A little snow in the back of beyond, but enough to make me happy and plan a walk with Bear later when people are eating their turkey dinners and watching football.
Yesterday, having had so much fun painting little trees the day before, I got up and rather than spending my morning attempting to write the novel that is still pretty vague to me, I went right to the “play room” and starting painting.
It confused Bear. I’m supposed to be here, in this chair, typing on this keyboard and drinking coffee. She hates change. I imagine all livestock guardian dogs hate change, change meaning, “Something’s wrong!!! OMG! Is it a bear? Is it a cougar? Is it TEDDY!!!!!?“
Twenty years ago yesterday, Molly, my Malamute/Aussie mix, and I took off from San Diego to go to Denver to spend Thanksgiving with my Aunt Martha. We got to Cedar City, to a Super 8 I think. It was dark, cold, beginning to snow. We were BLISSFUL. We both loved snow and we liked traveling.
We also liked Colonel Chicken (only on road trips) so we went through the drive thru and shared it in our room. Molly got some white meat, no skin. After eating, we both wanted a walk in the snow, so we wandered around town, finding Southern Utah University with its Old Globe style theater and a little monument to great thinkers, statues, of philosophers, scientists and poets.
The snow continued to fall in wet, fat flakes and we were happy. We walked back to the motel, went to sleep and the next morning learned that the Eisenhower Tunnel — which is on I-70 between us and Denver — was closed due to an immense dump of snow. No idea when it would be opened. We had planned — well, I had planned since Molly was a dog — to get to Denver that day, Tuesday, turning south at Frisco/Dillon Lake, going over the mountains on the 24, and stopping in Colorado Springs to see my brother. That wasn’t going to happen.
We headed south through Zion then dropped down through Monument Valley and hit the 40 toward Albuquerque. It was a breathtaking, beautiful drive. We spent the night at Albuquerque then headed to Denver the next day. I stopped to see my brother, my niece and her grandmother with whom my brother was then living. Then I got to Denver.
My Aunt Martha and I had the most wonderful time together. When I got to her place, she was all ready to cook her favorite dinner — T-bone steaks, fried potatoes and onions, and salad. We ate and stayed up late talking. It was a conversation I feel privileged to have aged into. My aunt talked candidly about her life as a single professional woman, not about work, but about her life. That conversation was a huge gift to me. The next day she sent me shopping with $50 (why?) and I bought a sweater I never liked but kept because she bought it for me. We had Thanksgiving dinner in a Swiss restaurant. I don’t know why but that’s what we did. It was good, but most of all, we enjoyed ourselves; we enjoyed each other.
My aunt had a beautiful cat named Amiga, and I had brought this big dog. We didn’t know what would happen when we were gone, but we were sure Amiga would take care of herself, even if it meant climbing to the top of a closet. When we got home, Amiga was sleeping on my bed with one paw hanging over the side, resting on Molly who slept on the floor beside her.
The next day I went back to the Springs to spend a little time with my brother, but returned to Denver for the night. When I left on Friday I didn’t imagine that would be the last time I visited my Aunt Martha at her house, a house we’d picked out together.
I also never imagined that in the ten years between 1999 and 2010 when I next returned to Colorado that Colorado would have changed so dramatically, that Denver would have grown like a MF. In 1999, I drove home on I-70. It was still the relatively uncrowded four-lane highway I’d always known with the large, friendly rest stops with their hiking trails along the rivers and shady spots for picnics. Molly and I probably hiked three miles at rest-stops that trip, still made good time, and spent the night in St. George
All this hit me today when I was driving to the museum in Del Norte. We’re not always conscious of the passing of time and at first I thought, “It’s been ten years!” and then my brain said, “No, idiot. It’s been TWENTY years. Aunt Martha died eleven years ago.”
On my way to Denver from Albuquerque on that journey, dropping down the hill from Trinidad, this song came on Mohammed’s Radio. It’s amazing how resonant it is tonight. I am so grateful for every moment of that journey. I’d relive it if that were possible, but the important thing is that I DID live it.
The featured photo is my Aunt Martha and me Christmas Eve 1964
P.S. I guess a blogging break means you get three at one time. 😀
I got the idea of doing tiny paintings as Christmas ornaments from Chris Mallaband-Brown who did many lovely ones to sell at a craft show. Her’s are far more sophisticated than mine. They’re very tiny — 2 x 3 inches (in metric more-or-less 4 cm x 6 cm) so there’s not a lot of space for, you know, a story painting.
