Monday, March 23, 2015

What's Normal?

I and my family of fur pets have been out of balance for more than three months. I do not know if it is my PTSD effecting my fur kids or the loss of Scrappy effecting my pets who are effecting me or if it is a dynamic spiral. I do know it was depressing because I take a lot of comfort from my fur kids and they just were not providing it.

Wee Willow went into stomp and meow mode. This is a cat I honestly thought for years could not meow because she never did. Until we lost The Darkness. Willow literally only stopped meowing when she was asleep. I figured she needed a new pal so brought Scrappy into the house. It was not an immediate solution but she went from meowing at me to hissing at him until one day they were fast friends and kitty bed buddies. Scrappy fit into studio life wonderfully and the house calmed down.

Until Scrappy's violent death on December 20th. Life has been anything but normal since. Wee Willow went back to stomping and meowing and I tried to pretend it would stop on its own. Just how long can a cat mourn. Maybe as long as the owner can cry. Both of us were inconsolable. I would have raced out an got another feline except I wasn't ready. Introducing a new cat into an existing pet dynamic is not a piece of cake and frankly there was enough going on in my life, like the aging standard poodle I wake up in the mornings to see if she is still alive.

But a friend of mine on line got a new kitten she put with an aging cat and I am taking care of Shasta and Casper (Shasta being the new kitten). What would it hurt to pay the Stray Hearts Animal Shelter a visit? That was Saturday and I came home with two very active little male kittens. It was a decision not made lightly. There were about six cats I absolutely instantly loved. The gentleman at the cattery said a younger male would be more likely to settle in with an existing family dynamic containing an older female. Willow has seen several cats come and go. The two older Siamese I took in for a friend with cancer was a major mistake. They became the upstairs cats and Darkness and Willow the downstairs cats and they never met except for flying fur balls on the stairs when my cats came upstairs to sleep with me.

Scrappy settling in with Willow took two months. But Willow was not going to stop meowing. I figured Thicke and Quen were robust and active enough cats to handle the over attention of Magique, the labradoodle. And they are afraid of nothing. Willow has kept her distance but immediately stopped meowing and stomping. But Magique constantly whines for the kittens to play with her. Patience is not her long suit. It isn't mine either. It has only been one full day. And I expect things to be normal. But how can it be because things are not normal with me. Every sound has me on edge because I missed the sound of Scrappy being killed in my studio while I slept upstairs.

Realistically I know this will take a couple weeks. I have a safe corner for the kittens to escape to. And I am little by little kitten proofing the house. What they knock off I do not put back. And the weather is great so the dogs can spend extended periods outside the house. Well, except for Mardi Gras. I still check to see if she is alive.

I think the kittens are going to be good for me and my fur kids. It is day two and already progress has been made. With everyone but me. I will be better when everyone else is better. Damn it is a good thing I never had kids.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We Need A Common Frame of Reference

Something to hang your hat on

There is a scene in Star Trek; The Voyage Home where Dr. McCoy asks Mr Spock about his experience being dead and brought back to life. Spock declines to discuss it because there is no common frame of reference. I had my first glimpse of what that was all about one summer in high school when, miffed at my parents and their silly rules, I rode my bike into a neighborhood too far. Not the wrong side of the tracks just the block beyond where my farthermost friend lived.

It stuck me as I was peddling through how very different their block was. Ours was obsessed with immaculate lawns, and the windows all had drapes rather than curtains or shades. We had trees in our yards. Trees and lawns I figured were of major importance because it was where we all hung out in the afternoon. Sitting in the shade, on the grass looking for four leaf clovers. I am not sure what peace negotiations were going on in the world then but as a serious student I always watched the news and figured our trees and grass was like the importance of the shape of the table before the talks began. The table was a common frame of reference.

