Friday, July 31, 2020

morning glory glory

About six weeks ago, I planted masses and masses of morning glory seeds, in pots, and up they sprouted - all six different varieties, I hope.  We're just getting the first flowers: this one is Grandpa Ott, and there are five other different sorts to come.  Even without a macro lens (maybe I'll use that tomorrow), this is pretty striking beauty.  They've woven their way up bamboo canes, and in a week or so, I'm hoping, should be providing quite a show.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

fading bits of summer

These three dessicating wildflower heads are from the little bunch that came with us from LA - tucked into a vase in the drinks holders in between the front seats - and that have been on the kitchen window sill ever since.  In other words, they figure as a perfect synecdoche for the summer drawing to a close: not in terms of the weather (it was 90 today), but in terms of the looming, looming semester.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

time for lichen

It's been too long since I posted any lichen photos: these were taken on rocks just outside our front door, and illustrate, perfectly, lichenous structures.  You've actually got three examples of squamulose structures, here - they're the ones that look like bubbling barnacles - and one (the yellowish one) is crustose in form.  Alas, there's been no time for work on lichen this summer - and only a cursory amount of research on other parts of the book research (although I have been learning a lot about other things, which will emerge in teaching bulletins, soon enough ...)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

hollyhock, sky, moon

Really, self-isolation and remote living has its considerable advantages: we are so fortunate to be able to have a backyard with skies and evening light like this.  That's not to say that we aren't going crazed with thoughts of, and planning for, next semester ... The only drawback with photographing the same views, day after day, is that although the skies may differ, endlessly, I find that I only have a limited vocabulary on which to draw when it comes to writing about them.  But tonight, the luminosity was like - well, none of the American luminists quite work.  If the sky's worthy of Kensett or Heade, the setting is far too domestic.  And if one moves towards artists connected with the Southwest, the comparisons start to run the danger of becoming kitschy ... Hollyhocks, sunset ... the challenge of avoiding Santa Fe cliché ...

Monday, July 27, 2020


Even from the start of today, it was a sky that made one wonder what the weather was going to do next ... and even now, as it's getting dark (apart from the lightning bolts), thunder is still rumbling around.  

Sunday, July 26, 2020

hollyhock; stormy sky

The sun at lunchtime had that particular intensity that it gets when about to be swallowed by a dark storm cloud, and showed off the hollyhock to particularly good effect against the garden wall ...

Saturday, July 25, 2020

one among many

I was very worried, at the beginning of this summer, that we would come out here and see many fewer rabbits, as a result of the rabbit world's equivalent of covid-19: the rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus.  My concern was both for the rabbits themselves, of course, but also for the local bobcat population, who regard them, obviously, as necessary.  But I needn't have worried, at least, not now: there are many, many rabbits.  This young one is down our driveway every morning (of course, I'm convinced it's the same one every day - but it started very small, and is getting bigger), and hops away from the newspaper when I pick it up - a kind of Leporidaen equivalent to Tony Soprano's ducks.

Friday, July 24, 2020

rain and hollyhocks

Occasional bursts of heavy rain today, leaving very large drops on the hollyhocks.  Above, of course, a rapidly changing array of thick clouds.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

sunset flowers

It's hardly a spectacular sunset this evening: there's a storm slowly rolling up from somewhere in the south of the state, and so the sky is grey and hazy.  But the sunflowers, nonetheless, are bright in the gloom.  We hope they're still here tomorrow ... one of the nearby roads had its verges mutilated by the mowing machine today, which coped with grass well enough, but when it came to chamisa bushes in its way, clearly didn't have a sharp blade.  The poor things are mangled and split and churned up.  Last year the mowers did an exquisitely delicate job, lifting their mechanical scythe over every single little blooming wildflower, so this was horticultural callousness was rather a shock.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


One of those days when it's flat grey light outside, and teaching prep and admin inside - so my eyes were casting around ... Apples and nectarines courtesy of Alice's last daring trip to Whole Foods; plate (which has a lovely, if currently invisible fish in the center) is one that I carried very carefully back from Portugal about thirty five years ago; jar by Laura Zindel, who makes wonderful nature-themed ceramics (we have a quail pot and a squirrel mug here in NM, and various other much loved pieces in LA).

Tuesday, July 21, 2020


Despite the fact that next semester seems to be hurtling towards us like a juggernaut, there are still plenty of signs of summer ... I didn't manage to post my usual first-sunflower-of-the-summer image: never quite at the right point, with the right light, with nothing more interesting to show for the day, but this morning, this sunflower was looking pretty good against the distant hills.

Monday, July 20, 2020

in which LucyFur ...

