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Posted on January 27, 2013 by Ground Dogs
Bosque del Apache
, NM
January 25-26, 2013

I’m still reeling from this weekend’s experience at Bosque del Apache near San Antonio, NM experience. It was probably the most spectacular display of nature’s power I’ve ever witnessed. I guess I should have known what was about to unfold when the first bird I saw was a majestic Bald Eagle perched like a monument on a tree, mysteriously surrounded by water. It was so hard to believe that less than two hours from our desert home we could find land so totally different. Surrounded by water in ponds and canals and marshes, I felt we’d been transported to another country. Colors which are unfamiliar to me now, orange-reds and deep gold, yellow and dark ochers, were so obviously different from the shades of silver and sage green and turquoise I have grown to love. bosqueriver
So many things in New Mexico are so different from what I grew up knowing. First of all, the wildlife in New Mexico is very unlike what I knew back east. Animals here show little to no fear of humans, as experienced by the fact that our backyard wild birds will willingly eat from my hand on a daily if I just make the offer. The ducks, geese and cranesand even the deer here were no exception. At The Bosque, we walked right beside ponds, only a few feet away from massive flocks of resting birds. Except for when it was still dark this morning and some idiots accidentally set off their car alarm (OK—-I’ll admit I’ve done it more than once, but happily, not today!)and we all cringed because we thought for a moment the bird rising which we were all there awaiting would happen in total darkness (fortunately they settled down when he finally got the alarm turned off—after what seemed like hours!!!!), the birds allowed us to walk at the edge of the ponds without
moving or stopping their normal routines. Bob was in total awe of this fact as he loves ducks and waterfowl more than any birds, and he had never seen the species we saw here that closely before this weekend. Back east if you saw wild ducks 50 yards out you considered yourself lucky, and if you stopped your car for a closer look, they were history. Seeing them this way was an incredible new experience for us. We saw Shovellers which I never knew were so gorgeous. Before tthis weekend I’d only seen them way out of view as tiny specs even with the aid of binoculars. Here they were about 10 feet away—so close you could hear their every murmur and see their feathers ruffling in the breeze. We saw thousands of snow geese, some Canadas, and hundreds and hundreds of cranes. We even saw a mallard or two (back east that’s all you’d see most times), a golden eye which thrilled Bob to no end, and lots of coots (in the water, that is, not just behind my camera lens).
We arrived at the refuge this morning in the darkness and drove around to sound-locate a pond of sleeping geese (fortunately this was easy because, like my pet doves, snow geese never shut up). After setting up cameras (one of our friends has a camera the size of the Hubble Telescope), my friend and I roamed off to find our own spots to wait for the rise. I was a little intimidated by the comparison of my own tiny little no-special-lens camera, which has grown to be my constant companion, but determined to get some good shots anyway.

Pitch blackness eventually turned into incredible vibrant hues of blues and violets of pre-dawn. First light of day brought about a feeding frenzy of coots who ran up and down in the shallow water poking in the mud for breakfast. Geese got chattier and chattier, and the cranes soon joined in with their own bizarre sounds (a bit like a bad case of indigestion, I thought).

We watched the birds in pale morning light, and as the day brightened, we suddenly heard a bizarre sound that actually made our blood run cold. We were in the middle of nowhere here at The Bosque, and this sounded like nothing I’d ever heard….I thought perhaps like a HUGE jet plane gunning its engines….very mechanical and very, very loud. My friend and I looked at each other, her almost fearful glance mirroring mine at what it might have been. These days, you just never know! Suddenly there was a thunderous explosion of wings and goose sounds rising from a
pond we couldn’t see from where we sat, behind a curtain of reeds. Thousands of geese arose at once! As soon as they rose, we realized the unknown sound had been that of thousands of beating wings and squawks heard at once, and the sight of all of them circling madly overhead brought tears to my eyes and pounding to my heart! It was magnificent! In seconds, “our pool” of resting geese, now agitated by the sounds, rose to join them and off they went leaving the cranes behind. At this point, the cranes actually almost seemed relieved that they were finally left in peace and quiet.

Silently, we watched dawn break, enjoying the constantly changing lights of sun through clouds reflected on water, casting images of crane on crane in the water. Camera shutters clicked. Positions were shifted for a better angle at a bird or a ray of sunlight on the water’s surface. No one said a word. Suddenly we were aware that we were not alone. There were dozens of silent people along the banks beside us, still taking photos after witnessing the marvel. We hadn’t seen how many people had arrived after us in the total darkness. But it was obvious we all had one thing in common. No one was saying a word, stunned silent by the experience, and everyone had a grin from ear to ear at what they had just witnessed— the majesty of God and nature as a single force. God’s private moment we were privileged to have witnessed….the experience for which the word “awesome” had been created.


MARTHA STEWART'S HOLIDAYS (I love you, but are you realy "living???")
November 12, 2012

I realize haven't posted much these past few months. There's a simple explanation for that. Santa Fe in the summer. Really. If you want to live somewhere where there is never a lull in activity, this is it. And I happen to be one of those people who takes full advantage of that fact. Truth is, I was never still, which didn't leave me much time to write. And I loved every minute!

Yesterday was our first snowfall. Not much of one, but enough to let us know winter has arrived in Santa Fe. It was time to just stay in and catch up on my reading. The Martha Stewart's Living Magazine which has been on my desk finally got opened over a nice cup of coffee, and I realized all the things I could have been doing had I not been wasting time with lectures, festivals, music concerts, art shows, museum trips, poetry readings, hikes, and things like that. For example, Martha Made it perfectly clear that it's time to stop having fun and get moving  on those homemade gift items, and she had some wonderful suggestions for those “special” friends.

My favorite was the section on animal hair related gifts. Martha has a herd of Friesian horses which she keeps for occasions such as this, apparently. They are beautiful, sleek animals, like all of Martha’s well-kept and well-loved pets. This horse, however, looked noticeably bald. Perhaps his mane was merely on the other side of his neck, but in reading further, I had to wonder…. For that hard to please person in your life, might she suggest a horse hair bracelet? Better still, horse hair tassels. One can only imagine where or how those would be worn.... but I don't want to get sidetracked. I’m sure she’ll cover that in a later issue. She said to make a lot of these, as your friends who don't get one will no doubt feel very left out. Since they take 12 inches of hair for each tassel, I suggest you order your Friesian herd soon, as I have done. Once the magazines hit the stand there will certainly be a run on orders for this breed, and you don't want your gift recipients to feel left out. Then, of course, there were her special Welsh sheep which contributed to her hand knitted vests. Very chic!

