Thursday, June 7, 2012














The canvas was filling up
Pollock would be impressed
But I can't see
I push the button



My view is clear

For now

Thursday, May 31, 2012

“And they,…, turned to their affairs”

I said yes.  I didn’t want to, I already had my day planned out; workout, laundry, garden, read (or maybe just watch a bunch of reality TV).  A change of plans was not in the plan.  But I am trying to be more flexible, to go with the flow, so when Jackie suggested going for a hike instead of the gym, I said yes, after a long hesitation.

Jackie arrived at my house a little after 9, her boundless energy matched only by that of Jessie, the yellow lab whose head was hanging out the back window.  My hope that Jessie would have tired himself out by the time we reached the trail head was in vain; it seemed the car ride was just a warm up.  From the onset of the hike up Sterling Pass trail, Jessie ran ahead and then back and then ahead and then back, scouting for potential dangers and then returning to report his findings.  Bella the black lab had little interest in keeping up with Jessie.  Her greying muzzle, calm manner and robotic, deliberate movements betrayed her age.  She tolerated the yellow lab, but saw no need to prove herself by matching his high energy and instead watched Jessie as he ran back and forth.  She was George to Jessie’s Lenny. 

As we made our way along the trail I stayed back a bit so that the surrounding scenery could saturate all of my senses without the threat of me being knocked over by a 75 pound furry, slobbering weapon.  Sterling Pass trail climbs 1100 feet in one and a half miles up through a wide valley.  Tall spires point sharply at the blue sky, their charred husks a stark contrast against the red rock walls, lush green vegetation and white, red, purple, yellow and orange flowers that have conquered the valley bottom.  These sentries are the skeletons of what once were full crowned Ponderosa pines, and while a long ago fire stripped these great trees of their leaves and branches, their majesty remains as they tower over the new generation of shrubs and forbs which have taken advantage of the fire scarred land.  It is spring time and the flowers are in bloom offering sweet smells as I walked along the trail, this combined with the fluttering song birds, abundant and vocal, made me feel as if I was in the jungles of South America, not a semi-desert in Arizona.

The sun which in part gives life to the valley bottom was beating down on me as I followed Jackie, Jessie and Bella up the trail.  Despite constantly drinking water and finding respite from the heat in the shade rorschachly blotted along the trail, I felt the migraine coming on.  It was well established when I finally reached the summit of Sterling Pass.  The dogs had already found their resting spots, but Jackie was prepared to keep moving.  I quickly picked a side in this argument and slumped down next to the panting dogs. 

After a too short break we started back down the trail towards the car.  Jessie led the way, leaving barking dogs and irritated hikers in his wake while Bella respectfully traversed the trail.  I fell behind as both the sun’s heat and my migraine intensified.  The feeling that a red hot poker was being forced through my skull created a pain which distracted me from the scenery that had captured my full attention just an hour earlier.  My concentration was now put towards stepping one foot in front of the other to get down the trail as soon as possible before the full onset of the migraine could take place. 

It was at this time, close to the end of the trail, that I came upon Jessie raucously scrounging through the underbrush, no Jackie or Bella in sight.  It took a moment to process the scene I had walked up on.  Birds flew out of the brush chirping wildly, but Jessie didn’t pay them any attention, he was still rummaging through the low lying shrubs, there was still a bird left behind.  I yelled for Jessie to stop, my voice high pitched with panic, my migraine instantly gone.  But Jessie ignored me and as he buried his muzzle into the brush and quickly flung his head back I realized I was too late.  The fledgling bird was flung to the trail dying as Jessie quickly lost interest in his new toy and ran to catch up with his mom.  I approached the bird hoping that my being there would somehow reverse the fledgling’s fate.  The deep red blood that now escaped from the puncture left by Jessie’s incisor was a stark contrast to the graphite grey feathers which had failed to help the young bird escape.  Its yellow beak opened and closed as if it was calling for its mother or gasping for breath, in, out, out.  It stretched out one of its legs, slowly grasping at the air, trying to hold on to something, anything.  All the while the mother bird sat on a nearby branch helplessly calling out.  There was nothing to be done and as I raised my head I saw Jackie standing next to Jessie, he was scolded, but didn’t seem to notice.  They started back down the trail.  I stood up and began to follow them but turned around; I couldn’t leave the birds’ body in the middle of the trail.  Using two sticks I gently lifted then lowered the limp body from the trail into the brush, the mother bird watching over us, still chirping.

