Wednesday, December 29, 2010

lost and found

Having not, as I mentioned in a recent post, read Lorrie Moore for many years, I find myself snowed in and feasting on her latest, A Gate at the Stairs. While it took me a while to really get into it (as will happen when one tries to start a book at Christmas time, I suppose), I'm already racking up a list of favorite lines. Among them:

"The January day was blue, sun sparkling off the evergreens, the air clear as a bell; it was state-of-the-art light, as noon in January sometimes could be: not rich but pale and cleansing as lemon wine." (p.78)

Later, in coming spring, a "hot lemony sun" makes an appearance - and there's a lot of classic, but somehow also more knowing Moore throughout, as if she's been there, done that and is still alive to tell the story. By the end of the novel? Well, frankly, I was getting too weepy to pick and choose favorite lines.

Frankly, it's like the return of an old friend who dropped off the map and was more or less given up for lost.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

gone egg noggin'

I'll be out and about, perusing the wide, mad world for the next...oh, ten days or so. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the holiday season, and I'll catch you on the flip side of 2010. In the meantime, there's this:

"But the real life of a writer resides in showing up at the keyboard every day, with the necessary patience and mercy, and making the best decisions you can on behalf of your people. It’s a slow process. It often feels hopeless, more like an affliction than an art form.

Most of us will have to find our readers one by one, in other words, and against considerable resistance. If anything qualifies us as heroic, it’s that private perpetual struggle.

Put down the magazine, soldier. Forget about the other guy. Remember who you are."

~Steve Almond, The Rumpus

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

empty chairs, empty patches of sunlight

At this time of year it's so easy to think, talk and post about the food and the shopping and the get-togethers and the decorating - all of it seemingly required for the holidays to go smoothly. People are trying to stick to a budget, to manage their December calendars, to watch the calories and strategize travel plans all the while stressing out over the economy. It can get crazy and distracting, and it can wind us up for the big, post-holiday crash. Beyond that, it can make us forget about the pain some people are bearing at this "most wonderful time of the year."

I know, I know. I usually try to keep the blog light and optimistic. And I really do love Christmas - really, I do. So, don't think I'm trying to bring the blogosphere down or anything. But I have dear friends and family who have lost loved ones in just the past couple of days, and my heart is heavy for them. This goes both ways, since their hearts have been heavy on my behalf when I've endured my own losses as well.

And as much as we don't want it to be so, as much as we want the season to be pure Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy (that's a Ren & Stimpy reference for those of you who didn't know), that's not always the case, and Grief can be a most unwelcome holiday house guest for adults and kids alike. For some, Grief is an empty chair at the table. For others it's an empty patch of sunlight on the floor, the favorite spot of a furry friend now gone.

So, this is a reminder to myself as much as it is to anyone else: Give an extra hug when you have the chance. Lend your ear for an extra minute to listen. And, most of all, celebrate the people and the pets and the moments that bring you joy. We're all in this together.

Monday, December 13, 2010

book crush

Ever had one of these? Or maybe multiples? I heard somebody refer to Lorrie Moore last week, and it brought me right back to graduate school, when I read everything I could by her. My well-worn copy of Like Life still sits on my bookshelf, and I sometimes think of how one narrator described herself waiting for her lover as arranged on the bed like some ridiculous cake.

Anne Lamott’s books were major crushes for me, too. I’ve been reading her books since Rosie, Hard Laughter and All New People were new. And since I’m from Marin, it’s not at all unusual to see her around town when I’m visiting. When she came to the Northern Arizona Book Festival back in the ‘90s, I thoroughly embarrassed myself by giving her a big hug during the author meet-and-greet. I’m sure she thought I was a stalker or something.

I don’t have any current book crushes, but the history goes way back. What are some books you’ve crushed on, either recently or in the distant past?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

somebody told me that her name was jill

So, last winter was crazy here in Northern Arizona. On top of being all but snowed in for what seemed like forever, the roof of our local ice rink collapsed. Then, my favorite book store of all time - the place where REM's Michael Stipe walked up and started talking to me  - met with a similar fate.

