Friday, December 30, 2011

Hello, Hello baby; You called, I can't hear a thing....

And I have follow up on my Murphy's Cabin Christmas!

In the spirit of the season .... er the situation, I quote Lady Gaga (listen here while you read, or, better yet, watch the lovely "Afghanistan / Military" version, which is my favorite, here):

Lyrics | Telephone lyrics

Hello, hello, baby;
You called, I can't hear a thing.
I have got no service
in the club, you see, see…
Wha-Wha-What did you say?
Oh, you're breaking up on me…
Sorry, I cannot hear you,
I'm kinda busy.

K-kinda busy
K-kinda busy
Sorry, I cannot hear you, I'm kinda busy.

Just a second,
it's my favorite song they're gonna play
And I cannot text you with
a drink in my hand, eh…
You shoulda made some plans with me,
you knew that I was free.
And now you won't stop calling me;
I'm kinda busy.

Stop callin', stop callin',
I don't wanna think anymore!
I left my hand and my heart on the dance floor.
Stop callin', stop callin',
I don't wanna talk anymore!
I left my hand and my heart on the dance floor.

We're sorry… the number you have reached is not in service at this time.
Please check the number, or try your call again

So. Now that I have set the scene and provided the tools to understand the situation, here is the actual situation:

Mr. Nice Repairman telephoned me to let me know he had managed to fix my telephone. YAY!

Um, the not so yay?

Seems that yes indeed, someone hit the telephone line that stretched across the trail head and to my home. This time, not hard enough to knock the line down (which is why when I checked it, it "seemed" fine), but enough to stretch the line.

What is completely bizarre though is that there are two separate phone lines within that line -- the previous owners of the home had two different lines / numbers. Yet whenever whomever hit the main line, that managed to stretch to the breaking point just one line. My line.

Of course.

Yet, thankfully, due to the previous owners having had that second line, Mr. Nice Repairman was able to simply switch my number to the still working line. Unfortunately though, he pointed out that this line was also not in the best shape, and clearly if someone hit that main line overhead one more time, this line would likely give out too.

Oh, and as I pointed out last night, since I am a "drop down" line -- ie, my cabin is the only reason for that separate line down into the forest -- there is not a lot of reason and sense (economic of course) for the phone company to want to replace that line of their own volition.

Oh, and even better news? Although yes, the phone company is considering eventually extending DSL / high speed internet to the small town closest to me, because I am a "drop down" line, this actually would not impact me at all. I would have to request special service and effort to get the DSL at my cabin.

~ sigh ~

Well, at least I do have land line phone service again. As let's face it, my cell service is spotty and erratic at best, nonexistent at worst.... And while I have discovered texting is more reliable, er... possible -- even that sometimes fails...

So I suppose I should start memorizing the lyrics....

I can't hear a thing...
I have got no service...
Oh you're breaking up on me...
Sorry, I cannot hear you...

Oh, and, perhaps most important:
And I cannot text you with a drink in my hand....


Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Murphy's Cabin Christmas...

Tis the season to be merry....

Unless you live in a place named Murphy's Cabin.

Oh, I wish I could say that I had that lovely Christmas in the mountains and woods that one imagines when you look at the photograph of the cabin. You know, snow falling softly from a midnight blue sky, drifting quietly onto green pine trees, amidst twinkling Christmas lights, as you sit by the crackling fire, roasting chestnuts and singing Christmas carols....

Sadly.... No.

Of course, neither did I have an actual Murphy's Christmas. In fact, I chose not to spend Christmas at Murphy's at all. I instead went to the nearby ski resort, and had my family come visit the area and spend the holiday with me.

This was lovely .... There was a Christmas tree even! A very "old fashioned" tree, that ended up being our Syracuse Tree...

You may see why: they ran out of red velvet ribbon at my local Costco (!), and so I purchased the blue and what came closest to the red velvet in my mind. Seems I might be a bit color blind...

As yes, my brother, a proud Syracuse alumnus, took one look and said "Cool. A Syracuse Tree."

So orange and blue are the new colors of Christmas...

Of course, Murphy's Cabin does have an extended reach -- as I've mentioned in previous posts. After all, half of my family ended up sick (with my nephew being diagnosed with bronchitis even), and none of the skiers in the family got in more than one day of skiing. Oh, and I decided that I actually could handle staying up till morning and drinking for several days in a row, despite now being well past 19. Actually, it turns out that I can do such a thing -- I just now need recovery time....

So Christmas was actually lovely.... and surprisingly, too short and not enough time with family and friends. And not enough time with loads and loads of dogs!

(A captive audience for a pizza slice held by my nephew...)

But never fear, Murphy's Cabin did ensure to make an appearance... We chose to "pop" over there for a hike one day, and I decided to check messages. Only to discover that my phone was dead. Totally, completely dead.

I check outside at the box where the phone line comes into the house. Yep. Dead. At least it's not inside the house -- and so won't cost me a repair bill. So a bright side, right?

Except that I call the phone company and put in a repair ticket -- and get a call back from the repair man who has made a trip to my home before.

Oh, did I not mention that the phone line has gone dead before? Yeah, my only "real" and "guaranteed" connection to the outside world is not exactly guaranteed it seems. Or at least when there are utility trucks around that happen to have tall portions. It seems these tall trucks have a habit of hitting the phone line that stretches across the trail head and drops down to my house, and knocking it down. On the last visit, Mr. Nice Repairman put a nice bright orange flag on the line. This seemed to work. Seemed.

Which means back to the present day and present story: Mr. Nice Repairman quizzed me about the problem. I proudly announced that I did, in fact, not only check the phone line outside the house, I also checked the phone line stretched across the trail head, and it seemed intact. Seemed.

Mr. Nice Repairman's response? If there was a problem with that line, I could be in trouble. As my house is the only home on that line -- it is a solitary drop-down line to my house alone. So if the line is broken or a problem, the phone company might be hard to convince to replace or repair it out of the goodness of their hearts.... IE: This could be a hefty repair bill.


I guess I have not repaired or replaced every single thing possible at Murphy's Cabin.

~ sigh ~

Merry Christmas Murphy's Cabin style!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Dog's Lament Part II...Or, An Owner's Lament...Or, Lessons Learned

Recently I wrote about A Dog's Lament (read here). I will admit that after writing that piece, I was hoping that some lessons would be learned. Of course, I had a very specific idea of what those lessons would be.....

(This may have something to do with my control issues, but that is an entirely different story and blog post....)

I -- naively, stupidly, do-gooderly (and yes, I am aware that is not a word) -- thought the dogs had learned not to bolt away and run off on their own. Unfortunately, it appears all they have learned is to compose a better lament (sort of).... And it appears all the lessons to be learned were and are mine...


In fact, the very next morning, I took both dogs out for their "first thing in the morning" potty break, and...both dogs proceeded to bolt again. A flash of fur, and poof. Gone. I called after them frantically. Nothing.  I decided there was nothing I could do but go inside and wait.
[First Lesson: Embrace the situation.]

So in I went, and opened up my computer. I started to surf the internet and start my work for the day. I waited. I kept an eye out the sliding glass door. I waited. I went to the front door and hollered out a few times. I waited. I worked and surfed some more. I waited.
[Second Lesson: Patience.]

Hours passed. Yes, that says hours. I realized that the sun would go behind the mountain shortly, and it would start getting dark. I realized clearly the sitting and waiting was not working.

