Category Archives: New Mexico

The lure of damaged places

Down in Comely Bank, another part of Edinburgh, I added another couple of photos to my growing collection of shots of abandoned buildings.

I have been thinking now of how the eye is drawn to the wreck, the boarded up window, the collapsed roof, the weeds sprouting from the windowsill.  So, a post, drawing a few of them together in my mind. some you may recognise if you’ve been following this blog a while -

Romantic Shack, Catalonia.


Ruined store (?), Ocate, New Mexico


Dead Restaurant, Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


A window in Golden, New Mexico


Abandoned house on private property, Espanola, New Mexico


Empty house, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh


Condemned clubhouse, Dunbar


Pub, Comely Bank


This last one, along with the building in Bruntsfield, is not lost entirely. There was a sign in the front saying work would be done. At some point.

But how long is time, in a building without people?


Filed under 2012, art, Edinburgh, New Mexico, Scotland



Thinking of vistas in Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts. Thinking: the title fits this, an ache, a wetland of blurred polluted roadscape. The fields endlessly going by and into memory.



Thinking of how we must respond – even in not admitting to responding – to memory, yes, to a landscape, to a sight, to a disconnect of emotions, insistent and tidal, in the songs we hear, the smells, the tastes, textures of rock and bark and flagstone and subway seat. The internet allowing us to express in words wonders, but not to experience them, or only fleetingly. And in life only if there is time, if we are permitted to, permit.



Thinking also, how hard it is to sing in words.



I try to make up a singer, a woman who sang full of space and pain, for Aida to fit her pain, her longing in. I can almost see what she looks like, how she sounds. Her name, Patty Devine, sounds like she’d sing soulfully, Urban, drink-addled, though D. thinks that name signifies a Country singer. I don’t know. I like that sort of space too. A changeable, changing vista. Room, hopefully, for the reader to hear what they need to, out of her non-existent mouth.


Filed under 2012, art, New Mexico, New York


West Sands, St Andrews, dusk



Sunset, Cornish field



Day Break, Cebolla Mesa, New Mexico



Towards the University of St Andrews Library, St Andrews



Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, this morning


Edinburgh Castle, from the Grassmarket, today


Day, Valle Grande, New Mexico


Sunset over the Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico



“What are days for?

Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?


Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.”
- Days, by Philip Larkin


Filed under Edinburgh, New Mexico, Scotland, The Now

Stone Dance








Why the three-fold thistle?

Why has the flank of the wall burst apart?

Is there ever a way in through the doors to that castle?

Is that gold in that gate stone?

Where are those men going, at a rush, except to death?

Why do the stones dance?

Must they dance?

When stone dances, what song is playing?

And do we dance?

Or must we wait our turn, if ever our turn, if ever we write not on paper water lips but stone?


Filed under Edinburgh, New Mexico, The Now




1. A reclining figure. A grainy texture. A view of red sandstone houses, curving downhill.

2. Smirr and mist and threads of trees. A village at the head of a loch, sped by half-witnessed.

3. Blackened branches, gathered from the mesa top. Foiled food slow cooking, steaming.

4. A collapsible nylon room. Clarity on the stones, the bright green leaves.


It’s like this: Low evening light, morning light. Fire, ashes. Desire for a certain place, now far and in the past, or an instance that was understood only later, in pictures. Or a place that was Spring, in a remote desert camping ground. Or a beautiful third-floor flat, long since leased out to others. The one who helped find it, dead too young. It’s the sorrow and the striving, the echo down the corridor to the tiny impossible bathroom, to the living room with the bay windows where the light has room to let itself sprawl, golden, grey, pink, to the bright aquarium with the mouthing goldfish, Shen-Long the weather loach undulating in the current.


It’s the collecting of other people’s photographs of a path or break through a looming green forest, the human figure tiny, laden, fragile, in tartan-patterned flannel and thick walking boots, carrying a metal cup and sleeping bag lashed to their knapsack. It’s the wishing for more than stone, however well-weathered that stone is, for a wild range, at last, rather than muted sickness. For the outdoors, the flimsy, the breath of plants, the movement and rustle of the body passing along the trail, the cooking in ember, the tea over flame. The chik of bats spinning in the gloaming, the wave on the dark loch.


