April Snow

Snow at dusk in April

It had been a brutal day, a hard edged wind coming from the north and cutting through the many layers she wore.  Even when the sun broke through the heavy clouds it was cold, cold for late April.  But here in the mountains of New Mexico weather was like that.  Nothing unusual at all.

For a brief moment at sunset a rosy golden light limned the mesa top, gone as quickly as it had come.  She smelled rain, but there was nothing yet to moisten the dust and the struggling grass that was already turning gray with thirst.  It would come, though, she knew it.  If she could smell it, it would come.

She built a fire in the wood stove, smiling at the fancy she’d had that she was done building fires till next fall.  She settled into the evening, waiting.

The wind stopped.  The world held its breath.  Silently fluffy white flakes drifted down into the dusk, covering the branches of the apple trees that were only this morning braving the first bright green leaves of spring.

I’m over there!

I finally went live with my Patreon Creator account after a lot of dilly-dallying about it.  Asking for money to support my creative efforts was a high bar for me to leap.  I bashed against that obstacle for a year before finally just hurling myself over it because… after some point it’s either put up or shut up.  It’s part of the creative process, this money thing.  It’s not about starving artist, it’s about validation.

Believe me, many artists would rather be validated than eat.  Chocolate or approval of my work… chocolate or approval of my work…  

Please, take my chocolate.  It would be a fine thing if you went over to Patreon and gave me a thumbs up with your patronage.  Thank you!

US Air Force OK with destroying the Gila Wilderness

Gila Wilderness 1922



“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”  Wilderness Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–577)

The Gila Wilderness was designated the world’s first wilderness area on June 3, 1924.  If the US Air Force has its way, it’ll become a burning trash dump.

A Holloman Air Force Base proposal would create a new military operations area (MOA) over the Gila and Aldo Leopold wilderness areas of the Gila National Forest (and over into Arizona, too). The Air Force wants up to ten thousand F-16 flights per year (that’s more than one an hour 24/7), dropping  flares and chaff as they fly over.

The Air Force didn’t think to bother notifying the public* where the MOA is proposed (Grant and Catron County in New Mexico) about this idea.  Instead the Air Force held meetings in other municipalities nowhere near the directly affected area.

Pretty sneaky, if you ask me.

So what will happen if the MOA goes through?

You mean the screaming of jet planes constantly zooming over what’s supposed to be wilderness (“in natural condition” 11 U.S.C. § 1131(a)) isn’t enough?  Well, there’s more.  Such as the trashing of the forest.  Literally.  The Air Force wants to drop chaff and set off flares (military aircraft often combine chaff with flare dispensers), carpeting the forest with military debris and maybe just burning the place down.  How much chaff and flares I don’t know… maybe that is in the Air Force’s environmental impact statement (EIS).  But with up to 10,000 flights a year I’m thinking we’re talking tons.

Chaff

Chaff is meant to confuse radar.  It’s made of millions of tiny aluminum or zinc coated fibers that are ejected from a jet and then are blown around by the turbulence of the jet’s wake and from whatever wind there is that day.  It can end up far from the release point.

Chaff fibers are about the thickness of a human hair and range in length from about a third of an inch to around three inches long.  The fibers are dispensed in cartridges or projectiles, so it’s not only chaff, but the debris from the containers (paper, cardboard, styrene caps, pistons, and other stuff) that ends up on the ground.

Once the chaff and debris is on the ground, it can be blown around by wind and updrafts from wildfire.  While inhalation is not considered to be a major issue (by people who don’t have to breathe it), wild animals will inevitably consume the chaff because it will be everywhere.  It will blanket the forest floor, the plants, and the animals themselves (not to mention hikers, bikers, hunters, and campers) with metal coated glass fibers.  And let’s not forget that these fibers and associated debris will also pollute the streams… water that ultimately will end up in Phoenix, AZ.  But hey, they have water filters over there, don’t they?

There have been few to no peer-reviewed studies examining the impact of chaff on wildlife and the environment, or humans either, for that matter.  Little is known about the breakdown of chaff in soil or in water.  It doesn’t take a study to know this:  given what chaff is made of, it’s not going to go away soon.

But hey, the Air Force is pretty sure that the stuff won’t hurt anything.

Flares being deployed from a F-16

Flares being deployed from a F-16

Flares are used to confuse heat-seeking missiles. Most are magnesium pellets ejected from tubes to ignite in the air behind the aircraft. The flares burn at temperatures above 2,000° F.   As hot as magma ejected from a volcano.

