Thursday, December 31, 2009


It's that time of the year where we take down old calendars and put up new ones. I never reach this season without some analysis of how the year behind me went. Are we also ending a decade? This is the same question we had with whether 2000 or 2001 ushered in a new millennium. That one mattered more since so many expected all computers to go nuts.

Often at year's end I write a list of goals that I hope to make happen in the coming year. Last year I didn't do that, but I have done it again for 2010. I had already set myself some 2010 deadlines because I feel that it's the only way I make something happen. I am feeling hopeful even as it seems the world is full of potholes or craters just waiting for any of us to step into them. I've stepped in some over my 66 years and hope I learned from them as that's pretty much the only consolation.

Personally 2009 was a pretty good year for me on a lot of levels. I had many absolutely wonderful times with my kids, grandkids, and us under the same roof. It takes us all working to make that happen, and it's worth it. In 2009 I saw some big changes in my life, had some disappointments, some tears, but what year won't if we have ourselves out there trying to make things happen? It was hard for me to let go of the Tucson house and turn it into a rental; but it was something that I feel good about at the end of the year.

My trip to John Day country was also special on many levels. I found an area, closer to home, that seems like a soul place for me. I am excited at the thought of spending more time there and coming to know it better in 2010. 2009 was a year where I feel I moved ahead in a lot of areas but not far enough. I am hoping 2010 will see more progress.

I find myself adjusting to the changes that old age make in anyone's life. In some ways that is exciting as it's something I have seen with others and now it's my turn-- amazing as that seems. I want to do it without denial, making the most of the experience.

When I was in Tucson, I decided to bring back with me a book by Carl A. Hammerschlag and Howard D. Silverman called Healing Ceremonies. It's about rituals for various stages of our life. It refers to the years where I am right now as the autumn of our life and that covers 56 to 70. I pretty much think he's right as in many ways 66 doesn't feel really old and yet little things tell me that old is very near.

Healing Ceremonies had a lot of good thoughts, but I particularly liked this passage:
"Too often, however, autumn becomes the season of abandoned dreams. The daily drudgery of 'taking care of business' has dulled them. Autumn ought to be the season in which we redefine ourselves, create a story that reveals our spirit. It is the time to review old habits, make some changes and see more clearly that tomorrow is now. Driven by inertia we sometimes tell ourselves lies until we get a heart attack or a divorce, or die."
It is our choice what we make of each stage of life. I know that, but too often find myself waiting for some person to come along or a serendipitous event to make my dreams come true. The moment is now and mostly we make what happens happen by what we do, the seeds we sow, the weeds we pull. That starts today with no regrets for seeds we didn't plant, those that refused to come up, or weeds that are too high.

Because this is a Blue Moon, a Full Moon and a partial eclipse, some are saying it is an auspicious time to focus on changes that we want in our life. I got this in an email:
"Full Moon (Blue Moon) is Thursday, December 31 at 12:14 PM Mountain Standard Time with a partial lunar eclipse at 11:54 AM MST (visible in India and China). This is the second full moon of the month and significant in that it can anchor your goals, desires, changes and intentions. It can bring great abundance and prosperity. Because this moon is so close to the earth it may affect the ocean tides and they may be higher, larger and fuller than usual.

"This is an important time not to fall asleep into old patterns but rather to take this time around the end of the year and to be proactive with your focus on the things that you want. Do some strong meditative or shamanic practices during this time especially with the personality and influences of 2010 in mind. They will be potent in their influence. If given the opportunity between ritual and focus instead of mindless partying, choose the ritual and focus. It will serve you better in the coming year."
... by Lena Stevens. For more go to [Full Moon/Eclipse Update]
The painting on the wall behind me is by Oregon artist Judy Erickson of closing a gate which seemed apropos. We are closing the gate to 2009 but that means we are opening it to 2010. No matter what comes in 2010, we make of it what we will.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Finishing a job

In order to finish the work at the house in Tucson, there was a lot of jockeying for position on tasks. This item HAS to be done. That one COULD be skipped. I learned some things. For instance, it is a lot more work to clean a house that you might be renting to someone else, than it is when it's you using it.

