29 June 2010

Open Skies

Double rainbow, Magdalena, NM; June 2010

More storms today, and then a gorgeous double rainbow. I'd never gotten a good photo of a rainbow before; this image still doesn't do justice to tonight's special show, but it comes closer than I've ever managed before. When I showed my kids the rainbow Maggie squealed with delight; Laz (clearly showing future-engineer tendencies) just smiled and said, "It's nice... But where's the pink, like in the Rainbow Song? If it doesn't have pink, is it an unfinished rainbow?"

28 June 2010

Open Window

Still no words today... Well, a few: Mom was due to come home from the hospital today but ran a fever last night, so she'll be staying till tomorrow at least. I suppose we needed another day; we haven't heard from the home health care people yet, and we'll need help getting her settled in.

That's it for now; it's Craft Time with the kids. Today: fiber arts.

Mute Monday

Tiny Cholla buds (Opuntia imbricata), Magdalena, NM; June 2010

27 June 2010

Open in My Garden Today

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), my kitchen garden; June 2010

This week's theme for The Sunday Creative (oh how I love these challenges!) is "open," and I've decided to go with that theme all week, in various media, starting with this entry. I added this echinacea to my kitchen garden last week both for its beautiful flowers and to eventually harvest some roots for my herb collection. My evolving kitchen garden is just in front of the house, visible from the kitchen window, and although it's mostly for herbs I've added some perennial flowers to "pretty" it up for myself as well as visitors.

Everything in front and back is now on a drip irrigation system; after 7 years here in the high-mountain southwest, I feel confident I've finally figured out drip irrigation, including how to clean the emitters that inevitably get clogged from our ridiculously hard water. If you garden in a dry climate zone, want to save water and labor, or are just a gardening fanatic and seek a new challenge, I highly recommend drip irrigation. I get all my supplies and most of my info from Dripworks, which has both a catalog and a Web site for ordering, but many other vendors offer equipment and guidance as well. Once you get the system laid out and operational, it's time to mulch the soil... which is what I'm off to do right now....

26 June 2010

Blessed Rain

After the Storm, Magdalena, NM; June 2010

We've had afternoon storms in the area for the past three days, and already the land is greening up. I love how the water carves patterns in the silt as it flows; clearly this access road on our property north of Magdalena took some serious water. Several of the smaller dirt tanks (that's what we call ponds out here -- no-nonsense nomenclature for sure) are full and will soon be bobbing with tadpoles. Tonight they were Lucy's playground; she charged into each and every body of water she saw, including the one above just after I got this shot. Her favorite game is to get soaking wet, roll in the mud next to the water, then come racing full-tilt toward me... and dodge me at the last minute. These outings, which I love, are about so much more than photos....

25 June 2010

Stormy Weather

Storm coming over Magdalena Mountains near Kelly, NM; June 2010

Doing another Kelly graveyard shoot yesterday, I was busy lying in the dirt working on a low-angle shot of a gravemarker against a blue summer sky when I heard a loud thunderclap just over my shoulder. Lucy (The Best Dog Ever) charged across the disheveled boneyard, panting nervously, and nudged and licked me as if to say, "Oh, please do get up, silly master; it is going to rain, and I do not want you to get wet because I love you!" (If you've seen Up, you know just what her voice would sound like...) Lucy then nudged me away from the ravine I was about to drop into (faster exit, but potentially hazardous if rains had already begun up-mountain) and herded me almost directly to the amazing view above, of the old Kelly church spire in the face of a fast-advancing rainstorm. Oh, GOOD dog.

Just moments earlier, facing the opposite direction (such as it was, given that I was on my belly, thankfully entirely denim-clad this time) and oblivious to the approaching storm, I was looking at blue skies... when I heard the thunder I knew I should have started running for the car right away but -- oooh, pretty picture! I finally heeded nervous dog and deafening thunderclaps and hoofed it through the juniper and pinon back to my car (parked near said church). I made it just in time to get my camera and Lucy in the back and myself in front before getting totally drenched.

Which is why I have a waterproof camera bag and always bring my happy, smart dog with me on photo trips.

24 June 2010

Leafing Out

Summer is in full swing, and out here in the Great Southwest the summer storms are gearing up, right on time. We call them "the monsoons," but I'm sure they don't compare to real Asian monsoons. They do, however, bring us much-needed rain and light up the parched earth with green and all the other colors of the rainbow. Inspired by today's rain I made these earrings (and a matching necklace, a simple bolo-style with a front-closing toggle clasp) of oxidized brass and Swarovski crystals. I plan to take them along with other recent pieces on a gallery-scouting road trip soon.

