Spring Break Adventure–4


 

Today was the second day at Big Bend.  We spent most of the day in the Chisos Basin where the park lodge is located.  The four of us started the hike all the way to the “window” and two of us finished it, which enabled me to not only experience a hike full of wonder but also to get over 20000 on my Fitbit for the day.  I also have a sunburn now.  For this post I will just add photos with little comment.  Later I will add more details about this astonishing place.

imageimage

image

image

Although I took some of these photos, I did not take anything on the hike so thanks to a friend you are seeing some of these.  This is bear and mountain lion country so there are signs telling you what to do if you see one, hardly likely with so many people around.  However, all the campsites have metal containers in which to lock food from bears.

Spring Break Adventure-1


Yesterday I left Canyon, Texas, headed for Alpine.  If you decide to drive south to the Big Bend area from the Panhandle, be prepared for a rather long and boring six hours of driving.

First, you pass at least an hour of looking at camel colored dry grass in all directions.  I had not realized the grass fires had reached south of Amarillo but in one area burned grass stretched across both sides of I-27 and on the medium in between.  I would not have wanted to be driving down the highway while this was on fire.

Close to Lubbock the cotton fields begin. With spring planting approaching, most of the fields were already cultivated ready to plant.  This “scenery”, except for driving through Lubbock, continues for at least another three hours.  About 1/2 to one hour before the Odessa/Midland area, you hit the really ugly.  Since I am one of those people who can find beauty just about anywhere, if I say it is ugly, most people would find it even worse.  Miles and miles of nothing but mesquite, brush, and oil rigs stretch endlessly in every direction.  Why would anyone want to live here?  Money, money, money.  Apparently, they expect to make even more soon because new drilling rigs popped up within sight of the road everywhere.  In the short distance where I cut off on a two lane highway to get from I-20 to I-10, I saw five new drilling rigs.  The scenery does improve a bit in this area because you can suddenly see the Davis Mountains looming large not too far away. It reminded me of my childhood when my family would head across eastern Colorado and how excited we became when we could see our destination, the Rockies, in the distance.

Once you drive two minutes or so on I-10 and then cut off south toward Fort Davis, the scenery becomes dramatic, something to really see and enjoy.  Although it is too early for the grass to have become very green, the cottonwood trees have leafed out and what a sight they are.  Huge is an understatement.  It would take the width of at least six of me to make one of these impressive trees.  Apparently, I was not the only one who viewed them as something special.  People were driving off the highway to stand by them.  One woman stared up into the newly green leaves, a look of wonder on her face.  I thought I was late to meet friends in Alpine so did not stop.  In the end we arrived at Alpine at the same time for our yearly get together–friends since college when we were roommates with her husband who went to college with us and another friend.

After a fabulous dinner at the old hotel here, we retired to our rooms to get ready for the real adventures of this week:  the Observatory-today’s goal, Marfa, Big Bend.  I really tried to sleep late, but alas I should have known better. Here I am writing away early in the morning.

 

 

 

A Week of Gratitude (cont.)


Although I intend to continue with gratitude thoughts and lists, this is my last post of this one week exercise.

Saturday’s list includes:

-Cooking for and enjoying the company of close friends.

-Listening to music I love–Angelique Kidjo, Rokia Traore, Cesaria Evora, Conjunto Primavera.

Sunday’s list includes:

-Enjoying springlike weather with birds singing.

-Accomplishing spring cleaning in my xeriscape flower beds.

-Trying a Japanese sauce I never tasted before–yakiniku.  I used it with chicken and bok choy over Jasmine rice.  This included marinating grated carrots in mirin, another Japanese sauce which I especially like.

-Watching a deer disappear through the junipers.

-Enjoying the warm weather from my patio.

SAM_1545

Isabella–En Memorium


477729_3059472219691_1596792929_o

The crematorium handed me the 6″ by 4 ” dark brown wooden box.  I knew it would be heavy; Isabella was an eighty pound wolf dog. I thought I was prepared.

