The Frazzled Season

The world seems frazzled to me right now. I’m frazzled, too. The bright sun and heat give me migraines. I try to put a good face on it, but… The thing is, this is the season of….


A little voice yells…

Don’t Risk It!!!

This season will be followed in a few months by its correlate, a season I know as,


People will resolve not to plant so much next year. I’ll remember that I don’t really like zucchini (except curried) and how much of that can one little lady eat? When the tomatoes succumb to an early frost (after I’ve covered them numerous times before that event) I’ll sigh with relief. “That’s over.”

After that, things will slowly get good again.

Things being good….

I’m not one of those women who emerges from her back door the first sunny day in March and says, “I just can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt.” Yeah, people say that. Cool people. People I know.

My actual friends!!!!

From this year’s garden experience I’ve learned a few things. Bending down to plant stuff hurts my knees. Carrying 30 pound bags of landscaping bark is OK, but 50 pound bags of dirt is not. I do not enjoy this. Teddy follows my lead and digs anywhere I do. It appears the San Luis Valley is in another drought. It’s hard to tell when the place itself is a desert, but yeah. When spring grass crunches under your feet, it’s a sign. Yesterday I spent hours carefully setting the water. I have an automatic sprinkler system but 1) I don’t know how to turn it on and off seasonally and, 2) I can’t afford the water bill that ensues.

But the iris and peonies are budded out. The Forget-me-Nots are reminding me of their existence. The new leaves on the aspen trees are quaking and shimmering in the wind. The hills are softened and gentle in the evening light. Last evening when I headed out with Bear, a blue-bird called to me and I answered. It was a pleasant — if simple — conversation (my vocabulary is limited). You just have to take the bitter with the sweet, I guess.

The trailer below is from a REAL movie that is incredible funny. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Brief as Dandelion Floss

Wednesday was the little boy’s — Connor’s — birthday. He’s 7. His mom texted me yesterday to see if I wanted some birthday cake. I knew they were on their way down the alley by Bear’s and Teddy’s happy barks along the lilac hedge. Michelle had a tennis ball for Teddy. The little boy brought his favorite birthday present to show me.

We stayed out in the front yard talking (virus), all the while Michelle asking, in various synonymous sentences, if she could see the dogs and me answering, “You won’t like it.” At one point Michelle stood beside me in her “grown lady” hat, her pretty dress and her gold, glittery Uggs, blowing the floss from the dandelions. I was struck by the beauty of that image and thought, “It’s never a big thing.”

Finally Connor said, “Can we see your house?” I didn’t mind, but there’s this virus thing… I looked at their mom.

“They’re used to ‘no’.” I knew that. I never knew two kids so willing to roll with that little word.

“OK, but only the living room. I don’t want to give everything away. You need stuff to look forward to.” They only heard “OK.” The rest was for their mom. I have learned, over the years, the value in saying stuff that doesn’t make sense to kids but communicates to adults. Mom laughed. Maybe I learned that skill from my own parents.

“I’m going to let the dogs in. They will be VERY VERY VERY excited. You have to sit down and be very quiet and calm.”

It was a start, anyway. They both sat down. I went to the back door. The dogs raced in, knowing already WHO was in our house. OH BOY!!!

The kids never believe me that the dogs are WAY to exuberant for them, but yesterday they learned. Teddy’s joie de vivre (Aussie puppy) is too much for most people. But he is learning to sit to get pets. Bear — as a livestock guardian dog — reacts to the nervousness and fear in people she loves by wanting to climb on them to make them safe. So, because Michelle was afraid, Bear thought she had to go to work, making it worse. Really how many little girls in pretty dresses want a big dog who weighs more than they do to jump up on the sofa with them? It was kind of a circus. I got dog cookies and the kids managed to get Bear to go “Down!” And Teddy even managed once or twice. “Will work for cookies.”

Their mom — who grew up here near the Refuge — recognized immediately what I had painted years before I moved here in the painting below. “That’s the valley!” she said. “That’s the exact view from my grandma’s window! I guess you were meant to be here.”

