Random Quotidian Thoughts 4.2.ii.b

I have given up the painting of the tree, in fact, I don’t want it in my house. It’s an incredibly disturbing piece of art work. I don’t want to spent hours in my little “play room” painting something I don’t want to happen. A few weeks ago it would have been a painting of a woman, a tree and the sky. Now? And, the panel is a really weird shape — FAR larger in one dimension than I think it should be. My will to paint something after I begin is not infrangible. In fact, until today, nothing in my life has been infrangible. Indomitable, unbreakable, determined, resolute, sure, but never infrangible.

Otherwise? I just hope everyone is doing as well as they can under the bizarre circumstances. The broken plumbing seems to have made it easier for me to have some perspective. Hearing OFFAL speak yesterday — and seeing him appear authentically confused and far less self-centered than usual — gave me hope (hope is often illusion) that he’s finally heard what the smart people around him have been saying. Anyway, the doctors got equal time on his daily rally and that was a little something. Dr. Birx showed us charts that I’ve seen before (really?) but they’re still good. Concerned about what will happen — most people can’t stay at home forever — I looked around until I found a decent explanation “Social distancing can’t last forever. Here’s what should come next.”

I hate the way people write now that we’re not relying on print media in which space on the that page costs money. I think back in the day, the inverted triangle made it possible for people to find out what they needed to know and then, if they chose, to move on to details if they wanted them. Anyway, the inverted triangle leads to clear, information-centered writing. If I’d written this article it would have had the bottom line at the top, but I didn’t. It’s possible to OVER-explain something. Still (having said my piece there) the article spells it out and is well worth reading.

Some good stuff has come from this, for me, anyway. I haven’t shopped for groceries for three weeks, as of yesterday. I think that’s awesome. Even in the best of times I don’t like shopping. I’ve relied on Amazon, yes, more than usual, but not that much.

Older person shopping is from 7 to 8 am, and I’m 30 minutes away from the store and like to sleep until 8 so THAT’S not happening. Instead, I’ve also compiled a list of groceries that I will pay for here at home. Then I will drive to City Market (Krogers) in Alamosa to pick it all up at an appointed time. Someone will put it in Bella and I won’t even get out of my car. Putting the list together was not that difficult because I always shop there, I have an account (for extra gas points!) and when I started it came up with a checklist of stuff I regularly buy. All I had to do was click on boxes and tell them how many. I saw more clearly what stuff costs, too. It could happen they’re sold out of some stuff, but so what?

I haven’t submitted my list yet, but I’m aiming for Friday.

The San Luis Valley has 8 known cases of COVID-19, but there are probably more. The majority of people here live in the country and the only thing anyone can do now is stay home with their symptoms unless they are grave. This isn’t a place given to sensationalizing anything.

Monday, after the plumber and I had derived the maximum enjoyment from the compelling video of my sewage line, we were talking toilet paper (the subject of the hour) and he said he’d cleaned out some lady’s system and found she’d been using paper towels. “She was an older lady, but,” then he looked at me, “not that that matters.” TMI about TP but I’m a single ply person having lived with a sensitive septic tank for 11 years.  And then I thought, “Do young people REALLY think we older people are so dumb? Sure there are plenty of examples around of dumb older people, but seriously? How did we GET here at all with the level of intelligence often imputed to us?” Then I thought, “He forgot he was speaking to ‘an older lady’.” 

And so I flopped between feeling insulted by his expectations of older people to feeling complimented that he’d forgotten I was one and back again. Then I thought, “What exactly is wrong with being older? I earned it. It wasn’t easy to get here and now there’s a new challenge.”

