Sunday, June 30, 2013


This is probably not a story with a good ending.  I was staring glumly into the depths of my current, intransigent chapter in the middle of this afternoon, when Alice came in a state of some agitation to say that our birds' nest, on the front door, was being attacked by a large red snake.  Once I'd realized that the snake wasn't actually in the house ... well, what does one do?  In Eldorado, one calls Neighborhood Watch, who then despatch a snake wrangler ... So I went outside, and waited- with camera, and binoculars - and to my horror, the snake was coiled up in, or rather round, the nest, and was being dive-bombed by about fourteen finches.  Snake feigned nonchalance. 

Wrangler turned up, deemed it to be a Red Runner - and run it certainly did, lashing its tongue around, but he trapped it very efficiently in a plastic bucket, and took it off to be released somewhere - when I asked, he said quite possibly his back yard, which is probably as full of the things as Medusa's head, by now.  So I looked in trepidation inside the nest.  Originally, there were three eggs, but I don't know how many hatched/survived.  There was one chick still there, and still breathing - but I have seen very little evidence of finch parents coming and going during the rest of today - though they have certainly been very much in the vicinity - so I'll look, but with a sad heart, I suspect, when I go and take the trash down the driveway in the morning. 

Curiously, I don't see any baby bird sized bulges in the snake - could it have just been treating the nest as a larder, for later today?  It was a decidedly disruptive incident.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

lazy gardening

We're still bereft at the demise of Santa Fe Greenhouses (29 years in business ... and then the drought and the recession and the competition from Home Depot and Wallmart make it go bottoms up ...).  But last week I bought a huge pot of mixed herbs from a vendor at the farmers' market - under our chicken, for dinner, went some lemon balm and rosemary and thyme, and I've been truly delighted, the last couple of days, to see the chile pods ripening.  Laziness?  It's just a question of add water, place in sun, add water, repeat, wait, and reap.

Friday, June 28, 2013

collapsing thunderstorm

I'd not even ever heard the term "collapsing thunderstorm" before today, when we were suddenly under a weather alert for such a thing - which caused extraordinary and surprisingly strong winds (indeed, downtown Santa Fe - thirteen miles away - was without power for three hours), and dust storms, and a very flat grey sky.  The phrase seems to mean that each little thunderstorm cell goes off pop, as it were, on its own account - cold air meeting warm air in a whole series of fierce encounters, rather than all joining together as one front.  I think, but there's not a whole lot of online glossing, and after another day dealing with basic physics (who knew that Jacques Cousteau called Harold Edgerton "Papa Flash"?  I like that!) and Charles Peirce's theories of time, I'm not going to be delving too deeply into positive and negative charges.  As it is, I find each little flash of lightning a nagging reminder that I should be writing, not checking the Weather Channel's radar maps.  

As you can see, it was clearing by sunset.  That dead tree - a casualty of drought over the last few years, and a graphic demonstration of the need for rain ... there were just a few minutes of it, in all that storminess.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

cat, not actually in motion

... although if she were twirling round in the air, Moth might look something like this.   I spent a good part of today reading about spark photography in the 1890s, in the columns of Nature and other periodicals. C. Vernon Boys, who way predated Harold Edgerton in taking photographs of bullets piercing various objects, lectured on the process to the Edinburgh meeting of the British Society in 1892, where he talked, among other things, about F. J. Smith, who had been taking sequential photographs on one plate in order to show movement:
"I had hoped to show one of these series of an intentional character, to wit, a series of a cat held by its four legs in an inverted position and allowed to drop.  The cat, as everyone is aware, seems to do that which is known to be dynamically impossible, namely, on being dropped upside down to turn round after being let go and to come down the right way up.  The process can be followed by one of Mr Smith's multiple spark photographs.  However, his cats do not seem to like the experiments, and he has had in consequence had so much trouble with them that his results, while they are of interest, are not, up to the present, suitable for exhibition."  (Nature March 9th 1893, pp. 415-6).
No word as to whether he knew of Etienne-Jules Marey, who'd been photographing a falling cat in 1890  ("the world's first cat video"...).  I don't think that this is going to make its way into my Flash book - but it deserved an airing, somewhere ...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

