Monday, August 31, 2020

escaped into the tree

This may be the first morning glory to make the first big, curling leap successfully, and lodge itself into the locust tree.  Several have attempted - but every time there's a storm and the branches wave around violently, they become detached again.  You'd prefer a photo of this rather than the four-inch centipede on our bed this morning, wouldn't you?  And that hurtled off, and goodness knows where it might be ...


Sunday, August 30, 2020

mail box activism

Wonderfully, this was firmly stuck to the side of one of the mail boxes at the Pacheco Post Office today (our weekly outing! - to mail bills, etc).  And excellent though it is in its own right, I needed Alice to explain to me that this was what Woody Guthrie had written on his guitar.

This application, however, is unmissably a sign of - and for - our present moment.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

morning, again

well, it was these, or some picture of me at my desk making half of next week's videos, or writing emails granting permission for individual faculty members to visit their offices/the xerox machine/the mail boxes.  Surely there is a more profitable way for department chairs to spend their time???


Friday, August 28, 2020

a white one

There's a certain rhythm and sameness to these posts: cats, morning glory, cats, morning glory ... there is a decided sameness to each day, with variations - tonight - rain!  only for about fifteen minutes, but definite, wonderful rain.  Otherwise, the variations are more like - this week, Humanities Chairs meeting.  Next week, All Chairs meeting.  Repeat.  Today it was announced that it seems very, very likely that our Spring semester will begin a week later than usual, and then proceed for fifteen non-stop weeks: no spring break, so that our flocks don't go off and party in Cabo. That is - how shall I say it - not something to which we all look forward (though no enforced in person teaching, which is the good part of it ...).


Thursday, August 27, 2020


well, second breakfast, perhaps?  Please?

Moth's appearance in today's (asynchronous) video prompted the appearance of at least one feline co-worker in class (white, with black bits).


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

morning glorious

The amount of pleasure (and greenery, and flowers) that a $4.99 packet of seeds can offer one is truly extraordinary.  Early morning; marginally less smoky; just as full of blooms.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

a new color

Is this the prettiest Morning Glory yet?  Honestly, it looks as though I was out there with a paint brush.  It's such a treat to go outside and water the plants in the morning, and see what's new (and then stick in stakes showing the gopher trappers where to come and lay their baited wires.  I suspect the pesky gophers of having designs on my potato crop).

Monday, August 24, 2020

morning shadows

Because the sun is still deep red from behind smoky skies (the fire up near the Ski Basin; a fire southwest from here, and we're told that smoke from the California fires will drift over soon), the shadows at dawn are a strong orange.  There's a tin horse prancing behind, a wooden cat in the foreground (with, yes, a catnip fish between its paws), and a screw printing press (not any time for that, this summer, but I love it as a piece of domestic-sized art-making technology ...) ...

Sunday, August 23, 2020

carefully curating the zoom background

... making the last two of this week's teaching videos, this morning ... with company.  Moth started off a little more attentive than she is here (the shot was taken between the two videos) - I am very glad that the students will have something interesting to watch (and a little more lively than Charles Willson Peale's Mastodon, even if I find that fascinating to talk about ...).  

Saturday, August 22, 2020

smoky dawn, with chamisa

about half an hour after this, the day became even smokier - the fire is in the National Forest north of Santa Fe, but the winds have been blowing it - and the smoke - south today, and the air has been heavy with smoke - and we can't see the Sandias - the mountains to the south - or the Jemez to the west.  Or, really, the sky.  

Friday, August 21, 2020

another day, another insect

It's an ant on a thyme head.  I'm clearly going small ...  There's got to be a metaphor, somewhere in this, for the Sisyphean task of writing and assembling and video-ing five or six mini-lectures a week, but I haven't worked out what that could be possibly be ...

Thursday, August 20, 2020

plenty to pray about

... but for mow, much gratitude that Biden gave a terrific acceptance speech tonight.

This Praying Mantis somehow was trapped between the screen in my study window and the window itself - but didn't seem any the worse for wear, and flew off happily into the smoky morning after posing for her photo opp.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

against a smoky sky

Usually the fire season around here would be pretty much over my now, but there's been so little monsoon rain this summer that everything's bone dry.  The current big fire near here is burning into the Pecos Wilderness to the east of Tesuque - not immediately threatening any structures, though the tiny village of Rio en Medio may be in the way; but of course potentially damaging to wildlife and habitats; to watersheds when ash washes down (if there ever is any precipitation); to powerlines.  It's currently in very rugged terrain - and I was just reading about the difficulties of firefighting in a time of Covid, when you have to keep social distance from anyone not in your battalion.  Down here, the air quality just causes us to cough (and therefore to take our temperature multiple times a day, anxiously).

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

first day back teaching

My class was clearly absolutely riveting.  All those little faces in little rectangles!  It's enough to tire a cat out ... (also, for humans, this is peculiarly exhausting, no?  One day down, three million to go ...).


