Tag Archives: Storytelling

Earth and Water

As I mentioned yesterday in Contrasts, Chapter 5, I would have to post some additional photo galleries of Yellowstone.  I decided to break them up a bit because I took so many photos and there are just so many diverse areas to see in this park.

Today’s theme is Earth and Water.

Contrasts – 第5章 – Wild Spaces

Lodgepole pine forests, alpine meadows, sagebrush steppe, rolling grasslands, massive watersheds and wetlands, 2500 miles of rivers and streams, 600 lakes and ponds, majestic canyons and waterfalls, geyser basins scattered about a giant volcanic caldera, the Continental Divide, and home to a wide diversity of wildlife including endangered species.  Ready?

I’m finally getting to the contrast that inspired this series of blog posts.  Yellowstone.

Why?  The San Diego Zoo, at the start of the series, represented the epitome of a zoo’s potential.  Beautiful grounds.  Botanical paradise.  Humane habitats constructed to be as natural as they could be, considering they are still prisons for the wildlife residing there.

Asphalt pathways.  Directional signs.  Herds of people grazing on hot dogs, candy, and sodas.  The animals scarcely move, except to pace the perimeter of their enclosures.  The mammals lose the luster to their fur.  The color fades from the birds’ plumage.

Depressed.  Spirits broken.  Many lose the ability to reproduce.  Many die early deaths.

Contrast Yellowstone.  It is zoo-like in the number and diversity of wild species, but there are no cages.  People and animals can mingle with no bars, no fences, no nets, no plexiglass, no moats, no enclosure of any type between them.  Nature trails through the middle of it all if you want to hike.

And there is no urban jungle surrounding this pristine landscape.  No smog, no freeways, no towering buildings, no two million human residents.  Although archeological evidence shows people have inhabited this area as long as 11,000 years ago and 26 Native American Tribes have connections with the park.  And there are those four million tourists of modernity that can come and go in a year.

What behavior could we observe there?

I have to tell you it’s a bit strange.  For one, I understand the dilemma that park rangers face.  A lot of people just don’t get it.  These are wild animals.  Beautiful and magnificent.  In the wild.  And the people are in their territory and seem to be unconscious to the fact that they are in the wilderness, the real world.  It’s not a human-made park, and you just can’t walk up to a Grizzly Bear and expect not to be killed.

The animals, having become accustomed to large groups of people who are prohibited from killing them, are not fearful, do not take refuge, do not hide.  Of course, some, like the bear, never would have anyway.  This is their land.

They’re alive, vibrant, free.

They roam where they want.  Raise families.  And balance.  Yes balance.  If you’d like a good vision of that balance check out my post “Of Wolves and Hominids.”

The situation is bound to result in some collisions.  Bumbling people long removed from living in nature, believing food comes from grocery stores, now surrounded by nature. The source of all life.

You can get close, but not that close.

So, bring a camera where you don’t have to get too personal.  Your cell phone camera ain’t going to cut it, except for some landscape shots.   You’re not going to get a selfie with a Bull Elk or a Bison.  Because by the time you’re close enough with your phone to get that great profile shot, you’ll be on your way to the hospital or to your burial.

Next, slow the fuck down.  Please pardon my language.

This isn’t New York City, or any city for that matter.  You’re not driving to work.  There’s no trophy waiting for you when you reach your destination somewhere in the park.  You are surrounded by your destination.  You’re already there 🙂

If you try to hurry, you’re going to miss what’s around you.  And you’ll miss a lot.

If you try to hurry, you’ll find yourself stuck and angry, and you’re not going to enjoy the experience.

The park is huge – 2.2 million acres!  The speed limit is 45 mph at the fastest.  There is a lot of road construction as they try to upgrade to accommodate the crowds.  Tour buses drive 32 mph.  Bison, Bears, Elk and Pronghorns will cause traffic jams.

Chill.  Open your eyes.  Enjoy the beauty.

