Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year of the Tunnel

Tunnel end of growing season 2012

It did not seem that monumental at the time but this spring I committed myself to gardening again. I moved the neglected raised 4 x 4 beds and built a poly tunnel over the top of them. Except for the initial $150 in plastic and PVC and rope it was mostly sweat equity. But since the mechanics lien in November 2007 was placed on my property by the contractor I had hired to build the studio I have invested no sweat and very little time, money or effort in my property except to improve the rental unit for income. Why put anything into something which could be sold out from under you at any moment?

I am not sure what moved inside of me to allow this investment, minor though it may be. And at the time it seemed to be that where I had put the raised beds was just wrong. They were so in the way. A total pain to mow around. And they collected all the blowing snow in the winter. So they had to go. And for a moment I considered doing just that; chopping them up for firewood and spreading the dirt through the grass around the studio. But I wanted to give gardening in the highlands just one more try. And the tunnel project a social media friend shared seemed doable. Something to do over the summer while I waited the third summer for a decision by the District Court judge.

There are things in life that tie you down: put your life on hold. I have been through a few in my past and frankly nothing seemed as out of my control as waiting for a verdict on where you were going to live. And in the summer of 2012 I just could not think about it any more. I buried myself in the earth with my tunnel project. I probably was bad company because I could talk about nothing else, bugged all my friends about did they want more greens, and just snapped at anyone that mentioned the court case.

November, five years almost to the day, I got a voice message from Legal Aid. The second chair during the court case was now lead as first chair had moved on to private practice. It took a little time to place the name. Took me longer to steel myself to return the call. I was so thrilled with the verdict. But I am still plodding along to get an official release of lien from the contractor from hell. But I am my house have been deemed free at last by the district court.

And so as the snow falls outside I am planning next year's garden under the tunnel. And I am thinking again of all the home improvement projects I have put off for five years. Since I currently do not have a tenant to supplement my income, and the art market is still staggering I have to look at the really cheap projects first. Meanwhile I am restoring my credit and investigating a refinance of the house to lower payments and interest rates. Could do none of that with the lien on the property.

Looking back I see the tunnel as an investment in hope. And I see that hope paying off in the final judgement.  2013 will be what I want to make it. May my garden give fruit.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Snows of December

Manual Focus Required

I like winter. Really I do. I have enjoyed winter sports more than summer sports much of my life. For over two decades I taught skiing. And when a skiing accident ended that I adopted snowshoeing as my winter sport. Photography takes me out when others stay in. I live in the mountains because I like moderate summers and most months of winter.

I am, however, not fond of December snows. They just seem rude. They arrive with high winds and plunging temps. They come before I or anyone seems mentally prepared even if we have been wishing for snow for the ski area and the moisture it provides for the trees of our forest. And they come most years in one, two, three punches that hardly allow you to get your driveway cleared. The county plows struggle with the blowing snow and none of the drivers know where the bar ditches are. Hint - they are under the smooth snow just before the piles the plow has made on the edges.

Osha Road

And there are just more gray days with December snows. New Mexico seldom has gray skies. We are a land of sudden storms that quickly move away. But not in December. The gray seems to hang around and blend with the snow below. The sun shines weakly if at all. I begin to wonder if I have been transported to Alaska.

Four foot high plow pile

Claustrophobia begins to settle in. It is not helped by the narrowed areas of passage between huge piles of snow. Or that every time I clear my driveway I seem to lose ground. And the subfreezing temps with the scattering of subzero nights offer no hope of any of it melting away anytime soon. I feel trapped by the night, the cold and the blowing snow.

At least in the month of December. January we get a traditional couple weeks of thaw. Last winter it began early and extended well into February as the days got longer and warmer. Snows of March and April are not taken seriously. They drop the largest amounts of the wettest snows and are a life saver for our forests and the aquifers that provide our well water. But they are here today and gone tomorrow.

Chairs of Summer by J. Binford-Bell

They dump and move on leaving behind the sun and fun. I love the snows of the spring. They promise shadows and the flowers of tomorrow.

Shadows of photographer and dogs

The clouds quickly move away and reveal the sun and the blue sky behind them. That is a very, very rare thing in the month of December. As a ski instructor I always wondered why everyone fought to get reservations for Christmas here. And yet in much of the months of February and March the runs were empty except for those in the know.

The good news is there is not much of December left. When the chill icy wind is gone I can get out of my house for something other than shoveling snow and take pictures of shadows and blue sky again.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Off Pavement Again

Fix-It-Upper Near Maxwell, NM

My sister, Deborah Binford Baker, is up for the holidays with her jeep. And while all the tourists in Angel Fire are standing in ski lift lines we took off to our favorite places beyond Cimarron. There is Ponil Creek and the Elliot Barker Wild Life Area, Valle Vidal and its access through the Vermejo Park Ranch, and our new find this trip, the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge. Just two women with camera, three dogs and a spirit of adventure.

