December 18, 2014

I, Robot

Recently we had the annual Holiday Celebration and Anniversary event at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. I volunteer there and so usually am involved in this event. We started to offer pictures with Santa for young children and well behaved pets a couple of years ago and it has been a popular attraction for the park.

Usually I arrange for the photographer thru the Dona Ana Photography Club and we have a friend who volunteers his time as Santa. We ask for a small donation, which goes to the Friends Group to continue the good things they do for the park.

Things were a little different this year as there was a date/time mix up. As a result, our usually photographer was not available for the afternoon and our Santa’s helper was off knotting up a storm so we had to improvise and I ended up taking photographs and helping myself. No big deal but it made for a bit of a hectic time, especially when there were several families there at once. However, one family stands out in my mind.

There were two young boys, maybe 4 and 5, who were quiet but not afraid of Santa at all. They ran over to him, talked softly and both ended up sitting on his ample lap for the picture. When done, they ran over to their mother and i who were doing paperwork so I could send them the photo. The younger of the two boys noticed my leg and said something very softly that I could not hear in the large echo filled room. I asked him to repeat what he said and he replied “You have a robot leg” and smiled the kind of smile that makes you melt. I agreed with him and he happily went on his way.

I get a lot of young kids who stare at my prosthesis sometimes. I know it can be scary so I usually approach questions received very carefully. Yes I did once say I lost my leg in a shark attack but quickly corrected that. This boy was different. There was wonder and admiration and whimsy in his look and his voice. He made my day.

November 25, 2014

Monsoon Season

I have always liked weather. Some of my fondest memories of my kids growing up was sitting out on the back porch, listening and watching a New England thunderstorm come rolling in on one of those hot, humid days. It was a senses explosion, the sounds echoing through the valley, the sight of the sheets of rain approaching, the feel of the air changing as the rain brought cooler air, the smells of rain on the grass. We would sit and giggle and ooh and ahh until the flash of lightning was just a bit too close and we scurried into the house.

Here in the high desert of New Mexico, we have what is referred to as the “monsoon season”. It is a somewhat strange designation as growing up, we think of monsoons as this continuous rain cycle. Here in the desert, it is a 2 month (or so) period of increased likelihood of rain. When you only get 7-9 inches of rain per year, any increased likelihood is welcome!

I like to read the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) projections for weather patterns. They tend to be very accurate and this brings with it a sense of anticipation. It told us that this summer was going to be warmer in the southwest and we did get some record breaking heat. It then told us that our monsoon season would be a good one and I think by definition, good is good for us. The season starts right around the 2nd of July and lasts thru most of August. Traditionally we get maybe 80% or our rain for the year totals in this two month period. What we really get is spectacular thunderstorms.

There is some sameness to the way the thunderstorms come. The days get more humid (from a normal 10% humidity in June to 30-40% in July) while cooling just a bit. The sky is almost always cloudless early in the morning but by 10 am, they start to appear. By 2 pm or so, they thicken and some take on that dark, full of rain color and they get thicker and thicker. Because we are big sky country, many times you can see multiple storms at once. Also very evident is the virga, rain that falls from the clouds but does not reach the ground. These silky sheets can be seen everywhere.

When the rain actually starts, it begins as big drop, which leave half dollar size impressions on the roads and sidewalks. This, along with a huge increase of wind , signals that armageddon is about to start. Usually when it rains here, it pours. It can last 10 minutes, 30 minutes  maybe an hour. Roads flood, arroyos fill and many times people dance in the streets. Only occasionally do we get a soaking rain that lasts for more than an hour but again, every drop is welcome.

See more of Jim's incredible images at

This picture is by a friend, Jim Rodgers, who won a ribbon for it in the recent Photograph of the Year contest held by our camera club. It is titled “Oh, What a Night!”  To me it just represents the whole thunderstorm experience, from the multiple lightning strike to the virga in the desert. What a picture!

So, what is NOAA saying about this fall? Cooler (yes it has been), wetter (yes it has been) leading into a somewhat drier winter (this we shall see!)

