Wednesday, June 26, 2019

If It Ain't Raining, I'm Bitching About Something Else

Rain and eye surgery have been the preoccupations so far this summer. So boring. So "elderly"! Also, so amazing! Profound medical knowledge and technology combined with a skilled surgeon has restored my eyesight to a remarkable degree already. It will steadily improve over the next weeks. It was disconcerting to be awake and know what was happening to my very dear and irreplaceable eye(s), but the surgeon completed the procedure in a few MINUTES. I am lucky to live in these remarkable and knowledgeable times.

I know my physical body is slowly wearing out but I feel strong and vital and young at heart most of the time. After the well-intentioned patronizing from the surgical nurses, I realized that I must safeguard my own self-perception going forward on this journey of retirement and old age. The nurses assume I do not understand technology and require someone younger to explain. (I am old, motherfuckers, not stupid!) If I have a little difficulty hearing, it doesn't mean I am mentally deficit as well - I just need the nurse to speak a bit more crisply - not more slowly - not more loudly. The surgical team dealt the worst insult of all. Because I have a cane, they put a second medical band on my wrist bearing the hand written warning: "Fall Risk". Fuck that! I still carry 60 pound bags of oats, 50 pound bags of dog food! I still carry the 5 gallon, 40 pound water jugs. I can still push my lawn tractor sideways to move it if I need to. I am not some frail old lady - yet. Becoming physically old happens despite our most fervent desire to not wear out like tired elastic in an old pair of underwear! Those nurses will all grow old, too. Some day they will remember every time they treated an older person like a child and they will regret it. The WORST was insisting that I sit in a goddamned wheelchair after the surgery, then being wheeled out to the curb like a sack of yams! I was perfectly capable of walking and should have been allowed to walk out of there like an adult! (I assume their insurance liability ends at the curb.)

I behaved and did not give any of the nurses a hard time but I doubled my resolve to stay as far away from medicines and doctors as possible for as long as possible. Nothing makes you feel any worse than to be treated like an adult imbecile. However, if they had treated me as callously as people are routinely treated in the work place, I would be bitching even more about that.

I am thankful for the amazing level of knowledge and skill and true medicine available to us. If I regain the ability to clearly see the stars, it will be worth sitting in a wheel chair against my will.

Monday, June 3, 2019

A Tiny Step

The United States Attorney General is supposed to be the supreme lawyer in service to our entire country - not a personal defender for a corrupt president. I knew that writing to the Washington DC Office of Disciplinary Counsel, asking them to investigate William Barr as an unethical attorney would not produce tangible results. It was instead a gesture with the force of my deeply held belief that if our country is to survive as a democracy, we must have people who aspire to the highest ideals of the office in which they have been placed. William Barr should do his best to conduct himself as an ethical servant to the will of the people, not as a personal toady for a lying president. I have officially registered my resistance to the unethical actions of William Barr. That energy is out there. When enough people express their opposition in whatever manner best suits them, it makes it more difficult for things to occur unchallenged, out of sight, unethically, and immorally.


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The Response

Saturday, May 18, 2019

In Need of Better Equipment

Once upon a time, I saw a marvelous and mysterious occurrence in the night sky between Kansas City and Topeka. I was on a date with handsome soldier who had been deployed in Vietnam as a medic. He was spending his last few months in the Army at Ft Riley. We had gone to Kansas City for a concert but the tickets were sold out. Instead of staying in KC for the evening we opted to buy wine and return home. (A lot less expensive for guy on a soldier's pay than partying in the River Quay area would have been.) If we had stayed in Kansas City, I would never have witnessed the only thing I have ever remotely considered as a possible UFO.

As we were driving back from Kansas City, I was slouched down in the passenger's seat, gazing into the northern sky. There was not nearly as much light pollution then as there is now so once we left Kansas City behind, I could see a few faint stars in the north. A particularly bright one caught my eye. There are no exceptionally bright stars in the northern skies but this one was not so bright or so large that I thought it was a plane or anything artificial. It simply looked like a bright star. For whatever reason, it kept my attention as we rolled through the dark night for about seventy miles. I just happened to be looking at the "star" when it suddenly turned bright red and accelerated in a razor straight line to the west, literally disappearing from sight in an instant. I was so astounded that I shouted, scaring the soldier, "Did you see that?!"

"What? What?" He was shocked by my outburst. I excitedly tried to explain what I had just seen. I am certain he realized I had truly seen something startling. He knew I was not lying about seeing something is what I mean, but he had not seen it.

I have seen falling stars many times. Though they are fleeting, they fall toward the horizon, toward the ground. You have a beat or two to witness their fall. This thing, whatever it was, shot out of sight supernaturally fast. It seemed to have disappeared into a point.

Since then, I have kept my eyes open, hoping to see something like it again, but the odds of seeing anything travelling that fast are infinitesimally small. If I had not been looking directly at that star when it turned red, I would never have seen it move and disappear. It was an amazing thing to witness. There might be some natural explanation. I have often wondered if it was a meteor falling toward earth that hit the atmosphere and glanced off. That might explain why it turned red and might explain why it shot away at such a tremendous rate. I am not sure if glancing off the atmosphere would cause it to travel at such a tremendous speed? If it had been falling toward the earth at the same speed that it appeared to have accelerated into the west, wouldn't it have appeared to be moving relative to the other stars, at least a little bit, before it turned red? I was looking at it for almost an hour before it disappeared.

Sometimes I think that if it was some sort of a spacecraft - just thinking here, not saying I believe it was actually a spacecraft - maybe they will come back for me some day. So, the other night when I turned north on Snokomo Road, I noticed a brilliant light low in the west that is normally not there. I took a photo of it with my phone but all it captured was this fuzzy orb. Venus is visible in the eastern sky right now, and Jupiter doesn't rise until 11 pm CST. My little phone takes good photos, but not nearly good enough to determine what this brilliant orb was. I need better photographic equipment! Alas, I do not think it was the mother ship coming back for me...





Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Stories We Tell


I read something entirely remarkable today: at least 16,000 fans of Game of Thrones have signed a petition demanding HBO remake the final season that ends the 8-season series. They are upset with the way it is ending. My first thought was, "Go pound sand, you entitled idiots! Write your own fantasy series and good luck finding the millions and millions of dollars to get it made into an A+ television series!"

Of course I understand the disappointment when a wonderful book is made into a film but things go askew. Maybe the actors are not talented enough to bring the characters to life. Brad Pitt comes to mind, ruining the character of Louie in Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire". I read Pitt changed his mind about acting in the film but it would have cost a fortune to back out of his contract. He sullenly honored the commitment and subsequently ruined that character. Tom Cruise was cast as Le Stat, the main character, an ancient, beautiful, elegant, soulless vampire who decided to walk the world again in modern times. Tom Cruise looked nothing like the way Anne Rice described Le Stat in the book, and the fans of the books were so disappointed - including me.

