No Bluffing

When I was 14, we moved back to Colorado from Nebraska where, for six years, my dad had been working for the Department of Defense. This time we moved to Colorado Springs. My mom had found a house to rent until they could build a wheel-chair accessible house to make life easier for my dad (and mom). Both the house she rented and the one they bought were near a geological formation we called The Bluffs. The Bluffs were on the north end of town. Beyond that? Ranches and farms; that was about it.

They were our playground. There were a few trails — none of them marked — and a road that wound up to an overlook from which you could see (can still see) the main sights — The Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. We could head out the door, through a couple suburban blocks, and we were there. There was (and is) a small stable and a couple of times we rode through The Bluffs. When I was in high school, on a Sunday afternoon ramble with my friend, I found My Tree. It’s still there, but there’s a road to it…

The Bluffs gave us kids a way to get off by ourselves.

Colorado Springs has grown exponentially and horrifically (IMO) and The Bluffs are encircled by developments and malls. It’s often crowded and it’s not so easy to get away by yourself. Everyone refers to it by its legit name, Palmer Park. Everyone, that is, except the “old timers.” I don’t know how I got to be an “old-timer” but here we are. A rose by any other name, etc. The Bluffs endure (and don’t care what they’re called) and they’re still a lovely place for a ramble.

DON’T LEAVE HOME

There are a lot of things in life that are at least as much fun as diverticulitis. One of them is slipping and falling on a. tile floor, landing in a completely freakish fashion and damaging your rotator cuff. For a REALLY good time spend three hours waiting in urgent care in a part of Colorado where the DELTA variant is partying hard. THEN wait in a little room some MORE only to have the doc tell you your X-rays look good, nothing broken and you say, “I don’t remember being X-rayed,” and you know, you weren’t. Then you get to see the doctor turn red, the assistants look frustrated, and your friend look half-angry/half-bewildered. Ultimately, you get X-rayed, it’s a soft-tissue injury (rotator cuff), and you walk out with a prescription for Tramadol, instructions for a couple of exercises, and an ineffectual sling. I’ve had diverticulitis (TMI, sorry) and I’d say fall and damaged rotator cuff is pretty much on par with, you know, the other thing.

I’ve always been accident prone. And, except for my skiing accident (I was standing still at the time), all of them have occurred pretty much like that little fall yesterday. Why? How? Huh? I was loading my car, had come back in, slipped, fell, bam. SO I’m here for at least one more day. My arm is better. The drugs worked last night (the whole point of opium is to help someone sleep through pain, IMO) and here I am today with a lot of dirty clothes, in need of a shower, with a sore arm. Whine, whine, whine.

But the dogs are happy. The yard is large. They are all playing together like puppies. My friend is making progress on preparing for his teaching job which starts in a month. There’s no special reason for me to BE home except for the beans (and tomatoes) and packages.

Sometimes you just have to surrender. The bright sides (there are actually several) I get to have lunch with Lois today, as I said, the dogs are happy. My friend has a washing machine, my neighbor is taking care of my mail. I’ve also decided to go home a slower less stressful way so I can “coddle” my arm. We watched Twins last night (in the 80s I only watched arty-farty movies) and we’re watching and my friend says, “Arizona?” as the Goverrnator (Arnold) and Danny Devito drive across a wide expanse of land.

“Looks like the San Luis Valley,” I said. The next thing they did was drive over the Rio Grande River toward Taos.

Horsing Around

My friend Lois is a horsewoman. It’s kind of a semi-late life development, though she had a horse when she was a girl. A lucky and wonderful series of events brought her into the farm of some people who are passionate horse lovers. They are elderly and the horses need to be ridden. This has given my friend incredible opportunities and the chance to ride horses without the responsibility and expense of owning them. To tell the WHOLE story would need another post, so I’ll just filter out what is, for the moment, extraneous material, and tell you about what we got to do yesterday.

Yep. I got to go hang out with some horses.

These horses are BIG (as you can see) and I’d need a crane to lower me down onto one of their backs.

One of them I like especially. He’s wise and has a sense of humor and likes me. Simeon. (Feature photo) He’s kind of an obnoxious horse to some of the others, but I love him and I got to feed him carrots.

The object of the visit was for me to meet the newest horse — the mini, Victor (also feature photo). He’s only one hand (ha ha ha like I really understand that beyond a theoretically) higher at the withers (though Bear, strictly speaking, has shoulders) than Bear. Victor is charming, beautifully made (some minis are a little odd looking). He begs for food and soon realized no one was giving him any. He yearned to go out in the pasture with the big horses, but a couple little dominance struggles with the big horses mean that he has to be a solo horse for a little while. The owners are getting him a friend who will arrive in a week or so.

