Marfa’s mysterious lights

The town of Marfa in Texas is close to the border with Mexico, and not so far from sections of Trump’s Wall, which I wrote about in my previous post.

It’s a small town, with some attractive Art Deco buildings, like the Palace, shown above. It has a rather classy 1950s style hotel, The Paisano, where the stars of the 1956 film “Giant” stayed whilst filming took place. It’s a stylish hotel, slightly old fashioned, certainly characterful. I’ve stayed there twice with family whilst on a road trip, and on the last visit our son and family were accommodated in the Elizabeth Taylor Suite – yes, she was in the film along with James Dean and Rock Hudson, and she stayed there! It was rather chinzty, definitely the lap of luxury in the 1950s, but maybe not to your taste if you like modern styles.

Marfa is suprisingly progressive for a small town, as it’s a centre for art and creativity of all kinds. There are enterprising galleries and craft shops, and the Chinati Foundation, an art museum, is based there in the surrounding desert. The grocery and health food shop I went into there was the best stocked I’ve ever seen, near galleries which are open for visitors to pop into and see what’s new in conceptual art. Not my favourite art form, but when in Marfa, go and take a look! This clean white, striking building is a gallery.P1060849 (2)

On the desert road leading to Marfa, there is a surprising art installation by the side of the dusty desert road. Prada in the desert displays shoes and handbags, but it’s not for real – or is it…? Maybe that’s what conceptual art is about? It’s signifcance ususally escapes me!P1060822

So what of Marfa’s mysterious lights? Out in the desert, a short drive from Marfa, there’s a viewing station which people can go to at night to see if they can spot any of the famous Marfa lights, which seem to beam and float across the surrounding desert and come from a certain direction. Some say that they’re the lights of UFOs flying across the desert, some say they’re the headlights of cars on a distant freeway and yet others claim they’re made by the release of a natural gas which appears in luminous globes. Basically no-one knows, but whatever, it’s a good story and certainly worth going to see them and checking them out.

When I went there is was night time and it was cold out in the desert. A dwindling group of tourists in the viewing area were getting excited at seeing lights floating and glowing across the darkened desert. I was there with my son and we both thought it was pretty obvious that they were distant car headlights. The viewing area emptied and we were almost the last there. Getting cold, we started to head back to the car and I took one last look, not in the direction of the car headlights phenomena, but looking to the left of the direction of the bright lights.

I saw a ghostly, faintly glowing globe of light quite close to where I was standing. It had an ethereal greenish glow and it lasted a matter of seconds before it disappeared. I’ve no idea what it was – maybe a bubble of natural gas – who knows? I’d seen A Marfa light, but whether or not it was one of THE Marfa lights, I can’t be sure.

It did for me though, and I was glad to get back into the warmth of the car and back to the 1950s ambience of The Paisano for our overnight stop.

Trump’s Wall

I’ve been watching a very good 2-parter on BBC about the borderland between the US and Mexico, and most specifically the wall which Trump thought was so important to be built, he even said he wanted Mexico to pay for it.

The presenter – Sue Perkins – is a likeable, friendly person who has a knack of getting close in to the people she meets on her trip, and her genuine warmth and interest come across as she explores the real life experience of what it’s like living with the wall, not just for the Mexicans, but the Americans too.

In Mexico, she meets with families, dances in the streets in the festival of the dead, helps prepare food for migrants wanting to cross the border into the US, and spends time with a family who are separated by the wall and can only touch the fingers of their loved ones on the other side through a metal mesh.

Hers is a moving and interesting account seen from both sides of the ugly rusty-brown metal wall and fencing along the boderlands, and it resonated strongly with me as I’ve been to some of the border towns on the US side, crossed (legally) over the Rio Grande to Mexico in a small rowing boat, and have worked as a volunteer in my granddaughter’s Houston school, helping Mexican children – amongst many other ethnicities – with reading and language skills.

Seeing more of Mexican life through the eyes of Sue Perkins, I was struck by how happy and sunny the Mexicans are, often in the face of hardship and emotional challenges. They seemed to want the very best for their children, the family unit was of great importance and in true Latino way, they had music and fire in their souls.

