Pupdate… 10/3/2015


Bear is now 6  months old and she weighs about 50 pounds and is nearly as large as Dusty. She’s a lanky, clumsy, goofy, sweet and somewhat capricious though generally calm and gentle dog. She’s also incredibly beautiful. Everyone who meets her is enchanted because she’s obviously a puppy, though she’s so big, and she has soft white fur and beautiful blue eyes. I’m happy that’s the case because I want her to like people. Her breed is generally a guarding breed and I’m hoping Bear learns the difference between a menace and just ordinary life. She seems to be getting it. She especially loves children.

She’s like most other 6 month old puppies, but she’s twice as big as an average medium sized full-grown dog. Some of my friends argue that she won’t grow much larger, she’ll just fill out. For my part, I don’t know. I think she’s going to be a giant dog. I’ve raised many large breed puppies and they were never this big at 6 months.

So she’s a teenager and she acts like one. One minute she’s Miss Independent “You can’t tell me what to do!” and the next she’s “Look how good I’m doing this thing you asked me to and now I’m going to walk at heel just because I know you like it.” The other morning, having noticed I hadn’t completely closed the guest room door and being upset that Mindy was in my room, she went onto the guest bed and made a nest with muddy feet. She knew she’d been bad and she knew I knew she’d done it on purpose. It wasn’t our best day…

A friend of mine showed up this afternoon and hung out for a while — a new thing for Bear — and since then Bear’s been as close to a lap puppy as she’s physically capable of being. Here she is sleeping on my shoulder… That never happened before.

Bear sleeping on my shoulder

I’m so glad I got her. She’s just a great dog. And a GREAT dog!



In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ode to a Playground.” A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write it a memorial.

Everything attached to those moments has an air of sanctity — I feel it. I stand in the marble-walled hallway between floors of the old bank building that houses the law firm where I just started working. I’m wearing a wool suit in shades not unlike the color of Monument Valley (where I had not yet been); not pure wool (too hot, too expensive) and a shirt that coordinates (pale peach). I don’t know what I’m doing. They’ve sent me downstairs to the law library to research something about Antelope Island. An oil company wants to exert eminent domain (I don’t know what that is, either) and I’m supposed to find precedents for that not happening. I think, oddly, we’re litigating on behalf of the downtrodden and the environment. Weird.

I’m here (though I don’t know it) because the son of a judge who recommended me is the favorite son of the partners and THEY think the judge’s son’s recommendation means the judge’s son and I are lovers. They want the judge’ good will; they think he’ll give favorable decisions to his son. He’s not the only son of a judge working there, either.

We’re not lovers. We’re friends.

They want to make the judge’s son happy, but he really couldn’t care less. When the firm learns this, they regret their decision to hire this MA in English, but over time, it works out. In my naivete, I don’t realize how much of the world is actually controlled by 1) men, 2) connections and 3) sex.

I have a long way to go in life, and for some reason I apprehend that fact in a few moments on those marble steps. I sit and realize that I will not forget that moment (I haven’t) even though I don’t know what makes it memorable, not at that moment and not now, remembering it.

A few months ago, after I dropped a friend off at the Denver Airport (DIA) I drove home on a semi-familiar freeway (though, in Colorado, it is always called “the Interstate;” California changed me). The city of my youth had vanished, swallowed up by some other place, under so many other people who think they know Denver, who think they belong to Colorado. The rising sun hit the peaks of the Front Range in a very familiar way. The mountains spoke (as always) asserting their immutability (but they’re not immutable — I now know there was even, once, another range of Rocky Mountains)

The only playground is my self, my physical being, my senses, my mind. The Sunday morning Denver streets, 11 am, on which I walked/ran down to Meiningers Art Supply were already changing even as I tripped along them toward Arches cold pressed water color paper back in 1980. The paper would change (I’d paint on it). The molecules in everything are blasting away constantly and all that hold them together is my consciousness. And nostalgia.

