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Archive for the category “New Mexico”

celebrating the senses: vision

eyeThe human brain processes around 11,000,000 bits of information at a time, of which we are only consciously aware of about 40. The vast majority of those 11,000,000 bits of information are related to vision. As John Medina says in Brain Rules:

Visual processing doesn’t just assist in the perception of our world. It dominates the perception of our world.

The things that are in our visual field, whether we’re aware of them or not, have an effect on us. I really became aware of that two years ago when I went through my living space from top to bottom to get rid of all the things I was no longer using. In the course of decluttering, I decided to make my space as cheerful and visually appealing (to me) as possible.

sunNow I have plenty of colorful things I enjoy looking at, including the sunflakes in my windows, the bright things in my office, and the two dozen pieces of talavera pottery in various locations. Most of the talavera critters are on the walls: frogs, geckos, salamanders, birds, and turtles. There’s a roadrunner (the New Mexico state bird) looking out the window of my office, a sun over the stove in the kitchen, a mushroom on top of a bookshelf, and several flower pots full of ivy.

My favorite color is red, so that’s the accent color in my kitchen. The pottery on the mantel over the fireplace belonged to my partner, and looking at it frequently reminds me of him, as does looking at the two stunning 4’x4’ paintings he created, one in the office and one in the living room. Of course, what I enjoy looking at the most in my apartment is my cat, Naima.

sandia-sunset

Photo Source: TripAdvisor.com

Then there’s the great outdoors, which is what attracted me to the southwest. It’s hard to describe the nature of the light here, but it’s unlike the light in either Michigan or California. The sunsets can be spectacular. The clouds are different, too, or so it seems. And the Sandia mountains that always let you know which direction is east aren’t just a great place for hiking, they’re amazing and beautiful, especially when the setting sun turns them watermelon-colored. The picture above does not lie!

cranesfallI love to look at all the trees and the wildflowers in this area, along with the roadrunners and occasional coyote. The cottonwood trees along the Rio Grande bosque turn into a magnificent golden canopy in the fall. And the migration of sandhill cranes to the Bosque del Apache in November is another sight to behold.

The world around me is full of both humdrum and wonder, all of it worth celebrating. I’m truly grateful for having the opportunity to see and appreciate it.

This post is the last of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

Thanks for sharing this brief journey with me.

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celebrating making a difference

animalhumaneOrganizations that make a difference in the community deserve to be celebrated every day of the year. There are two organizations in Albuquerque that I want to give a figurative high five to. My involvement with them has been on a small scale, rather than a large one, but the effect they have on people—and pets—is huge.

Albuquerque Reads

albreadsI participated for a few years in this program that operates in three local schools, pairing adults with kindergarten students to give them 30 minutes of individual attention several days a week. According to the Albuquerque Reads website:

During Albuquerque Reads operations the students have achieved impressive gains in reading levels. Typically at the beginning of the school year, fewer than 5% of the students enrolled were reading at or above grade level. Just nine months later, and with the help of Albuquerque Reads: 70% were reading at or above grade level, and another 20% were reading almost at grade level.

I really enjoyed Wednesday mornings at Bel Air School with Shan Diin, Shayla, Curtis, Patrick, and Dominic, the mischievous one, who was definitely my favorite. I got to read so many, many books. I was familiar with a few of them from my long-ago stint in the Children’s Room of the Bay City Public Library. But I also encountered many new books, such as Jonathan London’s Froggy series. We read Froggy Eats Out, Froggy’s Sleepover, and Froggy’s Baby Sister, but I think the supply of Froggy books extends far beyond those three.

The refrigerator art our students gifted us with on holidays was definitely appreciated and cherished long after the end of each school year.

Animal Humane New Mexico

animal humaneNaima the Wonderful, my most favorite of all the cats I’ve had, came from Animal Humane. That’s enough reason for me to celebrate this organization.

But they are amazing for all of the things they do, such as:

  • The donor subsidized veterinary clinic that provides low-cost services to low-income pet owners.
  • Cats-around-town, their off-site adoption program that allows people to encounter adoptable pets in locations all over Albuquerque.
  • The many training classes, behavior seminars, and workshops that are offered to pet owners to help insure they have successful relationships with their dogs or cats.
  • The internet cat video festival that offers a cash prize of $250 for the best cat video submitted.

animalhumane2Animal Humane New Mexico accepts animals from other shelters around the state, and the staff and volunteers do a fantastic job in terms taking care of the animals’ health needs and in training and socializing them. Both the pets and the pet lovers of Albuquerque are fortunate to have Animal Humane New Mexico in the community.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating the senses: touch

repotting plantsThe skin that covers and protects our body is full of sensory receptors that feed information to the brain, helping us stay alive and making it possible for us to function in the world. We’re physical beings in a physical environment, so we’re constantly touching and being touched even though we may not always be aware of the sensations. Physical contact with others is important to our sense of well-being and social connection—not to mention continuation of the species.

