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the Ruminator

Mexican Dam

After clambering across the DG and then crossing the Mexican Ditch headgate (with relief), Older Son and I decided to scramble across the rip-rap below Mexican Dam to the east side of Carson River. There was a geocache at that location we wanted to snag.

I scanned the rocks, assessing the best route. I looked at the Girl, who hates to get wet but hates being left behind even more. I wondered whether she would cross with us.

I stepped across a bit of wet soil onto the first rock. As I stepped to the next, I muttered “Not slipping, not slipping… I didn’t wear my waterproof boots today…” Splash One, my left foot slipped into the water above the boot top. It would not have mattered if I had the waterproof boots; my foot would have been wet.

“Aww… Well, they’re wet now. We might as well go on.” And so we began the crossing. I looked back for the Girl, who was reluctant to begin. “C’mon, Ki, c’mon,” I encouraged. She began, picking her way along the works and the edge of the weir.

She was more hesitant than normal. She really does not like to be wet and she could see all the water along. But, she’s game and picked her way across with some encouragement.

At one point, I watched her looking for a crossing across a wider bit of water. She put out a foot onto the rock, then tested paths turning left and right. She was timid, reluctant to commit. After a bit, she started to cross, then hesitated and “Splash!” her back end slipped into the water and she turned back, gripping the rock with her toes, up to her tummy in the water.

She looked distressed, not really afraid but unhappy to be wet. She really does not like to be wet.

With a bit of encouragement, she clambered back to her perch and found another path. We clambered over woody debris and rocks, making the crossing to the other side.

Laughing and running up the sandy slope, we started the search for the geocache. One the way to ground zero, we hopped a gate. On the other side were three or four “No Trespassing!” signs. We laughed and continued the search.

This geocache was not to be found. It had been a couple of years since the last successful log. So we logged out DNF and started back. We walked along the edge of Carson River, listening to the splash of water over the dam and enjoying the sound of water.

At the beginning of the crossing back, I called the Girl. “Let’s go!” Without hesitation, she started back across the debris and rocks. Her hesitation abated, she made the crossing back ahead of me, as usual. She sniffed new places and marked the center of the crossing — “Ki was here!”

I often say “My dog is my Zen master…” She lives in the moment, she experiences life as it comes, she expresses her feelings freely, she loves and plays and eats and sleeps. She enjoys life. I love watching her. On the outbound path across the rip-rap below Mexican Dam, she was tentative. She doesn’t like to be wet. She was uncertain. My observation of the Girl and her hesitation to commit to her crossing. That hesitation was what caused her baptism in Carson River. I think, had she elected to commit to the jump and not hesitate, she would have only gotten her feet wet. Instead, she didn’t make the commitment and got her back half wet.

On the way back, she was confident, picking her way back across with the “I’ve got this” attitude that is characteristic of her. There is a life lesson in her behavior. I am paying attention.

There are times when each of us is faced with change. Sometimes that is a big change; sometimes a small change. But, change in inevitable; nothing remains the same. In those times, a direction must be chosen. I think it’s better to choose than to let some external force make that choice. I also think that the direction will not be clear until a commitment is made. That’s when God reveals the plan and not before. It is a matter of faith to move forward.

I made the choice to sell my house. That means I will move. There is not much to keep me here much longer. Younger Son will finish his term at the community college soon. That leaves me with one friend in Reno, who is like my brother. But, with no work and little prospect, it is time for me to move on. Where I will go I do not yet know. That path is not clear to me. But, I’m making a commitment to move forward. I will put my durable goods in storage. I might buy a small travel trailer. I might buy a small utility trailer for my necessaries and sleep in a tent (for the summer). But, I’ll be on the road when it’s clear the contract on my house will close. I have a few ideas for where I’ll be over the summer. But, after that, I have no idea. I just have to trust that the plan will be revealed as time moves forward. I have to commit to this path in order for the way to be revealed. Of this I am convinced.

A New Adventure

Bird shoot in Smith, Nevada

From a bird shoot in Smith, Nevada

While reading this morning, I came across the obituary for William Zinsser. Zinsser wrote a very good book, On Writing Well, which I do not recall if I read, but it is on my list to read.

I live in a time where the passing of my heroes is more common. I suppose everyone who reaches their seventh decade is a witness to these circumstances.

This entry is beginning to feel like a ramble. So be it.

I am beginning a new adventure. It will be on where the earning of a paycheck will not be the first priority. The priority will be on continuing my education and working on my craft.

