Cabin Fever? Not Exactly…

I have not been out of the San Luis Valley since September. That’s a record. I love it here, it is Heaven, but damn… I have not talked to a person in the flesh since my birthday 2 1/2 weeks ago. Yeah, I’ve been busy, and I am an introvert, but seriously? In the first place, I don’t have a lot of friends and here in winter people hibernate. I think a lot of people make quilts and do other stuff inside. I’m one of the few people who’s outside everyday.

I’d hoped to do a lot of X-country skiing but discovered the first time out that 1) my quads had shortened from the months of rehabbing the foot meaning NOT walking and just riding the bike-to-nowhere so, 2) I was having problems getting a good kick which requires extending the leg, 3) the foot, while healed, could only stand to ski for about 1/2 mile. I pushed it, but why hurt myself? I’m not going to. When I figured out what was different between this year and last year I realized I had to focus on walking for a while and langlauf if I was lucky. When I started, a mile and a half (in snow) was the limit of a walk before my foot hurt, now I’m going much farther (in snow). BUT the snow is melting. On the other paw, the dogs are happy to be going out again and so am I. I realize how much I like walking them.

We have a month before the golf course will open to golfers. I hope to get the most out of February no matter what it is. And, some property owner out there in the back-of-beyond has put a locked gate across what was once part of our favorite walk. I understand why — lots of kids driving on that “road” — but it’s really too bad. 😦 Plus the incredible amounts of cow manure on what was once a beautiful nearby trail to the river and the damage to everything growing there… I don’t know about people.

The last time we had legitimate snow was December 20. For a while that was fine because temps stayed below freezing, but now? Every day seeks to imitate spring and hits the 40 F/4 C or above.

It’s all worse because the end of 2019 was very exciting with shows, and readings, and radio appearances. 2019 had its problems, but it was an exceedingly productive year for me as a writer. The thing is, I like to write, but I don’t have a story. I’ve often thought that the times Hemingway didn’t have a story were the times that depressed him and he regarded the blank page as the “white bull.” It must have been hard on him with publishers waiting for a manuscript and sitting there with nothing to say. The uninitiated believe that writers are subject to depression because they write. No. It’s NOT writing that’s depressing.

And money. Prices on things go up all the time and I am, right now, trying very hard to pay off debt rather than incurring more.

Anyway, I’m thinking that this coming week I might just take Bella up to Wolf Creek Ski Area where there is a X-country area and ski as long as I can. Wolf Creek ALWAYS has the most snow of any ski area in Colorado. It has a 75 inch base last time I checked and the X-country ski area is groomed. I just hope I can ski long/far enough to make it worth the trip. I’m also a little worried about the “take a friend” warning. I don’t have one. My outdoor friends are four-legged. Bear has to be leashed. I have yet to figure out how to ski with a leashed dog.

Winter Gets Legit, and Bear and I are So Happy

Bear and I have waited a LOOONNNGGGG time for what we like most: being outside in the snow. Not that any snow has fallen for about a month but it doesn’t matter as long as the temperatures never go above freezing, and they haven’t. It doesn’t look like they will, either.

Teddy — with whom I’ve decided to share my birthday because he was 6 months old when I got him last June — and I took off on Tuesday to celebrate and evaluate the packed trails. They were (and still are) beautiful

The nordic club grooms trails for walkers and skiers ❤

I finally skied (Langlaufed) the groomed trails yesterday and today Bear and I took a long snow ramble. The snow is at least 8 inches deep — fluffy, light, crystalline old snow. Perfect beautiful soft sweet I love it so much. Skiing yesterday was great except the stupid snow baskets came off my poles and weren’t cool about me putting them back. I dunno…

Finally, Martha.
I know, Bear.”

So today out there in boots with my best snow pal, I was able to evaluate the entire groomed course that I didn’t ski yesterday (having had to go back twice to retrieve snow baskets, grrr…) and make plans for tomorrow. My poles and their cheesy baskets will get a stern talking to in the morning, because I must seize the day. ❤

Roald Amundsen had nothing on me.



