27 July 2011


Mom with Lazarus, Sept. 2002, Philadelphia

Dad, Mom, Laz, and Maggie, May 2008

One year ago today I awoke before dawn and raced 100 miles north to catch the earliest flight out of ABQ so I could be at my mom's side in Philadelphia as she died. In my mind every moment of that day, especially her final struggling moments, stands starkly apart from the rest of life. As the mental shroud of denial mercifully draped over me in the days that followed, I recall both breathtaking pangs of loss and a sense that she was just out on an errand and would come through the door at any moment. I remember thinking at some particular moment that I was doing okay, then I would hear someone speak of cancer or see a pink/blue/purple awareness ribbon bumper sticker and just dissolve. Awareness? All too much, all too keening, really to the point of paralysis because Mom's cancer bore down mercilessly, swiftly felling any thin shoots of hope and scorching bare the earth that bore them.

One year later, I feel I have mourned -- not completely (no such thing, I believe), but mindfully and thoroughly, to arrive at wherever I'm "supposed" to be after this first year. I still dream of her mystical reappearance. I still lament not only my own loss but the kids', and the flourishing gardens she does not gaze upon, and my new internship experiences we do not discuss, and my graduation next year she will not witness. I lament the loss of time with her. Do I honor her by lamenting? Probably not, because as I read through some poetry last night this verse jumped out at me as essentially Mom. So I'll honor my own process by continuing it and I'll honor Mom by posting this as a tribute to the joyful, colorful spirit that dwelled within her and remains with us.

Lament me not, but sing songs of youth and joy;
Shed not tears upon me, but sing of harvest and the winepress;
Utter no sigh of agony, but draw upon my face with your
Finger the symbol of Love and Joy.
Disturb not the air's tranquility with chanting and requiems,
But let your hearts sing with me the song of Eternal Life;
Mourn me not with apparel of black,
But dress in color and rejoice with me;
Talk not of my departure with sighs in your hearts; close
Your eyes and you will see me with you forevermore.
         -Khalil Gibran, "The Beauty of Death"

23 July 2011

In Summer Time

Sunset over Magdalena, July 2011
O time of rapture! time of song!
How swiftly glide thy days along
Adown the current of the years,
Above the rocks of grief and tears!
'Tis wealth enough of joy for me
In summer time to simply be.
-"In Summer Time," Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Magdalena Mountains are open again for hiking thanks to a few good soaking rains over the past two weeks, and now I really feel like it's summer. Of course I can hike any time of the year, but ascending a thousand or more feet into a mountain forest makes for a wonderful retreat from summer heat. It's also a great vantage for capturing a sunset; tonight's made me think of a scene in some old religious movie when the sun breaks through the clouds and angels sing and the Voice of God bellows out The Truth. I have been missing "my" mountain hikes a lot, perhaps because as the first anniversary of my mom's passing approaches I feel growing anxiety and reawakening of those lost feelings I had during the weeks before and the months since her death. I spent a lot of time in these mountains last summer and fall, finding much solace in the cool air, the exquisite beauty, and the absorbing rigors of hiking. This evening, I felt that same peace flow through me as I pushed myself up a steep rocky grade with a friend and now with two canine hiking buddies... and when I saw this sunset, I guess I did have my own inner "Hallelujah" moment. Summer returns. Joy returns. Song returns.

22 July 2011

"This is the land the sunset washes..." *

Sunset after a summer rainstorm, Magdalena, NM, July 2011
With the summer monsoons finally ramping up, we have clouds in the evening that make the sunsets even more wonderful than usual. Last night's sunset (above) was intense and colorful and complex, the pink glow from the setting sun seeming almost like crochet around the edges of the roiling clouds. Tonight's sunset, which I did not capture, was softer, with a far-off rainfall cutting right through the pink glow as the sun sank behind the Bear Mountains. Memo to self: always, always bring my camera, even on what I think will be a routine walk with the dogs. I love watching sunsets; I love sharing them with you even more.

