journal . stories . life

29 ~ June 2024

I'm always searching for places that I can go off trail and not encounter anybody, and have quite a few that the border collies and I visit every summer. My favorite spots are when you weave your way up through the spruce and fir forest and up across timberline. Beau and Hayley always stay pretty close to me no matter where we are. Mollie always liked to wander and explore, and Jess is following in her footsteps. It's amazing how much ground they could cover in the alpine. I get a good feeling just watching little Jess enjoying the wide open space and freedom, acting like a real dog, a mountain dog.

Two of my three border collies are very ball motivated. (Beau and Jess; Hayley is more interested in herding the other border collies) I usually have a ball along in my backpack for them. You can see by their eyes in the video above it is a game that exercises some of their herding instincts. At home it makes Jess’s day when I let her in to move the chickens around in their yard. I have to keep her on some sort of control - with a leash or an ecollar, since her excitement at doing some herding can get away with her, and she is young and very strong

(click on photos below for larger image . . . - Esc or clicking outside of image will close it)

More journal notes: (not always sequential)

July 1st, 2024:

I just made reservations to stop in Cody, Wyoming overnight on the way to camping at the edge of the Beartooth plateau. This time I am staying in a room so that I can take my time and visit the Buffalo Bill Western Art and Natural History and Plains Indian Museum in Cody. It also breaks up the long drive, so I don't have to rush up there and set up my tent before dark.

When I was married my family took many vacations in Yellowstone, and we would also often spend a night in Cody to visit the museum. On most trips my ex-wife Janet and I would go over and do some dancing at Cassie's, a dinner place and dance hall on the west edge of town. I still remember the band they had one night played a western version of Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence with a steel guitar; the perfect song for the landscape of Wyoming, especially in winter.

Janet and I had some good nights dancing at Cassie's. I've said this many times before, and it's ancient history by now, but the heartache I had to deal with when she dumped me was a turning point in my life. Over time though the lonesome and deep pain became familiar and comfortable, and actually a part of who I was. All the dancing I eventually learned to do with beautiful women at the dance halls was a way to suppress that feeling for a while. And I think that's why I came to love high wide open spaces with just me and the dogs even more. It allowed me to open up the emptiness inside, and accept the healing from the beauty and mystery from up there, which certainly was life changing.

June 29th, 2024:

Saturday, working in the yard, preparing the soil to replace the grass that the chickens have turned to bare ground. At least they killed the thistles that always come up every year. First thing I will do is fence it from them, then spread annual rye seed and cover it with straw, to be watered every six hours until it comes up. Little Jess likes nothing more than to lie in a patch of grass, so I am going to get that going for her in the back. Right now I have to let her into the front to sit beneath the oak tree in the grass, with Beau and Hayley. (supervised, behind a fence I put in four years ago).

The backdrop of this is that just knowing I will be out this Saturday night dancing puts me in a good mood. Excitement, spontaneity, and the renewal of music will make me feel alive and rich in heart. That is no small thing.

June 22nd, 2024:

Today I finally got motivated to begin organizing and decluttering the garage, after thinking about it for quite some time but nothing more. I spent several hours out there, and it is like a step back in time; going through all my old backpacking gear, and the kids' toys from 40 years ago. A lot of stuff goes into the charity pile, the rest I rebox and put a label on the front with the date I reboxed it. Eventually it will all go.

I found a collection of old cd’s that I stored photos on from 20+ years ago. I took one from 2004 inside and loaded it on the pc. It was from backpacking down in the San Juan mountains of Colorado with my border collies Ben and Maggie. The photo below of Ben was on it. What a beautiful and wild spirited dog he was. I still miss him, and Maggie.

The photos from that trip were from when I was suddenly alone after a long marriage in the house where my daughters grew up which was now very quiet. I immersed myself in wilderness trips with the dogs, letting the freedom of high country Colorado wash away the broken heart I was living through. There is plenty to deal with when the one love of your life decided she needed to move on and felt she had found something better. It’s pretty hard to compete when you are old and familiar trying to hold your own against something new and exciting.

But of course the blame is not only on her; we had grown apart; I can see there were plenty of mistakes I made, and a lot of things I would do differently. When I tried to reverse course so we could stay together it was too late. Since then I have learned that all relationships eventually can turn stale. You have to work extra hard at that point to try to keep some common interests, stay friends, and try to make the relationship exciting.

Actually I knew that what she and I had while out dancing was pretty special. We might have had our own interests during the week but would get together on Saturday and have a good time out dancing together. Not many couples that had been married that long did that sort of thing. I actually thought it might keep us together.

