Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sitting Under A Sunset

A small herd of deer spent the entire winter living in Atomic City.
Living under the trees and the bushes in the yards of town residents.
Roaming easily and comfortably from one yard to the next, grazing on whatever they could find or dig up through the snow or on whatever a resident accidentally dropped to the ground (that's my story and I am sticking to it).
Living safely and securely in this tiny and isolated town in the middle of nowhere and nothing.
Kory and I walked every silent, wintery day in town, never knowing exactly where we would find them but always excited when we finally did.
We loved to see them, silently grieved when one of them died, simply enjoyed the presence of them in this months-long frozen world.
And then one day early in the spring they simply disappeared.
All of them heavily pregnant, the beautiful herd wandered back into the desert without announcement or fan fare and we did not see them for months.
Until the other day.............

About a week ago I woke up early and went through the same first-thing-in-the-morning routine that I have gone through ever since we moved to this place.
I stumbled into the living room, opened the curtains, checked the temperature, moved into the kitchen and open the curtains, and then turned to the coffee pot.
As I was waiting for coffee left over from the night before to heat in the microwave, I absently looked out the kitchen window.
At first I wasn't sure what I was looking at, but as I moved closer to the window I realized that yes............there were deer partially hidden among the trees across the road.
They were grazing on the lush green grass and they were bright red.
After the pregnant bellies, the thick grey/brown fur of winter, the months-long disappearance, it was startling to see them again.
As quietly as they had disappeared, they had just as quietly returned.
I could not tell through the trees how many there were, but certainly a few.
As I heard the beep of the microwave I realized that I was pleased to see them but not ecstatic.
All the work we had done in the yard - the iris', the rose bushes, the annuals and perennials, the flowering bushes, the tomato and pepper plants in pots.
The flowers whose name I didn't know and the little trees whose type I didn't know (but which we had been nurturing through spring and summer).
Suddenly all of that growth (and all of that work) was in jeopardy.
The deer were beautiful, gentle, wonderful creatures, but boy could they devastate a yard....................

That same day LC and I put fencing around the little trees and the growing vegetable plants.
The rest?  We'd just have to cross fingers and hope for the best....................
I did not see them again for a couple of days.
And then I saw one running across yards in the back of town.
And then I saw three sitting in someone's yard.
And then I saw four in the same yard across the street from us.
How many are in town in total right now?
I have no idea.
No idea if I saw different deer or the same ones as they roamed from yard to yard.
It is what it is and they are beautiful, and we have fingers crossed that the lushness of town will keep them from devastating our yard for as long as possible....................
3 beautiful does................
And one shy little buck......................
A few days later (and with temperatures very hot and dry) I waited until late in the evening, loaded up my dog and drove only a mile into the desert before stopping in the middle of the trail and setting her free to roam.
She has two favorite places close to town that LC and I have nicknamed Rabbit Ridge and Bunny Holler.
With names like those it is not hard to understand why Kory loves these areas so much.
Oh my gosh it was hot.
We had retreated to the coolness of the house for most of the day.
By an hour before sunset I knew that it was time to wander just a little before it got dark.
 After springing Kory from the back of the Suburban I turned and looked back towards town.
Absently I wondered what the sunset would look like on this night, and after turning west towards the mountains to see how high the sun was in the sky, I instantly made the decision that we would hang around in the desert for an hour or so.
She would run and occasionally chase rabbits, and I would slowly walk the trail.
It was a beautiful night..................
There are holes all over the desert.
Signs of critters large and small that have burrowed themselves a home in the now-bone-dry soil.
As I slowly walked the gravel trail (keeping one eye on Kory and one eye on the rapidly descending sun) I stopped for a moment, surprised, and studied this hole
 It was huge.  By far the biggest and deepest hole I had seen in the almost three years we have lived here.
What the heck would live in a hole this big?
A badger maybe?
I had no idea.
But I had intention of getting any closer.
Whatever lived there was welcome to live in peace, away from woman and hopefully away from dog...............
Over the next 30 minutes I watched as the sky slowly began to change - transforming from the deep blue of a hot summer day, into the subtle pinks and lilacs and yellows of a still-warm summer evening.
There were no clouds for the sun to reflect off, and so there would be no magnificent sunset on this day.
 But it was a beautiful night none-the-less...............
It was getting dark very quickly.
Looking away from the setting sun, I scanned to darkening desert floor.
No sign of Kory.
I called to her and then called her again.
For the next five minutes I called continually to my dog and after straining my voice for a second time that day (the first time is another story for another day) instantly decided that I would not call her again.
When I reached the Suburban I beeped the horn continuously for a minute before climbing in and starting the engine.
A minute later my tired, overheated and thirsty pup came sprinting over the rise.
Hello Baby Girl.  Where did you GO?  Get in - it's time to go home
Kory happily jumped into the back of the Suburban.
After a few sips of water from my hand I climbed back into the vehicle, drove a big circle in the desert as I turned the Suburban around, and slowly drove back towards town.............................
Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under...........C. JoyBell C.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cleanest Dog In Atomic City

