and yet ANOTHER Snowy Walk with Bear

Very beautiful day yesterday. The snow fell off and on all day but only got as deep as my ankles. I shoveled the walks then sequestered Bear and headed to the Refuge.

The road was treacherous. I have consciously avoided winter roads since I moved here. It isn’t difficult since we have more sunny days than gray, and most winters have been dry. At first it felt a little sketchy. Bella is a jeep but she doesn’t have the best tires for snow/ice. I soon relaxed into the experience and enjoyed it.

It is a little strange to think that most of my winter driving experience was in Montana driving my aunts around the winter-slick roads in Billings in their cars. Front wheel drive and studded tires, but if the snow was deep? Everyone stayed home until the plows came out. As I drove, I felt strangely nostalgic for Billings’ winter roads and my bundled up aunts.

I always wondered WHY my aunts wanted me to drive. It had been DECADES since I’d driven on winter roads, but there I was. San Diego driver. I had learned to drive in those conditions so it wasn’t long before I was fine.

“You’re doing good, honey,” my Aunt Jo would say.

Before Bear and I left the Refuge yesterday, a very amazing snowplow came up the main road. It had a front blade, and pulled a heavy trailer that had another blade, this one pointing toward the side of the road. The plow system was immense and fun to watch. It gave us an easier ride home, though still slick.

Bear and I had, again, untrammeled snow and tracks — fox or coyote, but my money is on fox. The snow was soft and the tracks were a little filled. A male Northern Harrier passed low in front of me and then moved on.

Northern Harrier in the tree…


Bear had the time of her life investigating the mischief made by other animals since the last time we were there.

“Very interesting, Martha!”

The sky to the south was so dark that the shadows of the trees were on the “wrong” side. The storm came from the southwest. To the north the sky was bright with a band of clear turquoise on the horizon.

You can see the effects of the odd light in the photo below. I’m facing east. The sun was desperately trying to shine through dark clouds over my right shoulder. The tree’s shadows would — normally — point in the opposite direction. This can’t be painted. It’s a photo that needs words, a phenomenon maybe unique in my life.


In a place like the Refuge where there is nothing overtly dramatic to look at, a person who goes there often, like I do, is going to notice ambience and detail. It is really not the same place twice.

The day before yesterday I saw a beautiful, huge, pale tan feather. I wanted to pick it up, but as we were just starting out, I couldn’t. I planned to get it on the way back, but the wind and a couple passing cars had blown it away. I thought about that later. Moments of beauty are just like that feather or a harrier’s low, slow flight.

Being Old

I have a bunch of Facebook friends who are kids with whom I went to high school. We’re all 71 (some of us 72) this year. Some of them are troubled by the “invisibility” of old age. Personally I hate the “OK Boomer” thing, but I also think anyone who comes out with that is probably an asshole and I don’t want to know them anyway. As for invisibility? When I had to walk with a cane (in my fifties) I was REALLY invisible. For true invisibility, try being crippled.

I told one of the young (40 year old) people in my life that every old person is incognito. Whoever we are, we are dressed in the anonymous apparel of age, and all old people look the same.

The challenge of being incognito is that our “self” has to cruise around in a body that doesn’t want to do all the things it once did, and we are forced into identifying with something more enduring than physical prowess. That’s a drag and a blessing. My dad was dead at 45, my brother at 56, so I’m all about being 71 years old.

I don’t feel invisible. If someone disrespects me, that’s on them, not me.

For my birthday I got a new, short-sleeved t-shirt. I’m happy about that because I won’t have to wear my Sex Pistols “Pretty Vacant” t-shirt to get my annual old person’s flu shot this coming October. It’s always a little weird for people there at the public health event when I show up in Sex Pistols t-shirt with the cover art from “Pretty Vacant.”



The way I see this is that I’m just fucking lucky to be alive, to be (mostly) healthy, to be ambulatory, to live where I do where the compromise between my trashed knees and my adventurous spirit is easy to work out. I get to see Northern Harriers hunt and elk move slowly across my “empty” world. I get to talk to people who share my interests — true, there aren’t a lot of them, but there never have been. I have dogs who think our life together is as good as it gets, I’ve started two new careers in the past few years. That cliche that you’re “as old as you feel” is not true, but this is true:

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world. 
Push off, and sitting well in order smite 
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds 
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 
Of all the western stars, until I die. 
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: 
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, 
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. 

