Spring Break Adventure–5


On the fourth day of the adventure we went to Marfa, Texas.  My friends from college, David and Suzy, had booked a tour of the Chinati Foundation.  No photos of that because none allowed.  This foundation is the dream of its founder, Donald Judd.  His art and almost all the rest of the art housed here is not for display in houses.  All but a few consist of grand studies of space and light. An abandoned, refurbished military base, purchased by Judd, houses most of the exhibits.  Judd’s main interest it seems relates to the relationship between light and space.  First, the tour guide takes you to a couple of large buildings where the only changes made were to install new windows and a ceiling.  These buildings house Judd’s large, polished, stainless steel rectangular boxes.  While this may sound boring, I assure you it is not.  Light reflects off these boxes, makes shadows, etc. in all sorts of ways and the entire effect changes with the angles of the sunlight.

Another quite astonishing display can be seen in a series of U-shaped buildings, painted and repaired, in which eight foot long fluorescent light tubes in four colors, pink, green, yellow, and blue, have been installed in the corners of the U.  Depending on where a person stands, other colors appear, not just the four mentioned.  It became apparent to me that the artist, Dan Flavin, knew every scientific detail of the color spectrum and its effects on the human eye and brain.

I also enjoyed a smaller display by artist and poet, Carl Andre.  Even though his fame rests in sculpture, it is mainly his poetry displayed here.  I wanted to read all of it but everyone else went on so I quit.

There are other exhibits, including a lot of smashed and welded vehicles which I liked the least.  The final exhibit displays giant fabric sheets in black and white in a building specially designed by the artist, Robert Irwin.  If you think this sounds boring, take a trip there and look for yourself.  I assure you it is not.  Irwin actually worked on the exhibit himself at the age of 88.  He lives on now at 89.

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The only photos I managed in the area show the Marfa Courthouse which is, believe it or not, even a brighter pink than this photo and a photo from the vehicle window on the highway to Alpine. The second photo shows a mesa we managed to view on one day or another from nearly all sides.  It looms large in the middle of flat land. Here one of the endless trains slides by.

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On our last day we decided to drive to Presidio and take the river road which goes through Rio Grande Ranch State Park. While the road goes either along or down to the river in a few places (for people to put some sort of water craft into the river or to camp), most of it is way above the river on cliffs.  This landscape is not for the faint of heart.

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US on the right and Mexico on the left.  The fields and pasture in the distance are in Mexico.

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Looking into Mexico.

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Unusual rock formations near one of the small drives down to a campground by the river.

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Cliffs in Mexico.

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Apparently, in my efforts not to fall in the river while taking this, my finger got in the way.

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Yes, the river is down there between those cliffs.

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In case you wonder why the Rio Grande seems so small here, consider that by the time it gets here, 95% of the water has been removed for irrigation and other purposes.

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We drove back through Terlingua to Alpine.  Not much exists in Terlingua except a rather pathetic supposed ghost town area.  The river road is not conducive to speed; we were hungry and stopped for a very late lunch.  It was St. Patrick’s Day and many of the clientele had a good start on the festivities.  On Saturday I learned that Terlingua is a famous biker town.  However, apparently not that day.

Spring Break Adventure–4


 

Today was the second day at Big Bend.  We spent most of the day in the Chisos Basin where the park lodge is located.  The four of us started the hike all the way to the “window” and two of us finished it, which enabled me to not only experience a hike full of wonder but also to get over 20000 on my Fitbit for the day.  I also have a sunburn now.  For this post I will just add photos with little comment.  Later I will add more details about this astonishing place.

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Although I took some of these photos, I did not take anything on the hike so thanks to a friend you are seeing some of these.  This is bear and mountain lion country so there are signs telling you what to do if you see one, hardly likely with so many people around.  However, all the campsites have metal containers in which to lock food from bears.

Spring Break Adventure–3


Today was day one in Big Bend National Park.  This place is huge.  We drove down to the Rio Grande, took a hike up a big hill/cliff above it, and later drove off on a gravel road which became a bit daunting at times–four wheel drive only. We saw people riding horses across the desert, others canoeing down the river, all sorts of mountains, cactus in bloom, ruined corrals from a extinct ranch, and passed a border control check point–nothing new really.  Used to get checked all the time down near the border. Here are photos I took along the way.

