Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pecos National Historical Park

This northern New Mexican park, which contains ruins going back to 800 A.D., just gets better and better. If we are lucky enough to move to the Pecos area, we will get an annual pass. There is so much to explore, experience, and think about. And then, there is all that magic to soak up, up there on the trails in the deep, deep silence.

At the base of the trail in the visitor's center, there is a display table that contains some of the pottery shards picked up by visitors who didn't know any better. As the sign explains, removing such artifacts from the site where they are found makes it very hard to learn more about what they are and how (and when) they were used. I was stunned to realize that all those little bits of clay that litter the sides of every trail are actual pieces of ancient pottery! I had just assumed that they were sharp little rocks.

Over the next little while, I am going to be learning more about this amazing historical park. You can be sure that I will share what I find with you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

June Afternoon Rainbow for Skywatch Friday

I see lots of photo opportunities. I am slowly learning to have my camera close by to take advantage of them. I was lucky this time.

To see rainbows, clouds, and skies all over the world, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Luck? The Role of Superstition in Our Decision to Choose Life

The view from our potential porch

We moved here to the High Plains because of Beez's job, and because it was a way to get back to New Mexico--but we never really thought we would want to stay here always in this eastern part of the state. Oh, the cowboys made for very good scenery, and we tried to imagine ourselves living permanently in the Bible Belt, among the cattle and a Republican majority, but it wasn't really the place for us. Besides, we longed for the sight of mountains.

At one point we thought we should locate our retirement home very close to doctors and hospitals. We are both in good health, but we were thinking well, just in case... And then I realized that we were being awfully cautious and sacrificing quality of life for perceived safety. Reading Linda's "ranch blog" (as it is known at our house) has always reminded me that a little risk is a wonderful thing--thus, our new plan to jump off into a far more simple, rural, and satisfying life.

So, instead of looking to the southern part of the state where the retirees go, we changed our focus. If we were to pick our absolutely very favorite spot on earth, it would be Pecos, a little, mainly Hispanic village outside of Santa Fe, located at 6923 feet in a small valley made by the Pecos River. Beez has written about his feelings for this area and I see that I have at least five posts about the place on this blog--Haunted, Haunted Pecos being one of them.

As luck would have it, we accidentally came across a nice little piece of property with the required two houses on it--one (adobe!) for Beez and me, and one (great views!) for Bucksnort. There is even a little chicken house for my longed-for chicken sisters. We make our own luck, as a friend reminds me often, but in this case, it seems to me that luck will play a large part in our plans. We have to sell this High Plains house in order to buy the Pecos property, and the timing will be very important--if things don't work out right, we may find ourselves out of a home with nowhere to go!

So what have we done? Why, naturally, we've buried poor St. Joseph again. I know, it's a crazy superstition (see some other fascinating superstitions on Judy's blog), but funny thing, it's worked really well for us in the past. You can read all the details of how this wacky superstition works in an older post, St. Joseph, Little Underground Realtor but, long story short: all you do is to bury a little statue of St. Joseph upside down in the yard of the house and facing the For Sale sign, and the house will sell within a few weeks.
We'll see.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Which Would You Prefer?

I just went to the eye doctor last week. I love the format of the exam--it hasn't really changed since I first started getting my eyes examined when I was three years old (in another century, actually).

So, let's play eye doctor.

Which kind of country do you prefer:


Let's try one more pair. Which would you prefer to see from your back porch:


Explanations and locations will be forthcoming, if my life's present mad pace ever lets up. (Remember, I've been living the stressless life of a happy retiree for the last couple of years, so it doesn't take much to seem like a mad pace to me!)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Admire These Cats, Please!

There's just too much going on around here these days for me to find much blogging time. Besides, my USB cable has been temporarily out of state with Beez, all the way back in Connecticut, so I haven't been able to download all the photos I've been taking for this blog. I know--excuses, excuses.

Bucksnort and I have been finding time to swim for an hour every morning, but for the rest of the time we've been involved in a lot of housecleaning, obsessive tidying, and painting in our respective houses. The reason will become clear soon, when I get those photos downloaded and some explanatory posts written.

Note to self: Relax. Everything will be done in good time.

