Thursday, May 31, 2012

One good thing leads to another...

Soy marinated mahi mahi on lettuce wraps at The Range, Bernalillo NM
The Great Kiva of Chetro Ketl at Chaco Canyon New Mexico (photo courtesy of Wikipedia) was our destination Sunday morning of the Memorial Day weekend. If I had known what lay ahead, a wearying, yet ultimately energizing, climb up the canyon wall and back down, I might have passed on the experience. Exploring the ruins of Chaco might as well have been a totally new experience for me because I had little memory of the overnight trip I made there with friends 25 years ago. On that trip, it was July, and well that pretty much says it. It was July in the New Mexico desert.

I forgot my camera for this 25th anniversary visit to one of the most historic historical sites in the nation, so I've borrowed a free photo from Wikipedia. And while I appreciate having the opportunity to borrow this image, since virtually every photo one finds on the Internet is copyrighted (learned that the hard way), no photo that I could take would convey the majesty of such a haunting, austere, picturesque place. Our group of four joined scores of other visitors on a day with sunny skies and temperatures at late morning hovering under 70 degrees. When we arrived at the national park visitor center at mid morning, it was still only 54 degrees.

Attentive to the signage that explained in brief what we were seeing, most was left to speculation and questioning, even though we are told the approximate dates that Chaco was a "major center of culture" for the "Ancient Pueblo Peoples" (AD 900 - 1150). One significant footnote of an Anglo presence in the canyon is a small fenced-in cemetery, with the grave sites of husband and wife, Richard and Marietta Wetherill, who came to Chaco in 1897. According to information available on the Internet, Richard dug for Anasazi relics and established a thriving trading post with the Navajos. He was also killed by a Navajo man in 1910. As our small group made its way around Pueblo Bonito, a young family of father, mother and two children--presumably Hispanic or Native American--the father commenting to us that there was a cemetery about one-quarter mile away, if we wanted to go see it--"White man, not Indian," he added. Yet another story for the curious to investigate.

Several of the ruins are at automobile level. More sit atop the canyon wall, requiring a climb, which in some places is a crawl. It is more than a little challenging, especially to me, the oldest guy in the group. In a way I was celebrating my first official climb since getting a heart stent last November 15th. No slacker am I, however, because I walk often and briskly. Climb/crawling a canyon wall is a different matter, but I'm here to tell about.

It would have been enough just to make the drive to Chaco Canyon from Albuquerque. The scenery heading west from the Rio Grande Valley, up the plateau from 5000 to 7000 feet, was stunning. If you could see inside my mind, you would know. I urge you to go see for yourself.

The lovely plate pictured here? My very late lunch, or early dinner if you choose, a delight of grilled mahi mahi nested with condiments on butter lettuce leaves, accompanied by black beans and rice worth eating. No doubt, it was fare that any ancient puebloan would have loved. Ah, yes, the cold one-half pint of brew, made it all the more satisfying.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Labyrinth

Yesterday, while talking to a friend who lives in East Texas, our conversation had moved around the map. It usually does with us. We're both avid readers, above average intelligence, and we like to think and talk about a variety of things. While talking about spirituality, and along with that the work of a well-known Franciscan Friar centered here in Albuquerque, I asked Mildred if she had walked the labyrinth. Her answer reduced to its simplest element, "No".

As we continued to dart from one subject to another: collecting versus hoarding, modern furniture design, gardening, matters of health, and the list goes on, I was doing one-handed searches on Google, forwarding links on the Internet to her. One was an article from the religion blog on the CNN website where the writer, well known in journalistic circles, talked about her own experience with the labyrinth.  A woman of no small means, after a deep experience on the labyrinth at a spa retreat, she had had constructed on her property a large labyrinth based on the 13th century one at Chartres Cathedral in France. In the article, which is accompanied by a video clip where she talks about what the labyrinth means to her, the writer offers that walking the labyrinth is a good way to focus and problem solve. Having read the article and watched the video clip several months ago, I had forgotten the substance of what she had said, and seeing it once again, I reflected on the feelings I get while walking the labyrinth. I don't think of it as a conscious problem-solving tool. Instead, I draw from it an almost-perfect sense of calm that comes from simply moving slowly into the labyrinth center, pausing for a while, and then moving slowly back out, all along allowing my mind to rest as much as it will.

