Saturday, September 9, 2017
"The home I redeem from the savage and wild
The home I have loved as a father, his child
The wife of my bosom, farewell to ye all
In the land of the stranger, I rise or I fall"
I heard Fess Parker sing this on the old Davy Crockett at the Alamo movie a couple of weeks ago. The real Davy Crockett wrote this part of the song, called Farewell, as a poem. It touched me, both the leaving a place you created from nothing and loved part, and the last line. Davy and I are kindred spirits in this, as I'm sure we are in other things.
I found an extended version of Riders in the Sky singing the song and downloaded it. There's a video clip of Fess Parker singing the abbreviated version with the real Davy's words from the movie. Naturally, it will break your heart because not only did Davy die but we know the adorable Fess Parker as Davy is going to die before the movie is over.
I drove back from Denver today where I spent the week with the kids, enjoying their company, learning about Bixby's school days, and doing some shopping. There's a bit of Fall in the air, especially in the mornings, and the aspens in the high places are just beginning to turn. Farmers on the plains of Colorado have bales of hay piled high and irrigation going on a few fields to cut again later. Gus and Woodrow wouldn't believe all the alfalfa in that part of the state! I feel like Fall will be here and gone before I know it and I want to savor every bit of it.
I've come a year's full circle from the beginning of my journey to leave the ranch and move to Colorado. It was the first of October last year when Sarah and I came to Durango to meet with a realtor, a decision that was made in September. The year has gone by quickly. From those first very hard weeks to now, it's been a journey of discovering whether I will rise or fall.
My adopted state has been good to me, both in the people I've met and the land I've found. I feel my roots sinking like those of the trees I've planted this year. I didn't create this home from the ground up like we did the ranch but I'm putting my mark on it and the family is too. To the framed photos that Rickie took of the ranch I've added ones of the family and me and the adventures we've had here. Our story is expanding and our circle of experiences grows.
Sometimes we just have to trust that the decisions we make will lead us to a better place. Not necessarily a better physical place but a better place in our mind. Life is a journey and we're not meant to be stranded in the past, adrift without a sail. That's my belief anyway. We're meant to rise up from whatever befalls us, or to try to anyway.
Davy did, and that's why we're still singing his song almost 200 years later.
Fess Parker Farewell
Sunday, September 3, 2017
The earliest memory of anything I can recall was my dad, wearing his duck hunting waders, carrying me through thigh deep water to take me inside my grandparents' apartment above a garage somewhere in northeast Louisiana. I must have been about 4 years old. I can see Grandma Hattie clear as a picture in my mind leaning over the stair railing, watching him bring me up. He takes me up and goes back to the car for my brother David.
For over 40 years I had a recurring dream of our family driving along a narrow gravel road with swamp water on each side coming all the way up to the edge of the road. It was a horrifying dream for me. I had it until after I had been married to Rickie for many years. I think it signified fear and insecurity to me. I had it once after Rickie died, the first time in maybe 15 years.
I've always hated muddy swampy water and the things that lived in it. As a young child, 8 or 9 years old, I begged my dad to let us leave Louisiana and go to Texas where I could be a cowboy and have a ranch. In my mind I pictured the dry hills of California as seen on the Saturday morning cowboy shows of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. The rolling hills and dusty roads, far from swamp water that had encroached the road of my nightmares.
We did eventually move to Texas when I was 14, searching for a better living. But it was nothing like the Texas I envisioned, the one in my mind that had hills and dusty roads and ranches. Still, our family, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins all settled in there. We grew up and grew old and our parents and grandparents all passed away. Our kids married and had kids of their own who had kids of their own. Houston gave us a living and I call it my hometown rather than the north Louisiana town I was born in.
Eventually I got my ranch and hills and dusty roads. Rickie got them for me, and they were just as I had imagined them to be. When life changed for me and I moved to Colorado my hills were replaced with mountains and I found my share of dusty roads still. Cattle graze in the green high elevation pastures, surrounded by forests of fir, spruce, and pine. My cabin is half way up a steep hill and I feel comfortable I won't be covered by a swamp. I may fall off a mountain one day or be driven from my home by a wildfire but that's preferable to me.
This week in Houston has been the stuff of my nightmares but it's been living nightmares for so many. Two of my nephews and their families were flooded and are trying to salvage clothes and memories as I write this. They had no flood insurance and from what I hear even for those who did, funds will be a long time in coming. One nephew and his family had to be rescued in the night and were lucky to escape with their lives. The stories and suffering are never ending.
