The News from the Ancient Lake

Sandhill Crane

Wow. I’m out of shape for writing like this after what — a month off more or less? I finished the last category of books yesterday and this morning Facebook told me that on this day, last year, I finished my books for 2021. Like the crocus in my garden, the Sandhill Cranes on the wing, Teddy at 8 pm when he thinks it’s time to jump on my bed, and Bear at 9 pm when she wants a cookie — I’m a clock.

As has happened so many times this winter, snow is in the forecast, but not enough to make a dent in our scary arid conditions. I remember other winters when there WAS snow, and in 2019 there was so much that the Rio Grande flooded. So maybe next year. I hope.

A fast growing, affluent county north east of here, south of Denver, Douglas County, has proposed to buy our water. It’s a hotly contested proposal, and I don’t think it’s going to, uh, wash (ha ha). In the first place, the San Luis Valley doesn’t have any water to sell and most of the people and organizations down here have dug in their heels. BUT Douglas County has offered a sizable amount of money (it appears so, anyway, though it isn’t) and some people are motivated by money. Even our execrable congress twit has come out against it — more to improve her re-election chances than because she knows anything about it.

Based on the hydrologic situation of the Valley, “RWR’s project would place undue risks on San Luis Valley (SLV) water users and ratepayers (water customers) in Douglas County.” Harmon points out that “All of the layers [of the SLV aquifer system] are hydrologically connected with each other and also, at many points, the aquifer system is connected to surface streams. Thus when you pump the aquifer at one point, it can affect other locations many miles away.”

The result? “Potential long-term effects, poorly understood now due to the limitations of our scientific knowledge, may crop up as injury many years in the future…. If any of these unintended consequences eventually causes injury or increases costs, who bears the burden? Higher-than-planned pumping, treatment, storage, or conveyance costs would likely be borne by ratepayers in Douglas County. Other long-term impacts of RWR, such as land subsidence or excessive drawdown, would be borne by the SLV community.”

Read the full op-ed:…/3ee89d…#StopWaterExport#ProtectSLVWater

In other news? If you want to see beautiful photos of cranes, here’s your opportunity: Monte Vista Crane Festival Group. It’s a public Facebook group which means you don’t have to be a Facebook person to see the photos. I will say it is a very heart-warming “place” to visit from time to time. People feel a warmth toward Sandhill Cranes that seems to transcend all of our human bullshit. Cranes have the power to bring out the best in people. ❤

Labyrinthine Trap of Time

Competing versions of Christianity in the early church distilled into Roman Catholicism. The distillation process did not make the faith more pure as the flames beneath the beaker were money and power, lucre and death. An early version of Christianity — Arianism (not to be confused with that Hitlerian perspective about “Aryans” not the same thing at all) — saw Jesus as God’s son. There was none of this abstruse business of the “three in one” (which really does sound more like Twix — chocolate, caramel, cookie — than anything believable). God is God. At some point he had a son who is AWESOME and worthy of lifelong attention, and came here to help and redeem us, but who is NOT God the father.

Think of all the conclaves throughout the history of Christianity that attempted to explain the Trinity, all the blood shed over that (completely made up) question. This alternative view was labeled “heresy,” and as has happened throughout time, the label superseded the reality (“Sleepy Joe”). What IF Arianism had won out. The three Abrahamic religions wouldn’t be so far apart — all three would be worshipping the same Abrahamic God, and two would have their cool prophet, chosen by God, to help them.

I don’t think there is much that is truly spiritual in these religious competitions any more than I think there is much that is truly spiritual in today’s “Christianity.” I’m not saying that Christians are not spiritual people — many are. But no “ity” or “ism,” no conglomeration of people, can ever retain the intense focus of a spiritual life. Their elevated quest for God will always be dragged to a stop by the drogue chute of buildings, bank accounts, internal disputes, competition, interpersonal conflicts, the drive for consensus and approval from others.

Which is why so many of the early Christian saints went into the wilderness; why Jesus went into the wilderness. The elemental imperatives draw the human mind away from petty quotidian disputes.

History — like my own personal life — is full of turnings like that one, turnings where if things had just gone the other way, this moment would be different. Under everything in history (and my life) it seems that the trajectory of actual events resulted from ONE decision, ONE choice at each turning. Much as I dislike Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” way does lead on to way. The “temporal” world is the world in which time is boss. The word means “world of time.” That basically means that once a decision is made it is in the past and we are blocked forever from re-doing that decision. Hindsight might reveal what an idiot we were, but it doesn’t matter.

