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The Great Western Alpaca Show was today, and it was … great. It was also yesterday and is also tomorrow, in case you’re in the area and feel a need to make friends with a fuzz-face.
Held in Denver’s National Western Stock Show complex, the event presents over 1400 alpacas in agility, fancy-dress (aka, costume), fiber, and all-around alpaca fabulousness judging. I don’t think we saw all 1400 alpacas, but I must say that we came pretty darn close. I know there was only one stall hall that we regretfully passed up.
This is a big year for alpacas and us. Devotees may recall the brilliant obstacle course for alpacas, which held our rapt attention at the National Western Stock Show in January. Others may remember that this humble blog made Freshly Pressed with the posting about Alpacas and Auctions back in February. The beasties are playing a more prominent role in my life this year, and I have decided to add owning a pair to the oft-updated life list of things yet to be done.
We arrived around noon and made our way directly to the stalls. Do not pass go, and do not take your alpacas upstairs.
And there they were!
One of the first unusual things we noticed was a family of three attempting to put a long sleeve man’s shirt on a small alpaca. Let me reassure you that this is not an easy task. Perhaps the alpaca did not like that particular plaid. I thought that they might be trying to keep the little guy warm, but I discovered otherwise, as we’ll see later.
Moving down the rows, we encountered Kira, whose real name is GlennaLee. Kira owns and shows several alpacas, who live up in Granby. She lives in Indiana, so they have a long-distance relationship. Kira introduced us to A Whole Lotta Socks, a 16-month old Huacaya (who has extremely small llama balls, we were told), and Lightning, a 7-month old Suri. She was a very welcoming owner, as we found most alpaca ranchers to be. She gave us some insights around alpaca fibers, and how the crimping of the fine fiber close to their skin is the most strictly judged, and how alpacas with blue “chips” in their eyes tend towards blindness. She also let both Kelsea and I walk the guys around a bit. I took Lightning.
Kelsea took Socks.
It was wonderful. I find that I am an excellent alpaca shaman. Here, Lightning and I are discussing a distant alpaca who was wearing a gypsy scarf.
Moving along, we encountered several alpacas who seemed to be in a zen state,
and others who were proudly showing off their awards.
We witnessed first hand a spitting alpaca – boy, does that spit fly. According to Kira, a female alpaca will spit if a male is attempting to mount her and she’s either already pregnant or just extremely unwilling. (Remember that, girls.) These two were swirling around in a battle for dominance that bordered on domestic violence.
And everyone was watching.
That’s the thing about alpacas.
They are fascinated by everything.
And chew the railing.
And sometimes, they snuggle.
We stopped in at the alpaca boutique for a little browsing.
Alpaca fibers make amazingly soft and warm outerwear. Kelsea and I were speculating on creating a line of Alpaca fiber lingerie, since the fiber feels so good next to your skin, but we decided that might wind up being a little … messy.
Some poor unfortunates found themselves shorn in order to have their fiber judged. You could totally feel their sense of shame amongst all the other fluffy alpacas. They looked like my beloved former cat Mammal when we would get her shaved for summer since she got so matted. Like little rats. Except with long necks.
We got a bit lost. I’ve been in this place every year for at least 25 years, but it felt very different from when the Stock Show is running. It was obviously empty, but if felt curious, as if it was waiting for something big. Really quite odd.
After watching some costumed beasts, including our little plaid-shirted alpaca friend emerge from the tunnel like athletes exiting the field, we found ourselves back in the show arena, which was literally a four-ring circus. We saw Kira in one ring with one of her silver alpacas – she’s the lady in the dark shirt at the bottom of the following image.
But we just fell in love with the alpaca dress-up show ring. Each well-clad animal had its complementary handler, and each handler had written a little scenario for the judges, describing their get-ups, that the announcer read as the pair entered the ring.
There was a huge creative assortment.
