Saturday, August 12, 2017

Duck and Cover - DTJ



I was in my senior year of high school when Russia parked missiles in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis also known as the Crisis de Octobre or just the Missile Scare was 13 days in October of 1962, the 16th through the 28th. Thirteen months later the President who stared down the Russians would be dead in Dallas. Shot by a man connected with Russia. My first conspiracy theory was that Russia was responsible because of those missiles President Kennedy made them take out of Cuba.

The building of a personal bomb shelter was a big conversation topic on Bellamah Street in Albuquerque in 1962 and 1963. The city nobody could spell was on the top ten hit list for missiles from Russia. We had two Air Force Bases and a mountain in the Manzano mountains to the immediate east which was hallowed out to stockpile our nuclear arsenal. And air raid sirens were tested every day. Duck and Cover made a return into my life.

I was in the second grade in Roswell, NM going to a Walker Air Force base school when I first remember being schooled in Duck and Cover. And being marched out of our building to a designated bomb shelter. My US Air Force pilot father talked me out of my tears of fear by informing me it didn't work. There was no way to survive a nuclear war. So I should just humor the adults who thought there was by dutifully hiding under my desk or marching in a row through the fall out to a basement with an atomic energy symbol on the door.
In the days following 9/11 a young adult friend of mine asked me why I was not afraid. I replied rather glibly, "Nothing new. I grew up afraid. I am one of the duck and cover generation." I don't remember fire drills in school but air raid drills. 

There has been a lot of talk about that long ago Missile Crisis since Trump has begun his verbal war with Korea. It has brought up a lot of memories about those long ago days in October. One of the biggest is Mom and Dad taking us on a camping trip to the mountains. No internet in those days. And actually no radio either. Not in the mountains. But Dad tried to get reception to keep up with what was going on. The static made it impossible. Without being told I fell in with the adult plan of enjoying the fishing and not being afraid of a red dawn. I was the oldest.

Until the day came to drive back home. If home was there. I tried not to notice Dad not turning up the volume on the car radio. "Maybe we should stay here," I said aloud as we drove into the tiny village of Canjilon, New Mexico. It was another ten miles before the radio would pick up an Albuquerque station and the local weather.

Home was still there. But to this day in times of no win situations I think of Canjilon and the beaver lakes where we fished for five days in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I am glad I have returned to the mountains to live. We are not on anyone's top ten list. That is good.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Pruning the Crown of Thorns

Crown of Thorns Before

I am a lover of Euphorbias. They are from the deserts of Southern Africa and Madagascar. They have evolved physical characteristics and forms similar to cacti of North and South America and are often incorrectly referred to as cacti. My big Crown of Thorns was one of my first of a growing collection of these succulents from the spurge family of Euphorbiaceae. I picked it up as a 6 inch plant in a New Iberia nursery when my sister and I were touring the northern gulf coast. I believe that was 15 years ago.

I made an attempt at limiting its height a few years back to allow it to devote more energy to the new branches and make it a denser plant. That failed. And the height of the plant continued to challenge the window space and soon the long branches were leaning over and leaning against the window.

I googled and found the proper way to prune this treasured plant. Still it was very difficult to cut off the four longer branches. Even with a plan.

The five pots with "new" plants

 I am not sure why I was afraid of this step because I have propagated other Euphorbia in my collection. Maybe it was that I failed once when I cut off the tall center branch. But I was essentially at that time trying to root pieces of the leafless trunk. That, according to one article I read, doesn't work. In this case I am focusing my efforts on the tops of the four branches I cut off. And the little sprouts which the parent plant puts out to spread itself. Three of those are in the second from the right pot.

All the pots are filled with sand and once moistened I am suppose to refrain from watering. This plant is from a desert area of the world. 

The pruned mother plant

With the larger branches gone the multiple little beginnings of branches should have more resources to grow and I will get a denser and healthier plant. In a week or two I want to lift the plant up (with leather gloves) and put more cactus potting soil below it in the pot. Repotting isn't necessary at this point the articles I read said.

I think I was willing to risk this radical step because I have recently visited a home where a Crown of Thorns was clearly dying because it had not been pruned. I own two other Crown of Thorns. And I now have the possibility of five new plants. If it works I will be looking for homes. Meanwhile positive thoughts for the mother plant.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Frantic Living - DTJ

California Poppies

Summer seems so short. So frantic. Not at all like the old song, Summer Time. The living isn't easy in a tourist town. Or if you garden. There is this brief window of opportunity and all are competing for your time and energy. I feel as if I am cheating if I just sit down for a cup of coffee on my deck. Yesterday I was able to do that if I took my sketch pad. I am working on a new concept for two paintings. The year is 7/12th over and I have only finished two paintings.

When I was an active art fair participant I had to be painting almost constantly during the first third of the year to have enough inventory to carry me through the summer and fall seasons. And yet I still tried to garden. Note: only possible with programmable drip irrigation system.

