Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Farmington to Santa Fe - Nia in Albuquerque

After publishing my blog entry last night, I took a walk to the water dispenser and River kept stopping to scratch himself on the way back. He doesn't scratch himself often, so it was really odd that he did it several times in the course of one block. 

So when we got back to the motel room, I decided we needed a spa day and gave us both a coconut oil rubdown and vinegar rinse. 

I got the lion's share of the coconut oil. I put it all over my skin and in my nose and I ate a spoonful of it and pulled another spoonful through my teeth. I fed River a big blob of it from my hand and then rubbed the residue all on his body, rubbing it down onto his skin as best I could. He doesn't care for being oiled. I love it!

I filled the ice bucket with warm water and dropped a quarter cup of vinegar into it and lifted it by the handful onto River's fur and rubbed it in all over. He doesn't mind that as much as the coconut oil, though I think he'd still prefer I didn't do any of it. I let him drink some of the vinegar water, which he enjoyed until he didn't. I rubbed the vinegar water into my scalp, too.

I dried River gingerly and then hopped in a hot shower to liquify the coconut oil. I was still oily when I got out of the shower, but wiped the rest off with a towel as I dried myself. 

In the morning, River woke me up asking for his breakfast, so I fed him and made my coffee and breakfast. And that's when I saw a flea on him! He's never had a flea in his life! I was shocked. I may have seen two, in fact. I saw one, and then I lost it in his fur. And then I saw another one, or that same one again. 
I verified it was indeed a flea by squashing it between my fingernail and thumbnail. I'm no expert, but it felt like a flea. The whole rest of the day, I was obsessively looking for another one and never saw one. And he stopped scratching himself, even though I noticed later that his skin was dry and flaky. 

It was a three hour drive to Albuquerque and then another hour on to Santa Fe. I got started a little before noon. 

The main event today was teaching Nia at Move!
I got to the space really early and took River for several excursions around the shopping mall we were in. I'm glad for the covered overhang as the New Mexico sun was relentless. It was only in the high 80s, though, so not uncomfortable at all as long as you didn't hang out in the direct sun.

River did a weird and unusual thing on our walk. He's usually very aware of a pole or a tree or something coming in between him and me, and he'll know to walk on the same side of the object as me. Or if he forgets, it takes only a wave of my hand in the right direction and he walks around the object and we're free to proceed.

But today, he stood and stared at me as I gestured. He acted like we had never established this routine. He stood dumbfounded and panting, not knowing what to do. I gestured over and over and finally I said, "go around" which prompted him to take a trip the wrong way around the poll. I stopped him with a "NO" and when he looked back at me, I gestured the other way and said to go around, but he stared stupidly at me. I was embarrassed for him, but I wanted to give him the chance to succeed, so I waited it out. We were there at least fifteen minutes. At one point, he was wrapped entirely around the pole with the leash catching his face in the knot. Finally, I had to reach over and give him a nudge in the right direction followed by some gestures and commands and then he was free.

He was fine in the crate during class.

I was having a heck of a time in class for some reason today. I had left my Spotify on shuffle from listening to it as a radio in the car, and it took me a while to figure out how to get it to play straight through.
I kept missing my cues. Not that it mattered that much, but I totally blew both of my trouble songs in this routine, "To Let Myself Go" and "Mi Mujer".  But we had fun and I'm sure no one knew I flubbed except me.

During the second to last song, I noticed that I had blown through the crotch in my black and gold rock and roll pants. I could see the bright yellow of my underwear when I squatted down or if I spread my legs in FloorPlay. So I was careful to keep myself facing away from the group or keeping my legs together for the last songs. I only wonder when that crotch blew out. Did I flash anyone?  Jeez.

I've only worn those pants maybe four times. I think I might send them back to the manufacturer and let them know they can't handle me.

I somehow went way over time and the students for the next class started piling in the room as we were finishing, so I sort of had to rush the ending of the routine which is designed to be a very meditative and luxurious moment.

