Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cowgirl verus cowboy girl

This is an idea that has rattled around in my head for a long time. It may seem like a small and insignificant point, a silly bit of semantics but hear me out. In the age when I grew up, most of us saw Roy Rogers on TV, black and white of course. And there was Dale Evans, too. Yes, she was called a cowgirl, even queen of the cowgirls.  But wait, how often did she have a key role in stopping the bad guys or any other serious business other than singing along with Roy or maybe the Sons of the Pioneers? She did have a horse and occasionally rode it, dressed in a fringed divided skirt and a pretty clean white shirt under a little bolero cut vest and a hat with a chin strap, usually in a color to match her outfit. Sometimes it had fringe too or those little pom-poms dangling off the edge of the brim. Oh, and boots. Not real high and often red with lots of fancy swirls and curlicues on them.
On the big screen, we were pretty much past the movies where the cowboy kissed his horse and rode off into the sunset leaving Miss Lucy or whoever behind, but the women in the traditional westerns more often cooked, took care of the chickens or milked a cow, maybe help out in the general store and such. If they were a bit shady, perhaps operated a bar or a dance hall. A few had inherited a ranch and usually could not begin to manage it by themselves. Hmmm, okay, cowgirls. I get that. A far cry from cowboys in more ways than just gender.
From the mid fifties on, they got to wear trousers, but what trousers they were!! The every day ladies’ jeans had a zipper down the left hip and were made of much lighter denim than the Levis, Wranglers and so on. For dress up, they were painted-on-tight from waist to knee and then flared into a wide bell.I guess spandex came along about then. In a rainbow of bright colors, they were usually decorated with fancy yokes just like the ‘western’ shirts of the day with swirls and scallops across the back and down the outside of the leg. I guess you could ride horseback in them and they looked sharp at the rodeos but it was still all for show and none for go.  Work in them? No way!
I knew there had been real working ranch and western women from the earliest days. They had worn trousers before it was acceptable and worked right alongside their men folk. They didn’t decorate the corral rails or wait to be rescued. Some even rode broncos like the Greenough sisters,
CM Russel painting of a cowgirl
Margie and Alice and others of their ilk. They shot guns, maybe not as prettily as Annie Oakley or as recklessly as a few of the female outlaws but they could drop a coyote or a wolf threatening their stock. They probably did not fuss much with their hair or nails except on a few special occasions, either. Well dang me. Were these women cowgirls or something else?
Out in my real world beyond the large or small screens, I saw women with sunburnt faces dressed in faded jeans or men’s work pants and shirts that belonged to their kid brother or oldest son, a battered Stetson hat just like the guys wore and boots of the same style as the fellows too. Boots that probably had mud or barnyard debris on them.  They worked every day, got dirty, got kicked, bit, stomped, bucked off, picked themselves up and went back at it because they had to. They all knew how to cowboy up.

Yours truly as a cowboy girl
By the time I was in my middle teens,I was one of them. I hated side zippers and flimsy fabric so I wore regular boys’ or mens’ jeans and mostly shirts to match. My hat might have a chin strap for practicality but there was no fringe or pompoms and my boots were black or brown, undecorated except maybe with “stuff’ picked up from the ground I worked across.. By golly, I was not a cowgirl and neither were the rest of these real western ranch women. We were cowboy girls. We did everything the cowboys did and did it just as well. We wore the same clothes, drank the same strong coffee and maybe even lit up the same kind of cigarettes if we felt like it. Sometimes we cussed, too. When you have a horse step on your foot or a cow butts you when you’re trying to doctor it…I think you have the right.  We were cowboys in every sense except that we happened to be female.

There are still cowboy girls today. They may compete in  rodeo but that is probably not their main activity. They run ranches and train horses and mules, they haul hay and water and manure. They guide hunters and do cowboy shooting and race sled dogs and often even manage to have and raise children and teach them how to be real working useful people with ethics and courage. Quite a few have put on uniforms and become police officers or soldiers, sailers, airmen or marines. Hurrah for ‘em.
Since there are now also women in construction, railroading, mining, truck driving and the oil fields, some companies finally got wise and started making real work clothes sized and shaped to fit women. They are the same heavy duck or denim or leather. They are not a bit for show and totally for go. I think this is great!
It’s good not to have to cinch in the waist of your Levis when you get them sized to fit your hips. It’s good not to have to roll up the sleeves of a slightly too big denim or flannel shirt when the kid sizes are too small. It’s good to get steel toed work boots if you need them or regular working type western boots that fit your feet without three pairs of socks. It’s best to know you have a place in the world and a level of acceptance and recognition.
You may decorate your cowboy’s truck on Saturday night –or  maybe he can decorate yours--but that’s just for fun. Sometimes you can kiss your horse and ride off into the sunset, too! I for sure am damn proud to be a cowboy girl and I always will be. If a man finds that too intimidating, reckon he is not the guy for me.

