Tracking Numbers

I’ve been having bizarre experiences with shipments. I’d say mail but it hasn’t been just mail. It’s kind of funny, really, and in these serious times we could use a little absolute irrelevance…

I ordered art supplies from a large online retailer, several tubes of acrylic paint. First, the package was delivered to the wrong person. They emailed to tell me this and that my package was on the way. Well, since I’m running a store, and it needs stock, I was a little irked but really who cares? OK. Then, the package arrived and it was….

Someone else’s order. A lot of stuff, a couple of things that were useful to me, but no.

I contacted them. In the middle of the night I heard a “ping!” in the distance and saw they’d shipped my RIGHT order. Cool. Now I get to send all that other stuff back. Even the nice brush. Waaaaa. First world problem, absolutely.

The books I read for the contest are also lost somewhere. No one actually KNOWS where. My “boss” says we’re giving it a couple more days.

And then, my dog food shipment has been delayed and the company doesn’t know why.

It seems to me that the main assignment of mail order companies is making sure the right stuff gets to the right people, but… Even my stimulus payment got set to the wrong bank account. Now it’s here.

Life just requires a lot of patience in the midst of absurdity.

One thing that’s VERY horrendously absurd is the little piece of patootie who was elected to the US House from my district is a Q-Anon follower. While the Capitol was being attacked, she was Tweeting the locations of various Dem house members to people involve in the insurrection. The way I feel about her is not a way anyone should want me to feel about them.

I’ve contacted a person I think would make an ideal representative, and he’s responded. He’s currently serving in the Colorado General Assembly and is an awesome guy. I think he’s perfect to represent a district that’s immense in square miles but short on people, mostly farms and ranches, punctuated by one fairly large city and a few smaller cities and a LOT of small towns like mine. Meanwhile I am trying to figure out exactly when and how to circulate a recall petition. I hate politics, I don’t want to play, but sometimes…

One Person’s Leftovers Are Another Person’s Treasure

I am very happy with the leftovers from my neighbor’s construction projects. I have a LOT of very nice plywood to paint on. I don’t have a fancy saw — or even an electric saw — so everything I paint will be rectangular, but I have learned to saw a straight line which is no mean achievement. I’m happy, also, with their leftover flagstones that, last summer, we built a pathway from the deck to the little gardens at that end of my yard. Now that it is winter, Bear loves the flagstones, too. On the north end of the yard there is, for her, a constant very cold patch for her to lie on. I also enjoyed painting signs on their leftover cedar fence boards. I’m grateful for all these materials that I couldn’t have gotten on my own.

You just don’t know but what your leftovers might be someone else’s projects!!!

In a few days the books for the contest will begin arriving. THEY will leave leftovers that are a little more difficult to deal with, though just as I wrote that, I thought of all the “book art” I’ve seen on Etsy. Who knows?

“Have another hit of fresh air”

I’m about to get a shipment of books to read and evaluate for a contest, I have a ton of plywood out there ready to cut, prime and paint, and it’s looking like a dry winter. Yesterday, in the middle of painting a garden sign, I realized I’ve waited my whole life for the chance to be an artist and nothing else. Part of the liberation of 2020. I heard from my Chinese brother (who lives in Ontario). The last time we communicated was at the beginning of the pandemic and he expressed his great concern that something would happen to me, but it was he who got Covid, struggled a long time and, with the help of Chinese medicine, recovered. I’m drinking my coffee and preparing to go to Alamosa to pick up my groceries, which, until April, I had never done before; just couldn’t get organized to do it as much as I hated shopping. Behind everything this morning, I’m listening to music from 1970 right now thanks to my favorite Chicago radio station, WXRT, a soundtrack to another moment in my life of fast changes. In 1970 I graduated high school, got my first real broken heart, realized that my fight for my dad’s life was probably a losing battle but it would be a couple more years before I could accept that.

I’m enumerating all this because it all seems almost surreal. We are one tiny pinky toe into a new year and it’s going to take a while for us to solve the problems we carry with us, BUT one of the most dangerous things we carry with us is the wish for things to “go back to normal.” It was only “normal” because we were used to it. So, as I turned the page on 2020 and looked at the first month on my new wall calendar (yeah, I use one; it has pictures of Italy) I thought, “All this is arbitrary,” but it’s really more than that.

