A Different Winter Wonderland

I’d planned a fun nature walk with my little group yesterday, but thanks to COVID, I ended up on a solo walk. I explored a part of the woods that’s near the house, but not often visited. It was warm and sunny, but still a winter wonderland to me.

A dream in green

The green you see is a mix of rye grass and chickweed.

And mushrooms!

I went over to the tank/pond on the other side of the woods from the one behind our house. It’s the most attractive one and is always full of life.

Cows love it, but they haven’t pooped all the life out of it.

It’s often hard to get to from our place, because there’s a fence marking a property line that ends in a place that stays damp for a long time after it floods. But, the recent tree-killing knocked it down in a spot, so I could explore the pond while it’s full.

We only have a couple of months when the trees have no leaves. You can see more!

This pond has lots of aquatic plants in it. Some are blooming. I forget what they are, but it’s pretty.

The water looks brown, but there are lots of fish.

It always smells nice and earthy around the pond when it’s wet. Admittedly, some parts smell more cattle-y. It smelled fresh today.

Looking towards the dam.

The highlight of my little walk was checking out where the water comes into the pond, which I’d never seen from this side while the stream was flowing.

Coral berry lines the little stream.

The stream had dozens of minnows in it. It was fun to watch them dart around. In the photo you see their shadows better than them! I also figured out that the stream comes out of a spring at the base of our pond. It doesn’t seem to drain our pond, or if it does, it’s slow.

I felt like an explorer in my own back yard. I found a freshly dug hole where some animal lives.

And I encountered an ant swarm on a log. Probably fire ants but still cool to watch. I didn’t stick my fingers in there to check.

Can you see the ones with wings?

It is always refreshing to hang out in nature, no matter what time of year. It’s healing and reminds you of the big picture. None of us is alone. Please enjoy more images of our small, green wonderland.

Sunset and Dining in the Rockies

I ended up spending the entire day yesterday with my patient friend, Cathy. I crammed a week’s worth of fun into that one day! I also crammed more than a week’s worth of exercise points in, but I feel absolutely fine in the leg department today, so my hiking boots must have done their job.

Fire on the mountain, but not a wildfire.

We left off in yesterday’s post after lunch. We went to check out the outlet mall, because Cathy hinted that it doesn’t suck. And that’s right, it doesn’t. The first place we went was not an outlet store, but a little jewel of a co-op gallery of art by local artisans. There was beautiful mosaic art and a lot of photographs, some by a photographer Cathy really likes.

Photo taken right near Cathy’s house. It was hard to photograph, because it’s shiny.

Imagine her happiness to find out that Stephen Johnson was working in the store that day! She found out he lives in her neighborhood, and they shared stories of seeing moose and other wildlife nearby. I enjoyed his stories very much and got some images of his photos. This is my favorite, partly because of the story of the pregnant cow moose, who he sees every year with her babies.

Look at her jump!

That was fun, as was finding a few items at the Columbia outlet that may help me ride Apache more in the winter. I got a head covering thing that would fit under my helmet, and a warm reflective shirt. We’ll see!

Then we adventured out to find some cool green hiking boots Cathy wanted to get from Facebook Marketplace. She loves Facebook marketplace. I have to say they are pretty darned cool boots.

Ignore Chalkdust, the extremely lovely husky/shepherd mix, and look at the shoes.

After heading back to my house to change and get my knitting, we went back to Cathy’s. I feel bad for how many times I caused her to drive back and forth from Dillon to Breckenridge! She baked some brownies and I knitted, then we went for a sunset walk, which she does most days. You know, I hadn’t walked enough yet. Cathy needed to, because as she admits, she is a jock.

Sunset from their house.

It got colder and colder as we walked, but it was fine. We got to see some clouds and sun and mountains, which made it worth it. And, oh yes, I got to look at all the houses in the neighborhood, which are rustic and have interesting garage doors and other exterior details. Of course, I peeked inside when I could, too. There were some fine light fixtures.

When we got back, there was a special treat! Cathy’s friend, Sarah, had invited us to have a girls’ night fajita dinner. I was happy, because I’d enjoyed talking to her earlier, plus I would get to meet two more women. So, off we went.

This is Violet, a husky. I took pictures of the dogs, not the people.

Everyone had fun getting to know each other and eating. Sara’s new neighbor across the street was really subtle in her humor, so I enjoyed her a lot. And the other guest is an artist and was making a beautiful butterfly installation for the place where she works in Breck.

I spent a great deal of time asking Sara where all her art and textiles came from. Her mother had a business selling Native American jewelry, so she had traded for some nice stuff, plus she had Peruvian tapestries, too. Drool.

