In Good News

I got out a failed painting today and was preparing to paint over it. BUT… I put it on the easel and looked at it.

“Hmm. I think I understand you, failed painting. You’re not failed. You’re just different. Maybe you’re the future.”

“Could be,” said the painting. “Thanks for not painting over me.”

“No, thank you.”

“You see what’s missing.”

“I think so, but whatever. We don’t have anything to lose.” I squirted a minuscule amount of Cerulean blue paint on the lid of an empty yogurt container. A tiny bit of white. Got what seemed to be the appropriate brush. Did the thing — put light on the water. It is a WETLANDS after all. Then I put light in the sky. Then I needed magic in the sky and I opened the tube of magic, and as I did, I felt like weeping. “I missed you so much!” I put some on the yogurt lid but I didn’t put the brush into it. I put my finger in it and did work with my finger. I love that paint so much, I wanted to touch it. I didn’t even want a 6 inch brush handle between my paint-covered finger and the painting’s surface.

It felt so good and smelled so good. Linseed oil and lapis ultramarine, that miracle color. “I need gray.”

“I’ll be that for you.”

“I think I love you.”

“You’re not the first one.”

“No, I know that.” I thought of how in the so-called Renaissance this color was used to paint Heaven above the Virgin Mary in frescoes (really rich patrons) and I thought, “Well, this is Heaven,” as I finished a stormy sky out at the Refuge. I decided to liberate myself from “getting this right” because I don’t know what “right” is right now. I’m heading into terra incognita with my lapis ultramarine blue. What a marvelous vessel, and I trust it.

I also see now what’s wrong with the painting. It’s a painting of wind. The storm cloud should not be in the center. OH well. As they say; paint and learn.

I tried so hard to describe it to my friend, a painter who is now blind, BUT he has it in his mind that the lapis ultramarine would be even MORE intense than the synthetic. It isn’t. I wouldn’t even call them the same color. Lapis ultramarine is transparent, grayish, magical, cooperative. It doesn’t insist on anything. I wish so much I could paint with it on plaster, but I don’t see that happening. The closest I can get is the gessobord. SO…I bought another one with the remainder of my Christmas money. We’ll see where it takes me.

You can kind of see what I mean in this paint chart from the Natural Pigments company. “lazurite” is their lapis ultramarine. The chart shows the paint in the tube and then tinted (with white). It’s become very hard to get now because of the chaos in Afghanistan. Mine is from Argentina. I was ready to spend my whole Christmas present ($100) on a tube of lapis ultramarine from Afghanistan, but… Maybe someday.

Silver Lining

So, I kicked the Covid stuff to the curb ( ha ha ) and leashed my poor dogs who’ve been trapped at home just like me. After a couple delays (thanks Covid Booster) we made it out to the Refuge. As I turned in, Mohammed’s radio began playing and I thought “Yep. This is and has always been my best friend.”

Bear, of course, stood up in back as soon as she knew where we were. We walked our walk accompanied by meadowlarks, a choir that is truly unbeatable. It was great to get out of the house, finally, to cool breeze, fluffy white clouds, a soft day here in the Big Empty. What a relief. Still fatigued from the Covid booster, but mentally a lot better.

“This is great, Martha. See the tumbleweed?”
“Yes, T. I do.”
“Can we keep it?”

Thursday my neighbor, Karen, and I went to Del Norte to celebrate her 70th birthday. One of our adventures was to a newish store that’s opened in the past two years. On my birthday we wanted to go in, but it was closed. We looked at the old lady hats in the window (“When women get old, they get the grand coat and wear a cake on their head” Eddie Izzard.) I said to Karen we’d come back on her birthday and try them on and we did.

It’s a nostalgia store, The General Specific Store. I can’t call it a junk store or a thrift store (too pricey) but there was everything in there from every phase in the life of a Baby Boomer. That made it a perfect place for a couple of women of my and Karen’s “vintage.” There were a couple of boxes of old LPs (yeah, they make new LPs) and Karen sang something by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap then said she wished she could sing better. It was such a time machine seeing those albums. One, Mario Lanza, was one of my Aunt Martha’s favorites. She’d play that album, clean her apartment and sing along (!!) There were albums from our parent’s preference and from ours.

“I had this one!”

Then I sat down on the most comfortable couch I’ve ever sat on and the young woman who owns the store sat down beside me and we started talking. What? Not normal behavior in the past few years, but wow. Then Karen joined us. The couch faced a wood stove and we all pretended there was a fire burning. The owner’s little black kitty joined us and we talked — visited — for a while. The owner is a very cool girl.

