Category Archives: Biography

2017

Arthur D. Clarke and unspecified grandchild, 1960

My grandfather comes to me in pieces; The angle of a plywood sign nailed to a tree, my worn work boots on my porch in Richmond. I never call him up deliberately. This week marked 50 years since I saw him last.

If I make it through the next few months, I will be older than he was when he died.

 

I spend the end of the year alone these days. I don’t drink; alternatives are few in the Mojave. Thoughts chase tails. My grandfather was an oak tree; a rock face. He was incomprehensibly old, wrinkles forming on his forehead, hair completely white in a stiff brush cut, work pants and calluses. He wet his thumb to turn pages. A workshop shelf; salvaged bolts and screws sorted into applesauce jars.

Winter stars struggle to be seen; a storm off the Pacific. I have his reticence and his forehead. He would recognize the impatience, the recoiling and the longing. He would think my politics insane. He would pat his lap, invite my dog to join him in the recliner. He would know how to fix the hole through which the mice get in without dismantling the water heater in front of it. New Year’s Eve rain pelts the window. I have a low table he built me out of things he had on hand. No two of its screws match.

Today the dog, off-leash, flushed the back porch rabbit from behind the washing machine. Placidly staying at my heel, she watched the rabbit regain its composure under a creosote a few yards away. Rabbit folded his left ear down to wash it with both forepaws; dog flicked her left ear in turn.

Ten years after he died, I stood at six a.m. beneath a sodden eastern hemlock. The rides had run out in Western Pennsylvania. I watched a farmhouse through the rain, shaking to the bone. A white-haired man in green work pants pried open the hood of a pickup older than me, bent over it with a trouble light. I fought the urge to go to him, certain of disappointment at a stranger’s face. How different my life might have been had I gone to hand him tools.

Blue Rodeo

I-40 Eastbound, Park Moabi Road

In 1989 you reached Barstow by driving the two-lane past worn out alfalfa fields, rotten barbed wire seining plastic bags from the desert wind, fences of decaying schoolbuses. At 45 per in the ancient veedub it was an agonizing slog. Overnight in the Boron rest area. An eternity of Hinkley. Breakfast in a Barstow bowling alley.

The old road was all there was, curling around the north end toward the dry riverbed, the derelict train depot.

Daggett by eleven, and Ludlow, past the incongruous green of the Springs of Newberry. The old split-pane windshield topped out an inch below my eyes. No gas gauge. I had to slouch to see more than a quarter mile of road.

Truck tires on asphalt gamelan, a decade-old tape deck on the passenger side seat, a tinny recording of Canadian country-rock  on endless repeat. My housemate in Berkeley had just bought the LP. An endless expanse of creosote and barrel cacti, and then gas in Needles.

Light

A block east of where I stood along this cactus-fringed road tonight, a streetlight cast a yellow inverted cone toward the dirt.

I stand well outside the light.

A few months shy of 40, before the last millennium ended, I walked a night mile through clouds of gnats backlit by a lone streetlight in Oklahoma. Obligations pulled in several directions. Checotah, on the Canadian River floodplain, was where those pulls reached equilibrium. I stood watching the streetlight aeroplankton for some hours.

At 17 it was an inverted cone of illuminated rain, six in the morning in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, no rides coming and soaked to the shivering skin. I knew no one within 250 miles.

And again in Cheyenne, five years later, sleeping in the weeds when the rides gave out. I read Bradford Angier under the Interstate’s sodium vapor aura until my eyes crossed.

So many miles, and it is all the same. All the same. Light cast down upon the earth. I stand outside it.

Oakland

At 80th and East 14th, ragged tents line the sidewalk.
Last time I was there, they weren’t.
Comfortable men talk over coffee at the Alameda Natural Grocery:
a friend flipped a 2-bedroom for 750K.
New logos have bloomed on the high-rises.
A decade since I left, almost,
and still I imagine I could walk up Oak Street
open an unseen door, and come home
to 1993.
On the ridgeline, a path I’ve walked for decades
still grows manzanita and western leatherwood.
You can twist the latter’s branches backward
until they point in the direction they grew from.
On East 14th, a man my age looks at me.
I look back at him. We are the same,
though my exile is more comfortable by far.

