Breathing Is Good

Bear’s bronchioles were working hard last night when we were hit by a surprise — and very loud — thunder-boomer. We’ve had real rain twice now and I’m very glad. I was happy to see real mud puddles in the alley, muddy paw prints in the house, new holes in the yard. Best of all (in my little life) no watering of the lawn.

BUT… Bear began her anxiety march which means walking in a circle from the living room, through the bathroom, to my room and back to the living room. She’s recently decided that my bed is the best place for her during a storm — a new thing this summer. I don’t like that. I love my dogs, but I don’t sleep with animals, not even in my room. BUT I finally surrendered and put a cover on the bed. When Bear’s anti-anxiety meds kicked in, I found her sleeping on my bed. And yes, that’s a tiger under the window. No, not a real one. In the window? Old-school air-conditioner. 🙂

No, Bear’s not spoiled.

I’ve been keeping the corner of one eye on national events. After getting expelled from Twitter, I knew I had to take a few steps back. Today, however, I made the mistake of seeking to be informed. This struck me:

“In emotional testimony that recounted the abuse he received while defending the Capitol on Jan. 6, D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges said he was struck by the flags carried by members of the mob, whom he characterized as “terrorists.”

“To my perpetual confusion, I saw the thin blue line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcement more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us,” Hodges said.

He nodded to the conflict between the beliefs represented by the flags, and the actions of those holding them…”


Men alleging to be veterans told us how they had fought for this country and we’re fighting for it again. One man tried to start a chant of four more years,” Hodges said. “Another shouted, ‘do not attack us. We’re not Black Lives Matter,’ as if political affiliation is how we determine when to use force.” Washington Post

That summarizes everything for me. I’ve come to understand that many of these people are convinced that Biden was not REALLY elected, that the election was fraud, that Trump TRULY won the election. They believe that fighting against what is (in truth) a legally elected administration they are fighting for our country.

I have no answer for this. It’s an absolute mind fuck.

I had a direct experience with something similar not long ago. On the other side of the valley live some truly big-hearted people that I’ve known since soon after I moved here. Last week one of them forwarded me some email correspondence between them and their son who is an artist. It concerned a good deal on some art supplies, but it also contained some passionate anti-Covid vaccination information. I almost wrote a response then I thought, “They 1) aren’t thinking about that, but about art supplies,” 2) “The ARE thinking about this and are (paradoxically) sharing this with me for my well-being. Their intention in this case is loving.”

BAM. These people are conscientious mask-wearers, but they are NOT getting vaccinated.

“As we get older and stop making sense
You won’t find her waiting long
Stop making sense, stop making sense…stop making sense, making sense…”

Yet ANOTHER Post about Bear

Six years ago today I saw my shaggy bestie in real life for the first time. I saw her on Facebook the day before and Brandi, the young woman who worked at the local shelter, had texted me, “Martha! This is your dog!” or something to that effect.

I wasn’t sure. I had two dogs and was thinking maybe I didn’t need a dog who was likely to grow to be very large. “Do I need a 100 pound dog?” I asked myself. I asked people through this blog, too, and got good advice from people who had owned what this pretty puppy was supposed to grow into — that is Great Pyrenees. The shelter thought she was a mix because of the blue eyes and they really did look like they eyes of my beautiful Lily T. Wolf, the Siberian husky I’d had to put to sleep the previous March. She was 17 years old. ❤

So, I met her. She was in a cage apart because she was on “hold” in case someone came to claim her. I walked toward her. She walked calmly toward the fencing of her cage. We made eye contact. She sat. She looked at me as if she knew me and I brought her home to see how she’d do with Dusty and Mindy when I was free to adopt her.

Now she’s six years old, and these big dogs don’t have long lifespans. Thinking of that this morning it made me realize — again — how much courage it takes to love something, but what a loss if we don’t.

In other news, I have a new book project. No illustrations, just designing a book. I’m looking forward to starting. I decided that while I believe that a handshake is enough to seal a deal, I should grow up and execute a contract. I’m working on that today. It’s a sweet project, the kind that historians love, a book that an old sheep rancher published on his own hook some 30 years ago which now a small, local museum wants to republish.

