Sunday, December 28, 2014

Another Step into Technology


I confess. I will be 70 this summer. And one of the greatest things happened to me 13 years ago Christmas eve. I was involved in a ski accident which compressed three discs in my neck and knocked me into my right brain - literally. Witnesses to the accident said I was hit hard enough by a speeding skier to fly into the air and land on my head.

The resultant closed brain trauma CBT or shaken baby head injury turned off my left brain control and let my right brain run completely free. It is why I paint, why I photo edit in such wild colors, and why I do not use manuals to learn technological devices. Hell, I confess, I cannot read manuals any more. Once when I was a technical writer I wrote them. I translated accountants to computer programmers and computer programmers to management. Boy, that wasn't easy.

Since the head injury I have adapted to digital cameras, digital post processing programs, laptops, tablets, and my latest, the ipod. And all without cracking a book. I divine them. If you look at technology as right brain tools to perform left brain tasks they are really simple. Especially since the advent of the mouse and drag and drop (or with tablets swipe and drop).

Meanwhile I seem to be surrounded with left brain friends that have to first download and print out the manuals some nerd wrote. I admit I have from time to time accessed briefly a manual but never downloaded it. It eliminates the search function. Okay, I downloaded my camera manuals to my tablet. But that does not eliminate the search function. The key here is the absolute worst aspect of any technical manual is the Index or table of contents. You are never going to find anything that way.

Today I complicated my Songbird (android ipod) with Amazon Music. But I knew on some totally alien level that the computer would put my music in a common file to be used by both programs. And it did. Back to drag and drop. So America, Seals and Croft, and the Eagles, automatically ripped by Amazon and put in the cloud for me, when I bought the CD's was downloaded today and then uploaded to my Songbird. I totally get clouds. I would not have bought the CD's but just the rips if it was not for Big Blue which does not have a radio with plug in for my Songbird or a USB port for a jump drive.

All of this has allowed me to tune into the songs of my youth before clouds were just those puffy things in the sky. And I think I can access my Amazon Music library in the cloud with my Amazon fire and tune in without downloading. I found the place the ear phones connect.

All of this is in answer to a friend who wants to know how I learned that? A younger sister has helped when I had questions but basically my right brain wanted it to be that easy and my cognitive trainer said, "Why not?"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

May You Live in Interesting Times

Or so goes the ancient Chinese curse. And if true I have been cursed the last couple of weeks because they have definitely been interesting. Frankly, while I will deny it, I think it is good to be knocked off balance a bit from time to time. The key is to not be standing on the edge of a precipice when that happens.

But perhaps I was flying too high or, even worse, too low. Definitely enjoying the moment with a nice commission for a new painting, finally getting something done on better medicare coverage, good set of pet clients lined up for December and January, and most annoyances out of town. Before the plane flames out there are usually a few coughs and sputters. And there were. The priority envelope for insurance went lost; quick recovery with faxes. Note: it is now week three and the envelope is still lost.  Took the Corolla in for front struts figuring half of the quote for both. Wrong. Of course. But oddly I had the money. Just do not get to spend it on a new stereo for the truck.

Commission was going good at that time. Few non-artists understand all the things that can go wrong with a commission wanted by Christmas. Then one of my canine charges killed my cat Scrappy. In the studio. Under the commissioned painting on the easel. The Lt. Col. taught me well. I went into clean up mode, assured myself the painting was okay. Took the canine charges back to their home. Put Scrappy in a bag and into a freezer. (ground will not thaw until May. Scrubbed the floor. Landed the plane, as it were, and broke down into hysterical tears.

Watching Ken Burns' documentary on the Roosevelt's and how they battled depression by doing. I think I fit into that model. And so I just kept doing. The painting still needed to be done. So do those various other pet sitting jobs. But solutions needed to be found out about the offending dog and its pack mate. Could not get hold of the owner. Only thing which makes a depression worse is being on wait. But there I was. Where Scrappy wasn't any more. Except every time I walked into the studio I could see his body there on the floor under the glorious mustang painting. Artists have vivid memories.

I have in fact been force marching myself out of this wilderness. One step at a time. One foot in front of another. Do what you can do and hide the rest. The painting is done, delivered and hung. The owner of the dogs has called and made it all about her. The killer has been put down, the innocent one is here, being watched most carefully by Willow and me. I am still breaking down in tears about Scrappy, and a couple other fur kids I know who crossed the rainbow bridge in a span of a few days. The Lt.Col. would have admonished me about the tears, but patted me on the back about how I handled it all.

Working on soaring again. In the back of my mind (maybe to keep it off of images that kept replaying) I have been working on an idea for a new painting. One of Ravens at a Wake. Solstice has passed and the days are getting longer. Not opposed to interesting times. They allow you opportunities for growth and proving your mettle, but routine has points in its favor.

Friday, December 19, 2014

It's Complicated

It's Complicated
A dog
killed a cat.

More complicated
Her dog killed
my cat.

My close friend's dog
my beloved cat
in my house.

Even more complicated,
a friendship which
had its issues 
before her dog
killed my cat.

She lied about the dog
before she left him
in my care
 in my house
Where brutally this morning
he killed my cat.

The case of murder
is more complicated, Judge,
than just the facts
There is betrayal, lies, evasion
the killer
still in my care.

Who is at fault
The dog I have known for ten
the owner I have known for forty
the cat being too trusting
or me for trusting them all.

It's complicated
I am less one cat
less a trusted friend
but still must
care for the dog
that killed
my cat.

Rest in Peace, Scrappy.
j. binford-bell
December 18, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Moving toward 2015

Eagle Nest Lodge
Blindly we move toward 2015, poised on the edge of another economic cliff, and being shoved over by a greedy tea party members.  I say blindly because corporate capitalistic America gets us involved in a feeding frenzy of materialism at this time of year when we should be paying attention to the thieves in DC. But being as I am unconcerned with materialism (well, there is a new laptop I am looking at), I was lured by a spring like day so I set forth with camera to record my neighborhood. Yes, escapism, but one can stand just so much of Scrooge (or Scrooges as in GOP Congress), besides I voted and it did no good, but my conscious is clear.