... finds a new position of vantage above my desk, from which to stare at me.  I think she's plotting her best line of disruptive approach for when Zoom teaching starts again ...

Sunday, July 19, 2020

still admiring

the hollyhock.  I can't get over how it manages to be both simple and very complicated at the same time.  And yes, if you're thinking that photo taking during covid has shrunk to garden flowers, skies, cats, occasional inventive bean stews ... you'd be about right.  And unless you want to see my syllabus for "Picturing Democracy: American Art 1750-1900," that's pretty much the imaginative reach of my writing just now, too.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

getting in a walk before the storm

We thought we could just about do it ... get in an evening walk before this evening's monsoon storm hit.  Yes, the sky was an ominous yellow.  Yes, the clouds look curdled.  Yes, there was lightning shooting around in the middle distance - which started to get closer ... So we went up the road, took the first left, and did the shortest of the circuits available to us, and were just back before the heavy rain began to fall, and the lightning and thunder got so close that poor LucyFur shot under the bed.  

Friday, July 17, 2020

slow/fast quail

I have no idea what the appropriate speed limit for a quail might be.  Most of the ones round here are pretty nimble, whether they are adults, like this, or one of the bands of chicks that one sees scurrying after their parents everywhere at this time of the year.  Yesterday, as I walked down the driveway for the paper, there was a lone chick and parent - and the parent was running so fast that the chick - the tiny chick, so I was surprised - decided it would be much faster and safer if they tried out their wings.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

stormy evening (with fluttering flags and masks)

The view from our portales this evening.  I know that it looks like it's sunny over the Cerrillos Hills, but they are what - ten, twelve miles away?  Here, it's blowing and raining, and it's the first evening that rain (hooray!) has stopped us from taking our second walk of the day.  But it's very beautiful, and smells wonderful.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

inside the hollyhock

But you knew that would be next - that I wouldn't be able to resist its delicate stripey insides, the pollen, the different shades of pink and cream ...

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

at last, it's hollyhock time!

The hollyhock - I planted all its seeds last fall, but none came up, so it's still a singular hollyhock ... - is in bloom at long last!  Indeed, on Facebook today one of those "a year ago today" items popped up headed "the end of the hollyhock season," so clearly it's not on the same time frame as last year.  What's more, it has attracted the dreaded Hollyhock Weevil - a very small insect with a nasty long beak - I only know this because I was messing around (pre-blooming) with a macro lens and thought - what's that?  So it is a little stunted, too.  But it's beautiful to see it, and clearly there are enough buds to keep us going for a few weeks longer ...

Monday, July 13, 2020

neatly curled

Maybe three weeks ago, I optimistically planted a couple of packets of morning glory seeds in our plant pots.  They are growing with an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm (as opposed to the over-shy herbs.  This morning I stuck canes in the pots to encourage them - by half way through the morning, tendrils had grabbed onto the canes.  And not a moment too soon, since we had a couple of hours of serious wind and lowering grey skies in the late afternoon.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

banana peel

I really don't care for bananas - especially the smell of bananas - unless they are deeply disguised in a muffin, with some walnuts muffling them.  In this household, the peels are ritualistically, and thoughtfully, frozen until trash day comes round, and they can be rushed out of the premises.  So you can imagine my feelings when I found this one posed, this morning, on the side of the sink...

Also, for reference, I will eat banana pancakes (although I prefer pineapple ones) in, say, Australia or Indonesia.  So I'm extremely inconsistent.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

a rare sight

No - the rarity is not LucyFur washing, but the two of them sitting side by side, Peaceable Kingdom like.  Usually (whilst perfectly friendly), they prefer something more akin to social distancing.  Since I was sitting on the sofa too, it was all very companionable.  Of course - since the temperature went up to 98 outside - one interpretation would be that we were all enjoying the air conditioning.

Friday, July 10, 2020

an invisible predator

Something is eating my arugula seedlings.  Here they are, magnified - that is, here they look almost edible already, whereas in reality they're about the size of a rolled oat.  And this happened overnight.  As if it wasn't hard enough for them battling 95 degree heat, and a drying wind, there's some minute bug that's chewing miniature holes in them.  Given that today's rise in Covid-cases in Santa Fe makes me super-interested in growing our own food, I'm hoping that they will make it to adulthood.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

new passport

I have some very mixed feelings about this.  First - relief!  It is here!  Renewing a passport In The Time of Covid is no joke - and I've been scared silly that there would be some emergency call from England requiring me (heavily masked) to brave an airplane and head back to see my father - and I'd have no legal documentation allowing me to travel.  Happily - no such phone call; anxiety vastly reduced.  I have to say - the British Passport Office have been exemplary in keeping me cheerfully up to date with its progress, sending me text messages at each stage of approval and processing.  Since these were arriving from Durham in the UK, they tended to arrive at 3.15 a.m., or some other hour when the last thing one wants is a sound emanating from one's phone (cf: emergency calls ...).

