Walk Away


Daily I “walk away” from this thing. Dusty, Bear and I — sometimes with Mindy, if she feels up to it — go out for our “constitutional” in this place called “outside.” Luckily our weather is still beautiful, though my opinion doesn’t seem shared, as I no longer run into other people out there. It’s nippy, yeah, but nothing a few layers won’t fix. My favorite combination is a silk undershirt, a wool shirt and a sweat shirt. If things get really blustery, I have a sweatshirt with a fluffy fleece lining. That’s what the cool kids wear around here and godnose, as impossible as it is, I’d like to fit in. Still, as there are no other people outside, there is not much to fit in with. AND if things get to Eskimo levels, I have a down parka and all the stuff that goes with it.

I’m thinking of snow shoes. Not too likely at this point for financial reasons, but still, that looks like fun. First we need snow, but after that? Party!!!

Yesterday I noticed about 10 miles of train cars — open-topped, for potatoes? Probable. As I lifted my phone to take the photo up top there, a single Sandhill Crane, who had been hidden in the reeds, lifted off, moving too quickly in her slow loping wing motion for me to capture. They migrate in groups but there are always stragglers. This pond always has ducks.

Behind the trains there was a lot of mooing and crashing together of metal sounding to me like the farmer was moving his cattle by truck. That could be bad for the cattle, but it could also just mean a new pasture. I thought good thoughts in their direction and thought about the girl who runs the animal shelter in my town who would really like to save every single suffering animal in the world. Well, I wouldn’t want anyone else running the local no-kill shelter, right?

My mind wandered to the question of beef — I never have liked it much. Even as a little kid I much preferred lamb, but that was rare. Oops, didn’t mean to make a pun. :)  UNCOMMON. There was almost always beef on the table. I learned to like pork in the People’s Republic of China where dinner might be wandering the same street as you — along beside you — during the day. Free range pigs, village pigs, scrounging pigs. Every day we heard the sounds of some pig joining his ancestors.

About a month ago, at a party, I ate a sliver of venison roast and it was truly the first red meat I’ve eaten in my life that I liked 100% and wanted more of. Even thoughts of “Bambi” had no effect. Bambi was just an animated character.

So we kept walking, past what I call the “Farm of Spoiled Dreams.” There are a lot of these farms around here, log cabins or adobe houses, log sheds or adobe potato barns, barns pressed into use long after the people have left the property (or moved into a double-wide a couple miles down the road?).


The “trail” is a single lane dirt farm road. I like it very much because it doesn’t have any thorns on it (goat head thorns, the bane of existence, particularly if you are a bicycle or Mindy with her curly feet fur). The wild animals around use it so there are almost always tracks. I love reading “the news.” Yesterday’s news involved deer, a burro, some geese, a fox and, I think, an elk with a calf. Sometimes I’ve been on trails that had real stories of dramas in the night — even the death of a rattler at the “hands” of a gopher snake can be recorded in the dust. I’ve read several volumes of Coyotes vs. Mice, but this road seems to be a corridor, neutral territory. Dusty and Bear love it; it’s filled with good smells. I have wished, often, I could “see” the world through a dog’s eyes just for an hour or so on a hike.




Disgust is an emotion I’ve been feeling a lot lately. Why? It started when one of my “fellow artists” cornered me on a below freezing morning outside the Post Office and yammered at me about the window paintings I did last summer for the grand opening of the co-op to which I belonged back then. Back then. Just a few months, but it seems like eons ago.

The fact is she is “The Window Painter” and (maybe?) just couldn’t abide that someone else had paintings on windows here in this small town. Maybe she thought my work was better than hers? Maybe someone (a potential client?) wanted something like that on their windows?  I have no idea, but it was clear in what she said that she just hates the paintings, justify as she might that the paint needs to come down, it’s bad for the windows, did I crack one of the windows when I was painting?  After I’d thought about the unpleasant half hour, it seemed to me that the motivating factor was envy. Ironically, I’d originally planned to paint the windows in tempera so the paint would wash off; it was this “professional window painter” who advised me to use acrylic. This person then accused me (to others, gossip is all too common) of using “house paint” when I used the exact paint she told me to — if she looked at the photos of the work being done that day, she’d see it.

