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Rumilluminations August 2021
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sun, August 01 2021 - 10:11 am

August 31, 2021
Silver City, NM

I came to the Silver City Library today in search of - true confessions - a bunch of good mysteries. The reading I have been doing lately is weighted too heavily on the highbrow side. (By highbrow I not only mean novels of higher subject matter than murder, but all non-fiction regardless of subject matter. After all, what can be higher than the truth?)

I noticed a good portion of new mystery books were also large type books. Does this mean that the principal consumers of detective fiction are old folks?

Could it be possible that a genre as old and seemingly as imperishable as "mystery" could be waning in popularity among the young? Do they find science fiction and fantasy so much more to their taste that my literary teeth are going to have to chomp on exclusively products past their sell-by dates?

Gasp. Could it be there are new genres I have never even heard of? Ones that are getting older and more passe even as I write?

Horrors. The idea drives me to more escape literature - in my case that obsessed with the darker side of the street.

Hopefully some encounter with a young'un will acquaint me with the latest craze before I get hopelessly out of date.

(They snigger. It happened long since. Whole worlds of literature await me, if I only know where to look.)

August 30, 2021
Silver City, NM

How can Silver City support so many coffee shops? I've only been to a couple - Javalina just a couple of blocks from where I live, and the Tranquil Buzz, a few blocks farther away. Both of them have great coffee - not to mention ambiance.

I've seen several more, though, whose names I will have to list another day. There are at least two or three on Bullard (I think) including one non-profit which has not been open when I tried to go in.

On my way back from registering to vote at the Grant County Administration Building I saw the Silver City RV Park, which had a sign out for Gil-a Beans Coffee Shop.

I'm afraid I can't be the one to give future reviews of coffee, though, since I am not supposed to drink it. Maybe I'll give my take on the noncaffeinated offerings available around town or ambiance alone.

That would be an interesting challenge.

August 29, 2021
Silver City, NM

This morning I went to Chihuahua Hill, kind of according to the brochure handed out at the Silver City Museum. If you follow the brochure and you reach the end of Pinos Altos you can see the chapel that tops the hill from below, but you have to be a rougher character than I to attempt to reach it from that point.

Better go east to Arizona St. and head south uphill until you reach one of the pedestrian entrances to the property, where you can take a walk with walls along the sides to shepherd you to the building itself.

The building is not old; it commemorates rather than reproduces the original structure. It does represent a little bit of history, though. People of the neighborhood used to meet there for services even though it wasn't an official place of worship for the Catholic Church. There is a cemetery not far away which I always have assumed was the reason for the existence of the chapel.

Assumptions are often erroneous. That I have experienced time and again. Sadly, I have never learned not to make them. For instance, up there at the top of the hill I assumed entry to the chapel would not be accessible.

That's one reason it's a good thing to be living here in Silver City. Very likely I will have another chance to make the ascent to Chihuahua Hill. (Notice I make no assumptions about that!)

August 28, 2021
Silver City, NM

I have heard more thunderclaps here than in the last year before I came here, it seems, although the Ohio Valley is no stranger to dramatic thunderstorms. Last night towards midnight I was awakened by a huge bang, followed by an hour of light show and percussion.

I got up and peered through the blinds and saw one vertical bolt that seemed very fat, considering the length of time the sound took to reach me. Of course, the moon looks bigger on the horizon and through the slats of Venetian blinds, so perhaps lightning bolts are also relative.

Lush as the vegetation is this year, of course I worry about forest fires. Those are powerful lighters.

If it rained I didn't hear it, but there is water on some of the benches this morning.

(This morning I saw a Datura in someone's yard that must have had fifty or sixty blossoms. !!)

August 26, 2021
Silver City, NM

Yesterday as I was walking to the 12th St. laundromat (by the way, the two Laundrylands here are primo) I had to cross one busy intersection with no light.

As I was approaching the corner a vehicle turned right with plenty of time as far as I was concerned. Even though I had not stepped off the curb yet the next car waited for me. I felt guilty - there were five more cars lined up behind him! - but grateful.

Contrast this driver courtesy with my true story of having three big trucks actually ignore me and my walk signal in another town. Contrast it with my tales of acquaintances being knocked down, put into a coma and unable to walk for months by other careless drivers, and tell me one small town is like another.

