Trumpet flower calls

and the hummingbird responds

the moon sees it all

This has been quite a year for hummingbirds. I can’t guess how many I have around the house…and almost in the house.  They are a marvel and a joy to watch but this year, with all of our rain, we have a lot more than usual. It’s getting sort of ‘ho-hum’ in some respects. Where I moved from we had only one variety. If it was a hummingbird it would be a Ruby Throated Hummingbird…period.  Here, in the New Mexico desert, we have four or five types and I still can’t identify them after two years of trying.

If I sit outside on the front or back portal it won’t be long before I have a visitor. One visitor brings another and then there is an aerial acrobatic fussing match. The little hummers are very territorial or else I must be regarded as something of a prize to be fought over.

I have a Trumpet Vine in the front courtyard that climbs up a pueblo-style ladder on the wall. In previous years, under earlier owners, it just laid on the ground more like a ground cover but I built the ladder and now it is upright and is Grand Central Station for hummers. There are also Mexican Bird of Paradise and a Desert Willow trees in the courtyard  that bloom all summer and attract hummingbirds.  I have a large goldfish pond with large water lilies but that seems to be the domain of the dragonflies. I’ve never seen a hummer go to a water lily.

Watson, my cat, enjoys snoozing on the portals and must birds will make a fuss about it if they are close by and he is roaming around or even just lying quietly. The hummers don’t seem to mind and I don’t think they even notice him. He’s fifteen years old and is a slow mover so they think he’s part of the geography. He sees them but doesn’t quite know what to make of them — he’s accepted them, too. “Live and let live” is his motto…unless you are a bug.

Some birds seem to be front yard hummers and some are backyard hummers. One of my backyard birds needs a lube job because it sounds like one of his bearings is going out. He makes a high-pitched metallic clicking sound when he flies.  Maybe he is actually a drone and I am under close government surveillance. They say the military has perfected small drones that can pass as hummingbirds……nah, there’s nothing to see here.

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Procrastination and New Mexico Time


We are now past the Ides of August and heading into a new season. The monsoon season is still with us but should be winding down. The kids are back at school in many if not most places. Vacations are winding down. I’ve been procrastinating with just about everything this summer and haven’t managed to get anything done. With my recent birthday I took a few minutes to consider how much I haven’t been living up to my activity plan. I moved here two years ago with the intention of becoming more active and getting out and about more. Instead I’ve been going the other direction. Part of that was my crazy affliction and reaction to the statin drug I was taking. That is mostly gone so I can’t blame that anymore.

I have a house project that has been going on for a year. I enclosed a portion of my rear ‘portal’ (AKA a porch if you are not from NM) and turned it into a sunroom/dayroom/office/whatever room. It is a bright and cheery place and I enjoy being there….maybe too much. I lost whatever momentum I had to get the job done. The new room had only one electric receptacle since it was once an outside space. I had extension cords and surge protectors running around the wall as well as the satellite cable TV cord and it looked like spaghetti so I decided to do something about it. Or, maybe I would contact an electrician and see about maybe doing something about it. Well, I called an electrician on Monday to see about getting two additional receptacles put in. I figured, this being New Mexico, the electrician would maybe be able to come by the end of the week or maybe next week.  I remember that it took me three different attempts to get a plumber to come to the house last year and two didn’t return my calls.  But, Holy Smoke, the electrician was available and coming Tuesday morning at 9 AM…the next day! I was in shock.

Well, he and his buddy showed up on Tuesday before 9 AM and had the job done by 11 AM. It was well done and looks great and they cleaned up everything before they left. It was inspirational. One phone call and in less than 18 hours the job was done. How can this be???

My next task is to get the brick floor laid in the room which will raise the floor slightly (a good thing) and finish off the project. I already talked to the installer guy and have the estimate for that so maybe I can get that job taken care of as well. I’ve been to the brickyard and have several possible brick colors to decide on. I think I can get this done. I’ll call him tomorrow.


There is something about New Mexico that lulls you into a sliding time management mode. “New Mexico Time” is sort of a joking way to put it but it isn’t always funny. Every day is much like the last and tomorrow will be much like today. If you expect someone to do something for you it might not happen right away…but it will get done, eventually. When I was getting the patio door installed for my new room I made the initial contact with the (well recommended) home improvement carpenter in April. It was an easy two-day job…no problem. He got it done the last week of September.

There has been a road improvement project over in Bernalillo that was supposed to be finished in November 2013 (I think) but was still going on a year later and is just recently finished. The contractor was being fined for each day he missed the deadline but that total fine would be subject to negotiation at a later date…sometime. Meanwhile, there were follow-on projects with other contractors that were to start as the first one finished but they were delayed except that sometimes they would seem to get started but then stop for a while. The projects are stretching out to be a lifetime career. By the time they get everything done it will be time to start over.

There is even a sort of casualness about obligations of work and school. This is the only place I’ve been where there are public service announcements on TV saying that it’s not cool to bail out on work or school just because you don’t feel like going today.

Maybe I’m adjusting to the local time zone in my procrastination. I need to get back on track because I have things I want to do.

Inner Sanctum

Today is my birthday and I’ve been in sort of an reflective mood. I think we should have birthday resolutions instead of new year resolutions. I have a few things I need to consider as I move forward into my sixty-eighth year. The doctor wants me to get more exercise…OK, I’ll try. My health is getting better after a strange reaction to a statin drug that left me barely able to walk and I’m getting up to about three miles a day on average. I’m feeling that I can start getting out again to do some hiking and fishing.  I also need to become more socially connected so I’ll be working on that. Maybe a new volunteer spot would accomplish some of that.

