XI – Mom

Easter Sunday

“You call that a snake stick? You could beat an army with that.”


“I use a dandelion digger.”


“You should get a dandelion digger. How far do you plan to go?”

“Oh, an hour.”

“I can’t walk that long. I’ll sit here and wait for you.”

“You don’t mind, mom?”


“OK. We’ll see you in an hour.”

They followed the trail along the stream. The dogs splashed in the water. 

The old woman sat on the bright green grass of the hillside which, in August, had been burned brown and barren with drought. Now the whole world was washed and reborn. Flowers bloomed one on top of the other, amazed at their own being. The sun dipped quickly, it was March. The two turned back before they wanted.
Truffle was the first to notice the woman who watched the direction her child had taken away from her. She stood on the hillside, a pale shape against the glowing green grass, the sun behind her, lighting her hair.
“Go find Helen, Truffle. Go get Helen!”

The dog ran ahead, dragging her leash.

My mom only visited the Good X and me in San Diego three times. She didn’t like the dogs much, but she did like Truffle who was calm and strangely humorous — something I can’t explain. My mom thought house dogs should be small and manageable, not the giant, hairy beings we lived with. She didn’t understand much about me or my life, but there she was. She was crazy about the Good X.

The snake stick debate continued at home. My mom had the idea that a long-handled dandelion digger would allow her to kill a snake by stabbing it behind the head. Maybe that would work. My theory was that a long hiking stick would make it possible for me to warn the snakes ahead of time that I was on my way so I wouldn’t have to see them at all, and, if I did, a long enough stick would make it possible to move them away. Her dandelion digger was only about 3 feet long. My stick was about five feet long. I’d learned by then not to get into a dispute with my mom because it would end with, “Well, Martha Ann, I guess you know everything.” And, of course, I do. 🤣

These are all stories from a folder I found in an old trunk. As I was busy shredding them, I stopped to read. This turned out to be something I didn’t want to shred. I’m sharing it here and I have also put the stories into a little book. The stories are from the very first years I lived with dogs and hiked on my own, with dogs, in the California Coastal Chaparral of San Diego. The stories are a kind of record of the beginning of the best things I’ve done in my life — hiking in nature with dogs. I wrote these stories in my late 30s.


The Rocks had Floated to the Top

Back in the olden days when my mom and brother were alive, we would sometimes go out to a farmer’s newly plowed field to look for artifacts. Native(ish) people wandered that area in Montana for thousands of years, so it was inevitable that when a farmer plowed his land, some artifacts would surface. There was always a competition over our whose “find” was better. My brother found the BEST find — a grandmother rock.

So what was it? It was a big white rock — not all that big, maybe 10 inches in diameter — with a line cut down the middle and small holes on each side of the line. According to my mom, the holes were how the grandmother kept track of the number of her grandchildren. I once tried to ask, “How did she drill holes in that hard rock?” but mom just said I shouldn’t put my brother down. OH well. I knew it wasn’t impossible; I just didn’t know how it was done. It’s crazy how hard it is for us to understand each other.

Once my mom and I took off together to glean a plowed hillside. The farmers didn’t mind. We had the miniature poodle, Ralph the Brave and Good who was one of the GREAT dogs. That little guy would go on four mile walks with me every noon-time when my mom took her nap. We three were on a hillside that looked down across the beauty of south central Montana. We were somewhere between Billings and Hardin. A train whistle blew in the distance. Trees lined a creek bed in the bottom land. The Pryor Mountains were just where they were supposed to be and my mom and I had a good time. (‼️)

That very locale and the plains around it were settings for the 1992 film Far and Away. Yep. Not Oklahoma at all, but the high plains of south central Montana. You can read about the making of Far and Away here.

We walked along the hillside, heads bowed, studying the dirt, while Ralph ran around. It was a beautiful day and I made my big find.

Extra points for anyone who identifies it. It’s about 6 inches long and a little over 3 inches at the widest point. Hint: it’s not a hammer or anything like that. Also, don’t think too much.

Featured photo: my mom’s 70th birthday party at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. I don’t really have any good featured photo for this post.

Compassion Seems Like a Viable Approach…

After the Storm -- double rainbow

The wetlands are full, but the wind is so determined that instead of ripple marks in the ponds we have pretty decent sets coming at regular enough intervals for the spring big wave surfing finals, coot division.