I shared them on Facebook and an artist friend said, “You should sell them at the museum” so I contacted the museum and they said, “Absolutely!” So now I’m a famous painter. They all have a bit of glitter but it doesn’t show in the photos. The trees are the biggest hit so far (which is why there are so many — two of them are already sold).
I hope to have 12 I can take on Friday with some kind of display that I have yet to figure out. Ideas welcome. It has to be cheap, simple and homemade. I thought of getting a tumbleweed and sticking it in some clay and hanging them from the “branches.”
Here’s what I came up with for the museum about my mom’s moccasins. They are made of deer hide, not thick and not warm, kind of like leather gloves for the feet, but (and I’ve worn them) very comfortable. 🙂
These beautiful moccasins with wild rose beadwork were made for Helen Tibbs Beall when she was teaching at the elementary school in Crow Agency, in South Central Montana, not far from Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The woman who made them was Florence Real-Bird, the mother of one of Helen’s students and Helen’s friend..
Helen was born on a farm near Hardin, Montana in 1920. She had nine siblings, three brothers and six sisters. She was the eighth child of Sherman Beall and Emma Harriet Tibbs who settled in Belfry, Montana in 1914. Helen was baptized in the Little Bighorn River by Reverend Chester A. (Chet) Bentley who spent most of his life as a minister to the Crow Indians at the Crow Baptist Mission.
Helen attended what was then the Normal School of Eastern Montana State College. Her teacher training consisted of a year of coursework, a year of teaching, a year of coursework, a year of teaching and so on until she graduated.
Her first school was Warman School, a one room school on Warman Creek between Crow Agency and Fort Smith. Helen ended her teaching duties on the Crow Reservation at the elementary school at Crow Agency. She graduated with her teaching credential in 1947.
Soon after marrying, Helen and her husband, William B. Kennedy, moved to Denver where Bill attended the University of Denver, earning a Masters Degree in Mathematics. Helen continued to teach in the Englewood, Colorado school district until the birth of her daughter in 1952.
More news like stuff…
My injured foot is a lot better, but not quite well. I injured it on September 20, but reinjured it on October 24 so I don’t know exactly if I should be measuring its recovering from September or October, but I guess it’s really up to my foot… I’m still wearing a brace, still using a cane when I walk the dogs, still walking awkwardly, but it doesn’t hurt unless I stand on it too long, and even then it’s not the searing pain it was at the beginning.
Bear and Teddy have adjusted to not getting daily walks. I think that’s a good thing. Bear and I have been out a few times — last time to Shriver/Wright on a blustery gray perfect November day. We both had a wonderful time. From Bear’s perspective there were a lot of new and fascinating things to smell. From my perspective the snow flurries and cold breeze were refreshing. We were happy to be out there together. I learned my lesson about walking them together, for now… Mostly they play in the yard like two hellions — Teddy essentially FLIES when he starts chasing Bear around. Bear doesn’t move much at all. She just lets him go nuts then ambushes him when she feels like it. They like to roughhouse in the living room and I should mind, but I don’t. I just clean it every day…
That’s the news from the Back of Beyond for Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Checking in — as the title tells you, there’s not much news here in the Back of Beyond which is why it’s the Back of Beyond and why I live here. I’ve been attempting to work on the slo-mo novel in progress and prepare for the little event on December 7.
The one VERY cool thing that’s happened is an argument FOR the Internet. I was prepping for my gig in two weeks and, in the process, looked up a book I stole back in 1981, China Changed My Mind. Wanted to know more about it, I googled it and to my immense surprise it has a website put up by the stepson of the author. The book tells the experiences of a young Welshman who, believing he was a conscientious objector, joined the Friend’s Ambulance Convoy and drove medical supplies from Chongqing to the Burma Road. The book was (obviously) memorable. The website has several hours of recordings of this author being interviewed for the Imperial War Museum. So here I am, in 2019, listening to this man’s voice. I contacted the website owner and we’ve been corresponding a little. Pretty amazing.
So far the show at the museum has drawn people in. I haven’t sold any books, but I’ve sold ten packs (I think) of notecards. The packs of cards are left over from the “olden days” when I was participating in an artists’ co-op (RIP). I’m selling them at cost, $5/pack, so I’m not really making money, but the money I invested in them was gone long ago so it kind of feels like I’m making a little something.