So cameras in Big Blue I motored to the thrift store in Eagle Nest, New Mexico and arrived too early for the favorite to be open but just in time for a great series of photos with awesome lighting. There are three major landmarks which I have photographed as a marker of my time this side of the mountain: Eagle Nest Lodge, Eagle Nest Lake, and Wheeler Peak.

Wheeler Peak

When I talk of life on this side of the mountain (as opposed to the Taos County side I once lived in) it is this mountain I am talking about. Well, Wheeler and Old Mike to the left. From Angel Fire you actually see Old Mike but we tell the tourists it is Wheeler. Just seems easier.

It is notable that for mid December there is precious little snow on the top of the mountain or even further down. It does not bode well for Eagle Nest lake at its base.

Eagle Nest Lake at 50% Capacity

How low the lake is probably best explained in the opening photograph. Note all the rings of grass and imagine the water covering all that grass to just the other side of the cottonwoods. In the photo above the water would come up to the first broken ring of conifers all around the lake. Color that blue.

For those greatly distressed by the low level of the lake let me assure you it has been lower. Or so the State Engineer explained on a recent dam tour. Mind you I am opposed to dams in general but this is one dam that is being used for the reason it was built - to preserve water for irrigation of ranches down stream. But if you left it to the visitors and citizens of Eagle Nest they would want to keep it all. But the Cimarron River downstream is a viable fishery which also requires water. Fish need to swim. And the town of Raton gets I believe a large segment of its drinking water from the melted snow contained here. At the moment there is not enough melted snow.

Casa Loma and Eagle Nest Lodge

But when the lake is full no doubt the old Eagle Nest Lodge has a ringside seat. It was built in the late 1920's and is shrouded in legend as to its history, the fire(s) and its closing. Growing up in New Mexico I know of many tales of the "speak easy" days and the gangsters and free spirits who escaped here. Scheduled for demolition since the early 2000's I was surprised to find upon my last visit it has been sold.

The bulldozer is frequently under appreciated as a remodeling tool in New Mexico. And the lodge crumbles on some beautiful property. I had to get out with my camera and record what might well be its last days. And its view of the thirsty lake and the spring like mountains. I think there are ghosts too and wrote a short story about the lodge which appeared in a collection, Enchanted Circle Mysteries, available at the library in Angel Fire.

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and I sometimes wish we could just erect entry ports on all our major highways and require visas to visit here. I am not sure I am happy we are a part of the United States just about now.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Adventures in Rural Living

Cattails in the Snow

I live in Black Lake, New Mexico. It is five miles south of Angel Fire, 2 1/2 hours from Santa Fe, 45 minutes from Taos, and two hours from our county seat of Raton. And, most importantly at the moment, a 40 minute drive from my post office of record. Ocate Post Office is on the other side of the mountain, and in another county. It has no grocery store, no court house, no feed store, no WalMart, and no UPS store. In short the only reason to go to Ocate is to go to the post office.

When I first moved here,14 years ago, we had no mail service. Most of us of Twix, Tween and Beyond Black Lake rented a box at the Angel Fire Post Office. It did not come free because our post office of record (your US government at its best) was in Ocate. The Angel Fire Post Office then was not a government run post office but contract, and fees for boxes got expensive. After some lobby efforts we managed to get rural route delivery three days a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Doesn't seem fair since the Ocate Post Office was once in Black Lake I am told. Now Black Lake does not even have a zip code.

The above is important because I contacted an insurance agent in Raton about supplemental Medicare coverage. Deadline is the 7th of December. I am never quite sure where this information is published but I found out late. Then found out my local insurance broker does not handle health insurance. One in Raton (who used to be in Angel Fire) was recommended. A friend even provided me telephone numbers which were not correct because of the change in area codes. The 800 number was now 866 to make matters worse. Suffice it to say it took a while to make contact.

Once we hooked up on the telephone and email I offered to drive to Raton to complete the process, and she assured me we could handle this by phone, email, and post. She would just second day air me the papers to sign. This was Wednesday. Thanksgiving was Thursday. She called me Saturday to assure me the post office said the papers would be delivered on Tuesday.

No, they won't. I explained (once again) I did not get mail on Tuesday, and she suggested I could make an extra trip to get the papers in Ocate. It is winter. And while Pepe, our contract mail man makes it three days a week it is, in spite of all maps to the contrary, an unimproved rental car road. Maps call NM 120 to Ocate a highway. The earliest I will get the 2nd day priority mail from Raton sent Saturday is Wednesday. At two PM. That is important to know because mail departs the Angel Fire Post Office at 1:45. So the earliest I can return the signed documents to Raton is Thursday. And with the second day priority mail envelope she enclosed for return she might get them on Saturday - The Dead Line.

Or I can drive to Ocate on Tuesday (if it does not snow) after I find out their new limited hours. Then drive to Raton on Wednesday with the papers. That leaves Thursday to drive to Taos for the UPS office for another purpose unless I opt for the one in Trinidad, beyond Raton. I have gone to Google Maps to look for a short cut between Ocate and Raton which does not require a Humvee. My sister says I should just go straight to Raton on Tuesday (if by some miracle I do not get the envelope on Monday) and ask the agent to print out a second copy. This is the government we are dealing with. Medicare. Do they print second copies? And if so shouldn't I be able to print out that on my computer via the internet with some sort of access code?

I am now informed that UPS has a secret office in the hardware store in Raton. That would eliminate Taos and Trinidad. It would have been so much easier if I had just insisted on driving to Raton on this Monday. The weather is suppose to be nice and I would only have to reschedule the truck oil change.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Pet Peeves

Frozen Falls

Number one pet peeve! Asking me what I am going to do for Thanksgiving (number two would be Christmas). Nobody ever wants to know the answer. It is just a way to lead into a discussion of their grand plans.

So I guess we are on number three: Calling from Florida so express your sorrow (always sounds more like gloating) that it is snowing again where I live. BTW I like the snow. And I am allergic to Florida. My ideal vacation is Utah in May or September. And you will note I do not call you in the middle of a hurricane and gloat.

Number four: This may be down on the list but it is huge. Yelling to someone else when on the telephone with me. We used to put our hands over the mouth piece if we were going to cuss out the dog while on a phone conversation. We always knew what was said but we still had ear drums. Worse is whispering on the call to me because someone else is in the room on your end. Only excuse for this is "the place is being robbed, please call the cops."

