Wednesday, November 30, 2005

All Blessings Flow

This morning I debated whether or not to take the camera and tripod on my hike. In the balance today, hiking was to have the lead. The compromise was to take ‘the gear’ but a limited number of batteries. REALLY, who am I kidding, the only way I would not take the camera now is if it were broken. And then I would take the old 35 mm film camera. If it were a just a matter of batteries, I would drive to the very nearby store and buy some even if it meant being a little late for my date

Contrary to the norm, I didn’t check weatherunderground, I just poked my head outdoors as I let the cats out and then dressed as I thought best. For the first time in days, I didn’t feel an adjustment to the chill. Maybe it wasn’t that cold. I felt warm and even the ever-present wind caressed rather than whipped. I felt completely calm even as I started past the burn area. I felt no worries about how the sunrise would look. The sky and land are so full of offering; I just choose what feels good and right. What doesn’t? It seemed like the perfect balance of art and effort. As I sit here tonight searching for words to describe the feelings or state that I reach, a hymn from my childhood, Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow goes through my head. I am not of that religion but the blessings are flowing through me from everywhere. Sometimes when I am on my mountain, I have this sensation that a bright light is shining on me. If it is cloudy when I get this sensation, I always look up to see if the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds, knowing full well that it is not coming from the sun. I skipped down the last of the trail, the steep switchbacks, my favorite part with a smile on my face, full of energy ready to embrace whatever gifts that life has to offer me today. I had been worried last night about all of my bills. Today my boss gave me an award that alleviated my worry.

I was chilled by the time I got to work, the wind sucking out my body’s warmth like a January Chinook. I wore my favorite pink fleece pullover the entire day feeling warm and cozy inside of myself. I sit here now, at the other end of the day, warmed by a cup of Lady Grey. I am soon to bed, every night now like Christmas Eve. Tomorrow I will gather more beautiful things.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

top of the morning from Top of the World

When my two sons were little, we used to walk the short distance from our house to the nearby baseball field. It sits perched above Denver, surrounded by a guardian row of big spruce trees. From here you can see all of Denver and all of Green Mountain and lots of the Front Range mountains as well. We played our own version of baseball and I marveled at the beauty of ‘top of the world park’ as I called it to myself. Today I decided to juggle priorities once again. The bills call to me or rather shout ugly accusations more likely. So in an effort to get some of these life chores accomplished I devised a plan to reward myself like a parent would reward a child. But in this case, it was dessert first. All I have to do to reach ‘top of the world’ is walk past the next-door neighbor’s house and up a flight of steps. I’m there. How sweet is it that when I bought my house 15 years ago, these visual treasures were waiting nearby for discovery. All I had to do was open my eyes.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Nature's Secrets

It is hard to go back to work sometimes after several days off. I do like my job but recently have been sidetracked by a developing passion. I am beginning to think it may be more of a derailment! Maybe it was the cloudy sunrise yesterday that conspired to capture my attention and focus it rather obsessively on getting up the mountain to photograph this morning’s sunrise. Even though I stayed up late, I awoke at 4:30 a.m. this morning, leaping out of bed with all of the day’s tasks weighing heavily on my mind. Fed the cats, put on many layers (27ºF and winds gusting into the low 30’s), got in the car and headed to work. Yes, that is right, I had to stop by work to enter my time since I knew I would be late and I was supposed to have done it by last Saturday. It was 5:54 a.m. before I was pulling on the last of my warm clothes in the parking lot at Green Mountain. The regular silver Ford was parked in its place. It seemed colder than usual to me. The traffic along Alameda was heavier than normal as people returned to work after the Thanksgiving holiday. As I started out along the small burn area, I couldn’t help but wonder what the sunrise would look like. Little worries kept popping into my head; had I set the camera in the correct low-light auto mode, would it use up more batteries than I was carrying with me, how late for work was I going to be? It was dark enough so that I was thankful that I knew the trail well. Wearing a roomy backpack afforded me the luxury of bundling up more than usual and being able to peel off extra clothing as necessary. The extra wind jacket saved me from feeling totally chilled. Very shortly after starting out, this trail turns away from the sunrise so I kept looking back over my shoulder to search for signs of light. The only light at this time of day are the millions of lights that make up the Denver metropolitan area – so yes quite a few! The trail then curves around a gully and heads northeast and uphill. I looked toward the sunrise and saw the perfect view of the moon with a planet below and to the southeast. I now know that it was Jupiter (please correct me if I am wrong). I set up the tripod, attached the camera and started taking photos. I wasn’t wearing my glasses so I just generally tried to line up everything in the viewer and hope for the best. I gave myself a stern lecture to attach the camera to the tripod in the warmth and light of home before heading out the next time. Simple tasks, like lining up the attachment screw to the bottom of the camera (where is that damn hole?!?!?!##?), become a little more challenging in the cold, wind and darkness of an early-morning hillside. I snapped several photos and then picked everything up and climbed the steep section, again with my back to the sunrise.

I stopped several times and took more series of photos. Finally, at the top, out of batteries, I headed home. The sun was fully up and warming me by then, that is when the wind didn’t have its’ way! I never did have to peel off any layers of clothing.

As inspired as I am by the beauty of the morning sun, I am also quickly becoming weighed down by the sheer work of focusing so much attention on photography. It is hard to balance this with what my hike has always been: a spiritual yet physical journey. I am completely enthralled with trying to capture all of these images that I see. I feel overwhelmed with ideas to photograph – mother nature seems to be revealing secrets to me everywhere I lay my eyes. Yet I don’t have all of the skills or equipment to accomplish all that I want. In fact, many of the images that inspire me are probably best enjoyed in the moment and not meant to be ‘captured’ at all. Just embrace and celebrate the moment and then let it go. So I shall seek a balance between the exercise, the spiritual recharge I receive from the rising sun, and the creative energy that runs from nature through me. I shall be ever thankful for the nourishment of my soul that each day brings.

