Monday, September 4, 2017

These Unsettled Times

Fall approaches. I am not one to go by dates on a calendar. I think it is time for a major readjustment of the Georgian. Living on the land I find I pay attention more to the winds or lack there of or their direction or something as subtle as how they smell.

Generally there is a day in mid August when a subtle shift comes and whispers of a change of season. I really have not felt it yet. Others are talking about winter around the corner. Frankly, the far corner. But we are a ski resort historically and everyone starts predicting the winter to end all winters months ahead of time. They want their condos and vacation homes booked for the increasingly shorter ski season.

When I began skiing in the late 1960's the ski areas generally opened the weekend before Thanksgiving, and ski instructors and patrol had been on the slopes practicing the week before that. And ski slopes did it without making any snow. And when they closed after Easter it was with snow left on the slopes. And you had to have more snow in those days. Slopes were not as manicured as golf courses and grooming machines were often repurposed farm equipment. Everyone talked of depth of snow at midpoint. Kachina Post on Taos had to be at 50 inches at least and skiing was not good until it reached 70.

Now ski areas begin making snow on or before Halloween if the nights are 28 F or below for four hours or more. And they hope for days in the 40's at a max. Still the local area does not open until middle of December praying they can make it through spring break in middle of March.  Nobody really know the answer to the often asked question, "How much snow will you have on Christmas?" asked by every person booking a condo. Nobody gets that doesn't mean as much as it once did.

It has been a really wet summer. New Mexico is out of a 17 year drought. But the locals will tell you a wet summer means a dry winter. The Great Mullen around my house is rather shorter than it should be to foretell a good snow year. And I don't feel driven to buy three cords of firewood just yet.

We all talk weather this time of year. Aspens are beginning to turn. Nobody acknowledges that has more to do with length of days and how cold their roots are. Not the leaves. But all the forecasts for peak viewing weekends are up. 

I am enjoying my deck time. Cherishing the flowers which seem so great this year for longer. We had a late spring. Hoping the first killing frost (last year it was September 21st) is later this year. But Thicke is already putting on a winter coat, though the horses in the neighboring fields haven't. Then again the summer herds of cattle are moving down the mountain to where they were dropped off in May. Grazing has been good.

Everyone has an opinion about weather.

Friday, August 25, 2017

I am an Existentialist

With a touch of Zen Buddhist and a bit of Druid. What is is unless you can work some magic. But don't count on that. I was raised in Baptist territory in the era when "In God We trust" and "Under God" were added to our money and our pledge of allegiance. I believed it was unconstitutional. 

In college I took as many philosophy courses as a major in fine arts would allow. One of my best friends after college was an ex-Jesuit priest. Though I used to argue with him that there was no such thing as an ex-Jesuit. We are a sum of our life influences. We are the path we have followed.

I was the oldest child. I was the analyst. I think I got that from my pilot father who taught me to drive. When all seems to be going to hell in a hand basket I get really quiet. And if I say anything at all it is a very quiet, "Oops." It is likely to be the last word out of my mouth when the end comes.

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today, from page 417 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Accepting the problem is what I am doing when I get really quiet. I have done that for decades before I ever read that line. Some problems there is a solution for and some there are not. "Can't change the weather," as Aunt Zelma would say though I doubt it was the weather she was talking about.

Hurricane Harvey which was never suppose to get beyond a tropical depression is expected to become a category 4 before slamming in the the part of the Texas coast where my sister lives. She is a nurse. Her son is attached to a fire station, his wife a nurse. Emergency personnel do not evacuate. None of that I can change. It is what it is.

I moved away from tornado alley because you cannot change the weather. I clearly do not live on the coast. But the mountain west has its wild fires and living 1/2 mile from a forest fire for 22 days convinced me there is no place totally safe, but I bought a home in a meadow with no trees. Big Blue is because if there was another wild fire I could load it up with camping gear and my fur kids and flee.

There is no sensible or realistic way to evacuate a major city. Ike proved that in 2005. Everyone seemed to blame the people of New Orleans for not evacuating ahead of Katrina. But how? How do you leave everything you own and have known for all your life especially without a car? How do you leave your cats and dogs and horses and llamas? Some things are harder to accept. 

But what is is. It is the path we walk. It is life.