A great deal of what I witnessed it terms of human behavior was people trying to drive insanely fast just to get to the next pull out.  Then they would pop out of their cars – clown car images :-), snap a few pics, mostly selfies, although admittedly there was a great backdrop, and then pile back into their vehicles and speed to the next pull out and repeat.

Pull in.  Pull out.  Pedal to the floor.  Document.  Record.  But fail to actually see and experience.

Rather, one should breathe in, breathe out.  Stop and appreciate the beauty.  My god, it’s incredible.

Walk around a little and feel the earth beneath your feet.  Touch the tress and lichens.  Listen to the Ravens.  Smell the rivers and streams.  Taste a wild Thimbleberry.

A crowd of stopped vehicles could tip you off to a good wildlife spotting.  But remember the proximity rule.  I saw a crowd of fifty people surround a Grizzly Bear.  One step too close, or too much crowding could have provoked it.  And they can move fast.  I took a couple of shots from a safe distance and moved on.

The day after I left, a man was gored by a Bull Elk.  That’s not a good way to enjoy nature.

Plan enough days to see the many attractions.  I planned a week and I used every minute of it.  I had no idea just how many hydrothermal features there were to see – some 10,000 of them, including 500 geysers.  It would take months to see them all.

In addition to the familiar hot springs and geysers, there are mudpots (springs acidic enough to dissolve the surrounding rock), travertine terraces (hot springs boiling through limestone and depositing the calcite in layers), and fumaroles (steam vents).

Many of these features are rainbow colored by microorganisms called thermophiles.  Microscopic in size, trillions of them amass and produce the varying colors.  The temperature determines what organisms grow and those determine the pigments released.

One of the most spectacular features is the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.  I did a separate post just on that one because of its intense beauty.

There are some great trails and day-hikes and you should check a couple of them out.  At least hike by the Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  But also realize you can cover quite a distance just traversing the boardwalks weaving through the geyser basins.  I got in seven miles on one of those days.

And don’t stray off the boardwalk thinking you can sneak a little closer to that hot spring for a better shot.  There have been fatalities where that fragile crust of land gives way and swallows a person in 200 degree, plus or minus, earth, steam, and boiling acidic mud.

If you can, stay in a lodge in the park.  I was 30 miles outside the park and once getting to the entrance, there was another 25 to get to the center loop that links you all of the park’s quadrants.  I averaged driving 200 miles round trip each day I was there.  But it was worth it for all that I took in.

Get out early if you want to see Grizzlies and Elk.  That’s when they’re on the move, and with less people stirring, you have a better chance at getting that once-in-a-lifetime photo.

Accept the fact that you’re not always going to get a pic.  Yes, I saw wolves in the Lamar Valley – with the help of another visitor’s high-power spotting scope.  He was generous. Not everyone will be.

The wolves were way out of range for my 400 mm lens to capture more than a smudge of an imprint.  A few pixels in that high-resolution frame.  But I was thrilled to see them and that image will always remain in my mind.

Well, now I may be getting too touristy in my descriptions and tips, and be wheeling away from the theme of contrasts, but I think you get the idea.

This isn’t the city.  You can’t behave like it is.  This is the real world with a few paved roads running through it.  It’s spectacularly beautiful.  It can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Enjoy 🙂

***

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

As I’ve been going through my pics, I realized I have so many that I’ve decided to post a couple of different galleries.  Today, we’ll have a look at some of the wildlife.  Even an amateur like me can get some great shots at Yellowstone 🙂

 

Echoes of Home

As I’m trying to settle back in from my latest travels, I find myself growing restless.  Every chance to drive somewhere triggers that “highway call.”  That “road fever.”  And a simple trip to the grocery carries with the temptation to just keep on driving.  Doesn’t really matter where.  Just need to be in motion.

So, I headed out to the closest trail to take in some of the sunshine of these ever-shortening days.  Stretch my legs.  Moving meditation.  Mind a drift.  Day dreams of far away places.

There’s only one lengthy trail nearby and it sort of weaves in and out of the countryside while skirting this small Midwestern town.  And as I walk, it occurs to me that I’ve called this place “home” for four years now – to this date exactly.  I had never really intended to stay.