So I got up, got in the car, and started slowly driving up the dirt mountain road / trail -- windows down, heat on high, calling and whistling every few seconds. I got a mile up the road and hit a wicked ice flow (water that has run down or across the road and frozen solid). I stopped. Called. Whistled. Turned around, and headed slowly back towards the house, hoping they would be sitting on the deck waiting for me. Nothing. Turned around again and headed back up the drive.

It was now nearly 2 pm, and the sun goes behind the mountain around 2:30 pm. They had been gone since 9:30 that morning.

At the top of the drive, I turned to head back up the road.

And, rounding the corner, heading straight towards me, is Hollow, at top speed. Grinning from ear to ear, hastily composing her lament as she ran. Ten feet behind her is Rilke, also at top speed, also grinning from ear to ear, somewhat belatedly composing his lament.
[Third Lesson: Laments are nothing but words.]

If I had any hope any lessons for the dogs would actually be learned after this misadventure -- and trust me, those hopes had already been dashed -- the next day proved exactly who was learning the lessons.

I decide the next day that clearly the lesson is that I need to start hiking up the road/trail itself, instead of avoiding it, as I had been doing. Previously I had been hiking down to a "no man's land" below my cabin, where I would cross the frozen creek and hike in the meadow area there, without fear of running into people, etc. Since the dogs kept bolting up the road, clearly that was where we should start hiking.
[Fourth Lesson: Repetition makes all messages clear.]

So we hike up the road/trail. I also figure that perhaps the problem was that our hikes were not long enough, and I was not tiring out the dogs enough. After all, they are quite young and uber-athletic dogs, so clearly they just need more exercise. So clearly an hour or so of general meandering is not quite enough. What they need is a robust hike straight up the mountain for at least an hour, covering at least 2.5 miles or more, and only then turning around and hiking back down the mountain. Right. At least 2 hours and at least 5 miles should do it.
[Fifth Lesson: People will believe anything if they convince themselves of it.]

Oh, and treats. Carrying treats -- extra meaty treats as a friend out west correctly encouraged me -- in my coat pocket at all times, provided judiciously to reinforce good behavior and listening. "Come." "Check in." "Hanging out with mom."
[Sixth Lesson: Bribery.]



And on the second day on the road/trail, at ~ 3 miles up the mountain, they both bolted. I hiked another half mile up. Paused. Called. Waited. Started hiking back down. Paused. Called. Waited. Thirty minutes later, they showed up, at full speed, grinning ear to ear, belatedly composing their laments.

And on the fourth day on the road/trail, after a 3+ mile hike up the mountain, with less than a mile to go towards home, right near where the road crosses the river, and another trail -- a more cross country ski focused trail -- forks off, they both bolted. I heard a "ooh ooh ooh" across the river from me, on the other trail, and figured they went to say hi to someone.

I kept hiking forward to the fork. Paused. Called. Waited. Started hiking back down. Paused. Called. Waited. Hiked back towards the river crossing and trail fork. Paused. Called. Waited. Chatted pleasantly with passing cross country skiers. Paused. Called. Waited. Half an hour passed.

I decided to start hiking home. Pleasantly informed all hikers and cross country skiers I passed that there were two dogs wandering about. Got home. An hour had passed. I went inside, pulled out my computer, and worked and surfed. Went to the door. Called. Waited. Went back inside. Two hours have passed.

The football game was supposed to start soon. I don't have television. I was supposed to be going to a friend's place to watch the game. The dogs were still out. Now they were really starting to inconvenience me. Now we have a problem. Went to the door. Called. Waited. Three hours have passed.

Showered. Found a message on my answering machine. Garbled nothingness. Clearly someone up the mountain telling me they had found the dogs. I traced the call, called them back. Proud voice telling me she and her friend had found my dog.

Um. Dog? Singular? Not two?

Crap. The rugrats had separated. Now we have a problem.

The cross country skiers who have found Hollow (!) say they are going to finish their efforts, then will turn around with her and meet me at the trail head. I'm grateful. Now I must find Rilke.

I get in my car. And start slowly driving up the dirt mountain road / trail -- windows down, heat on high, calling and whistling every few seconds. I run into several hikers and cross country skiers (who are not happy I'm in a car on the road -- I explain I am not happy I'm in a car on the road). I ask about Rilke. Nothing. I get a mile up the road and hit the wicked ice flow. I stop. Call. Whistle.

Hollow comes rounding the corner, at top speed, grinning from ear to ear. She is clearly not even  bothering to compose a lament anymore. She is just thinking "WOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO! What a ride!"

I jump out of the car, reach for the back door, and she is inside before I barely have the door open. She is still grinning. I swear I can hear her saying "damn fun. Damn fun."

The cross country skiers appear. I thank them, say I still need to find Rilke. They say Rilke was with them for a bit, but took off when they took this fork instead of staying on the road. I thank them again, get back in the car, turn around, and start slowly driving back down the road.

I get to the top of my drive, look down the road towards the trail head parking lot, and see Rilke standing in the middle of the area. He is grinning, and staring at the other cross country skiers packing their car. There is clearly no lament even in the recesses of his mind. Just a "damn fun."

Clearly my dogs are having more fun than me.
[Seventh Lesson: Collar cams.]

Yep. The lessons learned are that I need to embrace the situation with patience, understand dogs' speeches are as worthless as politicians', that Ronald Reagan was right when he said you must repeat things three times for people to hear them, that if you say something with confidence you'll even believe bullshit, that bribery is never a bad idea, and that if you can't beat 'em -- join 'em.


My new year's resolution is to buy collar cams for my dogs. Because if I'm not invited on the adventures, at least I can join them vicariously!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Transitions....Or on Relationships and Other Profound Crap

I have been thinking a lot about transitions lately. Mostly because of my own life and the many changes in it -- those that have occurred, are occurring, or will occur -- but also because of several conversations recently with dear friends about their own lives.

Life is a constantly moving target of course -- one which is never easy to pin down or even understand. That much is obvious. But is anything else?

There is the ever popular quote:
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!
-- Maxine (Cartoon)
Probably especially since it did originate in a cartoon (other versions come from Hunter S Thompson, Bill McKenna, etc), it is particularly profound and meaningful.

Yet, despite it's lovely thought, it can be hard to live up to that attitude -- especially in the midst of transitions, which are not always positive. Let's face it: change is difficult. Even if it is for the best, and truly a positive situation, it is still hard to leave the comfort of what we know, what we have always experienced, what we have come to think of as "what we are"....

The "Theory" (and yes, that's capitalized thankyouverymuch because I have articulated it formally and therefore it is a Formal Concept) that I have always held onto is one which I call "The Sliding Doors Theory".

Sadly, it is not a theory based upon some profound, deep, complicated literature or ancient philosophy. I, in fact, would actually prefer to not admit the "founding principles".... Well, especially due to their source, "founding principles" is a bit too strong.... More like the "tidbits of concepts that when mixed with large doses of alcohol mellowed into deep profound thoughts that eventually became founding principles for a theory of life"....

But yeah, that's a bit of a mouthful. So I suppose "founding principles" will have to work.

I'm still a bit embarrassed by the sources of the initial concepts, but....

~ahem~ ~ ahem~ ~cough~ ~ cough~

I was actually deeply moved by the concepts in the movie "Sliding Doors" with Gwyneth Paltrow (read more here) and one paragraph in "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (read more here).