Walk on the Wild Side

One of the places I like to hike in summer, fall, winter has enclosed part of itself with electric fencing. When I first saw the fencing, I wondered why (duh) but yesterday I saw the absolute bovinity of the reason.

Cows. Moms and kids. I don’t think they’ve been in there long as the herbage hasn’t been chewed down and there were no cow paddies on the trail.

And the fence isn’t secure.

Not everyone likes hiking with cows. In California it was the way things were up in the higher mountains east of San Diego where I hiked most of the time once I mooooved out of town. I thought of that yesterday. Pastures. I hike in pastures. There are dangers involved in hiking in pastures, especially with heifers and calves, but (so far, apparently) I’ve only had one scary moment when a mom cow thought her precious child, Hamburger, or, rather “Grass Fed Beef,” was in any danger from me and my dogs. Heifers are very protective.

The BLM, Bureau of Land Management who has the care of the refuge, had put a sign on the (new) gate saying, “Cows in field. Please close gate.” I’m a rabid gate closer having once — as a little girl — allowed 20, 50, five million chickens to roam freely in the pasture between my Aunt Jo’s house and my grandma’s. I paid dearly for that sin of omission and have NOT committed it again.

We closed the gate and began walking. It was really, really nice to be out there with my dogs. My knee was fine, I was fine, the whole thing was fine, but I didn’t bring water and at 1/2 mile, we had to turn back. It was hot and 30 minutes is all I could see was fair to walk my dogs without a drink.

Meanwhile, almost literally back at the ranch…

As we were leaving, I saw a black cow and a white calf make a subtle moooove (yes, cattle may be large but they can be subtle) near the gate. I didn’t see them where they should have been when I passed the spot.

They’d escaped.

I got into the car, backed out of the lot and headed down the dirt road. There they were. Strolling together in the shade.

Trapped between an irrigation canal on their (and my) left and an electric fence on the right, Mom sauntered along with child behind. I wanted to find a way to circle around and drive toward them, possibly turning them where I would heroically open the gate and shoo them back in with the others, but the opportunity never came.

They made it to the busy county road at the end of this lovely lane. They were nearly hit. I called my vet, whose office is very nearby, thinking they might know the owners, but the woman answering the phone had no clue, and thought I was talking about the Alamosa Wildlife Refuge. As I didn’t know the number of the county road (I live Where the Streets Have No Name) so I could set her straight, I gave up. It’s amazing — but true — that people living in this tiny Colorado town don’t have intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny. I headed back toward home, and who should be coming out of Sonic but the BLM truck with an actual BLM worker inside. I blocked his exit and motioned him to come to my car.

I don’t think that would work in LA.

“There’s a heifer and a calf loose on the 3E.” (I’d learned the number of the road in the meantime.) “By the Wildlife Refuge.”

He grinned and said, “I’ll go see if I can herd her back inside.”

I came home. I hope they’re OK.


Milk Can!

Five days without Internet were good, interesting, would’ve been fine if my phone and internet weren’t connected. That was a little scary. Learning I could use free wifi in the park was good — once a day, check in and make phone calls while I watch people walk their dogs and have picnics. I don’t like that park much — one side of it is along the highway and there is no fence. If I were building a park there I’d sure put up a fence along that side anyway, but I’m not in charge.

I learned how much time I WASTE online. Incredible. I started wondering what is the point of Facbook? I’m still wondering that. I wondered about my blog, too. Every single day. In five years, I have written more than 2000 of these things, and while some say something, most don’t.

During this interval, I also learned about radio in the San Luis Valley — several Christian stations with strong signals, lots of country music with strong signals, a couple of rock-ish stations that have to offer something for everyone so mix up hip-hop with Tom Petty (make my teeth itch, both extremes). And there’s PBS which has always been far too earnest for me. It’s like (for me) listening to Eeyore. BUT I got fire updates with NO national news (imagine!!!!)

I made progress on the Schneebelis writing every morning while Dusty waited for his coffee, time usually dedicated to this blog.