My first experience walking the labyrinth was in rural central Texas several years ago. At the time, our mother was in failing health, and a friend, knowing that I was struggling with everything relating to Mother's decline, offered to take me to this private retreat site, where a labyrinth nested in large Live Oak trees is open to the public. On that first experience, I found the calm I have talked about here. And that same experience has been true the many times I have walked the labyrinth over the last nine years. As a contemplative tool, I don't think that you can prescribe how walking the labyrinth is supposed to affect someone. I know two Episcopal priests who do not like how they feel when walking the labyrinth path. The experience is unsettling to them. Is it a control issue? I don't know. I do know this: go without expectation, allow yourself to proceed slowly, and give yourself up to the moment. That's what I did this morning at the Sisters of Canossian in the south valley of Albuquerque. My conversation with Mildred yesterday reminded me that I had been missing this experience. I just had to take time to have it.

The Internet has much information on the labyrinth, including its historical roots, books by so-called experts, and even a labyrinth locator. While on the phone with Mildred, I found links to labyrinths in the big city of Dallas and even in a tiny town only 10 miles from her home in Tyler. "Go," I said.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A friend ends her communications with, "always add a touch of red".

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Albuquerque Art

Emilie von Auw watercolor

Friday, May 25, 2012

Not Florida

Pink Flamingos Albuquerque Zoo

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"God will reward you," said the clerk in the market 30 minutes ago, as he bagged an apple, a banana, a bagel, and a bottle of Honestly Tea. "I'm already rewarded," I replied. The man sitting on the edge of the parking lot across from the store had approached me a few minutes earlier for money. I told him I would buy him food. This puzzled him, but then understanding that I would go in the market and buy him food, he thanked me, but he also asked if I could give him a dollar for the bus. "No," I replied, "just food". He was waiting for me outside the market. I handed him the bag and a dollar bill. "God bless you," as he offered his hand. "God bless you," I replied, accepting his hand. I had just paid $42.80, including tax, plus a $5 tip to the man who cuts my hair and a $3 tip to the woman who shampoos it. I get it, trust me.

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25: 44-45, NIV)

Here’s a worthy challenge for anyone who claims to be a practicing Christian. I’m talking about walking the walk, and indeed, not about talking the talk. I’m talking about putting our money where our mouth is. I’m talking about missed opportunities.

Puzzling it is how we the masses can go through life mouthing the words of the prayer that the man Jesus taught, “...your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” without understanding that the kingdom is very much in this world, very much now. And what we supposedly are praying for is that we, the very very we, will come into our own in realizing this dream of God, expressed in a prayer that is fundamental to the faith we claim.

Ah, missed opportunities. Last Sunday, I spent the better part of a day with two friends. Four of us had begun celebrating one friend’s birthday the night before with a quiet early dinner at a nice mid-priced restaurant in Old Town Albuquerque. Before leaving my house for dinner, we watched the running of the Preakness, the second leg of thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown, a sport and an event where wealth is on display, with no pretense otherwise. After an early evening, marked by good wine, great food, and best of all, the good company of friends, people retired in their respective dwellings in the Nob Hill area of Albuquerque. None of us is rich, but we are blessed, oh, so blessed.

The birthday celebration continued on Sunday with brunch at a nearby restaurant, owned by the same brothers who own the place where we had eaten the night before. Tom and I had already eaten, but I joined the other two friends, and the three of us walked to and from my house, then joined Tom at an open house for a home we had watched morph from a small, 1940s adobe guesthouse into a two-story modern, state of the art green dream. Asking price, a mere $375,000. This led to a driving tour of the Nob Hill and Ridgecrest areas so that one friend could show us other houses that he dreams of owning. Oh, to decide, oh, so many choices—even though the choice itself might not be so realistically achievable.

Finally, three of us made our way to a microbrewery on the edge of downtown. The afternoon was hot, and a cold pint sounded really good. We were greeted in the parking lot by a woman who appeared to be of Native American heritage. She looked a little distant in the eyes, her behavior bordering on frenzy, and she was asking for money because she claimed to be hungry. She didn’t appear to be under nourished, she appeared to be clean, including her long straight dark hair peppered with gray. We quietly said, “we have no money today”. After getting our beers and heading out to the patio, we saw the woman approaching a car of people leaving the place. Following a brief exchange, the car, holding mother, father, and child, pulled away and the woman appeared to be holding a handful of change. “I should go to McDonald’s and get her something to eat,” I commented to one friend. She responded, “that’s really kind of you”—or something like that. It didn’t seem like any big deal to me. Put your money where your mouth is.