More information:

Yeah, I know. Hang my head in shame.

But in my own defense, I read the book when it was first published, so prior to the whole every one going gaga for it, the movie, the crap. And at the time, while I enjoyed it, and it was perfect timing for my own life (my wedding had just been called off), I did pointedly tell people that "this was not great literature that was going to be around in 100 years".

Ahem. See? Proof I actually do have taste.... 

And the movie was in a friend's collection of movies, so was a random chick-flick-and-wine-girls-night event.

Really. I have an excuse.

But more to the point...

The movie follows a simple but profound concept: the idea of how different our lives could be or would be if just the slightest thing changes. In this case, whether the heroine makes it through the closing doors of a subway car on her way home, or has them slam shut in her face.

In our lives, it could be anything -- small, little, insignificant. How different would our life be if we had made the light? If I had decided to take the Tunnel instead of the Pass, and so the car accident would have happened in front of me, not behind me....

And the book provided this insight regarding relationships:
"And please don't laugh at me now, but I think the reason it's so hard for me to get over this guy is because I seriously believed David was my soul mate."
"He probably was. Your problem is you don't understand what that word means. People think a soulmate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it...."
So take these two thoughts, mix with copious amounts of alcohol (for this sort of thinking, I personally recommend wine), let sit and mellow, and then think....

In my own wine-induced philosophical musings, I came up with the following thoughts:

Life can be altered based upon the simplest differences -- differences that we may not appreciate at the time. It is not just that we may see the differences as negative, and not be able to see the big picture or the long term results (hence the old "hindsight is twenty twenty" saying) -- but that we may not even appreciate that some tiny tiny thing actually completely altered our future.

For this reason, it is important to always look forward, and not "wallow" so much in our pasts. Many of us have experienced traumas or horrors or difficulties. But they -- our past in its entirety -- does not actually dictate our future. As any tiny change, any simple shift, can completely adjust the path we are on.

Our yesterdays shaped us, but they do not control us.

In fact, the only thing that controls us is ourselves -- and we only control ourselves. We cannot control, change or alter others. But we can control, change and alter how we respond to others.

Speaking of "others" in our life, it is also important to treasure them for "what they are" -- not what we think they are..... Or should be.... Or what role we think they should play in our lives....

The idea is that people come into our lives for certain amounts of time -- it may be minutes, days, years or decades. And for that amount of time they may play THE.MOST.IMPORTANT.ROLE.EVER, period.

But then it all may just "end". A falling apart, a distancing, a death, a whatever. It may be nothing, it may be huge and dramatic. It may be a bang .... or a whisper. It does not matter.

But the "end" does not take away from the meaning they had while they were in our lives.

I believe strongly that the concept of "soul mates" is not just about lovers, but about friends, family, others. And I also believe that some people, some friends are incredibly important, critical.... EVERYTHING.

But that it all may end (suddenly or a long slow transition -- happily or painfully). And of course, no matter how "amicable" the ending, it often will be painful simply because they were that important to us.

Yet just because they were important to us during that time does not mean it should not end. It also -- and this is very important -- does not mean that they were not as important as we thought they were.

Just that they had a "purpose" (for lack of a better word) in our lives for that moment, that period of time. And now we have moved on from that purpose. Maybe, as the quote above says, we have "revealed the other layer of ourselves to ourselves" or "learned the lessons we needed to learn".... Whatever it is, they were an important part of our life, and always will be -- but that doesn't mean they have to be a constant part of our life....

The best way I can think to sum it up is: It's like when someone close to us dies -- we mourn, we despair of our loss, but we also must focus on celebrating what we had, what we learned and shared --- even if we'll never have that again....

And to me, the same is true of our pasts: we mourn, but we must also focus on what we learned.

Life is a constantly moving target, it is a journey, and it is about making the best of it, and of those who share the wild ride with us.... Transitions are never easy, but they are important -- and they are excuses to take a moment to learn even more about ourselves. 

Either that, or just add wine and mix well.......

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Dog's Lament

Last night, I sadly discovered that clearly poor Hollow had been abused in her prior life -- at least certainly hit.

Let me explain....

I went out late for their last potty break of the evening, sometime after 11:30 pm, close to midnight. We tromp in the frigid temperatures to the back area of the house where we do our potty breaks as usual, then tromp back to the front of the house to go inside.

I start walking up to the front of the house, while Rilke wanders on the drive a bit. This I don't actually mind since I'm cold and he still hasn't actually gone to the bathroom.

What I do mind? Hollow, who is on the deck next to me heading for the door, looks up, sees Rilke on the drive, and then bolts. Yep, full speed, no hesitating, no looking back, she is running as hard as she can straight up the driveway into the pitch black.


Doesn't matter I'm yelling at the top of my lungs. And of course, since she's off to the races, Rilke glances back at me once, and then starts scampering after her (as yes, he scampers.... especially in these cases where he has no idea what the hurry is, but is just chasing after in a "what're we doing now?!" excitement).

So they're both gone.

And it's late. It's cold. It is pitch black.

I check the clock inside and it's 11:44 pm.

I am not happy. I am worried, I'm pissed. I'm cold, I'm nervous.

I go back inside and pace by the door. As previous "wanderings" tend to mean that they will return, but on their own time and pace, and there is nothing I can do but ignore it till they show up at the front door.

But it's 11:46 pm's's's pitch black.... Oh. And I want to go to bed now.

Damn them.

I go outside, stand on the deck by the front door and start calling.... My voice echoes off the mountains... I worry for a moment I am waking every one up within a 30 mile vicinity.... I worry that I'm waking up the wildlife and alerting them that the buffet bar has just opened.... I worry that I'm doing nothing....

5 minutes.....  Tick. Tock..... 8 minutes.... Tick. Tock..... 10 minutes.... Tick. Tock.

Finally Hollow comes flying back down the driveway at top speed. Alone.

She hits the deck, and her ears are already back. I can imagine that she has spent the last minutes not just thinking "Woo hoo! That was fun!" but also composing her "Dog's Lament" of apology to me.

So an aside: Several weeks ago I saw a lovely little British film called "Dean Spanley". A typical British film -- quirky, funny, bizarre, fascinating, interesting. I have to admit that if I tell you the storyline you will probably say "no way in hell." But you should watch it. Amazing film. If you like quirky characters and storylines, love dogs and dog stories, and like stories of families, family problems and family renewals, you will love this film. (Read more here.)

Or see more:

Anyway, the reason for this tangent is that within the movie they discuss the "Dog's Lament" -- the deep apology, begging forgiveness for whatever trouble the dog just got it.... The Lament that is specifically composed as they are doing this trouble, figuring that the trouble is worth it.... so all they need to do is compose the best possible "Oh my master I am so so so so sorry...."

So Hollow hits the deck at virtually full speed....Her ears are back, and I can see the grin barely being covered by the prepared "Lament"....

But I am pissed. So I move quickly towards her to push her down on the deck immediately, with the intention of rolling her over on her back and showing my will through the standard dog alpha maneuver. She immediately cowers in the corner by the front door with a whimper -- I proceed with the roll over, talk to her sternly, and then put her inside.

I'm still waiting for Rilke, so I continue on the deck, starting to call again and whistle again (Rilke seems to respond better to whistles -- Hollow to calls), and start thinking through what just happened.