In the meantime, here's a photo for you to admire of all of our Siamese cats perching simultaneously on the windowsill. From left to right: Gracie-the-rescue-cat, who starred in a recent post; Cody-Ko, an elderly gentleman of thirteen; and Skippy Kee, who was saved from a lifetime of kitten production in a cage like a poor captive non-free range hen.

Yes, I know, people shouldn't have so many animals. Perhaps we should move to the country...

Stay tuned.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Two Daughters

No one gets this far along in life without some sorrow. I've been digging around through drawers looking for something that I just can't find. Along the way I've come across decades-old letters from youthful friends (now grandmothers), ancient Christmas cards from those gone for many years now, and notebooks full of things that I wrote long ago.

This is my poem about the loss of two of my daughters. They were two very different kinds of losses; one, a little baby who died right after birth; the other, a disturbed, angry, and damaged teenager, adopted well after she had been hurt by those who should have been caring for her. The lines in italics are from lullabies that I sang to both of them.

Two Daughters


Makes me think about loss
And the babies missing from my life

Don’t you cry

The one who died and the one who just went away...
So many people getting in the way

Go to sleep, my little baby

I see those well-meaning arms reaching out

When you wake

Taking my daughters down long institutional halls
And never bringing them back to me

You will see

Prodding, cutting, taking, excusing, burning, blowing the ashes away,
Analyzing, formulating, theorizing, reporting, and taking and taking and taking

All the pretty little horses

Now I am wondering how we let other people
Take over and take away the people who belong to us

Where’d you leave your lamb

In night-time partings without a single touch good-bye

Away down yonder in the valley

And when the moon is full
And the nights are long and I am awake forever

The bees and the butterflies

I am trying to imagine your lives
And I wonder if you get afraid

Are flitting ‘round its eyes

The way I do

And the poor little thing is crying

Thursday, June 18, 2009

BioSpot Update

Sweet Leny (another rescue dog)

Oh, my, there are lots of things going on with the Zees these days--all good. I'll be sharing some photos, etc. very soon showing what we've been up to lately.

But first (my sister's practically patented phrase), I have an update on the BioSpot situation here. You may or may not recall that I was in a big tizzy a couple of months ago about the terrible reaction our poor dog, Leny, had to an application of BioSpot. I was advised by that nice James TerBush of BioSpotVictims.Org, to file a claim with the company and did so.

I was pretty cynical about any success because when I phoned them they more or less blew me off with "an experienced vet's" analysis of our situation and a complete refusal to see any connection between the BioSpot application on Leny and her ensuing grand mal seizures.

However, I am so amazed!!! Yesterday I got a check in the mail from these people, reimbursing me for not only the cost of the product, but my veterinary expenses as well, so the check totaled $249.08.

As far as I am concerned, this means that they are willing to admit liability for problems caused by their product.

Interesting note though--the computer printout accompanying the check just has a bunch of numbers, but someone has handwritten "Veterinary expense reimbursement and Bio Spot refund"--as though they didn't want a permanent record anywhere.

Once again, for those wanting to file a claim: The phone number for the Risk Manager/Consumer Relations for BioSpot is 1-800-234-2269, ext. 2259.

Have the box of Biospot that you used handy, and a copy of your vet bill. They will ask you to submit the following:

1. Proof of purchase for the BioSpot that gave you the problem--either a receipt or the bar code from the package.

2. A copy of your vet bill.

3. A copy of the vet's notes from your visit.

By the way, after the BioSpot was discontinued and washed thoroughly off her skin, and once Leny got it out of her system, and once she completed a month's dosage of phenobarbitol to prevent further seizures, Leny has been just fine. No more seizures. And no fleas, interestingly enough--even without the application of deadly chemicals.

Update, May 2013: After we moved from Clovis (where Leny had the trouble with BioSpot) to Las Cruces, our new vet advised that there aren't any fleas where we live, so there is no need for anything to be applied to any of our dogs here.

However, I spoke too soon regarding the cessation of Leny's seizures. She continues to have grand mal seizures, usually one a month. We have no way of knowing if the onset of seizure activity was caused by the BioSpot or not.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Olive Kittredge

Olive Kittredge, by Elizabeth Strout. Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Oh, dear. This book is not always pleasant, but it tells some truths about life and the way people really are.

I read a book review in which the reader/writer said that she didn't like the book because she didn't like Olive. I thought, exactly--the things we don't like about Olive are just the kind of things that people wouldn't like about me if they only knew!

