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. ❤

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

Quotidian Update 81.2.iiv

Ambient water vapor is a very rare thing out here in the Back of Beyond. Daytime humidity normally registers in the single digits. But, in the winter we have freezing fog, usually in the more humid hours of the night and pretty often we get to wake up to an enchanted world. Those mornings also bring ice crystals in the air, shimmering rainbows, suspended for fleeting moments as they drift down to the snow, tiny spectra on the ground.

The four seasons are equally split, and real winter is probably 3 months away. I haven’t broken the news to Bear, but considering that I have a broken foot, it’s a good thing for me.

Otherwise — Bear missed me while I was up at points north and has been near me every minute since they came home. Lori, the woman who owns the kennel, put my dogs in the kennel next to the grooming area. There’s a window that opens onto that kennel so Lori could pet them, and I’m sure they got LOTS of attention. Teddy seems a little hesitant and downcast, like, “You left me!” As someone abandoned him not all that long ago, I understand. He has to learn that I might leave him with Lori at the kennel, but I will come back.

My dogs suffering in captivity 😀

Vapor

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

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/rdp-tuesday-leaflet/

Magic

“Whoa ho ho ho looking at my backdoor”

I live in a 90 year old house in one of the coldest regions of the lower 48 states. My little old house is not as well insulated or air-tight as new houses. When the temperature gets to the VERY negative numbers, there’s frost inside some of the windows. There’s always frost inside my back storm door in winter, and sometimes that door is frozen shut. Not to the point that I can’t open it, but, yeah. I dream of a vinyl window in my bedroom and a better storm door, but, in the meantime.

When a fog passes through on the frigid backside of a snow-dumping front, frost transforms everything.

Butterfly Sanctuary, Quotidian Report #35

That elastic spring in my step is gone, I mean LONG gone. But…I think maybe elasticity of mind is as important.

Yesterday, after my adventure at Great Sand Dunes, there wasn’t much elasticity left in the joints in my legs, but I took the dogs out anyway. It was a beautiful day for a walk and they were happy. Me too, though, honestly, it hurt most of the time.

 

***

Snow is forecast for Monday and the first “real” freeze, so I spent this morning out in the yard explaining to all the little plants why they have to be pulled up or cut back.

1

I hate working in the yard in front of my house in the summer. First, it’s a south facing house, which means it’s BLASTING hot. Second, it’s on a major US highway, so there I am, a little old lady in shorts, bending over to tend plants. No. This is not to be born. At a certain point, a couple months ago, I just stopped. I didn’t want to be on TV. As a friend pointed out, you never know when Google Earth is going to come by.

This morning was very cool (bordering on frigid), and the summer traffic is done, making my street just a street in a town. I cut the grass and, simultaneously, using the same tool, “raked” leaves. I cut back plants that will go dormant and pulled out stuff that will die. I found the sunflowers had given me seeds. Most wonderful of all, my neglected lawn — invaded by Piñon asters — was full of Painted Lady butterflies. I did not mow their little sanctuary. They need what the flowers give them more than I need to mow…

 

 

P.S. I did not take the photo of the butterfly. I tried, but whenever I got near, they flew away. I took it off the Internet.

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