Saturday, December 31, 2016

There is a Disturbance in the Force

I will be thrilled to see 2016 end. But then I do not see a lot of hope that 2017 will be better for the world. And on a very personal level 2016 has not been horrid. Just not good. I lost two great pets; Wee Willow and Mardi Gras. And the vast majority of my idols from my youth crossed the bridge.

I am very empathetic and many of my dear friends have been going through some very tough times. Would be nice if I could just disconnect but that is who I am. Seems I am just past one round of tears and another begins. 

On the world stage this year saw the death by self-emulation of the Democratic party. As soon as the last primary was over I re-registered as unaffiliated. And watched as the United States created slow suicide by the election of a false idol. Like so many of my friends I suffer still from STSD (Severe Trump Stress Disorder.) The one spark of hope is the complacency of my generation is beginning to fracture. And light can be seen on the other side. Time to get active again. I assure myself each morning that breakdown comes before breakthrough.

But I am going through mourning for my society. I no longer see the victories of my socially committed youth as safe. I must fight to see that the equality and freedoms gained will not be crushed by an egomaniac in a golden tower. But I am older.

I learned in my youth when I marched or campaigned for way too much that I am most effective when I concentrate on just one or two fights. As a photographer living near the wilderness I have chosen the land and the rights of the peoples of that land. Seems fitting as this year I got a new camera.

The problem seems to be in remaining stable while the world is being shaken to its very core. There is indeed a disturbance in the force, and we are in for a very bumpy ride.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Side Effects

As, no doubt, the whole world is aware we just had presidential election in this country. In some ways it reminded me of my first windowpane LSD trip. The trip was awesome but the side effects lingered and colored my whole world. Prior to the birthday acid I thought I was happy. Afterwards I realized I wasn't and radically changed my whole life in a matter of weeks.

After this presidential acid trip I knew I was severely depressed. And the signs had been building since the Democratic primary in New Mexico. First result is I changed my registration to unaffiliated after being a Democrat for most of my life. For a while I was rather too self-involved to realize that most of my friends were crying more, more withdrawn, more afraid. And soon I began to suspect anyone who did not exhibit these signs. Did they get the placebo or just cheek it?

Or, heaven forbid, did I have friends who voted for him? During the beginning of the cabinet picks I waited for them to become aware of their mistake. Instead they became brazen. Rude. Crude. And downright socially unacceptable.

One dear friend even told me to "grow up and get off it." Well, that ended a friendship based on art and history which had survived the election. Nobody tells me to grow up. Especially on my own Facebook page. I began to notice that it was suddenly more and more acceptable to use once politically incorrect racist and sexist terms and "grab pussy" even on the internet. I used the unfollow and then unfriend options a lot more than I had.

Would this wear off I asked myself. Rather like cleaning up your act with your dorm mates the weeks before going home for the holidays. But, no, it seems to have gotten worse. I went from crying to abhorred. This cannot be my country, not my president, and not my friends. I was never a prude about cussing but I do not like verbal abuse in any form but especially not in the elected leader of our country or my friends.

I am an introvert but my circle of friends has gotten smaller. My public appearances less. I wear safety pins on my jacket lapels and found myself just recently searching the internet for decorative original jewelry in safety pin form. Say in silver with turquoise? Obviously this is not going away fast and the safety pins I found in my sewing drawer will not suffice for all occasions.  Couldn't they have picked a spider symbol? I have lots of spider lapel pins.

I have even found myself watching documentaries about French resistance in the German invasion, and The Man in the High Castle streaming, and taking notes of how to deal with the reality outside my castle walls. Maybe I can just stay home. My cringes will give me away as an enemy of the state.

Some side effects are permanent. Some fatal. Time will tell.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Which Came First

Chaos in the Studio

Let me open this discussion by stating clearly I am not a hoarder but I am a collector. What artist isn't? And one of the big things I collect is art supplies. And I paint more than I sell in these trying economic times. In short I could never be Oprah. Decluttering is not an option by her standards. First I do not have a full time maid.

But I also do not believe a chaotic life is caused by clutter. I think it is the reverse. If something isn't working well in your life your home reflects that in very big ways. I have been depressed. And my studio showed it in big time ways. I was not depressed because the studio was a mess. In fact I won't even notice the mess until I am less depressed.

Mother used to tell me when I was down to put lipstick on and I would feel better. Let me say that is bullshit. At least to me. But then I just told a grieving friend I was glad she went in for a make over. Not because it would make her feel better but because it was a sign she felt better. So when I noticed how big a mess my studio was in I figured I was on the uptick emotionally.

I have always suffered from periodic depressions. Usually once every six to seven years and for 6 to 7 months. This election just gave me a grand excuse to be depressed. And it probably made me more depressed than normal but it did not cause it. But I am writing this without crying and I am cleaning up my studio. I don't think politics caused this depression but it may have made it worse. And feeling better does not mean I like Trump any better than yesterday or the day before. Or this next four years isn't going to be damn depressing.

