Friday, June 29, 2007

Heaven Must Wait

I've got to go back to work to get some rest and to get things done around home. I've been off 4 weeks and have a little over 2 weeks of vacation left.

We had a wonderful time in Chaco Canyon and we're leaving in 30 minutes for a north rim to south rim Grand Canyon hike. We'll spend tonight on the North Rim and 3 nights in the canyon. We'll get home on July 3 and I'll finish the heaven story.

I had a cardiac stress test this week. It was a piece of cake, easy, a no-sweater -- much less exertion than I do most days. The technicians imaged my heart and asked that I return in an hour after a doctor reviewed the test results. Surprisingly, they wanted a second image because they think something is not right. Another doctor reviewed the results and referred me to a cardiologist for yet another test.

Why are they picking on a healthy person like me? Don't they make enough money from people who are truly sick?

Saturday, June 23, 2007


We're in Bloomington, New Mexico, having breakfast on our way to Chaco Canyon.

Chaco has no electric, no cell signal, no net access and no coffee shops.

Chaco does have star-filled skies, intriguing ruins, hiking trails, bicycle trails and boundless peace.

We plan on spending two nights in Chaco so photos and the completion of my last post about heaven will have to wait a few days.

Friday, June 22, 2007


“Take them off!”

“No way.”

“It will take only a few moments.”


“You don’t have to take everything off.”

I was out of ideas to convince her. Why couldn’t she understand a man has needs – not wants, not wishes, not simple desires but passion-filled needs?

I began to undress. I took off my pride, tossed it to the ground, stomped on it and did an unmanly thing. I began to beg.

“Please! I’ve just got to do it.”

“I’m not doing it. It’s too cold.”

I gave up and looked across the narrow stream of rushing snow-melt water. On the other side was the Horsethief Trail that led up the mountain to the Bridge to Heaven. There were just 5 feet of water between me and heaven.

I gave up and mumbled “OK”.

“Hey, I have an idea! Let’s go to the hot spring. We can take a picnic lunch, blanket and books. We can find a spot in the grass under a tree and you can rub lotion on my shoulders and neck. Wait! They have a masseuse. I could get a massage. Doesn’t that sound like heaven?“

I turned and stumbled on something tangled around my feet. Looking down I saw my tattered pride.

“Yes, that sounds like heaven. Let’s do it.”

We began the walk back to the car and her version of heaven. After all, women have needs too.

(The above is 93% truth and 7% spice. Tomorrow, time permitting, I’ll publish photos and the rest of the story that’s anything but bland.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hot Springs

“Nudity is prohibited.”

“Nudity is common.”

As we crossed the Indian Reservation we stopped by a visitor center for information about the national forest and to get more detailed maps of the area. A sheet of information about one of the hot springs contained the above statements which invited my mind down a series of thoughts such as:

  • Do state and local police patrol the forest to enforce a state law prohibiting freedom of speech, expression and choice?

  • Do forest rangers enforce state laws on property not owned by the state of New Mexico?

  • Laws that prohibit behavior harmful to life and property make sense. What harmful behavior occurs when a person is sitting nude in a hot spring in a forest a few miles from the closest road?

  • Hmmm?

On Friday, we had the first spring, which was close to a road, to ourselves. About the time we were ready to leave, a group arrived. We wished them well, took our towels and memories and set off for another spring. The trip required a six-mile drive over rough road that isn’t maintained. After about a mile and a half of slowly navigating ruts, exposed boulders and sharp rock, we calculated the time of day, our speed and our increasing hunger. The math was easy and we began the return trip to find supper. This spring will wait for another opportunity.

Saturday morning was perfect – cool air, bright sun, colorful flowers, singing birds and thrilling scenery. The spring was located at the end of a fairly steep hike that was downhill all the way. It was sufficiently remote to deter most people. When we arrived we had the spring to ourselves.

On the return, we took a detour near the blacktop to a waterfall. Above the falls we heard beautiful singing in Spanish and went to investigate. We discovered a small group about equally divided between those in the water and those on the shore. As the singing ended, one of the men in the water raised a hand and began speaking what sounded like melodious and practiced poetry. A baptism! As the young man was raised from the water the group on the bank of the stream began clapping while the group in the water began splashing the young man with water. All were cheering. As the man waded to the shore, the group in the water turned toward the pastor and re-baptized him with a shower of splashing water.

