29 December 2012

Holiday Greetings

Victoria's Christmas angel, entirely handmade around a purchased doll head

Ricky's Dine' (Navajo) Christmas, painted on Kraft paper
I am finally feeling rested after a week of vacation and wanted to share photos of the holiday office door art created by my talented coworkers at the Alamo Navajo Health Center. I hope we can leave these up for a while - the art is both a visual treat and a welcome respite from the usual bare walls and serious atmosphere. So far, we've decorated for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas; next up is... Valentine's Day? Then Easter, and the first day of Spring, and May Day, and... there is always a reason to create beauty, right?

Lorena's Wishing Door

28 December 2012

Family Time

Rudolph says it's vacay time!!! Christmas display at Winston's on Hwy 60, Magdalena, NM, Dec. 2012
I asked Santa for a horse, and for summer to come back NOW.
One seems about as likely as the other.
I was fortunate enough to be able to take a full week of vacation for Christmas, which is especially important because the kids are still young enough to really enjoy the holiday. Maggie got to see Santa, and when he asked us what we wished for, we gave the same answer: a horse! I've been wanting one since I was 6 years old; maybe next year I'll be able to make both our wishes come true. Of course, everyone warns me how hideously expensive horse care is, so it's a big "maybe." But slightly more likely if I can get hold of the empty lot next door and use that as the barn/corral space. Horses in my backyard... yeah, that sounds right.

Maggie also got a brand new bike, Laz got a week of pajama days and an iPod, and I got to sleep in and be just a little bit domestic. Before I go back to work on Monday I hope to have one or more seed trays sown with mixed greens, chard, and spinach. Once the new year starts I'll have almost no free time thanks to three intense trainings, so this is it for my leisure time till sometime in February. So we're enjoying it to the hilt...

Oh, and I gave Dad a metal running-horse silhouette sign for the ranch, made by a local blacksmith (and Santa, shown in the pic above); he's really hoping to get a home built out there this year, finally. We wish you all the best for a happy, healthy, prosperous new year!
Blue, Christmas

23 December 2012

"A world undone"

The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less;
The times are winter, watch, a world undone…
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Three months of hard work and learning have left me exhilarated and exhausted, and grateful for a holiday respite... my first paid vacation in a dozen years. Having time and energy only to watch summer and autumn race by, I now seek out the beauty in the stillness, in the husks and hulls of "the world undone" as winter descends upon the landscape.

Winter silences me, creatively; I find myself thinking and feeling more but doing less -- hiking less, photographing less, writing less, creating less. But there is more time to watch when gardens lie fallow and tools are put up for the season. Watch, consider, let be for now.

18 November 2012

Evening Commute

Golden cottonwood, tamarisks, and rabbitbrush, Highway 169 near Alamo, NM, Nov. 2012
Driving daily along the rolling hills, intimate valleys, and open plains between Magdalena and Alamo, I watch the seasons slip from one to another. Maybe half a dozen cottonwoods dot the landscape, tucked into arroyos where they can get enough water in our mostly dry climate. They began changing in early October, first a few golden leaves just around the edges, then toward the trunk, then finally a full-out luscious explosion of deep gold that seemed to glow even after the sunset.

Just after Halloween I realized I'd been watching and enjoying this view daily for several weeks but hadn't shared it yet... so I found a safe pullout, wandered around this arroyo for the few moments I had left before darkness settled in, and got a photo good enough to post (once I'd lightened it up a bit). The leaves have since been blown away on a gusty late-autumn storm, so now we wait a few months for winter to come and go, and for the first tinge of spring green as the hills and valleys come back to life. Maybe we'll get some good snow in the meantime, which might make the commute a bit hairy but will also make for some beautiful landscape.

08 November 2012

Morning Commute

Sunrise, Highway 169 between Magdalena and Alamo, Nov. 2012
I never thought I'd be able to handle a rigid work schedule that requires me to be out the door by 7:15 a.m., let alone enjoy the commute, but this is a major reason I can and do. Thirty miles of rolling hills, open vistas, and sunrises and sunsets make for an amazing commute that I could never have imagined a dozen years ago when my 30-mile commute took me through Southern California suburban sprawl at, usually, a maddening crawl. I remember nudging along those clogged freeways thinking that someday, just maybe, things would be different.

