Monday, December 30, 2013

Now I Know What John Denver Meant



Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams

Seeking grace in every step he takes

His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand

The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake

And the Colorado rocky mountain high

I've seen it raining fire in the sky

You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply

Rocky mountain high


The prairie is my home. I live and work and wonder here, on the flats of sage and unrelenting wind. Tumbleweeds line the barbed wire fences that seem mandatory, along with no trespassing signs and ridiculously oversized pickup trucks. This lonely land, with it's dust and dirty patches of snow, has an unspoken beauty only seen by few. It's a place I've come to love. A place I had to learn to love.

Right now though, I'm coming down from my Rocky Mountain high.

Instead of staying home for Christmas this year, we escaped to the mountains of northern Colorado. The Medicine Bow Range is thick with forest. Healthy spruce, fir and pine trees, their branches drooping heavy with pure white glistening snow, looked just like a scene on a Leanin' Tree Christmas card. The snow was so deep, we cross country skied everywhere. And everywhere we went, there were moose. Standing knee deep in snow with their magnificant long faces and calm demeanor, we enjoyed watching them crunching on pine cones, without any worry. They have no predators right now. The humans with their guns won't come around until next fall. They're safe today. It's Christmas and it's cold and the sun is squinty bright and the sky is bluer than its ever been. That's typical Colorado.

I've come to the woods to learn. To breathe and exhale. I had forgotten what a forest can do for the soul. How to be one with the trees, standing side by side, taking what they have to share and breathing it all in. I had forgotten how staring at snow covered peaks brings a certain kind of peace. A kind of peace I don't find on the prairie. For some reason, I get restless looking out at the barren land.

I discovered something about myself up there in those mountains. I felt more serene, but also elated. There was a calmness in me, a completeness that's been missing. My occasional nervous energy had vanished when I stood on the wooden deck looking out east at my neighbors, the Never Summer mountains. The moment I stepped inside the Yurt, I no longer was restless. I knew all along that this is what I wanted. I also knew I needed to be here now, in this land so opposite to what I've grown accustom to. I knew this was going to be a windless time. A new kind of repose. I felt free. Like I belonged. The trees were my companions and the moose and fox were on my side. We were a team. Something I'm lacking out on the high plains.

I just had to go away to find myself again.

I'm happiest when I'm in the company of wildlife. Just knowing they are around brings me joy and a sigh of relief. My extraordinary soft spot for wild animals causes me to worry about them. I fret with fury over their well being. I lay awake at night wondering why people hate wolves so much. How anyone could find pleasure in a "contest" to see who could bag the most wolves and coyotes in a two day killing spree. Is that not harrowing? Is it just me? Am I the only one that feels that something is dreadfully wrong with this way of thinking? It sounds like wildlife management has gone awry. Didn't they learn anything about natural balance and recovery? Isn't that why they were reintroduced back to the land? To keep elk in check and so the land could flourish for all?

A last best refuge is in Colorado's high country for some animals. Along with the surging moose population, the lynx and wolverines are reaping the benefits as well. While skiing around we noticed plenty of fox tracks and found beaver dams and their cleverly built lodges.

Wait a minute. Where was I? Ah, yes. That's right. I'm in a yurt in the mountains living in harmony.

Now then, Yurts are amazing. I found this one to be cozy and roomy and pleasing to the eye. It had an uncluttered look to it inside, which I liked. (Remember, I admire the Amish). The woodstove rocked! It was heavy duty cast iron, with which we boiled water on and kept a pan simmering the whole time we were there. A log bed and futon chaise lounge was in there and a wooden table and chairs. Stacks of split wood and kindling were spilling out of a rustic wooden cabinet. More wood was piled high and stashed underneath the 6 ft. high yurt platform. The 42 natural golden colored wood beams were all in align beautifully, extending to a point in the center of the yurt, displaying a 5 ft. circle window to the sky. On our first night there, I didn't sleep, only because I could not stop looking at all the stars through that skylight. They kept moving and changing and getting brighter and brighter. It reminded me of camping, when you awake and look up at the sky on a pitch black summer night, and count the stars or spot satellites moving ever so gently.

I think I eventually closed my eyes and had a dream.

