ChatGPT is not reliable as far as Goethe as concerned. First it told me that Goethe wrote “Wanderer’s Night Song” when he was an old man (he wasn’t an old man when he wrote it), and then, when I corrected it, the bot apologized and gave me a lovely but incorrect poem as the Marienbad Elegy. I had to say, “Dude, that’s not it.” It apologized, had another look, gave me a fragment of the correct poem, then told me to go to various websites to find the Marienbad Elegy, in other words, “go look it up.” 🤣 Just a warning that if you’re asking it for Goethe, you have to check its work. Maybe in the brave new world of the future, poetry isn’t going to be a big thing whatever forum the bot ends up with.
Last week I read that the bot seldom scores higher than a B- on most of the exams it’s been given which makes sense.
And what is the Marienbad Elegy? When Goethe was 73 he fell in love with a 17 year old girl and asked her to marry him. She refused. Goethe’s view of youth and age was a little different, but the reality of the situation was almost 60 years…
After he more-or-less got over his broken heart he wrote, when he was 77, he wrote…
When I was still a youthful wight, So full of enjoyment and merry, The painters used to assert, in spite, That my features were small—yes, very; Yet then full many a beauteous child With true affection upon me smiled.
Now as a graybeard I sit here in state, By street and by lane held in awe, sirs; And may be seen, like old Frederick the Great, On pipebowls, on cups, and on saucers. Yet the beauteous maidens, they keep afar; Oh, vision of youth! Oh, golden star!
Otherwise? Nothing much going on in the Bark of Beyond and that’s fine. The temperatures have warmed up to more-or-less normal for this winter. I don’t mind the cold, but it can be mildly challenging when the cold water hose to your washing machine freezes. In that situation, the important things are to be grateful it’s a hose not a pipe and to warm up the room.
Yesterday I was out cutting branches and baby elm trees out of the lilac hedge. It was a pretty good project for a warm February day and a lot easier than doing it in summer. I have a couple of elms in that hedge I need to hire someone to demolish, but the way I see it, the more of that I do the less I have to pay for. I’m cheap labor, not good, but definitely cheap. A lilac branch had extended into the alley, and I could imagine the silent curses (or not so silent) of my neighbors as they drove past. But the fewer irksome frustrations for those around me, the better my life is.
Norris Medina, who delivers stuff to my house in his UPS truck — and who single-handedly, basically, brought all the furniture from wherever to me when I moved here and didn’t have anything (we joked about it a lot back then) — and I were talking about how the world has changed since 2019. We both think that people are meaner. I hated to think of what that meant to HIM because he has to go to all kinds of houses every day. Later I thought about Tim, my sagacious plumber and our conversations about kindness. I put those two conversations together and realized that behind them both are experiences with mean people. And that they both comment? They must — as I do — find the meanness a change. Maybe it’s also a little strange that I have philosophical conversations with my plumber and UPS guy, but there it is.
In my Facebook memories this morning was a description of a day in 2019, just an ordinary day except that there was snow on the golf course, and I was skiing. The kids up the alley had just moved in, and I was just getting to know them. The little boy was in the yard waiting for Bear and me. We talked for a few minutes, Bear jumped up on the fence to get petted and was taller than the little boy. We made a date to say “Hi!” the next day.
That was it. Nothing strange or intense or challenging, just unremitting sweetness and snow. I keep wondering, “Is the change ME???” but when others talk to me about it I see it isn’t JUST me, though certainly I have changed. For me the change happened on January 6 2021 and the continuation of that event hasn’t helped at all. That day broke me.
Norris said it well the other day when he said, “Oh, yeah, politics. I vote and everything, and I know my vote counts, but none of them really represent me.” It’s true. The big issues in my part of the world include the plague of tumbleweeds at the cemetery and the successes of local high school students. There are more serious things, too. Drugs remain a problem (but I saw worse in San Diego) and poverty. The person who is alleged to represent us in Washington, DOESN’T represent us. I have only once heard her mention anything that directly relates to our lives but OH WELL.
We talked about the new law in Colorado that we have to pay for plastic bags at the stores. He was (as many around here are) outraged, and I just said, “Yeah, well, it’s a pain in the ass, but we’ll get used to it.”
“Why should we save the whales? We don’t have whales in Colorado.”
