January Retreat in Taos


This wintery time of year has lived up to its reputation. Most long-time residents say it’s been colder than usual. Many people I’ve talked to have reported frozen pipes and some even broken ones that have caused flooding in their house. I guess the plumbers have been busy?

I’ve stayed mostly indoors in my cozy radiant-floor-heated casita and turned my attention to various projects. I recently re-read a women’s history classic, The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant. I’ve welcomed the slower pace after all the rushing around before the holidays making sure local stores had my cards and tree ornaments in stock. In the rhythm of the yearly cycle this is the time to go inward, to reflect and evaluate, to allow the unconscious to process the events of the past year. Soon enough it will be time to begin afresh with the Spring Equinox.

On the way home from a trip to Santa Fe last week I took a turn into the Rio Grande Gorge to see its winter look. It was just before dusk so both of these photos catch the contrast of light and dark.


As you can see, the river here is not frozen. I noticed that there were stretches along the 68 highway between here and Espanola that were iced up. People were stopping to take photos. I thought this might be the case here in the gorge but apparently not. And there’s a reason for that but I can’t make out for sure what it is. Perhaps the gorge both collects and holds heat in the day and because the water is moving slower here it has time to warm up?


I did take this shot of some fanciful ice at the end of a boat ramp.


To warm you up…this is a new collaged nicho featuring the Hindu Goddess, Lakshmi, that I recently added to my consignment art in the Wabi-Sabi gift store. They have been carrying my cards for a couple of years now. As you can see in this photo they feature art and artifacts from Eastern spiritual traditions.


This was taken from the front porch of my house looking out through the icicles to a sunny cold day in the hood. A couple of those icicles stuck around for many days and grew several feet long. Very entertaining.

I want to extend an invitation to local friends of my Taos blog to consider attending the miniature show at Millicent Rogers this coming Saturday, the 26th. It will be my first time showing art there and I plan to attend the opening at 5:30 PM. I understand they charge $15 admission to raise funds for the museum.




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

Colorado & Back


River rafting was the big attraction at 3Rivers Resort where my family had a big reunion last week. The resort is situated along the Taylor River about 10 miles north of Gunnison, CO. My granddaughter was able to attend it and renew relationships with folks she hadn’t seen since she was 4. She celebrated her 12th birthday while we were there.

This shot captures the natural beauty of the resort and the way 12-year olds like to take photos with their iPhones. Sometimes she would switch over to borrowing my digital slr and give the iPhone a rest. We were a photographing team.

On the last full day of our time in Colorado we took a little visit over to Crested Butte, a small ski town developed 50 or so years ago. We both loved it. Even Emma, who grew up in the ski town of Sun Valley, Idaho, was impressed by the natural beauty of the landscape and the town itself. It seemed to have a sense of itself, how it wanted to look and feel, and as far as we explored there seemed to be consistency. There were many benches such as this one, along the main street, created to be functional works of art. They showed off the artistic, funky spirit of the town.

I’ll use this one photo to symbolize all the flowers we saw everywhere we went. Even along the main shopping street there was space for flower beds and displays. The sidewalks were wide, giving pedestrians a feeling of space as they walked around. I think the elevation of the town was around 7,700 so I know they have a short growing season so I suspect they achieved their flowers by using lots of perennials and setting out starts grown in greenhouses. The effect was truly inspiring and uplifting.

I saw somewhere that Crested Butte claimed to be the wildflower capital of Colorado. Many family members went on hikes and enjoyed the flowers.

In this photo you can see what I assume to be the Crested Butte that gives the town its name. These houses are typical of the local style. Not sure how you would describe it but seen at a distance it looks like a toy town. Snow is a major factor here and might explain these steep metal roofs, good for releasing accumulating snow.

On the drive back home to Taos we stopped at the Earthship Center located along Hwy 64 west of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. My granddaughter had never seen or even heard of an earthship so she got an eye-full. This Earthship World Headquarters location handles a lot of related activities, such as a school to learn green building concepts and techniques, and an earthship rental service (one night).

