Just Another Walk in Heaven

Woke up this morning to…. RAIN????!!!!! Huh??? Ribbons of rain trailing down the windows to my complete surprise. Rain in the morning is exceedingly rare here in the back of beyond but it’s a sign of changing times meaning Fall and (OMG) WINTER!! ❄️

Teddy persuaded me yesterday (not much of a challenge) to take him out to the Big Empty. It’s so nice now. Beautiful light, beautiful breeze, comfortable temps, no deer flies. Oh yeah, I’ve said before. Yeah, well, I never take things like that for granted.

Readers will be happy to know that most of the garter snakes I saw were alive. I scared one to make it get out of the road. How? I walked closer and stomped on the ground. The little guy stuck out his tongue to see if I was worth eating and I saw how beautiful his tongue was — blue underneath, bright red on top. They aren’t colorful snakes, so I was a little surprised. When he decided I might be an SUV and not a grasshopper he high-tailed it (most of him is tail) into the grass. Teddy was less interested in him than Bear would have been, but not much.

The sky was indecisive, and for a very short time, we walked in the rain. Teddy is still a little crazy on the end of the leash, but a lot less so than last year. He’s growing up — four years this coming January. (PSA Many new dog owners don’t realize that a dog isn’t really mature mentally until they are a few years old.) I also think that having the chance to go out alone with me makes him happy. He wants me to scratch his little head the whole time I’m driving, which, given hay trucks, isn’t possible.

“There’s something there, Martha.”
“Thanks for letting me know, little guy. I wish you could tell me WHAT.”

“Constant interspecies problem, Martha.”
“I know, Teddy.”

Bear, meanwhile, this morning, is already hinting that it’s her turn. She’s not wrong, but…

Because of the moving clouds in the indecisive sky, the light changed constantly rendering the landscape a blue and yellow, pastel world. I felt like taking pictures, so…

If you’re pining for more Escape from Freedom, well, some things are swirling through my mind. One is that Fromm wrote somewhere (I will find it again) that the charismatic (my words, not his) will say words that don’t correspond with his actions and should be judge not by what he says, but what he does. He makes the point that contradiction is a trait of these people, that their psychology is built on it. I’ll find the passage and share it next time I feel like delving into another wandering analysis of this book.

“I Got to Go!!!”

For everyone who worried that Teddy was left out of my walk with Bear yesterday, this will reassure you that Teddy gets his turn. We headed out this afternoon — just us — and took a trail my dogs LOVE but which I don’t do during snake season, especially when I have both of them. I’ve yet to see a rattlesnake out there but I’ve seen too many in my life to think that just because I haven’t seen one, they’re not around.

As always, Teddy was very happy.

It was very beautiful as I will now attempt to prove.

Aspen on the mountains
Just a pretty scene.

The bees were VERY busy on all the Chamisa. It was fun trying to photograph them.

Bee here now…

I went out because, well, I have a friend trying to deal with some major problems in life and sometimes people in that situation can be assholes and take stuff out on the people who care about them..

Nature doesn’t have moods — we might project moods onto nature. This is not a mood going on in Florida right now. It’s a very dangerous hurricane. While these dramatic hurricanes might be exacerbated (if not caused by) by climate change (I believe they are) it doesn’t mean nature is “angry.” It means that please people I hope you are all in a safe place. That’s your job right now in the face of this thing that is bigger than you are.

For me, even going out in a blizzard clears my mind and returns me to the proper order of things. That said, I don’t go out in lighting storms. AND, 19 years ago, I ran from a fire. I understood that nature is “bigger” than me, and I very much wanted that next hike with my dogs. I remember looking over the mountains the day after we had evacuated and I had gone to a nearby town to stay in the park until I got word about where I could go. Above the mountains — which were more than 300 meters/1000 feet higher than the park — were flames and smoke. The fire was not ONLY coming up the other side, the flames were higher than the hills. We were fine where we were because of the wind direction, an absolutely bizarre reality. Even so, many people had headed east, into the desert to stay wherever they could on the other side of everything. It was a wise plan, but I didn’t want to do that. My plan was to go higher into the mountains. I had camping equipment and water and knew where I could camp for a steady supply of water from a good well. IF I had done that, the fire would have reached within 1/2 mile of me, but I would have been safe. And why? Because two years earlier a fire had come through there. There was little fuel. I knew that.