I believe in order to become friends you have to have a common frame of reference. You are both rebelling against parents and society, or both are nerds in computer class. Or like Sherlock points out in the last episode of season 3, you love adventure and danger and are attracted to high functioning sociopaths and all your friends are just that. When some thirty years ago I gave of alcohol and drugs I quickly discovered I had nothing in common with my old circle of friends. And they were desperate to get me back. Even willing to spike my club soda. Married people have married friends and single people have single friends. Birds of a feather flock together. And it is hard to soar with eagles when you are flocking with turkeys.

Today when I exploded at my on again/off again friend, she wrote back to say she had no idea I was angry, and could I please explain why I was so angry. I remembered a long time committed relationship (I was committed - him not so much) when I told him I was leaving. He asked, "But why?" And I told him it was because he had to ask.

So I am not the easiest person to get along with. I have high moral expectations of myself and my friends. Call it THE primary frame of reference. I am also a doer. I garden, paint, photograph, walk with my dogs, explore in my truck, mostly love snow, do not like excessive heat, go days without a bra or makeup, don't chit chat, love deep existential conversations, Facebook and blog, and cook - I love to cook.

My on again/off again friend has a camera she does not use, does not garden, has painted but thinks it makes too much of a mess, hates walking the dogs, would rather set out to the city in a sedan, hates snow, thinks 87 degrees is COLD, always wears a bra and puts on makeup, chit chats with everyone, would rather talk of conspiracies that philosophies, does not Facebook or blog, dines out rather than cooks.

In short we have nothing in common except our past. We met when we were both rebelling from our parents. We moved apart but reconnected when we were both on a spiritual quest. She moved to Hawaii and I moved to New Mexico when we were both recovering from head injuries. Then later she moved next door. That is the some total of our common frame of reference. Her move to Florida subtracted New Mexico.

I am a lover of pets. She sees them as accessories. She wrote she was sorry her dog killed my cat but it is four lines in an email while the other 100 lines are about her face lift. That was the point where my frustration and angst at the friendship finally boiled over to something close to real anger. It smoldered when she started guilt tripping me to keep her dog. After all she had to put down his pal for killing my cat. If I took the time to explain to her that Scrappy's violent death on the 20th of December still makes me cry she would not understand. She would go into councilor mode and try to help be past this.

I do not want to know people who cannot cry over a lost pet. And I know because she had to ask what I was angry about that she would not understand my answer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And Then The Snow Was Gone

The almost two weeks of continual snow was unusual but not the return to spring like weather. It is one of the things I enjoy so much about New Mexico. The state only seems to play with the seasons. Sunday was in the 60's and so it was difficult to stay inside and do taxes. The snow was almost all gone but what replaced it was small streams, new ponds and mud. Definitely gardening was out. Could not resist trying to put a shovel into the ground, however. A few inches down was still frozen. And doing any structural repairs to the polytunnel would mean walking around through mud and standing in melted snow.

I'm flexible. I grabbed my camera and shopping list and headed down to Las Vegas. I am more and more choosing it for picking up supplies. It is further and requires more of my day then a quick hop over the mountain to Taos but it has several advantages. The Walmart there is a super one and aims its products at a more educated and upward mobile clientele than Taos or Espanola. The Lowes market, same chain as here in Angel Fire, prices its goods way below the you-cannot-afford-it here. And everything is not made to look like old adobes. I love the drive. It is very pleasant with lots of photo opportunities not yet fully explored.

This Sunday I spent my free time in the downtown area as opposed to the Old Town Plaza visited before. I barely touched the surface. Didn't even get to the Victorian houses that have been restored and those that haven't. Only skirted the Highlands University area. And just touched a corner of the downtown office buildings.

Highlands University building with louvers for temperature control

I love photographing buildings. Odd for a landscape artist but I loved architecture first. Wanted to become an architect, but University of New Mexico was not letting women into the program when I was attending. We still do not pay women the same as men, but at least now we will let them study for a career we might not let them enter into. But enough of the past.