The flare pellets burn as they fall to the ground.  To the dry trees and brush below.  The place where there are no roads because it’s wilderness, so fire fighters can’t even get there unless they hike in.

If the flares don’t burn the forest down when they land, at minimum what their deployment will do is add to the feeling that there’s a war’s going on.  Jets screaming overhead.  Explosions blasting day and night.  Blinding lights destroying dark skies.

Bye by peace and quiet.  Farewell tranquility.  Too bad, wilderness.

Wildfire burning in the Gila National Forest

The future of the Gila Wilderness?

What could  they possibly be thinking?

I’m guessing the Air Force is thinking only about the Air Force.  They’re relying on people being so fearful about war that sacrificing the world’s oldest wilderness so fighter pilots have another place to train is an acceptable price.

I don’t know what they’re really thinking, but I do know that the decisions will be made by people who don’t value wild places.

Just think:  the Gila National Forest is where the endangered Mexican wolf is supposed to survive.  Where are the studies on the impacts on the wolves?  And what about the endangered spotted owl.?  And all the other threatened and endangered species in the Gila?   Let’s not forget the impact on the Cosmic Campground (the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary on National Forest System lands and also in North America, located between the Gila Wilderness and the Blue Range Primitive Area).  Has anyone bothered checking into potential damage to the Gila Cliff Dwellings from the vibrations of hourly (or more frequent) low flying jets and/or flare explosions?

No matter who you are, rancher, environmentalist, Continental Divide Trail hiker or biker, hunter, wildlife photographer, or just someone who likes to walk in the woods, it seems to me you’d be as outraged by this Air Force proposal as I am.

While I am not an advocate of petitions, for those who are unwilling or unable to take personal action there is a petition sponsored by the Gila Conservation Coalition at https://www.change.org/p/holloman-air-force-base-military-overflights-threaten-the-gila-wilderness

Better yet, write your legislators.  Write to the Air Force.  Call them.  Email them.  Make a noise in this world.
Holloman AFB Public Affairs Office
Mr. Tommy Fuller
(575) 572-1831 ext. 5406
tommy.fuller@us.af.mil

* Edited due to information received from Catron County Commissioner Anita Hand (District 1) and further research:  The Catron County Commission received a letter about the EIS too late to act on before the scoping period had closed (the Notice of Intent was published August 25, 2017; there should have been a 45 day comment period but the comment deadline was September 15, 2017).  Holloman airspace analyst Alan Shafer has stated that Holloman also sent letters to both Grant County Commission Chair Brett Kasten and County Manager Charlene Webb but Kasten said that he had no recollection of receiving any letter.  Grant County Commission did hold a special meeting to address the issue. but this was after the comment deadline  The only public scoping meetings were held by the Air Force in Carlsbad, Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces.  No scoping meetings were held in Grant or Catron County. [return to top]

Note also that the draft EIS is not available on the Holloman AFB EIS website.  If it exists somewhere, this writer sure can’t find it.  

Further reading:  Gila National Forest weighs in on Air Force’s airspace proposal

Potato Soup

Blessed moisture (c) 2018 Lif Strand

Not potato soup ingredients

Yesterday it rained for the first time in I don’t know how long.  Oh, I could readily find out — I do keep a weather journal.  It didn’t rain much the last time.  As of yesterday morning I had recorded under half an inch since the first of the year and as of last evening I had just 0.2″ more to add.

Last night it snowed.  I woke up to two inches of wet white stuff.  I have to be happy for that, because we so desperately need the moisture.  But I had to cancel a trip into town.  I wanted to pick up a load of alfalfa hay, and get some cat food.  I’m out of bananas, and getting low on peanut butter.  And [gasp!] I’m out of wine.  But more importantly, I had to cancel the appointment for a massage.

Tragedy!

Okay, it’s not a great tragedy but it is a bit of a disappointment.  I’m not in dire need of the massage and I won’t get to hang out in the coffee shop this afternoon with a book, a cup of coffee, and a pastry.   The massage has been rescheduled and the coffee shop will be there next week, so it’s not the end of the world.  It’s just one of those things when you go rural.

Living out here in the middle of nowhere means knowing that there could be days or weeks when going anywhere is not possible.  It means thinking in advance, replenishing supplies before running out, and making do.  If a person isn’t into the mentality of  preparedness and self-sufficiency then this is not the kind of place to live.

