February, but…

It’s just February, and not even quite Valentine’s Day yet, but yesterday Bear and I had lovely saunter in spring-like temperatures to see the cranes, those who have arrived already. Northern parts of my state are gripped in very cold weather, but down here it’s barely even chilly, just under freezing (29 F) when I got up this morning. It hit 53f (12c more or less) yesterday. Even though winter wear is now virtually weightless, and I love my Patagucci down sweater, I still felt that feeling I had as a kid when I didn’t have to wear my coat and headed out in a sweatshirt.

In other ways it was a spring-like walk, too. Bear and I had our first visit of the season with Crane Tourists, an older guy and his wife or girlfriend. The old guy explained they wanted to get here “before the crowds.” I took that to mean before the crowds of people, but he and his wife are also here before the crowd of cranes have arrived. Still, as Bear and I approached the pond where the cranes were huddled on the far side, the man had gone off trail (grrrr) to take a photo through some chamisa scrub. OH well. The cranes didn’t mind. The ground is frozen and the plants are sleeping. No way he could do much harm.

Crane Tourists in Monte Vista are an interesting breed of tourist. They are either boomers or young people. The men in both groups often sport beards. The women in both groups wear brightly colored socks. In many respects they seem like trans-generational echoes of each other both in apparent and less visible values. BUT…the older ones are more talkative. They are very sincere, ready to tell you about other times and other places where they’ve seen cranes and what the cranes do. I suppose it’s possible that I might someday get jaded about the Sandhill Crane, but right now I love to hear people rhapsodize. Godnose I’ve done enough of that myself (thank you for your patience).

So I heard from this old guy that he’d been to New Mexico at Bosque del Apache to watch the cranes, and I got a description of their sunset behavior, and a description of the crane’s dance, complete with demonstration. I totally understand crane love and the dance was adorable performed by a grizzled old guy in a baseball cap, a red bandana, heavy sweater, and hiking boots, with a big camera around his neck. Since the dance the guy was doing is a mating behavior, I wondered how his wife was taking it. 🙂

I thought again about what conversation means to people. It really isn’t only about what they say, but a mysterious thing designed to establish status and community.

Anyway, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) who manages the refuge is opening the gates to flood the Refuge as some of the ponds are already melting and the cranes have been arriving steadily. Not all that early. I was seeing them this time last year, but not in these numbers.

This year you can attend the Monte Vista Crane Festival — even if you’re in far-flung England, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, India, Spain — ANYWHERE.

Here’s how. I’ll post this again closer to the date which is March 12 in this hemisphere, maybe the 13th for you on the future side of the dateline. 🙂 (Featured photo by Lois Maxwell)

Invitation to the Monte Vista Crane Festival 2021


The Frazzled Season

The world seems frazzled to me right now. I’m frazzled, too. The bright sun and heat give me migraines. I try to put a good face on it, but… The thing is, this is the season of….


A little voice yells…

Don’t Risk It!!!

This season will be followed in a few months by its correlate, a season I know as,


People will resolve not to plant so much next year. I’ll remember that I don’t really like zucchini (except curried) and how much of that can one little lady eat? When the tomatoes succumb to an early frost (after I’ve covered them numerous times before that event) I’ll sigh with relief. “That’s over.”

After that, things will slowly get good again.

Things being good….

I’m not one of those women who emerges from her back door the first sunny day in March and says, “I just can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt.” Yeah, people say that. Cool people. People I know.

My actual friends!!!!

From this year’s garden experience I’ve learned a few things. Bending down to plant stuff hurts my knees. Carrying 30 pound bags of landscaping bark is OK, but 50 pound bags of dirt is not. I do not enjoy this. Teddy follows my lead and digs anywhere I do. It appears the San Luis Valley is in another drought. It’s hard to tell when the place itself is a desert, but yeah. When spring grass crunches under your feet, it’s a sign. Yesterday I spent hours carefully setting the water. I have an automatic sprinkler system but 1) I don’t know how to turn it on and off seasonally and, 2) I can’t afford the water bill that ensues.

But the iris and peonies are budded out. The Forget-me-Nots are reminding me of their existence. The new leaves on the aspen trees are quaking and shimmering in the wind. The hills are softened and gentle in the evening light. Last evening when I headed out with Bear, a blue-bird called to me and I answered. It was a pleasant — if simple — conversation (my vocabulary is limited). You just have to take the bitter with the sweet, I guess.

The trailer below is from a REAL movie that is incredible funny. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


Church of the Blue Heron, the Eagle, the River, the Mountains and the Meadowlark

I was raised in the American Baptist church but life carried me into a different faith, one that was correctly identified by a little boy as “Panentheism.”

It was nice to have a word for it.

Still, I know my Bible very well which is lucky since, so far, all the novels I’ve written are about Christianity one way or another. I like the Bible very much and Jesus’ story is inspiring and sad. The saddest day of all is this one in the Christian calendar, a day called Maundy Thursday. It’s the day when Jesus had dinner with his pals and then went up to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, knowing he would be betrayed by one of his friends. He knew his destiny (we all know our destiny, but some people are unfortunate as was Jesus to know WHEN and HOW).