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred Lord Tennisball “Ulysses”

SO, when a kid in a car passes me at the Refuge, looks out of the backseat window at me and Bear, and says, “You and your dog match!” I’m honored.

Rock

Bear, Teddy and I were out yesterday for a while. No snow to speak of except on the mountains which are sitting around the edges of the San Luis Valley like a come-on from a tourist brochure. Starlings in one red willow bush. Tracks the dogs could “see” but I could not. I gave Teddy my birthday because he was six months old when I got him one June day 4 years ago, so we were celebrating.

As they walked, sniffed and pulled their leashes to get to the next scent, I had the thought that if we didn’t “measure” time we wouldn’t “know” things like that. Funny how we make up stuff and then “know” it as if it were a discovery — that said, the movement of the earth around the sun is regular enough to say “clock” to any human. It’s a system that pre-exists any human “knowledge” and we are obliged to follow it if only because it’s really dark at night.

I’ve sat in on a lot of arguments/disputes/discussions about whether time exists. They tend to get extremely abstract and most of them end in “Oh my god, it’s late. I have to get home.” Some of these disputes started with the idea of a “time line.” “It’s not a line,” was often the opening…So there’s that. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a side in these discussions because 1) I don’t know, 2) I wear a watch. Right there is a conundrum. There’s the argument that there is no “time,” there is only duration. There’s the argument that since all time exists in the universe simultaneously (we can see the beginning of the universe if we look far enough into space) there is no time. I tend to think the problem is the word, “time,” there being a difference between the “space time continuum” and “what time is it?”

At this point in my life, even when I look at the solid form of Mt. Blanca I KNOW it was once a much bigger mountain in located near the equator. Interesting paper on the history of the Sangre de Cristo mountains here.

The Ancestral Rockies

The first Rocky Mountains, called the “Ancestral Rockies,” began to rise about 320 million years ago during Penn- sylvanian time. Like the present Rocky Mountains, deep fault-bounded basins separated individual ranges of the Ancestral Rockies but, unlike the present Rockies, these basins were filled with shallow seas. Geologists continue to speculate about how the Ancestral Rockies formed, whether by compression and thrusting of the crust or by strike-slip faulting, or some combination of these, perhaps when two large ancient continents, Laurentia (North America and Europe combined) and Gondwana (South America and Africa combined) collided. However they formed, the Ancestral Rockies were largely worn down by erosion by the end of Permian time, about 250 million years ago. 

Think about that…a whole mountain range gone. Not exactly “poof!” but still gone… And before that? A whole lot of stuff no one really knows much about. The paper says, “The first 30 billion years are largely unknown…”

Yesterday my cousin, Tom, called me. Tom and I were good friends in our childhood and teenage years. We’re the same age, well, he’s one month younger. But time (ha ha) marches on and people grow up, get married, move on and on and on and on and things happen to them. Last time I talked to Tom was in 2008. The first thing he said was, “Are you really 71 years old?” I cracked up.

“You’re not far behind, sonny.”

RDP Sunday: follow




Quotidian Update 12.25.XX.9

Got up this morning to quiet. People aren’t driving their trucks up and down in front of my house this morning, leaving the small-town quiet that I don’t get often living on a fragment of a highway that crosses part of America. No barking dogs (mine) just quiet. It’s very lovely. All enhanced by the sweet good-mornings of my two dogs. “Merry Christmas, Teddy. Merry Christmas, Bear.”

I learned last night that a friend in Wyoming has puppies like Bear. The parents who gave birth to those puppies are working dogs on her ranch, Ladder Ranch. I looked around my little house and thought, “It would probably work, with Bear here to train it. It would learn fast.” Then I thought, “Martha, are you out of your mind?”

The jury is out on that.

