Sunday, January 31, 2021

an overnight stay

LucyFur was ready and packed this morning: indeed, both she and Moth were (shortly after this) ready to be bribed to enter their carriers with little bits of the butter that we'd brought with us for the purpose.  They weathered the trip very well - it's their humans who feel exhausted, facing a brand new week of work ... Los Angeles, for the record, is very very noisy, after New Mexico ...


Saturday, January 30, 2021

looking at you, from the road

Greetings from Winslow, Arizona! where we have ventilated the room and wiped all possible surfaces.  A beautiful drive here, though alas, since I was behind the wheel all the way, no pictures of the golden setting sun illuminating the landscape.  The same golden setting sun - it being late January, and low on the horizon directly in front of I-40 - was a complete pain to drive into, of course.  But we're on the road, and pretending (eating cheese and oatcakes and demolishing a v good bottle of chardonnay that we brought with us - no hotel dining for us, for another six weeks ...) that we're on vacation ...


Friday, January 29, 2021

last evening walk, for now ...

... last evening walk in New Mexico for now, that is: we'll be hitting the highroad for LA tomorrow.  The vaccine gods have smiled on us and USC has opened up some appointments for next week - we were so relieved to be able to grab a couple on Tuesday!  But it's stressful packing up, having been here since June, with the exception of two weeks back in LA - and I, at least, have everything for work carefully organized and I know (or by now, knew) where it was.  And it feels just strange to be jolted out of our careful routines.  That, given the circumstances, is not a complaint ...

And yes, that is Alice on the path up ahead - apparently entirely obliterated by the hazy sun.


Thursday, January 28, 2021


It's been a day of general scurrying around (not to mention the futile checking of vaccine sites in LA every half hour or so - let's hope that USC's promise of some slots for next week opening up tomorrow actually bears fruit, because returning to LA seems a perilous venture at the moment, which will only be worth the risk if we can actually get needles in our arms).

Let's just say that some members of the household remain in a blissfully laid-back state.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

when icicles hang by the wall

Not our own icicles (or wall, for that matter), but hanging outside the vet's.  No true problem, but Moth has been sneezing a lot, and we're always anxious about her since she was sick with kitty flu when we adopted her as a kitten from the shelter, so we thought she deserved a check-over whilst we're still in a place where that's easy (and where our great vet knows her, and us).  She has some anti-inflammatory meds to calm what's probably an allergy: no sign of an infection.  So that's a relief.  The icicles and tangled vines were a bonus.

And - today is the twelfth birthday of Forms Traced By Light!  This is the four thousandth, five hundred and thirty-fifth day running that I've posted an image (or so) and some prose that veers between the chattily factual and - occasionally - the more ambitious.  By now, this amounts to some strange grounding daily compulsion: the more pretentious aspects have mostly fallen off off and away.  What's its optimum length, would you think?  Five thousand days?  Fifteen years?  Do I really want ever to stop?  It's a strange form of record, but by now it is one, and never more so than the last ten months, when the idea of dailyness brings very little by way of visible difference, much of the time.  But I haven't stopped looking for corners of beauty, like these icicles.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

zoom in for the coyotes

... they are in front of us, down the road, at a wary distance.  At least, two of them are - the third had struck off at a three-legged gallop into the scrubland on the right.  We call him Hopalong: no idea why he only has three legs (car accident? trap? problems at birth?), but he's just as healthy and as mobile - and fast - as the others.  While you're zooming in, note how beautiful the early morning sun is on the Sandias in the distance...


Monday, January 25, 2021

the way ahead

The way ahead, as you'll observe, is blocked by a thick bank of cloud.  Or, to be more exact, the mountains are hidden behind the bank, but the cloud represents how thwarted we felt today to get an email, first thing, saying that we could schedule a vaccination today!  But ... that would be at USC, 880 miles away.  Or tomorrow, or Wednesday, or Thursday ... the problem being, of course, teaching, let alone packing up the house and driving (through more snow).  And they can't say whether vaccines will be on offer next week, because no one knows anything much, given uncertainties around supply.  All the same, we will try to head West at the end of the week, and hope that we get lucky, very soon.