The human mind is a strange labyrinth… 

In honor of this April Fools Day I give you Ambrose Bierce:

n. A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscient, omnipotent. He it was who invented letters, printing, the railroad, the steamboat, the telegraph, the platitude and the circle of the sciences. He created patriotism and taught the nations war — founded theology, philosophy, law, medicine and Chicago. He established monarchical and republican government. …in the twilight he prepares Man’s evening meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal grave. And after the rest of us shall have retired for the night of eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a history of human civilization.”
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

  • The featured photo is the dog’s yard. You can see my bizarre old garage which is frame/wood covered by steel panels ala the style of the San Luis Valley. Anyway, it has a new roof and protects my car. We love steel panels down here. In truth, my entire yard is the dog’s yard at this point… Sigh.


The Tunnel

Long long ago in a faraway land a young woman wanted to find herself. “I have to find myself,” she told everyone. That was cool because back in those days everyone else was trying to find themselves.

It was amazing how many people were lost back then, but, whatev’…

So in the process of finding herself she set out into the world not knowing that she would get to know herself by what she did in the actual world. As she bumped around, OK, bumped and banged around, she didn’t feel like she was getting anywhere. She let the wrong ones in and kept the right ones out over and over.

Once in a while she managed to do something that was in harmony with her nature, but ultimately the tug-o-war reasserted itself, and she was back in the dark. Then, through a series of very crazy events covering the better (“better” is questionable) part of a five years, she had a complete nervous breakdown, a major depressive crisis. She was told not to come to work, put on disability and sent to a therapist who gave her the DSM-IV.

The therapist sent her to a shrink and told her not to drive as she was a danger to herself and others. Luckily (luck has two sides, right?) she wasn’t living alone. Life was just dark for her in those days. The hole in which she found herself was covered with a perpetually gray sky. Black fingers of dead grass and dry branches reached across the hole. Some days her roommate almost had to drag her out of bed. Sometimes the smallest life stress would cause her to pass out.

The big challenge was that she had no insurance, and it took weeks to find a shrink who would take her without it. Without a shrink, she couldn’t get the antidepressant the therapist told her she needed. Finally she found one.

Getting PROZAC was fairly challenging and involved many trips to Tijuana to pharmacies on the border. It was cheaper there. No insurance, remember?

She read Listening to Prozac and puzzled over the fact that some people would rather be a danger to themselves and other than to lose “themselves.” She knew she wasn’t THIS, but what was she? She got more useful information from Touched with Fire. Years later she wrote one of the two fan letters in her life to this book’s author, Kay Redfield Jamison.

As the PROZAC began to work, she started drawing and painting and thinking. The climb out was slow and interesting. The morning she got up on her own and washed the dishes felt like a triumph (was a triumph). “This is great,” she thought.

What she didn’t know is that she had found herself.

“Don’t be afraid of falling backward into a bottomless pit. There is nothing to fall into. You’re in it and of it and one day, if you persist, you will be it.” Henry Miller, Nexus

Normal life attempted to begin, again, and she returned to work that fall. As she walked down the hallway to her classroom, her co-workers stood back against the walls, and one of them said, barely under his breath, “Lazarus!” The stigma of mental illness? It was as if the thirteen years of sanity (was it really?) and all the contributions she had made to the school had never happened. Little by little her hours were cut. It became almost impossible to make the ends of the month meet. The credit union threatened foreclosure which she staved off somehow. But with her new clarity of mind, she was able to act with conviction in her own defense as she’d never been able to before.

Pulling her shit together from a breakdown had given her — or revealed to her — power she didn’t know she had. The next few years were rough financially but at least she wasn’t lost any more. In case you’re looking within, hoping to find yourself, don’t. Actions speak louder than words. We know our friends by what they do. Same with the self.



“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive,
but in finding something to live for.”
from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

In my thirties — when I went through my Dostoevsky period — that quotation would have taken my breath. I would have questioned what I was doing, spun into a life-examining journal writing frenzy about it. I think, in fact, I did that, over that very quotation.

But now, my children (ha ha) I’m not the same person. I KNOW what I lived for and it’s the same thing I’m living for now.

