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Rumilluminations December 2021
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, December 01 2021 - 12:09 pm

December 31, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

On the seventh day Christmas I'm finding time to write, which is essential because it's also the last day of the year.

The last day! Many many people are glad to see the last day of this year of coronavirus and weird job situations: no jobs, zoom jobs, too many jobs, unrecognizable job situations.

I myself have had a surprising change of situation -surprising not because someone else sprang it on me, but because I sprang it on myself! My life for the second half of 2021 has been entirely different from the first half: from in partnership to solitary, from riverside Midwest to mountain surrounded Southwest. Actually, I should probably not call my present life more solitary, because although I am living alone, I spend more time interacting with people than I have for literally decades.

So farewell, 2021 of mixed blessings! May 2022 see the end of heavy coronavirus visitation, and economic stagnation, and the curse of global warming. (Well, some wishes are more likely to be granted than others.)

The wish for you for a better, happier New Year is certainly not unreasonable at all - is it?

December 29, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me - snow! I saw the snow before the sun broke the horizon, but it was still dawn..

Actually in my experience people are not good at reveling between Christmas and New Year's Eve. I guess when society liberated itself from the tyranny of the agrarian schedule it also liberated itself from the freedom of weeklong fun and games.

Or is it the Christian religion (specifically Paul) that condemned the party spirit?

Well, call me a Christian. I can't stay awake, let alone drink alcohol.

December 26, 2021
Albuquerque, NM

Happy Second Day of Christmas! What are you doing? I did a little bit of cleaning and a little bit of food shopping and this afternoon will spend a little more time with family members we saw on Christmas Day.

Tomorrow is the time to head back to Silver City and return to my new life there.

By the way, on the plane on my way out here someone told me that if you buy five roundtrip tickets (to be used within a year) the cost per flight is significantly less than if you only buy them one at a time.


December 25, 2021
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Merry Christmas!

I'm staying in Albuquerque for Christmas but we went to Santa Fe for the Farolito walk along Canyon Road. It was very different from the many Christmas Eve walks I've taken up that road between the years 1975 and 2000.

For one thing, it was rainy! Rainy! Unbelievable. That in itself was a first in my experience. It meant very few farolitas were on display, paper bags being what they are. There weren't even the traditional fires along the road, where people used to gather and sometimes sing carols while they warmed themselves. There was, however one gallery displaying a wonderful painting of a white bull visible through the front window which had a much appreciated fire bowl where we could keep warm while listening to a solo trumpeter play. How he could do so well in the cold I don't know!

More later!

Unfortunately I did not get the name of the gallery or the trumpet player, a testament to how much my holiday merriment supplanted my reportorial impulses. The sign of the white bull! What more do you need? (Laughing emoji inserted here.)

We readied ourselves for the Canyon Road walk with dinner at Del Charro, near a fireplace with a lovely fire going against the dank chill outside. Others tried some of the specialty drinks. I indulged gratefully in a forbidden hot chocolate before our dinner. How lucky Santa Fe residents are, with the numerous wonderful places to eat. Del Charro, by the way, does not accept reservations.

December 22, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

A friend of mine heard about another wonderful trail. Unless we missed the trail entirely, it was really a road: Cross Mountain Road. Wow! I wouldn't drive my car (if I had one) very far along that road!

It's made of boulders, seemingly, and rocky ledges. It's not bad for walking as long as you watch your step.  There is a good amount of black rock that looks as if it cooled quickly mid-flow, mid-ripple. One of my friends handed me a wonderful sample, which I unfortunately lost and forgot about while I was taking closeups of a pinecone which I thought looked like a flower.

The views of the town and the distant mountains, when you could see them through gaps in the trees, were magnificent. Too bad it's so hard to get photos of those fading distant multiple ranges with my phone. I have captured them in memory only.

On the way back downhill (downmountain heh) we saw a very prominent rusted wreck of a car with bullet holes galore. How could we all have missed that on our way up? That was very picture-worthy. I was also charmed by a whole grove of blue-green young conifers seemingly of the same generation that softened the landscape where they grew. A ranger said they were a kind of cedar; I'm guessing alligator juniper, judging by the adults in the area. How I do love those trees!