The smoke smell is strong today. The firelines that were doing a pretty good job yesterday were mocked and ridiculed by the fire over night and we’re back to zero containment. Really NOTHING is going to do anything to that fire except humidity and rain. There is a marginal probability of rain this afternoon so anyone so inclined please pray or dance for rain in Southern Colorado. This is supposed to be the beginning of the wet season but…

Meanwhile, Bear and I discovered the golf course was closed for the fourth of July so we had some independence in where we walked. We left no trace; it’s our secret. I’m now teaching myself to walk up and down hills. There are some small ones at the high school. Rehab takes a lot of time and patience and the other day at Physical Therapy I had a short sinking spell that maybe the problem isn’t my joints per se but that I’m old and there’s only one fix for that.

In two weeks the entire slough is open for walking and I look forward to that.

As for my blog — I’m not sure. My books are (on the relevancy scale of the Universe) only a very small positive number, but they matter to me. My blog is a slightly larger positive number, but I’m not sure about it, either. I might be running out of things of pith and moment to share with the world.

“Are we THERE Yet?”

Milestones are important for kids. You see them on bedrooom walls, doorways, closets. “Look, mom, I used to be only THIS tall!” But even old folks such as myself have some good milestones. Monday will be the 8 week milestone post-op from my hip replacement. That actually means something in terms of what I can do. I don’t know what yet, but I’m sure someone will tell me.

I’ve had a lot of those types of milestones in the past two months. The milestone of no longer having bad bones in my hip, the milestone of not needing to wear TED hose (my fave), the milestone of being done shooting myself in the abdomen with blood thinners, the best milestone of bringing the dogs home from the boarding kennel.

Right now the mountains to the east of me are burning and they are burning fast. People live up there — some people I know — so that adds to the fear. The fire has grown quickly — from a few hundred acres two days ago to tens of thousands of acres this morning. These are milestones no one needs.

I am bewildered again by humanity and particularly the leadership in this country. That fuckhead in the White House is more worried about us understanding there was no “collusion” than by the fact that the southwestern part of the nation he allegedly leads is in a desperate drought or by the possibility that people could do something to mitigate the change in climate that I, this one little person, this tiny irrelevant self, has witnessed in my lifetime (his lifetime, too.) I know there have always been forest firest. I KNOW it’s part of nature’s way, I know there are trees (redwoods for one) that need fire for the seeds to open and germinate, but NOT on the scale we witness now. Not just that — walking the dogs yesterday, soon after I hit our little trail I stomped out a still burning cigarette butt.

So the mountains burn — several fires in Colorado right now just as there were in Montana, Washington and California last year — and peoples’ lives displaced and humanity as thoughtless as ever.

In other news, I spoke with the woman who’s helped me edit two of my other novels about where to go with The Schneebelis Go to America and it was a GREAT conversation. Now I have direction and it looks like I might reach the milestone of finishing it in a way I can live with. 🙂

Here is my “milestone” for next Monday (hopefully).



Short hike to Elephant Rocks


Up top is my milestone for marking “You’re not really much of a cripple any more.” Hiking along San Francisco Creek. Who knows how far, but it’ll be fun.

“You look great!”

“You’ve lost weight! Maybe ten pounds!”

“Yeah, well, so would you if you had surgery, ended up with a horrific case of thrush from the antibiotics so you couldn’t eat, then got fifty-million different opioids that killed your appetite. It’s a done deal.”

“No, really, you’re leaner and straighter.”

“You’d be straighter too if some guy cut you open and sawed out worn and crooked bones and replaced them with extra parts from the Tin Man. You’d be straighter.”

“Good job. Sometime tell me how you managed to reduce so fast!”

And this, folks, is how some (not all!!!) people actually do listen to each other. Cracks me up.

Pain and Pleasure

Yesterday at physical therapy I was standing there doing tug-o-war with my therapist. Yeah, it’s an exercise. I’m supposed to hold still while he attempts to move me away from my center by pulling in one direction or the other. It’s a hip strengthening and stabilizing exercise. The tool involved is stretchy. Once that was finished, we moved on to his pulling me (using the same stretchy tool) from the front. I was thinking about how great it’s been to be able to safely do so many things I want (and more that I don’t want, like yard work) so quickly after surgery thanks all the physical work I did before the surgery, the miles and miles on the bike-to-nowhere, the dog walks that were often excruciating.

“You need to give me a challenge,” I said to Ron, grinning. “I’m pretty strong.”

“You are,” he said. “You know, I think you’re ready to walk on uneven ground.”

“I have been.”

