Saturday Services in the Big Empty

Beautiful day in the neighborhood. Bear really believes I make the snow. She came inside this morning soaking wet, snow on her back, and leaned against me relentlessly to show her gratitude. Cold, humid, patchy fog, snow showers, occasional graupel, a light breeze.

Bear and I attended holy services at the Big Empty and got to hear a special choir recital of redwing blackbirds, yellow-headed blackbirds, meadowlarks, Canada geese and various ducks. You can see “my” two geese in this little video, the two who make their nest in this very vulnerable location.

We had a little discussion with these two geese who were a lot closer to us than they appear in this video. They really wanted the road. We finally persuaded them to take off. I didn’t see anything that they might have been guarding, but they were very very very vocal. There was nothing, no pond, nesting site or any other geese friendly site around. I don’t think the goslings have been born yet, but who knows. I wasn’t going to discuss it with them. If they didn’t want to leave Bear and I would have turned around. Geese protecting something are not especially friendly (ha ha)

That was the best service we’ve attended in a long time and we’re both very happy.

Interviewing My Dog on Her Birthday

“What do you want to do for your birthday, Bear?”


“You’re six years old today.”


“OK, let’s try this. Bear, if you could do anything you wanted today what would you do?”

“I have to go, Martha. There’s something outside that needs barking at.”

“Go ahead sweet girl. But come back. I have more questions.”


So much for interviewing Bear on her birthday. Soooo…I’ll talk to myself.

“Martha, looks like you’re going to get your second shot next Saturday.”

“That’s the plan.”

“So, once you’re immune what will you do first?”

“I don’t know. Walk Bear at the Refuge?”

“What about shopping. You’re going to go do that today I understand, ahead of the predicted big storm?”

“It’s not supposed to bring us even an inch of snow.”

“But you can’t tell, can you?”

“No. That’s why I’m going today. Plus, I’m out of fish oil and bananas.”

“Will you start going back inside stores when you’re immune to the virus? “

“Do you have any idea how weird that sounds?”


“Yeah. Like there’s a plague affecting the inside of stores or something.”

“There is.”

“Yeah, I know, but it still sounds weird.”

“So will you?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t like stores before. I’m not a shopper. Oh, here’s Bear. How did it go out there?”

“No problems.”

“Who was it?”

“That old man walking on the sidewalk. Everyday I need to remind him of certain important points.”

“Such as?”


Bear and Teddy Report

“Thanks Martha!”

“I didn’t do it, Bear. I had nothing to do with it. How is it?”



“Best snow EVER. Fluffy! Light! Fast! Did you see Teddy run?”

“I did.”

That little guy looked like a little black furry blur out there, running numerous laps around Bear and then deciding through some coded signals that it was time to leap on her. She doesn’t even care about Teddy’s cone any more. She’s learned to maneuver around it.

“This vet tape tells everyone I’m a dog, Martha.”

His foot is still wrapped because though the wounds are basically healed, the one under his dewclaw still looks like something he would fuss with. Possibly today the bandages will come off and he’ll just wear the cone for a while. It’s been a long haul for this little guy, but he doesn’t seem to mind. I hope next week he can have his foot back.

It is really a beautiful snow. ❤

Thank you everyone who responded to my “Existential Crisis” post yesterday. I think Covid has pushed a lot of people there and probably contributes to my friend’s darkness right now. Anyway, I appreciate it very much.

“This is Great, Martha!”

Today I had the thought of taking Bear out to a place where we used to like to walk a round-about way to the river, but about 10 feet into the walk I had a VERY BAD feeling about it. I made Bear turn around (she was heavily involved in smelling things, notably dog pee; it’s a popular dog walking place thanks to Covid). As we neared the parking lot I saw a car I knew belonged to a nice woman with two dogs she lets run off leash.

Wow. Talk about intuition. She waited until I got Bear into Bella. As I drove away she waved and smiled (we are happy to see each other these days) and her two dogs ran down the trail.

“We’ll go to our happy place, Bear,” I said and we headed down a country road to the Refuge. And there, as always, we found refuge.

The snow has blown and melted a bit obscuring most of the beautiful tracks I saw last time. Here is all that remains of the elegant calligraphy left by a doe and her young one. It seems they drag their feet slightly, making a beautiful pattern.

There were a couple of short stories, too. By “short” I mean made by short animals (har-dee-har-har). Mice, those with the footprints and the line (his little tail dragging) and mouse tracks with the tail up (was something chasing him?).

Bear and I had a wonderful time. There was lots of silence to enjoy. It was my first walk since the injury two weeks ago that I wasn’t limping or walking awkwardly. It was fun. Now I’m reconsidering the ski resolution. Maybe I’ll just get bindings that work better. Not sure. On the way from the place where we DIDN’T walk to the place where we DID I saw people skiing on the lake. They weren’t having any big challenge out there on a groomed trail, though if the temperatures keep rising, they might have a MAJOR challenge.

“Think about it, Martha.”

In spite of a mildly torqued knee. a pulled groin muscle, and a limp, I decided to take Bear out to the Refuge. I thought I’d use a cane for stability, but I’d forgotten that is Bear’s job. She’d kind of forgotten that, too, at the beginning of our walk, but she remembered before she did any damage.

The moment I arrived, I noticed the welcoming party.

Welcoming committee…

It was very deer of them to be there, waiting for me, and I was grateful. I took it as a benediction on what I feared was a bad idea, walking Bear when I am physically a little fragile. I sent them my thanks through ASL (which all muledeer understand perfectly) and my friend and I took off slowly, me limping, Bear wanting to smell everything. I didn’t blame her. Even I could see the stories left in the snow.

We went along. I had no idea how far I would go before I couldn’t go, but it turned out that I was able to go almost as far as usual. The only reason I didn’t go all the way is because my mom told me not to, I mean because I’m less stupid and stubborn than I was three days ago. Bear studied scents, rolled in the snow, dug down to where maybe some little creature had burrowed for warmth.

On the way I noticed a large bird in one of the cottonwood trees. Then it went “ooo-hooo” and I realized it was “my” great horned owl. Too far away for a good photo, but when has that deterred me?

I should really take a camera…

When Bear and I turned around, Bear did her lean thing which I interpret to mean, “Thank you Martha,” but it might mean, “Aren’t we going to hunt some more?” We walked along together, my hand on my dog’s back, and I thought, “Is this so bad, Martha? Really, what’s wrong with this? Your best friend is here. Your welcoming committee was waiting for you. The snow is one big mantle of diamonds and stories. And look at that! Look, right in front of you!!”

I did. I stood there and looked at the little grouping of mountains I’ve painted so many times that they’re almost a part of my hand, and I started to cry. “We are hardly a consolation prize,” murmured all the features of the landscape, “And we’re yours. You came here for this and we are here for you. Do you have to live according to some idea of yourself or can’t you just do what we do and BE?”

There were no human footprints anywhere. A couple signs of someone on X-country skis maybe three days ago, but otherwise? As it is most of the year, it was just us, Bear and me and sometimes Teddy, too. I like the cold, the wind, the changes, the tracks, the possibilities of seeing other animals besides me and my dogs. I like what I see going slowly.

So, I will be selling my skis.

Some Decent Snow, a Little Politics

We haven’t had this much snow since early September. Truth. Today I get to confront the dilemma which is a surfeit of riches. My two favorite outdoor activities — walking with Bear in the snow and X-country skiing on the golf course. I’m pretty sure that the one I will choose will be walking with Bear in the snow, but wow. To have to — get to — choose!!!

I love snow so much that, when it has fallen in the night, I wake up because the light changes. At the moment Bear is exhausted from playing with Teddy in the snow for three hours, so I suppose I’ll go out and shovel. The snowplow has spun my mailbox around, but at least it didn’t knock it down and scatter the parts asunder. (I got to use “asunder”)

I think, after tomorrow, hopefully, inshallah, life will lighten. Last night I looked at pictures of Washington Mall as it has been decorated ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Personally, I’m so sick of show and fanfare that I would like Biden to be inaugurated in the living room of Blair House with no one there but the press, Dr. Biden (my hero), Kamala and her husband, but I guess we can’t do it that way. Maybe a little fanfare is appropriate. It’s just that the showboating fanfare of 45’s regime was so grotesque and continuous that well, you know. If you have a party every day you never have a party. But the decorations are appropriate and moving. When I looked at the flags that are standing in for an audience on the Washington Mall ahead of Biden’s inauguration I felt sad and peaceful at the same time. People SHOULDN’T be there.

My cousin has had to go back to the ER. She’s physically stable now, but the virus is affecting her mental acuity. We’re hoping it’s just a temporary thing. I’m sad and scared for her and I think about the families and friends of the 400,000 people who have died! ❤

I think one thing that will happen with Biden resulting from his seriousness about the pandemic is that we won’t have to struggle against the lies which has meant struggling against our feelings. NORMAL feelings in this situation are apprehension, conviction and sorrow. Trump distracted us from normal human emotions during this time with all the gaslighting and deflecting and ignoring and denying of the reality that people have died and people are ill. This left us to feel anger, frustration and fear. All along I’ve believed it should have been one single minded purpose toward minimizing the casualties, in real life, not through mere denial, coupled with teaching people how to be safe. That couldn’t be done with “leadership” like Trump. That Dr. Fauci’s life was threatened was shocking, shattering.

I also thought about the lies and ruckus from 4 years ago when, in the face of palpable evidence to the contrary, 45 insisted his inauguration had more people than Obama’s had had. Joe Biden isn’t going to have an easy job. He’s not a young man, but he’s had training for this job, and he’s intentionally gathered experienced people around him that he already knows he can work with. When people say its “Obama 2” I think, “If I had to take on this job with a mess like this, I wouldn’t want to break in a new staff. I’d want to know the people I’m working with so we can just get right on it.” I think that’s what he’s done. My hope is that the impeachment trial doesn’t take precedence to moving ahead with crucial appointments. The only advantage I can see to convicting 45 is that it will mean he won’t get the perqs former presidents usually get. I want to add that I don’t really care WHAT party a president comes from as long as he or she is a good, ethical person who cares about the American people. My belief is that good leadership is leadership that allows the people the freedom to do what THEY do while the people in government take care of what they were hired to do.

