Not the Celebration I Planned

To celebrate my arrival back in Colorado four years ago — and my ability to walk — my friends and I were going to take a hike today. But…

I got a sinus infection. It started showing up last Friday with pain in my neck and a migraine. My migraines don’t hurt; they’re just ocular migraines. That progressed to swollen glands and fatigue, pain in my sinuses. I knew what it was but who wants that?

These things don’t go away and all the mental energy put toward denying their existence is a symptom of an illness… Last night I woke up with a fever and thought, “I’m not going hiking. I’m going to the doctor.” Third thing this morning, I called and made an appointment.

When I went out to the car, a flock of about 20 Sandhill Cranes flew directly over me, calling out. I waved, said, “Hello! I love you! Safe travels!” and I went to Del Norte where my doctor is.

And now I have antibiotics.

I guess my celebration is that tomorrow I might feel better. The cranes are back. Maybe Dusty, Bear and I might go to the slough (were the creepy guy doesn’t go) and maybe we’ll see more cranes.

Dusty and Mindy Move to Colorado in a Dodge Van with Lily and Me


“What the fuck? This isn’t our car. It smells weird. I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all. I might lie on my back and pee in the air. This is awful. I’m scared.”

“It’s OK, Dusty. She’s here. We’re all here. Our beds are here. It’s all fine.”

“How can you be so sanguine, Mindy?”

“Well, first it’s my nature. Second, I think if she’s here we’re fine. If she comes back when she leaves us, we’re fine. I don’t worry about every little thing like SOME dogs I know. She always takes care of us.”


“It’s OK Dusty,” I tell him from the front seat. “We’re going home. You can quit pacing and breathing hard.”


“See? I told you, Dusty. Lily isn’t worried.”

“Yeah but she’s a wild animal. We’re pets.”

“There is that. But really, Dusty, learn to keep it under control a bit. You’ll have a happier life.”

“You’re probably right, Mindy, but when I start getting scared, it’s a fast and slippery slope all the way to terror.”

“Lie down, Dusty,” I say.

“Do what she said. I have a feeling this time home is a long ways away.” Mindy closed her soft, sweet beautiful eyes and as a model for Dusty, went to sleep.

Can You Enforce It? (and Rambling Nonsense)

A long time ago in a faraway land (California) I wrote a novel. A neophyte novelist, I was very worried (because it was the BEST idea anyone had had for a novel anywhere) that someone would steal it. I got the forms from the Library of Congress and filled them out, registering my idea with the gubmint. Back then the Internet was in the infancy of its common usage and stuff was mailed across the surface of the earth, sped along by trucks, trains, and planes. I had learned in some class or other that all you had to do to copyright your work was mail it to someone who didn’t open the envelope so it could be proven in a court of law that the work was yours.

That was actually true — and might still be true.

I have a visible copyright claim on the front “page” of my blog. I know it amounts to little more than the FBI warning at the beginning of a video. It looks scary but would I prosecute an offender? I can’t afford it. I have $75 ($200 earlier but my electric bill and another thing just came out of my account. Feel free to donate 😉 ) to last me till the end of the month.

I got into an argument with the polemical husband of a good friend about this. I mostly just wanted OUT of the room, but the argument went on and on and on and on and on over a subject I don’t care about anymore. I see no point in two ignorant people getting in a heated debate about stuff they don’t know for sure and could look up. If you want to know, here is the link to US Copyright Laws.

The thing is, there is little that is truly original. As a species we take a lot of things in and then rework them as our own or push them further along. It’s human nature. A friend was telling me about Elon Musk’s new ideas and research, that rather than having to use this interface — fingers on keys (who could have imagined that back when people were horrified by the typewriter?) but total integration between the mind and the internet (that you pay for, of course) so that everything the Internet “knows” you know. I argued that in such a case, you wouldn’t really “know” anything. I argued that true knowledge is not just facts and answers, but experience acquired through time. I said that the person would only know the past and would not experience the present or move into the future (as we are supposed to do!) I didn’t make the case for uncertainty, doubt, fear, and failure. All these things really upset my friend. He really doesn’t see the bright side of fuck-ups and apprehension.

“Yeah, but what a great mind!”

“I’ve already read that in science fiction, and I saw it on Star Trek.”

“Yeah, but this isn’t science fiction.”

“It’s just not a new idea. That’s all I’m saying.” I was thinking of Philip K. Dick and the woman with whom Spock fell in love who’s “dress” was a net of material that was energy and held all knowledge and the box of energy that contained the collective mentalities and knowledge through time of a whole planet.

