Monday, March 1, 2021

Crows

It is hard to realize just how large crows are until you are within a few feet of them.  They are far larger than chickens and much more intelligent.  I love hearing them, though theirs is not a musical calling.  Documentaries proving their amazing intelligence impress me.  I realized long ago that I had never seen a dead crow on the road.  They are smart to fly away from the traffic.  It warmed my heart to read a scientific article explaining their family groups and their social lives - that the young adults stay with their parents to help raise the youngsters for a year or two.   

I was in a MacDonald's parking lot enjoying my senior coffee (75 cents, thank you so much) when a small flock of crows landed in the parking space next to me.  I scrounged to find some treat for them.  I carry a baggie of dog food for instant reward for good puppy behavior but there were only a few pieces left.  I scattered the kibble out the window and, though they were all quick to try for a piece, there was no squabbling or fighting.  I wished I had more so they each could have had some.  

One of the crows had a broken leg permanently turned all the way inward.  The crow seemed comfortable and capable despite this awful handicap.  Another was missing most of its beak.  How in the world did that happen, I wondered.  I was shocked to see the rough condition of the little flock.  I suppose city crows run afoul of humans and their unnatural technology all the time.  Maybe, because they live in extended familial groups, injured members can survive at a higher rate than other birds who do not live in such groups. 

There are many crows in Manhattan, Kansas.  I see them everywhere diligently searching for food.  How can birds their size possibly find enough to eat in the winter months?  It is a mystery to me.   

The wild crows that visit my property never come into the yard, even though it is several acres.  They fly over my house and they visit along the creek.  I hear them above the pasture, but they are never close enough for me to see if they have damaged members in their flock.  I would love to feed them but I think they are better off making their own living far away from human beings.  

Photo: Paul Powers/Great Backyard Bird Count
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/american-crow


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Fixin' to Get Ready

I celebrated another birthday last month.  It is not a big (or even a little) deal at my age.  Still, I always recall the birthday cakes my mother made for me.  One year it was a pink birthday cake decorated with a ballerina, and the gift of a pink chenille bedspread with a ballerina on it, too.  (This may have been inspired by an entirely unexpected, out-of-character but deadly serious imitation of a prima ballerina pirouetting through the living room for the benefit of my Aunt Mary.) 

Another birthday is always a good time to stop for a minute and take stock.  I paused long enough to consider I am old and living in a state filled with assholes who refuse to take the covid virus seriously or even wear a mask.  ('Murica!)  I am very careful but it is possible that despite my best precautions, that virus, carried by red necked, gun-totin', truck drivin', maskless "patriots", could be my abrupt and unexpected end.  (I would sure hate it if the worst of red state Kansas finally got the best of me!  I have been resisting them my entire life.) 

After a brief search regarding a tiny local cemetery, I discovered some of my neighbors are the trustees.  So, on the last day of 2020, I chose my final resting place a few miles from my house.  I already have the deed!  So, unless something improbable happens and I end up living in a cliffside cabin facing the mighty Pacific, I will most likely spend the rest of my days in good ol' Kansas, my ashes returned to the soil that once belonged to the old buffalo hunters.  I have a Native American name and was told that when the time comes, they will see me coming and joyously welcome me to their fire.  That is good enough for me.  

In a few days I will be signing all the paperwork of my last will and testament.  It is remarkably simple.  As I read through it, I thought attorneys are the best snake oil salesmen to ever arise from the evil dust of this old earth.  A score of  pages to say my kids split everything 50/50 and whatever they decide is fine.  Whatever.  It feels good to have most of the big issues settled, and I did learn a few things.  While you are alive, you can title a paid-off car to anyone you choose.  At your demise, it automatically becomes the designated person's property with zero fuss.  

I do not have a sense of foreboding or doom, or feel that the end might be near.  Rather I just feel I should get things lined out and be done with it.  On a typical bright and windy Kansas day, I selected my cemetery plot.  It was the last day of 2020.  When I woke up in 2021, I felt like a real adult.  


My probable view of eternity.  When I found this photo, I had already titled it "The Way Home".  Cool.

 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Grave Mistakes

Spending almost all my time alone due to the pandemic allows me to reflect deeply on my ordinary life.  A pitfall of not interacting in-person with others is that, as a human being, I begin to assume that I must be the brightest, most intelligent person - EVER!  Fortunately, some natural law of equilibrium continues to operate on the ego, even in the pandemic isolation.  The world has its ways to assure that no human becomes so self-aggrandizing as to ever again attempt a tower of Babel.