And for you?




Filed under 2012, celebration, New Mexico, Scotland, The Now

Storyboarding, Storymaking

D and I are whisking off today on the trains bound North for Oban, the gateway to the isles (though we aren’t sure what our plans are on that point).  Not a literary journey, but likely a very picturesque one.  As you can guess, I will probably have plenty of photographs to share. I hope I don’t overdo the images to the detriment of words, and that soon I will have a lengthy, word-rich post for you to sink your teeth into. You might also ask, what happened to Endless Reads 2012? Tobias Smollett happened to it. Smollett and all his Georgian puffery and personal wretchedness…I hope four-odd hours confined to a carriage will help me toil through more pages than I have managed so far. He’s going to be one of the two-weekers. Not giving up yet!


More fun so far has been starting a second illustration class at the Edinburgh College of Art.  This time, we have to design one lengthy project, alongside general practice and keeping an observational sketchbook.


Tonight, we were set the task of producing a mock-up of our project ideas.  I decided to do a series of illustrations showing Aida’s long bus journey from New York City to New Mexico. It would be a blurring of reality and the work-in-progress, of the real journey D and I took and the rough outline I’ve made in the draft of The Millennial. Non-fiction visual narrative, I suppose? I said I would put them together in a little booklet, perhaps. After class, one of the other students came up to me with a suggestion that I add diary entries for each panel, to give a feeling of intimacy. I’m havering on this idea, though I was so grateful to have kind feedback. I like the idea of having it a silent sequence,  removed from the burden of text (I know I’ve been writing too much when I say that, and welcome Oban as a wee break from type-type-type).


Here are the rough (oh so rough) drawings I made, plus a little extra one just for fun. There will be more scenes in the final project, I think. More drama, as there was on the actual journey.

Diary of a houseplant. The real-life one didn't take to being sketched, and has turned very peely-wally in the few hours since.


Filed under 2012, Endless Reads 2012, Illustration, New Mexico, New York, Planning, reading, The Millenial, The Now


…I work at pushing The Millennial on, like trying to roll a giant ball I made myself of clagged sand and water, or wet clay, that keeps cracking and threatening to split against the tiniest rootknot on the ground.

Other hazards may make themselves known

In an effort to mark some progress, I’m posting an extract of the current opening, placed here as a time capsule for future-me.:

They were familiar with one another, old friends. She, in a broad hat, one of those dresses only worn by those absolutely comfortable with their physical selves (a man’s rust-tinted belt, double-knotted, low on her hips, visible tailing from under the table), touching him. Lightly, lightest – while he moved the cup smoothly to his mouth and drank and licked chocolate powder and foam from the corner of his lip with instant discretion. Grey suit. Hair at his temples brushed back. And weren’t they now laughing, of course. Old joke; she’d said about his rescue dog, ribs, kick-haunted eyes, and now plump and a darling, but – a subtext. She’d come over later to pet its gleaming greyhound fur. Her nails were not bitten, nor had ever touched land dirt, bin bag, or greasy railing. He leaning back, broad, bold, saying about that trip they’d taken together. Or would take? Sketch book, liquid hatchets from Aida’s pen. The man coughed – Aida glancing away, slipping the book out of sight – but he hadn’t noticed. Aida at the counter by herself, had felt slight, ordering her chai, and picking at the air-holes on the lid. Then walking, alone, out of the café, a blur crossing the intersection, hopelessly in love again with the way others could manage to live.


