The Atmosphere Delivers


March 22, 2023- Dad would have been 96 today. He grew up with a love of flowing water, especially salt water, which soothed his psoriasis somewhat. We inherited that love, though something in my physical make-up has hampered my swimming skills. Nevertheless, being around water is soothing. Aram picked up that love of water and is a top notch swimmer and diver. He has translated that into success so far in the U.S. Navy-nowadays in the Naval Reserves.

I thought, when moving to Arizona, from Maine, in 1978, that I might miss the ocean. California, as it happens, is not far away-and on occasion, I have visited seaside resorts in Mexico’s northwest corner. The desert, however, is an ocean in itself-just storing its water safely, in pockets-oases, tanks and the storage components of trees, cacti and succulents. There are also plenty of mountains, which in northern Arizona are quite similar in vegetation to the mountains of New England, albeit with cacti thrown in for good measure.

The atmosphere has delivered copious amounts of precipitation this Winter-and into the first days of Spring. Most people are aware of the mixed blessings this has brought to California and Nevada. Arizona has had the same experience as its western neighbours. So, as mentioned in the earlier post, the rivers and creeks of our area, as well as near Flagstaff and parts of the Navajo and Hopi Nations , have assumed monsoon-level flows. This has opened shelters, as those living near the overflowing banks have had to be evacuated. Some have headed down to the Phoenix area or further afield. A few have stayed with us, in the Red Cross facilities.

Thus, my tentative schedule has set me to working nights, possibly through Friday, and doing minimal activities during the daylight hours, the rest of this week. I have, however, kept my basic exercise routine-and in the event of an empty, “stand-by” shelter, I can walk many laps around the gym, without bothering anyone. Life goes on nicely.

Nature and Nurture


February 21, 2023, Sierra Vista- The day began, nicely enough, though it was raining in Superior. The rain continued, off and on, while I was taking in Boyce Thompson Arboretum, the town’s crown jewel. I have been here, three times before, but never under cloudy skies or when rain alternated between drenching shower and light drizzle. I was no worse for the wear; nor were any of the seventy or so others, including 57 fourth-and fifth-grade students, who did not let the weather get between them and the bountiful flora-with collections from various arid and semiarid areas around the globe. Starting with our own Sonoran Desert, the park takes in the neighbouring Chihuahuan, the Kalahari, western Sahara, the Mediterranean Rim, the deserts of Asia, of Australia and of South America.

Here are six scenes of nature, taking in its nutrients, on this mid-winter day.

East face of Picketpost Mountain, Boyce Thompson Arboretum
East face of Picketpost Mountain, as the fog is lifting.
Teddy Bear Cholla, rejoicing in the moisture.
Early blossoming camellias
A cardinal looks for food.
A pair of stone watchmen, east face of Picketpost Mountain.

There is much for me to visit, still, the next time I come this way: The Asian and South American desert gardens and Picketpost House, most specifically.

Next up was Biosphere II, the site of an experiment in enclosed living and recreation of natural environments, within that enclosed space. Two teams, each managing a separate mission, worked the space between 1991-1994. The space is presently owned and operated by the University of Arizona, which maintains the site in a good faith synergy with the original vision of Ed Bass and John P. Allen, who themselves were inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s “Spaceship Earth” project.

The site remains the largest closed ecological system ever created. Here are several photographs of the site, taken by my trusty camera, until it ran out of battery.

Staff residences and common building (right foreground), Biosphere II.
Overview of Main Campus, Biosphere II.
View of garden, Central Commons building
Freight Farm-the buildings in which hydroponic farming produces what is needed for the residents to live.
The Lung-which regulates air pressure, within the glass enclosure.
Fog-laden desert scape. This is one of many environments, created and maintained, within the glass-enclosed laboratory. Others include both High and Low Savanna, Rain Forest and Ocean.

