Anti-Nazi Movement

I’ve read and seen so much over the last few days that my head hurts and my heart aches. So much of it is based on incomplete knowledge (not that my knowledge is complete) selective memory, stupidity and blatant desire. Most of it ignores the fundamental fact that we are all on this planet together. Those of us in the US are in this country together, black, white, yellow, pinkish/red and speckled (that’s me), young, old, rich, poor, smart, stupid… We’re here. Right now. We all have to make a life. We all want a good life. We all know that shit happens all the time. There are booby traps down the road — sinister ones like cancer, car accidents, dead children, loss of work, divorce. We all know this.

I’m bewildered by the lack of pragmatism in some of my fellow citizens.  If my life is good YOUR life is improved. It’s really very, very, very simple. My desiring a better life for my neighbors (and working toward that in some small way) takes NOTHING from me but enhances  my little world.

For this reason, I do not understand racism. What’s the point? When I hear discussions about race, they often turn on little points of definition, semantics. The long term goal of our society should be the best life possible for all the people in it. What doesn’t work in that direction should be questioned by everyone.

I’ve never felt “white guilt” or been ashamed of being white. That just seems absurd. Some of my ancestors owned slaves. Some of my ancestors stood on board a ship and waited for someone to buy them so they could get off the ship. Some of them died on the way. Some of them died in servitude. They weren’t me. Universally all of them worked toward a better future for their children. All of us look at our lives and say, “I don’t want my kids to live with this.” We have all done that. Generation after generation has worked in its small way toward improving life for the next generation.

I think one of the most appalling things that is happening in the US now is that forward movement has been stopped by the fuckhead who “leads” the country. 

So what is forward? Peace is forward. Prosperity is forward. Education is forward. Medical care for all is forward. It’s not hard to know which way to go, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want these things. Each of us works in our own way toward these things for ourselves, our families and our neighbors.

It has nothing to do with politics, race, religion, age, nothing. It is human nature when it is allowed to blossom. 

My black students cared more about my skin color than I cared about theirs. I got that. My brown students, also, noticed my whiteness more than I noticed their “brownness.” In China, of course, I stood out like a sore thumb, but I also forgot about my own skin color at a certain point until I was reminded by a green-eyed man from Sinkiang.

Sometimes I feel caged by my whiteness. I grew up in a world in which Spanish was spoken and Mexican people were loved and admired. I was shocked to find out that wasn’t the same everywhere. I wasn’t conscious of my “whiteness” until my Mexican neighbor in CA pointed it out by saying, “You’re the first nice white woman I’ve ever known.” Wow. In one sentence I learned that I’m white and that whites can be assholes for no other reason than that they’re white.

I’ve been in the middle of a family broken by “La Migra.” I’ve seen what black gang fights and the desperation of poverty can do to people of all ages. I’ve taught young people with PTSD returned from fighting the hopeless war against terror. My life has shown me that every person needs compassion. Every person deserves the respect of curiosity about who they are as individuals. 

I taught a black kid about a hundred years ago. It was an English class. Rap was semi-new (it was the early 90s). My students wrote a weekly journal. This kid wrote about his favorite music. They all knew mine (because they interviewed me). I don’t remember his words exactly but he wrote something like this, “Hey Martha, you won’t believe this because I’m a black guy, but I also love punk rock music. I’m not sucking up. I mean really. I like hardcore, just like you. I got to see Jello Biafra last summer and it was amazing.” He felt he had to prove he was telling me the truth and offered creds to legitimize his claim. I slipped a Sex Pisols sew-on patch I’d bought but hadn’t used into his journal so he’d know I understood. It appeared on his hat the next week.

I believe it’s human nature to seek commonality — and we will as long as we have honest interest in others.

When the Nazis (or the KKK, or the MAGA douchebags) dress in a uniform they are saying, “I have subsumed my individuality to the morality of this group. I am the lowest common denominator. I have abdicated my right to self-determination. I am no longer responsible for pursuing the highest good.” They are no longer fully human — by their own choice.