The window paintings bothered her so much that she started taking them down on her own. This caused a firestorm among the members of the co-op most of whom like the paintings.

So I stood there that cold morning and listened to her rant at me and thought, “Life’s too short,” as I chowed down on “humble pie.” No, this is not paradise. As with the Garden of Eden, what makes it hell is people.

I’ve also decided that being an artist is for the birds. It’s one thing to make art quietly in your shed in your back yard and sometimes hang it in a show somewhere and it’s quite another thing to go public with it. Once I went public with it (since moving here) it’s not been fun and it’s not been pretty. This is not a battle that interests me. It was different when I was earning $75/hour to fight battles like this, but on my own dime? No thanks.

The point is, when it comes to paintings, some people like one thing and other people like another. It’s really that simple and competition? Yeah? It’s just not there, even between two paintings of the same subject — a buyer will choose the one he likes better, however he defines that idea of “like.”

So, disgust.

That’s my “Humble Pie.” I’ve been taken down about 100 pegs by this situation and, after this holiday season, I’m retreating back into the closet with the memory of that beautiful day painting those windows.

Rain Shadow

Here’s a photo that kind of shows the rain shadow effect in the Laguna Mountains. You can see where the cloud just STOPS. It’s stopped by warm air rising from the desert and, if we could take the trail a little farther, you’d find we go in and out of winter depending on the location of the cloud and how much moisture it holds. Most of the time, the rain or snow storms would reach the highest parts of the rim along the desert and stop, sometimes dumping three feet or more of snow in the last minute before dissipating. Many people don’t know it snows in San Diego County!

I’m with Lily on the Garnet Peak Trail in this photo back in 2013.If you look a little bit in the distance behind me on the trail, you’ll see there is no frost on the bushes. We continued on the trail and hiked the rest of the way in a sunny day, returning to falling snow.

Lily and me, Garnet Peak, Rain Shadow

The Greatest Hike


Today when I was walking around the golf course and into empty pastures with Bear and Dusty, enjoying the cool breeze and the early winter light, I suddenly remembered another day very much like this one fifteen some odd years ago.

It started out a normal hike about 9 am at The Meadows Information Station turn out on the Sunrise Highway in the Laguna Mountains. I just wanted to go hiking with Molly. I didn’t know for sure where I’d hike or anything, but I was going to enjoy the clear windy December day with my best friend.

She happened, also, to be a dog. Malamute and Aussie. I’d had her since she was 7 weeks old. We were very, very closely bonded and I loved her so much (and she me) that I couldn’t bear the thought of life without her. She was already twelve years old at the time, but in no way did her being signify “old dog.” She’d hiked all her life.

I’d brought lunch — yogurt and granola bars and a soda — and water. There was a good well at what I imagined would be our halfway point and there I could refill our water and Molly could have a good, long drink if she wanted.

We hit the trail, pretty much alone (as always). The Laguna Mountains are 7000+ feet in elevation, the highest in San Diego County. Along the northeast rim they drop nearly straight down to the desert, but at that highest point they make the rain shadow and it’s possible to stand on a trail, spread your arms out and have one arm in winter and one in summer.

Some of the trails go through forests of Jeffry Pine. Others go through manzanita scrub. There are meadows and streams and waterfalls and man-made dams that form “lakes” (big ponds). In those mountains over the years I’ve seen most of the wild things — including a mountain lion — but I never saw a fox. Most of the foxes in those mountains are gray, low fur shadows against the rocks, sage and trees. I’ve had coyotes follow beside me and behind me. I’ve tracked mule deer with my dogs. I got to watch an early morning bobcat carry a dead rabbit to her hiding place.

