Kayaking Around

Kayaks have been on my mind. I’m trying to build 3 different alphabet prints/posters that tell our story of the Tetons and I keep tying the letter K to kayaks.

The alphabet posters will go along with a grownup alphabet book. I think. My plan keeps changing. My flexibility sometimes gets in my way. Generally,  I like my flexibility–both the mental and physical kinds.

Kayaks demand all sorts of flexibility. Our primary goal is to get into our kayak with the effortless and silent approach that Natty Bumpo mastered in The Last of the Mohicans, but as a friend once told us, “Look what happened to him.” We keep plugging away though.

Mostly, all this kayak thinking has led to a list. I love lists.

Here are the most significant kayak memories I have. They are organized by the river or lakes where they happened.

String Lake:

  1.  Going to Jenny Lake Lodge for the first time in 1996  and learning to kayak were simultaneous events. We spent the mornings hiking and the afternoons practicing our kayaking skills on String Lake because it was shallow. We wouldn’t die there. We worked on paddling together and steering and various speeds. It’s a lot like figuring out sex when things are new. There’s a lot of silent communication and coordination.
  2. We followed a blue heron along the shore in the learning years. We’d sneak the kayak up close to him and he’d do a hook flight to a branch down the store. It was nice.
  3. Once, we got up at 5:00 in the morning and went out on String before breakfast. We figured the critters would be up and it would be a wildlife bonanza. There were no critters. We were eaten alive by mosquitos.

Jenny Lake:

  1. On our first outing, we hugged the edges of Jenny Lake. We couldn’t believe how brave we’d been. I mean, Jim doesn’t even really swim.
  2. Once on the north side of Jenny, we started hearing banjo music. Normally we hear birds, marmots, squirrels, water noises, boat noises, and people talking on trails. Not banjo music. There was a guy sitting on a log and playing his banjo. He told us he liked to hear the sound spreading across the water. We heard him when we were as far away as the Jenny overlook on the east side of the lake.
  3. On the northwest shore, we found an osprey nest and watched the couple and new chicks each summer. We saw the male dive and catch a fish one year.  Beautiful. They are gone now. A new couple found a place nearby last summer. We hope they’ll stay as long as the first pair did. 
  4.  We’d been kayaking 4 or 5 years and were feeling we had things under control. We decided to explore the Cascade River where it spills into Jenny. The current suddenly exploded and we flipped the kayak trying to get out of there. We were terrified. We sat on the embankment after we rescued ourselves and the kayak and didn’t say anything. Then we started laughing and laughing. It’s as close to a Hemingway moment as we’ve had.

Two Ocean Lake:

  1. We headed out to circle the lake and a pair of trumpeter swans and their signets swam in front of us. They were gorgeous and we watched and waited for them to clear our path. We started forward and the swan parents reared up on their legs, flapped their wings, honked like demons, and ran across the top of the water to attack us.   One wee signet hadn’t made it across and was trembling in the reeds. We all survived.
  2. We’d seen what looked to be a white sandy beach on the far side of the lake and decided we’d take a picnic over there. When we arrived, there was no sand–just rocks covered in goose shit. Things didn’t go according to plan.
  3. On our last visit there, we put the kayak in the lake and I climbed in, sat down, and discovered my feet were covered with leeches. We don’t go to Two Ocean Lake anymore.

The Snake River:

  1. We decided we wanted to float down the Snake River from the dam down beyond Oxbox Bend. We did it and it was glorious and then we turned around and paddled UP the Snake. Incredibly hard, but exhilarating. We floated down and paddled up again. People thought we were crazy. We probably were.
  2. We did the Snake two other times. Each with friends and enough cars we didn’t need to paddle up the river. Lots of eagles and ospreys and kingfishers on those rides.

Jackson Lake:

  1.  We often kayak from Spalding Bay up to Moran Bay. The park service closed this entry to the lake for a year and the following year when we returned, there were eagles sitting on branches everywhere. It was as though Disney had taken over and created a Teton eagle ride. The next year the eagles were gone because the people had returned.
  2. We left from Colter Bay and headed up to Leek’s Marina. When we pulled our kayak ashore, a group of foreign tourists left a bus and flooded the beach. Several went into our kayak, grabbed our paddles, and began inviting others to try out the boat. Some climbed on a sailboat where a couple was busily bringing down the sails. We failed to do anything about this at first. We finally just got in line and got in the boat and took off back into the lake.