In my case, today is more like a schoolkid’s snow day than anything else.  I get to stay home.  Yay!  (That’s the hermit in me talking).  And of course, I have what I need here to make the day even better.  None of the things on my shopping list are things I’m in danger of running out of unless I couldn’t drive out for a good long time.

Except for the wine.  A wine cellar’s on my To Do list, but I’m not there yet.  I rarely have back-up wine.  I’ll tough it out.

It’s a cold, dreary day, today.  The snow has stopped and the melt has begun.  It’ll be a snotty mess out there in a while.  A good excuse to stay inside and snuggle up near the wood stove with a book.  And maybe some comfort food.  I’m thinking potato soup.

Look Ma!  No recipe!

Making do happens when you can’t follow a recipe.  Maybe you don’t have the ingredients, or the time, or that recipe just doesn’t appeal.  In my case it seems to mean being constitutionally incapable of following directions.  Oh, not because I couldn’t if I wanted to, but because it just seems so… um…

Let’s just say that some of us make our own excitement in life.

I’ve always been attracted to stories of people pushing the envelope of their very existence.  Doesn’t matter where or when.  It could be anybody, at any time, on whatever ocean or continent… or planet or galaxy.  Shipwrecked folks, lost folks, explorers, pioneers — people who went where no others had gone before and who made do with what they had and what they could invent.

It takes a special kind of person to do that.  I’ve always wanted to be a member of their ranks.  But you know, I’ve got that hermit thing going, so that has put a crimp on what I might do.  The thought of being stuck on an island or in a spaceship with a bunch of people who are in my face all the time is just too ewwww.  Plus I’d get claustrophobic without wild, open spaces to roam.

So hey — I could be a mountain man, like Grizzly Adams as portrayed by Dan Haggerty (I met him years back, seemed like a nice guy).  Except I don’t live in the mountains and I’m a woman, and no training bears for me, thank you very much.  Anyway those are just details.  The point is a life of doing whatever I can for myself by myself.  Not living by the book.  Not just marching to a different drummer — but to my own drummer: me.  Even if I can’t drum.

It’s a life of choosing to take a different road, maybe one that requires giving certain things up in order to have other things that are more important.  From the outside it might look a lot like living a hard life for no reason, but from the inside what it feels like is playing.

Yes, playing.  By that I mean, having fun doing something I’ve chosen to do the way I want to do it and enjoying what I’m doing just because I can.

So about that soup

Even if I had an excellent potato soup recipe I wouldn’t follow it.  (I do have an excellent book of soup recipes entitled Soup, by Coralie Castle; 101 Productions; distributed by Scribner, New York 1971.  It is out in a second edition published in 1996, too.)  I don’t need to look in the book to know I probably don’t have all the ingredients, or if I do, I won’t want to use the ingredients called for.  More importantly, seems to me that recipes are guidelines to someone else’s idea of what food should taste like.  It’s like making a quilt using the exact fabrics and pattern that someone else has created, or painting-by-numbers.

Not saying that there’s anything wrong with doing those things, just that it’s not for me.

You know the supposedly ancient Chinese saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching him how to fish?  Well, teach me not only how to fish, but how to light a fire, and how to clean the fish, and how to fry or broil or stew, and you’ve taught me something truly useful.  Which, by the way, is why the early editions of The Joy of Cooking are so wonderful — Irma Rombauer provided not just recipes but an explanation of the basic principles of cooking.  That’s why that cookbook has been in print continuously since 1936 with over 18 million copies sold.

Teach me the principles of soup and I’ll make my own recipe.

Potato soup ingredients

So in case you want to know what I did, here it is, today’s recipe for potato soup, with annotations.  Next time I won’t make it the same way.  As for trying my recipe?  Do what you will, that is the only advice (apology to Mr. Crowley)

Ingredients

  • 5 potatoes of varying sizes I grabbed some potatoes that I forgot I had.  They hadn’t gone green yet and that didn’t have lots of sprouts.  Most of the rest will get planted when it’s warmer if they don’t go into the compost, darn it
  • 1 onion It needed using before it needed to join the potatoes in the garden
  • 3 large carrots because I like carrots
  • 1 cup chopped kale because I had it, because it doesn’t store well and the horses won’t eat it, and because it would make the soup photo pretty
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 TBS cumin because I love the taste
  • 1 TBS Golden Paste (turmeric) because it’s good for me.  You can use plain turmeric if you don’t have Golden Paste handy, or don’t put any in the soup at all
  • Some veggie oil
  • A big blob of butter
  • Secret ingredient:  Left-over coffee from this morning
  • Water