The ranger said there is also shagbark juniper growing in the area, worth keeping on the lookout for. It may be a common misperception that all trails are basically the same in Silver City and its environs. I am surprised at how much variety there is underfoot and overhead - variations on the ecological theme.

December 20, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

Silver City seems to have been hit hard by the fear of the latest wave of coronavirus. More people seem to be wearing masks more. More stores are closing, and it seems as if they are cutting back their hours even more stringently than before.

Last weekend the downtown seemed crawling with people, many of them out-of-towners with nothing to do for half the weekend.

I'm mystified. How can people survive with so little income? I'm sure they are used to slow winters, but this slow? I'm too new in town to know the ins and outs of survival in Silver City, but I can't help but be concerned.

Of course, my major sources of entertainment are free, currently; I have my hiking equipment and my travel Scrabble game and books, books, books!

My recent purchase of luxurious flannel sheets makes me realize how threadbare the decades-old ones are,  but so far they are adequate, as we stand poised on the threshold of winter. I have never spent a winter in Silver City and look forward to this one.

December 19, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

Well, my Kindle is okay after all. It finally took a charge. The Fire has been rekindled! Yay!

Unfortunately my technological inner fire has not. I realize using technology to lament technology is kind if like an Agnostic's (should that be capitalized? It's not an institution!) prayer to the Almighty. Well, I do that, too, on occasion.

Anyway, Happy Holidays to all!

My best hiking buddy and I have been dealing with non-technological challenges. These are a lot more fun! For instance, why do the signs indicating paths available on the San Vicente downstream from downtown seem to have so little relation to what we experience on the trail? (Also true on Boston Hill, by the way.) Is it because the humans who comb the area keep creating new routes to where they want to go? 

We are supposed to respect private property and I am completely compliant to that request! Or I think I am - until I find myself on the wrong side of a no trespassing sign. Oops! And having hiked down and back up a path from Mountain View, I have no idea whether or not we took a forbidden shortcut. No clue at all.

I guess technology isn't the only part of reality with which I have a problem!

At any rate, the hikes along the river are intriguing whether you hike down from the Mountain View trail head or in from the trail head under Veterans Bridge. From both starts it's possible to get to the river and, if you're not an aging (okay, aged) phobic afraid of cold and wet feet, across the creek. In fact I think there are at least a half dozen points around town which provide access to the river - and this morning I think I saw a pair with fishing rods right here at the Visitors Center (also a trail head on the San Vicente) parking lot!

Good lord, my sentences are getting as convoluted as the hiking paths around Silver City!

It's just a human predilection, I guess - treading the path toward entropy. I'm sure the trail heads to that path number in the millions.

December 16, 2021
Silver City, NM

Late day before yesterday after posting some cards, I cast about for a new place to walk. Since I had never crossed the bridge taking Hudson across the river gorge, I decided to brave the traffic and go that way. Halfway across I looked down. Lo and behold, there was a man in a dirt parking lot emerging from his vehicle with dog and leash. There were park notice boards. There were trails! What had seemed impassable in the past must not be.

With that in mind I took my hiking poles with me down to the riverwalk and headed in the right direction. What do you know, it looked like someone was constructing wooden erosion control devices along the downtown side of the bank. I amexcited to see if there will be new plantings inside the structures.

I was so engrossed in the project that I passed the very discrete stairway down to the river bed - lost time. I proceeded to go downstream. Well, I tried. The river was not high but I could see no discernible path ahead that didn’t involve rock-stepping - a possibly slippery business. What with marshy spots and no waterproof shoes on, I decided to abandon that.

There must be another way to get to that spot I had seen from the bridge; after all, it was a road that car traveled to get there. I went to Bullard St. and headed South. A mere portion of a block from the furniture store I had visited the day before (nice folks - they gave me a 2022 calendar) was a recycling center and a dirt road, which was easy hiking to the trailhead. And what a trail! Old rusting cars and the gnarliest old cottonwoods I have ever seen in my getting longish life were just the beginning!

