Isabel models her new collar for you.

As requested: this is the radio fence report.

It was difficult to get a good pose, since her luxuriant ruff blocks it pretty well. For a radio collar with little shocker-nodes on the inside, it’s reasonably small and lightweight.
This was taken right after a nap, when she first moved out to the patio, so when I tried to pose her, she simply collapsed into belly-rub mode.
As you can see, the collar itself poses no trauma. It’s bigger and heavier than her old, typically kitty-thin collar, but she took the change in stride. The radio fence instructions have all kinds of suggestions on habituation and training, most of which I skipped.
Isabel is a smart cat.
And I’m a lazy woman.
Anyway, the collar was fine off the bat, so I just went with it.
For those who’ve been off reading books instead of keeping up with inane blogs (we won’t discuss Sunday/NFL activities), yesterday we installed the radio fence around the house, to keep Isabel from running off into the desert. I had to mail-order it, to get the lower-power cat version. To keep Isabel, who loves to push her boundaries from being munched by a coyote, bobcat or mountain lion, we’re letting her out only in the bright light of day and only into this circumscribed area, so she can always be found at dusk. Or should some clock-shifter predator wander by.
So, yeah, it’s a PITA. It takes time. But there’s enough wire in the initial kit to make a nice big loop around the house, plugged into a receiver in the garage. You bury the wire 1-3 inches deep. Which isn’t that difficult, unless you’re digging around cholla. (Our neighbor told us about a guy who ran into a cholla without a shirt on and he had to be taken to the emergency room to be treated for shock, because of the pain.) We got part of it buried before the cocktail bell was rung and we were forced to stop for the day.
But I tested it. First on me. Now get this, there’s five levels: the first is sound only, then the next four play a sound as the cat gets near the wire, then administers a little shock of greater levels. So Level 2 is suggested for timid cats, 3 for timid to average, 4 for stubborn and 5 for insanely difficult. Okay, I forget how they described the type of cat requiring a 4 or 5 shock, because I debated between 2 and 3.
No setting for intelligent cats. (No remarks from the peanut gallery, Kev.) So I picked 3.
What you do is hold the collar in the bracket they provide and walk along with the collar at cat-neck height. (Yes, you look like Quasimodo.) As you approach the wire, you can hear the beep and determine that it’s working. No shock because the bracket they provide protects you. That’s right: they fully expect you’ll strap this onto your beloved kitty — of course beloved, because you’re not going to invest the time and money into this project if not — and never feel the shock yourself!
No no no no no.
So I took it off the handy bracket, held it in my hand at Level 3 and the damn shock nearly made my hand numb.
Level 2 it was.
So we try it on Isabel. I should add the caveat that I’ve now skipped the two weeks of training they explain in great detail. Where they think you’re going to put your cat into a harness, walk her up near the wire and then, when you hear the beeping, yell “run away run away!” and run with your cat back to the house.
I kid you not.
Since I couldn’t envision doing this without using Monty Python voices and making pointy killer bunny teeth with my index fingers while I ran, which would mean I’d drop Isabel’s leash, which, oh yeah, doesn’t exist, I skipped that whole section and went for the “tie-out option.” This is where you tie your cat out and let her find the wire herself. Except with us there’s no tie-part. Just Isabel and the desert.
We watched her on her evening constitutional. She walked up to the wire, where we’d left off with the onerous burying, wondering why we’d been messing with it, looked around for that beeping noise, stepped on the wire and wandered off.
Okay, the collar was too loose.
Hey, those prong-thingies looked uncomfortable!
But I tightened it up — after testing it on my hand again, ow — and went for trial 2.
{Overnight intermission for cat to stop being paranoid about why I’m following her around.}
Isabel walks up to the wire, intent on a distant juniper stand with enticing baby quail noises. What’s that sound? She looks around for the beeping. Sees the red wire. Hmm. She bends to sniff the wire and snaps back! Just like her nose was shocked. She sniffs again. Same thing! Isable shakes her head, sniffs again, shocked, and leaps over the wire to escape it.
Yeah. Not quite what we hoped for.
But it is working. She’s been staying closer to the house and not messing with the wire. The collar was bugging her some — hey, little prongs in your neck — so I might rotate it with the other.

