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Written Words in Silver City, New Mexico

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This past weekend I attended the South West Festival of the Written Word in Silver City. Silver City has a lovely compact old downtown, preserved partly by the collapse of main street into a flooding river over 100 years ago. It is now a big ditch.P1000639

Across the ditch from the visitor’s center is an area of art galleries, coffee shops, antique stores and a few other services, on sloping streets and sidewalks with huge steps at some of the corners.  There are even a couple of small independent hotels.  I stayed at the Murray Hotel. P1000629

The Festival of the Written Word is an enormous undertaking. I was told the steering committee consists of 24 volunteers, and many more assist at the event. There were as many as four events – readings, panels, lectures, etc.- going on at once, and one could easily walk from one to another.  At Javelina coffee shop I heard two young poets lamenting lost languages.P1000635

At the Old Elks Lodge, Demetria Martinez talked about writing and activism.P1000634

Later, several writers gathered in the same place to discuss their inspirations and their frustrations.

A sample of the mix of art and artifacts inside Elks Lodge.

A sample of the mix of art and artifacts inside Elks Lodge.

Many local businesses supported the event by hosting programs. At Seedboat Gallery I listened to two poets: Simon Ortiz read about injustices suffered by his Navaho people and the trials of Vietnam vets; Jules Nyquist shared her work in progress about nuclear weapons and their influences.P1000632

And those were just one person’s choices on one day. Between events I noticed some of the decorated walls around town. One building features native shapes.P1000636

Another looks like a Mondrian.P1000638

This weekend event is held every other year. I am looking forward to the next one in 2017.

Seventieth Anniversary

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I was out for an early walk to avoid the heat this morning, and noticed how dark it is at 5:29 at this time of year, not the deepest dark, but still a while before dawn. It was seventy years ago today that the bomb was tested about two hours’ drive north of here.

I decided this would be the year I go to visit Trinity site. A lot of others made the same decision. The first Saturday in April was Easter Saturday, a time when many people travel. The site is opened only once or twice a year, depending on government cutbacks. Reports afterward were that while there are usually about 3,500 visitors at these openings, this spring there were 5,500.

Trinity site is located on White Sands Missile Range. The army is good at managing crowds. They were set up to check four cars at a time going in the gate. When I got there the back up at the gate was three miles long; it took me 55 minutes to get in. After that there is a 17 mile drive to a large parking lot so people get spread out. From the parking lot it is a quarter-mile walk to ground zero.P1000421.trinity walk

The army is not so good at other aspects of hosting visitors. There was a large golf-cart type vehicle providing rides from the parking lot to the site for those who couldn’t walk it, but I noticed there were not enough chairs at either end of the run to accommodate people waiting for the ride.

Some friends discouraged me from going. There’s nothing there, they said. It’s true that the crater has been filled in, to cover the radioactive green glass called trinitite which was the result of the explosion and to prevent its being stolen. There is trinitite for sale at locations around the edge of the range; some of it may still be the real thing. A few small samples are displayed at a table where the path meets the oval which represents the crater. There is a piece of one base for the tower which held the bomb, and two containers which helped move and protect the device. container 2

There are photographs hung on the enclosure fence, many of them of people responsible for the test, mostly white males looking pleased with themselves. If they felt any ambivalence about what they were doing, they kept it hidden from the camera.P1000424 cropped

It was once possible to view some of the trinitite on the crater floor. A structure was built with a window to look through. This is what it looks like now.P1000423

The army should have taken lessons from the National Park Service. “Years ago”? How many? And when was this sign installed? There’s no date given. “Years ago” sounds like the opening of a fable, or a tale of origins. It’s odd to find this in a place governed by scientific exactitude.

Outside the base, back at the road before the three mile backup, some people were protesting. They were not an anti-war group. They call themselves “Downwinders” and are asking for recognition and compensation for having been in the way of the radioactive fallout. No one warned them of danger. At the time of the bomb test no one had any idea what long range effects the radiation might have; though there had been accidents to show the immediate problems which high exposure caused.

The scientists acted as if they were testing in an empty space. No place on earth is that empty. I’ll let nature have the last word. This was along the path back to the parking lot.P1000430 flowers

More Petroglyphs

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More pictures from my visit to Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, now that I’ve had time to sort them out a bit.  First a close up of the rock ridge.   469 rocksMany of the figures stand alone, but in some cases the drawings overlap.  What is the meaning of these animals which seem to have invaded a house?  454 house animalsVarious zigzag patterns can be found.457 house mazeThat picture reveals the inexperience of the photographer, who does not always remember to check for her shadow!

The ridge is isolated.  To the west is the Tularosa basin, which is mostly the property of the army: White Sands Missile Range.  To the east is a plain before the Sacramento mountains, which had snow at the top. 463 mountainsI could only find one example of a sign well known beyond the local community: the thunderbird.466 thunderbirdThere were circles on many different kinds and complexities.472 circlesThe picture above gives a good example of the stone, dark on the outside, not on the inside.  Sometimes the different images are crowded together.  These seem to have been in a prime location.464 manyNot many flowers were in bloom, but I did find one clump in a protected area.473 flowerOn the was back to the highway I was stopped by a passing train.P1000476There are a lot of grade crossings in New Mexico.  I was stopped a second time on my way north to Albuquerque.  That’s one result of staying off the Interstate.  The rest of the world is still at work while I take a holiday.