Sunday, January 24, 2021

our state capitol/the road to town

Lest anyone think that we have a sparkly new administration, and problems are melting away, here's a reminder of the truth.  This is the main road into Santa Fe from our side of town: one can't drive down it any more.  There are concrete barricades and a police car - and more concrete barricades, more police, all around.  On the left, just out of view, is the Capitol - surrounded by rather flimsy looking wire barricades saying No Trespassing (so I guess that's what you get sued for, in the first instance, if you breach them).  So far as I can tell, there was no demo planned - or uprising, or insurgence - in other words, the solidity of the street blockade suggests an awful New Normal.  We were actually heading left down Paseo de Peralta to fetch some coffee beans (Ohori's do a good job of very contact-free delivery - no protestors had emerged to steal our four pounds of best French Roast from the table outside) - but this was a very sobering sight.


Saturday, January 23, 2021


A very New Mexican sight ... we bought this at the same time, and from the same people, as our Christmas tree and door wreath, and hung it inside the wreath until it was time to take it down ... and now the ristra is hanging on one of the pillars holding up our portales - the covered terrace - out back.  They look decorative, but we could, of course, eat them (they need soaking in water, first, but then would be fine) - I've certainly been known to raid a supposedly decorative ristra when finding myself out of chile - although that's not something that's very likely to happen, given the contents of our store cupboards and freezer.

Friday, January 22, 2021

state flower homage time

I still can't get over how stunning Jill Biden's evening dress and coat were on Wednesday night - embroidered with the state flowers of all fifty states, with the state flower of Delaware nearest to her heart.  I had to check that one: it's peach blossom (and was chosen as the state flower in 1895).  You'll be wondering: Georgia has the Cherokee Rose, or Rosa laevigata, as its state flower: I guess the peach was already taken by the time they chose that in 1916.  In 1927, New Mexico designated the yucca flower (any yucca flower will do, apparently), as its state flower, selected by the schoolchildren of New Mexico and then recommended by the New Mexico Federation of Women's Clubs.  There aren't any yucca flowers in bloom in mid-January, of course, so I had to make do with a yucca bush or two with some dried seed heads on them, and illuminated by sunlight.  And Kansas grabbed the sunflower in 1903, just before Nebraska, which also had its eye on it.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

a frosty perspective

our garden wall, this morning.  I'm slightly disappointed in this image, because I rushed outside to take it when I could see the cold air misting up from the frosty wall - and that hasn't appeared in the photo - it was a strange ephemeral phenomenon, as though the wall were steaming.  The photo suggests that the wall goes on and on - a veritable estate wall - because of the perspective created by the thick frost: I promise you we're talking about - say - twenty feet of mock adobe stucco.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Moth, celebrating


Of course, I took the requisite New Dawn picture this morning - while there were fairly grey skies, there was sun lighting up the snow on the Jemez mountains in the west, which seemed to augur well ... 

But then we - including Moth - spent much of the day glued to the inauguration, and the evening's concert - interspersed with bit of work, which were, shall we say, hampered.  It's hard to comprehend how much weight has been sitting on our shoulders for the last four years; what a difference it will make to wake up in the morning and not wonder what awful thing that man has done - or tweeted.  And to see ordinary, decent people celebrating what they've achieved, and then getting down to work before watching some rather splendid fireworks - that was just such a return of normalcy, as was the celebration of workers and. carers and volunteers of various kinds that was dovetailed into the concert performances beforehand.  And the Howard University Showtime Marching Band are quite amazing.  Exhale, exhale, exhale.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

chill January

We gave ourselves a snow day today - the first day that we haven't taken at least one walk (and usually two) for months and months.  Admittedly, it wasn't very snowy - although there seemed to be more in the air, blowing sideways, than on the ground - but it was cold and unappetizing, and Alice had her first two Zoomy classes of the semester to teach, and my day started at 3 a.m. with a Zoom meeting in London.  In a parallel universe, I would have been in London today, and at a conference in Paris this coming weekend ... instead of which, all's in little rectangles, once again.  So I fortified myself, at an ungodly hour, with a deep mug of strong coffee, and oatcakes and Marmite, and soldiered on through ... It will be an early night tonight.  Can this really, truly, be the last night of Trump's horrible, horrific presidency?