Let's do a leaf theme today, shall we? Okay, so at right is a mosaic I made (and showed here) last fall, my second or third one ever; this one is in a gallery in Albuquerque, I think, and I'd like to do a much larger, more ambitious one someday... this fall, perhaps? And below is a photo I took about two weeks ago in the mountains above Magdalena of a young oak just starting to leaf out. I was surprised to see how red and even almost purple the new leaves were; they'll green up as they go, then all turn yellow, red, and bronze again in autumn. I'll be back then for sure to see that gorgeous show...

Young gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), Patterson Canyon, NM, June 2010

22 June 2010

Memo to Self: Objects in Macro View are Closer than They Appear.

Blooming Cholla (Opuntia imbricata), Magdalena, NM, June 2010

I was so excited to see the first cholla blooms out on my parents' property when I took Lucy for a walk this evening; the setting sun lit the blooms and thorns up perfectly. As I was getting this shot, though, I didn't realize I was almost on top of the plant... till I felt the thorns, right in my chest. OUCH. After I got the shot (this must make me a true photographer, right?) I pulled out no less than two dozen thorns, some over an inch long. Good thing I always wear jeans and a heavy denim shirt in the field...

Dad and I go back up to Albuquerque tomorrow to see Mom, so I took today off from just about everything and just enjoyed the day. I took a few moments this afternoon to finish off my little Maggie's Bead Soup contribution; using the clasp that Bead Soup partner Wanda sent, I turned it into a necklace that Maggie can either wear or hang up as the intended "ornament," as she calls it. The green and copper-colored rounds and the blue glass beads are also from Wanda; Maggie added the copper snails, glass heart drops, and seed beads, and I wirewrapped Wanda's beautiful agate slice for her to use as the focal piece. I really like it, and I know Maggie is very proud of her latest creation!

I missed today's Bead Soup reveals but will catch up tomorrow if I can; so much talent and beauty...

Kumihimo Necklace

The Bead Soup Blog Party has indeed sparked my creativity again; I just finished this kumihimo necklace and am about to finish another much more elaborate one that I'll show later this week. This one uses a kumihimo (Japanese braided cord) of embroidery cotton with a handmade brass wire and turquoise clasp and brass end caps; the exquisite stone is Mexican green turquoise and was made by dear friends Dean and Conne of Two Cranes.

So yay for beading parties, real or virtual; even more fun than getting my package of goodies from Wanda and creating with them has been meeting my fellow party-goers! As part of the celebration some bloggers are having giveaways; Denise Yezbak Moore calls hers "the best bead give-away ever" and I would definitely have to agree! Even if her various color collections are split up, this is an amazing and generous giveaway. Please visit her blog and leave a comment to enter in the giveaway, and then stay to see Denise's wonderfully creative jewelry designs. Such talent, and I'm so glad to be part of the Internet Age so I can see what other people do and learn from and be inspired by it all! Speaking of inspiration, the Bead Soup Blog Party continues; see today's reveals here and enjoy the show!

21 June 2010

Solstice, and Huge Thanks

Moth on Gaillardia, my backyard garden, June 2010

(Never forget this.)
First, I must offer grateful and humble thanks to the many Bead Soup Party visitors who have left such wonderful comments about the jewelry I showed in my previous post. Major credit goes to Bead Soup partner Wanda, whose gorgeous selection of ceramic and other beads and that amazing copper focal provided the artistic "bones" of the piece. I forgot to take pictures of Wanda's beads before I started, and I also forgot to mention that Wanda had also sent me a beautiful blue agate slice... Not surprisingly that was the first piece Maggie (my daughter) snatched from the box, and I wirewrapped it for her so she could put it on her... ornament? She says it's not a necklace; in any case, I'll take pictures of what she created with Wanda's other beads and post those tomorrow.

