Frogs in My Driveway


It’s been a funny weather year for everyone.

Certainly a wet one. It’s hard to say, after all the spectacular drought if all the snow and rain is unusual, or just not drought.

One of my Facebook friends, a distinguished Southern gentleman I work with, commented yesterday that they’ve had so much rain that he had frogs in his driveway. I said that sounded like a metaphor for something. He replied that he’d be proud for me to put it in my blog.

Someone else pointed out that it’s a toad, not a frog. He said he could live with that, too.

Yesterday ended up being a sad day. I wrote about Karol, as I really wanted to do, and then people replied. It was wonderful and gratifying, to see the various comments and read the emails. But it made each new contact freshened the grief. I suppose that’s good, the catharsis of it. At times, though, I felt like I was drowning.

I find deaths and funerals to elicit strange reactions from people. In the first place, people in general don’t know how to deal with grief. No one knows what to say to the ones grieving most. Largely because there’s nothing to say. And then there’s a level of competition, of who knew the person best, who loved her most, who’s the most affected.

For me, Karol was far from being a central part of my life. There was a time we were in almost daily contact, but that had long-since changed. And yet, her disappearance from the world feels pivotal to me. I’m sure my issues play in, my own mortality, facing the ways in which that very fun and fertile era is over.

That’s how it is for all of us. A death is rarely about the person who died; it becomes about the people left behind. After all, the person who died doesn’t care about any of it.

Not so far as we know, anyway.

Perhaps that’s why elegies always become autobiographies. People stand up at memorials and funerals to speak about the dead and almost always spend the whole time talking about themselves. They don’t intend it that way, but the thoughts always wend towards how that person made them feel.

Nothing wrong with that, really.

Rain is just rain. It falls without reason, without emotion. We are the ones who assign meaning to it.

We’re the ones who notice there are now frogs in the driveway.

Now, Where Did I Pack My Writing Career?

I hoped to get a shot of our covey of quail for you today, but I missed them.

Instead you get Teddy watching the sunset. Or maybe looking for quail in the chamisa.

It could have been that it was sunnier and brighter today. The last two days they all trooped by and pecked around in the gravel around 9:15. You can hear them coming, snooting around in the juniper to the west of the house. They chuckle amongst themselves as they approach. Then they scurry into sight from around the yucca plants.

They don’t stay long. Maybe ten minutes, before they head off in a line again, heading farther east. Sometimes I see them come back through in the evening.

Today dawned bright and clear, however, so they might have started their perambulations earlier. Not like the cool misty mornings of the last two days. I, too, am resuming my schedule. As mine solidifies, I should better learn theirs.

We’ve gone running the last two mornings, though we’re not back to getting up at 5:30. I’ve been productive at the day job. And now I’m going to work on my book revision. A file that has not been open since July 19, over a month ago. And I’m reasonably certain, by the timing of that date, that it was only to send it to an agent I met at RWA National. The outtakes file is dated June 2.

A sinking feeling tells me I haven’t worked on it since June.

Time flies when you’re losing your mind.

I had a little crisis this morning. My friend, Leanna Renee Hieber, celebrated the release of her first book yesterday, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. In fact, several friends had releases in the last few days. I tried not to be too envious. But then I also received my “royalty statement” from UNM Press for Wyo Trucks, which shows that the book is really dead to the world at this point. Never mind that I haven’t been putting in ANY effort to sell it lately.

Nor into my revision of Obsidian.

Nor into writing anything new.

Thus: my crisis.

But my friend Allison was on the other other end of the IM with the perfect pep talk. She made me realize that all this means is that I have my head above water again, that I’m even thinking about my writing career again, instead of what box my frying pan might be in. It makes me think of Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs, a model that has served me well all my life. Basically the idea is that, if a lower tier on the pyramid isn’t handled, you can’t possibly reach a higher tier. What sucks for us artist types? Creativity is the very top piece. Which basically means you have to have everything else in your life handled first.

So unfair.

But I have my manuscript open. I’ve got some great ideas from Allison on working my way back in.

