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1. A Bike Race, A New Camera and Changing Skies...

The  2016 12 HOUR OF MESA VERDE mountain bike race happened this weekend under
 constantly changing skies...












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2. Ventura: A Bit of Propaganda at the Post Office


When we were in Ventura, California I dragged my family away from the beach and the usual touristy stuff...

to visit the Post Office, more accurately to gaze upon the 360 view of murals painted by Gordon Grant as part of the WPA's Art Program during the Great Depression.


A small part of the New Deal program, detailed here on Wikipedia that was envisioned by Franklin Roosevelt's administration to put to work many of the young men that had lost their jobs because of the crashing economy...


FDR put Harry Hopkins in charge of the WPA and Hopkins put Holgar Cahill in charge of the Arts programs. And it is a wonderful thing that Hopkins was of the opinion that "artist have to eat as well," so 15,000 to 20,000 pieces of artwork were created between 1935 and the middle of World War 2.

Gordon Kenneth Grant, came from an artist family, his father. Gordon Hope Grant, was an illustrator who worked with The Saturday Evening Post and the Boy Scouts of America. His son, painted the mural at the Ventura Post Office...


In the style of "America Scene" painting, bringing to mind the industrious farmer and worker in their orchards and fields the Ventura Post Office murals are  not that dissimilar to other patriotic works of the time to encourage a since of national pride and communal direction.


Like this painting of young steelworkers coming out of the USSR. View more Socialist Realism paintings here

But even though the panels at Ventura post office and other WPA murals have somewhat of a propaganda tilt to them, they have not become a national treasure. 




And in recent years, as the memory of that time in our national history fades away with the passing of the people who lived it, we are also losing the art as well, as new government buildings and public works are being built the painting, sculptures, and panels are being stuffed away in storage, claimed by unknown entities or thrown away. 

The effort to retain these pieces that belong to us all and protect them was recently highlighted on Antiques Road Show, click below to watch... 


Art. as I have said before, meaning nothing...
It is not necessary to live, can not sustain life or protect it.
But Art also means everything...
and does a very good job of declaring who we are and where came from.

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3. Ventura: Mission San Beunaventura...

                                               

Now surrounded by downtown Ventura, Mission San Buenaventura, read its history here ...


that actually includes such things as relocating nuns, earthquake, tidal waves and pirates, was built starting in 1782 by Franciscan Priest and the labor of the Native Chumash tribe, including a elaborate ditch system to bring water to the mission, surrounding gardens and orchards.

Through the wonderful gift shop and "ticket booth"...


a little museum room does a great job of letting it sink in just how old a church built and used  just a few years after the Revolutionary War is, complete with wooden bells that "dinged" or "thunked" with a small bit of metal inside.


 Here, posters annoucing the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Francisan priest to the shores of California have now become relics themselves...


Even the rafters, an addition to the original church or possible an addition to an addition, are old, very old...




Outside, a courtyard is formed by the museum/gift shop, the chapel...


and the Rectory...


We were there the Saturday after Good Friday, and early enough to observe the clean up from the Holy Week's festivities...

and the preparation for the celebration of Easter Sunday, the red being traded out for white...



Inside the oldest part of the existing church... 



the chapel follows the style and decore' of other mission church down the coast of California and across the Spanish territories of Arizona and New Mexico...

 the chapel at the Carmel Mission...

the alter at Mission San Barbara 

and even the ornate sanctuary of  Mission San Xavier Del Bac, almost at the Mexican border in Arizona...


Which we visit a very long time ago, when the children were much younger and I took a little break from the crowds and sketched the exterior, complete with mismatched and unfinished towers...



Yes, I have a thing for churches, all sizes. Intrigued by the beautiful important missions as well as the more primitive village churches captured here, from the High Road to Taos...







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4. Channel Islands: Where They Left Prisoners and Other Isolated Critters


The next day we headed back out to sea, crossing the International Shipping Lane....



and in the presence of dolphins again...


to make our way to the largest of the Channel Islands, Santa Cruz, protected by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy. We gained access at Prisoner's Harbor, a locale with a sorted past, that included the forced removal of the Chumash tribe, native's to the islands for hundreds of years and an ill conceived transplant of prisoners, left on the island with supplies and livestock around 1830, that did not go so well. The prisoners trying to make boats from not completely cured cow hide that ended attracting shark.




Since then the island has been mostly been a private cattle ranch, only recently donated to the public...



Little buildings are left on this side of the island, one of the few still standing near the shore were storage sheds where goods were stored until the occasional boat came to the island. 


Gathering for instructions from our guide, we woke up an Island Fox, just recently brought back from the edge of extinction by local efforts. Tiny as a small cat, the fox only resides on the Channel Islands and nowhere else in the world. 


Not overly developed, the island is also a supreme example of how the coastline of California would look, if not for the great development on the other side of the Santa Barbara Channel.


Santa Cruz is one of the least visited public parks, needing a guide to explore the trails. 


We picked a hike called Pelican's Roost and it did not take long for me to realize I was ill suited for the pace and the confines of being in the middle  of a fast moving train of people, hurrying up a steep trail on the side of a cliff...