I am not trying to pretend that I haven't made serious driving mistakes. I have. But when too many people get mowed down with relation to the total it bespeaks a major difference in attitude on the part of the drivers.

And that goes for coronavirus deaths as well as road deaths.

Congratulations, Silver City. You win!

(Oh, minor detail - now to fact-check.)

Well, that is just my impression with regards to my new community. New Mexico overall has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths per population in the country!

These deaths are largely alcohol-related, I'm pretty sure. Since I wrote the above, I have tried to get local statistics online and it will take some time. But as far as demonstrable care by local drivers towards the pedestrians among them, I am impressed. It goes along perfectly with the friendly attitude I'm experiencing from the attitude of those dwelling here - and the responsible attitude towards mask-wearing.

August 25, 2021
Silver City, NM

Yesterday morning when I crossed the San Vicente River I noticed something I hadn't seen before, probably because there wasn't enough water in the ditch before: a very tiny little waterfall - maybe a foot high and a few inches wide. For two months I have had the direction of the flow backwards in my mind! The great flood that wiped out Main Street probably descended upon the town in reverse of how I imagined. Humbling.

Yesterday evening someone told me there is a mountain lion living on Boston Hill. Are mountain lions like cockroaches - for every one you see there are twenty-five more you don't? Or are the multiples merely in family units? For every one you don't see there are a couple of mates and a few cubs?

I have no illusions I can stay aware of rattlesnakes and lions and coyotes and whatever other wildlife frequent the empty spaces, but for sure I will at least carry my hard metal thermos when I go walking there next.

Come to think of it, I haven't seen many people up there lately. I flattered myself it was because I got such an early start.

Maybe everyone else is just giving the local lions a chance to dine on something other than themselves so early in the morning.

Too bad - I am more afraid of heat than anything else. I can't believe stringy old me would make an appetizing breakfast for a predator living surrounded by city detritus and fat rodents.

Residents would do well to guard their dogs and cats, though.

August 24, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

Labor Day Weekend is supposed to see (hear?) a music festival here in Silver City, but I can't help but wonder if it is going to come off, given the Governor's recent decision to require masks on at businesses, and presumably, public gatherings.

Obtaining my most recent credit card balances, I realize now is the perfect time to stay out of stores, even though I have seen some recently that are a lot of fun.

Animalia, run by two graduates of Berea College in Kentucky, is bursting with creativity of a fun, exuberant nature in several categories, from unconventional clothing to pottery that looks so lively it threatens to chow down on the food you place in it.

Wild West Weaving is one store I have only peered into, but the woman who owns it is a most welcoming individual generous with her time. I look forward to seeing what she and the weavers she exhibits will have on display in a few weeks. She loves wool, and that is certainly something to look forward to come Fall!

I'm dying to try some of the restaurants so close to home, but since eating out yesterday I am reminded that during the first year of Covid many people who contracted the disease ate out in restaurants so I'm going to limit myself to carryout on the rare occasions I splurge on someone else's cooking.

The food Co-op is only two blocks away and has incredible quality and variety, so - no excuses for not being self-sufficient when it comes to eating.

Several restaurants with great reputations haven't reopened since the first Covid knockdown. Let's hope Covid's resurgence doesn't keep them on the mat for long this time around.

August 23, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

I moved to Silver City two months ago yesterday and finally started what I came to do (in addition to being closer to family) - to write. It's ironic that I didn't start writing until after reading Rushdie's and despairing of ever writing a tenth as well. He is brilliant!

Maybe letting go of such unreasonable expectations of myself (that really I never had) is what is allowing me to write at all. I'm writing with no confidence at all that I'm not being a total bore, and almost not caring. I know my work can't be any worse than some of what I've seen published and who knows, maybe the lens through which I see the world might be more helpful (or even more entertaining) than a creator possibly more original.

As a new friend of mine said the other day: "That's the advantage of being old. We can do whatever we want."

Ha! Hardly. And yet... I do have a good deal of the day to bend to my will... and the time, sometimes, to contemplate the compound leaves of the mimosa tree reflected in the screen of my device instead of the white page demanding to be filled with a different kind of growth.

August 22, 2021
Silver City, NM

This morning was the perfect time for a walk on the Boston Hill Open. Early, early.

