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Thank You Socorro….

August 8, 2018

Thank you.
Thank you to all the people of Socorro who stood beside us in our moment of need.
Thank you to all my friends and relatives in the Pacific Northwest.
Thank you Dr. Mudd for your vigilance and quick response.
Thank you Dr. Avetia and the staff at New Mexico Cancer Center for their very quick response and efforts.
Thank you to both the New Mexico Cancer Center Foundation (https://nmcancercenter.org/foundation/) and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (http://www.lls.org/), They were very helpful with information as well as financial assistance. They are both non profits, and are deserving of financial support. As the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society representative explained to my wife: “We give money out to cancer patients until it’s gone….”, and indeed they do. Cancer treatment is extremely expensive, even with insurance.

Getting diagnosed with cancer, in this case, mantle cell lymphoma, kind of changes one’s perspective on things. I can’t say I was frightened; maybe a bit apprehensive, it being a bit more serious than having one’s teeth cleaned. I did my research and realized that my diagnoses was serious, and not to be trifled with. That was evident by how fast the doctor fast tracked me into chemo to be followed be a radiation regimen. I got a lot of free advice: “NEVER DO CHEMO,” “Try marijuana,” “My friend knows this really good alternative guy who does…..,” The statistics said chemo. The science said chemo. After praying to God about it, it was chemo. Not all cancers require chemo or radiation. Not all cancers are life threatening. Mine required chemo and was life threatening.

Chemo is not just one drug. In my case, it was a four drug cocktail, two of which were designed to keep the other two from killing me, I think. One drug was there to help restore the immune system that the final drug was intent on destroying along with the cancerous white blood cells. Yes, there are side effects, and it was not fun. The main drugs used in chemo were developed from the chemical weapon mustard gas, and for 48 hours after chemo you are too toxic to use the same bathroom as other household members. The chemo is tailored to best attack the specific cancer being addressed, so that the person with breast cancer will get a different, though similar, mix of drugs than I was given.

Being around all my fellow cancer patients, I was struck by how good most of there attitudes were. I knew that not all of my fellow patients were going to make it, but they were there fighting with grace, and mostly, a positive attitude.

As for radiation, I asked the tech what frequency we were dealing with. No one had ever asked him, so it took him a day to find out. Low end of the X-ray range. He didn’t give it to me in hertz. There’s an obvious pun there, but I won’t do it, which brings me to my last point that I had to learn: Do not make your phlebotomist laugh, especially if blood is being drawn. Just not a wise thing to do.

God is good. I believe I am healed. The doctors never say “healed” for this lymphoma, rather, “in remission,” therefore I will go in 3 times a year for the PET and CT scans for the forseeable future. I will say it, even if the doctors won’t: By the grace of God, healed!

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A Song for Socorro (words and graphics by A. Leon Miler)

August 1, 2018

 

A Song for Socorro

May good things come to you
Like rain on the mountain
Where the streams overflow.

May good things come to you
Like a song in the night
When there’s dancing to be done,
The plaza’s warm and love’s the light,

May good things come to you.

Come away with me my love,
The thunder’s quit rolling,
The lightning’s on distant hills,
The breeze blows cool in the valley
Where the cottonwoods grow
Beneath the stars spread like a cloud
On a storm washed night.

Come away with me my love
To the hills beyond where wild horses go,
This night’s for freedom,
The day’s for toil,
We can leave foot prints in plowed Fields,
No one will see,
Save night hawks and owls.

In the hour of earnestness
Some strive for our souls,
Some for our votes.
Do the earnest ever laugh
For the pleasure of laughing?
Must every joke carry a knife
Hidden to hurt?
Can love songs ever be sung
Just for love?
Can dancing ever be done
Just for joy?

Awake, your time has come.
They’re singing on the plaza,
The band has struck the chord,
The dancing has begun.

May good things come to you
Like a song in the night
While there’s dancing yet to be done,
The plaza’s warm and love’s the light;-

May good things come to you.

May He who made the morning star to shine
And the evening star to set
Bless you with a heart full of peace.
May He who hung Pleiades with care
Bless your children with warmth
When the winter brings chill.
May He who makes the sun to rise
Make your future clear
As the morning’s first light,
May you find delight in each breaking day.
May good things come to you.

