Christmas Parade in Monte Vista

My friend, L, has been visiting so she could partake in the wonder of Christmas Weekend in my town. You laugh, but you shouldn’t. Small towns are magical, well, my small town is magical.

The beginning of the event was at a “Memorial Tree.” A tradition that was started 11 years ago when a family lost their little girl. It became a place where people could hang ornaments in memory of people they loved who’d died. Last night an acapella choir from the local university, Adams State, sang carols in front of the tree where a small group had gathered. They had beautiful voices and were accompanied by a beautiful sunset. Then someone explained the existence of the tree and said a prayer after which the lights of the tree were plugged in.


Meanwhile, up and down the main street, other people were lighting fires in fire pits. L brought a chair for me 😦 so I didn’t have to stand a long time. I really, really, really, really hate this arthritis thing, but there it is.

Everyone was on tenterhooks, waiting for the parade to start…

We painted a bunch of rocks to add to my collection of already painted rocks with the thought of hiding them on the parade route. We took all the rocks to the parade. We hid two at the base of the tree near the fire pit where we were hanging out. They were found by two little girls, sisters. The first little girl LOVED hers — it was a sugar skull for Dia de los Muertos.

The other little girl didn’t like hers as much. It was a smaller rock, a painting of the mountains, blue sky, sand dunes with a gold star in the sky. Her mom tried to point out the good features, saying, “Look at the star! It’s a Christmas rock,” but she didn’t like it much and tried to trade with her sister. Ultimately, she was stuck with it and began the process of learning to like it.

SLV rock

Then it slipped out of her hand and hit the steel grate that protects the tree roots. It broke! The ROCK broke in half! There was moaning about putting it back together but inside it was FULL of shiny quartz crystals! It was BEAUTIFUL. She said, “I never saw the inside of a rock before,” and showed me.

The quartz crystals reflected the light from the fire pit.

We looked at the reflected firelight. I said, “That’s amazing. There’s a star on the outside and stars on the inside.”

She ended up feeling she got the better rock of the two and it was BROKEN.

I thought about how stars are actually rocks, but I didn’t say anything about it.

The parade finally started — it seems to me there were four real floats and other vehicles that had been decorated with lights and stuff. The police had their HUGE Humvee used for chasing bad guys over the wild landscape. The fire department brought out our new (and immense) hook and ladder truck. We’re a small town and we actually have a hard time coming up with the money for sufficient law enforcement. Sad but true. These vehicles are like, “Wow! We have trucks!”

My favorite float was the one we saw being finished the day before behind the Monte Vista High School maintenance building.  Friday, we were walking the dogs when we saw the people finishing up the float. It was so cool. The people building it were so jazzed. I happened to have a painted rock in my pocket — a Christmas tree in the mountains with squirrels on the ground — and I gave it to them. It was a VERY inspiring float complete with a slide show! The theme of the parade was “Lets put Peace and Joy back in Christmas” and the slide show was about the things that keep us from feeling joy and that make peace difficult. The float played up-beat Christmas music.


I don’t know if painted rocks are any kind of real currency, but…

Christmas rocks

Interview with Lamont and Dude on the Subject of Age

Back when I was a teenager/early 20s person people thought I was older than I was and I thought that was cool. Now that I’m 65 and people think I’m older than I am, it pisses me off.

In between, most of the time, I “passed” for someone younger.

How old are we, anyway? We have decided to ask Lamont and Dude that question. “Ha ha ha ha,” says Lamont. “You want to talk about age? I’ll talk about age,” and out came an articulate diatribe on what it’s like to live for eons…

“Be an oak tree,” he said. Some people who hear him think “Be an oak tree” is a Zen koan, but Lamont advises anyone who returns from iteration to iteration to BE an oak tree whenever they get the chance. When asked why, Lamont said, “You start small and slowly reach a majestic stature from which you can peruse the world and foibles of animal life. You provide a home for birds and squirrels who eat your children, but it’s OK. Squirrels need to live, too, and if all your children were allowed to fall and sprout there’d be no room for anything to grow. You also give a home to numerous insects. It’s a calm life participating in the various activities of the natural world, but in a quiet way.”

His friend, Dude, also spoke highly of the oak tree life but related that his favorite iteration — that he knows of — is now. “I like surfing and I was not able to surf in any of my other incarnations.”

“He was once a porpoise, but he doesn’t remember,” said Lamont. “It’s really impossible to remember every incarnation.”

Lamont and Dude claim to have lived in some form or other on this planet for eons. Science is unable to prove or to disprove their claim.


