Wilderness — A Meditation

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

North Dakota Legislature Attacks Teachers' Retirement

Dear Democratic Legislators,

Below is an email that I have just sent out individually to each of the North Dakota Republican legislators. I apologize for sending it off to you as a group, but I have run out of time and probably patience. I am assuming, hopefully correctly, that each of you would agree with my position on Bette Grande's amendment to HB 1134.

I am a retired high school English teacher who gave 40 years of my life to the youngsters of my community. I cannot understand why it is that legislators of any ilk would choose to focus their intimidation techniques on those who give the most to our communities for the least pay, but Republicans around the midwest certainly are in agreement about their 'school yard bullying'.

* * *

Good grief, folks stop the legislature from picking on teachers. What ever would the children of North Dakota do without a professional team of teachers to provide them with opportunities to grow and learn in this state? If anything, these men and women should receive a massive pay raise, not a deduction on their salaries. You can't seriously believe that a private corporation could or would do a better job.

I am grief stricken at the attack on some of the most important employees in the state through Bette Grande's amendment to HB 1134. The legislature ought to be spending time and money honoring teachers instead of attacking them.

Pure political grand standing, that's what Grande's amendment is all about. Her disregard for these important folks in the lives of our children disgusts me. North Dakota teachers are ranked 49th in teacher pay across America, making on average $40,000 a year. I'd like to see any legislator in North Dakota attempt to raise a family on so small a salary.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Wise Warning

A southern California friend sent me this email today.

Precautions re Mammograms and Dental XRays/ A Useful Warning

On Wednesday, Dr. Oz had a show on the fastest growing cancer in women,
thyroid cancer. It was a very interesting program and he mentioned that
the increase could possibly be related to the use of dental x-rays and
mammograms. He demonstrated that on the apron the dentist puts on you
for your dental x-rays there is a little flap that can be lifted up and
wrapped around your neck.

Many dentists don't bother to use it. Also, there is something called
a "thyroid guard" for use during mammograms. By coincidence, I had my
yearly mammogram yesterday. I felt a little silly, but I asked about
the guard and sure enough,the technician had one in a drawer. I asked
why it wasn't routinely used.

Answer: "I don't know. You have to ask for it."

Well, if I hadn't seen the show, how would I have known to ask?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

TheDay the Furnace Died happened. Last night the furnace stopped heating the air..just blew cold stuff upstairs.

No worries.

Being wise old farts, we have a back up - a propane room heater of significant power to keep us warm til the new parts arrive sometime next week.

Skies are blue..thick frost frozen on the bare tree/shrub limbs make for the most beautiful of spring mornings 20F outside, brisk but stunning!!

Life is good..

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Visitors

Look who came to dinner?
Yep..a speedy little Sagebrush Lizard
crawled out from under the concrete basement floor
to enjoy a fly or three and a moth or two.
The Aussie was breaking up the concrete to install a water line to the
sump pump when our visitor sneaked a peak!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stunning Snow Sculptures

The landscape this morning is simply amazing - sculpted snow drifts arching across the road, black capped chickadees hopping around the snow surrounding stark hedge branches in front of the house, incredible streaks of yellow, pink, and orange slicing between low lying cloud cover on the eastern horizon at dawn.

By 10 a.m. the snow plow had destroyed the drifts leaving mammoth tire tracks instead, a downy woodpecker had arrived at the suet pack hanging beside the living room window, the sun had broken through to pretend to warm the panes of glass, the blizzard winds have reduced to a very cold, but gentle breeze.

Life is good on the prairie as long as I'm on the inside of my double glazed, argon filled east facing windows. Yep, there'd be a picture to go with this post if I'd been willing to crawl out of bed at 7:30 this morning, but the temperature inside the house was only 55F. I rise when the timer says it's 60F. :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Winter wonderland it is NOT!

I understand gusting winds. I don't understand 24 hours of constant 30-50 mph winds whipping across the landscape with freezing rain sullying my new double paned windows forcing my little Florida electric furnace to work overtime to keep my abode at a constant 65 degrees.

Whew! Glad I don't have to venture out into this nasty..I mean NASTY and hopefully last attack of winter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When in Distress

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all unattended stress falls in
On the soul like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become labour some events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has been relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have travelled too fast over false ground;
Now you soul has come, to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of colour
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.

Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And joy that dwells deep within slow time.

@ John O'Donoghue.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Winter has returned! Rime frost and heavy fog cover the landscape. I know I write far too frequently about the weather, but it is the primary concern of all who live in this prolific environment.
Yesterday, I took a long walk out into the country on clear roads. Today, well, today I'll stay inside, bake ginger cookies, and work on a short story or five.
Be well, friends, and enjoy the moon tonight or if you are on the other side of the Internataional Date line..remember what it is you gazed at before you went off to sleep!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What do you do in winter on the Prairie?

People ask all the time. What is there to do? How do you stay busy?

Closest movie theatre 80 miles away, a good supermarket 35 miles north across the border in Canada where we can't buy citrus or lamb cause they take those products away at the border crossing as we return to the USA.

Only 50 folks in town in the winter time, many of whom don't speak English..those would be the Cuban families who brave this deep freeze in order to give their children a chance to be educated in the USA. Oh, they're legal immigrants, hard workers who mostly keep to themselves.

The post office in our little town is important. We gather there early on week day mornings to pick up our time, especially for the farm folk who drive in off the prairie.

We have no cafe, so the Aussie and I bought a used professional espresso maker.

We have no gas station, so we fill up whenever we go to the bank 13 miles east or visit the Prairie Wellness Center (read that gym) 8 miles west of us.

Somehow, however, we have survived the winter, met new friends, enjoyed evenings with locals, worked on the basement -- the sump pump is busy now that the snow is melting while the ground is still in permafrost conditions.

We watch Jon Stewart and Colbert on the computer and movies that we download, too.

Watched Russell Crowe, our fav Aussie/Kiwi, last night and snuggled into warm down covers around 11 p.m. The sun set about 8:15 pm.

We are on the western edge of Central Time Zone daylight arrives late, around 7:15 a.m. I think we have already exceeded the equinox day/night time hours even though that equality isn't due for another week or so.

I have had more adventures this winter than I have had in the previous fifteen years. It is good to learn new lessons, to travel the generally untravelled roads of the world.

Old age is a frame of mind, a structure surrounding experience that hasn't solidified yet. Love life, enjoy the quiet times cause the noisy ones will force open all kinds of new attitudes that one couldn't quite imagine ten minutes ago. And just keep on keeping on!!

Hope your spring is as sprungy as ours..hugs!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

North Dakota Road Conditions:

Yesterday, we arrived home from our anniversary/birthday celebration
(The Aussie turns 63 in a couple of weeks).

We fled Dakota winds for the snows of Montana in Glacier National Park,
where we spent five days reading the books we had set aside for the
journey, eating delicious mountain food and cross country skiing after
taking lessons from our favorite nordic ski instructor. Izaak Walton Inn
is located 610 miles west of us, accessible by a day's Amtrak journey.

To reach Amtrak we drove on clear prairie roads 40 miles to Stanley
where we parked for an additional hour because, true to form, Amtrak
was late.

Coming home, we were the only moving vehicle as we crept across the
moraine on an ice covered two lane maze of automobiles, pick up trucks
and oil semi-trucks swerved off the road into five and six foot snow

Fortunately, our train was 10 hours late (due to an Amtrak derailment of
19 grain cars the day before). Had the train been on schedule, we would
have arrived in Stanley at 9 pm and been driving blindly through 50 mph
winds in the blizzard of the century and probably joined others who
spent the night buried in snow drifts on the side of the road and in
some cases in the middle of the road.

Instead, at 6:30 the next morning, we thawed out the frozen
locks of ‘Black Betty’(our GMC 4-wheel drive pickup). By 7:15 the sun
was breaking the eastern horizon.

We plowed through a number of two or three foot snow drifts
that covered the entire road, detoured around two dozen vehicles
stuck either in the center of the road or in huge drifts on either side.
About five miles from home, we encountered a snow drift that was so
high that even sweet'Black Betty' could not negotiate.

Rather than turn back and take a second road (adding at least an hour
to our trip), Graham put on his work gloves, his green beanie, grabbed
the snow shovel that lives permanently in the back of the pick-up, and
attacked the drift.

Twenty minutes later, he climbed back behind the wheel,
threw off his gloves, and forced Betty to scream through what was
left of the passage in the middle of the drift. Stuck, we were
surrounded by five foot of snow on either side.

