Showing posts with label grasslands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grasslands. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Annual Battle of Classicists Versus Romantics

During my annual visit to Mayberry-for-Hippies, AZ, I fall back into the polemics of a classical approach to life, rather than the romantic approach. Oddly enough, it is the scenery that crystallizes the issue for me.

This is ranch country, as well as mountains and forests. Therefore it is useful for grazing cattle. That leads to food, a practical and unromantic thing. The land isn't just here to gush over as scenery, although in fact, I love it as scenery.

It has never interested me much to try to 'solve' the conundrum of classical versus romantic. A reductionist approach to life seems unappealing.  To hell with looking for magic recipes that explain everything. 

All that interests me is to watch this dualism operate on different things, and to see how the balance changes over the years. Indeed, I do become more classical every year, but that doesn't mean that the classical approach to life is some sort of philosophical monad. 

A scissors with two countervailing and reciprocating blades cuts paper better than a knife.

In the mean time, chalk one up for the importance of visual representations of abstractions that would otherwise seem like uninteresting homework.  In fact a local artist has painted some spots around here where I may have paused the mountain bike, just to admire. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Son of a Son of a (Sagebrush) Sailor

Although I've never felt much of a need to read Sigmund Freud, his "Civilization and its Discontents" was interesting. In it, Freud mentioned that some people had described a powerful "oceanic" feeling; but he had never experienced it.

Perhaps Dr. Freud never had the experience of camping in drab, ugly, and half-dead forests in the summer -- to escape the heat -- and then busting out into the open in September. An oceanic feeling can be very powerful indeed. Better yet, this feeling can be used for a practical purpose: it helps to keep an outdoorsy lifestyle interesting, long after the tourist phase is over.

Recently this oceanic feeling provided a real phantasmagoria for me: breaking out into the sagebrush hills seemed like heading out to sea on a sailboat. Perhaps this was helped by reading Jack London's "South Sea Tales." (  I even listened to some Jimmy Buffett songs for the first time in a long while.

For instance, as you creep out of the forest gloom, and head downhill into the sagebrush sea, you see trees hanging on to the gullies. They never seem to be thriving. They seem so frail, like the sand spits that stick out from the mainland into the sea. 

(Sand spits might only be a foot above the water level. You can't help wondering why they aren't wiped out by waves during the next storm. Despite the frail appearance, sand spits are waxing, not waning. That is, they are being deposited by currents along the shore.)

But what about these treed gullies? Are they waxing or waning? How and Why did they get there? In general trees invade grasslands because of fire suppression by the forest service and BLM. Fire favors grasslands over trees. So can these treed gullies be seen as the advance guard of the invaders?

It might not be an interesting subject to standard tourists, but it is to me, because of this analogy to sand spits in the sea, and my misadventure of nearly drowning (during my first sea kayaking lesson) off the tip of Point Pelee, sticking down into Lake Erie. (The Wikipedia article says it is the longest sand spit in freshwater.)

So things are working: I am finding things to think about when mountain biking, not just to look at. And nature begins to appear as a dynamic process, rather than a static object for syrupy sentimentalism or pseudo-religious veneration.

My favorite laccolith in the distance. But it is a mere runt compared to the Grand Mesa over by Grand Junction.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Why Is It Easier to Appreciate Things, With Time?

Surely I am not the first person to notice that he can now appreciate things that he used to yawn at, or even positively dislike. Perhaps it really is true that 'it is a shame that Youth is wasted on young people..."

For example, the other day I came back from a tour of a historic ranch, in arid Arizona, and rewatched the movie, "Jean de Florette." I liked it the first time I saw it, 30 (!) years ago. But this time I was cooing with pleasure. How do you explain this?

The movie is easy to like -- despite being French: dry rural scenery in southern France, farms and old stone buildings, a musical score inspired by Verdi's "La Forza del Destino" a beautiful girl, and a depiction of a different way to live, about a century ago. Even the story was pretty good, which is the last thing you have a right to ask from a movie.