Orion rising

In retrospect, I must have been under for a very long time, until long after I tired of splitting my fingernails on the underside of the ice. Until I forgot what it was to have lungs that didn’t ache, forgot how it felt not to bleed warmth into the abyss.

I awoke in the desert, but that’s not news.

It’s a good indication that you might not be quite right when you find yourself taking the constellations personally. I woke yesterday far too early, took Heart out for her walk at 4:15 a.m., and as we stepped out the front door they were there: Orion, with the head of his dog Canis Major just coming up over the Wonderland of Rocks.

We walked together again, the four of us.

I have trouble remembering the first months after he died. I was numb, a dangerous and lingering anhedonia. After a few weeks I managed some semblance of recovery. I wore it like a hermit crab would, carrying it with me so I could hide behind it. I saw friends. I got a different job. I wrote things. I remember almost none of it.

It was years before the ice began to break. It took me a while of gasping on the bank before I could stand.

Look, I am broken. We all are broken. Again, not news. My whole life a bottomless pit of imagined loss, despite decades of astonishing fortune in love, in friendship.

For his last six months? I was content. It was enough. It was a frighteningly sad time, leaden with the expectation of certain grief, and yet it was a culmination, to be needed so completely. He asked for very little, but he asked for it constantly. To be held up when he tottered. To be reassured.To be carried when he could not make the last hill.

It was my sole focus, my sole purpose: walking with Zeke. I needed nothing else, wanted nothing else. He took 15 minutes sniffing and then re-sniffing the same tortured boxwood, walking a step away and then seemingly forgetting, then sniffing the boxwood again. I was content. He stared rheumily into the distance as admirers asked the same three questions over and over again, all of them ending with the same sad prediction. It was life. I awoke each hour to look in on him, to make sure he had not fallen or soiled himself. I was terrified and happy.

One night I woke to find him splayed improbably across a cushion, unmoving, and I was sure his time had come without me noticing. I felt for a heartbeat through his still-thick fur. I listened for his breathing and did not hear it. It took an endless 30 seconds for him to open his eyes, part his lips in a smile of greeting. I was eerily calm throughout. I kissed his forehead for perhaps the 50th time that day.

I’d found the third W in the Zen aphorism about what you do before enlightenment and after: Chop Wood, carry Water, go for a Walk. It was as complete and as content a time as I have ever felt.

And then he was gone, and the universe was a wilderness of mocking constellations. Orion kept his dog. Sirius was still a bright clear eye, Canis’ ears stlll folded back as he regarded his two-legged partner. The ice beneath my feet began to crack.

Zeke started his rapid decline ten years ago next week.

When a dog is broken, she does not hide it behind layers of subterfuge and curdled resentment the way a human might. Even a terrified dog is honest. Even a shattered dog will forgive those who never hurt her, in time. It took me longer. The universe built to culminate in those six months of my walking with Zeke, and then useless, an empty and discardable husk.

And Canis still chased Orion across the winter sky.

orion

Photo by Kronerda, some rights reserved.

People will tell you it gets better. It never does. You might get better at pretending it does.

A phrase from a friend to describe her late dog: “one of your internal organs walking around on its own.” Then she laughed, and said “but you know. Look what you named yours.”

One winter night before Heart got her name, we walked out into the desert as Orion was rising. It was a few weeks after the hermit crab carapace I’d toted for years finally splintered. There was nothing between me and the constellations. The dog pulled at the other end of Zeke’s old leash, and I wondered what on earth I was thinking to consider getting back in line to ride the world’s worst rollercoaster. If all went well, I’d go through one of the worst losses in my life in my early seventies. And if it took another six years to catch my wind again?