A temporary hold-over while I adjusted to the loss of my prior home.  A marriage destroyed by my partner’s alcoholism.  She refused all attempts at getting help.  It’s not easy watching someone you love self-destruct, but life does go on.  It has to.

In these past four years, I worked a little over a year and half before internal and external backstabbing saw my position handed off to someone else as a political favor. Age discrimination brought the career to an early demise.  All-in-all, though, it’s been ok.  Probably a blessing.

So, I loaded up the car and drove.  And I’ve been on the road now for at least a year of those remaining eighteen months.  Exploring, rediscovering, breathing again.  Stopping back here periodically to rest up, repack, and move on again.

Other places had that homey feeling.  Sort of like you grew up there and fit in.  Like you could stay and be content.  I never bothered to get to know this town.  I hadn’t planned on fitting in.  Still don’t care to.  But here I am.

Today, I diverged from the natural part of the trail that follows a stream through the woods and headed into the heart of this unknown downtown.  What is this place where I’m hanging my hat?  Where I know no one.

It strikes me that there are a number of features that are universal to the places I’ve been.  Of course, there’s a “Main Street.”  But there’s always a Broadway, Euclid, Park, Oak, Maple, Elm, and 1st through 10th streets.   There’s always a Memorial Park and a Veterans Park.  Plaques and signs from the local Chamber of Commerce.  Lion’s Club, VFW, JCs.  Sometimes a local chapter of the Confederate Sons or Daughters.

While there’s going to be a cemetery or two, I was surprised to the see that the street leading through the main cemetery was named “Dyer.”  Some weird twist to that one. Some cemeteries don’t even name the roads running through them.

There’s always a part of town that’s lined with restored Victorian homes, and a part where the same style homes are decaying.  Where you could drop a hammer on the roof and it would fall through every floor to the basement.

There are always some nice people sitting out on old porch swings that will wave and say hello.  And there are a few front porches and alleyways occupied by people who I wouldn’t want to run into at night.  Or maybe even right now in broad daylight.  They eye me as an invader of their turf.  A hush descends.  I keep moving.

Downtown businesses are mostly closed on a day you’d expect them to be open, except for the bars.  And there’s one of those on every corner.   All busy at 2:00 in the afternoon.  Not much else to do around here I guess.

Half of the shops are going out of business.  Booming economy is nowhere near here.  An old antique shop says it’s having a “retirement” sale.  Sixty to seventy percent off.  But it’s closed with no hours posted.

The streets closed for the farmer’s market open again as the last pickup drives off.  I think there will be some type of Halloween parade on these streets next weekend. Parades and high school bands always a staple.

I can always find the courthouse by looking for the flag.  Small town kingdoms where prosecutors and judges rule.

I head through one of the parks on my way back to where I parked the car.  I’ve always enjoyed hearing the happy voices of children playing.  Reminds me of simpler times when days stretched on forever.   When games had no rules.  We made things up as we went along.  Unbound imaginations.

Maybe that’s why I enjoying moving.  Stretching days down the length of the highways.  I guess it doesn’t matter what town I’m in.  Some things seem eternal.  Echoes of the last stop.

Maybe everywhere is home 🙂

***

 

Photo: This Victorian home was restored and converted into a Bed and Breakfast.  Another staple of small town America.

Halcyon Days

You’ve probably heard this expression before – oh those good old “Halcyon Days.”  It’s a phrase filled with the nostalgic remembrance of the endless summer days of our youths.

But I have a few more references for you today.  The first is to an on-line publication of that same title that you really need to check out.  It is absolutely beautifully done, and I’m honored to have had one of my poems picked up in its Autumn issue – “An Oil Painting for the One I Love.

The next is to the original source of the term, which ascribes to days in the depths of winter’s grasp.

Greek legend has it that Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, had a daughter named Alcyone.  Alcyone married Ceyx, the king of Thessaly.  Ceyx suffered the fate of drowning at sea and Alcyone, in her grief, threw herself into the ocean.  But instead of drowning, she was transformed into a bird, the Halcyon, and carried to her husband by the wind.

