Words & photos © Tim Keller


April 15, 2021    Moving Right Along

Tim Keller, Raton NM 2021  New Mexico hiking with dogs, Raton

Almost a full year since my last post here, a pandemic year spent shunning restaurants and travel, we're just now fully vaccinated and ready to start rolling. It hasn't been all bad; in fact, I turn out to be such an introvert that I've kinda liked it. I've had no trouble continuing most of what I love, including hiking, reading stacks of books, enjoying films, gardening and cooking. Our home is like living in a park, and I've enjoyed Christina's company immensely -- Christina plus two dogs and three cats. I've felt rich.

During that time, I've turned 70 and continued to enjoy retirement even while my work continues to find its way in the world. Last month New Mexico Magazine used my photo (above) of Capulin Volcano National Monument in its March 2021 cover story, and New Mexico PBS used a large collection of my photography (below) to illustrate its Colores program on this year's Poetry Out Loud program. Last summer (Aug 3 in TKP Blog) I installed a big new framed photograph, "Alight," at Taos Senior Center for New Mexico Arts.    

New Mexico Poetry Out Loud 2019

But while I've been otherwise inactive professionally, Adobe's web software has been changing rapidly and extensively, making it harder and harder for me to keep up the website and my blog posts. At this point I'm not at all sure that, or when,  I'll be posting more. Instead, I'll be gardening or cooking or hiking or driving to the Oregon coast or New Orleans or a Dodgers game in Denver. I'll keep the website online, though, as it still draws hundreds of readers every month, proving to be an important resource of photos and features. I appreciate your visit: thank you!, and good road...     




April 27, 2020    Keep on the Sunny Side

Even as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks its destructive havoc around the world and in each of our communities, Christina and I keep noticing that, as we're all evolving toward a newly emerging world, there's plenty of good to appreciate, and some new discoveries we wouldn't have found without this coronavirus and the resulting shelter-in-place orders. Here's one.

Palisades Skateboard Team c1966 

Last week Don Burgess, stuck at home, got into some deep spring cleaning and found this photo of seven of us members of the Palisades Skateboard Team, probably in 1966 judging visually by our ages. From left are Burke Murphy, unidentified, Don Burgess, Peter Burg, Tim Keller, Terry Keller, and Barry Blenkhorn. (Barry was about to assume the stage name Barry Williams as he became TV's Greg Brady. As for the unidentified boy, we're all baffled, especially since he's wearing a PST jacket: how can none of us know him?)

The photo never emerged as we produced Don's award-winning film Skateboarding's First Wave, based on my newspaper feature of the same name. It makes me wonder what other artifacts and treasures remain to be found. In this photo, only Burke and Barry are wearing shoes. The other five are skateboarding barefoot, which is how we rolled back then. No helmets, no pads, no shoes. No tenderfoots, we!

This fun photo arrived with spring as the earth returns to exuberant life here in northeast New Mexico and Christina and I move decisively outdoors to work in our yards and garden, enjoying reading by the fountain in our patio and grilling after a happy hour on our deck. Like everyone, we have sheltered in place, refraining from travel and going into town only every two weeks for groceries, and yet we appreciate how much better we have it than most, together here at our own little paradise of home. We look forward to a return to normalcy for all, a healthy and vibrant return, a spring after a long winter, days growing simultaneously longer and better.




March 28, 2020    "And now a word from our sponsor..."

Billy the Kid tintype, Fort Sumner, NM

Whether you're a longtime reader or you just look closely at my Blog Archive, you'll likely notice the downhill slide in frequency and volume over the past three years. From January 2009 through December 2016, I wrote and posted so much that I started a new blog page every two months, so there were six each year and each ran many many screens deep, typically averaging at least one long blog post per week. For those seven years, this was a blog about professional projects and my work as a writer, photographer, musician and artist. By 2017, I'd basically wound down that work, no longer doing the hustle of generating freelance gigs, and I began to refer to myself as semi-retired. Since then, my blogs have transitioned from professional projects to simply notes from a life.

The blogs were originally conceived as a way to drive traffic to the website where I was posting new photography and writings. They gave people reason to check in every week. There's nothing worse than a stale website. I have less motivation to post now, yet the website itself is a deep and rich repository of stories and photos over a decade of time, mostly but not exclusively from northeastern New Mexico and southeastern Colorado. Google Analytics shows that visitors have declined since 2016 but still average a couple dozen daily. More impressive, they stay longer, exploring and reading, and "bounce" less (leaving the site after only one page), than industry averages, by far. (Fewer than ten percent leave after only one page.) Some are regular readers who have bookmarked the site, but most arrive and discover the site via Google Search. Where I used to hustle up freelance work, now business comes to me via email from web readers who want to license an image or otherwise engage my services.

