Fire!

About two weeks ago I was driving over this road in happy anticipation of bringing home Dusty and Bear. I’m in no danger from this fire. It’s more than 80 miles to the east up in the Sangre de Cristo mountains and I’m not heading that way.

We had a very dry and warm winter, and as I headed over the pass I thought, “Wow, it’s so dry this year, the grass didn’t even turn green.” It all looked like tinder to me. Fire is part of nature’s usual occupation, but the size and frequency of these wildfires has increased since the 1980s and I don’t really give a rat’s ass whether you “believe” in climate change or not. To me, these fires are proof. The other side of that proof is that it snows less and hurricanes are more vicious. Whether humankind “caused” this is perhaps a debatable issue, and I know that there have been major climate variations throughout history, but I also believe that we should do whatever we can to mitigate any effect we MAY have had. Scientists generally agree that humans have affected the change in the climate and I am proud to be in a place where there’s a direct effort made to generate energy from sources other than coal and gas.

We are not all living in the same historical moment but I guess that’s always been the case with humanity.

The somewhat up-to-date statistics on this fire are:

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Last year Montana, California and Washington were burning. This year is our turn. The terrain is very rugged (it’s the Rocky Mountains) and bark beetles (who LOVE drought) have killed a lot of pine trees over the past decade, so there is lots of dead wood up there for the fire to enjoy.

My feelings about fire are mixed. I have been through one — in 2003 I was living in a small mountain town in California when what is now the second largest fire hit. I was evacuated from my house for ten days. The fire was not completely out for more than three months and it burned the southernmost rain forest in North America. By the time the fire was fully contained, it had destroyed 2,820 buildings (including 2,232 homes) and killed 15 people, including one firefighter. We were traumatized — naturally — and the other night when the smoke from the Spring Fire wafted in this direction, I woke up suddenly, my heart pounding. I could almost hear the sheriff as I had heard him that night in 2003, “You must all evacuate to Mountain Empire High School. Good luck.”

In many circumstances, “Good luck” are two of the grimmest words in the English language. If all you have to count on is luck, you’re fucked.

Because I lived in those mountains, I got to see what happened next. It was fascinating to watch the resurrection of that wild world with plants that had little opportunity with the tall trees keeping them from the sun — chokecherries, wild lilac, and, naturally, the very beautiful fireweed thrived in the fertile ground left by ash. Some seeds need fire in order to germinate (redwood trees, for example). As I hiked around I thought about fire and nature — it’s not fire that’s the problem. Fire’s necessary — the problem is the SCALE. I wasn’t the only person who had this idea, I guess, because in the ensuing decade when I still lived there, firefighters routinely and carefully burned small fires to cut down on the underbrush and make it more difficult for another massive fire to blast through another several hundred thousand acres.

Did it work? Not really. Last year an even larger fire hit California along with several other very large fires.

Another fire currently burning in Colorado, in the area of Durango, has been burning for nearly a month and firefighters don’t believe it will be extinguished until the snow falls.

So that’s where I’ve been for the last five days — no internet, no phone, did learn about free internet at the local park and made some use of that. A very pleasant experience, too, sitting on a bench watching people walk their dogs. I can’t take mine there (it’s boring anyway) but it was sweet to see all the people doing their laps on the little track (3/4 mile) and to hear and see the family picnics.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/rdp-34-resurrect/

 

I HATE It

Once upon a time, four 1/2 years ago, when I first moved here, I looked at the yard and thought, “Wow. All I have to do is mow it!” I’d been living on a 1/4 acre of rock riddled land in the Cuyamaca Mountains of California and to cut the weeds/foxtails, I had to use a weed-eater. My new, green Colorado lawn seemed like Heaven well, in Heaven.

I’d forgotten. Twenty years before I’d had a lawn. I’d even planted the damned¬†thing with seed! and then we got a lawn mower and I mowed it and I…

hated it. Hated that job. Looking at the emerald splendor of my new Colorado lawn, I forgot all about that until the first time I hitched up my (electric) mower and went at my front yard. Strong feelings of hating it rose to the surface, and as I criss-crossed the relatively small surface I yelled, “I hate this. I HATE it. I HATE IT.”

I gotta’ get out there before it gets too hot which is tomorrow when it’s supposed to hit 90.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/25/ragtag-prompt-25-precedent/

Dreams DO Come True

Yesterday I drove to Colorado Springs and checked into my beautiful B&B — the Crescent Lily Inn. This is my “summer vacation” so to speak. It’s beautiful. Colorado Springs has many gorgeous Victorian homes and when I was a kid I dreamed of living in one someday when I grew up — well, I get to live in one for two nights. My room even has a four poster bed, another thing I dreamed of as a little kid.

