Friday, May 31, 2013

Satori - Part II of on the Road to Raton

Distant Promise by J. Binford-Bell

Supposedly for a good black and white landscape you need a noisy sky. I feel as if my life this winter and spring has been a noisy sky. So much going on around me. Some things I have written about like the tenant situation and some not. Some things I have actually not been aware of myself. It is like not noticing the clouds until a dark one shuts out the sun. And some nagging little things I ignore because to acknowledge them might give them power. Denial is a God given survival skill after all.

The bad tenants and the things I had to do in order to rent the apartment to get a good tenant of course caused financial issues. And it takes a while to catch up once you get behind. And that of course causes stress.

And then some years back I committed support to my neighbor when her husband was diagnosed with a fatal cancer. At the time I made that commitment she and I figured months. It has been years. Not all of them critical. But since Good Friday his health has taken a downward spiral and his post traumatic stress has made him very difficult to live with and he refuses to believe he is dying so she cannot get hospice help. Caregivers sometimes die of the stress they are under. Sometimes they die before the person receiving care. I am not sure what the stats are for people caring for the caregivers but suffice it to say it ups the stress.

I carry my stress in my neck and shoulders. Not good since the CBT and neck injury. And I have a high pain threshold so I get along entirely too long with denial. To distract myself from recognizing the pain I eat. Standing before the mirror Wednesday after my bath and before taking off to Raton it hit me how much I have been eating. And in the early part of my Road to Raton meditation I put it all together. In Raton I bought more of my favorite and most effective over the counter pain reliever and began taking the minimum dose. And away went my nagging hunger. Movement is easier and the thought of exercise now seems less like torture.

Less pain and less stress. If I can get back into yoga it will mean all the less stress. Hopefully the noisy skies in my life will follow suit and quiet down.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Satori on the Road to Raton

Hope of Rain by J. Binford-Bell

Yesterday was another trip to Raton. Another two hours each direction to search the barren landscape for buffalo or antelope or signs of rain. Another opportunity to Zen Out as I like to call it. I have always been a chop wood, carry water sort of mediator, and trapping me in a car with the cell phone off is almost like taking a retreat weekend on the fly. And yet I so resist this repeat journey. I have the road signs memorized even. And the effect of the drought on the land has been painful to see.

And yet drought comes and goes especially in the high desert. It is difficult to remember that with the extremes in weather we are now seeing. There is more and more proof of climate change. This drought might not end. And yet the trees think so. Their roots deep in the aquifer they have leafed out yet again. Their fresh and hopeful green a stark contrast to the dried grasses and barren soil. Toward the mountains on the north side of the highway there were building clouds and wisps of evaporating rain. And to the south there were dust devils blowing the parched soils as if they were powdered sugar.

The barren wastes without a taste of water
J. Binford-Bell

And yet the windmills were working to quench the thirst of the livestock and wildlife looking for the springs of green.

Windmill on the plains
J. Binford-Bell

The winds were horrific and all the livestock hunkered down. Only here and there was an antelope on the highway side of the fence looking for the grass that had not been eaten to the bare earth. And yet just a few miles down the road there was standing water in some of the creek beds and dry arroyos and previously empty stock tanks. Some of the dry thunder heads had produced brief but fierce down pours and the grass had responded with the first hints of green.

I found myself taking hope from the land we once so abused with overgrazing. Maybe, just maybe, it ultimately will not matter how much water we waste or how much we ignore the evidence or the history we can read on electronic tablets.

Maybe eventually I will even learn from my repeated mistakes I make. Just maybe I will heed all the lessons I have ignored; Recognize the similarities when another person like one in my past shows up again. It is a journey we continue over lifetimes. And sometimes it seems entirely too much the same. But it is the subtle variances we need to see or we will pass this way again.