What do you expect from a moonchild?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Yes -This Morning's Sunrise

Clouds - Today's Magic

I got all inspired by comments from George and Eric about photography and tripods. I located one of my tripods (I have at least two left over from when my kids liked to make VHS movies). The key points are that it is fairly lightweight and it has all of its’ parts. I got everything ready to go last night just like a little kid laying out her clothes for the first day of school. I did prepare myself for the likely scenario – that with a storm moving in, there might well be clouds instead of a glorious sunrise. An early morning look out the window revealed only scattered clouds but by the time I hit the trail, the cloud cover was 100%. So the theme for today is clouds. There was not even a hint of a pink glow in this morning’s sunrise.

I was sore from yesterday, but don’t you think sometimes it is good to do a light workout when you are sore? As I write this, I am no longer sore – so today’s hike helped to relieve yesterday’s soreness. I was thinking about this subject as I hiked. As you get older, it is only natural to get tired more easily and to have more aches and pains as things wear out. BUT I also know that inactivity makes me tired and sore (be honest – don’t you feel stiff and tired after too long a session in front of the computer?) SO, I would rather be tired from activity then tired from boredom and inactivity. I fully intend to completely wear out my body before I die. I don’t understand the idea of saving things for later to make them last longer. Haven’t you been in the house of someone who leaves the plastic wrap on his or her lampshades? I would rather have direct contact with life – dust, bugs, cobwebs, splatters, whatever. Don’t separate me from life.

I learned another aspect of photography and tripods etc. You have to take your gloves off to adjust everything – and man is that cold! The clouds hanging over the divide were fascinating, swirling, expanding, contracting, the front range and high peaks constantly appearing and disappearing.

This is what I want out of life – to keep having these ‘does it get any better than this’ or what I also call OMG moments. They don’t need to be anything exotic like trips to Tahiti. They can be the beauty of ANY sunrise, the funny look my cat gets on his face when he is about to be mischievous, the anticipation of a good cup of coffee (or tea!) after my morning hike, that somewhat rare glimmer of understanding between my son (either one!) and myself, and the list goes on. Many people keep life lists of things they want to do before they die. I’m not knocking this at all – I admire their determination and vision. But if I made a life list, it would consist of millions of little everyday things. I find myself so drawn to these magical little moments, is it any wonder that I often get off the path of that big important goal – now what was that goal I was working on???

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wind-Blown Limber Pine

photo by Ptelea with special editing by George, aka
  • Bike riding donut guy
  • Thank You!

    Come Snowshoe With Me

    Echo Lake on Mt. Evans Colorado

    With winter not heavily settled into Denver, I head to the mountains for the first snowshoe trek of the season. Up early, meeting the group, the brand new Denver Snowshoe Club, in the dark for the drive up hoping to avoid the ski traffic. Mount Evans road doesn’t look terribly promising for snow. On we go just past Echo Lake, ice covered and wind-blown. Getting out of the warm car and feeling the drastic change in temperature, I quickly select the clothes to bundle up against the harsh conditions and head into the woods. There is a sense of urgency to get and keep moving. You warm up very quickly when snowshoeing but do not forget that you cool off just as quickly! Even though the paved road up to the summit of Mount Evans is closed for the season, it is mostly bare of snow, so we snowshoe into the woods picking the straight-up-the-mountain route. The snow is moderately deep powder and easy to negotiate. The hardest part is the complaints from my muscles that are getting a workout unlike any they have had in the warm season months. These woods might be called the Usnea Forest, dark with closely spaced moss-covered lodgepole pine. This gray green old man's beard is draped everywhere on all of the dead pine branches. We are protected from the wind in this sheltered place and our physical exertion more than makes up for the lack of sunshine. We literally wander the forest, four people together yet with enough isolation to be in our own thoughts. At one point, we come into an opening that allows us a view of the Continental Divide and the clouds hanging over it portend the arrival tonight of a winter storm. We test out an airboard for a little heart pounding fun and then descend on Echo Lake. I have become chilled while we stood around taking turns on the airboard and the sun’s warmth is a welcome feeling as it shines on Echo Lake. We walk around the edge of the Lake on the ice and head across frozen willow wetlands back towards our parked vehicles. At one point we see the abandoned holes of ice fishermen. The ice is only about three or four inches thick here. I keep hearing a sort of indescribable resonant knocking or thumping. We stop to listen and one in our group knows that this is the sound of the ice cracking, the eerie lake voice that is amplified and echoed against the surrounding tree-covered mountains. We enter a short stretch of trail, level and easy, leading us once again through the dark lodgepole pine, only shafts of sunlight penetrating in columns, highlighting the snow-covered downed trees and lichen rocks. Again I feel isolation, both in sound and vision from my companions. Abruptly, we empty out into the road, washed in sun and are greeted by several groups of people just about to start their adventure. We weren’t gone that long but it feels like a good first outing of the season. Hopefully, there will be many to follow. Now I am headed home for a hot bath and a nap. Does life get any finer?

    Friday, November 25, 2005

    Denver Skyline

    Downtown Denver looks so small!