This year, with the official start of winter just days away, locals are walking around in t-shirts, hanging laundry out on the line and doing Christmas shopping in flip-flops. It’s crazy again! But in a different way!

Yesterday, while feeding the horses, I heard a chirping and trilling overhead. When I looked up, I saw a decisively spring-looking songbird hanging out on a telephone wire. Get thee to Phoenix before the snow comes, Little Buddy! I found myself thinking. There’s even green grass on my property still, and bumblebees flitting around now and then. Seems nature herself is as befuddled as the rest of us.

I do love t-shirt weather in December, though it’s sad to see how thoroughly it has harshed the collective mellow of local skiers and snowboarders.

Oh! And speaking of t-shirts…I don’t know if I’ve just been watching too much Glee, or what, but I have songs in my heart lately. A lot of them are, um, interesting songs, too, like this Paul Anka classic sung by Finn. And it’s 70’s songs like these that get me in the mood to share one of my most treasured possessions with all of you. Now, I don’t want to, you know, brag or anything. I know the economy has been rough for a long time now, and not everyone can have something so...special.

But here it is anyway:

I have just four words for you: Da. Doo. Ron. Ron.

Friday, December 03, 2010


Just call me NaNoWreckMo Nicki. The woman whose NaNoWriMo dreams imploded at 31,000 feet words. It happened a little over a week before the end of NaNoWriMo. I just…stopped. And for some reason it’s totally okay. Normally I’d be awash in chagrin by now, pointing my finger at myself for not having finished something I set out to do. But, you know, life’s short. And it’s the holidays, and frankly, I decided I’d much rather spend time with friends and family and get my paying obligations met rather than chain myself to the keyboard to ensure my word count for the day was met. So, I let it go.

The good news? I got some solid material for the next project generated with those 30k words, material that now sits in the hopper fermenting until it’s ready to take on new life as a potential draft. I’ve had the “NaNoWriMo Winner!” badge on my blog before, a few years back. I have to say, I wish they’d come out with a “NaNoWriMo FAIL!” badge, as I would no doubt display it proudly. Or maybe it’s like the equestrian endurance racing folks say: To finish is to win. Maybe I’m a winner after all…but nah. Twenty thousand unwritten words tell a different story. Oh well!

In other news, I’m going to be redundant and link to a blog post Nathan Bransford has already linked to on his phenomenal blog. Kudos to Ms. Whipple for going where most authors don’t dare to go.

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

little cat feet

A friend loaned me the Hilary Swank/Richard Gere movie Amelia the other day, and it was really good. I particularly liked the scene where Amelia Earhart is looking out through the window of her little plane and thinking in voiceover:

“The fog comes/on little cat feet…” she muses.

Then, the next day, I was looking over a book of poems my boy checked out from the school library. It’s an oldy, this book, and my first thought was that it would be a perfect submission for Awful Library Books.

 Then I opened the cover and completely cracked up.

Discarded Because of Obsolescence. Ouch. There’s one of the top ten worst fears of most people, am I right? I’m not sure why it made me laugh like it did. Clearly, The First Book of Poetry is on its second life at our little rural school.

Anyway, in thumbing through I realized it wasn’t bad at all. Robert Frost is in there (…and miles to go before I sleep…) as are A.A. Milne and Emily Dickinson (Wild Nights is one of my favorite poems ever). And then, there on page 72, was this:

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

~Carl Sandburg

Weird coincidence. But, there you have it: I guess you really can't judge a book by its cover.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

pop musings

I have to say, I was held fairly in thrall by the latest Rolling Stone interview with Eminem. Here's a guy who found a lot of fame by ticking off/shocking a bunch of people, and he's also obviously faced down his share of demons over the years. I have to say, it's refreshing to have something like respect for an entertainer who used to repel me on every level.

Also, call me hopelessly behind the times, but I heard Katy Perry's Firework for the first time today, and ...Wow! What an awesome message (though I have to say "igniting the light" looks pretty painful).

