The GirlWell, sometimes it sucks to be me (as an old friend used to say). The Girl didn’t eat her breakfast Tuesday morning. I was away all day and so she did her usual thing, which is sleep. She didn’t eat her supper Tuesday evening, but our walk was OK. Later she asked to cuddle on the couch, so I sat with her awhile. She didn’t move when I went to bed, but sometime later hopped into bed with me.

I noticed she felt hot, more than usual. Sometime early in the morning, she voided her bladder… in bed. She’s never done that before. She’s particular about her house and her bed. Worse, she peed on my leg. (More on that in a bit.)

She wasn’t interested in her breakfast Wednesday morning, went out, urinated, ate a bit of grass (expected), and then vomited it up. She got back on her mat on the couch and curled up.

I called the vet and made an appointment. When we got there in the afternoon, the did the usual thing with vitals. The vet came in and took her history. Then she examined her. There wasn’t anything obvious, so they took a blood sample and ran it. Her kidney function was impaired and her counts were off. They elected to keep her, hydrate her, and start her on antibiotics while they waited for the next set of samples to be tested. The candidates were leptospirosis, one of the tick-borne diseases, or cancer.

I hated leaving my Girl behind. I knew it would be a lonely night. It was.

The vet called this morning. The Girl ate her breakfast, but threw it up. So they started an antiemetic.

The vet called again later. It is leptospirosis. It’s dangerous and causes kidney and liver damage if untreated. Unfortunately, it’s also zoonotic. So I have to go to the doctor tomorrow because I was exposed to her urine. I don’t know whether they will pull a blood sample to check me or just prescribe prophylactic antibiotics. I guess I’ll find out.

In the meantime, the Girl remains at the vet hospital. I can’t see her until her urine is clear of bacteria. It’s also not clear whether there was significant kidney or liver damage from the bacteria. I hope I caught her flu-like symptoms early enough that she’s OK. I pray about it as well. She still has several days in the hospital.

I’ve had all I want of doctors and hospitals for the rest of my life. The last couple-three years were full of them. Now my Girl is sick. Sometimes it sucks to be me.

Broken I

Broken I

On the long road down from the Guadalupe Mountains, I found an old motel that is in substantial disrepair. I decided that it’s better to stop and make some images than to think “I should have stopped and shot a few frames” another hundred miles down the road.

So, the Girl and I stopped, parked, and wandered around the old structures for a half hour or so. She managed to find a lot of stickers, poor thing. So I had to stop now and again and remove them from her pads. Nonetheless, I think we both enjoyed exploring — each in our own way.

From This Valley

Sunset Wave CloudThe trip to Lubbock was hard both physically and emotionally. The physical part is easy to deal with. It’s a mental game. So long as I don’t get so tired to be dangerous (to myself and others), it’s just something to overcome. The emotional part, though, is not so easy.

Some might say just deal with it. If they did, I would be tempted to tell them to “stick it where the sun don’t shine.”

I’m not sure what I expected of this process of grieving. I’ve never experienced this kind of loss. Yes, I lost my mom and dad years ago. That was plenty hard, but neither unexpected nor handled alone. Wife was there with me through that process. I was secure. This time, though, I lost the person I’d spent nearly 45 years with. The depth of that relationship was substantial. Although I tried to prepare myself for this time, my preparations were horribly insufficient.

Wife so loved road trips. Neither of us enjoyed the preparations, wherein Wife’s tendency to obsessive-compulsive behavior was brought out. (Everything that could have been done since the last trip but wasn’t now has to be done before we leave for this trip.) But once that was all dealt with and we actually left, we enjoyed seeing things, stopping to putter a bit, and trying new places to eat. But mostly we enjoyed talking and listening to music.

Those last two things defined our relationship. We loved words and music.

I don’t know why, but for some reason this trip was particularly hard. I brought my iPod along this time, instead of just listening to satellite radio. I recently discovered The Civil Wars from their track on Phil Madiera’s Mercyland. The refrain from that song haunts me:

Oh won’t you take me from this valley
To that mountain high above
Oh I will pray, pray, pray till I see your smiling face
I will pray, pray, pray to the one that I love.