    Losing that Aggression

    I have another hint about how to survive the upcoming Holidays. Practice being nice. My fellow blogger, Bike riding donut guy writes about how difficult people can be to deal with. People seem to work themselves into a frenzy over getting ready for Christmas and buying and all of the added activities. I have kind of dropped out of this mode gradually over the last few years. Some years I put up decorations, some years I don’t and the same goes with the Christmas tree. Most years I do host the annual work Christmas party at my house. I view it as a reason to give my house its annual cleaning. I usually have to pull one or two all-nighters to get it done. And every year I close off more and more of the house as off-limits to visitors. Some of my helpful co-workers are always telling me ways to get out of having the party at my house. But I actually enjoy doing it. How else would I get my house cleaned??

    As far as shopping, once you detach from that aggressive energy that makes you think you should have “what you want when you want no matter what” everything seems more relaxed. I also do this with driving. I just don’t get into the aggressive, road-rage mentality. I’m pretty sure I have passed this on to my two sons, ages 17 and 20. I’m sure you may doubt my sincerity when I say this but neither of them are aggressive drivers. If I find myself reacting impatiently while driving, one of them never fails to point out the error of my ways (you haven’t lived until you have been put in your place by a teen/young adult!) Once you let go of the impatience, you will be surprised at how much less aggravating it is to drive – no big deal.

    I have read a few booklets at work about how to deal with difficult people. While there are some people who are just plain toxic, most people will respond readily to a smile, a few kind words, or in other words, being treated like valued human beings. This is not about being ‘perky’ either. I find mindless perkiness to be most irritating. This is about finding calm within yourself and reflecting your appreciation for those around you in kindness. Simple. And I ‘m pretty sure that the more you practice the more ingrained it becomes.

    Today I decided to read my camera manual and set the mode for low light sunrise situations. I guess I underestimated the admonition to hold the camera real still because my photos all came out blurry. I will probably go back to auto-mode but disable the flash when I need to. It is just too challenging to hold the camera that still when it is dark, can’t see well and I am being buffeted around by wind (and my eyes are watering and my nose is running).

    Thursday, November 24, 2005

    So Good and So Right

    I started to write so many times today, about the upcoming holidays and the war in Iraq and no matter how I began it always ended up negatively. While there is no way to put a positive spin on the war, there is a way to look positively about the holidays. This year is the first Christmas season that I have ever experienced without benefit of TV. I dropped my cable service last February (sometime around then) and because of my home location on the lower slopes of Green Mountain, I don’t get any TV reception without an antenna. So when I say I don’t watch TV that means not only do I chose not to but I am not able to. I don’t receive any newspapers and I seldom listen to radio. My only source for news is the Internet and I do read the news, local, national, and international. I do keep up on what is going on in the world but miss out on a lot of the sensational news.

    One of the biggest blessings of this lifestyle is that I am blissfully unaware of all of the advertising hype. I don’t see it and I don’t get anxious about all of the things I supposedly need. I spend so little time at the mall that when I went this week to replace a broken appliance, I felt like I was in a foreign land. I spend my time reading, learning things on the Internet, hiking, taking photos, listening to music, reading blogs and writing my own. And yes, I do work full time. One of my favorite writings on the subject of stuff is a recent column by Mark Morford, “Why Do You Have So Much Junk? Oh yes you do. And there are TV shows to prove it. Question is, what are you gonna do about it?” I haven’t always been this detached from the media and buying things, so my house is living proof of what Mark Morford writes about. It is pathetic that my house is so cluttered so long after making this lifestyle change. I hope to spend some of my time in the near future getting rid of stuff. Maybe that is why I love spending so much time on Green Mountain – it is an escape from all of this stuff! But then again, maybe my house is cluttered because I spend so much time up there.

    This morning on Green Mountain, the show of color was definitely before sunrise. There were clouds hanging along the horizon and extending up into the sky. The color was so intense that I had to stop and breathe it in. The first half of my hike up the mountain is with my back to the rising sun. When the colors are this intense, it seems like I should walk backwards but even so, I can feel the beauty on display behind me and I turn frequently to see what has happened. For a change, the color of the sky turned gray after the sunrise and there was a definite chill in the air. Maybe that was why I started thinking about the war in Iraq. Everything I experience on my hikes seems so good and so right. Nothing about the war seems this way. Trying to bring American democracy to Iraq is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Even if there is some kind of resolution to this war, I don’t ever think it will seem good or right. And our country is changing for the worse because of our participation in this war as each day passes.

    I have a friend who seems to live his life with this philosophy in mind – what he does needs to be so good and so right or he stops doing it - not a bad way to live your life.

    Man & Nature - which makes a more lasting impression?

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005


    Turning Circles

    I know that yesterday I said I would paint my future in broad strokes. Today, I am noticing details. While I will never tire of seeing the colors and shadows of sunrise, sometimes I see the sunlit curlicue seed heads of blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) as it dances in the wind. I hear the whistle of the dried yucca stem so clearly that I turn in the twilight darkness to see who is there. I again find comfort in seeing the regulars, the silver Ford and the runner in black. I get just a little uneasy when I hear the new person whistling for his missing dog near the top. But even with the interrupted meditation, I welcome the familiar strength that has me dancing down the mountain retracing the path up with just a little shift. It is the same pathfrom a different perspective and a little variation added in for spice. When I meet someone new, I want to know details. They may not assemble into a whole but then I fill in by looking at them from a new angle.

    Holding hands
    Turning in circles
    A different dance each day

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    Broad Bold Strokes

    It caught my eye as I zoomed past it, on the steep and fast switchbacks at the bottom of the trail. My mind sorted out what it was and I thought to myself, go back and pick it up. Putting on the brakes, I turned and looked along the ground until I found it. Although not old, it was worked and it spoke to me as if it belonged to the ancients. It was simply a piece of yucca stem, chopped off with an even cut and then frayed carefully at the other end.
    With it, I will paint my future in broad, bold strokes.

