Wild Parrots by Corinna Bechko

Loud, colorful, smart, and resourceful… What animal is more entwined with tropical daydreams than the parrot? Yet all over the world these birds are becoming common at backyard bird feeders.

Los Angeles, my home, is host to thousands of wild parrots. And their numbers are increasing. Almost daily I see flocks of amazons and conures fly past overhead. Military macaws roost in eucalyptus trees and on deck railings. Where are these birds coming from? Not all, or probably even most, are escapees. These flocks are established and reproducing. Of course, their numbers are added to by escaped birds, and by birds that have so annoyed their owners that they have been set free. Brooklyn, San Francisco, London, and even the Netherlands have established flocks too. Few things are more incongruous than walking down a cobbled lane in Amsterdam and seeing a macaw dart past.

A wild military macaw in Pasadena
But how are these tropical birds surviving? L.A. has very mild winters but its hard to imagine that they enjoy the weather in London. The answer lies in the way humans have changed the landscape. Cities, and even suburbs, have lots of areas that are protected from the elements. Perhaps more importantly, all of these cities are full of plants that are just as exotic as the parrots themselves. Fruit trees, ornamental shrubs, non-native flowers, all of these things make the parrots feel right at home. Another similarity is that most of these cities have man-altered watercourses: rivers and canals that have been tamed and plastered with concrete, creating fly-ways for the birds.

Unlike most introduced species, wild parrots don’t seem to be causing too much environmental havoc. This is partly because they haven’t yet crossed over into the wild lands that ring most cities, and partly because they live almost exclusively off of non-native plants. In other words, the environmental harm has already been done. The parrots are merely the beneficiaries.

Are we going to someday see huge flocks, hundreds of birds strong, wheeling over our cities? I don’t know, but it’s a remote possibility. After all, prior 1904 when the last native North American parrot was killed in Florida, huge flocks of Carolina parakeets were a common sight in the Eastern U.S. So grab a Mai Tai and keep an eye on that bird feeder!

This is from Corinna’s fine blog–www.thefrogbag.blogspot.com

Glass Skulls


I think of Halloween and Day of the Dead as Santa Fe’s true “national” holidays. Altars are springing up everywhere, from the Museum of International Folk Art to the offices of Liberal Arts at SFCC. Last night on the Plaza we saw a juggler standing on a ball of orange and juggling Halloween colors.
I just saw this image of skull goblets by Elodie Holmes, of Liquid Light on Baca Street. She is one of my all time favorite glass artists. These are beautiful and eerie but also traditional–think of drinking ceremonially from a skull!

Lightning Field Haiku

33 years
beneath these poles–
how many rabbit holes?

horizon clearing–
it must have been you I saw
out in the field

telephone poles
the flash-by dreams

was that piece of bone
always here
by the doorjamb?

the same light
comes through the chinks
of the cabin

departure as if that were
news of the world

even the word

I saw your hat
walk away
turn back

The Lightning Field
Walter de Maria, 1977
Dia Art Foundation
400 polished stainless steel poles in a rectangular grid
Near Quemado, New Mexico

Linda Hunsaker

I ran into Linda at jury duty–what a Santa Fe experience–and remembering how much I like her visual work asked her for some images to share.

The one above is :”The Night I Was Born a Raven Saw His Shadow”- this is a linocut inspired by a poem by John Macker

Homage to Hitchcock-this is a monoprint from my series The Picture Show, obviously inspired by Hitchcock’s Vertigo

Rialto-this is another linocut, also from the Picture Show series. I’m researching classic movie theaters. There are many Rialtos, but this particular one is in Arkansas where my father grew up. Maybe he went to this one.

Linda Hunsaker is a resident artist at El Zaguan sponsored by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation in Santa Fe, NM. Her works on paper have been shown nationally and internationally in over 50 group and 4 one-person shows. She has work in Art-in-Public Places in Florida and New Mexico and is a member of the Boston Printmakers and the Los Angeles Society of Printmakers.

Natural Bridge Journal–call for submissions

Deadline: November 1-December 31

University of Missouri–St. Louis MFA Program, seeks fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and translations for a special section on “The Living Earth,” defined in the widest sense. Some possible approaches: rivers and wetlands, migrations of plants/animals/people, human conflict/war, city life.