Physical contact also feels good. I’ve just started getting massages again after an absence so long that I can’t remember the last one. I think it was some time in California in the 90s. I don’t have a strong recollection of any particular massage therapist or massage experience, which is probably why I hadn’t made any effort to find someone in New Mexico. Not that I couldn’t have used some help with the chronic tightness in my neck and shoulders.

kelly forrestFortunately I met Kelly Forrest, a skilled and talented massage therapist, several months ago and finally made an appointment with her in March. When I discovered she has magic hands, I had to wonder why in the world I had waited months to make that first appointment. So today, along with the sense of touch, I’m celebrating the happy end to the massage drought in my life!

The first massage Kelly gave me was the best I’ve ever had. So was the second one, which I got today. (I predict all the massages I receive from her will be the best I’ve ever had.) Besides being excellent at what she does, she’s also very friendly and approachable, and the environment she’s created in her new office space offers her clients an immediate sense of comfort and relaxation.

Yay, Kelly! Yes, massage works (and Massage Works is the name of her business). Thank you, so much.

Here are a few other things I enjoy the feel of:

  • The warm sun on my skin
  • My cat’s paw tapping my cheek to get my attention
  • A light breeze on a hot day
  • Hugs
  • Clean sheets
  • Flannel and fleece in the winter
  • My bare feet in sandals
  • Tending to my indoor plants
  • A book in my hands
  • Writing with a favorite pen

What’s on your list?

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating hiking

Pino TrailHiking is absolutely one of my favorite things to do, so even though the weather has not been conducive to hitting the trails lately–nor has my schedule–a series on celebration has to include it. Here are accounts of four hikes on (mostly) my favorite trails in the area.

Pino Trail

Pino Trail is my go-to hiking trail for two reasons. (1) It’s just over a five-minute drive from where I live. (2) The variety and the views never get old. These photos were taken on a short solo hike on a late afternoon in the summer, with the temperature around 94 degrees in the unshaded stretches. I went out by myself to see how the ribs I’d bruised the previous week handled my day pack and the heavy breathing from a little extra exertion.

This trail is very popular, but during my two hours out there I encountered fewer than half a dozen other people; apparently the heat kept everyone else away. My bruised ribs proved not to be an issue. In fact they felt better after the hike than they did before.

pino1

pino2

pino3

While I love all the gorgeous vistas from this trail, the shot directly above is my favorite.

 Cienega (“Wet Meadow”) Trail

This hike was definitely not a hit. On the way up, my hiking partner and I heard the growl of either a black bear or a mountain lion, and on the way down I took a minor spill on the uneven, rock-strewn path.

On the plus side, we gained 1,750 feet in a little over two miles, moving under continuously blue skies with a scattering of bright white clouds, in very comfortable conditions. The view from the top was amazing. A stone outcropping provided convenient level seating for a snack break (watermelon and almonds) and the opportunity for us to take it all in–along with a few photos, of course.

cienega1

The less said about the trek down, the better. Of the wildflowers in bloom, sunflowers dominated. There were also more butterflies flitting around than I’ve ever seen anyplace outside the Butterfly Pavilion at the Botanic Garden.

sunflower

geranium

Tree Spring Trail

Tree Spring Trail, one of the most enjoyable trails in the area, is located on the eastern side of the Sandias, which makes it a cooler and more comfortable hike in the summer. My hiking companion and I started from Tree Springs trailhead off Crest Highway, hiked up to the crossroads where Tree Spring Trail meets 10K and Crest trails, and then meandered along 10K for a while.

tree spring1This hike was a winner, even though the trails are popular for mountain bikers, and we had to do a lot of scrambling to get out of the way. I couldn’t believe the profusion and variety of wildflowers.

wallflower

mariposa lily

Piedra Lisa (“Smooth Rock”) Trail to Rincon Spur

The weather gods provided an absolutely perfect day for hiking this trail, most of which is in the open. The temperature ranged from low 70s to mid-80s, the sun shone brightly, and there was nary a sign of rain.

Piedra Lisa Trail is on the same side of the mountains as Pino Trail, so the terrain is similar, but being north of Pino it offers much closer views of the landmark shield, prow, and needle. My favorite, however, was this sphinx-like “rock face.”

piedra lisa1There were lots of gnarled dead trees along the trail. At one point I turned around to see this row running down the side of a hill.

piedra lisa2

The number of wildflowers was surprising. I managed to get a few halfway decent shots and to identify a couple more species–both purple.

aster

verbena

The mountains and sky seem much closer from the perspective of the trail. They’re a good reminder to look up from time to time, to check out the distant view. Sometimes you need the wide-angle lens.

piedra lisa3

A Gal and Her Camera:

piedra lisa JC

Photo courtesy of Lee (Thanks!)

