About Me

My photo
Somewhere in the Mojave Desert, California, United States
Gazing into this abyss called Life and wondering.....what's next !?!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So long and Hello...

Merry Christmas (I'm on traditional time...) and Happy New Year!

Feeling nostalgic on this last eve of 2014. It's been an eventful yet good year for me, all in all. The nest is empty for the most part. I've had to adjust to not having to be "on" for someone else besides me on the home front. I had imagined all this free time filled with experiences I've been saving up to do once my family fledged the nest. Funny, but it seems I've never been busier with little free time, even on weekends, to do all the hiking, photographing, creating art, traveling, socializing I thought I was going to do. Looking back, I think I purposefully filled those spaces left open with mindless stuff to not feel the potential emptiness.... Empty, yes. Lonely, no. I am relishing the solitude.

My reserves needed refueling.

I had thought about doing an article on the best bits of 2014 or something like that. But, nah. I know what those are and that is enough. My energies these last few hours of 2014 will be purging, cleaning, clearing out clutter while sending out healing light and strength to those who need it most right now. So, while many are out celebrating, I've chosen to stay cozily in on this freezing cold night. We had a beautiful dusting of snow last night, leaving the roads slick and the desert hills softened. I feel an open hopefulness on my own horizon. Many opportunities have fallen onto my path - trinkets from my dreams to remind me to keep moving forward to what I imagined most to experience in what's left of this Life. I like the idea of quietly greeting the new year from a grounded place of gratitude. I need to make it my daily beginning and end again. No resolutions to feel pressured to complete. No promises to break. Just moving through the day with appreciation for what is.

It's a foolproof way to feel moderately happy and content every day - pretty much.

I have several friends who are battling some life altering challenges right now. They seem so young for this. One with young children yet to raise. One with many dreams yet realized. Instead of journaling my own Life's dreams and goals for these next 12 months as I might tend to do, I've decided to spend this evening in quiet contemplation and prayer - not for me but for my friends and acquaintances who will continue to face their own uphill struggles in 2015.

Here's to a 2015 of gratitude always; appreciating what is; better health; much Joy; peace of Heart; and leaving the door open for those surprises that make Life sweet.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

When the desert isn't dry

Oh my. Such interesting weather we've had this past week. 4 straight days of drizzle, soft rains, and dense fog. Today, day 5, sees a dawn of blue skies only to become shrouded in clouds again. My pellet stove is cleaned out and ready. Camera cards reformatted. Batteries charged. Toby is harnessed up and anxious to head out and see what this weather has unearthed on his favorite trails for him to nose around in. I love the feel of wet earth beneath my boots and damp, sage-scented air on my skin.

Precipitation in the desert makes us desert dwellers all giddy. I wish I could attach the smells with this post. Wet earth mixed with sage, cedars, and pinion pine with a touch of creosote. Even the granite boulders have their own odor. You can't help but take deep, gulping breaths when you step outside. The cloudy skies redefine the horizons, giving great depth and contrast to the valleys and surrounding hills and mountains.

Last Wednesday was the first of the dense fog days. Of course, I was holed up in class all day. My students and I frequently stopped and marveled at the changing view outside of our door. The mountain behind our school would disappear into the fog as it crept up to the perimeter block wall - intermittently disappearing and reappearing all day. There was a hushed stillness outside as if someone cloaked us with a soft, thick blanket. As soon as school let out, I headed for the national park campground just up the road from school. With only an hour of daylight left, there was no time to head into the interior of the main part of the park. I had the wherewithal to grab my camera bag on the way out the door that morning....hoping the fog would hang out for more than a few hours. I wasn't disappointed. It hung out for a few days!

Here are just a few smartphone snaps for now. Oh the wonder of wetness in a dry land....

I wandered away from the car up the path a bit. One minute the skies were clearing. The next, without warning, I was enveloped in a deep fog again. It was easy to get turned around and lose a sense of where I started from.  Take a deep breath. Can you smell the sagebrush and junipers? Mmm..

As seen on the way home. A Christmas tree emerged from the fog in someone's yard. Caught me by surprise the first go around. So I doubled back to check it out again.... Not film grain. Just lots and lots of fine water droplets...