The way I feel for “the west” is mysterious. My mom could have been a better mom, but she left me with some real treasures, one of them an interest in, knowledge of, and love for this world. I was thinking this morning that though I’m no farmer and no rancher, I’m definitely an appreciator. Farmers and ranchers need fans, too.

Surprising Summer Walk

Yesterday — to our total and complete surprise — the sky clouded over, the wind came up, the trees tossed their heads around and knowing the importance of carpeing the diem, I closed the back door, put on real shoes, leashed Bear and headed out. It was an…


There was a poor hungry raven attempting to raid anyone’s nest and being chased by everybody. It was fun to watch him feint and dive to escape the sharp beaks of all the little birds, mostly redwing blackbirds. I saw him later attempting to raid the nests of doves. Don’t believe doves = peace. Not in the real world. Fierce beasties. They usually hang out in the spruce trees and on the roof of the ranger’s house.

The waterbirds have mostly taken off for points north. Only four adult geese remain in the big pond, both with their families. One has a family of one gosling. The other has eight. The goose fights over territory are over now and they all swim happily together like best friends.

As Bear and I went our way in the wind, which liberated us from heat, mosquitoes and horse-flies, Bear stopped, her eyes rapt on something to the north west. I stopped, too. Dogs are great for making sure we don’t miss things. And there was…

Bessie, her sisters, their husband, and one solitary yearling calf. They were closer to the pasture where we’d met than they’d been since last summer. It’s totally irrational, but love that cow. Well, in a general sense I love cows. I think they’re really cool animals and yes, I do eat them from time to time. They aren’t my favorite food, but sometimes a bit of cow is very tasty.

I think Bessie and her family are unlikely to be steaks. I don’t know their story, but they are incredibly beautiful Herefords, and my theory is Bessie’s husband’s sperm goes for a pretty good price. The herd never grows or diminishes in size. It’s always a small clutch of bovine beauty, a bull, and a yearling.

The wonderful thing is that when I called out, “Bessie!” (not her name, just the name I gave her) they all turned to look at me and one of the cows came as close as she could to the fence between us — 1/8 mile away :-(. Bessie has come when I’ve called her in the past so maybe that IS her name. Seeing them made me think about last summer and how wonderful it was in September last year when I met them. I had a feeling of camaraderie with those cows, their curiosity and slow-moving purpose. The photo is Bessie the first time I saw her last September.

As we walked, the light changed constantly.

Only a few flowers bloom in the Refuge, that is things that LOOK like flowers. Every plant blooms in its way. The wetlands are still a mystery to me because I don’t really go INTO them, but along the trail were yellow clover, something called “white top,” primrose. A little later in the summer the tall, yellow primrose will be blooming. But on the way the pastures were filled with wild iris.

No photos, sorry. Since I don’t have a working phone, I see no point in taking the new or old phone out there. The new phone is big and, in my mind, heavy. I regret very much even entering this adventure of a new phone, but I did, I have a contract, and a good camera (aka phone), so I should just be grateful I guess. Actually, grateful is just a good strategy. Sometime in the next few days I’ll head up to Colorado Springs and, hopefully, get this thing going.

All About My Dog

“It’s raining, Martha,” says the weather dog
bright eyes, damp coat, and hope on every fur
filament. “Do you think it…?” her head cocks.
Before snow, it rains. She’s no amateur.
“A few months more, Bear,” I tell her, gently
“Then we’ll have all the snow and cold we want.”
She nods, shakes, and shuffles out intently
To lie in wait for future’s snowy jaunt.
Summer is inevitable, winter is too
I tell my dog (and myself) every year
Nurturing plants and fighting mosquitoes
We watch summer go with nary a tear.
Patiently we wait for the cold snow kisses
and the sweet deep snow moment of Bear’s bliss.

This is a Shakespearean sonnet which follows an ababcdcdefefgg rhyme scheme. In a perfect world they are also in iambic pentameter which is ba-BOOM, ba-BOOM, ba-BOOM which happens, also, to be the fundamental cadence of English. I’m not a fanatic about that. If I weren’t so lazy I might try other poetic forms, but…

Saturday Services in the Big Empty

Beautiful day in the neighborhood. Bear really believes I make the snow. She came inside this morning soaking wet, snow on her back, and leaned against me relentlessly to show her gratitude. Cold, humid, patchy fog, snow showers, occasional graupel, a light breeze.

