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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Love Nature......or "Cheep Trills"


Often we hear that expression, 'I love nature',  and it rings true despite the ‘cruelty’ of predation, the devastation of ‘acts of nature’ like earthquakes or mudslides and the occasional slaps in the face of branches, bites of spiders and other inconveniences like the cold or heat or dog bites or chickens pecking and eating each other.  I love sunsets and the glint of the sun on water, the textures of rocks and dead trees and the stars and the beauty of life forms walking around, the sleekness of a cougar and the oddity of a buffalo, the attraction of a buffalo gourd and just walking around in ‘it’; feeling the breeze, feeling the earth sponge beneath my feet, getting the compositions of the players (the twigs and flowers and branches and sky and algae and grasses and light and leaves and the smells and a bird or two)  in nature all commingling together .  The last few days sort of snuck up on me this time, though and kind of forced me to look and then think (god forbid).

What happened was: well, first I went into a wilderness park with my grandchildren and walked deep into it and was on a crest that actually had a bench way up there (despite being in the wilderness)and so we stopped and sat and snacked.  I heard the sound that I know is turkeys off in the woods and they did not stop, so I loosened up my lips and sort of hummed out of them while shaking my head side to side frantically while my lips banged wildly against themselves and made a credible gobble.  The turkeys in the woods responded, then moved closer, then came into a clearing and every time I ‘gobbled’, they did back and then a male framed himself perfectly in my view and spread out his feathers in full display; a perfect snapshot of the situation and then walked out of view just as I got the camera out.  Then we went to the ocean briefly, a bit of a drive, and there we were in deep profound nature and waves crashing on the rocky shore and on rock islands in full view displaying Victoria fall effects as the water subsided from the rock face after the crashes and with a sea gull standing stoicly and  close to me on top of the rock, never moving despite the uncomfortable conversational distance boundaries that I have known for them,  as I climbed a boulder island shelf  to experience the experience with Torsten, the 1 year old grandson.  I took  many pictures only to discover later that I had taken the memory card out to download into my computer earlier and forgot to replace it. 

Upon returning to Spirit Valley and Santa Fe, I walked outside in the middle of the night to grab some more firewood as I had run low in the house, having mostly smaller sticks to burn as the winter is mostly over and the trip to California had disrupted my gatherings and cuttings.  I had seen a full moon through the bathroom glazing earlier so I glanced up to see where it was out there in the later night sky and all I saw was a dull blood red moon that had the appearance of a moon in smog in the city.  It took some adjusting time but then I decided that I was looking a full eclipse and so I gazed for a while and went back in only checking it out they way we do these days and , sure enough, what I experienced was what I thought it was. 

Earlier that day I had been down by the creek and there was a lot of algae due to the constant lowish flow of the water and the nutrients in the creek and the warmish weather we had been experiencing.  I decided to touch it and then move the slippery glumps from a waterfall-like spot and clear it out and threw it up on the bank where I considered that it might make better soil up there and promote stabilization.  I poked around and looked at the willows  I had jammed into the rivers bank in an area that had been devastated by a large flood and lost a lot of the cut bank and I wanted them to grow and stabilize, again, that area.  I found some alive and swollen with life and ready to bud and leaf and I was happy about that.

Then I was called for jury selection in town and I was somewhat conflicted as I got into my recently deceased mother’s old Toyota Tercel, blue, that I had decided looked more artistically and philosophically interesting if it had a simple old rack of aluminum clamps and barnwood 2 x 4s and some steel  pipes stubbed on it and a large interesting rustic weathered root/tree branch affair with lots of interest and legs and curves and sculptural qualities that I had extricated from a spot up near Montezumas Castle along the Gallina River in Las Vegas; exercising what I call “artist’s license”’; a self- proclaimed right to do just what I was doing.  I got into the rig knowing that it was somewhat inconsistent with the mainstream situation of being on a jury in a courtroom downtown; I still have ambivalence and some shame about the vehicle due to its age, its wear, it lack of moderness.  It has the same qualities that an old dead tree has and that the root on top of it has; the feeling you have when you look at a very old person; a combination of repulsion and attraction to the process that is right in front of you.  My art, as an artist, often deals with this subject; the texture of life in its less than slick moments, often, reflecting the question; what is nature, what is death, what is old age and how can I relate in various ways.  I am not sure it is cutting edge, but, depite the uneasiness I feel; it is what I do.  It has to do with honesty and staring into the face of nature in its less glorious but perhaps more profound ‘wabi sabi’ moments.  The car runs well and gets good mileage and is a pleasure to drive, so I take it out often, despite the cringing feelings  and shame I also have.  I think I got out of jury duty because of the same peripatetic overly circumspect nature that I have and I could not quite grasp that I would be judging something with the limitation that I would not know what the penalty for the crime being examined was; I could put a heroin addict, if he was one, in jail when he should probably be in a situation that addressed his addiction more fruitfully.  There were quite a few others who felt the way I did and it was a great education for me. 