Just, you know, catching up with pop culture a little bit.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

writing and running

Seems a lot of writers are also runners, and as I work the theme of running into a new story I’m working on, I can see why. The physical act of writing is fairly static: You sit in a chair, you stretch once in a while, but mostly it’s your fingers moving. Running is a chance for those of us who otherwise sit a lot to get out and get moving. It’s a way to connect with motion and forward momentum. I’ve found this can be really, really useful when a project is getting bogged down and losing that page-turner quality.

Running – especially outdoor running…especially trail running – is anything but static. When you’re out off-roading it, your entire being needs to be alert and aware. It’s good practice for writerly types who, if given the choice, would spend most of their time with their heads in the clouds. I remember when I used to go for runs across the remote prairie where I lived I always had at least one ear and one eye on the alert for mountain lions because a canyon they supposedly liked to frequent was just a couple miles away as the crow flies. It was great motivation to keep moving at a good clip, let me tell you (and I was never quite sure what I’d do if I actually ran into a mountain lion, but just being aware of the possibility seemed somehow like a good idea).

These days I run mostly on a frontage road near the interstate, but I usually take Lizzy the Cow Dog with me on her telescoping leash. That means I have to keep my eye out for cars, since she has very little sense that way and will basically run right out into the road, completely oblivious. So, my eyes are on the dog and the road ahead, my ears are kept busy with iPod tunes, and my legs are doing their thing, reminding me that forward momentum is what keeps the world – and the story – alive and interesting.

Monday, November 15, 2010

a warm song

...for a cold day. Brrrr! It feels like the icy November wind is finally blowing winter into the Northland. It was t-shirt weather all weekend, and I'm NOT ready for the freeze!

That's okay. Paramore can warm us all up.

Friday, November 12, 2010

being enough

Here’s a pretty awesome article for those of us who have a history of being – how can I put this delicately? - RABIDLY TYPE A about some of these issues.
Seems especially fitting for a day like today, when channelling Jimmy Buffett sounds like not such a bad idea.
So, what are your "what ifs" and "whens?"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

wri-ing the mo away

So, National Novel Writing Month. Yeah, that thing.

It's actually going pretty well, which is surprising. I'm up to just over 16K words as of last night, which is just a couple hundred words shy of where I 'd ideally like to be. Normally, by this point in the process (well into week two), the initial exuberance has worn off a bit and things have started to plateau. Also, a few weeks in I generally start finding it really tough at times to meet that daily word count.

Not so much this time around, though. It probably helps that I jumped into the writing with some fairly strong ideas and story leads I wanted to follow. Having just finished getting a YA novel ready for submission, I figured my muse would be pretty much spent, and I'd end up writing 50,000 words of drivel. And while some of what I've knocked out definitely has been drivel, I'm finding some pretty nice passages when I look back through the past ten days of content.

If you're doing NaNo this year, too, how's it going?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

thanks, popular kids

Seems my whining about being all alone and dweeked out on the Facebook Interwebs worked, and I'd like to thank those who came to my rescue by either accepting my friend requests or friending me of their own volition. Bear with me in this digression, but it reminds me of the boost of confidence I was supposed to get when I was thirteen, and a kindly neighbor lady stopped by to chat with my mother. I was wearing braces to fix the diastema (which I hear is all the rage among the supermodel set nowadays) and coke bottle glasses to correct the myopia.

After chatting with me for a while, the neighbor lady said something along the lines of, "You know, you're going to be a pretty girl...Some day, I mean. When you get rid of the glasses and braces."

I assume my response looked something like this:

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

overheard at the school bus carpool drop-off

A 6th grade boy (mine) and a 4th grade boy (not mine) were vehemently agreeing on the general principle of teachers seeming to go easier on girls when it comes to warnings, discipline "and stuff."

The conversation was peppered with exclamations like, "I know!" and "Dude, it's so unfair!"

Until finally, the whole thing was summed up by an observation delivered by the fourth grader in the most authoritative tone imaginable:

"That just proves my theory that girls get more publicity and stuff than boys."