In the meanwhile, there’s lizard-hunting, except when they run under the yucca, which poke you in the face most uncomfortably.
I’m going to call it a provisional success.
Any questions? Feedback? Bets on how long it will take us to finish burying the wire?
Winner gets a free stay in our guest room!

Lions and Arbors and Boxes.

Saturday morning, writing under the grape arbor.

David is sitting with me reading Osho. Teddy is laying on the cool flagstone, Zipper beside her. Isabel, the ever independent, is out front hoping the baby quail show up again. They appeared yesterday for the first time, bobbling along behind the older quail, like fluffy bit of popcorn on toothpicks. Isabel was electrified by the sight.

No baby quail snacks in her future, however.

The quail are smart enough to know when she’s out there, and she can only go out in bright light. I keep dreaming at night that she’s caught outside. David, too, has been waking to the coyote howls and getting up to make sure she’s still inside. In the same way the animals have been unsettled, he’s been nervous in this new environment. Uncertain how to best protect us all. Isabel is always sitting in a window, watching the night.

“Would a coyote try to get Isabel through the screen?” I wondered.

“That’s why I have the rifle, two sticks and my pistol under the bed,” David said.

I had previously commented on the unprecedented number of weapons under our bed here.

“To beat the coyotes off Isabel?”

“More if a mountain lion comes through the screen.”

“I think if someone in Eldorado had a mountain lion come through their screen, we would have heard the story,” I told him.

“Fine, make fun,” he answered. “But if a mountain lion DOES come through the screen, I’ll be ready. “

I know he’ll settle down as he gets into the groove. I must constantly remind myself that David has never moved to a totally new place. The biggest move he’s made before this was from Buffalo, Wyoming to Laramie, Wyoming.

We have recycling pick-up here, which we ain’t never done had afore back in ol’ Wyo. We signed up for it, for an additional $4.87/month, which seems like a great deal to me. They gave us a green can for recyclables, that’s slightly smaller than the one for garbage. They pick up on a different day for that one, and only every two weeks. David fretted about remembering the dates until I put them in my Outlook calendar with a day-before reminder.

Last Wednesday was our first pick-up. Since he’s got time until classes start, he spent several hours Tuesday breaking down moving boxes, since they recycle cardboard. But there was too much to fit in the can.

“Just stack up the extra next to the can,” I offered. “Worst they can do is not take it.”

But he didn’t like that idea. He took Zip out and drove around the neighborhood to see how the other neighbors did it.

“I wonder if tomorrow is the right day,” he said when he returned.

“It is,” I answered without looking up from my laptop.

“Only three other neighbors have green cans out.”

“Maybe not everyone has the same pick-up day. Maybe not everyone pays the extra to recycle.”

“Well, none of them had extra stuff next to their cans.”

At least he was satisfied that enough people put theirs out the night before that he was okay there. The next morning when we went running, I pointed out another green can, about three blocks away.

“I counted that one,” he told me.

“Jeez — how far did you go?”

“A ways. I wanted to get a good survey of how everyone was doing it.”

“Why do you even care how the neighbors do it?” I asked.

“I just want to make sure to be doing things the right way.”

“I’m going to have to write about this in my blog, you know,” I told him.

“I know — I don’t care.”

And he doesn’t. One of the things I love best about David is he doesn’t mind me writing about him. This is an incredibly valuable trait in someone who shares their life with a writer, especially an essayist.

That, and that he’ll protect me from the mountain lion coming through the screen.

First Time’s a Charm

Scaled quail, in case you were wondering.

