Giving Thanks

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Newer leaves settle on top of old leaves in the clear untainted water.  A metaphor of sorts.

Home after a week of basking on the beach in Sedona, (well… not actually basking on the beach but slumped in a red rattan chair on the patio where I faced the sun and imagined hearing the surf slurp in and out in the distance) I give thanks.

Life can’t get any better. Last week we were with family and giving thanks to Dick and Dina Pohanish who host us and to everyone who had made the annual trip. We numbered 12 and entertained ourselves with hiking, movies, cards, books, and bocce.

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I was so grateful that our Denver daughters (husband, boyfriend, baby and dogs) had made it safely driving through the night. Prior to their arrival, I noticed that I had a big splotch of baby burp on the left shoulder of my black, down vest. I hesitated to remove it. What if (what is it with mothers who are prone to image the worst?) Laura, Miguel and Jackson died driving to Arizona? I imagined their hitting a bull elk, a herd of deer or falling asleep at the wheel. I vowed to keep the splotch. Should they have an accident, the baby burp (a love letter of sorts) would be my most cherish possession. I would save the burp until I knew that they were safe.

DSCN7778The words “memento mori” come to mind. I think of our daughter Sarah who has told me that she always keep our most recent voice mail or her phone… just in case. A talisman of sorts. Seneca wrote: “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day… the one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” 

DSCN7764Prior to leaving Westcliffe for our annual family reunion, I looked for an appropriate Thanksgiving poem to be read at the table. There was Ted Kooser’s poem, Applesauce; Joy Harjo’s poem, Perhaps the World Ends Here (at the table); and Adelaid Crapsey’s cinquain, November Night: Listen / With faint dry sound / Like steps of passing ghosts / The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees / And fall.

I love the Crapsey poem – the syllable count (2, 4, 6, 8, 2) and “frost-crisp’d” word choice. At only 4,000 feet elevation, Sedona’s fall follows that in Westcliffe. We lost our leaves early this year – nipped before their color-time by an early frost. But Sedona is still alive with color. The golden Sycamore trees glow in the sun. Everywhere you look, various colors shout their last hurrah. “Look at me,” they call. “I’m on my way out. You’ll miss DSCN7746me when I’m gone.” And we will miss them.

Driving down Verde Valley School Road to Red Rocks Crossing, we held our breath. Would our favorite site be over-run with tourists? But no, the locals were home watching football, and the tourists were out and about, but not at the crossing. We pretty much had the site to ourselves and what a sight it was.

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Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Well, not particularly cold at 27 degrees (seriously better than -5 degrees earlier in the week), but the humidity hangs Basset hound low, and it feels colder.

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A matter of scale: Westcliffe at the bottom left – dwarfed by the clouds and mountains.

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Bar Scott dropped by dressed for the weather.

Thus far, we’ve already had more snow than we had all last winter. Yippee! No one is complaining – the ranchers least of all. I am keeping warm with steaming pots of coffee, flannel-lined jeans, fleece-lined flannel shirts, and books about polar exploration. There is nothing like reading about shipwrecked whalers adrift in the Arctic, eating rancid walrus, drinking their own urine, and eating their deceased shipmates to make you realize that cold is relative, and you are warm.

DSCN7595I’m growing bulbs – Paper whites. They are small – nearly insignificant, but I thrill to  the sprouting green inside the house when gardening is months in the future. In the photo below, you’ll note the Mason jar?

It holds another warming note: prune vodka – not something that you can get at your local liquor store. It is a do-it-yourself drink. Using a clean jar, pack it full of dried prunes. When the jar is full, top it off with vodka. Like any fine brandy, it needs to mature. Five years is good. Ten years is better. Trust me, even if you don’t like prunes (haunted my childhood memories of your mother’s efforts to regulate your bowels?) you will love this drink. Ten years? I’ll be 85! Something to look forward to.

DSCN7606As I downsize my belongings, I find things that I had forgotten. One such item is a five-by-seven-foot tablecloth. It is cutwork. I don’t think anyone does cut-work today. It is an onerous task. As to what cutwork is: cutting both the warp and the weft threads, you have a “hole” in the material. To keep the hole from raveling, you blanket stitch the raw edge and fill the hole with a geometric design. To illustrate, see a portion of the tablecloth that I am repairing.

Keeping in mind that I can’t seem to make time to neither get my hair cut or make an appointment at the chiropractor’s,  you might rightly wonder why I am repairing this tablecloth – a task that will take far more time. I guess I’m thinking of my grandmother who passed the tablecloth on to me and Grandma’s mother-in-law who probably made it.

I remember my maternal grandmother opening her cedar chest and giving it to me. “Roll it,” she said. “Otherwise, if it is folded, the material will deteriorate along the fold lines.” Needless to say, 50 or 60 years ago I rolled it.