But depressions, be they chronic or periodic, connected to a head injury or the death of a loved one are not something which gets better by not watching the news or putting on lipstick. Being told to snap out of it just leads to wounded friendships. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Keeping the Dark at Bay

No light switches to grey the ebony black
Till the night beyond the windows begins to grey
And the sun creates a delicate pink
Against the blue howl of the wind
Left behind by the lightless dark.

My world reduced to circles of yellow cast by candles
Begins to expand beyond my lantern
But not to the global proportions of the internet.
The cat traverses between flickering flames
How does his tail not catch fire?

He toys with his fresh caught mouse
while I boil my eggs upon the wood stove
My internal clock trying to guess the time
While avoiding the question of how much longer with no power
Will the water, wood, candles and batteries last.

Will the sun break through the now clouds
Its light war the studio interior
Only shades of Whistler grey are promised
I dare the windows to assure myself the winds have not
blown the world away in the night.

J. Binford-Bell
December 16, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

More is Said in Jest

The Path Through the Storm

Or in fiction. Or at least the best of both. A Canadian friend of mine recommended the Louise Penny mystery books to me. I have begun my first, Still Life. And with every page am more and more glad she has written a lot of books about Chief Inspector Gamache's adventures. A well crafted mystery is always an escape from depressing times, and if it is cerebral, intelligent, and filled with compassion I will sign over my life to the world created in words.

Reading such a mystery is not easy or fast because there are references I must look up, vocabulary I must acquaint myself to, and books I must note down for a further read. Or at least determine if they are real or just a part of the fiction. A very good mystery writer not only entangles you in the story but in the ideas put forth in its telling.

One of the well crafted characters in Still Life puts forth a life concept from a book she enjoyed; Life is Loss. And she and Gamache have a discussion on that. I find myself totally in agreement. Welcome or unwelcome, expected or unexpected, material or personal we go from loss to loss. Sometimes joyfully and sometimes reluctantly. But the success of our life is on how we move through our losses. They become part of the tapestry of our lives.

We need awards and photo albums and Time Magazine covers to remember our successes but we carry our losses with us. They are what make us real. They are the basis for art, and poetry, and song. They make us strong and compassionate; they make us human.

We must work through our losses. We cannot get over them or put them behind us. Or medicate them away with Prosaic. They are who we are. They are the fabric of our lives. 

I am quite sad at the moment. I have many friends who are also very sad right now. My empathy leads me to cry for them as much as I cry for myself. I eat chocolate, drink coffee, love my fur kids, go into the forest and take pictures, and lose myself in books which speak to my wounded spirit. These are my bandages.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Slip Sliding Away

MacArthur Park is melting in the rain

In my youth, the heady days of rock and roll, I was in love with the lonely poets of song; Richard Harris, Paul Simon, Don McLean, Carole King, Donovan, Neil Diamond, Joan Baez, John Denver . . . the list goes on. I only sing in the car with the windows rolled up but I know the words almost instantly and if the song struck a cord in my life I am doomed to never forget it.

The songsters of my parents' generation were musical instruments singing the words of others. But the lonely poets wrote of their own lives and so often mine. Since it looks as if my dreams of my youth are melting away I seem to be haunted by all those lyrics. I have a MP3 player where I have uploaded a lot of my favorites from the past so I can tune out. If music is to calm the savage breast why is it end up in tears?

My list of lonely poets has grown with Prince and Bowie and Queen and Adele. It isn't the rhythm or tune it is the words. The songs are my audible poets.  And it is not just songs but novels. I remember whole paragraphs. Words written by an author as if they are living my life. In a world which largely doesn't read let alone write poems and seldom speaks in words longer than one syllable, let alone complex thought, I am obviously a creature of a dead world melting into the past. 

How could our generation be so wrong that a whole political party wants to erase us? And everything we achieved. We created so many beautiful songs and stories and art? We embraced so many. We marched for peace and fought for equal rights. 

Was I wrong? Has my entire life been a waste? Is the progress of a generation to mean nothing?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Farewell and Good Riddance 2016

Seems like all the idols of my generation died in 2016. I begin to see it as a hint it is time to depart myself. And I must not be the only one thinking along those lines because social media seems rampant with suicide hot line telephone numbers everyone is suppose to copy and post. I keep wondering why it is sharing isn't good enough. And why would I want to be talked out of it. What is the plus side of hanging around.

I am not, in my opinion, suicidal but I have never been totally opposed to it. Maybe it is my theatrical experience. Know when to make an exit. Or my generations battle cry of live hard, die young and leave a beautiful corpse, but it is too late for that. Or maybe it is simply if I am to hang around for a while in the cosmic consciousness awaiting my next earth experience those who have passed on seem like a really good group to be part of. I do not think along the same lines of those left in charge of the world.