It wasn’t a great plan, but it had a couple of escape routes and would’ve been OK. I was pretty sure — it proved correct — that they would find a way to open Interstate 8 that day and they did. I was able to drive back down the mountain all the way to the beach where I had a friend who’d offered to let me and the dogs stay as long as we needed to. Early that evening, we loaded up and drove down between flaming mountains and arrived safely at my friend Sally’s house.

My love of nature is not particularly sentimental. I love the beauty, but I know that beauty is complicated and nature isn’t out there, “I feel pretty! O so pretty!” Nature won’t “betray” me, but I can, in nature, betray myself. That’s the danger. Not nature. Us.

Bearigrination

Yesterday Bear and I fought our way out of the house (seriously, poor Teddy… No no, he’s fine. I just had to force him to stay behind by shutting the door) so just the two of us could have a quiet walk on a cloudy day. I really needed it, and I think my Bear did, too. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Wait, how can something be “more perfect?” It can’t. And that isn’t even true. Snow would have made it more perfect. OH well… That’s like “More best.”

We had an audience — some friendly crane tourists had come up from New Mexico and were making do with some ducks in an irrigation ditch. “What’re you seeing?” I asked.

“Ducks, mostly, mallards.” They had the gear, the cameras, long lenses, everything. They were READY. One couple even had a VW camper van (sigh dream on, Martha). They also had what some crane tourists don’t have — a sense of humor. “We saw some cranes, maybe 25,” the man gestured to a barley field to the southeast. I nodded. It’s important to see cranes. Every crane tourist wants to — well, almost every crane tourist. I’ve met a few people who were happy to see whatever they saw. Those are my kind of crane tourists. Of course, he wanted to know when they were usually here in the fall. They hadn’t come all that far — just from Taos, a couple hours away.

“They don’t come in that huge group in the fall. But, I’m no expert,” I said, “I’m just out here all the time.”

“That makes you an expert.”

“OK. Well, from where I stand as an expert, cranes do whatever they want whenever they want.”

“Nature, huh?” said the guy, grinning.

“Yeah. We’ve had a warm fall — it hasn’t even frosted yet — so…”

“You think they are affected by the weather?”

“It seems to me they are. In 2020 when we had that early snow, they were early. Well, have fun!!”

“Thanks!”

Bear and I continued our Bearigrination. It was such a pleasure walking in the cool breeze. While we didn’t see any cranes — this time of year I don’t think anyone can be out there without wanting to see them — I saw a Harris Hawk swooping low over the ground and a Red Tailed hawk hunting. Bear studied the ground with passion and feeling, liberated from the responsibility she has when Teddy goes along. When Teddy comes, she feels she needs to stay beside me.

There were many dead garter snakes along the road attesting to two things; one, they’d been dropped by birds. Two, they’d been run over by cars. I could kind of tell from the position of the corpse and it’s location on the road what had happened. I don’t want Bear being interested in them — dead or alive. They won’t hurt her, but…

Because of Bear’s attention and scrutiny to the edges of the road, I picked up a Red Tailed hawk feather and a soda (we say “pop” not “soda” in Colorado) can I might not have seen. It was beautiful, relaxing, soothing and just what I needed after my tussle with gravity on Monday. The aspen are rapidly turning up in the mountains. I couldn’t get a good photo without borrowing one of the cameras belonging to the crane tourists, but believe me, wow. The featured photo is from around Kenosha Pass and was taken by my friend Lois a few days ago.

Walk with a Mayfly

I’ve been trying to write a sonnet about the mayfly. You’d think it would be easy, mayflies being tiny things, not even a whole haiku let alone 14 lines, but it turns out this isn’t an easy poem to write. That or the remains of Covid brain (which gave me an uncanny ability to solve Wordles) is hindering my progress.

I was walking with one the other day, the situation of a friend filling my mind, questions about life and death and fear and illness all that stuff. I needed the walk and the day was good for walking and thinking. As Bear, Teddy and I were returning to the car, a mayfly hitched a ride on my shirt. They often do that and I like it. I like them. They are so small, barely even visible, white and gray and transparent with googly red-brown eyes that appear to be able to see in nearly 360 degrees. Invariably they are looking at me.

