Where do we go from here?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Frosty Paws

So, here I am, sitting in the room we call "the office" since it is where our desks, file cabinets, supplies, computer/printer and so forth are located, trying to keep the circulation going in my fingers by typing.  The circulation is imperiled by the fact that when I woke up this morning I discovered that the furnace was not working.  At all. We don't keep heat on at night, as we sleep in flannel, down, quilts, and cats, and rarely need any extra heat. But as soon as I get up into the icy winter house, I turn the heat on.  Our highest setting at any time of day is 69, once in a great while 70.  This morning when I turned the thermostat up to 68, nothing happened.  And it still isn't happening.  It's 33 degrees outside, and it sure feels a lot like that in here, despite the space heaters I have going in this room and the kitchen.  I've closed these two rooms off to the rest of the house, and from time to time I go turn on the oven for an extra little blast of warmth.  We called the company that services our heater and swamp cooler as soon as we could, and supposedly at some yet-undisclosed time today a technician will show up to see what's going on and presumably fix it.  This happened several weeks ago, on one of the only cold days in November, and THAT technician seemed quite vague and unsure of his fix. It's a quite new furnace, and this is a mystifying problem.  I don't want to build a fire in the fireplace, as I keep imagining that the fix-it guy will come and I'll be released from my waiting - I have a lot I need to do do in the world outside this house, and don't want to leave a fire burning while I go to La Montanita for food resupply.

I'm always amazed when anything of this nature happens:  malfunction of necessary systems, power outages, big roof leaks, and so forth - to see how dependent we really are on these systems. We have all come to take heat/light/water on command as a given, as well as all that comes to us piggybacking on those utilities. We take having what we want where we want it when we want it as the Natural Order of the Universe, and when that order of the universe is interrupted, we freak.

I think of my friend Kathy, working with Innovative Communities.orgFoundation in Guatemalan villages, where there are no systems to malfunction, where poverty and natural catastrophe are the governing orders.  Kathy and the people she works with are replacing traditional unvented open hearths with safe, fuel-efficient  stoves, installing water filters for families at risk from water-bourne illness, providing school supplies and library books for children. I knew Kathy when we were both privileged young women studying abroad in France, and we have remained long-distance friends ever since. The work she is doing is amazing and the people she works with are the ones who should inherit the earth when all our power systems finally wink out completely as our way of life collapses.   As I do believe it will, perhaps even within my lifetime. I should be learning to live much more sustainably, to depend far less on these external-to-me systems. So, I put on more layers, I eat two zucchini-mushroom tamales,( warmed in the microwave, because not all of my systems have yet collapsed), let the fix-it guy in, he finds it to be a bad pressure switch, and now he's gone to pick up a new one.  A good one, I hope. And then I read that in England, where they are having a terrible run of freezing weather: "Thousands of homes could run out of heating oil over Christmas and rationing will be introduced if the freezing weather continues, the Government has warned." None of us are ready for what is eventually coming down the pike.

If you'd like to know more about ICO's work in Guatemala, there is a blog, with wonderful photos and day-to-day stories of what is happening.  It will take you right there.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Doing The Happy Dance

Getting good news is just such a kick in the pants.  And we have great good news.  Before we went to Denver last week Gail had a new lipid panel done.  Yesterday we saw her doctor for a report on said lipids.  And the report has major changes from the one she got in October, the one that occasioned her stress test, which brought the diagnosis of CAD, and therefore our new eating lifestyle.  Her numbers have all improved - bad cholesterol down, good cholesterol up, triglycerides waaay down, cholesterol in transition from dense and heavy to light and fluffy (something no one has ever mentioned as a marker before), blood pressure totally normal. So, to celebrate we went to yoga, then to Whole Foods for an enormous salad, then for a forty minute fast walk in the mall.  The mall is our least favorite place to walk, but it was dark by then and we had to get a birthday present for my niece anyway.  The important things in our lives now are eating vegetables, beans and salads, walking every day, yoga twice a week, meditation and breathing exercises.  Gail is by no means out of the woods, but she can at least see the sunlight from within the trees.  We are continuing this regime, she'll have more blood tests in three months, another stress test in six months. I think even if she is ever given a clean bill of health we will continue as vegans, perhaps adding in a little of the good oils, and more things like nuts and avocados. We have both lost weight, feel so much better, and are now at least True Believers, if not Total Fanatics.

I have to thank Bill Clinton here, for giving us the original impetus to take this route (rather than the catheterization/angioplasty/stent/medication route) and my niece Jessica for sending us her copy of Eat To Live, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, (the book that has now become our bible) and for helping me dive into vegan cooking.  As anyone who has read the sparse entries in this blog over the past couple of months is aware of my initial displeasure with the diet, putting it mildly.  I have had serious mental breakdowns over trying to shop, cook, and eat this way - sometimes daily.  Over the past several weeks I have made some peace with chard, black beans, romaine, broccoli, whole grains, etcetera. The results of the diet as shown in Gail's blood tests, and in the fact that she almost never has any angina any more (a small amount once in a great while when we go uphill too hard and fast), firm up my resolve to become the best vegan/low fat/low oil/low salt cook I can be.

Before we went to Denver I rambled around online looking at Denver restaurants, and discovered an unbelievably wonderful vegetarian/vegan place downtown called Watercourse Foods.  We took Gail's son Evan and his two kids there to breakfast on Sunday - with totally positive results. They do serve eggs, so Char could have scrambled eggs with her vegan French toast, and Ben could have eggs and "normal" pancakes too. The existence of such a place fills me with joy and delight.  It IS possible to eat in this hyper-healthy fashion and still be a foodie, it is, it is!!!  Watercourse is enough to make me think long and hard about moving to Denver. Do check out the website, it is beautiful in and of itself.  The artwork on the site is from the walls of the restaurant, by a phenomenal  artist, whose other work is entirely different from what is on the walls at Watercourse.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Maybe Life Will Go On After All

Oh my, it's over a month since I have posted here, and then it was just a little recipe for Oatmeal Cake. It's been a difficult five weeks since posting that recipe, although it is somewhat embarrassing to admit that the difficulty has been adjusting to a diet that is so foreign to my nature.  Embarrassing, but true, that I have spent these weeks in utter misery over missing the foods that I have eaten and loved all my life.  Eaten, loved, gained large amounts of weight on (gained, lost, gained, lost - the same old story everyone knows all too well), packed my arteries with cholesterol, raised my blood pressure, reached pre-diabetic status, yes, and so on and so forth. Anyone who has read my post The REAL Change of Life, knows what I am talking about in terms of this new diet. It's interesting to me that some of my friends seem to have interpreted what we are doing as Vegetarian - when in fact it is so much more radical than that. Being Vegetarian, which we were for some years, seems like distant dream to us now.  Even just being Vegan would be a piece of cake (oh those food metaphors, they are everywhere, aren't they?) at this point. My main reading in the past weeks has been Vegan cookbooks and websites, looking for recipes that would make life and eating more enjoyable.  But so many of the recipes I find contain oil as a major ingredient, (and oils are off our list) that I haven't found too much to add to my meager repertoire.

