Doctor Visit in the San Luis Valley

Yesterday I got in the marvelous Bella T. Car and drove fifteen miles to Del Norte to the doc. It’s such a beautiful drive that whatever’s wrong with you, you’re half-healed just from the vistas.

I felt (after a year?) it was past time to address a, uh, well, OK, here in the world with us live many creatures that normally we don’t have to pay any attention to, but sometimes, they assert themselves to the point where there’s no ignoring them any more. When things reach such a pitch, we must agitate ourselves and take action.

Let’s just call it an unfortunate reaction to antibiotics, OK? In my mouth.
Life in this huge valley — which is a small town — still surprises me after five years.

My doc’s PA is great. Funny, smart, nice anyway, we were having our pre-exam chat and I let her know I wanted labs. She said, “You had them last year.” I didn’t remember that, but OK. “Wait, have you had your annual Medicare wellness exam? If we can do labs as part of that, they’ll pay.”

I said I had never had a Medicare wellness exam. She murmured to herself, “Hmm, in a 20 minute appointment? Can we do this?” And she commenced asking me questions that seemed totally random and out of nowhere, questions such as “What’s your name? What’s your birthday? Who’s the president?”

I got stuck on that one and couldn’t say anything. She laughed, “OK, the LAST president.” Then, “Count backward from 22 in 3s…”

What I learned from my first Annual Medicare Exam is that there are some people in deep shit and I hope to god I NEVER reach that point. ALL of the questions were designed to identify dementia.

Fast forward to labs… Last year, before my hip replacement surgery, I DID have labs. As soon as I walked in the room I remembered. There was a lab tech who’d given me a glorious pep talk last year when I was apprehensive about the whole thing. After my blood was drawn I said, “You have a hip replacement, don’t you?”

“Two. One anterior and one posterior.”

“Well, you don’t remember me but I came in here last year to get labs before my surgery. You encouraged me so much.”

“Did you do it? The anterior?”

“I did. Do you want to see my scar?”

So there we were, showing each other our scars, our badges of solidarity and survival.


P.S. I got the necessary meds and they’re already working. I’m going to be able to smile at people again without cracking my lips and making them bleed. 🙂

Oh, outside my doc’s office is a herd of bison and a view that never fails to lift my heart.


Nature is often called “serene” but it’s only serene because somebody said so. Nature has (also) often been called “harsh” and that’s a lot LESS in the eye of the beholder than is the serenity. The battle between humans and nature is as old as humanity, but it’s a silly battle. Nature WILL WIN, at the very least against every individual human.

My life in the destination we call nature has involved lots of small negotiations. I live in a house. 😉 I carry a stick to warn snakes. I wear warm clothes in winter. Because there are legitimate foes out here, I leash my dogs. Now I will wear bug repellant at the slough. I accepted that if I did see a mountain lion someday (I did) it might not go so well — did I still want to? (I did) Lucky for the lion and me it was a happy meeting. If the lion had attacked me, it would’ve been killed by a ranger or something. Most important, staying alert. I know if I take Bear out in a thunderstorm it might hail. Can I get to shelter along the way if that happens? And what about lightning? There’s a long list of accommodations like these that I can’t even think of now; they are second nature. I think the most important thing is knowing my limits (also nature) and, if I want to expand them, knowing I can’t do it in a day (nature seldom does anything ‘in a day’).

I think that the one lesson we can get from nature that might lead to serenity is the lesson of humility. A horsefly is small, but it brought me down.

“When men lack a sense of awe, there will be disaster.” Lao Tsu

Penalties of Voyeurism

In the process of photographing the amorous tryst of two Monarch butterflies the other day, I got bitten by a horsefly. I didn’t realize it until the middle of the night when I woke and my ankle hurt. In my sleepiness I thought, “How did I sprain my ankle and not know it?”

I went back to sleep. For the next two days my ankle swelled and burned. It looked like all the photos Dr. Google has of DVTs in the feet and had all the symptoms — warm to the touch, discoloration, swelling. “Holy crap,” I thought late Friday evening when my ankle was at its most painful and most swollen, “I’m fucked.”