Send fiction and non-fiction up to 30 pages, and submit one work per envelope. Poets may submit up to five poems per envelope. No electronic submissions. Enclose SASE for notification. We pay in copies and a one year subscription. Simultaneous submissions OK as long as you notify us of acceptance elsewhere.

Natural Bridge, Department of English, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63121.

Carol Moldaw’s Poem “The Lightning Field”

Of course out in the Lightning Field I was thinking of Carol Moldaw’s marvelous poetic sequence about it.
The first section is below. The entire poem actually imitates, or re-creates, the structure of the field in poetry. It is collected in her book of the same name from Oberlin College Press.

Four hundred equidistant stainless steel poles,
twenty-five by sixteen, gird and grid the mile-long
kilometer-wide field that was once a plain.
Like polished spears, with solid tapered tips,
they rise over twenty feet. Sounding the air,
attuned to the light’s least vibrato,
between dawn and dusk they all but disappear.
It was the hope of lightning drew us here,
and for an hour or so there is lightning–
violet strikes, frequent, sharp, and silent
above the mountains ringing the plain
but the poles do not require lightning, they
are aggregate enough. Would we have walked
so casually into the scrub and desert plain
without the reassurance of these metes
and bounds? Past the first gulch, before we reach
the corner pole, the cabin drops below
our line of sight. Quickly, characterize
and distinguish the mountains to the west from the range
to the east. The north. The south. But we could rely
on the sun, you say before I’ve had a chance
to get my bearings, your profile still so new,
studying not the mountains, but the cloud-
lit sky. Leaving the perimeter, we work
our way in, zigzagging from pole to pole.

–Carol Moldaw

The Lightning Field

The Lightning Field

Last weekend, drove to Quemado, through volcanic malpais. Rich says Quemado seems more remote as a destination than it would if we were just passing through.
The caretaker drives us and two other couples about 45 minutes out into remote feeling range. I sit up front and have one of those satisfying New Mexico conversations about rain, drought, cattle, grass, pinon, and bark beetles. His father ran a gas station in Pie Town and sometimes only one car came by a day. This being New Mexico land art, he was also one of the people who built the Lightning Field and has opinions on Roden Crater. The other folks all hail from southern California.
The Lightning Field itself is like a mirage, coming and going in the light. We walk some of the perimeter first, and sit on dry ground out of the wind. Birds fly up over the grassland. The poles glimmer, shimmer, disappear, re-appear. It is a piece of sculpture really too big to grasp at once: a mile by a kilometer. 400 poles of stainless steel, highly polished. Placed in a rectangular grid by artist Walter de Maria in 1977.It seems more than the sum of its parts–poles evenly spaced stretching away as far as the eye can see.
I am totally charmed, but Rich has doubts. “When is a work of art too much trouble?” he asks.
Because of its simplicity, scale, and pattern, the field brings metaphor to mind. A shaman’s pole, like the one in the Old Kalevala, connecting heaven and earth, as indeed does a lightning rod. Jacob’s ladder. With the angels going both up and down.
Dinner is an excellent green chile cheese enchilada casserole, tortillas, beans, and flan–all left in the refrigerator. I add a green salad. The moon comes up with spectacular precision, although you really can’t see the poles in moonlight.
Get up at dawn and walk in the field. Pink in the east but cloudy. Here the illusion of the field overtakes me. Turning to look at the cabin I see it is actually IN the field rather than at the edge. But as I get closer the illusion fades and I no longer see poles reaching beyond the house.
This coming and going of things makes me feel I’ve solved my zen koan. Rich, howebe, is more dubious about it all. He has been roaming around in his usual energetic manner but he says: I can’t help but wonder if this is the best artistic use of the site.
We’re both thinking of the VLA’s radiotelescopes. There is a windmill behind the house, and we’re thinking of fields of windmills.

Roshan Houshmand

As an Iranian-American woman artist, painting is my way to live, understand, question, communicate and explore. My life’s journey has been based around making my art for the past thirty years, and it is how I spend my time when I am not teaching or researching art.
My current “trailscript” paintings evolved from my “Event Paintings” which can be viewed on my website at http://www.roshanhoushmand.com. They were originally inspired by images of particle trails from bubble chambers from Brookhaven National Laboratory and CERN, which intrigued me after attending a lecture on theoretical physics by Brian Greene, professor of physics at Columbia University in 2005.

What began as a study of the movements of charged particles has evolved into an exploration into concepts of chance, change, space and intuition borne from a faith in time and in the ability of the plastic qualities of painting to transform life.