Lock Arrangement on Gate

The entrances to are favorite spots are all within a few miles of each other. And surrounded by huge ranches.  Some people have kept up their fences and some only the pretense of a fence. The Vermejo Park Ranch has shifted over from cattle to buffalo which are very difficult to fence in. Maybe it is just the people that are suppose to know they are fenced out. I seriously doubt the big boy below could be stopped by three strands of barbed wire.

Bull Buffalo on Vermejo Park Ranch

The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge was a surprise. Surrounded by ranch lands it even raises some of its own crops to feed the wildfowl, hawks and eagles that are part time or full time residents. Winter is a good time for hawks and falcons because the branches of the trees are bare and they cannot hide as well.

Hawk on the lookout

MNWR is trying to restore the prairie with federal funds while the VPR is doing land restoration with private funds. And the Valle Vidal is also aimed at preservation of the national beauty of a fragile high plains area. Early ranchers destroyed a lot of the land through over grazing and a lot of the national wildlife through over hunting or decimation of habitat. With the drought currently in the area wild fires are taking their toll.

Burn scar on border of Vermejo and Valle Vidal. 

As photographers my sister and I are thrilled to be allowed access to these precious areas. We take only pictures and obey all the signs and fences and leave only footprints. Visit our Binfords Back County Photography page on Facebook and check out the albums posted by my sister or myself. Lots more photos there. And I will no doubt be posting more here in the days to come.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Memories of a childhood lost

Duck and Cover of My Youth

I am the generation of the atomic bomb so when people talk of the innocence of children and the efforts to keep them safe I really cannot relate. I was in the first grade when Dad, his crew and his bomber were reported missing in action over Korea. Mother cried herself to sleep every night and I had to be brave for her and my little brother. At recess I would go out behind the school and do my crying there. I thought my teacher looked like the Wicked Witch of the West (the Wizard of Oz I saw as a horror film), and I feared being locked in the supply closet (early onset claustrophobia).

So Duck and Cover was merely another torture especially since my father, who dropped bombs for a living, told me to add "Kiss your ass goodbye" to the drill. After Dad was returned to the living (just mostly a military administrative paperwork issue) we moved to Roswell, NM land of aliens and SAC. Dad was constantly being called out in the middle of the night to fly out and protect us from attack. I was not that sure if it was from aliens or the Russians. I liked Roswell because I had a lot of kids to play with who did not know I used to cry every recess and I knew which hanger the alien space craft was stored in.

But we moved back to Kansas City just in time for Crazy Judy's father to get drunk and kill the entire family and himself. Crazy Judy had lived across the street in the roofed over basement that was the base for the house her father never got finished. I would stand on the hill from which our side of the street had always waged war against Judy's side and just stare at the abandoned non-house. Everyone thought I was stranger than I had been when I left. I was thrilled to leave even if it was only to El Paso where the jet fighters flew no higher than 5 feet over the roof of our house and I found a true value to Duck and Cover by covering my ears and screaming to drown out the jet noise. Lots of them crashed it seemed so I always repeated and kiss your ass goodbye to myself.

To make a long story short - we moved a lot. And I learned to remake myself with every move. And I learned that I was the only person I could count on. Fathers could go missing in action or turn on you and kill everyone, and mothers could retire to their bedrooms and just cry. More experiences I survived reinforced that. And my father, who had survived his childhood, loved survival training as a pilot. Every chance we got we escaped to the forests and camped. And Dad taught us survival craft. I aced those badges in the Girl Scouts. Guns were always around because Dad was a hunter. We learned how to use them correctly. And when I was old enough and there was a series of robberies in the neighborhood he showed me where the bullets were kept if someone tried to break in when he was gone. Duck and Cover was replaced by evacuating the school because of a bomb threat. It wasn't guns in my youth before any gun control - it was bombs the angry and frustrated wanted to use to take control. And Rumbles of the gangs with their switch blades and bike chains. I can date my youth by the weapons of choice.

I now live in an area as close to those wilderness camping trips as I could get. I feel so much safer here than I ever did in a city. Bad things happen in cities. And I am armed, because I can only count on me ultimately. The Sheriff's department has a two hour response time. I have been armed and dangerous since the second grade when Dad taught me effective stick fighting to protect myself and my brother from some bullies on the base. There is a sense of empowerment in knowing you can survive.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Note to Self Regarding Snow

First snow of season
December 9, 2012

I was reminded that there had to be another snow before this or the snow we had to trudge through at the top of the pass to get the Christmas tree would not have been there. But if you live in snow country you know there is snow, and Snow, and SNOW. AND OMG SNOW. So the snow we got previously in, I believe it was October, was not Snow but snow and it didn't hang around nor leave us a promise to return any time soon. All of which gives you a false sense of security. We had all begun to talk of the non-winter.

The later the first Snow or SNOW comes the more unprepared you are. Especially if the daytime temps are in the 50's and nights are not even freezing. One gets a bit lax in fact. Like where I placed the snow shovel.

