Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We have Castles

Can you see the ruins below the Ute Mountain- looks for the circular shapes on the edges of the canyon.
I really enjoy looking through the pics from bloggers over in the UK- when they take strolls through old churchyards or ruins. So here is a pictorial stroll through our ruined castles! Hovenweep is a less know site to Mesa Verde, which is on the left side of the Sleeping Ute Range-marking the Ute Reservation.

We escaped there last weekend to get away from the snow.

They are now thinking the Hovenweep ruins main purpose might of been "Astrological"- if that is a word- the ruins are very well lined up to the stars and the soltices.

My youngest daughter- pulled the camera from my hand when we got out of the car and wouldn't give it back- so she has credit for the pics- which I had  to weed through dozen of her "imprompt to"  model shots of her sister, having watched Ameirca's Next Top Model" that morning- I confess as an embaressed mother! Thank goodness for digitial cameras unlimited capacity!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Quote to Remember

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.
C.S Lewis

Friday, February 19, 2010


Hummm? Had two ways to go on this one-
Skipped the first, more obvious definition when I went to - one- because I just had no desire to go there, but more importantly because the less used definition fits very well into my plans of showing the progression of my first picture book project that I am going to share on the blog-

 the second definition of propagate- according to old Webster- now so high tech- is as follows-"to cause to spread out and affect a greater number or greater area b: to foster growing knowledge of, familiarity with, or acceptance of (as an idea or belief) "

Sounds pretty- good? Helping a larger audience, like children, through a vehicle like....books gain knowledge and understanding to an idea or belief.............well that depends on exactly what one would be trying to "sway" the audience into believing. Something I believe we as writers and illustrators, especially, let me underline that- especially because we are trying to sway the innocent, have signed up for a special kind of judgement. Even with the best intentions, myself included, we all are trying to influence in one way or another.
"To propagate" has an "ickier" sounding Noun- "Propaganda" when heard evokes images of Stalin and the Iron Curtain, Hitler and his throngs of loyal children marching in their black shorts, white shirts and arms bands- guess what- America- "The Land of the Free" does not escape without a black mark of trying to "propagate" the masses.
Still intrigued? Or are you thinking- "Man! She's turned this light Illustration Friday into a Propaganda piece!" If the second- my apologies and have a great weekend!
For those sticking around-

Apache Children entering the Carlisle Indian School

In dealing with the "Indian Problem" words of the Nineteenth Century US Government- the last and most efficient solution when out and out warfare and the reservation system was not working so well to "tame the red man" was to eradicate the Native populations culture- the way to do that..... take their children, yes sometimes at gun point, pull little ones out of their mothers arms!

Between the mid 1800s and far into the 1900 thousands of Native American children, were taken from their mothers, some as young as three, many around the age of five, girls and boy, but more boys, to get them before they got their rebellious ways and were placed in Off Reservation Indian Schools. Where immediately on their arrival, their hair, sacred to many tribes, was cut off, they were scrubbed down with kerosene for lice, and every remnant of their culture in their dress and decorations taken from them. They were dressed in white man's clothes, set at a dining room table, slept in a bed, and beaten if they spoke a word of their language- or practiced a bit of their culture. Let me say that again- "they were beaten if they spoke their language"
Same children as above a few months later-
They were schooled half the day in reading writing and arithmetic- though the official writings of those in charge expressed very little expectation in their intelligence and so the emphasis was more to train them for skilled labor. Now for even more "Propaganda" - We did a pretty good job of making the whole thing sound like we were saving the Native from himself. We were giving these poor, subservient people a chance to exist in our greater culture- throw in that many were also doing it in the name of God, with missionary schools and well it becomes a huge convoluted shameful part of our history- which we have done little to make amends for- even suggesting there is a way to make amends sounds like I am belittling the issue. No amends can be made.
Canada and Australia are ahead of us, in at least taking responsibility for what they did and bringing some amount of redemption to their Native People- just bringing such heinous parts of our history to the light can bring some healing.
So.... lovely subject.... but one I think is as much a part of my history, as an white emigrant- my family settled all over the West- My home sits on what was once sovereign Ute land, I graduated from Fort Lewis College, started as a military base, turned into an Indian School, then a college- where today any Native person can go tuition free- one positive change- to deal with this part of Native/White history- because it really is both our histories.
Also Fort Lewis College houses the Center of Southwest Studies- a vast research library full of original documents, manuscripts, books , photographs and artifacts of the Southwest. A few days ago I had the privilege to get to know and be helped by Elyane Silversmith, Navajo and the Centers Librarian- in both doing research for my in progress YA novel on the early tourist of Mesa Verde but also on initial ideas for a picture book on Indian Schools- more interesting tidbits from the library to come.
Sorry for such a sobering post-if you want to see more photos here is a good link to the University of Washingtons Digitial Collection (unfortunately there is very little documentation on the Fort Lewis Indian school due to many factor including some rather violent- tell you later about that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy "Pancake Tuesday"

