Tuesday, December 31, 2019

the sun has gone down on the last day of the decade - yes, i know that idea is in dispute, since some people consider this year to be part of the last decade, but i say, i'm starting a new decade tonight, and new year's eve has just begun.

i'm way out at the end of the road, in the mountains of southern new mexico. i've taken to taking two puppies for a walk, almost every day. we go out to the end of the driveway, and, rather than turn toward civilization, we turn the other way. we don't go far, but we go in the direction that it's wild national forest for maybe as far as a person could walk. the puppies, or dogs really, are overjoyed; there are lots of scents out there. they struggle to mark everything so all the wildlife knows who has been through that way.

i enjoy the silence. i remember new years celebrations in new york, in boston, even in iowa. people would actually shoot guns in some of them, or light fireworks. if i'm up at midnight, i'll step outside and see if people do that around here. we have a small community of maybe a dozen families, in this canyon, out at the end of the road, and we do occasionally hear them shoot guns, probably just for practice or actually hunting something. we know they're out there. we like the neighbors - they stay focused on things that matter, like fire protection, basic transportation, use of wild lands - and don't prattle on about nonsense. they avoid politics, as all good neighbors should. actually i'm not so sure about that last statement, but it's something i appreciate about them anyway.

altogether it makes me feel safe. the road back to town goes over this enormous ridge, with hairpin turns and steep cliffs, sometimes icy, sometimes not, and, the worst, i imagine, would be snow over ice - but if the car breaks down out there, i feel like i'll know whoever comes by, and they'll stop. and it may take a while, even an hour or two, but an hour or two out in the mountains never hurt anyone. and i don't feel any particular danger from bears, or lions, or elk. they're all out there, yes, but they're not inclined to just mess with a person.

in short, i'm where i want to be. the new year starts in japan, china, mongolia, thailand, and it works its way west; it has already hit europe, or is hitting it now, as it's about five fifty here; pretty soon it will be crossing the atlantic and will hit newfoundland, maine, new york, chicago. then finally here, in about six hours. i may or may not be up. my kids will more likely be up, they are into such things as celebrating a new decade. they sit by their computers, taking up all the good bandwidth, doing god knows what, but if the world is celebrating, they will probably be into it too. and i, i will probably be content to watch the white-tailed deer walk slowly across our yard, munching on what's left of our grass. it's mighty cold, i'll tell them, but i'll barely run them off. if the puppies are onto them, one at least will make an enormous racket, but the deer will hardly bother to notice. whatever internal mechanism they have for surviving the cold, dark season, has kicked in altogether, and made them prepared for both the cold and the dark.

today we saw the family of turkeys out on the road. they're very cute in that they kind of waddle across the road, jump up the cliffs, and run a ways off of the road in respect to the fact that we, being people and all, might pop them and eat them for dinner. this whole family has seemed to survive both thanksgiving and christmas; i don't see anyone out there after them, and they can own the road in their full glory. there are sometimes as many as fifteen of them, but today i saw maybe only ten. i've come to like them and to feel that, as long as they're out there, i could probably survive myself, if i got a gun, made a fire, and simply hauled them in. as long as i can buy chicken from the store, though, i probably won't. it's new year, and i'll sit home in a warm chair, enjoy some treats to eat, and stay up as long as i'm physically able. and i won't worry about getting old, turning in early, or not really drinking real alcohol.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

a lazy snow is filling the sky, not piling up very fast, but making everything white and generally occupying a cold evening. we were lucky to make it home in time to enjoy it, at about two; it had started at noon, but the roads were pretty good as we came through. now they are closed, both going in and coming from cloudcroft, our village.

cloudcroft is about fifteen hundred feet higher than we are; it's at about nine thousand, and it's gotten maybe three or five inches already, and the hill up to cloudcroft from alamo is closed from too much snow too fast. it doesn't take long for those steep hills to fill up with snow so fast that the plows can't keep up with it, and it becomes dangerous; lowland people don't know how to drive in it. they close the mountain in self-defense.

we came through cloudcroft from las cruces at about 12 30. already the snow had started and an inch or two had accumulated in places where there were no cars to make it go away. but even more surprising was news about a bomb scare. burro street, or at least half of it, had been evacuated. my wife got rumors of detonation on her texts as we rolled into town. we heard no detonation, though, and had no evidence of that. the person who mentioned it said that all kinds of rumors were flying.