 

A Rio Grande Fish Story (photos, art, and text by A. Leon Miler)

July 30, 2018
nm clouds53 rio grande sunset

Rio Grande at Sunset, Socorro, New Mexico

Several years ago, Duane Baker and I went cat fishing down on the Rio Grande here in Socorro. It was the 1st week of April and the river was running good. We got there just about dusk, pulled out the sunflower seeds, Doritos, and Dr. Peppers, leaned back and listened to the water swirling, sloshing, and gurgling. We managed to catch several 12 to 16 inch fish, when somewhere after midnight Duane got a very hard hit. He started reeling it in when the line went suddenly slack. After reeling the line all the way in, out of the dark water came the front 12 inches of what must have been a 2 to 3 foot cat fish. The back part of the fish had been bitten cleanly off.
That was a bit unnerving. After our “What the……?” Duane says, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. You know that rattlesnake we killed when we got here? I’ve got some wire leader for tiger muskies, let’s hook that snake up and see what happens.”
So we did, and we cast that 42 inch rattler out in the same area we had been fishing, sat back and worked on finishing off the sunflower seeds, watching the bats skim the river, and catching a few shooting stars as the water rippled on downstream. Somewhere along about 2:30 am, it happened. We got that monster hit, but like before, it went slack. This time there wasn’t even a drag on the line. On reeling it in, we found that the wire leader had been cut as cleanly as if it had been cut with wire cutters, with absolutely no sign of our rattlesnake bait. As before, this was unsettling, to say the least, but the sunflower seeds were pretty much gone, so we packed it up and went home.

About 3 weeks later, I was talking to an older gentleman (since deceased) who had grown up in Socorro, from one of Socorro’s oldest families, and telling him about our fishing trip.

“Tiburón” he said, “You know, tiburón de barro, the Rio Grande mud shark!”,

to which my response was “huh?’
“Well, before they built the dams, they came up the river all the time. My grandpa who grew up in San Marcial said they got caught behind the dam and that they are still there. When the river goes dry, they wiggle down into the mud until the water comes up. We were always told to be careful when we were hanging around the water. They don’t get, like shark big. They only get 4 to 5 feet long. Like catfish, they don’t got scales, but they got really sharp teeth….”

“My great grandpa, he worked on building that first dam down there at Elephant Butte. He’d go down there and live in tents while they were working. That was, … I dunno, 1910 maybe. They didn’t have time to do no fishing, but he sure knew about tiburón.”

So there you go, Carcharias Rio Grandii, the Rio Grande mud shark.

The documentation on it is really quite slim. It’s primary habitat was mostly destroyed a hundred years ago before people cared about such things. The sightings are all anecdotal, made by fishermen who are prone to drinking cheap beer, so there’s not really much to go on, and we did not actually see the creature.

DSC_0074 for doc.jpg

From Meeting Notes #3: Tangled Up in Knots

July 15, 2014

blue canyon border

Yellow Rose 5" x 7" oil painting

Yellow Rose 5″ x 7″ oil painting

An inexplicable story that must be told, but where do you go when the words fail? Where does the story go from there? “Dios Padre me dé las palabras….”

A triple braided chord is not quickly broken…”

An endless strand that always returns to start when the journey is done. A tangle of line, a tangle of thread that lies in a heap upon the ground where, once it lofted kites high into the air.
Rondeaus, and villanelles, words woven tight to hold against the strife, woven over, under, and around but always returns to start when all is done. Art is not art if it is perfect in every part, for art must be the product of a fallible person reaching out beyond self to touch, if just fleetingly, the universal; so no perfect geometries for me, no perfect symmetries. It’s just a game I’m playing; abstractions to fill the margins.

The Navajos, in their designs, always leave a route for escape, so that the spirit, can take flight and find freedom in the moment of need. I am compelled to escape into a tangle of lines, always bringing the end back to the beginning, to make sense of the tangle, to get the kite back in the sky.

The Cretan Mountains in the wintertime are full of snow I’m told, and the cherries bloom there in the spring though by the sea the oranges grow. Minos, the king built a palace there, and, for his beautiful daughter Ariadne, Daedulas created an elaborate dancing ground. The dance followed its path and all the steps the dancers took always returned to the start again. Theseus came from Athens, won the heart of Ariadne, and put an end to the unholy sacrifice of Athenian youth in the Cretan labyrinth. From the labyrinthine-dancing ground he followed the thread, his only clue*, for his escape and sailed away with Ariadne only to abandon her on a lonely isle, having set free the Athenian youth.

