Sunday, August 28, 2016

Glad For Her

A couple of days ago I walked across the road from the house, walked up to the fence of a piece of private property, raised my camera and quickly snapped a few pictures of the deer grazing in the yard.
After taking a few distance pictures I walked along the fence line headed for the side of the home.
As I reached the corner I looked up ahead of me and saw this little guy.
Deer.  Rabbits.  Bambi.  Thumper.
As I have done so many times over the past few years I good naturedly wondered if I was living inside a Disney movie.
I stood five feet away from the rabbit, snapped a few pictures, watched him watching me and wondered when he was going to make a run for it.
Slowly I took one step, and watched in amusement as bunny scurried to the corner of the fence, turned left and disappeared.
I also continued to the corner of the fence, turned left and headed for the front door of the mobile home.
A man bought this piece of property in the spring and has spent a lot of time and effort on it ever since.
He is a widower.  A man who lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, and after listening to him talk about her a few times I know that he still misses her very much.
A good man who reminds me in some ways of LC.
A Vietnam Veteran.  A gun lover.  A man with a sharp sense of humor with people he likes and a complete disdain and distancing from those he does not.
His name is Gary and he walks across the road regularly and together he and LC sit on coolers in the garage, drink coffee and solve the worlds problems.
Once a week or so he comes over for dinner.
Gary bought this piece of land and the buildings that are on it.
The mobile home where he now lives needs work, and I have counseled him a couple of times to not question why previous owners did the stupid (and sometimes unsafe) things they did to the home.
We have run into the same thing quite a few times with our own house, and I have told LC the same thing.
Don't try to get inside the heads of stupid people.  
Just know and accept that when you work on anything in the house from the plumbing to the electrical to the aesthetic, that you will be opening a can of worms.
Over the past three years those cans have mostly been opened and dealt with one at a time.
The mobile home is a mess but fixable and certainly adequate for a single man.
The storage buildings are appreciated by him.
But mostly I love the piece of land.
The deer have eaten down plenty of the trees and shrubs (just as they have at our house), but his land is good land and the views of the desert and the Twin Buttes are beautiful.....................
It felt strange to be knocking on his door, because I have been over to his home only rarely.
When Gary answered the door it was obvious that he was surprised to see me, but said that I was welcome to go into the back yard to take pictures of the deer.
Trying to be friendly, he told me to just go into the yard anytime even if he was not home.
Smiling I thanked him and told him that I appreciated the offer, but no.
I would not go onto his land without first asking him and letting him know that I was there.
With that I smiled and said goodbye, walked through the side gate and slowly began to walk through the yard.
As I did I noticed Thumper running across the yard and also heading towards the deer.
Cute little guy.
If he ever wandered across the road into our yard Kory would chase him.
Every day.  
For weeks.  
Until eventually she caught him.
She always catches them.
 I stood watching him for a minute, consciously hoping that Thumper stayed in his own yard.....................
Moving slowly I closed the distance between the deer and me, snapping sporadic pictures as I went.
There were 7 or 8 grazing contentedly in this welcoming place.
A place where water was left out for them, just as it was left out for them in our own yard (courtesy of Korys' wading pool), and there was plenty to eat.
As I continued my slow walk they occasionally looked up from their grazing.
They knew I was there and were watchful, but not alarmed.......................
One young buck, a few does, and a couple of fawns.................
As I reached the shade of a tree I finally decided that I was close enough.
Crouching down close to the ground I began to snap endless pictures as they slowly grazed their way across the yard.
Beautiful things and it was peaceful to watch them...................
A couple of hours later I walked in town with Kory and the small and growing herd had moved on to the opposite side of town.
As my dog and I walked up and down one dirt and gravel road after another we eventually found them crossing over one of the roads.
Moving (as they freely do) from one yard to the next.................
A coupe MORE hours later LC, Kory and I hopped into the Suburban and drove to the back of town,
In the few minutes it took for us to load into the vehicle and reach our destination we almost missed the sunset.
It seems to happen that way here.
One minute I can see the sun beginning to set through the trees in the back yard, and the next minute it is over.
But I still managed to capture the fading pinks and purples of a desert and distant mountains, barely covered with the smoke of endless western wildfire..................
The other day I did something that I wished I had not done.
I found Jessica's Face Book page.
I don't hear from her anymore.  Don't get updates on her son and my grand son anymore.
I found a picture of him.
He is growing fast.  Looking more like his mother every day.
The last time I looked at Jessica's page was probably over a year ago, and there wasn't much on it presumably because of the security settings she had on her page.
This time there was much more.
Her.  Her son.
Seans' picture had been on her page last time but it is gone now.
She is in a relationship with someone and she sounds happy..................

