Recycling Resolutions

We are approaching an odd time of year. It has always seemed that way for me since I was a child. The holiday season slams shut leaving us as babes in the new year facing the coldest days of winter. The holiday decorations are starting to look a little stale and I spend my time picking up fallen Christmas cards. It seemed like a good idea at the time to tape them up around the doorway to the living room but now the tape is getting old and the slightest breeze cuts them loose and they parachute to the floor. The cat is getting jumpy. Over the next few days my neighbors will slink out and take down their festive lights and decorations. It was so much easier putting up decorations when it is fifty degrees than taking them down at twenty degrees. My dad’s birthday was January 6th, AKA Epiphany, so we always stretched our holidays for another week…but we still had to go back to school.

Looking ahead to the new year, we make plans and solemn resolutions. Maybe we do that as a reaction to the abrupt ending of the holidays. I have discovered that my resolutions are almost always the same or they are a variation on the same old theme. Be healthy, lose weight, get more exercise. Of course I am a backslider and usually forget about them by mid-January or early February. I have a nice exercise bike sitting out in the shed…out of sight. It sits quietly next to my unused weight bench. It might get down to fifteen degrees in that shed tonight…I hope they huddle together to keep warm.

I actually did do a few things to promote my health this year — I can hear better with my hearing aids and enjoy talking to people with more confidence. I’m also getting over an adverse reaction to a medication and regaining strength in my legs. I did follow through on a couple other resolutions from last year. I found a new church that I like, which was much harder than I expected. I resolved to show more gratitude throughout the year and I made a reasonable effort, though that is never fully accomplished. This year I’ll probably recycle that one along with the lose weight and get more exercise resolutions.

I’m giving thought to having monthly resolutions. I don’t seem to have the self-discipline to keep a yearly resolution. Monthly resolutions can be more seasonal in nature and fit into the context of my daily routine.  I once was a devotee of Tai Chi and managed the discipline of daily practice. I also was a daily meditator so I have not been loosey-goosey my whole life. With monthly resolutions I can probably get back into more self-discipline. Maybe that will be my one yearly resolution — more self-discipline.

Whatever you plan or resolve for the new year or however you plan on celebrating the instant when the calendar turns over….have hope, have health and have joy in the coming year.

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Wednesday Roam — Christmas Greetings, etc.

Well, here we are — it’s Christmas Eve. The War on Christmas seems to be winding down — and since it never existed in the first place I guess that also is a false perception.  I’ve not heard that much out of the weak-kneed Bible Thumpers this year about how poor little Christmas was being attacked from all sides. Oh ye of little faith. My Christmas is as strong and robust as ever.

There are a number of religious holidays and observances this time of year. There is nothing wrong with wishing someone Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings. Christmas doesn’t suffer a black eye because you wish the best for people of other faiths (or people of no faiths).  I sent out a number of “Seasons Greetings” cards along with my Christmas cards. Happy Solstice.

So for my many Christian friends, I wish you a joyous Christmas and hope that The Dawn of Redeeming Grace enlightens your life in the year ahead.

This All Could Be Gone By The Middle Of Next Week

I’m sitting in a booth in a local coffee shop nursing my bagel and drinking coffee while reggae music seeps out of the sound system. The place was crowded until a few minutes ago when several big groups left, probably going back to work. Somebody had a Reuben sandwich based on the lingering smell of sauerkraut. There’s a fireplace with a fire going — this is a cloudy, mid-December day and it brightens the mood. There’s been a lot of chatter but it is growing quiet. I notice the broken plate glass window high up over a corner table where another small group of architects sit and drink coffee over unrolled building plans.The glass looks unstable and I appreciate architecture enough that I wouldn’t want to see them sliced and diced by falling chunks of glass. I point it out to a passing busboy who looks and says he never noticed it before. ”Maybe people shouldn’t be sitting there” I said. He shrugs and says he will mention it to the manager. I’m glad this isn’t a windy day. He never returned nor did the manager. The mahjong ladies are starting to show up at thier usual table — two tables away from my usual table. We’ve never spoken.

I’ve taken to noticing such things a lot more lately. Partly because I just recently was fitted with hearing aids in both ears. I didn’t know how much I was missing. I knew I had some hearing loss in my left ear…I once worked on the tarmac of a busy airport and it was too loud to be healthy  but also too dangerous to wear ear protection. This was back in the 1970s and my hearing has been adequate for most things – I thought. I noticed a while ago that I can’t hear a whistling teakettle ….probably the teakettle’s fault. My daughter came to visit and said I had an alarm going off in the house —”what alarm?” I asked. It was a smoke detector on the fritz making a high-pitched beep…not the usual blasting horn alarm.  And it’s true that some people say the most outlandish things, don’t you know. But now I realize why I get strange looks when I reply or comment on what I think they said.