we were mostly concerned with getting home in front of the storm, so we kept on driving, gingerly, over our own mountain and into our valley where it is not snowing as hard, or as much, as in cloudcroft. we are fifteen hundred feet lower, and further east, from cloudcroft. at home now, we watch the lazy snow and speculate about what could have been happening in cloudcroft. offhand i would say a bomb scare would not be surprising, since we're talking about the one local bar, and people get pretty drunk in this kind of weather. but a true detonation would be very surprising, because why would anyone be serious about truly blowing the whole place up? i figure that that last part was all rumor. and, when they reopened burro street, at about four thirty, that scenario became more likely.

on the facebook site everyone was chiming in right away asking what was happening and wondering if anyone knew anything. unfortunately, whoever knew, wasn't talking, and even when they reopened burro street, they weren't telling. i would imagine that a bomb threat is a crime, and a detonation would be even worse a crime. maybe they just didn't want to talk about crimes, or do anything to get people all concerned or upset, or worse, to show up to see what was happening. enough was enough. having cleared the area, and being sure that it was ok, they probably decided to just clam up about the crimes themselves and let people go back about their own business.

the problem is that, due to the weather, the highway is now closed from both directions. people are stranded in the high school which is for the time being a makeshift shelter. i have no idea how many travelers they catch in this kind of situation if the road is truly closed from both directions. but if they really don't want them driving, they shouldn't be driving. those people might have to huddle up, get some free tea, and avail themselves of somebody's extra blankets.

the town only has eight hundred residents, probably less in this kind of weather, and of course, with nothing to do, rumors swirl, and that probably accounts for "detonation," which was probably a rumor. mind you, i have no actual idea if anything actually detonated, but if it did, i figure, it would be national news by now, and not only because it's the rowdiest bar in the mountains. you blow up a place, you make the news. but if you're hoping people won't talk, or spread scurrilous rumors, forget it. it's a very small town.

once you get away from the place, the motivation is pretty strong to stay away. we have maybe a half an inch, and, though it keeps falling, it doesn't really add up to much. they, however, have about four or five already, and, in a state of great excitement, maybe there's even been a run on supplies. it's a curious town. to some degree they expect the visitors, and expect that a few will get laid up here. they have their plows out working and putting beet heet on the mountain roads. this tends to make the roads pink, which gives them a beautiful sheen, but it really works well on what counts, which is giving you some traction, so that, if you go at a gentle pace, you get where you're going.

concentrating on getting my wife and kids home - my wife had been in an operation in cruces - i was careful on the windy mountain roads, and drove slowly and always on my side of the road (the tendency is to hug the center, and there are some blind curves). most of all i minded the icy patches. it's these that are truly treacherous, because the snow will pile up on them a little, so that you don't see them, and then, you're driving through the snow, and suddenly you're on an icy patch you didn't even see. and remember, the cliffs fall off on at least one side almost all the way, so mistakes can be costly. i wouldn't say you'd die if you went over the cliff, as the trees would cushion your fall to some degree, but you'd break bones, and lose the car for sure. and it would be hard to pull out the car, on top of it.

so i slow down, ease my way around the corners, and remember the patches for later, when it counts. it could be a long winter. i'm glad that, as far as i know so far, there has been no real detonation, not even a real bomb, it's all just talk, and rumors, and such things are known to happen in towns as small as these.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

in illinois i had the occasion to go to the nearby town, twenty miles away from where i lived, because it was the home of a youth mental care facility. i decided to stop in on a local policeman there, because he had the exact same name i do, which you can glean off this blog if you really care. by exact i mean first, middle and last, and i'd found this out on the web a few years prior, and actually delivered a genealogy calendar to his father who also shared the same name. there are only about four or five of us in the nation, and i figured it was a huge coincidence to have two of them only twenty miles away. the genealogy on the calendar, however, was ours, not his, so might have been of limited value to them. it seemed at the time to be a gesture of friendship, and i'd met his father, but not him.