“Where?” I told him about our walks out at Shriver/Wright Wildlife Refuge with the heat the the horseflies, how beautiful it was, how silent and empty (because who wants to walk in heat with horseflies? Only a dedicated idiot stoic like me, I guess). “It’s mostly flat, but there are some little — very little — hills.” My new thing is finding hills. Not big hills, but hills.

I had been thinking that I’m now able to walk my dogs at the slough and do a lot of other things because of the way I was raised. I felt grateful to those “cowboys” who raised me to be tough and to have a sense of humor about it. There wasn’t a lot of indulgence in the Kennedy household. In my mind’s “ear” I heard my mom say, “Quit yer bellyaching,” followed by a slap across the face as enforcement.

I literally grew up expecting pain. One friend a long time ago called me a masochist, but that’s not it at all. A masochist LIKES pain. I don’t like it, but it doesn’t surprise me. What has surprised me is NOT feeling pain. That’s amazing.

I wonder how I would have raised children to expect both pain and pleasure and take neither for granted, to understand pain enough to know that it may be transitory but maybe not; it may need to be dealt with. Still, it’s universal to all people and so should inspire compassion. I would want to raise them to understand pleasure is also transitory and somewhat random, but can be the fruit of their kindness to others — which is intentional and which they can choose and can ameliorate a lot of the pain in the world.

All in all, the cowboy stoicism with which I was raised seems to have been a good thing, though I could’ve done without the slaps. It looks like I’ll be doing that mountain hike two months earlier than originally projected. ❤ Thanks mom.

Stoicism: an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

Navigating Time Travel

Reading a street map is becoming a lost art. Is that OK? I rely on my phone, too. It’s like having a wife who sits in the passenger seat with a map and tells me where to turn. I’m sorry for the sexist remark “wife” here but in my life that person was either my mom or me so it isn’t all that sexist. When I was in Switzerland with my friend L I opted NOT to pay extra for GPS because I was going to have a “wife” who could navigate. I wasn’t thinking that, 1) L drives everywhere in her life because 2) her husband is blind and 3) not everyone LIKES maps as much as I do and 4) she wasn’t really good at reading a map and 5) Switzerland is what one from out here where the second largest town in an area as large as Connecticut has only 4000 people, well, we might call Switzerland “compressed.” Where the next town HERE might be 14 miles away, in Switzerland it might be half a mile.

I can tell you, it led to some pretty ugly moments, but we always got there, and L got better at map reading. All was well.

As for me here in the wild and woollies, my cell phone service data plan doesn’t cover the San Luis Valley. I have a Rand McNally road atlas in my car, but with no co-pilot that’s a bit of a problem but there is this little trick of pulling over and looking at the map. I’m pretty good at that.

Maps fascinate me. In the process of writing my historical novels, I found old maps to be like time machines. While writing The Brothers Path I tried to imagine the moment when Felix Manz was drowned in the Limmat and what kind of panic that might have inspired in some people — including my characters. In fact, the first line I wrote of that book was THAT moment, the moment when the brothers Thomann and Andreas realized they were about to witness something that had never, ever, ever happened before* and one of them, Thomann, quickly apprehended that it could result in a lot more deaths if not a riot. Thomann told his brother to run. In fact, the first line I wrote of that novel was, “Andreas! Run!”

But where? Zürich today is not Zürich of the 16th century. It was a walled city — and it had been walled more than once, a series of walls ever reaching outward as the city grew. I found a map. A beautiful 16th century map with the names of the various gates clearly marked. I saw the roads (old, old roads, still there, paved, lined, traffic filled, but old) that would have taken them out of the city that horrible day. There was a squat little tower called the Ketzitzturli (sp) that would have put him right on the road home.

Many of the streets in Zürich carry the names of the towers to once they led. I found it pretty easy to drive in Zürich because I knew this old map so well.

*The leader of the Reformed church, Huldrych Zwingli, executed his former friend, the Anabaptist, Felix Manz. It was the first execution of a Protestant by a Protestant and it happened only 3 years after the beginning of the Reformation. Both men had once been priests.

Old and Moldies?

I’m pretty sure this can’t last forever, but for now I LOVE everything. Seriously. Bear brings in lilac branches I don’t think, “You stupid dog. Now I have to clean up after you.” I think, “Oh, lilac branches.” I’ve been rejuvenated by my hip replacement.