So shouldn't the living be easy? But it is raining and the grass is growing. Maybe I need a goat or two. I manically tried to keep up with mower and weed eater. While at the same time pushing to paint more, and to produce some framed canvas photographic prints to capitalize on two active venues. Besides if I was busy there was no time for depressing news and the circus going on.

Spirit has a way of stopping me in my tracks. This time it was my left arm. I knew when I was trying to get the last 20 feet with the weed eater I was pushing it. But I did it and then came in and stretched the last two canvas prints. My sister asked if this wasn't the shoulder I had injured in that long ago ski accident. I tend to remember only the CBT. And nobody ever told me I would be as good as new. I forget that.

I'm fine (my favorite answer to questions about health). And I am fine when I pace myself. Just forgot that. Denial is a survival skill. So I have been on chair rest. Which means the grass continues to grow unabated but the web pages for my art and photography are getting buffed and fluffed after an extended period of neglect. And there has been some photo file cleansing going on. But I have been obedient. As if it was an option. This period of neglect which began in late June has resulted in serious pain and limitation. 

Denial can be your enemy. Face it I don't do frantic any more. At least I still have health care. And writing my MoC can be done with a minimum of effort. I can even do it one handed if I must. More days of chair rest ahead until I can safely handle my big boy camera with both hands. Fortunately there are more computer based actions I need to do for my business. Boy, was I behind. And the forecast is for a long warm fall.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The New Easel



I used to paint small watercolors on paper. College training. And then the art suppliers came out with watercolor canvas. And I could paint larger.

But my studio furniture was all designed for small works. Most watercolors are painted on the flat because water drips. I expanded to folding tables which seemed to never get folded up and were sometimes still too small. And as I got bigger I expanded into more mixed media like oil sticks. While my flat work was poured and so took less time.

I am creative. I jerry-rigged an easel using my flat shelves and clamps. I finally gave up and bought an adjustable easel. It will lay flat but also stand up. It frees up a lot of work space in my studio. Work space which seems to be constantly over run with other projects like painted chairs.


And dogs I take in for vacations while owners are away. Every once in a while it occurs to me I was going to make this studio at one time half the size it is currently and only had a 3 x 4 foot stoop to sit and have my lunch on. Currently wondering if I made the deck too small also.

The new easel had demanded a rearrangement of art supplies and a cleaning out of my flat files. Now to clean off the L shaped table where I once painted so it can be used more for photo editing and drawing.

But first I have eight photographs on canvas coming early next week. All need to be stretched so the matting table needs addressed. I have a flat surface malady. I will walk into a room and deposit something on the first flat surface I come too. This usually seems to plague the living room and the kitchen. But since I built the deck I tend to use the studio entrance so all flat surfaces in that room are covered.

Which brings me to why the easel is such a good deal. It is seldom flat and when it is there will be a painting on it I don't dare stack things on. So if you are wondering why with a new easel I am not painting up a storm it is because I am once again cleaning up the studio.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Late Great USA



I think this is it. I believe it is the last time 50 states will celebrate Independence day together. It is clear we are no longer independent. And we are no longer together.

The divisions have been widening for some time now. It began in very quiet ways. The mountain west does not feel represented by the eastern establishment. And now that DT has declared war on our western lands more openly the chasm is growing. They believe they can sell off our public lands to foreign mining interests (including Russia) and then allow them to ruin the water. Since we won't let them steal the water they will poison it.

There is a phrase about being related to people you would not cross the street to meet. As citizens we are united to people we really don't want to know. We don't hold the same values, watch the same television shows, go to the same movies or sports events, even eat the same foods.

A  friend from another country asked what is American food? I found a list forming in my mind and realized it was comprised mostly of things I don't eat. Oh, I love how Savannah does shrimp and grits for breakfast. I can devour mud bugs with Cajun spices. I love how Kansas City does barbecue but North Carolina not so much. I love how major cities have ethnic food available. And I live in New Mexico where the cuisine is New Mexican and not American. It may have more to do with First Nations or Mexico than the USA.

And I increasingly do not think of myself as a citizen of the USA. Since Trump took office I find I cannot support the policies of this trashed government. So this 4th of July I will be wearing black.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

Storm Coming by J. Binford-Bell

In my family I was the crazy one. I know because my brother told me so. A lot. In fact, I stopped talking to my brother decades ago because of that. A psychologist told me to. No body needs someone who constantly tells them they are crazy. Words have power. There is no truth to the childish chant of Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Words hurt. Words sting. Words heard often enough re-shape us. Some call it brainwashing, some re-programming, some the truth. Jackie Gleason was very popular when I was young. I was taunted in during recess as being Jackie Gleason and being too fat. I graduated from high school weighing 85 pounds. I believed an art teacher who said I had no talent. A fifth grade teacher who said I was too lazy to excel. Mother convinced me to never attempt to be a writer because I could not spell. I knew I should take the first offer of marriage (if indeed I got an offer) because I was ugly or so pep squad had told me when I tried out.