And I sit halfway up my steep hill surrounded by mountains. The skies are a clear blue and the air has a promise of Fall. The aspen leaves are thinking about turning a brilliant yellow soon. I saw my first mule deer fawns last evening, a set of twins, eating on the hill behind the house along with their mother. I've been working on an outside project for a couple of days and every time I stop and look around me I feel grateful for the life I've had. And grateful to be where I am. And somewhat guilty to be living this life when my Houston family is suffering so. My hope for them is to one day feel safe and not afraid as they put their children to bed at night.
Below are links to help my nephews and their families. Please read their stories if you have time. Keep them in your thoughts and hearts and send them your strength as you all sent me yours when I lost Rickie. Thank you and I hope if any of y'all were affected by Harvey you made it through safely.
Esther and Paul. https://www.gofundme.com/please-help-rebuild-flooded-house
Brandy and David https://www.gofundme.com/n5j64d-a-family-in-need
Sunday, August 20, 2017
After I wrote the last post earlier this week, I took the time to edit some of the photos I have on the blog. They've remained the same since I moved. There's a list where the photos are on the side of the blog that shows the most popular posts. As I scrolled down it one caught my eye.
It was A Leap of Faith. It was written almost a year ago, in September of last year. I opened it and reread it. It described how I felt when I first decided to sell the ranch and move to Colorado. It brought back the feelings just as if it was happening to me again. How I felt being there without the life I once had when Rickie was alive. It was a feeling of drowning, where you can't catch your breath. You want to just double over and scream, and sometimes you do, but you know that won't save you. There's no hand to reach out and pull you to safety.
And it made me realize how much better I am now after the move. Time passing has helped also. But I feel like if I was still there the time wouldn't have made much difference. I would still be drowning with no hope of being saved.
It's not that I'm forgetting or letting go of the loss and the sadness. I carry that with me inside, and sometimes outside, and always will. It's that the day to day living in a new place, a peaceful and beautiful place, has helped me to heal. It's removed some of the despair and replaced it with hope. Hope that I can and have found some moments of joy. Some on the days my loved ones have been here. And some on the days I'm alone, maybe hiking along the river or driving the roads surrounded by the majesty of the mountains.
I've made some friends that have been kind to me and I'm feeling less like an outsider when I'm with them. Shortly after I moved my new friend Angie, who is my sons' age, invited me to go hear live music every week at one of the places in town. She knows everyone and has a group she is close to that meets up. I don't always go but I've tried to be consistent and go enough that they don't forget me. It's not easy. It often makes the fact that I'm alone more obvious. But I go anyway because I know it's good to go out among people. And I know it takes time to feel at home with new friends. Except for Angie who makes everyone feel at home the minute you meet her.
This past week when I left, Angie's boyfriend, a kind young man, took my hand to say goodbye and tell me he loved me, as a dear friend or one of my kids would do. Our friend Beth stopped me as I was leaving to hug me and tell me she likes it when I come join them. The older gentleman that is also a client of Angie's came with another caregiver. Though he can barely walk, he always asks me to dance and insists on walking me back to my seat. I'm beginning to feel like I fit in a bit more.
I have a rule in these gatherings that makes it easier for me to go. My drink rule is "one and done" and I only stay about an hour. So if I'm feeling out of place, I know it won't last for long.
I've still not found that friend yet that I can call up and say hey, I'm going hiking, want to come. But I'm feeling less like a visitor and more like a resident. And I still like to be alone a lot. I've always been that way, which has come in handy since I am alone a lot.
After reading the post about my decision to sell, I also reread the one when I balked at going and couldn't sign the papers to list the ranch, and then the later one when I got past that and did list and started to look forward.
Looking forward, I guess, is the thing that made the move right for me. While we can't or shouldn't ever forget the past, especially when it was the best part of our life, we can't live there. Life is constantly changing and we have to adapt to that. Things will never get better on their own. We have to try and make them better. Even when the trying is painful also.
I'm glad I've written down my feelings over the years. It helps to go back and look at it and see how far I've come. It makes me appreciate what I have and shows me that I am getting better. With a little help from my friends.
And with thanks to my family, who not knowing if it was the right decision or the worse one ever, fought down whatever feelings of loss they had, and said what the hell, let's do it.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Yesterday morning it was 44 degrees when I woke up. For the last few days, just before daybreak, I'd been pulling up the Pendleton wool blanket I keep at the foot of the bed. It was a splurge, a gift to myself when I first moved here. Rickie and I had long been in love with these blankets but couldn't justify the cost when we were often still in the 100s as Autumn rolled around, and running the AC for Christmas gatherings.
So once I had the bedroom painted white and my white linens on the bed, I ordered one in turquoise, my favorite color. It has a little orange in it, also my favorite color! I've left it on the bed throughout the Summer because I like to see it every day.