It is my favorite part of the Bible because, like Jesus, I wouldn’t want to leave this beautiful garden. So, on Maundy Thursday I usually make a point to spend time in the Garden to think about things, about the numerous “cups” that don’t pass by us in our lives, and how humans so often have the courage to accept the cup however unwillingly or however much they feel unworthy of the charge put upon them.

Today when I went out with Bear I had forgotten what day it was in the Christian Calendar. But, as I stood looking at the pastel shades of REAL spring (not daffodils, tulips, etc.) I remembered. Already by then I’d watched a bald eagle swoop and dive for prey and then allow himself to be carried aloft and away on the wings of the wind, a beautiful thing to see. I’d seen a blue heron take advantage of a lull in the spring winds to float from a tree down to the river. I’d noticed the blue and golden swallows are back, diving for bugs whenever they have the chance. When I arrived, I immediately heard the song of the meadowlark. The Sangre de Cristos are still white spires and the river is full and fast.

So, Jesus, I’m sorry for what you went through and for what we all go through. I understand how you felt that night in that lovely place, waiting for the shoe to fall. Thank you for your story and how it reminds me to spend at least one day of the year being as present as possible in this marvelous world. I’m sorry I ultimately couldn’t accept all that about salvation, sin and one religious denomination over another. It just always seemed to contradict this complicated wonder in which I live. I’m totally cool with what other people believe, though. I think the point — as you said — is that we love one another.


The San Luis Valley is famous for cold winter temperatures, potatoes, Great Sand Dunes National Park and high winds. Any month can be very, very windy, but March usually wins the prize.

Yesterday we experienced a lovely Rocky Mountain phenomenon known as the “Chinook.” The word has several meanings — it’s a type of salmon, a type of people, a helicopter — but out here it is a particular wind. We all understand it to mean a warm wind from the west that can melt a foot of snow in a day. It was blowing yesterday, raising our temperatures to 12 C (50 F).

It’s not usually a hard wind, and people generally welcome it. When I took Bear out for our walk I felt the Chinook immediately. For the first time in months I was not wearing a goose down sweater, Buff and cap, just a fleece lined sweatshirt.

“Chinook, Bear,” I said. She shoved her nose into the soft snow remaining on the golf course, unimpressed. I savored the sight of my ski trails memorialized in snow now too soft to ski.

“Those were the days, Bear.”

Once out in the big empty, I looked across the fields at the two “town” mountains — Pintada and Bennet — and saw the unmistakeable signs of chinook on their shining, white summits. “Summit” is a relative term here. Bennet is a 12k foot hill and Pintada is a thing of beauty shaped something like a gentle ocean wave.

A chinook wind is a lovely thing even if you like snow, never want it to melt and are sad at the coming of spring.

“The warm wind kept blowing
…like a low chant from the land
or like the flurry of far wings…
lapping up the snow…
until the whole body of earth
lay brown and breathing
except for the topknots of buttes
and, away and away,
the high float of mountains…
Promise of Spring.”

A.B. Guthrie, Jr., from These Thousand Hills.

Chinook wind in Montana

Pondering Inevitability and Taking a Stand

I got up, let the dogs out, made coffee, put it on the stove, made my breakfast smoothie, let the dogs in, fed the dogs, took my daily meds, moved the lap top to the table in the “room of all life” and opened to the RDP daily prompt. I found an SAT word that I always kind of liked, and it has given me my chance to take my stand here and now.

Even though my position is completely unavailing, I’m diametrically opposed to Spring. Why?

Spring is NOTHING but hype.

Allow me to present my argument.

First and foremost, where I live, spring is manic. Everyone can get settled into the noxious fecundity of this season, gasping at the unsurprising beauty of a crocus “Oh oh, my first crocus! Spring is really here! Hope is reborn!” and we can have a hard freeze in May or a big dump of snow.

I live in hope of the snow dump.

Second, it’s muddy. My alley has ruts six inches deep in this slimy mess. The trails I hike could easily suck off my shoes. Never mind the dogs’ feet bringing all that into my house, onto my hardwood floors, sand paper, essentially.

Third, and most egregious, it ends in summer. Once spring starts, there’s no going back. Even a hard freeze in May or a large snow dump won’t stop it. Summer comes. As the poet said, “If spring comes, can summer be far behind?” What? That’s not what he said?

Spring brings us to summer which brings me to lawn-mowing (which I hate), watering (which I hate paying for), gardening (which I barely do having learned how well the birds are at tending my garden). In June there are four or five really hot days, too. The tourists come from Texas and clog my street with giant RVs and noise from Memorial to Labor Days. Golfers return to “my” golf course which means we can’t walk there. Summer is just one long day after the other, often ending in torrential rain and hail.

Stoic that I am, I make the best of it. It doesn’t last forever.

I thought I was alone in having these feelings, but yesterday I got an email from my local Nordic ski club with the tagline, “It ain’t over yet!” and a short report of trails they’ve recently groomed. OK, I might have to drive further than half a block to get there, but…

Spring? Just Say NO!!!

