What Breaking Bad Missed

Yeah, yeah, you all already saw all of Breaking Bad, like, when it was actually running.  But my method of watching tv shows is mostly to wait until they are over, and then watch Netflix streaming while I’m working.  Late to the party, whatever. And so I am watching it now.

So. It’s of course excellent, hence all the prizes, and I’m enjoying the excellent script, and the excellent acting, and the excellent moral dilemmas, etc, etc.  You don’t need anything from me on that.

And I do certainly enjoy watching Albuquerque, which works well as a minor character — sort of like the wagon in Mother Courage — and certainly Albuquerque is recognizable and pretty true — look!  the Sandias! the cacti! the endless desert within which one can bury stuff! the mind-numbing and endless architecture of the Northeast Heights! — BUT there are some things which are glaringly and obviously missing.  Maybe they show up in the later segments.  I’m not holding my breath. 

For instance.  Where are the goatheads?  There is no human living in Albuquerque who is not familiar with the d***d and ubiquitous goatheads.  Every day of my childhood, I was pulling them out of my shoes.  Every day of my dogs’ life, I am pulling them out of their feet.  During all that time that Breaking Bad was running, did NOBODY ever step on a goathead?  Really?

Also.  The balloons.  Where are they?  Sure, sure, the balloon festival is in October, and maybe everybody on the show was too busy to notice them then — although they take up the entire sky — but they are out there every morning.  And I haven’t seen any on this show yet.

Also.  The students.  This is a college town.  Where are the students?  Cause I’m having trouble just driving down the street, now that the university’s in session, on account of all the students crossing the street without waiting for the light.  Just sayin’.  Breaking Bad should, by rights, have run over several of them by mistake already.

There’s more, but I’ll finish with the green chile.  Nobody on the show is obsessed with green chile.  This. Makes. No. Sense.  We should be listening to MANY conversations about green chile, and whether or not you should buy Hatch or Tierra Amarilla.  Because this is Albuquerque.  We are ALL about the green chile.

Posted in Daily Life, Writing Tagged with: , ,

Meeting Spiritual People

Oh, joy!  Today, in blogging boot camp, we’re blogging about Meeting Spiritual People, and Do We Have Advice.

Yes.  Yes, I do.

My advice is specifically for those times when you are meeting spiritual people by inviting a bunch of them over to your house.  For I have experience with this.

1) When having spiritual people over for tea, it is important to have a choice of teas available, some herbal and some with a whole lot of caffeine.  I recommend either Yorkshire Gold, or Brodies Famous Edinburgh.  With milk and demerara sugar.  Also, be sure to have some cunning little cookies on hand, carefully picked out in accordance with the season. Like, little tiny gingerbread people when it’s Lughnasadh.  If it’s too hot outside to make a bonfire to throw the leftover cookies in, you can just put them in the toaster oven.  Be sure to take the batteries out of the smoke detector first.

2) It is also important to always be ready for a variety of conversations, from when is the next prayer/meditation/healing circle for the current political/personal dreadfulness, to exactly which foods are currently edible and inedible.

3) Speaking of which, when you make the cookies I mentioned in point 1, be sure that all of their ingredients are, in fact, edible by all the spiritual people you invited over.  Best to have them send you food lists in advance.  Just saying.

4) Turn off the wifi.  Just shut it down.  I cannot impress this upon you enough.  The last time I had the spiritual people over, they not only blew out our router — twice — then then went down to the corner café — in search of wifi — and blew out the router down there, too.  And they weren’t doing anything but having conversations.  Lord help you if they actually decide to do some real work.

5) Speaking of which, if indeed real work gets done (as for instance any prayer/meditation/healing circles for the current political/personal dreadfulness), do not expect that all your animals are going to be happy about this.  Most, yes.  Lots of dogs love energetic circles.  Lots of cats.  I used to have a cat who would come and sit in the circle just as if he were human.  But if they are lying under the bed, leave them be.  Everybody gets to have their own boundaries.

