Sunday, January 31, 2021

Mountain Magic

Looking north from Salazar Road

We got an overdue dose of snow last week. And while it was only five inches in town, the mountain received three times that. The welcome dump gave us an epic alpine view. I was driving north on Salazar Road and saw the sight above. Being in town with a clear shot of the snow laden Sangres leant some perspective to the scene. I came to realize that we live in a real mountain town. Because the town of Taos is removed from the high peaks by a dozen miles or so I’ve come to see it as just a high desert location and haven’t given the mountains their due. This image of the snowy 12,000-foot peaks to our northeast as seen from an intown street jolted me into the realization that Taos is a bona fide mountain town, too. It’s way more than desert. It was a moment that filled my chest; one that renewed my excitement at living in such a miraculous place.

Heart of Stone from Valverde Common

Eastbound on the Taos Plateau

Because we’re twenty miles from the Taos Ski Valley we don’t fit the mold of the typical western ski town. At Aspen, Vail, Telluride or Whistler when you’re in town you’re at the base of the mountain. The same in Europe. Look up from Main Street and you see the slopes soaring above you, the lifts just steps away. In Taos you’re looking at a half hour drive. That’s a blessing and a curse. We don’t have ski town ambience in Taos but, we don’t suffer ski town kitsch and tourist hordes. And you can afford to live Taos. It's not dirt cheap but real estate costs a third of Telluride where $1,500,000 will get you 850 square feet. Here you’ll get a mansion. Taos is a working town not a confection created for the rich and famous. In Jackson, Wyoming workers have to live in Idaho. In Taos they live in, well, Taos.

Taos Ski Valley is rated among the toughest mountains in the United States. In fact, it’s been named the sixth hardest, just below Kirkwood and above Telluride. I’ve skied all of them and concur. I couldn’t ski the waist deep powder at Kirkwood and had to fall to stop. It wasn’t my finest moment. The gladed steeps at Taos still scare the bejeezus out of me. 

Not to mention that Taos is one of America’s great art towns, an art colony dating back to the turn of the last century. With only 6,000 people we boast more than fifty galleries, three art museums and a lively music scene. We have more live music than Santa Fe with 70,000 happy inhabitants. It’s a bona fide art mecca. I’ve never felt an artistic vibe that I do here. That's the primary reason we chose the place. That and the forever vistas. For that matter, the State of New Mexico is said to have more artists and artisans than any other state. About 30% of the population creates some kind of art. 

Taos Pueblo

The buttresses of Ranchos Church

And Taos is steeped in history. The multi-story dwellings at Taos Pueblo have been inhabited for more than 1,000 years and the Pueblo is a World Heritage Site. Taos was first visited by a small party of Coronado’s Conquistadors in 1540. The much photographed Mission Church, San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos was completed in 1772.

There are lots of reasons to love this special place.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

One old wino to another

100 years of corked wine

Vestiges of late midlife in the age of COVID 19

You’ve been wondering how I survived the dark and dread of 2020. These still lifes tell you all you need to know. These jars of corks represent the hard work of staying above ground between November 20, 2020 and January 6.

The images are a by-product of patching and painting our water damaged master bedroom. Which is to say Peggy patched and painted and I inventoried our wine. In the process of emptying the bedroom to patch and paint, I had to remove a hundred or so bottles of wine from the rack so it could be moved. During that task I was forced to confront a dozen or so bottles that I knew were long past their drink date. And, though hope springs eternal, the wine in each of the blighted vessels had turned into brown sluice and the corks into muesli. I posted the three-bottle image above on Instagram and Facebook Saturday. In the post I declared that the trio of bottles represent 100 years of bad wine that I had just washed down the drain along with my tears. Thanks for your sympathies. I am disconsolate but not yet suicidal.

Much like getting rid of books you haven’t read and never will or discarding potboilers you’ve kept for no good reason, pouring out wine you’ve known to be dead for 20 years is somehow therapeutic. The books you can still read. The wine can water the basil plant.

The second oldest of the wines that I threw out was a 1975 Chateau Gruaud Larose, a Grand Cru Classé or a classified Bordeaux from St. Julian. I had already dumped a 1967 Lynch-Bages, a favorite which we first bought at the original Trader Joe’s in Pasadena in 1969. We drank the blessed elixir out of sterling silver goblets on New Years Eve of that year before going to the Rose Bowl Parade. Our ride was a 1927 Rolls Royce Woodie. True story. You cannot make this stuff up.

If you have the impression that wine has been our stalwart companion these fifty odd years, I will not disabuse you of the notion. The Lynch Bages and it's fellow Fifth Growth Pauillac, Grand Puy Lacoste, cost $5.00 in those heady days of discovery and promise. Every day was a revelation. First Boeuf Bourguignon. First Steak Tartar. First cilantro. First fresh squeezed margarita. When you're young there are too many firsts to remember.