Wonder-Twin Power? Self-Actualize!

Chopped Liver?

Rain again this afternoon. So here’s a photo of the rain chain my fab co-workers bought me for my birthday (by way of a High Country Gardens gift certificate — thanks gals!). The chain funnels the outpour from the canale, which drains the rain from the flat roof. I probably didn’t capture it well, but imagine the musical sound of rain running down the links and tulips, into the basin below.
Ah yes.
My mom sent me an article Frontier Airlines’ recent “save.”
As in, saved from losing their identity by being subsumed by Southwest. She figured I’d care because I’m a fan of Frontier. I’m a premier member with them even. A lot of loyalty under the bridge there.
I’ve been trying not to notice the strain on it lately.
Kind of like when you begin to notice the things you don’t like in your lover. The little things that maybe once were charming. Or that you’re pretty sure he never used to do. And you think, that’s not such a big deal. I can live with that. Maybe the nose-picking is just a phase.
But, under it all, you know you can’t ignore them forever. That these are the warning signs. The ones you’ll sigh over to your girlfriend over key lime martinis later, saying “Jesus, I knew when he started in with the nose-picking that it was all over.”
Frontier has started to annoy me. And we had such a good relationship for such a long time. But, you know what: they’ve started to take me for granted. No more automatically assigning me seat 2A, unless I buy a certain class of ticket. The first time it happened, I was stunned. Certain there was a mistake by the automatic kiosk, I asked the agent why *I* was in a middle seat??
“I always am just in 2A. Always,” I told her. And I tried really hard not to sound snotty. Which I know sounds unlikely. But you have to understand, me and 2A, we go way back. It’s gotten so I don’t even have to look at my boarding pass, I can just get on the plane and sit down. When you’re on airplanes as much as I am, this is a precious gift. Anything I don’t have to think about? Sign me up!
But no. And she was mean to me. Here I am at the premier desk, and she treated me like I was just any passenger being difficult. I can be just any difficult passenger on every other airline. At Frontier, I had to come to love that they treated me being difficult as their privilege to resolve.
Call me the high maintenance girlfriend.
So, he doesn’t care so much as he did. He’s got financial issues and he’s not interested in wooing me any longer. He absentmindedly picks his nose. I thought it was enough that I stuck through the hard times.
What gets me about the article?
The penultimate line: “We still haven’t seen the return of the business traveler.”
Hello? What about me? Your loyal business traveler who told everyone Frontier would survive the bankruptcy. Who stuck with you while her perks diminished and you couldn’t take her to all the big hubs anymore.
I’m sitting right here and you’re out looking for other women.
I don’t think so.

Tut Tut

Yesterday it rained.

I know you soaked East Coasters & Southerners are not impressed. But here, after a week of no precipitation in the desert, the rain fell like a miracle.

I’m trying to define it: how Santa Fe is different than Laramie. And no, they are NOT as different as you might think. Last night we had drinks with a man who’d moved from Massachusetts, eager to tell us about our new habitat.

“Have you noticed,” he asked, “that if you spill something on your shirt, it dries right away?” We were conflicted. We appreciated the welcome cocktail invitation. We felt grateful that they embraced us in our new community. But yes, we knew that, about stuff drying quickly. Santa Fe is not all that different than Laramie.

6700 feet here vs. 7200 feet in altitude back in Laramie. Both are high-altitude deserts. Laramie gets an average of 12 inches of precipation a year; Santa Fe get 15 inches a year. For those keeping score at home, New Orleans can get 8 inches in one storm. Seattle gets an average of 142 inches a year.

Here the Santa Fe vs. Laramie difference is: Laramie gets most of the moisture in the early spring snows while Santa Fe gets it in the summer monsoons.

And it had gotten hot here this last week. 97 degrees on Saturday, whereas the record high for Laramie is 89. (Yeah, I know – both are dry heats.) Worse, it didn’t cool at night. We’ve been used to our mountain nights, dropping to 45 degrees for cool sleeping. This last week, we’d been waking up to 67. David was not sleeping well.