Mother enrolled me in college and sent me off to earn my MRS degree. I was a townie until Dad was transferred mid term and I moved into the dorm. And somehow I knew this was my one chance to survive. Nobody there knew all my truths. I shoved those to the back of my mind, changed the spelling of my name and began the process of remaking myself. Well, mostly remaking myself. An upper classmate told me crazy was good. Especially if I was going to be an artist, and if I didn't do that I was crazy because I was talented.

The truth can set you free. That and spell check on a word processor. Not talking to those toxic relatives doesn't hurt. I truly believe only dogs and cats tell you the truth. All else is faux news.

Note: A friend on social media mentioned she thought the opening photograph was a pile of mash potatoes. I knew they were clouds. I knew everyone else was raving about the photograph but I went back and looked at it to see if I could see the mash potatoes. Maybe I don't know clouds at all.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tears for the Polar Sea - DTJ

Cimarron Cemetery
January 2017 
Just finished watching the documentary The Polar Sea. I have been watching a lot of documentaries lately. When I am not watching the news. The news, my sister informs me, just makes me depressed. And I find that my love for who done its has waned unless they are British or Canadian. I am just so tired of the killing in US films. No, it is not the killing. I think I have become immune to that. Tharned out to the body counts whether it is real or make believe. 

It is the meanness of spirit which seems to pervade fiction. And sadly reality.  It is not just the people who do not care but those who must blame others; make it someone else's fault. Abuse others for what they have done themselves. It is a waste of time to play chicken vs. egg. I find it creeping into me. And so I avoid the question by watching documentaries. 

This morning I finished the series The Polar Sea which is available on Netflix streaming. The photography is awesome. But I cried through lots of it because the Northwest passage is something only possible without an ice breaker because all the ice is melting. The plight of the Inuit peoples and the animals of the Arctic touches my heart. It is for them I cry. Maybe watching the news is better. The news where our current president has denied climate change and left the Paris Accord?

I have written in the past about compassion fatigue but this is more. It is the Watership Down rabbit frozen in the middle of the road tharned out by the huge mechanical machine racing to mow it down. I no longer yell at the TV screen, "Move, damn it, move." We are all that rabbit. Or the woman in the dark house walking down the stairs in high heel mules toward the noise that went bump in the night. 

"Don't do that." 

"At least take off those heels and run, stupid."

And you know in the audience somewhere men are laughing because they just decided being raped is a pre-existing condition and they get a bigger tax break.

Once, I seem to remember, when politicians did something awful they apologized for it. "What can we do?"

Now they go to the Rose garden and through a beer party. And the other house decides to seal our fate in secret. Even those who vote to pass it won't know what is in it until the idiot in the Oval Office signs it with a Scripto with a signature which defies translation. I long for the days of John Hancock. I used to try to sign my name like he did the Declaration of Independence. Just in case I needed it after Nixon left the White House because of Watergate.

And even that memory of youthful aspirations brings tears to my eyes. 

I was kicking off those damn heels with the feathers and making a run for it. A run to save our planet and our democracy. But I woke up this morning and knew that was all a dream. So I watched the last episode of The Polar Seas and cried for the Inuit.

I know the mean spirited are laughing in the Senate Chamber meeting room.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Life in a Tourist Town



When I first moved back to New Mexico I lived in the small town of Questa. It was on a state highway from Taos to Colorado but if tourists stopped it was just for lunch at the Seville Restaurant or gas at one of three stations. It had no visible means of support beyond the Moly mine, some small town ranchers, and a barely under the radar drug trade.

When I had lived in New Mexico before it was mostly in Albuquerque which was on Route 66, which became interstate 40. It had two bases, a major federal laboratory, and the University of New Mexico. And sure, some tourists. But they were under the radar like Questa's drug trade.

In short I was totally unprepared for Angel Fire, New Mexico, especially since I had not moved to that town but a small rural backwater five miles south. I was looking to hide out in Black Lake. Silly girl. Income depended to some degree on Angel Fire. I taught skiing there. In Black Lake I made Mardi Gras masks which I shipped around the country at the Angel Fire Post Office. My social life was in Red River. It was where all my friends lived. Except for four or five ski instructors who moved to the area about the same time I did.

I suppose that was how I got involved in the tourist season thing. Angel Fire has no means of support beyond the resort and the tourist season. First it was just the one season - Winter. Then everyone was into building a tourist season beyond that. Skiers buy nothing beyond lift tickets. It is difficult to survive on just four months of fickle winter in a town where the skiers even bring their food from home.

So every organization in Angel Fire started some event which was in July. The one art event I had participated in before moving to the east side of the mountain had been in September. And they moved that to July. And there was Wings over Angel Fire, golf tournaments every weekend, and theater, and opening events for Music from Angel Fire (which has since moved to August). All depended on volunteers. And given the small amount of full time residents the same volunteers for everything. Forget having a life. But I did. I did art shows outside the valley. First with masks and then paintings. I treasured my time away from a town built for 1400 making room for 10,000.

But I got guilted into volunteering for the planning and organization of the July events. And, of course, I had to be home for ArtsFest, and donate art for the chamber music festival. One day I realized I was no longer invisible so I agreed to serve on the board for the local arts organization. Which is where I remain today. But I don't like tourists any more today than I did when I moved here. Maybe less. They want everything but are not willing to pay for it.

