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Archive for the tag “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 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 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.

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.

all we have here is sky

New Mexico is called The Land of Enchantment. And it truly is. I never tire of the changing light and color and cloud configurations. I keep my camera near the front door because all I have to do is step outside to get a hit of wonder.

This is the sky at sunset a couple of weeks ago:

Some zigzag clouds in October:

The liquid amber tree across the street:

The sun setting behind bare trees:

Another one. (Couldn’t decide which photo to use.)

Early November sky:

The pale moon in October, not quite full:

I feel fortunate to live in this place. Fortunate to have a camera. And fortunate to have a place to share these pictures. I also feel fortunate to have come across this loopy but totally irresistible video of Jane Siberry. Who remembers this?

song of the trees

For the first 28 years of my life, I lived in Michigan, the Great Lakes State. We were inland from Saginaw Bay off of Lake Huron, so summers meant spending afternoons on the beach at Bay City State Park or driving up to Tawas City for the day. When I was a kid, our family spent a week or two every summer in a cabin on Higgins Lake, where there were daily motorboat rides on the Lake and weekends of waterskiing. Oh, yes, there was also a lot of swimming—but none of it by me. I never learned to swim and had a deep fear of the water for decades. I like to look at water, splash around in it a little, listen to the sounds of the surf or the waves, and even venture out on it in a boat once in a while, but that’s it. No swimming.

Not a happy camper. Can I get any farther away from the edge of this boat?

The first vacation my parents took me on was a fishing trip when I was about five years old. It meant leaving my baby brother behind and having my parents to myself. I loved every minute of it—except for the minutes when we were actually in a boat on the water, during which I reportedly whined or cried non-stop.

One day when I was a teenager, my mother, two brothers, and I were crossing on foot from the east side of town to the west side, which involved walking over a bridge. I refused to walk across the Third Street Bridge with them because I didn’t believe it was safe. Not only was it obviously decrepit, but you could look down between the wooden slats of the walkway and see the water! So I added a couple of miles to the jaunt by detouring solo to cross over the newer Memorial Street Bridge, which was constructed of concrete and steel. (Shortly after I moved to San Francisco, my mother sent me a clipping from the local newspaper with a picture of the collapsed Third Street Bridge.)

I lived in Northern California for close to three decades and spent a lot of time along the shores of the Pacific Ocean—especially the beaches at Pt. Reyes National Seashore, which is my favorite place in the world. I admit that if someone were to provide me with a cottage in Bear Valley and set me down in it, I would happily remain there for the rest of my life. Alas, that is unlikely to happen.

As it was, I moved to New Mexico, high desert with a rapidly dwindling body of water running through it that is still called The Rio Grande. Lots of other people have moved here from places adjacent to large bodies of water, and most of them sorely miss being near water. But I’m not one of them. I have realized that what all three places I’ve lived in have in common—and what seems more essential to me than water—are trees and lots of them.

Faded photograph: the view down the street from the last house I lived in in Michigan, October 1974.

I’m thinking about trees right now because it’s autumn and the first leaves are turning yellow and gold. And that reminds me of Michigan, where the leaves are turning much more spectacular colors of the autumn rainbow. I haven’t been back to see that in well over a decade and it’s the thing I miss most about my home state. I missed it even more when I lived in California, where deciduous trees are in short supply. But I’m satisfied with the golden oaks and aspens here because as long as there are deciduous trees, there will come the budding of new leaves in the spring.

Tree Spring Trail

And that is now my favorite tree-time of the year. I like the architecture of trees in spring when the pale shoots decorate their branches with lacy green filigree. I think you can see trees best in the spring. Sometimes I drive around in late March and April just to look at the trees. It almost makes winter worth it. Snow on branches is pretty cool, but only for the first 60 minutes.

Pino Trail

I loved to hike the trails of Pt. Reyes National Seashore in California, and I now love to hike the trails of the Sandia Mountains here in New Mexico. As long as there’s a trail in a forested area I can walk along—as long as I have trees—I’m home.

Faulty Trail

song of the trees

Here is Song of the Trees written and recited by poet, actor, and activist John Trudell:

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