Monday, August 17, 2020

things one wishes one's cats wouldn't do

Even LucyFur looks aghast at Moth pulling a prized rug towards her.  The question of what the cats are doing in the first place jumping around on the top of bookcases is, of course, an unanswerable one.  Maybe they're just picking up on this household's rising levels of anxiety as we head towards tomorrow: Day 1 of Teaching.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

ethereal owl and snakeskin

Yesterday, Alice found a wonderful translucent snake-skin: our second of the season, but much longer than the first (I'd think about 5 ft, when worn by its former owner).  The head-end was sticking down a hole: we hope that the snake had slithered off to eat a gopher.  It's almost certainly a bull-snake's clothing.  Yesterday evening the cats had a very good time sniffing it: this evening, I decided it would look good draped round my owl night-light (one of the few objects that has made it through the temporary, make-the space-behind-me a tidy Zoom-space cull ...).

Saturday, August 15, 2020

a new morning glory

I believe that she's called Shiva.  There are, by now, a whole lot of Grandpa Ott blooms every morning, but this is Shiva's first appearance, and very delicately pretty she is, too.  We started to lament, at lunchtime, that the flowers never seem to last through the middle part of the day, and then it struck me, with a large Duh, that these plants are called Morning Glory for a reason.  It's a good job that we get up early ...

Friday, August 14, 2020

what Moth thought of the Art History (virtual) Welcome Back Breakfast

Perhaps it's a little hard to make a virtual gathering of 44 people go with a swoosh and a bang - but Moth didn't exactly give me a vote of confidence afterwards.  Admittedly, to give her her due, she stayed quiet and curled up for the duration (with LucyFur invisible, the next tier down).  But after it was over ... And then, in the afternoon, when I was making a Hi Everyone! video for my undergrad class, I'd just started off ... and I gradually became aware of her head slowly rising, and she stayed staring at the camera from over my left shoulder.  

Also, my computer keeps overheating, with Zoom.  Looking online as to why, I learn:
Your CPU and graphics are probably working much harder than they do in other software that you run. Zoom doesn’t use the same audio and video encoding as streaming movies do (those have too much delay to be good for teleconferencing) so it’s doing all the work in software. And your laptop may not have hardware assistance for video encoding at all.
That is so not encouraging, given the weeks ahead ...

Thursday, August 13, 2020


This morning, the dread sound of the Verge Mowers, murderers of chamisa, tumbleweed (no tears shed, there), long grass, and sunflowers, filled the air.  After they'd passed, Alice rushed down to the road - first to see if our mailbox was still there (it was, but they can be savage in their attacks), and second to see if there were any salvageable wildflowers.  And lo!  A sunflower!  It is notably beautiful.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

breakfast visitor(s)

It's very pretty outside, in the early morning ... But look who turned up, at our hummingbird feeder!  A flicker!  I've never seen this before, and I suspect that once again, there are too many ants in it, despite the little ant moat on the hanging wire, that I thought was stopping them.  The really bewildered creature was the Rufous humming bird - Rufouses (notoriously) go buzz buzz buzz, aggressively, like little feathered fighter planes, and chase off all other hummingbirds.  This flicker couldn't care at all - just waited until they'd had their fill of sugared ants.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

stripy eyes

so there I was, descending on the hollyhock determined to take a definitive picture of a weevil, and this delightful - er - insect - jumped up in front of me.  But what eyes!  What is it?  I thought at first it might be a cicada - but cicadas have five eyes (who knew?  Two complex, three simple)!  It might be a grasshopper ... there are, after all, 160 varieties of grasshopper in New Mexico.  But most grasshopper eyes are round.  The only insect I can find that it looks like, eye-wise, is a citrus locust nymph.  But what would such a locust be doing here?  It hopped off into the grass, on its long legs, before I could take another picture of it.  But the big question: what kind of vision could it possibly have?

Monday, August 10, 2020

still going strong


still going strong, despite the weevils ... (I'll try and get a macro lens to the little beasts tomorrow).  There's a metaphor there somewhere.  It's been a long long day of pre-semester Stuff.

Sunday, August 9, 2020


I remain very impressed by the climbing skills of the morning glory plants (a couple more Grandpa Ott flowers, today) - but although they are extremely enthusiastic about canes, they are treating the string that I stretched out for them as a mere springboard to launch themselves into the locust tree.


Saturday, August 8, 2020

the train is back!

 As long-term followers will know, the Santa Fe Southern Railway runs ... not quite at the bottom of our garden, but close enough.  It used to make a trip an excursion train just about every night; with maybe a couple of small freight trains going from Lamy (the main line) up to Santa Fe each week, too; then it was taken over by a company who attempted to operate it as a more up-market dining venture, at which point it went belly-up for a couple of years; the track became overgrown; we despaired of ever hearing its quintessentially American-train whistle ever again.

