Independence?

Six years ago today, I arrived in Colorado, having made my exit from Hotel California with my Muttley Crew — Lily, Dusty, and Mindy.

Dusty and Mindy

Exit is more straight-forward than arrival, especially when it’s irrevocable and the result of a decision driven by necessity. Arrival is a little more complicated. Sometime this past year, I fully arrived in Colorado psychically. You don’t abandon 30 years of your life in an instant. I think I arrived when I was doing my reading from As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder at the Narrow Gauge Book Coop last October.

Life is a strange thing. You can be going along and everything is fine. Things get a little rocky, so you make hundreds of small adjustments and you keep on. Then something happens that nullifies all the small adjustments, and you are suddenly in the midst of a major life change.

I was propelled out of my (happy) life in a truly desperate moment. I lost my main job due to some Machievellian machinations by the college of business in which I taught. The income I needed to hold my life together wasn’t just threatened; it was gone. Not just mine; but three other teachers with contracts were upgefucht, but they were not sole-providers. They were married to someone who was employed. A little different situation.

I remember my first thought was to attempt a continuation of small-adjustments to keep the life going, but then it was clear, “This party’s over, sweet cheeks.” All of my attention then went to making the huge change as quickly as possible.

So there I was, September 20, 2014, rolling into the parking lot of the Spruce Lodge in South Fork, Colorado, where I’d rented a cabin for at least a month. I called it “My Giant Dog Crate in the Mountains” because, well, three pretty big dogs took up most of the living room.

It was nice, the perfect place for us to land. Not home, not not home. I began the process of living in Colorado, in a place I didn’t know, where everyone was a stranger. I’m a Colorado native, but it was impossible for me to afford a home in any of the places I’d lived before. Necessity drove me to Heaven. ❤

Lily T. Wolf and Mindy T. Dog happy to have landed.

I’d thought this morning that I would write about independence. I recently read a meme that said that extreme independence was the result of trauma. It listed a bunch of causes, life events, that make a person turn to themselves instead of others. There were six on the list and four of them happened in my life, a couple more than once. Those that applied to me were abandonment/loss, abuse, experiencing a natural disaster and witnessing death. The meme led to an article in Psychology Today. I read it. It said that such a person had lost the ability to trust and needed to work to rebuild that.

My first thought was, “Why?” Isn’t it acquired knowledge that — for an example — a huge wildfire can come and threaten (or succeed) to wipe out your town, your house, your LIFE? Or that someone can say they love you and beat you up? That your nearest and dearest parent can suffer a terminal disease and die? Life is a pretty long litany of stuff that doesn’t pan out. What is the big deal with trust in an untrustworthy world? Does it make a person happier?

I wondered why independence is considered a pathology. Not long ago a friend said, “You’re extremely independent.” I asked her why she thought so, and she said, “You moved here all by yourself and you didn’t even know anyone.” I remembered my students telling me I wasn’t like other teachers. OK, but what are OTHER people like? How did other teachers teach? I have no idea. But, when sold my house and packed my stuff to move here, I heard all time time. “You’re so independent. I could never do what you’re doing.”

Friends thought I was embarking on a great adventure, like one of the early explorers setting out for unknown places across wild and mysterious oceans. They talked me into writing a blog about my “adventure.” “Adventure?” I was doing what I had to do.

So, I don’t know. Maybe I am extremely independent, but I still don’t get why that’s a bad thing.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/rdp-sunday-exit/

