Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year Eve's Blue Moon

Blue moons are either the second full moon in a calendar month or, as Farmer's Almanac defines it, an extra full moon in a season. Historically this extra full moon was called a betrayer moon because it could set off the timing of Lent and ergo Easter. And it betrays the naming of the twelve moons because suddenly there is this extra one but my calendar for 2009 calls this the Full Long Nights Moon. And the next full moon - Sun Has Not Strength to Thaw Moon - will be January 30th.

There is no heavy astrological significance of a blue or betrayer moon other than the usual "lunacy" that occurs around a full moon. My sister, who is a nurse, is not fond of full moons because of the havoc they create in emergency wards. There has been some recent research which says this long held belief is myth but ask any police officer or hospital employee. To add a full moon, blue or otherwise, to New Year's Eve does not bode well. Can you imagine what a full Moon will do to already crazed New Year's revelers? A more meaningful way to ring in 2010; instead of joining in drunken revelry maybe tp sit outside and look up at the beautiful Moon and see what messages it has to tell you for the future. With current temperatures where I live this could result, with the addition of alcohol, in a lot of frozen moon gazers. Fortunately, I can watch the moon rise from the comfort of my studio.

All full moons rise at sun set. I guess that makes it possible to both gaze at the moon and later party with the rest of the lunatics. Just don't drive drunk. It can ruin your entire new year or your life and the life of innocents out on the road.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The New Sherlock Holmes for Movie Monday

I guess you could say this was a wonderful Christmas for me. First spending the day with friends and playing in her jewelry studio and then yesterday, Boxing Day, an unexpected invitation to go to Taos and see the new Sherlock Holmes movie.

I am a long time fan of Sherlock Holmes. I even have read the collections of stories put out. And the BBC has done a very "faithful" job of putting them to film. Nor can one fault the acting.

But less face it girls, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are a lot better to look at for nearly three hours.

And I love Robert Downey Jr. and Judd Law. So naturally I just had to see it though to be entirely frank I had my reservations. I generally am not fond of re-do's of movies or shows I was already fond of. But even if it didn't measure up I would get to look at Downey and Law for three hours. How can you go wrong? And as it turned out I loved it.

Apologies to Sir Conan Doyle but I never quite understood why Watson put up with Holmes. There seemed to be no up side for him. But in this new take on the friendship we discover that Watson has a bit of a gambling problem and that while a prim and proper doctor (a tad anal retentive) he has a secret desire for the bizarre and Holmes, as played by Downey, is more bizarre than eccentric. But then Holmes would have to be if you figure the edges of crime and society that he hung around. Not to mention his fondness for opium, etc. Director Guy Ritchie seems to be purposely trying to make us reconsider what we know of Sherlock Holmes and his universe. Guy Ritchie wants to show that Sherlock Holmes' intellect is as much of a curse as it is a blessing.

These tweaks in the characters they are playing create a wonderful platform for a buddy movie of the level I have not seen since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Their on screen synergy is of a level that totally consumes your attention to the point you almost miss some of the fantastic backgrounds, elaborate ensemble scenes, and gorgeous costumes. Ritchie has made a very contemporary film as far as the tone and texture, because it has been a relatively long time since there's been a film version of Sherlock Holmes that people embraced.

Not only will I have to see this movie again I will have to own the DVD when it is released but until then I give you The official site, which I have visited too. Oh, and BTW, they left if open for sequel.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Beginning or Middle of Winter - What's in a Name?

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the winter solstice. She quoted the ABC weatherman at the local channel saying that the day before had been the last day of autumn and the 21st the transition to winter. That would make today the first full day of winter. Something in me just rejected all that.

Think back to your weather on the 20th if you live in the northern hemisphere. Did it seem at all like autumn to you? I told her I really believed that winter solstice was more like the middle of winter. Or at least approaching that point rapidly. With freezes in September slowing plant growth and snows coming in October I find it really hard to believe fall continues to December 20th.

So I did what I usually do when challenging information I have received - I Googled. And wound up on Wiki as per usual. While it seems it is a cultural difference as to what solstice is called there is much historical basis for Midwinter over first day of winter. The Celts believed winter began November 1st. Seems more accurate to me. So winter solstice would be about 2 months into winter. And ergo spring actually begins in March.

Early March is when green begins to appear. There are little buds on the trees and the patches of grass showing through the snow are becoming green. So then spring equinox would be midspring?

I don't know if that is as important to get right as Winter Solstice. While the days will begin to be longer I find it quite depressing to believe it is the BEGINNING of winter. Where I live we have had winter for at least a month and a half. Midwinter is so much more optimistic! If you have made it to this point you can survive it. And today you more than half way through the ordeal.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Dogs that Did Bark

There is a short story featuring Sherlock Holmes titled "Silver Blaze" which has become known for the dog that didn't bark in the night.
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."
This scene was the inspiration for the title of the 2003 book  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.)

All which is beside the point because my dogs did bark in the night-time last night. Well, very early this morning.

If you are an owner of a canine fur kid you do know they have different barks (well, unless it is one of those foofoo tiny things that are merely pretenders to the throne of dog) for different occasions. And living in the country as I do I have discerned the difference between their bark because all the other dogs in the neighborhood are barking, and the something unsettling is going on bark. Within the latter category is the elks through the yard bark and the I have no idea bark. It is the I have no idea bark which is the most unnerving. I can entreat them to go back to sleep through most all other barks but that one.

That was the bark at 3 a.m. this morning. And it was followed by protective behavior where they crowd in as close to me as possible. I want to believe they think they are protecting me rather than I am protecting them. Ever notice how acute your hearing gets in such circumstances? I could hear the distant bugling of female elks to their young and figured maybe it was just a herd leaping over fences but something did not feel right about the air in the house. Charged? Energized? I tried in vain to remember where the upstairs fire arm was. Made mental note to figure that out come dawn.

Got out of bed with some difficulty given dogs protecting me. Threw on terry robe and traipsed downstairs (I would rather rush to meet my destiny than have it creep up on me) where I was aware of all the gun locations. Dogs followed with that low growl thing going on. Creepier than the I haven't a clue bark. Lights were on across the street at the vacation rental - late arrivals for holiday ski weekend? And car lights were on down the dead end road - domestic dispute? Early morning departure for the holidays? Car rushes past fast down the road. I walked out on my back porch (damn cold out there this morning) and leaned over the railing so I could see if the lights were on at my neighbor's to the west - nope. Steve has a terminal form of cancer so a predawn emergency would not be out of the realm of possibility.

By this time I am totally awake and put on the water for coffee in the French Press, toss on a few logs to the burning embers in the wood stove, and feed the fur kids. Magique is still in protective mode at my feet and Mardi is only three feet away. Maybe dawn will reveal the cause of their upset. And maybe not. Coffee with the neighbors is probably called for to see what they experienced.

I am doing a gun check today and also being more careful about locking the doors. And there is an afternoon nap in my future.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ten More Days

No, not ten more shopping days til Christmas. Ten more waiting days until after Christmas sales. A trip to Santa Fe last year after Christmas netted me some great bargains on holiday ornaments, etc. This year I am going to try to score myself an LCD TV screen and/or a new DeWalt battery powered drill. Pre-holiday prices are looking good but early reports are that sales are down some 50% from last year and we know how bad a Christmas shopping season that was.

