8. Thin lines

Have you noticed how many thin lines there are in life?  Today, I’m feeling the very thin line between strength and vulnerability.

I love to ride my motorcycle – down winding roads, over mountains, across deserts, along the coast.  Following that yellow brick road known as the center line. The line is not very wide.  On the 4th of July several years ago, I was happily riding my Yamaha FJR in the mountains north of Durango, Colorado.  Feeling strong, confident.  Until I rounded a curve and saw a herd of mule deer milling around in the on-coming lane just across that double yellow line.  FYI mule deer are huge, weighing  200 to 250 pounds, compared to their spindly Southern cousins known as white-tailed deer who weigh a mere 100+ pounds. And when you rapidly approach a mule deer on a motorcycle, they grow bigger, fast.  I got on the brakes hard and had a fleeting image of getting safely by these deer whose heads were higher than mine.  But one of them bolted, and in a Nano-second I was down with my left shoulder on that double yellow line.  I’m a flat-lander from Florida, but I understood immediately that it’s never a good idea to lie down on a double yellow line in the mountains.  So, though part of my rational brain said I shouldn’t move in case I had spinal injury, my louder, animal brain screamed “Get outta the road!”  And so I sprinted – straight to the narrow, grassy strip that capped one of the many steep cliffs in the area.  Then, I sat down.  Just in case I was hurt.  The bike went on down the road about 30 feet without me and then did a 180.  Neither the bike nor I were where we belonged.   I was glad to be out of the road and that my bike hadn’t launched over the edge. That would have made for a really bad day. I had T-boned a very healthy mule deer; he got his hooves caught under my front fender and kicked loose, dropping me and the bike.  At that point the deer was nowhere in sight. But honestly, at that point I wasn’t worrying about deer. My shoulder, knee, and wrist hurt and I didn’t know about my bike.

I didn’t realize how much traffic was on that road, until I stopped it with my quick dismount.  Several people got out of their cars or trucks to help.  I asked some guys to pick up my bike and point it with the traffic (I didn’t relish having to do a tight U-turn at that moment.)  The FJR was gouged and bent in places but appeared to be functional. I was pleased to find that my left arm and leg still worked, though seriously stunned and stiff.  So, I got back on my bike and rode it to my RV, about 10 miles away, with my left leg straight, using it and my left arm only when essential.

I was leaving the RV Park the next morning, so I loaded the bike, hooked up the trailer, and headed south.  But when I unloaded the bike, releasing the pressure of the tie-down straps, things didn’t look so good.

Short version – I had some impressive road rash on my left knee and shoulder – leaving enough permanent scars to qualify as bragging rights and a gimpy left shoulder. I learned to not wear a cuff bracelet while riding (it gouged my wrist, leaving a big knot).   The insurance company totaled by bike.  I cried when they loaded it up on the wrecker.

And several years later, I’m still reminded of lines.  Lines that can delineate my vulnerability; lines that separate the past from the present.  Lines on my face as I somehow have aged beyond recognition.  The moving line between what I could once do without a thought, but now??? Maybe I better slow down and look at it before I launch.

In a recent intense yoga class, my brain (or was it my ego?) assured me I could still do a back bend.  And I could, too.  Except the next day, I began to seriously pay the piper.  And now weeks later, I still move gingerly through doctor appointments and tests. I’ve had to delay my departure to New Mexico, and otherwise begin acting like a responsible adult. I asked my friend Michael, “How do I know where the lines are now?  I don’t know how to get old.  I don’t want to pull up short ‘cause I’m scared.  I don’t want to miss something.”  He responded with a laugh, “Run over the lines and kick ‘em as you go by.”  Riding the motorcycle means a great deal to me – in a way I cannot explain to those who don’t ride, those who ask me to carefully stay behind the lines, now that I’ve hurt myself.  I’ll be careful –but I’m gonna keep riding my bike over the lines  😉

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7. A few things that matter – chicken livers, DNA, and perseverance

A few things that matter — chicken livers, DNA,  and perseverance

There’s so much going on in the world – such violence, fear mongering, deceit, pig-headed focus on profit and the mighty dollar … That I need to remind myself of the good.  The things that matter.  Things that matter can come in elaborate packages – and simple ones.