I am going for the magic option today.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Duck and Cover - DTJ

I was in my senior year of high school when Russia parked missiles in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis also known as the Crisis de Octobre or just the Missile Scare was 13 days in October of 1962, the 16th through the 28th. Thirteen months later the President who stared down the Russians would be dead in Dallas. Shot by a man connected with Russia. My first conspiracy theory was that Russia was responsible because of those missiles President Kennedy made them take out of Cuba.

The building of a personal bomb shelter was a big conversation topic on Bellamah Street in Albuquerque in 1962 and 1963. The city nobody could spell was on the top ten hit list for missiles from Russia. We had two Air Force Bases and a mountain in the Manzano mountains to the immediate east which was hallowed out to stockpile our nuclear arsenal. And air raid sirens were tested every day. Duck and Cover made a return into my life.

I was in the second grade in Roswell, NM going to a Walker Air Force base school when I first remember being schooled in Duck and Cover. And being marched out of our building to a designated bomb shelter. My US Air Force pilot father talked me out of my tears of fear by informing me it didn't work. There was no way to survive a nuclear war. So I should just humor the adults who thought there was by dutifully hiding under my desk or marching in a row through the fall out to a basement with an atomic energy symbol on the door.
In the days following 9/11 a young adult friend of mine asked me why I was not afraid. I replied rather glibly, "Nothing new. I grew up afraid. I am one of the duck and cover generation." I don't remember fire drills in school but air raid drills. 

There has been a lot of talk about that long ago Missile Crisis since Trump has begun his verbal war with Korea. It has brought up a lot of memories about those long ago days in October. One of the biggest is Mom and Dad taking us on a camping trip to the mountains. No internet in those days. And actually no radio either. Not in the mountains. But Dad tried to get reception to keep up with what was going on. The static made it impossible. Without being told I fell in with the adult plan of enjoying the fishing and not being afraid of a red dawn. I was the oldest.

Until the day came to drive back home. If home was there. I tried not to notice Dad not turning up the volume on the car radio. "Maybe we should stay here," I said aloud as we drove into the tiny village of Canjilon, New Mexico. It was another ten miles before the radio would pick up an Albuquerque station and the local weather.

Home was still there. But to this day in times of no win situations I think of Canjilon and the beaver lakes where we fished for five days in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I am glad I have returned to the mountains to live. We are not on anyone's top ten list. That is good.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Pruning the Crown of Thorns

Crown of Thorns Before

I am a lover of Euphorbias. They are from the deserts of Southern Africa and Madagascar. They have evolved physical characteristics and forms similar to cacti of North and South America and are often incorrectly referred to as cacti. My big Crown of Thorns was one of my first of a growing collection of these succulents from the spurge family of Euphorbiaceae. I picked it up as a 6 inch plant in a New Iberia nursery when my sister and I were touring the northern gulf coast. I believe that was 15 years ago.

I made an attempt at limiting its height a few years back to allow it to devote more energy to the new branches and make it a denser plant. That failed. And the height of the plant continued to challenge the window space and soon the long branches were leaning over and leaning against the window.

I googled and found the proper way to prune this treasured plant. Still it was very difficult to cut off the four longer branches. Even with a plan.

The five pots with "new" plants

 I am not sure why I was afraid of this step because I have propagated other Euphorbia in my collection. Maybe it was that I failed once when I cut off the tall center branch. But I was essentially at that time trying to root pieces of the leafless trunk. That, according to one article I read, doesn't work. In this case I am focusing my efforts on the tops of the four branches I cut off. And the little sprouts which the parent plant puts out to spread itself. Three of those are in the second from the right pot.

All the pots are filled with sand and once moistened I am suppose to refrain from watering. This plant is from a desert area of the world. 

The pruned mother plant

With the larger branches gone the multiple little beginnings of branches should have more resources to grow and I will get a denser and healthier plant. In a week or two I want to lift the plant up (with leather gloves) and put more cactus potting soil below it in the pot. Repotting isn't necessary at this point the articles I read said.

I think I was willing to risk this radical step because I have recently visited a home where a Crown of Thorns was clearly dying because it had not been pruned. I own two other Crown of Thorns. And I now have the possibility of five new plants. If it works I will be looking for homes. Meanwhile positive thoughts for the mother plant.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Frantic Living - DTJ

California Poppies

Summer seems so short. So frantic. Not at all like the old song, Summer Time. The living isn't easy in a tourist town. Or if you garden. There is this brief window of opportunity and all are competing for your time and energy. I feel as if I am cheating if I just sit down for a cup of coffee on my deck. Yesterday I was able to do that if I took my sketch pad. I am working on a new concept for two paintings. The year is 7/12th over and I have only finished two paintings.

