Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014, year of Growth

A year ago I was sitting on this couch at my parent's house wondering whether my plans to move to the land of Enchantment were going to come through, or if I would have to scrape together a backup plan. Now, a mere 365 days later, I almost feel like a different person, sitting now a year into what I was dreaming and imagining for myself. When I sat here a year ago, along with the questions of the future, I had a feeling- a feeling that it was going to be a big year of growth, not just for me but for my family. But it is myself that I will reflect upon in my annual review of the year.


States I've breathed the air in: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas.
Achievements: Climbing my first 14ner! Becoming a resident in New Mexico! Getting hired for the Environmental Education Association of New Mexico! My 3rd delightful year at 'The Gulch'! Changing my status from "single" to "domestic partnership" on official documents.
Passing Excitements: Getting free and discounted organic food from the co-op due to Amil's employment. Wrote and entered a 10 page screen play to a competition (results in February...). Designed and submitted a collage for an illustration competition (which I didn't get)

I saw more movies this year than I probably saw in the last 3 or 4 years combined.
  • Hanna (not bad)
  • Chocolat (cute!)
  • Blue Jasmine (interesting)
  • Elysium (eh..)
  • Prisoners (ugh...great movie, but not my type)
  • Spirited Away (oh wow. also not my type, but fun)
  • The Hobbit 2 (looking forward to the last one!)
  • Water for Elephants (Wonderful!)
  • Being John Malcovich (weird!)
  • Home (we're Screwed)
  • Human Stain (<3)
  • Malefecent (in theatres! good ending)
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 (cute!)
  • The Giver (not bad!)
  • Flight (ugh. dumb)
  • Georgia O'Keefe (inspiring!)
I achieved my reading goals of 1 book a month! (Although perhaps next year I should specify page numbers.) I thought I wasn't going to make it in those months of working 10 days straight, but I made up for it in these slow winter months. Oh, and not having a job for the first two months helped, too. Looking back, maybe I should keep my same goal for next year.

1- Dirt, the Erosion of Civilizations (Very scholarly, tough read)
2- Sand, the never ending story (Fascinating, inspiring, quotable)
3- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Young adult, a reread)
4- Here on Gilligan's Isle (Fascinting in a fun way. easy read)
5- Frozen in Time (Audio book whilst traveling to NM)
6- Tree Ring's Tale (Kids science, easy read, but inspiring)
7- The Kindness of Strangers, the life of Tennessee Williams
8- Freaking Green (Young adult, for book club)
9- El Nino, Unlocking the Secrets of the Master Weather Maker (informative, not too compelling)
10- Green Glass Sea (young adult)
11- An Orchard Invisible (fascinating)
12- The Red Hourglass, Lives of Predators (interesting)
13- White Sands, Red Menace (young adult)
14- My First Love (Short story)
15- Darwin, Portrait of a Genius (audiobook)
16- Ocean of Air (best book of the year for sure!)
17- Small Wonder, Essays by Barbara Kingsolver
18- Henry Miller- Tropic of Cancer (made me lose faith in the good ol' classics)

So all in all, 2014 was a year of...growth. I felt that I came into adulthood a lot more this last year than I did by turning 18, or 21, or graduating college, or having my first job.
With that said, I look forward to 2015 as a year of (relative) stability. Thus, as I set my expectations/resolutions/and goals at this excellent turning point, I expect that living in one place will greatly improve my chances of achieving my goals. Rather than list all my goals and resolutions, here's my mantra for the year.
Be the Be(a)st you can Be!  Emphasis on BEING, existing, and on the Beast. I hope to work toward a personal beast mode, which involves slaying the beast inside, and not giving into a lot of those little urges.

I hope to be at least a little more consistent with my blog this year, including a few buzzfeedesque picture lists, because I'm a little obsessed with them (lists and visual learning = love).

I hope that everyone reading this is enjoying a start to a new year with the people they love and a warmth in their heart.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Austin, coming home to you is like returning to a lost lovers arms.
the embrace is always warm, except those chilly months when your mood turns bitter cold, and my mind runs to the warmer days.
Whenever I return,  your hot breath surrounds me. Your energy of love buzzes around me and rattles my heart into action. Alas, when I return to you, whether I am walking among your enormous prickly pear and fertile-smelling oak leaves or sitting scrunched up on a sofa with book in hand and chai tea in the other, watching unique patrons pass by, I find myself in a state of utter bliss, rivaled by no others.
Austin, you took my creative virginity, and introduced me to possibilities I had never dreamed. You dared me to rebel against the systems holding me back, and then pushed me away to experience alternative systems, somewhere else. Through you I met passion, relaxation, angst, organization and anarchy. You introduced me to other lovers I would also leave behind, but gave me the courage to come back.Austin- In you I found the strongest love I’ve ever felt, making me for the first time afraid of my mortality.

