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Thursday on the Rio Grande

Rio Grande at Pilar, NM

Looking downstream from Pilar, NM as a shower moves across the canyon

This is the sort of thing we do on Thanksgiving, drive to a beautiful place and blow our minds. Yesterday we drove down to Pilar, less than twenty minutes away, just before the rain and sleet rolled in. I took this shot more or less in the middle of the place—not that you’d know, right—with a shower between us and the cliffs.

There were a number of Canada geese on the river, including the five above, which explains the odd business I experienced recently. Sometimes when I stay up late, I’ll hear or feel a thump outside that might be a car door slamming and get up to investigate. (Decades of practice, chilluns. You can’t sneak up on a paranoid sonofabitch.) At any rate, a couple of times over the last few nights, I’ve stuck my head outside into the cold damp air and thought I heard a goose. There were zillions of them back in Maryland, so I know whereof I speak. I’ve heard them here before, extremely seldom to be sure, presumably headed for a pit stop in the beaver dam marshes on the Rio Grande del Rancho that flows out the mountains a short way from here. These last two times were more mysterious. I might have heard one or I didn’t. It might have been the squeaking of a hinge. But now of course I’m sure I heard a wayward goose each time.

There’s something so plaintive in the honking of a solitary Canada goose at night. He must be looking for the others, I think. Any others. It’s always a “he” for me, too. Is that because the females have to be too smart to end up flying after dark? I have this movie in my head of him flying low along a marsh until he hears them calling back and forth the way they do, whereupon he lands beside the unfamiliar flock and falls asleep in the bosom of his species once again.

Thanksgiving Eve Moon

full moon photo

A fine murky holiday season to you all!

Well, I tried to finish, I really did. For two days after taking this picture of the full moon on Wednesday night, I worked on a blog post on the general theme of Thanksgiving (dinners, get-togethers, etc.), believe it or not. The truth is, however, that well before I got out of high school, my mother had become too psycho to do anything but buy fast food! At least that’s how I remember it. (There may have been a resurgence of traditional Thanksgiving dinners after I left home. Doubtful, although we’d have to ask my surviving younger siblings.) I wonder how my father felt about this? Then again, with the exception of a few times when his fear or grief broke through, I wonder how he ever felt about anything at all, other than being mostly angry at the world and wondering where the rest of us had come from.

The holiday killing ground theme intruded into real-time yesterday. In the process of trying to untangle the threads, my wife helpfully inquired about specific family Thanksgivings, which led me somehow to recall the time my mother threw an entire drawer of silverware at me and chased me into my room, returning a moment later to fling an empty suitcase at my feet and scream at me to “Get out!” As I was a junior in high school at the time, there wasn’t much I could do but walk the streets of our neighborhood in Massapequa until well after dark. Where was the old man during all of this? The age-old question, you might say.

Sinking fast, that led me to remember how the family moved from New York to Texas on the very day I graduated from high school, as in thirty minutes after. My parents hadn’t wanted to wait that long at all, as I recall, only relenting several days before so that I could attend the ceremony. They may or may not have been there themselves, what with last-minute packing to attend to. So much for savoring the moment and saying goodbye to my friends.

The rest of that day was a massive fuck-up, as we hurtled off Long Island in two cars. I was driving the old ’58 Volkswagen with my brother Bill, following the rest of the family in the station wagon, but naturally my father drove too fast and we became separated in New Jersey. My brother and I spent the night parked beside the highway somewhere in the Garden State, taking turns to watch for the overloaded Ford that never appeared. This was in the days before cell phones, obviously. Sometime around dawn, I realized that they’d have stopped for the night themselves, and I proceeded south toward Maryland. I didn’t know what their intended destination was, but I did recall some mention of a state park near Hagerstown, so I drove there. No family, of course, but I spied a state police barracks on our way out and had the presence of mind to stop and say tell someone what was going on.

To my great relief, the officer I talked to told me we’d been reported missing and called my father at our grandmother’s house in Chestertown, MD—an obvious choice of destination if the idiots had only told me. (Before we left Massapequa, my only instruction had been to “keep up…”) My brother and I stayed put at the barracks and waited a couple of hours more until my parents showed up. At least the old man cried—the first time I’d ever seen him do so—and I cried yesterday for all their sins.

A wise man or woman might read this and say, “Whatever you do, don’t ask him about ‘the holidays’!” Too true. We’re just a few days in now, and I haven’t mentioned Christmas. I probably will, though, so be prepared to run.

Seven Degrees at the Edge of Town

snowy backyard in Taos, New Mexico

More fun with polarizing filter and RAW mode

The sun here in the winter is a saving grace. It melts the snow, dries the mud, and feels damn good against the skin at seven thousand feet, even as you’ve been living on the edge so long, it’s flat, and the air is cold enough to kill you.

The temperature dropped to 7 degrees Fahrenheit last night (minus 14 Celsius). That’s not so bad, considering we’ve seen minus 26 (minus 32) in this location, but consider the other factors. About fifteen years ago, a young woman driving home to Questa from an office Christmas party here in Taos missed a curve just south of San Cristobal and flew off the road—literally—in her pickup truck. It was also 7 degrees that night. She survived the crash and started walking for help but got tangled up in barbed wire, passed out from her injuries, and froze to death, all within sight of the house she was trying to reach. Her boyfriend died on that same stretch a year or two before; she would have passed by his descanso a few seconds before she left the road…

It’s like sometimes you just can’t get away.

Ancestral Reckoning

old adobe on a snowy hillside in Taos, NM

New shot of an old view utilizing polarizing filter!

It was a great story as stories go, woven from a little fact and more imagination: in the early 1800s, one Henry Farr emigrated from Wales to America by way of county Antrim, Ireland, where he met and married Jane Quinn. That part never did make much sense to me—how it happened, I mean—but I assumed that somehow things were pre-arranged. At any rate, by 1825 the two of them found their way to Big Flats, New York, where they built a home in the wilderness, populated the environs of Elmira and Chemung County with numerous offspring, and led exemplary lives. Henry made it to the age of eighty-five, impressive for the times and good to know.

The best part of this tale was that I had Welsh roots among the German, French, and Scottish ones. Knowing little of Wales outside of mountains, seacoast, poets, coal mines, and a funny language, I usually settled for whatever points I imagined the connection might be worth. I never felt a strong affinity, however, as the Welsh connection came up rather cold. I did take pride in whatever qualities Jane Quinn may have contributed, because I’ve always admired the Irish and envied them their spirit. You know what’s coming next, of course: the other night I learned the story isn’t true!

[click to continue…]

Living in the Promiseland (Video)

Willie Nelson sings this version. Yes, the title of this post spells it correctly (video title is wrong). From Wikipedia:

“Living in the Promiseland” is a song written by David Lynn Jones, and recorded by American country music artist Willie Nelson. It was released in February 1986 as the first single from the album The Promiseland. “Living in the Promiseland” was Willie Nelson’s twelfth number one single on the country chart as a solo artist, spending one week at number one and twenty weeks on the chart.

Last night (Nov. 18, 2015) Willie received the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress and performed the song during the tribute concert, as I learned from the following tweet. I wish I’d been there, although I would have cried my eyes out. The entire concert will be broadcast on PBS on January 15, 2016, so be sure to watch.

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