Monday, January 18, 2021

a tactical stand-off

... really, for two cats from different backgrounds (a back yard in Silver Lake; Santa Fe Animal Shelter) who have a five-year age difference, Lucy Fur and Moth get on very well.  So well, indeed, that they engage in some sophisticated tactical manoeuvres.  It would be a good idea, they think, to have a middle-of-the day snack (or by choice, something larger than a snack, but they'll settle for what they get).  They might, after all, take advantage of us being at home all day, every day.  So first, some imploring looks.  Then (it being our lunchtime), some jumping on the table, some plaintive mews.  And then the cupboard door banging begins.  And then the battering of little paws against the kitty kibble container.  And then, if all else fails - let's stage a fight!  It's a well worn routine - and it's the point at which we give in.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

two small clouds

... that is, I know that there are lots of high wispy cirrus clouds, but here are also two loose dark ones - the kind that I always think of as flying saucer clouds - although, if one bears in mind the cloud in Millais' The Vale of Rest (1858-9), another sunset images, the Victorian Scottish, at least, would possibly have designated them as coffin clouds, which is a gloomy thought - and curiously one that struck me only as I was looking at todays photo after selecting it.


Saturday, January 16, 2021


... and unwanted tracks, at that: not the tracks of rabbits, nor, indeed, of the couple of pairs of coyotes we've seen out hunting today, but the tire tracks left by a crazed, speed-record breaking UPS truck, who seems to think that our front .... well, we can hardly call it our front garden, but our front land is something to practice turning on, something on which to pretend one's driving an all-terrain vehicle.  I rather feebly pulled some branches of dead cactus across where he'd rejoined the driveway, to hint that this isn't terra nulla, but I suspect I need to do something more emphatic.  I guess this is the price of having cheese delivered from afar ...

In other observations (a) it's a great sunset over the Cerrillos Hills (b) I miss the greenery in LA, and England.  No one told me - before I moved to the US - that the grass isn't green all year long, as it is in the UK.


Friday, January 15, 2021

the cheese is here!

Once every six weeks or so, I treat myself to a delivery of specialist cheese ... if anyone knows anywhere else that will deliver such interesting, hand picked cheeses in perfect condition other than Zingerman's, in Ann Arbor, do tell me ... but in fact, their service is perfect, and the cheeses extraordinary.  The package also contained some rather good olive oil, and a ginger cake (they do other supplies, of course ...).  This evening, I had a couple of slices of Lincolnshire Poacher with a glass of wine before dinner, which was a terrific end of the week treat.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

a satisfactory headline

... although the most shocking thing about it is that it's not shocking, any more.  Being impeached twice is, however, a pretty inglorious thing to go down in history for (and then to have the headline announcing the fact to be hurled unceremoniously into millions of front yards).  And in one four-year term, too.  And with the knowledge that almost certainly he committed a whole lot of other impeachable offences, too.  If only I thought he would head off quietly onto a Florida golf-course, nursing his grievances - instead of which, I read this evening that he wants a full ceremonial send-off, with military participation, and a crowd (presumably unmasked).


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

those chopped onions?

... found their way into Turkish-style lentils, with urfa biber - peppery stuff - and some dill, with yoghurt on top and - yes! - cilantro from the kitchen window-sill hydroponic garden.  Very tasty ...