I was singing along, trying to learn the lyric, and hit the phrase till I see your smiling face… and I lost it. The wave of grief rose up and buried me, leaving me sobbing as I drove.

While Wife was in her Summer 2012 chemotherapy testing to determine whether her lymphoma remained chemo-sensitive, I captured a couple of informal portraits of her. They were good enough to print and frame. They are on the wall of my house, now, where I can look at her smiling face. When I get a beer, or a whiskey, or even just a coffee, I raise my cup to her portrait in salute and remember her, remember us, remember the good times and the hard.

I want to be over my grief and I also don’t want to be over it. To be done with it seems to signify that I’m over her death. I don’t want to be over her death. I want her life to have so much significance that I’m never over it. Indeed, her life was that significant, at least to this old man.

I suppose that means I want to complete my grieving so that I can move on to whatever God has for me next. I don’t want to be over her loss, but I need to know what’s next for me. Where am I to put myself to work where I can create meaning for myself and others. That’s where I want to be. That’s what I want to figure out. I do not think it is where I currently am.

I gave myself a year to deal with this process. Everything I read tells me that it takes a year or two to recover (not get over) the loss of a spouse. I’m not very patient, though, sometimes. I long to get through this so that I can get on with whatever is to be next.

Perhaps that’s the clue to the entire thing. Part of the process should be figuring out what’s next. I am accomplishing the things I set out to do after Wife died. My finances are recovering. My initial purge of my house is nearly complete. There needs to be a second purge, but that one will not be nearly as difficult as the first pass. Much of the paperwork that languished is also complete.

That means I’m running out of projects to work on that were set out a year or more ago. It’s time to work up some new things to work on. I think it’s time that some of those things be the things I want to work on. It’s time to think about playing music again, about upping my photography game to the next level, about working on the what’s-next-for-me game and where that is going to be.

I think that’s part of what this roadtrip was about. It was an opportunity to openly grieve (no one was there to watch — men in our culture prefer to grieve privately), to process that grief, and to think about what is complete, what is yet to complete, and what is next for me. I worked on the first two quite a lot. It’s time to give the last element some thought.

I’ll leave you with the lyric to From This Valley. It’s a wonderful song.

Oh the desert dreams of a river
That will run down to the sea
Like my heart longs for an ocean
To wash down over me

Oh won’t you take me from this valley
To that mountain high above
Oh I will pray, pray, pray till I see your smiling face
I will pray, pray, pray to the one that I love

Oh the outcast dreams of acceptance
Just to find pure love’s embrace
Like an orphan longs for its mother
May you hold me in your grace

Oh won’t you take me from this valley
To that mountain high above
Oh I will pray, pray, pray till I see your smiling face
I will pray, pray, pray to the one that I love

Ooh, whoa oh, whoa oh oh
Ooh, whoa oh, whoa oh oh

Oh the caged bird dreams of a strong wind
That will flow beneath her wings
Like a voice longs for a melody
Oh Jesus, carry me

Oh won’t you take me from this valley
To that mountain high above
Oh I will pray, pray, pray till I see your smiling face
I will pray, pray, pray to the one that I love

Oh I will pray, pray, pray till I see your smiling face
I will pray, pray, pray to the one that I love

Wilson Canyon

Wilson Canyon 1

On my way home from Texas last week, I elected to drive through Yerington, Mason Valley, Smith Valley and Wilson Canyon. The colors along the Walker River in Yerington were gorgeous. I could not find a good spot to make the capture, though. I was really bummed by that.

However, when I drove through Wilson Canyon, there were a couple of places where I could pull off and get a decent composition. The leaves won’t last much longer and are really past their prime color. But, it was still worth stopping for a few minutes on a Friday afternoon.



I almost always carry a camera with me. Even if it’s the puny camera in my iPhone, I have something on my person that will permit a capture of an image, should something present itself. There was something about the interplay of the evening light (before sunset colors appeared) on the clouds and the neighbor’s trees. I had the D300 with me and the Nikkor 24/2.8 lens. So, I made the capture.