I took Spring Street between Texas St. and the trail and was stunned by the plants I saw. One prickly pear was at least a foot taller than I am! And a rosemary plant was my height.

Seeing some other plants bearing fruit unknown to me I turned toward the other side of the walk and looked over the property wall. These folks have a stunning garden. If you have been wondering whether you can garden in Silver City, the answer is definitely yes.

I have meant to get some containers going on my side of the porch, but the summer is wearing on. Maybe next year.

Once I got to the trail I headed up toward the two benches. I figured that would be a good first hike. Shortly before I got that far, though, I saw a young stag.with furry branched antlers. No, two! Then a doe. Siblings, I think. I was interrupting their breakfast, so I retired to let them eat. After all, I got to eat my breakfast in peace. Why shouldn't they?

Right now I am sitting near the Visitors Center and wondering what all the clacking I'm hearing is about. Ah, the wind in the flagpole. You would think I would know that sound by now.

August 20, 2021
Silver City, NM

This is a quiet town. I am hearing none of the raucous mad rush of traffic normal in most cities on the last day of the work week. The only way I know it is Friday evening is that a couple of houses between home and the library are playing popular music a little louder than normal - different eras of popular music.

The food co-op plays a wide range of popular music. I don't know if the decades of choice proceed with the time of day the way some groceries do. It seems to me that it is a pot pourri that follows no order at all.

But then, what do I know about popular music? I really felt drawn to one piece the style of which I had heard before, but in spite of its cool sophisticated tonalities and tempo I couldn't identify any genre.

Although I have shopped at the co-op for a while now I have trouble finding much on my own. I'm still easily confused. Since a couple of my eggs are sticking to their carton I've decided to bake something. The other day I bought flour and corn meal, forgetting I had not so much as one leavening agent in the house! Luckily I realized my lack before I started to mix anything. It really was just luck.

It's hard to find a place to live here. If you are planning to join the numbers of folks moving here (of which there seem to be many) it might be a good idea to line up something in advance if you can. Better a home sight unseen than non-existent!

August 19, 2021
Silver City, NM

New Mexico's governor has again required mask-wearing inside public places. This is a good thing, maddening as it must be for employees who work there.

I do feel for them. Work is hard enough without being restrained in any way. Grant County, though, did way better than my former county of Jefferson, Indiana during the first coronavirus wave; it will probably repeat its good results this time around.

On a totally different subject, a couple of weeks ago I saw what looked like a rufous-sided towhee in Silver City - but it had spots, which I hadn't remembered. Did towhees live here, I wondered?

The answer is yes, but towhees are divided into western and eastern variants; the western birds have white spots. Not only did I correctly identify them as towhees, but I was able to add a new bird to my life list. These birds can be found all over the West, which kind of surprises me. I don't remember ever seeing them in Santa Fe.

August 18, 2021
Silver City, NM

I remember thinking when I was younger that older people seemed to talk of nothing but their ailments. Eeek! Am I getting like that?

After going for two months with almost no exposure to news I may well be getting like that.

Thanks to my partner, though, I'm getting The Week Magazine again. It feels really good to be getting exposed to the outer world - and really bad.

Discouraging to read about yet another anti vaccination media person who is going to change the advice he gives - as soon as he gets off the ventilator.

Even more discouraging to read that the Amazon Rain Forest is producing more CO2 than it is capturing thanks to largely intentionally started fires.

I may have gone a whole week at a time once or twice lately without D. Trump crossing my mind. It's hard not to see that as a blessing. 

Which is worse, worrying about your own health - or that of the whole human race?

Unfortunately, the two concerns are not mutually exclusive.

August 17, 2021
Silver City, NM

It looks as if there will be students on campus this year. I went up to the Mimbres exhibit at the museum to buy some t-shirts and saw high school buses with many masked young'uns gathered around. Maybe they were awaiting tours. Registration is Thursday.

I do love seeing the students walking through town to and from campus.

Because of coronavirus complications I am trying to be more faithful about wearing a mask in public places, even though I tested negative for the virus when I had my first test ever during my recent hospital stay.

This morning I read that there are millions of hospital workers all over the world who have still not received a vaccine against Covid-19. Such a shame.

My daughter and her husband reported a unique experience between Silver City and Flagstaff Saturday. The countryside was greener than ever and they enjoyed dramatic mist-shrouded mountain landscapes. I'm so glad there were some upsides to their errand of mercy.