* Quote by Emily Dickinson

18 July 2011

The Creative Exchange: In This Moment

Blaze contemplates the setting sun. Magdalena, NM, July 2011
I'm rejoining The Creative Exchange, having lapsed not because I didn't enjoy it but because spring and summer activities have distracted me from regular blogging. But we all need creative time, right? So I hope to get back into the weekly routine and thank you for visiting. It's been a quiet week out here in western New Mexico's high country, where we're anxiously waiting for more rain. I'm especially anxious because despite last week's downpour the Stage 3 restrictions continue in the Magdalena Mountains, which means no hiking. So I feel all the more fortunate that we have property just north of town that, while not mountainous, offers some open, rolling space for stretching our legs and airing out our minds. Having a friend's horses and mule out there makes it even more enjoyable to visit; if I bring carrots or other treats, I have not only canine but also equine walking companions. We're a bit of a motley crew, perhaps, but a happy one.

I see more riding in our future, perhaps this week -- I'm still riding Blaze, Dad rides Damacio (above on the left), the kids ride Goliath (above right), and their friend rides Prescita (below right) and is thinking of buying her but keeping her with her "herd." Our friend the hunting guide rides Ed (below left), who is sweet-natured but a bit feisty and thus not yet a suitable mount for me or Dad till we gain more confidence and skill. Also part of this herd is Drago (not shown here; he was shy yesterday), who is also sweet but a bit undernourished at the moment and needing some riding rehab. The goal is for Maggie to stay on Goliath and for Laz to move up to Damacio, who is currently Dad's mount... well, in good time. For now, we're all getting to know each other, learning or relearning how to ride the range, and waiting for rain.

16 July 2011

I Heart Macro: More Garden Visitors

Backyard box turtle, Magdalena, NM, July 2011
Time for I Heart Macro, and as usual I find plenty of inspiration in my back yard. I didn't know that turtles have brown eyes, did you? This one does, anyway; she lives in our backyard now, having announced her presence last week by striding across the back patio to help herself to Riley's food and water. Silly puppy, he didn't know what to do -- he yipped at her, but when she stuck her neck out and hissed he stepped back and sat down to watch. She isn't shy, that's for sure. (And while she might be a "he," I'll go with "she" for now because it's easier...)

Ants on purple wildflower (aster?)
I can't believe I missed I Heart Macro last week, but it has been busy around here lately. Riding in the Old Timers Parade was a huge highlight for the kids, and on Tuesday I started internship -- the final phase -- for my masters program in marital/family therapy. It went really well and gave me a major confidence boost that I've been needing lately. Despite having soldiered through two and a half years of intense graduate coursework with a 3.9 GPA, a big part of me wondered whether I had what it takes to translate all that theory into effective, compassionate counseling that could make a difference in people's lives.

I know I have a lot to learn over this coming year. I also really know now that I can do this, and that I have come a long, long way from the completely broken person I was in September 2008, and that all that brokenness and putting back together are at least as valuable as the coursework in creating the therapist I hope to become in the next year and beyond.

11 July 2011

Singing and Dancing in the Rain

Maggie walks through the first real rain of the season. Magdalena, NM, July 11, 2011
Finally, the rains started in earnest today. We had a few minutes of light rain this morning, but the clouds hung around and then about an hour ago the skies opened up and gifted us with the deep soaking rain we've needed so desperately these long dry months. My fearless Maggie jumped up and ran right outside, coming back in for an umbrella just so she could see better through the downpour and make her way to the "rivers" running down the street. I'm so glad I handed her the bright pink umbrella... This photo is by far my favorite of the year.

