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Picture This – New Mexico

24 May

We just returned from our annual field trip to New Mexico. For those who may not know, every spring another professor and I take students on a journey through the land, art and cuisine of the Land of Enchantment. This was one of our best experiences with great students and great learning opportunities. Instead of chronicling the entire venture, I decided to post my favorite photograph from each day.

On the drive out, we stopped at Cadillac Ranch, one of the most famous examples of Pop Art, and we all added our own touch to the masterpiece. 

On the second day, we made our way closer to the final destination of Santa Fe. However, we stopped at the home of artist Peter de la Fuente along the way. He is the grandson of Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd and does everything he can to carry on the family tradition. Currently, he does it on an 80,000 acre ranch.

Once in Santa Fe, we went on daily excursions that included hikes and moments of historical instruction. However, the highlight of the next say was our meal at Horseman’s Haven. If you love breakfast burritos covered in green chili sauce, then that is the place you need to go.

By far, my favorite hike is at Tent Rocks. It is a stroll through a slot canyon before a climb to the top of a mesa. Its true name is Kasha-Katuwe.

Our most time-consuming excursion is the drive to Chaco Canyon, the home of the Anasazi. No one knows for sure what if the canyon was a religious center, a commercial center or the home to thousands. It could have been all of that. 

We also drove to Taos. However, we did not stop in town. We went straight to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and walked across to get some great pictures and some great shakiness over the height.

Acoma Pueblo is always one of our favorite stops. It is the oldest inhabited community in North America. There are great views from the top of the mesa on which the pueblo sits. However, I am always amazed by the streets within the community. I expect Henry Fonda to ride up on a horse at any minute. In fact, he did ride up on a horse in My Name is Nobody.

We also visited the ruins at Bandelier National Monument. Climbing the 140 foot ladders is always a highlight. However, it best moment is when we convince the students to sniff a tree.

On the final day, we did something completely different and new to our trip. A few of us went to Meow Wolf, an interactive art experience supported by Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin. It was a weird and awesome thing to do.

After that, we made the long drive back to Tennessee. Hopefully, this trip to New Mexico was a learning experience for everyone.

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The Eclipse Was Bigger Than Politics

25 Aug

Earlier this week, we were in the path of the total solar eclipse, and it was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. When the moon completely blocked the sun, there was a ring in the sky. However, that was not the only fascinating part of the event. There was a 360 degree sunset. Crickets began to chirp because they thought it was night. Deer came out from their hiding places. For more than two minutes, we were in a different world.

However, those were just part of the experience.

We were invited by a local business owner to watch the event from his office. He hosted a cookout with all kinds of great food. There were games to play while we waited for the eclipse. A DJ play music that had a certain theme. Every song was celestial. When the sun went completely out, he played “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. Of course, the soundtrack was not complete without “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.

Dozens of people had their special glasses and used them to look into the sky. During the party, I was struck by our differences. Represented in the crowd were different races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. No matter our experiences or ideas, we were all experiences the same feelings, and we were experiencing them together.

Lately, we read and hear a lot about our differences, but, for a few minutes, we were in a crowd that was united by an amazons sight.

When the total eclipse ended, I jumped on to Twitter to find out what people were saying about their eclipse experience. That is when I saw that some people were being snarky about it and trying to put a political spin on it.

The sun is even hiding from the president.

Hey Trump, God turned the lights out on you.

I could list a lot, but that is not the point of this post.

The point is that some things are above politics.

I do not care who likes the president and who does not like the president. Frankly, I do not care what people say. However, I care when people take an event like this and use it to create some witty comment. Yes, they probably received a bunch of likes, but they missed the reality of the situation.

There is a lot going on in our world, and a lot of people have differing opinions. Earlier this week, we experienced an event that brought a lot of people together. In our crowd, I am certain that different people had different thoughts about the president and everything else. However, none of that matter. We were experiencing something together that made us all equal, and that equality showed us how small we really are. We are people living in one country on a small planet in the middle of a big universe.

We get bogged down in politics, but some things are bigger than all of that. People should not diminish it with some witty Twitter post about what is wrong about the world.

He Journeyed Long

4 Apr

He did not know how long he had been walking. He could not remember where he began. He only knew that he had been walking for a long time, and it had been a rough journey. He was tired. He was covered with mud. The journey had to end, but he did not know when that would happen, either. He just had to continue walking.

His path passed over uneven ground and was covered with vegetation. The journey was slow as he made his way through trees, around rocks and over a trail that really was not a trail. As far as he knew, nothing had traveled this path before.

Suddenly, his surroundings changed, and the green that had surrounded him since the beginning gave way to a flat emptiness. The ground was black and cracked. The surface was hard and tough on his bare feet. Earlier, he spotted a large beast, and he instinctively knew that this was its home. The beast was gigantic and made loud rumbling noises when it moved. It would be best to make it through the desolate wasteland as quickly as possible.

However, there was something out there other than the beast. For a long time, he had the feeling of being watched by some unknown force. As he made his way to the end of the black landscape, he heard something racing from behind. He had to make it to the land on the other side before he was caught.

He made it to a land similar to what he had been walking on forever. Rough, green and untrodden. However, he could not escape. His only chance was to stay a still as possible and hope that he was hidden from this new threat.

It was not alone. He heard language that was foreign to him. What were they saying? Could they see him?

They moved around and looked right at him. He never moved. He had no idea what would happen next. He only knew to stay still.

It worked. The creatures moved away from him, but he would not move until he knew it was safe. That feeling never came because he knew that they were watching from the distance.

Eventually, he had no choice. He had to move. He had to follow an irresistible urge to go forward. Something was out there, and he had to find it. Perhaps it was not far away.