I was thinking, too, of the comparative primitiveness of the human body. It hasn’t caught up with the change in human life OR it’s trying to tell us something. I’m not sure which. I spent YEARS happily running from (non-existent) predators. Our bodies are still designed for that life. They WANT to run away. They LIKE it. “Waaa-HOOO! I can run away!” Whether one is able still to run away, walk away, ride a bike or a wheelchair, we glory in it. I think NOT being able to run away is very scary on a primal level. I think it’s the basis for a lot of my fear during the past decade and now, when I know I cannot run away and, instead, must carry a weapon.


I look around me and see so many people who couldn’t run away from anything and would make a long and tasty dinner for any non-human predator who came along. Deep inside I believe that this contemporary, sedentary life of comfort, safety and plenty we enjoy MIGHT be temporary, and it’s important to maintain whatever mental and physical fitness we can, so if we need to we can outrun or outsmart the sabre-toothed tiger or dire wolf.


Lamont and Dude Discuss Audience Awareness

“One of the great things about being a dinosaur in contrast to being a Smilodon was that there was no need to limit my hunting to the crepuscular hours of the day.”


“New lecture for the museum.”

“Dude, if you come out with that they’re going to think you’re mental and you will lose your job. And ‘crepuscular’? I don’t think the kids will know what you mean.”

“It’s true though. When we were velociraptors — or even when I was bear and you were a salmon — we could hunt any time of day or night. Remember?”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean much. I mean a lot our meals were dead already.”

“There is that.”

“Dude I see your point, but you have to consider your audience. This is just a chance for you to (secretly) share your smilodon memories. I think if you go beyond that they’ll think you’re wacko.”

“And you don’t think a human dressing up in a smilodon suit and walking around on all fours isn’t a little wacko?”

“It’s pretty wacko.”

“I think they’ll think that I just did more research.”

“Not if you claim outright to have been a velociraptor. I’m sure some of those people in the audience are evolution deniers.”

“Oh, that’s true on so many levels.”


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 a unique perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Quotidian Update 43.19.6d

Next week I go see my orthopedic surgeon I think for the last time (I hope?). I guess it’s for my 3 month check but it will have almost 5 months. I may call and ask if I really have to go.  It’s a 3 hour drive and I have to board the dogs… $$$

My novel — The Schneebelis Go to America — is in the hands of my editor. I miss it. As much as I disliked it for so long, it made my summer really pretty good. I’m only worried that my defective brain led to defective writing. But who knows? It could go the other way. I will be very happy to have it back. I’ve built a little spreadsheet of possible agents and their requirements.

I got a small bottle of pepper spray to take on walks to the slough. I have not been there since the uncomfortable encounter with Grizzly Man — except with my friends when they came for the Potato Festival. I got the hot pink bottle so that it would be very visible to anyone approaching me. It’s crazy that I lived in a high crime city in a high crime neighborhood, hiked alone (with dogs) for years, walked around the hood with and without my dogs, and never before felt afraid. But the creepy guy has made me a lot less interested in hiking at the slough and along the river. I’m not sure the dogs miss it at all. Bear likes meandering strolls that focus on all the smells in the neighborhood and Dusty, at 13 yrs 7 mos isn’t the athlete he once was. That’s very old for such a big dog — and he’s doing great for his age. Anyway, soon the golf course will be closed to golfers and open to us. 🙂

Props to everyone who’s still posting daily prompts. I’ve returned to following along with one of them. I still miss that one cryptic word that used to show up every morning, sometimes inspiring a story to write, sometimes summoning Lamont and Dude (where are those guys?) during the blissful moments when I have a full, hot cup of coffee. Maybe I’m just out of shape.

Olden Days

I just saw this trailer for a film coming out this fall, and I want to see it.

I learned to ski on the “back” side of Pikes Peak. When I left Colorado in the mid-eighties, there were copious ski areas. The morning ski report was long. When I look at a ski area map now, it’s not like that. It shows the “mega” resorts that remain.

These ski areas weren’t resorts at all, many of them. They were places you could go in a day. Pikes Peak Ski Area was right off the Pikes Peak Highway — easy access. It was small, some rope tows, a poma and a chair lift. The snow was usually pretty good because it was on the north side of Pikes Peak — it was high, shaded and fairly well sheltered from the wind.


Pikes Peak Ski Area

These ski areas often didn’t have many runs or amenities — no fancy hotel to spend the night, no shopping, food was often burgers cooked on the mountain on oil-drum grills and eaten standing up, but with season passes that cost $25 for a family, they made the sport accessible. The focus was on skiing.

Back then, too, there was a little reverse snobbery. Real Coloradans didn’t wear fancy ski clothes because skiing was part of who they were, an every day thing, nothing to get dressed up for. Fancy ski clothes revealed that the skier was from Chicago — or worse — Texas. For a while it was popular to ski in bibbed overalls. I didn’t; but I did ski in jeans. When I started X-country skiing, I wore those clothes to the down hill ski areas because there was political contention over “skinny skiers” using downhill slopes. I had to make my point, right?

