Lovely Blog Post on Courage

One thing I’ve gotten from the Blogger Bash thing (You can still vote. Vote for me here 😀 ) is exposure to more blogs and some of them are great. I’m following more blogs and I think I’m being followed…

This is a really good post by a young hiker from her blog, “Must Hike; Must Eat.” She writes about the question of courage. If you read my blog, you know that question interests me I guess because maybe I’m scared a lot. Enjoy!

The Definition of Courage

Tread Lightly

It’s a radiant day in the real west. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Bits of green are poking through the dead and brittle grass. The golf course has opened in spite of not being in the least ready. People are out and socializing with neighbors they haven’t seen in months. Winter — even this very open winter — is always a kind of cocoon here. People LOVE spring and summer (except me). OH well. At least last week we had a real snow and frost on the trees, and, all in all, I think, I’m kind of glad that winter never really materialized this year. It was probably for the best, except for nature and farmers and everything that really matters…

California. When I moved there from Colorado back in the 80s, I was horrified that trails in (frequently used) wilderness areas were fenced. I didn’t understand it, but after a while I realized that hordes of people have a deliterious impact on nature. When I worked for an urban wilderness park, I was always recruiting people for trail maintenance which often meant fencing. Friendly fencing, but still obstacles to keep people on maintained trails. I went 180 degrees.

Because of the mild winter, my little walking place — Shriver/Wright Wild Life Area — has seen so much foot traffic that it looks like an overused vacant lot. I don’t even want to go there and add my 10 feet to the impact. People are cutting trails, trampling on plants (and they probably? might?) not even know what they’re trampling on (wild iris!). And bicycles — I love mountain bikes. I have one, but they are very, very bad for the ground and really should stay on trails. BUT someone is ridiing a mountain bike out there wherever, and it’s damaging the surface just as if the bike were a tank.

Just because there are hundreds of square miles of undeveloped land here in the San Luis Valley, doesn’t mean that one small place (a 1 mile loop trail) isn’t vulnerable. It’s vulnerable. VERY vulnerable. I think it should be closed for spring and maybe people need to get in there and put up signs like, “Stay on designated trails, please!” “Cutting trails causes erosion.” “Cutting trails destroys plan life.” “Give animals their space. Stay on human trails.”

But maybe summer — which is mosquito filled and nasty — will do the job.

In Other News —

Ridiculously warm day here in Heaven. Dusty, Bear and I took off for our usual places, but there were people. As a last resort, I turned down the dirt road leading to probably my favorite walk (so far — there’s much I have not yet explored) and VoilĂĄ! No one! I whooped and “Yay!”ed, parked and off we went.

The light right now is slanted and silvery across the yellow winter grass. The only colors are a pure raw umber, gold, blue, black and white. It’s stark in its way, but very lovely. We walked nearly 2 miles in sixty degree temps. I should have brought water for the dogs…




Little Melt Spot Reflecting Grass


Lenticular clouds above the Meadow of the World


I kind of thought I might see or hear Sandhill Cranes, but though it feels like late spring, it’s still just February 1. Definitely improved my attitude. Once again, these words ring true.

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
Hills and a cloud.”  Wallace Stevens

P.S. The bison in the header photo are across the street from Rio Grande Hospital. 🙂 Not a bad view!

Where I Live

Today Mindy got groomed. My groomer has a small farm. Really small. She lives in a mobile home across from my vet. In the backyard are a couple of sheds. One is for storing bikes on one end and a pony on the other. The other is her really pretty grooming studio. There are pens for sheep and the goat. It’s far and away from any urban grooming set up like you might see at Petco or something. She LOVES animals and she has two great kids who help out.

Mindy loves to go there and they love Mindy. “She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body,” says the groomer. “She’s the most cooperative dog; she seems to know what you need and helps you.” Mindy is 10 or 11; she has bad hips. I don’t like brushing her because I’m afraid I’ll hurt her, so it’s great I have found Muddy Paws.

Mindy the groomed

“Aren’t I pretty?”

When I picked Mindy up we talked about what people talk about in an agricultural community. I didn’t grow up here. I never farmed anything or raised any stock, but I like it. I would have liked doing it if I’d been plopped down in that world. I’d have been happy. I know that because I was always happy in Montana with my family and their borderline farms. I am happier here than I’ve been ever in my life.