When the dogs had calmed down, and the moment was over, there was much hugging. I know all about the virus but sometimes you have to weigh mortality against the spontaneous affection of children. 

I’m going to have Bear write the little girl a letter and explain how dogs behave differently than cats.

Lamont and Dude Discuss Headaches and Empty Beaches

“How’s your head, Lamont?”

“Better, but that was bad.”

“Scary too, I bet. In these times.”

“These times?”

“Virus and all.”

“Dude, you know as well as I do that Jim Morrison was right.”

“What? Do you still have a migraine?”

“Just the hangover, but seriously, Dude. It’s always right there.”

“WHAT is right there?”

“The bear, the meteor, the fire, the whole enchilada. Have you heard anything about the museum opening again? I kind of miss you dressing up in the Smilodon suit.”

“You never saw me in the Smilodon suit.”

“I did. On Youtube. It’s pretty legit.”

“Not really if you think that I never got to grow up as a Smilodon. But whatever. History is nothing but a vague gesture toward… Whoa! Lamont, did you see that one??? Damn, I wish I’d been out there.”

“It’s weird seeing the boardwalk so empty, the beach all empty, staying raked like that.”

“There goes another one. What a waste.”

“Decent. Definitely decent. You know the saying. ‘If a wave breaks and there’s no one to ride it…’ Hang on Dude. It’s Oprah.”

“She’ll be wanting you to work overtime?”

“Good one, Dude!”


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations which gives them an unusual perspective on life, the universe and everything. If you enjoyed this, there are hundreds more episodes. Just type “Lamont and Dude” in my blog’s search bar.

My Golf Course

Seven pm the golf course closes, though now it has a lot of rules and to stay open, people have to follow them. No carts other than personal carts. People have to sign in. People have to wear masks. Only a certain number of people are allowed on the (9 hole) course at a time, and they must leave by 7:00.

I know this virus is a terrible thing and a pain in the butt for people eager to return to their normal lives, but like the mountain goats in Spain, the mountain lions in Boulder, the elk, well, everywhere, Bear and I are jazzed to have the people under control for once..

We went for our first evening ramble of the summer once it got cool. To me this is MORE than a golf course. It’s a haven. It’s where I learned to walk again after moving here and again after my hip surgery. It’s where Dusty T. Dog learned to actually BE free and trust people.

Bear, me and Dusty on the driving range

It’s where I got to know this world when I first moved here six years ago. It’s where I met Mr. Martinez and heard his sad story, then watched him make friends with Dusty T. Dog and tell me I could walk on his private road. It’s where Fred (the other golf course walker and voluble, hilarious Italian) and I stood in knee deep snow discussing whether Mr. Martinez should trap the beavers in his ditch. “Big as bears!!!!” said Fred. “I saw one, good god!”

And then, last year, one late summer evening, a guy taking care of the golf course, out mowing the driving range (pasture) said, “I made you a hiking trail there by the pond, and I set up a hammock, too, down at that end.”

It’s where I was followed by a small herd of mule deer. It’s where I saw the fox in the mist. I’ve enjoyed the flights of bald eagles, golden eagles, red tail hawks. The dogs have been captivated by the smells of nocturnal mammals as I’ve tracked their foot prints and been a little surprised by bear scat. I’ve read the tragedy in the broken form of a fox-downed red-tail. I’ve watched the sudden uprush of hundreds of geese and listened to the sweet, soothing sound of a thousand cranes. And then there’s “my” horse and the kids who live across the street from the 8th hole.

It’s where I discovered I can still X-country ski.

The golf course has been there for nearly 100 years as all of this — not to mention golf — has transpired across it, year after year after year. A golf course that has — among its written rules, “No livestock” and “Clean up after your dogs.” Seriously, how many golf courses have rules like that? ❤

The golf course (which backs onto The Big Empty) was my primer to the San Luis Valley. Just a golf course in a little town, but to me and Bear? It’s the natural world, and it’s only a block from my house. Not black and white, and not abstract, but if you think about it, nature’s performance art happens in time.