champagne glasses

Thanks to two different configurations of Supreme Court Justices, we're in celebratory mood tonight.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

eliza gilkyson at the santa fe bandstand

Heads bowed in prayer?  No - maybe thoughtful reverence.  Part of this evening's audience at the Eliza Gilkyson concert in the Santa Fe bandstand series in the Plaza - how good to live some of the year somewhere that puts on a series of free summer concerts.  It will have to stand in for all the pictures that I wish I could have taken, but was hardly in a position to.  This sedate group doesn't begin to encapsulate the way in which half the crowd could have modeled for Richard Avedon - or inhabited a long-time Santa Fe novel.  And I don't just mean the long grey pony tails (on both sexes) and turquoise jewelry; but the woman happily dancing with her dog; and the elderly weatherbeaten Latino standing in front of me with a former rattlesnake as a belt (seeing me staring at it, and guessing rightly that I wasn't staring at his crotch, he mimed how the snake had sunk its fangs into his wrist - I guess he'd got his revenge); or the homeless Navajo who was wearing a backwards baseball cap with the drawing of a lipstick kiss and the legend No Need for Mistletoe, who had a short dance and then retreated to a safe distance from which he could occasionally, and loudly, interject Praise the Lord.  Or the people dragging on their cigarette substitute thingies, and the assortment of elderly broomstick skirts and tie die and - yes - even an apparently non ironic Che Guevera t-shirt.   And Gilkyson was, indeed, such a good performer - even if she no longer lives in Santa Fe (she's been an Austin resident for some years), she still comes across very much as a local.

Monday, June 24, 2013

a fair deal

Fair's fair.  A couple of months ago, I posted a picture of Moth showing quite how comfortably she fitted into a washbasin back in Shannon Road.  And here in Santa Fe ... Walter Gomez, who flops anywhere that he can find, was found, this evening, curled up in a bathroom here.   So, yes, undeniably, another cute kitty picture - but it's summer, so time for non-intellectual indulgence (aka - writing hard! so little mental energy left spare and floating around by the evening ...)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

raggedty ears

We see so many rabbits during our early morning or evening walks in Eldorado that I've decided that it's time to start counting them.  There were, though, only 15 today in our normal loop - a pretty dismal tally, but then we were out whilst there was still a good deal of sun, and the temperature was 82.  The curious thing, though, is that in one sector of Monte Alto Road, there seem to be a number of rabbits with chewed, mangled, or otherwise imperfect ears.  Assuming that these aren't punk rabbits (so signs of piercings), what can be the explanation?  One - one could explain away because of an unfortunate encounter with a dog or coyote?  But more than one? And this rabbit is not, by any means, the most severely mutilated. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Our yard lights, tonight, should really have been left off in homage to Supermoon, which rose extraordinarily big and round and bright.  Our first dinner party of the summer, with Merry Scully, who brought some quite exquisite homemade strawberry balsamic ice-cream - and the occasion happily also threw us into doing some yard toadying and planting, with much lamentation, on my part (since I was the person replanting the desiccated flower pots) of the demise of Santa Fe Gardens.  What with that gone, and Packards on the plaza closing, and there not being enough money to run the Santa Fe Southern Railway this summer (so, alas, no Pride train coming through Eldorado), it's as though the long, slow effects of the recession, as opposed to the immediate panicked ones - are starting to show (and, in the case of the nursery, the effect of drought).  Driving into town this afternoon, there was a whole new plume heading skywards from the Jaroso fire.

