The Most Amazing Photo (of Dogs I Love)

All the Dogs that Look Like Lily T. Wolf ❤

From “Here’s Where the Arctic’s Wildlife Will Make Its Last Stand,” National Geographic, January 2018 PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL NICKLEN

Lily T. Wolf in her first and only REAL snow storm, March 2015


Walking in the snow with a dog who loves snow is a kind of transcendental thing, particularly if you love snow, too. Only a couple times in the lives of my Siberian huskies was I able to share that with them, and Lily was the ONLY one who got to experience real nordic cold and a legit snowstorm. Otherwise, if it snowed in the mountains where I lived in California, a rare event but it happened, we were OUT in it as soon as it was possible.

Now I don’t have a Siberian husky, but I have Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog. She and I took our first REAL winter walk of the year this afternoon. It was a balmy 17 F (- 8 C). We took off across the golf course (who’s surprised?) and out into the big empty.

I didn’t expect to see the deer. They really are gone. One of the property owners north of the golf course is now shooting at geese and if I were one of my deer (highly intelligent deer, by the way) I wouldn’t hang around. On our return, the scent in the air was a mixture of gunpowder and piñon. Bear did not like the smell, but the sound of the shots didn’t seem to bother her.

I’d forgotten the exquisite pleasure of walking in the cold on a still, sunny day with the best companion I could ever ask for. It was really perfect.

Bear and me looking toward the place where “our” deer should be, Bear leaning against my legs to keep me safe from danger. ❤

This is NOT the Sexy Part of Colorado

In my 20s, I hung out in the sexy parts of Colorado fairly often. I would say that Aspen is the sexiest of the sexy. I had a good friend who’s parents owned a condo at the bottom of Little Nell (a ski lift). These excursions were usually in the summer when, back in the 70s, the population was less glamorous than during ski season. It was nothing for us to drive up there from Denver for the weekend. I spent a lot of time with them. The sexiest parts were getting dolled up (“Take off your glasses Martha!” “But Bess, if I do that I can’t see!” “You don’t have to see. You have to be SEEN!!!”)  to dance and drink at the Red Onion.

People don’t think of it this way, but Aspen is surrounded by legit Colorado and on those summer nights, if I took I took my Jack Daniels outside the Red Onion for a little fresh air and break from the noise and sat down at one of the tables set up on the sidewalk, I was likely to share the space with a cowboy and his beer.

I spent some winter times there, too, skiing at Snowmass with my boyfriend’s parents and watching women in restaurants drop their fur jackets on the floor beside their chairs. There were also lines of cocaine (it was the 70s, and I was young) that left me wondering if I’d ever sleep again and why anyone found that fun at all (I didn’t). In the swirling 70s mystique cocaine in Aspen was part of the sexiness. I even happened to be at my friend’s apartment when a scary dealer showed up with a bag of uncut coke. My friend — a young, talented Aspen architect — bought it, we snorted some. I was “up” for three miserable nights and days, hating every minute of it, and that was the end of that social experiment, for me, anyway. My friend died a few years later at 35. Nothing sexy about that, nothing sexy about a wasted life.

I spent time — and skied some hills — in less sexy parts of Colorado, too. My favorite not-all-that-sexy ski mountain was Arapahoe Basin. Still, it was sexy in its way, too, sexy in the “I’m the highest ski mountain anywhere” kind of sexy. It was sexy in the “Only extremely cool real Coloradans who are able to drive over Loveland Pass come here.” I was there every weekend one winter. I do not know if there is a pass anywhere that my VW Bug wasn’t ready to take on.

So here I am in South Central Colorado in a flat, mysterious, ancient valley ringed by mountains, a hard-working valley where potatoes are cultivated and giant trucks carry them off to points north, south, east and west. The other night, a visiting friend and I drove across Heaven’s fields — potatoes, alfalfa, hops, barley — and she said, “This is the Colorado people don’t know. It’s not the sexy part.”

A small herd of cattle was running across a pasture for reasons only they knew.