©DianaShayDiehl   Shot with an iPhone4
I appreciate when nature makes us stop in our race to get through the day and pay attention to the finer details of our lives.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Things you find on a wander...

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of taking some San Diegan photographer acquaintances out for a photo shoot in 29 Palms - Wonder Valley to be specific. It's always fun to show guests my desert world. Makes me pay closer attention to my own surrounds and appreciate what's here - the expanse, the history, the quirkiness.

These shots are from playing with a new art lens I recently purchased. A Petzval, retro-designed from an original model that first came out in the mid 1800's from Austria. It's basically more of a fine art portrait lens, which I haven't had a chance to try out on people yet. Just the same, it was fun to use on the landscape and decay as you don't really know what you'll get until you take the images into 'the darkroom'.  It is a fully manual, prime lens - interacting with a digital camera much like analog (film for you newbies to photography jargon...) It has a very narrow focal point, making the background fall away in interesting fuzzy, subtle and not so subtle swirls.

If you are interested in the history of the homesteads of 29 Palms and Wonder Valley, check out this link - researched and authored by local resident/educator/artist, Kim Stringfellow. There's some great stuff on the website as well as an audio tour of the area. And, there's a book sale of Kim's works currently happening via a link on her website.

Check it out:  Jackrabbit Homestead

See what you think of the new lens....

Remnants of a life lived...

Ceiling of homestead cabin

Wonder Valley Homestead

Monday, November 24, 2014

A no particular title post...

Time flies. When you are having fun. When you are busy. When you are standing still. Doesn't matter - it just flies....

I thought I'd have all this time once my last kiddo left the nest for college last August. No such thing. I'm busier than I've ever been even though I had cleared my plate of the many committees and obligations that consumed me; only to fill that time with something else for someone else. I think my problem is there's just too many interesting things to be part of. And I can't say no. 

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being."  ~Carl Jung

Today is another blustery, cold day. My favorite kind because it means I get to hunker down inside and dream and think and sort and sift through stuff in a mindless kind of way. Toby gets extra treats. And I can drink as much tea as I want because I don't have to wait for the bell to ring signaling a much needed break. Simple pleasures.

Here is an image from my summer trip with my daughter. We sojourned across Native American lands into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Much needed breathing space. New vistas. Expanses to stretch the legs, heart, and mind...

And here is one more from a wander at Desert Queen Ranch in Joshua Tree National Park a few weeks back. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Inevitable transitions

Yes, I am alive! Thank you for the nudges. What have I been up to these past few months?

  • Graduated the last little chicken from high school
  • Welcomed home a daughter-sailor from an 8 month deployment
  • Taught a 2 week image printing class at the local college for our gifted and talented students
  • Helped newly graduated son settle on a college for the fall and attended an orientation in another state
  • Quelled through and prepped photos from over 130 artists for our catalog for the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours (happening in Oct/Nov)
  • Hung out with the 2 older kiddos in their habitat of San Diego (Thank you for moving there!)
  • Took on a consultant role with the California Desert Protection Act's 20th Anniversary (back to my conservationist roots!)
  • Planned a week long trip through the mountains of Colorado with 2 of my 3 kiddos for early August (Can. Not. Wait to go.)
  • Cleaned out closets (Step 1 of becoming an empty nester)
  • Hung out with friends
  • Was awarded the opportunity for one of my photographs to show in TIMES SQUARE!!! on an animated HUGE screen - July 24 at 8pm should you live in NYC
  • Thought about tackling the garage
  • Joined an online art workshop (Wheeee! Time to get messy!)
  • Picked out paint samples for the bedrooms (Step 2 of becoming an empty nester - redo the house.)
  • Thought about picking up one of my cameras and actually shooting with it 
  • Quelled through countless brochures and online sites to plan a walking trip abroad (Step 3 of becoming an empty nester)  First stop, my ancestral roots of Ireland.....

Interesting things happen when you see the end of one chapter of life coming firmly to a close. A little anxiety at first but then....Oh boy! All the possibilities pop up to do things raising a family solo didn't allow. Thankfully, all 3 of my kids are living in places I am excited to visit and explore (besides the fact that they live there.....).  They are all on solid paths which eases my mind tremendously. I'm proud of all 3.

"Aren't you dreading being alone?" many friends ask. 

"Absolutely. Not." says I.  Because I am never really alone. And there is always something going on. Always. I welcome the quiet days....

"How sad that all your kids are will be gone now." a friend comments.

"Why?" says I. "Isn't this how it's supposed to be? Raise them to live their own lives on their own terms? Besides, they aren't 'kids' anymore. They are adults. I dearly miss the cute little kids they were, yes. And I enjoy hanging out with the adults they've become - most of the time.  There's no sadness in that. Inevitable transitions. Celebrate them."

"Oh." says the friend.  I'm not sure she got it....

So - new stuff on the horizon. Lots of it!!!  My daughter and I will be creating a duo photo blog in the near future. I'm really excited about that. She has quite an eye for imagery and her international travels have afforded her insights into humanity. Can't wait for you all to share this journey with us. Stay tuned for the link!

Easing-the-transition stuff:
  • Photo / hiking trip through parts of the Colorado mountains 
  • 2nd year of Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours (with 4 other artists!)
  • Local photo / road trips to some new-to-me quirky places (looking forward to doing a trip log to share with you)
  • Playing with mounds and mounds of polaroid prints (just waiting for the paper to arrive to put them on!)
  • Monthly dinner gathering with friends in my comfy kitchen - prepping and sharing new dishes together
  • Visiting friends in Portland, Oregon (a place I've contemplated relocating to)
  • Getting those bedrooms actually painted
  • Doing more than just thinking about clearing out the garage
  • Stepping foot onto Irish soil.....

It's been a fairly mild summer, so far, in the desert. Many cloudy days - little rain from it - but relief from the blazing sun nonetheless. Here's a shot from a recent walk with my best hiking buddy, Toby.

The road may be long, but it is never lonely.....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Just a short post for now. The desert is far from bland and boring. Spent a few hours recently wandering among a rather vibrant spring from a mild winter. (More images in another post.)  I see potential for some new transfers. Perhaps patterns for sun printed scarves. Maybe a collage of quintessential bits of my mojave. I'm excited about the upcoming Hwy. 62 Open Studio Tours this fall. November 1 - 2 to be exact.

Querencia. Finding strength from the open spaces.

A quiet walk provides a lot of inspiration.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Delicate wonders

Yesterday, these blooms weren't there. Today, the little shocks of color captured Toby's and my attention on our late morning walk. The wildflowers make us desert dwellers giddy with excitement. Hoards of visitors from all over the world plan their vacations with hopes of finding these tiny beauties in abundance. Some years we are disappointed. This isn't a "banner year" but the fields, trails, rocks, crannies, and roadsides are offering some lovely spots of color - some soft, some shockingly bright. There are some species rarely seen. These 3 (blurry from winds and the limits of an older smartphone camera) are common and expected signs of spring, and they were simply displaying their delicate splendor off the side of our road. Flowers. Tiny, perfect miracles of life.

Later on, I will go deeper into the park and surrounds in search of more....with a better lens to capture the intricate details...the higher elevations are starting to show. I do believe I need to do some color transfers of this year's display.

An encouraging reminder of what's to come after a long, dark spell....

Beavertail Cactus blooms

(blurry) Canterbury Bluebells. My favorite. 

Apricot mallow. Desert tortoise delicacies. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Seeking Shelter (aka Querencia 2)

I am having trouble picking up my camera lately. The spark of creativity is buried underneath a pallor of human unkindnesses. Can't watch the news or read the internet or walk through the staffroom without feeling personally assaulted in some way. The world outside is coming alive with wonderful spring light and peeps of color. The air is warm and alive with happy chirps and the whir of wings as life gets busy making more life.

But I stare at it from inside. Unable to move. Tears spill over without warning. There's a sharpness to my speech. Breathing is shallow as it burns in my chest. I feel like a thousand elephants sit on top of me. The only solace is my walking buddy, Toby, who insists on his daily walk - which we do. Most of the time. And I always feel, a little, better. I turn off the tv. I limit the internet to communicating with friends and family on "good things",  researching fun lessons, or playing a mindless game (or 2) of (dare I say it), CandyCrush. But I can't avoid the other day to day stuff. Either way I turn, someone is ready to pour a pot of boiling oil on me or someone else or anyone in their way. There is so much unhappiness and spite around. It's blocking the view.