First, my ordinary, every-day example of the kindness of strangers.  Traveling across the country, I watch for gas stations that have a small deli or hot food section. The ones out West serve incredible Mexican food; here in the South, you can get great fried chicken, turnips and cornbread.  (My favorite serves tomato gravy at breakfast!)  I enjoy going to places where I meet real people – working people – people without airs.  And I often encounter them at these small food delis (as well as laundromats, truck stops and rest areas).  I was in my truck, on the way to look at RVs (another story), and too hungry to keep going.  I knew this particular Circle K had really good food, so I stopped.  It was 12:30, and I was #7 in line, with that many more behind me.  With one exception, the line was made up of men with sweat-stained shirts, weather-worn faces, and bodies that spoke of hard manual labor.  They included friends and strangers in their friendly banter and ordered hearty, inexpensive meals. I stood behind the only other woman; I was in my standard jeans and T-shirts; she was wearing a nondescript green cotton uniform with a couple of letters, of no significance to me, embroidered on the front. She stood about 5ft 2 inches tall and was built like a stump – a strong body that in generations past would have plowed a field beside the toughest male.  I asked this stranger if she knew how many sides came with a dinner.  She explained she was in the area on a job assignment but she’d heard the food was good; she was going to order fried chicken livers.  I responded, “My mom loved chicken livers.”  We joked; she explained she was in the food service business and could tell from the smell that these were good livers.  After she paid, she opened her Styrofoam container and said, “I’ve got plenty.  You gotta have one of these.”  And she handed me one of her chicken livers!!  I took it with a surprised laugh and said, “I haven’t had one of these since my mom died in 1999.”  She said, “Hush.  You gonna make me cry.”  I stood right there in the middle of the gas station and ate the fried chicken liver; it was full of memories, smells, and tasted just like my mama’s did.  She was sitting in her car when I went outside; I stopped to say thanks, again.  We talked a bit.  Samon introduced herself and explained she works at the prison in Bay County, teaching cooking, and was in this area overseeing the food service at the local prison.  Samon explained that she feeds the men, helps them learn a trade and manage their finances, and talks with them about how to live without crime.  She said, “It matters that someone listens to them.”  When I told her I was a retired Judge, she just laughed.  We talked about how, in our professions, we each tried to treat those we met with dignity and respect.  I said I seldom had a problem with an inmate in the courtroom. She laughed and said, “I tell them – I have 7 brothers.  I grew up with professional boxers, kick boxers.  What you gonna do to me?  Give me your best shot.”  I had a bailiff; she has confidence and an easy laugh. We share a respect for their humanity, regardless of the circumstances that brought them to that place.  Standing in the asphalt parking lot of a gas station in the Deep South, I met a real person.  As I walked away, I said, “I love you, lady.  And I just met you.”  She called back, “We could be good friends.”  I called out, “Yes! And I’d love for my granddaughter to meet you!”  I came home to my dog, Misty, and told her with a big smile, “She gave me one of her chicken livers!”  Real people matter.

And then a couple of good things, on a much broader scale.  I read today in the Florida Bar News about the Innocence Project of Florida, a nonprofit group that provides legal representation for the wrongfully imprisoned.  This was the story of James Bain who was released after 35 years in a Florida prison for a rape that DNA testing and legal defense clearly demonstrated he did not commit.  He went into prison at age 18.  It’s easy to get lost in the horror of those years lost; it’s important to applaud and support those who do the hard work to bring such injustices to light.  Mr. Bain’s story ran on page 18; for me, it was more real, more important than the preceding pages of stories about elections and politics.

Today I read about the El Salvador Projects, sponsored by the Palo Alto Friends (Quaker) Meeting, Palo Alto, CA.  El Salvador holds the grisly title of the most violent country in the world among countries where no war is going on; it leads the world in violent deaths per capital.  And, rather than returning to live safely with us State-side, Robert Broz chooses to live in El Salvador to follow through with the work his mother Carmen began which includes initiatives in child care, maternal and child health, early education, community development and support for higher education for young people from poor rural families.   Robert does not try to understate the problems or risks in El Salvador, yet he explains “Every child whose dream is made real, every family that takes a significant step away from the desperation of poverty into a more secure future, every young adult whose path leads to a role of positive service and leadership in the community – each of these demonstrates to others that there are realistic alternatives to despair.” More info at Facebook Palo Alto Friends Meeting El Salvador Project and www.pafmelsalvadorprojects.org

It’s good to be reminded that there is good out there.  And, Samon, thanks again for the chicken liver; you never know what a simple act of kindness can mean to a stranger.