I said, “Yeah, but you know, last time I drove out of this valley to go to Colorado Springs all I could think was ‘every other place is bullshit’.” My friend agreed. She lives in proximity to a somewhat sexy part of the state (Durango and Telluride) but her town might be smaller than mine.

I pointed to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, about to be hit with late afternoon light and I said, “See those? Those are MY mountains. And these fields here? They’re mine. And that immense changing sky? That’s mine, too. There’s a river over there. It’s one of the perqs of living here. It’s my river.” I said “my” but in fact, I belong to them, heart and soul.

She’s the friend who acted as my real estate agent when I wanted to move here. She said, “I was so worried when you said you wanted to live here. I couldn’t imagine you not hating it.”

“I knew I wouldn’t hate it.” My heart filled as it often does here in Heaven. “It’s the best thing I ever did, move here. But no, it’s not sexy. It’s legit.”

Today I went to visit the dogs (since I still can’t walk well enough to bring them home) and take a drive through the legit part of Colorado where I live, past the neat, rich Amish farms, the small herds of sheep, the cattle on the distant fields, the two beautiful mules near the kennel. Summer birds swooped and hunted. The behind the San Juans made them silhouettes. Fields that had been irrigated were filled with wild iris.

Not in the least sexy.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/rdp-9-ragabash/

Mountains (with Maps!)

A long time ago, I made a list of my favorite words. The two on top were “mountains” and “wonder.” If I wrote a list like that today, I’d probably have the same two words on top.

I like living a little distance from the mountains so I can see them ranged across the horizon. That’s why I chose Monte Vista instead of some of the other towns in the Valley when I moved here. I’m perfectly placed to look at the San Juans (not that far away) and at the Sangre de Cristos (farther away). I can watch the alpenglow (morning and evening) and enjoy the gathering clouds in both directions.

This side (eastern) of the San Juans is pretty “soft” and gentle, but the west side is a different story. The San Juans are the largest range in Colorado, and they cover a good part of the state — “good” meaning both “high quality” and “large.” The dark green line on the map below marks the Continental Divide. The orange line that runs from Alamosa to Cortez is my street. 🙂

The Rio Grande starts up in the San Juans, and I hope someday to go to the source up on Canby Mountain. That will happen when I get my hip and get my jeep 🙂

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The Sangres, at least here where I live, remind me of the Alps with their jagged peaks abrubtly jutting from the Valley floor. In Colorado, they are a long, narrow range that marks the end of the Rocky Mountains and the beginning of the Great Plains.

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Mountains are a source of wonderment for me. I look at them all the time and they are never the same. Mt. Blanca (featured photo) is a massif, not really just one mountain. It’s one of the Navajo’s four sacred mountains and marked the northeastern boundary of their lands.

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I can subscribe to these boundaries, too. They circumscribe some of my favorite places in the world, where I’ve had the chance to experience many moments of…

Wonder

 

Daily Prompt: Wonder

Ephemera

Long long ago in a faraway land known as Black Hawk, Colorado, stood an old ice house where people could go ice skating on the adjacent pond if they brought their skates and knew how to find it. The ice house was still full of gunny sacks and sawdust — the insulation that kept the ice cold in old times. It was a wonderful relic of past times, more wonderful to me than the old hotel in Central City or the gingerbread decked houses of 19th century Colorado mining towns. I remembered my dad explaining how ice had been delivered to his family home in Billings, and I could imagine wagons and, later, trucks laden with big blocks of ice and transported down the narrow, winding mountain roads to Black Hawk and Central City back in the day.

I don’t know if it is still there; I doubt it. It was pretty ramshackle back in the 70s. I skated there sometimes — not often enough — during my university life in Boulder which coincided with my first marriage. That marriage (all marriages?) required so much negotiation that we hardly ever did anything.

It was so long ago that the ice house and pond seem more real in my memory than does the relationship I endured at the time. I suppose it just wasn’t in the stars.

