The Observer, The Observed

through her eyes

The Observer, The Observed with “Spontaneous Poem from a Treetop Crow” by Jim Stallings

This image, once created, seemed ideal as a new header for this blog, with its subtitle, “A Southwest Point of View.” Jim had already written this poem (a gift of encouragement to my family recently), and I asked if I could post it here.

observer

Spontaneous Poem from a Treetop Crow

In the lofty life of a wise old crow
Swaying in the topmost backyard branches
Like a magical clock counting down mortality’s coil,
May it not be in some secret way
We the awed observers
Have all along been honored by a wiser watcher?

– Jim Stallings

To read more of Jim’s work, visit Jim Stallings: Books, at Amazon.com.

Thank you for letting my readers enjoy your poem here, Jim.

(The full image from which this header was created may be seen here:
http://swdesertgardening.com/2015/02/observer-observed/ )

Cooper’s Hawk Visits Again

Cooper's hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper's hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk that put on quite a display in August of 2014 and that drops by periodically was here again yesterday afternoon, looking for a meal. It was putting on a different show this time, flying all around a pyracantha bush in which a small bird was hiding. The hawk did not like diving into that pyracantha bush, and made multiple attempts, After trying, it would land back on the fence or on a tree branch, and then fly around and try to enter the bush again.

After many attempts, it finally just dived head long into the pyrancantha bush, which flushed out the little bird that had been seeking refuge there. As soon as the little bird flew out (it was probably either a sparrow, a junco, or a finch; I did not get a good look), the hawk caught it, and did exactly what these hawks are known to to. It squeezed the prey in its talons until the little bird became motionless. The hawk then flew off into the trees to enjoy its meal.

Cooper's hawk with prey
Cooper’s Hawk with Prey in Its Talons

I did not have my camera handy at the kitchen window yesterday, so I simply watched the entire show from there. These images are from August, but this second shows clearly the typical way these hawks are known for treating their prey.

I live in a part of Albuquerque now known for its high concentration of Cooper’s hawks. From the Albuquerque Journal last year:

Cooper’s hawks are primarily woodland birds, and we have built an expansive urban forest across the Northeast Heights. The urban neighborhoods on the east side of the river are older, and therefore their trees are more mature, making them a better “forest” for the birds, Madden suggested.

This is a beautiful bird. I have come to accept that every now and then it will find a meal in my yard. Just so it doesn’t happen too often…

Visit Abo

Abo
Abo, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Abo is one of several old Spanish Mission ruins located in Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, New Mexico. I had been to Quarai several times, but I had not been to Abo until October of 2014.

Abo
Abo, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, New Mexico.

October is a wonderful time in New Mexico for being out and exploring and seeing new places. The light was interesting all day long and at various locations. In the morning it was bright, and there were beautiful white clouds in the sky. Later in the afternoon, the clouds became darker and we did get a very small amount of rain.

Here at Abo, although the sky appears bright, there were heavy clouds that cast dark shadows over the ruin and location, giving it at times a rather spooky feeling of “old ghosts” that must be hanging around.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a place I want to revisit in the spring. In particular, I would like to photograph Abo again at a different time of day. For those of you who live in New Mexico, the entire Monument is definitely worth a day trip. For those of you visiting New Mexico at some point, a side trip to this monument would be a nice addition to your trip.

Paco, the Tuxedo Cat

tuxedo cat
Paco, the Tuxedo Cat

Tuxedo Cat, Paco

tuxedo cat
Paco, my 13 year old tuxedo cat; a good little companion

Paco turned 13 in November, and I got him as a rescue just about 13 years ago now. He is beginning to slow down a little bit, but remains a good little companion. His name from the rescue group was “Dean” after Dean Martin, because of the tuxedo markings, but I changed his name immediately. He just wasn’t/isn’t a “Dean.”

Paco is rather jealous of my time on the computer, and would prefer that I spend the day in a recliner so he could sleep on me, but I’m not ready to slow down that much. 🙂

Paco does have an annoying habit of waking me up every single day between 3:00am and 4:00am. He refuses to be ignored! It is easier to get up and feed him (yes, I know he has me trained!). Most days, fortunately, I am able to fall back asleep in short order; today was not one of them. He is such a good little companion, though, that I can usually tolerate this annoying habit of his.