Long ago, back in Denver, during another presidential election, I worked hard for an independent candidate. I wrote speeches, TV ads, organized events. It was fun and I believed in him. He didn’t win, but his campaign garnered 10% of the vote in Colorado. One of the events I planned was an expensive fund-raising dinner at an elegant Indian restaurant called, appropriately, The Bombay. Entertainment for that evening was a popular Denver jazz band featuring a fantastic saxophone player named Tom. It was an elegant and successful evening.

Back then I was well on my way to being a ‘mover and a shaker’ in Denver, and I knew Tom pretty well.

Time passed — two and a half years. I went to China, and I came back. Four months after the return, I was emotionally evacuated. I was homesick for China. I had also realized that my husband didn’t like me. I’d come back to the states because he was sick and I shouldn’t have. My beautiful dream was over and I was left with a bad marriage.

I walked down to the King Soopers nearest our Capitol Hill Apartment to buy stuff for supper. It had begun to snow. Outside the store a man in a wheelchair was playing the saxophone for tips. I got closer and saw it was Tom. I sat down on a bench to talk to him.

“Where you been, lady?” he asked.

“China. I went to China to teach.”


“Yeah.” How did I ask the question without hurting Tom? Finally, “What happened?”

“Oh, babe, you won’t believe it. I got the flu.”

“The flu??”

Tom chuckled at the amazement in my voice. “I know. It don’t make sense. It attacked my spine. I was flat on my back, for six months, paralyzed. They said I’d never walk or play the saxophone again, but, a man gotta’ eat and a man’s gotta’ play, right?”

My heart was in my throat.

“I could live without walking, but, honey, I wasn’t living without my sax.” He gently pressed the keys and levers on the shining instrument. I knew how he felt about it. It was both his livelihood and his life.

Just then a young woman I’d worked with some years before approached the door. “Martha? My god! It’s been forever!!! What are you doing these days?”

Tom looked at me and saw I was about to cry. I was but at this moment I don’t know exactly why. There were plenty of reasons in that cold early-winter Denver moment.

Tom answered. “She’s livin’. She’s jus’ livin’. That’s all any of us do and if you think otherwise, you’re wrong.”

After that, I knew the goal of my life was to live. To live for life itself. It’s not so easy, either.


Get Over It

As a kid, I missed a lot of school because I got strep throat every year. I am allergic to penicillin, AND I had also had rheumatic fever (resulting from scarlet fever resulting from strep) when I was little that damaged my heart. There was a danger that my heart would be further damaged. There were beginning to be alternative antibiotics (sulfa drugs and early ‘myocin’ drugs), but the main thing was to stay in bed until the bacteria had had all of me it wanted. It was a drag and also not. Untreated strep is draining, and I really DID want to sleep. The first symptoms were me being cranky, barking at everyone for nothing and crying easily. That all indicates the person I was normally.

Sooner or later I got well and did that thing the grownups called, “bouncing back.”

I had no idea at the time how important that is in life and what good practice I was getting. We’re hit by all kinds of flying flak, knocked down, flattened, laid up, side-lined. Then, like a storm or strep-throat, whatever it is passes, is over, finishes and we’re left bewildered but then we start cleaning up the aftermath. The most stark of these experiences in my life was probably the Cedar Fire in California in 2003, until two years ago, the largest fire California had ever known.

I lived in the mountains east of the city. My whole WORLD was fuel. The first came within 1/4 mile of my house several times, but, luckily and through the hard work of firefighters, my house was saved. For me it was ten days of fear, uncertainty, evacuation and then? Home again. Throwing rotten food out of a fridge that had been turned off for ten days (power outages still scare me). Sweeping ash from the patio. We all had some degree of PTSD and we naturally — as humans always have, I guess — expelled that by telling each other stories.