Saturday, November 06, 2010

the lone FB-er

After a long hiatus, I've decided to return to Facebook. I know, I know: It's breaking news capable of stopping the Earth's very rotation. It's a bit of a sad state of affairs, though, since I apparently deleted my profile with such vehemence that I managed to wipe all traces of myself from the FB system (some may question whether this is even possible: I say, yes it is).

So, I'm starting from scratch, with NO FRIENDS! It's like a bad junior high nightmare where you walk into the cafeteria holding your lunch tray, your headgear strapped firmly into place, and look around, hoping that someone - anyone - will summon you to their table.

Oh, and you're in your underwear, too.

Can you feel my pain? Can you??

Monday, November 01, 2010

"note to self:

must use the words midget, Saluki and galoshes in next novel (man, I love NaNoWriMo)."

Thus begins the first 2,000-word installment of my 2010 NaNoWriMo journey. My mom's getting in on the action this year, too, which is awesome. She's long been a prolific journaler, but her big quandary for this undertaking is deciding whether to write in English or Spanish. My advice? Do both! It's NaNo, fer cryin' out loud!

What are YOUR NaNoWriMo plans?


Don't have any?

Well, shoot - come on! Jump on the bandwagon! It's a literary (I use the term loosely) free-for-all, and it's going to be fun!

Go ahead and sign up at the official NaNoWriMo site.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


October, as promised, has shall I put this?....


There have been tornadoes, birthday parties galore, the loss of a beloved canine friend who was like my first baby, special events at kids' school, work, work, work and more work....

Deep, cleansing breaths are in order.

November promises to be fairly jam-packed, too, but hopefully in a slightly less frenetic way. The final (hopefully) edit of the new YA novel will be (fingers crossed) zipping across the Interwebs to my agent tomorrow, at which point I'll have approximately 2 days to catch my breath before the onset of NaNoWriMo on November 1. Of course, I must help prepare Princess Tiger and Pancho Villa for the Halloween festivities first.

Phew! Yoga, anyone?

Monday, October 18, 2010

was seriously blessed

to spend this past weekend in some of the prettiest parts of SoCal, like Pasadena and Malibu, where I attended an amazing wedding. Good people, good food and good ceremony (not to mention dancing like a crazed 16-year-old to Cyndi LauperJourney, and Hava Nagila) were just what the doctor ordered. It's good to be reminded these days - when so much of the news we all hear is bleak and dour - that simple things, like a young couple, aloft in chairs on their wedding night, starting a new life together under the watchful and tearfully joyful eyes of the families that nurtured them, are what matter most. (Was that a run-on sentence, or am I just up typing too late?) Actually, the older I get, the more I think that those are the kinds of things that matter at all, really.

It's always good to be home, though, even if it means I'll be knee-deep in last-minute novel editing until the end of the month and teaching until the Christmas season offers a break.

It's okay, though. It's all good.

I am exhausted by work and kids, and love and responsibility. But mostly, like I said, I am blessed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

and speaking of education

A book-banning hornets nest has been stirred up yet again, this time around books such as Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak.

The man with the whisk seems to be this guy - and, hey, I guess it takes all kinds to make the world go around. But, seriously? Having just finished - and loved - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I find some of the bashers' comments about that book hilarious as well. OMG - a high school boy talking about (gasp!) sex!

This blogger and this one have some interesting thoughts on the matter, as do many others out there.

What do you think, boys and girls?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tune in now!

NBC News is presenting a pretty neat show called Education Nation. It's hosted by Brian Williams, and I'm happy to be a part of the Teacher Town Hall going on live online right now! Check it out - it's an important conversation about where we are and where we're going as a nation where education is concerned.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

to all my non-helmet wearing, horseback-riding friends out there...

...(and, confoundingly, that list includes most of the equestrians I know in Arizona):

Please read this touching, funny (especially the "testicles of steel" part) article by Jody Jaffe in The Chronicle of the Horse.