But then you changed. I guess we all changed. Austin,  lover in my younger years, no longer did the simple strangeness satisfy you. You grew more popular, requiring larger parties to satisfy your taste, and leaving me and my possibilities to the wayside.
Austin you showed me a place I had only dreamed of, but then you filled it up before I got there.
There’s no doubt I am who I am because of you, Austin. I’ve grown the most away from you, but I couldn’t have done it without your loving embrace from the beginning, that always finds me when I return.

Nuts about the Holidays

In my last post, I waxed on all my feelings about giving this Christmas, but now that the special day has just passed, I want to admit and show-off the gift that most of my family received.
It's local, it's practical, it's handmade, and it's taken me about 30 hours to put together.

Pecans. (Pronounced Puh-kahns).
Pecan trees are the state tree of Texas New as a symbol of my growing love for this state, my everlasting appreciation for you in my life, and my evolving fascination with local fresh foods, I give you...Pecans.
As you enjoy these pecans, my hope is that you keep some things in mind.
1) These grew right out my window
in an orchard of about 20 pecan trees, that was planted sometime around 1950. We believe that this is the northernmost pecan orchard in the state, and perhaps the country (at least the highest elevation!) which (along with the year they were planted) may account for the small size of the nut.
These pecans are not only a delicious, nutritious snack for humans, but their long-standing presence has attracted a large following of crows that hang out and get their fill for a few weeks surrounding Thanksgiving. We imagine that they've been doing this for decades.
Pecans are also treats for families of all shapes and sizes that come out with containers of equally varying measurements to collect their nut needs for the winter. How wonderful to share such a nutritious resource with so many people, but what's in it for the tree?
Nuts are seeds. So the tree produces them hoping they will be delicious enough to be carried away and eaten by animals, or buried for the winter. The tree is banking on some of these seeds to be forgotten. In the case of an orchard, that rarely happens. I've combed through these fields pretty good, and anything that was left was likely caught by the crows.
(While writing this, I discovered that Pecans are not technically nuts but drupes, like other members of the Hickory family, which have a stone or pit surrounded by a husk).
In addition to being sweet and buttery, Pecans are a good source of manganese, protein and unsaturated fats.

So, what does it take to make pecans? Lots of water. The field these pecan trees sit in is slightly lowered, and was flooded several times throughout the year with water from the acequia on our property (a series of connecting canals that carry river water and snow run off from the mountains through distant fields and then back to the Rio Grande). In addition to water, they need ample sunlight, which they get plenty of in Albuquerque, and nutrients--which are returned to the soil through the dense Canada goose poop that so frequently covers the ground.

Once the nuts fall, which aligned with the first frost in mid-November, I started collecting. At first it was slim pickins...but eventually I couldn't walk a straight line without filling my pockets with every pecan I saw. I started noticing bigger ones, especially from the trees nearest the acequia. As soon as I had a good collection, I set up my workshop.
2. Shelling pecans takes a lot of time! After sending the first batch to a couple of families, I started filling my containers all over again. In the course of about two weeks, I came awfully close to my goal of 1,000 pecans, spending a total of almost 24 hours shelling. And the result was a little depressing. What I hoped would fill the tummies of many family members, turned into just a taste for the half dozen of you that get the gift.

Watching people unwrap my meager bag of nuts next to a monsterous box of  store-bought goods made them seem a bit unfit for a Christmas gift...but my hope is that when the holiday crazy subsides, each of my relatives will have a moment to savor the flavor, the protein, and the richly packed nutrients within this nut... In this time of absolute abundance, I hope that we can take time to appreciate the energy and amazement provided around us.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas with a 'Capital' C

I officially reached that point of Christmas scroogy-ness about 3 days ago. I had thought I'd take a nice solo trip around the very local, very New Mexico "Old Town" shopping center, and just browse the hand-made gifts. By the 20th store I went into, still having bought nothing but $2.00 worth of gimmicky candy and piece of chocolate to round the price up to credit limit, I began to feel bleak.
I compared this feeling of being compelled to partake in Christmas commerce with that nauseous feeling that comes after trying to devour too large a piece of homemade chocolate ganache cake. It looks so delicious at first, and it's homemade, so you can TASTE the love in it, which practically justifies the large slice sitting in front of you. But after the first 15 bites, your teeth start to curl, your stomach churns and you try to remember the last time you at this much sugar, butter, cream, and flour in one sitting. You force down the last 7 bites, trying to savor it but silently promising yourself to never, ever eat another piece of cake, even if it is homemade. (Really though, does this happen to anyone else?)

