VIII — Perspective

Born Again

“Onward, Christian Soldiers! Marching as to war! With the Cross of Jesus, going on before.”
Fifteen college boys.

“Dogs, look! Oh, no. Let’s hurry. Maybe we can beat them to the top.”

Running, running, the group comes closer, closer, closer, singing, louder, louder, her heart beating faster, faster, too fast, too dry. “Damn! Why are they here? There’s a whole world for them, such a little space for me! Come on, we can do it, Molly, Truffle.”

Running, running, running, marching, closer, closer, Bibles held against the chests of the boys like Mao’s Little Red Book. They don’t look down, they don’t look around, they don’t see morning sun backlighting the froth of seeded weed heads, the cool, damp places beneath the stones where small green things grow, where snakes linger.

“Wait, dogs! Wait. It’s a big one. Damn. What should I do? If I don’t tell those boys, they’ll step on it. If I tell them, I’ll have to wait here and I want to go up, ahead, away. Sit, girls. He’s still sleepy. They’ll walk right on him. They’re walking blind. DAMN!!!”

“Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to…”

“Hey, wait a minute. STOP. There’s a big rattler in the trail four feet in front of you.”


“A rattlesnake. In front of you. I don’t want you to step on it. It’s still kind of sleepy.”


“Not two steps from here.”

“Oh! I see it! Man, he’s big! Give me that rock,” the leader called to his buddy.

“Before you kill it, I want to see it,” said another boy. “I’ve never seen a rattlesnake.” 

“Where’s the rock? That’s perfect. Yeah. OK, that does it. Let’s go. Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War, with the Cross (the rocks? the sticks?) of Jesus marching on before.”

The woman looked down at the broken, bleeding, dying snake. “Look at you, look at you. There was no need. I never meant them to kill you. They come, they march, they sing, they pray, but they are blind. Damn, damn, damn, damn them.”

“Hey down there! Come on! It’s safe now!”

The “woman” felt it was far from safe.

The mythology in the book those boys were carrying made snakes the embodiment of evil. And the boys? Ignorant and arrogant. I was prepared to move the snake with the long stick I hiked with, but I didn’t get the chance. I just wanted the boys to stay back until I could do that. Truffle and Molly were sitting, patiently, some distance away. They got it, but the boys didn’t. I went back down the trail — well, actually straight down the hill. I heard shouting and beating, sticks and rocks and then a whoop of victory. Victory over a sleeping snake. All this in less than 5 minutes.

Just because a thing in nature is potentially dangerous to us doesn’t make it evil or malicious. It means its interests might come in conflict with ours. It doesn’t mean it does not have an equal right to pursue its interests. It means we should be aware.

Rattlesnakes turned out to be a major part of my apprenticeship. More than a decade later, when I no longer lived in the hood, but lived in the mountains east of San Diego, my apprenticeship continued. After losing two dogs — Lupo and Ariel — to rattlers that were hiding in gopher holes in my yard, I had to find a solution to this. I didn’t want to lose my two new dogs, Lily and Jasmine, or any other dogs who might come into my life.

My yard was a snake food supermarket. There were mice, gophers, lizards, frogs, and ground squirrels, AND there were rattlers and gopher snakes. There was NO WAY — living out in the country as I did — that I could possibly get rid of the snake food. The dogs had to learn that snakes were dangerous and had to be avoided.

There was a guy at the time who offered Rattlesnake Avoidance Training. A big Irishman — Patrick Callaghan (RIP) — from a California town where, it was conceivable to me, snakes outnumbered people. He had devised a training method to teach dogs to avoid snakes. I signed up Lily and Jasmine, and out we went to a hunt club not far from Descanso.

I was driving a red 2002 Ford Ranger with a topper. I was told to bring in one dog at a time, so I brought out Jasmine first as the more mellow of the two Siberian Huskies. Here’s how it worked — a review from a website from the time:

Patrick holds a rare license from the Department of Fish and Game for handling the snakes. The rattlesnakes are either muzzled or defanged for the training session. The snakes are rotated through the sessions so that they do not become stressed or tired out. The approach is safe and humane for both the dog and the rattlesnake.

The training appears simple at first glance. A handler leads the dog into the presence of the rattlesnake. Patrick uses a remote training collar to administer a low level aversive stimulus (shock) when the dog becomes aware of the presence of the snake.