The book reading continues. The big box arrived two days ago — so heavy that no one could lift it. As I rolled it through my front door, I saw that others had rolled it, too. It was broken in many places and taped. But the books are all in good shape and, when I finish with the e-books, I’ll move on to the physical books. I’m reading a couple of new categories this time and they present new challenges and frustrations. Sometimes I want to talk to the author and say things like, “Dude, this is NOT that,” but I’m not teaching any more.

Obviously I don’t have much to say, so I will leave you with a fragment of a beautiful poem I ran across yesterday a winter poem from a great Chinese poet, Chu Yuan:

…Lame Dragon’s frozen peaks;
Where trees and grasses dare not grow;
Where a river runs too wide to cross
And too deep to plumb,
And the sky is white with snow


It made me think of my Chinese brother and my Christmas in China. I’m very happy to have heard from him last night.

The Museum

Yesterday I went to get my paintings at the museum. While I was there an elderly couple (80s and beyond), their grown kids and teenage grandkids were there looking at exhibits. The woman had grown up in Del Norte and remembered some of the people — doctors and dentists — whose old time tools are part of an exhibit. The tree had been decorated with old postcards, and one of them had been written by the old lady’s father. K, the woman in charge yesterday, asked the old woman if she’d like to take a photo of it. I think I would have given it to her. It’s just paper.

I thought about the purpose of a museum, especially a small local museum. In one more generation, the old things in there aren’t gong to evoke much of a response in people except as they might remember going there on an elementary school field trip. I wonder how they will see the ephemera, like the Christmas postcards? I asked myself, “Where do our memories actually lie and what do they mean?” Christmas is a nostalgic time.

I didn’t put up a Christmas tree because, honestly, why? BUT…when I pulled out the stained glass box that is a candle holder I found some Christmas ornaments inside it. Well, to cut to the chase, I “decorated.” In front of me right now is my “tree.” It’s a little museum to Christmas past, memories. The ornaments seemed to say, “For the love of god do SOMETHING with us!” I put them all on my tuner in front of me here on my table. The angel, in particular, with her chrome, foil, plastic, pipe-cleaner little self, her wooden ball head with its sweet expression that so enchanted a little girl that her dad bought it for her.

The real museum is probably in our minds, the stories behind the objects, artifacts, ephemera, like the elderly woman in the museum seeing her dad’s handwriting on the back of a postcard from the 1920s. I would have given it to her. “Here. Merry Christmas.” Yep. I would’ve done that.



The Fancy Dinner

Among the events last night I managed to get out of the house dressed in black velvet and cashmere without being covered with the love filaments of my canine partners. As I drove to the fancy dinner, the valley showed me all its snowy mountains, the Sangres, draped in the pink of sunset. On the edge of Del Norte I slowed down for a small herd of mule deer.

The dinner was wonderful! Delicious and beautifully served. Every seat was filled. Warm and friendly conversations everywhere. I sat at a table with museum people which was good. I don’t know how well I did as a journalist, but I can fill in blanks since I have a month before the deadline in December.

It’s always going to be a little strange living in a place where people have known each other and each other’s families going back generations. Such a thing would never have been my life no matter what my life had been. I have always belonged more to a landscape than to the people who live in it, but, like the people among whom I live now, I was also a “property” of a large extended family, so this isn’t really alien to me. My family just happened to be in Montana, but their lives going back in a generation or two were similar to the lives of the families of the people around me. Over time, I realized that if I have a “home” somewhere, it’s Montana. Maybe “home” is the place to which you return from wandering, time and again. I know that one reason the valley attracted me is its resemblance to the part of Montana I know best, the big, blue sky, the golden plains, the distant blue mountains.

Over the years I’ve learned that, in a way, every place is the same place and a traveller is a traveller by nature. The I-Ching taught me about that a long time ago. I’m never going to “belong” here except as an accepted outsider, truly a lovely thing, and partly my choice. A traveler — to be at peace wherever he/she travels — has to cultivate a certain attitude and that attitude came pretty naturally to me. Though I am friendly, and sincerely like people, my personality is a little detached. Some people in my life (including my mom) have complained about that, but it’s just who I am. I am private and self-contained. Some of my family understood that, and it didn’t bother them; others felt put-off and rejected. But we are all who we are.

