A Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

By Leslie

Memorial Day weekend 2017 was memorable in many, many ways!

The Friday preceding the weekend I had surgery for very localized breast cancer. When the diagnosis became apparent the preceding week, I almost – actually initially – had deferred surgery. But, on reflection, that did not seem like a wise course of action.

You see, I had promised a friend of mine that she and her beau could get married in our house the Monday of Memorial Day weekend. And that was not a promise to break!

To be candid, I did not feel terrific over the weekend, but gradually, of course, improved. Monday arrived and, although not bursting with energy, I was ready for the wedding – especially after being able to take my first shower since surgery. There were about ten of us and, after a bit or rearrangement of the living room, and “beautifying” the Arizona room and dining room tables, and living room with flowers, we were ready for the festivities. It really was lovely, and the food and drink just slid right down. But most of all, it was terrific to see a good friend as happy as she was – and is. And, in retrospect, having the wedding in our house, although a ton of work for my husband Bill, may have been just what the doctor ordered to speed up my recovery.

How lucky can you be!

June 2017

July 4th!

By Leslie

I love July 4th! It is one of those universal holidays – like Thanksgiving and Memorial Day – that transcends all races, all religions, all beliefs, and can be celebrated by the able-bodied and the disabled, young and old.

In former days I loved to watch the fireworks “live.” A special treat while living in St Louis was watching a phenomenal celebration of the U.S. bicentennial live on the water front with fireworks gloriously reflected in the water of the Mississippi. In Tucson, for the first years we were here, we watched the fireworks display put on by the Tucson Racquet Club. But . . . then they ceased. For awhile we watched the A Mountain fireworks from afar. Now . . . we observe the incredibly moving fireworks – July 4th Celebration – televised on PBS.

Although, not the same as watching fireworks live, fireworks seen on PBS are always a reminder of how great this country was and is, regardless of the destructive political rhetoric heard so often during this election year. They also remind us to support that outstanding source of information and entertainment – PBS, a network “of the people, by the people, and for the people!”

July 2016

Nana, Abuelo, Tuchi and Blue

By Fernando

It is “tooo-chee”…

Nana’s husband, nicknamed “Bronce” for his swarthy complexion, one in stark contrast to his closest kin, died as a relatively young man. He left four children, the youngest age two. His widow, “Chonita”, would become Nana to their grandchildren, and until she died in 1964, the link for much of what we learned of their early ranching lives. Her husband became “Abuelo” in the telling of the stories, his privilege of hearing “Tata” or “Abuelo” from their grandchildren ending with his death from typhus in 1915.

Our Abuelo, an active businessman with roots and wide connections in his community of ranchers, mine owners, and civically active kin and friends, reveled in his family role and responsibility. He indulged an affinity for animals and their lives . . . he wondered if dogs could talk, would the closeness of friendships with humans still be possible? As to horses, he indulged his ability to afford blooded stock . . . of course some of that was to show his status, but Nana soon found that he bonded, that word not yet in the common vocabulary, not just with such as “his Blue”, a dapple-grey gelding, but with animals such as the ranch’s tough mustangs, his two dogs, and even the chickens which she, with raised eyebrows, said went serenely into their ocotillo and wire coop at sunset only when he was at home. Only then.

Today he might be considered a whisperer. True, Abuelo’s awareness was special but much less so among other ranchers and country people of that era. Like orchids in the desert, many of Nana’s contemporaries seemed able to extract and apply survival awareness from just air.

She believed that Abuelo’s closeness to horses seemed tied to their being “worth their oats,” which resulted in many “favorites”. But Blue, his blooded, classy, sassy, and no one’s horse but his, was far and away “the one”. Nana, perhaps an orchid, was aware of this, and for both Blue and family this was to prove a good thing.

One day in late 1911, Abuelo was away at one of the mines when a hatless boy of ten arrived at the main ranch at a gallop on a freely sweating horse. He told Nana that armed foragers from some warring faction or the other were headed her way, trail driving and gathering up livestock for their band. The livestock in her corrals were few and not of life-risk value to protect, but Blue was in his shaded paddock. Nana, knowing that the macho bandits would not deign to enter a woman’s area such as her large high-ceilinged kitchen, calmly brought in the sassy Blue through doors barely adequate to his girth and height, and provided him oats and sour dough bread as the foragers ran off with about fifteen head of stock, mostly steers.

It was Mexico, Northern Sonora, around 1912-14, and things were in the turmoil of civil war or revolution, albeit intermittently. Abuelo had months earlier sent Nana and his then three children, north to Arivaca, in the new state of Arizona, to relative safety . . . no pun intended. Included in the move was his pet coatimundi, “Tuchi”, who per family lore had, as a kit to be weaned, cost three 30-30 carbine shells. He grew into a tame, slightly chubby but not cuddly household member. Tuchi was on occasion cat skittish, and always so about his two-foot-long ringed tail.

