The New Year brought snow to Albuquerque and much of New Mexico before moving on to Texas, Oklahoma, and beyond. One good thing about snow is that many birds are attracted to feeders. They often will hang around the feeders long enough for photographs. This Northern Flicker was a great model on the morning of January 2.
Feeling winter? The weather in Albuquerque is still that beautiful autumn weather those of us who live here love so much. But, a change – hopefully brief – is coming. You know, the cold wind and significant drop in temperature. We know we are very lucky here. Even in the midst of true Winter, we will have sunny and often warm days. But I tend to turn inward in winter. I can feel winter coming.
Others’ Thoughts on Feeling Winter
“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.”
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“But if I was still alive, I’d have a damned fine day despite the rain, despite the depression, think of something you like doing and do it!…As for me, if I was still alive, I’d have a great cup of coffee, a nice breakfast, then I’d take a drive, walk around, smoke a cigar, eye the pretty ladies…hmmm, nice lunch, yes sir! Read a good book and listen to music, maybe hang out with friends, watch some baseball on TV, love good conversation…and maybe end the night with a little romance. You know what I mean? Live, live everyday, every night, then when you get over here on the ghosty side, you’ll say like me, hey, I did pretty damned good. I hardly moped around at all. I enjoyed my precious human life to the full! Yes sir, I sucked the marrow outta them ribs! ~ Jim Stallings, If I Was Still Alive
For me, I have stockpiled what seem like endless photographs I can edit, maybe composite, play with through the cold and dark days of winter. And before Winter truly sets in, I have more photography to get done.
Finally, make the most of your day!
“Albuquerque Winter” may make some people laugh. Although we do see flashes of it here in town, they usually are neither long nor severe. The State of New Mexico depends on mountain snowpack for water.
The end of last week and Saturday saw spring-like temperatures, and sunny, brilliant days. Sunday morning’s wind hinted at change to come. Compare Sunday’s sunrise to that of Saturday’s (in the prior post). In addition to the clouds blowing along in the sky, note the cloud bank rolling over the top of the Sandias.
As the sun set Sunday night, the winds increased, and rain fell briefly. Within a matter of minutes, the rain turned to snow. Thankfully, the winds died down. I awoke this morning to a beautiful, soft snow.
The snow is already melting, and the streets are clear. However, more snow is due tonight into tomorrow. We do need the moisture, and if it does not last too long, it will just be part of a typical Albuquerque winter.
Sunset, Snow, Mountains: The Beauty of New Mexico
Sunset, snow, mountains: compare this sunset over the Sandia Mountains less than 36 hours after the very fiery sunrise in the previous post.
Late afternoon was cold and very windy. But the image appears calm – at least to me – compared to the fiery sunrise. The weather that morning was relatively calm (on the ground) and warm. I also watched this one as it developed, and had my camera and coat ready. I felt cold only when I was back in the house. This view, like most of those shown here, is from my back yard. 5:30pm. I see an old man with a Pinocchio nose in the cloud. Do you?
I rarely show photographs from the front yard, because the view is of a street of houses, driveways, and parked vehicles. Every now and then, though, I have to try because something special cannot be ignored. This is the same sunset looking east to the Sandias at sunset. This is toward the north end of the Sandias, with the collection of towers. 5:29pm.
This week is one of wind, along with cold compared to the winter we had had so far. But, I am not complaining, because the weather has brought the kind of sunrises and sunsets I love.
Every Woman’s Dilemma: The Mind/Body Dichotomy
Every woman’s dilemma is not what I thought it would be when I began thinking about how I would photographically present parts of the myth of Persephone that I found particularly interesting. Many of the binary oppositions found in the great literature of the world are certainly present, even on the surface, of the Persephone myth: male-female, light-dark, good-bad, under-over, and I could, but won’t, go on and on. I thought that these that I have mentioned would be the over-riding issues in this photo essay. I have long been interested in how in human society there is a curious division of labor by sex not found in other mammals, a division of labor that gives men such power over women. Years ago I published my conclusions about that in the American Anthropologist in two papers, one of which looks at anatomy and one of which looks at physiology. The actions of Hades and Zeus certainly reflect male dominance over females in this myth. At the beginning, I expected that, which really is part of every woman’s dilemma, to be the major focus. The mind-body dichotomy as viewed by a woman and not imposed from the outside was not something I had given much thought prior to this.