But - I've been inventing my own recipes, adjusting other people's recipes to make them possible on our plan, eating far less ( and here I have to cite a post by our guru Dr. Fuhrman about hunger, what it is, how we experience it, how it changes on his diet plan: Redefining Hunger.), feeling much better physically, losing weight, and constantly bitching and whining about it all.  Last night after supper I suddenly realized that all three meals we had had yesterday, all cooked and eaten at home, had been delicious and enjoyable.  It was a huge revelation.  Yesterday's meals were: for breakfast, oatmeal with warm mixed berries, lunch: pinto beans and rice on corn tortillas, with green chile salsa, the obligatory big green salad (to be known hereafter as the BGS), tangerines as dessert,  and for dinner: the BGS and roasted vegetables (fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, red, green and yellow peppers, onions, garlic, butternut squash), apple slices and Barbara's raspberry newtons for dessert. My feelings about yesterday's meals were a huge revelation - maybe we CAN continue with this program, and maybe we can, especially Gail, be healthier than we have been in many years. And, btw, the discovery of Barbara's newtons, several kinds, has been a godsend.

One of the biggest problems with such a radical approach to eating is that food/eating is one of humanity's biggest social constructs. Almost every social occasion we can imagine revolves in some way around food, its preparation and consumption.  Even our neighborhood book club has turned into a showcase for our members' gourmet cooking.  Which I enjoyed and participated in while I was eating like an ordinary person, but now we are contemplating dropping out of book club altogether. And as I moaned on Facebook, starting such a program coming into the Major Food Holidays was a crazy move.  We couldn't imagine what to do about Thanksgiving, didn't travel to any of our family celebrations, nor accept any local invitations.  We did survive the holiday, thanks to great food resources here in this city.  With mushroom/walnut loaf and Southwestern cornbread dressing from La Montanita, creamed spinach and mushroom/sage gravy, half a berry explosion pie from Whole Foods, and our own BGS, all of it vegan (Gail didn't eat the pie crust, but I must admit that I did. I am not a saint, by anyone's definition.), although we couldn't know how much oil and/or salt was in any of it - we made a holiday compromise.  The food was all entirely delicious, the lack of animal products not a hardship at all. We'll be going to Denver to visit Gail's kids soon, and travel, like social occasions, is another difficult task.  We'll take what we can with us for road food, shop at Whole Foods when we get there, and relax a little while we're eating with the boys and their families.  Gail is having her cholesterol checked tomorrow, so she feels a little stepping out of the box will be okay.  A little.  A very little.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Great Breakfast Treat, Oatmeal Cake

A cold morning, water in the birdbaths lightly frozen over. The birds are emptying their feeders in record time, and I am feeling quite guilty about forgetting to fill them last evening. It's still too cold to go out there and do it right now in my jammies.  But it's the perfect morning to bake up a panful of Oatmeal Cake so we'll have it to take as a portable breakfast for fly-ins at the Bosque del Apache next week. Oatmeal is a breakfast staple for us in winter, both in our previous life, and our New Improved Vegan/no oil life. 

This is something I used to make for breakfast when we ran Marigold's, our guesthouse on Cape Cod, only now I have modified it for our new diet to exclude eggs. sugar and oil.  It is actually quite good, with the banana and applesauce providing a nice sweetness. It makes a grab & go breakfast if you don't have time for a sit-down, or can be heated up with fruit for a tummy-warming morning start.

Oatmeal Cake 

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (NOT instant)
2 cups soy (or almond/hemp/oat/etc) milk
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 (or more, as you like) tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 large banana, mashed
1/2 cup applesauce
handful chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins (cranberries are also great)

Oven at 350.

Spray 8" round or square pan.
Soak oats in milk about five minutes.
Add nuts/raisins, vanilla, banana and applesauce to soaked oat/milk mix.
Mix dry ingreds separately, then mix in to oat mix until well blended.
Pour into baking pan, bake 40 - 45 minutes, until golden crust forms on top.
Let cool before cutting.  Serves six, or keeps two in breakfast  treats for several days.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The REAL Change of Life

So, here's the story:  About a month ago my partner, Gail, was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease, to be known hereafter as CAD.  She'd been having some chest pain when we walked, especially if we tried to pick up the pace, or go uphill.  And in NM one is often going uphill.  Once she turned sixty-five, and entered into the wonders of Medicare, she finally saw a doctor, had blood work revealing very high cholesterol, a stress test with abnormal results, and  got a diagnosis.  And a referral to a cardiologist. I went with her to the cardio visit, and listened to the recommendation for catheterization, perhaps angioplasty, perhaps a stent, blah blah blah.  We've been primarily vegetarian for about four years now, having fish sometimes, organic poultry once in a great while, no red meat at all.  But once we stopped eating meat, we, alas, started eating way too much dairy and eggs.  So, even before Gail's diagnosis, we had (thanks to all the publicity about Bill Clinton's turn to a vegan diet before Chelsea's wedding) dropped the dairy and eggs, and started a vegan eating plan.  My niece, vegan for years now, recommended a book to us, Eat to Live, by a Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  We took it out of the library, read it cover to cover, and began following his principles.  In it he mentions yet another doctor, and another book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.  This one is even stricter in his principles, but we're trying to keep up with it all.

A vegan diet is just fine with me, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, soy products, and so on.  The problem with these cardiac diets, especially Esselstyne's, is that they also omit all oils and fats, even those with veggie sources, as well as salt and sugar. It's hard to imagine how hard it is to cook without oils, especially olive oil, which is a staple of my culinary existence.  Earlier this month, but after we had started this life change,  we took a trip to the east coast to visit family members in Washington, DC and Bristol, Rhode Island.  Traveling while eating like this is less than fun, or easy.  We managed to pack a lunch for the plane rides to D.C., and my sister did her very best to deal with this (she's even more of an olive oil fan than I am)  while we were staying with her.  From D.C. we took the train up the coast to Rhode Island, to our joy discovering an oatmeal breakfast from Au Bon Pain in Union Station, and carrying veggie and fruit snacks to sustain us.  Once we got to Jessica's house, we could relax.  She, her partner Steve and their children are vegan, and actually trying to cut out the oils and fats from that way of eating themselves. So, we ate well and heartily, and I learned a lot from them about vegan cooking, and tricks for palatability, despite the lack of oils and salt. Since my cholesterol and blood pressure are also sky-high, and I have been steadily gaining weight over the past many years, it is clear that, though I have no angina, we both are in the same cardiac ship of fools.I've already lost a sister to heart disease and diabetes, and my brother has had two heart surgeries, as well as diabetes. Suddenly it seems, I have no time to waste.