Against the garden wall

Or for that matter that I and the neighbor share a snow blower now and it is behind her house. Yes, it can dig itself out but we have to shovel a path to get to it. And the shovel is 20 feet away from the back door and through 10" of snow. Note to self: Put snow shovel on front porch. Have neighbor put her snow shovel on enclosed porch.

Another note to self: Put more firewood on front porch. My insurance company wants all firewood 30' from the house. And because of that and prevailing winds I built a wood shed in 2007 that not only keeps my firewood dry but visible. That was after the winter of 2006 when I lost three cords of wood under six feet of snow. The alee opening for said woodshed is through 50 feet of 10" of snow and in a divergent direction from the snow shovel in its current location.

It is to be noted that said insurance company does not like firewood stacked on the front porch but when a snow storm is coming I do not care. If they can make it through the storm to report me as cheating on the rules than good for them. I only maintain enough there for a couple fires and only when a storm is coming but I had forgotten just how much wood it takes to keep my house toasty warm with the temp at 3.5F and a howling wind. BTW I try never to know the wind chill. TMI.

It was that now infamous winter of 2006 that closed all passes out of this valley for four days while every single condo and vacation rental was full of tourists. I had always wanted, when I lived in the real world, to get snowed in and not be able to return to work for a few extra days but some people are different. And not having a full larder, lots of firewood, and not self-entertaining does create problems for the stranded and those that have to put up with he stranded. Since then I try always to have at least food for two weeks. And the wood shed has almost three cords of firewood all cut and stacked. And there is another half cord out by the fence on the windward side of the house. My theory being that it might prevent drifts across the backyard. It has gotten so bad in the past that the dogs have to go out the studio door. And no doubt today they will walk in my wake as I shovel a path to the wood shed. If only I could teach them to retrieve the snow shovel.

Note to self: Get second snow shovel. I had two at one time. Most recent tenants destroyed one and they were not even here in a winter month.

But the real big note to self regarding snow is - NEVER BELIEVE THE WEATHER REPORT. This was not suppose to be a big storm. Forecast was for 2 to 4 inches of snow at first. And then upped to 4 to 6. There is really 10" plus out there and the wind has created bigger drifts.

The first snow is always a shake down cruise regardless of how many years you have lived in the mountains.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Long Roads

This beautiful area of north central New Mexico where I live has been carved into counties as the population and terrain made it harder and harder to govern. What is now Taos, Colfax and Mora counties was once one huge county. Colfax needs carved again. I suffer the problems on living on its far southwest corner. I am in fact closer to the county seats of Mora and Taos than I am to that of Colfax.

In my blog Off to Vote Early I mentioned the difficulty of voting early. It is an hour and 45 minute drive in the best of weather. A couple March's ago it was a 36 hour drive because of snow. I listed some statistics for the County of Colfax in that same blog. Raton is the county seat and the biggest city but has a declining population due to the downfall of mining and the drought which is having a prolonged downward spiral on ranching. As of the 2010 census it was barely over half of the population of the entire county. And my side of the county has grown in population to the point it is over 1/3 of the population.

We have one District court and it is in Raton. We have two Magistrate courts and one is in Raton and the other in Springer. Both towns are on the eastern side of the county. Springer and Raton are a 45 minute drive from each other on Interstate 25. Angel Fire is an hour and 30 minutes from Springer. Here again in good weather. Want to get an eviction notice? You have to go to Raton or Springer. All calls for jury duty are to Springer or Raton which are considered to close to us to allow a paid hotel stay. All deputy sheriffs are dispatched out of Raton. Want to fight a ticket - Raton again.

There once was a part time magistrate court in Cimarron between Raton and Angel Fire but when they built the new court house in Raton they closed that one. And none of the municipal courts like the ones in Angel Fire or Cimarron can help with any magistrate issues even if it is just advice and forms.

So the question becomes of what happened to Circuit Court Judges? I bet more of us would show up for Jury Duty if we just had to pop down to a conference room at the Legends hotel. And the country would save on mileage costs to jurors. A why not local "legal" centers with clerks that dispensed advice on what forms you needed to file and provided said forms. Even received them for the action of the court. Would be really cheap to allow the Municipal courts to provide such services.

And while we are at it why not having joint holding cells in municipalities. Now if a sheriff or state police officer arrests a DWI on a county road he has to haul them completely back to Raton. There is that city again. With its downturn in population soon it will be only county offices.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wisdom of Mechanics and Lawyers

Junkyard Sculpture by J. Binford-Bell

Cars and relationships break. Mechanics exist to fix your cars and inspire you with hope that it will roll again. Lawyers exist to not fix the marriage but profit from its breakdown. I will always need a car and ergo a mechanic. But if I never get married again I will hopefully not need a lawyer.

At some incredibly early age I announced to my mother that I had absolutely no intention of ever getting married or having any children. The latter decision came from the infant science of genetics in my biology class and my exposure to raising pedigreed dogs. The first part of my declared knowledge came from my close observation of people. Most of the married ones I knew just did not seem happy. And Mother, when most unhappy, talked about all she gave up to marry my father.