So now I’m hearing all sorts of things I haven’t noticed that I couldn’t hear. Bacon frying is deafening…I forgot how it sounds. There are so many creaks and groans in the house that I never heard before. I hear sounds I can’t identify at all. My cat finally got my attention about that empty water dish. Water running, dishes clincking, assorted beeps and signals from various appliaaces are all entering my consciousness again. Conversations make more sense and I’m not smiling and nodding while wondering to myself ”What the hell — did he say what I think he said?” All those BBC dramas might make more sense.  Doctors tell me that eventually my brain will learn to filter out some useless sounds but for a while it is freaking out over sounds I’ve not heard in years or never heard. That makes me so much more aware of things – not just sounds but everything in my environment.

Another thought that comes to mind this time of year is remembering the folks we celebrated holidays with last year who are no longer with us. My next door neighbor died in June after being sick for less than a day. Here today and gone tomorrow. My wife has been gone seven years but she was only sick five days.   My father-in-law went to a local horse track with his best friend but the friend keeled over and died in his arms. There are a few people I worry about and wonder if they will be here next year.  I’m not being morose or melancholy — it is a fact of our existence. Lives are fragile and temporary….and too often not sufficiently appreciated.

This is Christmas season – or Chanukah – or solstice – or whatever. People are out going places and socializing more than usual. There is a special someone on their list. They’re shopping for that perfect gift. They are giving hugs to people that maybe they see only once a year. I’m noticing all of this plus I’m out running around more than usual so I’m in the middle of it. I’m in a higher state of physical awareness than I was.  Things happen quickly. Look around — all that you have and all that you hold dear could be gone by the middle of next week. Maybe next week I’ll say something to the mahjong ladies.

 

Tattletale Chronicles – Winter

 

IMG_20141217_123840

The wind driven rain

Sneaks under the door unseen

The cat has wet paws

 

*   *   *

 

IMG_20141217_120307Drama at dawn ends…

Hawk’s talons clutch a quail

Fat hare saw it all

*   *   *

Coyote watchesIMG_20141217_120557

Sunless day with crunching snow

Sleet pecks at her face

*   *   *

IMG_20141217_120435Jackrabbit escapes

Limping through the dry saltbush

He had a close call

*   *   *

Cranes call from belowIMG_20141217_120104

A croaking frog-like song

They fly off unseen

 

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Christmas at Kuaua — Coronado Monument (Bernalillo, NM) — Wednesday Roam

Each year there is a very nice holiday program at the Coronado state historical monument which is the site of Coronado’s encampment back in 1540. This was the Kuaua pueblo, founded around 1325, which served as the base of operations for Coronado and his 500 men and 2,000 Mexican Indian recruits who he brought along to support the expedition. He was looking for the Cities of Gold but was disappointed. The local Pueblo Indians were not happy with him and his horde of folks and suggested he go look out on the Great Plains — which he did. He managed to get to east-central Kansas before he became disheartened and turned back. Kansas will still do that to travelers today…but I digress.
The weather was mild and there was a nice turnout. This is a free event and the “friends” organization provided hot cider and hot chocolate and plenty of cookies. There was a story teller who entertained the group with several native folk stories. There was a large bonfire out in the pueblo plaza and native dancers from the Cochiti Pueblo performed a number of dances.

Cider and Cocoa!!

 

Shadow Dancers

Kuaua Pueblo was excavated back in the 1930s and 1940s by CCC workers.Most of the actual original ruins are protected about 1 foot or more below ground with newer adobe walls on the surface tracing out the original floor plan of the pueblo. There are parts of the old pueblo visible as grassy mounds out beyond the edge of the reconstructed area. The following picture shows the extent of the pueblo as it was excavated…

Kuaua Pueblo is one of the very few places where archaeologists found murals painted on the walls of the kiva, a religious meeting house located in the main plaza. The murals were carefully removed and are preserved in an on-site museum. The “painted kiva” has been reconstructed and new versions of the original murals are painted on the walls.