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a deep pan or a soup pot.  Melt butter in the oil.  Don’t let it get so hot it smokes!
  • Chop the onions into chunks and saute in the oil/ butter.  While that’s cooking, do the potatoes. Don’t forget to stir every so often so nothing sticks to the pan.
  • Chop the potatoes into chunks and add to the onions.  While that’s cooking, do the carrots.
  • Chop the carrots into smallish pieces and add to the onions/carrots.  While that’s cooking, do the kale.
  • Chop the kale and stir into the rest.
  • Add the pepper, and the other spices if you like them.
  • Add the coffee (it was about 8 oz).  I like coffee in my sauces and soups because it adds a nice dark color and some depth and richness to the taste.  I tend to not bother with meat broths, which would do the same.
  • Add water to cover all ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and simmer on low till it’s getting mushy.  Leave the lid cocked a little so the liquid reduces some, but watch that it doesn’t reduce too much and burn your veggies.  My soup was started on the gas stove and finished on the wood stove.

OK, here’s the fun part.  After the soup’s cooked a while but before it’s done you can start adjusting the taste.  Be advised that it’s all subjective.  I like to taste what I’ve got, imagine how it might be better (unless it’s perfect already) then add a few things that call to me.

  • Add salt.  Or maybe soy sauce.  Or not.
  • Try these (they’re in my soup right now):  Tarragon, basil, coriander.
  • Heavy cream, if you’re into cream of potato soup.  I’ve got powdered heavy cream I might add later.   Or not.

My soup’s cooking right now.  It needs a few hours of simmering, but it’s already tasting interesting.  But you know the best part of this?  However it turns out, it doesn’t matter.  It wasn’t only ever about the eating part.

I’ll report later how the soup turns out,  good or bad!

EDITED: same evening.  I had a bowl of my soup straight, with some added salt.  If I make it again I’ll add salt in the beginning  It tasted fine, but it was more like a veggie stew than a soup.

For a second bowl I mashed the veggies and then added plain yogurt.  Oh my, now that’s good.  But also, I felt that the whole dish would have been improved with the addition of lentils early on.  I think more potatoes would have been a good idea.

I’m too full now for a third bowl, so that experiment is for tomorrow.  I’m going to run the soup through a blender and add the heavy cream instead of yogurt.  Actually, I think I’ll add the cream (powdered) tonight so it’ll have a chance to blend in with the other flavors.

EDITED: next day.  Oh boy oh boy oh boy.  YUMMY!  I can’t decide whether I like the yogurt version or the cream version better.  I’ll have to make this soup again to find out because it’s all gone now!

I’m giving this soup 4 of 5 stars!  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ☆

I got the blues

Title pageI have a sad case of postpartum blues. No, I haven’t given birth to a squalling, pooping little bundle of joy, but I did send my manuscript — supposedly the final edit — off to my professional editor. Now I wait till she goes through it and (hopefully) tells me it’s good to go.

I thought I’d be bouncing around today with a big weight off my shoulders. Last night I couldn’t sleep for going through all the things I’d be free to do today now that I wasn’t shackled to my manuscript. My house looks like a crash pad. And why not? That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the past few months while I focused on this book.

Envelopes are piled up on my desk. I shudder to think what might be in them that I’ve been ignoring. Dirty clothes are spilling out of the laundry baskets. When was the last time I changed the bed sheets? Stacks of books I’ve used as references, or read in the evenings and never reshelved, or borrowed and never returned are on top of my sewing table. One the rare days when I felt like I had to swamp out the house but didn’t want to take the time, I just put things in empty Amazon boxes. Who knows what might lurk in them.

Ick, the cat boxes need emptying. No point in scooping. They’re beyond that – gotta just dump the contents and replace with fresh… um… I do have more kitty litter somewhere, don’t I? I did do dishes almost every day, but the clean ones are piled high in the dish drain.  Why bother putting them away? I just kept using the same ones over and over.  Other than baking a few loaves of bread, I haven’t cooked much of anything since Christmas. I can go a long time on peanut butter sandwiches, salads, and wine.
Fabric
I look around the house and there is stuff everywhere! Not only stuff that needs to be put away, but projects that need to be completed. Fabric that I’ve purchased but not stored for the wall hangings I’ve started but abandoned. Houseplants that need repotting sit on windowsills and on the kitchen counter and on the floor. Tools that I’ve used to band-aide things that broke that I had no time to fix while I’ve been living in the dream world of writing need to be put away. And of course, the interior walls of my tiny little straw bale house still have not been plastered.

