My blog is nearing the state of one of the lost ones. Seven years I've worked on "Expedition Oklahoma" but this last year and a half have been the hardest to maintain interest and stay motivated. I have also spent the last six months in technological limbo; a failed internet connection and just a state of apathy about continuing to write my life down and document it one photo-essay at a time. So I've had a huge change in my life and it is truly changing and my "expedition is no longer Oklahoma" - I have moved to New Mexico. Starting over.
In 2009 I was a frustrated teacher looking for images so I could educate my students about the state of Oklahoma; when I realized I didn't know Oklahoma at all. I wasn't familiar with the history and the sense of place outside of the textbook. I could teach but I could not educate because my own depth of knowledge wasn't deep enough. So I took my camera and I started exploring when I had the idea for a blog. I wanted to learn everything I could about Oklahoma so I could become an effective educator. Here I am seven years later and I'm in a new state and I am an educator of state history - so once again I embark on a journey. My sister suggested I rename my blog to "Expedition Oklahoman"- which is a wonderful idea but it probably won't happen.
This fall I made the great pilgrimage to The Grand Canyon and it was everything and more that I imagined it could be. Less than a day's drive from my new home and I can see this incredible place. I think the last year I have re-entered the education profession after two long years of graduate school. I worked in a difficult school where I commuted a hundred miles a day. I spent 2015-16 exhausted. The pay in Oklahoma never allowed me to feel caught up with anything or enjoy my life as an educator so I decided to make a change. I moved to a state that at least compensates their teachers with a living wage (which I do not see Oklahoma ever being able to do). It is much easier to work in a position where you feel independent and able to support yourself. I also moved because my asthma is so bad in Oklahoma that it affects my quality of life.
I moved in September and it's late February now. I've appreciated the slower pace of life of living in a rural, isolated community. I've had to adapt to experiencing winter. I've learned that not everything is as urgent as it could be and staying home and not always being busy is possible. I want to find my love of writing/blogging/and photography again. I want to find a love of a lot of things again. I feel that in the last year that I've begun to lose some of my passion for living and am choosing to not explore like I had.
A few weeks ago we were snowed in for a week. My house surrounded by the towering Ponderosas and a foot of snow. I am adjusting to high altitude living and am better off because of it.
In the last year I've practically given up astrophotography and the drive to go out and work on landscapes is leaving me; perhaps this is what happens when you feel that you've reached mastery level. I grow bored once I realize I can do something and do it well, yet I know I can still improve. I've grown bored with Oklahoma and my life and I want to find the spark that keeps me interested in living again even if that means I have to do things the unconventional way.
These are low res images so they don't appear as sharp on the page. This is the first night shooting I've attempted in over a year. I love shooting at night yet I haven't worked up the courage to do much night shooting in New Mexico. The skies are dark and amazing though.
This post is all over the place. I have kind of stopped writing, yet there is so much I have to say. Perhaps with my internet working at my new home this will be a start again.
On the Plains of San Agustin lies the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the home of " Karl G. Jansky A Very Large Array."
This basin in Catron and Socorro counties in New Mexico is around 55 miles in length and 15 miles in width. The plains are a remnant of a Pleistocene era lake. After driving from where I'm living in Cibola county to the town of Fence Lake we continued to Quemado and across the mountains to the Plains of Agustin.
I think driving into these vast plains between the mountains is as impressive as the dishes. I love landscapes like this, these basins that were carved out millions of years ago by natural geologic forces.
We stopped to take some photos before we arrived and read these signs...
These signs should be when you enter the Plains of Agustin.
Now for the fun stuff....
My sister said I need to change my blog page name to "Expedition Oklahoman" - Not bad.
How they move them further away from each other or closer depending on what part of space they are hearing...
This is how they move them around the rail around the Plains of Agustin
This is amazing, the technology of what it can do. Seeing something that you've only ever seen in the movies. Amazing.
Showing us that there is more out there than our little planet...
So if you happen to be in New Mexico, I suggest stopping by and visiting A Very Large Array
We think our presidential election is so significant...
But if you look at the Milky Way we are nothing in comparison to the big picture.
When my youngest son was two and we lived in the shadow of this mesa he called it "Home, home Zuni."
My first full year teaching was in this ancient pueblo. I didn't know a lot about the southwest until I moved to Zuni. It was a learning experience, personal and culturally. I loved the heritage my students had and how their history went so far back on this continent that they emerged from it and found the middle place. I love the Zuni mountains they are striking on the landscape. My students are in their mid-twenties now, I still think about them and that year in New Mexico.
Just down the road from my new home is El Morro National Monument . My last visit was in 2010 when I went to a workshop at Crow Canyon sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
This natural pool provided the run off water so people could stop and rest on their travels and have a drink...and autograph the rock.
So, natural resources are important. Water is extremely important in the American west, which made this a great place to stop and have a drink before getting back on the trail.
Of course it was an inscription rock long before the colonists arrived. The Ancestral Pueblo people were busy inscribing on this rock.
Telling their stories in stone a thousand years ago.
I love the petroglyphs.
If you take the half mile hike to the top of El Morro you can arrive at the ancient village of the Shiwi people. Atsinna.
The Kiva is the church of the pueblo people. A house of prayer.
I've hiked El Morro every week since I've been in New Mexico. This Saturday was particularly pretty.
Of all the things I missed about New Mexico, I missed the sky the most. I am in love with the sky on these days where the clouds dot the dark azure sky.
