Coercion

6

January 12, 2020-

It’s easy to imagine

that one is on the right track,

and that everyone ought

follow suit.

The Jesuits and Dominicans

thought the use of force

would make the world Catholic.

The Umayyads felt the same

would work for Islam.

Conquerors of legend,

and of infamy,

swore they would

either rule the Earth

or scorch it.

Where are they now?

Remember,

when an idea of yours,

of ours,

sounds like an absolute must,

for all to follow:

What if it strikes some as

inappropriate,

irrelevant,

or just beyond their understanding?

Coercion,

pressure,

shaming

belong in the past.

 

 

And It Was….

4

December 31, 2019-

It was a time of loss.

The decade took Penny, my wife of twenty-eight years and nine months, both her parents Norm and Ruth (“Bunny”), two of her aunts Averala and Helen (“Honey”), two of  her cousins, Tom and Jean, and a cousin-in-law, Richard.

It took my maternal uncles, Carl and James,  Carl’s two children-Keith and Carla, and our cousins Ronnie and Lorraine.

It did not spare my father’s side of the family, either, taking Uncle George, Aunt Adeline (“Sissy”) and her son Bob.

It brought several others to the Life Beyond, friends all:  Christie Serino, Drew Crotty, Larry Silipigni, Alan and Rick Belyea, from my hometown of Saugus, MA;  Alison Sipes, from Indiana; Mildred “Mildoo” Forney, who, along with her daughter, made my visits to Oley, PA an annual pleasure; my American Legion comrades Bob Wittmann, Dennis Young, John Mortimer, Sue Chambers, Al Tercero-among several;  a host of Baha’i  fellows- Ali and Violette Nakhjavani, Nancy Coker, John Cook, Firuz Khazemzadeh, Avid Navidi, Dick Sloman, Moses Nakai, Russ Garcia, Chester Kahn, Roy Dewa, Tom Smith, Keith John Manybeads.

 It was a time of change.

It saw me get out of town, leaving Phoenix, after ten years.  Prescott, once more, became Home Base.

It saw our son, Aram, follow in the footsteps of many of his forebears, on both sides of the family and enter the service of his country, serving in the United States Navy, for nine years.

It saw him enter into matrimony.  Having returned to Korea, the land of his birth, as part of his service, Aram met and married Yunhee, a superlative addition to our family.

It saw us honour two of my nieces, who preceded him down the aisle, also bringing spouses who add luster to the Boivin brood.

It was a time of growth.

It brought in fourteen new members of my Grandniece/nephew Club and some new additions to my Greater Tribe.

There were a couple of good years, working full time, at Prescott High School, and several others spent substitute teaching.

The decade brought me the joy of giving back- with the American Red Cross, Slow Food, school garden projects, and the Farmers’ Market, as well as American Legion Post 6 and the Baha’i community.  It has brought me many new friends, members of my Tribe, who consistently make this life a thing of beauty.

Then, there were those journeys- annually to see family, on the East Coast, in the South and in the Midwest, which is never “Flyover Country” to me; my first solo visit to Europe, partly on my father-in-law’s behalf and partly because  I wanted to connect with the lands of my ancestors;  I returned to Korea, to  fully embrace my son’s wedding and to recap our life in Jeju; Hawaii welcomed me, in advance of the Tiger Cruise from Honolulu to San Diego, as Aram & crew returned from a Pacific Rim deployment; I fulfilled some of the dreams I shared with Penny, and explored the Pacific Northwest, a bit of British Columbia; southeast Alaska and eastern Canada; California, Nevada, Texas and Colorado were constantly seeing my face-largely to spend time with far-flung members of my Tribe.  Shorter, but no less meaningful, jaunts around Arizona, Utah and New Mexico filled in the blanks.

Now, the sun has risen on a new decade, for much of the world and the year, which once loomed as a pinnacle in my life, has a remaining shelf life of nine hours, here in the Mountain Standard Time Zone.

This decade of joy, sorrow, gain, loss, advances and setbacks will soon give way to another, likely much more of each.  Happy 2020, one and all!

Everyone’s Big Hole

0

December 23, 2019, Grand Canyon Village-

The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park is drawing to a close.  So, naturally, the combination of  time to spare and my daughter-in-law’s visit led to us going up to the South Rim, this morning, and spending the day, walking along the paved Rim Trail, from Mather Point to Maricopa Point.

