Friday, November 21, 2014

A Piece of The Spanish Sea

 Geoff Winningham has a wonderful travel/photography book called, Traveling the Shore of the Spanish Sea. I love the book and I love the title. I had never thought of the Gulf of Mexico in connection with Spain until I saw his book. The Spanish Sea. In the book he travels the coast of Texas and Mexico down to about Vera Cruz meeting people and making pictures. Of course I have been exploring Port Aransas Spanish Sea but I wanted to revisit more of it so I planned to make my way down to Port Aransas hugging the coast as much as I could.  I had travel companions. My Mercer cousin, Dotye joined me along with Debbie a long time friend. And before the end of the trip Debbie's husband Guy joined up too.

The trip started with a general outline but plenty of time to take detours and that we did. We had a lot of rain but that didn't stop us from driving or photographing. We headed out toward LaPorte, Texas but I had to make a stop in Pasadena. I lived in Pasadena for six years while I was a kid. The old downtown has moved away and a freeway ate up the railroad line and the old buildings. What is left is a wasteland of decaying buildings. We stopped and I made a few photographs and it felt familiar but there was nothing to hold on to except the old movie theatre whose art deco architecture is terribly disfigured and now houses a gun shop.

The Sylvan Pavilion in LaPorte was still there and was still being used for community activities. I had to walk around to where I could see the terrace that hung over the water so I could remember going out there during dances. It was quite a glamorous place for an event.

The drawbridge between Kemah and Seabrook is gone but I remember the Easter Sunday when Jerry and his girlfriend and Ned and I were there at the light by the bridge. Jerry was driving and we had a wreck. No one was hurt but we rode in the car while it was towed back to Houston. Driving over the high bridge I looked for all the little shacks where you could buy fresh oysters and shrimp and the ramshackle restaurants that hung on the side of the channel where you could watch the boats coming and going out in the bay. They are gone replaced by upscale commercial venues.

Down the coast and across to Galveston Island. Lunch was in Surfside. Back to the mainland and to Palacios on blue highways. We spent a couple of nights at the 1903 Luther Hotel where we could sit in rocking chairs on the front porch and look out at Tres Palacios Bay. Are you wondering why we stopped in Palacios? Well, as a teenager I went to the Baptist Encampment in Palacios several times  and I wanted to see it again. It is still there but the oleanders that lined the walks are gone. Some blight has taken its toll on the oleanders that use to be so profuse in the coastal towns like Galveston and Palacios. And another reason to stop in Palacios was that Dotye's grandfather is buried there and her father's ashes were scattered there. We also thought we might see one of the rumored ghosts in the hotel but the ghosts must have been tired from Halloween and they stayed hidden.

About the image: When we came through Galveston the wind was blowing and the clouds were rolling in the sky and the seas were choppy. There was a fine mist in the air. We stopped anyway. We took some pictures. I'm glad we did. I like this image of this piece of the Spanish Sea.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Halloween Candy Man

Since I built Ned an altar this week, I've been thinking a lot about him. This altar thing is a wonderful tradition and I hope it becomes more entrenched in the United States. It isn't attached to another holiday. It is just about remembering loved ones who have gone ahead of us. I was raised to take flowers to the cemetery at Easter and Mother's Day, Father's Day and Christmas. Not a bad thing to do but it was another thing to do along with cooking, cleaning and entertaining for the holiday.

Now Dia de los Muertos is a day all to itself. The thing you are remembering and celebrating is the life of the one you loved. And even better is that I can build my altar right in my own home and every time I see it I think about how much Ned loved his tequila and sangrita or red wine or Snickers. Yes, all of those things are on the altar. And yes, he would sometimes have a Snickers along with his tequila and of course with his red wine.

So, any way for the last couple of days I've been thinking about the good times. Like the time we had tiny Snickers bars for Trick or Treat. We didn't have many kids come by so Ned and Tom Robinson had a great evening eating the bag of Snickers and polishing off a bottle (or two) of red wine. I've been thinking of all the Date Nights we had in the Centro where we sat at a table in the San Francisco CafĂ© and watched life go by while we ate and drank and talked. I still don't know how a couple who are married as long as we were could still have anything to talk about but we did. I've been thinking about Port Aransas when the kids were young and we built bonfires on the beach while kids had wiener roasts and played games in the sand. I've been thinking about the great trips we took. Sometimes I even have to chuckle at some memory.

Some people think their loved ones return on Dia de los Muertos. I don't know whether that happens or not at this time. But I do know that I feel Ned's presence often and always when I  really need him.

This was Ned in the Jardin on Halloween, 2011. He had just finished a round of treatment in Houston and we had driven back in time for Dia de los Muertos. There were lots of kids and it was the last time he handed out candy for Halloween. Yes, that smiling man is my Ned.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The White Dress

There must be millions of white dresses for girls in Mexico. They are required for First Communions, parades when a girl is designated as an angel, and sometimes when she dances some of the traditional dances in school programs. Maybe they are needed at other times as well. When I am photographing a gathering of children preparing to go into the Parroquia for the large First Communions they have with some religious holidays, I can see that most of the time the dress isn't a "one-time dress." It is made so it can be adjusted to a variety of sizes and you can also see that it isn't right out of the box. It has been used before.

