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.

Salinas Pueblo Missions, Part II

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Abo is not far from Quarai (see previous post) though present roads take one around three sides of a trapezoid.  It appears to have been about a ten mile walk south from Quarai to Abo along the eastern slope of the Manzano Mountains in the days when the Spanish missions were built.  The sites are similar, but have worn and are maintained differently.


The Abo church and its buildings are surrounded by yellow grass – it would be good food for cattle if they were allowed in.  Instead of scraps of stone on the hillside, there are huge stone slabs where water ran.100_0930A

I came close to one ruin of a Pueblo building.  It is just tumbled stone, suggesting that one strong point for the Spanish conquerors was the ability to make better mortar.pueblo house A

Two plants particularly caught my attention.  The first was an nicely shaped four-wing saltbush.  Its four-winged seeds will turn golden in the fall.  I have one of these in my back yard; it gets too much water apparently, due to other plants around it, and is very shaggy.saltbush A

Another well-shaped plant I came across at Abo is one I have found in the arroyo near our house in a good season.  It shows up in summer after rain and is covered with white flowers all at once.  They don’t last long.  I have not learned its name.white flower A

Salinas Missions, Part 1

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On a trip to northern New Mexico last weekend I stopped to visit two of the Salinas Missions.  The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, established in 1981, consists of three separate sites.  Each was once a native American pueblo, inhabited by people who spoke Tiwa.  Each became a Spanish mission site, with a big church and a number of outbuildings.  At only one site, Gran Quivera, is there much of the pueblo to see.  I visited that place quite a few years ago, before I had a digital camera.  Now that I’ve seen the other two, I am eager to go back.

This post is about Quarai, located north of Mountainair.  The church there is the best preserved and is often photographed.


Below is an attempt to photograph a grass I don’t know the name of, which has quite large heads for a grass.  I wondered if it is edible.

grassQuarai has a one mile “primitive” trail beyond the once settled area, where the “trail” is paved.  It becomes clear that the stone for building did not have to be brought from far away.

stone trail

Looking from the trail toward the green near the entrance to the ruins I had complicated thoughts: this green is neither natural nor a reconstruction of what was there when the Spanish mission was operating.  How hard the park service works, simply for our enjoyment!  Our tax dollars at work.


Two pictures show how different plants share space.  The first shows the orange flowers of desert globemallow, a plant which grows six feet tall and blows in the breeze in my back yard.


This second picture was an attempt to capture the sense of fall: red berries on what I believe is a sumac.  It is so intertwined with other plants that it is hard to tell.


My next post will have pictures from Abo, the third of the three Spanish pueblo mission sites in the National Monument.

A Mountain Hike


This past week I found the time to drive to Cloudcroft for a hike in the Lincoln National Forest.  I’ve been meaning to do this for years – since I moved to Las Cruces, in fact, and this was the first time I did it.  The air temperature in Cloudcroft, at over 8,000 feet, runs about 20 degrees cooler than the temperature here at 4,000 feet, where it has been up in the high 90s for many days.  The weather was beautiful; it only rained while I was in the car.  The beginner hike of two miles round trip was just my speed.

Osha Trail

Osha Trail

I hoped to see more wildflowers.  Those I did see are not known to me by name, but pleasing all the same, especially the one that pokes out of other plants’ leaves to give itself a green background.













The forest is primarily pines and maples.  At one spot, the baby maple trees were so thick they looked like ground cover.


I promised myself I would come back again soon.  It’s an hour and a half drive away, which in New Mexico, is not considered far at all.  I have no excuse.

After Rain

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The ground in my back yard is mostly sand between the bushes.  But then it rains and it becomes clear how many seeds are buried in that sand.   Rain is a good metaphor for all kinds of nurturing.  When the rain doesn’t come for a while, more yellow shows from the ground.  When it comes again, the ground is green.



Dry skin in winter,
wind burnt in spring, the ground
turns to green fuzz
after rain, grows out ragged
as an adolescent’s beard.


Half Way to Fall


It’s another cross-quarter day, the midpoint between the summer solstice and the fall equinox.  About this time I begin to notice the days are getting shorter, and there’s some logic to this, because of the sine wave nature of the changing sun patterns.  This means the changes are faster in the middle than at the peak and nadir of longest and shortest day.

This is the day commonly called Lammas.  it is the early harvest.  If you think it is too early to be harvesting grain, think corn.  We have been enjoying corn on the cob for a few weeks now.

Any harvest time is a thanksgiving time.  When we receive the bounty of the earth, we should give thanks, one way or another.  Here in the southwest we give thanks for the rain, which has come sooner and in greater abundance than for several years past.  Not enough to cancel the drought of course, but a pleasure all the same.  The plants too are showing their gratitude (to speak anthropomorphically) by putting out their flowers.  Here are two making a show in my yard this week.

Desert Globemallow

Desert Globemallow




The desert globemallow is a third generation plant from one I transplanted from the arroyo beyond our housing development.  The purple mat came with the house; it is hard to photograph because of its small size.  It takes many of the little purple flowers to make an impact.

Purple Mat

Purple Mat

The Way It Used to Be?



Sometimes the little guy wins.  Driving toward home on Interstate 40 we planned to stop at the Shell plus Dairy Queen between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa.  It had closed.  Our next opportunity, ten miles down the road, was this little gas station.  That white door on this side of it is the post office of Newkirk, New Mexico, a town which scarcely exists since the Interstate came through.   The market at this gas station had regular coffee with dry creamer.  No cappuccino machine?  How quickly we grow accustomed to our travel patterns.  But they did have small bottles of milk so we could skip the dry creamer.

For all its tiny size and old-fashioned look, this gas station has been redone, perhaps more recently than the road.  Route 66 is only to be found in sections, where the Interstate didn’t cover it up.  Back when I came through New Mexico with my parents, it was the main road.


These pictures are uncropped because for me part of the delight of New Mexico is the expanse of sky.  How is it different from the Midwest?  Perhaps it’s the dryness that makes it sharper.  Perhaps it is just that it is home.

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