Wandering Post (Sermon) about Nature

I wish I had read this story about climbing Mt. Everest before I wrote my post yesterday since it deals with hypoxia, yesterday’s prompt. It also deals with mountaineering which interests me and has since I was a little kid. The article contrasts “then” with “now” with the notion that “now” is incredibly better than “then.” In some ways that’s true. The “jaunt” up Mt. Everest is safer (as long as the climbers have their wits about them and good luck overall, I guess). In other ways I’m not so sure. It seems that Mt. Everest is turning into kind of an “experience” — not sure how to explain that but this struck me as surreal:

As of April 2021, 5,790 people have reached the summit, including a 13-year-old Indian girl, an 80-year-old Japanese man and an American man who has summited 15 times, more than any other non-Nepali person. Over the past decade, about 800 people per year have attempted Everest. In 2019, according to the Himalayan Database, a record 905 people reached the summit. As many as 1,000 people are currently in Base Camp, which is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.

story about climbing Mt. Everest

These days you buy an expedition, guide etc. and you are escorted up the mountain at a cost upward of $30,000.00 which almost makes the highest mountain on earth a commodity and an increasingly commodious commodity. It’s weird to me. A few days ago in a text conversation with a friend I laid out my beliefs about nature at this point in my life. I don’t know if she needed or wanted a lecture (I wasn’t lecturing her, it was more a lecture to an audience of several thousand people who weren’t there). I’ve had some of the most wonderful moments of my life “out in nature” (I happen to think that wherever animals are is nature so my living room is nature) and the good fortune to be “trusted” by some wild animals. I say that and mean it, but I don’t want wild animals to trust me or anyone. The nature-lover I was 20 years ago is different from the nature lover I am today.

Not long ago a woman running in the mountains near Durango, CO, was eaten by a bear and her cub. The bear and the cub were killed so that the contents of the bears’ stomachs could be identified. The woman was running with her dogs — off leash — during bear emerging from hibernation season. As I read the multitudinous expressions of horror and outrage, I only thought, “The bear didn’t do anything wrong.” And, “The bear didn’t get a fair hearing.”

If a dog runs ahead of a person, and contacts a bear, the dog will turn around and run back to its person bringing the bear with it. This is one very forceful argument for keeping ones dog with them in bear country. It was also the dogs running home without the woman that alerted the woman’s husband to something having happened to his wife.

Then…running. I loved to run. It was a consuming passion of my life until I was 55. But a running animal looks like prey, and, by moving quickly, is more likely to surprise a wild animal who might not have time to catch your scent or hear you coming. Also, I KNOW I was less attentive while running than walking. No one can be as attentive when they’re running. If I were to go into bear country now (I might) I would walk. I would keep my dogs with me. I would be very very attentive. I would have bear spray and I would wear a bell. Mostly, I think, I would know where I was. I think that’s the biggest, most important thing. Still, it would be dangerous. We can’t avoid danger; we can only minimize our chances of encountering it.

I spent a lot of my life oblivious. I did a lot of stupid and dangerous things. But the moment when I decided to try to see a mountain lion, I accepted that if I did, it was a contest I might not win. I succeeded and from that I learned lessons I badly needed, not just about how to see a mountain lion (safely) but about life and about nature.

During the time I lived in the mountains outside of San Diego a woman was killed and eaten by a mountain lion. Of course there was intense outrage and many calls to hunt the cougar down and kill it.

The news should have — but didn’t — make a big deal about the fact that the woman had a T-bone steak in her back pack. She had planned to hike to Green Valley Falls, get a campsite and cook her steak for supper. She was living in her head, clearly, not in that wilderness. The kind of fire that could cook a steak wasn’t permitted anywhere in those mountains after the Cedar Fire of 2003 but whatever. I think for a lot of people nature is an idea, the “wild” is an idea. The thing is, it isn’t an idea.

