Quotidian Sloughful Observations #71

The leaves have been released from the trees all around the slough. In town they are hanging on, but they can’t win this battle. The trees are all, “Little dudes. Winter is coming. I don’t have anything to give you. I have to expand my roots now.” I am beginning to see winter’s pastels edging into the picture.


“Sorry little dudes! You gotta’ go!”

Yesterday when we arrived — Dusty decked out in his hunting vest — there were pick up trucks in the parking lot. Three of them. I thought, “Oh rats,” then I saw they were three painters, little ladies with easels. I was really happy about that, somehow. I pulled into the parking lot, left the dogs in the car and went to say, “Hello!” and see the work.

These artists were not happy about that. Very grumpy painters. They were painting the dead trees across the road from the parking lot, contributing more 8 x 10 canvases to the ubiquitous dead tree school of American painting. Feeling stupid (a recognizable feeling), and bad for bothering them, I got the dogs and hit the trail.

It was beautiful. Two red tail hawks, fading yellow trees, leaves floating down, pale sky, the calls of Sandhill Cranes in the distance, beautiful light. I have figured out how to use my trekking pole/cane to relieve pain in my joint, and it was even a painless walk. Bear walked beside me without pulling. Dusty was the sweet gentleman he always is.


We finished the walk with a dog appreciation moment and then I saw a woman — I thought a BLM (that’s Bureau of Land Management) person heading toward the rest room. We hurried the final 50 feet so there would be no Barkaerobics.

The “old boy” I met some time back was waiting in his pick up. The “BLM” woman turned out to be his date for the afternoon, and she wasn’t BLM at all, just your average 60 something hard-living lady looking for a fling with a sabre-toothed, pot-bellied old boy. I thought they were really cute.




“Freedom of expression!!!!”

What some orange people don’t understand is that having freedom of expression doesn’t mean anyone will listen to you. In fact, with a law protecting freedom of expression, it’s LESS likely anyone will listen. Usually as person A is expressing him/herself, person B is formulating a response or figuring out how it relates to him/her.

Then there are the people who don’t want to hear what they’re hearing (there are a lot of those) and there are the people who want to hear something OTHER than what they’re hearing (they pick out the good bits and forget the rest).

The best way to assure no one will hear you is to mandate freedom of expression.



Grace under Pressure

A paradox of courage is that if you are never afraid, you never need to be brave. Bravery is for cowards. Seriously.

Hemingway seems to have worried about the true nature of courage a LOT. He offered a lovely definition of it, “Grace under pressure.” It’s lovey but vague. Grace is one of those words that’s so ineffable it’s difficult to capture and pin down. Pressure? What? Running late? Or something more dramatic like being shot at.

Basically it means not losing your shit when it would be completely reasonable to lose it.

For Hemingway, reason is part of the scenario. A brave person exhibiting grace under pressure must be 1) afraid, 2) smart enough to know that he’s in danger and 3) aware of his options.

Then things kind of fall apart for Hemingway, in my view. Courage is something you take home with you, and people have contempt for you if you haven’t shown it even when they have no idea at all what it was like in the moment when you were not brave. That dynamic is a motive behind several of his stories. And, even for the guy who SHOWS grace under pressure, there’s no guarantee of comprehension or acceptance from others.  How can they comprehend or accept experiences that are far, far away from the lives they lead? Why does Hemingway care?

Many of his heroes reach a moment in which they transcend their preoccupation with the opinions of others. That’s another common motif in his novels and stories. It leaves me thinking that might ultimately be what courage means for Hemingway. That’s a paradox, too, especially for a guy who makes a living as a writer, which demands public acceptance.

I’ve been accused of bravery several times in my life, but I don’t see that I’m brave at all. I was “brave” to pull up stakes in California and move all alone to Colorado to a town where I didn’t know anyone. But there were external imperatives and I had a lot less choice than most of those people calling me brave seemed to understand. The biggest imperative was financial. I couldn’t afford to stay where I was. I had to go somewhere. I am from Colorado and hadn’t wanted to move away in the first place. It was a logical decision. Then, having fixed on that, I had to find a place with houses I could afford. It wasn’t courage. It was a limited income, not bravery.

Necessity — preserving your life and love, such as Santiago’s love for the fish, his love for the sea — often appear to others as courage. But no. That little kid hiding behind his mom,  wondering about the tall stranger who is his grandfather, previously unknown to him, that little kid is the brave one. The quivering pup behind the bars at the shelter, huddled in a corner, is the brave one. The young teacher about to walk into her first class EVER, racing to the ladies room 9 million times in the 15 minutes before the bell rings is the brave one.


Bored Games


“Sure. It’s better than Life.”


“I don’t see any difference.”