Self rescue. After a brisk 2.5 mile walk with the Tobster, I started quelling through files of images for my "Querencia" project. While this image isn't especially artistic in an 'oh wow' kind of way, it certainly touches on where I can retreat and draw my strength from. A simple, armless, cushy chair flanked by books on one side and a Chinese red side table with objects that impart great love and mutual respect on the other.

The walrus tusk was my late husband's. He found it in Alaska, back in the early 1980s, on some beach in the Aleutian Islands - I think. He was a bush pilot, bringing scientists to remote places for study. The tusk was just laying on the beach near the walruses the scientists were observing - as the story goes. For several decades, it sat in a dusty shadow box, not sure where to place it. Then, a dear artist friend saw it one day, less than 2 years ago, when he delivered some metal sculptures I bought from him. He graciously offered to make me a stand to showcase the simple beauty of this sentimental relic from my past in exchange for some of my framed photographs. Deal!  Resting on the base of the tusk display is a painted rock. A gift from a former principal who knew I was struggling within a toxic marriage. "A paperweight, a soul to watch over you, or a tool to get him to listen to you," she impishly told me. Three souls. One display. Reminders of kinder times.

None of these people are alive anymore. All passed far too young and fairly sudden. My husband was in his 30s. My sculpture friend, maybe 60. My principal friend, 45. I think of them often and miss them dearly. All had a great sense of humor, were wonderful and fun company, and knew what unconditional love was. They all had many, many friends. People loved being around them - each in their own personal way. You could be assured of much fun and merriment in company of any one of them. When I sit in that chair, with a book to take my mind off of things I cannot change, they are there with me. Nudging me forward. Reminding me of all the love I have received and of all the love I have to give - in spite of those unhappy souls who cannot see their own worth.

Querencia. Being grounded. That place where one retreats to gather strength and feel safe and be reminded that it really is okay.

I feel, a little, better already.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Americana Culture

Happy 'almost' St. Paddy's Day! I am going to slightly veer from my quest to present my photographic findings of what Querencia is to do a bit of plugging for a friend of mine. Bear with me. I hope what I share is enlightening to you - and if not, pass it on to someone who would appreciate these bits of Americana.... I'm all for independent projects - people who have a passion to preserve and educate as they also entertain us.

Candacy Taylor. Creator of Taylor Made Culture. An amazing, energetic, inspiring and gifted woman with a passion for preserving our Americana roots. From the waitresses of coffee shops and diners to Bingo Halls to inner workings of beauty shops to female bull fighters. Candacy unearths and brings to light the fine details of what many of us have taken for granted in our daily lives.

If you are a baby boomer, you'll remember those vinyl padded turn stools on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning after church - sharing a meal with family or friends served by a woman who not only brought you your meal but addressed you personally because you were a regular. To many, these women were 'just waitresses'. To these women, this was their career - something they took heart in and did their job with love. It wasn't just a job for them. It was their life. And still is for those handful of diners and coffee shops that still exist in certain communities - usually smaller, rural ones - today. My town has one. C & S Coffee Shop. The same women have worked it for years. I find it comforting to step inside and allow time to stand still for awhile. The coffee is consistent and always good - served with a smile and a joke and story or two....

Here are some links regarding Candacy's works. I hope you'll explore them. Learn something. Reminisce a little. Support her cause. Pass it on.....

KCET Artbound Article: Candacy Taylor and Counter Culture

Indiegogo Project: Counter Culture   (The funding campaign ends in early April!)