Leigh Lake:

  1. The first big storm we faced was on Leigh. You can’t always predict storms in the Tetons. I sit in the front of the kayak and the wind and rain and waves crashing in on me froze my hands and face. I was strong enough to hold my own though. We fought a storm again last summer. The storm was just as scary, but I wasn’t nearly as frightened this time. I still got drenched.
  2. We watched otters play on a rock near the north end of the lake. Pretty rare.
  3. We’ve seen both a moose and a bear swim across the lake. Both pretty close to the kayak.
  4. We saw an eagle stripping and eating a fish on a big, flat boulder. I made a notecard from that memory. 
  5. We watched two eagles dancing among the pines close to the north end of the lake. We followed them playing and dancing for about 20 minutes. Then they flew straight up in the air, grasped talons and began spiraling down to the earth for the final mating procedure (it’s spectacular, but quick). We’ve never seen anything as amazing as this was.

That’s it for now.



Happy List, Part 5: 02/23/2020

That’s the Los Muertos Pier in Puerto Vallarta. Normally we are in Vallarta at this time of the year. We have several friends down there now. We couldn’t make it this year. Hopefully it will work out next year and that will make me happy.

In the meantime, it’s snowing here again. It’s pretty, but I’ve had enough snow. I’m not sure we’ll ever see our front lawn again. Northern exposures are not a good idea.

I had a nasty computer problem last week. It took me several days and lots of experimenting, but I recovered the crucial lost folder. I hate it when my technical abilities keep me from solving problems, but I love it when I figure something out. This time I learned how to recover a folder. That makes me happy.

Seems like that’s a good place to start the next section of my Happy List.

Happy List, Park 5:

108. Learning how to recover a lost folder on my laptop.

109. Talking to any one of our kids.

110. The Bill Murray Super Bowl ad about Groundhog Day.

111. The movie Groundhog Day.

112. The halftime show at the last Super Bowl.

113. My ant notecard. It’s also “A is for Ant” in the square alphabet poster I’m working on.

114. Stagecoach, the movie. Especially the one with John Wayne. I like the other one too. I bumped into Ann Margaret in a restroom near Central City when they were filming that version of the movie. She was in a mustard colored dress. Her voice was amazing. She was beautiful. I barely joked out a greeting. I still like the John Wayne version better though.

115. Memories of snow days when we taught. Sometimes we got to school and ended up driving students home.

116. Making it to the gym when it is snowy and cold outside.

117. Going up on my weights at the gym.

118. Deleting emails.

119. Emailing with my “email friends”–Janet, Joe & Carol, Terry & Eric.

120. Brooklyn’s cameo spot in the Michael Ude music video.

121. The episode of No Passport Needed (Marcus Samuelson) about the south side of Philly.

122. Checking on the lilac & honeysuckle bushes outside the window of the room where I work in the mornings. Part of one of our ash trees shows and beyond that there is a street and a small park with an elementary school on the other side. Various birds migrate through my window view. The rosy finches are due soon. They are so bright against the snowy boughs. I love them.

123. Days where there’s no place I need to go.

124. Learning a former student is a professional pool player. He just won an 8 ball championship in Wyoming.

125. Robbie Robertson and Eric Clapton playing together in the movie The Last Waltz.

126. Baking bread.

127. Being done with our taxes. Not happy about the outcome. Just happy they are done.

128. Finally getting the templates done for the two rectangular alphabet posters.

129. Being able to knit again after all the elbow problems.

130. Knitting a lace pattern that challenges my brain, but the motion of the needles is smooth and easy.

That’s enough for now. Stay happy out there.


Happy List, Part 4: 02/09/2020

It’s snowing again. It’s been snowing all week. Schools finally gave in and closed on Friday.  For 44 years of my life there was nothing happier than school closings for snowstorms.

These days any day can be snow day if I want it to be. I miss the utter joy of going to bed thinking I’d have a long drive to work and then discovering there was no school and no drive.  It’s still pretty outside and I can stay home all day if I want.

I’m looking out my workroom window. Lilac and honeysuckle bushes are beginning to bend again to the snow.  The higher branches are from one of our mountain ash trees. There’s close to an inch standing on the thicker branches. All it needs is some red finches to drop by and flit around a bit.

It’s a perfect backdrop for my daily additions to my happy list.  So I’ll begin there:

Happy List, Part 4: 02/09/2020

82. I love looking out my window each morning and seeing how my little backyard forest is changing.

83. Seeing the red finches migrate through each winter.

84. Being so excited about a drawing, I can’t wait to paint it with my computer. The raven was like that. I ‘d done 4 drawings with the bird flying straight toward the viewer. They sucked so I sat my raven down and then I loved him.

85. Recovering from a computer disaster. Yesterday, I lost my entire Sketchbook 2 folder. An hour later I’d recovered a copy and learned a whole bunch about my computer.

