Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lincoln National Forest: Upper Karr Canyon Recreation Area

Upper Karr Canyon Recreation Area, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Upper Karr Canyon Recreation Area, on Highway 6563, south of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, is - cliché alert! - an oasis of cool summer green high above the hot Tularosa Basin.

Pleasant walks through the woods and across small meadows.

Upper Karr Canyon Recreation Area, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Shady camp sites - free!

Great spangled fritillary butterfly. Upper Karr Canyon Recreation Area, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico

No water, but there's a vault toilet.

A picnic lunch among the stand of aspens.

Watching butterflies and other insects feast on the yellow flowers in the meadow, with the sound of thunder in the distance.

A slide show:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Solstice 2013 at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, summer solstice 2013, New Mexico

It was summer solstice-ish, being on Sunday, June 23 and not on the actual day. But close enough.

Hundreds of people gathered at White Sands for sledding, cooking, drinking - there are so many places there to find a comfortable spot.

White Sands National Monument, summer solstice 2013, New Mexico

Former TLG colleague Sparrow (see our trip to Svaneti here) was visiting me for a few days, and we went out to White Sands to watch the sunset and the moonrise, and listen to the live music, performed by Agueybaná.

Notice the full moon at :40.  

Truth be told, it would have been more cool to go on a night that didn't have the big shebang celebration, but it was nice. Hard to complain about so many people gathering together on a pretty night and having a good time.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Las Cruces, New Mexico: The Not-So Farmerish Farmers' Market

Las Cruces Farmers' Market, New Mexico

Not many farmers at the Las Cruces Farmers' Market, but today there were: 
  • Authors
  • Sculptors
  • Roller derby athletes
  • Musicians
  • Bakers
  • Massage therapists
  • Jewelery makers
  • Painters
  • ... and, of course, a skeleton. 

Crossroads City Derby women,  Las Cruces Farmers' Market, New Mexico

Las Cruces Farmers' Market, New Mexico

Eggs and song at Las Cruces Farmers' Market, New Mexico

Cool jewelry from broken dishes, Las Cruces Farmers' Market, New Mexico

Las Cruces Farmers' Market, New Mexico

David G. Thomas, author of La Posta, Las Cruces Farmers' Market, New Mexico

Crossroads City Derby women,  Las Cruces Farmers' Market, New Mexico

Sculptor Tomi LaPierre,  Las Cruces Farmers' Market, New Mexico

Sunday, June 16, 2013

New Mexico's Secret Music Festival

Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival June 2013, Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Credit: Mzuriana.
Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival June 2013, Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Credit: Mzuriana.

This music festival shouldn't be secret, or more accurately, it shouldn't be unknown. But it is, "it" being the Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. (Elevation proudly proclaimed at 9000 feet.)

How can you combine great music with a beautiful outdoor venue, in (mostly) glorious weather - where you can camp for free  - and wear that tie-dye shirt again - and not have a kick ass, bad ass, popular event? Well, somehow, the word hasn't gotten out because not many people go.

If you can make your way to Cloudcroft in 2014, go to the festival.

Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival June 2013, Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Credit: Mzuriana.
Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival June 2013, Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Credit: Mzuriana.

There's music on Fridays and Saturdays during this event. Cost $25 for the whole shebang. I was there almost all of Saturday.

Above: Chuco Soul Project. 

Lots of bands, all winners. Music ranged from country, bluesy, jazzy, indie-rock, Americana, folk, so-called "taco billy," Latino, swing, and ballads. Most songs were original.

Above: Sorry About Your Sister

In theory, no alcohol permitted, but ... let's just say its consumption was discreet. No pets, either, though one attendee thought that didn't pertain to him.

Enjoy some of the music that I did

Todd and the Fox

Dusty Low

Zoltan Orkestar

The Memphis Strange

Chuco Soul Project

Bourbon Legend

Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival June 2013, Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Credit: Mzuriana.
Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival June 2013, Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Credit: Mzuriana.








The mountain lap created a natural amphitheater. 

Watch out for the deer poop, though.

 A slideshow:

Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

Highway 9, New Mexico: Our Private Highway

Some folks in Columbus, New Mexico, call NM Highway 9, "our private highway." This is because there's so little traffic, local or otherwise, on this pleasantly efficient path to El Paso, Texas.

View Larger Map

Although the scenic views of Highway 9 aren't the most tantalizing that New Mexico has to offer, they aren't entirely without interest. 