Dear Normal People:

Spring is several weeks away. 28 days + 7 or so. Back off. Anyway, what’s so great about it?

Spring is a silly season, ambivalent and immature. It’s childish and makes horrible mistakes. A couple of years ago Spring, in a fit of pique, threw us a hard freeze toward the end of itself, and we had NO apples in the San Luis Valley. Spring is sinister like that. In pictures it looks all pretty like a girl in a prom dress, but seriously? It’s war. 60-70 mph winds, mud, ticks, sandstorms (gravel storms, actually). Nasty. Sure, winter has its problems — ice, cold, but it’s not going to pull the rug out from under your hopes — well, a little bit — but not like spring.

That whore.

And then what? SUMMER! Horror. Lawn mowing, mosquitos, endlessly tending the damned garden, afternoon hail storms, and those long, long hot days when you can’t walk your dogs until 7 pm and people are using the golf course for — golf. No thanks. It’s dark times from March 21 until October with its chill nights, swirling leaves and the promise of winter.

I just grit my teeth and try to get through Spring and Summer. I’m in no hurry.

Yesterday I was driven to write poetry in response to blog posts about longing for spring. Here they are…

Stay away spring
with your oozing, sticky mud
your wind and dust storms
your promises and betrayals
apple blossoms blown from trees.

Stay away spring
A little more snow
more trails and skiing
Places for my dog to bound
through deep soft drifts
before the fecund nightmare
starts again.


Everyone yearns for spring.
I wish winter stayed longer
Deep drifts and ski tracks.

I woke up this morning thinking I’d done the right thing going into debt temporarily to buy my skis because it MIGHT be that won’t happen again on the golf course and I hesitate to go up to the mountains alone, especially with a non-4WD car. Then I thought, “How stupid. No one had 4WD cars back in the day but we all went to the mountains. What fearful wusses we have become. And with cell phones!!!”

BUT… I am not in the spring or summer or even autumn (well, maybe I’m in November or something, late autumn) of my life anymore. That’s a non-negotiable, material difference. Back in the summer of my life, I did strap my skis to the top of my VW Bug and head to the untrammeled wilds alone. I didn’t consider the dangers back then, only the thrill of skiing up (then down) favorite hiking trails.

Next year I will attend the early season socials of the San Juan Nordic Club, the heroes who groom the trails around here. I’ll stifle my shyness and bring my potluck dish. Who knows? I might meet a similar soul who needs a pal for the back country.

Your pals,

Martha and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog


Accepting the Inevitable…

“What’s up?”

I point toward the sky. The mailman laughs.

“Same ol’ same ol’,” he says. “Nothin’ changes.”

“Not that anyway.” We have jokes that have now been running for 3 years.

“Beautiful weather though,” the mailman says. He knows I like the cold and snow and this 70 degree crap is not my thing. He’s baiting me.

“It’s OK if you like comfortable temperatures and stuff.” I was mowing the lawn when he pulled up with my mail which contains two packs of seeds. Clearly I’ve surrendered, but the local greenhouse won’t open until May 6. That’s when we can be confident we’ve seen the year’s last hard frost

“You’re a c-r-a-z-y lady. Have a good weekend!” He’s off, and I finish mowing.

I think about San Diego. In the first few years I lived there I missed cold and snow and mountains so bad that if it did snow in the local mountains, I HAD, at least, to see it. I remembered dashing up No Name (now known as Kwapaay) at Mission Trails Regional Park to reach the top before dark, so I could at least see the snowy Cuyamaca Peak (see above) 35 miles to the east. I remembered sitting on the damp, red earth, leaning up against a rock just looking at the snow peak until I couldn’t see it any more. And the snow was good up there. Good X-country skiing, fascinating version of winter. When I moved up there, my life improved.

I don’t know what the deal is between me and cold and snow. During my recent booby-trap cleaning spell I found a letter from my best friend in middle school. It’s clear, from the fact that she tells me what the homework is, that I’ve been sick at home for quite a while. This happened every winter; strep throat. I can’t take penicillin so, back in the 60s, it was largely a matter of keeping me in bed until the bacteria went away. I had already gotten a damaged heart from a bout of scarlet fever when I was small. I always missed at least a month of winter. I guess I should dread it.

Today I resigned myself to the inevitable arrival of spring. I appreciated the cheery nod of my daffodils and told my emerging peonies that they could think about blooming this year. The lilies I planted for Lily T. Wolf have poked up through the dirt. Everything’s on schedule. I hope soon to have a bunch of topsoil to finally fill my raised beds on which I plan to do nothing more exotic than scatter wildflower seeds but I like the birds and the garden is near the lilac hedge and bird bath. Birds are already nesting in the hedge.

Hummingbird nest

Hummingbird Nest

Our growing season is short and the whole world seems to be shouting, “Carpe diem!”

Fairies wear boots

Extra Points to Anyone Who gets the Black Sabbath Reference in my Fairy Garden