But I was married twice. I think of them as huge mistakes. So was just living together with Bruce after college. Tip: When you move into their house (owned or just rented in their name) none of what you move in is yours. I got semi-lucky on the dissolution of that relationship. But it did take me years and years to establish a credit history because of seven years I did not exist in credit land. BTW it also took thousands of dollars in deposit for essential services and an apartment because of that. I thought that belonged to the age of women having no rights but NOT.

After that experience I didn't even date for almost 5 years. My breakup from Dwight involved guns and high cliffs and may one day be a novel. My first marriage was shorter than the divorce and involved excessive alcohol, stalking, and him demanding alimony. Note: the alcohol resulted in him losing his job so I was the wage earner. Temporary sobriety led him to a religious conversion and I got my stomach full of biblical quotes. (PS, one day I will do a blog about my negative religious experiences of which this is just one.)

I wrote about some of the trials and tribulations of divorcing Marc in the previous blog - The Two Mrs. Bells. Breaking up is hard to do even if you really, really, really want to. And lawyers are going to make it very, very, very expensive. While Marc and I were going through the separation of bed and board a couple we were very friendly with were dividing bed, board and boardroom. They were in arbitration for almost two years because he wanted it all in a state that only guarantees him 50% and it was all hers to begin with.

Thankfully I stuck with my pronouncement about not having kids because that just makes it all that much worse. I do not even want to date a man with children. This blog is courtesy of of a high school alumni friend that asked if I had ever been married. Seems in my high school there were a lot of women that married their soul mates right after graduation and stayed married until the death do us part segment. I do know people that have had successful marriages. I am just not one of them. First, as Mother always said, I am selfish; two, as Dad always said I do not stick up for myself; and three, I love pirates.

That bit of self-knowledge came at great expense. But I also learned a lot about medicine from John, mechanics and electrical contracting from Marc. From my relationship with Bruce I think I could go for my master's degree in English. I learned to play the drums from Dwight. And from all those relationships I learned a hell of a lot about contract law. I have considered being a paralegal from time to time. Any lawyers need a part time clerk?

But I definitely know I am not getting married again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Two Mrs. Bells

It is often hard in this modern age to untangle confusion. I didn't give it a second thought when my ex-husband died that it would still be effecting my life two years later. We had been divorced for longer than we had been married and he had married his first wife again.

I fortunately only met the sainted Elinor once. By Marc's death bed. She expressed regret that she had won the pitched battle between us. Such is life. It is hard to see ahead to the consequences of our actions. And my error was in keeping my name. I had garnered a reasonable reputation as an artist and writer working with the hyphenated Binford-Bell I still use. Add Jacqui to that mix and Google informs me there is actually only one of me in the world. Marc and I also worked really hard to separate our finances and credit ratings upon our divorce. But then he remarried the sainted Elinor of two chapter 7 bankruptcies.

It was at a time I was not worrying about credit. Head injury. I was more concerned with getting well and surviving but then little minor things occurred that hinted there was a mix up between Mrs. Bell 1 and 3 and me. I was into debit cards and cash purchases and did not worry about it until the van died. When I applied for credit to purchase a used car I was told I had zero credit. Not bad credit but zero credit. As if I had died. Marc had but not me. While trying to explain that Elinor's horrid credit got into the mix. And the not-so-sainted stepson from hell.

Identity theft might have been a blessing. I ended up finding a car I could pay cash for while arguing that 17 years of on time mortgage payments ought to stand for something. I dashed off letters to all three credit bureaus as to who I was and specifically not Ira, Marc or Elinor. Everyone told me I should get a credit card to re-establish my credit but you need credit to do that. And the more you apply for credit the worse your credit rating gets. So you wait them out. Until you get one of those entry level cards with the annual fee, high rates and low balance offers and you charge gas and pay it off each month. Then you wait some more. Six to nine months until someone else thinks you have earned a second chance. Or the first card raises your limit. Credit is not based on paying it all off but how much people will let you not pay off.

The good news is my credit looks really good now. A credit union just offered to lend me $6000.00 on my signature. I still do not want to put that to a test, but we are getting into used car territory. I really like saving up the money to get what I want. But there are things like the roof blowing off or the car blowing up that do not always fit into that scheme. Hopefully I have established who I am well enough to not have this issue again. Google does still say that I am unique.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Side Roads and High Roads - I

Top of the World by J. Binford-Bell

It is that time of the year again when my sister and I go off-roading in search of the perfect Holiday Tree. And admittedly we do a lot more searching than finding. We can be very picky. Besides which the searching is a lot of fun.

It all begins with a trip to the Taos office for the Carson National Forest where a permit is obtained. Then you cannot go back by way of US 64 but must go through Talpa to take the backroads over the mountain while looking for a suitable tree. This you mark in your GPS so you can return on Thanksgiving day with the saw and tie downs, etc. The tree has to be cut on Thanksgiving which is why you just cannot cut it while going back over the mountain.

But it raises two problems: finding the marked GPS location on the GPS, and then finding it in the real world.