And seriously, isn’t it beautiful? I know it’s not the Tetons or the Eiger or something, but still.

All Sewn Up

I can’t dance. Don’t ask me. All the work in the yard finally exacted its toll, not on my back, but on my knee, which is not unexpected. OH well…

Our parents load us down with *fardels and we are obliged, at some time in our lives, or maybe when our lives over, to scatter the fardels appropriately to the future. One of my ancestral fardels is an old pedal sewing machine that once belonged to my grandmother. It’s cast iron and oak and that isn’t even the sewing machine. The sewing machine itself is made of heavy metal inside and out. It comes from a time before plastic.

Fairy garden stuff on the pedal. It’s outside now… Yes, that’s Godzilla vs. the Garden Gnomes

A couple of weeks ago, I got a text from my cousin’s daughter. She included her mom’s phone number, and I sent back mine. Within the hour we were talking and it was wonderful. I wrote all about it here.

This past weekend I was dusting (who’s surprised?) the top of the sewing machine and had an epiphany. “I found a home for you, Grandma,” I said to the machine. I contacted my cousin’s daughter and asked her if she sewed. She does. Then I asked her if she would like this wondrous thing. She was so happy and excited. I took a bunch of photos so she could see it. All she has to do is come and get it. They live only 3 hours away and we’r getting together when the virus is “over.”

My mom was very insistent when my grandmother died that she get the sewing machine. “I’m the one who sews.” It meant a lot to her to pass it on to me. But, it was not strictly true that my mom was “the one who sews.” My cousin’s mom also sewed. My cousin won prizes at 4-H for sewing.

As I was setting up the photos and really looking at the sewing machine for the first time in years, I thought about the influence of my grandmother on my life. It’s been mysterious and persistent and, in some ways, I feel like she lives here with me. She died when I was 10.

A million years later, when I traveled to Switzerland, I found her again. Corresponding with my cousin’s daughter about this heavy-weight fardel, I felt like my grandma was watching over my shoulder, maybe arranging the whole thing. I know that sounds weird, but…

The word “fardel” means “burden.” It’s archaic, and no one uses it, but I really like it and it is my singular mission in life to restore it to common usage. It is used in French (fardeaux) and has a certain undeniable je ne sais quoi.

WW II Coyote Dog of the Salton Sea

My dad spent some of WW II out at the Salton Sea east of San Diego working on radio towers. His best war stories came from those days. Most of the other guys in his “outfit” were from Puerto Rico, and he liked them a lot. He was just a kid — 18 or 19 — and had missed his “opportunity” to ship out a couple of times because he was “in the brig” after getting drunk and picked up by the military police in Tijuana. I guess it was a long way (in more ways than one) from Montana to San Diego.

The Salton Sea is an extraordinary phenomenon, a rift lake, that is fed by the Colorado River which, over the millennia, depending on its flow, has left the Salton Sea filled with fresh or salt water or left completely dry. Naturally, this has been altered by modern humans farming in the Imperial Valley north of the lake. In “olden times” a person could navigate from the mouth of the Colorado River to the south, where it empties into the Sea of Cortez, up to the lake, but that’s pretty challenging now.

They lived in big barrack tents out there in the desert. I know that there was a Navy base at the Salton Sea. A lot is written about it. The Navy tested sea planes in that remote and easily concealed location, but I have found nothing about the network of radio and radar towers my dad told me about.

In my dad’s stories the one that fascinated me most was the story about the coyote/dog they found as a pup. They brought him into the barracks tent, fed and tamed him. My dad loved him. Every story my dad began to tell me about the war resulted in the story of the coyote/dog.

When I moved to San Diego in my 30s, I started hiking in open chaparral just east of the city. Most of that area had also been a military base in the war, in fact, before the area became Mission Trails Regional Park, the Navy came in and did a very meticulous search for unexploded ordinance. I began to imagine that my dad had maybe trained on the very trails on which I walked. I also spent a lot of time out in the same desert in which my dad had been stationed. I saw for myself the “Chocolate Mountains” and the Salton Sea. It was eerie, haunting, and wonderful all at the same time.