“Won’t you try a little bit harder, couldn’t you try just a little bit more”

Langlauf Update

Another beautiful day on skis. The snow was less great than the other day but the way I see it, the snow doesn’t owe me anything. If I’m going to engage with it, I’m the one who has to adapt. I have no problem AT ALL surrendering to the imperatives of snow. I’m honored to have the chance.

I had to break trail today and learned that my skis, which are named “back country,” seem to be mostly designed for groomed trails — but that could be my lack of skill at this moment. As I skied from snow to ice to some small patches of grass to deep drifts to the lanes I skied on Saturday, I thought about that a lot. I thought about all the skis I’ve owned and when, sometime back in the mists of time, I switched from “fish-scale” — waxless — to skis that needed to be waxed, I never looked back. Sometime I learned back then the advantage of skis whose grip I control.

Groomed trails are nice — you don’t slide sideways, you can predict the surface beneath your skis because it’s been packed and prepared. Breaking trail is often not skiing at all. I had forgotten that, even though in California when I had the chance to Langlauf, I always had to break trail — again, with different skis than I have now. Sometimes that was hilarious as it could mean navigating through low manzanita bushes. Once I skied up Mt. Palomar with the dream of seeing those beautiful white observatory domes in the snow. It’s a five mile trail, all uphill, and some of the trail is bushy and all of it is narrow. It was still fun. The reward came coming down the unplowed road, though. It was wide, snowy, steep — fun. As we whizzed past a family who’d driven there from LA to “Visit the snow” a kid yelled, “Mom, that’s what we should do!”

They’d gone to the snow with a beach umbrella, beach chairs and a cooler. They looked very disoriented. A boogie board would have been a good thing to bring, but they didn’t have that.

Langlauf tracks heading toward Garnet Peak in the Laguna Mountains, San Diego County, 2004. My painting. Not my tracks. 🙂 A fire came through that fall (The Cedar Fire) and burned down all the manzanita making a good trail for Langlauf.

Today I also thought how — last year — we didn’t get significant snow until January, and then we got A LOT. The San Juan Nordic Club went around grooming everything in sight — even the driving range! The temps stayed below freezing for a couple of months, so the groomed tracks stayed in nearly pristine condition — the only kicker (ha ha) was waiting until the highest sun of the day (1 pm or so) when any ice that had formed in the night would have surrendered.

It’s doubtful that I will switch back to waxable skis; it will depend how ambitious I end up being and how skillful. For now and maybe forever the waxless skis I own now are fine. It’s a poor workman who blames his tools, anyway.

The other “iffy” tool is “the foot,” but it held up again today, only mildly painful when we were in motion. The thing is, I realized, after nearly 3 months of not being asked to support my weight continually, it’s a little out of shape. It’s only been these last few weeks that I’ve expected it to hold me up for a whole day while I painted, or to keep me upright walking Bear as she checks her messages.

As I did my happy loop of the local golf course I thought, “The cool thing about this is I can get better, more skillful, stronger and as that happens, I will learn more and, I hope, take on a bigger challenge.” The golf course is — right now — all I can contend with. I’m so lucky to have it.

Now we just need another good snowfall. ❤

LANGLAUF!!!!

Here’s my jubilant little crooked lopsided bow-legged self out there in Blissland having NO problems skiing with my friend. (Yay foot!!!) We’ve talked about it for at least two years, but various problems kept it from happening. The snow was perfect — slick and fast. It’s been below freezing since it fell which means beautiful, perfect, snow. ❤

Replete, of course, by fox and rabbit tracks…

I have nothing more to say other than I’m VERY happy and looking forward to more adventures as the winter progresses, god willing and I’m not ambushed again by a perfectly flat harmless grassy trail.

