Mid-May Colorado Foothills Garden Notes

At a little over 7,000 feet here in southern Colorado, buds are just beginning to pop out!

except for my crazy honeysuckle bush. She insists on flowering way too early!

The first flowers, the tiny irises and the Turkish Veronica, came out in the first week in May…

and our native penstemon and Catmint flowers soon followed.

I love the anticipation each spring. What will come out next and what have I forgotten I planted last summer?

Mostly I love sitting out in my garden in the early mornings, listening to the birds, watching the Rocky Mountain bluebirds feed their chicks, soaking in the sun’s warmth, and that unmistakable feeling of pure joy and peace. I find this to be the perfect antidote for the news and the general feeling of fear and anxiety in our world today…

I’m living one day at a time now. That is all we have.

A trip to Abiquiu New Mexico, May 2022

In what seems like ancient history now, soon after we met I took Mike down to Abiquiu, a tiny town in northern New Mexico. I loved it there and hoped he would feel the same…

This is the land of red rocks, cacti and Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch…

When we visited in 2007 we decided to look for some land and start thinking about living there in our future. We even choose a piece of land, but then decided to reconsider.

Eventually, on one of our many trips over to see my brother in Durango, we decided we like it better up here in southern Colorado, with its wonderful open skies and spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristos. It’s certainly more moist here too!

On this trip I found the area around Abiquiu so dry and dessicated. We were both glad we didn’t choose to move there. The climate in this area is certainly changing. It is getting drier every year. Glad we chose a cooler, wetter place to put down roots for the last time.

In spite of smoke coming up from the New Mexican wildfires, our new Rocky Mountain Bluebird family seems to agree!

The Power of Healing Relationships

In my past work, many asked me if I believed that we can change emotionally or are we just stuck with our upbringing and personality traits. Can we change? Yes, but two factors were essential. The feeling of hitting bottom with little left to lose, and access to healing relationships.

I have been lucky in my adult life. I have had a number of positive experiences with truly healing relationships. The first came in my early thirties when I finally met a therapist I could learn to trust and rely on to have my best interests at heart. I know now that I would have had a very different life if I had not met this woman when I did. It took a few years, but I eventually found her completely trustworthy. I let her re-parent me in a caring, loving way, showing me that some people are worth trusting. Later I learned that she had taught me quite a lot about providing my own self-counseling in difficult situations by teaching skills of self-analysis and motive.

A few years later I studied for a M.A. degree in counseling psychology where I learned even more about trusting the wisdom of my own intuition. Your gut has decades of experience in choosing what is good for you and those ideas and people to avoid. Trust it.

All of these tools are not useful, however, if you are still second-guessing yourself, like I did with my first marriage. I knew marrying that man was a mistake, but I did it anyway. Of course, that did not end well, so by the time I hit 49 I was divorced, jobless and depressed as hell. Living on unemployment and severance provided the time and space I needed to re-imagine and re-frame my life. I spent months writing, reading my old journals and other books on self-esteem. What was next for me?

I decided that the only thing that meant anything to me at that point was to find love. Unless there was a loyal, trustworthy, generous love for me in this world, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in living the rest of my life. My priorities were clear. I started my own local, non-internet-based dating service to prove to myself and others that love was an “intriguing possibility” for all of us, even over age 50 or 60. Thus began my own proof of something I completely believe in:

“What you focus on grows!”

And, sure enough, I soon met the partner I had always dreamt of, except he certainly didn’t come in the package I had imagined! Mike was an engineer and electrical technician, not a university type at all. He wanted to learn how everything worked and fix it, plus he was also a sculptor and artist. On paper we did not match at all, but in real life we were so well-matched and happy!

After our marriage at age 50, he subsidized my search for an alternative career and then supported my new work as a free-lance writer. He gave me what we all need at some point in our lives, someone who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Believing in myself as a writer was difficult for me in spite of fact that I had always been an avid reader and writer. I had been a university librarian for decades with three M.A. degrees at that point, and yet I needed a lot of support to become a research writer.

One factor which I’m sure has played an important role in our relationship over the years is that both of us have suffered from chronic illnesses, him when I met him, and me recently. This experience teaches us compassion for self and others, because that is the only way to survive the daily challenges of an illness that others can’t understand or cure. I often think now about how easy it used to be to walk everywhere without supplemental oxygen, and go just about anywhere I wanted to. Remember, your health will not last forever.

Since we met, over seventeen years ago, Mike has played a gigantic role in my own self-love and self-healing process. I am so grateful for his love. He shows me everyday how smart, strong and worthy of love I am. He is my best cheerleader.

To me, now, that is just about as much as we can ask from life or love!

The movie for academics and us bookish types!

“So, you went to college. Is your life better because of it?”

First of all, you should know I was raised on college campuses and worked on them my entire adult life as an academic librarian. As kids, we collected pop bottles on campus and I was born at a university hospital. So when I watched the film “Liberal Arts” this morning it spoke to me in so many interesting and unique ways. This screenplay is superb!

This film, which premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2021, deals with so many important aspects of life: love, romance, sex, maturing into adulthood, retirement and what happens to aging academics. The story is told from the perspective of a 35-year-old played by Josh Radnor, who wrote, directs and stars in this little gem. He plays Jesse, an admissions counselor in NYC whose life is on the skids (fully disillusioned and going through a divorce), when he is invited back to his small liberal arts college for a retirement party for one of his favorite professors.