OK, raise your hand if you’re single. 🙋‍♀️

The news this morning alerts me to the fact that the Church of England says being single is OK because Jesus was single. That headline piqued my curiosity (good job, journalism!), so I looked into it. It seemed — at first — a little anachronistic with some odd logic.

The church’s report acknowledged that a growing number of people elect to be single as a result of divorce, separation, the death of a partner, not having found a suitable partner, or as a deliberate lifestyle choice. It said that loving relationships matter to single people just as much as they do to those who are married with families.

“Jesus’ own singleness should ensure that the Church of England celebrates singleness and does not regard it as lesser than living in a couple relationship,” the summary report said, adding: “We have an amazing opportunity to reimagine a diverse society in which all families and loving relationships are valued and strengthened…” Source

I thought about this a little bit and remembered how defensive my Aunt Martha was about her choice not to be married, how many times she was taunted for being “the old maid aunt.” I thought back into a more recent geologic age when my mom pleaded with me to stay with the Good X because “the family likes him.” She even pleaded with me back in the day to stay with the (abusive) Juvenile X because, “you chose him.”

Thinking about this a little more it hit me that this might be the church’ way of moving the thinking toward a generally more inclusive perspective on human beings and their infinite and varied coupling choices/drives. Then I thought of the Bible and the bit about “Judge not lest you be judged also.”

Then my brain started to hurt because I’d only begun drinking my coffee, but it turns out I was right in my conjecture. The Archbishop of Canterbury had more in mind…

The report also acknowledged the increased sense of loneliness and stigma to which LGBTQ people, especially youth, are prone. Noting the heated debate surrounding the discussion of LGBTQ and gender issues in schools, the report took a stance: “Not teaching about these issues isolates the young people for whom this is part of their life experience.” This came after the Church of England issued a statement in January 2023 making clear that, while its churches wouldn’t offer marriages to same-sex couples, they would offer prayers and blessings

“Both personally and on behalf of my fellow bishops I would like to express our deep sorrow and grief at the way LGBTQI+ people and those they love have been treated by the Church which, most of all, ought to recognise everyone as precious and created in the image of God,” Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, said at the time.

It’s interesting to me as a non-participant — a straight, happily single female with no religious affiliation — that these entities — churches, political parties, etc. — have opinions about this stuff. But I get it, too. People seek approval and permission; those are elements of belonging and community. During the past 10 years, I’ve seen how strong this need is among people because…

Hell’s Half Acre in Actuality and in Metaphor

I don’t have a bucket list. When I first heard of the idea of making a list of stuff I absolutely wanted to do before I died, I was a little confused. Who has that much certainty that they can KNOW before they do something what they want to do next? “Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough. Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades. Forever and forever when I move.” (Alfred Lord Tennisball, “Ulysses”)

I don’t even know what’s going to happen on a simple trip to pick up my groceries or to visit Del Norte. The major journeys I’ve taken in pursuit of a particular outcome never panned out the way they were supposed to, either. That and the actual reward of a journey might not be clear for decades. Lord Tennisball was completely right when he wrote, “…margin fades forever and forever when I move.” I just don’t ever get there, wherever I’m going so how can I have a bucket list?

There’s a town in Wyoming by the name of Chugwater. Back in the 50’s when family road trips took us from Denver to Montana we often stopped there for gas. There was a drugstore there with great ice cream, but that’s a blog post for another day when the prompt is “ice cream.” My dad wanted a shortcut to Hell’s Half Acre (now that’s a line deserving of some meditation!) and the guy pumping gas said, “Nope. You can’t get there from here.”

My dad started to laugh and thanked the guy. “You can never get there from here,” my dad said in the car, and laughed again. I’m not sure what my dad thought was so funny or even meant by “you can never get there from here.” He might have just meant in Wyoming which can be a difficult place to travel in. 

But…I think when you stand at a gas station in Chugwater, Wyoming, you’re not the person who left home at an ungodly early hour that morning with two cranky kids. The journey — or part of a journey — has transformed you. The person asking the question won’t be the same person who arrives at Hell’s Half Acre. The journey ITSELF might have physical obstacles like washed out roads or car wrecks. You might see something along the way that captures your attention and you decide to forget Hell’s Half Acre altogether. Who knows? 

Life is constantly transforming us, that “arch leading to the untraveled world.” 

We got to Hell’s Half Acre an hour or so later, after backtracking substantially (and using more gas). So what is it? Researching it this morning so I could tell you, I learned a lot. In the interval since I was last there (1957 or so) it’s gone through some changes itself. 

