Sunday, December 30, 2012


acrylic on canvas
30" x 48"

New work I've been playing has morphed in various ways, including number of arms, wing size, color schemes, and a lot of messing around with drippy, watery paints. I'm not sure that I consider it done, but I think I'll let it rest for a while at least.

At one point, the canvas looked like this:

And way, way before that, it looked like this:

The original sketch painting was based off a photo from unsuccessful huckleberry picking years ago in Oregon. I could never get proportions and faces to look anything more than cartoonish, and once I had erased many things many, many times, I eventually lurched into more abstract worlds.

You never know how a painting will evolve (or I don't, anyway - which is possibly a problem, as well as an advantage).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Antlered Cat

"Merry Christmas.  Now get me out of these antlers."

Friday, December 21, 2012


Dug around in my closet yesterday and decided to renovate an old painting to add in shading. This led to lots of other changes.  None of it was a quick process, given that I'm still training my eyes to see the effect of light, and translate shape onto the canvas more effectively, but the changes in the overall impact of the painting ended up being substantial.

Bite Wounds, before and after changes.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Recent Work, "Sunned" and "Ophelia"

acrylic on canvas
16" x 20"

acrylic on canvas panel
12" x 24"

Monday, December 3, 2012

Penguin Love

Skate Park Penguin
Tiny graffiti at the Las Cruces skate park includes one penguin. I'm not sure if the artist was making a visual reference to DK penguin longboards, or maybe just thought, "hey, penguins are cute, and this skate park needs one right here."

In other random news, I learned a new meaning for an old word. The metal edging at the skate park is called "coping."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fort Selden

Old covered wagon with the ruins of Fort Selden behind it 

In the interest of doing something new - anything new - I played a little GPS roulette and ended up at Fort Selden in Radium Springs, NM last weekend.  It's a quiet place, and I was the only person in the small museum besides the ranger despite the fact that state monuments are free for New Mexico residents on Sundays.

From the museum, I learned that the fort housed infantry and cavalry, including Buffalo Soldiers; that the officers' wives often described the place as dusty and unattractive; that Douglas MacArthur, the WWII general, spent a couple of years at Fort Selden in his childhood and sported a longish blond hair that made me mistake him as a girl in the photo; that in the 25 years that Fort Selden was active (1865-1890), more soldiers were killed by fellow soldiers than with run-ins with Apaches in the area; and that the soldiers had a particularly monotonous diet, among other odds and ends.  The museum painted a fairly grim picture of boredom, dust and disease -- hardly a desert paradise.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Joy of an Overcast Day

View from Lover's Lane on the way to the Hacienda (visible far right) at dusk. 
Clouds all day here today, a rarity in the land of perpetual sunshine, and one worth celebrating given the wonder that they add to the sky.  My art groove remains semi-stalled, with limited writing and painting, but the sky would not let me neglect taking some moody autumn photos.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pictorial Weekend, Silver City, NM

Back door of A Space Gallery, and real sky
Silver City, NM
Covered Walkway and faux sky,
downtown Silver City

Virus Theater, Rocky Horror
Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House
Pinos Altos, NM
You can buy fun, but sometimes,
it's easier to rent. 

Sign at Western New Mexico University

Happy Stage, A Space Gallery,
Silver City, NM

Friday, October 19, 2012


Sunset at White Sands National Monument
Synchronicity in action: an old friend sent me a book called Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer's Odyssey to Navigate Life's Perils and Pitfalls, an absorbing read written by Zen teacher Norman Fischer; a week later, I found myself in the car with another old friend en route to White Sands listening to her recite Tennyson's Ulysses (the Roman name of Odysseus).

To have friends that read books, recite poetry, travel distances long and short on foot, by car, by boat and otherwise through time, space, intellect and emotion -- this is evidence of being favored by the gods, Greek or otherwise. Journeys epic and mundane are all about the company.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.  

--excerpt from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Ulysses 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

-- Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Reflecting Seattle Sculpture

Seattle skyline through sculpture

I like odd framing in photos, and a conveniently located sculpture offered that up: Seattle through sculpture.