A couple of weeks ago coming back from Denver I went further South than normal, trying to scout out a road to use in Winter that doesn't involve going over Wolf Creek Pass. With my closest kids now in Denver I need to know all the ways to get there. Driving along the valley between the mountains I thought I'd found a good route. As the road began to rise, I started worrying. When I saw the signs to chain up I knew this wasn't going to be the route I was looking for! It was actually more worrisome than going over Wolf Creek Pass as that road is wide and well traveled.
But I did come upon the most beautiful view of Conejo Canyon where the Conejo River runs. The road had been running alongside the river for a while and there were occasional fishing camps with small cabins for rent. Signs at the pullover for the view said the last known grizzly bear in Colorado had been killed back in the area. There were millions of aspens and I could only imagine what it must look like when they turn yellow. I intend to return and find out!
The train that runs from Chama, which was my route destination, runs up into the area, though I don't believe it goes up to the canyon. I've added it to my Fall wish list of things to do. The train ride includes lunch according to the ladies in the dog walking group I've been having lunch with. We walk dogs at the animal shelter on Wednesday and then have lunch together. These ladies are awesome and have been doing this for years. I'm only just getting started.
Next trip to Denver I'm trying a different route that takes me over the mountains further South on the road that runs from Tierra Amarillo to Taos. Rickie and I went over this road back in 2013. I don't recall any hair raising passes, but I need to be sure. We did meet up with a cowboy on horseback and his dog moving cattle down the road. A lot of this area, including the area I had tried this last trip, is open range. Cattle are all along the road and sometimes in the road. That's life in the Wild West!
With Summer winding down I've now experienced Colorado in all its seasons. Rickie and I always came here in the Fall and that was the only season I knew until I decided to move here. With the end of August, I've seen every month and what Colorado has to offer in each. None of them has disappointed me, though the mud in Spring is probably my least favorite. Mud is my least favorite form of dirt! But even then the greening of the land and the promise of wildflowers to come offsets the mud.
I met a lady in the dog walkers group that has lived here for over 20 years. Her husband of 53 years was in the Air Force and they lived all over, originally from Syracuse, New York. They had no children. He passed away two years ago. She said there's no place on earth she'd rather be than Pagosa Springs. She told us stories of the hunters that came for many years and stayed with them. She would cook their meals and from the description of her meals, they were lucky hunters! I felt a connection to someone who's life included some of the same things mine had.
I'm slowly weaving myself into the tapestry of life here in Colorado, making a life for myself. The beauty of the landscape, the stories of the people I meet, the history I'm learning, it all winds itself into my own story. There are times I miss the ranch more than others. But it's not the actual ranch I miss, it's the life I had there with Rickie. I packed that up when I packed up the things I brought with me. It influences what I do here and it influenced where I came when I decided to move.
I'm grateful each and every day that I'm able to live this life and share it with family and friends. While I was in Denver a long time friend of my son's and his girlfriend came to spend a few days at the cabin. He left me a beautiful drawing of the cabin, which is at the framing shop right now. Everyone that comes blesses and honors this home by their company.
And Colorado blesses me. The mule deer that come out on the hill each evening and pass by going to the creek, the black bear that visits my neighbor and I have yet to see, the beautiful conifers up the hill looking like an army of Christmas trees, the first horned toad I've seen in 20 years, the stories of grizzly bears and of hunters; it's all becoming part of my story now.
And I wonder what each upcoming chapter will bring.
Friday, July 28, 2017
A lot has been going on since I last posted! Sarah, Justin, and Bixby made a huge change in their lives - lately it's been go big, or go home with us all! They stayed with me a couple of weeks while in the process of moving to Colorado from Austin. We all hated to let go of the Kanga tiny house; that was my backup plan if I was ever unable to stay alone in the country. But they found a house with a finished basement, so I still have a safe house! They decided they wanted a new adventure too so they left the house they loved and the city they'd called home for many years and off they went! They are a few hours from me but that's so much better than being two days away!
After they left here I made the hike to Treasure Falls one morning. I'd been wanting to and it didn't disappoint. I went early in the morning and there were only a handful of people there then. I had time at the top of the trail alone, just me and the waterfall! Recently I made another hike on the Piedra River Trail with a group led by an herbal shop owner in town. We learned about the medicinal plants found in this area.
I continue to try and make connections, friends here. I don't go every week but when I can I am meeting some friends at one of the breweries for live country music and drinks. I'm not yet at ease there. There are a lot of couples and I feel the loss of Rickie deeply then. But it's getting a bit easier. I keep going, not wanting to lose the new friendships I'm trying to make, to hold onto the fragile new beginnings of a life on my own.
