July 30, 2013 to Today!

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I was looking at my old, personal blog and found this entry from July 2013 — this house, with which I fell in love, is a block away from where I live now. I looked at it in August and it needs an incredible amount of work — too much for me to undertake — and the price has been dropped some $24k. But, I could not have known in July 2013 that I would actually and really, truly, live here. I hadn’t even seen the town! I would finally see Monte Vista on August 1, 2014, almost a year to the day I wrote this blog post.

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Thank you, California.

The first day on the road, coming through Arizona, I got to the top of a pass near the Verde Valley. There in front of me, north/northeast, was a scrap of a rainbow. A wide scrap. I drove and drove and drove and that scrap never moved, never faded. Finally the sun began to set and the rainbow vanished. I cruised into Flagstaff, tired and unsure where I was supposed to go next. I got a little lost but was saved by my phone. The next day I made it to Colorado.

But it wasn’t until this week I understood what really happened. I flew out to California in 1984 to check out San Diego where my then husband had been offered a job with Convair. Convair WAS located in the geographical location of the parking lot where I left my car in August written about in this blog post. The ex had been out of work for a while and desperately needed a job, so we left Denver — I didn’t want to — and moved to the land of oranges and sunshine. I spent the next thirty years of my life there; he left some 20 years ago.

I had some jaded, very mixed, feelings about the whole California experience. I felt used and lied to and mistreated and various other not positive things. I felt it unfair that I’d never gotten tenure and yet no one ever wanted me to stop teaching at their school. I was exhausted from teaching 7 classes/semester to make ends meet. A lot of things but the most continuous feeling was “Must work, must work, must make house payment” that kind of thing. When the moment came to retire, I was able to read at least some of the hand writing on the wall and I did; I retired, put my house on the market, it sold quickly, I left and I’m HOME again.

And I realized this…

If I had not left Colorado, if I had not worked for 30 years in California, paying into Social Security from an income I would not have earned in Colorado, paying into the California State retirement plan, if I had not worked so much…

I could not have retired here now. California, that land of sunshine and oranges did not bleed me dry. It allowed me to teach for 30 years in consistently challenging environments and different schools. I got to teach students from a wide, wide, WIDE variety of cultures and preparation levels and abilities. It gave me four very wonderful and different places to live. First there was a short stay in Coronado, a beautiful beach town. Then, I lived in a beautiful 1920s era apartment almost right across from Balboa Park between downtown and Hillcrest. From there, I moved to City Heights and spend seventeen years in a high-crime, low-income neighborhood surrounded by some of the most amazing people I will ever know in my life — during those days I got to be involved in the establishment of the largest urban wilderness park in the US and I became friends with the chaparral. For the past decade and change, I got to live in Descanso — in an incomparable and beautiful hand-built stone house in the mountains where I experienced wildfire, saw a puma,  bobcats and deer, hiked with my Siberian huskies in thigh-high snow, cross-country skied from winter to spring and back again, and got to know my beloved neighbors, la familia Lopez and, for the first time, I really got to know a horse.<3 Brownie.

Most of all, maybe, and this is what I have just realized, California gave me a retirement income that made my return to Colorado possible AND I get to live in a place that is, for me, a dream come true.

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When I first moved to San Diego, I was looking in the paper for a job. I saw two ads for ESL teachers. I answered both and was offered both. I accepted one, at the American Language Institute. There I met and taught people from all over the world AND I made two of my very best friends. Later that day, I walked on the beach and a guy I’d met once or twice before asked how things were going. I told him I had already gotten two job offers. He said, “That’s California. Some people come here and get oranges. Some people come here and are the Joads.” I definitely got oranges. Thank you, California.

 

Long Day on the Road but BEAUTIFUL

Traveling with a blind dog is not easy, especially one who’s 14 years old and has lived in one place for 11 years, but she seems to like the journey as long as she knows where I am. I’m in South Fork, Colorado where I expect to be for three weeks — EXPENSIVE but so far it’s what I have. I can change my reservation, but at least I have a place to live for the time being and my dogs — who’ve been free to roam in and out of my house and yard whenever they want — are now getting serious leash training. One of them doesn’t need it; another might not need it long but I’m afraid that for Lily I am a Seeing Eye Human. It’s pitiful and inspiring at the same time to watch her. One thing is I will not be able NOT to sleep with them for a while or to leave them behind until they get their bearings.

