musings from the studio and beyond ~
dawn chandler’s reflections on art and life. . . .
Something magical has been spreading across New Mexico this September… I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
And I’m not the only one stunned by it. I go out each evening to walk and find, despite distressing world news, I’m smiling. And there’s many more people out there on my walks, and they’re smiling, too. It’s as if we can’t help ourselves — which, in fact, we can’t.
We are under the spell of gold — gold coins.
Coins made up of pistils, stamens, and soft jagged petals.
Coins scattered densely across seemingly every field, empty lot and fence row in Santa Fe County. Coins known in Latin circles as Verbesina encelioides.
I’m talking about Golden Crownbeard.
Also known as the Cowpen Daisy.
…. or American Dogweed…
…and Butter Daisy….
…or South African Daisy….
… and Gold Weed….
… and Wild Sunflower.
To me, they’re known as the OMG-I-Can’t-Believe-How-Gorgeous-Those-Golden-Flowers-Are-What-The-Heck-Are-They-They-Are-So-Incredibly-Beautiful-I-ve-Never-Seen-Fields-of-Gold-Like-That-I-Just-Can’t-Get-Enough-Of-Them.
My neighborhood nursery Plants of the Southwest describes Golden Crownbeard on their website as “a showy, fast-growing annual with a profuse display of bright golden daisies in fall. Marvelous along fence rows, in meadows or at the back of a casual garden. Sow anytime. Zones 5-8.” I read elsewhere that the Cowpen Daisy is “excellent for reclamation and pollinator conservation mixtures. Provides nectar to bees and butterflies.”
According to the Native American Ethnobotany Database, the Hopis used an infusion of the plant as a treatment against the fever and itch of spider bites, while the Navajo used the dried leaves as a treatment for stomach ailments. Further, they brought good luck, for the seeds were nourishing, and the petals, if chewed, boded a successful hunt — and protected one from lightning.
I don’t know if these flowers will do any of that, but I do know that THIS YEAR, at least, the cowpen daisy is capable of inducing endless smiles and cheerfulness. For the flower is positively E X P L O D I N G across New Mexico, including in the usually dusty dirt pit of field at the center of my neighborhood park.
Come late summer in New Mexico, we all welcome — with a mixture of joy and wistfulness — the first sunflowers that pop up along the roadsides, a sure sign that autumn is on its way. And so when I first glimpsed this gold color on the landscape, I assumed it must be the roadside sunflowers.
But I’d never seen whole fields of sunflowers in New Mexico before. Upon closer inspection I realized these are not the roadside sunflowers I’ve known for decades. Though related — both are Asteraceae — of the aster or daisy family — these fields of gold are a different flower altogether. And I am utterly intoxicated by their magical properties of imbuing joy.
As I write this, the gold of the cowpen daisies across the landscape is becoming burnished as their petals dry and fade, disintegrating into the earth….
… just as a different trove of gold coins begins to scatter in the mountains high above the fields ….
and another, along the valley waterways….
swelling again the treasury of my imagination with golden autumn riches…
Ahhhhhh…… September in New Mexico….
All photos — except the top image of gold coins — by Dawn Chandler.
Read more about autumn in New Mexico here.
Thanks so much for reading my blog. If you enjoy my musings here, please feel free to share this post!
Very Artfully Yours ~
If you were able to sleep at all, likely you went to bed each night with nausea in your belly, and your head pounding with anxiety.
Come morning you raced to the computer to see if the fire had spread, and felt your heart scouring the inside of your throat as you read that once again the fire had doubled in size.
Friends and family who don’t know Philmont, who’ve never been there, but know YOU and know that this arid corner of New Mexico is sacred ground to you, saw on their news feeds that this “Boy Scout Camp in Northern New Mexico” was on fire. And they said to you, “I’m sorry about Philmont….” and it’s all you could do to choke down the sobs.
Your HOmEland — your SPIRITland, your SOULand was burning. All you could see was loss and destruction. You were in an utterly grievous state.
… then you started reading about the current staff, and the good people of Ute Park, of Cimarron, of the neighboring ranches.
You read of the firefighters.
You read of heroism.
You read of resiliency.
You read of unbelievably tough decisions.
You read of integrity.
You read of humor and of hope and of grace.
And out of the ashes — out of your sorrow — somehow rose a little green sprout of life — and hope.
The above description is excerpted from the story behind my newly released print, A Philmont Morning is the Best Kind of Morning.