Summer is here.
More or less.
Two weeks ago temperatures rose to 90 degrees, and I was quickly reminded that we live in the desert.
Hot.  Dry.  Dusty.  
For a week we did whatever we needed to do outside early in the morning, retreated to the coolness of the house throughout the day, and made our reappearance again outside only late in the day.
Living as vampires.
It was too hot to be outside for long.
Too hot even to go to the lake since most of the lakes in the area have few trees along the shore and therefore little shade.
Too hot to bike.  Too hot to hike.  Too hot to mess with sprinklers for very long before blindly heading for the door leading back into the house.
So a week of heat.
And then a week of cold.
And now a week of searing and unrelenting heat again.
My least favorite time of year.........................

On one early evening day I gathered up my restless puppy, and restless puppy and restless momma headed out to Cedar Butte.
it was still hot even though it was almost 8pm and even though I was restless I knew as soon as I climbed out of the Suburban that I was bored and physically unambitious.
Restless but restless in that emotional way that I have far too often these days - that vague and ill-defined feeling of being lost.  The incongruent feeling that lazily drifts in the air like random circles of cigarette smoke in a tightly closed room.
It goes nowhere.  It never succeeds in fully morphing into recognizable form.  It just exists without really existing.
I watched as Kory leaped from the back seat immediately after I opened the truck door, and then smiled as my puppy gleefully took off in a fast run to nowhere.
After a couple of years of traveling through life together I knew that Kory would quickly slow down.
Right after the initial joy of freedom and acknowledgement of the ability to run anywhere she wanted to had run its course.
Kory still loves to run.
But she is a little slower this year than she was last year. 
Not much.  Just a little.
But after watching the speed and agility and boundless energy of the past couple of summers, even the slightest of slow down in her is jolting to me.   
As I watched her move from sprinting to investigating I looked beyond the huge open parking area and watched the cows grazing for a few moments on the opposite side of the dirt road.
As she headed in their direction I called to her, and Kory quickly turned and jogged back in my direction.
We would wander the trail for a while.....................      
As Kory ran up ahead of me I slowly walked the trail continuing to feel lost.
Roaming in search of..........what?
Before I had time to contemplate the introspective question that is always without answer I looked to my right and saw the large, bowed and buckled lava rock.
It was about 10ft x 6 ft and mostly flat except for the ripples that scrolled across the surface of it.
I had walked in this place many times over the past coupe of years and had never noticed it before.
Quickly I snapped this picture and then studied the unexpected rock for a moment, as always instantly transported back in my mind to a time when this desert was a hot, churning, violent, explosive place.
To the left of the trail were 100s of acres of lave rock fields, only some of which I had explored.
To the right of the trail this lava rock lay alone among the sage brush, the wild flowers, and the trees and hills of Cedar Butte.....................
By the time I reached Kory she was happily sitting in the grass chewing on something disgusting to me but wonderful to her, that she had found in her brief travels in the desert.
As I stood beside my pup I looked down at what she was carefully holding in her paws trying to figure out what she had found.
No idea.
Along her shoulder blade I saw that she had rolled in something.
One more disgusting thing that gave Kory so much pleasure and I continued walking, knowing that she was a happy puppy right now and would catch up with me quickly......................
A pair of very dusty boots that are quickly becoming more holes than boots.
They'll last me for the summer.
It was still too hot for my Norwegian blood and as I turned in search of my cowpile rolling-dead-critter-eating dog I looked towards the mountains of the Lost River Valley to the north.
The sky was watery and this late in the day the world was beginning to look faded.
But I had been housebound too much during this hot week so I was glad to be outside and alone with my dog.
On the spur of the moment I walked off trail and began to climb a low hill.
I don't go off trail too much this time of year because there are rattle snakes out in the desert.
But there were plenty of wide open areas to walk while climbing the hill and I wanted to take some pictures of wild flowers.
There were decorating the desert in large and small patches, as they had been for weeks now.....................
Every moment of running free, every critter to chase or chew on, every rock to explore, every sage bush to pee on is an adventure to this dog.
I like her very much.
The loving, giving, adventurous spirit of this dog pleases me very much..................
After carefully picking my way to the top of the low rise, taking pictures of wild flowers, looking over at Cedar Butte and the Lost River Range and the Twin Buttes, I circled around the small hill and made my way back down to the trail.
At this time of year I felt more comfortable on dirt trail.
Looking around I realized that Kory had disappeared.
For five minutes I called her name and then finally I could see her in the distance, trotting back in my direction.
As I stood watching her my distractable dog wandered off trail and I watched with dismay as she rolled in........something.........I had no idea what but hoped that it wasn't anything TOO disgusting.
A few minutes later she again picked up the trail and headed in my direction.
It was getting late.
Time to begin wandering back towards the Suburban...............
I had waited for her and as Kory finally reached me I looked down at her with instant dismay.
From the back of her head to her back legs she was completely covered in cow manure.
Well, now I knew what she had been rolling in back there.
I looked down at my beautiful dog with complete disgust, and she stood in front of me looking out over the world and obviously feeling very proud of herself.
We would walk slowly back to the Suburban.
Hopefully a lot of it would dry on her fur by then.
We kept the back seat down all the time so Kory had run of the entire back of the vehicle, and I already knew that she would stand up the entire trip home, wandering continually from one side of the back to the other - looking first out of one rolled down window and then the other.
It was what it was.
Kory was likely the cleanest dog in Atomic City with all the baths she had had recently.
On this night she would be having one more.........................
The desert takes our dreams away from us, and they don't always return.... Those who don't return become a part of the clouds, a part of the animals that hide in the ravines and of the water that comes from the earth. They become part of everything … They become the Soul of the World................PAULO COELHO, The Alchemist

