Sunday Services for a Panentheist

Bear and I had a walk like we haven’t had in a while. There was so much to smell. The trail was a mess — snow, packed snow, ice, bare gravel, mud, whatever. We don’t care. I only wanted to go as far along the river and into the slough as I knew I wouldn’t be entering the great cattle litter box that is the Rio Grande Wildlife Area at the moment.

The views were amazing — I took pictures but…

It was truly the first magical hike since I hurt my foot in September. Bear felt it, too, which is the great thing about dogs and Bear in particular. She is capable of entering into my experience which is, I guess, an attribute of the livestock guardian dogs. They are bred to be “tuned in.”

The Rio Grande is still mostly frozen, but a channel in the middle is flowing and breaking up the ice. That was very cool to hear. The sound made me think of Into the Wild. I thought of Chris McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) and came up with the McCandless Rule of Survival: park your bus on the side of the river from which you came and where you remember there having been a store and a gas station.

A magic hike is my version of a religious experience. Lots of things can interfere with that — lately it’s been apprehension over the foot. Now I know the limitations of that foot and also that I can ignore most of the twinges.

THE moment came when I heard a few geese take flight over the river in a spot where the bank was too high for me to see them. I thought of climbing up the hill then thought, “No, this is perfect, this is ideal. They don’t need me to see them. And, for me, hearing them is enough.” So bear and I watched the bank where we couldn’t see the geese. We tracked their flight — there might have been anywhere from 2 to 4 geese — through their calls and it was lovely. Then the little prayer wafted into my heart directly through my eyes as it does. “I love you so much,” I said, softly to the world, to the light, to the trees, the uneven snow, the geese, the moment, the pure blue sky, the moment. Bear leaned against me, wrapping herself so I am standing in a shallow curve made by her body.

“Thank you for bringing me to this river,” I said softly to the sky. “Thank you for understanding my fucked up knees, and thank you for showing me this world which has been completely new to me.” Bear continued leaning and I pet her ears. “Thank you for bringing me this dog who doesn’t need to hurry and who is such amazing company.” I also thank whatever it is for all the huskies and all the trails we ran. I am again in the timeless embrace of “god.” It’s been a while.

I don’t know how to explain it, but in the gesture of loving me Bear shares my love for everything. I am 100% sure she — as much as a dog needs to pray — prays my prayer with me. We do love it so much.

All the human BS of the last few days retreated into the vast chasm in which it belongs. I have returned to the timeless transience of light, land, water, rock and beast. Thank whatever. ❤

The Aesthetics of a Slough

It’s a cold morning in the back-of-beyond, thank goodness. Bear chews her rawhide, Teddy waits for coffee. I think of my little walk with Bear yesterday at the slough and what I saw.

I thought of how this particular slough trail is now very familiar. I know where to look to see the river. Since the first year I walked there, two things have happened. I became more accurately oriented to my world and the river moved last year during the floods.

The first year I walked there I didn’t notice that the river is RIGHT BY THE FUCKING PARKING LOT. I didn’t have to yell that but every time I think of it I want to slap myself for being so blind. It’s about 20 feet down a shallow slope and, that first year, there were bushes. No more. Last year’s floods took care of them.

The first year I walked I noticed the mountains. The first walk I walked I turned around halfway because I did not want the trail to be a loop. I enjoyed it so much I wanted it to be much longer than it is. But, you know and I know that the trail is a trail and wishes aren’t horses.

When it comes to mountain aesthetics, my favorites are looking at mountains from a distance and being above the trees. What that means is that my flat valley — where views are seldom obscured by trees — is perfect. From our little hike yesterday I could see the shifting sunlight on the three snowy “peaks” of the nearest San Juans as a storm deliberated its level of involvement. One of the “peaks” is such a gentle thing that you can walk right up it as if it were (and it is) an immense hill. They are among my favorite things to paint.

I have my formerly degenerating hip to thank for what I see now. When it was heading south (and after it was repaired) I was lucky to walk a mile on uneven ground AT ALL. But, of course, I did. My beautiful friend, Bear, was a young dog. I would walk a few hundred yards, feel pain, stop and look at the mountains or the river. Beauty is a powerful analgesic. Bear learned to walk that way. In her mind we were stopping because I smelled something and she would give the trail a sincere nose examination. She still thinks that’s what we’re doing (what else WOULD I be doing?) but she’s also learned that I stop for birds. Now, mostly, I stop for her.

