You just don’t know. I got the news that John Patterson — the “Farm Art” guy about whom I wrote an article published last month — died this morning. I want to close the book on this for now so I’m writing this post.

When I saw John at the Potato Festival on September 8, I was sure he recognized me as a person he kind of knew but not really. I mentioned this to my friend Lois who’d just bought something from him and she used my name, “Martha something something.” Then John knew who I was. We chatted — not small talk though still the usual thing about how I ended up here. Everyone is curious about that. I told him that I felt I’d been put here somehow. I told about having painted the area that is the Refuge before I’d seen the San Luis Valley. He said he thought that kind synchronicity happened a lot but people weren’t aware of it. As we were walking back to my house, I thought, “I’ll see if the magazine wants an article about John.” It seemed very important.

As we know, I’m afraid of men at a certain level of my being, and I was a little leery that John might think something that wasn’t the case. I was actually nervous about that when I went out to interview him. He had a strong and magnetic personality that most people felt. I felt it. But ever onward… Still, I couldn’t explain why I felt I MUST write about John. It was a feeling propelled by a kind of urgency.

Our interview lasted two hours and we had a lot of fun talking. He was just that kind of guy who probably never met a stranger. The article wasn’t hard to write even though I had nearly 2 hours of verbiage to condense into about 1000 words. I didn’t make that and the editor asked me to cut 400 but I kind of made her meet me in the middle and it ended up 1200 words.

And so, John, who was in a terrible car crash on November 12, and who has been in the hospital most of this time, died today. The cause of death is not known. I suspect his heart might have given out resulting from the challenges he’s had getting enough oxygen, but I don’t know. And now my article is a eulogy. It’s creepy, like a giant mind — the one that brought me here — reached out and said, “This person has only a couple months left, but he needs his story told BY YOU.” The story helped raise some money for what will now be final expenses. Is that why?

The world is full of good people who are loved by others, most of whom no one ever knows about. They’re not famous except maybe locally. They’re not empty fucks like Elon Musk or the younger royals or the Kardashians. People like John are legitimate human beings, good people, who work, and love, and create from the lovely vision of their minds and eyes. They are part and parcel of their community, home and family. Brilliant, thinking people who aren’t jonesing for empty notoriety. Some call them “ordinary people,” but there’s nothing ordinary about them. There was a moment — after I had written a novel that is actually fucking brilliant, complex, meaningful, inspiring, and beautiful — that I knew that I was one of THESE people. I knew that there were millions of us all across the generations and I was proud — AM proud — to take my place among them. As a young person, I maybe had different ideas, but 38 years in the classroom taught me some important lessons.

A lot of people will miss John. I will. His family is planning stuff like the now popular Life Celebration somewhere down the road (literally). As for me, I’m stunned by the inscrutable power of what John called “Synchronicity” that drove me (and my car) down the road to spend a couple hours with him just two months before he died. Crazy, but that I’m here in this place is also a little crazy.

Here’s the article I wrote about him and shared here on WordPress not long ago. 

To find a little solace, the dogs and I headed out to the Refuge. As we were leaving I was struck by the changing light over the San Juans. I stopped Bella — my Jeep — to watch it, and Cheech and Chong’s silly Santa bit from the olden days came on the radio. I put the Bella in park and took photos of the changing light through my windshield while I listened to that antediluvian silliness and laughed. 

That helped more than anyone would expect.



Canta, no Llores

Nothing guaranteed to make me fractious like opening a virgin blog page and finding something ALREADY WRITTEN in this sacred space of dogs, morning and coffee? WP what’s UP with you? And what was written here “What are your two favorite things to wear?” Here’s a screenshot of the abomination… Did you get one of these too???

Kind of an interesting question from MY point of view, but who cares what I like to wear? In case you DO… I wear jeans every single day. For the fancy party, I got velvet jeans. Most of the people around me wear jeans. Different brands reflect different worlds, but I don’t care about that. I just found some jeans I like and that fit and I wear them and buy them again when a pair wears out. I also have 3 identical sweatshirts, zipped up hoodies from Life is Good. All of them are gray and all of them say “Stay True.” People might think I never change my sweatshirt, but I do. Otherwise, I have a Patagonia down sweater that says many wonderful things to me like, “Hey, Martha, it’s cold! Let’s go out with the dogs!” and “Remember the times we went Langlauf? Remember? Are we going to do it again?”

