Category Archives: Uncategorized

Detour

Our current road trip will end tomorrow as Tom and I head back to Charlottesville. Spring awaits with its cleaning, taxes, and, best of all, the garden.

daffodils

daffodils

What a strange (but not too long) a trip it’s been: squealing differential in Florida, airborne tent in Texas, hankering to be one with the earth everywhere, while still craving that internet political fix.

Today, I am taking a detour to New Orleans. Tom didn’t quite take me to the Mardi Gras (it’s on February 28 this year), but close enough for a woman who doesn’t smoke, mostly doesn’t drink, and who surely can’t dance (except maybe to Motown).

almost Mardi Gras

almost Mardi Gras

I love New Orleans. Maybe it started with my mom’s New Orleans pralines.  Or, maybe it was Paul Simon’s, “Take Me to the Mardi Gras“:

Come on, take me to the Mardi Gras
Where the people sing and play
Where the dancing is elite
And there’s music in the street
Both night and day

Hurry, take me to the Mardi Gras
In the city of my dreams
You can legalize your lows
You can wear your summer clothes
In the New Orleans

And I will lay my burden down
Rest my head upon that shore
And when I wear that starry crown
I won’t be wanting anymore

Take your burdens to the Mardi Gras
Let the music wash your soul
You can mingle in the street
You can jingle to the beat
Of Jelly Roll

© 1973 Words and Music by Paul Simon

I loved the food. People were singing and playing. There was music in the street.

Cafe Du Monde

Cafe Du Monde

shrimp po boy, Cafe Fleur De Lis, French Quarter

shrimp po boy, Cafe Fleur De Lis, French Quarter

music, Jackson Square

music, Jackson Square

music in the street

music in the street

I let the music wash my soul and I mingled in the street. I worked on laying some of my burden down.

I remembered what I thought the first time I went–alone–to New Orleans about 14 years ago. As I wandered through the French Quarter, I thought: I know who I am throwing in my lot with. I am with the people who sing, dance, eat real food, and maybe smoke and drink and whatever, but just trying to get by with a little grace, style, and humor. I do not stand with those who think there is only one way and who denigrate those who choose a different path. That sounds like fascism to me.  I can’t explain myself well on this topic, but, lucky for me, Robin and Linda Williams have some words that work for me in Going, Going Gone:

When I pass a church house door I breathe a prayer one time more
I don’t know that I belong, but I still sing love’s
sweet old songs
If I’m not among the blessed, then I’ll be like all the rest
Getting by day to day moving down the lost highway
Going, Going, Going Gone
                                   by Robin and Linda Williams, Jerome Clark 2008
live oak (Quercus virginia)

live oak (Quercus virginia)

Facts and Photos

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

Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

American kestrel (Falco sparverius), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

American kestrel (Falco sparverius), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Tom among the sacaton, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

Tom among the sacaton ( Sporobolus airoides), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

birds (I don't know their names), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

birds (I don’t know their names), San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

sunset, Joshua Tree National Park

sunset, Joshua Tree National Park

Observation

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.

scat, Murray Springs Clovis Site, Arizona

scat, Murray Springs Clovis Site, Arizona

brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

 

Big Bend National Park

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.

our tent, Chisos Basin Campground, not yet airborne

our tent, Chisos Basin Campground, not yet airborne

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!

keeping warm in Chisos Basin

keeping warm in Chisos Basin

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.

candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphitica)

candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphitica)

Chisos Mountain pricklypear (Opuntia chisosensis)

Chisos Mountain pricklypear (Opuntia chisosensis)

cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata?

cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata?)

giant dagger yucca (Yucca faxoniana)

giant dagger yucca (Yucca faxoniana)

Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus carminis)

Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus carminis)

View fromLost Mine Trail, Big Bend N.P.

View from Lost Mine Trail, Big Bend N.P.

The Window, Chisos Basin, Big Bend N.P.

The Window, Chisos Basin, Big Bend N.P.

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.

another friendly and informative park service ranger

another friendly and informative park service ranger

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.

dangers that I prefer

dangers that I prefer

 

September 1999

Tom's rose, Awakening

Awakening

In September 1999, a former adult ESL student of mine was found dead in the trunk of a car a few blocks from our school.

Today, thanks to the efforts of many, including the Arlington County (VA) Police Department’s Cold Case Unit, a suspect has been extradited from Guatemala to Arlington, Virginia.  I don’t want to to write my former student’s name here (and certainly not his), but you can find them somewhere if you want.

I just want to tell you a little bit about her.  She was young. She was sweet and funny.  When our class walked over to the park for a picnic and games, she could really belt the softball (it might have been a hardball).

It might have been for Valentine’s Day, but, anyhow, she gave me a little redbird music box that chirped Beethoven’s  “Ode to Joy.”

I took the bird off my bookshelf a few minutes ago.  I had thought the little bird stopped chirping years ago, but she chirped a few bars for me.

O friends, no more of these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
More songs full of joy!
Joy!
Joy! (taken from a translation of Schiller’s lyrics at http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/romanticperiodsymphonies/qt/Beethovenjoytxt.htm)

Joy to you somewhere, my dear.

Ode to Joy redbird

Ode to Joy redbird

 

It’s October and the Leaves are Shaking

leaves, October

I’m writing “It’s October and the leaves are shaking” because I write it or say it every October. I’ve used this incantation ever since I plowed through Look Homeward, Angel sometime around 1966.  All in all, I might have been better served if I had begun with Light in August or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. At least, I think I can safely say that those are good novels.  I’m too far away from literature classes to want to make a judgment about whether or not Look Homeward, Angel is a good book. Although I discarded my own copy of the novel last year (in the great book abandonment project), I am still fond of it.  I do worry that this fondness might point to a certain verbal over-exuberance and lack of discipline on my own part.  Okay, I admit to it, but I still love Wolfe’s words.

What I really want to write about This morning, I walked to Whole Foods to look for broccoli rabe, get something to eat for lunch, and sit outside and absorb Vitamin D while I copy edited my so-called book. I sat near an old guy who was either talking into his ear-piece or to himself or to someone whom I couldn’t see.  When the man got up to leave, I saw that he was indeed talking to himself or to someone who wasn’t visible to me.  Although it doesn’t reveal me to be the open-minded, egalitarian, and even-keeled person I wish I were, I was happy when the guy moved on.

Next, I went to the local library to check out a copy (the only one on the shelf) of Look Homeward, Angel and then on to Starbucks for coffee and more copy editing. One time I looked up from my work and saw the old man sitting across the street and then, later, he quickly walked past me.

My final errand was to walk to Safeway for milk and to search for the elusive broccoli rabe. A few blocks from the store, I saw the old man again walking quickly in my direction.  I changed direction, cutting through a plant median, so I wouldn’t have to cross his path again.

What’s with me? Did I see a ghost today–a ghost of all the mumblers, screamers, window peepers, burglars, and assorted troubled souls from other times and other places in my life? Maybe he was a ghost, but I am not sure whether he was a ghost from October past or from October yet to come.

O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost land-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?

O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.

Look Homeward, Angel

borrowed from the Denver Public Library, 10.30.12