Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What I've Learned About Powwows

We went to our first powwow (see Many Peoples Dancing as One). Here is what I have learned:

Powwows are gatherings of different Native American tribes, a time to preserve old ways and celebrate traditions with dancing, singing, eating, socializing, and some friendly competitions.

The first thing we saw was a group of people in the middle of the big room, sitting in a circle with their backs to those who had gathered to watch and/or dance. I thought they might be called drummers, as they certainly drummed together, but they are actually called the singers. Their songs were unfamiliar (and very thrilling) to me; they were apparently religious songs, as well as war and social songs.

The front seats in the arena are for the dancers. Any seat with a blanket on it is reserved, and uncovered seats in rows away from the front are considered unreserved and you may sit there.

Powwow organizers and those who take part depend on donations for travel money and support. Anyone can drop money onto the blanket laid on the ground during blanket dances.

You should remove your hat and stand quietly during the Grand Entry procession and during any special honor songs. Listen to the announcer for direction.

Different groups have different rules about photos. At the Red Paint Powwow we attended, observers were asked not to take photos; at the upcoming Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, pictures of group dancing are encouraged. Individuals who are waiting to dance should not have their pictures taken; this is a time of preparation and quiet reflection.


I have "a typical Easterner bias," as was pointed out to me by a native Westerner friend, who was taking issue with my amazement at the deep patriotism of a people who had been abused by their government in the past. She pointed out that we are different people from the ones who took part in "all that." It was a surprise to me, to find myself identified as a typical Easterner even though I am proud to identify myself as a New Englander. Well, that's who I am and I can only tell you what I see and how it makes me feel.

For some other accounts of the same Red Paint Powwow, you can read our friend Patrick's blog post, Cultural Crossroad (he is an Easterner, too; a sociologist) and Andi Murphy's Native View on Red Paint (she is a Native American journalist from Crownpoint, New Mexico, on the edge of the Navajo reservation).  Andi's post includes photos taken at the powwow; I imagine she had permission to take them because she is a journalist. I am glad that there is a pictorial record outside of the pictures I will carry in my memory.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Many Peoples Dancing as One: My First Red Paint Powwow

Click on the poster to go to the Red Paint Powwow website

Yesterday we went with our friends, Pat and Mary, to the Red Paint Powwow in Silver City, New Mexico. It was an amazing experience and I wish that each of you could go today to see it. Those watching the dancing were asked not to take photos, so we have these pictures and sensations stored up in our memories:

The electrifying sound of the drums and singing that went straight inside of our chests

The exquisite clothing of the dancers

The live golden eagle watching the Grand Entry from his perch on the stage

The golden eagle head and feathers on the staff carried by the leader of the Grand Entry procession

The young girl with partly shaved head, Goth makeup, and black fingernail polish who, nonetheless, proudly and respectfully took part in the women's shawl dance

The young woman dressed in white and orange and blue with many beads, so beautiful you could hardly take your eyes off her, who danced side by side with her grandmother

The amazing, humbling patriotism of a mistreated people

The way veterans and active military people were honored, honored, honored, and constantly shown that their service would never be forgotten

The young Army couple who were so honored. They first danced in army fatigues and boots, with a fringed shawl for her, and a feathered staff for him. They disappeared for a while and then came back in full tribal regalia, so beautiful. It took us a while to recognize them, and we thought about the swings from one culture to another that they must experience every day.

A small child in the arms of her drumming mother; another carried by his grandfather during a blanket dance.

These are just some of the pictures swirling through my mind this morning, in and out of the echoes of the chanting drummers. I'll tell you some of the things I learned about powwows in the next post.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dweezil's Day Out

Parents with a lot of kids plan activities to give each child some special individual time; folks like us who run multi-pet households do the same. Yesterday was Little Pete's turn for a walk along the Rio Grande, and today was a special outing for Dweezil. *

First we went to PetSmart to get a collar, tag, and a harness to replace the Dreaded Red Garment that we use with all our new pups to keep them from backing out of a collar when learning to walk nicely on a leash. Here is Dweezil meeting a talkative bird, and explaining to her that he doesn't always wear this ugly red thing. 

And here is Dweezil, discussing wardrobe misfortunes with another new friend. Excuse the photos, I am just learning how to use my iPhone as a camera. 

Once we had Dweezil properly outfitted, we discovered that we didn't have the right tool in the car to put the new identification tag onto the new collar. You know, the ID tag with his name on one side and our address and cell phone number on the other side. Oh, well, we'd put it on at home [cue the ominous organ music here], right after we took little Dweez out for a nice walk in the desert [continue with the foreboding music here] using the new handsome harness and the new unfamiliar retractable leash. 

Little dog, big desert
I suppose with all this ominous music swirling around in the background (use your imagination), you are thinking that we are doing several really, really dumb things all at the same time. I know, I can hear your thoughts:

1) Omg, they are taking a little pup out on his inaugural walk with an unfamiliar retractable leash!
2) Omg, they are leaving the brand new ID tag in the car. In the car!!! What good will it do there?
3) What's wrong with these people?

