Sunday, May 31, 2009

Derailed in Blogland

I think it was Friday that Yahoo! announced that the dreaded transition to another blog platform for Y!360 was at last going to take place. My first blog experience will close on July 13th. We knew this was going to happen for more than a year now so it should not have been a surprise. It is just that it took a lot longer for the train to arrive at the station than expected and we were all sleeping on the benches as it were.

But the first stages of transfer of blogs to this new platform - Yahoo Profiles - seemed to have gone quite seamlessly. In fact the last couple of days have been a bit of a party with exiles that went to other blogs returning home to say hi and find out what was going on. So that was not the train wreck.

The derailment is that I have been spending so much time on Profiles and updating my uploads to my FlickR account that I have seriously neglected my blogs here. And I had this grand idea of uploading all my old 360 blogs to Chats with Charley II blog that I set up for that expressed purpose only to find that Google and Blogspot are not set up to take the content I have in a zip file now. But WordPress can. But do I want to endear myself to yet another blog platform?

I quite obviously have enough blogs around to entertain me. And cheer me up. My previous post here was definitely depressing. Not one of my better days as it were. I think it was basically a hangover from the flu I had for almost a month. Yesterday I actually woke up with energy. Okay I napped in the afternoon, but I accomplished so much before then. Including dealing this this whole blogland derailment.

Best laid track and all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

When a young and impressionable high school student I read W. W. Jacobs short story The Monkey's Paw. Seldom have I been so taken by a few words, which for all of you that have not read it, is available on line to read at the link American Literature link. In short the story is about wishes that go wrong, and being very careful what you ask for.

I had at the time a very difficult life. Mom had undergone breast cancer surgery which in the early sixties was a black and brutal thing indeed. My father, who deeply loved my mother, was not coping very well at all. My brother, who was over attached to Mom, was useless. And I had a kid sister that seemed abandoned by everyone but me who was having a difficult time with me. And as if that was not enough my art teacher decided to become abusive and the school administration's only answer was to take me out of the one activity of the day that produced any sort of calm. I teetered on the edge of a total nervous breakdown.

Looking back I now know I was in the midst of my first deep depression. In those days we were told to pick ourselves up and move on. And as luck would have it (mine was not good just then) I had a few friends that were children of fundamentalist Christians. I hauled off to church and told to pray for what I wanted and all would be well if I just appealed to Jesus. Oh, an mend my ways because obviously I had done something bad to merit all this bad luck.

And then there was The Monkey's Paw which warned of wishing for things and not being precise about what you wanted. I became paralysed; unable to even form a desire. My English teacher, Mr. Mealy, recognized my emotional dilemma and set me to writing fiction stories and designing covers and art for the school literary magazine. His study hall became my refuge from the storm.

Mom lived for another thirty plus years. She and Dad stayed married until death do them part. My sister and I bonded deeply and that bond is still there. I don't attend churches that preach solutions. I have learned to deal with cyclic bouts of depression by setting myself tasks and putting one foot in front of another even on days I want to curl up and die. I will never forget Mr. Mealy and the ability of one individual to help another.

And I always remember the three wishes in The Monkey's Paw, and now only pray for guidance and strength.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Generation's War

My father used to call World War II his war. He also fought in Korea but staunchly maintained it was a police action and not a war. He said the same thing about Vietnam. But to those of my generation that fought in it or against it Vietnam was the war; our war like it or not. I visited the wall. I makes me cry. Even photos of it to this day make me cry. I have never dared to pick out specific names.

The Vietnam War is so tied up with so many things like Watergate, and abuse of power. Leaders that would never take responsibility for enlarging it or ending it. That time ended the faith of a generation in our elected officials to do what was right.

re-watched Frost/Nixon yesterday. It is a Netflix selection I got on Thursday and watched once then. I think for anyone that lived in Washington, DC during Watergate it is a very heavy film. Ron Howard made it because he thought GW Bush was abusing the presidency as Richard Nixon had; considering himself above the law. That for the president to "break the law" was not breaking the law. I guess I am one of those naive people that think our leaders ought to adhere to the law even more rigidly than those laws are made for.

But on this Memorial Day the part of the film which hit the hardest was the small section about Vietnam and the "carpet bombing" of Cambodian citizens. Memorial Day is suppose to be about honoring our soldiers not just those in the wars we are involved in now but all the wars of our past. I had not remembered that almost 21,000 of our young men died in Vietnam. And because of advances in medical field hospitals and evacuations learned in Korea a greater percentage of the wounded survived than in World War II. They survived to live in wheel chairs and with artificial limbs and to give us a new awareness of closed brain trauma and post traumatic stress syndrome.