Admittedly I felt like this in the days of Don McLean and Bye Bye Miss America Pie.  But I had so much more energy in my youth. I don't know if I have the heart to fight for civil rights or women's rights or against the mining interests to save the National Parks. I don't have the drive to join the Monkey Wrench Gang again. Or even march with candles to the White House to end the War in Vietnam.

And maybe it is because we all got so comfortable with what we had achieved we never considered it could be taken away from us. But I remember telling a doctor who I was petitioning for a tubal ligation that I never wanted to bring children into this world because I didn't figure it would last that long. At least not a world I would want to pass on to anyone. The doctor's wife was a leader in trying to get the ERA passed. We were at that time, 40 some years ago, just one state away from ratification.

Now I have to face the fact I will have been born, lived, and likely will die as a second class citizen in a less than stellar country. I just find it all so depressing. I want to apologize to all diverse friends. And to my late mother to whom I promised I would not let them take our right to choose away.

But even in the worst of times I keep putting one foot in front of the other. Dad's survival training wins out. And there is the custom of blaming it on a bad year like a wine vintage. Really cannot wait for this year to be over.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Wisdom Is in Short Supply

I and 599 other students sat in complete silence in the largest University of New Mexico lecture room the afternoon of November 22, 1963. We had just heard that President John F. Kennedy was dead. Shot in Dallas, Texas. Most of us had spent our lunch break watching the live news on TV's in the dorms or the Student Union Building.

We had come to Sociology 101 not just because it was the next class on our schedule but because it was something to do besides watch the horrid images. And we figured if anyone could say something to make it all go away it would be Professor Varley.

He walked up on to the stage into the silence and wrote with chalk on the black board, Class Dismissed. And he walked off. We sat. Without words. As we rose to leave a student behind me loudly said, "At least the man who should be president will be now." I slugged her. I would probably have faced a week long suspension except that all classes were suspended for all of us so that we could observe history being made. I watched waiting for someone to say something to make it all go away. 

It seems I am often waiting for those incantations. I waited for the Warren Commission to say the right thing. I waited after Martin Luther was shot, and Robert Kennedy. The Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion seemed surrounded in silence. As my father lay dying I waited for him to give me something I could quote for years. I still had faith after 9/ll that wise men would say wise things.

Now trying to absorb the election of Donald Trump to President I find there are no right words. Some events are just beyond our ability to sum up in black upon white. I keep harking back to Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address, ". . . far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it will never forget what we did here." 

There are events in our lives which we will never forget. We will always know where we were when Walter Cronkite broke into As the World Turns to announce that President Kennedy is dead or the second plane it the Towers on live TV. Some things are just a huge disturbance in the force, to paraphrase Star Wars. They strike us dumb. That Donald Trump won the electoral college is not unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Every time I try to sum up the event I just cry. Not for Hillary's loss but for what our country will be like under a Trump administration.

Monday, November 21, 2016

He Isn't Right

My brother always told me I was dumb. Not daily but often enough I got that he considered it his mission in life to make me believe it. He was clearly in league with my mother, or she with him, who would say, "Men don't like smart women so being dumb is good."

Those may not have been her exact words but there was a whole lexicon of of them she marched out. Her top priorities for me were dates, marriage and kids. I was a huge disappointment because in my first year of college I did not get my MRS degree. I constantly got lectures about not studying at the law library, majoring in Fine Arts because I wanted to curate a museum and not decorate the nursery, and not going to church to catch a man. I might have gotten her to drop that last one if I had not constantly broken into lectures about religion being the opiate of the masses and Zen was the way.

It was my father who revealed to me the results of my IQ scores from routine school tests to talk me out of attempting a Master's. But having my brother tell me daily I was dumb was hard to override. A lie becomes the truth when repeated often as the political parties of the US have now proven. I graduated from college and my brother didn't. He went on to write computer code for programs, I became a project engineer and at one time wrote manuals for the mere mortals who had to use those programs. But to the very last day of our communications he told me I was dumb.

Still I was always seduced by intelligence. It may be the new sexy for this generation but it was always the sexiest thing for me. Even in causal friendships brains is a major factor. It may be that or the fact I am an introvert but I do not do casual chit chat well. Even a chance meeting with a friend in the freezer department of the store can progress rapidly to the global implication of Chinese Tilapia in Albertson stores in the United States. I am sure Google and Wiki were designed for me.

As my very intelligent late husband used to say, I do not tolerate fools gladly. So you can imagine how very thrilled I am at the results of the last election. Maybe Mom was right and I would have been happier had I been dumb like my brother constantly told me. But I doubt it.