Not long after Sean died I was on a hospital page in Nashville.
The same hospital that he had worked for.
They were looking for an Athletic Trainer.
Of course they were...................

His clothes are gone.  His truck was given to one of Jess's brothers.
I saw the pictures online when the house was put up for sale.
It was mostly empty but there were still a few things left in the house.  
You're supposed to do that when its on the market. 
So potential buyers can envision their own furniture in the home................

The matching maple china cabinet and pedestal table were still sitting in the dining room.
The ones I had bought a couple of years before Sean was born.
The ones I had given Sean and Jessica when they got married..............
On the dining room wall was a picture of a snow capped mountain reflected perfectly in a mirror-calm lake.
I had taken that picture in Juneau Alaska.
I loved that picture.
I loved that place.
I had the picture blown up and then had it professionally framed.
Had given it to Sean and Jessica as a Christmas present.
The last Christmas.
The last Christmas with him.
The last Christmas when I didn't have to fake it.......................

Jessica has moved on.
She's a young woman.
She's supposed to move on.
I'm glad for her.............................

 He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others--the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the mid afternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad..........Jonathan Safran Foer

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Shady, Cool, Private Place

Somebody flipped a switch.
At feels that way.
One day it was 94 degrees and the next it was 78.
One night it was 56 degrees and the next it was 44.
For the rest of the year it feels as though we just live in an isolated small town. 
 In the summer it feels as though we well and truly live in "the desert".
A desert filled with grasses and sage brush and lava rock, but a desert none-the-less.
I don't know if this current dry, sunny and cooler weather will prevail through the rest of the month, but for however long it lasts, I'll take it.
For a while after Kory and I were attacked by a vicious dog, I did not walk with her in town.  
Instead, we wandered in the desert.
And then I began to walk with her around our own end of town.
Now I have begun to wander through town again because...............because I can.
But I now stay armed at all times when I am out..................

A few evenings ago I walked with Kory in town.
It was late and the sun was beginning to set, and the cooler temperatures had not yet set in and so we made the walk a short one......................
One day last week I was standing outside in the back yard when a young fawn appeared from around the side of the building next door.
She was beautiful and old enough for spots to have disappeared and I stood very still so I could watch her without scaring her.
And then another fawn appeared.
And then the mother and they all lifted their heads to study me for a moment, before searching for something to graze on.
And then I smiled in surprise as one more fawn sprung from the side of the building.
I did not have my camera with me (I need to stop wandering anywhere without my camera) and instantly regretted it, as I have a few other times over the past months.
The momma deer and her three happy, healthy, dancing and prancing offspring grazed their way down the side of the road before disappearing around another corner.
I haven't seen them since, and hope that they wander across my path again soon.......................
A day later I wandered with Kory on BLM land not far from town.
Uninspired, overheated, being on BLM land simply out of a sense of obligation because I knew that my puppy wanted to wander, I abstractly watched as Kory happily chased a rabbit across the gravel trail.
Bunny dove under an old water tank.
I have no idea how long these huge tanks have silently rested in their current home.
Certainly more than three years.  
Unmoving day after week after month after year, through searing heat and feet of snow. 
But as I watched my dog run time and again around the old water tanks, I felt the sense of worry that I have felt a few times recently.
If the bunny could hide underneath the tank, and if Kory could shove her nose far into a space under the tank in search of her prey, just how stable were these tanks?
Could they move?  Could they roll?
I didn't know.
But after watching her for a few more moments I called to my dog, at first in an easy tone of voice and then quickly into a stern "I mean business" tone of voice.
Reluctantly she broke off the hunt and galloped in my direction.
I wanted her away from those tanks. If they rolled I could do nothing to help her..................
If Kory and I had stayed on this double track power-line trail it would have eventually ended at Big Butte Rd.
Still continuing to feel lost and uninspired, I slowly walked the trail.
All around me was the brown and dried grasses of a thirsty desert, and off in the distance were the mountains that had been mostly obscured by the smoke of wildfires for endless weeks..
Turning, I automatically searched for Kory.
In the whiteness of winter she had been easy to see.
Same with the lush green of spring.
Now?  Brown dog blended well with brown world.
After a few minutes I caught sight of her.  Nose stuck in a sage bush as usual.  Located in a direction different from where I had expected to find her.  Also as usual..................
Together we wandered about a mile until we reached a cross trail.
One more power line trail that headed out into the desert until it ended who-knows-where.
Continuing to be bored and restless and uninspired I stopped, turn to locate my dog, found her and then turned back towards the second power line trail.
It was early in the evening, very hot and the sun was still extremely bright.
As I looked to the west I absently moved to the right of one telephone pole and then to the left, watching the sun and trying to decide on which side of the pole to take a picture.
Who freakin' cared?
It didn't really matter, did it Karin?
No it didn't.
Without one moment more of consideration I lifted my camera and snapped this picture.
To the left..................
Stepping off the trail I had been following for a mile, I headed towards the next power pole.
Behind me was  the intersecting trail, but ahead of me was simply poles-in-the-desert....................
Picking my way through random desert I stepped carefully - mindful of the possibility of rattle snakes.
I had seen only one snake all summer and Sammy had not been a rattler.
What were the odds of us not running into a rattlesnake all summer, after spending so much time in the desert?
I had spoken to the Fish and Game kids, who had spent a couple of months in town continuing with a Sage Grouse study that began LAST summer.
These young college kids spent all day every day of their tenure in Atomic City wandering out on BLM land, and they reported seeing many rattle snakes during their travels.
I had only seen one snake the entire season and it was out in my driveway........................