Number five: Launching into a comment about the weather because I posted the absolutely most awesome and beautiful picture of a snow covered wood. This comes under the heading of "if you cannot say anything good . . ." etc. We all heard it from our mothers. What the photographer wants to hear is AWWW, how wonderful!

Number six: Wet sleeves. I absolutely cannot tolerate having wet sleeves on my wrist. I have been known to totally change what I am wearing in seconds when rinsing out a cup at the last moment splashes water on my wrist. Frankly it is about the only time I am cold. (I do not do swamp heat).

I am going to stop there. Pet peeves are always in flux. Obviously in summer Number 1 and 2 do not make the list. And if I have just been sitting around a doctor's lobby there is the "I am sicker than you" pet peeve. Interestingly enough with the cataracts this spring and follow ups this summer all the people in the waiting rooms seemed so grateful and well and wonderful. Mostly.

And there are what I call my polite company pet peeves. I just think we need to return to a kinder and gentler time as far as manners and conversations and politeness.

It is wise to remember about now that I came out sane on the OCD test.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Snow! And thoughts while shoveling

Country Lane with Snow

Living in the mountains I always watch the weather sites. I say sites because nobody ever gets it right so I monitor three or more and draw my own conclusions. For weeks now it has been sliding snowflakes. This is that weather forecast where a slight chance for snow drifts across the week always beginning tomorrow but never quite showing up.

Friday they dared drop the slight and go with chance for snow - up to 1" over night. Pardon me NOAA but living in the mountains of New Mexico let me say one inch is not snow. It is flurries. We did get the one inch, perhaps a bit more so I paid a bit more attention to the forecast for Saturday day. Three to five which we didn't get but overnight Saturday into Sunday the prediction went up to five or eight. Yeah, we'll see, I thought as I checked outside before heading to bed Saturday night with just a hint of a flake here and there in the dark skies.

The Corolla Entombed 

Sometime in the middle of the night it must have decided to snow. We had eight inches before dawn and a good foot by the time it grew light enough to seriously check on all my snow gauges -- buried cars, picnic tables, garden fence, etc.

Picnic Table at Dawn

It snowed past noon (NOAA said it would be out of our area by 11) and dropped another 5 to 8 inches. Total at my house was close to 18". The weight of snow makes measurement of total fall difficult because it begins to collapse in on itself. Wading through it to get to the wood shed it was up to my knees and that is 18".

That is the point when you can no longer look at it through your windows. It must be brushed off cars and raked off the edges of roofs. I had a van that suffered a shattered windshield due to the weight of snow on the car. So you dawn the winter ware and get out in it. A few quick notes here: 1) Always know where the snow shovel and push broom are after October 31st, 2) wise also to unstore the snow shoes, 3) nothing uses as many muscle groups as wading through 18" of snow, 4) you cannot shovel snow and take pictures of it at the same time. My tip on the camera is to take pictures first and shovel second. And store your camera in the seat of the vehicle you are shoveling out of the snow.

Camera case?

The minute I saw all the snow after the sun dimly lit the scene I knew I wanted Big Blue ready to roll. Hey, I confess, I bought my 4 x 4 GMC pickup as the ultimate photographic accessory. Yeah, I know I gave some far more practical reasons for it not the least of which it lets me get to all my pet sit gigs in all sorts of weather. And yesterday it proved it does not even have to wait for the county plow or the driveway cleared.

Ducks in Open Water

 Oh, I know, there was a lot more snow to shovel at home, firewood to bring in from the shed, walkways to brush off, the Corolla to dig out. BUT there was also pictures to take.

Snowy Country Lane

Check out my artists page on Fine Arts America for other photographs. The snow is going to stick around for a while so there were be more photographs no doubt.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Past Due

I am past due on the usually weekly blog here on Sidetracked. I am behind on a lot of things. I spent the fall working for others to get their houses and property up to snuff. Helped my budget but got me way behind on everything at my house.

The polar event that plunged my area down to 7 degrees at least a month early work me up. I quickly rounded up straw and covered my beloved hollyhocks of this summer. And got the supplies to "winterize" the apartment. Did the actual draining of water lines a day after the first bone chilling temps saying thank you's about escaping any frozen pipes. Scheduled in the oil change for the truck though because everyone else was doing the same thing, it does not get done until next week.

I sill have a long list of stuff I need to do, inside and out, but the weather was horrid and so I did the inside things first. Number one has been setting up my photography site at Fine Arts America. Been meaning to do that for several months. No sales yet but they can do prints of all sorts cheaper than I can. Better for my fans.

And there have been a whole host of things which came up to occupy my time. None of which had been on my original lists. And new items for the lists. All of which boils down to still being behind. My father always said to be worried about catching up. Means you are done. I probably could live another ten years and not have caught up. Not that I want to live that long. I certainly do not want to be the last to die in my social circle. Though frankly I am getting too much experience in saying goodbye to others.

There was this period in my early 30's when I plunged into one of my periodic depressions worse than normal. Fate conspired to give me plenty of reasons to be depressed other than genetic cycles. And I seemed surrounded by friends also in the same pickle as myself. Thoughts of suicide became such a topic of discussion I and a friend hosted a Suicide Survivors Christmas Party. Oddly enough it cheered us all up. And may have well be the first suicide support group in history. Mother told me I was silly. I was just at that age (and all my friends) where it seems the thing to do.

Well, I am at that age now when all my friends seem overly concerned about their health. I really am not in favor of discussing results of bowel exams at morning coffee. Everyone my age seems to believe they are approaching their expiration dates, and yet I am surrounded by people in their late 70's and even 80's who are not wintering in Arizona to die.

I have always, since those suicide party days, believed I was living on borrowed time. And that has only been amplified by my ski accident in 2001. I am past due. So maybe I need to heed my father's advice and not finish my todo lists. At least not this winter.