The appraiser visited earlier this week, did her work, and then provided a post mortem on her way out. When I asked her if there was any obvious problem, her reply was that she didn’t see anything but could not guarantee the outcome. So I wait for her report to see if we make this hurdle and move on to the next — the inspections.

If the appraisal is sufficient for the buyer to make their mortgage, then one or more inspectors will visit my house to ensure that the property is in good condition. I am fairly certain there are no significant defects. I generally stay on top of any problem I discover. I either repair it myself or hire a professional to do the repair. The inspections should happen early next week and I should have confirmation that the process is moving forward by the end of next week.

So, what happens then? I hit the road. I am uncertain just how that will work out. I might buy a utility trailer to take a few of my things with me and either rent cabins along my way or tent camp. I have most of what I need for tent camping over the summer. I also intend to visit family and can couchsurf with them.

What will I do? I have a ton of reading to do. Part of what I want to take with me is read the set of books on my list. I want to do that while away from computers and outside where I can breathe.

I want to make photographs. Part of working on my craft is the making, processing, and critical review of photography. I have been told that I do not have the talent to make it as a professional photographer; that there is a surfeit of photographers and that there is insufficient work to support the number of photographers who are trying to make a living at it. I don’t care if I make no money at this craft. I’m going to go make photographs. I will be posting some of them to my Instagram feed, a website (that I have yet to develop), and to Facebook. They will be there to share with my friends and family.

I want to write. Another part of working on my craft is the stringing together of words, hopefully into something that is interesting. I expect to post much of the text here on these pages. I will write about my travels, the people I meet (always interesting to me), and the places I see. I love to tell stories. Isn’t writing about telling stories? Even when I write technical reports, I am still telling a story.

I want to just “be.” I think there might be an entire essay (or even a book) about the busy-ness of life in American society. In particular, over the last few years, I observed the insanity of our culture’s pursuit of material goods. There is a focus on “having” that is ingrained in this culture. I do not want to do this anymore. I have enough. I have more than enough. I do not have what I really want in my life, for she is gone. There will not be a replacement and I do not think there will be a “second best.”

So, I think it is time to get away from the routine, be outside, be in the quiet of God’s creation, and just let that soak into me. I think it will be good to listen to birds, bugs, and the susurration of wind and rain. I think it will be good to feel the sun and let the healing warmth of the sun penetrate this old body and infuse my mind with light. I think it will be good to be outside and pray.

In the end, I cannot stay here. Without full-time work, the mortgage is unsustainable. Young Son will finish his tenure at the local college and move on. I have a few friends. But there is nothing else to hold me here. The draw of the road and the desire to spend time with Daughter and her family pulls me away. I hate living in hotel rooms, so I expect there is a travel trailer or camper in my future. I have some consulting work to keep me busy the remainder of this year. The income will be enough to keep me from drawing down my retirement funds.

It’s the tail end of this part of the journey. The wren’s tail made me think about beginnings and endings. I’m sure I’ll come back this way. I love the eastern Sierra Nevada. I think there might be some photography work for me to do. I have a couple of friends I want to keep in touch with. In the meantime, it’s time to go wander for a while. That’s what I’ll do.

A Short Walk

The last couple of months were crazy. I wanted to write here a number of times, but had neither the time nor the energy to assemble something cogent and appropriate for this space. I brought Older Son here a couple of weeks ago to help get my house ready to sell. I put it on the market about a week ago. I received an offer greater than my asking price with no conditions on the first day from the first viewer. Now I’m waiting for the appraisal and inspections to confirm that things are moving forward.

In the meantime, Older Son and I worked on some things inside the house, worked out, and hiked the areas nearby. I love to walk my Girl out in the sagelands. It’s one of the things I love about where I live. So, we do that a lot, usually a couple of times each day.

I called the realtor (one I know and trust) and set up a meeting. She and her Nevada broker visited my house, took a look around, confirmed their comparative analysis, and I filled out papers. After learning that they shot the images with a mobile telephone, I offered to reshoot the interior with a “real” camera. They accepted my offer.

So, read a bit about doing the shoot, which confirmed my understanding of the problem. Older Son and I set up everything (tidied up a bit), opened the blinds, turned on lights, and made sure the Girl remained out of the frame. (As an aside, she seems to always be in my frame, whether I intend for her to be in the image or not. How does she know where I’m pointing my camera?)