But such things were true 30 years ago when it was made, and when I first watched it. So what has changed? Earlier in the day, two RV friends and I had visited a historic ranch that dates back to the Arizona territory. It was located in the remarkable "Palouse" of southeastern Arizona. It tries my patience to take an official tour with a docent. Just isn't my style.

We were surrounded by vast grasslands of scrawny and tawny grass. The day was unusually hot for this time of year. Thank goodness there was a working water pump available. The ranch was situated near a soggy bosque of huge cottonwood trees -- los alamos, in Spanish. They are the great water-sponges of the Southwest.

The supreme importance of water sank into my head during this tour. Later, it drastically enhanced my appreciation of "Jean de Florette", since the scarcity of water was an important part of the plot.

Even better, my RV friends were city slickers-turned-agriculturists. (Notice I did not say, 'hobby farmers.') This added another layer to my appreciation, because the main character in the movie had some things in common with them.

We could say that this higher level of appreciation proves that 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.' But that is too easy. Instead, let's invoke a word that is seldom used, difficult (but fun) to pronounce, and which expresses a beautiful idea: autochthonous. Used here, it means we can think of appreciation of this movie as a plant that grows from the soil of travel experience, and watered by a natural (if austere) beauty, discomfort, and friends bringing something new to the party.

More generally, as we grow older we draw on deeper aquifers of experience. The result is a better appreciation of many things.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Falling in Love with the Half Beautiful

Looking back on a winter in the desert, it is gratifying to learn how to appreciate it more -- no, not the postcards of saguaro cactus or red sunsets. Those present no challenge to an experienced traveler. Rather, it is the touch-feel of harsh rocks, rocks that almost cause your hands to bleed if you lose your balance on a trail and put your hands down, to regain your balance.

Perhaps the "credit" should go to the youthful orogeny of volcanic sky islands. But when you are out there, immersed in the sheer horribleness of it, you can't help but think that aridity is the cause. Surprisingly you see that rocks are somewhat rounded in arroyos that flow only once per year, if even that often. Ironically that is where aridity makes it greatest impression.

By this time of the year we have started the Great Loop. We've moved up to 4000 foot grasslands in southeastern Arizona. My friend in Patagonia was boasting of the winter rain, so I came here expecting verdancy. But little was to be found. My dog and I did a long mountain bike loop the other day. I was overwhelmed, as usual, by universal tawniness in these parts. Tawniness doesn't seem like it should be impressive, at least not like floods, storms, and volcanoes.

Grass seldom responds to winter rains in the Southwest. It ain't even tempted. It waits for the monsoons of late summer to "verde" up. Until then a horseman or mountain biker must surrender to what is actually here. At first you resist all the dry stickery stuff and sepia tones.

There is more annual rainfall here than in the desert, or grass wouldn't be growing in the first place. But ironically it seems dryer here than in the desert because the vegetation is 100 times thicker. 

Our species is not a ruminant that can digest grass, nor can our eye-brains feast easily on grasslands. We want something easier, something more like a photo cliche with a bar code on it. But with persistent effort you can see these tawny-wastes as glorious.

Think of the freedom of movement that grasslands give animals and humans. It was the great inland sea to ancient and medieval Eurasia. It enabled the Silk Road, finally leading to communication between East and West. It enabled our starving ancestors from over-crowded Europe to own their own farms. It led to the fabled trails of the pioneers. And while thinking of this, contrast it with the horribleness of overgrown, thicket-like forests.

Even more, there is a beauty to a Balance between the useful and the merely pretty. What results is a natural experience that has integrity and authenticity. 

What are mountains and deserts good for? McMansion subdivisions, and that is all. It is only the people of a spoiled, post-industrial, and over-populated civilization who could see such places as beautiful. Such lands have contributed very little to civilization. 