Last week I started volunteering as a dog walker at the local animal shelter. My neighbor asked me to come with her. There's a large group of folks that go one day a week. The shelter is in a valley surrounded by the mountains and there is a two mile loop for walking. So both the dogs and I get a nice walk in. Afterwards most of the walkers go to lunch together. Slowly, in tiny bits and pieces, I'm trying to fill the empty spaces my life now has.
This week has been non-stop activity and it's all been fun! My sister Kathy, niece Alison, and grandnephews plus one of their friends, have all come to visit. We made sure to do everything we could in the three days they were here!
We started off with a hike along the Piedra River Trail. It was soon apparent that these young men were made for Colorado! Sometimes you worry that nature won't impress a generation that has grown up with technology, manmade parks with thrill rides, and even manmade rivers. But these are Cajun boys, used to bayous and the Gulf Coast and all the outdoor things associated with that area. They were suitably impressed. And if Nature was aware they were there, she was suitably impressed with them!
We found a big bear footprint at the water's edge! Our area has had many bear encounters this year. The drought has sent them on the search for food. Several people in my neighborhood have had them in their houses. Not many people in Colorado have air conditioning so there are a lot of open windows at night. That's not even a challenge to a black bear. My friend Angie was at her boyfriend's house last week when one came in the garage, pushed the door to the utility room open, and helped himself to the freezer contents. While she was upstairs! One was in my next door neighbor's garage but I didn't get to see him. I'm hoping to see one, just not in my house! Unfortunately, Colorado has had to euthanize a lot of bears this year. When they associate people with food, it can become dangerous.
We managed to squeeze in the short hike to Treasure Falls also that first day. It was packed with people at that time. The boys took the primitive trail back from the top and somehow managed not to fall off the mountain, although it was touch and go. Haha!
That afternoon we grabbed our tubes and headed down the San Juan! I had been the week before with some friends and I knew the boys would like it. It's a bit more exciting than our Llano River in Junction. You don't do much lazy floating! They've got some manmade whitewater in town and between that and avoiding the rocks along the river bottom, it's nonstop action.
Day two we headed to the national forest to horseback ride with our cowboy outfitter Larry. He had taken me and my son John and his family riding in June and we loved it! We knew all the horses by name and how they acted on the trail. We were looking forward to this ride. But, in the way things happen, Kathy and I didn't get to go, but we did get a story. It was a sad one. A bear had gotten into the corral that week and clawed up some of the horses. Larry said one probably wasn't going to recover to where he could use him for riding again, although they all survived. He showed me the claw marks on Dusty, his horse. He was short some horses that were injured so Kathy and I headed to Durango to shop while the rest went off down the trail.
We returned after lunch and while the boys went tubing again Kathy, Alison, and I went to the hot springs! I'd been trying to make it over there since I got here and never had. It was wonderful! As a senior and a local I can go for only $8, which is a big savings. Everything you hear about how hot springs ease sore muscles is true. This place has about 20 pools with different temps. We relaxed in the 104 degree one. Have to work up to the 113 one! Might save that one for winter, when the snow's on the ground and the stars are above.
Our last day was spent mostly on the San Juan river. The whitewater was gone with the snow melt so we booked a trip further down the river. This would have probably been too tame for the boys and Alison but it included some inflatable kayaks the outfitter called "duckies"! They had fun with those and we learned a lot of history from our river guide, the awesome Ben! He had been our guide in June and we were so glad to have him again. An eagle flew overhead, catching a current and circling around. "I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly...." Ali took a turn at the oars when one of the duckies came loose and got stuck on a rock. She climbed out and held us on the shore while Ben retrieved it then she got a feel for river rafting with Ben there to give guidance! We stopped for a while at a huge rock with a deep swimming hole in front and the boys flipped off that for a while. Not to be outdone by her grandsons, Kathy climbed up there and jumped off too!
Throughout the week we had some great food, local beers, Moscow Mules, and live music. It was a wonderful week. Once again the move had done what I hoped. Given me a chance to find some joy in living this life that is so precious, to give the family that loved Rickie so much a place for new adventures, things we would never have known had I kept the ranch. I felt Rickie's hand in everything we did.
It's raining outside now; we've had some showers these last couple of weeks. They call it the monsoon season here, though those of us from Houston and South Louisiana know what real monsoons are. I hope it ripens the gooseberries, wild raspberries, and other food the bears eat and sends them into the woods where they are safe. It's summer now but before long the snow will pull a blanket over both the bears and the land. This beautiful place has given me and my family both adventure and peace. For that I'm grateful. And I know, in spite of all that has happened these last years, I'm a lucky person to live this life of blessings.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Sometimes happiness doesn't find us, we have to seek it out. My friend Kerri, the Living Large in Our Little House lady, has decided to do just that this summer!