And now they’re here: 200 limited edition prints!
No wait — CORRECTION. Make that 13
5 limited edition prints, because a staggering 65 prints — 65!! — sold in 72 hours over Labor Day weekend to 52 saavy early bird TaosDawn studio Insiders.
Prints are $95…. and….$50 from every print sale is going to Philmont’s Fire Relief Fund.
Which means in just three days we’ve raised an additional $3,250 to help repair, reseed, and renew Philmont’s backcountry.
WOW, PEOPLE!! WOW!!
We have the ability to raise $6,750 more with the sale of those 135 remaining prints. My goal is to get them all sold before October 1st, and raise a grand total of $10,000 for Philmont’s Fire Fund.
Get the full story and purchase your print here.
Or shop around and view this and all the rest of my art in my full online store on Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/dawnchandlerstudio
and waterways… and walkways ….
we interrupt this summer to share meals… meditation… direction….
and glimpses of yesteryear….
… to share the welcoming of shelter …..
and expressions … of friendship … of kindness … of courage ….
to share the splendor of meadows and mountains…
and wise old souls …
and astonishing beings …
we interrupt this summer to bring you a wealth of tiny dazzling things….
Yes, I’ve been walking again.
Slowly and solo, again in the New England woods.
This time, a short 50-mile section of the Appalachian Trail. That little bit of the AT in central Vermont where it breaks away from the Long Trail — a point called Maine Junction — and ventures eastward, to cross the Connecticut River at the border of New Hampshire. It’s a gorgeous, pastoral section of trail (and — thankfully — not nearly as rugged as much of the Long Trail), winding mostly under 2500 feet of elevation. Which means much of the path leads through rolling low elevation hardwood forests of birch and maple, beech and hemlock.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll get to enjoy the shade of the hemlocks… The changing climate means they’re particularly vulnerable, as are so many of the Beings that blessed me with their presence these handful of days.
All the more reason I feel an urgency to get out there now, while they hold on, while my aging body can still carry me through these woods.
How many times a day did I reflect on Emerson’s quote….
Or recited the words of Mary Oliver.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
(from The Summer Day)
My question to you is this:
When are you going out there, to the fields, to the forest, or the plains, the mesas or the waterways, or even your city park, your own back yard?
When are you going out and leaving
your phone behind?
Go — go now.
Go this weekend.
Don’t bring your phone. Promise me you’ll leave your phone behind.
Go find a quiet spot.
Close your eyes and breathe. Deeply.
Listen for a long while.
Then open your eyes, and look around.
Don’t thank me.
your one wild and precious life.
Thanks so much for reading my blog. If you enjoy my musings here, please feel free to share this post!
Very Artfully & Gratefully Yours ~
Over lunch, I had commented to my friend that I was shocked we hadn’t suffered any fires yet. The winter and spring had been worrisomely mild, and the winds had howled across April and May. And yet here it was one day from June and New Mexico had hardly suffered any fires yet this season.
The day was Thursday, May 31st, 2018, and an hour after supping with my friend, I was heading home to Santa Fe, taking an unusual route — north through Taos so that I could then bear southwest across the Rio Grande Gorge and out into the wide open sageland of Carson, where I hoped to get some photos for a commission.
As I drove up Paseo del Norte, I noticed an odd cloud behind Taos Mountain. That looks like smoke I thought to myself. A visitor to the Southwest might not have noticed anything unusual, but we who spend late spring worrying about fire evacuations have an acute eye for clouds. That’s got to be a fire… As I made my way across the gorge bridge and out through Carson toward Ojo Caliente, I kept pulling over to take a look, further convincing myself that that cloud was smoke.
Of course we now know that what I was watching was the smoke of the Ute Park Fire, which exploded across the heart of Philmont. (If you don’t know what Philmont is or why it’s significant to me, you can learn more in my bio). For the next 72 hours, the fire would double with every update, eventually reaching 37,000 acres, 27,000 on Philmont. Neighboring communities would be threatened and forced to evacuate, as vast acres of pinon, juniper and Ponderosa forests would be wiped out. Some of the most beautiful hiking country I have known would be rendered unrecognizable, despite the herculean efforts of an army of hundreds of heroic firefighters.
And Philmont would ultimately make the utterly wrenching decision to close its backcountry for the season — the first time in its 80-year history — crushing the dreams of thousands of Scouts who had been anticipating a summer of adventure hiking in “God’s Country.” But the continued threat of fire, and the threat of extreme flooding and mudslides, made the decision to close the only prudent option.