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6. From the deserts to the swamps

6. From the deserts to the swamps
Gypsies travel. We simply move from there to here. Not to run away, or to run to. Just to see what’s around the next corner. So I said goodbye to my favored spot at City of Rocks (south of Silver City, NM) without unloading my motorcycle ;-(

wide open spaces around City of Rocks State Park

wide open spaces around City of Rocks State Park


a Great Horned Owl at City of Rocks

a Great Horned Owl at City of Rocks

From New Mexico, I headed to central Texas to visit friends, Ray, Gary, and Paula. I spent time in several small towns similar to the one I grew up in – unlike the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, these were Texas towns where trees grow large and grass needs to be mowed.
I parked my rig near Gary and Paula’s house in Beeville, Texas. Gary ran a skydiving center there for years and still has the hangar overstuffed with interesting things, like three Cessna airplanes (none of which fly at the moment), and every tool imaginable. Without the benefit of the very heavy paper weight in the rear of my truck originally designed as a motorcycle lift, the one that had been inoperable since Benson, AZ , Gary and Ray unloaded my bike the old fashion way (with an 8 foot solid door, a slight hill, lots of muscle, testosterone, and bravado ) so I was finally able to ride again.
Ray rides a full dresser Harley; Gary has a Triumph Rocket, lovingly referred to as The Monster. Gary only had to offer once to let me ride. 😉

Gary's 2,294 CC "dirt bike"

Gary’s 2,294 CC “dirt bike”


To give you an idea of the difference between our bikes, mine has 650 CC’s; Gary’s has 2,294 CC’s. Mine is 472 pounds; his is almost double that. The guys cautioned me to not let it get away from me, but I was satisfied I could handle it by coordinating the clutch and throttle. I once had a Yamaha FJR 1300 with 147 horsepower !! 😉 so I’ve had some saddle time with a very fast bike. Plus they’ve each dumped Gary’s bike, with scratches to prove it, so if I dropped it, I wouldn’t be the first. The Rocket is an interesting bike – tons of torque and well balanced – but it doesn’t have the long distance suspension/comfort of a Gold Wing. We left the hangar, just riding around. Ray was leading, and soon I was lost, happily following him down rural roads. But when we passed a sign on the narrow two lanes of asphalt that read “road ends ahead,” I was a little concerned. Check out the picture and you’ll see why I was not excited about turning that behemoth around without pavement under the tires. Maybe a mile later, another sign announced “pavement ends”; the sign wasn’t really necessary for anybody could tell the difference between the black asphalt and the chalky brown sand of the caliche road ahead. (Caliche is interesting; when it’s dry it’s as hard as cement, though it doesn’t mind crumbling into small rocks – when it’s wet, it sticks like wet cement. Luckily, it was dry caliche that day.) I stopped, on the pavement; Ray pulled onto the caliche and looked back at me with a “What’s the matter?” expression. I got off the bike, to make my point, so Ray turned off his bike and we talked. (Which at that moment seemed like a useless conversation – why would anyone ride a 900 pound, 2,294 CC motorcycle in the dirt?) As we talked, I saw movement about 50 yards down the dirt road; it was a herd of zebras behind an eight foot fence enclosing one of those exotic animal farms I’ve read about. But then I saw a horse and carriage approaching on the caliche road. That’s how I learned there are Amish living in the area. We waived the guy down and asked about the dirt road – how long is it, did it get any worse than this, will we get back on pavement at the other end? The young man explained he was heading over to work his beehives; he smiled a lot; his blue eyes were the color of his homemade blue cotton shirt. He told us about the road, where the bee hives area, where he lived, where the next pavement was, and the kind of work the Amish did. He made a few soft-spoken jokes, and then to my surprise, gave us a business card that included the address and a map to the Amish general store. We waited for him to ride away so the bikes wouldn’t spook his horses. While we waited, I wanted to walk the short distance to see the zebras but Ray wanted to ride over there; then he reassured me he’d help me pick up the Triumph if I dropped it on our off-road adventure, so …. With the carriage a safe distance down the road, Ray fired up his Harley; as he approached the zebras, they bolted into the brush. And I rode the well balanced Monster about 5 miles in the dirt, without incident 😉 And following the young Amish man’s directions, we returned to pavement and then to Gary’s.
A couple of days later, Gary, Paula, Ray, and I came back in their truck to the Amish general store, using the map on the back of the business card. What a delightful hodgepodge! We didn’t see anything there you’ll find in a predictable big box store. The Amish make and sale a variety of things needed to use a horse and carriage as your only means of transportation. They also sale beautiful furniture, geese, homemade pies and jellies, fresh eggs, honey, and lots of other surprising things. At the corner of the building, I walked over to watch two men trimming a horse’s feet, getting ready to shoe her. I asked if I could have some of the hoof trimmings for my dog (dogs love them, especially if they come heavily seasoned with horse manure, as these were). One of the men smiled a familiar smile and his blue eyes danced; he laughed and asked if I’d gotten lost on my bike ride. I left with a handful of “seasoned” horse hoof trimmings, a homemade pecan pie, and a reminder of the kindness of strangers. On the way back to pavement, we stopped where the zebra had been; none were to be found this time. So I settled for several pictures of bluebonnets in bloom.
on a quiet dirt road