This shot accentuates the free-form use of adobe-like building materials and the incorporation of glass bottles for color and aesthetics. Gotta love that Taos plateau blue sky.

I loved the use of so much glass in the design of this wall and the pleasing shape of the opening. This was part of a project that was still under construction, but located near the center, encouraging visitors to look around.

Next on the Taos tour was the Gorge Bridge. I mentioned that the people of Taos were concerned about the recent larger numbers of “jumpers.” She felt there should definitely be a net below the railing. We looked at a recent copy of the Taos News the next day and saw that concern about bridge suicides was a headline. She was happy to see her concerns shared by the town.

Next day was Saturday and we went straight to the farm market for a palm reading by Bonnie Bramble who offers readings each week during the market season. Children’s palms are read for free, which is generous of Bonnie.

Aw shucks another lovely hollyhock.

Chollas Bloom Magenta

I was excited to see examples of these same blooming Cholla Cactus just down the road from my house last week. However I took this more accessible photo last week next to the road along the Rio Grande gorge. I was on my way to Ojo Caliente and decided to take that route since I live near the southwest end of Taos, close to Hwy. 68. I had a hunch I would find these marvels and was I ever delighted.

In this photo you can see the gorge environment of the cactus. I looked up “Cholla Cactus” on Wikipedia and learned that there are 20 species of Cholla. I read down the list of descriptions and chose “Tree Cholla” for these. Says the blooms are deep lavender to red and the range is the “Chihuahuan desert into New Mexico and Texas and the semi-arid southern areas of eastern Colorado and western Oklahoma–2,000 – 7,000 feet.” Plus they do get tall and have branches, thus the “tree” part fits. I remember staying near the Pacific Ocean in Baja, there were Chollas there. You have to be very mindful of them–very painful if you came in contact with even a tiny spine.

I was doing some watering in the garden the other day and this Swallowtail came around not two feet from where I was standing. I focused all my attention on the opportunity to observe her (?) at close range and my presence did not seem to be a problem. Of course my camera was in the house and I started wishing I had it. After several minutes I took the chance and ran into the house and was able, gratefully, to get this one shot before she flew off. This story does illustrate the idea, “build it and they will come.”

And while we’re in the garden, yes, the peas are blooming and forming those pea pods like crazy now. I forget whether I planted edible pod or shelling peas. Guess I’ll soon find out. Smartly I planted another group of peas a couple of weeks later so all my peas won’t come at once. I went ahead and planted climbing beans and they are just coming up. I was a little late on that idea but hopefully they will catch up.

Yes, this flower, some kind of garden thistle but I don’t know the name, was blooming in my garden and yet I don’t feel it’s fair to take much credit for this magical photo. Thank you dear dslr camera for the way you can focus on some areas and blur others. There are some gaillardias blooming behind it, adding mysterious colors to the background. Cosmic! Both plants are perennials that returned from last year. What joy to see flowers like this already. Last summer I planted all my flowers from seed and had to wait at least another month from now for flowers.

And yes, the alfalfa field near my house got mowed and this photo captures the baler spitting out his little bales as he traverses the neat rows left by the mower a few days ago. The “hay” is allowed to sit in the sun a few days before the baler comes. Today while I was creating this blog the owner came in his truck and (likely with some help) picked up the bales and stacked them (four high?) in the truck for the short ride around to the other side of the property where his horse barn is. He earlier predicted that because of the drought and resulting lack of acequia water this summer he will only be able to get one crop out of this field, which usually provides two.

Preview: Black Eyed Susan

Manby Hot Springs

Saturday a friend and I met at the farm market and found ourselves thinking of going out to the Manby Hot Springs, something we’d talked about a week before but hadn’t done due to the smoky air. It was my first trip. The photo above shows an early view of the Rio Grande flowing downstream, taken from the path down. A New Mexico hot springs guide book says it’s half a mile down on the path. It seemed longer than that to me, especially coming back up in the middle of the day, in hot sun.

We saw several of these small blooming cactus plants along the trail down. Exotic.

