Sunday, July 31, 2016


we have a dead tree just outside our garden wall - a locust tree.  Two rather more healthy locust trees are in the yard itself.  really, I should have chopped this down years ago.  But I've resisted, since it serves as a very handy bird perch: there were about thirteen finches and a couple of bluebirds in it this evening.  And more than this: it's become a kind of trainer tree for our family of young flickers, who are taught by their parents that there are many, many little bugs inside it, if only they tap their beaks hard against the trunk.  I still don't understand how flickers and woodpeckers don't get horrible headaches.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Spanish Market

It was Spanish Market in Santa Fe today - always my favorite big market of the year, with its celebration of New Mexico's Spanish heritage and the many forms that its art works take.  Some of these are extremely traditional, or reinterpretations of the traditional; sometimes the skills have been passed down in families for generations.  These include bultos - carved and painted wooden statues;

tin work and metal work - note this San Ysidro, patron saint of farmers, and - a rarity - his wife, Santa Maria de la Cabeza, together with a pair of metal work oxen;

and work in wood.

Almost all the stalls are decorated with wild flowers (in the background, here, work with straw appliqué).

People watching is always fun;

as is observing stray corners at the backs of booths.

The center of the Plaza is the site of the youth market - there are some extremely talented young artists -

and then there's music - mariachi, in this case, starting the morning off;

and plenty to eat and drink.

There's also - shooting off to one side - the Contemporary Market - again, you have to be Hispanic and New Mexican to show in this, and the work ranges from the nearly-traditional

to the more inventively vernacular;

and some that's definitely influenced by Central American folk art.

A notable number of the Contemporary booths featured art that was very Día de los Muertos influenced, or just downright spooky.

What should have been my favorite shot managed to be badly focused - taken in a hurry, the autofocus fixed on the back of the booth - but I still like it.

Some people, of course, just regarded the Plaza as a great place to catch Pokemon.

Friday, July 29, 2016

white, purple and green (and HRC)

You could read this as a flowering hedge - with white picket fence and russian sage beyond - that I passed on my way home.  Or you could note that these are the colors of the suffragette movement.  I don't know that I would have noticed if I hadn't read a piece today about how Hillary Clinton's white pants suit was a subtle shout-out to the fact that the suffragettes wore white, albeit with purple and green trimmings (maybe she was having a private joke with her underwear, since white is white, to me, and no one thought to claim Melania Trump's white dress as an icon of suffragism (that being said, nothing was funnier than the fact that Joyce Beatty, Rep. from Ohio, spoke wearing the identical dress, which her husband had rushed out and bought for her).  

However, I've read nothing on what seems to me a huge breakthrough - that she was wearing a pants suit in the first place.  I went to a school - 11-18 - that was supposedly relatively progressive, and we didn't have to wear uniforms.  But pants/trousers/and of course jeans were very emphatically Not Allowed.  Why?  It was an all girls' school, and the idea that we were learning to Dress How We Would for Going to Work (in our presumably professional jobs).  "Women never, ever wear trousers to work," our High Mistress (aka Headmistress, aka Principal) drummed into us.  Hagh!  I hope that she - Alison Munro - is revolving in her grave.

And as for sartorial representations of that glass ceiling shattering, I trust that you all saw Madeleine Albright's pin.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

a tale of two lunchplaces

One of my fellow Fellows at the O'Keeffe Research Center goes back east this weekend - and it didn't seem right to me that she should return without seeing the Santuario de Chimayo, and the high mountains at this end of the Sangre de Cristos.  So off we went: Chimayo has turned, over the past ten years or so (apart from the Santuario itself) into a kind of religious pilgrimage themed site, with new little sanctuaries and altars popping up each time I go (a colleague explained this to me as local guilt money from drugs being turned into shrines and altars, which is interesting, if true).  But the church itself is as peaceful and beautiful as ever, as is the High Road.  I had some dim memory that there was a place where one could buy enchiladas etc in Trampas (the Rancho de Chimayo had a 45 minute wait, two tour buses and, in any case, the last time we went, the meal was decidedly indifferent - James Beard ethnic food award this year nothwithstanding).  

So we texted a yet further colleague, who comes from Española, where she'd recommend there - and the answer was El Parasol.  Terrific basic Northern New Mexico food!  Who knew such excellence was to be found in Española!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

back with the hollyhocks

I'm delighted to be back among the hollyhocks of Santa Fe, and back looking at what I pass between the carpark and my way to work: in other words, back to a practice that involves recognizing the transformative power of paying attention to the ordinary and, on occasion, allowing oneself to transform it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

the vintage look of Santa Cruz

There is something endearingly old-style about Santa Cruz: here's the long pier, seen from my room in the early dawn.  I didn't sleep well - always anxious when I have to get up early to travel; and then there was the barking of the sea lions.   Though given that it took me fifteen hours plus to get back to New Mexico, I anticipate sleeping well now (unless the coyotes howl).

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dickens, drainpipes, seaside

A great day in Santa Cruz, visiting Marty Gould's NEH seminar with a group of 16 terrific teachers, talking about using visual material in the classroom, especially in relation to Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities.  Afterwards, I went upstairs to do paper work in the Dickens Project office ... and here's The Man himself, sitting on a windowsill, presiding over it all ...