But that day with Molly was not about wild animals (other than us!). It was about wind, an unbelievably blue sky, silver clouds and how every turning, every familiar turning was new and washed with light that was absolutely clean, clouds close enough to touch. We climbed up Garnet Peak and ate lunch, then back down, back across the road, then down the Noble Canyon trail, right toward Indian Springs, past the most amazing grandfather manzanita, to Indian Springs, back up, hit the well again, then turned to return to the car. Night was beginning to fall. We’d been hiking for 8 hours. As we crossed the meadow, the last bit before reaching the end of the trail, my feet hurt on top and on the bottom. There was one painless moment in between foot fall and foot lift.

We hiked 26 miles on that glorious day. We were both starving.

I’ve hiked in the Alps, the Dolomites and the Cinque Terre and in Arizona, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, but that was the best hike of my life. There was something magical about chasing the beauty of that perfect day with Molly. I’ll be grateful forever for having had that day with my great friend.


The photo is Molly and me by the grandfather manzanita on a short hike sometime the following year.


Since I wrote this prompt not even a year ago, and the first “person” I saw today is the same one I saw last year, I’m going to call this post “The Greatest Hike” my response to today’s daily prompt.

It’s Got Nothing to Do with Pilgrims and Indians


Every Thanksgiving I remember Sarah Josepha Hale for good reason — not only because she is one of my heroes and the person who inspired my masters thesis — in fact, she was the reason I went to grad school –but because SHE is the founder of Thanksgiving. 

Who was she? She was — for more than 30 years — the editor of the most successful popular periodical in the world at the time: Godey’s Lady’s Book. She had a clear, tactful yet insistent voice and was able to gather popular support for many of her ideas and projects — including Vassar College, the Bunker Hill Monument and helping Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in the US, get into medical school. She employed Edgar Allen Poe as her literary editor, and her magazine was the first to publish literature ONLY by American writers. She wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for her own little girl who was named Mary and who did have a little lamb that went to school with her. She wrote an anti-slavery novel long before Harriet Beecher Stowe came out with Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

For YEARS she had pushed for a national day of thanksgiving, but it was not until 1863, when the US was in the middle of a civil war, that she was able to get the President to take the idea seriously. Her argument to Lincoln was that the people on this continent needed a reason to stop what they were doing and reflect on what brought Americans together.

From Sarah Josepha Hale, “Editor’s Table,” Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1858


“All the blessings of the fields,
All the stores the garden yields,
All the plenty summer pours,
Autumn’s rich, o’erflowing stores,
Peace, prosperity and health,
Private bliss and public wealth,
Knowledge with its gladdening streams,
Pure religion’s holier beams —
Lord, for these our souls shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise.”

We are most happy to agree with the large majority of the governors of the different States — as shown in their unanimity of action for several past years, and which, we hope, will this year be adopted by all — that the LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be the DAY Of NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people. Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY of our nation, when the noise and tumult of wordliness may be exchanged for the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart. This truly American Festival falls, this year on the twenty fifth day of this month.

Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action, by sending good gifts to the poor, and doing those deeds of charity that will, for one day, make every American home the place of plenty and of rejoicing. These seasons of refreshing are of inestimable advantage to the popular heart; and if rightly managed, will greatly aid and strengthen public harmony of feeling. Let the people of all the States and Territories sit down together to the “feast of fat things,” and drink, in the sweet draught of joy and gratitude to the Divine giver of all our blessings, the pledge of renewed love to the Union, and to each other; and of peace and good-will to all men. Then the last Thursday in November will soon become the day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world.

More interesting reading about Sarah Josepha Hale here, on The Gad About Town.

Trying out the App

Ariel and Matilda in the Laguna Mountains!

As this looks pretty much identical to what I’ve been using on my laptop (and this is my laptop so that could be partly why) let’s see how it might be different.