Besides I am entirely too busy to do anything before Christmas. And my sister is working through Christmas anyway. And because of the wonderful planning of the state and when I bought my van a few years ago practically everything is due in December from van insurance and registration to property taxes and insurance. Who thought that up in state government?

The good news is all of that is paid. The bad news is it doesn't feel a lot like Christmas. Even the long range forecast is looking dismal for a white Christmas and I live at the foot of a ski resort. Mind you I am all in favor of the high 30's and low 40's temperatures we are going to have. Some of the snow lying around my property in drifts will melt and water the trees and plants.

And it is looking good for a girls' day in Santa Fe this year. I am making my conservative list and checking it twice. I don't want to spend all my money. Last winter was hell trying to scrape up the bucks for heating bills, etc. I am trying to build a nest egg as a cushion for unexpected expenses.

Are you paring down your holiday buying?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Life by the Book

I used to be a Franklin-Covey Day Planner person. A subscriber to 7 Basic Habits for Highly Effective People. I carried the day planner into my life after corporate America. Every year about this time I would be buying the yearly fillers for my book. And on particularly nice years a new binder that said success. Then I tried Palm Pilot. And calendars on line. I came to the conclusion I am a paper person. I have to write (not key) things down. So in 2008 due to finances I went with the engagement calendar instead of the Day Planner.

The fact that I chose the Old Farmer's Almanac Engagement Calendar says a great deal about my life these days. It lays flat on my computer desk - generally right in front of the screen - and it includes all sorts of little wives' tales trivia, tips and quotes, as well as the phases of the moon. It allows two inches for each day for notes. I clearly no longer have a life style that requires two pages for each day. Nor does it need to be broken down into 30 minute segments. But I have learned the habit of making notes and lists. I like a record of my comings and goings just in case I get called as a witness to some crime! LOL.

Well, perhaps not that funny. It was that habit of making notes (and the new habit of writing blogs) that stood me well during this last round with the contractor from hell. I have written backup of things. He does not.

So here I sit at the computer with the 2009 engagement calendar open before me. And the 2010 underneath one flap. We are in that time of year where forward plans require both. This morning I will be entering some dates of importance in my Google online calendar so I can get e-mail reminders. Important these days are pet sitting engagements, arrival dates of guests and maids at the house I am sitting for the winter, gallery receptions, and MVAC board meetings. A bit different from my high powered days as a project control engineer for a major construction management firm.

But I am about to begin a lobby effort to change the Mechanic's lien laws in New Mexico. Can I show up at the office of a state legislator with my Farmer's Almanac Engagement Calendar? Any thoughts?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's Snowing

Shades of Little House on the Prairie

First let me say I was rather disappointed to discover that Little House on the Prairie was written about the Dakotas. I always thought it was Kansas. But the fact I had been marooned with my parents in a blizzard in Kansas while going home to Kansas City, Missouri for Christmas may have tainted my memory.

Second let me mention that I am not a snow hater. I just love it more when it falls straight to the ground and stays there until it melts. I prefer it when it melts within a couple of days.

Third, this is not our first snow of the "winter season." We even had a rather serious 7 inches early on. This does seem, however, to be the first one the weather prognosticators have gotten right. Damn! I have been spending my physic energy to turn it south. That part of the state is having a drought of some length and they would really love this. I even tried to get it to Phoenix. They want to steal all the water out of the Colorado River so they can mist their shopping centers and water more than 150 golf courses so I think they ought to deal with how the water gets into the Colorado River for them to steal it. Let them shovel it for a change.

Okay, I admit, blizzards do not put me in a good mood. I just popped out my head to get another log off the porch and suffered a chilling whiteout. That does not increase my desire to actually walk to the wood shed (maybe 50 feet). But there is more wood on the porch to use before that become necessary.

Having failed in re-directing this low pressure area I am seeking someone east of here that would like to have it next. Any bids from Kansas? Though you may not have a choice. Texas could use the water. I want to hear phrases like "....this fast moving storm, now centered over Dallas, is responsible for more than a foot of snow in the panhandle."

PS: that is a Google photo. I am not going out of this house with a camera.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Winter Thus Far

First let me say this is not a picture of me, my cat or my swood burning stove. I do have a huge old iron wood burning stove. And mornings are likely to find me stoking up the remaining embers to take the chill off the room. And it is also highly likely that my cats will be close. So will the dogs. On chilly mornings and evenings the whole fur kid population and me are likely to be close to my formed iron stove.

Last winter's electric bill for heating my modest home, coupled with the increased attention to global warming has made me look long and hard at our habits in winter. Why, for instance, do people want to warm their entire house to hotter than then cool it off to in the summer? And central heat is so wasteful. I remember when my father installed central heat in our house on Bellamah Avenue. There were no longer those radiators we could stand in front of to get dressed on chilly mornings. And there was this constant breeze blowing through vents.

My current abode has baseboard electric heat controlled room by room. So rooms I am not in do not have to be heated. And instead of cranking up the heat to reach 72 plus (I have a neighbor that has to have her house winters at 76) I put on a hoodie and throw an afghan over my lap. I find anything above 67 stiffling of my energy. The studio with all its windows facing the south and east frequently warms up above that. And I will turn on the ceiling fan in the livingroom to suck some of the heat into that part of the house.

Winter days when the sun doesn't come out are probably my biggest challenge. That is often when I will alter my activities to stay where it is warmest. It is why the pioneers used to mend harnesses in the room with the potbellied stove in the winter. Or everyone would drop in at the old country store to chat and warm up around the old stove there. We didn't heat what we weren't using. That neighbor who likes her house 76 heats every single inch of it.

I figure I have two months of real "winter" to make it through. And like this week I will from time to time use a little space heater for just that space I am in. Or dry my clothes in the drier as opposed to hang them out on the line to "freeze" dry. And there is the underhouse heat to keep pipes from freezing. And the one baseboard heater in the unused rental unit turned to 50 for the same reason. I threw another quilt on the bed. Am getting really good use out of my hoodies and discovering the pluses to having Magique curl up on my feet under the computer desk.

And yesterday moved the French press coffee maker to the flat top of the wood stove to keep the fresh brewed coffee warm and eliminate the microwave in my morning rituals. Life is good. And no guilt about my carbon footprint.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

January the Coldest Month?

I was sure that December was the coldest month. It is the darkest because of the Winter Solstice falling this year on the morning of December 21st. But when I went to Google and confirm my facts before posting I found the following information: January is the coldest month...Because water retains heat. Between 70 percent and 75 percent of the Earth's surface is covered in oceans, rivers, and lakes. (There's even more water vaporized in the air or stored in the ground.) During seasons of longer days and more sunlight, these geographical features are able to store up and retain heat over long periods of time, before emitting it as the days get shorter. A body of water is far more effective as a space heater than, say, a big field of rocks: The water holds on to five times as much heat per gram.