The students overall seemed to have a good time and it was really fun to dance with them. I got lots of smiles and good compliments afterward and some of us posed for a picture outside the studio.

River was really impatient as I put him in the car and then went back for the picture. From under the shopping mall parking lot overhang, his barks echoed throughout the whole area. He was being dramatic. And when I did finally get back to the car, he wasn't done. He barked right in my face as I was trying to give him kisses. I got the message and picked up his chew toy which we went at ferociously and loudly.

I let him walk around in Albuquerque for just a little bit in case he had to pee, but then we got in the car and drove to Santa Fe.

After checking in and feeding him, I took River for a long walk down Cerrillos Rd.

He was in one of those moods where he doesn't want to be with me; he wanted to be twenty feet ahead of me. So I allowed it. We have a thirty foot leash.

At one point he stopped and was really interested in this bush. I looked in to see what he was attracted to and thought, 'that looks like jeans... OMG that's a person asleep in the bush!" We moved right along!

River took me quite a way in this manner. For a long time he seemed driven toward something. Usually it means he's got to find the right spot to poo, so I just let him go.

But then he did his third strange thing of the day. After trotting for a good fifteen minutes solid, he came to a sudden stop, froze, and raised his head, his nostrils pulsating. For a few seconds he sniffed, facing across a major, six lane road to something on the other side in the direction of the Goodwill shop.

Then just as suddenly he was back to his determined forward trotting. He was going to head into the Taco Bell parking lot but I put the kibosh on that, so he turned around and found himself again facing the Goodwill 200 yards away. And again he froze and worked his nose. I watched for a while and then tried to urge him to move, but he didn't hear me. He remained transfixed by the thrift store.

After a while he folded himself nearly in half sideways to he could glare at the Taco Bell directly behind him and held that side bend for maybe fifteen seconds before he completely shifted.

He then fell into 'heel' formation at my right side and walked at my side in the direction back toward our motel. I think he would have walked right by my side the whole time except that we saw a person walking several dogs at once. The sight was too much for him to process, so we broke into a run away.

This is something he's been doing lately, which I love. This is the third time that he has spotted a dog and not only just avoided a confrontation by ignoring it, but actively ran in the opposite direction to get away from it. He's learning to handle his fear in a different way. Flight over fight; a way I fully support! So we ran the rest of the way to our front door.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Shopping in Farmington and Navajo Lake State Park

Today is another day without obligation and no relocating. I started the day by stocking up again at Natural Grocers and then coming back to the room to eat breakfast.

Through experimentation, I learned that if you add Italian sausage to tomato bisque, you get something akin to pizza soup.  Yum!

Then, the plan for today was to visit Navajo Lake State Park. I'm not sure the place we ended up going was technically allowed.  The hill we climbed down to reach the beach was very steep and rocky and we both lost our footing a few times on the way down. It wasn't until we were finished thoroughly exploring the lakeshore that we noticed the staircase, which would have been a much easy way to get down, though not nearly as fun. 


Yesterday, I thought I heard Babe give me the sound she gives when I'm low on gas. But I wasn't low on gas, so I thought maybe I had imagined it.  But then I heard it again today and couldn't tell why.  Both times it occurred just as I was starting the car. So the third time I started the car and heard the tone again, I noticed that the "Time For Service" light was on. It's the reminder that it is time to take her into Mini for her regular scheduled maintenance.

There is a Mini dealer in Santa Fe and I have all of Thursday off when I"m there, so it works out perfectly (once again) that I have time and there is a nearby facility whenever I'm having car issues. So I made an appointment for Thursday morning.

I'm starting to feel that dried out feeling I get in the desert. My nose feels raw and like I need to blow it; and when I do, blood comes out. I think I'll give myself a full body coconut oil rub tonight, including the inside of my nose.

Nia in Durango - Dolores River Trail Park

It is a luxury on these trips when I can stay in a motel room for more than one night. I appreciate and relish not having to pack up the car and check in to a new room.  So this week, I'm living like a king while I stay in the Motel 6 in Farmington, NM for four nights!!