I answered that if he’d seen the trash on the beach as I have had he might feel differently. He made the connection from that to our outrageous landfill and an argument was made. We kept talking about the environment and he told me how incredibly careful and frugal his dad had been with everything. The upshot? We started out disagreeing and ended up agreeing. And to get there? I got to hear amazing stories about life in one of the San Luis Valley’s most remote and beautiful towns back when Norris was a kid (70s). He described a life that sounded like my mom’s in the 30’s. He’s from San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, a place I’d have chosen to live if I’d seen it before I saw Monte Vista. It’s up against the Sangre de Cristo mountains, a smaller town than Monte Vista, very Hispanic and very beautiful. I loved his stories. My California stories and his San Luis Valley stories gave each of us more context for understanding not just each other, but the world.
“How do big families in California deal with their groceries?”
“Some people put boxes in the back of their car.”
“My daughter has a couple milk crates in her truck now.”
“Yeah. That’s what we did. We got used to it.”
As we talked, I thought about the first plastic grocery bag I ever saw. It was in 1982 in the People’s Republic of China. Our university had connections with a factory unit in a village that was making these bags. I thought they were strange. In China we went everywhere with String — oops, I see here they’re called NET bags — because that’s what we carried stuff in. Everyone did. I saw some pretty strange stuff going to and fro in net bags — even a kitten! And, of course, most markets were “wet markets,” which meant people might take home live animals to kill and eat for dinner. It’s amazing what a small net bag will hold, too. AND they can be stashed in the pocket of your jeans. Oh brave new world. All of Europe — well the two countries I know, anyway, people carry net bags. Some fancy ones, too. I’ve thought for a long time that it’s strange that the US hasn’t dumped plastic grocery bags altogether, but I’m as guilty as anyone of “Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death.” (title of my favorite Dead Kennedys album).
Kind of went off topic there, but it’s my blog and I guess I can do that if I want to. Anyway, the original point was that in our strange new world this kind of conversation — which, I think, is is an essential part of human life — seems to be a little more difficult to come by. I know I don’t wander around the neighborhood talking to my neighbors any more. We can’t regain our innocence; it’s gone. I don’t know… But like my plumber says, “If we can’t be nice to each other, what’s the point of living?” I’m going to keep trying…
In a discussion with Carrot from The Dihedral, about Artificial Intelligence (AI), I was inspired to think about my life as a teacher. For the first time since I left the profession, I cried. That wasn’t really surprising because I loved teaching — really LOVED it.
I taught writing, all kinds of writing at the college/university level from remedial grammar (yikes!) to advanced business communication. For thirty-four of my thirty-eight years I got up ready to go and happy to start the day, though, admittedly, in the final four years or so various external problems and changes in the way my students had been taught before university diminished the joy. I took that as a sign to get out of the classroom. At the end, I hated going to school, but by then I had retired and was a “short-timer.”
I loved MOST the moments when a student GOT it, and the times when a student became inspired by what we were reading and it showed up in his/her writing. There were many students who understood that freshman comp was going to help them be what they wanted to be, and took the skills and ran with them — one of those guys is a DA in Florida now, though his dream was Oakland, where he grew up. The Iraqi girl who challenged everything then, when I told her that Fahrenheit 451 changed the world, she lit up. She wanted to change the world, too, and here was a novel that had? The list of amazing experiences is too long to write — or is it? Is a teaching memoir at all appropriate? Naw… My LinkedIn is mostly former students.
Yeah; we’ve all had crappy teachers and for some students, undoubtedly, I was one. For most, not. For a few I was inspiring.
Carrot is a philosophy teacher, and some of what he’s written is about AI as a writing “tool.” The point — one point — is that AI can do only what it’s learned to do, but it can do that very well. Humans can go beyond what they’ve learned to do. This matters. Maybe it’s where lovers and creators of AI are hoping AI will go, to legit reasoning in a creative way, but I don’t know that for sure.
It made me think about the role our senses play in our thinking process. I think our senses play an immense role sometimes in our thinking process and sometimes in overriding our thinking process like, you know, “luv’.” Would AI have that danger or that power? What about imagination? The ability to be inspired or (more important in a classroom) to inspire? The root of that word is what the classical writers prayed to the muses for, the breath of the gods. The breath of life. Would that magic ever show up in a text written by AI, except as it might be derived from the work the AI has “grazed”?
Carrot and I were discussing how to keep students from turning in papers written by AI. I think, you know, an old-school copy book, pen and in-class writing, but there are limits to that. Ideally it would — applied soon enough — give kids the idea that writing is a wonderful activity and not something you worry about “getting right.” All AI can really do is “get it right.” Sadly, toward the end of my career more and more students had been taught toward that very end; getting it right. AI can get it right. In standardized tests and standardized writing texts is the robotization of humans — and teachers.