P.S. Now, thanks to  curioussteph, I know the name of the “pond” — Lake Pactolus and I have learned that it supplied ice to more than Black Hawk and Central City.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/astral/

Diurnal Update, January 29, 2018

One thing Dusty T. Dog cannot do is stifle his urge to bark. And, yesterday, when I took off to spend some time with people, and he had the whole enormous yard (that was the yard of the world) to himself and his friends, he had the time of his life, a joyous barking dog fest that included clearing the top of a fence inside my friends’ yard.

Yep, Dusty, who can jump 6 feet straight up in the air (where else would you jump?) cleared a 4 foot fence. His accomplice, Shoey T. Dog, may have assisted in this romp in forbidden territory by figuring out (in her inimitable probably border collie way) how to open the little gate.

When I got home from my adventure (which included sliding down a small slope on my ass — on purpose) and was compared (by my younger and more able friends) to the film Narayama, I found all the dogs where they weren’t supposed to be.

Much reparation ensued. By nightfall, Dusty, who is 11 and mostly blind in one eye, was tuckered out. His poor hips were stiff and getting up from the floor was hard for him.

I related to Dusty. It was hard for me to get up a relatively gentle rocky slope to my tree. I needed a lot of help. And under normal circumstances, I’d walk down it, no problem. It isn’t a long hike — maybe 1/4 mile — and it isn’t a hard hike.

Me and tree 1:27:2018

But — like the dogs — my friends an I all had a really good time, in spite of hauling grandma up the mountain, and the view from “my tree” is wonderful.

Feature photo: Lupita Tiscareño Norcross; photo of me, Kelly Jamar-Storme

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/stifle/

Nothing’s Quite as Yummy as Rawhide and Coffee in the Morning

Bear and I have our treats first thing in the morning. Who knows what the day will bring, right?

After years and years of indulging my coffee tastes (for both flavor and nostalgic reasons) with Lavazza (which I love) and the ridiculously expensive Illy, I picked up a bag of this at the local IGA grocery (where, by the way, you can by immense bags of dried red chiles).

image

This incredibly good coffee. It’s roasted in Pueblo, Colorado, by two young guys, brothers, inventors of the world’s first solar coffee roaster. Yeah, really. It’s richly flavored (as intense as any Lavazza dark roast), very smooth, low in acid (it seems) and just generally delicious.

The rawhide has now been chewed, the coffee has been drunk. It’s time to move on to the adventures of the Schneebelis in the semi-friendly land of the Palatine dukes. Right.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/treat/

Quotidian Sloughful Observations #71

The leaves have been released from the trees all around the slough. In town they are hanging on, but they can’t win this battle. The trees are all, “Little dudes. Winter is coming. I don’t have anything to give you. I have to expand my roots now.” I am beginning to see winter’s pastels edging into the picture.

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“Sorry little dudes! You gotta’ go!”

Yesterday when we arrived — Dusty decked out in his hunting vest — there were pick up trucks in the parking lot. Three of them. I thought, “Oh rats,” then I saw they were three painters, little ladies with easels. I was really happy about that, somehow. I pulled into the parking lot, left the dogs in the car and went to say, “Hello!” and see the work.

These artists were not happy about that. Very grumpy painters. They were painting the dead trees across the road from the parking lot, contributing more 8 x 10 canvases to the ubiquitous dead tree school of American painting. Feeling stupid (a recognizable feeling), and bad for bothering them, I got the dogs and hit the trail.

It was beautiful. Two red tail hawks, fading yellow trees, leaves floating down, pale sky, the calls of Sandhill Cranes in the distance, beautiful light. I have figured out how to use my trekking pole/cane to relieve pain in my joint, and it was even a painless walk. Bear walked beside me without pulling. Dusty was the sweet gentleman he always is.

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We finished the walk with a dog appreciation moment and then I saw a woman — I thought a BLM (that’s Bureau of Land Management) person heading toward the rest room. We hurried the final 50 feet so there would be no Barkaerobics.