Since I have lived in the mountains of northern New Mexico my feelings run counter to this information. In my memory we often get about ten days every January where night temperatures hang around zero farenheit and below. Once it was coupled with ten days of no sunshine and people depending upon solar or passive solar heating almost froze. It seems to me that it is seldom that cold in January. But then there are no large bodies of water around here. And the condensation rising from the cooling oceans generates clouds that climb to the top of our mountains and become snow. So I think for the inner mountain west they are wrong.

Who is they? Weather forecasters (isn't that an oxymoron?) Just before the Utah winter Olympics the government put forth big bucks to study mountain effect weather. The end conclusion of this two year study is you cannot predict mountain weather. Duh? Saturday and Sunday of this last week we were warned of 6 to 10 inches around 7500 feet and more above that. We got a dusting. The front hitting the mountains took a dive south. Now we are facing our first Canadian cold front. They are pretty reliable with or without snow.

For the next three days we are not even expected to be above 20 F as a high. I am currently ignoring lows as it is four degrees at the moment! And the Canadian express has not arrived. But it is around this time every year it makes its appearance. And we seriously crank up the heat. Especially since it generally sucks up moisture from the gulf of Baja and we miss the solar warming of the sun. January generally brings a thaw and we have a couple of weeks of sunny weather. If you are out of the breeze like on my studio porch you can almost sunbathe.

I think I might look up all the climatic data for December and January in the mountains right after it warms up just a hair. I would rather not know January is going to be colder until I am through December. Call me chicken.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Derailed by the Season

It is quite difficult to stay on track through guests, holiday events, and all the cooking and shopping that entails. And as I discovered yesterday after the last house guest had departed it is near impossible to get immediately back on track even when the guest in question cleans up after herself expertly. And helps you with things like unloading the van from the fair.

I had set the goal of re-hanging all my paintings sitting in boxes in the studio and getting most of the decorating done on the fresh cut tree. I got two paintings hung and most of the decorations on before collapsing before the television and wasting the afternoon watching DVD's and making trips to the kitchen for left-overs to munch on. I could blame the fatigue on fibro which probably had something to do with it. But basically it was a rebellion over a week of "have-to-do's." I really did not want to do anything regardless of energy level.

So I enjoyed doing nothing much yesterday, but that still leaves all those paintings to be re-hung and the last of the Christmas decoration boxes to be emptied of items and stored till time to take the tree down. The studio is an absolute mess with boxes and ladders, and things not put away.

I am inspired to begin planning for the triptych I want to do but there is no room to do it in. And in one of the boxes is a painting which is sold on layaway. I have a couple customers that pick a painting and put a deposit down on it and their mate comes and gets it out for them as a Christmas present so I need to find it. But today, since we did not get the 10 inches of snow they threatened, I think I am going over to Taos to workout at the gym, soak in the hot tub, stretch out in the steam room. Holidays are hard work and I need to reward myself.

I will worry about getting back on track around Wednesday I think.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Day in Taos

I had to go to Taos yesterday for an appointment with my legal aid attorneys and one of my witnesses in my defense against the contractor-from-hell. My witness is giving a deposition this afternoon. Needless to say I was not looking forward to the whole ordeal and so taking a tip from my father, who always combined our doctor visits with trips to toy stores, I decided to treat myself to working out at the gym and then a visit to my favorite kitchen store: Monet's Kitchen.

My excuse was that I needed a harp and a mandolin. No, not musical instruments. A harp is a more intelligent hand potato peeler and a mandolin slices and juliennes. According to the chef that instructed us at the Taos School of Cooking last week both are indispensable in the kitchen.

Monet's Kitchen is in the little Bent Street area of Taos with all the cute stores. It is were Moby Dicken's Book Store is. And my favorite yarn shop. I needed some #6 double pointed needles for a knitting project. So after being good and working out I got to be naughty and shop though stores I rarely visit without a burning need or a visitor in from out of town.

I admit my shopping trips to Taos have become very plebian. I go with list in hand to buy the necessities at the lowest possible prices and spending the least amount of time. The one exception to this being my favorite art supply store. Hey, business expense. I had a list this trip too but it was small and exclusive as I am still on a budget. And I have found many women shop for hours without realizing it isn't the merchandise they are after to paraphrase Thoreau's quote on fishing. We just love to shop. Eye candy as an artist friend of mine says.

Lots of great eye candy at Monet's. And the yarn shop. And the book store. Only item I bought not on the list was a pastry cutter. My sister was shocked on a recent visit that I didn't have one since I have three sizes of whisks and still scramble my eggs with a fork. I love kitchen toys. I love to cook.

I should revisit Bent Street more often now that I have proven I can shop and not over buy. But the yarn shop could be dangerous. I can defend purchase there as not merely merchandise but entertainment.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sidetracked to Cooking Class

I know how to cook. I learned from my mother who was a very respectable basic cook firmly rooted in the dishes she knew her family would eat and who every once in a while dared to inject something new. She taught me what a pinch was, and taste before you season, how to read a recipe book, and substitutions.

College taught me books. I have always maintained school is not about memorization (teach for the test) but on learning how to continue to learn; ergo books. So graduating from my mother's kitchen I sought out cookbooks she didn't own; had no need to own. And I helped my friends in the kitchen when invited for dinner. Then there was eating out and guessing the ingredients and coming home and trying to duplicate that recipe. At a time between "serious jobs" I even worked as an apprentice chef in a small French/Italian restaurant with a great repetition. I was hired on the basis of my French Onion Soup. I make a devine French Onion Soup.

But I don't cook winter squash. Mother didn't cook squash period. Dad didn't like it. Drawn to Italian food I learned to deal with zucchini. And became a master of it when it was the only plant in my garden my goats didn't eat. But zucchini is a summer (thin skinned squash). Winter squash have these think skins and require super sharp knives and muscle. And cookbooks I hadn't bought. So when my friend, Jessica, suggested a class in cooking winter squash at the Taos School of Cooking I jumped at the chance. I did a cooking class on Cajun food in New Orleans once. Tons of fun. If you have never done a cooking class do.

Not only do I now know what to do with a Turban Squash I know how to do it. And most important I know I love it because we got to eat what we cooked. I am still stuffed. I was feeling bad about having cut out on my so new diet when I went to Google an image for this blog. I found it on a fitness site. Not only is winter squash good and economical it is also healthy!

Best part of cooking class is I feel energized. I love to cook but I get into ruts and this definitely knocked me out of that. I think I am putting it on my list of todos as a periodic adventure into the culinary arts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate...we can not consecrate...we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

President Abraham Lincoln spoke these words several wars before Veteran's Day came to be. And still the dead from wars die and die again. You would think we would learn.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One Needs to Dream

Unnamed Arch in the Maze area of Canyonlands, Utah

Life becomes just so much keeping on keeping on unless you have a dream to move toward. Long range goals and dreams that are rather nebulous because of their distance from your point in time are, of course, necessary but they too often fade from our focus. And short term plans like the fair I have at the end of the month are about the same as making payments on all your bills; more of just putting one foot in front of another.

It is the middle range dream that is the most fun. My sister and I have engaged in the infamous Thelma and Louise Road trip three times before and found we had almost as much fun researching, plotting, planning, and equipping as we did finally setting out. We had not ventured out on a grand road trip since our 2006 adventure on Lake Powell. The minute we got into cell phone range after eight days in a technological black hole she received the call from Alan, her husband in Texas, that he had a job interview in New Mexico.