I thought, too, about everything I’ve seen and learned out there since 2020 when I started walking there regularly. I went because I needed to get to a place where dogs would be under human control because my places — wildlife areas along the river — were — thanks to Covid — suddenly overrun (ha ha) with dogs. People staying home, taking out their dogs, turning them loose. I guess it was a problem for more than just me — Colorado Parks and Wildlife has made them fee areas. A person needs a license to go out there. I love that. I’m licensed, but I seldom go out there.

The Refuge was, at first, a place I went with friends just to see cranes. They were a kind of “gateway drug” to a world I didn’t know anything about. It’s been an amazing school, these two and a half years. I admit to getting a little bored with the flat gravel road on which we walk, but that’s a problem with me, not the road and not the place. During our walk Wednesday, a flock of geese flew over. I stopped to watch them and Bear leaned against me. I realized that I was doing a seasonal thing, watching large groups of birds in flight, and Bear understood I was happy.

Without the cranes I wouldn’t have met the mayfly. Every little being is a lantern in the wilderness.

That was when we turned around to go home and the mayfly joined us. And, thanks to the mayfly, my troubled mind and heart got a kind of resolution. But the poem? Not there yet…

Walk with a Mayfly
Martha Kennedy

Mayfly riding on my shirt, frail beauty
against early autumn’s gray and clouded light
With her big red eyes, she looks up at me.
What does she see? Here, in her life’s one flight,
She rests in her fleeting, urgent frenzy,
Carried on the soft breeze of a fall day, 
She shares her short airborne time with me.
I’m humbled, awed. “Little Mayfly,” I say
“You honor me. Your mayfly flight is just three
days, and you ride on my shirt,” but she stayed,
Transparent upright wings, still watching me.
I can never know what she would have said, 
If she could. Maybe (and these words are true),
“Three days for me is a lifetime for you.”

A Walk

Sneaked (well, hardly) out with Bear yesterday in the early afternoon. She has come to understand wind = a walk. In summer, yes. The rest of the year? We are liberated from this imperative. Any time is a good time to get out there. We’re like postal carriers, neither rain, nor hail, nor sleet, nor snow — we LIKE all that.

In the grand design of things, this is the quiet season, quiet and determined. I can feel it when I’m out there. Few cars wend their way around the loop. This moment is the early transition between summer animals and winter animals. Soon the winter birds will return — cranes and geese — to stay a couple of weeks or a month or two. With them the Subarus, the long lenses, the out-of-state plates.

But the ungulates are coming down from the high country.

Bear was enchanted the moment she was out of the car. So many smells that, I could see from her reaction, weren’t the same old. It’s a way dogs have of knowing if there’s a new threat in their world which is one reason walking a dog is important. It’s part of who they are.

As we wandered along our way, I saw the visible part of the story. Elk tracks on the road. Another sign that it is the quiet time of year. Bear loves (I don’t know really how she feels; I’m judging from her behavior) elk piss and elk scent and all things elk. I understood her excitement. Since I saw a big herd out there last weekend, I wasn’t surprised.

Later, I saw more of the story. Something had chased this elk. I couldn’t tell what, but I could tell that the elk got away.

I can’t say our brief jaunt was a transcendental experience; it was a walk. It was hot and breezy. We enjoyed it, but we both wished I’d brought water. The way I see it — and, of course, the way my dogs see it — it’s important not to miss an opportunity to go out. Shortly after we turned back toward Bella I found a red tail hawk feather tail feather, tired looking, and bedraggled. I picked it up and thought it was a fitting analogy for the world — my world — this time of year, and for me. “I kept flying, but…”

The Chamisa is doing its autumn thing. Here are all the life stages on one extremely intelligent plant. “I’ll put some seeds out now and then some more a little later and then the rest a little later. Something will have to work.”

Chamisa — seeds on one side, fresh blossoms on the other.

I screamed at a garter snake — embarrassing myself in front of myself — but old habits die hard. “If snake then rattler,” doesn’t hold here though the possibility exists. Bear reacted to my scream, and I had to pull her back. It was a smart garter snake, larger than I’ve seen which is probably what startled me.

A gust of wind roared through the small line of cottonwoods, wind from the south. They bent and thrashed, their still green leaves holding on for dear life. My bean plants are weighed down by long bean pods, and I harvest a couple of them every day. A couple of tomatoes are actually ripening. Frost has usually hit us by now, but it seems we’re getting grace this year. I feel right now the same as nature seems to feel about the passing summer, kind of “Well, THAT was interesting, but good God!!!!”