It turns out Sarah teaches Pysanky eggs at the art center, so I got to see some of them. I would love to learn that technique to do with some of my eggs. Thank goodness Cathy took a picture, to prove there were people at dinner.

I’m asking endless questions about the eggs. They are so intricate.

In addition to meeting so many fascinating women today, I believe I had my biggest exercise day since back when I’d hike with my older son on holidays. I still can’t believe I feel so good…well, other than my digestion telling me I ate too much rich food. Today may be a recovery day, though I intend to get in the right amount of walking in (after football).

My exercise goal is 30 minutes, and I have a hard time getting it at home. Not here. Thanks, altitude!

Found the Troll, but It’s COLD at the Top of the World

Thank goodness I was feeling better today. The current theory is I had low blood oxygen for a couple of days. It was the last day of those extra-early meetings for a while, so I was all energized to help people out and get work done today. Nonetheless, when Cathy and Ken said they were coming to get me this afternoon, I did not say no!

Yay, it’s a troll!

They are such great tour guides, and they seem to like to show off the area as much as I like to see stuff, so it was a fun time for all. First, we headed over to the Illinois Creek Park where I couldn’t find the troll before. There was a well-marked sign that I had completely missed before, pointing the way to the troll, whose name is Isak Heartstone, and has only been there a short while. He’s by a Danish artist and made of recycled wood.

Wooden guy in the snow

It was pretty icy today, but we slid our way to the big guy. Not too many other people were there, so we could admire his beauty. I love how he’s holding a tree in his hand.

We were sliding in this picture.

Next, Ken drove us to the other side of Breckenridge, where we took a ride on the free gondola that takes you up to some resorts way up in the mountains (but not all the way up). The scenery we saw was so wonderful. You pass over a wetland that must be great in the summer and becomes cross-country skiing area once the snow gets deep. It was just right today, with some ice and some flowing water.

We looked and looked for moose and elk but didn’t see any. The woods were beautiful anyway. I enjoyed wandering around the ski village at the end of the gondola ride. They even had another statue of Ullr. The first day of ski season was booming, but not overly full of folks. I hate to think how crowded it will be later. I’d not be there.

Back into the Subaru we went, headed to the ski sites that we didn’t see last week. I think I grew tiresome repeating, “It’s so pretty” under my breath. After a stop to get water (because Cathy had skied in brisk wind this morning and was all dried out), we headed out to their favorite ski area, which is Keystone. It was a lot of fun to look at all the beautiful river and statues there. Lots of people were skiing, so I enjoyed all the people in their outfits as they warmed up at little fires and went to drink beer. It was quite stereotypical, but still fun to see. I can see why Cathy likes it there. There will be a LOT of slopes to ski down as it gets colder and snowier.

We then headed up and up to the Arapahoe Basin ski area, which is the highest one in the US, or world, or something. It’s way up there. Lots of young people were at this resort, where there was a lot more snow. But, were we as high in the Rockies as possible? Oh, no.

Arapahoe, really up there

It was a bit snowy, but the roads we were on were so full of forest and mountain vistas that I never wanted to stop looking. Those lodgepole pines with snow nestled in their branches had me grinning constantly. I could tell it was getting colder as we went up and up on what must be one of the prettiest drives I’ve ever been on. My pictures do not do it justice.

Ahead of us, I kept seeing the mountains rising up above the treeline, all rocky, snowy, and windy. Suddenly, Ken pulled into a parking area. We were on the top of the world! Of course, I wanted to take some pictures of the Continental Divide. Cathy wanted to take a look at skiers who started from there and went down the whole way (one of their sons has done it). We got out and, um, it was a bit brisk.

The winds were so strong it was hard to walk, and it was blowing bits of ice at us. Ken stayed in the car, and I didn’t blame him. But by gosh, I was going to go look at the highest part of this pass. Who knows when I’d be back?

What a cool place.

It was not hard getting photos, but we did our best. I had one very warm hand and one cold one that took pictures. For some reason I thought this was about as fun as fun gets, and kept laughing, even though I’d only ever been colder during Champaign, Illinois winters. What a treat!

On the way down, Cathy and Ken showed me where those skiers who started at the top of the world ended up. They just sort of shoot out of the woods right where the road is. There, people wait for them, or they hitch-hike back up to do it again. That’s extreme snow sports for you.

Hitchhiking back up

We went back down and saw another ski resort, but I am running out of names. Update! Cathy reminded me it’s Loveland Ski Area. This one was near Interstate 70, which we took on the way back. It was good to see it in daylight! The sun was coming out from behind clouds, and it was magical.