This is the sort of experience an outdoor traveler should want over and over: a place where there is just enough easily-recognized beauty to arouse your eye-brain, and then the rest is up to your imagination and the sweaty straining of your body. 

Monday, December 29, 2014


One of the uses of old age is to develop the "muscles" that can actually improve with age. By that I mean developing the capabilities and habits of Appreciation, Gratitude, and Admiration. Today's focus is on Admiration.

I once used an inspiring speech by an anti-hero, "The Hustler," in the 1962 black-and-white film noir movie starring Paul Newman, George C. Scott, and Jackie Gleason. But before re-quoting it, let's first ask why it inspired at all. Art, according to Tolstoy's "What is Art", is not really about "beauty," as most people mistakenly suppose; rather, Art is the infecting of the viewer/reader with the emotional experience of the artist, by words, pictures, or sounds. And the makers of "The Hustler" certainly did that to me. 

Maybe their trick was to exploit the inherent advantages of an anti-hero. (Does that trick also apply in the blogosphere?) If a goodie-two-shoes, follow-the-rules, smiley-face had made the same speech, I would have merely discounted it as a routine pep-talk, better off inside a Hallmark card or stuck to somebody's bumper.

Most of the scenes were dark and grim and interior, except one: the Hustler (Newman) and his girlfriend leave the urban grit of New York City and head off for a picnic on a slope above a lake. They relaxed on a blanket and took in the view.
The Hustler to his girlfriend: Do you think I'm a loser?
He had been told that he was by the Gambler (George C. Scott), who recognized the young man's talent at pool, but also saw his character flaws. The Hustler started to wonder if it might be true, as he recounted a string of recent mistakes.

Girlfriend: Does it bother you what he said? Hustler: Yea. Yea, it bothers me a lot.
One of his mistakes was showing how good he was and winning a lot of money from some second-rate players, instead of disguising his ability, as a good hustler should. It got him beaten up.

Hustler: I could have beaten those creeps and punks cold, and they never would have known. I just had to show 'em what the game is like when it's really great. Anything can be great. Bricklaying can be great, as long as the guy knows what he's doing, and why, and if he can make it come off.

And when I'm going, when I'm really goin', I feel like a jockey must feel. He's sittin' on his horse, he's got all that speed and power underneath him, and he's coming into the stretch and the pressure's on him. He just knows when to let it go and by how much, because he's got everything working for him, timing, touch... that's a great feeling.

It's like all of a sudden I got oil in my arm. The pool cue is part of me. It's a piece of wood, with nerves in it. You can feel the roll of those balls. You don't have to look -- you just know. You make shots that nobody's ever made before. Ya play that game like nobody's ever played it before.

Girlfriend: You're not a loser, you're a winner. Some men never get to feel that way about anything.
I then ended my sermon with a rhetorical question: why don't travelers seem to care whether they are good at travel? Why don't they 'raise the high jump bar,' instead of settling for imitating other losers?

Well, there is at least a partial answer to that. But let's ignore it today and focus on the rare winners that can be found from time to time.

Recall, last episode, I was romanticizing the Eurasian steppe and its way of life, and promising to find a bicycle touring blog that went through the steppe. As it turned out, this was pretty easy. Consider this post and photo, by Terry Ward, on :

Click here for a larger version of the picture
(Eyelashes fluttering...swoon.)

This photo by Mr. Ward shows how I would like to live, if transported by some magic carpet or time machine. The Lone Rider of the Eurasian steppe. Off-the-leash. Rampaging and marauding for thousands of miles, sacking the cities of decadent civilizations, with his loyal War Dog at his side. (Of course, I would be on a mountain bike instead of a horse. But the principle is the same.)