Yesterday's journey made just the smallest of shifts in my attitude. From the trees I took hope. The glass is half full. And it will rain again. And there will be another difficult confrontation no doubt. But it only adds to my strength.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How does my garden grow


This is my first year to plant bokchoy. I love the stuff. I eat it raw like other friends eat celery. And I use it in stir fry and salads. It always seemed to exotic to plant but when I saw the heritage seeds at my favorite garden supply I decided to give it a try and then promptly forgot I had.

Seriously. Yes, I have a journal where I have drawn my beds and penciled in what is planted where but do I bring it out for reference in my garden? No. My Garden Journal is an evening activity where I recall the temps and progress and latest modifications. I discovered the bokchoy yesterday when I cut back the chives to dry some.

I garden in raised beds placed under a poly tunnel. No rows just patches of future plants arranged sometimes by color. Literally. I am an artist you know. And I have planted carnival carrots and rainbow chard and red Romaine lettuce. It is extensive planting. Every available space taken up to discourage weeds. And so it fits under my poly tunnel. I garden at 8250 feet so most all plants have to be protected from late frosts, summer hail storms and just the normal cool nights.

A Canadian friend asked about my beds and I dug around to a picture of this spring before the plastic went over the PVC ribs of my tunnel.

Raised beds and containers before inner tunnel ribs

Bare bones of the double tunnel

I spent a lot of time this year jockeying around my containers. My squash and tomatoes get planted in containers. The above arrangement was not the final one. I deleted the square ones on top of the 4 x 4 beds and moved the near end container to the opposite end. I had just read on line that plants which bear fruit have to have the most sun and the far end gets that with the plastic raised.

Polytunnel, plastic raised, showing tomato tepee

Tomatoes with blossoms before the end of May
Tomatoes are one of the plants I could not grow before the polytunnel. And this year I planted ones raised from seed in my studio outside in the tepee on May 15th. Noted that in my garden journal. There is now a drop light in the tepee to keep them warm nights. Last night was 27F. One tunnel raises the temp 4 degrees and two 8 degrees.

 The strawberries are just under the large tunnel and they took a frost hit. You notice the brown on some of the leaves? It has taken them a while to spring back but I was rewarded with a blossom and new leaves yesterday.

Rainbow Swiss Chard in Carnival beet bed
Low center raised bed in previous picture of uncovered beds

Red Romaine
Almost ready to be thinned for baby lettuce salads

This year I started some plants like the Swiss Chard inside my studio. The first of May I planted seeds in the raised beds giving me plantings at various levels for harvest. I want to get more seeds for beets, carrots and bokchoy to do a mid summer sowing in harvested spots to carry me into late fall with greens to eat.

What amazes me about the poly tunnel system is how it extends my season for gardening. I once never even planted cold weather crop seeds until mid May. I planted seeds this year May 1st and put out seedlings from the studio on the 15th of May. So the really good news for me is it is not June yet and my garden grows.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Reflections on a Misspent Youth

The joke I used to tell was that when I entered college I was 80 and when I left about 20. I was Miss Goody Twoshoes during high school because my mother was sick, my father not coping that well, and I had a little sister to look after.

Mother, in her infinite wisdom made me turn down a math scholarship to an "away" college and enrolled me in UNM because she didn't think I was adult enough. At which time fate stepped in and promoted my father to a job in Denver. His joke was they could not get me to run away from home so they ran away from me. It was the wild and crazy '60's and after a very strict upbringing I turned pirate. I had three rules that stood me well: 1) do not get pregnant, 2) get your bachelor's and not your MRS degree, and 3) do not get arrested. The last may have been just luck but I worked hard on the other two.

If the 60's were insane the 70's were even wilder. I had the bachelor's degree, the pill and the number one status symbol of my age -- the FBI file. My resume, without careful editing, by the time I entered my red neck period (1981) qualified me for only one thing , authoring a tell all book. Whoever came up with the t-shirt - Been there, done that - obviously knew me or traveled a similar path.

So last night exchanging memories with one of those friends who shared parts of the decade of the 1970's I had no regrets but somehow see did. Wasn't she with me in the VW mirco bus crossing to California with 9 kids, two dogs, a goat and not enough money? Or when we dumped everything but the VW at her parents in San Fernando Valley and took off to visit a beautiful and sexy friend in Hollywood.

