Monthly Archives: December 2017

Dear 2017

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Free stock photo of date, tablet, calendar, displayDear 2017,

I had such high hopes for you.

Since 1997, every ten years I’ve had a really good year.

1997 was the best year of my life. I had two boyfriends, love, sex, a job I liked, my own small but cute home, and lots of good friends with whom I had many good times.

2007 was a great year too. My boyfriend was long distance, but he loved and supported me. I did a work exchange at a writer’s retreat and spent a month writing poems. I got the best job of my life. I created art and had wonderful friends.

So I had great expectations for you, 2017. You were going to be my year, a much deserved respite action, background, blurfrom the hardships of the last decade.

You started out with a bang, 2017.

I’d just self-published my first book, Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods I thought surely everyone in the world would want to read it.

Then I met a wonderful man. There was hot sex, and I fell in love with him. He seemed to like me as much as I liked him. We had deep conversations, laughed a lot, and snuggled. Life was GOOD and I woke up happy and excited to face each day.

You gave me everything I wanted for my birthday, 2017. I soaked in hot mineral water with the man I liked so much. I ate pie and ice cream in the park with friends. The fellow and I ate pizza for dinner, and later had nice birthday sex. It was a wonderful celebration of my life.

White and Red Plastic Heart Balloon on Sky during DaytimeBy the beginning of spring, the man had become The Man, and he said he wanted to be with me, to live and travel with me. He built a big bed in my van, a bed big enough for the two of us and the dog to sleep and snuggle . I was on top of the world.

What happened, 2017? Why’d you start falling apart after that?

Living in the van together was too much togetherness. The quarrels started. The Man’s constant mental state of indecision and flux made me nervous and irritable. My fear of being broke went against The Man’s belief that the Universe will always provide just enough.

The middle part of you got harder, 2017. The Man and I went through a series of break-ups and getting back togethers. We were working together and sharing a campsite and my heart hurt so much to be close to him but not be his partner. I know I wasn’t always as nice as I should have been while I tried to protect my heart.

I was joyous, yet cautious the last time he asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend. Maybe you were going to come through for me after all, 2017. I told him yes.

You know the rest of the story, 2017.

The Man and I spent a month apart, but we talked on the phone seveal times a day. Every time we talked, he asked when I was coming “home.” He told me he loved me and missed me. Yet less than two weeks after we’d reunited, he told me again that the relationship was over. He wanted to be alone, he said. We wanted different things, he said. I knew this was it for the two of us, unless someday he’d want to be committed or I’d want to be casual. My heart was shredded, but I knew being apart was best for both of us.

Why’d you let me down, 2017? I was really counting on you.

But now you’re over and I have to let you go too.

Thanks for the lessons, 2017, and thanks for the memories as well.

In disappointment, grief, and yes, hope too,

Blaize

 

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/calendar-date-device-digital-289689/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/action-background-blur-bottles-269561/ , and https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-red-plastic-heart-balloon-on-sky-during-daytime-33479/.

Nature Comforts Me

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What I find comforting about being out in nature is that nature don’t give a fuck about me. Nature doesn’t care if my boyfriend dumped me, if my transmission fluid is slowly leaking, if I’m drifting aimlessly through my life. Nature doesn’t care if I live or die, because I’m miniscule and unimportant in the grand scheme of life. My life is but a blip on the landscape of geologic time. I can see how that could make a person feel depressed or otherwise distressed, but I feel comforted. Nature ain’t worried about my problems, so why should I worry? My problems are tiny compared to the height of a mountain or the number of grains of sand in a dune. Being out in the vastness of nature gives me new perspective on how much my woes really matter.

I took the first photo in this post at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. The Man took the photo of me hugging the tree in Deer Creek Grove in Sequoia National Forest.

Long Night on the Beach

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I don’t know why I thought it would be fun to camp on the beach on Labor Day weekend. I hate the beach–the sand, the lack of shade, the crowds–but Sheff and Kel talked me into it.

It was hot as Hades in Texas that summer, so I supposed they were hoping for some cool relief. Also, Sheff and I were meeting Kel in the middle, halfway between her home and ours, and the Texas Gulf Coast fit the bill.

I don’t remember it being crowded out there. We had plenty of room for a camp near where Sheff’s truck and Kel’s Jeep were parked. Since we arrived late in the afternoon, the sun was low in the sky and didn’t beat down on us so terribly. There was nothing to do about the sand, so I just tried to pretend I wasn’t up to my ankles in it.

Let’s set up the tent, I said soon after we arrived.

Let’s play in the water! Kel and Sheff said, so we did. The water was a relief, even though it was bathtub warm. The waves bounced us as we talked.