It didn’t work in color, so I elected to desaturate the image and play with the contrast and exposure curves a bit. I so much prefer working on the digital darkroom than the wet darkroom! I like what I got. I think it conveys the mood of the scene.

The Girl, of course, didn’t care about sun, dark, light, or shadow. She was “hunting wabbits” and doing doggie things. We’re a good pair, me with my nose in the clouds and she with her nose on the ground. I never tire of watching her energy.

Fall, Clouds, and Sunsets

Carson Valley SunsetFall arrived a couple of weeks ago. The warm/hot afternoons abated, suddenly. They were replaced with cool, brisk mornings and pleasant afternoons. As evening comes, it’s cool outside again and if the wind is blowing, it’s cold. A cover is required.

Last night I walked the Girl about 1800 or a bit after. Sunset isn’t really until about 1830 these days, but with the Carson Range, we lose the Sun about 1800. If there are any clouds, there is a chance we’ll see some color about formal sunset. Although I love the big blue skies of Nevada, I’m ready for a few clouds and the sunsets (and sunrises) they bring with them. I also love the promise of winter. I love cold mornings and the feel of the Sun on my body when I’m outside.

There is something wonderful about that sensation of cold/warm. Perhaps it’s the hint of danger of cold weather coupled with the feeling of warmth and safety, a juxtaposition of two extremes. I sometimes wonder if there is a deep gestalt wired into our lizard brains about such primal things as hot and cold, ice and fire. Civilized life comes with our central HVAC. These mighty machines are all powered from somewhere and by some means that is unknown to most of us. We scarcely give it a thought, unless the power is out. Then we revert to the primal, seeking warmth against the cold.

For me, fall hints at the coming winter with those cold, sunny days that I love so much. I put up with, perhaps celebrate the snow and the promise of spring runoff that drives agriculture in my area. The snow never lasts very long and it’s beautiful, particularly on the Carson Range and on the Pine Nut Mountains.

I love the yellow of the aspens against the darker greens of the pines. I can see the aspen groves in the valleys along the eastern slope from my house. One fall morning, I first noticed them. I wondered what the color was that I was seeing from my driveway here in suburbia. I called Wife and we got out my binoculars for a look. The eight magnifications of my Nikons brought the aspen groves into view.

Wife and I marveled at that for a bit, remembering our first experiences with aspens in Colorado nearly 30-years ago.

The aspen groves are visible now. I can see them on my travels to and from work. I planned to get the Girl out this morning and drive up to Hope Valley. I don’t know if the aspens are in fall colors or not, but I think the drive might be good. But, I hear rain as I write this. That probably means snow in the mountains. I might get her out and drive up there anyway.

One evening last week the Girl and I went out for evening walkies. I carried my D300 along with me, with the 18-70mm kit lens attached. The kit lens isn’t the best of Nikons optics, but it’s adequate. Of all the frames I shot that evening, there was only one keeper. The remainder were technically adequate, but artistically deficient. The colors just were not that good.

But that’s OK. It is the nature of nature photography… sometimes you get a shot; sometimes not. Mother Nature is not always cooperative.


Paint Fight GirlI met my friend Jimmy at Comma Coffee this afternoon for a short visit. While there, these three girls came in for a drink/meal. We asked them what happened and they told us about their paint fight. They were cute, photogenic, and willing.

This morning I finished up the last of Wife’s boxes. There were three cartons left over. One of them contained photographs. The other two were papers that were dealt with in about an hour. The photographs are set aside so I can work through them over the winter.

I put four more 13-gallon bags of grindings into my dumpster and hauled the remaining three down to the office to put in the company dumpster.

That stuff is all gone now and a part of my history, where it belongs.

There are a few more cartons of miscellaneous stuff here in the house. I have 11 cartons of paper/books/reports from my Texas Tech office. However, the latter I know and I can dispense with them pretty quickly. I feel another book purge coming on. I’m going to get rid of a substantial portion of the remaining library. Those books in the office cartons will be dealt with as well. I’m going to determine what I really want to keep and the remainder will go.