I have so much to do and now I’m free to do it.

But no. I’m sitting here feeling no motivation at all. I’ve got postpartum depression. I’ve had my creative baby, so to speak. The creation process took all my psychic energy and now I’ve hit the post-creation let-down.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s just the massive amount of work that I need to do to get my house back in order that is off-putting.

Maybe I should write about it instead of doing it.

Hey – I feel better already!

Great Expectations. Not.

Today was the winter solstice, that is, the first day of winter.  Here in my part of New Mexico it was all gale force winds and, well, wintery.  I was chilly all day long.  So naturally my thoughts turned to warmth:  Warm layers, cozy fire, and a nice hot toddy.

Accordingly, on the way home from town I stopped in Western Drug and General Store, which really is an amazing place that sells just about anything a human being could want.  My pretense was that I needed to pick up a birthday card (and I did do that, got a nice one) but I also wanted to get some whiskey because it seemed to me whiskey would make a proper hot toddy.

Now here’s the thing:  While I don’t like the stuff, I feel like I should.  Every damn mystery and science fiction book these days seems to have characters who drink single malt and double malt and hey — I love chocolate malts so shouldn’t I like whiskey?

So far, I never have.  It tastes like paint thinner.  Nasty, nasty stuff, no matter how aged it is and how many malts it is.  Whatever that means anyway.  But I had noticed a while back that Western had whiskey in little metal flasks (375 ml to be precise, but as a die-hard non-metricentric, it is little to me) and it was labeled Apple Crisp Whiskey.

Oh wow!  I like apples!  I like apple crisp (that is a dessert, isn’t it?).  How bad could whiskey be if it was Apple Crisp Whiskey?  And on top of that, the label also said America’s Finest.  And a cute, candy-apple red metal flask!

Well, I had to have it.  I had visions of an incredible hot toddy after the evening’s chores were done, the cozy fire blazing in the wood stove, me bundled up in my jammies and bathrobe. But no.

You knew that, right?

First hint:  I could have sworn on the way home I smelled whiskey in the cab of the truck.  And, well, yes, when I picked that flask up in the store, it did stick to the shelf it was on.  But such a cute, candy-apple red metal flask it was, I had to have it!  Probably some other flask had leaked, right?

The seal was still intact on the little tiny cap (so cute!).  And maybe there were some kind of sticky droplets on the side of the pretty candy-apple red side of the flask, but that could have come from anywhere.  At home I gave a moment’s thought to returning the flask unopened, since it seemed that maybe the flask wasn’t quite as full as it might have been but… no.  I was determined to have that damn toddy.  Tonight.  The fire was roaring, I was warming on the outside and I wanted that hot comforting drink to warm my innards.

I opened it.  I sniffed it.  Kind of.. ewww.  Paint thinner with a hint of rotten apple, overlaid with the tang of metal.  I poured some hot water into a cup, added a big tablespoon of honey, and a slug or two of Apple Crisp Whiskey.  Stirred well.  Tasted.

Have I said ewww yet?  I thought maybe I was mistaken.  I mean, I never have liked whiskey or any of its relatives.  So I took another sip to be fair.

But that metal taste.  Really.  Bad.  In the lingering aftertaste I was sure it was less apple and more compost that coated my tongue, compost liberally tainted with steel.  Was this the normal taste for something that claimed to be America’s Finest?

OK time to read the fine print.  Proprietary all-natural recipe.  Estate-grown corn.

Corn?  Where are the apples?

Traditional copper still.  I sipped a bit more.  No, definitely not pennies I was tasting, but steel.  Remarkably mellow flavor and smooth finish… wait, what about the apples?  I read the other side.  Aha!  Corn whiskey infused with apple crisp liqueur.  Whatever that is.

Maybe I’m too picky.  Or maybe I simply have an uneducated palate.  But I think that maybe somebody accidentally put some kind of solvent in that flask and it’s dissolving the welds.  Because I swear, I rinsed the outside off and dried it and there are sticky droplets along the seam again.

So… happy solstice.  Winter has come.  Meanwhile, I’m drinking Merlot, the fire is cozy, and after I recover from the toddy I’ll get my jammies on.

 

 

Do what you love and love what you do

“You’ll do what you have to do to be able to do what you want to do.”

This is what a friend of mine said to me in an email this morning. Not only is it catchy but it’s true.  Except that it’s kind of grim.  Happily, for me what I have to do to be able to do what I want to do is already what I want to do.