How amazingly different, indeed.

03 November 2012


Last of the hollyhocks, Magdalena, NM, Oct. 2012
Two months without a post... the new job is awesome, but the schedule leaves little leisure time and I'm still working out that professional/personal balance so I can have more energy for stuff I love - photography, music, hiking... The gardening season is over, though, which is always sad (Maggie and I miss our daily grazing for cherry and yellow pear tomatoes) even if it does lighten my "workload" at home. This year, thanks to the new job, I might be able to buy a small, simple greenhouse to grow greens, herbs, and a few other goodies all winter.

Despite several hard freezes this past week (two weeks later than usual! which meant more tomatoes!) a few flowers have survived, including this single hollyhock in the back yard. I also still have some sprigs of pineapple sage left; its stunning red flowers burst out in late September, and its location on my south wall seems to help them weather at least a few frosts before succumbing. My morning glories are gone, though, which to me signals the end of my gardening season... for now. I'll post pics of those soon; I am almost two months behind in my Photoshopping and surely have a few gems in the backlog.

Hollyhock stamens - a bit like a bazillion-armed octopus

30 August 2012

Blue Ribbon

I summoned up the courage to enter some of my photographs in the Socorro County Fair, just for the fun of participating, and this photo won a blue ribbon! It's a remake of a color photo I took this past April; I just love the black-and-white/antiquing effect and think it makes this a much more interesting image.

This is my final week of leisure and freedom; next Tuesday I start working in my new career, finally, as a child and family therapist out at the Alamo Navajo Health Center (30 miles northwest of Magdalena). I'm excited about the possibilities and am also gratified to find myself coming full circle, in a way, revisiting and finally benefiting from my 1990s anthropology fieldwork on cross-cultural medicine. Upon launching this new career I'd wanted to jump into training on equine therapy, but since I'll be working mostly with kids my first priority is to get some good training in play therapy. What a great job, huh?

17 August 2012

Hummingbird Medicine

Young female (I think) rufous hummingbird, Magdalena, NM, August 2012
Just outside my bedroom window a tiny messenger came calling this morning, perching quietly on the old peach tree for a good bit. She stayed long enough for me to get my camera, take a few photos, and enjoy the rare sight of a hummingbird at rest. Some people believe animals carry specific meanings and messages, so just for curiosity's sake I looked up what hummingbirds mean and found this:

What is hummingbird's message for us? First of all, adaptability in life's many situations and being able to "roll with the punches." If you have hummingbird medicine, you adapt easily to whatever situation you may find yourself in, and make the most of your new circumstances. You don't waste time looking back and wishing for "what was" for you are concerned with making the most of "what is." 

The second message is inner joy.... You take great pleasure in spreading joy and love and beauty to all around you, and have the gift of taking that inner joy into new and different surroundings.

So, be adaptable and nurture my inner joy as I move forward. Turns out to be a fortuitous message for today: I finally received my official license to practice therapy (under supervision for 2 years) and can now truly move forward into my new career! I start working part-time in Albuquerque on Tuesday, and will also interview next week for a more local job that seems both challenging and promising. Four years in the making, my journey begins a whole new phase. As busy as I'll be, though, I truly hope I continue to enjoy moments like this morning's, just watching a bird pause in its own busy life.

13 August 2012

New Phase...

New moon over the Jemez Mountains, shot near Santa Fe, NM, July 2012
Portal de Santa Fe, July 2012
I shot this brand-new moon a little over three weeks ago during my trip to Santa Fe to hand-deliver my mental health counseling licensure application. I spent a few weeks compiling all the necessary information and supporting documentation, and carefully completing the form to ensure quick processing and approval. I hand-delivered it to ensure its receipt a week ahead of the usual scheduled monthly review. I confirmed with the clerk that everything was in order, that I was well ahead of the deadline, and that, assuming I met all criteria (and I'd triple-checked that I did), I would receive my license to practice therapy within two to three weeks.

