Arizona Here We Come – December 2018

Sunday December 30: Snow and forecast for snow storms delay our departure from Monticello, Utah, but we finally make our get-away on December 30th. We finish packing, say good-bye to our place, and by mid-morning we are on our way. It is 13 degrees and the landscape is snowy, but the highways are clear.

Good-bye to snow-covered Abajo Mountains
Heading south
Rugged Arizona mesas

Due to the forecast for a big snow storm in region of Flagstaff, Arizona, we push on through Flagstaff and make it all the way to Seligman, Arizona, along I-40.

Last view of the San Francisco Peaks at Flagstaff

It was a super long day’s drive for us – 350 miles, but we needed to get far enough west to be out of the storm.

A truck stop in Seligman provides a place for us to set up for the night. It is chilly enough that we use the furnace for the first time to warm Cougar up a bit, but we are dismayed that we can’t get the fridge to light. Maybe too cold? I wanted to play viola and write in the journal, but I am too tired. Since the bed is cold, I nap on the couch until Clifford, the night owl, is ready to go to bed.

Monday December 31: I wake up about 7:00, don warm clothing, and walk across the dark parking lot to the restroom at the truck stop. When I get back to Cougar, I am too awake to go back to bed, so start making tea for the thermoses. By time Clifford gets up a short while later, it has started to snow here. That was not part of our plan! So Clifford skips his shower and we pull out as soon as we can.

Mountain in the background, west of Seligman, obscured by falling snow

For the next 50 miles we are driving in a snow storm, which wouldn’t have been so bad except for towing a trailer. Certainly not ideal conditions, but Clifford is steady, and I don’t make any moves that might distract him. We are nearly out of the storm before I feel okay about taking a few photos of this rather scenic drive.

This is when it starts to get better!
Snowy but scenic drive

As we near Kingman, the snow lets up and we stop at a Petro truck stop for gas; the gas in Seligman was highway robbery, which we decided not to give in to, but it did mean running a bit closer than comfortable to the empty mark. In Kingman, lunch at Cracker Barrel is a treat and then we stop at Walmart for supplies. What a zoo! We could hardly find a spot big enough to park our rig so we could go in to shop.

Heading south out of Kingman, still on I-40, at the junction to highway 95, we pull into a Love’s truck stop for the night. It is cold out, but with the furnace and burners on, we are quite comfortable. We have a restful night here, glad to be out of the snow and eager to reach our destination tomorrow.

A Walk in the Mountains

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A walk in the forest begins in the sunlight

While folks around the country have had more snow and wintery weather than ever and are weary of it, we in the Silver Valley of northern Idaho have had little.  So, my friend Sally and I drive up the road – literally to higher elevation – and then hike up the Pulaski Trail – we don’t go far enough to really call it a hike, even though it is a hiking trail – to even higher elevation….  and revel in the beauty of winter.

It was 15 degrees this morning, but blue sky above and and sunny where the sun’s rays reach into the valley.  The first part of the trail is in the sunlight, but we are soon walking in shade and snow on the trail.

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Icy edges on Placer Creek

Hiking along Placer Creek, we see some very enchanting ice formations.

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Ice formations hanging from a log over Placer Creek

Photography is a bit tricky with the low light and high contrast between snow and the almost-black water of the creek.  In spite of that, it is a delight to be here.  At the half-mile mark is my favorite waterfall, a fairlyland all mossy and green in the summer, but in the chill of the last days of winter, it is enchanting in quite a different way.

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Fairyland Falls in winter

We both would have like to have gone further, but Sally is in the process of moving and I am packing for our first road trip since last fall.  So, we turn back and soon see sunshine before us, beyond the grasp of the cold and winter-wonderland that we have briefly enjoyed.

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Sunlight ahead

A Journey to Visit Modern Mountain Woman

Thanks to the milder than normal January here in northern Idaho and western Montana, I decide to make a trip over Lookout Pass to visit my daughter, Ang, who lives off-grid and blogs as Modern Mountain Woman.  I take it easy going over the pass as it is hard to tell melting snow runoff from black ice in the shady spots.  Once down the other side, the highway is clear and I make good time.

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Clark Fork River

It is tempting to stop and take photos of the Clark Fork River, but I am eager to get on up to the cabin.  Once off the highway, road conditions deteriorate somewhat.  The state highway out of the village is mostly clear, but a little icy in spots; the road up the mountain begins as snowpack and mud, but soon turns into a sheet of ice topped with a layer of water.  Nice and easy does it right to the driveway, which is a steep upward turn.  Ang and friends have not been able to get up to the cabin, even with chains, but I am not crazy about carrying all my stuff – clothes, food and books to share, and a cello – up the icy driveway, so I decide to see if I can make it up to the cabin.  Well, you gotta love a Subaru with good tires!