Coronado wore out his welcome and things got ugly before he finally headed back to Mexico City. This was a heavily populated area with several thousand people living in dozens of old pueblos. There may be 8 or 10 old pueblos under present day Albuquerque. Catholic missionaries arrived in the early 1600s and established missions. There are some well preserved ruins of the early missions and some present day pueblos have mission churches that date back hundreds of years.

San Estevan Del Rey Mission Church (Acoma Pueblo) dates to the 1640s

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Hooks and Feathers — Chapter Two

My life as a fly fisherman started off slow and went into suspended animation for a few years. I actually didn’t own my own fly rod until 1975. My limited fly fishing experiences were centered around visits to my uncle’s cabin on the Big Piney River in the Missouri Ozarks and that was almost exclusively fishing for bass or pan fish with small “poppers”. If any of you readers have ever had the experience of visiting Fort Leonard Wood you roughly know the spot I’m talking about. The Big Piney runs along the eastern boundary of the fort and on many days we could hear artillery firing in the distance. After a while you don’t even notice. My uncle grew up spending summers with relatives in that area back in the 1920s and 1930s – depression era. Fishing back then was for subsistence and it wasn’t uncommon to hear stories about fishing with dynamite. My uncle’s family would sometimes use a seine to herd fish up on the sandbars so they could pick out what they needed. Of course that was 80 years ago, times were hard, there was no work and people were starving.

Trout of any kind – Rainbows, Brook, Browns or Cutthroat – are not native to Missouri. The thousands of miles of Ozark streams are mostly too warm for trout to spawn and produce a self-sustaining population. Sometime in the late 1800s railroads were being built through the region and – as the story goes – railroad workers would salt the Ozark streams with trout for their own enjoyment or to supplement their food supply. This seems unlikely to me but, anyway, the fish arrived somehow and would live out their life but most would not spawn. A few found safe havens in the dozens of cold springs that feed into the creeks and rivers with water temperatures low enough for small breeding populations to develop in isolated areas. Only a few local people knew about these new-comers but they were alien fish and there was no real effort to fish for them. Today there are still a few protected places where these small populations hang on. troutseasonopenerMost of the trout in Missouri’s streams are stocked on a scheduled basis by the Department of Conservation. There are a few put and take trout parks where fish are released each morning and caught by fishermen who pay for the privilege by buying a daily trout tag. That kind of fishing has never really appealed to me but there are thousands of Missouri fishermen who show up on March 1st to stand shoulder to shoulder to pull fish out of the stream only a few hours after they were released. Most catch their limit by 10 AM and have to stop for the day but it all starts up again the next morning.

So – I spent a few years using borrowed equipment fishing for smallmouth bass and whatever else would take a popper. I caught a gar once. It was, for me, loads of fun and it was nice being out in the wild enjoying the solitude. You can tell what you have on your line by how the fish behaves when it is caught. A largemouth bass will take a nose dive until you muscle it out of whatever hole it found and then it will put up a fight. Smallmouth will usually be in swift and shallow water and will try to make a run for it. Pan fish, like perch or bluegills, are indignant at being caught and will fight from the very start and will keep it up even when you have them landed. Since I very seldom keep a fish – maybe one or two every couple years – they all go back into the water a little sore but wiser.  I’m a fish educator in that respect.

Joie Bighorns 75I managed to meet a girl and fell in love in the early 1970s. Joanne did not fish but she was a reader and would go with me and read a book while I would fish. If you know me or followed some of my blog posts you might know about our backpacking trip in 1975 because I’ve mentioned it before. It was sort of a courtship trip. She was a city creature and the very idea of trudging through the wilds with a pack on her back was a foreign concept. But, when I asked her if she wanted to go she said “yes” to my amazement and everlasting joy. Her friends and family thought she was nuts to go off into the wilderness with this guy she only knew for a few months. What was she thinking?

After a couple more months of looking at maps and reading about trails we decided on the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming and the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area. I knew we didn’t want to go someplace too rugged because we were not experienced and the Big Horns looked to be accessible and the trails were reasonable. There were also a lot of places to fish.  We assembled our gear and took a couple break-in hikes with our new boots and our packs loaded to about the weight we figured we would have. We took a couple weekend Ozark backpack trips to try out the tent and the stove and some of the delicious freeze-dried food (yuk). We ended up experimenting with food and Joanne tried a few things until we finally settled on some things we could eat. Since I had never driven a manual transmission car I had to get a crash course because we were driving her Ford Pinto with a stick shift into the mountains.