When I got home, I looked for the store on Facebook which is the newspaper and community connector here in the San Luis Valley. EVERYTHING happens there. I think it would make a great book for someone to write, the importance of Facebook to rural communities. There, on the store’s Facebook, which is absurdly authentic for a woman running a store but totally at one with the nature of Facebook in this place, was a quotation that’s informed my life since I was her age — 30 something.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”― E. B. White

For years it was over my desk at school. So, I wrote her and told her how nice it had been meeting her and what a nice store she has.

It’s been so long that I’ve been shut out of the human magic in this world that almost matches the magic of nature. Meeting a young woman like that? The magic. I don’t know how her business will prosper; the prices are very very high, but she’s on the main drag and summer is coming. Her merchandise is beautiful displayed and beautiful in and of itself. She’s not from Colorado, but Florida. She kind of got here by accident (I can understand that). 🙂

Not-Very-Interesting Quotidian Update

There’s a woman in Wyoming who lives on a small ranch in the Big Horn mountains. She and her daughter raise alpacas and the alpacas are guarded by several dogs just like Bear. Her “outfit” is Bighorn Mountain Alpacas. She’s lately gotten into spinning yarn from the hair of her livestock guardian dogs and weaving it into things. Dog hair yarn is called “Chiengora”. Judging from Bear, that would be pretty soft yarn. She will even spin customers’ dogs’ hair into yarn but no, though I’ve begun the annual brushing of Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog (it takes 3 months to finish that job) I’m not doing it.

I watched a Canada goose (gander) woo a dame (goose) yesterday and it didn’t go well for the gander. I kind of get WHY but knowing that everything he was doing was 100% in the goose line of courtship, I have to take a step back from that. Anyway, the poor guy didn’t get a soft rejection. Courtship season (now) in the Big Empty is a little less territorial and violent than breeding season, but it’s still pretty dangerous. The poor gander bobbed and bobbed and bobbed his goose head at his wouldbe lady love. She watched him for a while, then he moved a little closer, still bobbing, and she turned and walked away, heading into the pond. I felt kind of bad for that gander. I didn’t stay to see what happened next, if he followed her into the pond or took his suit elsewhere.

Otherwise? There is absolutely NOTHING going on out here in the back-of-beyond (so far) and that’s

FINE with me.

Maundy Thursday

As a Panentheist who was raised with the Bible and writes novels centered on religion and is not anti-Christian (or any other faith) it’s impossible for me to ignore the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. For me the big day is the day Jesus told God he’d really rather stay on Earth than go through everything he knew was ahead of him. Except for the early-morning betrayal by Judas, it’s kind of a non-event. Guy goes to garden with his friends. Friends are soporific from a big dinner and wine and promptly go to sleep in spite of Jesus asking someone, for the love of God, to stay awake with him (for reasons he knew and we all found out later). OH well.

It’s not cool to know your fate. It’s a question that was debated a lot in my house because my dad KNEW his fate, roughly how long he had to live and what would kill him. Not cool. Better to be surprised especially if you KNOW there’s a crucifixion ahead of you. THAT makes this world all the more beautiful — even in my dad’s case one of the last things he wanted was to see Pikes Peak (we lived in Colorado Springs) one more time.

So every year I celebrate this day of the Earth’s beauty by walking my dogs. Out at the Refuge, I was happy to find that the wind has died down in general (though we are still under a Red Flag Warning). We were able to get out early enough to beat the wind entirely. It was absolutely quiet out there except for the songs and sounds of birds. I watched a pair of red-tailed hawks hunt and, later on, an osprey flew over and in front of me. The songs of red-winged blackbirds and meadowlarks serenaded us along our way. The cinnamon teals — beautiful red ducks with a teal band on their wings — were swimming peacefully. The geese were chill, literally, on some ice left over from the very cold night we had. No people. “The cranes have left. There’s nothing to see.” I’m honestly glad they think so.


I finished the project — ripped up the last of the journals. It was a relief to be done. Now I have a small pile of things with which to create something new — and lots of dog pictures!

Bear, Teddy and I went out to the Refuge on this humid, foggy, snowy day and had a blissful walk in lightly falling spring snow, heard the songs of the meadowlark, the purring calls of the Sandhill Cranes, the odd conversations of the Canada geese and saw a herd of Mule Deer who had also seen us. We looked at each other for a while, but when a car came by, the deer leapt and loped across the wetlands.

It really could not have been more beautiful.

Eye Update

Sorry to go on about this, but some of you wanted to know what happened.

I went to the optometrist here in town (two blocks away) and he was able to see MORE of the back of my eye through the stuff that’s in there. He has a very fancy camera to help with that particular part of an exam. The part of my retina he could see was fine. He gave me a great explanation of what might be ahead. He explained that even if there were a retinal tear in the bottom part of my eye, the part he couldn’t see, it would not be as dangerous as one in the upper part of the eye because gravity wouldn’t pull on it.

