Sunday, December 17, 2017

Slow Down and Enjoy This Holiday Season

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Kwanzaa

Celebration of the Winter Solstice

Happy New Year

Just two more weeks left in 2017.  It has been quite the year in my life.  Having now lived for 67 revolutions of this Earth around our Sun, I am grateful for my friends and family and for each new day I experience as I look at the backside of this life of mine.  Lost some good people this year and with each loss, I am reminded of the fragility of our human existence.  No matter your personal beliefs, we can all learn something from the many spiritual celebrations of this season  and find common ground in our practices to find peace and harmony in this world.

Several years ago, I became aquainted with the Buddhist concept of "dukkha" (suffering) and The Four Noble Truths.  I also learned about how we can overcome suffering by following The Eightfold Path.  In keeping with these concepts, I wish to share with you a beautiful practice for guided meditation during this hectic and anxious time.  Please enjoy this beautiful and calming "Awakening the Heart" chant with Zen Master Thich Nhat Han and his Plum Village nuns and monks.  If you can take the time, the next 24 minutes will bring you great inner peace and refresh yourself:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Farewell, Mark

Farewell to Mark Powers, may he rest in peace.  He was born August 13, 1951 and passed away suddenly on November 14, 2017.  He leaves two beautiful loving daughters, Amanda and Mary, and two sons-in-law,  Matthew and Malcolm, to remember him, as well as two sisters and a brother, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins, and many friends and comrades in the struggle for a better world.  He felt deep affinity for the underdog, compassion for the impoverished, and respect for the forgotten men and women who worked hard all their lives but achieved so little in material wealth.  He believed in equality for all, that love could find a way, and in the power of music to free one's soul.  We will not forget your kindness and your deeply held values in the power of unity of action and common cause to make a better world. 

At his daughter, Mary's wedding, Abuquerque,NM,  October 27, 2012

At his daughter Amanda's wedding, Taos, NM, October 1, 2016.

Enjoying the day before Mary and Matt's wedding, Sandia Park, NM October 2012.

Grains of Sand

We are but grains of sand on this earth -- our lives largely affected by forces beyond our control.  There are times when an individual grain may find itself transformed and valued among all other grains of sand.   By chance, a small speck becomes trapped within the body of an oyster and, after many years, becomes a beautiful iridescent pearl.  We enjoy this pearl and admire its uniqueness and incredible beauty.  Other times, a grain of sand is distinguished by its ability to irritate and cause pain as when a single grain becomes lodged within the eye and we curse its presence.

Most of us make up the vast grains of sand on the earth -- our purpose linked with purpose of the other like grains; and our significance apparent in the result of our combined presence.  We become glass, useful and beautiful.  We become cement, strong and permanent. We become the playground of children, a place of delight and creative imagination.

Free will is an important quality in human beings.  It often influences our destiny.  Still, only a few of us will have the opportunity to become the pearl.  Our lack of such opportunity does not make us worth less.  Our worth most often is dependent upon the combined activity of like-minded individuals facing similar conditions.  Together we become transformed and valued, like the millions of grains which become the road, the playground or the ceramic vase.  Strive to become the pearl.  But remember, most of life’s accomplishments will be the result of the joint effort of many.   Always value this as your greatest achievement.

(by Vicki Powers 1994)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Late Summer Flowers in My Garden

I love this time of year!  The days are getting cooler, the flowers are more colorful in my garden, and the hummingbirds amass at the nectar feeders and flowers to put on some more weight for their journey south to Mexico for winter.  My tomatoes are finally getting ripe.  I walked outside this morning and took stock of what is blooming and what has gone to seed.  I live in the foothills of Albuquerque, New Mexico at 5900 ft. elevation.

I finally identified the oregano that has tiny white flowers and pungent leaves for my cooking that was planted by the previous resident of this house.  It is Syrian Oregano (Origanum Maru), also called Bible Hyssop referred to in this passage: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:7).  
Syrian Oregano flowers

This herb, a member of the aromatic Mint Family,  is used in many Middle Eastern spice blends and is key to the making of Zatar :    

"In the Middle East, Origanum maru is often used, along with Conehead Thyme and Pink Savory, as an ingredient in the spice blend Zatar. While it is tempting to label a single herb Zatar and while, like the recipe below, a single herb may be mixed with other ingredients, Zatar is an herb and spice blend. The herbs in the mix vary from region to region, similar to curry. Zatar is often spread on bread or pita with a little olive oil and baked something like an herbal pizza. 

"In Carol Saville's excellent book Exotic Herbs, she gives this simple recipe for Zatar:
1/2 cup dried Syrian Oregano
1/4 cup imported edible ground sumac

Syrian Oregano growing in my garden
(make sure to get the edible kind from a Middle Eastern market)
2 tablespoons roasted Sesame Seeds
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Black Pepper to taste
Pita Bread
2/3 Cup Olive oil
In a small bowl add the first five ingredients and stir together to combine. Seal in a glass jar and store out of the light. Makes about 2/3 cup.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Brush pita with olive oil and sprinkle with Zatar and warm in the oven. Or mix equal parts Zatar and Olive Oil and spread over bread and then warm."    (from: Mountain Valley Growers website)

Other herbs growing in my garden include Spearmint, Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender and Sage.  The Rosemary bloomed in the spring with its delightful blue flowers.

The Rosemary was already growing here when we moved in in 2014.  I have had to cut it back as it had spread so extensively.

Talk about spreading, I planted Spearmint from a cutting of wild spearmint from Juan Tomas Road in the Manzanita Mountains.  The Spearmint (Mentha spicata), also called Yerba Buenamakes for a good tea and is a key ingredient for Rum Mojitos that I occasionally enjoy.  The Spearmint has been blooming all summer and has delicate white flowers. I love the smell of the mint when I walk on it.