“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hope that describes me. 💚🐾 It certainly describes every dog I’ve ever had the privilege to live with.



P.S. Can anyone tell me what this means — “QUOTE — under the title???? This isn’t a reblog or a quoted work. It’s 100% this morning’s stream of tedium. WordPress is its own little world, and I don’t mean us bloggers. 😀

Mid-Autumn Festival (Almost)

Bleary-eyed and confused, woke up this morning and realized that — OH NO — what? Well, the bleary-eyed and confused part is right. Company coming today sometime and a trip to the store in the meantime and I don’t even know if I ordered anything edible! This post-Covid brain is easily taxed.

I’m going to remember 2019 as the Golden Age of Lost Innocence and Retained Brain.

Last evening, to our surprise, the wind came up and the clouds came over. By now you know what that presages. Four hot days in a row, one small escape, hardly right, is it? I looked at Bear, Bear looked at me. I went to the kitchen and closed to door, preventing her escape, and leashed her. Teddy had it all figured out, of course, as always. Assembled the appropriate fardels and we were out the door. Dusk fell a little early. Clouds and smoke from distant wildfires obscured the mountains, but the sky above was a kind of veiled blue. As we approached the Refuge, I saw the moon was rising golden behind the thin clouds.

“Wow,” I thought as any sane person would (breathe a sigh of relief) and pulled in, parked, and got the dogs out as fast as I could. I didn’t want to miss this. It was too great. And…

Mid-Autumn Festival. OK, it’s not until tomorrow, formally, but clouds and rain are forecast for Saturday evening. Carpe Noctem!

Our crepuscular walk wasn’t very long — 1/2 mile, but WOW. A black-crowned night heron in flight, more birdsong than I’ve heard in my life, an owl in the distance and this beautiful Moon as golden as the chamisa. My first Mid-Autumn Festival was in China, and I try to keep it somehow every year. It’s a celebration/remembrance of distant friends. 💛

Moonlight shining through the window
Makes me wonder if there is frost on the ground
I look up and see the moon
Looking down I miss my hometown

Li Bai

The moon remained bright and visible, unclouded, until we turned around. It was as if the sky and valley said, “Here, Martha, something for you to think about.”

On the way home, Mohammed’s Radio played the song the valley gave me as I drove home from seeing an ortho in Salida a few years ago. It was before my most recent hip surgery. The doc was abysmal and meaningless, “One of your legs is shorter than the other! I can’t fix that!” was about all he had to say along with, “I can’t read your X-rays,” as if it were my fault that his computer system couldn’t open the DVD my doc sent up with me. Driving home, I felt so disheartened, a little frightened of hip surgery, and unsure about everything. It is a song I never liked, but as I dropped down from the top of Poncha Pass into the Valley, it was as if I’d never heard it before.

When I heard that song that day, I understood something about this place where I came to live 8 years ago (September 20, 2014). It wasn’t only that I felt I belonged here; the valley thought so, too. The valley is like a person to me, maybe it’s my family, too, along with Bear and Teddy.

Last night the salient lines were:

“When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes…”

It’s been a tough summer, but what a wonder I got from that short and beautiful evening walk. Thank you, Heaven.

A Ramble and a Good Film

Having been appalled yesterday by the not-surprising decision by TFG’s minion, Florida “Federal” Judge Cannon, to appoint a Special Master to evaluate the documents in TFG’s orifice, I mean office, I was lucky to be able to take my outrage out with my two best pals for a short walk. They have gotten very good at alerting me to weather that’s in harmony with our needs and possibilities. The wind came up, the clouds came over, about 20 giant rain drops, and we were OUT there. My pals were SO happy. It’s been a very hot week here in the back-of-beyond and we needed a break.

Summer is holding on with a lobster-claw grip. The tired cottonwoods have made no more effort toward their fall colors, and the aspen groves in the mountains are still green. Teddy took a serious inventory of all the new smells, I was startled by a snake — garter snake — on the trail in front of me and screamed a little scream. I don’t think I will ever stop that. It’s useless, and embarrassing, but it seemed to have had an effect on the behavior of rattlesnakes long ago and this little guy wriggled away pretty fast, intensely interesting to the dogs. The only birds in the first pond were a couple of grebes, swimming with their periscope necks above the water.

To the east was a clear blue sky punctuated by the occasional building thunderhead. To the west, the clouds over the San Juans were dark and portentous, sometimes a small clap of thunder disturbed our complacency, but so far away we kept going.

