Bag It

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…

Sedges in Snow

I don’t know exactly what goes into a painting. Whatever my “process” is, it’s as mysterious to me as to anyone else. I do know that since July, painting has been all but impossible for me. Covid brain is a real thing. I found it very difficult to hold an idea. It was as if parts of my brain just wouldn’t connect to other parts. I did do a painting in there somewhere, sunflowers with acrylic using a palette knife. I did that painting to try out the knife (I only have one) and to have something to hang in the show at the museum. I liked it a lot, and it seemed to prevision something changed in Martha the Painter. I wasn’t sure I could paint at all which is why I used the knife. I knew I didn’t know how to use a palette knife. It’s a simple painting of a common scene; nothing fancy but friendly and likable. I could also paint this in a very short time so there wasn’t the challenge of maintaining the image in my mind.

Last Summer acrylic on panel, painted October, 2022

What makes a painting, for the painter, anyway, might be more than the result. For me it is.

I love painting more than anything else I do. It’s just a wonderful thing to me, engrossing, intriguing. All of my paintings have been experiments because each one changes me and moves me to a different place along whatever might be my personal painting trajectory. I like that journey. Paint is part of it — just that, paint itself — and the image in my mind is another part. Doing the work is a pathway I’ve never traveled. I’m not sure I can explain this clearly because it’s not a word thing.

I think of the painters in the past, and I’m sure some of them must have loved painting. I think Turner must have. Kandinsky. Georgia O’Keefe definitely loved it. The jubilation in van Gogh’s work says to me he probably loved it, too. Back in the days when painting was a trade more than an ‘art’ those guys must have loved it, too, even though it meant a lot of hard work and the development of far more skills than painters today need to know.

I have an amazing book, On Divers Arts. That’s “diverse” not divers, but anyway. It’s by a guy, a priest, who’s writing under the name “Theophilus,” friend of God. His friendship with God is real. It’s not just that he is a priest, but also because of the way he regards all the material he works with. It would be a different blog post to go into that, so I won’t. But I share his feelings. Paint itself is a miracle.

Theophilus’ mission in writing the book was to pass down to the future all the things he knew about making art for a church and it’s practically everything — from pigments for the wall and manuscripts to the lead that holds stained glass in windows and the glass itself. It was written in the 13th century. I have found it very inspiring even though I don’t understand most of the technical instruction. The most inspiring part to me is the dedication where Theophilus explains to the person reading his instruction that the act of creating something is partaking in a little shred of the divine through physical gifts that have been passed to him through time. It feels that way to me.

For the past few days I’ve been really painting. It’s been the good stuff where I didn’t know where I was going and had to completely let go. All I had was a day week before last when Bear and I rushed out to the Refuge to catch the snow before it quit falling. We walked into a day unlike any I had ever seen. Bear and I wandered through a mystery.

Yesterday, when I finished this, I felt I’d painted that beautiful snowy afternoon.

FYI this is really just a painting of snow, fog and sedges. It’s not symbolic of anything. You’re welcome to see anything you want in the image, just don’t tell me 😀

It’s oil on acrylic primed linen canvas. The paint is Gamblin’s Flake White Replacement, a titanium based white designed to mimic lead white. Indian yellow, lapis ultramarine, and Gamblin Portland Gray. Gamblin is a paint company in Oregon. Most of their paint uses safflower oil rather than linseed oil because it doesn’t yellow over time but to make it true to the original paint, the flake white replacement uses linseed oil. The lapis ultramarine is from Daniel Smith. Indian yellow is very luminous, truly, and I chose it because there was no other color that day so the sedges seemed lit from the inside which, in a way, they were, holding summer’s sunlight in their persistent stems.

Disjointed Reminiscence of a Sole Survivor

I got coffee for Christmas. It was good, but now it has vanished, and I’m back to the old same brew. Beautiful stuff. Dark and fierce unlike this beautiful, springlike morning with the radio playing songs from 1980 carrying me down something that is not so much as memory lane as memory’s house of horrors. No, not really but that sounds good, doesn’t it?