Bear and I attended holy services at the Big Empty and got to hear a special choir recital of redwing blackbirds, yellow-headed blackbirds, meadowlarks, Canada geese and various ducks. You can see “my” two geese in this little video, the two who make their nest in this very vulnerable location.

We had a little discussion with these two geese who were a lot closer to us than they appear in this video. They really wanted the road. We finally persuaded them to take off. I didn’t see anything that they might have been guarding, but they were very very very vocal. There was nothing, no pond, nesting site or any other geese friendly site around. I don’t think the goslings have been born yet, but who knows. I wasn’t going to discuss it with them. If they didn’t want to leave Bear and I would have turned around. Geese protecting something are not especially friendly (ha ha)

That was the best service we’ve attended in a long time and we’re both very happy.

Interviewing My Dog on Her Birthday

“What do you want to do for your birthday, Bear?”


“You’re six years old today.”


“OK, let’s try this. Bear, if you could do anything you wanted today what would you do?”

“I have to go, Martha. There’s something outside that needs barking at.”

“Go ahead sweet girl. But come back. I have more questions.”


So much for interviewing Bear on her birthday. Soooo…I’ll talk to myself.

“Martha, looks like you’re going to get your second shot next Saturday.”

“That’s the plan.”

“So, once you’re immune what will you do first?”

“I don’t know. Walk Bear at the Refuge?”

“What about shopping. You’re going to go do that today I understand, ahead of the predicted big storm?”

“It’s not supposed to bring us even an inch of snow.”

“But you can’t tell, can you?”

“No. That’s why I’m going today. Plus, I’m out of fish oil and bananas.”

“Will you start going back inside stores when you’re immune to the virus? “

“Do you have any idea how weird that sounds?”


“Yeah. Like there’s a plague affecting the inside of stores or something.”

“There is.”

“Yeah, I know, but it still sounds weird.”

“So will you?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t like stores before. I’m not a shopper. Oh, here’s Bear. How did it go out there?”

“No problems.”

“Who was it?”

“That old man walking on the sidewalk. Everyday I need to remind him of certain important points.”

“Such as?”


“This is Great, Martha!”

Today I had the thought of taking Bear out to a place where we used to like to walk a round-about way to the river, but about 10 feet into the walk I had a VERY BAD feeling about it. I made Bear turn around (she was heavily involved in smelling things, notably dog pee; it’s a popular dog walking place thanks to Covid). As we neared the parking lot I saw a car I knew belonged to a nice woman with two dogs she lets run off leash.

Wow. Talk about intuition. She waited until I got Bear into Bella. As I drove away she waved and smiled (we are happy to see each other these days) and her two dogs ran down the trail.

“We’ll go to our happy place, Bear,” I said and we headed down a country road to the Refuge. And there, as always, we found refuge.

The snow has blown and melted a bit obscuring most of the beautiful tracks I saw last time. Here is all that remains of the elegant calligraphy left by a doe and her young one. It seems they drag their feet slightly, making a beautiful pattern.

There were a couple of short stories, too. By “short” I mean made by short animals (har-dee-har-har). Mice, those with the footprints and the line (his little tail dragging) and mouse tracks with the tail up (was something chasing him?).

Bear and I had a wonderful time. There was lots of silence to enjoy. It was my first walk since the injury two weeks ago that I wasn’t limping or walking awkwardly. It was fun. Now I’m reconsidering the ski resolution. Maybe I’ll just get bindings that work better. Not sure. On the way from the place where we DIDN’T walk to the place where we DID I saw people skiing on the lake. They weren’t having any big challenge out there on a groomed trail, though if the temperatures keep rising, they might have a MAJOR challenge.

“Think about it, Martha.”

In spite of a mildly torqued knee. a pulled groin muscle, and a limp, I decided to take Bear out to the Refuge. I thought I’d use a cane for stability, but I’d forgotten that is Bear’s job. She’d kind of forgotten that, too, at the beginning of our walk, but she remembered before she did any damage.

The moment I arrived, I noticed the welcoming party.

Welcoming committee…

It was very deer of them to be there, waiting for me, and I was grateful. I took it as a benediction on what I feared was a bad idea, walking Bear when I am physically a little fragile. I sent them my thanks through ASL (which all muledeer understand perfectly) and my friend and I took off slowly, me limping, Bear wanting to smell everything. I didn’t blame her. Even I could see the stories left in the snow.