Were we done? Nope, when we got back down, we went to Silverthorne, Colorado, next to Dillon, where we drove through the neighborhood where their golf course is. They often see cool animals there. We did not see anything, but the golf course sure was pretty in the sunset hour (as were the amazing homes, where I did see two more elk statues).

By then, we were getting hungry, so we tried out a tiny new Mexican restaurant hiding in a shopping center in Dillon, Lili’s Bistro. We were the only Anglo folks that evening. The food was elegant and delicious, though the place looked nothing like any Mexican restaurant I ever ate at before – all gray and minimalist. My mole enchiladas were quite good, as was the salsa and spicy shrimp appetizers. We had such pleasant conversations that only the hard chairs inspired us to leave. I’m glad we took a chance on the new restaurant!

Mole enchilada, slightly used.

Now to rest, try to finish that baby blanket (hint, it’s turning out GREAT), and get ready for some hiking tomorrow. After a pretty hard few days, I am very grateful to my kind friends for giving me such a fun afternoon.

Suna Seeks a Moose

I was sitting in my condo, knitting on my sad baby blanket and watching a very depressing football game. It occurred to me that I could do something fun instead. So, I set off for “a little walk” around the neighborhood, to go down the road I hadn’t been down yet. It was pleasant outside, so I just wore a t-shirt and light jacket thing. That would be fine, I figured. And I wore my normal shoes.

I needed to be cheered up by some electric purple pansies or something!

I did pretty well for a while, walking like a person going for a little stroll. I even went and sat on a ski life chair, to pretend I was skiing.

I have on sunscreen.

But, of course, I saw a trail. It said to look out for moose, and I said to myself, I’d like to go find a moose. And yes, I know they are big and scary. But, off I went. It started off a nice, dry trail, so it was fine.

A nice, dry trail. Still okay for my regular shoes.

Then, I turned and it was muddy and a little icy. I believe I was on the ski slope. In any case, I eventually found my way to another trail and another, and had a wonderful time looking at trees and mountains.

I followed some woman who went right when I probably would have gone left and headed back, and I’m glad I did! There were lots of wooded areas where I looked as hard as I could for moose, but just saw a crow.

There are lots of these. Must be fun for kids.

Then, I was absolutely delighted to see that I had stumbled on the trail to the “lake” I’d seen on the map, which turns out to be a beautiful reservoir with a nature center around it. It was crystal clear where there was no ice, and I was happy to realize there was a trail going all the way around it.

You can see how clear the water is. And how beautiful this place is.

It had gotten a bit cold given my inappropriate choices of clothing, but I figured if a woman in a wheelchair could make it around the trail, a slightly chilly woman could do it, too.

So clear!

I was rewarded with some fine views of this one mountain I kept taking pictures of, the runoff from the reservoir, and views into the woods (where there were absolutely no moose). There were just a few people there with me, so it was almost like I had the place to myself.

A couple of young folks were fishing for cold fish.

Actually, there is a remarkable lack of any wildlife here. I am so used to seeing so many animals, insects, and such, that just seeing a couple of birds has seemed weird to me.

I found my way back down by locating an actual road that went by giant fancy houses. And that’s where I finally found my moose!

MOOSE!

Its antlers even moved in the breeze. That was a fine moose. Down the road just a bit was a house with other statues, including this beautiful one, which I think is their mailbox. I just love the look on the cowboy’s face, along with his faithful cowdog or wolf.

I enjoyed the walk back, since the GPS took me through some little shortcut trails. Right after I turned onto the Primrose Trail to our building, I saw something on the ground. Holy shit, literally. It was moose shit. I looked it up.

It’s either a moose or Fiona.

So, yeah, I walked over 5 miles only to find the dang moose have been right on my road. I’ve sure enjoyed the funny things that are happening on my vacation. Thankfully, tomorrow I’ll have friends to hang around with, and Tuesday, too!

So, I had gone to the end of Four O’Clock Road, hiked to the reservoir, then gone back down that Westridge Road. I’m staying at Valdoro.

Maybe, if I’m around people, they will tell me that I should dress appropriately, carry my sticks, and wear boots when I go out, no matter how short of a walk I plan to take. This is my kind of solo vacation, one with plenty of alone time, but also with random friends from all parts of my life showing up every so often.

Why is This Baby So Happy?

Baby Suna and her mom were really happy the day Suna climbed up onto the dresser to look at herself in the mirror. Suna was around 9 months old, a bit young for climbing. But, mirrors have always enticed her.