The new moon I saw that evening is now in its late phase, slipping back toward the sun and a new phase. Much to my dismay I found out last week that the application has been needlessly delayed (I won't go into why; that could blacklist me permanently), which automatically delays me in starting to make a living in my new career for another month. Another month of living on sporadic jewelry sales, student loans, and various other forms of assistance, while nearly four years of diligent coursework and clinical preparation simmer away in my head as I sit on my hands and wait to get to work.

A friend asked me to look for the gift in this delay. What gift?? But she's right in that my perception shapes my response, and I can consciously choose to find or create the gift here. Paradoxically, the delay is itself the gift. It gives me more time with my kids as they settle into the new school year (they started last week -- how crazy-early is that??), more time to develop a new routine for us all, more time to figure out how to help my son work through some pretty serious challenges that he's been struggling with for a while now.

The delay also gives me a moment to pause, to consider what I've accomplished, and to imagine the possibilities ahead. Recently I read something to the effect of "imagine without expectation" (can't remember the source) and recalled the following:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
  -T.S. Eliot, "The Four Quartets"

Pause, be still, and wait without hope -- not hopeless, just in faith. This, I can do.

05 August 2012

Rain on Me

Light sunset rain on pond, near Magdalena, NM, August 2012
A month ago our "monsoons" seemed to be in full swing, and then -- nothing. This is not good, and as usual we're worried about the land, the animals, the big picture... Yesterday the skies opened up for a while during a party I hosted for a dear friend's 40th birthday -- seems like a good omen for her! Today we just got a few sprinkles before sunset and probably will just have heat and sunshine for the week. This is not typical for this time of year for us so, as always, we pray for rain.

27 July 2012

A Moment in Time

Mom and me, Christmas 1990, Philadelphia, PA
Two years ago tonight we said goodbye to Mom, for good. I miss moments like this so much. I try really hard to give moments like this to my kids as often as possible. With hugs, more is always, always better.

16 July 2012

Old Timers 2012: All the Pretty Horses

Alamo Navajo girl readying her horse for the Old Timers Parade, Magdalena, NM, July 2012
I love the Old Timers parade, for the people-watching and happy kids and, most of all, for the pretty horses. There seemed to be fewer this year, but those that walked were beautiful as always. The photo above was my first shot of the day, as we were walking toward the parade, and it's my one of my favorite shots from the whole day. At left you can see this girl riding (an older relative led her) with such composure and grace, and enough confidence to throw candy to the kids lining the road. I hope she won a prize (I'm going to ask the local newspaper editor if he can get me a list of parade participants), and I definitely see a future Miss Alamo Navajo in the making. Other riders included our friend and local beautician Karolyn Rolston with two "besties" who decked themselves and their horses out in pink and feathers and bling-a-ling... some might not find this fitting for such noble animals, but the horses really didn't seem to care.
Karolyn (at right, on Blue) and her posse, Magdalena, NM, July 2012
The New Mexico State Fair Queen and Little Miss Rodeo New Mexico (both below) were also there, along with the Socorro County Rodeo Queen and various princesses. All are beautifully decked out, and they and their horses have amazing poise given the crowds and noise.

The Valencia County Sheriffs ride every year, nicely attired in a more, shall we say, classic style but with a flash of color that really makes them stand out. They also perform a bit of Western dressage several times along the parade route, much to spectators' delight.
Valencia County Sheriffs, Magdalena, NM, July 2012
A pair of mules pulling a wagon and driver were the prettiest mules I've ever seen...

Mules at work, Magdalena, NM, July 2012
... but "our" mule, Goliath (Doc Rolston's trusted pack mule, who Dad says rides like a Cadillac), has the best personality. He wins admirers wherever he goes, including these two cowgirls who paused from rodeo fun to say Hi.
Goliath with two new friends, Magdalena, NM, July 2012
And Goliath bore Maggie on her second Old Timers parade ride, not even needing to be led by Dad (riding Damacio) because he is gentle and Maggie is fast gaining confidence on horseback. I sat out the parade this year but might have to saddle up again next year because, yeah, there just didn't seem to be enough horses for this classic cowboy-town parade.
Maggie and Dad riding across the rodeo grounds after the parade, Magdalena, NM, July 2012

15 July 2012

Old Timers 2012 Preview: Watching the Parade

"Wait for me!" Every year this horse watches the parade go by his home on Kelly Road. Magdalena, NM, July 2012
Magdalena's Old Timers Reunion has come and gone, and I got to see more of it than usual this year. I'm just starting to go through the photos and will post several entries on the various themes. One pleasant surprise: my pics of the rodeo came out much better than I'd expected, given I was using a fairly inexpensive long lens, handheld. Someday I'll start using my tripod... maybe.

