Thursday, January 31, 2013

No Reason for this Blog Beyond the Weather

My Own Kind of Hat

My rather extensive collection of hats is neglected during the winter because it does not make sense to wear anything with a brim in the wind or anything that is not a ski cap in the cold. I miss my hats so I decided to record them in pixels.

Where they are hanging used to be a closet and I turned into an alcove complete with bench so I could take off snow boots in the mud room. I noticed today while taking this picture that the bench was buried in various coats and hats and gloves because I ran out of room on the coat hooks on the side wall. The weather has been so unpredictable even my rain jacket is still hanging there and used just last week. That is it there on the right. in the picture below. And on the far left are the Carhart insulated coveralls used just yesterday while blowing snow. The cuffs are dripping melting snow on to a door mat under them.

The gardening hat is hanging on top of my L.L. Bean all weather jacket. When we were having -36 F weather I wore it under my down coat. There is a lined jean jacket under the rain parka for afternoons that get up to a balmy 40 F and I have to bring in more firewood. The peach suede jacket if for dressy affairs and also gets covered with a down coat to get from driveway to parking lot. I freeze from car to restaurant.

Oh, the down coat? It and the winter sport parka are on the bench I mentioned earlier with a couple fleece lined hoodies. The hoodies often get worn while sitting on the computer. And the gardening hat, which has a stampede cord was actually used one day a couple weeks ago when the sun came out after the snow and the temps soared to 50.

Keeper of the coats

Gloves are no less complicated. I have a basket on the bench that keeps the subzero ski gloves and the normal winter ski gloves, the lined polar fleece work gloves, and several crocheted fingerless gloves used for photography exhibitions. And stocking caps there are many including one with a huge alpine style pompom that dates from the 1970's high fashion in skiing. But boy is it warm! Then there are the felted knit hats designed to not muss my hair when I am headed into to Taos to shop. I always toss in one of the less fashionable but ear covering pilot hats into the car just in case of emergency or a sudden change in the weather.

Oh, and scarves of all colors and weight to shut out the wind. I think most of those may be in the car. Need them for early morning departures and shed them in the Smith's parking lot.

Then under the bench are the various choices in footwear. Sorry, Bee, but there are not high heels. Dress shoes in the winter are the basic black zip snow boots. But I have snow boots big enough for heavy ski socks and a nicer pair for my regular winter socks. Then there are the leather and rubber work boots with felt linings for wet spring snow. My low top garden galoshes got moved back downstairs when January melt turned into mud and flood season.

Getting dressed to take the dogs for a walk can be a major event winters. I looked at the havoc in the mud room and alcove when I took these two pictures and decided there was no need to tidy it up until the weather patterned tidied itself up. Maybe May I will feel safe moving most of the heavy coats, boots and gloves to the guest room closet. But never, never, never move them all. We have had snow in June.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Which Way the Weather

Rain Clouds Gathering

I think in the history of this blog I have written about weather on more than one occasion, but maybe not as frequently as I have winter. As Mark Twain said, ". . . man bites dog is news." And this has definitely been a news worthy period for weather even if the west has not made the headlines. All the weather we have sent east has, however. For the easterners it all seems to come as a huge surprise.

If you live in the rural mountain west, however, you are a weather watcher. Our lives and likelihoods depend upon the weather. And we do not stay bottled up in climate controlled sky scrapers. I had the winter emergency box ready go to the trunk of the car in October. We can get our first significant snow on or before Halloween. The first snow on the roads is always the most treacherous. But by the first week in December we still had not gotten that significant snow. And the ski areas could not even make snow consistently because the nights were too warm or the days so hot it melted it all off.

December can bring our coldest nights. There is normally a period of 10 to 14 nights in December that fall below the zero on the weather gauge. Not so this year. While there was snow on the ground to open the ski area - just barely - it was warm enough over Christmas to go four wheeling in the Val Vidal. But after Christmas the temperatures plunged. And not to just the negative teens per normal but -38 F with days on both sides not much higher. Days were in the plus teens but closer to the lower end of that. We broke some sort of record by having the greatest variance between day time and night time temps - 60 degrees difference between night and day.