It’s a huge responsibility being fully human. We work hard all our lives to achieve that. There’s an old man at the end of my block. He’s Hispanic. His kids are junkies, so he is raising his grandsons. He’s a lovely, noble, gallant, old-school Hispanic man of the San Luis Valley. He rides his bike every day for exercise. He tips his hat when I’m outside and he goes by. “You’re working hard,” he said one day as I was sweating and mowing the lawn.

“I’m the only one here to do it,” I said.

“I know what you mean,” he said. “Have a beautiful day.”

The fuckhead in Washington knows NOTHING about these individual people, but we all do. That’s where we live, in the grainy reality of human effort and ordinary kindness.

Ah, Daily Prompt

“Prickle” on Monday followed by “Willy-Nilly? on Tuesday” Really, Daily Prompt and you don’t think I’m going to be smirking like a 12 year old boy who just won a fart contest?

He named his willy, “Nilly” because it was barely a prick, merely a prickle.

Are you happy now?


Things are not done in a “jiffy” here in the San Luis Valley. It’s far between places, for one thing. Yesterday my neighbors and I went on a studio tour. It began in the mountains, up above Creede at a place called Bristolhead and wandered its way down to South Fork, some 40 miles southeast. We thought we could see many of the studios on this tour between 9 and 1 and fit lunch into that time frame. That turned out to be impossible.

2017 STST Map

In winter many of these places are deserted except for the diehard, year-round residents. In summer they have a small population (and economic) explosion. There are large, multi-million-dollar fancy houses up there. It’s a different world from my year-round, salt-of-the-earth little town.

I bought a print. I would love to have bought the original, but it is out of my reach. The artist, Angela Hague, is an older lady from the east coast. She greeted me at the door as if she knew me. She exclaimed about my white hair. She said, “I paint from the New York School of Painting” and explained her painting philosophy to me — a painting philosophy another artist friend had tried explaining to me before. It was a little easier to understand what is, to me, a rather arcane philosophy, when I was surrounded by hundreds of very colorful paintings. She constantly repeated, “The subject matter is not important. What is important is the push pull of the colors on each other.”

Every artist has a “thing.” My thing is not to have a thing, but I know that’s a thing, too. And, subject matter matters to me. In the painting I bought the two “things” — the push/pull of color and the subject matter — come together in a very powerful and beautiful way.

Angel Hague Print.JPG

Walking Toward the Light by Angela Hague

Their house is adobe, built on a hillside, very dramatic and filled with little artistish details.


The tour  — and my recent trip to Taos with my friend, Perla — has made me rethink this artist thing. It’s a crapshoot, but for many of these people a lucrative one. It’s also made me think about what I do when I paint. I wonder if all painters are the same — there are paintings that are “outside” paintings and paintings that are “inside” paintings. I will also always be a representational artist. I don’t get — or do — abstract work. Reality is abstract enough for me. My house has my paintings hanging in it — six of them. Three of them are also paintings I will probably not hang in public or ever sell. They are paintings that represent moments in the internal landscape of Martha.


“What are you doing?”

“Organizing my underwear drawer.”

“You don’t have any underwear drawer.”

“OK. My underwear basket that sits on this shelf in my armoire. Besides. what’s it to you?”

“I don’t know. I’m bored.”

“Then go do something. Trim the roses or something.”

“That’s boring.”

“How about cut the weeds in the back yard?”

“ALL of them? That’ll take all day! Besides, I’d have to clean up the dog poop first.”

“What else do you have to do?”


“Well, go do that. Then when you DO have something to do, you won’t think, ‘Oh man, I should cut the weeds in the back yard first’.”

“I don’t see the point. They’ll just grow back.”

“There isn’t any point. It’s all just what it is.”

“Wow. You mean there’s no meaning?”

“Nope. We give things meaning through our effort and our love. That’s it. There. That’s done.”

“That makes it’s even MORE irrelevant for me to cut the weeds.”

