Once Upon a Time

I got to live in my dream house for 11 years. It was definitely a dream house. You know how dreams don’t make sense and there are all kinds of scary turns and the possibility of falling? The eleven years I lived in this house were just like that.

It was built as a summer cabin in 1928 (the same year as my REAL house, now). The people who built it were really from Europe and they built a dozen or so stone houses like this one as part of a summer home project. My little town was known for them. I was blissfully happy there for a year. Then stuff started happening, but the house didn’t do it. The house was a haven.

It was originally one room — one beautiful room. A kitchen and indoor toilet were added on and then two bedrooms and a real bathroom in the 90s. It was heated by a wood stove in the old part and a propane furnace in the new part that I only used one year. Propane is expensive.

I loved it, though. It was more than a cottage to me, it was a kind of friend and it helped me come back to Colorado.

Poetry or Just Another Pop Song by Freddy Mercury????

“Martha, how can you tell if a song is a poem?”

“I just take away the music and read the words. If it works without the music, then, maybe it’s a poem.”

It was an ESL class on literature. My students were enthusiastic and participative. It was a great class. Believe me. We’d just played “We Will Rock You.”

“Is that poetry, Martha?”

“Uh, try my stragedy.”

“Martha, you read it. You know how poetry in English is supposed to be,” said a Japanese girl.

“All right.” I picked up the liner from the cassette and started to read in a serious, poetical voice, ‘We will, we will, rock you. We WILL, we WILL rock YOU. We will, we will, ROCK you!”

“NOT poetry, definitely NOT poetry,” said a Swiss guy. “It’s a good song, though.”

“Music makes a difference.”

But it isn’t all about the music and the lyrics. Sometimes it’s the setting.

Years later, Tony the Treeman was up at the top of a very tall dead (and possibly rotten) oak tree in my front yard. Tony the Treeman was a complete nutcase, but lovable. His Mexican friend and assistant (who spoke no English as Tony spoke no Spanish) was running the boom truck that had carried Tony and his chainsaw up to the top.

So the chainsaw chainsawed and inside the house I worried. Getting the top down was always the hardest and scariest part of a tree job, and I LIKED Tony, even though he HAD shown me the scar from his motorcycle accident, a gruesome, knotted crevasse of pink that ran from his knee to his groin (an image I’ll never forget).

Then, the chainsaw stopped. The boom truck engine was silent. I was in a sudden cold sweat. WHAT happened? I’d heard no screams. I went outside and there was Tony having successfully cut the first 5 feet off the top of the tree. He was hanging on by a harness, LARGE chainsaw in the air, holding onto the tree with his free hand, singing his barbaric yawp.

“We are the champions, we are the champions, we are the champions of the WORLD!!!!”

That’s poetry.

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

Weather, a Matter of “Mood”?

I now live in a weather place. For 20 years, I lived in San Diego and, surprise, surprise, it’s a weather place, too. The weather is usually pretty subtle, but it’s definitely there. The coldest house I’ve ever lived in was 10 miles from the beach. When it gets down to 45 and there is no heat (normal for houses there) it’s COLD. That’s when I learned to wear long johns. Thank goodness I had a fireplace that offered, at least, an illusion of warmth. Space heaters are good in a closed space, but in an open, Spanish style, 1940s stucco house those heaters are not much good unless you sit on them.

Then I moved up to the mountains east of the city partly so I could have things like thunderstorms and freezing temps. I lived in a stone house that was originally built as a summer get-away cabin in the 1920s. I loved that house and the town and the landscape and it was hard to move away even though now I have all those things to the nth degree and I’m happy — and a house that is not as romantic and fairytale, but  lot more comfortable. I lived there for eleven happy years. The people who brought my California mountain cabin last year are already selling it. They’re going to lose money on it. One thing about a place like that is you don’t buy it in the heat of passion because it’s not easy to live in a weather place in Southern California. The house had all it needed to be comfortable for a person with low standards of comfort but… As someone said when I first moved in, “Most people stay here two years.”

I guess that weather up there is depressing. It’s hard when your pipes freeze for the first time and you don’t know enough to be grateful that all the plumbing is outside and it’s not flooding your house.