Friday, June 21, 2013

La Risa

My favorite New Mexican food, out in Ribera - admittedly, a chicken, cheese and guacamole enchilada with red chile leaves one never wanting to eat anything again, ever, but it would be very hard not to head off into this very rural (and, at the moment, horribly dry, despite its proximity to the Pecos River) corner of northern NM at least once every summer.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

neatly stacked

I'm sure that I really intend the mesh drawers at the back of my closet for some sartorially practical purpose, like storing underwear, but two of this house's inhabitants seem to have other ideas.  I'm extremely happy to find this Peaceable Kingdom scene.  It's a year and a day since we brought home the tiny (hard to believe, looking at the top shelf) Walter Gomez and Moth (not in image - probably off playing with a toy mouse), and LucyFur (bottom shelf) took a long, long while to tolerate them, muttering I HATE KITTENS for an indecently long time.  Indeed, she barked at them - wuff! - which I've never heard another cat do.  But now, most of the time, as this demonstrates, she is, at the very least, accepting.

Walter doesn't really fit, does he?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

you know you're in the south-west when ... go to the local grocery store and see a parked car with vertebrae threaded down the antenna.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

no entry

That's not my best lettering, but let's hope it's effective.  We left the wreath from Christmas on the front door - not too festive, it looked cheerful rather than seasonal.  And when we drove up last week - how sweet - there was a little empty nest built into it!  Only the next morning, there were three mid-blue eggs in the nest, and now we don't open or shut it, or do anything that might startle the finch who's sitting on it, but go round the side of the house, tripping over grass tussocks, to the back door.  This notice explains - "bird nesting on front door" - and then asks UPS, etc., to leave packets right there on the path ... Incubation period supposedly is 13-14 days.  Then there'll be another - oh, let's say, we should get our front door back by mid-July.

Monday, June 17, 2013


These peaceful fishies swim around in the pond outside the dining hall at St John's College, adding to the general air of tranquillity.  I'd not planned to be back teaching Bread Loaf there this summer, but circumstances prevailed - i.e. a course that needed taking over at the last minute - and I'm so very happy, as it turns out, to be back in the classroom with 16 keen high school (mostly) English teachers.  The only true challenge is that the course is British Poetry - Old English to the present day.  I can do the present day, all right - and, indeed, the C19th and C20th - but before that??  Indeed, teaching poetry feels like something that I have the same claims to be able to do as choreography, or Fair Isle Knitting.  But I console myself with thinking that even if I can never remember what - say - an anapest is, I can probably close read and think on my feet (those are figurative feet, not metrical ones).  It's a provocation, all the same, to my usual habits of "always historicize."  Yet if the course had been, say, the Victorian novel, I don't think that I'd have the same (ok, perverse, but true) sense of this being a kind of mental vacation, changing territory, pushing me somewhere that I'd not anticipated going.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

fathers' day

Fathers' Day - or is it Father's Day - is that rare thing - a secular commemoration shared by the US and Britain alike (or, that rare thing, a commercial opportunity shared by them both.  What does Dad want this year?  A cold beer!  A steak!  A hug!  You give the last of these - we'll provide the other two!  Etc.).  Here's my father, long before I knew him - I guess he would have been about twenty one, and in his uniform as a member of the Fleet Air Arm.  I think this would have been his mother's copy of the picture - I have it in its silver plated form, and I can't even remember how I came by it. 

Whereas Mother's Day is overlain with sentimentality - much of it genuine - Father's Day is a much more edgy thing, since opportunities for people to reflect on their relationships with their paternal unit seem to be far less commonplace in popular culture, and such reflections are, in any case, complex ones.  I'm not offering up my own version here - except in so far as every time I look at this picture, I think how young he looks, and how lucky I am that he survived WW2, and how much he stands for so many young men who didn't make it through then, and who don't make it through now.  Which is, of course, sentimentality of a kind, couched in a version of the counter-factual.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

the start of summer

I always have a sense of summer beginning with our first trip to the Farmers' Market in Santa Fe ... here, the marigold-threading woman has just started with her first strands.  So dinner was a French Hen, stuffed with garlic scopes and lemon (ok, this not being Los Angeles, the second of those came from Whole Foods), and baked over diced potatoes and rosemary, and served with some mixed salad greens and some miniature carrots - red and orange and yellow - boiled just long enough not to be raw.  And prefaced by some goats' cheese.  With that inside me - eaten sitting out on our patio, with the wind kicking up around us, and looking at the far distant hills in the sunset - I can just about bear to contemplate the fact that I have to write a summer school syllabus.  But that, too, is something that I've done so many times here that it, too, seems like a rite of the season.