As for Game of Thrones (GOT), I watched the first two seasons piece-meal because I was traveling, spending four nights a week in a hotel where HBO was available. After the traveling came to an end, I did not want to spend the money for cable at home. Lo and behold, streaming technology has evolved since then! Via my internet connection, and a much less expensive monthly fee for HBO, I recently decided to catch up on the entire GOT series in anticipation for the final season. I am very glad I did this. It is a remarkably well done story with excellent actors and top-of-the line CGI and other digital effects, superb costumes, sets and authentic locations. And most thankfully, because it is HBO, it is free to tell this enormous story in adult terms - adult language, violence, nudity and other adult themes. The universal themes and the wonderfully developed characters struck chords with people around the world.

I was thinking about the enormous effort required to create such a sprawling, fantastical world as the one brought to life in GOT. I went looking for statistics.

According to the article, "Game of Thrones: By the Numbers", Dona Feldman, published in Forbes magazine, April 11, 2019: there are some astounding GOT numbers.

Broadcast in 207 countries and simulcast in 194 countries and territories

Season 7 had 32.8 million viewers

It was filmed in 10 countries, with 105,846 days for extras across all 8 seasons and countries where it was filmed. (This boggled my mind until I realized it was similar to "manhours")

68,143 hotel rooms were booked during the filming of GOT

There are more mind boggling statistics in the article, found here:Forbes Article

The enormous creative endeavor of GOT spread work and money across the world, and required all manner of expertise. Imagine what is involved in support of filming this series - the countless crews and the support needed for all those crews. The food and lodging and transportation of hundreds of people and tons of equipment. Imagine all the trades and skills needed to create buildings, sets, props, special effects, stunt people for all of the battles and fights and thousands of movie "extras" to bring the world of Westeros alive. There were scores of horses the various characters and armies needed, especially the Dothraki - a warrior race, like a cross between Genghis Khan and Native American Plains horse tribes. All those horses required food and shelter, transport, veterinarian attention, farrier services, grooming, handlers, costumes of their own, and of course, consummate riders! The raw materials needed for costumes and sets - such things as fabrics, lumber, plaster and energy to power everything - required money be spent in every location, and surely there were suppliers and specialists located around the world.

There is a high tech aspect of a fantasy series like GOT. The three dragons that hatched from ancient eggs, grew from cute baby dragons into enormous fire breathing monsters of legend, were CGI and they were almost flawless. They were so real that they were the stuff of nightmares! The technical expertise to meld CGI with special effects, real actors, real scenery into seamless motion pictures is truly remarkable. The technical advances developed for movies absolutely finds it way to dozens of other commercial (and likely government and military) applications. The creative efforts of modern film making moves the entire species forward.

Game of Thrones is routinely referred to as a "cultural phenomenon" but I heartily disagree with that. From the first human being until the last, we are storytellers. Before we ever scratched our art and stories into rocks or painted cave walls, there were people in every tribe who memorized their history using knots on a counting rope, beaded leather strips, shells on strings, reed tapestries, pottery, or animal hides. Written language evolved, then we recorded our stories on baked mud, parchment, animal skins, papers and in stone. Now we record our stories using art and theater and technology. It is not a phenomenon that something as innately human as the stories and characters in Game of Thrones appeals to people all over the world, speaking dozens of languages. It is the story of being human.

The basic premise of GOT is that humans must put aside their tribal differences and unite to fight the White Walkers, a race of undead creatures that only exist to feed on the living. If the living do not destroy the dead, the human race will be utterly destroyed. Of course, most of the humans recognize the need to cooperate, but some humans only see a chance to enrich themselves, isolate in their rich cities so to be left to plunder the world when the other humans have all been killed or sufficiently decimated. It puts you strongly in mind of a certain American President and his greedy, short-sighted, compatriots absolutely rigging the odds in their favor to plunder whatever is left of our natural world for their own monetary gain.

George R. R. Martin, the author of the books that Game of Thrones is based on, was writing a different book when the first chapter came to him. He had to stop his other project in order to write the entire series. Stephenie Meyer, the author of the young adult books that became the "cultural phenomenon" of the Twilight movies dreamed of a young girl and a beautiful vampire sitting in a meadow discussing the challenges caused by falling in love. When Meyer woke up, she wanted to know where that story led so she began writing what became the Twilight series.

Twilight is a story about tolerance between whites and Native Americans, vampires and the Native American shape-shifting wolf warriors. First they must learn to respect each other to protect the half human/half vampire child born to Bella the girl and Edward the vampire, the two characters Stephenie Meyer dreamed. Vampires from across the world and the wolves had to unite to battle the ancient evil, all-powerful vampire rulers that tolerated neither the wolves, nor the inter-species child, nor vampires who wished to live in a different manner than the old vampires dictated. The message was very clearly transmitted to a generation of young people all across the world that tolerance and cooperation is clearly desirable.

I am not a big Harry Potter fan but I am certain that "cultural phenomenon" story came to J.K. Rowling, the author of all those wonderfully magical books, in some sort of an imperative-to-write manner as well. The Harry Potter books have been translated into 74 different languages to date. I think there are similar messages in that work, what little I know of it.

While I can understand the investment the 16,000-and-counting fans have in seeing Game of Thrones end in a satisfying way, there is not a single ending that will satisfy everyone! Instead of whining, I wish they would be still and contemplate the truly amazing evolution of human story telling, and be thankful for it.

Here's to our long human history of superb storytelling. Here's to Sunday night and the end of something amazing.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Mysteries

The flaming sunset

Life is full of mysterious things. We explain them with science so they seem commonplace and routine. If you are like me, sometimes you begin to contemplate ordinary things until they appear extraordinary. I most often succeed in merely confusing myself. Sometimes, though, I scare myself.

I blame my mother for the first time I scared myself. She insisted I go to bed at 8 o'clock every night whether I was tired or not. It was torture to lay in bed wide awake. The lights had to be off and there was no excuse to get up, to make any noise, or complain. I discovered I could read by the dim single light bulb on in the living room if I laid on the end of my bed with my head hanging over, angling the book above me to catch as much light as possible. I read a lot of library books this way! But the neck, arms and eyes could only hold out so long. Sometimes my mother would go to bed early leaving the house in darkness, making it impossible to read. Then I would "think about" things, simply because I had no other option until blessed sleep arrived.

I do not know what led up to this little exercise, but I imagined I was above my bed looking down on myself. Then above the house looking down on the roof. Then the town, the state of Kansas, which looked remarkably like the map in my text books. Then the United States. Then I was out in space viewing the earth below me, which looked a lot like the globes we had in school. While I was out in space, I decided to take a little glance around. Suddenly facing the cold black infinity scared me so badly I fell back into my body on the bed and never tried that again. But I continued to amuse myself "thinking about" things, and I still do.

I recently burned a brush pile in the corral. Of course, I waited until the countryside was dry and flammable to do this, so I could not leave the fire unattended. It was several long hours of silent contemplation. None of the animals were interested in keeping vigil with me so I had a wonderful opportunity to "think about" all manner of things.

