Books – And Where to Put Them

I’ve always had books – possessed books. Some I have yet to read but it is reassuring to know that I can read them. Other things get in the way. I know that’s a little odd but I’m sure I’m not the only one with this affliction. Now, I have a goodly share of books and when I go to the library I stop by the “free books” cart and often bring home one or two more. I went to the American Library Association (ALA) convention in Las Vegas a couple years ago and came home with sixty-five books….most being advance reader copies. Some of those became best sellers. By the way – I heartily recommend the ALA convention for anyone who likes books or is interested in the world of publishing.

About four years ago, when I was down-sizing and selling my house in the Midwest, I went through my book collection and disposed of several boxes of books and also several large bookcases. It was going to cost me a dollar per pound to move my stuff 1,000 miles to the desert so I was pretty ruthless in getting rid of some of my belongings. I was surprised that some books were too precious to dispose of even though I had read them years before and would not read them again. There was some sort of bond between me and these books. Who possessed who?

Now that I’m in a smaller space, storage is an important issue. I have five or six short bookcases – small, squatty and portable things dispersed in several rooms so that now I can’t find anything when I want it. I have a couple boxes of books in the garage that never found a place on a shelf. So here I am looking for a better solution.

I built myself an office – essentially converting part of an unused porch into a bright and cheery “Green Room” — and I spend most of my time there. The sliding glass door opens to the rear portal of my house and I frequently have Roadrunners or desert cottontails looking in. It has a brick floor, my vintage craftsman library desk, Windsor desk chair, a wicker reading chair and foot stool, and a functional (but unsatisfactory) short bookcase. You know the type – the folding bookcase that you buy at Target stores or at Wal-Mart. So, I’m looking for something bigger and permanent that fits into this somewhat eclectic, but small, office space.

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I’ve started noticing bookcases in other people’s homes. Are they organized in a certain way? Do they seem private or open to visitors? Are they displaying books or storing books? What else do they have besides books? How big are the bookcases and do they have more than one? A friend had a carpenter come in and install a wall of polished walnut bookcases in the living room – a built-in and permanent feature. She has all sorts of things on display, including books, art objects and a framed letter from Queen Elizabeth II. As a collector myself, I can imagine putting things out on display and I seldom take a walk without carrying something back home. But a display case is not really what I’m looking for in this instance.

As the family historian, I have five three-ring binders of family material. I’ve been bouncing around in genealogical circles long enough that people contact me about one thing or another and those binders are packed in a box in the garage and not readily available. I have outdoor and gardening books, field guides, fishing books, design and architecture books, art and photography books of every shape and size. People give me books as Christmas or birthday presents. Most of my current collection is history books and biographies – some over 100 years old. It’s not going to be easy making sense of this.

I went to look at Architectural Digest magazine…I usually have four or five lying around. That was pretty fruitless because I’m obviously not the AD type – or at least my little office isn’t. My crazy collection would not be very appealing to the eye. My next step is to go ransack a few antique stores to see what they might have.

Books are like friends in a way. You want them to be comfortable and have a permanent place in your home. I’ll let you know how this comes out – any suggestions are welcome.

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Holy Dirt – The Adobe Churches of Northern New Mexico

Brick and Stone: Architecture and Preservation

I just returned from a trip to Colorado through northern New Mexico. This was nothing new; I’ve been that way before and have fallen in love with that part of the state. There is an ageless beauty to the landscape and a gracious spirit among the people living in the small towns and villages. Some families go back 400 years in the same community. New Mexico is the fifth largest state – bigger than Illinois and New York combined – but has only two million residents, mostly living in or around the Santa Fe – Albuquerque area. That means that the rest of the state is sparsely populated and change comes slowly – when it comes.

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I was not on a tight schedule during my recent trip so I wandered a bit. That just whetted my appetite to see what is up in the next valley or around the bend. I will have to go…

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Discovering Places – Georgia O’Keeffe Country

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I’m spending a fall week in southern Colorado and drove up north out of the Albuquerque area through Georgia O’Keeffe’s stomping grounds in northern New Mexico. I have never seen it more beautiful.

Georgia O’Keeffe lived in Abiquiu, New Mexico, for almost forty of years and was inspired by the surroundings. Here’s an example of one of her paintings from the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe….a view of Pedernal Mountain, one of her favorite landscape subjects.

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Abiquiu is a tiny village north of Espanola. There’s not much there and there was probably less back in the 1940s when O’Keefe bought a house there for her home and studio. She moved there permanently in 1949. The parish church, Santo Tomas el Apostol, is most notable today.  The church was established in the 1700s but the current building dates to the 1930s, built in the old colonial mission style.  Visitors need advance arrangements to visit O’Keeffe’s home and studio and I will do that on a future trip.

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Abiquiu offers an interesting perspective on old Spanish colonial life in northern New Mexico. It was the starting point for one of the trading routes between New Mexico and California. There are still artists and galleries scattered around the village.

