In a manner of speaking anyway. I really wanted to make that huge, cool commercial space work for my studio. So much so that I let it become an obsession past the point of it making any sense. Yesterday was my realization day. A building filled with smoke hit me like the sign from the Universe I believe it was meant to be. Not that a clogged stove pipe is such a tragedy, it can be cleaned. It was the meltdown that followed that made me realize I was fighting a useless uphill battle that I didn’t want to fight anymore. I have a beautiful home in the Mimbres Valley with gorgeous views and plenty of room to make and store art.
At the point where I completely lost it, my sweet husband showed up for his lunch break. He calmed me down and suggested I make a pros/cons list to help make my decision easier. I have never been good at making decisions. I’m super wishy washy when it comes to having to chose one thing over the other. Thank goodness for my sweetie who always makes sense of my chaos.
I decided first, to go home to make my list. I needed to be in a place where I could breathe. A smoky room doesn’t really fulfill that need! After making the list it was very obvious what my decision should be. Funny thing is, it was the opposite choice from what I THOUGHT I wanted, but as soon as I saw it on the page? It was like a two ton weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt some relief from the anxiety and depression I’ve been feeling for over a month now.
I have a habit of putting undue pressure on myself. I’ve always held myself to this ridiculous standard that no one could ever achieve. I’m done. Time to love myself and let myself go with the flow for a change!
As long as I can remember, I’ve had a camera for taking photos. I got my first camera when I was 8 years old. My mom graduated from college that year and she received a 35mm camera for a graduation gift. I inherited her old 110 camera. Obviously, this was back in the film only days. I took photos of my life, friends, animals, scenery.
My maternal grampy was also a photographer. He was mainly a portrait photographer, his photos were of family, but he sometimes took photos for friend’s life events as well. I always loved his portraits, in fact, I painted a portrait of myself as a 2 year old using one of his photos for reference.
In my first year of college at NMSU, I took a photography class so I could learn how to develop my own film. I had already spent time in my grampy’s dark room, but I was too young at the time to learn from him. My most vivid memory of his darkroom was the day I made the mistake of running out into his print shop and ran right into a paper cutter with my forehead. I had to be taken to the ER for a few stitches that day. I was 6.
Back to that first year of college, I had originally signed up to be an art major, but after a boring Art 101 class and a very cool photography class, I switched to Photojournalism. About midway through that year, I decided to join the Army and my goal was to become an Army photographer. Unfortunately, that job was rare and I would have had to wait years to get it. Being the impatient person I am, I ended up giving up on that goal.
While I was away at Basic Training, my husband (now ex!) decided to sell my 35mm camera given to me by my mom. He had a drug problem, he also sold my car! Needless to say, it was a while before I had a camera again. I honestly don’t remember when I finally bought my next camera, but I know it was years. I remember using those cheap disposable cameras at the time. I was heartbroken over the loss of my fancy camera, and went back to my art. A pencil and piece of paper were much cheaper.
Fast forward to now, and I still don’t have a good 35mm camera. I use my ipad to take photos, for now! My sweetie has promised to buy me a new digital camera soon. Even so, the ipad takes really good photos. I love all the functionality of it. “Live” photos, video, looping, etc.
I have recently had several people ask me about purchasing my photos. I sold my photography in my etsy shop years ago, but haven’t really thought about it again until someone asked. It doesn’t hurt that I live in this gorgeous place where it’s super easy to get a GREAT shot! Needless to say, I will start selling my photography again this year.
The plan is to release a photography portfolio of 10-20 images to start. It will be a part of my Spring 2019 Portfolio. Most will be landscape and skyscape photos, but I will most likely include my “Texture” series of abstract detail photos I released several years ago. There are two posters of images, one of “Desert Textures” and the other of “SW Forest Textures”. If you have followed me for years, you may remember them! I can envision doing more “Texture” photos in the future, they were so much fun!
Some people have commented on my photos that they would make great paintings, and though this may be true, I see my paintings and photographs as totally unrelated. I see photography as an art in itself. I used to paint landscapes and it frustrated me. Mainly because it’s impossible to improve on nature, so why try? Not that I don’t completely appreciate a gorgeous landscape painting, but it’s not for me.
This is just a small sampling of photos I intend to make available for purchase. Stay tuned for more, coming soon! You can subscribe to my blog above, or go to http://www.paulamanninglewis.com and sign up for my email list to make sure you get my updates!
