30 April 2011

Macro Love: Southwestern Spring

Claret cup cactus flower (Echinocereus triglochidiatus), Water Canyon/Magdalena Mtns., NM, April 2011
This week's "I heart macro" post comes from one of three hikes I took this past week -- I'm finally getting out on the trail regularly. We had some seriously brutal winds here yesterday, but even on the windiest days Water Canyon, which winds into the Magdalena Mountains from the east, is quite pleasant. So I packed up my camera, new hiking boots, and Lucydog -- going out on her first hike since surgery! -- and hit the road for some serious hiking. It was wonderful. I turned up into Dark Canyon (at the group campground), which was warm, breezy but not too much so, not at all dusty, and green thanks to the little bit of water that flows through the canyon even in dry La Nina years like the one we're having now. Most of the water flows just under the sandy/rocky creekbed but surfaces here and there, much to Lucy's delight. Thanks to this source the willows are bright neon green and the cacti are in bloom -- I spotted the claret cup pictured above from 100 yards away at least, and had to do a bit of rock climbing to get close enough for a good photo. Lots more photos to come; it will be cold (possibly with snow flurries) through Monday so I'll be inside for a couple of days...

29 April 2011

Art Bead Scene April Challenge

Spring Wine, Necklace in Shell, Pearls, and Vintage Brass

This month's Art Bead Scene color challenge did indeed challenge me, until I found some amazing wine-colored shell components at Michaels earlier this week. The wonderful flowery lentils caught my eye right away, and I easily found coordinating pearls that I strung with glass seed beads for an "airy" feeling. The shell fan is actually half of a set; the other 6 pieces will probably become matching earrings. The 3 brass filigree beads on the left side, just below the shell button clasp, came from a 1960s necklace of my mom's that is slowly making its way into new pieces. The shell birds came from the Thunderbird Supply sale bin; you'll be seeing these in many colors in upcoming designs. I made a matching bracelet, too, and will finish the earrings this weekend and list the set on Etsy by Sunday. I missed the deadline to be part of the blog hop, but be sure to visit the blogs listed to see some really beautiful pieces by wonderfully talented designers!

28 April 2011


Yucca, April 2011, near Magdalena, NM
Here in Magdalena we have had no measurable rain or snow since early March, and the "2011 water year" from October 2010 through March 2011 has been one of the driest on record for New Mexico. "Parched" doesn't begin to describe it; add in "gritty" and you're getting a bit closer... Every time the wind so much as stirs it raises a fine, choking dust that coats and insinuates into everything, even the teeth. This yucca has been thoroughly nibbled by wildlife over the dry winter, yet even without a soaking spring rain new growth has arisen from a deep taproot anchored in this rocky terrain that somehow bears water deep within. I look at this plant, adapting and surviving, and I tell myself, "Well, carry on. It will rain eventually." No drought, real or metaphorical, lasts forever.

BTW: Back to Work

My Bead Table Wednesday contribution is a day late this week because I've had two ABQ trips (both fun) and haven't had a whole lot of time at either the bead table or the computer. I did get some pretties at Michaels -- happy birthday AND tax return day to me! -- and started a few sets, shown above, that I hope to finish up soon. Not today, though; it is sunny and not windy outside and I'll be gardening alllllllll day. The winds come back with a vengeance tomorrow, so today is it for me in the garden till next week, probably. As ferocious as our winds have been -- gusts up to 70 mph, and gritty, choking dust that gets into everything -- I know it's nothing compared to the weather seen in other parts of the country this week. So I'll send today's perfect sunshine east... and hope we get one good soaking rain to tamp everything down before the winds blow us right on over into Texas.

25 April 2011


Tulip, April 2011
Short post today; I just wanted to thank everyone who read and commented on yesterday's post. It was a good and difficult and necessary day of solitude; I could feel things building up over the past week or two that I really needed to think through once I had the space. My heart and my garden are both better for the time spent processing and flailing and revelating. I hesitate to put really emotional stuff out there but when I read your stories I always find wisdom, solace, peace... and when you add your voices to my story, it always seems to lighten the load. We all have so much in common, regardless of differences. So again, thank you.