Jesse absolutely loves returning to college. Ah. the feel of total irresponsibility on a small liberal arts college campus! There he meets a few characters who complicate is pathetic life. There’s a beautiful, young woman who he falls in love with over long-distance letter writing, there’s a mysterious elf-like creature who shows up regularly to share his truths. ‘Nat’, played so well by Zac Efron, seems so ethereal that Jesse says at one point, “I’m not even sure you’re real.” There are a few bitter older professors who cause Jesse some serious disillusionment over choosing the academic life, as well as a college kid who is right on the edge of giving up on life all together.

Jesse slowly begins to see that being such an intellectual and expert on books and ideas has stunted his growth in terms of simply living an authentic life. He connects with everyone through books and ideas. When asked at one point why those of us who are lucky enough to go to college should appreciate it, he says, “Because you have time to sit around reading books all day, and you have lots of smart people around to discuss ideas! That’s not true when you leave here…” Yes, college was certainly that for me, and caused one of my greatest disappointment in life. I’ve been seeking intellectual types to talk with my whole adult life. Where are all the intellectuals in rural Huerfano County, Colorado?

When I saw the preview, I thought this would just be a fun romp through the ridiculousness of academia, something I am a bit of a expert on. Oh the stories I could tell… “Liberal Arts” turned out to be one of my most favorite films. It somehow covers most stages of adult life and disillusionment with so many great lines like, “I think being old will be OK. It’s getting there that kicks your ass.”

See this film if you loved getting lost in books, being in college and have felt disillusioned ever since. You know, if you happen to be an academ-idiot like me!

Further thoughts on being an academ-idiot…

A pilgrimage into my past…

A pilgrimage is a journey where a person goes in search of new meaning about their Self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life

When Mike first suggested that we drive to Manhattan Kansas to visit his older sister, I thought he was kidding. Neither one of us is crazy about Kansas, him less than me. You see, I was raised in Emporia, Kansas until age 11, when we moved to Boulder, Colorado. Talk about a culture shock as I entered my teens! But we always drove back to Kansas City at Christmas to see our grandparents on both sides, so this drive east felt somehow familiar to me. It was mostly uneventful until a truck pulling a long trailer almost changed lanes into us! Grrrrrrr…

To make up for it, we witnessed an AMAZING orange sunset behind us at the end of our day!

We rented a beautiful Airbnb apartment on Tuttle Creek Reservoir north of Manhattan and it was lovely. So well-appointed and comfortable, our home away from home. Mike got to spend some quality time with his sister, who suffers from a number of disabilities, and I had lots of time to relax and read.

This was our view of the lake from our apartment.

Then we experienced quite the adventure when we were in town having dinner on Wednesday. A tornado came right over us! We were at an Olive Garden when the storm hit. At first they said they couldn’t serve us and then they did because where else were we going to go? When our food came they told us to run in the kitchen if they called us, but the storm blew over eventually. It was quite the memorable Kansas dinner and the staff was so protective and friendly to us…

Yesterday we started east on I-70. Along the way we saw so many highway signs bent over backwards or completely destroyed by that storm! The wind was so fierce on Wednesday, but by Friday is was a beautiful sunny day with almost no wind. We decided to head south at Oakley, Kansas on the backroads, and I’m glad we did.

We observed hundreds of miles of tiny towns, silos everywhere, and Eastern Colorado farmland…

I was surprised to find how this trip east affected me emotionally. It brought back many memories of my father, who died last year. I felt his presence at various points in the trip and missed and mourned his passing over and over again. He loved collecting plants and birding along Kansas backroads.

Kansas was home to him…

One boomer’s ridiculous dilemma: Beginning to spend all of that saved up delayed reinforcement!

As many of you know, my health has been failing for the past few years, and with one additional serious concussion in April, it appears clear, at least to me, that it’s time. Time for what? Time to begin spending all of that “delayed reinforcement” from the past 45 years of my life.

If you’re anything like me, you have been saving money for as long as you can remember. Why? I guess because I was completely brainwashed in the cradle to save up for my old age. So, exactly when does that “old age” begin? Strange to say, I don’t find myself as the best judge of very much lately, not with this many brain injuries! But I am fairly clear I not going to be living forever and also not sure how long my brain is going to last. One fun fact I learned recently:

Head injuries accelerate aging: “The current state of the literature provides support for the argument that TBI can result in diminished cognitive reserve which may accelerate the normal process of cognitive decline, leading to premature aging, potentially increasing the risk of dementia.”

That explains a lot! The irony in all of this is not lost on me (yet!) I have always prided myself on my excellent brain. Now what? Is it really time to begin spending my wad? I find that hard to believe and even harder to do…

When you have spent your whole life trying to save money, how do you suddenly cut loose? It’s kind of the opposite of the poor guy winning the lottery. Of course he’s going to overspend immediately, but everything in my background suggests that holding on to money is your best avenue to happiness. I know that if I don’t get some big trips planned I probably won’t be taking them. How do I loosen the purse strings? How do I give myself a luxury vacation?

I know, most of the human beings on this planet would like to have such problems, but there it is…