After years of various desperate struggles to make certain my horses have enough water in the winter, I finally landed on a brilliant idea of a corral between the barn and house.  It would be a permanent structure that would allow the horses to come down to a water tank within about 50 feet from a water faucet and electrical outlets. I would only need a 50 foot garden hose - not 350 feet.  I was so proud of this solution.  

I thought the horses would simply wear a path through the tall grass that grew between the barn and yard.  And that might have happened if the first winter had not been nothing but mud - all winter long.  And if the second winter had not been nothing but mud - all winter long.  The horses have almost entirely obliterated all vegetation in a wide swath.  It took an enormous effort to get that ground planted back to prairie so I grieve the loss of all that beautiful big bluestem.  It also meant that I have to slog through slippery and deep mud all the way from the gate to the barn where the hay is.  I hate it.

I also knew that rain run-off naturally drained from the pasture in the long low point running between the house and the barn.  But when the sun was shining and the ground handily covered in restored thick, vibrant prairie, I arrogantly proclaimed:  "Place the royal fence here, along the lowest level of drainage!"  Well, actually, I wanted the fence closer to the house but the fence guy moved it to the low spot.  Both of us are goddamned geniuses!  If the fence had been moved just 6 feet further uphill, during the winters, the grass of the yard would have covered that long drainage slough.  There would still be bare ground on the other side but not standing water and deep mud that sucks the boots off my feet.  

The denuded hill is also an eyesore this close to the house.  I think one solution will be to fence the horses out of it from spring to fall this year and give the vegetation a chance to recover.  It will mean more garden hose but in warm weather that is not a problem.  We will see.

In the cold dark days of January, 2020, I was perusing the website of the breeder where I got Mattie, my German Shepherd.  I had two dogs then:  Mattie and Jake.  By the summer of 2020, I would have had knee surgery and have a new lease on life by the time my name came up on the list for a puppy.  (The breeder has a long, long waiting list for puppies.)

Living with three dogs was possible.  I live on almost 30 acres.  My neighbor has 4 dogs at any given time. She is roughly my age and they haven't turned on her like ravening wolves yet!  Wouldn't another adorable German Shepherd puppy, just like my Good Dog Mattie, be wonderful?  In the cold, windy, late-winter night, I succumbed to the siren call of puppies, filling out a contract and sending a sizable non-refundable deposit for a sister to Mattie.

Then came the pandemic making elective surgery out of the question for me.  I am too old to chance getting covid 19.  I had almost forgotten about the puppy until I received a call late in November that I had first choice of the females in the litter.  Oh.  Oh, I say!  It was not a good time for a puppy.  I probably should have passed and opted for a later litter but it was awfully late to do that to the breeder.  But, my poor ol' Jake had passed away during the summer.  In keeping with his life of misfortune and injury, one of the horses stepped on his foot crushing the bones.  The vet kept him and tried to gently heal his foot without expensive surgery.  While in the veterinarian hospital, Jake unexpectedly died.  Even though my grief for Jake was still fresh, the idea of a puppy did not seem outrageous right then.  So, enter Miss Kenzie.

Yes, it was a brilliant idea for a crippled old woman to get an energetic German Shepherd puppy late in the year!  Mattie was easily kennel trained but Kenzie is STILL not house trained.  She had no problem soiling her kennel day one, so the effective aid a kennel can be in house training was rendered useless on the first day.  In addition to these difficulties, I suffered through an extended period of time when the "misery was upon me".  I do not know what causes this illness.  I do not run a fever nor have a head or stomach ache.  I simply feel terrible and need to stay in bed.  It is all I can do to force myself to look after my horses when this hits me.  I have learned to manage this suffering with scalding hot baths and long naps until it passes.  With a puppy those long naps were out of the question.  Getting up three or four times a night almost killed me.  Literally.  I was not depressed but during the worst of constantly cleaning up both puppy and kennel, I thought if I die right now, I will not be mad.

It is in the contract that if for any reason I no longer wanted the puppy, I was to return her to the breeder.  I seriously considered this option.  But, I would be playing with Kenzie, teaching her new tricks, and watching her blast around on those impossibly big paws.  Her comically enormous ears deployed, making her look like a fruit bat, and knew I could not give her up.  She is so smart!  She knows these commands already:  sit, down, look at me, touch nice (instead of snapping food out of my hands) place, heel, and is learning wait and stay.  I know that my inability to get around quickly enough has impeded the house breaking.