I walked back to the parking garage with a friend of mine from my early recovery from alcohol addiction, from some 20 years ago and then I remembered that I think I owed him a lunch from back in those days, so I invited him to the Bite to satisfy that old debt.  I got into the car and headed for the café which was maybe 4 to 6 blocks away and I heard what sounded like the flap of a strap on the roof of the car and I was puzzled because I study the nature of materials as an artist and a craftsperson and as most people do, actually, and I had a hard time identifying this sporadic sound situation.  It did not sound like there was an immediate cause for concern and might be a bungee cord that had gotten loose and was knocking around some in the breeze of the motion.  I got out and then there it was; a pigeon was face to face with me and I could see its toes tapping on the roof as it walked towards the edge and we were locked in the moment in something that I found interesting, especially in the category of the love of nature.  It walked towards me from under the sticks then lept off the blue sedan into the blue sky without an further ado.  Of course, I did not have time to get a picture, again.  I did though, this morning, as I prepared mentally to go back to the shop and start carving the panel I am making for some furniture, for the door, cause she wanted, perhaps, a bird on a twig and I had drawn the twigs and branches and pine needle motif and the birds there, based on one (a little sort of curved billed thrasher) I had cast in cast iron a while back, but it looked too small, I thought the other day.  So now, with the help of this event, I found what I was going to carve on the door; a pigeon; my new friend  in town…..and commemorate our journey from the county court house to the desert inn. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

BJ photo by Debbie

I have been looking for this photo by my great friend and photographer, Debbie Hickey and so here is one from that series she did some years ago

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Case Eagle in bronze by Thor

I made this eagle for Darryl who loves his Case backhoe and was aware of the Eagle on the globe that was a logo/trademark item and so he had done a lot for me over the years and I decided to make him this piece.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Going Up Sacred Raven's Mound at Night

Going Up Sacred Raven’s Mound at Night

The walk up  the “sacred raven’s mound” saddle was familiar, except this time it was dark and there was heavy smoke in the air, flakes of ash wafting in the flashlight beam and I had a shovel in one grip and a communicating device in the other.  The fire must be nearby and I want to help.   There was noise up on the west ridge and I could see their eyes glinting and hear their hooves against the stones and the earth; the sound small hooves make; there was a group of deer above me.  It was fear inspiring; dreamlike.

I  spent some time up here  years ago meandering with my 8 year old daughter on Sundays and we would “mine” precious green stones from the high quality red clay bank.  It was a special thing to do as we assuaged our hearts.  I had, back then, been poaching dead firewood along the trail, and lugging it to where the truck waited.  This was before the drought of 2000, the beetle kill, an amazingly well thinned forest and the gain of hundreds of dead piñons , replacing huge cottonwoods  that I quartered and burned over the previous 20 years .  It was a gnarly old trunk with a pointed branch that, I found out, was like a tusk or an antler and I tripped and fell on it, ripping my jeans and it poked hard at my inner thigh, hurting  a long time afterwards.  I remember my first experience hunting in those days and I got me a big bull elk with a massive rack and we cut it apart in the dark and were carrying the enormously heavy head and antlers to the truck (it took the three of us) and one of us got sort of gored by the horns and he groaned in pain, like me and the piñon.  I learned that the way these elements are made; the tree and the antlers; made to easily catch something, grab what it needed somehow like a devil’s claw does .  I use the “rack” to dry clothes on in the greenhouse and I toss them casually in its direction and they get hung ( I wondered if this drying “rack” was ‘insulting’  and then I realized it was a great tool; wrested of course, from the natural world as we sought to eat).