this small town was most known for its proximity to the shawnee national forest, but it was the kind of town where everyone knew each other too well, and it was hard to get away from people if you were uncomfortable with them or with the common reality everyone shares. this poor policeman had a son who had killed somebody in an accident, and drugs were involved, and some people were afraid that the son would get preferential treatment due to being the son of a policeman. i have no idea if this son got preferential treatment or not; it was an enormous tragedy, and i remember somebody at the regional dump giving me a strange look when i took a truck load of junk out there and showed him my i d, as if there could only possibly be one of us in the whole region. in other words, i knew about this tragedy when i visited. and i was also aware that our credit records got mixed up occasionally, having the same name and all, so we were already kind of permanently bound together just by the symbolic name that goes to represent us in this world. before the web, i never would have known this. now, i was exploring the consequences of such a discovery.

the small town was also known for the fact that it had been the site of a devastating tornado a few years earlier, which had flattened a neighborhood and killed a few people. it had made the news just because of the pictures of mangled neighborhood and destroyed houses. it was the kind of thing that happens every once in a while in illinois; this just happened to be their unlucky turn. it also was a huge tragedy, and in fact, even the reason i was in town was a huge tragedy. what we had in common, really, was that our lives had been marked heavily by tragedies that we had very little control over.

but he was in the building when i stopped there, and agreed to meet for a few minutes in the lobby. we talked about how we shared the name, and told family stories of where it came from. in fact he knew much less about his own heritage than i knew about mine, but, he didn't mind sharing what he knew. he said he always worked nights now; he was more comfortable that way, and dealt with fewer people, at least the kind he'd come to dislike. but working nights, that meant he was the first on the scene, the night of the tornado.

that was his claim to fame. he was a first responder, and in fact, had responded first. i had more questions to ask, but he really didn't have the time. he was working, on shift, and i had a long drive back home; i think, it was summer at the time, and the crickets were making a big racket.

i don't write about this stuff much, either my personal tragedies, or other people's, but i read an article tonight by a woman who had basically googled the ten other women who shared her name, nationwide, and actually friended them on social media and visited them if possible. she was trying to find out what commonalities names bestowed on people, at least her name, or starting with her name. it was kind of a look at what happens when you get carried away with googling your own name, a lot, or obsessively, or in variations. and it reminded me: i just finished a project where i did just that. what i have now is a book about these people who carried my name right through colonial boston and into the revolution. i looked into them in an attempt to get to the bottom of who i'm descended from, and ended up still not knowing, but knowing a whole lot more about pre-revolution boston than i do now.

it turned out that the path made its way out to illinois, from there, so that's where i'm going now, at least in my research. this guy rides a horse and wagon 1600 miles from maine to illinois, and, when he gets there, they become farmers. yes, there are tornadoes, but the ground is more fertile, and you can grow stuff. little did they know, i'd be retracing their steps, so many years later.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

so now the sun's setting on christmas itself. last night, i did luminaria; i put the family letter on this blog (see below); i notified the family and put the letter into an e-mail there too. got about six calendars out; there are three to go, maybe. no cards done yet, none.

we measure christmas success based on kid happiness. you would think they would be grateful, happy and mellow no matter what, but not our kids. they sometimes express their disappointment immediately, or, over a long stretch. in this case, they seem to be mostly ok with it. they got what they wanted. it's partly because my wife is on crutches, at home all the time, and able to ask them repeatedly, keeping a bead on the subtle changes in their needs.

i set up the trains again in the shed. this is actually huge, since it involves moving boxes around in an extremely cramped space, where the last boxes, the train boxes themselves, end up in the chair i'd like to sit on. it's a general, long-term project to make fewer boxes, more space back there, but for the moment, i'm happy with a little bit of open space, and room to watch the little engine tearing around the track. didn't get any train-related christmas presents, but no problem; i figure that'll take care of itself, eventually. thinking of putting christmas lights in it, or maybe working on the village part of it: make houses, buildings, roads, etc.

we live in this sunny valley a little east of cloudcroft itself. in cloudcroft it was snowing hard yesterday, and some people had a hard time getting around, getting up the shady side of the hill for example. but out here, it rained a little, and then as it went below freezing, it snowed a little. just a little, and all at night. just enough to see a little white out there when we woke up.