24 April 2011

Macro Study: Arise

Zucchini sprout, April 2011

Tomato sprout, April 2011
Happy macro day, and happy Easter to all who celebrate it. I find myself alone for the first time in 3 weeks because the kids have gone to their dad's for the week and my dad is in Albuquerque with a friend and her family. Although it feels strange and a bit squirrelly, I realize now how much I needed one full day and night alone to really feel and listen to myself. The first holidays after a loved one dies are difficult, people tell me; I definitely felt it around Thanksgiving and Christmas and had to really push myself to be cheery for the kids' sake. I didn't expect to feel it for Easter but then came all the death and resurrection talk, which reminded me of the many dreams I had in the months following my mom's death in which we somehow discovered that, wow, she's not dead, she just wandered off into the wide world and will come back to us someday. The quickening stream of Mothers Day ads is also getting to me... so, definitely a good day to be alone.

Cucumber sprout, April 2011
I'm not lonely, though; Lucy and the cats have been right by my side all day, inside and out. Despite the incessant wind I have been out gardening all weekend, digging beds for all these sprouts and laying new driplines for the Great Garden Expansion of 2011. I tell people I'm expanding the garden because of high food prices and declining produce quality, but really, I'm a woman possessed. Later this afternoon, though, I'll take a break to go walking with Lucy out on the property and clean up my mom's little stone house that now seems to be her de facto gravesite. Her ashes are back in Philly, but I'd like to bring them out here this summer. It feels like she belongs here.

Not exactly a cheerful Easter post, I know. A few people (who obviously don't know me very well) have taken pains to remind me that Mom is now in a better place, with God, in Heaven, moving onto a new phase of existence, and so forth. I won't say I do not believe that, but I'm not feeling it. Not today, anyway, and certainly not because I'm "supposed to." So being in the garden, preparing and planting and tending, is exactly where I need to be. I hope you all have a wonderful day, in celebration or whatever else occupies you today.
Zucchini sprout, April 2011

20 April 2011

Public Art

Rodeo Bull by Holly Hughes, Magdalena, NM, April 2011
Just a quick post today; I have an ABQ trip and more appointments on tap today (what happened to my "break"??), then yoga and coursework this evening. I took this photo yesterday at the entrance to the Magdalena Rodeo Grounds; it's a cool piece of public art done in 1994 by an artist I was fortunate enough to meet in 2007, just before I had to close my gallery here in town. I have a few more photos and will post tonight or tomorrow. No Bead Table Wednesday today... no time to do jewelry this past week. So, yeah, what happened to my schedule reprieve? Oh yeah, I told everyone I had a break in my schedule, and... yeah. Friday, though, is MY day -- it's my 45th birthday, and after celebrating the evening before or in the morning with the kids (whose dad has been away for almost 3 weeks and is supposed to pick them up Thursday night or Friday morning), I plan to go rambling, perhaps hiking, definitely somewhere away from the computer and cell phone reception...

18 April 2011

Chag Sameach (Passover Greeting)

Moroccan low bowl, kiddush cup and tray by clay artist Lia Lynn Rosen

Wheat-impressed matzoh tray by Lia Rosen
Passover -- a family-focused, festive holiday that celebrates freedom and hopes for the future -- begins at sundown tonight. Out here in the rural Southwest I hear almost nothing about it, and I haven't been to a seder since 1992 (just before I left Philly to head west), but every year I think about it and this year might share some of the traditions with my kids. Even better would be to attend a seder again... of course, my various "high-maintenance dietary issues" (no gluten, no unfermented dairy, no alcohol -- good God my innards are finicky) would make me a difficult guest, but guess what? A quick Google search of "gluten-free Passover" brought up lots of recipes and product ideas because, of course, gluten-free has become a marketing trend, like vegan and organic. Trendy as it may be at the moment, gluten-free is not just a "lifestyle choice" for some of us. Nonetheless, thanks to growing awareness of gluten intolerance I am a bit less embarrassed to be one of those "oh, I'm sorry, I can't eat that" people everyone hates to invite to dinner and am relieved to be able to find both ready-made products and basic ingredients to revamp my pantry. I've done gluten-free birthdays and other holidays; shall I try to bake some gluten-free matzoh this year?