I called the ER. “You’d better come in,” they said. The ER is 15 miles away.

I started getting the house set up to leave the dogs maybe over night. “What if I have to stay? Someone will have to feed these guys and let them out?”

A little voice said, plaintively, “You need to talk to someone.”

There are drawbacks to living alone, but it’s also possible to live with someone with a faster panic trigger than I have. You never know. My friend Elizabeth talked me out of going to the ER, so I iced my foot some more and then went to bed.

Yesterday we went to the opening of a friend’s art show. I was sitting in a chair and Elizabeth and I were looking at my foot. “I don’t know,” she said.

Another party-goer passed by and looked at it and said, “Horse-fly bite. My husband has two. They’re driving him crazy itching. Does yours itch?”

Moral of the story? Every voyeur pays a price.

Refugees, Asylum, Exile

Once upon a time in a faraway land I was a young girl. At 14, I was on the brink of LIFE and I knew it. “What’s OUT there? Whatever it is I want ALL of it. I want adventure, faraway places, love, romance, exotic locales, art, beauty, truth, give me the WHOLE thing! What? I have to come and get it? No? Just meet you halfway? OK, whatever it takes, I’m down with it. What do you mean I don’t have a choice?”

I didn’t listen to that last bit… I also didn’t know that eventually in life we learn how our stories turn out.

Among the goings on in my life when I was 14 were piano lessons. My first teacher was a nice young man who came to our house every Wednesday to teach my brother and me. My second was an elderly and frustrated concert pianist at the prep school I attended. Her fingers were gnarled by arthritis, and no doubt she was in physical and psychological pain. BUT she was too ready to hurt the hands of the child who made mistakes. My fingers were often scraped along the keyboard after a failed arpeggio, or crushed in her sad claw when I made mistakes. When I left the prep school I needed a new teacher. I was also terrified of piano lessons by that point, but (strangely) I had talent for the piano. My mom found Mr. Baer who had a small studio in the back of the music store in the small town where we lived.

.He turned out to be one of my life’s great gifts.

Fast forward a five decades. A few years ago I wrote about Mr. Baer in this blog, a post that I apparently deleted in the Great Post Purge of 2019. But THAT post attracted a German historian at the University of Hamburg who was working on a project collecting the stories, brief biographies, of the many German Jewish musicians and artists who lived in exile in Shanghai during WW II. I didn’t have much help to give her, but I learned some things myself from doing research. Mostly I learned how Mr. Baer, his wife and his mother ended up in Bellevue, Nebraska. Our news is very much about us. The old newspapers reported mostly about the church group that brought him to Omaha.

Last night, after reading Korea in Shanghai on I. J. Khanewala’s blog, I thought of Mr. Baer again. I commented that it would be great if, on one of his trips to Shanghai, Mr. Khanewala could go find the old Jewish neighborhood where my teacher had lived. I then Googled Mr. Baer and found the biography this historian wrote. It is the story Mr. Baer told me so long ago, but more. I was able to learn all of the things he did and was in Germany — Berlin — before Hitler. Among those things was that he fought for Germany in WW I. As I. J. Khanewala commented today, “It must be specially disheartening to fight for your country in a war and then be declared first a lesser citizen, then a non-citizen, and finally an enemy of the country.”

Besides the music of Chopin (which Mr. Baer and I both loved) I heard the story about losing one’s home in a way I never forgot and that engendered in me a particular sympathy for people forced from a homeland they love. I was learning a Mazurka, having learned from my second piano teacher Chopin’s Polonaise Opus 53 (it was my audition piece to be accepted by Mr. Baer. I can’t believe now that I could ever play it but I did…) “A Mazurka is a Polish folkdance,” explained Mr. Baer. “Do you know Chopin’s story?”


“He was forced to leave Poland, his home country, and he was never able to return. He missed it all his life.” Mr. Baer spoke with a very thick German accent.

That evening I learned a little of his story, how his daughter had been killed by Nazis, how he’d refugeed through Italy to Shanghai then to New York and finally to Nebraska. I heard the names of these exotic places and I wondered how it could be for him to live in our small town (fewer than 10k people) in Nebraska.