I've posted a fair amount about food in this blog, and will probably be posting a lot more from now on, with a very different slant.  After only about a month of eating according to the Good Doctors, both our blood pressures have come down, Gail's to normal, mine to practically normal,  I have lost almost thirty pounds, Gail has lost six (she was not actually overweight, but wants to get down to "medically thin," at which point her cholesterol should have diminished to normal or below.  For me "medically thin" is in the far distant future, but it is also my goal.  Since returning from our trip, life has been a whirlwind of cleaning out our refrigerator and cupboards, throwing or giving away the things we no longer eat, shopping every single day at one of the many good markets available to us here in ABQ: La Montanita Food Co-Op, Whole Foods, Sunflower Market.  I plan to hit Talin Market soon, it's a huge international grocery with things from all over the planet.  I'll be looking for spices and seasonings there to rejoice our palates.  They also have fruits and vegetables there that I've only read about in books. After we shop, I cook.  Constantly, it seems.  Eating out is no longer an option, as just about all restaurant food is full of salt and fat, both obvious and hidden.  There is one restaurant, Annapurna's, that we are going to check into to see if it will sustain this diet.  We have eaten there as vegetarians, not yet as vegans on cardiac diets.  So,, stay tuned, lots more to come.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Disconnection

After my post the other day on the attempt to rescue my mind, I found this post by a friend on - yes - Facebook. It's called How to Disconnect from Your Online Life, and comes from the BBC.  Apparently I am far from the only one with the problem. It is my current intention to do more blog reading and writing, although I don't intend to sign up with "the Suicide Machine" and "kill" my FB "avatar persona,"  whom, I think, is pretty much my real life persona.  I've even made some real friends, as opposed to virtual ones, via the social networking, which I count as a real plus.  Kind of scary though that there are young people in the world now whose  "entire life has been lived online." Yikes.

Okay, off this chair, away from this screen right now.  Out into the so-called Real World.

A Post Script on 9/20 - as I seem to be riding a wave:  Is The Internet Making You Lose Your Mind?  My question exactly.  And the answer seems to be a possible yes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Trying to Rescue My Mind

To my astonishment I discover it has been well over a month since I posted anything in this blog.  I have missed writing more than a phrase at a time, as one does on Facebook - but Facebook is the perfect enabler for someone with the brand of  attention deficit disorder  I seem to have in a very serious way. My ADD  takes the form of being interested, nay fascinated, in way too many things.  I am spellbound by gardening, cooking, food, politics, the politics of food, birds, travel,  ecology, the emerging world of sustainability in all things we humans need and do, wildlife and its protection, literature, poetry, art, hiking, kayaking,  and many many more.  On Facebook I can flash from one to another of these subjects, read posts, write posts, click on links, "like" new and wonderful pages and websites - a bit of pollen here, a drop of nectar there, never taking the time to really absorb anything or read it to the end.  The Internet offered too much of this mode of communication and learning already, and then I fell into a social network.  Doom.

I'm not writing in my blogs, not reading other people's blogs (okay, I AM reading my niece Jessica's blog with lots of pictures - to keep up with her life with two small children, a three year old and a new baby - it's so wonderful and funny, I am addicted), not reading many articles in any deep or thorough way, fear I am going to lose the ability to write in complete sentences, let alone put them together into paragraphs. The saving grace is books, real ones, that I can hold in my hand and read as far away from the computer as I can get.(I fear the Kindle and its kind would be the last straws for me - so, no.)  Since my last post whining about having nothing  that I felt like reading, I have found reading matter to keep me occupied. One fabulous novel (probably more slanted towards female readers than male, though by no means "chick lit") by Dana Sachs, called If You Lived Here. was one of the best contemporary novels I have ever read. Everyone to whom I have recommended it agrees. Unfortunately I followed it with one of my favorite writer's latest book - Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag This is a brilliant book, but a deeply painful and disturbing one. I could not put it down, but this story of a marriage in shreds and flames left me shattered and bleeding.  The review to which I link is an accurate expression of my own thoughts and opinion on the book - so I think I'll leave it at that.

Currently I have embarked on a Ursula K. Le Guin reading binge, starting with a book of her essays called The Language of the Night, which led me into the first volume of one her young adult series, Gifts.  I hope to escape for a while from both this world of teabaggers and discord in which we are all living, as well as my own scattered and disordered world of interests and passions.  I will weed, rake leaves, turn compost and live vicariously for a while in another world.  If I can just stay off Facebook.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Reading Matters

I had a "page" on this blog that I called "Reading," but I consistently forgot to write there about what I was reading; and a few days ago while attempting to catch up on it I somehow managed to completely delete it.  Nobody looks at those Pages anyhow, so, I think I will just write in the blog itself when I feel like discussing what I am reading. Or, not reading. I'm currently having a very hard time settling into anything that really grabs me.  Wonder if others have those strange blank spells.? Nothing you pick up, no matter how great the reviews, or enticing the cover, grabs you and makes you want to turn the pages. It's kind of a Reader's Block, instead of Writer's Block. The book for our neighborhood book club, meeting tomorrow evening, is The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, which I declined to read.  It is narrated by a charming and personable dog, and after Gail (who very seldom cries) finished the book in heaving sobs, I knew I was going to skip it.  Since childhood (remember Old Yeller?) I have avoided dog books - their sole purpose is to break the reader's heart.  Our own crazy little old dog's death is still too recent for me to risk waking up that pain. 

We recently found Sea of Troubles, in a new paperback reprint. It's one of Donna Leon's Venice mysteries that has been, mysteriously, unavailable for far too long, and I devoured it in a couple of nights.  There are two others that seem to be missing, and I'm hoping they're next in line to return.  If you love a good police procedural, captivating protagonists, great food, and exiting locations, Leon's series of books with Commissario Guido Brunetti will be right up your alley.  I have never been to Venice, but from these books I feel I know it, in its contemporary form at least.  It's clear from these novels that Italy has its share of the woes and tribulations of modern life, but the beauty of this ancient city also manages to shine through.  Many of the mysteries have to do with environmental problems, and political corruption, as well as immigration problems.  All things we are familiar with and think of as our own national difficulties.  But, after I finished with Sea of Troubles, I was right back into my lack of enthusiasm for anything I pick up to read.  I have things on hold with the library system, but lack of funding has forced them to seriously cut back on the number of copies they order, and it can take weeks and weeks to get a popular book.

So, while I wait for my holds on the latest titles by Jane Smiley, Anna Quindlen, Scott Turow, James Lee Burke, Sharon McCrumb, and others, I am desultorily picking at one unread volume or another off our shelves.  We are trying not to buy books right now, so it's the long hard wait, unless I lose control completely and find myself at the register at Bookworks with a stack of new books in my arms.   Anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Poem For the Day

Cherry Tomatoes
      by Anne Higgins

Suddenly it is August again, so hot,
breathless heat.
I sit on the ground
in the garden of Carmel,
picking ripe cherry tomatoes
and eating them.
They are so ripe that the skin is split,
so warm and sweet
from the attentions of the sun,
the juice bursts in my mouth,
an ecstatic taste,
and I feel that I am in the mouth of summer,
sloshing in the saliva of August.
Hummingbirds halo me there,
in the great green silence,
and my own bursting heart
splits me with life.

(Thanks to Garrison Keillor and The Writer's Almanac)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Still In The Garden

The monsoons seem to be affecting other parts of NM much more than they are us here in Albuquerque.  Other parts of the state have actually had flooding, whereas I am happy if my rain barrels fill up at least halfway.  Things have perked up, though, and I recently read the reason that our rains make the plants so much happier than water out of the hose, even when mixed with fertilizer.  The rains are nitrogen-rich, especially when they fall during a thunder storm, and nitrogen helps plants grow, develop and reproduce.  So, whether it's from the rains or the fish emulsion, or what, everything in the yard is looking healthy and happy.  Even, or maybe especially?, the weeds. Tomatoes and cucumbers are coming on strong, arugula has recovered from the snail attacks, and all the herbs are gigantic. I was sad when the vitex blooms were over, as I'd waited for them all spring, but my sadness quickly dissipated when early one morning I saw a flock of goldfinches chowing on the seeds of the spent blooms, just the way they do on the sunflower heads full of seeds.