Driving home, memories:

March 2006, daughter calls; two year old grandson wants a beta. I drive to PetSmart.  Daughter tells me I must see these unusual, incredible seven-week-old puppies.  Alert brown eyes look at me.  Too big, black ears wiggle.  The label says wolf, German Shepard, Blue Heeler.  The two remaining puppies look like light colored German Shepherds or Belgium Malinois.  I had not planned to get a dog, not yet.

Two years later I move into my new house:  canyon edge, horses, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, road runners, mockingbirds, rattlesnakes.  Isabella guards her property, sits on the patio where she can check for invaders.  She rarely barks, growls.  When she does, high alert–I check.  Neighbor dogs, coyotes, foxes, chased off–not bobcats.  She watches them.

I remember the day she dismembered a skunk, drug the carcass everywhere.  After eleven baths at PetSmart, the skunk smell remained.  The one day she growled, I shocked, investigated–a man walking down the arroyo toward the house.  Growls became increasingly loud.  Out on the patio, she stands, the man sees her, turns and runs.  I feel safe, Isabella guarding, telling me if something unusual occurs.  She’s mixed breed; I think she’ll live long.

Every morning, evening, she completes horse chores with me, chases bunnies, roadrunners.  Two months ago, I, mesmerized, watch her catch, gobble two half-grown bunnies in less than one minute–nothing left.  Mixed breed; I think she’ll live long.

Friday morning she helps me with chores, chases bunnies.  Friday afternoon she can hardly move.  At the vet, blood work like a four year old; x-ray shows a little something wrong.  They give her two shots, schedule an ultra-sound for Saturday morning at another vet’s.  Meds working, Saturday morning she’s her usual lively self, eager to travel in the truck, nose wet and cold.

Ultrasound vet tells me there’s little hope.  Shocked, I stand there.  “If she were your dog, what would you do?”

“Put her to sleep.  She’s not in pain.  She has a tumor the size of your small fist on her intestines–might be cancer, hard to operate.”

I look at the vet, frozen.

At 8:00 Wednesday evening, I open the box, take out the bag of Isabella’s steel grey ashes, walk out to her patio spot, the place where she guarded her kingdom, toss a handful of ashes into the wind, watch them float and scatter down into the canyon, tears tracking down my face.  I close the bag, walk to the place where our long yearling colt, Star, is buried, dig an eight inch hole, bury another handful of ashes.  I take the one tablespoon of ashes left back to the house, put them back in the black velvet bag and into the box with the card with her paw print, the crematorium certificate, the sympathy card signed by all the employees where they euthanized her, place it on top of a stack of old magazines in the Chinese cabinet.

At bedtime, I forget, go to call her in.  This morning I find her hairs–she shed so much, wolf undercoat.  Evidence of her presence permeates.

It will never end.

11999567_10203872023954904_7742039751577593507_o

 

 

Ethiopian Journey–The Beginning


Two years ago today, two friends and I flew from here to Dallas to Dubai.  The final destination:  Ethiopia, where I spent nearly three weeks with them and my friends’s family plus a road trip through the north.  Ethiopia was nothing like what one sees in the news, in famine photographs, nothing like the image most people in the USA have of it.  My main goal when I returned home was to show people photos and inform them what it really looks like, how incredibly beautiful it is there.  This mission continues two years hence.  For the next several weeks I plan to relive this journey and share it on my blog here.

It is a short trip from Amarillo to Dallas via air.  In order to carry the baggage allowed on Emirate Airlines, we first flew via Southwest to Love Field, then took a taxi to Dallas International.  If you plan to fly long distances, I highly recommend Emirates Airlines.  Compared with all the others I have experienced even coach class is wonderful:  bigger seat room, more than a hundred movies to watch, good food, an area where you can help yourself to fruit and snacks, unlimited wine and beer, and an international group of flight attendants.

From Dallas to Dubai is fifteen hours of flying.

IMG_0155

IMG_0163

People wonder why they fly over Greenland, Iceland, northern Europe to get to Dubai.  Do not look at a flat map.  Get a globe and trace the route.  It is the shortest way to go.  Dubai is not like many think here.  No, I did not see endless lines of Lamborghinis and Ferraris.  In fact, I do not recall seeing any at all.  Tomorrow, photos of Dubai before heading on to Addis.