on a quiet dirt road


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the bluebonnets were every where

the bluebonnets were every where


Ray and I took several trips and each put 1,000 miles on our bikes. But soon, it was time to see if the guys could get my bike back in the truck. I went inside; we were all happier if I didn’t watch. But they are good, and the bike was securely in my truck. I hooked up the trailer and headed east.
Driving east on Interstate 10 from central Texas, the world quickly changes into the one in which I was born. By west Texas, you see live oaks; Louisiana spreads its crayfish fields and swamps along the edges of the pavement; the ground in Mississippi squishes.
And so for now, I’m back in Florida. I returned the motorcycle lift; again I left the unloading of my bike to two large males. I’m shopping for a Rampage lift, something I used without incident for several years but later sold. I have to be able to load and unload safely by myself. And I will again, soon.
Already I feel a restless call – I’ll head West again in June. And today I enjoy the tall pines, wide-girthed live oaks, enormous magnolias, and squatty palmettos.

Mother Nature and her swamps

Mother Nature and her swamps


what a gift - going from desert to water and back again - and again

what a gift – going from desert to water and back again – and again

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5. my video interview and web site

My friend and mentor, John Woods, produced a video interview of me discussing my book, Footprints on My Soul – Journal of a Circuit Court Judge. You can watch the interview on my website, http://www.lauramelvin.net/ the book is available on Amazon and Kindle; signed copies can be ordered through my website. Check it out and share the link.

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4.listen to the wind of my soul

4. Listen to the wind of my soul

I am an Introvert. Some people are energized by parties and crowds. Not me. I enjoy people, one-on-one but am drained by the energy of crowds. I easily feel claustrophobic in crowds, even in fancy settings; OK, especially in fancy settings. When my surroundings are saturated with man-made things and lots of people, I have to pace myself, so I won’t just bolt. So it was that at times I had to breathe deeply, while in the crowded, fancy RV Park where I visited my friends, Bill and Jan; they are special people, and our time together was important and fun.

My bike had to remain quietly in the bed of the truck, waiting for help back in Florida. But I rode Jan’s Spyder trike (a three-wheel bike with two wheels in the front) for a couple of short trips and then took it to Tucson (about 150 miles roundtrip). It handles very differently than my motorcycle, and with time I got comfortable and then had entirely too much fun. Bill is a gifted welder who loves to play with fire; I now have a metal rack on the rear of my RV that holds my generator. Their RV Park is packed with amenities and people, which works well for Bill, Jan, and the cast of thousands who winter-over there. (There were 20 something of us on the hike at Lost Dutchman but that was do-able for me because we spread out over a large area of natural beauty). For me, being in a large, gated RV Park filled with amenities is something like being in a large condo, hotel, or subdivision, made up of RV’s. In Casa Grande, I made new friends, ate a lot of good food, and needed some quiet time, alone.

