July 19, 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
It’s been a quiet spring. We got our usual snows and the second wettest June ever. Our dirt driveway suffered from the run-off and we did a good deal of maintenance to divert the water. We continued to make firewood from trees that were standing dead from beetle kill and cut others with the beetles still beneath the bark and tightly wrapped them in black plastic so that when they are ready to “fly,” they can’t and will die. The cheatgrass, which is produces seeds that cling to the dogs and can get into their ears, continues to show up in and around the “good” grasses in the back meadow. We spend more time pulling it up than we’d like to, but we’ve got to keep up with it. It’s all part of the springtime routine we’ve come to expect.
Much of our energies were focused on our trip to the east coast (Toledo friends, the Chasan Family Reunion in Gaitherburg (MD), a short visit to New Jersey, and a visit with the Buddes in Massachusetts). There was a good deal of planning and preparation beforehand. The trip itself took most of June and the last week of May. It was a wonderful trip, which we had been looking forward to with high expectations, and we were not disappointed. You can read the details and see pictures online if you have not already done so. If you want to skip the details, our son’s summary went something like this: It rained, we went to bed early and read. Well, yes, but we also drove about 4500 miles to visit friends and family, most of whom we knew.
Spring seems to always comes later than other places in the world. Our four-foot snow came in late March, and several April snows surprised the flowers who forgot where they were lived and got their blooms buried under with lots of snow. The hummers came early and often had to dig through the “snow pack” on their hanging feeders The last patch of the white stuff in the back of our meadow disappeared just before Memorial Day. But now, because of all the moisture that fell this year, especially in June, (the second wettest June in area history), we don’t have to put quotation marks around the word meadow when we talk about the area in back of the house: it looks like a real meadow at last. Judy’s oriental poppies, columbines, iris, even her lackadaisical lilac and other flowering plants have created the most colorful display in our yard that we’ve seen here.
Spring is also the season for us to schedule visits to our various friends in the medical communitiy: dental work and teeth cleaning season; blood work and routine physical exam season; skin check season wtih the dermatologist; scans and check up with Judy's oncologist season; chiropractic, sports massage, physical therapy, and orthopod season. Even Sophie and Bella had visits to their local vet. Sophie had special attention at the veterinary hospital at Colorado State University in Fort Collins to diagnose her knee problems that are, after bouncing around in the mountains here for years, beginning to show sign of serious wear. A re-evaluation is due in August.
Judy, however, faced the most trauma. It began during training for the Bolder Boulder 10K race; she pulled up lame with what she thought may have been a stress fracture in the pelvis, but which an MRI determined may have been a hamstring ligament tear. It was so painful she stopped her training in April, hoping the rest and some physical therapy might permit her to run by the end of May. Several consultations confirmed what her body had already emphatically told her: she couldn't run. She reluctantly placed herself on the DL for this year's race. She has finally returned to running in the past two weeks.
This was followed in late June with a pretty good tumble when the flag pole she was working on broke while attempting to re-hang the Bhutanese prayer flags in the back of the meadow. The flags were getting tattered from the wind, so Griffin went up the ladder and cut the ribbons that attached the flags to the poles. Judy made the repairs and then decided she would, as she’s always done, climb the ladder and re-tie the flags in place. Notice that the photo only shows (a) four flag poles instead of five, (b) an aluminum ladder she was on top of when the pole broke, and (c) a space on the right end of the line of poles where the fifth pole used to be. Falling 20 feet face forward, she said, was a slow motion event and the damage could have been much more serious. But like any true mountain woman, she took the fall in stride, with only bruises, a couple of pretty nasty gashes (we patched her up with vinegar and brown paper), and some cracked ribs. We’re working on ways to keep her from sneezing. Ouch!! Let it be said that within two days we’d cut a new, sturdier pole, buried the base in cement, and Judy was back up the ladder to replace all the flags. She's one tough lady.
WHAT’S NEW IN THE MOUNTAINS
One of the most pleasant discoveries this spring was that there are other folks living up here who enjoy playing bridge. There aren’t many that we know of, and some who do play have been driving 20 or more miles to Boulder to find a regular game. But slowly we’re working to bring them and other bridge players out of their dark, secret closets. With varying degrees of success, we’re trying to build the image of the rugged mountain man or woman—one who chops trees and chews the bark—as a person who plays bridge, who enjoys it, and doesn’t mind who knows about their passion. It’s a tough road, but we’re walking the walk. We’ve made something of a breakthrough recently: we’ve managed to find a neighbor who not only plays bridge but has a set of duplicate bridge boards gathering dust in his closet. Next month we’re hosting a duplicate bridge gathering, the first of what we hope becomes a regular event on the neighborhood social calendar.