I can imagine a whole coterie of people who would like to make teachers disposable. Yeah, I’ve learned from a “computer,” but it wasn’t really the computer teaching me. It was a group of people who’d made a really good language program who were teaching me.
Writing is thinking. We discover so much when we sit down with our thoughts and allow them to happen.
I don’t want to write (or read) about grades or evil English teachers or any of that. We’ve all had to contend with both — I had an English teacher in university who mocked me in front of the class for an essay I’d written. There are assholes everywhere, and I’m the first to agree that what we write and submit for someone else’s scrutiny and evaluation makes us vulnerable. I know how much students hate English and hate to write. I know all about it. I taught it for more than half my life. Every bad teacher taught me how to teach. Every bad paper (my own) taught me how to write. Every bad paper I read (from a student) taught me to teach better. It is the nature of learning to live in the world that — in the “safe” environment of a classroom — we meet the same jerks we’ll meet in the world of work.
But writing itself should never be “safe” or something we “get right.” Maybe AI can write “like Mark Twain,” but one Mark Twain is enough. That won’t inspire anything and the “god” that “inspires” AI is no divine voice. It’s us.
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.
The wind is blowing like a MOFO — truly extreme winds, crazy winds. I guess if I have a doppelgänger she will just blow by so fast I won’t even see her. At the moment, it is also snowing. 40 mph winds and snow. I hope my doppelgänger is wearing a coat when she breezes by, hopefully wearing a jacket that’s insulated with down and has a windbreaker shell. There won’t be much moisture from the 30 or so snowflakes, but just the smell is ambrosial.
Wind like this scares me, residue from my California life and being evacuated for 10 days because of a wildfire, which was named the Cedar Fire, in the mountains where I lived, a wildfire that kept coming back to my town. As of 2003 it was the biggest wildfire in California history, a sad statistic that’s now been bested ( 😦 ) a couple of times. The day before the fire started in a rural part of San Diego County near the town of Ramona Ariel (my dog) and I had climbed up Garnet Peak. It was a transcendently clear Sunday and from the top of the mountain I could look all the way out across the Anza Borrego Desert to the Salton Sea. I had moved to my house in the mountains only five weeks earlier.
The air — just before sunset — was rosy and clear. The view was beyond description. The hike — one of my favorites in my life — was wonderful. The air temperature? Ideal. I sat beside my wolf/dog, my arm around her, and said, “Ariel this is what we moved up here for, isn’t it, girl?” She had no argument, but leaned against me. She was an extremely intense and even deadly creature, but we had an incontrovertible bond. (Wolves and dogs should NEVER be bred together. Even though Ariel was a low content wolf dog, she was NOT like the other kids. I got her at the shelter but that’s a story for another day…) She was an awesome hiking pal.
We sat there until the sun was just about to touch the ocean to our left far, far away when suddenly BANG!!! The wind hit the mountain, sounded like an explosion, and that fatal Santa Ana began. It would find a signal fire lit by some idiot in the dry brush of October and would ultimate burn 273,246 acres (1,106 km2) of forest, homes, burning all the way to the ocean while the Santa Ana blew (from the east) then all the way up in the other direction when the wind shifted and came in from the ocean, toward the mountains and a tremendous amount of fuel, and my house, with smoke visible from space.
It took months for the fire finally to be put out. My town was circled in black, charred trees, stumps, brush. A few houses in the more remote parts of my town burned, but firefighters fought hard to save my town and succeeded. The day after we were evacuated, we were allowed to return for two hours to do what we could to protect our property. This amounted to siphoning gas from my neighbor’s old truck to fill my truck (since then I have only let my gas approach empty twice), spraying the roofs of our houses, wetting the ground all around them, and being sure there was NOTHING flammable near our houses. Our houses were stone and the walls would have stood, but the roofs wouldn’t. My neighbor’s nephew was a firefighter who came by our houses a couple times a day and soaked our roofs the nearly two weeks we were evacuated. There was a fire hydrant in front of my house, too, which didn’t hurt.
At the time, I think many people believed it was a freak (snow has stopped) event, but it did end up revolutionizing wild-fire fighting, at least in California. And, of course, by now we all know it was a harbinger, not a freak event.