Andy and Me, A-Basin, 1982

A friend and I at Arapaho Basin, 1982. I’m wearing knickers, high wool socks and layers.

Some of the small ski areas have grown up — Arapaho Basin back in the day was smallish and funky, but now it’s expanded and appears to be more closly linked to its neighbor, Keystone. I can’t say for sure; I haven’t been back.

Right now the local ski area — Wolf Creek — is the center of a big fight between conservationists and a rich Texan who wants to develop it into a resort. A ski resort would pretty much destroy the vibe that Wolf Creek wants to maintain and that the people here are comitted to. It’s a tense and murky situation since the economy of Southern Colorado is depressed and a ski resort would help, but, at the same time, it would put “our” ski area out of the reach of most people who actually live here.

I like the idea of small, local ski mountains, but economically, I can see they stopped being viable. Climate change has made the snowfall less dependable than it was when I was a young woman. Maybe there’s no connection between thousands more people driving into the mountains every weekend from Denver to Vail, Aspen, etc. than there were thirty years ago and the fact that we have less snow. No idea.

Tiny Bear

Lots of unfathomable stuff goes on in the world every day. Most of it is way over my head. One of the strangest things in my life this past few months has been the effect of anesthesia from my hip surgery.

Vets often say, “I don’t like to do teeth cleaning on an older dog. Anesthesia is very hard on them. The longer they are under, the more dangerous it is.” Lily almost died in a teeth cleaning. I should’ve been warned…

One of the advantages of the type of hip surgery I had is that a person doesn’t have to be under as long as with the traditional type. Still, I went very deeply under. The effects are lingering. My physical therapist said that for an older person (and I qualify) it can take eight months for the effects of anesthesia to vanish completely.

Almost every day I find something that reminds me how out of my mind I was (and perhaps still am). Yesterday I got my little pack to take to the quilt show.. It’s a hydration pack, but the bladder has long vanished. I put my water bottle in the insulated part that would hold the hydration bladder and I put my stuff in the front.

As I was digging around in a front pocket I found two new tubes of hand cream and an organza bag with Tiny Bear inside. I bought Tiny Bear from a friend’s shop in La Veta on the way up to Colorado Springs for surgery. She was made by a Native American artist of alabaster and turquoise. These little animals are meant to protect their owner.

A couple of months ago, in between my coming home from surgery and my excursion yesterday, I threw this day pack into the washer. Tiny Bear and the hand creams have enjoyed Splash Mountain and a Tide Pod. I didn’t remember putting anything in the pockets.

Quilt Show

As a girl, I learned all the domestic arts.  I enjoyed learning and doing them. I sewed all my own clothes through high school and started cooking when I was 7. I appreciate them very much, though I no longer participte in any serious way. Still, going to the annual quilt show in the mesmerizingly beautiful town of Creede, Colorado is a huge treat. My friend E and I went today and had a great time. I think I’m mostly just going to share pictures.


This is the most amazing quilt (to me). This quilter combined traditional quilt patterns (Bear Paw, Canoe, Pine Tree, Berry Basket, Clouds, Geese [or ducks] in Flight) with images that reflect the patterns. My friend and I both loved this one.

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P.S. The quilt show is INSIDE a mountain. 🙂

Looking Back Four Years…

Four years ago today, the buyers got funded for my house in California, a house I was sad to leave and a place I where expected to live out my life, but as happens seemingly random stuff coalesces around fate and there you are. Rather spontaneously, while at a conference in Colorado that spring, I did the paper work to retire. In the background other things were happening that I didn’t even know about. My intuition had been right. It was over.

I was scared. My real estate agend thought I was brave to do what I was doing — selling a house and moving to a town where I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t really have a choice. I had an income and some cash from the sale. I knew what these numbers were and I had to live within them. That’s why I left a small mountain town in California and my dream house. California had become not only incredibly hot (temps in my town in the summer had gone from an average high of 90 to an average high of 104) but incredibly expensive. Gas alone cost me $400/month. I learned how much our lives depend on petroleum from that — food, utilities, clothing everything has to be hauled somewhere. All blood under the bridge.



My house in Descanso, CA


“We want to hear about your adventure,” said my agent and her boss at lunch one day. “You have to blog about it.”

I did. Yesterday I had a look at that blog (now set to private). I read the post I wrote the day I drove away from my house, the first step toward Colorado. Packing had been an ordeal. I was getting up at 4 am to have a few hours to work before the blistering heat descended.