Friday, June 14, 2013


I don't know that I can expect everyone to get as excited about rain as I did today, but given how parched New Mexico is, and how easily dust storms have been blowing up from nowhere (not to mention the fires), the excitement was certainly being happily shared when I went out to mail a couple of letters and buy some cat food.  I don't know whether we can exactly think about these storms as a harbinger of the monsoon season - but it was wonderful to see the dark clouds and the rain coming down.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

new arrangement

It's not just that one can be surprised when going into a familiar room at La Posada: the grounds are rearranged as well.  At least, I'm fairly sure that this metal burro and this pale blue bench weren't in this particular spot before.  Yes, there are element of kitsch to it, in places - but it's very high-class kitsch: the kind that hovers between good taste and its excess.  Staying here, as we travel between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, has become such a happy ritual.  And it's not only great to be back, tonight, but we've been greeted by a small amount of rain - nothing short of miraculous in this parched desert, with skies smoke-heavy over the Sangre de Cristos as we drove in to town.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

the ed ruscha room ...

Back in Winslow; back at La Posada; back in our favorite room - all the rooms here are named after people who've stayed at the hotel at one time or another.  And, because it's large, and leads onto the terrace (easy for cat transportation), for a long time we've favored the Ed Ruscha room.  Indeed, I stayed here three weeks ago.  So - imagine my surprise when we, plus four felines, turn up today, and the room is now not only named after Ed R, but has 5 posters of works by him - it's been thematised!  Somewhat more interestingly, I must say, than is the case with the majority of US hotel rooms ...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


So much traveling!  Tonight was the nearest I've ever come to completely forgetting to post a picture ... but as I was getting into bed, I realized ... so I looked around me, and celebrate how lovely it is to come home to fresh flowers in the house ...

Monday, June 10, 2013


The dogwood tree at the bottom of my parents' garden is in stunning bloom - layer upon frothy layer of blossom.  Unfortunately it was a chilly grey morning, and therefore it wasn't easy to commemorate it in any way that did it justice.  It now seems a very long way away - in a hotel room in Albuquerque - back to LA tomorrow (travel plans made a long time back in a way that of course ended up not making a whole lot of logical sense).  And I can't tell whether there are wild winds blowing around outside, or if it's a whistling elevator shaft ...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

flowers, ritual

I confess to having been a little disappointed, and more than a little concerned yesterday when I didn't come back to my parents' house and find the customary little vase of flowers from the garden on the window ledge in front of where I sit and type.  I mean - how hard could it be to put this together, given that the garden itself is extraordinarily full of roses, and highly scented jasmine, and lavender, and lupins, and nigella, and poppies, and - nearly - peonies, and generally looks like early English summer at its total best (apart, alas, from the chilly and grey weather)?  

But I misjudged; my anxiety was misplaced.  I woke up in the middle of the night (by which time, of course, it was already getting light in England), and saw that the vase was - unprecedentedly - on the window sill above my bed.  Apparently it was too hot and sunny (hard to believe now) yesterday morning for them to be sitting there without wilting.  

So - concern banished; ritual of photographing the ritual performed ...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

no ai grandi navi

Here are two tourist-y views of Venice, taken this morning as I was heading off to catch a vaporetto to the station.  But.  I am just sorry that I won't be in Venice for the big (I hope) march on Sunday against the big cruise liners.  Here's one sailing in, past the end of the little canal that I was staying on, and then one heading off to sea past the mouth  of the Grand Canal.  Of course, the people on board will get great views ... I first arrived in Venice myself, by boat, something for which I've always been extremely thankful: I took a cargo boat (which accepted passengers, just about) up from Athens, slept on deck, and spent the day time reading - most incongruously - George Eliot's Scenes from Clerical Life, which I'd found in a second hand book store in Athens, and watching the deserted Albanian coast slide by.  But that's no defense for all the pollution and silt-disturbance - not to mention the overcrowding of Venice itself - that these monsters are responsible for.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Venice on display

It's photo essay time!   Here's one way of walking to the Biennale.  I wish this were blown up into an 8' x 6' piece - then you'd see that the man on the right hand side is wearing an eye patch, which perfectly complements that disconcerting eye to the left ...