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I drove through the high desert north of Flagstaff, stopping at Tuba City to walk the dogs and get a milkshake at Denny’s. I must have looked pretty fagged out because the girl behind the counter said, “Are you OK?” I told her I was just tired. She was — I don’t know. I have always liked Indians. As long as I can remember I’ve felt happy to be with Indians — my mom was a teacher on the Crow Reservation in Montana so stories and photos of people she’d taught and known and worked with were part of my growing up, as were members of the tribe. Every time in my life I’ve been in a situation where I got to work with Indians, I’ve loved it. I have no idea why and don’t think I’ll look for some explanation since it would probably be fiction and who cares? But yesterday and today were sweetened by the fact that I spent most of the day on the Navajo and Ute reservations and my superficial contact with people was all with them. The girl at Denny’s brought me out my milk shake and handed it to me, putting her hand on my shoulder saying, “Don’t go to sleep, OK?” It was a blessing, or so it felt.

I drove on US HWY 160 (where my town is located) all the way from there, across the south end of Monument Valley (amazing…) through the town of Kayenta where I stayed with some students of mine back in 1994 — 20 years ago! The beautiful hotel where we stayed is now run down and tired, and maybe I am too. Seems like it when you look at pictures of then and pictures of now!

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After MANY hours and amazing scenery, I entered Colorado. At this point in the journey, it didn’t look like “Colorful” Colorado, not in this photo, but all around the horizon are amazing rock formations. Since it was unbearably hot, and I needed to walk the dogs, I didn’t take time for photos, just for this one to mark the moment of returning to the state where I was born.

After another hour or more, a trip through Pagosa Springs (which is lovely and I want to go back) I was heading up to Wolf Creek Pass, which goes over these mountains, sort of to the right behind the trees in the distance.

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I had not been over it before but had heard scary stories. At the bottom is a waterfall I couldn’t stop to see today — though I caught a glimpse. Wow… The pass going east was empty — and it’s beautiful, wide and well designed. Other passes — Berthoud and Arapahoe — are much worse. Lily didn’t like it, but… It rained, of course, but that only made it more fun. I grew up driving over these things and it was just fun to do a thing I’m kind of good at.

The mountain sides had two things happening — in the higher elevations, the terrible toll of the beetle kill was everywhere. MOST of the lodgepole and other tall pines are dead. The same miserable creature is killing the oaks in the mountains of California because of the drought. This year, Colorado has had a lot of rain which has washed the dead needles off the pines and will help the new pines get a good start. In other plant news, the aspen are turning. This is an event in my native state and people get in their cars (or used to, maybe now they just go on Facebook) to see the aspen. I was melancholy (summer’s over) and thrilled at the same time, but I got no photos. Maybe one of these days after the business of this coming week is done.

After the pass, which was fun, it was down hill to the little town where I’m staying tonight, South Fork. I’m in a 2 bedroom cabin where I will probably stay until my house deal closes.

The dogs are calmer than last night. I am hoping they have no digestive problems (as one of them had last night) resulting in my starting my day with a horrible cleaning job… Poor things. Two nights in a kennel (strange new food) then a long day in a strange car on the road for the first time EVER, then sharing a room in a Motel 6 — next time I would not do that to them. I would get them a room in the fanciest hotel in Sedona which is actually so DOG friendly it’s DOG encouraging. Then my dogs would have had a yard last night instead of the hell they went through.

 

On the Road

So the dogs and I took off the morning in a rented Grand Caravan and drove across the Arizona desert. I have to say, it’s greener than California; it’s positively lush. But the southern part was hot and that made it hard to walk the dogs. We stopped at a rest stop before El Centro and first I walked myself and then the dogs — the dogs are Dusty, Mindy and Lily. Dusty is a very nervous, large neutered male dog I’ve had since he was 7 months old. He’s a basket case but starting to be able to accept that novelty isn’t necessarily bad. Mindy, a 10 year old, overweight (thyroid problem) Aussie with the most friendly and wise and calm and optimistic nature in the world, and Lily, my 14 year old blind and deaf and severely arthritic Siberian husky. I actually considered putting her to sleep before I moved, but I just couldn’t. She went along with every weird turn of affairs in the house selling process with joy and equanimity. Possibly her blindness acts like the glasses Zaphod Beeblebrox wore in the Infinite Perspective Vortex.

My worst fears happened at that first rest stop. Lily somehow got out of the van. I thought the doors were fully shut, but one of them was open just a little bit and she slipped out. I was on the phone having one of those panic stricken calls with the credit union who wanted confirmation that I really did want to wire the enormous sum of $500 to a bank in Monte Vista CO. I was on hold. I saw an old Siberian husky who looked very similar to Lily, wandering around nose to the ground. I thought, “Who would let their Siberian wander like that in a place like this?” I looked quickly for the dog’s people then I realized it was my dog. I think this all took less than 2 minutes. I lept (as well as I could) out of the car and of course then Dusty and Mindy noticed the open door. Dusty ran like a flash to Lily. I intercepted Mindy and got her back in. Dusty came back when I called him and jumped in the van. I shut the door. I ran, as well as I could, to my dog who, fortunately, can not run either. I yelled at some people, “Could you get my dog? I can’t run!” They did.