We had spent last night in our respective rooms, at the comfortable America’s Best Value, in Williams.  The high point of yesterday was a visit to the Scheinlen-Pena family, in Paulden (of whom, more tomorrow).  After being warmed by thick, nutritious soup and salad, we headed to Williams, so as to not spend time going back over the same route, this morning.

The Grand Canyon seemed to strike Yunhee in a way similar to the impression it first makes on others:  It’s almost incomprehensible in its size.  Of course, photos don’t do it justice (though I’ll post a few, anyway.)  The best thing to do here is to choose a few spots where the magnitude of the place can be somewhat encapsulated.

So, here are four such interludes:

Mather Point- An introduction to the Canyon, for many, as it is near the Visitors’ Center.  Yunhee opted out of the 22-minute intro video, in favour of direct contact with the view from the Rim.

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Yavapai Point:  Here is a view of a cave that would seem to be a rock climber’s dream and probably something on which I’d pass.

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Along the Rim Trail, just shy of this village:  There is a fairly new display, all along the Rim Trail, which shows stone that is from increasingly ancient layers of rock.  This Dox Sandstone dates from one billion, one hundred thirty million years ago.

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The El Tovar Hotel:  Grand Canyon Village, being home to some, and a welcoming host to countless others, does holidays up nicely!

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Kolb Brothers Studio:  Here is a place that’s both historical and full of artistry.  The brothers were photographers here, alternately in conflict and grudging cooperation with Fred Harvey’s Lookout Studio, from 1901-1976.  Today, both the Lookout Studio and Kolb Brothers Studio are gift shops and prime places from which to view the Canyon,

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as well as the Village:

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Near Hopi Point:  Crevices always interest me, though not to the extent that I’d try to straddle one.

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Near Maricopa Point:   The Canyon is evolving, and that means there will be collapses along its many walls, as well as continued uplift.

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Next year will bring a few more visits to Everyone’s Hole:  A jaunt from Maricopa Point to Hermit’s Rest, on the west side of South Rim, in late March and a hike on the Uncle Jim Trail, North Rim, on what would have been my late Uncle Jim’s 86th birthday, June 3.

The Fire and The Rose

4

December 10, 2019-

The full of night can suffuse one’s mind with a darkness that is equal to, or surpassing of, the dearth of sunlight outside.  The mind, unlike the body, does not cease to move, at a time of physical rest.  For many of us, far more than should be the case, the movement is in a downward location.  Especially, but not exclusively, for those who live alone, the mind is more susceptible to the depredations of inner demons- at least until prayer, meditation and a few drops of therapeutic grade lavender bring on a healing slumber.

I live a fairly comfortable life, with no ailments at present, and a caring, if arm’s-length, circle of family and friends.  I was told, long ago, that a little of me goes a very long way. So be it.  As long as I’m doing right by those around me, that’s hardly the worst of circumstances.  When inner demons, stoked at times by fatigue, hit me in the darkness, my mantra of late has been to self-talk into sleep, sometimes aided by the lavender oil I mentioned above.

I look, though, at those whose demons lead them to continuing depredations of their own. The oppressed who, as I remarked to a reader of my previous  post, learn to become oppressors.  Here, I think, the scene arises from a failure to take self to account, to learn to place all blame for one’s lot externally, and to thus become a violator of others’ rights, property and persons.

We did not learn the right lessons, it seems, from the French Revolution, and thus came the Maoist Cultural Revolution.  The Holocaust of 1915 was, as Hitler predicted, a flickering ember of the mid-Twentieth Century imagination and the Fuehrer’s minions accomplished a genocide that would have made Ataturk blanche.  The Turks felt wronged, hemmed in, and so they lashed out, their targets lashed back and there was a bloodbath.  Post- World War I Germany, and several other Central European nations, were given short shrift by the Treaty of Versailles, clever demagogues found their Others to use as scapegoats, and the horror played out, on the grandest scale since, arguably, the Hundred Years’ War.