What particularly interested me were the reflections of sky, clouds and skyline seen on the swirling sides of the sculpture.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Contrasting Views

We worked with charcoal last night in art class, and I continued with my ongoing problem with contrast.  I add in contrast - and then I smear it away, tone it down, erase it one way or another, whether with paint or charcoal. It seems a good metaphor, that I should be more bold instead of backing away.

Not a T-Rex
charcoal on paper
And no, by the way, the still life items on display did not include a T-Rex -- that's just how my drawing came out.  I think the skull was from a horse, although I forgot to ask.  

But my, my, what big teeth it has.  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Artful Dumpsters

Las Cruces has some fine looking dumpsters.

Robot or lighthouse? 

Toss No Mas!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Talk to the Hand

Talk to the Hand
Acrylic and Sharpie on paper
11 1/2' x 17 1/2'"

Talk to the Hand, a little goofy cartoon fun, with some '90s flashback slang. Originally, there was another half of this, a woman's face, but she didn't really go anywhere, so a little judicious folding and tearing led to the current size.

The F words seemed to work with the overall theme.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

For the Burn Pile

Yes, yes, I do know it's ugly.  But here is the good thing about taking a class: I know why it's ugly (at least in part).
Fugly Veggies with Apple
Oil pastels & pencil on paper
Composition failure: I was trying to go large with pumpkin (it was a small pumpkin, maybe 8 inch, so its relative height to the corn is more-or-less accurate), but somehow I didn't go quite large enough, so it's just floating *smack* in the middle.  Nothing quite anchors it to the edges of the drawing.  The lumpy little white squash, for instance, is more appealing in its corner as filling in the missing pieces gives the viewer something to do.  

Yes, that's supposed to be corn: I attempted drawing the corn at least 5 times, with lots of erasing ensuing.  What's the big deal, you say, it's just straight rows? Nope. Curved rows with all kinds of different shapes and colors, which was somehow made worse by the fact that the corn was tilted at an angle, and I was drawing the corn larger than life.  I don't know why drawing larger messed up my ability to see it, but it definitely did.  I was overwhelmed by details that didn't add up when I tried to connect them.  Eventually, I left the corn undrawn, and just went mad coloring with the pastels, which at least gave the idea of it, albeit a hideous one.  

Don't even get me started on the horrible stalks.  The corn was having a bad hair day.    

Did you really choose that background?: Umm, actually no.  I had turpentine on brush from smoothing out the pumpkin and it sloshed over into the straw-haired corn, and so I ended up just going with the odd orange. It doesn't work, and I don't like it, but I blame it on inhaling too many toxic fumes.  

Have you heard of contrast?: Heard of it, yes, but I clearly didn't apply it here.  Everything is lumped in the middle range, adding to that level of boredom. 

Rotating perspective aka Rotten Apple: That's a fold of tablecloth blocking the apple (yes, it's an apple -- trust me).  A fold only appears at the corner,  and the white squash on the other side is clearly seen from a different view.  Ugh.  

Pumpkin-y: Aren't pumpkins usually more uniform in color?  Yes, they are.  I just wanted to scribble with the pretty colors, so I did. And there is a mild attempt at working with light at the top, but its so mild it falls into the snoozer no-contrast look.  

In retrospect, I should have either avoided the corn completely, or only drawn the corn, since it was making me crazy.  I should have spent much, much more time drawing, and a lot less scribbling with pastels. More planning, more early sketches would have helped, and having some sort of plan when applying color would have been swell. 

On the other hand, some days, you just need to color like a cranky eight year old.  So here I am, tacking my masterpiece up on my virtual 'fridge.  We here in the land of Artful Mistakes believe in letting it all hang out.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Moon Gears

Moon Gears
ink and acrylic on paper
18" x 13"

More fun with abstracts, this one experimenting with acrylic on paper. Soothing, meditative process.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Art Update

I started an art class at the Las Cruces Museum of Art a couple of weeks ago, in an attempt to jump start my art life.  And my creative vibe is starting to come back -- last week, for the first time in ages, I fell into that right-brain zone, where time evaporated and I was simply absorbed in the process.
Go Fish
acrylic on canvas
16" x 20"

The progress in my drawing is modest thus far, but I expected that. Mastery is a long, slow process and I am far from the palace. I'm much more oriented to color than shape, so drawing is, so far, just less fun for me.  But the class is teaching me more about how to see, which is really the point.