So where exactly is Manby, also known as Stagecoach Hot Springs? Well, if you were standing on the gorge bridge looking north it’s probably 2 miles upriver. It was once (in the 1890’s) a resort and the original way to get there was by stage coach. There was a bridge a little downstream of the springs and there was a switchback road cut into the west side of the canyon for access. From the springs you can see remnants of that road. Those were some brave travelers!

This was my first view of the springs from the trail. That raft on the upper left soon pulled away from the bank. They seemed to be stopping for some re-grouping. I can’t believe they would be launching from there. The pool we used is the one that’s closest to the center of the photo, furtherest to the left. Its water was coming from various sources inland side of the pool so was undisturbed by the muddier water of the river. It was not exactly “hot” but definitely warm and was comfortable for the warm day.

According to the water talk of the day the river has been running fast due to Colorado snow melt, which explains the muddy water. However it’s been dropping dramatically the past few days and will clear up as it slows.

This is a closer view of the pool we chose. We later met this girl and her brother and shared the pool with them for a bit. This is a clothing optional hot springs but I seemed to be the only woman there without a bathing suit. Oh well. A long history of hippy traditions had prepared me for the moment of truth. At one point I was the only woman in the pool with four similarly unclad men. All very nice men of course. I lasted about 45 minutes there in the hot sun with no hat and little sunscreen. There was no shade in sight.

I can tell you the way there from Taos. You head north and turn left (at the “blinking light”) like you’re going to the gorge bridge on Hwy. 64. About 4 miles down look for Tune Drive on your right. That turn is less than a mile past the Airport on the left. There are some possible turns off Tune Drive but I felt like it was clear enough which way to go forward to the eventual large parking lot at the end. The guide book says it’s about 5 miles, but I think it was more like 7 or 8, and it was not smooth sailing–not dangerous, but bumpy washboard for sure.

I kept my promise of a couple of weeks ago and went back where I took the photo of the peony bud and shot this fully opened peony. It is not the exact same flower, but the prettiest one of the bunch. More of the perennials that over-wintered around my house are starting to show their first blooms. This photo below is one. Can’t think of the name at the moment…

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?

Santa Fe Day Trip

En route to pick up my friend at the downtown shuttle stop I ran into a halt of traffic for this commuter train. It’s called the Rail Runner Express and there were lots of cars on it. Not connected to Amtrack, this train can bring you right into the heart of Santa Fe from the airport in Albuquerque (and back) if you time it right. Sure sounds like more fun than a ride in a shuttle van. Fortunately mine was the first car at the intersection so I could get this photo.

Walking from the shuttle stop to the Plaza we passed this corner cafe/gallery. Loved the name, first of all. The photo is catching lots of window reflections so has the effect of a collage.  We walked by it again on the way back to the car and decided to go inside Friday when we return to Santa Fe. More shall be revealed…

Here I’m shooting into the same window but isolating the painted clouds, the row of windows and myself. Like a dream image. I was feeling pretty happy to be with my friend, to have found a place to park. I was on “Cloud Nine.” It had been a couple of months since my last trip out of Taos, other than over to Ojo Caliente, so that added to the excitement.

This amazing small painting was in the window of the Mother Earth & Father Sky gallery/cafe. The mosiac of material (abalone shell?) seems to have been overprinted with the Guadalupe image, but the effect was pure magic. As you change your angle of reference so do the colors. It felt alive and the essence of beauty! My friend and I were equally appreciative and entranced.

Heading back to Taos we stopped at the bridge over to Embudo Station. The cottonwoods are glowing with their yellow leaves all along the Rio Grande. We were getting back to Taos a little later than planned and losing the light. Still I was determined to show her the road along the gorge from Pilar, always so inspiring to me. A visit to the Mother?

There was still light for the river to reflect and so the day’s pattern of capturing reflections with the camera continued. Which begs the question: are reflections real? What is real, really? All I can offer is that I seem to be finding reflections more these days with my camera-eye than ever before. Perhaps they offer a better mirror for what I am experiencing as real (more a view from the inner world?). Moving to Taos can have strange effects on people I’ve heard. Could be worse.

Waxing Moon rising over the east rim at sunset