Last fall, when the Sandhill Cranes came through, I had a beautiful, magical time hanging out with them. Almost no one visits the Refuge during late summer into fall. Most days I was out there it was me and Bear or Teddy, on foot, quietly observing the cranes nearly every day. I don’t think the Sandhill Cranes are troubled much by people, but partly this is because our Refuge is designed to give the cranes a LOT of space. People cannot go INTO their world.

But, this spring, when there was no Crane Festival and more cars than ever were here bringing crane tourists who mostly wanted pictures, people violated the clearly marked parameters. The photos I saw were incredible, beautiful, but some were troubling because of that. When they are here in the spring, bachelor and bachelorette cranes find their mates. It’s not as sensitive as egg laying or some other things, but it’s a little sensitive. A couple of rangers (on the festival Facebook page) gently chided the photographers for going out of bounds. A couple of photographers had the nerve to defend their actions which were, IMO, indefensible. The wildlife biologists who care for the Refuge work very hard to establish a world that will keep the cranes coming and staying while, at the same time, giving people the chance to observe those wonderful birds. Boundaries.

So I don’t know. It reminds me of the bit in the Bible that says that humans have dominion over the beasts of the field, the fish in the water, the birds of the air. I guess — even people who reject the Bible — behave that way as if it’s all a TV show.

I changed as a hiker when my hips went south. I still wanted to be out there, but I couldn’t be out there in the same way I had always been. When my second hip went south a few years ago, my dog Bear taught me a new way to be “out” there. I probably couldn’t have learned that lesson any earlier in my life, but maybe I could have. Maybe it’s something we can teach people. Out here one of the best “schools” for that is run by the Bureau of Land Management for young hunters. It’s about the safe handling of fire arms and building a reverent and respectful relationship with nature.

P.S. Lots of people take their dogs out unleashed. Many of them know what they’re doing. This sermon/diatribe is not addressed to you. It’s to all the people whose dogs get lost in the mountains and need to be rescued, or whose poor paws are trashed by (suddenly!) going on a long trail hike on a hot day, or get trapped in talus, or get bitten by a snake or the numerous things that can happen to a dog who isn’t trained to come when called, isn’t trained to avoid snakes, isn’t trained to stay with its person. ❤


I’m not a big forest person, more your empty horizon kind of woman, but my “church” is an old Colorado Juniper and my best painting so far is a painting of a tree, so you see it’s not from any antipathy toward trees at all. Not that I don’t like forests; I do, it’s just that sooner or later I want to see the WHOLE sky.

As a kid I hiked in a forest that lined the Missouri River. It was all trees all the time, varieties I can’t even identify now because I was too young then to have or develop the skills, but there were oak, black walnut, mulberry, sumac, some pine, willow, cottonwood and godnose what other hardwood trees never appeared again in my life

In the Laguna Mountains in California, the second leg of most of my hikes involved a leisurely stroll through a grove of Jeffry Pine I called “the Enchanted Forest.” The trees stood tall and straight above a grassy field that sloped slowly toward a ravine. Tall trees were one of the sweet wonders of that hike. In the compilation below, you can see it in the middle photo of the top row.

Along the coast, though, the only tall, native trees were native oaks and sycamore with willow and cottonwood sprinkled in Riparian areas. I learned hiking in the coastal chaparral hills to see things in miniature; the landscape was even called ‘the elfin forest.” If I let my imagination see this, I could imagine very very tiny beings (well there are some very very tiny beings) leading arboreal lives among the Wild Lilac (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus). I even found a 9 inch “Half Dome” that a very tiny climber would have struggled to climb. Seriously. It looked very much like that famous rock in Yosemite.

While the San Luis Valley isn’t really “burdened” with trees, along the edges, in the mountains, pine and aspen do their jobs cleaning the air and providing shade and food (and hiding places).

We owe trees everything, and, it seems, (who’s surprised?) that trees communicate with each other.