August 15, 2021
Silver City, NM

Back in Silver City for a relatively cool day.

After major confusion and embarrassment about losing keys to my apartment, and trouble getting new keys to work, I thought I had three good keys: one originally given me by the landlord, one to carry with me always, and one to hide outside.

No such luck. The key that I tested when I found it yesterday I could not for the life of me use this morning. What is the use of hiding it if I can't always get it to work?

A mystery.

I'm going to call the hospital security people and find out if they have found another key. If the key that is there is still unclaimed, I hope they will let me compare it to my good one. If it matches, maybe they will let me take it. I'm not too excited by spending more money on iffy keys.


August 13, 2021
Las Cruces, NM

Thanks to my son-in-law, I have added Curved-bill Thrasher to my life list. For any bird watchers reading, Las Cruces is supposed to be a great place for birds. After all, it is part of the Rio Grande flyway.

But back to my tale of woe: When I kept trying to read, not succeeding for two hours, I panicked. I called my old partner in Madison, Indiana because I knew he was already up and told him what was going on. I asked him what I should do, and he told me to go to the hospital.

I got up, scrambled to get dressed, and tried to look up the hospital. I found a website but no telephone number. I searched online for a taxi. I couldn't find anything! Nothing! What was wrong with me?

I cast around in desperation - what to do? - when out of the darkness appeared a rusty-colored rectangle with the numbers 911 floating in the air in front of me. Of course! That's what 911 is for.

A woman answered the phone and I described my situation to her. She said, "Are you Esther Powell?"

I was stunned. It was a magical moment until she mentioned and I thought of my partner's name at the same time. Of course! He had called for a well check.

I went back and forth to the hospital a couple of times and got a couple of diagnoses. I know I needed the help and I am now on a regimen of prescriptions and vitamins.

But the other morning I had another minor episode of difficulty reading with, this time, some hieroglyphs or runes in the top left-hand edge of my vision.

I'm wondering if it is a headache-less migraine symptom. I experienced a similar phenomenon once fifty years ago when people's noses looked distorted and the teacher literally disappeared from in front of the blackboard.

So I ask again, what would you have done? If the same thing had happened during the day, I might have done nothing at all until I was prostrate on the floor, and not gotten help I needed. Maybe.

One thing that made me feel really crazy, though, turned out to be no illusion.

There is at present no taxi service in Silver City, New Mexico.

August 12, 2021
Las Cruces, NM

But here I am in Las Cruces! Why does my e-editor want to turn it into Las Drives? What could I have possibly done to set that up? Is it because being in Las Cruces necessitates driving?

At any rate, the problem is sorted. My dictionary is now situated a little closer to the rest of the world.

Living in Las Cruces would be a challenge (as Silver City is) because there are so many species of life I have not encountered often enough to recognize or learn much about, such as ocotillo.

We ran across ocotillo in Big Bend National Park but somehow I overlooked learning the fact that ocotillo is a thorny deciduous shrub, not a cactus at all. Its leaves are small but broad, and this year they are Christmas green. The flowers are red, but I haven't seen the from close enough to see detail.

There are also interesting plants like Teddy Bear Cholla, which seem to be popular houses for birds - maybe Bendire's Thrashers? They seem to be about the right size.

I have also seen highly spotted birds that I think might be cactus wrens, but their tails are long and not so cocked up, so I better stop right now and do some research. Oh, yeah, those are cactus wrens - my first ever sighting. It's so exciting to be adding more birds to my life list!

(More about the big bad health visitation tomorrow. I'm trying to be here now some of the time, at least.)

August 11, 2021
Las Cruces, NM

When I wrote my last entry about last Wednesday at the food giveaway, that is where I expected to be at this very moment: packing produce for giveaway at the mission. I guess it is a Latter Day Saints' project judging by the folks who invited me to come. This week I was going to surprise them and come on time. Instead I surprised myself. How did I get here instead?

My tale begins, I believe, on the next night, Thursday.

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night at two a.m. after crashing extra early? How would you entertain yourself? I had already slept six hours and I could probably sleep some more - eventually - so I did the obvious usual thing and started to read my Kindle - as it happened, a book by Andy Cowan, Banging my Head Against the Wall. 