6) Later, you are going to find things around the house that are not yours.  They are now.  Also, some of your own stuff will be — not gone, no — transmogrified.  In ways you aren’t even sure about.  Like, was the handle of that knife really that color?  Really?  Just accept these things.  Move on.

7) Lastly, feel free to make your own relationships with all the denizens of the spirit worlds that the spiritual people invited in, if indeed they forgot to disinvite them.  See point 5 above.  If you find yourself lying under the bed with the dogs and cats, it is definitely time to say goodbye to some of the spirits.  If there are any of the little cookies left, you can just leave them on the front porch, as a kind of farewell offering.  But be sure to say that “farewell” part.  Otherwise things are going to remain confused.


Posted in Aventure

My Worst Job (But I Never Got Fired!)

Over at the blogging boot camp (which I sorta go in and out of; I mean, we’re told it’s ok to only to post three times a week instead of 7, which is how many prompts we get, but I must say I feel like I’m mostly hanging out in my bunk, reading science fiction, and just showing up for things I want to do, which is not, I think, boot camp, since that implies a daily regimen of things you write home in tears about), the prompt for today is Jobs.  Your worst, if possible.  I like this prompt.  Thus:

Things I have done, as a job, even if it was only part time, with at least some success, listed here in no particular order, especially not chronological: 1) waitressing, which I was horrible at, but at least I never actually got fired; 2) being a nanny, at which I was pretty brilliant; 3) housecleaning, at which I was very beloved — I sang Irish songs whilst working; 4) teaching witchcraft, which I still do, with great success, though it’s only been a part-time gig; 5) being a professor of medieval English and contemporary Irish literature, a job I held the longest — 22 years! — and was apparently pretty good at, since I got some awards — I mean, not getting fired doesn’t count as success, since I had tenure after a while, and it’s VERY HARD to fire tenured professors; 6) making Indian jewelry in a “Indian Jewelry” factory in Albuquerque, which was legal, although I am not Native American, because the factory employed only a certain percentage of non-Native American workers — again, was ok at the factory work and did not get fired; 7) doing phone surveys for some marketing firm, which I hated, but again, didn’t get fired from; 8) publishing poetry, which is a VERY part-time sort of gig, which I still do, and which pays a tiny amount, but since it does occasionally pay that tiny amount, I list it here.

The only job I had at which I was TOTALLY unsuccessful, though again, I didn’t get fired — I quit after one day — was doing door to door surveys for the same marketing firm listed above, in Albuquerque, in the summer, when I was 22, right before I left for Berkeley.  That was the end of my marketing survey career.  One day of walking in the hot sun from door to door in order to talk to people who did not want to talk to me (worst: the house wherein someone had just died; they yelled at me), or, even really worse, wanted to talk to me A LOT (worst: the house wherein a very old lonely person lived, who really never chewed gum and hence was not part of my survey needs, but wanted me to come in and have some iced tea, and talk about life).  I ended up, only half or three quarters through the day, sitting on the hot sidewalk, in the blazing sun, sobbing.  I called up and quit.

But I didn’t get fired.

Now, I’m working for myself.  I haven’t fired me yet.

Posted in Daily Life, Writing Tagged with: ,

A Proposed Sacred Desert Tree Alphabet

I’ve been taking a class in Ogham from Raven Edgewalker for a few weeks now, focusing on the Celtic Tree Alphabet.  This has been a great deal of fun.

My own little project has been to translate, as far as I’m able, the trees and plants native to New Mexico into the Celtic Tree pantheon.  I don’t think I’m really done with this project, but it’s far enough along I’ll share it with you here.  I’m focusing not so much on the trees’ place in the eco system, but the trees’ place in the human imagination.  I don’t see how you can have both; I picked one.  DO post your suggestions and comments.  This is a Work In Progress:

Birch (cleansing, beginnings, purification) == Cottonwood (highly sacred and important; found by water; used for sacred carvings)

Rowan (protection; sacred to the faeries) == Piñon (one of the most important food sources here, and important for fires)

Alder (life force, shield) == Thinleaf Alder (our member of the group)

Willow (intuition, flexibility) == Red Willow (a true willow; the name Taos means Red Willow)