I thought it was pretty big for a half-acre so I challenged my mom on that. “Oh honey, it’s just a name.”

Adults are/were seriously confusing.

I’ve thought of that trip pretty often, even including the story in a reader I made for my international students. Our destinations and our destinies are not the same thing. We can’t get anywhere from here, so what’s the point of a bucket list? How could I possibly know where the Martha of tomorrow absolutely MUST go before she kicks the bucket? 

I guess it might have been in China that I first got a glimmering of the real (to me) meaning of travel which is, in simple terms, “go with the flow.” Even taking off on my bike, self-directed and independent, didn’t mean I’d ever get where I thought I was going. And, with the government pretty much in charge of me? Even then I couldn’t know. It was a university car that took me to the bank by Shamian Island, but it had nothing to do with the grandfather and his son who stopped me on my way and tried to sell me a baby. 

Still the idea didn’t really hit home until I was on a train  returning to Milan from Venice. At first I shared a compartment with a young couple who were obviously in love. Venice is renowned as a romantic city and it’s full of luv’. The couple got off at Pescheria, and I was alone. I dozed off, my head against the window. The conductor came by to look at my ticket and gently woke me up. He came back later and sat down with me. He wanted to chat which was great. 

It had been a hard trip in which my dreams hadn’t come true and I hadn’t been able to get to the metaphorical Hell’s Half Acre. I would be returning to the states in two days. I’d wandered around Milan for 10 days with a broken heart, angry and confused. BUT I was staying with kind, sympathetic people, and I had an incredible Italian city to get to know. Most of that hadn’t sunk in, but as we talked something happened. 

“Do you like Milan? Most foreigners don’t like Milan.”

“I like it very much.”

“What do you like about it?” It was the conductor’s home town.

“I…” We were speaking Italian. What I wanted to say might be beyond my ability to say it. 

“Say it in English,” he said, seeing I was struggling.

“No, no, I can do this. I can say it in Italian. Wait.” I took another minute and assembled my thoughts. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized I had had a GREAT time in that city. I hadn’t realized that I loved it and I hadn’t perceived all it had shown me about art, history and myself. “OK,” I said. “I love the mix of the classical and the modern energies. They live together in Milan.”

“Wow,” he said. “What do you do? You’re not an ordinary person.”

“I’m an ordinary person.”

“No. Ordinary people do not say ‘mix of the classical and the modern energies.”

I would get out of the train at a station built by Mussolini. I would get on one of the fastest and most modern subways in the world. I would get out at a gate built by the Romans. 

I never did get to “Hell’s Half Acre” on that trip. Maybe it would have been wonderful, but it wouldn’t have been that journey. So, no bucket lists for me. 

Hell’s Half Acre photo by By Carpenter, Kenneth – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=101754600

Featured Photo: Wyoming Sign: Howenstein115</a> – <span class=”int-own-work” lang=”en”>Own work</span>, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Hell’s Half Acre from Wikipedia — whoever wrote this was GOOD!!

Hell’s Half Acre is a large scarp located about 40 miles (64 km) west of Casper, Wyoming on US 20/26.[2] Encompassing 320 acres (1.3 km2), this geologic oddity is composed of deep ravines, caves, rock formations and hard-packed eroded earth. Hell’s Half Acre was used as the location for the fictional planet of Klendathu in the movie Starship Troopers.

The location was known as “The Devil’s Kitchen”, “The Pits of Hades”, and “The Baby Grand Canyon” until a cowhand appeared and thought he was at Hell’s Half Acre, an area southwest of Casper full of alkali and bogs.

Native American tribes used the ravines to drive bison to their death during their hunts.

As of December 2005, the roadside restaurant and motel/campground sitting atop the ravine were closed. The motel and the abandoned restaurant have since been torn down.[3][4] The area is fenced off and there is no public access to the cliff edge nor the valley itself, but there is an interpretive sign west of the former restaurant. As of July, 2021, the fencing was still in place, but two gates in the fence were open, allowing vehicular access to a large gravel lot (with potholes) and a closer view of the topography.

A Really GREAT Day

Yesterday I called Elizabeth and invited her to go with me to see the renovations and new exhibits at the Rio Grande County Museum. She was up for it, so off we went. I hadn’t been yearning to go to the museum at all, but once I was there?

