Mosey Along

“Hard to find a good chuckle these days.”


“Oh, life’s gotten very serious. I can’t believe I was anxious about the returns in an obscure election in Georgia. Sure wish that guy had won and there didn’t need to be a runoff.”


“And I’m not even a Democrat.”

“No. You want some coffee?”

“Had mine, thanks.”

“I miss the Far Side.”

“Me too. Those were good for a chuckle.”


“Back in 1986, I had a party up in the Cuyamaca Mountains based on the Far Side. That very comic up there. Potluck picnic followed by a mosey.”

“How did it work?”

“I’m not sure my friends in California understood the idea of a mosey. They thought it would be more organized, but I tried to explain that in a real mosey — as opposed to a cartoon mosey — people just go where they want. They mosey over to that tree, they mosey down to the lake, they mosey over to the road, they mosey over to their car with a picnic basket. Moseying is more a way of life than a race, but yeah, in the comic, it’s a race.”

“I hope everyone had a good time.”

“They did. Everyone was happy to be up in the mountains anyway. They wanted it to be an annual event, but we only did it once. Well, I got to get out there and mosey back and forth across the lawn with the mower.”

“Again? You did that last week!”

“Yeah. I’m starting to remember why I don’t like summer all that much. You have housework and yard work. In winter, you just shovel the walks once in a while.”


Most earth pigments tend to be opaque, literally like “looking into dirt” because that’s what they are, dirt. They can be thinned so they seem transparent — watercolors make use of earth pigments but in particles so fine and watered down so well, that paper or other layers of colors show through. Mineral pigments and some modern chemical pigments are often transparent by their nature. Some pigments made from stones — Ultramarine blue was made from Lapis Lazuli — retain a magical reflective ability even when they’re ground to powder.

I stopped painting sometime last year. I’ve tried to figure out why, and finally came to understand it. Basically, it’s other people.

I can’t remember not drawing or not painting. I have done both those things since I was a little kid. But, as I got older, and more interested in it, my mother became vehement about not wanting me to be an artist. “I just want you to be happy,” she said. “Artists are not happy people.”

Now I know that people are either happy or they are not. Just because one is an artist, doesn’t mean they’re on the verge of schizophrenia or suicide. There have always been more happy artists than unhappy artists, but because of our twisted mentalities, we humans build cults around romantic misery — van Gogh, Jim Morrison, etc. Plenty of artists — most artists — just do their work, earn the wage, and live their lives as respected members of the community. Before cameras, being an artist was a respected trade. Humans have always wanted — and created — images of their world.

When I moved to Monte Vista right after retiring, I immediately joined the local artist group and became a member of the fledgling art co-op. I’ve written about both experiences in other places and have moved on, but the painting thing? I’ve done one painting since I left these organizations. It was a pretty good painting, acrylic, the person who owns it loves it, but…

The Princess and the Hens

The Princess and the Hens

To be an artist, you need a thick skin. I don’t have one. I have several artist friends with whom I have a mutually constructive relationship, but being in an organization in a small town with local artists? What a nightmare that turned out to be. I know art has always been competitive — look at Michelangelo and Leonardo, competing against each other and several other very fine artists — but in a milieu like this one where no one’s life depends on it, and no one’s work is really that good, it seems stupid.

I’m hoping to return to the place where my work is personal to me, and the sounds of these strident voices (“I hate realistic art!” “Why would anyone paint landscapes!”) have faded far enough into the distance that I will want to paint again. Why? Well, as you can see, I have a lot of paint…

Lamont and Dude Reminisce about Continental Drift

“Dude? You up, too?”

“Another earthquake.”

“I hate it when we get earthquakes at night, and I don’t get to enjoy them. Just jolted awake, stunned, going, ‘What?’.”

“Especially when you know the really interesting ones are going come at rush hour.”

“That could be why they’re interesting.”

“True that. You going back to bed?”

“I don’t know. Maybe there will be some aftershocks.”

“You really like these things, don’t you, Lamont?”

“Nostalgia. You know how it is. I remember the glorious times of the shifting tectonic plates…”

“We’re still in those times, Lamont.”

“Yeah, I know. I just remember so vividly the moment when the Indian subcontinent crashed into Asia. Wheeeeee!”