Our folklore, some of this also from his oldest child, my aunt, also had it that Tuchi was the endearing form of his real name, Metuchi, which means inquisitive, leaning well towards irritatingly inquisitive, nosey. And, that his white-nose-twitching intrusiveness had lead him to learn to appreciate sweet pastry and saguaro jam, but also beer and spirits, offered or licked from glasses and table tops. It was rumored that Tuchi could become really touchy after indulging.

Abuelo (Fernando II) stayed in Sonora to help attend to his family’s (Fernando I and other sons) ranching and commercial interests and would ride northeast from one of their ranches 30-35 miles, cross the border and visit his family when tensions were down.

Given the desert’s severities and the distance, he stopped at ranchitos on the way to gab, gather fodder for future stories, for platica, and to rest, water and pamper Blue. He would also assure the ranchito kids got a hard candy or two. The social networking ride would take hours, depending on urgency, weather, or gossiping. Most trips would be over-night, as accepting a humble ranch families’ late afternoon invitation to remain the night and have early morning coffee, was near obligatory.

On one of the trips to see my Nana (then a young woman) and his three (to later be four) kids, he arrived in Arivaca early one Sunday morning to find Nana with an unusually stern, yet anxious look on her face. She told us she was quick to let him know as he dismounted from Blue, that the kids were fine, before she told him “Tuchi is dead.” His dear pet of several years was dead. Knowing her husband, she had made sure its bloody body was promptly buried and out of sight.

Nana, by now a widow of 40+ years, noted in her retelling, that Tuchi had also learned that every so often the buffalo soldiers stationed nearby would uproariously celebrate as soldiers do, with free-flowing booze. The fact that the most uproarious events coincided with paydays was likely lost on Tuchi, who nonetheless had his timing down. On occasion, coincidentally (?) when Abuelo was not around, Tuchi had gone to celebrate with the soldiers who were freely accommodating of his inquisitiveness and thirst. He would return home none the worse for wear, smelling of his pleasures.

On this arrival, Abuelo was told Tuchi had returned home from this last drinking stint with the soldiers obviously severely beaten, and had quickly died. Explosively enraged on hearing of the innocent Tuchi’s painful and disrespectful treatment, he remounted, reaching for his saddle bag clasp to liberate what we later came to believe was a Colt 41 Caliber revolver, as Nana yanked on Blue’s rein, startling a snort from the gelding, a stranger to sudden bit pain.

Abuelo silently, slowly dismounted and loosened Blue’s cinch, before Nana released the rein, and laid a tender touch on his arm, without even a whisper.

June 2017

Our Cabin on Mt Lemmon

By Vicki

We wanted to escape the heat of Tucson summer, so we rented a cabin on Mt Lemmon. It was an older cabin – homey and very comfortable. We were on a paved road that led down to the village of Summerhaven, but we couldn’t see the village from our front porch. So we felt like we were really in the wilderness, kind of. It was between a ¼ and ½ mile into the village, a nice walk that we did several times a day. Going in the other direction from our cabin, the road passed 5 or 6 other cabins and then the paving ended and a nice wide trail went on from there. I think the trail probably led up to the summit and the ski area.

We took our dog, Hobbes, with us. He didn’t seem to relax much when we were inside (he is kind of a home body and he missed his own home), but he loved being outdoors and the roads and wide paths worked well for him. Our cabin was on a hill, so we had to climb a flight of stairs to get to it. Hobbes wouldn’t or couldn’t go up the stairs, so we experimented with different routes up the hill to the house. We finally found the easiest one for him, which involved some climbing over rocks but it was probably good for him to get that kind of exercise.

While our cabin was older and really very cabin-like, there were some newer and larger homes on our road. These buildings really stretch the definition of ”cabin.” Some of these newer ones were huge 2 or 3 story buildings with multiple windows and balconies – they looked more like mansions that just happened to be situated in the forest. I think the new “cabins” had all been built after the 2003 Aspen fire that burned so much of Summerhaven. It was pretty easy to identify the cabins that had survived the fire, like the one we stayed in, and the ones that were built in replacement. It was nice to stay in one of the older ones.

We got the cold temperatures that we were seeking. It was cold and rainy the first night we were there. We even had to turn on the heater. It rained a little more the next morning and then the sun came out. There had been a lot of rain on the mountain this summer, so everything was very green and the fire danger was very low. There were wildflowers everywhere, which was such a pleasant surprise for me.

