West Frisco Creek

Four years ago today, I moved into my house. I wanted to make a big deal out of that anniversary, so I asked my friends to go with me on my first mountain hike since I moved back to Colorado.

My friend Elizabeth (originally from a tiny town in Australia by the name of Buxton) came along. We followed the directions of my physical therapist who’d recommended the trail, “Go to Del Norte and turn left at the car wash.” We were then on a beautiful paved road that evolved into a nice graveled road, that evolved into a nicely maintained dirt road. At the end was the trailhead.

It was my first hike (since my hip replacement) on truly uneven ground with loose rocks and some ups and downs (other than daily life, I mean). It was easy.

We only wanted to be gone a couple of hours, and I didn’t want to undertake more than I could return from, so we ended up walking a relatively short way. I told Elizabeth that the end of the trail is an alpine lake — six miles up. We decided to work toward that for next summer.

It’s a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, not much wind, comfortable temperatures. The aspen were enormous — I’ve never seen anything like that. They have grown up in groves of beetle kill pine so they haven’t had much competition. But coming up — five feet and lower — are pines, protected by the giant aspen. The light was not only impossible to photograph, but I don’t think I can describe it well. It was my first experience in a large aspen forest and it was enchanting. There are no aspen in Southern California.

Elizabeth is very active in the beautiful Gfenn-like Episcopal church in our town. I’ve visited a few times. Now she’s been with me to my church. ❤

P.S. Now I’ve looked on the topo map and we got the wrong trail, but there are three branches of San Francisco Creek, and we are going back. 🙂

My Brain Doesn’t Get It

So since my hip surgery and the recent (2 weeks ago!) pronouncement from my surgeon that I have no restrictions, I’ve felt very sad. I can’t figure out why. I also don’t understand why I’m not just OUT THERE trying things, hiking trails, taking my bike out of the garage, everything. I’m in good condition. I don’t know why I am sticking with the patterns of rehab I developed and that worked.

I was thinking today as I rode the Bike to Nowhere that the last time I had no restrictions, I was in my early 50s and my most frequent hiking pals were three boys in their 20s who had, at one time, been my students. Two of them were professional athletes, one a surfer and one a weightlifter. For the weightlifter, I provided un-boring cardiac training, and we had so much fun together running up and down the Laguna mountains, hiking long distances fast.

The surfer had no idea that dry land was fun, but he learned, and at least once a month you could find us on a dusty trail going up a hill or a mountain. When he went to Europe to hike the Camino de Santiago, he took a jaunt to Morocco and climbed up one of the High Atlas Mountains so he could take a photo of himself on the mountain for me. When he came back he said, “I don’t why, but it was hard to breathe up there.” It was over 10,000 feet, but he had to have good lungs from surfing…

The third was my most reliable hiking friend — he wasn’t as extreme as the others, and he lived nearby. We hiked often. Our thing was finding new trails and different times of day. We both liked late afternoon/evening/night hikes. We had a lot of fun together. He joked around about the other two because all the hikes usually ended with lunch or dinner in the little cafe in my town. “She (the waitress) probably wonders how you end up here with all of us hot boys.”

But it was great. A couple of years into this wonderful routine, my right hip started to go south. The weightlifter thought (and I thought) it was an injury but it wasn’t. And after that, it seems to me now, my life just went dark. That was 14 years ago.

It’s not dark now, but I’m not where I was last time it was light. Honestly, part of me doesn’t know where I am. I’m going to have to take a big, brave chance, and I sense that my best bet is not a hiking trail. I think a X-country trail on a snowy golf course might work best to bridge the years. I know it sounds absurd and maybe self-indulgent, but anyone else who’s had surgery like this experience post-rehab bewilderment and sadness over the next step?

 

Pain and Pleasure

Yesterday at physical therapy I was standing there doing tug-o-war with my therapist. Yeah, it’s an exercise. I’m supposed to hold still while he attempts to move me away from my center by pulling in one direction or the other. It’s a hip strengthening and stabilizing exercise. The tool involved is stretchy. Once that was finished, we moved on to his pulling me (using the same stretchy tool) from the front. I was thinking about how great it’s been to be able to safely do so many things I want (and more that I don’t want, like yard work) so quickly after surgery thanks all the physical work I did before the surgery, the miles and miles on the bike-to-nowhere, the dog walks that were often excruciating.

“You need to give me a challenge,” I said to Ron, grinning. “I’m pretty strong.”

“You are,” he said. “You know, I think you’re ready to walk on uneven ground.”

