Friday, March 1, 2019

Astro/Carto chart

As per usual, an innocent query turns into a bit of sibling rivalry and apocryphal story-telling.

I start the ball rolling:
Any of you ever know what time I was born? Mom thinks after noon, M thought around midnight, either side. My copy of the certificate doesn’t have a time, but I have a visual memory of a previous one that has 12:42 as the time...but a.m? p.m.? And is it an accurate memory? Inquiring minds (an astrologer friend) want to know!

Oldest sister replies:
I was going to suggest birth certificate. I think M is correct dad woke L up to tell him he had two new little sisters and he said girls! disgustedly and went back to sleep.

Brother replies: I actually knew this at one time. Seems to me Dad told us in the morning that the event had happened - i.e. it had probably happened during the early morning, but that would imply Dad was in St. Peter when Mom delivered and you were born in the Twin Cities. It would make more
sense that Dad was with Mom and someone else was watching us - I do have this probably false memory of Dad being with us. I am almost certain you were (appropriately) born in the Twin Cities. And I believe the two of you were 6 minutes apart.
Mom really should know, it was kind of an important event - she was there.

Me again:
You would think Mom would know, but she has forgotten many details of my childhood. I think you guys wore her out.
I do know that they didn’t record the names until late June. I wish I hadn't lost my previous copy of the certificate. The new one is very laconic. M is going to look for her copy when she returns to Monmouth. But yes, 6 minutes difference, born in St Paul.

Yes, you came home with your name labels - "H- baby #1" and H-
baby #2". Maybe a presage of Thing 1 and Thing 2.
E only punched Dad so I don't see how we could have worn Mom out.

E finally checks in, in defense of Mom's memory:
I remember being upset with Mom when I was a teenager and she couldn't tell me which childhood illnesses I had had. Fast forward 40 years. I was trying to remember which vaccinations and illnesses J had--I was uncertain. I only had one to remember; she had 6. I immediately forgave her.

Exactly! That’s why I was hoping you guys could augment/correct her memories. But since you can’t remember your own son’s deets....

My twin also writes about memory loss:
I vaguely remember some question of what day we might be born on, so I'm thinking it was after midnight, but I'm not sure where that memory is from and if I just made it up.

Somehow Mom gets in on the thread and comes through with some details:
I do remember this much. I was staying in a hotel in St Paul and was supposed to go into the hospital to be induced on the 28th. I got up in the morning and called a cab to take me to the hospital. The driver was very nervous, asking if I were getting close and I reassured him. When I got to the delivery room shortly after, I presume about noon, they discovered I was already in labor. I had been in labor for some time, but didn't have the muscle tone to deliver. They gave me induction pills and before long M arrived. They said, Mrs. H you have twins and the second is a breach so we're going to put you under.

I am satisfied, but can't help waving another flag at my dueling older siblings:
Perfect! Clearly I was nothing but trouble from the get-go, and as I suspected, there are many apocryphal twin stories out there. Thanks for the memories, Mom! Was Dad there?

My twin capitulates gracefully: 
Thanks K! I had forgotten about you being breach delivered. But I did remember we were born six minutes apart. And I thought I was born first, because I always claimed to be older than you. Don't know where I got the midnight scenario from. I never heard about the rest of the story-- the cabdriver, etc.

My bro takes up the challenge:
Not to interject in front of Mom, but if L's story and my memory are
correct, Dad was with us. Of course I am not sure how L would have
known what my tone was when Dad gave me the news. I don't believe she
was right at the scene.

L defends:
I did not hear dad tell you. Dad simply reported that's what occurred.
My brother ripostes:
I have trouble believing Dad had that to say about my tone.

L delivers the coup de grace:
I didn't hear it directly so cannot verify its truth. Am just reporting what dad said and we can't ask him. He was rather amused by it.

The point of all this sibling discussion was to find the accurate time of birth for my astrologer friend C, who was pledged to give me a reading.  Since my recent catastrophic trip (broken ankle, lost/stolen wallet, bronchitis), I had been pondering my choices and my nomadic lifestyle, and she is an intuitive astrologer who has known me for some time (she was the backup caregiver when I was living with E.)  She also could use the work, so it was a win-win.  We settled on a birth time of 12:48 p.m. and video-conferenced a few days later.

She thinks that my writing will be the exciting part of the upcoming year.  However, the influence of Capricorn is a strong grounding one, which is not conducive to the nomadic life.  The overall story is that I should be looking for a stable place, a domestic sort of thing.  The ankle break also indicates that.  However, since I'm booked to travel for at least another 6 months, I'll have to get my stability from having a pied-a-terre with P in Tijeras, and from traveling in a way that settles me into a community and home environment.  Trusted Housesitters will be my stability, I guess.