So why does she now have to hang with an alcoholic with a Harley Davidson? But it was Jan that did the Harley's with me. And only me that did the alcoholics. You think, however, she would have gotten some wisdom from watching me make those mistakes. Not that I really list any of my adventures in my youth as mistakes but they definitely shorten up the bucket list. A changing world with video on every cell phone would have deleted a few things I already checked off.

I felt like a mother when I sent my friend off this morning on a hog driven by a man already sipping from his flask to the Red River Memorial Day Run now infested with biker gangs and not just Vietnam vets. Surely she knows what to avoid but then after our wild and crazy hippie days she (and the new dude) are Rush Limbaugh fans and registered Republicans.

I meanwhile am contented doing some gardening and later a bit of painting. The dogs and I walked through the fog this morning on land a long way from the noisy stream of bikers. I am too old do repeat my youth and do not want to anyway. Been there, done that, and have the mental bullet holes to prove it. I got lucky.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Keeping a Weather Eye on the Horizon

Will it rain?

It has been a busy week but one rather without focus, and so when I paused this morning to contemplate my weekly blog I had to revert to an old trick which was to look back at the week past photographs.  They remind me of where I was and what I was doing. I was definitely watching the weather.

No, this blog is not about clouds as last week. It is more about watchfulness or expectancy -- will it rain? Will it freeze? How well will the polytunnel do this spring? When should I plant the tomatoes outside? My attention was divided between a friend's health, new fronds on the Sego Palm, waiting for acceptances on exhibits, Mardi's adaptation to new diet, what to do about the destroyed garden shed, whether to build a new one. The list is long.

Tomatoes in tunnel tepee

Sego Palm's new fronds

Cleaning up mess of exploded garden shed

All my friends think I do so much but I have to admit to just staring at things this week. Yes, I got the drip irrigation in the tunnel functioning nicely I believe but it was a lot of turn on the water, stand and stare at what is getting wet, turn off water, add and subtract elements, stand and think, go turn on water and then all again.

And I stared a lot at the ruined garden shed. I did get some stuff taken apart and moved to a place it could be collected easier to toss away. And I gathered up the boxes that had been in the shed. Interestingly enough they were in tact even though I found one of the shed doors in the stream two lots away. I have stared at the stuff that was in the shed and wondered where it will go. Seems happy where it is for the moment. But there must be a new shed in my future. Thinking of building one. The big shed with the mower is too far away. So I have stood and stared at my yard and tried to visualize a shed here or there.

Contents of shed

And there was standing and staring at clouds. Will it storm or not? Is it moving this direction? Is at least one of my friends getting rain? Do I dare go out and begin another out door project?


And while trapped inside from winds I have stared at the drawing I did to find the other frame I have. It is an adaptation of a painting I did almost six years ago; one that sold almost immediately. Oddly enough I was never quite satisfied with it. Made some changes to the drawing and now I am trying to imagine changes in the colors.

Mother would have called all this standing and staring just plain day dreaming. Dad would have considered it strategic planning but I rather like the pirate term of keeping a weather eye on the horizon.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Week in Review - Clouds Illusions

Awaiting the rain by J. Binford-Bell

To call forth the rain
you must first create 
the clouds.

J. Binford-Bell

Nothing may be quite as boring to a photographer as a clear blue sky. A clear sky shows no promise of a great dawn or spectacular sunset or flashes of lightning. So this week when we finally had clouds I left my house early with my camera and a mission to record them before the sun made them vanish. Or it rained. I was hoping for the rain. We are all hoping for the rain.

But to have rain you must first have clouds. The humidity level needs to get out of the single digits so any rain that falls from the clouds reaches the parched earth.

