Photo Round Up (between here and there and everywhere else)

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Not Afraid of the Dark

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Honestly, I can hardly believe this photograph turned out so well.  It is magic.  Rob and I had been hunting all day and when we arrived back at camp, I looked out at the moonrise and the delicate palate of the sunset in the sky and I had a vision.   I set up my camera and remote and literally galloped out across the sand dunes to get this photograph.

The moon.  My friend.  I have no reason to fear the dark.

We have been in New Mexico for nearly two weeks, hunting quail and being a family and camping and living rough and working our beautiful, steadfast dogs in incredible country.  It is the joy of my heart to be here.  The joy of my heart.  I think it’s because it is the joy of my heart, truly, that I was able to make a photograph like this (and many more that I look forward to sharing with you).  I believe in creating from the light, from joy, from emotions that are rooted in beauty.  It is from those places I experience a true welling up of originality.

More soon.

X

PS

I just had a hot shower for the first time in nine days and it was SUBLIME.

Wyo :: Notes From The Road

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For I have seen the wild horse and now belong to a higher cult of mortality.IMG_6866 IMG_6833

The potato is to Idaho as the wind is to Wyoming.

Actually, that’s not true.  The Idaho potato is the way we Idahoans trick people into thinking there’s nothing to this state except miles and miles of potato crops, stretching forth to the horizon and beyond when in fact, this is one of the wildest, most mountainous states in the Union (seriously, we lay claim to the largest, roadless wilderness area in the lower 48 states) .  The potato farming misconception helps us keep the population down in our state which makes for uncrowed wild spaces which is what most Idahoans truly live for.  Tricked you, didn’t we!  You can think about our secret wild spaces while you nibble on your Five Guys french frys this week. Spud-aluia!  But I digress.

It is windy in Wyoming.  Wyoming is made infamous by a gnarly breeze.

It is windy in Idaho, too, but over on the high plains and high desert flats of Wyoming where there are no mountain breaks to bust up gale force winds; the air gathers strength and it simply blows, unceasingly.

Take a deep breath right now, hold it in for a moment, now blow it out steadily with as much pressure as you can muster.  How long does your exhalation last?  Five seconds?  Seven seconds if you have exceptional lung capacity?  Imagine if you could sustain a strong exhalation for an extended period of time, say a week or a month.  Now imagine you are the size of God, exhaling your wild breath across an entire state, scrubbing the sagebrush, scouring the high prairie, tearing lonesome trees up by their roots.

That is the Wyoming wind.  God is bent over the state blowing His eternal exhalation across the land there; it tears at the white tufted flanks of the pronghorn as they stand with their backs to it, spooks the wild horses, causes ranch wives to curse the fact that their hair always looks scruffy and unshackled.  No hairspray on earth can hold up to that kind of wind unless it is made of concrete and even then, it is slowly worn away.

Wyoming is the kind of place I love: unshackled, open, geographically diverse, spacious, wild, dry, breezy, rumpled, high, empty.  It scowls with storms in the winter months, bakes like a convection oven in the summer months.  It creeps with pronghorn, elk, bighorns, mule deer and of course, the courageous and tenacious mustang.  I have seen moose in Wyoming and not while in the Teton area, I mean over in Wyoming.  I looked out the windows as I drove across the high prairie where the ground was rolling green and wavering in the gale, I checked the altitude on my GPS system and it read 7204ft!  Incredible!

Wyoming is divine.

Fact:  I have never traveled to Wyoming and not seen wild horses.  I am not sure if this is normal, if I simply have an eye for wildlife or if I am mustang charmed.  I hope I am mustang charmed.