When I left Casa Grande, I headed straight to one of my favorite places – City of Rocks State Park, between Deming and Silver City, New Mexico (west of Las Cruces), to sit down and wait for my soul to catch up with me. At an elevation of 5,200 feet, the “city” is a square mile of incredible rock formations spit out by a volcano about 35 million years. Over time, erosion slowly formed sculptured columns separated by paths or lanes. As I walk in the rocks, it’s easy to find things – a fox, a face, a frog, made of rocks rather than clouds. I can’t get bored or lost (climb higher and I can see 360 degrees and find my rig).This is the park where last year the couple gave me Misty, my German Shepherd. They were very good to her but could not keep her; it’s clear she knows this land and sad because here she lost humans she loved.

There is a song by Cat Stevens that includes the lines “I listen to the wind of my soul. Where I’ll end up, well I think only God really knows.” And that’s fine. I don’t need to know. It truly is enough to be here, right now. Yesterday, my friend Marion came down from Silver City, and we hiked in the rocks, read poems, talked/listened, and enjoyed a quiet meal together. My soul is able to catch up with me here.

Today the world is gritty, raw and noisy. The winds are up and climbing; they’re between 25 and 35 MPH, popping the canvas cover over my slide out, rattling against the windows, and rocking the water in Misty’s dish. I looked out earlier to see my doormat across the dirt road; it’s now tucked under stuff in the bed of my truck. I’ve sat out high winds in an RV before, but I’m getting used to it, again. I’m glad I’m not in a tent! When a stronger gust slams into the side of the RV and flings dirt high in the air, I remind myself the wind blows like this often and I’ve never heard of an RV flipping in the desert. Plus, I’m parked nose into the wind. The forecast this afternoon is for increasing winds with gusts of 50+ MPH; winds that whirl the desert sand into dust storms capable of reducing driving visibility to zero There is no where I want or need to go, so I sit, pinned down by the winds. And “I listen to the wind of my soul.”

City of Rocks State Park, south of Silver City, NM

City of Rocks State Park, south of Silver City, NM

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City of Rocks State Park, south of Silver City, NM

City of Rocks State Park, south of Silver City, NM

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looking down at City of Rocks from a mesa

looking down at City of Rocks from a mesa

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3. dust devils

3. Dust devils
Leaving the rig and Misty at the RV Park in Benson, I rode with Mark and Renge on our bikes (Mark rides a GS 800 BMW, Renge is on a 650 BMW, my bike is a Suzuki VStrom) south to Patagonia to eat at the Tree of Life US, a holistic wellness and spiritual retreat center where they serve only raw foods. The office was just off a paved road (in a deeply graveled parking lot) where they collected our money, gave us name tags and the code to the lock on the gate across the road, and had us sign some kind of waiver; I’d left my glasses on the bike so I don’t know what I waived. I’m sure it wasn’t any more than required before making a skydive 😉 Mark is a serious off-road rider, and he assured the receptionist we were on off-road bikes that could handle the road. Renge has ridden with Mark a lot; I’ve ridden in the dirt a little, but don’t have the skills, confidence, or long legs that Mark has. After we rode up the steep hill on the rock-scattered, rutted dirt road to the restaurant, Renge assured me I’d now ridden more technical stuff than we would encounter on the next leg of the trip. I had no idea what I was getting into at the Tree of Life, after the waiver, locked gate, and rough road, but was delighted with the variety and excellent taste of their raw and obscenely healthy food. And the ride down was easier than the climb.

From the restaurant, we headed out into the desert on a dirt road, up to Canelo Pass. The ride was incredible and the views even better. It got dicey a few times with heavy gravel in sharp curves, but was well worth the effort, and it was a real confidence booster for me. It helped knowing Mark would help me pick up my bike if I hit a gravel gravity pocket. Even though I wore a full face helmet and stayed back from Mark’s cloud of dust, my lungs didn’t appreciate my enthusiasm, so they complained for a couple of days. Though I had a ball, perhaps, maybe, I won’t do that again – that way. Next time, I’ll wear a bandana or surgical mask – and ride in front. (Except then I’ll get lost.)

After three weeks in Benson, I was ready to get on the road again, though there were still many roads in the area I haven’t ridden. I loaded the motorcycle with major difficulties, hooked up the RV, and headed west to Casa Grande to visit my special friends, Bill and Jan. Casa Grande is hotter and dryer than Benson (here last night, low of 58, high today 84; Benson low of 48 and high of 76. So in Benson, I ran the furnace for a little while in the early morning and never turned on the AC. Here in Casa Grande, I don’t need the heater but I run the AC). Interestingly, this is an agriculture area where they grow cotton, pecans, dates, citrus, etc. When the farmers plow the desert (which, BTW, just doesn’t seem right), the dust cloud goes up several hundred feet, unless there’s a wind and then it blows across the highway and I practice holding my breath as I ride through on my bike. The dust devils love it here, dancing around like miniature, desiccated hurricanes.

