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The Year Keeps Turning

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Just two weeks ago we had a storm which left the mountains looking like an ice sculpture.  I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more of that this year.p1000941

Now we are half way from the solstice to the spring equinox.  For my favorite cross-quarter day I lit a new white candle in honor of Brigid, goddess of poetry and smithcraft (and all things fiery, I suppose).

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The Pennsylvania groundhog may see six more weeks of winter, but here in southern New Mexico the trees are beginning to bud.  We’re in a stretch of fine weather for walking and hiking, and I’ve just seen my first poppy.  It was in a protected spot along a wall and only half open, but there it was.

What can be said about poppies?

Gluttons for sun,
they shine it back,
closing at night.

They pop up,
not in the same spot,
new every spring.

Poppies.  Spring.
Nothing more
to be said.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

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. . . it’s time to start taking down the ornaments.  We had a unique ornament for the top of our tree this year.

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Is it a star?  Is it an angel?  Maybe it’s both.

This year we also decided, after many years of having no lights outside, to join local tradition and put out luminarias.

p1000936Thanks to son Jack for getting them properly staked among the rocks.  It was quite a job to get them in, and today, on the twelfth and last day of Christmas, it was another job to get them out.

Today begins the season of Epiphany – the light coming into the world – and we are watching for light coming sooner in the mornings.

More from Bali

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A broken hip and rehab are part of the reason it has been so long between posts.  I still have a good number of thoughts about and pictures of my visit to Bali which I hope to share.

Rather than eat breakfast at the restaurant at my hotel, I read about several coffee shop type places a few blocks away.  This gave me a chance to learn something about the neighborhood as I walked out and back each morning.  I found that religion, mostly Hinduism, is omnipresent.

There are temples in the middle of town, enclosed and not open to foreigners.

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More intimately, households often have shrines and put out offerings in small paper “dishes.” In one case these offerings were made to a statue of Buddha.

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Some households or shops have Hindu shrines where offerings are set out.

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Sometimes offerings like these are placed on the sidewalk in front of a door.  One must pay attention to where one walks – however the unevenness of sidewalks already made this necessary.  Construction sites and debris also made the route I took less than elegant. I learned that “Ati Ati” means danger, as in “danger: construction zone”.  The Balinese script is found in some museums, but has elsewhere been replaced by the western alphabet.

In a shop at another site, the offering was placed on top of fruit for sale, making it safe from missteps by passers-by.

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These offerings must fade quickly but I rarely saw one that looked bedraggled.  They are clearly important to their makers.

 

 

First Report of First Trip to Bali

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I have been back from Bali for over a month and am still sorting photos and impressions.

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It is a place of lush growth and smooth beaches and lots of people.  There are many impressions for which I have no photos.  One is the traffic.  Streets always crowded, more motor bikes than cars, but not a lot of horns. Drivers take turns at intersections.  People are generally considerate.  (This trait makes them good at hospitality, and tourism seems to be the main industry.)

One common activity for both locals and tourists is visiting temples at sunset.  We went to Tanah Lot, which stands on a promontory a short distance from the shore.

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We were fortunate to arrive there at low tide.  Beyond this entrance one walks down over water-worn rocks to see the temple rising above.  (Temples, being active worship sites, are not open to foreigners.)

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Afterward, we tourists go back and up the hill to buy drinks and watch the tide come in and the sun go down.

tl-tideThere were few tourists and a long row of shops with tables and chairs offering a good view.

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This describes one late afternoon in a seven day visit.  A very short time, and there was much we did not see, but watch for more installments of what we did see.  As I said, I am still sorting my impressions.

Winter Walk

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After the big snow there seemed to be more gray days than usual for our area.  But some days the sun shone, and such bright winter days are the best days for walks in nature.  These photos come from a recent walk on the Sierra Vista Trail. ocotillo

The desert has a rather muted palette in winter, and there are plenty of dry branches.  I’d like to learn more about photographing, close up, their complex intercrossings.twigs697

Some of the plants are looking very healthy, thanks to the extra moisture this year.prickly pear

The prickly pear above is in better shape than average.  Most look more like the ones below.PP and house701

The house in the background is one of several scattered between the trail and the mountains, a reminder of the ever encroaching presence of humans in the area.  This is one reason there has been a (successful) campaign to designate several parts of the area as the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument.

