Seen on a recent walk:
I love the textures and the light. That is all.
Seen on a recent walk:
I love the textures and the light. That is all.
I’m fascinated by this little building and its mysterious walled backyard. It’s just a few blocks from our house, and we pass that fabulous arched gate several times a week when we walk the dogs. Seeing the Coke sign from a distance, I thought it was a long-shuttered corner store, but as I was taking a picture of the sign the other day, I realized there was a ghost sign above the door:
Exploring Tucumcari with Ramona is one of my new favorite pastimes. We go out for a walk or a jog almost every evening. She likes sniffing stuff, and I like slowing down and seeing cool stuff like that abandoned salon.
Our evening workouts actually made the Washington Post website recently. Click here to see it. Our part starts at 1:20.
In other news, I worked on office upgrades today. I now have a mount that gets my monitor and laptop up off my desk and a curved shower-curtain rod above my desk with a pretty curtain hanging from it to reduce distractions during Zoom calls with students.
I also went to the hospital today to get a blood test to see whether I had COVID-19 when I got sick in early March. People who have already had the virus can donate plasma to help active patients. I should know whether that applies to me by the middle of next week.
Last year, as part of my ongoing effort to minimize the amount of stuff I have to store, I started sorting through my collection of 35mm prints and scanning as many as possible.
Digitizing your collection is a worthwhile undertaking for several reasons.
First, it saves space. You can fit thousands of high-res images on a thumb drive; 4×6 prints of those same images could take up an entire closet. Second, it allows you to keep an off-site backup of your memories so you won’t lose your cherished family photos in the event of a flood, fire, or other disaster. Third, and maybe most importantly, it gives you an excuse to sift through your personal history.
Here are a few of the memories I found while I was going through my collection of prints from trips I’ve taken on Route 66:
My rules of thumb for sorting old photos:
1. Keep all your negatives. They don’t take up that much space, and you never know who might want to see them in the future. Even the shots you aren’t especially proud of could prove useful to a historian two or three decades from now.
2. Scan as much as you can. Even the mediocre stuff. Digital files are much easier to search than boxes of negatives if, for instance, somebody needs to know the color of the neon at Jobe’s Drive-In or the type of shingles on the roof of the Bagdad Cafe in 2001.
3. Keep one print of the shots you’re really proud of. Sometimes it’s nice to look at actual prints.
4. Share pictures that might be meaningful to somebody else. While I was sorting photos last spring, I put together several little packets of prints to send to friends. One packet featured images of a friend and his late wife working on a couple of projects they’d spearheaded years ago. Our friend later told me he’d really appreciated seeing those photos and remembering happy times we’d all spent together.
5. Organize as you go. This means using memorable filenames and saving things in folders that make sense instead of just letting your scanner call them “scan001” and save them to some random default folder you may or may not be able to find later.
P.S.: The top image is of El Rancho on Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico. I think I shot that in 2002.
“Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.”
— Richard Bach
As longtime readers of this blog know, the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull has had a profound impact on my life — so I was pretty excited a few weeks ago when I became aware that Richard Bach had released a revised, expanded edition.
Bach claims he wrote the novel in four parts but initially published only three. If this is true, this fourth part — published in 2013, more than 40 years after the first three were released — is downright prophetic.
Without giving away too many details, I’ll say that Bach delves into the tendency of worshipers to become so focused on dogma, tradition, and remaining firmly ensconced in their own comfort zone that they miss the underlying message of their chosen faith.
I’ve been increasingly frustrated with the Christian Establishment in recent years, for this very reason. Too many faith leaders seem to conflate spiritual truths with cultural traditions — or worse yet, political expediency.
In 2012, after watching error in the form of politics infiltrate the absolute last place I expected to find such nonsense, I walked away from organized religion altogether and tried, with varying degrees of success, to maintain my faith and my connection to God on my own.
Absent the structure and accountability a church provides, I found it slow going, though perhaps not as slow as it might have been had I been hampered by increasingly uncomfortable conflicts with people who seemed less interested in facilitating my spiritual growth than policing it.