“Ja, so it looks very much like the countryside in Germany,” he said. “And my wife, she is here and my mother. We must make our home where we are.”

Was Mr. Baer Chopin? I wondered. Yes, of course he was, but?

My dad had been trying to get reassigned by the Defense Department from Nebraska where he worked at SAC (Strategic Air Command) to a posting in Colorado and finally it came through. We were to go to Colorado Springs and dad was going to work for NORAD (North American Air Defense Command). I went to my piano lesson thrilled to be moving back to the mountains. I didn’t count on how that would actually FEEL after it happened, and I had left my friends, my first boyfriend, my school, my forest behind and was living in a bigger city and knew no one.

I wrote Mr. Baer and he answered. His letter said, “Think of the mountains and how much you missed them and how wonderful it is to be there now.”

I had my answer.

But I also saw how a man like this, who had experienced so much LIFE — the horror and the beauty — could still enter into the feelings of a young girl with sympathy, understanding and kindness.


Here’s a link to Mr. Baer’s biography. I didn’t have too many problems reading the German, but I couldn’t get all of it — Google Translate was a good helper. It’s worth reading.

Mr. Baer

Here’s the Polonaise. Of course I never played it like THIS.

Watching the Trail

Big events in the Casa di Martha, Bear and Teddy. “What?” you may well ask. Well, Teddy has now been on a legit walk — wait, two legit walks — to the slough. Yep. No, no, no don’t worry about the bursitis in my shoulder. It’s a LOT better and Bear has decided that it’s to her advantage to walk at heel.

Life is good.

On Teddy’s first walk we were met by a young guy walking out of the slough. He saw Teddy’s little head through my windshield and waved. We stayed in the car — mostly because I didn’t want to try to control two jubilant beasts. When the guy got to the parking lot, I hopped out of Bella. The guy said, “Let them out! I love dogs!” I was happy he wasn’t another acerbic dog hater.

So, I did. Turned out he has two Australian shepherds, a Pyrenees/lab mix and a golden retriever. As he met my dogs, he showed me photos of his.

“I’m here killing time while people look at my house. We’re trying to sell it.”

We talked about that and when I learned where the house is that he and his wife are selling, I said, “I wish I could live there.”

“I wish you could too,” he said. “These guys would love it.”

It was a sweaty walk but not overly laden with mosquitoes and Teddy loved it. So we went back yesterday. Cooler, perfect mosquito temps, but we had a good time. The air smelled of clover and the milkweed is blooming.

As it’s snake season, and with both hands full of dogs and no way to use a stick, I watch the trail carefully. Winter is better for the long vistas anyway.

Looking down you still see stuff. I noticed a ruffling in the weeds. A fluttering bright creature moved out of our way. I stopped. The dogs had seen it, too, and badly wanted to jump the mysterious moving thing. I made the dogs sit and stop. The fluttering creature stopped, and I saw it was two Monarch butterflies joined in their amorous moment.

Grass Grows

Grass is a big deal in Colorado. A lot of people move here because marijuana is (mostly) legal. Of course that legalness has a lot of qualifying factors — it’s not legal in my county, but it’s legal in the next two counties. But in one of the next counties it’s only legal for those with a medical license, but in the NEXT county from there it’s legal for recreational use. You might have to drive pretty far to get something to fill your bong.

I’m all for it. I never understood why grass wasn’t ALWAYS legal. Like hooch in the 20s, people have always been able to find it if they wanted it. While I, personally, don’t like the effects, it’s helped a lot of people cope with anxiety, pain, cancer… All legitimately proven. As an intoxicant, well, people on weed are a lot less likely to drive than people who’ve been drinking. They’re less likely to brawl. They’re less likely to move (ha ha) at all.