Only three other people were there besides the two of us which, for me, was good. Lyndsie and Kathleen have been working on the museum for the past six months, digitizing the collection, ripping out old carpets and putting down more durable and modern floors. The changes were great. One of the changes is turning the former director’s office into a small library for people who want to do research. All the books (and it’s a lot of books!) are there. The gift shop has been reorganized and I was thrilled to see my little notecards displayed beautifully. “Wow,” I said, “You made my day. I feel like a million dollars seeing this!” By then I’d exhausted my portfolio of appropriate cliches.

“Well, you should, ” said Lyndsie.

Then I asked when the stage coach was coming and she said, “It’s here!” and led us to it. I was thrilled to see it. It’s a great stagecoach with good stories.

It happened that Elizabeth’s and my next stop was an exhibit of Indian artifacts. As I looked at the display, and listened to a local archeologist talk to a couple of other people, I looked at the display and there, beautifully displayed were…

My mom’s moccasins.

I was so happy to see them. I gave them to the museum four years ago because I love them, they’re beautiful, and I didn’t want the day to come when I shirk off my mortal coil and they end up in a thrift shop or the landfill. When I gave them to the museum, I couldn’t see they had much relevance to Rio Grande County. The Crow don’t and never have lived down here. My mom may or may not ever have seen Del Norte, but I figured, at least there they would not end up dumped even if they never saw the light of day.

Crow Moccasins, Rio Grande County Museum, Del Norte CO
Native American artifact display, Rio Grande County Museum

My friend Louise, the director at the time said, “But you live here now. They belong here.” OK with me. I personally feel that with some larger or smaller differences, the story of the American west is ONE story. The sod and log home my born was born in was replicated all across the frontier. The stagecoach in the museum? Another one just like it appears in a 19th century painting of Mt. Shasta, CA.

So there they were. My heart was in my throat. I said, “Those are my mom’s moccasins.”

The archeologist said, “What?”

“Those. Those were my mom’s.” It wasn’t clear that I’d given them to the museum. I wasn’t very articulate. I did, finally, manage to say that I’d given them to the museum.

“They’re Crow moccasins. The beadwork is supposed to be a wild rose the kind that grow along the Little Bighorn.” And all over, but…

“I didn’t know that,” said the archeologist. How could he? “I knew they were Native American.”

“My mom was a teacher on the Crow Reservation in Montana.”

I was so happy to see them, I don’t remember ever feeling that way. My mom was a complicated and, for me, difficult person. She didn’t really like me but I liked her — sort of a model for my future love life, ha ha. I loved that she was a teacher on the Crow reservation. I loved her stories about that time in her life, WW II, she was still in school. Teacher training then involved one year studying, the next year teaching, and so on for eight years. She had good friends among the Crow some of whom I met in 1968 when I went to Crow on a church mission trip.

And THAT trip gave me one of the happiest days of my life even though I ended up in terrible trouble. I thought it was cool that we were there with the Indians; my mom’s stories had primed me. The leaders of the mission trip were not of a similar mind. But I made friends with a Crow kid and we took off one day on horseback and rode along the river for a couple of hours. For that I was punished in the classic style of those times; the promised trip to Yellowstone was cancelled. NO one got to go because of what I had done. OH well…

So, the moccasins. What a wonderful thing.

My mom when she was teaching at Crow Agency. She’s wearing a Coups pin. I wrote about that here…

A Quiet Day at the Big Empty

It was a splendid, windless day in the Big Empty so Teddy and I availed ourselves yesterday. Here is Teddy the King of Cute.

Along with walking with the Halti and not pulling me down in his eagerness to see his friends, he’s learning not to chase the cars as they pass — he could only chase them 6 feet but that was still a pretty big — and literal — drag. Now our drill is to move to the side of the road. I motion to him to jump up on me and I hold him in my arms and pet him until the car passes. He loves that WAY better than chasing cars. That’s what’s happening in the first photo. The other is probably pretty obvious.

While I was out there, I got a text from a friend in Northern Montana telling me that the cranes had arrived.

Normally I don’t deal with my phone when I’m out there except to take photos, but I’m glad I did that time. I had just taken Teddy’s photo and my phone was in my hand. I asked my friend to tell the cranes I love them and that Teddy and I are making sure everything is fine when they come back in fall.

I got to watch a mated pair of Northern Harriers do their airborne courtship dance. THAT is beautiful.

The featured photo is a couple of large nests. I took it last fall. I checked out the nests yesterday and they could be muskrat nests along the ditch but I’m not sure. The way I see it, I’ll either learn what they are or not. 🙂 BUT that’s pretty much how things looked yesterday. Nature’s year has a kind of symmetry.

