29 May 2012

Rekindling Yin

Roses on a garden fence, Magdalena, NM, May 2012
A client was speaking a few weeks ago about shifting her energy from survival mode to growth mode after a time of serious disruption and reconsideration of every aspect of her life. I would liken this process to a severe pruning, perhaps by a natural disaster such as an epic hard freeze or shredding cyclonic winds, that reduces years' worth of growth to deadwood down to the ground. Devastating, yes, but also an opportunity to reshape, even recreate a whole new life. After more than four years of struggle I've emerged from a leveling hurricane of a divorce into a far better new life as a single mother, graduate student, and, in just a few more weeks, newly minted professional family therapist.

Larkspur (opalotype filter w/vignette), Magdalena, NM, May 2012
My client gave me a huge gift that day: the insight that during the hardest part of her "winter of the soul" she neglected and suppressed her feminine energy. She said she recently realized that surviving and rebuilding seem to require a toughness and assertiveness that aren't part of the repertoire of "being a girl" behaviors most of us grow up learning. So now, having survived and wanting more -- namely, to thrive -- she feels it's time to change course a bit, not to give up her toughness but to soften and in fact strengthen it with more "feminine" flexibility, intuitiveness, and heartfelt emotion. Her insight helped me realize I'd done much the same thing these past few years: getting tough to survive, pulling out of and away from unhealthy dependencies (which, a few years ago, described just about all of my relationships), and pushing myself through graduate school and internship into a whole new career.

Bee at work (opalotype filter w/vignette), Magdalena, NM, May 2012
God, what a process, and I did have to let go of and prune away lots of old stuff to do it right, and I don't regret that. What I feel now, though, is that in some ways I've perhaps become... not necessarily "too masculine" in any absolute sense, because we all fall in different places along that spectrum, but certainly more masculine than my core "self" might be. So as part of reshaping my life I will spend some time uncovering and nurturing my "feminine" side, my yin, whatever you want to call it, not to uproot but to strengthen what has emerged these past few years. At first this will need to be conscious; for example, shifting my body language from forward and aggressive to more reclined, relaxed, receptive... in emotionally safe situations, anyway. And playing more, whether in the garden or with my camera, and doing what feels right, like planting and photographing flowers and other pretty things. Listening, something I used to be really good at but feel I've pushed aside to "get my point across" and be taken more "seriously" (and we all know how well that works... )

My apple tree is bearing fruit this year; a good sign, perhaps? 
What I want to nurture and what I want to replace aren't in themselves good or bad; I'm really seeking to rediscover my essential, joyful self and allow it to fully emerge, finally. Allow, not push... support, not construct... Trust and accept, not direct....

Maybe I'll call this my Summer of Yin...

24 May 2012

Gila Burning

Smoky sunset, Magdalena, NM, May 2012
Not again... yes, again, the forest is on fire, and although it's over 100 miles away and we're safe from the flames, the winds shifted this afternoon and brought the smoke plume over the Magdalenas. Our clear blue sky faded to sepia within an hour, and my eyes, nose, and throat are burning from the smoke. I knew the sunset would be beautiful, though, so I went a ways out of town to get a clear (heh) view and really like the clarity I got with my 55-300mm lens. No tripod (it's in my car; I took Dad's Subaru) but the shots came out okay thanks to the roof rack....

Smoky sunset, Magdalena, NM, May 2012
The Whitewater-Baldy fire burning in the Gila Wilderness (100+ miles southwest of Magdalena) jumped from less than 20,000 acres to 70,000 acres yesterday thanks to strong winds. Although today was calmer the next few days of intensifying winds will surely cause a major expansion. It is burning hard and fast in the beautiful Willow Creek area where Dad and I camped in August 2010, an area I wanted to camp in again this summer... Damn.

23 May 2012


So crazy it might just work...?
So, perhaps predictably, as soon as I set out my tender veggie seedlings our infamous spring winds kicked up with a vengeance. Last year was much worse so I'm trying hard not to complain (too much)... I awoke this morning to a dire wind forecast and decided to put my creativity to work by creating as much wind protection as possible for my veggie babies. For bean and squash support I had just bought more t-posts and had a good bit of fencing left from my wonderfully functional garden fence, and Dad brought home the t-post pounder so getting those in was quick and easy. Then I grabbed three raggedy tarps and bungeed them over the fencing to shield the big zucchini/pattypan squash bed from winds that I can only describe as withering devil's breath.