Abandoned building, Highway 9, New Mexico

Straw traffic cone? Highway 9, New Mexico

Straw traffic cone? Highway 9, New Mexico

Descansos, Highway 9, New Mexico

Mysterious black-white-black-white stones atop fence post, Highway 9, New Mexico

Mysterious black-white-black-white stones atop fence post, Highway 9, New Mexico

Decorated shrub, Highway 9, New Mexico

Descanso, Highway 9, New Mexico

I didn't see much traffic when I drove east on a Sunday morning from Columbus to Santa Teresa Port of Entry. The most notable vehicular event was the passage of a caravan of Camaros or Mustangs or something like that, likely members of an auto club out for a day's excursion. 



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tularosa, New Mexico: Shade Trees and Roses

Tularosa, New Mexico

Whereas there's no doubt Alamogordo is in the high desert, just 13 miles away is shady, tree-lined Tularosa.

Tularosa, New Mexico

I'm told that Alamogordo would be just as oasis-like as Tularosa, but for the fact it did away with its acequia system long ago, while Tularosa still has (some of) its system.

True or false or more complicated? Don't know.

Tularosa, New Mexico
If you swing through Tularosa on Highways 54 and 70 without stopping, you see a promise of its seductions - like a bit of ankle showing in Victorian English times - when you pass by San Francis de Paula's lush campus.

Tularosa, New Mexico

You wouldn't guess at the loveliness of the residential houses and yards behind the front lines of shops.

There's a trade-off. With the haven of mature trees, the nearby Sacramento Mountains recede into the background, whereas in Alamogordo they are as equal residents of the city.

A Tularosa slide show:

Tularosa, NM 2013

About the name, Tularosa. Its origin has nothing to do with roses, but the inhabitants have surrendered to the inevitable assumption and now calls itself the city of roses. Indeed, roses of all colors run promiscuously throughout the village.

An acquaintance of mine relocated here from Santa Fe for some very practical reasons: Tularosa shares some of the same charms as Santa Fe - traditional New Mexican architecture, proximity to mountains, and an arts community (albeit small) - while being far more economical to live because of lower real estate prices and energy costs. Being in southwestern New Mexico, Tularosa's winters are milder than in Santa Fe or Taos. I would add that one will find a much narrower income disparity amongst Tularosa residents than amongst Santa Fe or Taos residents.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Taos, New Mexico: Music in the Plaza

Bone Orchard, Taos, New Mexico

A long-time local band, Bone Orchard, was performing in Taos' plaza when a friend and I walked through. Great sound and presence - a sort of gothic, western, ballad cocktail.

The place was jumping. And skipping.

Bone Orchard, Taos, New Mexico

I noticed in Taos what I've noticed in so many New Mexican communities - there is a vibrant force of gray-haired folk who are, by appearances, making a helluva rich life for themselves.  And these people aren't homogenous in their politics, natal or adopted cultures, backgrounds, or complexion. The qualities they have in common are the achievement of a certain age and a lively interest in .... something, the content of which varies, the key words being "lively" and "interest."

Bone Orchard, Taos, New Mexico

It's pretty cool.

Bone Orchard, Taos, New Mexico

New Mexico isn't your grandmother's Miami.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Highway 68, New Mexico: The River, But

Highway 68 between Taos and Española, New Mexico

There are very pretty views of the river on the bend-y Highway 68 between Española and Taos. But, um, did I take any photos of this? Apparently not.

But I have these:

Highway 68 between Taos and Española, New Mexico

Highway 68 between Taos and Española, New Mexico

Highway 68 between Taos and Española, New Mexico

Highway 68 between Taos and Española, New Mexico

Fortunately, I have these two photos taken from the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center on Highway 68 when I was here a few years ago.

Highway 68 between Taos and Española, New Mexico

Highway 68 between Taos and Española, New Mexico

Speaking of the Rio Grande Gorge Visitors Center, I was impressed by it last time I came through in November 2008. Not so much this time because staff aren't taking care of it. The spacious veranda that overlooks the river is unkempt with bird droppings on the benches and the picnic table, the floor is unswept, and the beams of the ceilings are rife with spiderwebs. I almost asked for a broom so I could sweep the porch. The insides of the light fixtures in the bathroom were littered with dead insects. Quite a contrast with the sparkling-ness of the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center.

Monday, June 10, 2013

On Mangoes

Mangoes. Credit: Will Salter/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images via The Guardian

I'm in the process of backing up blog posts, and currently I'm deep into early 2011, when I was in Ethiopia.

When I wrote this post, I found two elegant essays on mangoes by a Kenyan man named Ngishili who lived for a time in Addis. He wrote a blog called Cock and Bull Stories. Every once in awhile, this blog disappears, then reappears, and because it hasn't been updated since late in 2012, I want to preserve the essays here. 