Still, in order to provide me some guidance for future homes or travel locales, C checked on some Astro-Carto lines, picking the largest cities nearby.  The Jupiter lines lead to my happy place, where I'm confident and relaxed (but need to watch out for culinary temptations.)  The closest cities are Anchorage, WInnipeg, and Dallas.  I immediately tossed Dallas out of the mix (no Texas heat, bugs, or politics for this chick), but found a house-sit in Winnipeg during the folk festival this coming July.  L (Mom's partner) is from that area, and he says it's quite nice.  I'm less sure:  while it has an international population, it's also basically Canada's Midwest.   And no ocean?  No mountains?  Anchorage would be better, geologically speaking, but I have yet to find a housesit there.

My home area of Santa Fe and Albuquerque has the influence of Mars (so does El Paso, but...Texas.)  Mars' influence is exciting, but difficult, and would be a testing ground for independence and romantic relationships.  I think I've already had this experience.  Next!

West of Phoenix, Venus holds sway.  C describes this as a place for the creative and uncomplicated life.  While this attracts, I would apparently feel lost without a partner.  And....Arizona.  Next!

Mercury is in charge, east of Minneapolis/St. Paul.  Apparently, it would be a positive place to explore my roots, my psyche, my plans.  That makes sense:  it's my birthplace and home of much of my family, past and present.  However, it's also cold.  Then again, that seems to be a theme for the places C has found for me, and I do like the colder climes.  I wouldn't say no, although it's not really calling to me at this point. 

East of Green Bay, Wisconson, is where I confront my polarities, my relationships with my parents, and my past.  The Sun, Moon, Chiron, and Uranus converge here, and it's a great place for passionate relationships and procreation.  Ummm...Next!

If I give rein to Neptune's complexity and power, I'll probably end up changing my goals.  If I want to be reclusive and spiritual and work with gurus, creative illusions, or entertainment, I could move to San Diego or..... Boise?  I don't see myself as spiritual or mystic, although I wish I did have that sort of passion.  It would be nice to think there is an underlying power, but I'm skeptical (and too interested in comfort and community.)  And neither place appeals, although there are other towns in the area, of course:  these are just the largest communities near the lines.

It appears that the Pacific Northwest is not the place for me:  while fostering creativity and filled with family and friends-who-are-family, it holds negative energies.  I had come to that conclusion already and asked her astrological opinion out of curiosity, so I'm not overly chagrined.  However, I do wish she had found some places outside the US for me to consider.  I don't see the upcoming civil war as conducive to finding my happy place.  But the only international place she suggested was Budapest, and it has never called to me. And, while I love Norway, it doesn't fit in any line.  Besides, my correspondents from last year seem to think I was miserable for my 3 months there.  Just because the snow came up past my chin, I had to shovel the deck and roof and keep the wood fire burning, and I had to walk a mile one way to the store....

Actually, I do like to hunker down in the winter, and I do like the northern climes, but, thinking it over, I was a bit lonely, even though I had the downstairs neighbor/friend, the Gjovik symphony, and P's visit.  So, in the final analysis, I do need to find a lifestyle and home that provide a community of like-minded individuals as well as comfort and beauty. 

I know it's out there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

It was messiier than that

It was a glorious fall day.  I was in the Ghost Ranch Library, working on donations, when my phone rang.  The call was from my ex-sister-in-law.  I last saw her in August 2017, when my sister and I drove up to Oregon from my house-sits in California in order to say a graveside farewell to Aunt J.  (Some ceremonies take longer to arrange than others, especially when everyone is farflung.) After the ceremony, I dropped my sister at the airport and drove out to Mulino to stay with R and L in their new (to me) home.  Cousins, daughters, and granddaughters came out for a potluck, but D and my stepson K chose otherwise.  I was sorry about that, as K and I are on reasonably good terms and I do love him, but I was relieved to have the uncomfortable meeting with D postponed for some other visit. He had suggested a getaway, and that just was never going to be in the cards.

Now that I was back in the States, I did plan to visit Portland, and I was happy to hear L's voice.  I took the phone out to patio, where the reception was better.  The heart-shaped golden cottonwood leaves were blowing about, and the sky was a deep blue.  It was a gorgeous day.  We talked a bit and then L told me why she had called.  D took his life on Oct 1.  He had apparently been struggling for the last year.  He was her only sibling, and their parents passed some time ago, so she's the last of that nuclear family.

We talked about that, and about K, and to my surprise, I found myself weeping.  Mainly I was grieving for his pain and despair, and for his family.  I left D almost 6 years ago, so my personal sorrow was buried deep,  compounded by some guilt.  Could I have saved him?  He never did well living alone.  But then again, I did not do well living with him.  And in the long run, this was his lifelong battle.  I was only a small part of the army of friends and family that fought beside him and ultimately could only stand aside and watch him flailing and losing in single combat.  It was heartbreaking then, and it's heartbreaking now.