The Halcyon was said to make a floating nest in the Aegean Sea and, while brooding her eggs, she had the power to calm the waves for fourteen days.  This would occur every year around the Winter Solstice, usually 21st or 22nd of December.  The Halcyon is now commonly linked to European Kingfisher.

As time passed, the association with the brooding time of the Halcyon faded, and the phrase was just associated with the calm days of summer, as was used by Shakespeare in Henry VI:

Assign’d am I to be the English scourge.
This night the siege assuredly I’ll raise:
Expect Saint Martin’s summer, halcyon days,
Since I have entered into these wars.

Somehow, the phrase evolved into its present meaning of those happy endless days of our youth.

So, while I’m looking back in time today, I’ll draw another reference to a few more of my past blog posts that were pleasantly, and excitedly, picked up for publication.  I haven’t reminisced like this since my post 100th!!!

The following articles and poems were picked up by The Urban Howl:

Luminous, published under the title: Release Yourself From Your Thoughts – Be Luminous & Divine.

The Bear, published under the title: Bear Wisdom – Venture, Awaken & Emerge From the Den.

Hiking Through the Rhyolite, published under the title: If Your Soul is Open, Nature’s Spirits Will Speak to You.

Monsoons and Mountains, published under the title: Surrender Control & Let The Wind Take You To A New Adventure.

And,

Torrent, published under the title: The Torrent: Facing Our Greatest Fear & Risking Living.

I hope you have many Halcyon days to remember, and maybe this year around the time of the Winter Solstice, we’ll all have some 🙂

***

Photo: I was perched in these mountains last month.  Definitely a calm and endless day of joy.

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo set sail some 50 years after Columbus, leaving Mexico to discover a route to Asia and the Spice Islands.  On September 28, 1542 he sailed into what is now the harbor of San Diego.  He called the area San Miguel.

He would be dead some three months later, allegedly the result of infection from wounds sustained fighting with the Chumash Indians on Isla de la Posesion.  His mission unfulfilled.  He was considered to be the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States and this monument honors him.

Included in the monument is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse; World War II defense bunkers and gun batteries, and the Point Loma Tide Pools, which are host to an amazing ecosystem.  Point Loma is also passed by migrating gray whales every year, a round trip of 12,000 miles beginning in their Arctic feeding grounds for their return to the Baja California Sur Bays, their breeding coast.

While I was there, I hiked the Bayside Trail giving me a nice look over the Bay and many vessels navigating it.  I also headed down to the tidal pools, but the waters were too rough to really be able to see the marine wildlife.

The major contrast I saw between this area and the city life I’ve described in my prior two posts was that of calm.

The level of self and technological absorption really was significantly less.  Actual human interaction was up.  People were in awe of one thing.

The Ocean.

Yes, the ocean has that power over people.  It can slow their brains and sooth their souls.

Everyone just found a spot, had a seat, and it took it all in.  It really was quite amazing seeing the transition.

The Power of Mother Earth.

***

Title: I’m sure you noticed I’m using different languages for the word “Chapter.”  I was just having a bit of fun since I am coming across blogs of people speaking different languages.  I find the text to be beautiful even if I can’t read it.  I simply plug it in to Google Translator.  I wonder how the human mind internalizes a given language as we grow up.  Fascinating.

Prior Chapters: Contrasts – Kapitel 1 & Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Galleries:  And now a few photos from the day. 

Cabrillo 9 + C1

 

 

 

 

 

Torrent

The Torrent can take many forms.  It can be the day-to-day grind.  It can be the Mitote (MIH-TO-TAY)* in our minds.  It can be the loss of a loved one, or the betrayal by a loved one.  It may be an overall feeling of being lost.

Or it may be an actual physical event, with spiritual ramifications.  Such is this story from many circles of the sun ago.

***

The water was rising faster than we could climb on the smooth granite boulders that lined the steep gorge we had descended.  Just one of the many hundreds of tributaries feeding the Colorado River below.