Which means none of us were.

I’m assured that, this last week of hot nights, is unusual weather in Santa Fe. However, I feel compelled to point out that another guest at last night’s gathering told us the cool rainy weather was highly unusual. In fact, on four separate occasions now, we’ve been told the current Santa Fe weather is not typical.

We’re reserving judgement.

But something about yesterday’s rain… Because we were hot. Because we were tired. Because I really wanted to try out my new fourt-foot-tall rain catchment pot and my new rain chain. When the rain arrived, we revelled.

Nobody in Laramie, that I know of, has rain catchment barrels. Here, they’re an art form. Rain is more rare in Laramie, but here it is more precious. I don’t quite understand why.

But somehow here it felt like a gift, falling with music and grace and bounty.

I’ve learned not to question such gifts.

I’m Just Wild About Harry

Santa Fe has been getting the rain. Much like the rest of the Rocky Mountain West, I suppose.

Our company HR director, Mary, lives in El Dorado, just outside of town, and we visited with her and her husband, Richard, last night. (Of course the HR director of our Boston-based company lives in Santa Fe — why do you ask?) They wondered if the late summer monsoons had come early or if this was a different pattern altogether. Funny weather all over.

But the flowers are gorgeous. The desert is in bloom, which is like a dessicated skeleton bursting into full human form. Every flower bed in town looks like an ad for High Country Gardens, which is apt, I suppose, since this is the mother ship. All is flourishing, which does the heart good.

After cocktails on their gorgeous patio, we went to Harry’s Roadhouse, which was a first for me. And it was fabulous. Great setting, beautiful patio out back (which we only gazed at from inside because of the rain). Food was excellent and the least expensive meal we’ve had thus far. I had the blue corn turkey enchiladas as Mary recommended and they were fab. Real lime margaritas, too, with all the tartness you could ask for. They are purportedly also open seven days a week, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is really something to maintain.

Here’s the sunset breaking through the rain clouds out at Harry’s. You can almost hear the angel voices.

Where the Deer and the Antelope Waddle

Lots of whining lately about all the rain.

Understandable. It gets old. Those of us in the sunny West rely upon our average of 330 sunny days each year. The last two weeks of nearly unceasing rain has people making grumbling remarks about Seattle. They also make absurd statements like “Since when did Denver get a monsoon season?” This from people I went to high school with. Who have lived in Denver for 40+ years. They should know better.

Before the drought, our Junes were always cool and rainy. They’ve forgotten.

Memories are short. And subjective experience seems to be the shortest. We’ve been in a drought for ten years now. An entire decade. Did you remember it had been that long. I didn’t — I’d been saying eight years. Now I’m wondering which two years I lost… At any rate, this decade-long drought in the western states has exceeded the infamous Dust Bowl.

Nobody seems to know this.

Of course, we don’t have the icons of that drought. The enormous dust clouds. The ragged people fleeing the farms to wander the cites with their belongings on carts. Technology allows us to irrigate, to control the flows of the rivers, to truck in water. Instead of losing livelihoods, our urban lives are impacted by hot, sunny days, perfect for recreation.

Now people are saying they miss the drought. They’re right — there isn’t much of one at the moment. (That link updates weekly, so if you’re reading this later, the map might be different. But what it shows as of June 9, 2009, is small patches of abnormally dry soil in the West and huge swathes of soil with normal moisture — it’s a miracle, really.)

It was like this, in the before time. I remember the summer I turned 16. I babysat for two kids and we would ride our bikes in the chilly rain to their golf and tennis lessons. When I was young, I used to write in my books the date I finished them. (No, I don’t know why.) I finished Little House in the Big Woods on June 8, 1974 and I noted that it was snowing. With an exclamation point. Cold and rainy, yes — even then snow in Denver on June 8 was remarkable.

Of course we’re all tired of the rain. We want to sit on our patios. We want to play in the mountains and soak up the western sunshine. We’ve had enough of cold and want summer already.

But in all the wanting for the warmth, let’s take a moment to give thanks for the rain.