Excuses Although it is March, I still haven’t transferred all of my phone numbers, passwords, and other data from my 2017 Audubon Birder’s Engagement Calendar to my 2018 Audubon Birder’s Engagement Calendar. This transfer usually happens early in January (see Old Year, New Year: Flexibility, Part 3). Part of the delay may simply be that there is so much minutia scrawled in the 2017 book that I am daunted by the task of transferring it to the new book.
I think the real reason might be more fundamental, though. I have been sitting here — each day at once agitated and inert–waiting to see what happens next to our country. My own version of Potomac fever, I am afraid. And I am afraid: I used to tell my children that our country had had difficult times before and had gotten through it. Now, I believe the current regime and its attendant problems are by far the worst in my lifetime. I went to one march so far this year and will soon go to another. I sign petitions. I walk. I do my weights and stretches, and sometimes I even do my planks. I photograph flowers and trees. On TV, I watch cooking shows and basketball games. I think spring is coming. I believe my hibernation is ending and my hope is growing.
Happy Interlude In early February, Tom and I camped for three nights in the Big Cypress National Preserve and for one night in Everglades National Park. We saw alligators and manatees; anhingas and egrets, mangrove islands and dolphins, and much more.
Spring is Coming Wood frogs are mating in vernal pools here in Arlington, Virginia. Salamanders are on the move. Daffodils are blooming and so is the witch hazel and some forsythia. Almost two weeks ago a cherry tree was blossoming at Arlington National Cemetery. Tourist groups are massing on the National Mall. I think it is time to put aside my 2017 almanac and rejoin this year, this fight, and this life.
Staircase to Heaven, again
1972–1973 (North Rim and environs)
Did I ever tell you about the time I got dropped off at Pipe Springs National Monument? I was on my way from the North Rim to my friend Anita’s wedding reception in Salt Lake City. Someone drove me to Pipe Springs–on the Arizona Strip–87 miles from the Grand Canyon Lodge where I worked. I tried to hitch a ride from Pipe Springs to Cedar City, Utah so I could catch a plane to Salt Lake. At least back then, Arizona State Road 389 was not a well traveled road.
After some time, Pipe Springs National Monument closed for the day. It got dark and I felt forlorn and probably a little scared. I settled down in the ditch beside the road. I wasn’t about to take my chances standing on the side of the road through the night. I worried some and I slept some. Morning came, someone picked me up, and I made my flight to Salt Lake and the wedding reception. I was an idiot back then, no doubt, but all that expansive sky, sand, canyons, and forests made me feel that all was possible, all was good, and I would not be harmed.
Angry and sad aside: Most of my life now, this Grand Staircase, this Colorado Plateau, has been for me not only the land of the beautiful, but also of the good and hospitable. I want to scream and cry and kick and yes, hate, as I see people and entities want to destroy this land. I don’t do those things: I am still trying for the beautiful and good.
So many more stories to tell, but I think I am finished for now. I wanted to tell you about Hop Valley, the double rainbows on the snowy road to Bryce, pine nut gathering at Cape Royal, the smell of the ponderosas in the sunlight, and Chesler Park in late winter.
Now, I will march, I will sign petitions, I will walk. In the end of summer, we may be at North Rim again, and, in November I will vote.
Thank you for listening.
Here are some photos:
When we were hiking back in Zion in 1970, my friend Pat noted that–even with the technicolor, in-your-face canyon vistas surrounding us–I spent a certain amount of time looking down at the ground. I still do that. Below are some plant photos from the Grand Staircase and environs.
Note: My next post will be mostly words, not photos. I wonder if I can help convince Secretary Zinke, Senator Hatch, Congressman Bishop, and others to preserve our beautiful land.
Happy New Year!
Below are some photos from the Grand Staircase area of the Colorado Plateau. Plant photos to come soon, and then, finally, words.
Since January 2017, I have belonged to a Facebook group, March for Science. This group has been focused on organizing Earth Day (April 22) marches in support of science. In my life I have been mostly an English teacher, not a scientist. On my registration form for the march, I checked “science enthusiast.”
For months, March for Science group members have been posting “Why I march” comments. I loved almost all of the comments I have read and sometimes I cried about the stories. I never laughed because the current repeated attacks on scientific truth are deadly serious.
I love—I really do—the scientific method. I have read about, known, and admired many scientists. I admire many of my mentors in the Rivanna Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists. In literature, John Wesley Powell, who scaled canyon walls with one arm, is one of my heroes. Farley Mowat, who railed against the decimation of human and animal populations in Canada, is another. However, my reasons for marching next Saturday in Washington, DC are, perhaps, more in keeping with my English major sensibility.
Why I Will March for Science on Earth Day
I attended the ENACT (Environmental Action for Survival) Teach-In on the Environment at the University of Michigan in March 1970 (see https://blogs.lib.msu.edu/red-tape/2016/mar/march-11-14-1970-university-michigan-holds-environmental-teach/ for more information about the teach-in). I was a young idealist then and I am old idealist now. I won’t give up.
