Is It Winter Yet?

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Of course it isn’t winter yet by the calendar.  But many plants are reacting to recent freezes and changing their colors.

P1000309Cottonwoods in the arroyo are all golden, but haven’t yet dropped their leaves.  The leaves of the buffalo gourd vine, on the other hand, have all frozen, leaving the gourds to show their stuff.  P1000307In my back yard the four-wing saltbush is covered with ochre seed pods. P1000304And the tall grass plant is turning leaf by leaf from green through red to yellow to brown.P1000313There’s an extra glow in the morning sun which I haven’t found a way to catch in the camera.  I haven’t caught it in words either, though I admire it from my desk every morning.

Fall Color

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Some days I miss the many fall colors of the east.  There’s no question that the dominant fall color where I live now is yellow. P1000294I chose the chamisa for my garden because it does have great fall color.  The photo above is carefully framed.  Here’s the general view:P1000295I think the plant got too much water from the new watering system I put in last year.  It’s a problem I saw coming, but I didn’t crawl into the plant to adjust the emitter near its base, knowing it would be easier to reach when I cut it back   At least the clothesline holding parts of it from falling further doesn’t show up too much in the photo!

Gardening is ever an experiment.

He’s Back

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distanceWhen we first arrived in Las Cruces, the huge Roadrunner at the rest area looking over the city from the west seemed like a major symbol for the city.  After a few years he had to be taken away for maintenance.  He is made entirely of old “stuff” and pieces were coming loose.

close upWhile he was under repair there was a great deal of discussion about where he should be re-installed.

sideWe were pleased to see, on our first trip west in some time last week, that the original site won out.  He looks very grand there, and very perky.rearThe giant roadrunner has his eye on the city once again.

Photos courtesy of Paul Young.


Desert Blooms

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The desert, in this case, is the arroyo behind the three mile long dam built to protect Las Cruces from floods of water coming down from the mesa into the valley.  Plants get plenty of water from the runoff of the rains. P1000205The weather is moving toward fall and a few days have been cool enough for a walk in the sand during good photo hours.  Above the yellow Bahia and the white datura (jimson weed) with the dam in the background. The city is right on the other side.  Below, some datura close up.daturaAnother native plant which has been enjoying the weather is the potato plant.  Like the datura, it is poisonous.potato plantThe dominant perennial plants here are creosote bush and mesquite.  The creosote bushes are covered with small yellow flowers.creosoteAnother plant which appreciates the rain is buffalo gourd.  There are already a few gourds on this plant.  Come fall, the gourds will be bright yellow balls, which some artisitic people collect to make Christmas tree ornaments.buffalo gourdOn my way back to the road, I noticed this Texas sage plant.  Its brilliant color is in contrast to most of the flora here.  Texas sage is not native here, but well suited to the climate.  Some bird brought the seed from somebody’s yard.sage

How One Poem Came to Be

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Reading Bruce Holsapple’s new book, Wayward Shadow, I was struck by the line “It’s the way you fix yourself in place.” It made me stop to think about how each of us does that. I thought, I’d like to explore that idea in a poem of my own.

It seemed an idea that would benefit from repetition, which led me to consider using the villanelle form, which led me to looking through Holsapple’s book for a possible second line. Instead I found two fragments.

I still thought I would be writing a poem about myself, but I began to see in the lines that came to mind echoes of the ideas that permeate Wayward Shadow. It may be that the way I “fix myself in place” happens to be similar to Bruce’s. In the end, I felt I had captured something of the persona in his book. So this is now a villanelle for Bruce Holsapple.

In Place

Using lines from Wayward Shadow

Climb a mountain, formulate a phrase:
you settled on these deeds because you knew
it’s the way you fix yourself in place.

Life has taught you this. There will be days
when energy is slow to waken to
climb a mountain, formulate a phrase.

Outside and in you need to claim your space.
Shop, fill the fridge, set simmering a stew,
it’s the way you fix yourself in place.