The Mango Season, by Ngishili 

March 10, 2011. The mango season has come to an end once again. Just a few weeks ago, you would be greeted by women with large yellow mounds of huge succulent mangoes in the market place, but now that the season is over, we have to wait until next year to see all that again.

The mango season starts at the beginning of the year, peaks in mid February and is over by mid March. The season corresponds to the hottest months of the year when temperatures are well over 30 degrees centigrade, and you can imagine how fulfilling it is to take a bite off a thick slice of mango, or to drink from a tall cold glass of thick juice when one is hot and thirsty or after a nice meal.

Back in the village, there would be hundreds of ripe mangoes scattered under the many mango trees that dot the farms. There would be nothing as refreshing as sitting under the shade of a mango tree on a February afternoon and eat one mango after another, until the stomach was so full that when one moved, it made a swashing liquid sound; similar to that made by water inside a metal container on the back of a woman as she laboriously climbed a hill as she came from the stream to fetch the family’s water supply for the evening.
And the chicken would have a field day too. In their quest to search for food, they would bore into the overripe mangoes with their beaks in order to search for worms. After a few days of such activity, they all would have weird shaped beaks. The reason is because the sticky mango juice on the beaks would form perfect glue for mud to cake along the length of the beak. So all the chickens ended up with filthy beaks that had bulbous brown extensions of all shapes and sizes. And as they walked in an awkward gait – perhaps with stomachs making liquid sounds – it all seemed funny and life was light hearted even when the weather was in its harshest.

In the city, I try to remember those moments each time I cut open a mango and its unmistakable aroma fills the room. And it often leaves me with a sense of wonder, at just what it takes to bring a single mango into being. And my mind goes back to the flowering of the mango trees in September, and I remember how vulnerable the little blooms are in the wind. And how in a single violent shake of the trees by an unexpected gust, most of the flowers will be blown off and half the mango crop will be lost in a single moment. But by December, the mangoes have formed and have fleshed out so much that every night, we would hear the sound of branches breaking off noisily from the trees under the unbearable weight of the mangoes. And in a few weeks, the first ripe mangoes would begin to fall from the trees. And in a few more, the mangoes would be so ripe, that one could make a small hole and suck the juice right off the fruit like a thirsty mango nectar vampire, and then disdainfully throw away the deflated lifeless shell for the cows and goats to eat.

During the mango season I think about God. I put myself in His place and I think about how it would please me to see the spectacle of the abundance of mango in the village. And how it would make me feel good inside each time a person enjoyed the taste of mango. It reminds me of a time I fell out with a friend, and then I met her years later and she was wearing a necklace I had given her as a present. It made me feel very good and I forgot about all the acrimony we previously had. Or imagine what it makes you feel when someone flaunts a present that you gave them? What if it was something that you made for them with your own hands?

And so I think that God enjoys it as much – or even more – when we enjoy the gifts that He has given us. And perhaps our enjoying the gifts that we have been given is a very high act of Glorification. So, let us enjoy all our gifts – our children, our health, our friends, our talents – and not forgetting mangoes and all other fruits.

Season of Ripe Mangoes, by Ngishili

January 28, 2007. Today is sunny and I am looking out into the greenness of the fields all around. It is a very beautiful day with the perfect blend for a Sunday mid morning: an azure blue sky with tufty white clouds, noisy birds and flirty butterflies, amplified fervent prayers from a gospel church at a distance competing with the harmonious choir singing from the Catholic Church in my neighborhood.

And I am just here breathing the sweet air. If this day’s oxygen were a drink, it would be served as a brightly colored tropical cocktail with two olives, a tiny umbrella and a fancy pair of drinking straws. It might as well be, considering that taking a deep breathe leaves one heady; at the brink of being intoxicated. But all I can think about is mangoes. I know that the mango trees are laden with fruit at this time of year. The mangoes are still green and will be ripening en mass in a few short weeks. At that time, every mango tree will litter the ground with yellow ready fruit, with such mischief that it would be impossible to walk past the tree without being dunked on the top of your head.