86. Chef Luke Biewick’s consommé and breads.

87. Crossing something off my To-Do List.

88. Staying in my jammies all day long.

89. Talking to Angela or David on the phone. Their accents (England and Alabama) tickle me beyond belief.

90. Recognizing allusions in paintings and books. I get this little charge because I’m so clever. It’s one of the reasons I believe in liberal arts degrees.

91. Seeing Brooklyn dance in the PACE Center’s production of Matilda. God, that girl can move.

92.  Listening to audio books when I’m on the treadmill.

93. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo–the best beach book I’ve read I think. It would have been even better if I’d been on a beach.

94. Losing a pound.

95. Knowing how remarkable our kids are. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t discover some cool thing they are doing.

96. Knowing what I’m going to make for dinner.

97. The Pioneer Woman. I don’t know why.

98. Seeing a Nuggets game on TV these days. I wish Comcast and the Nuggets and Avs could just settle their differences. How much money do they need?

99. The slash in Jamal Murray’s eyebrow.

100. Willa loving her new glasses. Retro and pink:)

101. Talking to our kids about their kids.

102. Knowing our grandkids so well. We are so lucky to have them living close to us.

103. Taking Brooklyn and Sammi to plays. We are going to RENT later this month. I’m excited.

104. Sammi and Brooklyn telling us that they liked the Aftro-American version of Oklahoma we saw together better than all the other theater outings we’ve done. No more Disney for us:)

105. Knowing a genuine Southern gentleman–our friend David.

106. The cheese straws David brought to me when we saw him at Jenny. They don’t make them any more. Sigh.

107. Jaydee’s scary cat imitation. She says her scary cat is named Trickster.

I’m caught up for this week.  Stay happy out there.




My Deconstructed Alphabet Challenge

F is for Fairy Slipper Orchids.

K is for Kayaks.

Q is for Quaking Aspen.

Z is for ZZZzzz…Time.

A is for Ant.

L is for Lupine.

And so it begins.

My grand girl Jaydee is a unique and beautiful imp. She is the youngest of our grandkids and the last one learning to read. When she and Willa come to spend the night, she always picks ABC books to read. She wants to break the reading code so desperately. Jaydee has me thinking about alphabets.

So–I decided to make an alphabet print or poster. Then I couldn’t decide if I should build it with squares (my favorite), horizontal rectangles or vertical rectangles. Indecision is one of my best qualities. I’m doing all three.

All told, I need 78 different designs. I’m shooting to finish by the 4th of July.

My plan is to document my progress with my second sketchbook for the Brooklyn Library.  One of the themes is to create a personal narrative. I want to crystallize our years of two week visits to the Tetons into these three alphabets. I suspect I will need another sketchbook before I’m done.

I’ll also use many of the images for notecards. Makes sense to me.

I’ve been doing the letters and shapes randomly. I’ll tell some of our stories in the sketchbook along the way. I’m having fun. It’s keeping me off the streets.

Here’s the letter M (vertical rectangle) just because moose are strangely built, but strangely wonderful to run into in the wilds.

Thanks for listening,



Happy List, Part 3: 02,02, 2020

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. We’ll see some family at lunchtime, but we’ll watch the game alone. No fancy appetizers or cookies shaped like footballs. I’m happy about that.

I’m cheering for the offense today.  There are still Broncos connections in San Francisco and the Kansas City quarterback is a real kick to watch. I figure there’s no way the game can make me unhappy unless it turns into a brutal defensive battle.

With that in mind, here’s this week’s Happy List:

55. Looking forward to a high-scoring Super Bowl.

56. Extra time at acupuncture last week.

57. Jim’s Facebook post about science fiction movies.

58. Just being lazy on a weekday.

59. My red-headed woodpecker.

60.  Whipping up a cheese soufflé with what I found in the fridge.

61. The movie Moonstruck.

62. The song “Moon Dance.”

63. Almost anything connected with the moon.

64. The smell in the house when I cook or bake something wonderful. Beef stock right now.

65. My heart still doing happy flip flops when I see Jim after I’ve been away for the afternoon.

66. Finding something I’ve lost. Usually my royal blue Lamy ballpoint pen.

67. The buyer at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum explaining to me that objects like to go on vacation too. She said physical things vanish and days later they return in places close to where they started.  I’m currently hoping my handwritten book of recipes (started last spring) will decide to come home.