09 July 2011

The Other Side of the Lens: New Old Timers

My little vaqueros, in the only photo I took today
Today was the big day: Dad, the kids and a friend, and I rode in Magdalena's Old Timers Parade! A while back Dad arranged with a local hunting guide and outfitter to graze his horses on our land north of town, and in exchange he has been taking us on short rides to get us used to the horses (I rode constantly as a kid but until a few weeks ago had been on a horse all of 3 times in the last 20 years) and to lead up to longer rides later this summer. Somehow the subject of the Old Timers Parade came up... and there we were today, with me on the other side of the camera for a change!
Dad, looking like a pro riding the steadfast Damacio, led Laz and Maggie on Goliath the Imperturbable Mule
To be honest, it was a lot of fun but also a lot more work than I'd anticipated. The cars, buggies, and other horses in the parade and the big noisy crowds along the route provided far more commotion than the horses are used to, and most people who don't ride have no idea how sensitive horses are to their actions. I sure am now; I've been riding Blaze, one of our friends' stalwart pack and guide horses, and his usually calm self dissolved into a skittering, prancing hot mess as the noise level and crowds grew. The kids' friend was on the paint mare Prescita, who is a bit high-strung but usually sweet-tempered, but who just about jumped out of her skin (and out from under her thankfully-experienced rider) as it all pressed in on her. Big kudos to her for handling Prescita so well and keeping her cool.

The big sis of Maggie's BFF rode the very skittish Prescita, who reared in the middle of Highway 60, and I rode my usual steed, Blaze, who decided to be skittish as well -- we had our hands full but stayed the course.
Dad and the kids had much calmer mounts, and we all made it through by staying calm and focusing on the riding even as we smiled and waved to the crowds. I did have to mouth off a bit (my mama-bear side does come out sometimes) to people who drove or rushed way too close, and I rode right up to the Forest Service trucks to ask them not to blare their horns and sirens, something they'd done in parades past. When we got home, I retired into the A/C to shower and watch movies the rest of the day -- fittingly, The Missing (set and filmed here in New Mexico) was on and I got to enjoy some serious horse action, this time from the comfort of my cool lounge chair....

08 July 2011

Wonder Pets: Riley at 14 Weeks

Cock-eared puppy! (Riley's ears are uneven because someone or something tore part of his ear before he came to us.)

Riley and Lucy... she is still boss, no matter how big he gets.
Riley's third vet visit yesterday went well; he got his third set of shots and weighed in at 37 pounds, up from 22 a month ago and 9 pounds two months ago. He is three and a half months old, and he weighs almost as much as a large sack of dog food. Whatever mystery mix of muttness he is, he's gonna be a BIG dog -- his paws are now larger than Lucy's. He is incredibly rambunctious but also sweet-tempered, and he sticks close by when we're out roaming the hills. I must admit I have given up on house-training him for now (we're all too busy to keep an eye on him), so I rigged up the perfect setup for summer: his kennel is in the dining room right against the sliding door, which is left open enough for him to enter and exit the kennel so he can be in the backyard whenever he wants and sleep "indoors" at night. I just can't deal with him in the house peeing and chewing and chasing the cats and stealing the kids' toys, but we get plenty of social and training time with him since we're outdoors so much. This setup gives me another few months to house-train him, before it gets cold....

06 July 2011

BTW: Cloudy with a Chance of Spiders

Hobo spider checking out my beads... not really; I offed him -- look at those fangs, wouldn't you off him too??
Time for Bead Table Wednesday; there's a random title for you, eh? It is cloudy here in New Mexico today, which means our monsoons are gearing up and should arrive just in time for Magdalena's Old Timers Reunion this weekend. The "spiders" part of this title comes from the large, leggy creature that stalked right across my body at 1:00 this morning and landed squarely on my beading tray when I whacked it with my slipper. I rarely kill spiders (I am indeed one of those "get a cup! don't hurt it!" people), but this creature looked a bit too much like a Brown Recluse (*shudder*) for me to let it skitter away under my covers. Looking up spiders this morning (*shudder* again) I discovered it's too large to be a Brown Recluse and is more likely a Hobo Spider, also known as the "aggressive house spider." They do bite when "cornered," such as when a sleeping person rolls over on them, and while not fatal the bites can cause tissue necrosis and a wound that won't heal for months. I've seen two in my bedroom in the last few days, and that is SO not okay with me, so... dang it, time to do a deep cleaning.
Ocean charm bracelet in progress; I won't use the turquoise but like the color combination
In the meantime (if you're still reading and haven't run off batting away imaginary spiders), I'm working on a charm bracelet with shells, pearls, shell birds, and glass, and it needs a great ocean-themed focal piece. I thought about using a turquoise chunk but really want something more thematic (but not kitschy), perhaps in ceramic or metal. Any ideas?