I don’t participate in any organized religion but the experience made me smile and I was snared by the enthusiasm and happiness of the group. A long submerged memory surfaced of a baptism in a river in Virginia sometime about 1949 or 1950 or perhaps 1951. I have no memory of young people or children. The group was older men in suits and women with long gray hair in buns. Old people, white shirts, gray hair, drab colored clothing, rules and prohibitions and lifelessness. No cheering or clapping or enthusiasm or happiness.

It my former life, I baptized people in cold bone-chilling water in fiberglass baptisteries in equally cold churches and in shallow flowing waters of living rivers. These memories are fading and being forever lost as perhaps is best.

But, enough spirit dampening memories and rambling disconnected thoughts.. Let’s see the photos!

Hot Spring
Hot Sring (Larger version)

Hot Spring
The world from my view! (Larger version)

Hot Spring
Nibbling minnows (Larger version)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Julie's First Helicopter Ride (The Condensed Version)

Wednesday, May 30, 5:30 AM:

“Uh, oh! This is going to hurt.” This thought flitted through my mind as the distance to the ground shrunk.

Julie and I were walking just for the health of it. The sun was to our backs, the ground was level and we were talking and stepping out long and fast. I failed to see a small rock protruding from the ground. It projected up at most 2 inches, probably less. My right foot was placed perfectly and the toe of the sole of my boot glued itself to the rock as I attempted to step forward. Try as I may, I couldn’t get my back leg free and forward to catch my balance.

When I hit the ground I knew four things immediately – some skin was missing from my left forearm, it didn’t hurt as bad as I expected, I could still take a fall and bounce back (literally) and something was broken in my left upper chest.

Many years ago I was water skiing at about 45-50 MPH and took an ungraceful spill that broke 3 ribs. This pain felt similar. The irony is that I fell on my right fist and the thumb of my right hand caused the break.

Tuesday, June 5, 2:30 AM:

The pain pushed my sleep away. It was the strongest to date, felt different and had moved below the break. It wasn’t excruciating. I’ve felt worse pain, far worse pain, but it was enough to cause me to wake up. I rolled out of the bed and felt light-headed and my eyes wouldn’t focus. I was hot and clammy. As I walked to the bathroom, I felt more light-headed and knew there was the possibility I was going to faint and decided to return to the bed.

I don’t remember it happening but I do remember hearing a crash and Julie’s panicked voice. The pain in the back of my head made it clear that I had fallen backwards.

After I returned to the bedroom, Julie checked my blood pressure which was about 50 over 35.

“OK, this makes no sense. The pain is probably from the broken rib and not a heart issue. I’m as healthy as the proverbial horse. However, strange things do happen. Perhaps a trip to the ER would be wise. Also, I doubt that an ambulance could find our house in less than an hour.”

Tuesday, June 5, 4:00 AM:

“Mr. Lambert! Mr. Lambert!”

Some dream slipped away and I opened my eyes and saw a strange woman.

I looked toward the foot of the bed and saw 20 eyes staring at me. A few moments earlier, there had been only three people in the room: Julie, a nurse and the doctor. How the room was filled.

“Your heart stopped beating for a few seconds.”

Sections of my chest and back were shaved, patches attached that I assume conduct electricity, a huge vial of a clear liquid was taped to the rail on the bed to be ready in an instance and a helicopter was on its way.

As I lay there, I looked at Julie and knew two things with confidence, First, this isn’t the end and second, if it is “Oh, well”. Religion gives me neither fear nor comfort. I don’t accept the BS about a wrathful God and the fires of hell. I don’t need sympathy. Other than compassion for Julie and a sense of leaving the party early, I didn’t feel anything about the possibility of dying other than acceptance.

