Friday, December 31, 2021

and the year slumps slowly off

usually, I manage an end-of-the year sunset; a golden celebration of the sun sinking down on another year.  Today - that tiny, tiny slice of light near the horizon is the closest that I can manage - plus a few stray lighter clouds that must be catching some reflection, somewhere.  But somehow this greyness is appropriate for another year that's ending in yet more uncertainty over covid cases (yes, I know, this time last year we hadn't yet been vaccinated, let alone twice, let alone boosted) - but, still.  Like the rest of the world, I so want this to be done.  Happy New Year, everyone - and let's hope for a wonderful, and revived and reviving, 2022.


Thursday, December 30, 2021

heat lamps

Ten days or so ago, when we ate outside in Santa Fe (at La Boca), we nearly froze to shivering icy pieces: the heat lamps were running out of fuel (on a Sunday) - or that was their explanation, anyway.  Tonight, a far better experience - almost opposite - at Horno.  This was also some of the very, very best food that we've eaten in Santa Fe in an age.  I would order their miso grilled vegetables (which admittedly doesn't sound like a knock-over exciting dish) again and again and again.  And we were, more or less, warm.  We are cautious people ... and were indeed the only ones eating outside ... and various people paused to remark on how brave we were.  (Snow forecast for tomorrow).  But it was great!

And there was history involved ... Alice realized that this is where Josie's restaurant was, before it moved further up E. Marcy Street, before that, in turn, became a catering business - the owners, Josie and Ray Gallegos, shut up shop only last year, after 54 years making New Mexican food.  I only knew the restaurant as La Trattoria, and then as Il Piatto - but Alice once again claimed her long, long-standing roots in Santa Fe by recognizing the spot.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

late December evening walk

This morning's sprinkle of snow has by now just about melted - at our elevation, anyway; the mountains still look wonderful.  But there are still plenty of dark clouds - so a spectacular sunset, and even more spectacular golden light, with our backs to the sun.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021


A wonderful outing today to the Rugman of Santa Fe - an establishment calculated to induce rug lust.  No, we didn't purchase the top one, which is meant to hang on a wall, and - gorgeous though it is - would undoubtedly overwhelm any space that we were ever likely to live in.  But we wanted a new rug for the front hall back in Los Angeles - an awkward and atypical shape - and luckily, we think that the piece that Alice is inspecting here will fit, and will cover up all the tile discoloration left by our predecessors' rug backing.  It's an interesting rug, but won't overwhelm - it's being shipped, so watch out for the in situ, installation celebration.

And Gramsci and I absolutely love my Christmas present from Alice ... it suits him perfectly (and makes my study look pretty amazing, too).


Monday, December 27, 2021

new book time!

One of the very best things about co-editing a book series - in this case, CUP's Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth Century Literature and Culture, which I co-edit with Clare Pettitt - is seeing books by very dear friends make it all the way through the grueling process of vetting and revising and copyediting (let alone the writing of them in the first place) - and then finding them drop out of brown cardboard packaging looking wonderful.  I know that this doesn't just look magnificent, though: it's a fascinating, original, compelling read - after all, I had the pleasure of doing the so-called final "clearance read" before it went to press.  Sending my very warmest congratulations to Dennis! 


Sunday, December 26, 2021

a puzzle (and another wonderful sunset)

So why is sign at the bottom of our road lying unhappily on its side in the ditch?  No obvious explanation ... though there are scrape marks on either side of it, like tire skid marks without any treads visible, and not, in any case, aligning.  And there was no car or trick in sight.  Moreover, this happened during the day - it wasn't like this when we were out for a walk fairly early this morning - and I'm sure that I would have heard anything cataclysmic.  Strange.

In the meantime, yet another spectacular sunset tonight.


Saturday, December 25, 2021

what cats do at Christmas

- watch prayer flags (aka bird scarers, to stop them flying into windows) blowing in the wind - interspersed with watching actual birds;

- sleep in a bowl, in faint sunshine;

- discipline an adolescent kitten;

- make a heart warming show of bonding (for thirty seconds) over a toy mouse.

It's a lot less work being a cat than a human.


