Fires…

 

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This map is the fire in the south central part of the state with the little house over it (evacuation center)

 

We’ve had wind up to 60 mph today here in Heaven and the San Luis Valley (all of Colorado) is very, very, very dry. Innocent thing spark brush fires, like a guy showing up for his job as a welder.

I’ve gotten to see second hand (I’d like to keep it that way) how a large brush fire is dealt with here in Heaven. The area covered in the map is thousands of acres. I’m (again) astonished at not being in a big California city any more.

Everyone in the area was evacuated to the recreation center in Alamosa. You look at that HUGE area on the map and you think, “Wow, that’s a huge area on the map!” but it’s not a lot of people. One of my friends lives near the airport in Alamosa — my artist friend with whom I sometimes go to Taos. She was evacuated and happy as a clam because they opened the ceramic studio at the rec center for her to work. She later let me know that Dominos brought pizza for everyone.

I don’t yet know the extent of the damage or how many people lost homes, businesses, stock, anything. But I do know that when that’s made public a few GoFundMe’s will pop up, families will ask for help on the various Facebook pages, and people will just pitch in.

In my fire experience in California (a lot more extensive and intensive than I wish) there was the setting up of Red Cross shelters sometimes in places as big as the stadium where (once upon a time) the Chargers played. With millions of people to contend with, there’s. no GoFundMe or direct pleas for “We need bedding and clothes for a 2nd grader” kind of thing or “Our home was burned” getting a response like, “We have a big 5th wheel we can let you have.”

That is rural life in a sparsely populated area, I guess. I’m grateful for it. I think we’re in for a long and scary fire season unless the July/August rains come and give us a break. There’s also the (slim?) possibility that we could still get a good, wet snow.

UPDATE:

All is well. The fire (in my area) is under control. Everyone’s home.

 

1P.S. It’s roughly 70 miles from Creede to Alamosa ❤

P.P.S. SLV = San Luis Valley, a little bit of America most people have never even heard of.

 

Mountains (with Maps!)

A long time ago, I made a list of my favorite words. The two on top were “mountains” and “wonder.” If I wrote a list like that today, I’d probably have the same two words on top.

I like living a little distance from the mountains so I can see them ranged across the horizon. That’s why I chose Monte Vista instead of some of the other towns in the Valley when I moved here. I’m perfectly placed to look at the San Juans (not that far away) and at the Sangre de Cristos (farther away). I can watch the alpenglow (morning and evening) and enjoy the gathering clouds in both directions.

This side (eastern) of the San Juans is pretty “soft” and gentle, but the west side is a different story. The San Juans are the largest range in Colorado, and they cover a good part of the state — “good” meaning both “high quality” and “large.” The dark green line on the map below marks the Continental Divide. The orange line that runs from Alamosa to Cortez is my street. 🙂

The Rio Grande starts up in the San Juans, and I hope someday to go to the source up on Canby Mountain. That will happen when I get my hip and get my jeep 🙂

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The Sangres, at least here where I live, remind me of the Alps with their jagged peaks abrubtly jutting from the Valley floor. In Colorado, they are a long, narrow range that marks the end of the Rocky Mountains and the beginning of the Great Plains.

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Mountains are a source of wonderment for me. I look at them all the time and they are never the same. Mt. Blanca (featured photo) is a massif, not really just one mountain. It’s one of the Navajo’s four sacred mountains and marked the northeastern boundary of their lands.

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I can subscribe to these boundaries, too. They circumscribe some of my favorite places in the world, where I’ve had the chance to experience many moments of…

Wonder

 

Daily Prompt: Wonder

Weather Report

Yesterday, Monday, day and night, we had storms — a few brief blizzards and gale force winds. Today on our walk, we happened on this sad story. Sad to me, anyway. In the grand scheme (which is where our walk was taking place) it’s just a dead owl. It’s even possible (but not likely) that it wasn’t a dead owl, but an owl playing dead over its prey. These owls — great horned owls — do this and, as Dusty reached it a second or two before Bear and I reached it, it’s possible.

And I thought, “To me this is sad. I don’t want this owl to be dead, but nothing around me cares at ALL except Dusty and Bear and THEY are just curious to know if it’s edible.”

Once upon a time I collected feathers. I once found a red-tail hawk that had been thrown against a hill by the wind and then eaten by coyotes. I brought home his wings. I’m not that person now. I don’t want souvenirs from nature any more. My mind is so full of those souvenirs that objects are meaningless — besides, the owl was beautiful and pristine lying beside the chamisa in the winter grass. Someone will eat him; it could even be another owl.