My favorite baby photo. My parents loved to tell the story of this.

Adult Suna is also happy after climbing up high today. It was “clean out the office closet” day, which required much upping and downing.

World’s greatest portable ladder, and my friend. It’s lightweight but sturdy.

Since we moved in I haven’t been able to organize that closet very well, and as of last week, people had piled boxes for me to unpack and multiple air beds plus huge rolls of memory foam in there. I could barely open the door. There is no photo of that.

I got Lee to move the foam, made air beds with leaks disappear, and unpacked the random boxes. They turned out to be full of baskets, so I embarked on a long-planned basket display on top of my bookshelves. More baskets will appear when the Bobcat House stuff arrives.

A few baskets. Glad I have that ladder.

Most of the day today was spent taking all sorts of stuff out and putting it elsewhere…or taking it straight to the stock trailer, which we are filling with garbage from there and the garage (a separate project). Once I got things that didn’t belong in there removed, I remembered it was a big closet.

Harvey thought I was making him his own room.

I’m going to get shelves put in there for my knitting books and yarn, so I arranged everything in bags or boxes for easy removal. It was good to have access to my looms (one simple Cricket loom and one Navajo tapestry loom ready to start a project on) and their accessories again.

Looms at right. Bags and boxes have needlepoint, sewing, and knitting supplies.

So far it’s a little goofy, but I know where everything is, so that’s good. We are yet to find out how much of my stuff will fit in and how much will have to find new homes.

Bags and boxes.

I am happy as Baby Suna to have this all cleaned out, ready to prepare for the onslaught of things from my other house.

I think I visited my grandparents on my first Christmas or Thanksgiving. Glad I found these photos during my cleaning frenzy.

It was a good day. All this cleaning also led to sharing family stories, hanging out on the porch, and bonding with Apache and Fiona until sunset. Heck, even the work stuff I did today was fun!

Hope you had a day of productive fun, or get to have one soon. I’d missed them, so that made today even better. (I didn’t forget friends dealing with floods, illnesses, and worries that I now live in the fictional country of Gilead…I’m just dealing with the present.)

Lost Memories?

Wow. I’ve discovered that I’m not alone in having trouble remembering things. That’s another reason I’m glad I have my bullet journal — I can remember what I’m supposed to be doing and am scheduled to do. But, that’s the day-to-day stuff.

Suna in the only long, white wedding dress she ever wore. Sadly, it belonged to her friend Liz (still married to the guy she wed in this dress). This is in Pennsylvania, when I went on a visit to cry about being a bad girlfriend.

Talking to people in my extended circle, I realized that many of us have lost access to our past. One friend said she no longer has memories. Others are having a hard time remembering things when they need to, or remembering whether they told someone something. Lee totally forgot to tell me his car broke down—that’s something you usually remember to share!

This photo reminded me that my dad put wood siding up on our house in Plantation, Florida, just before he left. He was ahead of his time.

We all have a clue as to why this is happening. It’s the stress, the mega-stress, the overwhelming worry and anxiety. We all have COVID stress. No one can avoid having world events stress right now, what with wars, storms, earthquakes, and shootings galore. We have overload from black-and-white thinking in politics, organizations, and families. Many of us have big work struggles. Our brains are full. And so are the brains of the people we encounter. I’m getting stressed just writing this.

Here’s a happy memory of me and my friend Robin, who, by the way, is still my friend Robin and has children older than she is in this photo.

Sometimes, you can get your memories back, though, which is why I’m glad I grew up in the age where people took lots and lots of photographs (though nothing like today). Today, for a bit of stress relief, I wandered through my photo album from 1984-1986, which were not my best times (I managed to lose the love of my life and my mom in just a few months), I’ve got to say, but which also had some really good times. I’m so glad I can see both types of memories.

Here’s a place I once lived, in Urbana, Illinois. I doubt it’s still standing. I’m remembering that is my Asbury Jukes jacket that I won at a record store.

Also, when I was young, I wrote a lot of letters. It was in my blood, since my whole family wrote letters to each other. I found a box from when I was in college and grad school lately, and they reminded me of my journals in that some were a bit embarrassing (I sure fell in love HARD in my twenties, repeatedly), but others reminded me of what strong connections I had to my communities, and that brings me back to today, when I’ve learned from some of those infatuations and heartaches and gained some balance.

I never share photos of this guy, but I remember him. It’s the late Bill Crain, my first husband, being coached on good husbanding by my dad, in 1986. He didn’t listen.

I’m glad to be able to dredge some of my memories back up, after all. I hope you enjoy some little glimpses into my box of memories. See if you can come up with some.