I gladly sent my "mountain goat" family along and sat here and tried to sketch this view. The same one the man on watch would have, ready to signal the passing ships of the need to transport the goods waiting in the storage sheds near the peer. 


Mostly I just stared off to the horizon and hoped the boat came back for us, I had heard it's engine roar and watched it move off to the other side of the island. The whole experience was unnerving, much more than the time I have spent on top of a mountain, looking down at valleys thousands of feet below.



Luckily my family did come back to get me...


and after another hour or so at the shore...


where not only the passengers brought in that morning, but a few rather scruffy scientist who had been on the island for days or weeks doing research were ready to get back on the mainland...


a line forming even before the boat left the dock for a chilled beer from the galley.


Crossing the channel again, we took a meandering route and were rewarded with another sighting of a humpback, its black slick skin glistening atop the water. What great creatures has God created and what a privilege to travel along side them.


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5. The Channel Islands: Better Than Sea World...



From the west side of the Rocky Mountains to the West coast takes us fourteen hours of 
driving with a few In and Out Burger stops along the way...


 getting to Ventura Beach right before the sun was sinking below the water.





A few days later, we moved farther west, this time by boat from the Ventura Harbor to see what we could see....




and it didn't take long with sea lions basking in the sun anywhere they could.





Soon, dolphins found us, dipping, diving and racing the boat.









Nothing is so thrilling as watching animals where they belong, do what they 
want to do, with no constraints.


Near one of the oil rigs that are paced off along the Santa Barbara Channel, a shallow shelf of a mere eight hundred and fifty feet or so, before the ocean bottom drops to thousands of feet, the show continued with a feeding frenzy on the surface of the water. Pelicans and seagulls swirling above...


 and ever so often, signaled by a puff of air...



A humpback whale getting a mouthful and then sinking back down under the water. 


Turning back towards the mainland, other puff coming up from the water, signaled grey whales, in a rhythmic migration north towards Alaska, making a long journey from the other polar cap. Able to hold their breath for upwards of 8-10 minutes between shorter repetitive breaths, we followed them and waited, rewarded several times with them resurfacing...





just showing the ridge of their spine or the tips of their tails. I wondered if that is all 
the ancient sailors saw, creating imaginative sea monsters...




When the tails came up high, that signaled a deep dive and the great whales disappeared into a world we can hardly conceive of, even now.











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6. Trip To Denver: Trouble With Indians


After perusing the Wyeth Exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, (my review here)we headed downstairs to partake of A Place In The Sun, featuring the painting of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings, two artist of Germany decent that made their way from the East Coast to Taos, New Mexico both around 1915 and were funded by the mayor of Chicago, Carter Harrison and Oscar Mayer, yup the hot dog tycoon.


E. Martin Hennings, often painted his subject, nestled amongst the idyllic scenery in Northern New Mexico....



Walter Ufer was a different matter and through his painting he had something to say. Unfortunately, it didn't seem the curators and docents at the Denver Art Museum did much research on why he painted what he painted, focusing more on how he painted it.


Ufer's painting are rough and full of symbolism. The smartly dressed docent, who was leading a gaggle of stylish Denverite ladies around the show near us got that right.... 


Past that, she got about everything else wrong. Yes, I live in the Four Corners, very near Taos and  next to the Navajo and Ute reservations, have taught Native American children for about a decade, am an artist which can make me annoying on "the facts", but when I hear an official volunteer with the mini microphone and touch pad declare not slight errors but grievous misinformation on a culture she and the museum, according to the plaques beside the painting have no interesting in "getting right", it makes me cringe.


"Are these from Guatemala," asked one of the ladies, pointing out the brightly colored blankets Ufer depicted on several of his subjects. No response from the Docent.



Standing in front of Ufer's painting "Me and Him,"another of the ladies in the group asked why they looked so mad. The Docent's response, was..."Well, they are just a mad people."

Pause,,,,yes, she declared that the indegnious people who saw their land, culture and lives being taken over by the Western expansion of Anglo Europeans were just "cranky".

Then, pondering "The Solemn Pledge", borrowed by the DAM from the Chicago Institute of Art...



The Docent declared the painting depicted several generations of father and son, as they sent the boy off to Indian School where he would learn "how to be an Indian."

Okay...

I know the Denver Art Museum is well, an art museum, not a history museum. But to be frank, they aren't that good at getting the art part right either. As I mentioned at the top of the post, we also viewed the Wyatt show, featuring father and son Andrew and James. The reality is this, there is a wide, wide gap between being an artist and being a docent or a volunteer that works at an art museum, reading off the important bullet points listed for them....
             
               

Ease dropping in the Wyeth show, there were times I think the docents didn't really understand what they were reading off. I've been to enough museums and observed enough patrons to conclude they mostly want a short, ordered description to what they are looking at or sometimes just to be told what they should think about the painting in front of them. That is bad enough when the painting depicts something somewhat familiar to them.

But when the subject, the indigenous people surrounding Taos New Mexico already has  volumes and volumes of bad information, I can't stand anymore grievous misconceptions being added to people's perception.