They have not adopted my term but here are a few links to check out on cowgirl/cowboy girl history and spirit both back in history and today. A search engine will turn up a lot of stuff but most of it is irrelevant to me!:Too slick and clothes made for DWTS or Vegas showgirls, everything costing a mint which cowboy girls mostly do not have! Let's keep it real, not Collywood (Vail etc.) 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Time to piss off everyone?

I just have to say something about the ongoing tempest in a pee-pot!  I have a theory that the Power Structure (which really does include both Left and Right, Liberal and Conservative, Democrats and Republicans etc.) has taken a big page out of the old Roman playbook. Throw enough emotion laden non-issues at the public (bread and circuses) and they will be so busy fighting among themselves and going crazy they will never even look at the real, horrible and dangerous stuff going on right in plain sight. By trying to be zealots or crusaders and enforce certain standards or customs on everyone. a few have created such a commotion for the rest of us.

For gosh sakes--bathrooms? This is so absurd. If a person outwardly appears to be female or male, most people will pay absolutely no attention which door they go through to use "the facilities.". However to take a trick question from either the turtles' club initiation or a recent joke about what grade a kid should be in: "What do men do standing up, women sitting down and a dog on three legs?" Unless a person who is not living as the gender they were born with has had physical alterations, it may be awkward at best to go about their business in the prescribed way in whichever latrine.  So perhaps the obvious answer is a third door marked Either/Or where there are both urinals and normal commodes or perhaps all receptacles are in enclosed stalls. Actually if this was done in both normal bathrooms, it would make the problem much less. For about 99% of the population, they really could not care less!

Hey all you red neck guys, I seriously doubt that say Caitlyn Jenner is going to sneak into a women's restroom just to assault or rape your female relative,  And how about Chaz Bono? Does h/she want to use the male restroom merely to lead your little boy astray? Get a life! This is so stupid. But it is also an example of government meddling and getting involved where they have no business at all causing problems, non-issues or not.

I do have an issue with kids barely approaching puberty "recognizing" that they are not rightly the gender with which they were born. It may happen in a very few cases that almost from birth someone has a real sense they are in the wrong body. However, there is so much hullabaloo and ballyhoo about this transgender thing that too many children are led to believe it is really cool and a great way to get attention and stir up things wherever they go. There have always been tomboy girls and boys who were less rowdy and rough and tumble than the average but generally they went on through life and worked out reasonably well as adults in whatever gender their body began. This identity is not something to play with and to change like a costume on a whim or because of a fad. The ramifications are far reaching and very complex, far to serious to be undertaken lightly. And to have to remake all public facilities to accommodate a very small minority is patently absurd, expensive and wasteful.

Black, blue, brown, pink and green lives all matter and this is a much larger issue than whether maybe 1% of the population is not sure which door to go through. Domestic violence, child/elder and animal abuse is rampant and a real issue. There are a zillion other matters begging for attention, consideration and perhaps solution. Why should we waste valuable time, emotion and dollars on something as petty as this tempest in the pee pot? Frankly, it pisses me off!!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

One final old story--enough is enough, no?

The eternal triangle, resolved very neatly by a thirteen year old's imagination... You may laugh at any point!!