I was uber-impressed this past weekend when a new student came out for a trial dressage lesson and told me that not only does she have a normal riding helmet, but she also has a western style helmet. It's a bit of an odd look - a "cowboy hat" with a huge noggin' bucket, but the last time I checked, it was possible to fall off a horse while riding western as well.


Friday, September 17, 2010

was gonna sell it

Found it this past spring at Goodwill, tossed into a bin with the random castoffs of various lives.

Figure it's from the 40's or 50's - even got the card of a quilt appraiser so I could get an idea of what it might fetch on eBay.

I'm gonna keep it, though.

Clearly, it has important work to do here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

this post brought to you by the letters k, v, e, s and h

One of the first things I did when I bought this place was head out with a tape measure to the half-acre that was going to be my arena. I wanted to make sure that the fence lines already in place were going to work for at least a standard-sized dressage arena. They were, and I was a happy camper. Still, a big part of one of the long sides was missing, which was just one more thing to add to the infinite to-do list that perhaps inevitably comes with a fixer-upper. Fortunately, whoever built the original fence did it right, with anchored and cross-braced railroad ties for all the corners, so it’s not like the entire arena had to be built from scratch. Still, running fence is a lot of work, and it’s a hard thing to put at the top of said to-do list with fall fast approaching and other, more practical, issues at hand (firewood stockpiling, front gate replacement so the seasonal cattle don’t invade the property like they did last year when I left one of the gates open, etc.).

Enter The Man, who decided to just show up with the necessary corner posts to finish the job and run that last bit of fence line for me. We’re still waiting for one more fence delivery to make it really really complete, but for all intents and purposes I’m once again blessed with a fully-enclosed arena. I’ll probably wait until spring to hang my dressage letters (the side just completed almost spells out "kvetch," which seems somehow appropriate), since they’ll just spend all winter buried in snow if I do it now, but in the meantime I can feel more secure when my kids and beginning riders are working in there. Also, it’s a nifty turnout for the boys, who have spent the past few days weeding the arena for me.

Oh, did I say boys? Plural? I haven’t mentioned the Project Pony yet? Ah well, there’s a topic for another post.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

grandpa crush

I’ll admit to never having heard of Get Low until this morning when I partook of this TNB Review along with my morning coffee (French press, thank you – I’ve been inducted into the tribe and don’t think I’ll ever go back to drip. Oh, maybe in a pinch, but there’s no comparison between the two…anyway, I digress). So, Cynthia Hawkins absolutely nails what I’ve been feeling about Robert Duvall ever since I first saw Lonesome Dove. Case in point: Last week I Netflixed Crazy Heart, and when RD appeared on the screen, I literally gasped and went, “Oooooh!” One of the commenters on the Hawkins article then used the term “grandpa crush” which is just so…perfect somehow. Because that’s what I often tell people when trying to describe my thing about Duvall: “He reminds me of my grandpa.”


Speaking of May and December, I recently re-watched Harold and Maude after something like a two-decade hiatus. I remember loving this movie as a kid, but it’s actually gotten better with time. Favorite lines include, “Harold! That was your last date!” among others.

Blogging about movie watching…gah, how trite. But if you knew how summer’s been (mostly crammed full of work and schedules and to do lists – not like a summer at all, really) then you’d be rejoicing with me at these simple pleasures. And, oh! I actually read! A book! So, things are looking up, and I have pictures and stories to share. Like it or not.


Monday, August 02, 2010

bulls & blood, dust & mud

Spent Sunday at the Arizona Cowpuncher's Reunion. Monsoons have been intense for the past few weeks, so the muck and the mud were, too. I took too many pics to post them all, so here are a few I picked and chose. Yeehaw!

Monday, May 31, 2010

oh hai (been almost a month...oops!)