The US Government did not set up Indian School to teach the native population how to be better Indians. They pulled children from their mother's arms, sometimes at gunpoint to literally "breed out the Red Man" by distancing the younger generations from their cultures, their language and their families. Cutting their hair, dressing them in White Man's clothing, beating them if they spoke their native tongues, teaching them a trade and often farming them out to be servants and laborers...


Thus many of Ufer's subjects were of the Pueblos Indians gardening and working for their White employers...

Bob Abbott and His Assistant (1935)

The plaque next to the painting talks more about Ufer's last great work being a self portrait, connecting the spent artist to the old car, instead of the dejected assistant, sitting on the bumper, obviously more important to Ufer, for his placement in the painting, then the old car.

Reality was and still is, that places like Taos and Santa Fe are attractive to rich Easterners like Henning, Ufer and even Georgia O'Keeffe for holidays, artists retreats, second homes where labor is cheap, real cheap.
 In New Mexico, though Anglos are in the minority, they hold the power, politically and have the say in most matters, like land. President Teddy Roosevelt took 48,000 acres of the Taos Pueblos land, land they have had claim to since the 13th century and made it part of the Carson National Forest. The land, including the Blue Lake which the Taos People consider sacred. The holdings were finally  returned to them 1970 and 1996.

Sadly. such facts were not very highlighted by the Denver Art Museum in their A Place In The Sun show.   

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7. Trip to Denver: The Wyeth Exhibt

After "the business" was completed, we went to the Denver Art Museum's exhibition of arguably the greatest American family of artists, father and son- Andrew and Jamie Wyeth...


So popular is the Wyeth legacy, started first by "the grandfather" N.C, Wyeth...


 whose was one of our great American illustrators of the Golden Age and whose "prop" boots were on display...

The DAM show, which when I was a kid and went Denver on field trips to the Art Museum, would love to keep the little badges that proved we had paid the admission, cause it spelled a "naughty" world. Sadly, this trip I only got a sticker that spelled out the full name, but I digress.

This show featured N.C. son, Andrew Wyeth ( 1917-2009).....


know for his muted palette of browns and earth tones,  his studies of the local inhabitants of New England including the Helga series...


and the Olson family. His most famous painting that of Christina's World, gazing up through the grass of the Olson's farm. The finished painting was not at the DAM, but one of his preliminary sketches was, showing the energy of the idea, that is often lost when the idea is worked out.


We interrupt this review of a great show to highlight something else, who goes to museums in the middle of the day, middle of the week? 

Tourist and well, lots and lots of "older ladies", who made the day interesting. First, they are concerned with everything, their business and others. They first took notice of us, because the "Member's line" was rather long, cause they all come mid day, mid week and we were the only ones in the "other line" and they were rather vocal about that. Then, once our tickets were bought and we were waiting in the rope queue, they were rather upset we did not want to listen to the audio commentary, one reaching over the rope to stop us from going in, unguided to be washed this way and that in the exhibit hall. 


My husband dubbed them the "audio zombies" and they did seem to zombie walk from one painting to the next and then stand motionless listening to the commentary coming through the large satellite phone-ish looking device at their ear.

I was polite with the whole encouragement to not go in, unanchored and resisted tell them that my Wyeth knowledge was decades long,  Helga being released to the world when I was in art school decades ago and just recently watching a whole documentary on the Wyeth legacy.


And I was Jon's whispering commentary, directing  him to appreciate the photograph of the wooden box on the shore line and telling him of Andrew Wyeth's frustration with gawkers while he tried to work and his solution.

The show was very telling, especially the progression of Jamie Wyeth , (1946-  ), showing him experimenting for his voice, painting such icons as Warhol....


his father and grandfather's influence showing in his palette and subject matter....


to finding something that was truly his own....


greater than life whimsical animals. 

The show would have been wonderful, if not for the  "gaggle of older ladies" who didn't seem to know what to think, needing to be instructed, either with the "zombie audios" or clustered around a "docent", a volunteer guide of the museum with a tablet and mini microphone.


They were quite suprised by the "Nude Wall" , a series of sketches and studies...



I heard a few audible "Oh, mys!" as they came around the corner from the lovable animals.
Don't know what they thought of the "pumpkin head man...


 at the end of the show, by that time, I wanted to distance myself, cause, well, I had had my fill of "the gaggle". Unfortunately I would have to deal with them again in A Place in the Sun Exhibit...


 and this time my frustration is probably going to result in an email of complaint to the Denver Art Museum. That story to come in the next post. 



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8. Trip To Denver: The New Union Station


We headed up to Denver last week for  a little bit of business in the Capitol city...


Click HERE for video of train passing by coffee shop...

But when that was done, we stayed around for a couple of days. For one, to explore the newly renovated Union Station on the Northwest end of downtown...


Denver continues to add to their mass transit system, a sleek new hub between Union Station and the South Platte River in LoDo (lower downtown).


The old Union Station has been a anchor on the Northwest corner of the Sixteenth Street Mall...






and includes a hotel...

                           

and several restaurants, listed here...


Ate at the very hip Kitchen Next Door Community Pub for dinner...


and then came back the next day and had breakfast at Snooze, yup the 60's are cool again...



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9. Tree by Train...