The blue line shows my “speed.” The peaks are me going fast; the troughs are me looking off at the mountains or Bear captivated by a scent. The slowish regions are me looking at the sky for raptors or cranes. This isn’t totally accurate because often we were STOPPED.

It’s pretty close to exactly a mile on the Shriver/Wright walking loop. Yesterday the trail was a combination of frozen snow and clear gravel/dirt. Sometimes an easy, pleasant walking surface, sometimes lumpy and unresponsive.

Few people go out there in the winter. The wildlife has migrated down to the valley floor for winter. Tracks and scents rest undisturbed by humans and dog urine. The beasts are looking for open water, and can climb out on the ice to the narrow channel of free-flowing water in the Rio Grande which is slow and shallow in January.

It’s just a mile, but what a mile.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/01/30/ragtag-daily-prompt-thursday-aesthetics/

That Was the Year That Was

Recap of 2019 — I bought Nordic skis in January and skied (Langlaufed) maybe 10 times before the snow melted. 

One of the happiest days I can remember is the first day I took them out and found I could still ski, even after 20 years. I got to take Lois out in February and we had a blast. We had SO MUCH SNOW it was a dream come true for me and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog. Winter also brought Bear and me a small herd of mule deer to watch and kind of hang out with daily — from a distance.

The Tracks of my Deers

In the winter I did some watercolors (of which I’m very proud) of the world in which I now wander and an oil that is, I think, my best so far. All of these are of the Rio Grande and the San Juan Mountains which I watched changing every day I took Bear out for a long ramble. Winter 2019 was a spectacular winter for me.

Storm on Windy Peak

In late June, I lost my Dusty T. Dog after 14 years. I. had adopted a mini-Aussie pup, Teddy Bear T. Dog a few weeks before losing Dusty. 

Because of all the snow we got, the snow melt was record-setting, and I got to see “my” river in flood for the first time. Really, really amazing

Rio Grande in flood at Shriver/Wright

The year brought a few visits to Colorado Springs to see friends, to get my new hip checked, and a pilgrimage to Denver with Lois and lunch with one of my oldest friends, Ron, and his wonderful wife, Joni, in my old hood which had not completely changed. (I was happy). From that came a deep understanding of my life, the changes, the distance I’ve traveled — heart, mind, soul and feet — and the consistencies of which I was unaware, leaving me grateful for old friends, new old friends and my own courage. ❤

At the Narrow Gauge Book Co-op

I had the incredible experience of writing As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder (and another book, Fledging, with its very tiny audience of three people including me, but a beloved project nonetheless). Reading Baby Duck at the Narrow Gauge Book Co-op was a little scary, but it turned into a very sweet event, supported by my incredible friends. The reading, the newspaper articles, and all that experience ended up entailing was great — including being on the Radio. (Video will NOT kill this radio star, believe me.) 

In November/December I had the opportunity to participate in a group art show at the Rio Grande County Museum with other San Luis Valley artists. I exhibited and sold books (I sold four) and read from Baby Duck again, this time to a different audience. It was wonderful, inspiring to me as a writer. Along with the show, I got to know the women who run that museum and I like them very much.

Some health weirdness, but who, at 67, does not have to deal with some of that? The weirdest was the horse-fly bite in June. 

Adventures with friends — some lunches in various and sundry places .In early spring we went to Creede and wandered around that lovely town. We tried the new restaurant in Del Norte, and went to studio tours in South Fork and Crestone. December brought Christmas lunches, tea parties and dinner with precious friends.

Health Food lunch in Crestone

The year brought only a few good walks with the dogs, not as many as I wish because of an injury I sustained in late September that has taken almost 3 months to heal. But now it’s healed just in time to Langlauf which I’ve done twice already this winter. Karen and I were finally able to ski together after talking about it for 3 years!

There’s much more, but this is long enough already. Thank you again fates for conspiring to bring me here, to Heaven, where I am and have been so incredibly happy. ❤

Beautiful Walk to the Rio Grande

A sweet cloudy day with a breeze, what to do, what to do. Hmmm. I look at my roommates who just got their Barkbox and are very distracted. “What do you think, guys?”

Suddenly I had two very alert dogs. Within the next 15 minutes we were at the Rio Grande Wildlife Area on a trail that has — for me — been mostly a late fall/early winter walk. Hunting season for waterfowl starts in three weeks and the first month of that pretty much precludes me rambling around out there. Usually by December the birds have flown (except raptors!) and it’s one of my favorite winter walks.