If you just wait long enough and have a couple hundred bucks your dreams might come true.

 

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Of course there’s my reacher and computer case because it’s NOT the 19th century…

Along with the fufillment of childhood dreams, comes breakfast. ūüôā

Today’s the big day when I go see my surgeon for my 6 week exam. I’m going to make his life easy and mine less embarrassing by just wearing shorts. Sure, my legs look like proof of the evolution of humans from apes, but I was able to mitigate that to a limited extent yesterday by using a rubber band to fasten my razor to the end of my shower brush, again setting the humans apart from other animals (except ravens) as the masters of tools. And considering that THAT man has seen me start naked, unconscious, and cut open, really what’s there to hide?

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/rdp-20-check/

 

PT Poetry

“Did I tell you about my skis?”

“No. Here, now do some bridges, engage that core and keep squeezing the basketball between your knees.”

“That’s four things!”

“You can do it, Martha. The anesthesia is about gone by now. Your brain can maybe manage it.”

I laughed.

“Now what about your skis?”

“Oh I was at that flea market on the 285 with some friends. We went into the back room part there and I was looking around and there was a pair of skis exactly like the ones I had when I moved to California from Colorado in the 80s. Back country skis.”

“They called to you, didn’t they?”

“They did. My friends looked at me with pity, so I just put them back, but later on, I went back by myself. I looked them over, and the left one, you know like this?” I pointed to my recently repaired hip, “it’s pretty badly delaminated. That’s why I bought them. They are like me.”

“Like you were delaminated.”

“Yeah.”

“So it just needs to be fixed, some epoxy, stuff.”

“Yeah.”

“Did you get it repaired yet?”

“No. I’m waiting until…”

“I’ll fix them for you.”

“You fix skis?”

“Yeah. I’m a ski guy.”

I kept bridging, “The tips are kind of messed up, too.”

“Probably need a rivet.”

“Yeah.” Then he handed me a Theraband. “OK now very gently move your knees outward. Not too far. All we’re doing is teaching that new joint how it works.”

“You see the poetry in that?” I knew he would.

“Your left hip and your left ski?”

“Yeah, but you’re helping me learn to walk well again and make this new joint work so I can do what I want and you’re fixing my skis.”

I told him about my plans to hike the San Franscisco Creek Trail, too. Around here people call it “Frisco Creek” but I can’t do that. No one in California calls San Francisco “Frisco” — it seems like an abomination. I’ll get over it, maybe, but I kind of like St. Francis.

 

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San Francisco Creek Trail (upper part)

 

“Maybe next year,” he said.

“Yeah but…”

“You can do the lower part, though.”

“I’m thinking November to give it a try.”

“That’ll be possible, a couple of miles, I think. It’s kind of like this,” he moved his hand to show up hill and down hill. “But nothing too steep those first couple of miles. You’ll be able to do that.”

“I’m good with it taking time. When I first lived in California I was in terrible shape. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, how to live there, then I found a place. At first — well it was me and a five-month old puppy — I could only go half a mile. But then, I kept going and, yeah. I love that. I love the whole thing of becoming better at something, able to go farther, being stronger. Anyway, however long it takes, at the top is an alpine lake and some peaks.”

“We’ll get you there,” he said.

And I believe him.

Life’s Topo Map, Bastion of Hope

 

I’m not a bastion of anything. Not a bastion of virtue. Not a bastion of values. Not a bastion of tradition. I have friends who think I’m “passive” (so not the case) and others who think I’m easy going (also not the case). I have boundaries as most of us do, they’re just not in places where anyone is likely to fall over them. I’ve also learned that REAL boundaries are not subjects of conversation. Open your mouth to someone about your boundaries and negotiation begins. My boundaries — like those of any well built medieval castle — are not negotiable. Have at them with your catapults and battering rams if you must, but the little person inside has probably escaped through the back staircase up the cliff.

People have to go through their shit. Me too. At the moment, some of my dear friends are confronting inter-personal cataclysms in their lives. For now, I am blessed with the absolute clarity and simplicity of recovering from hip surgery. I know what my job is and how to do it. My list of priorities is comprehensible, elegant and  beautiful.

There’s a left turn in the town of Del Norte that leads up a road to an alpine forest and hiking trails. “Just turn left at the car wash and keep going to the turnout/parking lot,” ¬†explained my physical therapist a few months ago. I checked it out and found a six mile one-way trail.