“C’mon, Lamont. You can’t expect me to believe you felt that. The continents weren’t exactly sliding around like air-hockey pucks.”

“15 cm a year. That’s moving, if you’re a continent.”

“What were you?”

“I was a small meat-eating dinosaur with wing-like appendages.”

“Could you fly?”

“Nah. I wish. Weren’t you there?”

“Not that I recall. Maybe it was one of those dark times when I was a bacteria.”

“Maybe you were a tree. That would have been the best. As a tree you could have experienced a lot more of the whole drift thing. Maybe that explains your love of surfing.”

“Apropos of surfing, sun’s coming up. You want to…?”



Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a couple of 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.


When we were high school kids (late 1960s/early 1970s), my brother and I used to climb these rocks whenever we felt like it. The big crack in the rock above was a favorite, easy climb. Our favorite was to climb up and wait for the shadow of Pikes Peak (directly to the west) to reach us in the late afternoon. Then we climbed down. It was no big deal. Now you need a permit and technical equipment.


Pikes Peak from The Garden of the Gods

Cranky Prevention Elixir

I’m not a cranky person. That is partly the result of my Magic Cranky Prevention Elixir which I take every morning. I’m pretty picky about it.

For most of my young life, I couldn’t understand why anyone drank coffee and I couldn’t understand adults’ fascination with the stuff. It was gross. Never mind that my first sentence ever was, “Cuppa cuppa coffee?”

As I matured, this opinion remained until, one day, my boyfriend at the time, Peter, bought some Medaglio d’Oro Italian Roast coffee. You need to understand that in the 70s there was not this boutique coffee stuff there is today. Drip coffeemakers were state of the art.

“I’m sick of the shit they call coffee here. This costs more, but I’m worth it.” He echoed an ad for hair color and we laughed.


I bought some. This was the beginning of my Famous Writer Period and Saturdays I spent with MY Medaglio d’Oro and my typewriter.


Since those days I’ve had the chance to enjoy many kinds of coffee. In the early 80s, a friend went to Guatemala and brought me a pound of raw Guatemalan beans that I roasted in my oven. Everything about that was great — the coffee that came from them, the smell in my apartment when I roasted them, and that he (<3) thought of me when he was wandering around the jungles and mountains of Guatemala. In China, if I was lucky, I had the dark bitter coffee of Hainan Island to drink. I have drunk the green coffee brewed by Arab students and poured from a Dallah (Arab coffee pot) — a brew I liked so much that as a goodbye gift, one of my students gave me a tiny golden Dallah to wear on a chain around my neck.

I take my coffee pot and my coffee with me wherever I go — and I have two electric versions for staying in hotels. Why? All because of my worst coffee experience. I was  visiting my aunt and uncle in Montana and they didn’t tell me they’d switched to decaf. Their coffee was already awful — they were the old-school American coffee drinkers, brewing some watery brown substance that they drank all day — but decaf? I was disoriented and had horrible headaches for the first three days of my visit and didn’t know why…

I have now finished my Magic Cranky Prevention Elixir and shared the dregs with Dusty T. Dog. My blog post is finished (and an inspiring bit of prose it is, too!). That means (according to Bear who is acutely aware of the time and the proper sequence of events in this house) I must do morning chores.

Accepting the Inevitable…

“What’s up?”

I point toward the sky. The mailman laughs.

“Same ol’ same ol’,” he says. “Nothin’ changes.”

“Not that anyway.” We have jokes that have now been running for 3 years.

“Beautiful weather though,” the mailman says. He knows I like the cold and snow and this 70 degree crap is not my thing. He’s baiting me.

“It’s OK if you like comfortable temperatures and stuff.” I was mowing the lawn when he pulled up with my mail which contains two packs of seeds. Clearly I’ve surrendered, but the local greenhouse won’t open until May 6. That’s when we can be confident we’ve seen the year’s last hard frost

“You’re a c-r-a-z-y lady. Have a good weekend!” He’s off, and I finish mowing.

I think about San Diego. In the first few years I lived there I missed cold and snow and mountains so bad that if it did snow in the local mountains, I HAD, at least, to see it. I remembered dashing up No Name (now known as Kwapaay) at Mission Trails Regional Park to reach the top before dark, so I could at least see the snowy Cuyamaca Peak (see above) 35 miles to the east. I remembered sitting on the damp, red earth, leaning up against a rock just looking at the snow peak until I couldn’t see it any more. And the snow was good up there. Good X-country skiing, fascinating version of winter. When I moved up there, my life improved.