The main reason I'm staying here is that I'm teaching Nia in Durango on Monday morning. 

It was about an hour drive to Durango, so I got an early start. It was cold! This high desert weather... I forget how much the temperature drops when the sun goes down.  I was shivering as I parked in front of the studio and walked River on the dewey wet grass.

The class was delightful. The gang at Durango Nia are strong and playful and willing to try new things. Evonne has a strong group of devoted students and many of them remembered me from the three or four past times I had taught there. 

In the room, before class started, and also during the first few songs, the sun was streaming in the windows, creating swatches of warm light and dramatically lighting the dancing bodies from behind. It was almost surreal in the beauty.

After class, I was planning to go to one of my favorite and most memorable burger places from my burger-eating adventures of last year, but when it came time to do it, I couldn't bring myself to it. I had a polar reaction to my burger gluttony last year and since I had gone this far on the trip without having a burger, I decided to keep that abstinence going. 

I didn't have anything to eat (I had eaten an apple before class) and instead I took off for an afternoon at the park. 

I had originally intended to go visit Four Corners, but after talking to locals and reading more about it, I decided it was going to be boring, so instead, I set my sights on Canyons of the Ancients, a National Monument in southwestern Colorado that I somehow missed on my National Parks tour last year. 

Along the way, I passed Mesa Verde National Park, which I went to twice last year.  And I stopped at a rest area on the way so River could relieve himself. As he did that, I was checking my phone to hone in on exactly where the entrance is to this major attraction. The location of the National Parks are often not obvious and difficult to find on my Mini Nav, so I've learned it's easiest to determine what town the entrance is in and just navigate to that town, keeping an eye open for signs. 

So I set the navigation for Dolores, CO.

Just as we entered Dolores, and having still seen no indication of where to find the entrance to Canyons of the Ancients, I noticed a beautifully big grassy park with access to a river. It was perfect for us!  I was concerned that River was going to be prohibited from most of the Canyons of the Ancients, as is often the case with artifacts, and that there would be no shade and the grounds would be harsh with rocks, dirt, brush and cacti. So we stopped instead at the Dolores River Trail Park. There was access to a fishing spot at the far end of the grass. There was parking near the river access, but I thought it would be more fun to park at the other end of the huge lawn and take a long walk to the river.

We spent a good, long time there. Although we didn't spend much time in the river because it was obviously melted snow and was extremely cold. Also, River was a bit uncomfortable around all the guys fishing, so we just got our feet wet and then spent the rest of the day playing on the grass and climbing on the big rocks. 

After all of our playing, as we sat in the shady, I realized it was almost 3pm and I still hadn't eaten. I was getting a headache and had no food in the car. I drove home (nearly a 90 minute drive) with a growing painful headache that didn't go away once I finally ate.

I suffered for a while, stretching, taking a hot shower, drinking lots of water and massaging my scalp and neck, but I couldn't relieve the headache. Finally I relented and took a couple of aspirin, which helped. 

I was going to do a load of laundry, but I saw a sign on one dryer saying "The dryers are out of order." I double-checked at the front desk that the pluralization on the sign was accurate and both of the dryers weren't working. She said she didn't know. I asked her if there was someone she could call to find out for me. She called the manager who told her that the serviceman had just come and worked on the equipment so that the top dryer is working.

I was glad to hear that and set about getting my load in the wash. The first machine I opened smelled like a science experiment gone bad. Like water had been sitting dormant in there for years. It was awful, musty and mildewy. I opened the other one and stuck my head in to take a big sniff, but it smelled fine, so I used that one. 

When I went back to retrieve my clothes from the dryer after a full 45 minute cycle, I was bummed to feel that they were not completely dry. I took the load back to the room and folded the pieces that had gotten dry and hung up the ones that were still damp. 