My City Was Gone

Lily T. Wolf and Me

Lily 3:11:2015

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Immortalized in Stone.” Your personal sculptor is carving a person, thing or event from the last year of your life. What’s the statue of and what makes it so significant?

The statue could be stone, but it has to be a piece of kinetic art, a person, me, with a stone carving of a Siberian husky at my feet. The moving piece would be my arm which would reach out and pull back over and over again.

That’s what this year has been. I moved away from my home of 30 years and retired from my career of 35 and crossed the Rocky Mountains and arrived in a small Colorado town where I’m trying to make a life. My very elderly Siberian husky, Lily T. Wolf, after suffering canine senile dementia (she was heading into her 16th year) was put to sleep in March. The moving arm? I am challenged with making connections here. It isn’t that people aren’t nice to me and welcoming — they most certainly are — but my pattern so far has been to join in and drop out.

Last winter I joined an online writing workshop with a “school” in Denver. It was supposed to last 8 weeks. I didn’t even make 4. I hated it, mostly because 1) a lot of the writing was bad so I felt like I was back teaching writing, 2) culture shock; the young have taken over and the ethic of good writing is not my ethic. In fact, their ethics are not my ethics. [I had a verbal altercation with a young person here on WordPress over just that, the over-sanitized emasculated world view that is regarded as “tolerance” these days is excruciatingly dishonest and intolerant (IMO). You see, I’d called a bimbo a bimbo…] Some — most — of the participants in the workshop were not among “the young,” however. They were, like me, retirees. But the difference was they were in the workshop because they knew they “had a book” in them. I was there because I had a book OUT THERE. I don’t think a person who “has a book” in them needs a workshop. That book (like a zit, like a splinter, like a baby) is going to come out… And then the story was compared to Tolstoy when it should have been compared to Dostoyevsky. They couldn’t keep their Russian writers straight.

Then I joined an artist co-op. It seemed like a great thing, a place to hang paintings and nice people to know, but it didn’t turn out that way for me. I came face-to-face with something I’d hoped to leave behind forever when I left teaching and that is an intense — and mutual — interpersonal dislike. I couldn’t believe that I was in the middle of a completely elective activity, comprising people who were there from no other motivation than goodwill, and there actually was a person vying for power, a competitive, dogmatic, manipulative, controlling bitch. This was not my assessment alone; it turned out to be a prevailing view of this person, but, unlike the others, I couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t handle being in 2 hour meetings with her, I didn’t want to risk a casual encounter with her, I didn’t want to look at her paintings — in fact, when hers went up in the shop, mine came down to be replaced by drawings — good drawings — but the place ceased being a place where I wanted to hang my work.

“You’re not going to like everyone,” I told myself. But it seems that my skin is inside-out, at least partly, and my ability to tolerate is vastly diminished. I wonder; is it from years of being forced to tolerate, work with and motivate hundreds of people every year with no choice? No way to say, “No, I’m not dealing with this”? I even ended a 30 year friendship with a woman in California because I couldn’t stand her calling me and ranting endlessly about her abusive boyfriend and her health problems (they are related). Have I turned into a quitter?

I don’t know… But a sculpture of this past year would definitely include Lily T. Wolf and my arm, reaching out and pulling back.



In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Lazy Learners.”  Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t gotten around to? What is it and what’s stopping you from mastering the skill?

German. For the last couple of years I’ve been kind of trying to sort of learn German with Rosetta Stone. I think Rosetta Stone is good; it uses the direct method and doesn’t attempt to teach language by teaching the grammar of the language first. It’s not a linguist’s vision of a language learning system and, between us, linguists are a few notches distant from language users.

It’s a debate I had all the time when I was teaching ESL. Many of my colleagues were linguists. At the same time, most of my students had been taught English in that way. Learn grammar then use the actual language which made most students too afraid of making grammatical errors ever to open their mouths. I ran into it again when I studied Italian in Verona. It was maddening. I would attempt to express myself in response to a teacher’s question and be corrected before I got out the whole idea. I think it should be let the student express the idea, respond to what the student has SAID, then correct the student and have the student repeat the corrected statement, but… No one teaches a child to speak by teaching them grammar first… Everyone knows how to use a language by the time they’re ready to study it so why???

