Naturalist report from Spanish Peaks Colorado

IMGP6141

In a summer of many terrible wildfires in the West, we are fortunate to have received over 12 inches of precipitation from March through June in our area. How do I know? I measured every inch of it myself for COCORAHS. We are also fortunate to have such vigilant volunteer fire fighters patrolling our area at all times.

IMGP6131

Our temperatures are not too bad at 7,000 foot elevation, and our solar home is keeping us nice and cool this summer. The highest temperatures here have been in the low 90s and our well-insulated stucco home hasn’t gone up past 76 degrees inside yet, with no need for AC. Every room has a ceiling fan when more air flow is needed.

IMGP6218

Our greatest surprise has been the plethora of different birds stopping by our bird feeders this spring and enjoying our bird bath. Mike also built a bird house to Blue Bird specs this spring, and we did have a few Mountain Blue Birds check it out…

baby birds

but in the end a pair of Ash-throated Flycatchers laid eggs inside. We were thrilled to watch them so close to our home, bringing bugs back for the babies to consume. Mike looked inside the nest a few times while the parents were away.

Then we were so disappointed to find they had all flown the coop while we were up in Fort Collins this past week! In fact so many of the birds we’ve come to expect at our feeders are not around anymore…

IMGP6237

I had another surprise in my garden recently. I LOVE to see so many lovely cacti (common name Cane Cholla) around this region. This photo was taken along I-25 on July 2nd on our way up to Fort Collins. I read that if you cut off a small section and stick it in the ground, it will begin to grow immediately, so I tried that this past May.

IMGP6229

The other day I was messing around in my native plants garden, and was shocked to find that my tiny seedling was already flowering! You go girl!

IMGP6233Keep your eye out for a major bloom along I-25 north and south of Pueblo soon!

IMGP6241

All in all, I am quite pleased with the turn out in our new native plants garden in the southern Colorado foothills. Note the Mirabilis Multiflora that volunteered to bloom right in front of Buddha… Life is good!

Mindfulness: Relax and Let Go…

The ABC News just found in a new survey that the thing most would prefer to do on vacation this year is NOTHING. Most would like to disconnect from the world and simply, fully relax. We have become specialists in this, since moving to the country.

Tension and relaxationFor many the greatest challenge is to let go of any thoughts we have of getting things done. I have had extra assistance with this problem as my brain injuries and shortness of breath from COPD often demand that I relax regularly during the day. After we completed our new home and moved in August 1st of 2015, we found it almost too easy to simply stare at the mountains and be here now. This is the LIFE!

Field of Wild Iris near Stonewall

Living in a quiet, peaceful setting creates new awareness and lowers stress levels tremendously.

But if you should need help in pure relaxation, try this meditation on letting go from Stephen Levine, one of my spiritual teachers since discovering his books in the 80s. Here’s a short excerpt:

Once and for all, completely relinquish control. Let go of fear and doubt. Let each thing float in its own nature.

Dissolve into the vast spaciousness of awareness. No body. No mind. Just thought. Just feelings. Just sensations. Bubbles. Floating in vast space. An instant of thought. Of hearing. Of remembering. Of fearing. Like waves, rising for an instant and dissolving back into the ocean of being. Into the vastness of your true nature.

No one to be. Nothing to do. Let each instant unfold as it will.
No resistance anywhere. Let the wind blow right through you.

No one to be, just this much. This instant is enough.
Nowhere to go, just now. Just here.
Nothing to do, just be.
Holding nowhere, we are everywhere at once.

Stephen, who spent his life working with those full of grief, died last year. A quote from him:

Don't let the world make you hard...“Our ordinary, everyday grief accumulates as a response to the burdens of disappointments and disillusionment, the loss of trust and confidence that follows the increasingly less satisfactory arch of our lives. In order to avoid feeling this grief we armor our hearts, which leads to a gradual deadening of our experience of the world. When a loved one dies, or indeed when our own death approaches, the intensity of the loss often renders our defenses ineffective and we are swept up by a deluge of griefs, both old and new.”                                                                            Stephen’s books are all wonderful. I cried my way through “Healing into Life and Death” many years ago, and recently found his “Unattended Sorrow” quite healing…  His books are all about finding compassion for yourself and your own suffering so you can love the world again.                                                                                                                              Stephen always said “soften the belly.”