Since Darwin, we have generally thought of trees as striving, disconnected loners, competing for water, nutrients and sunlight, with the winners shading out the losers and sucking them dry. The timber industry in particular sees forests as wood-producing systems and battlegrounds for survival of the fittest.

There is now a substantial body of scientific evidence that refutes that idea. It shows instead that trees of the same species are communal, and will often form alliances with trees of other species. Forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships, maintained by communication and a collective intelligence similar to an insect colony. These soaring columns of living wood draw the eye upward to their outspreading crowns, but the real action is taking place underground, just a few inches below our feet.



The scientist who’s posited this lives in Europe where forests are (to me) different from the forests of the “new world” at least they feel different to me. In the forest of Zürich’s “home mountain,” the Zürichberg, below the Zoo, above the Glatt was/is an enormous tree that seemed to be the grandfather of everything. His branches reached so high that, though the forest was dark, light reached the ground. Under his spreading branches, new trees had the chance to grow and shade-loving wildflowers. All around, though, were pine needles and shadow. The only things growing in those forever-shaded places were amanita muscaria mushrooms, beautiful but dangerous to eat. I put that tree in my book Martin of Gfenn. I’ll share that passage since I don’t have a photo of the Grandfather Tree.

[Martin] came upon a tree that had outreached the competitive struggle of the maple, birch and pine behind it. A magnificent giant with a wide trunk of lucent green, awash in light, its lowest branches so far above the lower growth that they pulled sunlight to the wildflowers on the forest floor. Martin sat with his back against the tree. Above the highest branches, blue sky faded to lavender.

April 22

Dusty boots have been my best friends
Taking me where I’ve been and where I’ve dreamed.
Across destiny’s bitter hills again and again,
Ancient lakes, morning’s snowbound trails, frozen streams.
Far, shining Alpine peaks, out of my reach,
Layers of clay, bright-colored, time-kissed,
The tracks of dinosaurs on a rock-hard beach,
Juniper bushes, scorpions and mist.
Through time, disaster or inspiration,
Tree-held or wasted, sage scrub and forest,
Sand and shore, wild lilac, golden aspen,
Sorrow or hope, the yearning heart rests.
Where my eyes point, squint, captured by color,
Summits or dreams, one foot, then the other

The poem is a Shakespearean sonnet, though I’m not a fetishist about iambic pentameter since it’s the natural rhythm of the English language anyway. Iambic pentameter is ba-BOOM, ba-BOOM for ten syllables. A Shakespearean sonnet is 14 lines with the scheme of ababcdcdefefgg. It’s easy for a dyslexic person like me who’s likely to mess up the rhyme scheme if it has too many variables. The story is that Shakespeare wrote his sonnets like this because the traditional Italian sonnet (the Petrarchan sonnet) is immensely challenging in English because of the natural rhythm of English vs. the natural rhythm of Italian. I don’t know if this is true or not but I’m buying it anyway.

Aaaaannnddd, That’s a Wrap (almost)

“I know for me, whenever I needed a distraction from the news, working on our Soothing Nature videos has been a wonderful way to decompress. If you’re in a particularly wintery mood, check out one of my favorite Soothing Nature moments and spend an hour in snowy Yellowstone.” Karen Ho Social Media Specialist for NATURE

I had to laugh when I read this in my email this morning, an email from PBS. During one of the more fraught moments of this year I sought “soothing” by watching nature films. Seriously, all I got in terms of “soothing” from that was the understanding that we’re just participating in one of those nature dramas. After watching a mother moose abandon her calf in a swollen stream, watching one older sibling bird offer up his younger brother to the hungry eagle, and the mating ritual of about a hundred gaudy male birds dancing and singing “Let’s get it on,” to the gray female, blasé and assured in her understated elegance, no. Anyone who’s “soothed” by nature videos doesn’t get it.

