from Alice: I awoke this morning in twilight, just before the sun came over the roof of the house. The wide sky here is dominated by the greater light during the day, even when cloud covered, and the lunar lit landscape at night offers still greater view of starlight than we ever see in the wet coast sky. We came back from downtown supper with Sarah, her husband, Tory and their youngest son, Tory, to such a night sky and paused to ponder the turning of the winter constellations and the appearance of Mars. Then we walked the labyrinth, a beautiful one Tory made for Sarah from the local stones, located ingeniously near the chicken house. The chickens had gone to bed when we'd come back, but earlier (see photo) were huddled near the fence as I walked up, waiting for me. Sarah gathered nine eggs yesterday--beautiful eggs of brown and green, reflecting the different breeds. Some have gorgeous iridescent feathers and many of you will recognize their varieties. (Of course, these eggs are delicious!)
Coming from Moab, on Sarah's suggestion, we took a route after Cortez that drove through Hesperus, Redmesa and La Plata (one of the three rivers around here which form geographic reference). We plan to return to Hesperus today, and I'm glad because the route is beautiful. Folks seem to denigrate Farmington's landscape, but it is very interesting, with its own beauty, and it's understandable that ancient people settled around here because there is water from the rivers and biomass created by the juniper/pinon ecology. There is no denying the resource extraction on an industrial scale: large reservoirs of natural gas and petroleum are tapped, and the national pest, Halliburton is here (and hiring!). Of course, this also means there are dinosaur fossils around. In the Moab rock shop, I found some petrified wood beads and of course there were a variety of fossil beads as well.
Regarding biomass, Sarah works hard to create it from the local urban setting, collecting coffee grounds and compost and building her tilth. It's a subtle growth compared with her gardens in Seattle and Montclair. At this point I want to reference, for Lara, because I think I forgot to mention it, although she may know it, Barbara Kingsolver's book about eating locally. Sarah found it very inspiring, as many have at home. We toured with Sarah in the morning on her route: aluminum recycling, coffee collection, and a drive by the San Juan Community College, a lovely school with great promise. There is a technical school there, and nursing students. It is perfect for what is clearly a growing community, and I truly hope its promise includes solar energy research and training, for this area is even richer in solar and wind resources than conventional fossil based energy.
Regarding the energy consumption scene: Tory took us on a tour of the house as soon as we arrived on Thursday night, revealing the secrets both of pride and contractor irritation that those of us who hire them endure. The house's hot water comes from passive solar system and the tank is completely insulated--keeping the water very hot for a long time. There is also a beautiful covered patio, really almost an atrium, facing south, which they plan to glass in for year round use. Tory told us about the dimensions of the living/dining room matching the floor plan of the king's chamber of the great pyramid at Giza [not Tutankhamen's tomb--correction], but the contractor balked at making it as high. I sympathized about the windows issue: I like the clerestory brick windows (one of their best uses) as opposed to the conventional north view window which can leak in the winter due to relentless storms (remember my studio window and its drainage to the floor below?), but Tory says even these bricks leak. He and Sarah had wanted no windows at all. Inside, the desert plants are everywhere and Sarah promises cuttings for me to take home to experiment with. I think the plants do help increase the moisture in the house. The family has worked to cut propane use, up this winter with all the snow and cold weather. As many of you know, especially the Seattle folks, passive solar clothes drying (aka the clothes line) helps immensely, and it was a real pleasure to hang our laundry on the drying racks and line: everything dried so quickly compared to home. No time for mold or mildew!
Just listened to Barack Obama's recent speech via New York Times. This business over the United Church of Christ puzzles me because it is the church both Jim and I grew up in and it is a liberal one, if Christian. Of course its liberalism may make it a target. Also, I cannot help but comment on the arrests around the country during the antiwar protests on Wednesday: interesting so many arrested at Diane Feinstein's offices and the others at the IRS. Choosing these as strategic sites interests me. Very cool.
Jim: I commented on the views from Crouch Mesa, where we are staying. The sunrise picture above was taken from the tower we are staying in, attached to the main house by a breezeway. The house is beautiful, thoughtfully planned and executed, and we are surrounded by Sarah's art, and Sarah and Tory's art collection. We were greeted by friends and a delicious southwestern dinner of brisket and accompaniments on our arrival. Sarah and Tory's son Tory has also been very generous, sharing his droll perspective, while preparing a delicious lunch for us yesterday while we watched the Robert Redford narrated DVD about Chaco Canyon, where we are headed tomorrow.
We are learning a lot about the life, history and landscape of northern New Mexico from Sarah and Tory, augmented by Tory's humorous outlook--he is a keen observer of people and institutions, with an amicable view of human nature which however does not ignore cynicism. Sarah has been enthusiastic about showing us around town, pointing out things such as the unique highway shrines people construct to remember those killed in traffic accidents--the one we saw yesterday (Alice is attaching a picture) was thoughtful and touching.
I cannot however ignore a sovereign aspect of our drive once we entered Colorado and New Mexico, which is the amazing volume of road kill, especially skunks and deer. We keep thinking about road kill stew and wondering, "where are the Clampetts?", though we did not have to ask the question, "what would Jed do?" We are eagerly waiting for our first view of a roadrunner, hopefully chased by a coyote.