From the very first day I began to read about Persephone, I was fascinated by the two major interpretations of how she came to eat pomegranate seeds, an act which required her cyclic return to the Underworld as the wife of Hades, during which time her mother, Demeter, in her grief and rage, caused the Earth to go barren and Winter to fall. In some versions, Hades tricked her into eating the pomegranate seeds, while in other versions she chose to eat them. Even before I gave much thought about how I would photograph that portion of the story, I knew the Persephone in my photographic storytelling would decide, by free will, to consume the seeds. It seemed so simple at the time: I found the truly perfect model to play Persephone, fresh pomegranates were in season in the store, and I had the opportunity to photograph many split pomegranates on my mom’s pomegranate plant.
The simplicity had disintegrated long before the scheduled photo shoot. If Persephone chose to eat the seeds, what, exactly, was her choice? I had already ruled out being tricked into it, so that was not an option. If there was no alternative, then it was not really a choice, at least as I envision choice. That realization somehow brought to mind all the women in the course of human history blamed for many things: Persephone’s eating of the seeds brings the pain of Winter (with apologies to readers who actually like winter), Eve got us kicked out of the Garden of Eden by partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, often represented as an apple. By that time, I had read enough to understand that the pomegranate has had a very close connection throughout the world with fertility and sexuality, across major religions. Eve’s apple certainly has some degree of that, but even just on the face of it, I liked the contrast of fertility and implied sexuality versus knowledge. I realize that myth and literature purists may object to my combining Persephone and Eve in one photographic essay, but to me, it is almost like two faces of a coin, these two women blamed for so much misery in the world.
(Certainly other examples come to mind, such as widely found myths of vagina dentata, teeth in the vagina. I thought I would spare readers a photographic exploration of that one. Or how about the news report out of Kentucky this December, 2015, of a homeless shelter kicking out women and children because of the threat to men of “ungodly sex.” I couldn’t make that one up!!! A very powerful video, #Dear Daddy, begins with “Dear Daddy, I will be born a girl. Please do everything you can so that won’t stay the greatest danger of all.”)
At that point, the photo essay, although stimulated by the Persephone myth, morphed into something beyond that. I don’t apologize for that. That kind of thing happens with reading and thinking. The myth at the beginning grew into further exploration, exploration into what I came to see as every woman’s dilemma.
I did not have to explain anything to my wonderful model, Kelly Angerosa, about what I wanted to do. She saw the pomegranate and the apple on the table, and smiled. She knew instantly what I was asking of her. It was something that was there, an unspoken, unconscious recognition, a shared bond; it did not have to be explained.
It was not until I was well into processing the images and posting them here on the blog that I began to fully realize what I was doing and why I found it so exhausting. This photo essay is about a woman exploring her existence with both a mind and a body, a body not as defined by others (a topic for another time, and one I may never want to try to tackle), but as defined by her while still living in a world defined by others. And those two very important parts are compartmentalized in the myth, with her sexuality more or less confined to the Underworld in Winter in her role as wife of Hades, with her mind and knowledge not really important there. No wonder, really, I kept thinking of Georgia O’Keeffe’s marriage, with part of the time spent with Steiglitz and a great deal of the time spent in New Mexico doing as she pleased.
A question posed in a discussion on FB was, “Can a woman achieve fulfillment under the controlling mind of a dominant man?” The real question, of course, would be, “could anyone achieve fulfillment under the controlling mind of a dominant person?” and asked that way most people I know would answer, “NO! Of course not.” But, since human males feel entitled to be dominant, therein lies every woman’s dilemma. Georgia O’Keeffe found a solution, one which parallels that of Persephone: be with a partner part of the time, and free as a bird part of the time. That was the resolution of the dichotomy for O’Keeffe and Persephone.