Let’s set up the tent, I said when we got out of the water. The afternoon shadows were long, and I knew darkness would surprise us with its swiftness.

Let’s eat dinner! Sheff and Kel said, so we cooked our veggie burgers. (Did we build a fire? Did we use a camp stove? The memory is lost.)

Let’s set up the tent, I said when the food was gone.

Let’s drink a beer! Kel and Sheff said, and I cautiously agreed one beer would be ok.

Let’s set up the tent, I said halfheartedly when my bottle was empty.

Let’s have another, Sheff and Kel said, and I knew all was lost. I knew we weren’t going to set up any tent that night.

During our beer drinking, the sun went down, and the mosquitoes came out. At some point during my second beer, I got my hands on a can of insect repellent and accidentally sprayed its foul contents into my mouth. (Thanks goodness I hadn’t sprayed it in my eye!) My mouth was tingly for a while, then numb the rest of the night.

Where are we going to sleep? I whined when the beers were gone. We had some concern about Alligator Headalligators (not an unfounded fear on a Texas Gulf Coast beach), so Sheff suggested we throw our sleeping bags in the back of his truck and stretch out there.

Earlier in the day, Sheff and I had talked about mosquitoes. He claimed they never bit him. I don’t know, he shrugged. I guess they just don’t like me.

The mosquitoes certainly liked me that night. Despite having the taste of insect repellent in my mouth, mosquitoes were attacking me with vigor.

I got fully into my sleeping bag in an attempt to discourage the bloodsuckers. Unfortunately, I had a winter bag rated for about 45 degrees. It was probably at least 85 degrees out there, even after dark. I spent several hours trying to stay completely covered by my bag so the mosquitoes couldn’t bite me, but that led to me growing unbearably hot. I’d throw off the sleeping bag until I could no longer stand being eaten alive, then I’d get back into the bag. It was an uncomfortable cycle that didn’t allow for much sleep.

Kel gave up first. She abandoned the back of the truck and sought refuge in her Jeep. Later Sheff admitted he was getting bitten, so he scooped up his dog and his sleeping bag and retired to the truck’s cab. I thought I’d tough it out, although I’m not sure how I thought I’d be about to stay outside if Sheff was suffering so much he had to leave.

I didn’t tough it out for long before I was in the Jeep with Kel. She’d already claimed the passenger seat, so I squeezed in behind the steering wheel.

I thought the night was never going to end. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. I was hot, and I was itchy. My body was uncomfortable, my neck at a funny angle, and I was cramped because I couldn’t stretch out. It was one of the longest nights of my life.

Finally, the sky lightened a little, then there was a bit of pink. The sun rose a perfect red ball in the sky. I unfolded myself from the driver’s seat and went for a walk along the water’s edge. The last few hours had been awful, but I’d survived.

Body of Water Near Brown Soil Under Blue Sky during Sunset

Photo of aligator courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/alligator-head-151354/. Photo of beach by Robert Villalta from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/body-of-water-near-brown-soil-under-blue-sky-during-sunset-128458/.

I Just Wanted to Connect

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My least favorite part of being a camp host was the lack of privacy. Unless I was in my van with the curtains closed, I felt as if I were on display in a department store window. The worst times were when I was on my day off and in the campground. Even if I wasn’t wearing my uniform, even if I had up a sign that read “Camp Host Off Duty,” people in the campground sniffed me out.

One day off, I got back from exploring early in the afternoon. I pulled into my site and sat in the van fiddling with my phone. A woman marched up to my open door and demanded to know if I was the camp host. My answer that I was the camp host on my day off seemed not to deter her in the least; she let go with a whole list of questions.

The campground where I was the host is in a remote location, so I understand that when visitors see somebody–anybody–it’s in their best interest to start asking all their questions. If the woman hadn’t asked me, she might not have had a chance to ask anyone. I honestly didn’t mind answering her questions, even if I wasn’t getting paid to do it. However, when she launched into a tirade about the poor condition of the road into the campground, I was done. I was not interested in discussing the condition of the road. I was not interested in hearing her complain about something I had no control over. I was simply not interested. As politely as possible, I conveyed my lack of interest, and the woman finally went away.

Another day I didn’t leave the campground on my day off. I was wearing my bright pink housedress and doing housekeeping on my campsite. Some campers had come in the day before, but becasue I’d been off that day too, I hadn’t spoken to them. I looked up from whatever I was doing and saw the woman camper walking purposely over to my site.