                                                 The Guns That Won the West

On the sprawling porch of the old adobe ranch house, Janet sat. The dying glow of twilight filled the western sky with a rainbow of color. Janet’s raven black hair gleamed in the soft light and her blue eyes looked eagerly down the long road. It was plain she was waiting for something. Finally that something came into view. It was a tall young cowboy on a big bay horse.
“Hi, Mike,” Janet called, gladness clear in her voice.
“Hi Janet,” he replied. There was a tender light in his dark blue eyes as he rode past on his way to the barn and looked down at the young woman.
After he had unsaddled and fed his horse, he walked back to the house and climbed up to the porch to sit by Janet. “Jan, dear,” he said slowly, “I have something to talk over with you.”
“Get busy,” she said lightly.
“I have a duty to do for our country with the war starting. The cavalry commander is asking for volunteers. I want to join but I hope you’ll promise to wait for me no matter how long I’m gone.”
“I promise,” Janet whispered. “I’ll wait. I’ll be proud to wait.” The look in her eyes promised too as she gazed up at him. The next morning Mike disappeared down the road for the last time.
After that, the days dragged for Janet. Weeks slipped past. Then a dashing dark haired, brown eyed young cowboy rode in one stormy night. Janet’s father hired him at once since cowboys were getting scarce with so many off fighting. Janet soon found that Martin was fun and gradually he began to take Mike’s place in her life as well as the ranch work.
Martin had been there several months before he got the wandering urge and decided join the cavalry also. That night they sat together on the porch as Mike and Janet had sat almost a year before.
She noticed that he was wearing a fancy double holster. He took one of the pistols out and showed it to her. “Janet,’ he said, “Look at these guns. I put them up while I was working but I could be a gunfighter. Maybe it’s time to put them to work again. They were given to me by a Texas Ranger. I wasn’t able to save him but I got him to help, hoping he’d make it. He gave them to me when he knew he wasn’t going to survive. Someday they’ll be called the guns that won the west.”
Janet touched one with the tip of one finger and then drew back. She knew guns were needed but she did not really like them very much.
Martin went on. “Will you wait for me until I complete an enlistment and come back again?”
“Just a minute,” Janet said. “I already promised one guy that I would wait for him. How can I wait for two?”
“Well, if he doesn’t come back I will get you, anyway,” Martin said, a little hotly. He gave her a hard, fast kiss before he leaped on his horse and galloped off into the night.
After that, Janet often looked down the road and wondered if someone would ever come riding back and if so, who it would be. Time passed more slowly than ever and it seemed nothing ever happened.
But the same was not true far away on the battlefield.  Both Mike and Martin  were busy indeed.  It happened that they both ended up in the same company and became friends. Together they fought many successful battles and only once did they have to retreat.  Someday, they both hoped, the war would be over and they could return to the girl who had promised to wait for them. They never talked much about her, not even her name, so they never guessed it was the same girl.
Finally nearly three years had passed. One summer evening Janet sat, as she always did, on the porch as evening fell. She could hardly believe her eyes when she saw a rider approaching. Could she be dreaming? The big bay horse with two white stockings looked very familiar.  Yes, it was really him!
“Mike, Mike,” she cried as she leaped up and ran to meet him. She met them at the big log gate. As Mike rode through, he swung her up to ride in front of him.
“Oh Janet.” “ Oh Mike.” They both spoke at once. “I’m so glad to see you. It’s been so long.”
Together they unsaddled the bay and fed him. Then they walked slowly back to the house and sat down side by side. Suddenly Janet noticed the guns and holsters that Mike wore.
“Mike, where did you get those guns? “
“It’s a long story,” Mike said. He took a deep breath and then he began. “Over a year ago a new man joined our company. His name was Martin and we became friends and fought together. One day he told me how he’d gotten this special gun outfit from a Texas Ranger. He said after the war, he was going to move on and win the west with them. Then in our last big battle, Martin was shot.
“I got him back behind the lines but he knew he was dying. He told me to take the guns and use them for good and always to remember him and how he got them. I cleaned them before I put them away until I mustered out. In the barrel of one I found a gold button. It reminded me of the ones on a dress you often wore, the blue one I liked so well.”
“It may have been,” Janet admitted. “Not long after you left, Dad hired a cowboy who rode in one stormy night. We got to be friends. The night he left he showed me his guns and told me the story. It must be true because he told you the same one. I’m not sure how he got the button but I did find I had lost one off that dress. He wanted me to wait for him but I told him I was already promised. He said then that if you did not come back he would return to me, but it was him who never returned.”
She heard Mike sigh and felt a little worried. “I didn’t really forget you but I was lonely and he was nice. Can you forgive me?”
“Why would you think I wouldn’t? “
“I don’t know. I never stopped loving you but I did get lonesome.”
“Maybe this will convince you that you’re forgiven.” Mike took her in his arms and kissed her eagerly. He didn’t stop with just one, either.
When he lifted his head, they were both breathless. “I guess it does,” Janet said with a small laugh.
“Most gals get a certain reward for waiting for their guy,” Mike said. “Could you wait about a week for that reward?”
Janet looked at him, confused. “A reward?”
“I mean getting married if you’ll have me.”
“Oh! That’s the best reward I could hope for. But please, don’t go out with those guns on looking for any trouble. The west is about won already.”

“I won’t go anywhere without you and I wouldn’t put you in any danger,” Mike promised. “I love you too much for that.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Lunch With Friends

How do rituals become established?  I’m not speaking of those involved with worship or membership in an organization but the peculiar customs and habits that become part of life for a family or a group of friends. I think mostly it comes from a pleasant experience although sometimes it can be an unpleasant one, I suppose, but mostly we do something we enjoy and very quickly want to do it again—and again—and again!

I’ll use as an example a custom that I am responsible for starting fairly early in 2004. As I explained,

I was left with Sadie, a black female Lab-Setter cross who had been my husband’s dog after he and my dog Butch departed this world the same day. Early the next year I acquired Rico, a mostly black blue merle male Australian Shepherd or “Aussie.” 

After I got past the first few months of eating very little and sporadically since it was not fun to eat alone, I started fixing my lunch to consist of a tortilla topped with grated cheese and heated in the microwave until the cheese melted. Then I would fold it in half and cut it into wedges. It was hard to get the cheese right up to the edge so I began to cut off the outer half inch or so. Not being fond of waste, I started breaking this into small nibbles and they became Rico and Sadie’s lunch. How many times did I do this before they were there as soon as I sat down, four bright eyes fixed on my face? Less than a week, I would wager.

Time passed and Sadie went to join her master and canine buddy. Then Belle, another Aussie,  came to join Rico and me. Of course he already knew the drill and she picked it up almost at once. Belle was never a slow learner when it came to food. Sadly Belle and Rico started to have periodic fights. She was not aggressive but if attacked, even in play,  would literally fight to the death. After they chewed each other up badly enough to need serious vet care the second time. I advertised and re-homed him. It broke my heart but Belle had an autoimmune disorder and I knew it would be hard to find a new owner who would give her the care she needed so Rico, though holding the most seniority, had to go.