That does not lessen the girl's pride in being "dressed up" and feeling special. They walk around carefully holding their skirt or standing gracefully and patiently with their family. They let Mom adjust their dress or their hair. Oh, they might whisper in a girl friend's ear but there are no childish giggles or running.

Now the boys.....well, as they say, boys will be boys. It is all the parents can do to keep their boy's shirt tails in and jackets on before they head into the church. The minute they come out of the church, Bibles are handed to Mom, shirt tails are out and they are chasing a friend.

The white dress stands a better chance of surviving than the white pants and jackets. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Mountains of Guanajuanto

I've always envied my friends who have horses here in San Miguel because they ride them out across the countryside and get the most wonderful views of the State of Guanajuanto. I'm not getting a horse but I thought that maybe the next best thing might be joining up with the group of hikers who hike on Sunday and sometimes mid-week. I've been a little hesitant because most of the time the description of the hike talks about a steep climb to the ridge of a mountain and then a walk along the ridge before circling back down to the starting point. This week, they announced a walk which didn't sound too steep and it described a beautiful view across a valley. So I did it.

I met up with the group at 8:00 AM and off we went. This particular walk was about two hours away in the eastern part of the State of Guanajuanto in a preserve called Joya Fria. The drive was beautiful because the rainy season has turned the countryside green. The further along we went the higher we were and the road became more curves and switchbacks until at last we turned off on secondary roads and finally a deeply rutted dirt road.

We parked the car, took our backpacks and started up the dirt road passing a few ranchitos along the way. Finally the dirt road ran out and we were walking across fields and up trails. There were some places where we crossed what I would call a narrow creek if I were in Texas. A time or two we could step across on stones but there was one where a small log had been thrown across the creek. Since I'm not very good at tight-rope walking, I hate crossing on small logs but I managed to get across it without falling about three feet into the rushing water. There were other interesting crossing too. Some places where you picked your way through the water covered dirt road and a slide under a barbed-wire fence.

It was all worth it because suddenly we were in a forest of stately tall pines and old oaks covered in lichen and ferns. We even saw some bromeliads as well. The path flowed around great rocks. As we walked along we could hear the rushing river to our right and sometimes we even caught a glimpse of it downhill between the trees. We kept stopping to identify the delicate wildflowers that were scattered along the path and to look at the mushrooms.

Finally we came to a rock ledge and sat down to look out over this beautiful view. The clouds were low but still the mountains seemed to go on and on and on. What a wonderful day. Definitely one that I will not forget.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dancing in the Jardin

This past weekend was the San Miguel Festival. If you read other SMA blogs or if you are on FaceBook and know anyone in SMA, I'm sure you have seen some incredible photographs of the fireworks, the procession and the Indian dancers. I have made pictures before of the Indian dancers but this time I'm going to show you something else that went on....some different dancers. There was a band in the Jardin and in front of the band were people dancing and having so much fun.

Every time the band would stop, the dancers would clap and call for more.

I love the Festival but I also like to go sit somewhere in the Jardin and look for what is happening that isn't part of the planned festivities.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


The end of the rainy season should be arriving but so far it isn't here. That is okay. We are high desert and we can always use the rain. Especially the rain we have been getting. Mostly a good steady rain for a few hours not monsoon rains that sometimes come. I'm sure the farmers are happy with it.

It is just that it has been so unpredictable. You can look out the window and see sunshine and shadows and by the time you have finished the dishes, dressed and opened the front door, you see rolling clouds and rain to the North in the mountains. Or it could be just the opposite. Rain. So you decide to start a project instead of going out to photograph. Once you are in the middle of the project you look out again and the weather is beautiful…..but you are in the middle of a project and can't stop.

That is the way it has been this weekend with the San Miguel Festival going on. I went into town on Saturday to photography the first communion kids in front of the Parroquia and to wait around for the horses to come in to be blessed although I didn't know exactly what time that would be. When I left the house the weather looked fine. I didn't even take an umbrella with me but the clouds quickly rolled in and it started to rain. I bought an ice cream and waited under cover for quite a while. Finally I decided that I might as well go home because it looked like it had set in for the afternoon. I took this photography while walking home.

When I started walking in the rain I made the attempt to keep the camera covered then I remembered that Olympus claims the OMD and the lens I had on it are weatherproof. Yesterday was the first time I've given my Olympus camera the water test. The camera is still working today so I guess Olympus is right. It is at least rain proof.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Margaret and Me

This is my "little" sister and me in October, 1995. She lived in Midland, Texas and I was there so that I could take down a exhibition of my work in Odessa. Margaret had helped me get it down. I don't know where we were when this was made or who took the shot but it was with my 35mm SLR camera. Tiny negative, grainy film but I have very few pictures of the two of us together because I was always the one using the camera. I'm thankful for this picture. A year later breast cancer took her life. Today she would have been 74 years old. I still miss her deeply. Rest in peace, Margaret Ann Williams Taylor. RIP