Unpredictable 19 October 2017

Merriam-Webster defines unpredictable as: “not able to be known or declared in advance,” and wild as: “not subject to restraint or regulation,” and altitude as: “the vertical elevation of an object above a surface (such as sea level or land) of a planet or natural satellite.” Now, when we combine all of these definitions with elk season, it is somewhat easier to understand why we sometimes come back from hunting in the mountains with no elk.

True to form for the elk, they are not subject to regulations and as we packed our things down the trail, loaded them in the pick-up, and drove out through the valley some thousands of feet lower, there was a herd of eighty or so elk grazing contentedly in a lush pasture. Up on top, we did see three moose and two beautiful bucks, a boat-load of mountain blue birds, and vistas that would bless anyone’s vision.

Still, no elk in the freezer is a disappointment as it is my favorite of all the wild game we hunt and I was looking forward to some sour dough pancakes with elk breakfast sausage, and chokecherry syrup. Time up there is never wasted though because you get so away from the day-to-day worries and cares and distractions. The stars seem so much closer, and at the top of the various peaks, the world is drawn out before you in an endless blue sky all the way to forever. You know, “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”

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Chocolate 11 October 2017

What do you like more than chocolate? 

My first response would be coffee, but that wouldn’t really give you the whole picture. I’m a dark chocolate fanatic who cannot go without coffee. Chocolate has always been a part of my life, but I came to coffee late in life, sometime in my 30s. I always loved the smell of brewing coffee, but didn’t develop a taste for it until I gave up Mountain Dew.

Of course, perhaps the best of both worlds here would be a mocha made with dark chocolate. And skim milk.

But seriously, there are many things that I like: grilled zucchini, salmon, sweet grapes, juicy ripe peaches, ice-cream, RC Cola, spinach, balsamic vinaigrette, Zots (but who doesn’t!), squash, bison burgers, popcorn, roasted carrots, caramelized onions, sourdough pancakes, Trevor’s smoked anything, and I could go on and on. I mean, I don’t think there is any dessert I don’t like, well, except pecan pie-gross.

And then I come back to the simple pleasure found in little piece of dark chocolate melting in my mouth, next to a steaming mug of coffee.

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Optimism 5 October 2017

How do you build optimism in yourself and for those around you? Of course “those around you” these days includes so many across your digital world too.

Sometimes I cannot stand Twitter because it is so full of negativism. Sometimes I love it because someone I follow will post a message that is inspiring, usually the words of some writer, of course! In my fiction class, we’re in week two of reading and studying the realist authors. I find myself longing for a little optimism. Camus’ The Stranger, and Joyce’s “The Dead,” don’t leave a lot of room for buoyancy.

Once again, I look to my students for a life lesson. One of the first things we do is have a discussion about what it means to be in a virtual community and some ground rules for our posts to each other. Some of their words:

“Don’t swear, Tell them something they did well, Be polite when correcting, Just because it isn’t your point of view doesn’t mean it’s wrong, Encourage each other, Don’t be a bully because I’ve had that before and it isn’t fun, Try to give positives along with what they could do better, Don’t be mean, Be helpful.”

And then some of them posted pictures of their pets because they said their pets make it easy to smile and have fun.

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” Maya Angelou

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Cattle 29 September 2017

Cattle make life interesting at times. I love to watch them as new-born calves, just standing up for the first time to discovering their legs can really propel them only twenty-four hours later! The deep sound of their mama lowing to them resonates in my bones. Then, turning our heifer calves out in the pasture and they still have that “kick-up-your-heels” attitude that just seems to take over at random times, to the complete contentment when they are bedded down and chewing their cud.

Gentling them to get used to our company, we slowly gain their trust to where they will eat cotton candy out of our hands. Yes, I call the cotton cake pellets “cotton candy” because they love it like I love me some blue cotton candy! Over the summer, they go from startling at our presence to following us around and licking our pants wondering where their treats are.