If You Need Inspiration…

From the joints where leaves broke or froze, new vines are emerging ALREADY. I love these beans.

~~~

MOON, RAIN, RIVERBANK
Tu Fu

Rain road through, now the autumn night is clear
The water wears a patina of gold
and carries a bright jade star.
Heavenly River runs clear and pure,
as gently as before.

Sunset buries the mountains in shadow.
A mirror floats in the deep green void,
its light reflecting the cold, wet dusk,
dew glistening,
freezing on the flowers.

FALL RIVER SONG
Li Bai

On Old River Mountain
A huge boulder swept clean
by the blue winds of Heaven

where they have written
in an alphabet of moss
an ancient song.

NIGHT SNOW
Bai Juyi

I was surprised my quilt and pillow were cold,
I see that now the window’s bright again.
Deep in the night, I know the snow is thick,
I sometimes hear the sound as bamboo snaps.

WALKING THROUGH SOUTH MOUNTAIN FIELDS
Li Ho

The autumn wilds bright,
Autumn wind white.
Pool-water deep and clear,
Insects whining,
Clouds rise from rocks,
On moss-grown mountains.
cold reds weeping dew,
Colour of graceful crying.

Wilderness fields in October — 
Forks of rice.
Torpid fireflies, flying low,
Start across dike-paths.
Water flows from veins of rocks,
Springs drip on sand.
Ghost-lanterns like lacquer lamps
Lighting up pine-flowers.

Ripening Beans

Once I won a ham in a grocery store drawing. I was a kid and the ham wasn’t very big, but it was a prize. We ate it. Otherwise? Most of the prizes I’ve won in my life have been for running (through 9th grade) or public speaking (in high school). In my adult life? Only one. My novel, Martin of Gfenn, was shortlisted for an award by Chanticleer reviews. But to win prizes you have to compete, and I don’t like the competitive side of my personality very much.

Yesterday I was out with my beans. Li Bai, Tu Fu, Li Ho and Bai Juyi have had a GREAT summer out there, exceeding my wildest bean expectations. I’ve eaten several handfuls of their young beans and enjoyed them all — even last night. Now I’m allowing many pods to stay on the plants to ripen into beans for next year and or soup depending on how many I get. It’s strange but true that I get a peaceful easy feeling standing around my beans.

As I contemplated their beanish wonder yesterday evening, I thought of the passing season. I realized that it’s been a pretty nice summer, and I will be kind of sorry to see it go. I missed tea parties and lunches with my friends, especially Elizabeth whom I haven’t seen much. I missed visits from Lois but we had one short one. I guess I surrendered to the imperatives of this virus a while back and have mostly just forgotten about it.

When the beans are fully grown and ready, the pods turn yellow. I harvested a pod a few days ago. I brought it in and opened it to find 3 very large beautiful black and purple beans.

Yesterday I read a thing on “Brain Pickings” that resonated with me. It’s a long piece about Wendell Berry in which he gently rails against the “more” culture of consumerism. The part that struck me was this:

“In these times one contemplates it (life) with the same sense of hope with which one contemplates the sunrise or the coming of spring: the image of a man (whom Berry knew) who has labored all his life and will labor to the end, who has no wealth, who owns little, who has no hope of changing, who will never “get somewhere” or “be somebody,” and yet who is rich in pleasure, who takes pleasure in the use of his mind! Isn’t this the very antithesis of the thing that is breaking us (American humans) in pieces? Isn’t there a great rare humane strength in this — this humble possibility that all our effort and aspiration is to deny?”

I’m sorry but Li Bai, Tu Fu, Li Ho and Bai Juyi are too busy working on their beans to share any poems today. Li Ho even said “Poetry is for the young” and that almost led to a contretemps between the four of them, but they held it together and went back to beaning.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/09/02/rdp-wednesday-prize/

No Legacies for Me, Thanks…

I wrote a poem a long time ago that went like this:

The man without the camera
Walks entirely on rocks.

There was more, maybe, but I don’t remember what.

I’d learned from a friend that he had been in Saudi Arabia and taught for a year but never took a single photo of his time there.

I thought that was kind of cool and it inspired a poem.

The thought is the opposite of the quote by Maya Angelou on todays Ragtag Daily Prompt. The man who walks on rocks has no record of where he has been and the earth has none either. What’s his legacy? I remember what I was thinking at the time, sometime in late 80s, and that was that I wasn’t going to accomplish great things after all. I was at THAT moment in life. I was learning to be cool with the idea that I was just a face in the crowd.

“Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased…” is a dangerous — possibly irresponsible — admonition. The easiest way to do that is through destruction. Building something meaningful can take a lifetime. Even then, the future is going to do whatever it wants with it. One’s legacy — no matter how beautiful — is never going to wander through time unscathed.

I don’t know what else Maya Angelou had to say in the printed world from which this quotation was extracted, but no. Don’t live so you leave a legacy. Live so you have had a LIFE. The future will do whatever it wants with whomever you were and whatever you did.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/08/19/rdp-wednesday-legacy/

Fernweh!!!

I love this word. Thank you!!!

I have always had this dis-ease. Less now than in earlier years, but still. It’s funny how small we think the world is when we’re young and overcome with “fernweh.” We learn when we’re older what an immense thing it is, how complex and intricate, how lovely, intoxicating and scary.

Here’s the thing about fernweh. We might have ideas about where we long to go, but when we GET there the places are always three dimensional. I think there are as many wandering styles as there are people. I’ve been lucky to have had a Swiss/Italian family of my own for a while. It’s a long probably fascinating story how that happened, but what a wonder and gift it was, has been to me. It was during that time of my life that I learned that I like BEING in a place long enough or often enough that it becomes more than a dot on a map to me. I think, in a way, I haven’t traveled around; I’ve traveled into.

The other evening I was talking to a friend about the opera. I was rhapsodizing about attending the opera in the Arena in Verona back in 2004. The Arena is a Roman amphitheater and as I talked to my friend I heard myself yearning to BE there.

We talked about the difference between opera in Italy and in the United States. I’d told him that I’d thought of going to the Santa Fe Opera (2 hours away!) which is a world class opera, but when I priced out everything it was almost the same as traveling to Verona to go to the opera.

“You know why? Because here the opera is only for fancy, snotty rich people. In Italy it’s part of life.”

I agreed. I cherish the image of sitting on the sun-warmed marble seats of the Arena waiting for Madame Butterfly to begin. Everyone around us was talking laughing, some had brought a picnic supper. It was the most wonderful atmosphere. And those magical seats were only something like $6.

It was the second opera I’d attended in the Arena. The first was Aida which Verdi first performed in the Arena. I bought fancy close-in seats with backs and arms. It was OK, but NOTHING compared to those marble seats that had held Roman asses. At the end of the Madame Butterfly, a storm came up and we had to leave. Part of the experience was hurrying down the stone steps in the dark, tunnel-like stairwells down which Romans had poured in their time.

Since then, they’ve built a cover for the Arena so people aren’t chased out by rain. Personally, I think that’s a pity.

Once outside, having said “Ciao!” to my schoolmates (it was my last night in Verona and this had been kind of a party), I turned toward home, an apartment on the other side of the Adige. I walked up the hill to the bridge. the river was lined with Linden trees all in bloom. I stood on the bridge watching the river, immersed in the fragrance of the trees, knowing that I would always remember being chased out of the Arena by rain and ending up alone watching rain hit the Adige.

No tourist guide anywhere mentions anything like that.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/08/12/rdp-wednesday-fernweh/

Quotidian Update 43.2.xxi.5

Our domestic star is reminding me that I have not derived the maximum benefit from the window cleaning kit I bought in the spring. When I get that reminder (daily?) I think (daily?) that home ownership is a 24/7 job and I only show up for work when I have to. I have the impression that I’m the manager of this establishment, but I think I might be the crew…

Bear’s limp has returned and I’ve noticed that her elbow is turned outward. I’m thinking that this happens when she and Teddy play and maybe he pulls on her leg, or she turns too fast, or? Or when the meds relieved her pain, she went back to digging. Maybe she’s like me. I’m not running any more and maybe she’s not digging any more. I’m going to have to sit down and talk to her. Anyway, maybe another trip to the vet, this time for an X-ray. Big big dogs are prone to joint problems. She’s not walking well today, but…

