shoulder is a lot better than it was and maybe that’s why, now, I’ve felt the blues over it. Sort of a, “What next?” thing and I’m sure it’s related to the discord, covid, division, uncertainty about the future. Dogs and nature are the BEST treatment!

    • Everyone said it was a Hansel and Gretel house — maybe that’s why no one came trick-or-treating 😉 I did have a stove in the front room…. It was a wonderful — if difficult and expensive — place to live. I didn’t want to move away AT ALL. ❤ But at least I got to live there for 11 years.

  3. The painting is really so beautiful. I pray that your shoulder and other joints pain heals quickly so that you can walk, run, paint and hike the way you have been doing for so long.

  4. The painting is lovely, especially because you captured how beautiful the landscape was even after the fire.
    I hope your dogs and cranes lift your mood…

    • I’m better. I went straight at one of the tasks that’s been weighing on my mind — family photos etc. etc. etc. My cousin’s daughter wants them. 🙂

  5. I have this urge to see my home town again, Martha, and to share it with my husband. I am not sure whether it is to say hello or say goodbye. I wonder if you are also feeling that pull? Bear would make a perfect companion for such a trip. She would be saying, “Martha, we must leave many messages here.”
    A Hansel and Gretel house! Perfect. If I saw your painting in a gallery I would recognise immediately as your Decanso house.

  6. Martha, your house belongs in Narnia. If I were rich I’d totally book that cabin for you. 💛 I pray your shoulder will heal. And I’d love to hike all those miles too. My mind can be such a trap, but I feel content in my little space now. I dream huge of experiences and places~I go only in my mind~as if fear would grip me if I actually went through with it. But the longing is there. Not really for more~but to continue to be amazed. Nothing shocks me anymore. But I long to stand, think, and feel amazed. My Dad was stoic. I am too because of him. “Shake it off!” is what I’ve heard my whole life. Love you, Martha. 💛🤗

    • Oh Karla, that is very sweet. I had a couple of strange days but today? It was a storm that required some necessary action. I took it and today has been as days are supposed to be here in Heaven. It seems there are always those strange, painful, family-related little tasks we don’t want to do and may resent being forced to, but then we do it and it’s an enormous load off. 🙂 Much love from Bear, Teddy and me to you and little Finn. ❤

      • That’s why you’ve been on my heart so much. I had those days too. I’ve had task after task, and squeezed in a library time with kids ages 4-14 (poverty stricken area too), interviewed with a local paper about the book, and went for a fall drive, landing on a small peninsula on the lake. As I walked around I noticed TONS of empty beer bottles, cigarette butts, and American Honey whiskey bottles. Angrily I grabbed a bag from my car and picked them up. As I was leaving a lady motioned for me to roll down my window. “Thank you for doing that. I’m 84 and still a picker upper!” Wow. I told her I plan to be that at 84 too. I had my moments of heaven in just doing what was right. I’m not always right. So it felt like a day I could put in the winner’s column. I’m so glad you had one too! ❤️🥰

        • Here’s one of the things that happened today. I don’t think it will be turned into a post so… ❤

          Little chat with the San Luis Valley..
          On my way to the store, "Let's go Brandon" emblazoned on a giant silo beneath "McCaiin Palin". The general drift of THAT business has always been obvious. So stupid, so absurd. "That really doesn't make you cool," I say mentally to the guy who owns the business. "You just think it does."
          At the store, Destinee — one of my favorite grocery delivery people — comes out. I haven't seen her in a while. I jump out of Bella. Over this past year or so, we've talked about — and joked around about — pretty much everything and touched on a few NOT funny subjects, like her dog and her mom who has not been doing well. We share how we're glad to see each other and how have you been and then I say, "How's your mom?"
          "I'm so proud of her. She got covid and then after that, she decided to go to a sober living center." I got a lump in my throat. Anyone who tries to kick an addiction is my hero.
          "I'm so happy for you. Maybe you'll get your mom back."
          "I gotta' be patient, that's all I can do."
          "I lost my brother to booze, so anyone who tries to get sober is my hero."
          We give each other long looks then air hugs. "Thanks for being so good to me," she says.
          "You're good to me, Destinee." Then I think of what I said in a larger sense and it's totally true. Destiny has been good to me.
          On the return? "Let's Go (pray for) Brandon" on a sign outside a church. A CHURCH? Oh yeah, what was that about separating church and state? How arcane is that? As I drive I think, "These people exist to maintain their clique and piss people off."
          The sainted San Luis Valley whispers, "None of this matters AT ALL to me. Humans come, humans go, so do mammoths, giant sloths and a whole bunch of things."
          And I think once more how much I love this place and WHY.
          At the post office, a very weathered Hispanic farmer, missing many teeth, wearing his thin white hair in a ponytail, jeans, boots, faded work shirt, comes in wearing a Trump 2020 hat, beaten and faded.
          "I'm going to feed everyone who works for it," says my valley. "Remember that."
          "Hi," I say to him, waiting behind me, not six feet away by the marked spot on the floor, but two or three feet, the normal social distance for his culture. His semi-toothless smile is glorious. "Hi," he says his eyes sparkling
          "Do you understand?" says my valley.
          "I get it," I answer. ❤

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