Throughout my life, Jonathan Livingston Seagull has been my touchstone. The first edition of the book feels like an allegory for my own spiritual journey, and I tend to reread it whenever I find myself at a crossroads. It’s never disappointed me.
I suspect it’s not a coincidence, then, that I learned of the expanded edition around the same time I began visiting a local church that seems more inclusive and open-minded than some of the congregations to which I’ve belonged in the past.
My broken wings finally seem to be healing — and just as I’m attempting another flight, lo and behold, here’s Jonathan, as relevant now as he was the first time I encountered him 30-odd years ago, offering a new chapter that mirrors my experiences as well as the first three always have.
I don’t know yet whether I’ll join this church I’ve been test-driving. I’m still carrying baggage from the last go-’round, and I don’t trust as easily or commit as quickly as I did a decade ago. But even if I don’t, it’s reassuring to know, after all these years, that I’m still not flying alone.
We got a drizzle of freezing rain and a couple of inches of snow last night, but today is sunny, and the mess is melting off pretty nicely. Hopefully it will be pleasant enough out for a run tomorrow, but just in case it isn’t, I think I’ll hit the bike in the basement for a few miles tonight after work, assuming I get out of the office in a timely fashion.
I wish I could spend the day like Walter, who is content to sit on top of my typewriter and stare out the window. I don’t know how much he can see through that bubble wrap I put on the panes to keep out the cold, but he seems to be enjoying the view. He looked so dignified, I couldn’t resist snapping a gratuitous cat picture and posting it. 🙂
Days like this make me wish I had a big sunroom with a trombe wall to take advantage of the passive-solar heat. I’d stick a treadmill out there and run away my troubles in the sunshine.
Hope you’re staying warm, wherever you are.
It’s good to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle. But it’s even better to share your experiences with other people, because Madison Avenue is doing its best to convince people they need to consume more — of everything, from space to energy to food to material possessions — when most of us would be just as happy with a lot less. I think a lot of people know that, deep down, but they’re afraid to step outside their comfort zone and try a simpler life.
That’s why we participated in the Solar Home Tour in Tulsa a few years ago. It’s why I do this Eco-Saturday feature. It’s why I never, ever said no to anybody who wanted to interview us about our grid-tied solar power system at our old house, and I’ll never say no to anybody who wants to talk to me about anything I’m doing here to shrink our environmental footprint. And it’s why, a few weeks ago, I submitted some information and photos of our house to Lloyd Kahn, author of Tiny Homes, for a new Shelter Publications book he is doing about people who live in houses that are small but not tiny. If it’s as good as his other books, it should be a great resource for people looking to downsize without giving up creature comforts.
He emailed me back and asked me to get somebody to take pictures of Ron and me in our house to give readers an idea of how it looks with somebody actually living in it, so I swapped our awesome photo editor, Laura Simon, some beer and a bowl of green chile stew for a photo shoot one afternoon a couple of weeks ago. I don’t want to give away everything, just in case some of it ends up in the book, but I thought I’d share a few of the images she got.
If you’re not familiar with Kahn’s work, The Shelter Blog is a good place to start looking. Pick up a copy of Tiny Homes if you can. It’s a great source of inspiration and ideas, even if you’re not quite ready to commit to life in a micro-house.
What are you doing to shrink your footprint? Share your ideas. The more people we can get to take steps to live a more planet-friendly life, the better off we’ll all be.
I feel a creative outburst brewing, but I’ve got a nasty headache and feel too cruddy to do anything about it. I think I’ll just make myself a big cup of Sleepytime Extra and crash for a while. I’ve got a feeling Things will be Created when I wake. I feel amazingly awful, but it’s like storm-in-the-Texas-Panhandle awful — big and dark and dramatic, but way off in the distance, just between the clouds and the horizon, I can see a glimmer of light, and I know I’m going to drive out from under the storm and into this:
I’m gonna go drink this tea and take a nap so I can hurry up and get to the good part. Have a good night, wherever you are.
We ended up with about an inch and a half of snow overnight. It didn’t affect the roads much, so after we dropped Riggy off to have his teeth cleaned this morning at the vet’s office, we headed up to Ste. Genevieve to pick up some odds and ends from the Brew Haus and have lunch at the Anvil.
