The Perfect Fall Weekend

A snapshot of the perfect fall day in these parts, taken from the bridge heading into the Ojo Caliente parking lot. I was informed by a passerby that that’s a beaver dam in the foreground. On closer inspection I realized that could only be the case. The trees are cottonwoods, a common native tree that likes to live near water.

Staying with the cottonwood theme, here’s a close-up of the leaves in all their yellow glory. They are similar to aspen trees this time of year in their color. To see aspens now you just have to drive up some mountain or other for higher elevation than Taos or Ojo. Looking east to the Taos mountains now you can see patches of yellow aspens but I’ve been too busy to drive up for the gorgeous photo shoot that I’m sure would be waiting.

I took this photo near the same bridge. It’s a non-native species of olive trees which has adapted well here (invasive you could say). It has no fall color but is clearly in the process of losing its leaves. Note the little olive seed pods.

These cottonwood leaves have fallen from their branches and are well along in their process of breaking down into food for the soil. In this circle of life the cottonwood tree feeds the soil beneath it, it’s own source of nurturance. In the same way our own gardens can benefit from a winter mulch composed of the dead and dying plants we have enjoyed over the growing season.

I took this photo of pinto beans at the farm market on Saturday. They come from the San Luis Valley, which is mostly over the state line in Colorado, but close enough to Taos for a trip to its farm market. It’s a large flat valley with mountains on either side that provide good irrigation for the crops. The soil is naturally fertile. I believe it was covered with water back in ancient history.

This is Vicente on the left chatting with his helper who is cleaning up the beans that will soon be poured into a plastic bag, weighed, and sold to eager Taos customers. I love seeing the many local foods that have supported humans in this region for hundreds of years. Pinto beans must be close to the top of that survival list, along with corn.

I took this photo, on the same Saturday morning, an alfalfa field along my road, Maestas. It borders the Rio Chiquita, which you can sense by the presence of the yellow-leaved cottonwoods. Just behind where I’m standing is the acequia ditch that comes off this river and is heading left to right towards the property where I live. I will speculate that the dip you see in the green down the middle of the photo is a ditch that helps move acequia water into the field.

As I’m writing this four days later it’s cloudy and cold out and last night’s snow is melting quickly. I still have some cosmos, gaillardia and marigold flowers looking alive, though it’s hard to believe. I’ll go out now and pick a bouquet, perhaps the last of the season. Halloween and the Day of the Dead are peeking around the corner. The New Moon was yesterday. The veils between the 3D human world and that beyond are thin now, ushering us toward a more inward time, the “fruitful darkness.”

Occupy Wall Street/Taos

I caught up with the Occupy Taos marchers/protesters last Saturday as they were heading for the weekly Farm Market. I believe there was an international effort that day to demonstrate solidarity with the ongoing Occupy Wall Street event in New York. I talked to one of the marchers and he acknowledged that there was no real enemy here in Taos to focus on, such as the Wall Street financial district which symbolizes an out-of-touch financial, corporate and political elite. In his opinion the marchers were mainly “preaching to the choir” here in Taos, but he was content with that.

It couldn’t have been a nicer day for a farm market or a walk around town carrying a sign. The temperatures were in the low 70s and there was no wind to ruffle feathers, no signs of tension in the air. At times the group sounded like a marching band, as they had some horn players along, and when they were along a street they suggested drivers honk to show support, which most did. One of the main themes of the people speaking through megaphones was that we (Taos citizens) are all part of the 99% of people in the US who are not part of the elite, those 1 % who benefit most from the current distribution of wealth.

Looping back through the John Dunn shopping area by myself I took this photo at an outdoor cafe. It was the kind of weekend in October that rewards the tourists who visit Taos this time of year.

I met up with the marchers again as I entered the Plaza. They were headed back to their position on the main street, which is also a highway and a constant source of slow-moving traffic–a perfect place to advertise your message. As it turns out there was a crew of civic-minded locals doing volunteer work to upgrade the Plaza. Interestingly they are installing a horse shoe pit in the spirit of a return to some time in the past when there was one and it saw a lot of use by locals.

There was a band playing in the bandstand ( in the upper middle, in shadow). I guess they were doing their part as volunteers as well. I’m glad I happened into town just in time to take these photos which illustrate a segment of the population mix of Taos out putting their vision of a better world, a better community, into action.

Can anyone interpret this Taos graffiti?

SEED3 Art Show & Tell

This year’s SEED3 show took place during an exciting cold spell in Taos that brought a reported 9 inches of snow up on the Taos Ski Mountain. All those in attendance wisely wore plenty of warm layers of clothes. It was like a scene from another season, but I guess Taos folks are prepared for such inconveniences and so the opening was well attended. The seed-themed food was both beautiful (in a seed kind of way) and tasty and seem to disappear quickly.

This is a detail from a mixed media painting by Katie Woodall, who is one of the core of four seedettes who plan and organize all year to make this event happen. I am a big fan of her work. The name of the piece: Unfolding FIVE.

This is one of Mandy Stapleford’s many ceramic pieces, part of the group that hung on the wall, painted ceramic, the “Specimen Series.” Mandy is one of the originators of the concept of the SEED show three years ago.