While the in-class drawings are clearly strictly practice, they have motivated me to finally return to my painting easel.  Here are some updates on what I've been working on there over the last few months. 

Puzzle Glass
acrylic on canvas
12" x 12"
Go Fish has gone through many iterations, but now finally feels like it has some definition. A murk of seaweed had taken over at one point, which I ditched last night, along with performing a major renovation on the fish himself.  I may still adjust a few balances, but he is on track at last.

Starch Factory, Caribou, ME, 1940
acrylic on canvas
16" x 20"
Puzzle Glass is an old painting from years ago that started out as an homage to my Great Aunt Jeanne and her abstract art. 

I futzed around with it for a while last night, changing some colors, emphasizing some lines, and find I like it much better now. Not having it have to look like anything was a delicious relief.  

Starch Factory was an attempt to make something as a wedding gift that I abandoned, as it never came close to being what I envisioned (I got them something from the registry instead); I may return to it when my skills are more up to the task, but for now, it's shelved.  

The painting was a useful learning process.  I discovered straight lines are a significant challenge and that I really don't find buildings particularly interesting, among other things.  

I do like the shadow perspective on the roof line on the right -- I think that came out well.  

Shadows Bright as Glass

"Nothing, however, remains fixed. Everything is local and always moving.  The whereabouts of the self shift from lobe to lobe, hemisphere to hemisphere; it 'wanders on,' fragile and fitful, the sum of more possibilities than there are stars in the heavens. We are, all of us, an amalgam of associations--what we see and hear, smell, touch and taste--and the memories and emotions they conjure. Our ability to understand the world is limited by our very humanness. We are fragments, our sensation mere splinters of reality. Like standing outside one's home at night and peering through the window, all that we see of the world is what passes briefly into the light of that small frame. The rest remains in shadow."

Amy Ellis Nutt, from Shadows Bright as Glass: The Remarkable Story of One Mans' Journey from Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dried Up

For swaths of August, I felt like this:

Lake La Mesa, June 12, 2012

All the pieces were in place: the dock, the canoe, the bowl of dirt to hold the water for the lake; and for me, the time and space set up with an easel, paints, a computer, pen, paper, a guitar.

But the underground springs that fed us were dried up.

For the lake, the connection was clear: the Rio Grande River that fed the aquifer, the mighty Rio Grande, was dry, its water held up behind a dam further upstream.  As a result, farmers instead irrigated by pumping from the ground, and so the local water table fell even further. For the first time in the 30 years the owners have had this property, the lake completely disappeared.

For me, the strangling of the hidden spring that feeds my creativity remained less obvious. 

I can tell you that the Rio Grande was flowing in July and August, and so now the lake looks like this:

Lake La Mesa, Sept. 21, 2012
Sometimes you simply have to trust in time and the ebb and flow of nature.  The drought is harsh, but somewhere underneath the desiccated mud and plants, the water still rolls fast and deep.   

Vocal Health and Safety for Female Voice Tour Guides

One hot chick
  1. Stay hydrated! 
A Hydra is a water serpent with many heads, each of which, if cut off, grows. So remember, if one voice is chopped off, two more can take her place. Hercules (so like a man) killed a Hydra by cauterizing the necks as he cut off the heads, burning the witches (how unoriginal), but the genus Hydra maintains and populates, presenting vocal opportunity and many-sided problems for the old boys. 
To maintain hydration, drink plenty of non-caffeinated beverages, and say juicy words like fennel and ferment to keep vocal chords lubricated. If you clear your throat often you may be dehydrated, un-watered, cauterized, or overfull and not knowing where to begin.  Toast a Hydra, start from the center, and speak. 
Caution: Do not drink while speaking, as during deep delving diving, this can lead to drowning -- fear-, exclusion-, and/or love-based. See Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.  Repetitive clearing may also lead to a sore throat, as stuck words fester and clog like Samson’s hair in the shower drain. Drink water, and then speak. 