The trail leads to an alpine lake and a mountain. It will be my first mountain hike since I moved here four years ago. We will attempt it on the third anniversary of Bear coming to live with us, July 30. We’ll arm ourselves against ticks, carry our bear spray (will we need it? doubtful…) I’m sure we won’t go very far that first day, but that’s OK. Among the lessons I’ve learned in my life are how to get better at something, how to go farther, and how to appreciate the wonder of the expansion of my powers and my vision. When will we actually get there? Who knows. I don’t, but I look forward to the clarity of a mountain trail, every bit as sweet and hopeful as my efforts now to regain the ability to walk.

I am being driven forward Into an unknown land.

The pass grows steeper
The air colder and sharper
A wind from my unknown goal
Stirs the strings of expectation.

Still the question
Shall I ever get there?
Where life resounds
A clear pure note in the silence.

Dag Hammarskjöld

 

 

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/prompt-11-bastion/

This is NOT the Sexy Part of Colorado

In my 20s, I hung out in the sexy parts of Colorado fairly often. I would say that Aspen is the sexiest of the sexy. I had a good friend who’s parents owned a condo at the bottom of Little Nell (a ski lift). These excursions were usually in the summer when, back in the 70s, the population was less glamorous than during ski season. It was nothing for us to drive up there from Denver for the weekend. I spent a lot of time with them. The sexiest parts were getting dolled up (“Take off your glasses Martha!” “But Bess, if I do that I can’t see!” “You don’t have to see. You have to be SEEN!!!”) ¬†to dance and drink at the Red Onion.

People don’t think of it this way, but Aspen is surrounded by legit Colorado and on those summer nights, if I took I took my Jack Daniels outside the Red Onion for a little fresh air and break from the noise and sat down at one of the tables set up on the sidewalk, I was likely to share the space with a cowboy and his beer.

I spent some winter times there, too, skiing at Snowmass with my boyfriend’s parents and watching women in restaurants drop their fur jackets on the floor beside their chairs. There were also lines of cocaine (it was the 70s, and I was young) that left me wondering if I’d ever sleep again and why anyone found that fun at all (I didn’t). In the swirling 70s mystique cocaine in Aspen was part of the sexiness. I even happened to be at my friend’s apartment when a scary ragabash showed up with a bag of uncut coke. My friend — a young, talented Aspen architect — bought it, we snorted some. I was “up” for three miserable nights and days, hating every minute of it, and that was the end of that social experiment, for me, anyway. My friend died a few years later at 35. Nothing sexy about that, nothing sexy about a wasted life.

I spent time — and skied some hills — in less sexy parts of Colorado, too. My favorite not-all-that-sexy ski mountain was Arapahoe Basin. Still, it was sexy in its way, too, sexy in the “I’m the highest ski mountain anywhere” kind of sexy. It was sexy in the “Only extremely cool real Coloradans who are able to drive over Loveland Pass come here.” I was there every weekend one winter. I do not know if there is a pass anywhere that my VW Bug wasn’t ready to take on.

So here is am in South Central Colorado in a flat, mysterious, ancient valley ringed by mountains, a hard-working valley where potatoes are cultivated and giant trucks carry them off to points north, south, east and west. The other night, a visiting friend and I drove across Heaven’s fields — potatoes, alfalfa, hops, barley — and she said, “This is the Colorado people don’t know. It’s not the sexy part.”

I said, “Yeah, but you know, last time I drove out of this valley to go to Colorado Springs all I could think was ‘every other place is bullshit’.” My friend agreed. She lives in proximity to a somewhat sexy part of the state (Durango and Telluride) but her town might be smaller than mine.

I pointed to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, about to be hit with late afternoon light and I said, “See those? Those are MY mountains. And these fields here? They’re mine. And that immense changing sky? That’s mine, too. There’s a river over there. It’s one of the perqs of living here. It’s my river.” I said “my” but in fact, I belong to them, heart and soul.

She’s the friend who acted as my real estate agent when I wanted to move here. She said, “I was so worried when you said you wanted to live here. I couldn’t imagine you not hating it.”

“I knew I wouldn’t hate it.” My heart filled as it often does here in Heaven. “It’s the best thing I ever did, move here. But no, it’s not sexy. It’s legit.”

Today I went to visit the dogs and take a drive through the legit part of Colorado where I live, past the neat, rich Amish farms, the small herds of sheep, the cattle on the distant fields, the two beautiful mules near the kennel. Summer birds swooped and hunted and sun behind the San Juans made them silhouettes. Fields that had been irrigated were filled with wild iris.

