Remembering The Dead

For me, I end up not being a fan of September. It starts out okay. I love school starting up. I enjoy the easing of the temperatures.  I like fall. I like spring and fall best, but spring tends to be a riotous toddler freshly woke from a nap given to tantrums and erratic behavior. It’s just hard to keep up. Fall is more of a gentle easing. The hot, full, carefree party days of summer are through, though remembered with fondness, and we settle in to enjoy the harvest bounty while looking ahead toward the hibernative nature of the rest of the turning of the wheel.

This is good.

But then, you know, things have happened in September to make it less appealing. Personally for me, it’s my mom’s death. The 21st. This year I was hurrying to accomplish some legal things regarding her death before a time limit ran out. This involved me telling the specifics of the situation multiple times to multiple people who then declined to hear any more about it.

In the midst of this, the 11th showed up to pull the shades down a touch lower.


So I put out a question to my internet friends.

What songs do you listen to for cheering up and endurance, you’ll get through this inspiration?

I got lots of great suggestions, but one in particular hit the spot for me that day.

It’s funny how you forget things.

Things that were a very large part of your existence.

I grew up in a family that was very much into the Grateful Dead.

It was very much the background music of my childhood. And often the foreground music as well. We had lots of family gatherings that centered around us all going to their concerts. The fabric of my life is tie-dyed. Really.

So when someone suggested “I Will Survive” by the Grateful Dead (Touch of Grey, actually) I knew immediately that that was one I needed to listen to. And as I did, it reminded me of those times before.  Those times before I grew up and life got complicated. Before I had known much loss and change. Before she was gone. I listened to a few more of their songs* and felt really close to my mom again.

My heart settled and healed a bit.

It feels good to remember the Dead.

*other songs like:

friend of the devil


sugar magnolia

uncle john’s band

The Story I Wish Was Made Up

My husband was hunting elk in the mountains. We had been having communication problems, due both to spotty cell signal and his being intent on his hunt. That morning we talked to him and told him he didn’t have to come down for Thanksgiving dinner. That we would let him hunt and do something when he got back. He let me know that his battery was very low and he would be turning it off until he could get it charged up when he returned to camp.

There were several feet of snow and it was freezing cold. His horse, Vegas, tripped when trying to step over a log and they both fell and were injured. He was pretty banged up and had dislocated his shoulder. The horse had hit her head and was favoring her hind right leg a lot. He determined that with her injuries there was no way they could make it back up in the direction of his camp. So they would head downward and hopefully make it to the main forestry road before the hunting season ended and all the hunters left the forest.

He relocated his shoulder. But it still only had limited function. He had minimal gear. What little water he had froze before he could drink it. He had a small bag of jerky, but it too was frozen so solidly that he couldn’t soften it enough to eat it.

That was Thursday.


For 4 days and 3 nights he made his way. Leading his horse because she could not yet carry his weight without risk of injuring her further. The temperatures were in the negative numbers. -16? -20? The wind was howling like crazy. Turning the -16 temperatures into -30 or 40.

During the day they kept moving. He chewed on pine needles when he could find them. He squeezed snow in his hand to melt the water out to drink. Eating snow is a fast way to lower your body temperature.

At night he would find some sheltering trees for the horse and use the snow built up around the bottom of the trees to shelter himself.

He is, you might say, particularly qualified to survive an ordeal like this. Much of his career in the Marine Corps was spent as a winter survival instructor at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Curled in a fetal ball to try to conserve heat, he would make up rhythms and rhymes to keep himself focused on continually moving his body parts to keep blood flowing to them.

wiggle your nose

wiggle your toes

wiggle your fingers

wiggle your toes

On the third day he felt  that Vegas could safely carry him. He climbed on and they continued their descent. He rode her for as long as he could because he knew that he needed to cover ground if he was going to get to that road before it was too late. This was probably the most uncomfortable ride of his life. He takes medications daily for pain and nerve issues. These are one more thing he was without for the length of this ordeal.

Eventually they reached a small creek and Vegas decided she had had enough and would not cross it.

So he tied her loosely to a small tree so she could get free if she needed to in case of an attack and continued on without her.

Late Sunday afternoon two hunters were driving down a forest service road when they spotted a flash of red near the side of the road. They stopped to see what it was. It was Alan.

He had made it.

They had found him.