I chose a long time ago to be what I understood to be “a citizen of the world.”

“Hexagram 56: The traveler arrives at an inn. All of his belongings are with him. He gains the trust of a youthful attendant. In this situation, the traveler is a humble and well-mannered person. He understands that for a traveler the only place where he finds a resting point is attained through a constant and renewing introspection of his inner principles. Since he does not find a home in the outside world he must find refuge within himself. Because of his modest and proper approach he will be greeted as a friend. He will find assistance among the others and his purpose will be achieved. He will even gain the support of a person who will become a loyal and sincere friend. This is a priceless benefit for a man who travels through the lives of others. “

The entire hexagram is applicable to me. But this part always strikes home. I’ve been lucky here to find true friends who take me as I am and appreciate — and accept — what I have to offer them. My companion here is the valley itself. Extremely good company and I don’t want to be anywhere else.

The level of “gussied” up here in the San Luis Valley is completely acceptable to me — I was on the fancy end of that. I could’ve worn jeans and a sweatshirt, but… I haven’t been in an environment like that for years. The last time was the student/athlete’s banquet at San Diego State in 2007? Ah, some conferences — 2012, 2013. That too. I thought about that as I drove home with the moon rising half full. Such events were once a part of my life, no big deal. It’s funny that when we retire we don’t first realize all that we retire FROM.

I have a lot to process and some interviews to line up and a few photos to take before I can write the story. I’m happy my deadline is a month away.

Put a Good Face on It

When my Aunt Martha got ready for work — or to go out on a date — there was a period of time when she had to “put on her face.” This involved foundation, eye makeup, powder and lipstick. That woman never washed her face with soap and water, either. The idea appalled her! She used an expensive brand of cold cream you didn’t buy at the drug store or the supermarket, but in the nicer department stores. Dorothy Gray



My friend Melanie, seeing a photo of my Aunt Martha at 80, said, “She’s a 10.”

I said, “Wait a minute. We get rated even when we’re 80?”

“Sure. There are ratings the whole time.”

Maybe it was the cold cream. Personally, I think how a person’s skin holds up depends on sun exposure and genetics.

As for her niece, I’ve never “put on my face,” and I use water, and, over the years, various kinds of cleaning materials — at the moment Neutrogena glycerine bar since I’m trying to reduce my use of plastic bottles. All my face ever got from me was mascara, eye shadow and lipstick in the appropriate locations, of course. This bothered my aunt. I remember arriving at her townhouse in what was Littleton and is now Columbine, CO after driving 8 hours from Albuquerque. The first thing she said was, “Not even a little lipstick?” Seriously. I just never cared that much about “my face.” I’m more a what you see is what you get kind of woman. My aunt could say the most outrageous things to me, and they always rolled off my back because I knew — and she knew — how much we meant to each other. I just laughed.

I’m thinking about this now because it’s pretty likely that if my Aunt Martha were here now she’d be putting on her face later, before we went to…

…the fancy dinner at the Windsor Hotel in Del Norte. It’s a benefit to raise money to move the old (how could it be new?) stage coach office from a park in Del Norte to the courtyard of the Rio Grande County Museum. I’m good to go, though I am going to go air out my sweater since it hasn’t been worn since last Christmas time when I read at the museum.

I’ve known since I moved here that Del Norte was in contention to become the capitol of Colorado. I could never figure that out. If there’s one thing the San Luis Valley has always been it’s inconvenient to get to. I think it was LESS inconvenient in the days of the stagecoach, when every place was inconvenient and no one expected anything else, and the railroad? But how and why, I mean, Del Norte? Turns out the richest gold mines were near Del Norte. I didn’t know that until I attended a Zoom “class” a couple of weeks ago. Well, yeah. Where there’s gold, there’s power.

Of course I didn’t know this. I grew up in a different part of Colorado where the gold mine stories — though there were a lot of them — were about different mines and different legendary “heroes”.

So, anyway, I’ll be doing my low-key version of getting gussied up and attend an event in a fancy (for the 1870s) hotel tonight, praying I don’t have an asthma attack. Yes, I’m taking my inhaler.

