Where do we go from here?

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?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Poem For The Gift of Rain

Night Rain, Late March

Awake at two a.m.
and then again,
three-thirty,  eyes wide open,
under comforters and cats.
Listening to nocturnal blessing of
rain pounding on the hallway roof,
dripping into barrels just
outside my bedroom window.
The rain we haven't heard all winter,
falling through gravel mulch,
dry drifts of autumn leaves.
Soaking deep into roots of
cottonwood and olive.
Pores of the earth
drinking in the clouds,
the snowmelt
from the mountains miles away.
It may rain all night
on river, gardens, roof.
But there is purring at my shoulder.
I fall asleep til dawn.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Checking In

Home from Texas; drove back from Dallas with our friend Maryam, in time to go out to Laguna Pueblo on Friday for the Feast Day dancing.  We took her to the airport yesterday, and now it's time to get down to real life, no more fun and games - back to work, gotta go grocery shopping, not a thing but beans and eggs in the house, doing laundry this morning. More on both trips, Dallas and Laguna, maybe tomorrow.

After the sunshine and flowers in Dallas we were surprised by yet another spring snowstorm here on the weekend.  But then, it moved on to Texas too. What a strange year. Today it will be seventy, then Tuesday night another storm will blow in, quite possibly bringing yet another round of snow.  Great for the mountains and the skiers, and I must admit to gratitude for the moisture it brings to my yard. We have high expectations for spring, forgetting that it is actually the most changeable of seasons, as often cold as warm.  The explosion of weeds in my yard assures me that the flowers are on their way.  And my silly forsythia bushes are actually blooming.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Help Me Rhonda, Help Help Me Rhonda - Or Anyone Else

I won't be posting for a week or so, unless I get big inspiration and some unexpected time while I'm in Dallas, but if anyone has a minute to read the post I just put on Women On, asking for help with my new Facebook life. I don't really understand a thing about it.  Perhaps I am, as I have thought for years, just not a Social Network kinda gal.  So, anyway, let me know your thoughts. Do you Facebook? Why? Should I keep this? Why?

Have a wonderful week, it's spring break for many of us - maybe it will actually be spring???  Soon? Redbuds, daffodils, forsythia, tulips. They should all be there at Dallas Blooms.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Let Us OUT Of Here

A blogging friend posted a comment at my last post, to the effect that she had put her patio plants out on the patio, and they were looking great and happy out there. She is in Dallas, TX and I am in Albuquerque, NM. What a difference 640 miles make. As I type, it is snowing like mad here, has evidently been snowing for quite a while, and shows no signs of stopping. My outdoor plants, which are, as you can see, mostly succulents and cactii, have been screaming at me lately to LET THEM OUT of this house RIGHT NOW. They are in sunny south and west windows, the cats can't get to them, they are watered as needed, one of the crowns of thorns is blooming, the other is just about to, you'd think they would be happy as pigs in mud. They spend the summer on a rocky ledge in the back yard, among pots of perennials of a nontender sort, in morning summer sun, where they double in size every year; and their impatience to get back out there is palpable, emanating from them in waves.

Or is this what the therapists call projection? The snow is beautiful, but quite unexpected. I was planning to spend the morning weeding in the perennial beds. Like my jades, aloes, crowns of thorns, sedum, rosemary, and geraniums, I am desperate to GET OUT. It's supposed to be almost fifty degrees today, so this snow will be gone before dark.  But this strange stormy weather, say the necromancers, is supposed to go on through at least the rest of the month.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Already Gone To Texas In My Mind

Well, spring comes and goes at this time of year, doesn't it?  We've had some delightful days in the low sixties with sun and blue skies that tricked me into thinking winter was really over; but now we are having off and on storms blowing in from the Pacific, dumping feet of snow on the mountains, bringing cold winds, hail, and, blessedly, rain, to us here in the valley. Night before last we had a rain in the night that filled up my rain barrels, watered beds and planters.  When I went out to do some weeding yesterday, however, I found dry earth only inches down - so I am hoping for more precipitation before these storms blow off into Texas.

 As I myself will soon be blowing into Texas, this coming weekend in fact.  My spring break is next week, and my nieces in Dallas both have the same break, so I'm heading across El Llano Estacado to visit them and their parents for several days. A dear friend also lives in Dallas, and she too has that week off, so she will be driving back with me for a long weekend visit with us here in New Mexico.  I badly need this time, and a road trip, to blow the cobwebs of winter out of my soul. Gotta go to the library and find the perfect long audio book to last me at least to Amarillo.  From that point on there should be some wildflowers already blooming, at least according to the Sightings page at Wild About Texas Wildflowers.  I wish I had enough time to detour down to Austin and visit the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, but that trip will have to wait a while.