The chaparral is coyote Heaven. The first coyote I saw was a big surprise. A friend and I were walking down a hill and the friend, who was behind me, went, “Sssst!” I turned around, to see why and my friend pointed. My dog, Molly, and I looked in one movement, and there was a coyote, watching us. After that I saw them very very often. After awhile, I thought of them as the wild dogs I would connect with on hikes.

I’ve written all my coyote stories elsewhere but if you’d like to read them, I’ll post them here. 🙂

Featured photo: My dad posing in front of La Jolla Cove near San Diego.

Pumpkin Destiny

I have a couple of pumpkin plants. Not Aussie pumpkins, anonymous pumpkin plants my friend Elizabeth was given. The other day, while they were sunbathing, Teddy ate the leaves.

Where I live, pumpkins don’t have much chance for a full life, full in the sense of complete, not rich with experiences. We cannot safely plant anything outside until June 1 and we can have a heavy frost in early September. But, these guys are already on their way so maybe they’ll make it. They’ve already shown the indomitable spirit of pumpkins. In spite of having been maimed and, in one case, de-potted they stick their mangled solar collectors into the light as if no rapacious Australian shepherd had chomped them into tiny broken umbrellas.

Everywhere I’ve lived — until moving here to Heaven — it was illegal to plant a vegetable garden in the front yard of one’s house. I always wondered WHO enforced that law and WHY, but I suspect it was enforced by hostile neighbors and was related to the reality that veggies are often fertilized by manure which (to some people) stinks. Also, vegetable gardens are clearly functional and not necessarily aesthetic, but seriously. A plant is a plant and a plant that provides food should be a high-priority plant.

I remember reading articles about this, including one about a woman who had an amazing (and aesthetically beautiful) vegetable garden in her front yard. She resisted law enforcement which ultimately gave her no quarter and came with a little tractor and tore out her garden.

Taking the pumpkins out to the front yard (instead of the backyard and the avaricious maw of Teddy Bear T. Dog) for their daily sunbath yesterday I thought, “I wonder if there’s a stupid law like that here?” I did get a warning last year for an egregious branch from a noxious elm tree that was intruding on the egress and ingress of my neighbors through the alley. There is a certain amount of herbage enforcement in this small farming town.

SO…I posted on Facebook asking for an answer for that question. Looks like I can plant my pumpkins in the front yard. What’s more, my neighbors think the question, “Does Monte Vista have a law against planting vegetables in the front yard?” borders on the absurd, like, “Are you kidding?”

One of my friends — who lives halfway between my house and the Refuge — gave me a line of laughing yellow heads and said I could plant them on her farm if I came out and took care of them.

I am so glad I live here.


Any of you who’ve had kids and grandkids probably know what it’s like to watch a little kid learn how to read. Until yesterday I had not had the experience.

When they arrived to set up the deck, Connor told me he was Hobbes and Michelle was Calvin. I said, “How come you get to be the tiger?”

“We played for it and I lost.”

Personally, I think it’s better to be a tiger, but that’s just me.

Lots of stuff happened in kid time while the project went on. At one point,
Michelle sat in front of me with a well-read Calvin and Hobbes comic book. She read slowly, not totally getting the essence of what the words said, but pointing at the words and sounding them out old-school.

One of the new words was “garden.” I commenced the Socratic method almost instinctively. “Where do flowers grow?”


After a couple failures (this is not university) her mom said, “Sound it out, honey.”

“Gar-den.” She jumped up in delight! “GARDEN!!!”

Then she said down and kept reading to me. I had tears in my eyes at the beauty of this. I looked over at her mom who was kind of teary, too. In my mind I saw the WHOLE WORLD OPEN for Michelle.

P.S. Obviously I’m not a stickler for writing to the prompt.