The passed through here in 1709, the year the little ice age struck Europe.
They came in the 19th century and wrote their names besides the ancient ones, beside the Spaniards and marked their journeys west.
The oldest inscription from Onate, is dated prior to the Mayflower. This history in North America that we often miss in our history books, we forget about the Spanish and the French in North America. We need to remember they were here too.
I like the hike up El Morro, the views are spectacular.
It was a beautiful day.
There is the volcano that I can see from my back yard. This landscape is amazing.
and you can look down on the other side of the mesa.
You can look out and see Highway 53 and in an hour you can be in Arizona.
These stairs carved in the rock to make your hike easier.
Highway 53 and El Morro is kind of out of the way but it is well worth your time if you are in the area.
Inscription Rock, a little place in western New Mexico that documents centuries of travelers who were seeking a new life, or were just continuing to live their lives out on the Colorado Plateau.
I have returned to New Mexico. I had an opportunity presented to me that I couldn't turn down. I've been here nearly a month now and am slightly settled in. Here are some images from my initial drive out on September, 24th. I lived in New Mexico in 2003-04. I took my first teaching position in The Pueblo of Zuni. That year had an incredible impact of my understanding of the world and people. It was the impetus for my fascination with Native culture and heritage and it's importance..
I probably should have stayed home a few more days and got over my cold. But I left the day after I finished my last day of notice on my Oklahoma job. I made it to New Mexico fairly early but New Mexico is a large state (the sixth largest), I had a few more hours to go. I was doubting my decision but I know that I can do anything for a year (or two). I also know there are a lot of places I want to see in the Southwest and work on my photography portfolio and this is an excellent time in my life to do it.
This is El Morro... the closest National Monument to my new home.
As I returned to familiar scenery and a landscape of my past.... I was longing for Oklahoma and my family. But I was also curious about this new school and new students, and schedule. I also feel that I'm in a position where I'm treated as a professional which I never felt working for large school systems. I am in a state that values the fact that I've valued my education and the pay represents that.
The grandeur of nature and the signatures of the people who traveled through in the past at El Morro. This is an amazing landscape. I understand the inspiration New Mexico provided for artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe. But I've got a lot more images and perhaps I'll begin working on my blog more often now.
So we did a super quick trip to New Mexico over Spring Break - and by quick I mean like 36 hours quick. We drove to New Mexico on a Thursday evening and home on a Friday night, but we still went to a place we have never been before but always heard about. So I spent the day looking at the weather and checking different state parks and places within four or five hour drives that we could go to but since it was St. Patricks Day I also knew that I really didn't want to be in downtown Dallas or Tulsa that night. After watching the weather Carlsbad was our destination of choice, my husband's suggestion and it was a good one.
We left the house at four thirty or so and made it to Carlsbad around midnight. Of course New Mexico is in Mountain Time so I'm not really sure what time it was by the time we arrived.
I haven't been to New Mexico since 2010!!! When I went to a National Endowment for the Humanities workshop up in Colorado at Mesa Verde. It has been a long time and I love New Mexico it is one of my favorite places. I can't believe it has been six years since I've been out there already.
So we make it to Hobbs and I get to drive from Hobbs to Carlsbad. Which was a decent little drive. We arrived at the hotel and went to bed for some much needed rest after our 463 mile drive.
It's pretty flat until you get to the mountains, and you only get to the mountains near the caverns.
So you drive up the mountain and eventually arrive at the visitors center.
It was incredibly windy when we got to the top of the mountain to go into the visitors center for our self guided cave tour.
This is probably a REALLY, REALLY GOOD IDEA. If you are in horrible shape and don't like walking uphill this is not the national park for you. Also, small children, good luck with that. If you want to carry them and hope they aren't scared of dark places. I consider myself in "decent" shape and this cave hike kicked my butt. It takes three to four hours and the hike back out is brutal and uphill. The hike down isn't too bad, but it is one of the most incredible places that I've ever been to.
They weren't kidding.
As you enter it is truly other worldly. I used a tripod and a 15-30 2.8 lens on a Canon 6D, I still struggled to get the shots that I wanted out of these caves. Of course it was so packed with tourists it is truly difficult to enjoy America's National Parks sometimes because they are always relatively crowded.
Now for the pictures inside the caverns.
I hope to have some more time at home now which will allow me to catch up on everything that I'm behind on.
I can't even caption these photos because they do not do it justice. It is a place that you can only imagine if you see it and experience it. A photo does nothing to help you understand the vastness.
I'm trying to show you the images that are in focus more but I felt like I was battling shooting in this not quite dark situation on crowded pathways.
We hiked a total of two miles in the caverns but four round trip and that is all underground. It is impressive. I can't explain or tell you what it is like. You need to go see it for yourself.
These were all shot at 15mm, ultra wide but you really can't tell can you?
See the trail going through the bottom of this room.
So it was time to hike out and I didn't take any photos on our brutal hike out. Mainly because the 15 year old decided we should "jog" out, or walk very quickly. It didn't bother me to leave because I really don't like enclosed places that much! But I was definitely sore the rest of the weekend.
Just beautiful. Other worldly.
And as today is Easter, this photo is symbolic to me because it reminds me of so many Native American emergence stories of how they came out of the middle place. Emerging from the cave just as we as humans emerge into this world from the womb. I sure was glad to see the light and go back to the outer parts of this earth.