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.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/09/18/rdp-friday-frustration/

Chainsaw?

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…


https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/09/10/rdp-thursday-bristle/

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… 😀

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/09/09/rdp-wednesday-clown/

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.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/07/07/rdp-tuesday-ruby/

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. 🙂

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/rdp-wednesday-gelid/

Winter Gets Legit, and Bear and I are So Happy

Bear and I have waited a LOOONNNGGGG time for what we like most: being outside in the snow. Not that any snow has fallen for about a month but it doesn’t matter as long as the temperatures never go above freezing, and they haven’t. It doesn’t look like they will, either.

Teddy — with whom I’ve decided to share my birthday because he was 6 months old when I got him last June — and I took off on Tuesday to celebrate and evaluate the packed trails. They were (and still are) beautiful

The nordic club grooms trails for walkers and skiers ❤

I finally skied (Langlaufed) the groomed trails yesterday and today Bear and I took a long snow ramble. The snow is at least 8 inches deep — fluffy, light, crystalline old snow. Perfect beautiful soft sweet I love it so much. Skiing yesterday was great except the stupid snow baskets came off my poles and weren’t cool about me putting them back. I dunno…

Finally, Martha.
I know, Bear.”

So today out there in boots with my best snow pal, I was able to evaluate the entire groomed course that I didn’t ski yesterday (having had to go back twice to retrieve snow baskets, grrr…) and make plans for tomorrow. My poles and their cheesy baskets will get a stern talking to in the morning, because I must seize the day. ❤

Roald Amundsen had nothing on me.



“Won’t you try a little bit harder, couldn’t you try just a little bit more”

Walk in the Snow with Bear

It remains cold, below freezing, so the snow — though not freshly fallen — still powdery and perfect. I wanted to take the skis out again, but if a person can’t be fair to her dogs, what’s the point of her entire existence? (“Bear, stop putting words in my mouth!”)

Walking in snow a few inches above the ankle is a little difficult, especially when the snow doesn’t compress beneath your foot, but I was totally up to it. It was gloriously beautiful to be back out in the big empty, in the snow, with my big white dog (“I’ve waited a long time Martha!”), beneath the December sky that matches the blue and white of the mountains — the boundary between them marked by the jagged peaks of the Sangre de Cristos reaching into the watercolor-soft blue and white cloudy sky.

Bear likes to lean against me when I’m having a “moment.” I think she knows what’s going on with me. I think she understands perfectly that when I stare off to the horizon that it’s similar to me stopping and waiting as long as she needs to get the entire gist of a message. Sometimes she pulls — her messages seem, often, to carry a sense of urgency (ha ha). This is the biggest challenge. I don’t want to be pulled off balance right now. The messages I get from the sky and the mountains are quiet, reassuring affirmations of my place in the universe.

Bear found hundreds of tracks to, uh, track. Mule deer, certainly, and moose (it seems) as well as a nice patch of fox urine to roll in. She stopped to leave behind a message for her friend the fox should he pass again. My and my friend’s ski tracks rested unmolested. We only walked a mile because my foot is still not 100% and since I want nothing more than to keep skiing, I’m not going to risk anything. And, it happens, skiing is easier than walking.

The scene, this day after the solstice, was right out of John Greenleaf Whittier’s Snowbound, a long meditative poem on winter and my grandfather used to read it to my mom and her sisters and brothers every Christmas. It’s very lovely, evoking all the nostalgia and love of Christmas time, yearning for the past, endless love for those who are now only memories for us, whose stories and lives we carry around in our own lives — for good or ill or both.

The ending of the poem is exactly what I felt today, looking out at the rough snowy line of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the barren trees, the short, December light, my precious Bear leaning against my legs, my feet buried in snow. I felt grateful (again) to be in the San Luis Valley. I thought of the amazing woman I met yesterday at a Christmas concert and the equally amazing woman with whom I went. I looked at my friend’s ski tracks and remembered how much fun we had two days ago. I felt gratitude — again — to all the influences of my life that magically brought me where I am supposed to be.

The traveller owns the grateful sense 
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence, 
And, pausing, takes with forehead bare 
The benediction of the air.

If you’d like to read the whole poem, here it is. Snowbound: A Winter Idyll by John Greenleaf Whittier

LANGLAUF!!!!

Here’s my jubilant little crooked lopsided bow-legged self out there in Blissland having NO problems skiing with my friend. (Yay foot!!!) We’ve talked about it for at least two years, but various problems kept it from happening. The snow was perfect — slick and fast. It’s been below freezing since it fell which means beautiful, perfect, snow. ❤

Replete, of course, by fox and rabbit tracks…

I have nothing more to say other than I’m VERY happy and looking forward to more adventures as the winter progresses, god willing and I’m not ambushed again by a perfectly flat harmless grassy trail.

Happy selfie

P.S. It seems that anyone who wants to know what my dad looked like can pretty much see from looking at me. Ah, DNA

Second Snow…

It snowed. Just a dusting, a trace, but when I got up, Bear’s coat was wet and cold from rolling in her bliss. And it’s cold. 10 F/-12 C. I don’t care. I love it. I’ve been waiting for more than 6 months for winter to arrive.

I did everything that humans have always done to make winter return such as planting a garden, trimming back lilac hedges (grrrr), picking tomatoes, mowing the lawn, watching cranes glean the barley fields. It’s a little known fact that these are the arcane rituals passed down through uncountable generations to further the progress of the fecund seasons and hasten the arrival of the magical moments when the branches are covered in frost and the sun peeks shyly, beautifully, from behind the clouds and fog. “Can I come out?”

“Absolutely! Without you how do we get diamonds on the ground.”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/10/30/rdp-wednesday-glean/

Cyclonic Blizzard of Historic Proportions HFS!!!

If the snow hadn’t been falling so fast and relentlessly, it would have thawed the moment it hit the ground. But it fell fast and we ended up with nearly a foot (20 cm) of heavy, wet snow. Farmers in the San Luis Valley will not have go look outside for hay and pay exorbitant prices, that’s one of the good things about this. The dogs and I took a walk that afternoon, 3/12 with the sky all silver and trying to be blue, Sandhill cranes calling above the fast-moving fog, emerging, stopping me in my tracks to watch them.

The snow was still several inches deep and wet yesterday as Bear and I headed out in shimmering, blinding bright cloud reflected light across the golf course to the big empty. The tracks of a young fox — a kit — enchanted my dog and nothing enchanted me. Even the silvery light hurt my eyes. I’d been fighting a migraine for two days. I think it might have gone its own way over night, but it’s too soon to tell


Meanwhile, up north, the storm — of which our heavy, wet rapid dump was the initiating tail — is winding up what might have been the biggest blizzard in history. More than 1000 flights were canceled at Denver International Airport. Hundreds of cars (and the people in them) were stuck on the Interstate highway between Denver and Colorado Springs. (Didn’t they believe the weather forecast AT ALL??? Maybe they didn’t know what the word “blizzard” means?) and were rescued through the concerted efforts of school bus drivers, high way patrol, local cops and a snowplow.

The party isn’t over. Here’s the highway conditions map for this morning.

Red lines are closed highways and roads. Various shades of blue represent various shades of snow. Purple is high wind. The little red bubbles with the dash are warnings.


It’s been a snowy, snowy winter here in the Great American West, though a sunny, quiet morning here in the domain of Martha, Dusty and Bear. More melt, more thaw, more mud.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/03/14/rdp-thursday-thaw/