Too convoluted? Well, let me give an example.  This morning, for instance…

This morning my eyes opened before the sun popped over the horizon. I have no idea why so early, but it was OK.  The room was chilly but I was toasty under oh, five or six layers of flannel blankets and quilts.  If I didn’t go back to sleep I could just laze around and let my mind wander.  I very much enjoy that luxury, because I’m not a morning person.  Oh, I get up at what seems like the crack of dawn, but a real morning person would sneer at the thought.

So I let some writing and art issues bubble up through the murk of sleep, not trying to guide them or even capture them. What came up might or might not be useful, but the luxury part of what I was doing involved just letting my subconscious do whatever it wanted. Of course, because I was half asleep I forgot most of it, but I figure that if the ideas got that far they really want to come out. Eventually they’ll pop to the surface while I’m awake and and I will capture them.

It wasn’t all that long, though, before my bladder and the cats demanded that I roll out of bed.  First thing after that was to shuck my PJs and get dressed. Why no lounging around with a cup of coffee? Well, for one thing, this morning it was 38°. Inside the house.

Obviously my immediate concern was to get the fire going in the wood stove. That meant clearing out ashes, and that means an ash bucket had to be nearby, so that I don’t have to go outside to get one. It might have been cold inside, but outside it was in single digits. It’s December in the high country, after all.

Once the ashes were removed I piled up the glowing embers and stacked wood around them so they’d ignite. That means that there had to be wood available, mind you, and there was (see ash bucket, above).

OK, fire going, coffee water heating on the kitchen stove while I fed the cats before they drove me crazy. By the time I was ready to enjoy my first sip of life-giving java, the wood stove had heated my little house to a reasonable temperature so that I could remove layers as I checked email.

Whoa! A patron signed up (the friend I quoted at the beginning of this post). Wow! Way to start the day!  (Reminder — support your friendly creator!  Thank you if you already have, and don’t be shy if you haven’t.  Any support is fantastic support.)




I feed the horses around 9 a.m. because generally it has warmed up some by that point. I’m not a fan of doing chores when it’s so cold my nostrils stick together when I breathe. In the summer I feed around 8 a.m. because it’s cooler. Due to Daylight Savings nonsense, from the horses’ point of view they’re being fed around the same time.  This is important because even though they’ve got grass hay available all the time, it’s not the same as those delectable flakes of alfalfa for breakfast.  My stallion, Koko, also gets pellets with probiotics in them, plus any fruit or veggie parts that are left over from my kitchen. He eats it all. You’d be amazed.

So as long as I’m outside, I’ve got other chores to do. First is breaking ice on the water troughs. Koko is always thirsty in the mornings, so I do his trough first. Then it’s time for some exercises — stuff left over from physical therapy for my hips that help keep me limber — and after that a short walk, about a half mile loop.

The walk lets me look out away from myself into the distance.  It reminds me I’m part of a much bigger system. It puts my own problems in perspective for a while. I stay on my own property and that walk also reminds me how wonderful it is that I get to live here, on this land. Each day there is something new to see. Coyote poop (full of barely-digested juniper berries right now), elk poop, horse poop, occasionally cow poop. Tracks of many kinds in the dust of the trail. If I’m lucky — and why I think it’s good luck I don’t know — I’ll see the resident roadrunner, who is a bold bird that is used to me by now. He will move away but not far.

Sometimes I’ll surprise an owl or hawk or a flock of larks or piñon jays.  Sometimes a raven will circle me, speaking to me in raven talk that I can’t quite understand.

This time of year the weeds are brittle and dry. Even though I stick to the trail I’ve made, it seems like every plant has burrs or needles or hooks on them so they can hitch a ride on a passing sock. Gaiters keep the nasty little things out of my shoes.  When it snows I’ll wear the gaiters to keep warm.

Some mornings after I’ve walked I’ll work with one of my young mares, Sonny, Koko’s daughter. She has had very little training even though she’s going to be seven years old next month. Now that I have new hips, working with her is fun.  I think we both enjoy it.

My training is hardly worth the word. Maybe ten minutes at a time. My method now that I’m not a young woman and am perhaps more breakable than I used to be, is to not use any restraints and to not pursue if she leaves me. No stress for her, no stress for me.  How I do this is a whole other story, but the end result is a horse that is a partner, not a slave. Given the kind of riding I do, I need that kind of a horse.