A common meditation exercise is to meditate by being aware of being aware. For the longest time, that was too complicated for me to understand. Eventually I realized it was simply paying attention to whatever was in my awareness. It is very simple, but like so many of these meditation practices and lessons, it may be simple but exceedingly difficult to accomplish or to understand. Since I was sitting and staring at the fire anyway, I might as well meditate. I do not think it counts as true meditation but soon enough the inevitable questions of the nature of fire came into in my mind. I know that fire is a rapid oxidation process that releases heat and light, a transformation of energy from one form to another. I wondered why human beings were created from combustible materials. There must be a reason. I know how we are combustible but I do not know why we are combustible. Wouldn't the Creator have figured out a safer way for us to exist in these bodies, especially since fire is exceedingly common in our dimension? He figured out the best way for ice to freeze in rivers and ponds in order to allow the aquatic life to survive through the winter but He left in one mystery. If you fill ice cube trays with hot water before placing them in the into the freezer, it freezes much more rapidly than cold water. This fact was disputed by an entire department full of engineers so the youngest, prettiest secretary filled two trays - one with cold water and one with hot - and proved this is true. As far as I know it is still a mystery to science. Did the Creator play a little joke on us, knowing eventually there would be a world full of hot shot engineers who would mock the women in their office? Possibly.

I digress. As I was staring into the flames, I was thinking of the true nature of our combustible bodies and what may be left behind after my time is up. I was deeply contemplating the true nature of our physical bodies - 60% water - more space than matter at the atomic level - and if that is all we are, then why doesn't everyone look like their race's equivalent of Jason Mamoa or Sophie Vergara? If we are all the same physical ingredients, then why are our bodies so different? Again, I know how this happens, but I do not know why it is designed this way.

I am supposed to come to some understanding of the impermanent nature of our existence by meditating. I am assured that it is possible to still and discipline the mind well enough that serious inquiry into the authentic nature of existence will lead to enlightenment. The Tibetans are not overly optimistic on how quickly a person can gain this knowledge: countless eons. Soooo... I have plenty of time to sit around watching the fire burn.

After some time watching the flames I was, in fact, still. It was mesmerizing to let my thoughts gently float on the edge of understanding the nature of fire. Some things are beyond words. As the entire mass of limbs reduced to red hot coals, some of the larger limbs were burning with an almost invisible flame. Had it been night, I could have seen the flames close to the charred logs, but it was bright afternoon. I could only see the energy distortions as the flames moved silently in the intense heat of the coals. The question came again and again, not in words but in something beyond language - how is your life like this transmutation you are witnessing in these invisible flames? I tried to sit as still as a stone because I knew for certain if I could sit still long enough, the mystery of the universe would open to me right there in the ashes of the fire. I grew impatient. I am not stone. No wonder it takes countless eons...

The mystery of spring arrives.

The mystery of the living sky

The mystery of the Solar eclipse

The mystery of a foggy morning

Why is a rose beautiful? 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Twenty Years Today

Exactly twenty years ago today, April 4, 1999, I became the official owner and caretaker of Spiritcreek farm. I was handed the keys and it was a thrilling day.  A quick look back over the last two decades in twenty photos:

The first little home on the prairie:



The view from the front window every time it snowed:


This is young Ginger with the new barn, a sun shade and all of the beautiful big bluestem that finally grew in the restored pasture!  The pasture had not been fenced yet, so Ginger lived in a big round pen.



The front gate, after the pasture had been fenced.  Ginger then had plenty of room to run and roam.


My little orphan Annie, lost to a terrible accident at the trainers.  I never took a single good photograph of her, or her beautiful long mane, or photographed her running when she was the most beautiful of horses...



The Good Dog Duke.  He came to live at Spiritcreek in April of 1999 and took his leave 16 years later.  He is still missed.



Duke in his younger years and the stray dog King, who just appeared, trotting down the driveway one day.  I was stupid enough to feed that dog and he was part of the crew for several years.  He attacked my beloved cat, Aldebaran, right in front of me, and though I pounded that dog with all my strength, I could not make him leave her alone.  He was lucky I did not kill him.  I called a dog rescue and they took him away. 




The Jake'N'Bake when he was a little puppy.  Early morning, everyone's favorite time.  Always starts out with a trip to the barn to feed the Supreme Being, Ginger.  Duke was patiently waiting while Jake rested.  Jake was sick, of course, when I got him from the shelter.  It took him a while to become strong and healthy like Duke.  It was cold the morning this photo was taken.  Duke loved cold weather!


The first week Wally came to the farm.  Mutual grooming.  Ginger was so happy for another horse!



The chicken coop I built and the beginnings of the entirely enclosed 10 ft by 20 ft pen I constructed for the chickens - all thoroughly chronicled in the first few years of my blog.  The three nest boxes were inside, and once it was all built, I decided to take them out and hang them on the back side of the coop.  For someone who does not know a freakin' thing about carpentry, I did pretty well, all things considered.



This is the view from the old office window, looking due east and toward the barn.  These are the bonded Redtail Hawks that live here and raise their young every year.  I was thrilled to see them each morning in the late winter.  One would arrive at dawn then the mate would arrive within a few moments.  They would greet the sunrise together every morning.  I built the new house very close to this tree and was sad to disturb their morning perch.



This is the little mound where the new house would be built.  You can just see an orange flag marking the spot.  This is the high bank of the creek at this location.  The sleeping porch overlooks the creek, about 15 feet below the base of these trees.



The long-held dream taking shape in the physical, at last...



The ugly end to the first little home.  It probably deserved a better ending than this.  I have photos of the deer coming through to inspect the gaping hole that suddenly appeared along their trail.


The land almost entirely healed from the destruction and the construction.  Beautiful.


The abundance of water, photo taken from the driveway.   (The two orange things in the office windows are to prevent birds from flying into the windows, killing themselves.)



Tiny little Mattie!  At first glance, she was a disappointment to me.  I had waited almost two years for a pup and I was expecting a furry fat butterball that weighed about 15 pounds.  Instead, she was this tiny little being weighing 6 pounds!  When they handed her to me the first time, she looked right in my eyes and we have been best friends since.  She is beautiful now.


The northwest view from the front door on November 1.  Beautiful!


Same view showing the latest addition:  the OK Corral!  It prompted my son to say, "You are going to have those horses in the house with you!"  Yes.  Yes, I would love that!


Driving down the driveway still fills me with gratitude for my little corner of the earth.  May the Creator grant me another twenty years and more here in the bend of the nameless little creek.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Winter of Deep Mud

Though this might appear to be complaining, it is mere observation. I do not want to be caught complaining about something as simple as mud when Colorado suffered over 300 avalanches this winter - when California was on fire last fall - when people are suffering snowfall measured in feet not inches. Let me just say I will be profoundly more appreciative when the soil between my door and the barn has solidified back into firm dirt. I must lace my work boots extra tightly to prevent them from being sucked off my feet when I wade through the deep mud on the way to the barn. And my poor horses! Wally is one big mud pie. He gets mud on his face and in his ears! Ginger gets muddy but never as messy as Wally. Their hooves have cut into the soil in the new corral and most likely the big blue stem will not come back in the worst of it. Weeds - cockle burrs and stinging nettles - will be likely all that grows if spring ever arrives this year. Again, I am not complaining. The water tank is a mere 75 feet from the faucet now and I can quickly drain the water out of the hose after filling the tank. I only had to chop ice a few times this winter before the tank was moved close enough to electricity to use a tank heater. The horses have fresh water 24 hours a day!

The beautiful wood floor in my house is covered in muddy dog paw prints from Miss Mattie coming and going and from my own shoes and boots - though I have tried mightily to limit the import of mud into the house. Every rug is filthy but no sense in hauling them to the laundromat before the world dries up. Still not complaining! I will simply be exceedingly grateful when there is grass once again covering all the mud holes around the house.