Avoidance response stimulation is administered for each of the three senses – sight, sound, and smell. After the visual and auditory recognition experience, the dog is presented down wind to a concealed snake whose rattle is taped so that it cannot rattle. This experience isolates the sense of smell for the dog. Snakes give off a strong and pungent odor that a dog can recognize from some distance. Again, the aversive stimlus is administered so that the dog associates it with the smell of a rattlesnake.

Does this procedure sound simple? It is actually extremely complex. Patrick explains that every dog is different, and the size and amount of reinforcement must be administered according to each dog’s unique make up to be effective. Patrick is able to read every nuance of the dog’s breathing, posture and body language as the dog approaches the snake. It is important that the negative stimulation be tied specifically to the presence of the snake and not to other factors in the environment. Some dogs will require multiple experiences of approaching and leaving the snake to get the conditioning


After the third snake, the dogs were let loose. Well, you don’t let huskies loose as there is no way to know WHERE they would go, so I positioned myself so Jasmine would HAVE to pass me. I caught her and put her in the truck. I brought out Lily.

Both dogs did great. The next spring, I took them back for a refresher. At that time, I was driving a Scion with a hatchback, not the red truck any more. Again I started with Jasmine. After the third snake, she ran faster than I imagined she could run, and not toward me, but to a red truck parked in the parking lot. She tried to get in, too, much to the surprise of the driver and the golden retriever in the back. 🤣🐾❤️

The side benefit of this training is that dogs will then alert their human to the presence of rattlesnakes.

A few years later, after Jasmine had gone to the Enchanted Forest, I realized that there was a large snake in my yard, hopefully a gopher snake (bull snake) not another rattler. I was confident that my dogs would avoid the rattlesnakes, but Siberian Huskies are hunters. Lily — who had the prey drive of a hungry Sabre Toothed Tiger — caught the enormous snake. She didn’t let me near enough to identify it. She held it high in the air and ran around the yard with her trophy. It seemed that from what looked like a narrow, pointed tail, she’d caught a gopher snake. A shame. Gopher snakes were my allies in diminishing the number of ambient vermin.

Here’s Jasmine with a far more benign trophy; a ground squirrel and Lily on Garnet Peak. I put them here just because they were so beautiful, and I loved them so much. Jasmine died of cancer and Lily died of very old age, at 17, here in Colorado, where she got to experience one real Colorado snowstorm.

But many times before that, Descanso turned into a snow globe for my huskies (and me). It was never all rattlesnakes. Sometimes it was:

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 Powerful Play Goes On

When I was forty, I was hiking at a part of Mission Trails that had been scraped and leveled. It wasn’t far from the entrance to the park from Mission Gorge Road. I was wandering around looking at everything. The boys on bikes were across the street at the BMX jumps. There were other people wandering around this strange, damaged landscape. One of them — a tall woman in her sixties — came up to me and introduced herself, “I’m Dorothy Leonard.” She then told me what was going down on this scraped and embattled spot of “my” park.

It was to be a vistor’s center. My urban wilderness was about to become a legit park.

I was happy about it. I liked it the way it was, but I also understood that if it had some protection it would be better for it. At that time, I didn’t know what sinister plans lurked in the minds of some developers for, uh, developing that land but they included a highway like road right through the middle of it, a water park, a trailer park and, of course, housing. In those years of hiking I had experienced some of the rough-and-tumble of a wild land in the middle of a growing metropolitan area. There were old cars and trucks in the stream. There were hookers in vans parked along the road. The Hells Angels regularly held meetings at Old Mission Dam. Besides that were the people like me who just went there to enjoy some of the last remaining true coastal chaparral in the city, the original landscape that wasn’t hibiscus and bougainvillea (beautiful thought those are).

I was always “armed” with dogs and naiveté. I never worried about who might be there, and, 1/4 mile from the road, I seldom saw another human being.

Something about me was piqued Dorothy’s curiosity, and she asked, “Do you come here a lot?”

“Almost every day.”

“So you know the park well?”

“I guess so. Some trails, some places.”

We exchanged contact information, and I went home and emailed her my resume and said, “Any way you can use me, I’m here.”

Her husband — a retired military guy — wrote back, “You hit the ground running, Martha. We would like you to be part of this. We need someone who knows the park.”