it's interesting that we have visitors even now; someone at family dollar said to me, "we're from texas, so this is good." i remember looking at that raging blizzard, and i'm sure my face showed my feeling, which was, here we go again. hope i can make it home.

the trip home goes over the high james ridge which really has its own weather system, though it is only maybe eight miles east of cloudcroft. as i left cloudcroft i kept my eye on the temp, which was 28, in the raging blizzard, with the snow sticking by the side of the road and the roads themselves threatening to freeze over. but down at the sixteen springs road junction, at the bottom of james ridge, it was already about 34 and really raining more than snowing. up on the ridge it was snowing again; maybe it was down to about 30. and then, down at our house, still raining, but thinking of turning to snow.

one last thing i did on christmas - changed the water filter. it gets all gummed up out here with sediments in the water; has to be changed maybe every couple of months. tonight was the night. i was tired, but figured it out, in the dark. i'm proud of myself. christmas success. the boys are hanging out, watching a movie. all is well.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

            I have to tell you about the perfect mountain acreage. It’s way out at the end of the road, and, the pine trees sparkle in the sun. To get there you have to turn off the main highway, and get over the James Ridge on a road that is gravel for a few miles; then there’s another six or so along the 16 Springs Canyon, until you get to where we are. On the ridge it’s steep, and has drop-offs on the side, which makes the ice a little dangerous at certain times of the year. Because we are between seven and nine thousand feet, we get more snow than most of the southwest, but we still get a lot of sun. As long as the sun can touch the ice, it usually doesn’t last all winter.
            We moved out here in June, and that is our biggest news, besides having a new grandson. We set a tiny house on land that already had a hunting cabin and a shed, dug a well, and then we had to move in an RV so we could fit all of the teens (and tween) we still have at home. We feel like we’ve arrived at the place we want to be.
            We’re not sure how many people really appreciate the letter way of staying in touch, but to me one of the big values is accounting for the ten children and eight grandchildren (in bold) who I leave off of Facebook just as a matter of principle. They are beginning to have their  own lives now and not need their parents bragging on them, but tough. Here you go:
            Josie, Derek, Layla, and Landon live in Lawrence, Kansas and Josie went up for tenure under pressure from her department, and she won’t know for a bit, but we think she is a slam dunk..
            Natalie, Ethan, Kenna, Maya, and Nori live in Brimfield, Illinois, a town so small you can walk out your front door and not worry about it.
            Eric and Jenn live on Jack London’s old homestead in Sonoma County, where fires are a constant concern, but there’s lots to do fixing it up.
            Kylie, Bayleigh and Madi live near Lake of Egypt and Kylie has a new job with Southern Illinois University.
            Justin and Marion have the big news, which is Tobias Lane Leverett, born 11-11, smiling and healthy; they are adjusting to parenthood in Portland, OR.
            Noah has some measure of independence, working and living in Chicago, not far from downtown.
            On the home front, Elias (18) is about to graduate from Cloudcroft High School (as valedictorian, he has worked really hard) and go to New Mexico State Univ. in Las Cruces with a fistful of scholarships. Corey (14) is finishing another year of basketball, and having a great season. We are proud of him for making all the 6 am practices! He is in eighth grade and will go on to high school next year. Sierra (14) is also finishing a year of basketball, and also was on the volleyball team. She is in seventh grade. She is also an avid ice skater. Ava (11) loves anything to do with cheering or dance and is having her best school year ever. She also took well to the new country environment as she likes being outdoors.
            Beyond our house there are a number of canyons that go up into the national forest. Our hope was that we could make a place for the horses, which are now at a neighbor’s, and go up in there every once in a while. This has taken a while. We love the place itself, though, and the weather, which is different in every different valley and mountain in the area, depending on the sun and the altitude, is just about right for us. I have become a volunteer firefighter and am still happy writing and fixing up the shed. We are hoping that our good luck will continue, and we wish all our friends and family a joyous holiday and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2019

late again on the holiday cards, the calendars, the joyous greetings, etc. fortunately we don't put bright red and dark green all over them, as these two colors go directly out of fashion on christmas day. rather, we're kind of a muted blue, faded pink kind of family anyway so we don't even have to pressure the post office to hurry up before the spirit of the holiday has gone away. but the real problem, from my point of view, is that we are not entirely truthful, giving mostly only the good news, leaving out such things as a forty-six thousand dollar helicopter ride that will supposedly get partly paid for, and other such calamities, and so i kind of feel a little incomplete. of course i can write the rest of that stuff by hand, but actually, i'd like to just skip the whole process, and therefore i put it off way too long, and now it's christmas eve, and i've barely done my shopping.