Rilke finally shows up... Also full speed down the highway, also a big grin on his face that is barely disguised by his clearly in-process-of-being-composed lament.

He gets the same treatment -- an attempt to flip him over on his back, hold him down and talk to him sternly. He, on the other hand, resists the flipping over -- and that strikes me. And, while I am maneuvering him onto his back, I notice a wet spot on the deck, right by the door....

I put Rilke inside. Hollow is still at the door with her ears back. I stare at the spot.

She was so scared she had peed.... That is heartbreaking. That is beyond heartbreaking. I go inside.

Her clearly well-composed lament is on her lips, as I step in the door, she scooches up to me, keeping her butt on the floor, her head low, her ears back, and pushes against me. I can virtually hear her: "Oh my master, my master, I am so so sorry.... I deserve it all, for I disobeyed you my master...." It is heartbreaking actually....

I give them both "home treats" and think how sad it is that some people think that dogs do not understand.....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wind in Dry Grass

It has been unusually cold in the mountains the last few weeks. The kind of cold where your face freezes solid within moments of stepping outside, and you stop being able to feel, well, anything. In fact, you stop being able to think, speak, or even sniffle.

If you've ever seen the wonderful movie, "Biloxi Blues" with Matthew Broderick, you may remember the scene of "It's like Africa hot." If not, you may view just that snippet here.

And the contrarian that I am, I have been obsessed with that quote during this time.... "It never got this cold in DC (my hometown).... It's like Antarctica cold.... Polar bears couldn't take this kind of cold."

If you're curious exactly how cold it is to be so cold that Polar bears couldn't take it, well..... We're talking highs in the single digits (if I was lucky) and lows in the double digits -- the negative double digits. And of course I'm not even including wind chill, because that would just make you weep ....

But don't cry for me Argentina (Patti is always the best)....because I have something new to help keep me warm:
Ummmm.... Yes?
Yup, that purty little thang has joined my family....

Welcome "Hollow".

She's a dog I adopted from the Humane Society of the next county over. They guesstimated that she was a husky, and around 2 years old. Friends have mentioned she could be an American Indian dog too -- a breed I had never heard of previously, but certainly could be possible. Either way, my vet says she's certainly older than a year, but definitely younger than two years old.

And that's about all I know!

Well, besides the fact that she's sweet, very strong (both physically and in her will!), and quite a wanderer. Yet she does seem to have already figured out to check in with "mom" (at least occasionally), and that the cabin is pretty damn good home.
Can't you see I'm trying to sleep here?
She's also figured out that she adores her brother, though is constantly beating up on him too -- especially since they are clearly still working out "alpha" among the two of them.

Of course, the scrapper that Rilke is, he's been fighting back toe to toe -- or paw to paw. Here, he's holding his own in a "fight" over a stick....
Leashed version....

Off leash version....

Even more cute? Rilke used to be a huge wanderer, and now he tends to stick closer to me during walks, and look worriedly for Hollow when she disappears for too long....
Which way did she go...?
You can't really see Hollow, but she is actually down the hill where Rilke is staring....

Of course, I must admit that most people have questioned my choice of the name "Hollow".

It is also in honor of my mother, the late artist Karen Laub-Novak. One of her other favorite poets was T.S. Eliot, and she did a beautiful series of prints on his poem "Ash Wednesday", images of which you can find on her Facebook Fan page. She and I both adored Eliot, and both were deeply moved by another of his poems, "The Hollow Men". As usual, that's another profound and complicated poem, with a number of meanings. It is haunting read aloud, and just as haunting simply read.... But it has always resonated with me, and with my mother.

I personally always especially loved the first stanza:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
Deep, sad, depressing, powerful, moving.... It is hard to explain. And so while I realize the word "hollow" might mean empty -- there is a great deal of meaning to me when I say that word, and when I think of this poem....

If her name at all makes others want to learn more about this poem, about TS Eliot, or even about my mother, than I figure that just adds to the meaning and depth of her name....

In the meantime, it is actually very lyrical to be calling "Hollllllllllllllllllll-low" "Hollllllllllllllllll-low" when she has disappeared for too long.

And of course, she and Rilke also do a great job of keeping me warm on cold nights, and make very good pillows.....
Just waiting for you.....
Just insert me in the corner there, between the two of them, under that beautiful green blanket knitted by my amazing Aunt Annie....

And so our little family is quite cozy, despite the ridiculous cold spell.....

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vex, Vexing, Vexed....

Random thoughts, comments, questions.... all with one thing in common, they annoy me.

Why do dogs seem to think that they must wake you up on their schedule? I mean seriously. Exactly why does Hollow need to stand on top of me and start licking my face at exactly 8 am every morning.... Okay, I guess I should be grateful that this is an hour and a half later than the time she originally started waking me up (yes, at 6:30 am), and it does appear that I'm gaining about 15 minutes every couple of days, but really. I.Work.From.Home. There is no need for an alarm most days. The saying is you cannot teach an OLD dog new tricks -- and Hollow is most definitely not an old dog....


Why did it take me more than a year to realize that I could do my work on the water system withOUT having to clean the filters immediately, but could instead put in new filters, leaving the old filters to be cleaned (inside, in the warmth!) once the water sytem was turned back on? Again, seriously? For months I had been dragging the hose outside, along with a bucket, 3 filters and 3 filter casings. And then spending an hour outside, in all types of weather, every two weeks..... I'm sorry, I am not even blond any more -- and was only a "real" blond for exactly 2 years of my life (and yes, I do mean the first two years of my life -- and gosh was I adorable!).... So why did it never occur to me before this week's filter cleaning that I could simply take out the old filters, rinse out the casings, install new filters, turn the water system back on, and walk up the stairs, into the kitchen, and wash those filters out in the comfort of my own home. A frickin' year???? I swear, I have only streaks of real blond left. Only streaks!
(God bless me -- what if I were 100% real blond? Would it have taken me a decade???)

Dogs do not appreciate the wisdom, wit and way of life of Dorothy Parker. This is their loss.

The corollary: Having dogs does not allow you the ability to emulate the wisdom, wit and way of life of Dorothy Parker. This is your loss.
After all, a proper Dottie Day (ie, a day dedicated to drinking a slow but constant amount of alcohol while exchanging witticisms with any one willing or able to listen and parry back) is all about doing nothing but Dorothy Parker actions. Dorothy Parker actions do not include hikes, potty breaks and especially both on very very cold days....

Why do people love to draw up lists about the differences between cat people and dog people? I have owned and loved both (and would still own both, but I'm pretty sure that as often as friends joke about my smaller dog, Rilke, being "bear bait", kitties out here would definitely be.... Let's just say I have decided not to open up a convenience store in the mountains, which means kitties will not be happening.... Sadly....), so what does that make me?

And yes, I can actually hear, right now, my brother say "Confused?"

Why is it that older brothers think they are so much smarter? And funnier? And better? And why is that they are so often right?

(And that better be worth a damn good Christmas present!)

I once had a dream of being "The Cat Lady", and am actually rather sad I probably won't accomplish this. Which is both pathetic and vexing and a moment for mourning.

Why is it that if you are able to see the license plate of the car that just cut you off / did something stupid / almost killed you, it is inevitably from Maryland?

Seriously. Even out here -- across country -- the first time I almost got forced off the road by a crazy driver, as the car sped past, the first thing I noticed was that it was a Maryland license plate. At least I got a good chuckle from my near-death experience thanks to that!