Titled “Mysterious Burst” this handmade cast paper installation was created for the show by Stephanie Lerma and piled in a corner. For me it was the kind of art that was surely open to interpretation. It brought up a lot of images for me, raising more questions than answers.

Here’s another large and tantalizing piece by the same artist, Stephanie Lerma. She used handmade paper, beeswax and hollyhock seeds to create “Midnight in a Field of Flowers.”

These are my two Seed Quilt paintings, mixed media–collage and oil with encaustic on cradled birch panels.

I was able to catch this nice photo of Sybille Palmer standing in front of a part of her ambitious project, “Thirteen Endangered Plants of New Mexico.” Images of each of the 13 were printed on silk organza then mounted on cotton from India. The pieces were connected with supporting sticks and draped up the walls and across the ceiling. The end panels had lists of world-wide endangered plants. You can see the banner coming down on the opposite wall in the previous photo of my work.

Outside in the courtyard Matt Adams created this sculpture he named Cladobe Podster. Its ingredients are listed as wood, lathe, adobe clay, nylon fiber, oxides and acrylic admixture. I took this just as the sun was getting low in the west, with just enough light to accentuate the evocative shapes.

This photo shows off a couple of things. First the fiber art (crocheted jute) of Maria Hwang Levy. I believe this one is named “While with Quinn.” At the upper end of the photo you can see the entrance to the back room reserved for the educational part of SEED3, the Seed Exploratorium. Mondays are for visitors from local schools whose trips are organized as part of the show’s three-week venue.

And here’s an actual child demonstrating what it’s like to take seeds and grind them up into cereal-sized bits in the Seed Exploratorium. She seemed to be enjoying the task. I was introduced to her so learned her name is Camille, and she is the daughter of one of the artists in the show, Conrad Cooper.

Since this is a blog and not an official report of this show I have left out a lot of worthy art and a lot of names among the 16 artists who worked to make this event happen. For myself it was a joy and an honor to be a part of this year’s show.

I couldn’t leave out this photo of one of the food dishes contributed by artist Sybille Palmer. There were other artistic offerings of seed-related food but this took the prize. And yes, I had one of the tasty morsels even though it looked too beautiful to eat.

Fall Excursions

This was taken in the parking lot next to the Tesuque Village Market (ta-sook-ee). The Tesuque Pueblo tribal land north of Santa Fe is bisected by the highway between Taos and Santa Fe, so anyone familiar with that route passes through signs for the three (I believe) Tesuque exits. This is where I met up with my friend for a jaunt to Santa Fe to get some needed art supplies and take a stroll down Canyon Road, a popular place for art galleries. Neither of us had taken that art walk for years and felt it was time to freshen our impressions.

This is the season when the peppers ripen to reds and oranges and find themselves strung into ristras. We spotted this decorative use of fresh ristras on an archway leading to one of the galleries on Canyon. Note the use of marigolds strung together as well. The gallery was called Galerie Corazon and was set back a bit behind another place very near the street. The owner seems very set on creating a beautiful atmosphere both inside and outside the gallery. You could feel the “corazon” (heart).

The next day I drove over to Ojo Caliente (hot springs) after turning in the SEED3 paintings I’ve been working on more or less intensely for several months. My reward.

The stretch from West Rim Road over to Hwy 285 was magically strewn with Chamisa in full glory. I stopped briefly for this quick photo just so I could talk about the wonder of the drive right now. Make me think of the “yellow brick road.” I find Chamisa very uplifting, the way it blooms with such enthusiasm, a bright yellow, just when other plants are slowing down.

This is a view of Ojo Caliente from the direction of their hiking trails, west looking east. The building with the scalloped front faces is the original/historic main building which now houses the restaurant, wine bar and guest rooms. Soon all those Cottonwood trees to the east of the buildings will be a solid brush stroke of yellow.

Just had to add this dramatic photo I took on the way home down through the Rio Grande Gorge leading to Pilar. This was taken soon after I crossed the bridge and on the side away from the river. I could tell there was ample moisture there because there was a group of cattails nearby. Yes, I picked one of them, just starting to explode with its seeds, for the SEED3 show. In any case this is our friend Chamisa blooming next to a Cottonwood–nature’s authoritative description of the color yellow. At first I thought the Cottonwood was an Aspen, but definitely not, judging from the bark. That will be another, later blog–Aspens up on Taos Mountain.

These fallen Cottonwood leaves have found their final resting place just under the Chamisa plant in the previous photo.

And just to prove that I really did drive along the Rio Grande today I offer this river shot reflecting the bright blue sky of the day. The weather could not have been more perfect. When I got home I had a short visit with my landlord and he said yesterday it rained on the property pretty hard for a brief time. I would never have imagined it. He said he was in town coming toward Talpa and could see a big rain cloud over it, and sure enough it rained pretty hard for awhile, but not in town and certainly not at Ojo. So much for weather in the mountains of New Mexico.

Home again! Gotta love the Heavenly Blue Morning Glories next to those sweet blue doors I painted a year ago.

Mystery mandala plant I saw on my Ojo hike