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Slowly Regaining A Yard

When we first moved into our house, the place needed a lot of work.
It was a strong house.
A good house.
A house that no-one had cared about in a very long time.
If ever.
We moved into this house almost three years ago now.
It was structurally sound but ugly as home-made sin.
The outside was painted an ugy pale yellow and was peeling all over.
The gutters and trim around the windows were painted an ugly and industrial brown and (judging from the appearance of some of the other homes in town) was likely painted from supplies stolen from INL.
The inside was an aging cream color and the walls were all very dirty from years and more years of dust, grime and uncaring renters.
And the yard.
The yard.
When we first moved here the yard was beige and we were certain that the grass was all dead.
It was too hot here in the summer.
Too dry here.
The grass could not have possibly survived.
Or so we thought.
The yard was filled with sorry looking and thirsty bushes and endless pieces of metal that had been carelessly scattered wherever careless people chose to throw unwanted nuts, bolts, screws, and pieces of wire.
And broken glass.
Pieces of beer bottles mostly.
It has taken almost three years to finally regain the yard..................

So how many times did we walk back and forth with a large magnet on a string picking up endless coffee cans full of metal?
How many pieces of broken bottles have we picked off the ground?
We don't know and we lost count.
A lot.
And even after all this time we still find glass and still find nails that occasionally pop up through the ground.
I never understand people who can be so uncaring about what they have.
Even if we don't have much, what we have is ours and we care for it.
So I don't understand those who care so little..................

