I admit, it’s not all fun and games. We’ve had the real thing all day today and if you really want to drive to Monte Vista, well, it won’t be easy.

CDOT News | Southwestern Colorado  · 

Colorado Department of Transportation  ·· 

❄️SW & S-Central Colorado Storm Update❄️

CONFIRMED CLOSURES that will remain in effect through tomorrow, Thursday, Feb., 23 include:

  • CO 145 Lizard Head Pass (MP 48 – MP 61), between Rico and Trout Lake
  • US 160 Wolf Creek Pass (MP 157- MP 184), between Pagosa Springs and South Fork — Major highway
  • US 550 Mountain Corridor (MP 48- 95), between Durango and Ouray
  • CO 17 Cumbres-La Manga Passes MP 0-17, NM state line to 20 miles west of Antonito

Other passes currently closed, with no estimated time of opening include:

  • US 285 Poncha Pass (MP 100-126), Villa Grove to Poncha Springs — Major Highway

It looks like this on the passes — Poncha Pass (to the north) Wolf Creek (to the west)

As for me and the dogs? We’ve had a dull but pretty nice day. The dogs like the snow and my yard is sheltered from the wind, so they spent most of the day hanging outside coming in from time to time to get a cookie and get their faces dried off which is something that they love. I rode the Bike to Nowhere and read books. The featured photo is my street earlier today.

Right now, the storm has passed and the sky is clear. The temperature isn’t all that cold, but the wind is fierce. The prediction for tomorrow is sunshine and less wind. If so, Bear and I will go out and enjoy the new snow. I have — for the first time since I moved here 8+ years ago — had to ice, meaning de-ice, the front walkway for the safety of pedestrians. I’m sure my driveway is a skating rink but I’ll deal with that tomorrow. That happens every year.

The dogs are tired and sleeping after dinner and their after dinner rawhide pencils (aka toothbrushes).

I’m sure this has been hell for people who have had to be out there. ❤️ I might love snow and all but I remember a time in my life when I had to drive in storms like we’ve had today. Once was was in Denver, 1984 and it was terrifying even without a mountain pass. I’m happy they closed Wolf Creek early and I’m happy I bought groceries yesterday. Blessings be upon the snow plows and their drivers and I hope all those calves I saw born yesterday have been able to keep warm.

P.S. Just now (8 pm MST) the last major pass out of the San Luis Valley has been closed. Can’t go east, either. There’s one small pass to the south that doesn’t look too bad from the highway cameras, anyway, but it doesn’t look very good, either.

Nothing but Blue Skies (and Cranes)

I guess maybe walking with Bear in the Big empty isn’t physical exercise. We walk one mile in 50 minutes. I’m not sure it gets my heart pumping or any of the things exercise is supposed to do. It involves a LOT of stopping and Bear smelling things and me looking at things. Each of us is often held spellbound by something.

If Bear wants to stop, I stop. If I want to stop, Bear stops (and leans against me). It’s incredibly sweet, and I could walk forever with Bear like that. I never want to come home, even when we’re out in “bad” weather. It hit me that it would take half a day for us to walk the loop. Probably even longer because there would be places Bear has never “smelled.”

Yesterday was beautiful. No wind to speak of. Comfortable temperatures, and many, many cranes. It was a classic Bear and Martha walk.

Here’s a VERY short kind of “look.” You can see the cranes in flight if you are on an actual computer and let the video fill your screen. Anyway, you can hear them. It’s kind of a miracle that the cranes are even in the frame. I pointed my phone at the sky, zoomed in all the way, and hit “record” or whatever. At the end Bear pulled my arm because she smelled something wonderful in the grass. 🤣

Cranes are fun to watch in the sky. They can turn a certain way and become totally invisible, then seem to reappear. They call out constantly and others join them. I watched this group grow until it was four times bigger before they took off for wherever they wanted to go. At one point in our walk about 20 flew directly over me. That is probably meaningless, but my first year walking out there, they avoided flying over me. I like to think they’ve decided I’m part of the Refuge and it’s all good. I like to think that, but it’s probably not true.