The intervening years have been filled with building my studio for me, and Debbie and Alan moving and settling into new jobs and the Land of Enchantment. Road trips because day larks in the Rubicon. We kept trying to plan something grander and ran into the hard facts of funds, pets, time: In short the life of keeping on keeping on.

In the last week a new plan began to take form. It began as a redo of a previous plan - another houseboat trip. And then diverted and grew. We are currently doing research on the Maze district of Canyonlands National Park, Utah. We are currently in research mode. Debbie's Jeep opens up possibilities we didn't have in our first trip to Canyonlands in 2004. It also opens up a shopping list we didn't have before - lift kit, high lift jack, top rack, jerry cans for extra gas. Then there is the get us into shape part. Sure there is a vehicle they advertise can go anywhere but if it doesn't one has to be able to walk out. Best laid plans oft go astray.

The Maze District is about as sidetracked as one can get. Even all the arches in the area are not named. It certainly will give me lots of new subjects for paintings. Current tentative schedule is early May of 2010 so we have a lot of fun time ahead with the planning and tweaking of the plan, etc. It is Thelma and Louise plus Alan this time; two Canon digital SLR cameras and a Nikon DSLR. And the film cameras. I think between the three of us we can manage a better photo.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sidetracked Again

Happy Halloween everyone. I bought a pumpkin a few days ago and my intent was to carve it on All Hallows Eve - yesterday. But that did not get done. I was cleaning up the studio before making a mess again with the pumpkin and got sidetracked into preparing two platforms for two new paintings.

I got out of Dodge over last weekend and came back to cold and extremely cold temperatures. It has been nice to be in the livingroom of my house not far from the woodstove. Yesterday the sun came out which warms the studio due to its passive solar design and ultimately the rest of my house. So it was comfortable to work in the studio. And the view was not reminding me of just how cold it was outside.

How cold was it? Well, yesterday morning when I walked the fur kids the recorded temperature was 13F but there was a bitter wind which went right through my old winter coat. That is toast. I figured I might have to buy a new one and was debating Sierra Trading on line or the local thrift store when I remembered the upstairs closet in the sewing room and a North Face ski jacket I was very fond of. Bought it the year I totaled myself in a ski accident. It still fit. And I am clearly not skiing anymore.

Coat problem solved I then tackled business insurance, commission issues, studio mess, laundry, dishes, and misting of orchids. I am told the lack of humidity is why my orchids do not bloom. It is amazing the lengths I can go to avoid cleaning up the studio. Or getting back into a routine after breaking it with travel. I got my confirmation for the holiday market show here in Angel Fire over Thanksgiving weekend and I do have to get back into a routine to produce some smaller paintings for Christmas giving. And then I want to have a December reception at the studio.

When I was living in Washington, DC I used to visit the West Virginia Mountains all the time. We camped on the Blue Ridge not far from Elkins and there was a major train yard there. There had to be over 500 rail cars sitting around on sidetracks in the yard. I read, a year, after we left the area that they were all stolen cars. A band of thieves would uncouple and derail boxcars there, steal the contents, and then they were trying to re-paint and re-sell the cars. That was obviously much slower going so the cars piled up.

Sometimes I feel like Elkins, West Virginia. Or the ghosts pictured above. Off on a siderail waiting for something to happen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Blizzard of '06/'07

Firewood half stacked

My father used to tell tales of the blizzards of his childhood in Kansas City. Like all young children I rolled my eyes sure this was a lot like the fish that got away which continued to grow upon every telling. As an adult living in the intermountain west and spending 20 years of that time as a ski instructor I have been trapped by avalanches and snowed into mountain resorts and snow blinded on the trail heading to the lodge. But all those were transient events compared to the Blizzard of '06/'07 and the winter that followed.

It started snowing I believe on the 29th of December. I went out and gathered up firewood from the unstacked pile just delivered. It had been a mild winter to that point and I was sure the wood I had would suffice but had gotten extra at the last minute. Snow storms in New Mexico seldom hang around but this one did. It was still snowing on New Year's Day. By then we had 6 feet of what skiers call Champagne powder if the winds had not begun. Winds pack the snow down, reform it and change the shapes of everything. I could no longer find the wood - either stacked on unstacked.

Snow sliding off the metal roof had knocked the satellite dish off the side of the house. I was cut off from the real world. Similar slides of snow off the back had made it impossible for the dogs to get off the porch once through their doggie door. I and the fur kids would go out 3 to 4 times a day and shovel snow to develop paths to where I thought the wood should be and to attempt to keep the driveway clear should a snowplow actually make it down my road. What I did not know is they were all busy with the main roads. The entire northeast part of New Mexico was snowbound. When the storm moved on state helicopters were dropping feed to stranded cattle. All the passes in and out of my valley were closed for 4 days. Continuing winds made road clearing a nightmare for state and county plows.

Once roads were clear I managed to get more wood delivered and piled I think on top of what was buried and entombed till spring. It was a long winter. A freak winter we all thought, but the next winter was almost as bad. Ergo the woodshed pictured above. And my drive to get all the two cords of wood I ordered stored snugly inside it. I may have to snowshoe to retrieve it but it will be dry and accessible.

And because the tourists residing in the vacation rental across the road think my wood is their wood I am able to lock it up. I will be very satisfied when it is all stacked neatly by noon today. What is pictured is only about half. When totally full my shed holds three cords. That and a full pantry takes some of the dread of winter away. Before the great blizzard snow never scared me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Few Random Saturday Thoughts

We are currently enjoying some fantastic Indian Summer weather. So while I would love to be in the studio painting today I need to stop ignoring the snow fencing that needs restretched. And as tomorrow is Sunday I need to get to the hardware store today and lay in supplies for fencing and for framing of the pictures I have finished.

And as Halloween is just around the corner I need to pick up a pumpkin and then decide if I am going to carve one. I also want to make a new birdfeeding station for the winter - one that is visible from my studio windows. Actually considering placing it right under the studio window in front. Yes, within cat range but what isn't.

So these last nice days before winter settles in are divided between chores that must be done and those that would be nice to do. I should be totally focusing on the must get dones but my inner brat wants to do what it wants to do. Frankly I would like to go visiting a local ghost town or two. Yesterday, while visiting a house I am caring for this winter I picked up Ponderosa pine cones knocked down by the winds a couple days ago. Always good to make fire starters with. Or just decorate here and there around between the plants. There is that should and want again.

To make fire starters you melt down old candles in a shallow pan and roll the pine cones in it. To make them festive you can then roll them in glitter or confetti. Cool them on a cookie tray and store in a basket or bucket not too close to the fire. Great way to recycle candle wax and a green way to start fires this winter.

Maybe I should go collect more pine cones? Anything to not pound fence posts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When Things Go Missing

The opening photo may lead you to believe this post really belongs in my Creative Journey blog but what I am discussing today is not the technique illustrated above but that I forgot about it. It went missing from my mind.