We got our tree by train. That is the Durango Silverton Train up in Cascade Canyon, where the trees near the tracks needed to be thinned out, since hot coal ash spits out along the tracks. So early in the morning we drove over the snowy pass....




to Durango and load up in a sunny enclosed car.



Where on the outskirts of town, we were greeted with a show, and a nifty form of advertising...



Though the inside cars were warm and sunny, we opted for the outside observation car, since we were dressed in about three layers, ready for snow and harsh conditions...


Ahhh, not, our breakfast was  champagne mimosa and yummy sandwiches from Breads back in Durango, their turkey cranberry is like Thanksgiving between two slices of bread...





The views were amazing for the hearty, climbing up past Missionary Ridge...






Picking up passengers at Rockwood








The cars were full, but only thirty of us had tree permits. We were dropped off...


but the train kept going a little bit farther to the Cascade stop where the passengers could sip hot cider and warm themselves around fire pits, while we found our trees...




We took our chances with one that looked good on the front, but was crammed up against other trees, since it has to go up against a wall, near a pathway in our house. We were a little worried about getting back to the tracks, since the train is the only way out. We could have taken a little bit more time...












Here is video, love the sound of that whistle blowing, especially when it is your only way out of a deep snowy mountain canyon! 



or click HERE for the video of the train coming back to pick us up...





And then we headed home...


And Jon carried the tree through downtown Durango to the truck.






The red Christmas ornament was soooo not my idea, makes the elk skull look like a combo of  Zero and Santa's reindeer from the Nightmare Before Christmas...




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10. Continuing the HolidayEating in Santa Fe...


Friday, we drove down to Santa Fe, like we do so many years, getting into the square as the sun was going down and the town was getting ready to light the plaza, and welcome Santa...



We ate New Mexican food coming down from Colorado, at the Chaco Grill, at the Phillips 66 gas station in Cuba.  Then once in town, we ate at Maria's Kitchen, a locals favorite for about 40 years and Robert Redford's when he comes to Santa Fe... 


Then Saturday morning we went to the Farmer's Market in the Railyard and ate some more- apple epinadas, breakfast burritos, samples of fresh apples and cider. But we were mainly there to get more New Mexico red chili powder from our suppliers in Chimayo, who bring it in green lidded rubbermaid tubs and sell it in ziploc bags, 1 pound for $18 dollars. Down in the plaza, small bags sell for $25 in posh stores. 

There were other good finds from the vendors outside and the holiday mercado on the other side of the tracks...


But we didn't get cheese and you need cheese to go with the glorious bread we also purchase, so then it was off to Whole Foods, where allergic to dairy, all I could was watch others delight in the cheese choices and then go off and find some hummus and salami



After our bread and cheese picnic, we headed back down to the plaza and pursued shops and museums....


 including Design Warehouse, a staple for Santa Fe's  infamous lit paper stars.


Then we ate at the Burrito Company, not that we were hungry yet....


but, who can resist handmade tortillas, chicken fajita tacos with Spanish rice and black beans, burritos and nachos?

So then we walked it off, the others going to more museums and me, well, I strolled up Canyon Roads, spending as much time as I liked in the many art galleries..... ahhhhhhhh! 


Where even the old adobe buildings themselves are a beautiful thing to ponder, with uneven floors and narrow doors.


Then back together we went to a movie, ate popcorn, cause how can you not eat popcorn watching Daniel Craig, well, be James Bond...


Also how can you love it when Jame Bond saves the girl, at the same time hate it James Bond has to save the girl?

Well, that pondering is for another post, but after the movie we did go back to the Railyard and eat at the Second Street Brewery, where I partook of hard cider this time and Jon proved he can distinguish the subtle woody, fruity or hoppy flavors of several micro brews, presented to him in one sip taster glasses. Daughter #2 did do the driving back to the hotel. Garrett's Desert Inn, which is cheap in comparison to the other hotels down town right off the plaza.

Of course, Sunday, stuffed or not, we walked over to our and everybody else in the knows, place to go for breakfast, Pascals. Part of the fun is the waiting outside and people watching and listening  to the conversations, I confess.


Inside, it is their Mexican hot chocolate drinks, cornmill blueberry pancakes, huevos rancheros, and breakfast plates that make the wait forth it....


Then we headed back to Colorado, but did stop in Cuba at the Phillip 66, at the grill, about 2 hours later for beans and onions wrapped in some more fresh made tortilla. 



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11. Elk at a Wedding...


Headed over a few mountain passes to Vail, Colorado for my niece's wedding to a pretty neat guy, I might say. Daughter #1 and her boyfriend met us there, so it was just me, Jon, Daughter #2 and....

                                 
a big 6 point bull elk rack. 

Uh-huh, an elk. My brother's rack I talked about HERE, that traveled with us from Wyoming to South Dakota into Nebraska, back into Wyoming and then down the Rockies to SW Colorado, a few years ago. 
This weekend it traveled again, at the request of our niece., to help decorate a patch of forest for her rehearsal dinner.
Towards Lizard Head Pass we went, slowly through the town of Rico, where word is the judge is a mean "son of a gun".


