Friday, April 11, 2014

Got Moccasins? Check.

I have been looking for someone to make me a pair of moccasins since I arrived on the Navajo Reservation.   You can buy them pre-made in some of the shops here but they are stiff and ...well...not handmade.  I have also seen some moccasins where the craftsmanship is not up to speed.

Then I met Deborah Teller.  She took a class at the Dine College in the art and craft of moccasin making.   Believe me it is NOT just a matter of tracing your foot.  It is an art that must be practiced.

My new moccasins are soft and  molded to my feet.  Deborah explains that making moccasins is almost like sculpting.  They are all sewn by hand.

I learned a few things about wearing moccasins too.  Do not wear them to a funeral or burial or cemetary.  If someone passes away their moccasins should be taken to the mountain and left there.

And you should not decorate your moccasins( well except for the buttons on the side to keep them closed.)  But then why would I?  I love the red/brown color of the soft suede.  

Interested in a pair for yourself?  Talk to Deborah:  760 975-4313
Her husband makes custom designed chaps too.  Now if I only rode rodeo...but y'all know me, I would hang a pair on the wall....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Look What Happened At My House Last Week!

Emily Malone and the Spider Rock Girls needed a place to hold their Navajo weaving class.  I was honored to have them in my home for 4 days.

 It was lovely to sit and write with the soft beat of the battens in the next room planting the warp into the weft.  All that color and energy and creativity inspired too.

 Inspired me to finally get to work on that last inch or so on my loom.

 Emily set up my warp so I will be ready for my next project.  Finally I plan to use all those skeins I dyed myself from local herbs and tree bark and leaves.

 Reena was bored.

 And what about the writing?  The Spider Rock Girls were kind enough to read and comment on
my Picture Book Tawny's Gift, a Picture Book of fiction, work in progress about sheep and weaving.  They gave me some good criticism.

If you are interested in lessons in Navajo weaving taught by professional Navajo weavers.  Or if you might want to buy an heirloom Navajo rug unlike any other, contact Emily Malone:

Friday, February 28, 2014

Ten Steps To Retreat and Inspire: Bluff, UT

I have written several blogs about places I go "to get away from it all"  and write.  I have also written about a few best kept secrets if you live or travel in the four corners area.   La Posada Pintada proved to combine  both of these themes and so; Ten Steps to a Writing Retreat:

1.  Find an out of the way place that is comfortable and charming in a setting that is unusual and takes you out of your everyday surroundings.  La Posada Pintada( in Bluff, UT about and hour and a half from Chinle is the perfect place to get away from daily distractions; the laundry, dry plants on the window sill, dinners to prepare.   Even when you are only and hour and a half out of your normal element, the writing comes more easily.

2.  Bring a freind, one you can trust to give you time and space, yet give you honest criticism, one you can share a glass of wine with.  Nancy Bo Flood (  proved to be the perfect writing companion.

3.  Begin with a hearty breakfast.  At La Posada Pintada there is is fresh ground coffee in the rooms, a coffee maker and a refrigerator.   You can't eat it but there was also homemade "cowboy soap" in my bathroom.

4.  Take some fruit and yogurt back to your room for lunch.

5.  Choose a place that offers the best of nature. Warning! You may need to close the curtains if you hope to get any work done.  

6. Come out of your writer's daze once in while to sit on the front or back back door balcony of your room.   Enjoy the view and revitalize your writing self.

7.  Turn off your phone in case you get coverage where you are sitting.  Best to ignore texts and internet.  Try NOT to visit any of the trading posts and unique galleries in town.

 6.  Make sure you take an afternoon walk.  Exercise keeps the creative juices flowing.

7.  Get up in time for the sunrise.

8.  Make sure you catch the sunset.  A good time for wine and critique.

9.  Remember to call home so they know you are alive and still planning to return.

10.  Read before bed.

Repeat for several days.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Four Feet Two Sandals Going Strong

Four Feet Two Sandals was recently recognized by Huffington Post in a new List of 50 Inspiring Children's Books with a Positive Message.

Take a look at the other great books on this blog.

And look at the big things one teacher has done with this little book:

Thanks to fantasic teacher, Laurel Voris-Coran

See this link for a great lesson plan
Teaching Friendship; Understanding through Literacy

“What is friendship? 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gem Hunting Take Two

The New Year has offered another opportunity for my new passion.  Last week I was on the hunt for Augite crystals.  Hmmm.  There is a lot of land there.  Those crystals are about as big as the tip of my little finger and some quite a bit smaller.

I learned some things about gem hunting and Augite in specific.  Well at least at this site. Augite is a mineral.   Augite crystals can be found at the outer edges of patches of tiny black stones in the desert sand here.  

When I think I have found something, Jolynn says not the blue ones, the shiny black ones.  When you are hunting for Augite there are a lot of black stone bits that look like what you think you are looking for.  They you actually see that shiny pointed bit sticking out of the dirt.  You know it when you see it.  It is faceted and it sparkles.  The rest of the bits we are sifting through and tossing aside are gray-blue black, kind of like the gravel we used to have in our driveway, only smaller.

I show Jolynn another bit of shiny black.  It's a bug carcass and that other one?  A bit of glass, but keep it if you like it.  Then she says some of the Augite almost looks blue.  Wait!  I thought I was not supposed to be picking up blue.  But I know what she means.  It's that deep blue- black.