Today, there are all manner of others.  Demagogues, having tasted power and wanting it all the more, find target Others, across the world.  Stories of rape and pillaging give rise to hyper-generalization, far beyond the punishment of those actually responsible. One size must fit all.  Thus, we have Twitter storms, back and forth, attacking anyone suspected of taking a pin to one’s balloon. We have the macabre spectacle of a Nobel Peace Laureate, justifying her government’s deadly attacks on people whose primary offense is to adhere to a Faith that is different from her own.  She is, she says, acting on the advice of a “man of peace”, who is after all a Buddhist monk.  Thoughts of Nicholas II and Rasputin come to mind, but  I digress.  We have coteries of sectarian radicals,from India and Iran, to Yemen and Nigeria, stoking their own acts of opprobrium, against those of other Faiths.

T.S. Eliot’s scenario of the fire and the rose becoming one, in his Four Quartets,  is practiced over and over in our world, though not in the way he envisioned.  The Hollow Men, of one of his other great verses, will not endure a world ending with a whimper, but the series of bangs that have been our lot, since at least 1912, could bring it to an alarming precipice.

Bringing oneself to account each day would seem to be advisable, for high and low, alike.

The Wilshire Finger Points East

10

November 12, 2019, Santa Monica- 

There are any number of iconic streets across the country, and in the Los Angeles area, in particular.  U.S. Route 66 ends (or begins) here, a scant few blocks from where I stood just moments ago.  Several of the streets around this quadrant are enshrined in my childhood memory, albeit from TV ( Sunset Boulevard and Strip remain in the Long-Term Bank, thanks to Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, who was the king of smooth).  Route 66 itself was the province of George Maharis (“Buzz Murdock”, Kookie’s heir apparent).

It is Wilshire Boulevard, though, which has the most cachet- It starts here, overlooking the beach and hosts some of LA’s great museums. Wilshire leads the visitor to UCLA’s turnoff, to Hollywood and, eventually, to Koreatown.

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At its western terminus, St. Monica herself is the traffic icon, standing between Wilshire and the long drop down a steep cliff.

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I chose to walk, from the far end of Third Avenue’s Promenade, to this overlook.

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So, the true glory of Santa Monica, these days, lies in how the city is making itself pedestrian-friendly.  Third Street Promenade, like other urban pioneering efforts, is a well-planned and relaxing venue for people, of all walks of life, to re-center themselves. My first order of business, after checking out of Rest Haven, was to find breakfast.  That matter was resolved by Santa Monica’s branch of LA’s Le Pain Quotidien.  Mini-pancakes and cafe au lait sufficed, as there will be a lunch meet-up with a family friend later on, in Hollywood. LPQ is my kind of spot, though, with a long communal table that goes against the “keep away from my turf” ethic that is so prevalent in many American establishments.  Strangers here are truly “friends you haven’t met.”

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These are just a few of what LPQ offers.

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The long row does have its share of kitsch, in the form of dinosauria.  At least, it’s imaginative kitsch.

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Bella, another signature cafe, would have been my breakfast choice, had not LPQ stared me in the face, when I first left the parking garage.

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Walking towards the beach overlook, I was captivated by a small boy, who was re-arranging these chess pieces, under his mother’s watchful eyes.  I sat a few rows away and pondered his “strategy”.  For a four-year-old, the little guy was doing quite well.

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Such is life, in one of Los Angeles’ most eclectic satellite communities.  Now, it is time for me to head to yet another of those:  Hollywood.

Canalside Ruminations

6

November 11, 2019, Venice, CA-

As I set out to walk alongside the canals of this down-to-earth beach community, I noted that its namesake, in Italy, is at serious risk of sinking into its swampland underpinnings.  California’s Venice has its own concerns:  Earthquakes and a large homeless population being two very different such points of focus.   This is a part of Los Angeles where it is not unusual for people to set up impromptu “shops” along South Venice Boulevard, across from the north entrance to the Canal Walking Path.  There are many who sleep where they can, around the village.

The canals themselves are lined by eclectic houses, which seem to have many students and artists, in residence.  The quirkiness of the district is as much of a draw as the serenity that radiates from an early morning, canalside.

I chose to walk mainly along Grand Canal, which is the western boundary of the District.  My route took in the bridges of Carroll, Linnie, Howland and Sherman Canals, at their juncture with Dell Street.