In a farming community, you talk about the weather and it’s NOT small talk. We’re having the driest winter Colorado has seen in 30 years. It was 56 degrees this afternoon; for reference, on this day last year, it got up to 12. That’s normal for January.

This is nuts.

“I don’t know what to think,” I said. “I like the cold and snow, but it’s kind of nice not having to worry about it.”

“I know what you mean. By now, usually, I don’t have any grooming business but I’m booked solid.”

“Last January I wouldn’t have brought Mindy. It was 20 below!”

“It’s strange,” she said. “This weather is good for the loggers, but the farmers? We got a lot of rain in the summer.”

“Seven inches extra for last year,” I said.

“That’s a whole year of moisture,” she nodded. “I think we’re going to have another one of those wet summers. That’s bad. I’m lambing now and we’re good, but next year, if we have another wet summer, hay is going to be sky high.”

“And the potatoes,” I said. “That was a little iffy last summer.”

“Yeah, it was. I don’t know what to wish for. I guess it depends on your work.”

And work depends on the land and the weather. I like that so much. I like those imperatives so much more than some arcane discussion about teaching methods or what degree I have or how I manage a classroom. I know farming (and everything else that happens here) isn’t easy for a lot of people and a lot of people are having a hard time, but  man. When nature is your partner there’s a lot different kind of negotiation and if you lose your job, it’s not because some dumbass boss doesn’t like you.

While Mindy was being groomed, Bear and I walked for a mile and a half along the river. It’s mostly frozen, here and there the unfrozen channel surfaces, but sections of it are like a mirror. We found the femur of a deceased large mammal — probably a deer — a little bit of fur hanging on, but mostly cleaned off completely.



Animals that walk along the river during other times of day include bears, coyotes, foxes, stray dogs, a cougar, badgers — and human hunters. Who knows how that femur came to be beside the trail and it wasn’t saying anything. I think Bear has some idea, but she’s not saying, either.


Oh Well…

The hiking book has been a strange kind of challenge and “learning experience.” Couldn’t find a good cover. Ended up with a photo I hadn’t taken and on which I’d have to pay royalties if I sold the book. OK. I didn’t need to — or plan to — sell the book. That cover came out “OK” — exponentially better than any of the other covers Createspace had sent me, all of which had been affected by the Doppler Effect and shifted to red…

Then there were (are?) the innumerable internal flaws haunting me (and maybe you, if you read it). Finally, I came to grips with the reality that everything about the book, life, the places in which its set, the stories contained within it — all flawed. This book isn’t fiction; it’s real life. Flawed.

So I printed 15 and gave them away as presents.

And then…

A couple of days ago, in a journal from antediluvian times, I found the perfect photo. This afternoon I found Createspace had a template that was exactly what I wanted. I found a couple of errors that mattered.


OH well. Bottom line, it will be for sale on Amazon at a very low price in case you want to read it. Advance reports are that its good, tiny errors and all. 🙂

Quotidian Diurnal Redundancy, 2.2

Last night I made spaghetti. First, I like Angel Hair pasta, not spaghetti mainly because at this altitude it cooks better, but this was spaghetti. Second, I have had to go “gluten free,” and it was my first attempt with gluten free pasta.

Don’t try it. It’s as flavorful as weak string and about the same texture. Barilla makes a gluten free pasta that I will try when it arrives from Amazon. No such thing in the stores in my big valley. It’s hard because pasta and I are good friends. We go back a long way.

“What’s for dinner?”

“I don’t know.”

“Cook up some pasta.”

“There you go.”

Plus, I grew incredibly flavorful Genovese basil and plum tomatoes this summer, besides the zucchini.

In other news, the weather is such that Dusty, Bear and I have returned to afternoon walks. I’m so glad. It’s really nice to be outside when my biorhythms say, “You want to THINK? Good luck with that sweet cheeks.”



Fall is coming early to the San Luis Valley, too. The aspen on the mountains to the west, anyway (can’t see the mountains to the east that well) are already turning — a week or ten days early. Not for them, of course. They set their own clocks, but for ME. The one remaining task of my summer home repair list is a working thermostat on my furnace.

The chamisa (auto-correct originally corrected that to “chamois” which are nice, too) are already going to seed. When winter comes, they’ll be black bushes and appear dead. But for now there are white and yellow butterflies all over them.