Las Vegas Bank building

The first requirement of any photo exhibition planning is central parking. In Taos you have to feed a parking meter. And the Plaza area of Las Vegas has time limits. Downtown does not have these problems. There is a large free public lot right across from Charlie's Spic and Span eatery and within walking distance of everything I believe I want to ultimately explore in this area of Las Vegas. Sunday was just a reconnoiter.

Church of the Immaculate Conception

I had not considered spending the entire day in Las Vegas, but I could have, and kept the same parking space. Note to self: Is that true on a week day. Mistake one was eating brunch first after a late start. Mistake two was I had the long lens on the camera because I had envisioned taking photos of Victorian houses from the sidewalks. People are not always so thrilled to having a photographer tiptoe through the tulips on a Sunday morning. Mistake three was I did not lock my purse in the truck to lighten my load.

The tulips were not up yet. A few flowers would have made those Victorian houses more appealing. It may feel like spring outside but it really isn't. But later in the year, after the trees leaf out, the photograph above would not be possible. And the spire below would be playing peekaboo through the foliage. Note to self: Get down to Las Vegas again before the trees leaf out.

And is there a week with flowers but no leaves yet?

Aaah, shopping. My excuse to escape all the household chores. Nobody else to do them but me. Clearly the next trip down is not going to be for shopping. These peeks at spring while winter is winding down are hard to ignore. Rain/snow mix is in the forecast again this week. We might not NEED the moisture now but I want it. My stream is running and the pond in my backyard, originally dug to dewater my acreage, is full for the first time in years. Storrie Lake is filling back up. Next time down I will stop on the way back.

My way back stop this trip was an abandoned adobe house I have noted on several passings.

This fix it upper is serving as a pigeon coop informally. It is across from a lovely stream which once it is green may give up some great photographs. And across the highway there is a road not yet taken. I always wonder where it goes but figure I do not have the time to explore. There is the shopping. And so many photos not yet taken in Las Vegas.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Snow, and more Snow

I have lived in Colorado. In fact Vail and Aspen. I know snow. I will never forget my last winter in Denver. They had a mayor who believed plowing the roads encouraged the storms. Besides it would melt come spring.  It began snowing on the week before Halloween and continued to snow through Memorial Day. We seriously never saw the curbs on our street. In June when the snow finally melted there were chuck holes big enough to bury a Volkswagen in. I know because our neighbor did. The doors would not open so we all devised a plan to get him out through a window.

Colorado has winter.

New Mexico pretends to have winter. Sometimes we are better at pretending than others. Like the last ten days. But I am informed that our total snowfall in that period of time was less than 40 inches. In part that was because it was a spring snow and some of the flakes melted upon landing.  Still it was nothing close to the 86 inches in Boston. Now that is winter. I only had my driveway plowed once in that period. But then like many of the full time residents I have a 4x4 vehicle; a real one with 4 wheel low and large studded snow tires. But last winter I drove a Corolla without snow tires all winter long. Note: I lived in Colorado and know how to drive in snow.

My half-hearted joke this fall was I wanted the snowline to be 250 feet above my house. I live at 8500 and the base of the ski area is 8750. I figured we could both be happy. I would get rain and they would get snow.

Boston does not use its snow. We do. It isn't hauled away to the Boston harbor and dumped. We let it melt into the thirsty ground. The problem is not how much snow falls but how little of what it lands on is absorbent. Asphalt and concrete are not absorbent. And our snow is pretty. And it stays pretty. Well, until mud and flood season, which may be this weekend.

The sun came out and stayed out all day yesterday. Possible snow does not creep back into our forecast until Sunday. Most of what is on the ground  will be gone by then. As soon as snow was out of the forecast yesterday I ran over the mountain to replenish supplies. I live in a tourist town (been there before - see paragraph one) and what the stores stock are tourist supplies (pizza and beer and bottled water). Us locals need real things like prescriptions filled and pet food and organic edibles. I do not buy bottled water. I am on a well.