G-man once again attacked, snow shovel in hand. Another ten minutes
later, released from the drift’s frozen grasp, he climbed in the cab
once more and rocked the 4-wheel drive forward and in reverse until
we screamed through.

Here we are home again!!loving one another, happy to be alive and active.

The skiing gave us increased energy and sore muscles, but it was delicious. The
journey home from the train station still energizing our imaginations and our sense
of accomplishment.
I may have only been passenger and witness, but assuredly,
I feel powerful to have been

Friday, March 11, 2011

Raining in Glacier

Three superb days of cross country skiing and then the rains came along with 38F..urgh

After our first day of practice, we had lessons on the second which we practiced on the third. Conditions were perfect...just below freezing, blue skies, and lots of laughter as we practiced our downhill version of nordic skiing.

But, the thought of being drenched by rain keeps us indoors today.

Not sure how long it will take us to get out of here tomorrow since there's been a 19 car train derailment just west of us. Looks like the Amtrak bus to Havre and then train to Stanley.

In the meantime, good food, good wine, good books keeps us busy until the rain turns to snow a little later in the day.

Be well..

Sunday, March 06, 2011

How Not to Get Sick From a Flight

Worth a look at Michelle Higgins' New York Times article on how to stay healthy on board your next flight. Click on the link to read the entire article.

And so tommorrow morning when we board our Amtrak train headed west, I'll take along a couple of wipes. Nothing worse than being sick on holiday.

Ya'll have a fine week. Catch you when we return.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Glimmer Train

Stefanie Freele suggests the following prompt for those of us who are looking for ways to more fully flesh out characters in your fiction. I thought you all might enjoy - especially those of you who teach English and are attempting to help youngsters more fully establish characters in their writing. Click on the title to today's blog to read the entire post in Glimmertrain.

Here is one of my favorite prompts: pretend you have been gifted the day off from life tomorrow. Someone else is going to step in and be you. Your substitute has already been briefed on the basics: your routine, where you work, your schedule, your general lifestyle and responsibilities. He or she will take care of it all. However, your stand-in doesn't know your idiosyncrasies, your quirks, your foibles, your eccentricities. You need to fill the substitute in on the peculiar details: Since you're going to be me tomorrow, you'll need to know the following

Friday, March 04, 2011

Lies on the Airwaves - Not in Canada!

"Canada’s radio Act requires that "a licenser may not broadcast ... any false or misleading news. The provision has kept Fox News and right-wing talk radio out of Canada and helped make Canada a model for liberal democracy and freedom. As a result of that law, Canadians enjoy high quality news coverage, including the kind of foreign affairs and investigative journalism that flourished in this country before Ronald Reagan abolished the "Fairness Doctrine" in 1987.

Political dialogue in Canada is marked by civility, modesty, honesty, collegiality, and idealism that have pretty much disappeared on the US airwaves. When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper moved to abolish the anti-lying provision of the Radio Act, Canadians rose up to oppose him fearing that their tradition of honest non-partisan news would be replaced by the toxic, overtly partisan, biased and dishonest news coverage familiar to American citizens who listen to Fox News and talk radio. Harper's proposal was timed to facilitate the launch of a new right wing network, "Sun TV News" which Canadians call "Fox News North"

The link:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Daily Mundane

Ah..overcast skies and cool temps, but not as cool as last week. Why is it that the weather is the center of life here on the prairie? I used to believe that the fact that farmers predominate explained everything. But, that's not the case in winter. The farmers have fled, to warmer climes except those who have livestock.

Why do we care if the temperature is -28 or +8 if we have no work to do out in the weather? Not sure. Maybe it has to do with road conditions or with just how long it will take for the weather goddess to release us from our housebound circumstances.

Anyhow..the temps are perfect today. Cold, but not too cold. The highways are generally clear of snow and ice which means we head for Minot for our weekly shopping spree. Glue, elbow pipes for the sump pump, folding files for this year's tax documents, ice cream - you know, all the important stuff.

Now, you will understand why I have NOT written. Life is so damned mundane for the moment.

I am rewriting DAS BOOK as a fiction, full of dialogue and conflict, adventure, and angst. Takes up most of my day - well, after I wash the dishes, vacuum and put in a load of laundry.

Be well. Thinking of you, wishing we had a chance to enjoy a cuppa in the afternoon.