Happy selfie

P.S. It seems that anyone who wants to know what my dad looked like can pretty much see from looking at me. Ah, DNA

The Kind of Problem only Fortunate People Have

There is great snow (8 inches and cold snow, beautiful snow, perfect snow, everyone says so) out there and perfect temps, but still I know it would be stupid to attempt to Langlauf with a foot that is MOSTLY fine but still not TOTALLY fine. I’m trying hard not to feel sorry for myself but would I be writing this if I were succeeding completely?

In other (less whiney) news…

I emerged from my house yesterday to find the front sidewalk had been cleared by my next-door neighbor, and I had only to shovel the walk leading from my house and my driveway. Calloo! Callay! I went to the alley and discovered someone had shoveled a little path in the snow to my driveway. Wow. Once there, I saw a neighbor had his little tractor out and he said, “You want me to clear that for you?”

My driveway is a pain to shovel because the only open area is the end of it but piling snow there can leave me stuck in the driveway SO… to clear it requires a lot of carrying and tossing of filled snow shovels.

“I won’t say no,” I said and watched him clear it. I might not even ever worry about it, but the driveway is on the north side of a 6 foot fence (2 meters) and can get very icy with the melt and refreeze process that comes inevitably with winter. What a wonderful early Christmas present all that was!

So…I have waited a YEAR to langlauf. I’m kicking myself for not leaving California years and years ago so I’d have had more chances. It wasn’t enough to move up to the mountains there. I should have come HERE. I’m annoyed at myself for being so old. The whole thing is a big drag and pisses me off and then the little voice says… “You idiot. You CAN walk. You ARE healthy. The foot has steadily improved, sure, slowly, but you’re not a kid anymore and circulation to the feet isn’t great, as we know. It isn’t even actually WINTER yet. There’s time! AND you have Bella! You’re not stuck with snow on the golf course now. You can DRIVE to higher elevation snow, mountain snow, in the spring if you have to. Your blood sugar is down. You’ve been famous twice. You have friends you love and who love you. Bear and Teddy are having a great time in the snow without you. You are finally interested in the story you’re writing. You’re getting some cool paint in the mail soon. Remember, “Into each life a little rain must fall.”

Thanks for “listening.”

Meandering Post about Writing

This is the first time I’ve been without a creative project in a VERY long time and it’s weird. Baby Duck consumed most of 2019 and the culmination was fantastic. The Price was finished at the end of 2018. Besides those projects, I had a personal project that I also finished, a little book for a tiny audience of me and two other people. Yesterday I cleaned up my “studio.” It was filled with Baby Duck stuff for the book launch. Now it’s ready for something, but I have no idea what. Painting is a sketchy (ha ha) thing for me. I have to really FEEL it to do it. No stories to tell at the moment, either, so my life feels like it’s in a holding pattern.

A huge curve in my life’s normal pattern is the injured foot. It hasn’t even been that long — five weeks, and I know a bad sprain can take much longer to heal.

So, in the meantime, the dogs have gotten used to not going on a walk every day — or at all. And I continue to ride the Bike To Nowhere because I can do that and it’s about the best training there is for Langlauf which is the purpose of life anyway. I discovered videos on Youtube with absolutely fantastic rides lasting an hour or more — sometimes I ride the whole time, sometimes just 10 miles of wind sprints, basically a chain of fifty yard dashes from the seat of my Airdyne. They are produced by “Ride the World.” Here’s my favorite so far. To get to this spot, you “ride” a narrow road of amazing hairpin turns…

Last week there was lots of exciting chatter after my front page spread and interview. The guy who runs the papers in the San Luis Valley asked if I would be interested in doing a column — weekly or monthly — and I said sure. He also asked if I had any ideas for such a thing and, honestly, I don’t, but I shared a couple of ideas. He wrote back saying we’d meet at the end of this week, but it’s Thursday afternoon and there has been no word. Once more it looks like my promising journalism career is nipped in the bud. It was nipped in the bud back in 1974 when I got my BA and went immediately to the Boulder Daily Camera and asked for a job. “Can you type 35 wpm?” as the guy at the desk.

