Monthly Archives: January 2011

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Edds and Onds

Boxes, boxes, boxes. My life is all about boxes. Lifting them is getting easier, so either I’m responding well to the workout involved in lifting everything I own four times, or The Raven packed all the heavy stuff first. Either way works for me.

Speaking of light stuff, here are a few site-related small things.

1) It’s been a while since I mentioned it here, so in case you were noticing those nifty looking photos that show up next to some commenters’ comments, and wondering where the button was that would give you one, it’s here. The icons are called Gravatars — Globally Recognized Avatars — and you just upload the image of your choice to the Gravatar site, after signing up with the email address you use to comment with, and cello! Your beautiful face — or whatever image you upload — shows up in that icon spot, as well as on many, many other sites that have Gravatars enabled.

2) Did you know yoou can subscribe to this site by email? It’s true. All you need to do is click this link, fill out the pop-up (which will be harder to do for some of you who’ve turned pop-ups off) then respond to the verification email that shows up in your inbox a minute later. You’ll get each day’s worth of posting in a single email, and the system will send you no other email of any kind ever except for confirming if you unsubscribe.

3) That badgy thing in the upper right hand corner that shows my RSS feed subscriber and Twitter follower numbers sometimes doesn’t show numbers. This is a known issue. You didn’t do anything wrong, though perhaps I did by not writing a routine that caches the last-accessed numbers for display when Twitter failwhales on it. (If any of you actually knows how to do that, drop a line. Cause I don’t.)

4) I haven’t heard from soul one about the Carnival of The Arid. We have a minimum participation threshold of one. You could be that one. Or someone else could if you spread the word to them.

Of course, once the box dust settles I’ll be soliciting entries from deserty bloggers. But why not beat the rush?

New Office

new office

Cheap cameraphone image of Coyote Crossing World HQ.

This is just a short post to note that after yet another move in the back of the Jeep — bringing the total such mileage involved to 880 since June 2008 — the Coyote Crossing Computer Machine is now ensconced in its new office, with a connection to the Internets and a new and much smaller desk and everything.

In other words, this is the first post from the new place.

We should actually be completely moved in within a few days. We’re downsizing significantly, and much of what’s been taking so long to get our move completely on is figuring out which large items we are parting with. Also sleeping in and dithering and procrastinating, the last of which this post also represents: I have a two-hour drive ahead of me as soon as I hit “post” on this post.

This blog also feels compelled to confer a special badge of heroism on The Raven, who not only packed all of my books — a not insubstantial tonnage even after slashing the size of the collection by about two thirds back in ought eight — but dusted every single one.

The boys are not yet moved, but they’re starting to understand that big changes are afoot. That will be a hundred-mile drive to remember.

And now, if you don’t mind, I have to drive a vacuum cleaner to Los Angeles.

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The Return of Carnival of The Arid: February 15

It’s 2011, and I’m moving back to the desert from Los Angeles, and I thought “what better way to mark that occasion than to revive the Carnival of The Arid?” So I’m reviving the Carnival of The Arid.

In 2009 we held the CoTA for about six months running, and response was good and varied. You can see the archives here. Though participation slackened a bit by the end of the run, I think 18 months is enough time for everyone to have built up a good backlog of deserty posts.

A blog carnival, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is a recurring event in which bloggers submit posts for inclusion in a big list of posts, often but not always centered on a particular theme. A good example is the Tangled Bank, a very popular blog carnival devoted to the sciences launched by PZ a few years back.

Submissions —  due Feb. 10 — should have something to do with a desert somewhere in the world. (If you’re not sure whether your work is desert-related, check out this definition at Wikipedia, and if you’re still not sure, send it in anyway.) Submissions can be scientific in nature, or history, or travelog. Images are welcome, photographic or otherwise. Discussions of culture and politics are welcome if they’re desert-related. The one restriction, other than geographical, is that — at least when I’m compiling it — paeans to destroying the desert probably won’t make it. (Developers and ORVers take note.) Paeans to preserving or protecting the desert are fine, as are alerts of current pressing issues.

So spread the word. Submissions can be linked here in comments or emailed to me by Feb. 10 at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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. If you know of someone whose work might qualify, let them know, or let me know, or both. Retweet and email and link from Facebook and send telegrams. Thanks!

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Western Watersheds sues to stop Ivanpah SEGS

[Some good news for your MLK Day.]