Here various shows, Biennale related and not, are advertised opposite the Accademia;

Here - well, I don't know.  But I like the giraffe.

Close to the Biennale Giardini - but not actually inside - is the Museum of Everything (this year's official Biennale theme is "The Encyclopedic Palace");

and here is someone feeing desperate.  Or not - maybe just performative ...

and here is an installation shot of the Biennale itself - the Arsenale part - which was notable for the section that Cindy Sherman has curated, which was very, very strange and disturbing indeed.

Then there are so many other kinds of display, from upscale windows reflecting other windows opposite;

to decidedly funkier store windows;

to windows that are just downright strange;

and then windows that are shuttered over, and decorated in a whole range of ways.  In other words, I did a very, very great deal of walking today ...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

morning walk

I will miss my walk to the vaporetto stop in the mornings, and the art work - you never know what you'll come across next - in the grounds of San Servolo.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

tourist photography

First: this woman seems to be having problems with pigeons - in her hair, in her bag - hard to tell if its deliberate or not.

And second: these colors worry me.   Please reassure me that USC hasn't bought its very own gondola station ...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

lagoon transportation (a study in contrasts)

First, here's the lagoon once upon a time ... a quiet place ... as depicted in a fresco in my pensione, reflected in mirrors on the stairs.

And now here's the monstrous cruise ship that sailed serenely and heavily past whilst we were having conference lunch - I just wish that I was going still to be in Venice this weekend, and could go on the big demonstration against cruise ships.

Privileged tourism - this was taken on an hour long evening tour of San Marco this evening.

And the picture that I didn't take -  both wishing I had, and very glad I didn't - was of an elderly, drunk man, in broad sunlight, pissing on a completely indifferent pigeon (near the Rialto).

Monday, June 3, 2013

versace, venice

One never quite knows what one's going to find next in Venice - today, on the way to the vaporetto stop, it was Versace, apparently celebrating Marilyn Monroe, followed in quick succession by - first - an Asian couple, with the woman having some difficulty negotiating some bridge steps whilst wearing a voluminous antique beaded wedding gown, and then another happy couple, the woman wearing a more conventional, but tightly fitting wedding dress, and kissing for the cameras in St Mark's Square.  Is the first Monday in June some good-luck wedding day?  Of course, with neither of them could one tell if this was for real, or was for wedding gown advertising, or whatever.  Maybe living in LA has taught me that nothing involving a camera is ever necessarily real.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

another shockingly good view ...

Ah, my previous jadedness with Venice has completely evaporated ... Here's the rather good view from my new room, overlooking about fifty feet of small (but very busy) canal, and then the Grand Canal, so I have an entertaining array of vaporetti and gondolas and water taxis and one indefinable launch covered with balloons passing by.  I'm just grateful to have arrived: there was a long, long wait on Cagliari airport's tarmac, but this makes up for everything (including the sheer panic of having to speak tomorrow morning ...)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

the state of the field ...

A late post .... since the internet connection was down last night at the hotel - it often has been.  Mercifully it functioned during the day, when I was trying (with rising hysteria) to write my 2nd NAVSA paper.  What IS the "state of the field"?  Please tell me!  I really should have crowd-sourced this one earlier.  I couldn't be writing in better surroundings, but am juggling very many competing priorities when it comes to cramming in many ideas into 20 minutes ...

So I escaped to the seaside for a brief thinking period - and, the weather being better, and it being June, I guess the hawkers are making their seasonal appearance ...