 Armijo-Faulty-Cienega Loop

After parking in the small lot before the Cienega Canyon trailhead, my companion and I backtracked up the asphalt, getting the hardest part of the hike over with right away. We picked up Cienega Horse Bypass Trail, which eventually merged with Armijo Trail, which offered some dramatic views. Armijo Trail was also where we encountered this little guy (or gal?):

collared lizard

Armijo Trail ends at Faulty Trail, which runs 8.7 miles altogether, but is an interior or connecting trail, so you can’t get to it directly. We could have gone either north or south, and chose north to make our loop. The terrain on both Armijo and Faulty was up-and-down, which was unusual and very welcome. Most of the time you figure on going UP. And then coming back DOWN. A portion of Faulty Trail follows an actual fault called Flatirons Fault.

armijo1

I can’t get enough of this place. It’s awe-inspiring, wild, and restorative all at the same time.

armijo2

I think it was on Faulty where a fellow hiker warned us he’d seen a bear off-trail about 200 yards back (in the direction we were headed). Just before Faulty crosses Cienega Trail, there is a short, very steep descent against the north face of Cienega Canyon. The views were spectacular! I failed to capture the grandeur, but I did succeed in making it down, which was sufficient accomplishment.

After the short leg of Cienega Trail, we snacked at an actual picnic table, then crossed the asphalt road to check out Cienega Nature Trail. We were reminded that Cienega means “wet meadow.” The area was very different from the trails we’d been on across the road. Green. And open.

armijo3

Lastly, we hunted for Acequia Trail for a bit before finding and following it in the direction of the parking lot, thus completing the loop. Pine cones abounded. And my friend Lee waited patiently while I took yet another photo.

armijo4

This very pleasant hike was five miles in all. It’s one I would definitely do again.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating wine

sidewaysI’m no oenophile (connoisseur of wine), by any means. But I always enjoy a glass of red. Unlike Miles, Paul Giamatti’s character in Sideways who refuses to drink Merlot, almost any red wine will do. But I definitely have some favorites.

Tempranillo

Yesterday evening, I attended an event at Scalo Northern Italian Grill in Nob Hill (the one here in Albuquerque, not the one in San Francisco) and the happy hour reds included Cubo Tempranillo. Oh, I’ll have that! I said.

According to the Total Wine & More Guide to Tempranillo Wine:

The Tempranillo (tem-prah-NEE-yoh) grape is as important to Spain as the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is to the Médoc. The great reds of Rioja and Ribera del Duero are Tempranillo based. This versatile grape is capable of yielding big, full-bodied reds with firm tannins and loads of complexity to very light and easy-drinking wine with light tannins. Typically Tempranillo yields red wines with red-fruit flavors, which include cherry and ripe strawberry with rustic nuances of leather and earth. With substantial oak aging such as the Gran Reservas of Rioja, Tempranillo produces elegant and complex wine with multifaceted layers of flavors. Also known as Tinto de Toro, Tinto Fino, and Tinto del País.

I can neither confirm nor deny the firmness of the tannins or degree of complexity of the glass of wine I enjoyed last night, but it was very, very nice. I haven’t encountered Tempranillo often, but every time I’ve tasted it, I’ve always wanted more.

Malbec

Malbec is another wine I will usually choose if it’s available. The Total Wine & More Guide to Argentinian Malbec Wine says:

The flagship red grape of Argentina, Malbec [MOWL-beck] was once popular as a blending grape in Bordeaux, where it is still one of the permitted varietals. Malbec plays a supporting role in many appellations in South West France and especially Southeast of Bordeaux, in the region of Cahors, where it is the primary grape and is referred to as “the black wine,” due to its deep, dark color.

Nowhere does Malbec’s star shine as brightly as it does in the Mendoza region of Argentina. The ripe and plush Malbec wines of Argentina feature dark fruit flavors of blackberry, blueberry and black raspberry and supple tannins, with nuances of violets and toasty oak in the more expensive offerings. Blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah add additional complexity.

1629

Winery_1But New Mexico has it’s own history of wine production, and my current favorite red wine is locally produced. Casa Rondena Winery is located in the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The facility includes several buildings with indoor and outdoor tasting areas. You can hang out in one of them, bring your own picnic to enjoy on the grounds, or—if you can afford it—even get married there.

Thanks to the generosity of a friend, I’ve been treated to all of the Casa Rondena reds, the absolute best (and most expensive) of which is:

2009 1629 – A true Casa original: 50% deep dark Syrah; 41% dense, soft tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% spicy Tempranillo; – blended and named in honor of the first vinifera plantings in North America, right here in New Mexico!

