Train Stop for Taos

A week ago I had just stepped onto the scene pictured here as the engine of the train zoomed by me. I managed to get this shot while the train was still moving. This is the Lamy (near Santa Fe) stop on the Amtrak train that starts in Los Angeles and ends up in Chicago. It passes through Flagstaff, AZ, and Albuquerque on its way (and other places in between).

The friend I was meeting had started out in Oceanside, CA, traveled north to Los Angeles where he changed onto this train. His ticket cost $90 (one way). If you’re thinking “green” and have the time, trains could be a good thing. And I won’t mention the stories we hear about the strangeness of today’s airline travel.

This photo was taken as we were leaving Lamy. It suggests that the town has seen better days and a much larger population. I believe Wikipedia said there are 100 or so people living there now. I got the impression it was a bustling little place at the turn of the 20th Century.

I drove there from Taos in just under 2 hours. You pass through Santa Fe on St. Francis Drive until you reach the connector to Highway 25 heading to Las Vegas. After a while there is a turn off to the south that leads down to Lamy. But keep your eyes peeled for the small sign. It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere, but once you pass this church you can see the train station ahead. The next time I drive there it won’t be so suspenseful.

After participating in the Taos Christmas crafts fair for the three days after Thanksgiving I drove over for a soak at Ojo Caliente Hot Springs. You pass this road just before going over the bridge that marks the entrance. I had taken photos of this same scene a month ago when the trees were full of yellow leaves, so stopped to see how it had changed. I think I may like this photo even more, as it reveals the strong curving patterns in the branches.  It would also be beautiful with snow.

That Monday was one of those Taos-style “weathery” days with lots of clouds moving around creating pockets of light snow one minute and sunshine the next. It was cold for sure. On the drive back from the hot springs I stopped for this shot of the sugar frosted Taos mountains as I was approaching the West Rim Road. What can I say? It’s a spectacular gift to live in this inspiring landscape.

A cropped version of a recent painting (Two Ravens–Rio Grande).

First Snow of the Season

The third week in November and presto, SNOW. I hadn’t been watching the weather or anything so it came as a delightful surprise. Yes, it was a cold and cloudy day. I was staying home as usual, working on painting the Goddess altars I’m going to sell at the upcoming Yuletide arts and crafts fair. I was drawn out of the house by the opportunity to photograph the unexpected change in the scenery around my house.

I particularly liked this photo as these big trees had leaves only a couple of days ago. Without the snow caps on the fence this wouldn’t be much of a story. Cameras love snow!

These are Siberian Elms and I have very mixed feelings about them. On one hand they remind me of the great elm trees that dominated the city lot of my childhood home. Dutch Elm Disease eventually killed all of them. It’s hard for me to picture that house now without the trees.

Still, these are not the elms of my childhood. They are an invasive and aggressive type of elm that is thriving in this region. If you live near them, like I do, you end up weeding out thousands of little seedlings that sprout up wherever there’s water, soil and sun, like in my garden. Arrgg.

This was taken the day after the snow fell. Also a cold day and thus this remnant clinging to the north side of the sunflower all morning. I love the graceful arch of the plant adjusting to the weight of the flower as it matured and then seeded, gaining weight along the way.

I just realized that the Winter Solstice (December 21st) is only a month and a few days away from now. We are really experiencing the darkest time now and through the month of January. Because we had a long autumn season here with plenty of warm days and a late ending for the gardens, winter seems suddenly decisive. There is an excitement to it, a fresh sharpness to the focus, a call for alertness about staying warm and safe. The living is not so easy now.

I also shot this the day after the snow, just before dusk. I looked out the window and there was the moon seemingly captured in the web of the elm’s branches. I’ve been thinking about the phrase, “web of life,” lately as a theme for a painting. This photo captures the gesture of the concept. Without the leaves on the trees now the sky can come through. I find I like looking at the branches, the beauty of their form, held up against the ever-changing sky that is so compelling here.

Sunday will be the Full Moon in Taurus, just catching the last degree of Scorpio opposing it. And the next day, Monday, the 22nd, the Sun moves onward to Sagittarius.

Kali–the subject of two of my new Goddess altars.

Pot Creek & the Pinon Pines

Pot Creek–in case you’ve driven by it but never stopped I’ll show you a few hasty photos I took while walking the loop trail provided in this preserve. I say “hasty” because it was late in the day and the light was waning. The location is along the High Road, about three miles south beyond Talpa. The trail is fairly short and sweet and more or less starts at this very old adobe structure. There are markers along the way explaining the history of the area and why it’s special, worthy of preservation.

The thing that excited me most about Pot Creek is that it’s all about Pinon pines. For the past six months I’ve been wondering where the much-touted regional Pinon pines are to be found. I needed to know what they look like, so I could recognize one if it crossed my path. I have now been to the school of Pinon Pine 101. According to the information provided along the trail, the Pinon was good for, not only the pine nuts we relish, but the sap, which was very useful to the ancient peoples here–their handy equivalent of glue.

I saw no creek at Pot Creek, by the way. The next day I was in the Rio Grande gorge up from Pilar with a friend. This photo shows the spot where the Rio Pueblo disappears into the big Rio Grande. If you’ve explored the area north of the Taos Junction bridge you know there are two gorges north of the bridge, each with its own river. I have hiked from the top of the Rio Pueblo gorge down to the bridge, but have never before actually stood at the place where the two join. My friend showed me the path north along the west side of the Rio Grande, which starts just after you cross the Taos Junction bridge.

So in a couple of days two great mysteries of the Taos area were solved. That must mean something?

By the way, there was a time when I wanted to get to the top of the Rio Pueblo gorge and couldn’t figure it out. If you’re looking to find that piece of the puzzle: take state highway 570, a right turn after Llano Quemado as you’re heading out of town past Ranchos on Highway 68. You’ll go by the golf course and the University of NM campus to the end.

The other day I was drawing my own map of the local river complex and I stumbled (online) onto a video of river otters being introduced to the upper Rio Grande river system. They were coming from the state of Washington. It was an Albuquerque Journal video (a couple of years old) you can probably locate easily on UTube. I learned that the Taos Pueblo has been active in re-introducing the river otter into the waters of their tribal lands.

Which reminds me, we saw Bighorn Sheep up along the top of the gorge the day I took these photos. I was wishing I had my newly envisioned dslr camera with its telephoto lens. How many chances will I get for that shot?