took a long drive up to the airport, to deliver the eleven-year-old to the albuquerque-kansas city flight, to go visit her sister and niece - the niece is so close to her in age that they are fast friends. the road to albuquerque is very remote, and takes four hours. it goes through oscura, the cut-off to the trinity site, and the valley of fire, a remote place with wild rock formations. near the tiny town of san antonio (new mexico) you sense the bosque and the wetlands as the rio grande is plowing right through the valley. in the bosque you have sand-hill cranes and every imaginable bird, that tries to escape montana winters without leaving the usa altogether, but you don't see them from the road, or at least, i didn't. then finally up through socorro and las lunes to the city.

the city was very different from what we're used to. One, free book libraries on every block, that are somewhat like standing bird houses, redwood or whatever, pretty, with interesting books inside. it might be that some people actually read them. i have a shed full of them, and would simply like to unload them as they are doing nothing but taking up space. but in this case, i can tell, at least some people are keeping track: what's popular, what's not, what can be read here. interesting.

all the houses are stucco, my sister says, fake adobe. and lots of dogs being walked, all over the place. this could be a sunday thing, or an albuquerque thing, i have no idea.

the eleven-year-old is a brave soul, going off on a flight by herself, an unaccompanied minor, as they call her, met at the other end by her brother-in-law, who, in fact, is more like an uncle. it is not easy to set off into a cold winter grayness, uncertain future, just trusting the grownups around you that it will all work out.

and i, personally, become more hesitant each day, barely wanting to set out into a four-hour drive, through oscura and god-knows-where, to one more new city.

somewhere out there, in the middle of the night, i came flying over a hill and there was a huge elk in the road. this was not near our house, where i kind of expect such things, but more near the valley of fire where i had just got in the lull of going way too fast, using high beams, staying between the lines. the elk and i worked it out. i swerved a little; he ambled off, caught in the high beams for a minute but well aware that ambling was his best option. i'm grateful. the adrenaline caused by that little incident lasted two more hours, and was just enough to get me home, at about twelve thirty in the morning. there were lots more elk out this way, outside of the village, on my way to our land, but i know those personally - i hit one, a summer or two ago, and she looked right at me as she smashed in my drivers-side door and ran off. i was happy to see that as far as i can tell, she has a family, so she's better now, and hanging around the side of the road at night, eating grasses for her main course, then coming up onto the road itself for a little salt to help put the whole thing down. whatever their system, they've worked it out, and they are surviving, as should we.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

woke up this morning and there was no water. we knew right away that the pipes had frozen, as it was about ten degrees out. an unusually cold night, for here, though i guess as we get into late december, and early january, maybe not that unusual. One usual thing was that the sun came out and before long it was quite reasonable; eventually we got our water back. One thing that was unusual was that it was the last day of school, so the kids, knowing that they would have an easy day, were relatively good-natured about it. and it's not like most of them take showers, or even brush their teeth.

there are four, almost all teenagers, and they go out in two different rides, because one has basketball practice at six a m. on the mountain roads in the fives, like five thirty, you generally see a lot of elk and deer, and this morning a huge elk jumped right in front of me as i was driving down the main highway. i wasn't even on a back road; i was on the main highway, and there he was. he was a little dazzled by my high beams, and jumped in the wrong direction at the last moment. But I missed him; he swerved at the same time i did, and i went around him.

i found the pipe that had frozen, and was most lucky that it hadn't in fact burst. it could do that, as we do get some powerful cold spells, but this wasn't one of them, and it didn't. it had frozen good enough to leave the whole place without water though. what had happened was that one of those yellow thermometer plugs didn't seem to work. it's entirely possible that i'd used it wrong. but in any case, it got well below thirty, and i hadn't done anything about it.

