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Cookbook Call!

We're getting closer...

Working on this little cookbook has been a blast. As I've said before, I don't know if anyone really wants it, but I really wanted to do it. This is my way of nurturing myself and y'all.  This isn't a huge cookbook--we're looking at about fifty recipes, and some random chitchat all told--but I hopeful it'll be helpful.

Now I'd love to include you in the process!

I'm on the hunt for recipe testers. You do not have to be a professional cook. You don't even need to be a good cook. I just need someone willing to follow the recipe, and give me honest feedback that includes if and how well the recipe instilled confidence in the cook, and if it produced the desired results. Testers are welcome—nay, begged to—offer any other comments, suggestions, and feedback.

Every recipe tester will be acknowledged in the cookbook (unless anonymity is preferred), and receive the completed cookbook in ebook format. There might be a few tester-comments that'll make their way into the book, toom with appropriate permission.

Below is the list of recipes I'm looking to test, and am looking to have feedback in by December 23. All you need to do is go down the list, choose what sounds good (or ask clarifying questions first), and let me know in the comments what you'd like to test in your own home. I'll email or direct-message the recipe to you within twenty-four hours.

A couple of general notes:

--A couple of the recipes are crockpot-only, but most include instructions for more than one cooking method.
--If you're looking for recipes that'll match certain dietary guidelines, let me know and I'll point out the ones that'll match.
--Most of the meat-containing recipes also include notes on being flexible with meat options.
--Some recipes are far less expensive or more expensive to test than others. If this is a concern but you still want to test, please drop me a private note and we'll make something work.
--If you've cooked one of my publicly-posted recipes before and have feedback—and it doesn't matter if that recipe is included below!—do feel free to pass it along.

Here are your current recipe choices!

Bacon BBQ Chicken
Balsamic Pork
Beef and Cabbage
Broth from the Carcass
Chicken Broccoli Cheese
Cilantro Lime Chicken
Coconut Curry Chicken
Ham and Asparagus Alfredo
Lentils and Rice
Lentil Soup
Peanut Chicken
Potato Nutmeg Soup
Roasted Turkey/Chicken
Sausage Dressing Bake
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
Spinach Bacon Mac and Cheese
Tortilla Soup

Recipes coming soon:
Soup (Yes, all kinds of soup, in one recipe. Trust me.)
Beef Stew
Chicken Salad Three Ways
Pork Carnitas
Spiced Meatballs
Brussels Sprouts with Bleu Cheese Balsamic
Squash, Summer and Winter
Fried Apples
Sweet Corn Cake
Sloppy Joes

Anything sound interesting to y'all?

This Is How I Nurture

I began the month with great hope of making marvelous progress on the novella I'm serializing at Patreon as well as the third book of Desert Rising. That... became a struggle. Oh, I've made some progress, but not at all what I wanted.

Instead, I've made marvelous progress on the cookbook.

I have no idea if anyone, anywhere, will have any interest in this thing, but wow have I been motivated to work on it.

Y'see, I can't feed y'all from here, so putting together and sharing recipes is the next best thing. A nurturing thing. An attempt-to-give-comfort thing.

Someone asked me the cookbook's "theme."

That would be, "Stuff I Like To Cook and Eat That Doesn't Cost A Fortune Or Take Forever To Make." Yeah, there are a couple more complicated and/or expensive ones, but they're the great minority.

I mentioned on Twitter that I'll be looking for recipe testers pretty soon, and I'll make sure to announce it here in case there are interested folks. And if you've already tried one of the recipes I've posted here in the past and have comments, concerns, problems with it, and so forth, please let me know!

And now I continue, this time with Lentil Soup.

Here's Your Caramel Sauce!

Later today, I'll be "practicing" caramel sauce with my nephews. It's an awesome, easy, and decadent thing to make for the holidays. I started doing it on Halloween when Dev was little because I could easy get him and his friends to eat apples before trick-or-treating. :-)

All you need are five ingredients—water, sugar, butter, cream, vanilla—and you'll want all them measured and at room temperature when you start the process. Caramel is pretty easy, but the cooking process moves quickly. The one way you can almost always ruin a batch is to interrupt the process once you start.