Not an amazing shot. I probably need a better camera. Or better skills, more likely. It’s not like I’m not taking several shots and picking the best one. Really, I am.
What’s funny is: usually my first one is the best.
I use the wizards on the camera, which I love. I almost always start with “Landscape” which serves me well. I love “Available Light,” too. Which we used almost exclusively during Christmas in Scotland.
Remember how in school the ubiquitous “they” would always tell us to check over our test answers at the end. This was supposed to be good test-taking technique. Save some time for the end and review your answers. Thing was, when I changed my answers, I invariably changed them wrong. My first instinct was almost always correct. It got so that, by college, it was a near superstition for me never to change my first answer. I wouldn’t even look, so I couldn’t be tempted.
I’ve never see the show, but that whole “is that your final answer?” thing gives me the heebie jeebies. My first answer is my final answer. For nearly anything. I’m decisive like that. If it’s a bad decision, I’ll do what it takes to fix it. But indecision? Makes my skin crawl.
So how about that manuscript I’m revising?
Yeah. About that.
It’s not the same. And I don’t know why. Revising isn’t all that hard for me either. (Right, well, once I got over myself, that is.) Maybe because it’s a whole ‘nother round of decision making.
Wow – great!
Ack – must go!
It’s Duck, Duck, Goose all over again. Only I get to be the one walking the circle, tapping heads, controlling who may sit and who must desperately run.
Hmm… a theme emerges.
I’m tweaking the themes in Obsidian. Thinking a lot about love, power and control.
Who makes the decisions has the power. Thus the game goes to the quick and the ruthless.
Is that your final answer?

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.

Things I’ve Learned from Living in Santa Fe

This might be the start of a whole new module. Santa Fe is beautiful and the light is gorgeous and there’s great art. There are also more than a few odd people. But we’ll get to that.

What I learned today?

It’s pronounced “ah-saw-EE” berry. Who knew?? All this time, I’d been thinking Acai berry was “a-CAY.” I won’t say I’d been pronouncing it that way, because I can’t vouch that I’d ever said the word out loud. But when the spam subject lines float by in my cursory examinations of quarantine land, my internal reader had the amazing diet solution as a-CAY.

Go figure.

I heard it on the radio. Several times now, the same ad. Finally it clicked through my consciousness. Try ah-saw-EE! Amazing diet blabbedy blah.

You likely don’t care. Or, if you did, you already knew. I’m just so amused that within days of moving to Santa Fe, I now know how to correctly pronounce the latest herbal diet fad.

Apropos of nothing, I know.

So, here it is, eve of my 43rd birthday. Cumulus clouds are mounding in billows of navy and white over the paper-doll mountains. The golden light is slanting. I’m pretty sure I saw Georgia O’Keeffe’s ghost out dancing with the quail.

Time for a glass of wine on the patio.

Settling In

Yes, we are.
To answer all who’ve been asking.
There’s been particular concern over the kitties. It’s true: kitties have a major rep for hysterics over this kind of thing.
Not ours.
Yes, the three-day stop-over at my mother’s was traumatic. Ted and Isabel stayed at her house in Denver from Thursday to Sunday morning. A plan intended to avoid the more intense kitty trauma of having to See Furniture Being Moved. But they hated being separated from us and were apparently convinced we’d abandoned them forever.
But within hours of arriving here, they’d already established patterns. Teddy has her morning nap room and evening nap room. And Isabel is LOVING the secret garden. Here she is, crashed out after a morning of leaping after bugs and spinning among the flowers as the hummingbirds dart overhead.
We have been similarly finding our patterns. Cocktails on the patio watching the sunset is a no-brainer. We’ve managed to have five meals at home in a row — that were not pre-prepared in any way.
And the food is so good.
If you haven’t lived in a rural, dare I say, underserved, community, you don’t know what I mean. I remember when my writer/photographer friend, RoseMarie moved from New York, she had a fit because she couldn’t get lettuce that wasn’t wilted. She even bullied the Safeway produce manager into telling her when the produce truck would arrive, so she could be there to get her lettuce fresh off the truck. “It ARRIVED wilted!” she wailed to me.
You get inured over time. Accustomed to making do. To buying one of the two varieties available. You don’t expect much. No one up the highway from you expects more, so the good stuff never comes into towns like that.
Not so here. Last night I made Shrimp Newburg. The shrimp were succulent and tasty. The skim milk was organic, fresh and came in an adorable bottle. They have spelt sandwich bread! Am I sounding silly?
That’s the thing about low expectations: it makes the new world that much brighter and tastier.
Having a wonderful time — Wish you were here!

Dances with Quail

My new offfice is now set up!

Qwest came today to hook me up, so I am once again live on the ‘net. I feel so…connected. Not a brilliant observation, but there it is. The cables are reattached, the Cadmus laptop docked and all peripherals performing their little jobs.