Sunday, May 02, 2010

mayday 2010 - sycamore rim trail

Sunday, April 25, 2010

So, the last day of the ski season was tons of fun. Snowbowl ended up extending the closing for another weekend because of the great snow base still in place. It was a little hairy at first, because they only had one chairlift turning - and it was the one that went all the way to the top of the mountain. Sure, you can get off at Midway, but on the last day? Who wants to do that? So, our first run of the day, sans warm-up on the more bunny slope-like Hart Prairie, was straight down from the top. We made it just fine, though, and throughout the rest of the day we got to see all the beautiful sights, like Sumo wrestlers, cross dressers and chickens.

Fortunately, for the guys, there were plenty of cute ski bunnies dressed as fairies, butterflies, etc. at this end-of-the-season tradition as well. (And, yes, that is a bottle of ketchup standing to the left of the chicken. I didn't get his friend Mustard in the picture, but she was was their mutual friend, Hot Dog. I wish I'd gotten a pic of the three of them loading the triple chair.)

So, that was big fun. But then things got a bit rough last week. We were walloped by another out-of-the-blue snowstorm, for one - and Snowbowl was already closed by that point, so it's not like we got to really enjoy it. And I guess it wasn't totally out-of-the-blue. The weather folks saw it coming, and I think it was somehow tied into the rain system that's been walloping California as well. At any rate, my body went back into Permafrost/hibernation mode, and back out came the boots for keeping our tootsies warm and the snowscraper for clearing the windshield every morning before driving the kids to the bus stop. Have I mentioned that I am SO OVER winter?

Then, my daughter's very best friend in the entire universe (VBFEU) moved to another state. The girls were born on the same day in the same hospital, though her mom and I didn't meet each other until they were in preschool. They've been pretty much joined at the hip ever since, and my heart hurts not only for my sad girl, but because I'm going to miss that cute little mug myself. I got to give VBFEU a ride on Zzari before she left (she's completely horse crazy, much like I was at that age), and I made her promise that she'd come back for more rides someday.

But then things got a little better. Friday night was cooking group night, hosted at the lovely home of one of the ladies in the group. She made these outrageous seafood enchiladas with cilantro cream sauce. The rest of us brought things like seasoned rice, a shrimp dip, an avocado salad and flan (that last one was my contribution. It's a tempermental thing, flan: Turn your back on that carmelizing sugar for just one second too long and you'll have charred goo on your hands. The caramel sauce turned out great the second time I tried it, though).

Then, yesterday, the snow and rain finally cleared off, leaving me with the perfect opportunity to dive into my outside chores. First, I planted the live Christmas tree I bought back in December. Then, I finished clearing the dead foliage from around the red hot pokers on the side of the house. I'll know how to handle those better this fall (clipping the greenery back after the blooms are done), so I don't end up with quite as much ugly dead stuff next spring. While I was doing this, one of my neighbors whistled to me from across the fence. He had told me about the divinity that is pickled eggplant (I'd taken his word for it, but I'd had my doubts), and now he had brought over a sample. Okay, have you ever eaten pickled eggplant? It really is divine. This version was from an old "secret" (not anymore) family recipe from southern Italy, and it involved cider vinegar, garlic and crushed red pepper. I can't wait to make it myself.

This morning, I got some work done and then said to heck with it and saddled up Zzari for a long ride out in the National Forest. The trail was slippery in places from the recent moisture, and there were still some patches of snow in the shady spots. But it was good for both of us to head out and stretch our legs and our brains. It was good to remember that life has a way of providing opportunities for re-balancing when things seem to tilt toward the not-much-fun side.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

both hands

For some reason, it seems like everyone I know is tired lately. What's up with that? Is it the change of seasons? The pollen in the air? All I know is we're all acting like we're about ninety years old - everyone from my kids to their teachers to our neighbors... Maybe it's not necessarily a bad thing, though. Maybe we're gathering our energy and strength for the months to come - months that are shaping up for my family to be full of baseball games and barbecues, horseback rides and hikes, visits with family and friends scattered far and wide...and let's not forget home improvement projects (which promise to be ongoing, possibly for years). But it's okay. There's not much I'd trade for our little house on our little acre, especially now that the spring bulbs are sprouting up along with the red hot pokers and new buffalo grass.