Also, don't use anything plastic to stir and whisk while cooking. It will melt into the caramel. Eww.

And do use a whisk. It's so much easier to get a smooth final sauce.

Okay! Ready?

Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream (I've used whole milk in a pinch, but the sauce will be thinner)
2 Tbsp butter cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla (optional)

Combine the water and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. (If you want to be picky, be careful not to let sugar granules cling to the sides of the pan. They can sometimes encourage your caramel to re-crystalize as it cools!)

Now: Once the sugar-water starts bubbling, don't stir anymore. Just swirl the pan now and then to make sure the heat is even. Adjust the heat as needed to keep a steady and, um, non-violent? boil. Then watch the liquid turn a lovely pale amber. It should be about he color of fresh honey, NOT as dark as you'd think for caramel.

It might take about ten minutes or so.

A little at a time, whisk in the room temperature cream. Please be careful pouring the cream into the hot sugar liquid. I don't want you burned by the splatter. Been there, done that, don't want to go there again.

Remove the pan from the heat immediately, and whisk in the butter.

Add vanilla, if you'd like.

If you want salted caramel, now is the time to add your kosher salt. Maybe half to a full teaspoon, depending on your preference.

If your sauce seems too thin, warm it—stirring constantly—over low heat. But keep in mind the sauce will thicken as it cools!

If your sauce seems too thick, stir in a little more cream, a tablespoon at a time.

That's it! Drizzle it over pie or ice cream or sliced apples or cake or popcorn or nuts or just your spoon...

Grounding In Real Life

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon.


Grounding and energy generation—the basis of so many combat and meditative arts in real life, and referred to directly or indirectly in a multitude of fictional magic and fighting systems. In the latter, it’s often described as rooting, or as drawing from the earth, or in other non-specific and spiritual-sounding ways. Gripping the earth with our feet, sinking or connecting, and other aspects of energy use.

I’ve also seen some rather ridiculous demonstrations that can best be deemed Karate Magic or Sensei-Fu—the great and powerful master who uses a pinky finger and hand-wave-um to send faithful students tumbling and sprawling as a demonstration of great power drawn from the earth and channeled into superhuman chi. Here’s an example of what happens when self-delusion walks into reality.

Ahem.

I’m more of a practical gal, I suppose.

Yes, I could say grounding gives you a connection to the earth beneath your feet—and indeed modern research demonstrates an incredible energy exchange when one walks barefoot on soil—but that isn’t extensively useful in a sudden and unexpected fight.

Think about it: the notion of “grounding” as tapping into the earth’s energy means you cannot expect your powerful techniques to work if you’re on a boat, on a plane, in a high-rise, or having to defend yourself within the confines of a spaceship. Or, for that matter, on a yoga mat on the gym’s second floor. Grounding might make one feel connected with the earth or with the universe, but that’s the result of the act rather than the act itself. It’s a metaphor that has, by some instructors and fiction writers, been taken way too far.

Grounding is not a spiritual act dependent upon the Think Method.

Now, I’m not trash-talking fictional magic systems that depend upon inherent elemental power. Frankly, I love elemental magic. (I’ve this little series called Desert Rising, after all!) What I don’t much love is the pseudo martial arts training that presents earthly grounding as a reality-based component of non-magical fight training and skill. What I really dislike is seeing those fictional depictions show up in real-life training folks have paid good money for.

Example: One of my Viable Paradise instructors has extensive Aikido training, and the depth of his skill—and therefore the quality of his instruction—is evident in every line of his body. I recall studying him during one discussion session, when he was merely standing off to one side. I remember thinking to myself, “If I tried to punch him, I’d be the one falling over from the recoil.”

(Is that an odd thing to think? Probably. Unless you tend to think about this stuff all the time. Honestly, I didn’t want to hit him!)