Grandma was an orphan who grew up in the Shriner’s New York City Orphanage,  so I’m thinking that she got the tablecloth from her mother-in-law, a widow who supported her two sons by sewing bound-buttonholes in men’s coats. (The enormity of this task will only be apparent to anyone who has made a bound-button hole.)

My repairs are a bit slap-dash. Only a museum curator of textiles would spend the time mending the repairs to the standard set by the original handiwork. In my case, it’s a salvage operation. I’ll carefully hand wash the repaired tablecloth, starch the heck out of it, and save it for a special occasion. And no! Don’t even think of drinking red wine at the table draped with this cloth!

I have a fair number of heritage textiles. Who were these women who had the time and patience for needlework? They didn’t have cars, of course. Nor did they have Netflix. Even so…

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He kept me company all day!

 

 

 

 

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Another Five-Minute Rain

I’d like to say that Southeastern Colorado was ‘in the clover,’ but we are having no such luck. The drought continues and the weather god is inconsistent. Worse than inconsistent – he’s a tease. Every day the clouds darken, and the rain eases down the Sangres. Close and closer. Everyone holds his breath

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until we’re blue in the face. Some pray. Others consider stripping down to their skivvies and running down Main Street. Occasionally, it does rain! Yippee!

DSCN7225We have only two choices: either we have a flash flood or a kiss-and-a-promise: five minutes later, the rain ceases. Someone turns off the tap. That is not nice. To tease us while you, the rain god, snicker.

 

The creeks are a mere trickle; the irrigation ditches are dry; and the cows are grazing fields that are typically saved for cutting and winter fodder. The ranchers will be buying hay this year – and for you, the price of beef will go up. It’s time for you to pull up that recipe for black bean and mushroom hamburgers.

Locals know Centennial Ranch south on Hwy 69. We have 180 acres on Promontory Divide – right on the Huerfano County line. The view is to die for. On a clear day (you can start humming now) you can see all the way to the Chalk Cliffs between Salida and Buena Vista. My husband and I were there yesterday, and I took this photo.

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Between the pending rain and haze from California fires, the visibility was poor. I could have Photo-shopped the picture to make the landscape greener, but leaving it faded as-is, speaks volumes. The pond is dry. Both windmills are disconnected, but the blades turn in the breeze. I hum a C-Major scale to determine the note. It is C above middle-C. The note matches my breath. In – a C; Out – a C. The music is restful / hypnotic.

Thinking of the inconsistent weather god, I flash to a cascading syllable poem that I wrote for Shavano Poets this past week.

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NATURE’S WAY”

I watch our Border Collie sleeping sound. / His eyelids flicker as he runs through / a dreamscape of lush wet Switchgrass. / Last night’s downpour has heightened / the rabbit’s scent. Nearing / his prey, Oogie prays / to his godhead. / “Speed me on. / Help me. / Please!” / The / rabbit / also prays. / She prays for luck. / Is the rabbit’s god / listening, or are the dog / and the rabbit praying / to the self-same deaf deity / whose head in the clouds is masking life / and strife here in the Garden of Eden?

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If it doesn’t rain, it pours. Briefly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If Only Our Love of Animals…

DSCN7182I write from Copper Mountain, north of Leadville and west of Vail. Like a lot of Colorado and the Southeastern Colorado, Copper is in the midst of what seems to be an endless drought. Beetle-kill trees tell the tale. As did this past Saturday’s Summit County newspaper. The news was not “above the fold” but in the reader’s face.

In fine print, above “Let it Rain,” the  paper reports that “Experts call for heavy moisture accumulation over the next three months.” We can hope. Saturday evening we had a short and furious micro-burst lasting maybe six minutes, but that was it.

DSCN7194We were in Copper for my husband’s 29th consecutive, Courage Classic – a fundraiser for Children’s Hospital Denver. At this point he is the eldest rider who has been riding since the founding. You would think that Mark would hang up his laurel wreath and call it quits, but I don’t think that will happen. I think he has every intention of dying with his boots on.

The Courage Classic is more than a cycling tour and the money raised by the 2,000 riders is not to be sneezed at. This year’s goal is $2,800,000 and to this point, they have met 95% of their target. Well Done!

Some years ago I remember reading and hearing and painfully lamenting when we heard that a whale had swum up the Thames River and was stranded. Non-stop TV coverage kept us up-to-date with the whale’s health status and attempts to rescue the animal. At the time, I was struck by how our hearts go out to animals at a pace that far outstrips our sympathy for mankind.

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A therapy dog at Children’s Hospital

Humanitarian crises abound. Close your eyes and twirl the globe. Point and wherever your finger lands, you can find war, rape, starvation and/or a refugee crisis. And yet… unless we are intimately involved, we remain at a safe emotional distance. But give us story of a wounded animal, and we have an instantaneous emotional response. I often think that the animal-to-man connection is more pure than the man-to-man connection.

