winter : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

A Promise Made. A Promise Kept.

It’s January. The holidays are over. Back to work. Inauguration looms large.

The skies above the Bay Area have turned a familiar shade of mushy gray. Expected for January.

When the marine layer isn’t in, it’s frosty cold. When the marine layer is in, it’s torrential. Standing pools of water soak my socks. Windshield wipers can’t keep up. The kind of rain that terrifies a New Mexican until she remembers that Bay Area drainage systems were meant to handle this kind of water. Mostly.

January feels dreary, but there is hope on the horizon. There is a break in the gray.

You see, this past weekend my favorite grocer featured unopened daffodil blooms. I scooped them up and ran home with my trophy.

I love daffodils because they remind me of what’s to come.

First come the daffodils with their buttery yellow optimism. Then almond and cherry blossoms create their own snowfall of fragrant petals. Then tulips in every color you can imagine. Finally colors and flowers of every sort jostle for the gentle rays of warm Spring sun.

I am a child of Spring and Spring is on the road, making its way back home to me. It returns with the dogged determination of a lost love.

Within my pile of hope and anticipation bought at the grocery store, there was a special stem. It made me a promise. Silent and steady.



A promise made.



A promise in progress.



A promise kept.



Now ain’t that something to get excited about?






All photos ©Copyright 2017, Karen Fayeth. Taken with an iPhone6, the Camera+ App, patience and anticipation. Subject to the Creative Commons license on the right column of this page.





I’ll Be Homesick For Christmas

I’m a little late in getting this posted, but the sentiment is all the same. This list is an annual tradition here at Oh Fair New Mexico.

As I post this, I’m thinking about making a batch of biscochitos. Only, I couldn’t find lard at the grocery yesterday. What the hell kind of place do I live that doesn’t sell lard? Just gotta shake my head.

Anyhow, biscochitos or not, I wish happy holidays to you and yours.

Without further ado:



Top ten things I miss about Christmas in New Mexico (in no particular order):

Originally published December 11, 2007


1) An annual shopping trip to Old Town in Albuquerque. This was a longtime mom and me tradition. Every year I’d get to pick out my own ornament that would eventually be mine when I became an adult. I have every one of those ornaments stored in a Thom McAnn shoebox and they go on my tree every year. They are a glitter and glass history of my life. I remember buying each of them and it gives me a beautiful sense of continuity to have them on my tree.


2) Luminarias. I always was the one to make them for the family. Someone would drive me to an empty lot and I’d dig out two buckets worth of good New Mexico dirt, then I’d go home and fold down the tops on brown lunch bags. Each would get a candle inside and then at night I’d light them. It was my holiday job and I loved every folded bag and every bulk buy candle (and every small emergency when a bag caught on fire in the wind). I miss real luminarias.


3) The Bugg House, which, sadly, is no more. My sister lived over on Prospect and we’d go for a walk in the dark on Christmas Eve to take a look at the outstanding display of holiday spirit. On the way to Christmas shop at Winrock Mall, I’d take a detour to the Bugg house to take a look. No one does lights like the Buggs did.


4) Neighbors bringing over a plate of freshly made tamales as a Christmas gift. When there are three generations of Hispanic women in a kitchen with some masa and shredded pork, magic happens. Yum! I also miss that people would bring tamales to work in a battered Igloo cooler and sell them to coworkers. I was always good for a dozen or more.


5) A ristra makes a good Christmas gift. I’ve given. I’ve received. I love ’em. They’d become a moldy mess here, and that makes me sad, cuz I’d love to have one.


6) Biscochitos. My love for these is well documented.


7) Sixty-five degrees and warm on Christmas Day. Growin’ up, I think one year there was actually snow on the ground for the 25th, but it was melted by the end of the day. Oh Fair New Mexico, how I love your weather.


8) Christmas Eve midnight Mass in Spanish with the overpowering scent of frankincense filling up the overly warm church. Pure torture for a small child, but oh how I’d belt out the carols. And when we came home after, we could pick one present and open it. Gah! The torture of choosing just one!


9) A New Mexico piñon, gappy, scrawny Christmas tree that cost $15 at the Flea Market and was cut from the top of a larger tree just that morning. Look, to my mind, it ain’t a tree unless you are using a few low hanging ornaments to fill the obvious empty spots. These overly fluffy trees just ain’t my bag. If you aren’t turning the bad spot toward the wall, you paid too much for your tree.


10) Green chile stew for Christmas Eve dinner and posole for New Year’s, both served with homemade tortillas. My mouth waters. It’s weep worthy. I can taste the nice soft potatoes in the stew, the broth flavored just right. And posole to bring you luck with red chile flakes and soft hunks of pork. Yeah……


*sigh* Now I’m homesick.

Which is not to say I don’t have happy holidays where I live now…but sometimes I feel melancholy. In a way, that’s what the holidays are for, right? To remember.



Finally, in order to just really drive a homesick knife into my heart, I give you this, the beauty of Old Town Albuquerque:








Image via Delta Skymag



Springing In The Rain

Woke up this morning to a dark gray day as the (much needed) winter rain pounds the Bay Area.

But this rainy Saturday had a surprise. A whisper of Spring, growing in the small yard beside my building.




Photo © Karen Fayeth, 2014

I bought some daffodils from Trader Joe’s yesterday, but the small wild ‘dils in my yard beat them to the punch.

Oh how I love the sunny yellow of daffodils. Sweet smell of Spring.

While I do appreciate the rain, I really do, I secretly can’t wait for golden California sunshine to return.