The coming four years is not going to be easy. Trump reminds me too much of my brother. And I don't like speeches where every three word sentence is repeated three times as if I am the dumb one. I just won't watch his speeches. And maybe I will learn to chit chat since dumb is now the new normal. Somehow I doubt it. I expect I will just spend more time on Google and Wiki.

I am considering doing a cross stitch sampler which says, "You Don't Have to be Intelligent to be Elected."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Times They Are Changing

"Be careful what you ask for," my father used to caution. I was well read and very creative at a very young age and I could come up with curses to curl even the toes of goblins. Most were directed at my brother. We were never the best of friends even though I would protect him against the monsters down the street. He was a bit of wimp when it came to equals and grew up to become quite a beater of women.

Dad never quite understood that I wanted all those things I asked for in my curses to come true. I haven't talked to my brother in thirty some years. But I was reminded of him daily in this election cycle. Trump is like my brother in so many ways. My brother wasn't orange but he was a big mouth which always threw belittling put downs at me. Especially when he lost at a game but even when he won. I even stopped playing games with him to avoid losing or worse winning.  That is when I would come out with my hexes. Hexes to ward off the evil and protect myself. I think hexes is right. I had been deeply influenced by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and several books about King Arthur and Merlin. And then there was the short story The Monkey's Paw so I knew even wishes had powers beyond our control.

When he got run over by the Baptist Church dump truck (but totally survived) I dialed it down a bit. Well, at least out loud. But I have been left with a firm belief that words, especially my words, have power. And I will confess to wanting change for this country. But, trust me, not Trump. Too much like my brother. They both scare me. So does my ex-stepson, too. He looks more like Trump.

Frankly, I believe I would have preferred a revolution. But seriously I wanted a constitutional convention. Not Trump. Never Trump. But as I was shown with The Monkey's Paw we seldom have control over how our wishes are translated. Dad was right. Be careful what you ask for. I am not always as careful as I should be. But surely this is not my fault. And the dump truck was driven by a drunk Baptist.

And if my ex-stepson is arrested as a serial killer I promise to never get on TV and say he was a good boy. And if my brother runs for president I will not vote for him. But this country needs change. I just hope this ends well.

But we are in for a bumpy ride.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Yellow Volkswagen

In college my father proposed to buy me a car upon completing my junior year on the Dean's list. He would buy the car for me but I had to afford everything else it required. I wanted a VW Beetle in butter cream yellow. I thought it was such a unique color. But I suddenly saw them everywhere. As I also begun to see all the expenses of a gift horse (well, Beetle). I was putting myself through college at the time. No student loans then. I had part time jobs on campus and close to campus. I mostly walked everywhere I needed to go. Or took the bus. Albuquerque had a good bus system. 

So as the spring semester inched on I saw more and more yellow Beetles and more and more flaws to my father's generous offer. But I also began to see just how expensive putting myself through college was. How much a toll on my life the jobs took. Not to mention the studying to keep up my grades. All my friends worried about me. I was no longer fun.

 I kept up my grades. I completed my junior year. And I quit college. It would be two miserable years before I would go back to the University of New Mexico and complete my degree. I kidded around that it was all the fault of the Yellow Volkswagen Syndrome (YVS). Until Dad had offered to buy me that car I had not seen all the flaws in my life and my choices. Hell, I was even majoring in the wrong subject, and for all the wrong reasons.

This election is my current YVS. Only this time the myriad cracks suddenly visible are not in my life but in my country. How in Hell did it get this bad without me noticing? Surely 2000 Election was a sign, but I figured the system would self correct. The Tea Party was a warning sign it hadn't. I saw the back peddling on women's issues as minor flaws, but then the minor flaws seemed to be more and more prevalent. Then they were everywhere. The DNC and the RNC picking their two standard bearers revealed the entire spiderweb for cracks and fissures in the Statue of Liberty and the land it represents.

It isn't just our infrastructure which is crumbling. Our Democracy is dust.

After years of working in the building trades I decided the bulldozer was under appreciated as a remodeling tool. Now I see that our country is not just a remodeling job like Trump proposes (Make American Great Again). A Constitutional convention will be too little and too late even if we achieve it. We need a complete and total rebuild. A revolution.

I will vote on Tuesday. I see it changing nothing. Fortunately I am old enough I will probably crumble before the Huns take the walls. Too bad. This seemed like such a great place to make history. But then the fall of the Roman Empire is history.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

When Life Gets Too Complicated

When life gets too complicated and overwhelming I often opt out. At least for a little while. This week has been like that. And increasingly more so. Yesterday I took radical action. I closed the my calendar, grabbed a camera and called to my loyal canine companion, and headed out to where I knew I would see nobody. I even left the cellphone in the truck.

I live in New Mexico mountains because such stolen time is easy to arrange. I only had to drive a couple of miles. I did not realize until I was walking with Magique at my side how long it had been since my labradoodle and I had done this solo.

