The Candle Thief

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Tammy and I spent the first three days of the new year at La Hacienda de Chimayó, in Chimayó, New Mexico, in celebration of our 13th wedding anniversary. One morning, I was out snapping photos of the local Eurasian magpie population. One of the staff came out to talk with me, and when I told him what I was doing, he told me an interesting story.

Apparently, the magpies (which are considered one of the most intelligent species of animal in the world) like to steal the candles out of the farolitos (for those of you who are not familiar, these are the little, candlelit paper bags that one sees lining the rooftops of houses during the Christmas season) and carry them off to points unknown.

Later, upon reviewing the photos I had taken that morning, I realized that, unbeknownst to me, I had captured exactly the theft my friend had described:

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Happy travels,
and Happy New Year,
my friends!!

A Quick Stop in Millersview

DSC_0618Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

– Dr. Seuss

I stopped in Millersview, situated in Concho County at the intersection of FMs 765 and 2134 (that’s Farm to Market, for those of you unfamiliar with Texas road numbering schemes), to track down Mission San Clemente, which I was told by a roadside marker was nearby. As it turns out, it was not as nearby as I was led to believe, and I never actually found it. What I did find was this lovely ruin: the Millersview School.

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The school closed in 1989, and the students began busing to Eden, about half an hour to the southwest.

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The gymnasium, built in 1939, is yet another of the many Works Progress Administration projects that provided Depression-era Americans with much needed employment. It has been restored by the community and is still used as a venue for town events, including an annual Veteran’s Day barbecue (which, coincidentally, is today).

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It may not look like much now, and you may wonder why I bothered taking these shots. There’s something about an abandoned building that moves the writer in me. So many stories, so much history. Pain, laughter, fear, sadness–a melange of human emotion oozing from every ruined surface, every sagging door frame, every shattered windowpane. If this is what they mean when they ask whether I believe in ghosts, then yes, most definitely I do. Buildings like this are full of them, wispy memories floating suspended, eternal, waiting for someone to reanimate them, give them new life, pass them on to a new generation. History is the great incubator of humanity, and with each new telling our collective story grows.

*  *  *  *  *

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Then, Dusty and I were off again, headed down US-67 toward Fort Stockton, straight through the heart of oil country. The smell of petroleum saturated the atmosphere, burrowing its way into every pore of my being; pumpjacks lined the highway, crazy perpetual motion machines sapping the earth of its essence–up, down, back, forth, and again. Queues of tanker trucks stretched to infinity, barreling past amidst clouds of dust and showers of gravel, each new onslaught causing the car to start in alarm and hug the shoulder like a security blanket. By some miracle, the windshield survived intact.

Innumerable fields of cotton speed by outside the car window, tiny balls of fabric snow clinging to emerald bolls with prickly tenacity. Where do they go from here? A honeymoon suite overlooking a tropical beach somewhere; an operating room in a refugee camp on the other side of the world; a crib in which the next Beethoven lies sleeping? Past, present, future–all accounted for in the blink of a passerby.

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

To be continued…

Kingdom of the Possums

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Welcome to Possum Kingdom Lake. It is just after sunrise, October 20, 2013. I am alone, perched on an outcropping over the lake, drinking in the birth of a new day. Tammy and I have come to the lake on a belated outing in honor of my 36th birthday; I am recently returned from a solitary walkabout through New Mexico (more on this elsewhere), and we needed something to do together to ease my return to reality.

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Possum Kingdom State Park: a man-made lake in Palo Pinto County, Texas, one of many works projects carried out by the CCC back in Depression days. We arrived on the heels of a wildfire summer, the evidences of which were everywhere.

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But there were also signs of new life, the flush of vitality returning right before our eyes.

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If you get the chance, come and visit. Try the off-season; it is beyond peaceful and you’ll have the hiking trails pretty much to yourself. Stop for a bit and check out the view from the Morris Sheppard Dam:

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Do what I did, and take an early morning hike. The views at dawn are quite simply spectacular.

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But whatever you do, enjoy it with someone you love. And who loves you. It’s the only way to go.

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DSC_0809The one and only “selfie” I will ever, ever, EVER take…

Lovely travels, my friends!!

Marv(elous)

This is Marv.

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Marv the yellow-bellied marmot.

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Most folks just visit Rocky Mountain National Park.
Marv?
Well, he owns the place.

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Forget Davy Crockett.
Marv’s the real King of the Wild Frontier.
And every good king, after a hard day’s work,
deserves a good, long nap.

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Marv-elous travels, my friends!!!

Water Break

DSC_0904Morning on Grand Lake
Eastern Oklahoma

In just a few moments, I’m headed home to meet a plumber who is very likely going to tell me we’ll have to have our shower wall ripped out to fix a leak in the line.

So…

In order to fend off an unreasonable hatred of good old H2O, I leave you with this shot of water I most definitely do not hate, in the hopes of preserving my sense of its beauty.

Drip-free travels, my friends!!!

All Work and No Play…

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…makes Jack a dull boy.

– Stephen King

In 1995, I traveled from our home in Misiones, Argentina, to Buenos Aires, so that I could take my college entrance exams at Lincoln, an international school in the North End. While staying at the MK dorm, I happened across a copy of The Shining and read it cover to cover in one night. It is still one of my favorite books.

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So, imagine my excitement at visiting the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. It is also known as the Overlook, and provided both the inspiration for King’s novel, and the location for the 1997 Steven Weber television remake of the film (by far the better of the two). Founded in 1909 by F.O. Stanley (also co-owner of the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, which produced the Stanley Steamer), the hotel has a haunted history in its own right, centering around the infamous Room 217 and the entirety of the fourth floor. After one night in the place, King was inspired to produce what is arguably his most famous book.

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And there, on the patio, was Jack Torrance himself (sort of). He was one hell of an impersonator: there was little doubt in my mind that, if he caught me snapping his picture, I’d take a hatchet to the back of the head…

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This is me, one more ghost in a parade of spirits, lurking in the shadows. How I managed to pull off this photo without anyone else in the frame is a mystery: it was a fairly busy day at the Overlook (erm…I mean, the Stanley), and I’m amazed that none of the other visitors made an appearance here. Unless…maybe…?

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And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to dump the boiler before the place goes up. Spooky travels, my friends!!