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.




Tis the Season

People were starting to gather at the Taos Plaza before the official Christmas parade and lighting of the tree last weekend. There were free cups of hot chocolate and cookies along with mild temperatures. This “lighting of the plaza tree” event seems to be the earliest of the many traditional Christmas celebrations for this ever-popular season. From down town there’s no snow visible on Taos Mountain now. The latest talk is that this Sunday there’s a good chance of seeing some.

While walking from the plaza to a nearby store I noticed this creative window design. I wasn’t clear which store it was advertising but I really admired it. Taos has its charm and the holiday season can bring out some inspiration on the part of store owners trying to lure customers. It can be another reason to get out and shop around and even take a look at the rich diversity of crafts made by locals.

Here’s another store window shot, this one belonging to Wabi-Sabi, a store that focuses on gifts, mostly imported from Japan. This store is dear to my heart because they have been carrying my cards for several years now. More recently they have some of my Goddess altars on consignment. You can always count on a cup of tea while you browse.

This Kuan Yin wood altar is one example of my work displayed at Wabi-Sabi.

I’ve got my eye on these painted wood (hand carved?) flying Hanuman ornaments on sale now at the little shop at the Hanuman Temple. They’re $15 and I really admire them. I’m assuming they are imported from India?

I you’re looking for a lovely Christmas shopping experience try Country Furnishings of Taos owned by Mary Shriver. I suspect some people go there to browse just for a pick-me-up. Those are my handmade tree ornaments, which Mary’s carrying for the first time this season. She also has seasonal cards of mine and a few retablos.

Another great store to get to know, if you don’t already, is Garden and Soul, just off the plaza. They specialize in cards and local art. You’ll recognize by now that my work is well represented there with an assortment of offerings corralled in one corner. The store changed hands some months ago. The new owners are a couple, Bob and Stephanie Deavers. I’m sure they’d love you coming in and introducing yourself. Tell them I sent you, as they say.

Because of the location of my house (blocked as I am by trees and power lines) I rarely catch photos of amazing sunsets, of which we have many. I remember when I first moved to Taos I was truly astonished at their nightly show which reminded me of times past when  I lived along the Pacific Ocean in one place or another (San Francisco, Point Arena and Encinitas, all in California, and then time spent in Mexico, especially Todos Santos). There’s no ocean here, but you sure do get the sunsets.

This one caught my attention as it seemed the whole sky was ablaze. I took this shot facing east away from the setting sun.

Wishing you all well as you plot your course through shopping, celebrating and getting those packages wrapped and cards mailed in a timely fashion. Tis the season!



Wabi-Sabi Tutorial–Part 2

A year ago I ran into a book at the Taos library, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. It must be in every library in the country because this had to be at least the third time I found it (in three different towns). Each time I took it home with a thrill of excitement and curiosity. Now the book is like an old friend. Anyway I decided to do a blog then defining Wabi-Sabi and taking photos for it that would illustrate its concepts. Here is a LINK to this former blog: Wabi-Sabi Anyone?

First, a short definition: Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese ideal of beauty based on surface characteristics of earthiness, imperfection and variegation. It is everything that is not modern, smooth, polished, purely decorative, or mass-produced. Wabi-Sabi is about the present (time frozen), finds truth in the uncontrollability of nature, even romanticizes it.

Things Wabi-Sabi reflect the natural process of life on planet earth, the cycles and ravages of time, the effects of weathering, the dents, stains and cracks of attrition. However, objects will still possess an undiminished poise and strength of character.

This very old native sage is an example of aging with dignity. Note the rusty tin can in the lower right corner. With Wabi-Sabi there is always an underlying sense of change and impermanence.

 Here the lack of substance felt in the white morning glories reaching toward the white clouds also touches on an aspect of Wabi-Sabi, a sense that things are not as substantial as our culture presents them. We know that in a few hours the flowers will be losing their present form and the clouds will be long gone. The photo also illustrates that sense of present time–here today, gone tomorrow.

My daughter took this photo two summers ago. This was a new environment for them and Emma was exploring the world of the beach only a short distance from their house. Every element in the photo relates to the natural setting and shows how integrated Emma is with that, especially with the birds and the breeze. Seemingly she has become one with it all.

Wabi-Sabi colors tend toward muddy, earthy tones, and this photo reflects the brownish color of the water, it’s patterns of flow defined by subtle gradations of light and dark. The large and softly rounded rock defines the surface of the water with its soft light colored surface and explains the dynamics of the presence of the autumn leaves stranded near the river bank.

It’s mid-November as I write this and certainly a Wabi-Sabi time of year, if there was one. Nature reminds us every day that the future-oriented seasons in nature, spring and summer, are clearly behind us. All we have for now is the present and for the next month or so, until the Winter Solstice, we feel our daily sunlight diminishing . The sensation is one of going backward, rather than forward, and toward the dark rather than the light. There is a vague sense of loss in the air. All very Wabi-Sabi, as it reminds us strongly of the impermanent and cyclical nature of our existence.

It’s easy to guess that this photo was taken at the Taos Pueblo. It is all about the beauty of Wabi-Sabi with it’s earthy adobe textures, the rounded natural shapes in the lower right corner. Only the white door offers a clue about our present modern time and its contrasting squared shapes. I feel this juxtaposition of aesthetic styles highlights the more dominant Wabi-Sabi elements.

This is a photo of a painting I did earlier this year, which conveys a Wabi-Sabi sense of change and impermanence. The inspiration was a drawing I did after listening to a dream shared by one of my Ketchum friends in our weekly dream group. In her dream she was falling down through the branches of a tall tree in a forest. In the dream this was not as painful as it sounds. I think our dream group interpreted it (and the dreamer concurred) as freeing, a transformational letting go of attachments. This would explain why there are small branches falling (looking like deer antlers) and not autumn leaves. I made a gift of it to my sister Linda and her husband Eric who created (and support) my beautiful website.