WWP Sues to Stop Fast Tracked Power Plant in CA

For immediate release -January 17, 2011

LOS ANGELES — On Friday January 14, 2011 Western Watersheds Project filed suit in federal court to halt construction of the Ivanpah solar power plant project being built in the Mojave Desert on public lands in eastern California near the Nevada border. The project site consists of 5.4 square miles of high quality habitat for the threatened desert tortoise.

“No project can be considered clean or green when it involves destruction of habitat for a species listed under Endangered Species Act on this scale,” said Michael Connor, California Director for Western Watersheds Project. “The Department of Interior is tasked with siting energy projects in an environmentally sound manner. Instead it is allowing thousands of acres of important desert tortoise habitat to be bulldozed when there are alternative ways of generating power.”

Threatened by habitat loss, habitat degradation, disease, and predation by ravens and coyotes, the Mojave population of the desert tortoise was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. Since then, populations have continued to decline. The Ivanpah Valley is home to the most genetically distinct of the five recognized California desert tortoise populations. Desert tortoises on the Ivanpah power plant site are one of the highest elevation breeding populations known, and the area provides essential habitat connectivity through the mountain passes to desert tortoise populations in the neighboring valleys.

“The environmental review for this project was rushed and inadequate -the agencies did not even determine how many desert tortoises were on the site, nor did they determine what impact blocking the north Ivanpah Valley with an industrial-scale power plant would have on connectivity with other tortoise populations,” said Connor.

The site located in relatively undisturbed Mojave Desert near Mojave National Preserve, is prime habitat for 19 other rare animal species including desert bighorn sheep, golden eagles and burrowing owls, and several rare plants in addition to desert tortoise. There are impressive stands of barrel cactus, and centuries-old Mojave yucca.

“The federal government’s rush to approve this ecologically disastrous project is a textbook example of how NOT to address our energy needs,” said Western Watershed Project’s attorney Stephan Volker. “Virtually every significant environmental law was shortcut to shoehorn this destructive project into this ecologically irreplaceable site, despite the known availability of cheaper and better power sources including conservation, roof-top solar, and energy development in existing industrial zones,” added Mr. Volker.

The 1.7 billion dollar power plant project is being underwritten with $1.3 billion in federal loan guarantees and “economic stimulus” funds. Secretary of the Interior Salazar approved the project in October.

Western Watersheds Project’s mission is to protect and restore watersheds and wildlife on public lands throughout the American west through education, research, public policy initiatives and litigation. Western Watersheds Project has offices in six western states including California.
Read the complaint.

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Lost and Ancient Archives

In May 2008, as long-time readers of this blog know, I left the San Francisco Bay Area where I had lived for a quarter century and moved to the Mojave Desert.  I remember the next month through a bit of a veil. There was a lot of work hauling stuff. There was a tempestuous, unpleasant and ill-advised rebound relationship that corkscrewed into the ground that July. There were trips back to the Bay Area to sign legal documents pertaining to the house and relinquishing my ownership claim thereto. There was finding places in the desert to sleep until my rental in Nipton started July 1. There was a two-week trip to New England to see whether it worked between me and Ill-Advised Rebound Relationship Woman, and finding out that it didn’t. For a homeless guy with no life, I had a lot going on.

But aside from those major points I’ve been soft on detail. Over the last few years I’ve gotten into the habit, bad or not, of using the blog as a journal – not only for the writing end of things, but for the remembering what happened in my life end of things. In June 2008, though, I wasn’t blogging. Ill-Advised Rebound Relationship Woman was persuasive, and she spoke to me often – or fulminated in my direction, more accurately – about her dim view of blogging in general, of my blog in particular, and of the effect of my blog on my writing. (She was also adamant that none of my blog’s readers ever learn that we were involved, which warning sign I somehow missed, and thus I resort to the awkward circumlocutions here.) It was a couple months before I decided I had best not heed her feedback. In June, I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be blogging again, and so up until this weekend I had forgotten a lot of the daily impressions, encounters and thoughts that I would have otherwise documented on this here web log site.

Of course a few weeks later I started blogging again AND keeping company with The Raven, and so now I not only have archives but old emails to The Raven to help me retain detail, not to mention The Raven herself, though she more often relies on me in that regard. But June was a blank spot for any details not involving endless phone calls in which my flaws were enumerated. Those, for some reason, stuck with me.

So flash forward to MLK Weekend, 2011. We’re moving, of course, and in the process I’m cleaning out the Jeep yesterday morning, and in a spot beneath the pile of maps I find a three-subject spiral notebook I don’t recognize, and I open it. It’s almost entirely blank, pages oxidized and mildew-foxed and brittle, blue lines baked off the paper. The first nine pages are in my handwriting.