  1. Avoid Drinking the Wrong Liquids!
Try not to drink acidic juices (apple-flavored greed, sour grapes, patriarchal orange, etc.), milk (excepting mother’s or wet nurse) or other dairy products before giving tours. These liquids coat the vocal chords and muffle sound, which may cause breaks in speech or from reality and the feeling of needing to clear your throat but, again, being unable to speak. 
If you do consume these items, try drinking water from female fountains to thin the stickiness of mucus. Some anecdotal evidence also suggests that gargling with semen may provide occasional symptomatic relief, as physical contact may reduce the explanatory vocal requirements of the tour, but this remains a personal choice for each guide. 

  1. Use good vocal production! 
Enunciate words at the front of your mouth and speak in a comfortable range, neither too high or too low.  Don’t whisper. Whispering stresses your vocal chords and life experience because you have no support. Mumbling is only advisable when plotting an overthrow. 
On average, people use a lower speaking range than is healthiest for them, and thereby fail to ascend to more satisfying, frustrating and complicated realms. If the area above your vocal box (larynx) feels like you’ve been pressing down on it at the end of the day, you are probably talking too long about too little. Try loosening up your need for societal approval, and speaking in your natural range. 
  1. Use your diaphragm for good projection! 
The diaphragm is also a thin muscle that runs horizontally underneath our lungs which we can control for good breath support.  Somehow as we grow up our innate sense of breathing and diaphragmatic support gets fouled up when we find ourselves in situations where we need to project who we really are.  Yelling and straining are bad for the long term health of our vocal chords, resulting in labeling of angry bitch and hysterical feminist.  Enunciate with passion and clarity, and remember to breathe from your belly, the center from which you began, embryonic.   

Remember, squashed language is harmful to the environment. 
Please discard antiquated language in the dictionaries provided.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Van Patten Mountain Camp

Remains of an old hotel, Dripping Springs, NM. 

A sometimes-dirt road and a short hike on a windy day led me to 6000 feet above sea level at Dripping Springs Nature Area.  There, you can see the ruins of an old hotel, Van Patten Mountain Camp and, a bit further up the hill, Dr. Boyd's tuberculosis sanatorium.

The spring does still drip when there has been a bit of rain.

Mountains jut up in almost every direction as the area is a volcanic cauldron.

I saw almost no one on the trail. Rumors hold that ghosts haunt the area -- easy to imagine.  The ranger mentioned that some pumas may be living in a cave up that way. I ran into neither.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Wild Life of Wildlife

A number of type-A city people have asked, since I moved to rural New Mexico, well, just what do you do out there?

While I am writing, both creatively and finishing an 80-page report for a client, and painting, and fixing and cleaning and watering and mowing and watering some more, and exploring (and getting lost), a fair amount of time and mental energy has centered on critter encounters. 

Since arriving in New Mexico, I have met:

    Coyote at dusk
  • coyotes eyeing me at dusk who finally decided I was too big to be prey (I stood up very straight), but did try to lure away my dog Rita; 
  • snorting javelinas charging by after the dogs while I was out for a run; 
  • bats circling above my bed at 3am that I proceeded to catch in a fishing net and escort outside, leading to a massive caulking event of any and all cracks inside the house;
  • a 5- or 6- foot rattlesnake that was more than a little irritated when I turned on the water faucet right next to him to water some trees -- we were both surprised by the other's appearance; I had to hose him down to get him to move away from the faucet so I could turn the water off; 
  • crickets that like to nestle in the skylight so that their shrill voices will echo and carry even farther; alarmingly speedy house spiders; two varieties of roaches; innumerable flies; lumbering mosquitoes laden down with my blood; and, 
  • a tarantula out for a sunset stroll.  
I moved to 106 desert acres. This crowd of critters is standard fare for this part of New Mexico. In the lively world out there, it's not all nose-twitching bunnies and hopping toads, although plenty of those frolic through the sand too.