    Monday, November 21, 2005

    I'm Pretty Sure That.....

    My 17-year-old son has a unique way of speaking. He likes to preface every possible statement with “I’m pretty sure that….” Our conversations go something like this:

    Me, “I’m pretty sure that you should stay in, do your homework and help me with the dishes rather than go out with your friends tonight.”

    My son, “I’m pretty sure that I can do my homework in the morning before class.”
    (Notice how he doesn’t mention the dishes)

    I’m pretty sure that I would rather read blogs all day today than go to work. Hell, I’m pretty sure that I would rather do what the next-door neighbor’s dog does all day. I’m pretty sure that all he does is bark and chase squirrels.

    Leaving All This Behind

    Day Two of Week One of Back on Track. Feeling so good after yesterday’s hike, I was easily psyched to go again this morning. But when the alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I still felt tired, it was the announcement of temperatures in the 40’s that got me out of bed. It is hard to resist a sunrise hike in November in Colorado when it starts out that warm. I have rules about using the weather as an excuse. If the temperature is below 18°F, I am allowed to use that as an excuse. But why not make up the opposite rule: If it is warmer than 40ºF at 5 a.m. you must get up and hike.

    I was out the door by 5:49 a.m. and after only one day; my body is feeling more athletic. I made a better choice of clothing, today feeling less like I was a little kid wearing a thick snowsuit. I would rather be underdressed with extra layers to add on and enough to keep the hands and ears warm. Nothing else gets cold (unless I am hiking in a blizzard and that is another story for another day).

    I ran into a couple of regulars. First, the silver Ford was parked as usual in the big parking lot. There was one runner just starting up the switchbacks getting his headlamp adjusted properly. Luckily, I go the other way, up the steep northern path and come down the switchbacks – I prefer to hike alone unless, of course, I invite someone along! In my meditations, I saw what I thought was my heart in gorgeous shades of purple with trails of red and sparkling gems on strings. I know that sounds like I may be on drugs but maybe you could just think of it as artwork. I see art when I meditate. Whatever is going on gives me incredible energy. I feel so good that my day could end now and be perfect. Or you could say that I can face with optimism anything that comes my way.

    Past the tower, I saw one of the regulars, a man I started seeing this past summer. When I first used to see him, he seemed to be struggling with his running, as if he couldn’t find his pace and the expression on his face was strained and full of pain. But as I saw him progress over the weeks, he would smile very pleasantly at me. I could tell that he was enjoying his time on Green Mountain. Today when I saw him, he was all covered in warm, black clothing. I would never have recognized him because his running gait is completely changed and at ease. He smiled and wished me a good morning with all the energy of the new sun. I tell you, I live for these little exchanges between strangers. I feel very deeply that some of these ‘regulars’ get the same amazing energy that I do, that we recognize that we have tapped into something beyond the ordinary.

    Sunday, November 20, 2005

    Long's Peak seen from the Hayden - Green Mountain trail, Jefferson County, Colorado 6:30 a.m.

    Sunday mornings are really the best time to hike Green Mountain. There are fewer hikers and cyclists at this time than any other. The traffic noise from the top is almost non-existent. It is easy to imagine that I have the mountain completely to myself. Weekdays seem to attract the disciplined crowd and if I hike at the same time each day, I see some of the same people.

    I have been off of my schedule. I made the decision last night to commit to a sunrise hike this morning. I have been using the excuse of being tired to avoid it. But I know that the hike only gives me energy and any I use is replenished many times over. There is even a good feeling that comes with sore legs!

    I love to leave the house in the hour before the sun rises. The gradual lighting of the day and the intense energy of the new sun completely restores me. All my worries dissipate and calm overtakes me. I can step up my pace or even add jogging if I want to increase the workout level. But the clincher for me is the sacred spot I find inside of myself when I face the morning sun with all of the mountains and plains unfolding around me. Many people would be bored with this repetitive routine. I find a new world of awe each day that I am able to return and feel blessed for the opportunity.

    Ahhhh............Much Better

    Finally made it up Green Mountain for the sunrise this morning.

    More to follow.

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    More Tales of Pat

    Pat is the perfect cat – well - as close as is possible. Pat is so vibrant and has the most beautiful thick shiny fur. Pat is big and VERY strong and doesn’t use it’s strength against us or the other kitties in the house. BUT Pat must be very intimidating to the unfortunate mice that live in my yard – no more gentle giant then.


    Maybe it is my age but I find that old photographs haunt me. After my mom died over ten years ago, I was given several boxes of old family photographs. It seems right to me – not because I should have the photos more than my sister and brother but because I cherish and protect them. Sometimes before I go to sleep, I pull out stacks and start looking at them. I try to remind myself that this is a recipe for a short night because I always get lost in old memories. They are no longer in any order because they have been looked at randomly so many times. My mom talked about organizing them just as I talk about organizing them. She never got around to it – I hope that I do.

    Old photographs mean stories to me. I have an insatiable appetite for knowing details about the lives of those people being photographed. There are many people in my box of photographs who can no longer be identified. Since my mom and her brother died, there is no one left to tell me who some of them are. There are relatives in Missouri but I don’t know them. My father’s side of the family is well documented. My grandmother even collected some oral history – just a little.

    One of the things I noticed in the photographs is that my parents took lots of pictures of my sister and me in matching outfits. My mother sewed many of our clothes. We got new outfits for Easter and new outfits for the beginning of the school year and probably others as well. I even have a few precious photos of my two sons when they were little in matching outfits because their grandma sewed for them too. They don’t realize how lucky they were!