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From cabin looking down the driveway

The next few mornings are spent enjoying the first light of the day, sharing French press coffee, talking about books we are reading, the writing contests she is planning on entering, sacred geometry, and manifesting.

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Morning sun beams

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Sunlight on the trees

Over the next several days, numerous bonfires are built – no easy task with everything outdoors either still under snow or wet from the humidity and the rain that fell softly one night – and deadfall is burned to begin a clearing process to let light into the forest and to create an opening for terraced gardens, greenhouse, and chickens come summer.

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Getting the bonfire going with damp and green wood

One morning while Ang is working for the neighbor down the road, James and I have a fire making contest.  Each of us had a fire pit and worked to see who could get a good fire going first.  Although I had some flames at one point, James didn’t fare any better, and it was only when Ang returned that we had a really good bonfire.

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Fire building winner is the modern mountain woman

Wood is cut and other chores are attended to.  James and I play cello together, the first time doing a duet for him.

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Ang cuts wood for the cabin’s wood stove

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James gets a haircut

We visit with friends and family.   Sometimes we drive out in my car and sometimes brave folks drive up to the property, walking through the woods to join us at a bonfire.

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Friends come for a visit

Most evenings we go down to the next door neighbor’s place, as he is not quite so off-grid and has internet, electricity, and running water.  We take care of business involving the internet, take showers, and share a meal while we watch Stargate. Back at the cabin, peaceful evenings lead into quiet nights except for the puppy and the cat when they get restless.

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Ang with Boots and Thor (naughty but oh-so-cute puppy)

The cabin is cozy; I sleep on the bench/bed that will one day be part of the rocket stove, which will be built before next fall.   I can look out the window and see stars on the clear nights, little solar lights, and the embers of a recent bonfire.  I am delighted to be surrounded by great tall trees in the daytime and complete darkness at night except for these small gentle sources of light .

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Evening bonfire that will soon die to embers

Although I probably could not live totally off-grid by myself, I enjoy the opportunity to share a few days in the life of a modern mountain woman.  Tomorrow I will head for home; the next day Clifford will return from his business trip to California, and soon we will be able to take the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer) on a camping trip, our own version of living off-grid.

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With errands to run, Ang trucks on down the icy road to town

Journey to the Creek; Journey Inward

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Finally, some real snow – light and fluffy, and enough to make the landscape new and magical.  Oh, we’ve had some snow and cold, but just enough to make walking icy and slow.  This time, however, it is irresistible for a photographer.  So, I bundle up, drape the camera over my shoulder and head out.  As I walk to the edge of town several blocks away, there are many beautiful snow-covered trees, but power lines and buildings spoil every photo that I want to take.  Once outside of town, I walk alongside the edge of the road, shuffling through the snow, keeping my distance from the traveled portion of the road.  It is a relief to be away from power lines and fences and driveways.  It is even better when I am far enough out of town to be beyond the concrete canal that encloses Placer Creek to make sure it behaves during spring run-off.

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Now I can walk along the bank above the creek.  And here it is that I take photos and more photos, loving the dark movement of the creek against the purity of the white snow and backed by snow-covered trees, dark and mysterious.

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As I walk and observe and take photos, I am thinking about my life at this moment.  Healing is a complex process.  It isn’t just a matter of incisions drawing closed, the simple healing of a wound.  The deeper wound is “how could this have happened?”  How do I know it will not happen again?  It took me so by surprise – I who had not been to a doctor in over 20 years – faced with a life-threatening condition.

A new lease on life has been given to me, but here I am, waking up with anxiety and going through my day with a sense of weariness.  Even though I approached all the procedures as openly as possible, seeing the process not as a war against cancer but as a journey back to wellness,  I still feel battle-weary.  Where does this weariness come from?  It occurs to me that even though I am busy every day, getting caught up with bookwork and housework that has fallen behind in the last several month, as well as helping out more with my husband’s non-profit, this busy-ness is without enthusiasm and sense of purpose.

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I KNOW what my purpose at this time in my life is, but I can’t seem to accomplish it in a meaningful way here and now.  I’ve always been a person with my ducks in a row, but now I feel that I’m floundering in a life that isn’t my own true life.  It is most uncomfortable.  Perhaps a time of being lost in the desert is okay, or even good and necessary, but it is still uncomfortable.   I have spent too much of my life being in resistance to “what is” – a long and difficult first marriage, more recently a move that has left me longing for a home that is no longer my home, and my family still too far away to give and receive the hugs we all need.

Placer Creek Snow 045It is a leap of faith to be totally accepting of this present state of affairs, to lovingly embrace my life as it is, with all of its uncertainties and ducks running amuck.  I want to be like this creek as it flows toward the sea, flowing effortlessly over and around the rocks in its way.  I want to be joyfully alive and surrounded by beauty.  This is my gift to share: seeking, finding, and sharing beauty.  So I will accept the floundering and look for the beauty in each and every day (and ignore the ducks as best I can).