It sounds so simple, once stated. But it took me a long time in working with the images to see exactly what I was saying with them, to see every woman’s dilemma as defining herself not only as a female body apart from society’s definition, which seems to be the overriding concern of human society, but also as a mind free to make choices not determined by a man (or, by another woman, for that matter!). That can be very difficult for many women; human society does not make that easy for women. In the end, this photo essay came to be about a woman making choices by her own free will.
I’ve really enjoyed working on what came out of this little segment of the Persephone myth. This post wraps up that segment. I am going to take a break from myth for awhile, and post on some less exhausting subjects. I hope you have enjoyed this photographic essay, my personal interpretation on a small part of the Persephone myth with many more plots and subplots.
Fire of Passion
Light of Knowledge
I Need Knowledge, Too
Why Must I Choose?
I Choose Both
Free as a Bird
Postscript to the Persephone Series and Every Woman’s Dilemma
Although I had four years of Latin in high school, during which time we studied Roman and Greek mythology, among other things, that was a very long time ago and there has been a lot of water under the bridge since. I became aware of the myth of Persephone on September 15 of this year, through a brief mention of it in an email in a comment on the upcoming autumn and winter by friend Jim Stallings (oh, no. Does the annoying woman get killed off in this short story?). Something about Persephone and her cyclic descent into the darkness of the Underworld resonated with me immediately.
Within two weeks I had done a series of images stimulated by the Persephone myth, using some of my favorite subjects, sunflowers and butterflies. For those of you in the Albuquerque area, those images are currently hanging in the 2015 ANMPAS show, which runs through December 27.
Once that photographic series was done, the thought of telling a story with a model began to seep into my brain. I had worked once with a model on someone else’s project. But I had never thought of finding and hiring a model to tell a story as I wanted to tell it. As these things sometime happen, the perfect model appeared almost by chance. I surprised myself by asking her if she would be a photographic model. This is far out of my range of what I comfortably do. Much to my surprise, she said, “Yes.” That was the beginning of my work with the wonderful Kelly Angerosa, the woman you see in these images. We have plans to work together again in the spring.
This series is something I was driven to do. I have many distractions and duties in my life at the moment, but I “had” to do this series. I often stayed up past midnight working on images, and there were times I was up again at 4:00 am because a thought occurred to me that I wanted to add. When the totality of my life at the moment is considered, I have been working as hard and as long as I did when I was a resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology. But this work came from an inner drive; I had to do it. It has been a long time since I felt so passionately about something. It may be the first time I felt so passionately about something. It really became, at least to me, the story of every woman’s dilemma, something I saw visually as a whole for the first time, although I had thought about the issues before as an anthropologist and also as an obstetrician/gynecologist.
This small piece is nearing completion. Within a day or two I will post as a separate page on the blog all of the images used in this series, with very little verbiage, so that they may be seen in totality. We are now in the dark days of winter, with the holidays, cold, and football playoffs 😉 approaching. I need a break. I look forward to the appearance of new things come spring.
I appreciate everyone who has followed along on this journey with me.
I especially thank my amazing model, Kelly Angerosa, who was everything I could have asked for and more, and Jim, who introduced me to Persephone.
Persephone in the Underworld
Persephone in the Underworld – how would you imagine it? I don’t mean when she was initially violently abducted from her beautiful springtime world on Earth by Hades, with the consent of her father, Zeus. I mean more when she returned year after year, as wife of Hades and Queen of the Underworld, at a time that would be Winter on Earth.
So many variations exist regarding that part of the myth that I felt free to pick anything I wanted. Some versions have Persephone despising Hades forever, but those are not the more common versions. Interestingly, many versions note that of the Greek god and goddess couples, they were the “most faithful” to one another, for whatever that is worth.
By most versions, Persephone and Hades did not have children together. Persephone had two, maybe three children, with two generally reported to be the result of rape by her father, Zeus. One more example of violence against women from world literature. It may be that ultimately her time in the Underworld with Hades in Winter, in the role of wife and Queen of the Underworld, was a welcome relief from wondering when and where her father would appear in her life on the beautiful Spring on Earth. Who knows?
Most note that she performed the entire range of her duties as Queen of the Underworld well.
So, was Persephone a beautiful trophy wife for Hades, but one in whom he had little to no interest beyond owning her once he had her? Did Persephone despise him every moment she was in the Underworld, counting every day until she could leave for the cyclic return to Earth? Did they fall into some kind of known routine, like old married couples, where they knew each other and what to expect, with a generally acceptable accommodation toward one another? Given artistic license, I’ve chosen to interpret the relationship through my imagination. And, at least in this post, I am not going to address her first Winter in the Underworld after he abduction by Hades. In this post I am looking more at her subsequent Winters, remembering that in earlier posts she chose to eat the pomegranate seeds, knowing she would be bound to Hades as his wife and required to return in a yearly cycle. The flip side of that coin is that she also knew she would have time each year on her own, as Goddess of Spring, with none of the duties of Queen of the Underworld. I said it in an earlier post, but I’ll say it again – I think of Georgia O’Keeffe’s marriage, and her time away on her own in New Mexico.
I have chosen to represent Persephone, after the first Winter in the Underworld, as in a fulfilling relationship with her husband, in the choice she made. (Call me Pollyanna.) These images are my representation of Persephone in the Underworld.
Persephone’s dilemma: the pomegranate seeds. Many variations are found in different versions of the Persephone myth. All that I have seen so far agree that her father, Zeus, agreed to give her to his brother, Hades, without not just her consent but also without her knowledge. Just another example from the world’s literature of violence against women across time and space. That is how Persephone came to be in the Underworld in the first place: through the collusion of her father and uncle. Even I do not see how a young girl can fight that kind of strength against her. It is what it is, whether I like it or not. I cannot find a way in my mind to reinterpret that part of the myth.
After her mother, Demeter, in her grief and rage caused the Earth to go barren and be covered by Winter, Zeus worked out an agreement for Persephone to be allowed to return from the Underworld to Earth, bringing with her Spring and a return to life on the barren Earth. But, here is the hitch, at least for those of us who do not like Winter. While in the Underworld, Persephone had eaten some seeds of the pomegranate, binding her to her husband, Hades, with the requirement that she return to the Underworld for part of the year, during which time the Earth again experiences Winter. The time varies from three months to six months in different versions of the myth.
A major variation in different versions of the myth is how Persephone came to eat the pomegranate seeds in the first place. In some versions, she was tricked into it. In some versions she chose to eat the seeds, knowing full well the consequences. It was that variant that really got into my brain almost from the first day (September 15, 2015) I began to read the Persephone stories.
In my world, I do not see women as weak creatures who can be easily fooled. Over the years, studying copper miners’ wives as an anthropologist, or working with women as an obstetrican/gynecologist, I have seen women cope creatively and strongly with many different situations in which they found themselves, situations not of their own choosing. So, in my visual reinterpretation of the myth, I simply don’t buy that Persephone was tricked into eating the seeds.
Persephone had no choice initially about being in the Underworld with Hades. But in the various versions of the myth, she is not painted as being unhappy once she is there. Her mother, Demeter, is furious and grieving at the absence of her daughter, but that kind of feeling is not conveyed about Persephone, at least in the versions of the myth I have seen so far. In my visual painting of the myth, she chooses to eat the seeds, knowing she will be tied to Hades as wife, and that she will be required to spend part of her time in the Underworld. In some ways it actually reminds me a bit of Georgia O’Keeffe, who spent part of her time with her husband, and part of her time without him in New Mexico. I’ve always thought one of the better times in a former marriage was when we were commuting and seeing each other three days each month. It was very easy for me to see Persephone making the choice to eat the seeds.
Of course, in doing so, even though Demeter is the one who causes Winter to fall on the Earth, and that would never have happened if Zeus and Hades had not stolen her daughter (why don’t those two guys ever get blamed for Winter, anyway????????), it seems that in the end, Persephone bears much of the blame for Winter because she ate the seeds.
As I was thinking about that, and how I was going to present that visually, I couldn’t help thinking about another woman who brought grief to the world with another fruit, an apple: Eve and the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. BOOM! Thinking about those two together certainly got my brain going. Persephone and the pomegranate bring us Winter, and Eve and the apple got us kicked out of the Garden of Eden. I began to see things in terms of Woman, not just Persephone. Woman, blamed for all kinds of grief in the world. I decided to play with that visually.
Persephone weighing whether or not to eat the pomegranate seeds, knowing and accepting that she would be blamed for some human misery at Winter. This is Persephone’s dilemma:
Each Fall, she knew the time was approaching for her to return to the Underworld and we again see Persephone’s dilemma:
Persephone accepts responsibility for her choice. In today’s terminology, “she owns it.”
This myth presents such a rich tapestry to explore visually, and more chapters are to come. The next set will explore “what happens in the Underworld…” Stay tuned.
Winter to Spring in Roses
Winter to spring transition in roses is abundantly clear in my garden this year. A couple of weeks ago we had several days of above average temperatures. Many roses began to send out new growth.
Here in the high desert of New Mexico we are taught not to prune our roses until late March or early April, because pruning stimulates new growth. That tender new growth will die if we get a late freeze, which is not uncommon here in the high desert. So, my roses have not yet been pruned, nor will they be for several weeks. But, because the roses are sending out new growth, I have had the opportunity to photograph old spent blooms and hips with the new growth: a winter to spring transition. I sometimes think of it as “the junction of life and death,” but I realize that is too strong for some readers. I personally find with junction of the remains of last year’s growth and blooms with this year’s brand new growth to be beautiful and interesting.
Some of the new rose leaves are red. This is not a photoshopped color. The red color is due to pigments called anthocyanins, which actually help protect the tender new growth from harsh UV light. As the plants mature, and they no longer need this protection, the pigments disperse, the leaves become green, and become chlorophyll factories through photosynthesis. Not all roses produce the red leaves on early spring growth, however.
Snowfall Overnight in Albuquerque
Snow rarely falls in Albuquerque as often as it is forecast, especially in these drought years. While I certainly do not want as much all at one time as we received in December of 2006 (22 inches in my yard), this morning when I awakened to five inches (12.5 centimeters) of the beautiful white stuff in my yard, I was very happy! I do not yet know the snowfall amounts for the surrounding mountains, but I hope they are significant.
Wind must not have been significant as the snow was falling. There must have been some wind later, though, because the accumulation on trees is not much this morning.
The white stuff can enhance the appearance of the ubiquitous block walls and stucco found in Albuquerque.
Even the gates seem enhanced this morning.
One really good thing is that the streets were warm enough that most seem clear, at least in my neighborhood, this morning.
(eta: FB friends are telling me the streets in some parts of town were terrible, at least earlier this morning!)
The snowfall overnight was really nice to wake up to this morning.
Winter Sunset, both East and West
Winter sunset. This was a two-for-one, with interesting things going on both to the east over the Sandias, as well as in the sky to the west. A “winter storm” is due tomorrow, with perhaps 4 inches of snow in the city by Friday. Turbulence is certainly evident in the sky looking west.
We see lenticular clouds over the mountains not infrequently in the winter. I like lenticular clouds. I also enjoy the alpenglow of the Sandias. It does not last long, but it is striking when it appears. This view, looking eastward, appears “calm” to me.
The winter sky looking westward could not have had a more different appearance, and it is anything but “calm.”
The skies here are never boring, and often are quite interesting. This was a great two-for-one sunset.