What I will be doing, however, while in Dallas is visiting The Dallas Arboretum for Dallas Blooms.  This floral festival began last weekend, and lasts until April 11.  It seems early to me, at least for the way things are here right now, but according to the websight, there are many things that should be blooming in mid-March.  Crazy teenage girls, forsythia, tulips, irises, flowering quince, maybe even azaleas? Hopefully sunshine and balmy weather? I'm there, baby.  Just have to get through this week's classes and blustery storms, and I'll be there in a more than virtual way.

Storm Clouds Moving East On My Day Off (Poem)


 I went outside just now
To move the trash cans to the curb.
The wind was like a hammer
Against my chest, my face.
The mountains in the east
Had vanished utterly
In curtains of fog and snow.
But it was clearing in the west,
Cloud patches tearing loose from ragged blue.
Back inside, I joined the cats
Watching from the bedroom window
In a patch of sun
As house finches emptied  feeders
In the plum trees' naked branches.
Looks like the weather guys were wrong.
Here in the valley
It will not snow today.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Blue In The Face

Well, I tried to keep from doing this, but I just can't help writing a little post about the two Big Prizes of Oscar night: Best Director and Best Film.I don't know about you, but I certainly expected James Cameron and Avatar to waltz away with both those prizes last night. I was as thrilled and surprised as Barbra when she gasped and said "Well, I guess the time has come," before announcing Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director for The Hurt Locker. Then Tom Hanks jumped right in and delivered the news that Bigelow's picture had won Best Film. I was thrilled and surprised first, yes, because Bigelow is the first woman to win these awards, and I still have enough residual seventies feminist in me to rejoice at this achievement; but also because The Hurt Locker was so much better a film than Avatar. Both movies were about war and its atrocities, but oh how differently they conveyed their intended themes. Avatar won the technological awards it deserved, but amazingly the Academy was able to recognize the complexity and subtlty in the delivery of Hurt Locker's message, whereas Avatar's admittedly noble messages were delivered with all the finesse of a sledge hammer. InPeter Bradshaw'review of The Hurt Locker in the UK paper The Guardian, he says:
The war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan and the "war on terror" (to use the increasingly forgotten Rumsfeldian formulation) never really got their John Wayne/Green Berets moment in Hollywood: a big movie whose unembarrassed purpose is to endorse the military action. Most of the serious responses have been liberal-patriot fence-straddlers, multistranded stories urgently set in Washington, the Middle East, south Asia and elsewhere, tying themselves in knots in an attempt to acknowledge a dovey point of view while covertly leaning to the hawk's – pictures such as Stephen Gaghan's Syriana, which showed torture in terms of CIA man George Clooney being tortured by an Arab, Robert Redford's mealy-mouthed Lions for Lambs, Gavin Hood's issue-fudging Rendition, and Peter Berg's The Kingdom, with its feeble moral equivalence between jihadist zealots and the US army.

How weird and ironic, then, that the nearest thing we have to Wayne is also the best and most insightful anti-war film about Iraq: Kathryn Bigelow's blazingly powerful action movie The Hurt Locker, whose unpretentious clarity makes for a refreshing change. Bigelow is, in dramatic terms, on the side of the soldiers. She has a single location – Baghdad – and wants to find out what is going on inside the US combatants' hearts and minds. Debating the purpose and origins of the conflict is not the point. Yet, for my money, Bigelow says more about the agony and tragedy of war than all those earnest, well-meaning movies that sound as if they've been co-scripted by Josh and Toby from The West Wing.

So, my favorite moment of Hollywood's Big Night was Ben Stiller meandering out to deliver the award for Best Makeup in full bluefaced Na'vi guise.  Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were entirely unfunny, but Stiller had me rolling.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Beach Attitudes

Every day I get a poem in my email box, courtesy of The Writer's Almanac.  Sometimes they suit my mood, sometimes they make me smile, sometimes they break my heart.  Today, without inspiration for writing anything, and without time to research a post, I'm simply passing along a poem from a few days ago.  One that did all three of the things I mentioned above. 