If you can't afford the horse herd or the sheep flock, may I suggest this winning table decorating idea which will no doubt leave your dinner guests breathless in awe? Gold leaf your rocks. Yes, really. They are stunning. I started collecting rocks on the morning hike this very day! And I'm heading straight to Michael's for several packages of the gold leaf. Eat your heart out, Martha. I brought home enough to cover my whole 8 foot table top!

Being the kind person I am, I decided to share the ideas with some of my dearest friends this morning instead of selfishly hoarding the new ideas. It began a correspondence which I am thoroughly enjoying. I will copy the letters below. Feel free to add to them. There’s a story in here. And a lesson for all of us. We simply don't have enough time on our hands!

Holiday cheers!


 From: MEB
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 10:03 AM
Subject: Urgent

OK, Guys, I know you THINK you’re all busy doing things for the holidays, but I just got my "Martha Stewart Living" magazine, and if you aren’t subscribers, I highly recommend that you all go out NOW and buy the holiday issue. I am giving you time because I know once you get it you’ll all want to go out and buy your herd of Friesian horses so you can make the tassels and horsehair bracelets (instructions given, so don’t worry about the how-to part!) for your friends for Christmas out of their mane and tail hair. She has a photo of one of her own horses (bald, of course as they require 12 inches and she said you should make them for everyone), so you’ll need to get yours fast before they’re all sold. I’m sure there will be a run on the breed once the magazine hits the stands.

When you finish that, you can go out and start collecting your rocks for gold leafing for your holiday tabletop. You won’t want to stop there. There are many more simple and fun projects inside. This is just a head’s up to get busy because you’re my friends.



Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 8:37 AM
Subject: RE: Urgent

Just wanted to let you know I consulted with the Board of Directors and the Property Manager here. No problem grazing my herd on the common grass areas and putting up temporary fencing… They also told me it was okay to put up a make-shift shed for them between my cluster of townhouses and the next. So, sounds like I’m off and running (to the store for an issue of Christmas Martha Style!).  I’ll be hitching up one of my Friesians to a wagon and going around the neighborhood lifting the river rocks from around drainage pipes and run-off boxes for the gold leafing project, too. A great way to save money on materials. But first, I may have to buy a gold mine in South Africa as gold leaf is very expensive and it may be cheaper in the long run to mine my own….

I don’t think time will be an issue. I’ll get started today!

Off and crafting,

From: MEB
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 9:51 AM
Subject: RE: Urgent

Good for you! You did me proud! I need to start a page on my website of my friends’ progress on their Christmas projects. Don’t forget to start knitting the coats out of your special breed Welsh sheep (Martha’s are black sheep and she also made some vests out of them. You will find that in the same article on hand made Christmas gifts). The horses will need them after they are shaved for the ornaments and jewelry!

From: JUDY
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 9:41 AM
Subject: Re: Urgent

BLAHHHHHHHHHHHHH! She obviously DOESN'T teach!

From: MEB
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 9:56 AM
Subject: RE: Urgent

Martha, my dear friend, is the GREAT teacher of us all! I couldn’t live without her monthly calendars in the beginning of each issue to remind me to do things like pull out my amaryllis bulbs so they will bloom at precisely the moment of my Christmas party. Forgot to mention her special breed black Welsh sheep which got knitted into some very chic vests for her friends. I told Laura she might want to start on those for her bald horses. She’s ordering a herd for her horse hair jewelry making and tassels. Do MY friends make things like that for me?????? I think not! So get with it, Sister and stop making excuses! Teaching!!!! HA!!!!!!

Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 9:50 AM
Subject: Re: Urgent

I am heading to the magazine rack pronto!!!!!!!!!!

Sent from my iPad

From: MEB
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 9:58 AM
Subject: RE: Urgent

Laura e mailed that she’s already ordered her herd. She got approval from the condo association. Judy claims it’s too much work with teaching. What a wimp she turned out to be! Forgot to mention Martha's two black Welsh sheep whose wool got knitted into vests for her friends. Boy, I wish I had friends like that!

From: JUDY
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 10:09 AM
Subject: Re: Urgent

You reminded me why I cancelled my subscription. I was tired of feeling inferior.

From: MEB
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 10:51 AM
Subject: RE: Urgent

Alas, Grasshopper! How foolish to have cancelled a magazine which gives us all women something to strive for! Now I know what I’m getting you for Christmas!!! Time to call the subscription office….



How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee, Santa Fe? Let me count the ways! I am currently sitting at the table watching a storm moving slowly across the valley. Lots of rumbling up here on the mountaintop, but so far, not more than an insignificant drop or two of precious rain. Santa Fe has been in a drought for years now. Disappointingly, this season’s monsoons haven’t amounted to much more than a few threatening skies. We did have one significant hailstorm followed by lots of rain a few weeks back, but since then, not much of anything has fallen. At last check, the BIG fire was about 85% under control which was good news indeed. Little by little our view is returning. I had almost forgotten how much more magnificent it is minus the smoke! But without the rain, there is still that constant threat of more fires.

Today my agenda included a trip to the Tesuque Flea Market in a quest for some beads I needed for a necklace I am assembling in my head at the moment. It was the first time I went alone. I decided today that husbands shouldn’t even be allowed on the grounds of anywhere labeled “flea market.” It was wonderful to be able to look at anything and everything I wanted to see and not have someone tugging at my sleeve telling me they’d had enough. How can you ever get enough flea market, I ask you! The market was an amazing display of colors and objects which would have presented countless photo ops except for the fact that it is held on Indian land, therefore no photos are permitted. But my mind’s eye is now quite full of images of the day. Amazingly, I showed remarkable restraint, as I only returned with the few strands of beads which I really did need, despite many temptations along the way.

Next I headed into town for some lunch. I arrived to a mariachi band in full swing on a street corner. I felt the immediate need to call Mom back home and put the phone on speaker so she could hear what goes on in Santa Fe on a “normal” day. She was amused. Truth be told, there is nothing “normal” about this city. It isn’t called “The City Different” for nothing, let me assure you! Santa Fe is a city of color and energy and tales to tell at any given moment. But it is the people here who make it exceptional.

As I was browsing in one of the countless elegant clothing and jewelry stores that beg visitors to touch everything in sight because the colors and fabrics are unlike any ever seen anywhere else, I observed an incident which moved me deeply. As I was exiting empty handed (I know my limits!) past a backdrop of clothing priced at hundreds of dollars, I saw a rather tattered form walking by outside, two equally tattered dogs trailing quietly behind him. Immediately, one of the sales people jumped behind the counter, grabbed something and charged out the door ahead of me. She called the man by name, and when he turned, she presented him with a small birthday cake, complete with a candle, and a bag of dog treats. She told him she had heard it was his birthday, and she had gotten treats for his buddies as well. Beaming, the man thanked her for her kindness, took the gifts, and proceeded to tell her how much he appreciated them and her thoughtfulness. It was a beautiful sight. And it told me what I already knew about the residents of this incredible city. They are “The People Different.” Kindness and gentle energy abound here in Santa Fe. A walk down her streets (if your eyes are wide open) can only leave you feeling good about being here. And about being alive and a part of her energy.