“I spent several hours (8) cleaning and packing the car and taking the dogs to the kennel where they’ll be until I take off Friday morning. It was liberating to close the door, knowing there was nothing more I could do, and drive away. I loved my house and I loved the dream I had when I moved there, but it didn’t really pan out. I made some mistakes and the world changed, still, I always felt that house was more than a roof and walls. It has a soul and it loved me. More than once it helped me and it helped me again. Since it was made by hand of local rocks, it’s never been (for me) just a house. It’s a piece of the mountain it sits on. I know the new owners will love it, and if they don’t, they won’t stay long. (And they didn’t…)

So now I’m in a motel near the university where I taught for most of 30 years. It’s convenient and nice and I knew I could find it. 😉 And, it’s air-conditioned.” (Colorado or Bust, September 18, 2014)

I thought all the time I was in California that I wanted to be in Colorado — but there was a moment when I stopped yearning. It was a weekend in 2002 when I was pondering a job offer in Wyoming. That weekend I took a hike and saw 7 mule deer, a beautiful sunset, and had some great experiences at school. I realized I had a great job and I loved the university where I was teaching. Why should I go anywhere? It was at that moment — about 20 years after I move to California — that I arrived psychically. Soon after I bought my house in the mountains.

No one knows what the future holds. And there I was, ten years after buying my house, selling it and driving east, home.

“It’s…bewildering to close the door on a time in my life. I’ve thought that our lives seem to break naturally into thirty year chunks. The first thirty years of my life seemed to have been growth, learning, mastery and self-definition. The second thirty were giving to life what I had been made for. Now? How could I possibly know? For whatever it is I bring the tools life has taught me — a viable living space and safety (thanks, Maslow, for stating the obvious), financial security and time to create. I don’t know what else there will be. I know only that those are the things I must prepare — for whom? Sometimes I think about the person who moved to San Diego with her husband in 1984. I think of all the things she did and hoped for. I packed up some of her work in preparation for moving here. She left some good things behind. I feel she left them for me. A book about Pearl S. Buck as a writer in the Chinese literary tradition and the other a love story. ‘I can’t do this now,’ she said. ‘I must teach. I must try to find my road. I have to make this marriage work. I have to settle these questions with my family. I am holding up the sky. I’ll make a start, but I’m afraid you’ll have to finish.’ I love that young woman. I am proud of her. She got here.” (Colorado or Bust, September 21, 2014)

I have friends who are in the time of life of holding up the sky. I have friends who are older than I who are still holding up the sky. I let go of it when I moved here. I thought of it recently in terms of Rainbow Girls. When I was a member, I held two offices — Nature and Service, yellow and lavender, opposites on the color wheel. I’ve been struck a few times by how those two colors ended up describing my life. I arrived here wrung dry of any desire to serve, but once it was my mission.

I’ve written three books since I moved here. I haven’t made a lot of friends, but I haven’t tried very hard. I’m not that kind of person, anyway. I realize that I keep a distance from my town and the people in it. Retired, I have the luxury of solitude that I didn’t have as a teacher. I like the friends I have very much and am grateful every day that they live next door and across the street. I still haven’t been up in the mountains, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever go. If I hadn’t moved here I wouldn’t know how potatoes are grown, I’d know nothing about the migration of Sandhill Cranes, or the prisms on old snow on a -10 degree day — or thousands of other things — big and small — that are part and parcel of this place. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the conversation I had yesterday with my dogs’ vet about the courage and sweetness of dogs like Bear. I would not have heard his stories. I would not have Bear. There are thousands of ways in which my life would be diminished if I had not made that rather radical decision four years ago.


When ON the Course of Human Events…


Yesterday I got a canister of bear spray — it’s pepper spray. The canister is a lot larger than I expected — between 10 inches and a foot — and it has a holster. I don’t see me strapping that on and going to walk the dogs at the slough. I was hoping it was a simple four-inch can of spray with a holster I could clip to my pocket or pack strap in front, but this… I don’t need it for a bear. I need for a grubby man who makes me nervous and scares Dusty.

So, last evening, as I took Dusty T. Dog and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog for our usual walk around the hood and high school, I noticed the golf course was empty. Really empty. Two cars in front of the club house. A familiar high school golfer walking around with his bag to the holes that challenge him.


They close next month, but right now the course is beautiful. In the beginning of the summer — May, June, most of July — it was aching from the drought like everything else was, but six weeks or so of regular rain and careful tending…

Why was it empty?

“Don’t look a gift course in the mouth,” I said to myself.

It was really good to be back. I’m pretty sure “Grizzly Man” won’t take daily walks there and as much as I love the slough, the views from it don’t compare to those from the open plain of the pasture, I mean driving range. As for animals, I’ve seen more at the golf course than at the wildlife refuge. This isn’t cold comfort at all.