Here is a long view of Grand Canal.

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I turned left at Carroll Canal, looking to cross the bridge in the foreground.

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From the Dell Street Bridge, here is a view towards the Eastern Canal.

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A couple of Little Egrets were on hand.  Here is one, grooming herself, along the Grand Canal.

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There is plenty of kitsch here, as well, including a Pink Flamingo paddle boat.

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Linnie Canal is the next feeder to Grand Canal, going north to south.

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As is seen in a previous paragraph, Halloween has a lingering presence, in the Canal District.

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Howland Canal came next, on my southward jaunt.

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These peace-infusing homes are at the junction of Grand Canal and Howland.

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This Gingko Tree nearly overwhelms the towpath.

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An upside-down dinghy strikes a pensive mood.

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Various messages appear, along Grand Canal, between Howland and Sherman.

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Canalside gardens also tend to be polychromatic.

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Here is a view of Grand Canal, as it bends towards Sherman.

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As I crossed Sherman Canal Bridge, and was walking northward again, I caught this Little Egret on its way to “safer” perches.

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This mural, outside the Canal District, depicts some whimsical creatures out of Dr. Seuss’s lesser known tales.

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With a peaceful counterpoint to the noise and energy of Venice Beach, I felt ready to take a look at Santa Monica’s vibrant Third Street Promenade.

 

A Day of Small Parades

5

November 11, 2019, Santa Monica-

For the first time in several years, I was not in Prescott for Veteran’s Day.  The three-day weekend coincided with key events that I have already described and with a long-standing visit to Orange County and Los Angeles.  I honour my fellow veterans and my own service, almost on a daily basis, in thought, word and deed.  Coming by other communities’ parades, if it came to that, would not be such a bad thing.

As it happened, a few veterans were at Gramma’s Country Kitchen, when I took a seat at the counter.  We quietly enjoyed our breakfasts, the regulars gathered in their group and I headed off, towards Hemet, Menifee and Lake Elsinore.  Traffic in the Riverside County suburbs was rather light, for a day of considerable commercial activity.

I chose the winding Ortega Highway as my route to the coast.  There were clusters of commuters, for whom I pulled over, as my first order of business was checking the water level of the reservoir for which the city of Lake Elsinore is named.  It looked to me that the lake is hurting, a bit, which is surprising, given the high water levels of reservoirs north of Los Angeles.

The views from the bluffs east of town were nonetheless impressive, though.

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There is a face, of sorts, chiseled into the limestone bluff, in the middle.

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Winding along Highway 74, as the Ortega is otherwise known, I came upon El Cariso, a wide spot in the road, which hosts the California Wildland Firefighters’ Memorial. It was initiated to honour the six firefighters killed in the Decker Fire, in 1959.  There is a trail from the memorial plaque to the actual site where the men died.   As I was due to meet a friend at Crystal Cove State Park, the trail was put off for another time.

Here are some scenes from the Memorial site.

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These scenes show the general area where the tragedy took place.

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My next stop, a bit north of Laguna Beach, was Crystal Cove, a state park which features beach cabins, in various states of disrepair-especially on the north side of the park.  My friend, J, who lives about an hour away, has visited the site several times.  I’ve been with her on four such visits, and am always interested in the progress, or lack thereof, in the renovation.

It appears, this time, that the work is being done in earnest.

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There were scattered birds looking for their meals, as the tide was out.  This little one appears to be a kind of sandpiper.

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Some children had compiled a cross between a cairn and a rock castle.  The stone on the front left reminded me, a bit, of Spirit Tower, in northeast Wyoming.

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With that, our table ringer vibrated and we went to lunch at Beachcomber’s.  The problems of the world, or at least our individual corners of it, were resolved over a fresh repast. I even was given a second bowl of tomato soup, whether by mistake or because I was wearing an American Legion t-shirt, is open to interpretation.  The meals were great, in any case, and I made dinner out of what was left, this evening.

On the way north  along the coast, from Crystal Cove, I stopped in Lomita, where I had stayed at a reasonable motel in the past.  I found it had become a residential motel, whose owner would not accommodate anyone staying one night, and that  it was a cash only operation.