October passed. My college friends were scheduled to visit that weekend and were a loving distraction and sounding board.  The Ghost Ranch management continued to be dysfunctional and provide both drama and angst for most of the staff.  I volunteered at the Balloon fiesta and played in an APO concert.  I played trios with nearby friends.  I hiked through the golden autumnal weather.  And I provided pix, words, and memories for L as she and K and M planned the memorial and attended grief counseling.

Memories of his affiliations and accomplishments:
I know that he belonged to the Oregon Alternative Educators’ Association (can’t recall exact name.) He helped produce E’s play, Home to Walata. His coffee klatsch did something with Panera, can’t recall what.  KA would know.  He did overnights at a few homeless shelters.  KL could speak to his involvement with the day shelter at UU.  Lots of UU involvement:  singing in Chalice Choir, teaching in the Learning Community, Men’s Group, donating to the building fund. He marched in NAMI parades and Parkinson’s walks.  He was a loyal and supportive friend, which is a huge accomplishment in my book. GR included him in the thank you credits of his woodworking book.
The list of activities and involvement is long, but could be summed up by a spiritual and social activist sensibility.

In a word, a good and complicated man.
Adjectives, good and bad:
Loving, lovable, frustrating, creative (especially in the kitchen), needy, fun-loving, caring, giving, ethical, intelligent, socially conscious, angry, depressed, fiscally incompetent, sports loving, jazz aficionado, TV-addict, fatherly, impatient, well-dressed, opinionated, abrasive, devoted (to family, friends, and causes), selfish, never boring.

I miss the good times and am grateful for the many gifts of spirit and connection, especially with his family (my family.)
My sisters came to visit from Oct 31 to Nov 7 and during that time frame I learned that E, now 103, was in hospice.  I went out the next week for a farewell visit at her Berkeley care facility.  While there, the dates were set for D's memorial and wake:  Dec 8/9.  I cancelled the next several weeks with Ghost Ranch and arranged a trip to Portland.  In the midst of that, Ghost Ranch decided to make me move out during Thanksgiving week, despite the fact that no one was going to be in the farmhouse, and I wanted, as a professional, to come back in January and wind up my projects.  But that's a story for another post.

So, I came to Portland, to drink the wine that L and G had been storing for me during my 18 nomadic months, to visit friends, and to say goodbye to D.  I thought I was okay until the night before my flight out, when I started weeping again.  I came out to the living room and told P:  "I'm never going to see D again."  Suddenly, I was no longer grieving for him and his family.  I was grieving for myself.

For the most part, my friends and family understood, but they also reminded me that there were good reasons I gave up on the marriage and good reasons I had a restraining order for the first year after I left him.  For the memorial service, I sang Fragile at the end of the prelude, the song he sang to me at our wedding.  "On and on, the rains will fall, like tears from a star, like tears from a star.  On and on, the star will say, how fragile we are, how fragile we are."  True of our marriage, true of his life.

It was a beautiful service.  Most of my personal friends and family did not attend, but those who did benefited by hearing the loving words and memories.  There were good reasons I loved him. Friends talked of Big Red, Robbie, Big Unc, the boy and man with a joyous lack of boundaries, the man who held his friends and family close in love and laughter until the last year, when he shut them all out.  He stopped initiating gatherings, stopped cooking, stopped returning calls and emails, stopped accessing the joy that surrounded him.  His mental illness took him.  But, while acknowledging that battle, the service and reception celebrated the lovable D. 
Still, I could not get through the final hymn, thinking how the peace it epitomized had failed him.  I give thanks to the waves upholding me Hail the great winds urging me on Greet the infinite sea before me Sing the sky my sailor's song I was born upon the fathoms Never harbor or port have I known The wide universe is the ocean I travel And the Earth is my blue boat home 
That night I stayed with R and L, helping with preparations for the wake. I learned how D's last year had spiralled downward.   Although R and L were his lifeline and he stayed with them every weekend, he spent his time holed up in the TV room.  He ignored the weekly messages from one of his oldest friends, a friend who spoke at our wedding and spoke equally movingly at the service.  The last time L saw D, she told him he needed to resume therapy and he later asked her to drive him to a therapy session. When she arrived for the drive, he was not there.  I asked R, who found D.  And that's when I discovered how D chose to end it.  It wasn't drugs, his choice in several previous attempts.  As L told her cousins, "It was messier than that."  And irrevocable.  I don't need to wonder if anyone could have saved him.  But the image of that final act is indelible, and as I watch him crying in my imagination, I cry too.  