I don’t WANT to return to the person I was “before.” I don’t want to go back to whatever it was I was doing. I don’t want to forget what I learned about myself during this time. I guess that is as personal a decision as it has been to live a semi-hermit life, mask up when I have to, and generally avoid the Flying Spaghetti Monster as much as possible. So, yeah, hello, 2021. I’m glad you’re bringing a vaccine and the end of Trump’s reign of ignorance and fear. I wish you the best. You have a hard battle ahead of you. And goodbye 2020, I’m not altogether sure you deserve the bum rap you’re getting. You were nothing more than the time required for the sun, as we see it, to return to an arbitrary reference point in the sky. There is no real “hello” or “goodbye.” It’s just seasons and the sun’s apparent motion along Earth’s tropical zones.

I had this in my mind when I woke up this morning, from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, my dad’s “Bible.”

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help – for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

My experiences in and with 2020 have enforced my idea that our lives are what we make them. We’re handed circumstances and what we do with them, how we live with them, makes the difference in our lives, revealing and making us who we are.

Run away! Run away!!!

When I first retired from teaching in 2014 and moved to Monte Vista, I had the idea of becoming a substitute English teacher at the high school. When I looked into it, and imagined walking into another classroom, I shuddered. That wasn’t happening. The whole idea gave me chills. I wondered how I could be THAT done with something I’d loved for the bigger part of 35 years?

I recently read — and reviewed — a novel that another reviewer called a “coming of age” novel. That’s kind of an important “tag” for a book, so I gave it some thought and decided the book Blind Turn is not a coming of age novel, not really, though the teenage character DOES a lot of growing up. The “mom” character in the book “grows up” every bit as much as her daughter does. “Coming of age” normally refers to that turning point between immaturity and maturity, something that happens in the late teen years, but in real life we do it all the time at all different stages of our lives.

I’ve done a few of those just in the past 10 years. The life I left behind 7 years ago seems very unreal to me. I have tried to identify the moment when that life ended (it was before I moved here) and I can’t pinpoint a precise moment. It was just a long process of discovering that it didn’t fit me any more. It had become too difficult and the rewards too few. What’s more, I saw it.

Why cling to one life
till it is soiled and ragged?
The sun dies and dies
squandering a hundred lived
every instant
God has decreed life for you
and He will give 
another and another and another”

Rumi, The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi, Vol 5, Persian Text

Or, in Goethe’s words: “Hold your powers together for something good, and let everything go that is for you without result and is not suited to you.”

But, I did end up spending a lot of time at the high school. It’s truly Bear’s favorite place to walk.

Njal’s Saga

Until my neighbors got cats, I had a mouse problem. Every September they would send advance scouts. I would discover their presence, set traps, trap them, kill them and throw them out. Having lived in the California mountains in a house so infested with mice when I bought it that it attracted snakes, I have a zero tolerance policy toward invading rodents. In that, house, however, I had the advantage of Siberian huskies who are GREAT mousers. Lily T. Wolf once caught a mouse in the air as it dived from on top an armoire toward the floor.

Not the case here. None of my dogs were mousers. Dusty, Mindy and Bear would show me where the mouse was hiding, but that was it. It was helpful but seriously…

Then the ultimate mouse found his way into my house. I couldn’t trap him, he was so small. He was EVERYWHERE. I’d see his little shadowy form scurry along the baseboards, not even sure I’d seen something. I was into Icelandic Sagas then and I named him Njal for a great Icelandic hero.

Then one evening things got a little too close. He’d taken up residence in the blanket on top of my sofa. I was watching a movie on my lap top and had the strangest feeling I wasn’t alone. I sensed his presence (we’d gotten to that point) and sure enough. He was watching the movie over my shoulder.

When December came, friends came to visit and one of them brought his Australian shepherd, Reina. Reina used to be my dog back in California and understood the mouse drill very well. Within minutes she’d found and devoured Njal. I felt a small, very small, Njal-sized, pang of regret for a noble and friendly mouse, who, I think, really wanted to be a pet.