I continued on, past the South Bay beach towns and Long Beach, opting to stay in Santa Monica, at Rest Haven Motel, as Venice and Santa Monica are on my itinerary for tomorrow.  Rest Haven’s  staff are very kind and accommodating. This day has been a full one, but also very affirming.

NEXT:  Canalside Reflections

Two Centuries Ago

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October 29, 2019-

Two hundred years ago,

Europe was pulling itself out of the wreckage of  the Napoleonic Wars.

The young United States of America was also healing from the wounds of  its second major war.

Asia was finding that Europeans, and some Americans, were interested in far more than trading goods. British outposts in Australia and India were established, towards the goal of domination of Asia. Spain had done likewise, in the Philippines.  France, Portugal and the Netherlands were not far behind.

Africa was seeing its enslavement declining, but a bigger problem-European ownership of land, would soon become the order of the age.  The Dutch had already established a settlement near the Cape of Good Hope.

In Persia (now Iran), a land that was seeing its own slow decline, two children were born, one in 1817, the other in 1819- with their birthdays coming a day apart. These boys would grow into men who would realize high spiritual stations.   These Messengers would stand out from Their peers, require little or no formal education and stand up, however respectfully, to the increasingly corrupt and wayward clergy and royalty of the Persian Empire.

The first of the two to declare His Mission was Mirza Ali Muhammad, known to posterity as al-Bab (  “Bab” being Arabic for “gate”.  He is commonly called The Bab, in English-speaking countries.) He was born in 1819, thus being honoured in the Bicentenary of His Birth, during this week.

Al-Bab was the Herald, or Forerunner, of Baha’u’llah, and declared His Mission in May, 1844, in the southern Persian city of Shiraz.  He appealed to thousands who were disillusioned by the state of Persian society.  Corruption and decadent behaviour were rife, across the country.  It was to this scene that Al-Bab spread His message that the human race should prepare itself for a Messenger, Who would bring Teachings that would unite humanity-not by force or by deception, but by independent investigation of truth and gradual bringing together of the hearts and minds of men.  This, of course, alarmed the powers that were, who, fearing the loss of their status, imprisoned al-Bab in three separate locations.  None of the three served to squelch His appeal to the masses.  Thus, in July, 1850, al-Bab was executed by firing squad, in the main square of Tabriz, in northwest Persia.  This, likewise, failed to destroy the Faith He had established.

Baha’u’llah, likewise, would endure His own series of persecutions,  to which I will refer tomorrow, on the 202nd anniversary of His birth.

The Round and Square of It

4

October 9, 2019, Aneth, UT-

Any illusion that Native Americans are somehow all cut from the same cloth, or are otherwise a uniform group, was hopefully dispelled, some tome ago.  This is as true, with regard to various aspects of culture, including architecture, as it is to language and  physical appearance- just as it is with people of any large subgrouping.

Hovenweep, a Paiute name meaning “Deserted Valley”, is the site of a large number of mud brick structures, both atop and just below the rim of, Cahone Mesa, in southeast Utah-about 15 miles northwest of this small Dineh settlement.

I last visited this area in 1979, about a month after summer  break began.  There has been an expansion of the National Monument since that time.  For this visit, though, I focused on the Main, or Square Tower, Group of structures.  Outlying ruins will be the focus of a future visit.

The trail around the Main Group is 2 miles long.  The terrain is similar to that of Natural Bridges and other nearby canyons.  A short walk across the table of Cahone Mesa leads to a short, but rugged, canyon crossing, then around to Twin Towers and the Square Tower triad, before snaking back towards the Visitor Center.

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As you will see, the Puebloan architects variously used square corners and round construction, depending on the function of the building.  Squared structures appear to be more for dwellings and the rounded buildings either as kivas or as observation towers of some sort.

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The descent and ascent of Little Ruin Canyon is the most rugged part of the hike around Square Tower Group.  I would rate it as moderate, in difficulty.

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A small heart-shaped rock is visible, towards the rear of this small cavelet.

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Remains of several small homes, on the mesa top, precede one’s arrival at Twin Towers.

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As I approached Twin Towers, a girl of about twelve passed by me, cheerfully in her own experience of the area.  Her grandparents called her back, not so much out of fear, as to ask her to carefully pull a discarded plastic water bottle out of this crevice!  She gingerly did as asked, and had no trouble getting out of the fissure.