Did we go to McDonald’s? Did we say anything different when we headed back to our car, the woman waiting again to ask for money? The one friend said, “you already asked us”. The woman’s reply—” don't hurt to ask”. And we left. No McDonald’s, no extended hand. All that we ended up offering to this missed opportunity was the speculation that the woman wanted, indeed needed, the money for alcohol or drugs. We’ll never know. Yet, one thing I do know is that I failed to see this woman as who she really is, regardless of whatever challenges she faces daily. “We must see Christ in every face,” offered the preacher, a long time ago. Last Sunday, I knew I was falling short, just as I have many times when faced with a similar challenge. Sometimes I answer the challenge; most times I do not.

I thought I had resolved for myself the struggle many, most of us face when we are panhandled on the street. Probably everyone has been burned by people claiming need, a need that turns out to be something different than their claim. The resolve I thought that I had reached many years ago—give and let go—doesn’t track so well for me. We’ve all learned that when someone asks for money for food, we should stop, say “I’ll get you some food, what would you like?” I did that one morning at McDonald’s many months ago. He was traveling, laden with backpacks and a musical instrument, and he was hungry. It was not a life-changing experience—at least, not for me. I have no way of knowing what it meant to the other guy. The friend I was riding with told me cynically that the guy had ripped me off. Maybe so, but there was something in that act for all three of us. We just have to figure it out.

One stone does not a building make. So from where I sit, my monthly trip to deliver jars of peanut butter and cans of tuna to one of the food banks here counts for something. But it’s not enough. It can’t be enough, regardless of how much I give, which is modest by any standard. Everywhere we look we see people in need. And trust me, I’m not interested in hearing flippant judgments about choices. “It’s all about choices,” some crow. There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford (16th century English Reformer and martyr). We must see Christ in every face. At some level of consciousness, each of us wants others to see Christ in our face. Namaste.

R. Harold Hollis—Albuquerque, NM (May 24, 2012)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Oversized Navajo silver cowboy hat ashtray,
presumably for cigars, measuring 9" x 8" x 3", 
 circa 1930s

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
A cairn is a man-made stack of rocks or stones, generally intended to provide direction. Cairns are fairly common here in the mountain west on hiking and biking trails. You see these primitive markers become artful offerings in neighborhood yards.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I was the slightest in the House --
I took the smallest Room --

At night, my little Lamp, and Book -- And one Geranium -- ...
Except to Heaven, she is nought,

Except for Angels -- lone.
Except to some wide-wandering Bee

A flower superfluous blown. ... 21
How many Flowers fail in the Wood
Or perish from the Hill --

Without the privilege to know

That they are Beautiful -- ...22

(Poem 486, Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886)

When I see a potted geranium, I think of my mother and my oldest sister, Joan. I don’t know who of these two started the tradition of always having a few pots on the porch or patio. They would both cover their plants with sheets during the schizophrenic Texas winters. Mother had a garage, and until she became too frail to move the usually-largish pots, that’s where her plants went during freezing weather. I do know that both Mother and Joan let their geraniums get “out of control”, for some reason, even though they both knew that the plants love to be pruned so that they can flourish anew. Plants have a mind of their own, indeed.

I like geraniums, but I hadn’t given them much thought beyond Mother and Joan’s garden spots until I started living in New Mexico. Geraniums are everywhere here, but especially noticeable during the winter when they take up residence in the sun-receiving windows of lots of homes. In her 1935 recollection, Winter in Taos, Mabel Dodge Luhan writes about geraniums wintering in her windows. I’m surprised that no one of her many famous or becoming famous artist contemporaries—those who came to Taos largely because of the society of artists that was begun by Luhan—painted geraniums in her or their own windows. Likely someone did, and it’s not a famous painting—or I just don’t know about the painting.

My loosely-conceived to-do list includes finding an old painting of a pot of geraniums, but it must have been painted here in New Mexico. At least, that’s my conviction right now. On my daily walks throughout the neighborhood where I am living in Albuquerque, I see many eye-catching settings where geraniums play a part. My own eastward-facing front porch has a pair of small orange-red specimens—some people call this color turkey red—that offer the prospect of growing to some kind of magnificence before our season ends. Summer will tell the story.

R. Harold Hollis, Albuquerque NM (May 17, 2012)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Native American Treasure

Navajo Leather Pouch mid 20th C.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Tena Fuchs Hollis 1917 - 2007

"For much of the human race, the mother is the one who parts the veil for us. She gives us that experience of grounding, of intimacy, of tenderness, of safety that most of us hope for from God." (from the Daily Mediation for May 13, 2012, Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque New Mexico)

The day I took this photo of our mother in April of 2006, she and Joan, our oldest sister, were about to leave for Mother's home west of Houston. Mother is standing in front of an arbor formed from a wire panel, which normally is used for building fences to manage livestock. The backdrop is a vine gifted to me from Edna Rustenbach Fuchs--our Aunt Edna--who was married to Mother's only brother, our mother's only sibling. I don't know the name of the vine. It came to Aunt Edna through her mother, Emily Rustenbach, who called it simply, "Blue Bells".