While I was out, I left River in the room alone. Usually he just sits and waits, staring at the door until I return, but on this last trip, he got frisky and found his way into my cooler. I had left it unzipped. He pulled out a couple of packages of my instant oatmeal and tore them open, leaving a big pile of oatmeal on the floor in front of the door. So while I know I was partially to blame for leaving him access to my food, he lost his privilege to be outside the crate when I leave the room. 

After dinner, we took a walk down the street. One of my favorite features of this particular Motel 6 is that there is a filtered water vending machine half a block away. And it's only a quarter for a gallon of water! I think I end up drinking more water just because it's so convenient to refill.

I like to see the signs welcoming people to the town. Oftentimes there is also a slogan that speaks to how beautiful the town is, or how friendly the people are. The sentiment is usually that its a nice place to live. But here in Farmington, the welcome sign has a different perspective. The slogan is "Jolt Your Journey" which makes me think that this is a good town to score some crack on your way through, but not necessarily a place I'd want to settle down. 

Hanging Out in Farmington

Today I had no obligations. Nowhere to drive and nothing to do. I decided I didn't want to go far, so I found the closest park and took River for a long romp. It was called Berg Park and turns out it was a really big park with lots of different stuff to do.
We walked in the River, which was really muddy.
We played in the lush green grass, chasing sticks and pulling on the rope toy.
We relaxed on a bench in the shade of the trees.
We played near a water fountain.
We watched a family playing football.
Then the sky changed, dark clouds formed and thunder started rolling in.
It was just starting to rain as we piled into the car and headed back to the motel room.
The rain never really materialized anything to speak of, but we stayed put on the motel property for the rest of the night.
It was great to have a day of total freedom.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Believing in Magic

There is a quote from a Roald Dahl story called The Minpins. It goes:

"Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."

I have seen people sharing this sentiment as a meme on Facebook and it always makes me so sad. Well, I have a few responses to it, but sadness comes first. I feel sorry for the people sharing it and the world of delusion they live in.

First of all, let's be clear, if believing in something is a pre-requisite for finding it, then it probably doesn't exist outside of people's imagination. If it were real, then someone who didn't believe in it could possibly one day stumble upon it, or you could show it to a non-believer and convince them.  But by their own statement, they assert that "those who don't believe WILL NEVER FIND IT."  That statement proves the case that magic is nothing more than a belief; it's not real. 

Taking the concept a step further, if someone does at one point decide to start believing in magic, then POOF they will most certainly immediately find it.  This is because magic is a figment of imagination and seeing things as magic is nothing more than the power of suggestion. Magic can only be found through 'belief', which is defined as an acceptance that something is true. Believing requires no evidence nor proof, but just acceptance.

This argument has also been used in a religious context, condemning people who don't believe by saying they can never 'find God' until they have 'faith'.  And they assert that the non-believers are somehow missing out on something. I feel sorry for those people who actually think this way and seem unable to recognize the paradox in their logic. It's the faith that makes it seem real to them, nothing more.

People share this quote as a way to glorify and justify their belief in 'magic' and to belittle and criticize those who don't believe in it. The implication is that their lives are so much better due to their beliefs, and the poor pitiful non-believers are suffering without magic in their lives until they finally do believe.

People will believe whatever they need to to get by. Some people NEED to believe in magic, and those are the ones that do. Those of us that don't believe in magic don't need there to be magic in the world. The world is an amazing enough place and, admittedly, much of it is outside of my ability to comprehend, but I don't think any of it is magic.  It's wondrous and mysterious, beautiful and frightening but it can all be explained. Maybe not today and certainly not by me. But it's all real and natural. I simply don't understand a lot about the world, but just because I don't understand something doesn't make it mystical.  I can accept that I don't know things and it's not because they're supernatural.

People who don't have imaginary friends will never be able to play with one.
People who don't believe in vampires will never be chased by one.
People who don't believe in leprechauns will never find their pot of gold.

