Thursday, December 31, 2020

the sun sets (flatly) on 2020 ...

Good riddance to 2020!  May 2021 be much, much better for everyone!  I always look forward, here in New Mexico, to a spectacular end of the year sunset - it seems only fitting that this year the sun should set quietly, in a bashful kind of way.  


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

our farolitos

... stretching down our front path.  To be sure, they are an electric version, held in place by little blocks of (probably frozen) water - and not at all the precarious contraptions involving tea lights and sandwich bags and cat litter that I erected for a couple of years, on Christmas Eve, on the front steps back in Wimbledon - an importation of New Mexico of which I was inordinately proud, fiddly though it was.  It was also a sad token of how much my mother aged from one year to two years subsequent (it poured with rain the middle year).  The first time I lit up, she was charmed and enchanted.  Two years later, she was terrified that I was going to set the street, the house - anything - on fire, and kept asking me were they out? was I sure that they were out? at the end of the evening.  Maybe electricity has its benefits ... though I have no idea if one can obtain these for the UK voltage system ...


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

seed pods and snow

Those hollyhocks?  The flowers became seedpods - and this year, I'm letting the seeds stay on the stems, to see what happens: last year, I carefully gathered them all, planted them - and not a single one grew.  This morning we had about an inch of snow - and the pods showed it off to perfection (that explains last night's wind, too ...).


Monday, December 28, 2020

very windy

... so windy, indeed, that our second walk of the day consisted of me going down the driveway to retrieve the empty trash bin (which had blown over since the collection): only about the third or fourth time since we've been here that we haven't headed out twice for weather reasons, although teaching commitments produced a couple more days when we didn't clock up our average 4-5 miles a day.  Which is, all things - and wind - considered, a pretty good record.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

another evening, another walk

... and this time, facing away from the sunset, which was bouncing off the clouds - three minutes later, these had turned a deep purple, but by that time we'd walked on from the pinon tree and cholla cactus which framed this view.  Tonight, we headed down along the railroad tracks and up through the greenbelt - and were so happy to get this view of the gibbous moon.


Saturday, December 26, 2020

Boxing Day walk

For much of my life, "Boxing Day walk" has meant a muddy excursion onto Wimbledon Common - with luck, with a sunset reflected in a pond, but more normally, sidestepping puddles and indeed downpours.  It's rather different in Eldorado - indeed, some rain, or snow, would be very welcome - and there are many fewer trees.  Alas, it isn't quite dark enough here to show the extraordinary holiday light display that our up-the-road neighbors spent hours - days - stringing together (these are the same people who came to the realization, at Halloween, that inflatable ghosts, wind, and cacti didn't really mix).  Of course, since the US doesn't Do Boxing Day (despite their willingness to make official holidays at all kinds of other times), the concept of a Boxing Day walk is a thoroughly foreign import - and in any case, our circuit was the same as it often is (and as it was this morning, albeit clockwise, not anti-clockwise).  But monotony is always averted by the skies; the counting of Houses that Seem To Have Visitors with Out of State plates; the hopeful scanning of high walls and rooftops for bobcats; the endlessly shifting collection of other wildlife; and the occasional sensation - a U-haul!  A new mailbox!  A freshly painted garage door!  


Friday, December 25, 2020

look what we got for Christmas!

Two very happy cats.  I bought the turquoise and rust one for LucyFur, and the pink and grey one for Moth, and they promptly each chose the other one.  It's been too exciting a day for them to stay still in them for long (wrapping paper! interesting food smells!) - but I have hopes that these Cat Caves may, indeed, be a success.

And what was your strangest moment of a strange Christmas day?  We were taking a walk this morning, and passed just one person (bundled up, as we were, against the cold).  But unlike us, she didn't have a mask on - and took the electric toothbrush that she was using out of her mouth just long enough to wish us a Merry Christmas, and put it back again, and carried on buzzing.  People are strange.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas tree. With paw.

You'd expect Moth to get in on the action, wouldn't you?  Happy Christmas, from the frozen wilds of northern New Mexico - missing you all, near and far!