Victor


I developed my personal lifestyle in grad school, and I’ve refined it over the years. These people can go, “Wow. We need another mini-horse,” and plop out almost as much money as I’ve ever earned in a month. With that kind of choice comes a level of responsibility I’m glad to have been spared. 🙂

Women in Early Climbing —

how did climbing shape your life?

High Clip from The Dihedral invited me to write a blog post for her series, Women in Early Climbing. I struggled because I’m not a climber. I told High Clip, “I don’t think I can write this, you see, I’m not a climber.”

She said, “I think you are.” She said I had a climber’s mentality. I returned to the problem and then I saw the long-term effect of my early climbing life on everything that happened afterward and the person I became, am, now. I hope you enjoy it!

Women in Early Climbing —

“Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.”

We were just kids, didn’t know our asses from our elbows, and were all about to take the big step into the big world where things were not ordered and interpreted by the deacons of First Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Some of us were excited for the BIG ADVENTURE of the REAL world which, in the late 60’s and early 70’s was a pretty flash place rife with sex and drugs and rock’n’roll. We were a close knit bunch, most of us honor students, and I had the supreme honor of being elected President of the BYF (Baptist Youth Fellowship). Unfortunately, I made some miscalculations about the motives of the church leaders and ended up being thrown out of my youth group but still “allowed” to attend church. Pretty damned white of them, don’t you think? You can read about that event here. My long ago post about an unctuous deacon at my church It’s a good story.

Many of the church leaders felt that “shunning” and “ejecting” me was unfair and attempted to bring me back into the fold. After all, I had a demonstrably fucked up family, dad rushing toward death from MS, mom on drugs and booze and a little brother who was headed for the dark side. There was every possibility that I could be saved from perdition. I clearly had a good heart, a good soul, knew my Bible, had made some big contributions to the church and the youth group from which I’d been ejected, and Jesus didn’t want to lose the members of his flock.

The local Baptist summer camp — Black Forest Baptist Assembly — needed counsellors and one of my “allies” talked my mom into letting me be a counselor for a week at a kid’s camp. I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, but I needed to be away from my mom. My mom, on the other hand, needed me at home to help with my dad. The Pastor came, talked to my mom about it and I got to go. I was 18, just out of high school, had suffered my first serious broken heart, was about to start college. It was 1970.

That week counseling a group of Jr. High girls at Black Forest Baptist Assembly in a primitive camp was absolutely wonderful fantastic life-altering and redemptive. I had never had a summer camp experience. I had never slept in a tent. I’d spent a lot of time in woods and hills, but had never had the chance to share that with anyone. The Pastor who ran that camp was great. He loved the outdoors, was generous-hearted, funny and the kids loved him. A few weeks afterward, I started college.

The next summer I was invited back. It seemed that in spite of my questionable allegiance to Baptist tenets, I was a gifted summer camp counselor. My mom was persuaded to let me spend most of the summer as a CIT, Counselor in Training, which meant that I would counsel a few camps, work in the kitchen preparing meals for the primitive camps, and share a cabin with a friend. I’d also have a chance to lead arts and crafts if any of the camp leaders wanted it.

I had my second run-in with “unctuous deacons” that summer.

The same Pastor who had been so great the year before ran one of the camps in which I would be working and he specifically asked if I would be counseling that summer. I didn’t know that in the intervening year, he’d become “born again” at a revival meeting. He’d experienced a visitation of the “spirit” and had spoken in tongues. His orientation to the camp experience had changed completely. Rather than games of “steal the bacon,” nature hikes, campfire songs and s’mores, the kids were rounded up and made to sit for HOURS in the ONE enclosure in the primitive camp while the pastor pushed toward a “charismatic” experience with the Lord. It was awful. The kids were junior high kids, not all from a church, some just there because it was truly the best camping experience in the area (usually).

Finally, one rainy evening, after dinner, as a thunderstorm broke all around us, a group of kids and I ran away to take a hike. As the storm ended, we climbed a ridge. The sun was dropping behind the mountains, hitting the mammatus clouds with golden light. The same light reflected on water droplets all around us. It was a shimmering, glimmering, light-filled, brand new world of sublime beauty.

“We should have communion,” said one of the kids.

“We don’t have any bread or juice,” said another kid.