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The Rio Chama flows through the valley and was dressed in beautiful yellows and gold of autumn. Rio Chama is one of the major trout streams of northern New Mexico.

O’Keeffe first came to New Mexico in 1929 and stayed in Taos with Mabel Dodge Luhan, who hosted a number of writers and artists. She bought a Model A Ford in 1929 and began exploring northern New Mexico and eventually discovered Ghost Ranch a few miles north of Abiquiu. She acquired a house at Ghost Ranch in 1940 and spent much of her time there until finally moving to the renovated adobe home and studio in Abiquiu. Georgia O’Keeffe used the colorful hills and cliffs of Ghost Ranch as subjects of many of her landscapes. Today Ghost Ranch operates as a retreat, nature and educational center.

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Pedernal, the prominent flat-topped mountain, dominates the horizon west of Ghost Ranch and dominates several of O’Keeffe’s paintings. She never seemed to get tired of it. The shapes and colors are highlighted by the bright light and clear skies of New Mexico, the changing seasons, and shadows of sunrise and sunset.

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Perdenal makes an interesting subject and creeps into the horizon even from a distance.

This was my second visit to the area since my initial trip back in 1979 or 1980. That trip was also in October but I don’t remember being awestruck by the beauty of the area. As I recall, we were on a tight schedule. Georgia O’Keefe was still living in Abiquiu at that time. She lived to be almost 100 and was in failing health and losing her eyesight beginning in 1972. She hired a helper in 1973 (Juan Hamilton) who became her companion and business manager. When she couldn’t paint any longer, Hamilton, himself a potter, helped her take up ceramics and sculpture for a while. Her health declined further and she moved to Santa Fe in 1984. She died in 1986 at age 98.

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(Todd Webb photo – c. 1961)

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My “Never Trump” Vote Dedication

I see that there is trend developing for people to dedicate their vote to stop Donald Trump…their “Never Trump” vote… to someone or some ideal or value that his presidency would put in jeopardy.

In my case, I dedicate my “Never Trump” vote to my wonderful daughter who brings life values and learning to so many children as a children’s librarian. Her dedication to her work in a relatively low income and mixed bilingual Hispanic community in Albuquerque’s South Valley is an inspiration to me and others. Her encounters with small children asking whether Trump will make them and their families leave the country is heartbreaking.

I would further dedicate my vote to the thousands of Hispanic families living in my community who work hard in a challenging economy and strive every day to raise happy, bright and healthy children. I’ve never lived in a community that is so family oriented and it is a very positive thing when there are negative forces in society trying to pull families apart. Many, or most, of these families have been living here in New Mexico since the 1600s. Many of those worried children’s families have been here for generations before Trump  was  born.

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(Dia de la Muerte, Marigold Parade…South Valley)

 

 

The Poplar Tree

It’s a windy day, blue and sunny.

I have a head cold and sit in the sun

hoping to bake it out of my skull.

The sun tries its best with warming rays.

But the wind intervenes. It’s October.

The warm days of summer are behind me

and I pull on a sweater.

 

I can still feel the heat of the sun even

with the autumn wind.

Almost dozing, I surrender to the present…

the sun, the wind, the sounds, and the smells…

I have a chicken boiling in the pot. Soup is in my future.

I see the treetops swaying in the wind.

That takes me back to other windy days.

 

Years, a lifetime,  ago there was a singular

Poplar tree on the edge of a forgotten cornfield;

abandoned with old stubble and rabbit tracks,

and sometimes snakes when the weather was right.

That tree – not an old rigid tree – was

almost thirty feet tall and straight and strong

but still flexed nimbly in the wind.

 

The Poplar came equipped with low branches

perfect for an eight-year-old to climb.

An Adventurer, a Sailor, a Flying Wallenda!

It could be anything but on windy days

it was a Pirate ship and I was up in the rigging

swaying back and forth as the ship bounded

through the waves.

 

Squinting toward the horizon,

I search for unsuspecting Galleons full of treasure;

full of spices, gold, jewels and who knows what else.

Maybe even a damsel or two?

Yo-Ho and Ahoy!! Avast me hearties!!

Hold fast and turn her about! What do I spy?

It’s my mother – the chicken soup is ready.

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Discovering Places — El Rancho de los Golondrinas

Brick and Stone: Architecture and Preservation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEl Rancho de los Golindrinas  (Ranch of the Swallows) is a living history preserve just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It recreates life in New Mexico back 150 years ago…or maybe more. Structures at El Rancho are original to the site or were moved there from other places in northern New Mexico. In some instances the buildings are replicas of existing or former structures…you can’t easily move an adobe building.

Life was simple. People farmed, raised livestock, were religious, were largely self sufficient, were law-abiding, and they understood their role in the larger community. They were also isolated and took care of one another.

I visited El Rancho de los Golondrinas in early October during their Harvest Festival, one of several events…and the last one of the year. This is one of the top-rated Harvest Festivals in the country and there were a lot of other visitors as well as…

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