My neighbor today fought in Vietnam and he was exposed to Agent Orange. That exposure is now killing him with a rare and deadly form of cancer. How many others have died since that war ended as an indirect or direct result of their service. Their names are not counted in that 21,000. Their names are not on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. though one family just petitioned and won to get their son's name added to the wall though he died 25 years after we retreated. And there are no names of all the civilians killed because of an executive decision to "Carpet Bomb" villages. We turned an entire area of the world against us.

I think war was more noble during the time of Alexander the Great. Then leaders sat on white chargers and led their men into battle, and faced death with them. They did not sit at home safely enthroned in the Oval office and "regret" the necessity of having to send our youth to war.

Tell me please why is war necessary.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where Women are Women

Ellen Libby "Cattle Kate" Watson

Cattle Kate was a Wyoming pioneer and an outlaw. The term outlaw was posthumously applied by her killers. She was never known to be violent nor charged with a crime but she was ultimately lynched by powerful Texas ranchers that tried to take land from Wyoming settlers in the late 1800's. That makes her a bit of a hero like Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid and the Hole in the Wall Gang.

But she was clearly not a snappy dresser. As a kid playing cowboys and Indians I had a rather biased view of my heroines like Cattle Kate or Belle Starr or Annie Oakley or Calamity Jane. Hollywood delayed my confrontation with reality. The gorgeous women stayed east and married well. But the real independent women went west where nobody cared how they dressed.

I was reminded of that today when I jumped into the car and headed into Angel Fire five miles away for necessities at the hardware store. They have gotten used to seeing me in paint splattered joggers but today I dressed it all up by being covered with tile dust from cutting pieces for my new plant bench's mosaic top. Guess I should be happy nobody was there to snap my picture for Wikipedia.

I wonder if Cattle Kate was heading down to the feed store for more "No Trespassing" signs.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Missing the Sunday Paper

When I lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina I would get up on Sunday Morning and go for breakfast at a bookshop/cafe that offered bagels with lox and the Washington Post and New York Times. A shamelessly liberal venue in a very conservative southern city. When I moved to Lee's Summit, Missouri the Kansas City Star was delivered and Ozzie, my Persian cat, and I would debate floor space with coffee and the paper before I went out to Shoney's for brunch.

Both of these rituals were continuations of a long established habit of Sunday paper reading, crossword working, and general lazing around because it was after all Sunday. Moving to the high country of northern New Mexico was culture shock. Especially here outside Angel Fire. There are few restaurants open on Sunday morning and the only paper that can be had is the Albuquerque Journal which does not compare favorably to the Washington Post which I read every day when I lived in the nation's capital.

And it no longer seems to make sense to jump in the car and drive five miles to pick up something I will basically use to start fires. But old habits die hard. Sunday still seems the day for a special breakfast so I will often make myself an omelet or migas or French Toast on Sunday. And I will sit at my computer and browse the internet for the latest news stories posted.

And I catch up with my favorite blogs on Sunday. Blogs it seems have come to replace the opinion pieces that I once read avidly on the op-ed pages of big newspapers on a Sunday. But there are no coupons to clip or any arts calendar to read for events to be sure not to miss later in the week on the Internet though I have found sites with crossword puzzles.

No, I would not move back to the big city for all the cafe lattes in Seattle. But there are Sunday mornings I miss the Sundown Cafe and the Washington Post. I miss Ozzie lying across the page I am trying to read. My current purr kids are trained to stay off my keyboard. Have no idea what they would do with newspaper. And it would be nice if eggs Benedict just appeared before me beside my mug of coffee.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Out and About - Raton

Raton, New Mexico is one of those mining towns that survived the shut down of mines. It was one of the towns that got a railroad. The Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe came to Raton on its way west to the Pacific.

Routing of trains through the wilderness depended upon many factors in the late 1800's: water for the steam engines, coal for the boilers, timber for the ties. And ways across the natural barriers that existed out west. Raton had a pass over the mountains, coal in its mines and water so it was blessed with a railroad that did not go at the time through any of the towns in its name. I am not sure why it skipped around the Kansas towns but it probably had something to do with the size of the right away the builders were granted. In parts of Kansas the railroads were given 20 miles each side of the track.