The other day I was walking the dogs. It was a clear sunny cool afternoon, air scoured clean by strong gusts 20 maybe 30 mph, narrow little brooms of wind. One came pushing across the golf course (open field this time of year with all the greens covered). It was fun to watch. It was 20 feet wide. It started high, bent the tops of the cottonwood trees, slid down its private little wind hill, hit the ground, whisked all the leaves off the ground and into the tennis court fence. I turned away from it, finally. When it had nearly spent itself, we continued. A pickup pulled up beside us and the driver said, “You’re tough.”

It’s been cold here these last few nights; cold is single digits and double digits preceded by a “-“. Since I have to leave the back storm door open enough for the dogs to push open and go out, those temps mean the water in the hoses to my washer could freeze. It happened yesterday because I forgot how that can happen. Now all is good and the hoses are protected. One of my friends posted on Facebook that it’s getting to be time for wool socks and headbands. Well, I’ve been wearing wool socks for a month now. No, not the same pair. Good grief.

The thing about weather is that it’s interesting as long as it’s not deadly. Here’s a story of a time — a legendary moment — when the weather turned very ugly long before anyone knew that life on the plains was gong to prove too “depressing” for most people.

 

Brownie T. Horse

I walked out my front door that February morning to see something many little girls dream about: there was a horse essentially in my front yard. He was a brown and white pinto quarterhorse, well up in horse years. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The dogs were surprised, too, but all of us were happy. I went over to the fence to meet him and everything about him enchanted me.

I’ve never been a horse person. My friends growing up were horse-crazy girls, but I could not have cared less. Brownie — that’s what the kids ended up naming him — instantly melted my heart.

I sometimes fed him and often gave him carrots, and talked to him, and hung out with him, made sure he always had water. These were not my jobs and I did not have to do them, but something about Brownie made me want to be sure he knew I cared about him.

When I came home from school after my evening class, dark and lonely small town winter night, as soon as he heard the car actually pull into the drive he’d nicker. When I opened the gate, he pawed the ground and whinnied, “Hi, Martha! I’m glad you’re home!” Of course, carrots were sometimes involved in this, but not always. Most evenings I’d come in, drop my books, go to the fridge, get a carrot and take it to Brownie before I fed my dogs.

Brownie was not just a carrot-whore and this was not a carrot based relationship. There were other experiences, too. One afternoon I was scratching the sides of his nose and he enjoyed it so much he closed his eyes in pleasure, like a cat does when you pet its chin. Often when I came out my front door in the morning, Brownie would greet me with a bow — left leg forward, right leg curled up under his chest, head down and a small nicker. At night, before I went to bed, I usually went out to say goodnight to Brownie, stroke his nose and tell him what a great horse he was and that I was so happy he was there.

Hanging around Brownie, I began to experience a kind of communication I didn’t know existed. I thought this was all in my head, but when I saw his owner — a real cowboy — work with him, I saw that my perceptions were accurate. Brownie was very articulate, and my neighbor understood (and spoke!) Brownie’s language. I was just learning. I even dreamed of Brownie opening a gate (there is none) between his yard and mine, opening my front door and coming into my house. The symbolism of that is clear; Brownie found a place in my heart and my mind that I didn’t even know existed.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-day-six/

Fish of the Day

Because the Night Are you a night owl or are you the early bird? What’s your most productive time of day? When do you do your best work?

There was a time when I loved the nightlife, I loved to boogie, and I could boogie-oogie-oogie till I just couldn’t boogie no more (all night) but one Saturday morning I woke up at 11:00 and thought, “Damn! I’m missing the weekend, and I live for the weekend! I’m not doing this any more. I’m getting up at 8 on Saturday and Sunday from now on!” But even then I didn’t know why.  It was a couple of years before I realized I wanted to get up early on Saturday mornings and write. This discovery was aided by two factors. First, my boogie partner went to teach in Saudi Arabia and, two, I hated my job.