Thanks to this online gathering, I'm feeling the urge to make jewelry more often lately, so this blog might actually become more balanced again! (I might even pull my glass out and put together some mosaics, too... we'll see...) I'm a total goner with the photography, though; it was my first true love and I'm so happy to be able to do it again (I was finally able to replace my trusty Konica-Minolta point-and-shoot with its tragically scratched lens). Of the various things I do, photography seems to come most naturally; perhaps it's because I've been doing it for 16 years, but it also... fits. I've also learned, however, that stretching and challenging and pushing oneself to try new things is a great growing experience; this Bead Soup Party has really shown me that, and I'm so happy to be part of it. We have all week to see everyone's amazing creations; go here to see the participants -- talk about awesome talent and creativity -- and show them all some love!

I bid you all a very good solstice and a wonderful summer. I hardly celebrated today; I drove my dad to Albuquerque so we could visit my mom in the hospital. She'll be there all week, probably, but we're hoping the docs and nurses get her into good shape to come home and hang out with us and the kids for some summertime fun next week. She's starting a new round of chemo tomorrow; the news this morning was not good, but it moderated as the day went on and there are still a few options to try. Just another reminder to live as much in the moment as possible; "someday" really is now.

20 June 2010

Bead Soup Blog Party!

Thanks to the wonderful beads that Bead Soup Party partner Wanda sent me, I was able to stretch my creative wings and get back into jewelry making. I've used copper quite often, and the wonderful hammered copper pendant and butterflies in Wanda's package caught my eye right away. Then I noticed the blue and earth-tone ceramic beads and thought, wow, these are beautiful... how can I possibly do them justice? I knew these would take me in a whole new direction (I usually use gemstones, and have been getting kind of delicate lately) so decided to just look at everything for a while and see what ideas started to form in my mind.

Not surprisingly, when I finally had time to sit down with this project, my 6-year-old, who was doing Creative Day with me, announced she had an idea for the blue glass, green cat's eye, and copper rounds in the package and proceeded to appropriate those, along with several of the butterflies. No problem; I had more than enough to proceed, and as I started laying out the ceramic beads I "saw" spaces for my own Swarovski crystals and copper flower spacers and hammered rounds.

Wanda also sent me a lovely copper-and-silver toggle clasp, but since I had enough beads to also make a bracelet, and I had two sets of copper flower toggles, I used mine instead and saved Wanda's toggle for another project. Then, earrings: Maggie relinquished two butterflies, which I wirewrapped onto handmade copper headpins with Swarovski crystals and then dangled from copper heart earwires. I am so pleased with how these pieces came together and have really enjoyed this "party"! Now I'm off to see what my fellow creatives have made... when I find what Wanda made with the beads I sent her (I think she's showing off her creations on Thursday), I'll link to her -- I can't wait to see what she made! Again, many thanks to Wanda for the beautiful beads!

Here's a list of everyone else showing today:

14. Jen, Jen Judd Rocks
15. Kella, Me But a Little More In Depth
16. Emanda, Artemisia Studio
17. Marie, Skye Jewels
18. Loretta, Designs By Loretta
19. Stacy, Sissy and Jack's
20. Joanna, Filcowe
21. Diane, Diane Hawkey
22. Marianna, Pretty Shiny Things
23. (me)
24. Marcie, La Bella Joya
25. Lois, Que Onda Q'town?
26. Jayne, Mama's Got To Doodle

Go visit, enjoy, leave a comment, and be inspired. And I thank everyone for visiting me!

19 June 2010

Bringing it Home: Creative Hour with the Kids

Bead Soup Blog Party has begun!! I can only show a teaser of what I made with the wonderful bead soup that Wanda sent me because I'm scheduled to show my creations tomorrow... Go here to see the list of today's revelers, and check back there every day this week for links everyone else's entries -- there are 97 participants, so a dozen or so will be revealing their gorgeous creations each day. Today's sampling has been absolutely fabulous, and I can't wait to see more!!

Octopus' Garden by Lazarus
In other news, the kids are on summer break, and although I'm tempted to let them live an entirely unstructured summer, I know that some structure is better for keeping their minds and bodies active. So every day we will have several designated hours for focused activity; my first idea (surprise) was Creative Hour, which happens at 11:00 in the morning and will involve anything from drawing or painting to clay modeling to collecting materials for assemblages. Earlier this week we did jewelry-making techniques: Maggie and I did beading (and that's when I made my Bead Soup creations) while Lazarus hammered on some copper wire scraps I'd saved for experimentation. He wasn't entirely pleased with the results (he was trying to make an outline of a spaceship... doesn't render so well in copper wire, especially when you start hammering) but had fun and says he wants to try it again. And that is the point of this summer experiment: just play -- don't worry about the end result, just have fun doing it.