One of my artistic transitions was from pen and ink with one color to water coloring in full color. And when I made that move it was because of a book on Chinese watercolor that told of how they often laid out the tones and line first with India Ink and then applied color on top. This of course requires waterproof inks and one day working on a particularly ambitious painting I discovered that not all India inks are waterproof.

I am not sure why I threw out the baby with the bathwater on this technique but I quickly went to applying ink on top of a watercolor instead of the other way around. Today most of my work still utilizes inks that are largely applied with calligraphy pens or lining brushes, but after wards as a finishing touch.

Yesterday when working on the painting on the left I suddenly remembered that inks can be laid down before. This painting is on a very smooth gessoed surface that resists glazing colors. I discovered that on a previous church painting. So to achieve my tones I laid down black and sepia washes in waterproof ink. The painting on the right show that before color has been applied over it.

Why did I forget this? It is a very useful technique especially on canyon walls where you want more definition of shape. And colors can look so much brighter in contrast to the darks. For eight years this Christmas eve I have blamed lapses of memory like this on my head injury. Now it could be just age. Or it all might be worse now because of the stress I am undergoing. I have been trying to remember every tit for tat from a two year old battle with the contractor from hell. Berating myself for things I have lost only increases the stress; makes more things go missing from my internal harddrive.

So I guess I will just be thrilled that I remembered this technique and paint happily on.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Ant and the Grasshopper

As a child I was overly fond of stories with lessons or morals. My reading matter included Greek and Roman myths, the Tales of Uncle Remus (African/American folk tales compiled by Joel Chandler Harris) and the fables of Aesop. Of my favorites of Aesop fables was The Fox and the Grapes vied with The Ant and the Grasshopper for first place. I was seldom, when left alone, without one of these classic tales running through my head.

I put my adults into various roles among my favorite moral tales. Dad was almost always Brer Rabbit. I quite frankly saw my mother as the ant and my father as the grasshopper. This parallel was clearly evident when we lived in the farm north of Kansas City which is probably now the main runway of the airport there. I frankly confess I always thought of myself as a grasshopper.

Until recently that is. I have noticed the hideous snows of the last few years (and the touted pandemic) has made me into more of a grasshopper than I at times find comfortable. Or was aware of consciously.

I was reviewing my bank accounts (something I do more like Brer Rabbit) and wondering where the money has gone this last couple of months when it dawned on me I had been stocking up the pantry like the ant. The hallway is now storing 6 bags of wild bird seed gotten at a fantastic sale. The pantry off the kitchen has been the benefit of every 5 for some sum sale in canned goods which includes beans, soups, pastas, stewed tomatoes, canned salmon, etc. The upper shelf holds enough dog biscuits for the winter. Next week I will hit Sam's and get dog and cat food, toilet paper and paper towels on the list I have been adding to daily. The freezer is stocked with elk steaks, chicken breasts, pork chops and frozen green chili. Three cords of firewood, ordered in August, comes in the next couple of weeks.

Last winter when the money got really tight I had almost exhausted all my stores of necessities. And I have lived through the summer with only weekly supplies. I had to be out before I got more. Typical ant behavior. But if my current trend of hording continues I will be set for being snowed in or for isolating myself from the germy tourists for any extended period of time. WHO, the World Health Organization, recommends you be able to live for three weeks without contact if there is a pandemic. And seven days if you get the flu.

Except for dog and cat food and kitty litter I am set. I just noticed I added them to the shopping list on the fridge already.

Are you an ant or a grasshopper?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween Dreams

I had Halloween dreams last night. Grave yards and haunted houses and masquerade parties. It is what I have termed a "seeker's" dream. It does not matter if it is an airport or a multi-storied house I am seeking something throughout the twisted course of the dream.

We are told by sleep researchers that dreams can last no more than a minute or two and yet this one seemed to go on all night. As as kid I used to tell my mother I dreamed in Soap Operas, because it seemed that each new dream was an additional episode of an on-going story where the same cast of characters came and went not unlike As the World Turns. I also obviously reuse stage sets.

I have a memory of my parents helping my paternal grandmother move out of the huge house in the Prospect area of Kansas City. It was a mansion to my way of thinking with a huge entry area that opened up to the ceiling three floors above us. The room where we stood was ringed with a staircase and balustrade. Grandmother, dressed in unrelenting black taffeta, leaned over the second floor railing and stared down at us through her one good eye. A black patch was over the other and she wore a black hat with a veil. The woodwork was dark and the walls behind her in a burgundy silk pattern. A huge crystal chandelier hung over us and fractured the sparse light. Mom held my baby brother. Dad held my hand but I was not afraid of my grandmother just the palpable hate between her and my mother. I wanted to be free to roam the halls.

Mother used to tell me there was no way I could have any memory of that house. I had to be no more than three at the time. And yet that image comes over and over into my seeking dreams. Especially those around Halloween. It is forever my haunted house. And I am never surprised to find myself there again. Or in any of two graveyards I have visited. Actually I knew the one in the Garden District of New Orleans before I even visited it in real life.

I awoke this morning unclear as to what I was seeking beyond the perfect mask for a costume party. It really is never that simple.

The weather here is unsettled. The link calls it Wintry Mix. Almost a freezing rain outside currently. But the chill in my bones that caused me to light a fire in the wood stove was more from the dream last night than the temperature in the house. It is more than three weeks to Halloween. There will clearly be more such seeker's dreams. And I will visit the Prospect house again and again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

No Yards for Sale

The above poster was a blast from the past. I had forgotten that we once called rummage sales White Elephant Sales. I remember as a child being very disappointed there were no white elephants to buy. I wanted one badly.

Now, of course, we call them yard or garage sales, though like the white elephants, there are no yards or garages for sale. I am having a garage sale and I don't even have a garage. I and my neighbor, when working up ads for this event, debated various words and decided garage sale, whether you had one or not, gave people a better understanding of what was going on. Frankly, I am confused.

It has been a confusing ten days preparing for this. Going through the closets and cabinets and pulling out stuff. Each unearth item seems to raise some old memory to the surface which is why I think the "Been there/done that" title I attached to the event really fit. But dredging up the white elephants seemed unsettling for more than just me. The canine fur kids are having a shift of pecking order which seems to result in sporadic but vicious fights, so I have called the neighborhood dog whisperer to come consult next week. I am suppose to be the alpha member of the pack. So Audrey advised that for the next few days I really pull rank with both dogs. Morning walks will go back to being training sessions.

Trying to do four things at once yesterday morning resulted in a total melt down of my multi-tasking skills and I almost had a serious kitchen fire. No flames but the smoke was bad enough. Had all the windows and doors open with it being just 26 F outside.

Exhausted last night from dealing with junk, literally, and people calling about when we were open for business or when they could bring things over, I tried to watch a DVD and settle down for the night. Every scene in the movie I was trying to watch seemed to remind me of something else I had not gotten out of its hiding place to sell. Hit pause, run upstairs, carry stuff downstairs, resume watching the movie. I just hope I don't have to put all this stuff back.

I guess it is good I never got that white elephant. It would put a whole other dynamic to the fur kid pecking order that needs sorting out.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Best Laid Plans and flat tires

My neighbor invited me out to brunch yesterday so we could discuss a few last minute things about the upcoming Been there/done that sale this weekend. Estimated elapsed time (door to door) we figured would be two hours even if we ran a few errands at same time. Actual elapsed time was five hours.

