Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Look

Cliff Homes by J Binford-Bell

Took a look at my blog layout here and decided I needed a bit of a new look. Nothing like re-arranging the furniture to give you new perspective. And actually I was after a wider column for photos but then decided this blog is more about words and Creative Journey is more about pictures. But the lines do get blurred from time to time.

Or sidetracked as the title for this blog would suggest. I am one of those people easily led astray. Today it was the battery not working the mower. But not being able to move the mower caused a whole other set of issues because what I thought I would do once the mower was out of the parking space was put in my lumber rack. So I stared at the computer screen for a while and then played a game of Bejeweled Twist.

That led to the rearranging of the blog furniture as it were. And then to rearranging of things in my studio and then the arrangements I am working on for a memorial service. Nothing overly stressful mind you because I am tired from yesterday, and the day before.

I am not a napper. When fatigued I just pick a less stressful or physical task to work on. And as is my habit I rearrange the furniture in my mind at the same time. My house would look better if I would really rearrange it.

But I digress. Some of you are probably asking yourselves, "What new look?" Well the banner no longer is railroad tracks. And the background has changed. And it may change again.

Summer is almost over and I am in that space where I am uneasy about the approaching fall. I do not even want to think about winter.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nothing certain in life

The bathtub drain by J. Binford-Bell

It strikes me as I get older there are two paths through the minefield of life. One is to tiptoe carefully through it trying to follow the foot prints of someone who traversed it before you. And the other is to run full speed ahead while bobbing and weaving. Much of my youth I chose the latter method and survived only partly unscathed.

After my parents died I tended to take a more conservative approach. It was almost as if I had done the dare devil thing to get their attention and now I could play it safe. Let me mention right here safe did not work. And it is certainly not gratifying. I do not care what your financial adviser, life coach, minister, neighbor, friend or parent tell you there are just entirely too many variables to the future to have any control over it. So run for it. Or dance through it. Or happy hop. In the fable about the ant and the grasshopper the grasshopper had a far richer life.

I have a friend who is so sure that what he was eating was killing him he virtually eats nothing and now looks as if he is starving to death. I recently sat next to him at a dinner party and watched him just move food around his plate. But it made me think this last week of how I tiptoe through the dietary minefield media has thrust upon us. Breakfast was once bacon, eggs and toast. Now it is just eggs soft boiled. Want to guess when I was thinner? Could I be starving myself into obesity?

So with that epiphany I began to wonder if I was creating financial instability by trying to save every penny? Am I increasing my chances of falling and breaking something by walking too carefully over the earth? Am I insuring a boring future by taking no risks?

One of my younger friends died yesterday. There are no guarantees in life so while you can DANCE.

In memory of Catherine Calvert Strom
October 13, 1954 - July 25, 2013

You will be missed when I stop to take catch my breath.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Monkeys on the Road to Raton

Road to Raton in May

The last time I was out this way was May. Things looked dire for the high plains. I wrote a photographic blog at the time - Satori on the Road to Raton. I mention it because we have since gotten rain. And the only thing which saved me from my monkeys was the incredible green around me.

Returning from Raton in July
Neither picture is a photoshop trick. And in some places it was greener and the grass higher. What a difference a month or two can make. But I digress. The subject of this blog was to be my monkeys. I am never totally safe from my monkeys. They like to attack in the early hours of the morning when I cannot get back to sleep or the moment I walk into a crowded room or alone in a car with too many miles of windshield time.

They can lead to that awful hamster wheel thinking about things you forgot, shouldn't have said, bills I didn't pay, people I must have pissed off or those just putting up with me, and my all time favorite - what made you think you were good enough to do that? Not good enough is a constant theme. It runs along with close the studio and get a job at MacDonalds or sell the house and move to a retirement home.

I eat for relief from the monkeys so in Raton I went to Sonic and had the Super Sonic Cheeseburger with the tater tots no less. I promised myself a smoothie for dinner as a mea culpa for my moment of weakness but instead had a chicken wrap. Course another monkey theme is that I am a pig and too fat. Some of my monkeys get their lines from my mother. I was too fat even when I weighed just 103. She also said I would never be happy as an artist (look at Van Gogh who cut off his ear).

But cannot blame Mom for it all. I give my monkeys freedom to hack my main frame and insert malware. Am I suffering from a mental disorder or taking one too many kelp pills? Or just tired?

Data opposing the monkeys yesterday is abundant. I got all five pieces in the "Give us your best" show at the Old Pass Gallery in Raton. I received an invitation to enter work in the International show. I asked when the jury process would begin and was told because I was a professional there wasn't. I am being considered for a one woman show next summer at another gallery. And I just sold three of my photographs.