They come to town and cell phone service tanks, the internet slows to a crawl, at least one or more power outages on the big weekends and everyone griping because we should serve them better. No way am I shopping at the local market which goes Texan with all its food choices, and I only eat at the restaurants during off seasons. Summer tourist season is longer than July now. But off seasons seem to get shorter. I am not all together sure there is a fall off season but I like the breed of tourists that shows up then. They are artists or appreciate the arts. They want to see the aspens and the ghost towns and take in a concert or two and do an art tour.

I can see myself hanging out with the fall tourists but I am usually so exhausted from the summer tourism I want to hide out in Black Lake. And my studio is on tours so it must be open.  

This weekend is the kick off of summer. I got a new art exhibit hung on Thursday and then slipped off to my studio in Black Lake. There was a Friday night concert in the park, today there are balloons and tamale contest. Tomorrow the first of the summer Arts and Farmers Markets. I may sneak in early for the market. I can get edibles without going to the local store or over the mountain to the next tourist town. I need to conserve energy because Wednesday begins the planning for July. And did I mention I am an introvert.

I sometimes dream of a little mining town off the beaten path which hopefully does not have toxic water.


Monday, June 5, 2017

When It Rains, It Pours - DTJ



As an introvert artist I have the tendency to live a very quiet life on the rural fringes of a small village. I like it that way. I don't even get many visitors to my open studio. Social interactions seem to be limited to talking to pet sit clients and the monthly meetings of a couple organizations I belong to. Oh, and chance meetings at the market or post office.

June was looking to be so overloaded with pets to sit and art events I chose to bow out of a part time job I had managed to not quit over the winter. I thought I was making space for me. But it seems it is for more of the above. New tenant bowed out of agreement and so I was thrust into interviewing new possible tenants. And then suddenly a new pet client. And an art student. And then extra meetings with one of those groups I belong to. And new tenant wants to move in tonight.

And ran into that tenant who bowed out at the post office and she wants to sue me. Other friend in line acted as a buffer. Then off to market because I absolutely could not survive without caramel and sea salt ice cream. In that line i ran into neighbor up the hill who was buying his sort of rescue potion. Both post office and market were being swamped by tourists and part time residents arriving in for this coming weekend. I think I must have looked like one of the rabbits of Watership Down staring at the headlights.

I really can be easily overwhelmed since the head injury in 2001. My sister believes I give that singular event too much credit. But she wasn't around me in my corporate girl engineer for international construction firm days. But maybe alcohol was a better coping mechanism than ice cream. But then you don't get arrested for driving under the influence of Butter Brickle. 

And to make matters worse the 45th president is going on a tweet storm and raises all sorts of parallels with Nixon in his Watergate mania days. I am suppose to be in charge of the progressive news letter for the week. Beginning Today. I suppose running and hiding in a rabbit warren is out of question?

Speaking of rain it is about to pour. And only half the yard got mowed.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sitting on My Deck/Upside in the Dark Times



This morning I sat on my deck and drunk a cup of coffee while updating my garden journal. Hard to express what a joy this is. I have not had a deck for decades. Last one was in North Carolina. And I think it was no sooner finished than I was transferred. 

When I built my studio in Black Lake there was to be a deck. That was 2007. Mechanics lien by the fired contractor put all plans beyond finishing the studio on hold. I thought as the money came in from art sales I would be able to destroy the temporary stoop and make my deck. But GW and the Great recession of 2008 had other plans. Besides why spend money on something a bad contractor and a court could take away from me.

The summer of 2016 I finally decided to use pallets. Lots of work but cheap. And then I was given enough lumber to make a 10 x 12 food deck. I used the pallets for a lower deck and a boardwalk to the driveway.




Then came winter. Spring is all about garden. Then it dawned on me I needed deck chairs. Today, Tuesday, May 30, 2017 was the first day I could sit on the deck and enjoy that cup of coffee.




In addition to catching up with the garden journal I watched new pet sit client, Murphy play with Magique, and worked on plans for the north deck wind break. The coffee and sunshine was so good I had two cups.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What if? DTJ


What If
We dissolved both parties?
No red states
No blue states
No electoral college
No endless polling?

What if
There were no Republicans
No Democrats
Even no third parties
No platforms
No gang of eight?

What if
Instead of Red or Blue
There was just
Red, white and Blue
No GOP or DNC
Just us citizens?

What if 
We all voted for the people
Not for some party
Which has never been fun
Or entertaining
And in the end a disaster?

What if
You walked into a voting booth
And saw a ballot
With just the names of people
Who wanted to serve
Us
Not their party?

j.binford-bell
 independent
on the real Memorial Day
May 2017



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Time Without Beginning - DTJ



We are always so aware of our ends. And so oblivious to our beginnings. Do our lives begin not at our births but at that moment we achieve a conscious memory? And is that memory always of this life? Can it be of the ones before?

And are our lives linear or cyclic? We talk of deja vu; that feeling of having been here before. What if we have?