Beach Attitudes,
  by Robert Dana

Blessed is the beach, survivor of tides.

And blessed the litter of crown conchs and pen shells, the dead
blue crab in all its electric raiment.

Blessed the nunneries of skimmers,
scuttering and rising, wheeling and falling and settling, ruffling
their red and black-and-white habits.

And blessed be the pacemakers and the peacemakers,

the slow striders, the arthritic joggers, scarred and bent under
their histories, for they're here at last by the sunlit sea.

Blessed Peoria and Manhattan, Ottawa and Green Bay, Pittsburgh,

And blessed their children.

And blessed the lovers for they shall have one perfect day.

Blessed be the dolphin out beyond the furthest buoy,
slaughtering the bright leapers,
for they shall have full bellies.

Blessed, too, the cormorant and the osprey and the pelican
for they are the cherubim and seraphim and archangel.

And blessed be the gull, open throated, screeching, scolding   
me to my face,

for he shall have his own place returned to him.
And the glossy lip of the long wave shall have the last kiss.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Adventures With Ruth

Weren't we all heartbroken when Gourmet Magazine went belly up? I certainly know that I was.  November 2009 was the last issue of the magazine, and I cooked several of my Thanksgiving dishes out of it in a tearful farewell gesture.  Ruth Reichl was editor of Gourmet from April of 1999 until its demise ten years later. She has long been one of my favorite food writers; and her memoirs, Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires, hold the same place on my bookshelves and in my heart as Laurie Colwin's two collections of food writing, Home Cooking, and More Home Cooking.  These women write about both cooking and eating food with a verve and passion that makes their books as readable as any novel.

I was worried about where I would find Ruth Reichl after she was no longer editing Gourmet, but even before that November issue came out in print, I read that she would be hosting a PBS series called Adventures With Ruth, wherein Ruth and a celebrity companion (Frances McDormand in the first episode) would travel around the world tasting, cooking, exploring our favorite subject: food.  Once I knew its starting date, I called my local PBS station to find out when it would air.  Imagine my sorrow when the program director told me they would not be carrying this program, at least not the first season, and after that, who knows? I threatened never to renew my membership (an empty threat, yes), I begged and pleaded, but the answer was still simply, no, not this season anyway. Today I was noodling around Gourmet online, as a result of some recipes featured on AOL's Welcome screen (good recipes too), and discovered that I can watch this season's episodes of Adventures With Ruth right here on my computer screen.  They are all there  on the Video link on the website.  In living color.  Now, all I have to do is find time to sit here and watch them. I've started Episode One this morning.  Maybe I'll start getting up even earlier in the morning, as the days grow longer and lighter.  Start the day with my walk and then a cup of coffee and time with one of my major idols in some exotic locale. Life is good again.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Chestita Baba Marta Everybody

I think we don't celebrate anywhere near as many traditions and occasions in this country as we could.  Every morning I get an email from Garrison Keillor's delightful Writer's Almanac.  There's always a poem, and then information about the date, usually literary birthdays or events, always interesting and informative, often (it's Garrison Keillor, after all) quirky.  This morning's quirky little bit of information was about some of the holidays that are celebrated around the world on March 1st. Most of these holidays have to do with the hoped-for coming of spring.

My favorite of these is this one from Bulgaria:
In Bulgaria, today is Baba Marta, or "Grandmother March Day." Baba Marta is a mythical figure, a temperamental old lady with big mood swings that correlate with the Bulgarian climate. When she's happy, she brings warm weather. When she's angry, the winter frost persists. So today, people in Bulgaria go around greeting each other "Chestita Baba Marta" — which means "Happy Grandmother March" — hoping that the old lady will be cheerful and bring warm weather and sunshine. And today in Bulgaria, people wear martenitsi. The martenitsa is a red and white brooch-like adornment made of yarn. It is supposed to make Baba Marta have mercy on the wearers and allow them be happy, so that they may all welcome the coming spring as soon as possible.
I thought this was intriguing, so looked it up on the ever-informative Internet, and found this great site with lots more about Grandmother March and the martenitsi: history, traditions, and best of all - folk tales about the day.This is a day for cheerful optimism and hope, for getting rid of the winter doldrums,  pleasing Grandmother March so that the birds will return, the fruit trees will blossom into life, the beasts bear their young. It's too late for this March 1st. not a scrap of yarn in the house - but by next March I'm going to have a little stash of martenitsi ready for greeting Baba Marta.