So shut up monkeys and go away. The rains came and made the plains green again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

That Was The Week That Was Once More

So many steps
Sometimes life gets repetitive but that was definitely not the case with this last week. Though at times like the ladders and steps up to Alcove house at Bandeleir National Monument it did seem a little overwhelming. Just take it one step at a time. But still there are some times when you are half way up you do not see where you are going to get the energy for even turning around and going back down.

However, it was a very fun and busy week with lots of interesting experiences and photographic opportunities.

At Old Taos Guesthouse

I met new people, had fun with old friends and got out of Dodge more than once. I have taken enough photographs to fill the next couple months of the 365 Day Photography Challenge on Binford-Bell Studio. But have overwhelmed myself with post processing to do.

Like the steps you just take it one photo at a time. Easier to skip photos than steps, however. But I got lucky with the steps - Alcove house was closed for repairs. Darn!

With all my out of the house tasks and running round with my camera I admit to not getting much done in the house cleaning department so I know what this week looks like. Oh, and studio time. I have that painting to do and got stretcher bars to stretch one photograph and paint another painting. Bit behind on my seven before the end of August. And tomorrow I have to run five paintings to Old Pass Gallery in Raton.

New Mexico has been getting rain so no doubt there will also be some mowing of the lawn in my immediate future. Just take it one task at a time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Sad Tale of the Smoke Alarm

Your friend the smoke alarm

I am not sure why but this image reminds me of Your Friend the Atom propaganda of my youth. I was skeptical of the atom being my friend too. And this morning I know the smoke alarm isn't my friend. I pulled some muscles or pinched some nerves in my back trying to kill my smoke alarm.

The National Fire Protection Association is in charge of smoke alarms. It was formed in 1896 by a group of insurance firms. I bet you thought they had your life in mind. NO. Just property loss. And they have their say in all building codes. They are the ones that mandate smoke alarms be installed. They may work well in standard housing but they are just plain stupid in vaulted ceilings and great rooms that go up two stories or more.  And so begins the tale of my smoke alarm in the studio.

My studio has a vaulted ceiling that at its peak is 15 feet above the floor. The building code says the smoke alarm has to be within a foot of the highest point of the ceiling. It has to be hard wired and with a battery backup. Models available do not recharge themselves so the battery has to be changed out yearly and supposedly tested by pushing the test button on a frequent basis. Not really possible with that tall a ceiling.

Now per code I really do not need a smoke alarm in the studio but my original plans had included the possibility of conversion to a bedroom and bedrooms do need smoke alarms. So the building inspector required one be put in per code.

Ever note that smoke alarms always start chirping with a low battery at dawn or earlier? My studio smokey is no different. And my dogs and cats hate that sound. Magique thinks if she climbs up on top of me in the bed she will be safe. She weighs 50 pounds. It was pouring rain so shutting her out of the house was not an option. Nor was retrieving the ladder  - one of those lil Gems that is anything but light and little and stored outside - to replace the battery. And as luck would have it there had to be the moving of a lot of art and art furniture before this could even be plotted.

I had wired my own studio with the help of my ex-husband who had an electrical contracting firm so I thought I knew which circuit we had put it on. I did remember Marc's advice that as soon as I had passed inspection to remove it. I began turning off every single circuit in the studio breaker box placed conveniently behind a painting. But the battery back up is so they smokey continues to produce ear splitting noise even with no power. But it was chirping because it needed a new battery so how long could it chirp?

It was still chirping when it got to an hour where I could reasonable deposit my dogs with my neighbor and escape to get breakfast out. And it was still chirping when we got back at one in the afternoon. Fur kids would not get further away than 6 inches from my feet which made moving paintings and furniture and ladders very difficult. My neighbor came over to help with the Lil Gem. They are two man ladders if used in the extended configuration. I got down the offending instrument from hell and removed the battery.

And it still chirped. My nerves were shot and I was all for stomping it to death. It brought back memories of Bride of Chuckie and every Halloween or Elm Street movie I had every watched. I briefly considered sending a treatment idea to a movie company of The Smoke Alarm that Killed Chicago. Note the 1896 fire regs are in part because of the great Chicago Fire.

Trust me the smoke alarm is not going back up. It is currently far out in the yard hidden under a five gallon bucket and as far as I know still chirping. I do plan to get a illegal in new construction battery smoke alarm that can be put where it can be reached and far enough away from the kitchen that it does not react to fish. Smoke alarms do not like fish.

