The Shawnee Indians called the Elk “Wapiti.”
I’m not sure there are enough words for these images.
Just so beautiful.
I think most people like lighthouses. They are very beautiful and each has its own uniqueness. We also like the image of having a warning light, or a light that helps lead us through a storm.
This seems to me to be a very troubled time in the world at large. When I’m out, I don’t see many smiles. I don’t hear much laughter. Happiness seems to missing in this fast-paced, hectic society. And people won’t find happiness chasing material wealth or from any external source.
We all need to venture inside. Find our spark. Light up our own inner house. Then venture outside.
When we do that, we see that happiness is contagious. Just smile and watch the people around you light up.
Be the lighthouse. Let your own light shine. Be the guiding light. The light of wisdom.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau – The Young Shepherdess
I loved this portrait and really thought it caught the essence of the subject. It truly amazes me that the artist has such talent. While I love photography, there is something about a fine painting that is so much richer.
The sun sets over the bay.
Imagine what our ancestors thought long before the science of astronomy. The Sun would disappear each day and you would not know if it would return. This giver of light, of heat, of life, extinguished.
This is why so many early religions worshiped the Sun. Gratitude for it returning each day. The source of many creation stories . . .
And we can all be grateful for our Grandfather, who cradles the Earth in its gravitational arms 🙂
A great irony of being in an urban environment is you’re able to see some animals, up close, that you would most probably never see in the wild. They are caged.
In some ways this helps to preserve species – ironically protecting them from us. In other ways it seems inhumane. They should be roaming freely.
But when you look at all of human life’s modern entanglements, perhaps we are caged too 🙂
Yesterday, I was able to get in about 7 miles of “hiking” in an urban setting. At some point I’ll put together a travel piece for that experience, but for now enjoy a little beauty I discovered along the concrete trail.
I still have to identify this one, as I do with so many other of my flower pictures.
The morning sun hit this one just right 🙂
Found this little beauty on a hike by a lake in the high desert. It was about the size of a nickel 🙂
Scientific Name: Macroptilium gibbosifolium
Synonyms: Macroptilium heterophyllum, Phaseolus heterophyllus
Common Names: Variableleaf Bushbean, Wild Bushbean
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 🙂
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 🙂
I’ll be gearing up soon. Time to cut roots, pick another dot on the map, and drive. As the time dwindles in my current resting place, urgency grows to take in all the sights and sounds possible in this oasis.
I study maps and locate a pristine spot that holds great promise. A place where perennial streams meander through desert canyons. A place bursting with life. But I discover you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there. Such are many places here. Primitive roads where only a bulldozer has preceded you. Signs warn that you’re driving at your own risk, and being out of cell range you want to be sure that car is up to the task. It could take a day or more to hike out if stranded and returning with a tow truck may even be difficult depending on where and how you get trapped.
Forty years ago, I off-roaded in an old 1970 Plymouth Satellite. It did ok for the most part. I knocked the muffler off once and a while bottoming out, but I’d just reattach it and move on.
It would have been quite the sight, if anyone had been there, to see me driving that car right through the middle of forests, across open grasslands, or over rocky flats. In search of the mythical Escalante.
Freedom then was being surrounded by Ponderosa Pine with fifty cents in my pocket, half a tank of gas, and some food to cook over an open fire. Most probably food I had caught that day after making the proper offerings.
But the world has changed and I’m outfitted quite a bit differently now. I’m driving a Prius with about 8 inches of ground clearance. Smooth ride on the highways, but cautious trolling on the back roads. I’ve had to turn around many times where the rains have washed out gullies big enough to swallow this car.
With one destination scratched from the list, I search out another. It’s not far away from the original target and promises a good hike through the mountains. Unusual mountains. They look like some giant had fun rearranging and piling boulders to the sky in very unnatural configurations. I wonder what this terrain must look like from the Eagle’s point of view.
How did this mountain range form? Was it volcanic? Was it upheaval? Metamorphic stone smoothen by the rains and bleached by the sun over millennium.
I have good road most of the way, but the last five miles are primitive washboard. I creep along at 10 miles an hour. Any faster and the Prius shakes violently. I bridge cattle guards in this open range country and cross four low-water washes. They dip gently enough to cross, and a few inches of water reflects the recent rains. If it rains again, they’ll fill rapidly. Flash flooding is common during this season.
It is the Monsoons.
As I reach the base of the mountains, I discover the road is gated. This segment of national parkland is “closed for the season.” The sign doesn’t say what season, but I’m here and so I park on the road.
I check my gear, settle my backpack. Essential to fit it correctly to avoid strained shoulders, neck or back. But as I head towards the trail dark clouds start rolling in. They appeared so distant on the horizon only moments before. What appeared to be days away now envelops the area.