Quotidian Update 31.7.b.ix

My Etsy store is doing well this Christmas. People are buying livestock guardian dog Christmas cards like, uh, I dunno. I just break even on them, but it’s a lovely thing when someone who has, and loves, a livestock guardian dog like Bear wants to send pictures of them on the holidays. Life is a strange, strange, strange thing. Back when they were asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I NEVER would have said, “I want to make livestock guardian dog Christmas cards for people and sell them from an online store!”

Yesterday most of the messages in my gmail inbox vanished. And, though I didn’t notice it immediately, all of my folders were also emptied into the Trash. Just in case you ever need to know this, there is no way to contact Google directly. I learned this can happen in two ways (not including user error). Sometimes an update will do that. Sometimes someone has hacked your gmail account. I spent some time deleting passwords from websites I haven’t even thought about in more than 10 years and changing other passwords, but I don’t think there was hackage going on.

I recently “upgraded” to Mac OS Big Sur. At this point, I’m pretty sure that was the culprit. ALL of my folders and in box were dumped into the Trash folder. This means my new hobby will be reconstructing my folders, thousands of messages beginning in 2007.

Well, I’d better get down to business and start moving stuff out of my gmail Trash. I hope it doesn’t take 13 years…

And NOW???

It’s going to be a new — but sweet — challenge to figure out how to use that part of our brains that’s been taken up with the daily DC chaos for the past four years. It reminds me a little — so far — of what it was like when the Evil X finally left. My brain was really tired and one entire focus of my existence was gone. I think a lot of Americans — and maybe people all over the world — are going to experience that strange combination of euphoria and letdown.

I enjoyed watching Biden introduce some of his appointees yesterday. I liked them and felt so strange that I don’t know anything about them and don’t think I have to. That was a kind of shocker, “I don’t have to react to this AT ALL.” I just listened to them talk and considered how their superficial appearances resembled the population in a preponderance of my California classrooms.

It was a struggle for four years NOT to pay attention to someone who was so blatantly playing for my attention. I failed (as we all know) but not all the time. Sometimes I succeeded but as time wore on it was more and more difficult. Maybe that was true for all of us. There was just so much swirling around out there, so much deserving justifiable outrage, so much that pointed to incipient totalitarianism.

One of my friends in Europe said that 45 did a good job not involving the US military in more wars and that’s something 45s supporters say, too. My friend is afraid Biden will start more wars in the Mediterranean. What people seem to forget is HOW all that started back in 2001, and what a shit-show it’s been, what a tangled up, incomprehensible, insoluble mess. I’ve have no idea anymore who’s where or what, but I kind of think my friend’s fears are groundless. Anyway, like him, I hope they’re groundless. All of us are tired of the endless wars.

So where is that energy going to go? It’s going to be interesting — and kind of wonderful — to find out. One place it went yesterday was in moments of spontaneous weeping. You can hold a lot of stuff inside, but it isn’t going to stay there.

Quotidian Update 4,600,000.e.2.ii

Every little tidbit of whatever has been wrung out of me. It’s been weird enough having a little dog who likes soft rock AND The Dead Kennedys (huh?) and a big white dog who thinks all tears are sorrow (No, Bear, it’s OK. I’m happy). In fact, it’s kind of weird living with dogs as I have been since March, but…

A friend of mine from Switzerland (who has lived in the US for 20 years) texted me this:

It’s nice to see happy people, not in fatigues and brandishing weapons. I just can’t believe it. It all sounds too good to be true. It’s like a bizarro universe — he’s the opposite of Pumpkinhead. I loved how Biden finished his speech, and then the announcer was, “Well, let’s go back to football!”

One of the best parts, to me, is no more Betsy DeVos and a First Lady who is a college English teacher. I loved reading all the messages from all over Europe, the mayor of Paris, “Welcome back, America!” Most of all, I love that we will be returning to some attempt to contend with climate change. I don’t feel it’s as high on anyone’s agenda as I think it should be, but I don’t rule the world.

I know it’s not over until January 20, but I’m more than hopeful right now. I learned that many of the people voting for Trump believed they were voting for “law and order.” Law and order can come to a people in two ways; from the outside in police brutality and repressive systems, and from the inside, through education, social support and care. I prefer the second method.

Of all the cool memes and graphics that came out yesterday, I love this one most. We see the bad easily. It’s usually noisy and ugly and gets a lot of attention. But the good is often simply quiet and steadfast.