BTW the opening photograph has nothing to do with the subject beyond the fact it was a really shiny chrome grill in a junkyard. There is a poem or essay in there somewhere.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Open Letter to the DNC

Stop Already

This goes out to the Democratic National Committee and all Democratic candidates who felt they had the right to abuse my email addresses and my telephones just because I am a registered Democrat. I read you messages and replied to some. I even listened to a few of the robo calls in hopes a human would come on and we could dialog. Now you get to listen to me. I plan to change my party registration before the 2016 election cycle begins tomorrow. Green party sounds good. Independent sounds better.

I know you wanted money. Because of the economy I did not have it to give. And until the repeal or an amendment to nullify Citizens United SCOTUS decision I do not intend to donate money again. I stand fully behind any effort to reform our campaign system. In fact I demand it NOW. Giving you money just seems to encourage this democracy for sale concept. Besides it is ridiculous to pay a politician to merely run for office. Let's be realistic representatives will have to begin campaigning the day after elected. When do they govern? Sorry, stupid question, because as far as I can tell the House of Representatives never governed in the last two years. I no longer hold any hope they will ever govern again as the system stands.

Campaign reform is no longer an option: It is necessary for the survival (make that recovery) of our representative republic. If the Australians can file, campaign, and be elected in 90 days so can we. And nobody should spend more to publicize their candidacy then the salary they will be making in that office. (Please do not raise your salaries so you can spend more.) It cost you nothing to swamp my in box on two email accounts with no fewer than 30 emails a day. Sorry DNC, KING, LARA, UDALL, and President and Mrs. Obama but when you ignore my request to minimize email, and then to unsubscribe from your lists which you give out freely to everyone, I call that abuse and I have reported you to Yahoo Mail and Gmail for same.

I will be going out to cast my vote this morning at my small precinct voting location I have used for a couple decades now. I have never missed voting. I have voted early a few times. And by mail a couple. One such vote was returned to me after the election because it got lost even in its official envelope. It is a ten minute drive to the Community Center, and I rather enjoy the process. To vote early requires a five hour round trip at hideous gas prices and at a time when good weather is not guaranteed. I have requested several times for our huge county to have an alternate early voting location on our side of Cimarron Canyon. Also ignored, along with all those requests to not e-mail me any more.

I figure as a loyal Democrat (what woman in her right mind could be a Republican these days) I should warn you ahead of time that any presidential hopeful who begins campaigning for office prior to November 2015 will not have my vote. Especially if that person decides to abuse my email inbox and telephone. You will note I am changing my party registration so I do not need notified of any primary campaigns.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Enough Already!!!!!

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Abraham Lincoln - The Gettysburg Address

I say this every election. Nobody cares. But I feel compelled to say it again because the DNC has taken possession of my inbox on two email accounts. And in spite of promises they have made in the last couple of days I doubt I will get them back for my use because the 2016 presidential race will formally kick off. BTW when does any politician actually govern instead of run for office? 

Election laws have to change. And not the way they recently were changed by Citizens United and the SCOTUS.

We as a nation began this dubious experiment when it took two years or more for all the citizens of this land to hear the results of any election. It now probably takes about two hours. Australia does it all including the campaigning in just 90 days. Just think only 90 days of 40 emails a day and four telephone calls a night. Not two years or more.

And all for naught because nobody will vote. And if they vote it will not count. Some hanging chad and SCOTUS will count. Or some cell phone app will flip every straight ticket like in Ohio in 2004. And what we want even if the votes are counted will not matter because 40 Tea Party members elected by a very small number of people have the right to bring the entire congress to a complete and absolute stand still.

And to break that deadlock a compromise guaranteed to negate the bill and its purpose entirely will be passed instead. Or the House of Representatives will try 40 plus times to repeal a bill previously passed.

Some how this sounds like a Dr. Seuss book except there is no humor in it.

But I will vote. NOW give up my email inbox and leave quietly.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Slip Sliding Away

Cap Stones

The Pope just said he believes in evolution and the big bang. Who would have thought such things would happen in my life time. And yet I am surrounded by people I personally know who believe the earth to be only 6000 years old. The cap stones in the opening photograph are older than that. And once they were on top of pillars of sandstone - the heads of goblins. And before that they were the top layer under a huge inland sea. All that we see is slip sliding away.

It is true of people too. Friends come and go talking of Michelangelo. I once told a friend, who was upset I was moving on, that it would not matter if I was staying because friendships come and go even if you live next door. She didn't get it. In fact she chose to never speak to me again. Instead she became fast friends with another friend I left behind at the same time. And that ended. Neither of us know what became of her.

The shared friend currently lives next door. She is moving soon. But our friendship has already slipped. She has slipped. That is one of the difficult things at our age. Is it dementia, insanity or Alzheimer's? So many people "retire" and move to some place warmer and easier. And with no friends.

In our youth we moved on to the next place and the next set of friends, the new job or neighborhood so very easily. The company I worked for sent packers on one day and loaders the next. I said good by to coworkers on Friday and began work at the new site on Monday. One year I was moved three times. That saved a lot of unpacking. I have no need or desire to move again. I know this place. I know the people at the grocery store in off season.

But my friend is moving to Florida, a place of complete strangers to herself and each other. But she has already become a stranger to me. And were we to meet again for the very first time I do not believe we would have anything in common. We have had an episodic friendship over forty some years. We drift away to other places and interests. And return without notice into each other's lives. But I feel she is gone this time.

The move is November 20th. Plans are to be back for summer. But like the Cheshire Cat I do not know if she can re-materialize. I am not sure there is much of her visible right now. I tried to tell her I thought the move would be the end of her, back months ago when I felt there was enough of her to listen and hear. We are past that now.

My sister just called to say her cell phone is dying. She asked me to personal message her my contact information in case her provider cannot save her SIM card. Are we losing our abilities to use our organic SIM card? After my Closed Brain Trauma, a friend who had been there and done that told me to practice everything I didn't want to lose. But you cannot practice for someone else.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Confession Time

Dream Home?

I love living where I live. I love living alone. I am a true introvert and really have few close friends. Most of them live someplace else. And that is mostly fine. I used to consider having an attached rental unit a chance for both financial and safety stability. Now I consider it and renters a liability. Renters have become plagues in recent years.