I post-processed the images, which turned out fairly well. I might want to add a speedlight to the setup for my next shoot (provided I get one) to fill in some of the darker areas of the frame, but I thought the captures were professional-grade. I packed up the frames and sent them to the realtor for review and use.

They took them. The listing went into the MLS system on a Friday night. I received three or four calls Saturday morning about visitors and said “bring them on!”

The first family that walked through the house sat at my dining table and wrote an offer. Their realtor sent the information to my broker and I reviewed the offer that Sunday afternoon. Monday morning I drove down to her office and reviewed the offer with her. “There is nothing here to counter,” she told me. I signed the contract.

Now I wait for the appraisal and inspections to be done. Once that hurdle is past, then the next one will be completion of their financing. They are pre-qualified for the mortgage, so I’m not expecting any problem there.

What then? Well, I am looking at a travel trailer. If my 4Runner can pull it, then I have a small house that will shelter the Girl and me. I have plans to travel to Texas, Missouri, Washington, and Pennsylvania this summer. I have some work to do and that will provide me with a bit of income that will preserve my savings. I plan to travel a bit, spend some time in each place, work with words and cameras, read, and write.

That’s the plan. God will decide whether I make the plan or go in another direction.

So, about that video clip at the top of this entry. We’ve been out and about a lot the last couple of weeks. I’m challenging this old body to walk hard and in the hills. Saturday we walked 6-1/2 miles in the sagebrush. A couple of the hills were tough, but doable. So, Sunday morning we agreed to take a short walk over on the Silver Saddle Ranch. There is a 1-1/2 mile loop that is pleasant, not steep, and visual.

We started down the path and walked to the first break in the trail to the east. Another faint trail lead ahead to a ridgeline that looked interesting. “What do you think?” I asked Older Son. “I’m up for it.”

So we headed that way. One crest led to another and I looked for a path along the Mexican Ditch that would take us back to the 4Runner. I couldn’t see anything on the ground, so I loaded Google Maps on my phone. “We’re about 2,000 feet from Mexican Dam. Want to go there? I think there is a crossing of the ditch at that location, but I can’t remember for sure.”

“I’m up for it,” Older Son said. The Girl said nothing, but gave her approval to go anywhere. So, we stayed on the deer trail.

About 75 yards from the dam, the bank we were sidehilling steepened substantially. There seemed to be a path along the ditch and I headed for that. Unfortunately, it lead into some Desert Peach that was too thick to push through. I looked at Older Son, “It looks like we’ll have to climb.” I started up the bank, which was too steep to walk and had to be climbed. The first handhold of granite I grabbed broke apart in my hand. Everything I grabbed to stepped on disintegrated into coarse sand.

I stopped, looked back at Older Son, “This DG is treacherous. We’ll have to be careful. Or we can go back.” He just smiled back at me. It was a long way back over rough terrain. We were only a few feet from the headgate for the Mexican Ditch and an easy walk back to the 4Runner. I realized that there is a life metaphor in this experience. We had come almost three miles to this point, to find ourselves faced with a few yard of very difficult terrain. How much like life is this… the path is sufficiently challenging, but passable until one comes to a very difficult stretch. Sometimes one can see ahead to the goal, although the crossing is dangerous.

A decision is required — to go forward, to turn to look for another path, or to go back. The path back is difficult, but known. The path ahead is treacherous and getting across is uncertain. The risk of a fall and injury is real. So, what should be done?

I elected to push ahead. I began the process of testing each handhold and foothold before trusting it with my weight. All the calisthenics and walking prepared me for the push up the slope, which really was a climb and required all fours. The Girl scrambled up like a four-wheeler, negotiating the DG without difficulty. Her grace and power were apparent and beautiful. I love to watch her move.

I found a bit of break in slope that permitted a sidehill crossing. We were about 20-feet above the ditch. A fall would have resulted in injury and was not an option. The last ten feet or so were sheer and there would be no stopping or breakfall.

After about 20 minutes we completed the crossing and dropped down onto the path. We backtracked over the headgate to the Mexican Ditch and puttered around the Mexican Dam for half-hour or so. Then we headed back to the 4Runner to return home.

What was intended to be a short walk turned into a five-mile hike and an adventure. The life metaphor of the final few yards to Mexican Dam were not wasted on me. We walked back to the 4Runner, talking part of the way, reflecting part of the time.

When we arrived home, we were all exhausted. The cumulative effect of lots of exercise wore on all of us. We ate a bite of lunch then everyone crashed for a nap. It was a great hike and a wonderful experience.