So, right now my beautiful wood floors are covered in muddy paw prints from both dogs.  I have to keep one outside and one inside because as soon as they are in the house together, they thunder through the small rooms, knocking stuff over or down.  The only safe way for both of them to be in the house together is for Kenzie to be in the kennel.  How awful it is going to be when Kenzie is full grown?  Mattie weighed 6 pounds when I brought her home at 8 weeks - over three years later, she weighs 75.  Kenzie weighed 13 and 1/2 at 8 weeks!  Her paws are as big as the palms of my hands.  She is going to be much larger than Mattie when full grown.  Mattie by herself is quiet, obedient, careful in the house.  Kenzie is not.  So, looking into the near future, I see a fenced yard of some nature.  I hate to fence in my house.  I love the wide open spaces.  But two German Shepherds who look exactly like black wolves running loose is a bad thing in cattle country.

Stupid old woman! Not smart at all.  If I had discussed the corral idea with a smart person - someone at least incrementally smarter than either myself or the fence guy, I might not be slogging through 6" deep mud and cussing myself blue in the face day and night on the way to and from the barn!

If I had the benefit of serious adult feedback, I may have avoided the overpowering allure of a puppy at this time in my life!

On the other hand... I have never taken anyone else's advice on something once I have made up my mind.  I just pay the price for being stupidly stubborn. 

With such large ears, you would think they could locate without turning their head.  First left...

Then far right, for good measure!

Kenzie "placing" on the towel.  She does this without a towel, in the car, even outside...for a minute!

3 months and 2 weeks old today.  Look at the size of those paws!



Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Fabulous Year 2020

Who would have guessed a year with such a fabulous numeric designation as 2020 would have been such a barn burner?  Double twenties - even numbers - pleasing to the eye and reduces to the sacred number 4! Also, it is the year of pause, just before a new decade. 

This has been such a hard year for so many of my family and friends.  It has been a very difficult year for the entire world.  I admit I have not sought out news of countries in Africa, or smaller countries across the globe, the ones I likely cannot find on a map.  I assume they might be doing a bit better than the United States because they are not populated by a huge demographic of selfish assholes, but maybe not!  Americans certainly do not have the corner on assholiness.  But, if I had to guess, we are in the majority in that category.  The world continues to turn, and life goes on, despite everything good and bad and all in between.  It always does.

My son contracted the corona virus just before Christmas.  He is over the worst of it but continues to have chest pains.  His sister took an oxygen meter to him and his oxygen levels are 98%, so that is good, I think.  He experienced a lot of muscle aches and pains.  I know many people prayed for him, and I am so deeply grateful.  Thank you, each and every one of you.  I pray for my children all the time but when something awful happens to them, I cannot seem to focus to pray for them.  Friends and family take up my slack in that department.  I will be even more mindful when people ask for prayers for their loved ones going forward.

My son and his big dog, Primo, are doing well in the big city, living in the ultra-modern apartment with a kitchen I would die for!  They have an enormous wall of windows facing north and a wonderful large balcony.  He is living the kind of life I only dreamt of when I was his age!  I am proud of my son.  He graduated the University of Kansas and later earned a MBA.  He is doing well for himself.

Jake my poor, long suffering crippled dog met with yet another major misfortune this year when one of the horses stepped on his foot, crushing the bones.  In an effort to avoid expensive surgery, the vet looked after him, keeping the bandages changed and confined to a small space.  One of the young veterinarian aides there took a personal liking to Jake and offered him a lot of love and attention.  While there, Jake died unexpectedly of natural causes.  I miss him on the way to the barn every day and miss his particularly outrageous howling when the coyotes sing as they travel past the house in the creek.  Mattie still looks for him.  He has been set free of being crippled in three of his four legs, hopefully chasing rabbits in dog heaven now.  (I hope that doesn't mean dog heaven is rabbit hell?)  Farewell, Jakie.  Godspeed.

So... back in January of 2020, I thought it would be a splendid idea to have three dogs!  Yes.  It was pre-pandemic psychosis!  I sent a non-refundable deposit for another German Shepherd puppy, hoping for a full sister to Mattie.  At the time of the fateful check-writing incident, my rationale was this: almost 2 years to get Mattie after sending a deposit.  My new knees would be healed by the time the new puppy arrived.  I would greatly enjoy a puppy, especially since I would be home all the time to take care of her.  