Oh, I heard this great song this morning. Really haven’t heard it since back in the day.

Featured photo: Aunt Martha with her face on sometime in the early 1960s when she was in her 40’s. Dorothy Gray or not, to me she was beautiful.

Wow

Just got back from a perfect walk with Bear. Perfect sky. Perfect light. Perfect (chilly) temperature. Silent except for our steps and a few cranes in the distance. Only two cars, one belonging to a guy from Taos who loves Teddy but hasn’t met Bear. We waved. New shoes. Wow. Elizabeth socks. We walked and walked and walked and had a perfect time. Bear smelled many wonderful things (I’m given to understand) and I savored every moment of our time in this amazing place, surrounded by white peaks. Good God, how did I get here? It amazes me almost daily.

I’ve been thinking about the many wonderful things that happen only once in our lives. Just one time. We can’t repeat them. Every single moment is a one-shot deal. For me that list involves things that have happened randomly in nature, or seem to have been random but maybe aren’t. I can’t say. I wrote a sonnet about this, but it only scratched the surface. Fourteen lines is ENOUGH, I’m just not that good at it.

I realized I have been trying to paint some of those moments. I think that’s a good goal. One painting is the cranes flying over Bear and me last spring.

I mean things like (this list is in no particular order and no where near complete) last winter Teddy and I crossed paths in the snow and fog with a black fox. How often does that even happen AT ALL? Crazy. Or the first fox I ever saw, coming out of the fog on a snowy day while a golden eagle circled above us. Bear and Dusty were so stunned they didn’t react; they just watched. The deer my dog Ariel led me to one afternoon; we walked into a thicket and the doe stared right at me, a foot away. The deer and I were both deeply surprised, neither of us frightened, and my wolf dog just proud of how well she tracked? It was something. Maybe the cherry on the sundae is the mountain lion in 2004. It’s hard to say WHAT that cherry might be, there are so many wonders — a blue skink? A rare Laguna Mountain Kingsnake? The rosy boa I carried in a pocket in my cargo pants for most of a hike? The coyote that appeared to run across the hills with the spirit of my dog Lupo? Skiing through two seasons in one day with Molly? Going to pick up my Aunt Martha who suffered from dementia and finding dozens of post-it notes in her apartment all of which said, “Martha Ann Comes Today!” Standing on the EXACT point of the rain shadow that makes the great American desert, one arm in winter, the other in, in, in? I don’t know but it wasn’t snowing on that half of me. A twilight hike to the overlook of the Delicate Arch with a man with whom I share a precious, inexplicable, bond? A spontaneous 28 mile hike with Molly just because it was a godawful beautiful December day and we wanted to see EVERYTHING? A birthday party in a Vietnamese restaurant in Zürich? Granitas in Venice? Walking with friendly, belled cows down from the Eigerwand Station of the Jungfraubahn? Crossing the Zürichberg with the ONE person in the world who is as interested in Gfenn as I am? A heart-breaking hour at a hospital in Billings, MT, returning to my Aunt Jo’s house to find she had fixed my very favorite dinner from when I was a kid? Riding my bike to the Guangzhou Botanical Garden for a picnic with students, being passed by a lorry carrying the students who sing “This Land is Your Land” to me as they pass by? Crossing the stage to get my Master’s Degree and hearing, “YEEEE-haw!” from the back row where my aunt and uncle were sitting, bringing real life and Montana into that stuffy, solemn, moment. Hearing John Bayley recite “The Windhover,” a famous, stuttering English professor from Oxford who, reciting that poem, didn’t stutter at all, watching his hand move like a hawk in flight. Seeing my dad in the coffin, reaching for his hand, touching it, and understanding in that moment what death is, breaking down, collapsing, and feeling the strong arms of my Aunt Kelly and Uncle John who were prepared for that moment and there to help me? My Aunt Martha arriving on the street car for dinner at our house, and little girl me, running down the street to meet her.

A fraction, a tiny fraction of the long catalog of miracles.