A good number of young adults and children who have been treated at Children’s Hospital participate in the tour. Some current and former patients stand by and cheer on the riders; others ride on their own or on a tandem or in a come-along behind a bike.

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Diapered with loss of hind legs and yet… what a lover!

Annually a number of handicapped animals come for the tour. They come in baby carriages and on wheeled contraptions strapped to their torsos. Despite their injuries (bandaged and out of sight) adults and children cannot get close enough.

Watching humans pet and talk to these animals is heartbreaking. Watching, you cannot deny the honest connection. I’m left wondering about transference: if those who are so moved by the animal connection have greater compassion for those children who may live or die in treatment at Children’s.

If only our love of animals could bridge the Great Divide.

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Take Courage

Last week’s car show was too cool. I saw several cars for sale and tried to find six friends to buy in on a cooperative share.. As the person contributing the least amount, I volunteered to own the car exclusively on Tuesdays, but I had no takers.

What I really want is a car with a rumble seat. During the war years (No, no! Not the Viet Nam War!) my father was in the Army and my mother didn’t drive, so we relied on my Uncle Don (a movie-star-handsome, Navy sailor) to drive us, and I sat like royalty in the rumble seat. I was too young to know about and approximate the palm-toward-face Queen’s wave, but I was pleased as punch to ride in my imaginary chariot.

DSCN7053Most of the cars were too flashy – the equivalent of an older woman wearing Spanx and stilettos, but a couple of vehicles stood out – not so much for the cars themselves, but the staging. I loved the truck with the living, breathing, Betty Grable pin-up. I didn’t get her name, but sitting ramrod straight, she drew her shoulders back and arched her neck just right. Her smile could have melted any man over four years of age. She was wholesome, but… provocative in a 1950’s way. Every man’s dream.

One look and you knew that she was as good in the bedroom as well as the kitchen.

My favorite vehicles came with a history. I particularly liked Steve Bribach’s unrestored 1936 Chevy, owned by his grandfather, proprietor of Master Hand Garage in Boulder.

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Enough about cars.

IMG_0018 (1)My husband Mark rides the Triple Bypass this weekend (120 miles and three mountain passes to total a climb of 11,000 feet) and the weekend of the 21st, he returns to Copper Mountain for his 29th consecutive Courage Classic, a fund-raiser for Children’s Hospital Denver.

This is a blog, not a Tweet, so you may have read too fast to catch the words ‘fund-raiser.’ Typically, I never aske for money, but this money goes to Children’s Hospital, and it’s hard to say no to children who are in pain or at death’s door. To donate please use this link to Mark’s donation web page:

http://support.childrenscoloradofoundation.org/site/TR/CourageClassic/General?px=1051456&pg=personal&fr_id=1550.

Mark rides. I road-marshal. I keep my distance on most rides, but I am happy to volunteer on the Courage Classic. In addition to the riders who train and are fit, the Courage Classic attracts an assortment of casual (ride to the post office) riders whose lives have been touched by the hospital’s care of a child who is or was close to them.

Watching these Act-of-Love riders struggle and sweat grinding up the next hill at a snail’s pace is inspiring. And humbling. It is so easy to look at these relatives and neighbors (sometimes riding with a child who is currently undergoing treatment) and think “There but for the Grace of God, go I.”

Annually, Children’s Hospital holds a prom for 2017 07 childrens-hospital-promthe teens who are in treatment. For whatever reason… maybe because these teens have made it through the scraped knees of childhood, and they are now on the cusp of adulthood, I catch my breath. The photo below is courtesy of Children’s Hospital. The photo isn’t mine, but it speaks to me.

If your budget allows, please contribute to the cause.

 

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“Oh Say Can You See?”

The place was the Community United Methodist Church at the corner of Sixth and Rosita in Westcliffe. The occasion was their annual yard sale. The year was… a long time ago.

The lawn surrounding the modest, white church was packed with stuff. (One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.) Always in search of treasure myself, I was on the hunt. Not that I had a gun, but it is always a thrill to bag the biggest bang for my buck.

In search of a bargain, I looked through gently worn clothing, plants, plates, tools, and sporting goods. Amongst the books, I found a faded, American flag.

Opening the flag, I was shocked to see that it was a 48-star, casket flag. The name inked on the back was SCHMITZ.

I am most certainly not a flag waver, but I was touched. What family would discard a loved one’s casket flag to lie between used mattress pads, potted plants, worn-once waders, and a wonky garden gate?

And the veteran who died? Did he die in service to his country, by misadventure, or by natural causes? If he had died in service, would his family been more inclined to keep the flag?

DSCN2830No matter. I didn’t need to know. I took the flag home. I would hang it vertically between the pillars of our front porch.  On the back of the binding, I wrote a reminder: Hang so the blue is to the observer’s left.

