One thing we have plenty of in the San Luis Valley is horizon. It’s one of our best things. Once in a while it gets interrupted by a mountain or trees, but for the most part, anyone looking for a horizon can just turn and look in the other direction and have their horizon needs satisfied. For me, it’s one of the great things about where I live. I like to look at a wide and distant horizon that ends in mountains. It puts my heart at rest and sets my spirit free, corny as that sounds. It’s one of the reasons I like winter. There is a lot less interference from those green bushy things.

I take a lot of photos of the horizon when I’m out rambling with the dogs, usually because the skies here are so amazing (and the ending in mountains thing).



Storm Coming into Town


Driving North from Taos


Rabbitbrush Flats


Early Spring


I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never —”
“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.
Stephen Crane


…and Hell

In other horizontal news, today is the first anniversary of the Women’s March in which so many women wore pink hats resembling cat ears. I have very mixed feelings about it. I have friends marching in their local march, believing their marching will make a statement, a difference. I honestly don’t think it does, will, or could except to themselves and that’s completely respectable to me.


All my best wishes and more power to the pussy hat wearing multitudes, but I’m not joining you.

I remember in the 70’s my best friend was about to join the Woman’s March (a bra burning activity combined with marching on a downtown street). First, she had small breasts, second, she made a lot more money than I did. Burning something that I needed and cost me a day’s work was AGAINST my personal liberation. Third, I thought it was bullshit. “Men” have always known women are around. Some men (in my experience) have regarded women as human beings and equals without even trying to. Some men have viewed women as mental and physical inferiors. Some men regard women as prey. Some men are just assholes.

All of this can be said of women, too. I will now speak that which should not be said, “Sarah Palin.”

I was working at a law firm while all this was going on in the 70s. Back then, when my boss wanted to take me to lunch after I’d done some really good work for him taking telephone depositions of Mafia members, he had an existential meltdown. Should he or shouldn’t he? He was afraid he was being unfaithful to his wife.

That brings me to the essential question of “rights.” Rights can’t be “given” from one person to another. Rights have to be taken. What hampers that process? Ultimately, physical strength. That’s why we have laws to protect the weak.

There have been women managers in my life just as ego-driven and difficult as male managers; I’ve even been hit on by a couple of the women who were my bosses with the implication that if I…, then… Did they “learn” this from men, or is it just the natural outgrowth of physical desire and power?

I don’t know.

Or is this protest simply against the current president? That’s another thing with a big glitch. He truly does not care at all what we do or how we feel about him. I think there’s only one (legal) protest that might make any difference and that is to vote.

Meanwhile, later, I’m going to pursue the horizon.


Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss It!

“Don’t blink. You’ll miss it!” said my dad as we approached the micro-metropolis of Chugwater, WY.

Because I was five years old or so, I was literal minded. I conscientiously kept my eyes open the whole way through the town so I could see every micron of the sainted place. There were a lot of towns like that in my early childhood, the years of crossing Wyoming in a green Ford, with Aunt Martha in the back seat with us sometimes.


Chugwater, Wyoming

In my California life there was one of those towns, too, and driving from my house in Descanso (nearly missed being one of those towns) to the Laguna Mountains, if I had kids in my car I always said, “We’re almost to Guatay! Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!” And, just like my brother and I, the kids in the back seat kept their eyes open and looked at everything. And, like my brother and I, they got the idea that you did not want to miss a single second of the fleeting vista of Guatay, California.


Guatay, Cailifornia


Yesterday on my Quixotic quest I drove through one of these towns, Villa Grove, Colorado. There’s not much there. It has a residual hippy vibe and one of the biggest business signs is “Pottery, 1 Block.” Like a lot of the towns in the American West, it was a railroad town back in the day. There were many narrow gauge trains crossing the mountains and Villa Grove was built by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as the end of the line for the trains crossing the pass from Poncha Springs — probably the same pass more or less that I drove over yesterday. I learned that its original name was Garibaldi. Imagine, Garibaldi, Colorado, a town named for an Italian revolutionary, but why?