Well, well, well... things do not always work out as you expect them to work out.  First, the pandemic put the kibosh on knee surgery.  Secondly, the wait time was significantly shorter for this puppy - almost 14 months shorter! So, into the void left by Jake, a bratty little half-sister to Mattie is destroying my life!  Mattie is a very smart dog, but little Kenzie is even faster at learning.  Mattie is civilized, dainty, quiet and obedient (at least in the house).  Kenzie is loud and NEVER shuts up.  She learns at lightning speed but really does not give a rat's ass what I want.  I am NOT the boss of Kenzie who has tendencies remarkably akin to a certain snotty little red Quarter Horse mare I know very well.  Three alpha females trying to run things at the farm - what could go wrong?  I am at a terrible disadvantage with very, very, very bad knees.  Wish me luck.

This year my daughter made a major life shift from cats to a dog.  Amidst the pandemic pressures, she purchased a red heeler puppy.  She named him Dingo.  He is a very smart little fellow but heelers are serious dogs.  They are working dogs and do not have time for anything unless it is serious business.  I call him the sheriff.  He is always on duty, protecting my daughter but also presenting several difficult behaviors that challenge her.  I must say that my daughter has risen to the occasion.  Dingo is a sturdy, fearless, athletic hiking partner.  Another year and he will be a consistently well behaved dog.  I can only hope that Kenzie turns out as well!  

My daughter moved to Lawrence and is in the midst of earning another Master's degree at the University of Kansas.  She has also completed training for three alternative emotional healing methodologies in the last two years.  She will soon graduate the Cultivating Emotional Balance training developed at the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. The emotional balance research project arose from a dialogue between biobehavioral scientists and the Dalai Lama and Buddhist monks and scholars.  After my daughter graduates with the second Masters, she will be working with people, teaching them to heal themselves.  I am proud of my daughter.  

Wally the white horse and Ginger the red horse are doing well.  Wally puts up with Ginger's bossiness and sometimes I wish he would just kick the snot right out of her, but he never does.  He loves her.  I love her.  We both know the easiest way to get through life is to let Ginger have her way in matters of treats, food and water.  We all get along very well, thank you. (If horses are Supreme Beings, Ginger is the most supreme of them all.)

It is quiet down on the farm.  All around me the world is going to hell in a handbasket it seems, but right this minute, the Supreme Beings are leisurely eating their hay in the warm sunlight.  The two German Shepherds are sleeping, one at my feet and one in her kennel inches away.  I am drinking my well-earned morning tea and watching the birds at the feeder.  It is dry and dusty in Wabaunsee County but rain is on the way, expected by next Tuesday - maybe as much as two inches.  That means I'll be slogging through deep mud to feed the horses but we certainly need the rain, so I'll try not to cuss too loudly.

I am sorry for people who lost beloved family members and/or friends this year.  I am sorry for those people who are struggling financially and for people struggling in every other way.  I am sorry for the strife and fear my country is experiencing.  We are Americans - we should do much better!  I am sorry for the whole world struggling with the pandemic and frightening climate change.  We are human beings - we should do much better!

I count my many blessings and give humble thanks for every iota of good fortune that has blessed my life.  I am grateful that my family is safe right this moment.  I hope your family is safe right this moment, too.  I pray for a far better 2021 for every living thing on this earth.  

Wishing peace on earth and goodwill toward (some) men -
 from the Crazy Woman, the Supreme Beings, and the beautiful German Shepherds of Spiritcreek.

  

Jake Rest in Peace Good Boi

Kenzie the Brat


The Big Guys

Woman and Baby Sheriff 

Beautiful Mattie

Supreme Being

The Wallai Lama

Pandemic!

The 2020 Kansas Sky

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Scenes from My Road During the Pandemic of 2020

A Beautiful Dawn from Vera Road

A Storm Somewhere Over Missouri

Moonrise on Vera Road

Snokomo Road - Something made her show herself like this but I do not know what.


Me and the Pandemic, with alcohol sanitizer from the local winery located a few miles from my house.



 

Monday, November 2, 2020

A Single White Horse


 Wally in 2013 with his black legs, dark mane and tail, and dappled hind end.