It’s made me think, again, about making money through my creative ability. I’ve never made money from writing. I have made money from painting. Is that a message?
I also talked to the museum director about my mother’s moccasins. My mom was a teacher on the Crow Indian reservation in Montana back in the 1940s. The mother of one of her students made her a pair of moccasins. Because “the future is uncertain and death is always near” I have wanted the moccasins to be somewhere where they would be appreciated and cared for. The Rio Grande County Museum will take them and their story. I’ve also contacted the Bighorn County Museum in Montana where the moccasins most properly belong. If they want them, they get “first dibs.” If not, I’ll be very happy to have them nearby.
That’s my news. I’ve kind of been reading posts from time to time. I don’t know if I will ever go back to blogging every day, but who knows.
OH — this guy’s album has been nominated for a Grammy. It’s not my kind of music, and this song doesn’t seem to say much, and the words are unintelligible, but this beautiful video shows you the San Luis Valley, Heaven, where I get to live every day.
Among the things going on, I will be doing another reading, this time at the Rio Grande County Museum in Del Norte as part of their holiday celebration. The event runs from now until December 21. All the other participants are artists — most were members of the now defunct artist co-op which some of you might remember as having been, for me, a very mixed experience.
I took my stuff yesterday — all books, except a few notecards left over from the erstwhile co-op. My books are on top of a beautiful cherry-wood Victorian piano. The museum is a historical museum that has saved many things from the “old days” in the San Luis Valley — that says a lot, really, since the “old days” here go back to the Spanish conquistadores, not to mention the Navajo and Ute tribes. It’s a fascinating little museum, and I’ve learned a lot from looking at the exhibits.
Once I had my books on the piano and the poster from the Baby Duck reading set up, the exhibit looked kind of bare, so I went home and made a poster for the historical novels. It’s not as finished as the Baby Duck project, but I didn’t have weeks. I had hours. But, it’s all there now.
I was very low on supplies — even spray glue — and didn’t have time to drive to Alamosa to bigger stores with better choices. I was stuck with our little Safeway which was even almost out of tissue paper. But… I realized from making these two poster how my brain goes first to electronic presentations because that was my “thing” for so many years. I have not had to make posters for anything since my 8th grade science project on the Geological History of the Tetons. That went extremely well, by the way. I got an award from the National Geological Society and some oil and gas company. But seriously; 8th grade? I was 13…
The big open-house opening is tomorrow and I’m going with a couple of friends. “My” day is December 7, and as it is Pearl Harbor day, and there are a LOT of veterans here (one of the oldest retirement homes for veterans is near where I walk the dogs; it was built to house Civil War veterans) I decided to read the sections from Baby Duck that talk about the alliance between the US Army and China to fight the Japanese, notably on Hainan Island, and the numerous Chinese veterans I met. In those stories is a Christmas story and I’ll end the reading with that.
I’m looking forward to it very much — much less prep work for me as the museum is catering the event, not me.
The question this morning is watch or don’t watch the impeachment hearings. I tuned in for 30 seconds and watched Devin Nunes make several sweeping comments of blistering inaccuracy, the usual, that the Mueller investigation was a hoax, yada yada, climaxing (for me) in the statement that the Democrats are investigating Republican collusion with Ukraine.
Here we go. I tuned in because on my Twitter feed some guy complained that the hearings had been embellished with theme song and fancy graphics. I had to see that, remembering (as I do) the first Gulf War for which a theme song was written. I didn’t see that (watching PBS) but I believe it. Looking for a graphic for this post, I found one graphic (see featured image) that confirms what the guy wrote.
Blogging. A couple of days ago I realized that I have been spending my morning hours on this and I began to wonder if that was what I really wanted to do. I’m still not sure. I have more than a thousand posts here and several hundred more on Blogger from the “old days.” I love my “neighborhood” here, but I feel I might be at a crossroads about what I want to do with these precious morning hours and the coffee…Oh the coffee.
So, if you don’t see me for a while (or?) I’m fine, and all is going well (so far). Just taking a break.