Seriously, this life thing. Fuck. As I walked in the beauty with Bear this afternoon, so many of these moments passed through my mind, and, as I thought about them, Bear took a break from smelling things to come and lean on me.

-

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

I Read the News Today, Oh Twit…

The recent upheavals at Twitter — seriously. Seriously. Seriously. Good god. It’s enough to drive a person batty, but I’ve already been to batty, and decided not to stay.The thing is WHO CARES? BUT we live in a world where it really does matter. Sigh.

I was thinking last night about social media (which this is) and how it’s changed everything. I know I’m not the first person to think about this and I’ve probably even written about this before — a long time ago I wrote about “Facecrack.” The post is gone; as I recall it dealt with the addictive aspects of Facebook.

Personally, I feel that Twitter — and Facebook — do/have done a lot of damage, but there’s no going back. I spent a little while (a year?) on Twitter trying to understand how it worked and hoping to sell books. What I found was a bizarre psychological drain along with the good stuff and the good people — it was the main point of contact between me and the mom of the kids up the alley, photos, jokes, invitations. The psychological drain (for me) turned out to be more powerful than the good stuff. I got thrown off Twitter about a year ago, maybe longer, for using “bad words” in the direction of Lauren Boobert. That bitch can dish it out, but she can’t take it.

I considered being thrown off Twitter to be a badge of honor. Twitter offered me the chance to stay if I retracted my comment. Well, that wasn’t happening. How could it mean so much to me that I would NOT stick by my words? How could I want to be there THAT much? But more than that I didn’t want to fill my time and my life with that. Some of my Twit followers had already lectured me on how I should have used euphemisms — but I thought, “OK, hypocrisy good; honest self-expression bad.” Anyway, I didn’t want to be that person — but part of me IS that person. I’m an asshole. When kids beat up on my brother, I didn’t turn the other cheek; I beat them up.

So now Elon Musk — a strange dude, IMO — has bought Twitter, is wreaking havoc and we have news about it as if it were a real place. I know it’s a business. I know it makes money and employs people, I get all of that, I get the material mechanics of it as a business entity, but what I don’t get is its power. I understand that it can be a force for good as well as ill — it’s a neutrality, depending largely on its users and their choices.

Yesterday a loose dog was running around on the highway. I wanted to catch him, but he wasn’t having it. I posted on Facebook, but I only have 50 friends and most don’t live here. One of them suggested I post on SLV Lost and Found Pets, but I left that group because of all the anger. SO…I rejoined to share that post. To rejoin I had to agree not to sell anything on the page and not to post politics, not to flame other users, basically not to be mean. By the time my membership was approved, the dog had gone home or been hit by a car. I don’t know. I hope the former. How do we live in a world where we have to agree not to be mean?

I read an article in my favorite magazine — Colorado Central — by a mom in Salida, CO who is struggling to teach her kids to be what she calls “egalitarian,” basically teaching them not to be mean. Her choices are very clearly defined by the concerns of our time — concerns largely defined by social media. Just a quick poll — how many of you have known a transsexual person? And, if you have, did you think it was any of your business? I’ve had a few in my classes over the years, all of them talked to me about themselves and all I could think, “You are brave and good and I’m on your side, but this isn’t my business except as I’m your professor and you’ll be missing school.” I honestly think most people feel similarly. But social media has made it a kind of issue. I applaud her for wanting to raise kids who are openminded but how was this done in my childhood? I mean, I grew up pretty open-minded. Did my parents teach me? They did. How?

As I wondered about this I remembered a paper my mom bought at a gift shop in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It said, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” It hung where we could see it, over the door going out to the garage in one house, over the stairs to the basement in another. We talked about it at the dinner table. What did it mean? The “moccasins” mattered because of my family’s ties to the Crow Indians. The upshot? We’re not all the same. Be kind. (Back then “man” = human with no particular gender connection) Some of us wear moccasins.

Remembering those days — early 60s — things were very violent in parts of this country and bad guys were running government offices here and there. I remember sitting in the car listening to the radio when MLK was speaking and my parents discussing what was going to happen in Alabama and what it meant. It tied to that paper hanging in our house. It was part of the moccasins. The next year, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Did it fix things? Absolutely not. Did it help? It gave African Americans a position for legal redress which is important in a country ruled by laws.