Well, German.

German is a strange language. It’s very very very similar to English, and more similar if you’re familiar with older dialects of English. In many ways it comes across to me as an English that never evolved, you know? A backwater version that never went out into the world. German speakers will take offense at that thinking I mean that German is a primitive language. I don’t think so at all (after all, my favorite writer in the world ever is German), but German definitely did not get “out and about” the way English has.

German has a lot of strange elements. Other languages have gender and I speak/read/write those languages (French, Spanish, Italian) but German seems to have no “system” for that. All the Romance languages have distinctive endings (with some exceptions) for male, female and neuter gendered words. An exception in Italian is the word “problem” (problema) has a female ending but it is a masculine word. That exception is completely rational to me — many of my problems have been male. ;-) But with German there’s really no way to know.

And German has weird little “particles” such as “an” which appear whimsically at the end of some sentences for reasons I can’t figure out (are there any?). There is also the fact that German — like Greek — has declensions. The articles in German are (naturally) related to the gender of the word to which they refer but they also reflect singular or plural.

Learning Chinese was actually easier. For that matter Homeric Greek was easier.

So at the moment German is the thing I’m just NOT learning, partly because I understand it already without knowing it. Amazing how that has turned out to be an obstacle.

Six Years Old


In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Life’s a Candy Store.”You get to be a 6-year-old kid again for one day and one day only — plan your perfect 24 hours. Where do you go, what do you do, and with whom?

When I was a little kid I dreamed I was in a candy store with my mom, dad and my little brother. I was enchanted by the beauty of everything — there were toys, beautiful dolls (all with long, flowing dresses) and other wonders I’d never seen before. Lost in the enchantment, I didn’t notice that my family had gone. When I did notice, they were already a block or more down the street.

It was a corner store, with a bell on top of the door (1950s America). I ran out the door and down the street. I was wearing my favorite shoes from back then, red leather with a double T-strap, and my little blue-gray coat and fur-trimmed hat. I called to them but they didn’t turn around. Finally, my dad stopped. He came back to talk to me, kneeling down so we were face to face.

“Martha Ann, the candy store is for you. It’s not for mom, Kirk or me. We’re going where we have to go,. You to go back to the candy store and enjoy it. Look at all the beautiful things and don’t worry about us. I love you very much.” He kissed me, turned me around and sent me back.

I walked slowly back to the candy store in my dream. When I turned around, dad had caught up to mom and Kirk. They held hands and continued on the sidewalk.

Of course, as a little kid, I woke up feeling abandoned and unloved, but as the years have unfolded, I realize that dream was not a nightmare. It was the image of my future. They did walk down the sidewalk and I am still in the candy store. I figure since they put me here, I should do what my dad told me — enjoy it and appreciate its beauty.


And, the most beautiful candy store of all is in Zürich.



In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Yin to My Yang.” How do you define the term “soulmate,” and do you believe in the existence of such a person — for you?

I always thought that the idea of a soulmate was someone with whom you share the innermost workings of your heart and soul. “A soulmate is a person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity,” says Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge. That isn’t exactly what I thought back in the day. I always thought that the soulmate would “complete” me, two halves of one entity, more like this drivel from a new agey spiritual website called “Forever Conscious;”

Soul Mate: Someone who is aligned with your soul and is sent to challenge, awaken and stir different parts of you in order for your soul to transcend to a higher level of consciousness and awareness. Once the lesson has been learnt, physical separation usually occurs.

Life Partner: A companion, a friend, a stable and secure individual who you can lean on, trust and depend on to help you through life. There is a mutual feeling of love and respect and you are both in sync with each others needs and wants. 

If this new agey website is right, then yes, I’ve found numerous soulmates, but… I think the distinction made in this new agey definition is 1) wrong, 2) solipsistic. Do others exist to help ME? Or is this connection we have with others ideally a MUTUAL thing (I think it is). In my mind, the “life partner” is a soulmate and their notion of “soulmate” is a guy with whom you hook up for a period of time who makes life hell. I also don’t believe people are “sent” to teach me things. I am not the center of the universe.