We had only seconds.  And if we failed to get out of this gulch, we were destined to be mixed with the other rocks and sediments that eternally grind and cut this steep channel.  Only we wouldn’t be the grinder, we’d be cut and smashed to pieces in the grinder.  Only our remains would reach the water course some half a mile below.

My brother and I were soaked from the abrupt downpour and my hiking boots were slipping on the polished stone.  The quartz, feldspar, mica, and hornblende of the granite, now wet, were glistening as if they’d been given a coat of mineral oil.  Beautiful, yet deadly in this situation.  I hung on as best I could.

There wasn’t enough of a ledge to get around the last boulder I was clinging to.  Safety was just out of reach.  I was frozen, and the water was now completely over my feet.  I yelled back to my brother, who was perched behind me frantically yelling at me to move on . . .

***

The day had started out uneventful.

My brother and I were hiking the Grand Canyon for the second time.  Like the first time, we had chosen the Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim because there were water stations about a mile and half apart part before you got to the Indian Garden campsite.  That meant less weight to carry and better hydration.

Of course, we wouldn’t be camping at Indian Garden.

The bottom of the canyon would be about 20 degrees hotter than the rim’s 91 degrees, and that arid draft around us evaporated our perspiration so fast that we didn’t even appear to sweat.  Our clothes were as dry as our mouths, and we lost more fluid with each exhalation.  The water stations were a must.

Unlike the first time, where we had planned and prepared for a month prior to the descent, this was a spur-of-the-moment adventure.  We were traveling light, over-confident.  We knew what we were doing, or so we thought.

Joining the only 1% of the visitors that actually traverse into the canyon, hiking there is essentially mountain climbing in reverse.  Steep switchbacks down can appear to provide an easy stroll, but you must remember, you’re going to have to make that rugged climb back out.  On our first trip, we made two-thirds of the climb out at night when it was coolest.  Slept on the trail for a couple of hours and pushed the rest of the way out at dawn.

But just going down is tough enough.  You better have the right gear.  On the first trip, I was wearing steel-toed boots.  A big mistake as my toes were crammed over and over again into those leather-covered steel plates on that sloping gradient.   Fortunately, I had brought a first aid kit on that trek and my blisters were padded for the climb out.

The “developed mule trail” had about an inch or two of powered dirt above the hard surface and if you stepped on a loose rock hidden in that dirt it was like stepping on marbles.  Better learn to keep your balance quick.

An omen perhaps this trip, they had just helicoptered a woman out who had been bucked from a mule and hit her head against the rock wall where the trail had been cut by miners a century ago.  Had she gone the other way it would have been over a cliff to the switchback below.  She was taken by mule further down to a landing zone as that was faster than trying to pack out.

Mule trains have the right of way.  If you’re hiking and one comes upon you, you have to move to the edge of the precipice.  They get the inside lane.  And you hold still as you wouldn’t want to have a mule startle and bump into you, sending you over the edge.

While it’s about a mile straight down on a plumb line from the rim to the Colorado at the bottom, it’s 7.8 miles of winding trail to get to the river.  We would bed-down the first night a little past Indian Garden at a place we discovered on our first hike – some 5 miles or so down and then off the trail.  Some Native American ruins on the back side of a low mountain peak protruding up from that part of the canyon’s varying elevations.

Terraced floors.  Each one lower, another step back in time.  Isolated peaks at different elevations created from the differential erosion as veins from the watershed spread out like a spider’s web before cutting through and finally exposing the bottom surface from a billion years ago.

Respect.  That’s what you better have before taking on this challenge.  That’s what you better have before entering sacred native grounds.   Places where our ancestors lived in harmony with Mother Earth.  What they built seems to be a simple design, but it’s one of perfection.  Semi-circular stone masonry in front of cave-like depressions in the mountain.  Shaded from the sun in daylight, remaining cool.  And with the surrounding rock and the walls heated by the sun all day long, you have radiant heat throughout the night.