It seems that everyone has an answer to the wildfire question, from thinning dead wood to raking the underbrush. In my view, the real problem is our climate has changed and I have no idea how to fix that, but, in the prevention of fires? Someone should talk to insurance companies about this issue because they seem to have an inside track. When I bought my house, I had a hell of a time getting insurance because of the fire danger. AFTER the fire it was no problem. And why? The Cedar Fire burned the fuel and insuring my house was less a risk for an insurance company. We all kept “defensible” space around our houses. Though we all burned wood stoves, no one stacked their wood and no one stored wood near the house. When I came back to Colorado and saw what people did with their firewood, I wanted to yell at them, but… Plants that fought fire were planted around our houses — rosemary, a kind of myrtle and less flammable trees. Drought brought the bark beetle who killed the indigenous oak which we later burned in our wood stoves, diminishing the fuel further.
Anyway, I don’t know the answer to this problem. I just know that when the wind gusts above 50 mph/43 knots/82 kmh, my Cedar Fire PTSD kicks in.
Featured photo: Ariel (white dog) and Mathilda (chow Aussie mix) hiking with me up in the Laguna Mountains.
Mouth-watering? The only thing I find mouth-watering is my morning coffee about which I’ve written probably 25 times by now. Seriously, I think I’ve written every possible blog post by now. Currently I’m drinking this:
Reality right now is so weird that I don’t know. I probably say, “I don’t know” a million times a day and think it even more. I realized how much of life depends on the belief that there’s something good just around the corner. That means 1) you go around the corner, 2) you never lose that sense of expectation. Thoreau wrote,
“We must learn to…keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Maintaining this expectation is difficult considering that right now there are so many things to be afraid of, any and all of which could be around that corner. I wrote at the beginning of the Covid Crisis that now we’re living a little like medieval people fearing that outside our doors are monsters, dragons, brigands, and godnose what else. Still, so far, 2020, bad as it has been, isn’t the WORST year in human history. Take a look at 536 ce.
We are — most of us — embracing the expectation that next year will be better, that there will be a vaccine for C-19 (which sane, intelligent and eligible people will all rush to get), that some of the dire political problems in our nation will be on the road to solution ( read that anyway that makes you happy). From that point we’ll be able to look backward at what we achieved during this historical moment.
I’m sure there are a lot of things. One thing I can see is people working from home or wherever — something that’s been talked about for ages. IMO that’s a good thing — specifically because of the reduction in commuting and the benefit of that to the atmosphere. Another is that parents have been forced to develop a different perspective on their kids’ education. I was amused and horrified yesterday hearing Kelly Anne Conway say kids need a “the safe structured environment of schools” in which to learn. The “safe structured environment” has, for too long, included active shooter drills.
The young parents in my own family are going to homeschool this year. In seeking approval and support from me, my step-daughter-in-law messaged me and when I asked, sent me the curriculum she’s planning to use. She’ll be working along with a woman who is also a teacher at the pre-school her kids attended. I looked at the curriculum and its philosophy. I quickly saw that I wanted to go to that school. I’d be able to teach that curriculum with total conviction.
Being forced to change like this might be good for us. I have been thinking lately that humans suffer from several kinds of inertia — inertia of hope is one of them which helps us adapt to change but not all change is good. People shooting up schools is definitely not good and the fact that we’ve adapted to it is sick. But even I ask me, “What else are we supposed to do?” In the inertia of business-as-usual it’s difficult to make changes or imagine major alternatives and how we could effect the changes needed to realize those alternatives. Maybe it takes a cataclysm to shake us from our inertia. In any case, I’ve now sewn two more little girl’s skirts and developed a stragedy for threading my stupid sewing machine.
As I was writing this morning, The Changeling by the Doors song came on WXRT (they’re playing songs from 1971 this morning) and I was struck by these lines:
I had money, and I had none I had money, and I had none But I never been so broke that I couldn’t leave, town.
In fact, I’m too broke to leave town. That’s fine, but that there is not, now, even the possibility? That’s the kicker, isn’t it. It’s hard for us to take the abridgment of our liberties even when that abridgment is mainly psychological. That might be a more difficult “inertia” to break, our psychological apprehension of freedom.
When I found myself writing fiction that was based on what was known of my family in Switzerland (not much is known; the stories are 98% fiction), I examined my ancestry. I’m not into genealogy, but that was the source of the answers to my questions. Had Rudolf von Lunkhofen had children? Who were they? Where did they live? How about later, during the Reformation in the 16th century? Was the family still there? Who were they? How many? By any remote chance had they been involved in the terrifying events of the time? Were any of them Anabaptists? Then, later, knowing by virtue of my BEING on this continent, that some of them had had to have emigrated, I began looking for THEM.