He also explained that the retina specialist will not be able to see through my eye, either, and might offer me a vitrectomy which would clear out the asteroid hyalosis in my eyeball so they could see all of the retina. He said if they don’t find anything it won’t be worth it. So, it’s a gamble. I told him I’d researched that and knew it was no picnic. He said, “No, it isn’t, and six months later you would need cataract surgery.” My research also told me that many people who have a vitrectomy lose their vision. If I am presented with that as an “option” I’ll probably turn it down. It’s risky, the rehab is very long, grueling and logistically challenging.

He did not think my eye situation is an emergency, but it’s possibly serious. He told me to call him day or night if anything changed with my eye and he would arrange a sooner appointment.

Then he said, “In the meantime, your vision is good; from what I can see your eyes are healthy, and I am cautiously confident it’s just part of aging, but you were absolutely right to check it out. Things can happen quickly and with no warning.”

So…really the ball is in my court, but at least there appears to be no imminent danger. They were able to see me right away which was wonderful, and I appreciate the fact that he was serious but not freakout serious.

I deeply appreciate all the moral support and good advice my community here has given me, truly more than I can say. I’m not whining about being alone at all, but sometimes it’s hard not to have a person around to talk to about things — on the other hand, having such a person can be worse. So much depends on who that person is! ❤ 😉

In other news, Teddy bullied me into taking him WITH Bear out to the Refuge this morning. I didn’t want to because there are still a lot of crane tourists (and there were). Teddy likes to chase cars and Bear likes to meet people so both of them can be a handful. We walked a walk that tourists usually drive right by. There were thousands of cranes in the air moving from the barley fields to their hang outs. I heard cranes purring, warbling and singing in the sky above when I went out my back door this morning. I took it as a sign. ❤

Big Adventures in the Big Empty

Yesterday on the spur of the moment — as much as that is possible for 3 people living in different households — the ladies and I went out to see the cranes. The wind was blowing like a MOFO (but only in one direction). There are more cranes than I remember ever seeing. I felt a little like a tour guide since I’m out there a lot. Bear came along, of course. 🙂

After our walk we took a drive through the countryside. I wanted to show them what the Refuge people have done to adapt the Refuge to the Covid/post Covid way of seeing cranes. We went to see the two beautiful large parking lots at opposite ends of this immense stretch of Big Empty where people can park their cars and listen to a naturalist talk about the cranes. This is great, but… It’s very hard to talk over the March winds.

Once upon a time, school buses picked up people at the rodeo/fair grounds/building of all public purposes and took people out to see the birds. A naturalist spoke on the bus, and at various stops, everyone piled out at stopping points to see what there was to see. I personally prefer that, but Covid changed the way we do many things. What’s lost? Seriously, 50 people on a school bus jazzed about seeing cranes, prisoners for 15 minutes (in each direction) of an educated person giving good information about the birds, the ecosystem, the San Luis Valley and who might get a great idea about where to see something else. A word in the bus driver’s ear, and off that bus goes. It’s Miss Frizzle. It’s the Magic School Bus. Once the driver (one of the San Luis Valley’s extremely rare Black people) sang and he was amazing.

One of the places where we stopped yesterday is a pull out on the main road which was once a kind of “Why are we stopping here?” kind of place. But it has been “gussied” up and, in the words of Elizabeth, “isn’t this nice what they’ve done?” there are two beautiful new informative signs, a bench where people can sit to watch the cranes and a telescope, thoughtfully placed at kid-height which, since I’m as tall as your average 12 year old, is great. Because I didn’t take my camera out there, just my phone, I tried to use the telescope as a telephoto lens. It was kinda sorta effective. I would need to practice lining up the lenses.

I love the way people love the cranes. Seriously, it’s possible to get so down on humanity but then? A car barreling on the dirt road, too fast. My friends and I stop walking, and with exaggerated attention, look at a group of cranes the driver in the car wouldn’t have seen at that speed. The car slows and stops. The driver gets out. Bear greets her. The woman is a dog person and Bear recognizes that immediately. We chat and then hurry to catch up with our friends. The woman gets closer to the cranes than she will at any other place. Crane tourists are just not quite like the other kids.

I’m really sorry, Rag Tag Daily Prompt, but I can’t work “brindle” into this, though once upon a time I had a little brindle pit bull who climbed rocks with me. ❤

and THEN…

I’m in the middle of reading and evaluating books again, currently books that were submitted electronically. Several actual books on paper will be arriving today. One of the books I evaluated yesterday was an algebra textbook and, considering that Algebra 1 was where I had an intellectual meltdown in high school, my initial reaction was, “How the hell do I do this?” but the answer was clear. Work some problems and see how well the lessons work for the person that would be hardest to reach in the class. Sadly, I tend to solve problems in my head, so the laborious steps in this algebra book (and all the others on the planet) didn’t help me much. As a test, I worked one on paper and, of course, got the answer wrong. In my head I got it right once more proving to the world (comprising my house, Bear and Teddy and now you!) that not every learner learns the same way. Still and all, the book was OK and would work for its intended purpose, an online class done at home.