Seconds before I encountered the dead owl, I watched and listened to a dozen Sandhill Cranes lift into flight just a few feet in front of me.

All around it is early spring in the San Luis Valley — well, pre-spring in the San Luis Valley. Pre-spring has arrived a few weeks early. My crocus are blooming a week early, the Sandhill cranes have arrived in full force, and the Rio Grande Wildlife Refuge has closed about three weeks ahead of normal to allow the birds — water birds and bald eagles — to nest.

Wind in the San Juans

 

Heaven…

 

 

 

One thing we have plenty of in the San Luis Valley is horizon. It’s one of our best things. Once in a while it gets interrupted by a mountain or trees, but for the most part, anyone looking for a horizon can just turn and look in the other direction and have their horizon needs satisfied. For me, it’s one of the great things about where I live. I like to look at a wide and distant horizon that ends in mountains. It puts my heart at rest and sets my spirit free, corny as that sounds. It’s one of the reasons I like winter. There is a lot less interference from those green bushy things.

I take a lot of photos of the horizon when I’m out rambling with the dogs, usually because the skies here are so amazing (and the ending in mountains thing).

 

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Storm Coming into Town

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Driving North from Taos

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Rabbitbrush Flats

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Early Spring

 

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never —”
 —
“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.
Stephen Crane

***

…and Hell

In other horizontal news, today is the first anniversary of the Women’s March in which so many women wore pink hats resembling cat ears. I have very mixed feelings about it. I have friends marching in their local march, believing their marching will make a statement, a difference. I honestly don’t think it does, will, or could except to themselves and that’s completely respectable to me.

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All my best wishes and more power to the pussy hat wearing multitudes, but I’m not joining you.

I remember in the 70’s my best friend was about to join the Woman’s March (a bra burning activity combined with marching on a downtown street). First, she had small breasts, second, she made a lot more money than I did. Burning something that I needed and cost me a day’s work was AGAINST my personal liberation. Third, I thought it was bullshit. “Men” have always known women are around. Some men (in my experience) have regarded women as human beings and equals without even trying to. Some men have viewed women as mental and physical inferiors. Some men regard women as prey. Some men are just assholes.

All of this can be said of women, too. I will now speak that which should not be said, “Sarah Palin.”

I was working at a law firm while all this was going on in the 70s. Back then, when my boss wanted to take me to lunch after I’d done some really good work for him taking telephone depositions of Mafia members, he had an existential meltdown. Should he or shouldn’t he? He was afraid he was being unfaithful to his wife.

That brings me to the essential question of “rights.” Rights can’t be “given” from one person to another. Rights have to be taken. What hampers that process? Ultimately, physical strength. That’s why we have laws to protect the weak.

There have been women managers in my life just as ego-driven and difficult as male managers; I’ve even been hit on by a couple of the women who were my bosses with the implication that if I…, then… Did they “learn” this from men, or is it just the natural outgrowth of physical desire and power?

I don’t know.

Or is this protest simply against the current president? That’s another thing with a big glitch. He truly does not care at all what we do or how we feel about him. I think there’s only one (legal) protest that might make any difference and that is to vote.

Meanwhile, later, I’m going to pursue the horizon.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/horizon/

Silence is Relative…

There is no shortage of silence here, real, true, country silence, especially in winter.

Not long ago we were rambling down this road in the Rio Grande Wildlife area, a road that is accessed only on foot, horseback or bicycle except for BLM and Fish and Wildlife who manage the slough. It’s nice to have a wide trail for the sake of visibility and the composition of photos. 😉

We’d been there a month before, at the end of summer. Throughout the two moments, the Sandhill Cranes were passing through on their way to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. In the silence of late October, their calls were everywhere. For me it’s part of the magical silence of the San Luis Valley.

Other bird sounds frame the winter silence. Right now it is the sudden flight of ducks, startled by the sound/sensation of my cane hitting the ground. They rise up by the dozens, flapping and calling. There are magpies and another small bird I don’t know, who chirrups and dives over the water.

And wind. Very often, the only sound is wind.

Otherwise, silence.

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Sunny and shady sides of an anthill

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/silent/

The Messiah

Yesterday my friend, E, invited my friend K and I to go with her to hear The Messiah which was being performed at the catholic church in Alamosa by the Valley Community Chorus and the San Luis Valley Symphony.

