Monthly Archives: February 2013

Storytime – Writing Exercise – Vermeer’s “Artist’s Studio”

A1047, VERMEER, The Artist's Studio (The Art of Painting) dark print

(a writing exercise: write ~500 words about the one of the people in the painting by Vermeer “The Artist’s Studio”)

“My dear, is it asking too much to have you remain still?  I cannot capture you onto my canvas if you keep squirming and looking about.  Your father commissioned this painting and he will be quite unhappy if we can’t deliver it before the time of your mother’s birthday.  We have just two months, so please help me, here.”  The Artist threw down his brush and rose quickly to his feet.  He took up his clay pipe and tamped in some fresh tobacco.  After he got it lit, he paced back and forth, often scowling at the young girl, who was mostly ignoring him and was looking out the window.
“Now what is it?  Are you thinking that your young boy friend will be strolling by?  I happen to know that he is apprenticed to the butcher Van Haart, and will not be free for some hours yet.  Let us try again, “ he said, in exasperated tones.  He replaced the pipe back on its stand.
The girl turned to him, breaking the pose.  She was angrily tapping her foot.  She  asked, “Why must we spend so many hours at this horrendous task?  Don’t you know what I look like by now?  And, why must I don this ridiculous dress?  It’s much too large for me, and I hate the color.  Is this a dress your common daughter tired of wearing?  I am not accustomed to this treatment, I tell you!”
The Artist jumped to his feet again, this time knocking over his tray of paints and almost sending the painting to the floor.  He gritted his teeth and fumed, but managed to hold his tongue.  After a bit, in a mild tone, he pleaded, “Please have a rest, eat some cheese, drink a little wine.  I’ll return shortly.”  He grabbed up the pipe again, lit it and walked, stiff-legged, out of the room.

He made his way down to the kitchen where his wife was struggling with the large stewpot, trying to get it onto the iron holder above the fire.  He quickly ran to help her, glad to have something at which he could direct his strength, rather than fantasizing about strangling the spoiled rich girl in the studio.  He turned to his wife, said, “If we didn’t need the money I’d almost throw her out in the street.  She fancies herself a queen, but is only the daughter of a prosperous burgher.  I’ve met the burgher’s wife; she and the daughter are both a pair of shrews, hardly fit to be around.  I pity him, I tell you.  What a home life he must have, suffering the two of them under his roof.”
His wife stood with hands on hips, waiting on him to finish his tirade.  When at last he showed signs of cooling off, she said, “Hold your tongue a little longer, just get the painting finished.  Our larder is almost empty, and there are many mouths to feed in this house.  And, do you think we can heat it for free?”
His shoulders sagged, and he replied, “Yes, my dear.  I’ll go back up there and try to placate Her Majesty.”

Slowly the Artist ascended the stairs.


Travelogue time – For Whom the West is Extolled

 My friend Larry without his other brother Darryl was saying that in a year or so, after his wife retires, they’ll likely get out there and do some traveling, maybe in the West. So, I asked if he had been out that way very much, and he said he had not.  So, I volunteered to tell him about a few of the places I’m familiar with, and I chose to do it in this way.  I don’t claim to be well-traveled, by any means, but there are a few places I’ve been that are worth recommending.  So, on to the blog post proper!  And, these are not presented in any order, other than pointing out highway connections if you should go where I told you.


Palo Duro Canyon State Park This is the Grand Canyon of Texas, located near the town of Canyon, Texas, just south of Amarillo.  No, it doesn’t rival the real Grand Canyon in size or depth, but it’s very scenic and it’s just a nice place to visit while you’re in the panhandle of Texas.  There are camping areas, or you can just drive around and enjoy the scenery.  Also, I highly recommend allowing enough time to attend the musical Texas which is performed during the warm months, right there in the canyon.  Like Bar-B-Que? They’ll have that for you there, if you’re hungry – show up a bit before the musical starts and dig in!


Capulin Volcano National Monument  From Amarillo, head north on Highway 287 to Dumas, TX, then head west out of Dumas, which will take you through Dalhart, then on across the state line to Clayton, NM.  It’s about this time you first start to see the mountains of the Sangre de Cristo range, a southern extension of the Rockies.  From Clayton, head northwest toward Raton, NM, and a little over halfway to Raton, you’ll come across the turn to Capulin Monument.  It is visible for many miles from the main highway, and has a distinctive cinder cone shape.  Arriving at the dormant volcano, you’ll go through the visitor gate (might be a small fee), then drive the circular road which spirals up to the top, giving a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.  There’s a visitor center inside the cone of the mountain where you can find lots of information about the formation of the area, and there’s a nice informative film.  And, if you read the first chapter of James Michener’s Centennial, you’ll learn about the volcanic action that built this entire area.  It’s fascinating!

Raton, NM – There used to be horse racing in Raton, but I believe it has gone away.  It’s a nice little place, high elevation – the wife and I had considered moving there some years ago, to enjoy the slower pace of life.  Raton is a gateway in my little tale – you may head either north or south.  North takes you up I25 toward Denver (we’ll talk about that another time), or south, toward the sleepy town of Springer, NM, which is in itself a gateway to the beautiful high mountains of northeast New Mexico, and the village of Red River!

Cimarron, NM – Driving west out of Springer takes you to the little town of Cimarron, NM.  It’s not much to see these days, just a few curio shops, a couple of restaurants, and a small community hugging the main road.  But, in days past, oh, what a history!  Ghosts, gunslingers, outlaws at the St James Hotel!  Check out,_New_Mexico%29

For those of you involved with the Boy Scouts, you might be interested to learn of the sprawling Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron.


