Nine years ago this month, Mike and I drove down from Fort Collins to choose a few acres in Navajo to buy. We didn’t know much about this area, only that we loved how it felt to our suburban souls. It took us another year to build our passive solar home facing the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Mount Mestas to our west.
I was reminded again early this morning why I love living here. I woke up around 6:30 AM to see an unobstructed view of a bright red sunrise to our southeast. This is BIG SKY country to me, where the landscape and the silence are the main characters! Every time I go outside in the morning I stop and feel astounded by the silence. This is what the earth used to be like. Maybe a few bird sounds, but otherwise perfect silence…
Sure there are also unattractive features to this area, but the land is encouraging and haunting all at once, and the summers are glorious!
Our first summer here we had so much fun exploring the back roads and back stories, like this dilapidated adobe schoolhouse slowly sinking back into the earth west of here…
or taking the train up to Fir to hear the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band play in a big mountain meadow.
When I first met Mike he said he wasn’t moving again until he could look at something besides the house across the street.
We found this cartoon in a magazine and laughed together about it. Then we went in search of someplace with truly ‘spectacular views.’
I have been blown away by watching the Yellowstone prequel “1883” in the past week or so. I did not know a “western” could be so poetic, authentic and full of heart. I loved it so much I watched it again after I got back from Christmas and loved it even more!
First, a little background. I was raised in Kansas near the prairie where my ancestors arrived many decades before me. When I first started reading books, I loved stories about the pioneer West. The first stories I ever wrote were about Native Americans and their ponies. Then I started reading everything by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the personal journals of westward women. I only wanted to play “pioneer woman” as a kid. I guess you could say I have been unconsciously searching for the perfect “western” my whole life. I finally found it in “1883.”
First of all I love that the main character and narrator is a teenage woman. The whole story is told from Elsa’s perspective, with just the right combination of authentic and sensitively-written narrative and dialogue. I felt like I could see into Elsa’s heart, while also understanding the other characters’ inner lives as well. As the writer, Taylor Sheridan, explains in “Behind the Story,” he wanted this story to feel as intimate for the audience as reading a good novel, or even the personal journal of a young woman on a wagon train heading west. He does a masterful job of that, and yet I keep wondering how a man could have such an intimate understanding of a teenage woman’s worldview.
As I think about it now, the ever-changing landscape is the main character in this story, that and the silence. So many of Elsa’s observations remind me of my own after moving to rural Colorado eight years ago. My amazement at the silence and beauty of each sunrise and sunset, the comfort of the wildlife passing by our home each day, the glorious seasons we experience so intimately, this is what I love about living out here. Elsa’s story seems to authentically capture the beauty and the violence of the American West over one hundred years ago around the time the transcontinental railroad began changing everything. There is so much truth in some of her observations like:
“I think cities have weakened us as a species.”
Another profound aspect of Elsa’s story is how living in the West allowed so much more freedom for women. I enjoyed watching her relationship with her mother develop as her Mom tries to remind her of the limitations of being a woman in 1880s America. Elsa rebels every chance she gets. Elsa enjoyed the loss of rules and customs as they moved west. The big transition came when she decided she was a cowboy and got herself some pants to wear instead of dresses.
I loved the writer’s sensitive portrayal of the other characters, especially when it came to ‘race.’ Race is not a word I use, because I do not believe we humans are different ‘races.’ But back in 1880s America, blacks were treated badly as a general rule. Thomas, the old Civil War friend of Shea, played by the wagon train boss Sam Elliott, understood how badly others could treat him for being black, as he stated at one point, “You ain’t never been whipped.” Native Americans play an important role in this saga and mostly as sympathetic characters including members of the Comanche and Crow tribes. The true “bad guys” of this Western are “bandits.”
Suffice to say this is by far the best western story I have ever seen. It shows the beauty and severe violence of the American West in no uncertain terms, and I believe it may be more authentic as a story than any other I have read. I found the very last phrase in this story so vivid and relevant to my state of mind these days –
“There is a moment when your dreams and memories merge together and form a perfect world. That is heaven, and each heaven is unique. It is the world of you…”
Every time I listen to Sting sing “Consider me gone” I get stuck on these words. Why do we spend so much time picking on ourselves? As a psychologist I assume we learn how to do this from our overly self-critical parents, and then carry on the practice by habit. Some say these patterns get stuck in our brains and are almost impossible to fight against or change.
I know I have been far too self-effacing for as long as I can remember and then, of course, others along the way helped me become even more critical. Now, in my 60s, I’m still working at fighting this pattern in various ways. It helps so much to have a close friend or life partner who points out how hard we can be on ourselves. I remember back in my late 40s I gained a lot of new insight when I read Gloria Steinem’s book “Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellions” but this is a process that will last forever I’m afraid.
Just recently I was rearranging things and came across a small photo of myself at around age three, looking pretty sassy in my new Easter clothes. Now I focus for a few minutes everyday on that little girl, on loving her all the way through and sending good thoughts for the many ways she might feel really good about herself for the rest of her life. I feel so much compassion for the battles she has fought in her war against herself and visualize how much easier her life could have been if she had learned self-love at an early age. I seems it has always been easier to be critical rather than compassionate towards myself.
I watched a marvelous 2005 movie recently called, “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.” It’s about a retired older woman, played wonderfully by Joan Plowright, who befriends a young man, played by Rupert Friend, (YUM!) by chance on the streets of London. It’s has a lot of insights into aging and how we treat our elders with a number of great lines, but the one that keeps coming back to me is:
“It’s very important to praise people a lot early on, otherwise they might die of disappointment.“
I have had this Buddha statue for twenty years now, and taken many pictures of him in all seasons and at the few homes I have lived at in that time. I bought him for my 47th birthday, after I bought my very first home in Loveland Colorado. I had two great shelties back then, Mica and Calla.