The email is accompanied by photos of wolves killing buffalo followed by a headline, “Cold Warriors: Wolves and Buffalo — Discover how wolves and buffalo live together in what seems like a forgotten corner of the world.” The implication? Depends how you read it. It could be that the interdependence of prey and predator keeps both animal (groups, not individuals) alive or it could be deep irony.

Yesterday I got an extraordinary book, Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration by Joe Wilkins. It’s a “coffee table” book in format but not in content, though it is full of incredible photographs. The writing is beautiful and, in the midst of one lovely, descriptive sentence after another came this gem, “Mud is very informative.” I love tracks and reading the stories left in the night, and, that simple clause, dropped in the middle of some very elegant description revealed the man.

On this New Years Eve, when I think back on 2020, I’m surprised that I’m not fixated on the virus and the politics and attenuating bullshit. I just see what I did (paintings), what made summer not-so-bad-at-all (Scarlet Emperor Beans and friends) and how I dealt with the demands of, yeah, nature. I learned yesterday that I’m likely to get a vaccination in spring — which is what I always expected from the beginning of the pandemic — and, meanwhile, it is this beautiful cold season where there is always the hope of snow. I’d like more than hope, but hope’s not so bad. In a week or so I will get the first shipment of books to evaluate for the writing contest for which I am a judge. I’m busy restocking my Etsy store in anticipation of spring. I deeply appreciate this “neighborhood” which has been a big part of these several months not being lonely and RDP for helping me wake up with a purpose on the days that didn’t start so well, a purpose beyond the dishes waiting in the sink. So, hoping for better things for all of us in 2021, I wish you all a…

Happy New Year!


Random Update

“It’s time for us to go, but we’ll be back soon,” say the cranes.
“We’re not going anywhere,” say the mountains all around me.
“I’m only here for now,” says the pale ice along the river.
“We’re fine. This is what we were made for,” say the mule deer munching golden grass beside the tracks.
“I’m hungry, but I can hunt,” says the eagle.
“One foot in front of the other,” I think.


The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
The first, that it flies to the highest point;
the second, that it does not suffer for company,
not even of its own kind;
the third, that it aims its beak to the skies;
the fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
the fifth, that it sings very softly.-

San Juan de la Cruz, Dichos de Luz y Amor


A few months ago I bought painting panels. At the time I thought, “Oh boy, I’m going to paint BIGGER,” but in the meantime I painted a LOT bigger (twice). Yesterday I unwrapped the panels. 18 x 24. It looks like a postage stamp on my easel. I have no ideas for a painting, either. There was something transformative about painting on a surface that was, if I stood it on its corner, taller than I am. I liked painting that size VERY VERY much, but I don’t see any way to make a habit of it. And then it’s not like I sell a lot of paintings…

The festive season is upon us. My Christmas lights cross the front window. It’s been a long haul and sometimes stoicism only goes so far. Monday was a good day — a new president and a vaccine is out in the world, given to the people who need it most. According to the “plan” I should be vaccinated sometime in March.

I wonder HOW I could have known several months ago that by March I would be back out into the world, but I did know. I think about the world I will go “back” into, and it’s not that different from this world into which I’ve retreated. I realize I’m psychologically trashed. I’m hoping for a president who doesn’t need my constant (and futile) attention. I think of my friend in Italy who said he liked Trump because Trump didn’t involve the US in more wars. I didn’t respond to that, or say that the withdrawal had been happening for a while before Trump, and that Trump’s destabilizing of alliances in Europe was dangerous, too. I don’t want to argue with anyone, least of all someone I’ve known so long and whose friendship I value so much.

If I’ve learned anything through the shitshow of 2020 it’s that my opinion has no impact on anything or anyone but me. Wearing 8 inches of cotton across my face does.

I’m so tired.