“Look, there’s a weed out there that’s going to go to seed and the seeds can stick in your dog’s fur. Cut the fuckers before that happens. The meaning THERE is vet bills.”

“My girlfriend works for a vet.”

“OK, the meaning there is your dogs have less chance of an abscess and infection BEFORE the go to the vet. I don’t know what you expect from life. It’s just a thing we’re here and we do it to the best of our ability. Just find something you like to do and do it. I’ll help you in your backyard if you want.”

“No, c’mon, couldn’t we DO something?”

The Hope of Our Hearts

“Heaven is the hope of our hearts, and Heaven don’t tear you apart….”

I had an uneventful journey back from Colorado Springs. La Veta Pass was essentially empty making it fun to drive. The floor of the valley is bright green and yellow with the blossoms of the Chamisa. We’ve had so much rain that August, which is usually somewhat sere — beige and yellow — is as green as spring. Pretty but strange…

My heart lifts a little bit when I get over the pass and see the vastness of this valley in which I live. I love it. It sings “Home” to me as it has from the first time I saw it and recognized the landscape that would be my deliverance. There is no sky like the sky here. Even the river that runs through it, the Rio Grande, is different from all the other rivers in America; it has a very idiosyncratic flow to the Gulf of Mexico, never touching the vast Mississippi River Basin.

I had a good time, I loved seeing my friends but I am glad to be home.


Too Much Drama

Periodically WordPress does something with the blog editor and it’s almost always buggy. Then the kinks get worked out then you go on to use the new blog editor with its spicy alterations and then they do it again. The most recent iteration has hidden my favorite blogs from view on my Reader, has given me a strange jumpy screen that will not properly load, has frozen my laptop attempting to load. Yesterday it told some of my readers that my blog was “not on this server.”

I’m a paying customer (as it happens) so this annoys me a little bit. I’m the first to say my blog is not the most important news of the morning, not to me or anyone else, but it’s a thing I do while I drink my coffee, the dogs chew their rawhide and I make the transition from sleep to wakefulness (probably obvious from my posts). Sometimes I am even inspired to write a spicy story.

Writing a blog is a completely elective activity for me. I’m past the point in life where I want drama or gratuitous change. In fact, I feel that’s a problem in this country. Rather than changing important things, we fuss about a lot of stuff that doesn’t matter.

In other news….

Yesterday my dog ran off. Bear. It was a terrifying event since I love Bear probably more than I should AND I live on a highway. She dived through the lilac hedge and got to the front sidewalk. I saw her and yelled, “Bear!” and I guess she thought she was in trouble because she high-tailed it toward the golf course, away from the highway, thank goodness.

Dusty and I went out to find her and failed. I came home to be sure Mindy was still inside because I left everything open. My neighbor, E,  texted me that she had some freshly picked green beans and I texted back, “Bear ran away,” and headed out the front door with Dusty. I unleashed Dusty so if he saw her, he would go get her (he would). I hadn’t gone 30 feet when I saw first, my next door neighbor, Tom, was outside in his front yard and Bear was coming up the street. I was behind a honeysuckle bush so my neighbor didn’t see me, but I saw what he did. He called Bear to him. Dusty went to Bear and both went to my neighbor. By then I’d caught up to them and we had a happy reunion. Meanwhile, E caught up to all of us. It was a really beautiful moment.

“I saw her run past so I decided to get out here and see if I could catch her and put her in my yard,” he said, “then come get you.” Tom is an old guy who just had a hip replacement.

E is in her mid-seventies. We stood in Tom’s yard and I tried to introduce Tom and E properly, but I was distracted so E finished what I started. We chatted and Bear leaned against me and Dusty got pats. I was pumped with adrenaline — a feeling I don’t like and have felt far too many times in my life.

We all went home — well, Tom stayed home — and Bear was exhausted. She was also strange. I realized she felt she’d been bad. I didn’t think she’d been bad. She came home. She was headed toward me when she saw Tom, whom she knows and likes. Probably when I yelled “Bear!” she thought I was angry — though I’ve only been angry with her twice. The day wore on, the adrenaline was slowly backing off, but I decided to take everyone for a walk at the slough before it started raining.