Friday, December 24, 2021

a yellow dawn and a double rainbow

It's been wet wet wet almost all of today: luckily, as the sun rose, and a preliminary shower passed over making everything smell wonderful, we realized that we could make a quickish walk before anything worse than a very thin drizzle set in (this is not a complaint, exactly - New Mexico needs moisture, though snow would have been prettier.

Of course, I want to write all possible symbolism into the rainbow - I've found it hard rousing my spirits with Covid happening all around ...


Thursday, December 23, 2021

dawn, minutes apart

... and then, a few minutes later, the sky was pale pink and grey (the same kind of colors as Moth's fur, really), and then turned paler grey and clear blue for the rest of the day, with darker stripes of thick grey and indigo towards sunset.  However did Ruskin manage to write about skies so vividly and bring them into one's mind's eye?  I can't imagine what he'd have come up with faced with the extravagant varieties that we get in New Mexico.


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

vapor trail

... on our arrival back from dinner tonight: the moon just rising.  And yes, we do have night skies that are as full of stars as that.

I won't be causing any vapor trails in early January: our MLA panel turned virtual today (which means I'll be Zoom-delivering my paper at a rather unthinkable 5.30 a.m., PT.  Apart from the panel itself, I have no regrets about missing out on MLA (apart from various plans to see friends).  But on the other hand, I had a full list of paintings that I wanted to see at the Smithsonian, etc - and now Planning Ahead for Research has turned into this impossible exercise.


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

an outdoors Christmas tree

And why is our Christmas tree on the table outside, under the portales?  That's a question that you might want to ask young Tony Gramsci, don't you think?  After various assaults from him - during which time he was reprimanded for trying to eat it, and then jumping down, caught his (slightly defective) back leg in the stand - it was removed, both for his safety and its own.  In fact, it looks rather good there, covered in red cardinals.  Last time (back in the days when Moth and Walter Gomez were inquisitive adolescents) that we had it outside, real, live, feathery birds came and lodged in it to keep warm, so we (especially the cats) are looking forward to a repeat performance.


Monday, December 20, 2021

dawn, with moon

We were out walking very early this morning, for various reasons - and it was very cold, but also extraordinarily clear and luminous as the sun came up, and with the moon still in the sky.  It's a bit lop-sided by now, but that's to be expected.  Honestly, I think every season in New Mexico is my favorite (except, perhaps, when it's grey in March, and the wind is blowing sideways).

This picture would be properly aligned if Gramsci hadn't irredeemably sat on the keyboard.



Sunday, December 19, 2021

plaza lights

To be honest, I found the lights on Santa Fe's Plaza this year a bit too confusingly much - lots and lots of different colors, but haphazardly so.  I much preferred the pure white lights arching in the trees, like a big vaulted colonnade, in front of the State Capitol, and will try and get a picture of them at some point.  However - one tree was magnificently full of green, and that was worth walking through the Plaza to see it.

A word of warning to locals ... we met some friends for dinner at La Boca, having been assured that yes! we could be outdoors, and yes! they had heat lamps.  BUT ... it seems that their propane delivery for these heat lamps happens on a Tuesday.  It's now Sunday, and they either had run out, or were running out.  Our feet turned into little blocks of ice, and we ended up getting most of our meal to go (current temperature 27 "feels like 18."  Back home, I'm now drinking some local apple brandy ...


Saturday, December 18, 2021

full moon at sunset


The colors this evening - huge silver moon rising, while everything was still soaking in the last rays of a golden sunset - were pretty improbable: this looks as though it's been filched from a George Innes painting, although he didn't have any 25 MPH signs to include.  Certainly, though, it could make one believe in the mystical powers of light (as well as making one wonder why one hadn't brought one's gloves.  The cold comes on so quickly after sundown.


Friday, December 17, 2021

All Aboard Earth mural

This mural, on the side of the building at 333 W. Cordova (that is, the side of Clafoutis bakery), is about a year old - I remember seeing a group of young people painting it this time last year, and wondering if they were safe, in such proximity ... even as I admired its vibrancy.  All About Earth is a Santa Fe multimedia environmental education collective, and this is an image of a Universal Mother - it's actually called All Life is Sacred, or The Great Coming Together, which sounds suspiciously like an anti-abortion piece, but I genuinely don't think it is - it was painted with the idea of offering something uplifting during the pandemic, at a time when we were all feeling much more separated and disconnected than we wanted to be.  The "universal mother" in the center is an homage to the Tewa people, on whose lands we are; the animals include a buffalo, a deer, a snake, a roadrunner, and a giraffe (I do not know why a giraffe - why not a bobcat??) and there are a number of healing plants.  Please, please don't let us be going down the isolation route again - we just received an email from the university's Chief Medical Officer saying thay they'd let us know by the end of next week if it would be an online start to the semester or not ...