The saddle and hill, which looks like a huge head rising out of the earth;  has long ‘arms’  on both sides.  I named it ‘sacred raven’s mound’ as I finally saw the ‘arms’ as wings and the ‘head’ as the skull of a raven.  It’s a very special look-out , invoked, I thought, by the suggestive powers of a raven (the only animal that actually fashions/creates tools, it seems; like bending a wire to create a hook; not just poking sticks like an ape might).  I peered down upon what I knew to be a huge basin, the glint of railroad tracks disappearing around a low hill.  I looked for the glow of a wildfire and saw nothing.  The ash was from distant Arizona, so I leaned on the shovel, caught my breath and walked back down, past the crag on the left that was a sentinel overlooking the gorge and the snaking streambed five hundred feet below somewhere.  I knew there was more to this boulder, as I had discovered its ‘star crossed lover’, frozen for all time as another granite being; one with a natural arched opening at its base (something I had never seen in granite before)  she being across the gorge and up a steep gulch.  I had climbed ‘er once as I sought solitude from being a step-parent and got up there in the early morning,  then discovered that I was frozen in fear as I tried to descend; easier to climb than come down from, I learned.   I feel there is a great myth to tell about these giant stones and have thought about it many times.  But there was something missing and then I saw, a few weeks ago; a solitary stone propped naturally, like its “parents”; like the perfect child, almost a standing baby, but not in sight of the mother, but on the slope overlooking the waterfalls and the pools way down below….just standing there innocently lost and lost for so long that light green lichen, which always looks youthful somehow, was all over it.  These characters were also silent observers as the ash from two hundred miles away wafted by their ‘nostrils’ too, all of them, except for me, really……indifferent and stoic.  They, in fact, ‘saw’ everything; warm days and bitter nights; knee deep in snow and crowned with the stars.  Not curious, themselves, but just part of the mystery involving… what to do.  I thought…….. “I am obsessed with nature, with the flower, with the root. It is all linked to my situation as a… (person)… exiled from…( my)… primordial.” *

The leaves shimmer against the blue-grey sky, in the breeze, being near the end of the twig, which is near the end of the branch; the leaf is branched with veins which mirror the branching and the swaying tree is rooted by underground branches and the system is magnificent in its ability to communicate with both the earth and the sky; creating itself and sustaining itself through a communication and chemistry with air, water, light and nutrients.  It is responding and working with and in the sky; with the wind, the warmth, the dryness.  It is antennae sending and receiving messages from anything that will listen:  ‘look at me and see more and more and more’, like a fractal in the forest, alchemists, a Druid prayer sent out into the multiverse, saying; “…there is a lot going on here, so take a good look and think about what I am doing”; something like that…….so……just want to say……..“may the forest; be with you”.....

* - Aimé Césaire

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mesa Walk in Beauty (sung to a Spanish colonial dance tune)

WHEN WE WALK ALONG THE MESA TRAIL  ( inspired by the song  'La Camilla', a northern New Mexican tune and dance which has three parts; a couple step close, step close, step close to the middle from the outside circle, then a funny little shuffle back to the start, repeat, then polka around for two stanzas.  Words and adaptations and variations  by Thor Sigstedt. The song is is D, with the chords going DAGD,GDAD   then DAD and the low E string on the guitar is tuned down to a D note, so the guitar can sing that low D that I cannot.  TS. © November 1, 2013)

When we walk along the mesa trail, we see the little things that are a lying there so still
When we dance along the mesa rim,  under the sun,  darting over here and there
Oh the beautiful, the beautiful ,  the beautiful  little leaf
And  the beautiful, yes the beautiful, see the blue blue sky above
(then repeat instrumentally or hum)
When we hunt upon the mesa top, then we whisper quietly, and then stop
When we wander upon the crumpled crown, always dancing round and round and round and round

 Oh the beautiful,  the beautiful, the fluttering little dove
Oh the wonderful,  the wonderful, yes the blue blue sky above
(repeat instru)   (then instrumental of whole series)
When we stop to gaze upon the town, then we feel like shouting, "we are here looking down"
When we stop to rest under the pinon tree, then we feel like sleeping, yes, right here in shade

Oh the beautiful,  the beautiful, the beautiful walking trail
Oh the wonder, the fabulous, oe'r the beautiful trail we go
(repeat instru)

When we wander away from the trail, softly walking carefully around the little tree
When we walk upon the soft soft earth, felling wonder at what this nature's worth

Oh the beautiful, the beautiful, the beautiful land I see
Oh the marvelous, the wonderful, the timeless things I feel
(repeat  instru)
Oh the beautiful, the beautiful, the ..................(repeat 4 times or so with, perhaps a full instrumental and then fade out)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mansi McClure Kern: Life Celebration and Memorial Announcement


Please go to "Mansi Kern" link in right hand column and click that link for more information.  Feel free to make a comment on this blog at the bottom.  The program is being developed right now, so feel free to come back and check it out.  