I again started down the trail, my migraine had returned to its full glory.  This was not my plan.      

Monday, March 5, 2012

The River Wild

During my childhood, my mom would set up remarkable family vacations.  Unlike common families who went to the beach in the summer, my family traveled all over the U.S., and even Canada, visiting national parks, riding in trains and going on multi day horse riding trips.  At the beginning of every summer Mom would sit my sister and I down;

Mom:  Your father and I have a surprise for you!

Dad:  We are going to take a cross country trip, in the minivan, and visit your aunt and uncle in Colorado and then travel to Arizona and ride mules down into the Grand Canyon!

Mom:  Doesn't that sound great!  What an opportunity!  You will be required to keep a daily diary.

Me and my sister:  Awww, man!  That sucks!  Why can't we just stay here and hang with our friends for the summer like all the other kids?  Ugh, I thought summer time was for not thinking and learning!

Mom:  Well tough shit, that's what we are doing.  And you will have a good time.

What can I say, we were kids.

Looking back, we did have a good time, we were very lucky to have parents who took us on such great adventures.  It's just that we didn't always show our appreciation.

When I was twelve the summer vacation that was planned included a five day raft trip down the Snake River (yeah, you're jealous).  The only request my dad had was no rapids.  So it was a five day float trip, which was great, but would have been better had I been old enough to drink alcohol. 

Mom had arranged for our family of four to have two rafts and two guides, the teams had long ago been determined: 

Team 1) Puck and Mom (the fun, interested boat)
Team 2) Me and Dad (the others)

After our guides got through telling us how to survive every possible  deadly scenario Mom, Dad and Puck climbed into their assigned rafts.  I tried to flee to the safety of the minivan, but apparently this was a part of the vacation the whole family had to be there for.  All I could think was "how is almost dying a vacation?"

Fortunately I had brought a book (or two) with me.  So while everyone else in my family had nothing better to do than look around at the scenery for dangers like bear and lightning and killer fish and pterodactyls, I was able to relax and read.

In pretty much every picture my mom has of this trip, I am sitting in the raft, hunched over, reading a book.  Whether it's sunny or rainy, no matter the amazing scenery, or what animals we came across, I was reading a book.

That first night was the most traumatic.  We had to sleep in tents, and I was pretty sure there was a spider in mine, so there was a lot of screaming and crying involved.  I just hope my parents left a really big tip for those raft guides.

Meanwhile, my sister took the whole thing in stride, like she was having a good time, traitor.

In the end we survived, and I actually have fond memories of that trip, somehow.  The real irony of this story is that I went on to get two degrees in natural resources (B.S. Natural Resources Management, M.S. Rangeland Ecosystem Science), and I work for the U.S. Forest Service, and about ten years ago, I spent a summer as a raft guide, and yes some of the people I had on my raft were absolutely horrible.  I believe that is the definition of karma.

And my sister, she works in finance, in Manhattan.

Christmas was like two months ago.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend, Charles, informed me that his father Bob and Bob’s lady friend (let’s face it, when you’re in your 70’s she is no longer a girlfriend), Sally, would be coming for a visit.

Me:  When are they getting here?

Charles:  I don’t know, maybe sometime next week.

Me:  How long are they staying with us?

Charles:  I don’t know, a week or two, maybe.

Me: Oh good.

I like Bob and Sally, they are very nice.  Bob is quiet and happy with a couch and a T.V., so basically he is low maintenance.  Sally makes up for Bob’s taciturn ways.  Sally has lead a very interesting life in her 75 years, and I am pretty sure she is trying to get the story out there to anyone who will listen, in a second by second retelling of her life and times.  I am always excited to have guests, especially if they are family, especially if they are staying with us during the week, when I have to work (“Sorry, I just don’t have enough leave to take time off!  I know, bummer, you’re going to have to go antiquing without me, sucks!”).  So I was cool with the short notice of Bob and Sally’s impending welcomed visit.

Then Charles brought up the Christmas card.

Charles:  Sally was upset by the Christmas card we sent. (we = me, Charles doesn’t do cards)

Me:  Seriously, it’s February.  I mean…What was wrong with the card? (I am pretty sure there was an eye roll accessorizing that question).