A lot of rain is forecast beginning Tuesday afternoon. As saturated as the soil is, the creek could easily flood. Though I built the house on a high point, the water could come around the house and possibly get into the crawl space, maybe even into the garage. That seems unlikely, but the strange violence and unpredictability of the weather now makes it seem far more possible. If the creek escapes the banks, it can quite easily flood the old garage, including the pit of despair where the whangdoodles reside - the portal to hell I reluctantly enter in order to plug in the space heater when temperatures fall below 10 degrees. (Okay, I am straight up complaining about the portal to hell.)

It has been a long winter, cold and frozen and muddy and dreary. Not the worst winter but I have had my fill of deep mud though there is likely another two months of it on tap. Still, mud is better than a ten day electrical outage caused by an ice storm. Mud is better than 8" of snow that stranded me for three days. Mud is better than tornadoes. Mud is a million times better than drought! There are a million things worse than mud but right now, I can only think of a few.

Just to be clear:  still not complaining...
Beneath all this pristine white is a bottomless pit of mud...

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine Day Memories

Remember what a big deal valentine day was in school? Someone's mother always sent sugar cookies... oh my gosh, those were delicious cookies! Everyone decorated a box or an envelope or a little paper bag so all the classmates could give valentines to one another. There was a list of all the children in the class so no one was left out.

My first valentine day was first grade, the country school so small there was no kindergarten. First through eighth grades, two teachers, one of whom doubled as the principal. We were to make our own "baskets" at home so two sheets of beautiful red construction paper was sent with me after school. My mother "helped" me. She actually did all the work on it, carefully drawing a perfect heart shape and cutting them evenly, using almost the whole of each sheet. Then she made a series of even slits around the outside of the heart and wove a beautiful white ribbon through to hold the sides together. The ribbon was tied into an artful bow at the top and my valentine holder was complete. It was beautiful! I could not wait to take it to school the next day.

Our teacher fastened each creation on a cord in the classroom, hung low enough that first graders could reach to place our valentines in them later. Mine was far and away the most perfect heart, the largest, the most beautiful creation hanging on that cord! Every other project was either made by a classmate or their mother was no more artistic than they were! They were lopsided, clumsily cut out and sloppily pasted together. The lettering was childish and smudged or illegible. My mother's creation alone was perfect. Pristine. Red and white. So beautiful with the graceful bow of white ribbon. I was absolutely certain that mine would be chosen as the best one. When it did not win, I was crushed for my mother! How dare they not choose her spectacular artwork, so obviously better than every other one! I felt so bad about it that I did not want to tell her. I was so concerned for her feelings! Now I suppose the reason it was not chosen as the best one was because clearly I did not make it or decorate it or really have anything to do with it. But I was still so proud of it.

Remember those packages of valentines your mother would buy for you every year? I would sit at the kitchen table with my brother, going through every single valentine in that package to find the absolute perfect one for each classmate. If I did not like someone, that person got the valentine with the skunk on it. When I got the skunk valentine from someone else, I knew exactly what was going on! Sometimes the valentine itself was so stupid that I did not want to give it to anyone but in order to have a valentine for everyone I would have to use it. I would give that stupid valentine to kid I liked the least. It was a really big deal to me to get the right valentine matched with the right kid as far as how well I liked or disliked someone! So, for people who know me now, who know I am an opinionated asshole, trust me, I was born this way. It is simply in my DNA.



Valentine's day became a lot more complicated when I began to like boys in earnest. The complications persisted through serious boyfriends and even husbands. I have been free from the tyranny of this awful holiday for many years now. I do not have to choose the perfect valentine for each friend and thank God for that. I do not have to pretend to like some guy's idea of what the perfect valentine gift is. Honestly, the best valentine and Mother's Day gifts I ever received were chrome parts for my Harley! Now THAT was the way to my heart!

For all the people who are suffering through the surprises and disappointments of this celebrated, expensive day of "love", best of luck to you. I am out!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Of Course...

I am assuming this is from the Hubble website, though I have not taken the time to verify it.


If I have ever run across the term "solar noon", I surely do not recall it. It refers to the moment the sun's apparent position in the sky crosses an imaginary line of longitude locally, which is not necessarily noon on local clocks. I had simply never thought about it but of course it would be relative. I continued to read and discovered that the earth's spin itself is not precisely constant due to the shape of the earth's orbit, which also is not precise and constant. Humans have normalized the year, the day, noon and even time itself. That started me thinking again about the nature of numbers. We evolved numbers when we settled into agrarian societies so we could equitably exchange our goods. Taxing the population boosted the evolution of numbers and arithmetic. Numbers prove various geometries and physics in reality and in theory. Numbers provided Einstein a language to express and to prove the theory of relativity. Now we have evolved numbers all the way into quantum theories of fantastical and amazing possibilities. What is it about numbers that they can accurately express features of reality? How do numbers allow us to plumb the depth of physical reality?

Numbers must be the "language" of physical reality. We use them to measure speed, motion, distance, time, weight, light, gravity in the physical and use them to calculate possibilities - kinetic energy, rate of growth of all manner of things, rates of decay and decline. These are things that have not happened yet but we can use numbers to accurately determine what will happen in the future, or what is most likely to happen. And, as a species, we are so damned good at numbers that we can launch a spacecraft from earth, hurtling through space full of imperfect orbits and imperfect rates of travel and accurately land that spacecraft on a tiny asteroid also hurtling through space, also likely not traveling at a perfectly constant speed. If you honestly think about this for a few minutes, it is unbelievable - or highly improbable - and goddamned amazing.

What is the true nature of numbers? I have been thinking on this for a long time. It is a zen puzzle. What do numbers tell me about the nature of reality? I can follow the idea of numbers as far as simple equivalencies, that is, one sheep = one finger on the shepherd's hand. I can theoretically understand how numbers can represent massive, complex physical forces such as a nuclear explosion or a black hole. What I cannot grasp is HOW numbers allow us to know these things or WHY numbers can be extrapolated into quantum theories. That is a very, very long way from a shepherd keeping track of his flock!

The next question is what is the nature of our human consciousness that we can even entertain these theories and ideas in the first place? Did we invent numbers so we could understand the physical universe, or did we evolve to the point of recognizing numbers as the formulas of physical reality?

From there I fall into the rabbit hole of relativity - and I do not mean Einstein's theory (proven in our lifetime thanks to astrophysics.) I mean mundane things like putting on my necklace. The pendant is hanging on a chain that forms a circle which theoretically-speaking has no beginning or end. It seems illogical then that the pendant will always face outward no matter how I place it over my head. If I open the circle and put the pendant on "backwards", then it will always face inward regardless of where it hangs relative to my neck. It is not rocket science and I know how to make sure the pendant always faces outward. What kills me is that while I cannot turn the circle of the necklace inside out or put it on backward, the pendant still maintains it relative position to the theoretical center of the circle. It is the same necklace even if I take it off, lay it in a straight line and pull the ends together in a different direction. Whether I put the pendant on the chain face up or face down dictates whether it faces outward or inward relative to my body and relative to the theoretical center of the circle EXCEPT if I take gravity out of the equation. So, what is the relative moment here? What precisely determines whether my necklace hangs correctly or incorrectly? Gravity? Whether I am standing on my head or standing on my feet. Easy to say it is when I slide the pendant on face up and forget about gravity. But then I think about the fact that the pendant itself spins in a circle around the axis of the chain, forward and backward, as well as along the length of the chain now an infinite circle. It seems counter intuitive to me!