Back in the day, 1976? I remember going to a friend’s house for dinner and smoking afterward. What we had then was what people today call “cheap Mexi” and I don’t think you can find it any more. My friends figured I’d be REALLY funny if I were stoned (I’m pretty funny in real life and it isn’t just my appearance). But, no. Grass always sent me into some quiet place where I just wanted to listen to music and have psychic conversations with animals. That particular night I ended up sleeping on the sofa with their big black dog and their Siamese cat — both of whom hated each other. They were irresistibly attracted to my stoned vibe and we spent the night together. “I can’t believe this,” said my friend when he got up and found us, the dog cradled in the hollow of my left arm, the cat in the right. He went to get his wife to witness the Dr. Doolittle miracle. I think he took a picture…

I also remember once, still more stoned than I realized, driving home from those same friends’ house, noticing a red stop light a couple of blocks ahead and stopping as soon as I saw it. OK, it was 2 am and a completely empty residential street, but that’s stoned driving. Not exactly aggressive.

Intoxicating grass today has been hybridized and developed to the point that growers and scientists can actually determine for which physical symptom a strain is useful. It’s a lot different from the pile of green stuff — lawn clippings? Oregano? — I once saw on the coffee table of a friend from church. He was sorting out the seeds with a strainer. It was 1970. “Don’t just walk in here like that!” he screamed at me. And I understood why the deacons at our church were always praying for this guy…

But grass isn’t just for getting high and relieving pain. Long long ago in this very land hemp was in competition, before the invention of the cotton gin, with tobacco for “top crop.” Those glorious days of the sailing ships depended on hemp — canvas sails? No, cannabis sails. Yes. Truly. And ropes? For centuries ropes were hemp. Even when I was a kid before the invention of “miracle fibers” (that never break down and therefore must be gathered by Patagonia and made into the next generation of expensive (and incredibly beautiful) outerwear, hemp was what ropes were made of. Even climbing ropes. Our jump rope was hemp. Yeah it smarted when it hit your leg but that was just incentive to do better next time. People have made beautiful and useful things from hemp for more than 10,000 years. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp-fiber paper.

As I drive between home and the “big city” (Alamosa) I pass a hemp field. It makes me happy to see it. From all I’ve read, hemp is a great crop. Fast growing, a good cover crop to keep weeds out of other food crops, easily harvested. To learn more, our friends at Wikipedia have a litany of hemp’s wonders. The Alamosa Courier, the main newspaper in a weed-friendly county, recently published an informative article advocating hemp as a good crop for this agricultural area, “Valley is Crucial to Hemp Comeback.”

And yet…the benighted leaders my town do not want to sell weed in any of its forms. A friend sold her greenhouse and attendant land to a company that grows industrial hemp. She has taken all kinds of crap from people for that, people who don’t know the difference, or don’t want to acknowledge the difference, between fancy intoxicating grass and the fiber of the future. Looking at the state of the nation this morning, it seems to me it’s stuck in a time warp that exists in miniature here in my small town. Some people have arrived here, in the “future” while others are laboring under the illusion that if they just drag their feet they will not have to leave the 1970s. I fear these people also believe that when a windmill that generates electricity stops turning, their lights will go off or the solar collectors on the east side of the valley stop working at night.

I think they’ll have to make the big jump into 2019. As a friend said to me long ago, making a pitch for the wholesomeness of intoxicating marijuana, “You see, Martha, grass grows.”

Is it Luck?

Years ago, while I was writing my thesis, my thesis adviser and I got into a conversation about luck and Horatio Alger. “Did you notice, Martha, that all Alger’s heroes have a lucky moment and they’re smart enough to grab it? It’s not just that they work hard and are humble. They’re lucky. That is undervalued in our society. We like to say hard work leads to success, but a person can work hard all his life and without a little luck, no one succeeds.”

I don’t think I answered him. I think that a light bulb was flashing in my brain.

Medieval people believed in the Wheel of Fortune and looked for ways to remain in a good position on that wheel. The Wheel of Fortune controlled everything, determined by the will of God which could be manipulated by prayer, penance and good deeds.

Candide by Voltaire is my “desert island book.” It’s the one volume I have in fancy leather binding on purpose. Godnose what you pick up in used bookstores (be warned). Among all the other wild and wonderful things that book is, it offers a wise perspective on “fortune.”