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Here are the remnants of Twin Towers.

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Just a few paces from the round towers is another rectangular tower, likely an early apartment dwelling.

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There were several people at Square Tower, as I approached, so care was taken to honour each one’s quiet investigation of this central area of Hovenweep.

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These are the structures of Hovenweep House.

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Square Tower is in the midst of the main kivas.

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Below, is a small single family dwelling.

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This is Eroded Boulder House, an example of the effects of the climate change of that era (1200-1300 A.D.)

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There are four areas of Hovenweep National Monument that are accessible by high-clearance vehicles.  One of these days, I will get to those outliers.

Today, though, I had two other visits to make.  I headed out of Hovenweep and made it to this oil and gas-producing community, in Utah’s southeast corner.  Here, I visited for about 1 1/2 hours, with two Dineh sisters, who are caretakers of this small Baha’i Center.  Members of our Faith have lived in Aneth for about fifty years.

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After visiting with the ladies, I am headed to The Farm Bistro, in Cortez, for an early dinner,  then will likely drive back to Prescott.  It’s been a fascinating Fall Break!

Three Bridges

4

October 8, 2019, Blanding-

In the summer of 1981, I was coping with what turned out to be a short-term derailment in my private life.  What worked for me was a week’s sojourn in southeast Utah, with visits and hikes in Capitol Reef National Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument.  I came upon the latter, serendipitously, going in with a skepticism as to how it would measure up to more well-known places, such as Arches and Canyonlands.

The rangers on duty at the time were among the most enthusiastic workers I’ve seen, cheerfully stating that I would find the Monument equal to Capitol Reef, certainly, and as challenging a series of hikes as any at Arches.

On that trip, I camped overnight and hiked a nine-mile loop that took in all three bridges.  This time, still tired from Goosenecks, I opted for one hike to Sipapu Bridge, and checked out the other two, Kachina and Owachomo, from short-trail overlooks, saving their trails for another visit.

Let’s get back to the difference between a natural bridge and an  arch.  The only difference, between bridges and OTHER types of arches, is that bridges are created by a body of water actively eroding the rock. Other arches are created by wind erosion, as well as flash flooding.

So, here goes-a flash flood of photos.  First, from the Canyon View overlook, which gives an introduction to the type of sandstone from which the arches, which became the bridges, were carved.

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Note that some of the same sky islands that are found at Goosenecks, and elsewhere in this area, are found here.

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Now, it was down the trail, with the help of some rails and log ladders.

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Lichen is also ever at work, turning rock back into soil.

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After three log ladders and several stretches of railing, I was close to Sipapu Arch.  Sipapu is a Hopi word, meaning “place of emergence”.  I can imagine how it would have felt, to have this structure towering overhead, when climbing out of a subterranean refuge.  For the record, the Hopi regard their actual Sipapu as being near Indian Gardens, in the Grand Canyon.

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From long ago, and a galaxy far away, comes Jobba the Hutt, keeping an eye on things.

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After absorbing the energy of being under the bridge, it was back up the ladder to further exploration.

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An interlude, between Sipapu and the Kachina Bridge overlook, is a view of Horse Collar ruin.  There appear to be two groups who built kivas here:  A circular kiva was built by people of the Ancient Puebloan culture, related to the Hopi, Zuni and Keresan nations of today.  A square kiva was built by people of  the Kayenta culture, associated with Hovenweep ruins, which are about 40 miles from Natural Bridges.  More on Hovenweep, in the next post.

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The overlook for Kachina Bridge shows it to be the widest of the three.  First, though, note the sandstone twins.

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White Creek, which cuts the bridges, is still very active here.

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Owachomo Bridge, visible below, is the narrowest of the three, being nine feet thick at its strongest point.

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Natural Bridges is adjacent to Bears Ears National Monument, a place whose existence is somewhat controversial.  The butte for which the Monument is named is visible from the turnoff to the Visitors Center for Natural Bridges.  The butte is sacred to Dineh and Ute people.

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In truth, I wanted lunch, more than anything else, so heading to this small tourist town was a priority,  over two more hikes.  Those give me an excuse to come back to Natural Bridges, though, which is a pretty good thing.