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Week in Review

Steve Oliver by Janet Oliver

My neighbor and husband of my best friend died the 10th of July. Eight and a half years ago he was diagnosed with a deadly cancer caused by Agent Orange. It is currently taking out a huge number of our Vietnam Veterans and not in a gentle way.

Steven Ryan Oliver would have been 68 this August. And like his service in Vietnam as a Marine, he beat some long odds to make it this far. May he rest in peace.

My experience with having him and my friend as neighbors was eye opening about the American way of death and dying. If you do not have an extended family being a care taker for someone with cancer might just kill you. The statistics are against you.

I long ago dedicated myself to helping Janet through this ordeal. And she has had to totally put her own life on hold because of the care and attention he required. Even at those times when he seemed to be functioning well to the community. Until you have been there you have no idea.

On Good Friday this year Steve entered the Holy Cross hospital in Taos, and Jan and I got our first peek at how totally difficult it was going to be just to migrate through the Veterans Care obstacle course. It was Steve's wish to die at home but under Veteran's care, and where home was, it was clear quickly that would be near impossible. Unlike some veterans, Steve, was able to get total disability and health benefits. Many veterans are still waiting for that and one of our mutual friends died waiting. But with the money and care our government rightly owes them are requirements the veteran die is a certain way or place. Unattended at home not an easy option.

I have a lot of friends of my age dealing with a critically ill spouse or loved one. My advice is find help early. Hospitals make some things easier and some things a great deal more difficult. Do not expect yourself to have the funeral planned immediately. Or even where the body goes. Allow yourself at least a week of sleep to make up for that lost sitting beside the bed. Know that it is not just doctor's and nurses's questions you will have to answer, but the business manager of the hospital, the billing department, the insurance representative, the social worker assigned your case, etc.

And the next time you run into a friend with a critically ill parent or spouse or family member ask first how your friend is doing.  Ask if he or she has time for coffee or lunch. A bit of normalcy in a world that seems to have gone crazy.

It's Complicated

Pick-Up Sticks the game

Life has gotten very, very complicated. And obviously everyone thinks it is very, very simple. Just change it.

Far easier said than done. We had an open range law in New Mexico at one time. And some legislature decided we were too populated for that and so they amended the law. We now only have open ranges on Bureau of Land Management holdings, Indian Land, and forest service property. Good luck with figuring out which of those you are on because they are not fenced necessarily. But to make matters worse when the welling meaning lawmakers decided to change the law they forgot one of the little parts of the law about it being the landowners responsibility to fence out the cattle. Get that? Not the cattle owner's responsibility to fence them in.

Several following court cases that made it to state supreme court decided that fencing the cattle out only applied to immediate neighbors. So if the cattle got out of the owner's property and wandered merrily down the county or state or forest road to a more distant neighbor's roses then they were in violation of the closed range law and the owner of the roses was entitled to damages and could hold the cattle hostage and charge a grazing fee. Which makes that neighbor more equal than the immediate neighbor who cannot even get the owner of the offending cattle to fix the damaged fence.

All of this is just a small example of how complex our laws get. Rather like the game of pick up sticks I posted at the top of this page. When I played the game the sticks were not striped. You could see where the solid blue one ran under the solid yellow and over the top of the solid orange. Goal of the game is to remove a stick at a time. I was surprised they still made them. And even more surprised they had striped them.

But it is a perfect example of how complex are laws and issues have become. And changing one little thing can upset the whole pile. Yes, I am usually liberal. No, I do not want my right to defend myself from what I see as a threat taken away. Yes, I do not support assault weapons. No, I refuse to have my right to carry a gun infringed upon. Yes, I am for wild horses. No, I do not think they have the right to graze areas in a severe drought and ruin it for grazing forever (note wild horses are transplants from Spain). Yes, I am for re-introduction of wolves. No, I do not believe they should be restored to historic levels because there is no longer historic herds of their natural prey about. Yes, I think it is wrong a 17 year old died. No, I do not think he was innocent either. Yes, I am for a path to citizenship. No, I do not think we should make that path available for felons (and those that entered illegally are guilty of felonies).

Oh, and on the messed up closed range law? I think the owner of said maverick cow is libel for any and all damages even the immediate neighbor and he should be required to fence his livestock in. Now that in the wild west (if the wolf statement didn't) should get me fearing for my life. So think, as you protest the verdict that if you changed the laws so there was one Zimmerman was guilty of, what freedoms you now enjoy would you be giving up?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It takes a village

I used to do a regular Monday Morning Chat Over Coffee blog. The purpose was to replace having coffee physically with friends. It seemed many of my friends, especially in the summer, get too busy for coffee and all the coffee places get too busy with tourists. And then I got too busy for the blogs.