I did a little research and there was the beginning of a northern Italian settlement in Poncha Springs around the time the railroad was built. Many of the immigrants found jobs maintaining the tracks.

Non battere le palpebre o ti mancherà!




Garibaldi, Colorado (aka Villa Grove)



So What Happened at the Doctor, Martha?

I had a beautiful 80 mile drive over Poncha Pass to Salida. I found the clinic — easy! Filled out the forms, used the restroom, waited for my turn while reading My Family and Other Animals — the basis for the PBS show, The Durrells in Corfu. I was called by the nurse, a really nice woman named Diana. My vitals were sketchy, as always (terror at the doctor’s office followed by “Oh, good, you’re on blood pressure meds.”) Slightly elevated temp. Doc comes in, a big guy my age, maybe a little older. He doesn’t make eye contact. Then he tells me, “We can’t open the disk with your X-rays. Something wrong with our computer system. We’re still working on it.” That problem didn’t get solved.

He examined me and discovered that my left leg is 1/2 inch shorter than my right. “I think that’s a big problem with your walking,” he said. “You can’t stride with that leg as you can with the right leg. Walk for me again.” It’s true. I HAVE to limp.

“That right there would make walking very tiring for you and cause pain. We can correct leg length discrepancy a little with hip surgery, but not 1/2 inch. That would make your hip stiff.”

Meanwhile they kept trying to open the file with my X-ray.

Since I’ve been through this before, I KNEW what should be happening. He SHOULD have been able to X-ray me THERE. He should talk to me about the procedure (he finally did) and about the posthesis, ideally showing me a model (he didn’t). I learned that procedure he does is not the one I really want. That was a piece of useful information I got from the visit.

SO…I got a book with all the precautions (which I already know) and a direct order to find and go to a dentist (I knew that would be necessary…).

I drove back over the pass — Poncha Pass is fun to drive, lots of curves, a decent incline — I felt happy when I dropped back down into my Holy Valley with the wide golden fields, the pale blue mountains, the enormous sky, the black angus cattle.

Here’s an aerial phot of the pass. In the upper left hand corner, facing, is the San Luis Valley. In the bottom left corner closest to you is Poncha Springs, about 5 miles from my destination today. It’s a really nice pass unless it’s snowing.


I will be shopping for doctors.

Hold On

“Shock brings success. Shock comes-oh, oh! Laughing words -ha, ha! The shock terrifies for a hundred miles and he does not let fall the sacrificial spoon and chalice.” I-Ching, Wilhelm Baynes trans.

I might be a spiritual person, in my way. But mostly I think things are OK in some inscrutable way that I don’t understand, and the biggest mystery is my response to things. A long, long, long time ago in a philosophy class, reading Aristotle, I read this, “Know yourself.” I was taking Greek at the time so I translated it and wrote it on a little slip of paper and taped it to the mirror in the bathroom I shared with my suitemate.

She had no idea. It was a secret message to me. Of course, at 19, I thought I well on the way to self-knowledge.

Ha ha ha ha. I actually DID know some stuff, but a lot of the stuff I had gotten right and forgot over time. OH well.

Sometime after I returned from China, I got an old copy of the I-Ching at a used bookstore. I don’t believe in trying to find out what the future holds. I think it’s dangerous and wrong. I was reading various Chinese novels in which the I-Ching plays an important part. I had also had an experience in China in which the I-Ching had told people not to allow foreigners into their home, a situation that resulted in my friend (with whom I was traveling on Hainan Island) having to find somewhere for she and her husband and me and my husband to sleep. No hotels back then…

In a lot of the books the I-Ching was used to tell the future, but mostly it was used to help someone see more clearly into a situation in which they’re already embroiled. It also had some lovely aphorisms (quoted in the novels), so I became curious. I found it was an amazing tool for developing self-knowledge and gaining instruction in those trapped-bird-in-a-house moments of life. One of my favorite is the Hexagram 43, Break-through. It really lays out the only way good can defeat evil,

“Finally, the best way to fight evil is to make energetic progress in the good.”