True confessions - I did not get much farther; too much messing around. Today is another day! I have hope.

The efficient among you probably find my dithering exasperating! Surely an intelligent being can find places to hike by looking at the right kind of map.

Well, of course. Sure. But where is the fun in that?

P.S. I am writing on a different device that apparently does not consider contractions part of the English language. I am not getting more formal in my old age; alas - my older device seems not long for this world. 

December 14, 2021
Silver City, NM

Saturday at the Visitors Center I learned that the Silco theater has installed a new air filtering system that cleanses the air of everything, including viruses. That's encouraging, but unless a movie is very badly attended (or very well spaced) I still probably won't risk it.

Not seeing Belfast, though, was heart-breaking. Here was a real chance to act as though life were normal, seeing a real movie. The trouble is, though, I can't kid myself that life is normal yet, especially with a new very catchable coronavirus on the way. Luckily there are some indications omicron might not be as deadly (I read) as 17 and delta, but alas, only time will tell.

Still, Christmas is coming and so am I, to relatives' homes to celebrate the fact that I am close enough to visit during the winter months. Huzzah, huzzah!

No snow yet, but frost is definitely evident in the early mornings. Funny thing about sunrises - this morning was glorious with color. A few minutes later the horizon was merely wintry glum.

Makes you realize why some Native Americans were up to greet the sunrise every morning. Maybe the best way to greet the day is with a stunning light show. Why take a chance at missing that opportunity to get high?

December 13, 2021
Silver City, NM

Yesterday we went for a second time from the trailhead by the animal shelter. It is a gentle and easy hike underfoot, with not too many rocky spots, but I still appreciated my hiking poles.If nothing else, the added confidence about balance allows you to move faster.

And if you find yourself blocked by a big hillock with a cindery top, you can keep going on down along it and around the eastern (I think) end and back to the lot by crossing a ravine and hiking up the other side.

No need to backtrack and it is just as quick!

December 12, 2021
Silver City, NM

Whew! What a walk that was today! I have rarely been on Boston Hill without getting at least a little bit lost, and today was no exception. Today, though, my fellow hikers and I went separate ways to return to the parking lot.

They chose to retrace their steps a little and for some reason I just couldn't bear the thought of backtracking. It ended well for everyone. We all got back to the gate within a minute or so of each other.

Getting lost on the Open really isn't very scary; the town below is visible from the higher points. It is still possible, though, to hike a good deal longer than you expected before finding yourself back at your starting point. Alternative routes keep presenting themselves and it is sometimes difficult to know which way to go.

Just scary enough to be fun - like ghost stories by a campfire.

December 10, 2021
Silver City, NM

Darkest morning yet of my time in Silver City, but the sun is shining now! That's New Mexico for you; it has its dark hours, but it always shakes them off. Good modeling for us.

The other day I decided on impulse to pick up a loaf of bread at the co-op. When I saw loaves there for almost eight dollars I veered back towards home. I can make my own bread. After all, I had bought the necessary flour and yeast weeks ago.

It always takes a little courage to make my first loaf of yeasted bread in years, and my product was definitely not ideal, but it tastes pretty good and it's fresh! Only cost a couple of bucks and some gas, which surely won't amount to six dollars!

Speaking of saving dollars I bought myself an old old kitchen chair at Manzanita Ridge on Bullard Street yesterday. That is my first go-to place for used and vintage furniture here: it is so chock-full of interesting stuff! I saw a cushioned chair fit for a queen which I would probably have gone for but, alas, was already sold.

These folks have so much coming in, though - always! -that something else will come along eventually. I don't want one piece of furniture to upstage everything else anyway.

December 7, 2021
Silver City, NM

Yesterday afternoon I was on my way to the library to write about I-did-not-know-what when, like a blessed apparition appeared a lovely young man with a very nifty way of pulling a load cross-country. He didn't have to use his hands. Luckily he also had a very warm smile and was willing to converse.

He readily gave me his name (and its meaning) and in answer to my questions said he had left Denver in October and walked the whole way to Silver City. He started out barefoot but he suffered too much pain in his soles and started wearing shoes. "When my soles are happy my soul is happy."