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Windfall of Disorganization

    Sometimes it actually helps to be disorganized. Not too long ago, I got very lazy and didn’t pay my bills for awhile. I kind of spaced out one month and then paid a lot of money to Xcel Energy to bring my account up to even. This morning one of the worries that ‘helped’ me wake up was the sound of the furnace and predicting how large my utility bill would be this month. Then while I was online, I got the notification that my Xcel bill was available for my viewing pleasure (something to that effect). To my eye-popping amazement, the bill said I owed $5.27! I logged on to my account to check, thinking that this MUST be some mistake. But apparently in my disorganization, I paid my outstanding bill TWICE. So I only owe $5.27 this month. OMG – what am I going to do with all of that extra money - that windfall?

    p.s. I stole this dog from my online dating site - there is a very sweet man who uses this image to attract women - I hope he doesn't mind - I promise to pass on any names to him if they express interest! Would you date the owner of this dog? - Yes I would if he didn't live thousands of miles away. I'd much rather date a man who shows pictures of his dog than pictures of his motorcycle. What is the deal with 50-something men and their motorcycles? I don't have anything against motorcycles but there seem to be a disproportionately large number of men of this age who have them. I guess I just don't get it - but then more than one person has told me that! I will just have to carry on in my own clueless way.


    Wiskerz is a sharing cat.
    He is more than willing
    to share his water. All
    he asks for in return
    is that you share yours!

    Attitude Adjustment

    I woke up this morning at 4:00 a.m. wondering why. I have come to believe there are reasons why we have these feelings. Once when I was in a long distance relationship, he and I were on such a similar wavelength that our emails would cross at the same time somewhere in the large expanse that separated us. He was usually going to sleep as I was waking up. Every now and then I have this feeling that we are having some shared bit of energy – but probably not. He closed his heart to me long ago even if I never will. He would call that ‘not moving on’ while I call it a fundamental difference. When I make a place in my heart for someone, I think it is always there. Forever. He ties off lose ends and his life is neat and tidy. My life will always be a mosaic of past experiences. One common phrase in the online dating scene is ‘thou shalt have no baggage’. I resist this with my whole being. There is a difference between dwelling on the past or denying it and embracing the richness and multi-colored facets that it has added to your life. Why would you not want to ‘carry’ that with you?

    It didn’t help to wake up this morning to read the headline “Cheney rips war critics as opportunistic.” That man causes a violent recoil in me – how did this country end up with such hateful people in power? I am beginning to feel (ever the optimist) that the American people have had enough of this hate-filled regime. It really is time to take back our country. Don’t you think? Any ideas how?

    No wonder we fill our blogs with our kitties and stories of our bike rides and the music that we love – it is simply too hard to always deal with the mess that Bush has made of this country and even this world. Too scary to think what all of this is leading to if we don’t do something to stop it.

    NOTE: Do Not start out the day reading about Cheney – nothing but toxic waste comes out of his mouth. Meditate….Think Positive Thoughts….Think of ways to make something good happen today – no matter how small…Brighten someone’s day Today.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Wiskerz and his Temper - the Scene of the Crime

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - evening

    It is one of those days when I feel a little less than stellar. The storm yesterday was exciting but today is just plain cold. It was very bright and sunny and warmed all the way up to 30°F. Right now at 8:00 p.m. it is 20° F. (minus 7° C!) The ground is covered in snow and the shadows of the trees are visible because the moon is full. I would take photos but I forgot to buy batteries and I am too cold and lazy to drive to the store.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005 (20°F)

    News update: I got out and bought batteries last night – I must have known that I would want to take a picture of something! I was working on this post when I heard a large crash in the kitchen. It was Wiskerz up to his old tricks! You see, we had chicken wings for dinner and through some major oversight forgot to give him any (actually it was pre-meditated because he is so damn messy – he insists on dragging the sauce-covered meat onto the carpet to eat). So when he doesn’t get what he wants, he goes looking for it. I had put the chicken away but left a large pot of rice on the stove (what can I say – now I have to admit that I am not the best housekeeper – sometimes I don’t clean up the kitchen until the next day – ok lets just say I live like the stereotypical bachelor). There on the kitchen floor was the pot with rice scattered all over the place – and Wiskerz didn’t even have the decency to act interested in eating it. He knew damn well that it wasn’t the chicken. I think he knows exactly what he is doing when he knocks things on the floor! Just now, he kept pestering me so I tried to put him outside and he resisted and ran down the hall to the bedrooms to get away. He is so like a little kid having a tantrum. Do I sound mad? Actually, these funny little habits just endear him more to me. And he knows that too!

    Coming Soon: As soon as I can take a decent photo, I will tell you the story of Wiskerz and how he plays Frisbee. (don’t forget, Wiskerz is a cat although sometimes he acts more like a dog!)

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    And So Winter Begins...

    Yesterday, the weather changed so abruptly that I had to stop working and watch. I took so many pictures at work of the scene outside my window that my co-workers started asking me what was going on!

    I checked weatherunderground and it mentioned a high wind warning. That struck me as odd because it seemed so calm....that is until I saw the big tree out across the parking lot swaying back and forth like the Tin Man!

    “At 3:15 p.m. it is getting dark - the clouds and winter storm are descending on the city. The temperature has dropped from about 58 degrees at noon to the upper 30's now. I hear thunder and it is snowing”

    The storm was predicted but the day started out much nicer than expected. However, there was an air of something hanging over the divide – the approaching storm. By 3 o’clock, when I looked out my window at work, I could see the reflection of the clouds swirling around – announcing the arrival of sleet and then snow, soon enveloping Green Mountain.