We are so fortunate not to be suffering the heat wave that other parts of the country have.  I read the weather forecast for anyplace I have loved ones, and reading the Dallas weather is beginning to scare me.  I called a friend there this morning, just to be sure her AC was working, and she was okay.  My sister (also in Dallas)  got what she calls a tacky, redneck, aboveground pool in June, when temps in that city first went to, and stayed 100 degrees or more.  I think the whole family is staying in the pool around the clock, with heat indices of 110 and over currently.  Most of the country, except the West, is going through this heat horror, but I'm still waiting to hear Jim Inhofe and others like him get behind calling this global climate change.  They were plenty quick to scoff at what they still call "global warming" when the country was drowning in blizzards and freak winter storms - sure, easy to mock "warming" when it's pouring snow and you're wearing every warm garment you own.  But, why are they so quiet about this freaky deathly heat?  I suggest that everyone in the country needs to read Bill McKibben's latest TomDispatch post, and Tom's intro to it: A Wilted Senate on a Heating Planet.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rain, Rain, Lovely Rain

After so much whining and bitching - both here and on Facebook - about our lack of rain, our dry and dusty life, my wretched thirsty gardens, I just thought I should write a short happy post about the wonderful weekend of rain, continuing into today, that we have had here in Albuquerque. According to one news station, yesterday's just-over-half-an-inch of rain was a record-setter for the day (shows you how little rain we get, doesn't it?).  It is still, however, the second-dryest July on record.  Oops, sounds like I'm moving back into the whining and bitching mode.  Oh no, stop that right now. 

My gratitude for this moisture is truly boundless, it has been the best weekend of the summer, for sure.  I spent a lot of time sitting out under the back portal just watching the birds enjoy the weather, hopping in the yard, flying overhead in wild happy swoops, - reading, and breathing in the damp air, rehydrating body and soul. Gail and I went for a long walk yesterday in the rain, which is a slow and steady drizzle, really.  We got wet, but it felt entirely wonderful.  There were masses of wildflowers and grasses where we walked, and you could almost hear them saying aahhhhhhh. Showers and thunderstorms are forecast off and on for the entire week.  My idea of an enormous gift.  And as I sit here typing, it is raining yet again.  The smell of rain is coming in the window fan, the rain barrels are filling, the plants are sinking their roots ever deeper.  Life is good. (Photo of wildflowers and grasses, Phil Chacon Park Something wrong w/dater on my camera.  I took this photo yesterday,)

Friday, July 23, 2010

More Thoughts From The Garden

Perhaps I should just rename this blog "Garden Thoughts."  As those seem to be just about the only thoughts I have nowadays.  I used to think about my classes, lesson plans, student problems, stuff like that.  For many years I thought about those things.  Of course, as always, I do think about things like the stupidity of  the cranky right wing, Wall Street, Timothy Geitner, et al's objections to putting Elizabeth Warren in as head of the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Board, the latest blatant lies and deception of those monsters running British Petroleum, the fact that this is on track to be the hottest year since anyone's been keeping track and that we're unlikely to see any sort of effective legislation to control climate change getting passed in my lifetime - stuff like that, yes.  But really, during the active hours of the day, before it gets close to one hundred degrees in my yard, most of my thoughts have to do with what is living, even perhaps thriving, what looking droopy and discouraged, what could go in that empty space right over there, why the tithonia seeds I planted turned up their toes and croaked soon after sprouting (when last year the same plants, grown from seed, were the stars of my late summer garden), will I be able to find any aster plants to put in for fall?  And many more ruminations in a similar vein.  Actually, most of the time my thoughts are with the possibility that it is never going to rain again here in the NE quadrant of the city of Albuquerque.

Well, I began this post two days ago, and am just now getting back to it.  Still hasn't rained here, though a friend on the outskirts of Grants up on the toes of Mt. Taylor reports a lovely "plant-loving" steady rain last night.  So I guess, I'll go out and water for a while, continuing to wait and hope.  Because I am watering, and feeling bad - but not as bad as the city golf course mangers should feel, at using water for this purpose, things actually aren't looking too bad.  The sunflowers everywhere cheer me up every morning, the roses are finishing up their second bloom, all the sedums are happy as pigs in mud - I'm thinking of just sedums next summer, forget anything else.  Okay, as many kinds of sunflowers and sages as I can manage as well.  Also going to research native grasses, the tall waving kinds, for several places.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Garden Thoughts

Here in New Mexico rain is a precious thing.  We have had no measureable precipitation in Albuquerque since May second.  That's nearly two months now. It had gotten to the point where I was watering some of my plantings every darn day.  So, when yesterday as I stepped out the door to head to work, the skies opened up and let loose with first hailstones then raindrops, I and every other gardener in the city whooped with joy.  It rained all afternoon.  It was still raining when my class was over and I headed across the parking lot to my car.  It was still raining while we ate supper.  It stopped long enough for a gorgeous break-in-the-clouds sunset, then rained off and on during the night.  We opened up every window in the house to let in the cool wet breezes for the evening, and left the bedroom windows open all night.  This morning when I went out to do my morning tour of gardens and planters it was like a new world.  Everything was perky and happy, refreshed in the way that only rain can bring.  All the watering and fertilizing in the world can't accomplish what one good long gentle rainstorm can. 

So, I have brought in most of the remaining lettuces and lots of herbs.  The greens are starting to bolt, they have reached their limit of heat tolerance.  I think there is one more harvest of lettuce greens, but they will be pretty bitter.  The arugula is growing apace, partly in the shade.  I need to thin it, bring in the thinnings for a salad.  In the past weeks of heat we have been eating salads just about all the time, varying them with sandwiches.  Even toasting bread for sandwiches has been almost too much heating of the kitchen.  We are impatient for the tomatoes and cucumbers to get busy and produce some fruit - but I have to keep reminding myself it's only the end of June.  The tomatoes have blossoms, the cuke vines are strong and healthy but no blossoms yet.  This year I haven't done too much with flowers, though the sunflowers and thithonia seedlings are getting ready for going into the ground.  The maximilian sunflowers (perennial native sunflowers) have spread hugely across the back of the yard and once they bloom they will be magnificent.  I lost some perennials over the very cold winter, and am taking my time deciding what to use for replacements.  The agastaches and mallows are about ready to bloom, which should bring more hummingbirds back into the yard. What we've had lately are flocks of bushtits in the front yard, at the suet and in all the small trees and shrubs.  They are such darling birds, so very busy and full of themselves. I'm thinking of a trip to High Desert Gardens either today or tomorrow, at least to stroll, observe, and think about what I'll buy next.  Soon I will be a lady of leisure (more on that in another post) and have time time time for all the gardening I can stand.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hands Across The Sand