Revealed through a series of short stories, different truths about Olive begin to pile up. You might decide that your first impression was wrong, then you will be introduced to and possibly confused by yet another facet of this woman. You might decide you don't know what to think about her since she is, by turns, a person you want to sympathize with and someone you want to shake; someone you might trust with your secrets and someone you might not want to be in the same room with.

Here, laid out before you (like starfishes drying above the tide line), are all the arguments showing that a person has many facets and can only partially be known by any other single person. You might just have to admit some truths about life in general and about yours, specifically. It's that kind of book. But oh, dear, not pleasant reading. Just reading that keeps you up at night. As some of Olive's Maine coast neighbors might say, in that terse way of theirs: Might make you laugh. Might make you cry.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book. They could be spoilers if I told you when and in what circumstances they appear, but I like how they resonate:

Didn’t plan on things working out like this.

But people endure things.

Sometimes, like now, Olive had a sense of just how desperately hard every person in the world was working to get what they needed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Gracie Under Fire

The two newest members of the Zee Family, Gracie and Bertie Pierre, are the best of friends, in spite of what you may think after looking at these photos (click to enlarge except for the first one, which won't cooperate).

Here is Gracie, so sweet and demure, out for a stroll.

Let the games begin: Bertie approaches and begins to circle.

He grabs the nearest appendage. Have a heart, Bertie!

They assume the wrestling position.

Monsieur Bertie begins to realize that perhaps he has made a mistake in judgment.

He's been pinned! Miss Gracie, so sweet and demure, has won this round.


Friday, June 12, 2009

A Scary Sky for Skywatch Friday

This storm came in a week or so ago. I got the dogs and cats safely inside and made sure that my tornado closet was ready, then went out to take some photos and to listen for the tornado siren (just in case!).

At the same time, Beez was driving home from work and spotted what he thought looked like a funnel cloud. Unfortunately, he didn't get a picture of it, but it was confirmed later that evening that such a cloud had formed, but nothing had come of it.

However, when I read the newspaper the next morning, there was a story about some localized weather action in Tucumcari, about 80 miles away. The article reported that 3 people on the street saw a funnel cloud, were enveloped by a strong wind, and heard a sound like a train. They rolled under a nearby pickup truck for shelter. Others in the area reported watching three dumpsters being picked up by the wind and carried at a height of a telephone pole to some distance away before they crashed to the ground.

And my storm? The clouds got more and more fierce looking--and then they just drifted away to the east, taking their threats (and promises of rain) elsewhere.

Be sure to click on the Skywatch Friday button on the side of this blog to view this week's photos of amazing skies all over the world.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Mapmaker's Wife

The Mapmaker's Wife; A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon, by Robert Whitaker. Basic Books, 2004.

I found this book one of those lists of best biographies--some list I can't locate now, of course. It is the story of, among other things, a woman's journey across the Andes and down the Amazon in 1769. However, it veers off into a great many other subjects, a little like the way the Internet zooms you from one thing to another with just a click.

A reading of this book will help you understand about the place of women in early South American society, the exploration of the continent by European interests, and the history of early attempts to map out the whole earth. Along the way, you might learn a bit, as I did, about math and physics, nature, early medicine, and the way early scientists learned about gravity.

There is a web site for the book that gives you a further look at some of the documents cited, and which contains some additional photos.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Clovis, New Mexico: An Unlikely Vacation Destination

Hey, tourists! Come to Clovis! You will see sights that you will never forget! The flattest land! The biggest churches! The most fragrant cow herds!

16,000 pairs of cowboy boots and 12,000 cowboy hats at
Joe's Boot Shop!

The cutest prom couples! (Click to see the details).

Photo by J. Stanley

The best darned chuckwagon food you've ever eaten!

You might come to snicker, but you'll find yourself staying on and on and on, howdying cowboys right and left and enjoying the laid back lifestyle.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Choices We Face

The interrogator faces his choice when the order to torture comes down from on high. The people face their choice when reports of what he did are made public, as is happening. If the people choose denial, the pathology of torture tends to reproduce itself in the society at large. The result is a kind of cognitive dislocation, which can be more or less severe. Fundamental human capacities begin to atrophy or are impaired. Certainly, abuse of human beings and abuse of words go hand in hand. The words that name the deed fog over, or are driven from the language. Refusal to face the fact of torture has cost us the very word "torture," now widely referred to, as if in obedience to some general edict, as "enhanced interrogation techniques" or "harsh methods." Torture's writ thus runs in the editorial rooms of newspapers.  ~Jonathan Schell, Torture and Truth

Every teacher knows that what you do in front of the classroom is far more important than what you say; you can post any number of rules for classroom behavior, but if you comport yourself in a dignified and polite manner your behavior will be mirrored in your students' behavior. 