I think perhaps this is how multiple universes can be nested together in the same space. If I entered a universe consisting of the infinite circle with the pendant facing outward relative to the theoretical center of the circle and with a constant force pulling the pendant downwards, nothing different could ever happen, no matter what. The pendant would always face away from the center when constant gravity pulls it . To change it, either the constant force of gravity could be suspended or made opposite, or the circle would have to be broken apart, the pendant turned 180 degrees relative to the line and the circle reformed and then a universe with the pendant facing inward exists. Or maybe there are multiple pendants on the chain, some facing inward and some facing outward, some with a constant force causing them to hang up or down, depending. Though they travel the same circle, they are not aware of the fundamental differences of neighboring pendants. Maybe they are even theoretically aware of other pendants but everything is backward or opposite and so cannot be seen, only theorized.

And sometimes I even go further down the rabbit hole in this thinking, wondering about the relative force of gravity pulling something up or down (or in any direction). What markers would indicate a direction? In this case, it is the pendant relative to the theoretical center of the circle. Without the pendant, it would not matter and likely no one in that universe would notice. If the pendant was identical on both sides it would not matter and no one would notice.

This is why understanding "relativity" is such a monumental achievement, in my small necklace-wearing mind...

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Winter!

Rare photos of a brutal ceremony to end winter.  


Oh, it is cold today at ye olde farmstead! Due to an unfortunate juncture of genes (knees) and a dismaying lack of will power (steak and gravy) and age (old) I have one speed when tending the horses: 1 CCTf. That is, 1 Chore Completion Timeframe. On a brutally cold day like today, with the wind blowing down the long slope to the north, I operate at maximum locomotive rate but even Jake gets tired of waiting for me. That rate is only minimally faster than normal - probably need an atomic clock to discern the difference. I dread going out but it has to be done. Once there, it is not so bad. It is invigorating, but that brutal wind takes my breath away. It is so cold that Ginger does not even pace or paw the ground in impatience. Trust me, that is cold.

I have insulated work boots and a pair of hunters socks I got at the farm store a few days ago. My work gloves were left at the barn when Ginger was ailing and only one glove was found, full of horse manure and mud. (Even gloves have a lifespan.) The new leather gloves dye my hands Caterpillar yellow. (Come on, China! Just try!) The piece de resistance is the Carhart ball cap with ear flaps. It is insulated. I look sooooooooo stupid, but I have to say, those hats are magnificently utilitarian! The bill keeps the sun out of my eyes. The flaps holds my hair over my ears and they do not freeze. When I take it off, my hair is not full of electricity. I have tried stocking caps and scarves over the years, but this hat is perfect. It is easy on, easy off. I just look as dumb as box of rocks. Animals are not given to making fun of human beings, so it all works out.

The new corral is great! The grain buckets are on the new fence, so I pour their grain first. That gives me plenty of time to get up the hill without horses jostling me, or Wally getting too close to Ginger causing a minor horse quarrel with me in the middle. By the time they are ready for hay, it is all served up south of the hay stack, mostly out of the wind. The very best part is that finally, after all of these years, there is a tank heater for their water. I do not have to chop ice every single day, twice a day. They have liquid water to drink 24 hours! I am sure I will swoon when I see the electricity bill but it will be worth every cent. I have chopped hundreds of gallons of ice out of the tanks over the years. One time I had to call my son for help because an icy snow glacier formed instead of simple ice. I could not break it apart with an axe nor a sledge. He was 26 or 27, and he had to work at it. Otherwise, I would have had to carry buckets of water up the hill. I cannot do that any more - not in cold weather. Probably not in any weather.

Even though it is difficult, I enjoy the winter for its clean, clear skies and the fresh winds. There will come a day in a few weeks when the wind will come out of the south and I will be able to smell the humidity of the warm ocean. I will know spring is on its way to Kansas then.

(Photos taken from the Chive who stole them from some other site.)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Get Pretty and John Deer and the Honorable Y Chromosome - All in One Place!

Pretty girl!  No longer ill, and definitely not paralyzed nor with a back injury!  

My beloved little red mare on her feet and beautiful as ever! I am thankful she is well again. You cannot imagine how much I would miss her bossy attitude and her demanding ways. She simply will not brook any foolishness. I wish I could ride her - wish I was supple and strong and physically confident the way I once was. She would have been a perfect horse for me. I am simply glad to have her now. Maybe she was a queen in a former life and reincarnated as a horse that would have to tote humans around to balance her karma. Instead, she is queen once again. All she has to do is eat, sleep and boss Wally and me around. Good work, if you can get it.

John Deere Gate!  Niiiiice!

Of course I wanted a real farm. I wanted to recreate that time in my life when my mother and father were alive, when they were young and busy with life. I wanted to have a barn with a hay mow, and horses, just like when my grandparents were alive and happy and busy tending to the work at hand. Life was once yellow and golden, slow and sweet, surrounded by a large family I loved and who loved me in return. I was safe and cared for and looked after. Those times were torn asunder when my father died and from that day forward, it was one enormous loss after another, in some manner or fashion. And then I was responsible - for everything. For raising my children and paying taxes and buying tires and going to work and dealing with all the responsibilities of adulthood. Instead of cousins, my kids had day care. We did not live five miles from their grandparents. They never went fishing with their grandfathers. I took them fishing but it was not the same. So... I grew up, bought some land and got the horses and the tall grass and a goddamned set of John Deere gates! Close enough.

Look at this!  Notice that there is a stack of missing junk - a missing big pile of huge logs - a missing assortment of limbs and other detritus - and missing trash cans?  More man power happened!

I have often extolled the virtue of the mighty Y chromosome. It is what causes men to grow into handsome humans of the male gender. They do amazing things that womenfolk swoon over, like saw big trees into firewood. Build fences. Own and operate expensive machinery that tames the wild prairie. They heal big animals and small. They build houses and barns and posses amazing knowledge of furnaces and electric switches and car engines. And the best thing of all, if they can not fix something with their intellect, they are strong enough to "manhandle" a beast or machine or a problem into submission! So... yes, beginning with B cleaning out the old garage with 18 years of junk and in it - with my son and my good friend K hauling a ton of junk off - it ended with the fence guy coming back to saw downed limbs and carry them to a huge burn pile and cleaning up the last of the trash. I like looking out the front window again! Of course, NOW all I can see is the work still needed on the old garage building. It needs a new garage door installed and a new door on the north end. It needs new boards under the roof replaced, too. It will require a LOT more Y Chromosome!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Guess I Belong Here Now

Duke the Good Dog and King the Stray (who murdered my cat and tore up my son's 1987 Cadillac in a fit of blood rage)
Front porch of the old house.