Kiddush cup and tray by Lia Rosen

As for the wine, when I was a kid (my family converted to Judaism for a few years when I was 9 or so, in case you're wondering why a total white-bread girl like me is writing about Passover) I was given red grape juice at seder; now, if I took my own in a lovely decanter, would I still be able to participate? I also remember being asked to present one of the questions one year and was able to do so in Hebrew after just half a year of Hebrew school two afternoons a week. I can barely remember a full prayer or other phrase now but was quite fluent there for a while. Hebrew school was also where I first learned to sing, something I didn't know I could do and have greatly enjoyed ever since. So, even though I felt a bit weird sitting out during "regular-school" Christmas and other programs, I learned about a whole new culture from the inside and built a broader foundation for a spirituality that is anything but narrow. Weird and shifting lately, for sure, but definitely not narrow.

So... politics and religion in one week? I know, I'm pushing it... And now I'm off to pour some pomegranate juice (no grape on hand) and prepare fresh parsley, salt water, and hard-boiled eggs for a mini-not-really-seder to share with the kids.

Mosaic Monday: Bug Brigade

Time for Mosaic Monday, and I'm ready this week (for a change) thanks to a major break in my schedule that so fortuitously coincides with gardening season. One of the more surprising and fun discoveries I made last year with my DSLR (purchased on Ebay with my modest tax refund) was how clearly I could photograph bugs. It isn't always intentional; sometimes while I'm focusing on a flower, a bug I didn't notice with the naked eye will suddenly become clear in the viewfinder, as with the tiny yellow spider in the middle row, or land squarely in the frame, as the moth did on the gaillardia next to the spider image.

I also appreciate being able to choose between autofocus and manual focus; the spider definitely needed manual focus (as well as manual aperture and shutter speed) so that I could choose the depth of field and the exact area of focus, whereas I was lucky to catch the painted lady butterfly at bottom left with autofocus just before it flew away. I can also switch quickly, as I did for the photo at right: this lovely field of wildflowers near the crest of the Magdalenas suddenly offered a more interesting shot when the fly landed right in front of me, so I switched to manual to be sure I caught it in focus. (Confession: I had to take four shots to get one that was in focus. Just another reason I LOVE digital: no wasted prints for the 90% of shots that don't come out so well.)

17 April 2011

You know I love macro

Blue lettuce (Lactuca tatarica) from the kitchen garden, Magdalena, NM
 I was going to take a day off from blogging to garden and think about concrete actions I might take about the political stuff I ranted about yesterday, but I couldn't resist joining my blogging friends who are sharing their beautiful macro/close-up photos today as part of the "I Heart Macro" blog hop that Lori at Studio Waterstone is hosting. Lori's lovely blog is new to me, and I'm glad to see another person who digs jewelry making and photography, and dedicates her blog to both without worrying (as far as I can tell from her posts) about not having a "single-purpose" blog. My contribution to the blog hop captures the simple blossom of a wild blue lettuce gone to flower; it's not terribly noticeable or remarkable until those delicate blue stamens come into view through the macro filter. This is why I let some of my greens and herbs bolt and flower, then go to seed; many of my favorite photos have come from my and a friend's kitchen garden. Speaking of which, it's time to finish the drip system for my new asparagus bed...

16 April 2011

Diversion (a political rant)

Old Timers Parade, Magdalena, NM, July 2010
I have stayed away from political issues on this blog not because I don't have passionate views but because, first, I started it as a creative arts blog, and second, a few years ago I agreed to be interviewed for a seemingly innocuous pre-election series on real life in America and was stunned (into silence, eventually) at the nasty local backlash that ensued not just against me but also my kids, who were 6 and 4 at the time. I do rant regularly on my Facebook page because my friends there know who I am and I can shut down any butthead who decides to get nasty in the comments. I have deliberately kept this blog above the fray because I recognize that many of us hold diverse sociopolitical views and, here at least, we can focus on our commonalities -- creative pursuits and passions -- and let the rest go.