Of course Belle continued to share my lunch. Unless I was not home, we had the same dish almost every day. The habit followed when we left Whetstone—just outside of  Huachuca City—to live for nine months in Hurley, NM near Silver City. It went right along when I moved to Colorado in March, 2009. There, the two resident dogs, Beebee, a female Blue Heeler or Australian Cattle Dog/Corgi mix and Kaycee, purebred Blue Heeler very quickly caught on. The cheese crisp lunches were a favorite with them as well.
 Belle aka Belle Starr or Missy B

In the fall of 2011, we moved from Colorado Springs to Alamogordo, NM. Guess what—the lunch pattern kept right on. In June of 2012 we were adopted by a little red Dachshund/ Spaniel cross we formally named Riley Rojo.  Rojito very soon came to be called Little Red Dog most of the time and he knows that name well now. In October of 2012 Miss Belle crossed the rainbow bridge and in December, Ginger, a red and white Border Collie/Aussie cross, came to join the household.


Yes, the little guy and Ginger caught on in a flash. This past fall, Riata, another Blue Heeler and a young abandoned female, joined the family. Now she too knows all about the quasi-quesadilla that is supposed to be served at lunch, usually close to the noon hour. If I am not in the kitchen making proper preparations by about twelve fifteen, one or more of them will let me know. It starts with small whines or grunts, flopping down at my feet with an audible “whoof” and if I am slow to respond escalates to pacing and louder grumbles. Soon all five of them are there, “talking” to me.

We now have the red dogs and the blue dogs—the reds are mine and they know the red dog room refers to the bedroom where they and I sleep. It is sometimes their time out room and also a haven when there is thunder or other alarming sounds. The other bedroom, Charlie’s, is the blue dog room and they all know it well, too. Red dogs do not go into the blue dog room and the blues do not go into the red dog room. Otherwise they all roam the house freely.

Rojito aka Little Red Dog
I cannot begin to imagine how many middle sized tortillas we have covered with how many bags of grated cheese in those twelve years! I usually get the “fiesta” blend at Wal-mart. It is fine-shredded, melts nicely and I like the taste.  Obviously the dogs do to. For weight control and eating healthy reasons I now often have either a fruit smoothie or a tuna or salmon salad for “my” lunch so the dogs get a bit more of the cheese crisp on those days. They do not complain. Instead of the narrow crispy and lightly cheesed rims, they get a good inch and sometimes three of the six wedges if not even more.

Thus was born a ritual. In another parallel and similar ritual, we have watermelon for supper nearly every night. My late husband much preferred cantaloupe to watermelon and I had rarely bought them in years. The summer of 2004 after he was gone, I started buying the small “personal” sized ones and would have a slice many days for a mid afternoon snack as a break from whatever project I was involved in. Rico and Sadie would gnaw on a bit of the rind or lick the juice off the plate. Pretty soon I got soft hearted and would give them a bite or two.

Again this evolved down through the progression of canines and the first summer I was in Colorado we often had a bit for supper desert or salad substitute and fed a few bites to each dog. By the time we moved down to New Mexico, it had become a custom and we got disapproving and disappointed looks if none was forthcoming. Now there is a small watermelon or two in the fridge almost all the time and a bowl of bite sized chunks sits on the supper table. Many times the humans in the pack do not eat more than a bite or two if that, but the dogs have to have their watermelon! Luckily it is good for them, probably more so than the flour and cheese.

Thus it goes: events become a habit, habit becomes a ritual and once that is established, deviate from it at your peril. I expect to have lunch with my friends for a long time yet and if I am the first to leave, I expect Charlie will continue at least part of it. The fur kids will insist.  Bless their loyal, loving and habit-forming little souls, they will definitely insist. It’s in their dog-human contract!

Looking at the photos, I realize I have gone from black dogs through a blue-merle with copper points to red dogs! They are all photogenic but then most dogs are!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

One more very old story...

I am sure Deirdre O'Dare did not write this one, LOL. I may have been thirteen actually when I penned --or penciled --it into a steno notebook. Don't laugh too hard!!

Fire on the Friscos

Margaret “Meg” Scott walked quickly down the long pen-bordered drive. Turning, she looked back up at the big stone ranch house that was the headquarters of the Arrow S horse farm. She was a pretty girl with brown hair and eyes.

She entered a big pasture full of horses and caught a little filly that was black as night.

“Come on, Black Magic.” She put a lead on the filly’s neck and tugged it gently.They went back to the tack room. As she was saddling up, a young boy of about fourteen came up leading a prancing bay colt with four white feet.

“Boots and I are going riding too, Sis,” he said.

“Okay, Jack,” Meg replied.

They started off toward the towering peaks above the ranch, following a narrow road that wound up the lower hills. “It surely looks clear this morning, doesn’t it, Blackie? You could almost touch the old Friscos up there.”

A few minutes more, they came to a gate. Just as she jumped off to open it, a young man in a green Forest Ranger uniform stepped forward. “I’m sorry but the forest is closed now because of the fire danger, miss.”