I was blessed with an awesome hike with some cool chicks down in Sedona last weekend. We did the Brin's Mesa trail, which involved a drive in to the trailhead that was shockingly reminiscent of the Indiana Jones thrill ride at Disneyland. I didn't feel like schlepping my camera along this time (which I, of course, regretted as soon as we set foot on the lovely trail and were immersed in all that wildness). The halfway point is an outcropping that affords a 360 degree view of Sedona's famed Red Rocks. Vortices and rock cairns abound, as do cacti and some surprisingly lush greenery - even a creek or two to cross. We ate lunch, sunned like lizards on the mesa for a while, and then headed back toward home, stopping at a Sedona watering hole on the way. Oh, we got some yard sales in as well. All in all, a lovely day spent with the girls.

What else? Oh, yeah. Wanna laugh and cry? See Young at Heart. I added it to my NetFlix queue on a whim, and I was so glad I did. Never seen anything else quite like it. Reminds me a bit of what Eddie V. has to say in one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

a place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

A dear friend and I hiked The Bell Trail last Friday. While downtown Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek may be chock full of fruits, nuts and flakes (just like a good gorp), the outlying areas around the various plateaus and otherwordly rock formations are nothing short of sensational. Okay, yes, you can still probably get mother nature to cleanse your chakras and/or fluff your aura by visiting one of the many vortices in the area, but if you're just looking for a good, basic day hike (as we were), then the azure Arizona sky is the limit. Here is what you see at the start of the first climb, heading toward the rock:

We found that March is a great time to make this hike, which is largely in full sun. Get too far beyond April and it's no doubt a scorcher.

Here are some lovely, hearty, trailside agave (I think). Any botanists out there who know better, feel free to correct me. 

And here's the rock as you pass right by and look up:

Our halfway point was a rushing creek fed by the intense run-off from all the melting snow up here in the high country. Not a bad place to have lunch, as we discovered:

Of course, now we're hooked and ready to do more. And I can't think of a more fitting way to celebrate the beautiful, sunny months to come here in our state of wide open spaces.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

the gnar

I am such a huge fan of spring, especially this year, when we're coming out of a record-breaking/really tough winter. But even I have to admit that there are some things I'm going to miss until that first snow falls again somewhere around the holidays later this year. I'm going to miss these views, for instance, and I feel lucky to have been able to enjoy them several times this season:

I have to say, I felt like an especially brave cookie this week when I was convinced (railroaded? Nah, I was definitely ready) to go all the way to the top of the mountain and ski down:

Up, up you go, and when you finally reach the summit of Agassiz (pronounced "Ag'-u-see" for you non-Northern Arizonans), you're at 11,500 feet. The first thing you see getting off the chair is the Ski Patrol building with all the emergency rescue equipment ready to go:

But what instills even more confidence are the signs at the entrance to the Backcountry (which is where most of the headline-making accidents and avalanches take place):

I especially love the skulls and crossbones. Who says the US Forest Service doesn't have a morbid sense of humor?

Then you turn around to look back at the lift, and you realize what you've gotten yourself into (Black Diamond, be-atches):

What, me worry? (Okay, yes, I am aware that I look like The Great Gazoo from the Flintstones, but as a horse girl, I'm a big believer in brain buckets):

Plus, how worried can a person really be when you look out across the horizon and see this? My house is somewhere over there in the distance:

So, I had a blast making it down to the lodge. The snow was a perfect combination of crunchy and soft - sort of like skiing on a mostly-frozen Slurpee. I've discovered that I don't like icy conditions and that even super deep powder can be a bit heavy for my taste. Before heading home to see the kids off the school bus, I got in one more run. This time, we decided to hit the Terrain Park, which is where the snowboarders like to play:

Not everyone was having a great day. This guy was later heard saying he thought he broke his collarbone:

But when it worked, it was beautiful:

We'll all have to say goodbye to the local ski season on April 11, which is when Snowbowl closes. But I like to think I have some improved skills under my belt for later this year.