It's a wonder I didn't start banging my head because I couldn't make head nor tail of what he was trying to say. I kept on reading for quite a while and remember seeing some about Jay Leno and a lot of joking that I didn't get.

I'm not usually so completely clueless about contemporary (? ha) humor, but I'm approaching it. I just shrugged off my incomprehension and tried another handy dandy book in my collection.

Maybe Sir Walter Scott would be easier to comprehend. No! Not at all! The quotes from other authors at the beginning of each chapter were gibberish. I couldn't distinguish them from the rest of the text, which was largely mysterious Scottish dialogue anyway. The only thing I could recognise was the heroines first name. It sounded vaguely familiar.

Scratch that novel!

I read a two-page chapter of Marco Polo. Well, you can easily imagine what that's about. But was it?

Finally I tried what should have been easiest - some humorous contemporaneous novel about a divorcee going to caretake a haunted house of some kind.

Still I could not really understand what the Hell was going on. Hell, let's be honest. I couldn't follow it at all.

Two hours I spent trying to read when I just couldn't. Then I finally admitted to myself that something was drastically wrong.  At that point, what would you have done?

(Adventure Continued tomorrow!)

August 4, 2021
Silver City, NM

The other day I met a couple involved in a mission food giveaway on Wednesday mornings. I decided to check it out, maybe help. Because I am me in the world I couldn't find the right place until there was only a half hour or so of work left.

Turns out it is produce that is given away, not soups or sack lunches. People line up in cars and are given boxes and bags of produce, the best picked out first, boxed, and put into people's vehicles for them.

As the time passes boxes are replaced by bags of increasingly inferior produce, so if you want to stock up of a Wednesday morning you might want to arrive early.

The giveaway is on Bremen between Texas and Arizona Streets. I admit I was tempted myself by the avocados, except I already have some at home and they were being given away by the bagful!

Some folks use the produce they reject to feed their chickens and I assume their pigs. Free feed!

The folks working there told me the only produce offered that chickens won't eat are bananas.

Speaking of bananas, I have been suffering some from cramps in my legs, hands and feet. I'm trying to drink enough water and a banana every day. Yesterday instead of having my daily banana at breakfast I had to buy them and eat one later.

When I was talking to my daughter later on the phone I complained about a cramp in my right foot. She reminded me that bananas give you potassium and magnesium. I said I had already had my banana for the day. I walked into the kitchen while we were talking and what do you know. It turns out I had started to get one but gotten distracted before I even peeled it.

Lesson for the day: eat your daily banana! More important than bread, perhaps.

August 2, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

Yesterday I went exploring on the East side of town. Across from a recreational center on Silver Street is a little path going up a little hill to a bench where is a wonderful view in almost every direction. At that point you seem to be looking across (if not down on!) the chapel on Chihuahua Hill.

The summit of Boston Hill has got to be higher, but I need a better map than I have of those trails to know where that summit is.

Near the little trail I found yesterday is a trailer park with magnificent views. That's the kind of place Silver City is.

Oh, and if you like to walk but you don't care for hills, this might not be the town for you. Personally, I love what all these hills and valleys do for my perspective.

This city is not a two-dimensional grid.

August 1, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

On the way here to library property I saw the gray thrashers again. They seem to have a place they hang out 1/2 block from where I live. I heard a call or two today - the more interesting one sounds like the opposite of a wolf whistle; instead of up then down, it goes down, then up.

One of these birds pecked at a beautiful even-colored light gray dove with a broad white-banded tail, so I think we can guess the pecking order of those two species. The dove was not a mourning dove, I'm pretty sure, but neither was it one of the bigger bully varieties that are right this minute imitating roosters.

And no, the library is not open Sunday, or Monday either. I stand outside. Today I am shopping for ebooks I already bought. Turns out they won't necessarily download after purchase unless you tell the device to download it. (Maybe that's the purpose of the "Read Now" option?) If you haven't downloaded your ebooks already, in the middle of the night you can't read them offline. In all my camping tent reading and middle of the night motel reading I've never had that happen before.

The Internet is constantly changing. That's what my oboe teacher said made the instrument so difficult. The Internet technology is always taunting, "Catch me if you can!" According to Dataclysm author Christian Rudder we ordinary folk have no chance at all of doing it.

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