Many railroad companies competed for routes and the Raton Pass was fought over by the Denver and Rio Grande and the ATSF, who surveyed the pass second but filed first in Washington. But I digress. The ATSF did not go to Santa Fe because it did not have ample water, coal or easily accessible timber. It went to Lamy, New Mexico instead. Much later another company entirely built a spur to the capital of New Mexico.

Raton enjoyed a hayday when the coal mine was employing many and the trains were coming on a regular basis bringing new settlers, cattle from over grazed areas, sheep, and building materials for the train and the train executives. In a couple years time after the railroad arrived so did four million cattle and almost as many sheep. And timber and coal left by the train load. William deBuys writes passionately about this period in his book Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range.

Raton today teeters on the edge of becoming a ghost town. That it is the Colfax County Seat has been at times the only thing that saved it. Interstate 25 skirts around its edge on its travels from Albuquerque to Denver. The trains still go through but not all stop. The overgrazed land from all those cattle and sheep is beginning to come back with good management. But the railroad spur that was to go from Raton to Taos was never built. And the "resort town" of Ute Park where the train did go suffered a decline and the tracks taken up.

Now Raton is struggling to become an art colony and will be part of the Trails, Trains and Treasures Art Trail beginning this summer. Tough economic times certainly don't help but there is talk of the Railrunner, a light rail commuter train, coming into town. And some of the beautiful old buildings like the one above are being restored; I hope lovingly.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mining Act of 1872

In addition to trappers taking beaver from our streams, homesteaders taking advantage of open lands out west, and cattlemen that had overgrazed Texas tapping our green meadows, my area of the state of New Mexico was settled in part by miners looking for the Mother Lode.

They were often the Johnny-come-too-lates for the California Gold Rush. Some never made it that far or once there found no gold already not staked out and returned with the second rush to Colorado. And were too late there. Yes, there is gold in these hills but not in the rich veins that make mining it profitable.

There is also an abundance of public lands and therefore subject to the Mining Act of 1872.

The General Mining Act of 1872 is a United States federal law that authorizes and governs prospecting and mining for economic minerals, such as gold, platinum, and silver, on federal public lands. This law, approved on May 10th, 1872, codified the informal system of acquiring and protecting mining claims on public land, formed by prospectors in California and Nevada from the late 1840s through the 1860s, such as during the California Gold Rush. All citizens of the United States of America 18 years or older have the right under the 1872 mining law to locate a lode (hard rock) or placer (gravel) mining claim on federal lands open to mineral entry. These claims may be located once a discovery of a locatable mineral is made. Locatable minerals include but are not limited to platinum, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, uranium and tungsten. For more see Wikipedia.

I became familiar with this law when friends of mine were panning for gold on public streams in my area. They often cleared $75 or more a day. But they were looking for a richer source so they could stake their claim for placer mining. Looking (or exploration) is free. Filing a claim requires assays and a $50 filing fee.

I don't know for sure but I think the law was enacted so the railroads would have ore to haul back. And it seemed like a good thing for those little people looking to strike it rich. But today the law is being exploited by major mining corporations and not all of them are based in the United States. There is currently a Canadian firm exploring for uranium along the edge of the Grand Canyon. If it is successful it can mine all it wants and not have to share profits or its find with the United States.

Environmentalists have been seeking to repeal the Mining Act for decades. I frankly like that I can take my gold pan and head for hills when the mood strikes me. So maybe just an amendment would be nice. Mining can rape the land and these days we have more efficient methods to do that at an ever faster pace.

I am reminded of looking off the edge of Wild Horse Mesa in Utah a few years back and seeing a mining operation at its base. Not the view I had in mind to record with my camera. It took geological forces millennium to build some of the scenic wonders of the west. It can take an open pit copper mine company only a decade to turn it into a big hole that can never be filled.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Star Gazing

I am blessed with living in an area with little to no light or luminous pollution. The International Dark Sky Association would love it here though there is one security light up at a neighbor's house that I am itching to shoot out. At least he no longer lights up his neon cross. And New Mexico has recently put some teeth into dark sky legislation. Frankly I think just bullets would have been enough. But then that is my western frontier attitude.

My studio which was designed so that its windows captured the sun's warming rays in the winter has proven to be a fantastic planetarium with its views of the eastern and southern skies. The morning skies are my favorite to gaze upon. I am not one of those get up at 2 a.m. types of sky watchers unless alerted that there is to be a special event like a comet or meteor shower. But I will stand at my studio windows with cup in hand and watch the parade of planets in the predawn sky.

