Sunday, June 30, 2013

Half Gone or Half to Go?

How does your garden grow?

It has been a interesting year weather and garden wise and life in general. I find it hard to believe this is the last day of June. And not so long ago I was wishing winter would be over. Well, in all honesty it was over very late. A friend of mine said winter was bi-polar. So was spring. And June has been too. We had a killing frost on June 23rd. The temperature dropped to 23 and stayed there more than three hours. Even the hoses were frozen. It is the latest freeze I can remember.

So naturally I was happy to have my poly tunnel but I had stopped double tunneling a couple weeks before. So I lost eggplant and peppers and even freeze burned some of the outer branches of the tomatoes which were under a double layer of plastic and with a light on to keep them warm.

And the dry winter combined with a dry spring and we are now in a very serious drought. One which forecasters seem to think will persist even after the monsoon season. We are just beginning to get widely scattered rains - and hail storms. Nothing seems in moderation. The weather goes from one extreme to the other and within hours. But at least we are not getting triple digit heat waves here in the mountains.

Then there was Mardi Gras's liver problem. I thought she was just getting old and tired. After all this September she will be 14. Her vet suggested a blood test because of her symptoms of disorientation and staggering. And it turned out she had liver issues. She is on Milk thistle and vitamin E and a low protein diet with none of the protein coming from beef. Think your dogs are naturally beef eaters? Sheep and chickens and goats and rodents more likely. So I am now making her dog food, because wasn't it China that shipped all the artificial protein to the US for pet and baby food? And that was poisonous?

So in 2013 I have come to distrust the weather and the pet food manufacturers and all politicians. But the latter is another blog all together.

Tomorrow begins the second half of 2013 and the jury is still out as to whether this yer will pass muster or not. I have thus far won a prize for photography and sold several. And I am back to painting and entering them in shows again. And still getting in. I have finished three of the nine I want to paint before July is over.

Gateway by J. Binford-Bell

It has been six months of changes. Some good and some bad. If I got my wish I would want the last six months of this year to be way better. How about you?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It Used to be Easy

I have gone a couple weeks without writing one of my regular that-was-the-week-that-was blogs. It has not been an ordinary couple of weeks. Or couple months for that matter. And this blog is not about the events of the last couple months because they are not my events to tell. But it is about some of the questions raised over that time.

My father used to tell this joke about there were only two things to worry about: Whether you lived or died. And if you lived there was nothing to worry about. And if you died there were only two things . . .

Simpler times. Lately everything seems much more complex. Living is very difficult and expensive especially for those with chronic illnesses or in a relationship or friends of someone with a chronic illness. The American way of dying (or not dying) is very hard and stressful on everyone. And dying is very, very, very expensive and also very complex. Especially if you want to die at home. I once believed hospice was the answer. NOT. Nor is a simple cremation all that simple or cheap anymore. With fewer people dying the funeral homes are making less money so now they are charging for everything including but not limited to the utilities for their offices. They have taken a tip from the hospitals and bar code even the Kleenex boxes.

I think the answer is a long walk into the national forest with no return. Like, we are told, the first Americans (be they white or Indian or French) did. But there are even laws against that. Once in the wild west you could bury your loved ones on your property. That is not true anymore without a lengthy process of obtaining a cemetery permit which requires you have already become a ranch. You can even get fined and thrown in jail if you bury your cat on your land. Nobody tells about the cats and dogs.

Do not want to die? Probably not an option but lots of people delay it with all the new miracle cures for cancer. Let's skip rapidly over that insane cost. You think your generic insurance policy will cover it?  NOT. There are special insurance policies just for Chemo. And you need the deductible in cash before the first of the many diagnostic tests they will run before you begin Chemo. PET scan is about $5000. Oh, and you need to pay for funeral home services in advance: $2300 for no frills cremation.

And if you choose to go that route be prepared to have the balance of your life be about just not dying. And all your friends will be doctors and nurses whose time you pay for.

But it is not just death or not dying that has become complex. Life isn't easy. Try getting a mortgage these days. Think the information age has made that easier? NOT. Or lower interest rates make it cheaper. NOT. Banks have found tons of things you have to pay for up front. And the loan origination fee is to cover everything they will ask you to do or provide.

