Archive for March, 2010

Ramping It Up

It’s official: Ramps are springing up in West Virginia, so it’s really spring. This wild leek is prized by mountain people, including me, for its savory taste and nutrition. But, even more than eating ramps, I love digging ramps. Every year for the past few years, Michael and I have anticipated the day in early spring when we will hike, each of us carrying a sturdy bag and a knife, up and up and up the mountainside until we find that special spot where the ramps grow. Ramps are more plentiful than morels, so people don’t guard the secret quite so carefully, but you don’t tell just anyone where your favorite ramp grove is. Ours is a long, steep hike, but well worth the effort.

So, yesterday, they were there. Not large, not nearly as tall as they will be in a week, but perfectly tender and ready, and springing up too numerous to count. Digging ramps is one of my favorite activities. You kneel down in the soft, wet soil, rooting under it with your knife to slice the leek at a spot just above the root, so that it will be easy to clean by sliding off the outer layer, and so that the root remains in the ground to reproduce. Your fingers get blackened with dirt. You breathe in the smell of earth and sun and fresh air and, of course, the rich aroma of ramps. Your senses seem to concentrate on a space just around your hands — the green/red/white ramps, the stones in the soil, the mossy fallen log on which you lean. From time to time you become aware of birdsong, of sun on your neck, of the breeze passing above you in the treetops. Your thoughts wander, or maybe you simply don’t think. This is probably as close to meditation as I get, and I think it does me good.

An hour later, or maybe two hours later, you get up for the last time, your knees and back stiff, your bag heavy and redolent, and begin a slow, easy walk down the mountain. Already planning the ramp feast, already hearing the sizzle in the pan.

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Southwest Influences

This is one of about 30 cards that came out of a few sessions of playing with paper, glue sticks, and rubber stamps. Vera and I took over her dining room table and made many, many notecards, and it’s easy to see that Santa Fe’s sunny climate and warm colors affected my choices in terms of paper and design.

To see a few more, click on my “Arts & Crafts” page!

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A walk around Santa Fe

Yesterday, on my last full day in Santa Fe, I simply walked all over town, beginning with the relatively long trek north (well, an hour’s walk) from Vera’s house. This time, looking for an alternative to the rail trail I have used before, I followed the route of the #6 bus, walking north on Botulph, through the St. Vincent’s Hospital complex, then continuing northward on Galisteo to Paseo de Peralta, which circles the downtown. On or near Canyon Road, I encountered this wonderful wall.

I don’t know why adobe fascinates me so.  I have always admired the way it looks — its organic, rounded contours — but I never really thought about it much until I visited Taos Pueblo a few years ago. There I saw the dwellings that have been continuously occupied for a thousand years, and learned that the building, adobe, is made of two things: straw and mud.

A thousand years. Think about that. Where will your house be in a thousand years? I’m pretty sure mine, which has lasted for almost a hundred years, won’t make it that long. How about the Empire State Building? The U.S. Capitol? The county courthouse? Or the local Wal-Mart?

This particular wall may not last for a thousand years, either, but it certainly is pretty. Makes me want to build something of adobe.

Santa Fe’s walls, with their lamps and shadows and windows (often blue or turquoise) fairly beg to be photographed. And I couldn’t resist, so here are a couple more snapshots from one of my favorite cities:

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Santa Fe in the Sun

In the courtyard of the Museum of Fine Art, Santa Fe

Vera and I spent much of the morning yesterday at the Museum of Fine Art. We were delighted to find three wonderful exhibits: a small exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, a wonderful exhibit of Gustave Baumann paintings, drawings, and marionettes (I did not know that he was a dedicated maker of marionettes and presented many public programs), and a large and excellent historical survey of art by artists living in New Mexico.

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Sopapilla Splurge

I am spending a week in Santa Fe with Vera! After a week of workshops with high school sophomores, this vacation feels well-deserved. Not that I don’t like the 10th-graders; but the work was challenging and I needed a rest. And, thanks to an overbooked flight last summer, I had a free airline ticket!

So this is my  “spa week.” Except for the meal above: Tomasita’s “Big Bowl” and a sopapilla. I will try not to eat too many of them this week, but you cannot come to Santa Fe and not have a sopapilla. This particular one was satisfying, but I think I liked the soup better. Pinto beans, chicken, and BOTH red and green chile sauce (the waitress wrote “Xmas” on the check). Spicy, savory, wonderful food.

Santa Fe is glorious. The sun is brilliant and the temperature is shirt-sleeve weather. The plaza was full of people yesterday, and everyone seemed friendly:

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Spring Rains

Near Paw Paw, West Virginia

I have spent the last week in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, leading writing workshops for high school sophomores. Toward the end of the week, driving from Berkeley Springs to Paw Paw, I crossed this bridge just a few miles from Paw Paw. When I went over it the first time, there was a beautiful little rainbow arching over the river. By the time I turned around and parked the car to take a picture, the sun had disappeared and so had the rainbow. But it was still a nice spot.

The river here was running high but not threatening to overflow. But this weekend has been hard on West Virginia’s southern counties. Rivers and creeks have flooded in many places, people have been evacuated, homes have been ruined, and at least two people have lost their lives. Spring rains in West Virginia can be deadly.

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