Amaryllis

through her eyes
Amaryllis

Amaryllis is a beloved bulb that blooms indoors in the winter and out of doors in spring and summer in warm climates. Amaryllis can be flashy, bringing bright colors during dismal winter weather.

amaryllis
Brightly colored amaryllis in the middle of winter

At this time of the year here in Albuquerque, ground covers and lawns tend to be brown, and the trees are leafless. Today the sun is shining brightly, and the sky is the deep turquoise for which New Mexico is known (and loved!), but it will be weeks yet before there are colorful blooms in the landscape.

Flowering bulbs are frequently given as Christmas gifts, bringing as they do indoor cheer in the middle of winter. The cheery red of this one shows why they are loved as indoor plants.

Designated Smoking

smoking
Designated Smoking

Smoking in non-smoking facilities can be an interesting proposition. It varies widely from location to location. Here in Albuquerque, if a facility is non-smoking, there is no designated area for lighting up a cigarette (or cigar, or whatever).

In the fall I traveled to West Texas on a personal matter. I visited a relative in a hospital, a designated non-smoking facility, but with designated areas right outside the main entrance where people could light up..

The hotel where I stayed had this “Designated Smoking Area” right outside the front door.

smoking
“Designated Smoking Area” at a hotel in West Texas

In the morning, it was not uncommon to see people, dressed in their nightclothes, enjoying a cigarette or two at this bench before dressing for breakfast. It was very interesting to me because it was so different from what is seen in Albuquerque.

I really liked the appearance of the bench, with the Star of Texas (repeated on the handrails), against the weathered fence. I also found the ash container (I cannot quite call that an ash tray) fascinating. I guess it does not have to be emptied too often!

Designated areas were found everywhere, it seems, at non-smoking facilities. This one, to me, was one of the more interesting ones and one that fit its locale perfectly.

More Roses

roses Dr Huey
Rose Photograph Blue Ribbon Winners from ARS 2014 Fall National Convention

Roses are the focus of American Rose Society conventions: rose specimens, rose arrangements, and increasingly, rose photographs. The 2014 Fall National Convention featured a competition of rose photography. The results of the competition have recently been posted on the website of the ARS.

I had known that my photograph of ‘Dream Weaver’ had won Queen (equivalent of Best of Show) and that my Creative Interpretation image of ‘Gemini’ had won King (equivalent of Runner Up to Best in Show). Until I received the ribbons in the mail last week, I did not know that ‘Child’s Play’ had been awarded best in section for Fully Open Roses, nor that my image of hips of ‘YoYo’ had been awarded best in section for Rose Potpourri. I will show those images in a later post.

I was surprised and pleased with how many of my images had been awarded Blue Ribbons. The images in this post are the Blue Ribbon winners.

roses Gemini
‘Gemini’
Hybrid tea, exhibition form

roses Glowing Amber
Miniature Rose Glowing Amber
Exhibition Form

‘Glowing Amber’ is an interesting little rose. It has distinctive reflex petals, with a red upper and yellow reverse. There are stories that the hybridizer complained that photographers never captured the brilliant colors of this little gem. I did not hear any complaints about the color in this image. 🙂

roses child's play
Miniature Rose ‘Child’s Play’
Exhibition form
roses foolish pleasure
Spray of Miniature Rose, ‘Foolish Pleasure’
roses gemini
Fully Open, Stamens Showing
Hybrid tea, ‘Gemini’
roses mermaid
Old Garden Rose 1918
Hybrid bracteata, ‘Mermaid’

This image of ‘Mermaid,’ one of my favorite roses, appeared on the cover of the 2014 Rose Annual:

roses Mermaid
‘Mermaid’ on Front Cover of 2014 Rose Annual
roses Dr Huey
Rose ‘Dr. Huey’ in Rose Potpourri. Photo taken on the First Annual Dr. Huey Tour of the Corrales Rose Society

Dr. Huey is often used as the root stock onto which to graft other roses grown for their blooms. It can get very, very large!