And then there are all those laws against drunk drivers. DWI's are so much fun in New Mexico. Our town drunk has 17 or more of them. He shouldn't be driving. Think you can figure out a way to keep him from driving? Nobody has yet when he is out of jail. The problem is so rampant here in our state some of the courts have gone to the Vehicle Ignition Interlock that requires the driver breathe into the system and register no alcohol to start the car. A woman was recently arrested for blowing into the device from the passenger seat so her drunk (and numerous offender) could drive her home. All this is infinitely harder if you live with the man and he is abusive when drunk. No longer feel safe on the highways? That is just drinkers. There are cancer patients on chemo and morphine, post op patients on pain meds, the little old lady driving under the influence of Ambien.

No, I am not dying. I cannot afford to. This whole line of thinking came up because my friend asked me why I worried about all the poisons the Chinese now put in our food or the radiation being measured in seafood (remember the healthy stuff we are suppose to eat) due to the radiation from the Japanese nuclear plant. And my comic quip was if I ate all that stuff I would either have the radiation treatments before the cancer or be embalmed already when I reach the funeral home provided I can pay for the transport.

Modern life was suppose to make everything easier. NOT. But dying is not the way out either.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Just Because You Have Not Been There

Mount Taylor by Dave Arnold

I lived and went to school in Albuquerque during the 1960's when the power brokers were beginning their destruction of the west with the building of the Glen Canyon Dam. They argued that very few people went there and ergo who would miss it. And the greater good was to provide energy for the area and prevent the flooding of the Colorado River and build a great recreational reservoir. The fight to stop the Glen Canyon Dam and a proposed other three dams along the Grand Canyon was spear headed by Ansel Adams andand the newly formed Sierra Club.

We did not stop Lake Powell, we personally get no power from it, and the Colorado never flooded below that point because the Grand Canyon did that naturally. But the environmental movement did stop the other dams proposed. Though I have heard rumblings on the net that the proposal is getting active again.

This is so wrong and so is the proposed largest US Uranium mine on Mt. Taylor. Thousands of people daily in Albuquerque watch the sun set behind this 11,000 foot peak which includes sacred lands for several First Americans. However, you hear the argument that nobody cares about the back side. I have seen the backside. My sister has off roaded on the back side. And it can be argued that the west central area of the state looks at dawn from its backside.

My sister took me to the San Mateo area behind Mt. Taylor in 2011. It is an area open to mining for coal and uranium even though much of it is government land. There are also huge ranches in the area and a sparse population.  It was formed by the same volcanic activity that made Mt. Taylor and is mineral rich. And it is beautiful! That seems to get lost in this whole argument about Canada and Japan needing our uranium. I cannot post pictures of the forests on the back of Mt. Taylor but I urge everyone that can to do so. Please link in a comment to this blog.

I can however personally post my photos of the mysterious and beautiful San Mateo landscape.

Goblins by J. Binford-Bell

Red formations by J. Binford-Bell

Sandstone cliffs by J. Binford-Bell
 This area held by the BLM is used for camping, hunting, grazing of cattle and protection of wildlife in the area. And abused only by photographers and geologists looking for mining areas. We obviously want to open new uranium mines even though we have not cleaned up the mess from the old ones mostly closed in 1990 and we still have not a clue what to do with spent uranium fuel rods, etc. It is relatively safe hidden in the earth so let's destroy the earth and dig it up.

Stock pond by J. Binford-Bell

Vista of the valley from one of the cliff walks

Another poly-chrome cliff by J. Binford-Bell

My sister recording the beauty of the area

And it was so quiet the day were were there in October. It was the New Mexico of my youth when you could hear the ants crawl if you listened. And the sky was such a vivid clean blue. Mining roads up and down through here to the biggest uranium mine in the world just across the valley would ruin that. And leave a patina of dust all over the beautiful rocks, choking the life out of vegetation that struggles with the arid environment.

Just because you have not been there do not let them destroy it. Or contaminate the aquifer for all the residents in the area and anywhere on the aquifer. The closed uranium mine near Milan just a few miles south is already doing that. And the uranium is not even for us.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Post Creative Let Down

Gateway by J. Binford-Bell

Creating a painting, I realized today when I at last finished my latest, is exhausting. And exhilarating. You want to shout, "I did that?" when a plan comes together and a painting achieves a marriage with the image you have carried around in your head. And then there is this huge let down not unlike drug withdrawal. Specifically withdrawal from speed.