In April 2019, I will have been a twenty-year resident of the Newbury Township in Wabaunsee County, Kansas. It is the longest I have ever lived in one place in my life. Five years was the longest stretch of time before, and usually it was far less. I had some initial doubt of the wisdom to move here. I bought the place on an impulse because it felt right in my heart. When there was no turning back, my brain begin to offer up second thoughts. I left behind a wonderful old two story house just a few blocks from my office. I moved into a small two-bedroom double-wide set on a foundation with a "real" roof. I was taking my son away from his friends in Topeka, most of whom he had known since day care. I was now committed to about a 56 mile round trip commute to work in all weather. Maybe it was a bad idea. My son certainly thought so.

Soon after we moved, our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Merl Lietz dropped by for a visit. They welcomed us to the neighborhood, invited us to attend their church, and warned us to drive far to the right up any hill. Their friendliness was a godsend. I never suffered another moment of doubt again.

I try hard not to bother my neighbors but sometimes I have to ask for help. One bitterly cold morning I was changing a flat tire and discovered the spare was flat, too. I called Mr. Lietz to ask for a ride down to the gas station so I could air up the spare but he came with an air bubble instead and helped finish changing the tire. I was only a few minutes late to work thanks to him.

When my son and I went to Hawaii for ten glorious days, Mr. Lietz fed my dog and looked in on my cat. (Boy, those were the good old days - before chickens and horses!) When my son wrecked his car on our road, it was Mr. Lietz who called me to say everyone was safe. He diplomatically suggested calling a tow truck right away. The car was in a dangerous spot for anyone coming over the hill. When I came to collect my son and his friend, Mr. Lietz asked if I needed a hug, and you know what? I did need a hug.

Mr. Lietz owns a construction company with caterpillars and road graders and earth movers. He kept our township road clear of snow and terrible ruts in wet weather. He graded the snow from my drive without being asked and wanted no money for it. He was shocked when I offered. "Jackie! It's what neighbors do!" He would grade my drive after he had cleared the roads, apparently on his own time. I only missed work one time due to snow, thanks to Mr. Lietz. After he was retired and someone else was grading the road, he called me after a particularly deep snow and asked if I was snowed in. I said I was. One of his relatives with a big tractor who passed by feeding his cattle every day graded the drive the next morning. He did it in five minutes. I was so thankful that Mr. Lietz remembered me! I hate to bother the men around here because they have real jobs farming and ranching - not tending data in the cube farm. I probably would have been snowed in until it all melted rather than ask for help.

Mr. Lietz has done a lot of good things in the neighborhood. The winter before I bought the place, a terrible rainfall caused the little creek to come out of the banks. When it rains hard, the creek becomes a blasting, roaring monster sweeping away anything in the terrible currents. It picked up an eight passenger station wagon from beside the garage and carried it about a mile downstream. My son and his friends would always trek down the creek to see it. I learned just last year that Mr. Lietz was responsible for finally pulling that car out of the creek. I am sure it was polluting the creek for all those years.

Any time I needed advice on who to hire for plumbing, construction, fencing or mechanical work, I would call Mr. Lietz. His recommendations have always proven to be excellent choices. Bill's Plumbing and Heating in Paxico. Dan Roth, Paxico, built my barn and later my house, and replaced the roof on my garage. All work well done, reasonably priced, and finished right away! Merl himself has done site work on my property. I was not sure if he would consider clearing the site for the hay shelter enough work to bother with. He grinned and said "It's what we do!"

Merl's recommendation for a mechanic was Don William in Maple Hill. He was a great person to do business with. He was honest and did excellent work. He was tragically killed in an accident on a terribly icy night while trying to tow a car from a deep ditch on I-70. Don was like Merl, both are men who take care of their neighbors. Don made a lot of repairs on my son's car when he could have simply replaced parts much faster and more easily for him, but far more expensive for me. He was a good man. So many folks attended Mr. William's funeral that the minister remarked on it. He said it was unusual for someone of Mr. William's age to have so many folks at the funeral. He said, "This is what happens when you take care of people."

Mr. Lietz recommended Shawn Ebert from Paxico for installing the barbed wire fence around my restored pasture. Shawn has a full time job and a family so I figured it would take most of the summer to get the fence in. In an unbelievably short amount of time, Shawn had that fence in. All these years later, it is still straight and nice looking. Shawn built the new corral and hung the John Deere gates. It looks so good! He also spent about 45 minutes under my lawn tractor, wrestling out the Kong toy that had lodged between the shroud and the mower blade, effectively stopping a 26 horsepower mower. I bought a floor jack so I could do this myself, but after seeing how hard Shawn had to work at it, there is NO WAY I could have done that myself. He saved me several hundreds of dollars and I did not have to tow the mower to Shawnee County. Shawn also set up the heater in the water tank for the horses. Who does such kind things for an old broken-down woman?

The farmer who sells hay for my horses came to check on me after the last terrible wind storm. Many big trees were down in the roads. The men in the county were out with their chainsaws clearing the roads. He came by to make sure I had not blown away. It was comforting to know I was on someone's radar.

I have called my next-door neighbors to help load a couch into the back of my truck. The same neighbor helped push my lawn tractor when I got it high centered on the road and I simply could not push it out myself. They looked in on Mattie when I had to leave her in the big pen during a terribly hot summer day.

I called the only young man left in the entire neighborhood to help me change a tire one night not long ago. I tried to give him money but he insisted I take half of it back.

Years ago, the repaired electrical generator was in the back of my truck. I backed the truck to the pole so I could use the generator. After 5 days without electricity I could not wait any longer to have heat in the house! That thing was sooooo heavy that there was no way I could possibly move it myself. I called the neighbors to the south and before long, two very strong young men showed up.

I do not know if people groan inwardly when I call to ask for help. I do not call unless I am 100% sure I can not do a thing myself. Without fail, they have come right away and cheerfully done whatever was needed. Often people do things without being asked. I am sure to have forgotten all the kind things people have done for me over 20 years. I try not bother other people but sometimes I do need a little help. I guess I have been here long enough that I am a genuine part of the neighborhood. It absolutely feels like home.

Miss Mattie on the new front porch, still a puppy.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Thinking About the New Corral

When I first purchased the adjoining 20 acres, just east of the original 6 acres and house, it was farmed land. Farming occurred on a small portion of the 6 acres, too. The land was mostly planted to milo. It is customary to give the farmer a year's notice if you do not intend for him to farm the land any longer, so I did. He prepared the land for a last crop by spraying all of the broken ground with herbicides prior to planting. Those herbicides are effective. Not a twig grew in that soil after it was sprayed. Unfortunately, the farmer became ill and was unable to plant that year, so that bare ground was at the mercy of at least two years of heavy rains. I helplessly watched topsoil being washed into the creek.

I signed up with the United States Department of Agriculture for aid in replanting the prairie. I ordered a mixture of native grasses and forbes and was to receive an 80% refund of all costs once the planting was accomplished. I rented the equipment needed to plant the seed from the County. I hired a farmer with a tractor. In order to get the reimbursement from the government, I had to follow their rules. I had to plant either corn or milo then leave the stalks in the ground after harvest to help stabilize the soil while the new seeds took root. Simple? Not really. And it took another two years.