I don't do dates. Dad died in August. I don't know the year. Mother on the day after Thanksgiving, very early some Friday morning. I can tell you my birth date because I memorized it to put on forms ad infinitum (again and again in the same way forever). These people lived, shared my life and moved on. What matters the exact dates?

Mother always said I lived too much in my head. Is there someplace else to live? My reality may not be your reality. I was ecstatic when I discovered philosophy high school. I am clearly an existentialist. And I know I have been this way before. More than once I believe.

But at the moment it is not so much about past lives as this one and whether it is a straight line or circles within circles. Anyone who was conscious in the Nixon years has to at least be feeling a deep sense of deja vu in this era of Trump. Doesn't mean we know how it will turn out. Life is not so much circles as spirals or loops. Are we advancing? Or receding?

If you are expecting an answer to any of these questions you will be disappointed. I am totally content to live in the question.

But for my doomsayer friends who think this might be the end of the world let me assure you it isn't. It will just morph into another stage for the conscious souls to act upon.

Okay, maybe I did re-read Alice in Wonderland to many times. Watched too much StarTrek. But both are good grounding for the bumpy road we are currently traveling.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Focus on the Positive - DTJ

First Summer for Deck
At least now there is sunshine and green and garden and vistas to divert my attention. But there is also meltdowns in the White House and totally non-functioning GOP congress, firing of the director of the FBI.

I try to focus on the positive in my life as the United States gets mired in a constitutional crisis. I keep YouTube news to the hours before dawn and in the evening when I am too tired to work outside. Yesterday I went to an Arts Council Round Table and got the news that funding for 2018 is currently save but who knows about 2019. If we still exist as a nation by then.

Meanwhile it has been a wet May which means no stress about wild fires in the neighboring forests. Course Thing One could sell it off to Exxon for oil exploration. But you have to take your fears one at a time. And with gardening season I can at least sandwich them between joys like moving out to my new deck from last fall. Today I plan to sit down and enjoy my efforts.

Well, after getting out with my camera and my dog for a walk.



If this is the end of days there is nothing we can do beyond enjoy the beauty around us while it lasts.



And definitely stop and smell the roses even if they are still just in the green house.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

On the Road to Raton - Escape the Dark News

On the road back
This was the week I largely divorced myself from the news; disconnected from the ethernet and drove the highways. No long road trip just several hops to neighboring towns. And of course Raton again. 

For me driving is meditative. I do not need a cell phone to make it interesting. It is along just for possible emergencies. And most of the places I drive the majority of the trip will be without a signal which is fine by me. I am willing to climb a hill if I must. And trust me OnStar is not available. I like it like that.

I don't even try the radio. Most stations I could get, when I can get them, are country western. My crying in my beer days are over. Both of my vehicles have radios I can plug my jump drives into and listen to my tunes. For entertainment I look for bison, pronghorns, elk, and that quality of light which turns the view to magic. If I see none of the above I just drive into another zone as it were.

Raton this week was a gift. As was the two days in Las Vegas. La La Land. Raton provided a hardware store. I really am still in withdrawal from the sale of RBS and the new owners making it not Harriet Homeowner friendly. Usually I drive to Taos for Ace (probably Monday). But the Ace in Raton provided me garden soil and some great vegetable starts and some nice pots in my price range. With a deck I can do more container gardening close to the studio door.

So the trip was more than an escape from world reality. It provided quiet time to plan and think and regain my center. To pause and see what is great around me. If and when the nuclear fall out from a war with Korea erases life as we know it. I will be grateful for the life I have lived. Even just the time on the road to Raton.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Some Days Nothing Makes Sense - DTJ

The Gardner and the Plumber

"I weep for you,' the Walrus said: 
      I deeply sympathize.' 
With sobs and tears he sorted out 
      Those of the largest size, 
Holding his pocket-handkerchief 
      Before his streaming eyes. 

"O Oysters,' said the Carpenter, 
      You've had a pleasant run! 
Shall we be trotting home again?' 
      But answer came there none — 
And this was scarcely odd, because 
      They'd eaten every one."

From the Walrus and Carpenter
By
Lewis Carroll

I was always a strange child, or so my mother maintained. I totally understood Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I memorized the Walrus and the Carpenter and The Jabberwocky when others were learning their ABC's. I always rather got the middle of the alphabet mixed up. 

And if I had to find a letter in the latter half I had to begin in the middle. So as we approach the end of DT's first 100 days I want to go back to day 50 and start again. Or back to day one.

"So the time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things. Of shoes and ships and cabbages and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings." I was the elder child who could understand my sister's baby talk. I was the frequent translator for her. Mother asked once how I could make sense of her jabber. I told her I just didn't have expectations about it being English or making sense. I figured after reading the AP interview that might make sense with trying to understand the Trump. So I reread it. Nope, that doesn't help.

So back to the Walrus and the Carpenter that makes sense though the Walrus looks a lot like #45 the walrus. Do we look like oysters? And Ryan like the Carpenter?