I sat down suddenly, on the berm along a dirt road a mile and a half from the house. Sirius shone remote. Zeke panted behind me, unseen. And others, too. Gilgamesh. Kudzu. Dogs I’d never met. Shalom, Stella. Chupacabra. I knew the wrenching grief they’d left behind, though they never would have wanted it. I was not strong enough to go through that again, and I began to cry helplessly at the inevitability of betraying this sweet dog by handing her back to the rescue.

“Love isn’t worth it,” I told her. “It’s just a thing we tell ourselves we feel so we don’t have to think about how bad all of this hurts.”

She sat in front of me, sniffed a little at the wetness on my beard.

“I don’t believe you,” she said.

Habitat loss

I want to go back to this little place I know, on the east side of Route 14 in Mojave, California called Reno’s Coffee Shop. I had homemade turkey soup there once two days after Thanksgiving. The waitress apologized. It would be turkey soup for days, she said. The place closed in 1992, and when I go back I will buy the space shuttle postcard I always meant to send to my brother.

In Nipomo, surrounded on all sides by close-grazed green hills, there’s a lonely taqueria I’ll revisit. A basalt molcajete on the counter holds an incendiary salsa verde. Two carnitas tacos, the gamelan hum of truck tires on Highway 101, and a wizened side-eye from the woman behind the counter as she explains again in a language you do not quite speak that the payphone has not worked in some months. I will go back, roll away the new asphalt and the Panera and the Starbucks, find the old green hills underneath the acres of shopping center parking, and three or four layers beneath the drive-through ATMs I will find her and ask for carne al pastor.

I will watch the Perseids again with Matthew, lying on our backs on the side of Grant Line Road at the farthest reach of the Bay Area’s light dome in Tracy, where the still-wild Central Valley remains just beside the glare-lit outlet malls and each meteor brings jokes about the space defense system President Reagan is pushing.

All these places. All these places. The spot below Lone Tree Point where Zeke stands, his last visit to the Bay, staring out with rheumy eyes at the far shore for which he’d soon depart. The Bay rose to cover that little beach in 2045. I want to hold his trembling hips upright, tell him how good a dog he always has been.

The Ivanpah Valley, sitting down at night among the waist-high creosote again, the eleven new square miles of solar factory hell irrelevant for now.

That place on 16th and Valencia, right on the corner, with the milanesa lunch special and banda on the jukebox. I’ll order the molé pipian.

I’ll meet her, hold her hand again under the plum trees on University Avenue in Berkeley, window-shopping in stores closed for hours and now for decades, and tell her how my life has been in the more than 30 years since she died.

I’ll hike up to the ancient junipers burned dead in the 2005 Hackberry Fire, Mojave National Preserve, and sit beneath them again in a hot noon, smell the sweet oil sun-distilled from their new leaves.

These three things happened

Thing one.

My colleague Matt and I were sitting in the shade of a black locust on a Southern California Indian reservation week before last, watching some dogs. The dogs were boisterous mutts who’d found a family to watch over them after white people had abandoned them on the Rez.

They were wary when we first arrived, but soon got over it and welcomed the new human company. We’d been there a couple hours when one, a brown brindle mix, trotted up to us all proud, wanting to show off the toy she’d found.

Matt noticed something odd a split second before I did. “Is that…” he said, just as my eyes registered the rabbit ears sticking out the right side of the dog’s mouth.

I gestured to the dog, a come-hither tone to my voice. “Good dog. Can I have it?” The dog looked at me as though I had lost my mind, a polite back-sidling side-eye, and found a shady spot beneath a shrub a few yards toward the house. There commenced a sound of crunching.

Thing two.

My ex-wife and her best friend visited me in the desert few days ago. It was the first time B. had seen where I live since a short visit in 2009 to my apartment in Los Angeles. I tidied a bit, made sure to tell my sweetheart my ex- was going to visit (“best relationship practices,” I said), and then they arrived and met the dog and we went to dinner and B. was pleased at my house and beamed at the desert plants and she said she was thrilled that I had made such an appropriate life for myself.