The best part of 1980 as far as I recall was going to life drawing sessions at Muddy Waters of the Platte RIP (coffee house, used book store, auditorium) every Monday with my friend, Wes Kennedy. That led to my first painting show.

The man in my life at the time was in Saudi Arabia teaching at the University of Riyadh so I was enjoying a year’s reprieve from that complicated mess. The relationship would die in 1981 after five years of wrestling with impossibility and the conundrum of impossible love.

I walked to and from work every day, down Denver’s old flagstone sidewalks to the Wall Street of the West (17th street), a different Denver from that you might visit today. Much smaller, less flash. That year I moved into my favorite ever apartment which this house resembles.

This coffee is so good.

That was also the year I began being serious about the coffee I drank. There were a lot of steps between then and now, but I was on the road. There was only one place to buy so-called “gourmet” coffee in Denver at the time, a fancy grocery store on Larimer Street where I bought an electric grinder.

I take my last sip of this magical elixir before setting the empty cup on the floor for Teddy. All of this seems like a long time ago, and, of course, it was. I wasn’t 19. I was 29, still, this song from 1980 kind of sums it up when I look back on that young woman.

Kill Your Television

I guess I’m an optimist. I keep trying. That’s my definition of optimism which I didn’t fully realize until just now, sitting in front of my laptop with a full cup of coffee. No, not half-full, but really and truly full. Oops, I drank some… That means I HAD some coffee! Oh boy! 🙂

Yesterday I had a bizarre conversation with the mentally challenged kid who brought out my groceries. Mike is a horse of a different color. The first time we met he explained that he’s autistic. I’m no expert. I’ve taught some kids who explained themselves to me when they handed me the form explaining their learning disability, and I was married to a man who is/was definitely somewhere on the spectrum so that might very well be.

Our conversation yesterday showed me that he imbibes in a lot of right-wing news media. It was kind of scary and definitely surreal. First he blamed Californians for the fact that we now have to bring our own bags to the store. It’s a minor POA when your groceries are brought to your car, but I figure we’ll get used to it. I’m all for it, annoying though it is. I listened to him rant for a minute, and then I said, “Whoa, dude, what if I tell you I moved here from California?”

He looked at me like he couldn’t comprehend it. “Southern Californians are the worst.”

“What if I tell you I lived in San Diego? Yeah. I moved there 40 years ago. There was no work in Colorado.”

He nodded. He could accept that. A person with a different kind of mind and social register might have been embarrassed or said something face-saving (as I have heard, like “Well I wouldn’t have guessed!”), but not Mike.

He did change the subject and went off into gun laws, “The second amendment doesn’t have anything to do with hunting.” I looked at him and hoped he didn’t put cans of dog food on top of the bananas.

“OK, but there’s a big difference between a guy loading up a shotgun to hunt a duck and a guy with an AR-15 shooting into a crowd of people.”

He repeated his point and I said, “You can’t just take ONE sentence. The idea was a well-regulated militia.”

He answered that we need our guns to protect us from the government. I said, “The idea of that amendment was a well-regulated militia to protect our country from invasion by another country.”

Then he read me my receipt, telling me how many points I had for gas. I said, “Whoa, cool! I’d better go get gas, Mike. Take it easy.”

I haven’t transcribed the whole conversation. Intermingled with this was me saying, “I dunno, Mike. I think the important thing is that we’re kind to each other.” To which he replied, “Yes, because we’re all Americans and the people who come here from other countries for a better life. They’re American, too.”

My heart kind of broke. I felt a weird combination of sad and dirty driving home hoping to god that Mohammed’s radio would give me a little redemption in that 30 minute drive.

Later on, reading an article that explained that ChatGPT could take over certain jobs (including teaching), I thought of Mike. The way Mike’s mind seems to work is that it can take things in and repeat them, but it can’t fully process the significance of the things it’s taken in. Mike hasn’t had the chance for good schooling, either. I did a little more testing of ChatGPT and it doesn’t really “think.” What does it mean to think? I realized when a human thinks, we bring into the arena of thought all kinds of things including very subtle problem-solving that involves our emotions and situational awareness. Mike doesn’t have access to some of that.