Jan and I hiked with a group of 20 from this 55+ RV Park, up into the mountains above Lost Dutchman State Park near Apache Junction. I’m still amazed so many old people are in such good shape! They hike each Thursday, and they don’t pick easy strolls. This hike was just over four miles round trip, with a 1,000 foot elevation gain. We turned around at the Basin at 3,100 feet; to make the summit (Flatiron) was another 1,780 feet of elevation gain spread out over only one mile. The pictures don’t show how tired I got 😉

leaving Lost Dutchman parking lot

leaving Lost Dutchman parking lot


climbing higher

climbing higher


are we there yet?

are we there yet?


the Basin where we turned around

the Basin where we turned around


looking back at the mountain

looking back at the mountain

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2. the ass whisperer

The ass whisperer

I’m still at the delightful RV Park in Benson, AZ – still surprised how comfortable I feel here. The humidity remains low and I’m not coughing; today the winds are up. It’s not bad to be pinned down inside by high winds. So I sit comfortably, writing another blog.

I’ve been riding my motorcycle some & have pictures to prove it. Saturday I rode over to a Donkey Rescue, about 15 north of Benson. The ride included less than a mile of dirt road (and one dried up river bed) that brought me to 40 donkeys. Tish and John Hiestand, who live in this remote desert, slowly, without intending to, became a sanctuary for abused and neglected donkeys – they have become the “Forever Home”, the finally resting place above and below ground for fascinating, delightful animals who have run out of options. I would have paid big bucks for a t-shirt like Tish’s that reads “Ass Whisperer.” – but none are available. Please check out their website at http://www.foreverhomedonkey.com/ It explains how innocently it all began when John bought Tish a birthday present — Blackjack, an intact jack,

Sunday I rode my bike about 50 miles to Tucson to the Pima Friends Meeting. The Fairhope Meeting in Fairhope, AL is small, so I feel like I’m in the Big City when I get to sit with 30 Quakers. I realize most churches are so much larger, that it seems peculiar to view a group of 30 as noteworthy. But Quakers are not mainstream and seldom draw crowds. It’s fascinating to hear the things this diverse community is working on. If you’re interested, more detail is at various websites such as http://pima.quaker.org/, http://www.afsc.org/, http://www.fgcquaker.org/ .

Sunday was my birthday – I don’t need an excuse for a long ride but this was a good one. At 69, I am definitely “too old to die young.” So it was 50 miles on the bike west on I-10 to Tucson, but it was 150 miles back to Benson. After Meeting, I rode I-10 eastward a ways, and then headed south on Hwy 83 to Sonoita through beautiful rolling desert. From there I worked my way back to Benson — east on Hwy 82, south on Hwy 90 to Sierra Vista, east by north up to Tombstone, and then north on Hwy 80 back to the RV and Misty, my German Shepherd. I thought I’d eat lunch in Sonoita, but when I stopped at the crossroads regular gas was 2.29/gallon. I didn’t want to find out how much they charged for a meal; I skipped the restaurant and bought juice, a banana, and some nuts in the filling station. When I pulled up, I’d seen a guy in the parking lot standing beside a beat up motorcycle; on the seat was a blue plastic pad that suggested it was also his bed. His hair was matted; his clothes very dirty and his face and hands were caked in smoke. He had a bewildered and faraway look in his eyes that suggested resignation and/or mental illness; I was a little uncomfortable around him. He came into the store after me; I spoke and he responded, “I’m fine. I’m also hungry. But that’s my problem.” He had a $1 in his hand and a pack of peanuts. As I walked away, I handed him $10; he looked at me curiously. I said, “Buy yourself something to eat.” He responded, “You don’t have to do that. But thank you, ma’am.” Then I sat down at a picnic table outside. He was moving stuff around on his bike as I returned to mine. He pushed his bike to the gas pump and explained as he passed, “I’m gonna buy me a little gas. Need to get to Phoenix”. He was still at the pump when I rode away. I’ve thought of him often; the temperature dropped into the 30’s Sunday night. His luck hasn’t been as good as Blackjack’s.