But why did I think that? It wasn’t because he was stiff and stoic. It wasn’t because he played at puffing out his chest and acting tough. It was because he was so obviously balanced, stable, and comfortable. He was both stone and sapling—solid and rooted and flexible.

And when I caught a glimpse of him moving through a couple techniques, that sense of solidity in motion remained.

That’s grounding. For reals.

***

The most bland description, and therefore the most useful and educational place to start, is simple: grounding is the use of biomechanics to choose how and when your body moves.

Grounding comes down to choosing one’s structure—or, perhaps even more basic, one’s posture. If you’re wavering or falling over often, posture is often to blame. If as a martial arts student, you’re stumbling when you strike an opponent or a heavy bag, your posture is again most often to blame.*

Certainly I can tell a student to “sink.” To “connect with the ground.” To “find their stability.” If I’m not a very skilled teacher, I keep repeating those things until the student either finds the right body alignment through trial and error or, as is often the case with intermediate students, quits in frustration. (There is a reason, my darlings, why so many brown belt students drop out…)

So… fix the posture, and fix the technique, right?

Well… yes and no.

Grounding involves the coordination of muscle groups we don’t usually think about. You let your knees bend a little. You take the muscles of your pelvic floor and “lift” them toward your diaphragm. You straighten the outward curve of your lower spine. Bonus points can be earned for being able to tense and relax the upper inner thighs while keeping your knees aligned over your feet. (Just the inner thighs, mind. Tensing other parts of the thigh actually reduces your ability to move quickly.)

Now drop your shoulders (I add that part because the one thing the majority of adult students do when thinking about what the rest of their body is doing is tense and lift their shoulders) and align those shoulders over your hips. Adjust your chin so your eyes are level and your ears are aligned between your shoulders—not in front of them or behind them. Take a deep breath that expands deep in your belly without lifting your shoulders or pushing out your upper chest.

Go ahead and try it. I know you want to.

Those instructions are the bare bones, nothing more, and they are not the only words and actions that will produce results. They are simply the ones I’ve learned. I could toss in koshi and gamaku, chat a bit about the stability of the muscles connecting ribcage to pelvis, talk about the expansion of vertebrae spacing and the shape of the bottom of your feet… There are as many ways to verbally describe the process as there are applications of it.

On the other hand, were you standing in front of me, I could touch your body in four places to help you identify the muscles we’re talking about,** push your shoulders and hips a couple times, and have you grounded. At least in that moment.

Then I’d tell you to shake out your limbs, walk a circle around the mat, and try it again. We’d do this until you could identify the parts of your body that were tense and the parts that were relaxed, with both touch and words. Then I’d have you run kata or spar, and randomly ask you to ground yourself and explain the process. Yes, yes, I know fighting doesn’t involve words, but our intellectual processing does, and though words can get in the way of physical learning at times, deeper understanding and lasting learning usually includes them. The ability to define something physically and verbally ensures your “thinking” brain will eventually get out of the way so your body can do what it must.

Eventually, you’d be able to settle your body into a grounded posture without running a mental checklist. And I’ll tell you now—that feels really, really good.

So… that’s it, right? Grounding in a nutshell!

Nope.

Grounding when you’re standing still is pretty simple, truly. The real learning comes into play when grounding must be done while punching, kicking, blocking, evading… When one must be in motion. When grounding isn’t about connecting with what’s beneath your feet, but about choosing your body’s structure as it moves.

It sounds like a contradiction at first, the grounding while moving thing. But consider what I said above—that grounding isn’t dependent on the physical ground—and it’ll begin to make sense.

If I bump your shoulder, you’ll shift to absorb the force. Do you shift at the waist or the shoulders? The hips? The knees or ankles? If your feet move, where do they go? What happens to your chin? What do your arms do? If your body rotates, how much and in what direction?

Those answers are all part of grounding.