Rain in the distance by J. Binford-Bell

There is an expectancy about clouds and rain in the distance. And a sense of unreleased tension which is almost electric. Just rain. Really rain you want to scream. Give me lightning and thunder and the pounding of rain on the metal roof so I can sleep. It was that sort of week and I believe we all felt it. Like waiting for the sound of the other shoe to drop or the next squeak on the stairs.

Wheeler Peak in Shadow by J. Binford-Bell

The clouds seemed to roll around us; always raining just over there but not falling on your head. The big news became that you actually turned on the windshield wipers for a few brief moments. And you came to resent the people in the Midwest complaining (how dare they) of too much rain. If you don't want it just send it back. But we appeased our wounded desires with gratitude that we knew people that got rain. All night in San Fidel. Almost a half inch in Raton. There was green in the depressions on the plains between here and Raton. And we had clouds to photograph.

Clouds Illusions by J. Binford-Bell

Now rain so hard I cannot take my camera out.

Monday, May 6, 2013

More Revealed Truth on the Road to Raton

Teeth of Time by J. Binford-Bell

I drove to Raton again on May 1st and it was a dazzling spring day. But it was clearly evident, if by spring we mean the bursting forth of buds and flowers, that spring was very late. Delayed by cold or drought? Or are our definitions getting in the way?

Time as we mark it on calendars is arbitrary. There have been many changes in calendars that have governed our lives, and by the Mayan Calendar, some say, we should not be here. Spring or the lack there of and a recent experiences in Raton and Trinidad had gotten me thinking about definitions, and boundaries, and divisions.

I had just picked up my paintings from the New Mexico Women Artists Show in Raton. The Old Pass Gallery it seems wants to put the focus back on local artists. And that got me thinking of the definition of the adjective Local. How would you define it? One source says "Belonging or relating to a particular area or neighborhood, typically exclusively so . . ." This leaves you to define that particular area or neighborhood. Clearly the title New Mexico Women Artists Show defined that area as New Mexico. And yet there seemed to be an issue with the Santa Fe artist that had entered.

But not all shows are as clearly defined. I was urged to put my paintings in the Splash exhibit of the Trinidad Area Arts Council. But I and non-Taos artists are excluded from entering show in Taos which is 25 miles from me. It is in a different county but Trinidad is in a different state. Trinidad is 21 miles from Raton but artists there, who enter Old Pass Gallery shows constantly could not meet the criteria of New Mexico.

The employee at the Old Pass conjectured they meant Colfax County by local. And certainly not Kansas City or Ocate. I used to live in Kansas City but my major complaint was the assumption that I would be purged from their mailing list because my rural post office is in Mora county while I live in Colfax. And restricting it to Colfax County would eliminate their neighbor Trinidad.

I am probably looking most closely at this because of membership request I had just received through my Ocate address. The membership fees have gone up in the three years I have belonged to Raton Arts and Humanities Council. But they have added the bonus of having most of their entry fees halved if I am a member. But am I being asked to become a member of an organization that will excluded me from entering exhibits? Will I not get any of those 50% off bonuses as a member because I do not fit their criteria of Local? Can I or can't I enter the October Local Artist's Show?

I get that not every call for entries to a forthcoming exhibit is my cup of tea. And some exhibits do focus on certain subsets like Hispanic Folk Art or Women of New Mexico. But we are a nation it seems that is more and more set on erecting barriers than erasing them. In a global age where I have internet friends from around the world this seems counter productive.

And let us not forget it is a rough landscape for artists and galleries these days. Frankly I think any organization putting out a call for entries should be happy to consider any entries. And realistically not many artists enter shows they have to ship art to. That is just too prohibitive financially. But I do look at opportunities within a radius that I can drive to and from in a day. Shouldn't galleries and organizations be willing to consider my art too? And from an artist standpoint this networking raises the bar and my game as it were. It enriches the art in the exhibit too.

Realistically the season and the weather and the natural obstacles are more often a boundary for me. And the weather has certainly proved this year how arbitrary that can be.

Entering Cimarron Canyon

Oh, and budget. Available funds can be a major dividing line.