Breakfast was delightful and then off to community center to post a flier about the sale. Then Jan needed mouse traps. It is a hideous rodent year and she has no cats. I have offered to loan her one or two of mine for a couple hours but she is allergic.

At the hardware store they were having a killer sale on wild birdseed. Yes, it will soon be that time of year. While loading the birdseed into the trunk I noticed her rear tire was almost flat. Easily remedied we thought. We drove immediately to our friendly local mechanic who also happens to be one of only two people in town that can fix a flat. He was off on a test drive the sign in the window said but would return ASAP. A half hour later we came up with plan two which was to go to the Valley Market with gas pumps and use their air hose to fill the tire and see if it held air long enough to get us back to the house and my car.

While trying to fill the tire I noticed it just got flatter. Time to change the tire. My father always insisted us girls know how to do this. But the spare donut tire was also flat. Mechanic calls back to say he has returned to shop (I have him on speed dial on my cell) but by then we had called a neighbor to come and get us. I warned Alan we would have a flat for him within the hour.

Home, van, back to town, pick up flat tire, off to mechanic. Back to car, change tire, take spare to mechanic. Meanwhile while waiting for our ride I mention to the store it might be nice to remove the air hose or at least post that it is not working. The were irritated with me for even suggesting such a thing. I felt they deserved a parking tons of cars with flat tires because of their bum air hose but I dutifully warned off five drivers looking for air.

Needless to say all I had planned to do yesterday did not get done. Any idea how many calories are burned changing a tire twice? I am pretty aware this morning what muscles it requires.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Best Laid Plans, etc.

The economy has derailed a lot of plans. We chatted about several examples just last night at the monthly gallery reception. It is always good to have a plan. And an alternate plan. And an escape route or evacuation strategy. Never burn those bridges behind you because you don't know when you might want to cross back over them in hasty retreat.

My plan had been to furnish my rental unit so it could be a vacation rental instead of a long term one. Art sales have been down and stuff at the fall garage sales up so that is not quite accomplished. To generate some income I figured I might rent it furnished over the winter to seasonal employees of the neighboring resort. Then it looked like my sister and her husband might rent it.

Then last week I was stopped at the grocery store by a long term sometimes friend asking if I was looking to rent it out long term. Told her frankly I was rather soured on that but would think about it. I thought. E-mailed her the particulars on rent, etc. Making it sound quite unfavorable. She is coming to look at it at 11:00 today. I am still very much on the rail as it were.

Meanwhile I am now committed to the Been There/Done That Garage Art Sale next weekend if not committed to renting the apartment out. Several artistic friends are joining in. The goal is to swap or sell art and art supplies and art furniture we no longer use or once thought we would use but don't use after all, etc. I have given up on developing plans to use some of the stuff I have gotten and stored to use. I need storage space, and wall space and cash flow.

I think I am at that place where I am just going to float with the universe and see what it throws at me. Let fate come up with the plan for a change. It is that busy time of the year here. And not just with the before-winter-settles-in list but fall activities too. I have another must do reception tonight to promote the arts to national magazine writers.

So much for settling in with a couple good DVD's that arrived from Netflix for the weekend.

And while I am rambling about waylaid plans what about Sidetracked Charley? I developed this particular blog for no particular purpose and it seems to be gathering followers. So we are all jumping the tracks together it would seem.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Really Important List

Yesterday I was working away at a couple of the items on my Before-the-snow-flies list. Admittedly last night we did get a trace of snow but realistically we have to the end of October to get these things done. And without thinking I have already gotten a few done like neatening the woodshed for the new cords to be delivered in October, stocking up on canned and dry goods, and replacement of the flaps on the through the wall fur kid door. But the list is always longer than the days to accomplish it.

But it was a blog I follow, KathyintheOzarks, that reminded me obliquely of the truly important list: Snowed in. As an artist what to do when snowed in is hardly a problem. There are always more paintings to paint. But as a Gemini I like variety. And there are those things I put off this summer because the weather was too nice - the indoors tasks like painting walls, and organizing the sewing room, and finishing the resurfacing of the walls in my bedroom. And the I would certainly like to do list of beginning the pantry downstairs and maybe even the shower add to the half bath.

If one gets snowed in (never a problem until the last couple of years) it is wise to have projects that prevent you from getting cabin fever. And that means, like stocking up the pantry, laying in a few rudimentry hardware store items like new paint brushes and paint tray liners, and craftroom essentials like thread and buttons. And it requires re-organizing of essentials to where they are handy to get to - not in the near storage shed that got blocked by snow drifts two years ago. And locating the snowshoes in the entry hall so they can be accessed to get to the far storage shed.

So on this first day of autumn I will be on outside tasks after the sun melts the snow that fell last night, and inside tasks once the clouds move in this afternoon, and sitting in my warm studio working on my various lists with a warm cup of tea when my energy wanes.

How goes your fall and winter planning?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Face to Face with Facebook

I was a reluctant participant in Facebook. I actually opened my profile there more than a year before I did anything with it. It was the final gasp of Y!360 that more or less pushed me into looking for alternate social networks.

It's a jungle out there. And Profiles, the Y!360 replacement, was not keeping its promise to be better. Blogger was being better; in fact best for blogging. But it just didn't give that sense of close connection 360 had with quick comments. Tried Twitter. I don't like to reduce my life to 140 characters. And frankly the people that began following me (even months after I stopped tweeting) scare me.

One of my first forays into Facebook resulted in a major malware infection. (Near as my computer nerd can figure it came through the download of Javascript used to upload images.) Facebook does not vet all its cute little applications so for months I followed the 5 second rule. Check in for action, check out, touch nothing.

Now I am on Facebook more and more because of friends. And I have one application (Scrabble) I have found safe. And an alternate way to upload photos which does not require downloading malware. Actually I was beginning to quite enjoy myself until all the glitches began to show up.

I had developed quite a tolerance for glitches on Y!360. But maybe the been there and done that has lowered my patience. On days, like today, when Facebook seems to be going insane I find it better to just log out of the social network before I throw my computer screen across the room. I am already tiptoeing through the minefield of applications to begin with, and searching for meaningful communication amid Farmtowns and Mafia wars. I spend an inordinate amount of screen time "ignoring" all the endless requests to join people in one cause or another. Quite frankly I do not give a damn about most.

But I do like my friends there. And I enjoy the two photo groups and Book Nerds that I belong to. I am becoming rapidly addicted to Scrabble and would play more if I got the notifications that it was my turn. Some opine that it is all the applications that are slowing down Facebook and creating all the glitches in notifications and postings.

Maybe it is time for two Facebooks: Facebook I and Facebook II. The could interface just briefly - a bridge that allowed passage of people and not applications. Facebook I could be the one we have all come to know (some hate and some love), and Facebook II could be for the serious communicators. Sort of a Facebook for Nerds. It would have the ability to link to serious blogs, the great photo groups, and the groups for serious discussion, plus a selection of board and card games like Scrabble and Hearts. Wouldn't Mah Jong be nice?