You would also be cursing us even further if you knew that we were far from home (for a little pup) in totally unfamiliar territory, but not too far from a highway and a bunch of busy four lane roads.

Okay, okay, I know we were beyond dumb. And you know what happened:

The retractable leash slipped out of Beez's hand and the handle loudly clunked to the ground behind little Dweezil, who (up until that moment) was behaving perfectly well and sniffing some coyote scat by a mesquite bush.

Hearing something big smack the ground behind him just when he was thinking about coyotes, Dweezil panicked and ran, and the horrible handle thing chased him, making him run all the faster.

Beez chased Dweezil and they disappeared over the hill and toward all that traffic.

Where's the pup?
By the time I neared the big road, dreading the worst, I could see that Beez had taken the car to try to follow the panicky little pup who was dragging the thing that he thought was chasing him.

Just out of sight, a couple of parking lots over and still on our side of the big, traffic-filled road (lucky for everyone), an exhausted Dweezil sat down to think things over. A kind man grabbed the leash and left Dweezil tied to his car while dashing inside his workplace to grab his phone. Lucky for us, Dweezil was outside where Beez could see him when driving by.

All were reunited safely, and no one had to explain to the nice man when thanking him that his phone wouldn't have helped anyway because the tag with the phone number was in the bag in the car and not on the pup's collar where it should have been.

Dweezil is here with us at home now, taking a nap in the sun (wearing his new collar and ID tag), while Beez and I think really hard about how smart people (well, we used to think we were fairly smart) can do really, really dumb things and how everything can go badly wrong in the wink of an eye. And how things could have been much, much worse, except for the kindness and quick thinking of a stranger.

❤ ❤ ❤

*If you haven't met Dweezil before, he is introduced in Christmas Story and Now, About That Pup

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Run, Mr. Coyote!

Peaceful Sunday morning. Coffee. Newspaper. 

Hey! Hot air balloons.

Grab the cameras, dash out front. Chihuahuas follow and make merry, cavorting around our heels. 

Hey! A coyote, coming this way through the orchard!

Grab the chihuahuas. Aim the camera. Hey! The battery is dying. Stick in a new battery, get pix of coyote as he comes closer... 

... and closer...

... and closer...

... and passes by, around the corner and out of sight. Hey! Run out back to check the chickens, to be sure that Bitey Albertina hasn't eaten the coyote!

Wave to the last of the coyote-herding hot air balloons. Wave to the passing drivers who are admiring my pink jammies. 

Peaceful Sunday morning. Coffee. Newspaper. 


Disclaimer: As you know, exclamation marks are now an endangered species because of overuse on the internet. No exclamation marks were harmed in the writing of this post, and all will be set free in a safe environment as soon as I get changed out of these pink jammies. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pinterest (Just in Case You Have Any Leftover Computer Time)

Follow Me on Pinterest

I've just put a new Pinterest badge down below that will appear on this blog from now on. If you don't know about Pinterest, stop right here and complete all your chores for the day before you read any further. Trust me, you'll want to clear your schedule.

There. All done?

You know how you come across wonderful ideas on the web and just need a place to keep them? I've always set up little document lists to look at later--great chicken websites, links to knitting projects I'd like to do someday, wonderful photos I come across, just to name a few. I'm sure that you have the same kinds of lists somewhere. The trouble is that all my little lists are scattered throughout my document files and I have to do some wandering to find them all.

Shelfari has already made a wonderful site where I keep all my lists of books that I want to read; now the clever people at Pinterest have given us each an infinite number of virtual "pinboards" where we can keep and share all kinds of interesting stuff. I was a little afraid at first, rightly sensing another online time sink, but I'm starting to think this is really a good thing.

So far, I've created boards for Travel Thoughts, Chickens, Books Worth Reading, Fiber Projects, My Style, and For the Home. To see any of them, click here. The possibilities are endless, however. You can categorize your boards for easy sharing, and there are categories for everything from Architecture, Food and Drink, and Gardening; to Health and Beauty, Photography, and on and on. You can even add a little bookmarklet to your toolbar that will allow you to instantly pin something of interest when you find it.

Just as Facebook has given us a place to find old friends, Pinterest has now given us a place to share interests. If you are on Pinterest, please let us all know in the comments for this post. Have fun!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Free Pecans!

Pecans as they look when they fall into our yard

As you may know, we live in the middle of a pecan orchard. The orchard that surrounds us belongs to someone else, but at this time of year when the wind blows lots of pecans land in our yard. We would never touch a pecan on someone else's tree or on their land, but the ones in our own yard are ours for the picking. We try to grab them up before the dogs get them, but it takes a bit of work before they are ready for use. 

I have been trying to get all the bags of pecans I have in the freezer shelled so that there will be more room for green chiles, of course. There are quite a few bags from last year and they are taking up lots of freezer space--this is not a bad problem to have, because retail prices for pecans have been steadily rising due to the drought and an increased demand from China. Prices are expected to be around $11/pound at the store this year--both good and bad news for pecan farmers. Good, because that means they are getting a great price for all their hard work, and bad because such a high price will certainly discourage some grocery shoppers. 