It's not the heat, it's the humidity. True. If you have ever been in Washington, DC, in August or in San Antonio, TX, in June, you will know exactly what I mean. (And I pick those months solely for example, and because those are my experiences, and it is my experiences that count here. So there.)

We have a corollary here in Colorado: It's not the temperature, it's the amount of sun.
After all, the temperature can read 25 degrees and you can be in fleece. Or it can read 45 and you can be bundled up in every bit of winter wear you own. It all depends upon if the sun is out. Seriously. The other week, I wore sweat pants, a short sleeved shirt and a fleece jacket on a hike, and it was 24 degrees when I left the house. And I was hot. Had to take off my hat and gloves mid-hike.

Of course, when an actual cold front moves in, and it doesn't get above single digits in the day, the sun is certainly one hell of a help, but it does not keep your snot from freezing. And that feels pretty damn funky.

Just sayin'...

Has an unwritten rule that I may have alcohol -- or I may have ice cream. But not together. Unless it's my secret recipe for Vodka Ice Cream (a certain Ann in Virginia should remember *exactly* what I am talking about -- and if she doesn't I hearby sick Beyonce the Metal Chicken on her).

And yes, I do understand this is a list of things that vex me, and an unwritten rule of my own making should therefore not make this list, because after all I can simply change that rule as it is my rule. But it would not be a rule then, would it?

Reality TV. Period.
Okay, except maybe America's Got Talent, because when I have tv, that show is my secret love....
So I suppose I need to "amend" that "period" -- which should not surprise most of my friends since I seem to be literally (literally!) incapable of answering questions, emails, etc in single word answers. Let's face it. I answer in essays, and always will.
So my amendment: Reality TV about people's lives, not those shows that are competitions. I will make exceptions for some of those.

Procrastination is an art form.
Okay, that's both a vexation and a truth.
I have serious attention and procrastination issues. Heck, the blog was started as a way to procrastinate from my paying work, and now I find myself procrastinating from posting on the blog!
But I have also found that one can find a certain beauty and a required skill and talent for procrastination. Anyone can play a game or mindlessly shop or browse, only a few people can actually educate themselves on completely random facts that are utterly useless until that one moment in a million years where they come up in the middle of a conversation and you are the only one who has the answer.
Now that's a talent. A skill! A veritable treasure trove of resume highlights!
Yeah, okay, maybe not... But it does seem to have made me pretty memorable among my friends.
(I think.)

I do actually say "supposably".
And if you need to look that up, you should be vexed too.
But I wear my Joey from Friends badge proudly.

Why do people seem to have such a hard time just listening? Including myself?
(I comment as I "dominate" the conversation through my list....)

How can one both crave solitude and hate the loneliness at the same time? Is this similar to the fact that if I keep junk food in the house, I usually don't want it, but as soon as I have nothing left, I suddenly am desperate for some?
(And yes, roommates have always hated me for this....)

Why do people seem to think that no one can see inside their car when they are driving?
Dude, seriously -- I do actually see you picking your nose -- that is not a one-way mirrored window.
(Oooh, but wouldn't that be a great idea???)

Why has no one invented a "Heelys" hiking shoe with a small ice pick instead of a rolling ball? Or pop-out micro spikes?

Why is it sometimes easier to keep in touch with friends who live across country, not in "seeing" distance, than it is to keep in touch with people across town?

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, can I be reincarnated as one of my own pets?

How come every single time I call a business since I moved to the cabin, I need to have a 30 minute discussion with them over whether I "exist". Seriously. I did not call for an existential debate. I have enough doubts about my existence, sanity, and value as it is. I do not need a company that I have an account with to add to those insecurities. I promise I exist. After all, I do seem to manage to pay your bill every month.
I pay, therefore I am?

Why are dogs so demanding about following their routine?
And on that nice circular reference, I will have to come back to this list as the dogs need to go out. Again. On their terms. And it's freezing outside (I'm talking negative digits baby -- and that's not even counting wind chill).

Why do dogs not seem to care that it's frickin' freezing?

~ sigh ~

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Murphy's Hokey Pokey

It's been a while.... I'd like to say I've been busy, but in reality, I think I've just been stumped. Both literally (tripped over a big one the other day) and figuratively.

At first I thought I was doing the classic "two steps forward, one step back". Of course, that would mean that I was at least making some small amount of progress. And that was the key -- progress has seemed non-existent.

So in reality, I realized I was actually doing the hokey pokey. You know, the song and dance?

Sample instructions might be:
You put your [right leg] in,
You put your [right leg] out;
You put your [right leg] in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the hokey pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!
If it helps, please try this.

As, well, that's the simple truth. I have not been making actual progress (that is, there was no actual step forward accomplished despite any steps backwards), I seemed to be pretty well standing in place.

Even better than that, I seemed to be turning myself all around, and let's throw in a few "shaking it all about"....

And no, no shaking of my booty. As that would have been a positive. Just general shaking. Think of a bad dancer trying to get their groove on. Yeah, more like that.

I have not quite decided what to do about this state of affairs.

Do I embrace it? Do I wake up every morning and dance my little arse off in a lovely little hokey pokey?

Do I fight against it? Do I fling myself against the wall any time I find myself putting hands or feet forward and shaking all about?

Obviously I'm still thinking about that....

(But yes, I have tried a few shaky-shakyies, and a few wall-flingings... both have their pros and cons.... Yes, I have done Pro and Con charts -- have we not established I am anal .... errrrr, "particular"? -- but no, you will not see them.)

Though in the meantime, if you spot a person in the middle of the woods, shaking "it" all about and turning themselves around -- well.....


Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Meaning of Retreat....

I have been a bit "MIA" lately in terms of blog posts, and the reason is that I've been doing a lot of thinking. Probably far too much -- there is a lot to be said about getting outside of one's mind every once in a while -- and yet, there has also been a lot to think about.

And yes, I do realize I just ended that sentence with a preposition. But really, if you have nothing better to do with your life other than be the Grammar Police, well then.... I think I might have found someone more pathetic than me.

And yes, I do know I then started that sentence with a conjunction, but (ahem!) I would like you to know that this is not only in vogue these days, but (ahem!) it is actually not grammatically incorrect.

So there.

Needless to say though, I have not been MIA because I have been thinking about grammar. On the contrary, I have been thinking about the meaning of "retreat".

For the layperson, retreat is usually associated with failure, collapse -- simply general all round negative consequences. But in military parlance, where the word is most commonly used, it is not considered with such negative connotations in most cases. It is usually more about pulling back, solidifying one's gains, marshalling one's resources, and ensuring those resources and capabilities are not stretched too thin.

In fact, if you look in the dictionary, the definitions are hardly negative, except as an idiom -- and really, that's about "layman's terms" now isn't it?! See:
re·treat [ri-treet]
1. the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armed force before an enemy, or the withdrawing of a naval force from action.
2. the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion.
3. a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy: The library was his retreat.
4. an asylum, as for the insane.
5. a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation. 
verb (used without object)
8. to withdraw, retire, or draw back, especially for shelter or seclusion.
9. to make a retreat: The army retreated.
10. to slope backward; recede: a retreating chin.
11. to draw or lead back.