If you live, work, or play anywhere near a large body of water you may run into some crowds tomorrow around eleven a.m. your timezone.  That's when the event being called Hands Across The Sand is taking place on beaches and shorelines all over the world. From the Grist article about the event: 
Saturday could bring the biggest public demonstration yet about the Gulf oil gusher, when Hands Across the Sand gathers people on beaches around the world at noon to hold hands in support of coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife, and fishing industries.
Organized by surfer and Florida restaurant owner Dave Rauschkolb, the dispersed event looks to be aiming for a surfer zen vibe, as opposed to the angry demonstrations against BP that have arisen in New Orleans and elsewhere. (The precedent, fellow young folks, is the 1986 Hands Across America chain.)
Even here in the desert we will be participating.  Here in Albuquerque we will be holding hands on the Bosque Bike Path that follows the Rio Grande, and on the old Alameda Walking Bridge across the Rio.  The Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and is therefore a wonderfully appropriate place to share in this protest.  I don't know if I can pull off a "surfer zen vibe," but Gail and I will add ourselves to the numbers gathering to make our voices heard across this planet.  I know it's late notice, but if you feel that we need to begin now (actually we needed to begin thirty years ago, but we'll take what we can get) working for a clean energy future that doesn't include ill-regulated freeform off-shore drilling, then check the Hands Across The Sand website map for your closest location.  All hands on deck, or on the sand, the bridge, the edge of the pond in your local park. 

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Natural Delights

In addition to wasting far too much time on Facebook, as mentioned in the previous post, I have been spending most of the spring outside.  Mainly outside in my own immediate surroundings.  The first spring task was to get rid of the weeds that sprang up in great profusion in the yard/gardens as a result of a somewhat wetter winter than we often have.  We managed to get most of that done before it began to warm up to summer levels.  It was a cool though hideously windy spring, and the spinach and chard that I planted in the late fall have continued to thrive.  In addition to those two I now have four different varieties of lettuce, cilantro, basil, as well as lots of  perennial herbs in profusion: sage, thymes, chives, tarragon.  We are rapidly moving into summer heat - by the weekend it will be at least one hundred degrees, maybe a little higher by Sunday and Monday.  So we are living on salads, sandwiches full of vegetables, and smoothies.  The kitchen gets so hot in this weather, that I can't even bear to turn on the stove.  The Growers' Markets are opening now, so there are loads of local produce available, in addition to the salad fixins in my own back yard.  I've planted tomatoes and cucumbers too, but it will be a good while before they show up. Exciting news is that Deborah Madison's new cookbook is finally out.titled  Seasonal Fruit Desserts: From Orchard, Farm and Market, it's one that I've been eagerly awaiting.  It will be awhile til I can afford it, but I can drool over it in bookstores, pick up some ideas while browsing.  There is so much gorgeous fruit available now, we have been inventing our own dessert delights - strawberries and watermelon in ginger sauce, mangoes and oranges with mint and lime, to name just a couple. Nothing fancy, but cool and delicious.

Facebook Ate My Brain.

I have been MIA from blogging for far too long now.  I think Facebook is to blame.  It seems to have eaten my brain. It's just too easy to spend a lot of time there, not really writing, or even thinking.  But I have to say I love it. I have reconnected with many people from past layers of my life; people I actually cared about, but since my life has always been quite peripatetic, I lost touch with classmates, friends, students, as I segued from one location/job/lover/incarnation, to the next. So, oddly, part of what I am enjoying on FB is the Search.  It speaks to the detective that has lived in me since the Nancy Drew years, and is evidently alive and thriving.  In addition to finding misplaced people from my past, I have also connected with an immediate community right here in Albuquerque, many of whom are very involved in local politics, others devoted to local gardening. These are communities with which I can interface (can we believe I actually used that word in that way??) in real time and space, some may in fact become Real, as opposed to FB, Friends.  So, if you're on FB and I don't know it yet, come visit over there.  I'm a shameless hussy for collecting more new friends, as well as getting back in touch with previous ones. 

Friday, May 07, 2010

The City of New Orleans

On this morning's Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor has this wonderful little literary musing on the city of New Orleans (the place, not the song that celebrates the train by that name).  I particularly love the Truman Capote quote here, and want to find the essay from which it's taken.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about the Gulf states in the past couple of weeks since the Deep Horizon disaster.  I love this part of the country, for so many reasons. It is unique, and beautiful, and has suffered so much in recent years.  I post this here as a small tribute, with thanks to Mr. Keillor.
On this day in 1718, the French Canadian Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville discovered the city that would come to be called Crescent City, the Big Easy, and the City That Care Forgot. But he called it La Nouvelle Orléans, New Orleans, named for Philippe d'Orléans, the Regent of France.
New Orleans is famous as the birthplace of jazz, and for producing many great musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Mahalia Jackson, Harry Connick Jr., and Wynton Marsalis.
But New Orleans also has a rich literary history. It is sometimes called "the least American city" because it has such a distinctive feel, and for years writers have struggled to put New Orleans into words. David Simon, the writer and creator of the new HBO series set in New Orleans, "Treme," described how impossible it was to explain the city to an outsider. He said that he and his co-writer, Eric Overmyer, "imagined the pitch meeting, and we imagined trying to explain New Orleans and being unable to. If I could explain it to you sitting here now, I wouldn't have to do the show. That's the problem: you literally have to drag whatever executive you've got to New Orleans, throw him into a second line, get him drunk, take him here, take him there. It would have to be a lost week: you're not in America anymore — you're in New Orleans! We couldn't imagine being able to do that."
John Kennedy Toole was a New Orleans writer, born in 1937. Most people don't recognize his name, but the title of his only novel is famous: A Confederacy of Dunces (1980). He grew up an only child, with a domineering mother who was convinced that her son was a genius and controlled his life. Although his father worked as a car salesman and mechanic, they lived in a nice part of town and his mother had illusions of grandeur — she was from an old New Orleans family, her great-grandfather a hero in the Battle of New Orleans.
Truman Capote (books by this author) was born in New Orleans in 1924. His mother was 16 years old, a beauty queen, and his father was a nonpracticing lawyer, and his parents lived together in a hotel and soon sent the boy to Alabama to be raised by aunts and cousins. But he spent part of every summer in New Orleans while he was growing up. He dropped out of school as a teenager, went to New York, and made it his adopted home. He went back to New Orleans briefly to start his first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). And he wrote about it in his essay "New Orleans," which begins:
"In the courtyard there was an angel of black stone, and its angel head rose above giant elephant leaves; the stark glass angel eyes, bright as the bleached blue of sailor eyes, stared upward. One observed the angel from an intricate green balcony — mine, this balcony, for I lived beyond in three old white rooms, rooms with elaborate wedding-cake ceilings, wide sliding doors, tall French windows. On warm evenings, with these windows open, conversation was pleasant there, tuneful, for wind rustled the interior like fan-breeze made by ancient ladies. And on such warm evenings this town is quiet. Only voices: family talk weaving on an ivy-curtained porch; a barefoot woman humming as she rocks a sidewalk chair, lulling to sleep a baby she nurses quite publicly; the complaining foreign tongue of an irritated lady who, sitting on her balcony, plucks a fryer, the loosened feathers floating from her hands, slipping into air, sliding lazily downward."
Anne Rice (books by this author) was born in New Orleans in 1941, and sets her popular novels there — she is particularly famous as the author The Vampire Chronicles, beginning with Interview with the Vampire (1976).
The playwright Tennessee Williams, born in Mississippi in 1911, made New Orleans his adopted home, and had such a profound effect on the community that the annual literary festival is known as the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche says, "Don't you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn't just an hour — but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands — and who knows what to do with it?"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Sorry to borrow the title for this post from you, Cynthia, but it was exactly the right word.