And then around 4 p.m., I was free to head out for a walk along the cliffs away from the town center - to look over to the rock that hosts a crowd of hooting sealions, and along to the cliffs that were already starting to have drifting sea mist coming over them;

then inland to look at various styles of domestic architecture, and to admire these drainpipes;

and then back to my room, to watch the Democratic Convention, with the door open, hearing the waves crash on the beach, and see the mists come in and the foghorns start.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

time for work

Well, ok, I'll work tomorrow.  I'm in Santa Cruz to do a visiting gig at Marty Gould's NEH seminar, and I am lucky beyond words to have this view from my hotel room ...

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Figs.  Not, I'm afraid, home-grown, but indisputable signs of full summer, all the same.

Friday, July 22, 2016

LucyFur and angel

LucyFur, our tabby, is still recovering from all the abuse heaped on Lucifer by Ben Carson the other night.  This morning, she took up a pose of righteousness on top of the bookcase in the living room. (This also serves as a reminder of Spanish Market, in a week's time: the bulto is by Ernie Lujan, and I bought it at the market thirteen years ago).

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Watching Donald Trump for far, far too long tonight has left me profoundly depressed - and presumably any other masochist who saw the whole thing (or, hell, even five minutes of it) feels the same way.  So here's a dill seed head from our back yard: might as well appreciate and contemplate its natural beauty, before Trump destroys the environment (or I get deported for opposing him).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


No, this isn't some mutant Pokemon thingy: it greeted me in the downstairs lobby on UNM's Museum of Art when I turned up to give a lecture this evening.  I found it a very happy and benign presence.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ghost ranch

Today, to Ghost Ranch and to Georgia O'Keeffe's house in Abiquiu - a wonderful treat to have private visits to these places (O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch house isn't currently open to the public), and a huge privilege of my current Fellowship.  At first, we had key problems getting into Ghost Ranch - this is the view through the tall coyote fence outside, and on the horizon is the Pedernal - the Cerro Pedernal, or (how could I not warm to this) Flint Hill.  This was the mountain O'Keeffe painted - you can see it from her courtyard - and her ashes are scattered on top.

One can't, of course, take photographs on either of the properties.  But one can turn in the other direction, and see the rocks that she painted - not too subtle in the nearly mid-day sun, and I'd love to see them in dawn or sunset.  One can, though, see the stripes of color - and also - not so apparent in these images - how depth is curiously flattened.  Seeing her house in the landscapes, however; seeing the views from her studios and adjacent bedrooms; seeing the bleached wood and stones and (of course) skulls that she collected; seeing her flourishing lettuce and corn and chile and marigold garden; seeing how she could make sparse designer-style furniture out of plywood and bookcases out of orange crates - above all, seeing how the changing light must have been a continuous part of her life - all of this made me come away with a hugely deepened appreciation.

Monday, July 18, 2016

a rainy evening in Santa Fe

I thought it was almost impossible to take a picture of downtown Santa Fe that made it look like, say, Leeds, but I'd be wrong ... What is so strange about this is that the whole street - Don Gaspar - was bathed in pale yellow evening light, which I failed to capture: this image hasn't been converted or tinted via Photoshop in any way.  I'm decidedly disappointed not to be able to convey its pale goldenness.  We were so pleased, both in Eldorado and in town, to have a real downpour after so much heat ...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Trinidad CO (and some wildflowers)

Trinidad, in Southern Colorado, is a late C19th/early C20th coal mining town that has some terrific urban architecture from that time, a good deal of empty storefronts, and a number of second-hand-everything stores.  The only thing that it was known for, for years, was pioneering gender reassignment surgery, which makes one tempted to over-read the contents of some of these stores.

I hadn't been there for fifteen years or so - and wasn't sure what I'd find - yet more run-down-ness?

But no!  Even though these photographs don't tell the story, the town is slowly starting to resuscitate - there certainly were a couple of decent looking cafes; there was new public art; there were people on the streets.  The answer, it seems, is pot money - the town is doing very well on marijuana tex receipts, and is able to pour money back into the community ...

On the way there from Colorado Springs, we took a scenic detour on Highway 12 - much recommended for absolute beauty - including this lake, with wildflowers.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

galloping on

Every time that I've accompanied Alice to Colorado Springs, on research, we've passed this old metal horse in the yard of a junk shop - and I've fantasized about rescuing it, putting it in the car, driving it home.  It always shrinks in my imagination.  Today, full-sized, I came to terms - I think - with the fact that this hunk of rusting equine metal is pretty much horse sized, and also is on a complicated (and heavy) metal base - and it would be hard to get it into a U-haul, much less into the back of, even, an SUV.  On the other hand, if anyone's ever driving with a largish strong truck from Old Colorado City to Santa Fe or to LA, I'll happily pay for delivery ...

Friday, July 15, 2016

driving to colorado

Driving towards Wagon Mound, NM - a dramatic sky, although the actual car wash was only about five (energetic) minutes long.  In Colorado Springs - Alice's last gasp of book research - in a hotel with shocking, shockingly slow internet ...

Thursday, July 14, 2016

apricot season

Apricots have been growing in NM for a long, long time - they flourish in this climate (I can't find out, in a cursory search, if they came over with the Spanish, or are native - but I think of them as traditional trees here.  I also discovered the strange fact that apparently the Marines think that apricots are bad luck, and won't eat them).  Here are some rather scrubby looking apricots lying in the gutter on the way to work - which made me think to look for some local ones to buy in Eldorado on my way home.