In this post, Mr. Ward showed what a great traveler is capable of:

The herds were always carefully watched by herders who were mounted on magnificent large horses. The horses are a wonderful feature of this region as everyone, including men, women and children ride easily on the tallest of horses. I saw a father lift a tiny girl who was possibly as young as three years old onto the back of a long-legged horse and then he smacked the horse on the rump. The girl sat easily in the saddle and held the reins expertly in her tiny hands. When they arrived at her yurt the horse stopped next to a tall pile of dirt, at which place the toddler slid off the saddle onto the top of the mound of dirt and then hopped down its side and entered her home.

I stopped breathing when I read that paragraph.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Wanted: More "David Lean Style" Novels

It might be fair to describe the David Lean style movies (e.g., Bridge On the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago) as consisting of a close-up drama of the main characters, usually during wars or revolutions, and with a huge landscape in the background. (Doctor Zhivago was the only one in the list that was pulled down by love triangles, adultery, and all the rest of that puke. And that wasn't really Lean's fault.)

To be a happier novel-reader I need to find books that remind me of Lean's movies. By luck I did. Tolstoy's "Hadji Murat" was written late in Tolstoy's life. The short novel took place in the same setting where young Tolstoy served in the Czar's army, the Caucasus, between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

Reading this short novel will probably make you feel like the ideal traveler, who learns about radically different ways of life, and not just silly scenery tourism. Of course there is plenty of scenery in the neighborhood, including an 18,000 ft high mountain! The main character, Hadji Murat, was a warrior in one of the Muslim tribes there.

The Caucasus was the southern boundary of czarist Russia, and what a boundary it was, ethnically, linguistically, and culturally! Muslims versus Eastern Orthodox Christianity.  Turkic versus Indo-European languages. The Silk Route went through there. It was the eastern edge of the ancient Greco-Roman world: the legendary Jason and the Argonaut looked for the Golden Fleece there. It was Josef Stalin's home country.

The Black Sea isn't the Russian equivalent of North America's Great Lakes. Salty water flows into the Black Sea from the Mediterranean along the bottom, while freshwater flows out to the Mediterranean along the top. The deepest spot in the Black Sea is over 7000 feet, compared to about 1000 feet in Lake Superior.

My goodness, what a map nerd I am! It's time to find some bicycle touring blogs that roamed the Caucasus.

Let's say you are a "Caucasian." Hasn't it always seemed strange to be affiliated with a place-name that you could barely point to on a map? The Indo-Europeans of the Caucasus became important to the world because that is probably where the horse was domesticated. Soon after, they learned to put a chariot behind a team of two horses; one guy managed the horses, while the second guy blasted away with a bow and arrow. They even learned to make lighter, spoked wheels.

What an important region the Eurasian steppe (grasslands) used to be! They connected eastern Europe with China. All of the ancient civilizations, except maybe the Egyptian, were invaded and conquered by horse and chariot warriers. It was the classic battle of Cain versus Abel. 

Anyway, this is the proper backdrop for an interesting short novel. It is so much better than the parlour and ballroom combat of 19th Century novels written for lady novel readers, or the modern novels, dominated by the perverse proclivities of New York City.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cycle-Sauntering with Benji and Thoreau in Pata-Goofie, AZ

After a successful winter of deliberately pursuing a lifestyle (in Yuma, AZ) that complements the other three seasons, I thought it would be effortless to get back to the normal lifestyle of traveling, RV dispersed camping, and mountain biking on public lands in the Southwest. Much to my surprise it is taking some deliberate effort. I am not complaining. The sheer momentum of living in any fixed way narrows a person and starts to make them inflexible. 

I want to live deliberately, as Thoreau promised on his way to Walden. For some reason, the modern interpretation of Thoreau ignores the word 'deliberately', and visualizes Thoreau's lifestyle as a solitary hermit, talking to the animals, living on fruits and nuts, and posing as a "nature fakir" by walking around the woods of Concord MA in a polartec loincloth.

Thoreau's short essay, "Walking," is worth reading. At least the beginning. Unfortunately he then meanders away from his theme.
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks -- who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going à la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds;
Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all;
For every walk is a sort of crusade...