Making a Difference: Kiva Loans


To honor the death of a best friend’s father, I did as she asked, made a Kiva loan.  After looking through dozens of potential individuals and groups, I loaned 100 dollars to a group of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help fund their poultry raising operation.  Even though it has been less than six months, they have paid back more than half, paid on time regularly.

Some loan opportunities require even less money.  People often think their efforts don’t count, they are too small to make a difference.  Everything each person does makes a difference for better or worse.  Make a difference, act, speak out, contribute however you can to make our world a better place for all of us.

My Ethiopian Adventure–Final Days


It took me a while to post this because I did not want the adventure to end.  Of course, it will never end in my heart and mind.  Nevertheless, this last post about my three week adventure brings a feeling of termination I have apparently attempted to avoid.  I spent the last few days of my trip, staying with my friend’s parents in Adama.  They took me on the wonderful adventure described in my last Ethiopian post, the day trip to Awash National Park.  Later, we went shopping for gold, silver, and textiles, ate, wandered around, visited, relaxed.  We listened to the Muslim call to prayer and the Ethiopian Orthodox chanting.  One day I heard another voice over the loud speakers and asked, “What is this one?”  The Pentecostals competing–three types of churches all on loud speakers, calling people to worship.  Because at least two of them start before dawn, it kept my friends up.  By this time in the trip, I had earned to sleep through it all.

I like the climate in Adama, especially after being cold for most of the first half of the trip.  It seemed I could put on multiple layers and still shiver.  Adama is nice and warm, hot, but not too hot.  Flowers and tropical fruits thrive as in the photos below–my friend’s mother’s lush garden and her elegant table.

IMG_1085

 

IMG_1090

The plates are an Ethiopian design apparently only available there–Ethiopian figures in a circle. Even breakfast is a work of art.

IMG_1177

The neighbor’s grape arbor amazed me.  I have never seen anything like it.

IMG_1181

Zoning remains unheard of here.  Next to a new, well built, modern house where one or two families may live is a place like this or the one on the other side of my friend’s parents’ house where both cows and no one knew exactly how many people live.

IMG_1179

In the dark space in the middle of the above photo live two cows–if they have not been slaughtered by now.  From this vantage point I could see a minaret, a modern wind farm on the far hill, cows, goats, an empty lot, a luxurious looking house being built on the other side of this adjoining lot, everything from the most modern to the ancient.  Every bedroom possessed its own little patio.  The photo below shows the view from mine.

IMG_1087

So we would not have to make a mad rush to get me to the airport through Addis traffic, we went back to Addis the day before my flight out.  I took a few photos from the front of the Addis airport before I left.

IMG_1183

IMG_1182

Due to the kindness of a complete stranger, I made my flight.  When I was about to go through the passport line, I discovered I had my friend’s passport which meant she had mine.  In Bahir Dahr, we had to show our passports to the hotel before getting keys for our rooms.  Apparently, the young man switched them when he gave them back to us.  We took them and put them away without looking.  My phone did not work in Ethiopia.  I experienced a major panic.  I had my Ethiopian friend’s phone number but no phone.  I explained to the guy checking passports the problem.  The man standing in line next to me heard and offered his phone.  He actually got out of line to help me.  I did not recognize his accent and have no idea his country.  He called the number for me.  The call failed to go through.  He waited, tried again.  Eventually, it all worked out and I made my flight, all due to this man’s patience and kindness.  When I finally made it inside the airport, several people who had heard the problem actually came up to me and told me they were worried I might not make it.  I knew none of them; yet they cared.

With a six hour layover in Dubai, I had a lot of time to wander, drink coffee, explore the airport, which is huge, really huge.  I bought some perfume–Muslim perfume with no alcohol in it.  I like it so much, I will have to figure out how and where to order it when it runs out.  Many of this airport’s shops are opulent.  People stood in line to buy gold, high end cosmetics, designer everything.  It is cosmopolitan, clean, efficient, fancy, welcoming.