Three Years Later in Rural Colorado…

IMGP5991

Today we celebrate three years of living in this magnificent part of Colorado. Granted, this was not all a pleasant experience. In fact the first year and a half, from the time we decided to leave suburbia in Fort Collins until our home was completed here, were grueling. Some synonyms for grueling that describe my experience best: backbreaking, challenging, demanding, formidable, and sometimes hellacious. Building in rural areas is not for the meek, and building in mid-winter has its own challenges, but we lived through it and now we are happy as clams!

(Exactly how happy are clams anyway?)

IMGP6134

We moved here for a number of reasons. To live close to nature, to try passive solar living, to build the kind of home we chose to live in for the rest of our lives, and to find a far more peaceful, healthy and less expensive lifestyle than cities can offer us. We received so much more!

IMGP6180

The greatest gift for me is a sense of freedom and natural silence that I have never come close to in my previous life. I now live in the present, choosing each hour how I want to spend my day. I awaken to the birds singing with the sun pouring in, and go out to work in my fledgling garden of mostly native plants, most of which will be sunflowers blooming very soon!

IMGP6073

Then, if I feel like visiting friends, I drive into La Veta on county roads with wildflowers popping up everywhere. Yes, the dining choices are slim here, just one of the “conveniences” you have to give up to live in the country. Luckily I’m a great cook and prefer to eat at home most of the time.

The hardest part for me was taking the original risk. Letting go of our nice home in suburbia was not easy, especially after seeing the one hundred year old miner’s house we would have to move into in Walsenburg for over a year.

decking Comanche home with mountains in backgroun

Then there were the challenges of working with the local contractors and our builder here. Just getting them to come to work was often the biggest challenge! Here’s where we were one year into the build. But somehow it all came together and everything works today, so we have no complaints.

IMGP6121

I know we will face many more difficulties and much stormy weather up here, but at least we finally know where home is. For now, this is certainly where we belong…

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)Would you like to read the whole story of how we ended up here enjoying country living? Check it out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.

It’s not where you start, it’s how you finish…

That is how I like to see my life now. Growing up with a strong German emphasis, I learned to measure myself by my daily productivity. What had I produced today? Being a good girl back then meant never feeling adequate, always trying harder to achieve some illusive sense of “good enough.”

“What’s this? One B along with all of these nice A’s?”

midlife-header2[1] (2)

As strange as it may seem, it was only through a number of difficult crises in my late forties that I found ways to transform myself and my life. Bad marriage, divorce, job and then career loss, you get the picture. I spent some serious time living on severance and unemployment, changing my whole perspective on me. “Good girl” hadn’t worked out. What’s next?

things left unsaidI began a full out rebellion at age 49! I became a writer at age 50, after 25 years of not saying what I needed to and not getting what I wanted as a good girl/ mild-mannered librarian. I stopped saying all the right things while agreeing with everybody. Mostly I stopped apologizing for being me.

good girl gone blog

In other words, I started a blog!

I learned to take care of my needs first, with no guilt or shame, and create what I wanted for me. My life has been so much better since I made that decision, and it just keeps getting BETTER!

Today I follow my passions with color, creativity, and nature. We moved to rural Colorado three years ago with no rules about what we have to do today. I live with a man who accepts me exactly the way I am, without conditions, and I find it almost impossible to take crap from just about anybody anymore.