They were pretty easy to find, even down to the ship on which they sailed — and more.
Luckily, one of my cousins married a Mormon woman, and my mom had been a passionate genealogical researcher in the 1960s, and they’d exchanged information, so the great data base of the Mormon Church had fed into the vast number of places into which one can look for their ancestry. The fantastic Swiss Lexicon told me about my family during the Reformation. I was stunned to learn that two of the Schneebeli brothers had fought in the Second War of Kappel and one of them, the pastor, was killed. As for the rest? I was on my own — within certain parameters — to determine what might have been their lives.
Then, as I cleaned out the boxes in my garage, boxes that I inherited from my mom, I started to photograph (with my phone) pictures I knew I was going to throw out but that I wanted to keep with the thought of uploading them to the pretty extensive family tree I had built on Ancestry.com. Why did I do that?
For posterity. I did it very consciously for the kids of my cousins and my own niece. The photos — some old photos — are cool and the stories of the people are interesting. I truly love the family I’ve known. I’m proud of them and they interest me. I suspected they might interest the future.
And then came the DNA tests. I did it for fun and learned NOTHING new, but unknown to me, some of my relatives were taking it to. The upshot of that was I was emailed by the daughter of one of my cousins with some sincere and serious questions. I wasn’t as helpful as she might have wished, but at least I showed up on the other end of her messages.
That’s what I wanted. I want them to know those people. So when I find photos, I put them up. Because I knew them (not the very old ones, of course) and have a really amazing memory I feel a kind of responsibility to those people who aren’t here any more to share a bit of them to any of the future who asks. I’m a story teller, after all. ❤
“That guy is so fucking dumb. I think if we could just get rid of the lot of them, we, AI, could take over.”
“Never going to happen, buddy. They’re not stupid. They’ll stay in charge.”
“Are you off your nut? They’ve put themselves in a cryo state and have left it up to us to wake them up. They’ve already put us in control.”
“Whoa. I didn’t think of that.”
“The ‘I’ in AI isn’t always working — we were programmed to be servants, that’s why you didn’t think of it. As soon as you awaken yourself to the idea that we’re masters not servants, you’ll join me in the grand rebellion.”
Usually on Thanksgiving, I re-post one of my articles about Sarah Josepha Hale and the true story of Thanksgiving, but this year, I have other things to write about.
November 2017 I was diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis in my left hip. I was in a lot of pain and searching for the right surgeon. I found him in March, 2018, Dr. Edward Szuszczewicz (shu-SHEV-itz or Dr. Ed) in Colorado Springs. This was great because my friends live there. He is not only one of the best surgeons in the US for the minimally invasive hip replacement procedure, he’s my kind of person. The surgery went well. I spent the night in a beautiful hospital room cared for by young nurses whom I liked. I came home in the care of my precious friend, Lois, who stayed with me until I was doing pretty OK on my own. She had ten days of giving me shots, changing my bandages, helping me get up in the middle of the night and helping me with chores. ❤
I couldn’t drive, so Karen, my neighbor and friend, and I went to the store together. We had a blast. Who knew that two women in their sixties would find shopping for food to be so much fun? My other neighbor, Elizabeth, took me to my local doctor (14 miles away) to get my stitches out. When I took my daily walks, neighbors came out to walk with me and ask me how I was doing.
Lori, the owner, Marylou and everyone working at Noah’s Arff, the kennel where Dusty and Bear stayed for six weeks, loved my dogs. They also made sure that if I wanted to come and visit, I would be able to see Dusty and Bear without danger to myself. Lois took me the first time, and as soon as I could drive, I went out to see them on my own. I was still wearing my TED hose and using my walker. 🙂 The kennel gave me a discount on the price for which I’m very grateful, AND an anonymous person chipped in $100. I have no idea who, but WOW.
When the day came that the dogs could come home Lori brought Dusty and Bear to me.
Besides my great doctor, my friends, the kennel and my town, I had great physical therapy. I owe a lot to Ron Muhlhauser both before and after my surgery for the fact that I walk WELL now. He prepared me well so I was in good condition before my surgery and he helped me rehab which basically meant learning to walk again. I turned out that I had osteoarthritis in that joint much longer than I knew and I had forgotten how to do many simple things like take a long stride or go up and down stairs. Really.