Captain Jack Sparrow:
Phantom of the Opera:
Rock Stars (both the boy and the alpaca had guitars):
Rabbits (with magician):
Scarecrows (although this alpaca lost his straw-stuffed pants before the conclusion of the judging):
Raggedy Anne and Andy:
And perfectly matched Good Ole’ Boys (the alpaca even had little boots on), who won the blue ribbon in their class.
We finished off the afternoon browsing the product stalls, buying a hat, and two pairs of amazingly soft fingerless gloves. We’ve both wanted fingerless gloves for years.
Toys were adorable.
Children’s clothes were brilliantly colored.
Some weavers are extremely ingeneous, such as the woman who creates fantastically soft and stylish hats with whimsical faces on the back of them, which I thought were awesome. Her name is Shannon Dumais, and she’s from Las Cruces, New Mexico - please check her out at www.Pleasing AlpacaFashions.com.
Our last stop was the first annual Denver Fiber Fiesta. We passed through the hallways with care.
With our fingers raptured by the softness of woven wool, our minds amazed at the intricate, delicate complexities of crochetings and our eyes filled with the gentle rainbow hues of yarn, we took leave of our fuzz-friends.
We stopped only briefly to be amused by this particular image on the outside of the Exhibit Hall, which struck my slightly sick sense of humor.
It was a perfectly charming day.
The whole empath thing, which I’ve spoken about before, can take me down some interesting paths and branches. I am better about controlling it than I used to be – but not much. I’ll admit to weaving like a little drunken rock star on the spiritual path lately due to my emotional rollercoaster. But I am pulling things together. One of the empath gifts is a psychical connection to people with whom I share something. I can feel when someone else feels bad or upset – or maybe even incredibly happy. And I can feel when someone is physically farther away – on a trip or something. It’s like I have a slender spiritual measuring tape spool - that little invisible connecting strand that stretches with distance and is the conduit for emotions. Maybe that’s why I find it so hard to let go after a death as well – the coil no longer has a notion as to where it ends.
I missed the actual Royal Wedding.
I woke up just in time to watch the happy couple ride in their carriage to Buckingham Palace. And by the way, I think Kate’s dress was gorgeous. And she’s so pretty! So I’m catching up, and really enjoying listening to the British announcer on CNN. He’s so excited I’m afraid he may have soiled himself. But seriously, after our blase American attitude, where we don’t feel like we’re being conscious unless were protesting or objecting or bitching about something just for the sake of protesting, objecting or bitching, it’s lovely to see a whole bunch (and I mean A LOT) of people being happy and enthusiastic about a wedding.
I had it in my head to wake up, but because of my ex’s drunken drama last night, I was kind of tense and didn’t get to sleep until late. It was a touch reminiscent of the night before Princess Diana’s wedding for me, which I did get up to watch, partly because I wanted to, and partly because I had slept so tearfully and fitfully. You see, my summer boyfriend, who as of that morning was my ex-boyfriend, had sprained my arm the night before, twisting it almost to the breaking point. Why? Because I didn’t get up to change the record we were listening to. And because, as he confessed, he “liked to hurt me.” Yeah. Buh-bye. My Mother was worried about me, so she got up to watch (with) me. We cuddled on the couch and she let me talk and cry. I recall the sense of irony, watching Diana, who was just a few months older than I, walking up the aisle in her gargantuan dress to become a future queen, while I was sitting with my Mother in the dark on a couch in North Carolina, wrapped in a blanket, hurting at the hands of some idiot boy. Little did I know at the time that our experiences were probably more parallel than I thought.
And this morning, there is a trace of poignancy, due to the nasty behavior of another guy who can be a real lout sometimes. But I have left him and do not have to put up with it. I took my daughter and did not put up with it.
So now, I’m snuggled on the Red Couch, wrapped in two blankets, and I’m going to stay here until the Royal Kiss. They are serving high tea in some British tearoom in Denver and there was talk yesterday of a department field trip there today. One of our staff bought a hat for the occasion. (I would wear my own vintage hat today, except it’s at the Bungalow.)