Biosphere II was a noble effort, laid low by power-seeking and by human conflict. Nonetheless, the University of Arizona is giving the basic mission of the site its best shot. I am at a loss to succinctly describe the physics of LEO. This article may explain the concept, by which three landscapes are created on site.

Superior Rising


February 20, 2023 , Superior, AZ- The day started with heartwarming, and heart-rending, stories of Black artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries and the conflicted reaction of even the most prominent “abolitionists” of the Civil War era to women of colour who showed a gift for artistry. I confess that my blood boiled, hearing some of the stories. Every person deserves encouragement and a platform for prosocial gifts.

In the early afternoon, I slowly and deliberately made my way out of Prescott, stopping at Costco for gas and a quick lunch, in the overflow parking lot, and in Prescott Valley, to purchase nuts for snacking. Then, it was straight to this old mining town, which I had not visited since before COVID hit. The overall purpose, rain or shine tomorrow morning, is to re-visit Boyce Thompson Arboretum. This afternoon, though, I hit upon a rudimentary, but interesting, little walking loop, from Superior History Park, across the highway from Copper Mountain Motel, and northwestward across a footbridge, past Porter’s renovated Bar and Grill, then eastward into the small, but somewhat revitalized downtown.

Walking across the footbridge, I encountered a man walking with his infant daughter, who was just learning to walk and was gleefully taking steps along the metal bridge. I told them what a joy it was to see someone taking her first steps in such a delightful place. Dad lifted his baby girl up and showed her the dry, rocky bed of Queen Creek.

I kept going, past Porter’s, where a about a dozen people were enjoying the patio and several others were visible from the window. There is a fairly new park on the north side of Main Street, Besich Park, with a new pavilion. Where Sun Flour Boutique was, there is now Bella’s Marketplace and Cafe. Where the original Sun Flour Bakery and Coffee House was, there is now Random Boutique, where the curio shop was, and the more upscale Miners on Main in the old cafe section. Around the corner, heading back towards the highway underpass, is Superior Barmacy, also a dinner-only restaurant, with a small mural of the “Indian Wars” on its east wall. Such is Legends of Superior’s Downtown Loop Trail.

Here are some scenes of the trail.

Mining Elevator, Superior History Park
Picketpost Mountain, from Lower Queen Creek Canyon
Queen Creek, from the Legends Footbridge.
Hematite and copper boulder, Main Street, Superior
Besich Park, Superior
Apache Yavapai warriors, (Mural at Superior Barmacy Restaurant)
Queen Creek, from Stone Street Bridge, Superior

The night’s focus was a Baha’i study circle, which I facilitated on Zoom, focusing on social action. It is clear as day that there will be no end to the need for such a focus. For now, and for the foreseeable future, I will offer such acts of service, small and large, as the opportunities present themselves.

High Desert Chill


December 15, 2022- Skull Rock really does look forbidding. The formations that dot Joshua Tree National Park are all pretty aptly named, though I must admit that the Hall of Horrors did not seem all that harrowing. My hikes were rather limited by the lingering chill that has decided to stick around the Southwest, for several more days-in lieu of a week of snow and rain that was forecast, as recently as a week ago.

This first visit to the crown jewel of the Mohave. After three days along the coast, a few h,ingtion to head northeast, along CA 62. Here are seven photos of the park’s main route, from the West Entrance, in the town of Joshua Tree, to Cottonwood Springs, just west of Chiriaco Summit. While the trees which some Mormon settlers thought reminded them of the Prophet Joshua, with his arms upraised in triumph, give their name to the Park, the rock formations are what bring visitors back to the area, time and again.

Keys West
Near Quail Springs
Butte, near Hemingway Campground
Quail Springs climbing area
Hall of Horrors
Skull Rock
Jumbo Rocks

The day started off with a breakfast from Zebra House, in downtown San Clemente, my first experience with ordering a meal from a computer screen, when there was a full crew standing at the counter. It does help the team streamline orders, but I felt a bit awkward doing things this way. The breakfast burrito was excellent, though, and I got to exercise more options. As with any novel experience, I would be more relaxed next time.

