Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Desert Snowflakes

This morning, perfect snowflakes fell like sequins onto the cholla cactus outside my studio window. I went outside and discovered perfect crystalline shapes, and was able to capture a few with my little camera. Welcome, Winter, to our dry land! May these images remind you of the beauty that surrounds us all in this world, and of the peace and true meaning of our holiday season. Blessings to you all.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hiking in Ojito WildernessIt's been a while since I posted, so I thought I'd share some pictures that I took on a walk out at Ojito Wilderness yesterday so you can come along with me too. I always take dozens of photos every time I go out anywhere, but sadly, almost none of them make it into this blog. I'll try to remedy that in the future. Generally, given a choice of things to do, I tend to want to spend them in the studio. Creating a blog post takes me most of a work day.

I've been walking in Ojito for over 15 years, way back when it was just a Wilderness Study Area rather than a full-blown wilderness. It's a fairly small area, about 25 miles northwest of us in northwest New Mexico, just at the edge of the Colorado Plateau. But Zia Pueblo land and public lands surround it, and it feels very remote. I took the first image above as I set out from the parking area, and it gives you a good idea of the kind of terrain that's out there: mesas with desert scrub, juniper and pinon, and cholla cactus on the flats. Remember that you can enlarge these pictures by clicking on them, and truly see the details of the place.

Here's a really nice cluster of hedgehog cactus I found on the flats. Maybe Claret Cup, or another variety. I'd have to see it blooming in the spring to know for sure.

One of the things I love about wilderness areas (as opposed to national parks, etc.) is that I can walk anywhere I damn well please. No signs or park nazis ready to pounce and hand out tickets for Walking Where You Shouldn't (this actually happened to me at Chaco once). So anyway I was wandering around looking at things and found this pinon leaking sap out of one side. I hope it's not bark beetles, but the shimmery sap was fascinating.

Junipers are my favorite trees, partly because of the beautiful forms they create while growing in this harsh climate. This one had bent over at about hip-height and had actually twisted around itself. I wonder why? Many years ago, someone had cut a limb off of it for firewood on the other side. I wonder if that had an effect on it taking the shape that it did.

A secret alcove found while exploring a small rock outcrop.

Making my way northward along the east side of the mesa, I came across this tiny patch of badlands. I love the colors and shapes of badlands; these had greenish, rust red and parchment-colored layers of clay.

Not far beyond I discovered a small community of hoodoos and Ponderosa pines. I always feel like I'm in the company of spirits when with hoodoos. There is another area of Ojito that I call the Sanctuary which is similar to this one, but much larger and it takes a longer hike to reach. So I will call this one the Little Sanctuary.

The light was perfect, even though the air was a bit hazy. There was a very light breeze but the sun was warm for the time of year. What I love most about these hikes is the silence. Just the wind in the trees, the occasional raven or jet high above. Silence is necessary for my well-being, but I find when I'm out on a walk like this, my thoughts can start running in infernal loops. So I try to think music rather than words; most of the time it helps.

I do sense presences around me as well, if I can shut down the mental chatter. The plants and earth formations are beings themselves. This area had the feeling of being a community of strong, distinct individuals, all centered around this beautiful large Ponderosa who felt like the leader of the clan.

This and other local pockets of Ponderosas are relict populations, left over from the cooler and wetter Ice Age a few years back, and they are growing at a lower altitude than most Ponderosas in the region. In Ojito they seem to prefer these sandy areas with the yellow-white hoodoos.

One way that you can identify a Ponderosa is by getting right up against a crevice in the bark with your nose and breathing in. It will smell just like vanilla.

This was taken from the shade of that Ponderosa, looking back toward the southeast. This hoodoo was like the fat auntie of the tribe.

Another view of Auntie, looking up at her caprock. The harder layer of caprock over a softer layer of sandstone prevents the soft material from eroding away, which is why they have such wonderful shapes. That, and because they're presences in the land. Do they dance together in the moonlight when no one is watching?

Another member of the hoodoo clan. I admit that I tend to take too many pictures and that this can get in the way of just being in the here and now with the land. But I see so much beauty here everywhere I turn, and forget it so easily after I get home. Hoodoos especially are photogenic. They change dramatically from every angle.

I sat for a while under the big Ponderosa and made a watercolor sketch of this smaller one nearby. There were tiny rodent bones scattered around, probably the remains of an owl's dinner, perfectly bleached by the sun. The shade was deliciously cool, and the wind in the pine needles sounded like forever.

The trail climbed around the side of the mesa to the north and west. This is the view from a ledge on the north edge, looking northwest. The Sanctuary that I was talking about earlier is spread out just below the highest mesa on the horizon over there. Cabezon peak, a huge volcanic plug, can be seen over the horizon on the left. We can also see it from our house, 60 miles away.

I went along a little further to this rock outcrop before turning back. Cabezon is framed between the small juniper and pinyon. Out beyond Cabezon about 50 miles away is Chaco Canyon.

Just a few feet away was the weathered remnant of a juniper. In the distance to the northeast, stormclouds were building over the Jemez range. They've had terrible floods up there since the monsoon rains washed out the huge area burned by the Las Conchas fire last summer. Jemez Pueblo is beyond the long red ridge on the right, and Route 550 heads toward Cuba, Chaco and the Four Corners along the side of the range on the left.

Desert sculpture. Another part of the same tree. Nothing evokes the Southwest like weathered juniper.