    It is time to get in that winter frame of mind – that ‘I can be outside in any weather’ kind of mindset. Once you gather the clothing needed for any kind of weather (and it really isn’t that much) you can truly spend time outdoors in any weather and be comfortable. I even try to get out and experience at least one blizzard per winter. Does that sound crazy? Other than looking crazy, it is an experience that you won’t forget. Just remember the goggles!

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    Sunset Above the Clouds - Timing is Everything

    My flight to Amarillo was delayed about 30 minutes. I had no reason to be upset about it, so I wasn’t. As it turned out, this delay aligned the planets in such a way as to give us the opportunity to see the ‘world between the clouds’ as the plane approached its final destination. I spent most of the flight with my nose in a book reading but was startled out of my lethargy by sun-glint in my eyes. I looked out and there was the classic ‘sea of clouds’. I already have a special attachment to this view of the world. From my many flights (both airplane and helicopter) I have come to view clouds as being less ethereal than most would describe them. By that, I mean that clouds have more substance and solidity than the stuff of cotton. Think about it – when your airplane hits turbulence, it is often associated with clouds. Sometimes when your plane enters a bank of clouds, it lurches about as if it were being yanked around by a giant's arm.

    The sun was low in the sky but still above the sea of clouds. But what was different this time was that the sunset was also casting pink light below the clouds. I could not believe my eyes – the view out my window was orgasmically sensuous. It looked as if there was a vast uneven floor of white clouds interspersed with below-ground caverns filled with the pink fires of some other world. I opened up and focused in order to fully experience what I was seeing and commit it to memory at the same time. It was so sensuous that I stole a glance around the plane to see if the other passengers were watching as well or seeing the flush on my face. To my complete amazement, not one other person was watching the majestic show that mother-nature was putting on for our benefit.

    As quickly as the color drew my attention, the temperature in the cabin dropped as the sun set and the clouds became all white and then gray. The captain announced our descent into Amarillo and the evening display was just a memory.

    prickly pear growing in a hackberry tree

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    I Have Been Away

    I have been away from the internet for over four days.  It is kind of a revelation to realize just how dependent I am on this connectivity to the rest of the world.  I was in the Panhandle of Texas to collect some vegetation data for work and spent the better part of the time hauling my aging body up and down 200 foot or greater -  45 degree slopes.  I discovered a lifetime of experiences while there and hope to write some about them over the next few days.  In some ways, I suffered the depths of hell (in a physical sense) and the joy of heaven in a series of adventures.  The good always seems to come with the bad.  But the question is – do we choose not to accept the bliss because we don’t want to take on the pain?  Or does the contrast between the two make the joy seem even more precious.  I don’t have an answer for that but all I know is that life seems to be offering me lots of joy and I know it is always there for the ‘taking’.  I truly believe that you can practice this and get better at it!

    I gave up television last winter and thought that being able to watch it in my hotel each night would be a pleasant experience.  What I found was that I could take it or leave it.  It really doesn’t hold my attention anymore.  The sitcoms were so contrived that I felt no connection with the story lines.  The incredible experiences that I was seeing on my hikes out in the wilds of Texas were far more real and satisfying.  For instance, have you ever seen a prickly pear cactus growing out of a hackberry tree?  I’m not talking about growing out of a tree near the ground but growing out of a tree about 5 feet off of the ground.

    These kinds of observations are what attracted me to being a field biologist.  The beauty and unique strangeness of mother-nature never ceases to amaze me, whether it is in the wilds of Texas or on the mountain where my suburban housing development sits.  Indeed, now I can say, everything I needed to know I learned in the wilds of Texas.                    


    The Wilds of Texas or Where I Was All Week

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    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Love of My Life

    Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but Wiskerz is the love of my life (honestly, there may be a few others but…)

    I’ve heard some people say that they would like to have a pet so that they can receive unconditional love. Those people don’t know Wiskerz. His love is strong but far from unconditional. As the object of his affections, I am required to perform a long list of duties:

    Abbreviated List:

    feed him canned food on demand (any time of day or night)
    provide fresh water constantly
    share my drinking glass of water with him (after all, he is willing to share his with me)
    hold him like a baby especially when I am trying to type at the computer
    let him in and out all day long
    let him out right before I go to bed so that I have to stay up later to let him in
    let him sample any and all food that I am eating
    bring leftovers home from Red Lobster (especially shrimp)
    buy only canned food with gravy so that he can eat only the gravy
    feed him canned food immediately after getting up in the morning – allowed one snooze cycle – before a nudge in the face with his paw reminds me of this duty

    All of this AND he thinks that the nose on my face is something for him to bite!

    What we do for our kitties!

    Flights of Fancy & Other Musings of the Day

    I could say, “Everything I need to know I learned by hiking Green Mountain”. When you hike an ‘urban’ mountain park at sunrise on a regular basis, you encounter many odd things. I could write for weeks about the things that I have seen and experienced while on the trails of this wondrous place. Green Mountain sits or juts out of the earth right between the city of Denver and the hogbacks and plateaus that flank the front range of the Rocky Mountains. What that means is that when I get to the top (6900’ elevation) I can see both the massive sprawl that is Denver and the breathtaking series of mountains leading up to and including the snow covered (at least at this time of year) peaks of the continental divide. Geologically, Green Mountain is unique and I feel that way about it everyday. It belongs to me and yet I am happy to share it with anyone who appreciates it like I do.