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of the previous incarnations which gives them the unusual perspective on life, the universe and everything.


Things are going to sparkle around here. Monte Vista is doing its Christmas thing today and tomorrow. One of the events leading up to it has been the re-garlanding of the Happy Holiday sign at the west entrance to my town (the end of my block). It’s a Christmas tradition. Tradition is big in Monte Vista.

I’ve been thinking about nostalgia. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, looks at the pernicious power of nostalgia. I read it back in the 70s, and I don’t remember the plot clearly, but I remember images thanks to Marquez’ way of writing. The book is about a once flourishing town — Macondo — in the process of dying of nostalgia.

Nostalgia is killing my town, too. People here moan, “Monte is not like it was.” “This town has turned to shit,” but they don’t come up with a plan to change it or a vision for the future of what they want the town to be within the constraints of objective reality NOW, 2017. The recent election? The coalition that won ran on nostalgia, the promise to bring Monte Vista back to the town it was in the 1970’s. They’re good guys, but had no clear plan, not one they communicated, anyway. They knew how to reach the voter, though.


The problem with nostalgia is that it’s smokey-eyed, bleary and romantic. The 1970s had its ugliness and sorrow, too. People probably bitched about things then, how “things weren’t what they used to be,” as people do all the time everywhere. If that coalition took apart their nostalgia, they might see that the ordinary habits of people have changed.

“Nostalgia, as always, had wiped away the bad memories and magnified the good ones. no one was safe from its onslaught.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Nostalgia is a normal feeling. I feel nostalgia for hills I once hiked but no longer can. Men I once loved, and won’t love again. Family members and moments shared that cannot return. Denver. I prefer it as it was from the 1950s to the late 70s/early 80s when I left and, for that reason, I’m not eager to return and explore it now. Fuck it. Denver doesn’t care whether I’m there or not.

One thing that propelled me back here was nostalgia. I saw the streets of Monte Vista and I saw all the small towns I’d loved as a kid. I also saw the architecture of my favorite neighborhoods in Denver. There was nostalgia for winter, too. In California, even though where I lived it did snow, it was never “real” winter. But I did not choose other aspects of my early life. I had learned to love sunshine and chose to live where the sun shines upward of 300 days/year and the days never shorten dramatically in winter. I wanted a new life. A lot of things here are completely, totally new to me. I’ve never lived in a farming community, for example, or so close to the Northern New Mexican culture that I’ve always loved, that’s always fascinated me. Now I live between mountain ranges and near a river — that’s new. I didn’t go back to the family homeland, Montana. I moved to the far north end of the great Sonoran Desert. I recognized that I am not the same person I was in the early 80s when I left Colorado. I’m a very different person, and “You can’t go home again.”

Where and what was “home” anyway? In the meantime, I’d started living with dogs and that wasn’t going to stop. I’ve traveled and seen some of the world. I’ve learned languages. My physical abilities are diminished, lots of stuff is new… I don’t want to live in the past. It wasn’t THAT good. But some things are — in memory — sweet.

Nostalgia is a reasonable feeling for things that are gone forever. It is not a normal feeling for things that are alive and want to move forward, into the future, where they will live (and maybe you won’t?). The future should sparkle, beckon, an open horizon of possibility, an illusion of its own kind, but not the sepia-toned, hazy opiate of nostalgia.

Resistbot PSA

You can’t thank it. “Thank you” just confuses it. It’s not Marvin, the Depressed robot from The Hitchhiker’s Guide who felt underappreciated. It’s just a beautifully programmed helpful bot with an odd little sense of humor. Its job is contacting political leaders about stuff. That’s it. It makes it very easy for anyone to do this. I’ve been relying on Resistbot for two months now.

Resistbot’s raison d’être is to resist what’s going on in Washington right now; the breakdown of the EPA, the threats to the ACA (which, though not perfect, is not nothing), the current tax bill which will hurt people and take away their deductions — that sort of thing.

You use Resistbot by texting. You can text 50409 or use Facebook messenger. Send one single word, “resist”. After that reaching your representatives, governor, “president” is easy. Resistbot leads you through the process and you type your message. Then Resistbot asks you how you want to send it and if you’re happy with it and that’s it — it will be emailed, faxed, snail mailed, hand-carried or you can even make phone calls to the representatives. Resistbot will call them for you. This morning Resistbot helped me call my senator — to no avail, line busy, voicemail box full… Then Resistbot sent an email for me.