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

chopping onions

And yes, of course they make my eyes prickle and smart.  Ten months into lockdown, I was getting So Fed Up with my/our own cooking - so I've been branching out more into cookbooks, but then, of course, one finds one's missing a crucial ingredient, like white miso paste, or sumac, and has to wait until Amazon coughs it up.  It's worse if and when one finds one's missing an onion, of course, or a lemon or two.  We are about to run out of lemons - a lot went into yesterday's chicken dish with lemons and za'atar.   Today was roast cauliflower, and Turkish-style lentils.  But ... three meals a day, even if we'll often self-forage for one of them (in the fridge, not further afield) - ah, it's a treadmill of a routine, sometimes.


Monday, January 11, 2021

Moth needs a bigger bowl

A month or so back, we bought a new bench/storage chest for the front hall - prior to that, that particular area had become too much of a dumping ground for boxes left to breathe for a day after being brought inside.  Moth, however, much appreciated sitting on large packs of paper towels, or whatever we'd been able to score, so we thought that (since she much enjoys curling up in a woven bowl in the living room) that we'd better obtain another basket for her hall perch.  Unfortunately, when it turned up, it was a smaller piece of basket work than we (or she) had anticipated ...


Sunday, January 10, 2021

snake. with hoar frost.

One of our neighborhood mail boxes - I think it featured here around eighteen months ago, in sunny summer weather ... today, it was covered in hoar frost.  This led to a debate ... is frost a form of precipitation, or isn't it?  I argued that it wasn't - and it turns out that I'm right, although I couldn't have told you exactly why - basically it's caused by above-freezing air coming into contact with something below freezing, which causes the water vapor in the air to form fractal crystals on a cold surface.  That makes a lot of sense - only I can't imagine that the air was above freezing for long, last night - it was pretty frigid when we woke up, and did our morning stomp around the usual long-ish loop, before I settled back into MLA - with, alas, no cats visible, today.


Saturday, January 9, 2021

an MLA like no other

If this had been a normal early January, I would have been, most likely, in Toronto, at the MLA - the Modern Languages Association convention.  As it is, it's the end of Day 3 of 4, on line.  It's been completely wonderful to see friends, albeit squeezed into tiny Zoom boxes, but (I don't know whether others have been suffering from the same delusion) - it's seemed as though they are somehow all in Canada, and are doubtless all having terrific drinks and dinners and conversation way into the night, right now, and as though I am stuck in frigid Northern New Mexico, watching on wistfully from afar.  

But the bonus!  Cats!  Zoom-bombing cats!  I've seen a number today, but the most spectacular was Nasser Mufti's, who pretty much delivered his paper for him (an excellent paper, but to whom should one attribute it?).  As the self-portraits in this image show, Moth was watching and listening attentively: although the whole session was on "Disagreement," she voiced no alternative points of view.


Friday, January 8, 2021

homesickness setting in ...

It's getting on for a year since I was last in England - which is hard for all kinds of personal reasons to do with family and friends, but also when it comes to other patterns of touching base.  But look what Amazon can do for one!  Marmite, yes - and that's something, I know, that I can get in LA without much difficulty, in normal times.  But Waitrose's Duchy Oaten Biscuits!  Last week I scored some Nairn's oatcakes, too, also from Amazon ...

In other, and more seriously wonderful news, my father should have received his first vaccine jab this morning!  Assuming that happened without a hitch (and I'm sure he'd have told me if there was a problem - typically, he emailed me about something else, without mentioning his scheduled trip to the hospital in which I was born ...) - that will be the beginning of a huge, huge weight off my mind.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

dawn, one week into 2021

One week ago, it seemed as though we were turning the corner into a new decade - but the last - how long? - just over two days, or whenever we started watching the Georgia run-off - the last fifty hours has seemed like a month long, which must mean that 2021 has been going on for ever.  Or, to put it another way, if 2021 felt initially as though we were having a restart, a turn of the calendar page, yesterday was more like a dreadful culmination of the last four years.  13 more days ... And no, I'm not naive - these people are not going away after that, but ... 13 more days - maybe I'll try for another dawn image then ...