Suit and Tie

At the Crane Festival this past March I saw a tiny owl who was concealed perfectly against the bark of a tree. She was VERY difficult to see. Nature’s deception is evolutionary adaptation to give a plant or animal a better shot at surviving. There’s no malice or even duplicity in this, just the amoral neutrality of keeping alive. And, for that, the plant or animal doesn’t know it’s “deceiving” anyone or anything. It’s just THERE. The plant that smells like rotting meat, the bird eggs that look like rocks, camouflage that hides the hunter, the flowers that look like butterflies, even my dog, Bear, whose coloring would allow her (if she were employed) to blend in with the herd of sheep she’s guarding.

People, on the other hand, can intentionally deceive others, and I’m one of the biggest patsies in the universe. Uncovering human deception never brings that small gasp of wonder, “Wow! It’s not a blade of grass! It’s a bug!!!” In nature it’s about concealment from predators, attracting necessary help breeding, and getting food rather than BEING food.

Wait a minute…

One of the things I like about my life now is that I don’t have to act like someone else in order to get paid.

“Society is a joint stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

In the featured photo there is a mountain lion. She is stalking the elk whose butt you see in the foreground. The easiest way to find her is by enlarging the photo and tracking backward from the elk along what you think might be the lion’s line of sight. The elk has NO idea he’s being stalked; the lion’s ability to hide and appear to be rocks and bushes is that good.

the photo above is a link to some larger images. 🙂


Doing the Wash

One day hiking up a California hill I had named the “Goetheberg” I happened on an entire wing from a red tail hawk. We’d had a storm — lots of wind and rain — and I thought maybe the wind had brought the bird down. There was nothing other than the wing and only enough flesh to hold the feathers together. I picked it up and brought it home. I kept it for years and often wondered how it had fallen. A serious attack from a above was also a plausible cause.

The first time I was aware of the storied side of that world was when I was with my mom in Tucson and I took an early morning walk in a sandy wash and found mallard feathers and shining green heads strewn all around.

I suspected coyotes but it had rained and there were no tracks. “There’s a story here,” I thought, “but I will never know what it is.” Over time I saw the bleached bones of carnivore skulls, prickly pear seeds in coyote scat (“How?” I wondered until I had to try the fruit myself), footprints of prey followed by footprints of predators. If I walk with my head down now, you can blame it on that. There are a lot of good stories on the ground and, also, feathers.

Wild prose drains into desert washes. The day I found the wing, I turned away from the hill and walked up the wash. I guess I hoped to read more of the story.


I’m Not “Woke”

Yesterday I imagine most people saw the video of the woman in Central Park who refused to leash her dog even though it was clearly posted that, entering that area, an area called “The Ramble,” dogs must be leashed.

And why? A little research showed me why. It’s a refuge. In that immense and convoluted canyon of humanity there is a bird refuge. According to the guy who made the video, Christian Cooper, one of the most elegantly articulate people I’ve ever heard (he used the word “scofflaw”. Who uses that? The English teacher heart in me soared a little), 230 different bird species have been seen in that part of Central Park. When the event happened Cooper was birdwatching. It was 7:30ish in the morning.

Personally, I couldn’t spend more than 24 hours in New York City without feeling claustrophobic. I’ve tried. It’s the opposite of “my” landscape. It’s the “Big Filled.” So, my heart reached out in sympathy for the 230 bird species and the man who was there to see them. First point.

Second point. I believe in leashing dogs where there is signage. I walk my dogs in a bird refuge. I don’t want them going after the birds (and they would. They’re dogs). I don’t want them defecating there, either, so I carry poop bags. Dog poop is NOT the same to the natural environment as wild animal poop. There’s a reason the fox population has suffered from dog Parvo leading to an overpopulation of rabbits, etc… Nature knows how to work. We don’t.

When I go to my places and a person has an unleashed dog I’m furious. Bear is a power, a force of nature, and she doesn’t like other dogs. By keeping her leashed, I am protecting other dogs. She won’t hurt them, but I still don’t want her to chase them and throw them down. I also want to be responsible for my dog’s behavior where other animals live. Dogs are predators. I’ve had dogs who stayed with me on a trail, but neither Bear nor Teddy will. I’ve also let my dogs run where there is nothing at stake.