Mostly I function best in a pretty tidy environment, but this Tucson experience was anything but because of all the jobs that had to be done. I had to make myself not look at tools, filters, parts, all across drainboards and tables. It would have made no sense to put everything away between jobs as more jobs awaited right up to the time we walked out the door.

We had to not only clean the house in a manner that someone renting it would find satisfactory but figure out what went back to Oregon and what would be stored in a locked cabinet in the shop. From the time we arrived, I worked little by little on cupboards and closets (which had 10 years of accumulated living in them; but a lot had to be done right at the last as we, and our two cats, were obviously still having to live there. BB, the cat who had come from Tucson, was out every day and bringing in dust whenever he returned (his favorite Tucson thing is rolling in the dust).

Farm Boss had to frame three paintings. I had to finish the photographs to complete the site we had chosen for advertising the house. I had written about the house before but in a more personal manner. This was statistics and yet also a sales pitch. None of that is simple. I didn't get the photos of the futon in the den until we were almost ready to leave because that was Farm Boss's domain, and he was not only doing the grunt work in fixing the house, he was also trying to keep his consulting business running smoothly from down there.
Signing up at a vacation rental site, like the one we are using, required paying and getting it all approved. I wanted additional photos on a Picasa site which would show more views. That site also had to be approved because they wanted it to have a link back. An extra site offers a broader perspective, more views than the five that are allowed without extra charges. We got it approved before we left.

We also had to leave the entertainment center and wireless functioning, with instructions for use, which meant satellite dish had to be positioned on the roof. It got a test of its sturdiness the first day it was up when Tucson was hit by 24 mph winds with gusts to 40 and heavy rains during the night.

So the last Arizona days were very busy with a lot of hard work, the down on your knees scrubbing kind. The day we finally decided we had to leave was December 23rd. That would mean driving both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but there simply was no choice for it as the couple who had been looking after the farm were going away right after Christmas.

A month wasn't nearly enough time for all we had hoped to do to the house while getting in much hiking-- we got in some; but I think we spent the most time in Ace Hardware, Walmart, and Home Depot. I had hoped to get to a movie-- didn't happen. We did have dinner out twice at our favorite restaurants.
When we closed the door, we felt satisfied with what we had accomplished. The house had more of a theme, felt more pulled together than in the rest of the ten years we have owned it. I requested changing the listing at the last minute by adding 'homey' because it's not a spiffed up modern condo. It is filled with our art and furniture, some of it antiques, some things we have owned many years, some with visible signs of wear.

Its machine-made Oriental rug has been losing fiber from Tucson's summer heat and maybe dry air and now has places where the loss shows. I love that myself. I have a very old prayer rug on the floor behind my desk in Oregon, I bought it at an estate sale looking just as it does now. Its wear and what that means are part of its appeal to me, but someone else might not be so enamored of seeing structural threads. Homey seemed to cover it.

It was important to me for the listing and photos to be honest. I wanted it to be clean and inviting. I hoped that anyone who might rent it will leave having had as a good a feeling as I always do when I close the door behind me once again.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tora Bora

Can you imagine what we'd hear from the right if Obama had been president at that time? I guess it's true of us all-- make excuses for our guys and attack the other side. It's not helping us to get anywhere in solving our problems. I think we need to look at what happened and judge it fairly. In this case, the past is not past.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Is depending on luck enough?

The recent attempted bombing of a US plane indicates a couple of things that hopefully will be looked at very seriously. Anybody who thought terrorist attacks were behind us (not sure that was very many) should rethink their position. Saying that al Qaeda isn't still a factor should likewise be taken off the table for debate. Their numbers don't have to be large for them to have the expertise to plan such attacks.

When some indicated it didn't matter if we got bin Laden, they need to rethink that. Whatever bin Laden's part is in planning this attack, as long as he's out there, he's a symbol that is potent. He ordered the attack on 9/11 and so far as anybody knows, he got away with it. If he's dead, we need to know it and be able to publicize it. If he's still out there, we need to stop pretending he doesn't matter. Some of the people like this latest want-to-be suicide bomber may be very impacted by Osama bin Laden's success in evading capture.

Likewise those who would like to say these terrorist attacks happen because of poverty should throw the argument out the window. It really never held water as the 9/11 terrorists were not from impoverished families nor nations. All but one came from Saudi Arabia and had had the benefit of higher educations. Does this simplistic thinking come about because some want to think everything comes down to money?