I think — from my life — some things are easier to bounce back from than others. I don’t think I ever fully bounced back from my first hip going south, the years between the onset of that and the surgery that fixed it. I don’t think I ever fully bounced back from the disappointments of romantic love. I don’t think I ever fully bounced back from the loss of my brother and what I learned from that. Some stories, some of the things that happen to us, are life-changing and we won’t “bounce back” to being the same person. If we’re lucky — and strong — we move forward to the next gut punch. 😉


Small Town Encounter

I don’t know when I realized that I had no idea what was going on. For a long time I thought I had a pretty good bead on reality, but I was wrong. And THAT is the entire thing right there. My perceptions are clouded all the time by my mood, my expectations, whatever biases under which I’m laboring. I now know I have no clue. Discerning “What’s real?” isn’t always easy.

Yesterday I walked Bear on the golf course and beyond. It was a beautiful day if you like spring (I don’t especially).

There was a guy playing golf. He seemed to be driving his car to the holes and then hitting the ball. I always feel for those guys trying to play golf in the winter. The ground is still frozen in most places, the grass is flat and dry. There are still large patches of old, old, old, snow. Those golfers are like me wanting to walk my dogs on the golf course in the summer when the course is open. 

So as not to bother the guy, Bear and I turned away from the course. I waved at him and he tipped his hat (?!). I noticed that a woman was driving his car, and when I passed the car, I waved. She rolled down the window and said, “You are so beautiful with that glorious hair and that beautiful dog.”

I said, “Do you want to meet her? She loves people.” The woman got out. She was about my age. She asked Bear’s name and when I told her she said, “No way.” I thought that was because every second big dog is named “Bear.” She said, “See what’s on my husband’s club?

I looked over at him. He was playing a nearby hole. One of the clubs in his bag was covered with a plush polar bear. I told her that “Polar Bear” is Bear’s whole name. The woman said she thought it was a sign, and she said she needed one. I wondered why, but it wasn’t my business, really, and if Bear and I were a sign, it’d be best if we were just THERE being a sign. She was incredibly interesting to talk to. I liked her.

Bear was her usual sweet self as the woman and I talked and it turned out that the woman was from Colorado Springs. I told her I’d gone to high school there. She asked what school and when I told her she laughed. She’d gone to the high school closest to mine, Wasson. She graduated two years ahead of me. She’d lived on Condor, in “Bird town.” That’s a row of streets near her high school, all of which are named for birds, Oriole, Goldfinch, Condor, etc. For the first year after my parents moved to Colorado Springs, I’d lived in that neighborhood, too, though not in the bird streets. It IS a small world.

We visited for a long time. She and her husband live in Del Norte. Yesterday was his first time attempting golf in 25 years. 

Something funny I became aware of when I got home. The woman is a retired psycho-therapist. I’m a retired teacher. I did most of the talking. She did most of the listening. Isn’t that classic?

(The featured photo is my “workout” app. I’m trying to walk faster and the app is helpful. Bear and I covered 1.6 miles. I couldn’t stay out too long because I had a social thing later yesterday afternoon. You can see the conversation between the woman and I in the long flat-line. The deep troughs are Bear rolling in the patches of snow that still remain or me looking off at the distant mountains and sky. We’ll ever be running races — we go out to get distracted, I think. The numbers on the bottom are average speed [43 minute/mile] and fastest speed [14 minutes/mile])


It’s All Evanescent

“No! Don’t open that Michelle!” I leap quickly to the curb and push Bella’s back passenger door closed.

“I want to see Bear.”

“I know, but that’s not a good way for her to come out. She’s fastened in there.”

“Never do that, ‘chelle. Don’t mess with other people’s animals,” says Michelle’s and Connor’s mom. Michelle puts her head down, ashamed.

“It’s OK. I’ll get Bear.” I go to the back of Bella, open the door. Michelle is right beside me. “Remember when she ran away that day?” The little girl wearing the rainbow tutu, tights and boots nods. “I fasten her in now.” I loop Bear’s leash around my wrist. “OK, open that carabiner.” Michelle does. 8 year olds like to show their competence at stuff. Bear jumps down. “Can I walk her?”