I do apologize for obsessing about the Poem A Day thing, but I have truly been obsessed with it for this entire month.  It has been a mental challenge, and a good one.  I think that by doing it I have worked through some things: my feelings of regret and sorrow over this move - the anger with myself that I have had for the past four years since we did it, grief over the deaths and losses that have happened during this time.  The way I have hated being here, refused to open myself up to the good things about this place and our life here.  Days spent mostly in the yard cleaning up gardens, welcoming spring, planning what I'll do in the gardens once this cataract surgery business is over and I can see clearly, work freely - these have been days spent thinking poetry all the time.  I write in my head for the most part, no words get processed or put on paper until they have flowed through my mind for quite a while, been discarded, rearranged, reimagined.  So the birds, trees, flowers, dirt, weeds, and compost have been my companions and inspiration for most of the month. I could only wish that it had been possible to take a beach walk now and then.  But walks along the river have substituted pretty well.

Right now I'm hoping to be able to do the last two prompts, for days 29 and 30.  Twenty nine, tomorrow, should still be possible - but as I'll have the first (left eye) cataract surgery on Friday, a poem for the thirtieth may have to wait a few days.  The doctor's office can't seem to tell me (they say they won't know until the first checkup, on Saturday morning) whether I'll be able to read and write well enough to use the computer.  The final part of this is choosing my five best efforts to send in to Robert Lee Brewer before May 5th.  I've been working on trying to make this choice - and it's not easy.  There are clearly quite a few that I won't choose, but the truth is that there are more than five that I feel pretty good about.  Anyone who'd like to help with this choice is welcome to go to Poetic License and leave your opinion. It would be doing me a big favor. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Home For My Poetry Challenge Efforts.

I thank with brief thanksgiving whatever gods may be that this month is almost over.  Thirty poems in thirty days.  And we're only on number 26 right now.  Moving these poems around from place to place has been almost as exhausting as writing them in the first place.  Finally what I have done is create a whole new blog for them, it's called Poetic License and it's here.

Unfortunately it starts with Day 1 and goes on chronologically to the current effort.  But, if you know where you stopped reading them, you can just look in the sidebar and find your place.  This is the very last fooling around with this I'm going to do, and I want to thank the faithful few who have been reading my attempts at this Challenge.  And welcome any newcomers. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Defense Of Looking Back

The Poem A Day Challenge rages on, and there's still a week to go.  I have been keeping up, though not publicly posting my efforts.  There is one prompt I haven't been able to write from - though I am still working on it. After agonizing for the first couple of weeks, I realized that thirty poems couldn't all be torn from my heart, and I might as well have some fun now and then. So, I had fun with yesterday's prompt, which was either "Looking Back" or "Not Looking Back."  I got very maudlin with a couple of attempts, personally and regretfully looking back, but then as I was pruning the big Russian Sage out front, one of story-telling's most famous lookers-back popped into my mind.  And this is the result:

In Defense of Looking Back

Don’t look at me like that.
I know you think me cowardly,
Call me slow and weak.
If you had ever loved this way
You would have done the same.

Half mad with grief and loss
All I wanted was to touch her,
Look at her once more.
I thought I’d saved her from the Underworld.
I didn’t know the fury of the gods.
How could I not look back?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Vision

I was browsing through my old private AOL Journal (exported to Blogger  - or should that be imported? - when AOL Journals closed) yesterday, and happily came across this poem by Lisel Mueller that I had included in a post there.  I'm not sure why I included it then, except that I loved it, and had seen an exhibit of Monet's paintings from his old age in New Orleans some years ago - the poem helped me understand the paintings, made me love Monet even more. I'm not sure how historically based the poem may be - much of what I've read tells me he struggled against the growing blurriness of vision and loss of color perception caused by his cataracts.  In any case, I know I'm certainly struggling with mine. As a visual artist Monet was dependent on his vision, but he used even his aberrant perception in his waning years to put his impressions on canvas.  It was his loss of color more than loss of the sharp outlines that distressed him; But I'm finding it very hard to live without those edges.  My opthamologist tells me I probably won't have to wear glasses for distance vision after the operations, and perhaps only nonprescription reading glasses.  It all seems much too amazing to believe, for someone who's worn glasses for almost sixty years - since she was seven years old, and now wears bifocals. It's interesting to note that Claude Monet did have The Operation, in 1923, three years before his death.

Monet Refuses The Operation

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolves
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Lisel Mueller


Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Eyes Will Have It

I don't know if spring has been the death of blogging for me, or if I should blame it on Facebook.  Or the Poem A Day Challenge.  Whatever the cause, my impetus to blog has been in serious death throes for a while now.  The end of the term is of course another likely culprit.  Facebook has been a real entertainment, but it's beginning to wane.  Spring calls me out of the house every day until the day gets too hot, to get things cleaned up, weeded, cut back, planted, ad infinitum.  It is so utterly spring here now, the fresh green leaves of the big cottonwood outside the kitchen window greet me every morning and make me smile even before I get the coffee going. The redbud and the lilacs are glorious right now, irises blooming a rich deep purple.  I just cut the remainder of my winter greens, some chard and spinach, for a stirfry tonight.

I won't be able to do much in the garden, at least of the bending, stooping, lifting sort (and what other sort is there?) for a while soon, as the next milestone on my life journey is coming up in two weeks.  I've been procrastinating about an eye doctor visit much too long, but very aware how blurry my vision was becoming.  I thought I just needed new glasses.  But no, I need new eyes. And so, I'm having cataract surgery, both eyes, one eye at a time, the first one on the thirtieth of this month.  Everyone tells me I'll be so happy once it's over, that it's like a miracle, and other exuberant forms of propaganda, but I'm fairly freaked out about it nonetheless.  Blog readers who have already been through this - I'd love to hear your experiences.  One of my sisters has had one eye done, and she is in the "it's like a miracle" camp, and she doesn't suffer medical procedures lightly.  I dreamed last night that I found an old pair of glasses in some stuff I was going through, and they were perfect, I could see absolutely clearly and was so happy because it meant I wouldn't need to have the cataracts removed.  Perhaps the glasses stand for the lenses I'll have IN my eyes once it's all over, or perhaps it's just about how nervous I am.   (Cross-posted to Women On)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Now We Wait And See

So, today it finally happens - the hummingbird feeders go up.  Or at least a couple of them.  I'll wait until I see some hummers actually on the first feeders before I put all of them up.  The black-chins are first, and have already been observed in the area.  It's still so cold at night and in the mornings that if they're here they really need the supplemental nutrition of feeders in order to survive. The plants that offer up their usual source of nectar are not yet blooming, or certainly not here in my yard; so really for these early birds the feeders people hang will be the only source of energy for a while.  And boy, do these little guys need energy. This site is really your best source of information for all things hummingbird.  I find I refer to it constantly throughout the summer as questions occur to me.  Just took this photo of my feeder and my darling redbud tree.