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Show Up - Dark Times Journal

Stand up

I went to a Carson National Forest Planning meeting yesterday. I confess it has been a long time since I participated in this sort of meeting. Twenty-Five years ago I was deeply involved in saving our forests from clear cutting by logging companies. I lived in Questa and the logging trucks roared down our rural road. One day the brakes failed on one and it tumbled over into my front yard. There is nothing like that to wake you up to where the trucks were coming from and if they even should be on our road.

The election of Donald Trump is a bit like that logging truck. It had no brakes, it was suppose to be taking the logs out by another route which was not lined with houses, he was driving too fast. And as it turned out he was clear cutting an area of the forest when his contract said specifically he was suppose to be leaving old growth islands. It was all about making the most money with the minimum amount of effort. I joined an organization called Carson Watch and we watched everything the Mayor of Questa's logging company did.

So what happened to that forest stalker and environmentalist? There was the Hondo Fire which came within 1/2 mile of my house, and the divorce, and the move over the mountain to get away from the Mayor of Questa, as well as my husband. A house of my own to obsess over, sometimes three jobs, and a head injury. An art studio to occupy my energies.

Then the election. And the resistance. And the notification of the planning session at the Carson National Forest. In the almost one hundred days since the inauguration of DT I have learned I cannot do it all. You have to pick your fights. I live within a half mile of the Carson National Forest. I am a photographer who goes there often. When I walked into the meeting room yesterday it seemed like coming home. A few of the same people in Carson Watch were there.

Plus about 50 more. You could see the amazement on the faces of the presenters/planners. They scrambled to put out chairs and move tables to accommodate us all. And they welcomed input from all of us living either side of the Carson. Very different from a town hall meeting with a GOP elected official. These people wanted our input. Wrote down the things we said. Answered our questions which were many and varied.

It is nice to be a forest stalker again. Great to be involved. Wonderful to be heard.




Monday, April 10, 2017

Too Busy to Cry - DTJ

Through the Tears

In my midlife crisis, now long past, I contemplated a career change. Well, multiple career changes. The career change du jour at one time was going into counselling. Like many who contemplate this path I was in counselling. So much in my life had gone wrong all at one. I used to stand in the basement lobby of a neighborhood church which served as a location for multiple 12 step groups from AA to ACOA to Alanon to Over-Eaters Anonymous and try to decide which one on that particular day I needed the most. My extended silences at the beginning of any counselling session centered around having to pick what I needed to talk about most.

I survived that period of my life by being overly busy. In addition to the 12 step meetings, and the counselling sessions, work, and classes in mental health toward the new career. I watched movies in dark theaters until I had them memorized. Star Wars was just out. I will not admit to how many times I watched it. Before the binging days on Netflix. I had to pay for every ticket.

I know about the various stages of grief intimately. I lost a husband, a father, a mother, a cat, a dog, a direction, my perfect childhood belief, and was transferred to a new location by the company I worked for in the middle of it all. Thank god, the theory of Post Traumatic Stress was not yet on the diagnostic books. 

"You seem to do things in bunches," a 12 step friend said one day at the coffee machine while I debated which meeting shortly after my mother died, "Wouldn't it be easier to take one issue at a time?"

"Takes up too much time," I replied, as I toyed with giving up caffeine. 

I did learn a few things through the chaos years of my life.  Grief isn't done just once. Nor is it necessarily in the order the counselling courses state. There is no upper limit on how much you can cry. Mixed with PTSD you can feel like a ping pong ball in one of those demonstrations about the nuclear chain reaction. Been there, done that does not apply to either problem. And very empathetic people shouldn't be in the mental health professions. I was, however, a great inspirational speaker.

And if you stay busy enough you can at least delay the tears until you are alone before your computer, out in the wilderness with your camera or binging Netflix. Busy helps you avoid doomsday predictions from friends and what stupid end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it thing the orange man in the white house just did. But grief and PTSD are patient. And depression can be good for your creative goals.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Aaah, Spring -- Dark Times Journal

Have a Seat

A Facebook friend of long standing asked me today where was my outrage for the people of St. Petersburg on Monday. Monday? This week?

Yes. I was running to Raton, racing the approaching spring storm in an effort to reclaim some of the normalcy of my life as an artist. I had four photographs to enter in an annual show. I wanted to support a non-profit gallery in a country which wants to unfund all art programs. I also desperately needed some windshield time (i.e. down time). 

I am suffering from compassion fatigue: indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of those who are suffering, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals. Also called vicarious traumatization by the American Institute of Stress. 

Yes, I am not in the counseling field but I am living in the dark days of the USA, and maybe the world at large. I confess to pulling in my empathy antenna just so I can continue to cope. Cope with my business, my resistance to what is happening in Washington, D.C., my victimization by a local official And spring in the Sangre de Cristos. 

Remember the approaching storm I was racing on that Monday road trip to Raton? I almost didn't go. I have been caught on the high plains in a blizzard before. I kept asking myself how important was it to take four photographs to a gallery two hours away.

Very important. For me to focus on something normal in my previous life. And there was the snow coming. And it came. A total of 12 inches. The good news is I did not lose power. 

