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!