We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return -- prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms.
But Merriam-Webster gives a different etymology for 'saunter': it comes from a Middle English word that means 'to muse.' Thoreau's religious imagery might be misleading. I really do prefer the modern definition: "to walk about in an idle or leisurely manner : STROLL..."

I see what Thoreau was trying to do in this essay, but I don't want to go to his "Holy Land" when sauntering. But let it be sentimental, nostalgic, and leisurely. 'Sauntering' usually refers to a style of walking, but most of the USA is too spread out for that. It's actually easier to go cycle-sauntering. Appreciating this kind of sauntering to the fullest was made easier by following a winter of semi-racing with crazy old buzzards in Yuma.

It also helped to be in Pata-Goofie, AZ, a small town where I have a long term friend. Think of it as Mayberry for old hippies. Let your mind meander off to Lake Wobegon and the Chatterbox Cafe, or to the opening of the original "Benji" movie.
Riding bikes used to be a part of summer in America. Today of course you would be arrested for this.

I jumped on the mountain bike, after a 3-4 month hiatus, and pedaled from the grasslands down towards town.

My dog, Coffee Girl, is normally leashed to an external belt around my hip, but here I let her run down the dirt road at full gallop. What bliss!

We were announced at the grassy knoll of the RVinos by their two "guard" dogs, Carly and Jake, who are friends and team mates of Coffee Girl. 

Down to town we continued. You are doing something last done when you were a little squirt on your bicycle, during summer vacation, looking for a puddle to ride through after an afternoon thunderstorm.

Long ago...despite looking into the sun, a sibling was happy with her "new" bike
We checked out the bird sanctuary; then the knee-deep creek that re-emerges from underground. No water dog like Carly and Jake, Coffee Girl only splashed around to her ankles. I remember hosting a hiking and biking gathering with RVers here many years ago. It made my day to hear one of women, from the god-forsaken East, rhapsodize over riding her mountain bike through the water for the first time at this same creek.

Back in town proper I reacquainted myself with the funky, dilapidated, Southwestern architecture.

Of course my favorites will always be a simple adobe or ranch style house, well along in noble rot, and with rusted corrugated metal roofing. There I would wiggle the handlebars and weave around on the road, like a silly boy.

Finally we made it to the coffee shop. Unlike much of America, it is still legal to tie your dog up outside a business on Main Street. A cat was making the rounds. It stopped on the sidewalk, 20 feet away, and objected to my dog being there. What a personality that cat had! It's the first time a cat made me laugh. And it really did seem like the beginning of "Benji."

There have been changes; and the long-suffering reader thinks I am going to trot out Thoreau's "improved means to an unimproved end." But I certainly wouldn't include a newly bulldozed/graded road in that category! Another new road to mountain bike on, smooth, and with no traffic.

On the other hand, they stopped using their venerable wooden card catalog in the town library. You know, with the cards in it, one for each book. Sigh.

But there is hope. They still allow dogs in the town library. There were two canine bookworms in there on the day I went in, to check out the last two Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian. I told the librarian, "I hope Patagoofie never becomes 'normal.' " She smiled and agreed.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fire and Ice

Silver City, NM. Today confirms an ever-strengthening prejudice of mine that pain and pleasure are linked in a dialectic, and that Comfort is the great false Idol of the tourist and RV newbie. There is a pleasure unique to a morning like this.

On my drive back into New Mexico I saw tumbleweeds ensnared in the upper horizontal members of utility poles. "Only in southern New Mexico," I smirked. But actually the wind has been howling in this entire quadrant of the country. It doesn't bother me as much as it does some people. Still, it does take its toll on you. You begin to feel like you are under constant assault.

And now this. Perfect calm, perfectly blue skies, clean air. At my dispersed campsite, a turkey vulture is searching vainly for a thermal; it is too cold. Until then it can only do languid spiral loops over the grassland. 