Mardi Gras's passing in the last week of August had begun a round of walking with friends. I knew Magique was as lonely for our missing fur friend as I was, and I was constantly arranging play dates with friends with dogs and trails picked for the exercise and comradeship as opposed to solitude.

Maybe I was over complicating my life so I would not have to face the loss of my 17 year old Standard Poodle. Such walks as Magique and I took yesterday were common fare when Mardi Gras was here with us. Every stop I took for a photo opportunity I found myself looking for her. I once had two totally well trained photographer's dogs who stood behind and beside and never got in the frame if I stopped and raised the camera. Now I just have one.

It was a great walk yesterday. The weather was perfect and the photo opportunities quite nice. When you walk with just your fur kid there is a wonderful silence which fills the path. It is simple. And very calming to your soul.

We miss you Mardi Gras

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Through a glass darkly

Another spindoctor word. My sister used it yesterday. She wants to simplify her life. But unlike declutter I don't know that we have any control over simplification. Unless we commit murder, plead guilty and upon entering an ultimate "long care facility" with bars do something to get us thrown into solitary confinement with no hope of release.

Life generally is just messy. Let's take just passwords for those various techno machines designed to make our lives simpler. I once had this grand scheme for passwords. They came in two basic styles. I used the forbidden pet names for social media sites, and variations on a favorite author's name for ones demanding more security and then if I had to use other than letters substituted a letter with a number. Then suddenly I had to reset a password with one at least 8 characters long using upper and lower case letters and at least one number and a symbol (@#$&*or + but never (){} or []). At that point I went to the dreaded notebook to remember my fanciful creations.

And speaking of techno machines I began with a desktop computer, added a laptop and then a tablet. Sitting on my coffee table (too full of books to hold a coffee mug) is a Firestick which promises to simplify my TV streaming by bypassing the BluRay player (which will have to be plugged in when I want to watch CD's). Sort of afraid to open the box. 

The modem/router for my board band fiber optic service may have simplified my life (if someone would come up with one word or acronym to use) except that my photographic printer does not communicate with it even though it says it should. And to get photos from camera to desktop to laptop to tablet I am learning to use dropbox (maybe) but if I delete the tablet from the equation a jump drive just seems easier. Be nice if tablets had USB ports for jump drives. 

Would be nice if I could afford a computer guy to come in and make all the machines play nice with each other. So I took a part time job which required I fill out a time sheet and scan it in to email it to those writing checks (electronic deposit into bank but they still send a check I cannot cash). But now they have given me another tablet (cannot use mine), with another password (another set of requirements for said password) to record my hours on. To make a long story short it evidently reads imaginary characters on the log in like when you backspace to delete a letter you didn't mean to hit. I am constantly calling to have it unlocked. And so when it is not unlocked promptly there is a Time Correction/Adjustment Form for each and every day to be filled out and submitted electronically (scan and email or FAX). All this to cut down paper and transmission costs and simply the process so it stops abuse and fraud. I currently have four such sheets to fill out and FAX this morning.

Thinking fondly of that solitary cell in a maximum security facility. Wonder if it requires a password. How about IQuit? Oops, no number.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Blessed Samhain

Samhain, or festival of the Dead, means Summer's end. It is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the start of the coldest half of the year. It is also the beginning of the spiritual new year. And perhaps the one marker of the year which resonates with me most.

Time, as we mark it now, is an illusion upon which we agree for the sake of the smooth running of the cultural world as we know it. It was first needed in a formal state for navigation of ships. To determine longitude and latitude you needed a compass and time. Universal time. Greenwich Mean Time and time zones. And Daylight Savings Time proves it is a fairy tale. But agreement in that story told by idiots allows planes to take off and land continents away per a schedule.

The Universe, however, goes by its own schedule, which we are told slips and slides some. Adjusting to those variances causes calendar adjustments now and then. Most recently to the Gregorian Calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. It was a correction to the previously used Julian Calendar. It was originally undertaken not to correct for a 0.0002% error which resulted in an 11 minute annual error to the the solar year but to keep Easter near the Spring Equinox.

In 1852 you went to bed on the evening of September 2nd and woke up on the morning of September 14th. People rioted in the streets because of those lost days of their lives. And while this historic deletion of eleven days on the calendar was done for the sake of Christian holidays it cemented the concept of time per astronomical events followed in many pagan or earth beliefs. There is now talk of another adjustment to modern marking of time. The earth has slowed in its rotation and orbit.  Even the Boxing Day Tsunami reportedly effected time by minute amounts.