Yes, a talking jacket can be a little annoying, but not as annoying as finding a writing prompt RIGHT THERE on my empty blog post, and not as annoying as discovering I’m actually writing TO that uninvited prompt that left me wondering if I’d started a blog and saved it, but no. That’s not my kind of prompt. My kind of prompt is “fractious”. I mean that, literally, it’s my prompt.

When I got the honor of posting prompts for Rag Tag Daily Prompt it was a VERY windy day here in the Bark of Beyond. I didn’t see much was likely to happen, so I sat down and came up with six months of prompts, 26 in alphabetical order. That was the first time I realized our alphabet has half a year of letters in it; 26 letters, 26 weeks, half a year. Whoa. I gave a micron of thought to it and decided it had no mystical meaning (because I could judge THAT, right?), it was just a coincidence, an irrelevant coincidence.

Too much stuff going on in my world at the moment, but sweet things happen, too. Yesterday the dogs and I went to see the vet. It was for the dogs, not me. Ha ha. I got the very last appointment of the day, when all the other customers could be counted on to be gone so I could take both dogs. I learned a lot from the appointment. My first thought was to take Teddy in and leave Bear in the car. That didn’t work. Teddy was WAY over the top excited and difficult to handle. SO I went back out to the car and got Bear who instantly calmed down that hyper little demon from the netherworld.

We have a new vet — a young woman with an Irish last name. Speaking of jeans, she was wearing Wranglers and square toed boots made by Ariat or Frye. That means “I’m a ranch person.” The vet checked over Bear and Teddy and said they are both in great shape. Then she asked what animals Bear guarded making me wonder if somehow I passed as a rancher. I don’t think so. I’d be honored if I did, but, for one thing, wrong shoes.

“Bear’s a rescue,” I said, “she didn’t get that chance. She guards Teddy and me.”

At that VERY moment, Bear had me pinned in the corner. She was guarding. She stood between me and this very friendly, gentle, and kind young vet. Why? Because that young woman had just stuck something sharp into Teddy and then into Bear. By god that woman wasn’t getting near me, not if Bear could help it.

The vet treated Teddy like a pet and talked to Bear like a person. The VERY young assistant just stood there scratching Bear’s back.

Something else, something that might have been totally trivial in 2019… After I paid my bill I hung out. There was once a man working at my vet that I liked very very much. Native American/Hispanic, a giant guy with a heart as big as he was. I asked about him and the news was sad. I said, “I’m sorry. I liked him very much. Besides, he was the only person in Monte Vista who spoke Spanish with me.”

Debbie, the office manager, with whom I’ve shared some OTHER experiences — we had PT after hip surgery together said, “Really?”

“Yeah, no one speaks Spanish with me here.” I have found that strange, but the racial demarcations in this place are pretty firm. In California they were much more fluid and that was good for me because THAT culture feels more like home than my OWN culture, whatever that is. I took the dogs out to the car and when I came back the Hispanic tech was waiting, Mike. He greeted me in Spanish. I was taken back. They’d talked about it. So we spoke in Spanish a little, but after 8 years of almost NEVER speaking Spanish I’m very rusty. I write to “the man” in Italian and that’s another problem with my Spanish now. Suddenly we were all sharing stories from our lives and laughing. My God. So rare in my life now. I felt my cheeks reddening (I’m that kind of person) and I felt happy. My Spanish got a little better, and as I left I was able to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Somehow saying “Feliz Navidad” and hearing “Igualmente!” warmed my soul.

I’ve spoken Spanish since I was a kid. I grew up with love for the language and the culture. In California I taught at an extension of Southwestern College on the border to people who came up from Tijuana for school. My first students EVER at the Adult Education Tutorial Program in Denver were Mexicans who spoke no English. My neighbors in San Diego were Mexican and when I moved up to the mountains, it was the same, only more. My neighbors and I formed a little family, a situation that doesn’t happen often with Anglos. It isn’t just the language; it’s the culture. Languages don’t exist in a vacuum. In real life, people use them and want to understand each other meaning there’s a lot more to it than grammar. I felt so happy. Nothing here is “just” what it is. I felt — for the first time in a long while — the family that is a small town.