And it was not just for 10 days. It seemed to go on forever. And in less than 20 days I went through a cord of firewood burning the wood stove day and night. It was so cold that even with the sun shining the passive solar studio yielded no radiant heat. Zeus, a local legend, said he had never seen it this cold for this long in the forty years he had lived here. Then one day it was over. We got above freezing during the day and then above freezing at night. The much delayed January thaw (a typical period of no snow and slightly warmer temps) had just made it into the tag end of January. We had sent the arctic freeze east to all those friends that keep gloating about their 70 degree weather.

And then we got rain. Coming back from Raton on Friday I thought the clouds looked more like rain clouds than snow clouds. Those in the lead picture were too far above the mountains and too dark to give us snow. And the bank sign said it was 54 degrees above freezing. All the weather services, which I check daily, were still pretending it was winter. The forecasts were for rain in the day turning to snow at night. But it didn't get that cold last night. As I type this before dawn it is 36 F. It even smells like spring.

Weather forecasters have been wrong all winter. Debates over which weather service is less often wrong wage at the post office or the parking lot of the market. The county snow plow operator is currently taking time off as the rain melts the huge whales of snow the winds and storms laid across the land. The hydraulic systems on both blows are broken dealing with frozen drifts, so it is probably good it isn't snowing.

Maybe I should get my garden seeds ordered. We could have a heat wave in March.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Revealed Truth on the Road to Raton II

Returning from Raton

I have scored some awesome pictures on the road to Raton - antelope and buffalo - but they are gifts. Normally between Cimarron and Raton it is just straight highway with distant vistas and here and there a windmill. Windshield time or two lane meditation.

I was not in the mood to drive to Raton yesterday. Too much to do at home, but when you must you must. So buckle up, amp the tunes, and cruise. If you are lucky you can reach a satori - a Buddhist term for awakening, comprehension, and understanding. Or has the comedian Shelley Bergman put it - "you know the sound of two hands clapping - what is the sound of one hand clapping." In Buddhist tradition satori arrives from kensho or seeing into ones true nature.

For me the road to Raton can be as much about the pictures I have not taken as those I have. Capturing the vast emptiness of this part of the high plains is far more elusive than the ultimate picture of buffalo. I keep telling myself it is because I do not have the right equipment. The wide angle gets the scope but not the beauty of the horizon. The long lens abbreviates it all too much. Rather a metaphor on life. Never seem to have the right perspective.

At the beginning of this trip I had a short conversation with an old friend. She has a new boyfriend so our conversations have become less frequent, much shorter, and sadly often shared with the boyfriend. Aaah the evil speaker phones do. Anyway in the short conversation on the long road yesterday we lapsed into our long history with men. Oddly my friend had the short view. She had forgotten about the husband that held her hostage at gun point for two days, the live in significant other that did drugs and beat her, the contractor turned boyfriend (never sleep with your contractor) that turned stalker, or the short and wild affair with the con man that stole her van among other things, of even the 20 year affair with the married man that kept trying to lure her into a menage a trois. All of which makes me cringe when she says she has a new boyfriend.

But maybe shortsightedness is a survival skill rather like denial. My list of abusive men is shorter and less dramatic only in that nobody held me at gun point for two days. And I have never believed any man enough to get totally conned. I am not sure that Dianne's ability to believe again is a plus or a minus. I frankly do not want the drama of another alcoholic in my life ever again. Life is just too short or too long.

Which brings me to an interesting point I discovered yesterday. It took me 20 less minutes to get back from Raton than to get there. And the only stop I made was to take the photo above on the way back.

Getting closer to capturing the emptiness. And the black & white treatment says a lot about the drought conditions. And a lot about my life really. After all the twists and curves of the canyon of my earlier life I am trying to straighten out the bumps. Satori in a photograph.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What a difference the temperature makes!