So scary… She was scared and she’s acting odd now that we’re at the kennel at which people can sleep, the formerly warm friendly and relatively attractive Motel 6 which is no longer attractive but… The 90’s were a while back.

I really love Arizona. It’s beautiful and the people are nice, down to earth, and I like Navajos and there are many here.

Very tired, but it was a good day, especially when we got into the BEAUTIFUL and incredibly fascinating Verde Valley where I’ve had many great adventures in other times. I’m proud of my dogs. I’m proud of Dusty for going to rescue Lily and for coming when I called him.

 

Liberation Day

Air conditioning. Wow. For the last week (packing and throwing out and cleaning and packing and box wrestling and on and on and on) it’s been over 100 for a good part of the day with high humidity. Strange weather for the San Diego region, and stranger still for the mountains east of the city. The motel — the Lamplighter — is, of course, air conditioned.

This morning I slept in until 7. This past week, in order to do my work while it was cool enough to work, I’ve gotten up at 4 or 5 every morning, so this feels luxurious. I have nothing to do this morning but get my balance. In a little while I’ll go meet the guy who’s going to transport my car to Colorado and I’ll go down to the airport and get a rental car.

It’s a nice trend in recent years that American hostelries have begun doing what European hotels have done for a long time — provide breakfast. My first experience of this was in Munich where “Frühstück” was part of the deal. This morning I made my coffee (I have a small Italian espresso maker with which I always travel) and went down to get breakfast. I brought it back up to my room and did the Daily Prompt. It was a pleasure knowing that there is no longer a gun at my head, that my house belongs to someone else, and now all I have to do is get to Colorado.

I did miss Dusty, though. He always finishes my coffee.

Goodbye House

Got up at 4 to deal with more box wrestling — a lot of things in our world are not designed for short people. It’s hard (when you’re close to the ground) to lift anything very high. I had to wrestle my small flat screen TV into a very complicated system invented by U-Haul to protect it. I think it will work, but it’s a one-size-fits-all deal and my tv is about as small as they come… Before 9, I had nearly run out of tape (again)… At 9 Thomas and another guy (his dad?) arrived. They are Fearless Movers. I loved that Fearless Movers were the guys sent by the U-Box affiliate Moving Help. Ever since my real estate agent said I was brave, I’ve been wondering if I should be afraid… I guess I have been a little afraid but mostly that I would run out of money before I could sell my house.

But… It was listed July 25. That’s only 7 weeks ago. It happened fast.

Thomas of Fearless Movers (he should be fearless; he’s a 250 pound 6’6″ African American defensive end kind of looking guy) took my bike. It isn’t new, but it’s hardly been ridden. It’s for his daughter. At that point, I started to cry. Something about giving bikes to kids gets me weepy and THAT bike was bought during the time of the evil X and I never liked riding it. Knowing that it’s going to a little girl (it’s a short person’s bike) who will like it took the bad  ju-ju off the bike and I was happy for the future it will have.

1I spent several hours (8) cleaning and packing the car and taking the dogs to the kennel where they’ll be until I take off Friday morning. It was liberating to close the door, knowing there was nothing more I could do, and drive away. I loved my house and I loved the dream I had when I moved there, but it didn’t really pan out. I made some mistakes and the world changed, still, I always felt that house was more than a roof and walls. It has a soul and it loved me. More than once it helped me and it helped me again. Since it was made by hand of local rocks, it’s never been (for me) just a house. It’s a piece of the mountain it sits on. I know the new owners will love it, and if they don’t, they won’t stay long.

So now I’m in a motel near the university where I taught for most of 30 years. It’s convenient and nice and I knew I could find it. 😉 And, it’s air-conditioned.

And, today we made an offer on the house in Monte Vista and it was accepted! I’m very happy about that!

Overall, I’m humbled and happy at the tremendous kindness I’ve met in every direction, from my pharmacist who maneuvered with the insurance company to give me 3 months of my meds, to my real estate agent and her boss who have been more than business partners through this; they’ve been real allies and friends, to Shawn who’s hauling my car and has arranged his schedule to fit mine just because he loves dogs; my agent/friend in Colorado who’s gone above and beyond to help me out — even the guy at the box store gave me discounts on boxes. In all honesty, this has not been the friendliest place in the world over the years, but right now it’s a warm and shining benediction. I will miss it even though it’s time to go.