Thursday, December 16, 2021

upside down, again

It really is a good thing that Gramsci doesn't know that he's ridiculous.  I've never known a cat who likes to be upside down and stretching so much - I still hypothesise that it's something to do with his slightly wonky back legs - but it makes him extra-adorable. 


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

a cold morning

This image somehow fails to capture how spectacular this was: fresh snow on the ground (except where it had blown right off); fresh snow on the Jemez, with pink clouds above tinting the snow itself; bare branches waving around in the strong wind.  At dawn, the winds were even more powerful, and I saw a lone, large tumbleweed barreling its way up our driveway.  I know - it's another day when all I seem to offer is a weather report, but other than that I've largely spent my time reading about bark in nineteenth-century drawing manuals that tell one how best to represent trees, or about Invasive Aliens, in Dan Eatherley's very readable book of the same name - which tells one all about everything that has arrived in England from prehistoric times onwards, and that has changed the country's ecology and appearance (and that's very sensitive to the language of "alien" and "native," which will be important to my own chapter on dandelions and, yes (in a kind of lengthy aside) tumbleweed.


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

last summer's sunflowers

...with some weather streaming in over the Jemez.  Indeed, we've had rain this evening (ok, I know - nothing to what's been falling in LA - there's something strangely voyeuristic in looking at one's own back yard on a Ring camera to see quite how wet it is, and checking that the soil on the hill is still where we left it) - rain that will doubtless have rendered both seed heads and the surrounding land, as seen from our back yard here, a little less dessicated.


Monday, December 13, 2021

wintry sky

It's unclear whether any of the precipitation that's bearing down on Los Angeles tonight will make its way over to New Mexico by the middle of the week - but the sky this evening was certainly looking impressively wintry.  


Sunday, December 12, 2021

he's growing

When I look back at those Cute Kitten pictures - taken four and a half or five months ago - in the very same Kitty Palace - this little monster is barely recognizable: so small, so adorable.  Now he's a very adorable adolescent, pretending to be a Big Fierce Cat.

One of Gramsci's many virtues is that he's utterly unlike any other cat whom we've ever lived with - either of us.  He's very much his own self.  As yet, he's not yet living up to the intellectual potential of his name, but I'm sure there's time.  Given the nature of his attempts to "play" with Moth - leaping onto her, and getting bucked off - and his obsession with a toy stuffed buffalo, his future probably lies in the rodeo arena.  Or maybe a pin-up star.


Saturday, December 11, 2021

we hope it will go better..

These two sat next to each other in the back of the car for two days, as good as gold - in two separate carriers.  Because this house is so much smaller than the one in LA, it seemed like an idea opportunity to up our attempts at integration.  It's been going a little bit better than this action shot suggests - Moth is very good at ignoring little Gramsci - but from time to time, he succeeds in provoking her beyond her reserves of patience.  We're working at it.  


Friday, December 10, 2021

fully packed

Here they are - side by side - and after an hour of Gramsci-yowling in the car (during which time Mothy was supportive, I'd say) - they were quiet all the way to La Posada, in Winslow, and are now - well, free-range, until we put Gramsci away for the night in a feline equivalent of a man hut.  It took a while to get off - we went to put my car in the garage, and found it emitting all kinds of ominous warning lights and sounds, so that will be a problem to be dealt with on return ... but not for now.  It's the holidays!


Thursday, December 9, 2021

camellias in the rain

... from our back steps this morning.  The camellias are in particularly fine bloom; but more exciting still is the fact that it's been raining hard - not crazy, is-the-hill-going-to-crumble-away rain, but a good soaking.  Last night, just before dark (i.e. when the birds weren't looking), I went and strewed handfuls of California poppy seed and wildflower seed everywhere, in the hope that at least some of it will germinate and flourish - we're due to get more rain next week, so the conditions should be propitious ...