Somehow, amazingly, all of the things that needed to happen occurred on time and eventually, I had a new prairie. The soil was still good in some areas, but where the soil had washed from the rocky ridges nothing much grew, not even weeds. I eagerly waited for the big bluestem to come in. It is the tall grass that gives the Flint Hills the beautiful russet color from fall to spring burn. Some of the wild flowers came up the first year, the Indian Blankets, a few sunflowers and some of the shorter grasses, but I could not find any big bluestem. It was slow going for three seasons. I was beginning to suspect that perhaps the expensive native seed mixture had been switched with a much cheaper mixture. I halfway suspected collusion between the co-op and the guy hired to drive the tractor. But on the fifth year, the big bluestem gloriously sprouted from the abused soil in a magnificent towering florescence. Though I had two horses grazing the emerging prairie, the big blue came in, almost filling the entire 20 plus acres and grew to be well over 7 feet tall!

It was what all the pastures in the Flint Hills would look like if they did not have cattle grazing them. It was why an old friend of mine made fun of me, not believing the bluestem was taller than the roof of my truck. He had never seen tall grass allowed to grow to maturity. Once, all of this area was a sea of tall grass, and reported by the first immigrant eye witnesses as grass taller than a man on horseback. I was ecstatic to see the beautiful grass even though I could not see the horses in the pasture.

Annie and Ginger coming toward the barn through the first year of the Big Bluestem.  (They have fly masks on.)

Since that first glorious year, the big blue has never grown that tall but it has often been taller than I am by a lot. It is grazed by the horses and possibly the weather conditions have not favored the towering growth. Some years my pasture looks very straggly and ugly but other years it looks like a prairie.

I paid to have encroaching trees removed last year, cedars and honey locust. Eastern red cedars are a terrible enemy to the prairie. They take over in a short time, entirely snuffing out all the grasses to become an impenetrable forest of cedars. They disrupt the water cycles, degrade the soil, and destroy habitat for birds and small mammals. The best way to control them is to burn the pasture each spring. The honey locust have evil thorns, even on the saplings, that can pierce leather. They are much more difficult to eradicate than the cedars. If they are cut down, they will grow back from the roots. The only way to kill them is to poison the stumps after cutting. The guy cut EVERYTHING down to the bare ground, which I was not expecting. I thought he would mow the pasture, not scalp it. There was not enough vegetation in the spring of 2018 to burn but this coming spring I should be able to burn. I have lined up some men with machines and knowledge of how to safely set the pasture on fire without burning down the entire county. If I do this every year, or at least every other year, I should not have to pay a fortune to have trees removed ever again.

Building the new house destroyed a big swath of some of the most beautiful restored prairie. It was allowed to exist undisturbed because it was never included as part of the pasture. It was the intended location of the new house. It was a beautiful little rise of almost 100% bluestem. It was the view from the old house as I sat at the computer. I hated to see it destroyed in the site work but there was no choice. A nice stand still existed between the house and the barn, left to re-establish itself as true prairie. I normally had to mow a path to the barn through it, but other than that, it was left alone. It often grew taller than me in wet years and I loved it. Every day I could walk in my own tiny restored piece of the prairie.

You can see how tall the grass grows when it is not grazed.  The big bluestem was about 6 feet tall when this was taken. You can see the trail I mowed through it to the barn.  This tall and this close to the house is a fire hazard.  You cannot imagine how this grass burns when it is this tall!

In an effort to make tending the horses easier for me in the winter, I decided to turn this last tiny parcel of restored prairie into a corral. This allowed me to move the water tank a mere 75 feet from the faucet and to have a tank heater. The horses think it is wonderful to be this close to the house. They get to keep an eye on any action, check out any visitors, and are just that much closer when they see me at the feed bins in the mornings. Ginger has been with me the longest and she actually loves me. Wally still remembers his first people, I think, so I am not too high on his list of valuable beings. He likes me, at least, and will take any opportunity to attempt to groom me. He will nibble the top of my head or take my shirt in his teeth so he can vigorously scrub his big rubbery horse lips on my shoulder or arm. This is a sure sign of affection. Ginger does the same. In all the years of this behavior from her, only once did she accidentally pinch a tiny fold of skin in her teeth. She realized it immediately but it still left a terrible bruise on my arm. It is amazing that they understand how careful they must be with a puny human being, but they know without being "trained" or taught.

Creating the corral and allowing the horses into it has maybe been a mistake.  The ground has been muddy for weeks and their hooves have deeply cut the ground.  Much of the grass will come back this spring, but where the ground is so torn up I am not sure if it will be grass or weeds.  I guess it is a small price to pay to better manage the water tank and to have horses so close to the house now.  It is really fun for me and I think for them.  Not to mention the best thing... two brand new, bright green John Deere gates!  Almost like a real farm.

Not a good photo of one of the new gates but you get the idea!

Established bluestem just down the road.



Saturday, January 12, 2019

I Love the Same Things...

November 9, 2018 from Vera Road
Coming home at sunset on a November night, I stopped to take this photo of the moon. It almost impossible to see the tiny sliver of moon but it is there. In person, it was singularly beautiful.

This is a view I have seen a thousand times since I moved here. Sometimes it is the Evening Star adorning the fading day with a brilliant diamond point, reminding me that Heaven will not be more beautiful to me, I swear. How difficult it will be to leave this earth behind when the time comes...

January 7, 2019 from I-70

I drive my daughter crazy - well, not just my daughter - but she does not understand that the same old things feed my spirit. I will listen to a CD a hundred times, each time falling deeper into the energy and artistry of the music. I am not a musician so I do not hear music the way a musician hears it, I assume. It is like falling into a mandala or sinking into a dream for me. I listen until I can feel exactly what the artist meant. It is the only way to listen to Bob Dylan. I had to get old enough to hear some things in his music. The first time I listened to "Going to Acapulco" I heard he wished he cared. I guess a good song is like a good painting - you live with it and always find something new in it. The ordinary is anything but ordinary.

I have a deeply held appreciation for the sunset behind the hills in my valley, especially the clear evenings when the long shadows of the hills and the waning light hide the twenty-first century disturbances that erode the natural beauty of this place. The Native Americans lived here for centuries and this valley was untouched in its pristine beauty for all of that time. A slow lowering of the light brings a timelessness to the valley that resonates in my spirit. I love it every time. I always pause, memorizing all of it. The Buddhists say we die and go into the bardo where we await rebirth. Our memories are lost between lifetimes, except for the tiny spark that carries from one lifetime to the next. I do not want to forget these things though I assume it is a mercy that we cannot recall one lifetime to the next. The longing would kill us.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

There is Always More to the Story

My friend Patty was a true healer. People came to her Lodge to earnestly pray for healing for themselves or their loved ones. Some people were dying when they came to her. Western doctors had told them it was time to get their affairs in order. One man had been given the last rites. He had been sent home to die. After his family went into Patti's Lodge, he recovered to spend one final year with his family. They even took a last vacation together. Some people recovered entirely and are still alive today. She herself left this world too early, leaving behind a grieving family and an enormous circle of broken-hearted friends strung around the country and the world.