The drive across CA 76, 15, 79 and 74 brought me to a more familiar place, Gramma’s Country Kitchen, in Banning-as usual, taking a place at the counter. Half a tuna melt and a few steak fries later, I was headed towards Joshua Tree. It was, as said earlier, a chilly visit-weather-wise, but I encountered several friendly folks, both park rangers and visitors, especially rock climbers, who were planning each step very carefully. Most memorable were a newlywed couple, in their nuptial attire, being photographed at various landmarks. My paternal self fretted, just a bit, for the bride, in such lightweight attire. It was not surprising, about fifteen minutes later, to see the young lady wrapped in a blanket, with a forlorn look on her face. I hope the rest of their life together is more well considered.

Chiriaco Cafe’s chili added a fine finishing touch to a lightly-planned, but fascinating afternoon. It will not be my last visit to Joshua Tree, not by a long shot.



November 20, 2022- As I sat with two young siblings, in a friend’s apartment, they began drawing and then painting, images on cloth canvas squares. The kids did marvelous depictions of Pokemon characters and yin/yang symbols. My friend asked if I wanted to do a canvas of my own, which sounded like fun. I did a free-style depiction of a prehistoric bird, using a few colours: Red torso, black beak and legs, yellow tuft and green head. I would be surprised if any actual bird looked like that, but it was a nice, light activity.

It did get me thinking about the thunderbird, a common mythological creature of North America, ascribed by Algonquian-speaking peoples in the Pacific Northwest, eastern Canada, the northeast United States and the Great Lakes region, with thunderous wing-flapping and the ability to hurl lightning at giant serpents and other underwater creatures. It was said that thunderbirds ruled the land and sky, whilst serpents and underwater panthers shared the underworld. I heard about thunderbirds, growing up, and while they remain fanciful, the colour scheme has a polyglot, rainbow quality (Northwest) or has blue-black feathers.

The mythological nature of the beast, in turn, reminded me of the superhuman powers that we sometimes ascribe to actual creatures-even to the microbial level. I have fought a hard, but somewhat manageable, cold, over the past four days. It is at the point now, where it is subsiding and there is only a smidgen of mucous, itself clear. This is what I refer to as change-of-seasonitis, and it has usually showed up, around late October. My ailment has none of the symptoms attributed to COVID-19, and does remind me, pure and simple , of other bad colds I’ve had this time of year. The thunder is subsiding now,thankfully, and with a good rest and hydration, I will be fine for Tuesday’s flight.

Casa Remuda


November 5, 2022, Sedona- About two months ago, I encountered an effusive lady from New York, who was living and working, at the time, in a relaxed and well-appointed Bed & Breakfast, close to several trails on the Near West Side of town. She told me it would be a lovely, if a bit pricey, place to stay overnight, if I wanted to hike a trail early or to stay late at Synergy Cafe, where I have sometimes joined impromptu musical sessions with my had-held drum.

I have had hot-cold relationships with the owner and manager of Synergy. Presently, things are in a cool phase, and while I spent a couple of hours there tonight, I did not stay long, once the manager showed up. That is a digression, though. Casa Remuda is an amazing place, nestled in a residential neighbourhood, near Thunder Mountain and Chimney Rock. The couple who own and operate the Bed and Breakfast live on the premises and have given their all to the comfort and well-being of their guests, a swell as being kind employers. The 2 or 3 workers, two housekeepers and a maintenance man, live on the premises as well.

It was a quiet stay, bookended by two virtual Baha’i meetings, for which Walter and Vivian graciously let me use a small table, right off the kitchen, as it had the strongest WiFi. I used their massage bed, twice, which also helped me relax and sleep-the Queen-sized in the Lower Guest Room also had a heated mattress pad, even furthering the quality of the rest.

