“This is Great, Martha!”

Today I had the thought of taking Bear out to a place where we used to like to walk a round-about way to the river, but about 10 feet into the walk I had a VERY BAD feeling about it. I made Bear turn around (she was heavily involved in smelling things, notably dog pee; it’s a popular dog walking place thanks to Covid). As we neared the parking lot I saw a car I knew belonged to a nice woman with two dogs she lets run off leash.

Wow. Talk about intuition. She waited until I got Bear into Bella. As I drove away she waved and smiled (we are happy to see each other these days) and her two dogs ran down the trail.

“We’ll go to our happy place, Bear,” I said and we headed down a country road to the Refuge. And there, as always, we found refuge.

The snow has blown and melted a bit obscuring most of the beautiful tracks I saw last time. Here is all that remains of the elegant calligraphy left by a doe and her young one. It seems they drag their feet slightly, making a beautiful pattern.

There were a couple of short stories, too. By “short” I mean made by short animals (har-dee-har-har). Mice, those with the footprints and the line (his little tail dragging) and mouse tracks with the tail up (was something chasing him?).

Bear and I had a wonderful time. There was lots of silence to enjoy. It was my first walk since the injury two weeks ago that I wasn’t limping or walking awkwardly. It was fun. Now I’m reconsidering the ski resolution. Maybe I’ll just get bindings that work better. Not sure. On the way from the place where we DIDN’T walk to the place where we DID I saw people skiing on the lake. They weren’t having any big challenge out there on a groomed trail, though if the temperatures keep rising, they might have a MAJOR challenge.

Some Decent Snow, a Little Politics

We haven’t had this much snow since early September. Truth. Today I get to confront the dilemma which is a surfeit of riches. My two favorite outdoor activities — walking with Bear in the snow and X-country skiing on the golf course. I’m pretty sure that the one I will choose will be walking with Bear in the snow, but wow. To have to — get to — choose!!!

I love snow so much that, when it has fallen in the night, I wake up because the light changes. At the moment Bear is exhausted from playing with Teddy in the snow for three hours, so I suppose I’ll go out and shovel. The snowplow has spun my mailbox around, but at least it didn’t knock it down and scatter the parts asunder. (I got to use “asunder”)

I think, after tomorrow, hopefully, inshallah, life will lighten. Last night I looked at pictures of Washington Mall as it has been decorated ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Personally, I’m so sick of show and fanfare that I would like Biden to be inaugurated in the living room of Blair House with no one there but the press, Dr. Biden (my hero), Kamala and her husband, but I guess we can’t do it that way. Maybe a little fanfare is appropriate. It’s just that the showboating fanfare of 45’s regime was so grotesque and continuous that well, you know. If you have a party every day you never have a party. But the decorations are appropriate and moving. When I looked at the flags that are standing in for an audience on the Washington Mall ahead of Biden’s inauguration I felt sad and peaceful at the same time. People SHOULDN’T be there.

My cousin has had to go back to the ER. She’s physically stable now, but the virus is affecting her mental acuity. We’re hoping it’s just a temporary thing. I’m sad and scared for her and I think about the families and friends of the 400,000 people who have died! ❤

I think one thing that will happen with Biden resulting from his seriousness about the pandemic is that we won’t have to struggle against the lies which has meant struggling against our feelings. NORMAL feelings in this situation are apprehension, conviction and sorrow. Trump distracted us from normal human emotions during this time with all the gaslighting and deflecting and ignoring and denying of the reality that people have died and people are ill. This left us to feel anger, frustration and fear. All along I’ve believed it should have been one single minded purpose toward minimizing the casualties, in real life, not through mere denial, coupled with teaching people how to be safe. That couldn’t be done with “leadership” like Trump. That Dr. Fauci’s life was threatened was shocking, shattering.