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

evening light

Roughly an hour apart - but both looking southwest: the top one from the bottom of our driveway; the bottom one from the back yard.  The whole long sunset was a spectacle of changing colors and lights and clouds (and at one moment, a flurry of snow - that was a bit of an unscheduled surprise) - winter at its most perfect. 


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

more Christmas decorations

I'm not entirely sure why, this year, I seem to have decided to boost the Chinese economy by ordering a range of decorative birds.  In addition to the twelve cardinals on the Christmas tree, there are six of these - well, they were sold as "sparrows," although mercifully they are nothing like the horrible invasive murderous sparrows around here.  Here's one perching on a small branch taken from the piƱon tree out front, and wedged behind a picture frame in the front hall.  The cats persist in taking absolutely no notice of bird-forms: much more interested in the live robins outside.


Monday, December 21, 2020

The Convergence

I promise you that Jupiter and Saturn are there, in close proximity to one another - as close as they've been - and visible - since March 4th 1226, when I wasn't around, and I won't be in 2080, either.  Mind you, they are still 450 million miles apart ... Interestingly, they photograph like one bright star - at least they do, here - whereas to my naked eye they are very distinct.  And they looked even brighter half an hour later - but I wanted the sunset silhouettes, too (besides, it's getting cold outside).  
If you're still looking, head upwards from the center left of the big tree: one could be forgiven for mistaking the brightness of the nearly-overlapping planets for a speck of dust on the lens ...

And let us, let us hope that this conjunction, and the winter solstice - the days are getting longer!  the days are getting longer! - are a good omen


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Christmas lights. And sunset.

I went outside to turn on the chile lights that are wandering through the canes that hold up the wreckage of the morning glories - and there's another stunning sunset out there.  Compared with our non-festive neighbors at 39 and 43, we are a riot of illumination.  Compared with a house just up the street, our lighting scheme is, shall we say, modest.  Only this year, they seem to have hidden away the illuminated peacocks, which is rather a disappointment.


Saturday, December 19, 2020

from our house to yours

Last Christmas, we bought a double-tiered kitty scratch pad in the cardboard guise of a ski chalet.  Moth loved it, absolutely loved it.  LucyFur, being a cat of more taste, wasn't really interested.  We put it away, of course, with the other Christmas decorations.  It came out again, today, from the further recesses of the garage, and Mothy couldn't have been happier.


Friday, December 18, 2020

startling sky

The sky, on this evening's walk, was a little bright, to say the least - deep grey clouds with an undertone of apocalypse, and then a stripe of violently strong lemon.  We were, at this point, walking away from it - only I kept turning round and walking backwards to appreciate its full glory.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

our lady of light

It felt as though we'd gone on vacation, today!  After our morning walk, we actually went on a drive, to Lamy (which is the nearest Amtrak station - one train in each direction a day, on the Chicago-Los Angeles line).  The Mission Chapel of Our Lady of Light was built in Mission Revival style in 1926 - and it's opposite the station (the current incarnation was built, also in MR style, in 1909) and would have been opposite the El Ortiz Hotel - an early Mary Colter building (1910), like La Posada in Winslow, where we stay so often, and that alas closed in 1942.  The building is no more.  The church remains - but it was deconsecrated in 1994: by that time there were many fewer worshipers there: the little town had declined in numbers as the railway became less and less used, and the building was - is?, though the roof has been replaced - unsafe.  It nearly had a reincarnation in the TV show The Preacher - they filmed the pilot show here, and then reconstructed it on a sound stage down in Albuquerque.

As I said, after all this self-isolation, it felt as though this was an extraordinary adventure.

Lamy is five miles away.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

ice crystals

Each one different ... I went out very early this morning to fill up the heated bird bath - before the vanguard of bluebirds, to be followed by the massed hordes of robins - and found that although the water was, as always, just above freezing, the whole rim of the bowl was ringed with tiny fragile ice crystals.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

battered prayer flags

These prayer flags - aka devices to stop birds flying into the windows (works most of the time ...) - are getting shredded and ragged, and although I rather like their windbeaten quality, pretty soon they'll stop being effective.  There are, indeed, some new ones on their way (or for all I know in a box quarantining overnight - we are still rigorous about that, largely because Dr Fauci says that he doesn't open his mail right away even yet, I suspect.  Here you have thin sun and some thick snow flakes as well: it's definitely winter.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Fur under tree

This is for Amanda Vickery, who was wondering about the presence (or rather absence) of cats in relation to a Christmas tree that has birds on the top of it.  LucyFur is feigning indifference to their presence - or, rather, despite knowing that she's extremely ornamental herself, is not (on a cold morning like today) going to budge very far from underfloor heating.