I wish I could have saved him.  I wish he could have saved himself.
We walked together
And with friends. I walked endings
Alone, then and now.
RIP Dave. I will always love you.
On our honeymoon

Do we have to go home now?



Ghost Ranch book pitch

The Treasures of Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch,  now an educational retreat center in the isolated Piedre Lumbre badlands of northern New Mexico, is famous for two things:  a dinosaur and an artist.  The burgundy red hills with grey stripes are fascinating to paleontologists because the 200-million-year-old streambeds hold a treasure trove of Triassic dinosaur bones.  Since the 1930's they have excavated the "blueprint" bipedal carnivorous dinosaur Coelophysis, VanCleavea, and the 20-ft long crocodilian phytosaur (perhaps the source of the local legend of Vivaran, the huge carnivorous snake.)  Those same hills would ensnare the 20th century artist Georgia O'Keeffe:  after one visit in 1934, she knew this was her creative home, and she lived and painted here for the next 50 years.  She would paint Pedernal, the flat ridged mountain 10 miles visible to the southeast, 28 times, saying that "God said if I painted it enough I could have it."

But the story of Ghost Ranch is so much more.  From cattle rustling in the 1880s to movie making in the 1980s and beyond, from a close connection to the scientists at Los Alamos, to visits from Charles Lindbergh (who shot aerial photographs for local archeologists), from conservation efforts to an impromptu piano recital from Leopold Stokowski, the remote sanctuary of Ghost Ranch, with its wild geology, has enchanted and summoned people from all walks of life.  For 30 years a dude ranch for the elite Easterners, this magical place is now home to artists, poets, scientists, environmentalists, hikers from the Continental Divide Trail, campers, and people who want to escape the stresses of modern living.  Is the treasure of Ghost Ranch it's dinosaur skeletons, the olla of gold buried and lost by the cattle rustling Archuleta brothers, the hundreds of paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, or the shining mica of its mesas, shimmering in the moonlight? And will those treasures survive the politics and poor management of the 21st century?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


So, life just gets more interesting.  I’m sitting in the lobby of the magistrate’s court, waiting to get my BENCH WARRANT removed.  I may be here all day, and it’s my own damn fault.  I forgot that yesterday morning was my hearing for the speeding ticket, and I was lollygagging around in Santa Fe, having breakfast with J.

By the time I got back to Ghost Ranch and remembered that this was the week of my hearing, it was too late to do anything about it.  I called and said that I thought my hearing was 9/27, but that I couldn’t find my paperwork;  they verified that it was 9/25, I had missed it, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to prevent the judge from issuing the $100 warrant.  I sighed and said, okay, so what do I owe for the ticket to which I’d pled Not Guilty back in August.  They said, it hasn’t been assessed yet.  So, I couldn’t just pay over the phone, I had to see a judge, and I couldn’t come by that afternoon because the judges had all left.  I could do a walk-in on Thurs.

I decided to come in today anyway, because I don’t like having a warrant out for my arrest and I’m hoping to get fines reduced.

All this to avoid a $250 speeding ticket.

An hour later....

I was just typing that when I was called to the window.  The clerk had checked with the judge, who fortuitously was available to fit me in before she began her day of meetings.  I gather that this was unexpected, as I’d been told the judge had a full docket.  I think my judge was there because she cancelled a morning appearance in Chama, since she had a 1 pm meeting here in Espanola.  

Don’t ask me, it’s a hellava complicated world.  ANYWAY, she said she couldn’t toss out the Bench Warrant, because it was already recorded and my excuses (no memory, lost paperwork, road construction on the route from ABQ) were not sufficient.  Only accident or illness would work.  She had to have a legitimate excuse, because she gets audited.  However, she could reduce it to 14 hours community service, and my volunteer work at Ghost Ranch will qualify.  I come back again on October 10 to bring the paperwork.  

The ticket was thrown out, because the officer was also a no show.  Woo hoo!  I was totally guilty.  (Just not 65 mph in a 45 zone guilty.)

She was a lovely Hispanic woman who used to bring her Kindergarten class to Ghost Ranch.  We had a nice chat about the drought, the legal system, and northern New Mexico.  Then she put on her robe and left the court to begin her day.  I waited for Mario to finish printing up my paperwork.

Then, I walked across the parking lot to the conveniently located MVD office,  My number was called 30 seconds after I got it.  I got my license reinstated, updated my voter registration, and took care of the address problem (I’d updated my address, but the cops told me I also needed to get a new license.). Total cost:  $27 to reinstate the license, $18 to get the new license.  And a day spent in Espanola judicial district.

The license picture is nicer, at least.

