Friday, November 15, 2013

Bosque del Apache

I went to Bosque del Apache yesterday, the 57,000-acre wildlife bird sanctuary near Socorro, NM, to watch the migratory birds roosting there lift off from the water at sunrise to feed.  They are there in large numbers from November to December. More than 40,000 birds including as many as 17,000 sandhill cranes, ducks, geese and more stop here in the flood planes of the Rio Grande in autumn to rest and feed on their southward migration. They come from as far as Alaska and travel as far south as Mexico. On a frosty November morning with the sun taking its veiled time to rise from behind mountains and clouds they are a sight to behold. More later.  For now, photos.  (Click to enlarge.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunscapes, Sanity, and Migratory Birds

I've been lazy lately. The sunsets have been magnificent.  Here are a few scenes at a truck stop, as I entered New Mexico last month. (click to expand.)

Ah, but not just on the highways that the sun plays its tricks with the sky.

In Truth or Consequences it rises over Turtleback Mountain, lighting the morning, and painting the dawn clouds platinum white and charcoal gray.

By evening, the sky is red again, as the westering sun ducks behind the Gila Mountains, painting the sky a fiery orange.

And paints the turtle on Turtleback Mountain gold.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * 
It is good to be home. Much has been happening in TorC. hTremayne, almost my next door neighbor, published a book in June — The Good Life Lab, about her and her husband's decision to leave the high-powered, high moneyed life of Manhattan and find a saner and more satisfying way to life.

They found it here. The book details what and how they worked to learn new skills and make —  not buy — a life of plenty.  And the philosophies they developed as they lived their dream.

"I discovered there are two kinds of poverty," said, during a book signing at the Black Cat Bookstore and Cafe here in Truth or Consequences. "There is the poverty of really not having enough, and the poverty of thinking you don't have enough."
Wendy gets a hug during a book signing.

There is, says Wendy, organic living in which we are one with our instincts that tell us what this world, the natural world, is all about.  And there is the artificial world that civilization has created out of the natural world.  Wendy believes we are not never really at home in that world and never can be.

Meanwhile, I've settled in to do some  writing here.  I've added a small addition to my bus to make things cozy yet  more spacious.

A canopy awning and front panel — a marvel of modern engineering.

It is getting cold at night, but my bed is warm, and my ancient German Eberspacher gasoline heater still works to warm things up in the morning.  When the sun comes out it is marvelous.

There are many friends in this unique little town of poets, writers, painters, musicians and hippies; where you can soak in 108 degree artesian water, and at night watch Orion climb straight overhead into a jet black, star-spangled autumn New Mexico sky.

And much to do. On Thursday I am off to Bosque del Apache at dawn to watch the migratory birds  — ducks and geese and cranes — already there. When these birds lift off in to he morning sun, I am told, it is a sight to behold.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tumbleweeds, Sunsets

It was a peaceful and an uneventful 350-mile trip yesterday, south from Topeka to Oklahoma City, where I picked up I-40 and headed west, stopping at the Cherokee KOA Kamp Grounds last night, about 50 miles west of the state capital that rises above the plains. Evening came and so did rain.

Driving through the open, rolling Kansas countryside I saw tumbleweeds — ghost-like balls of fluff — rolling across open corn fields and darting across the interstate.
Photo taken from the southern ridge of Monticello Canyon
 looking toward Mount Caballo and Turtleback Mountain.

The Oklahoma rains continued overnight and made for good sleeping.

I am about 600 miles  from Truth or Consequences—two easy days.

Birds are singing in the soft morning. It is pleasant to take things easy.

This is not my photograph but one published in the local Truth or Consequences Herald newspaper. It is worth sharing.

Somehow the skies are taller, clouds catch play in the light in ways unimaginable elsewhere, as if God has a unique pallet on display in the southwest heavens.

Special thanks and welcome to MonaLisa Acuna, the latest member to join this blog!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

On The Road Again

Topeka Kansas — After a year back east in North Carolina I am on the road again. The days are sunny and warm, the nights cool. It is heartland America. On Sunday There was a fall pumpkin festival here with hay rides, a corn stalk maze, food, and pumpkins and squash for sale. Dark clouds loomed but it did not rain.

I've been visiting a friend. The bus ran well after some exhaust repairs in Gettysburg where I visited family. Now with colder weather only weeks away or maybe closer it is time to head southward. Next stop, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

I've picked up a few friends along the way. One was a butterfly that visited every day and explored my living quarters and often would perch on my hand.