Not in the least sexy.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/rdp-9-ragabash/

Imagination, Smagination…

Compared to reality, imagination is nothing. This hit me one rainy Denver night while I was sitting on a kitchen chair in my then boyfriend’s apartment. We had just been to the grocery store. Innocuous enough, right? But grocery stores are not JUST grocery stores, and that particular night, Peter had exchanged some meaningful glances with the cute boy who had been tasked with stacking oranges.

I was trying (again!) to wrap my head around our love relationship. That was impossible. How could two people love each other as deeply as we did and STILL have no chance at all ever? None of the stories I’d read up to that point had prepared me for THIS reality.

“I could never make this up,” I thought as my former cat — Agate — wandered back and forth from where Peter lay on the bed and I sat by the table. I’m sure she could feel everything in that room, the sadness, the anger, the love, the yearning, the “way-things-are” against which Peter and I had consistently pushed for the previous four years. We had, so far, not turned back, just went in another direction to find a breach in the wall, a weak spot. We broke up, met up, tried again.

“You think I chose this?” he asked from the bedroom. “Who would choose this? You’re the only thing that matters to me. Talk to me!!!” But I couldn’t talk to him. I got up, put on my jacket, and went home.

I didn’t think he’d chosen to be gay. I was sure about his choices; his choice was me, but… That night I knew that it was I who had to choose, not Peter. I COULD choose. I could choose this exquisite, literary suffering or I could choose something else. I had that power, something Peter had understood all along though I hadn’t.

I wrote about it, but I hadn’t lived enough life to make characters (finite, neat, believable) out of those two lovers, Peter and me. Though the end was in sight, we kept loving each other and I kept writing.

Above my work table is a photocopy of one of his last letters to me. It was written after we had physically split up (he was in Chicago, I remained in Denver) but were still psychically together. At some point, I sent him the story. He was a writer, had a PhD in Creative Writing. I wondered how the story would read to him, the prototype for the not-all-that-fictional male protagonist. “Yes, I like the story. It moves fast and smoothly,” he says, “Keep Writing!! Love, Peter.”

 

 

Ragtag Daily Prompt

RDP #3: Imagination

RDP #3: Imagination

Observing Tumbleweeds

Late yesterday afternoon, Dusty, Bear and I went out to observe our golf course. Like most things around here, the dry winter has played hell with the grass and the course looks bad. People are playing, but not as many as in former years when the grass was green and soft not yellow and stiff. We were lucky because the weather was turning ugly (which right now means turning beautiful, stormy and wet) and the course was empty. Sprinklers were running everywhere in desperately attempting to mitigate the dry winter.

The wind was blowing cold and blustery. I even wore my winter sweatshirt (thanks LL Bean), the donning of which makes Bear run outside, dig furiously on the crater she’s got going under a lilac bush, run around and go to the gate. Dog joy is a thing unto itself.

As we were crossing the course, behind us was a kid with a big bucket of golf balls and his bag of clubs. Dusty looked over his shoulder and held back to check him out. I said, “Dusty, c’mon!” Dusty came, looking back, but unconcerned about the kid, not running toward him with a menacing bark. I thought, “Dusty T. Dog, there was a time when you’d have thought that kid was the enemy, out to hurt me. You’ve learned SO MUCH since we moved here!” I scratched his ears and he leaned against me.

As we walked along the outer edge of the course, first breaking up a meeting of earnest starlings, then a gentle conclave of doves, suddenly I felt something strange, cold, wet on my cheek. Could it be? Was it? There were more, coming down pretty hard. “Wow,” I said. A sudden, hard gust of wind shook the cottonwood tree, and an immense turkey vulture spun down in front of me, actually surprised, I think, by the wind, by me. He righted himself quickly (fearing he’d lost face?) and sped across the ground as if that had been his idea all along. These guys don’t travel alone and soon his pal flew out of the same tree, but up on a gust of wind and they took off together.

The rain fell in spurts. I was filled with hope that this time, finally, but… The storm kept moving, not before dropping a few flakes of snow on my jacket. I didn’t tell Bear. She’d get her hopes up… The air smelled fresh, damp, happy. We turned onto the lower end of the driving range. The kid was hitting his golf balls a fair distance against the wind, so we went across the driving range (pasture) at the lower end. A redtail hawk swooped low in front of us then headed for a tall cottonwood near what was once a burned out adobe house, torn down last year. His mate was already perching on the high branches. A meadowlark sang in the distance.

Then I saw what I’d set out hoping to see — the wide sky and tumbleweeds stuck on a fence. Some readers of my blog were curious about the tumbleweed photo I posted yesterday. I have a Swiss friend who’s lived in the US more than twenty years, and he is STILL fascinated by these things. I think he kind of loves them.