As the taillights of her friend’s Tesla headed toward Los Angeles, I called my sweetheart to report on the evening. She was thrilled that all had gone well. She told me of her gratitude to the universe for providing me with that little bit of validation, of something like closure, and as we hung up I felt buoyed by love in its many forms, and I went to bed.

A different, more recent ex- showed up in a dream to correct my course. We argued over things I forgot as soon as I awoke. All that remained when I awoke was the feeling of worthlessness she had inspired, and that I ended the dream by walking away from her.

That afternoon I had a shrink appointment, and I told my shrink about the dream. “I feel like my brain couldn’t give me just 24 hours of feeling uplifted by people who love me and who actually want to be part of my life, so it plunged me into an argument with someone who wants nothing to do with me,” I said.

“You should write about it,” she said.

Thing three.

A few weeks ago, as part of my ongoing attempt to revegetate my life, I brought home a Dasylirion quadrangularum from my favorite local nursery. I put it in a big terra cotta pot and placed it on my front porch.

About a week ago I looked at the plant, wondering if the neatly trimmed stubs of what were once long-strappy leaves were a new thing, or if I’d just missed seeing them at the nursery when I bought it. No worries either way, I thought. Dasylirions are tough.

For about six years I had one plant, and the person I lived with resented me having even that one. It’s a wonder that plant survived the enmity, the being relegated to dark corners and locked in car trunks in the summer in Palm Springs while I wasn’t looking. It’s now many times larger than it was a couple years ago, and it has company: several Dracaenas, orchids, ferns and Tillandsias, a Coffea arabica I rescued from the hardware store’s trash cart.

The plants help me feel like myself, again, a commodity in short supply over the last decade. But they survive well only indoors. I set a Calibanus on my table outdoors to get some air, and something ate it in about 12 hours. The desert is voracious. White sage, chiltepin peppers, potato leaves full of solanine, it doesn’t matter. The mammals around here will take any source of green they can get.

This morning I surprised a rabbit in the act of snipping the last long leaf from the Dasylirion on the porch. I sighed, sat down in the shade of the house, and watched the cottontail haul the leaf beneath my car.

There commenced a sound of crunching.

Salt Creek

Breathe.

Strands of gray-green Ramalina lichen, torn treetop lace, fall at my feet. I crane my neck backward, scan the sky. Only the swaying spruce and Douglas fir, the crash of surf seven hundred fifty feet below, the distant peeping calls of bald eagles.

I would drape myself in western sword fern, weave for myself a beard of moss and liverwort, exhale mist and sneeze sea spray. I would curl myself into the fallen hemlock, insinuate myself into the vertical root walls of downed cedar, I would send my component amoeboid cells to ease into the landscape whole.

The impossible blue green sea, and bright eyes pop out of it. I slip on algae-slicked rock, fall hard. Instructions from the world: sit here. Orange sea star sleeps at sunset.

Woodpecker drums on mushroom-scented snag. Staircases of white bracket fungus. Logs sawn to clear the trail: the smell of my grandfather’s workbench. Peer close at the disheveling bark.

It is the lichen’s lesson, and the kelp’s: hold fast. Hold fast.

Pleiades

IMG_7061small

There’s a thin haze on the sky tonight, so I can only see the Pleiades through my peripheral vision.

The fall constellations are parading again. The Pleiades rise in the east, and then an hour or so later the head and horns of Taurus, and Orion after another hour, and Orion’s dog after that.

When I first started spending nights in the Mojave Desert, 20 years ago almost, I used those four constellations as a clock. Well, three if you’re a traditionalist who counts the Pleiades as part of Taurus. I would have the fire started and the first beer cracked as the Pleiades rose over the ridge of Kessler Peak on an October evening, and me and my fourth beer would cozy in my sleeping bag as Canis Major bounded up over that same ridge three hours later, as the embers of my little fire crackled and hissed.