A few years later I moved in with Mike in Fort Collins
He had a magnificent backyard with over thirty aspens in it. I placed Buddha under a big old Upright Willow tree and then planted flowers in front of him. I had Lilies of the Valley, Johnnie Jump-ups, Sweet Williams, Hosta and Bleeding Hearts. By then I had my dog named Rasta.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Oh how my garden grew!I called it my Peace Garden.
I took photos of Buddha in all types of weather back there. Buddha loved his coats of snow!
Then we moved to Walsenburg to begin building our solar home west of there… We rented a rundown hundred year old miner’s home there and Buddha was not so happy sitting out back in the weeds. I asked him and he said, “YUCK!” He said,
“Build me a glorious garden with a tremendous view of the mountains, so we did.”
The garden grew and grew and Buddha smiled.
Sometimes I could barely see him, but he didn’t mind…
…because he knew that spring would come again in all of its brilliant natural glory!
Who doesn’t wonder what it would be like to win the Powerball, especially when it’s on the news so much lately? Yesterday Mike and I shared a few thoughts on what we might do if we won. Would we stay here or move to our own island in the Caribbean? I know Mike would want to buy a number of new toys if we won, you know a new truck, a yacht, maybe a private jet, etc. Who wouldn’t?
One thing is for sure. I could probably quit complaining about having so few friends 😉
Money has never had a lot of meaning to me. Just so I had enough to live comfortably, I haven’t cared much about money. It has always taken care of itself in my life. My first husband was so focused on dollars, he could hardly think about anything else. I’ve always been good with money, but I somehow knew that, “Money can’t buy you love.” And love is what counts. This has only become more obvious as I age. Love is the meaning of my life now. Love is my destiny.
But, back to my topic, money. My fantasy if I suddenly came into billions of dollars is to share it with the poorest and most deserving Americans I could find. The trick would be finding them. I’m sure many would lie about their incomes if they even had one. I’m not sure how I would find them, but I would love to be a part of evening the scales just a little bit in this capitalist country we live in.
Would I immediately hire a lawyer and an accountant. Would I run out of money and eventually kill myself like urban legend suggests?
What Not To Do After Winning the Lottery
Don’t Tell Anyone. (Ha ha ha ha!)
Don’t Hurry. (Quick, before I die!)
Don’t Assume You Can Manage It. (Trust a lawyer and accountant you don’t know instead!)
Don’t Spend Any Money for Six Months. (Yeah, right!)
Don’t Quit Your Job. (Too late. Already accomplished.)
Don’t Wave Goodbye to Your Budget. (Budget, what’s a budget?)
Mike and I are introverts. We are very private people. We live our lives quietly with just a few friends and no attention quite happily. It’s a good life and something tells me the paparazzi might ruin our chosen lifestyle.
The one thing I try to avoid these days is stress. Living on borrowed time can do that to you. Come to think of it, winning the Powerball would be so awful! Imagine the stress! Just thinking about it boggles my mind and I don’t have a lot of mind left to boggle… Plus Mike and I don’t argue about what we want to buy next these days. Unfortunately having a billion or two might change that.
Come to think of it, winning the Power Ball might ruin everything we have now. But, as it turns out,
“you’re more likely to be hit by a meteorite than win the Powerball.” Especially if you don’t play!
One of the results of my recent psychological and memory testing was a diagnosis of apathy. I thought about that for a few days and then spoke to a friend I’ve known for almost twenty years about my supposed problem.
His response? “No, you are absolutely not apathetic!”
So what is apathy? According to Oxford, “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.”
Signs and Symptoms of Apathy:
Lacking the effort or energy to do everyday things.Dependence on others to plan activities.
No desire to learn new things, meet new people, or have new experiences.
Lack of care about your own problems.Tendency to feel no emotions when good or bad things happen.
After further thought I realized that this type of testing mistook “apathy” for a natural sadness and frustration when someone with a great brain experiences multiple assaults on their brain health. I would challenge anyone to experience what I have in the past fifteen years, and not feel sad and frustrated.
The most reassuring book I have read about brain injury is: “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. There I learned how slow the brain recovers from injury, but it certainly can rebuild itself eventually! My first brain injury, a TBI in 2008, taught me that. The most important thing to remember is that your brain will tell you when it’s tired and you really MUST STOP when it tells you that. For me now, an hour or two of any type of total concentration exhausts my brain. So when I took a two hour focused memory test I failed and came across as suffering from apathy, when in fact I felt total brain-exhaustion halfway through and after it was over I slept for over twelve hours straight.
I find myself excited and enthusiastic about many things like plants, gardening, photography, writing, old movies, music, new foods and learning something new everyday. I have just learned to pace myself to give my trusty brain plenty of space to recover with endless hours of restful sleep. Few understand my specific needs these days like I do. My brain will simply shut down if I don’t respect its messages to me. I certainly expected a brain specialist to understand that!
Unfortunately, it seems I must continue to educate “the experts” what brain injuries are all about. Perhaps they don’t know, but one of the best benefits of brain injury is the full realization that we MUST make the most of every single day we’re alive!
“Do we really need much more than this? To honor the dawn. To visit a garden. To talk to a friend. To contemplate a cloud. To cherish a meal. To bow our heads before the mystery of the day. Are these not enough?” — Kent Nerburn