Spearmint flowers

Spearmint is very invasive spreading by rhizomes

A hardy ground cover that I also love to walk on for the smell is also a useful herb: Thyme.  I have  three kinds of Thyme growing in my garden.  The most hardy and fragrant is the English or Garden Thyme (Thymus vulgaris).  It survives winter freezes, insects and infrequent watering and makes for a lovely green carpet of fragrant leaves.  I often use this thyme for cooking.

My English Thyme grows into a luxurious carpet of aromatic green

White flowers of Garden Thyme
My garden has two types of creeping thymes,  Mother of Thyme  (Thymus praecox) which has tiny light violet flowers blooming now and Elfin Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) which I like to grow among walkways, steps, and rocks.  It tends to mound and has deep pink flowers. 

Elfin Thyme

Mother of Thyme
 I also have several lavenders growing with more or less success   They are at the end of the flowering season and beginning to go to seed.The flowers range from blue to pinkish white. The heartiest for this elevation and cold freezes is English Lavender.

'Elegance Pink' English Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
 I have many Sages or Salvia.  They spread by seed and new meadow sages pop up all over my garden. They attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds all summer.

Salvia or Meadow Sage

Texas Sage or Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)  has red or magenta flowers .

Meadow Sage

Last summer I gathered the seeds from the spent Zinnia flower heads  and this spring I scattered them pell mell throughout the lower garden.   Now they are all blooming with a ferocious spirit to maintain their life force.  Colorful and abundant, my husband especially likes the Zinnias. 

I have Dianthus and Cat Mint, Butterfly Bush, Tickseed, Marigold, Rose and Gaura that are all blooming right now.  The bees and hummingbirds have them to themselves since the butterflies are all gone.

Butterfly Bush and Texas Sage

Dianthus smell spicy like carnations

Coreopsis | Tickseed

My 'Anna's Promise" Rose
 A few volunteers I did not plant are popping up, including Morning Glory and Sunflowers.
Wild Morning Glory

Sunflower from bird seed feeders.  The birds are eating the leaves.
I also have some vegetables: tomatoes, chiles, and squash.  I have a little game going on with the ground squirrels who get the tomatoes as soon as they start to redden.  I have to pick them just when they get a hint of pink to beat the squirrels to their sweetness.

Squirrels got to this one before I did.

Better pick this one before the squirrels get it..

Finally, some tomatoes for my salad,

 I am pretty happy with my little backyard garden now.  I've put a lot of labor and love into making it into a backyard retreat to enjoy the out-of-doors in the city.

Three years ago when we bought this house, this is what the backyard looked like:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer in New Mexico

A New Mexico summer sky - on New Mexico Hwy 14 to Santa Fe

A lot of people think New Mexico is like Arizona - hot and desert-like.  Some people even picture saguaro cactus when they think of New Mexico.

Sahuaro cacti in Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona
To set the record straight, there is not a single saguaro cactus in New Mexico - they only grow in Arizona.  

New Mexico is #2 (after Arizona) for the most days of sunshine of all the United States.  But, it is a whole lot cooler than Arizona in the summer.

Most of New Mexico is mountainous,  high plains and buttes over 5000 ft. above sea level.  Our most famous desert is the beautiful National Monument of White Sands.

White Sands National Monument (NPS photo)
The most southern portion of the Rocky Mountains extends into northern New Mexico where the highest point is Mt. Wheeler, 13,161 feet above sea level, about 15 miles north of Taos, NM "as the crow flies".  The lowest elevation of New Mexico is 2,842 feet above sea level, at Red Bluff Reservoir on the Pecos River.

Climate (All temperatures Fahrenheit)
Highest TemperatureThe highest temperature recorded in New Mexico is 122°, Fahrenheit. This record high was recorded on June 27, 1994 at Lakewood.
Lowest TemperatureThe lowest temperature in New Mexico, -50 °, was recorded on February 1, 1951 at Gavilan.
Average TemperatureMonthly average temperatures range from a high of 92.8 degrees to a low of 22.3 degrees.


Where I live in central New Mexico (Albuquerque), we have 4 seasons that are reasonably mild with an average of 9.39 inches of rainfall and 10 inches of snowfall annually.  This year has been very unusual with much hotter weather in June with several days of 100+ temperatures and several weeks of 90+ temperatures.

Summer in New Mexico is a wonderful season for outdoors activities as long as you plan for some extreme weather events like sudden afternoon thunderstorms, strong wind gusts, and short sustained rainfalls that may include hail.  Take plenty of water and wear sunscreen when you hike or bike or are just going to be outside for a while because we have strong UV light and very low humidity.

For ideas of what to see or do in New Mexico, check out the State Tourism website.

Here are pictures of some of the places Ron and I have traveled to in New Mexico and where we've taken family:

San Jose de Gracia church at Las Trampas, NM

Vicki at the Taos Inn, Taos NM

Amanda at Cabazon

Wild horses at Arroyo Tonque, San Felipe Pueblo

Gerogia O'Keeffe Country, Abiquiu New Mexico

Abo ruins Salinas Pueblo Mission Trail National Monument

Valles Caldera National Preserve
Valles Caldera National Preserve

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Mass Ascension from Rio Rancho

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Ron at overlook of Rio Chama south of Vado Lake

Fendler's Sandwort  at Sandia Crest

View of Albuquerque from Sandia Mountains Crest (elevation: 10,678 ft)

Tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera

Anne on top of Sandia Mountains with a view of Albuquerque, Sandia Mountains Crest (elevation: 10,678 ft)

Hummingbirds at the Sandia Crest House

Anne's family visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Inside Carlsbad Caverns 
Navajo Lake, NM

Ron and I camping at Navajo Lake State PARK