So to single out tomorrow as the end of Summer and the beginning of the coldest part of the year is abstract at best. We are prone today to call Winter Solstice as the beginning of winter but some say it is now the middle of winter really. Samhain as the beginning of the spiritual year is as true as Lady's Day being the beginning of the Catholic New Year before the Gregorian Calendar. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thoughts upon Stacking Firewood

I think I would get the firewood stacked faster if I did not examine every piece. Mother called it lolly gagging. Teachers said I did not pay attention. And Miss May, who lived next door, said it was woolgathering, but sooner or later I would have enough to knit a sweater. Or write a blog or create a painting. Seriously there are some interesting things in your woodshed.

And stacking firewood is not dissimilar from the Zen revolution of Chop Wood Carry Water. 

"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water"

And maybe checking out all the unique pieces of wood isn't exactly what the Zen masters meant by chop wood, carry water. But I find piece in doing routine and repetitive tasks. Gandhi spun wool, literally. I stack firewood or drive the empty miles of the high plains or carry water to my studio plants. And sometimes I find enlightenment and sometimes a good photograph or a painting or great piece of wood I can use for something other than to burn.

Sometimes I discover answers to issues I shoved to the back of my mind. And solutions to problems I was not even aware I was pondering. And now and again a revelation or enlightenment. Some people pray but I stack firewood. Or drive to Raton. Or go for a walk with my camera and dog. I have never been able to just sit or kneel. I chop wood, carry water.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Dark is Coming

Yes, I live at 8725 feet above sea level, a hardiness zone of 3.5 to 4. And a statistic quoted on a ski resort site says we get 210 inches of snow a year. Note: it is wise to remember never at one time and oddly not accumulative. It snows and it melts and then it snows again and that melts. The most I can remember at any one time was 72 inches over three days beginning the year 2006 with a whimper. And that snow hung around for a long time.

I perusal of blogs of that winter reveals a lot of references to the Alaska TV series Northern Exposure, the Little House on the Prairie books, and blizzards in general. But that was a very usual year. Old timers said the worst in 70 years.

Mainly what I dread about the approach of winter, thankfully late this year, is the approaching dark. I would not have to look at the calendar to know winter is coming. Like birds, who know when to migrate, locals instinctively know when to build up stocks of firewood, etc. With me there is also a need to add color and light to my interior spaces and wash the windows.

Blooming orchids sneak into my grocery cart. This year, because I have learned how to make them bloom again there is quite of collection from previous years.

And I become concerned with lighting, totally adequate all summer long, which suddenly needs increased. This year it was the kitchen. I have installed three sets of under-cabinet lights. And changed out the ceiling fixture for a ceiling fan with three bulb light set.

Let there be light

And this year I decided to use the studio for what it was originally intended for - a green house. I have decided to see if I can keep fresh greens and herbs all winter long. To that purpose I augmented the light through the windows with a grow light and stand. I even transplanted some of the summer Swiss Chard to a pot to continue its growth inside this winter. 

The Salad Section

Early results prove promising. This weekend is about stacking the delivered firewood in the protection of the wood shed, rolling up the hoses and hanging them on the fence so they can be found, and covering the garden and flower beds with straw and/or cardboard.

For all this prep I still dread the awful change of times coming next weekend. Followed quickly be time to vote. 

It isn't the cold. It is the dark I dread.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Not Decluttering

Orchids in the sun in my studio

I took a break yesterday from an extensive pantry clean out to chat with a friend on the phone. She was decluttering her life too she said. I do not like the term. As an artist I find a certain about of clutter to be inspirational. And obviously so did Miro. Though frankly he was the painter of the most uncluttered canvases I can name.

Miro's studio

So, no, I was not decluttering my pantry and kitchen yesterday. I was repurposing them. I do like that term better. 

Since late December of last year I have taken a long look at my eating and cooking habits and slowly re-aligned my diet to my body and its health. This has meant finding space for new things both in the nutrient area and in the tools for preparation. Clearly the toaster oven (used once in last month) had to go to allow space for the new Ninja food processing tool. Cabinet space had to be freed up for the salad spinner, etc.

And in trying to find storage area for the raw cashews,pine nuts, dates and crasins the emergency canned goods had to give way. Much in the same way adding oil sticks to the studio supplies meant tossing out the old acrylics I once used for mask making. I confess to no longer eating canned vegetables and soups. I make my own soups and freeze them so in the not too distant future I will require a small chest freezer. But for the moment I just had to box up the canned goods I no longer use and take them to an organization which redistributes them to those who not only still eat them but need them.

There probably is still a lot of clutter, by Oprah standards, on my counter and in my pantry but it is usable clutter which supports my lifestyle now. I still have all the copper cookie cutters hanging on the walls of the kitchen even though it has been years since I baked cookies (most recently dog biscuits with the bone cookie cutter). Removing them would be pure decluttering. It would be removing the richness of my environment for no reason. They are not in my way. The cans of Campbell's soup were.  

Now the goal is to remember where I moved everything.