Last year sometime, I was reading something that referenced the I-Ching. I thought, “Ha, I’ll do a reading.”

I got 51, Shock, with no moving lines.


I thought, “What shock could there possibly be? I’m settled, finally. My brother’s situation is resolved (that had been a huge source of shock for a long time). I have a place to live and more stability than I’ve ever known. Hmmm….”

I didn’t forget it, though.

The hexagram is the character for thunder on top of the character for thunder. Shock is something drastic that you cannot change, thunder in the ground. Living in Southern California, thunder in the ground (earthquakes) was more common than thunder in the sky! And yes. The only way to deal with them was to enjoy them. Sometimes they were actually fun — like the rolling 7.1 that came up behind my friend and I as we were hiking one Easter afternoon. It was like standing on a rollercoaster that was the earth.

And so over the course of the months following my random I-Ching reading, the shock arrived. The advice in the lines is wise and true. In life’s innumerable shocks, it’s always a good idea to hold the spoon and chalice steady, it’s the only way the feelings of dread can be followed by joy.

As for divining the future? It could be that time does not exist. The featured photo is part of a painting I did several years before I ever saw Monte Vista or imagined returning to Colorado. But anyone who’s visited me here or who lives here, will recognize the scene, though the colors of my painting * aren’t quite true in the photo…

*For painting nerds, the painting is oil on an Ampersand Gessobord




This is one of the wisest things I’ve ever read. It puts things squarely where they belong, and it is sometimes difficult to remember:

“…whatever we nourish in ourselves grows; that is an eternal law of nature. There is an organ of displeasure, of dissatisfaction in us, as there is one of opposition and doubt. The more food we provide for it and the more we practice it, the mightier it becomes until it turns from an organ into a malignant ulcer and banefully eats up its environment, drains and strangles all the good humors of the body. Then repentance, self-reproach and other absurdities are added to it, we become unjust toward others and ourselves. The joy at ones own success and action as well as that of others is lost. In our desperation we finally look for the reason of all evil outside ourselves instead of finding it in our mental perversion. We should see every person and every event in its real light, one should step beyond oneself to be able to return to oneself all the more free.” Goethe quoted by his friend, Friedrich von Muller.”

I’ve been watching the British art historian’s –Waldemar Januszczak — series’ off and on for a couple of years. The most recent one I’ve looked at is Rococo Before Bedtime. I don’t always agree with him when he starts inflicting his taste in art on the viewing public, but as MY taste in art conflicts with the Rococo, I never learned to appreciate it. I never even put it in its place in time. I’ve seen some of it. I got to spend a day at the Nymphenburg Castle in Munich trying to fathom it and what my new acquaintance was telling me. He was a docent from the Haus du Kunst the formerly Hitlerian government art museum building. He didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak any German, and we relied on something loosely resembling French. The architecture was beautiful, the interior ornamentation? I didn’t get it.

And this grossed me out:



Carriage, Nymphenburg Castle


It’s pretty impossible to escape personal taste. The baroque and rococo (the baroque becomes the rococo) churches I’ve visited in Europe are still over-the-top to me. The first one I visted was Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland. Entering that sanctuary for the first time was scary. I’d NEVER been in a place like that — or even in a Catholic church. EVERYTHING was there in a vast 3D illusion — and some actual 3D legs and arms made of stucco (plaster). I felt the full and intended effect, I guess, of what I have now learned the Catholic church wanted me to feel. My friend and I retreated from that place and took a walk in the woods.


Ausschnitt Weihnachtskuppel Einsiedeln

Ceiling, Einsiedeln Abbey


It was interesting to learn, however, that the baroque (which led to the Rococo)  was (in Januszczak’s opinion? Or really?) a church sanctioned art movement that was part of the Counter-Reformation. The Council of Trent had sent out the order? Edict? that Catholic churches should VIVIDLY depict Bible stories on their walls in reaction to the burning of the idols. Einsiedeln is one of the pilgrimage churches and, according to Januszczak, pilgrimages were big during the baroque and rococo. This also made the pilgrimage churches even richer BUT they had to give the pilgrims some bang for their bucks which contributed to their ornateness. I believe that. Churches I’ve visited that were NOT pilgrim churches but were decorated around the same time are still ornate, but not over-the-top, every square inch peopled with saints, angels, madonnas, and various random people in the “audience,” the faces of donors.