I also thought about the lies and ruckus from 4 years ago when, in the face of palpable evidence to the contrary, 45 insisted his inauguration had more people than Obama’s had had. Joe Biden isn’t going to have an easy job. He’s not a young man, but he’s had training for this job, and he’s intentionally gathered experienced people around him that he already knows he can work with. When people say its “Obama 2” I think, “If I had to take on this job with a mess like this, I wouldn’t want to break in a new staff. I’d want to know the people I’m working with so we can just get right on it.” I think that’s what he’s done. My hope is that the impeachment trial doesn’t take precedence to moving ahead with crucial appointments. The only advantage I can see to convicting 45 is that it will mean he won’t get the perqs former presidents usually get. I want to add that I don’t really care WHAT party a president comes from as long as he or she is a good, ethical person who cares about the American people. My belief is that good leadership is leadership that allows the people the freedom to do what THEY do while the people in government take care of what they were hired to do.

The pictures of the Washington Mall are here: https://www.nbcwashington.com/…/field-of…/2545279/…


Painting Against the Gotterdammerung

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home” pretty much sums up my feelings at this moment. I have no great inspiration right now, but just the act of painting, realizing an idea or facing down a challenge, is healing and distracting.

On my birthday, I spent the morning on the phone with my cousin for whom I did this painting as a birthday gift from my cousin’s daughter:

On the phone she mentioned she loved it but what she REALLY loved was the painting on the back which is my “logo” — a little quickly done painting of the mountains near my house, notably, Windy Mountain. So, I decided to paint her a little painting featuring that scene (featured image).

The big project I was struggling with was a salmon colored poppy. Red poppies are easy because the color is intense and self-reliant, but salmon? When you start mixing colors and are dealing with pastels, everything is trickier, for me anyway. Not my favorite painting, but not a total failure, either. This garden sign is 23 x 12

Meanwhile, they’re alleging snow, but Bear and I are skeptical. I’m not doing great art at the moment. It’s been an intense and artistic few months and the psyche is a little tired, not to mention the relentless scary ugliness of current events. SO… I guess I’ll just keep painting toward better days and hope for snow… March is sometimes the snowiest month of the year.

This poppy is in my Etsy Shop. https://www.etsy.com/listing/939396195/salmon-poppy-garden-sign

Monday, Monday

The grey clouds are shuffling around out there as if they were working, but the odds are against them (and Bear and me). Bear doesn’t know what the forecast says and I’m not telling her. Anyway, they’re predicting less than a centimeter so who cares? Actually, ANY amount of snow makes Bear happy, and I try to follow her lead. She’s not thinking, “I can’t ski on this.” She’s thinking, “SNOW!!!” and she’s right.

Looks like it’s going to be one of those dry winters.

I don’t know about all of you, but I’m tired. I remember this particular week in the calendar from when I was a kid. I ALWAYS just wanted to get back to school, to my friends, to learning things. For some reason, Christmas week was more ennui-filled even than the dog days of summer. Christmas was always supposed to BE SOMETHING GREAT, but it never was. And New Years? What was that? This year has been such a rollercoaster, that right now, at this moment in it, I just wish someone would give me new glasses, that I was better at painting letters, that it would snow FOR REAL and that I could hike for days in the California mountains I left behind. What’s wrong with THESE mountains, you ask? Nothing. They’re great, beautiful, immense but along with the California mountains were two good legs and no avalanches. And snow? Well when it did snow, it was always a LOT more than a centimeter.

I think we’re all tired. Ooops. Here comes the sun.


The Masks I Like to Wear

The mask in the photo above signifies 1) that it’s cold outside and 2) that I’m out in it. The one in the photo isn’t particularly warm, but it’s OK. My ultimate mask is this one:

One layer of fleece and a layer of whatever Buff puts on its, uh, buffs. This mask means either that the day is very cold or I’m moving at a rate of speed somewhat faster than I walk. In short — I’m on my skis.