Back to the chores. Once a week I prepare the buckets with Koko’s pellets.  That would be today.  I stacked tonight’s hay in the wheelbarrow and stashed it under the tarp. I like to keep tools out of the sun as much as possible, because at this altitude the sun eats everything up. This particular wheelbarrow is only a year old and so far so good, but I have another that has broken apart to the point where it’s pretty useless now. I’m going to fix it one of these days.  It’s low on the To Do list, though.

A brief break to pet Tux, a stray tomcat that’s been living here for a couple years now. He knows my routines so well that he leads me rather than follows.

It being Sunday, it was time to pump water. I topped off the gas in the generator, then pulled the wagon the generator lives in down to the well. I’ll leave it running till this afternoon. After that, I hiked up to the water storage tanks to see how much had been used this week.

Then it was time to get a load of wood for tonight (see above). I need to order another cord soon, but that depends on my wood guy and my finances. I’m good for a month if it doesn’t get too cold. I’ll bring armfuls of wood in the house during the course of the day, when I’m coming in and out anyway. No point in taking the time this morning when I have other stuff to do.

My last chore of the morning was to add some water to the pans I have out for the birds and other small critters, and then I got to come back in the house and have another cup of coffee and think about getting something to eat and then… finally… writing. Or processing photos. Or sewing.

All those things were, as my friend suggested, what I have to do to be able to do what I want to do. My chores would be a drag, except that I want to do them. I like doing them.  Oh sure, I moan and groan.  But sometimes, weirdly, I find myself giggling while I’m wrestling with a tarp… right after I have screamed curses into the wind. Sometimes I snarl and want to feel sorry for myself when I realize I haven’t finished bringing in the wood and I’m exhausted and it’s already dark, but I shrug and I do it. Then there’s been a couple mornings when I was confronted with a fountain spouting from the frost-free hydrant because I forgot to close it the night before. It froze and cracked the pipe and there was nobody to blame but me. But I fixed it. And I was proud that I could do so.

This lifestyle, this responsibility for my own comfort and safety and for that of my critters, is what I have chosen, not what I am forced to. I could move to a house in town, with a regular job to pay for the easier lifestyle, but I would lose much, much more than I would gain in doing so.

There is a joy for me in living this way. Everything I do matters. Everything I do is fodder for my art — whether it’s writing, photography, quilting, or… whatever occurs to me. When, by 11 a.m., I finally come to the part of my day that others would consider (finally) the creative time,  I’ve already been experiencing hours of a world I want to share with others. I’ve been recording some of it with a camera, I’ve been testing out narrative in my head, I’ve been seeing patterns that would make beautiful art.

It’s all there.

It’s all one big creative act for me.

It’s all what I want to do.

Lori and Jimmy and sex, oh my

Author and journalist George Case has written an interesting blog post, Sick Again, which I felt I had to reply to.  I decided that because my thoughts are really way too long for a comment, I’d post them here.  Please read George’s article so you’ll have the context for what I’ve written below.

Jimmy Page & Lori Mattix

You ask: What would a fourteen-year-old and a twenty-eight-year old see in each other, and who around them could have imagined their liaison was a healthy one?

The answer: The two would see opportunity for friendship. Companionship. Excitement. Stimulation. Fun. Love. Sex. Great food and drink. Great drugs. Travel. New experiences. Interesting conversation. Comfort. Great parties.

The people around them would see two people who are attracted to each other, just like any other two people, give or take a bit of fame and fortune. Why would anyone think it was unhealthy?  If two people experience these things together, then they are lucky.  They might be envied, even.

But okay, maybe a few would see sexual exploitation in the relationship.  Um.  Which one would be the exploiter?

Remember, back then there was also this going on: The burning desire for freedom to think for oneself, to each forge our own way, to toss off the shackles of establishment that had only led the world to racism, war, and repression.

Back in the days of flower power, many of us believed strongly in a world vision of freedom and peace. It was a sexual, moral, and ethical revolution created by living it. We pushed the envelope, we lived that pushing.

Excess? That is a view from outside, not inside.

Back then we resented the establishment that tried to impose a morality on us that we didn’t believe in. Who cared what the law was when it was so clearly outdated and wrong.

I still feel that way. Many of us of a certain age still do.

All of the young women the establishment said back then (and are still saying now) were too young were in fact quite old enough, thank you very much. We knew what we were doing. We knew a lot more than many who were a decade or two older than us. Young women like Lori were not being exploited, they were taking advantage of the only avenues open to them at that age to climb the ladder to where they wanted to go. They were having an incredible time doing it, too.