I believe that it is the same for a government. It is not enough for an administration to say that they believe in the rule of law and that they never would use torture against prisoners; if they act lawlessly and torture those who are in their power, they will soon see a lawless and uncivilized citizenry mirroring that behavior. In fact, I just read an article about a local crime in a New Hampshire newspaper called, "Invasion Victims Describe Torture Threats." Should we be surprised at these thugs' willingness to tie up, whip, and defecate on their victims, given the daily revelations we are hearing about the Bush Administration years? 

One of the best articles that I have read arguing for war crime trials is this one: Torture and Truth; Can the United States Really Get Things Right By Turning Away From the Past? by Jonathan Schell, writing for CBS News. I would highly recommend that you take a moment to read it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Dark Side; The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

Here is the story of how we got to where we are today--each step that moved us from being a democracy run by the rule of law into a country that holds prisoners indefinitely without being charged, kidnaps people and takes them to secret prisons, and tortures those it holds through sleep and sensory deprivation, beatings, waterboarding, and all the other sorry phrases we've been hearing on the news. 

Here are a few quotes from the Afterword:

...a battle for America's security became, and continues to be, a battle for the country's soul.

... the Bush Administration was warned that the short-term benefits of its extralegal approach to fighting terrorism would have tragically destructive long-term consequences both for the rule of law and America's interests in the world.

... the Bush Administration invoked the fear flowing from the attacks on September 11 to institute a policy of deliberate cruelty that would have been unthinkable on September 10.

... President Bush and Vice President Cheney have continued to insist that they never authorized or condoned "torture," which they acknowledge is criminal under U.S. law. But their semantic parsing of the term began to seem increasingly disingenuous as details from the secret detention and interrogation program surfaced, piece by piece.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Some of our Ceremonial Military Traditions

I was struck by the traditional parts of the D-Day ceremonies today, the 65th Anniversary of the invasion of Normandy--the 21 gun salute, the playing of Taps, and the missing man flyover. Because I was interested in the origins of these traditions, I thought you might be, too.

What Does D-Day Mean? From the National D-Day Memorial Foundation.

The 21 Gun Salute: Discharging an early cannon rendered it ineffective; thus, firing the cannon in a ceremonial fashion shows peaceful intent, and today is the highest honor rendered by a nation. For the entire history and origin of this ceremony, see the U.S. Army Center of Military History's Origin of the 21-Gun Salute.

The playing of Taps--you can read an explanation of the origin and the words, which I remember singing as a Girl Scout, from The West Point Connection: 24 Notes That Tap Deep Emotions, by Jari A. Villanueva.

The "Missing Man" Flyover--this is extremely dramatic and touching to watch. Four planes approach in formation and one splits off, often flying off into the sunset, to represent those who died in action. For a complete and detailed description, see the Wikipedia entry, Missing Man Formation.

Here is a video demonstrating one version of the flyover, as performed at the Great Georgia Air Show in 2006.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Prisoners of War Must at All Times Be Humanely Treated"

Did you know that in January of 2008, Canada placed the U.S. on a list of rogue countries that torture? See the BBC News article, "Canada Puts U.S. on Torture List."

We are hearing so much these days about how the Bush Administration decided to stop obeying the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners, that I think it is worthwhile to first, define the meaning of "Geneva Conventions;" and second, to publish the pertinent clauses. 

Definition of "Geneva Conventions," from The U.S. Military History Companion at Answers.com: 

The Geneva Convention of 22 August 1864 was the world's first multilateral humanitarian treaty. Sixteen nations were present, responding to public concern about the sufferings of sick and wounded soldiers, well publicized by the labors of Florence Nightingale in the Crimean WarClara Barton and the U.S. Sanitary Commission in the American Civil War, and the dramatic book The Memory of Solferino(1862) by Henry Dunant, a Swiss, about the casualties at the Battle of Solferino in 1859. Dunant and four other Genevan philanthropists had already launched, in October 1863, what would become the international Red Cross movement. Now the twelve initial signatories bound their armies to respect and protect the lives and workplaces of each other's ambulance and medical personnel; to incorporate volunteer auxiliaries into their medical corps; and to signify their virtual neutrality by a protective emblem, “a red cross on a white ground.” The United States acceded to the convention in 1882.