Petroglyphs

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The calendar says we are just half way through spring.  The temperature says we are fast approaching summer, a season too hot for me to enjoy much hiking.P1000448So I took advantage of one of my trips north for readings to stop at one of my favorite New Mexico sites: Three Rivers Petroglyphs.P1000467The petroglyphs are crowded on a small, narrow ridge, an outcrop of dark rock.  P1000461The scratched signs are many and varied.  I haven’t researched them.  Some are obvious, others less so.P1000454

On this trip, I didn’t bother with the explanatory booklet.  I just took pictures.  Lots of pictures; enough to share more another time.  Three Rivers is located on U.S. 54, north of Alamogordo and south of Carrizozo.

Ft. Craig, Part II: Long Term Rivalry

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Ft. Craig sits on the western side of the Rio Grande.  In this photo the river is hiding below that dark line, where the land drops to the river’s level, and soon rises to the mesa on the other side.rio grande

To the west, there is mesa for some distance to the mountains.  These mountains are one set of geologically recent protrusions which have pushed up at intervals, scattered across the landscape.  This view is taken from a lookout site at the top of one of the large storage structures.366west warmer

These photos are closer to what I experienced as the color of the land and bushes than the ones I posted in my previous post.

And to the north is Black Mesa.  On the north side of Black Mesa one of the important battles of the Civil War in New Mexico took place.  The site is Val Verde, a set of arroyos and streams that drain into the Rio Grande.  The Confederate troops came up the eastern side of the mesa; the troops from Ft. Craig went up on the western side.black mesa 3.warmer

While the regular soldiers fought, New Mexico Volunteers, led by Kit Carson, held the fort.  The South won the battle, but the New Mexicans would not give up the fort.  The Confederate troops did not have enough resources to lay siege, so they withdrew.

The Battle of Val Verde took place on February 21, 1862.  On March 28 that same year, the Confederates lost a battle at Glorieta Pass, near Santa Fe, and their push to control the west was over.

I wondered why the New Mexicans were so supportive of the government from far away.  I was told it was because the Texans had already made a grab for New Mexico land earlier.

Kit Carson Slept Here (maybe)

Kit Carson Slept Here (maybe)

This rivalry continues.  I heard two instances of it just last week.  In a meeting about education in the state and financing, the new PARCC testing was discussed.  This testing is created by the Pearson company.  How much are they benefitting from adoption of this testing?  The question was asked “How much money is going to Texas?” where Pearson is based.

On another occasion, in a discussion of Voter I.D. laws a researcher, whose work had led a Texas judge to decide against a new law for that state, got a big laugh when he said, “Let’s see what we can learn from Texas.”

New Mexicans around here go down to El Paso often.  Some even work there.  But they still like to put down Texas.  After all, the Texans did try to take our land.

Ft. Craig, Part I: Ruins

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I drove up to Santa Fe to visit the Legislature this past week.  When I make a trip like that I think it is good to mix some pleasure with business, so I stopped at a historic site I hadn’t been to before.  Ft. Craig is near the Rio Grande roughly 100 miles north of Las Cruces.  It is located just south of Black Mesa, which was a landmark from the earliest years of Spanish travel into what is now New Mexico.  The Rio Grande curls around the mesa.

Black Mesa

Black Mesa

Ft. Craig was the largest of several forts built around the time of the Civil War, partly because of the war, partly to secure the area for people moving in to territory which had been acquired by the United States in 1848.  This fort was in use from 1854 to 1885.  Most of the buildings were built of adobe which has collapsed.  A guardhouse was built of stone.guard house

The remaining walls of the commanding officer’s quarters have been covered with material to preserve them.   Paths have been created by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management, which has jurisdiction of this property) around the parade ground which doesn’t look like one anymore.

Parade Ground

Parade Ground

Some mounds turn out to be walls.

Wall

Wall

Other walls remind me of Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” poem.  I associate this poem with ruins like this because there are wall long & signmany collapsing territory-marking walls back east in what is now woodland.  “Something there is that does not love a wall,” I used to think as I walked a section of the Appalachian or the Horseshoe Trail.  Yet parts of them persist.storeroom above

Adobe work can be seen in a set of large storage buildings, which were buried in dirt after construction, the only way to keep things cool in hot New Mexico summers.

Storeroom

Storeroom

I took so many pictures I’ll save a few for my next post.  And maybe before then I can figure out how to correct the color in these photos.  The yellow of the grass and the green of the bushes do not come through as they should.  New Mexico is not really this purple.

After the Snow

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We had a serious snowstorm – for southern New Mexico – last week.  The Superintendent of Schools didn’t think it was bad enough to close schools, with the result that there were five or seven children in classes that officially numbered 20.  They ended up closing early.  Two days later, everywhere the sun could reach had melted.  The shady areas took a few days longer.

I went out to see how the garden had fared in the snow.  The parsley was very happy.  parsleyThe rosemary decided it’s time to start blooming.rosemary flowerI decided to bring a few branches indoors to add some green to my study.  rosemary in vaseI hadn’t thought about how much rosemary looks like an evergreen tree until I started working with these close-ups.  It’s leaves are like fir or spruce.  And I found one source on odors of herbs in cooking, which calls rosemary “piney.”   Looking at the vase of rosemary in my study, I started playing with these ideas.

An untitled work in progress

What’s rosemary to you?  When Ophelia
said “remembrance” I pictured
a soft leaf to brush against the cheek,
not this sturdy stiff-needled bush.
This kind of memory stays green,
refuses to go away, an ugly scene
replaying from an old movie.

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