Photography does not do this. It is so immediate in comparison and is not the manifestation of an internalized image but an image you internalize. Nor does painting in a formula manner. Yes, you may sit down to do your 14th church painting for a fair or a retail order and something surprising happens.

But to conceive of an idea for a painting. Refine it in your head over a number of days or weeks. Then finally commit the idea to paper and pencil, and at last to canvas. Only to go over the colors again and again in your mind before putting paint to canvas. That is a horse of a very different color. And not every painting an artist does is that sort of creative birth. But is is those paintings an artist wants to create.

Since I gave up painting for three to four art fairs a year and decided to stay home in my studio and paint for exhibitions and myself I find I am painting less but enjoying more of those wonderful creative births. But they do leave you rather drained and wondering if you can do it again.

I want to do six more paintings within the next two months. I want to do them for exhibits I wish to enter and to establish a base of more recent works. I did not paint for a while after leaving the fair circuit. It seemed there were enough paintings on the walls of my studio and I really didn't feel I had any more new ideas to generate. And I focused my energies on photography. But the muse is back. She was back in 2012. I am proud of the paintings I have done. I looked around the studio this morning and counted the works I would feel honored to have in a solo gallery show and was pleased. But an artist with her own studio needs enough depth to not empty the walls or pull work from other places or go back too far into the archives. Six more would be a good buffer. Which may be why Georgia O'Keeffe had 1000 paintings in her studio at the time of her death.

Gateway in the Binford-Bell Studio and Gallery

I am very happy to have this one completed today. Tomorrow I begin the sketch for the next one.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Never Promised You Flowers

Bristle Cone Pine with open cone

The drought has sort of killed spring. Greening up of grass and the blooming of wild flowers is WAY behind schedule. But yesterday in the Val Vidal I saw signs of hope. Or a desperate attempt to reproduce before the plant expires to the drought.

Standing Brave

While the flowers were a sign of hope they were also sad because of their reduced numbers and what if there is no rain will be a failed attempt to reproduce. There were flowers but also an alarming absence of bees and butterflies.

Nor were the flower sin lush green meadows but surrounded by dry and brittle grass that crunched when you walked on it. There is a trout pond behind these flowers but the water is so low that when I got down to photograph the flowers the water did not show.

I got this one photo with just a hint of water by going up a hill and then lying in a depression, like my friend Jessica below.

So both photographers and flowers are going to extreme lengths to pretend it is spring. It is not. It is a death knell. And a warning we may be too late in reversing the effects of climate change.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

Reflections on Life
by J. Binford-Bell

Last year was not an easy one. There were the usual struggles in life which lately seem to be economic and physical. Getting older on a fixed income isn't for sissies. But the big hurtle last year ways my age. A very small number of people in my family have made it past 67. Okay, I am just one day past that number but still it is past.

Mother and Dad both died when they were 67 (three years apart) from health issues. Somehow you get to overlook tornadoes that took my paternal grandmother at an early age. I was somewhat gratified to find out I am not the only person to obsess over getting through the age in which a parent died. But I figured I had a double whammy since both parents died at my age. And there were times I really was not trying that hard to make it to 68.

It was a tough year financially. Couldn't get or keep or get rid of tenants depending on where I was in that cycle of advertise, rent, evict and repair. My preoccupation with making the mortgage payment made it hard to allow my creative muse entry into my soul.

I won a few photography contests and sold a few prints but painting seemed beyond my ability or at least my soul. I didn't recommit my spirit to paint on canvas until just recently. Even have entered in a few shows. But it is hard to commit to memberships, subscriptions, diets, exercise plans, finishing the great American novel, or beginning that book of images and poems when you do not see continuing to 68. Hell, I didn't even see the need to get my free Medicare Wellness check up but I did get a tetanus shot after I survived the fall while gardening.

Mardi Gras, my aging standard poodle, and her health issues didn't help much. Nor did the bipolar winter. And let's face it, the totally imaginary spring. I probably read too much John Steinbeck in my youth because I was even linking my life to the drought. Maybe if I expired on some huge rock in the landscape it would rain, my chronically ill neighbor would at last die and free his wife, Mardi Gras would be young again, my ex-husband would stop tugging on my foot from the grave, and my paintings would be in great demand because I was the late and great undiscovered artist.

So it was a dark year. But then what highly creative person with a wild imagination doesn't have dark times. It can even be viewed as grist for the creative mill. I made it to 68. Happy Birthday to me.