I “talked” to ChatGPT about it becoming a teacher, and it said straight out, “I’d suck.” Not in those words because it tends to be wordy, but essentially that because it cannot form human connections it should not teach. It’s right, though of course it’s just repeating something it “learned.” I thought of Mike.

The first time I met Mike he explained his mental problems in detail mixed in with anger at Walmart for firing him. The second time I had an extended conversation with him he told me about his efforts to overcome a drinking problem and how he wanted to become self-sufficient. Yesterday it was politics.

I took my icky feelings out for a walk with Bear, the compassionate side of me thinking, “Damn, Mike is a poor guy.” The OTHER side, “Well, that was scary.” Bear had a good time and got to roll in snow. I had a good time because it was a nice day and hanging out with Bear is always good.

In other AI news , apparently ChatGPT is NO rocket scientist. We Asked the New AI to Do Some Simple Rocket Science, It Crashed and Burned. Reading that article I thought of my Christmas present to my two very bright step-grandkids, slide rules, a book about the tools that led to the moon landing, and a book about how to use a slide rule. The intelligence behind much in our world is human. If a human mind doesn’t get the chance to learn or has some intrinsic glitches, it’s just sad. So far, all ChatGPT can be is a mediocre mind with a lot of information. Information isn’t knowledge.

“Kill your Television” is a song by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin from the 1990s.

Thought I’d Write About Dogs for a Change

Yesterday was day three of the Teddy T. Dog Transformation Workshop in which Teddy is made over from the land-demon from hell into a responsive, well-adjusted, adorable little guy who doesn’t try to kill his human.

Not that Teddy tried to kill me but a little melodrama doesn’t hurt a blog post that will inevitably be like many others I’ve written.

We had a great walk, again, with minimal fighting of the Halti. I realized that the connection between the leash and the Halti was heavy for such a little dog and when we got home I set up a new system using a lighter leash with a different connector. It worked. I also began training Teddy to put his nose into the Halti. He’s getting it.

On our walk, Teddy was great. It felt as if there was nothing on the end of the leash. When I got home I gave some thought to Teddy vs. Bear. First, dogs don’t really mature “intellectually” until they’re 3 years old or so. Teddy is just 4. Bear did most of the early doghood education. She house trained him and taught him the routine of Casa di Martha. But there is no way she could teach him how to walk on a leash safely with me.

Dogs like Bear are famous for their intuition. Training Bear was no work at all. She picked up most things from Dusty T. Dog who was very well-trained. Besides my work with him, during the six weeks I rehabbed from my first hip surgery (2007) he stayed with a professional trainer where he learned, among other things, to walk at heel without a leash.

Beyond that, Bear can sense what’s going on with me. It’s pretty amazing but true. The livestock these dogs are bred to protect aren’t “teaching” the dogs anything. The dogs are learning from each other if there are more than one and from the livestock themselves. Most of the time they aren’t even near “their” human. Bear learned to walk with me from walks with Dusty (who didn’t need a leash) and from me. I understand that Bear wasn’t bred to be a house dog. I get who she is, and I’m happy to stand there while she smells things, and she’s happy to stand there while I stare into the Big Empty thinking about how strange and beautiful it is. I think it would be a pretty maddening walk for others to share, even a little dog.

There’s not much snow left out there for me to crunch my way through. As my little dog walked beside me (!!!!) I thought of snow and crunch and how we learn words. There are words like “crunch” that always bring up the moment I learned the word and the activity that goes with it. My brother and I walked to school every day. One day my dad asked me (maybe I was in 2nd grade) “Hey MAK, I used to walk to school too. I love the way the snow crunched when I walked. Do you notice that?”