BUT.  Look at it.  It says British Passport.  It does not, of course, mention the European Union.  And it is blue - like the passport I went round Europe with as a teenager ... (though not quite the same blue).  It is, in other words, a Brexit passport,  It is depressingly insular.  Inside, actually, it's impressively high tech, and compared to any other passport I've ever seen would surely be a nightmare to forge.  That doesn't, however, stop its outside from being dismayingly retro.  In other words, it's an object that carries completely contradictory affects.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

decorations for our times

or, an unusual drying (or in this case airing) line.  I bravely went to Granny Shopping Hour at Whole Foods at 7 this morning, and stocked up on enough food for - I hope - weeks: everyone very cautious and respectful of everyone else's 6 ft.  I was behind two masks - an N95, and a cloth mask covering that (plus gloves, etc) - and of course, when I returned, the masks were left hanging to breathe and disinfect themselves in the sunlight.  And where more appropriate for that than dangling from the line of prayer flags.

Speaking of prayer: if you haven't watched this video of the Dean of Canterbury broadcasting a sermon from his garden, I recommend it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Russian sage

I always think of Russian sage as being a quintessentially New Mexican flower, especially against adobe walls.  Only of course it's not: it's an imported species: Perovskia atriplicifolia.  Actually, it's not even known as that, officially, any more, but Salvia yangii: it's been acknowledged that it really is a type of sage (and, who knew?  One can eat its flowers!).  I suspect that it suffers badly from an identity crisis, because it's not Russian, either: the English botanist George Bentham (Jeremy's brother) gave it its Latin name in 1848, when he inspected a plant brought by William Griffith, another British naturalist and botanist, from Afghanistan (it's now in the Kew Gardens herbarium).

We have three of these plants, which always do the same thing: one - this one - grows extravagantly and beautifully; one remains spindly and a bit sulky; and one doesn't get beyond the stage of being a low - a very low - bush.  Since they all grow in equally bad soil, and all get watered, I don't quite get it.

Monday, July 6, 2020

afternoon view, with hummingbird

The hummingbird is having a pretty good inspection of our flowers.  Other than that, the news is all so gloomy that I seem to have run out of words, except to express a disconnect between this apparent tranquility and a general panic at how to deal with the world.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

tonight's sky

This was a good one: very fiery.  There were also more subtle bursts of pink and grey elsewhere, and thin strands of smudgy charcoal coming down as possible rain over the Sandias, to our south - so they may be getting some rain in Albuquerque, but not here.  Once again, counting blessings at how privileged and lucky we are to be able to go for an evening walk (mask pulled up just twice in 35 minutes) and see this (and, less easy to photograph, a remarkable quantity of adolescent rabbits rushing after each other in hot pursuit of juvenile rabbit sex).

Saturday, July 4, 2020

the century plant

The Century Plant doesn't actually bloom once a century.  But it may take ten, fifteen, twenty years to flower - and then, being monocarpic, that's it.  It's actually a cactus, agave americana.  This belongs to our neighbors, who sent us a photo of it five weeks ago, when it was still in its tightly furled state - the last week or so, it's unwrapped itself, and looks magnificent.  They're away - I think camping - and, being first responders, more than fully deserve a vacation: I just hope that they're back to see it in all its glory before it literally dies down.

Friday, July 3, 2020


The first true rainbow - or rather, double rainbow - that I've seen this season: before now it's just been wide colored stripes, but nothing as over-archingly magnificent as this.  It's been one of those terrific monsoon skies all evening, with dark and puffy clouds racing in all directions, some thunder, and, with luck, some rain ...

Thursday, July 2, 2020

under the covers

There's a good reason why there's an old, stripy shower curtain on our bed: LucyFur can decide to have a furball round about four or five in the morning, and we can't always be guaranteed to hurl her off in time ... However, she much prefers to go underneath it, and make a little tent for herself, like I used to do when I was about seven.  I don't think that she quite realizes that one of her ears has been squashed down by it so that she looks like a lion cub.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

time for butter

Moth and LucyFur - in the background, on the table - clearly feel that I could get a move on.  They've had their real breakfast, but every morning (as faithful readers of this blog will know) they demand their tiny, tiny, half-a-little-fingernail size smidge of butter.  There would be a riot, indeed, if this were not delivered on time.  In the foreground, a new cotton tablecloth for the outside table - and all lit by the wonderful golden morning light that we get in New Mexico at this time of year.