What we are facing is a war of ideology. It is because of religious ideology that these people, including the Fort Hood killer, do what they do despite their lives of privilege. [I hesitated to use the word war here because right away people equate it with a war on terror. The war on terror is a war on tactics used to carry out a war of competing ideologies. This is not the kind of war you can fight with conventional warfare.]

I believe we have a two-fold approach that we must take. First is constantly improving our physical tactics for stopping attacks before they happen. The above link describes how this method was known. What excuse do we have for not being ahead of them? Our technology is inferior?

Second is ideological-- a recognition that our goal has to be to make their ideology of death and destruction seen for what it is instead of some kind of heavenly glory. It so often comes down to religion and in this case an interpretation of a religion, Islam, which tells these bombers that it is a good thing to kill innocent people for their higher purposes and their concept of god.

If you don't think this is scary, check out the statistics on what is happening in Europe with people of Muslim faith becoming a larger and larger percentage of Europe's population. The majority of them are law abiding and would never think of doing something violent. Some of them will do whatever they can to catch those who would, but some of their clerics are teaching this kind of violence. Too many moderate Muslims have been standing back and not trying to stop the violent ones in their midst. The thing is this kind of violent act would kill Muslims alongside Christians. We have to all see that.

I don't know how we deal with a religious ideology that teaches death is a victory if it takes others with them. Keep in mind that when they think their god is favoring their cause, their belief he has protected bin Laden fits into that. In a war of ideology, symbols matter.

A start on the physical end would be placing in all airports enough of those machines that show passengers naked through a camera. Sure it's invasive but so would be taking off all of our clothing. The ultimate invasiveness is to be blown apart by a bomb. To me this is a lot like when they argued that making cockpit doors stronger was too expensive.

If we don't get these cameras in place everywhere, there clearly is no way to stop one of these kind of attacks from being successful. There may not be anyway as the terrorists constantly work to find new ways to destroy people while they ignore positive ways to improve their own cultures. Logic? Don't bother looking for it in this. They can win nothing through it but they don't seem to care.

There was only one reason this attack failed-- luck and maybe incompetence of the person carrying out the attack. BUT it would have worked had it been done properly. Nothing I am hearing airlines discussing right now will change that. Make people sit down for an hour before the plane lands? Fine. So they blow it up ten minutes ahead of that. Since they have no respect for individual lives, it's nothing for them to try this all again. We need to move fast and that rarely happens when it costs money.

I also wish our government would make those terrorist watch lists more effective by keeping them up to date as best they can. This guy was like the Fort Hood shooter in that he had someone seeing the danger and in this case warning about him. Our Homeland Security Chief said there was nothing credible to stop him from flying. Did anybody actually investigate after his father gave such a strong warning?

Sometime around 2004, Farm Boss found his name to be on such a list. We have no idea why it showed up there; and when you call, nobody can tell you either. He traveled a lot back then for business and often back and forth in the same day. Was his name the same as someone else's? But his name is not ethnic. He has had no criminal record. Certainly he is not someone who would practice the Muslim faith. Yet there his name was which prevented advanced printing of boarding passes and always led to more hassle at the airports. For all he knows, his name might not still be on it, but they said 550,000 people are there. At one time Teddy Kennedy's name was among them.

So when the most recent bomber was on the list, there were so many others also that the list provided no protection. The watch list has to be real and up to date. If you find your name is there, you should have a right to find out why and provide proof you are not whoever that person is. Lists that are so bulky that they cannot be effectively used are not better than no list at all.

Homeland Security and others from the Obama administration have tried to say the system worked. No, it did not. It failed. Passengers did act heroically; but if the detonator had gone off, if the man had ignited it while in the bathroom, the bomb would have exploded that plane before anyone had a chance to do anything. We are kidding ourselves to think otherwise.

We got lucky this time. Next time we might not be. And as things stand, there will be a next time.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

An Unusual (for us) Christmas

Klamath River just north of Yreka, California

Driving north out of Tucson at about 2 PM, December 23rd, we had planned to get on the road with half a day's drive to Parker, Arizona, but left later than we had hoped. The traffic was thick when we hit the freeway but we had expected that. Our logic for leaving when we did was based on giving ourselves a relatively easy first day. Driving after dark doesn't real work out to be easy but it was just how it had to be.