That said, the recent budget wars have compelled me to break my silence because, politics aside, the outcome will not only hurt vulnerable people everywhere but will nearly decimate life in many small communities such as mine. Those same politicians who invoke a storied "small town America" have proposed and voted to enact deep budget cuts to programs that keep many small towns alive -- not just the much maligned (unfairly, I believe) social programs such as Medicaid and other public assistance but also funding for police and fire departments, block grants for economic development and essential infrastructure improvements, funding for public health initiatives such as substance abuse treatment programs, preventive health screenings, and mental health crisis intervention, and many educational programs such as Head Start, special education, and literacy and math skills enhancement.

When the politicians stand up to justify such cuts by saying things like, "times are tough, and tough choices had to be made," my head just about explodes because of what remained untouched in all the smoke : tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the Pentagon budget, corporate tax breaks and subsidies, and of course salaries and operating expenses of the very politicians telling us to tighten our belts and share the sacrifice. As I listened to this video, my 8-year-old looked up from playing Spore and said, "Mama, that doesn't really sound fair. Why do rich people pay less taxes but now there's not enough money for kids to go Head Start and have libraries and stuff?"

I am not about to tell my kids that "we all need to share the sacrifice" when certain entities clearly are not about to share anything with the rest of us, especially as more and more gets taken away from them in school, from their health care, from their community, and from their futures. If the budget is a "moral document," as many have stated over the years, what do the current proposals say about us as a nation? That we are hopelessly lost and morally bankrupt, or that vested interests with deep pockets are finally succeeding in hijacking the national debate and governing bodies?

15 April 2011

The Day the Circus Came to Town

The circus came to town this week, which was quite a surprise given how far off the beaten path Magdalena is. I was a bit hesitant to get the kids' hopes up about a small-time circus, but since we kind of had no choice once they'd heard about it, we all went on Thursday evening and actually had a great time. This was the kids' first circus, and it started with the lion and tigers who seemed a bit subdued but nonetheless wowed people just by being so large in physical size and presence. Other acts included juggling, dog tricks, unicycling, and acrobatics, and they were all really well done and enjoyable. I didn't take my DSLR because it just sucks in low light, and I also feel self-conscious using it in public; Dad's (formerly Mom's) Canon PowerShot didn't seem to do any better, and I had no idea what I was doing (it's pretty sad that I can do everything manually and usually well with my camera and am all thumbs with a point-and-shoot).

(Maggie isn't smiling because she just
got brain freeze from her snow cone)
I did manage to get a few shots that, because of the low light, were very noisy (the equivalent of grainy in film photography) but salvageable thanks to Topaz DeNoise and Topaz Detail. You may notice the inside images seem a bit too smooth, and that's because removing the noise also, of course, sacrifices some detail. Someday, I'll have a fast lens... someday. In the meantime, I'm definitely getting my money's worth from my post-processing software, and I remind myself every time I want to shoot in low light that even a top-notch camera can take crappy photos if used only as a technical instrument. I also remind myself of how photos become an important part of memories, especially over time. My kids will look back happily at these photos of their first circus and will remember the cool high-wire acts and silly clown -- this one definitely wasn't scary -- and ferocious lion and tigers, and the treats their grampa bought them. That is a big part of why I take photos, and it's at least as important as the enjoyment and creative expression that photography brings to my life.

14 April 2011

They're Ba-aaack!