I’d kept a journal of the first week of June 2008, then put it in the Jeep before I parked it at the San Francisco airport. I flew to New England for more in-depth criticism and in the next two weeks I forgot that the journal existed.

A few things about it jump out at me: 

  • I apparently write just as pompously when I don’t expect an audience
  • Far too many of my plant and wildlife identifications are followed by question marks and then unverified
  • Even in a week that might well have qualified as the worst in my life, the desert and my fellow denizens there are an immense and immediate source of solace.
  • Even given the last, I spent a lot of time trying to talk to people, generally women people, outside of the desert.

I’ve only edited a little, mainly to protect the privacy of people I haven’t talked to in years, and adding links and in one case a note to make my shorthand clearer.

— C

Sunrise Rock Thursday June 5 2008

Sunset at Sunrise. A moon two days old hangs above a dwindling horizon band of crimson.

I have left my wife. I have left my home. I have left everything I knew in the Bay Area. This month includes the biggest changes I have made in my life perhaps ever. Leaving Buffalo was leaving nothing. Moving to DC was temporary at the outset. I have left a home I made, a career and a network of friends I made, and put everything I own in a storage locker in for fuck’s sake Barstow, and

and here I sit. The campsite on Cima Dome, where I have been coming for 12 years, longer than I lived in Pinole by twice, coming here even before we moved to Richmond, for a quarter of my life I have been coming here, sometimes feeling as though my life only truly moved along when I was here and all the rest of it mere maintenance.

Go to the source, they say, go to the source in times of crisis, and here I am though these days are as much resolution as crisis. The desert has called me for a quarter century, since the trip in June 1984. 24 years ago last week, as Matthew pointed out the other day.

Have I felt this calm before? This feeling of arrival, inevitable and a relief, feeling like a long-held breath finally let out?

[Ill-Advised Rebound Relationship Woman] said this evening that my voice sounded, on the phone, as if the desert was working on me. The sunset lit up the buttes in the NY Mountains, washed the rock fins at the south end of Kessler Peak in Navajo Red, and I am here. I am finally here, part of the desert.

The full tour of Nipton today. Fred: “and I need to get rid of these goddamned cattails.” Minivan full of obnoxious pubescent girls at the Trading Post, and their mother apologized, looking for sympathy. I offered some insincerely. Apples laying around on the ground beneath the tree from which they fell.

Friday June 6

Busy day so far. It’s about 12: 45.

  • No coyotes heard last night
  • many satellites
  • 2 meteors
  • woken by dawn light, long before sunup, looked around, colors fantastic, went back to sleep.
  • woken by sun rising north of Kessler Peak two weeks before solstice!
  • laid around, loafed, procrastinated, listened to cactus wrens, dozed, rewoke, sighed, got pants and boots more or less on, unpacked stove, filled pot, lit stove (shaking each propane can to gauge fill-th), boiled water, put coffee in French press, went to shit, saw cactus wren, talked to cactus wren, cleaned up, came back, plunged plunger on press pot, poured coffee, drank coffee, dozed more, got solar panel,  plugged phone in, checked time — 7:30 am. Jesus. Ate orange.
  • Talked to [Ill-Advised Rebound Relationship Woman]
  • drank more coffee
  • spilled coffee on pants and hat – a feat.
  • watched flock of sage sparrows.
  • saw non-cactus wren. Bewick’s? Kinda big for Bewick’s.
  • Said goodbye to [I-ARRW] – 8:45.
  • drank more coffee
  • walked to road
  • watched ants removing debris from hole, most of it plant-based, which blew away in the wind.
  • walked among junipers
  • thought of camping among junipers with [I-ARRW]
  • started hearing sound like bandsaw cutting sheetmetal
  • returned to camp, made oatmeal
  • ate oatmeal
  • heard Icterus parisorum in distance
  • visited three times by hummingbird, green and dun
  • wrote email to Darya as side-blotched lizard sought shelter under my thigh
  • worst asleep-leg ever due to fear of crushing lizard
  • walked to tall rock to send email
  • found source of metal saw noise – a cicada-sized, cicada-shaped, cicada-colored insect. Not sure what it was.
  • sent email
  • watched family of antelope ground squirrels, at least three individuals, cavorting and a bit nervous about me
  • called Sharon to say “hello from Cima Dome,” talked for 4-5 minutes
  • noticed white-flowering shrub that had been covered in bees at 9:00 had one bee at 12:00

[resume writing at 3:24 pm]

what else was there?
Desert swallowtails in relative abundance
a couple ravens
those ants – one of them carried out an old yellow chartreuse object, looked like a dicot seedling. probably an iodine bush fruit, possibly one that blew into the anthill opening.