After we got past Phoenix, traffic thinned out for awhile in terms of those heading west but the freeway driving east was unending. I wondered whether they were visiting family, friends or was this a Sun Valley break? As the sky darkened, it was like a chain of golden lights stretching clear across the seemingly endless valleys.

With the sun setting, the horizon took on one of the prettiest lightings I have seen while driving this route. Maybe it was the lingering dust in the air from the previous day's wind or maybe the low sun. The sunset was a brilliant orange with light shining out from it as it filled the rim of the valley.

In Arizona, many times you drive down wide valleys and on all sides are mountain ranges. Often I have seen them with many shades of purple, but this was different. It was as though all of those mountains radiated light from behind them. They glowed as though being haloed. I didn't try to drag out the camera because I knew it wouldn't photograph. It was the impact of seeing such light all around you more than one specific photo opportunity.

On the narrow road north to Parker, after having left the LA to Phoenix freeway, a big dump truck filled with gravel bounced some out to slam against our windshield which cracked it. Of course! This had been the trip of glitches. The cracked windshield was to be the final one but one that will have to be fixed likely with a replaced windshield (we had raised our deductible the same day it happened). The crack widened some in the cold of Northern California but it basically didn't impact driving safely as it was so low.

The next morning, Christmas Eve Day, we drove all day through California. Traffic wasn't too bad. It had its moments but not more than usual given it's a freeway that moves a LOT of people. We drove that day from before light until after dark to get as far as possible making it the day from hell for our cats and us.

Basically the cats, both of them, handled the drive better than previous trips. The elder, BB, meowed a little but nothing like usual. The sad part was the younger one, Blackie, who saw it all as awful. He was stoic in his box, while the older one made any noise required.

At one point BB discovered he could pick up a false bottom that we had put into the carrier to keep him above any 'accidents' he had (he's infamous for accidents), but when he realized he could pick it up and drop it, he began doing it and doing it and doing it. Bang Bang Meow Meow Bang Bang. He soon lost his false bottom and it got quieter. His expression and the claws pretty well say it all about how he handled this.
It's a shame we cannot explain to our pets what is going on, but it was just how it had to be, and how it had to be was not fun for them. We did learn that by getting them out a couple of times, to run around the truck, to look out, that they would do then be happier when back in their boxes. They were wide-eyed and not happy but then who is happy on a long drive?

It is very weird to stay in a freeway motel on Christmas Eve even though we did have our cat kids with us. The Best Western parking lot in Corning was nearly empty of cars when we arrived and only had four when we left Christmas morning. We didn't have a dinner that night but settled for microwave popcorn (very handy to take on trips if you haven't tried it), Merlot, dry food for the cats, and a good night's sleep.

Christmas morning saw the least traffic on I-5 that I have ever seen. I did get out my camera by then to photograph Mount Shasta and the freeway ahead near Yreka. One car was all you could see on either set of lanes.

We had a bountiful Christmas breakfast at the Black Bear cafe in Yreka. It wasn't something we had planned but when we saw it was open, we jumped at the chance. Usually on long trips our meals are from fast food or we have it with us. That morning it was very nice to go in there where so many were family or friends. It felt like one big family gathering.

The prettiest part of the trip was driving through Medford, Oregon with freezing fog turning the world into a very different place. I had never seen fog that seemed to be like giant trees, something about the light and the heavy fog created a different world. I would have sworn we were surrounded by high hills covered with trees but I knew we were not. It was our second gift of mystical feeling lighting on the trip.

Anyway we are home. Everything looks great here. The cats are still stressing some. The younger one has been the most because the elder stresses us when he's not happy. The younger takes it all in and suffers with it longer. I am fixing us a turkey dinner with all the trimmings since we missed out on that by being on the road. Gotta have those leftovers.

For awhile, I won't be posting as much (although I put one together about the final touches on the house and photos of how it looked as we left. We have a lot to do here before we meet our kids and grandkids in Sunriver for our long-planned, family Christmas gathering (hoping for snow). We are looking forward to that even though it means leaving the cats behind (they won't mind).