Along with the cranes were “my” two ravens and a red tail hawk. At one point I swear three cranes were chasing a raven away. I don’t know if they do that, but that’s what it looked like. As for the lone goose, he’s got plenty of company now. ❤️

I have volunteered to work at the Crane Festival. There was an opportunity that had my name on it. I’m going to work two hours in the “Visitor’s Center” (little office, usually closed) at the Refuge. I don’t want to make a big time commitment or hang out with a lot of people. I have volunteered for the Friday, which is less busy than Saturday. I’ll be giving people maps and directions, and, apparently, a bag of goodies.

It seemed right since Bear and I are unofficial Crane Tourist Greeters already. I’m even looking forward to it. I plan to wear a mask, and I’ll be working alone.

I’ve realized over these past few months exactly what Covid did to me and took from me. I’m still not normal or maybe “normal” is a new thing now. I’m even reluctant to get yet another booster — it was AFTER the booster + flu shot that things began to go quickly downhill for me, as if my system was overloaded with anti-bodies and went after me. I don’t know, of course, but it has been a long haul. It’s a LOT better now, but only an idiot would go back there.

The Tracks Report from the Bark of Beyond

I was out yesterday with Teddy T. Dog. The water birds are a little slow arriving, but I don’t blame them. The bitter cold and blizzard we had last week would daunt any half-way intelligent being and they are MORE than halfway intelligent. The official count of cranes right now is 500 but I have only seen a few. A lone Canada goose called out in the emptiness — so I talked to him. He seemed to be OK with that.

Lone goose

Everything is ready. The ponds are full, the ditches are running, and the week ahead is projected to be a lot warmer than last week. The festival is only 3 weeks away which is kind of freaky. It seems like time is moving at an accelerated rate. People are already coming from New Mexico and Texas with their hopes up. I saw two cars yesterday, the people taking advantage of the long weekend.

A big mystery to me last week were some tracks that were big as elk tracks but not quite right either in the way they were formed or the way they were laid out. Rabbit? Giant rabbits? Pooka???? Jack Rabbits? Yesterday I got a closer look and the tracks are rabbits. Along with them were fox tracks. It’s not like it matters very much, but it is the news of the day out there and I don’t like to fall behind.

Bear and I were out there last week when the storm was coming in. It was very dramatic and beautiful — with thunder. The thunder was far away and Bear didn’t even notice it.

Winter storm coming over the San Juans

Yesterday, however, on the back of THAT storm and the front of the one that’s coming in today, it was very windy. I picked the wrong direction for our walk, too, and walked into heavy gusts for 1/2 mile. NOT fun, but, luckily, it wasn’t all that cold and, luckily, when we turned around the wind was at our backs. My back. Teddy doesn’t have that giant sail-shaped space we ape-people have. He just wandered in his Teddy way on his new Halti finding the smells in the snow and loving life, a model to us all, still you can see his fur blown about in the featured photo.

Winter is dwindling into its twilight, and I’m sad to see it go, as always. One more month, though March is full of tricks and April can be, too. Spring is windy and cool here so it’s not a bad compensation. Everything will be pretty good out there until June and July. I still haven’t figured out a system for avoiding deer flies. Maybe such a system doesn’t exist. Maybe I should be less concerned about the monsters. But once bitten twice shy, as they say.

Quotedium Update 31.11.vii.g

In other news (what??) I reopened my Etsy shop after someone contacted me through my email trying to find out how to buy notecards. What’s cool about that (besides the obvious) is that he found me through the information on the back of a card someone had sent him. It was the Sandhill Crane Walking among Willow Saplings. I ordered some for him and sent them along at a small financial loss for me. NOT the greatest business model but goodwill is worth a lot to a small business such as myself.

After I sold six more packs through Etsy, and I saw that a market exists, I looked into ordering more and realized (again) it’s not cost effective for me. I don’t know what their idea was raising prices as much as they have. I did more experimenting on printing at home, thinking, “People want these and the Crane Festival is coming up. I promised to donate some to Friends of the Refuge to sell at the festival. HFS, Batman. I have to do something.” So as one does when one can, I got better at it…

I experimented and got a very very nice product. Better than I was getting from the commercial printer, and now it’s possible for me to do custom orders — assortments and personalization and all that. It’s not like ink and paper don’t cost me anything, but it’s a far better deal for me AND customers. I print the ink drawings on textured card stock, and they look just like the drawings do in real life on the watercolor paper I used. The colored cards are printed on plain card stock, perfect.