On this trip, between Rawlins and Laramie, while the sun was falling down into night, I parked the truck out on a lonely stretch of  two track, in a tawny segment of BLM land where I had spied a mustang band and pronghorn herd from the highway.  I crept about in the sage, sat down, and did my watching, felt the red of the sun on my face, stretched my legs and back.  The way wild things are seems so normal to me.  As I sat watching, the wind blew my hair in my eyes.  I shook my mane.  I felt the dust begin to cling to my skin and the perfume stink of sage stained my jeans and hands.  I ceased to be the girl sitting and watching the wild ones and grew into something else.  It was a small tragedy to hop in my truck and head down the highway again.  I took with me the memories of a lone mustang eating the Wyoming sun and two curious antelope colts, all legs and wind and white rump.
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I stopped to fill the truck with diesel at a huge truck stop somewhere out in the middle of the darkness around 11PM.  I managed to lock my keys in my truck and had to ask a long armed cowboy to reach in through a partially open window to pop the lock for me.  He did.

Gee, hun.  Glad to help.

Then, I was recognized and spent a good 45 minutes chatting and sharing with a sweet couple living out of a refurbished Winnebago (hi guys!).  Being recognized as The Noisy Plume in random places is always kind of hilarious and strange.  For me, I’m meeting strangers.  For the strangers, they’re meeting someone they kind of know.  It takes a little grace to strip the situation of awkwardness and right the scales so the knowingness is balanced.  I tend to ask a lot of questions of anyone I meet, which is a good social habit to have in any situation, but especially good when you get to meet strangers who already know parts of you.

Delightful.

I watered Tater.  Had a snack.  Watered myself.  Drove on.  Fell into that night time driving rhythm that requires glasses, music with a good beat and avoidance of swerving semi-trailers.  I pulled into Laramie, hugged and kissed my sister hello, hugged my friends, washed my face and settled into bed.
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Let me tell you about Cheyenne.  It’s my kind of little interior West city.  Charming.  The old town area is laid with red brick and stone, studded with old hotels, coffee shops, Western stores and a beautiful train station.  There is also the Capital building which is tall and golden domed in the heart of downtown — shining white like a beacon of political hope and surrounded by gardens, lush parks, gracious elms leaning in the sun the way gracious elms tend to.  It’s beautiful!  It’s a beautiful old town.  We watched the Frontier Days Parade and it was nothing short of spectacular.  I love an American parade, it’s a glorious thing.  This one had no less than three incredible marching bands, two marching fife bands, a fiddling band (pulled by horse and wagon — and sounding superb), mounted police,  a heavenly host of antique and vintage wagons, carts, buggies, coaches and so on and so forth pulled by magnificent horse, draft horse and mule teams and all the humans situated inside were in period costume.  IT WAS FANTASTIC!!!  I clapped and cheered for every person and horse that went by, avidly pointed out my favorites, and generally got carried away.  In return, many of those parade people shouted out comments about Tater Tot who was magnificent that day and calmly laying in the shade beside me on the sidewalk curb.  The only moment he got rowdy is when someone shot off a canon a few times and he started bounding around looking for something to retrieve with his ears perked up and that crazy bird dog hunting look in his eyes.  Poor thing.

I had to tell him “No bird.”

And he was heartbroken.

The parade, oh Cheyenne, well done.  Well done.  My sister and I raved about it for days.

Then there were four girls in a big truck headed for a rodeo which is kind of a special thing, you know?  We were in dresses and boots and cute looking all around.  There was a Pow Wow, a little fair grounds shopping, the weird carnival night life that surrounds the rides, Lady Antebellum in the stadium, a massage chair that I did not want to get out of, a host of incredibly talented cowboys and cowgirls competing on horseback.  Boy did we cheer.   It was great.