“Uh, OK.” Mom is standing by and knows how this works. Michelle takes the middle of Bear’s leash and I have it by the loop. I’m walking Bear. Michelle is holding on. Bear lunges toward a patch of untouched snow (talk about evanescence!) “Whoa!” says Michelle, laughing. “Bear’s STRONG!”

“She weighs more than you and more than half of what I do. She’s a powerful beastie. Let go, Michelle. Bear wants to roll around. She LOVES snow more than anything.”

Their mom takes out her phone and photographs all of us, Connor, Michelle, Bear rolling in the snow, and me holding Bear’s leash. I imagine that photo in some dim someday.

Christmas. Elizabeth invites me for dinner with her and her husband. She prepares lamb. We have a lot of fun talking and then Bob tells me he has the seat from Eddie Rickenbacker’s plane. He tells me the back story. I’m amazed. I love those early flyers. He goes down to the basement and brings it up for me to see. I sit in it. I sit in Eddie Rickenbacker’s seat. Here, in Monte Vista, Colorado. Bob tells me how the Smithsonian didn’t want it and shows me the letter. “They have another seat.” Bob shrugs.

Eddie Rickenbacker’s Airplane Seat

Then Bob brings up a couple of photo albums from the early 20th century. There are pictures of Europe. I correctly identify the locations as Italy. Milan. There’s General Pershing. In another couple of photos is the Alamo.

“I have no idea who these people are,” says Bob. “My brother got them from the dump in Durango.”

I carry some dishes out to the kitchen. There’s Elizabeth in the winter sunlight washing dishes. I take a photo with my phone. In the foreground is the mince pie I made. The steam vents in the top are cut exactly the way my grandmother taught me.

An “ordinary” moment.

At the Rio Grande County Museum I spy an old gas stove from the 30s. I had one just like it in a house I rented in Denver. It was great. I comment on it to Louise who runs the museum. She tells me the story of the stove. Then I notice what she’s done. She’s set up a 1930’s kitchen, table with embroidered tablecloth and china, ice-box, cupboard, kids’ play table with a kids tea set beside the grown up table. It’s so pretty. Next to it, behind a temporary partition, a screen, she’s set up a teacher’s desk, slate, old text books. “Oh, a school house!” Louise beams.

“You want my grandfather’s history book? He was born in 1870. I have his math book, too.” She says yes.

The boots in the featured photo were my favorite shoes for nearly a decade. We covered miles and miles together in Montana, Colorado, Oregon, California, Utah, Arizona, Switzerland. They were with me on a journey that turned out — decades later — to have been one of the most important in my life, a journey to Zion, Lake Powell (ick), Kayenta, Monument Valley, Arches. My friend (plaid shirt) and I had no idea at the time that we were on a journey of a lifetime that would define and seal an emotional bond that has lasted for more than 20 years.

You can see my boots in this photo. They had blue laces for a little while.

After being resoled three or four times, there wasn’t enough leather left on my boots for another resoling job. I left them behind in Zürich and got new boots for my birthday, splendid boots. I was sad, though, and my friend Pietro handed me “la macchina” (camera) so I could take a picture. Pietro died of lymphoma the next year.

My daily reminder of the evanescence of things is my morning coffee. I’ve finished, Teddy is cleaning my cup.


Sitting Here, Waiting to Be Inspired with a Good Title for this Post

I’m not waiting for much of anything any more, and certainly not for spring (ew). Though, to be fair, once spring comes, I’ll start waiting for winter. Sigh…

Retirement has altered time’s curvature. I don’t have to “wait” to the same degree I did when I was working. I used to wait a LOT. I waited at red lights. I waited in traffic. I waited for the class to start and for class to end. I waited for the end of the semester. I waited for meetings to finally finish. I waited for “luv.” I waited for planes. I waited for — well, the list is interminable, and if I keep going YOU’RE going to wait for this post to end. Or maybe you won’t wait.