Tuesday, June 5, 5:30 AM:

The helicopter ride was exciting. Fortunately, Julie is on the petite side and her weight is below the limit so she flew with me. By then, the pain was gone (which probably had something to do with a shot of morphine), my eyes were focusing and I had a window. In spite of the fact that I was on my back strapped to a board, the view wasn't bad. I commented to Julie that this was probably the only flight that we would ever take without going through security. We flew passed Sedona and over canyons that begged to be explored. At the Arizona Heart Hospital we got the red carpet treatment, lot of needles, several tests and no breakfast or lunch.

For 60 years I’ve had the goal of dying without spending one night as a patient in a hospital. Yes, I’ve been to a hospital multiple times to get stitched up after some accident or to have some sun-induced spot carved off but I’ve never been admitted. This little incident blew that goal all to Hades.

Wednesday, June 6, 10:30 AM:

Julie and I slept well in the hospital bed. It was a little tight but not uncomfortable. I was up by 5 AM, put on jeans and a tee-shirt, stuck the wires and remote monitor in my pocket and waited and waited and waited. Breakfast came and I ate it as I watched a D-Day anniversary program on the history channel. Finally, the doctor came in and gave us a prescription for a nuclear stress test (scheduled for the 26th just before our Grand Canyon hike on the 29th) and we were on our way home.

We walked about a mile to a bus stop, rode a bus to a stop near the airport, walked about 3 miles to the rental car agency and drove a Mustang convertible back to Flagstaff.

Friday, June 15, 5:00 AM:

I don’t know what happened that night. Every test confirmed I’m healthy. I feel no pain unless I cough, sneeze or laugh but broken ribs heal given time. Also, I sit down gingerly. Evidently, when I fell, my lower back just above the bottom of the spine made contact with the floor. It’s been a real pain in the ass. Today, we’re hiking to some remote hot springs at a little over 8,000 feet in elevation. The hot water will be soothing

When Julie phoned her daughter and told her about the incident, Abby was surprised and asked “Are you serious?” to which Julie replied, “Yes, serious as a heart attack.” Personally, I admire Julie’s resiliency and humor.

Life is good when it’s filled with adventures that I share with her.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


We’re in Albuquerque sitting under shade trees, enjoying the breeze and mild temperatures, drinking tea and feeling content and happy.

The day didn’t start as I planned. I went to the water station at 5 AM to get a tank of 250 gallons of water to hook to a drip irrigation system but the machine that accepts quarters was jammed. Insert 75 cents and get 50 gallons of water. Insert nothing and get nothing. Rather than lose flowers, I hooked the irrigation system to our main cistern and left the pump powered on. When we’re away, I generally power off the pump as a precaution.

The second task I left for this morning was an oil change. When I installed a new filter, it seemed to turn farther than normal before it seated firmly. I put oil in the engine, started it and checked the pressure gauge. No problems. I took a shower, got dressed and was ready to leave when I looked under the car and saw oil on the ground. I discovered the rubber gasket from the old filter had pulled loose from the filter and remained attached to engine. I changed into work clothes, removed the new filter and the old gasket, reinstalled the new filter, added oil to fill it and took another shower.

Deb and Chris, Julie’s sister and brother-in-law, just arrived. We’re going to have supper at Church Street Café in Old Town. Julie and I usually choose this café when near Old Town.

Later tonight, I’m going to write about the heart-stopping excitement of Julie’s first helicopter ride. There’s a pun in this sentence that will make sense when you read the story.

(Buff, you’ll understand why I got an ear-to-ear smile from your comment “I was beginning to wonder if you had taken a walk down that path that all must walk someday.”)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


“My honey is getting old.”

Julie was looking at me today when she spoke those words but I don’t know about whom she was speaking.

She couldn’t have been talking about me. I’m not old. I have plenty of energy. I’m a morning person. When it gets after 3 or 4 PM, I’m ready to get lazy. My motivation and creativity die a quick death to be resurrected the next morning.

I have about two hours work to complete tomorrow morning before we leave on a trip to Albuquerque to meet family, northwestern New Mexico to visit remote hot springs, southwestern Colorado around Ouray to hike and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico to explore Anasazi ruins on the return trip. I can get up at 4 AM and be ready to go by 6. Besides, I like the excitement of the last minute rush.

I wonder who she had in mind.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Dreamer

It was a short conversation. Consisting of two words, it couldn’t have been abbreviated more.