The “old boy” I met some time back was waiting in his pick up. The “BLM” woman turned out to be his date for the afternoon, and she wasn’t BLM at all, just your average 60 something hard-living lady looking for a fling with a sabre-toothed, pot-bellied old boy. I thought they were really cute.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/release/

Ski Bum Revelation, II

Those of you starting out in life or making your way over the GREAT BRIDGE of life’s productivity, saving the world (I, for one, am grateful) well, maybe this post is not for you, but I think it is. I retired three years ago and moved back to the Rocky Mountains which I had missed more than I can ever describe for the 30 years I lived in someone else’s paradise. Don’t get me wrong. I was very happy in Southern California and found a Coloradoesque life for myself in the wonderful mountains that rim San Diego. I learned to see and love the coastal sage and chaparral, my great teacher in so many ways, but I always, always, always missed the mountains.

Once I retired and came back, I launched myself right into what I thought I’d want to do as retired person. I have arthritis in my knees, so I figured I needed surgery and/or I was a cripple. I never had enough time to paint, so I figured I was an artist. I had an unfinished novel, so I figured I was a writer.

Over the course of this three years, my understanding of myself has changed, shifted. Images of myself that I held up there peeled away. You might think it’s all about self-discovery when you’re young, but I’d say for me there’s been more of that in the last three years than any other time since, well, ever. I don’t have that stuff in front of me, all that “Que sera, sera,” stuff. A lot of my stories have ended and I know how they turned out. For example I know I’m not going to be anyone’s mom and I’m not going to make a million bucks or save all the people in an impoverished country. No one expects anything of me any more, except to creep inexorably downhill physically, to be more out of touch with technology than I am or ever will be, to be not all that bright. It’s funny, but after you do a pretty good job through your working years, there will be people (usually younger) that don’t realize that you once were where they are and YOU MADE IT THROUGH.

There was a point in life in which dreams turned into imperatives such as “Holy shit, do I earn enough to make my house payment?” I remember, sometime in my 40s, telling my brother that all I did in my life was “patch things up and hold them together.” He, for his part, was impressed that I could do that! 🙂

So now…the other day, riding the stationary bike and watching a movie, The Last of the Ski Bums, I realized that I was happier skiing than doing any other thing in my life, ever. And I wasn’t very good at it. That’s important. Skiing, in and of itself, was just great, sublime, exciting, beautiful. Snow, high mountains, speed. Wow. I decided then and there that in my next life no one’s going to hijack my aimless existence with their idea of purpose. No sirree.

Then… Well, I work out a lot. Simply being able to walk requires that the muscles of my legs are strong so my knees work like knees should. I don’t know what I was doing, but I found myself in a skiing maneuver. And I thought, “Damn. I can do this. Godnose that next life idea is unpredictable. I might come back  wombat or armadillo or something. Or a child in the tropics where there is no snow and no hope of any. I can’t hang my ski bum dreams on some next life. I missed out this time, but putting my money on my next life is really too big a gamble.”

So I did research. Lots of people ski with arthritis. Since I was never any good, I can probably have a pretty good time on the baby slopes, maybe even blue circles! There are braces people wear on their knees. Then I remembered reading something on the website of the local ski area, just 50 miles away and no mountain pass involved, Wolf Creek, (which, BTW, usually gets the most snow of any ski area in Colorado). Their ski school has classes for “Baby Boomers.” A lift ticket for “seniors” is $25. I might not be the only one living out their Late-life Ski Bum Dreams

 

Ride the Rockies

The San Luis Valley is a great place to ride a bicycle — I know this from my own experience and it’s being reaffirmed by the thousands! of guys in bright jerseys riding road bikes past my house part of the Ride the Rockies.  I wonder what they think riding through these small towns and through the farming countryside? I wonder where they came from?

 

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They’re riding to Pagosa Springs today — that means they’re going over Wolf Creek Pass. Ahead of them is a slow climb then a rather sharp hill climb over a high mountain pass then down to a pretty mountain town.