I was bewildered. To me “crunch” required something different from snow. Cellophane paper crunched, for that matter, paper crunched when you balled it up, or hard candy crunched between your teeth, or potato chips were crunchy. Snow??? But my dad was right most of the time. I said, “When it freezes on top?”

“No, honey, fresh snow. Bill Kelly (his best friend) and I used to walk across Pioneer Park (Billings, MT) to school and the snow crunched. Listen sometime, OK?”

The requirements for snow crunch? Fresh, dry snow has the best crunch of all. But every time it happens, I have this conversation with my dad. I was taught to notice that.

I was no different from Teddy. I had to be told things. I responded to what I was told and, clearly, remembered it. Bear, on the other hand? She seems to have been born knowing almost everything.

In other news, the sweet aroma of linseed oil again fills the house. I started a painting yesterday. I haven’t done anything in there (studio) since early last summer. When I got Covid in late June, and then long Covid, I couldn’t hold an idea or image in my mind long enough to imagine how to paint it. It was actually worse than that; I couldn’t imagine even how I would paint something. BUT the cloudy, foggy, gray, lightless day out there last week seems to be where I’m starting.




Diurnal Crapshoot

“What are you talking about, Martha?”

“Life, Teddy. Life. What a bizarre crapshoot it is after all. I feel a little disoriented.”

“Huh? Uh-oh. I’m sensing another reflective philosophical blog post coming on. I think I’ll go out with Bear and bark at the neighbor dogs.”

“OK, Teddy. Are you done with my coffee cup? It’s your turn for a w-a-l-k today.”

“What??”

“Never mind. See you later, little guy.”

I was thinking that life is like conglomerate — a big wad of events held together by a more recent geological interval. I choose the local product — Crestone Conglomerate. You have random amazing moments interspersed with all kinds of other stuff, and the random, amazing moments don’t happen twice. I was thinking of that last night when I looked at my FB memories and saw that nine years ago yesterday I woke up, opened my front door, and found a horse essentially in my front yard, and I got to keep it. How often does that happen? Once. It can only happen once.

I look at that rock as a life.

The big mass of it, holding it all together, is time, a life time. And the pretty bits (and maybe ugly bits) all the random stuff that happened to be there in time. I was thinking of attempting to list all of the really incredible moments that make up the rock that is me, but I don’t even know what they all are — just like in the featured photo, we see only one face of the boulder.

I did think, though, that many of the MAJOR MOMENTS we prepare for in our lives turn out to be minor blips or pieces that end up breaking off. I thought of that when I went out to get my mail and saw my neighbor’s Christmas wreath still hanging on their gate. “Wow! Christmas!” fades pretty quickly into a green bit of plastic foliage with a red plastic ribbon. Christmas was no major moment, however much they (newly married) prepared for their “first Christmas together.” What are the major moments? I think they’re often completely unexpected a lot of the time.

I used to tell my students who would insist that their birth was one of the big moments of their lives that it wasn’t; it was big in their PARENT’S lives. They rejected that because, because, because why? Because all their lives someone had celebrated their birthdays. The birthday parties might have been events, but their birth was not. In a way, they weren’t even there for it.