Sunday, December 13, 2020

fetching the newspaper

... on another fairly chilly morning.  The snow had that really dry, squeaky quality to it that means that one knows it would be perfect to ski on ... and there was 10" new snow in the ski basin, and more in Taos: both ski areas have just opened for the season, with a whole lot of Covid-rules in place.  But.  I don't think I can face the stress ... whilst socially distanced chairs might be feasible, what if some jerk hurls himself on (I'm sure it would be a "him") just when you thought you had one of the quad seats to yourself?  And what about Bathrooms??  And.  So I think that's a "no," even though I found myself checking it out, somewhat longingly.


Saturday, December 12, 2020

top of the tree

The Christmas tree is up! (courtesy of the wonderful Adam and Kim's trees, who set up their stock in Eldorado every year - and, I saw, were sold out by this evening.  And they did no-contact delivery this year, too, for which much gratitude).  If the tree is 95% decorated in more or less tasteful, if predictable, blue and silver lights and baubles, the black peacock and the goldfinch seem to belong to some other sub-gothic decor scheme, but it wouldn't be Christmas to me without birds.  I seem to have mislaid a handful over the years (and I can't even blame kitties).  Back when I was very small, my parents used to move the three glass birds that we had - and that I think my father still place on the (now artificial) tree every year - around every night: I truly believed that they magically flew about on their own.


Friday, December 11, 2020

different directions, different ends of the day

A day of spectacular skies, clouds, wind.  This morning, early, looking eastwards - just before sunrise, as I was going down the driveway to pick up the paper.  Then in late afternoon, looking north - with spectacular snow on the lower parts of the Sangre de Cristos - a startling blue sky, at that moment, but it didn't last, and there was an icy wind blowing in our faces as we turned westward.  Face masks have their advantages, even if there's no one else around - our noses and mouths get kept far warmer than usual.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

red sky in the morning

... and I'm sure all shepherds were feeling suitable Warned after a daybreak like this (indeed, it was so startling that it had me hurtling out of bed - where I'd been idling glumly reading the latest Brexit news - to take its photograph).  Within five minutes, it had turned a pale curdled yellow; within twenty, thick clouds were piling up from the south.  It snowed in the middle of the day; right now, it's snowing again - not much, but enough to look pretty tomorrow.  When I drove into town to mail some letters, the drive on the interstate was through clouds - not badly so, but enough to remind one that this is life at 7,000 feet, with all the meteorological uncertainty that brings with it.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

doodling whilst grading

I promise you, my mind really was on Winslow Homer, or Jacob Riis, or the Ashcan School, or whatever else they wrote about - and it was only when I actually looked at this that I realized that my hungry unconscious had, apparently, drawn a cinnamon roll.  Needless to say, alas, there aren't any of those around the house.

In related news, I have spent far too much of this evening working out how to enter weighted assignment grades into Blackboard, and realize that one has to create post-facto fictitious assignments using Turn-it-in in order to do so.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, count yourself lucky.  If you do, you'll sympathize.  If you have a better way of doing it, let me know.  


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

afternoon sun patterns

What you're looking at - in descending order ... a very heavy metal lizard (or miniature crocodile), bought many years ago in Santa Fe Greenhouses (of blessed memory), sitting on top of the base of an old table lamp (also metal, and very heavy, and therefore useful for keeping table cloths in place), on a metal table, surrounded by dried cactus branches that I gathered on our property, thinking in some vague way that I might make an arty Thanksgiving table decoration with them, and then realizing pretty rapidly that that wasn't very likely ...  It was very warm today (for Northern New Mexico in December) - in the mid 50s, and we even braved lunch outdoors.


Monday, December 7, 2020


LucyFur, basking in the afternoon sunshine on a chair that's half under the table, seems blissfully unaware that this might not be her most flattering angle.