I’m so happy to be back in the studio! I had a lovely Holiday break, time with family, lots of snow and thankfully, some serious peace and quiet. I’m rested and ready to get back to work.
I haven’t had the chance to paint just yet, so no progress pics to share. I figured it would be a good time to share some of my photos from the snow storm that hit just AFTER Christmas.
It was probably a good thing it snowed two days after Christmas, or our kids wouldn’t have been able to get home to Albuquerque! We were so happy to have all three of our sons, one DIL and one grandson down to visit for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. We had a great time playing “Cards against Humanity”, Jenga and “Speak Out”, a hilarious game everyone should play at least once! I haven’t laughed that hard in years!
We had planned on hiking everyday during our vacation, but the weather had other plans. We did take a couple of hikes in the snow, but once it started to melt, the hiking trails were way too muddy! While we enjoyed hanging around the house and watching movies and reading, the dogs were less than overjoyed.
Once the roads cleared up, (the mountain pass highway from I-25 to our house was closed for days!) we made a trip to Las Cruces and then to Cloudcroft to visit more family. I’m happy to report my art will soon be showing at a new Bakery/Coffee shop/Gallery in downtown Cloudcroft, Eight the Cake.
A couple of weeks ago it snowed here in the Gila National Forest. We had to go into town that day and while I was thinking, “we should take the long way home so we can see the snow”, Aaron was saying “do you want to take the long way home so we can check out the snow?” He’s really good at reading my mind. Not always, but sometimes we are just on the same wavelength!
I can’t resist a texture photo! Plus, I like the footprint!
Rather than coming home the regular way, we headed north on hwy 15 out of Silver City. It was so beautiful! Snow everywhere! We stopped a couple of times so I could snap pics of nature covered in the cold, white powder.
Looking back at the opening to the chasm canyon
By the time we got to the split with hwy 35 and started heading south in the Mimbres valley, the snow was gone and the sun was starting to peek out of the clouds. We decided then and there to stop at the Purgatory Chasm trail head. It’s a short trail very near Lake Roberts that we had never been on. I believe it’s a 1 mile loop. It’s one of those tourist type trails, short, level and gorgeous!
I’m also a sucker for a reflection pic! 😜
About a 1/2 mile in there is a split where the loop trail begins. We picked the left fork and shortly after we came to the chasm. The rock walls seem to pop up out of nowhere and suddenly, you are in a very narrow, tall canyon. The rocks on the canyon walls form hundreds of faces! It’s almost as if you can feel the eyes of the ancient ones staring at you and hear their whispering as you walk through.
And then there was sun…
We didn’t make it all the way around the loop trail. Somehow, we lost the trail and ended up looking down at the canyon. It was getting close to sundown, so we decided to play it safe and turned around to go back the way we came in.
The sun/shadows make the rocks POP! Can you see the faces?
That was about the time the sun came out and made the rocks really POP! So, even though it LOOKS like these photos were taken on three different days, it was all on the same day. You know what they say about New Mexico weather? Wait 5 minutes, it will change! Just for fun, I’m throwing in a photo I took at Emory Pass after the most recent snow on the mountain. I love the heart in the clouds!
This is the heart in the clouds, taken from the look out at Emory pass.
Hard to tell in this photo, but this is a HUGE tree!
I love trees! Shouldn’t we all? I mean, come on, they give us oxygen to live! When I was a kid, I loved to climb up into their branches. I even swung out of a tree with a garden hose once and had to get xrayed for a possible collar-bone fracture. It turned out it was just a bad bruise. I never swung out of a tree again after that day! I have climbed up into their branches again and again though.
Twisted Alligator Juniper with Aaron in the photo for scale!
Aaron and I went for a hike in the Gila Wilderness this past Sunday. We went back to Rocky Canyon since we didn’t make it far on the trail the last time. Actually, last time, we took a split in the trail to see a cave. This time, we hiked the main Rocky Canyon trail and I must say, the name is a bit misleading! The trail only stays in the canyon for about a half mile before climbing several hundred, possibly a thousand, feet up and out of the canyon. The trail then follows the ridge top for quite some time. We ended our hike after about 2 1/2 miles, at Brannon Park.
Alligator Juniper. This side shows the twisted trunk better
While on the ridge top, we encountered a massive grove of Alligator Juniper trees. Alligator Junipers get their name from the texture of their bark. It looks like the skin of an alligator. These specific trees have always fascinated me. They are usually old and twisted. This grove was OLD. The trees were HUGE!
Not sure what type of tree this one is, but I love it!
One in particular was very twisted. It looked as if a giant had spun it from the top, the trunk had several parts to it and they were all twisted around each other. Even the branches were twisted. I wonder what causes this? My guess is the wind, but if anyone knows for sure, let me know!
Charred remains of a Ponderosa Pine. That must have been a big fire!
It was quite obvious when we left the grove of Juniper trees. It was almost like a line had been drawn and the Junipers were separated from another grove of Ponderosa Pines. Brannon Park is where the pine trees lived and the park was at a lower elevation from the ridge top where the Junipers were. We came into the park as we came down the hill.
In Brannon Park where we stopped for our lunch break, there was a muddy stream bed that was drying out. Just enough water remained for the dogs to get a drink. As we sat eating we noticed there was a flock of Bushtits congregating around the dwindling water supply. We heard the squawk of a hawk, but never saw it. We don’t get to see much wildlife when we hike, thanks to the dogs. I guess that could be a good or bad thing!
I am so grateful to now live in southern New Mexico! It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day! Hearing about blizzards in other parts of the country, I’ll take a sunny end of November day anytime!
I love the way it looks like this tree is holding up the rock! In reality, the rock is an overhang of the cave behind me and the tree seems to have grown around it.
It’s been too long since I’ve posted a hiking blog. That’s mainly because it’s been a while since we’ve been hiking on a new trail AND had the camera! I always say, that’s why I’m not a professional photographer, I ALWAYS forget the camera when I should have it. Last weekend we hiked for a couple of hours on Saturday and picked up a load of firewood on the way home. Let’s just say it was an exhausting day.
Rocky Canyon walls with grass growing on top of moss
This time we drove a bit further into the Gila National Forest and hiked on the Gila Wilderness side of the forest. In case you are unfamiliar with the Gila, there are two Wilderness areas within the Gila NF. The Gila and the Aldo Leopold. There is one main road that takes you up through the middle of the Gila NF, this road is what splits the two wilderness areas. Main road is a bit deceiving as this is still a dirt forest road. In fact, it’s recommended that you take only a high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle on FR 150. There are some hairy areas, but we have taken our Subaru on the road with no problem.
Mountain stream in Rocky Canyon
Rocky Canyon is the hairiest part of the road. There is a campground and a hiking trail that heads east from the campground. We had driven by the location before, but this was the first time we stopped for a look around and a hike. Every single other time we have driven through the canyon, it was bone dry. This time? Water literally everywhere! The canyon stream was running full force and there was water seeping from rocks as well as swampy areas on the trail. I cannot tell you when the last time was I saw this much water in the Gila! We have received a ton of rain this year, thank goodness!
This small ledge cave was hidden in the side of Rocky Canyon. It was just big enough for us to climb into, though it was filled with mouse droppings, so we jumped right out!
I probably took over 50 photos that day. There was so much green and so much water, the forest was gorgeous. There were rocks with fresh, green moss with grass growing from the moss. The bright green of the moss on the rocks was so cool.
One thing I’ve noticed about the Canyons in the Gila, there are faces everywhere! This one even has a moss beard!
The Gila is located in the desert southwest part of New Mexico (again, for those who don’t know). It’s an oasis of trees, springs and wildlife. When it’s dry, it’s beautiful, but when it’s wet, it’s an amazing paradise! It’s one of the many reasons New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment. It’s also one of my favorite places in the world. I’m so grateful to call it home!
This rock wall looked painted, but it is actually the colors left from water streaming down the Canyon walls.
Aaron in the middle of this photo gives you an idea of the scale of the canyon, awesome!
Sunday we went back to Spring Canyon to hike further up the trail. What a gorgeous canyon, though calling it a trail is a stretch. The trail is marked on the Gila National Forest map, but there are no markings on the road to let you know it’s there. We like trails like this, because we are usually all alone hiking them. You can tell the trail was washed away years ago. There are places where you can see the trail that once was.
Looking up at the rock face from the same spot in the photo above, we still had a little way to go!
There is a lot of climbing over dead trees and bush wacking to get up the canyon to a awesome shear rock face with a stream of water running down. Next time, we will have to go without the dogs. Osa slipped several times and with her bad knee we decided it would be best to explore further without the dogs.
The water was spiraling through this bowl in the rock, I couldn’t resist the sparkling of the sun in the water!
Another reason I love these hidden gem trails? No trace of man having been there. No discarded Bud Light cans (it’s ALWAYS Bud Light) or cigarette butts. Who smokes and drinks while they hike? Seriously.
It feels like you’ve walked through a wardrobe into Narnia, a place where there is no time. It could just as easily be 1878 as it is 2018. It’s these hidden places where I feel most grounded and connected to nature. Nature in it’s most pristine state of being.
I could have spent all day photographing the multiple crevices in the stream where old logs have become part of the waterway. Ahhhh, nature!
I use photography as a source of inspiration for my art. Lately, I’m visualizing landscape still life snapshots as abstract paintings. I must have hundreds of photos like the one above. I love how nature composes these perfect little abstract works of art. Installations of logs, rock, mud, grasses and flowers, waiting for someone to come along and appreciate their unique beauty.
This area had a large forest fire burn many of the trees about 5 years ago. Even in this state they are majestic against the deep blue sky.
Places like this are what gives New Mexico it’s name the “Land of Enchantment”. I’m so grateful to Aldo Leopold for preserving the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness areas for future generations. I pray it will continue to be preserved for generations to come.
Meadow at the bottom of the canyon, looking towards the side canyon
We’ve passed the hidden dirt road hundreds of times. If you aren’t paying close attention, you will miss it. There is a stretch of highway 152 where the road is high up above a scary cliff. I usually avoid looking down, mainly to keep from getting car sick. I’m not afraid of heights, but that particular cliff has quite a drop to it.
Now that my car sickness is getting under control, I have to move WITH the car on the turns to avoid it, I have looked over that edge to see the amazing, deep canyon below. My first thought was, I wonder what’s down there? My second thought was, HOW do we get down there? Our next few drives by, I looked and looked, trying to find a road to take us down for exploration. That’s when I saw it, just past the stretch of road on the cliff, the hidden entrance to the dirt forest road that leads into the canyon.
Swimming hole where we soaked our feet
On Saturdays, we go down the hill to the local organic market in Mimbres. They have a small farmer’s market on Saturdays and we have started a weekly routine of stopping by the market for fruits, veggies and fresh eggs. The clerk who works the market on Saturdays is a friendly local guy and we’ve spoken with him at length about different hiking trails in the area. He told us about that hidden trail a couple of weeks ago.
Last week, we decided to check it out. The first time, it was later in the afternoon and quite hot out, we only hiked down the road about 10 minutes. The road is basically straight downhill. We turned around acknowledging that we would need to start earlier and have a full day to explore this trail.
Going into the side canyon, pools of water were everywhere! Wonderful that we’ve had so much rain!
Sunday we decided to take a longer hike to see where the steep hill lead. Another hot day, but thankfully, the Sun was in and out of the clouds. The further we went, the more the clouds covered the Sun. It was obvious that it had rained recently, as the trail was quite wet and even muddy in some places. I could not wait to get to the bottom to see where the water had flowed.
The hike down to the bottom of the canyon took about 30 minutes. We followed the trail as far as we could, back tracking several times after losing the trail. The stream bed at the bottom was not only running with water, but there were several large pools. We stopped to soak our feet and cool off in one of the larger pools of water. The water was so deep, we could have had a swim! If only I had brought the right shoes, I ended up cutting my foot on a rock because I didn’t want to get my brand new running shoes wet. I usually wear my “lake” shoes if I know there will be streams to cross.
Aaron and the dogs in the side canyon oasis
We were told the trail went on to connect with another trail we’ve already hiked but, all we found were dead ends, so we decided to turn around and try again another day. On our way back, I noticed a side canyon I hadn’t seen on the way down. We decided to follow a vague path to this side canyon and found a wonderful rock and water oasis. We didn’t follow the canyon too far down, but saved it for another day. That is the joy of living here now, we can always go back for more another day! Not to mention getting to know the locals and finding the great, hidden spots in the Gila National Forest. So much to explore, so little time! Stay tuned, or subscribe to my blog, to read/see more about our adventures!
Summer break is officially over now. Aaron went back to work yesterday. We had company visiting, so I’m starting back today. I haven’t painted on canvas since June, but I did paint the house! We spent Aaron’s Summer break working on the house and exploring our new home. We hiked many miles and found some really beautiful areas. Mountain streams, lava flows, old dead trees, and an abundance of birds and wildlife. I probably took a couple hundred photos! We are settled in now and enjoying our new home to it’s fullest. I’m grateful to be living the dream!
Dusty hiking in Spring Canyon
I keep going back and forth about keeping my studio here at home or finding a place in town (Silver City) to rent. After searching town and making a few calls, it seems there isn’t much available and what is available is a bit overpriced. For now, I’ve decided to keep my studio at home.
On the scaffolding, painting the back side of the house
With all the hiking trails in the area, I’ve decided to start blogging about our hikes on a regular basis. My goal is to blog 2 times per week. One will be about hiking the Gila and the other will be my art update for the week. Fingers crossed I can accomplish this goal! Our internet connection is spotty out here, so it will depend on how reliable it is on the days I blog.
View from atop the Black Range Crest Trail, this trail goes through a forest fire area from the Silver fire in 2013
Hiking is a walking meditation for me. There is nothing more calming or inspiring. My footsteps and breathing create a rhythm that takes me to another plane of perception. The trick is keeping that perception after the hike is over. Most of the time, it leaves as soon as I hop back in the car after a hike. My wish is to get to a point where I can keep that feeling while sitting here in my studio.
On the trail
During our hikes I have been thinking a lot about writing. Words flow to me during my hiking meditations and I would love to get this flow down into words. That is what I’m working on. As a visual artist, words can be difficult. Putting what I see into words is not an easy task.
Another view from the Black Range Crest Trail
That said, the urge to write is becoming stronger than my aversion to writing.
I don’t know that what I have to write/say is important to the world in general, but it’s important to me and perhaps someone else will get something from it too.
This past Sunday was mine and Aaron’s 21st wedding anniversary. We decided to pack a picnic lunch and head out to explore the Turkey Creek Hot Springs trail. Turkey Creek feeds in to the Gila River, or at least it must when there is more water. Either that, or the creek goes underground at some point. The creek bed is currently dry by the time it gets down to the river, but after a couple of creek crossings, the water was flowing quite well. Lots of deep pools for soaking feet!
It took a while, but we finally spotted the windmill that marks the trail head!
On our way out past the windmill
The road in is not for the faint of heart! It is a 14 mile drive in from Hwy 180. At about mile 8 the pavement ends and a few miles later the road starts winding it’s way up and over a tall “hill” or what some people call a mountain. The road is narrow, bumpy and there are no guardrails. We drive roads like this all the time, but this is one of the more scary roads we’ve been on. The drop offs at the top are almost straight down! 4 wheel drive or AWD with high clearance definitely recommended!
Turkey Creek, so pretty!
All that said, the scary drive is well worth the end destination! Aaron’s mom asked why we drive roads like that if they are so scary? Because the reward on the other side is SO worth it! It’s not easy to find the trail head, even with a trail book of directions. There are lots of four wheel drive roads, more like a maze of roads surrounding the Gila River. We had to park a mile or so away from the trail head. Even though we drive an AWD Subaru, the river is quite deep in some spots, so we decided crossing in the car was not a good idea.
Who knew there could be such a beautiful desert oasis hidden in these desert mountains!
Crossing the river by foot is quite refreshing at this time of the year! It was 94 degrees the day we were out there and the cool water felt lovely. After four river crossings, we wandered around a bit, looking for the trail head. There is an old private homestead with a windmill hidden in the trees. This is where the trail begins. Unfortunately for us, after making our way through the maze of roads and backtracking to finally find the trail head, we didn’t have enough time or energy to make it all the way to the hot springs. According to our trail book, the springs are another 3 miles up from the windmill. We made it up about 2 of the 3 miles.
I love these tree trunks! Sycamore trees abound in this canyon!
Now that we know where we’re going, we hope to make it all the way up to the hot springs next time. We weren’t too disappointed though, considering how hot it was! The cool water in the creek and river were refreshing and more than enough for this trek.
The rock cliffs tower hundreds of feet over the creek bed, though the trees cover most of them from view.
I’m planning on getting back to blogging twice a week. One blog will be about our latest hiking adventure and the other will be about my art. Subscribe to my blog above if you would like to be notified when I post a new blog. You may also want to go to my website and sign up for my email list to get more updates about my art and where our latest explorations have taken us!
Such a gorgeous landscape of rocks, trees and water!