We got a skiff of snow last night and I’m getting a sense of how this winter is likely to play out. We might not get a dump (we might), but it will be cold and these little bits at a time will build up to an icy, windblown, five inches. That’s OK with me. I am absolutely NOT picky.

Last year I found myself sliding into the Colorado snow mentality, thinking, “Naw. Not good enough.” What IDIOCY especially for a person on the shady side of the mountain! Carpe Nix!!! (There’s your daily Latin lesson [and mine]) NEVER in Southern California would my thoughts have gone in that direction. As the song says, “Any snow is good snow, so I take what I can get.”


The Colorado Handsaw Massacre

One very good way to deal with frustration is with a pruning saw. The second day after the snowpocalypse of September 9 or 8 or whatever it was, I went out to the back yard — the dog’s yard — to see that essentially half my neighbor’s nasty Chinese elm had fallen onto the vintage clothesline pole.

Summer snow is heavy and when most of it lands in five hours on fully leafed trees? Ha.

I examined it as well as I could in 14 inches of snow and decided I had no clue and went back in the house. After all, I had about a gazillion other branches to deal with all along the alley.

In the fullness of time I was able to look at the mess and I saw it was way above my skill level and I walked away again. Frustrated.

But I went back. And I started sawing off branches and pulling stuff down that I could pull down safely. Every afternoon since, I’ve worked on that damned tree. I figured it was in my power to clean up a lot of the mess and make the yard safe for the dogs to play in and for me to clean up. It’s a lowly aspiration, but it’s mine.

My ally in the battle against the tree, frustration and hopelessness is this little guy.

So far we’ve accomplished a lot. I’m tying stuff up in bundles for the trash to take, all but two branches that are too big.

I’ve called a guy who’s coming tomorrow to give me an estimate on the BIG job and to check the roof of my garage.



Thanks to the summer snow storm, which officially dumped 16 inches on Monte Vista, I have a huge mess to contend with. Half a tree broke off my neighbor’s excrescent elm and landed in my yard. Luckily, it didn’t break the fence. Another giant chunk of the self-same excrescence is looming dangerously over my garage. I’m waiting until next week to call anyone (since I can). The meteorological rumor is that next week temps will be in the 70s and the sun will be shining. And who knows? I might overcome my terror of chainsaws and take care of the branch in my yard myself (doubtful).

The City of Monte Vista was out yesterday cutting trees away from power lines. I’m bristling at what I’ll have to spend to deal with those trees, but it’ll be better than paying for a new garage roof. It’s just the kind of nagging problem that seems to have kept humanity going for thousands of years.

Like everyone else, Nature is easier to love when she’s being nice to you. On the bright side, the mountains are beautiful and Bear is blissful and no one will need to water anything for the rest of the year. And…

In other good news…


Summer Storm

I got up at 6 (not my usual thing AT ALL) and Bear and Teddy greeted me with the big news that it had SNOWED!!!! Bear nearly dragged me out the back door to see. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I already knew…

Easily 20 inches in my yard. Broken tree in the front (city’s tree, not mine). I can see a lot of chain saw action happening in the next few weeks.

I suspect the snow is insulating the beans and tomatoes at this point

The dogs (who have been up and out since 5 am) have created an agility course out there. They’re playing hide-n-seek, chase and “roll in the snow” like clowns rolling out of a Fiat.

Find the Dogs

Normally I share my dogs’ rapturous feeling about snow, but seriously, this is absurd. It’s still summer. Towns, farms and ranches all through the San Luis Valley have been without power all night. There are downed wires and trees all over the place. Our little hospital is running on its generator.

I’m a little tired of living in historical moments… 😀


Possibilities Arrive in the Mail

Yesterday I got GREAT mail, not any diamonds or rubies, but some great stuff appeared in my maimed mailbox. I got my fishing license which will allow me to take the dogs to the Wildlife Areas when they open next week.