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

deck the halls ...

Down on Griffith Park Boulevard, this is the house that had the elaborate Hallowe'en skeleton party going on: their holiday decorations are, by contrast, extraordinarily decorous.  They seem to have imported a lot of fake Christmas trees that look very much as though they are real ones, planted ... and then the red and silver baubles.  Very tasteful (despite the fact that even after all these years, I can't quite get used to Christmas decorations in a warm climate ...).


Tuesday, December 7, 2021


It's so good to see the little monster again!  I have been up for 26 hours, so that's quite enough ... (especially the one spent on the tarmac at LAX while they evacuated the international terminal and exterminated a suspicious package) ...


Monday, December 6, 2021

I normally love St Pancras, but ...

Choosing a Covid testing center at St Pancras seemed like a great idea: within walking distance of the place where I was meeting a friend for lunch; compatible with VeriFLY, the app that makes checking in much easier, because it stores all one's vaccination and test details - and so on.  I had a 12 noon appointment, and had registered all my details in advance, and was there at 11.40, to be on the safe side ... Here's part of the line.  The line, and general air of resigned urgency, was so notable that it - yes, this very line - even made the New York Times today.  It took me an hour and a half to be seen and swabbed - that was the end of my hopes for lunch - and then they had to run after me, because they'd made a mistake and given me a PCR test and not an antigen one - so I had to be swabbed all over again.  Somehow the architecture seemed ironic, though I can't work out why.

At least I could go and buy my father some Christmas cards at the British Library, since he'd forgotten to get any ... whether or not he remembers to write them may be another matter ...

(oh, and mercifully, the test came back negative, in an impressive 1 hr 15 minutes).


Sunday, December 5, 2021


Yes, I know it's usually lichen ... but here's some moss.  I'm following my own maxim of looking carefully at what I take for granted - or rather, what I don't even notice.  The moss in Hillside has been a particularly bright spongey green this week, especially today, after lots of rain.  I think it would be hard to overlook.  But if I hadn't read Robin Kimmerer's Gathering Moss, I don't know that I'd have been so alert to the sporangia and seta - the spore-bearing stalks - sticking out from the surface.  And I'll add what Kimmerer said in an interview with Guardian last year: she was talking specifically in relation to pandemic times, but I'll take it as a general principle, right now: “This is a time to take a lesson from mosses ... of being small, of giving more than you take, of working with natural law, sticking together. All the ways that they live I just feel are really poignant teachings for us right now.”  (Guardian 23 May 2020).


Saturday, December 4, 2021

party time!

It was, indeed, time for a celebratory party!  Here's Ray, giving a little speech of gratitude to the assembled company, and here's a sort-of official portrait.

Of course, I wish that I had taken many, many more photos - but I was busy heating food in the oven and letting people in the front door and sociably circulating and opening champagne bottles - that kind of thing.  It looks as though all 20 or so of us ended up in the kitchen - not quite true, but that always seems to be true of any party that I'm a part of.

Two cousins; two neighbors;

the most sociable scene I seemed to have captured;

one cousin; one neighbor;
and my father, again: not bad for 98!!


Friday, December 3, 2021

largely aqueous

The morning began grey and weirdly warm in Bournemouth - after yesterday's bone-chilling wind - and this brought out the surfers (some more ambitious, more skilled, than others - and the waves were bigger on one side of the pier than the other).

There's the pier, down below ... this is to wish all who celebrate, a Happy Hanukkah.

Then up to London, and Tate Modern, to see the Anicka Yi "In Love With the World" installation in the Turbine Hall - wonderful, jellyfish like shapes floating up and down (although the smell accompaniments are not exactly perceptible with masks on ...)

and the Lubaina Himid show - which grew on me, considerably - and I think that's sea out of the window: there was a lot of Middle Passage inflected water quietly present in almost every piece.  And note the bird, here.  This is part of her "What Happens Next" series - her most recent work - although is atypical in that most take men, not women as their subjects.  They're all gently disquieting, with eyes that only look sideways, and refuse to make contact with other eyes (including those belonging to the spectator): maybe rather too heavily inflected with De Chirico.

And then outside, the Thames was at its shining best.