scan0004We set out for Wyoming in July of 1975 and had a number of adventures along the way. Joanne wanted to see a herd of buffalo out on the Great Plains and we managed to find one but almost lost the car in a ravine. That was also the trip where we encountered a bear but that is another story.  Amazingly, we ran into my brother and sister-in-law at a KOA campground in Colby Kansas. We finally made it to Wyoming and soon were in sight of the Big Horns Mountains. I still didn’t have a fly rod or flies or a net or much of anything I needed for my trout fishing. When we got to Sheridan I wandered into a sporting goods store that was well stocked with fishing gear and staffed with someone who knew what I was going to need. I walked out of the store with a four-piece fiberglass fly rod suitable for backpacking, a bargain basement reel, fly line and leader, a bunch of flies, a net and a few other odds and ends. Up to this point I had never caught a trout but now I was a trout fisherman. Or at least that’s what I thought and Joanne went along with it.

tongueriverWe drove up into the mountains and camped at a pleasant little place called Dead Swede Campground. We wondered what he died from…maybe mosquito bites. This was a national forest campsite located along the Tongue River. Joanne was beginning to wonder about this trip – dead swedes, Tongue River, mosquitos. I decided I would assemble all of my fishing gear and head over to the river bank and try my luck. I bought a fishing license in Sheridan with all my stuff so I was ready. Fishing with flies is a little different from fishing with poppers but I sort of got the hang of it after a few minutes. My smallmouth and pan fish experience was helpful but this was a faster stream than I was used to. The Tongue River was maybe twenty-five feet across and was making a slow curve downstream toward the left. The faster and deeper water was on my side of the river as it moved around the bend. I tied a fly on my line…I think it was a ZugBug. I stood there big and tall on the bank flailing the water for about fifteen minutes when suddenly I tied into a fish. It was dumb luck. I was astounded.  The fish put up a pretty good fight but I don’t remember all of it. I looked around and realized I didn’t have my net. I was winning the contest with the fish – he was well hooked – but I had no idea how to get him landed. The rod was bent almost in half and I figured the line would break. Everything held together and I got him out of the water and over on the grass. He was about nine or ten inches long and was still feisty. I was disappointed (and clueless) about his size but I gleefully ran back to the campsite to show off my catch, pose for an appropriate photograph and then ran back and released the fish back into the river because he was too small.  There were two other fishermen nearby who were looking at me funny and asked why I released the fish. “Too small” I said but the look I got was puzzling. Apparently that was a good sized fish for this river. It was the first trout I ever caught and I was happy – even thinking it was too small. Unfortunately, the photograph didn’t come out because I wasn’t standing still – I was practically running in place – and the fish was outside of the frame when Joanne snapped the picture. That was well before digital cameras so we didn’t know for a couple weeks that my first trout evaded the camera. That wasn’t the last time.

001We finally made it to the trailhead and started on our backpacking trip. We didn’t plan on going far – only a few miles into the wilderness where we would set up a base camp for a few days. This was higher elevation than what we were used to and we were carrying about 130 pounds of gear.  It was slow going. Joanne needed encouragement a few times. I devised a plan to keep her going by promising she could have a few M&Ms every half mile or so. Luckily I had a good supply of M&Ms. We hiked along one of the branches of Tensleep Creek and crossed into the wilderness. The trip was uneventful except for an explosive encounter with a mule deer that was concealed beneath the lower branches of a hemlock tree. When we came too close it jumped out and ran off through the forest. I almost soiled myself but I stayed calm and waved the M&M bag in the air and we kept on walking. After a few hours and most of a bag of M&Ms we reached our destination. We camped on a high spot away from the stream where the wind kept the mosquitos at bay. I fished in the stream every day and caught a bunch of colorful trout but they were the size of hot dogs. We were up high enough that the fish would only grow about the length of your hand. We kept a few and had one trout dinner – roasted them like hot dogs on a stick. They were better than what we carried with us but I really didn’t like eating them and Joanne was happy with what other food we had. I fished up and down the creek but didn’t keep any more fish. We had met a group of backpackers from Iowa who were heading up into the wilderness and they said they didn’t need much food because they were planning on catching fish. I suspect they might have been hungry much of the time.

So, anyway, I was now a fly-fishing devotee with a few trout under my belt. I was happily connected to this wonderful woman who would later that year consent to be my wife and life partner. We were married in January and there were many more fish in my future and many more books read along river banks or in tiny boats in her future.

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 Next: Arkansas and the Little Red River