The inside of the trailer reached the low 30s F this morning. I slept in until sunrise. Never underestimate the pleasure of morning sun into a frozen, uncomfortable RV.  Sure, I've already praised it many times, and now I will again. Few things are finer than the opposition of scalding sun and cold, dry, calm air. And don't think for a moment it's because they neutralize each other into bland and meaningless Comfort.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Livestock Security Services in New Mexico's "Basque" Country

Abiquiu, NM. On a day of ooze and muck, it is time that I came clean. Much as I love to debunk four-wheel-drive vehicles and brag about how well my rear-wheel-drive van pulls the trailer through the mountains, I sing a different tune when the dirt roads become wet. When I learn there is clay in the road, the tune stops altogether. Fortunately a Forest Service guy gave me fair warning.

He also explained why these high ridges north of Abiquiu are so attractive: they burned 100 years ago and the trees haven't been able to get reestablished, resulting in a balanced combination of pastures and forests. It never gets better than this.

I was experiencing a great success primarily due to telling the internet where to go. This allowed me to expand, almost euphorically, into new ground. Nothing makes western North America get BIGGER than kissing off the internet. So I'm exploring the northern counties of New Mexico contained in the highway loops formed by US-285 on the east, US-84 on the west, and Abiquiu/Espanola on the south. Actually it's not really internet-free, but it's almost Verizon-free. Fortunately Verizon allows roaming here (the so-called Global Access network), which is working quite well along the highways.

On the mountain bike ride I saw and heard the largest and noisiest herd of ovine-Americans that I've ever seen. Perhaps 200. I was surprised at how rampaging and "army-like" a large herd of sheep can seem, and how quickly they move along the pastoral ridgelines at 9500 feet. 

On the return trip they waylaid me right on the dirt road. Hey wait a minute. What about that warning about the "livestock protection dogs" of a couple posts ago? I stopped and watched the sheep herd for ten minutes, but saw no giant man-eating sheepdogs. How disappointing!

The next morning the herd was right outside my front door. Coffee Girl was excited. She has learned not to harass cattle; maybe it's time to do the same with sheep. But just in case, I left her inside the van and went to check for giant sheep dogs.

There were two of them, a matched pair. They saw me before I saw them. They don't really stand out since they're the same color and size as the sheep.

They walked toward me, but then stopped. They wouldn't leave the herd. They didn't look so scary. I didn't want to push my luck but government agencies love to, uhh, cry wolf; that is, they give exaggerated warnings to citizens who they see as their dumb sheep.

In fact the two sheep dogs seemed amazingly professional. I watched them for a few minutes to see if they would stay in the center of the herd, try to lead it, or go back to round up stragglers. I swear that somebody had a bell around their neck. 

Which breed do you think they belong to? (As usual, click to enlarge.)

For such a reputed curmudgeon and cynic I find the romance of high pastures, Basque shepherds, sheep dogs, and cougars to be irresistible. Guess which DVD movie I'll fall asleep to tonight? Hint: made in Australia in the 1990's, and features a lot of talking animals.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Idle, Idyllic, and Idols in Patagonia

Every day the same three guys sit in chairs under the canopy of the old-fashioned gas station. And since this is Patagonia, it still is a gas station. I giggle at this sight because they are so reminiscent of the old boys hanging out at the gas station on the Andy Griffith show of olden times. In fact that is one way to think of this town: Mayberry for hippies.

The best way to tour Patagonia is to ignore the art galleries and walk through the alleys to gawk at backyards. The normal bland suburb would have codes and ordinances against half of this town. Patagonia is a lower Leadville.

It is ironic. Most of the towns in America more interesting than Gopher Prairie or Levittown are old mining towns. So is Patagonia; yet, the locals are raising hell about a copper strip mine being developed in the area. Actually there is a second layer of irony: an environmentalist's favorite utopian dream is a nation running on all-electric Obamamobiles. How many pounds of copper windings would there be in each of these? Where does the copper come from? Perhaps the typical American of the post-industrial age thinks that an electric car is really an "electronic" car run by silicon chips "made by" Apple.