IMGP6036

And people say aging isn’t liberating…

Rent-a-Friend, Slow TV & Country Living

What an interesting array of new ideas this past week! From Japan we have “Rent-a Friend” or family member… Apparently some Japanese can be so obsessed with appearances that they actually rent human stand-ins for various get-togethers. But don’t scoff too soon at this idea, because apparently it is also taking off in our own country! Hell, it may be a great idea for those new to foreign countries…like NYC. For the Japanese, who feel uncomfortable borrowing things, rentals seem more honest. They even have substitute therapists, untrained people who will listen to you complain about your life for only $10/hour!

train rideIn contrast, Norway has recently discovered the popularity of slow television, or “slow TV” (Norwegian: Sakte-TV), popularized in the 2000s by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), beginning with the broadcast of a 7-hour train journey in 2009. This live “marathon” television coverage of an ordinary event in its complete length, generally last many hours or even days.

OK now I have a unique and perhaps revolutionary idea. Why don’t you spend the time and energy to make your own hand-picked friend. Imagine how much more satisfying that might be. Or, if you prefer a slower paced life, go find it! Since moving to the country I completely understand the appeal of slow TV, except mine is called ‘slow scenery’ and I stare at it all day long.

IMGP5820From daybreak…

imgp5537to sunset, it changes constantly, and sometimes offers up the most amazing images!

And I have even collected over the decades some of the most perfect music to go along with this tremendous lifestyle. This morning I had to listen to Jesse Colin Young’s song “Ridgetop.” A great description of where we live now. That and “Country Home” work for me!

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m new here in rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home:  A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Let’s work around Amazon (the evil empire!) and make certain authors get paid for their books!           Please contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Writing Skills: Short and to the Point!

writing-penHere’s a new take on developing your writing skills. I LOVE the way Kim Tackett decided to write 35 word (very) short stories. Go check out a few and then try writing one for your brain challenge of the day! I tried to do this yesterday and found it quite revealing!

Since I was ill for over a month, I spent some time thinking about why I feel guilty so much of the time. Even when I’m ill with bronchitis, I feel like a lazy bum laying around. I guess I got some SERIOUS brain washing growing up, about being “productive” everyday!

So I wrote:

How does guilt live so long?

From my baby days, and yet still alive and well today, surprising me — stealing my freedom and joy.

Away with all guilt. I’ll go far beyond your influence now!

Oh, if only my 34 words could make it so…

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:                                         A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee   (email me:  MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

 

Arrival: The pros and cons of seeing your future

One consequence of moving to a rural part of Colorado is the delays in seeing the latest movies. This has been a bit difficult for me, because I am a great fan of cinema! I admit my favorite aspect of going out to see a movie is to lose my present self in someone else’s life. I love the “fly on the wall” aspect of experiencing someone else’s reality, but in this case I felt like the canary in the cage. Funny, with my lifelong breathing difficulties, I have often compared myself to the canary in the mine in the numerous polluted situations I have found myself in.

amy-adams-in-arrivalLong story short, we finally had a chance to see Arrival last night, a quite cerebral approach to alien invasion. Number one I LOVED that the scientist, the linguist with all the answers, was played by a woman, and specifically by Amy Adams. I think it’s about time women played the smartest person in the room, and I’m also happy Ms. Adams finally got a demanding and serious role to play.

One of the points of this film seemed to be the greatly undervalued communication tool of emotions. By having a wise woman play the great communicator, I felt that intuitive wisdom as well as intellectual power were brought to center stage. This is a position I have fought for since way back when I hoped to become a college professor in the 1970s. I found universities so limiting in terms of valuing the whole person or professor. This is one of the primary reasons I gave up on that goal.

But the real point of this film is the simple question:

purple-rainbows

If you could see your future, with all of its phenomenal beauty and raw tragedy, would you still choose it?

This question brings up all sorts of interesting life contradictions. If I had seen my future in the past and tried to change one part, would the other parts have stayed the same? In fact, as I age I see almost every aspect of my life in terms of contradictions. If I choose this, what happens to that?

wooden-bridge-small

Choosing to leave behind the lifestyle I had lived for most of my life a few years ago, was a very difficult decision for me. When you choose something life changing you are almost always crossing a bridge you cannot go back across. This filled me with anxiety. But the true contradiction is that you can never know what will come of this difficult choice, unless you choose something different and then see how it goes.

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:                                    A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)