As I was continuing towards the second power pole I surprisingly heard a howl to my left.
Immediately I stopped and turned in the direction of the howl.
There was a low rise to my left, I could see nothing on this side of the rise, and could not see what was on the back side of the rise.
For a minute I did not hear anything.
When I heard the howl again I was surprised at how loud it sounded.
It sounded much closer and again I scanned the area to my left trying to figure out exactly how many coyotes were out there and how close they were to me.
Again I could see nothing.
Turning I searched for Kory and when I saw her I realized that she was at a stand still hearing the same noise that I was hearing.
I was armed, which at that moment felt very comforting.
We were also a mile from the Suburban, which at that moment felt very disconcerting.
Calling to Kory she immediately came to me, and I felt gratified that the obvious fear she had displayed for coyotes last year was still in place.
She wanted nothing to do with them.
I straight lined back to the gravel double track trail and made haste back to the vehicle.
Thankfully my dog stayed close and followed me closely.
A good hike that was cut short by the sound of four legged desert dwellers....................
We've learned over the past couple of years that this breed of dogs loves to dig holes.
Kory loves to dig holes.
I stopped a few hole digging attempts early in the summer, but let her pick two places in the yard to freely dig.
One place is in the shade along the tree lined fenced in back of the yard behind the shed.
She can hide underneath the low hanging branches of an olive thorn tree, dig a little more dirt out of the hole each visit and hide in the shade of the trees, and she likes to do that.
 The other is her favorite, and our dog has effectively dug a small crater underneath the camper.
Every time she crawls under the camper dust flies and we know that she is digging a little more out of her hole so  that she has a cool place to lay.
This picture was taken this afternoon under the camper.
She loves it under there.
A shady, cool, private place for our dog.
There will be more warm days to come, but summer is close to being done..................

The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer................George R.R. Martin