Artbound Video: Beauty Shop Culture with Candacy Taylor

Taylor Made Culture: Candacy's webpage with all of her projects and the history of how all this started

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Happy New Year! Happy Valentine's Day! Yes, a little more than fashionably late but I was just not feeling compelled to write the usual things as the calendar changed over to a new set of digits. No resolutions. No over-the-shoulder reflections. No sappy promises for plans of a fabulous whatever. I'm trying a new approach. Just do it. Dream it. Live it. Stop talking. Just do..... 2014 saw me turn 55 and will see me become an empty nester as my last 'baby' steps out into the world and makes his way. There is a lot of restructuring energy going on these days with not a lot of time to sit and wonder about it all. Time is fleeting and feels even more so these days.  I'm trying to develop the fine art of slowing down and savoring the richness of the moments presented to me every day as I also take advantage of a multitude of opportunities crossing my path.

Dream it. Live it. Just do it.

Nothing is wrong. Everything is right. I've just resurfaced from a particular busy spell in life....  The fall brought my first big public participation in our local Open Studio Art Tours and it's been a happy madhouse ever since. The 6 Chicks Popup Gallery was a great success. Our 2 months went on to 3. While I'm happy to have my weekends back, I miss it. Met some wonderful people. Had the thrill of seeing some of my works go off to live in NYC, Michigan, Las Vegas, Boston, and local abodes. Loved meeting the folks who visit my magical corner of the desert.  Intriguing conversations. Friendly, warm souls.

<----- A lovely couple who purchased one of my favorite little rag matte paper framed prints - joshua trees silhouetted against one our iconic sunsets... now gracing the wall of their NYC home...

After 6 Chicks closed its doors, (We decided it was time for a creative hiatus...) came several weekends of workshops for me. What to make now? Where to go with it?  It's a process trying to figure all that out and, sometimes, a bit of unraveling needs to be done to get there. And sometimes, a lot. I was told that I'm "all over the map" with my photography and that was after only seeing a few snippets. New to the world of portfolios, I didn't really know what to show, so I showed a little bit of everything. At least the things that have sold or gotten some notice. Yes, all over the map would define that collection. Portraits. Street photography. Moody desert photos. Accidental captures that turned out 'pretty good'.

But what's my story? I had the pleasure of attending a "unearthing" workshop recently that turned me 180 degrees to figure that out. Visual Narratives -  taught by Susan Burnstine (One of the most intriguing fine art photographers I have had the pleasure to meet and be inspired by), and sponsored by Medium San Diego (a wonderful independent organization whose 'mission is to foster awareness and understanding of innovative photography'). I left there with words like "harsh", "fragile",  "regret", and "survival" to mull over as 'my words'. But those weren't it. None of them tasted right. Not alone anyway.

And that is where "Querencia" comes in. Querencia is a beautiful word that struck me to the core even before I knew what it meant. In Spanish, “querencia” describes a place where one feels safe, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place where one feels at home. It comes from the verb “quere”, which means to desire, to want. This could mean that favorite sweater worn almost religiously when you need to feel comforted; that coffee cup reached for every morning because of the way it feels in your hands; that time of year when you step outside and go "Aaahhhh...." and wish every day could feel like this;  the group of friends you have dinner with every month at your favorite cafe. Querencia is where we gather our strength.

Our bodies know querencia. If we pay attention, we can find it even when we are miles away from our physical structure known as 'home'. And sometimes, that structure - the house, apartment, condo - doesn't feel like home at all. It's just a place to land at the end of long days filled with busyness....

Querencia. All creatures crave it. The doves that desperately make their haphazard nests in precarious places over and over again. The cactus wren that tucks its nest deep into a cholla to return to spring after spring. The swallows who travel great distances back to where they were born to propogate their species - as do the migrating whales, sea turtles, salmon, and geese. I follow a fellow photographer/artist whose "Querencia" is her traveling camper van and her dog, Max. Those wheels take her all over the United States while she documents life as she experiences it. On the road all the time,  just her and her dog, yet she has "Querencia".  (You can read about her adventures here: Alison Travels ) I've seen where 'home' was literally a lean-to shabbily structured out of found materials. Certainly not "appropriate" by upper and middle class standards but "Querencia" to the inhabitants.

Querencia does not have a specific look. Home. It's where all Beings feel safe. It exudes strength, familiarity, comfort, a sense of belonging.

And so begins my body of work as I reach deeper inside. It might look like it is "all over the map" but then, so is "Querencia".

Where is yours?