Tumbleweeds (IMO) are pretty much any plant that cuts loose from the ground and blows across the world dropping its seeds. Wikipedia, that repository of all knowledge, agrees with me. Tumbleweeds

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/observe/

“But When the Trees…”

Things around here feel chaotic, but I think it’s the wind. The wind blows in the San Luis Valley (it’s famous for it) but not (so far in my experience) as it has this winter and spring. You can almost see the moisture evaporating from the flowers. Whoever set up my yard had the wind in mind. The side yard (where my garden is, usually) is sheltered on all sides. Outside my back (side) door is a concrete ramp with a wall and a covering over it. It’s wonderful in winter and the wall blocks the wind from the west. On the east side of the yard is a tall lilac hedge the blocks the wind from the east. A fench blocks the north wind and I put up a privacy fence on the south that blocks any remaining stray wind (and some traffic noise).

The yard is a little oasis, shelter from the storms. I’ve even figured out how to set it up, finally. I look forward to being able to do that.

The other day my doc (a sincere, caring young woman who spent a couple years in Africa helping people with HIV) confessed that the wind makes her grumpy, all other weather is fine, but wind? My PT was very stressed out because of the wind on one of the days I went for therapy. “I can’t stand this wind,” he said. It was a very windy day; that is true. I didn’t park in front of the light post. Who knew? It made me think of James Michener’s¬†Centennial,¬†

It was not a roaring wind that deafened, but it had a penetrating quality that set the nerves on edge, so that at some unexpected moment a farmer, or more often his wife, would suddenly shout, “Damn the wind! Doesn’t it ever let up?”

In June the howling subsided, and residents of the lonely homes across the prairie looked back with wry amusement at the way they had responded to it. “It really set my nerves jangling…”

To me a steady wind is no problem. It’s when the wind decides to become dramatic and interesting that I start to lose it. I know it’s because of fires and Santa Ana winds in my California life. The last spring I lived in California, we had the highest winds ever recorded in my tiny area. During the night I heard the wind (70 mph) start abruptly, suddenly, with a roar at the top of my street. I lay there and listened, following its “whoosh” as it blasted past my house. That night barns were lifted and dropped. The power company turned off the electricity in the mountain towns that morning for fear a random, otherwise innocent spark would set the world on fire.

Gusts that high are rare here in the San Luis Valley, but they happen sending the tumbleweeds racing.

I adapted Christina Rossetti’s poem for the San Luis Valley…

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the roofs start flying past,
The wind is passing through.
 Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees their branches throw,
The wind is passing by.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/abrupt/

Fires…

 

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This map is the fire in the south central part of the state with the little house over it (evacuation center)

 

We’ve had wind up to 60 mph today here in Heaven and the San Luis Valley (all of Colorado) is very, very, very dry. Innocent thing spark brush fires, like a guy showing up for his job as a welder.

I’ve gotten to see second hand (I’d like to keep it that way) how a large brush fire is dealt with here in Heaven. The area covered in the map is thousands of acres.¬†I’m (again) astonished at not being in a big California city any more.

Everyone in the area was evacuated to the recreation center in Alamosa. You look at that HUGE area on the map and you think, “Wow, that’s a huge area on the map!” but it’s not a lot of people. One of my friends lives near the airport in Alamosa — my artist friend with whom I sometimes go to Taos. She was evacuated and happy as a clam because they opened the ceramic studio at the rec center for her to work. She later let me know that Dominos brought pizza for everyone.

I don’t yet know the extent of the damage or how many people lost homes, businesses, stock, anything. But I do know that when that’s made public a few GoFundMe’s will pop up, families will ask for help on the various Facebook pages, and people will just pitch in.

In my fire experience in California (a lot more extensive and intensive than I wish) there was the setting up of Red Cross shelters sometimes in places as big as the stadium where (once upon a time) the Chargers played. With millions of people to contend with, there’s. no GoFundMe or direct pleas for “We need bedding and clothes for a 2nd grader” kind of thing or “Our home was burned” getting a response like, “We have a big 5th wheel we can let you have.”

That is rural life in a sparsely populated area, I guess. I’m grateful for it. I think we’re in for a long and scary fire season unless the July/August rains come and give us a break. There’s also the (slim?) possibility that we could still get a good, wet snow.

UPDATE:

All is well. The fire (in my area) is under control. Everyone’s home.

 

1P.S. It’s roughly 70 miles from Creede to Alamosa ‚̧

P.P.S. SLV = San Luis Valley, a little bit of America most people have never even heard of.