But winter is approaching and since the dreaded New Year storm of 2006/2007 I am a bit tharned about winter. Only about five occupied houses on my "block" and one of those is going to be empty all winter. She is a long term friend and I am totally pissed at her about it when I am not celebrating getting her neediness out of my field of vision. She says I am not a nice person which is why I have so few friends. She does not see that as a choice or her fault I am not nice to her currently. (note: Translation of not nice - I am not doing what she wants.)

So yesterday I drove to Las Vegas, New Mexico and fell in love with an alternative to living where I live. If I had money. If is such a big word. And I have to wonder if this live above/work below alternative in the plaza area of a historic town just isn't because winter is around the corner and I am a bit afraid of another 6 feet of snow even if it has not been 70 years since the last.

Yes, I present to the world a totally self-sufficient and together person, but sitting alone in my house with the winds whipping outside I can get into panic mode. Yesterday seemed to fuel that. As I was buy antifreeze to condition the pipes in the empty apartment, and Sta-bil for the gas machines I own it struck me all summer passed without fixing the snow blower. In fact because I was working for the neighbor who thinks I am not nice I was fixated on the money and ignoring my house and my list of things to do. I think she said I was not nice because I stacked my firewood instead of hers.

Mother raised me to be the guilty party. It is always my fault. I have spent time in therapy in an attempt to get over that. And unless it is late October and the wind is howling outside and roof panels from some distant neighbor's house are blowing by I am fine.

And I would probably go crazy living in a populated area. I do like my space. Hey, but the money to be able to do that would be nice. Selling a painting or two would make me fear less the approaching heating bills. Or my neighbor selling her house to someone I liked. Or having the perfect renter knock on my door. Or not.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Over the Back Fence

I do not take long vacations. Partly because of finances. And partly because I am rather a home body. Besides there is enough in my backyard to keep be interested. The trek this fall was from here to Farmington to Pagosa Springs, down to Chama and over Cumbres Pass. This blog is about just below Pagosa Springs.

We were late for aspens but those we found were wonderful in their contrast to the trees already absent their leaves, and the dark skies of fall weather. The pickup allowed us to get up forest roads with ease and into areas not photographed by the average tourist. Just south of Chromo we took Buckles Road into the National Forest in search of Buckles Lake which we never got to. Another day perhaps. It was only a seven plus mile trip but photographers can take a long time to make that distance if the scenery is good. And it was.

Then you could also stand in the same spot and watch the clouds travel and highlight different spots on the mountain.

All the photos in this blog were taken in just about two hours on that one forest road but depending on which way you were facing or just where the clouds were or were not the colors changed on trees and sky. And sometimes it seemed even the seasons changed.

We were essentially driving the ridge up the mountain. The aspens were huge as you got closer to the top. Even without their leaves they were majestic things to behold especially up close. But standing on a ridge before the snow capped Sawtooth mountains they commanded your attention too. 

Golden crowns or not.

The ridge road allowed us views off both sides. And as morning shifted to afternoon the shadows shifted too.

More blogs coming on other aspects of this short but magical trip along the border of Colorado and New Mexico.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

All Life is Precarious

I have an old friend who insists we are old, and that I ought to act my age. It is time she claims to move to a retirement home in Florida and begin to die. I say Florida just makes you want to die. "Your life is precarious," she said to me over coffee yesterday. "You need to take it easier. You are too old to go hiking by yourself, or camping in remote areas, or climb ladders."

My mother, a firm believer in taking it easier, died at 67. And her older brother mowed lawns with a push mower until 87. But all life is precarious as the recent Ebola epidemic here in the states is proving. And if it was not a pandemic it could be volcanic eruption. There have been swarms of earthquakes around Mammoth Mountain just up wind from us. I married and divorced a man eight years younger than me. He died three years ago. We do not come with expiration dates though nobody has avoided the final exit yet.

I see no advantage to living each day so that I do not hurt myself. In fact, I can see a lot of advantages to living life at full tilt. I may be past the live hard, die young and leave a beautiful corpse but I will not regret having not done something. And I do not pay a lot for exercise classes. I have two cords of firewood to stack between packing for my four day photography trek. My friend is driving to Taos to take a senior yoga class. I probably do not get things done as fast as I did in my youth but they get done. And I feel very empowered by the things I do.

This morning I took both my dogs on a pet sitting job. They think it is their job too. Mardi Gras is 15 and at times I think it would be easier to leave her home. But I would hate myself if she was not given this opportunity to ride in the car, run the fields (yes, she still runs) and bond with her pack buddy who is just 11. If she drops dead in mid dash across the pasture I will feel I have done my best for her. My friends and family should feel the same way if I collapse hauling in firewood.

Monday, October 13, 2014

That Moment of Revealed Truth

I love taking pictures of reflections in mirrors and ponds and glass. Believe it or not regardless of the close concentration and focus one very often winds up with a picture you did not realize you were taking. I think that is true with those quick snaps we take of friendships, and marriages, jobs too. We put all our focus on the obvious, in the photo above it was the wonderful job I did trimming out a very difficult door through a foot of wall sandwich not cut straight. The photo I got was a duo of me and my cat.

And when it comes to friendships and marriages and jobs we keep our eye on the positive. Keep your eye on the prize: Friends for over 30 year, married for almost 50, working for the corporation for ten. And then something happens; often something silly and seemingly unimportant and we see the image beyond the surface. September was the third anniversary of my ex-husband's death. We were friends, co-workers and lovers for 23 years. At first I just missed our talks because even after the divorce we were great friends. But this year I realized I had missed all the signs he was dying. And ergo the opportunities to say goodbye.

September is always a pivotal month for me for any number of reasons. It is the anniversary of my discovery of my biggest lie to myself. And so I am always more reflective. Conscious or not it is a month for inventories of where I am. And like standing in front of my fantastically trimmed French door I end up seeing things I was not necessarily aware of seeing. A whole set was prompted by my sister's question about documents necessary should I have a stroke tomorrow. I did have one. It may still be around but then my ex-husband/best friend was still alive, my sister still lived in the state and my longest friend who lives next door was not moving to Florida.

I find myself thinking dying alone in my house intestate is a good idea. I really do not want anyone to rescue me from near death. And I currently do not think I have any friends left who will miss me. Just want the pets to not suffer.