Dr. Pangloss — a world-renowned philosopher and the teacher of Candide, a wide-eyed, innocent and sweet young man — subscribes adamantly to the idea that “All things work together for good” and we live in “the best of all possible worlds.” What this means is that every horrible thing that happens will lead to something wonderful down the road. He’s incorrigibly positive.

Impossible coincidences, bad choices, horrific natural disasters, lost love and resignation, all there.

I read it in high school. I was far more jaded in high school than I was later in life or am now, the affectation of sophistication that many adolescents run with, the “too cool for school” thing. I thought it was boring. My dad said it wasn’t. I said it was. He said it was satire. I said it was stupid. He shrugged. I wrote my paper. It got a B.

Then, for some odd reason, I read it in my 40s. I laughed all the way through it and didn’t put it down until I found out what happened. Then, for years, I taught it to post-adolescents who rivaled me for jadedness and ended up liking it. 🙂 (Good teacher!)

So what’s the point? At the end of the novel (it can’t be spoiled, even if I quote the entire ending) the trio of survivors, and a few more who join them, are somewhere in Turkey growing peaches or pistachios or something. Dr. Pangloss starts to make a speech about it being “The best of all possible worlds” that has brought them there.

“There is a concatenation of all events in the best of possible worlds; for, in short, had you not been kicked out of a fine castle for the love of Miss Cunegund; had you not been put into the Inquisition; had you not traveled over America on foot; had you not run the Baron through the body; and had not not lost all your sheep, which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts.”

In my mind, I see Candide sigh, thinking, “This again?” But he replies, “Excellently observed. But let us cultivate our garden.”

In my 40s, when I read Candide for real, I saw that this is pretty much all we CAN do.

The sign on my front fence. 🙂

The Faithful Dog and the Undaunted Garden

Teddy T. Dog is the kind of dog you see in paintings, sleeping on the floor by the tired farmer after a hard day’s work. In those paintings, his name is “Shep.” And the name of the painting is “Faithful Friend.” The farmer has his workboots off and his feet up on a low footstool and there’s a hole in one sock. He doesn’t even own slippers, but if he did, Shep would have brought them. The farmer smokes a pipe and the smoke curls above his head. “Shep” is asleep with one eye open just in case the farmer needs help. Shep’s even willing to keep that flock of hens in line if asked, and, though he’d rather not mess with that rooster (almost lost his eye that time), he will if he the farmer asks.

Yesterday we went — all three of us — out to the slough, well, that was our destination, but when we got where we I wanted to go, it looked like a little “afternoon delight” was taking place in the parking area. I was young once. Just because they built Village Seven over those places in Colorado Springs doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. SO… we turned around and went to the lake. The lake has advantages, anyway, notably a big wide road all around it. Teddy is low to the ground and sticks his nose in everything.

When we arrived, a car was moving very slowly in our direction. I waited to see what the story was. It was an elderly couple walking their young dog. The dog ran on the road beside the driver. I’ve heard of this, but I never saw it before. When they passed, I hitched up my “team” and we took a walk. An eagle flew in front of us, descending from one of the tall cottonwood trees beside the lake.

Summer is tired. It’s got to be exhausting here, with barely six weeks to do everything, summer pushes furiously through its necessary tasks.

My Australian pumpkin is the best plant in my garden. I poked a seed in the dirt, not thinking anything would grow. My neighbor — from whom I got the seeds — grew them last year, and they didn’t mature fully before she had to pick them. He needs more sun, more time and a more spacious spot to grow, but he doesn’t care. He’s doing it anyway. Although signs point to an early winter, I hope we don’t get a real frost for another month so at least he has a chance to bloom.

But, judging from the fact that the large ungulates are already down here on the valley floor, I think we might have an early winter. Good for me, bad for the volunteer tomatoes that first showed their heads only a week ago. I have named them “Optimism.”

My garden has had a hard time this year, and for a while I was disappointed, but now I think it’s a valiant little place. Everything is doing its best, trying very hard to put out something good and useful before it’s too late.