“I have been.”

“Where?” I told him about our walks out at Shriver/Wright Wildlife Refuge with the heat the the horseflies, how beautiful it was, how silent and empty (because who wants to walk in heat with horseflies? Only a dedicated idiot stoic like me, I guess). “It’s mostly flat, but there are some little — very little — hills.” My new thing is finding hills. Not big hills, but hills.

I had been thinking that I’m now able to walk my dogs at the slough and do a lot of other things because of the way I was raised. I felt grateful to those “cowboys” who raised me to be tough and to have a sense of humor about it. There wasn’t a lot of indulgence in the Kennedy household. In my mind’s “ear” I heard my mom say, “Quit yer bellyaching,” followed by a slap across the face as enforcement.

I literally grew up expecting pain. One friend a long time ago called me a masochist, but that’s not it at all. A masochist LIKES pain. I don’t like it, but it doesn’t surprise me. What has surprised me is NOT feeling pain. That’s amazing.

I wonder how I would have raised children to expect both pain and pleasure and take neither for granted, to understand pain enough to know that it may be transitory but maybe not; it may need to be dealt with. Still, it’s universal to all people and so should inspire compassion. I would want to raise them to understand pleasure is also transitory and somewhat random, but can be the fruit of their kindness to others — which is intentional and which they can choose and can ameliorate a lot of the pain in the world.

All in all, the cowboy stoicism with which I was raised seems to have been a good thing, though I could’ve done without the slaps. It looks like I’ll be doing that mountain hike two months earlier than originally projected. ❤ Thanks mom.

Stoicism: an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/rdp-27-indulgence/

Good Gnus

Kindle Front Cover My Everest.001

I got some good news on the famous author front this morning from Indie BRAG letting me know that my little hiking book, My Everest, has been awarded a BRAG Medallion. Basically, this is an award that lets readers know that this self-published book is well-written, interesting and (in this particular case) if you like hiking, nature and dogs, you’ll be very happy. It’s $3 for Kindle, $7 for paper back. Heres the link to Amazon.

Here’s the blurb from the book’s own website. 

Two Miles to the River and Back

Today is my 66th birthday, so yesterday afternoon, Bear and I went out to attempt a challenge.

Below is the map of the Rio Grande Wildlife Area where we like to walk. Our trails are marked in white. Our most common trail is the loop you see over the word “Homelake.” Homelake is a veterans home built in the 1880s for Civil War Veterans. It’s historic, beautiful and is still a home to veterans. The white line that is directly across from it follows the Rio Grande for about 1/2 mile. Then we turn around. It is the trail where I have seen the owls and have taken most of my photos of the Rio Grande. It’s a wooded, shaded hike in summer, mosquitoes and verdant beauty.

Yesterday Bear and I took on the hike you see starting at a parking area near Sherman Lake. We’ve gone on it before, a short distance. It’s (clearly) a trail that goes on for miles and miles (maybe four miles). It’s a “road” through the wetlands, bordering a few farms. In the fall I saw many, many cranes feasting on fallen grain.

On some level, for a while, I’ve been working (psychologically? physically?) toward reaching the river from this trail and yesterday Bear and I succeeded. It is a two mile round trip.

Rio Grande State Wildlife Area marked up

I tried not to think of what I was once able to do. I tried only to think of what I was doing AT THAT MOMENT and, mostly, succeeded. Bear enjoyed all the (apparently) incredible smells. I saw tracks of badger, deer, birds (mostly ravens, I think) and raccoon. For a while we got to watch a red tail hawk hunting. There was a flock of ducks that took flight when the thump of my cane on the ground vibrated through the water. There was one crane.

We were completely alone and except for the sound of a well being dug in the distance, it was silent, country silent, winter silent.

We reached our destination and I was so happy! I couldn’t have done it without my new friend and its shock-absorbing properties and the pointy end that sticks into the dirt.

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I’m OK riding the “bike to nowhere” as a way to maintain some fitness and be in shape for what I know to be the inevitable hip replacement, but sometimes a person (me, for example) wants to go SOMEWHERE and see SOMETHING. My ultimate goal is at least once a week to manage a 3 mile hike on the kind and generous surface of the San Luis Valley. It doesn’t matter how long those three miles take me. I have already won all the races I need to.

Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all;the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances,—master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature.”

Flawed

Yesterday, not long after my blog post went up, I got a text from one of my neighbors who’s currently a “snow bird.” “I want to read your hiking book.” She’s originally from San Diego and her grandson lives within sight of the main locale of the stories.