Life Changes

swainsons-2I honestly have no idea where to begin.

That statement rings true on several levels. First, I have no idea where to begin telling this story. Perhaps I shouldn’t even tell it. There are people who read my weblog who will be surprised, maybe disillusioned. I don’t think that’s my role.

Second, I truly have no idea where to begin. I have been released from my professional engagement. I have few ties to this geographic location and now no professional ties. I can go anywhere I want.

Third, I do not even know where to begin the process of finding work again. I’m not even sure I want a job. Maybe the thing to do is strike out on my own and work for myself. I have no idea whether there is sufficient demand to keep me busy enough.

Life Changes… That phrase can be read at least two ways. Life changes. It does. The one thing about living is that it is dynamic, not static. Moments pass, turning into minutes, hours, days, weeks, ad infinitum. It is the way of this existence and nothing is constant.

Then again, there are life changes. These are also discrete points in time when big changes happen — I call them watershed events, because there is a crossing of a threshold, a topographic divide, from one state or place to another.

Sometimes, both events occur — as a result of a single event or closely-space multiple events.

I think I’ve been crossing a watershed for a couple of years now. Wife’s death was a huge change for me. It literally turned everything I worked for all these years upside down and left me bereft, not only of Wife but also life purpose. I was transformed from husband-provider to widow, abruptly.

Early this year, Young Son moved to his own digs. This is part of his growing-up experience and a necessary thing. It was also not optional. I knew that he needed this, whether he knew it or not. Now I can be proud of him again — he’s working, going to school, mostly providing for himself. These are good things and vital to the move to adulthood.

So, now I’m left with this house that is much bigger than I need. I am now self-employed and my current workload is insufficient to maintain my cash burn rate. I need to make some changes. I need to figure out what I’m to do and where I am do to it.

I have a lot to do. I’d better get after it.


Ki Sleeping Peacefully, HealingFriday afternoon, the Girl and I were out in east Carson City near the Carson River looking for some geocaches. We found the one we were looking for near the Mexican Ditch, I signed the log, and then called her back to me to return to the CacheMobile. When she crossed the fence, she snagged the low wire that was on the ground and lacerated her lower right leg. I checked it and there were a couple small gashes, but not a lot of bleeding.

I checked them a couple more times over the weekend, then decided Sunday morning to call her vet. The wounds weren’t closing and I knew they’d take forever to heal without a suture or two. So, they worked us in.

When we arrived, the tech reviewed Ki’s records and suggested we go ahead and do her annual review. I mentioned her two skin cancers and that the vet indicated we should probably just do it all in one swoop so she would only be subjected to anesthesia once. After the office visit, the on-duty vet agreed and so I left her there.

I knew I’d be lost without her, but I had no idea just how anxious I would become. I did everything I could think of to distract myself, short of buying a bottle of whiskey and numbing. I wasn’t really productive Sunday afternoon, but I got part of the irrigation system working and started the process of taking care of my yard for the summer.

The vet called me about 2030. She was in recovery, doing fine, and I could either leave her overnight (without additional charge) or retrieve her. “I’ll be there at 2100,” I said.

I took her discharge instructions, got all the medications assembled, and then carried the poor baby out to the 4Runner. She was so groggy, unhappy, and felt poorly. I could tell all these things. I put her on her mat in the back seat after an abortive attempt to settle her in the front seat pan where she usually rides. The ride home was challenging, but I put on the overhead light and tilted the mirror so I could see her. We made it fine.

She didn’t want her bed on the floor; she wanted it on the sofa, where she usually has it. (I shut the bedroom door; she didn’t need to be jumping on and off the bed. Yes, my dog sleeps with me.) It’s an easy step up to the sofa for her, so I thought that would be fine. I also got my pillows and a blanket and prepared to sleep on the sofa with her.

She really wanted me close. She wanted the comfort and reinforcement that we derive from each other. I tell people all the time that we are both rescues. It’s true.

I really felt badly for her last night. She was so uncomfortable. I wondered whether I did the right thing by bringing her home instead of leaving her in the vet’s care. I guess I won’t ever know.

She groaned and whined most of the night. I felt her stirring in her sleep and could sense her discomfort. I slept off and on. It wasn’t my first time sleeping off and on with someone I love.

But, she woke more like herself this morning. She was stiff and sore, I could tell. But she was ready for breakfast and I opened a can of wet food, gave her some of it with her kibbles, and gave her the medications that will speed her healing.