So, my moments, a few. Some are naturally bigger than others — like going to China to teach. That might be the biggest moment. But smaller moments are the main glue in this conglomerate. My 25th birthday, riding in the backseat of my own car with a glass of champagne heading to a disco that turned out to be a lot more (and weirder) than a disco. Getting my MA and having, as I crossed the stage to get the folder, friends who served on the university senate step forward to hug me, then hearing my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank way in the back yell, “yeee-HAW!” in good Montana style. My grandmother telling me she’s glad I’m not snooty like my cousin who also has a masters degree.My mom in her hospital bed mistaking me for my Aunt Martha and, in the liminal world she inhabited, talking to “me” as if my grandma were still alive, and she and my aunt were young “Are you going down to Mother’s?” she asked me. My brother and me on top of a mountain outside Manitou Springs, eating oranges and singing. Walking in the Swiss forest with Pietro and Daisy (golden retriever) communicating in our own bizarre language on a December morning. Langlauf at Devils Thumb Ranch with a friend, and falling forward in deep snow, arms buried up to my shoulders, poles parallel to my arms; friend skis past, sees me, laughs, loses focus, falls across the trail. My Aunt Dickie writing me, “I’m so proud of your writing.” Running with my friend Kris on a short, narrow bit of the Pacific Crest Trail in the old snow, trying to get back to the car before the trail iced over and then seeing the brilliant red sunset over the Pacific Ocean, 50 miles away. Seeing La Ultima Cena and realizing I really had never seen it before however thousands of times reproductions of it had passed before my eyes, seeing that it’s a force of nature — or something. Reading Italian Journey. Walking into my classroom and seeing my students stand up on their chairs and say, “O Captain! My Captain!” Running on a slick-rock trail in Arches with a friend as dusk turned to dark. Watching hawks hover in the wind as they hunt. And last week, a birthday party with cheesecake and socks. Some of it’s just weird, like my recent experience interviewing a friend for an article and then having him die only a month or so later. I still shudder thinking of that. That’s the crapshoot aspect, I guess.

These things don’t “change” your life. They make it.

Happy the man, and happy he alone
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today. John Dryden

And Yet ANOTHER Walk With Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog

It’s alleged that the cranes will come earlier this year because of a lack of food down there at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. If they do, they’ll be here a while as there is no open ground at their next stop. In advance of the influx of Crane Tourists and the 40th Anniversary Crane Festival of Song and Story, Bear and I headed out for a walk yesterday even though the wind blowing from the southwest did not demur, but blasted like a MOFO. It was blowing so hard it seemed to suck my breath away, but probably it was just blowing at me so hard I couldn’t exhale. I’ve been out there in heavy winds before, but yesterday was a little different.

As I fought the wind, I thought “Chinook.” My friend in Wyoming could use a wind like that with her sheep out in deep snow. The situation is dire. Deep snow has covered the ground so the sheeps’ usual winter grazing is inaccessible and food — for the sheep, the dogs and the men caring for them — has had to be trucked in. The road is dangerous in winter and there have been numerous wrecks. You can read about it on her blog, Ladder Ranch.

“The warm wind kept blowing
…like a low chant from the land
or like the flurry of far wings…
lapping up the snow…
until the whole body of earth
lay brown and breathing
except for the topknots of buttes
and, away and away,
the high float of mountains…
Chinook…
Promise of Spring.”

A.B. Guthrie, Jr., from These Thousand Hills.

As happens, when we turned around with our backs to the wind, the day felt completely different. Bear found a patch of snow with some appealing scents to roll in. I studied the light changing on distant Mt. Herard. The wind was blowing snow over the Sand Dunes at the base of the mountain. I tried a photograph (featured photo), but the phone does not really have a powerful telephoto lens so it looks like a paint by number painting but you might get the idea.

As I photographed Mt. Herard I saw my reflection in my phone screen. I very very very seldom take selfies because I prefer the illusion to the reality of my appearance, but yesterday it was just too funny.

Bear is pretty well trained, but we’re doing a refresher course. Taking each dog out separately means Bear doesn’t get half a walk; she gets the whole thing to herself. I’m helping her understand that so she’s not in a rush to get to the scents. I don’t know if she understands the theory behind this, but it doesn’t matter. Theories might be for humans. For Bear the reality is we aren’t in a hurry any more because no over-enthusiastic, passionate, little land demon is pulling us. She’s getting it. I realized that yesterday when she stopped in front of me, leaned against me, and wouldn’t move. “OK Bear. We really do have all day.” I swear, she sighed.

I have had a couple of happy blips in my life as an artist. Last week a man in Tennessee did the research needed to find me. He’d bought notecards from my defunct Etsy shop two years ago and wanted more. Yesterday I learned that Colorado Central Magazine wants to run my painting of the Cranes on a Windy Day with the article instead of the photos I submitted from the festival’s media kit. 😊

Goggles…

An irony of snow is that it’s more difficult to see on a dim day than a bright day. You’d think the glare of the sun on the crystalline snow would be blinding, but it isn’t. What’s blinding is the flat light of a gray day. The other day out there with Bear, a gray day with falling snow and fog, I found it difficult to see where I was going — it wasn’t the fog; it was the light. After a while, my eyes adjusted to the absence of shadows and contrast.