Bear wanted a walk so badly last evening that I took her, even against my better judgment. It’s that difficult decision. We don’t live forever so how much “saving” of ourselves should we actually do?

It was a perfect evening. She got to see her favorite pocket-sized dogs, got to gather and leave many messages along the way to the high school parking lot where she got to do all of the loose-leash work she does so well (and enjoys). On the way home, I saw the little girl waiting by the fence, waving frantically. I also saw a guy walking with a dog.

Bear and I crossed the street to get to the little girl’s house and I said, “Meet me in the alley!” so I did my approximation of running and we got Bear out of sight of the dog. Once he’d passed, we were able to go back to the good spot and visit. They’ve repaired the old fence so it’s safer for the dogs and me. We — the little girl, her mom and I — had a good long visit the kind that is normal in a small town but very precious in these times.

When the little girl tells a story, she acts it out physically. I know that this is partly because she has a small speech impediment, and I think she can tell when someone doesn’t understand her. She also gets frustrated talking, like maybe the words are not enough. Lately, when she’s telling me a story, she also doesn’t look at me. That’s a new development. She really WANTS to SHOW what she means.

I was listening/watching her last evening thinking, “Wow, if she grew up to be a teacher, so many kids would learn that would otherwise have a hard time.” Of course, that’s my bent, but it’s true. Teaching tends to be one person yammering at the class, and while most kids learn that way, a lot don’t. But then, I’m a teacher and that’s what I see first. There’s a way bigger world out there than the classroom, way bigger now than it was when I set out on my adult life.

I asked her mom what M. wants to be when she grows up and her mom said “An ambulance.”

“Not the driver or…”

“No. Not the EMT. The ambulance with the lights, the siren, everything.”

Wow. As long as I’ve known M I’ve known she was a very special little girl. Her heart is as big as the universe, and she’s very, very brave. The day they brought the deck, I learned that reading is difficult for her, but she wants to. If I say something she doesn’t understand she says, “What does that mean?” and then she learns it. Last night she learned, “What’s new?”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, what did you do today?”

“Oh.” Then she told me. She’s really pretty amazing.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/08/08/rdp-saturday-stars/

Big Excitement in a Little Town in these Times

Yesterday I mowed the lawn (as long-suffering readers of my blog know) and the sun was fighting for place behind a dark cloud. The breeze was trying hard to become a strong wind. It was one of those moments. I pushed and turned, and pulled and avoided and did all the things one does when one mows their smallish front lawn. A couple of Hispanic grandmas walked past pushing a stroller. “Morning!!!

“Morning!” Big smiles and incipient laughter from all three of us. “Happy Monday!” one of them says and all three of us crack up.

I finish and start to take the mower down the alley to my garage. I run into my neighbor.

“You’re walking like you’re 102!” she says.

“Yeah, well, this thing makes me feel like I’m 102.”

My neighbor has a heart as big as the world and she said, not knowing I’d already finished the job, “You want me to do that for you?”

I told her my new dream, a dream that came to me while I was mowing the lawn. On the very very very very sad day when Bear is no more, I’m divesting myself of my house and getting a motorhome. Teddy and I are going to become vagabonds. I’m sick of yard work and even at this moment, I’m waiting for a call from the plumber (not someone like him).

“I’m sick of this. I had the line cleaned out in March!”

“I remember.”

We’d texted about this Sunday when the problem started, and I blamed it on 3 ply toilet paper, the only kind I could get during the “great toilet paper crisis” of 2020. Both of us have lived with septic tanks and have experienced the wonder of single ply toilet paper’s unique ability to break down immediately in water. “3 ply toilet paper?” she says, “Might as well flush paper towels.”

We talk some more abut my future dreams of motorhome life, O! the places Teddy and I will go!

“Oooh!” she said, “I have something for you.” The first clap of thunder and five rain drops. “Wait here!”

I said, “I’ll go put this away,” gesturing toward the lawn mower.

“OK. I’ll meet you somewhere.” She hurries to her house. I walk like I’m 102 to the garage and put the mower away.