We spend a couple of hours of stooping and bending and examining black bits.  The time flies.

I learn another lesson about gem hunting.  I like the sound of gems dropped into a glass jar more than the thunk when they land in a plastic container.

(Note I pick up other interesting stuff too)

I am also jealous when I hear fellow gem hunters drop specimen after specimen ping, ping, ping into a jar while I am finding nothing.  Maybe I need to move over there, where they are.  

After a couple of hours it is time to head out for a little walk to a place where there might be some Gypsum crystals.

All we find are the very tiny crystals.  We'll go back again because they come in large, long faceted beauties as well.

And one more lesson when gem hunting?  Don't forget to take a moment or two to appreciate the landscapes in all directions...another kind of jewel.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Poetry, Passion and Photographs

I took a photography class this semester at Dine Community college.  I am still stuggling with the technology and I have learned a lot about the craft.

I came away from the course impressed by the similarities between the craft of poetry and the craft of photography.

Light, shape, line, texture, compostion, rythym, meaning and metaphore.  It is all there in a poem or a photograph.

One thoughtful photographic image should do what a poem does in a few well chosen words; evoke emotion and meaning for the viewer or the reader.  We should want to return again and again to a well composed poem or image for its mystical impact.

I have been espcially influenced by the poetic nature of the works of photographers such as Keith Carter, Eddie Soloway, Sam Abell and Victor Masayesva, Jr.  to name a few.

When I look at Iris, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan by Soloway, I think of Basho(1644-94:

The temple bell stops-
but the sound keeps coming
Out of flowers.  (translated by Robert Bly)

Just as a poet works and reworks the words on the page,  with attention to each sound, the rythym and meaning, a photographer studies his subject in all light from all angles, each part.

I am fascinated by the old trucks broken down at the end of town in an alley in Silverton, Colorado.  I am drawn to the faded color and petina of rust and I have taken many photogarphs of these old vehicles run into the

 I am interested in every angle and each part, the stories they tell.  I have revisted this subject over and over again as I would in a poem.   My writer's eye is similar to my photographic eye as I pay attention to the details that fascinate me.

My passion for these old trucks turned into one of my projects for the landscape assignment in my course this semester and eventually won an honorable mention at the Dine College ArtWalk.

As with my poetry I still work to perfect this craft, look for creative, evocative ways to view the world, express what I see as important, reflect upon it, bring meaning to a subject and pass that on to my reader or viewer.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Cook gives Thanks(Or I'd Rather Be Writing)

Warning:  If you plan to eat Turkey at my house this year should stop here.

After some thirty odd years of preparing Thanksgiving dinner I have much to be thankful for.  All my guests have survived.

I pretty much follow the rules.  I wash my hands until they are chapped and clean the cutting boards.  I do not remove the wrapping from the frozen turkey until it is time to cook.  And still I worry.

This year in the middle of the night a few days before the big gathering I sat bolt upright in bed suddenly wide awake.  This turkey tucked cozy in my frig, I realized, did not have a pop-up timer.  I got it free because I spent so much money buying the trimmings.  I have never cooked a bird this size without a pop-up timer.  I should have known I was getting an inferior model from the over generous grocer.  I am usually suspicious of "free".

A ritual every year, I play the game.  That turkey is like a baby that has entered my life for four or five days.  The Internet says the safest way to defrost is in the refrigerator.  Allow one day in the frig per 4 pounds.  The baby this year is 21.73 pounds.  So I am guessing it needs five days of refrigerator time...roughly.  This defrosting is the first step in keeping guests alive.

The fear of too early thaw or too late has me fondling the turkey daily, patting and checking it as often I would check a sleeping babe to make sure it is breathing.  I remove it for a half hour from the frig to "jump start" the thawing process when it is still rock hard after two days.  By day three and a half I am a tad concerned it is too soft too quickly.

Now this year I have realized there is no implanted timer.  I wonder how the pilgrims did it.  Think of it.  A little salmonella could have wiped out the entire first Thanksgiving and we would not be celebrating today.  How will I know if the turkey will be safely cooked without the little red and white gizmo whose judgement I have come to worship.

There are of course other methods.  "Wings should wiggle freely".  "Juices should run clear when turkey is pierced with a fork".   Really?  "Cut to the bone and make sure meat is not pink".  I have visions of a scared bird shredded by test cuts.

So I have sent out an SOS to friends and neighbors.   I now have four meat thermometers at my doorstep.  I don't trust meat thermometers but I have no choice.
One is a tad high tech for me. 

 Another is loaned to me with the disclaimer that it has read 140 degrees all year in the drawer.

I've decided to use all four and take the average reading.  The bird looks porcupine- like and I wonder if porcupines are edible and do they carry salmonella.

I will use some calculation based on the directions on the plastic wrapping.  The grid suggests that for a bird in the range of 20-24 pounds the cooking time if stuffed would be 5-6 hours.  Seems a lot of lea way there.  So I will add a prayer to the gods of the roast.

I am not worried if the result is too dry or juicy.   I will just be happy when the carved bird is delivered to the table fully cooked.

And I will be eternally thankful for another year of safe eating.  Happy Thanksgiving!  May your turkey be cooked with care.