Winter Diamonds
The week begun with the same frigid temperatures we have been having since Christmas. The whole community is sick and tired of it. And looking for the bright side has gotten harder even for those of us with cameras that can be lured out of our homes to record ice crystals on last summers dried grasses. Sun or no sun there is something depressing about dressing in multiple layers to the point you look like the characters on South Park. Or waiting until the day heats up to at least 10 F above before walking the dogs or starting your aging car so it does not wear out the starter or battery. But when we didn't get to that mark until noon I just wanted to go back to bed like a hibernating bear.

But the Arctic cold finally broke on Wednesday and my valley got above freezing for the first time in weeks. And I think it was Thursday the night did not fall below zero. It was the day I finally bought an installed a replacement heater in my living room. The heater I had not needed for three years. But when you are colder than some places in the Arctic and for an extended period you give in. I was beginning to think fondly of The Cremation of Sam McGee by Service.

Then like New Mexico can do so wonderfully the overdue January thaw arrived. Never thought I would look forward to mud.

Mud and thawing ice


Winter is not over by a long shot nor would we wish it. The forest still needs more snow to lessen the fire season this summer. The high country snows feed the rivers and lakes and reservoirs and aquifers. But spring snows have more moisture in them. It has been so very cold that the snow was powdery and did not even make ice well. And a friend reports that Elephant Butte Reservoir has closed all its boat docks because of how low the lake is. Eagle Nest Lake was too low for the New Years Day Arctic plunge. A stock tank had to be used.

Magique jumping for joy

Most of us who live here love the snow. We engage in a lot of fun winter sports even if it is just watching the dogs leap about in it. But when it is too cold to entertain the thought of going out the snow seems wasted. Magique, Mardi and I have been making up for lost time now that the days are in the 40's for a while. I want to do more snowshoeing with the next snow and more seasonal temps. But for now I am really liking the January thaw. And it can go on for the rest of January since it was so late this year, and so insanely cold before it arrived.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

If this is January it must be Montana

I have often joked that we only do practice winter in New Mexico mountains. I have a smug attitude because I lived in Denver for longer than seemed wise. And then thought it might be glamorous to spend a winter in Vail. The last winter I spend in Denver it started snowing the week before Halloween and we did not see our curbs or sidewalks until late in May.

My winter in Vail I put the chains on the Pinto upon my arrival in early November and left them on until my departure in late April. Let me mention I needed them on until I got to Leadville headed south when I fled.

Winter can become a bit of a marathon. And those that endure it begin to take  pride in survival. Talk in the bars are about gaining control just before you went off the pass, or how long it took you to dig out of the snow drift you didn't see in the white out. I have stories of being snowed in at Winter Park, of going over the pass with 200 avalanches reported behind me, and of skiing powder snow that was deeper than I am tall.

But this winter has not been fun even in New Mexico. Our average temps are 20 to 30 degrees lower than normal. That means that nights have been as low as -36. And for the first time I had to deal with frozen pipes. The flaps are freezing off the doggie doors and I am waiting until 10 or noon for the temperature to be 10 above to start the car. And for all that we have not gotten much snow lending proof to the old tale that it can be too cold to snow. We need the moisture but we are not getting it. We are becoming freeze dried.

We normally get a warming trend in January. What us locals call the January thaw. And we are today half through January and have hardly seen a day time temp over freezing. I have gone through a cord and half of firewood in a month. I do not want to see next month's heating bill. This is the type of weather I expect of Montana. Snow has been horizontal and not vertical and it doesn't melt - just wears out from blowing around.

I keep telling myself it has to warm up. I am beginning to doubt it, however. It does make ice cubes extraneous.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Week One/2013

Magique After Vole Under the Snow

I would like to say I jumped right into accomplishment of my lists - resolutions, to-do's, and dreams all gunge ho like my labradoodle after a Vole. But I cannot. Oh, the Holiday decorations got taken down and packed away. Even the boxes got carried one by one, through a foot of snow, out to the far storage shed. The space where it stood is now my yoga practice area and I gave it a test run once this week. I like to tell myself I sneak up on my resolutions.