Dum dee dumm dee, oh there’s a photo I like. The white dog is Ariel Punky, Siberian husky/Wolf and the other dog — almost hidden in the shadows — is Mathilda, chow-chow/Sheltie (I think). These were both very fierce dogs. Ariel had one blue eye and one brown; Mattie had one brown eye and one that was blue and brown. They were a LOT of fun and we had a blast on this hike. Both were rescues; Ariel had been a breeding bitch and was never quite right in the head. Mattie had to be an only dog so I had to find her a home — but that was easy because she was well-trained and cute.

Ariel, on the other hand, well, that’s a story for another day…

In this photo we’re on a hike in the Laguna Mountains — it was a gorgeous July day before the recent drought and multiple year hot spell hit southern California. On this hike some women asked me if I were not afraid to hike alone. I don’t see how hiking with these two creatures is anything like “hiking alone” but I just said, “No. I’m more afraid not to hike.”

Yeah, not finding anything particularly different so far between using this app and what I’ve been using to write my blog, BUT I might…


Grudge? Who has time?


Do you hold grudges or do you believe in forgive and forget?

Grudges take a lot of energy and compel us to live in the past. If I find I cannot forgive a person (I do not believe in “forget”) I just eliminate them from my life. It takes a lot for that to happen because I’m a combination of tolerant and indifferent, but if it does happen?  That person will cease to exist in my personal universe. Not that they’ll mind. They will probably not even notice.

For example, I’m not holding a grudge against WordPress for this REALLY abysmal new editor. I just use it if I feel like it and switch to the precambrian version when I want to CONTROL what happens on my post visually. I’m not carrying an axe because the prompts (such as this one) are often so, I dunno, PERSONAL. What do I care? I don’t have to write this if I don’t want to. Sure, sure, time was I objected and tried to change the status quo but WordPress is an immense and powerful machine. It’s the same as trying to convince feminists that the pronoun “he” is completely unimportant. What’s important is equal pay for equal work.

Heh heh heh.



Islam and Making Skis in the 70s


Daily Prompt Seat Guru You get to plan a dinner party for 4-8 of your favorite writers/artists/musicians/other notable figures, whether dead or alive. Who do you seat next to whom in order to inspire the most fun evening? Sorry folks. I didn’t like this prompt the first time and I don’t like it now. I would even write the SAME thing, invite the same dinner guests. Voltaire and Goethe.

I have something else to say…

When I got out of college with a BA in English, I needed a job to support me and my then husband. We had to stay in Boulder because he had a year left of school. Hard to find a job there in 1974. I went to work at Head Ski. One night my supervisor asked me if I could give a co-worker a ride. She lived in town — as did I — and worked swing shift, as did I. No problem! From then on, I stopped every afternoon to pick her up and take her to work. We got along great and became close friends.
I worked on the finishing line, skis, and I was a temporary employee. My co-worker was a permanent employee and she had a horrible job; she worked with the machines that cast the fiberglass into Head tennis rackets. Even though she wore a heavy apron and gloves well up to her elbows, the sticky fibrous dangerous crap of which those rackets are made still got on her clothes, so she wore old clothes that could be thrown away after a while.
Her husband had no idea what his wife did. He came home shortly after she had already left for work and the babysitter was there. They had one little boy — two years old. One afternoon he came home early and saw his wife dressed for work. He was so sad and ashamed that they were so poor that his wife had to wear rags. He went out and bought her several yards of fabric so she could make pretty clothes for herself. From then on, when I picked her up (a little earlier) she was dressed to the nines in clothes she had sewn for herself with no pattern. We then went to 7-11 so she could change into the work clothes she left in my car.
Right at Christmas, I got laid off (of course) but was rehired soon after to work in the mailroom, a permanent job for which I was deeply grateful. I brought home $500/month, about $2000 in today’s values. Of course Head Ski had a big employee Christmas party and my friend and her husband came with me and my husband. We had a good time and she wore a beautiful red dress she’d sewn for Christmas.
A few years later, after I’d moved away from Boulder and they had moved to their native town, Russian tanks rolled through their city. I was terrified about what might have happened to them, but I never heard anything until the late 80s when I was in a restaurant in San Diego and the waiter — a man I’d known in Boulder — said, “I cannot believe to see you again. Did you hear what happened to Fahmia and Akbar?”
I shook my head. I dreaded the answer.
“The Russians they came and pulled them out of their beds — even little Omar! — and lined them up against their house and shot them.”
I was devastated — but not surprised. Nothing more frightening to Soviet military conquerors than a USA educated architect and his little family.
By the way, their hometown was Kabul.
My life has brought many Muslim people to me from Muslim countries all over the world — from Egypt to Indonesia. Among the people I was closest to in the Peoples Republic of China were my Chinese Muslim students. One of them got me permission to visit the very old mosque in the center of Guangzhou by explaining to the girl guarding the gate that yes, my husband and I WERE Muslim because we were Christian and followed the law of Moses. If Ali’s logic had power in the world, we would have peace.