Then, there were the cats-Vivian’s joy. Cleopatra, Merlin and Phoenix are basically gentle creatures and like all cats, have the run of the house-and much of the property during the day. Coyotes and mountain lions being what they are, the trio are called in as night falls. Phoenix chose to play with me a bit, and engaged in “stalk and catch”-the feline version of “hide and seek”. In the end, Phoenix gave me permission to finish packing my bag. She is gracious in that way.

Phoenix the Cat, at Casa Remuda, Sedona

Here are some other scenes of the various scenes, both inside and out, at Casa Remuda.

A crystal throne
A ceramic “Jar Couple”
The Servant Cats
Swedish Ivy, in bloom
Soaring Eagle (Walter’s Spiritual Name)
Reflection Room and Study

Here is the perfect place for taking in and processing all the energy, both positive and negative, that comes with a Sedona visit. The former can be channeled and the latter, left at the gate. Walter and Vivian have left that gate open for me, in the future. I will be sure to take them up on that, either solo or with another friend or two, in the time to come.

I think Phoenix would agree.

The Carson Loop, Day 4: Shakespeare and Sand Dunes


October 18, 2022, St. Anthony, ID- The best thing about hiking on a sand dune is returning the sand to its spot on the ground, by emptying the shoes. There is no better feeling in the world, than “giving back” in this way.

Also right up there is seeing the lights in several children’s eyes shine, as they learn of things like rhymed couplets and iambic pentameter-taught by one who knows them best, their mother. Home Schooling makes sense for some children, and I witnessed such a group today. I needed to be with other kids, so it would not have been good for me. The three boys and their sister were able to dive into the mechanics of poetry, and read Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, with each person selecting a part, and Mom taking up the slack. Math, mythology, science and Physical Education rounded out their day, later on.

By then, I was off to St. Anthony Sand Dunes, another surprising aspect of the Snake River Plain. The dunes are twelve miles northwest of town, beyond the potato fields that are so synonymous with this swath of central and eastern Idaho. They were the result, it is said, of the shrinkage of several large lakes in the area, as the climate warmed, towards the end of the last Ice Age. The smaller lakes exposed fine sand, which stopped and began to pile up at the foot of the extinct volcanoes known as Juniper Buttes, as well as at older, longitudinal dunes from previous climate shifts. Today, the Dunes range in height from 10 ft. to 500 ft. Those off to the west tend to be higher, and are given names like Choke Cherry and Dead Horse Bowl. As one might expect, ATV users are given paths to follow, through the fine, white sand. The season for ATV use is essentially from April or May to November. The dunes are mostly closed from January to April or May-to allow for dune regeneration and to give the area’s wildlife a rest.

Here are some scenes of the foliage around Egin Lake and of the dunes themselves.

The oaks in transition, at Egin Lake, St. Anthony Sand Dunes
Egin Lake, with oaks across the way
Egin Lake, with both oaks and grass in fall splendor
Eastern dunes
Sage, oaks and sand
High dune, off Red Road (northern sector of the Preserve)
Dunes up against Juniper Buttes, Red Road sector
Up close with high butte, Red Road sector

Once back in town, I stopped at Chrissy’s, a family restaurant a few blocks from Three Bear Inn. They are well into the Halloween spirit. If you look closely, a skeletal parrot and donkey are in the lower background.

Halloween display at Chrissy’s Restaurant, St. Anthony

I got back to Three Bears in time to keep the ducklings company, while the clan went off to a physical education session. It’s been a rejuvenating 1 1/2 days.

The Carson Loop, Day 3: Sea of Lava


October 17, 2022, St. Anthony, ID- The boys noted a white ball cap, at the bottom of the small crater. One of them asked if he might shimmy down and retrieve it-which of course brought his father’s gentle but firm negative response. The presence of the family of five was a delightful addition to one of the most impressive flows of lava rock in the continental United States: Craters of the Moon.