There was another smaller tree skeleton nearby. Likely these were struck and killed by lightning since they are on an exposed corner of a ledge. The velvety golden-brown balls in the center of the image are resin from the dead tree. You see these everywhere under dead trees, and I have guessed that they were formed when the trees burned and the heated sap came out in large globules. These were still soft on the inside, but they will harden over time and last for many years. If some is placed on burning charcoal, it makes the most exquisite incense, not unlike copal, but warmer and more balsamic.

Another stunted Ponderosa looks like it's in the process of walking off somewhere. The soft sand has eroded out from under the roots over the years.

I never try to speed through when on a hike. I always meander along, examining everything. Sometimes you don't see things at all until you sit down on the ground. Near the walking Ponderosa I found these two very well-formed rhomboid calcite crystals.

On the return, the light had shifted and I took a few more images of the hoodoo clan at the Little Sanctuary.

Going back by the trail instead of lower down, I came upon this area of golden and white sandstone formations in the slanting afternoon sunlight. One of the best things about Ojito is that there is a tremendous variety of variation in the terrain and I always see something new.

It was a sculpture garden in stone, clay and sand.

The trail homeward. Beyond the mesa on the horizon, another blue ridge can be seen very faintly through the haze: the Sandia mountains, near my home.

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The 2011 Placitas Studio Tour

Well, I survived another Studio Tour at my home studio in Placitas, New Mexico this past weekend, May 7 & 8. It went pretty well, all things considered. And since I'm such a regular (once every 20 months, like clockwork) poster to this blog, I thought I'd get some photos up for you this time. Here I am, fresh as a daisy, on Sunday morning, ready for Day 2. Experience has taught me that show clothes should be loose and comfortable...and this ensemble is in my beloved cactus green!

Before the tour, the dreaded "To Do" list...with almost everything crossed out. There are always a thousand little things to do and even though I try to pace myself, it always ends up feeling a little stressed at the last minute.

My husband, Michael, lugs a table through the kitchen to the studio during Friday morning setup. He did about half the work, and all the heavy lifting. There's no way I could do shows without him.

This is the part I hate. Everything is piled around in a jumble, and I'm irritable. Eventually all the pieces found their places on the tables, and the corresponding boxes went under the work table, stacked in order, so they could easily be kicked over when we write up a sale.

Our house entry is set up so no one can find their way in without signs, and I decided at the last minute to nail a really colorful Badhani mirrored shawl from India to catch people's attention. It looked amazing, glittering in the sun!

We had great weather for the tour! It was in the 80s, and the nonstop spring winds gave us a break (thank GOD) for most of the weekend...no small thing, considering that a week ago it was blowing 50 mph and snowing. Spring is not the best time to be in New Mexico, trust me. Our Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus were still in bloom for the tour, which has never happened before. This is a view of the front courtyard, which the guests walked through on their way to the door.

Just before opening on Saturday morning, studio manager Dante gives me a very pointed look, and wonders if this means he's going to be confined in the bedroom with his mortal enemy, Kamikaze, for the duration of the tour. Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Since it's so different from my other work, I decided to put the Drylands Incantations pieces on my drafting table, along with their labels and boxes, plus a few jars of beads and things to fill it out. I do all of my torch work on this table when I'm making pieces.

One of the two big tables, covered with washed and ironed dropcloths from the hardware store. Mike took a picture of me ironing, but I looked too fat so I deleted it. Anyway, I just left everything as it is in the studio, as much as I could this year. It gave people more of my real working space to look at, and it was less to rearrange in the end. All of the pieces were set out with their labels so folks could see what went into them. I set the signs that go up in my booth at shows on the tables as well. I tried wheat berries instead of sand in my ring bowl, but the rings tended to sink, and the berries were too much contrast, so...back to sand. And wheat berry salad.

The other table, with earrings, short necklaces, baskets of energy bracelets, and prayer beads. I even left my healing crystals uncovered on the shelf to the right, and no one bothered them (well, I had a sign up.) In past years I actually nailed dropcloths over the bookcases to avoid distraction...now I think having people see all my stuff is a great way to start a conversation, and meet like-minded people!

Some of the first customers on Saturday. Most of the time it was a steady flow, with steady sales. Perfect! Then there were other times when ten people were trying to all squeeze into the 11 x 14 foot studio, and ask questions, at once.

Everyone really liked my crystal altar. It's the one fixture in the room that's always remained constant, and I met some fellow crystal lovers because of it. The Tarahumara baskets underneath are full of my supplies. This is early morning, looking into the courtyard, with the Sandias beyond. You can't see the mountains because they're washed out, but it's an incredible view. Later, the sun comes in and hits the crystals and floods the room with light. I think it's really important to have a creative space that's beautiful and energetically supportive, as well as practical.

In full swing on Sunday. Folks who bought at the show didn't get the elaborate wrapping that I like to do with my Etsy orders, but they did get to hold and try on the pieces!

After closing on Saturday. Oh man, I was tired. And hot. But it was a good sales day and already I felt the tour had been worthwhile. We're parked on the futon that usually lives against the wall in the studio, but a table was there instead. We've discovered that if we put the futon across the entrance to the living room, it deters unwanted wandering guests. Plus it's a great place to scope out new arrivals since it faces the front door.

After it was all over on Sunday, I was too cranky to take photos. I just wanted my studio back, so Mike and I were able to clean and put away the jewelry, AND clean and put the studio back together in just 2 hours! And then, time to rest for a day or two...

Till next time, whenever the hell that is...

All the best to you,