The last zinnia, aging gracefully.

Blooms & Light

That’s Cerro Pedernal Mountain in the center horizon, the sacred mountain near Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch so loved and painted by Georgia O’Keefe. Earlier that evening a group of women (and their workshop leader) staying at the Mable Dodge campus met me at the St. Francis Church to photograph it around dusk. I eventually had urged them to follow me up to the last rest stop on 68 as you’re heading into Taos for a fuller view of the sky as shown in this photo.

Earlier I was able to record this lovely light with tree shadows on the St. Francis Church. I want to mention how I met the instructor of this journal sketching workshop. Her best friend goggled “Taos bloggers,” or something close, and found my Taos blog. Since she was looking forward to a trip to Taos for the class she found the blog interesting and forwarded it to Amy Bogard, the leader and planner of the group. Amy was about to experience her first time teaching/staying at the Mable Dodge. She emailed me with enthusiasm and praise for my blog and offered a link to her blog, which is more about her process as an artist. I really liked her blog and we began to talk about meeting when she got to Taos with her group.

She and her best friend had arrived two days before the group to get acclimated and ended up coming over to my house, among other things, on their first non-travel day. Amy bought this small Goddess altar from me and put it to good use as the centerpiece of a personal altar she set up in her room. There are now three other similar altar pieces available for sale at Wabi Sabi, along with a large group of my cards. Amy took this shot with her iPhone and I felt it spoke volumes about how I’m anticipating people will use my new approach to altars. It’s only 4″ across and made of paper mache, so neither large nor heavy.

This remarkable piece of textile art I found hanging on the fence next to Two Graces, a curio shop in the plaza of St. Francis Church. I had to include it in this blog out of total admiration for its brilliant and patient creator. I’d say the figures are Hopi or Zuni kachinas. As you can see it could use some repair, but mostly it’s in excellent condition. Just something unexpected to admire…

To end this week’s blog I’ll share some photos I took last week in the historic district of Taos. This type of rose must like the mountains because they were also common in Sun Valley, Idaho, where I last lived. They bloom early and so their beauty is most welcome and appreciated. I wish I knew the proper name for it, but nothing is coming to mind. I’m sure nurseries sell them. They have a wildish sprawling habit, most charming for landscaping that intends a casual look.

In case you haven’t guessed this is a peony bud. Found this along the north side of Bent Street. I’ll be sure to check back and photograph the flower in full bloom. When I was a young child growing up in Oklahoma I lived next door to a couple who had a large and varied collection of peony plants in their back yard and it was a special treat in late spring to be welcomed over to look at the flowers when they were in bloom. They seemed very exotic to me, hinted at wonders beyond my normal experience, promises of future revelations.

Wabi-Sabi Anyone?

While wandering around the stacks of the Taos library the other day I came upon a familiar book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. This could be my 3rd round of the “excitement of discovery” finding this book. Like running into an old friend. I thought to myself, why Taos is a very Wabi-Sabi kind of place, by its own definition. Aren’t we always talking about how we love the insubstantial elements of the beauty here, the play of light, the textured earthiness of adobe. And don’t we love the absence of things modern and slick and up-to-the-minute fashionable?

This might look familiar to those who frequent Ojo Caliente hot springs. It’s part of the iron pool. Here’s a quote from the book: “Beauty is…an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.” I like that beauty is not a thing of beauty, (like love is not a loved one). We know we can experience beauty just by walking outside at dusk and feeling the warm rosy light interacting with our familiar objects, like our garden or a fence. It’s the interplay between objects and the natural world, with a sense of time, the moment, the very vulnerability of our human existence. The sound of a raven or a mourning dove can evoke a similar Wabi-Sabi moment.

This was taken on the back side of the famous Trampas church. It’s obvious purpose is to drain water off the roof, but at the time I took the photo I was having a big “a-ha” moment. Everything about it was weathered, had a look of useful service and yet held itself together with a sense of quiet, understated dignity. The blue of the sky was held in pure focus by the arrow shape, almost as though the whole sky was coming down through that narrow channel.

This photo I took in the bottom of one of the ditches in the orchard under an apricot tree. Notice the state of decay in the apricots, from tantalizing juicy orange they have transformed into shriveled, aged grays and browns. Their textures are no longer smooth. The green grass tells the story that it is not winter yet, but the condition of these apricots portends more break down ahead for other fruits of summer. All these are Wabi-Sabi qualities. There is a tranquil sense of things portrayed as inevitable looking.

This Ganesha statue is rough in texture, has a noticeable chip in it that makes it a “2nd.” It’s about a foot high, and very heavy. It sits next to my front door and I wanted to elevate it. When I located the rock that has a strange pointy shape (in the middle) I just had to use it, as it seemed almost as significant, in itself, as the statue. There was a bit of suspense in incorporating it, since I also wanted the heavy statue at the top to look and be solid. I have felt respectful of the outcome of this project these past months. I wasn’t thinking Wabi-Sabi then, but now I see it fits.

It was painful to choose this last photo as there were several contenders raising their hands and waving them in my face. I just wanted to say a little on behalf of the book. The author, Leonard Koren, feels that Wabi-Sabi is important to talk about, to quantify, so to speak, because it is the last hallmark (my word) of traditional Japanese beauty. It roots are very ancient, originating with tea masters, priests and monks steeped in the traditions of Zen Buddhism in Japan. As a philosophy it speaks to an acceptance of the impermanence of life, a view of life that can embrace moments of loneliness and tender sadness. This very much appeals to my own sensibilities and I find it an aesthetic worth naming and claiming.