I hope for the sake of all parties that this Royal Wedding works out better than the one I watched 30 years ago.
I still want to believe in true love.
I have no beach to walk on
like Lucy did
but I have as many ghosts
or perhaps more.
my feet leave invisible prints
on waves of pavement
at the edge of a concrete sea.
the passage of time
and the healing of hearts
follows the same course
despite disparate shores.
And the ghosts -
the companions of a solitary soul -
(For little JVD, with hope that one day soon you’ll love this place where we met your wonderful parents.)
The clouds this morning were moving like I remember from mornings on Jost. As if they were there by accident, randomly floating low and close to the sea in the early morning, with just a hit of the color of leftover moon mist showing. The air in the morning is cool there, with that delightful promise of warmth that hits usually as the sun just peeks over the big hill that drowns its non-existent sorrows in Pull and Be Damned Point. Never too cool for anything but a bikini and a sarong.
I’m not often an early riser these days when on Jost, even though I want to be. I was on my first few trips there. I wanted to make the days as long as possible, so I could savor them. There was no agenda - just be there for breakfast and dinner (if you chose) and that was it.
I liked the warm sand contrasted with the flow of water beneath my feet. I would meander to the rocks at the east end of White Bay, to the path that leads up to Ivan’s. Usually there was someone to stop to chat with – or not chat with, but just appreciate the sense of solitary camaraderie that the smiling silence between us would bring.
At the little cove, just there at the base of the hill, I would always find shells, tiny treasures that were barely visible. I’d sit in the sand, poke around at the edges of the rocks, to find them, miniscule and perfect, just the kind my mother used to love so. If I was thinking, I’d bring along a stray painkiller cup or try to drink my coffee as I walked so I’d have the mug to put things in. If I wasn’t thinking, I’d fill my hands, or tie shells into the hem of my sarong
Pelicans liked to fish for breakfast around the rocks that jutted out into the bay. They would sometimes sun themselves on promontories – never with wings outstretched, but bills down, meditative, looking like statues until they would choose to waddle to another location. Graceful and graceless at the same time.
I would sit for a while and watch the morning. People on boats would be waking, most a little hungover, all just moving with that slow cadence of blood that infiltrates every soul that finds itself in this slice of bliss. First up on the boat makes the coffee. No hurries. No worries except the ones you brought with you, and those you can leave floating in the ultra-buoyant waters in front of Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar if you so choose.
Time has slowed and it just purely does not matter. After a while, I would wander back to Sandcastle, fascinated by my own footprints in the sand, and how they fill with crystal water, and then vanish. Just little slices of reality in a time that can’t be captured. But the memory lingers, just as somewhere on this planet, the sand that for an instant formed my footprint still exists and still remembers that small pattern.
Today’s guest poet – Pablo Neruda
Because of you, in gardens of blossoming
Flowers I ache from the perfumes of spring.
I have forgotten your face, I no longer
Remember your hands; how did your lips
Feel on mine?
Because of you, I love the white statues
Drowsing in the parks, the white statues that
Have neither voice nor sight.
I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice;
I have forgotten your eyes.
Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to
My vague memory of you. I live with pain
That is like a wound; if you touch me, you will
Make to me an irreperable harm.
Your caresses enfold me, like climbing
Vines on melancholy walls.
I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to
Glimpse you in every window.
Because of you, the heady perfumes of
Summer pain me; because of you, I again
Seek out the signs that precipitate desires:
Shooting stars, falling objects.
Photo title: Beautiful Breeze
From the path to Ivan’s, White Bay, Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the day: “Happiness belongs to those who are sufficient unto themselves. For all external sources of happiness and pleasure are, by their very nature, highly uncertain, precarious, ephemeral, and subject to chance.” – Arthur Schopenhauer