 

Spring Break Adventure–2


Today we went to MacDonald Observatory and signed up for a tour.  It was more than we imagined.

The views 360 degrees since you are at the top are, well, spectacular.

In the distance a cloud bank hung over the mountains.

I stood back to take a photo of the different buildings that house the actual telescopes.

We entered the building on the right which houses the 107 inch telescope and walked up 77 stair steps to see it.

 

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It is too large to get a photo of the entire telescope.  Depending on what the astronomers want to study, different parts are added and subtracted.  The room is temperature controlled between 40 and 50 degrees. The photo below shows another area with a different type of telescope currently under construction.

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After leaving here, we took a scenic drive in a circle through the mountains.

We were especially impressed with the unusual rock formations and the giant cotton wood trees of which we saw dozens along a stream bed.

Spring Break Adventure-1


Yesterday I left Canyon, Texas, headed for Alpine.  If you decide to drive south to the Big Bend area from the Panhandle, be prepared for a rather long and boring six hours of driving.

First, you pass at least an hour of looking at camel colored dry grass in all directions.  I had not realized the grass fires had reached south of Amarillo but in one area burned grass stretched across both sides of I-27 and on the medium in between.  I would not have wanted to be driving down the highway while this was on fire.

Close to Lubbock the cotton fields begin. With spring planting approaching, most of the fields were already cultivated ready to plant.  This “scenery”, except for driving through Lubbock, continues for at least another three hours.  About 1/2 to one hour before the Odessa/Midland area, you hit the really ugly.  Since I am one of those people who can find beauty just about anywhere, if I say it is ugly, most people would find it even worse.  Miles and miles of nothing but mesquite, brush, and oil rigs stretch endlessly in every direction.  Why would anyone want to live here?  Money, money, money.  Apparently, they expect to make even more soon because new drilling rigs popped up within sight of the road everywhere.  In the short distance where I cut off on a two lane highway to get from I-20 to I-10, I saw five new drilling rigs.  The scenery does improve a bit in this area because you can suddenly see the Davis Mountains looming large not too far away. It reminded me of my childhood when my family would head across eastern Colorado and how excited we became when we could see our destination, the Rockies, in the distance.

Once you drive two minutes or so on I-10 and then cut off south toward Fort Davis, the scenery becomes dramatic, something to really see and enjoy.  Although it is too early for the grass to have become very green, the cottonwood trees have leafed out and what a sight they are.  Huge is an understatement.  It would take the width of at least six of me to make one of these impressive trees.  Apparently, I was not the only one who viewed them as something special.  People were driving off the highway to stand by them.  One woman stared up into the newly green leaves, a look of wonder on her face.  I thought I was late to meet friends in Alpine so did not stop.  In the end we arrived at Alpine at the same time for our yearly get together–friends since college when we were roommates with her husband who went to college with us and another friend.

After a fabulous dinner at the old hotel here, we retired to our rooms to get ready for the real adventures of this week:  the Observatory-today’s goal, Marfa, Big Bend.  I really tried to sleep late, but alas I should have known better. Here I am writing away early in the morning.

 

 

 

A Week of Gratitude (cont.)


Although I intend to continue with gratitude thoughts and lists, this is my last post of this one week exercise.

Saturday’s list includes:

-Cooking for and enjoying the company of close friends.

-Listening to music I love–Angelique Kidjo, Rokia Traore, Cesaria Evora, Conjunto Primavera.

Sunday’s list includes:

-Enjoying springlike weather with birds singing.

-Accomplishing spring cleaning in my xeriscape flower beds.

-Trying a Japanese sauce I never tasted before–yakiniku.  I used it with chicken and bok choy over Jasmine rice.  This included marinating grated carrots in mirin, another Japanese sauce which I especially like.

-Watching a deer disappear through the junipers.

-Enjoying the warm weather from my patio.

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Springing Forward with the Wicked Witch by Barbara Ardinger


A story for our time!!!

Barbara ArdingerEl Presidente was enlarging his war against his citizens. This meant the roads were more crowded than before with refugees fleeing the capital city for safety among the farmers on the plains and up in the hills. Some of these refugees arrived, of course, at the farm of the wicked witch.