Later the same day:  Thinking of the hummers must have been an inspiration.  I've been struggling with Day 8 of the Poem A Day Challenge since yesterday morning.  Knew where I was going, but couldn't figure out just how to get there. I think I've got it now, this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Vuelo De Las Brujas, by Franciso de Goya Y Lucientes PAD #6

Although I wasn't going to post any more of these on this actual blog, I can't help but share this one here.  The prompt at first made me say "OK, this is the day I give up."  Here it is:
"For this prompt, write an ekphrastic poem. According to John Drury's The Poetry Dictionary, ekphrastic poetry is "Poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual." So, I've provided links to two pieces of art, and I want you to pick one (or both) to write an ekphrastic poem. (It would be helpful for you to mention which art you picked.)"
  1. Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz
  2. Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya     
Could any two pictures be more different?  Egad.  But clearly, Goya is the one to write about, if writing there will be. Once I started it became surprisingly easy. Even fun.

The Witches Entertainment

There is no moon tonight
and cloudcast hides the stars.
Put on your hats, my beauties,
soon we ride
across the  darkling Spanish plain,                     
seeking louts who wander
from the taverns in the town
wanting only
the warmth of their own beds,
fire on the hearth,
a sodden night of sleep
too drunk for dreams.

We shall remake them
fly them,
dumb creatures of the earth,
to ecstasy and terror in our arms.
By hidden light of dark day stars
cross tossing stormy seas
to visit cannibals
eaters of human hearts.
Then drop them
bloody, riven, gnawed
through forest leaves.

They will hear music
played by monsters
around a ring of fire
deep within the midnight trees
dance with us
strange sisters,
then sleep
abandoning despair.
From unreasoning sleep awakening
 they will not remember.
Will not care

Monday, April 05, 2010

In The Garden

Damn this Poem A Day Challenge, it's kept me in the house for far too long.  So, I spent this morning in the yard, and going right back out there while I can. I've been watering everything; the back is done but I need to get out into the front before the winds start blowing.  We are under a wind advisory for the afternoon, and it is supposed to be almost eighty. Not weather to encourage shy young sprouts. The redbud tree is starting to blossom, and the irises we freeloaded when a neighbor thinned hers out two years ago are finally going to bloom.  I think there are things that didn't make it through the winter, but I'm waiting a while longer to be sure. I don't know if it's too cold here for the salvia leucantha, but none of them seem to be showing signs of life.

I was surprised when we moved out here in spring of 2006 to see the profusion of lilacs blooming everywhere in ABQ and Santa Fe.  There was one small and stunted lilac in our backyard, which has only had a few blooms in the intervening years.  This year it is entirely covered with buds, covered, I tell you, and it, along with the irises, is giving me a reason to live a while longer. Okay, and also I saw my first tiger swallowtail in the front yard yesterday afternoon.  Black-chinned hummers have been sighted in the Bosque, so I have to look out my feeders, get some filled and hung on the patio.  Too busy to go to work, it looks like - spring has sprung.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Re The Poetry Page - Updated

 April 22 Update.  I've taken down the Poetry Page, and am putting my Poem A Day Challenge poems in my private blog.  If you're interested in reading them, please leave me a comment and I'll invite you to that blog.  It was too messy to try to put them all on one Page. 

Now that I've come entirely out of the Poetry Closet, and you know the secret vice I have practiced in that closet from the time I first learned to write, I will disclose that in my list of Pages in the sidebar to this blog there is a page called "Poetry."  I posted some of my previous poetry on it, but then didn't have the nerve to show it in the Pages list.  Now I have decided to use it for however many of these Poem A Day challenge prompts I can write something for.  Days 1 and 2 have gone there, with some revisions; and Day 3 is also there.  Day 3's prompt goes like this: "take the phrase "Partly (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make that the title of your poem, and then write the poem. For instance, your poem might be titled "Partly Cloudy," "Partly Crazy," "Partly Out of Touch," or whatever,"  Or whatever indeed. It was hard for me until I looked around my house with a open inner eye - and then it simply wrote itself. 

Poem A Day Challenge, Day 2

It's pretty unlikely that I'll be able to keep up with this challenge as the month proceeds.  Right now I'm Home Alone on a long holiday weekend, with nothing much else to do but keep the home fires burning, read, noodle around on the internet....and write poetry. Real Life will return with a vengeance all too soon. So I'm taking advantage of this time to do this writing.  And already I'm a day behind!!  Yesterday's prompt was "water," something that I think about a lot here in this dry land.  I've written several responses to this prompt, but this is the one I think I'll keep.  The subject of this poem, BTW, is a real place.  See it here.

Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve

It hasn’t rained for months.
The Santa Ana winds
Are blowing dust and grit
Into every pore and cranny
of furniture and skin.
The mountains
have been invisible for days,
cloaked in wind and dust.
My lettuce seedlings in the backyard struggle,
 need water twice a day.

Yet I know, not far away
there is a miracle,
a place for rehydration of my
dried out desert soul.
Pocket wetland,  eye of water,
waving cattails, lily pads.
rushes, reeds and ferns.
All the thirsty green things
find home and shelter here.
Even in the hottest days of summer
 the air is damp and green,
 alive with forbs and flowers, nodding willows,
butterflies and birds.
Bullfrogs wallow in the shallows
at the edges of the pond,
bask on rafts of rotted vegetation,
under hovering damselflies.
High desert miracle of hidden wetland,
 watercress and cactus side by side.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Still About The Poetry

So yes, National Poetry Month.  Several of my friends in this virtual world are poets, and quite good ones at that. I had been planning to post about the Poem a Day challenge that is part of celebrating the month, but didn't get to it fast enough, and some of these blogging friends have already leapt into the fray. The challenge is on the Poetic Asides group at Writer's Digest. Robert Lee Brewer has the Guidelines, the prompts and his own daily attempts. Yesterday's prompt was "Lonely" and here is my shot at this topic:

Still in my pajamas on Good Friday afternoon,
Under the portal,
watching white-winged doves
 blown across the powerlines on Santa Ana winds,
helpless as leaves or straw.
 Two thousand miles of mountain chains and prairies
Away from everyone I love,
Sorting through the morning mail,
listening to the wind,
Waiting for the phone to ring.

Two others who are writing for this Challenge are Theresa of the blog Theresa Williams Author, Exile Edition, who has posted her first day's poem, and Cynthia of Sorting the Pieces with this lovely essence of "lonely" Haiku. We are already on the second day now, and the prompt is "Water."  I will be following Theresa and Cynthia as they write their way through the month.  If you join in this poetic fun, please leave a comment and let us know so we can follow you as well.

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month:  "a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated."

At the Academy website there are many different ways you can participate in the enjoyment and propagation of poetry in this country, from signing up to receive a poem a day from Poets.org, to finding coming events honoring the poets and poetry of your own state on the National Poetry Map.  For instance, when I clicked on New Mexico, I found this perfect poem by a poet whom I do not know at all, John Balaban:

Passing Through Albuquerque    

At dusk, by the irrigation ditch
gurgling past backyards near the highway,
locusts raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods.