As I silently watch the lightening display across the valley, hear the distant thunder, and pray like everyone else here for the precious rain, I am listening to the sounds of the vigas on the ceiling announcing the change in temperature to those of us living beneath them. They are creaking, groaning, and sounding very much alive. There is the smell of distant rain on very dry earth blowing up from the valley. The wind is sounding off like the rhythm of the ocean making the connection between earth, wind and water even more evident. There is incredible, delicate beauty in what I once considered gloom of a very dark, grey stormy sky. There is promise of life-giving water for the plants and animals who need it so desperately. And amid a world of insanity where news reports are rarely good, there is the memory of the kindness of a store clerk to a beggar. Living the Word, doing His work. Santa Fe is a microcosm of His Love. I am so much at peace, and so filled with joy to finally be able to call it home.



Living Here

July 15, 2011
I have been very negligent in my bloggery duties! I realize that, but can blame it only one thing—-way too much fun here! It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for over a month now. The time has passed so quickly. I am overwhelmed (well, sort of) with a sense of guilt over not missing one single thing about Chadds Ford, PA except for family and friends. I have slipped so easily into Santa Fe that in all honesty, it is like I have never lived anywhere else. It is comfortable. I feel like there is finally a place where I belong. If home is where the heart is, then clearly, I left my heart here in a past life. And I have finally come to collect it.
I have not written anything about the fires here yet. They have been raging since the day we arrived. The worst one in New Mexico’s history is still going strong, though at last report I heard it was almost 60% contained. It has burned nearly 150,000 acres, and since June 26th it is a large part of our view on the horizon. The day it broke out, Bob was back East on business, so I got to spend my first night alone on the mountain watching the distant mountains surrounded in glowing flames through the darkness. It was frightening. The area of the Southwest has been under drought conditions for years, and the slightest spark has caused incredible damage and uncontrollable fires that last for months at a time.

A smokey sunset

After three days of watching the smoke and blazes, I spoke to a local Santa Fean about it. He was very casual in mentioning that everyone has natural disasters to deal with, and this was just one of them. And since it was New Mexico’s worst characteristic, it was worth the risk just to be living here. Spoken like a true Santa Fean! And I realized that he was right. I came from an area of hurricanes and more recently and more frequently, tornadoes. We lived in the middle of a forest of trees which could have crushed our house with us in it on any given gusty thundershower (and there were many, many of those!). So I suppose it is just a matter of adjusting. Nevertheless, it is frightening. But I am adjusting. I admit, it will be nice to one day wake up to no smoke coming from within the distant mountains, though. And we are still praying for a heavy monsoon season, which, so far, has not been much of one. And despite the fear factor, the smoke has given us some of the most glorious sunsets imaginable!

But back to the fun factor! Santa Fe is an unbelievable town. For those who have never been here, it is almost impossible to believe a capitol city which is under 3 stories high. The architecture of the town itself is beautiful beyond belief. It is like walking through history in a land of magic. I am in the process of compiling some of my favorite photos on my website for all to see. Gardens and color are everywhere, and the contrast of the geraniums and sage and lavender against the colors of adobe is beyond comparison!

July 4th Pancakes at The Plaza---proceeds went to charities!

Beauty aside, there is more to do here every minute of the day than anywhere I have ever been except for maybe Paris and New York. But unlike those cities, you don’t have to sit in wall to wall traffic for hours to enjoy a city event, nor do you have to pay 30+ dollars for the “privilege” of parking for a few hours. During the summer months, there is FREE—yes, I said FREE—music everywhere! The Plaza offers two concerts a day Monday through Thursday. St. John’s College, which happens to be about 7 minutes from here, if that, had “Concerts on the Hill” for most of the summer where you could picnic on the grass and enjoy incredible musicians—again—FREE!!!!!! The Plaza brings in top musicians from all over the world playing every kind of music you can imagine. Usually, the music is centered around the ongoing festival, either Festival du Jour, or Festival of the Week. If you don’t believe me, check out the tourist sites on Santa Fe. Like the music, the festivals never stop—Spanish Market, Indian Market, Art Market, just to name a few! And did I mention, nearly everything here is FREE?!!!!!!!

Street musicians from South America

How do they make up for all the free stuff? Well, if you haven’t been here, as a first hand shopaholic, I can tell you, Santa Fe has some of the most incredible shopping I have ever seen anywhere in the world, bar none! There are things here that are nowhere else in the world. When you shop here, you want to touch everything you see as textures and feels of fabrics and weaves are like nothing you’ve ever felt before. And COLORS!!!!!! I could curl up and die in the colors here! They are the colors of sky and earth and sun. Try on some of this clothing and jewelry and you feel like you have just bonded to the earth around you! I would warn, however, that the first rule for any shop-loving woman is to ditch your husband. There are plenty of outdoor bars and restaurants (best food in the world here!) and historic sights and macho museums to keep everyone happy!
That being said, I will get on with my day. At the moment, my studio is nearly done. All boxes are unpacked, and nearly everything is organized. I can’t wait to start using some of the energy I’ve been collecting just from breathing the air here in the past month. But first, a dog need to be walked amid some of the most incredible landscape I have ever experienced. Every day, every breath here makes you grateful to God to be alive and in such a glorious place. Spoken, at least, like a “true” Santa Fean!


Critters of the Desert Unite!

I realize I haven’t written anything for a while. Unpacking my studio has proven to be draining. Very little time and energy left after a day of unboxing! I did want to share some photos of our morning routine.

Dawn is still causing us to rise with great anticipation of the beauty of the awakening of a new day. The routine is for the first one downstairs to start the coffee brewing. As soon as that job is done, it’s time to fill the two water bowls on the deck for our wild visitors. I also fill a big dog dish with treats. I had been using chopped peanuts, and in the beginning, that kept 5 chipmunks busy for a while. However, there are a LOT of hungry and thirsty creatures in the desert, and every day we have been adding a few more. Five chipmunks quickly turned into 5 chipmunks and a pack rat. I know, I know. A RAT????!!!!!! But I have to tell you, I find the little guy awfully cute. (Just look at that face!) He is more chinchilla-like than rat-like. Huge sweet eyes and a beautiful silver grey coat. Of course he is competition for the chipmunks who are NOT happy and willing to share.