We offered our respects upon entering.  Never lifted a stone.  Left without leaving a trace of our passage in the morning.  You pay homage to the spirits or maybe they’ll decide to keep you.

Maybe we weren’t respectful enough.  Maybe we were just too arrogant.

We had intended to head straight down for the river once we returned to the trail.  But we spied something out of place in a wadi.   A normally dry water course.  There was a sparkle in the distance and we were intrigued.

Off trail again, but this time walking down a dry ravine bed, we saw a trickle of ground water emerging.  It carried for a short distance widening out and then dropped over a crag.   Just below that rock face, about twenty feet down, was a carved-out basin.   A natural stone bath tub about four feet deep to receive that shower of water from above.  Water that fanned out into an opaque curtain of white.

We were hot and covered in trail dust and that clear blue pool at the bottom of that thin wall of water sure looked inviting.  We would have to climb down some massive granite boulders to get to that level, but that was doable with our light gear.

On the way down, I foreshadowed what was about to happen.

As we hugged the rock, I noticed how smoothly worn these boulders were.  A millennium’s worth of rapid water carrying stones and sediment had polished these surfaces smooth.  And in the distance, maybe a week away, was a spotting of clouds.  I remarked to my brother that if it rained and those boulders were wet, we’d be screwed.  Too slippery to navigate, we’d be trapped below.  And the gorge would fill and sweep everything out of it.

What we didn’t understand then about this desert weather, was that spotting of a few clouds were actually major thunderheads.  And those storms were not a week away, more like an hour.

Having succeeded in reaching the pool, we stripped down.  I pulled a bar of soap from my half-pack and we thoroughly enjoyed a nice bath.  A good thirty minutes or so passed, but then I felt the first rain drops.  Realizing my observation had turned into a prediction, I yelled at my brother to MOVE!  He was puzzled by my outcry at first but then he realized it too.

We dressed, packed up our gear and were scrambling in mere minutes.  But it was still too late.

Later we would call these storms “thunder-boomers,” but to the residents who knew the region these were monsoon rains.  Intense cloudbursts that may rain one or two inches of water over several square miles in a matter of minutes.

The desert sand that is baked hard like concrete cannot soak up water quickly.  There is little vegetation to help.  So a dry waterbed can become a raging torrent, sometimes creating a wall of water ten to thirty feet high.  In just minutes.  As it turns out, more people drown in this desert than die of thirst.

We didn’t face a wall of water, but we were about to be overtaken by a rising torrent.  Raging water.  Water forced into a narrow and deep gorge.  The power and speed of which we had never witnessed.  The same ancient forces that carved this masterpiece of a canyon were now threatening to end our lives.

***

. . . I yelled back to my brother than I couldn’t move any further.  Thinking quickly, and realizing we had no traction with our hiking boots, my brother took his off, handed me all of his gear and his boots.  His hands and bare feet now like that of a frog, he could cling to that slick, wet surface, and he climbed around me and that final boulder.  He was safely out of the path of the rising, rushing water.

He then took his belt off and threw one end to me.  I gabbed tight with one hand, wrapped that belt around my wrist while clutching our gear with the other hand and draping my brother’s boots around my shoulders.  I took that leap of faith and my brother swung me around that final boulder.  Both of us sitting now, safely out of the gorge, and gasping for breath, we gave thanks for having survived.

We asked for forgiveness for any offense, and we knew we had to leave the canyon as fast as we could.   So it wouldn’t keep us.

As we sat there breathing a sigh of relief, we looked back up to the not-so-distant trail.  A small crowd of people had gathered and were watching us from afar.  We just sort of looked at each other dazed as they now tuned away and walked off.  I guess the show was over.  No one had offered help or stayed around to see if we were injured.  It’s not that we were anyone else’s responsibility.  We had made the decision and took the risk. Knowingly or not.  It was just an odd feeling of us having been their momentary spectacle that was weird.

There was no longer any idea of continuing down to the river.  It was time to begin the hike out.  We just knew it.  That five plus mile climb lay before us.  My brother called cadence as we walked, and we not only made it out, we passed other hikers on the trail with a rejuvenated energy.  We were young men then.