This was my main draw to eastern Idaho, with Three Bears Inn, a cozy family home here in St. Anthony, a very close second. Three Bears is a serendipitous find, coming about when someone at misinterpreted my request for a room in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, last June. I was offered a room here, as compensation, for the charge that was incurred then.

The day started, somewhat chilly, in Jordan Valley, with a convenience store breakfast sandwich the only morning meal option. After a fashion, I headed off towards Idaho’s Owyhee Region. The name is a corruption of “Hawai’i”, coming from fur trappers having brought a crew of Native Hawaiians to the area, in 1819. Three of the Hawaiians embarked on an exploration of the Owyhee River’s canyonlands, but never returned to the base camp. The name Owyhee has been bestowed on the area, spanning parts of Oregon, Idaho and Nevada, in their honour.

Owyhee Overlook, Idaho
Owyhee Overlook, Idaho
Owyhee Overlook, Idaho

I continued past Boise, which will be a stop on the way back to Carson City, and found Little Camas Valley, where some of Idaho’s fall foliage was on view.

Oaks of the Little Camas, south central Idaho
Basalt outcropping, Little Camas
Basalt promontory, Little Camas

The presence of so much basalt, all along Highway 20, interrupts the constant presence of sage brush, as does the large presence of agriculture-both corporate and small scale. The Snake River Plain, from Fairfield in the west to Ashton in the east, is a prime potato growing region. Just shy of Arco, however, Craters of the Moon’s lava fields interrupts the farmlands, as much as the soil itself was created and enriched by the flow. This is the bounty of the Great Idaho Rift.

Here are some scenes, north of the actual monument grounds, and along Idaho Route 20.

Lava beds, north and west of North Crater, which is the central point of the Monument.
Lava bed, along Rte. 20

Pioneer Mountains, above the lava beds

Entering the Monument, which focuses on North Crater and its nearby flows, I encountered a family of four, joyfully coming back from a short walk in the lava field across from the Visitor Center. Here is what they saw.

A determined and lonely pine rises above sage and stone.
Older lava flow, at base of North Crater
Dwarf buckwheat is one of the more prolific flowering plants that has adapted to the lava beds.
Inferno Peak, a hikeable cinder cone.

I made the hike to the top of Inferno Peak in ten minutes. There, to greet me, was the Leaning Juniper of the Craters.

Lone juniper, atop Inferno Peak
Resilient sage and mature buckwheat, Inferno Peak summit
Big Craters, from the summit of Inferno Peak

Red cinder, Inferno Peak summit

The last focus of this visit was on the Spatter Cones, small volcanoes-or as one of the little girls present called, “Baby Volcanoes”.

Here was the place where I encountered the family mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Lastly, I stopped at Devil’s Orchard, an otherworldly group of standing lava rock. The place was so named by a visiting Christian preacher, in the early twentieth century.

Basalt standing in Devil’s Orchard

The scope of Craters of the Moon surpasses Arizona’s Sunset Crater, and rivals Lassen. It will be a stop along the way to future visits to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. For now, I settle in for a day or so, with new friends at Three Bears Inn: A strong couple, three sons and a daughter, two cats and two ducklings. Everything is just right.

Highway 160, Old and New


September 1, 2022, Walsenburg, CO- The message outside the Bistro was endearing: “In the quilt of life, friends are the sticks that hold the quilt together.” The Farm Bistro, in downtown Cortez, is a place that I have patronized each time, save one, that I have been in Colorado’s southwestern commercial hub, since 2015. What matters to me, about a business establishment, even more than its products, is the reception I get when I enter and how I am treated while there. The Farm Bistro excels in that regard. Heck, the manager even gave me a peanut butter cookie for having been patient while the staff was serving a tour group. As long as we have eyes, ears and hearts, it pays to use them in a way that reassures others that their efforts matter.