Plus many more two-legged friends.

Leaving my brother and sister behind in Pennsylvania was the hardest sacrifice. I have a feeling that it will be long before I see them again. Leaving my friend Patricia and her son Richard in North Carolina was another loss. Yet that is the way of the world — there are constant losses and constant gains. All under a constant sky. And on a open road.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wake Up Or You Will Miss the Revolution !!

Millions — perhaps the largest political demonstration in the history of mankind — are gathering in Egypt. Size matters !  As in Brazil, once a political uprising gains critical mass it becomes too large to stop, even with police, tear gas, tanks and water canons, it cannot be put down.

Millions gather in Egypt
We have never seen this before!  And we have no idea where it is going !  But it can — and probably will — spread like wild fires.

The world is a beautiful and marvelous place too long controlled by tyrants, kings, governments, businesses that do not represent the true beauty and potential of humankind.  We do not know what is coming next.  Some will be fearful.  Yet this kind of movement like burgeoning grass cannot be stopped.

We are living in genuinely exciting times with genuinely unprecedented opportunities for this planet and its inhabitants.

We didn't — and never did — need the systems that controlled and separated us one from the other. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Garden In June

Now that it's June, the garden plot that in April that was a desolate patch brown dirt and red clay is now a teeming sea of green!

Potatoes in sunshine
Potato plants three feet tall, tomato plants taller still, and laden with fruit, thrive. There are beans and peppers. Squash and asparagus. It is all very rewarding.

But the reward comes only partially comes from the success of growing things.

Perhaps a deeper reward derives from a mystical sense of being one with the garden.

Jerry Garcia remarked after  concert that it was not the band that played the music but the music  that played the band.

And so I think it is  with gardening. The garden works its own magic. I know almost nothing about gardening but somehow when I am working in it it is the garden that tells me what to do. For a few hours I am at one not only with the plants and soil but with the universe.


Potatoes fresh from the earth
I dug up a few potatoes yesterday. It's early, and the plants still have a way to go, but the results are promising. To the right, my harvest from two plants.

We've been lucky. There has been abundant rain and enough sunshine to make things happen. Still it seems a miracle. The magic of nature bestowing gifts,

We fool ourselves if we think we play any  more than a handyman's roll. Water from the sky falls to the earth, goes into the ground, and magic happens. Beautiful things that did exist — hundred of pounds of them — are miraculously created while we stand on the sidelines in awe. It is truly amazing. And how beautiful. Tiny tomato seeds become huge plants five feet tall and more weighted with ripening fruit. Again it is not our doing.

Tomatoes on the vine 
Sure, we help things along.

But that's what we are here for. And not just for gardens but to help each other.

What the garden teaches with its dirt and soil and microbes and worms, nutrients and moisture, minerals and compost, weeds and bugs, is interdependence.

For a while, working and weeding, digging and planting, I am not the gardener. I become the garden.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Doing the garden, digging the weeds ...

...who could ask for more ?

Looking over the  potato patch at my bus
I have stopped traveling for a while and found roots in North Carolina and in the soil. It's spring. Butterflies and blossoms are everywhere.

This is a different kind of a journey, planting potatoes, and in a few weeks tomatoes and many, many other things. 

It is a journey that is hard to describe and harder still to photograph. It is a journey back to the beginning — the garden.

As attuned as one becomes to nature living in the desert or the mountains or the forest, there is a different attunement that comes from working the soil.

Weather also takes on a different feel. Whether the sun shines or the rains come, the wind blows, the earth freezes or heats up matters in a different way. Will the potatoes have enough water? Will the spinach grow? Is it warm enough for tomatoes? Cool enough for peas?

Over all this there is little control.  It is easy to over romanticize gardens. But farming is not romantic.  It is hard work.  It is a very unnatural thing we do to the earth, dig and plant and make it work for us.  

Yet you cannot spend hours with a shovel turning red clay, breaking the clods and seeing the worms, hearing the buzz of bees in the fruit tree blossoms, the sounds of frogs at night without beginning to feel peacefully at home in the cycle of things that grow.

If farming is unnatural, how much more unnatural is getting in a car and going to an office or a factory to earn a paycheck that in the final analysis allows you to buy a life.

That is what we are becoming, too many of us, men and women who sell our time to buy our lives; and what artificial lives we end up buying when we do.

On the cherry trees and apple trees and plum trees, on the peach trees and redbuds, and soon the magnolias, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of the most intricate blossoms of the most beautiful and delicate hues, all for the gazing.