By day 5, a ground squirrel appeared. When I first saw him, I was confused as to what he was. He is a little more hunched over and larger than the squirrels I am used to. He is also beautiful buff desert/earth color. And his tail, unlike the bushy eastern cousins, looked much more like Davy Crockett’s hat than a squirrel tail. In fact, I named him Crocket. Eventually, I realized it was not one, but two squirrels. I assume the second was his wife, so I named her Tubs. (Sorry about that, my dear!)

Due to the chance that something very large and not so welcomed will eventually join the little innocent creatures, I have been very careful to offer small amounts of peanuts and crackers which will be consumed quickly. What I’ve learned is that due to short supply of food, the desert critters are VERY greedy, unwilling to share, and built to take away as much food at one sitting (errrr-stuffing) as possible. All of these creatures make a habit of sitting on the bowl and stuffing their cheeks with as much as they can carry and then head out to, I suppose, bury it for a
hungrier day. It’s pretty funny to watch!

Which brings me to the second phase of the morning feeding. The INSIDE critters. The cats and Shelby are now as eager to wake up as we are, because it means plenty to watch , and as up close and personal as it gets. Shelby and the kitties have taken to watching the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” show for as long as it takes for them to empty the bowl. It is very sweet, charming, and amusing to see out pets interact as they watch. It has been quite a bonding experience for them as you can see!

The other thing in large supply up here on the mountain are the hummingbirds. All you need do is to set up a feeder, and within hours, there are visitors. There are several different species whose names I haven’t learned yet, and they visit pretty much all day. I have set up 3 feeding stations, and watching them appear has been a wonderful experience. They are very curious so if you sit on the deck, you can be sure you will have one buzzing a few inches away from your head or shoulders checking you out. Our neighbor has the birds land on the feeders as he is taking them out
with fresh sugar water. They are really quite tame.

So on that note, I am about to crawl off to bed. Dawn will arrive quickly, and with it, another morning of entertainment. Looking forward to it!


Quest for Internet Service

One of the first things we tried to do after arriving on the mountaintop was to set up internet service. Unfortunately, there is only one service available, and it has not exactly been receiving rave reviews from our neighbors. Now I know why. On Tuesday a very nice gentleman showed up to connect our internet and phone service. After a very long time trying to find the control boxes, he began his work. We had explained
immediately that we needed service in all three sections of the house, which would include my studio, the main house, and Bob’s office. He assured us it would be simple. He’d just set the router up in the middle room, Bob’s office, and we’d be able to connect wirelessly from the other parts of the house.
About 5 hours later, he announced that it was finally set up. He said he was receiving a strong signal in the “purr cat’s room” which was the room where he had met one of our cats hanging out in her carrier. I told him that was great, and I would let Yoda know she could get onto Facebook whenever she was ready. He sort of smiled and continued his work. A while later, he called us into Bob’s office and told us he’d show us how to connect. My computer connected immediately, and received a strong signal. Bob’s would not connect. The serviceman could offer no explanation, but suggested that he stay connected through the 4 foot Ethernet cable when he needed to use his computer. If that doesn’t give new meaning to wireless, I don’t know what does! Talk about convenient! If he ever needed to move away from his desk….well, let’s just hope he does’t have to move away from his desk.
As he was leaving we walked him through the kitchen, 15 feet away from Bob’s office. My connection went out immediately. When I brought this to his attention he casually said, “Oh, I’m not surprised. You have a wall there. It won’t go through walls.” Bob and I looked at each other in total disbelief. I told him that was unacceptable since we told him immediately we both have to work and I want to be able to use the Internet in the living room! He continued to say there were a lot of developments that had the same issues due to the walls. I then asked him why I pick up signals with full bars from my neighbors a half mile away, and that I was pretty sure their houses also had walls, and ours were the same walls that weren’t allowing a signal to come through from 15 feet away. He shrugged and said he didn’t know why that was, and that if the neighbors didn’t mind that we used their signals that would work. My jaw dropped as I explained to him that that wasn’t exactly the point. We would like to have our OWN service. the one we were PAYING for. He just said that was the best he could do. As for the phones which he was also hooking up, only one phone jack in the house works. In the purr cat’s room.
After he left I immediately called and scheduled a second visit on Tuesday and am hoping for another technician. In the meantime, if Yoda needs to use the phone or internet……


SANTA FE ARRIVAL, June 18, 2011

Bookie's first look at Santa Fe

Life is good. Great, in fact. We have just spent our first 5 mornings up on the mountaintop in Santa Fe. All of the bad memories of the road trip with The Critter Caravan have faded into amusing. At the time—- not so funny! I should begin by telling you that I am prone to seasickness. My last boat trip in the Cayman Islands several years ago was so unpleasant for me and those around me, that the fishing boat captain actually went back to land and dropped me off. Usually, nothing will get them back to land once they have begun a trip, but apparently he didn’t want any parts of a seasick woman on his boat! It was such a horrid experience for me, I haven’t set foot on a fishing boat since.

Having said that, I can now begin the tale of the 36 hour ride across country in a rented, 25 foot RV. Don’t get me wrong, the complaints do not lie with the rental company. They were great. However, about 10 minutes into the trip there was that big “Uh-OOOOOOOOOHH” moment you get when you realize you have made a huge mistake. RV’s for me, I suddenly discovered, are incredibly similar in movement to those of a fishing boat at sea. I immediately became ill. REALLY ill. I won’t go into details, but I do recall having thoughts of 35 hours and 50 minutes to go and jumping out a window at the same time. I was convinced that the fall couldn’t possibly be worse than how I felt at that moment.

The next 6 hours were not pretty. I spent them mostly lying down on one of the beds behind the driver trying my hardest to overcome the urge to abandon ship. Make that RV. Mind you, I was not alone on this voyage. There were also 4 doves, 3 cats, a dog, and happily for me, two drivers, fully prepared to drive straight through to Santa Fe with no stops. At least the agony would be limited. You may be thinking it would be better to stop and settle my stomach frequently. But that brings me to the second part of this story….. the 4 doves, 3 cats and the dog.

The dog couldn’t have been better. When she experienced our partial move last July and saw boxes and movers, she became visibly agitated. I didn’t understand it at the time. Bob and I departed for Santa Fe shortly after the movers left, and Shelby the dog got to go stay with Aunt Judy, her baby sitter, which normally she loves. But Judy said she never settled in that time. She paced the entire two weeks we were gone, obviously very upset. I realized when I found this out, and when we saw the over-exuberant even for Shelby greeting we got when we got home that the poor dog was probably having major abandonment issue flashbacks from her first home. The SPCA where we adopted her said her original owners had moved and left her behind. Apparently she thought it had happened again. This time around, when she saw the RV show up and the door open and received the Let’s Go invitation, she couldn’t have been happier. She settled in immediately, and was the best behaved creature on the camper!