“I’ll go down to the main camp and get some.”

“OK,” I said, equally enchanted by the beauty of the moment from this high place, the rapidly changing light and the authentic fellowship of a dozen kids (including me) on a hard hike. He ran down the hill, raided the kitchen, stole a pack of Chips Ahoy cookies and a bottle of fruit drink.

There on that hill we shared a spiritual experience in Nature’s holy light. Instead of Kumbaya or some other hymn-like thing we joined hands and sang a pop song…

“And then?” you might be wondering… Well the Pastor complained to the camp director who then called me in and asked me what happened. I explained it all, expecting to be ejected and shunned yet again but no.

“I agree with you, Martha. That’s what camp is for. Enjoying the beauty and blessings of nature, God’s gift to us. I don’t approve of this charismatic stuff. It’s not for everyone, and certainly not for children. As you know, a lot of our campers are not Baptist or maybe any faith. Browbeating them into believing something is wrong. I’ll talk to him.”

The upshot was that I worked two more camps that summer, and met the boy who might have been the great love of my life (last time I saw him was 2004). Then a day came when my mom showed up out of no where and said, “You have to come home. I can’t take care of your dad myself. We have to take him to a nursing home.”

But I had that sunset and it lit my heart forever.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/10/02/rdp-wednesday-unctuous/

A story on this subject you might enjoy is Langston Hughe’s “Salvation.”

Mitigating​ Factors

I’ve known this tree since I was 16 or so. The first time I saw it, my friend Kathleen and I climbed up the cliff face. Back then the “Bluffs” was a quiet, seldom visited, mildly wild-and-woolly place. It was Sunday afternoon after church. Kathleen and I went to the same church, lived in the same hood and went to the same high school. We walked to school together every day and hung out on weekends. She had a horse named Irish Luck and a great dog, a Border collie named Ronco. We had a lot of fun rambling around up there and life was (mostly) good.

Life in my family wasn’t so good. My dad’s abilities were deteriorating quickly from his MS, and I was scared about losing him. There were family fights almost every night. I avoided home as much as possible by doing lots of extra-curricular activities at school and getting a job.

So anyway, one Sunday afternoon Kathleen, Ronco and I went up to the bluffs, found a trail, took it until it petered out, saw the sandstone cliff, climbed up and arrived at this amazing tree. I was stunned. Out of the ‘dead’ trunk of this Rocky Mountain Juniper rose a straight new tree, back then about 18 inches tall.

I grew up with poetry and the whole thing of metaphors and symbols. I immediately saw in that tree a metaphor that was useful to me. The tree grows in sandstone. There’s no soil or anything from which you’d think it could derive sustenance. It’s hundreds of years old. Where it looked like it might have been on its last roots, it wasn’t. Right then and there I took the lesson. Whatever’s going on around, you don’t let it defeat you. You just quietly and according to your nature, keep growing. It may seem strange, but that tree became a kind of surrogate mother to me.

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From then on, pretty much every time Kathleen and I took a hike, we’d visit the tree for a few minutes unless it was our destination and then we’d go there and hang out. Today, you can drive to it if you want, but back in the late sixties, that wasn’t the case. Also, we walked from home. I’d pick up Kathleen and we’d trounce across a then nearly-deserted Academy Boulevard, run across a hay field, and into the thickets of scrub oak of the lower Bluffs, the neighborhood wilderness. That world is gone.

The day before yesterday, I saw my orthopedic surgeon. He X-rayed the hip replacement, examined me and said, “No restrictions. Go run up a mountain. Go ski. Where will you ski?”

Yesterday, my friend Lois (who grew up in the same neighborhood and also rambled around in the Bluffs with her brothers) and I went to see my tree. I had a lot to tell it. I can’t say I went up the hills like a mountain goat, but I did OK. My only struggle now is a lack of confidence in my footing. I will have to relearn the confidence I once felt on rocky slopes and sharper hills. We got near the tree and noticed a small one, pretty much just like my tree, but younger — maybe only fifty years old! It could easily be my tree’s daughter. They are the only two Rocky Mountain Junipers in this immediate area.

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Young Rocky Mountain Juniper

At my tree, I did what I did as a girl. I wrapped my arms around her. I cried, releasing all the emotion of the past several months, and I told her everything. Then, my feelings spent, I looked at her and saw how well she is doing. She has secreted sap and she was loaded with juniper berries. ❤

Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?
(You’ll never hear it in the family pew).
Robert Service, “The Call of the Wild”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/rdp-sunday-secrete/

Olden Days

I just saw this trailer for a film coming out this fall, and I want to see it.