So, here’s this selfish woman letting her dog run in one of the only places in NYC where there are birds and birders and the whole nature thing that sustains life and the human soul. Grrrrrrrrr…..

Then the man, whom I couldn’t see but who was taking video, asked her to stay back from him. C-19 right? She kept approaching, yelling at him, spraying (through her mask) particles and rage. As she screamed, she held her little dog by the collar, choking him until he cried out in pain.

Still she did not leash him. Instead she called the police on 911 (the emergency number) and demanded (yes) they come and rescue her from an African American man who was attacking her.

That was it. I suddenly understood something I’ve never understood before. She actually BELIEVED that the cops would come and save her from the African American man. She said nothing about what was going on, only that an African American man was after her. She BELIEVED that was enough to summon the cops.

And that, I saw, clearly and sorrowfully, is White Privilege.

Why didn’t I see it before?

I never taught a class that was predominantly white. Most of my classes were Latino, white and African American — literally AFRICAN American very often. What I HAVE seen in my own life are African American students believing that when I asked them to do something difficult I was setting them up for failure because of White Privilege. That was never the case. Yesterday I understood the angry and paranoid assumptions many of these students brought with them to my classes, their inability to look at a white teacher as an individual person.

How did that all work out back in the day? Well, invariably I stood my ground. I knew where those students wanted to go and I knew my job was to get them there, even if I had to fight with them. It always worked out but it was never easy. They stood in their own way most of the time. I think I was terrifying to them.

A few years after teaching one particularly challenging community college class with a student who would angrily disrupt a lecture or discussion every single class period, until the other students were fed up with HER, I was sitting outside my office at San Diego State in a plaza area with picnic tables. I saw that student at another table tutoring (Equal Opportunity Tutoring) another African American student. I was happy to see that she’d succeeded in transferring (in spite of herself) and that she was helping someone else.

Later, immersed in grading papers, I felt a tap on my shoulder, “Professor?” said a meek voice. I turned around and it was that girl. “Can I sit with you a minute?”

“Sure,” I said. “I saw you tutoring over there. Awesome.”

“I owe you a big apology. You weren’t trying to make me fail back there in that class. You knew what was ahead of me because you teach here, too. You knew what I’d be expected to do. That wasn’t no ‘Whiteman’s book’ either.”

She was speaking of Brave New World. “No, it’s everybody’s book.”

“I get that now. Anyway, I’m sorry and thank you for teaching me.” She gave me a hug and went away.

I saw that whole experience watching that video yesterday. The African American man in the video was pure class and intelligence. The woman was hysterical way beyond the scope of the situation. I don’t know what was going on in her head but it seems to have had little or nothing to do with reality. In many ways it reminded me of the tirades this particular student had leveled at me during class time. Accusations of racism, threats to report me to the department (that she carried out, resulting in my being observed a couple of times that semester and leading to my being asked not to teach Brave New World any longer as it was too difficult for the students [fucking college juniors for the love of God]), and attempts to create “sides” among the students. That didn’t work. That student assumed that the leadership of the college would agree with her. I don’t know if they did or not, but she was right in the bias; they expected a white teacher to be unable to relate to students of color. I was lectured about this. Students in the class were interviewed, too, resulting in the administration deciding that I was fine, the class was fine, it was that this student just had a problem with me. They offered to put her in another class, but she didn’t want to go.

SO…the woman in the video lost her job, had her dog taken from her and can no longer go to Central Park. The man in question said in an interview,

“It’s a little bit of a frenzy, and I am uncomfortable with that,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “If our goal is to change the underlying factors, I am not sure that this young woman having her life completely torn apart serves that goal.”


I wrote something on Twitter yesterday in response to a comment made by a friend. I got this this morning.