Soon I was a member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of Mission Trails Regional Park and a member of the CAC. I can no longer remember if that meant Citizens Action Committee, Citizen’s Advisory Council, or Civilian Air Corps. 🤣 I lean toward the advisory council, but I really don’t remember.

I was thinking of Dorothy after I got home from the museum the other day. The woman who is now the Director is 40, about the same age I was when I became a “mover and a shaker” in San Diego (I wasn’t really). I have a kind of role in the museum and for the new director that I understand but can’t describe. I thought of Dorothy and I, a conversation we had in which she said, “I knew the minute we met you were right for this. Just like me 20 some odd years ago. Kids grown, husband off doing his own thing, an intelligent woman in search of something meaningful to do with her time.”

I didn’t see myself that way at all. I was teaching and, as far as I knew, the husband and I were solid (ha ha). Now I understand what she was saying to me. She said something else several years later, when my mom died. “It’s strange being on top of the wave.” She meant — in less poetic language — the next generation to go in the great succession of humanity. Again, I didn’t see it this way, but it is that way.

Last night I watched a French film, Avenir (Things to Come), starring Isabelle Huppert. It was wonderful but a little difficult for me to describe. Basically it’s about a 40-something university philosophy professor and, in a sense, it’s a “coming-of-age” story. Not the cliche coming of age story of the 19 year old, but of a 40 something woman. The way the story is put together is very life-like, as if the viewer were in the moments or the memory of this woman reliving the intensely transformational moments of that time of life with the odd details that cling to a person’s memory.

Oh Me! Oh Life!

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman

Mikey (the youngest Boy on Bikes) at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Visitor’s center.

Featured photo: my first dog, Truffle, at Mission Trails a few years before it was a park. It’s difficult to see, but there are wild lilacs blooming on the hillsides.

Earth Day 2023

Earth Day was a big thing for me in 1970, again in the 90s when I was working for Mission Trails Regional Park, and again in 2017 with the March for Science. Now? It’s just one more political rant. How it got to be holiday-like-thing is beyond me. I’ve realized lately that I’m exhausted from hype, politics and doomsayers.

And this planet? Never ever ever tired of it, but I know my scale now which I didn’t in earlier moments of my life.

So after a surreal experience at the store this afternoon, Bear and I headed out to the Refuge to find some refuge. We were beautifully rewarded.

It’s a cloudy, cool day with snow falling in many parts of the state and on the mountains around me. While Bear and I were out, a little graupel fell on us and we were very happy.

There was a nice couple there for a while, but they left and we remained in the solitude, silence, and beauty of a gray day. Meadowlarks sang, tree swallows swooped and dived around us, a red tail hawk soared in the distance, red-winged blackbirds called their calls, a pair of Northern Harriers hunted above us. The duck couple that likes to build its nest in a vulnerable (IMO) spot has decided my dogs and I are not a problem and no longer flies away when we pass.

And that is exactly how I want nature to regard me, as a benign and temporary form walking gratefully through its gifts. I don’t love anything as much as I love this planet and the little pieces of it that I have come to know.

When I take a walk with Bear it is inevitably elevated a few degrees just by her being with me, with her calm enthusiasm for where we are and her love for me. As we leave the Refuge Bear looks out the back window until we get onto the main road. Then she lies down. When we drive to the Refuge, she lies down in the back until we are a mile away, then she gets up and watches.

My sweet dog is asleep beside me. She’s 8 years old now, old for a dog like her, and she gets tired. I’ve thought a lot about the future, and I know that I will give a home to another dog like Bear who can’t possibly have a job on a ranch and needs a person — and a lively little sidekick — who will love and understand it.

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,

Hip Surgery and Religion

I was thinking just now of my first hip surgery, right hip, hip resurfacing. I was a couple days away from 55 years old. The cut off for my insurance to cover that procedure was age 55. I wanted this because it is a procedure that doesn’t involved cutting off the femoral head. I figured since I was so young (comparatively) I might want that bone down the road if I needed a revision. It’s unusual for a person as young as I was to have bone-on-bone osteoarthritis, but the age of a person’s body has something to do with how they use it, the basic structure with which they’re born, and their genetics. Not age in years.

Never one to gravitate to an urban center, I chose to have this relatively obscure and then somewhat new major surgery at Mercy Medical Center, 25 bed hospital in a California mountain town in sight of Mt. Shasta.

The mountain mattered a LOT to me. I still love it.