***

Musicians ground themselves with posture proper to their instrument in order to play their best. Backpackers adjust their loads based upon biomechanics in order to reduce strain and injury. Artists know the alignment of their bodies affects the translation of vision into intention. Workers who lift heavy loads learn the importance of using certain muscles more than others. Increasingly, athletics is using science to coach promising athletes by deciphering micro-movements, joint rotation, and ligament/tendon coordination. And there is an entire field of workplace ergonomics dedicated to determining the proper physical alignment for everything from answering the phone to deboning chickens on an assembly line.

There is nothing magical and mystical about fighters doing the same thing.

Accepting—indeed, being excited by the prospect—that grounding is, ahem, grounded in science that can be studied and understood by any average person doesn’t in any way detract from the skill required to achieve it and the awesome results of practicing it. Understanding enhances those things.

Now consider that knowledge in light of writing about fighters and their training.

How long will it take a new fighter to understand and implement grounding if their teacher tells them to feel the earth and sink, and waits for the fighter to figure it out?

How long will it take a new fighter to understand and implement grounding if their teacher demands an exact posture because the needs of war won’t wait upon a student’s soul-searching?

The methods of training depend upon the urgency of the need. Soldiers who have the luxury of three, four, or five years of training without constant threat of deployment will be taught differently than those who have a couple weeks at most before losses on the front line require them to step into hand-to-hand combat in defense of their territory. Ye gads, I’d certainly hope they’d be trained differently!

The same goes for the teaching of grounding. When it’s a more spiritual and internal quest—a personal search for a connection with self and the greater world—we can afford to take our time with ambiguous and interpretive language. When it’s intended to support a fighter’s ability to fight—to survive—practicality rules.

And in real life, there are scant few reasons other than ego or inexperience to withhold specific information from students.

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon. Because they’re wonderful patrons, they support making the articles on self-defense and fight scenes available to everyone within a month of the original posting. But Patrons have access to exclusive content and other benefits as well. So if you find it valuable and helpful, thank the patrons, and consider becoming one yourself!

#SFWApro

New Connections and the NanNo Thing

I was not as enthusiastic about MileHiCon this year for a couple admittedly ego-centric reasons, and because I was tired and had had such a wonderful and unique Sirens experience. But I'd made commitments, and so I went.

Thank. Goodness.

At the SFWA meeting, I in-person connected with Nathan Lowell--a wonderful indie writer I'd communicated with online, and waved to once at another local con. We chatted until needing to run off to respective panels, then met up again for whiskey in the afternoon. Eventually we were joined by three other writers--indie writers!--from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and I much enjoyed the three-ish hours we all spent together sharing experiences and encouraging more connections. There were dog stories, too, which makes everything more wonderful.

So now I'm looking at connecting with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, joining their indie publishing group, and picking brains about audio books and the like. And I'm looking at enjoying it.

(That last bit is important, you see, because I've determined life is too short to deal much and long with assholes. Yes, this limits my opportunities. Yes, I'm fine with that.)

Next year, I won't be at MileHiCon, though. It's the same weekend as Sirens. So I did spend some time convincing the folks I met they'd like to check out Sirens. :-)

As for NaNo... I've mentioned elsewhere I'm not doing the "real" NaNoWriMo. Truly, signing up on yet another website, proving my wordcount, and so on does not appeal to me. Besides, I'm starting with a pile of already-written material that will be shuffled in with newly written material, and methinks that's not in the NaNo rules. But for the first time ever, the month of November is one during which I can give writing more time and focus because I do not have children at home, holidays with family do not require extensive travel, and my son's early December birthday doesn't require much planning. Thus I'm doing the nose-grindstone thing for thirty days.

So this is what the next Desert Rising book looks like this morning:

IMG_20161031_100742_615

Most of that will end up trashed or set aside for another novel, since it was first written years ago. Today's task is to shuffle through those piles and pull out all the pieces I might want to use going forward, to integrate those pieces with the existing multiple-viewpoint outline, and translate those pieces onto the Magic Index Cards that will permit me to write the novel.

In other news, I'll be making three frittatas and homemade caramel for apple-dipping so we can have a Halloween family dinner + trick-or-treat this evening.