It’s a brilliant thing. To learn everything about it, visit its website,  

While you’re there, check out the FAQs to find out how it came about. It might change your mind about young people (if you have a curmudgeonly bent). It’s free; it works on donations. It sends messages in the form of emails, faxes, letters and phone calls. Right this minute Resistbot volunteer humans are hand-carrying letters to five Republican senators who appear to be on the fence about the current (amoral) tax bill currently in Congress.



A small caveat — I don’t like President Trump. Period. I’m NOT anti-Republican. When they do things I believe will help the people in the area where I live, I support them. When they do not, I resist. Right now I believe we’re in a very bad place as a nation, primarily because of the polarization of the two parties. I don’t believe we Americans are as polarized as the DC hijinks makes it seem. For that reason I believe it’s very important for us to make our voices heard by our elected representatives.

Besides, it makes you feel like you’re doing something and that’s not bad.

Living Far Side Cartoon

“What are you up to?” the mailman asked me.

“Cleaning as usual. When your roommates are dogs…”

“Living with animals is like that. Have a nice day!”

I return to the zoo that is my living room with junk-mail all of which is for Bear to shred.

When I lived in San Diego I lived, literally, two blocks from the zoo. It was the 80s. San Diego was not as big a city as it is now, and while the zoo was fancy, it was a lot plainer and simpler than it is today — and cheaper. We (my ex and I) always bought season passes. His sons spent part of the summer with us and a season pass took us to the zoo and Wild Animals Park (since renamed…) as often as we wanted to go.

I love animals. I went to the zoo a LOT — at least weekly during the “off” season when the animals had more freedom from observation by tourists. The first year we lived there — and I was desperately homesick for Colorado — I hung around with a Rocky Mountain Goat in the petting zoo and imagined we were having similar feelings. The goat was very tame having been brought in as a very small kid and raised by the zoo staff.

The shows with the trainers and animals were amazing. I saw a cheetah whose best friend was a golden retriever. (You can learn more here. It’s a wonderful testament to dogs) I learned that mountain lions purr. I learned the difference between seals and sea lions. I watched raptors demonstrate their wing-span. I learned about the tragedy of the white rhino. I learned about the California Condor rehabilitation program and how it was going (it is run by the San Diego Zoo). I learned WHY zoos are good things and I ended up subscribing to that philosophy after taking my niece on a truck ride through the San Diego Wild Animal Park to “mingle” with giraffes and rhinos.

But even more interesting was the behavior of the animals when no one was paying attention to them. One early morning, I was strolling down the steep hill where the lions (tigers and bears, oh my!) were then kept. The lions were at the bottom of the hill. I heard them roaring. Really ROARING. I also heard the unmistakable snuffle grunt of a large pig. I know about large pigs because, when I lived in China, they roamed the streets of my village, freely feeding on garbage and scraps. I’d also heard hundreds of them killed for meat. A pig’s life in China was a strange mixture of liberty and death.

What was going on?

I crossed to the other side of the road leading down the hill. I wanted to watch without being part of the scene. If it really WERE a live pig, right?


Snuffle, snuffle, GRUNT!


Snuffle, snuffle, GRUNT!

I got where I could see the lions, male and female, looking through the fence of their enclosure, trying to see around a huge Natal plum hedge, roaring. What were they trying to see?

Then I saw it.

A ground’s keeper, with a shovel, behind a shed, on the other side of the hedge, out of sight of the lions, was using a shovel on the pavement to clean the mud, debris and garbage from a rain gutter.

It sounded JUST LIKE a pig!


Old Christmas Card


Twenty years ago I went to the Rite-Aid (no longer exists) drug store in College Grove shopping center in San Diego. I was buying picture frames or getting a prescription or something. There were Christmas Cards on shelves near the door.

I almost ALWAYS make my own Christmas Cards, but that year I saw this one and I knew nothing I could make would equal what it had to say. I bought two boxes of 20 cards for $10. They were bargain cards. EVERYONE got a Christmas card from me that year.

YEARS later I returned to teach at a college I had left. I had not taught there for five or six years. When I went to the office, said hello again to the staff, the department secretary said, “We’ve missed you. I even saved your Christmas card. It’s the best ever.”

She opened a desk drawer and took out the Dostoyevsky card.

It will hang around for the holidays OR until it snows. Depends which happens first.


A Snippet of My Day — Morning Quotidian Trivia # 29.4

Dusty is staring longingly at my coffee cup. Bear is chewing her rawhide. The floor-heater just banged on. The sky is pale blue with a tinge of pink. I take a drink of coffee while it’s still hot, sorrowful about two things; it doesn’t stay hot and the second cup doesn’t taste as good as the first. I never make a second cup because I’ve learned that. Bear gets another rawhide. Apparently the first, second, and all subsequent rawhides are as yummy as the first.