My image of ‘Gemini’ entered in Creative Interpretation was awarded King of the show, but I had two additional Blue Ribbons in that class.

roses Leonidas
Hybrid tea, ‘Leonidas,’ in Black and White.
roses veterans honor
Hybrid tea, ‘Veterans’ Honor’

With Albuquerque under a Winter Storm Watch from this evening through tomorrow evening, and with this morning dawning dark and gray, this seemed like a good time to enjoy the beautiful roses and colors of summer. Please enjoy!

The Dark Side of the Mountains

mountain
The Dark Side of the Mountains
mountains
The Dark Side of the Mountains

Mountains and light – ever changing and with the interplay being part of the magic of New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment.”

On a glorious day in October of 2014, friends Laurie and Tim, along with my mom, spent a day exploring parts of New Mexico we had not seen in some time. Tim and I were both celebrating a birthday, and the trip itself provided many wonderful birthday surprises.

All day long we saw clouds. Some were big, bright, white puffy clouds against a brilliant blue sky. Some were dark storm clouds. And then there were these clouds that produced some shadows but allowed (and created) rays of light at various points. It was late afternoon, and we were on the east side of these mountains on the journey back to Albuquerque. The mountains from our vantage point would have been in shade, even had there not been clouds.

As we rounded a curve, the rays appeared, ever-so-briefly. We stopped for photographs, and actually had a “rural New Mexico” moment when we met another couple.

Many images from that day had a special meaning to me from the moment they were created. Less than a month later my calm, routine life was shaken by a seismic event that has given some of those images an even more special meaning. This image is one of them.

Fog in the Caldera

Fog
Fog in the Caldera
Fog
Foggy Morning at the Valles Caldera on the Autumnal Equinox

The Valles Caldera National Preserve is a national treasure in the heart of the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. The caldera itself is a 13.7 mile wide volcanic caldera. The area has had many uses over the years, including ranching, movie set, and year-round recreational use now.

In 2013 we were fortunate to be able to purchase a pass for one day, which turned out to be the Autumnal Equinox, to drive through the caldera on designated roads at our leisure.

The day before, we encountered a heavy rainstorm right at the entrance to the caldera. So, I was expecting mud the following day. That night, though, there was a spectacular sunset viewed in all directions from Los Alamos, which sits on the edge of a mesa. Silly photographer – I did not have my camera with me at that moment, because we had gone out to dinner and my companions were a bit tired of being dragged hither and yon by someone with a camera. It was my own fault. I’ve learned the best images appear when I don’t have a camera with me. But, I do remember the vivid and amazing views at sunset that evening.

The following morning, we encountered a lot of fog in Los Alamos itself. Once we got to the edge of the caldera, we could see that the entire caldera was filled with fog. At that point, my companions were yelling at me to pull over and take a picture. Nice thought, but the heavy rains had resulted in some mudslides onto the highway, and road clearing equipment and men were out working to clear the highway. There was no safe place to stop.

The caldera of course, remained shrouded in fog as we entered the preserve and drove to the staging area to wait our turn. The fog began to lift just as we began our journey through the caldera. We were rerouted at some points because the roads had washed out the night before, and because of all the mud, I was glad I had all wheel drive.

The day itself was beautiful!

Here in New Mexico, we do not see fog too often. It lifted quickly that morning.

But, I hope this image gives you some idea of the beauty of the caldera, and its beauty with fog (and, our gorgeous blue skies, even with fog).

Snow on the Sandias

snow sandias
Snow on the Sandias
snow sandias
Snow on the Sandia Mountains, Fog Below, Clouds Above, Lit by the Setting Sun, December 2013

Snow on the Sandia Mountains is predicted in the coming week. Albuquerque itself has the possibility of seeing some snowfall. Precipitation is desperately needed in the Southwest, and hopefully we will indeed see precipitation in some form.

Continuing with yesterday’s theme that sunrises and sunsets here are frequently very beautiful and awe inspiring, but unpredictable in what form they may take, this is from a sunset in December of 2013. This is the only time I can recall seeing the light of a setting sun on the mountains with snow on them not light in some fashion the clouds above, and it is one of the rare times I have seen fog below the mountains.

This image looks east to the mountains. The sunset to the west had the more usual sunset colors of orange, gold, and gray, and was quite beautiful. A memorable sunset in both directions, east and west.

The overall blue effect here, combined with the light of the setting sun on the snow, created an image that I’ll not soon forget.

I hope you enjoy this, more than a year after it appeared.