To celebrate, a covey of quail just trotted by, along the edge of the garden out front. Hummingbirds have been keeping me company all day. There are several large gillia plants, blooming profusely. One of the first things I learned in graduate school was about how the gillia flowers fit hummingbird beaks perfectly. They serve up nectar better than any other flower and hummingbirds give them great preference, guaranteeing consistent pollination for the plants. The harmony of nature. Perfect co-evolution.

Yes, we’re loving the new house.

And, boy, was it a marathon getting here.

The recap:

Our last episode found me in the Burlington, Vermont airport hoping for the best. Thanks to all who watch over me, the best happened.

I made it through Dulles and back into Denver only an hour late. Got to my mom’s about 2am Wednesday night. (Yes, one week ago!) We headed up to Laramie around 7am the next morning. My mom and Dave took the Jag, the Buick, the kitties and the musical instruments back down to Denver.

David and I loaded the U-Haul.

And packed.

And loaded the U-Haul some more.

Never mind that last Thursday was the eighth day of loading, it still took us until 11 fucking-o-clock that night to finish. In the end, the patio chairs wouldn’t fit. Nor would my hibiscus tree, jade tree, jasmine tree and assorted other plants. Abandoned, all.

We drove to Denver in such a stunned exhaustion that I don’t remember much of the drive. I had the easy job: follow the U-Haul truck. We got to my mom’s and to bed again around 2am. Got up at 5:15am to drive to Santa Fe in time for the closing.

At one point, around Raton, I nearly called David to tell him I couldn’t keep going. But I had to. No choice.

We made it to Glorieta by 1pm, though. Dropped off the U-Haul at the new house and drove the Jeep into town for the 2pm closing.

Which took 2.5 hours. I kid you not.

No, I don’t know why. Something about New Mexico legalities with much trading of papers between Provident Lending and Southwest Title and Escrow. I’m pretty sure I have NO idea what I signed.

We stopped at the grocery store for beer and a frozen pizza. While it cooked, we unloaded the traumatized plants that did get to come, watered them. After some food (no, we hadn’t eaten all day, except for coffee drinks and protein bars), we unloaded the U-Haul enough to get the futon out.

We made up the bed with the linens I’d remembered to keep out. Drank a beer to our personal sunset and crashed.

The next day, we unloaded the U-Haul.

That’s right: eight days to load, one day to unload. There’s a lesson there. Just don’t ask me what it is.

Of course we’re still putting things away. Hence my creation of “office” just today. I couldn’t get a pic of both the office AND the view. But the desk at the window is above and here’s what it looks like, with the focus out the window:

I know. Best Birthday Present EVER!

I’ll Think About It Tomorrow

This may be my last post for some time.

So dramatic. But it’s all such a pain in the patootey that I’m feeling dramatic. Picture me swooning, back of my hand against my forehead. Oh Ashley!

Too much? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But here’s the deal: I’m in the Burlington, Vermont airport, hoping to wing home through thunderstorms in Dulles to get to Denver at midnight. I’ll spend the night at my mother’s, hop up and drive to Laramie at 7 am. Signing closing papers on the Santa Fe house at 10am, finishing the final load of the U-Haul and driving to Denver to spend one more night there, then on to Santa Fe to take possession on Friday.

And that’s if everything goes perfectly.

The last two days have been a mad scramble of last-minute paperworks. Exchanging one chunk of money for another. My poor mother and Stepfather Dave — who owes me nothing, it should be said — have been scrambling to be our personal bridge loan. My mother has been to Kinko’s THREE times in the last two days, to send faxes for me. Let me tell you, the whole diaper changing/nursing/labor thing pales in comparison. It’s been both silly and infuriating. Selling one house and buying another on the same day is incredibly fraught. I don’t recommend it.

Eh, I wouldn’t listen to me, either.

I’d say stay tuned, but maybe you won’t be able to. The Qwest folks are scheduled to install internet for me next Wednesday. So, really, if you DON’T hear from me until Wednesday, all is well.

If things go badly… well, brace yourselves for ranting.

It’s entirely possible I’ll be spending the weekend in Denver and closing on Monday in Santa Fe. We’ll just see, won’t we?

But look: here’s our plane to Dulles, fully an hour before departure! The windows look out on a blue sky, gently lit by a declining sun. One cumulus cloud mounds in singular splendor over the mountain. Two hot air balloons have launched, one blue, one read, drifting serenely.

All is well, I’m thinking.

Stay Tuned.