The last picture is of a less common kind of cactus along this trail, a pincushion (I think).pincushion702

The Big Snow

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It was only six inches, over a day and a night, but that’s a lot for our town.  Here’s a view of my back yard the first afternoon. snowfall682

Notice the bush to the left of the tree.  When the snow stopped the next afternoon, all the bushes had been buried.after snow689

The clothesline looked like a hammock. hammock685

Today, four days after the snow stopped, there is still snow on the mountains, showing that it has been quite cold. snowmountain691

We are comfortable indoors, but not quite snug.  The roofers began work on the day before Christmas Eve and have not been back.  I have emptied several gallons of snow melt leaking through vents from buckets and pans.  How quickly such things come to seem normal – as long as you remember to check the water levels.

Some Fall Color

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The four-wing saltbush is displaying its golden seed pods.

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I have several clumps of chrysanthemums.

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They’ve come from Easter flowers at our church.  Over time I’ve had trouble finding places for them.  One I planted between two bushes which grew bigger than I expected.P1000670

I had to go around behind the fence to notice them.  Fortunately they look nice indoors, though they are not long lasting cut flowers.

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On Wednesday there was a very colorful sunrise.

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It has rained every day since.  It’s time to go back into my burrow.  I have a lot more digging to do.

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

New Mexico History, in More Ways Than One

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When I came to Southern New Mexico I quickly learned about Juan de Onate and his arrival in what is now New Mexico in 1598, which led to the founding of the city of Santa Fe in 1608.  Onate came north along the Rio Grande with troops, cattle and sheep and religious men eager to convert the local inhabitants.  They were coming to stay.

I only later learned that Coronado had reached New Mexico much earlier.  His itinerary, which was primarily a search for gold, took him north into Arizona first, then across into New Mexico, reaching the Rio Grande a little north of Albuquerque.

Rio Grande by Kuaua Pueblo

Rio Grande by Kuaua Pueblo

On one of my recent trips to Albuquerque I took time to visit the Coronado Historic Site, which should properly be called Kuaua Pueblo, one of several communities of the Tiwa people.  Coronado arrived in this part of New Mexico in the winter of 1541, and demanded support for his troops from several local pueblos.

The museum part of the site was undergoing restoration, but there was a tour of reconstructed buildings, from which I learned some of the more recent history of the site.  There was much work done on the site in preparation for the 400th anniversary.  Excavations were done, covered over and replaced with reconstructions.  Unfortunately the reconstructions were done in adobe, and the wind and weather wore them down in a matter of years.

Early Restoration

Early Restoration

More recent restorations, still on top of the excavations, have been done in more durable materials.

Recent restoration

Recent restoration

More recent research has revealed that this site is misnamed because this was not the pueblo where Coronado quartered his troops.  That site is two miles to the south.  It came into private hands and now has condominiums on it.  So the Kuaua pueblo keeps Coronado’s name.

Outline of Kuaua plaza kiva

Outline of Kuaua plaza kiva

So, in addition to historical lessons from centuries ago, this site demonstrates the more recent history of restoration and research.

Road Maps

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William Least Heat Moon’s book Blue Highways is one I enjoyed reading when I was younger.  It celebrated the lesser roads which were blue on road maps.  Not the least of roads, but roads that went to small towns off the U.S. Highways.

When the Interstates came in someone decided that their color should be blue.  Now another color was needed for the lesser roads.  On most maps I’ve used the U.S. highways were and still are red, except where they’ve been turned into limited access roads and are then entitled tobe colored blue.  What to color the lesser roads?  Our American Map uses orange for the secondary roads and yellow for those which are only “other paved roads.”  A nice color scheme.583 map 1

Except for the fact that colors carry emotional weight.  Blue is a color of hope “the wide blue yonder,” “the sky’s the limit.”  Orange is the color of danger.586 road sign 1

Orange is used for warning and road work signs because, as I have come to realize after seeing signs ahead on the road for years now,  it is the most visible.587 road sign 2

But orange as a line on a map doesn’t call us out the way blue suggests possibility.  And those big blue highways don’t lure us out, they command, insist.  Driving the big blue roads is a matter of minutes and miles, not of countryside and new impressions.585 map 2

Our U.S. map book is several years old now and we thought we should get a new one.  We have it in the car, but we don’t use it much.  The big blue roads look much like the roads in the old book, but all the other roads, major and minor, are pink.  We can’t get used to it.  What does pink have to do with going someplace? P1000588

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