Are You An American?

Miriam Sagan Here is a question we were writing about in my Memoir class–do you feel like an American? How? Why not?
Alwyn Rowanwind I suppose it would depend on what we think it is to be american
Miriam Sagan And??? Would love to hear more!
Sally Fisher Yes, I’m an American. I am a resident of the United States of America. That does not mean that I agree with or support everything my government does in the name of my country. In fact, I feel that to be a “good” American, I have some obligation to exercise my right to criticize my government when it seems to me to be taking a wrong turn.
Alwyn Rowanwind I attend a Native College. So to look at it from that perspective i would say that there are many people who would not want to be considered American. By American do you mean living in America or Being a US citizen. technically there are two Americans. Was i born here yes. but i dont believe myself to be the same sort of “American” that the world veiws america by. Americans are not liked much in this world due to things like the docterine of discovery, manifest destiny, the constant removal of native tribes fro traditional lands. the fact we stick our nose where it doesnt belong. The fact that the majority of American Citizens or US citizen do not actually know or care about what there government is really doing about resourses, about family…..So in terms of what the world defines americans by i dont think i quite fit into that scheme. This doesnt mean that i do not have pride in my country at time but i do feel disappointed alot of the time. Of course i havent done much to change the way the world works either… I’m waiting until i have all the requirements that allows ppl to look past the fact that i have a young face and listen.
Sally Fisher One of the problems we face here in this country is that young people are always waiting while we older folks are determining your future. Any time you have something to say about the way your world is being formed is the right time for you to get active. If you are going to live passionately in the world then let the passion lead you to your best self, which would include not just standing there with your ideas but doing something to contribute. Great good luck to you.
Alwyn Rowanwind
I have tried believe me I have tried. unfortunatly we live in a world where if you dont have the degree no one listens to you. Ive been thinking about taking a page out of enders game (editor–a novel by Orson Scott Card) and creating a persona that is older then myself and using it to publish different essays. Sometimes the fact that it comes from a younger person is enough for it to be disregarded or seen as naieve as i have been called countless times. Though i think what you are saying is true. the reason i dont quite hold with the idea has to d with a conversation i had with an instructer 2 days ago. We had a good conversation similar to this one and in it we discussed the fact that though there may be many good ideas coming from young ppl there is a sense that we have no control over the world around us. We feel like no one is listening of course this has been instilled in us every time we were shot down in high school. I remember times when my teachers were WRONG. and it was pointed out that they were wrong. There response was that they had the education and they couldnt be wrong. Nobody really listens to young ppl. There are a few but on the whole of it i dont really think some older ppl dont hear us. it is a very hard battle to fight thats why i say it is best to have all the credentials that allow us to be listened to. We are all products of our society, of how we are raised so if we wait then truly it lies on those who taught us that this is the way of the world.