The birds were also very well behaved. They didn’t seem to be the least bit traumatized by the trip. Their cage had been wired into the shower, and they moved with the vehicle, almost appearing to be doing coordinated dance routines, swaying the same directions to the motion like a Pixar cartoon. They actually walked around, ate and drank and cooed like they were home. When we got here, they did, however, spend the first day sleeping. Bob commented that it must have been pretty exhausting spending 36 hours hanging onto a perch for dear life.

As for the cats….hmmmmmmmmmmmm….another story!!!! The first problem was the space, or lack of it. We had two huge crates to accommodate them and their litter boxes which we had to fit into the back sections over a well tarped bed along with boxes of art work I wouldn’t trust with the movers. I could easily get to the first crate with the feral brother and sister, but to get to the second one with the “normal” kitty, I had to climb onto the countertop, hang over the sink from the cabinets above, and reach into the cage to comfort or feed her. Try that on a speedboat!

As soon as the vehicle started, every bump, no matter how slight, caused everything in the camper to rise airborne, then to crash back down (my stomach being among those crashing things). The cats all started howling bloody murder, which of course upset me to no end. As sick as I was, I had to maneuver back to them to try to calm them down, while my entire body was being slammed against every surface in the RV. At the moment, I look like a battered woman, as there isn’t a limb that isn’t bruised from being slapped into a wall or piece of luggage, or box or cat crate.

They finally settled down to silent, which I knew wouldn’t last. When our second driver, Ken, took over so Bob and I could “sleep” during the night, I was awakened by an alley cat fight scream at 4 AM. Yoda had apparently decided she didn’t want to share her room with her brother, and decided to kill him. Mind you, I knew that none of the cats really liked the others, but I had hoped the brother and sister would give each other comfort. The male is particularly shy. Painfully shy. And sweet as they come. He also has a bad heart, which made his anxiety extra stressful for me too. I ended up pulling him out of the crate and having him sit terrified in my lap for about an hour until both of them calmed down. I won’t mention the claw marks I have in my arms from that event. Eventually, when Yoda fell asleep, I slipped him back in and hoped for the best.

I can’t emphasize this enough. A trip from Pennsylvania to New Mexico with a camper full of animals is a VERY long trip!!!!!! In fact, Oklahoma is probably the longest state in the world. And the hottest. But eventually, we did reach Texas, and then it was into to the homestretch from there.

We arrived in our new home at about 2 AM. I put the kitties in a quiet room with everything they needed, locked the door, and crashed. I was up at 5 due to one of the most spectacular sunrises in the world which are now right outside our windows. Dawn called my name, and despite my exhaustion, I answered the call. Sitting on the top landing, I opened the cat room door to see who emerged. First came Squirt, the “normal one.” She walked out, walked a few feet down the hall, turned and returned to her crate where she stayed for the next 2 days. To my absolute shock, the most timid of the group followed. Sinatra, AKA Bookie, is a changed man. Errrr…cat. He walked into the room, took one look at the panorama, and had a look in his eye like I have never seen in Bookie’s 10 years with us in Pennsylvania. If he could have beaten his chest and made Tarzan yowls, I believe he would have. He immediately went to the rock which we have in out entrance room (yes, we do have rocks, INSIDE this house), hopped on top and surveyed his new kingdom. Yes, Bookie had become king. I was dumbstruck watching the new, confident leader, who then walked all over the house checking things out. He had arrived.

Bookie on his indoor rock, contemplating his kingdom.

Later in the day his sister came out and checked out the rocks. Obviously, the “feral” had been touched in their souls by the house and the surrounding wilderness. Two once shy cats who had never acted normal in any way shape or form back East, are suddenly as normal as a cat can be. They have become affectionate, bold, curious, energetic, and obviously very happy. Two days later, Squirt emerged, and has been fine since then. Happy cats. It’s very nice to see happy cats! I honestly never expected such a dramatic transformation. To know that the critters we live with have found the tranquility and happiness in Santa Fe that I have found is a joy beyond belief.

So right now, I am enjoying my 5th dawn. Rosy sky followed by turquoise brilliance as the daylight is poured backwards from the distant mountains, drifting to the house like liquid gold being poured on a jewel setting. Dog, cats, and people alike are being entertained by the antics of the 4 chipmunks who live on the rocks and race across our deck. These are the same chipmunks who ate a foot high basil plant down to the pot the first morning I put it outside. But that’s another story. The second basil plant is now inside an old bird cage on the deck, and the chipmunk family got their own private bowl of water, which they seem to be enjoying tremendously. The hummingbirds have just discovered our feeder.

Life is good. No, make that great…..

Shelby and Frisco, AKA Squirt, watching the chipmunk show.

Computers and Stinkbugs—All in a Day’s Work!

I’m going to ask you to imagine the following conversation at the Dell Helpline this morning. There I was, minding my own business answering an e mail when I heard a buzzing sound coming out of my computer. I tried to ignore it hoping it was a mere computer glitch, but it kept up. Having lived in this house during the past few years with a horrid stinkbug epidemic, I knew the sound only too well, and cringed to think of what I was about to find.

I knew I had to make the dreaded call to the Dell Helpline. Anticipating the old “give us your service tag” line from the Helpline, I turned the computer around to search for it, only to see a real, live stinkbug inside my computer. It was trying to squeeze through the opening in the back, but it kept hitting the fan, so to speak. And worse, I saw a companion in the background having a little stroll around the components. I made the call. After my traditional “on hold forever while I listen to ads about their wonderful products and service,” I was connected. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Naturally, I was connected to one of Dell’s Helplines—-overseas. Talk about “Lost in Translation!” I knew instinctively that this was NOT going to be an easy explanation.

THEM: Hello, this is The Dell Helpline. How may I assist you today?

ME: I have a computer bug problem.

THEM: Before I begin to assist you, Ma’am, may I have your service tag number found on the back of your computer?

ME: (I have always wondered why that doesn’t show up on THEIR COMPUTERS when they view my records, but OK. I’m used to it by now.) Here it is: etc. etc. blah blah….

THEM: Now what kind of bug problem are you having with your computer, Ma’am?

ME: Stinkbugs.

THEM: Excuse me, Ma’am…would you please repeat that?

ME: Yes. Stinkbugs. The insect kind…. in my computer fan. They’re trying to get out and they are hitting the fan. I know you probably haven’t heard this one yet today, but that’s my story, strange as it is.

THEM: Silence.

ME: (By now I realized this was not only going to be difficult, but impossible to explain.) I really don’t want to insult you, but is there any way you can connect me to someone in the U.S. who might know what I’m talking about? There really ARE bugs in my computer. REAL bugs. Not the computer virus kind. They are like beetles…there’s an infestation of them in this part of the US…. It’s a REAL BUG. I need to get them out. I really don’t WANT to take the back off my computer, but I think I have to.