From The Department Of Not Sly

On Saturday the sun shone down so brightly on the Bay Area that it was too hard to stay inside. Roaming and marauding were the order of the day.

Yes, I know as a Californian I am supposed to feel Very Guilty about these sunny winter days we are having. I get it.

But instead of guilt, The Good Man and I went outside and basked in the sun. We decided to wander not our own neighborhood but the one just one city over.

It’s a really fun and funky block of shops and restaurants.

They day started with some chilaquilas that were rated as acceptable to me. You see, I grade Mexican food on a very tight scale. Sadly, most Californian Mexican food fails.

Once we were full to overfilled with good eats, we moved on to a really awesome bookstore that I had never been to before.

I do love bookstores. Especially local bookstores with both new and used books on the shelves. You really get a feel for a town by what is stocked on those used shelves.

As I often do in a bookstore, I wandered over to the art section. I am looking for a used copy of a particular Henri Toulouse-Lautrec book. Hope springs eternal.

This particular art book section was more eclectic than I usually find, which was great. A lot of things I hadn’t seen before.

While perusing, I found one very small section of books under the heading of “Wild, Wacky and Wonderful.”

Boy, this small collection lived up to the billing.

There were just five titles. I can’t quite remember them all. One was Toilets of the World. I recall that. Quite an interesting tome, may I add. One was the Pipe Handbook. One was the Diary of a Sword Swallower or something like that. I can’t seem to recall the other two.

As I browsed I kept walking back to that section and laughing. It was *too* perfect. Just too.

So then I decided to take an iPhone photo so I could remember what five titles were there. But how to snap a photo without incurring the wrath of the storeowners? They are sick, I’m sure, of people finding something in their store then buying it on Amazon. Snap click is a means to that end.

My intentions were good but I didn’t want to be a pain in that charming store.

Then I remembered, oh yes, that you can use the volume buttons on the iPhone to fire the shutter. I decided that I could hold the camera at about waist level and take a surreptitious snap.

I went over to the side of an aisle and thought, “Ok, I better give this a try to make sure I know how it works.”

I pushed the button and then loudly echoing through the store was the shutter sound that iPhone so helpfully adds to camera app.

You see, I always, always, always have the sound off on my phone. Always. I mean seriously, always.

Except on Friday afternoon when I was expecting (and didn’t want to miss) a call from my boss. After the call I then forgot to switch sound back off.

The shutter sound caused three people around me to snap their heads up and give me “grrrr” eyes.

Busted. Flat busted.

So there you go. I have no photo of the crazy fun titles, only my hazy memory.

And this piece of photographic art of the wrong shelves. *sigh*

Enjoy.





Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth






Photo Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons License in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5, the onboard camera app, and not a lot of guile.




And I Was Completely Sober

That is a great post title. It really is. I could go anywhere after that.

But I have something in mind and I promise I am sober as a judge as I tell my tale. (Then again, I know quite a few judges who like a little splash in the coffee mug.)

Yesterday afternoon, during the joy of a holiday from work, I went outside to take some photos. My photography club is back in full swing and this month’s theme is black & white or contrast. I had already taken one photo that I really love and was looking for my second. We get two entries each month.

Lacking any good ideas, I went outside to see what I could see, snapping here and there and everywhere to find something.

My skills in black and white photography aren’t that good (I like color), so I was shooting lots of different things so I could learn and enhance my ability.

About an hour into my backyard photowalk I remembered that around the corner is a magnolia tree in full bloom. I think the unseasonably warm California winter has confused the poor tree.

I headed over to take a look and found it still blooming, so I snapped and snapped lots of photos. I set up shots. I fiddled with my camera. I enjoyed the late afternoon golden light.

And then as I looked at these flowers through my viewfinder, I realized something…….

Some of the magnolia blossoms have faces.

Below I present my evidence.

This was the first face I saw. I thought it was just a one off:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


But wait, there was another. Less obvious, but definitely a face:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


And another. This one I thought looked scary at first. The more I looked, the more it seemed to be laughing with leafy arms spread wide open:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


And another, this one more cranky:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


Then this one, with a little bit of a surprised rounded O face:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


I call this one the Picasso as it takes a little to see it and the face is a bit askew:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


Then I noticed that Laughy and Cranky seemed to be having a little party together:



Photo © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014


Everywhere I looked, there were little magnolia faces looking back at me. Grumpy ones and happy ones and wilty ones and crazy ones. Little sweet smelling blossom faces everywhere my eyes fell.

I giggled with the joy of it all, reveling in the ridiculously silly ways of Mother Nature.

Then a couple pushing a stroller walked by. They looked at me from the sides of eyes, wondering at the crazy wild haired lady laughing with the tree.

Their toddler girl said to me, “Look! I have a Hello Kitty on my pocket!”

I replied, “You sure do!”

That toddler understands. She gets me. To a child with a Hello Kitty on her pocket, the lady laughing with the tree is just fine. Quite normal. To be expected.

I’m so glad someone understands.

Meanwhile, I’ll never look at a magnolia tree in quite the same way again.


_________________


(side note: I believe the most definitive magnolia photo I have ever seen was taken by my friend and fellow New Mexican, Avelino Maestas. I knew whatever photo I would take of the magnolia blossoms would pale in comparison to the photo I used as my phone’s wallpaper for well over a year. Salud, Avelino!)





All photos © Copyright Karen Fayeth, 2014 and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with a Canon G10 and touched up a bit in Photoshop.




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