A Spanish girl in a white party dress
strolls the levee by the muddy water
where her small sister plunks in stones.

Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot.
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer.

Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm,
rocking the immense trees and whipping up
clouds of dust, wild leaves, and cottonwool.

In the moment when the locusts pause and the girl
presses her up-fluttering dress to her bony knees
you can hear a banjo, guitar, and fiddle

playing "The Mississippi Sawyer" inside a shack.
Moments like that, you can love this country.

This poem evokes an Albuquerque of years gone by, although I know for a fact that this version of it still exists in the Hispanic enclaves of the south Valley. So, who is this guy? I asked myself after I read the poem. A little searching brought me a lot of information about Balaban, and now I am embarking on a search for more of his work.  He's an amazing human being, as well as a fine poet, as this interview from TriQuarterly makes clear. So, there you are.  One brief visit to the National Poetry Month site, and I'm off on a new poetic adventure. With a reason to crawl used bookshops' poetry sections, one of my favorite occupations.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Feast Day at Laguna Pueblo

A short post on the final event of the week of spring break.  On Thursday of that week, my friend Maryam and I headed west early enough in the morning to get home to Albuquerque by dinnertime that evening. We drove the rented Ford Escape like bats out of hell, while listening to a couple of audio books I'd brought with me from the library.  It's quite surprising how much faster an audio book can make a trip.  On my way from ABQ to Dallas I listened to most of a not-terrific mystery by Lisa Scottoline, and although she's no one I have to read more of, it certainly made the miles fly by. It was wonderful though to have live human company as well as a recorded voice on the trip home, someone to pass the trail mix bag across the seats and take turns pumping gas.  We had already caught up on news and gossip while I was in Dallas, so we could enjoy listening to stories, Maryam knitted while not driving, and I just vegged when she drove.  Knitting is not in my bag of tricks.  Alas.

Friday we had a power breakfast in order to last through what had the possibility of being a long day; and drove west on I40 to the pueblo of Laguna for the big spring feast day, March 19, Feast of St. Joseph.  Joseph is the patron saint of the pueblo, and all the villages belonging to this pueblo come together to celebrate with dancing and feasting on this day.  My partner, Gail, works with a woman who is from the pueblo, and she, her daughter and mother were to be dancing in the festivities.  The idea of Catholic saints as patrons of the pueblos is perhaps startling to many, but is really no different than what happened all over the Old World when missionaries started converting the tribes and peoples of those times and places: a rich mixture of ancient spirituality was taken in and became part of the new Christian religion.  There is currently an exhibit at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center here in Albuquerque that features this tradition here in New Mexico: Saints of the Pueblos will be on display through next year and is worth a couple of visits.

We arrived at Laguna in time to watch a good deal of the morning dancing, in weather that flipflopped between bright sunshine and rain showers.  When the dancers broke for lunch, we found Gail's friend Kim and her family, and were invited to follow them to the house where they were going to eat lunch.  Once we had set foot through the doorway, we were automatically part of the lunch crowd.  As our hostess Julia said: "If you come into my house on this day, you stay and eat in my house."  So, of course we did.  We felt quite honored to be included, eating with the dancers in their beautiful regalia.  After lunch we thought we would be able to see more dancing, but soon after we left the shelter of Julia's home, a huge wind came up, whipping the dust and sand into our eyes, forcing the vendors to start taking down their booths and tents.  The wind soon brought stinging hail and freezing rain out of the scary black clouds that had been threatening (see photos), and we three decided to give up and head home.  Taking pictures of the dancers, or the pueblo in general is not allowed, but it is possible to take pictures of the church.  This Mission Church of San José de Laguna is three hundred years old, and is the heart of the pueblo.  I wish I had been able to take photos of the lovely paintings on the inside walls of the church, but had to content myself with the exterior only. We drove home in rain, hail, even some snow, in a wind which made keeping the car on the road a real challenge.

The santero, Charles M. Carrillo,  who created the retablos in the exhibit mentioned above also has a book by the same name as the exhibit, Saints of the Pueblos, where he explores this topic in depth.  I think I may have to buy it and get a little better informed on the Pueblos and their Santos.  There will be more feast days ahead, and hopefully once we retire ((soon, very very soon) we can have the time to explore many more of them.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Barn Owl Box Livestreaming Video, Updated

I posted on this yesterday, but have found more info and have continued to watch the nest. Annoyingly enough, I
still can't embed the code for this, but there are now five babies, no, four babies, one unhatched egg, in the box, Magee the daddy owl is very much in evidence, and it continues to be amazing. The Owl Box.

These are barn owls in San Marcos, CA.  They have become famous through the live streaming webcam placed in their box by a guy named Carlos Royal.  Learn more about Molly and Magee at their website, Molly's Box. 

More good stuff from Earth and Sky here.

Spring Break in Dallas

My spring break trip to Dallas was fun, but a disappointment in terms of seeing any wildflowers.  It was much too early for the areas of north Texas  I drove through as well as for Dallas itself.  An Austin friend tells me the flowers are really coming out now, and the blog Homesick Texan is asking on Facebook for folks to send in their photos. This is the time I am really a Very Homesick Texan, wishing I had the time for another trip over the border and down to the Hill Country, or to East Texas, to glory in the miracle of a Central Texas spring. But my class continues, and then come my cataract surgeries - so I'll have to say "maybe next year." By next spring Gail and I should both be truly retired, able to roam as and when and where we like. (Bluebonnet photo from Homesick Texan Facebook page)

Despite the wildflower disappointment, I enjoyed my nieces and a great meal at Gloria's with friends. Most of a day spent at the Dallas Arboretum's spring event Dallas Blooms was spiritually improving, although it was a little early even there.  And the crowds were astounding.  In truth I enjoy a visit to the Arboretum on a day without an ongoing event, just wandering through the various gardens, pools, copses, and of course the gift shop, without throngs of visitors everywhere. Here's a few photos from my day of tiptoeing through the tulips - and what Gail thought was a giant rat is in fact Ferdinand The Bull, smelling a bouquet of flowers.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Twelve Step Recovery Program Desperately Needed.

I asked for help when I first signed on to Facebook, but now I need a twelve step program (surely there are some?) to rescue me from its alluring clutches.  Life has disappeared into a sinkhole of roving the net, searching for former students, family members, guests from our days of running a bed and breakfast on Cape Cod, high school and college classmates, friends from all over the planet, both Real and Virtual, and catching up with their lives, which it is possible to do minute by minute in fact  After two and a half weeks on the damn thing, I have sixty five friends, some requests still unrequited, and I can't stop searching.  I've fallen and I can't get up!!!  I notice that some folks, mostly young people, have two or three hundred "friends" on their lists.  How is this possible?  I'm sixty-six years old and I don't think I've known that many people in my whole life.  How can my nineteen-year-old niece have 322 Facebook friends? The grand-daughter who has only been on the planet thirteen years have 122?  See?  I'm obsessed.  Look at me, using one Internet application, Blogger, to write about another one, Facebook.

While my garden goes unweeded, real  friends in real time and space uncontacted, phone calls unreturned, lesson plans left hanging.  My name is Mary Ellen and I have become an addict.  Gonna go to Facebook and search for a recovery program.  But first, if you're not already there, will you please sign up to be my Friend?