When we moved to Minneapolis in 1971, we fell in with the wine crowd. We soon joined the local chapter of Les Amis du Vin and found ourselves on the committee that selected wines for our quarterly wine tastings. We had 300 members. That was in the days of the stringent 20-point rating scale not today’s liberally measured 100-point scale in which almost every wine seems to earn a 90 and plonk gets an 88. Our pre-tastings degenerated into boozy affairs capped by comedic efforts to craft our own blends; One third Mayacamas cabernet, two thirds Heitz sauvignon blanc and, voila, a sprightly rosé. The things we did to award winning wines were tragic. I still laugh about it.

Saturday I was at an appropriately distanced and double masked get-together with the erudite and cultured Carol and David Farmer in their living room overlooking the Sangre de Cristos. We were pondering late stage cabin fever and how we were craving travel and new experiences. The following nugget for which I take complete credit relates in an obscure way to that topic and the great Bordeaux revelation of 1969. And the Rolls Woodie.

As we were winding down after 90 minutes of snappy repartee I mused that, “I don’t want all of my adventures to be in the past.” David’s ears pricked up and he responded, “I may have to use that.” To which I answered, “Knock yourself out. I expect attribution."

Here’s to making new memories, my friends.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

This and that and not much else


Chaos Theory

There’s not much to report this week. It’s been a week of medical stuff and patching and painting our abode to get ready for an appraisal and a refi. Not the seven gauzy days of creative pursuits and navel gazing I would prefer.

Blanket of Snow, Ranchos Church

Blanket of Snow, Framed

Lenny's Fedora from Men in Hats, in the January-February issue of Shadow and Light

Bill Davis, the Dean of Taos Photographers. This was my Instagram entry Sunday.

On the meager creative front I did deliver my photograph, Blanket of Snow, to the Millicent Rogers Museum for its 19th annual Miniatures Show. And I approved the final edit of my article, Men in Hats, for Shadow and Light Magazine. Men in Hats, as I disclosed throughout December, is a compiled and edited story based on the six-part blog series of the same name that ended 2020.

I just topped 750 weekly posts. Even I am amazed. One year is a 4" 3-ring binder of pages. That counts for something doesn't it? Other than shelf space and trees.

The online Miniatures Show at the Millicent Rogers opens Saturday, February 6 and closes Sunday, February 28. To learn more go to 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

And the winners are

Adobe at Ranchos Plaza

Here in order are your selections as the best images of 2020. Thanks for your invaluable input. Unlike 2019 when the top votes getters were evenly split between images taken with professional cameras and those from my ever-present iphone, the top five of 2020 were all made with a DSLR. Which isn’t to say there weren’t worthy smart phone images, but I don’t think they stood up to the images from my Canon 5D Mark lll.

Blanket of Snow, Ranchos Plaza

Cruz Blanca #2, La Morada de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

The Last Monsoon, Elizabethtown Cemetery

Moonrise, Arroyo Hondo

Thanks to those of you that gave me your top five photographs. There was more continuity this year as Adobe at Ranchos Plaza and Blanket of Snow were first and second in most of your lists. Notably, Adobe featured the technique called Spot Color that reserves the color in part of an image while rendering the balance in toned black and white. It’s a practice I’ve thought of as contrived in the past but felt appropriate this time. I had a hunch it would be well received. So much so that when I delivered a 16”x20” framed print to my gallery, Wilder Nightingale, I told owner Rob Nightingale that “I think this one will sell.” And, when he posted it to Facebook that day, two sold immediately. It was also my Christmas Card.

Eaves in Shadow, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

Ventana, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

I’ve observed that successful images often come in clusters. That was true in 2020 when the top two vote getters were made the same winter morning in Ranchos de Taos and two others among the eleven on my shortlist were taken on the same day in the tiny village of Placita, NM. Those shown above were studies of the shadows cast by a corrugated roof on La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. They did not make the top five but I'm drawn to completely black shadows and the shapes they create.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

One Helluva Year


Adobe at Ranchos Plaza

Blanket of Snow, San Francisco de Asis

This is a look back at the images that stood out in 2020 according to me. They may be well designed, be appealing or tell a story. Your favorites may hit all the notes. It would be grand if you’d tell me your top five.

Wooden Wagon, Martinez Hacienda

Moonrise, Arroyo Hondo

You've Got Mail, Nambé Pueblo

Plane Geometry, San Antonio de Padua

Ventana, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

Corrugated Roof and Shadow, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

Cruz Blanca #2, La Morada de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

The Last Monsoon, Elizabethtown Cemetery

A friend told me that I posted too many images last year. There were 20. I’ll winnow my selections this time to lighten your load. Good luck and may the force be with you.

I hope you’ll take the two extra steps of, first, clicking on the title line you see above. That will take you to the actual blog. Then click on the first image which will display a full screen image. A full-size computer screen will show the images to their best advantage. And mine.

Please comment below with your choices or email your response. It's

Glowing Willows, The Immel Homestead

Please excuse the color photograph of the willows on our back forty. Couldn’t help myself.

Gracias y Feliz Nuevo Año.