Mother never liked having her photo taken. I remember that our grandmother, Lizzie Fuchs, also didn't care much for having her photo taken. In many photos of Mother, she looks a little sad. She was self conscious at times--maybe all the time--although she certainly had a friendly nature. Maybe she struggled with her own worthiness. We'll never know how much the struggle colored her life. In spite of all the questions I had for Mother over the years about family, I didn't ask nearly enough. I took some notes, which I treasure, but no, I didn't ask nearly enough. She loved being around family, and she liked to talk about family. Mother told me much more about our daddy's family than he ever shared. Now, those in our generation are left to continue figuring things out for ourselves. I see little of the curiosity I feel about family evident in my nieces and nephews. Who knows how curious they will become as they finally realize that time is slipping away.

Mother was strong in her German Lutheran faith. If we ever talked about God having a feminine side, I don't recall, although I doubt that she would have been opposed to a prayer that begins with "Father Mother God".

Father Mother God, speak in my heart. Shine your light on my path, guide me on this journey. I will live out my days in your love. May your love be the gift that I give to others. I pray your blessings on this and every day, for all the Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters of this earth. Namaste.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lilacs Upper Canyon Road Santa Fe May 2012

WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.

(When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd, Walt Whitman, 1819-1892)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Old door flanked by potted geraniums

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

At the 1952 Texas Cowboy Reunion, Fred Dalby of Aspermont, Texas and John Burrus, Sr. of Caradan, Texas were awarded trophy saddles in the ranch rodeo event called double mugging. At the time, Dalby was 40 and Burrus was 34. Interestingly, both of these men, who remained friends throughout their lives, died in 2009. One was 92, the other 85. Equally interesting is the note that John Burrus, Jr. won a trophy for the same event 25 years later. The 1952 trophy saddle came to me through my nephew who lives west of Houston. At that time it belonged to an old guy who simply wanted to sell it. According to the story, it had belonged to his brother. How his brother came to own it and how it had traveled from west Texas to the Gulf Coast are details lost to time.

Growing up in the 1940s and '50s, like all other kids of that era, I was a fan of Roy and Dale. If I have to explain that to you, well, you have your own childhood heroes. In the first decade or so of television I was equally a fan of the westerns that populated the airwaves of the time. We lived around horses, although we weren't a ranching family. One of my early memories of riding is set in the cow lot on family land where my Grandma Fuchs dairied with her son, Bubba, out in the country. That country became Houston a long time ago. I guess the horse was King, one of Uncle Bubba's cow horses. In my mind's eye I have hitched King to the board fence so that I can straddle the fence to saddle him. You see, he's too tall for me to stand on the ground and do that. And as I recall, the saddle was my very own, but of course bought used.

I've owned a few horses over the years, and though I was told throughout the years that I rode horses, "you really sit a horse pretty", no rodeo rider am I. I didn't have the talent or the drive to rope a calf or ride rough stock. We were regular fans of the local rodeos all of our growing up years. My oldest sister, Joan, was a barrel racer. All the gear of of the cowboy style continues to appeal to me. It's hard for me to pass up an old hat that someone is offering for sale, especially if it's good quality beaver. Quality a given, used boots, silver belt buckles, saddles and saddlebags, chaps, all of these ring my bell. That's why the 1952 Texas Cowboy Reunion trophy saddle rests on its laurels in the 2-story barn I call home when I am in Texas. I haven't had a horse in a long time, but last count, my saddle holdings include a 1920s Strauss Bodenheimer (Houston), 1940s S. A. Wade (Rosenberg, Texas), 1940s Francisco Vela (Floresville, Texas), a 1930s saddle made for Stelzig's Saddlery (Houston), a saddle attributed to the Texas penitentiary in Huntsville, and of course, the 1952 Cowboy Reunion saddle made by Olsen-Stelzer, Henrietta Texas, one of the premier makers of saddles and boots in the first half of the 20th century.

I guess I'm what you could call a cowboy in spirit. Truth is, I never really wanted to be a cowboy, just like I didn't see myself as a fireman or policeman or President. I like all the trappings and romance of the cowboy world. And the story of the two men who won those champion double mugger saddles at the 1952 Texas Cowboy Reunion in Stamford, Texas is waiting to be told, by me or by someone else. The circle remains unbroken. Namaste.

R. Harold Hollis, Albuquerque NM (May 1, 2012)