But already, curious boys are up the trees hunting for ripe mangoes with a monkey’s dexterity. They move deftly from branch to branch squeezing the fruits between their fingers for any sign of softness. The softness of the fruit under pressure indicates that the mango has eventually transformed from a green hard sour fleshy orb into a succulent tangle of fiber that holds together the sweet smelling juice of a ripe mango. However, the boys have to be careful so as not to come down with any of the branches. For the mango tree’s branches are not bendy at all. They snap as easily as a long, thin, fresh carrot. When put under unbearable weight, the branch will separate from the tree with a sharp unexpected crackle and noisily splash its burden on the ground. The noisy come-down results from thousands of claps of stiff leaves as they bounce against each other upon the unexpected jolt. For a moment, it is almost as if the branch applauds the downfall of another impatient boy who does not have the courtesy to wait for nature to take its full course.

But most likely, the mango tree’s branches are breaking due to the weight of the mango fruit. It is amazing how suddenly a branch can come tumbling down, spewing hundreds of green mangoes all over the ground. The bigger mangoes simply burst on impact before going into a lopsided spin while the smaller ones bounce and then roll smoothly for a while before coming to a stop. And in a very short while, all is quite, as if nothing ever happened.

The ripe mangoes are available for about 1 month. In that time all sorts of creatures that eat fruit will dig into the feast. It might be confusing to find non vegetarian creatures tearing the mangoes apart, but they would only be searching for insects that have bored themselves into the fruit. Apart from that, almost everyone’s hands are sticky from the mango juice and it takes an exceptionally tidy person not to have a yellow stain even on a Sunday best dress. But no one really minds since this season only comes once a year.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I Don't Like Your Music

I was listening to a shuffle of my music today, and I began to chuckle. I remembered the comment someone made to me a few months ago.

"I don't like your music."

I was taken by surprise, and I think I just said, "Oh."

What I wish I'd have said was: "Which of my music don't you like? Is it my

American folk
Mexican folk
Modern swing
British pop
New Age

You can find nothing in there that you like? Really?

Some recent acquisitions:

Dolor de Aquí by Jarana Beat (indeed, the entire album, Echalante). Two of the musicians are New Mexican - Albuquerque and Las Cruces. There's so much going on this video visually, physically, and aurally you have to watch it at least, I don't know, 60 times.

The Missouri Waltz, as sung by Missourian Merideth Sisco (and the entire Winter's Bone soundtrack)

A modern, East-LA version of a Son Jarocho song (regional music of Vera Cruz, Mexico), La Bamba. Very rich. Complete with the jawbone of an ass.

Hellhound on my Trail, by Big Joe Williams. Oh, that deep Delta voice.

Lianne La Havas' Age. Can you watch this without smiling? I don't think so.

Over the Rainbow/It's a Beautiful World by Israel Kamakawiwo Ole


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico: Not Far Enough

Bisti Wilderness, off Highway 371, Navajo Nation, New Mexico

I'm an idiot for not taking a walk into the Bisti Wilderness, and instead, just nibbling at the edge.

Bisti Wilderness, off Highway 371, Navajo Nation, New Mexico

The edge is intriguing, but when I went to look at photos of another part of the wilderness - so close to where I was - I was kicking myself.  Otherworldly.  The photos I have don't touch what's there, what I missed.

Bisti Wilderness, off Highway 371, Navajo Nation, New Mexico

 So now I've got to go back.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Highway 371, New Mexico: Desolate Grace

Prairie evening primrose, Highway 371, New Mexico

There's not much to see on New Mexico's Highway 371, so small points of grace are even more alluring than they would be otherwise, in splashier surroundings. 

Globe mallow, Highway 371, New Mexico

Highway 371 moves through the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico.

Globe mallow, Highway 371, New Mexico

You can access the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness from Highway 371.

Penstemon, Highway 371, New Mexico

I went through in early June. The diminutive, waving, orange globe mallows along the roadside dazzled me first, and then the dainty evening primroses. And then globe mallows and blue penstemon together.

At about mile marker 50, it was astonishing to encounter sand dunes creeping onto the road!

Sand dunes, Highway 371, New Mexico

When I got out of my car to investigate the sand dunes, I was blown away (sorry) by the power of the wind! I had to laugh, it was so ridiculous. 

I didn't know the names of the flowers I saw, even after an unfruitful internet search, but Steve Walker at the Northwestern New Mexico Visitors Center, generally acknowledged by his colleagues to be the go-to plant expert, helped me out when I passed by there on my way home.

A slide show:


At the suggestion of one of the visitor center's staff, who is proficient in Navajo, I listened for awhile, on my Highway 371 drive, to radio station KTNN at 660 AM. It was a mix of English and Navajo language, and a mix of top 40 country and Navajo music.

One of the best The best TV news show is Sunday Morning. The quiet nature video shown at the end of each broadcast has always inspired me for the way it invites us to relax into the beauty of the present. It influences my own short videos of natural moments.