Sirens Is Now My Home

If you’ve read most any other person’s experience attending Sirens, you’ve an inkling of what I’m going to say.

Yes, it is an amazing few days—surrounded by women and men (why, YES, men do attend Sirens, and enjoy it immensely) who celebrate who they are, and what and who they love. The conversations are far-ranging and tightly-focused, curious and passionate, overlapping and attentive. The interactions are both open and intimate. There is space and there is affection. Questions and affirmations. Challenges and comforts. Embracing old friends and picking up where we left off last year, and embracing new friends with the anticipation of connections yet to be formed.

Three cool things in particular, but in no particular order:

First: Conversations about grief and grieving. Not many opportunities come about in daily life for those. People close to me are much more interested in making sure I’m “all right,” which to them means I’m not expressing loss and longing. That makes it easier for me to talk about grief with people I don’t see all the time; they tend to be more curious than concerned, and curiosity is what opens doors in search of answers. Those chats are emotional gold for me—the chance to share in the hope it’ll help someone else, yes, but also the opportunity to better understand myself and the process.

Second: The Sirens Fight Club. Hooking up with women who understand the subtle and overt challenges of choosing to train—to openly enjoy—combat arts is exhilarating. Truly, I wanted another entire weekend to spend with these women, and I knew so within the first few minutes of our meeting. We’re going to plot out a proposal or two for next year. Truly, between us, we could offer a multi-day workshop!

Hmm…

Third: Laurie Marks. I’ve said before I am grateful for, and humbled by, the female fantasy writers who “raised” me in this crazy world of storytelling. Laurie was the first published writer I’d ever met, the first to teach me about critique groups, the first to give me feedback on my very first attempted novel. I was nineteen and stupid and arrogant and ambitious, and when she told me I used too many gerunds, I had to go home and look up the word (in an actual printed dictionary, no less!) because I hadn’t a clue. We lost touch a few years later, and the more years that passed, the more awkward it felt to pop back into her life with a “Hey, remember me?”

Twenty-five years passed that way.

Nervousness remained as Sirens came closer, until I passed Laurie in the hall on the second day and re-introduced myself.

And was given a full smile and a tight hug and an invitation to lunch with her and Deb. Catching up was wonderful and too brief, but there isn’t a shred of awkwardness or nervousness on my part remaining. There will not be a horrible time-gap again!

All of that was Sirens for me.

The conference will be in Colorado again next year, but this time up in Vail at a marvelous luxury resort that—and this is the incredible part—will cost little more than the rooms down in Denver.

You want to do this, my darlings. You want to do this so, so badly.

You want to come to Vail in October, when it might be clear and merely crisp at sundown only to give way to snow-covered mountainsides by sunrise. When we will celebrate the women of fantasy who not only hold power in their own right, but wield it as well. Women of strength. Women of magic.

Women we all know.

Women like you.

#SFWApro

Sirens! Tomorrow!

Sirens begins tomorrow!

(Well, Sirens Studio is actually already in progress, but I couldn’t swing my schedule into alignment until the conference itself.)

But I am excited! I pick up a friend at the airport tomorrow morning, then head to the hotel to meet up with existing friends and meet some new ones. A couple folks have volunteered to help out with “The Movement You Don’t See" (it’s a low-low-impact workshop, but I did want to demo a couple things that some might find uncomfortable), so I’ll get to meet up with them, too.

My son has been such a good sport, helping me decide what to leave in and take out of the presentation. My inclination is to teach a three-hour class, so keeping it all within an hour is a bit of a challenge.

So if you’re attending Sirens, find me and say hello! If you’re in the Denver area and not attending, drop me a line if you’d like to BarCon for awhile anyway!

Wolf Kisses

I wept.

My son and I spent an afternoon at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center located near Divide, Colorado. Their work and their goals are both simple and incredible and difficult: restore native wolves to their necessary role as a keystone species in the wild.

If you’d like a primer on why this is important, check out the remarkable changes–mostly unexpected benefits–that resulted from re-introducing wolves to Yellowstone.