Summer's Last Hurrah

Chamisa in bloom (and going to seed)

Yesterday, when I took the dogs out to put in the car for a walk at the slough, I took a look at my garage. I felt a surge of pride. There are still things I want to get rid of, but, for the most part, it’s a real garage now. There’s still a leak on the base of the north wall and I’ll deal with that next summer.


Mini-Mace from Hell

Nature, in her inestimable wisdom, created many things far in advance of the invention of what they were designed to destroy. Ice, of course, was created to make automobiles skid off the road. Meanwhile, it peacefully worked on its long term goals of splitting giant boulders through frost wedging. “Someday you’ll be sand, mua-ha-ha-ha.”

Another manifestation of sadistic forethought is the goat head thorn. Sure, it stuck in peoples’ shoes, socks and trousers for centuries, but who cared? Then came the bicycle tire…

It’s a pretty enough ground-level vine, but…


“I’m just trying to propagate my species,” it will tell you of its wandering little sadistic seeds, “I’m stuck here in the ground. It’s up to my kids to see that we find a new patch of earth on which to grow. We don’t ask for much. Just a barren, dry, forgotten piece of somewhere, ignored by everyone, likely to be used as a shortcut…”

The little bird sits at his door in the sun…

“What is so rare as a day in June, then, if ever, come perfect days…”

My mom had a poem for every season, sometimes a precise month — the two I remember best are “What is So Rare as a Day in June” and “October’s Bright Blue Weather.” She grew up in a time (and with a dad) who required that kids memorize poetry. Then she became a school teacher back when teachers did teach a whole school.

Yesterday was a perfect June day for Dusty, Bear and me. It was blustery and gray, a strong wind, the threat of rain (but not the realization, though that would have been OK with us, too).

About 5 o’clock, when the wind had died down a little, I said, “What the heck, dogs,. Let’s go.” We headed out to the slough. Lovely though it is in all seasons, its not that much fun right now. It’s a mosquito wonderland with a few horseflies just in case the mosquitos don’t do a good enough job. It’s fine, it’s nature, and every little creature has to do its little creature thing. Besides, the birds are hungry and feeding babies, so the more bugs the better. With the wind blowing so hard, though, neither mosquitos or horseflies would have a chance.

Dusty and Bear are in “summer walk” mode which means they are leashed, walking beside me, at heel. There are also rattlesnakes which have their important place in nature. I’m not challenging that with a big, loping, goofy, curious dog.

We were so happy to be out!  The river was very, very high. The air was crisp. The wind blew in strong gusts. Undaunted, the birds swooped and hunted anyway.  The wild iris were blooming, having lifted their miraculous perfect heads out of the snow-smashed morass of dead grass. Near the end of our walk, the dogs stopped and looked up, alerting me to a golden eagle flying above the river.

Today, however, is the kind of day Lowell has written about. The plants are rushing to make the most of the short season. The robin fledgelings are on their way — one was in my yard yesterday. It was my job to see she was safe from the dogs. She looked up at me like, “Dude, I’m going to be fine just keep that big white beast away from me!”

What is so rare as a day in June?

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there’s never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature’s palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o’errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
‘Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer’s lowing,-
And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
‘Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,-
‘Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season’s youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep ‘neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.

James Russell Lowell

“It’s All Downhill from Here!”

A friend — well, someone I was in love with a LOOONNNGGGG time ago climbed Annapurna II. I had never known anyone who had climbed a Himalayan peak, so he was pretty astonishing to me just for (“just”?) that. He was also handsome, kind and smart. Overwhelmingly perfect, but I digress. He wrote in a letter, “Getting up is one thing. It’s getting back down that matters most, and the descent is often more difficult than the climb.”

Since, for me, the metaphor almost always appears out before the reality sinks in, that meant — means — it doesn’t matter to what heights we ascend, sooner or later we have to descend, and it’s better to come down in one piece.

At this point in my life, every sharp hill is Annapurna Something because of the descent which is a lot more difficult than the climb.


Annapurna XV, Penitente Canyon, Colorado


I make my way down the hill, side-stepping like a squeamish skier on a steep, short slope, my shorter leg on the uphill, my longer leg on the downhill.

But so far I make it home. 🙂