But coffee chats are an important part of community. It is where we catch up with the back story of our lives and it is where we gossip. Social anthropologists are now telling us that gossip serves an important bonding ritual and is beneficial to the community if not viscous or mean spirited. And who knows what is a glue in the fabric of a society

Chats over coffee are also where we re-establish our bonds by what we tell of ourselves and our friends, and what secrets we keep or do not keep. In rural communities chats over coffee are often replaced by what  I have come to call windshield time when you get together to do the weekly shopping in the next town over or run to Santa Fe for that special day away. Often a whole month of chit chat and gossip gets condensed into two hour drive or a day with the cameras or the shopping list.

I seem to have strayed off subject but not really. Up here in the highlands we think of ourselves as independent loners. We do from time to time call on friends to swap out some chore assistance or trade veggies from the garden but basically we feel very self-sufficient. But just recently I came across a circumstance where it seemed a large extended family or collective of friends or even a church fellowship would be of benefit. A collective you could call upon for help especially if your attendance had been religious. Frankly, I do not know anyone I want to see every Sunday, but then I am an air force brat.

See there it is. That tendency to label ourselves as belonging to a group or subgroup regardless of how loose or in the past that affiliation is now. And maybe it is because some genetic link within us knows we need help raising kids or stringing fence or bringing in the harvest or rounding up the cows or digging the grave. Or just someone to lend a shoulder so we can cry.

And yet our society today seems all about division. Rigid establishing of barriers we are not suppose to cross. Red and blue states, straight and gay, black and white, liberal and conservative. Those labels and many others like them do not tend to unify but divide because behind them is the unspoken I am right and you are wrong.

Sad. Very sad.

The Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River

Map of Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument

Took another photographic outing to the lower end of our newest national monument. There are other accesses to the beauty this monument holds but from where I live the lower end is the easiest to access. Many of the highway travelers to Taos are familiar with the scene below taken after the horseshoe turn. Turning north off of Hwy 68 on to 570 at Pillar gets you into the beautiful camping and day access areas of the monument.

Rio Grande Gorge in the Taos Volcanic Plateau
The Rio Grande River is very low because of the drought but my photographic partner and I were thrill to find the river a bit higher than our last trip due to recent rains.

 The gorge and canyon walls that enclose the Rio Grande in the monument area are primarily basalt. The Taos Volcanic plateau was formed by seven different lava flows. The remnant cones of the volcanos are throughout the park area. But between flows the run off created layers of sandstone and gravel. And along the river there are areas of soil and sand where vegetation has taken hold.

And because the flow of the river has been diminished due to the drought there are even some mid river islands forming. Fly fishing is one of the favorite activities in the river, as well as rafting. White water rafting this year has been in short supply.

Fly fishing in the Rio Grande

Study for future painting?

On the left of the above picture you can see a park road which is dotted with day use areas and camping grounds. And in the picture below you can see to the right one of the more popular trails that access some great hiking areas. As you go north beyond this point the canyon walls get taller and access to the top or from the top is more limited.

Looking North

Take out point for rafts
County line roadside overlook is actually below the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument but still on the Rio Grande. It is below the Rio Grande Visitor's Center and one of the popular pull out areas for rafting outfitters. It is within Bureau of Land Management control and very nicely managed.

A sign of the drought

The low water makes for more stones visible which was a great photo opportunity. The river polished rocks made for texture but when the water is high they make for white water. Hopefully the clouds will make for more rain.


High or low the Rio Grande Gorge makes for great photographs. And a great place to tune out from the rest of the world.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Some days!!!!

As Mary Chapin Carpenter said some days you are the windshield and some days you are the bug. Or there is John Denver and some days are diamonds and some days are stone. And Joan Baez and diamonds or rust. Or weeks when things have gone from one extreme to the other so fast it is impossible to know where exactly you are. And it is not until it is all over you get a moment to just stare and try to find your bearings.

By way of example I have been hauling water bucket by bucket to my poppies for a couple weeks now and they bloomed. And then it hailed. But I could not complain because when the hail melted it came to almost an inch of much needed moisture.

I finished up the painting I have been working on for the Saturday Meet the Artists Guild event and got lots of great compliments on it. But I have been unable to come up with a title or a new painting idea to replace it in my creative mind. Or another avoidance mechanism. But there is that goal of six new pieces by the end of August. Or really the middle of August to make deadlines for a couple shows I have considered entering. And another local business is displaying my art. I think I will pass on the August show and work on entries for the September exhibit.

In conclusion I quote William Shakespeare's opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Some days or weeks or months are just like that. Frankly I have been too busy to come up with a definitive explanation for my last week. It just is what it is.