Filed under consolations of writing, New Mexico, Planning, snippet, The Millenial, The Now, Theory

Aida Stargazing

From a scene not yet written

Just a wee picture today – I’d been doodling this woman lying in the grass looking up at the stars when I noticed she reminded me of the main character from The Millenial, Aida. And then I realised, of course, Aida needs be lying out in the middle of the huge meadow of the Valle Grande, dreamily doing the same. Now it just remains for me to write it, and make it natural…


Filed under Illustration, New Mexico, The Millenial

the intimate exposure of illusion

The Valle Grande...a lot of space to fill

From the astute A.L Kennedy, over at the Guardian.

“Part of what is frightening about setting out to write is the more or less acute awareness that somehow we must access or tinker with our own emotions in order to portray something workable for others. This doesn’t mean, I sincerely hope, that we must weep along with Mrs Wiggins when we decide that her beloved guide dog must choke to death on a rat. But we do measure and remember and examine our feelings while we build our worlds, and people them. The whole process can give the impression it may expose us intimately. It needn’t actually do any such thing. We’re dealing with fiction here – unless the writer is a construct too postmodern to qualify for clothes and a mortgage, he or she will be out of place within it. Even if we include subtle blendings of autobiography and creation, effective writing will basically involve us in complex linguistic manipulations that we hope will provide the illusion of intimate exposure, or whatever other illusions we deem appropriate. We aren’t really experiencing anything with the reader – we aren’t there.”


This is where I am, down at the cellular level of The Millenial, trying to fuse together the various emotional elements of a particular scene between Aida and Tick.


A lot of outside static comes between the lovers, like a grainy sea – the strange near-wreckage state of world economies,  the expectations harboured by the millenial – the ‘me’ generation, the ‘work hard and you’ll get far’ generation, now the ‘worse off than their parents’ generation. The looming feeling of a curiously articulate apocalypse – this after all, was a generation that grew up at the tail end of the cold war and in the teeth of an ongoing environmental crisis; of greenhouse gas, oil spills, plastic churning in the South Pacific, degradation on a dizzying scale. And hearing in the news of the IRA attacks and the World Trade Centre, and the Iraq war, and the Afghanistan war. An ouroboros of world wide violence. And then the oddity, now become a necessity, of being able to participate in the global forum/laboratory/canvas/bedroom/ that is the internet.


And that’s before the inward disengagements, apathy, conflicting desire, self-loathing, the need for creativity in an unreceptive world.


But I am also trying not to freight them too much, to make them into only mouthpieces. How to make them feel, but not too much? To make them fall into something like love, but frailer?  It takes preparatory reading, careful manipulation, hope, so much space between each typed letter. It takes pictures of fields and the sea.


Filed under consolations of reading, consolations of writing, New Mexico, The Millenial, The Now, Theory

Fresh Snippet: Aida Goes For Supplies

A fair old bit north from where this story is set, though I've decided to keep aspects of the area.

She almost missed the turn for Este, a hairpin flick in a mountain pass. It was fifteen miles, and out of the national park area. Most of the buildings were done in a log cabin slash cobbled fifties style, with quirky signage. There were a number of saloons and drinking establishments with bear sculptures standing guard at the doors. A German ‘Ubermart’. There were several motels claiming to be Authentic Alpen or Chalet style. From what she knew of Colorado skiing town culture, which wasn’t much, this appeared to be in the same, slightly baffling vein.

She followed the main street to locate the normal supermarket, which was a good bit smaller than the bratwurst and lederhosen vendor. The fresh produce section had corn, potatoes white and sweet, some greens and a stack of strawberry punnets. No strings of dried chilli peppers, as there had been around the restaurants of Santa Fe. Whoever had decorated the cabin had strung one over the kitchen stove. Strictly for decoration only, as she’d gathered from the dust.

Deeper into the shop was a local food display, and on it, one of the jars she had seen at home – ‘Gam’s Jams: Blackberry Pucker’ – a printed label that looked homemade. Whoever had bought it here. Or perhaps it had been brought by the eponymous Gam himself?

Aida at the checkout. The girl leisurely popping gum as she scanned, in time to the blips.

“You here on vacation?”

Aida nodded. For the best.

“Fun in a bun.”

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Filed under New Mexico, snippet, The Now