The temperature drops rapidly from the 80s to the 60s. And as the rain drops begin to fall, I scramble back to the car. This is not a time to hesitate. I have to make it past those low-water crossings and can’t speed to do it.
As I splash through the first one, I glance back and the sight is amazing. The mountains have virtually vanished in the veil of heavy rain. Like a magic trick of monstrous proportions, the Monsoon rains have made the mountains disappear.
No time to gaze, I creep back the way I came and I’m grateful to make it across the last wash intact. Now I can pause and reflect. Marvel at what I’m witnessing. But I can’t pause for too long. Time to finish finding my way back to that paved road.
Once back on solid ground, and with hiking out of the question, it’s time to pick a new destination. The rain forces me east, and I find an old historic town with the navigator. The navigator wants to save me time, but I choose the backroads.
As I streak out on that gray ribbon and back into the warm sunshine, I notice I’m in a valley, a flat plain between 4 different mountain ranges. The Monsoons blanket the north and the west, and I’m treated to a wonderful display of wrap-around lightening from the Thunderbeings.
This dessert grassland has been brought to life with water. Water that hides in underground streams. I’m driving through orchards, and pecan farms. Corn fields and pistachio trees.
Vineyards and wineries dot the horizon. The soil here perfect for developing the favor and sugar the grapes need for their fermentation.
Hawks ride on the trusses of the center-point irrigation systems that pull water from the buried aquifer. The perfect vantage point for any prey attracted by both the water and cultivation.
I pass a gin factory and a bean plantation. A cattle feedlot appears, surrounded by planted pines – an attempt to hide the final forced growth before the trip to the slaughterhouse.
Dust Devils spring up in the cultivated fields. Mini tornados spawned by the Monsoon winds not far behind.
Herded out of the mountains, I find myself in an almost two centuries old town. I park on the street next to the railroad tracks and soon a freight train rumbles through town.
First stop, a cowboy museum. Not where I expected to be, but the storm brought me here so I explore the town the same way I explore the mountain trails. I walk the streets and feel where my body is pulled.
Of all things, I find a bar of old-fashioned lye soap to purchase. Something suggested to me to avoid modern soaps and detergents to which I now have chemical reactions to. I didn’t know where I might find some, and wasn’t looking for it today. But here it is.
Next stop, an antique store. Now the Monsoon catches up with my retreat and as the high winds blow and torrential rain pours, I take my time in this shelter of shiny objects. Glassware, military medals, old clothing, hats and rocks and minerals.
The proprietor turns out to be a Cheyanne Indian and she gifts me with a beautiful feather.
The symbolism associated with feathers refers to ascension and spiritual evolution. A flight to other realms, Shamanic Journeying to gain knowledge. Feathers also represent the Thunderbeings, along with the power of the wind. Both clearly present today.
Feathers are also used ceremonially, fanning the smoke from sacred tobacco, sage, sweet grass and cedar. A way to carry prayers to the heavens.
The proprietor and I talk and trade stories of life as historic figures might have traded coffee and sugar for furs. It never ceases to amaze me how we meet kindred spirits on our paths. In the middle of nowhere. Some 1500 miles away from where I call home and a hundred miles away from where I’m currently based, my soul recognizes a familiar soul. Had we walked together before, a different time and place perhaps. Had I gifted her with a power object in that past life time, a gift now returned?
As we talk, she shows me many treasures in her shop. I elect to add one to my collection. A piece of rutilated quartz. Quartz with inclusions of Titanium Dioxide – golden filaments. This stone has also been called as the “Venus Hair Stone.” It is said to be an energy amplifier to aid meditation and intuition. To help free one from the feelings of suffocation or strangulation. It is also said to connect the physical and spiritual realms and to aid in bringing out one’s true spirit. It is an illuminator for the soul. An interesting mirror image as the heavens touch the earth with life-giving water and electrical charges.
I am gifted again with a medicine bag for the stone.
The rain, thunder and lightening now paused, I give my thanks and say my goodbyes. I make one final stop. The retail shop of one of the local wineries. A glass of wine to top off the day’s unplanned adventures. As it turns out, the store’s owner, the only person in the shop, is a displaced mid-westerner from my home area. So, we remanence of familiar times and places we walked before our consciousnesses had connected in this distant town of less than a thousand households.
What are the odds of any of these encounters? These gifts – all cleansing, physical and spiritual connections, healing and growth.
Such is life in free-flow. Chance occurrences. Chance connections. Compelling feelings to head into the mountains, to drive to an ancient town, to walk inside certain buildings, to converse with complete strangers whom we’ve seem to have known for lifetimes.
But is anything truly by chance?
The storm cloaks the mountains I sought, chases me out of that remote natural world to a place with spiritual gifts, kind words, and communion.
It was a good day.