Venus of late has been very bright and done some wonderful dances with the crescent moon in April. On the 21st Venus, the moon and Mars are suppose to put a lovely display on for us earth bound types. And I seldom if ever miss the rising of the full moon. That event is always at sunset. So while the setting sun turns the sky pink the moon rises over the eastern mountains. This month the full flower moon is on the 9th. And the wildflowers have come out to greet if following the recent rains.

I would at some time in the future like a telescope that I can attach my camera too so I can do some artistic time lapse shots of my eastern view on the universe. But for now I will just stand there with my morning cup of coffee or evening tea in total awe for the heavenly show.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Victory Gardens

On May Day, as I mentioned previously, I went out to my prepared raised beds and sowed seeds for my garden patch. Yesterday, it rained all day blessing my efforts. I plant primarily varieties of leafy greens for summer salads because not much else grows without much effort at 8725 feet altitude. But the kale, spinach, mustard greens and lettuces grow wonderfully all summer long because it never gets hot enough to make them bolt.

I also grow some chives, tarragon, garlic, and thyme outside. Inside I grow oregano and rosemary and lavender as well as some other herbs. I will dry these for use in cooking. Today I will get a pot of basil begun that will live days on the stoop and chilly nights in the studio/sun room. I chop up the basil and mix with just a bit of water and freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen I pop them into a zip lock back to be retrieved as needed for pesto and Italian sauces.

Previous to this summer this has always been a hobby of a mad gardener and gourmet cook. This year it is tied closely to economic survival. It will lower my grocery bills since nobody seems to be lowering prices and hopefully allow me to save some money toward the winter heating bills where nobody is willing to lower prices either.

I watched the movie Seabiscuit yesterday. I had watched it years ago when it first came out. And is certainly a movie that merits re-watching especially on Derby Day. But I had been unaware or did not remember the historical backdrop of the Great Depression. Yesterday that part of the movie hit me deeply. I would recommend everyone get this DVD and watch this movie for lessons of survival in rough economic times.

And everyone should plant a victory garden not just for the economy but against global warming. We need more green on this planet. I am just doing two 4 x 4 foot raised beds but you can plant a lot of food in that space. And I have another little raised plot that last year grew weeds and this year I have hopes for a zucchini hill there. Zucchini grows well here it I can nurse it past a late frost. And come payday I want to buy a patio tomato to add color to those salads for the summer.

I think the key here as with Seabiscuit is to not lose heart and keep putting one hoof in front of the other until you have completed the race.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy May Day

May Basket by Andrew Wythe

A tisket a tasket
A green and yellow basket
I wrote a letter to my mom
And on the way I dropped it.

Author and source beyond memory unknown.

I have gone from pandemics to Mayday Baskets in a blink. I warned everyone that Sidetracked Charley was going to be a bumpy ride. So hold on.

Yesterday I began to feel better and suddenly I had to strip the bed of all things and pop them into the wash. Hanging them out on my new clothes line I was reminded of my mother doing the same thing after one of us was sick. I told myself I might be doing too much to be just out of the sick bed or that modern research shows viruses live on surfaces for only six hours but I just felt compelled to open windows, and wash or at least air in the spring sun everything I had been in close contact with (including the dogs which were given a play day with the neighbors) over my illness.

As I went about my airing out chores my mind traipsed down memory lane from Mother doing the bed clothes to being shooed outdoors to sit on the stoop in the sun (the fresh air will do you good) to making and delivering Mayday baskets to the neighbors as a child. And that silly ditty I opened with. I can see myself skipping down the country lane on the morning of May the first pulling a wagon full of Maybaskets. Little brother in tow. Making him slip up to the porch with the spring offering.

I dimly remember other rhymes like "Ring around a rosy, pockets full of posy" which was a plague tune turned into a children's game. I can bracket my illnesses with nightmares before and nostalgia trips after.

Back in the modern world this morning and on my computer I Googled Mayday Baskets and found the tradition obviously still alive as there are multiple sites to go to with directions of how to make and the history. And the delightful painting above with I think is precious (another flu hangover no doubt). And a bit of plague history: the opening of windows and doors and airing out of linen was evidently the dividing line on survival rates. And the open air is why it is assumed the plague was less deadly in the open countryside.