They won't be around long. Only a few weeks. And that's the beauty of it! What a parade they make decked out in their finest.

Pink cherry blossoms,  bud and bloom
And what a lesson they have to impart. They will not be around long and neither will we.

So when spring comes, and the soil melts, and the shovel turns, and the seeds sprout, the birds sing, it is a feast, a festival, a joyous dance of renewal. 

It is life taken in through the pores, the nostrils, the ears, the eyes, the taste buds.  It is clouds in a blue sky, a hundred shades of green and yellow leaves and grass.

Digging the garden, doing the weeds who could ask for more?

At the moment as I put the rake down and look at the upturned earth I cannot think of asking for much more than this.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Political Problems; Hiking the Mountains

had lunch this week with a businessman and local politician. He has written a book. In it  he details his experiences and frustrations in politics. 

His observations are keen. He says money plays the dominant role in who gets elected. "Without money you can't get elected. And money put up against you will defeat you."

Three days later I was hiking in a state park.  I was stilling thinking about what my friend said. 

The tower at Hanging Rock
The other problem is indifference. Except at election time few people pay attention to the issues, he says.

The combination of money and indifference works to  benefit those in power. 

Rockingham County, NC, he believes, is a microcosm for the nation. Political power gets auctioned off. Those with power seek short-term gains at the expense of long-term goals —  fracking; clear-cutting; environment degradation; deficit spending. Our children will suffer

Looking west toward Pilot Mountain
We agree that in these terms the future looks kind of grim. 

But at a certain point we part company. He believes we are wedded to the old way of thinking. I don't.

I've lived in a small world too long not to know the world we live in is what we make it.

You can stop the music at any time and get off.

It is beautiful in the mountains where I an hiking. Low clouds hang over a landscape of soft blue, a quilt of rolling hills, farmland and forest stretching to the horizon. All is quiet.  On the trail I come upon fresh coyote scat. There is wind in the pines and hemlocks. In the distance, geese. It is a place to think.

Pilot Mtn Knob 2.JPG
The monadnock atop
Pilot Mountain 
Across the way is Pilot Mountain, part of the  Sauratown mountain chain named for the Saura Indians who once lived here centuries ago.

The timeless perspective assures me nothing important changes. The rocks, trees and skies remain.  So too the rains, plants and animals. 

Human nature is good even if the system that we function under isn't.

We are on a journey together, you and I. And it's a heck of a lot of fun. We don't have to be part of the grim.

For VW bus fans who have not seen the Oscar winning movie, Argo, check out this VW bus clip.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Confessions of a Minimalist — Storage

The bus in winter
A few words about storage: Know where things are. Ziploc bags.

Having stuff can be burdensome. But everyone has some stuff. In the confines of a small space even a very modest amount of stuff can be a problem. 

I am not going to suggest I know how to store your things better than you do. Or what your storage space looks like. I'm only going to suggest a golden rule or two of storage. Know where everything is. Use Ziploc bags.

Knowing where everything is lets you find what you need quickly. It keeps you from making a mess looking for it.

The other golden rule is use plastic air-tight sealable bags. Everything from food to small electronics, to folded clothes and cosmetics, can go inside. They nest, small ones inside big ones. They tuck, they squeeze and go almost anyplace you want. You can write on them. They keep things clean. They do not take up more room than what they contain.

Unlike other containers they shrink as what is inside gets used.

Organize what you use everyday so it is close at hand. What you seldom use can be tucked away. For extra storage, a suitcase. 

An organized home is not only neat and clean and easier to live in. It makes you feel good about  yourself and keeps clutter from cluttering up your life.

A few tips: Shoes take up a lot of room. Minimize. So do bulky coats. Consider layering. Store like things together. I store cooking utensils inside a Coleman stove. They are there when I need them, out of the way when I don't. Always clean and straighten right away. Carry a rope or clothes line. Air things like linen and sleeping bags. Consider rooftop storage when traveling. Use folding chairs. When at a campsite think of the outdoors as your home. Set up camp accordingly. Have a system for laundry. Either washing a few things daily or a trip to a laundromat weekly. Practice cleanliness around your campsite, for your sake and the sake of others. Recycle. Share. Love. You want you life to work for you. Not the other way around.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Confessions of a Minimalist — Stuff

One thing years of living in a bus taught me:  You don't need much to be happy — food, shelter, love and companionship is about it. Anything else isn't gravy. It usually just gets in the way.