I did my most intense waiting as a teenager, but teenagers are just intense. I remember waiting for my CLOTHES to dry so I could wear a certain shirt because it had to be THAT shirt or nothing, or the world would collapse.

Teddy is here, waiting for his coffee. Even dogs wait.

Kids wait, but live in the moment at the same time. It’s a nice balance. Yesterday when I saw the kids, the little girl had a beautiful soft doll — Elsa. I said, “I love Frozen.” I do. I saw it on the plane coming back from (ha ha) Iceland. It was one of the high points of the trip.

“Me too!” she said. “I just saw Frozen II!”

Their mom told me that they had taken the kids to the movies to see Frozen II, and it wasn’t until they were waiting in line for popcorn that the kids realized where they were. “They’ve never seen a movie in a theater before,” said their mom.

“They must’ve loved it.”

“They did!”

Probably even better because they didn’t have to wait for it!



I was still in California, hadn’t even moved up to the mountains yet. Had a blah and discouraging day at school. It was January. One of those San Diego day’s that’s just gray and nothing happening. People were fractious on the freeway. I got home feeling bored and disgusted. I decided to take Bonnie, a dog I was dog-sitting for a year, a sweet, shy, golden akita mix, to a local park where there was a shady 4/5 mile loop. I would do five loops listening to my tape player, probably playing Nirvana or Sex Pistols but maybe Vasco Rossi or Seal or a mix-tape made by a friend.

To get to Chollas Lake Park I drove through the next neighborhood (a little nicer than my neighborhood) and then up a hill to a location that, during WW II was a Navy radio base. As I headed up the hill, through the neighborhood, a kid — an African/American kid about 10 years old — was standing between a couple of parked cars. He held a sign written in red paint on a piece of brown cardboard. In his yard was a table with various objects set neatly on a purple table cloth. The sign said,

The lake was one of San Diego’s water reservoirs. The park around it was a very popular spot for family picnics on the weekend. On a hill, it often had a breeze on a hot summer afternoon and the lake was shaded by eucalyptus trees.

We arrived. Bonnie I began our walk by squeezing through a small opening in the fence. It was no good to park in the official parking lot that was always filled with kids, dogs, moms, dads and most dangerous of all, hungry geese.

As we walked, my mood lifted and I thought about the kid’s sign. He’d probably gotten a magic kit for Christmas, had been practicing and practicing the tricks. His family was probably sick of it and his older sister was probably locking her door to keep him out of her room at this point. His mom had said, “Take that damned thing outside,” or something so he did.

But whatever the backstory, that little boy had captioned life. The moment we’re born that’s what we get, a free magic show.


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.

Blogging History

I remember the first time I heard of a “blog.” I was having lunch with a co-worker, another teacher, Michael O’Donnell, who’d gone to work at a private school — where he was teaching writing and ended up head of the English department.

“There are so many ways to write these days. And here we are, harping on the goddamned five paragraph essay. Have you heard of this thing called a ‘webblog’?” He proceeded to explain that it was an online journal, and I thought, “I can’t see why I would want to keep a journal online.” But you know, as soon as you say you’ll never do something you do it.

I don’t think at that time the blog notion had been exploited yet for news. I don’t know anything, really, about how anyone was writing a blog at that time. “Blog” was not a verb yet. That should tell you something.

I had kept a journal for years and years and years — it’s definitely a pile of books one could call “the examined life.” I love the way those old guys threw around those beautiful phrases for the benefit of students taking freshman comp today and searching for an intriguing quote (it was a quotation back then before “blog” was a verb) with which to start an essay. But anyway, one of Thoreau’s most pithy sentences is, “The examined life is not worth living.”