The Article about My Friend John Patterson and Farm Art

The article came out today on the Colorado Central Magazine website, so I thought I would share it since many of you asked. The website is having some problems, so it might take a few tries and some patience for it to load, but it might be worth it. 🙂

The link: Whimsy, Welding and Nostalgia: John Patterson

Here’s a little album of John’s work that didn’t make it into the article.

Boundaries in the Bark of Beyond

Yesterday the Christmas season kicked off in my little town with the Holiday Boutique. I don’t know the whole story behind it but I do know a little. Some sisters and cousins got together 17 years ago and decided to hold a holiday craft boutique. They set high standards and were very exclusive in who they invited to join the core group. One of the non-family members is my friend Elizabeth.

It opened at 4 pm. I was there at 4:15, and it was packed. People kept coming. The boutique is held at the Church of Christ, in the church hall, a smallish room for such a major event. The boutique is one of the lovely things about living in a small town.

I had two things in mind — first and foremost, Elizabeth’s hand knit socks. They are the best socks, especially for walking in winter. They’re lightweight and warm. Over this past year, Elizabeth has made — knit! — beautiful animals. I love them. She knits them and their little outfits. I want all of them, but that would be silly. My favorite is the little mouse in the middle. When Elizabeth showed her to me a few months ago, I didn’t want to let go. I hope they find good homes.

One thing I always buy at the boutique is chokecherry jelly. I stood in front of the display, mildly dismayed that all the jars were so large and, frankly, pricey. I contemplated whether I’d eat a whole pint of jelly in a year (the jury is out on that). A tall woman came up and I recognized her as the maker of jelly, a very excellent saleswoman, too. So…here is life here.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m looking at the chokecherry jelly. I love it. I buy it every year.”

“Ah. This might be the last time. My chokecherry picker went to God this year.” She had tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I know when they go to God they usually stay there.”

“I didn’t think I’d have chokecherries this year but someone showed up at my door with a bucket of chokecherries. ‘Here, Tia, for your jelly.'”

At that point I had tears in my eyes.

Until I started writing, I didn’t doubt the truth of her story. But now? I hate that. I want to be the completely gullible person I’ve always been. I don’t want skepticism to enter into my life at this late date. Wow. That was uncomfortable. BUT she talked me into another jar of jelly. Cherry.

People will tell you their entire life story just like that. I love it. It’s one of the great things about living here. But, chokecherries…

No one has asked me my chokecherry story, but I have one. These bushes grow wild all over America, different strains of the same basic plant. Here they are growing in the Cuyamaca Mountains of San Diego County.

One of the best moments I remember with my mom was over an Independence Day weekend in 1980 when I went up to Montana. She didn’t live there yet; she was visiting her sisters and staying with my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank. They had a “summer home,” a mobile home at Fort Smith which is at the north end of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, known familiarly as Bighorn Reservoir. Along with a few mobile homes in this little community were Crow Indian tee-pees. The Crow have fishing rights on the Bighorn where the river goes into the reservoir, very prime fishing.

One afternoon mom, my aunt and I took off to pick chokecherries and buffalo berries along the river. We had so much fun. So, to me, chokecherry jelly is THAT afternoon. That evening, my mom’s attitude toward life and me went a little sideways (thanks alcohol) but even that turned out OK. Hearing the changed tone in my mom’s voice, my Aunt Jo, who was sitting on the deck with a cold drink, looking at the brilliant sky, called into the house. THAT is the featured photo, another relic from an old journal.

I guess I can eat a pint of chokecherry jelly in a year.

Beautiful, Unexpected Adventure

Looking at the news for the last few days, specifically the FBI executing a search warrant on Old 45’s basement, a phrase — some idiom from my childhood — waved and flapped through my mind, “It’ll all come out in the wash.” Maybe it’s about to.

In more personal news yesterday I took Bear for her rabies shot. “My” vets have both, apparently, retired. That’s OK. They were around my age but I really liked them. The practice was bought a couple years ago by some young women vets and they immediately set about girly-fying the place appropriate to a vet clinic but also to young women of their generation. I miss the old vibe but change is the nature of things.