I wasn’t even clear on the YEARS that comprise the baroque and rococo, but watching the program I got it. It was much of Goethe’s lifetime. When I realized that I thought of Goethe’s incredible mind that was, literally, everywhere — science, poetry, drama, erotica, government, mining, botany, geology on and on — and realized that the zeitgeist was such that the fecundity and fluidity in the visual arts and music was everywhere, as elaborate and wildly creative as a rococo ceiling.





I imposed a deadline on myself last week, that Monday, yesterday, I would call the surgeon whom I expect to do my hip replacement. Before I felt I could do that, I had to be sure I had a CD with my X-rays on it. One thing that NEVER happened in California was that people would have what you need for you RIGHT now, so I was a little stunned when the radiologist at the hospital in Del Norte (14 miles away) said, “Oh, no problem. We’ll have the CD ready for you in half an hour,” followed by, “Is that soon enough?”

What? I jumped in the shower (ha ha), dressed and went to Del Norte. On the way I was privy to a lovely western scene. A cowboy with a front loader had just dropped a huge bale of hay on the pasture and was breaking it up. About 5 yards to his right, his little herd of Angus steers was strolling over to it for lunch.

I arrived, parked and walked (ha ha) into the hospital. I rang the bell for the radiologist who came out and said, “Martha? Wait here. I have it ready.” She knew it was me, but she checked my ID anyway. I just said, “It’s nice to be carded.” The irony THERE is by carding me I can prove I’m a 66 year old crippled person not that I’m actually 21, in spite of looking 16.

Time was. Fuck it.

She laughed. I appreciate the dark humor of many who work in the medical field.

I hobble/limped back to the car and drove home. There I said to Bear, “There’s one more thing I have to do.” I picked up the phone and she prepared to climb on my lap — her standard thing when I’m talking to someone on the phone. Among Bear’s many traits there is a little vein of envy.

I asked to make an appointment with the doc, got transferred, said my say, and was offered an appointment not in a month or two months or sometime early in 2019, but this coming Friday.

The bells in my brain clanged out the message, again, “You’re not in California any more!”

I’m going to shoot for surgery in June. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is just the simple convenience of getting around in summer vs. winter. Spring is often when we have the heaviest snows and the hospital is over a mountain pass from Monte Vista. Also, I remember what it was like just getting dressed 11 years ago when I had the surgery on my other hip — it was annoying and difficult. In summer? I wear shorts, simple, plain old LL Bean shorts with a drawstring and elastic. Glamor? Maybe if you’re really weird… Putting on shoes and socks after hip replacement is fun, too. There is actually a tool for the socks, but if I don’t absolutely HAVE to wear them, all the better.

With all this arranged, I felt a dark sense of “Fuck it,” and took Bear and Dusty for a walk. It was a lovely afternoon, and we were accompanied briefly by a hawk, flying very low in front of us, looking for carry-out. That almost fixed everything. ❤

Residential Technology

“Where are the loopholes?” asked Sir Bedasteer, looking out the window.

“Loopholes? There’s no need for such a primitive defense.  This castle is a strong fortress with a unique, impregnable design. There are no loopholes.”

“Wait while I go tell the captain..”

The young knight clanked down the hill, the plated armor on his forearms and legs banging against the chain mail. “Damned armor,” he said. “Always like this. Impossible to sneak up on an enemy.”

“Captain, the agent says that the way the castle is built, it doesn’t need loopholes.”

“You purulent idiot,” said the captain, banging Sir Bedasteer on the head with the flat of his sword. “We WANT loopholes. We WANT to be able to shoot out of the damned thing without the enemy being able to shoot back.” The captain, Sir Blinksalot, scanned the face of the castle looking for places to take up a defensive position in the case of attack. “I just see windows. That’s no good. Very vulnerable, windows.”