Photos: All captured in the moment. Below, a couple of shots before the rains.
Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on September 12, 2018, under the title “Surrender Control & Let The Wind Take You To A New Adventure.”
Many millions of years ago a volcano erupted with hundreds of times the force of Mount St. Helens. Later the earth would push the remains upward leaving the volcanic rock exposed to all of the forces of erosion. But the erosion was differential. Softer materials washing away first. Leaving columns of stone. Statues in precision alignment. Sort of like the Moai on Easter Island. Only here, they face inward to the center of the collapsed caldera. Covered in desert scrub, it is difficult to imagine the explosive forces that once coalesced here.
The monoliths can also have disproportional heads where the boulders appear to balance mysteriously on much tinier pedestals. All standing shoulder to shoulder like soldiers lining up on the parade grounds.
Before I enter these mountains, I sign in with the park ranger. They need to keep track if people go missing. Know whose body they may find days later if you don’t return.
They warn me that there is a high chance of rain, and the trails across the ridgetop I’ve chosen to hike will have me exposed to lightening. But I don’t believe the Thunder-beings have any interest in hurting me. They can be great messengers of the Earth and the source of replenishing energy.
I’m prepared for the 8-mile trek. As much as I can be. And as I wind my way through the monoliths I follow an undulating path. Up and down, back and forth, snaking my way along switchbacks. That image of the snake’s path accented by the mineral serpentine, mixed with green, blue and gold lichens, reddish rhyolites, and specks of glistening mica. A colorful cacophony. Discordant reflections of muted color that shift continually as the sun makes its daily journey across the sky.
After a couple of hours, I reach the ridgetop. Black char on skeletal trees, evidence of a fire from a decade ago, mixes with the light and dark greens of new pines and oaks.
All of the washes and creeks are alive with a torrent of water. Small waterfalls offer the perfect intonations for meditation. Worn trails fragment as you hit flat rock. And segments of it vanish completely.
There was a flash flood the night before and if there had been foot prints or trail markers they’ve all been washed away. Erased as if no person had set foot here for eons. And no one is here today other than myself.
Often, I find myself in the wilderness where there are no other people. But I’m never alone. A troupe of Painted Redstarts moves through. Lizards scurry away. Butterflies seek out precious nectar from the red and yellow columbine that burst forth sporadically.
I come upon a pine totally splintered from a bolt of lightning, probably from the day before because its needles are still deep green. No sign of this timber having dried. Totally debarked with pieces strewn in a thousand directions. I pick up a small piece of this now energy laden bark and place in my shirt pocket above my heart. You can feel the energy throbbing.
I hit another point on the ridge where the trail has cloaked itself. There are at least ten directions I could go. Four seem more likely. I climb up on a boulder to get a better vantage point and to my surprise a solitary white-tailed deer is right below me. The doe doesn’t seem to know I’m there. The wind coming towards me carries my scent the opposite direction.
I watch her quietly graze on low-lying tree branches. Then she raises her head and sees me. Stares right into my eyes. But I’m surprised by her actions. I expect her to panic. To run away as most deer would. She’s unconcerned. Apparently feeling no threat. And instead offers to help.
She alters her path and circles back toward me and loops to my left. We lock gazes, and I follow her. Her gentleness lures me to the right path. And then she’s gone. In an instant. A blink. As if she wasn’t there at all. Her spirit saves me the time I would have spent trying to find the right route. Time is life out here.
Descending from the ridgetop, I make it to the center of the monoliths. How long have these statues stood? Holding this ground. Carved by forces that no human sculptor could match. They’ll be here long after my physical body has departed. Silently keeping watch.
I hear an Owl in the distance. Its affirmation tells me I am safe. I can take a break here. Take the load off my back. Hydrate and take in some calories to replace those consumed. Breathe in the surroundings.
Native Americans used to inhabit this place. It’s sacred Earth. I offer thanks for being allowed safe passage. I’m not the top predator here, after all. Black beer and mountain lions call this their home.
An injury here can mean death. Can’t let your guard down even as you grow weary. Pay attention.
I hear a noise, and a Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard perches himself on a rock next to the path. He does pushups and flares his neck in a display of dominance. I stop to observe. When I start to take my next step, I notice a large stone in the center of the path. I had not seen it before and if I continued unaware I would have tripped over this stone and have possibly been injured.
Falling to right would have landed me on the switchback 20 feet below. Falling to the left, into the rock wall there, could have meant a fractured skull. Falling forward, a twisted or broken ankle. I thank the lizard for his warning.
Such is nature. Be attentive. If your soul is open, nature’s spirits will speak to you. Warn you. Protect you. Give you energy. Keep you on the right path.