Colorado has a new law that’s due to the increased traffic of people going, “Holy shit, the mall is closed! What are we going to do?” The new law could provide additional revenue and/or keep people off the trails. Initially I was, “What????” But it turned out to be a good deal — under $10 for seniors and to my delight part of that money goes to search and rescue. Compared to California this is a bargain. In many parks and wildlife areas in California, people pay $5 at the door and there IS a door. Not in most of the places I hiked, but lots of places especially those where people actually want to go such as Mount Palomar campground and the trail up to the observatory, and, naturally, various trails in the Redwoods.

After working for a wilderness park, doing trail rehabilitation and organizing volunteers to help with maintenance on heavily used trails, I’m all for keeping ignorant people off trails. I think schools should offer — require — a class in “How to go outside and visit natural landscapes with respect for and consideration of wildlife, plant-life and the ground you walk on.”

I got a new mask. It’s very special and I like it a LOT. It is snowflakes on a winter-sky-blue background with fog and glitter that looks like ice crystals in the air. I don’t think anyone likes wearing a mask. To avoid it I just don’t spend much time where I need one. I go to the store every two weeks and in all this time I’ve made one trip to the vet. Masks are hot and make my glasses steam up and they are, for all of us, reminders of the ubiquitous treachery of a semi-living thing floating around that could hurt us.

It’s weird in these times because what I’m doing right now is actually preserving my life through the choices I have to make. Sometimes I wonder “What the hell is going on?” and then I remember the point of it all which is really December when I can reasonably expect the first snow. It could be sooner, but I see no reason for hoping with reckless abandon which would be snow on Hallowe’en, or throwing caution to the wind and expecting snow in September. It could all happen, but… This little mask looks like the world I’m saving my life for. It’s really that. I just want to go skiing.

Yesterday’s mail also brought the Willow Creek Journal. The Willow Creek Journal is a little literary magazine put out by the Creede Arts Council. It’s a beautiful publication, and I have had paintings published in it two years in a row, including this volume. My painting — Rio Grande in January. — is on the last page. On the same page is a little poem — “Zoetrope (Girl on Skis)” by Wayne Sheldrake. It’s a poem about seeing a girl/woman cross country skiing in the back country and catching her image as she skied a tree-lined trail. I had to look up “zoetrope.” I recognized the word, but it was way back in the convoluted back chambers of my brain, something my brother would say, but its meaning? Lost, lost, lost. It’s perfect, though, for his poem.

Here’s his poem:

From a shuffle
of piked trees,
(still-life on white),
a swiftlet blue
swiftlet of blue
ignited by snowshoe slope
quickened through ice-platinum shadow.

She strobed St. Elmo bright
and lighter than gravity,
through the frozen trees,

like a bird
a strange bird
that knows many secrets
(the invisible looms
and wickets of sylvan
winter flight).

As she turned,
darted away,
bent for open
ice-platinum air,
the trees, bestirred,
sighed with me.

Wayne Sheldrake

The mail was full of promises and reminders of things I love most and I am grateful. I hike at the Wildlife Areas in winter so I can visit the frozen river, a river depicted in my published painting.


Three More Months, a Petrarchan sonnet

Freezing temps, the sky silver with snow,
Airborne crystalline promises shimmer.
In the morning light, minute spectra glimmer.
I leash my big white dog and off we go.
Hoar frost on the bare trees’ smallest branches
breaks free and falls on my dog and me.
As we walk beneath the cottonwood trees
Across the snowy field, the fresh snow crunches.
The parallel tracks of Nordic skis shadow
Our path through the brown and golden tones,
Blue shadows, the angled light of winter noon.
Ahead, Mt. Blanca, covered with snow.
I stop, rest my hand on my dog’s warm back, she
leans against my leg, savoring our gelid paradise.


I haven’t tried this since high school. My sophomore English teacher said that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to learn to write sonnets so I would learn the discipline involved in the effective use of language. I wrote a bunch back then. They really are not easy and I don’t know if he was right nor not, but this was fun. 🙂