She's working extra hours each day so she can have Fridays off. And she intends to find some happy times on those Fridays! She challenges us to do the same. Most of us can't get Fridays off but you can still make time each week to do something fun. And to encourage us she's offering some prizes!
Check out her blog post at the link below or follow her on Living Large in our Little House Facebook page for details. It's super easy to join the fun, all it takes is a comment sharing what you've done that makes you happy that week.
Here's what Kerri has to say about the challenge - "Each week, I will blog about a different activity I’m going to engage in that will bring me pure joy. That will also be your “find” for the hunt. For example, the find this week is doing something I’ve never done before. I’m in my 50s and I’ve never had a pedicure! But you don’t have to spend money or even leave your house. Your find might be reading a book you’ve always wanted to read, cooking or eating an ethnic dish you’ve always wanted to try or checking out a museum in your town. It could be anything, as long as it brings you joy!"
Here's the link to Kerri's blog post -
Living Large In Our Little House Scavenger Hunt
Enjoy your summer and be purposeful in your pursuit to have fun. Time slips away from us and these days can go by so fast. I just discovered my little town has a farmer's/craft market on Saturdays in the summer and I checked it out this morning. Came home with some Colorado peaches and a cold weather hardy tomato plant to try! It was fun at the market and fun eating those peaches on ice cream this afternoon. Sometimes fun is a big thing and sometimes it's a little thing!
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Long ago when I was another version of myself, we had a couple of horses. One was a former Texas prison horse, half Tennessee Walker, half Quarter Horse. He had a star brand so we imaginatively named him Star. He was the best horse for kids and greenhorns. Larry and John were maybe 7 and 8 years old and we all learned to ride on him. I was married to their dad then and I haven't ridden a horse since that ended in 1979.
That all changed when John and Nicole and Zac and Bianca came over on vacation this week! We hooked up with a great outfitter and hit the trail! We rode in the San Juan Mountains. It was a gorgeous ride in the tall pines, wild flowers, and flowing creeks from snow melt. His horses were the best and he matched us each to one suited to us. In the small world category, he was from a town in Louisiana near where I'm from and he knew my aunt's family. We were all hooked on riding at the end of the day and I'll be going back with every other visitor that shows up!
I came to Colorado to make a new life and to have adventures. And do things I'm kind of afraid of. So a couple of days later we did something I've always wished I could do but was scared to. Rickie could have easily rafted but he was always worried about me. I'm not a strong swimmer and I'm afraid of fast or deep water. But this particular ride said it was for all ages so off we went! It was class I to class III. With enough III to make it fun for us without really worrying about falling out. Hey, I want adventure but I've got my limits! It was peak snow melt so the river was high. The water temp was 44 degrees. Our guide said we should wear these wet suits. We didn't want to but we were glad we listened to him!
Our young guide was awesome. He was originally from Ft. Worth and came to Colorado back in the early 2000s on a vacation before his Summer job started. He called them and told them he wasn't coming back. That's a story I'm hearing more and more. Our horseback riding outfitter came here elk hunting and never returned. These are my kind of people. Not because they came and loved Colorado especially but because they went somewhere that touched their soul and their heart and they said, here's my place. And had the guts to take a chance they could make it here.
I loved the horseback riding but the rafting was not only amazing fun, it was a fear overcome for me and an adventure I'd always hoped to have. It will be another thing my future visitors and I will repeat!
Sarah and her family came out this week also. They are in the process of moving to Denver and will be here, at least some of them, for a little while. But that's another blog post entirely!
One more thing happened this week and I did it alone. Rick was always planting flowers for me and the last thing he planted was a little crabapple tree. When we came to Colorado on vacation the year before he died we fell in love with all the different trees. After we got home he bought a crabapple tree and planted it in the garden. I wanted to get one for here. The nursery didn't get many in and they came in while I was in Austin the end of May. So the only choice I had when I went was one that had pink buds that opened to white flowers. I had wanted a light pink one. The woman at the nursery asked me if it had to be a crabapple. I said yes and had to hold back the tears. I eventually decided to go with the white one so I could plant it this year. Which I did yesterday. I didn't plan it but after the move I ended up with one water bottle with ranch water in it. I poured that over the tree after it was planted. We plant trees for people we love in our family and this one is for Rick.
It was quite the week here in Pagosa Springs. Riding, rafting, moving, planting. And we threw some shopping and eating in there too.
Until next time, happy trails!