Ash (the world tree, divination) == Douglas Fir (the world tree here, stretching between worlds)

Hawthorn (another faery tree; obstacles, fear, protection)== Southwest Chokecherry (important food source, and used in prayer sticks)

Oak (strength and durability) == Wavyleaf Oak (we’ve got an oak)

Holly (challenge and defense) == Cholla (a cactus you do not want to run into; quite stalwart)

Hazel =(wisdom, inspiration) = Mesquite (durable, beloved of woodworkers, excellent food source)

Apple (healing, renewal, fertility) == New Mexican Olive (we can’t eat the fruit — it’s not a true olive — but the tree is lovely, and the birds adore it

Vine (harvest, celebration) == Canyon grape (yep, we have one of these too)

Ivy (determination, ruthlessness) == Tumbleweed (it’s as ubiquitous as ivy is in its homeland, and the dead tumbling plant is how the plant propagates)

Reed (renewability, practicality) == Soaptree Yucca (practical, useful, hardy)

Blackthorn (adversity, pain, struggle)  == Crucifixion Thorn (really, we have LOTS of thorny things here, but this is particularly dramatic)

Elder (old wisdom) == Mexican Elderberry (quite a powerful tree, our version of the elder)

Pine (awe, certainty of direction) == Ponderosa Pine (this one, too, much more dramatic than its European counterpart)

Gorse (sex, sexuality) == Chiltapin (this is the wild chile, MUCH hotter than the ones we actually eat — so, for sex, there ya go)

Heather (lovers, partnership, hearth) == Texas Madrone (yes, this is a relative of the Pacific Madrone, and as beloved; it holds the world together, so I slot it in here, for partnership, and hearth)

Aspen (spirits, grief, fear) == Quaking Aspen (oh, we totally have a version, and it’s just as connected to spirits and otherworldliness)

Yew (death, transitions) == Datura (also called Jimson Weed, all parts of this plant are absolutely deadly.  And it is gorgeous.)

Posted in Aventure, Daily Life Tagged with: , ,

In Which I Don’t Actually Talk About Food

So, I signed up for a sort of spiritual blogging bootcamp, in which they send you a topic every day, so that you can write about it.  And I got my topic this morning, and it’s now the middle of the afternoon, and I still have not written my blog.  My topic is Food.  Or, Spirituality and Food.  Or, My Favorite Recipe.

So I’ve been working on this for some time now — in between actively staring at my computer screen I’ve been half-re-watching Game of Throne’s first season — and still, I got nothing.

Not because I don’t think about food, oh, no.  Since I was 13, and developed my own eating disorder, I have thought about food.  And not that I don’t think about it as a spiritual issue, oh, no.  Since my early 20’s, it’s been clear to me that whatever I was doing, or not doing, with food, had spiritual implications.  And not that I don’t have any favorite recipes, oh, no.  Those I’ve been collecting all my life.

No, it’s that I feel I have nothing coherent to say.

From a lifetime of 1) either dieting or bingeing, and then 2) either actively *not* dieting, or bingeing, I have started just letting go.  I eat what I want when I want it, and I don’t eat things if I don’t want them.  And if there’s nothing around that I want, and I’m actually hungry, I eat a bit of something to tide me over.  And whatever patterns I’ve got about what I eat when, I’ve been keeping them if I want, and breaking them if I want.

And this sounds simple but it’s profoundly not.

The process really got going when I realized that even when I’m actively *not* dieting — which I’ve been working on for some years, because I realized that dieting and bingeing are the same thing, only with about 10 seconds between them — I’ve still got rules.  All sorts of rules, some articulated and some I wasn’t even aware of.  When to eat what.  What a portion is. What a proper breakfast looks like.  How many vegetables to put on the plate. When to eat sweets.  On, and on, and on, and on.

Well, more and more research is showing — at least this seems to be where we are now — that it’s actually dieting that screws up our relationships with food, the biggest and the quickest of all the factors.  All those rules in between our brains and our hunger, our brains and our pleasure, our brains and our bodies.