She asked if I was the camp host, and I said yes, I was the camp host on my day off. She didn’t even have any questions for me, but she didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t getting paid to talk to her. I just wanted to connect, she said. Apparently it didn’t occur to her that maybe I didn’t want to connect, that maybe on my day off I was enjoying my solitude.

When she said she wanted to connect, she actually meant she wanted to talk about herself. She started in on a monologue about being a textile artist and the book she had written. She didn’t seem very interested in who I might be when I was not busy hosting a campground. I tried to be stay polite, but I was relieved when she finally wandered away.

Am I a bad person because I don’t want to connect with every person I meet? Sometimes I just want to be alone.

I took this post’s photo.

Oh Christmas Tree (New Mexico Style)

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I was is Truth or Consequences, NM the week before the town’s monthly Art Hop. Coyote Sue told me Grapes Gallery (407 Main Street) was sponsoring a second annual Christmas tree decorating contest, so I went to work. I decided that since I was in the Land of Enchantment, I’d create a New Mexico-themed tree. Of course, since I’m a collage artist, I wanted to decorate with a collection of small objects and colorful clippings.

My first stop was the CHF thrift store (421 N Broadway) where I found a green plastic serving tray shaped like a Christmas tree and priced at 50 cents. I decided the tray would be the tree I decorated. I had an old New Mexico road map which I cut down to fit in the plastic tray. Once it was cut to the proper size and shape, I glued it to the tray.

I knew early on what I wanted for the top of my tree. I had a pair of cowboy boots made of metal, a trinket that came in a $10 bag of costume jewelry I’d picked up in Bisbee, AZ in the spring. I found an image of a star I’d cut out and glued the star to cardstock to give it some heft. After cutting the cardstock just slightly bigger than the star, I glued the boots over the star to make a tree topper suitable for a New Mexico Christmas.

Ball chain from broken necklaces became my tinsel. I used copper rose paint on some of the chain, but didn’t wait for it to dry before I glued it to the tree. Oops! I made a bit of a mess, but overcame the setback by gluing other small chains over the smeared paint. I love successfully disguising a mistake!

I decorated the tree with images cut from old catalogs and magazines. I’d been saving images related to New Mexico for quite a while, but I found several useful sources of images for free while in T or C. Decorating the tree was the part of this project I enjoyed the most.

Once the decorating was done, I had to mount the tree on a base. I’d also bought a baket at the CHF thrift store for 50 cents for just that purpose. I flipped the baket over, cut a hole in it, then covered what was now the top with red felt I’d been carrying around for three years! (Sometimes being a packrat comes in handy.) Once I shoved the trunk of the tree into the hole in the base, it was challenging to get everything to stay in place, but I managed to make it work using more felt and rubber bands. (The package of rubber bands was the only thing I bought new for the project. I still have lots of rubber bands for future projects.)

When the tree was securely standing in the base, I took a long look at the project and realized what was missing: presents! A Christmas tree without presents is no fun at all!

I knew I’d seen some decorations made to look like shiny girt wrapped presents at one of the thrift stores in town, so I went out on a search. There was nothing I could use at the thrift store at the Senior Center, so I found myself at the CHF shop again. The shiny gift decorations were gone, but I dug around in boxes and bins and found some little boxes and a grab bag with some odd decorative items.

I took my tree and my glue and my new thrift store finds to Coyote Sue’s place, Sun Gallery (407-1/2 N Broadway) where we sat at the work table and chatted while I arranged and attached the finishing touches to the tree. Coyote Sue went behind the counter and found some small toys she offered up to my project. I took the plastic wagon and the ceramic teddy bear.

The bear was wearing a cardiagan and holding an apple. This bear needs a sombrero, I mused aloud. Coyote Sue disappeared behind the counter again and came back holding a tiny straw hat. I placed the hat on the bear’s head. It looked better, but not quite right. It could use a serape too, I observed. This time Coyote Sue went all the way back into the stockroom. When she returned, she presented me with a fabric remnant I was able to cut into a passable serape. I was pleased with the New Mexian bear dressed to pay homage to its roots.

When all the presents were piled under the tree, I walked it over to Grapes Gallery.

The next night was Art Hop, and voting for the tree contest was open from 6pm until 8:30. When I arrived at Grapes Gallery, I found there were only four entries in the contest. I knew a small turnout would increase my chances of winning.

Coyote Sue and Coyote Steve were with me when the winners were announced. I won 3rd place. Yippie! My prize was a $25 gift certificate from Vic’s Broadwaynewmexico (409 N Broadway Street). Before I left town the next day, I got to go on a shopping spree, which was a lot of fun.

Also fun was putting together a Christmas tree honoring the state that I love.

My New Mexico Christmas Tree is for sale. Contact me if you’d like to buy it so you can aslo celebrate New Mexico every year during the winter holiday season.