Part of our visit included a tour of the facility to “meet” the members of their pack. Mexican grey wolves, grey wolves, coyotes, red and swift fox… We had the opportunity to greet them all. While some creatures were of course more shy than others, it was obvious from the animals’ confident posture and, frankly, their willingness to walk away that they felt neither fearful of their human companions nor needful or dominating them.

Then Dev and I had the opportunity to meet some wolves up close and personal. We entered a two-acre enclosure with a pair of guides, took a seat among the trees, and waited to see if the wolves were interested in us.

Two of the three were. The third, I swear, snorted and rolled her eyes before trotting off to ignore us from a distant. She’s not all that interested in humans.

But her packmates, Kekoa and Keyni, are.

Wolves are big–not silly “big bad wolf” big, but big enough to make their wishes and presence known. They most certainly are not dogs in wild clothing; they are distinctly different in temperament and behavior. Sure, the wolf was happy to have a backscratch… but don’t try to ruffle the ears or snuggle closely. And when a domesticated pupper might come when called even if she doesn’t want to, a wolf is so extremely not interested in such human-centric niceties.

Kekoa gave me a few wolf kisses, but it was Keyni who nudged him aside to straddle my lap and nuzzle closer any moment I paused in my petting and scratching.  Kekoa did indeed love my son, and did not want to wander far from him.  And Keyni was more than happy to pose for final pictures once he scented the hunk of raw beef in my hand.

(Note: The pics can be seen here.  I've spent now 45 minutes attempting to upload pictures and links to LJ, and it's really not interested in them. I've decided my new rule is 15 minutes spent battling for basics before moving on.)

In the middle of all of it, we humans made an attempt at howling. The wolves obliged us with a response, with the coyotes joining in, and the calls and answers went on for minutes, echoing through the trees, and I stood there and wept knowing that I, for just a few moments, was part of it.

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A New Martial Arts Home

Last week ended up being incredibly and unexpectedly busy–and for a spectacular reason.

I found a new place to train.

This is not a small thing.

I moved to Colorado a year ago, mind. Though I didn’t spend every moment of the last twelve months seeking out a new dojo-home, I invested a great deal of energy looking up schools and instructors online, asking around, and spending more than a few hours sitting or standing in parking lots watching classes through storefront windows.

That watching-classes part quickly became depressing. I wasn’t looking at how marvelous the students were. I was watching how instructors managed their class and interacted with students… and never once came away thinking, “I’m impressed!” In fact, I never walked away thinking, “Wow, good job.” I wasn’t looking for a school that taught the exact art I’ve learned for the last fifteen-ish years–that’s impossible for many reasons--but was looking for quality instruction and school community.

Yeah, I’m picky. And I don’t apologize for it. But it did leave me with nothing but exhausted options by summer’s start. Then summer was too crazy-busy to expend energy on the search. Then I hit September, was tipping into depression at the prospect of letting yet more months pass without a martial arts home.

So I expanded my search and found a listing for a small school a few more miles away. Rather, I re-found it. It’s a school I’d set aside very early in my search because I thought it was a little too far away. But now that I know non-highway routes and backroads, it’s fairly easy to get to.

I sent off a little note eight days ago asking for a get-to-know you appointment. Last Monday, I received an answer. Tuesday morning, I arrived to meet the husband and wife team running the school. I started classes that evening, and have since spent about ten hours training.

And I feel MARVELOUS.

After observing my kata, the head of the school said I had plenty of the yang and he’d like to teach me the yin. He started me on a couple forms–White Crane and Tai Chi–and shared the applications of the movements so I’d start with an understanding of the form rather than its mere memorization.

Husband and wife invited to come in to train during any class I wanted. I love what I learned, I loved how he taught, and during the evening classes, I absolutely loved the camaraderie and collaborative work between all students.

And when he said he’d been waiting for someone who wanted to also teach, I started getting all teary-eyed.