    This morning I got started a little late for the sunrise at the top but still early enough to be part way up the mountain when it rose. I often see photographers in or around the parking lot. This morning there was a man with a big camera (lots of lenses) and what struck me as odd was that he was standing beside his truck with the door open, the vehicle running and the radio playing loud enough for me to hear as I walked by. So much for relaxing and taking the time to enjoy the sunrise.

    As I got to the place on the east side – above the steep part where I was going to stand and meditate, I noticed three men. Two were standing and one was kneeling on a large folded striped blanket and chanting in a foreign language. One of the men said, “God Bless You” as I walked by. I would guess that they were middle-eastern. And guess what – fellow Americans - I wasn’t afraid of them and I don’t think that they were plotting terrorist attacks on the U.S. I think they were up to nothing more sinister than me – practicing some sort of religious ceremony in the presence of the morning sun. I went quite a ways further up the trail to give them their privacy and do my own thing. A few minutes after the sunrise, they were off and down the trail. After I meditated, I opened my eyes to the face of a deer! She was checking me out to make sure it was safe to cross the trail in front of me. There was something magical about waking up from that meditative state of peace, love and energy to see that a deer is looking you in the face!

    I was thinking about some of the other comments I have gotten while hiking. The last time I hiked, I was stopped by a young woman and her 4 year old son. They asked if I had seen any rattlesnakes up the trail. I told them with authority that it was the wrong time of day – that they were more likely to see them later in the afternoon. (the mother was relieved – the little boy was disappointed) Do you think I look like an expert on rattlesnakes? Well, actually I do have a bit of experience encountering and luckily avoiding them! Recently, I was coming down this same section of trail quite a ways behind a jogger. I noticed that he had an odd gait for a runner. Right after, I narrowly missed stepping on a coiled rattlesnake. Ahhh! I love the rush of close encounters with a rattlesnake. When I got to the parking lot, I walked over to the jogger with the idea in mind of asking him if he had noticed the snake but before I could get a word out, he asked me if I had seen it! I must have noticed his funny gait just as he was avoiding the snake. When he saw it, it was just crossing the trial – he startled it and that is why it was coiled when I passed by. Oh well, I know some people who won’t hike Green Mountain for fear of the snakes – to me it just adds some excitement and keeps me on my toes (literally!).

    Lastly, today after meditating at the top, I heard the whomp whomp whomp of a crow’s wings as he flew right by me. I was thinking what a beautiful sound and also isn’t there some Native American symbolism relating to crows and encountering them? Later at the tower I was gooving to the sounds of Venus Isle when the crow flew by again. He landed on the tower and cackled at me. I decided to turn off the music and see if he was going to enlighten me. I watched him for a few minutes as he jumped around the tower framework and then went back and forth to the ground. I watched his lacquered reflection through the dried forbs on the ground. Finally, I realized he was catching rodents and taking them up to the tower to eat. I could see him pulling apart one small rodent. Even though I count among my friends a man who is vegetarian because he is so incredibly kind-hearted, I felt no malice towards the crow. He is just part of the cycle of nature. All in all, this was a very fine start to the day. I’ve got to look up to see if there is any deep meaning to encountering a crow like this. It was awesome!

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    Snowshoe Racing

    Friday, November 4, 2005
    I think it is about time to quit procrastinating and begin getting in shape for the upcoming snowshoe race season. This will be my third season. Two years ago when I started, I was already in good shape and I had a very good season. Last winter, I was not in nearly as good shape and my results reflected it. This year, I am in the worst shape of all three years so it is with great pain that I must admit: I had better start training with some goals in mind or I should just cancel season three!

    How did I get into this? How else….I read about it on the internet. I was just looking around, surfing the net and found a link to a site that had photos and race results for a snowshoe race up in Vail. It just sounded so crazy that I thought it might just be fun. I am lucky to live in the Denver area and have many races to choose from over the course of each winter. The first race that I entered was the Screamin’ Snowman Race, held each year at the Lake Eldora Ski Area outside of Nederland, Colorado. Typically, at these races you can choose to run in a 5K or a 10K. The real competitive athletes run the 10K race and the rest of us run in the 5K. There is a wide variation of competitive levels in the 5K from people who walk the whole distance to those who run the entire distance. I compete somewhere in the middle but my strategy has allowed me to place in the top three positions in my age class in most of the races I enter! My strategy is to be in good enough shape to walk or jog the uphill sections with a minimum of a fast-paced energetic walk to a flat-out (get out of my way) run on the down hill sections. So when I am training and it involves running downhill, this is not just an excuse to look like I am an athlete in training – I actually am! Really. It is not as easy as it looks to flat-out run downhill. If you have done much DH skiing, you know what I am talking about – some of those race course slopes are VERY steep. It can be quite a challenge not to fall and injure oneself when running in snowshoes. Try it sometime!

    Why did I get into this and why do I continue? It looked like fun! I discovered a competitive spirit inside of myself, much to my surprise. I am basically competing with myself – trying to get and stay in shape and push the envelope during the race. It is easy to give in to fatigue, pain, and laziness! So snowshoe racing is both a physical and mental challenge. I get some small but deep-seated pride from being in good enough shape (at my age and coming from my personal history of having been VERY out of shape) and going to the effort, and actually placing in my age class. I don’t have my head stuck in the sand either – I am well aware that there flat out just isn’t a lot of competition in the 5K races in my gender and age class. But hey, I get credit for discovering a sport before the huge masses of humanity take over and every babe in-great-shape hits the slopes to smoke my substantial ass!

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Pat - Beautiful? or Handsome?