While we were there, I saw something I’d never noticed before:
I was a little reluctant to take my eyes off of it, because from a distance, it looked suspiciously like:
When we got back, we picked up new tags for the dogs and a new collar for Riggy and met a nice young man who was having a tag engraved with “MARRY ME” so he could put it on the puppy he was getting for his girlfriend. He said she told him she wanted a puppy and a ring, so he was getting her both on the same day.
After another errand or two, we went to the vet’s office to pick up Riggy, who was well and truly stoned from the anaesthetic. He cried on the way home because he hates riding in the car, but when we got to the Hardee’s drive-through to get him some chicken strips for dinner, he whimpered once or twice and then started literally nodding off:
Poor little Riggy. He enjoyed his chicken, though. He’s got some more waiting for him when he wakes up.
Y’all know how much I hate winter. I spent most of today trying to ignore it: making avocado-and-quail-egg sandwiches for brunch, starting a batch of yogurt in the Crock-Pot, picking up a couple of gallons of sweet cider at Rendleman’s Orchard, sanitizing the keg to ferment the cider (I will have a post on the glory of homemade hard cider in the not-too-distant future), installing plastic over the windows, finishing up the second Roman shade for the living room, and having dinner at the Pilot House, which we’d never been to before, and which we really enjoyed.
We’re fond of stopping at promising-looking roadhouses when we travel, and the Pilot House, which is tucked next to a little creek on one of the back roads to Jackson, was a nice find. It might be all of five miles from home, but it felt like the sort of place we’d stop on 66 or 61 or maybe the Lincoln Highway — sort of like the Elbow Inn or the Luna Cafe or that crazy place we found out near Middlegate, Nevada, on the Loneliest Road where they serve the “Monster Burger” with olives for eyes. They’ve got the wheel from a riverboat mounted on the ceiling above the bar, and the bar itself is covered with pennies embedded in resin or something. I had a ribeye sandwich that tasted exactly like a ribeye sandwich from a bar is supposed to taste, and Ron had a barbecue sandwich that I will almost certainly order next time we’re there.
They also had Stag on tap, which is invariably a good sign. Stag on tap at a roadhouse is like sweet tea at a barbecue joint or horchata at a taqueria: If they have it, you can safely assume you’re in good hands.
In the Southwest, xeriscaping is popular, as it involves planting only native and/or drought-tolerant species in your garden so you don’t end up draining every aquifer west of Amarillo in a misguided effort to keep some delicate green thing alive.
Here in the Midwest, I practice a variant I developed by accident, which I call “Darwin gardening.”
The original Darwin Garden was located in our backyard in Belleville, Illinois, and it happened by accident: I started with a neat garden divided into four-foot squares delineated with old bricks I’d found in the garage, with neat mulched paths between them, and by the time we left, my laziness and absolute refusal to coddle weak plants left me with an unruly but outrageously productive tangle of perennials and vigorous self-seeding annuals that included echinacea, parsley, Roman chamomile, chives, dill, sage, spinach, cilantro, mint, marjoram, oregano, carrots, blackberries, and waist-high collards that thought they were perennials.
The Darwin Garden wasn’t neatly manicured, but it was healthy, low-maintenance, and completely organic. When you let natural selection dictate your landscaping design, you don’t need pesticides, heavy watering or other environmentally questionable practices to keep your garden thriving. You also don’t need huge blocks of time to take care of your garden, because your plants will be sturdy enough to survive without constant coddling.
We have a similar garden here. When we moved in last year, I planted a small garden, watered it occasionally, and otherwise ignored it, knowing the fastest way to find out which plants were suited to the local growing conditions was to neglect them and see whether they survived.
A year into that experiment, I’ve got sage, strawberries, mint, basil and Shasta daisies that came up with no help from me, and next year’s arugula and cucumbers have already planted themselves.
If you’re a little bit concerned about the environment and a lot lazy, consider planting your own Darwin Garden. If you can tolerate the frustrations of that first year, you’ll find it pays big dividends in subsequent seasons.