But miracles happen!  Earlier this year, the SFSR was bought by a triumvirate, including George R. R. Martin - yes, the Game of Thrones guy, who's done a number of good things for Santa Fe.  The track was cleared.  And this was the third time that the train has run on it!  The plan is to have it up and running again by next summer (let's hope the pandemic will let that happen ...) - it's so exciting to see and hear it after the sad pause.

Friday, August 7, 2020

summer lunch


Any moment now, this will get swapped out for a tomato and some cheese and crackers eaten at my desk - but for a few more days yet, we can put pretty things together on a pretty plate, and take them outside; and wonder, as always at this time of the year, whether it will rain later; and lament that (except at dusk and dawn) the bees have taken over the hummingbird feeder; and watch the stinkbugs try and climb up our chair legs and fall over; and look and see how the herbs are growing; and speculate whether the morning glories will stretch themselves down the string that I've tied for them; and admire Moth watching us eat lunch from an inside window ledge; and listen to the ravens having an apparently impassioned conversation in a neighbor's tree; and trace the path of the mail van coming up the road.  Just a few more days.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

crocodile clouds


It looks as though a crocodile is about to swallow our house, tonight.  Not that you can see the house - I promise you that it's about two thirds of the way across, to  the right.  The dreadful truth of shortening days is upon us: if we watch even half of the Rachel Maddow show, then we're in danger of coming back from our evening walk (the loop is about 30-35 minutes, depending how often we stop and admire the sunset) when it's starting to get very dark indeed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

the Atlantic Telegraph

Last week, I finished doing the final, final copyediting queries to an article on representations of laying the Atlantic Telegraph cable in 1865 - a failed expedition - or, more precisely, Robert Dudley's illustrations to William Russell's book on the telegraph.  Indeed, that sounds rather an esoteric topic ... though I tried to make it not so - it came out of a conference paper, which was the nearest I've ever come to giving a paper on a topic not of my own choosing (but it helped the conference organizers get a grant, and I learned so much).  And in the process, I became decidedly interested in the Cable and how it (and England and America) were represented in cartoons and publicity.

Looking for one particular image source last week, I fell foul of the lures of Ebay ... and though this image (of the 1858 attempt, which didn't in the end come off) doesn't figure in the piece, these two angelic messengers floating along elegantly at the bottom of the Atlantic have long been a favorite of mine.  I was so happy to welcome them ...

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

evening hollyhocks

They're like a measuring stick for the amount of summer that there's left.  I'm having a bet with myself that the day that the topmost buds have opened and faded will be the day that we start teaching again.

Monday, August 3, 2020

teaching prep

I've reached that point when I've stopped fiddling around with readings - I think! - and am now committing myself to what each of three ten-minute videos for each class will be - one setting the context for the readings, and posing some questions; one close analysis of an image or, occasionally, pair of images; one slightly off-beat excursion into a linked issue (my way of trying to expand the material in an over-compressed course).  This is making me feel wonderfully organized and in control, which is probably an illusion.  Moth was extraordinarily useful as a paper-weight and as a sounding board for ideas: eventually I managed to fit in Frederic Church's The Heart of the Andes alongside Italianate ruins by Robert Duncanson and, of course crumbled-Empire ones at the hands of Cole (and Charleston post Civil War, and the burnt out corpse of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, and the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco as purpose-built ruin) - asking the question of where we find ruination and decay as part of a Humboldtian/Darwinian natural process?  Ummm, yes: perhaps I'm being over-ambitious, but I'm having fun.  

Sunday, August 2, 2020

socially distanced panna cotta

A daring event today: lunch in the back yard of a dear friend in town.  Masks were worn.  We brought our own cutlery (etc.). And it was a perfect summer meal, concluding with panna cotta and blueberries, and for a little while (if you discount the separate tables, our little bottle of hand sanitizer, and the rest of it), we could almost persuade ourselves that this was Normal Life ...

Saturday, August 1, 2020

masks, type 1

Masks, type 1 - we have, really, three tiers of face covering.  There are these bandanas, worn wound our necks when we go out for a walk round here, and pulled up over our noses and mouths if we pass anyone.  Around 80% of people wear some sort of mask - which makes our morning and evening walks sound crowded: let's say it's about 6 people per 10,000 steps.  But these were instantly washed, this morning, since we passed a Maskless Cyclist who Coughed (not, I think, a sinister cough.  But still).  Then type 2 are the hook-over-your-ears kind, to be worn on more formal/public occasions - like someone from Arable, the neighborhood restaurant, putting our dinner into the remotely opened trunk of the car.  Take your pick - I have a ridiculously large collection, given that I might have occasion to put one of these on once a week - everything from Japanese-style Liberty prints to tabby, with whiskers.  Then, type 3, is the full-on N95 (with a type 2 on top of it) - that's for the monthly trip to Whole Foods (and no, they don't deliver out here, to the wilds).  I'll try for a selfie of Me as Tabby Cat, one day when I'm bored ...