“Thank you, sir. I guess that means we have to turn around. I’m Meg Scott from the Arrow S down the hill and this is my brother Jack.  We ride up here a lot. Who are you?”

“I’m Ron Bradley, one of the district rangers. Thank you for cooperating with the closure.”

After that they turned and rode back toward the ranch.

Later that afternoon two rough looking cowboys came down off the hills past the ranch. Meg stopped them.

“Don’t you know the forest is closed? You didn’t go past the fence, did you?”

“We don’t pay no attention to that kind of stuff. We can ride wherever we want to,” one said. He tossed the butt of his cigarette close to her feet as they spurred their horses and galloped off.

By late that evening, the smell of smoke was heavy at the ranch. By the next morning, they could see the fire, burning fast and hot.

About eight thirty, Ron Bradley came down the road. He was galloping his big bay horse. He reined in at the yard gate.  Jack dashed out to see what he wanted.

“Get down and come in,” Jack offered. Ron shook his head.

“I don’t have time. I just needed to see if we can get water here for the fire fighters.”

Mr. Scott had come out to hear what was going on. “You sure can,” he said. “We’ll leave the gate open to the big tank. Help yourselves. The kids told me about the guys who came by yesterday. We wonder if they might have started the fire, dropping a cigarette or even on purpose.”

Right then it was more urgent to contain and put out the fire than to worry about who had started it but Ron said they’d check back later on that.

For a week and a half, the fire raged but they got it contained and finally put out. It never threatened the Scotts but they worried for a few days. They all helped as much as they could. Mrs. Scott cooked extra food for the fire fighters, Mr. Scott loaned tools and horses and Meg and Jack rode back and forth to carry messages since the phone at the ranch was the main communication for the crews. They soon became good friends with Ron and some of the others.

In the end almost 10,000 acres of beautiful forest was destroyed, timber, brush and grass all burned to ash. The evening after the fire was declared safely out, four men came to the ranch. They were Carl Markham, the chief forester and Joe Anderson, chief of the firefighters, Ted Lovell, the local sheriff and Ron Bradley. After they praised and thanked the Scotts for their generous help. they announced the fire was definitely man-caused and asked the family if they had any clues as to who might have done it.

Meg and Jack remembered the scruffy cowboys and their rude attitude. They gave the  rangers and officers the best description they could remember. One had ridden a buckskin horse and the other had called him Sam as they started off. That one had ridden a gray with a brand from down the valley. Jack added that both men had been smoking and Meg told how they were scoffing at the “forest closed” signs.

“We’ll be on the lookout for those guys,” the sheriff assured before they left.

A week later the newspaper told how Jed Crowley and Sam White had been arrested and would soon go on trial for arson, having either accidentally or deliberately caused the fire. The Scott family went to witness the trial but were soon more involved in it..

Much to her surprise, Meg was called as a witness. The courtroom was silent as she took the oath and sat down. She told her story in a clear voice and answered the lawyers’ questions calmly. Nothing could shake her statement.

The jury did not take long to decide the two men were guilty and both received harsh sentences.

That evening Ron came out to the ranch again. He and Meg went for a walk. They reached a hilltop overlooking the valley and stopped to enjoy the sunset.

“We need a smart girl like you in the Forest Service,” Ron said.

“How do I go about getting hired?”

He laughed. “Just take this ring and I’ll get an application and help you fill it out.” He sounded half serious and half in fun, but when Meg held her hand out, he slipped a small gold band over her finger.

She drew a deep breath as she looked at the ring. “Isn’t twenty-one too young to think about serious choices like a career and getting engaged or married?”

“Twenty-one is a very good age to do that,” Ron replied, a twinkle in his eye. “Especially if a person is very wise and mature for her age.”

“What the Forest Service really needs is more good men like Carl Markham and you,” Meg returned.

“But we went to get women involved too,” Ron said. Then he kissed her.

Hand in hand, they turned and went back down to the ranch. The Scott family was a little surprised but soon agreed that this was a good step for everyone. Jack ran around delighted, yelling, “Wow, I’m going to be the brother of a forest ranger. Wahoo!”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Learning to be a Widow Part 2

Here are the verses I mentioned and a couple more from 2004 as I was trying to adjust to life in a totally new pattern. Interspersed are my favorite photo of Butch, one of Jim and me on our wedding day  September 3, 1971 and the last shot taken of us together at one of his Bisbee High School class reunions in the fall of 2003.

Across the Rainbow Bridge
At the foot of the bridge they met
For the last journey they would share
Partners even in this final travail
So right that together they came to be there.
Butch about 1996

The first steps were painful and slow
But each stride grew more sure and free
As the pains and the cares fell away
For soon such would no longer be.

The dog's drooping tail slowly rose
To the proud banner he used to fly;
The man's shoulders lifted as age peeled away
And he held his head proud and high.

Side by side they mounted the arch
Paused at the crest for one last
Lingering glance at the world left behind
But they both knew that time was now past.