I remembered having yellow ski goggles just for that because you could not see the lines on a flat, gray day. The yellow lenses brought the features back up into the world by allowing more light to reach your eyes making life a LOT safer. I dimly remember that in those ancient times we carried spare ski-goggle lenses with us and I even more dimly remember changing them and I remember people changing their lenses on the chairlift — not smart. You drop your goggles and then?

For me, the main job of goggles was making sure I didn’t lose my glasses. Sometime back then I got these GREAT glasses that had wires that wrapped around my ears. The glasses were pretty ugly, but really, priorities. They also had HUGE lenses. They were great, but times and fashion change…

Windbreak

On this cold windy day, the blowing snow
Fills our foot prints. Ice lace in the tire
Tracks. With her nose to the ground, my dog, slow,
Reads world history in the scents of prior
Animals. The wind stops and starts in blasts.
I tuck my chin more deeply into my scarf,
and feel glad for gloves. Snow showers fly fast
Past the mountains’ face; cold beauty, winter’s heart.
Tired of the fight, I turn back and see,
On the snowy road, shadows, light then dimmed,
Moving clouds. I stop in a suddenly
Different day with my back to the wind,
“This is beautiful,” I tell my dog who
Rolls in the snow and eats some rabbit poop.

Close Encounter of the Fur Kind

I know the dogs hadn’t — between them — hatched a nefarious plot that would have gone against their self-interest. I know that but here I am this morning walking slowly through the house, waiting for the paracetamol (Tylenol) to kick in. For a few moments yesterday out at the Refuge I lay flat on my face, glasses thrown a short distance away, wondering how I was going to get up on the slick snowy road.

Luckily, I wasn’t alone but, on the other hand, if I’d been alone, I never would have fallen.

There was a moment when I regretted having socialized Bear so well to like people and Teddy? Never mind Mr. Throw Himself Through a Glass Door to see people — specifically the UPS man.

There is a couple we’ve run into a few times out there — Sharon and Tom — that we like very much. I’ve never had any challenges controlling the dogs in their company before, but yesterday? I think the problem was that they were preceded on the road by a car — and Teddy wants to chase all cars. And they were stuck at home for two days. So they were filled with piss and vinegar. In their eagerness to greet friends, Teddy leapt forward and pulled me down. It wouldn’t have happened at all if I’d been paying attention, but I wasn’t.

I let go of the leashes, asked our friends to hold the dogs, and Tom helped me up. OH well. And then, of course, the dogs returned to me as if “See, Martha! We found our friends!”

I’m not hurt, just a little banged up.

Once I was upright again, we had a great conversation. Last time we met I told them about the article I was writing about the Crane Festival. As we talked, I thought about how the are the ONLY people I ever run into when I’m out there walking. They are the only people who walk out there, too, except one of the people who lives there. I thought about that and about what we talk about. Invariably our conversations turn to what we have seen. Last time we met they had seen the elk herd — about 400 elk — and heard their feet hit the ground as they ran across the fields. Yesterday they asked about the article. I told them they were in it, but I hadn’t used their names. I said I felt weird — but what I felt was the immensity and silence of that place, and all the people who have witnessed it over the millennia, none of them are named. I might have my name on the article, but as a wanderer out there, I am nameless. I told them I wrote about how when we meet up we talk about what we’ve seen to, maybe, the only other people in the world who are out there with no agenda. I told them where they would find the magazine when it comes out.

So, for a while at leash (ha ha), I won’t be walking Bear and Teddy together. I’m also thinking that Teddy is going to get a head collar like that Bear wears. I used one with him when he first came to live with me, but he hated it. Now I’m wondering how much I care whether he hates it or not.