                  Fiction by Miriam Sagan

          Gloria had been retired for over thirty years—if you consider running a motel in the desert retired.  But like all gypsies, she is never really retired—and so when Mel calls and says he has a part for her as an extra, right in her neck of the woods, she can’t help but say yes.  It means business, too; he’ll put up the tech crew at the motel where they’ll enjoy the hot spring in the center courtyard, the little cabins shaded by tamarisks.
          She and Mel go way back—fifty years—to the Arts Student League and Brooklyn and then Hollywood.  They’ve been friends, and lovers, and were even married at one point—but that is a long story.  Gloria’s pretty petite looks have been ravaged by sun tanning before sunscreen, age, a mediocre face lift, cigarettes, and at times a bad attitude.  But the motel has been a lifesaver.  She bought it when the only clients were old folks with arthritis.  But then came the
New Age—and she added massage and salt scrubs and reflexology to the menu, and crystals and books on healing at the front desk, while Native American flute music plays.
          It’s a weird gig.  Mel has tried to explain—it’s for the army, but not the army exactly—it’s done through a subcontract.  It’s for training.  They set up a typical desert village and there are actors who have parts—innocent civilian, terrorist with bomb, lady with baby, etc.  Then the soldiers in training come into the village and sort of practice . . . and here Mel gets a little vague.  “Destroying the village in order to save it?” Gloria asks helpfully.  Mel’s laugh gets cut off—reception can be weak out in the Mohave.
          Of course it is winter, or nobody would be practicing anything but dying of heat prostration.  Gloria shuts up for the summer, and goes to the Catskills. But it’s a mild December day, the morning sky a pale blue that will brighten to turquoise by noon.  So she packs up and drives a short distance to the site, taking her bottled water, sun visor, paperback, a deck of cards.  A lot of life is just waiting around—the theater, war, aging, running a motel, even baseball—and it is good to be prepared.
          At first look, the set is like any other.  It’s just a ramshackle arrangement of buildings—the kind that get burned down or blown up.  There are trailers and camera men and, Gloria is pleased to note, a catering van offering coffee and Danish at this hour, with the promise of lunch.  The whole thing feels cut-rate though, flimsy, and when she looks for Mel she is told he isn’t coming in until the second day, which is also the last day—tomorrow.  She finds the others—actors? extras? civilians?—sacked out in the shade of a big Joshua tree gossiping, napping, reading, and playing a deceptively casual hand of poker.  
There are about a dozen of them, an odd-looking crew, foreign somehow, not really Asian, not really Middle Eastern, but mostly dark.  She feels as if she has stumbled into some kind of odd restaurant, the kind L.A. strip malls are full of, and despite herself is about to eat something Mongolian or Bosnian or with a lot of couscous.  But a young man offers her a beach chair propped firmly in the
shade, people say hello, someone passes a bottled iced tea, and everyone is speaking a perfect uninflected English, the English of southern California.
          “Look, here comes the army.”  Someone points.  And two camouflaged trucks roll in with a cloud of dust and discharge another dozen or so young soldiers who also look cut-rate and flimsy—like bad actors playing soldiers.  The two groups barely glance at each other, even if they are opposing teams.  Gloria notes that while the actors can relax, the soldiers have to pretend to look alert. She has always hated that kind of job and lasted only two days once, years and years ago, at Macy’s.
          Then the sub-director—unshaven and with an air of pretension that seems absurdly optimistic in this setting—comes over and starts assigning parts. The buildings are labeled A, B, C, etc.  The parts seem equally generic.  Gloria is “woman.”  At least she has been spared “old.”  One of the young women in the group is “girl.”  They are in building F, a barracks-type structure that makes an L-shape with another.  Their activity is “cooking.”  Their designation, “harmless
          Now there is more waiting around.  They are in a low shady room that appears to have been built of adobe bricks.  In terms of “cooking,” there is indeed a kind of hearth and a large frying pan, but obviously no wood or fire or anything real.  Gloria and the girl—who despite her exotic dark looks is named Amanda—get to chatting.  Amanda, Gloria is relieved to hear, isn’t really an
actress.  She did this on a lark with a friend—they sometimes work as extras. Amanda is actually a sensible person who works in small business development and is engaged to be engaged to an appropriate-sounding boyfriend.
          But what if it were real?  What if Gloria were the aging mother, looking at the bare hearth, worried and frantic?  What if soldiers roamed the alleys outside, ready to hurt or kill?  What if insurgents were hidden out in back?  She is worried more for Amanda than for herself.  What if Amanda gets attacked and then no one will marry her?  Do they have men, husbands, or are they a widowed mother and her daughter?  Or two widows, and Amanda pregnant with Gloria’s dead son’s only child.  And soldiers. . . .
          Amanda has fallen quiet.  There is a noise outside.  The women look at each other nervously.  Amanda seems to shrink back into the shadows.  Gloria picks up the frying pan, an iron skillet really, heavy in her hands.
          Through the door bursts a soldier, immense, blocking out the light.  He seems to have a gun in his hand, pointing it wildly.  Gloria takes the iron pan and swings it with full force across his face, breaking his nose in two places.  The private recoils, blood gushing, trying not to scream.  He moans.  He’s just a kid out of Cleveland, a good track runner but not quite good enough for one of the big scholarships.  So he joined the Reserves, glad to serve, like his dad and uncles.  There is blood everywhere.  Amanda is shrieking and Gloria seems to be yelling as well, but not from fear—a high-pitched banshee war cry.
          Later, she’ll feel terrible.  She’ll want to send the private flowers and call his mother to apologize, but no one will let her.  Mel’s lawyer will work it out for her and nothing will happen, although she and Mel will fall out for a while.
          “What the hell were you doing, excuse me for asking, what in the name of hell was an old lady like you doing smashing someone across the face with a frying pan?” Mel asks.
          And all she can say is: “I thought it was war.”

This first appeared on-line in the Apple Valley Review, 2007. Copyright by Miriam Sagan