Remember. The “community” is as large as Connecticut and has fewer than 50,000 people in it.

The sanctuary was PACKED. We were a little late because of me. I had some problems with the dogs while I was getting “gussied up” (elegance? not quite) and ultimately forgot to close the back door and we had to turn around, but we still got seats.

The first singer was a young man with an amazing tenor voice.

I listened to the music and its story and thought of Jesus.

I think a lot about Jesus. People’s belief in Jesus is about all I write about. And, it’s a big thing for people. When I bought my new table, the very nice people from whom I bought it asked me about my church. It’s a normal thing here. I am also OK telling the truth which is that I’m good with God, I don’t want to join a team.

Some atheist friends of mine in San Diego who were using a Christ based curriculum to homeschool their kids got around it by calling it the “Jesus story.” I think it’s a lot more than that. I think it’s a very important story beyond the boundaries of any organized religion. It’s humanity’s story. I was conscious of it again listening to the Messiah.

This little baby is born — a birth that is miraculous because we can’t have an ordinary birth or an ordinary baby if we’re going to make this an important story.

In The Messiah (and in the Christmas story) my favorite part is where the angels appear to the terrified shepherds and say, “Be not afraid…”

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2

Compassion, in the sky.

When they got to “…peace, good will toward men” I wanted to cry.  I saw the whole thing.  Thousands of generations people at war with someone, mothers and fathers mourning the deaths of their children, cultures destroyed. I saw acrimony and anger everywhere FOREVER. Me in an argument on Facebook about whether my “remote” valley “deserves” tax money from the good people of Denver to keep operating our tiny, rural, life-saving airport.

And all the while, people are yearning for peace, including me, but I also want to punch the guy’s face in for not getting it.

Why is it so hard? Jesus — and others — have laid it out very clearly. “Love God and love your neighbor.” It’s totally possible to do those two things whether God’s name is Yaweh or Lamont. It doesn’t matter. And if there IS no God, you can still love your neighbor.

And I thought — not for the first time — “Poor Jesus.”

The story spun itself out climaxing in Jesus resurrection in the “Hallelujah Chorus” for which everyone stood and some sang along. It was a beautiful moment observing the people who live in ‘my” valley.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/elegance/

Have I Got a Gorgeous Gorge!!!!

Rio Grande Gorge, outside Taos, New Mexico surprised me. I have been through Taos many times in my life but NEVER on the road that crosses this bridge. On both sides are vendors of all kinds — mostly Native Americans selling silver jewelry. And then the bridge and then the view. Since my trips to Taos are usually NOT tourist jaunts, I have yet to get out of the car and walk across the bridge. That’s kind of all right with me. I’m more than a little acrophobic. But, I have a plan to visit Taos on my own sometime after Christmas when all the hub-bub has died down, and Taos returns to the sleepy town of 1930 paintings. I’ll stop and cross the bridge then.

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I love the geologic song of the river here as it chisels its way through the slowly uplifting layers of the east edge of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s a view into time.

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“My” Rio Grande as it passes Monte Vista

I love this river. Yesterday walking beside it, listening to it, looking through the clear water, enjoying the promise of ice on the sides, already growing, I thought again of how lucky I am to have moved here more-or-less accidentally.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/gorge/

River, Wind, Frogs and Birds

The first time I saw the Rio Grande I thought it was a road. I was staying in South Fork, a mountain town west of here, during the transition month between arriving in Colorado and finding a house to live in. I looked down from the field where I walked my dogs every day and saw an asphalt gray ribbon, as wide as a car lane, winding through the golf course below. I didn’t realize it wasn’t a road until 3 am one Sunday morning when Lily T. Wolf needed to go out. There were no trucks on the highway; the night was silent and I heard the river.

When daylight came we were, of course, out again and in the morning light the “road” was no longer gray but silvery blue. At that moment, it became my river.

This afternoon, Bear and I went out to the slough. The Rio Grande is now the highest I’ve seen it, and the channels that run through the slough are also deep and fast. Today all I heard on our walk was wind, the river, some frogs, red-wing blackbirds, and an annoyed goose. To me it’s really something to hike along a trail, listening to a river.

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One of the channels in the slough

Bones in the Dust

 

I’m living in the land of the Conquistadores. Just a few miles to the west is one of their actual trails. I’m kind of reading a book Old Spanish Trail, North Branch by Ron Kessler. It includes journals from many of the men who found themselves on this trail, guys like Don Diego de Vargas, Roque Madrid and Juan Bautista de Anza. Los Conquistadores seem to have been more along the lines of Los Exploradores except for the people they killed along the way and so on and so forth. It was the times.