Today's project is Father's Day cards that they can take to their dad's house tomorrow. Both are doing pictures of fish and other sea creatures, a perfect summer theme... Aside from the scan here of Lazarus' picture (which I LOVE), I haven't gotten photos of any of the kids' creations yet because they keep moving them around the house. Another activity will be painting rocks, a wonderful idea I got from Kim at Queen of Arts, so I asked Maggie to pick us out three smooth stones to paint and I gathered several more small ones to make some inspirational message stones that I can pass out randomly. If I can pin them down I'll try to get pictures...

18 June 2010

Creativity Boot Camp, Day 13: "Smile"

Smile: Dog + Water = Happy. Mountain spring in Patterson Canyon, June 2010

I have so enjoyed Creativity Boot Camp that I'm thinking of starting my own version; our creative coach of the past two weeks is also starting a weekly "challenge" (in the nice sense, of us challenging ourselves) that I'll definitely get in on. For the final day of Boot Camp, here's another weird-focus shot, taken near the top of Patterson Canyon during my mountain retreat last weekend. I was focusing and zooming on the water reeds at this cool mountain spring, and Lucy charged right in and plopped down happily into the cool water. Despite her not being in focus her doggy smile is quite clear, and this represents nicely how happy she is on any wilderness trek but especially one involving water.

As part of the final day's exercises, we were asked to commit to the following:

I promise to spend __at least 10__ minutes each day creating. {…at least promise yourself some time}

I promise to talk about my creativity with others.

I promise to continue to challenge myself creatively because that is how I get better.

I promise to be kind to my creative spirit.

I promise to applaud my achievements.

I promise to cultivate relationships with people who share my creative interests.

I promise to call myself an artist.

This is a tall order for someone who... well, to be honest, feels safer hiding her creativity because it shields her from criticism. But I can be open and just not react to negative criticism; and that starts with me being kind to myself. And, yes, though it seems both scary and frivolous, I will call myself an artist. Maybe someday it won't feel forced.... I bid you all a creative weekend, and will take some time to come up with some ideas for my own personal creative challenges. If you'd like to join in, just let me know.

17 June 2010

Creativity Boot Camp, Day 12: "Smooth"

Ladybug tiptoeing through cholla spines, Patterson Canyon, June 2010

Why does this picture make me think "smooth"? Probably it's the ladybug's smooth, hard shell, which of course contrasts with the cholla's pointy flower buds and spines that it crawls over with no trouble whatsoever. I know this photo isn't really in focus, but to me it seems to evoke the ladybug's industrious progress across this perilous territory in pursuit of the aphids tucked between the succulent bud tips.

Here's more "smooth," from my friend's kitchen garden: I've never been able to capture water droplets before, and this is a decent first try. I took this just after watering the flower border; before they open all the way up, the dianthus blooms make especially good water holders.

Water droplets on dianthus, June 2010

15 June 2010

Creativity Boot Camp, Day 10: "Full-Bodied"

Pods of Halfmoon Milkvetch (Astragalus allochrous), Magdalena, New Mexico

Not much to say today... creativity is saving me, and I'm loving the Creativity Boot Camp challenges and inspiration from other people's offerings. Many, many thanks to everyone who has written here and elsewhere for the good thoughts.

14 June 2010

There on the Sad Height

Cholla skeleton at sunset, Magdalena, NM, May 2010

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my [mother], there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
-Dylan Thomas, 1951

Suddenly, the end of the road of hope is in painfully clear view; perhaps I am being hasty, but I don't think so. The medical news for my mom has been unrelentingly bad, and it is excruciating to just stand by and watch, and try to be there (but really what is there to say), as someone I love faces the end of the road right here and now and for real and forever. And a lot sooner than expected. Someone whose family has "great genes" and lives well into their 80s and 90s, even 100s, who has taken good care of herself and eaten properly and exercised and quit smoking long ago, who planned a proper and sensible retirement of 20+ years -- suddenly she had maybe five years. Then two years, then maybe one unless a miracle happened, and now the chance for a miracle is gone... it is indeed cause not just for sorrow but for rage. Impotent rage, so heart-rending, and so very mundane; we all go through it, don't we? And the legions who have gone before, and those who will follow, yet this loss never, ever tears less than every last fiber of the heart asunder.