When I was an active art fair participant I had to be painting almost constantly during the first third of the year to have enough inventory to carry me through the summer and fall seasons. And yet I still tried to garden. Note: only possible with programmable drip irrigation system.

So shouldn't the living be easy? But it is raining and the grass is growing. Maybe I need a goat or two. I manically tried to keep up with mower and weed eater. While at the same time pushing to paint more, and to produce some framed canvas photographic prints to capitalize on two active venues. Besides if I was busy there was no time for depressing news and the circus going on.

Spirit has a way of stopping me in my tracks. This time it was my left arm. I knew when I was trying to get the last 20 feet with the weed eater I was pushing it. But I did it and then came in and stretched the last two canvas prints. My sister asked if this wasn't the shoulder I had injured in that long ago ski accident. I tend to remember only the CBT. And nobody ever told me I would be as good as new. I forget that.

I'm fine (my favorite answer to questions about health). And I am fine when I pace myself. Just forgot that. Denial is a survival skill. So I have been on chair rest. Which means the grass continues to grow unabated but the web pages for my art and photography are getting buffed and fluffed after an extended period of neglect. And there has been some photo file cleansing going on. But I have been obedient. As if it was an option. This period of neglect which began in late June has resulted in serious pain and limitation. 

Denial can be your enemy. Face it I don't do frantic any more. At least I still have health care. And writing my MoC can be done with a minimum of effort. I can even do it one handed if I must. More days of chair rest ahead until I can safely handle my big boy camera with both hands. Fortunately there are more computer based actions I need to do for my business. Boy, was I behind. And the forecast is for a long warm fall.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The New Easel

I used to paint small watercolors on paper. College training. And then the art suppliers came out with watercolor canvas. And I could paint larger.

But my studio furniture was all designed for small works. Most watercolors are painted on the flat because water drips. I expanded to folding tables which seemed to never get folded up and were sometimes still too small. And as I got bigger I expanded into more mixed media like oil sticks. While my flat work was poured and so took less time.

I am creative. I jerry-rigged an easel using my flat shelves and clamps. I finally gave up and bought an adjustable easel. It will lay flat but also stand up. It frees up a lot of work space in my studio. Work space which seems to be constantly over run with other projects like painted chairs.

And dogs I take in for vacations while owners are away. Every once in a while it occurs to me I was going to make this studio at one time half the size it is currently and only had a 3 x 4 foot stoop to sit and have my lunch on. Currently wondering if I made the deck too small also.

The new easel had demanded a rearrangement of art supplies and a cleaning out of my flat files. Now to clean off the L shaped table where I once painted so it can be used more for photo editing and drawing.

But first I have eight photographs on canvas coming early next week. All need to be stretched so the matting table needs addressed. I have a flat surface malady. I will walk into a room and deposit something on the first flat surface I come too. This usually seems to plague the living room and the kitchen. But since I built the deck I tend to use the studio entrance so all flat surfaces in that room are covered.

Which brings me to why the easel is such a good deal. It is seldom flat and when it is there will be a painting on it I don't dare stack things on. So if you are wondering why with a new easel I am not painting up a storm it is because I am once again cleaning up the studio.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Late Great USA

I think this is it. I believe it is the last time 50 states will celebrate Independence day together. It is clear we are no longer independent. And we are no longer together.

The divisions have been widening for some time now. It began in very quiet ways. The mountain west does not feel represented by the eastern establishment. And now that DT has declared war on our western lands more openly the chasm is growing. They believe they can sell off our public lands to foreign mining interests (including Russia) and then allow them to ruin the water. Since we won't let them steal the water they will poison it.

There is a phrase about being related to people you would not cross the street to meet. As citizens we are united to people we really don't want to know. We don't hold the same values, watch the same television shows, go to the same movies or sports events, even eat the same foods.

A  friend from another country asked what is American food? I found a list forming in my mind and realized it was comprised mostly of things I don't eat. Oh, I love how Savannah does shrimp and grits for breakfast. I can devour mud bugs with Cajun spices. I love how Kansas City does barbecue but North Carolina not so much. I love how major cities have ethnic food available. And I live in New Mexico where the cuisine is New Mexican and not American. It may have more to do with First Nations or Mexico than the USA.

And I increasingly do not think of myself as a citizen of the USA. Since Trump took office I find I cannot support the policies of this trashed government. So this 4th of July I will be wearing black.