The pictures of the Washington Mall are here:…/field-of…/2545279/…

Happy Dog

When you have a birthday close to but after the holidays, sometimes you don’t get much of a celebration when you’re a kid. My mom even said things like, “I don’t think I can face another holiday.” OH WELL. Teddy and I celebrated our birthday quietly as fits our natures (???). Then, day before yesterday I got a text from the kids’ mom. “We made you a Martha sized cake. We forgot your birthday. Can we bring it tomorrow?”

I haven’t been hanging out with the kids for a while. I felt the need to back off a little. The contest for which I read books in winter has begun, and I’m trying to stock my Etsy store ahead of spring having gotten the inspiration that people shop seasonally (who knew? Every retail person since time began, that’s who). Plus, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of a family. It’s strange, but true, that the word “family” terrifies some people (raises hand). Family carries expectations that I know I’m not up to and, along with expectations, come disappointments. I don’t want to disappoint those kids, but I have and I will. All that to say I haven’t seen them in several weeks.

So there they were, in the alley, with a pretty cake, a cardboard box with a pillow they made me so I could take a nap, and birthday cards they’d made. It was a beautiful scene, but truly, the most beautiful scene of all was when they came in the yard to see Bear. Bear was in RAPTURES that her kids were IN HER VERY OWN YARD. Bear ran up to M (and scared her) then raced around the yard several times. “That’s her happy dance,” I told the kids as the nut-brown dust blew up all around us. Dry, dry, dry winter… The kids examined the masterwork of holes Bear has been digging under a lilac bush for five years, watched the birds who live in my hedge and generally hung out in Bear’s world. When they left, Bear sat beside me at the gate and bid them farewell as if she had invited them to a tea party and it was time for them to go.

Bear’s masterpiece

Bear and I Discuss Change

“But Martha, you HAVE to sit there and drink your coffee. You CAN’T just go into your studio.”

“Why, Bear?”

“Because it’s how it’s always been. If you don’t…”

“Sweet Bear, you’re just a livestock guardian dog. You think all changes mean there’s a predator.”


“Yeah. That’s what you guys are bred for. That’s why when friends come over, you start guarding them immediately because WHY ARE THEY HERE????. They must be RUNNING FROM SOMETHING TERRIBLE.”

“That’s right, Martha. It’s important to keep things going in a calm, peaceful, predictable way so we all survive.”

“Damn, Bear. That’s what I think, too.”

“It’s obvious, Martha. Thanks for the rawhide. I don’t know how you hunt down so many animals when I don’t see you do it.”

“Magic powers, Bear.”

SO…having seen how important this ritual is to my dog (and to me) I will not take a break. I’ll just do my best to stay away from POLITICS!!!!

January Walk in the Big Empty with Ungulates

Bear and I took a Bear Ramble out to the Refuge and were rewarded by getting to see about a dozen happy ungulates trying to figure out if we were a threat or not. Apparently they couldn’t be sure, so we also got to watch them sproing off in a Mule Deer ballet.

Not much snow, but Bear and I have taken an extremely enlightened, Zen perspective and are enjoying what we have, which is a lot, and, at least, it’s cold. There are a lot of stories everywhere, most of which I cannot read but Bear can.


We heard ice breaking apart on one of the shallower ponds. Beautiful walk and inspiring company. Really a balm to the spirit. ❤


the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.

Back in 2017 I was privileged to find a bunch of mule deer friends. There was a buck and four or five does and one young deer. The buck was very fierce and stately and carried a large bush on his head. The does were very curious about Bear and me, and the buck was more wary. Over time — since I hiked at the same time every day — they got used to us and I would often see them hiding under the train cars at the golf course, and watched as they followed us to the end of our hike, about a mile to our turn around point and the gate. Sometimes we would just stand and watch each other. Then came a day when a doe wanted to get closer. I had to tell her that was a very bad plan.

Deer do NOT belong with people.

It was hunting season and they’d found good cover in a bramble of willows and beneath oil tanker cars on the rail road track.

Meanwhile, all over the San Luis Valley, hunters had adorned themselves in phenotypical clothing and were dressed as bushes. They were crawling through the willow brambles, stalking the deer, elk, whatever they had a license for. While I don’t have a problem with hunting (ungulate over-population is a legitimate problem out here) I knew that getting “my” deer too used to me would be the worst thing that could happen to them. I stopped visiting them. I still miss them and cherish the time we spent “together.”

My own phenotypical adjustment to living here has been slow and steady. The most recent manifestation is advertising on the Livestock Guardian Dog Facebook Page that I’m an artist and have a couple of Christmas card designs featuring livestock guardian dogs. This morning I got a commission. That NEVER would have happened if I hadn’t moved here, adopted and been inspired by Bear and the rest is history.