THEM: (I hear a chuckle on the line. I do believe this is the first time I have ever heard a technician on theHelpline chuckle.) I’ll transfer you to a hardware technician so we can assist you with this problem. (Apparently he knew when to fold ‘em!).

Next I sat on hold listening to Dell ads for another 10 minutes. Not once did they mention what to do in case a stinkbug party moves into your computer. Meanwhile, the stinkbugs were joined by yet another friend, and the three of them continued to wave at me (at least I THINK that’s what they’re doing) as they repeatedly try to squeeze through the hole that was too small for them. I wondered how they got in there in the first place. It’s like watching the proverbial square peg trying to squeeze through a round hole. Mind you, they have no problems squeezing between the window sills when the opening is the thickness of a piece of rice paper, but they can’t find their way out of my computer fan!!!! Finally, someone answered, and thankfully, they were, in fact, in the U.S.

THEM: How may I help you?

ME: I’ve got a bug problem. Stinkbugs to be precise. In my computer fan. I need to get them out so I suppose I have to get the back off the computer somehow. I was hoping you might help with that.

THEM: (Silence, while she no doubt rolls her eyes, points to her phone, and mouths to her co-workers, “I’ve got a live one!”) Before we get to that, may I have your service tag number?

ME: OK. Blah blah, etc. etc….

THEM: Now how may I help you?

ME: As I said, we have a stinkbug infestation in my town, and they are inside my computer, stuck in the fan area where I can see them trying to get out, but they can’t squeeze through the openings. I think I am going to have to take the back off this thing which I hate to do but…

THEM: (Without missing a beat she continued.) Oh, it’s not a problem. We can clean your fan with compressed air….

ME: (Dazed) No, you don’t understand. These are BIG bugs! Beetles. I am sure they are not doing any good to my computer walking around inside. I need to get them out!

THEM: Excuse me while I speak to my supervisor so we can assist you in taking the back off the computer…

ME: (Sighing…) OK. Fine.

Eternal hold began again. After 5 more minutes of Dell ads (still no mention of stinkbug components) I heard that old, familiar clicking sound I have come to know so well after an eternal hold, soon to be followed by a mechanical voice saying, “If you wish to make a call, please hang up and dial again.” And then silence. Painful silence.

At this, I headed into the garage for a screw driver. I found one section on the bottom right of the back panel which didn’t look too complicated to remove (God knows I’d had enough time to study it carefully by now!), pulled it off, hit the fan with a paper clip to spin it, the bug dropped, and then crawled out the bigger opening I had just created to head towards my desk lamp which I had strategically placed to entice him (I will spare you the details of what happened to him after he did….) (….but in my defense, he was heading towards the white light anyway!). I then removed two more the same way. All in a day’s work. I really do need to get a job with Dell’s Helpline…..



May 15, 2011

In a very short time, God willing, the gypsy caravan will be heading out to Santa Fe. We have rented a camper to head to Santa Fe from the East Coast. This will be the first time either of us ever set foot in one of these things, so if nothing else, it will be an adventure. An adventure made more adventurous, by the way, by the fact that we will be sharing it with another driver, a dog, three cats, and 7 doves. The cats, although they are getting along much better since our dearly beloved Mikey passed earlier this year, still don’t get along well enough to share quarters. That means three cat crates big enough to house them and litter boxes, and a cage which I hope to divide into family compartments for the doves to conserve space. The mated doves really don’t get along at all with other couples, so housing them together isn’t an option either. Where the rest of us will sit is anyone’s guess! The driver who is going with us is a friend who has agreed to help us by giving us the option of driving straight through in 33 what I am sure will be endless hours of driving without needing to spend the night in a small vehicle or hotel room trying to sleep with cats in cages. I am sure by the end of this trip I will need a cage myself! My only regret is that I didn’t sell the rights to this trip to a reality TV series.

On the subject of my feelings about leaving a place where I have lived my entire life to move across country to the still Wild Wild West, my thoughts are still a bit cloudy at the moment. I know this lack of clarity is somehow related to “stuff.” I have spent the past several months packing and unloading stuff. LOTS of stuff. TONS of stuff! More stuff than anyone has a right to own. Had I known at the beginning of the packing what I have learned along the way, a lot of it would probably not have made it into boxes. But that’s all a necessary part of the process of letting go and moving on.

I understand that moving is supposed to be one of the most stressful things we will go through in life. I never moved more than a half hour to my next location, so the last 5 moves of my life were comparatively simple ones. They never involved the most serious of things which must be dealt with—-letting go of friends and family. In a sense, packing the boxes prepares you for that part. Every item I pick up to pack, discard, or give away, has memories attached. Some of them are unbearably precious, which is the reason why they end up in boxes following me to the next location even if leaving them behind would have perhaps been the wiser choice. I have unearthed hundreds of letters from people in my past and present while packing. I took time to read some of them, which often opened the floodgates of joy or sorrow related to that relationship. Many of those friends are departed now, either by physical location due to their moves or by death, which makes those words scribbled on pieces of paper before computers ever happened to us even more precious. It caused me to wonder if people of the future will ever have the experiences my generation can still have now in reading words and seeing actual handwriting of those who were dear to us. Somehow I think saving an e mail in a Documents folder won’t have the same effect when later reread, not to mention the fact that e mail is even more fragile since it is so easily lost with a computer virus or crash. It makes me long for the days of ink and stamps sometimes.

But back to the subject of leaving… A dear friend offered to have a going away party for me a few months back. She persisted in urging me to get together a list of people I’d like to have present at the party. I kept thinking about it and avoiding the request. Eventually, after I had given it considerable thought, I told her I appreciated her generous offer, but quite frankly couldn’t think of a worse way to spend an evening than to walk from person to person and cry. So I opted to say goodbye to everyone over dinners and days together for the past 2 months instead. That way, I thought, the goodbye wouldn’t be nearly as upsetting since the move would be far enough away that it couldn’t possibly be emotional. It has worked so far, until last week when I said goodbye to one of the dearest people in my life. He is leaving for Europe in a few days, so we won’t have opportunity to see each other again before I leave. It suddenly hit me what it will be like saying goodbye to family members in less than a month. Not nice. Not nice at all.