The featured photo is the back of the crane garden sign. The woman for whom I painted it is someone I “met” here on WordPress ten years ago. In these fraught and surreal times, I have been very grateful for my “town” here in the cybersphere. ❤

Life As I Know It These Days

The ladies and I met on my deck for another COVID tea party yesterday and had a wonderful time. One thing in particular touched me and I think it’s meaningful in a more general way. As they left they thanked me.

I didn’t do anything but hose off the deck, wash the table and chairs, and get the patio umbrella in the right position. I made a joke, “Well, it’s pretty easy when you bring your cups of tea over, and I bring my water bottle outside, and, you know.” Laughter.

There was a lot of laughter, even when I told an off color joke about a young sheepherder. It had a context..

The conversations were random and wide ranging in their way. E, my neighbor who is originally from Australia, and Church of England, told a story about a recent Zoom meeting she attended pertaining her her leadership position in the Colorado Episcopalian church. She told how this bishop (?) explained he’d discovered during these times how much time he wasted BEFORE just being busy and important. He explained that C-19 had awakened him to an emptiness in his life he hadn’t been aware of.

This came up because I mentioned a note I got along with a sweatshirt I’d ordered from Poshmark. I said it was amazing the thoughtfulness and care that we express to each other now that we wouldn’t have last year.

When the party was over and I walked everyone to the front gate, K asked if I’d seen the garden sign I painted her in June. She said they’d hung it up. We all went to her house to see it. When the wood fades, the painting will be more visible, but meantime, I think it does its job pretty well, its job being to cheer people up. It’s hanging on their new shed.

My other activities yesterday were a little more arduous. I’m a small person. Five feet tall, so when it comes to framing large paintings it’s more like a wrestling match than it would be for a taller person. I had to order a roll of 4″ wide brown paper to properly frame the big painting. There’s more to framing an oil for which you have respect than there is to putting a photo in a frame. You have to fasten the painting into the frame and then you have to make sure that dust and other nasties won’t find their way to the painting. I use brown paper. I base my framing methods on those used by my grandfather’s favorite artist, Leroy Greene, a 20th century Montana impressionist.

Yesterday morning I spent three hours getting the backing on the painting of the tree. I don’t even have a table big enough so I was using my small drawing table. When I was done, I was finally able to hang up the painting and see it on a wall.

“To create a painting, should be like telling a story to a friend. The grammar, the choice of words, the thought, the knowledge of the subject, plus the joy of the telling, makes the difference between a good or a crude story. Just so in painting. The technique, the colors and the knowledge of the subject are most important, but without feeling and inspiration, and the sheer delight in the subject, the resulting painting will be short of being a work of art.” LeRoy Greene.

And, this is the sixth anniversary of actually LIVING in my house in Monte Vista, a life that still seems too good to be true, like a fantasy. ❤


I should have waited to write the blog post I wrote yesterday, when I came home from a beautiful walk with Bear. Definitely fit today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt. Those glorious moments are pretty uncommon these days, and this morning I had to laugh. When I grabbed my jeans to put on, I noticed I’d sat in bird shit yesterday. Glory is grounded in shit after all, something reinforced when “traffic” (three cars) on the “highway” to the Refuge was slowed by a tractor pulling a manure spreader into a hay field.

Teaching “art” to the kids has inspired me to think about my early years in school. I’ve realized that a LOT of what “they” were doing to us had nothing much to do with what they told us they were teaching us. Neither of the kids writes — prints — halfway decently and the little girl doesn’t even write legibly. Seeing this at first I was shocked and a little worried then it hit me.


I thought about all the hours in school we just sat there with special lined paper and practiced printing letters, then, in second grade, we learned to “…write like grownups” — cursive. As I watch the little girl struggle with her hands when she does anything, I think about how they taught us to control and use the small muscles in our hands. We THOUGHT we were learning to write and it was annoying that we had to keep practicing, but that wasn’t what “they” were doing at all. I thought about how these amazing tools at the ends of our arms contributed to make us human. I wondered if our word “man” came from the Latin word, “manibus,” or “hand.” (I don’t really care what the answer is.)

A person can think a lot of things watching kids make ghosts from tissue paper and egg cartons.