While others are getting ready for "Fat Tuesday" or Mardi Gras, we on the insistence of Jon, had pancakes- why- because he declared that is what our Irish ancestors and much of Europe has done through the ages. "Why" I asked again, reminding him the reason for such traditions of collecting Mardi Gras beads, that we now so often see the students coming out of school on Mardi Gras wearing- I've explained to our girls what traditionally would be expected of them to collect such beads and both don't like wearing them, even in fun as part of the innocent festivities at school.
So I wanted to know exactly why pancakes were eaten on this day and sent him off to Wikipedia the answer- this is what he came back with - a much more practical tradition then "whooping up the night, before forty days of false piate' .
Pancakes- use up much of the good things in the cupboard that would go bad if not used in the fasting of Lent- sugar, milk and eggs!
I have gained many European friends through this blog- have you ever heard of "Pancake Tuesday- do you practice it- or is it like Cornbeef and Cabbage on St. Patrick's day- a very American thing.
The picture is of Roy Ethridge, Al Wetherill and Seth Taner cooking pancakes or pones on the Colorado River taken in 1891 by Gustaf Nordenskiold on their way to be tourist and check out the Grand Canyon amongst other things- it's in the collection of Fred Blackburn, a very nice man and authority on the Wetherill family and Mesa Verde- who has been gracious enough to help me in my research for my YA novel. Check out his webside at

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

This old picture is not the best, but it is one of my favorite of the girls
running to catch up with their daddy for a walk in the woods.
Some day other men will have their hearts- but right now,
they all belong to him!
(post script- as I write this- the girls are coming in from stacking firewood with their dad,
pissed and glaring at him for teasing them- "someday another will have their heart, make them cry and laugh and climb the highest mountain and ford the deepest river for them... but for now it is their dad")

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Sunday evening, I was working upstairs on my computer and my attention was drawn to the sound of my husband's voice- rhythmic and soft and realized he was reading out loud to our girls. My curiosity peeked, I listened more carefully trying to distinguish what he was reading from- for the list was long. He has been reading to them from the time the first was still inside me. Not concerned if I was myself was listening or was fast asleep, nestled in bed, he read Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Farmer Boy" to my belly.
When they were toddlers, he never insisted they sit still or stay even in the same room, looking down from our loft, I can still see him there on the couch, the older, snuggled close, the littler one toddling around, with her pappy in her mouth, dragging her blanket around, poking at the dogs or playing but also listening.
His reading list is long and I highly recommend it- for it is made up of the greatest authors of all times and are the stories that influenced me to be an author and surprisingly are not often discussed in the blog-o-sphere- where the watch is for the new writing- but these are the stories that have managed to stick around for a bit- maybe we should ask ourselves why?

Jon's List
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Greek Mythology
Kipling "Jungle Book", "Riki Tiki Tave"
"Pilgrim's Progress"
Charles Dickens
Frances Hodgsons Burnett- "Secret Garden" "Little Princess"
Mark Twain
Norman Maclean
You can find many children's editions of the more heavy fare- giving a taste of something they will hopefully want to go back and read more of later in life. I would add a few authors that he isn't much interested in-
Jane Austin
L.M Montgomery- "Anne of Green Gable"
Jack London
"To Kill a Mockingbird"


And if you are wondering- when I finally snuck downstairs- he was reading Macleans' "A River Runs Through It", with our 16 and 11 year old, curled up on each side of him.
So, what are the classics you love?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Strater Hotel, Durango- An Example of Victorian Opulence

You can see it in the background, the Strater Hotel in Durango. Built in 1887, many people of the small mountain town, getting rich from mining, would close up their houses and go live in the great hotel during the winters, much like the winter we have been having this year.

The hotel is a wonderful example of Victorian opulence where every surface, wether carpeted, wallpapered or carved had intricut patterns and detail.

Made up of four floors, where the famous western author, Louis Lamour, like to work in Room 222 over the Diamond Belle Saloon, for inspiration, each floor as you go up gets less and less fancy until you reach the fourth floor....

Which was known as "Monkey Alley" where it is reported the "bachelor gentleman" resided and... the maids, hummmmmmmmm need we say more!

Blog Getting Redirected

If your blog is getting redirected like many of us- try deleting the snow effect widget- thank you A Bun Can Dance, The opinion is that it is in the widgets- systematically remove them- but I ( fingers crossed) think mine is ok after it stopped snowing.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Did you know?

Here is a bit of Western lore- if you have seen the infamous movie " Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
Then you probably remember one of the highlights where they jump off a high cliff to get away from the posse- well it was filmed at Baker's Bridge, up the Animas Valley from Durango Colorado.

Well actually, Paul Newman and Robert Redford ran towards the edge, stuntman jumped,  of course this was in the summer and with camera tricks they made it seem like a longer fall- but then Newman and Redford actually landed in the water back in California! Ahh the magic of movies!!