Here I Go Again

So here I am again for the 900 millionth time rebuilding muscles from being sick. Sometimes it’s from being injured or having surgery. It’s amazing. One thing I notice is that the older I get the more difficult it is to rebuild muscle. Still, it happens, and I’ve already learned that life demands patience and the faith that things will improve.

An added incentive for me is that my amazing 97 year old artist friend, adopted mom, and mentor collapsed on the floor of her little cottage and was taken to the hospital. She’s now in a home because her legs gave out. She has no muscles in her legs. She is from a generation — my mom’s generation — one in which women in sports or female athleticism was not considered a good thing. “Muscles on women? Heaven forfend!” The goal of rehab was to help her get back behind her walker by helping her develop muscles in her legs. The last I heard it’s not going well, and she’s confronting the horror we in this country of “rugged individualists” face of figuring out a way to pay for a residential nursing home/rehab center.

“Yikes, Martha, if you live that long, it could be you!”

It matters for so many reasons, not the least of which for me is that I might face a knee replacement down the road (or in my own yard). First, I don’t want to. Strong legs take the pressure off of our knees. As for the surgery, I just don’t want to. I’ve managed to evade that particular knife for almost 20 years. But who knows? I’ve also learned how strong legs help reduce rehab time so IF…

Yesterday the Bike to Nowhere took me on a beautiful ride through the Austrian Alps to some high glaciers. I was finally able to ride at a normal speed and to enjoy myself. Those are two very very important things. People are motivated do what they enjoy, and there’s more to a work out than muscle. For me none of this has ever been a “should,” as in “you should exercise.” It’s something I have always loved to do. My friend’s recent experience has just brought home how important it is. I don’t want to think about that, but it isn’t like I don’t know.

I’ve always thought that legs are incredibly beautiful. Maybe this is because my dad’s didn’t work right or maybe it’s because I have always gotten so much joy from what my legs could bring me — forest trails, mountain trails, desert trails, boulders and rocks (up and down), races, bike rides, ski trails and more. Great stuff, wonderful stuff. When my right hip went south I learned about the structure of the leg and hip and wow. It’s a thing of beauty and subtle engineering. I figure I owe my legs a little something at this point in my life after all the pleasure they’ve given me.

Featured photo: My dad and I setting up my first bicycle to be a stationary bike for him. I was 12,

Quotedium Update 42 — HFS! It’s Spring!

I gave Elise — my washer/dryer — the day off yesterday, it being Easter Sunday and all and, this morning, a photo showed up that made me exponentially grateful for things like electricity and Elise.

And she’s SMILING. My grandma (in Montana) probably did wash like this but there was a washboard involved. Maybe for this lady, too. I can’t say for sure, but I think this is a rinse cycle…. By the time I knew my grandma, she had a fancy (for her) washing machine but it had to stay in the back room because things got wet on wash day. It was electric!

My washer in China was just one step up from that. It hooked up to the bathroom sink and drained into the self-same bathroom sink but it agitated (in one direction) and spun on its own.

I was lucky. Down the road in a village they washed their clothes in a spur of the Pearl River. This was 1982/83. Sorry I can’t fine the photo.

I have been working on a painting of a horse. I can’t say it’s going well but I’ll keep at it. Sometimes it’s a process of evolution. The horse was fine to paint — loved it. The landscape around the horse is another thing, though. I’m painting from a photo I found on Spring Creek Basin Mustangs. When I got home from my walk with Teddy it seemed like it might be time to see if the horse was dry, it was so I attacked the landscape.

I liked painting on oil primed linen but it’s so expensive. I found panels that purport to be oil-primed linen — less expensive than the stretched canvas. I bought some and I’m painting on one now. I don’t like it as much as my usual surfaces. It doesn’t feel to me like it “takes” the paint willingly. I don’t know how to explain that so it makes any sense. Painting on the expensive oil-primed canvas was like painting in a dream. Painting on the Ampersand gessobord also, just a different dream. This is just strange but it’s a poor worker that blames the tools so I will keep at it. Maybe it’s just that it’s new to me or maybe it’s just not great. No idea. I also wish I’d picked a bigger surface, but maybe this is practice for a future painting on a bigger canvas. I have one more big day to go and then finishing.

It’s the first morning I haven’t worn wool socks since last October. People are outside even as I type walking their dogs — that hasn’t happened in a while, either, and it is disrupting Bear’s tranquil moments with her rawhide pencils.