Several years ago he dreamt that he walked to the ocean so he is heading to San Diego, California to fulfill his dream. He had tentative plans for the night, so hopefully he will stay warm. He certainly looked well put together. It inspires confidence that he will attain his goal.

And in high school I thought I was pretty hot stuff because I walked thirteen miles from Valparaiso, Indiana to Lake Michigan.

When I got to the library, excited about my subject for the day, I couldn't get online. No WiFi - why I'm writing about the encounter this morning at a location that does have WiFi.

If it turns out I can live within my means here I might actually get the service at home!

December 5, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

Yesterday's hike seemed like one of our best hikes yet, maybe because it was the most recent. I'm really excited about it because it gave us, as my walking companion observed, bragging rights to having hiked part of the Continental Divide Trail!

I haven't set foot on either the Appalachian or the Pacific Coast Trails despite having seen both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and walked in forests both East and West.

The part of this trail we hiked is all woodland, but not too dense. It has pines and good-sized alligator juniper as well as scrub oaks and grasses that tempt you to lie down for a cushy nap. Might not be a good idea, though, because a mountain lion has been spotted in the area. (Are mountain lions like cockroaches, I wonder? For every one you see there are twenty-five you don't? Or maybe only eight. Still, not reassuring.)

Shade is abundant on this part of the trail, and you know you can hike as far as you dare. It goes all the way to Canada in one direction and all the way to Mexico in the other, although I have heard that the part of path that goes to Mexico is brutal.

Which would you prefer? Starting or ending your weeks-long hike with the hardest part?

I know which I would choose, since dread isn't an emotion I am fond of.

December 3, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

Yesterday I planned to write about how different sunrises are in different places, but really they are different in the same place, also. Yesterday's sunrise here was dark and dramatic; today clear and serene, though not as serene as if the eastern horizon were further away.

I'm enjoying the bright warm weather here, also. Fragrant roses, still! Bees buzzing around rosemary blossoms! I am, admittedly, looking forward to the first snow of the season and seeing what it does to the nearby mountains, but I am perfectly willing to wait until January for that.

Or February, even better.

Through my first friend here I continue to meet fascinating people, many just passing through. I enjoyed meeting strangers like this in Madison, Indiana also. There the location for such encounters was the river walk along the Ohio River. My almost daily hike past the Hillside Inn in Madison rarely occasioned such meetings. Here they happen more often, since the hotels are right on Broadway.

The Silver City Co-op continues to amaze. Not only is my favorite black tea (which I am no longer supposed to imbibe) available here, but you can buy it in bulk. I have tasted it, and it is good!

We residents are so lucky.

Do be careful on the sidewalks, though. They're tricky.

December 1, 2021
Silver City, New Mexico

For my first morning back in Silver City yesterday I woke up with leg cramps. I only get them here (and I have traveled out of town a record-breaking four times since I moved here five months ago!) Something must be wrong here, I figure. Since I have already been advised to get a water filter (old leaky pipes in this burg) I decided my first fix would be a water filter.

People talk about dehydration, but I am conscious of the increased need for water here. If the cramps don't go away within a reasonable time I'll look for another solution. And to tell the truth, I don't get them here, consistently.

Yesterday morning, at a friend's suggestion, we went to the McCray Gallery on Western's campus to see a retrospective of the work of John Stermer, a painter who moved here and stayed for the rest of his life. This exhibit is very beautiful and generous to those who drop by. We got lucky and got to meet the curator, Paula Geisler, who was subbing for someone else. She is also an artist in her own right, having a gallery that is open by appointment.

She gave us something better than a list of the works on exhibit. We each got a fancy brochure (it may be called something else) with several prints of Stermer's work - including the very blue painting of the old town of Mogollon that my friend raved about. (He will be glad to know that his favorite painting in the exhibit is the one illustrated in the article called up when you look up the gallery on the Internet. It's someone else's favorite also!)

Unfortunately for any other lovers of that painting, it has already been sold - but there are others still available. You'll have to move quickly, though; the exhibit will be on display for only a few more days.

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