My best work, you ask? Apparently I don’t teach well from 5:30 to 6:40 pm because those classes are always dogs. I wish they were dogs, but usually they’re unmotivated students. Since I’m the ONE consistent element in this 5:30 nightmare, it has to be me. Godnose the world could not be FILLED with disaffected post-adolescents who only — wait, I remember now. One of them (a good one, a motivated one) told me last week that he isn’t even UP before 2 pm. OMIGOD, for some of them that could be an early morning class!!! From 1:00 – 3:00 pm my brain doesn’t work well and I can write words on the board with the letters completely out of order. So…

I’ve not had the luxury of choosing a time to work. I’ve wrapped my writing around my gainful employment. One idyllic summer I wrote in the morning, stopped at 1 or 2. Maybe took a nap, did chores and then headed up to the Lagunas for a hike as the afternoon cooled and the evening approached. It was wonderful. How good was my work? Pretty good, actually. Good enough that I was able to return to it five years later and finish it.

So here it is, 5 o’clock and morning has broken, and I’m trying to throw my arms around the world wordpress daily prompt. A nice looking heifer is grazing in the pasture across the road. My dogs snore at my feet. The sun is rising and soon I’ll be getting into teacher clothes and heading down the mountain for a very long day of teaching.

Best NEIGHbors in the World

Good Fences? Who are your neighbors? Are you friends with them, barely say hi, or avoid them altogether? Tell us a story — real or invented — about the people on the other side of your wall (or street, or farm, or… you get the point). 

I love my neighbors. They are like family to me. There are three kids between 9 and 4 and two parents. Mexicans. The dad is a real cowboy. There are two little girls and a little boy, the youngest. They are a constant source of wonder. My love for them is returned. It took a little time to overcome the suspicion and reserve of the grownups. The mom doesn’t speak English and the dad has worked FOR whites all his life. At first he called me “Ma’am.” No more. But from the very beginning — well, kids and animals just like me.

I don’t even think grandparents see what I’ve seen just watching these kids. If I were attached to them, and had an expected and formalized relationship, I think it would be different. To show you what I mean completely, this post would end up very, very long, so just one amazing vignette.

Last week they got a horse. I’m not sure that the parents’ relationship was improved by the arrival of the horse, but the kids wanted a horse, it was free, there’s room for him, godnose the dad is great at handling horses, so here he is. I fell in love with him at first sight. He’s smart, gentle, friendly and really likes kids (and, of course, me). Later on that first day I went outside to get the mail and Andy, the little boy, was handing bits of hay to his horse.

“This is my horse, Martha!” AL

“I know, Andy, you are a really lucky kid. He’s beautiful. I love him.”

“Thank you.”

Andy then climbed to the top rail of the pen and leaned forward to wrap his arms around the horse. This boy has no fear of anything. This might be genetic. His dad was riding bulls when he was 7 years old. Later on the girls came home from school, and I got an excited phone call from Gabby, the oldest, “You gotta’ see our horse! Mom says you have a name for it!”

I did. I had named it Splash because of the white on his shoulder. The name didn’t stick. The kids named him “Brownie.”

“I’ll come outside.”

I found all three hanging on this horse, loving it and getting to know it. The horse was in, uh, Horse Heaven.

Every day since Splash/Brownie arrived, I’ve given him a carrot or two.  I feel happy when I come home from a long day and the horse paws the ground and whinnies, glad to see me.

Day before yesterday, when I headed out the door to school, Andy was hanging out with his horse. “Martha! Martha!”

“Morning, cowboy!”

“But I don’t have my hat on!”

“You’re still a cowboy.”

“Come here!”

I was late, but a person has to have priorities, and a little guy climbing on a fence to love his horse is more to me than going to work. I went to the pen and reached up to give Brownie/Splash a pat on the nose.

“I love him, Andy. He’s the best horse ever.”

“I know.”

“I gotta’ go to school. Hug the horse for me!” Andy climbed higher and wrapped his arms around what is now (after some days of rain) a dirty horse. The horse rested his nose on Andy’s little shoulder. Then Andy climbed over to my 6 foot fence with his arms outstretched to ME. He’s at that age where one minute he wants to hug and kiss the females in his life, and the next the whole thing disgusts him. I’d caught him in a hugging and kissing moment, so I went back and hugged him goodbye.

“Now get off that fence, Andy. See you later alligator.”

“After a while (incoherent syllables rhyming with ‘while’).”

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/daily-prompt-neighbors/