After getting punched by a dirt road yesterday, I seem to have awoken to this shining day not much worse for wear. Roads appear to be, overall, inert, passive, and mostly helpful, but you never know when you might suddenly find yourself road wrestling. All you can do is hope for the best. I suggest you think twice before sending someone that famous Irish blessing about the road rising to meet you. It might not work out like you want it too. My poor judgment yesterday seems to have left me none the worse for wear.
A couple of nights ago I dreamed about a man who was in my life back in 1981/82. It might have been meant to be a great love story, but the timing was wrong. In a vague way, I was looking for something. I didn’t really know what, but it wasn’t love. I thought I was looking for the world, for adventure, for a reason for my life. He, having had the world and having had adventure, in which he’d found the reason for his life, was looking for a wife and family.
Then, too, like most of the men who’ve been in my life, he was pretty inarticulate. Of course, at the time, I thought I was articulate, but I wasn’t. I was at least as inarticulate as any of them. We groped toward each other, but I think we knew (partly from the words we actually managed to exchange) that we were ships passing in the night. He was a wonderful man, really everything I could have wanted if I’d wanted a life partner. But I felt that my horrible first marriage had stolen 6 years of my life. I was focused on what I’d missed out on, even without knowing what that was. And, I was always ambivalent (to say the least) about having children.
It seemed that the dream was about making amends. Sometimes we hurt people inadvertently in our rush to get on with our lives. Because the dream was filled with a very broken house we’d bought (??? don’t ask me. It was a dream) and various other dream-driven quotidian crises, the opportunity to talk never arose. I woke up thinking I should tell him things.
But what? I thought about that yesterday. I doubt I’m going to hunt him down for the purpose of telling him whatever things my dream told me I should, but I realized how much I got from knowing him. At the time we met, I was recently divorced, an escape from an abusive marriage that left me afraid of men. I was also nearing the end of a relationship with a gay guy who was also my best friend and, possibly, my life’s great love. My life was interesting, but it didn’t feel real; it didn’t feel like it belonged to me. Something about it was off but I had no idea what. I was lost. I was struggling to make my life right, but I didn’t know how.
I’d heard of this man — he was a college friend of my boss — and even read one of his letters, sent from India. In the letter he wrote about how he’d finished his expedition up Annapurna II on which he was a support climber. He was wandering through northern India and probably on his way back to the US soon. He sent my boss a breathtaking photo (he was a professional photographer and filmmaker) of a snowy high mountain trail with a single line of footprints. It evoked a dream I’d had and, for that reason, was kind of eerie.
A few months later he showed up in the office. No man had ever affected me like he did. From our first meeting, I’d have followed him anywhere. He was beautiful, graceful as a cat, soft-spoken. We began a correspondence and, months later, I went to visit him in Albuquerque. It was a strange visit — but during that trip, he showed me photos and books of the places he’d traveled, snowy mountains, long walks, trails, far away towns filled with faces that usually looked out at me from National Geographic Magazine. He was in the process of applying for med school and when I asked him why, he actually thought about the question then, answered, “Inspiration, I guess.”
I doubt it was his intention, but he confirmed and intensified my wanderlust, turning it from mere yearning into determination. He’d also decided from the (innumerable) letters I’d written him (a pile that he called “the archive”) that I was a writer. He was the first person (other than my dad) who said to me, “You’re a writer.” When I left his house the next day (yeah) after we had gone to the balloon festival, I was a lot less lost. I knew I was a writer, and, the next morning I immediately sat down and began writing seriously. I also knew that without mountains and trails, some kind of exploration, my life was empty.
Not all that long ago a former student (10 years younger and a friend) wrote me some long, passionate, love letters. Where they came from I had no idea. I found them confusing, but lately I’ve realized that he means that our time together (hiking, talking) inspired him to do most of the things he’s done in his life. He, too, is a world-class mountaineer. He’s written three books about his life and adventures. I’ve read bits and pieces of them (it’s difficult reading Italian). He put the credit for all his adventures on me, on the things we did together long ago, on the fact that we’re still in contact. Then I came to understand that what he meant was not “I love you,” but “You inspired me.” I wonder if our lives are not a chain of that, if we’re lucky, we are inspired by others and inspire others in turn?
Today I took both dogs on a fool’s errand. Teddy hasn’t been on a walk in two months; Bear got a little something Wednesday. I didn’t want to take them both, but they were so EXCITED this afternoon. I think Bear told Teddy, “She took me. I’m sure she’ll take us both next time.” When I brought Bear home Wednesday, it was clear she’d missed Teddy. I felt kind of bad.
