Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Moose Hunting -- With Gratitude

Too much work, and no vacation,
Deserves at least a small libation.
So hail! my friends, and raise your glasses,
Work's the curse of the drinking classes.
Oscar Wilde

The best advice I received from my mother-in-law, JoAnn, was to always take a vacation. She advocated that even if little time or money existed, it was important to vacation, every year, no matter what.

Taking JoAnn's words to heart, early in my marriage I started a vacation fund at the local credit union. It began at $25 a paycheck and through the years gained more funds due to better paychecks. I guess one might say I was a young Roadtripper before a middle-aged one. Okay, an old one.

Often that money went to other things -- like a college tuition payment or an IRA deposit. Bills. But I made certain a vacation occurred -- even if just a weekend camping or to visit family which was most likely the case while raising three kids.

I have my ideas on vacating, but getting that husband of mine to do so can be a challenge.  Bob doesn't think vacation. He thinks work. Probably good to have that mix in a couple.

When events at his work this past year prompted him to fore go any plans to celebrate a milestone birthday, I became concerned for his welfare. When I pointed out that being overtired, overworked, and greatly in need of rest and relaxation was not a healthy way to live, his eyes glazed over and I could see just how far gone he was.

After 37 years of marriage, this is when I know I must push harder, to make certain his sanity and well being are tended to.

That's my job. Right?

Lo and behold, after weeks of my suggestions we take a road trip the third week of September to visit family in Colorado and hang out at some of our old haunts (we've lived there a couple times), he presents this idea to me.

"Hey, I was thinking. You want to go up to Colorado the third week of September?"

"Sure. Great idea," I say.

Road Trip

Enticed by cheap airfares, we flew to Denver. My oldest brother, Jon, and my brother-in-law, Frank, picked us up at the airport. They offered us a bed with a brand new mattress, delivered that day.

In the morning, they handed us keys to a big Cadillac and said, "Have a good time."

We decided this would work. We headed to the mountains, passing by the University of Colorado so Bob could remind himself how much he didn't enjoy chemical engineering school.

Boulder Turnpike
CU Engineering building

We chugged through much traffic to Estes Park and escaped over Trail Ridge Road

We did not break down this time.

and the Continental Divide

into Grand Lake

where we met up with a bunch of little kids and Bob's sister, Kim.

Kim and her husband, Jeff,  have a cabin across the street from Rocky Mountain National Park.  Our Cadillac fit perfectly in the driveway.

Besides Bob and me, Kim and Jeff were hosting their two daughters and their families. Eight adults. Four kids comprised of two three-year-olds, a sixteen-month-old and a six-month-old.
Been a while since Bob and I had been around babies. We huddled on the couch and stayed out of the way until we could recall the protocol.

Between being taken for $37 and 9 cents by the three-year-olds in their make-believe store and the mild mayhem that accompanies young babies, we quickly settled into the active environment.  I marveled at the ease and efficiency of the young mothers as they ministered their families.  I recalled having that much vigor at some point in my life. Sort of.

Sleep arrived after burritos smothered in green chili followed by much talk. 

The next morning we were alerted by Oliver, my niece's dog, to the presence of a moose outside the window, which prompted a shuffle for shoes and cameras to get outside.

After much preparation, we gathered the group and hiked to Adams Falls, where my husband, of course, taught his grand nephew and niece how to skip rocks into a quiet and peaceful pond.

After a lunch out with a party of 12, the party of 10 left and we found ourselves alone in the cabin.

'Whew!" my husband said as the carloads drove away. "That was a long three days."

"It was 23 hours," I replied.

"No way," he said.

"Still want grandchildren?"

He pondered that.

"Maybe not four at once."

With the cabin to ourselves, we sat on the front porch and came to the realization that here we were in the middle of no where with a Cadillac and a mountain cabin.  Bingo!

We spent our days taking day trips to Steamboat Springs, Winter Park, and back up into Rocky Mountain National Park. We searched for moose and elk, hiked, ate and drank, and generally did nothing.

Columbine Lake. I walked here at least once a day. Took a photo each day. 

Bison found

Yes, Kim, those are my feet on your coffee table, but my shoes are off and back in the mud room.
Deer sighting.
Headed toward Granby.
Shadow Mountain

We drove through a ranch where Bob was a wrangler for a summer when he was in high school.

Walked a peaceful trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.

They say the Colorado River begins in Grand Lake. This, however, was listed on the map as the N. Colorado River. Small tributary leading in.
 We were most pleased to have arrived at the peak of the changing of the Aspen.