Down now to the bright fields below
Where waiting to greet, row on row--
So many dear friends gone before
All well loved ones that they used to know.

Underfoot the grass sweet and green,
Overhead the sky bright and blue
The dogs can all frolic and play
While the people old friendships renew.

With a cup of coffee in hand
And dogs all sprawled at his side--
My hero and friend waits for me,
Until with him again I abide.

The Last Muster
 Selfish in my love and needing
I resisted this final goodbye
But time marches on so relentless
And the last formation drew nigh.

I knew that the trumpet had sounded,
Knew you would answer that call,
Realized it was right, good and proper
And found I could smile after all.

Your step was not quite as steady
But you held your head high and proud
As you strode out to join your comrades
In that parade for the heavenly crowd.

Once again that small band of brothers
Stand assembled upon Fiddler's Green.
I blink when at once the young faces
Square shoulders and brave hearts are seen.

My eyes haze with tears as the sight fades
But I know 'tis the truth I have seen
And my heart spills pride, joy and sorrow
For my Hero, my Love, my Marine.

A Wish, A Prayer
Is it time now to move on
Not dwelling on all that is gone
But facing forward, to a road
Down which I have never strode?

Can I chart myself a course,
And hold to it without the source
Of so much of past goals and dreams,
Play now single, not with teams?

Yet inside me dwells a woman’s strength,
Enough to see me down the length
Of this new way I walk alone
‘round bends, up hills and all unknown.

And inside me beats a woman’s heart
Its love and courage are a part
Of who I am and what can be
If I can just have faith in me.

Mother, guide my faltering steps
And clear my eyes to new concepts,
Shape my life as you would choose,
And half-sole my old traveling shoes. 

          Unfinished Tale
My life goes on, an endless road
Despite time’s lamentations,
Another hill, another bend:
Each has its compensations.
As long as tasks remain undone
I cannot cease my travels
Sometimes there’s joy and sometimes pain
As time’s long skein unravels.
My life is an unfinished tale
In spite of its vexations
Somewhere someone inscribes them all—
My trials and tribulations.
As long as love lives in my soul
I’ll find the strength for trying,
Sometimes with friends, sometimes alone,
For fate there’s no denying.
GMW 2004
Apologies to the old Shaker hymn

            A Vow
Yes, I will, I must go on
Even though so much is gone
From the life that I have known,
Even though I go alone.
Such loneliness is nothing new
For t’was my lot long before you.
I tried to wall away my heart
And somehow keep the world apart
From my fragile private self
But no one can live upon a shelf,
Discrete, apart and solitary,
Never joyful, carefree, merry.
So never say I was not brave—
Or holding back, that hurt to save.
In truth my epitaph will tell:
She loved not wisely but all too well.

                                    GMW 2004

Learning to be a Widow

I'm going to do this one in two posts. The first part will be an essay and one photo and the second will be few poems and some more pictures. This is a tale I am finally able to tell in full after twelve and a half years have passed. Losing a life partner after thirty two years of almost amazingly happy and comfortable sharing is not easy. I am sure I have alluded to this event before but never shred the whole story. Many of you may know I lost my spouse and my dog on the same day, mere minutes apart in their passing. Well, here is 'the rest of the story' as commentator Paul Harvey used to say. BTW I enjoyed his rests so much.


On a strictly intellectual level, I expected I would outlive my husband since he was thirteen years my senior. Still, recognizing this fact over the thirty two years of our time together and dealing with the sudden end of our partnership are two different things.
When it happened, it kind of sneaked up on me. In November 2003, around November 9, there was an eclipse of the moon. We put up my eight inch Celestron telescope to watch part of it. That evening I made chili and cornbread for supper. Jim did not eat a lot and began to complain of pain in his back and abdomen. This rapidly worsened and I finally convinced him to let me take him to the ER. We spent quite a few hours there. They hooked him up to various machines and could not find anything that wrong. The doctor gave us a couple of prescriptions for pain and suggested Jim see his regular doctor the next day.
When we got home our little Brittany Spaniel Butch had lost his footing on the vinyl floor and struggled so hard he had lost the use of his hind legs. Thus I had two issues to deal with. Otherwise I might have tried to preserve Butch’s life a bit longer but I just could only handle so much. Jim took a lot of Ibuprofen and other pills that night and the next morning collapsed in the bathroom and I barely got him back to bed. He was a big man, 6’4” at his greatest height and close to three hundred pounds. I called his eldest son in Bisbee who agreed to come right over. Meanwhile I went to get the two prescriptions filled that we had not gotten the night before since it was two or three o’clock when we got home. As I drove to Sierra Vista, I suddenly had the odd thought: “This is the beginning of the end.” I did not yet know how right that was.
Jim and Butch, 1995