Yellow Encelia, or Enceliopsis? Purple asters by the campsite. Buckeye about to bloom. Looks like last week was grand here – Yucca baccata and Mojave mound cactus w/ week-old spent bloom. Lots of green fruit on the JTs.

Mid-sized, light brown raptor being chased away by smaller birds. Didn’t get a good glimpse. Small fat lizard hauling ass away from me – desert iguana? Baby Sauromalus?

Chollas and prickly pears blooming this week, canary-yellow flowers opening mid-day.

The buzzsaw bugs have quieted. Don’t recall having heard any in a couple hours. Cactus wrens noisy as usual

Finished the Stegner letters. Read the inscription from Becky there, felt sad. I love her so, but what can I do? I have not felt married to her for a year, perhaps longer. Grieving Zeke together – that’s about it.

The wind is relentless. Blowing constantly. My arms are sunburned and I am a little queasy.

[I-ARRW] says it’s raining there.

Wish she was here. I’m lonely.

Nap time.

About 4:15 -

big skinky-looking guy, maybe 8″ in nose to tail, bluish head and dark body, walked haltingly across a meter of open sand a few feet from my nose.

Earlier, maybe 10:00, found an old burrow. Tort? Squirrel? Dunno. Unused at least this year, though – a webbing of grass awns across it.

5:30 more orioles heard, not seen. Possible shrike? very strong black bill, kinda cresty. Song chip note, staccato, do DIT, do DIT, do do DIT do.

Crickets starting up. Coyotes tonight?

God, this wind. Relentless. Like Mojave.

Near Sunset:

There’s a Sphaeralcea near my pillow. I think I noticed it on a previous visit. It’s in bloom, two brilliant orange flowers set against gray-green velvet leaves.

I remember the fist time I noticed Sphaeralcea, or globemallow. It was in 1990, I think – the time I took the VW to Arizona. My god, that was 18 years ago. I woke in the roadside rest area near Boron, and it was blooming there – and everywhere else along the road from Barstow to Tucson, along the crazy 45-mph summer Mojave road, my shoulders knotting.

It’s so easy to sit here and miss the life I used to have in the Bay Area. Used to have. It’s not the life I had last month, or this time last year. Zeke is gone. Faultline is gone. Earth Island Journal? I was a stone that passed that surface and made no ripple.

I go to Thistle’s house, to Becky’s house now, and all I see is my depression grown head-high with monstrous thorns. So many dreams unrealized. So many hours spent not looking at that patch of ground where we planted him.

I burst into tears tonight with missing Thistle. Thistle. Who barely deigns to show interest. But I won him over, I did, and he spent our last hour together sitting at my knee. And now that hurts.

And what happens next week? Patience. Do I fall in love with [I-ARRW’s dog] and then miss him the way I miss Thistle?

Cactus wren’s rattling call.

Globemallow always calls to mind that morning, excitement and worry mixed, and embarking alone into a new world. That time I missed Becky, who was frightened of everything.

I still miss her, and she’s not scared any longer. I guess I can take some small part of the credit for that.

Sat June 7: Baker, CA Starbucks

Last night [lying on the ground] I read by odd bluish light of the battery lantern. My forearms illuminated, sunburned red showing pale violet, and I watched as I read. Small crickets ventured past tiny pale spiders, aggressive but gentle, and they ran back and forth beneath the light hunting. One ran up my arm from the elbow to my thumb, jumped off. A darkling beetle headed my way methodically; I flicked a few grains of coarse sand at it and it stopped. It was perturbed. It did a defensive headstand for a second, then turned and went the way it came.

One light gray, slender thing landed on my left arm. A grasshopper, I thought at first, and then got a closer look. A mantid, and it regarded me and the lamp warily, both of us. I turned my forearm one way and another and it moved, upset, staying just in shadow. A tickling at my elbow – a red ant meandering, heading roughly toward the mantis, and I hoped for some excitement – my forearm a Serengeti and the mantis a mighty hunter. But it was not to be – the ant would not wander within range, and eventually the mantis flew off.

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Wisdom and Balance

Looking back at 2010, I see that so much of what I wrote here was angry. I am still angry about those things, of course. I will still write about them here. But in 2011 I’m going to make sure and put some joy in here as well. Otherwise I’m just renting too much space in my head to the green desert-pavers. Let’s call this my one New Year’s Resolution, voiced in – and inspired by – Cactus Ed’s words quoted below.

Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast… a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.