One of my favorite lines in Little Big Man (a GREAT film, by the way) is when Alardyce T. Merriwether, a snake oil salesman who kept losing “parts of himself” says, “Life contains a particle of risk.” It’s not one or the other, I guess.


For some people it’s Monopoly. For others — like my brother — it’s Gin rummy. As far as I can tell, my life is a game of Snakes and Ladders. 🙂



Dusty T. Dog and His Scary Bark


Dusty loves Bear

Everyone who gets to know Dusty T. Dog realizes he’s an exceptional being. Sure, other dogs are big, black and barky, but how many of them are also incredibly sweet, can jump six fee straight into the air and do yoga?


Which is the REAL Dusty?

In the three years I’ve lived here, Dusty has blossomed. His true nature has been allowed to flourish because people here like dogs, big dogs, and know how to be around them. Last week — the day Dusty wore his hunting vest for the first time on our walk — we encountered a dad with his son and his son’s friend. The dad was teaching the boys to fly-fish. Dusty, of course, started barking as if they were deeply violating everything he held dear. I said to the man, “He only sounds mean. He’s not.”


The man smiled!!! Then he said, “You want to run, boy?” (Dusty was leashed). I took that to mean I could unleash my dog. The man held out his hands in welcome and Dusty ran to him for pats. The man loved on Dusty and Dusty ate it up. Honestly, Dusty’s wonder is often eclipsed by Bear’s beauty. Then the man said, “Your other dog is pretty, too.” ❤

So Dusty made a friend. On our return trip (it’s a loop) Dusty didn’t bark at all or run over to meet them. He’d checked them out, found them safe to be around me and all was well with the world.


Dusty and K at the Sand Dunes

Dusty’s job (as he sees it) is to make sure nothing bad happens to me. He really likes people. He loves my neighbor, K, and I think she’s fond of him, but sometimes I think of all the times she and her husband walked past my house before I had a fence to keep Dusty out of the front yard. He must have terrified them.




I’m not ascending particularly well these days. It’s a process… But the word itself made me think of a painting by Matthias Grünewald, one of a series of paintings I’d really like to see in real life some day; the Ascension of Christ, part of the Isenheim Altarpiece.



Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, Matthias Grünewald

Long, long ago when I was in high school, and dreaming of being an artist, before my art teacher told me I had no talent (grrrr), I was watching a lecture on the history of painting. It was the usual thing, that painting advanced over time — that once people were not capable of rendering realistic human forms (the Egyptians and Etruscans) but as they got more skillful with their tools, they were able to make realistic looking people. Humans did very well in their enlightened, realistic-human-art-rendering state until the fall of Rome and the descent of the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages were dark because (one reason) humans were no longer able to render realistic human forms and retreated to the primitive paintings of the Byzantine Period. Medieval art was the child of the Dark Ages and, thanks God the Renaissance came along and lifted those benighted artists out of the slough of darkness and into the light, giving us Michelangelo and Leonardo who were able to render realistic human forms. We know all this to be true because primitive cultures — such as India and China — did not render realistic human forms.

There is so much wrong with all this, but I bought it at the time.

Of course, art historians “claimed” Giotto for the Renaissance… Two Renaissance painters for whom my “teacher” had no slides were Matthias Grünewald and Piero Della Francesca.

A lot has been written about these two painters — more than I’ve read since it’s as annoying as reading about politics to read painting criticism. For myself, I love their work. Aldous Huxley called Della Francesca’s The Resurrection of Christ “the greatest painting in the world” and wrote an essay explaining why. I’ve read it, but…


Resurrection of Christ, Piero Della Francesca

I can explain why I like the work of these two artists. There is simply something unique, strange, about them. There is, for me, a reason to engage. I can say that Grünewald’s palette attracts me because it’s similar to mine when I’m painting something from the inside of me vs. outside which evokes a very different palette.


But the key attraction to me of both these painters is mystery, something beyond the surface, something deeper than the stories their paintings are supposed to tell.

My favorite painting by Della Francesca is The Flagellation of Christ. There is something very challenging about this piece, challenging beyond the story or the painting’s composition, challenging because of those two things.


Flagellation of Christ, Piero Della Francesca


Old Lady’s Preoccupations with Her Arthritic Hip, Part 2

Monday we had snow. Today we have a Red Flag Warning — high winds/warm temps. In between, temps in the high 60s/low 70s. “I have no idea what’s going on.

Fall doesn’t want to succumb to winter, I guess, nor summer to fall. I’m here to tell them that what they want has NOTHING to do with what will happen. THAT’S a lesson I am very good at learning, but I also understand the desire to resist the inevitable…

In thinking about hip surgery, I realize that the parts of it I dread most are not the surgery or the possibility of dying on the operating table. That would be OK. I dread the prep, the waiting time and the recovery. If I could just go there, do it and come home to my life I wouldn’t mind at all, but it doesn’t work that way.

