The Greater Good

In the summer, my day starts around 5 AM, when I open every window and door in the house.  We are the only house in our neighborhood without air conditioning, so my goal is to get the indoor temperature below 70°F.  And then we close everything around 9 AM, and hope that at the peak, the temperature inside doesn’t go above 82° (or so).  In our previous house, we would turn on the central air at 82°, mainly because the poor little guinea pigs looked pretty wilted at that point …

We made the decision not to have air conditioning when we built this house because we could not justify the environmental impact; call it our “greater good” conscience.  Along with early rising is also early gardening: as I yank weeds at 6:30 in the morning, I have been thinking about Karl Marx:  “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”  My inner snarkiness has resulted in various areas of The Commons now having names:  Cindy’s Folly (a $2000 dream of abundant wildflowers in glorious display is actually 200 feet of exposed black weed barrier with holes for anemic annuals and weeds)  . . .  L&B’s Stupid Strip ((they wanted real grass in the verge next to their house, except the HOA owns only HALF of the strip, so there is now 3 feet of weedy grass — and they think “The HOA” should take care of the weeds because hey the verge isn’t actually their private property) . . .  Joe’s NIMBY (he wanted the frontage but dang it’s a really long frontage and he shouldn’t have to be responsible for shoveling the walkway in the winter let alone picking weeds in the summer) . . .  Adrienne’s Private Dog Park (I mean, where else do you expect Otto the dog to do his business and if no one really uses that walkway then what’s wrong with doing the cleanup just once a week?) . . .

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From gogladly.com

The Greater Good.  From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.  My little corner of the world really can do better, and I am doing a terrible job of containing my frustration and annoyance.  Worst of all, I have turned into a bigger whinger than I had thought possible.

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On really bad days, I visit our local prairie dog colony, where I recently saw the “jump yip” for the first time.  I thought they were just happy to hurry me out of the neighborhood, but the scientists do not have a consensus on the meaning of the jump yip:  warning?  celebratory dance?  seeing if other prairie dogs are being vigilant?  just because?  What we do know is that prairie dogs live in a cooperative community …  And I do not.

So …  on really bad days, I whinge, and yank weeds, and then I remember to smile smile smile, because someone once said that if you smile enough, the smile may become real.  And perhaps I will believe again in the Greater Good.

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Bits of Happiness

Finding bits of happiness along the bike trail:

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A cunning fish!

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Vandalism . . .

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. . .  and Art Installation

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. . . of Found Objects

I would have liked to have known who was responsible for The Shed!  It was boarded up — and presumably all the found objects inside it was removed — within the week.  The Shed is along the railroads, in an area used by the homeless as “hang out” spot.

Bucket List: Going-to-the-Sun Road

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Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park

Many years ago I worked for the National Park Service as a summer historian on a HABS/HAER project in New York City.  When we were finished, the project leader gave me a signed copy of  America’s National Park Roads and Parkways:  Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record  (Timothy Davis, Todd A. Croteau, Christopher H. Marston, and Eric DeLony).  It is a beautiful book, full of detailed drawings and plans for some of the most amazing engineering projects anywhere in America.  Over the years, DH would lift the book out every now and then and peruse the drawings.  Someday, we would visit Glacier National Park, and in particular, go on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (his bucket list).  I always assumed it would be in a car.

A week ago, on the last day of our seven-day Tandem Bicycle Tour of Glacier National Park, we rode 43 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Bucket list indeed!  We were on the road by 7:30 AM on a cool clear morning, and 2.5 hours later (it was uphill and we are slow!) we made it to Logan Pass.  The parking lot was packed, and a very friendly motorcyclist took us under his wings and offered to let us park the tandem by his motorcycle, on the theory that the only difference between our two wheels and his two wheels was the engine :-))  But then we spotted the bike racks, so we didn’t need him to keep an eye on the Chipmunkmobile after all.  After the requisite Logan Pass/Continental Divide photographs, we began the spectacular 45-minute descent.  I do not have a head for heights at the best of times, and I was gripping the handlebars so tightly my fingers were cramping.  But the scenery!!  A couple of drivers ignored the 25 MPH speed limit on a very narrow and twisty road and passed us; one did it so that he could zip over to the very next lookout point, a couple of hundred yards down the road, to take that Special Picture . . . .