Here is how we prepare them. First, I remove any remaining husks and rinse and drain the nuts. 

The first year we lived here, for shelling the nuts we used the old-fashioned nutcracker I had in the kitchen drawer. It looks much like this one, shown with an almond. 

The old way (Google Images)

The work was fairly miserable, and formerly eager helpers started avoiding my kitchen. I figured there must be a better way--there is, and my new pecan sheller is wonderful. I found it on Amazon, and it makes the job quicker, more pleasant, and far more successful. 

The new, much improved way

The nuts are cracked lengthwise
After removing the shells and sorting through for stray bits, we are left with these gorgeous pecans. They go into one-quart baggies and back into the freezer, where they take up a fraction of the space used by whole nuts in the shell. Our favorite holiday recipe this year was Pecan Shortbread, which you can find on my recipe blog, right here. Very delicious!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Now, About That Pup

When I told the miraculous Christmas story of how we rescued that little pup from the road, some of you asked about what happened next. Did we keep him or did we take him to the animal shelter? Did he get a name?

Even though we are full up with pups, of course we decided to just fold him into the dog pack and give him a forever home. The poor animal shelter here is overwhelmed with foundlings and surrendered dogs and dogs rescued from abusive situations. Most of them don't find a home, alas, and the hardworking shelter folks have terrible statistics to report about how many dogs and cats are put down every month.

We figured we could do better than that. After checking the lost and found ads in the paper and on Craigslist, we named him Dweezil, which goes well with our almost-fictional last name of Zee. We dug out a collar from our vast store of puppy stuff, and prepared to love him forever. He was such a little cuddler. We were getting ready to make an appointment with the vet for an exam, shots, and the Necessary Operation.

And then--he dug out of the yard and scampered down the road again, straight for the railroad tracks. Beez followed in the car and talked with people who had seen him and who had tried to catch him, with no luck. Those short little legs had hit the road again and that seemed to be that.

I struggled to make this fit into my Bluebirdian Philosophy, where everything always has a happy ending. I worried that he had a home somewhere and that we had just interrupted his journey. Yes, we worried and we paced and we called and we looked out the window and--there he was, hours later, attempting to dig his way back in.

He was exhausted and muddy and just wanted to cuddle and sleep. Later he woke to eat and to drink some water, then he was ready for more cuddling and sleeping.

Here's the thing: He did the same thing two more times--two more digging escapes and two more digging returns. We decided that he really did want to live with us, but just needed time to bond. Beez cemented around the most popular digging spots, and we kept a close eye on him, day after day. He snuggled, he made friends with Petey, and he bonded.

Here he is now. He loves us and we love him. He is finally allowed out in the fenced yard by himself and when he gets there, he does NOT head for the fence. He just waits for his best friend, Pete, and they chase each other around and around the yard, doing chest bumps. I tried to capture that for you, but the little guys were way too fast for me.

After the chest bumping subsides, they play tug of war with any old stick. I think our little Dweezil has chosen, and he has decided to stay with us.

By the way, he has been to our vet and the big news is that Dweezil is just a baby, only around 8 months old. Two other pups who seem to be the same age were found in our neighborhood on the same weekend; there is a little Dweezil twin up at the sad shelter. I think someone just dumped a litter, hoping that someone would find them and do the right thing.

I'm pretty sure we did the right thing for our little guy.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

El Paso Saddle Blanket Company

It was a perfect field trip to take with friends who had recently moved here from cold and frosty New England--on a sunny day we drove south to El Paso, Texas, to visit the El Paso Saddle Blanket Company, where you can wander through two acres of some pretty crazy stuff. You already saw the painted skulls and cowboy caskets in my last post, Enjoy Yourself; now, here is some more of what caught my eye.

A vintage car, cowhide sofas...

One of a kind chairs...

Motorcycles with longhorn handlebars...

And saddle seats...

Lots of boots and jewelry and saddles and blankets...

And terribly tempting, though kitschy pieces...
Come on, you know you'd love this in your living room--maybe next to a nice cowboy casket
just dripping with fringe and tooled leather!

We plan to go back, now that we have stopped reeling from all the amazing sights. I'm starting to think that I'd really like one of those painted skulls.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Enjoy Yourself!

Photos taken at the El Paso Saddle Blanket Company

Live every day as if it were your last and then some day you'll be right.  ~H.H. "Breaker" Morant

Do not take life too seriously.  You will never get out of it alive.  ~Elbert Hubbard and/or Bugs Bunny

Cowboy Casket.
Click to enjoy the tooled leather and fringe. Who wouldn't want this one?

Spend the afternoon.  You can't take it with you.  ~Annie Dillard

Don't be fooled by the calendar.  There are only as many days in the year as you make use of.  ~Charles Richards

Another really tacky cowboy casket (tacky in a good way, of course)

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite.  
Or waiting around for Friday night 
or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake 
or a pot to boil 
or a better break 
or a string of pearls 
or a pair of pants 
or a wig with curls 
or another chance.  
Everyone is just waiting.  ~Dr. Seuss