A local group, “Art as Antibodies” asked for pieces about how we’re coping with the Covid lockdown. I sent a painting of the wide and windy desert, which is how—and where—I cope. Not covidy enough, they said. So I sent a corvid.
Slot canyons are spooky, mysterious, intimate. Ravens nest along the rim. When you emerge from the dark strictures of a slot canyon you feel reborn.
On a ridge in the low hills near the highway, a micaceous mano rested like an Easter egg in a nest of cobbles nearly the same size and shape. It was Archaic, a rounded lozenge with one smooth and one pecked side. There in its stone nest it will stay, with the hill slowly eroding out from under it.
A good dozen bushtits fussed and tsp-ed and fidgeted in the juniper. I sat very still. They seemed not to notice me, coming and going in a cloud like midges.
In an area we’ve hiked scores of times, looking for a place for lunch, we climbed a little mesa that promised a good view. On a smooth sandstone ledge, unexpected, was a bedrock metate: the roughly-pecked surface where a woman had ground corn or wild-gathered seeds.
Around it were rough petroglyphs of a lizard and snakes: probably Puebloan, but so heavily coated with desert varnish that they looked Archaic. It was fine to sit where she had sat, looking out over the late winter piñon and sand, munching corn chips we had not had to grind ourselves.
The mud is dry, the dust has settled, the links have been checked twice (remember, though: imperfection is vitality). The updated digital Betsy is here, as multilayered, quirky, and internally referential as its author.
Check out the Gallery, with examples of my current painting series. It’s not a sales gallery–for that you’ll find a link to Matteucci Galleries in Santa Fe (and one to Taos Fine Art, once their website rebuild is complete)–it’s a group of my favorites. You may find paintings you own; you tend to buy the ones I like best!
Enjoy the “Boots” photo series—you’ve seen a few in my posts. And since I have a more or less equal appreciation of boots and books, look for “Stories,” which features complete short stories published in Fantasy and Science Fiction and Realms of Fantasy. I had fun digging through years of daybooks and art files for illustrations.
Note that if you haven’t explored the portals to art-and-writing process you may enjoy that rich wilderness. You’ll find updates there as well.
Thank you for your patience, and enjoy! I’ll return to hike entries soon, I promise. Now where’s my paintbrush?
Under a bright winter sky, we hiked among the stumps of old volcanoes. As we scrambled up a bare black cinder cone, three ravens. Then nine ravens. Then thirty ravens, graaking and clonking and falling about in the sky.
Our horned toads—the Desert Short-Horned Lizard—give live birth. Or rather, they incubate shell-less eggs in their bodies, and give birth to a litter of six to thirty-one (thirty-one!) infants still in their amnions, little marbles that break open into horned toads ready to run.
On Sandia Crest I came upon what must have been a recent birth, a fat adult with a salmon-colored chin and a handful of babies the size of bumblebees.
Betsy James on Writing, Art, and Walking in the Desert