Charles:  I don’t know something about leaving her name off the card.  I shouldn’t have brought it up.

Me:  Her name was on the card, I clearly remember writing “Dear Bob and Sally”.

Charles:  Then I don’t know.  Forget I said anything, why are you getting so defensive, GOD!

I couldn’t stop thinking about this horrible and offensive Christmas card I had sent to Charles’ father and his lady friend, what had I written (or not written)?  And as the day changed into night I was no closer to realizing my folly.  Had I written some hidden message in the text, one that if you held the card up to a mirror in a candle lit bathroom while playing Led Zeppelin backwards, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer would appear and sing (out of tune) Christmas Carols forever?, because that could make some people a little upset.  And as similarly rational thoughts raced through my head at 1:30 in the morning, it finally dawned on me…

They never sent us a Christmas card.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Welcome to the Neighborhood

To start with, I sincerely apologize for having left the blogosphere for so long.  I could give you a laundry list of excuses, but in the end, I was just lazy, and it was the holidays.  So thank you for your patience, I hope you continue reading about my life in THE mountain town.

My boyfriend and I just bought a house (another reason excuse I haven't written a blog entry in a while).  And as first time homeowners, we are learning a lot, mainly the value of a Home Depot gift card (priceless).  I grew up in a very close neighborhood, everyone knew their neighbor, there were neighborhood parties all the time (scavenger hunts, 4th of July parties, battle of the sexes, Christmas caroling), it was safe, comforting, and fun.  This is what I imagine my new neighborhood will be like.  The first step in recreating my old neighborhood is to meet the neighbors, and I had come up with a few different ways of accomplishing this task, baking cookies, throwing a party, but fate had something else in mind.

I spent the first Saturday in my new house unpacking, which lead to a monster pile of boxes which had housed mainly crap.  I decided to throw the empty boxes in the trash outside, and as I stepped out of my front door I took note that the door was locked and I didn't have a key in my hand.  I decided to resist all instincts and gut feelings telling me to get the keys and instead through caution to the wind and left the door ajar.  I mean, the door had never shut on its own the whole time I had lived in the house.  I took the boxes out, put them in the garbage, and as I shut the lid to the garbage can, I heard another click. 

At this point everything starts going in slow motion.  I reached the front door in what seemed like hours, and as my hand turned the knob, the door confirmed what I really already knew, I was locked out. F*%k, f&^k, f%$!

My brain quickly went into triage mode, assess the situation and do what makes the most sense (yeah, this is when I wanted to start using common sense):
1)  Use shoulder to knock down front door.  Turns out real front doors are nothing like the front doors in Hollywood, or I need a better personal trainer.
2) Lift the automatic garage door with bare hands.
3) Get garage door opener out of locked car by pushing the windows down with my bare hands.

Surprisingly, none of these options panned out.  After spending about 1 minute trying to break into my new house, I resolved to accept defeat.    And so at 12:00pm on a Saturday, in my pajama pants, t-shirt, fluffy slippers, in 30 degree weather, I sat down on my front porch, head in hands and began waiting for my boyfriend Charles to get home.

Then from across the street I heard "welcome to the neighborhood".  I looked up from my sorrow and saw my neighbor from across the street waving at me.  My first thought was "really? I am obviously trying to break into my own home in pajamas, and all you can say is 'welcome to the neighborhood'?!"  What I said was "thanks", but I didn't sound like I meant it.  Then it hit me, this was my chance, quickly before he gets in his car and leaves! 

I jumped up from my front porch and ran as quickly as my fluffy slippers would let me across the snow packed street.  "Excuse me, sir?"  I said with a nervous laugh as I reached his garage.  "I seem to have locked myself out of my house and I was wondering if you could call a locksmith please, he he he."

Not only did my awesome neighbor Jon call a locksmith, he lent me a winter coat, set up a chair in his garage next to the space heater and kept me company for the 20 minutes it took for the Lock Doc to show up.

I have since met a few more of my neighbors in a more traditional way, while checking the mail.  And while most people would be embarrassed to have their first meeting with a neighbor take place while wearing pajamas, I have moved on.  In fact Charles and I have already planned our first party, a Super Bowl party  of course. 

And yes, Jon is invited.