68. Marcus Samuelson’s PBS show–No Passport Needed. It’s as close to having Anthony Bourdain back as I can find.

69. Shipping off notecards.

70. Fun conversations on Facebook with former students.

71. Watching Casablanca with Jim.

72. Franny having a business meeting with someone who knew our Vallarta friends. It was a definite small world event.

73. Finishing the silly moose notecard. Moose make no sense to me.

74. Receiving my second sketchbook in the mail.

75. My pseudo-daughter Lisa liking the book I suggested (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo). It’s a perfect beach book.

76. Being in the house when there is no sound. No TV or computer beeps or music or anything. I can hear the house then.

77. Being in the house alone. Very rare.

78. Watching Cleopatra to see Liz’s clothes and to hear Burton’s voice.

79. Our kitchen floor being restored and back to itself again.

80. Tomato soup with lots of parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper.

81. The Overstory by Richard Powers. It made me love trees even more.

That’s enough for now. See you next Sunday.

Happy List, Part 2: 1/26/2020


It’s Sunday morning. Jaydee is at my feet drawing the people she loves. Last night she was asking me how to spell various words. Later she tagged our bedroom door with a sticky note with the following message:

I like


because she is

fun to

cook play.

Everyone needs a love letter like that sometimes. Yesterday was my lucky day.

This morning I added it to my ever growing happy list. It’s been part of my morning routine for almost a week. It’s helping.  At least my day starts happily.

Happy List, part 2:  January 26, 2020

23.  My love note from Jaydee (see above).

24.  Putting a Christmas tree up.

25. Cooking at home on New Year’s Eve.

26. A really good biscuit.

27.  My new glasses–more like Rachel Maddow & less like Clark Kent.

28. Moo notebooks. They lay flat. They are the size of the “little” notebooks we required sophomores to have for note-taking.  I found them when I ordered my business cards there.

29. Even though it’s a gas fireplace, having a fire every cold morning. I love walking down to the kitchen & seeing it across the main room.

30.  Any new planner or journal before my handwriting gets crappy and I’m crossing things out all over the place.

31. Walking the Vallarta beach with Jim in the mornings when we are there.

32. The Signature Taco Tour in Vallarta. All the tours. Hugging Eric (the owner). He is a world class hugger.

33. Willa skating at the Gaylord Hotel and being independent and making new friends all over the place.

34. Tea in the morning.

35. When my fingernails are long and pretty–rare since the second round of cancer.

36. Getting all the laundry done.  This is where I see the myth of Sisyphus the most. I understand I need to smile at the gods and embrace the never-ending loads of laundry with joy and I need to be just like Cool Hand Luck beating the man. I’m not there yet. So far, I celebrate having one day when the laundry bin is empty. Baby steps.

37. Chris’s sense of humor on Facebook.

38. Willa loving to read books.

39. Sammi being a teenager and fighting to be recognized as a teenager. She is challenged, but she is not a kid.

40. A perfect piece of toast.

41. My fuzzy blue hat from the Estes Wool Market years ago.

42. My wedding rings and all the stories that go with them.

43. Reading the book section of the NYTimes on Sunday mornings and writing down the books I want to read someday.

44. CBS Sunday Morning. I love that show.

45. Jim bringing me tea at Jenny in the mornings.

46. My Fairy Slipper Orchid drawing. The black balances out the pink . I don’t like pink.


48. Sharpened pencils to draw with.

49. Thinking about the alphabet prints I have in mind.

50. My headphones so I can listen to audio books when I do treadmill work.

51. Jim making me hot chocolate before bedtime now and then.

52. Jim making me popcorn. He pops it on the stove the way my mom did. She tossed in pecans though.

53. Jim folding all the laundry while I’m doing other things.

54. Jim peeling an orange and offering me sections. It reminds me of Salinger and tangerines.

That’s enough for now. Thanks for listening.



Happy List: 1/22/2020

This is Katherine. I’m starting a Happy List. Again.


My life is different now, but I taught high school English for 33 years. I coached teachers working in at-risk schools for the next 11 years. I know when I walk in a classroom how it feels. Too often sadness filled classrooms so sometimes I made my 17 year old AP students color trees or make Valentine bags. The world was often too much with them.

My best strategies were coloring and happy lists when times were dark for kids. Whenever the world was too much for my students, I assigned a Happy List.  I’ve assigned Happy Lists after a teacher blew up in space in front of them, after students killed fellow students at Columbine, after 9/11. You cannot launch into strategies for scoring big on an AP test after any of those events. I loved reading student Happy Lists. It made me, well, happy.

Well, the world is too much with me. I’m reading The Overstory (Richard Powers) and it’s structured like trees and all the characters connect to trees and all I can see is the end of the world because we are destroying natural forests. I can’t look at a tree without sighing and when our neighbors took out a 35 year old mulberry tree, I cried.