To my North is the wildlife area — a slough that comes off the Rio Grande, a waterfowl paradise. To the South is a fence along a pasture about 1/2 mile from the river most of the way. The trail intersects the Rio Grande after about a mile and it’s a beautiful spot. I did a watercolor of it last winter:

Rio Grande, partially frozen, January 2019

We walked there today. Part of the trail was not well-mown and the grass was almost to my knees. Teddy was fascinated by the nether-areas of bushes lining the trail. I tried to suppress my rattlesnake paranoia, but then I thought, “Why? It’s not completely stupid to keep an eye on the trail.”

It’s not stupid. In fact, it’s a good idea.

What a great walk. I was very happy to see “my” river from my favorite spot, while the trees, grass, bushes, reeds are still mostly green with summer and, especially, on this, the anniversary of leaving my beloved stone house in Descanso, California and beginning the trek home. I had the sense as I wandered this now familiar and yet new landscape that I am now fully home and this is my world. ❤

Rambling Post about Something, maybe Mindfulness?

We humans make a lot of choices — and pursue hobbies, interests — that, by their nature, silence the jumble in our minds. I’m not a climber but I’ve known enough climbers and done enough boldering (sometimes a little more) to understand how climbing pretty much eliminates anything from your thoughts except getting up safely and back down again (safely).

What I loved about hiking in the days when I could hike for hours and hours was that after a while something happened in my head and there was nothing left in there but the trail, whatever was happening in the natural world in those moments and my dogs. A lifetime of hiking habits has trained my mind so that even though now I don’t hike 12 miles a day, I can get into the “zone” pretty quickly, even riding the sainted “bike-to-nowhere.”

Several years ago, back in California when I had a shed that was a little art studio, I discovered that painting was the same thing. Out there — away from my house (only 10 feet or so) and focused on a canvas, panel or paper — all that mattered was the work I was doing and where it was taking me. Writing a good story can be the same.

It’s such a relief from all the stuff that clutters the inside of my head.

Yesterday — a cool, cloudy day, presaging fall — we headed out for a walk. I decided to take the trail along the Rio Grande. It was the first time this year because the pathway in was very overgrown in tall grass and weeds. I noticed yesterday that a few people have trodden down the plant life a little bit, so I parked, took out the dogs and made them walk behind me, single file — a new “trick” for Teddy.

I love the Rio Grande, and it’s fascinating to watch throughout the year. I have never lived beside a mostly-wild river before. The trail along the river is wide enough for an ATV cowboy to ride along which is good for me and the hounds. Most of the way the river runs alongside it. The sound fascinated Teddy who had never heard a river before — it was a little difficult to keep him where I wanted him, next to me. It seems like rattlesnakes are not very common down here on the floor of the San Luis Valley along the river, but years of hiking with them as an ambient part of the environment has made me very vigilant about the nether parts of the bushes lining a trail.

The cottonwoods are still mostly green. The wild asparagus is beginning to turn the glowing gold of fall. The milkweed is between seasons. It was a sweet walk. In the act of observing the natural world and noting the changes, the jumble clears.

We even have a word for this nowadays, “mindfulness.” I hate that word and all that is behind it, one more thing to add to our list of “shoulds.” I hate the way the outside has come to be regarded, too, like it’s someplace to go because it will “heal” you. To me, that turns nature into just one more commodity. Nature isn’t a “commodity” and it doesn’t exist to “teach us mindfulness” or heal us. Conceptually that’s one more step in the distancing of humans from the reality that WE are nature. It’s not “out there” it’s INSIDE, and that means we — consciously or unconsciously — play an active part.

I recently read that the elk population up on Vail Pass has declined by a drastic percentage not because of hunting or predation, but because more people are “going into nature” in elk habitat.

“…there’s been a dramatic increase in backcountry use in the past decade. Bertuglia noted that trail use in the Vail area has doubled since 2009. There’s 30 percent more overnight use in the same period.” Vail Daily

All this human traffic disturbs the elk’s breeding grounds. Without “privacy” in an undisturbed world, elk don’t breed. Wildlife managers close the area, but people ignore the closures believing, I guess, that their “right” to go into nature trumps nature’s right to be alone.