Speaking of images of mountain folk, Hughes’s book club continues to turn up some really fine discoveries among writers of mystery fiction. If you’ve not yet stumbled across a really good mystery in a while, Hughes (and others members of the group) would be quick to suggest Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the Swedes really know how to create thought-provoking mysteries with plenty of blood and gore, interesting characters, and very cold weather; Henning Mankill is another master of the genre), Jason Goodwin’s The Janissary Tree (showing that eunuchs can do more than just guard the harem), and Eliot Pattison’s literate murder mysteries set in contemporary Tibet featuring Sha Tao Yun, a Buddhist Sherlock Holmes; start with the first in the series, The Skull Mantra)
Hughes continues to work at the Visitors Center (when we’re not traveling) and Judy takes Sophie to Boulder Community Hospital to provide pleasant canine therapy to patients, both children and adults, who look forward to the companionship of a soft gentle dog. Judy continues to get as much delight in going as Sophie. Bella gets to spend time on those mornings sleeping, exploring outside, or running errands with Hughes. Both are activities we look forward to all year round.
HOW DID WE EVER GET ALONG WITHOUT IT?
Like many of you, we have been looking forward to each day of the Tour de France. The coverage on the Versus channel, we think, is excellent and the scenes of the countryside, mountains, and towns along the route are spectacular. In fact, the broadcast of the Tour has made us really appreciate our investment in high definition TV: an HD cable receiver-recorder and a new HD TV to replace a 25 year-old TV we brought from Ohio. It’s an indulgence we know, but the pictures are so crisp and bright that watching TV has become a new experience. How did we live with the old technology?
There was a time when Judy was satisfied with dial-up internet service, the 48 kbps variety. “It’s fast enough for me,” she had said when the opportunity for high speed internet came around. When she finally gave in she changed her tune: “My download speed is below 2000 kbps. Call Matt (our ISP) and find out what’s wrong.” It takes a big person, after years of resisting, to acknowledge that there might be some advantage to spending a few extra bucks for the benefit of new technology. That’s when she says things like, “What? It’s not in HD??! Let’s find something else to watch.” We were among the last in the neighborhood to buy a color TV back in the ’80s. Black and white was good enough—until we got a color set. Then we wondered how we ever got along without it.
A CITY KID COMES TO THE MOUNTAINS
Our grandson, Griffin, drove back with us from his home in Massachusetts and stayed for about 10 days. It was a good experience for us—a summer highlight—and we hope for him. He had some new experiences: he learned to drive a stick shift car, he split firewood for our cold winter nights, and hiked and biked a mile and a half above sea level. The main focus, however, was a much talked about intergeneraltional bonding project: putting a new roof on the garage.
The shingles were delivered directly to the roof, so neither of us had to tote bundles on our backs up the ladder to get them to the roof surface. We went with old fashioned hammers and roofing nails—no air hammers for us! We had great weather: full sun to help lay the shingles flat and seal them. The sun also made the surface hotter than blazes. Gloves were required just to put our hand down for balance; we couldn’t sit for long in any one spot. We finished the job in five days—well, five half days. Afternoons were either too hot or too wet to work. Griff had time to get in some running, give Barney a fresh coat of polyurethane, chop wood, get some regular time behind the wheel of our 4-Runner (with a stick shift). Hughes had time to get some more shingles and nails (he underestimated the coverage). In the end, we laid down a darn good looking roof that will stand up to the fierce winds that had blown away some of the original shingles for the past few years.
Learning to drive a stick shift car is, we believe, akin to learning to swim or perform CPR. In an emergency it’s very useful. He may even own an “old” car someday. He spent part of most days getting used to coordinating the accelerator, clutch, and brakes and shifting smoothly without looking at the gear shift. He said he preferred an automatic, but then if we lived in the city with as much traffic as the Boston area we probably would go that route ourselves. But when you live in the mountains and drive on a 4-wheel dirt road, we think a stick shift is the way to go. By the way, we were proud to hear he got his permanent driver’s license when he got home.
Speaking of 4-wheel drive roads, we hiked to Diamond Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, an easy 5-mile climb to timberline with plenty of snow on parts of the trail. We had thought about backpacking in for an overnight camp, but luckily changed our minds. There were no dry campsites around the lake, so it was just as well. We took Griff on an informal tour/walk around the CU campus in Boulder. We’d never looked at the complex very closely before and were impressed with the buildings and the services. The rec center is especially attractive, but of course that’s one of the selling points of any campus tour. We had dinner our on the porch of the historic Chautauqua Dining Hall followed by a Punch Brothers concert. [What a surprise! We thought a group made up of a fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, and string bass would play bluegrass. But what they played was something quite different: jazz? improvisation? modern? from the John Cage school of “new” music? Doc Watson would have scratched his head.)
We really enjoyed Griffin’s visit. He and the dogs got along quite well (as well as with us), and we were glad Sophie was not undergoing surgery recovery while he was here. She may, by the end of the summer, be a candidate for CSU vet hospital students and residents to repair what nature and age have created. But then again, maybe not. We’ll have to wait and see.
We hope your summer is going well. Drop a note if you get a chance. We’d love to hear from you.
All good wishes,
Judy and Hughes