Showing off our Christmas goodies

In other words, I started feeling really overwhelmed by all the crap around me. Yes all the pottery is beautiful and someone in my family would probably enjoy a pack of local spices, or a hand-painted mirror (at least the moment they opened it). But I found myself regretting the whole shopping experience.
Wasn't I the one just a few weeks ago touting* the entire Christmas experience. "I don't really celebrate Christmas" I explained to a friend at the beginning of the month. Winter Solstice is the holiday I truly align with. I don't even get my family presents. Though I appreciate the ones they get me."
While this is mostly true, I have in the past, made simple gifts for friends and family, and when I had to purchase something, made sure it was practical, like a planner, or a bag or tea. The whole idea of buying something just because the holiday tradition compels you to was completely beyond me, and yet here I was looking at my list and brainstorming what to get those last few people.

Clearly, at some point between the beginning of the month and this middle month period, I was attacked by the Holiday Spirit. Part of it probably came as we decorated our tumbleweed tree, or put up lights around the house (we kept intending to move them outside for others to enjoy, but we loved them so much that they've stayed indoors, draped from the rafters around the living room). Another part came as I discovered Christmas stations on Spotify (which itself is a new toy for me), and then again as I found the long lost Christmas CD's my mother has made me for the last 2 years (because I seem to lose them every year).
Proud of our NM/X-masy thrift store clothes

But now I sit here, Christmas filling me like that homemade cake, making plans for how to savor the actual holiday which in my mind begins on my flight home on Monday. Part of my over-saturation is likely because I haven't had much work to do. This is my slow season, and the more I force myself to sit back and enjoy the recooperation time, the more I look forward to those family-surrounded moments in the state I grew up in.
Despite all my personal opinions and situations, I think there's something deeper that distracts us from the Christmas message. This isn't the icing on the cake, it's the highly refined white flour that makes up the cakes interior, which is disguised by fancily decorated icing. That flour is the very thing America is abundant of...capitalism. (An interesting article on Holidays and capitalism can be found here).
This year, even more than in the past, I have seen spikes of optimism followed by checks of reality. Living in this new city has propelled that. I talk to teachers, landscape managers and active citizens walking or running through the park, and I am inspired by a clear up-and-coming paradigm shift toward communities (not communism...) and away from the downward spiral that our nation is based upon.
But then I travel downtown, or I get pulled into a whole Foods or a Michaels, and I'm dumbfounded by the shelves of identical crap that is exactly the same as the crap on shelves on the other side of town, the other side of the state, and across the country. It quickly become clear that a paradigm shift is going to take a long time, as people's habits are fixated on want, on acquiring and buying...all thanks to our capitalism.
I think I have safely let the cake pass through my system...and am ready for another dose... the usual pre-new year promise that this will be my last. As I approach Christmas I plan to make the most of each moment, appreciating the family surrounding me, and trying to over look the mark that our unsustainable system leaves on everything around us (especially in my increasingly growing hometown). Even as I try this, the truth inside me will be begging for one Christmas wish to come true.
I spend my days trying to educate people about the world they live in. Whether I'm reading a book to help me explain the atmosphere, or designing a program for a group of pre-k students to get their hands in dirt, I am devoting my life to teaching people to make conscious decisions. Whether they are "good" decisions or "bad" decisions, whatever the repercussion...if only people could be educated about the decisions they make, I would live fulfilled.
So my Christmas wish is this; that everyone in this amazing America can make informed decisions in 2015...or at the least be educated about the consequences of their actions.
Since Santa isn't going to grant this, I guess I'll have to do it myself. More on those plans in 2015.
[For another inspring and interesting take on gift giving, check out Amy Reading's Anti-Capitalist guide to Holidays]

Friday, December 5, 2014

Holidays MY way

I think I mentioned in my last post that I've been doing Holidays a little different this year.
This year has created a lot of firsts for me. It's the first time I've lived in one place for 10 months since I lived at home in high school...It's the first time I've lived alone with my fiancé in a stand-alone house, without members of our community right next door. The other first's I'll save until my new years reflection post, but those two are important when it comes to holiday planning.
For the first time in my life, I have my own house, my own living room to decorate. As I saw photos of friends on Facebook, some as early as mid-November putting up Christmas trees and decking their halls, I started to wonder what I should do to celebrate.
Certainly there is a cause to celebrate. I don't feel a connection to the modern Christmas traditions, but December 21st is a very important day for me. The winter season, also being my slow work season, is a wonderful time to reflect, slow down, and sit with friends and sip hot beverages. Or explore the world around us while it moves toward dormancy.