All those books illustrate how examined my life has been. Sadly, when I was cleaning out stuff a few years ago, and opened those books and re-examined the examined life, they yielded only that I love nature, got some Christmas cards, and never fell in love with the right guy or even met him. Those books stopped in the early 2000s. I ripped out a lot of pages in the re-examination of the examined life. Too embarrassing for posterity and I wasn’t ready to throw out the books, so…

I began keeping a webblog in 2008 when I ejected the Evil X. That was a long time after the webblog was invented. I kept it on Blogger and it was a place where I could vent and think and ponder at 100 wpm. Once I started, I found it easy, a lot easier than writing on pages. That blog was titled “The Trick is Not Minding” because I was really hurting. I’d been hornswoggled by a shyster who’d left me financially fucked. My favorite aunt had died. I was working too much. I’d already had one hip surgery and was facing the reality that I wasn’t a young sprout any more and that wasn’t going to improve in time. (ha ha).

I looked through some of them this morning and found some good stuff — and a lot less embarrassing than the content in the tomes.

The following is an essay I wrote for my friend Denis Joseph Francis Callahan’s birthday to cheer him up when he didn’t get tenure at a local community college. I said, “You’re lucky. Now you don’t have to read 5 paragraph essays for the rest of your life,” and I handed him this. He loved it and framed it. It’s a perfect example of a five paragraph essay… It’s green because it was green when I printed it and sent it to him. Denis, being more than a wee bit Irish, sent everything in green… So..

I Like Goats
by Martha Ann Ol’ Gus Kennedy
English 51, San Diego City College
Exit Test
Topic: Based on personal experience, defend your position on goats.

I like goats for many reasons, for example, I have many things in common with goats, goats are useful to have around the house and yard, and goats are entertaining.

I have many things in common with goats. Goats like to climb mountains. So do I. Goats are good climbers. So am I. Like me, goats like to stand on old cars and watch the people drive down the Interstate. Some of the happiest times of my life have been spent standing on old cars counting how many different states’ license plats I see in an hour. Goats like to butt old tires. So do I. Goats are friendly. If I feel like it, I am friendly, too.

Goats are very useful around the house and yard. Goats mow the lawn. I don’t. Goat hair makes nice sweaters, but you have to take it off the goat first. Goats give milk. This milk is good for people who are allergic to normal milk, which comes from cows. You can make cheese from goats’ milk. Personally, I hate goat cheese, especially Peccorino Romano. In my opinion, it makes me puke.

Goats are entertaining becaue they are funny looking and do many funny things. They like to scamper around in the back pasture crashing their heads together and jumping straight up in the air. Goats have funny looking eyes, which is why they are demonic, but I don’t think so.

In conclusion, I have many things in common with goats, goats are useful, and goats are entertaining. For these reasons and many others. I like goats.

The end.

Reading through the first blog — “The Trick is Not Minding” — has been fascinating and revelatory. That was twelve years ago and so much has happened in the interval — my whole life changed. It wasn’t until six years later that I retired. In 2008 I was trying to patch things up and hold them together, to regain my hiking abilities after hip surgery and a year of not hiking. I was trying to find my feet again and trying not to hate myself for the mistakes I had made. In 2010 my brother would die and I would start a new blog. Somewhere in there I got the idea of blogs for publicizing my writing and painting and I made public blogs. When I left Blogger, this was my “blog roll.” They are now all private blogs.

“A Lifetime Apprenticeship” is a painting blog. “Alles geben”, “The Trick is Not Minding,” and “Vita Nova” are personal blogs. “Free Magic Show” is about the time I spent with the boys on bikes. The other two are, obviously, about novels, the two I’d written at that time. You can see one is for students taking an online writing class…

Apparently somewhere in there back then I thumbed through one of the tomes and found this. I can still get behind it even some 27 years later.

Poem from 1993

In the sweet blue beauty of the moon
I push aside the air to see if
There’s anything I know, have seen before
but only moonlight
traces the outline of my hands.
Belief is what you do in spite of yourself.
“You gotta have faith in the unknown.”
“Gotta’?” Got toFAITH??
The “unknown” is all we “know”
It’s the only destination. It doesn’t require “faith”
Only stamina.