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Whenever a family arrived, the witch would put on her wickedest face and voice (she’d been practicing) and tell the children she was going to roast them and eat them with mashed potatoes and baby gravy. The children believed her for about a minute and a half, whereas their parents just smiled as each family was taken in hand by the senior refugees and led to rooms where there were new beds. The tenured refugees had (with the witch’s permission) taken charge and somehow found enough lumber to build two new rooms (lean-tos) at the side of the house…

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A Week of Gratitude (cont.)


Each day I made a list of things for which I feel grateful, sometimes more, sometimes less.  Tuesday’s list includes:

-Endless sunsets streaked with orange, vermillion, purple, lavender and colors with no name.

-An ability to sing the world’s greatest chorale music with a group of experienced singers who even occasionally sings with the symphony.

Wednesday’s list includes:

-Books I love.  My favorite is “Storyteller” by Leslie Marmon Silko.  I must have read her story “Yellow Woman” at least 50 times.

-The ability to write myself.  I entered a flash memoir contest on Wednesday.

Today’s list includes:

-A short but fun experience with my grandson whom I picked up at school.  He told me all about what he is learning in science class–he is in seventh grade.  We discussed genetics and Punnett Squares.  I recently explained them to some high school biology students.

-Driving my tractor, grading the steep drive down to my cliffside house.  I grew up on a farm and love driving the tractor.

-Cooking dinner.  Here’s the recipe:

Fillet of salmon–keta

4-5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/2 medium beetroot, thinly sliced and then diced

Bebere to taste or other spice if you do not have this

Several bunches kale, spine removed, and coarsely chopped.  I used two kinds–one green and one purple.

Saute the garlic and beetroot in olive oil until nearly cooked.  Add the poblano pepper and salmon.  Sprinkle a coating of bebere to cover the salmon.  Saute until salmon is nearly done and pepper is cooked but still bright green.  Add kale, occasionally stir, and saute until kale is slightly wilted. Serve over rice.  I used basmati from Pakistan.

Note:  bebere is a spice from Ethiopia.  I use homemade from my Ethiopian friends who have it special made.  Her blend is complex but not very hot.  Some commercial blends are mostly hot.

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A Week of Gratitude


Negatives emerged lately in my life,  the events in the last two posts, two good friends with health issues and a lot of pain.  Nevertheless, yesterday, I started thinking of so many things for which I feel grateful.  Then I said to myself, I am going to work on a week of gratitude, a week where everyday I make a list of things for which I feel grateful.  Out of years of habit, I make a mental gratitude list every night as I drift off to sleep.  This is more formal, a list I write down.

Yesterday’s list includes these:

-pure water from a deep well

-healthy food I cook myself

-children who live good, productive lives

-my own good health

Today’s list includes:

-a job I really enjoy in spite of paper grading tasks

-students who make me laugh and tell me they love me–who knows whether they mean it and honestly it’s ok either way

-outside chores, e.g feeding horses morning and evening.  I cannot imagine life without this even when it is cold and miserable

-singing–after I post this, I will head to my weekly chorale practice.  Currently, we are singing all these touching songs, poems by Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda put to music.

-taxes–crazy, I know.  I recall someone once telling me he was happy to pay taxes because it meant he was making decent money and was not poor.

 

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I Watched Movers Box Up a Life


Saturday, February 18, 2017

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

When our daughter and I cleaned out the refrigerator, we found a large pot filled with egusi stew, remnants of the last meal he cooked. I took the footlong, hand carved, wooden spoon, scraped the dry bits clinging to the sides of the silver pot.  Scrubbing it clean, smells of memory flooded my nostrils–cayenne, bitter leaves. It took me ten minutes, ten memory laden minutes.  Even after scrubbed and dried, the pot’s cayenne smell filled my nostrils, the distinct smell of West African food.

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

Our daughter and I found papers and photos, items her father kept all these years, detailed memories of our life together.  I could barely look at them, throat constricting, tears welling in the eyes of this woman who never cries.  Our daughter, dismayed, told me to go outside.  I walked down the quiet street, brown leaves scattered from autumn, unraked, a strange street both urban and rural inside a city of nearly half a million residents.  Is this where he walked, attempting to improve his health?  Was I walking in his footsteps?

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.