Meanwhile Philmont and its neighbors rose and continue to rise to the challenges of disruption with awe-inspiring resiliency. Summer staff have been reassembled and put to work on fire recovery efforts, while Philmont’s admin team has worked tirelessly in rescheduling crews for the 2019 season. Scout camps from across the country have welcomed troops whose Philmont treks were canceled.
And people have been giving — have been desperately, passionately wanting to give — to help Philmont. For while Philmont’s insurance will cover a great many things, it unfortunately won’t cover things like forest recovery efforts and reseeding.
So a great many people have made contributions to the Philmont Staff Association’s Fire Recovery Fund — which is a heck of a great way to help.
I decided though to do something a little different; to give in the way that I give best.
I decided to paint a picture, and auction it off.
So here’s my painting, which I did at Philmont a few days ago. I’ve called it A Philmont Morning is the Best Kind of Morning, and that morning that I painted it was indeed a “best kind of morning.”
Prints will also be available as a further fundraiser. If you’re interested in a print, please shoot me an email and let me know so that I can get a sense of how many prints to make available.
I want to go back to Philmont….
Every June I leave New Mexico ….
and I go to Oregon…
I make this annual journey from the parched mesas of the Southwest to the crashing waves of the Pacific Northwest in order to sleep.
My annual pilgrimage to seaside slumber began about six years ago as an escape. It was the second or third year in a row when June mornings in New Mexico brought black flakes of charred forests in the dry wind, and a daily grey dusting of ash. Even the wasps were thirsty, as they hovered at the edge of the quickly evaporating water that I bucketed into the metal fire pit, now a makeshift emergency birdbath.
Nights were sleepless, as I worried about fire, which, were one to strike in my neighborhood of dense pinon and juniper with no guaranteed escape route, would be nothing short of biblical. Two dusty miles down a winding dirt road walled in with trees. It made me sick to my stomach to imagine
What if there’s a lightening strike?
What if a some witless person pulls off the road and parks in tall dry grass, their hot engine igniting a grass fire?
What if some idiot tosses a cigarette butt?
What if a tree falls across the only road out?
I dreaded going into town and leaving my pup at home.
What if there’s a fire while I’m gone?
But it was just too deathly hot to leave her in the car while I ran errands.
I kept evacuation gear — a change of clothes, important files, most precious keepsakes — in my car.
I did this during every drought year living out there on the ‘ridge, and also all those years I lived in Taos Canyon.
Finally with the Las Conchas Fire raining down ash for days, I had had it.
“I’m getting the Hell out of New Mexico next year” I proclaimed to My Man. Luckily for me, he decided he would, too.
And so for 5 out of the past 6 Junes we’ve headed north by northwest — though, alas, without Cary Grant — and without even my Pup. No, instead we have boarded her, at a cool place in ABQ where they take great care of her and she has lots of friends.
Until this year.
This year we drove 3000 miles with The Pup.
Because she’s getting old.
And because I wanted to see her run on a beach at least once in her life.
Last October when she and I drove to New England, I had the same plan to take her to the beach, only I’d do so in New Hampshire. The Live Free or Die state doesn’t have much coastline, but it has 18 more miles of coastline than New Mexico does. New Hampshire’s beaches are beautiful, and they’re actually the beaches I grew up on. Despite being raised in New Jersey, our family never went “down the shore” like most people who populate the Garden State. Rather, we went to New Hampshire and Maine.
So just imagine my heartbreak when my pup and I arrived at the Atlantic Ocean only to find NO DOGS ALLOWED. I think we both cried.
When we finally did find a beach that allowed dogs, it was high tide, and the waves were crashing against the rocky and treacherous shore, crushing us with disappointment.
When the Oregon legislature passed the brilliant Oregon Beach Bill in 1967 that “established public ownership of land along the Oregon Coast from the water up to sixteen vertical feet above the low tide mark” I’m pretty sure they had dogs in mind among those “public owners.”
So two weeks ago — three days and 1500 miles after leaving achingly smoky New Mexico — we brought my beautiful old desert rat of a sweet girl down to the beach.
And she ran…
and ran …
And she kept on running…
And then, in that cool, wet, lusciously soporific Pacific ocean air… she — and we —slept….
Thank you, Oregon.
Photo above of Wilson & me by ace photographer Joe T.R. Beman.