Today while I was riding

I was riding my bike today in the hills above the house. I had climbed up high to a viewpoint that looks out over the entire Los Angeles basin. It’s a spectacular view and I spent a moment stopped at the top, catching my breath and enjoying the perspective. Then came the plunge back down the hill. 

It’s a few miles down along a gravelly fire road to the parking lot where I start my ride. As I get lower the road smoothes out and I usually begin to ride faster. This time I was going very fast, barely hanging on as I rounded the corners. This is fun and it provides good practice in being alert. A small error in judgement can have uncomfortable consequences.

Not far from the bottom I came around the corner to find a deer standing in the road maybe a hundred feet in front of me. Next to her were two tiny fawns (translation: “very little deer”). As I careened closer, braking hard, she stepped gracefully off the road followed by one of the little ones.

But the second little one didn’t notice me or maybe was completely frozen with fear. He stood at the edge of the road completely still, looking off into space, not even a blink. I rolled past him, close enough that I could have nudged him with my heel as I went by. He was hardly bigger than a housecat, little white patches on his back.

As I watched him over my shoulder, he didn’t move at all, holding his pose. His head was turned to look up the hill where I had come from. Not one move. I wished I had been able to stop the bike in time to take a closer look and maybe say hello.

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Here’s a nice picture of some poppies

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The Back Roads Of Utah…

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…are definitely worth the time. Yes, I’ve heard this for years. Now I know firsthand.

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Gallery: Prehistoric Days

Prehistoric Days: Climbing Rocks In Joshua Tree

One night a couple years ago we drove out to Joshua Tree late at night. We arrived after dark under a bright moon. Standing in the warm night, we gradually became aware of a deep droning sound that seemed to be coming from everywhere, or nowhere. The rocks themselves seemed to be singing. We walked in circles for ten minutes before we finally discovered the source: someone was playing a didgeridoo in the darkness. I know it was just some guy with a hollow stick, but I think I know a little bit what Jesus meant when he said the “rocks would cry out.”

So, anyway, my brother and I went out there last week and the week before. We climbed the rocks and otherwise entertained ourselves (I tried flying a kite at around midnight when the wind picked up, but the tail kept catching in the sagebrush so I stopped). Here are some pictures.

Oh, and the music is by Nathan Larson from the soundtrack to Palindromes. I’ve been hearing this piece around recently and I can’t get it out of my head.

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Joshua Tree

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I went to Joshua Tree with my favorite brother last weekend. Despite the fact that it was supposed to rain, we had great weather, if a little windy. Neither of us really got enough of it so I think we’ll go again this weekend. Of course, there will be pictures…

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The Singing Clump

These days I stay up late and, in the mornings, I sleep late as well. It’s nice to have a long evening but sometimes I feel like I’m missing out. The days go by so quickly. Not long ago I woke up early for no reason at all. There was no sleep left in me. It was still dark outside. I crawled out of bed.

As I showered, I thought about how nice it would be to see the early morning light slipping in around the corners of the mountains to the east. There is a large lake nearby where I sometimes go to walk the dog.I thought about it for a few minutes. Then I woke up the dog and got in the car. We got there quickly. No freeway traffic at that hour. Can you say “we” when it’s just you and the dog? I guess you can. I’m pretty sure that’s how the dog thinks of it.

I took the Long Walk Route this time which included parking at the far end, hiking up to the top of two consecutive hills, down the other side, across the bridge, along the water, through the gate, up the hill. Stop. Enjoy the view. Walk back the way you came.

On the outbound leg of the walk, in the gray light, I passed a tall clump of reeds the size of a small house growing at the edge of the lake. At the time, I mostly ignored the reeds, although I did notice some coots and a family of mallards mucking around in the water. Noticing them reminded me to remind the dog that he isn’t allowed to eat coots or mallards.

On the way back, the sun was just coming up and there was beautiful red glow in the east. On the hillside above me, the first shadows of the new day were receding, burrowing back under the rocks and sagebrush. In the air, unseen, was the sound of a giant blackbird choir. I knew they were blackbirds, not because I could see them, but because I was raised well, brought up to recognize such things, for which I’m grateful. (Thanks, Dad, and happy birthday.)

By the sound of them, the blackbirds were happy to see the sun. I didn’t blame them. I was too.

I walked by the reeds at the edge of the lake and realized that the singing was coming from right out of the muddy heart of the clump. Not a bird in sight, but the air was full of their chorus. I stopped and watched for awhile. Not a sign of life from the bush. Except, of course, that song. There must have been hundreds of birds in there.

What does it all mean? I don’t know. But I’m glad I woke up early, even if I was tired all afternoon.