Over the summer, they’ve been bred and now what I like to call, “baby mammas” because they still have that calf-like quality of playfulness, even though they’ll have their first calves starting in March. Still, you always have to stay on your toes, because like all animals, they can be unpredictable at times. Working with cattle has to be an exercise in patience, because the more worked up you get, the more worked up they get and then, the working can get somewhat dicey.

Now most of our heifers are safely delivered to the sale barn where they will find good homes on ranches to spend the cow stage of their lives in peaceful bliss, feeding on long pasture grasses as they graze in the sun. I wonder if any of their new owners will give them some “cotton candy.”

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Motivation 26 September 2017

In the online school “room,” motivating students to get started is always a challenge. It isn’t so different from a brick and mortar classroom except that I can’t physically pull up a chair next to my online students to see if I can help them get unstuck. I have to find virtual ways to connect.

I use lots of goofy photos from Snap Chat, and I even make them little videos trying to get a response. When they do get going, I stay in contact by email and in their course and continue to send them silly things that I hope will inspire. I think the most difficult part of teaching in an online environment is building community because it is so easy to stay disconnected in our oh-so-connected world. 

These students have much the same lives as the students I had in a live classroom. They come from strong families and broken families, families struggling to put food on the table and families with abundance, families with close bonds and families that have drifted apart, families with parents who support and encourage and families who’ve left the student to figure it out all on their own.

So I look for ways to engage these incredible human beings. I genuinely want to know who they are and where they came from and what their favorite supper is or their dog’s name and how they have to walk to their grandma’s house to do school because she watches over them during the day. I made some snickerdoodle cookies over the weekend, because one of my students who is aspiring to be a chef, sent me the recipe and told me they were the best soft and chewy snickerdoodles ever! He wrote, “If you have any trouble, Mrs. G, just leave me a note in discussion and I’ll help you.” I didn’t have any trouble and they were delicious.

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Fall Hike 21 September 2017

After a wonderful hiking “season” this summer, my world-class hiking partner, Elaine, and I decided we needed to continue as best we can over the winter. We settled on a once-a-month outing to either hike, snowshoe or ride. We were not able to hike our 14-er at the end our summer, like we usually do, because of early snowfall, so, that was our plan for our first ever fall hike.

Last week we hit the trail just after 6AM to hike Gray’s Peak. It was cold and windy and the  Aspen were in their full fall glory, all glowing yellow in our headlights. I did not plan enough clothes and did not get warm until early in the afternoon when the sun shone on us, sharing some its warmth. No matter.

The hike was incredible and difficult, as all fourteeners are, no matter what anyone says! We enjoyed a large herd of mountain goats and, late in the day, a mama and baby goat basking in the sun. The views were 360 degrees of “holy cow amazing,” and our bag lunch was hard-earned and eaten shivering out of the wind as best we could get. To cap off our first fall hike, well, the photo speaks for itself.

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Romantic or Realist? 13 September 2017

I’m supposed to be thinking about where I might fit on the spectrum between romanticism and realism as a fiction writer.

Romanticists tend toward: “rendering reality poetically, intertwining character and plot so that plot reveals character, characters are simple and driven by one desire, settings express mood and inner nature of characters, events can be dramatic and implausible, tone is usually serious, and presentation is subjective in first or close third person point of view.”

Realists tend toward: “rendering reality closely and in detail no matter the plot, character is more important and involves complex ethical choices, characters appear in real complexity and who they are and where they come from matters, class is important, settings are local and specific, events are plausible, tone can be matter-of-fact, and

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objectivity in presentation is important so heads toward an omniscient or distant third point of view”(Hutchison, J.)

As with so many things, I see myself in both, but I think I bend more to the romanticist side of literature. If you’ve read my work, leave a comment and let me know what you think. If you haven’t read my work, tell me where you’d rather live in your fiction reading.

Examples of each include:

Romanticism: Poe, Hawthorn, Shelley, Blake, Austen, Carroll, LeGuin and Gaiman

Realists: Twain, Harding Davis, James, Joyce, and Chekov

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