actually, going into winter break, i consider myself lucky. i had one bad incident on an icy road, trying to pick up my basketball players. the car broke down. with my wife in the hospital, i'd neglected to check the oil regularly enough, and it had valve problems, and broke a radiator. i am now planning on being more careful about everything like that. my wife is now back on her feet, able to drive, and more in the game. it was a little thousand-dollar mistake.

unlike her helicopter ride, which as it turns out is a forty-six thousand dollar mistake, but with that one, we might get help. what they say is, they charge you what it's worth, but, if you were way out in the country, and they had to do it, they have a fund that will help you pay it.

the pictures below tell a little about our lives. one is the road behind the school, where i wait for the kids in the afternoon. i find it an incredibly peaceful place, although cloudcroft itself is often colder, foggier, even snowier than where we live. i sit in the car and play on my phone, and it's a pretty good deal, except the phone goes down rapidly, sometimes from 80% down to 30% even in less than an hour. Eventually the kids show up and we go home. it's not that special. but to us in the mountains, any day in the mountains is better than any other, anywhere else.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

my new routine includes a lot of driving, and i try to get my work done on my books, in the late hours or when i can squeeze some time in. my wife can't drive yet - she has a two-week prohibition - but she told me today she was considering cheating on it. this is partly because she sees how hard it is for me to do all the driving - but partly because she doesn't like my driving, since she doesn't like being a kibbitzing passenger - and she'd really rather just be doing some of it herself. today, for example, i had to take her to ruidoso, which is a long way, and definitely a trip she could have done by herself, if her legs and feet were up to it. i'm against her driving. i say really what she needs to do is get completely healed.

the things she doesn't like are minor - i drift into the center of the road, or even the left, if the holes are too big - and i go too fast in places she would go more slowly. i have become more like her over the years - kept to my side of the road, not driven over double yellow lines when i'm turning left, that kind of thing - yet i still drive with a kind of lazy midwestern disregard for the fine points of the law, and she, being a californian, has an encyclopedic memory of those fine points. what does it matter if no one's around? the law is the law.

the drive to ruidoso takes us through the mescalero reservation, probably the most beautiful road i've ever seen. it's beautiful in a kind of back-country, mountain way - wild horses graze on the side of the road, there are very few houses, and most traffic ignores the 45-mile speed limit. trying to please her, i keep it down to 45 as much as i can, and actually enjoy it, even though, since it is winter, the fields are brown, and leaf trees are all barren. the horses are beautiful and there's no telling what they're actually eating, since the grasses have been frozen for about a week. maybe they can eat and digest grasses that are frosted on both sides, but in any case, they don't look like they're starving. there are no elk or deer today, but a family of fifteen wild turkeys crosses the road.

my fascination with the reservation is partly that as we drive through it on the national highway, we come to a point where the road takes a sharp maybe 80 degree turn - it's a little sharper than a straight ninety - and at that point, which i call the elbow, according to my google-map, we're only a couple of mountain ranges away from our house. right out our window is a large rounded mountain, but straight north, a couple of ranges; the reservation itself is only five or ten miles, not more than a fifteen-minute walk. that google map image shows it to be indian joe canyon, a part of the reservation where the one road there is leads right into that elbow. i have no idea how many people live out this way, and, out of respect, we white folks pretty much stay out of the reservation. i drive on that national highway, and cast a glance as i go through that elbow, but i don't take the gravel roads or go past the fence which i imagine is about five miles north of our house. in fact i have not been to that fence, but if i were to go, i would leave it alone, and not cross it.

our basketball team played mescalero the other night. they were a lot like the other kids we've played - they all had phones, and some had dyed hair or other things that middle-school kids have. they were nice and respectful. i thought, at one point, that i heard them speaking apache. that's what i'd be really interested in: do they speak it a lot? what's it like? what kinds of features does it have? but, i don't go around eavesdropping. i won't even know this stuff until i get to know them better.

but i will say this: that is one beautiful road. they take better care of their forests than we do ours, from what i can tell, and i know that rankles the locals as well as makes us feel like we're not quite taking care of our own yard; it's a fire hazard. people get mad at them for not eradicating the wild thistle a little more aggressively, but they have their own priorities, and they have autonomy over how their land is managed.