Now that I am not living in a bus, and taking time to write about it, I'm finding how easy it is to slip back into old ways.

Take CD's and DVD's, for example, Or books, or jeans and T-shirts. Or shoes. Another here, another  there. Soon clutter.

Living in a bus imposes strict limits on almost everything. My rule of thumb has been if I get something new, like a new book or CD, I get rid of an old to make room.

It's easy. Just give it away, or leave it to be found. Someone will want it.

This rule  not only keeps clutter from accumulating. It upgrades what you do have by forcing you to keep only what you really love and need.

Another rule is: If you haven't used it, worn it, eaten it or cooked with it in six months get rid of it. Obviously this does not apply to spare parts. It applies to almost everything else.

I could go on but I think the point is made. Having only what you need and nothing more simplifies your life.

NEXT:  Storage.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Differing Visions of Life in America

Like millions of Americans, I heard the president address the nation in his State of the Union address to Congress last night. I was impressed. He seemed relaxed and at the top of his rhetorical game.  

Yet the speech also troubled me.

President Barack Obama addresses the nation during the 2013 State of the Union in Washington D.C.
President Obama
If I heard him correctly he called for preschool  for all children beginning at age four.

He called for high school education more closely tied to job placement, more akin to an associate degree from a community college.

"To grow our middle class," the president said, "our citizens must have access to the education and training that today's jobs require."

He also made a pitch for an increase in the minimum wage, to $9 an hour, a  boost for the working poor.

It was about jobs and work — tailoring people to fit the world of work rather than tailoring the world of work  to fit people.

Those at the top prosper; those below perspire.

Wandering Wolf

If Mr. Obama was offering a vision of  utopia based on rewards, benefits and confinements of corporate America,  Wakatel Utiw—Wandering Wolf—a Mayan elder who has been walking the Americas, see things a little differently. 

Five hundred years of  rule by occupiers, colonialists and corporate interests has not created paradise in the Americas or the world, he says. It is a system based on greed. Its legacies are division, distrust, poverty and war.

Wandering Wolf 
Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez Olax, Wandering Wolf, is at the heart of the movie, Shift of the Ages, exploring the meaning of the Mayan and other indigenous peoples' visions for a better way of live. For more than seven years he has traversed the Americas from Guatemala to Peru and Bolivia, meeting with elders and speaking speaking of a coming change foreseen by his people as long count  calendar comes to a close and a new epoch begins. 

Although the time is now for a new era, he says, mankind must end its divisions and we must work together to make it happen—to end the fouling of our air and water, to end poverty, to end war and greed. 

“The new Sun will come, but if we don’t change our destructive and disharmonious ways, many may not see it. We are not powerless over something happening to us," he says. "We are happening to the Earth and to each other.”

He points to 500 years of occupation, colonial rule and corporate oppression. The lessons of the old order are manifest in a world that has turned its back on the human spirit and preached a world of material plenty and spiritual poverty.

His words contrasted with the focus of the president's address stirred something in me.

Why should it be that in a world of plenty there is so much want?  Why should we begin preparing the young for a lifetime of work at the tender age of four? 

For what reason?  To get ahead?  Who profits?  Who loses?

A Theft of Tender Years

One of  nature's preschool instructors.
Taking four-year-olds, sparkling and spiritual and at an  age when imagination should be free to explore and to play, and putting them on the treadmill that feeds the maw of the corporate machine seems a crime against them and against all humanity.

Using education not to enlarge the spirit and expand the mind but to hone workplace skills seems not so much an exercise in developing  human potential as it does  in crushing it.

The rewards are the material gee-gaws and gadgetry that fill our empty days and overflow our landfills.

One thing that nights looking at stars and mornings watching a sun rise over mountains has taught me is that the stars and the moons and the mountains and the sunrise belong to all of us.  And so too the Earth.  And that there is no more beautiful sight than a free human cast in his or her own mold and not in the mold of others or the machine.

We should be careful what we ask when we seek to grow our economy, and wary of the price we may pay and the fuel we are putting into the fire, 

The four-year-old sitting by the campfire beside her mother, hearing the conversations of coyotes in the hills, the rustle of wind in the grass, the screeches of owls and chirrups of insects and frogs,  dreaming of life unfolding before her in her vivid imagination, will not be so happy in an air-conditioned preschool where she may learn keyboard skills but not know the scent of a pine forest.

Even if it does one day lead to a job.