I took the photos in this post.

 

Penny Press in Baker, CA

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The last time I drove I-15 to Vegas, I stopped at Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker, CA. I was looking for a penny press. As I said in my post Squashing Pennies, I have a friend who likes pressed pennies, so I try to get one for her whenever I see a penny squishing machine. I stopped in Baker in December 2016 because a reader of Roadside America said Alien Fresh Jerky had a penny press. Alas, Roadside America reader was wrong.

This photo shows the Mad Greek Cafe in Baker, CA. The Country Store–and its penny press–are right across the street.

When I told The Poet and The Activist of my fruitless search for a penny press in Baker, The Poet told me where I could find one in the town: The Country Store. She told me it was across the street from the Mad Greek Cafe on the main drag, and she was exactly right!

When I pulled up to the Country Store, I saw the penny press machine right outside the front door. I love the convenience of not having to go into a store to use a penny press, but is the press left outside all night? Is no one trying to steal these things? Maybe they are too heavy for easy theft.

In any case, my first order of business at the Country Store was a visit to the restroom, which I found to be adequately clean and comfortable. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the store, but when I passed

This photo shows the front of the Country Store. I managed to cut out the “C” in “Country” and include an innocent bystander.

through, I saw a lot of prepackaged dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, and other snacks. The store also had souvenir items for sale, especially items pertaining to Route 66. In fact, the store’s inventory reminded me of what I’d seen the year before at Alien Fresh Jerky. In any case, I wasn’t interested in snacks or schlock aimed at tourists. All I cared about was that penny press.

When I exited the store, I had to dig around in my van to find two quarters and a penny to use in the press. I found a penny in one of the cups on the console between the two front seats, then grabbed a couple quarters from my laundry stash. I was ready to go.

The penny press at the Country Store gave me four choices of designs to press into my penny. I could have an image of the Country Store itself (boring!); one of a desert tortoise; a cluster of desert images, including a cow skull and the proclamation “Gateway to the Mojave;” or an image of the World’s Largest Thermometer. The tortoise, was nice, but since I’ve never seen one in real life, I didn’t think I should press one into my friend’s souvenir penny. “Gateway to the Mojave” was nice too, and I have driven through the Mojave, but since I haven’t seen a cow skull or much else while passing through, I didn’t think that design was the right one. I had, however, seen the World’s Largest Thermometer before, and in fact could look to my right and see the thermometer in real time, so that’s the design I picked.

This photo shows the penny press in front of the Country Store in Baker, CA. The press does seem to be secured to the wall, which probably discourages thieves.

Even though the machine was the manual kind and I had to turn a crank to press the penny, it didn’t take long to make a souvenir for my friend. I was back in my van and on my way to Vegas in just a few minutes.

I took the photos in this post.

Offering

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A man tried to give me a kid one morning at the overflow parking lot.

I don’t mean he used a bad pickup line on me like, Hey, baby, let’s make a baby.  I mean he offered me one of his already born offspring.

He was only joking, I know, and it’s not the first time it happened. (Once a lady in a pickup offered me her friend’s dog in exchange for the parking fee, then the friend offered me the first lady’s infant.) It’s always an awkward situation for me because I usually don’t know what to say.

On the morning in question, the family pulled into the overflow lot at the campground before I made it to the main parking lot. I showed them where to park and told them about the $5 access fee. While I wrote out the pass, the whole family tumbled from the vehicle—mom, dad, and four wholesome-looking blond kids. Soon the parents were having a Do you have cash? No. Don’t you have cash? conversation.

Mom had her wallet but there was no cash in it. Dad had cash in his wallet but had left it back where they were staying. (I hope they were staying in a cabin or a lodge or at a friend’s house. I hope Dad hadn’t left a wallet full of money in a tent somewhere.)

Gee, he was really sorry, Dad said. It looked like they didn’t have any cash, but I was welcome to take one of the kids instead.

I looked over at a big boulder where the four kids were lined up, grinning. Apparently this was a joke Dad used often. Apparently none of the kids were yet old enough to find the joke corny or annoying.

This time I came up with an answer rather quickly.

I really can’t take one, I said. I live in a van with a man and a dog, and there’s really no room for a kid. Don’t worry about the access fee. Just go enjoy the trail.

I was gathering up my belongings for my walk to the main parking lot when the dad called out to me, My daughter has $5. We really want to pay.

I would have been happy to let them go, but I put down all my stuff and walked over to the SUV where the oldest girl was fishing out a $5 bill. I handed her the pass and wished them all a good day.

I took this photo of a giant sequoia.