(All photos from Shasta north to Medford)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I hope you are all having a very Merry Christmas with the ones you love, where you want to be. If things aren't quite as you might wish now, I hope your gift will be a better year ahead.
Dreams can come true; so always remember to

Thursday, December 24, 2009


In cleaning out drawers, I came across these quotations which I had gotten somewhere and slid there for future reference. The future is here.

To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given the chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life.
Bette Davis

Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself to life.
Adele Brookman, psychotherapist

Every human is an artist. The dream of your life is to make beautiful art.
don Miguel Ruiz, author

I do believe it is possible to create, even without ever writing a word or painting a picture, by simply molding one's inner life. And that too is a deed.
Etty Hillesum, author

You must believe in who you are and scream it at the mountains. Tell the world who you are. The power of who you are is in the power of the word.

Photos from Tucson area December 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hiking up a wash Part II

Can you feel what it is like to hike up a wash, scramble over some rocks and finally come to a place like this one, within about six miles from what is, at least for awhile, your home down here, where the rocks have left behind a story to tell of a people who lived here long ago? They had dreams and goals, walked these same places, sought shelter, food, and sometimes left behind their stories pecked or painted on the rocks. The places always feel sacred to me as they appeal on emotional and physical levels. Sometimes the symbols appear to represent a story of how they saw life, like the spirals which are seen most often in the Hohokam sites.

To stand where I know people did hundreds of years ago and look at their rock art is always a very special experience for me. The Hohokam people occupied central Arizona from around 200 B.C. until about 1450 A.D. when they, like most of the cliff dwellers to the north (Sinagua and Anasazi), left at least their established villages and disappeared into history.

As you start to hike up this particular wash, in the foothills of the Catalinas, there are owls that nest under an overpass. From the drawings, it appears that they have always been here.

Do enlarge the photos, especially the one of me because it was one of those lucky shots. We didn't know when it was taken that the waning moon was also in the shot. You couldn't plan a shot like that if you wanted and yet here it was with three elements come together-- the symbols of a people long ago, a person from today, and the moon representing the cycles of life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hiking the washes

Wherever I go, I am always interested in rock art (petroglyphs, pictographs) and usually ask those who might know if they can give directions to such sites. Many in the Tucson area are in washes (normally dry river or creek beds).

The washes serve important ecological benefits to the desert as roads for the wildlife and a carrier of water when the heavy rains come-- and they do come. They are somewhat protected, and it might be why they were so often chosen for the rock art. Although, in Tucson, one of the easiest to reach and well preserved sites, Signal Hill, is on the top of a small hill.

Washes are important as a source of water even in dry seasons as you can often dig down in their sand to find water even if the surface is bone dry. Dry washes go from nothing to brim full sometimes very fast (not a good place to live). Flash floods actually drown quite a few people as the water comes from great distances with little advance warning as the deluge doesn't have to be where you even know it's happening. Here, a lot of roadways don't have culverts and instead dip with signs warning don't enter when water is present. More than a few motorists have ignored that to the damage (at the least) of their vehicles.

This particular wash is out in the Tucson Mountains.

At one time this was a mining area with quite a few small shafts. Today it's about a mile hike to a petroglyph site. Although I had expected just a sandy wash, we were warned by someone coming out of it that our walking sticks would come in handy. There were rock formations that we had to scramble up. Not rock climbing but they did make the stick a handy tool.

These deteriorating petroglyphs were likely left by the Hohokam peoples who lived here and then left abruptly as did the Sinagua and Anasazi more to the north around the same time. The Hohokam left behind not only their rock art but also an extensive system of canals whose forms can still be found. The assumption is a major drought drove most of the peoples from their way of life, a few to remain, but most to seemingly disappear into an unwritten history unless you can translate their drawings into their story.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Wow, we made it. Finally we are at the darkest, shortest day of the year where from now on the days will gradually be longer and brighter even if they might not seem like it. I mark this day more than the ones to follow like Christmas (which wasn't really the birth of Christ even if you believe in Christ) and New Year's (which is arbitrarily chosen as a new beginning because it was handy for calendars of its time and still today).