It was a miserable walk. It was humid, the air hung heavy, there were mosquitoes everywhere and none of us were happy. It was so strange. We came home and the afternoon routine unfolded in the predictable way dogs prefer. Then someone posted on Facebook a video of Glen Campbell singing “Gentle on My Mind” with John Hartford, who wrote the song. I’d never heard them sing it together. It was on the Smothers Brothers show.

I’m not a big fan of Glen Campbell and all of that was so long ago, but somehow it seemed to bring back eons of time, memories, events, visions of the future (in which I’m now living and it’s NOTHING like I envisioned) and the sense that it’s too late now for me to straighten THAT out (ha ha). I began to cry — I know it was an emotional release of the adrenaline and fear of Bear being hit by a semi-truck.

Bear climbed up on my lap (she is an 80 pound giant breed livestock guardian dog), put her muzzle on my cheek and looked at me. I was still crying. Bear went to sleep. I thought of the day and the incredible sweetness in that moment when two friends stood beside me because my dog had run away and I needed help.

Later on, a police car went by, its siren going. Dusty looked at me as if to say, “Well? It’s the right time for a howl, Martha” and I agreed. Dogs and wolves howl for many reasons, but one is to reaffirm their ties to their pack. When I had the Siberian huskies, it was a common thing at the end of the day when I came home, if they heard a “howl” (coyote or siren) they would come to where I was and we would assert our unity. It’s strange, but it’s what they do. Dusty learned this from his Siberian husky mother/sisters. I don’t remember Dusty EVER starting a “howl” but last evening he did. He doesn’t howl well, Bear mostly barks, Mindy only gives it a shot, but we all put our heads back and did our best.

Dogs aren’t people. Sometimes you have to meet them part way.

OH BTW, I’m composing this on WordPress’ old editor which is reliable, not difficult to use, and is accessible under WordPress Admin in your drop down menu.

a-ROUND and a-ROUND and a-ROUND

Of all the rides in all the cheap carnivals traveling the country, in all the fancy amusement parks across the world, in all the shopping malls in which they’ve been installed I can only say, carousels make me sick. Around and around is bad enough but adding an up-and-down forward movement to that is pure sadism. When I was a little girl, I didn’t feel that way. I know I found the baroque world painted on the carousel at Elitch Gardens enchanting.

People say, “Life is a carousel,” and I don’t know what they mean. Back in the days of long dresses it was a game people played, and there was a brass ring involved that you tried to catch as you passed by. So maybe “life is a merry-go-round” means that you try to catch the brass ring (golden opportunity) and if you don’t, you can try next time? I have no idea. I hope it doesn’t mean life is a sickening ride on a fake animal that goes no where and the good news is it lasts 3 minutes? That’s a very grim metaphor.

WARNING!!!! Keep them AWAY from the Thesaurus or they Will Try to Mess With You

“What’s the difference, teacher?”

“Well, some animals can’t ‘amble’. A snake, for instance, or an ant. It’s a kind of walking that’s slow and loose and hasn’t got any destination, necessarily. Some animals often amble — like a giraffe, a horse, a cow. A sheep could, but probably doesn’t.”

“Why snake can’t amble?”

“C’mon Rahim, that’s just silly. You can figure that out.”

“Rahim, a snake can’t walk,” whispers helpful Korean girl.

“Oh, right. My bad! But ant can walk. Why can’t ant amble?”

“It’s not their nature. They have these little short legs, they move very fast all the time and they always have a reason to go somewhere.”

“That’s true, teacher. Can you amble?”

A Shimmering Moment

A long time ago a Thai woman I knew in Denver gave me a couple yards of white silk with a subtle pattern of bamboo leaves worked into it. It was beautiful, white, shimmery. I carried it around for 30+ years and finally I gave it to my neighbor here in Monte Vista because she sews. She’s making a blouse out of it.