12. beat a retreat, to withdraw or retreat, especially hurriedly or in disgrace.
As I will be the first to admit that I have been on quite the "retreat" from Murphy's Cabin the last few weeks (the physical location and the blog). And by that, I can point to every single meaning for the word under the usage as a noun.

Really, including the insane asylum.... Of course, I'm pretty sure I am insane for taking this on -- and really, I'm pretty sure that not only do all of you think I am insane, but also that all of you would have gone insane long before I finally seem to have hit that point...

Well, okay, I was insane simply for buying the place -- but that's really besides the point right now.

Frankly, the whole thing finally got to me in the last few weeks. The constant stream of things still going wrong for example.

After all, during that last really bad storm that hit Colorado? The one that was crazy enough to be reported on the national nightly news, as it was snowing with hurricane force winds? Winds reported (near the cabin!) at more than 100 mph? Yeah, take a moment to do a visual.... Snow. 100 mph winds. Snow. 100 mph winds. Snow. 100 mph winds. Ummm. Yeah. That much fun.

Well, as you might imagine, it was not so good for the cabin (or any where nearby for that matter). In fact, not only did the power go out -- it stayed out for more than 48 hours.

I, for once, was smart enough to not even be there. To flee the scene of the crime, so to speak, and take refuge in a girls weekend at Keystone. And to not leave it, even when all the other girls left (yeah, I realize that makes it no longer a "girls" event nor, for that matter, even a "weekend", but details schmetails).

But, once the power came back on? Went to go check on the place, and to finally change out the filters, which, to be honest, were quite overdue. I usually aim to wash the filters every two weeks, and then change them out every month. This time, I did nothing for an entire month. So after ensuring the power was indeed back on, and no pipes seemed to have frozen or anything else bad upstairs, I went down to the basement / mechanicals area, and proceeded with the water filter chore.

The last filter casing would not budge -- no matter what I tried. And clearly everything I tried was not a positive experience for the dripping valve next to the casing. As next thing I knew, the valve was now spraying me with water, and no longer a minor drip that was nothing more than an annoyance. In fact, it was a full on shower, and I was fully dressed, and it was cold outside. Yeah, I was soaked and I was pissed. You ever seen a wet cat? Then remember I'm a Leo.

Yeah. That pissed.

And yeah, I did actually hiss several times. And no, you don't ever want to experience that in person. Not even as a dare.

Needless to say, I had to turn the entire water system back off, rendering the house inhabitable again, and call a plumber. Eventual house call and several hundred dollars later, I had a working water system again. But I had not stopped hissing.

So I must be ever grateful for the fact a dear friend let me stay a few extra days in Keystone -- where I had a completely functioning (and pretty much unable to dysfunction!) place to hang out, and most exciting of all: cable television.

At first, I did absolutely define this period of not writing, and just sitting in front of a television all day as a positive thing. A "retrenchment", not a retreat. Well, the "retrenchment" definition of retreat. A pulling back to solidify my gains, to marshall my resources, to ensure I was not stretched too thin.

I patted myself on the back for "being smart" -- for executing a "strategic withdrawal." Well, at least I patted myself on the back the first day or two... But when I added in the fact that I had spent an extra week in Denver, also simply to hang out in place where nothing goes wrong and there is yet again a television, this time with satellite! I had to perhaps start being a bit more analytical about my actions...

Heck, not even just analytical -- but actually critical. It was not about solidifying my gains, it was about gaining some solids. It was not about marshalling resources, it was about wasting them.... It was not about ensuring I wasn't stretched too thin, it was about doing nothing more than stretching out on the couch. It was not about the "television", it was about the "teevee". It was about hiding out, not being strategic.

So the definition becomes the cause, and the cause becomes the question....

If it was a retreat in the sense of the layperson's negative understanding, in the sense of the idiom -- of "especially hurried or in disgrace," well then that is a good cause for feeling depressed and sorry for myself, and thus belies the cause for the retreat. Of course, if the feeling depressed and sorry for myself is the reason for the retreat, then what exactly is the meaning of my retreat?

And that my dear friends, is indeed the question.....

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time

Thank you David Bowie for lyrics that I can completely relate to right now: Changing, being a different man / woman....
For some music while you read this post, you may click here and view / listen to the video as you read...

As what I would like to discuss today is "change" and "changing".

While it is true that you cannot expect or hope or wish that other people will change -- or even try to change them, you are completely in charge of yourself (and only yourself). You have the power and the ability to change yourself -- or to allow yourself to be changed by your circumstances. I am clearly doing both.

In fact, I have been thinking a lot lately about how many things have changed since I began living in the mountains. Seriously! Remember, I used to live and work in our nation's capital -- literally. That capital. The one of politics and political games (though also amazing art, museums, nonprofits and more I'd like to add!). I knew and experienced politics and the rules of the game better than I knew or had experienced myself.

And that was the problem.

I have long joked that I moved to the mountains to get away from politics and political games -- that I was not capable of doing it myself. (Though I did try! I quit politics and went in an incredibly different direction, working as a dogwalker and helping to run a petcare business. You can read more here.) Yet what I found was that I actually needed to move -- so that I could physically and completely get away from it.

You could say that I have managed to do that now.

And what have I discovered? Well, myself for starters -- but so many other fun things too.

So, let's set up a little "before" and "after" (well, a "now"), shall we?

Why yes, yes we shall....

Before.... I would drive down the one-lane-in-each-direction, twisty, steep road to town by going exactly the speed limit and riding my brakes around every single turn (in fact, I several times got passed by locals frustrated with my progress!).

Now... I coast down the road to town in 3rd gear, at least 10 miles over the speed limit at all times, laughing (yeah, really!) at the turns.

Before... I would stare at others near my cabin with curiousity as to whether they were visitors or locals.

Now.... I know without a second glance.

Before... I cringed and shivered at every single sound I heard that might be unusual.

Now... I know there are no "unusual" sounds.

Before...  Whenever I heard a noise near me on a hike that clearly implied wildlife was near, I immediately freaked out that the animal was charging right for me.

Now... I shrug and assume the animal is heading in the other direction unless I have more facts to prove otherwise.

Before... Whenever Rilke (my dog) began barking like crazy inside the house, I immediately had to get up and investigate by looking out a window / door to find out what he was seeing.

Now... I tell him to stop making so much noise.

Before... Whenever Rilke began barking like crazy outside the house, I immediately called him to me and we both fled inside.

Now.... I peer more intently to see if I can see what he is seeing.

Before... Whenever Rilke found something disgusting (bones, entrails, etc), I was completely grossed out and unnerved and had to take a picture to share the "horror" with every one else.

Now... I think it's cool and have to take a picture to share the "awesomeness" with every one else.

Before.... I wondered how Rilke could immediately find any sort of disgusting wildlife thing (bones, entrails, etc) outside the house, even across rivers!, if it was within half of mile of him, but took 10 minutes to notice when I dropped food inside the house.

Now... I think he's simply "gone native".

Before... I woke up multiple times throughout the night due to weird noises, lights, etc.

Now... If I wake up at all, I roll over and sigh.

Before... I would hike half a mile and pat myself on the back.

Now... If I haven't hiked at least 4 miles round trip in a single hike, I feel like a failure.

Before... I was scared of heights, and would never ever even contemplate doing a hike that went up the side of a mountain with a trail that is no more than 6 inches wide.

Now... I'm still scared of heights.

Before.... I got cold if the temperature dipped below 60 degrees.