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A Strange Tour

I have been fortunate enough to travel fairly regularly over the past few years. Enough so, in fact, that I have pretty much given up on buying souvenirs. There are only so many places in one house that you can put little useless knickknacks. The wooden giraffe goes on the windowsill. The tiny little painted box from Russia (too small to hold anything) goes on the bookshelf. The orthodox icon from Romania next to the Russian box.

Quite a while ago, I started dealing with this problem by collecting small rocks or handfuls of sand. This seemed like a better way to remember the place, especially considering my accessory interest in geology. I’ve developed a pretty good collection by now which represents some of the places I’ve visited, although not all (the pebble I grabbed from inside the Great Pyramid in Giza has somehow gone missing — I’m trying to decide if I should be worried about this — and I have nothing from my several trips to South America).

All of this has resulted in a shelf full of baby food jars containing sand, which you are welcome to examine if you ever come over to my house, which leads me to the geeky part of this post. Last night I was playing around with Google Earth (rapid travel! no pesky jetlag!) and made up a partial list of the locations where I’ve gathered samples (yes, for many of these I also gathered GPS coordinates — how embarrassing).

So, while this may not be at all interesting to anyone else, I am presenting today the Google Earth file (download Google Earth here) which will allow you to tour along with me to a few places in the world which have been significant to me and from which I have brought home a small piece. So I present to you, the Sand Tour (make sure your “Terrain” option is turned on).

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On The Mountain

I woke up in the dark yesterday morning to the sound of rain on the roof. I am still temporally misaligned. My timezones, present and past, are sliding closer, but it will be another few days before things are right. By the time the sky had started to lighten, I had been awake for a couple hours, partly from the jetlag, partly from thinking too much. Since the dog needed some exercise and I had spent plenty of time already this week in fog, we made tracks for the hills.

The rain was stopping and the clouds had started to break by the time I was on the trail. Above me on the hill was the first light of sunshine. When I reached the viewpoint, I regretted not bringing a camera (the better to see things with?). The valley was still wrapped in fog and to the east everything was misty and beautiful. The kind of morning that makes you think of prayer as a rational activity.

Being in the state I was, the only thing I could think to pray was “help, help, help”, which I think is a pretty good prayer in general. Then I stood there with my arms out and the dog running in circles around me. And at that moment the fog decided to slide up the hill and gather all around me, so that the valley below and the mountain above became vague outlines and then disappeared altogether and I was left on a small point of land surrounded by air that glowed as if it were lit by angels. Things stayed like that for a few minutes, all ablaze with crazy, golden light, until the fog slid past and the sun climbed into the clouds above and things went back to normal.

I’ve read about something like this happening before, but those people wanted to build tents and stay there. I can’t do that because I have a job, and because there are rattlesnakes. But it did make me want to stop for awhile, especially when climbing down into the valley meant going back down into the grey. So I sat there and said “thank you” out loud a couple times. Then I went down the hill.

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A Tribe Of Yucca

Yucca Tree Tribe

Red Rock Canyon State Park, California

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Did you see…

…Perseus last night, lobbing fireballs every which way? I drove myself out to the desert to sleep, well, not really to sleep, under the meteors. It was impossible to close my eyes with the sparks flying back and forth. What fun! I met and made friends with Andromeda. She was looking radiant, chained though she was. And her mother and father were there too and they spun together in one vast wheel above me with Pegasus the winged horse in the lead.

Early in the morning, the Pleiades leapt up in the east, late for the party, grasping at Perseus’ heels. Finally at around 2:30, I fell asleep, only to wake again in a few hours to find them all spun round above me. Someone had moved the sky while I was looking away.

A few more fireballs slashing their way across the sky and then they all faded into the blue as the sun rose. And I crawled out of my sleeping bag on the top of that picnic table in the Mojave Desert and got in my car and drove home.

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Mt. Shasta: Why Driving In Northern California Is Nice

mt shasta from california highway 89

I had been wandering for a long time in the tall timber when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw this. It surprised me. How it got behind me, I’m not sure. I was tempted to think that it had moved, or was sneaking up on me. But, in my experience, the mountains sit still most of the time (my faith is clearly not quite as big as a mustard seed). I’ve decided it was a miracle. Which explains it nicely, I’d say.

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Open Space

Ash Creek Wildlife Area, Big Valley, California

My house is among trees and I’ve taken a liking to the grasslands. I’m hoping to resolve this conflict before long, but in the meantime I’m taking walks in places like this. The dog likes it, especially when it is cool and damp outside and when there’s a ball to chase. I like it because I can see in all directions which is good for watching the sun rise and set, tracking the wind as it approaches, and lying down quietly and listening to stillness of the open space.

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Smith Rock State Park

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Lassen National Forest

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