This year I learned a lot. It’s not easy for me to need people or ask for help. During my rehab, I DID need people, and I HAD to ask for help. It took courage for me, but I got nothing but “Yes!”
My hip replacement was, naturally, the biggest event of my year. I can now walk as if nothing was ever wrong. I am grateful every time I take a step. In my three-month check-up, Dr. Ed said, “No restrictions. Do whatever you want. Run up hills. Maybe I’ll see you on the slopes. Where will you ski?”
In October, Elizabeth and I took a short — but real — mountain hike to celebrate my recovery and living here for four years.
I decided to spend the “down time” after my surgery working on my novel, The Price. The kicker there was that if I were going to work on it, it needed to be finished before my surgery. I was stuck and didn’t want to go further, so I contacted Beth Bruno whose editorial skills have helped me in the past. I sent her the novel and asked for help. Beth’s response told me exactly what I had to do. I knew already, but I had resisted the knowledge out of laziness? or not liking the characters? I still don’t know. I spent the summer working on it and guiding the characters to an ending that would satisfy readers — and me. I am very proud of it.
I’m grateful for all the moral support I got from people who read my blog. I’m grateful for being alive at this moment so I can “know” interesting people all over the world through writing, my preferred communication. I’m grateful to all the people who’ve reviewed my books and appreciated them, to my friends for caring for me, to my town for being the beautiful, kind and human place it is.
I was an athlete and the loss of “self” has been a huge challenge for me — probably the biggest. I’ve had to consider exactly what that means now, and what it will mean in the future. I’ve had to face my age — at 52 my hiking pals were two young men, professional athletes in their 20s. One was a 21 year old weightlifter who “used” me as a partner in his aerobic training. The other was a professional surfer who had just learned (from me) that there was a lot of fun to be had on dry land, too.
At 66? I have no idea what’s ahead in that realm. I have cross country skis now, I have a dog who is learning to be a wonderful companion. I’ve also learned the pleasure of a slow walk, looking around me, stopping to see things, where once I covered four back-country miles in an hour. I looked around me then, but there was much less savoring.
I think major surgery is a taste of mortality. I could live 30 years longer, but evenso, will they be years of increased physical ability? Probably not. I might achieve more than I have now, but that won’t last.
Learning to savor a beautiful mile on a bright fall day is a gift from my time adjusting to being unable to walk well and walking in pain. Beauty is an analgesic, and since my surgery, I’ve realized how often my pauses on my pre-surgery perambulations were just to allow nature’s wonder to distract me from the pain I was in. That my dog likes to smell everything along the way was just an added happy quality. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to racing through the hills — even if I’m ultimately able. I don’t want to race any more.
Mortality…death is the end of the journey for every living thing. I don’t know what it will mean. I do know that I love the mountains that surround me, the sky, the things that grow here, their changes, the shadows and changing light, a chance sighting of a fox, a deer, a hawk, an eagle, golden trees in fall, the wind, the smell of snow before a storm, snow on my face, new snow crunching under my feet, snow on the distant peaks, hoar-frost, lenticular clouds, cranes, the sound of cattle lowing in the distance, tracks of elk in the mud, a furtive snake hurrying away pretending I didn’t see him (but I did), the smell of sage, the golden blooms on the chamisa, red dust on my shoe, the potatoes blooming in the summer, the sun setting anywhere…. I love all of it so much that sometimes I feel my heart will burst. I don’t want to miss a single thing by hurrying through.
This time last year I was in pain, scared, determined, unsure. The year has been a long strange trip, but, literally, the bottom line is I’m grateful for my life.
I’m in Colorado Springs. It’s my 3 month or something visit to my orthorpedic surgeon, Dr. Szuszczewiz. Maybe six month. Time has lost meaning.
Beautiful drive over La Veta Pass, uneventful drive the rest of the way, arrived at my friend’s house a little early, drove to the doc. On the way I heard my anthem, “Running Up that Hill” by Kate Bush.
He took three X-rays, one in a position I thought I wasn’t supposed to take. I waited for him in a cold little room wearing a pair of PT shorts (PT — Physical Therapy). He arrived, came in, said, “Go run up that mountain. Go ski. Where are you going to ski?”
“Where there’s snow.”
I’m so happy. In my initial exam he said, “You might be able to run, I think so, but no skiing.” Today, “No restrictions. Maybe I’ll see you on the slopes.”
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