13 July 2012

Equine Therapy

Three generations of riders, near Magdalena, NM, July 2012
Maggie communing with Goliath before the ride

"Horses are highly perceptive animals and very emotionally connected to other horses and even humans....
"Horses are so good for personal development because they tend to reflect the emotional state of the human." 
(Pat Parelli, in Harnessing the Power of Equine-Assisted Counseling)
Goliath sidles up to nudge Dad, who usually rides him

"Horses are incredible 
for humans; 
they make us 
better people 
by learning 
to put 
grow a solid foundation, 
and dedicate ourselves to 

(Pat Parelli)

"Horses have a remarkable ability to help humans regain confidence, freedom, and a sense of security. Through interaction with them we can learn to connect with our natural wisdom and ultimately become better, more emotionally intelligent human beings."

(Vallerie Coleman, in Harnessing the Power of Equine-Assisted Counseling)

08 July 2012


Bee and wasp on Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, near Magdalena, NM, July 2012
As always, a change of scenery spurs me to do some photography, and a friend's mountain garden provides endless inspiration. After a typically hot, dry June we've have almost a week of good rain, which not only lessens the fire danger but also brings out the flowers and wildlife. This stand of Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome serrulata) was buzzing with countless different kinds of bees, wasps, flies, moths, ladybugs, and other winged creatures after Friday's gentle rainfall.

Even a giant tarantula hawk wasp made his way across several flowers, and the other bugs seemed unphased. This stand of flowers seems essentially wild, not connected to any irrigation system or otherwise "artificially" tended, so I've collected a handful of seedpods to sow around the drier edges of my own garden. More pollinators means more fruits and vegetables, after all, and some of these critters are also excellent predators of the various pests currently plaguing my ornamentals and vegetables. Far better to cultivate a balanced mini-ecosystem than to try to poison the pests and end up poisoning the rest of us in the process.
Tarantula hawk wasp and beetle on Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, near Magdalena, NM, July 2012

28 June 2012

Garden Dreams

Bird trellis in backyard flower garden, Magdalena, NM, June 2012
Memorial in the Mothers Day garden
When I wake up in the garden
Peaceful slumber wakes my eyes
The sun and moon are always present
There are no more crying people around.
Love fills all up inside me
Filling my heart with wishful dreams
No more sorrow fills my canvas
Along this lonely sea.
Ships fall off of the horizon
Bringing love, peace, and joy
No fire can ever harm us now
Only music fills the air...
-Susan Tedeschi

How wonderful to be able to walk a few steps and be closer to heaven. Five summers of determined, therapeutic work have transformed a diminutive herb garden in front and a few pockets of wildflowers and the struggling veggie garden in back into "The Gardens." They are full of beauty and good bugs and birds, they are peaceful, and they calm and restore my soul every time I look upon them.
Old stone frog in the front perennial garden, Magdalena, NM, June 2012

26 June 2012

Contemplating Shadows

Kelly mineshaft detail, Kelly, NM, June 2012
Hollow tree, Magdalena mountains, NM, June 2012
To contemplate is to look at shadows.
-Victor Hugo

Thanks to my cousin Jarrod for this quote; it has inspired some interesting photo explorations recently. Two recent hikes took me into the Magdalena mountains, where the hard summer midday light creates strong contrasts that overpower subtleties of form and tone. But it also creates stark shadows that I've always found compelling. Like most (all? I never did take art history or art appreciation courses in college) visual art forms, photography is about light and form, which means it is also about shadows. Shadows reveal the contours of things, and of the hollows they leave behind. Shadows simplify and reduce, or stretch and distort, revealing the complex interplay between things and light. Shadows hide, conceal, shelter, and also imply the essence of both forms and those who view and interpret them.
Kelly mineshaft detail, Kelly, NM, June 2012