Holidays can be tough times for many people because of expectations, memories, but Solstices are real, not man-made. They are when they are. It's one of the things I like about paganism. It makes sense in a natural way. Most of the days it celebrates are a logical part of a yearly cycle. They celebrate life and its rhythms. Whether you believe in a god or not, this is earth's truth-- today is the shortest day and longest night of the year.

The Solstices are reminders of the cycle of life, of death and rebirth. Today most places in the Northern Hemisphere, the plants are dormant. They look to be dead but their energy is waiting within them. Soon they will spring to life again. Are they as excited as I am? Likely not. The shortest day of the year is about beginnings. Another year is about to begin again.

Photos were taken at Sabino Canyon December 20th, and although it looks anything but dormant with its autumn colors still lingering on, it seemed very apropos for Winter Solstice pictures.

Sabino Canyon is one of the places you can find flowing water year round. The first time I was here (1965), we could drive to the end of the road (about four miles). The first time we brought our children here, we could still drive to the top. Then due to traffic and the narrowness of the road, they closed it to all motorized vehicles except those connected with its maintenance and trams which take people to the end of the road where they can walk whatever part that they choose or stay on it up and down.

Sometimes the stream overflows the bridges and more than once I have waded through it to go those two miles up. Sometimes it becomes a torrent, tearing out pieces of the roadway and blocking access to the stream for weeks or longer while the damage is repaired. One flood was so bad that the trams were blocked from going all the way to the top for months.

This time Farm Boss and I walked two miles up to enjoy all these autumn colors and the flowing stream. Of course, I had to wade, wouldn't you? This isn't like a lot of the desert hiking we do because there are a lot of other people here, but that is part of the enjoyment. I like hearing the bits of conversation as others pass and I wonder what did that mean? Who are those people to each other? Are those two on a date? Or were those father and daughter? It's a friendly place. It is easy to get off the road and away from other people when I want.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Hardest Call

I hope you all saw this by David Brooks as he looked at the current health care bill as it is being proposed: The Hardest Call.

The problems of being a bookaholic

We are once again coming to the end of our time in Tucson. It's never long enough but the farm needs us to return and Christmas is just ahead. The big changes and repairs have been made and now it's tweaking time. Because I am a bit of a bookaholic, I have books everywhere I go. On the drive down I took probably 10 or 12 to read even though I knew I would have many here, not to mention a wonderful used bookstore, Bookmans, nearby.

The problem now is which books stay and which should go back to Oregon. Would some of my beloved books about the Southwest disappear if I left them here for renters to read? (I hope all the future renters for this house will be the kind of people who read my blog.) If someone took one, might they need it more than I did? Or might some of those, which are irreplaceable, be damaged? Which books might touch someone else's life? Which will just be distractions?

Five days ago I lit a candle, which I had bought at a Walmart some years back but had never lit. It is supposed to draw the Holy Spirit, to help bring understanding of the mysteries of the universe. I have had hopes it will also help with the choices that have had to be made getting this house ready for others. I will say I have had having interesting dreams, revealing dreams, while it was burning (about five days). Is it the candle? Having been a Catholic for many years, the habit of lighting candles as prayer/meditation tools (as long as it burns, its intentions go upward to wherever upward is) has been long with me, and one thing I didn't quit when I stopped going to the Church.

Since my hope for this house is that it will be an emotional and spiritual retreat for other people, for me, books are among the tools useful for that experience. I decided the main books here should be guides to the area, nature books, those with different kinds of spiritual insights, some lightweight fiction, and art books. I have been also considering which I should take back with me to be sure I read again (most Frank Waters). Probably some should go to Bookmans, but they won't. These books were chosen carefully for being here in the first place.

My reluctance to take many of them back to Oregon, even if I might like to do so, comes from the overflowing bookshelves up there (five nearly floor to ceiling bookcases). Where would these go? What piece of furniture would have to be removed to fit in another bookcase? The sofa?

The problem with being a bookaholic is you never know what you will need in the future. Special books might go out of print. Perhaps the time will come when I cannot afford books (that's my justification). Coming in and out of here and living as far as I do from libraries, they are not workable for me at this time although I made the most of them during the years when they were.