The first time I enjoyed a few sips of this wine was at the end of a tasting. It was near closing and the owner, who happened to be behind the bar, wanted us to experience the effect the size and width of a wine glass can have on the way the wine tastes. So he gave us several more samples of this fantastic wine in various glasses. I hadn’t had dinner yet, but I kept on sipping, to the point where I got a bit tipsy.

Periodically my friend, who belongs to Casa Rondena’s wine club, will pick up a bottle of the 1629 and we will enjoy it together whenever we have something to celebrate. It just seems too good to have on an ordinary day. But maybe that thinking needs to change. Maybe we ought to use the wine to turn an ordinary day into a celebration. I’m game to give that a try if she is.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating the senses: hearing

tree fallingIf a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it makes a sound? This has been a question debated by philosophers. Define sound…define hear…define tree. (I kid philosophers, but I once listened to a philosopher spend quite a long time trying to define is.) Now that scientists are weighing in on the tree question, the answer appears to be, as with many other questions, yes and no. And I’m OK with that.

Sounds are vibrations that travel through the air as waves. That puts me in mind of this song by Ray LaMontagne.

So let’s celebrate air, too, which not only gives us breath (and life) but also sound.

As I was thinking about identifying some of the sounds I like, I realized it would be easier to rattle off a list of sounds I don’t like than a list of sounds I do like. So the sound of silence definitely ranks near the top for me. (Having no sound coming from my computer processor is especially good.)

I also realized there are several sounds I like, but only in moderation. For example, I like the sound of rain now and then, but living in the Pacific Northwest would make me crazy. I like the sound of birds singing in the morning, but too much of it and it turns into birds making racket in the morning. I like the whisper of wind through the trees, but not the roar of the gale-force winds we get in New Mexico in the spring.

Other good sounds:

  • Laughter, which is a celebration all by itself
  • A fire burning in a fireplace
  • Popcorn popping
  • My cat purring; also the noise she makes at birds in the tree outside our window
  • All kinds of music

Music is definitely my favorite source of sound. I don’t know that I could pick a favorite (or desert-island album), but No Sun in Venice by The Modern Jazz Quartet comes close. Here’s Venice from that album.

I’ve noticed that sounds can wake me from my internal reverie and bring me back into the world faster than anything else. That’s something I appreciate, even if I may not always celebrate it when it happens.

What sounds do you enjoy most?

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating special occasions

lensicLast week a friend treated me to what turned out to be an outstanding performance by Mary Chapin Carpenter at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe. I haven’t heard any live music since last summer and I’d never been to the Lensic before, even though it’s directly across the street from one of my favorite places to eat in Santa Fe, The San Francisco Street Bar and Grill.

The concert was a benefit for the Espanola Valley Humane Society, so we were treated to a revolving selection of adorable cat and dog photos on the screen at the back of the stage before the show started. It was great to learn afterward that the money raised far exceeded the evening’s goal. I’m always up for celebrating cats—and dogs are OK, too.

mary chapin carpenterIt’s been more than two decades since I owned a Mary Chapin Carpenter CD. And my musical tastes have taken a lot of twists and turns since then. I’ve gotten quite a bit older and so has she. But in comparing her live performance with some of the studio recordings from her younger days, I’ve decided I much prefer her more mature voice.

She and the two musicians in her band are extremely talented musicians and performers who had the audience from the first number and kept it all the way through the show. I stayed out past my bedtime (it was the middle of the week, and I had work-related appointments the next morning), but it was well worth it. After all, I had another opportunity to sleep the very next night but not to hear this great music again.

Thank you, John!

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

rounding up cattle on the Valles Caldera

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Valles Caldera National Preserve is an 89,000-acre working ranch “nestled inside a volcanic caldera.” It’s located about two hours north of Albuquerque, via picturesque Jemez Springs. This past weekend, on our second visit to VCNP, my friend Don and I were surprised to discover a cattle roundup (or gathering) in progress. The cattle that graze on the VCNP belong to the Jemez Pueblo and the University of New Mexico.

The weather that day was sunny, mild, and breezy: perfect for getting up close and personal with some cows, horses, and real cowboys to take a few photos.

horses

Horse (Valles Caldera)

Horses (Valles Caldera)
Horses (Valles Caldera)
Horses (Valles Caldera)
The horses had just come back from working the second day of the gathering, and most of them were hungry.

cowboys

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cowboys (Valles Caldera)
Cowboys (Valles Caldera)
Cowboys (Valles Caldera)

ranch hand

Ranch hand (Valles Caldera)

cows

Cows (Valles Caldera)

Cows (Valles Caldera)

 

We are lunch inside the car, which was parked next to the cattle pens, so we got an earful of the cows’ complaints about the situation. Can’t say I blame them.

My favorite part of this whole thing was the pure serendipity of it.

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