They’ve been riding a while. As I was out there setting the water I heard “You want lobster? Dude! I want pancakes!” I think the pancake guy is more likely to triumph…

(Photos in slideshow taken by my neighbor, Karen Howard)

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/triumph/

Adventure to Natural Arch

The weather forecast was sketchy. “90% chance of rain, but that’s at 5 o’clock. We have time.” my friend, E, clearly, wanted to go. So did I. So did K. I’d even cleaned out my car and removed the dog proofing so people could sit in it.

My car is not an SUV. It’s a simple Ford Focus with a sport package. For a Ford Focus, it’s hot looking. It’s metal-flake gray and inside the seats are leather, black and maroon. ¡Que suave! And, anyway, the roads up there are well-cared for gravel and dirt. What could happen?

The afternoon seemed hospitable enough. Blue sky, white fluffy clouds, but once we were out of town E looked out the window of the car and said, “There’s a storm building.”

“It’s building a big city down there, not a village,” I said. I’m so funny.

K had several pages of directions she’d printed off the Internet, one of which said, “It’s extremely difficult to find the Natural Arch.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” said K.

I had written directions on a piece of paper. I handed them to K, who sat in the passenger seat, and said, “Just read these to me as we go. It’ll be fine.”

I wondered how the guy who wrote the article got lost going out there, first because there are not many roads, second because the BLM had done a good job with signage. Still, it’s a pretty remote spot, wait, everything here is remote. My bad.

I drove, we talked, exclaiming over the landscape, the beauty of the rocks (my friends truly love rocks), talking about the geology and how we were driving across a giant ancient caldera.

“It hasn’t exploded for millions of years, but it could,” said E.

I didn’t actually think so, but what do I know? Am I in charge of cataclysmic geological events? No. I told them about the big earthquake I’d enjoyed (truly) when I lived in Southern California. A huge wave had passed under the feet of a friend and I while we were hiking. It was amazing and truly wonder-full. “Of course, there was an earthquake almost every day out there, I said.

“Did you feel them?” asked K.

“A lot of times I just heard them, a loud bang of thunder inside the ground, kind of a loud ‘boom’ in the wrong place.”

We reached the end of the road. I looked around for a trail that would lead to the Natural Arch and saw no trails anywhere.

Sunny day

Looking across the valley from the Natural Arch at the start of the adventure

“Where is it?” asked K.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Then K looked out the window, “It’s right there!” Sure enough, the arch loomed above us, a hole punched somehow in the giant caldera that is the La Garita Mountains. 

The day was still beautiful and sunny where we were, but the clouds to the south were dark and they were moving. There was a trail up to the arch, so we all headed up. I don’t mind uphills, but downhills are difficult with my severely arthritic knee. I think the big problem is I’m afraid of falling, not the knee. K and E each went up — E forged her own trail and K went up the existing trail. I followed as far as I was sure I could get back down and I turned around.

Meanwhile, the storm kept building, now faster, to the south. It was on the move, too. About the time my friends reached the arch thunder began to roll. I thought of my lower clearance vehicle and some of the ruts I’d navigated around on the way up. “Damn,” I thought, “we had better get out of here.” Lessons learned, no doubt, from Into Thin Air. (ha ha)

My friends had the same thought, so we all “hurried” down. We got back into the car as the storm struck.

The drive out was fantastic. The storm was wild, pelting the car with graupel and rain. The light changed constantly and the distant Sangre de Cristo mountains moved closer, magnified by the humidity. The road was a mix of small ice balls and gravel and I was glad. If the rain had come down like that, it would have been soup.

Graupel

For me, that drive was the best part of the adventure. People might have found the storm inhospitable, but I thought it was a welcoming committee. And I got to see what my car can do. We passed some amazing rock formations, reconnoitered the location for a future adventure, and saw a stone and adobe ruin built against a small outcropping.

Tortoise rocks

Tortoise

The San Luis Valley has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, and while that small building was probably built in the 20th century, it was essentially the same as you would find at Cañon de Chelly.

We weren’t ready for the afternoon to end, so we stopped in Del Norte for coffee and to plan future adventures.

Del Norte

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/hospitality/