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.

May 31, 2014

A Sunday Drive

I have mentioned in the past that growing up, our family had the tradition of the Sunday Drive and that we continue this even still to this day. Here ( and I mention our drives to Deming and City of Rocks. Well, recently we packed up some water, doggie treats, doggies and headed out for a day trip to Lake Valley, NM. Our primary goal was to see the ghost town there but we ended up seeing, feeling and experiencing a lot more. Let me explain.

After a quick highway drive to Hatch, where the 10 am line for green chile cheeseburgers was already outside the door, we got off the beaten path and drove some less travelled paths to Lake Valley. We passed a large solar energy farm and then came to a wind farm. I was not aware that these were here so it was a nice feeling to see some renewable energy being created.

When we arrived at Lake Valley, it was impossible to miss the ghost town, situated on the side of some small hills, presenting itself to the road. We went inside the gate and proceeded to drive around. Before leaving, we made a stop at the Lake Valley cemetery and had an experience which I will detail in my next post.

(Photographers note: This is a nice place for picture making but it is difficult to do so with two dogs in the car who would jump out and wander if given the chance and who would bark at everything that moves - people, leaves, birds, dust, etc. Thus I only took a few pictures which I will post at the end of this piece.)

We then continued on our way up to Hillsboro, taking a nice drive on a winding, hilly (Mrsfabp’s favorite type) road, where we saw lots of nice springtime desert flowers. 

Upon arrival there, I was in for a bit of a shock. Yes, it is a small town, I expected that. Yes there was not much going on, I expected that. Outside of Main Street, the roads there were treacherous. That I didn’t expect. Main street is paved but that is the only pavement in town. We drove some of the side streets to see some of the ruins there but the roads themselves were ruins. I doubt ancient Rome’s roads were worse. These Hillsboro roads (and I use that word loosely) were rut filled, hilly, rock strewn disasters. A 4 wheel drive would have been more appropriate that a PT Cruiser. It was amazing to say the least.

The day was winding down, we were hungry and so a stop at Sparky’s in Hatch was in order. When we arrived, the line was out the door and around the corner of the parking lot. But that did not stop us. We ordered and waited...and waited...and waited but it was all worth it when our number was called and the food delivered. We grabbed it and went to a local park where we feasted on green chile cheeseburger, pulled pork burrito and green chile cheese fries. The fries were loved by man and dogs alike.

A quick drive home and our day’s adventure was complete.

Now some photographs:

Old schoolhouse, now the Lake Valley Museum

Old building foundation

Lizard Rock up behind the schoolhouse

May 21, 2014

All Aboard!

I like trains, no doubt about it. As a kid we used to take the subway into NYC. We had a train set in our basement that provided many hours of fun. When we had our own children we took them on many train rides - Conway NH and Lancaster PA to name a couple. When we first moved to New mexico, one of our early highlights was taking the Rail Runner Express up thru Albuquerque to Santa Fe. I like trains.

Recently when taking a couple of photography classes, the professor mentioned an abandoned Southern Railyard up in Hurley, NM, near Silver City. When we planned a little getaway to Silver City, a stop in Hurley was a necessity, which we did.

First, a couple of notes about Hurley. There was/is a town in Wisconsin named Hurley, a mining town. Well it seems that many of the inhabitants decided back in beginning of the 20th Century to move to New Mexico because of the new industry there, copper mining. They settled in a small community, one square mile in size, and worked the mines. And yes, there in an abandoned railroad repair yard there.

We visited the town for a couple of hours and I took a set of pictures. They are in black and white because I felt that this lent itself to the feelings of abandonment and solitude so prevalent there. Hope you enjoy them.

Yard station
Two abandoned engines
Shock spring - the yard was strewn with them
Cooling vents
Drive wheels and engines
Old water tower

April 1, 2014

A New Start

When January rolls around, there is sometimes a sense of nostalgia for the good old days. I wonder if it is part of the mourning the passage of time, or fear of the unknown or just another Hallmark Moment that has been ingrained into society’s psyche. None the less, January 1st came and went and Las Cruces life for this northeastern transplant has become busier and busier, with a side of medical mischievousness thrown in.

At this point, I have taken on the role of Photography Club President. I have a really good board behind me and a really good club in front of me. My task however is a bit of a difficult  one. In one word, it is CHANGE. When I joined back in May of 2012 we had about 50 members. Since then we have tripled that number. We are looking to become a not for profit organization which will require a bit of work, including rewriting bylaws and procedures, drafting a budget and planning for the new year. One goal I set for myself was to increase the club’s exposure in the community and we have been hard a work about that (more on that effort later). We even have changed our name from Camera Club to Photography Club.

In actually, all this is a lot of fun for me. I earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work like 200 years ago but never really used the organizational, leadership and policy skills I learned in the jobs I had. Now however, they come in very handy. Everything from putting together a symposium to running a regular meeting falls under that umbrella.

Speaking of umbrellas, life always throws us a couple of storms to see how we handle adversity, stress and unexpected changes and January for me was filled with storms, medical ones. In late December I had some minor (haha) surgery, a vein ablation, to help with swelling in my leg. Well, it immediately got infected and the merry-go-round started with my going to the Wound Clinic here in town. It seemed to be improving size wise but there also was an inordinate amount of drainage (I will go no further in description lest the TMI police issue me a summons ((TMI = too much information))). In digging further (pun intended) the doctor found a large abscess under the wound and doing a culture found a highly resistant bacteria. A referral to an infectious disease doctor identified this as a bacteria that is resistant to every and all oral antibiotics known to man. At this point I was put on an IV antibiotic, after the expected insertion of a PICC line. This was to last 6 weeks without a resolution but soon there will be help on the way. Check in on my next post.