And I still wouldn’t trade the experience.

It is said that humans resist life.  That the greatest fear is risking living.  One may take many breaths, but never have lived.  To be caged or restrained or hide is not life.

I’ve learned.  I’ve returned.  I’ve hiked.  I’ve prayed.  I’ve given thanks each and every day.

I’ve learned to listen to my inner voice.  To pay attention to a greater sense of awareness.  A spiritual radar.   And I’ve never felt so alive knowing every moment is to be lived.  Every heartbeat cherished.  Every love is the love of a lifetime . . .

For you never know when the spirits may keep you.

*****

* The “Mitote” is the word used by the ancient Toltecs to describe the fog in one’s mind.  The human mind is essentially in a state similar to “a dream where a thousand people talk at the same time, and nobody understands each other.”  It is basically part of the illusion produced from our domestication.  It can prevent us from discovering who we really are.

Photo: This photo is of a portion of a river in the northwest, but it is a reasonable depiction of the conditions we were facing that day.

Skyline

Nature is by far my most favorite place to be.  It is there I feel like I belong.  Like I am myself.

But there is beauty in everything if we choose to see it.  This photo is of the city-scape of San Diego from when I visited.  And it is mesmerizing in its own way.

***

 

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

It was time to come down out the high-desert mountains and head back to “civilization.”  So, what should one do along the way?  Why be a tourist of course.

For months I had lived in an amazing little oasis, hiked in beautiful spaces, and found peace being on my own and in the company of a few very special people and very special wild animals.  Simply put, Nature.  But it was time to move on and prepare a winter base.

I picked a few target sites and turned this into a bit of a winding path.  West, Northwest, Plains, Midwest.  I knew I would be encountering volumes of people, but there are many good ones out there.  What I saw, quite by accident, was some very interesting behavior.  The blacks and whites and the grays of social discourse.  And the rainbows of course.

One place I always wanted to visit was the San Diego Zoo.  I headed west through Yuma, Arizona – a hot, stifling, industrial and farming zone.  The contrasts there are incredible.

Bleached, beige sand with ribbons of blue water.

It was 108 degrees, surrounded by barren desert that normally receives a little over three inches of rain annually, and yet there was lush farming.  All because of a 53-mile system of irrigation canals that divert water from the Colorado river.

Not a place I would want to stay.

I was a little apprehensive as I headed into California.   A small-town boy, I had images of massive, intertwining freeway systems choked with a bazillion cars bellowing out vast amounts of toxic fumes.  Road rage nightmares.  Dirty inner-city avenues.  Muggings in poorly-lit alleyways . . .

I was packing my 9 mm.*

But I also had the contrasting images of deep blue ocean waters, sailboats at sunset, deep green valleys in the shadows of rolling mountains.  Heavy forests.  And palm trees, contrasting the desert scrub I’d become accustomed to.

And all of those visions did indeed come into view as I entered parts of the Cleveland National Forest.  The Pine Creek Wilderness.  Then the busy highways of San Diego.  And then, the Bay.

A couple of differences.  The forested areas seemed to me to be very dry, ripe for those California wildfires.  A layer of brown smog filled the air.  But the traffic was comparable to that of St. Louis – a mess, but not as much of a mess as I had anticipated.  I reached my destination in the center of the city without incident.

It was a cute rehab of an old stately home divided into condos.  The neighborhood was picture perfect.  Palm trees swayed among gingerbread homes on terraced streets.  Local businesses within walking distance perfumed the air with taste-bud delicacies.  Jazz resonated from three blocks down while neighbors across the boulevard gathered for a barbecue.

I divided my short days to visiting the Zoo, hiking around Cabrillo National Monument, strolling through the Museums of Art and Natural History at Balboa Park, and relaxing on a sunset sailboat ride in the bay.

The Zoo was nothing short of amazing.  I spent 10 hours there, Urban Hiking some 7 miles of Caged and packaged wilderness.

