I’ve just finished reviewing my Writing Goals for 2014. In many ways this has been a great year for my writing and I’ve learned much. When setting my goals, I learned I had too many things on my Goals List and did not allow enough room for flexibility. When talking about flexibility, I’m thinking about two things in particular. I didn’t realize I would be ask to help out with some ghost writing which was a great experience for me. I hope to do more in the future. I’m also thinking about something I started and wanted finished by Year End. I thought it was going to be a short story. The more I wrote, working on it, the more I realized it was not going to be a short story but instead a novella. I tweaked my goal to be: have the first draft of The Madeleine completed by year-end. For those of you who write you have probably already experienced this, but this was my first big project and holding the printed copy of The Madeleine so I could start editing was a pretty amazing feeling. I’ve started the editing process and suspect it will take me awhile. I’m starting 2015 so excited about this accomplishment; I’ve not yet set my writing goals for the year. I’m sure that will happen soon.
Expect to hear more about The Madeleine as my work progresses.
Best wishes for your goals and plans for 2015.
January always has many ‘new’ things to offer. This year we are seeing the snow that was lacking last January. I’ve taken some time to set not resolutions, but instead new goals for myself. I hope to be gentler with myself and have set expectations to challenge me, and keep me on target. I’m learning to embrace a new decade and realize truth never changes. I only get older one day at a time and my attitude about each day is what makes the difference! For some reason I lost sight of that truth momentarily as my birthday approached. I’m glad to have regained my sight and I’m looking forward to the adventures and surprises that both this year, and this decade hold for me. My greeting is a little late, but Happy New Year to all of you!
Summer has arrived! I’m loving it! The vastness of the sky, the green of the hills and the snow capped mountains are captivating. I’ve heard it does not get much greener than what we are experiencing this year. It matters not. This is my first year here and I’m appreciating every day. (The scene is the same location as my header for the blog so you can see the change from winter to summer.)
Growing up as a mid-western girl, I’m enjoying, astonished and overwhelmed with the western topography! The countryside is vast! There are such drastic changes in the landscapes. I have never been exposed to so much openness and ruggedness. In driving through North Western AZ on the way to CA, I have had the same thoughts impressed upon my mind every time we drive that way. The thoughts are different from each other, but consistently come to my mind.
…What is man that thou art mindful of him…. Hebrews 2:6 or Psalms 8:4
The heights of the cliffs and the depths of the canyons are so huge. I feel so little compared to this landscape. I stand in awe that the God who created all of this loves and cares for me. The drive always invokes increased appreciation for the love and care of God our Father.
The land is so rugged and unwelcoming it leaves me wondering about our forefathers who traveled west by mule, wagon or horse. How they were able to traverse this rugged land leaves me amazed. I also ponder what motivated them against such obstacles. I wonder about the woman who made these journeys; about what their thoughts were and what their lives looked like. I believe a future reading topic will include women pioneers of the west. I would like to understand this experience from a woman’s point of view.
There are so many things about the west that interest me, I suspect I will be standing in awe many times and finding new things to research or read about for a long time. That means probably writing about it also.
The 2012 drought increased the number of bear sightings in our area. I saw four black bears during the late summer/fall season. My first sighting was the one to leave the largest impression. I have thoughts and images of the day that will not soon be forgotten. I was able to put the day to words and the following article appeared in the Aspen Times. Since then, it has provided the springboard for other writings. I still find living so close to nature an enchanting aspect of living in the west.
Oh my! Another Bear Sighting….
“Did you see that,” I exclaimed! “There was a bear in the tree. We have to turn around.”
Tom turned and parked carefully under the overhanging branches at the very edge of the road. He opened the sunroof and turned on our hazard lights. It was late afternoon and sunlight was dancing on the leaves in the tree. Right there above us was a young bear, firmly seated within the fork of a branch, intently focused on snatching acorns from nearby branches. He was wasting no time in gobbling them up. At that moment, he reminded me of an oversized snuggly teddy bear. He was oblivious to us and any other passing vehicles. He had no idea he was the focus of multiple photos and a short video clip. The four of us in the vehicle were captivated watching this scene. He would snatch a mouthful from a limb, and use his paws to pick out the unwanted leaves or branches, which were quickly thrown to the ground. The pile of leaves and small branches accumulating on the road were evidence of how long he must have been in the tree. There was no sign of other bears in the area. I was surprised to one this close to a town and at this elevation. I heard bears were frequently seen at higher elevations.
Other approaching vehicles slowed to see what we were looking at. Some snapped photos as they drove by. The bear was disinterested in all the attention. We were getting ready to leave the site, as it appeared the bear had enjoyed his fill of acorns. His agility in scampering down from the tree was amazing. Tom was watching for traffic in his mirror when he noticed a rental RV parking, and the passengers disembarking with cameras in hand. They may have been the reason the bear came down from the tree. Initially he starting lumbering away in the opposite direction, then looked back over his shoulder at the people standing in the street. Turning, he looked intently at the scene. We were backing up, and the people were walking toward him. He stood on his hind feet taking four or five steps toward them before stopping to evaluate the scene again. It almost appeared he was challenging them. They scrambled back into their vehicle and after several moments the bear ambled away in the opposite direction. My ‘teddy bear’ image was quickly replaced with the reality of how large and powerful these creatures of nature are.
We all thought the experience was amazing. I was excited and thrilled. This was my first bear sighting after moving to the mountains. I was grateful to experience such an up-close and safe nature sighting of such a magnificent animal. I was also grateful for the realization of how powerful and quickly these creatures of nature can move, and that this is their domain. Recognizing it was a small bear, I wondered if there were others nearby. I pondered how far down into the valley they really do wander. I was equally surprised a family was willing to get out of their vehicle and approach this wild and un-caged bear on foot just to get a few photos. How much closer might they have gotten if the bear had not turned away and how would the headlines read?