Maybe we'll get better news later this week. God, it is so hard to let go of hope.

A Mountain Meadow In June, Part 2: A Perfectly Peachy Prickly Pear

Plains Prickly Pear (Opuntia polycantha) in bloom, June 2010

More pictures from my recent mountain retreats, these of a wildly blooming prickly pear cactus that, at 8,000 feet, seems just as happy as one down in the Sonoran Desert. An impromptu after-dinner walk up the hill from my friend's mountain home led to an open meadow blooming with everything from prickly pears and cholla to gorgeous sky-blue Rocky Mountain Penstemon. My dog Lucy happily charged right into the stream cutting across the field; the other two dogs stepped gingerly through it and continued tracking their elusive quarry. With sunset about a half hour away I did some backlighting work with my 18-70 mm lens, wanting to capture the translucency of the prickly pear's petals. I'm also still playing with depth of field, trying to broaden it a bit but feeling reluctant to relinquish the intense focus that a very shallow depth of field offers. I love how it makes background elements just fall away from the main subject, hinting at what else is there but not detracting from the main view.
The flip side is that not much is in focus in most of my close-up shots, but I'm currently obsessed with small details and will just keep shooting like this till I get tired of it. One thought I've had recently is to go down to this lens' wider-angle range (18mm) to enhance the diminishing that the background blurring suggests (in the shot at left, of the descending buds). I've never been comfortable with wide-angle shooting because it really distorts perspective, but that might work well here... hmm, I'm sensing a need for a do-over... not that I need a "professional" excuse to go back up the mountain....

The shot below is another study in selective focusing, and I'm fairly pleased with how the flower's center came out (lighting could be better, perhaps with a spot flash or reflector, but that's beyond my current technical expertise). I'd like to try this one with a fuller depth of field, although I think I've been doing what I'm doing because I want to stretch my vision. Anyone can take a decent picture of a flower, but what else is there to see, right there in front of us, that some technical manipulation can bring into sharper focus? It's all about experimentation; I don't get a great shot very often, but I sure do get some interesting ones, from which I learn something new to take back up the mountain next time.... 

13 June 2010

In the Kitchen Garden, Part 3: Cycling

Onion in early flower, June 2010

I go out into my friend's kitchen garden several times a day to water or to gather herbs or greens to add to a dish, and have to go back inside for my camera because I keep seeing something new to photograph. It is a rather small space and is geared mostly to late-winter and early-spring produce, yet the life that carries on in there is quite lively, all the more so when viewed up close. The onion flower above burst out of its papery cocoon during my visit last weekend, and this weekend some of the tiny (1/4-inch) flowers have begun to open.

The gone-to-seed chard plant at left (top) seems to be home to many ladybugs, and the cilantro plant below, one of many I also photographed last weekend, is beginning to "fruit" and will soon bear ripe, fragrant coriander seeds. I can almost smell the yummy hand-ground curry that's sure to come; as for the rest of the herbs and greens going to seed -- chard, kale, spinach, and lettuce -- they will reseed themselves and provide a wonderful fall-winter crop of fresh greens just when everything else has wound down or frozen. I do have my own (very) small kitchen garden; I had to start from scratch two years ago but now have some really nice sage, rosemary, and mint stands that have withstood two rough winters, along with some perpetually reseeding cilantro. This spring I've added thyme, oregano, lemon balm, and lavender (perennials) along with basil (annual, but I hope it reseeds itself like the cilantro does). Greens are currently out of reach, however, because I have no woodworking skills to make the requisite cold frames, which are a big part of what makes my friend's kitchen garden so prolific for all but the very coldest six weeks of winter. This winter, though, I see more green in my future...

Breakfast in the Garden

Robber fly (Efferia aestuans) at rest, June 2010
Robber fly consuming moth, June 2010

Watering my friend's kitchen garden (from which I will post many more pictures when I go home this afternoon) I saw this creature flitting around but couldn't get close enough to photograph it. Then he perched on the garden gate and didn't move as I approached... and I soon saw why: breakfast trumps flight. I suppose this moth would have met an untimely end with a porchlight tonight anyway; just as well it fed a fellow garden creature.

And a strange creature this is indeed; it sounds like a pesky housefly but looks kind of like a dragonfly, and it seems to hover rather than just flit. Turns out it is indeed a cousin to the housefly; the robber fly is of the order Diptera, same as house flies and fruit flies and horse flies and all those other pesky critters. Family Asilidae includes 7100 or so species of so-called robber flies that, unlike their Musca domestica cousins, prefer to dine on live prey.