This re-alignment of my kitchen to meet my needs means I have a new life style and not just a new diet.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Painful Week for Women

Denial, a refrigerator magnet I own, states is a Goddess-given survival tool. And women have used that survival tool for centuries. It isn't easy to stay in denial about the verbal and physical abuse women have put up with to keep the peace or keep their jobs or stay in a relationship.

But there is a cost to keeping the peace. It steals our confidence and our freedom and our aliveness. We stay married to avoid being single or we find living single works best because the men we pick are wrong. We learn to pal up with other women to do things men get to do alone like long walks in the woods. Some of us quit our jobs we sacrificed so much to get and keep. I could not live with the compromise of keeping my mouth shut to keep my job.

Mother said I was stubborn and had not learned the lesson of keeping silent. I would be happier, she maintained, if I was not so prideful and intelligent. I even toyed with becoming a nun. My aunt told me I could become a boy if I could kiss my elbow. OMG, I tried. You were safe if you were a man or boy.

These days I am self-employed and avoid large parties and lonely walks in the woods without a gun. I tell myself it is because of the bears. Bears don't scare me. Men do.

This week the news broke about Donald Trump and his abusive conduct and degrading language in relation to women. And the walls of denial came cascading down not just for me but for a lot of women I know on the internet or personally. I had to admit the world had not gotten better. Women are still third class citizens without equal rights to even our own bodies. But the truly hurtful part was when men I know excused Trumps shameful behavior. My cousin maintains Donald apologized. And said it was just words. Locker room chatter.

This man who would be president believes women are to use and abuse and demean and be graded on boob size. And a whole political party seems to agree with him. The nation seems to be putting down the women who reported the behavior. One, who lives in the deep south, is even moving to a foreign country to be safe. Fine example we are for the world. I am more thrilled than ever I chose to not bring children into it.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I Love Being Alone

When I was very young I was told repeatedly I was shy. I was always at the edge of play and when given a choice would go to my room and draw or to the fork of the cottonwood in the backyard and read. In school I always got the "does not play well with others" in the notations on the back of the card.

My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Hill, was the first to comprehend I did better on my own. When we had school plays or concerts to prepare for I did the scenery or was sent to the office to redecorate all the bulletin boards in the lobby of the school.

In high school I never went to dances or decorated for them. My participation in school electives was designing the cover for the literary magazine. In physical education I liked gymnastics or modern dance. As an adult I hike with a couple friends with our dogs but not the Trekkers. I liked skiing because I competed with myself. Photography was always there in my life because it was something I could do from the edge of a crowd or all by myself or with another photographer. I like my crowds small. Very small. Two is company and three is a crowd could have been coined by me.

I do have friends but I prefer limits on numbers and exposure. And most of my closest friends are of the same mind.

Every once in a while I dip a toe in social waters and come away chilled to the bone. You think at my age I would know better. I really I do. I just get stupid now and then and commit to something I know will leave me bruised and exhausted and full of self-loathing.

Remind me the next time I agree to be on a committee or board or accept an invitation to a party.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Table Rules

Dad taught me to play poker. And the rule book was Hoyle. We were a game playing family and we wore out several rule books. And with board games we constantly referred to the official rules which came with the game. They were generally printed on the inside of the top of the box.

I learned quickly when playing any game at a friend's house to find out the house or table rules before agreeing to play because not everyone played according to Hoyle. And if the "dealer" (usually the house we played at or the owner of the game) was not willing to state the table rules and stick to them I didn't play. I have always been a stickler about the rules.

As a citizen of the United States I consider the rules to be the Constitution with its amendments. Political parties should follow the rules. But they haven't this year. They haven't for a while.

Watergate was a wake up call for me. Nixon calling out the National Guard to quell peaceful peace marches in Washington, DC, had shaken my faith so I left the Republican party. And ultimately I left the groups trying to make a difference in the United States. I always stayed interested and informed, I always voted regardless of where I lived. But I saw more and more evidence of the disease of the system. This year the primaries made me leave the Democratic Party.

I truly believe neither party has the good of the people or our nation as a driving force. It is all about the Party. Sort of why I left organized religion. But I digress. There is no place in the rule book (the Constitution) which mandates a two party system. Actually our current primary system isn't in there either. The Republicans have their house rules and the Democrats have a separate set of house rules. But this year neither party followed even their own rules. Even those they made up as they went. So I choose to not play.

I will vote my conscious, but it will not be for either of the two major parties. I do not vote for cheaters. I fully believe if the Democrats and Republicans had the good of the United States and its citizens as its core value they would not have chosen the two candidates they picked by hook and crook. And if either of those two candidates had the good of the United States and its citizens as their core objective they would step down from being the banner carrier for their party.

And if congress had the good of the citizens and the United States as their prime directive they would step down or at the very least postpone this election. But they would also have long ago listened to their constituents about money in politics and term limits and compromise as well as infrastructure and job bills and making women full and equal citizens under the law and approving another Justice of the Supreme Court.