One of my small pleasures (sometimes not so small) is listening to a radio station from San Diego every Sunday morning. The program? “Legends of Alternative.” I’ve written about it before. It’s really and truly one of the absolutely LEAST important things happening the world today (or any day). The DJ, a Brit named Steve West, was the DJ of my favorite radio station (91X) back in the 80s/90s. I listened to him every day on my drive home from school — he had the afternoon slot. I can’t hear his voice without imagining the loop from College onto the I-8 West and the trip home. For a time, home was in Hillcrest, a block from Balboa Park. Later home was in City Heights, a sketchy neighborhood where some of my friends and/or colleagues wouldn’t park their cars.

A lot’s happened in the thirty years and it’s not like I can’t listen to the same music via any number of free or paid streaming platforms through my phone. Huh? In 1985 such a thought was — well, there was no such thought. I just sat in front of my Amiga trying to write stories and ending up writing letters to people I could’ve called on the phone or met for coffee (I wanted a Mac like the one belonging to a neighbor; he’d let me borrow it for a month) but the ex, (a programmer for Convair) was more impressed by the Amiga which just shows you shouldn’t always listen to experts.

He’s no longer on 91X but has moved over to their competitor, 94.9.

From time to time, via the medium of Facebook, I request a song. Steve West invariably plays it and mentions “Martha in the little town of Monte Vista, Colorado” and like a 7th grader I’m thrilled. The song is usually what Tracy from “Reflections of an Untidy Mind” has very accurately identified as my “Anthem.” It’s not like I don’t have various recordings of this song (CD, cassette tape [yes, really]) but I like hearing it on the radio. I also like the fact that the first time I heard the song it was spun on a turntable by this self-same Steve West back in 1986. And, he loves the song. What could be better? He’s even played various mixes for me. Yeah, 7th grader…

It’s a silly Sunday ritual but a sweet one. One old song after the other comes out of my speakers and I savor the nostalgia or wince at the horror, depending. He has a slight predilection for the more cheerful songs of the era, Morrissey excepted. He seems to think that Ministry was a better band before they went all “dark and industrial” (I disagree) but from time to time he’ll play a legit punk song, usually something familiar to people, like “God Save the Queen.” That’s OK. I know the truth. I heard his interviews with Johnny Rotten and Jello Biafra.

Meanwhile, back to the slowly reduced number of chores on the “escalator of life” out here in the “wild, wild west.”

Gratefully back to Business as (Somewhat Slower than) Usual



Bear, happy to be home


Lori, the owner of Noah’s Arff, brought Dusty and Bear home to me yesterday afternoon. They were so HAPPY! Lori pulled into the alley, I left the back gate open, both dogs went straight to their yard and into their house. Dusty spent the first hour glued to me and Bear spent her first hour exploring the vastly overgrown wilderness that was once her yard. She was VERY impressed, however, by her favorite hole because now the lilac has leaves and has grown around the hole so she can not only dig, but she can hide.



Dusty in his favorite spot


I have always been amazed by dogs and I was curious to see what Bear and Dusty would do when they came home. They were gone for 6 weeks — 43 nights. They learned a whole new schedule, new life, new people, new regimen. They had fun and playmates and sometimes a lot of time in the VERY large kennel that is “theirs” (it’s easily 10 x 10 feet). But once home, it didn’t take long for them to reassert their dog-status and re-assume their habits. The REAL test was last evening, after dinner, about 7:30 pm (a beautiful time of day on the longest day of the year, the first day of summer) Bear stood in the kitchen giving me a certain look which means, “C’mon! Let’s go! C’mon! The alpenglow! You’re going to miss it! I have messages to read! Let’s go!”

I wasn’t sure I was ready to walk her, honestly. I’d half planned to wait a day or two, take control of the moment, make it my own choice, but I love that dog and I thought she was right.

“Dusty, you have to stay here. I can’t handle you both.” Dusty seemed to nod in understanding. I leashed Bear and out we went. She was eager, but responsive to a command I’ve taught her which is, “Go slow.” So we had our evening walk on the longest day of the year, slow and peaceful around the high school. I met a neighbor with her sweet, smart and very loyal little white poodle. Bear sat and listened to our short chat about stuff. Then we went on our way Bear read messages, left a couple, while I looked at my mountains and thought to myself that there’s nothing more beautiful than a simple moment with a good dog.

I’m so glad they’re home. Now I have to go clean up their yard. There’s probably even a pond out there somewhere I don’t know about.


“I missed my coffee!!! Thanks human!”