Somehow I did not know that she was terminally ill. I only knew that she was in the hospital and her son was holding Lodge for her. When I got to the hospital, I was shocked and deeply dismayed. How could I have not known she was this gravely ill? I considered her my best friend. She had adopted me in the old way, so we were sisters. But somehow no one had told me the true nature of her illness. Maybe everyone assumed I knew. She was on life support. We could not speak to one another but the nurse assured me that Patti could hear me. I am certain I did not have wit enough to realize I was speaking to her for the last time in this life. All I could think of to say was that I loved her.

When I left the hospital, I went to her house. I walked in the back door like always, right into that wonderful cluttered mess of a house smelling of sage and sweet grass and essential oils and good cooking. The house was alive with her energy. But beyond that, it was as if she was right with me, looking through my eyes. I looked around her home, seeing the paintings and artwork on the walls, the beloved house plants, bookshelves and furniture covered with books and photos and items from a rather unusual lifetime. In addition to feeling my own grief, I was acutely aware of her deep mourning over possibly leaving this lifetime so unexpectedly and so soon. I felt how desperately she wanted to get out of that hospital bed and come home to her life. I felt how desperately she wanted to finish raising her youngest son, B. I almost buckled under the weight of her immense longing to see him raised to adulthood. I have never felt another's person's grief as acutely as I did in those few moments standing in Patti's house right then.

Later that day her family made the decision to remove Patti from life support. That night we gathered in the Lodge, all of us packed together to pray on behalf of a woman who had given every single one of us the means to heal ourselves and heal our lives. We each humbly asked the Creator to heal Patti. After the Lodge and sharing one last big meal together on her beautiful old dining table, her son said he was going to see his mother and we were welcome to come with him. It was late - well after midnight - and we were all red-eyed from crying and from being in the Lodge. We were bedraggled and quite likely seemed high. The hospital staff said nothing as too many people came into the ICU to speak to Patti. Each of us had a few moments to speak quietly to her though she was unconscious. I am sure we were all thinking she would recover the way so many others had recovered. She died the next afternoon. Someone called to give me the news.

In my grief at losing the only person I had ever considered a sister, in attempting to come to terms with the loss of someone who was an actual light in this dark world, someone who genuinely helped others, I was at a loss. Did Patti ever know how much I cared about her? Did she ever know how thankful I was for her in my life? Had I ever done anything to repay, even in the tiniest measure, the wonderful things she brought into my life?

*******

One of the best things about having horses is that you can see them at any time of the day or night. You can have their big, equine, gentle comfort around you if you are grieving. Honestly, horses do not like to be around if your emotion is too jagged or too raw. They are sentient beings and their bodies are like big, beautiful emotion radars. While they never wanted me to lean on them to cry, they would stand quietly close by. One silent winter night, I was on the little ridge where the "barn" sits, grieving over Patti, my gentle horses nearby. It occurred to me that Patti's sons would no longer have the benefit of their mother's prayers in this world. There was something I could do to honor the memory of my friend and sister. Every time I prayed for my own children, I could pray for her sons as if they were my own. This idea brought me some small measure of peace and I spoke into the silence, telling Patti that I would do this on her behalf for the rest of my life. Across the winter pasture a breeze picked up. I could hear it making its way across the tall grass until it was all around me and the horses - a gentle, steady, pleasant breeze lifting my hair and drying my tears. I do not know if it was Patti who answered, or if the Creator simply took pity on me. It was pleasant and it was deeply comforting.

The rest of the story...

When I first met Patti, her youngest son B was seven or eight. I had written a thank you note to Patti, so I wrote a separate letter to B, thinking it would be fun for a little guy to get his own letter. He wrote back, including a picture he had drawn and a photo of himself with a dog on a recent hike. It was unexpected and so cute. At the end of the letter, in his childish handwriting, he post scripted "Write back".

About a year after Patti was gone, B and his older brother came to my farm to build a Lodge here. B's older brother made it a certain way so that we could all go in together, otherwise he and I would not have been able to go in together. I have photos of the two brothers, smiling and happy together on that day. As time went on, I eventually lost track of B. Life moves on and people are busy. He was a young man off in the world. I always believed that someday when he had settled down, I would catch up with him again in some way or another. Unfortunately, B was eventually on the streets, homeless and wild. Almost inevitably he came to the attention of our "justice" system. It was Facebook that served up the missing link. Someone had posted his prison address. I wrote to him immediately and immediately received a reply. At the bottom of the letter in his now masculine handwriting were the words "Write back". To this day, that is the only thing he has ever truly asked of me.

I eventually went to visit him in person. I was shocked to see the man he had become! Though the last time I had seen him, the day he and his brother had been here to build the Lodge, he was much taller than I, he was still a very young-looking teenager. Always in my mind's eye he is that cute little curly haired boy I first met. To see a tall young man with long black braids was a shock! Of course, what did I expect? He was in his early twenties by then. Little boys grow up! I did not cry but I almost did. Patti could sometimes see into the future and I wondered if she had ever seen her son as a grown man? I wondered if she knew he was going to be tall and handsome... and that he would scare the bejeezus out of white people by simply being a big Native American man? Before she died, she had seen that B's life would be ruined in the city. She tried to warn B and his brother, but sometimes life just does not roll out according to plan.

I do not believe B's life is ruined. I cannot see into the future the way Patti sometimes could but I think he has a destiny to fulfill. All of the personal suffering he is going through serves a reason that will eventually become clear to him. I may not live to see that part of his life. I wish I could do more to help him but there is not truly anything I can do. He will soon be 30 years old. The majority of his twenties has been spent in prison or jail. Sometimes to me he seems like a man misplaced in time. He does not seem to possess the most common skills he needs to navigate through the morass of rules, or maybe it is because they are not important to him. He is smart, quick witted, funny, and so damned tough. I give thanks every day that he is a big, strong man. If anyone wants to physically hurt him in prison they are going to pay dearly in the attempt. He is mentally tough. He was In the hole for months. I wrote to him almost every single day while he was locked up in isolation. It was the only thing I could do. I contacted the ACLU, hoping for a way to get him out of there. The ACLU man told me that Kansas typically does not send people to the hole for "no reason" but he said Kansas keeps people in isolation far beyond what he considered necessary, legal or humane. He said there was nothing he could do because B has a long list of prison write ups. B does not follow the rules in prison either. I read other inmates' records of breaking prison rules. Some of them are shocking and violent, even disturbing. Nothing violent or disturbing on B's records, just a LOT of rules breaking.

For whatever reason, B's course in life right now is right through the thick of prison and parole rules. The bright light that was still shining in B, even after years in prison is fading. I just "visited" him for 20 minutes via a video screen. I could see that this latest round of jail time was wearing on him and not in a good way. Yes, he committed a crime when he was young and foolish and homeless. If he had been able to follow the rules and pay the fines, I believe he would have not been sent to prison in the first place. Hard to manage your life if you are homeless, however. None of his crimes have been against people nor have they been violent. Because he was on parole and a convicted felon when he was arrested with a pocketknife, his bail is now set at $25,000, the same as if he had a gun. He has no history of ever harming another human being. He is a Native American man, covered with tattoos. He scares the shit out of white people. Even if I were the richest person on the planet, I do not think I could help him. He is on his own path and only he can read the map. All I can do is keep him in my prayers. I believe he will eventually get things ironed out. He will make the right decisions and take the right steps. I can see that much of the future.