We skirted past Telluride, made our way up and over the Dallas Divide...


where we lucked out with the construction that warned of the possibilities of 30 minute delays.


The other side of Vail, and after dealing with a confused GPS, we found the Gore Creek Campground...



where we found my family setting up...


and then when the party was ready to start, out came the flannel, it's a Colorado thing.






As is elk, which not only was part of the decoration, it was part of the meal. Shot by my brother in Wyoming and prepared by my mother and sister, echoing twenty five years ago.For my wedding, nestled below Longs Peak and Estes Park, elk grazed outside the church windows and we had elk stroganoff..

Cast iron skillets, Le Creuset and red checkered table clothes has also always been a part of my family. As is putting all we have into cooking and food....



And how wonderful it is to be blessed with  like minded souls who know the importance of a feast for the eyes as well as the palette.




Beautiful food brings beautiful fellowship and weddings bring together those who do not always get to feast together...















to visit and play together...





With the cool evening air, the fires are a gathering place, to talk and avoid the embers as the wind changes direction.






                 

And as the sun sets, the fires provide light, with Coleman lanterns situated here and there...



A harsh flash of a camera, capturing and disrupting the flow of the evening...



The images from the firelight much more interesting and kind in the dark of the night...






Wedding's merge people and  families. Feasting brings people together and in my family, it seems that more often than not, that happens in the mountain. Like I said it is a Colorado thing, although now that I think about it, was there green chilies?  


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12. A Campus Refurbished...




Many Springs ago, I attended a Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators Rocky Mountain Chapter workshop for Illustrators. It was an educational day,  but what really stuck with me was where it was held.. at the Rocky Mountain College of Art, in Lakewood, Colorado.  I snapped a bunch of photos and have never put them up, but now here they are...


Celebrating a half a century, RMCAD  moved to this gorgeous campus in 2002.



Sculptures and outside installation  adorn the center, green  "rectangle" as they should at an art school.



and the students, make their own statement, as they should at Art School...


But the studios, housed in mostly red brick buildings, hint at a time gone by...



50 years farther back, at the turn of the century, the campus did have another purpose, it was a Tuberculosis Asylum, built by generous Jewish Ladies Auxiliaries back East, as the plaque below the water tower attest too...






The Tri Boro Dining Hall was erected by the New York Ladies Auxiliary, Long Island Division, Florence Hoberman Auxiliary of Brooklyn.



The New York Ladies Auxiliary Pavilion...





J.C.R.S stands for the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society and the organization cared for many affirmed who were sent to Colorado, to benefit from the dry air. 

Our Illustrator Workshop took place in the Mary Harris Auditorium, built much later in 1941, when the campus had changed focus as a medical research facility....

 Screaming "Art Deco" in its Architectural Style, it was sometimes hard to focus on the speakers in the glowing auditorium ...





Or at our  hands on workshop,  in one of the classrooms where no surface was safe from adornment....




Oh, how hard it was not add my own creativity, my ballpoint pen just laying there, but alas, not my art school and not my time.... Read the rest of this post

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13. A Drive Down from Telluride...


Starting up on Dallas Divide, northeast o Telluride, these are not all the same day, but more so snapshots of the route we take so often coming home from Denver or after a day out for a drive. What do they have in common? That the light, the sky or the wildlife was so amazing, it made me stop and take notice.


Coming down into the valley, before Telluride...


Almost to the new round about that is still so darn confusing...


A huge elk herd on the valley floor, coming into town...


click HERE for the full YouTube video

In Telluride, that silver line in the box canyon....


Turns into this, closer up....


And after passing by more critters....


Is this, Bridal Veil Falls, complete with a very old house and hydro-electric power.


Coming back through Telluride, cause for all but the most insane, there are only two ways out of the valley and going west, over Lizard Head, sometimes the clouds get stuck in the Dolores Canyon...


And the light tilts in the old town of Rico...


Where below, Mama and babies can be spotted....


Down canyon and up on the mesa tops, the clouds sometimes sink lower than Mesa Verde....


Sometimes you have to be patient going home...


But once there, our old barn never disappoints, whatever the season, the La Platas in the distance and the setting sun in front of it...


Neither do the wild orchids and sweet peas that faithfully come up every year, whether I remember them or not. 



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14. Churches on the High Road, Santa Fe to Taos...
























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15. "Migration Through Moab" to be part of Durango Art Center's- The Natural World: A Fragile Harmony


"Migration Through Moab"
Fabric Collage

to be part of the Durango Art Center Member's Show

The Natural World: A Fragile Harmony

August 7th- September 19th
Tuesdays- Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Opening Reception
This Friday
August 7th, 5-7 p.m.

802 East Second Ave, Durango, Colorado
970-259-2606

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16. Through The Green Rez to Flagstaff
















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17. The Bike Race That Wasn't To Be...

Mesa Verde Twelve Hour, Mother's Day Weekend 2015, this year the weather won...



















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18. "Saturday Morning" to be part of Denver's Santa Fe Art District show...