Frankly, in my opinion, the first week of January is why most people fail with resolutions. And why there are twelve days of Christmas ending on Epiphany which is January 6. The first week of January has hideous weather, a refrigerator full of leftovers, and one holiday (New Year's Day). For us here in Black Lake it also has two weeks of trash (the tourists have hogged the dumpsters for at least two weeks), four holiday snow storms to be managed, and this year subzero nights in the twenties and thirties. Really believe hauling firewood through foot deep snow for all day and night fires is exercise enough.

Week two of January is a far better time to begin diet and exercise resolutions. And February a better time to work on finances assuming you handled Christmas debt in January. But I have made some steps toward my lofty and extensive lists this week. I got the trash hauled to the dumpsters, made a list daily and checked them off, lessened time on the computer except for photo processing, started doing shallow squats while waiting for microwave to warm coffee. Really this last is important. It is all to improve my adequate score on the sit on the floor and stand up test. Balance, and leg and core strength is critical as we get older.

And I have done some reorganizing of my interior space. But nobody has given me a used Ford Escort yet, I have not actively sought a tenant for my apartment (some part of me thinks I have rushed this in the past and settled for less than good), and I have not gotten too far away from the wood burning stove.

This week looks to be warmer with temps in the 40's during the day and in the plus at nights. Snow coming next Friday but it is January snow. Time to get off my butt and tackle implementation of some of those resolutions. I am giving myself until Ground Hog day to have them all integrated into my life style.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Brighter Day

I sat down last night, sung and warm in my house with my fur kids, to watch some old DVD's of favorite movies and to work on my New Year Affirmations. I began doing affirmations some years back when resolutions just seemed beyond me. I knew I was keeping none of them because of the dark cloud of the mechanics lien. The affirmations were all about keeping my spirits up and keeping on, keeping on against all odds.

The dark cloud is gone so the resolutions seem appropriate this year. As does an ambitious list of improvements I want to make on my house beginning with the cheapest because at the moment the rental unit does not have tenants and ergo no rental income. And since it is currently empty the first improvements are on the apartment. First project after cleaning is to tile the entry way with some stone tile I have saved for the project I was going to do five years ago. The list for my part of the house is longer, but includes a deck at last outside the studio this summer. But there are several cheap inside projects including several that were abandoned mid stream. It feels good to at last be off hold and able to invest in dreams for the future.

Which brings up the dream list. Things which have no connection with reality. But, then as a friend remarked,  why should they? Top of the dream list was a new-to-me SUV. I would like a used Ford Escape. But until that happens I am grateful the old Corolla keeps on running. So much needs to fall in place for that to happen - tenants, pick up in art sales, saving the down payment, no expensive crisis to eat that up . . . see why it is on the dream list. Maybe someone should just give me one.

So it was not much of a leap to add an archaeological dig in Egypt next winter. We only need peace in the Arab states. But when I posted that dream on Facebook I was shocked at the number of my friends that would love to spend time on a dig. And the wealth of alternatives to Egypt. We could always dig for dinosaurs in Utah! Probably needs to be summer instead of winter however. Fall I want to hike the Grand Canyon with my sister! Which means I have to keep all those resolutions about losing weight and getting into shape with a solid exercise routine - maybe that needs to be on the dream list. I have tried so long and so hard to lose just 20 pounds.

But maybe that is possible now. I feel so much lighter mentally. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope in my heart and a willingness to dream again at last. That was the Epiphany this week - that all dreams were again possible.

Dare to dream. Even the seemingly impossible dreams. You must first be able to visualize what you want. And so I will begin with the perfect renter that pays always on time, a decided up swing in art sales for my studio, more pet sitting jobs, eating less and exercising more. And working away on one of my todo list at a time while keeping faith with the dream list and every thing on it.

Did I mention new gallery representation in Taos, featured article in New Mexico Magazine, new 400 mm Nikon lens?