Lawn Chairs

But I did not get around to looking up the suicide bombing in St. Petersburg until today. Fourteen dead. But now it has been eclipsed by the Syrian gas attack and whether it is real or fake.

I just want to escape to my garden. Or tune in to April the Giraffe for extended periods. Denial can be a survival tool. So can avoidance.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Revealed Truth on the Road to Raton - DTJ Version

Dark Skies
It has been a while since I drove to Raton. And since I entered one of the Old Pass Gallery exhibits. Following the election I became a hermit. Well, not really a hermit because I seem to be more involved in my own community. 

I have just not wanted to get out of my comfort zone until it became decidedly uncomfortable here. Since Angel Fire has made me the Black Listed artist of Black Lake I have sought other venues. Which is why I found myself yesterday racing a storm to Raton to drop off four framed photographs at the Ralph Solano Exhibit opening this week. They are all black and white which is another departure. And the titles are The Memory of Trees 1, 2, 3 and 4. So a dark subject. Last time I entered this annual show the pictures were brighter. The times were brighter.

I was suppose to take my entries on Saturday but the weather was foul and forecast to get worst. I have been caught before in weather between here and Raton. Spring storms can be the worst especially across the high plains. I was racing a weather front again on Monday. And with a late start. I wavered about going at all. Fortunately the storm had a late start too. I decided fair or foul to put my big girl panties on and head east in Big Blue.

Storm moving in
What after all is the worst that can happen? You slide off the road into a ditch and freeze to death in a blizzard? Or fall prey to a high plains twister? Or I make the entire trip without taking one photograph? Perish the thought.

The buffalo were not in evidence anywhere. Maybe hunkered down because of the ions in the air. Storm or just the volcanoes? Yeah, they say they are dormant. I say prove it.

Clayton/Raton Volcanic Range

I took no photos on the way out to Raton but stopped a few times on the way back to record the changing horizon. It seemed to change minute by minute.

So what is the revealed truth of this trip? 

There are just so many Trump bumper stickers which can be put on a pickup. Raton could be home of the winner of that competition.

At 65 miles an hour you don't need your windshield wipers in the rain. The wind does it for you.

Snow can happen within minutes of rain and hail anytime it wants. Even without clouds overhead. 

The storm which was scheduled for four pm was 12 hours late. So there, Weather Channel

And if I don't stop for photos I can make the trip out in an hour and half. But where is the fun in that. Return took two some of which was spent just standing beside the road and smelling the ions in the air.


Back before dark

And last but not least: Fear is a mind game. Don't let it win.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

DTJ - Epiphany

Once we stood tall

I had to stop and ask myself what I believed this week. And I found that very hard to answer. I cannot do it without tears. I cannot look at a tree or two coyotes playing in a field and not immediately feel their loss. I am a photographer who once recorded the beautiful world around me and now I feel I am preparing an obituary for that world.

At the beginning of 1970's I was in Washington, DC working for a Republican Senator trying to end our involvement in the illegal war in Vietnam. Those were the days when we expected our presidents, then Richard Nixon, to go to congress and ask for their approval. He had not. 

Republicans and Democrats had ethics then. They fought for things they believed. And individual members of both parties crossed the aisle to cooperate on bills they believed in. You bantered around terms like liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. Now both parties seem to cookie cutter their droids. And to me that is the really scary part of this whole time line.

I have crossed the aisle before. Now I am marching far left of the chamber. I am by labels a resistance fighter, a cry baby, a poor sport snowflake, bleeding heart liberal. I am told to get over it, leave the room, you loser.

I know nobody should leave the room. We should all stay engaged. And we should resist the labels, the push to put us into neat and tidy categories. And make us march to a specific drum beat must be resisted. I am currently a centrist who has been pushed way to the left of where I am comfortable. If we survive as a people we must remember where we began. 

And what we believed in our very heart of hearts.

If for no other reason than the memory of trees or to protect those two coyotes in the marsh. 


Memory of trees

Saturday, February 25, 2017

DTJ - One Hundred Days is a Long Time



I think I have always lived my life as a sprint. I grew up fully believing I was going to die at 23. Who knew where I got that. Then I belonged to the generation who was not suppose to trust anyone over thirty. I was diagnosed with a chronic disease with a limited life expectancy in my thirties. And just when I was told I seemed to have defeated it relatives were dying off. Sixty-seven seems to be end of days for the older generation of my family.

The ski accident with its closed brain trauma centered my life around today. Life is short. Live it to the max. Do not wait for retirement. Art is great because there are constant new beginnings and endings to your work. And when paintings take too long there is photography. Even my real world job was in industrial construction which has a beginning, middle, and end.

So I admit to diving into this resistance battle to save the republic in short terms. I committed to the first 100 days and it has only been 30 plus. And he is not gone. The republic looks to be in grave danger. Worse every day. I doubt it or me will make it to 100 days.