So, today, hoping to find a solitary trail somewhere, I put both dogs in Bella. I thought first of the golf course. Because I still can’t walk far, Wednesday I drove to the club house (yeah, I know it’s a block and a half away) from which Bear and I could go straight out to the good stuff, the Big Empty beyond the driving range.
If you’re not familiar with this blog, you might have a different picture of my golf course than the reality. One of the rules of the course is “Don’t let your livestock loose on the greens.” It opens onto a small slough and miles of fields and emptiness, cattle, foxes, deer, elk, moose and an elusive (thank goodness) black bear (who’s brown…) Bobcats and mountain lions also appear from time to time on the cameras people have in their back yards that face the golf course. Late fall is the transition time when the animals and I reclaim the golf course, though, in fact, the golfers don’t mind me at all. We’ve been sharing those acres for five years now. I just make it my rule not to take my dogs if it will interfere with their fun. They’ve been known to let us “play through” so to speak, on our way out to the fields.
But, I could see there were several guys playing golf today (58 F/13 C). No one cares about winter grass and autumn leaves. They’ll play in an inch or two of snow (I love them for that). I drove out of town to the wildlife areas and found fishermen and hunters at Shriver/Wright. It’s hunting season. Bear will wear her hunting vest out there anyway. A dad and his son waved and said “Hi!’ to me. I’ve really missed the little neighborhood of people who hang around out there. Across the street, there were cattle all over Rio Grande Wildlife area which meant Teddy (Australian Shepherd) was NOT going there. Bear is calm and we walk past the herds in vigilant tranquility. The Park and Rec guys put electric fences where they DON’T want the cattle to be, so people have the trails, for the most part. But Teddy has a very powerful herding instinct, so all that remained was the lake and YAY! NO ONE WAS THERE!!! I parked where I would get a mile RT. That’s my walking limit right now.
We walked, slowly, and I used my cane. Teddy was attached to the waist belt by his bungee leash. Bear was on her usual leash and head harness. All went well until, as we were returning to Bella (my Jeep), a lady with a little terrier approached from the rear. Teddy barked at the terrier, the terrier barked back. All hell broke loose. I tried to hold onto Bear but she’s 75 pounds of livestock guardian dog, and I ended up being pulled down and dragged across the dirt road until I let go. Bear, of course, went for the terrier who was barking menacingly (naturally). For Bear, it was only three long steps. She didn’t even hurry. The owner was yelling “No! No!” terrified for her dog whom, it looked like, Bear was trying to kill. I was glad Teddy was fastened to me. I apologized and apologized from my position on the ground and wondered how I could get up.
But I did.
When Bear was finished disciplining the terrier, she wanted to meet the lady and be nice to the dog (who was in the lady’s arms). There were no injuries, of course. But the lady wasn’t having it (nor would I). Bear just stood calmly, smelling the ground by the lake, and, to my immense relief, she waited for me to come and get her. I was — and am — so sorry. I’m sure the lady was terrified.
I need a sign on Bear that says, “If your dog barks, Bear will attack your dog.” I just try to avoid people. I don’t think Bear would hurt any dog unless the dog hurt me (or her), but I can’t say that to anyone because I don’t really know. I certainly can’t answer for anyone else’s dog. The times Bear was attacked really changed her attitude about dogs when she’s leashed and with me.
Finally the lady said, “I’ll go the other way.” I would have, but it would have meant another mile around the lake on uneven ground. I would never have made it.
BUT the foot wasn’t re-injured, though it is a little more sore than it has been, and all seems to be well.
I just have two dogs who are instinct driven. When Teddy caught sight (or whiff?) of the cattle, he was all about it, standing on two legs to see them over the weeds and the irrigation canal. Then a car went by way too fast and Teddy was ready to chase it. No one ever said an Australian shepherd, like Teddy, is an easy dog to live with especially in the first two years of their lives.
Bear is a livestock guardian dog. Normally, they’re not house dogs or pets at all. They’re out there in the back of beyond working in complete independence caring for numerous goats or sheep, sometimes cattle, as have their forefathers and mothers for millennia. She might sit, stay, down, come under normal circumstances, but not when she believes she’s working.
So, will have to walk them one at a time for a while unless we’re alone at the golf course, I guess. I was stupid to take them both out.