We took a short walk at noon and she seemed better. I know that some modest exercise will be good for her. She slept off and on most of the afternoon. I spent much of my day on her, just sitting with her or being close. We are like that anyway.

We walked a mile this evening and she did well. I needed the walk and I think that the movement will help keep her skin stretched and supple. The vet took a lot of skin from her skin cancers.

So she’s healing. Her physical wounds will be healed in a couple of weeks. In the process of reflecting on her treatment and healing, I thought on my own. I realized that I’m still healing from Wife’s loss. I’m healing from the departure of a dear friend and my dog’s trainer. I don’t think I’ve begun healing from my change of employment status from employee to self-employed, yet, but it’s impending.

Healing is good. It takes time. It takes work and an investment of positive energy. I also think the being mindful of the need and the process is important. I am still learning, after all.

Happy Pi Day, Belatedly

Light-Up PiI’m running a day late and a dollar (or two) short. But, I wanted to write about Pi Day before too much time gets away from me.

Every year I remember Pi Day (among a few other special days). It’s a fun reminder about the beauty and power of mathematics. One definition for pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi is one of the transcendental numbers, that is, it is an infinite sequence of non-repeating digits. Fun stuff…

There are a number of celebrations for Pi Day, but this year I elected to go to a geocaching meet, Pi Day with the Professor down in Gardnerville. I would meet a few geocachers, celebrate a moment of transcendence, and collect a geocaching souvenier. So the Girl and I packed out a bit early to scout some locations for landscape photographs on our way to Gardnerville.

It was a fun gathering and I was there before 9:26AM. That’s the other fun part of this particular Pi Day, yesterday, at 9:26:53AM, it was Pi Day to nine decimal places (3.141592653). This occurs only once each century, and the next one will be in 2115. I will not be there for that one.

Unfortunately, the noise and energy in the small coffee house was too much for me. I left not long after the special time, saying thanks and goodbye to my fellow lovers of the outdoors and the scavenger hunts known as geocaches. It was fun, but it was also time to get home and get after other tasks.

It’s Alive…

selfieAfter what seems like forever, my weblog is again operational. At least, it appears to be and to be without the hack I discovered over a year ago.

After such a long time without writing here on a regular basis, I’m not sure what to do with my space. I still have 11 years of archives in another CMS to parse and do something with. I intended to bring those bits into this CMS, but now I’m not so sure.

There are more tales to tell, that is certain. There is a lot of history over the last year and change as well. I have thousands of new images. I have thousands of words.

But, I think I’ll go in a different direction, at least for awhile. I think that instead of an online, public diary, I’ll use this space to write about music, photography, engineering (at least hydrology), and education. My theme will remain random ruminations, but the topics will be a little less personal and a little more technical. I guess we’ll see.


Which Way?

Here is a capture from morning walkies a few days ago. The snow was still on, although it was melting down here in the valley. One of the neighbors had put up a sign. The wind blew it over and the snow covered most of it. All that was exposed was this portion. For some reason, this caught my eye. The capture was made with the Nikon D300 and a micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4.

The Selfie

selfie-at-70mphIt’s funny that making a self-portrait took on the coined work selfie sometime over the last few years. Photographers make self-portraits in a number of ways and have probably since photography began. Most of the time it requires a camera on a tripod or other self support that is fired remotely.

I used to use a bulb release that pushed a bit of air that activated a plunger to release the shutter. I’ve also use self-timers with my cameras. Now it’s more common to use a wireless remote because many cameras are equipped with wireless receivers. (My Sony NEX-5N has an infrared receiver, for example.) With a mobile phone front-facing camera it’s trivial.

Probably about 15-years ago, I made this capture with a Canon Elph APS film camera. I was riding the bike at 70 mph on my way home to Lubbock. The sun was setting. I stuck my hand in the tank bag, put the Canon’s lanyard around my write, turned it on, held it at arm’s length, and depressed the shutter. I took a couple of frames to be sure I got a decent capture.

This is one of my favorite self-portraits, or selfies. It was a fun capture near the end of a long day’s ride and something unique to my history. That’s a good thing.

Nobody’s Home

On walkies the other afternoon the Girl I paused by this empty nest we see almost every day. I believe I had the Bausch & Lomb 100mm f/2.3 mounted on my D300. I probably used a stop of about f/5.6, which is a sweet spot for this lens.