A couple of weeks ago, unable to find a place to hike where Dusty would not bother someone, I decided “Why not? It’s just right there!” There’s a beautiful marker and a plaque with drawings and a legend on it by the highway (my street) and from it a road and trails. Mostly used by mountain bikers, but supposedly for hiking.

It is in no way a beautiful landscape. Rabbit bush, sand, gopher holes and, if I were a rattlesnake, I would live there and bring out my whole family from wherever to join me. It’s desolate and filled with bones of large mammals — cattle or elk or deer, I don’t know. There was broken glass everywhere from kids having fun with shotguns. The trail was beautifully maintained by the forest service, though, and I could see biking on it.

The strange thing about it was the haunted feeling that I can’t explain. Except for the distant sound of cars and trucks on the highway, it was silent. No birds hunting, no water running, nothing. The sky was huge, the mountains felt distant and, for some reason, maybe sensing my discomfort, the dogs stayed right next to me. We went as far as we had to and turned around. I didn’t want to explore more trails or find out how to get to the arroyo to the east. I didn’t want to discover anything about it.

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I have thought a lot since about the conquistadores and the press they have gotten in recent decades. When I moved to San Diego in 1984 and began teaching at San Diego State, there was a dorm/apartment named El Conquistador, shortened by everyone to “El Conq.” Over time a ballyhoo was raised that the name El Conquistador was racist and glorified the oppression of the native people by the Spaniards. It was renamed. Everything connected with the Spaniards became stigmatized — sometimes for good reason.

With these Spanish Conquistadores came Spanish people, many of whom never planned to return to Spain, among them Spanish Jews. It wasn’t easy being Jewish during the Inquisition and these people, though practicing Catholics, many of them, probably had it in their minds that they would just get OUT of there before the next purge.

Who these early settlers WERE was unknown until 2001 when Hispanic women from the San Luis Valley showed up in Denver with a particular kind of breast cancer that’s attached to a particular genome that is known to belong only to Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe.

To learn more about them, here is an article in Smithsonian Magazine

The Old Spanish Trail goes beyond this haunted sand. It follows the edge of the San Juans where there is water (streams, springs and, of course, the river) through the place I hiked with friends a week or so after my wandering in the Haunted Hell-scape. Penitente Canyon SHOULD feel haunted, but it didn’t, to me. I’ve only seen a bit of it — going back tomorrow, I think. On the edge of the canyon are wagon tracks — cart tracks — of the Old Spanish Trail.

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My experience in this landscape is that it’s unlikely anyone conquered anything. I imagine the Conquistadores as small, lost dots of humanity struggling to figure out where the hell they were and, naturally, foisting their world on this one in the certainty that comes from fear. I might call them “Los Hubrisitos” but I don’t think that’s a word.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/conquer/

Hill!!!!

Since I got back from Europe, where I had problems walking because of my knee and because of my Achilles tendon, a side-effect of some antibiotics, I’ve “ridden” my Airdyne Stationary Bike “religiously.” I figured that if that is all I will be able to do — along with a mile or two long saunter with my dogs — it’s OK. I was going to have to be happy with it. I really did not expect more. I did not expect my tendon to heal, ever, and though I knew that training the muscles around the knee helps a lot, I didn’t think there would be even one hill in my future.

To my immense happiness and surprise, there was this one.

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This is a respectable hill, especially if climbed in Birkenstocks. 🙂 I was thrilled to the core that I could climb it and go down, no problems, no trekking poles, no shaky moments of iffy balance, just strength and the joy of a hill. I can’t wait for the next one.

The hill goes up to a chapel that is built in the old Spanish style even though it’s only 30 years old.

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Shrine of the Stations of the Cross Photo by Lois Maxwell

 

Along the way are the Stations of the Cross done in bronze. I liked the sculptures very much because they look like the people from around here, the people who have been here since the Spaniards came in the 16th century.

This hill is above the oldest town in Colorado — and one of the oldest non-Native American towns on the continent, the town of San Luis. I could see WHY they would stop there and build a town. It is the most beautiful place I’ve seen in the San Luis Valley.

There is also a small, old adobe church from the 19th century that is built in the “Adobe Gothic” style, the Sangre de Cristo Catholic Church.

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