It was a — is — a Catholic hospital, and as I lay on the gurney during pre-op, a priest came in. There was another person being prepped for some other procedure, the two of us in a cold room waiting. The priest went to the other person and offered to pray with him. The man got angry and told him to go away. The priest came to me and said, “I’ll understand if you don’t want me to pray with you now.”

I said, “No, please do.” So he took my hand and prayed that all would go well for me, acknowledged it was in God’s hands, and prayed that I be able to join God in Heaven if I died. Then he thanked me for letting him pray and made the sign of the cross over me. I thanked him, thinking, “Who am I to refuse when you are offering me the best thing you have? And what the fuck do I know anyway?” I appreciated his open avowal that I could die in what lay ahead.

For me “God” was outside my window, represented by a snowy, white mountain. It was January 2007. The streets of Mt. Shasta were icy and there was snow on the ground. And here I am nearly 16 years later, walking still on that prosthesis, so far so good. I honestly never take a walk without thinking of that experience. Before I had the surgery other people told me I would forget I even had it, but I never do. There’s nothing I’m more grateful for than that I can walk.

In looking for a photo, I found my surgeon is still there. 🙂

Weird Shit I Think about while Walking the Dogs

Top: a photograph of the Refuge at sunset. Bottom: a painting I did two years before I moved here or saw the Refuge.

Writing about Goethe and the Marienbad Elegy the other day naturally drew some comments. One was “What 17 year old wouldn’t want to marry a 73 year old man? Kind of late-life midlife crisis.” I’ve thought some of the same thing, like “What was Goethe THINKING?” and “Shouldn’t he have seen reality for what it was, just let it go, saved himself some of this pain and all of his pride?” I didn’t particularly see the mid-life crisis aspect, but maybe. Still, his actions seemed absurd — and also totally expected.

One of the things Emerson had to say about Goethe was that as an artist he never aged, even having the courage to fall in love — and declare his love! — when he was an old man.

I definitely agree that love takes courage.

Goethe had a theory of personality and soul that I have always found very interesting and mysterious. Somewhere among my souvenirs is his essay, which, of course, I can’t find now. He wrote about the timelessness of an individual entelechy. An entelechy is defined generally as the soul, but for Goethe it was more than that; it was the motive power of the self. It is the force that drives a living thing to become what it is whether it is a plant or an animal. The entelechy pre-dates the birth of an individual organism and personality and survives the death of the biological organism that contains it. It does not exist in time.

“The persistence of the individual and the fact that man rejects what does not agree with him, are proofs to me that such a thing as an entelechy exists…” 1830, Conversations with Eckermann

That idea has always explained to me WHY Goethe proposed marriage to this young woman. In his mind, it would seem, there was a recognition of a pre-life connection and maybe he thought she would see it, too. Goethe writes about this kind of thing in his novel, Elective Affinities which was made into a film — a strange film — but definitely watchable and entertaining starring Isabelle Huppert. Honestly, the film doesn’t have much energy but how could it when it is based on a very arcane theory of love? I liked it, and I’d watch it again, but I’d have to buy a $40 DVD, so…

I have no idea if my theory about WHY Goethe went ahead and proposed marriage to this young woman holds water at all, but the idea of entelechy captured my imagination a long time ago when I realized that most of the authentic things I do seem motivated by something that is not exactly my will. Strange coincidences have occurred throughout my life, such as writing about the members of my own family without even knowing it — well, I knew I was writing — I didn’t know the characters would turn out to be my ancestors, long story, not telling it here, but… Another one? Doing a painting of the Refuge before I’d ever seen it. Sometimes it feels to me that “I” just kind of walked into this body as a vessel for now. My earliest dream (that I remember) is me walking down a hospital corridor lined with doors and being pressured to choose one. I opened one to find a clown who took off one mask and then another. Well, that’s a good description of my mom. 🤣

I looked online to find the essay but found only essays about the essay, commentaries and analyses pertinent to whatever each writer cares about none of it really useful to me.

As I’ve hit the 7th decade of my own life something seems very clear. This body which has been a lot of fun and has done well by me is not “me.” I remember back when I reached an age when I thought I “looked like myself.” I was in my 40s and I distinctly thought, “This is the me I was meant to be” as I looked in the mirror one morning before school. The face was mine. The hair was mine. The clothes were mine. It was very strange. And THIS person? The inner person thinks she’s pretty awesome, fragile and funny, yet strong.