I march in honor of my mother. I planted my first garden with my mother: popcorn and radishes against the side of the house in Detroit. Counting that garden and the one I grew with my brother George, that’s 45 years of gardens, most of them organic. Food and beauty. I won’t give up gardening now.
I march in honor of my father. My father taught me how to fish, skip stones, rake leaves, and shovel snow. He put up a hammock between two tall oaks, so we could see the sky, the water, and the leaves while we rested and dreamed. I won’t give up the dreaming.
I march in honor of Michigan and the Great Lakes, my first home. They want to cut EPA research for the Great Lakes by 97%. I want them to hear my “no.” I remember the crayfish and the sunfish in the sunny shallows of our lake. I remember the power and strength of Superior. I will not let them destroy our lakes without a fight.
I march for the Grand Canyon, Zion, Glacier and all the rest of the federally protected lands.
I march for the Kaibab squirrels of the North Rim, for the condor who glided past us on the South Rim, and for all the crows and ravens everywhere. I march for the bees, and for the butterflies, and for the American hornbeam that we planted in our yard last month and for the ponderosa pine, iconic tree of the North Rim (and food for the Kaibab squirrels).
I grow old. I do, in fact, sometimes wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled, but I will not stop now.
I have many more things to say. Maybe I will write about them another time or maybe not, but I will march and I will not stop.
A seldom recalled fact (except by me) is that for three years in mid-1960s, I wrote the column “Milford High School News” for The Milford Times in Milford, Michigan. Through my teen years, I also wrote articles for other junior and senior high school publications. I mention this here because the title of this post reminds me of high school verbiage: you know, “Roses and Cabbages” or something. If I remember my columns accurately, I used plenty of passive voice, such as, ” the French Club had their spring dinner and a good time was had by all.” I want now to write about the hikes Tom and I have taken, the clear skies north of Sierra Vista, the kangaroo rat that jumped into our camper shell on a dark night, the Arizona sycamores, and much more.
However, I haven’t been able to clear my mind sufficiently to write because, when I have access to the internet, I keep taking looks at my Facebook feed, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and then I fret instead of write. We have so many problems: the attempted Muslim ban, the environment, the judiciary, the wall, women’s rights, and deranged tweets about Saturday Night Live, for god’s sake. I need to focus on what I know: There is truth and there is beauty (AKA facts and photos) and I am striving to hold onto both.
Facts I learned
- It is generally agreed that there are four distinct desert regions in North America: Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mojave, and Great Basin. Arizona claims to be the only state that contains parts of all four deserts (for more information, see the article from The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum).
- “By the time Big Bend National Park was established in 1944, there were virtually no resident bears in the Big Bend area.” However, in recent decades black bears have returned and there are approximately 8 to 12 adult bears living in the park now. (for more information, see Black Bears in Big Bend).
- “The San Pedro River [near Sierra Vista, Arizona] is one of the last free flowing rivers in the Southwest. In 1995, the American Bird Conservancy recognized the San Pedro as its first ‘globally important bird area’ in the the United States, dubbing it the ‘largest and best example of riparian woodland remaining’ in the Southwest (from a brochure of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area).”
- The Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii) grows in the Sonoran desert “in riparian washes and canyon bottoms between 2,000 and 6,000 feet in elevation in Arizona, New Mexico and northwestern old Mexico” (see Arizona State University online publication for more information).
Photos I took
I see turmoil, anger, confusion, and sadness in our public life now. I saw a great deal of scat on the desert trails where Tom and I walked. I am an organic gardener, so I know that scat and other organic debris enriches the soil so beautiful plants can grow. I am going with that: We have scat now, but beautiful flowers will bloom, I do believe.
Sierra Vista, Arizona
Last week my husband and I spent four nights camping in Big Bend National Park in Southwest Texas. The days and nights were so windy in the Chisos Basin Campground that, when we were away from our campsite, our brand new tent ripped and became airborne until some kindly neighbors caught it and secured it with our camp chairs and several rocks.
It was also cold. Note to daughter: Both day and night, I wore up to five layers on the top–including my fancy Patagonia long underwear–and I was still cold!
Mostly, we didn’t hear the news. The wind and the cold cleansed us. The rocks and the sky were grand, as always. The desert and mountain plants and animals helped us focus on being close to the ground. We had to walk carefully on the rocks and gravel. (See Geology of Big Bend National Park for more information.) We had to bend close to inspect the plants, bark, and rocks. I took photographs to help us remember what we saw.
There is so much more to learn: how volcanoes helped build the Chisos Basin, why the black bears came back to the park, who was that snake we saw in the rocks (he looked like the little ones in my garden), and what will be the impact of climate change on this and other natural sanctuaries? Luckily, Tom and I always find enthusiastic and knowledgeable National Park Service workers to help us with our questions.
Sometimes, especially now, I feel uneasy and unsafe in this world, but not from the slippery rocks or bears or lions. I feel uneasy and unsafe about any who would try to take away our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and our public lands. However, I will keep walking and talking and working to help protect this lovely land and its people.