We had a quick glimpse of where we learned to ski at Loveland Basin -- way back in the 70's.

Back in Denver we returned the Cadillac to Jon and Frank and visited the Botanical Gardens, cruised by my old office buildings from my oil biz days, and ate some fine food.

Clinked a few glasses.

By taking in all that family, the beauty and the relaxing, it worked. Bob remembered vacation might not be such a bad thing.

For that, I'm most grateful to Kim and Jeff  - you can rent their impeccably kept home at VRBO
Great location away from all the tourists and close to nature, ski (downhill and cross county) resorts, boating, fishing, and snowmobile trails.

And to Jon and Frank. (I don't think they will let you rent their Cadillac, though.)

Just what the old boy needed. With much gratitude, we thank you.

Enjoyed it Colorado. Was good to recall your beauty.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Fowl Day

An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language. 
Martin Buber

During the Great Depression, my mom's mother had a yellow mark on the sidewalk in front of her house. Tramps, as they were called then, placed the mark. It meant that this house was a good place to get a meal.

My mom shared her memories of coming down the stairs to find men gathered on her back stoop and her mother handing them homemade bread filled with leftover meats and cheeses smothered in gravy. If the men performed any tasks for her like mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow off the walk, or cleaning the chicken coop, she would make them a To Go bag.

It wasn't that my mother's parents had a great deal of money or much to share. My grandfather was a Swedish Covenant minister living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on a paltry salary while raising five kids. Often her dad would sit on the back steps with the men, curious about where God was in their travels. "Price of enduring a free meal," her mom would joke.

This morning while I sat on my porch writing my daily morning pages, I wondered if my house didn't have some kind of yellow mark on it. I had a gaggle, a paddle, and a few lone feathered friends all talking to me like this was the place to garner a Thanksgiving feast. Today.

Granted, I do spend a great deal of time with these lake creatures and welcome them into my world. I have my regulars. You many recall my barn swallow babies from a couple months ago.

 Two batches this summer allotted nine new in the flight. Several still come at night to sleep in their childhood nest in the rafters of the dock.

Paddles of visiting ducks often pass through or stay for a few days.

The neighborhood pelican, who missed the pod's migration back to Yellowstone last April, lives in the cove behind us.

We have a cover of coots.

The lone Osprey

Often large groups fly by on their travels.

And then we have the ever present Buddies, so named by my niece, Miranda, from Sheboygan. 

Today, morning in the hood seemed to be a "Let's go see Julie day."

 The resident Great Blue Heron was hanging out two doors down.

The neighborhood host of swallows were holding a convention in the trees.
(I did not get that photo.)

The Buddies swam over to see if I was up.

And a gaggle of geese swam in. First one of them came up into the yard

 and then another one. 

My duck friends set up a line of defense. Sort of.  I think they were whispering, "Julie? Julie?"

These guys waited in the water to see if it was worth getting out.

As my followers maneuvered around the property, the Buddies worked their way down the dock to guard the entrance to the food shed.

Where a group of visiting ducks give The Buddies not a moment's hesitation to chase them off their feeding grounds, geese are a different beast and I'm certain they would have quickly ceded their position.

I remained in my chair and my Cardinal friend kept looking at me while he ate. I could hear him saying, "Well, are you going down to feed them or not?"

Where normally I would have done that, today I hadn't finished my coffee and still wore my pajamas. Not that the fowl would care what I wore. Though it doesn't bother me to sit on my porch in pajamas, probably would be my luck to have a few boatloads of fishermen come by while I'm strutting down the dock clad in my exotic sleepwear. Every fisherman's dream, I'm sure.  A 59-year-old woman in her nightie, less the hair curlers and cigarette hanging out her mouth, coming their way. 

Besides, I was low on cat food.

The head goose on the dock let out an exasperated squawk of impatience and flew off. The remainder of his gaggle paddled down the shoreline.

 With their exit, the Buddies collapsed on the dock, exhausted from the entire event.  Proud they had held off the invaders..

...as the heron continued his search. For some reason, he is not crazy about the cat food I serve. He prefers to do his own fishing. 

And the host of sparrows continued their quarreling in the trees. 

I understand my day of fowl watching is completely trivial when taken in consort with a much more giving grandmother. I'm grateful for those stories I carry from my mom and I'm certain if called to true duty, I could be generous.

But I'm starting to worry about myself. Could be time to resurface from my summer hibernation before I start eating cat food and walking like a duck while clad in my nightie searching the water for fish so I can cook breakfast. Scaring myself.


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