Now... I complain constantly that I'm too hot and the heat needs to be turned down, and have found even 4 degrees to sometimes be "surprisingly pleasant".

Before... I used to joke about "mountain" attitudes and "mountain" folk.

Now... I think I may actually be "mountain" folk.

And I think that might deserve a "holy crap." And maybe even a "holy shit."

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Which is exactly what I've been doing for the last week or so -- well, at least sort of. In reality, I came down to the big city in order to take care of a few things, so it was more "personal housekeeping" than actual house housekeeping.

Not exactly exciting, but in many ways very very exciting.

For example, I have somehow spent the last year living in the mountains of Colorado, at ten thousand feet, with a steep steep driveway (and when I say steep, I mean steep: 10 percent grade or an approximately 500 foot drop in 600 feet), without -- yes, I did just say without -- a 4WD vehicle of my own.

It did make it more adventurous in many ways -- as it often meant having to park at either the top of the drive, or even back behind the Forest Service Gate (so a grand total of just over a quarter mile from the house -- in other words, not insane insane, just insane -- because there is a difference). This did not just mean having to trek through several feet of snow to walk down to the cabin, but also having to trek back with a sled and then sledding any things in my car back to the cabin.

Which could be rather entertaining when puppy Rilke would try to grab the rope on the sled and "help" me bring it to the cabin. Hey! He was trying!

Anyway, so part of what I did this past week was finally acknowledge that I actually did indeed need a 4WD vehicle to truly survive in the mountains. So I am now the proud owner of a Salsa Red Pearl Toyota 4Runner.

As the sales manager said -- "you can just say the color matches your personality: salsa...."

Umm. Yeah.

But I gotta admit, he's also correct. After all, I spent months searching to ensure that I did not have the exact same car that every other person in this great state has -- well, okay, one of two: either a Subaru or a Toyota 4Runner in black, silver or magnetic grey. So yeah, I guess it matches my personality since I was the one who insisted upon red.

Because I gotta be me.....

Or something like that.

More like I am one of those people who gets a bit obsessed with being different -- in reality, because I figure that way I can excuse my bitchiness.... As it is not that I am a bitch, thankyouverymuch, I am just different -- and you cannot appreciate that or the difference.

So there.

I also did a few doctor's visits type things, including seeing a "biostress management consultant" aka a homeopathic doctor aka a biorhythm doctor. This was incredibly fascinating as I was basically told my body was a complete mess. Now, I have been fully aware of this for a long time -- and it was partly why I thought I would try some alternative medicine -- but I gotta admit, the more I thought about it, the more I questioned the whole thing....

Nah.... really what got me? When she said my liver was failing and I had to stop drinking immediately. One has to draw the line somewhere!

Frankly, part of the housekeeping was also, well -- personal. I am one of those people that uses television as "white noise" in the background. Whenever I have lived alone, I have always found it somehow comforting to be able to have a television on, even if I am paying absolutely no attention to it. Silly I suppose, but it always seemed to make me feel like I was not quite so alone..... There actually were (!) other people around me, just in the other room or something.....

Yes, very silly. I know. So sue me. Or, more appropriately for all of you: so mock me. Because I know you already have. Just be honest about it -- I mean, c'mon. To.My.Face.People.

So I also will be very honest that I have spent all this time in the "big city" just so I could spend a week doing nothing but watching television -- or tee vee as a dear friend calls it. It was incredibly comforting and reassuring, like spending a week with an old friend. Not to mention the fact that I also was able to watch some amazing football.

Yeah, I am one of those people who absolutely loves certain sports -- will happily spend an entire day (or more!) doing nothing but staring at a screen, yelling at the top of my lungs for half the time (because really, they can hear me, and my advice will make a difference -- really!).

So as sad, or logical, as it may sound (and I know all of you are actually nodding your heads right now, it's just half of you are nodding for the "sad" part and half for the "logical" part), the one thing I am really really going to miss about not having television at the cabin will be sports: college and pro football, college basketball.

I may have to rethink that whole "I don't want to pay those ridiculous satellite television fees" .... but of course, I can't even pretend to do that until summer. With several feet of snow on the ground -- and, most important, on the roof -- already.....

It's going to be a long quiet winter....

But, perhaps the most important reason for this "housekeeping" post: I did go out and purchase a few domain names for Murphy's Cabin -- because it's so special it deserves its own name! So from now on, if you chose to come to the blog, instead of subscribing by email (which I highly recommend -- even I subscribe! After all, I might forget what I wrote! Ummmm. Seriously.), then from now on you can set your browsers, save your bookmark for -- or click here.

Happy Sunday and Happy Football watching!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grand Adventures! And snow...

Well, actually, before I will "let it snow", I think I must acknowledge my dog's latest adventure.... And although I'll leave this one pretty much un-commented upon -- trust me, I will fill in later exactly why this is so important...

So, without further ado, Rilke's Grand Adventure:

On Tuesday, I was just starting out on Rilke's morning walk when suddenly he disappeared. Completely. Now this is not unusual for my dog. So originally, I was not concerned. After all, he knows he has it pretty damn good with me, so he's not so stupid as to not eventually come home. So really -- if he wants to be an independent little (shit) guy, than I'm cool with that.

Plus, I could hear a chain saw buzzing along the road in front of me, and a dog occasionally barking, so I was pretty confident where he had disappeared to -- after all, he was quite convinced that every new person and especially every new dog was his new BFF.

And if you do not know that term, I am not explaining it.

So I approached the two guys cutting up wood for the winter and their adorable German shepherd -- and realize a small white fluffy thing is nowhere to be found. Uh oh. This is actually cause for a concern... Rilke is not one to have not spied humans and dogs first (if you can follow that double negative!), in fact, he was so good at spotting "fresh meat" that he had learned to stop whenever I called him to "come" and immediately check around him in case I was trying to corral him prior to meeting any other trail travelers.

This meant I needed to start back-tracking and attempt to find him.... Considering it's been a good 10 minutes since I've seen him (and been whistling for him), there is a world of trouble he could have gotten into -- and indeed he did. He finally came running, and he was licking his chops, had stuff all over his scruff, and smelled... well, funny. Oddly enough, the first thing that came to mind was cattle grazing....

Which clearly makes no sense. Clearly.

Long story short (intermission is playing with the German Shepherd of course), we start the return home and he takes off again -- up a steep bank... And I know immediately what is happening, and why I now need to scramble up this steep bank and follow him.... Clearly he had indeed found "fresh meat" -- of the literal kind...

This is what I found:

And yeah, I don't want to talk about it, except for sharing my horror with all of you... And letting you know that of course this was right at the top of my drive, just on the other side of a low rise (foreboding, foreshadowing scary music starts to play), and that yes, I did dispose of all of this -- don't ask, except that yes, a very large animal could get at it if they wanted, but my dog cannot (foreboding, foreshadowing scary music starts to play) -- and yes, my dog and myself did get a bath.

The good thing was that the winter storm predicted had not yet started -- which meant that the aforementioned bath could actually take place "properly" (ie, outside on the deck, not inside in a shower). But come the storm did....

And I would like to blame "Rilke's Grand Adventure" on my grand adventure later that night....

My Grand Adventure:

You would think that because I planned in advance that after I attended book club that night I would park my vehicle at the top of my drive due to the seriousness of the coming storm, that I would have actually thought it through.