I put more cards up on Etsy. Etsy is seriously flawed and annoying, but it’s simple for people to use. I have also decided to take custom orders through Facebook and here. That is an advertisement, I guess. My Etsy shop is linked below, but you can contact me through my Gravatar and order directly from me.

In other news, Bear and I headed out yesterday to see what’s going on in the Big Empty. Teddy and I went out Thursday, and Teddy has learned that he has a lot of freedom with the Halti. He also discovered how much fun it is to head into the deep snow and search for smells. Yesterday Bear found his little hunting efforts and checked to see what Teddy was after. The Refuge has filled the ponds and ditches because the waterbirds are on their way north — I saw and heard one Canada goose yesterday. It struck me as odd because you never see one goose. I thought about the single Sandhill Crane I saw last week, which was odd, too. I laughed to myself thinking maybe the birds have their own Natty Bumpo types in the flock who scout ahead for possibilities for the whole population.

There’s not much snow out there — we got more in town and Alamosa got even more (and record cold — -24 F/-31 C) but it has drifted into beautiful whipped cream shapes along the fences and reeds. Bear loves the deep snow.

Among other things I saw tracks where it seemed a fox had gotten dinner. Other tracks further on seemed at first to be elk tracks mostly because of their size and the location — a spot where the elk hang out, but now I think they’re Jack Rabbit tracks just because they’re missing features of elk tracks and they are really crazy. Jack Rabbits are BIG.

The featured photo is a filter from a well-used Bialetti.

Breaking ChapGPT

It’s a thing, I’ve learned, people try to stymy the chatbot. I thought I did it yesterday. At the advice of Colin, who writes one of my favorite blogs, Bon Repos Gites, I asked the bot to write some love letters. Then Colin suggested he’d asked it to write Valentines in particular forms — heavy metal song and public service announcement. I loved that idea so I asked it to write one in the style of 80 hardcore punk music. It “broke” three times. It couldn’t — or wouldn’t — write them. I was proud of myself, as, it seems, are all the people who “break” it. This morning I realized that the reason it “couldn’t” was because, to succeed at that task, it would have to violate some of its own rules against violence and obscenity. OH well.

What’s my fascination with punk? Maybe something similar to my fascination with ChatGPT et al. A lot of the society in which we live is built on lies and beliefs. Maybe we don’t examine them because, if we did, we’re afraid we’d break or reveal ourselves to ourselves for what we are. Possibly we don’t even know what we are. Popular music, politics, religious beliefs, magazines, the Internet, highways, cities — I would say everything humans create — all are mirrors. Whatever we do, we create images of ourselves, our desires, our culture. We can’t do anything else, and, if we could, it would be really weird. Punk is a mirror revealing our hypocrisy.

Punk — some punk not all (some Punk is just pop with an edge) — throws the ugly image up there in an often humorous way. Dark but truthful humor. It’s a break from saccharine love songs and all the rest of pop music. It has political beliefs, too, and over time became a fashion more than anything else and the fashion includes the Mohawk.

Back in the 80s was a — IMO — great cartoonist, Lynda Barry, and her cartoon parodying the parody that is punk is still one of my all time favorites.

My favorite 80s punk band is Dead Kennedys not only because someday I’ll be one, but because their songs are (IMO) funny. Their version of “Viva Las Vegas” is hilarious. Their political stance is in harmony with mine (“Nazi Punks Fuck Off”). Social commentary right on point (“Kill the Poor”). It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, so I’m refraining from dropping a video in here. Just remember: ChatGPT wouldn’t write in that language.