    Pat is our big, all-black kitty. Two years ago during one of our January cold spells (several days in a row where the high temperature for the day doesn't get above ZERO - yes that is what I said!) Pat started hanging around my house. I already had two cats and wasn't looking for a third. And one of my cats, Wiskerz (tuxedo black & white) is a very dominant cat who I guessed would not take kindly to an intruder. Pat was VERY BIG and I had visions of ferocious fights with hissing, spitting, and fur flying. But I was worried that Pat would freeze, so I let Pat in. Actually Pat was kind of shy and I had to coax and catch Pat to get it inside. Much to my surprise, Wiskerz tolerated and welcomed Pat - there were really no harsh words exchanged between the two. It turns out that Pat looks big but acts small and submissive. Pat is all muscle, not a speck of fat - a very healthy, young specimen. Pat is friendly but does not like to be picked up. It started as a joke when we wondered if Pat was a male or a female. Pat put up such a ruckus over us trying to examine private parts, that we just decided it wasn't worth it. Pat has traits of both male cats and female cats. So we decided on the name Pat based on the SNL androgynous character. Also, Pat has very thick fur making a sneak peek also worthless for determining gender.

    Pat is very close to the perfect cat. Pat doesn't bite or scratch, likes to be outside a lot, always uses the litter box, doesn't shed much and has a funny personality and voice. Pat's only and very minor annoyance is that it begs when it wants out – and continues until someone lets it out. Pat engages in conversation with us and loves attention (just hates to be picked up or held) and sleeps like a log at the foot of the bed. Pat will try to rub against me and interfere when I am reading in bed but all I have to do is tell Pat - go to sleep Pat and it goes to the foot of the bed and curls up to sleep.

    So is Pat a male or female? - we have no idea and the kids would be disappointed if I ever found out. I guess it is our home version of 'don't ask - don't tell'


    Today I will focus on being focused! I will go to work and focus on getting some mapping done. I will come home and …. focus on dinner (I will be nice and make dinner for my 17-year old son – he does get hungry!) …. focus on paying bills (I hate this task but it doesn’t get done if I don’t do it – I am Head of Household)…. focus on re-writing my online dating profile (to reflect my low tolerance for bullshit) and .... focus on relaxing. But for the next few minutes, I will focus on getting these thoughts out …. so that I can focus on ….

    Right now, the color of the leaves on my maple tree that I am looking at out my living room window is so gorgeous that I can hardly stand it. I want to sit here watching it until all of the leaves fall off – I do not want to miss any of its beauty. I love the way the huge leaves make a pattern on the grass below. I even like to rake periodically so that I can see this ever-changing pattern. Yesterday morning, we had some wind that blew away all of the leaves on the ground so that the tree could start over making its patterns. Last week, my older son took a photo of me and my younger son standing in front of the tree. I don’t really like this picture of me but then I rarely do like pictures of myself. My son looks good as usual and he always likes the way he looks! I look at myself and realize that I have basically the same hair style that I wore when I was about six years old:

    There have been changes in between but that is still kind of strange, don’t you think?

    My computer has crashed about 4 times in the course of writing this – pushing the limits of my goal of being focused today. I had to resort to eating a piece of Halloween candy during each re-boot. This is not looking like a good day. Wait a second though – am I going to let my screwed up computer dictate my life to me? I will just add the phrase …. focus on finding a new CPU! ASAP!

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    Embrace - Celebrate - I Want More

    I have not been hiking up Green Mountain to greet the sunrise in quite a few days, maybe it has been over a week or two. I have let the steam rising off of emotional soup fog my vision. I have learned so much and experienced a lifetime of joy in the last few months and know that the universe will give you whatever you ask for and yet why does it seem easier to ask for pain? Three mantras have taken root in my soul and yet sometimes I let them so easily fall away that I have to look them up in my written diary to remember what they say. I embrace, I celebrate and I want more!

    The change to standard time made it a little easier to rise this morning. I put on my warm clothes and set off at about 5:50 a.m. My body has gotten lazy and out of shape. It feels as if I am carrying around a hundred extra pounds. But still it felt good to be out. I made it partway up the steep eastern section of trail before the official sunrise broke the horizon. Normally, I face the sun and start deep breathing, going into a meditative state. My breathing is noticeably shallower than usual. But the energy from the sun was such a boost that I could immediately turn back up the trail with energy and raised spirits. I felt like an addict getting a fix, alternating between doses of sun energy and spurts of hiking energy. After a few of these cycles, I made it to the rock-strewn level by the tower. Here I turned and faced the sun again and was able to take in even more energy. I had not realized how drained of energy my spirit was – I’ve really been running on empty. When I got to the top, I stood on my rock and faced the sun again. I can quickly empty my mind even with the wind and the sound of the traffic way far below. With just a little deep breathing and some concentration, I am transported into a different realm. It is hard to come back to the here and now – I like being in that calm place looking out. I receive the sun’s gift and watch it turn into bright gold swirling light in my mind’s eye. I didn’t feel that I had it in surplus – so couldn’t really send any to my friends this morning as I usually do. But when I turned to face west - Sam – the lighting and clarity was…so fine… that it took my breath away. The hogback, front range and the newly snow-covered continental divide looked the most beautiful that I have ever seen them. I didn’t really feel anything about Sam, I just felt and appreciated the awesome view in front of my eyes. In the recent past, I have always felt that in looking west, I was looking to him - but for the first time, thoughts of him were replaced by other feelings. I think that is progress. I really feel that mother nature takes care of me – and is always guiding me in the right direction. I felt, (even Sam felt) that there was some strange alignment of the planets that brought us together and now mother nature is helping to steer me in another direction – on to different experiences – with just as much potential for joy and bliss – if I choose. I’d be crazy not to choose – I embrace, I celebrate and I want more!