The photo above shows the other (less raggedy) parts of my crazy rigging. The tomato cages are up and all available Walls-o-Water are filled (Walmart in Socorro is sold out, so I'll be hunting more down tomorrow in ABQ), so the tomato babies should be okay. To protect the pepper babies inside the Wall-o-Water perimeter (my brilliant idea from last year, thankyouverymuch) I draped some Agribon-19 over the whole bed and pinned the heck out of it with strong bamboo clothespins. For the winter squash babies along the back fence I made an Agribon "shield" by clamping a length of the frost fabric onto five freshly-pounded t-posts, then adding bamboo stakes between those and old bricks along the bottom to minimize flapping.

After one day of steady wind and 40+ mph gusts, everything is holding up and very few seedlings have succumbed.

The forecast calls for 3 more days of strong, gusty, bone-dry wind.

On Sunday I'll either be crowing about my ingenuity or humbly heading out to buy new veggie starts.

20 May 2012

Birthing of the new moon: Annular eclipse 2012

Annular eclipse (late phase) at sunset, Socorro County, NM, May 2012
This was SO COOL... I was completely unprepared to photography today's annular eclipse, which was visible right here in New Mexico thanks to both favorable geometry and our clear sky. Feeling adventurous, I couldn't resist stopping on the side of I-25 on our way home from Laz's birthday dinner and movie and pulling out the camera anyway. In the course of about two minutes I stopped the aperture down to f/29, set shutter speed to 1600, stacked polarizing and neutral density filters on the 55-300mm lens, and used the video viewfinder to protect my eyes. The clarity and exposure aren't the greatest, but wow... what an amazing event. I'm so glad we got to witness it, and on my boy's 10th birthday no less.

Annular eclipse, Socorro County, NM, May 2012

18 May 2012


Cholla, new growth. Magdalena, NM, May 2012.
Nobody around here likes cholla much because it infests grazing ranges and snags too easily onto passing creatures with thorns that dig in and torment and don't let go. It does make pretty flowers and cool skeletons, but dang those thorns hurt. Even so, I couldn't help but feel drawn to this plant this morning; it seems energized by our recent rains and has put out surprisingly beautiful, uncharacteristically tender new growth. This kind of shot wasn't my goal for today; I tried to focus on landscape photography but, you know, it's just not me, and I'm tired of trying to be something I'm not. "Be yourself, do what you love, go with what works for you," I tell my clients. And of all the photos I took today, this is my favorite. So, while I'll keep trying to stretch my vision and skills, I'll stop shushing my gut-level passions and spend more time appreciating the world from my particular (sometimes peculiar) perspective.

14 May 2012


Yucca flower stalk. Magdalena, NM, May 2012

We had a tumultuous weekend up here, what with a real tornado yesterday on the western edge of town and some drama on Friday that left the kids a bit heartbroken and me speechless. All weekend I was hurting for the kids and also wondering how to find another job on very short notice because working in Albuquerque after graduation suddenly appeared completely untenable. Now I'm told I misunderstood, and I'm supposed to help undo the damage done by what was essentially a game of brinksmanship devised to teach an 8-year-old and an almost-10-year-old "a lesson." Yes, life sometimes brings us hard lessons, but parents should be the ones protecting their kids from them, or at least gently shepherding them through the unavoidable ones. Mama Bear is mad. I'll get over it, and kids are blessedly resilient and endlessly loving, but it all seemed so unnecessary and hugely distracting from the essential things in life, like enjoying it.

Today's good distraction: a long walk with dogs and horses on the property, seeking out (and easily finding) spring flowers. Up here the yucca are just budding out, unfurling tightly bound stalks into bright pink buds and then blooming creamy white, and drawing in the bees with their soft scent. Good winter snows and last week's soaking rain have primed the land for good spring growth, which enlivens the spirit no matter what else is going on.

13 May 2012

Unconditional Love

My two loves, Albuquerque, NM, April 2012
From Stephen Colbert's interview with Maurice Sendak earlier this year:
SC: "What's the best thing a parent can do for their kids?"
MS: "Love them."
SC: "What does that mean?"
MS: "Take them for what they are."
Today, although I miss my mom, I am happy to celebrate becoming a mother with these two little people. They have inspired (and sometimes forced) me to discover strength and creativity I didn't know I possessed, and to step up to the challenge of being there for them no matter what. Today, the kids and I must pull together even more closely as we face an unexpected situation that... changes things. But it also clarifies the meaning and purpose of motherhood for me: to love and celebrate my kids for who they are, even when they're challenging my sanity and resourcefulness, and to give them rock-solid love with no conditions, no tests, no demands, no limits -- just as they have always done for me. Their love and their presence in my life are priceless. Happy Mother's Day to you all.