Building mammatus cloud over the San Juans. It fell apart. The featured photo is a thunderhead over the Sangres to the southeast.

I’ve learned to see this season as a kind of lull in the activity of everything, even my beans. I have 9 seeds for next year. Every year every being — plants and animals — work so hard to get their jobs done, and then by September, the work is done. I can see why, in more agriculturally centered times, school used to start in fall. It’s not like there isn’t more work to do, it’s just less urgent, as long as the weather holds — two years ago we had a blizzard on September 9! As for TFG? It looks like he’s gotten off again. I was happy (“happy” is used loosely here) to learn that historian Heather Cox Richardson read the situation like I did but in more detail:

Legal analysts appear to be appalled by the poor quality of the opinion… Duke University law professor Samuel Buell [said]: “To any lawyer with serious federal criminal court experience…, this ruling is laughably bad…. Trump is getting something no one else ever gets in federal court, he’s getting it for no good reason, and it will not in the slightest reduce the ongoing howls that he’s being persecuted, when he is being privileged.” 

The judge justified her decision because she was “mindful of the need to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under the extraordinary circumstances presented.” 

Energy and politics reporter David Roberts of Volts pointed out that this is a common pattern for MAGA Republicans. First, they spread lies and conspiracy theories, then they act based on the “appearance” that something is shady. “So this… judge says Trump deserves extraordinary, unprecedented latitude because of the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and the ‘swirling questions about bias.’ But her fellow reactionaries were the only ones raising questions of bias! It’s a perfectly sealed feedback loop,” and one the right wing has perfected over “voter fraud.” 

Heather Cox Richardson

Later on, I was searching for something distracting to watch, and I found a very very charming Italian film, Ciitizens of the World. It’s in Italian with English subtitles. I watched on Amazon Prime (free for now) but it’s also on Youtube. Our surprise walk and this film were were the perfect antidotes and restorers of perspective. ❤️🐾 Best of all, I learned a new word in Italian — Jellyfish = Medusa. 💙

Vertical Travel

I’ve been thinking of D. H. Lawrence’ New Mexico essay all day, wondering if I’ve ever known a place “vertically.” I have. A couple of places, in fact. Realizing that, I thought about what it takes to know a place vertically, not just by cruising along the surface of it, but being IN it.

It takes time. A LOT of time. Less time, maybe, if you’re a kid because you’re not dragging as much “world” around with you, but it still takes time. Vertical travel is travel in time at least as much as it is travel through space. More, I think.

The first place I knew vertically was the small forest by my house in Nebraska. I can still look at it on Google Earth and find the trails I hiked and sledded. I know where the ravine is across which we rigged a tire to “Tarzan” across. All those things are — as long as the forest stands — in me just as they are outside of me and that seems to be the point of vertical travel.

The next? A few thousand acres in Southern California — Mission Trails Regional Park, part of it. (It’s grown in the meantime.) “My” part is roughly 5800 acres. Another part is a small fragment of the Laguna Mountains. I’m in the process of traveling “vertically” here in the San Luis Valley.

The thing is, vertical travel takes, maybe, years and years, and it cannot possibly encompass the whole world. Thank goodness we have literature, history, and museums — lenses through which we can gain some knowledge to add depth to our flatter travels.

What Lawrence is really talking about in his essay is intimacy and that takes time, patience, humility, acceptance, and faith. Most of all, time. I remember the day I surrendered, first to the coastal sage chaparral of Mission Trails, then in general. I stood on a higher trail and looked out over green hills that had been black and sear only a month or two before. I asked it, “Why are you so beautiful?”

Well, it answered. “So you would love me.”

I answered, “I do love you.”

It said, “No, you don’t. You only come when I’m cool and green. I don’t see you in the summer when my snakes are out or in the rain.”

(You can call the guys with the white coats and the vans. It’s OK. I realize this isn’t normal…)

Well, that was clear. I didn’t hike in the chaparral in summer. I didn’t like snakes or want to see one. I didn’t like being hot and sweaty, but I had my job description, and a definition of love. I surrendered. From then on? Vertical travel. The absolutely BEST school I ever attended. Among my lessons was how amazing the coastal sage chaparral is in the rain, how fragrant, how filled with color — and how slippery.