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

in case you need a soothing sight

... I give you Moth, licking a paw.  This was just before I moved from my study into Alice's - which is where the TV is located - saying - you know, you might want to turn the TV on - I think the Capitol's under siege (the TV manifestly hadn't been on, since the last thing that we ever wanted to listen to was That Man addressing his supporters and firing them up for their invasion).  And it's been hard budging one's attention from it all day - even though by now, one's hoping for - for what?  Instant impeachment?  I don't look forward to the next two weeks.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

foxy decoration, Epiphany, Twelfth Night

So... I have always thought that Twelfth Night was the same as Epiphany - that is, January 6th.  And that's the day (in my British traditional way) that I was brought up thinking that Christmas decorations are taken down.  But ... seemingly some people start counting nights on Christmas Day itself (which takes you to Jan 5th); some, the night after.  Logically, indeed, and counting on my fingers, Twelfth Night should be tonight.  But Foxy isn't coming off the mantelshelf till tomorrow; and the tree will come down then, too - though the farolitos may continue stretching down our garden path until Eldorado's prescribed day for the removal of lights, which is January 15th.


Monday, January 4, 2021

tree top. with more American Robins. And betulin.

There are many fewer robins on this tree, of course, than when I started wiggling around inside my thick jacket trying to find my iPhone - but this certainly gives the sense of clear cold wintry sky, and bare branches.  I didn't know until a couple of weeks ago - working on bark - that the white sheen on birch tree bark is caused by the presence of a substance called betulin - which makes the bark waterproof, and highly resistant to decay, and which has all kinds of potential medicinal uses - like decreasing the production of cholesterol, and helping the body regulate insulin production, and reducing the size of fatty deposits in blood vessels (so we should all be out there chewing birch bark?).  I've been wanting to show off my new-found knowledge of betulin ever since I learned the word - and wish, in retrospect, that I'd found a more interesting piece of bark to photograph.  I'll keep looking around us - there's none on our property ...


Sunday, January 3, 2021

the vegetable garden

You were wondering, I'm quite sure, how the hydroponic gardening is coming along.  Answer: I have harvested, so far, about four cilantro leaves, which were very pretty, though not nearly as strongly flavored as the ones I grew outside this summer.  The basil, though copious, is very very tiny still.  The mint, interestingly, looks the most promising and robust - the cilantro, for all its enthusiastic root system - shown here - is on the ominously spindly side.  As much as anything, they are a delight simply for the sense that one's growing something in the depth of winter.


Saturday, January 2, 2021


This year's entry for the "how many robins can one fit in a (heated) birdbath competition.  In the early morning, every robin in Eldorado seems to make a beeline for this collective experience (shortly after this, there was a huge Thud as one of the young ones - I think the one third from the right, here - dodged the dissuasive prayer flags and flew straight into the living room window, but after fifteen minutes of standing, a little stunned, on the ground, it flew off again).  

I still have problems thinking about American Robins as "robins" - they - Turdus migratorius - are, as their name indicates, actually a kind of thrush, with a russet, not a red, breast.  They are also so much larger than English robins, and - with respect to their feelings - much less pretty.  But perhaps we should be lucky that there are only fourteen or so (visible) here - according to the Cornell birds site, winter roosts can approach a quarter of a million, and they wouldn't all fit in the birdbath.

Friday, January 1, 2021

last year, unravelling


Tonight's sunset put on a far better show!  And here are the edges of the oldest prayer flags, shredding and separating in the wind ... my plans to replace them may get carried into action, but I seem to have bought a new set that a quite a bit larger than these ones (on the other hand, maybe the birds will register them?).  At the moment, we are beset by large quantities of robins: maybe twelve or fourteen at a time, in the early morning, trying to crowd into the birdbath (they let the bluebirds go first: at dawn, about six of them climb quickly out of the birdhouse, where they spend the night in, one imagines, a warm blue and beige feathery heap).