I relate to that.

Meandering Look at Literature

I stay on standard time all year. This means in summer I wake at 8. All the people around me are up with the sun, but not me. In fact the best two hours of sleep are between 6 and 8. In a few months, I’ll be getting up earlier 😉

Last night I learned of a young writer who’s won all kinds of prizes for her book The Tiger’s Wife and has recently brought out her second novel. Naturally, I was momentarily gripped by envy. It’s just how it is. If you’ve seen Midnight in Paris you might remember Keanu Reeves as Hemingway saying to the young guy from another time, who was writing a book, “Don’t show it to another writer. Writers are competitive.” I’d say failed writers are not just competitive but bitter.

Once the wave of envy passed, I looked at her book.

Once more I thought, “Good God. I’d never write this.” First person, paragraph after paragraph after paragraph after paragraph — pages — of description. Then I remembered the review of The Price that I hate and that has, I think, perhaps dissuaded from reading that book. That review described my writing as “sparse” (as if that were a negative thing 😀 ) and said my book was a failed attempt to write a book I 1) had never heard of and 2) would never write (I looked at it). How can you dis a novel for NOT being something it never set out to be? It is like dissing Huckleberry Finn for not being Portnoy’s Complaint.

I thought of all the things that go together to make a “time.” As I was growing up, and in school, the writers who were lauded as “great writers of our time” were Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Capote. There was no such thing as “Women’s literature,” there was only literature, and at that time the ascendancy of serious women writers — Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates, Norah Ephron… The good prose put in front of us was NOT paragraph after paragraph of description. Our professors — most born when Hemingway was still writing — had broken from tradition by embracing Papa. My giant anthology in college did not contain “The Yellow Wallpaper” or anything by Kate Chopin, never mind Toni Morrison. There was no “Norton Anthology of Women’s Literature” but by the time I, myself, was teaching at a university, there was. I saw it as a 1000 page literary ghetto, but that’s just me.

My thesis was about Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1828 – 1845 (during part of this time Poe was the literary editor) which was edited by Sarah Josepha Hale during its heyday. It featured ONLY American authors and most were female. It enforced the idea that women write differently — and about different things — then do men. This didn’t make women worse writers; just different with a different focus, a different reason for reading, different reasons for writing. They wrote from a female perspective about a separate world referred to back then as the “women’s sphere.”

By the time I was out in the world of work (which was academia, after the first 5 years in the clerical jungle) there was an overt and political motion against misogynistic dead, white male writers. I thought this was dumb. What if they were good? What if they had important things to say? Shouldn’t EVERYONE be read with the understanding that whatever benighted time they lived in would affect what they said and how? How they lived?

When I met Hemingway once I was out of school it was intense. I was in my late 20s and life was pretty jacked. I was already divorced, in love with a gay man who was also in love with me. I was on my own trying to connect one end of the month to another. The Hemingway I’d met in the 9th grade was a far different writer than the one I met at 27. No, wait, I was different. My bad. About the same time I met Capote. Two very spare writers yet very different from each other, both approached writing from a philosophical perspective that wasn’t all that different. Both very adamant about it.

And, their writing charmed me. It wasn’t all I read. I loved Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but they didn’t offer me any information I could use. Lost in Terra Nostra when I was in China (how weird is that?) I realized the outer world interested me more than the inner world. The inner world seemed finite (naturally) and the outer world? What was THAT all about. It was a forty year search in the labyrinth of reality before I met Goethe and got a road map.

Every writer is a person with a life and a journey.

The bottom line is taste. No writer can possibly know what every reader wants in a novel or why every reader reads. Beyond that is the social indoctrination of each generation. Tea Obreht’s book, The Tiger’s Wife, is (from the first three pages) intoxicating. It’s the kind of book a person might turn to on a rainy day hoping to lose themselves.

And no, I don’t write that book and I’m unlikely to read it. I don’t want to lose myself. I’ve been there before.