Julie didn’t answer and I didn’t wait for a response. Before I looked down, though she was behind me, I realized she was moving backwards and started back myself. I saw him about three feet in front of me. He was large for a Hopi Rattlesnake, long and fat and healthy. He was rattling and trying to move out of our path. In the strong breeze, I hadn't heard him.

We had been building shutters for our bedroom window and the battery on my drill needed charging. I walked around the corner of the house, exchanged batteries in the charger and walked back to the window. It was a distance of less than 50 feet. Where did he come from so quickly?

Our patio in front of the snake's favorite tree. (Larger version)

Normally, I see the first rattlesnake in the yard about mid-May. This year I saw the first one on April 1. By May 30, I had seen 6 – small, medium and large.

A neighbor who owns 40 or 60 acres about 4 miles north of us said he never see rattlers anymore. Over the years he’s killed everyone he’s encountered. Now, he’s overrun with mice. I’ve seen only one mouse in several months. I asked Julie if she wanted me to move the snake a couple miles away and she said no. She prefers the company of a mouse catcher rather than mice.

Our latest visitor spent a few days with us. His favorite spot was dozing beneath a Juniper on the southeast corner of a patio. One afternoon, I was working on the patio and heard an occasional buzzing that was never associated with my location or movement. It appears the snake was dreaming. I enjoy watching a dog twitch and try to bark while asleep. I always image a canine dream of an exciting pursuit of a rabbit or cat with the dog stretched out in long bounds gaining on his quarry. As I watched the snake I thought about the significance of his actions. Rattling is a sign of fear, danger and alarm. A rattling snake feels threatened. Was the snake having a nightmare about being stepped on by a tall two-legged animal that outweighed it by more than 200 pounds?

Rattles (Larger version)

Each time I saw the snake under his tree, I felt a sense of being blessed. When he wasn’t there, I checked the holes around the tree to see if he had moved underground to escape the afternoon sun. Sometimes, I got lucky and saw his tail at the opening of one of the holes.

Snake in hole
Escaping the afternoon sun. (Larger version)

After a few days the snake moved on. I miss him. He made me feel alive and rich and thankful. I wish he was back under his tree, basking in the sun, dreaming his dreams and adding to the richness of my life.

Dozing in the sun. (Larger version)

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Only 4 posts in the last 108 days and not a single post in 62 days! My life has been busy – perhaps too busy – in good ways.

I finished the master gardener classes (15 weeks / 45 hours total), passed the exam and am 50 hours of volunteer work away from the official certification. The title and certification aren’t important but the experience is in multiple ways so I’ll complete the hours. I’ve found a project that involves removing a few yards of old concrete, filling the area with soil and landscaping the back yard of an older house that serves as an office on the University campus.

The Men’s Group is on break for the summer. We met each Wednesday evening and discussed some subject pertinent to our experiences as men. In various ways we are a diverse group but we bonded and I look forward to the group commencing again in the fall.

Work at the University has become the most hectic that it’s been in 5 years. I applied for and was selected for a senior technical position – a new position with some title that eludes me. Basically, it means more money for doing the same work. Several people have left for other jobs and one retired so I’ve tried to work more efficiently to help fill the gap. A little over a year ago, I had 75 assignments but still found time to read a few blogs while at work. That’s no longer possible.

Homesteading is lots of fun and lots of work! Since my last post, I’ve installed a dual-flush toilet, built shelves in a storage building, enlarged a patio, built a roof over the deck that we added last summer, built functional shutters for the east and west windows, bought enough glass for a 40-feet wall in the greenhouse, ordered 12 yards of gravel, begun digging the foundation for the greenhouse, built screens to block the early morning and late evening sun on the deck and finished a few other smaller projects. I’ve checked on two 2500 gallons cisterns and am seriously considering trying to get them installed before the monsoons begin.

Currently, I’ve been on vacation for the last week and a half. I’m taking six and a half weeks off – the longest break from work that I’ve had in 45 years.

I hope, plan and intend to write a few more posts this week. I have news about rattlesnakes, birds, lizards, a hike into the Grand Canyon and Julie’s first helicopter ride,

Life is busy. Life is good!