The Madrid Folk Music Festival occurs on the same day as Mansi's Life Celebration, and also Todd Lovato (Mansi's grandson), with Todd and the Fox is playing there at 2:45, so there is time to get over there.  Todd and Eric have also kindly chosen to donate a number of free tickets to the festival in Madrid to people coming to Mansi's Life Celebration, so it is first come, first serve for a number of them.   It seems very appropriate to honor folk music this way and dance and enjoy as this is a great way to celebrate Mansi's life work as a folk artist and performer.  Many Santa Feans, over the years have performed with her and so that is a wonderful sign of her activity in this field.  Mansi would dance or play or listen anywhere at the drop of a hat and so that is what we are hoping to do on the day of her memorial. It is sort of on the way to Madrid; go to Adventure Trails ranch and then take 285 to Galisteo and take the newly paved road, hwy 42 east to the Turquoise Trail and then left through Cerrillos to Madrid.  Parking may be tight as the balloon festival and the music festival are in full swing.  More about that later......


Monday, August 5, 2013

Mansi McClure Kern, 89, of Tesuque, died Monday, August 5th, peacefully in her own home.

Mansi, the oldest of five children, was born to the late Helena Modjeska Chase Johnson Drea and Harry McClure Johnson, April 16th, 1924, in Winetka, Illinois.  Mansi graduated from Putney (High)  School, Putney Vermont,  in 1942 and then attended Benningon College for three years, leaving due to illness then finished up her degree as a teacher from Colorado College in 1970. She married Val Sigstedt , then Ken Kern; mostly, though, raising her four children as a single parent. She moved to Santa Fe in 1951 for a few years then returned permanently in 1963. 

Mansi had a life-long career as a folk dance teacher with both children and adults, teaching at Loretto Academy, four of the northern Indian pueblos, also privately and she  performed as a professional musician/accordionist all over the country, including Aspen, Colorado, Idyllwild, California and Santa Fe New Mexico and was a violinist for the Santa Fe Symphony in the early days.  Mansi collected, interviewed and archived many of the Spanish Colonial New Mexican  Folk Music and Dances and musicians; playing with the viejitos in the remote villages to learn the music ; this in the mid sixties, performed with her music group, The Festival Folk Ensemble (which also included many of her grown children and grandchildren and family members)  for over 20 years at the Santa Fe Fiesta, Taos Fiesta, Pagosa Springs Fiesta, Las Vegas Fiesta,  Baille Cascarones, Las Golondrinas, El Nido and many other venues and coordinated an exhibition dance group often  at the same time, played  at nursing homes and hospitals and was a familiar face and participant with Baille Cascarones each year, displaying her great dance ability and knowledge and passion for  the local traditional dances.  She will be dearly missed at those dances!

She built the “Pavillion Melodia”, a large circular dance and performance and teaching center  on Avenida Melodia, Tesuque and held many dances and musical events there. She was also an avid proponent of organic foods since high school, being way ahead of her time in that aspect and she was a guiding light for that life style, which, for many, now, is standard practice.  She also was an ardent pacifist, anti-nuclear advocate and nature lover, "back-to-the-lander", defender of racial and cultural equality.  Recently she could be seen as an iconic figure gracefully enjoying the Summer Music on the Plaza concerts ; was dancing on the plaza only a few weeks ago. She was, truly; a Santa Fe treasure.

Mansi  is survived by four children: Shawn Sigstedt of Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Thor Sigstedt of Spirit Valley below Canoncito; Anhara Lovato of Tesuque and Tanya Kern of Tesuque and Phoenix, Arizona. She also is survived by eight grandchildren (Todd, Juniper and Nico Lovato; Tara Pack, Dylan and Sophia (Sigstedt); Lief and Olin Sigstedt  and two great-grandsons ( Abe and Torsten Pack).  She is also survived by her two sisters, Elizabeth Stickney and Priscilla Paetsch and her nephew, Bristol Stickney.

There will be a memorial on October 12, 2013.  Musicians and friends are invited to bring their instruments and others can grab a maraca and join in the festivities.  Please bring memories and photos and a simple food offering  to the event.  Any flowers and decorations can be brought at that time.  Please call 505-466-4403 for more information or go to for more details.