How did Goethe see his 73 year old self? Did he even see it or was it completely irrelevant to him? I don’t think I will ever know, but the little poem I posted the other day gives a big clue.

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!

What does this entelechy take away from each of the lives it inhabits? Does it learn? Or is just a “creature” with a mission to be? Does it remember? I suspect it does, but memories are not all that accessible. Goethe’s explanation of what happens to the entelechy when a being dies sounds a lot like Einstein. The entelechy is energy, and energy cannot be lost in the universe.

Clearly our timeless entelechy is not the sum of ourselves. Within each life, a timeless entelechy will continue to create, experiment, imagine, and persist. It matters much more to me that Goethe NEVER stopped doing creative work. Maybe, ultimately, it mattered more to Goethe, too.

Today I walked Teddy. He was marginally good. We started in a calm, lovely afternoon but halfway into it, the front began to enter the San Luis Valley and the wind came up. It’s OK. We’re used to it. Many cranes and geese.

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.


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

Then and Now

January is named for this two-faced guy, Janus, the god of comings and goings, of doors, gateways, transitions. It’s why our New Year is January 1 and maybe why we have this thing about summing up and making resolutions. I don’t do the resolutions thing, but the summing up seems to have come to my mind unbidden. Between us, I haven’t enjoyed this year much. In fact, it’s one of two years in my life I am most happy to say good-bye to.

That says a lot… 🤣

I’m no longer naive enough to think that turning the page on 2022 will lead to big changes. I wasn’t that naive back in 1979, either. That New Year’s Eve some friends came over with champagne, we all got drunk and toasted to the end of the year. I didn’t know it until the next morning, but I had strep throat (so appropriate). I woke up with daggers in my throat. I also woke up to find a man in my apartment making breakfast.

It was benign enough. I knew this man (he was a young attorney where I worked). We’d gone out a few times, but I didn’t like him. He thought he was being romantic making me waffles and champagne on the first day of the New Year. I thought he was intruding. And I don’t like waffles. Still, I guess champagne in a flute with a strawberry at the bottom is supposed to be romantic, but that wasn’t — isn’t — my style. I don’t know how he got in. Probably he knocked on the door of the manager (lived downstairs) whom he had met, and the manager let him in.

It was the 70s and THAT guy (the manager) had been up all night with his friends doing lines of coke. I know this because he phoned me at one point during the evening asking if I wanted to come down and join them. I didn’t like cocaine, so I said no. Anyway, I’m sure that guy had never GONE to bed and probably liked EVERYONE at that point.

Any-hoo, I thanked the breakfast man for his sweet idea, told him I was sick, and threw him out. A year or so later, he married one of my friends from college. And, as I said to a young friend (40) recently, every old person is incognito.

As for 2022, I’ve been trying to look at the bright side of life in the past year, but it’s been a little challenging. The whole year has been one crisis after another, but I will spare us all my litany of woe — the worst, for me, has been long Covid.

All this means it’s time to count my blessings, in no particular order other than one and two are really the most important things to me. As of right now —

  1. I can walk and I can see.
  2. Survival should never be undervalued. So far so good.
  3. I live in a place of natural beauty with much within my reach.
  4. My dogs and I are mostly healthy and happy. We love and support each other in our fashion, according to our abilities and lights. Bi-species families are actually pretty cool.
  5. I’ve published three articles in a magazine that I respect, like, and to which I subscribe. My dream of being a journalist seems finally to have come true, which means it’s never too late to fulfill SOME of our dreams.
  6. I did two amazing paintings this year.
  7. I put together a book of poems and read from it. It was fun and the listeners enjoyed themselves.
  8. For the most part, I’m doing OK financially and have everything I need.
  9. In spite of the misery of long Covid, most of my mental abilities have mostly returned for the most part (ha ha), or I’ve forgotten about them. Either way, it’s all good.
  10. I have wonderful friends — many of whom I met in this neighborhood that spans the globe. Really, how amazing is that?

THE bright side of New Years Eve, 1979, was that 1979 could never come back, a fact to which my friends and I toasted at midnight. I was 27.

As 2022 passed into the history books, I didn’t stay up till midnight to toast anything. If I had I would have toasted the end of 2022, the impossibility of its return, and the hope for a better 2023.

Hope — all by itself — deserves a toast. That and snow is in the forecast. I haven’t told Bear. I don’t want to get her hopes up.