Record the colors on the high rock’s face.
It’s a sure antidote for feeling blue
to climb a mountain, formulate a phrase.

A sentence to rewrite, steps to retrace?
What circles is the animal in you:
it’s the way you fix yourself in place.

As these familiar actions work to raise
your spirits, you may wonder why so few
climb a mountain, formulate a phrase.
It’s the way you fix yourself in place.

If you’d like to get to know the real Bruce Holsapple, Wayward Shadow is available on Amazon.


Southern New Mexico State Fair

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Southern New Mexico State Fair?  There is no State of Southern New Mexico, so how can this be a State Fair? The title is meant to convey that this event at the Dona Ana County Fairgrounds is a multi-county event.  The population of most of the southern counties, however, is such that this “state fair” is rather less than the Santa Clara County Fair in California which I visited as a child.  It is smaller in acreage: the county fair had a truck-pulled train to take people from the entrance to the animal barns at the back of the property.  In between there was room for an airplane or army vehicle display.  The county fair had four exhibit buildings.  The SNMSF has only one.

In spite of its smallness I do visit the local fair every other year or so, as much for nostalgia as anything.  I loved the rabbits and poultry when I was a child.  We have those here as well.rooster


There is of course a midway.  I suppose I thought as a child that those rides sat on that ground through the year.  It is evident that at the local fair, they don’t.  There’s an Arizona flag at one end and a New Mexico flag at the other, suggesting the territory this ride concession serves.midway flags closeup

All fairs, I think, have shiny new farm machines.100_0990

Something that I don’t think existed when I was a child was the climbing tower.  Notice the flags on this one.  They worship the almighty dollar?100_0997

And there is always food.  The quesadilla booth wasn’t open yet when I was there, so I decided on a funnel cake.  Funnel cakes, like “Philly” cheese steaks, were foods I knew nothing of until I moved to Pennsylvania.  They’ve crossed the country, but the funnel cake I had was not up to the standard of the one which I considered the special treat of the annual flower show in Philadelphia.  (The flower show was aptly timed for March, a convention center full of flowers and shrubs when it was still winter outside.  The funnel cake was just a side benefit.)100_0982

I did not see any cotton candy, which was the treat I liked at the fair as a child.  There were many souvenirs, but no kewpie dolls, the little plastic dolls on wooden sticks.  My parents did not approve of them, so they remained at the stand.  Nowadays, I don’t need souvenirs.  I have memories of fairs I’ve been to, and expectation of visiting again in years to come.

Chronophobia: Fear at the Equinox


Time always seems to be an issue at the fall equinox.  The shortening daylight gives a feeling of shorter hours, while the activities that resume in the fall take up more of those hours.  The tasks put off during hot weather have also accumulated.  There is one plus to this season: being up before the sun to see the dawn color.

September Sunrise

September Sunrise


The rest of the day time seems to run and leap, trampling the to-do list.  I may even suffer an attack of Chronophobia:

I’m on the monster’s back and I don’t dare get off.  Time is the enemy, a threat to all my projects.  Of hours in the day or days in the week there are never enough to keep up with all my chosen tasks: the writing, the meetings, the email, the sewing, the gardening.

Some weeks I wonder if I should even be spending Sunday morning at church.  I hear time growling, licking his lips.  Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do today that I must spend a long time in prayer.”  How could this be, I wondered.  Then I discovered the secret.  When I stop, really completely stop―not just sit down with a book, not just make a cup of coffee―when I really come to a full stop, time stops too.

It doesn’t last long.  As soon as I begin to move again, I have to get back up on the monster’s back and race toward the next task, the next deadline, the next chime of the hour. If I slip off I may be eaten.  This is Chronos, after all: the old god who eats his children.

Thanks to Ina Hughs, at last year’s October Writing Festival at Ghost Ranch, for her “sheet of fears” exercise.

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