And it turns out, I was a bit of an attraction myself.  I looked out of place.  Wearing long pants and hiking boots.  My Aussie-style, wide-brimmed, bush hat.  Still shaking off a bit of desert sand and dust with each marching stride.

I was surrounded by short pants, pastel Becker-style T-shirts, retro bowling shirts, sun dresses, bikini tops, and sandals.  Designer everything.  Several people looked me up and down, and when their eyes reached my boots they visibly laughed out loud.

I was an outsider in a city where multicultural diversity thrived.  Many tourists blended in, but me, not so much.

But I was fine with that.

***

Next Chapter of “Contrasts” – The Zoo.

Photo: San Diego Cityscape at night.

*Don’t worry, I had trained and had my permit for it.  Besides, one can’t travel alone these days without considering some form of self-protection.  Highway robbery has never died out.

Sunset Sail - 5

Back Country

I’m really amazed when I travel that I see so many different biomes in a single state or area.  From corner to corner you can go from flat, wide-open spaces to sky-embracing mountains, deeply cut valleys, meandering river basins, high dessert plateaus – and all are beautiful.

This particular view was one I came upon while on horseback.  I’m a total amateur at riding a horse, but love how you can delve into the deep wilderness so quickly and effortlessly riding on the back of such a spirited animal.

Hat’s off to my wrangler, Tina, a free spirit roaming the country picking up work she loves where ever she finds it.

Horseback Ride 7

***

Fishing

This is sort of an iconic image.  A sole person testing his skills fly fishing in a mountain stream.  I’ve never done fly fishing per se, at least not the way it is supposed to be done.  But I do love fishing because I find it to be meditative.

Repetitious motion.  Casting.  Reeling.  Casting.  Reeling.  Letting your thoughts drift.

Then there is the thrill of catching one, and in most cases for me, releasing it again.  Although there have been times when I’ve eaten a few.

Many moons ago, I was in a remote part of southern Utah living off the land, and was catching trout by hand.  Amazing.  And nourishing on different levels.

It is said that to dream of fishing is to really be dreaming about spiritual pursuits.  I like that image.  And just looking at this one, I find it to be meditative.  Relaxing.  Letting inner thoughts fade into quietness . . .

Fly Fishing

***

Cantognake

As writers we are continually on the hunt for words.  Words drive us.  Words are our souls.  And a couple of days ago I found one.  This one is from the Sioux language and I think it is absolutely beautiful.

Cantognake

It means to place and hold in one’s heart.

It can be used to describe a special place or person or persons or, for that matter, any soul or anything where ever you might encounter it.

I just recently left a place and souls I have placed in my heart.  Of course, there is already a collection of souls and places that occupy my heart too.  My heart is filling up.  It feels good.  Warm and glowing.  And even better to have a word to describe it.

Do you have a favorite word?

***

Photo:  A lake shore from up in the north country.  There are so many pictures I could choose of locations and special persons and animal friends that I really couldn’t decide which to use for this post.  I might have to add an entire gallery under this same title 🙂

Photo Journal

If you had the chance to read my last post you probably noticed that I mentioned I was gearing up for travel again.  Consequently, I won’t always have the time I desire, at a given moment, to write out some of my stories.  At least not until I am settled long enough to hammer out some lines.

Also, there is a direct relationship, which could be graphed, between having adventures and writing about them.  Have to have them first in order to have something to write about 🙂

So I thought I would launch another category in the blog today – Photo Journal.  When I don’t quite have that next story put together, I can at least post a nice pic for the day.  Some positive energy.  Beauty without words.

I’ve noticed other blogs doing the same and they use the theme of being “Wordless.”  Makes sense and sometimes, as the old expression goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

I have many pics of wildflowers that I haven’t had the chance to identify and this is one of them.  Maybe someday I circle back with a name for this one.  In the mean time, enjoy 🙂

Another White Flower 2

***

Photo:  While I try to use all of my own photos for all of my posts there are times that I must seek out others to match the theme, but every post in this category will be one of my own.  I took this one on the trail yesterday 🙂