we have a new garmin - a little device, like the fireman's radio, that will ensure that we don't get stranded way out in the wild as we go exploring. it reaches a satellite, it talks to it, and it allows us to communicate if we're stranded or in trouble, way out in the middle of nowhere. my wife frequently takes this rugged gravel road to get over to the horses - once we left a car out there for a few days while we rounded up the proper jack and spare to get it out - and she decided that she would feel better if she were never stranded, or in fact never even stuck, or out of communication - again. on that occasion the local sheriff happened by and gave her and the girls a ride home, which was really not that far away, and this occasion led me to believe that we are not really as isolated as we always imagine ourselves. i sometimes wonder about breaking down on these wild mountain roads, because i'm frequently out of cell range, but, on the road i drive on most, there is traffic. at night, or in the early morning, you might have to wait, twenty minutes, half hour, or hour, but somebody will come by.

on the road to her horses, though, maybe not. out there, where the sheriff was, the sheriff is one of several people who might have happened by, but also just might not. it's a rugged road, and way back there in a kind of nowhere-type, ranching valley. mountains are everywhere, and quite a few elk and deer too. people love hunting out here. the animals are plentiful, and one valley just turns into another.

people ask me if i'm tired of the driving yet. the fact is, i drove on so many pothole-filled, grimy, slushy, icy city streets, that it will take a few years before i'm tired of these. yes, they get icy and treacherous. steep grades fall on each side, and when they are ice-covered, you are coming down a windy mountain road with not much room for error. but when it snows, the snow stays white, and when it freezes, it doesn't happen without warning. and the new mexico sun, relentless as it is, works on the ice, and a long day turns into a changing surface situation where what snow and ice is on the road, quickly gets broken up and dissipates under the weight of all these trucks with four-wheel drive. i don't have four-wheel drive, most of the time, and don't even have snow tires. but i can still take advantage of the kinds of conditions that they have left me.

and, at the top of the ridge, the view is stunning. the trees on the nearby valleys sit in the sun, with snow around them, untouched except by occasional animal tracks. the sun is a little slower to melt that snow, especially on the shady sides of the mountains, and they are majestic in the changing colors of the day. at night, you have to watch for the animals, though. they can come out on the road, or just be there, at any time. and they often forget there even is a road.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

things are a little different around here since my wife fell off a horse and broke some bones in her hip. they put pins in her, and staples, and told her to stay off the leg for about a month. they gave her a walker and she kind of hobbles around on one leg. there are two problems, the first being that this is a tiny house, and we still have four kids and two dogs; the kids are teenagers, but everyone's taking up a lot of space these days.

but the second problem is that she hasn't really slowed down. if she would sit down and let me do a little more of the work, she would get some rest, and might be able to rebuild the bones which i'm sure will happen inevitably anyway. but instead she's up a lot. she can't ride her horse so she has a lot of nervous energy. she wants to control things and this generally means she gets up and does it herself.

sometimes i just want to get out of the way, like going outside and cleaning up piles of lumber that are sitting around. i actually have lots to do outside, and the weather is beautiful, clear sky, a little windy, cold but not too cold, the forest all around us - but i've been hanging around inside trying to encourage her to rest, and trying to do as much as i can of the housework.

the key in the tiny house is to keep a lot of space everywhere. don't let anything hang around on the floor. the main culprits here are dog toys, and kid shoes, and my shoes, of course, which i tend not to see. but almost anything can block the narrow path that she has to navigate up and down the house. and she's sensitive - not being able to ride the horse, has made her feel cooped up, helpless, frustrated.

on the book front i finally feel like i'm making a little progress. i have a few regular places where i advertise and i notice what kinds of response i get from advertising in each one. the other day facebook offered me ten bucks of free advertising so i took it and put it into new mexico and new jersey. for some reason i like new jersey for some reason as they always responded to my haiku. i feel that new jersey is an underrated market - who wants to try to sell in new york city, where everyone's got their nose in the air about books? i feel like jersey's more at my level, a little cosmopolitan, appreciates a good sense of humor, that kind of thing. i should probably track my sales, and see who is actually buying the books - it could be jersey people, or maybe new mexico, or maybe even quakers. i spoke up the other day on a quaker facebook page. i said hey, these aren't quaker stories, not even close, but i'm a quaker. and i put it out there.