I am not “woke.” I’m the same person I have always been. I was disgusted by more things in that encounter than the racism. The woman in the video demonstrated the lack of respect for nature I abhor. She mistreated her animal. She acted as if she was above the law. All those things disgust me. That she believed the cops would come to her aid “against” an African American man was just the cherry on the sundae.

I believe that as human beings we need to respect our world and all that is in it. What IF she’d leashed her dog? What IF she’d asked the man what he was doing there so early? What IF he’d introduced her to the idea of birding? What if she had been stunned to learn that there are 230 different species of birds frequenting that area? What if she had an inkling of life beyond herself, some curiosity, some optimism? She’s (to me) the same person demonstrating because the governor says the County of Alamosa has to wait 10 more days to open because it’s had a sudden up-tick in C-19 cases and it’s a good idea to wait and see. She’s the person that made me leave the classroom. “You can’t give me a B! I’ve never had a grade lower than an A!”

“Your emotions, make you a monster…”

Can’t Take it for Granted

If you live out here in the Wild West water is a THING. In fact, it’s THE thing. I live in a desert. We get less than 7 inches of precipitation a year. Fortunately, a river runs through the valley, and, beneath my desert is an ancient lake. Aquifers as well which is why this is such a great place to grow things in spite of the short growing season.


Denver and other big cities on the “Front Range” are lusting after our water and some of the ranchers and farmers in my valley are lusting after money. If you’re interested, here’s an article that explains the struggle. The endless tug-o-war of life in the far west. I think most of the gun fights in the old days were probably not over gold or women but water.

The Rio Grande is parted out all the way down to El Paso, but some years there’s not enough snowfall to ensure water for everyone. This year will be OK. Though (as is common) the valley itself didn’t get as much snow as it gets some years, the mountains have a good snow pack.

This kind of fluctuation is just what nature does, but climate change is, of course, making the whole situation worse. Winters are shorter, drier and warmer — less water. But since I no more know the solution to climate change than I have a cure for COVID-19, I will leave this post and wish you all a happy Saturday. My friends and I are off to the Crane Festival today.

The featured photo is sandhill cranes grazing in a barley field under the loving arms of a giant sprinkler.


Clouded Post

Because of all the mountains, the river and the immense sudden plain which is the San Luis Valley, the sky is always amazing. EVERYTHING can be happening at one time on any given day. I’ve witnessed “snow bows” from thunder snow over the San Juans while, behind me, the sun shone happily as if rough weather were relegated to some distant place, not this one. The wind can be blowing like a MF where I’m standing and I can look some twenty miles down the valley and see the calm fluff of drifting light cumulous clouds. One day, as rainbows dropped gently from hanging virga, I saw the face of Kris Kristofferson in a gathering mammatus cloud formation.

At that moment I understood how God became a bearded face in the sky, but seriously? Kris Kristofferson?

Lenticular clouds are a mountain phenomenon. That fancy word just means lens shaped. I had never heard of them until I went to the little town Mt. Shasta, CA for surgery on my right hip. Some online advertising for that mountain town had many pictures of lenticular clouds over that spectacular volcanic cone. Yeah, yeah, I know that lots of people go to the big city for joint surgery, but my doctor was there. From the window in my hospital, I had a view of Mt. Shasta. And, for major surgery, it was a great experience.

Lenticular Cloud over Mt. Shasta in California

Lenticular cloud formations are common here because of all the mountains and the constantly moving air. From a distance, a chain of lenticular clouds appears smooth and languid, stretching out over the peaks.

One day I was walking out in the big empty as a lenticular cloud moved over me during its formation. The way the air moved beneath it was strange and powerful, with a distinct uplift. I didn’t realize what it was until I looked up and saw the underside of a disk-shaped cloud with fuzzy edges. I stood still and watched. It wasn’t going to pick me up or anything, and I just felt lucky to have the experience.

The featured photo shows a string of lenticular clouds over the Sangre de Cristo mountains. A modern potato cellar in the foreground.