And it is that caring for my pets that separate me from a person I for a long time thought was a friend. But she only cares for herself. Her pets were an accessory she no longer wants. And then this month there was the friend I suddenly saw as wanting the relationship only because it allowed her to constantly prove herself right at my expense. On a positive note another friend of long standing finally saw what I saw from the very moment she took a new man into her life. Like me she has never picked a good one. She just still suffers from relationship blindness for a least a year.

Once you have seen the image beyond the dark glass or the reflection below the waves of a pond there is no unseeing. You cannot put the Genie back in the bottle so it is a matter of seeing if you can live with what you had not seen before.

It is just the beginning of winter so a long time to think about it or not.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Revealed Truth at the Edge of the Gorge

The Gorge Filled with Smoke

There are times my singularity stands out so starkly even I gasp at its meaning. Yesterday, standing at the top of the horseshoe cresting the Taos Volcanic plateau was one of those times.

It had been creeping up on me all day during my drive down to Albuquerque to pick up a friend. Even my manner of friendship is unique. I have friends in rotation more or less and seldom more. Friends for me do not come in groups, cliches, bunches, collectives, or even covens. They are more often than not artists and as much loners as I am. I make few demands on them and do not accept many demands on me from them. One of the bigger demands is "stop the car." In my wild and crazy drinking days that had one meaning but now as a photographer it is infinitely more serious. My photographer friends totally understand this and are therefore preferred in the rotation, others are definitely befuddled.

Yesterday as my non-photographer friend and I emerged from the Embudo Canyon and the Rio Grande Gorge came into view I requested calmly (at first) she find a place to pull over. We had at the time been discussing the Gorge, Rio Grande Rift, or as she called it, the Crack. but also a worrying plume of smoke visible from Espanola, and from whence it came. Multi-focus conversations are a plus in my friends.

Smoke from the Alamosa Rx Burn

She was quite proud of herself for having the inside language of The Crack. I had never heard the term even though I had lived here longer, and was somewhat offended at the term. It just sounded rude. But that was not why I wanted her to pull over. It was the smoke from what I now know was the Prescribed Alamosa Burn in the Carson National Forest. Its position looked rather like a range of volcanoes had blown their collective tops. Besides it was incredibly beautiful. And I had to record it on my DSLR.

And it was a bit scary. Not that anyone else at the rather busy horseshoe pull over noticed. Several people were chatting on cell phones (one place known for good reception), a family was having Kentucky Fried dinner (Taos had been choked with smoke all day we were told), and there was to be some sort of welcome back party being organized for a friend driving up from Albuquerque. Nobody had a clue what was burning, one knew it was a prescribed burn (though he had been unaware they had changed the language from control), and two didn't know anything was burning. Several obviously thought we were a bit bonkers to care.

My friend is trying to gather information about the conflagration beyond "The Crack." And I have made the decision to just ignore everyone and everything but the view through the view finder until I can get home to the computer and my real buddy, Google. I have absolutely no doubts I was the odd one out, and I considered that a decided advantage.

I do not fit in. I have never fit in unless I am totally faking it. Mother used to give me faking it tips She never got that I do not want to fit in if I have to call the beautiful Taos Gorge the Crack. One of the new shows on TV this season is Scorpion about a group of geniuses that solve problems. They have a normal friend that is always giving them "fit in" tips. I certainly am not a gifted person on their level but I totally understand the "fit in" Tips. They are quite good at the look I know I give when passed these gems. That look has gotten me in deep dodo from time to time which is why I love a large digital SLR Camera with a big lens. It hides a multitude of sins.

I did get four or five pictures while wishing I had been there with Jessica instead. She is a photographer and would have totally understand staying until the sunset. Meanwhile the friend I was with went down one in the rotation because of The Crack. And I am sure she thinks less of me because I did not give her kudos for being among the insiders.

Two things were important 1) the pictures, and 2) that Google revealed it is the 4,400 acre Rx Alamosa Burn on the edge of the Jicarilla Apache land.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Moving in Time Again

It is that time again. Time to move in the plants that were moved out this spring and try to find them space for the winter after a summer of new growth. This is usually a multi-stepped process. First the move in to any space reasonably out of the way. And then everything which lives all year in the studio gets moved around to make room. If you are looking for a well taken care of house plant now is the time to approach me, because not only did the indoor/outdoor group grow but the totally indoor group did too. In fact this was an epic year for some of my euphorbias - repotting and separating out babies from mother plants.

And then there is the rosemary plant. I have a friend who grew hers outside all year around up here. Never quite worked for me so the last attempt at raising rosemary became and indoor/outdoor. That was three years ago. It is getting bigger. And every year about this time I wonder if it is big enough to be an outside plant. I seem not willing to risk it because it is crowded up against the indoor geranium (it is too big to move indoors and outdoors anymore.

I do not help this moving process any by my need to buffer the loss of outdoor flowers with purchases of blooming indoor plants. This year it is two more baby Crown of Thorn plants and another orchid. Thankfully the need to find them a place on plant bench or floor is not as immediately necessary as moving them inside. Some immediately find pride of place.

And once all the garden supplies and tools are off the plant stand by the door the rosemary plant can be moved to its customary winter home. The Angel Wing Begonia, a new addition, is going to have to be hung. It is finally getting big enough to not look silly suspended.

Speaking of suspended there are the herbs to be cut, tied and hung to dry. Oh, I have a dehydrator but there is never enough room or time for all herbs to go through that process. All this necessitates the fall cleaning. If you are going to spend all winter more inside than out things need to be cleaned out.

All this when I would just like to hibernate once all the fall glory is over.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Where the Buffalo Roam

Buffalo on the Vermejo Park Ranch

The herd which was close to the highway was about 47 to 50 in number and included several of this year's calves. Needless to say we were going for the up close and personal photographs.

Aunts and Calf

And there really was no end of opportunities. The grass was long and lush and the bison all had their heads down. The calves were curious and edged closer to the fence and the adults almost unconsciously covered them. The entire herd comprise of adult females takes care of the calves. It was very interesting to watch.

The Gang of three

We got so engrossed in the herd by the fence we did not notice at first another herd moving into the area in the distance.

Herd Two in the distance

Herd Three coming through the pass

Off with the long lens and on with the wide angle. I walked back to the car to get my second camera already set up with the wide angle.