Our pretend winter is likely not over. We can get some heavy spring snows. But they are usually here today and gone tomorrow. And each day of snow is separated by one or more days of sunshine. That was the one thing about this storm of the century -- it just snowed for almost ten straight days. None of us are going to turn away moisture in any form. It has been a four year drought. It would be nice to have that over.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mother Nature is Weird

Replenished Wood Shed

I think it was around the 17th or 18th of February when everyone started talking about snow. You will note in the photo above there is lots of uncovered grass. The January thaw which began in December right after a minimalist white Christmas continued all through January and half of February.

Oh, not that there wasn't talk of snow. The weather channels and sites always seemed to threaten snow. And there was a small, slight chance here and there that issued an inch or less which because of temps instantly melted. Snow became something which happened in Boston or Maine, and all but the ski areas here seemed rather grateful. So when the talk of a major storm heading our way first started we all rolled our eyes and said, Oh, yeah, sure in unison.

I was nursing the last of two cords of wood (October and November called for more fires). I was looking at the garden beds and planning for spring but there was just something about the wind or lack there of. Or maybe it was my esp or close connection to the earth since I live on it. I called my firewood supplier and had him deliver another cord. He actually bought me rather more than that on the 21st of February. It began to snow on the 22nd. I was rather surprised when there was actually snow to drive through.

First Tracks

The weather prognosticators started talking of the week long back to back storms which could drop feet instead of inches. Like, yeah, when has that happened in this decade?

And to prove me right in my skepticism the clouds parted and the sun came out. I hopped in my trusty pickup with the four wheel drive and went to photograph my changed domain.

Gang of Four

I was no sooner back and uploading my photos when the sucker hole closed and it began to snow again.

Big Blue on the 26th

New Mexico is not known for days without sunshine. The natives get restless quickly. I am not sure exactly when I decided this was not going away. I was in denial for a while. I had plenty of wood and kept the wood stove going 24/7 because there was no sunshine to take advantage of the passive solar studio. I was burying myself in the studio with a new painting while the goddess of snow was burying my house. Daily I would push broom off the 4 to 8 inches of new snow off Big Blue and go out in part to prove I could but mostly to tend to my pet clients. The camera went with, and I now have such a large selection of snow photographs I was getting bored of taking another.

On the the 27th the sun broke through oh, so briefly. Sun glorious sun. Surely the storm of the century was over? No.

The Fence Line

The 28th was the most snow yet to date. There are chances of snow through Wednesday. Today and Monday some weather people say we could get a foot more. 

Still coming down

But some of it could be rain. The accumulation of the white stuff in my yard is chest high on my labradoodle. But yesterday when it was warm enough to unzip my jacket while shoveling snow. I actually remembered I love the stuff. It is beautiful when it comes without wind and you measure it in inches and not feet.

Shoveling snow

This in day eight and it is still snowing at report time. There is not a cloudless sky in our forecast till Thursday. But it is all good. This could end our drought. It will add moisture to the trees in the forest to retard the May wildfires. And it will recharge the aquifers from which our wells pump. In more than a week we have made up for two months of no snow.

Albuquerque is calling it the storm of the century with their 8.6 inches. Wimps. We have had bigger one day amounts (2006 with 6 feet) but I cannot remember more days in a row of snow. It is hard to say how much we got in total because it begins to weight itself down and pack up. The temps have been such in the days and the ground unfrozen and dry when this began so a lot has already soaked in thankfully. And because of the mountains some of my more distant neighbors have gotten more than me here in the Banana Belt. We have not seen the peaks of the mountains for days. The ski areas always muddy the waters with their measurements as they vie for the spring breakers.

Over next weekend it will be in the 40's with that great New Mexico sun back. It will be mud and flood time. At least briefly. The Little Coyote in my backyard may exceed its banks. And all us cabin fever locals will venture out to the coffee shop to talk of the storm of the decade. We will compare notes on who got more. And debate this storm over others we remember. But we have already agreed that Mother Nature is weird.