I left Kayenta, an hour or so southwest of Cortez, after a delightful breakfast, courtesy of Hampton Inn. Across the highway from the hotel, the full geologic variety of Kayenta is in view. There were numerous families, of different compositions and sizes, in the wing where I stayed, but all were quiet and considerate. The Navajo Nation is a place where face masks are still required in public, so there I was with an N-95. At least we don’t have to pull them up and down, with every bite or sip.

Before going to The Farm, I noticed a man sitting on the corner of a gas station lot. He had a sign that read: “It’s my birthday. Any little bit helps, and God bless.” This was a new one, and even though I normally don’t hand money to sign-bearers, the notion resonated that this was a real birthday of a human being, and he had one other companion, who was bringing him a ball cap, food and water. I gave him a bill and was thanked profusely. Then, I went and enjoyed a Yak Burger and salad at The Farm Bistro.

Going past Durango and Pagosa Springs, I came to Treasure Falls, a small preserve at the foot of Wolf Creek Pass’s formidable ascent. I had stopped briefly at the bottom viewpoint of this small cascade, a few times. Today, I hiked up to the Falls topmost viewpoint, where on a good day, one can feel the spray. Colorado has not had as much rain as Arizona and Nevada, this monsoon, so the Falls were not as potent as they have been in past years.

Nonetheless, the hike energized me, in the warm mid-afternoon, far more than an iced coffee would have.

I was a bit tired here, but the rest of the hike was energizing-and unlike some other walks I’ve taken, I stayed on the established path. A group of other men did not-and advised against following their route.

This poor little one was struggling in the afternoon heat.

Once back on the road, it was an easy drive up and over Wolf Creek Pass. I spotted an overturned semi-trailer, on the opposite side of the road, with a large sign that said “KEEP OUT!”. My guess is that it has been laying there for some days now. I drove on, through South Fork, Del Norte, Monte Vista and Alamosa, before dinner time came-and I stopped at Lu’s Main Street Cafe, Blanca. Milynn served up a sharp and well-prepared Stuffed Sopapilla. It is a fabulous place to dine, and a worthy replacement for Del’s Diner, in nearby Fort Garland, which closed during the pandemic and now sits, looking forlorn and sad, at the east end of town. My only caveat about Lu’s is that the waitresses are high school students and closing time, on a school night, is around 6:30. They at least take their schedule as seriously as they do their jobs. Milynn and her co-worker were pleasant, but made it clear that they needed to get done soon. Nonetheless, when I come this way again, I will stop at Lu’s, hopefully earlier than I did this evening.

I got into Walsenburg, about an hour later, settling in to Anchor Motel. Other than a brief, but loud, dispute between two apparently drunken men, the place has been quiet. Walsenburg is a businesslike, but friendly, town.

Questions About the Ordinary


August 30, 2022- The students were asked to draw their non-dominant hand, to examine both front and back and to write down any questions that came to mind about the hand. This was all by way of the commenter explaining how great discoveries are made, just by taking time to look at things that one sees every day. He pointed out that Galileo, using a telescope that Italian military scouts employed to keep watch on intruders, managed to see the physical features of Earth’s Moon. Mary Anning’s curiosity about rocks on the beach at Lyme Regis led to her finding the complete fossilized skeleton of a plesiosaurus. She helped identify a skeleton her brother had found, of an ichthyosaur, and later herself found the fossilized remains of a pterosaur.

With that background, the two classes of 10-year-olds were set to the examination of the non-dominant hands of themselves and of a partner. Some came up with as many as ten questions. Others could not think of any. Such is the range of curiosity, even among children. Some are ready to examine the world and all that is therein-or far beyond it. Others are like the baked earth that follows a period of warm rain. While we ought give up on no one, a goodly dose of patience will be needed, in encouraging some to learn-while others are just late bloomers, who will eventually find the stirrings of curiosity breaking through, like shoots through a hard soil that is cracking open.

So many times, I have asked, with regard to an ordinary phenomenon: “Why is that?” As long as that persists, I will wake each day with a sense of anticipation.