Pick-axe Time Warp

I’m pretty happy with myself (for now, today). Yesterday morning I headed out to the Small Empty (my yard) and went at that space with a pick-axe hoping to level that patch of ground and make it ready for the installation of the deck. It was all “you load sixteen tons and whaddaya’ get” moment just like old times when I used to get ideas for HUGE gardens or new lawns.

I just hope it’s flat enough. Today is the day, supposed to be, anyway. 🙂

Bear was distressed because she wanted to go back to her new favorite spot last night, but I had successfully made it unappealing to her. I think she’s going to like the deck.

The last times I went at the ground like that I lived in the “hood,” City Heights in San Diego. I remembered how fun it was to take the boombox out there and blast Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, Primus, Beck, or the Hitchhiker’s Guide or the News From Lake Wobegon when I was working. I felt the loss of the boombox yesterday, the way it was living in the hood with two or three neighborly boomboxes blasting from backyards on a weekend. Walkmans were too unwieldy for backyard or garage work.

I thought of my next-door neighbor’s strenuous objections to rap and hip-hop and how that was the main sound all around me. Everything I played broadcast my skin color. Not like no one knew, right? Lifting my pickaxe yesterday and dropping it, I thought of this in a way I hadn’t thought of it before.

And I wanted to listen to Hip-hop. I wanted to wield that pick-axe and listen to the past. I felt like that woman who’d just turned 40, dammit. Booooooo-zit, boooooo-zit. I came inside the house, washed up and got my phone. I loaded Youtube and found my favorite Cypress Hill album, “Black Sunday.”

“That’s what I need,” I thought, happily, heading back out.

I pushed the equivalent of “Play” and endured two long minutes of a Nutrisystem ad. (I don’t pay for Youtube) The music came up, the pick-axe went up, my mood went up and then?

The thing is, 30 years have gone by since I was that woman. I don’t even have the same pick-axe. Our electronics know everything about us and Youtube knows I’m on Medicare, am female and and and and…”If you have osteoporosis and suffer from thinning bones, now might not be the time to wonder, ‘Are my bones strong enough?'” I’m thankful I don’t have that kind of trouble (yet, so far, whatever…)

Before the next song, I was warned about a scam targeting Medicare recipients.

The whole thing cracked me up. In my mind — and, fortunately, in my body (for the purpose of heaving the pick-axe) — I was barely forty. But my music wasn’t coming from a boombox on the porch; it was funneled into my ears through my Apple earbuds from something called the “Internet.” And I was — am — almost 70.

Lamont and Dude Ponder the Accuracy of Memory

“No paleontology today, Dude?”

“No. The museum has closed everything at this point. Two guys got sick. You’re stuck with me 24/7 now, Lamont.”

“Were you…?”

“No. I’ve been working alone in that trailer with mammoth bones. These guys were in a lab. But now I have this app on my phone I use to report how I’m doing vis-a-vis our present crisis.”

“Oh, a new kind of computer virus.”

“Ha ha Lamont. Seriously, though. It’s a good idea.”

“I agree but for it to work everyone has to use it.”

“Are you using it?”

“Well, yeah. I like it, I like it especially because of this screen…”


“Because, Dude, you’re never ‘normal’.”

“Except maybe physically. I love that.”


“How is any human ever ‘normal’? That’s a paradox for your philosophical brain, Lamont.”

“I don’t know. I know that when I was an oak tree I NEVER thought longingly about what it was like being a human. Did you?”

“I might have. But, seriously, Lamont. Was our oak tree iteration really EVERYTHING you think it was? Our memories aren’t perfect. Look what happened with the whole Smilodon/mastodon story. You were a mammoth, and I was a kitten. That’s not how either of us remembered it. Maybe our time as oak trees was more fraught with angst and trauma than we recall.”

“That fire wasn’t great, but, you know, that was after thousands of years of tranquility and beauty. But, you know. After a few million trips around the old sun, you learn to take the bitter with the sweet.”


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with several years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past iterations which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.


The app is C-19. Here is a link: The purpose is to track symptoms across a large population in the absence of testing.