I dreamed we built a yurt at Red Feather. It had a woodstove and books and art supplies were spilling out of handmade wooden shelves and the animals came to visit and we were happy.




Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Unplugged

We checked this yurt out on a warm day in July. We're going back there today.

The yurt sits in a remote spot in the Colorado Rocky Mountains at 9,000 ft. surrounded by forest and wildlife. Mainly moose. And piles and piles of snow.

I'm curious as to what it feels like to live in the round, to look up at the circular skylight, like nomads in Mongolia.

I first laid eyes on a yurt outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A tiny village where everyone lives in a yurt! I'm drawn to anything unconventional or out of the ordinary, and these huts are definitely unique.

Then I started reading about them. I watched movies that took place in Mongolia. I ordered books on Mongolia. I was hooked, and I'd never even stayed in one.

Until now. I am on my way to Yurtville!

I'll see you later.

Merry Christmas everybody.



Friday, December 20, 2013

Tree Ornaments, No Tinsel

The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting. ~ Louisa May Alcott


Monday, December 16, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Today Is National Day Of The Horse

Yippee Ki Yay!!

U.S. Congress declared this day for horses in 2004.

Love your horses. Pray for the Mustangs.

The Year Of The Horse begins January 31, 2014 !!!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Studying Owl Pellets

There are no knick knacks or trinkets around my house.

I don't display dishes or figurines, nor do I collect things.

Along my window sill are rocks, shells and beach glass. On every table top, dresser and book shelf are skulls, jaw bones, spinal cords, hooves and antlers from some wild animal. Vases and jars are stuffed with owl, raven, hawk, jay, woodpecker and turkey feathers I've found while hiking this land.

And I have a thing for owl pellets. I don't have them on display really. But, they are inside wooden boxes here and there, stashed in drawers, tucked inside a piece of driftwood or occasionally one will appear on the sill alongside a special pinecone.

Well what do you know. I do collect things!

Yesterday morning, I poured myself a lovely cup of coffee and got busy studying an owl pellet. I read about some biology classes that dissect pellets. It's better than frogs! When I was in eighth grade, I did not enjoy dissecting frogs. Not one bit. I realize that this project is popular with children's amateur naturalist classes, but I really wanted to see what "my" great horned owl has been nibbling on.

It's no surprise that my detective work resulted in finding quills and bones from small birds and rodents. All those remains tightly packed in with fur and feathers. It's quite interesting, really. Don't you think?


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Carving Animals


There's been no adventuring or wandering going on here lately. I haven't seen a fox, a moose, a buffalo or a bear. I've been painting them instead.

I suppose you could say I've been doing a little roving. Around my art room! Gathering up supplies I've stashed away in boxes and drawers since the New Years flood last year, I spread them out on the newly carpeted floor. In complete disarray are various types of paper, linoleum blocks, carving tools, rollers and barens. My wooden drafting table is piled high with tubes of turquoise, mars black, titanium white and cobalt blue paint. Ball jars are filled with paintbrushes of every size, my easel is set up, the fire flame is on low and Gregory Alan Isakov is singing in the background::

threw my bottle to the ocean,

she never wrote me back
all the countless days along the sea of blue
learned the language of the Mockingbird
she took and twisted all my words
yeah, I'm just trying to find my way to you

For the past fifteen years I've handmade the Christmas cards I send out. Almost all of them are block prints. I got into carving and I just couldn't stop! After the initial relief print is done, I touch them up with more paint in bright colors, which look good against the black and white print.

Here are some cards I made in the past and some most recently. As you can see, they always include a wild animal. Naturally.


Meanwhile, because of the cold and squally winds, blowing tumbleweeds and sagebrush from here to Oklahoma, it's keeping me indoors a lot. Through the window, I shake my fist to the sky, damn you wind.

As my mom reminds me over the phone, "when you've got snow, make snowmen."

When you've got wind, well then, you plop yourself down in front of a fire and write letters. Being cooped up reminds me that there are other things to do. Important things, like letter writing, journaling, reading poetry and drinking licorice tea with a Tabby on either side.

I pause only to listen to the wind.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Along The Tracks

Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance

Everybody thinks it's true. ~ Paul Simon