It also takes a long time to see more than what we are looking for, to see what is THERE rather than what we expect. At this moment, I’m living near wetlands. I began not knowing anything about them, but since I am constrained by age and ability, and have some concerns for my safety because I’m usually alone, I look for flat places to walk. Wetlands are flat. The Refuge is flat. The San Luis Valley proper is flat. It’s a lake bed. I had no idea what to look for, how to see it, nothing. The Sandhill Cranes were my doorway to this amazingly diverse world.

I’ve also realized that our limitations are an element of vertical travel. Surrender. Within our worlds we are all “selves.”

Today out at the Refuge with Bear, unhurried because her pace is slower and more investigative, I thought about my relationship with that place. I remembered my first visit and wondering if I would come to “know” it. It didn’t become a regular “place” for me until 2020. Like the small fragment of Nebraska forest of my childhood, Mission Trails, the Laguna Mountains, it is a protected area which largely means it mostly gets to be what it is. Humans are involved, but as participants not exploiters.

As I looked around me, I saw the experience in layers of time. “That’s where I saw the hundreds of elk.” “That’s where the herd of mule deer were looking at me in surprise.” “That’s where I showed the crane tourists the bald eagle hunting and told them cranes were somewhat easy food for them.” “That’s where Mark saw the owl during my first Crane Festival.” “That’s where I saw the avocet chicks.” “That’s where the elk fell getting up this slope.” I didn’t see that, but Bear showed me last winter and the story was clear. Bear is a help with this because she has an astonishing memory. “This is where we saw the tiger salamander.” There was one in the same place today.

It hit me; that’s vertical travel. It’s context of a place, knowing where, in February, in which small crevices, the shooting star will bloom in the Southern California chaparral, and it means going there to see it. It’s knowing the grandfather of all manzanita in the fault between two mountain ranges, mourning its loss when an October fire takes it down and celebrating its rebirth from its roots the next spring.

Grandfather manzanita, me and Molly

D. H. Lawrence might have understood this, I don’t know.

As I was walking with Bear today I realized that I read Lawrence’ New Mexico essay in a grad school seminar. I remembered that Lawrence’ idea of vertical vs. horizontal travel had affected, influenced me, left me with the idea that vertical travel was good, better, and what I wanted from life. I sought it every where I traveled which is why I’m not “widely” traveled more “deeply” traveled. Yet some destinations — all destinations — are too immense. I think the only place we can ever hope to travel vertically is the place where we live. And there, we don’t think of ourselves as traveling at all.

When I began reading the paragraph that began with, “As a matter of fact, our grandfathers, who never went anywhere, in actuality had more experience of the world than we have who have seen everything...” I thought Lawrence might be going there, to the kind of travel that leads a person to know a forest, a trail, a wetlands, a rock wall, a mountain face, but it isn’t where he went.

Anyway, Bear and I had a wonderful time. No deer flies, for one thing. A gently overcast sky, and all the time in the world to meander in our own way in this beautiful world we’ve only begun to know, but which has given us something of itself, some context and some depth. I love it so much.



Here’s a link to part of the essay. I haven’t been able to find all of it online. The featured photo is a desiccated garter snake, the kind of thing you only see with a slow dog.

Quotidian Update 10.4.iiii, Canta No Llores

It will surprise NO ONE the three of us headed out to the Refuge during what the dogs believed was a lull in summer. They were somewhat right. It was humid (for here) but not all that hot. Every growing thing is at that peak of summer but starting to look tired. Still verdant. The sky to the west looked as if it would deliver on the promise of rain. There was little breeze, one deer fly, sweet Mayfly hitchhiker, and on the island in the middle of the first pond, black crowned night herons.

My hip is steadily improving. I was able to walk a whole mile (wow) at a decent pace without pain. A good time was had by all, but especially Teddy who got to roll in desiccated, fur-filled, bone-fragment-riddled wild animal poop. The only thing better to roll in is the same, but fresh. The big news from the journey is that we walked a whole mile — I haven’t been able to walk even that comparatively short distance since Covid decided to leave me with an inflammation in my hip. Even then, I know the marker is arbitrary and “far” is relative.

Healing anything can take a while. Now that I know what’s wrong, I am a lot more relaxed about the time it might take to return to normal ( ha ha ). I think there are things from which we might never fully heal. We just learn to live with the occasional (if we’re lucky) twinge of pain. A lot of times we just move on because “time and tide wait for no man.” Life might be a long string of adaptations.