High Country Christmas Tree Lot

Then, of course, there is remembering which of those trees at that location you thought was so perfect. This year none of that seemed to be any problem at all.

Jeep with Tree

We even got the tree up on top of the jeep which the three inch lift and one inch bigger tires. And just us two short women to do it and tie it down. The fur kids were no help at all. In fact the fur kids were waiting for their own special part of the adventure - The Dog Races.

Adahy pulls ahead of Magique

But we accomplished all and got home in time to put the prepped turkey into the oven. And while it baked we erected the tree in the studio.

Waiting to be decorated

Mind you with all that activity and full tummies we did not get back to decorating it until Friday after all day off roading in other areas. More about those adventures in another blog.

2012 Holiday Tree

Hope everyone is having a great time making memories with friends and family. That is really what this is all about.

In memory of all those humans and fur kids no longer with us who we have shared this adventure with in the past.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Be the First in Your Neighborhood

Walrus and the Carpenter

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to speak of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings."

I confess. I was one of those kids whose parents read to her. And before Dr. Seuss, and other age appropriate literature. I remember Aesop Fables and Uncle Remus and Alice in Wonderland most specifically. Other kids were reciting nursery rhymes and I was doing renditions of The Walrus and the Carpenter. That behavior was seen as quite odd in the first grade and resulted in the first parent/teacher conference. And my Aunt Amy cautioning me at a family gathering, "You must watch it or people will think you quite mad." She would know because at times she fell under the same assumption.

I have learned not to speak of why the sea is boiling hot or whether pigs have wings, but it would seem that I am living among people that do. And without fear of the consequences. Mind you I expect some conspiracy theories to be bantered about. And Black Lake has its share of UFO's. And those that believe they are among us. One of my friends sees the Men in Black but fortunately not the aliens yet. Her husband had a top secret military clearance for some decades and she spends far too much time with him.

Taos is full of airy fairies. They go there to worship at the alter of crystal healing and magnetic resonance, and the mountain that hums. I will not toss all such theories out the window but they go and listen and do not fully attend and come out with their own unique version. Which is what I think I did with the Walrus and the Carpenter at six. By eight I had nailed it and was on to the funeral oration of Marc Anthony though not totally aware that "lend me your ears" meant to attend me and what I am saying.

This week, however, has been a bit over the top as to strange conversations. One or two I might have initiated in jest. But it occurred to me that I live surrounded by people that do not always get the jest of a remark I toss off. Or know all the lines of poems and plays I put into a conversation. At such times I truly miss the well read friends that have passed on.

Last night at dinner my Aunt Amy whispered in my memory, "people will think you quite mad." And I wanted to quote her to my dinner companion but I doubt she would have understood. In fact I was not sure what she understood of the evening. No, she doesn't drink. And I cannot see her dropping acid ever. But I thought of the funny farm song. And kept looking for them to come through the door. Do they still do that?

Course I am my friends are at that age that it could be dementia or Alzeheimer's disease. Or just too much time alone in front to the computer with Google.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Acceptance.of losing

Before you ask the above picture has nothing to do with this blog but no way was I leading off with a picture of Romney. And the topic has nothing to do with Obama. But it does occur to me in the Pirates of the Caribbean series that the pirates were good losers and the Brits weren't.

My childhood was a lot about becoming a good loser or being good enough to not lose and wise enough to choose my contests. I had for a brother the absolute worst of winners. So it did not help me learning to be gracious at losing. I am not sure how many Monopoly boards Dad threw away before I learned to never play that game again. I am not sure how but I know my brother cheated. And I gave up tennis when I discovered it was never wise to go on a tennis date. Try as she might mother never convinced me of the wisdom of losing at anything to please a man.

But I digress. This blog is not about my sportsmanship or even solely about Romney's lack there of. Though he is certainly a prime example. But about the fact that more and more people seem unable to just accept what happens and go on. Be it in politics or on the football field or in a marriage breakup nobody seems willing to accept the facts and shake hands. More and more men headed for divorce courts seem more willing to kill their estranged mates especially if pregnant. And football players are getting more and more vicious on the field. Oh, what about NASCAR last week with Jeff Gordon crashing deliberately into Clint Boyer? Or the wife that shot her husband because he voted for Obama?

We all seem to require someone to blame for what is generally our fault. So this week as Romney rattled off an endless stream of why he lost: Hurricane Sandy, Obama giving Gifts to the entitled, single women only thought about abortion, liberal news, everyone of any color but white, etc. of course he was joined by Rush and the GOP and Fox News. And no where in any of the analysis was anything said about his remarks about the 47%, or all the qualifiers to rape his minions came up with, or that he told so many lies he could not keep track of any of them.

No where did anyone say, "Hey, we blew it." And if the Republican party is going to reform itself as a viable political entity it has to get to that point. Acceptance is the answer. Until you accept what happened you cannot change your strategy. Your only hope of winning if you do not know why you lost is to cheat. Or drive your race car into the side of theirs at 100 plus miles per hour.