I knew a marathon runner once. He said I needed to know how to pace myself. The long race was all about pacing and patience. Patience is not my strong suit. I would add recess. You cannot take a recess from a marathon race except mentally. Don't think of the pain or your thirst or the miles yet to run. You cannot stop and smell the roses but I can take the camera out and photograph the land I love which the Republicans seem bent on destroying.

There are so many battles to fight this war, but I can center my attention on just one front. Even General Eisenhower did that in WWII. So my current battle cries are pacing, focus and brief recesses.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dark Times Journal - Save Some of Yourself


I have discovered through past events I am the person who goes on automatic pilot and does what needs to be done until the immediate crisis is over. That is the good news. The bad news is when the crisis is over I will then go off screen and toss my cookies or stand at the edge of a crowd and just shiver. I am not good at pacing myself. Or staying focused for the long haul. At least not at first.

I have to have my time to go off stage and scream. Or run though all those I should have said or done things.Then to consider exactly what it is I am up against. But you cannot take too long because things get worse fast. And if they don't, those things you have ignored, do. Or something totally off in the wings flies into center stage. Something least expected like the Mayor of a town I don't live in hearing something I didn't say about her in a meeting which was suppose to be private per the bylaws. 

I have dedicated today to cleaning up the flat surfaces in my life. Literally. Desktops and tables and cabinets have gotten totally out of control. Off subject? No. It means my mind has been elsewhere like when I dashed into the studio with my ousted paintings, rack and business cards. I just put them on a surface and did the Scarlet O'Hara thing - I will think about it tomorrow. 

Oh, but if it was just that. Just the Mayor throwing me out of the visitor's center. But I have a painting I haven't thought about for a week. Was doing it for a contest which I will not now enter. Why bother? Her friends will be on the jury. Mind pushes it to the back. Some moments too far back. Like why bother finishing it at all. Where would I hang it? Why would I hang it? It isn't my art which counts. Or even my politics. It is some cast off remark in a board meeting. That seems to be the only thing which matters suddenly. Something which was totally off my radar because I was concerned with an illegitimate president and the nuclear codes. And a defamation of character suit?

But then maybe none of that matters because the second reactor on a tsunami destroyed nuclear plant in Japan may just blow up. 

I need to concentrate on saving some of me. But from what? From being wrongly accused? From looking as if I am whining?


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dark Times Journal - Keep Your Eye on the Goal



Dawns on me there is a reason this blog is named Sidetracked Charley. I can be easily diverted. As I compose this in my mind I am playing with my cat, Thicke, and his kitty whip.

We all have lives and responsibilities. We are not the Delhi Lama on a mountain top. No one drops offerings of food within our easy reach. And most people who get involved in resistance movements are already involved in a myriad of other socially responsible causes. I was deeply involved in the arts and within one group on the board. We were trying to get an art center for our community. Those responsibilities got taken away from me recently. Plus side is I am more time to spend on resistance. Downside is I regret being shoved out of groups I still feel deeply committed two after working toward a goal for almost a decade.

Playing with the cat is sanity producing. Blogging is sanity producing. Being forced out of something you believe in is devastating. This week is about mourning that. And the loss of friends I worked with toward that goal.  

I got trumped out of a venue I had set up for a group of artists. And I was reminded that Trump has made it acceptable to behave amorally. It took me a few days to work though the loss and refocus on the resistance. Amazing what taking your eyes from the goal for just a few days can do. I feel as if I am wading back through deep water and not sure when the underwater landscape drops off beneath my feet.

And I find I am very, very angry with those who don't want to get involved in politics. In case you haven't noticed it is all about politics these days. Even where you are allowed to hang a painting.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Dark Times Journal - Battle Fatigue



I think the alertness necessary for resistance is tiring. It seems so little to do in the grand scheme of things: Get up and log into the computer, review the latest news, visit my on line resistance group, check email for Indivisible battle plan, dash off emails to elected officials, share important info. Usually takes only about an hour but in an hour I am so angry I have to begin the day again with comedy YouTube to lighten my mood. I feel good I have done something to resist how things are going.

Then the news hits about something dumb Trump has done or how the congress has voted. Today it was that congress said coal companies can dump their slag in the rivers which provide us drinking water. And I cry.

But what I am most angry at this morning are those who want to make social media fun again. I have been instructing them how they can stay away from the political news feed. My guess is they voted for DT and don't want to know what he has done just now. They are ostriches. Lots of ostriches out there these days.

One friend of mine who doesn't want to discuss politics didn't register to vote. Another friend dropped the internet doesn't like the political news but when I run into her she wants to know what is happening with it now. A third friend just uses her internet to stream reality TV but always asks what she can do to help. But she does not want to email or call congressmen or march or just relay action plans.

At first I was polite. Even helpful. Done with the helpful. And polite is applicable if I can get away with the face I make as I walk away from their anger over the cost of avocados. You do know DT said his army would invade Mexico?

Speaking of ostriches, anyone seen the Democrats? Hillary? 

I realized yesterday I was emotionally exhausted and went over the mountain to buy avocados and pretend the world was normal in the produce section of Smith's. All the shoppers had that look on their face I am sure was on mine: our world may not be normal ever again.