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My sister and I left Cheyenne and went teardropping across Wyoming beginning with scrambling and camping at Vedauwoo which is comparable to Idaho’s City of Rocks — an area rising up in wonderful heaps of granitic rubble against a wide skys.  We went to the tops of things, watched the setting sun, laughed a lot, sipped gin and tonics, declined marijuana from a traveling band of hairy bongo drummers, exclaimed at the magnificence of the stars, talked about men, laughed a lot and then fell asleep and did it all again the next day.IMG_7002

[Sisters, exactly as we are: she is the calm in the eye of the storm I create everywhere I go.]IMG_7073

Wyoming unfolded before us in its full and glorious dimension beneath a hot summer sun and the mad raking of the wind.  We drove into space, we camped beneath cliffs, we washed our hair in waterfalls, we took a safari through a cemetery to scope out some pretty bucks and spotted fawns, ate Thai food, swerved around highway deer, set up camp again, slurped soup, marveled at the world around us, loved the rain and cherished our sisterhood. IMG_7181 IMG_7219 IMG_7224IMG_7186

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It was the Tetons that eventually split us in two, the Tetons do that, you know; cut things into halves, divide the low from the high — the heavens from the earth, shred storm systems into quintuplet anvil clouds, slice ropes, dice swaths of land into twin states.

At the Tetons, I headed South to Jackson and Toby wound herself North to Yellowstone, Bozeman and eventually home to Saskatoon.  I already miss her, sisters make the world go round and create a sort of home for one another.  Seeing my sisters is like coming to roost in the nest of their hearts.  Who knows me better than my sisters — my inherent faults, the way I have changed over the years, the way adulthood has carved away at me and built me up, my unspoken griefs, my celebrated life victories.  There’s a language between sisters, that cannot be defined by the world, a private and untranslatable connection, a thing that taps deeper than the cottonwood root, something ageless and everlasting.  I’m always so glad that I’ve got mine and that they’ve got me.IMG_7508IMG_7521IMG_7515IMG_7533Wyoming, I already miss you.  You carefully own a part of me, be well until next time.

The Beauty Is In The Details — Santa Fe to Taos and Home Again

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As a general rule, cities cause me discomfort.  I prefer the country, open horizon lines, clean air and antelope herds.  I have, in days past, experienced feelings of culture shock while traveling into and out of cities from rather rural homes.  Driving into Anchorage, Alaska for provisions from Copper Center used to terrify me.  Buzzing over to Los Angeles from the tiny river town of Parker, Arizona made my head hurt.  Even now, going to Boise or Salt Lake City is enough to exhaust me on such a deep level that I usually need a day of recovery once I return home.

Cities tend to leave me feeling tired, hyper-stimulated and bewildered.  Please believe me when I say I am not anti-city.  I think cities can be wonderful places and have explored many with great pleasure, however, I find they sap my strength, tax my mind and weary my senses.  With that said, cities are not usually my focus when I travel.  Usually my trips involve being outside, hugging trees, catching fish, rowing my raft and riding horses.  So, when I travel with M, it’s refreshing to be with someone who is tremendously comfortable in urban places, someone who can safely expose me to experiences I rarely choose to expose myself to.  Does that make sense?

She took care of a lot of the driving on this trip, especially when we were in cities, which really helped me to stay sane.  Filtering large loads of information at high speeds is not one of my mental talents.  If my eyes see something lovely, I focus on it.  I refrain from multi-tasking in life and my senses and mind seem to be wired in a similar manner.  I take in delicious pieces of the world around me and really focus on every single bite as it passes through my system in full chroma, full texture, full scent, full feel…full fullness.  It’s how I operate.  Having M by my side keeps me within my filtration comfort zone, she’s sort of my seeing eye dog in big cities.  She is a solid thing I can trust to lead me on when I fall victim to my senses or am struggling with complete overload.  I realize this makes me sound fragile, and I suppose I am, in some ways.

What to say about Santa Fe — it’s a beautiful old town.  There is so much art!  There is so much jewelry (I grew desensitized to the beauty of it, actually…)!  There is so much strolling to do, drinks to sip, tacos to munch, turquoise to buy.  It’s a great city.

Taos is more my style.  It’s small, charming, quiet(er) and set against a lovely high desert backdrop of rolling mountains and blue sky.  I’d like to do a writing workshop there sometime and am keeping an eye out for opportunities.