Hey, losing isn't the end of the world. But not admitting why you lost could be for someone. Or some party.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Revealed Truth on the Road to Raton

Grassland Conference by J. Binford-Bell

As much as I might whine about taking those road trips to Raton there is something to be said about windshield time. And beyond the photo opportunities though those can be grand especially if the buffalo herd is close to the fence. But if not it can be 41 miles of flat plain with distant mesas and mountains. Empty space with endless skies. And lots of windshield time.

Nemo jump drive shuffling between new loves and old time favorites on the car stereo and mind on free float. They say the memory is triggered most by scents and second by sounds. Sounds must include music. I am one of those people that can zero in on the time and place and event I first heard a song. And then there are the songs irrevocably linked to a person. So those 41 miles of open space can be filled with years of memories shuffling like the tunes on the stereo.

And in that review of life sometimes there comes revealed truth. I have 40 year friendship with a wonderful woman that has just entered into an affair of at least the body after 14 years. And of course she is trying to sell me on finding myself a man. So reveal truth one is that men get in the way. They get in the way of what I want to do when I want to do it. And they get in the way of those 40 year friendships. I see that in the telephone calls. Already I am sick and tired of hearing about Kurt. Or is it Kirk? Doesn't matter. It got me thinking about relationships when Adele sung "When Will I See You Again?"

I have been out of a relationship for four years now. Five is my average between relationships. That is about the length of time needed to forget why I ended the previous one. Rather like women forgetting the pain of childbirth. I find men with minds very sexy, but I have also been raised to fall for alcoholics. Intelligent alcoholics are dangerous. In spite of Alanon training I always become enmeshed. And nothing is more appealing to me than a man that is unavailable. And it is the unavailable part that is most appealing.

The longer I am alone the more truth I see in that old tee-shirt: "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." The truth is that I am not me in a relationship. I thought for a while that it was something broken within myself. But a know too many women that are not the same person either. Not the person I call my friend. Certainly not dependable to keep a lunch date or hold an interpersonal conversation on the telephone. At least not in the opening throes of a new relationship.

Still at times on the open road I wonder what a relationship would be like with a very intelligent man with his own airplane, two plus homes in remote locations, a nice dependable fortune and no ex-wife or kids or other heirs if he was only in town three days out of 14 at max. And 20 years sober. I do know I can never introduce him to my girl friend of 40 some years because all men I have done that with fall for her.

I think I am better off as I am. At least until the next trip across the plains and more revealed truth.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Terror in the Neighborhood

Frequent readers of my blog are much more familiar with images like the one above. I live in a very loose rural mountain area we collectively call Black Lake. I have joked about Tween and Twixt and Beyond Black Lake. Black Lake in the minds of its residents begins at El Bordo hill and runs south along hwy 434 and then 120 for some 20 or more miles not counting side roads. Many of those side roads are what we laughingly call rental car roads. Except for meadows it is almost all high mountain forest with remote "cabins" dotted at the ends of those rental car roads. There are definitely more cows and elk than people in Black Lake.

There are some huge homes sitting in the midst of large lots of uncleared land. And many of them are not occupied the majority of the year. Vacation homes! This was the area where the Joker, yes that is his nick name had his two female companions drive him before the car ran out of gas due to a high speed chase into the center of Black Lake. He and one of the women in the car escaped into the wooded area across from the closed Boy Boys Social Club. Nobody knows if she was an accomplice or a hostage. But police had to assume she was a hostage.

And so began our approximately 30 hours of terror. He was well armed with two hand guns, a knife and a Taser. And a face none of us will ever forget.

Joker Rodriquez via photo
He was on parole yet again. He violated it and fled apprehension by the local police because he swore to friends he was never going back to jail again. So he was clearly desperate, armed, with a hostage and the mountain night was closing in Wednesday when the New Mexico State Police Tactical Team poured into our neighborhood and set up road blocks.

There are three ways out of the Valley of the Coyotes so road blocks are easy. And give those that live here mostly work in Angel Fire five miles away the first order of business was to keep any of those folk from going home. Several of my friends camped out with friends in greater Moreno Valley or at the Fire station. Even school buses were not allowed to take their charges home for fear the Joker had broken in to their houses and awaited their return.

Wednesday night I assured my sister who lives in San Fidel I was fine but I checked the guns and kept one by the bed while keeping my displaced friends in my thoughts. We have no local radio that I can get so my news is literally on Facebook and through friends there. I knew Thursday morning he had not been caught. I had a scheduled trip to Raton. I arrived home at 2:30 to find my little corner of Black Lake awash in black armored SUV's surrounded with men in full military assault garb and weapons. I was not allowed to go into my house until one of these men and cleared it. And so began my evening watching it all unfold while trying to stay away from windows and definitely not go outside.

View through my studio windows

Joker's mother, it so happens, owns the second house down from me. It is another of three duplexes on Llano Vista and is sometimes rented and sometimes not. Most of us residents like it when it is not. I suspect that Joker has stayed there from time to time. And maybe a few of his ex-con friends. It is forever known as the house where us neighbors with dogs have been threatened with what looked a lot like what the tactical team was carrying.