Sorry for the relentless quotedium updates but really life is — for now — pretty quiet. I will not say dull because you know where that could lead. I may take a break from writing every morning — What Bear? Never mind. You’re stuck with me. Bear hates change.

When I log on tomorrow, maybe I’ll have something interesting to share, but I wouldn’t bet on it. 🤣

Random, Vacuous, Quotedium Update

Yesterday, in honor of the ground not being frozen, I did clean up in the yard I share with the dogs. What a mess!!! I learned something about my dogs, too. I hope you’re sitting down…

They bury their rawhides. 🤣

Bear’s masterpiece hole is now so large she can hide in it… I guess her plan is to emerge in Tianjin or something. Akbash dogs are born diggers… Bear has three holes in my yard. Two in the last places the snow melts and her masterpiece between two lilac bushes. They are her hobby…

Elise took on the challenge of my down sweater and ultralight parka and carried it off with aplomb.

The featured photo is my Aunt Martha, me and my mom dressed up for Easter services at First Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. It’s 1967. We’re all wearing orchids. My mom is wearing a pink linen dress and a navy spring coat, I’m wearing a green linen suit, and my aunt is wearing a yellow double knit suit. The photo is a Polaroid.

As should be clear by now, I have nothing at all to say… Happy Easter from me, Bear and Teddy

Top o’ the Mornin’! ☘️

It’s finally happened. I’m OVER winter. Done, finished. It’s a sadistic whore, and I’m not playing any more. 3 inches over night. Whoopdeeedo. “Too little too late, Sweet Cheeks,” I said to it as I looked out the window and you know what IT said?

“It’s not about you,” said the snow on the lilac bushes.

The nerve…

Still, after our not–all–that–great saunter at the golf course yesterday, Bear was a happy dog.

“It’s about Bear,” said the snow on the deck.

“Shut up snow.”

“Yeah? Well YOU shut up. I challenge you to find something quieter than I am,” said all the snow everywhere.

I was half-hoping yesterday we’d at least see the tracks of some ungulates, but no luck. It would have been difficult, though, since we were out there while the snow was falling AND melting. I am not sure Bear found tracks with her nose, but she may have. She’s very quiet about her discoveries.

In St. Patrick’s Day news, yesterday I was cleaning out emails and I found a treasure. Back in the day, my cousin Linda set up my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank with a computer and an aol account. They wanted to use it, but the learning curve was steep. When I went to Montana for Christmas in 2000, I spent a lot of time teaching them because, 1) that was part of my job in CA and 2) it snowed all the time.

They got pretty OK using it. The typing was the hardest part, and they both knew that it was just going to take practice. Sitting at a computer wasn’t really their style, but they tried. I got into emailing them once a week and sometimes they answered with a letter. Sometimes they emailed me back, but not often. ☘️

> Date: Saturday, March 17, 2001, 10:11 AM
> Dear Martha Ann,
>      Time to let you know that we are
> still around. Jo has has been a bit 
> under the 
> weather lately.  I took her to the doctor yesterday
> hope that gets her going 
> again.
> We both wanted to wish you a Happy St Patricks day.
>      I finialy got around to building a
> table for my kitchen table top. 
> didn”t turn out to badly. will use it on the  patio
> that is if  we should 
> ever again have warmer weather.
>      Your aunt Martha is doing okay
> about the same. Your Aunt Jo isn:t as 
> fiesty as usual but says she still likes you and will check
> with you later.
>     Hank

When I was a little girl I lived with Uncle Hank and Aunt Jo for four months. Sometimes I’d get in trouble, and I would think they didn’t love me any more. My Aunt Jo figured that out and after she lectured or punished me she’d always say, “I still like you, Martha Ann” and she would hug me. It became our code for “I love you.” ☘️

The featured photo is St. Gall and the Bear. St. Gall is the patron saint of Switzerland. He was an Irishman who came across the channel with St. Columbanus. I first learned of him from How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill. I expected How the Irish Saved Civilization to be a satire but it turned out to be legit history that set me on a life-changing course of discovery.

Oh, and as for me? Ancestry has recently let me know that my folks came from central Tipperary during “the starvin'”. I knew when; I didn’t know where so that was cool. My great granddad worked on ships in the Great Lakes where he met my French Canadian great-grandma from whom I inherited a droopy left eye. I can’t find their photos but here’s my dad looking like a Leprechaun. He got the droopy eye, too. In color he had black hair, a red beard and snow-shadow blue eyes. ☘️