We went along. I had no idea how far I would go before I couldn’t go, but it turned out that I was able to go almost as far as usual. The only reason I didn’t go all the way is because my mom told me not to, I mean because I’m less stupid and stubborn than I was three days ago. Bear studied scents, rolled in the snow, dug down to where maybe some little creature had burrowed for warmth.

On the way I noticed a large bird in one of the cottonwood trees. Then it went “ooo-hooo” and I realized it was “my” great horned owl. Too far away for a good photo, but when has that deterred me?

I should really take a camera…

When Bear and I turned around, Bear did her lean thing which I interpret to mean, “Thank you Martha,” but it might mean, “Aren’t we going to hunt some more?” We walked along together, my hand on my dog’s back, and I thought, “Is this so bad, Martha? Really, what’s wrong with this? Your best friend is here. Your welcoming committee was waiting for you. The snow is one big mantle of diamonds and stories. And look at that! Look, right in front of you!!”

I did. I stood there and looked at the little grouping of mountains I’ve painted so many times that they’re almost a part of my hand, and I started to cry. “We are hardly a consolation prize,” murmured all the features of the landscape, “And we’re yours. You came here for this and we are here for you. Do you have to live according to some idea of yourself or can’t you just do what we do and BE?”

There were no human footprints anywhere. A couple signs of someone on X-country skis maybe three days ago, but otherwise? As it is most of the year, it was just us, Bear and me and sometimes Teddy, too. I like the cold, the wind, the changes, the tracks, the possibilities of seeing other animals besides me and my dogs. I like what I see going slowly.

So, I will be selling my skis.

Happy Dog

When you have a birthday close to but after the holidays, sometimes you don’t get much of a celebration when you’re a kid. My mom even said things like, “I don’t think I can face another holiday.” OH WELL. Teddy and I celebrated our birthday quietly as fits our natures (???). Then, day before yesterday I got a text from the kids’ mom. “We made you a Martha sized cake. We forgot your birthday. Can we bring it tomorrow?”

I haven’t been hanging out with the kids for a while. I felt the need to back off a little. The contest for which I read books in winter has begun, and I’m trying to stock my Etsy store ahead of spring having gotten the inspiration that people shop seasonally (who knew? Every retail person since time began, that’s who). Plus, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of a family. It’s strange, but true, that the word “family” terrifies some people (raises hand). Family carries expectations that I know I’m not up to and, along with expectations, come disappointments. I don’t want to disappoint those kids, but I have and I will. All that to say I haven’t seen them in several weeks.

So there they were, in the alley, with a pretty cake, a cardboard box with a pillow they made me so I could take a nap, and birthday cards they’d made. It was a beautiful scene, but truly, the most beautiful scene of all was when they came in the yard to see Bear. Bear was in RAPTURES that her kids were IN HER VERY OWN YARD. Bear ran up to M (and scared her) then raced around the yard several times. “That’s her happy dance,” I told the kids as the nut-brown dust blew up all around us. Dry, dry, dry winter… The kids examined the masterwork of holes Bear has been digging under a lilac bush for five years, watched the birds who live in my hedge and generally hung out in Bear’s world. When they left, Bear sat beside me at the gate and bid them farewell as if she had invited them to a tea party and it was time for them to go.

Bear’s masterpiece

Bear and I Discuss Change

“But Martha, you HAVE to sit there and drink your coffee. You CAN’T just go into your studio.”

“Why, Bear?”

“Because it’s how it’s always been. If you don’t…”

“Sweet Bear, you’re just a livestock guardian dog. You think all changes mean there’s a predator.”


“Yeah. That’s what you guys are bred for. That’s why when friends come over, you start guarding them immediately because WHY ARE THEY HERE????. They must be RUNNING FROM SOMETHING TERRIBLE.”

“That’s right, Martha. It’s important to keep things going in a calm, peaceful, predictable way so we all survive.”

“Damn, Bear. That’s what I think, too.”

“It’s obvious, Martha. Thanks for the rawhide. I don’t know how you hunt down so many animals when I don’t see you do it.”

“Magic powers, Bear.”

SO…having seen how important this ritual is to my dog (and to me) I will not take a break. I’ll just do my best to stay away from POLITICS!!!!