Monday, November 30, 2020

from our front yard

It was looking its very best to look like Arizona tonight (but it isn't, and I had to crouch down on rough land and try and avoid turning my foot over in a frozen rabbit hole to take this shot ...).  It's wonderfully cold and clear tonight: the just-shrinking full moon should be up by now.


Sunday, November 29, 2020



About a week ago, Alice planted three hydroponic jars and put them on the kitchen window sill - and lo!  Herbie shoots!  These are basil; next door to them are cilantro and mint.  The cilantro is a true act of love on Alice's plant, since she loathes the stuff.  These are also a well-chosen selection, since outdoors, sage and thyme - and maybe a bit of parsley - seem determined to try and grow through the winter (the temperatures later this week might dissuade them ...).  It's very exciting seeing them germinate and grow: this seems much speedier than planting them outside in the early summer.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

our mailbox

... this morning, and yes, we do have a cute red cat on a swivel to put up when we want the mailperson to pick up our mail: makes a change from one of those boring red flags.  And yes, it snowed - even if it's mostly melted by now.  And - I think that this pic may be a late front-runner as our holiday card ...


Friday, November 27, 2020


and our walks today were every bit as cold as that looked as it was going to be.  The revelation of this winter, of course, has been that masks keep one's nose and mouth and chin warm.  I'm sure they also protect one against others (and them against us) - but since no one else seems to be crazed enough to head off into the bitter wind to take their exercise, that's a rather secondary consideration.


Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving with Lucy Fur

How could one be anything but very grateful for this magnificent tabby cat?  Alas, none of the more formal pictures of our Thanksgiving dinner were anything like as impressive as this ...


Wednesday, November 25, 2020


These should be good!  What do I mean, putting that in the future tense?  We had one each after dinner, and they were beyond excellent.  For years - rephrase that, for decades - I made chocolate chip cookies with chocolate powder (preferably Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate powder): I think that the recipe (a particularly good one involving icing sugar, aka (in the US) confectioner's sugar) probably came from Child Education.  I can't remember a time when I haven't made them this way - until Alice let on that she prefers them with plain (if vanilla-infused) dough.  I have changed my ways - initially, very grudgingly, but I have to admit that these are extremely good, too, even if they have the sad deficiency in that they fail to act in a madeleine kind of way, and don't transport me back to my childhood.  These, in fact, have "spiced pecan dust" in them too (courtesy of Zingerman's, again, like the cheese), which is an addition that I wholeheartedly recommend.  So: definitely a culinary gesture in the direction of Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

a cold and wintry morning

We woke up to snow - not so much snow on the ground, as thick snow falling in wet clumps, which started to melt almost as soon as it had had time to settle and look pretty.  The morning glory is playing its customary role as prop - albeit now in a dessicated form.  I really must gather the seeds ...


Monday, November 23, 2020

setting sun, chamisa

It stopped being grey in late afternoon, and swapped out thick clouds for a windy sky.  And this is proof that sometimes it works to defy orthodoxy, and point a lens straight at the sun - which also means one can't quite guess how the image will turn out.  Also, I'm beginning to think that lack of travel this year has meant that I've taken an inordinately large number of pictures of chamisa bushes.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

a grey day

It was one of those days when I was super-aware of how dependent one is on interesting light when it comes to taking photographs - that slant of sunshine, that golden glow, the clouds lighting up pink and gold at dawn.  Today was unredeemably flat, chilly, grey.  But even greyness in the vast sky here has its appeal, as I found when I went out to manufacture a clothes line, with pulleys (twine, stones - shades of camping a million years ago).  Subtext - I think our clothes drier may be broken.  On the other hand, I never had a drier growing up - my father still doesn't have a drier - and if he can manage almost 97 years without one, I think that we can be brave and resourceful until the end of the pandemic.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

in flight

A very fine Cooper's Hawk, looking for some mousy breakfast.  He seemed fixated one one patch of ditch, flying from mail box to chamisa bush until we'd safely walked past, and he could get on with finding the day's supplies.  His area takes him (I say "him" - he's smaller, rather than larger, as Cooper's go) over our house fairly often, with much anxious scuttering of little birds.  What one can see beautifully well here is how this particular type of hawk has rounded wing-tips (all the better to glide with) - and just look at the extraordinary fan of a tail.


Friday, November 20, 2020

... if they can do it with ice cream ...