We were on the Frying Pan. We had been busy chatting and enjoying the rock walls or magnificent drops to the valley below as we were driving. Various pine trees and gambel oaks were the primary trees in the area. We were with friends; they were directing us to one of their favorite spots, Chapman Lake. We planned a late afternoon hike and an evening picnic. We had just driven through Basalt and rounded a curve when we came upon this diversion to our trip.
We continued to our original destination. The wonders and magnitude of the mountains and surrounding countryside continued to amaze me. As beautiful as the hike was and the alluring atmosphere created at the lake as the sun started its decline for the night, the sighting of the bear was the highlight of the day’s adventure.
It was my last day at work. I had looked forward to this day with anticipation, yet it did not feel ‘real’ to me. A delicious cake had been baked in honor of this, my last day. There were meetings with both my immediate department co-workers and peers from other areas on campus. Everyone was pleasant, gracious and offered genuine good wishes for my future. My plans were to be picked up from work; go home and finish packing up the kitchen; doctor’s appointment in the morning; spend the night with friends; and the next morning head out on our cross-country move. Even with all those plans, it still felt like ‘just another day’ and I could not understand why! At the end of the day Tom arrived to help me carry things out of my office. Our car was nowhere to be seen. Instead he directed me to where a limo was parked. I was shocked. Tom reminded me I previously said, “I’ve never ridden in a limo.” I was a little surprised, but figured we would just take a limo ride. After the door opened and a car full of my friends yelled “SURPRISE” I was speechless. Even thinking of that afternoon leaves my eyes moist. It was an amazing time! We shared great appetizers from the Black Sheep restaurant with Champaign, stories, laughter and memories. My retirement felt ‘real’ for the first time in the limo with my friends. …and we made even more memories together. Every one was returned to their car. We went home and I completed packing up the kitchen. The limo ride with friends created a wonderful transitional highlight to mark the beginning of my retirement. That ride celebrating with friends made my retirement ‘real’ to me. That afternoon ride also taught me the truth about limos. Riding in a limo is not the big deal nor is just for important people; it is who you ride in the limo with and what you share that make it a big deal! Now when I see a limo, I wonder what and how the people inside are celebrating. It is friends who make life ‘real’! To my friends – again, thank you for the memories!
2012 is the year that could be summed up in one sentence, but that would not do provide much insight into what follows. 2012 was the year of changes! In looking back, it was also the year of the blur…. There was so much change going on, there was little time to appreciate or understand all the happenings. We relocated from the Wisconsin to Colorado – from living on a large lake to living in the mountains. I went from waking at 5:15 AM so I could spend my day working to being retired and in control of all my time. Along with the control of my own time, was the opportunity for us to start traveling, on our schedule, when we wanted. The first half of the year was spent in preparation for the ‘move’, and the second half of the year was spent understanding ‘this is my new life and home’. It took awhile for the reality of all the changes to catch up and feel natural. I joined a book club after arriving in Colorado and one of the first books I read was “A Woman’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” by Isabella Bird. Her excited and detailed expressions of the weather, the land structures and the air quality where in sync with the feelings I was experiencing. It was refreshing to see those feelings penned by someone else in a much earlier time.
By 2011, we had already created our own matrix for evaluating retirement locations. We also had pretty much eliminated locations east of the Mississippi River in search of a dryer environment for health reasons. What we did not expect was what the outcome of a spring business trip would be. I was being sent to Denver, CO to speak at and attend a National IT conference. We chose to coordinate a vacation with this trip and spend about ten days on the western slope visiting Tom’s brother and sister-in-law. I was captivated by the beauty of the area and did not want to leave! I found myself feeling healthier than I had felt in years. In short, we had a great time! Upon returning home, we added this location to our matrix and started some serious research. We changed our summer plans of traveling to Arizona and New Mexico, to traveling to Colorado, specifically, the western slope and determining if we enjoyed it as much as we had in March and to start looking at property. We enjoyed the second trip even more than the first! After returning to Wisconsin we started to market our home on the lake. At work, I told them we would be moving when our house sold. I had hoped they would use this time to cross-train someone. Instead, they were banking on the weak housing market and limited by hiring policies, did nothing to prepare for my departure. At home, we continued to research property in the area where we wanted to move and created another matrix for tracking information on those homes. We lived in a large home and decided we did not want the burden of moving all this ‘stuff’ cross-country and yet wanted to maintain a warm inviting feel in our current house. We started with the obvious things. Many went to our kids and then we started running ads to sell the rest. It was a weekly process of giving away, throwing away, selling something. During the down-sizing phase, I started to emotionally connect with people who had ‘moved west’ many generations earlier. It was a liberating, exciting and emotional process. By Christmas time, there had been several successful showings of our house and we had plans to drive back to Colorado in January to seriously look at property again.
It was early in 2010. Retirement was just around the corner. Tom would retire first, and then within two years I too, would retire. Our plan was to move after retirement. We recognized the house on the lake was a wonderful place, but the cost and work necessary to maintain the property was going to limit our ability to travel and participate in other activities of interest to us. Still, it all just seemed like a dream. Brunch with Tim, and his conversation about a friend who had moved to the San Juan Islands changed our attitude about retiring. That day was the turning point for us. We started thinking more seriously about retiring. We recognized, we were in control of what was going to happen and started in earnest to research and evaluate ‘where we really wanted to retire’. We spent much time on the computer and as much time as our schedules would permit traveling. The computer time was consuming and sometimes frustrating, but the dreaming and imagining us in the various locations was fun!