Based on true events, this 2018 film astounded me with a story I had never heard before. WOMAN WALKS AHEAD is the story of Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain), a New York artist in the 1880s, who traveled alone out to North Dakota with the purpose of painting an authentic portrait of Chief Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes).
When she arrives at Standing Rock, she is confronted with open hostility from the US Army. They have stationed troops around the Lakota reservation to undermine Native American claims to their own land. This film is mainly about the close relationship that develops between Catherine and Sitting Bull, but their lives are both threatened by US government forces, in a lead up to the massacre of many Lakota members at Wounded Knee.
In reality, this woman’s name was Caroline Weldon, a name she gave herself after a few scandalous affairs in her past. She was born in Switzerland and came to the US in 1852. After divorce she became active in the summer of 1889 and traveled to Dakota Territory to fulfill her dream of living among the Sioux. She joined NIDA, the National Indian Defense Association, embarking on a quest to aid the Sioux in their struggle to fight the US government’s attempt to expropriate vast portions of the Great Sioux Reservation for the purpose of opening it up for white settlement, with the intent of rendering the creation of the two new states of North and South Dakota. She befriended Sitting Bull, leader of the traditionalist faction among the Sioux, acting as his secretary, interpreter and advocate.
I found this film to be beautifully and sensitively made, well-written with lines from Catherine like her need to fight “a battle of insignificance” as a woman in 1880s America. She did finally create four portraits of Sitting Bull. Two are known to have survived. One is now held by the North Dakota Historical Society in Bismarck, ND and the other at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, AR. I enjoyed a few lines from Sitting Bull like when he said, “To place and hold in your heart this moment.” and as he referred to death as “to cross over into the spirit world…”
Recently I have been on a protracted trip down memory lane. Last night I started looking at all of my photo books, that’s six thick albums! I’m slowly working up to possibly reading my many volumes of journals back to age 14.
As I viewed many old photos, one thing struck me. I seem to have forgotten exactly how adventurous my life has been. From 18 on I traveled the world. I started out in Mexico, Bangkok and northern Thailand, then spent months in Taiwan and Hong Kong, traveled up through Malaysia from Singapore, and right before we moved here, the Andes and Cuenca in Ecuador.
Once, before China was officially open to American tourism, I took a trip up the Pearl River in southern China on what I called “the People’s Ferry.” We arrived in Wuzhou, what appeared to be a town made of mud, and much to our surprise there were PRC government officials there to escort us onto a bus to Guilin, but not before the citizens of Wuhan surrounded us to point and exclaim, “What is that? A foreign ghost!” They had never seen a European or American before.
I visited the Caribbean a number of times, and did a couple island-hopping sails with my first husband, a windsurf instructor and sailboat captain from USVI St. John…
Locally I started out at Colorado College on a backpacking trip to Canyonlands my freshman year. Half of us got lost and I did flyovers with the rangers until my friends were found. Unfortunately the rangers mixed up our names and called my parents saying I was lost, a fact NOT appreciated by my parents. I then spent years exploring Colorado and Utah. So many hikes, backpacking, ski and river trips.
My first professional library job was in Salt Lake City. Luckily I found the BEST group of friends there, including Roy Webb, who took us on a number of fantastic week-long river trips on the Dolores, the Green, the Colorado, Desolation Canyon, etc. He has been a famous river runner for decades now, and the author of many books about river history.
My first husband pretty much insisted that we go hiking, skiing or backpacking most weekends. Those trips included a number of trips to southern Utah like one memorable backpacking trip down into Escalante Canyon to enjoy “some of the most outstanding hiking opportunities to be found on earth.”
I climbed a few fourteeners in my time, and skied from I-70 up to Shrine Pass (11,089 feet) and then into the tiny town of Minturn twice. I never forgot the glisten of fresh snow on that eleven mile trek.