Sunday, December 6, 2020


I really like kale.  This was waiting to be chopped up, and sauteed with olive oil, and garlic, and red chile flakes, and then have half a lemon squeezed over it - but first, I realized how beautiful it was (and was grateful, so grateful, once again, that our local Whole Foods does curbside pick-up, or we would be very stymied for fresh vegetables ...).


Saturday, December 5, 2020

the concept of elevenses

... not, I should say, my own: I'm more of a eat-a-decent-sized-breakfast and it'll last you through to lunchtime person - or through until the evening, sometimes, back in the day when I traveled more than twenty steps to go to work.  But Alice almost always has what she thinks of as a "second breakfast" - and what I would call elevenses (and she does sometimes), if we didn't get up so early that it's usually consumed somewhere around 9.

Elevenses is really a very British, not American, concept.  It seems - according to the OED - only to have come into use in the late C19th, and often in conjunction with "fourses" - eleven and four being the time that workers broke for refreshment.  Then by the 1920s it was a much more middle-class term: I suspect that Winnie the Pooh had something to do with this ("Pooh always liked a little something at eleven o'clock in the morning...").  Apparently in The Lord of the Rings "elevenses" is the third meal of the day eaten by hobbits - but since I only ever got three pages into that - and that was a struggle - I doubt that rubbed off on me.

But what I don't remember is what constituted elevenses when I was small.  At school - pre-11 - it was warm milk in triangular cartons, which put me off milk for life, and very doughy, yeasty buns (which put me off both buns and currants). At home - what?  I doubt I managed to force down milk in any form, and I didn't drink coffee until well into my teens, and tea was for tea-time (not that I drink that, voluntarily, either).  I'm sure my mother had a cup of Nescafe, or Maxwell House - nasty powdered instant coffee, in other words - which I would drink at the riding stables, but not at home.  So I probably ate something - a Club biscuit?  A Lyons Individual Swiss Roll?  But that sounds more like teatime.  I'm puzzled - but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been toast.  A chocolate digestive biscuit, maybe?


Friday, December 4, 2020

97 today!

Skype is a wonderful invention - although I remember well when I used to say - "I can't believe people would ever make a telephone where you would see the other person!  I'd never use it!  Imagine!" - because it seemed like something out of very far-fetched science fiction.  [I just checked - it was invented in 2003, and people reckon that it "became popular" by 2005 - I think I was a bit behind on that].  But it's not a substitute for travel: I wish so much that I could have been celebrating my father's 97th birthday with him.  That being said, he - enjoying a glass of champagne, here - seemed to have seen quite a few people - there were two there when we called up at 5 p.m. (one masked, one not masked ... ); he was eating birthday cake - it's hard to believe that we would have been complicit in so much sociability.  To be sure, cases in Merton - his London borough - are hardly at LA, or even Santa Fe levels (46 in Merton today, in a population just over 200,000) - but that's not nothing.  BUT - it was his 97th birthday!  This is something very much to be toasted, whether we could be there to do so in person, or not!  And he should be very much in England's front line to receive the vaccine ...


Thursday, December 3, 2020

some fine icicles

Hanging off one of our canales - some extraordinary long ice daggers.  The snow must have melted somewhat in yesterday's sunshine - but given 12 degree temperatures overnight, there was plenty of potential for growing these frozen roots, and they hardly melted during all of today.


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

snow ...

I think I remarked yesterday about the unpredictability of weather forecasts and Eldorado.  An inch, maybe, we were forecast ... and there was about five or six inches of it outside this morning - completely beautiful, with a couple of coyotes trotting around in it as we went for our morning walk.  That was a somewhat slidy walk - the roads weren't yet plowed - but it was an extraordinary visual treat, as was our back yard (and yes, under there, the morning glories ...)


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

more of the same but always different

This summer, for whatever reason, the sunsets weren't exceptional - more of a slow, tranquil slide into dusk.  The last month - they've been extraordinary.  Tonight's sky contained masses of clouds that looked like dull, horizontal bruises - when we went for our evening walk, it was impossible not to turn around and stare.  Supposedly, these - or probably other - clouds are going to drop some snow on us tonight - we'll see.