By far the most dangerous predator on my land, however, is me.  

Armed with eco-friendly peppermint bug spray, flyswatters, fishing nets, a loud yell, and (unused) baseball bats, I am somewhat more imposing to the animal kingdom than my small stature might otherwise suggest to humans.

More to the point, however, as caretaker of the property, I also have access to the three guns that come with the land. With that, suddenly the humans are wary too.

With a rattlesnake or black widow bite, you have a couple of hours where, if you seek treatment, you'll likely be fine. Bats are freaky swooping overhead, but not lethal. Tarantulas can kill mice, but not people.

A shotgun blast can kill a person from across the room in a matter of seconds with one pull of a trigger finger (that gun balanced in the clasp of an evolutionarily-advanced opposable thumb).

Animals do kill their own kind, often to remove competition for a mate or resources for food. Chimpanzees, for instance, murder to expand territory. It's not sunshine and rainbows in the animal kingdom with everyone holding paws and singing in 5-part harmony.

But Homo sapiens take killing to a whole new level. Combining their big brains and big guns, unmitigated rage or righteousness or misfiring neurochemistry or greed or panic or pathological hatred or some combinations thereof, we can and do destroy to a terrifyingly extreme degree.

I saw that impressive rattlesnake again yesterday, slithering near the old compost bin by the other house where I suspect he lives.  

I still scan the ceiling for bats if I wake up abruptly in the middle of the night. After five non-violent bat removals, I'm still a little jumpy, even though, yes, I know, they are harmless except for the tiny percentage that is rabid.

My arachnophobia, however, appears to be fading. Now when I go in the garage, while I look for the tell-tale sturdy webs of black widows, and check before putting my hand anywhere where I can't see all of the area, from garage handles to boxes, I don't think much about my eight-legged friends. 

When I saw the tarantula outside that a month ago would have made me shriek, I only paused to observe.  When it didn't move in any aggressive way, I opted to take its picture and move on.

My first thought: I'm bigger; I could take him out if I had to.

Living in the rural southwest, I am up closer against my own survival instinct, and the level of ruthlessness I can live with in acting on that. 

The last bat I relocated, found clinging to a window screen, clearly exhausted, just wanted to be outside again.  I removed the screen, carried it away from the house and shook him out, with stern words for him to tell his buddies to stay outside. I am territorial. Just ask the roaches (now absent from the kitchen).  

That first meeting with the rattlesnake sent my heart rate up, and left me babbling at "Mr. Snakey." Now I am more likely to wear shoes sturdier than flip-flops now when walking the land, but through that exchange, I also realized he mostly just wanted to be left alone. His rattle made a lot of big noise to say, "back off!"

Living on my own, I don't have nearly as much luxury for dissolving into complete hysterics (although friends who have listened to me rant on the phone about bats and snakes may feel otherwise). In the moment, however, with a flapping bat or rattling snake, I best figure out a way right-quick way to manage critter relationships myself. The water hose worked fine with the rattler.  

Kind neighbors have helped when, for instance, I got the tractor stuck in the sand. I joined the search when one of their dogs went on walkabout. We have community, but largely, independence is the way here on the ranch. Each individual finds different balances between survival and cruelty, risk and security, paranoia and foolhardy obliviousness.   

If his Snakiness makes still another appearance, I could call the neighbor that shoots snakes, but more likely, I'd call the other neighbor that relocates them instead, or most likely, I'll do as I did yesterday and simply steer clear and let him slither on his way.  We have a lot of space here to share. 

I've killed a lot of crickets, mosquitoes, house spiders, roaches, gnats, flies, ticks, and a few odd unspecified creepy transparent multi-legged insect of unknown variety. Swatting and swearing, I've lectured the cats on their pathetic hunting expertise. 

The cats yawn and purr, roll over in the sun, dreaming of delicately chewing the heads off of mice and grounding swooping swallows.  