home of the ass whispererr

Home of the Ass Whisperer


do you think the blue shirt makes her ass look bigger?

do you think the blue shirt makes her ass look bigger?


a mother/daughter team

a mother/daughter team


That's one way to take a picture

That’s one way to take a picture


On Hwy 83 in route to Sonoita

On Hwy 83 in route to Sonoita

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1.whew, back in the wayward winds

Whew. I’m finally back on the road, with the wayward wind. I love being in Florida but – more than one thing can be true — so I also love the pull of the open road and particularly enjoy the high desert. The timing of this trip was set by my long standing upper respiratory problem; I headed west to dry out my lungs. Misty (my German Shepherd) and I left Florida with my motorcycle in the bed of my 3500 diesel Chevy truck, pulling my 29 foot travel trailer. After spending several days visiting a friend west of Fort Worth, I pulled the RV to Benson, AZ, thinking I’d stay one night & head further west. But this park is delightful & I’ve settled in – as settled as a gypsy living in a tin can on wheels can get. This is the desert, so these February nights range from low 30’s to low 40’s, & after the sun has been up a couple of hours, it begins to warm up into the 70’s or 80’s. The humidity is crazy low – it may get as high as 30 early to mid-day but in the afternoons it drops to 7 – 9%. And the dry desert air is doing its magic. My cough had been at least 90% better, until I washed the rig – stirring up Florida mold from some crevices. But a few days more to dry that out, and I’m back to 90% improvement.

The people in the park are friendly, there are miles and miles of desert to hike, and at least 30 varieties of cacti beautifully landscaped into the park. I’ve ridden the bike down to Bisbee, AZ, and over to Fort Bowie (a trip that was Interstate and then about two miles of gravel road) for an interesting hike.
They have a writers’ group & yoga class in the park 😉 Most of the people here live full-time in their RV’s; they represent a wide swath of humanity and move in and out like on the wayward winds. I simply never know the interests or plans of the person I may talk with next. For me, it’s something like being perched in the desert by an artesian well

Sunday I took the truck up to the small Quaker Meeting on Cascabel Road north of Pomerene, AZ. (Thanks to QuakerFinder.org). It’s only 35 miles from this RV Park but it took just over an hour because the last 10 miles is rough dirt road. Perhaps I’ll try it next on the bike – if someone rides with me to help with the heavy lifting if I lose it in the loose gravel. In addition to a rich Meeting for Worship and delightful company over coffee, I encountered another fascinating aspect of desert life. More detail is at http://www.saguaro-juniper.com , but a short version is that this is a community located in Hot Springs Canyon, a major tributary of the central San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona, in the heart of what The Nature Conservancy calls one of the world’s “Last Great Places” The Saguaro-Juniper Corporation began modestly in 1988; today the group consists of some sixty share-holding “associates” holding the deed or lease to about 12,000 acres. They work by consensus to conserve the land in community with man; their work includes a cattle operation and a communal garden. They even have cabins to rent. This remote community was founded in part by Jim Corbett (a Quaker, co-founder of the sanctuary movement, and author of several books including Goatwalking and SANCTUARY FOR ALL LIFE: THE COWBALAH OF JIM CORBETT.

the stark beauty of the high desert

the stark beauty of the high desert


cactus come in a full palette of color and variety

cactus come in a full palette of color and variety


my RV and  motorcycle with Misty lying in the shade

my RV and motorcycle with Misty lying in the shade


southeast Arizona

southeast Arizona


along Cascabel Road in Hot Springs Canyon

along Cascabel Road in Hot Springs Canyon

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The inside of my God box

11.THE INSIDE OF MY GOD BOX
I am well acquainted with the impact of alcoholism on family members and have spent many years in AlAnon Meetings. One AlAnon Meeting I routinely attended discussed the concept of a “God Box” The easy part was to find something, anything, to be the box. The idea was to write out those maddening life events over which you have no control and put them in the God Box as a concrete gesture that you’ve turned the problem over to God. I found a small plain cardboard box and soon had it stuffed with scraps of paper often damp with tears or torn in anger. The deal I made with myself was – if I put something in my God box, I couldn’t continue to worry about it. If I chose to worry, then I had to take that particular slip of paper out of the box since obviously I hadn’t turned the problem over to God.