Jessica Duke and Equipment Management
Jessica's High Country Photography

First a herd moved from the middle to the far right along the base of a ridge line and vanished into a gully. Soon it or another herd was moving from the right to the left while another herd was coming down through the gap on the left. Each herd numbered around fifty or more.

Four herds?

Then another herd began appearing on the ridge to the right and filtering down through the trees on the top of the ridge. I almost forgot to take pictures. Watching the slow but steady movement of the herds was like a scene from How the West Was Won. I had to wonder if this was what the pioneers on the Santa Fe Trail, which ran through this area almost where we were standing, had seen before the buffalo herds were decimated by hunters so ranchers could put cattle on the land.

I have to applaud land owners such as Ted Turner who is trying to restore this area to what it once was and give it back to the majestic beasts that inhabited it. Yes, I am sure the herds are culled and meat sold to support restoration of the prairie. Two other ranchers in the area are raising buffalo commercially. And the Valle Vidal Unit of the Carson National forest which abuts Turner's land has its own buffalo herds.

Our herd moving back toward the others

Not breaking up meal time the herd that had been up by the fence began to inch back toward the others. Every once in a while one cow would break from one herd and run to the next as if it spotted a long lost friend or herd they had gotten separated from earlier.

It was a wonderful gift to watch this drama unfold. And during that time other cars stopped and occupants ran out through the tall grass in shorts to snap pictures with their iPhones or small cameras. They got their few shots and left without having seen what we had seen. One man from Maryland was so upset this had been the first herd of buffalo he had seen in the entire trip.

As an area local I drive this road often and the buffalo are not always here. They have other areas to graze. And this year with the good monsoon season has also been a return of the good grass. May the rains continue.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Epiphany on the Road from Raton

Chamisa Blooming

There is something about the open plains and a totally straight line of highway for mile after mile which frees the mind to think. On this trip back from Trinidad I was thinking of so many other trips across the plains in the last few years and the difference rain can make. I want to use the word lush but so many in the east will not understand that used in this context.

The grass, already beginning to go gold because of night temperatures looked so thick and so long in spots you almost felt it would be difficult to walk through. And indeed a lot of the locals were not walking. One of this herd of buffalo got up when I walked (waded) to the fence line. The grass was up to my knees and almost up to their bellies. They definitely looked well fed.

Buffalo on the Vermejo Park Ranch

Even the post rut Pronghorn Antelope were too stuffed to move much. A rather nervous animal in the best of times this one even allowed me to get out of my truck to get a better angle. He was not about to move from his patch of long green grass. And one can hardly blame him. In his lifetime it has been difficult to find. This spring as I drove through this area I wondered it it would ever recover. I was not just grass grazed to nubbins but bare earth in large expanses.

And all the stock ponds and catch basins and streams were dry. We all laughed about the Canadian River. Bridges seemed to be unnecessary, another government boondoggle. All the fishermen in my valley complained about the water being released from Eagle Nest lake per water rights owned by ranchers, and treaties with other communities and states. Eagle Nest is at about half capacity. And even with the monsoons more seems to be going out than coming in.

Draining the lake has been going on for at least four years. The drought in the plains a bit longer and the water we trapped was the survival for the plains. So the stock pond below was a cause for celebration. I apologize for the power lines. I took this photo primarily for my sister who was last here when this body of water was not.


And there was water in the Canadian River and Ponil Creek. And many more stock ponds dotting the eastern plains. The rest of the world is all upset about ISIS and Iraq and Iran and Israel (what is it about I's), but few of us here in New Mexico care much. We do have Weapons of Mass Destruction because we built them in Los Alamos and the other states of the United States have shipped their atomic wastes and weapons of war here to our "wasteland" to store.

Here we are excited about grass and water. We are angry at politicians from the east for ignoring climate change and letting Phoenix (a desert community which gets at best 4" of rain) mist their sidewalks with water which came from the peaks of Colorado, also in a drought. If water is to be expended it should be to grow pasture, not lawns, to feed livestock and native residents both two and four footed. We measure the water used and the height of the grass, not the strokes on a golf course.

Standing guard

Those hot spots that begin with the letter I had their rights ignored too for too long. Nations decided borders and policy based on what was true of the G8. And the politicos in Washington decide what they think is right for the states with the biggest electoral votes. But it is the lessor folk that built this nation and we are getting upset at being ignored. There are 30 states in the US with petitions to leave the union. Nobody will miss our electoral votes but they might miss our produce, water, and those stored nuclear weapons.

Wars have fought over water and war will be fought over water again.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Graduate Course in Failure to Communicate

Communication was easy once. Besides what was there to talk about? You walked up to another person and either threw down your club or threw it at their head. But as times went by it got a bit more complicated.

"Honey, I told you to fix the stairs."


"So you going to do it?"

"Not inclined to."

And so with the introduction of the mother-in-law was born the third party negotiator. I did not say necessarily independent. Everyone has a dog in the hunt.

King Arthur introduced the concept of the shape of the table. Have you ever followed one of those openings to peace or truce negotiations? Weeks can be spent on the shape of the table. You could argue they are not fighting during that time if the third party made a truce part of the prelude to the shape of the table. There are not that many shapes. Could we just universally decide on round and go from there?

Which brings us to language. Sometimes this is why the war began. And then there is alliances, and treaties, and precedent. And who speaks for whom and in what order. Then how. With technical developments people are not necessarily in the same room. (Skip shape of table discussion.)

I am currently involved in two problematic conversations. One is between my new BluRay and all my other techno gadgets. And then there is between my neighbor on her way to 6 months in Florida and myself.

I think with the advice of a friend I am well on my way to solving the first one: First you pick the dominant device. The newest usually has the edge. But you can get in a problem if in addition to a Smart WiFi BluRay you have a Smart TV, computer, and a Smart Phone, etc. Note: the dumb router can take the upper hand right quick. And in the case of my neighbor's entertainment system the Dish Hopper wins every time. We still cannot have a movie night at her house.

But she left for Florida already anyway. And I am in charge of the dogs and the house. Well, I think I am. A nephew popped in for a few days then popped out but may pop back in if other relatives get a seat at the table. Note who gets to have a vote is a big thing at negotiations. Power goes to the first person to leave the table oddly.