Hey, it is a suggestion. But keep in mind that social networking only works if you can network. Once that ability is hindered in any way the social circle goes elsewhere. Many a coffee shop and singles club knows that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Typhoid Mary

I was practicing the theory of washing hands to avoid illness. Frankly I was feeling very obsessive compulsive with my pocket full of anti-bacteria wipes. And a bit high. The major ingredient is after all alcohol in those things. I thrashed them and decided to use soap in the lavatories. I must admit this cramps my style just a bit. Not everywhere you are in contact with people has public restrooms.

I changed to moist towelettes for diaper changing. They don't come in tidy and convenient packages so I had zip lock bags in my pockets. Now I have a cold and very red and raw hands. And I have made all my friends feel like Typhoid Mary.

Seems I am not alone. I was listening to NPR this morning about the flu and religious practices. Everything from Holy water to shalom has been condemned. Never mind sitting (or kneeling) close to your fellow worshipers in a pew or on a prayer rug.

I am reminded of the time I gave up all food from the sea because of the mercury level. Then all vegetables that were not organically raise. To make things even more difficult I gave up beef, lamb and pig because of the drugs fed to them to prevent them being sick. And chickens! Let us not even talk about chickens. The are walking, chucking vectors for disease.

Anyway I was at this embassy party in Washington, DC and there were tables heaped with the most beautiful food you can imagine. Rather like the midnight buffet on a cruise ship. The huge tower of shrimp held my attention. One of my political friends came up behind me, "You aren't eating anything." I launched into my prepared speech about the chemicals and preservatives that were laced through food these days.

"You know," he said, "there will come a time when you will not be able to buy a single item of food that does not have those things in it. And you organic food nuts will die because you have not built up a resistance to them."

I saw his point and heaped a plate with shrimp and raw tuna sushi. I think this current phobia about viral infection is like that. Avoiding all human contact is not healthy for the soul.

Anyone have a remedy for raw red hands that does not include a petrochemical laced product?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I have placed last order with

Everyone raves about but I have had nothing but grief from that site. Even my good experiences seem to be peppered with headache. I always have to reset my password even though my computer remembers it. And they always split my orders even when I click that little box that tells them not to so I can save on shipping charges.

Last time when I ordered a DVD that they had to back order they kept billing my account even though they said they wouldn't until they shipped. We argued on that over the telephone three times. Then when I got the DVD it was flawed and would not play. I will never go through the return process gauntlet again! Or the calls to get them to take the charge off my account after I returned it.

But all I figured I just wanted four books. Total cost of books $33 and change. I will be paying $54 because of the multiples of shipping charges at $3.99 a time. I went looking for the Contact Us option on their website. They hide that. My sister finally found it for me. She is a whiz at the web searching. I e-mailed them my complaint listing the primary order number (because each time they ship they split the order and ergo assigned another number - I am so confused I am not sure what I ordered) and listed my complaint. They gave me a standardized reply saying I should have checked that box. I did! And that one of my books came from another vendor. I may go to him next time because he is only charging me 1.98.

BUT I am not going back to EVER.

Been there, done that, and been abused once to often.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Turning Point

A year ago this summer when the contractor from hell showed he was not going to go away I fell back on old beliefs and created a voodoo doll of him. Every time I would get another missive from his lawyer I would stick in another pin. And finally I took him out of my studio which was the source of our dispute and nailed him literally to an old railroad tie which was once the corner post to the old fence on my property.

I told him (through the doll) I would release him from his bondage when he released me. And all winter he suffered through the snows quietly. Spring I heard from his lawyer again and the voodoo doll got more nails. This summer I heard he was ill. But not so ill it seems that he was willing to drop the law suit. He and his lawyer are going ahead with their suit to foreclose on my house for the disputed debt (a fraction of what my house and property are worth but far more than I feel justified in paying him or can afford).

My attention in this last week has been drawn again and again to the doll on the post. It was in intrusion just as whom it represented was. And yesterday I clearly decided I wanted it/him gone. Out of my life. Off my property figuratively or literally. Gone.

So I cleared out my fire pit. Threw in paper and wood. Scraps of lumber from the construction project. Laid the doll upon it and soaked it all with lamp oil. I gathered up folded origami flowers done on a summer solstice and other paper charms, and dried flower blossoms for a new beginning. And then I lit the pyre. At one time there was a dark smoke that rose as if evil was leaving. I sprinkled the dried flowers upon the flame and the smell became sweet.

I tended the fire till there was but ash left. This morning I will gather the ash and take it to the dumpster.

Away. I want it all away from here. I want him and his law suit forever out of my life.

Note: Voodoo dolls and charms are now being used by mental health professionals to help their clients feel less powerless and take charge of their lives. I wonder if they see just the symbolism or appreciate the true magic involved.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Time for the Cows to Go Home

Every spring the cattle arrive. Brought in large cattle trailers behind semi-tractors they get dropped off at lower gates of properties owned by ranchers and National Forest leases. They roam up the mountain grazing as they go until they reach the high meadows to spend the summer. One of the first signs of fall are the same cattle moving down the mountain to their pick up points.

Yesterday as my sister, her husband and I drove the national forest roads along the mountain ridge cows, this year's calves, and fattening steers like the one above were on the road or beside it working their way down.

Early frosts had touched the forest flower and turned once green leaves to orange and gold; their color replacing the wildflowers of just a couple weeks ago.

And in the trees vines were suddenly visible with their fall dress of red and orange.

We wound our way to the top of the mountain to meadows where just recently cattle and elk had grazed to find them empty and the tall grass turned to gold.

Rain was moving toward us in mountain valleys below shrouding the hills in mist. It was a beautiful early fall day, but sad because it was clear summer was again gone from these peaks. And in not too long there will be snow.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Law of Paper

At one time I worked in contracts for a major construction firm - at the time one of the five biggest in the nation. Every contractor we hired had to sign a contract that exceeded 100 pages at a minimum. General Conditions (that section which generally says it is our football and our field and we get it our way) ran 64 pages all by itself.

The most important think I learned dealing with contracts was that the last piece of paper was the right piece of paper. So every dispute with a contractor required a letter beginning with the per-our-conversation-of epistle. Whatever a contractor claimed we had to counter with our version and within a few days. Our hope was that they would not counter what we claimed. That made us right, because to not refute our last letter made that letter law.

I try to follow that bit of wisdom in my personal life. But when you are dealing with issues you are personally involved in it can become a bit more difficult. Still I write letters. All the time I write letters.

Yesterday I got to look through two years of documents I had saved on the contractor-from-hell issue. I wrote letters. He didn't. I wanted someone to declare me winner right that moment. Doesn't happen. As I sat in the legal aid office conference room and sorted through my almost three inches of paper I got to relive the emotional involvement behind those pieces of paper. I was stating in each my personal truth and he never countered it. He just went for a lawyer who typed up his lies in a lawsuit and fired it back at me and my legal aid attorney. We fired our truth back.