... then let's hope they can do it with vaccines.  The box in the left, with dry ice, warns one that its temperature is -109.3 F.  The ice cream, in its insulated box, arrived brick hard.  This was, admittedly, a crazy holiday treat (and yesterday, some good cheeses arrived courtesy of Zingerman's, in Ann Arbor) - all the stuff we can't get through curbside pick up ...).  And no, no sharing of it with anyone - we are entirely bubbled, so it should last a good while.  There are already pre-Thanksgiving horror stories of lines and lines in grocery stores in Santa Fe - those that haven't been closed with Covid cases, that is ... so we are very fortunate to have stocked cupboards, even if there may be a lot of beans (as well as ice cream) in our future ...


Thursday, November 19, 2020

two versions of leaves

Two bits of early winter, on a beautiful warm day in the mid 60s.  And (although today was a super-full day, and although undergraduate papers are, by now, clattering into my inbox), it was the first one for weeks and weeks when I didn't have some Zoom interaction - no teaching, no meetings.  My eyes feel much better as a result.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

the primordial pouch

That loose, floppy bit underneath your cat?  The bit that always makes you wonder whether the vet will tell you that she needs to lose weight?  That flapping from side to side that you (privately) wonder whether or not she's embarrassed about?  That is not some body issue thing: that (as LucyFur would tell you) is her Primordial Pouch.  I didn't even know that this was a Thing until quite recently - and apparently it's a marvel of evolution.  Essentially, it's a flexible loose flap of skin - fur-covered, of course, and in LucyFur's case, covered in a wonderful camel-caramel shade - that extends, perfectly, for leaping or pouncing.  All cats have them, to a greater or lesser extent (check out the next leopard you see) - and in some cases (see above), they are more pronounced than others.  It's so good to be learning stuff during lock-down :-) 


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

winter sky

...not even the sunset - that's happening off to the right, somewhere, but it was reflecting off the clouds in a way that no photo can ever quite capture.  But note, too, the sliver of a new moon up in the sky.  The strange thing, though, is that although it looks cold and wintry, it was actually the temperature of a balmy - well, being English, I'd say summer's - but let's go for spring, or autumn, day.


Monday, November 16, 2020

a last spot of color

The tangle of dead morning glories is glowing a dull gold: it's almost as though I've sprayed them with some matt gilt paint.  And right in the middle is one crimson dried petal - presumably it was originally pink, and has deepened its tint as a result of frost and windchill.  In fact, we're having a few warm days (the parsley has resurrected itself spectacularly, and the sage is showing signs of life) - but that doesn't stop me being taken by this little remnant of faded summer.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

tin quail shadows

Tin quail, made by an incarcerated person somewhere in, I think, Southern New Mexico - there's a whole little metallic flock of them strutting down the window ledge.  This one appears to be admiring his shadow in the setting sun.  The actual quails are starting to gather together in their large winter flocks.  All the adorable little balls of fluff - the ones that didn't get snatched up by hawks or owls as feathery snacks - are now full-quail-sized, and take off with a wild whirring of wings as we approach on our walks.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

where the obelisk used to be

Really, I took this photo for my students, since the tearing down of the obelisk in the Plaza in Santa Fe had figured centrally in our class on monuments - a removal that took place (in timely fashion for our course) on Indigenous Peoples' Day.  It complicated the familiar narrative beautifully: this was no Confederate Monument erected in the Jim Crow era (something that no one owned up to having problems being removed), but a monument to Union soldiers - some of whom had perished, indeed, during the Civil War (it was such a surprise to me, years back, to learn that there had actually been a major battle here, in Glorieta Pass) when Santa Fe was a garrison town.  And then what did the Union soldiers do?  Removed Navajo from their lands, and marched them to Bosque Redondo.  Laid waste to Navajo lands.  Some of them were involved with the atrocities of the Sand Creek massacre.  This absolutely isn't a case of Confederates bad, Union army good - very far from it - and the students enjoyed, if that's the right word, having the story made more complicated.

Today, we were downtown driving round (the photo's taken from the car) after a wonderfully successful trip to Whole Foods which has now started doing curbside pick up for advance orders (though, as ever - stiff competition for a slot - good job we are very early risers).  So what has been a fortnightly nerve-wracking affair - that is, actually going into a store for food - was a breeze.  So we celebrated by driving slowly round downtown, reassuring ourselves that it's still there (apart from the obelisk) - and were heartened to find that it is (although, of course, with some shuttered businesses), and that the city workers are, as one can see here, just starting to put up holiday lights.