No January pictures but my next post will finish the infectious story of my health and show a nice picture or two.

March 13, 2014

November turns to December

For many people (most perhaps?) December is the beginning of the Holiday Stress Olympics. The closer one gets to the finish line, the higher the stress levels, until they start to take over peoples lives. One only has to look at Black Friday with its fights, shootings, trampling of people, at the big box stores to see what I mean

Years ago, Mrs. Penguin and I gave up on the stress. The kids were older and so we scaled back on the holidays in general, in order to avoid the Himalayan stress levels. When the kids were home, we cooked together, relaxed and enjoyed each others company. Moving to New Mexico necessitated changing our approach but still held the goal of stress free holidays.We miss the kids and talk with them on the holiday but it is not quite the same as being all together. Gives us something to work on.

For the third time in New Mexico we celebrated Thanksgiving with friends. Everyone contributed food and so stress was minimal for everyone (at least I think it was). There was no Black Friday for us and Saturday was spent at the State Park enjoying the atmosphere.

Early December produces its own brand of stress and drama for me. I was taking over as president of the Camera Club and had the headaches of transitioning new people, new roles and new policies and procedures. After a few weeks, this settled down and countdown to Christmas was at hand.

There was the Choral Holiday Concert that our friend Karen participates in and as usual, it was a spirit lifting event. However, for the first time since moving to Las Cruces, missing our kids became an everyday buzzkill. Redditboy was scheduled to come just after the holidays but the thoughts of just hanging out with him and MillieJupiter, cooking, laughing and just enjoying each others company seemed harder this year than in the past couple. So despite the lack of stress, spirits were a bit low. Even with the Camera Club annual holiday get together, things remained a bit off center

To top it all off, I had some minor surgery just before Christmas and the consequences and issues persist to today. Nothing like a little medical mayhem to put a stamp on the holiday package.

Next up, January, medical backflow, camera club updates and such. But until then, a few photographs...

Early in December we went to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Sanctuary for a little holiday get together. There were luminarias, hot cocoa, singing and just a time away from the stress of the holidays

This was the roaring fire that kept us warm all evening long!

February 9, 2014

Where have I been? Where am I now? Where am I going?

Keep this date in mind, August 25th, 2013. Before last week, that had been the last time I posted in my blog, a short 5 months ago. Totally unacceptable. A lot has gone on in my life during that time and so I thought i would take a post or several to update, commiserate and investigate, the world around me here in sunny New Mexico.

We traveled a bit this summer, a wedding in Colorado, a couple of National Parks, Taos and Santa Fe. We even slipped in a trip to Albuquerque in early November. However, the busiest time of this period began in early September. I was helping the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park plan for two  November events, a Native American Marketplace and then the Park’s anniversary/holiday gathering. The Marketplace was a big success but had all of us at the park on edge for most of the last 6 weeks. I was working with Native American business students from NMSU and their professor which turned out to be very similar to herding cats. By the end of the month, I was helping out at the park planning for the Holiday Gathering and the Park’s 5th Anniversary.

While all this was going on, I decided to run and was elected president of the Dona Ana Camera Club for 2014. Up until now, we have been a club but we are going to seek 501 c 3 Federal Non-Profit status which requires us to move more toward being an organization. I had two thoughts about this. First is I don't want to lose the feel of the club and secondly we need to do more education in the community. Our Symposium this past September was a huge success but we also need to continue our outreach to the community at large. In my 2 + years in the club, we have grown from about 50 members to about 150 members and I expect to keep growing and reaching out to more people. We are right now, the largest camera club in southern New Mexico so we continue to have a lot to be proud about but also have the pressure to continue our growth and outreach.

And now a few pictures:
Cliff Dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park

Native American dancer at The Marketplace event at Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park
Mural painter on Rt. 66 in Albuquerque 

Ms. Penguin reading a Santa book at the Holiday Gathering

January 30, 2014


I've been missing writing my blog for a while and was determined to get back to it. However like any good procrastinator, there were always a whole lot of reasons why this was not possible.

Too busy? My Facebook wanderings beg otherwise.

Writers block? Tell that to the hundreds of emails, facebook posts and reports I have written in last several months. I don’t think so.

Working on photography stuff? Again the proof is in the pudding or lack thereof.

Waiting until I migrate the blog to a different website? Dude, the regular site is fine for now and even if I post many more posts before the move, it will all move with me. Stop procrastinating, please.

The straw that broke the camel's back came yesterday however. I was looking to see what were the last few posts on the blog and made a somewhat startling and thoroughly embarrassing discovery. In 2010, I wrote over 160 posts or about one every other day. In 2011 it was 83 posts or about 1.5 per week. By 2012 it had fallen to 38 or bit more that one every two weeks. This lead me to the disaster called 2013 with 16 posts or a bit better than one per month.

Did I finally run out of things to say. Oh come on, I don't even believe that. 

Did I get lazy or too attached to the Banal Facebook spell? Moving in the right direction. 

Did I just become too complacent? BINGO!

So, anyway, back to the grind of regular blogging. It really isn't a grind but does require me to be more dedicated to writing, more disciplined to write more and more creative to get the ideas I have out of the brain and onto paper.

Hopefully over the coming weeks and months you will hear more.

And now a couple of random recent photographs...

Fossil from a storefront support beam in Cloudcroft, NM

Rosaries from the Farmers market in Mesilla

Old wind pump in Soledad Canyon, NM