The book I am reading, that I am currently unsure whether to leave, store or take to Oregon is Healing Ceremonies by Carl A. Hammerschlag and Howard D. Silverman on rituals for spiritual, physical and mental health. Hammerschlag had written another book I very much like, The Dancing Healers, (reluctantly it will stay) about his experiences with healing as a doctor on an Arizona reservation. Healing Ceremonies relates to my life today with its suggestions for rituals and ceremonies to mark the passing of one time into another.

The following is one special quote by Carl Jung in a section aimed at the autumn of one's life, defined as the years 56 to 70:
"Aging people should know that their lives are not mounting and unfolding but that an inexorable inner process forces the contraction of life. For a young person it is almost a sin-- and certainly a danger-- to be too much occupied with himself, but for the aging person it is a duty and a necessity to give serious attention to himself."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Time with a friend

One of the things we had been determined to do while down here was to again get together with Darlene from Darlene's Hodgepodge. She lives across Tucson from us, kitty cornered across almost the whole valley, and with all the things that had to be fixed, for most of our trip we had stuck to hiking places and stores that were nearby. Across Tucson is definitely not nearby. Finally as the biggest things eased up, we made arrangements to meet for lunch and maybe go for a drive where, because Darlene is also a photography fan, we would all take pictures of the desert.

Darlene is such a bright, intelligent and fun person (which you already knew if you read her insightful blog) that meeting her the first time and again this week was a pleasure. In her mid-80s, she has had her share of experiences that either toughen someone or send them to bed sucking their thumb. She's the tougher sort and is amazing for how she handles whatever comes along with a positive spirit. Of course, probably everyone has their days of bed and thumb sucking but hers must come very rarely.

Because our Tucson trip this time (astrology?) has had so many technical glitches (most recently the truck had the wheel bearings go out on the left front wheel), arranging to meet her was no exception. Because she and I don't talk except when I am down here, and we had only been at her place once, I forgot I would need instructions for getting there. No problem though. I emailed her early the day we planned to meet... and later went to check email for directions.

DSL service out.
Service out?

No biggie. We also have a backup system-- dial-up...

Dial tone gone
Dial tone gone?

That meant the Internet was out because the phone land line was out. They are doing construction on the road below us; so it wasn't hard to imagine how this happened. It was harder to get around the problem even though Farm Boss and I have cell phones. Darlene has discussed how phones don't work well for her because she has a cochlear transplant. But I tried calling anyway. No luck. I guessed she was in the shower-- or I had the wrong number.

Now, I had a problem. She was looking for us to be there. She would have no way to know we couldn't find our way there. Was there any chance we could start out and find our way because we had done it once before? An exceedingly slim one but possible. We might also take the laptop and try to find a cyber cafe. I know they are around but have never had cause to use one.

Then I realized I could call Parapluie in Oregon and ask her to go to Darlene's site, find her email (which I didn't have written down anywhere), email her the need for instructions and call me back with them. Parapluie is such a great friend and was happy to do it (she likes it anytime I am not being reclusive).

There was, however, to be another technology glitch. My cell phone has been refusing to ring loud enough for anybody to hear it unless I hold it against my ear. Even though I had it in my jean pocket, on vibrate, when Parapluie tried to call with the information, it didn't vibrate enough for me to feel that. :( Technology does not seem to be my thing this month. Fortunately she also had Farm Boss's number and we got our instructions.

The rest of the day was technology glitch free. We had had one question before we began and it was whether Darlene could get into the Silverado. If you read her site, you know she had had a bad fall last year leading to a hip replacement and then more recently hurt her back. The Silverado is a big truck with a tall step up and no running boards. So we had to try it out with the help of a step stool. With her can-do attitude, she managed it well.

She had invited us out to lunch which we had at a nice Mexican restaurant. Then the three of us drove out to Saguaro Monument East. The desert in winter is less colorful than some seasons, although the lighting was interesting with the low sun.

Tucson's own climate change due to more concrete, more housing, more irrigated lawns and golf courses, has been impacting its ground water supply. Whether it's that or general climate change, there are today many less saguaros in the eastern park and below a certain elevation. It was still a picturesque, one-way loop drive where we stopped for photos, saw one deer, talked of our mutual love of the desert, and life in general. Very fun time with what feels like someone we have known for many years.