Cimarron Canyon, Eagle Nest, Red River – As you head west on Highway 64 out of Cimarron, you will soon find yourself in beautiful Cimarron Canyon State Park.  It’s a delightful, winding canyon road which takes you through the pine forest and its wonderful, cool, scented air.  There is a beautiful mountain stream flowing through the canyon, and you’ll find yourself criss-crossing it numerous times as you make the canyon passage.  Stop, have a picnic, take some pictures at the Palisades – an imposing rock formation in the canyon.  Test the water…. brrrrr, it comes from melting snow high up on the mountainsides.  The road climbs and climbs, fairly gradually, until you go over the pass and find yourself descending into the Moreno Valley, elevation about 8400 feet.  If you are on this drive in the autumn, after the tourist crush is over, you might pull over at the top of the pass – get out of your car and just listen.  Hear that?  It’s pure, unadulterated SILENCE!  You may hear a breeze through the pines, but nothing else.  Remember it later, when stress levels are high, you’ll treasure the experience!


Eagle Nest, NM

As you come to the bottom of the pass, you’ll soon drive into the little village of Eagle Nest, NM. A piece of personal history here – I worked at one of the local tourist traps here, my first summer out of high school, WAY back in 1961.  A marvelous summer, wonderful memories!  Eagle Nest is another of those gateways I keep mentioning – it is part of the “Enchanted Circle”  and you could easily drive to Angel Fire , or to Taos, NM  a smaller version of Santa Fe, NM.  Anyway, those are stories for another time.


Red River, NM

From Eagle Nest it’s about 18 miles to Red River, NM, just follow highway 38, up and over Bobcat Pass, then winding down and down, leading you to Red River.  More history from me – I first experienced camping in those mountains way back when I was maybe 5 years old, then later, when I was married, wifey and I went camping there, also.

Red River is a popular destination for folks living in hot, hot, HOT Texas and Oklahoma.  In the summertime, there’s an almost constant flow traffic into town, camper rigs with Texas/Oklahoma tags, occupants hanging out the windows, panting, enjoying the COOL breezes! And, there’s just something special about the place; can’t explain it, you just have to go see for yourself.  It has a strange and wonderful attraction!  🙂

I wanted to introduce Kate to the magic which is Red River, so a couple of years ago we put together a trip which included two of her daughters, Maya and Ananda.  And, as I could have predicted, all three of them fell in love with Red River, and are ready to go again, ANYtime!   Red River, NM, the Mountain Playground – that’s how they bill themselves, and I think it just might be true!


Taos Pueblo

Assuming you have visited Red River, next you’ll want to head west out of town, making it down the canyon to Questa, NM, then turning south on Highway 522.  This will take you to Taos, NM, definitely a nice place to visit.  They have wonderful shops to browse for things Southwestern, and some really good restaurants (be sure to try Michael’s Kitchen – combination restaurant/bakery).  The famous western scout Kit Carson is buried in Taos, and you can visit the Kit Carson Museum.  You can also take a side trip in Taos to see the Taos Pueblo .  Pretty neat!  Have YOU seen a pueblo dwelling before?


Puye Cliff Dwellings

South of Taos, just outside Espanola, NM you’ll find the Puye Cliff Dwellings  It’s amazing how many different types of evidence you’ll find of early civilizations.

Heading south, you’ll make your way down to Santa Fe, which is like Taos in many ways, but larger.  There are many art galleries there, some good stuff on their walls.

Just west of Santa Fe is the Bandelier National Monument – good place to soak up information about early dwellers in that part of the world.

As you leave Santa Fe, you can pick up I25, which will take you to Albuquerque, and from there head west on I40.

Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park, Meteor Crater, Grand Canyon – As you get into Arizona, you’ll find many more neat attractions on or near I40, as I have indicated in the header for this section. They are all interesting and worth visiting. I won’t try to go into detail about most of these, but regarding the Grand Canyon, I do have one observation to make.  Like you, I had seen many many photographs and films showing the wonders of Grand Canyon, and I wasn’t expecting much, really.  I had seen the pics, over and over, how neat could it really be?  Well, let me tell you – standing there on the South Rim, gazing down into that vast canyon, was (to use that special word), ineffable. I truly cannot say anything other than this.  GO SEE IT!  Teddy Roosevelt was right – he said, “It’s the one great sight all Americans must see!”

Las Vegas, Zion National Park – Las Vegas must be seen to believed.  If you only stop in to a casino long enough to drop a few dollars into a slot machine, if you only wander around, looking…. it’s another world! Drive the Strip, see the amazing things they have built there.  I’m betting you won’t forget it!

North out of Las Vegas on I15, you can drive into Utah to see Zion National Park  Beautiful rock formations, great beauty… if you’re that close anyway, you should go!

San Francisco – yes, it’s a long haul to get to San Francisco – you may want to fly there instead of making it a road trip.  But, however you do it… GO!  I could make you a long list here, all the things you should see and do, but I think you should just go there and explore.  Breathe the scented air, soak up the beauty, walk the streets.  You’ll thank me!


So, think maybe you can do all this in a weekend?  Nah, just kidding.  But, if you have a chance to go, maybe to visit 30% of what I have scribbled here, you’ll feel greatly rewarded.  I mean, after all, you’ve got *MY* personal recommendation, right?  How can you lose??