And thus ends our lesson on flying insects... for now.

10 June 2010

A Mountain Meadow in June

Blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis), New Mexico's official state grass, June 2010

More pics from my Mountain Macro Meditations earlier this week. Blue grama grass (above) grows in profusion here and develops whimsically curled seedheads that persist all summer and even through the bleak winter. The Apache Plume seedheads (below left) sometimes persist through the winter, too; Indian Paintbrush flowers (below right) are far more ephemeral but make for quite a display during their brief tenure in the meadow.

Blue grama grass appears a rather humble plant at first but is gorgeous in profusion, especially during sunrise or sunset when the seedheads glow brightly. It is also one of my mom's favorite plants, so I'm posting the picture just for her....

09 June 2010

In the Kitchen Garden, Part 2: Portrait of an Artichoke

Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus), June 2010

When I start processing my images in Photoshop, I almost always find one or two that give me a visceral thrill, and that I can't wait to share. Being able to see the pictures almost right away and work with them myself (without darkroom chemicals) is just one of the reasons I have happily converted to digital photography, after years of holding onto the Luddite position that pixels could never capture life the way film does. I'm finally converted, but you tell me: are these images lifelike?

I spent some time the other day with an artichoke that, like the herbs in a previous post, had gone to bloom and was thus "useless" in a culinary sense. Inedible, perhaps, but absolutely gorgeous. The artichoke is a member of the thistle family, and when it blooms it's easy to see the resemblance. The filamentous florets look like sea anemone tentacles (indeed, the sea creature was named after the anemone flower), and the heavenly blue-violet color is a surprising contrast to the thick army-green leaves and stems. I used extreme-macro to capture these images; I could have increased the depth of field (and might experiment with that next time), but right now I am enjoying the creative possibilities of limited DOF, including highlighting details that might otherwise be unnoticeable if more of the entity were in focus. Are these images "most representative" of this artichoke's beauty? I don't think any image could be all that, and in any case making images is, for me, all about experimentation, which I've always believed is the best way to learn and, ultimately, to express my own vision of the world.

08 June 2010


Sap, Pinon tree (Pinus edulis) in Patterson Canyon (near Magdalena, NM), June 2010

In the Kitchen Garden, Part 1: Unfurling

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), June 2010
Kale (Brassica oleracea), June 2010
I have always loved close-up (macro) photography because it reveals details that we often miss, either because our vision isn't strong enough or because we're just moving too quickly through life to stop and really look at things. The exotic-looking flower above is actually a cilantro plant in bloom; I spent the past few days at a friend's house and found gazillions of these in the kitchen garden, abuzz with bees and butterflies and other creatures. Once cilantro "bolts" and goes to bloom it is essentially useless as a leaf herb; these blossoms, each of which measures maybe 1/8 inch, become the spice known as coriander, doubling this fragrant plant's culinary usefulness. This in-between stage adds an artistic "usefulness" that I'm very pleased to be able to see now that I have a macro filter. Someday I'll have a real macro lens; until then, though, I am more than happy with the view I have now. The second picture is of a kale blossom, again on a bolted and thus "useless" plant. I have many more photos to share from my retreat, which I will call my macro meditations (for want of a better term)...

05 June 2010

What Are You Waiting For?

This is the last mosaic I worked on before putting all my stuff away to clear room for my parents' visit, and although it doesn't feel finished I have hung it up so I remember every day that "someday" will never happen if I don't find ways, however small, to live my dreams here and now. My family got some less than fabulous medical news this week and I sense more strongly than ever that any moments spent in anguish, strife, or just idle indecision are a waste of the gift I've been given -- the huge gift of my life.

To help my family and be more present for my kids I have dropped down to half-time in school (from 3 courses to 1 per quarter) and will probably stay there for my final 2 courses, extending my program another 3 months and thus delaying internships until January. In the meantime, however, I am volunteering with a local home health care social worker and am about to start volunteering with a local drug/alcohol counselor; and I might also be starting a paid part-time gig with a social services agency that works with "at-risk" youth. After 20 months of coursework, I feel ready to learn about the practical side of counseling but not ready to actually offer counseling, especially given what is going on and how it is surely affecting my emotional state. Funny how most of it happens under the surface; much of the time I am functioning okay -- as long as absolutely nothing stressful happens -- or else am in kind of a shocky deer-in-the-headlights state of being that looks normal enough. So observing other therapists and social workers will help me learn and gain confidence in my skills, but not put me on the spot to actually do anything that I don't feel prepared to do.