Friday, November 13, 2020

the elegance of LucyFur

This is a pretty smooth panther-style downward leap, even if it's just from my bookcase to the kitty tower.  Lucy gets a little jealous of the on-line adoration meted out to Moth: this is her claim for a piece of the action.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

final class!

... with Moth listening intently to a student presentation.  Who knew that she was so interested in the Ashcan School?  My students today, and on Tuesday, did an amazing job with their mini talks - today one on Native Americans in C19th art, one on the different ethnicities of C19th immigrants, one on representing "American Civil Religion," two on Winslow Homer, one on Peale and taxonomy, one on environmental reform, and the talk that totally captivated Moth.  Some of them were extraordinarily polished - not just in their organization and delivery, but in their stunningly designed and arranged slides - I felt that I learned a massive amount from watching their mastery of visual technology alone.

And I'll miss them!  Despite being entirely on Zoom, it ended up as a pretty tight knit group; that talked; that were wonderfully generous to each other in Chat (and all the same things can be said about my grad class, too).  And however much I might have yowled about making and recording four little lectures a week for this class, it was a terrific discipline condensing 150 years worth of American art and history into 24 sessions (plus their own talks).  I am already so looking forward to teaching it again ... 


Wednesday, November 11, 2020


The sky this morning was spectacular - not in the sense of a stunning dawn or a calendar-worthy New Mexican sunset, but cirrus clouds - mares' tails - wafting over it.  It reminded me ever so much of making marbled paper when I was five or six, which was enormous fun.  But I can't quite remember what method my mother and I used: I think making some kind of viscous paste, and dropping paint in it, and then pulling it around with a comb, and then, presumably, putting a sheet of paper on top momentarily.  It's the magic swirl of the comb that I remember best.  I suspect she found the instructions for this in a copy of Child Education - the magazine through which (plus the lessons available on the BBC Home Service) she was home schooling me, but mostly I remember learning to follow its (singularly unadventurous) baking recipes.

Cirrus clouds are meant to signal rain, but they blew away somewhere, and there wasn't any.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020


A long time ago - faithful readers of this blog may remember - I spent much more time than I've done of late looking for unexpected beauty, surprising patterns and shapes in the everyday.  Somewhere embedded in that is the germ, too, of my pursuit of the importance of the ordinary and the overlooked within the natural world.  But - even without deliberately looking, and I guess this proves that my observant eye still functions - this jumped out at me at lunchtime.  It's a piece of goat cheese on a scratched kitchen chopping block - the surface of the cheese scraped by me in an effort to remove the unusually furry texture that had grown over the last week or so.  That's the trouble with doing runs to Whole Food as infrequently as possible: sometimes one's cheesy self-indulgences grow a little whiskery.  But it tasted just fine.


Monday, November 9, 2020

remember the morning glories?

Somehow, over the last couple of weeks, whilst our eyes were firmly on the election, it turned into winter.  Indeed, when we went out for our evening walk, there was a thin snow flurry, which explains why the sky here is such a wintry yellow color.  And the birds are helping themselves to the morning glory seeds: one trusts that they don't feel any of their alleged hallucinogenic properties, or they'll be flying straight into our windows ...


Sunday, November 8, 2020

sitting more comfortably

LucyFur is, anyway.  And I think that she can (on her Angus Calder cushion) speak for us all.  It's such a relief not feeling as though one should be checking one's news feed every thirty seconds in dread.  I think I may even have stopped grinding my teeth into a fine powder.  On the other hand, that man is clearly not departing graciously - or even grumpily - he's refusing to depart at all, it would seem; not authorizing signing the paperwork that starts the transition period, and now there are rumours that he'll be holding Recount Rallies.  Clearly appearing as somewhere between absurd and pathetic doesn't matter to him.


Saturday, November 7, 2020

a genuinely new day

It's true!  It happened!  I actually went to bed last night optimistic: for some reason, the sight of the we-think-this-is-the-President-Elect motorcade on TV last night suddenly convinced me that this was, at last, not going to collapse in angry grief.  But this wasn't really confirmed until I'd settled down at my desk this morning - and then the news flash - and then we went back to what, over the last week, has become an all too familiar spot on the sofa in Alice's study.  (and yes, obviously, that is Moth having worked her way into the picture, in the hallway).  And this evening! - the speeches, the fireworks, the happy people!  I just wish that there'd been a chance to head out and celebrate with people (though that bottle of champagne at home slipped down pretty easily), but in semi-rural New Mexico in the middle of a pandemic with - in Santa Fe County - a sudden spike in Covid-cases, we're not easily able to head anywhere with humans ... so, to those of you who could head out onto the streets today, masked and careful, we're waving at you, in solidarity!  What a day, what an evening!  And not only did the new team look like they were having So Much Fun - they looked like they were seriously looking forward to getting to work, too.