So, where I’m at is that I’m working on living in the moment, where I am now.  This is all I’ve got.  I threw out every damn piece of clothing that I can’t actually wear right now, this minute — not some mythical next week or next month.  I go to great lengths to make food I want, and then if I don’t want it, I don’t eat it.  I do not necessarily finish everything on my plate, but if I want seconds, I go and get them.

It’s totally terrifying.

And it’s simple, oh, so simple.  But it’s not easy.

I was reading some advice about eating according to one’s own true inner voice, and the advice was great!  Really, it was.  It was all about being mindful, and listening to your body, and honoring your desires and true self.  And then doing what is right for you.

And I think that’s SUCH good advice.  But decades of following rules, one set after another, or clever sets of rules disguised as non-rules but actually very ruly — well, that sorta messes up the intuition channels.

So I have no advice.  I’ve got years of experience, but I have no advice.  But I can say that what I’m doing feels saner to me than anything I’ve tried before.  And I can say that I figure it will take some months, if not years, to really hear, at a deep level, what my relationship is to food.  And which ones I want then.

Perhaps later I will share a recipe.

Posted in Daily Life, Health Tagged with: , ,

Teddy Comes Home


Above you see a row of bears, including Teddy, who has returned safely from his surgery in England.  From the left, that’s the Harrod’s 2000 Millennium Bear, Teddy the World Traveler, French Bear (with his charming red beret), and Black Bear, who has landed here after having lived for many years on his own.  Teddy looks very small amongst the other bears.  Odd, that he’s always seemed so large to me.

So that’s the end of his saga, and the beginning of this new stage in his life, where he gets to be the elder statesman in amongst the young bears.

And the précis of his story:

Here he is In Really Bad Shape, before his trip to England:


His problem was that he was a 55 year old English bear made out of sheepskin, and sheepskin becomes brittle with age and falls apart.  There are many fine bear hospitals in the world, but I could only find one that was willing to work on an old sheepskin bear, the Teddy Bear Hospital at Alice’s Bear Shop, in Lyme Regis.  So Teddy got shipped off to Dr. Dave, who fixed him up.  Here he is in his hospital bed, recuperating from his operation:

teddy sheepskin in bed

That’s the way they take care of old, falling apart bears at Alice’s Bear Shop.  They not only fix your bear, they also send you pictures of him before they pack him back in his box and ship him home.  They also sell new and old bears, and kits for making bears.  And they regularly post on Facebook about their newly stitched up bears, and other sorts of news, such as when little customers lose bears and stuffed animals, or such little stuffed beings get found and need their owners.

So.  I say, Alice’s Bear Shop, for all your stuffed animal needs.  Next time I’m in Dorset I’m definitely stopping by.


Posted in Daily Life Tagged with:

Friday Link Fest

Good morning!

Here are baby goats practicing their balancing acts on The Most Patient Horse Evar.

Do not put your Chihuahua in the bathtub, as if it gets stuck, you’re going to have to replace the whole shebang.

All that hair-fluffing in the shampoo commercials is created by actual humans in green suits.

Not all the parents at the high school graduations are behaving themselves.  (I think Drew should be really grateful that I was so well-behaved at his a couple of weeks ago.)

And Sara thinks we should all be writing more letters, so if you write to her, she’ll write back!



Posted in Daily Life Tagged with:

In Which I Get Obsessed With MOOC

So here’s what I do, sometimes, while I’m working:  I have Coursera on in the background.  Well, and sometimes I just sit and listen to it.

If you haven’t run across Coursera yet, it’s one of the online sites that offers university-level courses, on various topics.  For free!  Yes.  For free.  (Oh, I know, a bunch of you already know about the MOOC — Massive Open Online Courses –phenomenon.  But not everybody does.  And if you didn’t, now’s your chance to find out about them, in secret.)

You can pay, if you’d like certification that you took the course.  But I don’t want that.  I got a bunch of paper on the wall already.  I just like being able to listen to world-class scholars tell me stuff.  For free!  And get reading lists!  For free!