My brother drove over from Albuquerque to join us. So that made everything perfect. We didn’t do a lot – just talked, explored, ate, read and slept. I think we were all in bed by 8:30 the first night. It was so great just to be there and not have anything we had to do, but sit on our lovely porch, smell the fresh forest air and relax.

August 2016

Friend or Foe

By Sally

Oh friend or foe
tell me where art thee
so I would know
what way to paint the arrow of my love.

Which direction should I go
to see thee in my eyesight
that I may see the arrow of my
thoughts come upon you?

As a flash of love – yet so close to anger
for I beseech thee
oh the one of my attention
that you would set yourself in my eyesight
so I may show you my intention.

Praise be glory! Oh my God
that my anger has turned to love
and forgiveness has filled my heart.

For you, oh friend of mine, shall no longer
feel my hurt and anger – but be filled
with the love that has overtaken my heart.

For our God of Glory – peace and love has
put His arms around me and told me that He
loved me and filled me with such
feelings that there is no room for anger
within my heart.

As I beseech thee, oh friend, to forgive me of my wrong direction.

April 2017

Arrows

By Vicki

I have a Zen Buddhist teacher who talks about the 1st and 2nd arrows. He explains that when something disagreeable, unpleasant or bad happens to you, like having a flat tire or breaking your leg, that is the 1st arrow. The first arrow will hurt, or at least annoy you. But it is the 2nd arrow – your reaction to the circumstance of the 1st arrow that can really be the problem. For example, if you get a flat tire (the 1st arrow) and it makes you mad and you kick that tire and break your foot (2nd arrow) – it is the 2nd arrow that caused the real pain. Similarly, if you break your leg, this is a bigger 1st arrow than the tire, and it can be painful and debilitating. But if you rage against it or get depressed about it, then your attitude, the 2nd arrow, can make the situation worse. The 2nd arrow, the anger, worry, fear, aversion that follow, can be worse than the 1st arrow and can expand the pain and sometimes make it impossible to get beyond the situation.

This was very clearly demonstrated for me with a friend I have. I walked her dog twice a week for a several years and we would have long lively talks over coffee after those walks. I looked forward to visiting her and those talks. I was walking her dog because she could no longer walk her. Over the time I was walking her dog, due to several medical conditions, she was becoming more and more limited in her movement and independence. Eventually she had to move into an assisted living facility and she had to use an electric wheelchair. The loss of her mobility, her independence, her life as she knew it made her so unhappy. She had been a really vibrant active and caring person who did a lot for other people. But as she changed, I could see that she became more focused on herself and that she became consumed by anger about her situation and jealousy about other’s lives. It got so I didn’t want to go see her because she was so unhappy and negative about everything. Her situation was bad, there was no denying that, but the anger didn’t make it better. In fact, the anger pushed people away and made it worse for her in so many ways.

About 4 months ago, after several hospital stays, she was put on home hospice care. Hospice helped control her pain and ended the many doctor’s visits that she hated. The interesting thing is that now she is so much happier and serene. I mentioned this to her – that I had noticed that she seemed more content and comfortable now and happy to see visitors. She said it was true that the anxiety and worry she had before was gone. She has quit fighting her situation, she had quit worrying about things and her anger was gone. She has let go of that 2nd arrow. The first arrow is still there, but her attitude about herself and her life has changed drastically.

In thinking about this topic, I realize that people in our writing group are wonderful examples of letting go of the 2nd arrow. I see optimism and focusing outward—concern and caring for others, where there could be negativity and focusing inward. So I want to thank you for being such good life role models for me.

July 2016

Wake Up Call

By Sally

This has been an interesting morning. After talking with a friend my phone rang. I looked at the caller number and it said, “Private number,” so I answered the call.

A man was talking and I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He had a foreign accent that took over every word he was saying. This immediately put doubts in my mind. I kept asking him where was from.

“The US Treasury Department,” is what I finally understood.

“Okay,” I said, “so what’s your problem?”

He started with “You have been selected . . .” and that confirmed my doubt –- it was a scam, and I immediately hung up.

Now I can just picture the US Treasury Department sitting around throwing darts at a list of names to call. Sure!

Then a few minutes later another call came in – from Florida. Since I know no one in Florida, I declined the call. I then called the number back to see who it was, and it said, “Sorry, we cannot accept your call at this time.” So that ended that.

Well, lo and behold, a few minutes later, yes again, my phone rang. I answered and some lady asked for someone I didn’t know. This number wouldn’t be given any thought, but it’s called me several times before and when I tried to call back no one answered.

So, I hope all of you will be aware that the scammers are out going strong. Be careful! Hey, why not have fun with them? While on the phone, ask them a few real good questions and see how long they stay on the line with you.

March 2017