The sun rises higher in what is every day more a wintry sky. Mindy finishes her rawhide. Dusty goes into the kitchen to reconnoiter. Did Mindy drop any? All of it? Nope. He’s disappointed. Mindy takes a drink of water then goes to all the dog dishes looking for scraps (there are no scraps, ever). I give Dusty one of Bear’s rawhides and he’s happy. Bear won’t know the difference. My coffee gets colder.

Mindy wants to go out to the front yard for her morning constitutional, so I will get up and open the front door. Outside I see my trash can hasn’t moved. I have a sinking feeling they didn’t collect it. I worry if they took the payment out or not — but the website says they did. Oh man, I’m probably going to have to call them…

As the great philosophy professor, Dr. Mueller, often said, “Life is a catalog of woe.”

At least Dusty gets his coffee.


Hip Arthritis Update

I know what’s ahead, I don’t know when, I only know one thing. I don’t want rehab to take long or be difficult. I really don’t care about the rest. At a certain point I’m going to surrender to whatever arrangements I have to make. And then, as the last time, I’m going to be cleaned and dressed in appropriate surgery attire. I’m going to be lain on a gurney and put in a pre-op room. Probably, like last time, a priest or something will come in and ask my permission to pray over/with me. I’ll say yes. Why? Do I believe in prayer? That’s probably another blog post, but I do believe in being kind and whoever is going around from gurney to gurney is offering up the best they have to strangers. I appreciate that.

Then the drugs will kick in and I won’t have a clue for several hours, after which I don’t have to decide any more what I’m going to do. It will be a fait accompli and I will be in the early stages of rehab.

I lay it on Bear every single day, “This is for you,” I tell her. She’s cool with it. It’s not like it’s a guilt trip or something. All I want to do is walk my dogs. If I can’t walk Bear, I can’t keep her. I love her too much to make her live with an old lady who can’t walk. She’s young and fit and happy and LOVES going “hunting” with me. Our “hunt” doesn’t even have to be long or interesting. Sometimes I am only up to a half-mile walk around the hood, and that’s fine with her. She has always met me halfway. I have the same duty to her, I believe. She hates “rest” days, but they’re necessary. Today is a dog rest day; tomorrow a person rest day — they’ll get a short walk while I recover from three days of pretty intense “training.”

An article I read about “pre-habbing” for joint replacement said to view it as training for a major sport event. That’s pretty accurate. Joint surgery is strenuous.

A study by researchers at New England Baptist Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, all based in Boston, found that knee and hip replacement surgery patients who had participated in water- and land-based strength training, and aerobic and flexibility exercises for six weeks prior to their surgeries reduced their odds of needing inpatient rehabilitation by 73 percent.

“Even in a fairly brief time period, the exercise paid off for the participants,” says lead study author Daniel Rooks, PHD, former clinical research investigator and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Their level of function and pain stabilized prior to surgery, whereas those who did not exercise got worse. The benefits of exercise before surgery are very clear.” (Source)

And it’s OK with me. I like exercise. I’ve always done a lot of it. I don’t mind riding a stationary bike, though I prefer walking outdoors. The bike — a Schwinn Airdyne —  is zero impact and addresses the conditioning of more muscles than does walking. I can also ride it longer (meaning “farther”) than I can walk. But walking is not so bad with a stick or a cane. My goal for walking is 3 miles in an hour. That’s a respectable and doable goal. The bike will help with the walking goal. At the moment I CAN walk 3 miles, but not that fast, but I CAN walk 1 mile that fast.

And more exercise actually does translate to less pain.

Exercise can actually help to relieve joint pain in multiple ways:

It increases the strength and flexibility of the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the joints. When thigh muscles are stronger, for example, they can help support the knee, thus relieving some of the pressure on that joint.

Exercise relieves stiffness, which itself can be painful. The body is made to move. When not exercised, the tendons, muscles, and ligaments quickly shorten and tense up. But exercise — and stretching afterward — can help reduce stiffness and preserve or extend your range of motion.

It boosts production of synovial fluid, the lubricant inside the joints. Synovial fluid helps to bring oxygen and nutrients into joints. Thus, exercise helps keep your joints “well-oiled.”

It increases production of natural compounds in the body that help tamp down pain. In other words, without exercise, you are more sensitive to every twinge. With it, you have a measure of natural pain protection.

It helps you keep your weight under control, which can help relieve pressure in weight-bearing joints, such as your hips, knees, and ankles. (Source)

I know that is “up to a point.” If my hip were at “end stage arthritis” that wouldn’t be the case.