I’d talked a fellow volunteer into bringing me in, since I didn’t want to drive with a bench warrant out.  Good call, as the Bench Warrant meant the license was suspended and driving on a suspended license is a REAL problem.  (What a Catch-22!). Sharon is currently in Santa Fe, running some errands, and I’m settled with my knitting, portable keyboard, book, and iPad.  I had totally not expected to finish this process in under an hour! Life is fine.  The only frustrating thing is that NOW I have to say that my license has been suspended (for less than 24 hours) every time I renew it.  

I’m such a scofflaw.  And I used to be such a squeaky clean citizen.  New Mexico has been bad for my character, clearly.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Tales from a Contented Sloth: Summer at Ghost Ranch

I joined the Ghost Ranch community on April 30, and stopped journaling and writing to the Gang of Four.  It seemed that, since I was no longer traveling and being a nomad, the daily missives were less necessary, at least from a safety point of view.  I had housemates and workmates, and I was staying put.  Still, I rather missed the focus of a daily message to friends, even though the letters I did write were remarkably lacking in news.  Every day could be an adventure, with enough variety to make me feel like I was traveling inwardly, if not outwardly, but for the most part I was a contented sloth.  

1.  Settling in
There’s a huge windstorm blowing the dust around. I am unpacking my boxes and it looks like I’ll be able to bring most of what’s in storage because this is a very large three bedroom farmhouse. I’m alone at the moment so I got to pick the best room with the best view (of Pedernal.)
I was lodged in the old farmhouse. It has three bedrooms and living area and a long enclosed portico/conservatory outside the bath and two bedrooms. The only fly in the ointment was the mouse that I saw in the bathroom, and the fact that the clawfoot tub wobbled when I stood in it. It felt like I was going to topple out.  The next day I put in a work order, but I ran into an acquaintance from Taos, and he told me to put a quarter under one of the feet to shim things up.  Worked like a charm. Later, we discovered ants, camel spiders and the occasional scorpion, but my housemate handled those for most of the summer, as did the lovely whiptail lizards.

2.  More housesitting
In late June I house-sat for my boss’s friend, S.  She’s a retired nurse practitioner, on a kayak trip off Quadra Island.  It's a small world: I have fond memories of a trip to April Point, watching birds drying their wings, fishing (V displaying her catch with a grimace), and eating salmon with a huckleberry compote.  Also playing with phosphorescent water off the dock...but that was the place en route.  Memory fails me.

So, while S was enjoying the waters of the Pacific Northwest, I was watching smoke from the Sardinas Canyon forest fire, feeding the horse, donkey, and chickens and enjoying a pretty awesome house and garden.  It’s a half hour drive to Ghost Ranch, but it’s a beautiful drive so I was fine with that.  The $50 she gave me didn't  even cover gas, but it’s more than I got on my travels!  And I expanded my skill set.  I remained cautious around Ruby, the semi-skittish horse, but on a later visit she came up to me and rubbed her head against my shoulder, so I counted that as a personal triumph.

3.  The Library and other projects
The Library is open 24/7, so I can justify any schedule I choose to work, which is nice.  Because it's always open, the checkout system is manual and depends on an honor system. With the help of intern college staff, I started barcoding most of the library and discovered a bunch of titles that never made it into the online catalog.  So I guess I’ll have to be less snarky about the guests who insist on using the old card catalog (which I’m not allowed to move, along with the unused newspaper poles.)

I don’t know why I started this big project...I could have just sat back with the status quo instead of trying to get circulation and inventory into the 20th century (forget about the 21st).  And there are plenty of peripheral things that I could have been doing:  hikes and tours are actually encouraged for work time, because the more I know about the Ranch offerings, the better I can share them with guests.  However, the national forests surrounded the Ranch were closed during June and much of July, because of the severe drought and fire danger.  Even before the closures, the heat kept me from even considering much hiking:  I wandered down Box Canyon one morning and tried Matrimonial Mesa another morning:  both hikes were abandoned before I reached the end.  I only planned to take an hour for Matrimonial:  it goes along a ridge looking down into the Chinle formation and across to Orphan Mesa, and it gives a nice birds' eye view of the Ranch.  My plan was to start at the trailhead near my house and come out by the Staff House and Dining Hall,  but I kept getting lost trying to find the proper end of the trail. I retraced my path twice, drank up all the water, and spent 2 hours acquiring a sunburn before I gave up.  Still, it was a beautiful hike and I found a piece of petrified wood while I was exploring an arroyo.  I also startled a pronghorn antelope and numerous lizards.  No rattlers thank god.