Pertinent Clauses on the Treatment of Prisoners: These are quoted from the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Adopted on 12 August 1949 by the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War, held in Genevafrom 21 April to 12 August, 1949; entry into force 21 October 1950 (as published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights). The complete text may be seen here. Further information may be obtained at The Geneva Conventions; A Reference Guide published by the Society of Professional Journalists.

...the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (Article 3)

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity. 

Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited. (Article 13)

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind. (Article 17)

Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden. (Article 87)

Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, compelling a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of the hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a prisoner of war of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in this Convention. (Article 130)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

An Unwilling Collaborator

From the first time I learned anything about the Holocaust, I was left with questions: Didn't the German people know what was going on? How could they allow their country to murder millions of people? Why didn't they stop the horror?

The same kinds of questions can be asked about the American people over the last eight years. How were we duped into a war in Iraq? How could we allow our government to kidnap suspected terrorists and take them to secret prison sites? How could we allow prisoners to be held indefinitely without charges? How could we allow the torture of prisoners? How could we stand by as our lofty American ideals were tossed aside in the "war on terror?"

I don't have the answers, but I can say what happened as I lived through the days after Sept. 11 when the world stood with us in horror at what had happened on our soil. I began to have a feeling of uneasiness when the first waves of patriotic fervor overtook almost everyone around me. In our town, practically everyone was displaying the flag in support of our country, but this show of love of country almost imperceptibly slid into sideways glances of suspicion about those who did not fly the flag or wear a flag pin every day. 

I began to be afraid of my government. They were moving from the first moments when they pulled everyone together and calmed fears after 9/11, to a headlong rush toward finding terrorists, or suspected terrorists, or potential terrorists, at any cost.  Indeed, the word terrorist came to mean practically anyone that the administration rounded up and tossed into prison.

They suspended the rule of law, even though their hired lawyers always found ways to express that everything they did was still within some strange interpretation of the letter of the law. 

They decided that we no longer needed to follow the Geneva Conventions about the treatment of prisoners in war time.

They ignored everything our country stood for. 

All the while that I am writing my cheerier posts about dogs and cats and knitting and reading and my newly adopted state of New Mexico, I am thinking about what has happened to my country and wondering how we can deal with these terrible things. 

I think, too, about the German people back during World War II. Did they feel, as I do, that they were unwilling collaborators in a great and terrible sin?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rocking in Clovis: Watch For Us on TV Tomorrow

The New Mexico Music Commission has produced a documentary film on the Norman Petty Studio in Clovis and its historical significance. The studio is where Buddy Holly recorded "Peggy Sue" and other hits. Other musicians who recorded there include Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, and Buddy Knox. Although no longer in use, the studio is still open for tours by appointment. 

You can watch the film on PBS stations across New Mexico on Thursday June 4, 2009 at 7PM.

Article in the Clovis News Journal

Norman Petty Studio website

After you've seen the documentary on Thursday, you'll probably want to come and visit the studio itself. The best time is during the Clovis Music Festival. Quotes below are from the Festival website:

The Clovis Music Festival will take place at Marshall Auditorium on September 10-13, 2009. We are excited to have the following artists performing at this year's festival, they are: The Nelson Brothers, The Originators of Rock & Roll featuring Johnny Rogers as Buddy Holly, Darell Croy as Jerry Lee Lewis, Pete Peterkin as Little Richard, Johnny Tillotson, Shirley Alston Reeves of The Shirelles, Dave Somerville of The Diamonds, The Fireballs, Tommy Allsup, Kevin Montgomery and more.

In September of last year, Clovis opened the 
Norman and Vi Petty Rock & Roll Museum, which is another place to visit. Another quote: [The museum] celebrates the achievements of record producer Norman Petty. The museum features unique items from his life and times. The museum is located at the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce, 105 E. Grand Ave. The museum hours are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission to the museum is $5 per person. Check back for information about festival hours.