I texted her back, “It’s not happening,” with a little explanation, then I went about my morning. In the back of my mind was the book, of course.

The book is flawed. I don’t think there’s anything I can do about that. Its flaws are, in their way, reflections of MY flaws. I fixed the two new typos I’d found and closed the file.

Then I did my chores, thinking the book was a done deal, a closed subject.

I looked at Bear’s blue eyes, which are very beautiful but they are also, probably, the reason I have her.

“Whoa,” I thought. “Whoever bred Bear thought they were a flaw. Thought they indicated deafness or blindness or?” Then I thought of Dusty T. Dog. He was so flawed the shelter didn’t think he was adoptable. He’s STILL flawed, but WOW. For nearly 12 years he’s been my loyal, loving companion no matter WHAT.

Then I thought of Mission Trails Regional Park itself — the location of most of the stories in my book. It’s not perfect. It was never where I WANTED to be. It was simply what I had, the only place I could hike with my dogs during a long and VERY flawed time in my life. And it ITSELF was barely snatched from development and freeways — by whom? A group of San Diego citizens INCLUDING me! I, with all my flaws, was one small agent in the protection of 5800 acres of chaparral for future generations to see, know, enjoy.

BEYOND that, the place itself has seen a lot of life (and destruction) before it became a park — dirt bikes, ATVS, and people four-wheeling up the steep slopes. Stolen cars dumped in the stream and over the embankments. When I first started hiking there, a Ford pickup from the 40s rusted away in the stream leading to Oak Canyon. During WW II it was a military training base, including exploding shells (some unexploded shells have been found in recent years). There had been developer dreams of cutting across the hillside with a four lane freeway on the bed of a road that had been used by the water department. Neither it nor I are a pristine perfect flawless wilderness. I began to wonder if maybe it was a BETTER book because it’s not perfect.

And more… My father’s flaws, his MS, inspired me to propose, design, and raise the money for the building of a wheelchair accessible guided walkway to one of the most interesting historical features in California, Old Mission Dam.

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Walkway to Old Mission Dam, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego

Late yesterday, I decided to write a note for the readers of my book explaining its flaws, that Createspace COULDN’T print the cover right no matter what and directing readers to the website where they could see the actual photo (including the featured image for this blog), apologizing for my weak proofreading skills and the relentless and (to me) invisible typos (just now found another one 😦 ) and explaining that it all reflects my flaws and the flaws of the world as it is.

“Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” M. Teresa

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

As for “jolly” the word of the day, it’s one of those Christmas words. I never use it. Sorry WP.

Butterfly Sanctuary, Quotidian Report #35

That elastic spring in my step is gone, I mean LONG gone. But…I think maybe elasticity of mind is as important.

Yesterday, after my adventure at Great Sand Dunes, there wasn’t much elasticity left in the joints in my legs, but I took the dogs out anyway. It was a beautiful day for a walk and they were happy. Me too, though, honestly, it hurt most of the time.

 

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Snow is forecast for Monday and the first “real” freeze, so I spent this morning out in the yard explaining to all the little plants why they have to be pulled up or cut back.

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I hate working in the yard in front of my house in the summer. First, it’s a south facing house, which means it’s BLASTING hot. Second, it’s on a major US highway, so there I am, a little old lady in shorts, bending over to tend plants. No. This is not to be born. At a certain point, a couple months ago, I just stopped. I didn’t want to be on TV. As a friend pointed out, you never know when Google Earth is going to come by.

This morning was very cool (bordering on frigid), and the summer traffic is done, making my street just a street in a town. I cut the grass and, simultaneously, using the same tool, “raked” leaves. I cut back plants that will go dormant and pulled out stuff that will die. I found the sunflowers had given me seeds. Most wonderful of all, my neglected lawn — invaded by Piñon asters — was full of Painted Lady butterflies. I did not mow their little sanctuary. They need what the flowers give them more than I need to mow…

 

 

P.S. I did not take the photo of the butterfly. I tried, but whenever I got near, they flew away. I took it off the Internet.

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

Famdamily

Yesterday I talked to one of my cousins, the remaining son of my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank. It seems my Aunt Jo — 94 and dealing with dementia — is on the way out. That right there is not news. The word “imminent” is the big change. My cousin — whom I like very much — and I talked a long time. He doesn’t like his mother much, and I thought it’s interesting how most of the cousins — children of my mom’s sisters — don’t like their mothers much. Something in the gritty past of all those girls left them warped in some mysterious way. They could all be very, very mean given the right (or wrong) concatenation of events.