A lot of people have asked me, aren't you scared out there?  And the answer is yes, sometimes I am.  

And sometimes I'm exhilarated by the quiet and the beauty of the land, grateful for the opportunity I have to see clouds roll across the sky for the monsoon season.  

I do know where the ammunition is stored if one day I find a rattlesnake curled up in the Laz-Z-Boy in my living room.   

For good reason though, I am most scared of the violence of my own species.

Petting Lucky at the ranch shortly before rain rolled through
Photo credit: John W. Hicks

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ambling the Downtown Art Ramble

Mosaic walkway, downtown mall
I mustered for an evening off the ranch on Friday, heading into Las Cruces for the Downtown Art Ramble.

As the name implies, the Ramble is an art walk held the first Friday of every month from 5-7pm.  A surprising number of people were out checking out paintings, photography and sculpture at participating galleries.

The Museum of Art featured three exhibitions. I particularly enjoyed Chicanismo by Gabriel Perez -- tremendous use of color in his abstracts. Rumor (or the front desk, actually) has it that the museum will have more adult classes in the fall, so I may be spending more time there.
MVS Studios, location of the silent auction
benefiting The Ink. 

The portraits of women by Michael Ponce at the Branigan Cultural Center were gorgeous and full of personality, clean lines and insight, and were my preference over his skull and inkwell Shakespearean-ish stilllifes.

MVS Studios held a silent auction to benefit The Ink, the local art newspaper, which based off the crowds of people happily writing in bids on lovely works, should have pulled in a healthy sum. The band playing outside helped lure in passersby.

Section at COAS Books
Downtown also sports a great bookstore, COAS Books, I was pleased to discover. It has a little bit of everything, and a lot of fiction -- fine news, since I am dabbling in creative writing again.

Revitalization is still in process downtown with construction still underway on parts of Main Street and some doors shuttered.  But it was lovely to see so many people out oohing and ahhing at art, rambling and ambling.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sledding, Shifting Sands: White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument, view from top of a dune
If you stand stock-still at the top of a gypsum sand dune in the two hundred and seventy-five miles that make up the White Sands National Monument, and stay there for a year, your bleached bones could move, depending on the location and type of the dune within the park, up to thirty-five feet from where you succumbed to the heat.

The gypsum sand will stay cool to the touch, however, so if you choose, as many do, to instead buy a round plastic sled at the gift store and spend a day sledding in sand, you'll likely have more fun.

A few days ago, I spent the day wandering in the mid-afternoon blaze and then returned, post-hydrating, for the cooler sunset ranger walk to hear more about the gorgeous, alien landscape.  

Toppled yucca plant
Thanks to Ranger Carmen, on our barefoot stroll through the dunes I learned that yucca plants adjusted to the dune movement by getting taller and taller faster; a soaptree yucca that looks tiny above ground can have 30 feet of plant underneath it, evidence of a growth spurt of up to 12 feet a year that keeps it from being swallowed up by dune. As the dune moves on and exposes it, the yucca will topple over, but even then, undaunted, it will adjust, rearrange itself, and keep living.  

The beginning of sunset.  Part of a sumac pedestal
to the right. 
Desert survival is like that: slow down, speed up, adjust, move on, adapt. 

The sumac adapted by holding onto the dune as it moves through, creating rock-like pedestals of roots and sand that serve as condo homes for the many creatures that burrow into it.  During monsoon season, the sumac pedestals become islands, with prey and predator seeking higher ground during the floods.

Don't let the sand fool you. Dig anywhere in the park, and you will find water, lots of it, underneath. The cottonwood trees grow by the largest caches, something the coyotes figured out when they moved into the area. They dig for their water by those trees, creating nice attractive pools to lure prey.

The kangaroo rat will not be lounging by those pools; they are so adapted to the desert that they do not drink water. They get all the moisture they need from the food they eat.

Pale lizard
Long shadows in waves of sand.
Desert creatures in White Sands are slowly getting paler, natural selection at work; blending in with the sand leaves them less obvious to predators, giving them more time to procreate. Lizards that are dark brown only a few miles away are white, some with blue markings that further allow them to disappear into the sand and brush.