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rhythm Of Walking

One day late last week I loaded Kory into the Suburban, rolled down the windows so she could put her head to the wind during our short trip, and headed out onto BLM land.
It was one more hot and sunny day and as we headed towards the outskirts of town I had no idea where I was headed.
I just needed to wander.  Just a little.  Because I was restless.  Just a little.
Turning onto Big Butte Rd I thought that I might just stop at Cedar Butte, but as I crossed over the tracks a few miles from town decided impulsively to pull into a flat rocky area just off the road.
There were large sections of lava field throughout this area, and on a hot and dry day it seemed like a fine time to explore a section that we had never seen before.
Predictably, by the time I pulled the Suburban off the road my pup was barking hysterically, knowing from past experience that we had arrived at our destination and that a run for her was now on the agenda.....................
Looking around me I took a few moments to decide in which direction I would go.
Back towards the tracks was a huge lava field - one that we had explored a couple of times in the past and one that would take a couple of hours to get through.
No.  Far too hot and just the THOUGHT of walking that extensive trail made me tired.
Right across the gravel road from me was a small lava field that did not look very interesting.
About half a mile further down Big Butte Rd was the huge, grassy parking area next to Cedar Butte.
Still indecisive I turned and scanned the brown landscape in search of my brown dog, found her, looked beyond her and realized that there was a natural trail that I had never noticed before.
Kory had found it and (taking one last look at the way I had parked the Suburban on the flat lava rock platform) I immediately headed off in her direction....................
On the hunt for rabbits....................
As I followed the natural trail that worked its way up and over a low rise, I looked to my left and saw the Twin Buttes.
I could not see it, but I knew that Atomic City sat in between them.
By road we were just over seven miles from town.
Even traveling across country I thought it must be just about the same distance.
The Twin Buttes to my left and Cedar Butte and Big Butte to my right provided me with easy navigation bearings.
It was impossible to get lost out there.
Such a difference from the vast, treed wilderness areas I had raced in for so many years back east.
Many times if you stepped 10 feet off the trail you could get lost.
But out here - in the vast emptiness of BLM land I had zero concerns about getting lost.
My biggest worries were getting a flat tire and rattle snakes.......................
I don't know what the real name of this plant is but locals refer to it as a "rabbit bush".
I had no idea why, but these bright yellow bushes are everywhere in the summer.
Generally growing low to the ground, I noticed them pushing up through cracks in the volcanic rock that surrounded me.
It was a welcome sight.
At this time of year everything was brown and beige and faded.
With no rain for the past couple of months nothing was growing anymore.
Desert grasses were stagnant.  Desert wild flowers were just a memory.
Nothing but brown.  And these bright yellow plants.
And one seemingly random bush filled with white, wispy flowers that reminded me very much of Queens Anne Lace back east......................
Holy Cow.
What a piece of junk pair of shoes.
I bought these from someone who had only worn them once, so in effect they were brand new.
Brand new Walmart hiking boots.
I bought them six months ago and almost immediately they started to fall apart.
Holes on the inside and outside of both boots, toes peeling away from the front of the boots, the suede upper fading - they got trashed almost immediately.
I don't remember the last time I bought such horrible footwear, but they're comfortable and I plan on wearing them through the rest of the summer........................
Rock (that was once lava and which cooled into waves that now lay across the Snake River Plain) were everywhere I looked.
 I was in the middle of one section of seemingly endless sections of lava rock fields out in the desert.
Watching where I stepped I kept one eye on the ground and one eye on my dog (who was having a wonderful time chasing rabbits all over the desert).
I smiled as I watched her.
Pleased that my dog was a happy dog.
And smiling because my big four-legged hunter was missing more rabbits than she was chasing.
It wasn't ALWAYS an advantage to be built low to the ground..........................
These holes can be found all over the desert....................
As Kory and I wandered further and further away from the Suburban, these holes in the ground became more frequent.
Some of the holes had long rocky overhangs that shaded caves.
All of them had ground that contained rich soil and lush plant life.
I snapped the picture above and then looked to my left.
What I saw surprised me so much that I stopped walking and just stared.
Scanning my surroundings I automatically located my dog.
Knowing that she was still close and safe, I walked over to the huge hole and silently regarded the rock and the unexpected growth.
There was one more huge pit in the ground.  Surrounded by the cracked and wavy rock that had cooled into tortured shapes eons ago.  Growing in and through and among the rocks were endless sage bushes and endless types of dried desert grasses.
But there was also something dark green.
Lush.  And dark green.
I looked at it as though it were some kind of space creature.  It didn't belong here.
Not among the dried, rugged, thirsty, faded, desert vegetation.
It was growing in large dark green patches around the entire pit.
Looking around me I tried to find another place where this vegetation grew.
I didn't see any anywhere else.
I was enthralled.  Surprised.  Completely curious.
There was no way to know what it was or how it came to be growing out in this desert.
And so I snapped a few pictures, excited about my unexpected find, and then continued on with my quiet adventure.....................
One more pit - this one with a lengthy overhang and caves hidden beneath the overhang.
I watched as Kory climbed down into the pit and tracked her way over to the overhang.
And then she disappeared inside the caves.
I called her name a couple of times without success and immediately began to climb my way down into the pit.
Deliberately dropping my voice down I called her name in a tone that I hoped told her that I meant business.
I had no idea what was inside those caves.  No idea what might be there to cause her damage.  And I had no desire to go in after her.
Thankfully my curious dog recognized the "Momma Means Business" tone of voice and she quickly reappeared.....................
Exploring every pit, every cave, every sage bush...........all in search of rabbits or any other creatures worthy of chasing.....................
Black and orange fungi - very common on rocks out in the desert...................
We were only gone for an hour, but after wandering around in the desert for a few miles it was good to see the Suburban again.
We'd both had a good time together but it was hot and Kory and I were both thirsty....................
As we closed in on our vehicle I turned to search for Kory as I had automatically done probably 50 times over the past hour.
Surprisingly she was very close, and seemed to be very focused on one bush.
While she continually dove in and out, and circled the bush I walked over to the Suburban and retrieved a bottle of water.
Unscrewing the cap I drank long, while watching in bemusement as my pup seemed intent on getting a hold of a little critter that must have been hiding in the bush.
Finally I called to her.
Resigned to the fact that she was not going to get Little Critter, Kory trotted over to me.
Easily she jumped up into the back seat of the Suburban, instantly searching me for the business end of the water bottle.
I had drank long, and she finished off the rest of the bottle.
Still thirsty I grabbed for a second water bottle, unscrewed the cap, and began to pour more water into my hand.
A few minutes later we pulled out from the rocks, crossed back over the rail road tracks and headed towards the house...........................
The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts.  This creates an odd consonance between
internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.  A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was
there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making......................Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking