New Mexico, again

IMG_2761by cheri sabraw

Every time I anticipate a journey to New Mexico, in particular, a trip to Santa Fe, I picture the unparalleled beauty of the skies. And despite the snow and rain predicted for today, the show yesterday rewarded my reverie.

I have written widely about New Mexico and my early years here as a child when my father Hugh was the Army dentist at the White Sands Proving Grounds in 1952.

Yesterday, while my husband took a class on The Brothers Karamazov at St. John’s College, recently featured in Frank Bruni’s opinion piece in the New York Times titled The Most Contrarian College in America, I and my trusty Panasonic Lumix camera hit the uneven and at times dangerous sidewalks that hash mark along the streets of downtown Santa Fe.

I walked down the Paseo de Peralta, past the cathedral, headed for the farmer’s market.


The colors in New Mexico remind the child within us that life is bright and hopeful, even when the shadows come, as they always do.



The rich and sandy adobe graciously provides contrast for man’s colorful expression.







As I always do, I headed to the square, touristy as it is, to visit Lucchese Bootmaker.


Unable to get a seat at Pasquale’s for lunch,  for the second day in a row, I head down to the Railyard, where, I understand, the farmer’s market is taking place.

On a small street outside of the tourist area, I visit some small art galleries. Here is Santa Fe, the dogs are not designer.


I continue on, wondering just how many steps I am taking. You do have to watch your step in this town.  Finally, 17,000 steps later, I arrive at the farmers market.

The people and the produce do not disappoint.



On my way home, I stop at the Owings Gallery, which features what I call Old School Art, painted by old masters, many from the Taos Group, paintings that take your breath away.

On my other blog I will write about the Taos School of Painters, but before I do, I shall post a picture painted by W.H. “Buck” Dunton (1876-1936) titled Five Broncos, painted in 1920 and for sale for $85,000.00.


Now, THIS is fine art.


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Happy Birthday to me

by cheri

Today is my birthday. I am very grateful to have reached older age in pretty good shape and with an optimistic demeanor.

In honor of my birthday, I am posting several of my favorite photos.



Here at the Rancho courtesy of Hurricane Rosa


The calm before the storm

IMG_2370 2

The Golden State of Mind


The Joy of Puppyhood


For my dear friend Susie. Our time at Oak Creek last month was peaceful and glorious. May the bridge over the creek remind you that your current journey has another side–a return to perfect health. God Speed, Susie!

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by cheri


Cambria coastline

I’m taking a break from trying to dress up my new “garage” kitchen, which the Honorable Honor and I are now sharing with a yellow Labrador, her hairy and stinky bed, the cars, two refrigerators, box cutters, and assorted garbage baskets and cans.

You may remember my writing about the days that the Honorable Honor and his lovely honoree (me) and a large Rottweiler named Elsa lived in a 5th wheel trailer on our newly acquired untamed property while our house was being built by one contractor and a host of subs who arrived at night and on the weekends.


One World Trade Center, NYC, September 2018 photo by cheri sabraw

Never mind that my father (God rest his soul)  told me privately that we were insane for buying land we couldn’t afford, building a house we couldn’t afford, and to add insult to injury, living in a space with a large German dog. Hummph!

Those days in the trailer were some of the happiest in my life, albeit the most cramped in my life. The Honorable Honor and I watched Tool Time and the Love Connection, ate microwaved popcorn (ahhh, the days before diverticulitis), and continued to work by day as English teacher and a Judge.

The Honorable Honor looked, as usual, like a million dollars, stepping out of the trailer with a flashy tie and colorful socks. Like Harry Truman, natty and upright, he stepped into his clean car with polished shoes and a spring in his step ready to dispense justice to all.


Grand Central Station, NYC September, 2018

I, on the other hand, looked more like a girl who has been to an all-nighter, a slumber party if you will–tired, wrinkled, and confused about which day it was, what I had eaten for dinner, and worst of all, what I was teaching that day.  I was only 43 years old back then but at the time, I felt, well, older. Ironically, I was teaching The Grapes of Wrath that quarter and what a job I did! I actually felt like a Joad.

That was 25 years ago. The house has aged, as we all do. His Honorable Honor, still full of optimism and style, decided that it was TIME for a remodel of the kitchen. As these types of things often do, the remodel has grown to the entire downstairs, two bathrooms, a tile entry, and the faux beams in the living room which, I might add, when upgraded, will still be faux…they just won’t look it.

I have packed the entire downstairs and things are well, somewhere. In five days, I have walked upstairs or downstairs or double-downstairs to our basement, putting stuff somewhere.

The dog is thoroughly confused. Since when do I have to sleep in the garage? her eyes seemed to say last night as I gave her a small biscuit and said, “Ok! Time to go to bed!

This morning, as fall begins her subtle entrance into my life, I stood up and stretched to welcome the day.  (Ouch! my back! my legs! my poor huddled masses of muscles yearning to be pain-free!)

I padded downstairs through the dust and the plastic wrapping designed to keep it out (yeah, right) to my lonely coffee pot, way out there in the garage, under the Honorable Honor’s tool belt.

Honorable Honor? He left early, dressed like a king on the way to his coronation.

I sat on the uncomfortable chair with the hairy dog at my side, staring into my Cup of Joe.


Photo by cheri sabraw September 2018

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P1110583 2by cheri sabraw

We amateur photographers take joy in the little things like the light coming through the turkeys’ wattles.


Then there are the accoutrements of a grandson studying hard at our house.


The light from air,  filled with the smoke and particulates of last month’s fires, caused our oaks to sympathetically shriek in orange tones.


A table in Vail, Colorado, calls out to us, “Have your picnic here!”


A  Labra-doodle pup surveys her new surroundings.


A race mule approaches the track at the Alameda County Fair.


On our graveyard tour in Charleston, South Carolina, the spirits glow.


Orange is a marvelous color, isn’t it?

All photography by cheri sabraw and may not be used without her permission.

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A Giant Loses a Limb

IMG_2053by cheri sabraw

We were lying in bed yesterday morning, listening to the delightful sounds of a morning coming to consciousness: Turkeys stepping through dry leaves, finches singing to their mates, blue jays squawking at will and the 6:30 am Southwest Airlines jet heading into Oakland to land.


I heard a crack. That was it–just a deep sound in our oak forest. Oh well, I wonder if my coffee is ready downstairs…

Within minutes, that crack opened up at the angle between two branches that must have weighed several tons or more; we heard a booming cracking thud, as one enormous arm of our beautiful  old oak tree crashed down on a lower branch, equally as large.

IMG_2058I shuttered to think of all of the birds’ nests that sat up there in that oak.

IMG_2064This photo does not concern the part of the tree that broke off. I’ve included it so that you can view the immense canopy at the top.

We called our friends from Newark Tree Service–Felix (in his 70’s), his son Miguel and  their friend Ephraim, all of whom have taken good care of our trees for many years.

Although they had already worked a full day elsewhere and are completely booked through the end of the year, up they came this afternoon to help.

When my husband got home from work, he joined in, as well.



Felix is a living testimony to the old adage that work is good for man. Look at that guy in his mid-seventies!

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Miguel, Ephraim, and Ron feed the chipper.

Losing a part of a tree this big reminds us that these gentle giants are vulnerable to age and an imbalance of weight (like we humans are…)

The smell, however, of oak branches and acorns being shredded through a chipper is fragrant.


Efraim, Ron, Felix, and Miguel

But not as delightful as all of those handsome men whom I am lucky enough to call my friends (and husband.)

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The Bayeux Tapestry and the Channel Crossing

212F2471-B9C0-4B9D-986A-761D429DDD6FPainting a sassy little filly this past week took my mind back to this post, which I repost in case you missed it the first time.

Notes from Around the Block

imagesby cheri block sabraw

In the dark winter of 2010, I listened to an engaging lecture on the Bayeux Tapestry given by Dr. Linda Paulson of Stanford University. On the screen behind the professor, colorful photos of the Tapestry moved from left to right reminding me of a medieval comic strip. The brightly colored panels of embroidery, depicting among many other things, the oath that Harold Godwin took  in 1064 in the presence of Duke William of Normandy, captivated me.  When Harold became King instead of Duke William, the oath became central to William’s decision to invade England from across the channel.

To accompany this segment of her class entitled War, Dr. Paulson assigned British  historian David Howarth’s short novel  titled 1066.  As the course progressed, she selected a number of insightful and well-written  books about war from Agincourt to Hastings, from Waterloo to the Civil War, and from World…

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Edna Mode


by Cheri E. Mode

My new, young dental hygienist told my brother, the dentist, that I scared her.

I was, well, shocked beyond shocked. OMG. A kind, funny, focused person like me–petite, interested, interesting, conversant, curious, and focused (did I say that already?) person SCARED her?

She did not tell me face-to page-boy, owl-eyed face.

No, scared people rarely do that; rather, they tell someone else.

The next visit to the hygienist, I said, ” I hear you are afraid of me. Why?”

To her credit, she stepped into the picture like an animated Hun.

“Have you seen The Incredibles movie? “she asked, and then offered her reasoning as a doctoral student would do to the committee of which it is so petrified.

“Do you know who Edna Mode is? From The Incredibles?” and with that, whipped out her cell phone and produced a picture of a little woman dressed in a black dress, black tights and sporting large round black specs.”

“No, I have not seen The Incredibles, ” I admitted, already making plans with Netflix for the night.

“Well, Cheri, Edna is focused and doesn’t take any S_ _ _ from anyone,” she stated so matter-of-factly that I clamped down on the whirling whizzy tool she was using to polish my focused white teeth.

“So that I may better understand you, am I correct in saying that you are not afraid of people who are scattered and malleable? ” I said, in between spitting in the bowl.

I watched The Incredibles, studied Edna Mode, and returned to the dental office, dressed in black, with a pencil behind my ear and a spring in my step.

As the hygeniest entered the waiting room to call her next incredible patient (me), I jumped out from behind the fish tank, just to the left of the coffee machine, and before the coffee table filled with dental implant magazines covering an occasion USC Trojan sports schedule.

” Are you still afraid of me?” I teased, ” and to her point I stated, “Don’t you see that Edna Mode is perhaps the best character in The Incredibles? She’s not scary at all! Rather, she has opinions, a work ethic, and a soul.”


(Let it be said here that Edna Mode, I understand, is patterned after the Hollywood Legend of fashion design, Edith Head)



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A simpler life

by cheri sabraw

Ordering a cup of coffee and a latte in Montana is an intimate experience.


Billings, Montana. We are in the grey car. Why ever go to Starbucks after this experience?

Driving off the highway and taking a conference call can be intimate as well.


Twenty miles from Cody, Wyoming.

Old cottonwood trees stand like sentries on deserted rural roads.


Rocks, sagebrush, grasses, cottonwoods and mountains remind we harried city-dwellers that a different way of life does exist in Wyoming.


We spot a huge nest built by a Charles Dickens’ architect atop a power pole. Upon closer examination, we see an osprey mother and her two chicks, seafarers looking for fish on the Shoshone River.



On the way to Cody, Wyoming, we are surprised to see a red rock bear paw on the side of the mountain, holding up the carpet of sage.


It’s windy in Wyoming and Montana. Here in Cody, the locals prepare for a nightly rodeo. We decide against attending; instead, we watch the flags ripple and wind swirl from a dusty deck.


We arrive at the iconic Murray Hotel in Livingston, Montana, where we understand personalities such as Sam Peckinpah, Robert Redford, the Queen of Denmark, and others have stayed. The rooms are quaint but small. The elevator hails from 1905 so in order to ride it, one of the employees must take you up.


From the Murray, we drive through the Paradise Valley, Montana. From this location, Yellowstone National Park is very close.

We leave Montana and head to Colorado.

After a long two days of driving, we arrive in Eagle Colorado, just in time to appreciate our friends’ glorious aspen trees and a marvelous concert at Bravo! Vail.


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The Disappointment Gene



by cheri sabraw

I’ve written about certain genetic mutations in my family which have manifest themselves in dramatic behavior rather than in physical maladies. You may remember that my Grandmother Rosalie (1900-1992 A.D.) passed down FFN Syndrome to me.

My mother Joan, the first member of the family to openly exhibit the symptoms of the Disappointment Gene (DG), expected polite behavior from her husband and children, reciprocation of dinner invitations and thank-you notes, a sincere interest from strangers in her well-being, a sagacious ability to just “know” how she was feeling, and worst of all, a genuine appreciation for her efforts and love. What a set-up for misery!

Very soon in Joan and Hugh’s family of four selfish and precocious children, it became apparent that she had DG and  we did not.

A sad  look would begin to spread all over her petite face when we didn’t meet expectation, which was as often as human breath. She would sigh and look up to the sky or over to Dad as if hoping that we were at a séance and in the presence of Edgar Cayce.

Surely when one puts such effort into being the best Joan/Mom she can be, her children and husband would naturally recognize such angelic predisposition and maybe, just maybe, thank her, bring her flowers, offer to empty the dishwasher or clean up the dog poop, or fold the mountains of laundry that had built up daily like an Alaskan snow drift.

Like or 23andMe, one might begin to wonder about our ancestors and what  goodies they have left on our double helix.

I realized I had DG while a member of the public school system as a child and later as a teacher. Why was my 7th Grade English teacher so boring? And years later, why do some members of my English Department not correct papers and still keep their jobs?

Despite the animus that erupts when infected with DG, there is an upside: those of us who have this gene perform way ahead of most other people. Our expectations for ourselves do not find us at Base Camp. No, No. We summit. We not only summit, we do it without oxygen. But we may need a psychologist after the climb.

The therapeutic process tells us that when expectations aren’t met, like a bad meal at a highly rated restaurant, we are told to lower them. That’s right. Accept mediocrity and over-dressed salad. Instead of being purple or red, we are told to be beige. Be a Buddhist: have no hope and you will never be disappointed.

Joan, wherever you are at the summit, you will be distressed to learn that you have passed DG on to your great granddaughter.

This past week, we had the pleasure of visiting our two adorable granddaughters in Portland, ages 7 and 5.

We planned a movie night in which the whole family would descend to the play room, eat pizza and guzzle milk (wine), enjoy a movie together, and cuddle up in blankies and pillows.

Somehow, the adults did not make it down in time.

As we guiltily went down the stairs, on the sofa, was a sad face that I recognized, full of disappointment, tears brimming over those luscious green eyes.

“This is NOT what I expected; this is NOT a family movie night” she stated as if arguing a seminal case in front of the Supreme Court.

“Come over here to Grandma Cheri, ” I said. ” I totally understand how you feel. You were expecting all of us to eat pizza together and watch a movie but it didn’t happen.”

Just the utterance “It didn’t happen” sent this child into a paroxysm of angst.

An old remedy wafted into the room.

“I have an idea!” I said, “We still have one more night together!! We can try again tomorrow night!!!

I, of all people, understood. The Disappointment Gene had flared up in a familiar time-honored way.




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Last night on the front porch…



by cheri

After an almost life-ending battle with bloat in May, our Labrador retriever Dinah is now on a low-fat gastrointestinal veterinary dog food, the price of which will remain between me and me. She has lost 12 pounds and as happens when one loses old-age weight, she has become more energetic and resourceful.

But let me be clear: she has lost one of her favorite daily activities– freedom to wander our property, all five acres, looking for tasty morsels of whatever. I use the catch-all term whatever because Dinah’s culinary tastes have always been eclectic and, truthfully, disgusting with a capital D. When she was retching her guts out in May, she heaved enough aluminum foil to cover a Thanksgiving turkey.

His Honor, in all his wisdom, asked from his easy chair, ” Where would she have gotten foil? ” Duh.
“Some idiot walking or driving the road must have thrown it over our fence, Your Holiness.”

So it goes.

In her youth, she ate part of a squirrel that had fallen out of a tree and half a rat which our cat, now in Feline Hell, had killed. I’ve written about these escapades in the past and should you want to gross out a grandchild or an annoying wife or husband, you can search my blog.

But for now.

Each morning and night Dinah is escorted in chains out of the house to “do her business” on a leash attached to an arm of a woman in a robe.

Her canine olfactory radar always on high alert, she senses owl pellets, turkey poop, or some other mystery meat from a mile away. Straining at the leash, she hopes the woman in the robe will trip, releasing her to make a beeline for said nightly snack.

By day, Dinah is now confined to a lovely patio where, through her wrought-iron prison, she can only hope and dream of her former freedoms, much like the prisoners at Folsom Prison did when Johnny Cash rolled out the line, “…I bet there’s rich folks eating from a fancy dining car…”

Dinah no longer jumps the creek and trots into the olive orchard to scavenge for tidbits or olive pits.

Last night, Dinah plunged to a new low.

“Your honor, the woman in the robe thought,  last night, after watching the newest episode of the Great British Baking Show, Dinah nosed your hand and licked it.”

I was going to suggest that you wash that hand, but alas, I didn’t want to hear a repeat of your chorus of you, yourself, and ya’ll  in an excoriating bad-mouthing of my dog.

Last night, when the lady in the robe took the starving prisoner out for her nightly constitution, something happened so fast that truthfully, your honor I have no idea whatsoever what occurred or did not occur or maybe never occurred.

I opened the door, it was dark, stepped out with Dinah, and in the time it takes a Venus Fly Trap to suck in a fly, Dinah surged toward  a post holding up our portico and ate something the size of small frog that was sitting at the base of the post.

“OMG,” I said to her outside. ” What in the hell was THAT?”

As with most incarcerated beings, she took the Fifth.