Several months later, a member of the group visited New York City and sent me a postcard with the picture of the interior of a massive, ornate Catholic cathedral, with gilded statutes and stained glass windows. His note was short. “This is what the inside of my God box looks like.” Let’s just say that wasn’t the inside of my God box, but the card was a great motivator. Now when I catch a glimpse of Nature, particularly through the lens of my camera, I say to myself, “Yes! That’s what the inside of my God box looks like.”

And so I’ll posted pictures to give you a glimpse of the inside of my God box. What does the inside of yours look like?

sugar white sands on the Gulf of Mexico

sugar white sands on the Gulf of Mexico

sunset across Blackwater Bay

sunset across Blackwater Bay

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

white topped pitcher plant at the pitcher plant bog on Weeks Bay, in SE Alabama

white topped pitcher plant at the pitcher plant bog on Weeks Bay, in SE Alabama

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10. trying to stuff two tons of fertilizer into a quarter-ton pickup

10. Trying to stuff two tons of fertilizer into a quarter-ton pick up

When I got back to Florida, I stepped into a whirlwind. Not a dust devil or the dilemma of dealing with too many miles. This was a whirlwind of change – figuring out “what to leave in, what to leave out” – how to downsize from a three bedroom, two bath house with an oversized double garage and outbuilding, into a 280 SF of RV. Obviously, this was going to require getting rid of stuff – lots of stuff. I’d lived in an RV for 10 of the last 15 years, but for those 10 years in an RV I also had extra storage. For several years, I had used part of a friend’s storage shed, then I leased an RV lot in SE NM that included a large storage shed and a second building referred to as a casita (little house) where I kept all my books, a couch, desk, chair… You get the idea. Then three years ago, I sold the RV lot and RV and bought the house. Which I began to fill up. I never acquired as much “stuff” as most folks (friends referred to my home as “Spartan”) but I clearly added to my stash.

I enjoy living small and having to deal with less. But moving from way too much to only what I need and/or truly cherish is no small chore. The furniture and clothes were not hard to part with. But after the first large purge, I was facing piles and piles of perfectly good stuff that I could/would/may use. Good stuff, much of it small stuff, stuff I have no room for. Trivial examples – I had three bottles of dish washing soap. Under the kitchen sink in the RV there is room for one. Period. There were many bottles of spices – good ones that I might use one day. But I don’t cook much, if ever. And then there was all that Tupperware, the baking pans. But my nemesis is paper – books, photos, my writing, personal business… Things I have yet to work through. Gratefully, a friend offered me space in an empty room in an empty house, and I randomly stuffed stuff there, in order to get out of the house in time for closing. Delaying for now the pain and frustration of dealing with these last layers of minutiae. I promise myself to complete the purge by Christmas. This Christmas.

And now I’m happily ensconced in my 280 SF travel trailer, parked near the water. Misty loves chasing her ball across pine cones and hiding in the palmetto. We’ve watched osprey feeding near the RV, a raccoon washing breakfast from a log over the bayou, and a great blue heron hunched on a gnarled piece of drift wood. We studied bear scat and an as-yet-unidentified squashed snake.

I’ll stay in the area for most of the school year. In the mornings, I write or otherwise deal with life. I keep my granddaughter in the afternoons and thoroughly enjoy my job as taxi, homework monitor, and maker of snacks. Now that my house is again on wheels, I’ll hook up and make short trips during the school year and then spend the summers out West.

The Bible explains that we “see through a glass darkly.” But lately I’ve noticed that my glass has gotten a bit darker. Ah, another sign of aging. I’ll have the first cataract removed next week and the second a month later. It’s only been in recent history that we’ve had the privilege of science improving aging eyes, and it is a privilege available in limited locations in the world. Without cataract surgery, I would finally become an old woman who can’t see to drive – I’d lose one of my most favored senses and loved activities. I look forward to the doctor changing out the “glass darkly” in my eyes. I’ll remain an old woman, but one who drives a big pickup and loves to ride her motorcycle.

Misty in the backyard of the house

Misty in the backyard of the house

fog across the Bay, live oaks and palmettos

fog across the Bay, live oaks and palmettos

another incredible sunset across the Bay

another incredible sunset across the Bay

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