They busily went from door to door in teams of five armed men and cleared all the houses and assured us this would be over soon. Meanwhile they deployed the Men in Black cars strategically and prepared to set up road blocks again to limit access to the area and the felon's escape. By 9 something it began to go down with bull horns and flood lights and a helicopter over head washing the area with spot lights. Like a scene out of a war movie. I think I can relate to the citizens of Afghanistan.

And through it all we kept in touch on FaceBook, FB personal messages, and by telephone assuring ourselves and our friends that we were all still here, and so was the NMSP Tactical Team. THANK YOU!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

That was the week that was

Reflections by J. Binford-Bell

Sandy came on shore. All the Aspen leaves were on the ground. The weather channel revised its long range forecasts and the drought continues. Well, except for where Sandy came on shore. New York and New Jersey would like a dry and warmer trend.

Meanwhile I was walking the dogs around placid ponds and taking stunning pictures of reflections and ignoring all my email in boxes because they are full of messages from what seems a million Democrats. And staying off Facebook where I am bombarded by Republicans that want to tell me yet again how stupid I am.

I am rather above the fray as I voted mid October. I have been more concerned about my renters as real estate agents began calling me asking for credit information about them. There lease is not up until the 1st of March. Nobody in the highlands of New Mexico wants an empty rental property in the winter. But I have to wonder what they were thinking as they are not current on their rent and most months have not been so how did they expect a good reference from me?

It seems a lot of people these days are out of touch with reality. Romney, I am now convinced, has absolutely no idea when he is lying. He is really pathological. And my Christian friends do not seem to realize that their behavior is not enticing me to the "right path" but making me run the other way. Give me a kind atheist over a fundamental Christian any day of the week. And please, please, please do not pray for me. And who wouldn't be afraid of that after a reverend said Sandy was sent to Sodom (New York) because of their tolerance of gays. 

Meanwhile one of my long time friends has a boyfriend. This after 14 years. The good news is she does not have time to listen to Rush Limbaugh anymore. But she still wants to tell me I should get me a boyfriend too. She even put me on speaker phone recently so her roommate (also in yet again another affair with the rich love of her life) could also tell me how to live by getting a man to tell me how to live. No thank you. Do not think I will be calling my friend of 40 years any time soon again. I cannot even email her to tell her to never ever again put me on speaker phone without asking. She doesn't do email.

Meanwhile in Grants, NM some restaurant employees must have mixed bleach with ammonia and created a toxic gas. Nobody admits what they do wrong these days (see previous comments about Romney who is now in favor of FEMA - thank you, Sandy). So Hazmat crews and hospitals had to deal with the effects of a mystery incident. And on the New Jersey shore people that violated a mandatory evacuation order and were clearly told that they should prepare for a week or more of no power, no gas, no electricity, no lights, no water and no help are whining that they have no power, no gas, no electricity, no lights, no water, and no help after two days. Hey, you cannot call the victims of Katrina whiners any longer. BTW they went a week before GW even looked out his Air Force One window flying home from vacation on his ranch.

Maybe if I hibernate until spring there will be rebirth of truth, justice and the American way. Takes six months to get the bloom off the rose in a relationship so by April I will be able to call my friend of 40 years.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Moody Monday

Full blood moon tonight so maybe that is the reason I feel moody and am having trouble getting motivated. Or maybe it what all the work on my to-be-done-before-winter list yesterday. Or maybe it is that 1/3 of the United States in under siege by a hurricane named Sandy.

I find myself thinking of Star Wars and Obi One saying there was a disturbance in the force. And Sandy colliding with the cold front that passed over us is a huge disturbance. The two of them are creating a super storm that will go down in the history books. It is peaceful here in my mountain home but that seems like a lie given what is happening on the eastern seaboard.

The house feels chilly and I do not seem to be able to warm up but the thermometer says that is all in my mind. I am brewing myself yet another cup of hot tea and pulled another afghan over my lap and I sit at the computer - life line to what is happening outside my bubble.

Nice to live in an area where there are no hurricanes or tornadoes or earthquakes of much note. Drought and firestorms because of that drought seem small in comparison to what New York is going through right now. A Facebook friend is reporting on falling cranes because of the winds that have not reached their peaks yet. If I had the power I would transport everyone out of there. Even the preacher that says this is happening because of our tolerance about gay marriage.

I do not want to know such a god as that.

A neighbor gave me some apples. And I was thinking of baking a crisp. Why do I medicate my moodiness with baking? It isn't even the eating. Just the cooking seems to lift my spirits.

After The Ball

After the Ball by John Silver

Tired but happy this morning back in my Black Lake residence. Away from the sometimes maddening crowd of the Willow Manor Masked Ball. I live such a solitary and reclusive life as an artist that meeting and greeting all those people was exhausting. But it left me with many wonderful memories to fill my days. There is unpacking to do but for now I just want to sit and sip my coffee, and sort through the grand moments.