In reflecting, I’ve been thinking about the difference between faith and religion. Fair warning. You may want to stop reading here. Really.

I am a religious person, in my own way. I am a member of a strict, conservative protestant Christian denomination. I didn’t say “I belong” to it…as some would say. I’m unsure about belonging. It implies ownership in one sense and also, in another sense, acceptance. I have my differences with church dogma but I keep them to myself. I am comfortable with that. People marvel at the fact that I am a member of such a strict and conservative denomination because I am generally liberal in most things. I feel that this dogma is all mans’ creation and it is flawed from the start and I have no problem overlooking or side-stepping the flaws.  I prefer a traditional worship service. Banjos, drums and electric guitars have a place but not in a church service…in my opinion.  But that’s my preference…others might like it.

I moved across the country about two years ago away from my home of almost forty years and the church I attended for over thirty years. My move meant that I needed to find a new church. I am surprised at how difficult this has been. When you are used to a church and attended services for three decades everything else seems quite alien, even if it is the same denomination and they use the same general service format. It’s like wearing someone else’s shoes — it doesn’t feel right.  I visited several churches and was not particularly happy with any of them. Some seemed downright unfriendly and unwelcoming. I finally settled on one (settled is probably the correct word) and transferred my membership but it is quite alien in many ways. It was the best of the bunch but it’s about a 30 minute drive so I try to get there once or twice a month. I’m OK with that.

I like to visit churches and I do visit churches when I’m on vacation. Where I live now there are some very old mission churches dating back to the 17th century. In Peru I visited the massive cathedrals in Cusco and in Lima.  When I was in Italy I made the rounds to a number of important churches. I attended a wedding at a sacred shrine built on the spot where a miracle took place. I may be Protestant but these old Catholic churches carry some weight in my own religious values. The double basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is one example. The duomo in Florence, St. Marks in Venice, St. Peters in Rome and Milan’s cathedral all are impressive as sacred spaces. They are no more sacred than the little provincial church or the pueblo mission church but they are very ornate and grab our attention. Surprisingly to me, the one place that I had the most intense spiritual connection was not a huge cathedral or basilica. It was an ancient 5th century church, or temple, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel in Perugia in Umbria.

My thought on religion is that it is a very personal thing. God is largely unknowable but we do the best we can. The popular concept of God is one created in man’s image. We often view God as a domesticated animal out in the barn where we get butter, pork chops and eggs. We are aghast and befuddled when God breaks out of the barn and stampedes through the house or destroys the crops.

In recent months I’ve been disappointed by the reaction of many church leaders — including mine — to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. I was more than disappointed…I was livid. I decided to wait a few days and give it some thought. I was still livid. My church and many others are very busy driving people away and then wonder why the pews are empty on Sunday morning. It treats women as second-class believers. I can remember when women were first allowed to vote in church affairs — not all that long ago in my church — maybe 50 years.

(It’s not too late to turn back…)

For years religious zealots have been proclaiming the need for a national solution to the “problem” of Gay Marriage. They pursued various avenues but the Supreme Court was where they finally got their chance. They all waited for the hammer to drop — the final authority would surely side with them.  Well, it went the other way. Then they were squealing with all sorts of absurd arguments and scenarios. The Federal Government and the Supreme Court have usurped states’ rights!!! What fools these mortals be.

Think back. Contrast the hateful tirade and venom coming from “religious” people to the loving forgiveness and faith of the congregation at Charleston’s  Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after the shootings. They are on two different planets….one of faith and love and the other of religious dogma, bigotry, and fear.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you up there in paragraph two.

Well, as I turn my attention to my birthday cake, I’m thankful to have another year to figure this stuff out.  Maybe I need to work on my curmudgeonry this year as well.

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A Special Kind of Sorrow

Cole_Owens_crA young friend, Cole Owens, passed out of this world on Monday. He was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer at age five, just after arriving in Kindergarten. I remember him well at that stage because we were all together on that Labor Day at his grandma’s house. He was a little dynamo….a bundle of energy. He was so healthy and active that one would never guess that there was anything wrong.

His journey took nine years but was not always uphill. There were times when he was cancer-free and things looked good. But the shadow always returned. He made it through school in those early years but was often in and out of treatment. He managed to be a star of the soccer team and his friends flocked to him. He was the bright and shining face in class. It seemed like he never had a bad day.

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Maybe he knew his time was short because he had such a joy for living. He became a local celebrity and an inspiration to many. His single mom was his champion. Together they faced every dragon and won more times than they lost. He made it to through middle school but the future looked cloudy. Doctors were not seeing what they hoped for. His last year was spent away from home and his school friends but he kept in close contact. Some friends travelled halfway across the country to be with him and he was well enough to enjoy their time together. There were good times at football games and a short trip here and there when he was feeling good. His liver was the problem; that and the vicious side effects of cancer treatment.


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His smile and his spirit sustained his mom and gave her hope. He took a strong interest in his treatment and the doctors and nurses who were trying to save him. They sought out the best treatment they could find. Cancer treatments have a devastating effect on children. Their young bodies can’t handle such powerful medications, chemotherapy and surgeries. They can suffer as much from the cure as the affliction. Most cancer research is focused on adult cures and medications and the kids can’t handle some of that.

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After nine years the horizon closed in. You can only do so much. He got to do things and meet people most kids dream of. His visit with his hero, Jimmy Fallon, was a special time. There is a long list of people who supported and prayed for his recovery. In the end the light goes out of your heart as sadness, waiting in the shadows, envelops all who knew him.

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There is a saying that “…it’s not the years in the life but the life in the years that counts” Maybe so…but it is still so hard to say goodbye.