Night Trees

16 Jan

The other night, I was walking the dog and noticed that the sky looked weird and cool. It especially looked weird and cool through the bare limbs of the trees. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and took a picture.img_2212

The next night, I was walking the dog and noticed that the sky looked weird and cool. It especially looked weird and cool through the bare limbs of the trees. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and took a picture.img_2213

Since I took those pictures, I have been close to writing a post that conveys in words what the pictures convey in images. However, nothing has come to mind. Heck, I even looked up poems that may fit the pictures.

Despite my best efforts, the pictures will be left to speak for themselves. In fact, that is probably what pictures are for.

Four Corners – Up and Down Tent Rocks

2 Aug

There are a lot of things to do in Santa Fe, but there were a few that we wanted the girls to experience. One was Maria’s. The other was Tent Rocks, a hike that takes you through a slot canyon and to the top of a mesa. This is all while being surrounded by some of the most interesting rock formations in the Southwest.

We woke up early and made our way to a hike that my wife and I have both completed. However, I have to give everyone credit. This was the toughest day that I have seen at Tent Rocks. It was hot, and the air was thin.

The hike started easy enough, and everyone was in the mood for pictures.image-25

However, it was not long before we were all looking for an excuse to stop. Sitting on this rock looked like a good excuse.image-26

Of course, the scenery was beautiful. I think I have taken this shot each time I have passed it.image-27

Oh yeah, there were more pictures to take.image-28

After a lot of huffing and puffing. After a lot of stopping and starting. We made it to the top of Tent Rocks and a great view of northern New Mexico.image-29

Then, it was time to go back down. The way down is always easier than the way up, but there still needs to be some pit stops along the way.image-30

There are also those people who wander around looking up at the wall of the canyon.image-31

After the hike, we had lunch at Santa Fe Bite, another one of those things that must be done is Santa Fe. I do not know about everyone else, but my green chile cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake was awesome.

We rested. We lounged by the pool. We bought a painting by Jessica Garrett. Then we ate at The Shed, a place that I have spent years trying to get into. We made reservations a week in advance and arrived to find that they had erased it. However, they got us in quickly, and it was worth the wait. Not the 10 minute wait. It was worth the years wait.

 

Lessons From Snowmageddon

22 Jan

We are currently experiencing our worst snowstorm in 13 years. I realize that it pales in comparison to the experiences of our northern neighbors, but it is a big deal for a place that is not prepared for the worst snowstorm in 13 years.image-5

During this time of being cooped up in the house, I have learned a few things. Here is a list.

Some people actually like this stuff.

Everything is closed. Schools. Businesses. Government offices. The list goes on and on. However, our local Chamber of Commerce decided to continue with their scheduled meeting. This freaked out my wife because she is on the Chamber board and was afraid she was going to miss something. They ended up getting her on a conference call because they were one short of a quorum. What did I learn from that? Half of the folks at our Chamber of Commerce are willing to put their lives on the line to support local businesses.

By the way, whenever I hear the words Chamber of Commerce, I think of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, a movie that stars Don Knotts. There is a guard at the Chamber of Commerce picnic. If you are not C. of C., then you do not get in. Atta boy, Luther.

If Leonardo DiCaprio wins an Oscar for trouncing through the snow and not saying anything in The Revenant, then I should win an Oscar for trouncing through the snow and not saying anything while taking out the trash.

It pays to have a gas fireplace, but it does not pay to stub your toe on said fireplace. I think I am going to have to stick my foot in the snow to numb it.

Friends stole the body of Gram Parsons from the airport and tried to cremate it in Joshua Tree National Park. I learned this from my wife, who is working on an article about Nudie. If you do not know about Nudie, then you need to look him up.

Hanging around the house all day leads one to eat a lot. I need to get on the treadmill, but I have to wait until my foot stops hurting.

There are different Rummy rules for different people.

If you think you have Man of Steel, then you had better make sure before the worst snowstorm in 13 years. That will be the time that you want to watch and discover that you do not have it.

Anyway, that is what I have learned during our worst snowstorm in 13 years. In a few hours, I will not be able to learn anything because I will have lost my mind from cabin fever.

 

 

 

The American West Coming Through My Speakers

14 Jan

After lunch, I was driving back to work with my iPod cranked up. The sun was shining and masked the coldness of the air. Before turning onto campus, one of my favorite songs came through the speakers.

“I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado” was recorded by John Denver, and that is the version on my iPod. However, that is not the version that I first heard and made the song hit me in my soul.

Merle Haggard sang the song in the last scene of Centennial, a 1970s miniseries about the American West. I have already written about that movie and will not repeat myself. That scene is on YouTube, and I urge you to watch it. You will probably recognize some of the actors, and there is a great message. It gets me every time.

When I hear the song, I am reminded of my love for the American West. Its history. Its land. There is nothing better than climbing the dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Mesa Verde National Park brings back the echoes of the ancient peoples. The streets of Durango harken to the days of yesteryear, and the train in Durango will take you on a great ride to Silverton.Durango

The song is about Colorado, but, to me, it is about the entirety of the West. The mountains. The plains. The deserts. Life the way it was, and life the way it is. This song takes my mind to New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and all of the others states that make up that region. The song says Colorado, but it means everything. To me, the song means relaxation, peace of mind and wide open spaces.

The words go like this.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
He’d rather spend his time out where the sky looks like a pearl after the rain.
Once again I see him walking, once again I hear him talking
to the stars he makes and asking them the bus fare.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
He’d rather play his banjo in the morning when the moon is scarcely gone.
In the dawn the subway’s coming, in the dawn I hear him humming
some old song he wrote of love in Boulder Canyon. I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
I guess he’d rather work out where the only thing you earn is what you spend.
In the end up in his office, in the end a quiet cough is all he has to show,
he lives in New York City. I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.