“No,” I said.

“Sorry,” he said.

But I don’t really have anything to say in a column. People around me know this place better than I do. I’m not going to write about politics. I could write about writing or putting a self-published book together, but I’m not sure I’m even interested in that — or that anyone else is, either.

And what can you tell people about writing? After teaching it for more than thirty years, what I know about it comes down to only a handful of things. First, to write you have to write. Second, you have to keep writing, even if you have no reason to write and nothing to say. Third, you will, sooner or later, maybe, find yourself becoming interested in the words you use and the way you use them; but you might not. Fourth, you might start reading what you’ve written. This can go one of two ways — you can fall absolutely and uncritically in LOVE with it and, as we know, love is blind. OR you can think it’s such shit that you quit. Of the two, love is more dangerous BUT it will keep you going. And then…

Somewhere in there you’ll discover your voice. And you might discover your story, too, and after that? You have to stay true. Stories live apart from the writer. I think starting with a character is the easiest because, just like other people, characters carry a world with them and that gives you a lot of information you won’t have to figure out by yourself. A strong character will tell you a LOT about him/herself and where he/she is from and what he/she values in life, yet, in many ways, it’s like meeting a new person.

Since I write historical fiction, I have to do research to learn about the worlds in which my characters live because THEY take it for granted that I know already. Since it’s THEIR world, they think everything around them is normal and part of everyone else’s life. You can tell them, “Dude here’s the thing. I live in the future. I’ve never hitched a horse to a wagon,” but that guy is NOT going to believe you so you have to learn how he does it.

In a way, the same is true if you write about the future. That future guy is all, “Dude, you know about this, they’re all over the place,” and won’t believe you when you say, “No, I didn’t know you could use a Fardel Gambit to escape a Bastorian Jail!”

That part of writing a story is fun. It’s fun going back in time and discovering that in the 13th century there WAS no paper or that in the 12th century there was an enormous earthquake in Northern Italy and thinking of the effect that would have on the world in which your characters live.

I actually have a WIP (sounds nasty. Means “work in progress”) but I’m not convinced. Necessarily it echoes some of Martin of Gfenn because it’s the story of a young guy learning to paint, but I don’t want it to be a repetition of that story and sometimes it feels like it is. I haven’t figured out who the protagonist is, either. I have only a vague idea of the world in which the teacher lived/lives. Lots of stuff still kind like a fog. Sometimes things just start that way and you have to let them do their thing until you’re doing it with them.

My goal, though all writers are often required by the people in their stories to abandon the goal, is to show the OTHER medieval world, the one in which young men joined the church not to serve God, but to get an education the only way that was possible. I want to write about the wandering scholars, their art, their values, their world.

I read this quotation from Picasso yesterday. It pretty much sums up my feelings about the WIP. “You mustn’t expect me to repeat myself. My past doesn’t interest me. I would rather copy others than copy myself. In that way I should at least be giving them something new. I love discovering things.”

So maybe tomorrow morning I should just roll up my sleeves and see where Bro Benedetto and his illegitimate son, Michele, want me to go.

Dammit. I just got an idea for a newspaper column… I could interview a different artist in the San Luis Valley every month and write about that. Shit. See what happens when you “just write”? You get ideas.

Stubborn or steadfast? No Surrender

This post has resonance for me today, March 24, 2019 When I wrote it, I still lived in California. 

Daily Prompt: Never Surrender, by Krista on March 11, 2014: Are you stubborn as a grass stain or as easy going as a light breeze on a warm day? Tell us about the ways in which you’re stubborn — which issues make you dig your heels in and refuse to budge? Photographers, artists, poets: show us STEADFAST.