I remembered Mr. Moeckele, my 6th and 7th grade math teacher, introducing us to this stuff. I saw him — in my mind’s eye — writing frantically on the board and attempting to talk over his shoulder so he wouldn’t lose our attention. I wonder what he would do now? If he’s still around and teaching math, would he find this book useful? Anyway, in my weird little brain 4 still looks like y, 3 like B, g like 6, S like 5 and so on and so forth. At least today a kid like me might be diagnosed with a learning disability and learn some coping strategies and maybe teachers are less relentless about making kids write down every step.

Now for some boring stuff… I guess I’m finished with Physical Therapy I went for a month, and I haven’t heard that I have more sessions approved by my insurance. It’s OK with me. I think it was very useful, but along with the physical help I got was some psychological help (they probably didn’t know) regarding my actual goals. I pulled a groin muscle attempting a side lunge which is OK; it’s healing but I thought, “Do I want to be the goddess of side-lunges or do I want to spend this hour walking my dogs?” The answer is obvious. I have watched some videos that teach falling and I’m practicing falling forward on my bed — just like little kids do! It’s amazing what we do instinctively as children is actually practice for when we’re 70 years old and have arthritis! I’ve also decided that upper body strength is a lot more important than I ever believed in the past and that’s something I can work on easily and well at home. Thinking about the structure of our bodies, it occurred to me that our body kind of “hangs” from our shoulders and spine. Having had to forgo that kind of work after I hurt my shoulder and cracked my rib, I get its importance now AND (most important) I CAN do it.

I’m still corresponding with my elderly penpal in Washington. I sent him the little collection of blog posts I wrote in 2020 and published last year, Finding Refuge. It was just the right book for him which made me very happy. It’s no longer in publication, and Amazon has dropped the price on the 1 remaining volume to $10.25. Please somebody buy it! 😉 It has a lot of dogs and nature in it and reminiscences of the goodle days when we were more-or-less locked down in 2020. My penpal wrote, “I’ve loved all your books, but this one was extra special. I loved it. There were many highlights but what I appreciated most were your philosophy, comments about the outdoors, the San Luis Valley, and the feelings about what you and your dogs were doing.” I think my little book did its job; brightened a dull, rainy winter for him and momentarily lit the darkness of the current moment.

Which brings me to current events about which I have nothing meaningful to say. I deplore the behavior of “my” representative to the House last night at the State of the Union. She’s a piece of work. I hope so much there’s a primary in my state and she doesn’t make it, but I think she will make and has a good chance of winning. As for the war, it’s unspeakable. So many things happening around it — like the UN condemning it — I wonder how that matters materially? I’m intrigued and impressed by the ability of the world to electronically shut down an offending nation. And, most of all, like many of us, I’m lost in admiration for the courage of the Ukrainian people. All my life the future has been uncertain and the end always near (that’s an homage…) so this is just more of the same, though scarier in its way.

There will be a Crane Festival this year, though not quite like the old days (2019). My friend Lois and her developmentally disabled son will be coming down next weekend for the big doings. The cranes are here in pretty large numbers and Bear and I have had a few nice chats with Crane Tourists in our unofficial role as Crane Tourist Welcome Committee.

Please everyone, stay well, and I’ll leave you with this lovely verse from St. Columbanus that he used to encourage the monks who were rowing him from Iona to the European mainland,

Endure and keep yourselves for happy things;
You suffered worse, and these, too, God shall end —

St. Columbanus “the Rowing Song” 600 CE (more or less)


Had a beautiful walk with Teddy this morning and, as we were leaving the Refuge, I saw something I’ve wanted to see for a long time — a herd of elk! I’ve seen their tracks and their poop, but not them. They were pretty far away. I watched them as long as I could see them, running away with their zig-zag evasive tactics across a barley field toward the mountains.

I appreciate your response to the first part of the story I posted a few days ago. I set it to private for now. I’ve finished that chapter and might post it later — or just keep going. Thank you everyone who took the time to read it. ❤

And Out in the Big Empty…

And then, after a pretty loop, we found ourselves in a bliss-ard I mean a blizzard. Very very very wonderful way to spend an hour. Tracks everywhere. Teddy pulls this way. Bear pulls that way. Awesome. Snow is the best because I can see what we’re hunting. And yes, I know that’s a ridiculously flattering photo. I may be selling autographed copies. I’ll let you know.