Honoring the Sage Mosque, Guangzhou, China, built in the 7th century
ALL of them have known a great deal about Christianity and consider Christ to have been a holy man, a prophet, equal (get this!) to Mohammed. The difference between Islam and Christianity hinges on the question of whether Jesus was the (unique) son of God. Islam says, “We’re all sons of God, but some of us are chosen by God to help others find God.”
But only God is God.
During the 80s in San Diego, many Afghan refugees arrived. Some of them made their family’s living by selling at swap meets. It wasn’t a bad strategy. Since my husband at the time loved swap meets — and I like meeting people from other parts of the world — it worked out well. I would sometimes spend my time with a couple of Afghan men, sitting on a carpet that had been spread on the asphalt of a drive-in movie parking, eating grapes, drinking water and talking politics and history between watching them negotiate sales. One of these men was a university professor who’d lost his wife and children to the Russians. He asked me, “Do they teach you about Communism in school?” I answered yes, we learned about Marx, and he said, “No, no, that is beautiful, but I mean the real communism, where they drag you out of your bed and shoot you.” The other had been (of all things!) an Olympic prize fighter!
He and his family got to be our (though, it seems, my ex doesn’t remember ;-) ) good friends, and one night we went to their house for supper so I could do my “Haj.” It’s crazy, but this man had been in Mecca the year before to do his Haj and he had a video that was for people who could not go to Mecca and do this important pilgrimage. “You can do TV Haj,” he said to me.
I first learned of the Haj during my days of fascination with T.E. Lawrence (pre-teen years) and I always thought there was something beautiful about hinging a life on a pilgrimage like that. I have since decided that’s a timeless universal thing, to suspend ordinary life for a time and go on what really amounts to a ridiculous journey. The fact that it IS ridiculous is its beauty, the surrendering of self to the road and the symbol. It’s grand.
So, for several hours I watched the Haj and Mohammed Ali Kabiri’s wife cooked dumplings. She was a brilliant woman, a scientist, and I think she thought her husband was pretty funny (it had been an arranged marriage) but also very lovable. Mohammed left the swap meet game and got into the more dependable occupation of driving a cab. Their two children now have advanced university degrees.
It might be human nature to hate or fear what we do not know, but should not our better angels tell us to learn about what we do not know? I think that’s something to be ashamed of, being governed by fear is not courage. Calling ignorance knowledge is dishonesty. I agree there are elements of some Islamic cultures that I don’t like that much, but at least I can say that I’ve known Saudi women and have some idea of how they view their world; some like their traditional role, some do not. Is that any different from American women?
It seems to me that the whole point is that we are already living together on this planet. That is a fact. The vast majority of human beings on this planet are doing pretty well most of the time living together. Our interactions are NOT with entire populations, but with individuals. I have yet to meet a person who was not affected positively by sincerity, kindness and good-faith. I have also never met a person who did not have the ability to convey those things. I believe that life is not easy for anyone. I don’t know anyone who has not suffered something terrible — cancer, the death of children, loss of a spouse, siblings; many have experienced the tragedies linked to war, many have survived the devastating loss of property. Many of us have had to rebuild our lives more than once. We need each other and most humans derive pleasure from helping one another.
When I see news of young terrorists and suicide bombers or young Americans signing up for the military I just see waste, a mother’s sorrow and the youthful brain that does not yet fathom failure or death. It is just sad down to the bones.