I don’t think I can tour the Going-to-the-Sun Road in a car, ever.  I saw it from a bike, the ride was a challenge, and it was perfect.

And now, I have bike jersey envy:

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Going-to-the-Sun bike jersey, from Glacier Cyclery.

Santa Fe 2018

“I don’t go to Santa Fe anymore; it just isn’t what it used to be.” She was New Mexico born and bred, still lives in Albuquerque, and goes to Taos for what Santa Fe used to be.  I have been visiting Santa Fe for almost 20 years, and I have my own ideas of what Santa Fe is, and was: It is a city with many identities, and I don’t think it was ever what it used to be.

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In Santa Fe, I am Opie: I am open, I am kind, I listen.  It is an interesting persona for me, and for a few minutes out of their day, people can unload some part of their identities on a stranger who listens, who they will not see again.  On a whim I went to a Creative Mornings Santa Fe event.  The speaker was a physicist, and while he was interesting, it was the mixer before the talk that was stimulating.  I talked to Sharon for about half an hour: she  had seen someone fill in the name badge blank under “I’m curious to know about your . . . .” with “first love,” and she told me not about her first love, but about her last love.  A white woman who grew up in a tiny Hispanic village thinking she “fit in,” only realizing as she really grew up that she fit in only because of the kindness of her neighbors, and that then as now, she was never going to fit into her Hispanic lover’s world.

I think I fit in, until something happens that tells me I do not:  A look from someone who wonders what an Asian woman could possibly know about small town architecture, or multiple histories of settlement of the American West, or distorted symbolism(s) of the Alamo . . .  I think racism doesn’t apply to me, until it applies.

But then, on my last day in Santa Fe, a random act of joy:

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A small act of inclusion and acceptance from a stranger.

In between, a thought-provoking interactive/immersive installation at the New Mexico Museum of Art: Pollination, by the art collective Postcommodity:

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Enter a stall, insert token:

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The shade goes up, and the show begins:

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Nature, managed and controlled, not quite real, the object of desire in a land of little rain.

The Train to Somewhere

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One year on . . . .

When the Human Stain took office, I decided to unplug from “current events.”  There are enough things to worry about without also worrying about things I have ZERO control over.  My resistance:  for a year I have avoided anything to do with the Stain.  No pictures, no news, no tweets . . . .  It is amazing, really, how easy it is to delete one particular person from MY human-electronic interface.

Which brings me to The Train — the California Zephyr, to be precise.  If you read the reviews, a major complaint from passengers is that Amtrak does not provide WiFi on this train.  How to stay connected?!?  Perhaps if more people were willing to disconnect, we can stop feeding the troll in the White House.  Sheesh.

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Union Station, Denver

I arrived (via bus, no less) at dawn, and rather liked the Christmas green and red illumination.  The train station was completely restored a few years ago, and the vast hall is one fabulous waiting room.  The interesting (or stupid, depending on one’s viewpoint) thing about Amtrak at Denver is that they do not announce the arrival of the California Zephyr, nor do they tell you when you can board.  So, I eventually wander out to the platform, hoping that the train had in fact arrived on time.  And it was there!!  I saw the line for Coach passengers, but did not see a line for Sleeper Car passengers.  As it turned out, there was indeed a sign for Sleeper passengers at the head of the Coach line, but you couldn’t see it because of the line of waiting people.  Anyway, one perk of being a Sleeper passenger is that you do not have to wait in line, and I got my ticket scanned immediately.

My roomette was not ready, so the sleeping car attendant sent me off to breakfast in the dining car.  People complain about the food, but really, what were they expecting?  I thought the food was fine, the company of strangers interesting, and the scenery spectacular.

Gross Reservoir and Dam:  Impressive, but how much water can Denver suck out of the poor Colorado River?  I guess we will all find out if and when the expansion goes through.

27 tunnels in 30 minutes, and all before the Moffat Tunnel!  And what do you know, the water in the creeks really do flow in the opposite direction after the Continental Divide!

