The Squatters

This bird showed up while I was in Santa Fe:

And built this on the front porch:

And she of course has a fit whenever anyone uses the front door!

We have not had a bird family on the front porch in about ten years, since the spring-summer when we had two successive swallow families occupy the same nest.  We named the parents Vickie and Bert (after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert), and Anne and George (after Queen Anne and Prince George).  The first brood didn’t do so well, but all the babies from the second made it out of the nest, which made The Tot happy.  After the swallows left, DH decided they made too much of a mess, so he actively discouraged any more bird families from squatting on the pillar.  He must have become too complacent: this rather messy nest went up during the four days I was gone, and despite all the mud pieces on the porch, DH never noticed.

Oh yes, the grape hyacinths also exploded while I was away 🙂

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Becoming a Collector: Santa Fe, 2012

First, there was the “tour of Santa Fe hotels,” courtesy of Sandia Shuttle Xpress (which, by the way, has for its representative at Albuquerque airport one of the rudest desk minders I have ever encountered).  We were ten passengers with eight stops, and I got to see all sorts of hotels I had heard of but did not know the locations, and also got to wonder why the people getting off at the Hilton couldn’t get off at Water and Sandoval (the default location for non-hotel drop-offs), and walk across the street to the hotel.  But then that would be highly inconvenient, wouldn’t it, even in the age of rollie bags!

Then it began to rain.  Imagine, the land of little water, and it rained!  Thrilling, in a way, but somewhat discouraging at the start of a vacation.  I trudged up E. Palace Avenue with my brand new rollie bag — the smallest I could find that would fit not just under the middle seat, but also under the aisle seat — bumping along beside me.  A young woman came towards me, dressed in jeans and a parka with a fur-rimmed hood.  April in Santa Fe, I thought, and I am in a skort and a light weight, long-sleeved running shirt layered over a tank top.  On the whole, I may have been the one more inappropriately dressed, at least for the next half an hour or so.

At Deborah Gold Gallery I saw this:

. . . .  and I bought it.  I had been in Santa Fe less than three hours.

Six years ago we bought our very first painting, by any artist, from Deborah Gold — an impressionist oil of a vibrant Santa Fe sunset, all reds and purples.  Loved it then, love it now.  Since then, we visit her gallery whenever we’re in town, but have not had a gut “gotta have” moment since then . . . .  until last Thursday afternoon.  She has branched out into monotypes, and the spontaneity and energy required for her new process is obvious in these works.  The monotype I bought is not actually a monotype, in the sense that what I fell in love with was actually the second, “ghost” print.  If you buy one work, it’s one work; buy two works, it becomes a collection.  We are, officially, Deborah Gold collectors now.

Miss Read

For a few years now I have been reducing my book collection.  It has been a very slow process, but every now and then I have a frenzy of clearance, usually associated with the need to make room for more yarn.  What I have not even considered touching:

I love my collection of Miss Read books.  I discovered her during a month-long break I took from residency, when my brain was literally falling apart.  I moved into the spare bedroom, and basically slept, ate, and read in bed for four weeks.  I read all the Miss Read books I could find in our library, then went online and discovered the world of ABE, and started collecting first editions — as though a first printing of a first edition was somehow different from everything subsequent.  Miss Read was quiet and comforting, and offered a world that somehow always ended up where it needed to be.  And when I was done with my month, the headache to end all headaches was also gone.  RIP, Miss Read.

Spring Sprang Sprung

The winter that was not, and the spring that is:

The ornamental crabapple tree, blooming a month early.
Johnny Pop-Up!
Grape Hyacinth

March was the driest month in 140 years of record keeping — as in, the first March ever with no measurable precipitation.  We try really, really hard not to use the air conditioning; the rule is, the guinea pig has to look hot (usually around 82°) before the AC goes on.  This year, I just know it is going to be a nasty summer: the air conditioning guys came last week and serviced our unit.  Sigh.

Every Child Left Behind

A few days ago, The Teenager asked me to proofread her English essay.  I got as far as the opening paragraph, and could not go on:

When reading Shakespearean literature, sometimes the reader gets confused at the complexity of the piece, but when examining the text at a closer angle there is a whole new level of understanding.  In Shakespearean times, the people were used to seeing people act out the plays and dramas, however now in current times the context of Shakespearean literature is not as clear to the reader.  With more understanding of the text, deepens the readers knowledge of the culture background Shakespeare has presented to us.  Finding different ways of approaching the text assists the reader understand the setting of Shakespearean writing.  Depicting the thoughts and actions of the characters in Shakespeare’s plays gives the audience a whole new level of perspective of Romeo and Juliet.  The way Shakespeare incorporates his time period and events gives Romeo and Juliet a whole new meaning that we understand through his literature.  The complex literature written by William Shakespeare gives the audience a new interpretation of his famous play, Romeo and Juliet by using social commentary, plot development, symbolism and imagery, and them to give the reader a better understanding of Shakespearean Literature. 

It is now two months to the end of school and the end of The Teenager’s first year in high school.  She has been a straight A student, and I just assumed everything was fine.  Little did I know that this particular piece is only the second essay her English teacher has assigned all year — in fact, only the second writing assignment of any sort since school began in August.  The words may be bigger and longer now than when The Teenager was in middle school, but her ability to string words and sentences together into a coherent whole has not improved.  I admit it: I have no idea what she has learned in her English class —  and I’m not sure she knows either.  If reasonably good students are also falling through the cracks, then who is not being left behind?  To which DH says, “No one is being left behind because no one is moving forward!”

If you keep telling your child how wonderful and talented and smart she is, how does she ever deal with the real world of judgment and hierarchy and rejection?  One of our nephews is down in the dumps because he has sort of lost out on the college sweepstakes: Stanford, his first choice, rejected him.  He has been getting messages of the sympathetic and consoling sort: “Their loss,” or “They don’t know what they’re doing,” and “You’re so talented,” etceteraetceteraetcetera.  The truth, of course, is that “they” are never going to know if they had a loss (and it wouldn’t matter anyway),  “they” do know what they’re doing, and he is in fact not that talented.  But since no one has asked my opinion, I keep my mouth shut.

I am not actually ragging on The Teenager this time, because I think the teacher and the school are to blame.  An “A” in English when she can’t write worth a damn — really???  When she was in the 4th grade, The Kid came home with a binder of material that the teacher had given the students for their semester-long history assignment.  Mr. G had used the example of his pioneering ancestor’s adventures during the California gold rush to talk about American expansion during the 19th century.  I thought this was a wonderfully creative and engaging way to teach history, but unfortunately The Kid never “got” it.  She was not alone in this, for apparently most of the kids did not understand the point of the stories and assignments.  Anyway, we looked at some of the handouts in the binder and found page after page of reading material liberally highlighted in yellow.  The Kid told us the teacher had told them to mark up “important” information . . . .  Not much has changed in the intervening years, apparently:

. . . .  except she has a lot more markers now.