Malcolm arrived and helped me get his dad into the car to go see his doctor in Sierra Vista. There, he collapsed again in the parking lot and the nurses came out and took him in with a wheel chair. However the doctor did not take it too seriously and said he might have the flu and to come back in a couple of days. Back home it was a struggle to get him in the house. Malcolm and I used a rolling office chair which was an awkward wheel chair.
The next thing I had to do was take little Butch to the vet for the shot to release him from his suffering. When I got back, the EMTs were there. Malcolm came out to try to ease me into it but broke down while saying, “It doesn’t look good.” By then the EMTs had failed to revive Jim and were waiting for an officer of the coroner’s office to pronounce him deceased. Thus Jim and Butch had passed from this life within a few minutes of each other. Malcolm and his step son had already dug a hole in the yard and buried Butch that afternoon next to Alanna, a dog we lost in 1990.
            I had lost my dog and my husband in a single day. Jim’s dog, Sadie, a Lab-Setter cross, lived with me for three more years. In many ways the dual passing was totally fitting.  Butch was “my” dog but very close to Jim also. And, November 10 is the official ‘birthday’ of the US Marine Corps so Jim could hardly have chosen a more appropriate day to leave this world since he was deeply proud of his service in the Corps and later in law enforcement. I shortly wrote a couple of poems, one related to the Marines and for living and previously deceased members of his boot camp platoon. It was shared by another retired Marine who put it on his website where it was viewed by many, some who sent me nice notes.
The telescope stayed in place, covered with a tarp, for several weeks. I have used it very little since for many reasons. I have to admit I never did a lot of crying and traditional “mourning.” There was no tearing of hair and wearing black. For one thing, Jim did not want a formal funeral so he was cremated as soon as the autopsy was done—required since he died at home. I still have his ashes to be scattered with mine someday.  Our VFW held a small memorial for him which I did not attend.
Based on outward signs, I suppose I may have been viewed as unfeeling and cold. It certainly is not true that I was unaffected or felt no sorrow; I am just a self-contained person, a trait learned as a child and teenager from various experiences in those formative years. I keep most of my feelings inside and express them in writing if at all.
It takes a week or two for the reality to set in, I think. I went through that period in something of a fog. Thanksgiving came and I went to Bisbee to the regular family gathering at my daughter-in-law’s cafĂ© and neighbors brought me a plate or two as well. I went through December much the same as I focused on selecting things of Jim’s to give to the kids and grandkids and making photo collages and an album to commemorate his life.
I did very shortly begin getting rid of things, perhaps an effort to make what had been our home my home. I never again slept in the master bedroom in that house but used what had been a guest room as mine until I moved. Suddenly it was 2004 and with the new year I sensed I had to start thinking about where I was and what I would and should do with the rest of my life. I was just sixty at the time and felt fairly sure I had at least fifteen or twenty years ahead of me.
In many ways that is the hardest part—the need to rediscover and reinvent yourself as a single individual, no longer half a couple. In this perhaps I was helped by that self-contained demeanor and by the fact I have always been rather independent and had lived more or less on my own for some years before my marriage. I was capable of doing many things and in the first five years I mowed my own 2/3 acre of ‘lawn’, serviced my evaporative cooler, changed tires and did some other small work on the vehicles I had and then began some fairly extensive remodeling of the house.
Yes, I worked through my grief in busy-ness. This is not the right course for everyone but for me it seemed to work. I also spent many nights reading until I could finally fall asleep at two or three but still got up to let dogs out. In February 2004 I acquired a new dog, a male Australian Shepherd I named Rico. Sadie was so disconsolate with her master and dog-friend both gone that I was sure I needed another dog. They never bonded as she had with Butch but I think he helped her survive, at least. I soon got a fence put up around the larger half of the yard with help from Malcolm and his step-son and felt safer about the dogs being able to go in and out through the doggie door. I still got up fairly early most days, though I did get a habit of a post-lunch siesta, and after I got my nice rocking recliner, that was my nap chair. 
Reading over my journals, which I began again to keep about June of 2004, I realize I did suffer from a bit of depression. That remains to this day. I am still not sure what to do with the rest of my life although I have done a lot of writing—I created a new pseudonym and alter-ego person who wrote erotic romance and even LGBT (mostly gay) explicit love stories. I made a lot of jewelry, quilts and other art and craft projects and when Sadie crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I soon got another dog. Somehow she (Belle, also an Aussie) and Rico never got along well and after they had several bad fights requiring veterinary care, I re-homed him but I kept Belle until her death in 2012. She was what dog folks call a “heart dog” and was my constant companion for those years.
Next. I moved a lot. After spending five years in the home Jim and I had shared from 1983 to 2003 where I remained until 2008, the first move was to Hurley, NM near Silver City. This did not work out and I ended up going on to Colorado to share a home with my brother, arriving there on April 1, 2009. He lost the lease on one house and we moved up the street that summer to another house where we stayed until October 2011 when we moved to New Mexico and settled in Alamogordo. Is this permanent? Hard to tell but for now it is!
It’s been over twelve years. During that time I had only one serious relationship which ultimately did not work out, mostly due to issues involving his kids and family. Do I miss being part of a pair? Of course. At times it is a very keen sense of loss and a hole in my life but mostly I have come to accept and deal with it. I know I am now even more independent and perhaps more touchy or prickly than I used to be, so finding someone who could put up with me and with whom I could get along is very iffy.