Studio Tour

Yesterday went on an artist studio tour in the nearby town of South Fork. I experienced some culture shock. The tour took us first to a strange little house and a few pieces of art work done by a mom and daughter, both nice people. There were kitties and dogs and some paintings and a batik or two. I remembered how much fun batik can be and momentarily thought of doing some, but then? I’d need to buy an iron. Shudder.

The house was a cedar-shingled modular on a dirt road. The art work was exhibited in what looked like a front porch DBA chicken coop. I was uncomfortable because? Well, I don’t know, the girl was very shy, her paintings were the beginning of her artist’s journey. I admired the gumption of the young girl and wondered who’d she’d be fifty years from now when she’s my age. I thought she would be interesting, and if she got real about painting and found a good teacher, that might end up good for her, too.

Next up, a palatial estate on top of the golf course with views, incredible views, impeccably furnished. My friend and I wandered around, totally uncomfortable. We ended up on a deck watching a slew of hummingbirds feeding, a very beautiful sight.

As I watched them, I thought of my Italian friend’s book and what he wrote about forests, how people go there to relax but the forest is never relaxed. It’s a relentless struggle for light, water, space. Same with the hummingbirds. The beautiful urgency of their hovering is extremely competitive. OH WELL.

My entire house would almost fit in the kitchen of that house. There was a bathroom with an immense walk-in shower — bigger than my bedroom — “paved” all the walls with river stones. Beautiful, but??? Why??? Two retired people live there. My friend and I turned away, I turned because I was disgusted. I don’t know why Elizabeth turned away, maybe the same reason.

I was disturbed by the ostentatious consumption. I suppose at heart I’m a communist (not to be confused with being a Stalinist) and think no one should live in a cedar shingled modular with a chicken coop front porch, and no one needs a house with a kitchen 800 square feet. I guess I think the big house people should have less house and help the cedar shack people have a better one. Winters are cold up there. The shack people seemed happier than the big house people. Maybe they could share some of that with the big house people and everyone would be better off.

“They’re showing their house as much as her paintings,” said Elizabeth. True. We went downstairs to the woman’s studio where she sat small and hunched as if she didn’t know what to do. The studio was impeccable and, honestly, the paintings she does are derivative, flat and soulless, but painted in vivid colors and successful at filling a wall. Others on the tour liked them and talked with the artist about prices.

We left for the final stop since our time was limited. It was a far more normal house (to me and Elizabeth, anyway) belonging to a talented fabric artist who weaves, dyes, beads, just pretty much does everything. Two years ago when we did this tour I bought one of the woman’s dishtowels which I use on my table here. I wanted more. She was an artist after my own heart — it seemed to me she loved what she did so much that she hated asking money for it. She apologized often for her prices — which weren’t high — saying, “I’m sorry. The cost of supplies has gone up so much I have to ask more,” she said as she ran my credit card. I bought some Christmas presents.

On the way out of town was a huge, home-painted sign listing all the nasty things the political left wants to do to the good people of South Fork, Colorado. Apparently the “left” wants to take their guns (South Fork is openly open-carry), force socialism upon them, compel them all to be PC and various other things like that, all truly unspeakable. With the next election approaching and the whole thing heating up thanks to the rhetoric from DC (which is another world, really) the silent resolve to get along with our neighbors is breaking down. It’s amazing to me that BOTH sides (why are there sides) are continuing to offer “information.” Sorry, folks but the “other side” doesn’t need more “information.” What we need is to walk away from the blistering rhetoric and go back to getting along with each other.

I know that most of the people I run into randomly and many of my friends have guns, use guns, practice with their guns and like their guns. That’s always been the truth in my life. I can shoot. Back when I practiced, I was a very good shot. I don’t care about people’s guns in a general sense, but the underpinning of all those guns was that they weren’t to be used on people. “Never point a gun at anyone,” first rule of guns. I don’t think anyone around here disagrees with that. And it’s TRUE that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. BUT there are guns that are not designed for anything other than killing people and that’s where the gray area (if there is one) appears. Beyond this, I have nothing to say except politicians should not be for sale to anyone anyway.

Anymore than two elderly retired people need a bathroom bigger than the house in which their neighbors live.