In general, even without hiking, it’s a great place for wildlife. A voracious horde of hummingbirds drained the feeder daily throughout the summer, and my fearless paleontologist housemate set up a bat box to serve as home for a bat that got trapped in a museum bathroom. Coyotes howl outside our windows and apparently bears and cougars come out of the hills, searching for water.  I haven't seen or heard evidence of them, but the bears apparently killed the pigs before I arrived.

Anyway, instead of hiking, I started up a night sky tour, along with two of the Museum staff.  Many years ago a guest donated a large Meade telescope with many lenses.  It had not been used since the gent in charge retired 8 years ago, and pack rats had chewed through some key wires.  So JustJ cleaned up the shed and contacted Meade about a manual,  we got some training on the mechanics, and Telescope Tuesdays was up and running.  I was able to find and photograph Jupiter and its Gallilean moons, Saturn and its rings, and the pretty amber star, Antares.  Sadly, around the time that Mars appeared, the focus knob got torqued, the monsoons clouded up the night sky, and the telescope is now off limits while the powers that be come up with a plan for maintaining and sharing the equipment.  It was a nice run while it lasted.  I'd work until half an hour before sundown and then climb the mesa behind the Library to the pack-rat infested telescope shed.  While I fussed with the lens, the wind would come up and blow my skirts around, the sun would set, and the Milky Way would brighten into its pearly path across the sky.  Or, the gibbous moon would rise and the mica in the cliffs would shimmer in its light.

4.  Wedding crash
Security is not the best here.  We are very isolated, but we are also only a mile or so from Hwy 84.  One hot June night around 11 pm, JB and I heard a woman screaming, full-throated.  It took awhile to realize what the sound was...almost sounded like a rooster or some other creature.  Eventually we heard words:  "Don't let me go home!" JB was concerned there were drugs involved, so we turned off lights and locked doors and I called 911 at 11:15.  They said they'd try to contact Ghost Ranch security.  At 11:30 I called back, because the person seemed to be outside our house.  15 minutes after that, JB called and gave them our location and asked them to come by and check on us.  They never did, but about 15 minutes later we saw a car approaching down the dirt road from the highway (we can see cars from our living room window.)  It stopped for several minutes, near the climbing area I think, and we heard the screaming again.  The car then continued on and turned towards the welcome center.  We saw several other cars coming and going during this time frame, mostly from the road to the staff house to the welcome center area and back again. By 12:30, all was still, although I saw headlights until I finally got to sleep at 2 am.  Not sure when and if JB got to sleep.  We found out the next day that the woman was a guest at a Ranch-held wedding.  The incident sparked a discussion about night security and security for the many weddings that we have scheduled here, but it never got much better.

5. Tsankawi
I tagged along with a class field trip to Tsankawi. It's an Ancestral Puebloan site at Bandelier National Monument (located on the road to White Rock.) We had it mostly to ourselves, as the majority of tourists visit the the main site; but this one was replete with petroglyphs, pot shards, chert and obsidian flakes, cave dwellings, carved-out foot holds, and breathtaking views of ash-flow. The trail followed paths that cut deeply into the tuff, providing run-off from the reservoirs on top of the mesa to the now sage-filled fields below. It was a very hot day, and we stopped often for water breaks, but most of us suffered some form of heat exhaustion. After 3 hours in the sun, we cooled off at the Los Alamos Bradley Science Museum and thought deeply about radiation and atomic bombs. Then we took a dash to see snakes at the Nature Center before it closed. A long day, but full of wonder.

6.  Musical adventures
My friend C in Taos hooked me up with some of her musician friends.  (She is the Taos Community Chorus accompanist and plays violin duets with me.  She hurt her wrist and just had surgery, so she can't play anything for awhile.) They were in the Taos area for the month of August and wanted to play quartets.

The first jam session was rather a fiasco:  I turned the wrong way out of El Rito (a little town on a scenic route towards Taos) and thought, well, this road is going the right way, it'll just hook up with 64 eventually.  It didn't:  it turned into a dirt road and I had to turn around.  Because of the mountain road, I was unable to call the others until I reached the Rio Grande Bridge, by which time I was an hour and a half late.  I got there at 1 pm, just as they were finishing up trios, and they graciously stuck around another 45 minutes.  We played some Mozart and Mendelssohn and they sent me home to practise Op 44, #1.  We played that the next Thursday and the 2nd violin has a lovely moving part in the third movement.  I'm not a big fan of Mendelssohn (which is weird because I love Brahms and they are both emo treacly composers), but I loved this quartet.

We had a final session following week and then the cellist and violinist went back to their respective homes in Berkeley and Austin.  Fortunately, APO starts up in Sept, so I'll keep my chops up.