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  The last couple of days of our trip found us storm chasing (more on that in a moment), gallery hopping in Madrid, bracing against gale force winds in a high and winsome desert on sandstone cliffs, beneath gaping arches, in piney forests, under stormy clouds, in the grips of burning sunsets and so on and so forth until the highway spilled us back down into Arizona where the skies are impossibly blue and I caught my flight home to Idaho.  Frankly, it was the best time I ever had in a white Miata.

Love you M.  Let’s do it all over again, sometime soon.

 

The Beauty Is In The Details — Las Cruces to Albuquerque

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IMG_5004 IMG_5014 IMG_5022 IMG_5028 IMG_5040 IMG_5046IMG_5056 IMG_5058Today, someone asked me if New Mexico is beautiful.  Of course it is beautiful but I’m not the person to ask because, really, when it comes down to it, I find everywhere to be beautiful.  Here’s what I have to specifically say about New Mexico.  I live in the high desert of Idaho so the feel of the landscape in New Mexico didn’t thrill my senses — which is to say the terrain there did not move me too far out of the geographical parameters of my ordinary life.  That said, there is magic in New Mexico and I believe it stems from the fact that the state has really held on to a deeply reverberating Mexican/American Indian vibe that splatters the world there with color, texture and SPIRIT!  New Mexico has spirit.  Bombastic spirit.  I felt it the moment I saw my first strand of chile peppers hanging from a doorway on an adobe.  Wowee!  Everything feels a little older, a little more sunbaked, a little more crusty around the edges.  The place has patina and I adore patina.  Truly.  The beauty of New Mexico is in the sun burned, wind kissed, quirky details.

I realize that I haven’t told you what the heck I was doing down in New Mexico in the middle of the summer!   Allow me to share the background of this trip.  I travel, from time to time, with one of my best friends who is from Arizona.  In January we began to talk, in earnest, about taking another trip together this year (we’ve done trips together in the past including Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and the Idaho Sawtooths by ’73 Volkswagan Bus).  We pondered on New Orleans, San Francisco and then decided we needed to go somewhere neither of us had ever experienced and our plans for New Mexico began to grow themselves into fruition.  May rolled around and I found I had a plane ticket to Phoenix and M had booked time off.  The rest is history.

M is a talented photographer which just makes traveling together even better.  We walk around with our enormous cameras, take thousands of pictures, share our shooting secrets with each other, and laugh a lot.  I’m always amazed at how different our photography styles are.  Even if we are shooting the same landscape or retro neon sign, things turn out so differently.  We both tend to simply do exactly what we do.  I have always appreciated her eye for what it is, but also love it when I get to compare my perspective directly to hers.  If you’d like to take a peek at her work from our New Mexico adventure, you can find her blog posts here.

Have you ever traveled with a best girlfriend?

It’s the best.

Also, we hiked 800ft underground into the Carlsbad Caverns, into that incredible, terrifying, beautiful, nightmarish place.  I was practically hypothermic when we came back up to the surface, so clammy and drippy and cold was it down there.  Just ask M.  I had “white finger” on my right hand — which is what I call it when my fingers turn white and generally quit functioning, not a big deal, it happens sporadically; I get deeply cold quite easily.  Robert dreads it.

Back to the caves.  I kept expecting a gollum to pop up out of the pools of water beneath the various speleothems we encountered (that’s a fancy word for rock formations found in caverns and caves…good one, huh?).  It was quite the experience, not like anything I have ever seen before on the skin of our beautiful, wild Earth.  I would highly recommend a visit if you are in the neighborhood.  It’s a completely spectacular experience and while there are lights placed around the caves to slightly illuminate the hiking path as well as the ENORMOUS columns, stalagmite and stalactites, I cannot fathom that once upon a time, crews of men and women went under the earth with only headlamps and ropes to explore this phenomenal, dark territory.  I just can’t believe it.

My photographs don’t do the caves justice.  They are a million times more gorgeous and frightening than I could capture in pictures.  The scale, too, is lost in these shots.  I really cannot explain to you the monumental size of these rock formations.  There were delicate formations, as well, but the big ones were el mondo.

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To be continued…