When I meet her, she has something behind her back. “I never shared this with anyone,” she said, “I’ve never given this to anyone.” She hands me a plastic grocery bag and I know immediately it contains single ply toilet paper.

I’m thrilled! Shortly after I got back inside the house, the sky broke loose with a thunder-booming gully washer, our first real precipitation since December!!!!! Yesterday evening, Bear and were able to sneak onto the golf course. ❤

If I were keeping track on a chart of the number of times I’ve forgotten to use the prompt word in my blog post, I’d have a nice, straight line to the upper right hand corner.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/07/14/rdp-tuesday-chart/

Ice Cream Freezer

For months and months and months after he’d seen the old ice-cream freezer in my house, Mikey wanted to make ice cream. I always put him off because I didn’t really KNOW how to make ice cream. Finally I read a recipe in the cook book my Aunt Martha had given me so I knew. It was just — as I always believed — frozen milk with other stuff added in. Then came a day, one of the best days of my life and maybe one of the best days of the boys’ lives. On the way home from the BMX jumps, we stopped by the store where I bought salt and everything we needed to grill burgers and roast marshmallows — and make ice-cream. Mikey was over the moon, plus I was letting him sit in the middle front seat of the Ford Ranger so he could shift. Really, when is life better than THAT???

I know not every late-30s/early-40’s woman hangs out with a half a dozen kids, but we were friends.

Mikey and his brother lived about a block from me, up the alley. Their friends from school hung around on weekends. I had a truck. The BMX jumps were at the urban wilderness park where I hiked. The rest is history.

We got home from our hot afternoon — August 15, 1992 — and I set Mikey up with the ice cream freezer. I gave Jason a can of WD40 so he could see what was up with the old Ford in the back of my back yard. Jimmy disappeared and I found him in my room writing a story on my Macintosh (old school, black and white screen, etc.). Mike Smith — the tragedy of the long story that was our lives — was still around and he just helped out generally. Mike Smith was a natural athlete and a charismatic character with a prescient home tattoo of flames on his ankle.

I was still making the video of the boys at the jumps, so I hauled out the camera and video taped that late afternoon as part of the film we were making. It’s all on videotape in my “studio” play room, whatever. I also took still pictures that evening and I”m happy I did. It turned out to be a very important day for everyone in that yard.

And the ice cream was good. We put strawberries on top and Mikey didn’t even mind being pretty much the only guy turning the crank.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/07/12/rdp-sunday-ice-cream/

Surreality…

I was laid off in 1974. That was one crazy year in my life ANYWAY but the night the layoffs took effect was the pinnacle of craziness.

I was fresh out of university with the highly desirable BA in English. After months of searching I found a job on the line at Head Ski. I didn’t realize it was seasonal work (nothing about that in the newspaper ad). I worked swing shift (which I ended up liking) cleaning the edges of finished skis. After a while, because I was talented, I got promoted to measuring flex and camber, pairing skis, burning serial numbers on the sides and bagging them in the cotton fish net (oh baby) in which they were shipped. It was a raise in pay, too, which was good, because I was supporting the First X who was still in school.

This went on a couple of months then the pink slips were passed out during break at 6 pm. “We’ll hire you back as openings become available.”

That last day started early. My mom came to get me in Boulder, all the way from Denver, to take me and my grandmother to Loveland for my great-uncle’s funeral. I was dressed up in a skirt my mom had made me and a nice sweater. After the funeral there was lunch and then hanging around. My mom dropped me off at the factory at 3, and I was still wearing my fancy clothes. I had jeans to change into, but no other top.

Factory work is physical work and there were some pretty extreme chemicals in there. My polyester sweater was soaking it all in, believe me. At “lunch” the plan was we would all — all of us being laid off and those in solidarity with us — were going in the parking lot to get high. Afterwards? Well, we stood for the next four hours filing the throats of the tennis rackets to baby-bottomed smoothness. At 11 we were set free. We were all going to a bar on Pearl Street.