Recovery is a messy and complicated business. Some might say, “You won’t mind. You’l be taking narcotics,” but I don’t like narcotics. I’ve already been there. What a lot of people don’t know is that whether you get psychologically hooked to them or not, you will get physically hooked and the withdrawal isn’t fun. And then there are all the antibiotics. I can’t take penicillin and, as a result, whenever I need antibiotics, they have to give me something that would kill the bacteria in the dirtiest lake in the world. The after-effects of that aren’t fun, either.

So… I will have X-rays Monday. I don’t know how they WON’T say what I think they will say. And if they don’t? Then I’m here with this pain for what — forever? Hip surgery removes the source of pain and returns the joint to normal functioning. Why wouldn’t I want that?

Meanwhile, I’ve amped up my activity on the Bike to Nowhere and find it relieves the pain a LOT. Walking the dogs is not a lot of fun right now, but as they are as happy with a stroll around the high school as they would be with an expedition to the Antipodes, it’s really OK. In fact, they are helpful in a strange canine way. Dusty was around for my first surgery and he was trained professionally to help me out. Bear is extremely empathic, but while her crawling up on my lap to save me from whatever is hurting me is always a morale booster, sometimes it’s not convenient and she CAN’T do that after my surgery. Mindy is just there, a kind spirit.

My job will be to find the best surgeon who can do this with the least fuss and the greatest success. I’ve learned Medicare will pay for 3 weeks in a rehab facility and I might need that since I don’t have kids or siblings to stay with me and drive me to physical therapy and stuff. That’s OK. It could work that I drive myself to the hospital and drive myself home if that’s the case. Friends have stepped up and I’m very grateful for that.

Meanwhile, I have brought my “horse” out of the closet. To you it would probably look like a cane, but it has a story.

When my other hip “went south” (2005) I bought a cane at the drugstore. I liked the cane. It was adjustable and functional and helpful. I arrived with it in Montana, much to the shock and horror of my Aunt Jo and my Uncle Hank. “What happened, Martha Ann?” Since I was always running in the hills, they were always sure I’d hurt myself sooner or later.

I explained I had end-stage osteoarthritis in my hip and was trying to find the best solution, meanwhile, I had to walk with a cane.

One day after lunch, I went to “my” room to take nap. Pain is tiring. My Uncle Hank said, “Leave your cane outside your room.” I did. I hung it on the door. When I woke up there was a beautiful wooden cane hanging in its place.

It matched the cane my uncle (who’d had a stroke) used to walk with. He loved working with wood and tried to make useful things. You have to know he’d had retinal detachment so he had mostly peripheral vision. He couldn’t drive and was essentially, mostly, blind.

My uncle and I took our walks together, morning and evening, both of us with our canes. When we would go out somewhere, we had our matching canes. If one of us forget his or her cane, the other would say, “You got your horse, cowboy?”

I also have an adjustable, shock absorbing  “hiking cane.” I have been relying on a trekking pole, but I think I’m going to use this thing instead on dog walks since I can lean on the handle. Bear will have to learn to walk on the other side.



Dusty’s De-Cloaking Device

It is now hunting season out here in the Wild West, and on our walks, Dusty T. Dog wears his hunting vest. Most of the year, Dusty looks like a moving shadow, but between now and March next year, Dusty will have heightened visibility — day or night. This vest has reflective strips so if we were EVER to go out walking in the dark where there are headlights, Dusty would shine.

He also wears a little LED light on his leash for that purpose. It’s great because it lights up the ground where we’re walking.


It’s been said that Dusty is not the brightest dog on the planet, but I think that depends on the time of year.


Local Politics…

Sigh. I’m easily fooled. My favorite line in “The Diary of Adam and Eve” by Mark Twain is when Eve (who calls herself an experiment), finds fire, thinks it’s beautiful, touches it and burns herself She later says of the event, “The burned experiment shuns the fire.”

We’re having politics here in my little town, an election for city council. There are three guys who have banded together and they call themselves a “movement.” I’ve been wanting to find out what they actually represent, but have had a hard time getting answers. In today’s paper, all was revealed.

They say they want to bring business back to the town, so it will be like it was back in the prosperous 1970s. Well, everyone would like the town to be more prosperous, but nostalgia isn’t a business plan. The near-dead status of my town is a great concern to everyone.

There is on this ballot proposals for selling marijuana in the town, two referendums — one to tax and one to sell. After reading the letter to the editor, I now know it’s marijuana that has brought the posse together. I suspect they don’t have a plan for bringing business into the town; they just don’t want pot.