On the Isle of Iona, St. Columba came from Ireland and established a monastery. There, in all probability, 2 centuries later, the manuscript that was known as the Book of Kells was begun. When I first saw the knot work from the Book of Kells as a high school student, I was completely taken aback, and proceeded to start filling spaces with random interlaces.  It has given me plenty of respite from meetings  over the years and provided the needed nudge for composing paintings. What I set out to do is not derivative of the ancient Insular style of the British Isles, but is, nevertheless, a starting point.  There is always a tangle to create from whatever clue may be at hand.  I think the clue always leads to freedom, though where it ends seems to be always at the beginning again.

To quote A. E. Houseman: “…And nothing now remained to do /  But begin the game anew….” (From “Terrance, this is Stupid Stuff”)

* http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=clue

From Meeting Notes #2: Calligraphic Strokes

June 22, 2014

“You have a meeting to go to.”

“I do? When did that happen?”

“It’s been on the calendar for two months….”

So, who looks at calendars anyway?  Oh well.  Got a couple of pencils.  Got a piece of flat graphite.  Got some paper.  I’ll manage.  alpha dec 2009small

You do not need a calligraphy pen to obtain calligraphic effects.  A flat piece of graphite will do.  If you forgot to bring that to the meeting or the doctor’s appointment, then a pencil will do.  You just draw short, 45 degree strokes over and over again as illustrated:alpha dec 2009small section

 

flight 1

Calligriphic birds from the letter “F”.

A watercolor series featuring stylized cranes started out as the letter “F” which morphed into a crane.  The lettering was done with fine lead technical pencil as in the example above.  After imaging the crane from the “F”, and working the rest of the composition out, I transferred the pattern to stretched water color paper and did 3 paintings from it.

 

From the letter "F"

From the letter “F”

 

flight 3

 

 

My prized piece of graphite is a stick that is aboutpencil flower 8 petalsmall 3/4 inches, (19 mm) wide, 1/2 inch (13 mm) thick, and 6 inches (150 mm) long.  It quite hard.  I believe it’s intended use was for electric motor brushes.  My 1st thought when I found it was “Does this make a mark?”  Yes! And quite an awesome mark!  It writes and draws smooth as silk.  The flower to the left was done with the wide flat, edge of the graphite.  It was transferred to watercolor paper.  The final two paintings are the result of this process.  I think the flower was from a doctor’s appointment.  The rabbit, I do not remember, but it was a fruitful meeting.

 

calligraphic flower

Cottontail, Horny Toad, & Lizard

Cottontail, Horny Toad, & Lizard

From Meeting Notes #1: Two Faces

June 4, 2014

I don’t often write explicitly about the things I paint or draw.  I am much more comfortable telling stories or creating word pictures than I am writing about a specific composition, why I did it, how I arrived at it, etc.  Paintings are statements, after all, stories without a text, a succinct emotional statement that doesn’t depend on words; a glance, a gesture, a composition that requires a response.  I don’t know that I have a specific approach to creating a painting.  I will do anything from highly abstracted compositions to what some would call realistic art, although I will never compromise effect for being correctly realistic.

This series  of 4 compositions started out as “meeting notes”.  Meetings invariably tax my attention span when what is being said could be said much more directly without the vast amount of equivocation and discussion of unimportant nuance. Like listening to a long winded salesman or dentist, all I want to say is “Cut to the chase. How much and what are my options?” Business cards are a good size for small, discreet drawings. Many of my more fun paintings start out on the back of business cards, or a blank corner of a program. It’s also less disruptive than playing the harmonica, which is frowned on in meetings.  As long as I find myself in a situation that requires a meeting, an appointment, a sermon, a speech, this series will never be done.

Profile and Full Face (pen & ink, prismacolor)

Profile and Full Face
(pen & ink, prismacolor)

“So, Leon, do you have anything to add to this meeting?”
“Oh, yeah, uh, my daughter is a space alien. We found her in the middle of a crop circle with a can of spray paint in her hand. Evidently from a notorious gang of inter-planetary taggers, totally messed up Jupiter, I’m told. With that kind of notoriety, we couldn’t help but love her, and hug her, and cherish her..  What were we talking about?”