The first time I went to the vet was with Mindy 8 years ago. I was still staying in a cabin up in South Fork. The vet examined Mindy (a guy who is now about to be the new County Commissioner) and explained that her legs were not the same length and it caused pressure on her hips. Well, I know THAT story. I was instantly impressed. Anyway, to get to the present moment, Bear and I walked in and there were kitties on leashes. A young German shepherd, leashed, and a puppy. A black and white short-haired puppy with it’s very large person. Bear was very happy to meet the puppy — Bambi. In fact, she was more chill with the other dogs in there than I’ve ever seen her.

Debbie, the practice manager said, “You and Bear are all checked in, Martha.”

I’m not the new kid any more.

Lots of new people at my vets. A kid from UNC interning as a tech. A new vet who’s 12 years old. She examined Bear and asked, “What do you use her for?”

Yeah, dogs like Bear are usually employed. I told her Bear’s story and she looked very sad at the thought of a puppy being tied up at a gas station and rescued by the sheriff, but such is life. “So, she never had a job. I’m her job.”

“Well, she’s lucky to have you.”

12 year olds at their first real job are often pretty nervous and many people go into the vet field because they’re not people people. My heart went out to that young woman. She’ll get it. Some young people think we “boomers” are “against” them. I’m not. While I feel more comfortable around the two old guy vets, I’m happy that this girl has entered the field. I want her to do well. Yesterday I learned of a kid who just got hired to teach high school math; I almost wept. “Yay, guy,” I thought, “young teacher the brave and good.”

I met a very lovely old old kitty on her last few days of life and her wonderful person. The kitty was skin and bones. Her skin so fragile it was splitting. “She has liver cancer,” said the woman. “She’s 14. I think I should put her down — I know I should — I just can’t stand to say good-bye yet.” The lady was a remarkable older woman wearing shorts, a leopard print top, gold earrings and embellished sandals. When we were in the vet’s office, standing behind the woman and her kitty, Bear had pulled the leash, trying to reach the kitty to take care of it. She’d startled the woman by touching the lady’s bare leg with her cold nose. “Oooh! OH! Hello,” she said turning to see Bear. Bear nudged the kitty’s tail. I took Bear to the car.

I met a German shepherd puppy belonging to another intern. I talked to the puppy while Debbie — the practice manager — took my credit card. The puppy, as usual with dogs, gave me its undivided attention. “He’s amazing,” I said to its owner. “Very smart puppy. Oh well,” I said. “I just love dogs.”

“That’s obvious,” said Debbie handing me my receipt.

The manager of the Vet clinic is one of the first people I knew here. We had hip surgery and did PT at the same time. We were very happy to see each other. It feels like there’s a kind of awakening (in me? in everyone?) “Oh, you’re still here. I’m so glad to see you again.” Fuck their politics. I’ll vote my vote. And I’ve had Covid and all my shots, so???

After all that I decided to reward Bear if I could. My hip hurt like hell yesterday (I overdid it Weds and Thurs) but I wanted to take a walk if we could find a good trail. Because they’re close to the vet, I turned toward the lake and the wildlife area where we used to walk all the time. I headed down the road and saw that all the parking areas were empty. Waaaaaa-HOOOO! I pulled into the spot that leads to a walk by the river. The trail was open but overgrown. The sign makes a point — in red — that without the proper permits the area was closed. Well, I have the proper permits. I was so happy to see that sign. I quit going out there because people were abusing the trails and the area, turning loose their dogs, spending the night out there were there were no facilities, etc. Yay Colorado Parks and Wildlife! Plus, the permits help support the wildlife areas.

Bear immediately noticed scents and was more driven to explore them than I’d seen her in a while, but I figured it was a place we hadn’t visited in 2 1/2 years. Bear sniffed, left scent, sniffed, left scent. I walked up and down hills in no pain trying to figure out “What’s up with that?” meaning my leg. We finally got to the river and I was so happy to see it again. Then, I looked at something that had caught Bear’s eye (meaning nose).

Mountain lion scat. Pretty fresh. Thrilling.