The good news is that I hear when you live in Santa Fe, people actually WANT to visit you. All of our new friends there caution us that you need to set limits on time spent, since they have all had people come and stay longer than you’d ever want a guest to stay. In all honesty, I look forward to long visits from the people I love. I’ve always been selective about my friends. The ones I have in my life at this point in time have been with me for so many years I can’t remember a time when we weren’t together! Most of the people whom I am honored to have as friends have been in my life for 30 or more years. I can’t think of anything better than sharing my favorite place on the planet with my favorite people on the planet, so I hope they will make good on their promises to visit. Oddly enough, over the past 5 years of travelling back and forth before the home was in place, most of the people who are the dearest ones in life to me have visited with me. In fact, one went so far as to visit and buy a home of her own there. She beat me out there by several months! I am really looking forward to that reunion.

The upcoming move has caused me to think a lot about the meaning of true friendship. One of the most interesting thing about my friends is that they are all intriguing because they lead such full, generous, giving lives. Full lives mean that we don’t often get to spend as much time in each other’s physical presence as I would like, but when we do see each other, it is as if we have never been apart. Conversations are endless as are the laughs and tears that accompany them. We feed each other with energies of ideas and passions and new things in which we are involved. We leave each other feeling better than we felt before we arrived.

True friends don’t turn on you because of their own insecurities. They ride the waves with you, often sharing the same wave. A good friendship is never one-sided. Each partner in the friendship takes turns being the initiator, and the other never resents the fact that it might have been a while since he or she heard from you. They merely delight in the joy of the moments when you can spend precious time together, and the reunions are grand!

So I hold onto the hope that the remaining goodbyes here will not be so awful. I am hoping my departure will be the beginning of long visits, which I have figured out will add up to the actual time spent with that person during the course of a year anyway. And there’s always Skype! Cheers to the good part of technology—keeping in touch, and seeing the faces of those you love, and to the non-technical part of looking forward to the hugs on long visits and to sharing a new life with friends as if we were never apart in the first place. That’s what true friendship is all about—love that never ceases or diminishes with miles or time passed. And here’s to remembering something I always tell the dear ones when it’s time to depart—-that the first step one takes to walk away is also the first step of their return. Wishing you blessings, dear friends! See you in Santa Fe!


Just Another Day in Turquoise Paradise

Yes, it’s just another day in Turquoise Paradise! As the time approaches to head back East I am trying my hardest not to think about it. The return here will happen quickly. For anyone waiting for a visit from me back there after that, I’m afraid getting me away from here is going to be a force to be reckoned with. I feel more at home here than I’ve ever felt anywhere in my life. There is no effort to fit in or to decide what to do next. It all happens so easily, like breathing really. However, as you know, we are almost at 8,000 feet above sea level here, so to survive you must breathe more deeply than we are accustomed to at home. And therein lies the secret to life! It becomes natural here to breathe in life more deeply than you have ever done before. I felt it when I came here 20 years ago, and I feel it now.
Today I am thinking about being a woman in Santa Fe. Last night we had an interesting discussion with a neighbor here who had us to dinner. She and I often talk about the pull of Santa Fe. She said it calls to you. Some people respond, others do not. But once it calls to you you can never walk away. There are many widows and single women up here on the mountain. For those who don’t understand the pull, the common thought is that if you’d lose your mate for whatever reason, this would be the last place a single woman would ever want to be. It is indeed isolated and rugged. But she said once you’ve fallen in love with Santa Fe, you will never leave it…and that you never feel alone here. For those who are here by choice, leaving merely because you are alone is not an option. As a woman, one might say you’d have to toughen up to be here. But by what I’ve seen, only the strong would feel the call and answer it in the first place. It is not for everyone. Santa Fe is definitely not a town of wimpy women! It has a way of performing its own “natural selection.” I like that in a town!
A few years back on one of my many “on my own” days here, I spent the days walking around town, mostly talking to other women—shop owners, shoppers, those at the next table during lunch. I was fascinated by the stories I heard about how they got here, and more importantly, what they have been doing since they arrived. New paths seemed to have fallen out of the blue that were the complete opposite of what they had been doing where they were, but were exactly what they felt they should have been doing all along. It was fascinating to hear how their directions changed when they got here, but the ones who remain never looked back.
I attended college during the bra burning Women’s Lib days. I always remember that I never quite fit into that group. Don’t get me wrong, I believed in the principles for which they were fighting but was always annoyed by the level of pettiness so many women took it to when they fought over silly things like who should hold the door for whom, and what term they should be called—Lady? Girl? Woman? I have never had much time for the petty details of life, and I admit I have grown even more impatient with age.


I remember so clearly the day I received further reinforcement that our decision to purchase land and eventually move here was the right one. Bob and I were heading to dinner and were walking through The Plaza. Most of the time, when the weather is good there is live music going on there. On this evening there was a band that was COOKING, BABY! Bob asked if we could listen a while before dinner. As we approached the group playing some incredible blues, to my surprise, I exclaimed, “It’s an all female band!” As we got closer and I saw the lead singer who not only sounded but looked incredible, I remarked with even more amazement, “And they are MY age!!!!!!” followed by “I LOVE this place!” And such it is in Santa Fe. Women don’t age here, they pursue their passions. What’s not to like? If you ended up here just because the jewelry and shoe shopping is spectacular (which it is, by the way), odds are good you will not remain here. If you came here because you could feel the blood flowing in your veins and the ideas flowing in your head again with the force of youth, you’ll probably die here. Hopefully not too soon!

So on that note, I salute you, Santa Fe— A City Different, A City of Rocking Women, and I count the days until my return!


Santa Fe, April 2011

Good morning everyone! I am just awakening to my first morning back home. I am sure Judy remembers (I hope not agonizingly) my Native American flute wake up music. It’s playing now. Judy politely never said a word about it. I’m sure Bob will have something to say by day two. But it suits the sunrise so well! Last night’s storms brought howling winds reminding us of just how wild this place we have chosen to live will be. The Darth Vader wind thingies (for lack of ANY words that describe them better) were singing up a storm. And oh, how the vigas told their tale!
ROOFTOP DARTHLiving in an organic house is quite a different experience from how I grew up. The vigas and latillas on the ceilings are still very much alive. Unlike the modern day building materials so synthetic and mechanical they have been drained of life, the vigas continue to measure and reflect all the subtle changes of the environment, and let you know all about it! Since there is so much viewing space up here on the mountaintop you can watch storms moving around the land for hours. Bursts of storms bring temperature changes, sometimes dramatic until they pass through. The vigas caught hold of one of those climate changes last night and sang about it for a good half hour. For those who have experienced it first hand, you are no doubt smiling in remembering the groans and creaks. The first time I heard it I thought I was in Jurassic Park when the winged somethingraptors were attacking the building, running around the roof. Since then, I must admit, I have not only made peace with the sounds, but enjoy their every creak and groan. I feel at one with the nature that surrounds me instead of merely being an observer as we tend to live our lives “back home” in Pennsylvania.
But back to the sunrise (I am so easily distracted here!) The lingering clouds have given us a very different sunrise this morning than Lana, John, Judy, Tina and Susan saw on their visits. Just as magical, though. I have described the sunrises as “happening in reverse.” Since we have a mountain range behind us where the sun rises, the first rays cast a shadow which runs a considerable number of miles across the prairie to the distant mountain ranges we can see. They are the first to receive the light which passes overhead in ribbons of color, like giant fingers reaching out to awaken the land from its sleep. Once the sun reaches them, it pours backwards across the prairie towards the house. It is magnificent.
Today the cloud cover is vast. It stretches as far as we can see in every direction, but breaks for what seem to be a few feet of blue along the horizon in the distance. When the sun seeped through the end of that cloud cover it illuminated the land around the far away mountains, which in contrast to the grays and blues which are close, was brilliant golden white beyond belief (for my fellow iconographers, it’s that titanium white with a touch of Indian yellow for final highlight!). My thoughts went back to The Transfiguration Icon Workshop I recently took, and the lectures on the beauty and brilliance emanating from Jesus on the mountaintop. Minus His iconic image, the brilliance is there in the distance. I am in awe of it as I write. And for me, it is really not “minus His image” as He is clearly here in a way we Easterners can just not appreciate with all our buildings and STUFF. Too many things to obscure the horizon can make for a muddled path in our journeys, or so they have with mine.