My office in October 1984. I wallpapered the walls of this closet/office that I shared with two fellow grad students with my word a day calendar pages. Behind me is an original IBM PC that had two floppy drives and no hard drive. I can’t believe how happy I looked. I was one big mess and had anxiety symptoms 24/7. And migraines.

In the Gloom: Life, Death, and Joyful Canines

Wow, it’s rainy and cloudy again today, but sometimes gloomy weather makes even a simple walk with the dogs an adventure sort of creepy. It doesn’t help that I just looked out the window and there are dozens of creepy cowbirds covering the grass. I hope they appreciate the local cardinals for hatching their babies…

Anyway, this morning the dogs and I went out for a quick walk in between my work meetings. They were chock full of energy, and were running around like there was some bunny to chase.

Come on, let’s go, Suna!

I was getting dizzy watching them run around each other. It was almost like lunging Drew. Things did get gloomier as we approached the trees and watery area.

The dark skies and moody greens of all the vines creeping around the pond and arroyo added to the feeling of impending doom. There are tie vines, bindweed vines, passion vines, dewberries, smilax, poison ivy (further downstream) and balloon vines. It’s dark and mysterious.

All dem vines

To save me going on and on, here are some of the dismal, yet lovely in their own right, sights the dogs and I saw.

Yes, whenever I see a mama spider all covered with babies, I admit to shuddering a bit. Thanks to Lee for finding that one. However, I’d say the thing that enthralled me the most, in a macabre way, was watching the garden spider encasing a grasshopper in its web. I’ve seen it a couple of times lately, but this was the first time I was close enough to film it. Keep watching the video, because you can see the silk coming out of the spider toward the end. Fascinating, but eww.

Life and death, right here at the Hermits’ Rest

But, don’t worry there will be more grasshoppers. How do I know? Oh, you know me and all my observation skills.

Can we have some privacy here?

AI Thinks I’m a Dude

Recently, I was talking to one of my old friends about being mistaken for a man. It happens to her fairly often, depending on how she’s dressed, since she is not shaped like the stereotypical Barbie-doll person, has short hair, often dresses androgynously, and is blessed with a deep voice (one of my favorite former singing partners). It doesn’t happen to me very often, probably because I like shiny accessories so much. Neither my friend nor I are particularly bothered by being mis-gendered, though I know it can be really difficult for some of our other friends, especially those who are trans.

I’ve talked about this before, but I tend to see my father’s face when I look in a mirror; I don’t have especially “feminine” features. And, now that my hair is quite short, it’s more noticeable, even though we all probably know enough people with different lengths, styles, and colors of hair to realize that any hair stereotype out there is pretty outdated. So, I was prepared to see interesting results when I tried that new AI software that turns your photographs into cartoons or paintings. As you can see, one setting gave me blue eyes and made me look like a 12-year-old boy.

My lovely friend.

I’d seen a few that my female-identified friends had done, and they looked cute/pretty and like women. I admit my example here is extremely lovely, but you can see they gave her eyelashes, lipstick, and such. That makes me think that the software makes a guess about whether an image is of a male or a female. I’d love to see more images from people who don’t identify one way or the other or who provide few cues to what they are trying to tell the world about themselves.

Adding glasses made me look more like a woman, but increased bye crossed-eyes.

Another thing that I notice about this software is that it’s very literal. I appear to have a “lazy eye” in most of the AI renderings, though at least in some of the photos I used I had appropriately brown eyes. The thing is, these things look nothing at all like me, whereas the ones I’ve seen of other people at least resemble them enough that you can say, “Ah, that’s so and so.” Well, it’s no big secret that AI is not perfect and that it is worse with women and people of color than men. Of note: none of my friends with darker complexions posted their little cartoon heads, unless I just didn’t see it in my feed, which is a possibility.

The bottom line for me is that the images are just plain…plain. Dare I say unattractive? I don’t imagine myself as some raving beauty, but I hope I am not as aesthetically displeasing as these images came out. The ambiguous, gender-fluid aspect is fine, even fun, but I’d like to be an attractive guy!

Oh, vanity, thy name turns out to be Suna, and THAT is not pretty, at all. Let’s change the topic, so you can enjoy Alfred and Goldie getting along well, and a nice photo of Goldie. I wish they hadn’t cropped her ears, but she’s still got a sweet, yet noble face. Like me!

Have you tried playing with the AI toy? Do you find it fun? I guess it appeals to fans of the selfie. Sometimes I am one of those, just because observing and recording the aging process is pretty fascinating.

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