The cottonwoods beside the road look tired. I told them they can quit any time now. It’s been an intense summer of drought and fecundity. This time last year there were so many fires around us that I couldn’t see the mountains. It’s a rollercoaster.

I learned last night that the New Mexico Indians called the July rains “She-rains.” What that signifies I don’t know. It’s possible to interpret all kinds of things into that. But those rains — which have been plentiful this summer — can make the difference between starvation and life for people who are living in that overly-romanticized state, “At one with nature” which really means complete dependency on weather.

It seems to me that the reality of human life is that we are always completely dependent on weather, even if our machines and constructs buy us a little time from the consequences of drought, floods, fire, ice — all of it. It’s human nature to fight it.

It’s been a summer replete with “she-rain.” More than I’ve seen in the 8 years I’ve lived here. “My” refuge is a garden. The yellow and white clover are more than 5 feet high. In front of it? Chamisa, growing at about 2 feet and smaller flowers all around. No human could design it more effectively. Summer is a bad time for standing still and looking at stuff, so I didn’t look long. Next time, though, I’m going to try to photograph the garden. The Refuge — which is a landscape filled with the plants that are supposed to be here — seems to have no problems rebounding from drought. Summer rains woke everything up, BUT it’s got help from creeks that flow from the nearby mountains into the Rio Grande and ditches that draw from them. A labyrinth of ditches and gates controls the level of water in the ponds. Humans… Good or bad? I don’t know, but the cooperation here seems to keep a small world thriving. And I walked a whole mile.

Deer Fly

When Teddy and I arrived at the Refuge yesterday, and I turned to get out of Bella, what met my eyes but the apparition — no, wait. Not an apparition. It was real — a sinister Deer Fly floating on my window. “You little…expletive/deleted…deer fly. “You expletive/deleted little expletive/deleted expletive/deleted! Don’t move!” A-HA! See that thing hanging from her head there in the featured photo? That’s her nasty little expletive/deleted scissor-mimicking proboscis. How does it work? It cuts a slit in the skin of its prey to get as much blood flowing as possible (believe me, it’s a lot) and then it sucks the blood. I had one bite this year, on my shoulder. An angry-looking, red, bleeding, itching red, oh I said red already, with a small river of blood dripping down.

“You sadistic little expletive/deleted! I’ve got you now!”

I got three decent photos. NOW they all have a sci/fi quality to them, as if she’s immense and just walking on the road. Shudder.

Why do I call it “she”? Well, because it’s only the females of the species that go out in search of warm blooded animals on which to feed. They need the nutrients so they can lay their eggs.

I’ve learned a lot about these monsters this year. Yesterday I learned more. Where Teddy and I walked there were dozens of tree swallows swooping and diving and my model here was the only deer fly. It was a little windy, too. I personally believe that the swallows were actively pursuing lunch and doing their bit to assure the comfort of all mammals who might be in the area, bent on public service as tree swallows are (huh?).

We had a lovely, cool, windy walk unmolested by expletive/deleteds. I don’t know why Bear didn’t want to come, but she didn’t. Teddy felt like the dog of the hour. We did all the things he loves, including singing in the car. The raptors are returning and I watched a large hawk hunt on a distant pond in the closed area.

Here’s how happy Teddy was to go.

A note on Covid. As I’ve dealt with my not-all-that-bad case and the painful residue, I have realized that everything that happens with this thing for anyone who has it is an experiment. I was sick sick for two weeks, but the month+ after? Although all the side-effects are receding, it’s still been weird. Brain fog and memory loss have been the strangest. An example? I sent five very special note-cards to people during that interval and I can only remember 3 of the people I sent them to, no matter how hard I try. That wouldn’t have happened before Covid. Fatigue. That’s a weird thing, too. I’m a pretty high-energy person, but that really knocked me down. It, too, is receding. The hip? Residual inflammation, apparently. But why there? “It happens,” said my doc. I feel like a hypochondriac whenever I go to the doctor anyway, but that was bad.

My new personal theory about that virus is that anything can happen. I’m grateful to have contracted it at THIS point in its sinister trajectory rather than at the beginning before there were vaccines.

P.S. Deet repels deer flies as do permethrin treated clothing. I don’t like Deet and I have a bug-repelling hat and bandanas to wrap around my neck. I’ve found that clothing is usually protection enough so I am careful always to be fully dressed when I head out. 😉