Hiking with dogs, Raton, New Mexico

My blogs may not be as interesting anymore. I remain active and engaged, even as I approach my 70th birthday this year. Christina and I travel often--Guatemala, New Orleans, Hawaii, California redwoods and wine country, Santa Fe, Taos, Denver, more--and grow a huge garden every year that fuels my passion for cooking. (I average an hour to two cooking and baking every day; we eat well.) Until our city pool closed last week for the pandemic, I was swimming two miles three mornings a week. Our state park has closed its hiking trails for now but the pups and I still have plenty of places to hike. I continue my daily morning practice of "floor exercise" started 40 years ago, a half hour of stretching and strengthening. I read for hours every day, lots of news feeds (with online subscriptions to NYT, WaPo, LAT, and the Santa Fe paper) and lots of books, alternating fiction and non-fiction, including lots of new releases, a book or two each week supplied by both Amazon and our city library. I still take pictures but far less often than when I was hustling. Life is more relaxed and more enjoyable. I savor it.

So, pandemic notwithstanding, life is good, rich and full. I'll keep blogging, but it'll remain irregular in frequency. I appreciate your visit and hope you'll continue into the site to explore some exciting stories and photography. Thanks!




March 24, 2020    Pandemic Hiking: Social Distance

New Mexico hiking with dogs, Raton  New Mexico hiking with dogs, Raton

When the pups and I left for a hike yesterday, Christina's parting words included a reminder to practice social distancing as we're all under statewide "stay in place" orders during the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. We'd thought we were going hiking high in Sugarite Canyon State Park. I knew the campsites there had closed but it turned out the entire park was closed, even to hiking. Bummer! But we quickly found a good alternative site pretty close, a square mile of steep hilly pasture and arroyos down where Sugarite Canyon empties into the plains.

The closest case of Covid-19 to us is still 100 miles away--there are three cases in Taos County and none closer to us--but of course it's only a matter of time before Raton has cases. Meantime, keeping our social distance out on the hike proved easy!




March 12, 2020    The Royalties Just Keep On Coming

My bank statement brought quite a surprise, a $5.20 direct deposit royalty payment from my publisher BMG for music sales. Things are really looking up. 

Last June (and discussed in this blog July 2) I received a check in the US Mail for forty-six cents, covering my share of Amazon's income for streaming my songs. So a direct deposit of $5.20 less than a year later, from a different source (this one my regular publisher, such as it is), is more than a 1000% increase. At this rate my music career will be resurrected soon.

Back in the pre-digital days, I received a royalty check whenever the balance due reached $100 or more. That was rare. I supported myself with performances and sales of a few thousand albums over the years, first on vinyl, then on cassettes, and finally on CDs. Royalty payments were for radio play, not album sales, and my airplay was almost entirely on college and public radio stations that were virtually ignored in the royalty counts.

Now that it's all digital, the income is worse...much worse. Musicians receive a small fraction of one penny each time someone chooses their song on a streaming service such as Spotify, iTunes, or Amazon. That's where my 46 cents from Amazon came from. Last week's $5.20 presumably covers the other streaming services. (I get separate payments for actual digital album sales, but that's small potatoes too: it still comes whenever it reaches $100, which is way longer than I can hold my breath.)

Back when I was making all this music and releasing it to the world, I fancied having royalty income in my later years to help cover expenses. That never came (I guess there's still hope?) but instead I now receive income from the photography I made much later than my published songs and producing the equivalent of royalty income that I never forsaw back in my music days. It's a funny world.




January 21, 2020    Chasing Billy...Again

The Chronicle-News this month has been reprinting my three-part travelogue, "Chasing Billy the Kid," first published there exactly four years earlier. The final installment is in today's paper, with all three parts also available here online:
      Part 1: On the Road to Mesilla
      Part 2: Big Killing in Lincoln
      Part 3: Fort Sumner--Trail's End

Chasing Billy - southern New Mexico roadscape by Tim Keller

I've enjoyed revisiting these features, the product of two 1000-mile photography road trips and the beginning of a rich series of travel features that I produced for the Chronicle in 2016 with talented features editor Cathy Moser, who this month got an enthusiastic Yes from the new owners to reprint "Chasing Billy." Along the way, Cathy and I met for lunch and talked about the project.