This Friday, in downtown Denver, on historic Santa Fe, everything is going to the dogs, at least at
new exhibit,  Gone To The Dogs, which I have a privilege of being a part of. Those that follow me on Twitter, or Instagram, have seen this piece in process. I plan on getting a post up here, showing the progress, but not before I head over the mountains tomorrow, to take my daughter and mom to the opening night festivities at the gallery. Which will be part of  Santa Fe Art District's Third Friday premier night including many galleries staying open late, hopefully with a wonderful summer evening.

"Gone to the Dogs6"
July 17th- August 22

915 Santa Fe Drive on Denver's Art District of Santa Fe

Gallery Hours:
Wed- Thurs, 1-5 pm
Friday. 1-5 pm
First & Third Friday, 4-8 pm
Sat, 1-4 pm
or by appointment

Opening and Artist' reception: July 17, 5-8 pm
First Friday Art Walk: August 7, 5-8 pm
Third Friday Collector's Night: August 21, 5-8 pm

I will, I will get more up about the process of making "Saturday Morning" but not until after I head over the mountains and take my daughter and mom to the opening reception. If you are around the Denver area, I'd love to see you Friday evening! 


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19. Peeking at the Past...


The first step to writing a novel is building a world and  in historical fiction it is more like having to recreate  a time and place that actually existed, a mighty undertaking. I love using photographs for my construction of Moonflower and I found a treasure trove in the Farm Security Administration photo archives from the Library of Congress. Taken during the depression and the war years and including much more  than Dorothea Lange's iconic images of a mother and her children...


Read this post from Yale's Photogrammar for why such wonderful photogrpahs were part of FDR's New Deal, but thank the powers that be that someone did document this hard time in our nation's history. 
The whole archive is on the Library of Congress site, but its is hard to navigate, best viewing is probably Google Images, here.

I could go on, well, I could go on with some kind of "words", but I won't just really look at the few below or in your own searching, of the fathers and mothers, the shacks and the dirty kids, the attempts to keep a sense of pride and the ones who gave up....these photos don't need words...







                             



But in writing Moonflower, I learned much from them, what was on the sparsest of diner tables, how long has Mircle Whip, a family favorite, been around, how men crouched in conversation, what they wore when they worked the farm. Apparantly, according to my mother, the reason men wore their overalls cuffed at the bottoms was to collect the ash from their cigarettes. Yup, my grandfather knocked his cigarette ash into the cuff of his overalls and it was a horrid thing if my mother or grandmother forgot to shake the ash out before washing the clothes. Can you imagine? I would have loved to include that in Moonflower, but the religious fundamentalists in the Four Corners definitely did not smoke and it just seemed out of character for Josh, ( whose Josh? read here).
My grandfather was also a dairy farmer and my mom was a little girl in the area of Moonflower, so much was learned from her stories of my grandpa in the dairy barn, with the strength to lift a container of milk into the separator with one hand and his tendency to talk naps hidden away in the hay.
My family did not have to move off their farms in the depression. They are not from the Four Corners there is no polygamy in our history, but my great grandparents really really liked each other and my grandmother was one of thirteen children with six brothers and I have always heard stories of when they were boys....


and worked the Minnesota farm with their dad...




Sadly, I knew many of  my great uncles longer than I knew my grandfather, who died when I was four, but my childhood was full of trips back to my grandmother's brothers' and my grandfather's brother's farms.
For Moonflower, I decided that one of the universal truths I was going to hold on to was, big families are big families whether they are big because your father has four wives or because your Danish great grandmother and grandfather were really nuts about each other, sibling dynamics are probably very similar. One thing my grandmother would always say was, " don't kid yourself, the older children raised the younger."
One oddity I did copy from my family was my great uncle Harry, my grandmother's oldest brother was the same age as his uncle, my great, great grandmother's youngest son. In the book, mother and daughter overlap having babies...
Even family pictures from the sixties, have proven to be helpful, my great uncles and grandfather helping fix up a old cabin in the foothills near Boulder with my dad, a cabin about the same age as the era of the forties of  my story....









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20. It's Too Early For This Old Apricot Tree....











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21. Proclaimed at almost 11,000 feet....





"Life wins!" 
Easter, Morning
San Sophia Station
above Telluride, Colorado 


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22. Begin Again...


The lack of snow on the distance mountains and the warm temps have confused the trees here in the West...



 It is worrisome when old apricot trees start to bloom as early as they did this year. It is also worrisome when there is no more snow or moisture forecasted when there hardly has been any, even if that means we have apricots.
But, the snow or lack of it, the blooms, along with the green grass, baby cows and chirping birds are far out of our control, Spring, as long as God is willing, is a time that everything begins again.
This spring has stirred several new beginnings for us, or the hints of new beginnings, looking at three universities for both Daughter #1 and #2, one undergraduate and one graduate...
First, we spent some time up in Salt Lake where the blossoms were in full bloom around the State Capitol...


 to look at the University of Utah...


 a beautiful old campus up in the foothills above the city, where pasture was allotted for milk cows, beginning as an institution in 1850, three years before the Salt Lake City Temple's ground breaking. While we were there the Mormon's most important site was surrounded in pink...




Then it was over to the East Slope of Colorado to check out the University of Colorado in Boulder where we enjoyed a tour of the campus, including the Old Main building...


where the entire university was housed when it opened in 1876, the same year as statehood.
Then it was up to Fort Collins where the flower beds were already full of blooming bulbs around the even older campus...

established when Colorado was just a territory, when six local farmers donated land.