I’m not very stubborn. I think my friends would say something different, though they would agree I’m not one of those “My way or the highway” types, well, yes I am. I’m “My way IS the highway.” Long ago I had a dream that was based on events in my real life. I went from place to place, hanging out with people who then attempted to foist their “trip” (we said that then) onto me. At a certain point in each episode I said, “F…. this s…. man, I’m getting out of here!” (It’s a lot more powerful in real words.) I toyed with the thought of having that as my epitaph.

I think “steadfast” is another thing. That’s something involving honor and respect. It’s loyalty and commitment. Outside of marriage (not my métier) I’m very steadfast. I really do, once I make the commitment, “bear it out until the edge of doom.” I do not know if this old-school virtuous behavior is always wise. (Continuing to write the Daily Prompt has often seemed doubtful but I haven’t given up. 😉 )

But… the song to which today’s prompt alludes is important to me. Back in the ’80s I wondered what I was doing. I was teaching and married. My husband was a nice guy, but he didn’t love me. I was doing everything in my power to put a good face on things, holding my marriage together, steadfastly building a relationship with his kids (whom I loved), steadfast in my life-time attempt to reach my mother (ha), building what I thought would be a career, I was pushing hard to make everything work. Perseverance. This song. Had I surrendered? What was I really?

New students arrived, were interviewed for placement in oral communication classes. One student, Jean Francois Minot-Matot from Geneva, answered the questions in a very a-typical way. “I live for ski,” he said. I had once “Lived for ski.” I heard his statement echo down the chambers of my heart. The sound returning said, “What do I live for?” On my way home from that interview I listened to this song for the first time, played on a new tape. Those two events, “I live for ski,” and the refrain from the song,

'Cause we made a promise we swore we'd always remember 
No retreat, baby, no surrender 
Blood brothers in the stormy night 
With a vow to defend 
No retreat, baby, no surrender

I’d made that vow with people — where were they? I was sure one was dead, another was lost forever to time because I sent him away, another was on the hellish rollercoaster of addiction. The fields of my childhood were long gone in an eternal golden autumn, and my life was nothing more than patching broken things and holding them together until the glue dried. Was I where I’d set out to be? Where were the beautiful words? The thoughts, the conversations, the stories? Where were the adventures? Where was the world — why was I not in it? I’d made a start and retreated, pulled back into a stucco-home in an East San Diego ghetto and a man who didn’t love me?

“I live for ski.”
“What do you do when the snow has melted?”
“Er, OUI! We have ze glacier. You know glacier?”
“Yes.”

St. Mary’s glacier. I’d never skied it. I always believed I would ski it, but how would I do that, here under the banana palms, surrounded by bougainvillea.

“Er, and I, I like ze windsurf.”

I was 34. About to turn 35. I was middle-aged (what did I know?) I was over. Actually, my life began because of Jean Francois Minot-Matot. I’ve “gotten” nowhere with those dreams, but I learned dreams are not a place to go; they are a place to be. And, every dream involves a little patching up and holding together.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/daily-prompt-never-surrender/

“Multiple Sclerosis, Vikings and Nordic Skiing”

As I was writing my post yesterday about my sweet ski “adventure” I remembered a rune of a Viking on skis with a bow and arrow and I wanted to put it in my post. I googled it and found it, yay! (should I end this here?) I also found a program on PBS that caught my attention, “Multiple Sclerosis, Vikings and Nordic Skiing.” How could ANYONE not be caught by a title like that? For me it was especially provocative. My dad suffered from MS and, beyond that obvious hook, who isn’t fascinated by Vikings and, yeah, Langlauf. ❤

Wow.

I already knew that MS is more prevalent among people from Northern Europe. It has a much higher incidence in Scandinavia and among those of Scandinavian descent. Science has now tracked it across the North Atlantic, a disease of the central nervous system carried in Viking Ships. My dad’s mother was from Sweden, and Ancestry tells me I am mostly Scots, Irish and Scandinavian, all parts of the world where MS is comparatively common. Yay Vikings!