Dear Polar Bear T. Puppy


Daily Prompt Literate for a Day Someone or something you can’t communicate with through writing (a baby, a pet, an object) can understand every single word you write today, for one day only. What do you tell them?

The last thing I EVER thought I’d bring home from an animal shelter (outside of a Komodo dragon) was a giant white puppy. In fact, I knew little to nothing about the giant whites of the dog world. I was looking for a mature Siberian husky female after Lily died but there you were on the Facebook page of the local shelter. Yeah, yeah, I know you have blue eyes, and, yes, they look just like Lily’s but I think there was an Aussie in the woodpile, not a Siberian husky, waiting for your Great Pyrenees mom.

Bear at Shelter

I stake my claim… :)

I recognized you immediately. As with so many others over the years, your being screamed “I’m YOUR dog, Martha! Come and get me!” I was sure it was a completely crazy idea 1) to get a puppy (puppies are generally a POA) and 2) such a big dog, but when have I ever let sanity get in the way of love? Turned out, you were — have been — very easy to train. You’re smart and you want to get things right. You were house trained in four hours.


Bear the First Day

So, here you are. You’ve been my dog since August 1. That’s, what? Four months? What can I tell you in this message that you’re (miraculously) going to read that you don’t already know? You know I love you — that shows in pretty much every interaction we have. You’re such a gentle and mellow dog, with such a positive, responsive nature, that there have only been two occasions when I’ve had to “punish” you. Your response to that surprised me — you just go away. You let some time pass and come back and ask me — with your body language — if everything’s OK again.


Tired, happy, confident puppy sleeping

You try to get things right and you show me when you’ve figured it out. I love the way you showed me you’d finally learned (and would do) “Down, stay down.” At a certain point, it was up to you to learn that. I’d done all I could. I like independent dogs (and people) who can reason things through — it’s why I always liked having Siberian huskies — but you ALSO want to please me.

You are wonderful with people — people are (naturally) attracted to you because you are a big white dog with blue eyes and that’s pretty amazing (and amazingly pretty) but you have a special way, probably because your ancestors were guardians of the most skittery and stupid animals on the planet — no, Bear, not people, SHEEP. Luckily, you love people, too. You’ve even helped Dusty overcome his fear of human beings and he’s let people pet him who, a year ago, couldn’t have gotten near him. My favorite, though, is the way you are with my friend’s (equally gentle) developmentally disabled son who loves all animals but is especially enamored of you.


Bear jumped up on the couch with my friend’s son, wrapped her self around his back and asked for a cuddle.

You’re hilarious to watch with a cardboard box. I got you “Barkbox” so every month new toys and treats come to you (its a good deal, as it turns out) but the “new” toy you like best is the box it all comes in. You’ve even taught Dusty how to play and I love in the morning when I wake up and find you romping with Mindy.


Bear vs. Box

Your whole idea from the first day you came here was to fit in and make friends. You succeeded even though Dusty wasn’t very enthusiastic at first and I had my doubts. Mindy? She was just going to guard her corner of the sofa and her dish, but now she lets you sleep on the sofa. I think she would still draw the line at her dish.


Bear snuggles up to Dusty on her first day in our house. Dusty is ambivalent.

It seems silly to write you a bunch of words when you already know what I have to say. I hope I tell you all the time that you’re a great puppy and I’m so glad I let my heart trump my mind and brought you home with me.