Seeing my girls, and friends of my girls...


loving on the horses near Olde Town, Fort Collins, touring campuses and pondering where they want to live, apart from me, is joyous and heartbreaking as a mother. But for new things to begin, other things have to end.
Something that was in my, our control, and signals a very big new beginning for us, our church "called" a new pastor. To clear up confusion, I am actually a "gentile". We and a few dozen families started our church about twelve years ago, we called our first pastor about a decade ago, now we have asked another man to move his family across the country and settled here in the rural West with small children to start a new life and continue to build our church....yikes!
But he is willing and we, the congregation are willing, so if God is willing this will be a good, new beginning for all of us!



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23. When Hipster Wasn't Hip: Mommyhood

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24. "Someone has to decide something...."


Saturday, an earthquake hit Nepal, causing massive destruction and loss of life. An avalanche at Everest added to to the death toll, which will not be fully realized until relief help gets to outlining remote villages and recovery efforts in Kathmandu conclude their work. My heart and prayers go out to the people of Nepal.

Oddly, just a day before, on the TED Radio Hour on NPR, the subject was organization after natural disasters and other things and one of the interviews was that of Morgan and Caitria O'Neill, who after a "never happens in Massachusetts" tornado almost leveled their small town, they put their unique skill sets together to organize their community's recovery efforts...



I've talked before about my experience when my grandmother was in the Big Thompson Canyon's 100 year flood, the illustration above was inspired by that and have shared my frustration of being far away when less than forty years later in 2013 the canyons of North Central Colorado experienced a 1000 year flood and here over on the West Slope, I was glued to my laptop to get news of the places and people from my childhood. 

Not that long ago, we were evacuated when a fire burned in the canyon beside our homestead... 

We, along with our neighbors were advise in a briefing at a command post when and if we would have homes to return to and what  support and assistance was available in the meantime.Two years later, driving along the road, or walking in our forest we still will find plastic water bottles, donated along with snicker bars and such from the community, carried by the hotshots in the smoke and heat and dropped to the ground  when empty, Fire fighter and disaster workers are the only ones who I think should not be looked down upon for littering. 

The subject of the last weeks TED Radio Hour, wasn't about Disasters, but about Organizing and something one of the O'Neill's sisters said in the NPR interview hit a chord with me...

"Someone has to decide something..."

In their case, it was two barely twenty year old girls who rushed back to their hometown to help, ended up being "mostly" in charge because, they opened their mouths.

I have that problem too, I often am the one to, well, open my mouth and not be guarded and that trait, good or bad is why now, not even two years on, I'm the head cook of a soup kitchen...



 Caitria and Morgan talked of having to make quick decisions about a variety of things and that is something I often have to do...




What recipe will get rid of the most of our parishable items before they go bad? Based on the weather, the time of month, the time of year, how many patrons will show up today? What to do with the three large boxes of not trimmed and dirty produce which was starting to "bolt" that a local farm brought in a half an hour before lunch has to be ready to serve? How long are we going to stand at the counter and clean and trim the produce before we declare enough and toss the rest and go home and put our feet up after making lunch for a 100 people.
I burned out a $100 plus Cuisinart food processor trying to prep free sweet potatoes to put in the freezer. It is a constant struggle to balance what we have, both that is donated and bought, with the resources and time we have and often I get it wrong... 
I thing therein lies the trait that marks those of us who do start deciding things. We aren't afraid of the sky falling, the world falling off it's axis, or tossing a box of sweet potatoes if we get it wrong. We just move on, well sometime after a silent rant, but  keep making decisions, ready to factor in our mistakes the next time something similar comes along....




And like the O'Neill sisters who were amazed that someone would question if they were even out of high school but than take their orders as gospel, I have been amazed at how willing people, on the average fifteen years older than me, want someone else to make the decisions, even after I try and poll all who are involved, getting the response often that they do not want that responsibility, even if that responsibility is if we should have corn or green beans as a side. 
Now, the opinions and sometimes criticism does come after the fact or during, once the plan is committed to about why we are doing something a certain way. I try to be pleasant and patient but all that depends on how close to noon it is, how long the line is outside and how ready I am to be off my feet. 

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25. Walking on the wrong side...


I had to drive Daughter #2 into the larger town this morning to be part of a group of high schoolers who would be giving advise to the graduating 8th graders  about what to expect entering as Freshmen in the Fall. All year she has been part of a county wide leadership program, involving the two smaller "villages" and large town's students.

Trying to be efficient, I decided to take the dogs and walk them around the neighborhood of the middle school, waiting for my daughter to get done with her talk and then I could drive her back to her school, located in a much smaller community about ten miles, up the highway.

I often do take the dogs "to town" to walk but had never walked them south of Main. I don't think I will be doing it again, either. All towns have a neighborhood where the property values aren't so high, but the police seem to be called there regularly. It's often referred to as the other side of the tracks. Sometimes its the southern part of town, or in the floodplains or lowlands. The hills and slopes reserved for those with nicer homes where the views are better.