If you need your life to be full of magic to be happy, then by all means, go ahead and see the world as magic. But leave it at that. Be an intelligent person (although I know its antithetical to believing in magic) and understand that people who don't believe in magic aren't missing out on anything. They simply don't need to resort to fairy tales when they encounter something they don't understand.

Amarillo to Farmington

My heart sank when I saw how long today's drive was. I really try to avoid giving myself seven hour drives, but for whatever reason, when I was in the planning stage, I thought it was important to get all the way to Farmington, NM from Amarillo today. 
In retrospect, it makes no sense. I could have taken this trip in two drives because I don't teach again until Monday. I thought about that every time I passed a Motel 6 on this epic day of driving. But I kept going and made it all the way through. 

I gained an hour today, going from Central to Mountain time, so I adjusted the clock first thing. And then I got in a solid three hours of driving before making our first stop. I had some sandwiches already made, so stopping to eat was so easy. I don't know why I hadn't thought of doing this before; eating in the middle of a drive day used to be such a cumbersome ordeal, but now it's as simple as reaching into the cooler and pulling out a baggie. 

River lounged in the sun while I ate and then we got back in the car for more driving. 

Babe reached a couple of milestones along the way. 

videoAbout seven miles before we crossed the Texas-New Mexico state line the odometer rolled over to 70,000. and then a bit later, about half an hour from Farmington, the trip odometer rolled over to 8000 miles. 

Having only tonights meal in the cooler, I knew I would need some food for River in the morning, so I navigated to the Petco in Farmington, rather than directly to the motel. And I happened to notice that the Natural Grocer was just around the corner, so I also made a quick stop there.

River was agitated and loudly barking and howling while I went into Petco, but he was quiet while I was in Natural Grocer. Usually I take him with me into Petco, so I assume he recognized the smell and was upset that I didn't bring him with me, but he's used to waiting in the car while I'm in the grocery store. I'm glad I didn't bring him, though, because the store was filled with other big dogs and it would have been a scene. I don't know why I chose to leave him behind, but it's one of those moments when I followed my gut instinct and it turned out to be exactly the right thing to do. 

Loaded up with food, we got to the motel room and we ate, washed, walked, peed, pooped, watched TV and went to bed. I had dug into a bag of corn chips and avocado hummus dip that I got at the store and I didn't stop when I had reached enough. I kept on eating. I blame the unsavory act of eating while watching TV on my ability to ignore my body's signals of satiety. The next morning, I paid for my gluttony with a full, bloated feeling. The chips were really good and the dip was incredible, too, but I would have been just as (or even more) satisfied by eating only half of what I did. 

Along the way from Amarillo, I crossed over the Continental Divide at about 7300 feet elevation. Now, in Farmington, we're about 7000 feet. I don't feel any effects from the thin air yet, but I do know that we are in the high desert because it got cold enough last night that I actually needed to put on a shirt! 

I also inspected the trouble spot in my knee pit and am delighted to see it continuing to heal. I now think it was probably just a bug bite  and not any sort of cancer or irritated rash from my awesome pants. I will keep an eye on it, but I'm greatly relieved by what I've seen so far. And I'm especially happy that I don't have to stop wearing my shiny pants. 

Irving to Amarillo - Nia in Dallas

Today's first order of business was Nia at MoveStudio.
I taught the Profound routine using the same focus I came up with in Houston (Active Recovery). It went over really well with the students whose bright smiling faces said it all after class. And at my invitation to give me feedback, I did get a lot of positive reactions to the class.

Something odd has been happening. In the past three days, three different people have reached their hands out to River, who responded by snarling and snapping. He didn't connect to anyone, thanks to the quick reactions of the people and myself. But it makes me wonder what has happened to my message that "River needs to be ignored."

I have distinct memories of telling each of the people in the past to please make no attempts to pet or connect with River as he cannot handle the stimulation and I have made a promise to him that I will keep him away from any undue stimulation in exchange for his patience and cooperation with all of the craziness of moving in and out of dance studios past excited strangers.