October 8, 2014

Sounds of Silence

In a post not too long ago I talked about going to the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park and hearing and seeing the different birds in the garden there. Well recently I have been hearing more and different things.

People might call what I do meditation. I prefer to think of it as just slowing down and listening. When I arrive at the Park on Friday mornings, I like to go out near the garden to look and hear. I close my eyes and listen for the silence. If I concentrate I can just hear the sounds

-the buzz of the hummingbirds
-wind rustling the leaves of the cottonwoods
-a covey of quail calling their kids together
-far in the distance, some construction work

Well a few Fridays ago it was overcast and threatening. We have been having a nice monsoon season with frequent rain so the weather this day was not unexpected. I went out to the garden, closed my eyes and listened. In the distance there was the booms of thunder. The hummers were frantically filling up. The wind was really moving the cottonwood branches. Suddenly, I heard a sound, far away. It sounded at first like hands clapping but it was moving, I could hear it moving. It got a bit louder, a bit more frenetic, more intense. It got closer and soon was very close to where I was.

It was then that I recognized the sound of a drenching rain advancing on the area. The drops were hitting the ground and the trees and bushes and made almost a hissing sound.I turned and moved toward the visitors center about 25 yards away as the first drops hit the plaza bricks and by time i got to the door of the building, was very wet, almost soaked. I sat there in the doorway, watching the rain fall, feeling the coolness of the breeze

I was impressed…..

September 17, 2014

A Groundhog’s Day Redux

I wrote this several months ago but never posted it. Right now my leg is doing great but it was different at the end of the winter and thru most of the summer. I looked at this and read it over and decided to post it because it reflected a dark place where I was and no longer am. Here it is...

Did you ever get that feeling that you are trapped in a never ending life loop, seemingly repeating the same things over and over again? Welcome to my medical nightmare. By February it has been an issue for more than 2 months marked by doctor visits, referrals, more visits, referrals without getting any sort of solution. However this month marked a breakthrough in which a problem has been identified and remedied. Now we just wait to see the results.

So in summary, vein ablation, infection, partial healing, infectious disease referral, IV antibiotics. Well, this did not do the trick either and the infection was still present. My ID doctor then referred me to a vein specialist, a different one than the one who did the original surgery. I saw him on a Friday when he opened up the wound a bit and saw an infected end of a vein. It seems the ablation did not get rid of all the vein tissue and it festered and kept the infection and abscess going. As March came roaring in, I had surgery to remove the piece of vein and underlying infected tissue.

A note on anesthesia. I love it. As I lay on the table in the OR I remember the anesthesiologist saying “this will take about 30 seconds” and I remember starting to count and got to five when I awoke in recovery. Although I will never get that 90 minutes back, they can have it I am glad not to remember a thing.

So now I have a golf ball hole size hole in my leg, or rather had one. For the past two weeks I have been on a wound vac which sucks out all the yucky stuff and forces the leg tissue together to heal. Except for carrying around this small appliance wherever I go, it has not been too problematic.

Blogger’s note: Well the wound vac worked and all that is left now is a small indentation in my leg. There were a couple of setbacks along the way and I was not able to get into the pool this summer until just a couple of weeks ago. I am finally feeling that things are getting back to normal.

One final note - the Southwest Photographic Symposium I have been organizing takes place this Saturday and all the major work has been done. People in the club have stepped up and done a great job in organizing and volunteering and I expect it will go off without too many problems. What will be nice is getting a part of my life back, free of symposium worry and angst. The next month will be busy but recreational. A trip to Santa Fe and a 4 day outing at the Southwest Rendezvous, a photographers get together. Looking forward to both.

July 3, 2014

Home and Home Away From Home

As we relocated to New Mexico we came to the belief that we wanted to live in a city again. It had been about 30 years since we had lived in THE city (NYC for the uninformed) and really missed the conveniences of city life. Here in Las Cruces we are minutes from all the amenities - restaurants, movies, doctors, desert, mountains, museums and the like. However, not everything is peaches and cream. We are about 100 feet from a main road and so traffic, motorcycles, police cars, fire trucks, trains and the like. Therefore there are those intrusive sounds all the time. It does not help that Nelson has taken to howling at the sirens either. It really does not bother us but is very different than our former life in Massachusetts. We deal because it is our home.