She said it was too much, too big a present, but I explained it wasn’t a present. It was something I would never do anything with, and it would just end up at a thrift store. Not long ago we were wandering around Del Norte seeing what there was to see, and she looked for buttons for the blouse. Selection of anything (except maybe mountains, potato varieties and livestock) is not always great here in the San Luis Valley, and she found a close proximation to the ideal buttons. She asked me what I thought and to my (everlasting?) surprise I had an opinion. “They should be plain mother-of-pearl.”

“I know,” she said, “but they don’t have any. Maybe I’ll find some later.”

I thought about the story of that material. In 1983, back from China, homesick for China, I was living in a large and beautiful apartment (now a condo that goes for 1/2 million dollars) in Capital Hill in Denver with my ex and my brother. It was awful. My brother had bottomed out after his wife ran off with a pimp taking their daughter, and I’d rescued him. My ex was working, but wouldn’t be for long, and it was clear he was not wild about me. “So many good looking women out there and here I am, stuck with you.” I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be in that life, I wanted to be back in China, but I had come home because the ex had hepatitis and couldn’t recover in China. All for the marriage, right?

Not long after we’d returned, we went to the first annual Festival of Asian Arts and Culture that was being held at the Denver Botanic Gardens. It was beautiful. It was sponsored by the Asian Pacific Development Center which was a mental health facility specifically treating Asian immigrants. At that time, many of them were Vietnamese, Cambodians and Hmong with severe PTSD. The festival was put on by the various Asian cultural groups in the city. There was dancing and music representing each culture, along with food, arts and crafts.

Little did I know as I sat in the audience, enjoying the show and feeling even more homesick for China, that I would be the coordinator of the Second Annual Festival of Arts and Culture. It was a fantastic experience — an immense challenge. The festival ran for two weeks with national performances every night. That alone made it an enormous undertaking. I fell into the job because I’d volunteered at the Asian Pacific Development Center as a fundraiser. The director — a half-Japanese/half-white psychologist — had brought me in after I’d written them about my experiences in China, how homesick I was for China, and how much I wanted to help. I’d written that if my homesickness was just a micron of what displaced Asians were feeling, I’d be a good fit. Very, very few Americans at that time had been to China and that gave me a way in.

At first I was regarded with suspicion — I was the only white person there. All the psychologists, office workers and members of the board were Asian. Gossip is one of the ways things are accomplished in every Asian culture, so I knew there was a LOT of background chatter about me and my motives. Finally, everyone saw that I was just a guileless person with no agenda at all, who just wanted to help. It turned out that there was a place that could only be filled by a white person with a love for Asia.

The Asian cultural groups did not get along with each other. I was a neutral party. It worked well. Through that experience I saw that whatever it means to be “white,” it also means to be “blank.” I spent hours on the phone listening to the Japanese trash talk the Chinese, the Chinese trash talk the Thai, etc. in a great a circle of gossip and mistrust. The Thai woman was president of the board and she did not trash talk anyone. Her mother had come to America, ended up in Denver and opened Denver’s first Thai restaurant. In a dinner there with only this woman and my husband, I was told how the whole maladjusted Asian community worked. “You have to help us,” she said. “No one else can, you see we believe in the Center and we want the Festival to work, but we don’t get along with each other.” I shouldered the yoke of the Festival and enjoyed every single minute of it. It was one of my life’s greatest experiences.

The festival was a huge success that year. It was beautiful and inspiring and fun — and it still happens in Denver. Afterward, I was then offered my dream job by an organization I’d worked for before as a volunteer teacher, but because the marriage mattered and the ex had gotten a job in California I didn’t take it. The Thai woman (Patty) invited us to the restaurant for dinner one more time and there she gave me two pieces of Thai silk from which I could make a Thai costume. One of the pieces was lost to time, the other is across the street from me here in Monte Vista made into a blouse by my neighbor who came to America from Australia a long time ago.