Wait, that isn’t quite true. They kind of have some ideas and stuff. One of them — the former police chief — wrote a letter to the editor that was published yesterday. They want to advertise in papers all over the country that my town is a great place for people to bring their small business. And why? Mountain views, no pot, good schools. He even directs them to a (non-existent) website. But…

Business is not attracted to mountain views, no pot and good schools. Business is attracted to a market that will help them prosper. They are interested in the bottom line. Really, unless the posse can come up with a way to guarantee migrating businesses will make money here, they have nothing. And why migrating businesses? There are plenty of people HERE who would love to open a business, but there are no patrons and rents are very high in the buildings “down town.” Only 14 miles away is a Walmart superstore and a fairly viable “downtown” Alamosa. There are also Amazon and various other online sales outlets. There is also a very small population here with little disposable income.

So…the REAL problem is marijuana. They don’t want marijuana sold in our town. The irony there is that marijuana is a business. It attracts customers, and it makes money, as this article from Fortune illustrates. Not without risk, but there is no business enterprise that contains no risk. I think my town might have missed out on its chance to capitalize on this, but selling marijuana would still be something to consider seriously, IMO. And I don’t even like the stuff.

The other possibility would be a retirement community for old people like me who don’t have a lot of money. This is a great place to retire. Such a community could offer very attractive field trips to places like the Santa Fe Opera and the art galleries in Taos, not to mention the Chili Festival in Pueblo, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Wheeler Geologic Area, a play in Creede. There are decent hospitals here and an airport(like thing) not that far away. Such a community would provide jobs for people and boost the population. Old people like to eat out and it might attract some good restaurants to Monte Vista. Having legal pot dispensaries would be attractive to some of those people who have a doctor’s prescription for marijuana as a treatment for arthritis.

As it happens, the mayoral candidate of the posse is running unopposed. The two guys running with him for City Council have ONE person running against them.

I love my town and I wouldn’t be anywhere else, but I want more than nostalgia. We cannot return to the past; we live in the future, every morning we get up and we’re in the future. Most of my neighbors very publicly support this posse. My mind is not made up, and I plan to go to the candidates’ forum next week to get the whole story.


Warning! Blue Language! I Read the News Today, Oh Boy :(

Used to be I could avoid the news. The Internet (and Facebook 😦 ) have made that almost impossible. I get to learn about the multitude of disgusting people who populate the world and make headlines. Many of these people are exceptional only for their nastiness.

There’s the movie producer who has been fired by his own company because numerous women have come forward and accused him — complained of — sexual harassment. And then there are the OTHER actors who said, “I had no idea.” And then there is the outrage.

I don’t understand the outrage. No, it should not happen, but it is extremely common.

My theory is that it wouldn’t be so prevalent if so many women were not complicit, if it didn’t “work” to help further the careers and aspirations of those being harassed.

Even in my little life there was this kind of thing — often. It started when I was a sophomore in college and my poetry prof started praising my poetry and taking me around Denver to read my poems at various organizations and gatherings of poetry lovers. I thought it was because my poetry was actually good, until he hit on me.

Then I saw it in a completely different light. Maybe my poetry was shit, and he was just trying to get into my pants. After that, I was far more aware and it happened again and again over the years. The men who attempted to foist themselves on me, offering what they believed was something I wanted (not them, but things like tenure) took their revenge. I also learned it is very difficult to prove sexual harassment and bosses are unlikely to believe the woman who’s been harassed.

Why? It’s a way to “the top,” and lots of women want to go there badly enough that they’ll put out (on some level) to improve their chances. It’s a cliché. “She slept her way to the top.”

On the other side, as a teacher, I was harassed by students thought sleeping with me would get them a better grade. “I’ll do anything for an A,” said one kid as he pressed himself against my back as I stood in the rear of the classroom preparing handouts for a presentation. The number of disgusting meta-messages in that “offer” is staggering, but on top of the pile is that he thought I might actually WANT him. I was at a complete loss, but having spent a lifetime teaching post-adolescents, I was fairly sure he’d do something to hang and/or reveal himself, and he did.

One of their group projects was to come up with a product and a marketing plan and present it to the class. His group came up with the idea of putting packets of condoms on windshields while frat parties were going on. They dramatized an advertisement for their service. He came in wearing a plastic bag as “Condom Man.” I held my shit together as I evaluated the group’s idea and commercial, all the while I was thinking, “Perfect costume, you dick.”

I have no idea how to stop sexual harassment. NOT giving in cost me things I really wanted over the years, but I didn’t want them THAT bad. I’m sure I’m not the only woman for whom that’s true. I was just sickened and moved on. Twice I tried complaining. Twice it availed nothing.