When we dropped her off back at her home, Farm Boss took these photos in front of her fireplace. Along with the ones taken on our drive, they pretty well say it all, don't they?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best Laid Plans

When we arrived at the home we call Casa Espiritu, it was to find a lot of damage done in the kitchen by water leaks from a combination of the ice maker and pipes. This was the first time in ten years that we haven't come in here and had it all be mostly like we had left it.

One cabinet door was totally destroyed and the insides of the cabinets were ruined. Replacing the non-functional swimming pool pump could not be ignored(which Farm Boss did the first week) but other projects we had planned, like adding a screened porch, obviously had to be put aside.

Before anything could be replaced, the walls and floor had to dry out. When he tore out the wallboard at the back, he found black mold. Two of the cabinets had to be removed completely. I suppose we could have gone to our insurance agent to take care of all this. It would have taken time and a lot more money from somebody if not us. From the standpoint of speed (and this didn't seem like an act of god but rather one we should have thought of in terms of replacing old pipes and the ice maker line), we opted to do it ourselves.

The complications didn't let up. When we tried to buy new cabinets, the company had gone out of business a year and a half ago. That seemed to be a huge problem which might demand even more time going up to Phoenix and trying to find a close match. I didn't mind how it looked with no doors, but under the sink was no place that was possible. Lying in bed one night, I realized there were two more of the same size of doors. They closed another cabinet that I had never effectively used. By removing those doors and storing appliances in that space, with a pull out shelf, it became more efficient and looked fine exposed.

For two weeks the kitchen was a mess with just enough space to cook what was required between tools and repair equipment. Hikes and anything else mostly had to be worked between phases of the repair work. The lady at Ace Hardware came to know Farm Boss so well that when he went in, she would ask, what did you forget this time?

Finally the kitchen was finished. We were then able to begin the next phase of the project to make this house work as a vacation rental. For the nearly ten years that we have owned this home, we had borrowed two paintings from Parapluie, one a large oil ("Morning on Desert"). It especially had added a lot to the persona of the house. She had logically decided this year that if possible she would like it back.

Knowing I had to return the painting, I had brought down paintings in the truck. We also knew we had to replace several older Navajo rugs that we wouldn't leave here. With a vacation rental, there is always risk because some won't think of it as any different than taking towels from a motel. I guess it's not but it's equally dishonest. I have talked to people who have rented their homes and know that most people are honest, but you can't always tell in advance who will not be.

At any rate, when I first lifted Parapluie's painting from the wall, I felt a little sick as the living room simply didn't seem the same without it. It had added so much life to the room. I had often lain on the sofa and just looked into it. But then change is part of life and I knew we had been lucky to have it as long as we had.

The two paintings I had expected would work in its space just weren't the same. I began to wonder if I would have to buy a print somewhere, but I kept trying different combinations of paintings, sculpture and pottery. When I tried the painting of petroglyphs from an area we often visit, it was what pulled it all together.

With that painting, its sculptural qualities of the rocks, it seems that the house has entered a new phase, taken on a new identity. It's amazing how much art does do exactly that. With some rearranging of furniture, the kitchen will be a far better place for cooking and likewise better for dining. It came together in a way I hadn't planned-- serendipity.

The home has always been what I have hoped it would be-- a place for art, creativity, intellectual expansion, and spiritual contemplation. If someone else decides to rent it, I hope they will find some of what I have in the last ten years. Although I will still own it, I feel I am giving it up in some ways. That wasn't easy to do.

From here I have seen dreams come true, created art, loved, wept, experienced being. I have known disappointment here but also great joy. I have shared it with friends, had psychic readings within its walls, watched javelina drink from the pool, seen the coyotes and bobcat run past, watched bunnies and quail squabble over the seed block.

From its shelter, I have been here when the lightning has flashed and the house felt rocked by thunder. Through its windows I've watched the moon rise over Pusch Ridge and seen the sun set in the Tucson Mountains. From it I have gone out and found wonderful hiking trails, desert pools, creeks, and petroglyphs. It has been a very special place for me and I hope it will now be that for others who may find it and experience some of what I have been gifted by being here. It is a house of magic but also just a very simple little house.