Tentatively the trial is set for January 20, 2010. He is asking for $21,623 approximately plus legal fees estimated at $16,000. We were originally arguing over $9000. At the time, had he given me the documentation I requested, I would have given him $4000 to just go away. I figured I had already overpaid him $17,000 give or take a thousand or two. I was shocked when the lien on my property was over double what I had been billed for. That shock was on top of the fact the studio had already cost me twice his initial per square foot estimate - a third over his modified estimate for an unfinished addition.

I think he violated mechanics lien law in placing the lien. But now he wants to foreclose on my house and sell it out from under me for a tiny fraction of its worth. Meanwhile the lawyers have just begun generating more paper. So since I had my side organized and copied for my attorney I put it into a fold out folder with 12 slots (debated getting the 26 slot version at Wal-Mart) so from here on out I can keep it organized.

My mistake was considering that he would see the error of his ways. But since he was crazy enough to think himself right in the first place it was stupid of me to think he or his attorney (paid to take his side) would have an ah ha moment and drop it.

My attorney asked if he had a drinking problem. The contractor or the lawyer, I asked.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What became of the Kitchen Pantry?

Wish my pantry looked like this. What I have is a small closet just off the kitchen that I added shelves in for the storage of stuff. Once that stuff related to the making of masks. Part of getting out of the mask business and back into painting and building the studio was having that closet back to store necessities like light bulbs and batteries, and paper towels, and more and more canned and boxed goods.

Three winters ago we had six feet of snow in two days. The entire county was paralyzed and snowplows were used for opening up major arteries which had been closed down for three days. You have to go through a canyon or over a mountain pass to get here. And the gas tankers, food wholesalers, and tourists were either not getting out or not getting in. The tourists not getting out meant the filling stations and grocery store were soon empty.

Locals, who work in the tourist trade, were not getting out of their houses because the snowplows were too busy. So thanks to the three week supply of goods I had in my little pantry closet I survived. Last winter it was the economy. This spring it was the flu. WHO says stay home for seven days. And their advice for a pandemic in your area is avoid human contact for three weeks.

So as the White House warns us that the H1Ni virus will hit particularly hard this flu season I am looking at the depleted state of my pantry. Time to take inventory and begin building up stocks again. So many in our country shop from meal to meal. The kitchen pantry has either vanished or been turned into a broom closet. I am considering taking half a hall I don't use and turning it into an even bigger storage area.

I want to enter winter with three cords of firewood and a full pantry or two. I want propane tanks for my camp stove and fresh batteries for my lanterns, more lamp oil and candles. I want to be able to stay home for three weeks if necessary.

Friday, August 21, 2009

And Who Are You?

As a child and even as an adult, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland has made a lasting impression on me. The caterpillar asking Alice, "Who are you?" was one of the most frightening scenes in the Disney movie. Maybe because I had an uncle that was a great deal like that caterpillar. He used to pick up my doll and tilt her back and forth to see her eyes close and open and then pick me up and tilt me and ask why my eyes did not open and close like hers.

Do adults know the scary questions they pose to children? I could not have been more than four or five at the time. I think it was later before Disney came out with the movie of Alice in Wonderland, though Dad used to read from the book certain selections. My favorite was The Walrus and the Carpenter. I used to take the book and read it to myself at a very early age. Is that why I have "Wonderland" dreams. Or do we all dream like that at times and Lewis Carroll tapped into it with his words.

Last night was one of those dreams. I climbed out of a car driven by my niece because she wanted to party with strangers at a rave on the Rio Grande River. And she had left the dogs behind. I went in search of them. They seemed always just within sight like the White Rabbit. Following me instead of me them we walked along the river and through a huge house where a party was going on (mad hatter's tea party?) then out the other side to a large open meadow (the Queen's Rose Garden?). The dogs would not keep up and the sun was setting and I seemed never to get closer to home.

I woke up carrying the dream with me into my day. What was I looking for? Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee or the Cheshire cat. Or me? Answer to that age old question: Who are you? Or why don't your eyes blink open and closed?

Now they are making a new version of Alice starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. I have always identified with the Mad Hatter. What character in Alice in Wonderland are you?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Box Gone Astray

Another Internet purchase has gone astray. I love to shope on the Internet but it comes with certain inherent issues; mainly shipping address. I live in a rural area and have a postal box up by the highway. And a street address. If a package is being shipped by United States Postal Service they will deliver only to the box. And if UPS only to the street address. Fedex in the area is so screwed up I don't even want to hazard a guess.

But everything only gets more complicated from that point. Because my street address is technically one zip code and my box address another. I live in the unincorporated area of Black Lake which technically does not have a zip code. UPS and Fedex are not suppose to use zip codes for delivery, but they do and if I have my box address on a package then UPS gets it on the wrong side of the mountain and Fedex puts it in the wrong distribution center.

If I put the street address on something which is being shipped by US mail it winds up in general delivery at the Angel Fire Post Office. I don't go there often. And sometimes not until the package has been returned to sender.

I only want to know on the shopping cart page what shipper they are using. Hey, I've tried keeping track of this stuff in a note book but they change shippers on me all the time. Blick Art Supplies ships direct from the manufacturer at times and by their method. And I just got the following message from Swanson Vitamins and Health Products when I mentioned they hd shipped a package UPS to my USPS box:

We have forwarded your comments, concerns and requests to the proper department. Please know however though that it is our shipping department that decides how your orders ship, therefore the best way. This is not decided until the order reaches the shipping department, which is after the order has been placed of course. Please also know that how your order is shipped, is stated on the shipping confirmations sent to you when your order leaves us.

Yes, I got the shipping confirmation and immediately contacted them. They can change the address with UPS. I cannot. I have tried. For a while I felt alone in the world on this issue but now with the USPS closing some of its post offices and shipping centers (anyone know why they cannot compete with UPS and Fedex?) more and more Internet shoppers are going to be encountering this issue.

I have asked my US representatives to just assign my community a zip code. No need for a post office. Just a zip code so that UPS and Fedex knows we are not Angel Fire or Ocate but Black Lake. Seems like such a small thing. Just five numbers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Side Roads of Life

One of the side roads I took last week with my sister and her husband was to this meadow at the crest of the mountain ridge. It was here a couple weeks ago we had seen the herd of elk and we wanted to go back to get better pictures. The elk evidently did not share our same agenda and on the two mornings we laid in wait with cameras did not show up.

Day one we picked a location in the trees and suffered for our art as we watched the dawn sun begin to warm the air and earth just beyond where we stood shivering and hungry as we had delayed breakfast to be there. Yesterday we wised up. We ate breakfast before our early predawn departure and picked the sunny side of the meadow.

We sat soaking in the silence and the sun and the beauty around us in relative comfort. We had even dressed in more appropriate predawn clothing. Yes, I know it is August but in the highlands that means the nights are getting chillier again. In fact we even had a hard frost the night before. That is early for even this altitude.

As I said, the elk did not make their scheduled entrance upon our carefully orchestrated stage but all the birds showed up. Including a pair of hawks trying to lure their fledglings from the protection of their nest into flight. Most every little nature dance was too far away to photograph well and so we just sat and drunk it all in.

Our moment of Zen. We watched Mother Nature open for the day.

I live about 5 miles from here as the crow flies. People pay big bucks to come here. I just have to stop keeping on in my routine and take a side road up the mountain.