Every since we visited Las Cruces for the first time, The Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, has been maybe my favorite place in town. The biggest reason that I have for liking the State Park is the solitude. It is just so quiet and peaceful. Such a reversal of where we live and lived. I work at the park on Friday mornings at the visitor center and I feel like an ambassador of the park. Frequently when I first arrive, I take my coffee and sit out by the native plant garden. In the last 3 Fridays, here is what I have seen and heard.

-a group of bullock orioles, calling each other and moving from hummingbird feeder to feeder
-several mockingbirds imitating every other bird in the garden
-the constant buzz of hummingbirds approaching the feeders. Sometimes they fly so close to my head, I swear I can feel the air move as they pass
- a mated pair of quails, running round the garden eating seeds
-a covey of quail, 2 adults and 9 youngsters doing the same thing
-a roadrunner, trying to get some quail babies for lunch, being screamed at and chased off by the two quail parents, who were puffed up to 2-3 times their normal size
-a mockingbird building a nest in the honeysuckle vine
-a family of phoebes preparing to fledge at the urging of their parents, because they were now too big for the nest
-two rabbits checking out the garden for some greens.
-two swallow nests brimming with babies, waiting for their next meal to swoop in.

This all beats firetrucks and motorcycles anytime.

June 15, 2014

My Dad

Just a quick thought...

I don't have a lot of personal pictures of my dad. We have some old ones on the wall here in our home, and I have a bunch of his 75th birthday party but that is about it. One day recently I found this program called "Lost Photo" which scans your hard drive and finds photos that are not in the usual places and I came across this photograph. I worked on it a bit and posted it to Facebook. I like it because it is 3 generations in one shot. Here are the color and the B&W version of it.

June 2, 2014


In my last post, I mentioned telling you about an experience at the Lake Valley Cemetery. The graves are on the opposite side of the main road past the ghost town and a friend mentioned that it was a necessity to see it. Many old gravestones including Lake Valley residents who died in the Civil War are there. The approach road was a bit difficult to drive and as we turned onto it, we could see a rather large group of people in the cemetery. At first I thought it was some kind of tour but when we got closer we realized it was something else.

This group was a family, an extended family, and they were standing and sitting near a grave site. In the middle was an older, hispanic man, sitting in a chair and playing the guitar. As we parked, the group, which include this man and his wife, several other adults and a number of younger children, began to move toward the exit. This older man walked right next to our car and I could not resist talking to him, asking him who he was singing to. I am going to put the next part in quotes just to represent that these were his words. They are not exact. He spoke with a fairly thick accent which made him difficult to understand at times but I believe that I got the gist of what he was saying. He began…

“I was playing for my father. He lived in Lake Valley his entire life. For the last several years we, my family, have come to his grave on Memorial weekend. I play him some of his own songs that were his favorites. Then I played some of his songs that were my favorites. He was blind the last 15 years of his life but he still liked to play and write songs that he sung to us. He used to use a cassette recorder to tape his songs for us so that we will always have them. Now we are headed to Hillsboro for a family reunion.”

At this point, his wife stepped in and in true New Mexico fashion, invited us to attend the reunion with them. She was holding one of her grandchildren as she talked to us. Here was present a 3 generation family remembering their patriarch, inviting us to be a part of it.

I was moved, so moved that I needed a couple of minutes to gather myself before leaving. I couldn't go into the cemetery to take any pictures because I felt like I would be trespassing on their memorial. Besides, my eyes were watery and I never would have been able to focus the camera.

When we got to Hillsboro, we were driving around and stumbled upon the the high school on the end of one of those horrible roads. The families’ 3 cars that were at the cemetery, were there, along with several others. We did not go to the reunion, I felt that we would be trespassing on their memories. Besides they had already given me a great deal.