I took a class on Modern Mysticism from a Kabbalah scholar at the Hebrew University of Jersusalem, and I took a class on 20th Century History of the Middle East from a scholar at Tel Aviv University, and now I am taking a class on The History of Rock and Roll Part 1 from a scholar at the University of Rochester.  Later I will take The History of Rock and Roll Part 2.  Also a class in Curanderismo, Traditional Healing, from the University of New Mexico.  For free.

Coursera isn’t the only free game in town; I am also signed up for The History of Hadrian’s Wall, out of Newcastle University, from FutureLearn.  Why look!  Here’s a list of LOTS of various MOOCs, from various places, coming up in the next month!

Oh, this is so much fun.

A chance to learn, systematically, from a course of instruction that you might be interested in, but don’t necessarily need to be an expert in.  Without having to apply to the universities offering the courses.  Or live anywhere near them. Just stuff you might be interested in. And you can be as invested, or as not invested, in the course as you like.  Nothing’s going on your permanent record.  You can do all the assignments, or none of them.  As much energy as you want to put in.  No shame, no blame.  Just learning, in case you want it.

I just love this use of technology.


Posted in Academics, Daily Life Tagged with: ,

Morning Dog Walk and Balloons

I took a picture this morning of one of the views on our morning dog walk, which follows the perimeter of the UNM North Golf Course, but I’m not happy with it.  I may try again later.  What I wanted you to see was the vista from the western edge of the course, looking out over the city of Albuquerque, with the balloons in the background.

Because every morning there are hot air balloons in the sky.

The first morning I was here I went out to sit in the courtyard and drink my tea, and there were hot air balloons flying overhead.  Now, when we walk the dogs, we see them at the beginning of the walk — that’s about 7:00 AM — but by 8:00 AM, when we’re done, they are gone.

That’s because the air starts heating up.  We’re in high desert, and it’s cool in the early morning, but it’s very hot by noon.  Windy days are bad for flying, too.

So, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is held in the fall, when the temperatures are cooler and the high winds of the spring, and the summer monsoons, are over, but the snow hasn’t started.

It’s a good time to visit, though the hotels fill up.  It will be quite a sight, though, and since I live here, I get a seat.  In the courtyard.

albuquerque balloons









Posted in Daily Life Tagged with:

How Do We Write?

Oh, joy!  I went back into my RSS feeds, in order to come up to speed for blogging, and found this post from Cal Newport about How Novelists Get Work Done.  Newport is — to my great interest — always concerned not just with productivity, but especially deep productivity.  He thinks a lot about how we get deep work done.  I always find him interesting, but sometimes he frustrates me, in that in his definition of deep concentrated work he doesn’t seem to notice just how different different kinds of deep work can be. 

In the blog I link to above, he’s thinking about the rituals that some novelists use in order to start working and keep working, and wondering what their techniques can offer him (especially in the attention to physical detail, which he’s been ignoring).  Of great interest also are the comments, which come from (mostly) thoughtful readers from many disciplines. 

So, anyway.  The writers.

I notice that I have different rituals depending on what kind of writing I do.  Academic writing I draft directly into the computer, though I work from not only handwritten mindmaps, but also handwritten 3×5 notes.  Then I print it out and edit hardcopy.  Fiction and poetry, however, I write longhand.  With fountain pen.  THEN I input it into the computer, and print it out, and edit the hard copy.  I cannot write poetry and fiction and creative non-fiction onto the computer. 

But I’m blogging directly onto the computer, and I’ll edit on the computer. Same with my ezine.  (Sign up for your own biweekly copy here!)

Writers!  What are the rituals you observe?  Do they work? 

Other details from me?  Though I often work by throwing notes on the floor, along with books I’m using, I have to start from an organized place.  I don’t need total tidiness, but I do need general organizational sanity.

And I need a view.  It’s not a distraction.  It’s the place I put my eyes when I’m thinking.

Here’s my view these days:  there’s so much light outside, my office seems dark.  It’s not.  But they keep it very shiny here.


 view out my window

Posted in Organization, Writing Tagged with: , ,