MS is an autoimmune disease that most often shows up in young adulthood, but people can have it for a long time without knowing it. The film goes into detail about the diagnosis and the science behind the progress of the disease. It can now be accurately diagnosed with an MRI, which didn’t exist when my dad was alive. My dad’s MS was diagnosed with certainty in an autopsy. If you’re interested, you can learn about MS here, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society webpage.

Dad, me, Aunt Martha 1963

The program followed six people in the United States and Norway who’d been diagnosed with MS. One of the points of the program was how exercise can help people with MS. The problem with exercise is that heat — even a rise in body temperature — can be debilitating, causing fatigue and a relapse of symptoms. The obvious sport for a person with MS is the national sport of Norway; Nordic skiing.

In 2012 and 13 (I believe) the American Birkebeiner worked in partnership with the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation to raise money for MS. Three of the skiers in the program did the American Birkebeiner race. At the same time, three Norwegian women skied the Norwegian Birkebeiner.

Both American Birkebeiner races drew Norwegian Olympic champion skiers to Wisconsin to race and raise funds. One of those champions has a mom who suffers from MS.

As I watched them race, I was lost, thinking, “Birki WHAT?” I had no idea…

It started in 1206. Birkebeiner skiers, so called for their protective birch bark leggings, skied through the treacherous mountains and rugged forests of Norway’s Osterdalen valley during the winter of 1206, smuggling the son of King Sverresson and Inga of Vartieg to safety. The flight taken during the Norwegian Civil War took the Birkebeiners and prince from Lillehammer to safety in the town of Trondheim. Inga of Vartieg never became queen as the prince’s father was killed before he could return for her in Vartieg. Norwegian history credits the Birkebeiners’ bravery with preserving the life of the boy who later became King Haakon Haakonsson IV and forever changed Northern Europes’ history by his reign.

The story and painting of the flight were the inspiration for the first Birkebeinger ski race held in Norway in 1932. To this day, Norwegian skiers still carry a pack, symbolizing the weight of an 18-month child, in the Worldloppet’s Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet race from Rena – Lillehammer. Thousands of skiers commemorate the journey with annual Birkebeiner races in Norway, Canada, and the United States.

The race known today as the American Birkebeiner began in 1973 as the dream of the late Tony Wise. Thirty-four men and one lone woman were on the starting line clad in woolen sweaters and knickers for the 50-kilometer race from the Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward to Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wisconsin. Nineteen more women and juniors would ski a shorter race from “OO” to Telemark. Few knew they were going to make history. There were no U.S. Ski Team members or foreign skiers, just a handful of enthusiasts from a couple of midwestern states, out to try something new. Many of the entrants were on cross-country skis for the first season – some for the first time.

Today, over 13,000 skiers of all ages and abilites and 20,000 spectators fromaround the world gather every February in the Cable-Hayward, Wisconsin area to celebrate “The Birkie”, a race which has become a legend in the cross-country ski world. We look forward to you joining us!

https://www.birkie.com/about/history/

The six racers with MS all made it. One of the Norwegian women said she hadn’t expected the race to be fun. “All along the way people cheered me on, gave me coffee, water, food. My time was better than I thought it would be, and I never felt alone. I had so much fun!”

Another Norwegian woman said that the race kept her training every day, even when she didn’t feel like it. When race day came, she was nervous, but ended up having a great time.

A young Wisconsin racer, a former competitive skier who’d been dismayed by her diagnosis (naturally) explained — as the camera followed her awkward little pink tight-clad form around the 25 mile course, “I stopped worrying about my time or competing. I was there to have fun and to make it all the way. It was wonderful. I hope I can keep having fun like this way into my 80s!”

A young man whose main symptom was arm weakness, said, “I felt my arms going about half way so, for a while, I just poled every other stroke.” He stood beaming with the Birkebeiner medal around his neck.