After my cousin and I talked, I was very sad. I love my Aunt Jo and she has been unfailingly kind and loving to me. I owe her many of my good memories, some of my good habits as well as the knowledge everyone needs that they are loved.

I fed the dogs but didn’t feel like cooking or eating supper at all. I’d told my cousin i would come up to Montana, so I sat down and tried to find a good air fare and a place to stay. “I still have the folks’ house,” he’d said, “but there are no beds in it. I don’t feel right about you spending all that money to come up here and stay in a hotel and all that.”

I haven’t gone to Montana for 7 years for that very reason. To fly, stay somewhere and board the dogs is a huge chunk of change. It’s more than a garage door. It’s a third of a garage roof. It’s money I don’t have.

Finally I gave up. I couldn’t think clearly, anyway. Memories and images of past moments pressed against my eyes; I could SEE them. I sneaked out the back door with Bear and went to the slough. Besides sadness, I was carrying loneliness. When someone we love dies — or stands on the brink of death — loneliness is part and parcel of mourning.

It was nearly 7, an hour away from sunset. A good wind was blowing, promising rain to someone but not to us. Perfect. The light was soft and healing. The clouds blue gray. We hit the trail. I noticed the milkweed were still blooming, and I wondered if I’d ever see a monarch butterfly (I never had). Soon, I did. She flitted up above Bear and then in front of my face. “Bear, we’ve finally seen a Monarch butterfly,” I almost whispered to my dog who was watching it fly away.

We turned the corner and there in the near distance stood a large mule deer doe. I was downwind of her so she was calm and unaware of me for a while, then the wind shifted for a second or two, and she looked right at me. I watched her. Bear was very still. The doe finally decided that while I didn’t seem to be a threat, better safe than sorry, and went bounding back in the direction from which she’d come. I watched her go and saw her stop in the tall chamisa a ways away, still watching me. Bear and I continued. A large bird approached and flew overhead; an osprey.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

 

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

Hunting season has slowed down and yesterday Dusty, Bear and I were able to return to our favorite spot along the Rio Grande to take a short hike. All of us felt excited about it. Not that the golf course isn’t great — it is and it’s close, and our fox lives there — but the slough is a place where one is more likely to see wild birds and maybe even a big mammal or two (hasn’t happened yet).

I love birds. I don’t love all birds equally, but I love birds. Back in my “I’m-looking-for-my-spirit-guide” days (the late 1980s/early 1990s) I was sure the red tail hawk was my spirit guide. I don’t know about spirit guide, ultimately, but I learned something about bird behavior and I could take a lesson from that. The reality – one could call it the science – behind what they do and why turned out to be more interesting than gaining spiritual lessons. I’m ALWAYS glad to see them. And, I get a little heart-lift when they are around.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the wildlife area yesterday, a red tail was sitting on the highest point of the nearest bare cottonwood. My heart went, “Yes!”

Dusty was wearing his neon-orange hunting vest with its two reflective stripes. He would be off leash and on the off chance there were shotguns out there, I wanted him to be safe plus I’d bought it and not used it and damn! That is not to be born!  Bear is always leashed.

We took off. I was happy to see lots of footprints in the snow — people. That meant people had been enjoying the beauty of the place. I always think the wild places near towns and cities are very vulnerable, and unless people know about them and enjoy them, they are even less safe.

About half-way, I heard a screech high up, and looked up to see two red tails play-fighting in the sky. I think they were a mated pair. Male red tails are smaller than females and red tail hawks mate for life. I have been lucky to get to see this often on hikes, so I enjoyed the air show. Then they said “Ciao!” and went off to do what they each needed to do; hunting.  A little while later, both Bear and Dusty became very alert and stared meaningfully across the field. I couldn’t see what they were smelling, but it turned out to be a family on a walk. Long before I saw the family, they startled the female hawk from whatever prey she had been pursuing? had captured? She took flight very low and very close and very suddenly, scaring the bejeesus out of Dusty who jumped straight up in the air as the bird swooped by.

It was pretty funny.

Soon after, the family marched by. I held back a madly barking Dusty, said the usual, “He’s friendly even though he doesn’t sound like it. Have a great day!” One of them held a madly barking Pomeranian in her arms.

Because I didn’t want to intersect their path on the way out, we hurried along, but happy we’d been back and eager to return.

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“Don’t take my picture!”

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White Sangre de Cristos in the distance

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