For years it flew every Memorial Day and 4th of July. For me, flying the flag was less about flag-and-country and more about remembering the man (maybe it was a woman) who died.

I also felt some antipathy towards the family that had discarded the flag. To some degree, I was flying the flag in their face. With each breeze and swelling of the flag, the flag and I were saying, “Shame on you!”

With the approach of this year’s Memorial Day, I took a good look at the flag. It was looking very sad – tissue paper thin – I could have read the paper through it. But I wasn’t willing to give up on the flag. So I gave the flag a gentle, cold water, hand wash hoping to brighten the faded stripes – the red (now pink) and the once white (now aged ivory).

Oh woe is me! Washing dissolved the years of dust – dust that had held the flag intact. What to do?

Given today’s political climate and our isolating island of arrogance , I am not feeling very patriotic. Blind support of flag waving makes my heart harden. And as I write this, I remember one of Gerald Scarfe’s political cartoons that I photographed in London last February.

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At best, I am ambivalent about the flag… And yet… I have this emotional attachment to the deceased who deserves to be honored.

DSCN6975I decided to try mending the flag. If I could save it, maybe it could fly one more year. I repaired the frayed edges and ironed sheerweight Pellon on the back of the stars that were worse for wear.

Not bad! From a distance, driving down Second Street, no one will see the repairs on the back. I’m hanging the flag today, and it will fly this year. Maybe next year.

At some point, I’ll pass the flag on to the American Legion or the VFW. They will put the flag to-rest, and knowing that I remembered the forgotten vet, I can rest easy also.

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As for militant flag waving, not to be confused with honoring the flag itself, I can’t look. As the Fourth of July parade approaches, I want to crawl in bed. I cannot bear to watch children marching (some march / others skip) down Main Street. My heart breaks.

It is hard to maintain any sense of innocence. If you are going to wave a flag, do me a favor: wear orange framed sunglasses, a Star War’s headband, and carry your Teddy bear.

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As the World Turns

 

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Jackson Alexander Jimenez –  born to Laura and Miguel, May 4, 2018

There’s nothing like the birth of a baby to take you back in time. A week ago I returned home from Denver where I witnessed our grandson’s transition from the cozy but cramped womb to the harsh environment of life on the outside.

Trying to approximate the closed, warm water womb, we substituted a flannel receiving blanket for a tortilla and bound Jackson in a burrito wrap.

DSCN6937 (1)Only Jackson’s face was visible. His dark, unfocused eyes oved left, right, and up to his hairline – so much so that his pupils disappeared and only the whites of his eyes were visible.

At feeding time, he opened his mouth… exactly like a baby bird’s. Had he let out a ‘cheep-cheep,’ I would not have been surprised.

Mouth open, he looked for nourishment. He wanted to nurse NOW! He worked one hand free of his wrap, and with fingers splayed he sought his mouth.

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First, his whole fist make its way to his open mouth. Then he found the knuckle of this thumb, then his index finger, then the knuckle of his middle finger, and finally, Yippee! Jackson had found his thumb!

His thumb was disappointing in that it had no milk, but I was filled with wonder watching him try this and then try that. To enter the world with so many survival skills!

With his thumb in his mouth, his right index finger in his right eye, and his middle finger in his left eye, I envisioned an octopus – sucking at Jackson’s face. If I had only had my camera within reach. As it was, I was trapped beneath his body.

Life is good. It can’t get any better.

I have to wonder why holding our newest baby seems so memorable. I have, after all, had some experience with my own three children and an additional two grandchildren. What is it about this baby that seems so precious and awe inspiring?

I think that time, Father Time (that hunched and bearded guy with the scythe) holds me close in his clammy hands. Too many of my friends have passed or are fading. I’m on my way out.

In 2002, when Laura was in her senior year at Gunnison University, she caught my mother sleeping  and took a photo of  Mom and the cat sleeping. I’ve always liked that picture, so when I was in Denver, I asked Laura to take a similar, family lineage photo with me with the baby. Those two family photos are below.

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Life is transitory. Life and good health are not eternal. We live and we die. A new birth takes the edge of death.

We have just lost our second clutch of baby Robins. Not exactly lost, but the fledglings have tumbled or have been kicked out of their nest in the rafters of the carport.

I saw them on the ground – tentatively trying their legs. They had yet to realize that those appendages at either side of their body were wings, and if they flapped them up and down, they could be airborne.

Watching the birds make their way to cover, I thought of Jackson’s hit and miss search for his thumb. Likewise with the baby birds: they will discover their wings, make use of them, and next year maybe one of them will make it back to nest and lay eggs in the shelter of our carport.

And the beat goes on.

 

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Crownhill Cemetery, Wheatridge C)

 

 

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