My hero, Goethe, definitely believed in the soulmate idea and for years looked for her and then persisted in believing Frau von Stein was his soul mate. There was something that connected the agony of unfulfillable love to the soulmate idea, but at a certain point, he gave up on the soulmate and married a woman who made him happy even though he could not share his innermost thoughts with her. There are things that now creep me out that during my adolescence I found charming and compelling — the word “soul” is one of them. The word “mate” is another. I’m afraid I’m with Goethe on this. I wish I had started out looking for someone who was fun to be around and easy to live with. There were a lot of those guys back in the day, but they didn’t “resonate” with my “soul.” But then again, maybe that’s what “soulmate” meant all along? And I wonder whether a person’s soulmate is necessarily another person? I’ve felt that deep connection with a couple of my dogs… Here’s a thoughtful discussion on the topic of soulmates...

P.S. I wrote on this topic before. I still stand behind the last time. :) I wasn’t horsing around. Brownie WAS my soulmate.

October Featured Artists — Jeanette Amlie, painter, and Wanda Couzens-Smith, fiber artist

Featured Image -- 10101

Originally posted on Valley Art Co-op:

Valley Art Co-op’s featured artists for October are Jeanette Amlie, painter and art-therapist, and Wanda Couzens-Smith, fiber artist and nurse. A public reception for Wanda and Jeanette will be held at Valley Art Co-op Gallery and Shop on October 16, 2015 from 4 to 7 pm. Light refreshments will be served.


The Maiden of Mer, acrylic on canvas The Maiden of Mer, acrylic on canvas

Jeanette Amlie is originally from Minnesota, but her life has led her to Asia, Santa Fe and now Del Norte, Colorado. She holds a BA in Art from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in ceramics and paper-making, but her first love has always been painting.

Amlie also has an MA in Counseling with emphasis in Art Therapy from Southwestern College in Santa Fe, New Mexico and she currently has a private therapy practice.
The work Amlie is exhibiting in the Valley Art Co-op Gallery and Shop is mixed-media and painting…

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No Cliché Kindness, Please


In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pay It Forward.” Tell us about a time when you responded to an act of kindness with one of your own.

Uh, the way I was raised one graciously acknowledges kindness done to them and is silent on the subject of the kindness offered to others. Otherwise, two nasty things happen.

First, in this case one is not really kind; one is feeding one’s ego and looking for approval.

Second, one might find themselves in an icky argument about whether or not there is any such thing as altruism.

Among the terms in our world that I dislike is “pay it forward.” I hope I don’t do that. I hope I simply act with compassion and move on. But I fail, often.

The Great (Illusionary) Love of My Life

Horses on Steppes Mongolia_20090303110707

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Out of Reach.” Write about the one X that got away — a person, an experience, a place you wanted to visit. How much would you change about your life to have it within reach again?

There is this person — I’ve written about him already. The story is truly romantic and many of my blog readers believe it’s not over.

It’s over.

But part of me, of course, wishes it weren’t. Still, I learned NOT to listen to my mother from that experience. She knew a LOT but she didn’t know what was going to happen in THAT story in MY life.

There is an experience, though…

I was in San Diego, sitting at a dining table with people I knew. One of them — the host — was a new friend. He was starting up an outdoor adventure company that was going to offer horse back riding tours in Mongolia. He needed an American who could manage in Chinese. I was both those things at that time (1985). I didn’t really understand what he was saying. It sounded like a pipe-dream.

It wasn’t. It became Boojum Adventures and I could have gotten in on the ground floor.

At this point, I don’t know what I’d do to get a second chance at the experience. I think I made the right choice. I think adventures like that were important to me as dreams. I think my own life — as it worked out — was the adventure belonging to me. For extra points, which of the two photos is Mongolia and which is the San Luis Valley?  <3