Female Rufous Hummingbird, Patterson Canyon, NM, Sept. 2010
I saw a hummingbird yesterday, right on schedule -- they usually come back up here around the 2nd week of April, buzzing around looking for food after what must be a long journey for them (or anyone, really). He flitted around right outside the dining room glass doors, first inspecting the bobbling glass and copper hummingbird garden ornament, then hunting for open flowers, then hovering right in front of the door as if to bark at me, "So, where are the feeders already??" They're cleaned and ready to go, tiny sir, and I'll get the hummingbird bar open for business pronto. The hummer shown above is a female Rufous, and those little feisties don't come back till after the summer solstice; that gives our early arrivals (the Black-Chinned and Broad-Tailed hummers) time to nest and acclimate before the real feeder turf wars begin. We can't wait!

13 April 2011

BTW: Studio Time!

Today's bead table: Keeping it simple and focusing on wirework. (I traded textbooks for sterling wire - thanks, Amazon!)

(I really need to scour my bench block.)
It's Bead Table Wednesday, and I'm doing wirework today (along with coursework and gardening, of course). I still haven't taken the initiative to teach myself metalwork, but as the weather warms up I'm spending a bit of time out in my little studio (which I still think of as Mom's studio), where I can do messy projects and leave stuff out rather than cleaning up every time I have to leave something unfinished. When I clean up, I lose things like tools and components and forget what I was trying to do, whereas if it's all spread out on the table, I know exactly what I was doing and where to start up again. It's really more efficient not to clean up.

(That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.)

Gourd experiments in progress (note goggles & dust mask)
Last weekend we had howling winds that made gardening and hiking impossible, but I wanted to be outside so I stepped into the studio to start doing something with my gourds from two summers ago. I got a notion to make little bird baths and hanging planters with a few of them, so out came the Dremel (which was also Mom's) and paints, and when they're done I'll lacquer them and put them around the garden. Today I'm also making earrings for a custom order I have long neglected because I was out of the sterling wire I needed and couldn't get my hands on more at a reasonable price. My order finally came in yesterday, so I get to play with the hammer today!

12 April 2011


Lucydog patiently awaits her water-bearer, near crest of Magdalenas (Oct. 2010)
My sweet Lucydog is recovering well from her leg surgeries and, fingers crossed, will soon be able to hike with me again. Dad and the kids and I have taken her out to the property a few times in the past week, and although she's not ready to chase jackrabbits yet she has been going a bit farther and faster each time we go. I'll take her to the vet in the next week or two for a follow-up X-ray, and assuming she's healing up well we can slowly ease back into hiking. I need to recondition almost as much as she does; I hate hiking alone, and the kids only seem to enjoy it in good weather (sensible, aren't they?), so I haven't gone much at all in the past few months.

Kelly Smithsonite hand-wrapped in sterling silver
As a sort of preview of how my first serious hikes will feel, my first yoga class of the year last week kind of kicked my butt. Yes, we have yoga out here in the hinterlands, thanks to a good friend who periodically holds community classes and is doing a "Spring Cleaning" series for April. The last time I was doing yoga regularly (2009) I gained amazing strength and mobility; everything kind of fell apart last year as Mom got sicker, but I can already feel my strength returning as I start moving and getting back out into the world. I'm so, so happy my big happy dog can come with me again. Maybe I can find more pretty rocks like this stunning piece of Smithsonite with calcite crystals that I wirewrapped for a friend a while back. Happy trails... soon!

11 April 2011

Mosaic Monday: Columbines

Hey there... time for Mosaic Monday, my first in a few weeks. Yeah, it's been a while. I didn't intend to take a break from blogging, but it kind of came along with stepping (stumbling, staggering...) back from the computer during my break between classes. Of course, I love being able to complete a full degree program online. I'm totally accustomed to and comfortable with computers after 2+ decades of using them for jobs, school, photography, and other pursuits. But after 10 fast-paced weeks of coursework, and especially when the weather warms up, I do not want to be inside, I do not want to be looking at a screen, and God knows I am tired of trying to make myself comfortable in this chair day after day and night after night.