I didn’t have a car, but that’s when I learned that Jeff — the CUTEST guy on the line — was interested in me. He took me to the bar in his red VW, treated me like a date, bought me tequila sunrise after tequila sunrise and ignored everyone else. At 2, the bar closed.

Pearl Street was then just a street in a small city. We got to the car and Jeff opened the door. As he was closing it, four guys who were engaged in a fight, came roiling by. Jeff — who was a little stringy dude — chased two of them away but the other two were still fighting by the car. I sat there in a semi-drunken, exhausted, chemical fazed stupor as one guy smashed the face of the other guy into the window behind which I sat.

“Assholes,” said Jeff, after chasing the guy away and getting in the car.

I thought I should have been horrified by what I’d seen, but I couldn’t summon up horror. I was too tired, too high and too drunk to really care that there was blood all over the window.

We got to the parking lot of my apartment and that’s when Jeff made his move. “I don’t know how things are between you and your husband, but, you know, anyway here’s my phone number.”

And he kissed me.

Fact is, life with the First X was pretty awful, and I didn’t know how to contend with that. Still, I didn’t imagine cheating on him with Jeff or anyone. I went upstairs, took off my clothes and crawled into bed. 3 am. Without meaning to, I woke up my husband.

“Good God!” said the soon to be X, “You stink. Go take a shower!”

The next day I started looking for a job. A couple of days later, I called Jeff.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/rdp-friday-layoff/

My Town in Troubled Times

In Monte Vista, if you call to make an appointment for your dog to see the vet, it might not get entered into the computer. Then — by pure coincidence — you get an email from your vet saying aforementioned dog needs her shots. You see a word is spelled wrong (“where masks”). It’s a funny mistake, but you think they should fix it, so you answer it correcting the spelling and asking if you can get the dogs’ shots during her exam tomorrow. They will call you back to straighten out a problem you didn’t even know about — the appointment not being in the computer.

You will talk for 10 minutes about the dog’s correct breed, about the shots she needs, about the the appointment missing in the computer, about which leg is making her limp, about what it might be, about the spelling error and how fraught with confusion is the English language. The subject of masks will come up and you explain that you wear one because you’re old and have asthma. The person on the phone says he doesn’t because he’s stubborn. “I should I know I should,” he says.

Then you get off the phone and realize that in these times, when you’re mostly by yourself, you miss out on a lot of the sweet idiosyncrasies you love about your town and once more you’re really glad you live here.

Then you saddle up your Jeep and drive past blossoming potatoes and barley making waves in the wind to City Market where you pick up your groceries. The girl who brings them to you is genuinely sorry they don’t have exactly what you want, but, “We’re really busy today. The 4th, I guess.”

“It’s OK,” you say. “I don’t care all that much. I’m sure you did fine.” And it’s true. Sometimes the substitutions are better than the stuff you ordered. “Have a good 4th,” you say.

“You as well,” she says, “Stay safe.”

You come home. The weekly paper is in the mailbox. You learn the new police chief had organized a march last week, a “Walk of Unity” which was:

“MONTE VISTA – Monday, June 28, Monte Vista residents and members of the police department participated in a “Walk of Unity.” The walk was designed to demonstrate to others that we can stand together as one and not as a protest against anything. Chief of Police of Monte Vista, George Dingfelder, participated as well as Officers Dylan Golden, Michael Martinez and David Pino. Participants of the walk said that it demonstrated that no matter what we believe, our employment, our titles, who we vote for, the pigmentation of our skin, LBGTQ or heterosexual…we can stand together as one…together for the greater good of humanity and not create further division between neighbors. It’s our community and we will stand united with all of our brothers and sisters.”

https://montevistajournal.com/article/walk-of-unity-in-monte-vista

And that is exactly what you have figured out on your own these past few days looking clearly at the differences in beliefs and experiences between you and the people around you. “We’re the same people we were before,” you think, followed by, “and I’m learning all the time. I am sure we all are.”