Just a Casually Terrifying Bark

Dogs are everywhere and if you’re walking with Dusty T. Dog in the evening, it is never a casual walk. It involves strategy, lightning reflexes and a good, strong hand on the leash. Why?

Dusty T. Dog is known in his inner circles (me) as “El Barquero Grande.” Part Doberman Pinscher part Labrador retriever (two barky dogs), Dusty T. Dog has a formidable and quite barbaric “Yawp.” It usually means, “Hey Dude, ‘sup?” But you’d never know that. And, if Dusty gets “wound up” — shudder.

My neighbor in CA wound up Dusty with the intention of getting Dusty to bite him. He hated my dog (I kind of don’t blame him) and wanted him hauled away and put to sleep. What my neighbor didn’t understand is that, because they were seldom at their house — it was a part-time home for them — Dusty felt it was his duty to protect everything in sight, all Dusty was doing was protecting that man’s house from intruders. He also didn’t understand that Dusty loves his yard and he loves people.

It got very ugly with a note pushed into my fence saying the neighbors were all afraid of my dog, that my fence wouldn’t keep him in the yard, that there was fecal matter everywhere because I didn’t clean up after my dogs (completely untrue as I have always done that daily), that the cops had been called. In reality, Dusty COULD but wouldn’t jump the 4 foot fence and, when I was not home, Dusty and the girls were all confined to a 100 square foot dog run behind a 6 foot fence. The dogs were always inside for the night by 8 pm so it wasn’t a question of their barking all night, either. Most of all, if the neighbor had ever come into my yard and met Dusty, he would have understood the whole story, but it was more interesting for him to curse and yell and bait my dog and call the cops.

So the Animal Control officer came out and I happened to be home. I saw him taking photos of the yard from outside the fence. Dusty liked the guy and was just standing beside the fence waiting to be petted. He didn’t bark. I let the guy in, showed him the dog run — into which all the dogs happily ran when I said, “Go to yard!” — and explained our routine. The guy looked for fecal matter and found none. Then he said, “One of your neighbors complained.”

“Yeah, I know. I got a letter from them.”

“Can I see it?”

I went in the house and got it for him while he hung out with “The Models” (my Siberian husky girls) and El Barquero. After he read read it he said, “I guess I need to talk to all your neighbors. I’ll get back to you. Sounds like a problem between neighbors more than a problem with Old Dusty here.” Dusty was leaning against the guy getting his ears scratched and groaning happily. “I wish every dog complaint I answered was like this one. This is Dog Heaven.”

I felt tears welling up.

The upshot was my neighbors were educated that I was a very responsible dog owner but I would be taking steps to keep Dusty quiet. I ended up buying a bark collar that was supposed to train Dusty while I was gone by delivering a shock to his neck when he barked. The collar worked great, but Dusty LOVES to bark and he would rather be burned than stop barking. Ultimately I took out the battery and left the collar on Dusty’s neck for show. I put up a higher fence in front of my yard as well, not to keep Dusty in, but to make my life more peaceful.

Here in Monte Vista people are a lot more tolerant of dogs and things dogs do. I even apologized to a guy for Dusty’s bark and he just said, “He’s a dog. Dogs bark.” The delivery guys think it’s good because I’m here by myself. “It’s better for you, ma’am,” they say. But, on a walk, if Dusty becomes aware of the presence of anything that might threaten me, he will bark fiercely. To some dogs, it’s a provocation.

El Barquero’s nemesis — Ace the Chill — is a black lab who lives on the corner by the alley. Ace has been known to occasionally go to the fence and bark at El Barquero Grande and El Barquero remembers this. When we walk by, Dusty gets nervous and alert, smelling the presence of Ace the Chill. Ace usually just watches us go by with nary a flick of his tail. He likes Bear and sometimes lumbers over to the fence to say “Hi!” if he sees Bear and I are alone. He has no interest in meeting or engaging with El Barquero.

Dogs all have different, sometimes complex, “dogonalities.” Even a fierce barky dog like El Barquero Grande is more than one thing. But I totally get it that he can sound scary to the casual observer.