Friday, November 6, 2020

another long day, another ...

If, two days ago, I was looking up the road into a hopeful dawn, now I'm looking down it into - well, the sun going down, again.  Maybe definitive good news will come, tomorrow?  I have an inbuilt pessimistic streak that settles in around mid-afternoon, and it was sitting there in surly bleakness for much of the rest of the day, waiting for something cataclysmic to fall.  Which it hasn't, yet, but it seems to be tempting fate even to say that.  I realize this is self-protection on my part, not reasoned logic ...


Thursday, November 5, 2020

and the sun goes down on another long day ...

... and here we still are, watching MSNBC's commentators filling in hour after hour of political commentary with, basically, the same facts and points over and over again - except when there's a new sudden flurry of 1,300 votes in Pennsylvania.  OK - it seems to be edging in the right direction, but slowly, falteringly, nerve-wrackingly - and then there will be the endless spurious legal challenges, which will exhaust us until - until when?


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

paws and fingers are crossed

all paws and fingers in this household are crossed, as we constantly recheck websites and MSNBC and and and.  Has Arizona been called?  Has it not been called?  How many votes are there left to be counted in ... How many different spoilt brat whiny ways can Trump find to say It's Not Fair?   Will (more to the point) any of them succeed?  I don't think I'm as pit-of-dark-despair despondent as I was last night - but at the same time, I can't yet get to a point of optimism.  It's a strange state of suspension, and if I grind my teeth any more I will have TMJ clicking away like wild castanets.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

heading ... where?

This was dawn.  I can't say that I woke up feeling super-optimistic about the election - but it's hard to tell how much of that was self-protection after 2016, and how much semi-secretly hoping to be surprised at some point early in the evening (even though, yes, I've read plenty before today to know that was very unlikely to happen).  And yes, I know that this may roll on and on for a couple of days ... it takes me back 20 years, when I got on a plane at Heathrow thinking - well, at least I'll know the result of the election when I land at EWR.  Only seven hours later, the conversation was still all about hanging chads ... This evening, I'm dragging myself back from deep dark despair to some form of numb stoicism.  We'll see.  Hmmm: Ohio just called for Trump.  I have a stiff neck from shaking it with disbelief that so many people can vote for him.


Monday, November 2, 2020

last lectures in the bag!

This will be the last time - for a bit - that this notice goes up!  By now, it's looking decidedly ratty and bedraggled, albeit with a strangely early-Christmas-decoration look to it from the green and red tape at the top.  I've been recording four videos a week for my undergrad class, so that at least part of the class is asynchronous.  Tomorrow is Elections ... those lectures were posted at the weekend ... Thursday's two are on the Statue of Liberty (and some truly horrible late century cartoons on the topic of immigration) - the S of L seems a suitable place to end up a course on "Picturing Democracy: US Art 1750-1900." And then we're onto student presentations.  I realize I've written around 70,000 words worth of script - and that's before we get to whatever I ad lib in class ... while I've enjoyed this hugely, it's been quite a shift from my usual much more stop-and-discuss teaching mode.  And yet, I'll feel quite bereft without this crazed routine, even if it's meant that each week feels like it's nine days long.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

warty pumpkin

This is the closest that we got to a Halloween decoration, unless you count my gesture of putting a skeletal black and grey flamingo into a flower pot at the front of the house.  The flamingo would have been a little more convincing as a decoration if I hadn't mislaid its legs.  At least we didn't run into the same problems as the guys up the street, who are flamboyantly into seasonal decorations.  They had huge inflatable pumpkins, and inflatable spiders, and other creepy-crawlies.  Half of them looked as though they were candidates for this year's (canceled) Albuquerque balloon festival - they certainly (apart from the glowing pumpkin lanterns) looked extraordinarily out of place in these parts.  Only ... the same guys have been slowly planting a cactus garden.  These inflatables don't seem to have inflated again since a strong wind was blowing them around at the time of the snowstorm: it would seem that colored plastic spider-skins and cactus spikes may not have very happy encounters.