So–it’s time for me to take my own advice. I’m going to happy list my way out of this.

Happy List: 1/22/2020

  1. Nate & Ashley going to see my work displayed at the Los Angeles Museum of Digital Art.
  2. The de-constructed still life print I did for the exhibit. (The image above).
  3. Reading a book I think about when I’m not reading it.
  4. Sundays with nothing to do.
  5. A Broncos win.
  6. Doing the Spelling Bee puzzle with Jim in the the Sunday NYTimes.
  7. My Yeti water bottle.
  8. Campbell’s Tomato Soup with popcorn or oyster crackers.
  9. Cousins–especially Margaret, Lori, Jennifer.
  10. Jim getting excited when he can find fresh chicken livers or gizzards at the store.
  11. Seeing Brooklyn & Sammi in Home for the Holidays. Seeing them period.
  12. Jaydee rushing up & hugging my knees.
  13. Texting with Willa.
  14. The photo of Jim and Willa cuddling.
  15. The wedding photo of Sage & Shannon ( “The Official Starkey’s”).
  16. Chris hugging me.
  17. My recent EKG. I was “perfect.”
  18. Franny cooking Xmas dinner.
  19. Drawing something new that turns out okay like the Cutthroat Trout.:)
  20. My Lamy ballpoint pens.
  21.  Getting an unexpected piece of good snail mail.

That’s enough.  I’m struggling with a moose card. Time to go to work.

Thanks for listening.



Loving Estes Park

Estes Park is a very cool little mountain town kept alive by its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Estes was a regular fishing destination for my dad and Mom would take us into Estes while Dad was on the river. We’d shop in the souvenir stores and buy taffy at a stop specializing in it. I liked chocolate and butter pecan.

As a young woman, I spent countless weekends up there with my husband because he grew up there. I learned where he cut hayfields nearby. I learned about the shop where he made “artisan” gold-plated aspen leaves for jewelry. I  learned the route of the laundry truck he drove . I learned the bars the locals like and the restaurants the locals avoid. Once, we went dancing at the Stanley. I liked that.

All the images for this collection were chosen carefully. These places have survived floods, economic downturns, and crushing winters when the tourists don’t come to visit. I knew these places as a child and they still are going strong.

My mom bought the first ring I ever had at the corner store.

My first ride up a mountain was in Estes on the Tramway.

The Park Theater was the landmark for our family to meet if we were ever separated.  We never were, but we had a plan.

I still love going to Estes Park.



Mesa Verde: Something New

We visited Mesa Verde about five years ago and I’d forgotten how steep the highway (The Trail of the Ancients) was as we drove up to the top. We’d taken the “scenic” route from home and we’d been driving a long time. It was nearing sunset in August so it was late and we were tired. Still, the drive up to the mesa outshone all my desires to get to the lodge.

I remember two other things clearly. It was nice to view the ruins without worrying about a child falling off a cliff and the light was amazing.

We took a tour with a “temporary” park ranger who began each sentence with “We here at Mesa Verde National Park.” I felt sad because he was so worried about his “spiel” that he kept missing all the wildlife and beauty around him. I kept feeling sad he couldn’t be a “permanent” park ranger. It was a lot like class with a substitute teacher. The ruins, however, were magical and mystical.

 It was the light. “Here at Mesa Verde National Park, it’s the light.” That would have said it all for me. The light was magnificent.

The open spaces at dawn and twilight were unlike what I’d seen before. The sky was always a different color than I anticipated. The skies were darker or lighter or a color I couldn’t expect. Almost like Georgia O’Keeffe skies, but different.

Climbing the ruins, the light was gorgeous. The ledges were bright.  Sometimes blindingly so.   The Anasazi lived in all light and dark all the time.  I kept wondering what that would be like.


I hope I’ve done the light justice. I hope the cards remind you of the light when you were there or they inspire you to head to Mesa Verde. It’s a beautiful and mystical place.

Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park

This week’s featured cards shows  Oxbox Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

The Tetons are my bliss station. They frame each year for me. The space, the solitude, and the beauty fill me up with some surety of goodness.

When Mom’s Alzheimer’s led me to draw my way out of my own maze of reactions, I started by drawing the Tetons. I drew what I loved.

I drew the cabins at Jenny Lake Lodge where we stay, our cabin, spots along the park highway like Oxbow Bend, and the mountains. I even drew our two favorite tables for dinner.


These drawings became the basis for my first two collections of notecards and became my first sale just about a year ago. They are the bulk of a new order for cards this year.

I am so grateful for the miracle of accidents and generous help from friends that made all this possible. I am also counting the days until I return to the Tetons and Jenny Lake Lodge.