I thought for days about how to create my own winter holiday that had a touch of my favorite traditions growing up, but were more meaningful to me and in line with my environmental and ethical goals. As I passed trees I longed for the piney scent to be staged in my living room... but assured myself that I'd gather some branches the next time I make it to the forest nearby, and make a wreath. Eventually, as I was dragging a 5 foot tumbleweed out of the pecan orchard... I had an idea.

Long story short:
A tumbleweed Christmas tree. Aside from my paranoia of it being a fire hazard (so far so good), this completely sustainable 'tree' has been decorated with recycled materials that we've crafted over about a dozen combined hours, and potted with some local golden gravel. The best part to me is that at the end of the Holiday season...we can save the ornaments we want to keep, and toss the rest in the compost. I guarantee it will be broken down by Spring... AND nothing was killed to add some shimmer to our holiday season.
Mandatory popcorn garland- created from nightshade berries, rose hips, some type of black nut that grows outside our house, and popcorn.
Crafting crazy! But we got to try out our brand new exacto knives... an exciting day in the Landrum/Werr house. Cleaning up was half the battle.
I finally gave in to looking at pinterest... and the results

Some planet cut-outs I made ages ago with a brand new angel...watching over them all.

Holidays shouldn't be about stress and holiday shopping. They should be about spending time doing what you love with the people you love. We're only 5 days into December, and I have spent hours with Amil crafting and creating. I'm looking forward to what the rest of the season will bring.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Final Countdown

Oh me, Oh my! How this year has flown by.

I can't believe I haven't posted since the first of last month, but there are a few reasons for that. The most heartbreaking is that I did indeed begin a blog post, to be punctuated with a plethora of pictures... but in a freak accident while uploading, I lost all the photos on my camera. So I'll have to paint a picture for your imagination.

Picture this: A perfect fall day, with enveloping blue skies, and slight crisp breeze rummaging through the harvest-colored leaves. Bright yellows, oranges and muted tans wave on the trees like flags saying, "fall is in full swing." On the ground below towering trees with crispy brown leaves drifting down in the breeze, are a couple of families with baskets, jugs, or just t-shirts, hunting for pecans amongst the short grass and goose poop. Before long, their containers are full, and a little one, around 6 years old, tries to lug it toward the car. At first I am a little upset, "Don't take all my pecans!" I think. But then I think to the growing collection in my house, and how tedious it has been to crack and shell them for gifts...and then I'm satisfied. How many parks-- free, open spaces, offer a bounty that's more nutritious than Easter eggs, but is gathered with the same excitement.

I am so proud to be a part of a space where people can come play, gather nuts, or take photographs, and I am blessed to be a part of it. Speaking of blessings…I’m sure that many were spoken this week around our country…

This week, when I sat down to dinner with friends and their families, and tried to express what I am Thankful for, I hesitated. A much shorter list are the things I am NOT thankful for (leaf blowers, corn syrup, and apathy at the top of the list...). The thanksgiving holiday was a mark of what I have achieved toward my sustainable and spiritual goals. Just as I was able to spend my Halloween creating meaningful traditions, I was able to share this holiday with people I love, learning about life and myself. Not only was the lentil loaf, Japanese squash and gluten free pomegranate stuffing part of a super nutritious feast, I was able to spend my holiday around new friends, and I had a LOT of laughs.

Having too much fun hiking in Cali.

Amil and I were noticing that most American holidays revolve around eating food, usually of the non-healthy variety, unlike religious holidays which revolve around fasting (often before a feast, but it's not a feast of candy, peeps, or cheesy potatoes...usually).

So as this final month of the year takes off, I’d like to reflect on the last month. I did indeed travel to California. It was strange being familiar but removed from an environment (including the community and the work). It was nice to be back among my favorite scenery and smells, but it gave me even more perspective of how much I love my current home. For the first time in a long time, I'm feeling the roots of my soul stretch out and the connections I'm making seem stronger. 

Snow on San G...not this year, buddy.

I also submitted my screenplay and my illustration, both a little closer to the deadline than I wanted. You can see my collage for the children's book on my E[art]h page. The screenplay will be my little secret. Unless I win.

For this final month, I have very little actual work to do... so I'm looking forward to working on some gifts, some knitting, making delicious food, and connecting with friends. And traveling back to Tejas, where I will hopefully tackle my growing list of once-in-a-year opportunities.

Since Christmas is the pinnacle of consumerism, I'll probably have a blog or two ranting about that. So be prepared. :) And stay tuned.