I looked at my partner and thought, “Well, this is as good as it gets without seeing the lion.” I looked around for tracks, but it is a mostly grassy trail and what isn’t grassy is packed pretty solid. Even though I’m alone out there, I’m not alone. Bear was bred to defend her “herd” against animals like mountain lions. Lions are shy animals, generally don’t like dogs and can smell them. I talk to my dogs when I’m in a place like that and never hike in a wild place in silence. I have hiked for decades in mountain lion country and I’m glad they are there. The greatest day of my life was August 4, 2004, about 6 pm, when I finally saw a cougar. If you’re interested in the story, you can read it here.

Home on the Range

I grew up with cowboy songs and while “coulee” and “draw” figure prominently in my favorite cowboy song, the word “gulch” is nowhere to be herd (ha ha ha I’m so funny). BUT the word shows up in titles to cowboy stories and songs, usually, “dry gulch” which is meant to evoke a dusty trail on the cattle drive north from Texas or maybe a bunch of outlaws hiding from the good guys, “I reckon they’re waiting down in that dry gulch. Be careful Lamont. I think they’re holding that eastern Dude hostage.”

Sadly, Lamont WASN’T careful and that explains how he became momentarily extinct back in the 19th century and Dude was dragged across the cactus flats for a good ten miles, not that good for HIM, of course. It’s an idiomatic use of “good.”(for disambiguation type “Lamont and Dude” in the search bar of this blog).

I never got all that interested in TV or movie westerns and I only read one Zane Grey novel, Wyoming, which, as it happens, has a protagonist with MY very name — Martha Ann. I thought that was pretty cool, but the story didn’t grab me. It was just a fiction dry gulch to me.

The “old west” was too close to fascinate me as a subject for fiction. At dinners of the extended family, I listened to stories of the “old west.” Maybe less old than the gold rush(es) but still pretty rough and woolly. I was interested in the settlers and REAL cowboys — like my uncles were when necessity put them out there working cattle. But other times they were working in wheat fields. Other times? I don’t even know. All work was gig work — seasonal labor. The family didn’t own any property to speak of. I’ve wondered sometimes who they might have been if it hadn’t been for WW II. WW II took one of my aunts to Washington state to work on ships. Another aunt became a nurse. Another aunt was already a teacher. It sent my mom to “normal school” and to the reservation to teach. My Aunt Martha went to DC to work for the OSS. It sent my uncles to war. Really, how DO you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?

But… the nostalgia was passed down to me. I loved my family and I loved their stories, and, obviously, I love the Big Empty. In 2014 (as they would say) my “chips were down”, I gathered up my “winnings,” and came home to a world where men in cowboy hats drive trucks and there are more cows than people. I believe the heart carries within it images of home, and it might even be a place a person has never seen. The featured photo is one of my first photos of the Refuge. This is one of the first photos I took of the San Luis Valley near Monte Vista.

I sang this song for my 6th grade choir grade at the private school I attended in Omaha, Nebraska. My teacher, who’d been in Mitch Miller’s choir, stopped me before I could finish. “There’s more to music than cowboy songs.” Well, maybe, but it’s a beautiful song. This is a very un-fancy version.


A bright spot in this weird spring has been the gigantic lilac hedge along my yard. Its blooms have been beautiful and every once in a while I catch their scent. It’s an important and nostalgic fragrance for me as it is for a lot of people. My story involves the measles.

Back in the dark ages of the 1950s kids got the measles, and I was one of those kids. There was no vaccine and measles was a dangerous childhood illness. I was sick a long time and ran a very high fever. I was delirious for a while and, apparently, even the doctor was worried I wouldn’t make it. My dad called my Grandmother Beall up in Billings, MT, my mom’s mom, and wired her money for the train.

I lay in my parent’s bed, why there I don’t know except I was probably sharing a bedroom with my little brother at that point. I guess my parents set up the roll-away bed in the room my dad used for an office, but I don’t really know. When you’re a desperately ill six your old you don’t really care how other people arrange themselves. The first memory I have of this whole thing is waking up from that to find my grandmother’s cool hand on my hot forehead.

A couple of weeks later, I was finally able to go outside. My mom had planted lilacs by the back door because “When lilacs last in the door yard bloomed,” right? As I walked out the back door, I re-entered the world through their lovely fragrance.