7.  Coffee house
The college staff ran weekly coffee houses on Thursday nights.  My friend DH read poems for most of them, and I contributed the following  (courtesy of Museum staff comments) for the last one:

Overheard at lunch:
“I have to go and flip the
Phytosaurus skull.”

Barefoot, she sweeps and
Steps on a beetle. Eyes closed,
She says “Don’t throw up.”

The monsoon rains pass,
Pitter Patter on the fringe.
We want a deluge.

One of the college staff interpreted them, physically, while he read.

The coffee houses in general were great fun:  instructors, guests (including kids), and staff all participated, and there is some amazing talent coming through.  I performed at 3 of them. At one I recited Jabberwalky, at another sang The Mouse and played a violin duet with one of the wranglers.  At the last coffee house I played a flute/violin duet with one of the college staff and sang "Cry me a River," accompanied by a VERY sweet and talented college staffer, whose career I plan to watch.  I flung a boa over my shoulder, leaned on the piano, and let out my inner torch singer. I wowed them, if the later comments are any indication.

8.  Hemorrhaging staff
Ghost Ranch got a little depressing after college staff  left in early August.  Museum volunteers DH and JustJ left too, and JB (my sweet paleontologist housemate) followed soon after.  LM (the best boss ever) gave her 3 week notice and I miss her terribly. Housekeeping and Dining Hall were understaffed, as they were in the summer, but with no college students to abuse, guess who they wanted to fill in?  I refused (because I did not contract for that, and, anyway my asthma kicks in when I dust and vacuum), so I was given extra Welcome desks and museum volunteers became the new janitors.  In addition to the staffing woes, the Ranch was at 20% capacity, and I started worrying about its future.  And the mosquitoes arrived in the wake of the monsoons and I got TOTALLY covered in bites.  The fires from CA and OR affected the views negatively and the sunsets positively, and other volunteers became friends.
So, I tried to focus on that.  But it's difficult, when volunteers leave every 10 weeks, and 8 key staff have left (without replacement) in the 4 months I've been here.

One of those volunteers, PS, is still around, but leaves at 5 am on Sept 14.  He is planning to drive for 12 hours, arriving in Kansas City in time to watch the Minnesota Twins and add that stadium to his list.  He can be such a geek!  MC (the remaining Outdoor Adventures staff) borrowed my cheapo bike for a ride to the base of Orphan Mesa:  he and PS climbed it last Thursday, but PS didn't make the last bit.  He sat clinging to a boulder while MC continued on, chanting "I'll cut off my arm, I'll cut off my arm!"  Apparently that is his mantra for doing what it takes to get back alive from a dangerous activity.  I would have found it quite disconcerting, myself, to wait at the saddle between two gulfs, listening to that.

The next night the three of us were playing Settlers of Catan when SL appeared at the kitchen door, seeking guidance and support:  apparently a sheep had been bleating frantically for some time, and SL was worried it was caught on the fence.  We gathered up flashlights and followed her to the pen, where we discovered all the sheep gathered around a white ewe and a shaky tiny black lamb.  They glared at us and we retreated hastily back to the kitchen, where SC watched the game for a bit. I won.

So, life continues into the fall.  I've started driving the tour bus, I've done some sunset and sunrise kayaking, one of the wranglers has started up campfire parties by his trailer (there was a ban on burning for the summer), and I'll have no excuse to avoid the hiking trails.  4 months down, 5 to go.

Misadventures in July: letter to a friend

As the curse goes, “may you live in interesting times...
I had a rather bizarre weekend.  On Friday I discovered that Forrest (my new/used 2013 Subaru Forester) wouldn't start.  A GR maintenance dude came by and discovered that pack rats had eaten some wires.  The poison I had put in the engine was gone, so apparently they ate it up and then returned for the wires.  On Sat I had a AAA tow into Hernandez (just north of Espanola) for Lio to fix the wires over the weekend.  My friend B from GR picked me up there and drove us to Santa Fe, where we attended the Intl Folk Art Festival and I spent $1400 on 2 old saris, an embroidered handbag, and a tunic.  The tunic was the big ticket item, at $1250.  It was an impulse buy:  the artist tossed it over my head and said "it's YOU!" and I said, yes, I think I need to take it, and then he took it to the people writing the receipts and told them the price and my jaw dropped but I just couldn't say, oops, my bad, not taking it after all.  I talked myself into the fact that it's a one of a kind, that I'm supporting indigenous craftsmen, and that he's an up and coming STAR!
Then I met some more GR people at Harry's Roadhouse for dinner, and my boss drove me to Tijeras.  I slept through Sunday and P dropped me at the ABQ rapid ride stop near Four Corners.  I bused down to the RailRunner, arriving at 7:22.  The train had left at 7:19and the next wasn't until 9:35.  So, I texted M, and she met me at a sweet hippie coffeeshop near by:  Zendo

Combining friendship
And the elixir of life.
Would not want to choose!