“Uh, sir, how’s an arrow supposed to reach the windows? I mean, arrows lose velocity pretty quickly when they’re shot straight up,” Sir Bedasteer offered.

“You get right up there and ask the question in a reasonable way.” Sir Bedasteer clanked back up the trail. “Inbred scion of an incestuous whore. Where am I going to get decent knights? Knights who can ask the right questions, follow orders? Understand what I say to them? Holy Mother of God. The plague has taken the best of us,” Sir Blinksalot muttered to himself.

You’re still here,” said a small voice crying from the wilderness. “Give a thought to all those who are not.”

“Good point, my Lord.”

Bedasteer is just a boy. You can’t expect him to know what you know.”

“All right. Let’s not belabor this. I get your point. So, Sir Bedasteer, what’s the story?”

“The agent explained that as the castle backs up to a cliff, no one’s going to attack from THAT side. It has its own well, there, in the middle. It’s possible for the people living in the castle to escape from a well concealed secret exit, a tunnel, that climbs up the back, up the cliff. It has good resources for sustaining itself during a siege. The whole edifice has to be reached by THIS trail, this one little narrow trail, and the agent says that, in the past, they’ve dispatched the enemy by pouring vats of boiling water or oil down the trail.”

“Ah yes.” the captain looked around for evidence of old oil in the dust. “I see that now.”

“If you want my opinion…”

“I don’t.”

What did I tell you?” said the voice.

“Yes, Sir Bedasteer. What do you think?”

“I think it’s a great castle at the price.”

“Why is it empty? Did the agent mention that?”

“Plague, sir.”

“Ah. Have they cleared out the corpses?”


All of a Piece

I have a bunch of books here on my table that I’m not reading and a few more in the background of my laptop I’m also not reading. They are all related to the work in progress, “The Schneebelis Come to America” even though that’s not the real title and I’m still not sure whether, in the book, they will actually arrive.

Writing historical fiction requires a lot of studying, and when you study you learn stuff. When you learn stuff you aren’t the same person anymore. Everything you learn sets you apart from people who haven’t learned the same thing. I kind of think that’s why we send all the kids to schools where they learn a relatively standardized curriculum.

Right now we’re having the hullabaloo about the president calling certain impoverished nations “Shitholes” and wondering why we couldn’t get some immigrants from Norway. I don’t know why, but that flipped a switch in my mind. I became completely disgusted. My disgust stemmed not only from the remark, but from the reactions to the remark, noise from people about how that’s “not the way we treat immigrants in America.” Excuse me, but it IS the way we treat immigrants in America. The immigrants who first settled this continent were ALWAYS afraid that they would be asked to support poor dirty people coming in on boats from some nasty place such as the Alsace or Karlsruhe or Limerick or Trento or Seville…

I know this very well now because the last few years of my life have been spent studying early migration to America. It’s awful, uninspiring and shameful. I’ve read Philadelphia newspapers (thanks Ben Franklin) with published complaints about the “poor dirty people from German-speaking countries who are ruining our colony.” Yep. “Pretty soon the colony will be speaking German!”

Who were those “poor dirty people”? My ancestors. My ancestors were complaining about my ancestors.

But this treatment of immigrants isn’t limited to the New World. People forced to move from one place to another in the “Old Country” faced the same problems, and not just in the dim past. Read Jerzy Kosinski’s Painted Bird.

And, when it comes to geographic “shitholes” it’s hard to beat the beautiful place where I live. Most of the people in the San Luis Valley live at or below the poverty line. As an example, just yesterday a mobile home from the 1970s was posted for sale on Facebook. The asking price was $5500. The place had been remodeled and had many upgrades, but it was still a mobile home from the 70s. The line of interested responses was long, even though the thing had to be moved.

“Does it have wheels?” asked one responder.

“Yes,” said the current owner.

“Will you be home tomorrow?”

You see, the “shitholes” are not defined specifically by the race of the people who live in them — though that’s been the general and mediazed  reaction — but by whether the people there are losers or not. And poor people are losers.