            Friends are good and I have quite a few, many only through the computer/phone or at least most of the time since visits are rarer than I wish, but I am not daunted by a lot of time alone. I have my two dogs who are great company and still share a home with my brother. We have a strong and sound bond from the shared experiences of our youth and past. We know when to stay out of the other’s way but are there if needed. Iin some ways the best of both worlds, and I know I am fortunate and blessed to have it. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Three poems I found

The first one was written in June, 2004. At that time I had been widowed for about six months and was trying to reinvent my life and decide what I was going to do with the rest of it. I am not sure I am done with that yet --she says with a wry grin!--but I have done a number of things and hope to do more. Yet I am still, as I was then, much alone.

Although I share a home with my surviving brother, we go our own ways a lot and certainly give each other space. We are there if either of us needs anything but do not intrude too much on each others lives. The best of all possible worlds? Yes, to a large degree ,but at times I still miss being part of a couple. By the way, I am still not sure what that last line in poem one was about--my own voice? A ghost? I guess you can believe what you choose.The last is both somewhat satirical and yet also dead serious...

And as always, my posted poems are copyrighted and only shareable with permission.

On Being By Myself
In deepening dusk I watch day die
And think back upon days gone by.
Remembering is bitter sweet;
Alone now,less than complete
After long years of being two—
My whole world centered around you.
I fill my days with busyness
But evening brings me some distress.
No one to talk to or to share
My thoughts, the day. No one is there.
For me life does go on, of course.
I shall survive and stay the course
But with the fall of night I miss
All I once had. Now loneliness
Lies over me as twilight falls.
In the dark, one small voice calls…

                        June 19, 2004

Blossoms of color burst into sight,
Brilliance and beauty filling the night.
Luminous patterns brighten the sky,
Blazing, then fading, still dazzle the eye.
Could I but keep one to draw out at will
When nights are too lonely, too stark, too still.
In mem’ry they linger, always and e’re,
In mind’s eye, in heart’s eye, to comfort me there. 
                                  undated, perhaps July 2004 or 2005

Out of the flame, I rose, I came.
Renewed, imbued, with attitude!
Purged of all shame, beyond all blame;
Distilled of dross, no less, no moss. (no mas?)
Just argent pure, e’re to endure.
Refined by fire, purged of desire,
A wish made real, flame doth anneal, and heal.

Time to get back to life as usual!

April is here--my month since I am a Taurus person and although fall is my favorite season, the miracle and promise of spring is very beautiful and empowering too. My roses are blooming like crazy and I need to download the photos I took the other day so I can share some. I have one white iris in bloom and a few more shoots coming up--they look just like a regular leaf at first and then suddenly change their appearance and about  week later, voila, there is a flower and usually several on the stem. opening one by one.

I promise to type in another one or two of my early fiction tales soon. Meanwhile, going through some old papers and greeting cards, I found a few more verses that never made it into either Walking Down My Shadows or Mother-Daughter Lines, the first properly published and the other just printed and comb-bound to give some to family and a few friends.  It is special since after my mom's death, I found quite a few verses she had written before her marriage and a very few afterwards. In many cases we wrote about similar subjects although each in our own way, style and the context of our times--she was growing up in the 1930s where I was in the 1950s and 1960s. I was much more prolific than she was and continued to write a lot after my marriage which she did not. I found that sad but to some degree I understand.

In between getting all wrapped up in the Iditarod and some of the things that happened on that event this year, I was reading some journals of Mom's and also my youngest brother. If I hoped to find some answers or sense within the tangled and often distressing pattern of our family's life, I didn't accomplish that. But the common threads did convince me that I am not either misguided and misunderstanding nor alone in my perceptions and pain. There is no repairing what is past; all I can hope is that all of us worked through some complex karma and learned lessons cut deeply into our souls with painful and difficult events so that our next lives will be better for it.

I am sure I mentioned before that my youngest brother, Alex, sixteen years my junior, who lived at home with our parents after having open heart surgery late in 1978 until our Dad died in a peculiar accident in 1989. Thus he got a very late start on his life as an adult. He struggled to adjust from a life experience level of about eighteen  at the age of thirty jumping into the 'real world'. but plowed on through his AA degree to a BA and finally a JD, completing law school at Arizona State in Tempe. I might add that he had excellent grades throughout that whole process.

Sadly he had just gotten established in his chosen profession as an attorney and finally bought a home when he died from an aneurysm at the age of forty-six. A vessel swelled and burst, very near the site of his surgery where he had a stint put in due to an underdeveloped aorta. Like me, he suffered always from low self esteem and lack of confidence but he did not find a mate and partner who helped him get rid of a good part of that as I did. I am so thankful for my husband who worked so hard to pull me out of my own self-defeating image. Life is often unfair. Alex was a brilliant legal writer and scholar and would have made a good judge someday or instructor/mentor had he lived that long.

Here is a picture of me with Alex when he was about a year old. He was a Taurus too, barely, born on May 17. This was in the spring of 1960.