 I caught the RR at 9:20, and arrived in Santa Fe at 11ish, where I discovered that the Blue bus was leaving at 1:45, arriving in Espanola at 2:50, and then I'd have to wait until 5:55 to catch a bus north.  Lio's was probably going to be closed by then.  So I called a taxi:  $88.  No.  Then I called an Uber.  $1 a mile, so I paid $28.  I arrived to discover that they had another hour to go, and there were more wires damaged.  So, I sat and listened to books and texted folks at the Ranch about my late arrival and then Lio told me that they had fixed all the broken wires they could find, but the computer was not talking to the engine.  
Why would a manual transmission not have a manual starter, I ask you?!
Long story short, one of the gents at GR came and got me (an hour drive).  I'm home, and Forrest is still in Hernandez.  Sigh.  But it looks like my insurance will cover it all, so life is not bad.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying life here.  Got to play with micaceous clay last week and made a mug, a bowl, a pear-shaped rattle, and several beads.

I also am playing duets with one of the wranglers, and I recited Jabberwocky at the coffeehouse (a weekly event run by the college staff) to resounding huzzahs!  This week, in honor of Forrest, I plan to sing “The Mouse” from Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb.”  

It’s monsoon season.  

After the rainstorm
The birds discover puddles,
Which make a great bath.
I leave work and walk
Into a magical hour
Of cloudlit delight.

And that’s my news!

Summary of my first few weeks at Ghost Ranch

This is a letter I sent shortly after I arrived at the ranch:

Sorry about the phone problem:  it basically doesn't work on the Ranch.  We're in a total dead zone, but fortunately we do have wi-fi, so maybe we can try another Skype session sometime!  I'm working a variable shift, depending on what is happening here.  For example, next week is the BlueGrass festival:  a week of people learning how to play bluegrass banjo, fiddle, guitar, and a few other instruments.  They end with a coffee hour on Friday and a concert on Saturday, so I'm going to work Mon-Sat, with Tues off to keep me from going overtime (they don't like overtime) and the following week I'll work Sun-Thu and take a long weekend for my birthday.
All this means that you won't be able to reach me until I leave the Ranch on my days off.
I was insomniac on Sunday night.  Don't know why, it wasn't a mental thing. I was quite content, staying at P's house and starting to retrieve my things from G's condo.  He wants me out of his hair, although he says there's no rush.  But his girlfriend is apparently threatened by strong female friendships, so it's time to move out physically as well as emotionally.

Maybe I was thinking about that, unconsciously? Anyway, I woke up every hour on the hour from 9 pm to 3 am, at which point I threw in the towel and got up. I had planned to get up around 5:30 so I could get to GR by 8 am breakfast, and that's basically what I did.  I took a shower, started loading the car, and then chatted with P when she got up:  she goes in to work at 5:30 too.  Unfortunately the oil light came on 2 minutes into the drive, so I had to stop by a gas station for oil and help.  That added some time to the trip.  And then I became so drowsy that I was literally weaving into the oncoming lanes.  So, after Santa Fe I pulled to the side and napped for half an hour.  I got to breakfast about 8:45.  The nap helped,  as well as another half hour at lunch, but I was sleepy all day.   I drank so much coffee that I was THEN unable to sleep again.  I took a sleeping pill around 11, but that makes me groggy too, and I totally slept in.  Fortunately, I was scheduled for an event in the evening, so I just started my day late, and skipped breakfast.
Anyway, that's why I didn't get back to you:  busy taking care of stuff in ABQ, and then sleepy here at the Ranch.
Tomorrow I go on a hike to the Tsankawi pueblo ruin, near Bandelier, but less well known.  I'm joining a group of kids and their Ghost Ranch guide.  It was my boss' idea:  she is very encouraging of my taking part in events and getting to know the area and history.

Right now I'm logged into  I end up making about $400 a month, which is nice, because I am going to be paying for the clutch to the car I was using in Norway.  It apparently gave out the day after I left.  But, my expenses were minimal while I was there, since the snow kept me from exploring and spending money.  So, I guess it evens out.
Mom called while I was in ABQ.  It seems she's not well again.  It's too bad, she looked so good when I saw her in April.
And, that's my news!  I'm sending a pic of the sunset from the other day:  I was sitting in my jammies, knitting and listening to an audio book, when I noticed a beautiful light in the southeastern sky that is my living room view.  So I got up to take a pic of that and then looked west and saw these amazing red clouds.  I put a jacket over the jammies and walked down the private drive to get past the telephone wires.  Every day is another stunning sight.  I wonder if I'll get tired of it?