I’m really tired from all this. I woke up very early this morning thinking social media is evil. I wouldn’t know about the “shithole” comment or the mobile home or people’s reactions to every stupid thing that happens in DC if I were not on social media. At 4 am I woke up realizing that I don’t need to know. I’m supposed to be an artist, a writer, but I’m not creating anything. It’s too easy (and I think quite natural) to be sucked into the vortex and I’m no good to anyone there. I can’t wave a magic wand and give us a decent president. I can’t suddenly transform a 1970s mobile home into a new one. Some days I can barely walk.



Dude and Lamont Plan a Barbecue

“Hey Lamont. I think we should do more entertaining, you know?”

“I can see entertaining some ideas. Is that what you have in mind?”

“Your puns are not entertaining.”

“Yeah, they are. Anyway, where did this idea come from?”

“Did you see the girls who moved in next door? Just last weekend? HOTTIES.”

“You’re just determined to do that, aren’t you, the old ‘biological imperative.’ You know where it ends.”

“Yeah, but in the meantime it’s a lot of fun.”

“Uh, no it isn’t.”

“Whatever. I’ve invited them over for a barbecue later. I’ve told them all about you.”

“They haven’t lived here long enough for you to manage that.”

“Just one thing, Lamont. Don’t go talking about the old days, any of them. It really freaks women out when you start lamenting your lost life as an oak tree or reminiscing about the glory days of being a T Rex.

“I liked being an oak tree and it was glorious being a T Rex. You can’t deny it.”

“I wasn’t a T Rex, Lamont, if you recall. You ate me in that iteration. It’s NOT my favorite. Besides, a lot of people don’t get it. They don’t remember. So what do you say? Carne Asada? Burgers and hotdogs?”

“Maybe they’re vegetarians, Dude. You ought to find out.”

“Whoa. Then what?”

“We grill them.”



Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.


Doors of Obfuscation

Our life’s dreams are often slow to realize and some of them are simply strange, like my dream of someday having a LOT of dogs. That was a dream I had as a kid and tried to realize as a teenager with a big red dog I brought home. The moment wasn’t right. It was not the right age/time of my life to begin my dog pack, so the dream didn’t come true. I forgot all about it for a long time, so long that when it DID come true. and I remembered it, I was in my 40s. All I could do was laugh.

But some night dreams are scary/important. I think we do work things out in sleep, some hidden conundrums — some very old ones — can work their way up the levels of our unconscious mind and teach us things using strange but perfect symbolism.

When my little brother was 10 we were visiting my Aunt Martha in Denver. She lived in a late 1950’s three story apartment next to Cheeseman Park. Now the building is condos and they sell for quite a lot of money ($213,500), but back in 1963 it was just a small, 600 sq ft, one bedroom apartment in a great location. My aunt lived on the first floor but elevated. The basement apartments had big windows so the first floor was pretty far off the ground. It had a “lanai” and to get to the lanai you went through a sliding glass door.


The actual apartment! Thanks Zillow!

I don’t know if sliding glass doors were newish back then or that we just hadn’t had much exposure to them, but my brother walked through it. He could have been badly hurt, but all that happened was a cut on his thumb that didn’t even need stitches.

The other night I dreamed I walked into a room and my brother was there sleeping. There was a sliding glass door hanging off the rails. I was so afraid my brother would be hurt, or someone would come in and hurt him, that I began fussing with it to get it to close. When I got there I found DOZENS of attempts at repairing that door and NONE of them worked. I discarded one after the other — some made with wood and chicken wire, some with wire reinforced glass. I could NEVER get the door to close; I could NEVER make my brother safe.

In my dream, my brother slept through my Herculean efforts on behalf of his safety. He never knew. He was completely undisturbed. Then a voice in my dream said, “You have to go. You’ve done everything you could.”

Behind everything else in the dream was the fact that my brother had chosen to sleep in that room, in that bed. A very obvious cliché right there.

I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s reached the point of walking away from a beloved family member (my brother was a hardcore alcoholic) who is an addict feels conflicted, maybe forever. In my dream I answered that statement with, “What about this door?”