Yesterday I read a short essay by historian Heather Cox Richardson about women winning the right to vote. There was (as usual?) an optimistic tone to her writing, praising the historical courage of women fighting for the right to vote. She ends her essay with, “And …150 years after [Susan B.] Anthony cast her vote—those of us who have not been cut out of the right to vote by one or another of the measures states are now imposing on their voters can exercise that right, and determine what our nation will look like, once again.”

I just thought of the women who don’t seem to mind that TFG said it was OK for him — because he was famous — to “grab [a woman’s] pussy”, women like the representative from my Congressional district and others — Nikki Haley, MTG, Kristi Noem, etc. Then I thought, “Yeah, that women voting thing worked out great.” It’s not about gender or skin color; it’s about values.

So…yay mom in Salida trying to teach her sons to be kind. Keep at it and good luck.

Boundaries in the Bark of Beyond

Yesterday the Christmas season kicked off in my little town with the Holiday Boutique. I don’t know the whole story behind it but I do know a little. Some sisters and cousins got together 17 years ago and decided to hold a holiday craft boutique. They set high standards and were very exclusive in who they invited to join the core group. One of the non-family members is my friend Elizabeth.

It opened at 4 pm. I was there at 4:15, and it was packed. People kept coming. The boutique is held at the Church of Christ, in the church hall, a smallish room for such a major event. The boutique is one of the lovely things about living in a small town.

I had two things in mind — first and foremost, Elizabeth’s hand knit socks. They are the best socks, especially for walking in winter. They’re lightweight and warm. Over this past year, Elizabeth has made — knit! — beautiful animals. I love them. She knits them and their little outfits. I want all of them, but that would be silly. My favorite is the little mouse in the middle. When Elizabeth showed her to me a few months ago, I didn’t want to let go. I hope they find good homes.

One thing I always buy at the boutique is chokecherry jelly. I stood in front of the display, mildly dismayed that all the jars were so large and, frankly, pricey. I contemplated whether I’d eat a whole pint of jelly in a year (the jury is out on that). A tall woman came up and I recognized her as the maker of jelly, a very excellent saleswoman, too. So…here is life here.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m looking at the chokecherry jelly. I love it. I buy it every year.”

“Ah. This might be the last time. My chokecherry picker went to God this year.” She had tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I know when they go to God they usually stay there.”

“I didn’t think I’d have chokecherries this year but someone showed up at my door with a bucket of chokecherries. ‘Here, Tia, for your jelly.'”

At that point I had tears in my eyes.



Until I started writing, I didn’t doubt the truth of her story. But now? I hate that. I want to be the completely gullible person I’ve always been. I don’t want skepticism to enter into my life at this late date. Wow. That was uncomfortable. BUT she talked me into another jar of jelly. Cherry.

People will tell you their entire life story just like that. I love it. It’s one of the great things about living here. But, chokecherries…

No one has asked me my chokecherry story, but I have one. These bushes grow wild all over America, different strains of the same basic plant. Here they are growing in the Cuyamaca Mountains of San Diego County.

One of the best moments I remember with my mom was over an Independence Day weekend in 1980 when I went up to Montana. She didn’t live there yet; she was visiting her sisters and staying with my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank. They had a “summer home,” a mobile home at Fort Smith which is at the north end of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, known familiarly as Bighorn Reservoir. Along with a few mobile homes in this little community were Crow Indian tee-pees. The Crow have fishing rights on the Bighorn where the river goes into the reservoir, very prime fishing.

One afternoon mom, my aunt and I took off to pick chokecherries and buffalo berries along the river. We had so much fun. So, to me, chokecherry jelly is THAT afternoon. That evening, my mom’s attitude toward life and me went a little sideways (thanks alcohol) but even that turned out OK. Hearing the changed tone in my mom’s voice, my Aunt Jo, who was sitting on the deck with a cold drink, looking at the brilliant sky, called into the house. THAT is the featured photo, another relic from an old journal.

I guess I can eat a pint of chokecherry jelly in a year.