There are those who might like to see a photo. But clearly, I know a photograph would never capture the beauty (though I will try). Beauty is fleeting, after all!

As I write I have observed a rainbow like I have never seen. I had to leave the computer and run out onto the deck to see it more clearly (and attempt that elusive photo so I could share its image with you. My words will also not do it justice). It rose between two peaks of a mountaintop. Unlike the giant arches I have seen in my past, this one remained tightly wound between the peaks, appearing as almost a globe of color, like a mini sunrise, but in full range of colors. Almost as quickly as it appeared, it dissipated into the mist. The right place at the right time. Which beings me up to our upcoming move. I pray it will be the same and look forward to the signs of my direction to come.



April 1st, 2011: The Wild, Wild West

Hard to imagine that in a few short months I will be making a permanent move to the Wild, Wild West. 20 years ago I left my heart in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and God-willing, this June I will reclaim it. Such a strange age to be making such a long move. There are many friends and family members who just can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that we are really doing it.

Moving on is never an easy thing. Over the months, as the boxes started to fill up, treasures came down from the walls, and my beautiful bright colors are being replaced by boring white walls, I detached a little more each day. In all honesty, I am in Santa Fe already, though I am a little surprised that some friends still see me here and can not accept the fact that it’s really happening. But it really is.

Letting go is not an easy thing. If it were, there would be no mounds of boxes at all and no anxiety as items are put into a give-away pile, removed, and put back several times before the final drive to Goodwill. It’s silly, really. They are only things. The good news is that the new home has incredibly gorgeous plastered walls in vibrant “me” colors already, and they are screaming to be left alone. I have decided that in this “simpler next phase of life” I will resort to no more items than I have already put up last July during the first move out there to set up the home. Art will be rotated, not put out all at once. No one who has seen my current home seems to believe that I’m really going to carry out that promise, but I am certain I will. Santa Fe isn’t called “A City Different” for nothing!

Ahhh…Santa Fe! How do I love thee? She is like an onion. With each layer you pull away, you discover yet another layer ready to be explored. It never ends. New friends in Santa Fe waiting for me always say the same thing about the town. It forces you to be selective because you could be on the go 24 hours a day and never stop finding interesting things to do. I hear you don’t go there to retire, but to pursue your passions. And that is what I hope to do in my next phase of life. My path will present itself. Our Lady of Guadalupe, my guide, will not fail me now!


January 20, 2011

If you read the article listed above, The Best of Cats, The Worst of Cats, you know that we lost a very dear buddy last weekend. Little by little things are returning to life without Mikey. Shelby the dog, seen at the left is mourning in her own way, which is not at all. There is no love lost between them. Frisco, his love, does seem to miss him, and is spending more time with me. That is a good thing. I like having her close. The two feral cats are completely different now.

I knew changes would come as the power shifted, but I didn’t expect things to happen so rapidly. The night Mikey passed away, the two feral cats came into the kitchen for the first time in 10 years at dinnertime. Normally, dinner went like this: Mikey and Frisco (AKA Squirt) in the kitchen in the alpha spot. Dog in the dining room. Feral male, Bookie, in the livingroom hall, next to the stairs to the studio for a quick escape. The feral female, Yoda, under her bench, or on extra nervous days (brought on by Mikey’s harassment), by the sofa where was hiding. I delivered meals to each in his or her spot.

But everything had changed, and they knew it instantly. I am encouraging them to learn to eat in there with Frisco. For one reason, after he stopped coming into the kitchen for food (I fed him meals in his bed the last few days) she didn’t want to eat in there alone. I took to chasing her around the house with her bowl of food like a Jewish mother with chicken soup, chasing down her sick child. With the others in the kitchen now, she seems more content. Everyone ate quietly with my coaxing.

The household has become The Peaceable Kingdom I had always hoped for when Mikey was with us. It never happened. Even the dog’s behavior has changed. Without his constant attempts to grab her food, she is more relaxed. Usually, a cat within 5 feet of her chewy bone was reason for an outburst. Last night, when everyone was begging at the table (also new since Mikey’s passing) Yoda was within inches of Shelby and her bone, and not a bark was spoken. No growls, no snarls, no yuck face to scare her off.

Today was the first “Pancake Thursday” without Mike. It was strange. He was always first in line to claw my leg for pancakes. Even last week, though his heart wasn’t in it, he came into the kitchen for some pancakes.

It is quiet now. VERY quiet. There are no thumps and thuds signaling his ever-constant efforts to find food or drink freshly poured water, even if it was into a soaking pan in the sink. No need to scream “Mikey, get off the counter! Mikey get outta the sink!” as we ate breakfast. In fact, no dirty paw prints on the counters making it necessary to grab Clorox Wipes to clean up five times a day.

The trip to the pet store was—well…CHEAP! No $60 worth of kitty litter (trying a new brand ever week for one of the 11 boxes to see if that might work). (It never did) No 11 litter boxes! I am down to 5 now, and removing one every few days as they adjust to a home that is not wall to wall litter boxes. With all that extra money, I bought a new turquoise pocketbook because turquoise makes me smile these days. And yesterday I needed to smile. I thought of it as a gift from Mikey to say thanks for the clean ups for the past years. You deserve it, and think of me every time you use it. I will, Mikey. I promise I will.

© 2014 M.E. Bilisnansky McMorrow
© 2012 M.E. Bilisnansky McMorrow