The big problem is we have not figured out the method of communication either. I tried to have this discussion when she was in the room (see previous note about power going to who first leaves). She is a text maniac. I do text. Short text. And usually when avoiding a conversation: I LEFT - I do not do caps or punctuation and seldom more than four short (3 to 4 letters) words. She does TOMES with no paragraphs and no punctuation. I told her that I would not communicate with her via text. Phone call or e-mail only. And that is partly because my toss phone does not scroll well, and while cataract surgery made it possible to see the little text on the screen it still means digging out the readers. But the biggest reason is I do not get reception until I leave my valley.

She knows this. She texts Florida back and forth but before she left I could not text between her house and mine. Sometimes I would get what she considered an emergency text two days later when I left my house to go buy groceries. Once a whole week. Could not understand why she was angry with me. Hard to respond to something you did not receive.

And then of course there is language. As mad as she is about texting she doesn't event know what BTW means . . . er btw since we both cannot do caps. I am not spelling out by the way. So we can (if I am out of the valley where I can receive text from her) have a furious text fight over the meaning of btw. I always leave that room first.

And then with texting you have not a clue about who else is in the room i.e. conversation. I have gotten in trouble with texting two different people and forgetting which one I am replying too. Especially difficult when the person's name is not entered into your contact list with their phone number. But my texting maniac BFF (btw I have my doubts at times like these about the last f) does not have anybody's name in her contact list. I kept getting the weirdest replies back from her. She is good at skipping subjects (Agendas are important in any negotiation) even mana y mana). I would go back through her last text to see if I has scrolled through all of it. That can be problematic. I kept trying to delve into my memory as to what could be the subject when I at last did the BGD - Battery Going Dead - escape which she of course did not understand. And texted me back. I turned off the phone. Some times I think dropping it in my hot coffee mug would be good.

Last text I sent was email (I do not know the hyphen or the ? mark). I have sent her an e-mail which she could respond to on her Chrome tablet. She refuses to FaceBook. I refuse to text. We either agree on telephone or e-mail as the means of communication or the conversation is over till she returns. There is always the possibility there is nothing really to talk about.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Morning Reflections - Bucket List?

I have several friends who bring up their bucket list from time to time. The movie certainly made the idea of a list of adventures before you die popular. My parents had such a list. They managed to snowbird a couple winters before Dad died. And my sister and I took Mom to Cozumel and Toronto (twice), and out to eat at a Chinese restaurant before she died.

I was on one of those career paths mandated for my generation at the time I became an orphan. My redneck period my friends called it. I even owned my own bowling ball. I dressed for success with a nod to wilder than accepted earrings. I considered the blazer and blouse my costume and the earrings my bit of rebellion. The bowling ball was a prescription for perfectionism mandated by a psychologist I was going to for bulimia. I no long want to return to 103. And I no longer bowl after I broke 100 once or twice.

Before the redneck period I had been a lobbyist in Washington, DC (for would you believe? The American Council of Churches), an organizer for a conference against defense spending, had my phone tapped by Nixon and his cronies, had an FBI file, been down the Colorado River twice on a raft, joined the Sierra Club, toured with the USO as a belly dancer, etc. Before, during and after the Red Neck period I added to my list of states lived in and visited, took flying lessons. Before and after I worked as a ski instructor, raised llamas, hiked Canyonlands, floated Lake Powell in a house boat, had a stalker or two . . . The list goes on. Enough for two or three buckets.

For the longest time the item which remained on the list of things to do was go back to Italy. I was there as a toddler. Australia was briefly on The List until I found out how many poisonous animals were on their list, and that the parts I really wanted to see looked a lot like Utah which could be visited without four days of flying. Peru and Macho Pichu remained an objective until I found out about the littering problem. Who wants to pay that much money to look at ancient rocks covered with energy bar wrappers.

I used to like to fly commercial but 9/11 ruined that. Why should I voluntarily give myself over to privacy invasion just to go from point A to point B, when driving is so much more fun. No, not the interstates. My sister introduced me to the joys of off road travel. And the fur kids can come.

A close friend is getting a condo in Florida to spend winters away from the snows of New Mexico. She wants me to come down and share it with her some. My stomach went into total revolt when she asked. She does not understand my heart felt NO. Cheek to jowl with humans? Crammed into a flying sardine can after worse treatment than arrested drunks? Heat and humidity? Aerosprayed poisons to kill bats and bugs and humans? I go out of my way to eat organic food and yet I am going to volunteer for that?

I have found paradise. And those things which are on my list currently are pretty close to home. I want to spend a week at Monument Valley and Natural Bridges. Oddly I think it might be fun to spend some time on a dinosaur dig in Utah. I toy at times with completing the great American novel or self publishing a book of poetry with my paintings and photographs. None of that requires me leaving my comfort zone.

If there is a bucket list it has a green house and a camping trailer on it. Would love to be able to stucco my house. I came to the realization I am the perfect reverse mortgage applicant. And a very good pet sitter.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Living in the Question

My mother was First Christian. Dad had been raised Catholic and then, as he would put it when the conversation came around to religion, went to war. In my formative years I went to base chapels and then turned to philosophy. I believe. I just refuse to limit that belief. In college I discovered Reciprocity as a construct of social psychology.  And if I have a belief system which guides my life that is it.

That has had a major impact on my life because I fail to understand those that condemn or restrict or declare without latitude. I have continued to study the history of  religions because it is within religions you most often see a rigid condemnation of others. Religionists are your zealots, your fundamentalists,  your condemners of all who do not believe as they do.

Religionists have nothing to do with faith or spirituality and often are counter to good moral practice. I find them very scary whether base of worship is Islam or Christianity. I find them scary because they feel they have the answers and no longer seek.

Spirituality is living in the question and constantly seeking a higher understanding. You cannot do that if you believe you have already been given all the answers by a puppet in a pulpit. Or a clerk doing the "Good Work" at a thrift shop.

It is easier to continue to seek if you avoid those so dogmatically sure of the answers. I believe we all have that freedom to seek. Who knows maybe the creator of the universe is a while salamander or a gecko or Coyote. Maybe all of those are just names for an energy way beyond our poor power to comprehend.