Although drug smuggling across the border was explored, with the help of a Texan sherrif in a Stetson, and with a gun at his hip, the series transcended the tales of drug cartels and focussed of many other aspects of Mexican life. It was fascinating and reminded me of the friendliness and warmth I’d experienced on my day trip to the small villages of Boquillas last year.

Part of Perkin’s journey on the US side covered a section of Big Bend National Park, which is right against the border, which is defined by the Rio Grande (see picture above). She went canoeing along it, down what looked like the Santa Elena canyon; we walked by it last year and it is definitely spectacular. In Big Bend, the mountains provide a natural wall, one which doesn’t prevent the free movement of the wildlife which live in this dramatic desert region.

I was struck by how much happier and sunnier the Mexicans she met were compared to the Americans, some of whom seemed quite dour and focussed on protecting themslves and their land. Now I don’t know if that was a deliberate ploy in the production and editing of the programme, but I do know from experience of road trips in this part of Texas that the people working a living on the land are tough, the womenfolk too, and that guns are a part of everydaylife. The exection to this on the trip was when she visited the town of Marfa. More on this next time, as it’s somewhere I’ve been to where there are mysterious lights to be seen…..


Black History Month


This terrifying sculpture is in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Its power lies in the fact that the path passes between these raging dogs, and by walking along it you have to pass between these ferocious but inanimate canines.

Now just imagine they are real.

I’m reblogging the post I wrote about my visit to Birmingham at the start of Black History Month, which starts today – 1st October – and continues to the end of the month. No doubt there will be many references to Black Lives Matter and to the significant figures in the struggle for Black rights in the USA. But this issue goes further afield than the US; it’s everywhere.

My visit to the Deep South and some of the places where Civil Rights demostrations took place has had a lasting effect on me. To walk the historic walk that Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights leaders took was a sobering and powerful experience. Visiting the Civil Rights Museum there and seeing footage of what took place hit home. One of the most moving street exhibits on the walk was the one about singing and how music and singing together was a source of strength. As a choir member I know just how powerful that can be.P1050175Here’s what I wrote in my original post in 2018:

On May 2nd, 1963, more than 1,000 African American teenagers assembled at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church across the road, and prepared to march to Birmingham’s City Hall in support of the civil rights movement. The following day, “Bull” Connor, Commissioner for Public Safety, ordered police, dog handlers and firemen to the park.

When the protestors entered the park and refused to leave, water cannons were turned on them, knocking them to the ground. German shepherd dogs were directed towards the crowd, their handlers commanding them to attack. This, and the police brutality towards these teenage protesters, shocked America and the world.

This is only one part of the struggle for civil rights which went on in Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King. My recent visit to this, and other sites associated with the civil rights (and let’s face it, human rights) movement, was an eye opening window on to history which was made in my lifetime.

But I’ve no illusions. The struggle against inequality goes on. Some things may have improved, but there’s a whole lot more room still available for improvement.



Late summer – early autumn really – and the climbing roses are still blooming, catching the sun along with the spider’s webs which have been spun around the wooden struts of the arch.

Too good an oppotunity to miss with the camera and another capture of some of the things we’ve learned to appreciate more in this strange year of Covid.

Why make blogging more difficult?

As someone who has had the new WordPress Block Editor foisted upon her, this says it all, and more. WordPress – bring back the option of the Classic Editor. Some of us (many!) don’t like this new techie style, we don’t have the time or the inclination to go through a whole new learning curve which we didn’t ask for, so please


And thank you if any of you WordPress bigwigs & techies are reading this. Please – just do it.

I can't believe it!

Some time ago WordPress introduced the block editor, giving much greater functionality than the old classic editor. This probably seemed a great idea to the geeks at WordPress HQ.

The problem is: it’s far harder to use than the classic editor, which is much like any old editor of the past couple of decades. Or at least it wasn’t a problem until they made the block editor the default, so you have to rummage around to find the classic editor, hidden away in the detail.

This makes blogging harder; why do that?

Now I have to admit to having used the block editor on web pages, when it gives some very nifty features to simply achieve complex things. But for my blog posts the classic editor is quite sufficient. You could almost make a general rule – classic editor for blog posts and simple pages, block editor for doing clever…

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