A small herd of deer spent the entire winter in town.
I loved seeing them.
And then one day in early spring they simply disappeared.
It had been probably four months since I last saw the deer, and then the other morning I opened the kitchen curtains and saw two adults grazing on the grass on the property across the street from us.
Somehow I wasn't ecstatic to see them.
In winter they are beautiful.
The silent, beautiful, gentle creatures that provide both me and Kory joy as we walk.  We don't see people through the winter very much and we like it that way, but it was always good to see THEM.
 But right now we have lilac bushes that are finally starting to recover from the ravishes of the deer over the years who seem to love the taste of lilac bushes very much.
We are growing some container vegetables - just peppers and tomatoes but they're all doing fine and maybe we'll even get a vegetable or two out of the deal.
Container flowers.
Small trees that we are trying to nurture.
Iris' all over the yard that are coming on strong.
Wild roses that unexpectedly presented themselves for the first time last spring and that we are trying to grow into something nice along the front fence.
And some other kind of growth that stays green all spring and then sometime in late summer magically turns into huge clusters of pink flowers..............

Yesterday we constructed protective metal cages around the vegetables.
And the small trees that have a lot of growing to do.
But the rest will be at the mercy of the deer and I guess we will have to see what they get through the summer and what will make it.
Since that first deer sighting a few days ago I've seen them a few times throughout town.
There are at least three floating around, and I understand now why residents of our tiny town truly have a love-hate relationship with them....................

Pictures of a couple of our lilac bushes.....................
Kory happily chewing on a deer leg in our back yard.
Most of the bones that she finds out on BLM land are old and sun bleached.
But occasionally she comes across part of an animal (usually a deer) that has not been dead for very long.
One day last summer she chased after a rabbit in the desert and disappeared over a rise.
I did not see her again for almost 30 minutes, but knew from experience that if I simply kept calling her name she would find her way back to me.
30 minutes after she had sprinted over a rise and disappeared from view, I saw a cloud of dust.
The cloud was moving in my direction and although I could not see my dog yet, I knew that it was her.
A few minutes later she came racing towards me and as she jumped over one sage bush after another in her effort to speed back to me I realized that she was also carrying something in her mouth.
Something big.
it was a deer leg (all the way from hip to hoof).
Out of breath she dropped the treasure at my feet and then collapsed on the ground.
She was very tired.
I squatted down beside her, talked to her, rubbed her ears and the top of her head, letting her know how proud of her I was.
After a few minutes I turned in the middle of the desert field and began to walk across country, heading for the trail on the outskirts of town.
She would want to bring her treasure home with her.
She always does.
My dog was so tired from the rabbit chasing, the deer leg finding, the sprint back to me, the leaps over sage bushes, that she had trouble carrying her new find, and continually dropped it onto the ground.
Eventually I picked the disgusting object up and carried it home for my dog.
THIS deer leg was more manageable, she proudly carried it all the way to the house, and spent the rest of the afternoon happily gnawing on it in the back yard...................
Some random pictures of the yard as it looked a few days ago....................
A couple of months ago - when spring was just beginning to find its way to SE Idaho - I went on a painting binge.
The grass was already beginning to get green again but the trees and bushes were all still mostly bare.
Suddenly and unexpectedly desperate for some color in the yard I drove to Blackfoot, picked up cans of red, white and blue paint and went to work.
I painted an old milk can in stars and stripes.
Painted a palette into an American flag.
Painted an old beat-up wheelbarrow that our neighbor had given us when we asked for it as she was throwing it away.  Red.  White.  Blue.
Same thing with an old oil funnel.
And painted this old post.
It wasn't originally intended to be a pole for mini flags but somehow developed into one anyway, and believe it or not it doesn't look quite as tacky in real life as it does in the picture.
I'll take better pictures of the patriotic things I made, when I get some time...............
Our back yard is basically in the shape of an E.
One arm of the E is still in rough shape.
The soil is terrible.  The grass grows in patches.  Both grass and flowers have trouble growing in this place, and it was the place with the least grading, and the most random pieces of metal.
It still needs work.  Quite a bit of work...................
There was supposed to be flowers in this thing by now, but they haven't made it yet and maybe they won't make it this summer at all.
We've got pansies all over the place in random containers, and with everything else we're trying to develop in the yard right now I look at this little wheelbarrow and think..............maybe next year...............

 It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside. ~Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Tib, 1941