I don’t know what the deal is between me and cold and snow. During my recent booby-trap cleaning spell I found a letter from my best friend in middle school. It’s clear, from the fact that she tells me what the homework is, that I’ve been sick at home for quite a while. This happened every winter; strep throat. I can’t take penicillin so, back in the 60s, it was largely a matter of keeping me in bed until the bacteria went away. I had already gotten a damaged heart from a bout of scarlet fever when I was small. I always missed at least a month of winter. I guess I should dread it.

Today I resigned myself to the inevitable arrival of spring. I appreciated the cheery nod of my daffodils and told my emerging peonies that they could think about blooming this year. The lilies I planted for Lily T. Wolf have poked up through the dirt. Everything’s on schedule. I hope soon to have a bunch of topsoil to finally fill my raised beds on which I plan to do nothing more exotic than scatter wildflower seeds but I like the birds and the garden is near the lilac hedge and bird bath. Birds are already nesting in the hedge.

Hummingbird nest

Hummingbird Nest

Our growing season is short and the whole world seems to be shouting, “Carpe diem!”

Fairies wear boots

Extra Points to Anyone Who gets the Black Sabbath Reference in my Fairy Garden




Here We Are Again (or Still?)

Yesterday I learned that the MOAB was dropped on Afghanistan. Of course, I was horrified. So were some of my friends. One believed the third world war was on the horizon (I think we’ve been fighting that since 9/11).

Until yesterday I thought Moab was a place in Utah (that I like), now I know it’s the “mother of all bombs.” I guess they reserve the “F” for nuclear weapons.

Some thoughts…

First I realized last night that Obama did the same kind of things, but I didn’t pay any attention because I trusted him to be the president. Other people DID pay attention, and some of them ended up not liking him for reasons other than skin color.

Second, I was tossed into that paradox of nuclear vs. conventional weapons. I grew up near a major target during the Cold War where most of the B52s hung out and where there were nuclear — and other — weapons. A Minuteman Missile stood in front of Strategic Air Command Headquarters. It might, still. Since then, I’ve studied a lot of wars.

All bombs kill people. Ask Dresden. A bomb is a bomb. The difference is the “collateral” damage caused by nuclear weapons, yeah, I get that. Still, I’ve always been grimly “intrigued” by how we measure the “relative evil” of a bomb.

“Well, it’s not like we used nuclear weapons.”

“That’s true. Good on us.”

Third, since I was a kid I’ve been bewildered by the notion that it’s better to kill few people than many. I never resolved this conundrum. I started thinking about it when were were sitting around the family table in Nebraska, where my dad worked for Strategic Air Command. We were talking about the missile silos in South Dakota.

“They put them there, honey, because there aren’t that many people out here compared to New York City.”

“Don’t the people in South Dakota matter as much as the people in New York?” Even then I guess I had a loyalty to the empty spaces.

“Sure they do, but there aren’t many of them. A bomb dropped on New York would kill millions. A bomb dropped on South Dakota would only kill a handful,” explained my dad, but I don’t know how he felt about it.

I don’t get that yet. How in the world do you quantify human lives?

I have a lot of other thoughts about this, but when Old 45 decided to send missiles at Syria, a switch flipped in my mind. Whatever happens with him, his reign, his rat-faced family, the Russians, our economy, will happen and THIS little person out here in the back of beyond has a life to live.

Back in the day, when George Bush I started the first season of the Gulf War Show, I was very sad. I had friends, former students, in Kuwait. I don’t know how to explain my choices now, but what I did in response was take my collection of Yeats’ poetry on a hike with me (why?) and I sat on a hilltop and read poetry. On my way home, I stopped at K-Mart, bought a bare-root yellow rose, brought it home and planted it. One yellow rose to stem the tide. My desert island book is Candide. I think Voltaire was right; in all the absurdity, cruelty and wackiness of life, the best thing we can do is “cultivate our garden.”

Lamont and Dude, Amused by Science

“Dude, you remember our short but wonderful period as velociraptors, right?”

“I think of it often. Why?”

“I was wondering. In any of your human iterations have you been a scientist of any kind?”