Here in America it is a “holiday,” Memorial Day. Originally it was meant to honor those who died in the (first) American Civil War back in the middle of the 19th century. My little town has some ties to that. The Homelake Veteran’s Home on the east end of town was built for Civil War veterans.

Walt Whitman’s poem, “When Lilacs First in the Dooryard Bloomed” is a powerful evocation of the sorrow and horror of the Civil War. He was a nurse in a battlefield hospital and saw the real nightmare of the war very close up. With no antibiotics, limited painkillers, the whole intense reality of the 19th century, a battlefield hospital was death and dismemberment in tents. (Please see the note below. I am afraid someone’s going to take away my degree in American Lit after this…)

I’ll just put the last stanza here, but the whole poem is painful beauty.

Yet each to keep and all, retrievements out of the night, 
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird, 
And the tallying chant, the echo arous’d in my soul, 
With the lustrous and drooping star with the countenance full of woe, 
With the holders holding my hand nearing the call of the bird, 
Comrades mine and I in the midst, and their memory ever to keep, for the dead I loved so well, 
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands—and this for his dear sake, 
Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul, 
There in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim.

“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed” Walt Whitman — idiot that I am I forgot that this poem is about the moment when Whitman learned Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. The story goes that Whitman was visiting his mother and brother at his mother’s home in New York; he stepped out the door and observed that the lilacs were blooming. I’m very embarrassed and think maybe I should write my posts AFTER I drink my coffee rather than WHILE I’m drinking my coffee. In my mind’s eye, was Whitman in the hospital tent with the horribly wounded soldiers. I’m very sorry.

Walking in the Hood

After a couple of days of being more-or-less yard and house bound (except for an interesting but not fun jaunt to the hospital for a test) I had to GET OUT OF HERE and so did my Bear. To my total surprise, about 8 last evening the sky clouded over a bit, the wind died down, the trees stopped looking like they were on the verge of toppling. I grabbed my Bear by the collar, I closed the back door, I put the leash on my big white dog and we went out the front door before Teddy figured out what was going on.

Before Covid, come a summer evening (beautiful archaic structure there <3) we always walked down the alley to the street then down to the high school and around the pretty campus and back. It was no great adventure but my dogs loved it more than any other walk because of all the messages left by their invisible (but extant) friends. It has been more than a year since we took that walk. The last time was last May, I think, and it wasn’t great. Too many loose dogs. Last night I took a gamble.

The neighbors on the alley who’d let their dogs run loose have built a fence, but we didn’t go that way; we went down a street, turn toward the high school and there we were. Bear was happy and I was happy and we were OUTSIDE and the wind wasn’t blowing like a MOFO. The flowering crab and apple trees are blooming and in its own tired way (tired from wind) civilized nature looked OK, as if it — like my dog and me — was holding its own. I plan to take Teddy this evening, and, in conditional good gnus, the wind is predicted to give us a break tomorrow. Valley natives say they’ve never seen this weather pattern before. I hope they are just forgetful.

Bear did everything she hasn’t been asked to do in a long time — she stopped at corners, she did her obedience routine (we haven’t practiced that in 3 years!), she happily did “go slow” when I asked her to. I got the distinct feeling that she has missed our summer routine. There was one melancholy moment when we passed the house where the kids lived. Bear paused and turned to look at the house. I think she understood when I said, “They moved away Bear.”

Those beams of light are no longer there. The “eyes” of the house (windows) were dark, no toys in the yard, no chaos, just a funky little empty house. We both miss the kids. The featured photo is from 2020 when Teddy and I were on a walk. The kids had each gotten a “dog” of their own. ❤ I don’t know why we’re not all wearing masks, but maybe because we didn’t expect to meet up with anyone and were outside.

First of All, I’m Fine

Yesterday was a strange day here in Heaven. Around noon I heard every fire engine in the proximate area roaring down my street. “Shit,” I thought. Some people would think, “Fire,” but… About an hour later the power was out and the water was turned off. My “fire brain” was on hyper alert, but I never said the word “Fire” to myself. Too scary. Then the cell towers were off. No updates on what was going on. That got, for me, very scary.