Climate change?  What climate change?  Well, it has been a warm late fall-early winter thus far, and while the ski resorts had snow, Winter Park was making snow when we trundled by.

Ruby Canyon, accessible by rafting, otherwise fantastic views by rail.  By dumb luck my roomette was river-side, so I had beautiful sunset views.  In my book, definitely a “E” ticket ride.

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Ruby Canyon, Colorado River

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Ruby Canyon

And on to Salt Lake City, where the Church knows how to put on a show:

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Temple Square, Salt Lake City

And so I keep going, ready to keep resisting, year two.

Anger Management

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January 20, 2017

Optimism, in front of a non-denominational, non-profit community coffee house.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe it.  Not only do I not believe it, I am not sure it is all that helpful right now.  But that is because I continue to be angry.

My word for the year is SHOULD:  it is an insidious, neither here-nor-there sort of word, it commits you to nothing.  I should work on my anger.

On Carnival Barker’s inauguration day, I cleared dog poop along the trail.  Now, I do trail cleanup pretty much every day (my personal — if tiny — commitment to the environment), but it seemed especially appropriate that day.  It also seemed like there were even more piles than usual.  As I said, inauguration day.  And for a couple of hours, I did something more useful to me than inadequate messages of optimism:  I worked on my anger.

Travel Diary: Chamonix, Villeneuve

July 24 Wednesday

Uncle Samuel staid here.  Left this morning at [].30 on the diligence for Chamonix and had a very pleasant drive to Sallanches where we had a very bad dinner all but the dessert which was good.  The cenery from here is very fine but the top of the diligence shuts off the view very much.  Just before we came to Sallanches we saw Mont Blanc.  Arrived at Chamonix about 5.30 and stopped at the Mont Blanc Hotel which we like very much.

July 25 Thursday

This morning is perfect and we started about nine oclock on mules with two gides to to the Mer de Glace.  Went up the side of a mountain for about two hours and a half until we got to Montanvert where there is a hotel and took lunch here and left the mules.  Then went down part way to the Mer de Glace we bought two pairs of socks and put them over our shoes and walked over it.  The suface looks smooth from above but when you get on it there are great crevices and little streams of water even down over the ice.  The [moraine] as they call it is the debris from the glacier and is rocks

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Mont Blanc, Mer de Glace, Chamonix, France, c. 1890-1900. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Digital ID ppmsc.06808

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Tourists crossing Sea of Ice, Chamonix, France, c. 1902-1904. Image courtesy of Zentralbibliothek Zurich.

We walked over it and climbed up the shore to a little hut where we rested and then started down the mountain.  After a rather bad walk we came to the Mauvais Pas.  A little while before we passed three beautiful waterfalls.  The Mauvais Pas is a pass cut in the rocks on the side of a precipice going down to the Mer de Glace and has steps cut in the rock and iron rail for people to hang on to.  After crossing it we arrived at the Chapeau where there is a little hut and then walked down the mountain a little farther and met the mules. Arrived at Chamonix about half past five.  Had beautiful views of Mont Blanc.

As in Grindelwald,  climate change has led to dramatic recession at Mer de Glace.  The Chapeau is now 150m (and counting) above the glacier, so no longer a convenient rest stop.   

July 26 Friday

Left this morning for Martigny by carriage over the Tete Noire Pass.  There are five glaciers near Chamonix and we passed three on the way.  The pass is very beautiful, you look down hundreds of feet from the road into the valley and see a little swift stream running over the rocks and mountains on the other side.  Stopped at Trieste to get dinner and rest the horses and before we left it began to rain and poured all the way to Martigny.  The road after leaving Trieste asands a mountain and then decends on the other side to Martigny.  The views are beautiful all the way down but we could not see much on account of the rain.  Arrived at Martigny a few minutes after our train had gone and staid and had dinner.  There is a Roman ruin here.  Left on the 6.40 train for [Villeneuve] where we spent the night at the Hotel Byron.

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Souvenir of Lake Geneva, Villeneuve and Hotel Byron, c. 1885. Courtesy of National Library of Switzerland.