At least I did not leave it behind. After a couple of years I started going out again, which gets me to where I am now, something to do in old age. It is pretty satisfying when the women I dance with thank me for the experience.

I will always be proud of how I dealt with the difficulty of that transition 20 plus years ago. Exercise and wandering in mountain air with the dogs, instead of alcohol and staying behind closed doors. Then eventually opening my heart to the healing power of music and dance with sweethearted women.

Life goes on. We accept choices made and adapt.

Ben, fall 2003 backpacking, San Juan Mountains Colorado

June 26th, 2024:

Last night after dropping in at the Mercury swing dance, I drove down to South Broadway to see Jenny Dont and the Spurs at the HiDive. They were already playing when I got there, but it is a small place and I found a spot right next to the stage. Jenny Dont drew a decent crowd for a Tuesday Night. I am crazy about this band; they are so good. This is the second time I have seen them live. Jenny has amazing vocals, and the band is so tight and talented that it got me aching to be on a dance floor circling counterclockwise to their music. (I am pretty sure I could stay on a fast triple step beat with this song; what a thrill to find a lady to match it, but there are plenty that go to the Rose that could!) It sure has me in the mood to put my boots and hat on and show up at the Rose tonight, and maybe tomorrow night, to do some honky tonk dancing! (#lifeisshort, #yolo) Denver is a good town to live in, if you love music and country, swing, and blues dance! (my town!)

#jennydontandthespurs #denverhidive #honkytonkmusic #honkytonk. #countrymusic #triplestep #grizzlyrose #lifeisshort #yolo.

June 26th, 2024:

Nothing like early morning walks when a summer breeze is blowing along the river!

June 25th, 2024:

I am always talking a bit like a lone wolf, that I have never gotten close to anybody since my wife dumped me ages ago. Full disclosure, that is not entirely true. My friend Tricia and I went on hikes, horseback rides, backpacking high in Colorado, staying in cabins in Colorado and Wyoming, snorkeling in the Southern Caribbean, and camping in the canyon country of Utah, over many years.

I have good memories of the times with Tricia. We all have our ways, and I certainly have mine. Tricia was easy going and put up with me. (and the border collies)

Some of the best that come to mind was sitting next to a campfire high on Hatch Point Mesa in Utah on a February night, chatting in the midst of perfect quiet and a sky full of stars. Also hiking several miles to the Grand Gallery in Utah, not seeing another person, and coming on what might be the most magnificent panel of rock art on Earth.

A very good memory was when we met in Bonaire in the Southern Caribbean for a snorkeling vacation. I had already been there a week solo, and was so thrilled to see her come off the plane. (That was just after the 2017 Houston hurricane, where we had to fly through). In the mornings we would sit on our upper deck that had a view of the ocean and drink our coffee, then after snorkeling all day we would walk to town and eat fish and chips and have some ice cream. (that was when I was not so crazy strict about my diet, and enjoyed caffeine in the morning and sugar in the ice cream (very much)).

Tricia and I got together this spring for a walk at the botanic gardens, which was too early; not many plants were blooming yet. Then we went to have lunch at a Thai place on Colorado boulevard we always go to. I told her how good it felt to connect with her again.

Here are some photos of me and Tricia over the years: (She is beautiful, isn't she?)

June 30th, 2024:

On Saturday nights I wear a western vest, along with my hat and boots for going out dancing. Videos like the one below are from my phone that I stick in the bottom left pocket of the western vest, set to ultra wide angle. It is very inconspicuous and captures a bit of the fun and excitement of a Saturday Night in front of a live band. The soundtrack is from Ian Munsick’s ‘I See Country’, which is such a good song, and one that the DJ plays every Saturday some time in the evening between band sets. Ian Munsick is a wyoming native, born in Sheridan and raised on the ranches of The Cowboy State. Ian's brother Tris and his band have played all week at the Grizzly Rose more than once. (Read a good interview with Ian Munsick at this link)

I have to admit a lot of the motivation for me to stay fit is so I can continue to dance to those fast triple steps at the Rose. Men who can dance something other than a line dance get plenty of partners, even if they are old, like me. Yes, I do get turned down plenty when I ask ladies to dance, but I try not to give that much of a thought; it comes with the territory. I get to dance enough that the natural feel good chemicals linger all through Sunday (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins).

This video is from clips all from Saturday 6/29/2024. What I do is pull out one second clips (about one step on the dance floor), splice them together and then slow the whole video down to half speed. I then add the music track.

May 2024 backpacking

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart"