Inspired by Karen Davis' description of her Christmas near Bath , UK- on her blog Moonlight and Hares and Tommie Depaola Christmas preparations on the East Coast featured on his official blog, I wanted to show you a little of what Christmas look like in the Four Corners.
Snow cornices form on our propanel roof after snow storms and take their own sweet time to fall- so sometime soon there will sound like there a bomb hitting the ground, when the blocks of snow finally decide to slid down, watch out dogs and small children- who were trained to never be under them!
Was at the The Dolores River Brewery last night with friends- nice place to be on a wintery snowy night. We have had so much snow, the crews are making piles of it on the side streets and through the winter it can be an adventure to get into the brew pub.
But once in, it is a warm cheery place- I think in England, they call their pubs- their regular hangouts- their "local" and the DRB is definitely ours. Great pizza, salads, soups in the winter and of course micro beers- though I don't drink 'em- kind of a teatotaller- but Jon likes them- especially their speciality beers- think the one right now is called "Mammoth something" and they only will sell it in the small glasses- because it's proof- can't see through it- it looks like slug to me.
A family bet is riding on this and I won't say which way I am commiting to- but can you comment on this blog and vote what you think these animals are- Yaks or Highland Cows?
They were spotted when we were going "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go" for Thanksgiving- the _______ were in a ranchers field near Mancos Colorado and the yellow circle on some of their behinds are sale barn stickers.
It should NOT influence you that near Alamosa Colorado there were the same looking animals and a spray painted sign selling YAK meat- or that the one of the people on the other side of the bet, miss identified goslings for baby ducks at the feed store- thinking them to be "really healthy duck" awhile back and wouldn't believe anyone the long beaked fowl until they started to honk instead of quack!
Please note that there has been NO Photoshop or "Trickiery" going on in Professional Photo Editing these are "virgin" images.
Each Year, one night in December, the Mesa Verde Park Service light the paths around the Spruce Tree House Museum and Ruin with luminarias ( little candles pushed down in sand in paper bags) and invites the public to come up ( about a seventeen mile drive up to the Mesa and this year it was snowy) and walk down to the cliff dwellings and listen to local choirs and singing groups.
the path was cold and icy this year...
winding down on switch backs to get to the bottom of the canyon, but then you see the ruin, peeking through the trees...
The Rangers use lanterns hidden in the rooms to illuminate the ruins, it is very pretty but you can't help but feel the "ghosts" that lived there before and wonder if they want to be disturbed by us "uninvited guests"
or if they like the Christmas Carols, and did they listen to their children sing, in the long winter nights?
Thank you Mesa Verde Park Rangers for lighting our way and for the warm and yummy chili and cookies in the Snack Bar, when we had made it back up to the rim of the canyon!
Inspired by the photos on the bog of Richard Jesse Watson ( a wonderful author/illustrator and a very nice man) studio- in what he thinks is a messy state- I am posting the "after the storm" picture of my studio- i.e.- I just finished a big project and have not cleaned up- as much as any artist cleans up- but I do like to ceremonially straighten things up before starting my next project.
note the little scrappy on the floor, the stacks of fabric and the lack of usable space on the tables- yup- it is the end of a project! I am not even going to turn around and show you the other side- that would show cardboard boxes waiting for me to organize my family photos- yikes!!
Wow~ this is a good way to find out who reads my blog!! The virtual dangling carrot! Eight NPR Calendars left. I asked my daughter if I should autograph the "June" page and she told me "That would be presumptuous" Guess she thinks her mom shouldn't impersonate a "Real Artist"- ahhhhh, how children keep you real! ( if you don't know what this is about see - "With Thanks"
For those who are faithful readers of "Moonflower Musing" or for anyone who comes across it this week and would like...I am "Miss June" or should I say my illustration-"Waiting for Coffee" is and I have about ten calendars I would like to send to the readers of Moonflower Musing. Just email me- in my profile- your name and the address you would like me to send it- and thanks for stopping by!!
Yesterday morning, via a website I was researching for my YA novel, I got brave enough to email a nonfiction author and expert of Mesa Verde, with a real quick question- and now have corresponded with him several times and will be meeting with him personally. Gosh- they are real people too!
Did some more research, did some writing, worked on the lettering of a small illustration the deadline is coming soon and corresponded with the art director and ponder the roughs of my next project featuring a Navajo grandma and granddaughter- who I saw the inspiration for in the "Pet Aisle" of Safeway. The little girl was about ten, long black hair in pigtails and the grandma was traditional with a long broomskirt, Keds and a whole lot of turquoise jewelery. I thought about sneaking a picture with my phone but wasn't brave enough, so just watched them for a moment and tried to memorize what they looked like.
Grand Gulch is part of the Colorado Plateau smunched and cut off from the rest of the world by Lake Powell and sort of the Grand Canyon in Arizona- though I am too lazy, sipping my tea on my bed at the moment to go get a map and verify I am right- basically it is a huge labyrinth of deep canyons cut by small streams as they find their way to the Colorado River, now under Lake Powell in the middle of nowhere, I am talking the eppa center of nowhere- just where my husband loves to go!
We camped and hiked there a few years ago, and above the contentious nervous feeling I had that I would never see another living soul again- I have to confess it was interesting. If he reads this he will think I want to go back!!
On our hike we went down into a meandering canyon cut by the creek and had to navigate the smaller side canyons, more keeping track of which direction we had come from- the thought I always have is- if Jon get hit on the head- will I know which way the truck is?
The climate is totally different down in these deep canyons, an oasis to the harsh desolate terrain above. You will come across streams that run all winter long and where there is water there is life.
Richard Wetherill, one of the brothers I mentioned in my Notes from Page One post, who helped Gustaf Nordenskiold excavate the ruins of Mesa Verde, went on to be a renowned if uneducated archaeologist in his own right and lead a large expedition into Grand Gulch, backed by the trust funds of Fred and Talbot Hyde, wealthy and bored young Easterners who had met Richard in 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition ( World's Fair) to celebrate Columbus finding America 400 years before. But I digress!
We came across the remains of our own cowboy camp.....
I don't think it was from the Wetherill/ Hyde Expedition- but it could of been. Wow to walk into something that should be behind glass in a museum, or at least have a scarlett velvet rope, around it to protect it, is something else.
But there it was, completely unprotected from anyone who wanted to take or damage what they found. But what I have discovered, the deeper and more isolated a sight like this is, or for that matter a native site, like the cliff dwellings, the more protected they are.
People who have to, want to, drive for hours, hike for hours to see such things, usually, and I emphasize "usually" respect them. The easy to get to sights are the ones that have been stripped of everything they had to offer.
Sights like this cowboy camp bring up an interesting debate, is this now a archaeological site to be preserved or just a trash heap that should be cleaned up?
From a different time and place, these cowboys from the 1800's and early 1900's regularly left their marks on the walls right next to the marks left by the ancient people, where is the distinction between preserving those markings and considering them graffiti?
I don't know the answer. I know that coming to a place like this cowboy camp is thrilling to me, I can stand in the middle of it and feel the "ghosts" of who was there, crouched by the fire to take their coffee off, consisting of a handful of beans swimming in a tin can, that probably contained peaches at one time. To see how they made what they needed, from the poles of dried up trees and hung things out of necessity so the varmints wouldn't get it in the night. To look at the ground where they made their beds, certain they would of preferred the cool night air, to the musty shelter if the weather allowed.
The needs of the ancient people that were here first, or the cowboys that came after them, or even me, as a hiker, are no different, we all need protection from the elements, water, a fire source and food. So it should be of no surprise we all find shelter under the same rock alcove, in a lush canyon away from the elements, near a reliable stream.
People really haven't changed that much, when you think about it.
Here I sit this morning, still in my sweats, the husband and kids are gone, the house is quiet and I try and stretch out on the bed- I can't. Dunton, my white lab has taken over my side of the bed. Molly, our little Rez dog, ( adopted from the dumpsters of Chinle on the Navajo Reservation) is curled up on the otherside of the bed and our big Newfoundland/lab is snoring on the floor.
Jon calls me the "dog lady"- which is a loving insult- because when we lived in Durango, across the street, there was a infamous "cat lady", who lived in a big Victorian, filled to the brim with trash, old newspapers, boxes and such, I think you could get to one room literally through narrow tunnels through the rubbish.
Her car, an old Scout was the same, filled to the brim with old newspapers and salad bar containers she would use to feed the cats nightly in designated spots in the back alleys of Durango and spend her social security on cat food.
Jon would always help her with her taxes and such and we would take goodies to her on occasion, but always the conversations were outside on the side walk, I think I made it in about two feet in her house and my eyes and lungs couldn't take it anymore.
She got a wound on her leg and had to be commited to the hospital for a while, the Sheriff taking the opportunity to clear out some of the cats- can still see the deputies getting their Haz-Mat gear to go inside.
So you see why Jon saying "Dog Lady" has some meaning to it. Well here I sit and I am trying to keep Dunton from using the laptop as a pillow.
I find myself "fighting for room in the big sense of the word- what spot do I want in the universe, what spot does God want me to have and then thinking does He even care or need me to have a spot at all, a spec on His eternal time line.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I don't have a "label" ( daughter, college student, wife, mother) My girls are becoming independent, my husband giving me room and time to do my own thing, my friends, their kids growing up too, are pursuing their own interest- all leaves me this Fall with the quesiton, I could be anything I want, what do I want to be, where do I want to make room for myself.
And than I think "life is not as profound and calcuated as I am making it, just get on the road and walk- stop worrying where you will end up."
I think I am motivated in the fear of what will I be looking back on when I'm 80- or...... will I be just known as the "dog lady" and the sheriff will be coming to clear out my house with Haz Mat suits!
( that last bit truly was just for emphasis- you would be very comfortable having dinner over here and not fear for your life, I promise! maybe have a few dog hairs on you but thats all- at this point, look me up in ten years, forty? )
I was just sitting on top of the sheets, sipping my tea, not working, waiting for everyone to head off to school and work before I got to work and was reading a post on Editorial Ass ( an Editors Assistant's anonymous blog) about word count and found an interesting comment from Heather Lane, that made me curious about her blog- Edited to Within an Inch of My Life- where she had a great idea that I am going to steal, borrow, give her total credit for but also do! Blog the journey of the novel I am writing in my spare time, when my real job of freelance illustrating allows ( I actually have gotten pretty good on making the time). This is kind of an "A-Ha" moment for me, I have been documenting my journey in illustrating for years here on Moonflower Musing, and loving the interaction of others, the encouragement of others ( thank you for that- you can't know how many times, knowing one stranger out in cyberspace, saw value in what I am doing, kept me going- ), but some how my writing, maybe because I have an art degree and see myself as not having the credentials to write, did my writing in the dark of the night to speak- who knows. But what hit me this morning, reading Heather's blog, is the journey is really interesting- the research- which there is no way I can use it all, hated that- but daaaaaaa, I have a blog and can throw it up here, for anyone who wants to know and here is a place I can record the journey, the frustrations and the "A'ha" moments.
So here goes!!
Disclaimer: Some of you reading this are going to go- "What happened to the novel set in Utah during World War 2!" well.........It got too big and too scary and I started to think I didn't have enough skill YET to write it the way it needed to be- so I'm backing off on it and doing an easier story first ( I will write Moonflower I promise, when I figure out how to do it)
I wrote Come Back to My Valley as a screenplay- which I decided I wanted to write as a novel first so that my take on the story could be saved for posterity whether I sold it as a screenplay or not.
Then I was doing a writing workshop and the teacher encouraged me to pick of the Utah story and put a side the screenplay story- ahhhhh how we are influenced- good or bad from others!
Wise or not- I am going back to my first story- already set in a 120 page 3rd draft screenplay- and turning it into a novel first.
Enough Already- what is the picture about!
Answer: Mesa Verde, set in Southwest Colorado, where the first serious archaeological excavations were ever, Ever conducted in the United State- I am sure some would argue!- by Gustaf Nordenskoild and the Wetherill brothers, a bunch of cowpokes from the valleys below the mesa.
The events of the summer of 1891- spurred on the movement to use the newly developing National Park system for the first time protect Human artifacts, not just natural wonders, in 1906, but that way to late to protect much of the artifacts up in the mesa where many upstanding people would go to church and then go do an afternoon of pot hunting- or grave robbing.
Nordenskoild was the first to document and use scientific method to study the ruins, people did start paying attention to him when he tried to take his collection to Sweden ( largely due to the fact no American Museum, including the Smithsonian was much interested in ancient people on the North American continent) and the events were the catalyst for the creation of the Antiquities Act- which did start to protect the ancient Native civilizations in the US.
Thus is the backdrop for my novel- Nordenskoild and the Wetherills minor secondary characters to a romance between a cowboy and am aristocratic young artist who comes to paint the beauty of the ruins, the canyons and mesa.
SKINNY-NOUN: Slang --Inside information; the real facts: "learned the skinny..".
I love this job- freelance illustrating because I have gotten to "learn the skinny" the facts on so many things- and captured them in an image....
- what Surfing is like in Maui, with the crescent beaches made from the lava rock as it flowed down to the sea.
Or getting the "skinny" on the Ancient Puebloeons who once lived in Mesa Verde, researching their artifacts and then trying to illustrate what their lives might of looked like.
Or getting the "skinny" on an activity I would never do in a million years, but it is sure interesting to see how those people live.
Guess that is why I love being an illustrator and a writer for that matter!
Today, I literally was in four states- it helped that is was a big circle around the Four Corners of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizonia and Utah. I am starting a new project with an educational publisher- will be doing a really simple little book set in the Navajo Reservation- so took a drive to take pics of all the places I had been a dozen times but never really paid attention to the detail-
so drove from Colorado into New Mexico- it was snowy and a low fog made the red rocks and sky look amazing!
Once through Shiprock and meandering down along the river bottom where the cottonwoods were all an amazing yellow, I headed towards Teec Nos Pos,
a trading post that is in Arizonia and has the most amazing wall of yarn, manufactured yarns to be used in rugs and hand carved Navajo folk art made of cottonwood and in the funniest characters like chickens and horses and other animals. From there I went towards the Four Corners and past there back into Colorado for just a bit before actually getting into Utah- where the San Juan river bottom was also full of brightly yelowing cottonwoods -
Back into Colorado and up Mc Elmo Canyon- -past the Ismay Trading Post where you can still get a pop...
And up the gorgeous McElmo Canyon......
And back to Cortez ans back up to Dolores- whole trip left at 11:00 a
and was at the school at 3:30 to pick up the girls. Not bad for four states!