But back to the backyards of Patagonia. They are the kind of art I can appreciate; art that develops slowly over time, just as the topography of the Colorado Plateau does.

Many houses and sheds had corrugated galvanized metal roofs. When the sun catches them just right they rip the eyes right out of your head. There is a beauty to intensity that is usually overlooked as artists try to make everything effeminately pretty. I love these roofs most when they are partly rusted.  

Most Anglo-Americans implicitly subscribe to the Whig Interpretation of History. How do travelers reconcile this general perspective with their concrete experiences of returning to towns that they love after a year or two? Are they not afraid that something will have changed, and that most change means decline? Or do people worship the false idol of Progress so blindly that they don't see the increased sprawl, noise, prices, traffic, architectural blandness, and rules and regulations?

On one of these returns I immediately hit the town coffee shop, which also serves as the "Chatterbox Cafe" a la Garrison Keillor. My first impression came from the young senorita barista, who had the sort of skin that a gringo with northern European genes has to be in awe of.  Ahh, all was going to be well this year, I thought.

Every year, before Tucson has its first heat wave, I move the ol' wagon up to summer pastures near Sonoita and Patagonia. It is a seasonal idyll that lasts a couple weeks. There's a dog in this shadow:

I don't know how Patagonia got its name. The only time I've ever paid any attention to the name was a book mentioned in William James's Varieties of Religious Experience. The book was Hudson's, "Idle Days in Patagonia." He was an Argentinian of English heritage. Those who have depleted the great open pit mine of Thoreau and would like to find a similar author would do well to consider this book.

By a curious coincidence I remember once seeing a dilapidated windmill in this area, with barely legible labeling as usual. It was made in Argentina.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Silent Spring

There are definitely times of the year when it is good to live in the highlands of southern New Mexico, weather-wise that is. But you always lose on something. Mother Nature is rather bleak in spring here. The plants and flowers go crazy in September after the monsoon season, rather than in spring. Basically spring is good for longer daylight, warmer temperatures, and high winds.

The texture of fields gets pretty beaten down by late winter and spring. It does not green up. That's why I took this photo: here was a spot that was holding its beauty all the way through a cold winter. 

What's so beautiful about it, you might be asking? Well it is beautiful, in context. Of course, photographs don't give the seasonal or temporal context of anything, and that's probably why I will always be in the Edward Abbey school of camera haters.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Milkweed Season

October is the season for milkweed. Wikipedia has an interesting article on it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Didn't I promise recently to renounce grassy texture photos on this blog? Well, I lied.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dew Chandelier

We can all agree that the last thing this blog needs is another photograph of curved bill thrashers, red tailed hawks, or grassland texture. But I can't help it; I'm obsessed with the perfect photograph of certain things, and dew-chandeliers are one of them.

Besides, sweet obsessions are one of the under-rated pleasures of life.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Home on the High Chaparral

South of Tucson, a couple springs ago. Full time RVers are often asked whether they have found 'that perfect place' where they will settle down. It might be meant as a yes or no question, but it usually evokes a long-winded answer. Why must there be only one? In fact on the mountain bike ride today we got a glimpse of land that brought a lump to my throat. It's not many people's idea of the perfect postcard, but I like it so much that I visit every year.

Elephant Head, in the background, is one of my fiducial points--an important reference point that measures the year. It's the grasslands that attract me the most, I suppose.

Spring is certainly noticable in Arizona, but it's a mild experience compared to what people go through north and east of here. There is a real drama to the agonies and ecstasies they experience when the first crocuses poke up through muddy snow, and then the worst snowstorm of the winter hits. Thinking back on all that, from a safe distance, I can even convince myself that I miss it.