Must thank my hostess, Tess Kincaid, for the wonderful hospitality. And all the other attendees for wonderful inspiration. Find myself already planning for next year.

Johnny had to get back to Monument Valley for some additional takes on The Lone Ranger. Our pilot dropped off him and early and they flew me over the monuments as the sun was just beginning to strike them. There had been a snow yesterday.

The Angel Fire airport was a cold and desolate place. But it was only six miles from home and my fur kids. Hope all the other attendees made it home safely. Especially those with homes on the east coast in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Off to the ball

Breakfast on Board

My date, Johnny Depp, was late, but he did pick me up at the Angel Fire Airport. In the greatest of Leer Jets. I was all bundled up against the cold in my traveling outfit which included the Harlequin coat I will wear later to the ball. As soon as we took off and topped the mountains breakfast of Eggs Benedict was served.

I thought I would be way too excited to eat a thing but I had skipped dinner doing last minute packing and was ravishingly hungry even sitting across from Johnny. He had brought along a couple of friends from the latest film he is working on. In fact the flight was late because of having to skirt the tails of Hurricane Sandy. He and his friends were all dressed as pirates. Does solve that worry about white Tonto makeup all over my gown.

Cannot wait to see Willow Manor as this is the first of their famous balls I have been to. Going to have to be really grand to beat all the excitement of preparation and the fabulous jet ride there. I, like my friend Barbara, brought two gowns just in case I do my klutz thing and spill something but finally made my first choice - the vintage taffeta gown. It looks awesome with the Harlequin coat for chilly chats on the balconies and walks in the garden.

The gown sans the wine red gloves

The vintage ruby and pearl necklace

My dancing shoes by no means glass slippers

And the Gemini mask hand made by moi
I will be putting the black face forward and sipping my beverages through a straw until the hour of unmasking and the buffet is laid out. I designed the mask so it slips up and becomes a hat for the main revels. Johnny wants to borrow it for his next film. As long as I get credit no problems.

And so off to the ball. My first every virtual grand ball at Willow Manor. Hopefully I do not turn into a pumpkin. Though with Sandy off shore we may all be held hostage at the manor. Glad I threw in an extra change of clothes just in case.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Oh, joy! The perfect date!

Johnny Depp has accepted my invitation. But which Johnny Depp will show up - Captain Jack Sparrow or Tonto or just Johnny if there is such a thing. So now my gown for the event has to be perfect. And just when I think I have the decision made I find another possibility like this beautiful vintage satin gown below.

I absolutely love the train on it, and the below waist stitching to cut down on flounce. And unlike my other two top runners it seems to allow more room to breathe. And no hoops to manage. Though I spent enough time with hoops during one theatrical production to be able to know the ends and out of them.

And then there is this wonderful vintage reproduction. But knowing klutz me I would probably be snagging bracelet and purse on the detailing at the waist not to mention the delicate netting over the skirt. All together better for a more delicate person.

Giving the gown below another look because of its simple lines, the detailing of the capped sleeves, and contrast color below the bust line to draw attention up. And it is taffeta. I love the sound that taffeta makes. I could wear white gloves with this one.

And I do not seem to be able to delete this one from my choices. But I would go with black satin long gloves instead of the wrapped ribbon. Time is getting short. I really must make up my mind. Our hostess Tess Kincaid is wearing a wonderful blood red gown.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Accessories for the Willow Manor Ball

The mask is the biggest accessory for the ball but of course I have to have shoes even if my long gown will cover most of them up. I find as I age it is more an more about support for my high aches and balance. I like these because they had a sort of vintage look while providing a lot of support for the ball and arch of my foot. Not going to slip slide out of these. But they are a bit tall. The ones below are more sporty and shorter and will be perfect for wearing with my black jeans and silk blouse when traveling.

I have my big black Epiphany camera bag but I obviously will want an evening purse. I hate the ones I have to hold on to. I want my hands free for the buffet and dancing and taking pictures. I have the bag below that I take routinely to art openings and receptions.

Which leaves jewelry. Jewelry with feathered masks is an issue I have found. You do not want a lot of prongs that will snag on the feathers. So I was looking for something with a smooth surface around the neck. And a clasp that will not snag. But I wanted it bold enough to not be ignored. This vintage ruby and pearl  necklace is perfect. The clasp is in front and the center pear shaped stone is magnificent  I doubt, however, I will wear the earrings with the necklace. I have an antique set of ruby stud earrings I will wear instead. Besides sets make you look cheaper. Coordination is the key to jewelry.

Bracelets and rings are even more problematic when dealing with masks and cameras. But with all that bare arm in all my final possible picks for a gown I definitely want something on my left wrist. I chose a queens chain bracelet by one of my favorite jewelers Jessica Duke. Instead of the heart she is putting a ruby cab on the tab. I already have a very beautiful ring by Steve Kriechbaum I plan to wear

Now I just have to decide on which of the gowns I have been looking at I will choose. Time is getting short so I best make up my mind. Obviously with all the jewelry bringing in red I have definitely decided on the Harlequin coat.