07 May 2012

Mountain Time

Magdalena Mountains, looking toward Water Canyon, May 2012 (Topaz BW Effects "Opalotype" style)
My new wanna-be theme song, from one of my favorite bluesmen:

You drive west on 80, it won't take too long
Till the road starts climbing up to mountain time
There's a girl I know there, she lives free and easy
And she shows me wonders and she takes my mind

And she's wild as eagles
She's as sweet as honeysuckle
Her life's flowing like a mountain stream
And she takes me somewhere
And it's good to be there
And she pulls me into her bright golden wing

Now I hate the city and I love the country
I love that feeling on that mountain high
And that girl is waiting
But she won't wait too long
So I drive all night to that clear blue sky...
 --Joe Bonamassa, "Mountain Time"

This spring is why they call it Water Canyon...
Well, it's west on 60, I'm hardly a "girl," and I'm definitely not holding my breath for anyone to bother making the long drive up here... but if there's truth to the adage that we take on qualities of our surroundings, I'm happy to be here and to live a life that is wild, sweet, and flowing like a mountain stream...

This morning I loaded up my restless self and my restless dogs and set out for Water Canyon, a perfect hiking spot for a spring day with a forecast of increasing winds. There is so much bright, living green, and cool water just a bit up the canyon, and the dogs happily wallowed in the stream and rambled through the quiet forest. The day started off sunny and clear, then the winds blew in big rolling clouds after lunch (I love lunch on the trail far better than in any restaurant). Even as the winds picked up, the canyon remained serene; this area of the Magdalena Mountains is perfect for windy days and is also perfectly cool on the hottest summer day. What a great way to kick off what will be a busy week in ABQ... and a great visual setting for my new internal soundtrack....

06 May 2012

Dirt, Transformed

Apples! Magdalena, NM, May 2012
"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."
-Margaret Atwood

Multicolored Dianthus?? Very cool...
I've been living by this credo for the better part of a month now, squeezing in as much gardening as possible between work, commuting, and family activities. Internship is winding down but has been more intense lately because the suicide risk assessments the agency conducts with kids and teenagers have been on the increase over the past school year. While I do feel more confident in my abilities than I did back in August, I still get a twinge of anxiety right before I head into one... which my supervisor says is completely normal given the potential for intense distress and need for immediate, focused therapeutic response. When I finish a week I'm a bit wrung out emotionally so heading into the garden is not just pleasant but essential to processing everything and restoring my mind and spirit.

Yesterday I built the cold frame/raised bed shown in the picture below because I needed shelter for my veggie seedlings. They weren't getting enough light inside but the sun and wind were desiccating them outside, so I decided to contain them and then cover them with a repurposed screen door that seems to block the harshest light while also gentling the wind. I also watered and pruned our old Macintosh apple tree that had bloomed so beautifully last month but was hit with a hard frost in full bloom -- I figured, no apples this year, and yet somehow enough tiny fruits survived that I'll likely get enough to can some applesauce and spiced apples this fall. So, yes, very restorative....

The new plant hatchery

05 May 2012

Good Morning

Wildflower in morning light, Magdalena Mountains, May 2012
Any day that starts with a walk in the sunshine and cool, sweet mountain air is already awesome. Now I will garden, catch up on coursework, and hang out with my son who is still recovering from a nasty cold. He sat outside with me yesterday while I divided and replanted some irises, and seemed to be better for the fresh air and sunshine. Enjoy your weekend, however you spend it.

04 May 2012


Just another Magdalena sunset, May 2012
Coming up Highway 60 from Socorro around sunset often means driving into the sunset. Last night, it kept changing, becoming more dramatic as I crested the big hill to the flats along the northeastern flank of the Magdalenas. Clouds seemed to building up a bit in the west, and as I came up the final hill towards town this sunset suddenly took over the whole sky. It was dramatic enough that I didn't just shoot this out the car door but actually got out of the car to consider and set up a few shots.

I need to go hiking soon. Maybe on Sunday; a storm system is moving in on Monday and could bring us some real rain. If it does, this is the time of year when a deep soaking rain wakes up the "ditch frogs," the New Mexico Spadefoot Toads that hibernate underground for up to 9 months waiting for rain. Falling asleep to the soft patter of rain and the frogs' singing is just divine....