It is the sand itself, the quantity and quality of it, that leaves you stunned though.  High winds periodically remove all the footprints, sweep the house clean. Some sandstorms are so massive they can be seen from space. Delicate gypsum, softer than a human fingernail, breaks down into the softest sand, providing a canvas for creatures to decorate as they amble or scurry, from the crazy circling prints of the darkling beetles (aka stink bugs), the waggling feet of lizards, to the barefoot tromping of groups following a ranger.

Just watch out for missiles. Periodically, White Sands National Monument is closed to the public when the missile range next door runs drills. No matter how fast your sled ride careens down a dune, you're unlikely to outpace an errant missile.
Sand and footprints in hot midday sun. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

La Mesa Living

My new home
I'm a week into my new life in La Mesa, New Mexico, and loving it.

As with any relationship, building a true understanding of the 106 acres of the property will take time.

I've run the perimeter in the cooler morning air, wandered the lane of pecan trees, explored the shrinking lake, and followed the path poetically named Lovers Lane from my adobe house to the older white house on the property, but I still sometimes get turned around.

The Organ and Franklin mountains provide some guidance, but with the fire burning in the Gila National Forest, sometime the smoke shrouds them from view.  On the day I was up on the roof helping the owner fix the swamp cooler and repair some stucco cracks, we could smell the acrid odor of the fire despite its distance-- the largest fire in New Mexico history is busy rearranging the terrain according to her new rules.

Although I've heard tale of the rattlesnakes and javelinas on the property, and seen the water bowl the javelinas opted to toss over one evening, I've yet to those local residents. But the hummingbirds, swallows, doves, quail, starlings, bats, lizards, crickets, mellow bees, less mellow wasps, and spiders galore have all made appearances.
One of the black widows.
 Sure, she doesn't look
like much in a specimen

On Tuesday, the curator of the NMSU Arthropod Collection stopped by and removed two black widow spiders from the garage (one a big, strapping girl), along with a few other spiders. The black widows will now begin their life of fame as they tour through in classrooms -- and I will be less jumpy in the garage eyeing every black dot I see.

Rita and Lucky, the ranch dogs, serve as wagging guides across the terrain and happily, have yet to find the bird (a sandpiper, perhaps?) nesting on the front lawn. Turtles have wandered up to the back door, and so I give them a bit of a bath with the hose -- it's a tough drought in New Mexico, and even sturdy desert animals are beginning to feel it.

I am just beginning to ease into my role as caretaker of the land, flora and fauna. Watering the pecan, mulberry and plum trees, playing with the sprinklers and tending to the lilies and pots of roses and sedum, refilling the hummingbird feeders and the water tub for the bees, keeping an eye peeled for thirsty turtles and, of course, giving dinner to the pups and my aged, well-traveled, purring felines -- all of this provides a level of peace and purpose sorely lacking in my cubicle dwelling days in Takoma Park, no matter how green the running path by Sligo Creek.

The homesteader farmer in me thrills with my new knowledge on how to drive the Kubota tractor to mow the tall weeds by the hacienda. And the remaining urbanite in me rejoices in the speedy Internet that will continue to allow me to work as a writer and connect out in the world.

I packed up my home and life in the Washington, DC area with the idea of changing my life. And while I fully understand that the external doesn't change the internal (the world, however different looking, is still filtered through my skewed subjective view), I do feel as if all the newness and change has woken up my senses, given my eyes and ears and nose and hands something new to feast upon.

My photography already reflects new light and obviously new subjects. My, as yet, brief attempts at painting here have suggested that I best learn to paint faster; 2% humidity dries acrylics up mightily fast, no matter how much medium I stir in. I expect deeper changes in my art and writing to seep in more gradually as I settle into my new home and explore the surrounding areas.

I'm not clear how my New Mexico love affair will develop; as with all love affairs, there are no guarantees. I do know that on this sunny Thursday, I'm enjoying the rush and blush of infatuation and drinking in the joy.