I am grateful to have my parents here with me, and kids who are still cuddly and huggly, and good friends, and a big happy dog who loves road trips and lives in the moment, and my art, especially my photography, that allows me to keep looking for and at all the beauty the world has to offer. I could "protect" myself and love small, "[pick] the tiniest stars out of the sky to own.... A woman, a child, a brother -- a big love like that would split you wide open" (Toni Morrison, Beloved, p. 162). To create first stalk, then leaf, then flower and fruit, the seed must yield itself to the earth and split wide open; not to do so is to die unrealized....

02 June 2010

Green Goddess

I finally figured out how to finish the ends on Kumihimo cords: end caps that can be glued AND pinched on, for full security. I don't like to make things that fall apart, especially things that I sell. So now I've finished off four necklaces using cords I've made over the past year or so, including the green one pictured above that I wove from 8 strands of cotton embroidery thread and glass seed beads. I made the cord to match the gorgeous glazed ceramic pendant from BeadFreaky and finished it with a simple brass wirewrap, brass petal cord ends, and an antiqued brass flower S-clasp. The necklace at right uses a thinner cord, just 4 strands of hand-dyed silk and gold embroidery thread, looped through a Creekmore-Durham dichroic glass pendant and finished with a brass clasp I made myself. I don't expect to total up much time at the workbench this week thanks to a grueling trip to Las Cruces yesterday and family medical stuff tomorrow ; even photo time has suffered, though I am thinking of taking the kids on a photo trip in the next few days, armed with their own little cameras that their Uncle Charles gave them for Christmas. The family that plays together...

01 June 2010

Create Remembrance: Be Here Now

Grave, Kelly (NM) cemetery, May 2010

Yesterday I had no barbecues, pool parties, or other events to attend, which is actually how I like things (gee, does that make me sound unsociable? As if you didn't already know I was weird). I decided instead to commemorate Memorial Day by visiting a local cemetery to honor those that have gone before us, and to see what photographic opportunities I might find. The Magdalena cemetery was fairly busy with people tending graves of family and friends, and I didn't want to intrude on their personal time with their loved ones. So I went way up into the Magdalena mountains to the ghost town of Kelly, where my dad had found a primitive cemetery on one of his recent motorcycle rides. I last visited Kelly about a year ago and came away with a few good pictures and a lot of beautiful rocks, a few hinting of the rich minerals that made Kelly a boom town in the late 1800s.

First settled in the 1860s when lead was discovered in the mountains and established as a thriving mining town in the 1880s, Kelly once boasted a population of over 3,000 along with its own school, two hotels, and (of course) numerous rowdy saloons. What remains now is a single church, where Mass is celebrated once a year during the annual fiesta and reunion of Kelly resident descendants, and the ruins of several buildings and the mining and smelting operations. And gravestones approaching a century old, most tilted or tumbled down, some all but disintegrated, but occasionally decorated in remembrance of a family member who once walked the streets of that remote mining town.

The first few graves I happened upon at this cemetery barely existed anymore, the concrete crosses crumbled or hand-carved stones worn almost smooth, the picket fences and metal gates around the graces tumbled and strewn about the rocky ground, and some washed away altogether except for a rough wooden cross, or broken remnants thereof. Then I spied a few that had apparently been tended at least occasionally over the years, the artificial flowers holding enough form and color to suggest that someone was still alive to remember who was buried there. Someone who was once here, among us, and is now gone. As I hiked and paused and clicked and pondered, one of my favorite songs ran repeatedly through my head: "Be Here Now," by Ray LaMontagne, particularly the line:

Don't put your trust in walls
'Cause walls will only crush you when they fall

No matter how solid they seem, how securely they seem to hold us in and the big bad world outside, walls crumble, they fall, and in the end all that is left is rubble for some stranger to walk among a decade or a century later. When we leave this earth, we leave behind people who knew and perhaps (if we were lucky) loved us; what will they remember about us? Be here now -- live your life as fully as you can stand to and then push a bit further than you can stand -- to make some good memories for yourself and your loved ones. Because when our mortal selves disappear, all that remains is remembrance.