NOBODY in government or politics is playing by the rules. Nor are they considering us when they make up new table rules even in the middle of the game. Time for all of us to stand up and leave the table.

Did you get that Fox, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, BBC, etc.? You are not following the rules either. It is Freedom Speech not news per the highest bidder.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

If Given a Choice

If given a choice
on how
we see things
choose beauty
over evil
over dark.

If given a choice
on what
we hear
chose kindness
over rudeness
over screams.

If given a choice
Speak of beauty
Sing in tune
Focus on
the positive
and give all
the same choice.

J. Binford-Bell
September 2016

Saturday, September 10, 2016

We Have Choices

the rabbit hole
the sucker hole
Or neither.

to make you large
to make you small
or high.

to bring you low
to take you up
so you can ignore it all.

to make you angry
to make you right
to insure you are wrong.

Left or right
red or blue
right or wrong
of the above.

share that
or not
Say Goodnight, Gracie.

Jacqui Binford-Bell
September 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Thinking Upon Fall

I wrote a poem this morning on Creative Journey about fall creeping into the valley. It seems early but I only have to look at my photo files and garden journal to know it is about time. The grass is not as gold as in the photo above but that may be because of the extended monsoon season. But there and there is a branch on an aspen which is already gold or a Virginia Creeper vine turning red.

There are just so many images you can put in a poem unless it is the Iliad. But as one is writing it so many images spring to mind. And I found myself thinking long about the signs of fall.

The hummingbird feeders are down to two which I fill only every other day. That is down from three filled three times a day.

There are now more seed pods than bulbs on the holly hocks. I shall miss them.

Under house heat does not go on until the end of October but I plugged in the heated door mat on the deck outside the studio. It was gift. I would never have bought myself one. But when it fails I will purchase another. Nothing is quite like standing on a hot mat with bare feet taking a photograph of the dawn.

And dawn is later. I notice that more than sunset being earlier.

I have had one fire in the wood stove on a cloudy and damp day. Always end the firewood season with enough logs to toss in on those rare cold early fall days.

Time to order firewood. And schedule the chimney sweep.

I bought apples and made an apple crisp. I seldom do that except in fall.

The number of hawks in the skies around my house seems to have tripled. I can only assume some migrants are passing through and celebrating with the locals.

There is a who list of todos beyond the firewood and chimney sweep but there is still time. For now it is just great to sit on the deck and breathe. Fall smells so good.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Revealed Truth Standing On My Deck

The Binford-Bell Studio Deck

When I first bought my home in Black Lake it was in many ways a compromise. It didn't have a deck or even a porch for sipping morning coffee. But then neither did the house I was moving from. The house my husband of the time refused to entertain any changes to.

And my plans and dreams of the changes I would make to my new home were put on hold by the changes which had to be made because of the lies the seller and his agent made. First there was the new well, and then the new lift station for the septic system. Costly things. I contented myself with cosmetic changes to my living space. And necessary upgrades to the attached rental unit. I tried modifications to the back porches on both sides but they are on the north side. Coffee in a rocking chair I bought specifically for the purpose was a chancy and very seasonal thing. It suited only dashing out in coat and snow boots to capture a fleeting dawn; quickly, very quickly.

I began to plan and scheme to have a sunporch with attached deck on the alee side of the house. By 2006 the small sunporch was a green house and then a studio with passive solar. Construction began in the spring of 2007 and by that fall I had fired my contractor and began work on finishing the project myself. Fall 2009 the dreamed of studio was done except for the deck. There was only temporary steps.

"Temporary" steps
They were really not that temporary. Or even big enough for a chair. Still I would sit on the steps and enjoy a warm weather lunch with my fur kids. Decks were expensive and the contractor had put a lien on my house because I had kicked him off. I was not about to do further improvements on a place he might win from me with a judicial decision however unjust. Five years later that was decided in my favor and I was fighting of the stagnation of not moving forward.

Then a friend gave me wood and the deck project became a dream again. A dream which had to become a reality before the snow fell. And because I did not trust contractors I wanted to do it all myself. But realistically I cannot hold both ends of a board at the same time. I got the opportunity to confront all my trust issues instead.

Isaac Martinez and crew

And the good news is they finished it in one day and one morning. I had to live with the temporary steps to new deck for only a few hours.

New deck with its own set of temporary steps

Besides there was a lot I can do to personalize this dream a long time coming. First was picking a stain color and staining it. Thicke immediately approved of his new hunting platform over looking the vole fields.

There is much more to do to make it totally mine. And several things which will have to be done quickly before winter snows. I am reminded some of the longest journeys are just outside the door. The door which once only had temporary steps, and now has a 8 x 12 foot deck with five and a half foot wide steps toward the gate.