Just a few minutes ago I finished riding the Airdyne. Bear was waiting outside the spare room where the “bike” is. I came out and said, “It’s all for you, Bear.” She waited until I sat down and she climbed on my lap, her way of saying, “You did good, Martha.”

A Good Mattress

The marriage was falling apart. Loralee sensed it, but she didn’t know it with the depth of factual knowledge many of their friends had. “Hubby” wasn’t home much. He had other “interests.” Loralee hadn’t let herself look directly at Hubby’s absences, his late nights, the fact they never shared a bed. She just drifted.

Then, it seemed out of no where, she caught the eye of one of their friends — Mike, very tall, thin, blonde hair to his waist, pale blue eyes, younger by fifteen years. He was so interesting and so beautiful!  She felt like Mrs. Robinson, but she wasn’t, not at all, not in real life and not in his eyes.

They had a few dinners together, dinners filled with amazing conversations. They began writing long letters to each other, though they lived in the same town. They took her dogs to the beach at night. A led to B and B led to C and then came the evening when they were grateful for the 1960s travel trailer parked in her driveway.

“Where’s Hubby?” asked Mike.

“No idea,” sighed Loralee.

“Will he be home soon? Will he look in here?”

“I don’t know when he’ll be home. And he won’t look in here. He’ll go right in the house to bed.”

“Will he expect you to be there?”

“Are you kidding? We haven’t shared a bed in I don’t know how long.”


“Yeah. I don’t think he likes me, actually.”

“Wow. Why not?”

Loralee sighed. “If I knew the answer to that I’d…” she stopped. She didn’t know what she’d do, think, feel. “It doesn’t matter. I sleep better alone anyway.”

“Me too,” said Mike. “C’mere.”

Then ensued the redundant always-new coupling of humans and resulting, this time for Loralee, in feelings of completion and peace.

“Wow,” said Mike. “Older women! No, not women. YOU!”

Loralee just shrugged inside. She was and that was all there was to it.

They heard a car door slam in the street in front of the house. Each was silently grateful that Loralee had driven that evening and parked in the driveway, and Mike’s car was not in front of the house.

“Oh my god,” said Mike. “What’s going to happen? I don’t like the way he treats you, but I don’t want to be caught, either.”

“Shhh,” said Loralee. “I think he’d find it a relief to discover me with you. He’d be off the hook,” she whispered.

They heard the front door of the house open and close.

“You’re going to have to take me home,” whispered Mike. “What if he comes back out and sees your car is gone?”

“Oh well,” whispered Loralee. “I guess it’s my car.”

“You sure he won’t look for you? You guys have separate bedrooms?”

“Yeah. He won’t look for me, believe me. He said sex with me was boring.”

“My God. That’s cold.”

“And unforgettable.”

“I’m sorry, Loralee. It isn’t true, by the way.”

Loralee melted. “Oh Mike, thank you. I think I should take you home, yeah?”

“I can’t spend the night here. I have work tomorrow.”


The pulled on their clothes. Very quietly, they got out of the trailer and got to Loralee’s car.

“He’ll hear the car start!” said Mike.

“No. His room is in the back. Besides, cars start on the street all the time.”

“I never thought I’d get into it with a married woman.”

Loralee spun a U-ee, silently wondering, how she had become a married woman, 40 years old, in such a situation as this.

Warm Hats and Scarves…

People around here knit. I know how, but I don’t do it. If I began again, it would be taking coals to Newcastle, as they say.

In my town there is, on the first weekend in November, a “Holiday Boutique” where several handy people — all women, I think — sell their crafts. It’s invitation only and the stuff in the store is really amazing. It’s amazing in a few different dimensions — it’s beautiful an well made, first dimension, and it’s things I thought had disappeared from the face of the earth such as embroidered pillowcases.

My neighbor, E., is a member of the Boutique and three of the four Novembers I’ve lived here, I’ve done most of my Christmas shopping there. E doesn’t only knit; she crochets and she sews. The two hats in the photo are her work. I bought them both as presents, but I haven’t given them away… The hat in the foreground was made (E tells me) from a skein of yarn that has all those textures and colors right in it. She said all she did was knit it and it came out like that. ❤

When I worked at the art co-op, I saw the beautiful work of a lot of people who live in the San Luis Valley, and, before I went to Switzerland in 2016, I bought a silk/wool scarf knitted by a friend working at the co-op. I love the colors. It’s knit of silk and wool yarn and it’s very light and very warm. It’s taken the place of all other scarves I own.

I love this handwork. As with music, I am a member of the appreciative audience.