So when I finished my final marital/family counseling courses a few weeks ago, I pushed back from the computer and pretty much stayed away, except to check email and manage the process of getting my July internship approved. Oh, and to sign up for more courses (what is wrong with me??) on addictions counseling and support. The need is huge, and although I shied away from this area when I started my program in 2008, I find the family systems approach to addictions interesting and potentially useful in many cases. And given that so many people are affected by addictions, either their own or that of family or friends, understanding more about it can maybe help me help them a bit better. I guess we'll see -- I start my internship 3 months from today, and in addition to having the logistics all worked out, I also, quite uncharacteristically, already have my wardrobe ready. I hope that doesn't sound shallow, but I've been primarily working over the Internet since 2002 and over the years my clothing has dwindled to jeans, fleece hoodies, and ranch boots.

Now, I didn't go so far as to head to a mall (my head would explode for sure); I kept it simple and used my 35% off email coupon for Sierra Trading Post, from whence came said jeans, hoodies, and ranch boots, and which also has a particularly fetching collection of women's spring clothing this year. Of course, I can't wear the new clothes here; I live in a remote, dusty cowtown where people ask, "So, you dressed up for a job interview or for a date?" when I so much as put on earrings... no, seriously, it's literally too dusty here. So when the time comes I'll dress myself up all fancy, dash off to the car before too much dust clings to me, and zip up to Albuquerque which, around here, is The Big City.

Anyhoo. I'm sort of back; I'll be gardening more and hiking my sorry butt back into shape (Lucy is doing great after two leg surgeries this winter, so we're both finally getting back out on the trail), but since classes started today I'll be around again. I look forward to catching up on what you all have been up to, and I hope it's gettin' on spring 'round your parts!

05 April 2011

Old Tree, New Life

Apple Blossom, April 2011, Magdalena, NM
The tree that is giving us the budding blossom above (and many more) is a gnarly old thing that has been hacked up over the years as limbs have died off, and by all rights probably should have been taken out years ago. She bears little tart Macintosh-type apples, and last fall I made applesauce with some of them, thinking her days were numbered. But she's back again, having survived even February's zone-3 freeze (we're zone 5 or 6), with all limbs apparently intact this year. So I'm adding her to my new perennial/tree dripline in hopes of getting another canning-worthy harvest this fall. Drip system maintenance and extension will occupy me most of today since it is sunny and less windy than in recent days; it sounds boring and can be a bit tedious but it also gets me outside with my plants and the sun and birds and kitties and dog. This year I'll have my camera out there with me, too, so I don't miss tiny moments like this one...

02 April 2011

Everything Feels Better in Sunshine

Tulip, Magdalena, NM, April 2011
I've been absent from my blog lately because, being on break from coursework, I'm not at my computer nearly as much -- I'm outside gardening instead! We've been blessed with warmth and sunshine this past week, to which my plants and I have all responded energetically by emerging from our winter slumbers. My most recent cold, which seemed poised to morph into my second bout of bronchitis/pneumonia of the year, dissolved as I spent time in the sun -- heavy doses of echinacea/osha/goldenseal root tea probably also helped.

In New Mexico the spring sunshine also brings strong winds, and it has been so dry lately (2 months without a drop of rain) that any spark can quickly fan into a fire, as happened on Thursday less than a mile from my home. I watched the smoke billow all afternoon and paused from my gardening to count the firetrucks and volunteer firefighters racing up my road to gain access to and control over the fire's southern edge. Thankfully, no one was hurt and no structures burned, but the fire came within a few feet of one family's home and was only arrested by a dozen or so people, including the homeowners, wielding fire and garden hoses. My neighbors across the road, whose property backs up to where the fire was burning, were readying their horses for evacuation as the winds abated and the firefighters gained control. I would have been over there in a heartbeat to help out, if only to lead the horses over to my yard for safe keeping.

I'll try to blog more in the next few weeks, but for now, I have lots of gardening to do! I've planted all my seeds for indoor and coldframe germination (I can't set anything out till May 15), and today I need to clear old garden beds and start digging up a new section so I can grow more veggies! I hear some of you are having rotten weather, so I'll try to send some sunshine and warmth your way. Enjoy your weekend, whatever the weather!