“Not that I recollect. You?”

“Never. I’m asking because yesterday I read a very timely article about us — back then us, not now us — and it looks like some scientist has made a world-shaking…”

“You mean like a Brontosaurus?”

“Good one, Dude. He’s decided that the tree human scientists have made up — important, made up — has been wrong all this time and velociraptors actually belong in the OPPOSITE category. This has rocked the world of science, Dude. I find that hilarious. Look at this thing. Any idiot looking at our skeleton is going to see a California condor, am I right?”



“That is pretty funny. Nothing like the obvious to confuse the shit out of a human. But, you know how we are. We always want a neat category to put stuff in, and then we get very loyal to those categories, right?”

“But 9 times out of 10 we invent the categories we put stuff in then we call it ‘fact’ when, as in this case, it’s only a combination of tradition and conjecture.”

“That’s humans for you. Remember when they decided the Brontosaurus never existed and then changed their mind and said it did?”

“I could sure go for a nice flank of Bronto thrown on the barbie, couldn’t you, Dude?”


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a couple of 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.


What a wacky morning…

Going into the details would only compel me to relive its idiocy and grinding boredom, so I won’t. We’ve all had these mornings. This one culminated in a search for a professional type envelope in which to send my invoice for the project, a search that resulted in the discovery of a photo album. Could I throw it out? I will, but I had to look through it, and in it I found photos that would mean something to somebody else. Damn. Responsibility… And the need for another envelope.

But I did find this photo. That was a wonderful day at Yellowtail Reservoir with my Aunt Jo, Uncle Hank, my mom and my ex. My shirt? My ex found it in a locker room where he worked, and brought it home for me. “San Diego School of Baseball” it said, and it was my favorite shirt for a long time. In the photo, I’m 34 or so. You see how gray my hair was already.

I believe this was the Montana visit that elicited, “I’m too young for a gray haired daughter!” that led to the decades long addiction to hair color products. Tough habit to break, but I did it.

A Walk with Bear Alone

Most of the time I take Dusty and Bear on walks together, but once in a while I just take Bear. As Dusty is in his 11th year, there’s every chance that a time will come when it will be just Bear and me on the trails. I don’t want that to be strange for her, and, for a while, she was afraid to get into the car if Dusty weren’t there.

As someone once said, when you walk with people, the people are the focus of the journey. When you walk alone, nature is the companion. Walking with Bear has all the benefits of a solitary ramble, but I have a responsive and protective companion. Our walks are often leisurely and meandering. We stop to listen to and watch birds, hear the frogs in the vernal ponds, take in the changes in the landscape that is now very familiar to us.

Bear loves these walks. Her “livestock guardian dog” mentality clicks into full alert status, and she stays very close to me instead of going to the end of her leash to explore. Because she’s mellow and doesn’t bark, I’m more relaxed knowing that if we meet another dog or people, there won’t be the bone-chilling Doberman Dusty bark (of friendship, but still…)

We just came back from just this kind of walk. We saw robins and bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, Canadian geese and an egret. The shadowless white sky of high clouds shone soft light on the slowly greening Chamisa. My hikes in California taught me how to look at an “ordinary” place and I’ve come to like them best. My big white dog and I strolled along the path, feeling the wind, happy to be out there beside the river and between the ranges of snowy mountains.

There’s a stone monument/picnic area where we stop at the end of a walk. There I pet my dogs and enjoy the moment. I sat down on “our” stone bench, and Bear and I watched a robin hunt. A pair of blue birds joined her hopping on the ground.

A young man who had been fishing in the slough came toward us and Bear became alert. “I have a ridiculously friendly dog here,” I said.

“That’s good,” said the man, walking so he avoided Bear.

“What do you catch in there?” I asked.

“I was hoping to catch some browns and rainbows, but the river is too low. It’s higher in Del Norte.”

“I think they’re irrigating,” I said, “Last week the river was four times that high at least. Well, good luck somewhere else, man,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said and headed toward his truck.

Now as you read those words, you cannot hear him, but to me his voice was music. There is a Spanish accent in northern New Mexico and in this valley that stirs home-strings in my heart. He spoke in that tone, with that inflection.

“Bear, you want to go home?” I asked the big dog who straddled my knee, her version of sitting on my lap. She didn’t seem to care much. I guess she was fine just like that.