Not just a hat rack. Really.

And yet somehow, I thought through the idea of putting in the heavy things I need to take to the city this weekend, putting snow boots in the car for walking down the drive, and wearing a warmer jacket and heavy gloves. But I did not think through that it would be dark when I got home.

Not just a hat rack. Really.

And not just dark, but pitch black, complete nothingness dark. You know, that whole cloud cover thing that happens when it snows out? That just happens to umm.... obscure the moon and the stars, and those twinkly lights that happen thanks to Mother Nature?

Um yeah. Not just a hat rack. I swear.

So I arrive home around 8:30 at night to a light snow falling. I carefully park my car at the top of the drive, facing out just in case.

And perhaps I ought to digress a moment here and explain exactly why I was bothering to take all of these precautions. See, Ms. Not Just A Hat Rack does not yet have a vehicle with 4WD. I also happen to have a driveway that is approximately 600 feet long and drops 500 feet in altitude in that distance. You do the math, and that means my drive is approximately a 10 percent grade. Yeah, good times...

(Though it does make a killer sledding hill... Literally. Just ask my niece and her friends.)

So. I maneuver the car into place where it is facing out, not blocking the drive or the road, and start gathering my things to walk down to the house. And it is at this moment that I finally realize that I ... do... not... have ... a ... flashlight....

Oh. My. God. Crap, crap, crap. And another crap for good measure. And as a prayer to my mother, Holy Shit.

I step out of the car, shut the door, lock it, and the lights from the car go dark. I turn towards the drive, and see.... Nothing. Somewhere, far off, what looks like 10 miles away, I can see a dim light that must be my front porch light.

Oh. My. God. Crap, crap, crap. And another crap for good measure. And as a prayer to my mother, Holy Shit.

Because all of that had to be said twice in the hopes it had more power that way.

I pull out my "somewhat smart" phone, and push a button to get the screen to light up, and hold that in front of me. I can barely see my feet, let alone anything beyond them. And of course the phone immediately goes to sleep to save power.

Without cell phone reception in the area, cell phones constantly search service -- which means they go into "auto save" mode in order to have the battery not run down immediately from the constant searching. So mine did.

I hit the button again, and start to slowly walk towards that dim light in the distance, jabbing the button repeatedly...

I get about 20 feet down the drive, stumbling a bit during this period as this is the very steep hill at the top of my drive (which is actually the only part of the drive my car cannot handle in the snow -- the rest is twisting and sloping enough to manage), and swear I hear something behind me.

I stop, but refuse to turn around. And am positive I hear a low growl perhaps 10 feet behind me. POSITIVE.

So I, of course, continue to refuse to turn around, and do the only thing I can think of doing: start walking again. I do not run because, well:
1) I can barely see where I am going in the first place, and felt tripping and falling flat on my face was much worse than slowly making forward progress;
2) Just about all wildlife advice says never run. Let me repeat that: Never Run. As you are then a target to be pursued. Let me repeat that: A Target.

I then do the only other thing I can think of: I say outloud, "Whoo boy! It's good to be almost home."

And my neck hairs start tingling, and suddenly "identifying myself as human" seems like a very very very bad idea. I have no idea why. But as my grandfather used to love to say: "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die."

And um, yeah. I'm thinking die is actually an option here, so... yeah. I didn't reason with this sudden thought that I should not actually identify myself as human, and therefore I needed to stop talking now.

I keep walking, breathing shallowly, and do the only other thing I can think of to do: start whistling. Do not ask me why I think whistling is somehow "less human", please just refer to Grandfather's Motto above. No reasoning, just doing or dying. Period.

And not just any song of course, but the absolutely only song appropriate at this moment and time -- the song from the Monty Python movie "Life of Brian" at the very end: "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".

(And if you do not know this song, please do follow the link and watch the video... It may save your life some day. Seriously!)

So I whistle, and I walk. Slowly, deliberately, one step in front of the other.  Still refusing to look behind me, still focusing on the barely there light from my phone, and the very dim and distant but slowly getting closer and brighter front porch light in front me. The hairs on the back of my neck go down.

I finally reach the cabin, and realize I have also not done one other thing that I usually always do before I even get out of the car when it's at night: get my house keys out and have them in my hand.

Oh. My. God. Crap, crap, crap. And another crap for good measure. And as a prayer to my mother, Holy Shit.

Because third times a charm, right?

And now it's almost getting funny, because it's like I'm in the middle of a Hollywood horror movie. I fumble for the keys in my purse, pull them out, and immediately drop them. I am still resolutely refusing to look to my right and back up my drive. I pick them up, trying to pull out the door key, and immediately drop them again. Finally, I manage to get the key in my hands, put it in the lock, and open the door. Rilke immediately jumps all over me.

Which means that instead of immediately fleeing inside, locking the door behind me, and peering out of a window, I have to drop my stuff, turn around and let Rilke out for a potty break. He immediately bounds up the driveway, barking.

I scream "TREAT!" For once, it works.

Which is actually less reassuring than you think. (Think about it.)

We retreat inside for about an hour before I'm willing to go outside for his potty break, and by that time, all seems quiet. Except that now it has gone from maybe an inch of snow on the ground and lightly falling, to at least two inches and falling heavily.

I go to bed, and wake up to snow... snow, glorious snow.

And then I discovered the facet of snow I had not previously considered: that new tracks show up much easier in snow... And I saw tracks leading down my driveway toward the cabin....

These were not "brand new" tracks (ie, fresh since the snow stopped falling that morning), but instead were clearly tracks that had been made since the snow started, but much earlier, as they had been filled in half way with fresh snow. IE, made perhaps when several inches of snow were on the ground, and a bit more snow had fallen since...

I follow the path of the tracks, and they go past the cabin, around to the other side, and start towards the confluence. I go back inside, pull on boots and my jacket, and decide Rilke and I are immediately going for his morning walk.

The tracks at first almost look a human footprint, they are so large -- and too vague to note any "identifying marks" thanks to having been filled in by fresh snow. After studying them more carefully as I walk along the path, I realize that it is actually two tracks in one. That is, the animal clearly was stepping such that its back paws were landing in or very near to where its front paw had originally landed.

Ummmm..... My wildlife book says that's what cougars (aka mountain lions, because they're crafty enough to deserve two names... in fact, actually three, as they are also known as pumas) do. I quote:
Mountain lions frequently use an overstep walk as their primary gait. ... Step lengths in this gait vary from 15 to 30 inches. Cougars may also direct register (where hind feet step inside of where the front feet had landed), when moving through deeper snow. A variety of faster gaits are used when chasing prey or escaping danger.
Ummm. Especially when moving through snow...?

Of course, it turns out coyotes also use the overstep walk:
Coyotes utilize a variety of gaits, including walking, trotting, loping, and galloping gaits. One of their favored gaits is an overstep trot, where front and hind feet on the same side of the body land close together, with the hind landing slightly ahead of the front. These trotting gaits leave a line of tracks that is very straight and narrow.
And, of course!, so does the American black bear:
The American black bear travels over the landscape mainly by walking, but it can also trot, lope and gallop. These bears often travel in an overstep walk, in which the rear track lands ahead of the front track.
 Um. Great. In fact, for good measure:

Oh. My. God. Crap, crap, crap. And another crap for good measure. And as a prayer to my mother, Holy Shit.

And that is why I chose to spend most of the day inside, in bed.