Not even a block from the parking lot of the Middle School, I was greeted by a gauntlet of harassing dogs behind chain link fences and no trespassing signs. I had to hold back my two sizable dogs and zigzag from one side of the street to the other, or walk down the middle of the street. Dogs who never leave their yards are a special kind of crazy. In more than one yard there were three of them barking and rushing the fence, which also contained broken down cars and rubbish. I hurried past an old beat up truck, its cab being used for storage or as a place to sleep, both windows carefully blocked by blue towels from the inside as was the windshield.

I took the first street back up to Main and crossed at the light to the north side, where I spend most of my time, my church, the yoga studio, the soup kitchen and our favorite restaurants all right there. I breathed a sigh of relief and loosened up on the leash I had been holding firm to the last three blocks.

Passing the county offices, I was greeted by smartly dressed assistant DA's, their Oakley sunglasses and mountain bikes atop their SUV hints at what they would be doing on their lunch break or after work. One more block and I turned left to walk down the tree lined median of the boulevard  most towns in the West also have. The dogs, now relaxed, sniffed the grass to discover the paths of the dogs and walkers already past by.  On both sides of the grassy center, cars rolled by at a slow pace and beyond them were cute Victorian and Arts and Craft houses, well kept up, with blooming trees and tulips in their front yards

I often walk the boulevard, much easier then trying to keep two dogs, one blind, on a narrow side walk. But I usually walk it the opposite direction, able to go almost a mile down to the library and park. But this morning, I had to get back around to the Middle School to pick up my daughter. The dogs only had two blocks of grass to sniff, before I led them south again, navigating a horrible intersection of three converging streets, where the neighborhood quickly becomes not so desirable, pressed up against the highway and the edge of town.

Things went okay for a couple of blocks with little traffic, I walked on the edge of the street to avoid the narrow sidewalks again. Then it changed, when at an intersection, I was greeted by a older lady in a old Trans Am. Apparently I was walking right where she needed to park and she intended to push me off the street, slowly rolling towards me, not having the time to wait at the intersection for me to pass by. So facing a car, I pulled the dogs up on to the curb, no sidewalk available there and stepped around some xeriscaping, so she could get settled in her parking place.

Now this all seemed extra humorous to me because all week I have been researching, thanks to you-tube and Gopro-  road rage, that between road biker and cars for a project and then today I get pushed off the road by a car. Let me just say, never take a bike tour of New Zealand and I wouldn't ride a bike in London.

Crossing back to the south side of Main, I walked by a large vacant lot where street vendors sell out of their trucks produce or puppies and a guy has been selling those fuzzy sports logo blankets for years, but lucky it was too early for anyone to set up shop. Next to the lot, a chain link fence cut off a narrow sidewalk and the highway coming into town, from the sports fields of the Middle School. I made my way around, kept the dogs close, impressed with the green growth of the school's Farm to Table program I was passing, neatly in raised beds in front of a greenhouse. One of the many programs in our community that is trying to bridge the gap between the North and South sides. Sadly getting kids excited about real food even has to be done here in such a rural area.

Continuing around the curve of the track field and bleachers, I would soon be right next to the large semitruck making their way up Highway 491, the main  north south thoroughfare in the  Four Corners. The sidewalk was narrow, but at least there was one. Then I noticed the biker, coming towards me, on the sidewalk. Not a road biker, or a recreational biker, but a DUI biker or can't afford a car biker. But still a biker on the sidewalk, who had no intention of riding on the road, next to the semi trucks. Unfortunately he could hardly ride a bike for the way he was rocking this way and that and either did not see me or did not care that well, I was in front of him. So for the second time that day, I got out of the way of an on coming vehicle, but this time, stepped down onto the road and keeping one eye on the large blue semi rushing towards me, maneuvered  around the biker and back up on the sidewalk before the whoosh of the semi passed me by. The look on the bikers face, was either of a man who had never ridden a bike before and was trying to learn or was too hung over to remember how, but I was convinced if I held my ground on the sidewalk he would have hit me or one of the dogs.

Yesterday, I cooked at the soup kitchen. We fed about a 100. The day before at the other church who cooks lunch for the community, they fed 140. If I put too many vegetables and beans in things, I hear about it, If the salad is too fancy I hear about it. If we get fresh herbs donated, I have to use them, because no one else knows what to do with them.  We need the Farm to Table programs schools are offering and we need the leadership programs my daughter is a part of.
Disadvantages economically, socially and in education are part of poverty. But teaching rural kids for almost a decade, working with families through our church and schools, cooking at the soup kitchen I have seen people too often not take the opportunities they could have, seeming to not want to move away from all they know and that is a testament to how strong our heritage, where our families have come from is.  Something I have been pondering after  reading....


reviewed here in the Washington Post

I'm not the only one pondering such things. The large town's school district is on academic suspension, many of the parents driving their children to enroll their children in the two other rural/village  school districts who are doing much better. The latest superintendent took the gloves off in a meeting recently making the conclusion that it appeared to him many parents who remained in district did not want their kids to do better in school, afraid if they did they might leave the area. Farm to Table programs and leadership programs might not be enough?


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