They aren’t the ones who were wounded and scarred by sexual predators.

Young women are not children just because they are under some arbitrary legal age according to criminal law. Women who are 14 years old do not need protecting from using their bodies to get what they want in life. Women of all ages should have the unquestioned right to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives.

Women of all ages should have the unquestioned right to say NO for themselves, not permission from others to say yes to what they want in life.

NaNoWriMo is coming

2017 NaNoWriMo

Yes, writing maniacs, it is that time of year again.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”   About NaNoWriMo

So.  Why do that crazy thing?
If you’ve never completed writing a novel it could be because you become overwhelmed with the idea itself.  Or you figure it’s just too hard to find the time.  Or that you never could write that many words.  Or… well, there’s lots of reasons.

The one thing that I found to be true for me was that it’s easy to start a novel but not so easy to finish one.  Somewhere not that far into the process I lose momentum.  It wasn’t until I started with NaNoWriMo, coming on 14 years ago, that I discovered the secret to writing a novel:  Write lots of words.

Hey, if you don’t believe me, believe Stephen King in his great book, On Writing (p 145), “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:  read a lot and write a lot.”

I read a lot — no problem there for me.  And I thought I was writing a lot, but if that was true seems to me there’d be at least one novel completed.  Understand — I’ve been writing for a living for longer than I have been messing around with NaNoWriMo, but non-fiction writing is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.  It’s easy to write 50 page and longer documents for a client month after month.  Fiction?  I had to come up with my own stuff to write about – stuff that hadn’t happened anywhere but inside my own head!  And trust me, that was scary!

Do not be fooled by 50K!
Coming up with that many words is hard to do at first.  It seemed impossible that first year or so.  But it was worth it because it turns out that 50,000 words is enough to push me over the hump and onto the slide towards The End of a proper length novel (i.e. significantly more than 50K words).  But I didn’t know that when I started.  And I didn’t find out the first year, or the second.

I forget how many years till I did it for the first time – and let me tell you, that was quite the day, the day I got to submit my 50K.  And what came of it?  I mean, do you see a novel around Amazon with my name on it?  (Yes, I do have a book on Amazon, but it’s not a novel.  It did come about indirectly because of what NaNoWriMo taught me, though).

So what did NaNoWriMo do for me?  I learned I could make up enough stuff every day to seriously write.  I learned this by setting my butt on my chair and my fingers on the computer keyboard every single day for a month to churn out at least 2000 words a day.  Yeah, I know — if you do the math, you “only” need to write 1666.66 words a day to get your 50K by the end of November.  But there are days when Life Happens.  Thanksgiving, here in the USA, for one thing.  And other real obligations that mean missing a day of writing now and again.  So I learned to write more than the minimum each day.  If, somewhere before the 30th of November I reached 50k, well, so much the better.

Along the way to 50k (hey, that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it), writing the required number of words every single day taught me to stop getting all caught up in writing the correct words, instead of  just writing words.  Because it’s writing words that gets the story out.

The need to churn out the 2000 words meant I dragged in all kinds of ideas that I might not have otherwise in order to make my daily quota.  Those ideas led to other ideas, and had my characters doing all sorts of interesting things that they might not have done if I had been wedded to writing correctly.

Because you can always come back and fix the writing.  But that takes precious time.  And besides, first you have to have something to fix.

A close corollary is that I learned that my words weren’t precious.   I had churned them out and when the time came to edit, well, hey.  I had proven to myself I could churn out more if I had to.  I don’t just delete, mind you.  Because my words are a teensy bit precious to me.  My darling words that get cut from my edits go into file folders for later use.  Not that I tend to ever bother looking at them, but I could if I wanted to.

It’s a comfort knowing they’re safely there.  It allows me to be more ruthless than I might be otherwise.  Believe me, ruthless is necessary, but not for NaNoWriMo.  For after November 30.

Counting down to November
So here I am, about to embark on my 14th NaNoWriMo.  I’ve reactivated my account for 2017.  Donated some money to the cause (not a requirement, but it’s a non-profit, and if/when I get my first novel out there, I’ll have gotten so much more out of NaNoWriMo than I have ever given them!)

I’ve given no thought whatsoever as to what I’ll write in a few weeks.  It doesn’t matter.  I’ll write.  For 30 days (well, 29 since Thanksgiving is happening no matter what) I’ll have the luxury of telling people, sorry.  I’m doing NaNoWriMo.  I can’t go anywhere.  I can’t do those things you’d like me to do.

I’m a writer.  I gotta write.