I remembered October 27, 2003, when my dogs and I were evacuated to a park in Pine Valley, CA because of a massive wildfire. That I spent a lot of time plopping quarters into a pay phone by the drive-in (ice cream, not movies) contacting friends to tell them I was OK and giving quarters to my friends any anyone else around there so they could do the same. I kept quarters in my car for parking meters, car washes, etc. back then.

The water came back on. The UPS guy came by and we agreed it was a very very very strange day. Everything seemed distorted and kind of unreal.

I took off in Bella to see if I could find “bars.” The traffic lights were out except one (???). Out by the Refuge it was business as usual for the hawks and sheep and horses and cattle. I needed to see that. Animals generally have a better clue to what’s going on that humans do.

I turned around and that’s when I saw the water-dropping-fire-fighting helicopter over my town. Because the wind was blowing away from my house, I hadn’t smelled fire or see smoke. That helicopter told me everything.


It’s desperately dry down here, the wind has been blowing like a MOFO and fires are easy to start. Colorado Bureau of Investigation is investigating the cause of the fire. It could have been anything. 17 acres burned, 30 homes are still evacuated out of 100. The firefighters did an amazing job.

This year people have been working hard to diminish fuel. I watched a guy mowing the field near his house — that’s usually grown over with brush — mowing his field with a push mower. Too small for a tractor, but too dangerous to leave alone. Sparks from trucks, cigarettes tossed out of windows, all kinds of thing. In Descanso I remember a grass fire started from a guy’s weed-eater and so, in high fire times, the word went out, “No weed eaters.” THAT fire was put out by two of my neighbors with wet gunny sacks.

Anyway, I’ve let my fire preparedness slide since I moved here. I will have to get that back together again. It might be a long summer… I mean, here it is April and I’m wearing shorts. No, you don’t have to visualize that.

You can read all about it here with videos… The news….

My house: little red line under blue marker. Fire area outlined in red. It’s about a mile. My town is small, only two miles the long way. ❤

Letter to the Governor

Dear Governor Polis —

I’m a 70 year old woman living in Monte Vista, a small town in the San Luis Valley. I recently had an experience that I’m sure a lot of other people down here have had. I recently had flashing lights in one of my eyes, so I went to my doctor in Alamosa. He wasn’t able to diagnose it, and he feared I had a detached retina. He wanted me to HURRY to a specialist in Colorado Springs. That was this past Thursday when both passes out of here were in terrible, dangerous shape. I was given an appointment in Colorado Springs for 1 pm the following day. 

I live alone with two dogs. I don’t have family, though I have a friend who offered to drive me. She’s 82, and it was an offer of love, as much as logic. I have a Jeep, 4WD, but no chains and even so, did I want to be at a chain-up spot in a blizzard putting chains on my car? I didn’t, really. I wasn’t in the best emotional state. It was a natural freak out situation to be in.

I was awake all night, scared about my eye, scared about the passes. At 5 am I looked at La Veta Pass and Poncha Pass on CDOT and both of them looked very bad. I figured I would need at least four — probably five — hours to get to the Springs and hoped to get out by 6 just in case. On the map were wrecks and ice and all the nightmare of a mountain storm at night. But…the conditions on the passes didn’t improve in the next hour. They worsened on both the passes and on I-25. It finally hit me. I wasn’t going to risk that trip, not even for my eye. I didn’t go. 

It seems my eye isn’t going blind, but it’s still not OK, and I have an appointment. BUT…it occurred to me that if I lived in a remote mountain town in Italy or Switzerland or, presumably, France, I would be able to get to that doctor by train or, worst case scenario, Post Bus. 

We need trains. Two trains a day. A morning train and an evening train. The ridiculous bus that goes from Alamosa to Colorado Springs runs once a day and takes 8 hours. This is crazy. As you know people live here and many of us are not young. And since we don’t have an opthamologist anywhere in the San Luis Valley, I’m not the only person who has to make a trek to see one. 

I realize the person who represents my district — District 3 — in the US House of Representatives voted against the bill that is supposed to improve infrastructure in her district, but still there are viable tracks everywhere and depots in every small town. High speed trains would be awesome, but in the meantime? 

Thanks for listening!