I learned to ski on the “back” side of Pikes Peak. When I left Colorado in the mid-eighties, there were copious ski areas. The morning ski report was long. When I look at a ski area map now, it’s not like that. It shows the “mega” resorts that remain.

These ski areas weren’t resorts at all, many of them. They were places you could go in a day. Pikes Peak Ski Area was right off the Pikes Peak Highway — easy access. It was small, some rope tows, a poma and a chair lift. The snow was usually pretty good because it was on the north side of Pikes Peak — it was high, shaded and fairly well sheltered from the wind.

skipikespeak_cam

Pikes Peak Ski Area

These ski areas often didn’t have many runs or amenities — no fancy hotel to spend the night, no shopping, food was often burgers cooked on the mountain on oil-drum grills and eaten standing up, but with season passes that cost $25 for a family, they made the sport accessible. The focus was on skiing.

Back then, too, there was a little reverse snobbery. Real Coloradans didn’t wear fancy ski clothes because skiing was part of who they were, an every day thing, nothing to get dressed up for. Fancy ski clothes revealed that the skier was from Chicago — or worse — Texas. For a while it was popular to ski in bibbed overalls. I didn’t; but I did ski in jeans. When I started X-country skiing, I wore those clothes to the down hill ski areas because there was political contention over “skinny skiers” using downhill slopes. I had to make my point, right?

Andy and Me, A-Basin, 1982

A friend and I at Arapaho Basin, 1982. I’m wearing knickers, high wool socks and layers.

Some of the small ski areas have grown up — Arapaho Basin back in the day was smallish and funky, but now it’s expanded and appears to be more closly linked to its neighbor, Keystone. I can’t say for sure; I haven’t been back.

Right now the local ski area — Wolf Creek — is the center of a big fight between conservationists and a rich Texan who wants to develop it into a resort. A ski resort would pretty much destroy the vibe that Wolf Creek wants to maintain and that the people here are comitted to. It’s a tense and murky situation since the economy of Southern Colorado is depressed and a ski resort would help, but, at the same time, it would put “our” ski area out of the reach of most people who actually live here.

I like the idea of small, local ski mountains, but economically, I can see they stopped being viable. Climate change has made the snowfall less dependable than it was when I was a young woman. Maybe there’s no connection between thousands more people driving into the mountains every weekend from Denver to Vail, Aspen, etc. than there were thirty years ago and the fact that we have less snow. No idea.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/rdp-monday-copious/

Dreams DO Come True

Yesterday I drove to Colorado Springs and checked into my beautiful B&B — the Crescent Lily Inn. This is my “summer vacation” so to speak. It’s beautiful. Colorado Springs has many gorgeous Victorian homes and when I was a kid I dreamed of living in one someday when I grew up — well, I get to live in one for two nights. My room even has a four poster bed, another thing I dreamed of as a little kid.

If you just wait long enough and have a couple hundred bucks your dreams might come true.

 

image_551201610464428

Of course there’s my reacher and computer case because it’s NOT the 19th century…

Along with the fufillment of childhood dreams, comes breakfast. 🙂

Today’s the big day when I go see my surgeon for my 6 week exam. I’m going to make his life easy and mine less embarrassing by just wearing shorts. Sure, my legs look like proof of the evolution of humans from apes, but I was able to mitigate that to a limited extent yesterday by using a rubber band to fasten my razor to the end of my shower brush, again setting the humans apart from other animals (except ravens) as the masters of tools. And considering that THAT man has seen me start naked, unconscious, and cut open, really what’s there to hide?

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/rdp-20-check/

 

Hanging On

In my Sunday hike in the Bluffs (Palmer Park) I noticed a lot of erosion. It’s been a wet winter, but one erosion channel was very disturbing. It was as wide as a one lane road.

I think what happened was a flash flood tore through there, upended a very large dead tree and the space held by the roots of that tree opened up the channel. The roots were amazing.

It doesn’t seem to take a lot for a tree to make it in the semi-arid land of the high plains of Colorado. The juniper that is “my tree” seems to have nothing to grow by, just looking at its roots, yet it’s been hanging on like that as long as I’ve known it and that’s 50 years. The branch that comes out from the top is three times larger than it was when I first met my tree. As a model for how to live life, I cannot imagine anyone better.

Dusty:Peak:Me

With Dusty T. Dog at my tree, November 2014

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/roots/