For River, someone reaching their hand toward his head is a threat. It doesn't matter if the intention is to lovingly pet him, or to 'let him smell my hand'. He doesn't want to smell your hand, he is literally frightened by your invasion of his personal space and his reaction is one of fear and self-defense.

One of the offenders actually scolded River, saying "No!" after he snapped at her. But I corrected her, saying "We don't tell him NO for that." She was surprised to hear that, but I explained that he is expressing his fear and telling you to get your hand out of his face, and he's perfectly justified in protecting his personal space. It would be unusually cruel to punish or admonish him for expressing his fear. I said, "the NO is actually for you. You shouldn't reach for him that way." I reminded her that I told her last year that River is to be ignored and she said that she 'didn't get that." I distinctly remember her reaction last year when I reminded her. She sort of laughed and shrugged as if I was talking nonsense." It makes perfect sense why she wouldn't remember my telling her to ignore River because she didn't seem to want to hear it and didn't really take in the information. But thanks to River making it a bit more clear, I think she got it this time. Luckily he didn't need to physically connect to make his point.

But just as a reminder to everyone.... RIVER NEEDS TO BE IGNORED. He in an anti-social dog with fear and trust issues. And the way he handles his fear is by being pro-active. But he has no desire to start anything with anyone. He's not looking for a fight and he will never be the aggressor. When he is ignored properly, he is a sweet angel, but if he is engaged, he will likely feel the need to protect himself.

Looking into his crate while he's in the studio is not cool, either. It makes him very nervous. And reaching for his head is definitely a transgression. I do my best to keep River from harming anyone, but it does require your cooperation and strict ignoring. You can watch him as he explores and sniffs things, but don't engage him. The best way to show him that you care about him is to let him be. When I bring him into a studio, I escort him quickly and directly into the crate. It is not our intention for River to be an attraction. He only travels with me because I am unable to travel without him.

I can appreciate that it's novel and can be exciting for dog-lovers to have a dog in the Nia studio, but unfortunately, he's not thrilled by it. He tolerates the time we spend in the studio, but it is not something he enjoys. He does his best to remain calm and I do everything I can to that end as well. Thank you for understanding.

After class, we took a long drive to Amarillo. I was considering a stop at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, but since the drive was already six hours, I couldn't. I consider a six hour drive as a full day. I don't usually like to include a full day of driving and a Nia class in the same day, but sometimes its unavoidable (like today). I also don't like to include a visit to a big park on the same day as a long drive, and of course doing all three in one day is out of the question.

So Palo Duro will have to wait.

The sun was setting by the time we pulled into the Motel 6 in Amarillo. I'm amazed at how familiar some of these locations are. I can remember exactly what room I stayed in last year, and I remembered all of River's favorite bushes. I wonder if River recollects these places, too, or if every time we get to a Motel 6 it's a brand new adventure.

Sometimes, on long drives such as today, whenever I stop for a rest, River doesn't want to climb back in the car. He'll be lying in the sun, stretched out and just look at me with his tongue out when I tell him to "Hop Up" into his seat. Sometimes I relent and let him lounge a little longer, but other time, when there is a long distance to cover still, I have to be more demanding. But long ago I made a commitment never to force him into the car or to pick him up and put him in. I always tell him we're going and let him jump up on his own. That said, there have been a couple of times when he (for unknown-to-me reasons) stood at the car door making moves like he's getting prepared to jump up, but he hesitates and doesn't jump. He doesn't give up, either, just continues to prepare to get up. So twice, I've given him boosts under his back legs and once I picked him up and put him in. But that is the exception. And today, I simply let him lounge a bit longer and then, when I asked him again, he complied.

After getting back into the room and showering off, I took another look at that possibly cancerous spot on my popliteal space. Again, the challenge of getting a good clear picture seemed insurmountable, but the wound did appear to have changed. I no longer saw the black spot in the center and it looked less moist and fresh. I was encouraged that it seems to be healing.