The wall calendar is already in the recycling bin in the kitchen. They can recycle the paper; not the year. I also thought of a conversation I had with my brother once. I said, “I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. I just patch things up and hold them together.”

He said, “You can do that? Wow!” He wasn’t joking.

In more interesting news, two mountain lions have been sighted out at the wildlife areas where I used to walk the dogs and where, last summer, I happened on some mountain lion scat on the path along the river. From a mountain lion perspective it’s like a cafeteria, a conduit from here to there with food. My guess is that the lions are a mom and a year-old cub as, otherwise, they tend to live solitary lives. I loved taking the dogs there, but in 2020 they became places where people would let their dogs run, meaning Bear, Teddy and I weren’t going there any more. To combat this, Colorado Fish and Wildlife made the wildlife areas permitted places. I immediately bought a fishing license, but I’d discovered the Refuge. When Bear and I were out at the wildlife area this past August, it was clearly much less traveled — and so, mountain lion scat. I was happy to see it, but, as it was fresh, I explained to Bear that we were having a short walk. We turned around.

Here’s Bear and the river that day — the scat is about 15 feet in front of Bear, near that patch of grass in the middle of the trail. I thought briefly of photographing it, but there are a lot smarter things to do than leaning over fresh mountain lion scat for a photo op…

Part of the wildlife area is open country, OK for walking the dogs even with lions. The featured photo is from that path, the Rio Grande in January. I like mountain lions very much, but along the river there are too many trees.

O Fortuna…

Last night I learned that a friend was in a terrible car accident a couple weeks ago — his car vs. a truck — on the highway that runs north and south through Colorado, but only a few blocks from me. The victim is the junk sculptor I interviewed last month. I’ve always liked him, but didn’t know him until I got the idea of interviewing him for Colorado Central Magazine. That led me to a two hour chat with him in his work shop last month. We had a blast. As I left — thanking him — he thanked me for the interesting conversation. 😮

I tried to keep the interview focused, but he and his workshop made that difficult. Neither of us is very linear and the interview was 2/3 interview and 1/3 random discussion and discovery. I sent him the draft of the article. He liked it and wrote back, “Thank you so much for feeling the spirit of my Art!” Anyway, I contacted the magazine last night and told them. They’re going to put the article up online with the GoFundMe link.

John’s going to make it, but his care and rehab will be incredibly expensive and slow. And, as he said, “I only have 3 circles.” He works on a potato and barley farm and that’s his portion. John is kind, authentic, friendly — a whole lot of good adjectives. A lot of things in his body were broken and repair was touch and go. Godnose how rehab will be. I hope he’ll be able to come back to his shop and put more things together as he loves to do.

I don’t really want to say the same old thing, “We never know,” because we all KNOW we never know.

OTHERWISE, to my immense surprise, Bear wanted to go with me and Teddy yesterday. It was balmy for late November and the light was beautiful. As we were on our return, I saw two people approaching — a very tall man and a very petite woman. These are the only two other walkers I ever see out there. They are very nice and the love the dogs and the dogs love them, so there was much petting of dogs and chatting and “I always love to see you out here!” Apparently last time Teddy scratched the woman’s arm and that led to an infection. We agreed it was Teddy’s nails, the dirt from the road, and his overweening enthusiasm. The critical moment for socializing Teddy was 2020. He never jumps on me, never, ever, ever, but he doesn’t generalize from “Martha” to “human beings” I think because I was more or less a unique entity during that important juncture in the development of his hyper-active Aussie brain. I felt really bad about the scratch and infection, but the woman felt bad about my feeling bad, so… I held Teddy down so she could pet him because she really wanted to.

Then we were on our way. It’s an interesting thing that they — and I — go out there for the quiet and solitude and are very happy to meet, and chat with, others who are out there for quiet and solitude.

There isn’t much snow left and, of course, what’s there isn’t real snow but what snow evolves into after a week of deep cold, heavy frost, and sun, but Bear was happy when it was her turn to smell and wander. My fitness app (grrrrrr) tells me that when it’s Teddy’s turn, we walk 3 mph (and he’s pulling). When it’s Bear’s turn, we walk 1.2 mph and, for some reason, Teddy isn’t pulling. I think he understands. Here’s the snow angel Bear made in what’s left. No, not the shadow. That’s me.