Sometimes you do not "see" someone or something you see every day.  I realized that Wally, the resident rock star of the wild horse herd, has become a white horse.  His dapples have been missing for awhile but I assumed it was because they faded in the sun.  When I thought it through, though, it did not make sense.  Before he came here, he lived in a lot with no shelter whatsoever from the sun or the weather.  He would have been faded when he arrived if that was the problem.  Then I wondered if he was ill with some obscure horse disease, or, at the very least, missing a vital nutrient in his diet.  I finally admitted complete ignorance and googled for information.  Lo and behold, gray horses gradually become white horses.  Sometimes I call him Walter as a term of endearment.  Now that I have noticed he is entirely white, well.... now I call him Walter White.

My horses have no jobs or responsibilities.  They are the supreme beings of this little faux ranch.  They do not even have to behave except when Vince comes to trim their hooves or the vet comes to give them shots.  Vince and the vet are both men.  Men are of no particular concern to Ginger, the little mare.  She has been owned and trained by women.  Her dealings with men have always been under the watchful eye of women, so she has no idea of the abuse that men often inflict on horses.  To Ginger, humans are but mere servants she must tolerate at times, like it or not.  

Wally, on the other hand, has some respect for men.  Not because I think he was ever abused but because men typically deal with horses in a different way.  I gently ask for his cooperation but men demand his cooperation and are not opposed to a physical reminder.  In the long absence of any men in Wally's life - save the few times a year he is attended by vet or farrier - he has come to think quite highly of himself.  Occasionally, he politely refuses to stand still so I can put a halter on his head.  Sometimes he lays his ears back at me simply because I have the audacity to serve hay or oats to Ginger first!  Once in awhile, he thinks he can use me as a scratching post, scrubbing his big horse head against my arm or shoulder, almost knocking me down.  He has long been a well behaved horse but there are times when he misbehaves, just to see what he can get away with... you know, sort of "breaking bad"...  




Disregard the dirt and the dust.  Walter is White now...


Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Product of Mud?

All winter I looked forward to spring each time I waded through the six inches of mud in the corral. As I slogged along cussing every step of the way, I recalled that I complained just as much the winter it never fell below freezing. I complained when it was bitterly cold and I had to enter the Portal of Hell to turn on the heater. Every winter I complain about something. Just to change it up, mother nature served up two seasons of extreme mud. Mud on my clothes, mud on the sidewalk and both sets of steps into the house. Muddy paw prints. My car was caked inside and out with mud. There was mud all over the back of my legs and clothes when I exited the car. I tried mightily not to complain but alas, I could not help myself. Spring arrived despite all of my complaints but I guarantee that before long I will be whining over how damned hot it is. (It is a boring life when the weather puts you in a mood.)

When I am not complaining, I am considering - pondering the big (and small) mysteries of life. Big mystery: what the hell are we all doing here? Small mystery: looking at the pink crayon gave me a headache as a child. I do not know the answer to either mystery and I do not know who or what can provide definitive answers. I have sampled various philosophies and different spiritualities in my adult life and, honestly, no one has THE answers. There are millions of people who believe they have the answer. They think they are the only ones who know. So much suffering and death have resulted from that blind certainty! It just does not make sense to me, so out of necessity, I come up with my own explanation. Here is what I am sure of so far: humans have total free will. We can commit the most horrific crimes against one another, against animals, against the earth herself and no higher being will stop us. Maybe these physical lives are for us to learn to choose to be loving instead of hateful. Maybe.

I do not know WHY I am here, how I got here, who is responsible for me being here but I am undeniably here and aware. I do not think consciousness simply evolved out of the primordial mud, so when I pray, I pray to the highest, most sacred. Some thing is responsible for me being here. A "creator" of some sort placed me here in this physical body that mysteriously has a strange allergy to the color pink. It seems entirely unlikely to me that because a few molecules formed in muddy water at the dawn of time, consciousness evolved - something with no physical properties evolving out of physical substances? Nope. A brain is certainly not the source of consciousness. That is one thing the Buddhists have determined in their long centuries of contemplative discipline.

This is as far as I have managed to get in my investigation. I am sorely limited by my IQ - and lack of education - and the small amount of spare time left over from complaining about the weather, eating, and fighting with people on the internet. Still, not bad for an evolved clump of mud.


Would mere mud have been able to invent the sacred machinery?