IMG_1185

IMG_1184

In this airport, I saw one of the women who was relieved to see me inside the airport at Addis after my passport scare.  She unfortunately experienced a frightening incident during the flight and they had to give her oxygen.  We chatted, she seemed fine finally.  As I write this, what do I remember most of those last 36 hours of the trip:  the kindness and concern of total strangers.

 

Christmas Reflections


IMG_1347 Two years ago I expected to spend Christmas alone–too much snow.  Friends and family came anyway.  We ate, sang, laughed.  They did not tell me for two weeks how it took them two hours to negotiate my long drive to the main road.  No snow this year, not here–prediction remains 60 degrees F.  Now these friends are far away:  Europe, Mexico.  My daughter and grandson will be here; we will miss my son.

Beauty lies outside the windows

and in my heart.

Food fills the refrigerator.

Homemade bread lays on the counter, ready.

Music rings from CDs.

Christianity is not required to celebrate:

Joy

Kindness

Giving

Receiving

Empathy

Acceptance

Friends

Family

Love

Joy!

Gratitude


Usually, I plan my posts, write them out carefully, sometimes even proof a couple of times.  Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States.  Even though I know all about the historical lies to cover up the truth about the supposed original Thanksgiving, I continue to think this is a useful and fun holiday for several reasons.  Thankfulness, gratitude, remains the primary source of a happy life.  The list of things for which I am thankful seems nearly endless:

-health

-living in a place filled with natural beauty

-my daughter

-my grandson

-my son, even though we talk only occasionally and he lives far away

-teaching

-my students, one of whom posted on Facebook this morning that he is grateful that he had me as a teacher ten years ago

-the friends who took me with them to Ethiopia this past summer

-all my other friends locally and from all over the world

-the exchange students who have lived with me and from whom I receive messages regularly

-my parents for whom I owe eternal gratitude for teaching me values, independence, tolerance, a love of beauty and knowledge, and a sense of wonder

-music

-my ability to sing

-horses

-wildlife, nature–here where I am so fortunate to live

-art

-my ability to write

-all the people who love my book of poetry and tell me they do–I might also include the people, mostly men, who find it shocking

-happiness and the choice I made to be happy all those long years ago

-red wine

-plentiful food

I could go on and on.  However, it seems best to end with this fantabulous morning on my own little rim of wonder and say I am thankful for a life filled with so many astonishing events and experiences I never expected and for which I am endlessly grateful.

SAM_1454

Happy Birthday to Suzanne Gelber Rinaldo


Suzy and I met as freshmen at Grinnell College in Iowa.  She was from a suburb of Cleveland and I from a farm in Northwest Missouri.  We decided we wanted to be roommates the following year.  We remain friends still after all these years even though we usually live far apart except for a brief time when we both lived in Rhode Island.  She married David Rinaldo, who attended Grinnell with us.  At least once a year one of us goes to see the other.  We seem able to pick up conversations as if we had just talked a few hours before.  Last year my daughter, grandson, and I drove to California and spent five days with them.  This year they will come to see me.  We remain the perfect example of that trite phrase, best friends forever, BFF.  On the left side of my fireplace a tiny painting she gave me when we were in college still hangs.  I wrote this poem about it last year.

 

The Gift

 

On the wall for forty years,

a copy of some famous painting:

almost everything a strange dark

shade of blue, a blue not quite

blue, the merest hint of green,

antique cupboard, curved table

base, ladder back chair, window

frame, even the tree outside.

 

The only exceptions:

white table cloth,

newspaper in the lady’s hands,

her pale pink floral dress with tiny

darker pink flowers,

large copper antique teapot

in the cupboard, the black and copper

pots on top.  Her teacup, saucer, plate

of toast, white and blue, an old Danish pattern.

 

I’ve kept the gift,

hung on too many walls to count.

My college roommate, the giver, said,

This reminds me of you.

I look at it, all these years

have wondered why.

We’re still friends.

I’ve never asked.

 

SAM_1572