Monthly Archives: April 2005


elk I am back, and readjusting. Abundant thanks to Paul for blogsitting.

Nine chapters of the Joshua tree book drafted, and only fourteen more to go! Or thereabouts. Some of you will be getting the drafts. Lucky people, they.

I woke each morning two hours before my housemates, made coffee, and watched a pair of Bewick’s wrens bringing insects to their brood. Every two or three minutes they would come to the little birdhouse on the back deck, bearing the spoils of the hunt: a moth, a cranefly, a caterpillar gleaming like jade from the rose hedge. They would scold me for watching, white eyebrows bobbing as they clucked.

I slept in the same room, in the same bed, as did Ellen Meloy when she was there. Her handwriting in the Room Journal made my blood run cold, then hot. Her shade haunted me a bit. I fervently hoped she would help my desert words come clear and true, and as sparse as possible. I re-read The Last Cheater’s Waltz when I could write no longer, and then Refuge and then Desert Solitaire and then A Sand County Almanac and then the oh so poetic Packrat Middens: 40,000 Years of Biotic Change.

In between all that, I somehow edged up close to 20,000 words written, which means about 38,000 words typed and 18,000 deleted. And the ten minute walk to town each morning, ravens and quail and turkey vultures. I kept forgetting to bring the bird guide, so the identity of the great, blue, heronlike bird I saw each day on Jon Rowe’s lawn will remain a mystery. I had to pull my blinds in the writer’s shed to get any work done. Out the window, Lagunitas Creek rolled past the Giacomini’s cows into Tomales Bay. On Inverness Ridge, where tule elk avoid all the tourists save one and the iris braves the wind, the fog rubbed up against the scorched bishop pines of the 1995 Vision Fire.

My own Vision Fire has been stoked.

Creek Running North: the Clip Show

It would just figure that my traffic would spike just before this blog goes silent for two weeks.

So I went through the last couple years of this blog to find some things I think deserve a few extra readers, and I offer them up here for your potential delectation.

Start with the most important person in my life: Becky, the woman who has patiently put up with me for the last 16 years. Sometimes not so patiently. Sixteen years is a lot of time to inhabit a neighborhood with someone, and the geographical features of the neighborhood can in that time take on whole new layers of meaning. The heart place is one of those places for us.

People who’ve been reading for a while know that every so often I disappear into the Mojave desert backcountry. In October 2003, I got there just in time to inhale the smoke from the southern California wildfires. There are a few posts in this series, beginning with the linked one. And unearthly photos.

The heart place piece refers to a “distraction” that disrupted my marriage. This post includes the story of one of the trips I took with said distraction.

Sometimes reality gets in your way, and the collision is not pleasant. The problem is that we expect reality to be a certain way, but it rarely is. We can either swallow uncritically the irrelevant maunderings of a handful of self-proclaimed saints who fill us with misinformation about the way the world works, or we can get out into the world and do our best to apprehend it directly.

Then again, sometimes life throws you a curveball and what seems to be a huge imposition ends up happily, and all the legacy that remains is an excellent picture of Zeke and some baby kitties, or a remembered promise to a wild animal who has saved your pet’s life.

My grandmother died at a ripe old age last year, and the day they buried her I of course wrote about paleontology. I went for a hike in Sedona a few months later, and the news I’d read in the papers and the red dust on the trail turned my mind to thoughts of paleontology. On my way back from Sedona, driving through the East Mojave past ranges full of Cambrian and Devonian trilobites, I was of course inspired to write about birdwatching. That’s OK, because a bird on the other side of that particular mountain range once delayed the moment at which my own potential fossilization will begin.

Think all that’s unnecessarily deep? Tell me about it. You just have to read my stuff: I have to be my stuff. I can’t even write about a overwhelmingly common landscape flower without getting all “meaning of life” and stuff.

In part, I think, that’s due to a woman I met when I was 23. Her life intersected mine only briefly, but it took me a long time to come to terms with our evanescent relationship, which by now I realize is unlikely ever to end.

Sometimes words aren’t enough. So about four months ago I chose ten photos from my archives and used them as prompts for an equivalent number of essays. The last one is about Zeke.

That should be enough for two weeks, so I’ll finish as I started, with a short piece about the person who matters most.

While I’m gone, Paul Tomblin has graciously offered to monitor this blog for comment and trackback spam. This means that he’s going to be reading each and every comment posted in my absence. So if any Christian jihadists in the audience can keep their provocations down to a dull roar in the “that serial killer was a better person than you are, because he accepted Jayzus and you’re a heathen communist” department, I’d appreciate it, because Paul is kind of like a taller, younger, more Canadian version of me, and that stuff pisses him off.

See you in May.

Zigadenus fremontii

No one eats Zigadenus fremontii, excepting these little beetles and the occasional clueless human. It’s poisonous. Livestock give it a wide berth. On the plus side, for those who choose to ignore the plant’s common name “death camas,” ingestion of a pound or less of the bulbs — which happened fairly often back in the Gold Rush days — will likely provide a permanent cure for cluelessness.

(The Medline citation linked above offers the misspelling “death camus,” from which someone with a higher blood caffeine level than I have at the moment could make an excellent joke.)

The seeds and nectar of death camas are toxic as well, leading me to speculate that the beetles pictured here must either have evolved tolerance to the alkaloids contained therein, or else they died shortly after I shot this last weekend. That would be a lot of dead beetles. I walked through fields of death camas that day.

(That last sentence would be an excellent first line in a Gothic nature sonnet, for someone bla bla caffeine bla.)