Billy the Kid tintype, Fort Sumner, NM

It's a good read, with extensive photography. Over the intervening four years I've received many inquiries and compliments. (Google searches still bring Billy enthusiasts my way.) One reader was curious about the tintype of Billy, the only one that survived from four that were taken. Because tintypes produce reverse images, Billy was long assumed to be a "left-handed gun," so in later years the photo has been flipped to show the truth, that he was right handed. The full frame, at right, also includes the photographer's assistant holding a full-length reflector: Most images from this tintype have cropped out the assistant and reflector but they're in the original.

Because the newspaper's formatting has changed, Cathy had to lay out this month's feature from scratch to replicate our original series. Back then I also laid out the feature in a single webpage, with many of the photographs included, which remains available here, the easiest way to read the three-part feature in its entirety. Filled with fascinating discoveries--when he was shot dead at 21, he'd escaped capture multiple times and only lived with the nickname Billy the Kid for his final few months--"Chasing Billy the Kid" is a super fun read. I hope you'll enjoy it, whether for the first or the second time.




January 9, 2020    News from the Front


As a writer, journalist, M Ed. reading specialist, and longtime teacher of high school and college literature and composition, I commisserate with Mr. Richards in acknowledging defeat. It's been a long time coming. (I love the humorous treatment by The Week on page 6 of its December 13 issue. Great weekly news magazine.)

Writing guides, Tim Keller

I keep these books by my writing desk. Garner is the bible for word junkies, everything you never even knew to ask about words, e.g., the difference between flaunt and flout, or flail and flay, to randomly pick just two entries from one page. (Or the difference between e.g. and i.e.) New York Times writers are bound by its stylebook, most other newspaper writers by the AP stylebook--and most other publishers go by one or the other. (I never agreed with capitalization of the Internet, yet there it was in the guidebooks. In recent years, I've enjoyed seeing it change and now the more logical internet is standard. As a proper noun, World Wide Web is indisputably capitalized.) The Chicago Manual lies somewhere between Garner and the NYT and AP stylebooks. Between those and a couple good dictionaries, the way our language works is available to all. Without them, without rules, the language works less and less well.

A newspaper feature this week featured a photo of a middle school English teacher whose t-shirt says:
    The cat ate Grandma
    The cat ate, Grandma
    Commas save lives!

Mary Norris - Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

If you've read this far and you don't think I'm a nut, then you'd enjoy Mary Norris's delightful Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, published to acclaim in 2016. (It was named as a Best Book of the Year by Wall Street Journal, NPR, Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Amazon.) With a new bachelor's degree in English, young Norris walked into the offices of The New Yorker asking for a job. Across more than three decades since, she's become legendary as a colorful and revered copy editor, working with some of the world's greatest writers. Her book is entertaining and often hilarious.

If you're the kind of person that would read Mary Norris's memoir, you'll undoubtedly join me and 96-year-old John Richards in bemoaning the tragic fate of our poor apostrophe's.




January 7, 2020    Art to Art

"Serafina, 1988" - oil on canvas by Lindsay Hand - Tim Keller and Christina Boyce, New Mexico 1988

Our newest artwork came home last week when Colorado Springs painter Lindsay Hand drove up our slick icy driveway to deliver "Serafina, 1988", her 28"x46" oil on canvas in her own custom made antiqued black wood frame.

Tim Keller and Christina Boyce, Serafina, San Miguel County, New Mexico, 1988

The source was this six-inch black and white photo taken by Christina after we'd enjoyed a late brunch in the front yard of our remote rental house along a dirt road by Starvation Peak 18 miles southwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico. We'd shed our jackets in the winter sun as Christina framed her reflection in the big picture window of the old adobe house.

Colorado Springs artist Lindsay Hand with her painting "Serafina, 1988"

Thirty-two years later, here's Lindsay showing off her new painting. It's closer to photo realism than her usual abstraction. We've been awed by her work since encountering the huge paintings (72" and more) of her Ludlow Massacre show in Trinidad, Colorado, several years ago.

Christina Boyce and Tim Keller at home in Raton, New Mexico, with their Lindsay Hand painting, "Serafina, 1988"

Last year we commissioned Lindsay to create "The Valley, 1945" from a tiny B&W snapshot of my dad with his parents and sister (my grandparents and aunt) at home in the rural San Fernando Valley when he was 17 years old. Lindsay and I so enjoyed the collaborative process of creating that painting, and Christina and I so enjoyed the result--I blogged at length about it here, with photos--that we all decided to do another from the Serafina photo. The new painting now hangs over our bed, reflecting our life together when we were still new and the artistic life of music, photography, painting and more that remains a hallmark of our marriage.




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