my new advertising campaign says simply: NO SOLICITING: EXCEPT SHORT STORIES. it makes me laugh, i don't know why. it has a couple of cows out at the road, by our driveway, looking like they want something out of us. yes, they always want something out of us. we have good grass, and they like to wander around, eating it and pooping at will. i actually like the poop as i use it to make a good mulch to put on my garden. but back to the campaign. no telling if it makes other people chuckle or not. or know me. or have any idea about the kind of thing i write. i sometimes feel out of touch with who i am and whether people are actually responding.

the latest, eighteenth century leveretts: genealogist's journey (tentative title) is almost done. i'm going to send it to my brother, who reads very carefully and has really good advice. i'm also going to print a copy on the assumption that when it comes to catching typos, i do much better with paper than with online. i've read every single part of it at least three times, as usual. but that just means i begin skimming over parts of it that i practically know by heart. and that's not good, because that's where the typos are.

surprisingly enough, i actually have some time to write. i make it. instead of four rides to town, i try to get it down to three, or two and a half, and i go to the basketball games, if i can, and do the shopping. and the laundry, and the cats and dogs. i slowly get used to the routine; i go into the kids' house when they're gone, as they tend to be oinkers.

one is about to go to college, in august or september. he's an oinker too, but he tends to take care of his own trailer, and like it that way, and not bother us too much. his college is picked out, and he's getting himself ready, mentally. it's in the town where his grandparents lived, and where we'd all go to see them, in reunions, invariably hot in the summer and beautiful the rest of the year. it's new mexico state, so i have a new team, the aggies. they're not so good, at least in the basketball tournament, in march, though at least they get into it, which is better than some of my other teams, like southern illinois, or iowa. i tend to stay loyal to all teams that i've ever associated with, including cedar rapids washington, a high school, and if i send a kid to one of them, i like those too. in basketball that means i have one good team, kansas. i had a son who went there, and a daughter who works there, so ok, that's my team. and the ones i've worked for, including pittsburg state (kansas) and ashland.

but it's not really about sports, and he knows it. he's a little nervous, mostly about being away from home. i tell him, it'll be ok. he won't be that far away; las cruces is about ninety miles. it's a different climate, but mostly he hangs around his computer a lot anyway. and it's definitely the center of young-folk culture in this southern new mexico area.

i get on las cruces facebook sites, trying to get a sense of what life is like there. i always saw it from my parents' perspective: they built a home on the west mesa, but finally gave up and moved into a retirement community after about eight years. they were there maybe twenty-five, thirty years altogether, with us dropping in about once a year. sometimes we'd have big reunions, but mostly they were centered around this retirement community. we'd take walks in the cactus park that is near that village - full of exotic cacti, and a few roadrunners, and various other kinds of animals. and always the sun.

most of all, always the organ mountains, towering in purple over the city. they are actually about eight miles away, across the west mesa, but they tower. they're jagged and beautiful. the sun rises over them, and then, all afternoon, glows on them. when my father was about to die, and he knew it, he had the hospice park his bed right up against the door to the back porch, where he could see his mountains, and there, sure enough, he died, with the mountains watching over.

so i admit i have some memories of the place: i watched both parents die there, and more, watched them become too old to function, too old to drive or get groceries. they showed me how to get old, or how to take it with grace. but i don't mind it. after they died my sister couldn't stand the place, but i had pretty much the same feeling as always. now that we're in a town with no stoplights, it seems like the biggest of cities: fast cars, confusing traffic, even some public transit.

so we were down there the other day, looking over the new venue. i took the two older boys, and we stayed the night. the younger one wanted golden corral, so we went. but we'd had mcdonald's earlier, and strangely enough, he wasn't hungry. nevertheless the place had the entire football team in it. they overwhelmed the place; someone had bought the whole team dinner. my guess would be that this would be about four hundred dollars, but, probably nothing to them. the players were ecstatic. here they were, pounding people, cranking out the calories day in and day out, and now, all you can eat in a steak house. my son's jaw dropped; he was speechless.

then back home, across the white sands. the moon will sit on those dunes, and then, beyond them, the mountains, and we go up and over, and we're home. we're comfortable here, finally, and when we roll into our driveway, out at the last stop in the mountains, we, or at least i, breathe a sigh of relief.