And the topper: I spent Saturday morning observing their kids’ classes, and got all teary-eyed again. They teach young people the way I like to teach young people. They give their young students the respect, attention, and open-heartedness I was looking for.

I am in the right place, and I’m so very glad I chose to be picky.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot -- Camping Edition

Hooray, camping again at Lake Pueblo!  I've been down here four times now--twice camping, twice hiking--and absolutely love the openness, the dryness, and the off-season quiet.

The first time I camped at Lake Pueblo, at a lovely site overlooking the lake, ended early because the winds came up so strong.  I was afraid the tent was going to snap, so packed it in.  Turns out that was a good thing, since an unexpected blizzard was roaring in.

This time?  Stray shower, maybe a thunderstorm, said the forecast.  Winds gusting to 20mph, said the forecast.  That's nothing, my darlings.  I've tent-camped through Indiana thunderstorms strong enough to spawn tornadoes within a couple miles of my campsite.  I've tent-camped in inch-an-hour rainfall.  I've tent-camped in a desert windstorrm.  So 20mph winds with maybe a little rain?  I was not concerned.

So after a fantastic day that involved a lovely hike, proofreading 250 pages, and sausages roasted over an open fire for the pupper and I, I sat outside while the last of the fire burned down.  The moonlight from the east was bright enough to wash most of the stars from the sky.  Off to the west, I saw a couple lightening flashes in the distance.  I took the moments to stash this-n-that in the tent or the Jeep (I don't much like last-minute dashing when other options are available), stirred out the coals so they'd burn down faster, and got myself and Gambit settled in the tent.

It wasn't fifteen minutes later that the first wind gust slammed the tent hard enough to knock a tent pole against my head.  No warning, no preliminary breezes, nothing.  Zero to whatever-speed in a single gust.  I tried everything I knew to do, inside the tent and out, but lost the battle.  For the first time in my camping experience, the wind was strong enough to yank one of the stakes out of the ground.  And when one stake goes, the strain on all the others increases.  In a minute, half the tent was levitating and the other half was considering the same.

Alas, this happened when Gambit and I were still inside the tent and--in the fashion of one with an overactive imagination--I envisioned my dog and I entangled in the tent, blown over the steep hillside, landing in the lake, and dragged down by the weight of the tent and everything in it.  So I wrestled the tent flap open far enough to shove Gambit outside, thinking even if he ran off, he'd be safer anywhere but inside the smooshed tent, then got myself out too.

I remember finding the car keys and jamming them in my mouth.  I remember yanking the poles out of the tent and folding them just enough to fit on the back seat.  I remember dragging the tent halfway under the Jeep so I could lie on the ground (Did I mention the nigh-constant lightening, and the fact I was standing on a high point beside the lake?) and find by feel the valve that would deflate my mattress.  Yeah, that might sound like a stupid thing to consider, but I couldn't wrestle the mattress out of the tangled tent, and the tent and all its contents was going to take off if I let go.  I remember stuffing the tent--along with the sleeping bag, mattress, clothes, and assorted stuff--into the back of the Jeep.

At some point, I had opened a door so Gambit could jump in the Jeep.  I don't remember doing so, but the poor pup was shaking on the front seat when I finally got in the car.

I guess I could have stuck around for awhile to see if the wind died down enough to risk setting the tent back up.  I opted to head home instead.  I didn't know if a pole had snapped (It hadn't. Near I can tell, one end of the pole yanked free of the pin.), or if the weather would get better or worse (I'd lost all connection on my phone), or what the state of everything inside the tent was, seeing as it was now all wadded up in the Jeep.

I drove home.  Got there around midnight.  It took over two hours this morn to sort out and untangle the mess I hauled out of the Jeep, but nothing is terrible or unfixable.  It was just... messy.

I'm thinking that the next time I camp at Pueblo, I'll choose one of the sites set back from the lake views, where junipers and gulches and some such will break the wind before it kills me.  I'm thinking I can damn well drag a chair to one of those views during the day, and sleep in peace at night.  I'm thinking I need to remember more about my desert camping youth than my Midwest camping middle years!


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