So many great memories, so many wild times…
Now I see how fortunate I was to tackle these physical challenges while I could still breathe well above 7,000 feet. I’ve had bronchitis regularly for decades and in some of the most exotic places! With a recent diagnosis of COPD, alas those days are gone. So happy I spent my youth exploring the world near and far when I could handle long flights, driving long distances and the general risk and chaos of getting off the beaten path.
Now I find myself in this lovely “soft place to fall” with Mike and Rasta, where I can appreciate how profoundly fortunate I am to have done most of what I wanted to do for most of my life, and I even enjoyed most of it!
When you live in Colorado in winter you need to know that there is somewhere to go to experience a tropical environment just an hour or two away. We go over La Veta Pass to the Sand Dunes Hot Springs for the day. And, BTW, if you’re making the trip anyway, check out Lu’s Main Street Cafe in tiny Blanca, Colorado! Wonderful breakfast menu, best breakfast burrito ever, and amazing, spicy green chili!
The hot springs is only 45 minutes further down the road and so worth the drive! Some new friends turned us on to this place on Valentine’s Day 2016. Such a fun adventure in mid-winter!
As you can see, the tropical plants have really taken over in the past few years!
They have a regular-sized swimming pool outside, but we always pay a little extra to go into the adults-only “Greenhouse” with the “Steel Box Bar. This natural hot springs fits the bill when winter’s got you down. With tropical plants everywhere and featuring 3 small soaking tubs with varying temperatures, a 10 foot by 75 foot zero entry pool complete with water fountain feature, a 10 person sauna, gardens, numerous deck and patio spaces, and an onsite libation stop. You can relax for hours as the old, fun Boomer songs fill the air.
They also have a few interesting features like a plant stand made out of an old piece of driftwood. How cool is that? Check it out sometime…so worth the drive!
As I decorated our fresh-cut tree this week, my decorations brought back so many memories of Christmases past. My mind became my own time machine focused on all the places I’ve lived with various friends and lovers, in good circumstances and bad, with new loves and in mid-divorce, with valued pets, in health and despair, in the U.S., in Bangkok and Hong Kong, with family and without.
This left me wondering:
How have I made it through my life at all?
The only answer I could come up with was: “One day at a time.” We don’t always choose everything that happens to us. We must simply decide to make it through or give up. Yes, there were times I wanted to give up. There have certainly been times when it all felt so unfair. I have tried to be a good person and treat others well, but sometimes they don’t reciprocate. Sometimes they respond in some very crazy and unpredictable ways. All we can do is move on and hope for a better future.
One thing is for sure. It was my lucky day when I met Mike. Whenever the world makes me feel disillusioned and I’m not sure I want to go on, Mike comes through with flying colors, to comfort me, to love me, and to make it all worth while again.
To use Dr. Phil’s words, Mike has always been “my soft place to fall.”
I hope you can find the same this winter solstice…
First I saw the funniest FB announcement yesterday! On our community bulletin board it said:
“Has anybody lost this chicken?” with a picture and everything.
You’ve just got to love living rural. And the chicken did find his way home too!
Then we went out to cut our own tree! Pretty nice huh?
We decorated last night…
…and this morning we had a new coat of six inches of snow!
It feels just like Christmas!
We have fallen in love with living in tune with the sun and seasons, waking up each day amazed to find ourselves in such a beautiful, quiet, natural place…
Please feel free to contact me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com to order any of my books as Christmas gifts for family & friends who are struggling with midlife mayhem!
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Those of you who come to this area just for the summer are really missing out on the best sunrises and sunsets! This week they just keep getting better…
This is the daily view from our home.
Some have suggested that it is the strong winds here that create the complex cloud arrangements over the peaks at dusk. I don’t know…
I just know I love having front row seats to this kind of momentary natural beauty!
Last night I was sitting in my living room trying to resist taking one more photo of our sunsets. I mean, how many do I need? But then this happened right at the end of the day. See what I mean? Who can resist taking a picture of that?
Who can resist feeling gratitude when we are given such fantastic gifts each morning and evening?