In other news, be careful what you wish for. You might get a legit blizzard. Seriously. We are having the most formidable snow I’ve seen since I moved here 8+ years ago. It’s not particularly cold right now so the flakes are pretty big, but the wind is fierce and the snow is blowing like a MOFO. Tonight will be in the negative digits F and, obviously, C. Tomorrow the sun will be out again. I don’t think even Bear and I will venture out until tomorrow but maybe just me on my skis, though I hate to speak that outloud (is this outloud?). Great Sand Dunes National Park is closed because of the blizzard.

We Have Sand in the San Luis Valley, a LOT of Sand

I live near a LOT of sand and I don’t mean a sand lot, though it’s that, too. Great Sand Dunes National Park is really and truly sandy — and also very beautiful in a totally accessible way. It’s true that there isn’t a whole lot to DO there much of the year, and the mosquitoes are beyond counting in summer, there are hiking trails into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where there are waterfalls and even a pass that settlers used in the olden days to cross the mountains, but the preeminent feature is sand and sandboards — similar to snowboards — have been invented to ride down the dunes when the climate is amenable. Looks like fun, but… There is also a very beautiful visitors’ center.

In spring when the snow melts in the Sangres and water comes charging down Medano Creek, it even turns into a beach. Sometimes, though, it can be a little cold, but if we have a good winter, the beach endures into June or even July!

Life’s a Beach

You can learn a LOT more about the Great Sand Dunes here

The coolest (literally) sand that’s not wet is at White Sands National Park in New Mexico. I was there as a little kid — 4 and 5 years old. It was wonderful, a magical land. The sand never gets hot because it’s white — gypsum — and it reflects the heat — unlike the sand at Great Sand Dunes which, in summer, is too hot to play on.

My brother and I at White Sands, 1957. The green car is ours, I think.

I’m fascinated by White Sands because of the fossilized footprints they’ve found of a little girl carrying her brother? Sister? You can read about them here.

A Walk with People!!??!!

Today (Tuesday) my friends wanted to go out to the Refuge with me for a walk. That almost never happens. Wow! No dogs, either. Just people…

This is truly THE quietest time of year out there. It’s the lull before the ponds are filled, the waterbirds return, and the people come to look at them. I love it, I love the silence and the solitude though a few hopeful crane tourists are already coming through to see if they get an early glimpse.

I pointed out muskrat nests and stuff and pretty soon my friends were each doing their things that they do. It struck me how we’ve been sharing outings — adventures — for 8 years and we know each other. It’s wonderful and we had a really good time. The beauty, the space, the silence all soothe people and before long they were standing there looking out at whatever it is we stand and look out at.

People walk differently than dogs, faster and with more consistency and this time of year my asthma is kind of a problem so I had some problems keeping up and the need to stop from time to time to control my breathing. I have a rescue inhaler but I don’t like to use it much. I will if I need rescue, but if I just need to stop it makes more sense just to stop. My friends are tolerant. The fact that I’m somewhat physically “less” doesn’t bother me any more. The way I see it it doesn’t matter; what matters is that I’m out there nearly every day in every kind of weather — even rain and Deer Flies, both of which I’m not crazy about. Thunderstorms are another thing. I’ve been known to retreat. Anyone would. It happens out there that even at my elevated stature of 5’1″ (154 cm) I might be the tallest thing around.

I felt very happy seeing that what I get at the Refuge, my friends were getting. After our walk I took them out to see “the tree” — a huge cottonwood we thought was dead but isn’t. I did a painting of it in 2020. Then I took them to see a new area the Refuge people have built up for the crane tours. Last year they planted sunflowers as a cover crop for the barley. It was beautiful and the dried sunflowers still stand over the barley which isn’t cut but is left for the cranes to fuel them on their long journey north.

A couple weeks ago I saw a beautiful white feather., but when I went back to pick it up, I didn’t find it. I thought the wind had caught it or? I found it today. It seems to be a tail feather from a Sandhill Crane though there are a couple of other less likely possibilities, one is a Snow Goose. They do pass through here from time to time, but not commonly.

Here’s a song by one of my favorite singers from the time I was a kid and even still. I got to hear him a couple of times live in San Diego. Frankie Laine lived in San Diego and sometimes he would perform in some not-particularly-fancy place like the Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park which is right under the flight path for planes landing at Lindbergh Field.

This song still gives me chills.

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.

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.