My wildlife area closes in March and doesn’t re-open until mid-July. Those are beautiful hiking months, and I wish I could go there but I don’t. The water birds nest there during that time and have for millennia, I imagine. I don’t doubt for one minute that just one person — just me — with two leashed dogs, could be enough to disturb that. It seems to me that “mindfulness” more properly means being aware of the consequences of our existence.

Chamisa, cottonwoods, fall approaching…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/rdp-monday-jumble/

Tedious Quotidian Update 43.c.iii

Back in book marketing mode. The Price getting an IndieBRAG medallion opens up some opportunities that I didn’t have before. I’m still looking for reviewers. If you’re interested, let me know. I can send it to you as a mobi, an ePub, a PDF or a real live book.

My Amazon giveaway was a bust. I only had two books to give away. Three people entered to claim the books and none was qualified — probably (knowing my record) they didn’t live in the US. I ran another one and one book got claimed, two more disqualified people jumped in and that giveaway ended. OH WELL.

None of it is that serious, anyway.

I have a big job to do now. I need to combine Savior, The Bros Path and The Price into one file for Kindle. I’m glad I finally got some good software for that, but it’s still a tedious project.

Stuff around here has been breaking — one burner on my stove, Bear’s Halti (after four years of hard daily use the buckle cracked), my vaccccccuuuuuum. The garden is a joke, I have to water when the city tells me to, I need to put up shelves in the garage then put stuff on them. I buy stuff I never even open — like those shelves and a pole saw for tree limbs. Maybe we all do that, I don’t know, but I want to stop. The thing is, you think you’re going to use something and then you don’t. Those things are good ideas, but I don’t have any interest in erecting shelves and putting stuff on them or cutting down tree limbs hanging over my back yard from my neighbor’s elm tree.

Speaking of elm trees, those are sinister bastards. They are all over my town and this spring they let loose a deluge of seeds that would have challenged Noah to stay afloat. Now their illegitimate children are springing up in the carefully tended gardens of dedicated retirees. I wonder if they would be as good on a sandwich as are alfalfa sprouts.

The high river flow has killed several people — a couple of people just fell in (I don’t know how) and many OTHER people challenged the water that was rushing by at at least 1400 cubic feet/second. One pair from Texas tried to drive their Jeep across a river that’s normally pretty shallow and slow, and damn if their Jeep was sunk… Warning: the video contains Anglo Saxon aka blue language… 😀

In other Texan news (please readers in Texas, don’t be offended, but this stuff really happens) I was walking the dogs past the 9th hole of the golf course (it’s at the end of my alley) yesterday during the fantastic beginnings of a storm that didn’t materialize in Monte Vista but pounded South Fork. Four old (55+) guys were playing golf. OK, I know that for some golf is an excuse for driving drunk and these four guys were that type. As I passed, they got very loud, exaggerating their Texan accents (this whole area is where some Texans go to escape summer just as my Montana uncle and aunt went to Texas to escape winter), and one yelled at my retreating form, “Can you cook?”

Once that sank in, I had a resistible urge to go back and wrap his 9 iron around his neck. Or worse. Some men remain 14 year old a-holes their whole lives, I guess.

I forgot to write “shoe.” I’m still wearing them. Lots of people are hanging out in sandals, and in summers past I have, too. But this year? I dunno. I just kind of like socks.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/07/03/rdp-wednesday-shoe/

Rio Grande and North Clear Creek Falls with HIGH Water

My friend and neighbor, Karen, and I took off today and headed north of Creede to see North Clear Creek Falls with high water. Karen had never been there and, according to old timers, the water hasn’t been this high in a lot of their lifetimes. I’ve been feeling (in the midst of puppy training) that I should GET OUT THERE but when you have to train a puppy, you have to train a puppy.

The drive up was amazing — the river has been flooding, mostly in flatter areas. We saw a place where it had apparently taken out a railroad track. Lots of fields were flooded and others were filled with wild iris. In the field near our hospital, where a large herd of bison live, we got to see bison in their winter coats standing and grazing in a meadow of blue and white flowers. We should have stopped to take pictures, but didn’t. We had a bit of a time crunch because Teddy was neutered today and I had to pick him up at 3. It’s a 78 mile drive to get up to the falls and we took off at 10.

All along the road — which winds along the Rio Grande — we were stunned by the high water. Karen, who could look out the window, noticed places where decks of summer homes were under water. Bridges — car and narrow gauge railroad — were VERY close to the water. Anyone attempting to raft would lose their noggin and the top of their raft.