Actually, she’s not a space alien. She arrived in this world the usual way. Quite smart too.

Visualizing ancient Egyptian profiles where the eye is always from a frontal position is what pointed me in the direction of the two face motif.  Add to that the notion that one could add a face behind the profile, making two faces that could also work as one from a frontal view.

The meeting that led to this composition was, I believe, a circuit design and layout meeting for some forgotten electronic application, which I am certain is completely obsolete now.

The business card sketch for the 2nd two faces.

The business card sketch for the 2nd two faces.

The 2nd two faces, is more illustrative of a meeting: A talker and a listener.  The challenge being to unite the two faces by joining the negative space between them in a common outline.  The result is a bit of fun.  I don’t know whether he’s listening, but she’s talking, and I’m drawing.   The raven is just there for the ride.   It ended up in another composition.

 

 

 

 

Two Faces #2 (water color)

Two Faces #2
(water color)

Business card sketch for the 3rd 2 faces.

Business card sketch for the 3rd 2 faces.

The 3rd two faces have the faces sharing an eye and a mouth if the one face is visualized  as not in profile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Faces # 3 (water color)

Two Faces # 3
(water color)

 

Business card drawing for the 4th two faces.

Business card drawing for the 4th two faces.

The 4th two faces turned into a Gothic romance.  I tried to stay with the formula of blending the faces together, but they would have none of it.  I am not sure what he said, or she said.  I could have done something really cheesy like putting a tear in her eye, but that would never do.  She might have a hint of a smile, but maybe not.  You will have be the judge and write the dialogue.

 

 

 

 

Two Faces # 4, a Gothic Romance (water color)

Two Faces # 4, a Gothic Romance (water color)

We were young and not to be denied….

May 6, 2014

I met Reason once, when I was young. The night was a fine night, and I think I had a bit too much adult beverage, because I was feeling fanciful. We discussed things well into the early hours of the morning when I offered Reason a kiss. She told me to get lost, and we really haven’t discussed anything much since. Occasionally we cross paths in the grocery store, but that’s about it. As for rationality, if you divide 880 by 440 you get perfect harmony, but since art is not art if it’s perfect in every part, the 4th comes out to 1.3348 rather than a neat 1.333…, the 5th comes out to 1.4983 rather than a neat 1.5, and this is not even considering the minor 6th .

Shakespeare sang the blues, or, at least his sonnets do:

     Shakespeare Sang the Blues

Shakespeare Sang the Blues

(A) That (D) time of (A) year thou (D) mayst in me be- (A) hold

(E) When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

(D)Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

(A) Bare ruined choirs, where (E) late the sweet birds (A) sang.

All the wretched roaches of the choir stood to sing, rank on rank, down the sidewalk they came!  Like rosy cheeked choirboys, their diminutive voices ring harmoniously into the cooling night time air:

“That time of year”, they sang,

“thou mayest in me behold……”

And the leaves were falling, racing before the wind, sometimes flying, but in the end falling down to the sidewalk below.

A Night at Woodrat’s Cactus Inn:

Woodrat's Cactus Inn

Woodrat’s Cactus Inn

Bratney McDougal came dressed for the ball

His whiskers neatly combed

With top hat, white gloves and all.

Gayly he asked with whom he should dance,

Ah, such a night, with a promise of romance

Brittney Bryce was quite demure,- quiet and shy,

She stood in the corner with cookies and drinks nearby.

Love seemed certain as the setting sun

Waiting for the waltzes, the dancing’s begun.

The shrew snuck out the backdoor,

The skink was nervous to the core,

Dancing each step according to Hoyle,

Leading the lady as though she were royal,

Bratney McDougal swept Brittney Bryce

Clean off her feet three times and thrice

Singing:

Robin, robin, roses and run,

Round about and do it again,

Through the grass and under the sun,

Robin, robin, ribbon and rain,

You call the dance, we’ll play it through,

Too fast, too slow, you can’t complain,

Robin, robin, rushes and rue,

Call me your love, our love is true!

The night would have ended perfectly if a panicked quail hadn’t upset the drinks in her quite unsettled emotional state as she fled the Cactus Inn in unsettled haste, but all told, it was still a most excellent ball.

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