The hike complete, it is time to center and reflect. There are always forces around us at work. This day was my mother’s birthday. She passed away last year. And I can’t help but think that maybe she is watching over me too on this day. Protecting me from all the dangers that surrounded this solitary hike into the wilderness.
As I drive home, Hawks, Ravens, and Turkey Vultures line the telephone lines. All facing inward. Like the monoliths, soldiers. These are the protectors, the shape-shifters, the visionaries. And they guard my route. Almost like a salute to a journey well completed. So many of them. Their numbers far exceeding and mingling with their prescribed territories. An oddity?
Thank you, mom. Love you and miss you.
Photos: I took them all with a cell phone camera as I hiked 🙂
Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on August 29, 2018, under the title “If Your Soul Is Open, Nature’s Spirits Will Speak To You.”
There is a place
where I have gone
when I am dreaming.
And it has been very rare.
Where I know I am dreaming
and there is no difference
between me the dreamer
and me the dreamed.
Who is to say which is more real.
And I can choose where I wake up
in my bed
where this body is sleeping
or in the dreamscape
where I am experiencing
On that plane of existence.
if I have that choice,
I choose to be where ever you may be
because I know
you will be in that dream
Where ever it may be . . .
Photo: A landscape takes on more color and becomes a dream, but the image is just as real. It was all a matter of perception and expanding our senses.
The warm desert wind swept up from the chaparral. Wrapping around my face before continuing its journey into the canyon, the place where I was heading. Another gust comes from the opposite direction, the canyon itself. A see-sawing of wind. A vibratory force. Alternating current. An invisible infinity symbol. The Mobius. Lightly whistling at times. Ever-bearing weight at others.
I was tracking up a wash. A magical place that appears bone dry but it’s surrounded by vegetation. What feeds it? At different elevations, the hidden aquafer emerges. Clear, cool, running water, disappearing beneath the rocks a hundred feet above and a hundred feet below. Feeding Mohave Lupine, Sky Pilot, Scarlet Gilia, the Mexican Silene. Manzanita, with its dark, reddish-brown bark. Bordered by purple Fairy Dusters. A scattered box of crayons, melting into the brown, dusty earth.
As lush and diverse as the growth is here, one might wonder whether this should be called a desert at all. But there are different types of deserts. And this is not a desert like the ones I’ve encountered in the furthest southern points. So harsh that the ability to adapt can be short lived, as will you be if you’re stranded there.
Those deserts are bone dry and barren. Every plant a spiky throwback to the distant past. Where evolution stopped. They tear at your ankles as you walk. Shred your pants. Gouge your skin. Like a pack of hungry wolves, they go for your Achilles tendons. To bring you down. Cripple you for the kill. The earth soaks up your blood with a never-ending thirst. The dryness, suffocating.
But where I’m at there are multiple biomes. Sky Islands, so called because of the diversity that lives in each mountain range. Volcanic uprisings now differentially worn by wind and rains. Rhyolite columns stand like ancient warriors in the altitudes above the lowlands, guarding the pine forests and their inhabitants.
And at the base of, or threading through the canyons, Sycamore, Willow, and Cottonwood paint ribbons of green along creaks, streams or rivers.
At mid-altitude, there are Pinon, Juniper, and Mesquite trees, as well as Emory and Silverleaf Oaks. And in between these islands can be grasslands. Vast stretches. Tan waves of vegetation below blue skies and billowing clouds. The land undulates, alive.
In other outstretching plains below the floating islands lie infinite reaches of scoured desert floors. Fictitious trails through Saguaro cacti, like standing in a perpetual hall of mirrors. Where do they all lead?
Here, the sun bearing down causes an evolutionary reversion to the reptilian form. Just basking in that sun raises your heart rate. Exhaling water vapor that’s evaporated before you can see it. Your skin desiccates and takes on the shape of scales. It becomes armor you will need in this battle.
To tread here you must do continual 360-degree spotting, take snapshots in your mind, tracing landmarks for the path of your return. At some point, your memory banks are full and the terrain all starts looking the same, and you must decide whether to turn around or march into oblivion. Blood and brain broiling. Unforgiving beauty.
Rising from that depth, the air cools again. The humidity rises. Plants flourish. Bare rocks become canvases, covered with Petroglyphs from those who knew how to survive here, how to build a community here, how to chart the stars here. The songs of their storytelling still echo through the canyons.
For now, I’ll tread through the scrub land, rising into the pines and I’ll sit with my friends. The deer, the javelina, the coyote, the falcon, the hawks, and my brothers the Owls. And we’ll share the tales of our ancestors, for just a while longer.
Photos: I decided to include a few photos to go with my words. Sometimes words aren’t enough to carry you there, to reveal the contrasts, the infinite beauty.
In keeping with the theme of my last post about loneliness, here’s a thought about solitude 🙂
Photo: Love those open roads in the southwest where you can see for miles.