The Rio Grande

We got to the top of the road which is just twenty some miles from the place where Alferd Packer ate his friends one desperate winter. This is what we saw.

We were hit by the spray, admired the rainbow, and I kept thinking of this poem from Goethe’s Faust Part II

“Let the sun stay in my back, unseen!
The waterfall I now behold with growing
Delight as it roars down to the ravine.
From fall to fall a thousand streams are flowing.
A thousand more are plunging, effervescent,
And high up in the air the spray is glowing.
Out of this thunder rises, iridescent,
Enduring through all change the motley bow,
Now painted clearly, now evanescent,
Spreading a fragrant, cooling spray below.
The rainbow mirrors human love and strive:
In many-hued reflection we have life.”

Goethe, Faust II, trans. Walter Kauffman

Flooding Rio Grande

I had to go to the store and on the way I decided to go see the river at the place where I often walk with my dogs. The featured photo is the parking lot. I think the water crested yesterday or the day before because it was streaming back toward the river from the parking lot this morning.

The Rio Grande being VERY grande
Last winter…

Update…

It’s been about a month since I last posted and I am honestly glad to have stopped trying to write something interesting every day for my blog.

In the meantime I have finished a draft of the China book and sent it off to Beth Bruno my editor for a critique. The book is a collection of anecdotes and that turned out to be difficult to organize. I really need help with that and fresh eyes, as well, and all they may discover. Meantime I’m sorting photos and I think I have designed a cover.

Lois and her developmentally disabled son were here for the weekend and we went to the Sand Dunes — it was blustery and cold but very beautiful.

Reflection of Mt. Herard in Medano Creek — snow fell lightly while we were there

Otherwise life has gone on as always (and I’m grateful!) — walking the dogs etc. The Rio Grande is higher than I’ve ever seen it from a 160% snow pack — and it snowed again over this past weekend. Not here, much to my and Bear’s dismay, but in the mountains. A few ski areas are still open…

Rio Grande River covering two islands

The garden was getting going, but the cold spell killed a tomato and a basil plant and slowed down everything, still chard and salad are up as are cosmos. The iris are beautiful

So..as you see, not much to report after a month’s hiatus!

My Playground

My pals and I go outside to play every day. Yesterday Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog and I went out and played for a long time. It was a magical clear beautiful enchanting calm-wind day. My pal is a great playmate. She always wants to play and when we get to the playground, she knows just exactly what she’s supposed to do. She’s supposed to smell things and roll in the snow. She’s also supposed to pull suddenly on the leash when a very fresh scent hits her nose, but she’s never supposed to pull me down. When I stop to enjoy the scenery, she is supposed to lean against me and I’m not supposed to move away so fast that she loses her balance. When we near the end of our play time, and I say, “OK, Bear, let’s go home,” she’s supposed to walk peacefully beside me while I rest my hand on her back. 

Our trail. Mt. Blanca in the distance
El Rio Grande

I’ve been playing in this way all my life. It’s amazing what can happen when you go out to the playground. Lately, in one of our playgrounds, we’ve had the pleasure of watching a small herd of whitetail deer watch us. Among them is a very large buck who vigilantly cares for his wives and children. He’s a little scary, actually, and I’m glad we’re never very close. 

The big buck is at the far left facing, looking right at me. 

What I’ve learned over all my years of playing outside is that there is always some reward (though play itself is reward enough), a destination (in terms of destiny).

I always see something. Sometimes it’s light on the trees. Sometimes Kris Kristofferson’s face in the clouds (seriously and it was weird). Sometimes a rainbow. Sometimes hawks hunting low over the chamisa or desert broom. Sometimes bald eagles in the trees. Sometimes deer, elk or some other large ungulate. Sometimes a wild cat, a fox or coyote. Sometimes a friendly person. Sometimes the litany of night written in the dust. Sometimes an amazing bird. Yesterday my reward was a Great Blue Heron. 

Just like this (from the Audubon Field Guide)



I thought of a poem by Jack Kerouac the moment the heron revealed himself by leaping into the air, taking flight. 

Kerouac was kind of a Buddhist. For a while he was a happy person, too. During this time he wrote/recorded some lovely stuff. My favorite is The Dharma Bums.  Anyway for a while I had a bunch of CDs of Kerouac reading his work and some of his interviews on TV in the 50s.

In one of his poems he says, “Like kissing my kitten in the belly, the sweetness of the reward that we’ll get. This I know.” 

And it’s true. 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/12/15/rdp-saturday-play/