I found a couple of cartons from my home office in Lubbock. I think I know what’s in those cartons. The board wargames will be sold. I’m betting there are some photographs and negatives in those cartons as well. They will be archived.

I’m going to tackle some of those things in a couple of weeks. I think I can deal with my things in a weekend or two. I’ll be done with this phase soon and then it will be time to regroup. The initial assault will be complete and it will be time to mop up.

This is a good thing and I feel like a weight is lifted. I’m thankful.

Red Sunset

Red Sunset

The Girl and I stopped at one of our usual spots on evening walkies. I was home late, having gone to the grocery store after the mail run. So the sun was just below the Carson Range as we left the house.

God once again treated us to a beautiful fall sunset. I had a Nikkor 28-105/3.5-4.5 AF zoom on the D300 for walkies and dialed in at 105mm and f8. I should probably have turned up the ISO slightly, but I didn’t want the extra noise, so I braced myself on the fence and made the capture.


While going through boxes (and boxes, and boxes) of old papers, I came across an ancient yellow sticky note.

There once was a man named Clyde
Who fell in a cesspool and died
He had a brother
Who fell in another
And now they’re in-turd side-by-side.

Grinding A Life

SunsetThis weekend I really stayed on task and worked through four more boxes of fossil records. There remain only two small cartons of papers that are stowed on the staging table in the garage and a small carton in my living room that I think contains photographs. I will probably break open the photograph carton tomorrow and see what is in it.

I ground cancelled checks, statements, and tax returns dating from 1972. I think Wife kept every bit of paper that came into the house. I threatened several times to just deal with the old records myself. But her fear of losing something that was important overruled my desire to clean up after ourselves and she just became too anxious for me to proceed.

I refused to do it with her, because I knew she would agonize over every decision. I didn’t believe the job warranted that. She knew what I thought. I wasn’t argumentative about it; I just thought it was something that needed to be done.

Well, with her death the job fell to me anyway. I am determined to get through all of that old stuff and deal with it. Most of it (over 90 percent) will go away. A few bits and pieces will be kept and those are mostly things that have her words on them. I do miss her words.

As I worked through all those papers, I recognized a lot of things and places from the past. There were receipts from favorite eating places, records of trips taken, records of work done. As I passed them through the grinder I couldn’t help feeling that I was grinding up the record of our lives. That familiar old feeling of melancholy came over me many times over the weekends as I worked on this humongous project. It felt like I was grinding up not just my life, but our joint lives.

I can say I don’t like how that feels. I already feel the loss of Wife deeply. No day passes when I don’t think of her at least once. When I’m at the office, I expect a text of telephone call asking about my day or when I’m coming home. I honestly think that’s part of the reason I now prefer to work at home. When I’m here at the house I know she won’t be calling or sending me a text. I know that she’s gone and not coming back.

On Saturday, I found myself thinking “I really don’t like feeling this way. I’m going to have to find a way to deal with this and move on.” Heh… I wish it was so simple.

Yet I recall one day during my clinical depression thinking nearly the same thing. That time I got up and started moving around. It marked a watershed in my recovery. I wasn’t done with the depression (or it wasn’t done with me), but I began my recovery that day and moved forward most days after that.

I think new things are coming for me. I’m going to finish this job. I have a few more cartons to deal with after I finish the last three that have unknown contents. But I know the contents of the remaining cartons. For them, it’s a simple matter of opening them and dealing with the contents. It will not be so difficult as the fossils nor will there be the same sense of history associated with the contents.

I need to make another pass through the books in this house. I can eliminate half of them or more. They should go to someone who will read them and wants the library. I might want to read many of the books, but I no longer want a physical library. I want a lot lighter load.

Furthermore, I want that load to comprise the things I use and will use. That’s a fairly short list and I think I can reduce my material possessions by half or more and still not quite be there. But I can work on it.

I have a target to work towards. That’s a good thing.