I used to sit by those fires and feel as though I had just awakened from an improbable dream, unrealistic adventures of riding trains underwater and spending whole meetings talking about spreadsheets, and waking only at long intervals to find myself at fireside in the Mojave, watching the ice crystals grow in my water bottle.

I used to wonder what it would be like not to descend back into that sleepwalking through cities.

On Monday mornings these days I haul myself out of bed at 4:00 am, and Sirius shines directly overhead as I load the dog in the car. I drop her off at a friend’s house and drive westward toward where Orion sets behind Black Lava Butte. It has taken some doing, but I no longer sleepwalk.

 

And this is his sofa, is it?

Water flat as glass. I dip the left blade of my paddle into it. It makes no sound. The right blade makes no sound. Then the left.

The sun has not yet risen. Caspian terns regard us sidelong, dive with abandon. Cormorants stand on the low tide banks. They air their wings in solemn, funereal circles. Judgments of cormorants.

We skitter along the surface, water striders in sit-on-top kayaks. Anchovies leap like tossed pebbles, and she grins, and then so do I. We pivot and veer, compass needles in search of true north. We drift on the sea’s slow breathtaking.

Pink sky, then gray, then blue and pink again. White pelicans on the far shore. An early morning siren howls from a firetruck on the road along the slough; coyotes call back to it like yard dogs.

A slow pull on the paddle, blade slicing the water silently. It leaves deep vortices in its wake, one for each edge of the blade. They spin for a very long time. I have made my intentions known to the water: more than two hundred pounds of jetsam wants to go that way. I skate forward, a fractal rosary of whirlpools for my Newtonian reciprocal.

Have I ever been quite this happy? Spirals in spirals. The whirlpools off our paddle blades and our boats’ long languid arcs. The tide swelling slow and the sun finally cresting that eastward ridge. Terns circling, diving. The dark galactic sky we watched last night, the night before. Our long, deliberate circling of a common north star.

 

Let ‘Er Drift

2015-06-22 11.18.57

How long has it been since my life truly began, since I saw this stretch of road for the first time? I crane my neck for a better view down the canyon. 70 per and the slabs of concrete sing. The Yuba shines in the mid-afternoon, and I almost wake her by mentioning it.

“Let ‘Er Drift,” the Caltrans sign reminds the truckers on the downgrade. Foot off the pedal. Take ‘er easy. Let the planet do the work, that inexorable pull downward and toward the west.

How long has it been since I first felt that pull? Since that first breath of sun-warmed pine, that first dazzle of glacier-slicked granite?

Thirty-three years since that Greyhound door opened in Truckee. A lifetime since. It seemed impossibly long ago when half my current age, I stood on High Sierra glaciers now melted away, hiked across the earth with friends now under it, and I smelled pine and sunlight and I marveled at the turning of the years.

No need to push that pedal. Life is a juggernaut. One cannot escape forward motion, no matter how our fingertips feel blindly for the fingertips of those behind us on the trail.

A lifetime since. And yet each time is as the first, and my chest swells at the prospect of a life once more remade, my destination somewhere unknowable and remote, and the Yuba shining as I remember to let ‘er drift.

Five Year Plan

In my last garden, 10 years ago. I don't even know who I am anymore.

Greens growing in my last garden, 10 years ago. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

I’ve been thinking a lot about propagating plants. I miss it.

I have spent so much of my time over the last 25 years collecting ideas into different shapes and then putting them out on the Idea Network, getting rapt over some ideas and getting angry over other ideas, and it is getting incredibly old.

I spend time these days in the real world, the physical, manifest world. I walk the dog and I see the Pleuraphis rigida leafing out, knitting the desert together, and I think that no matter how inspiringly I may eventually be able to write about the desert, no matter how many people read the first several words of some paean or other of mine to the Mojave and click “like” and move on with their day, even if I get better and better at this for the next 40 years, my entire life’s work will mean less to the desert than the work a typical mediocre-sized clump of Pleuraphis rigida might do in a year. I would do more good for the desert if I grew Pleuraphis and planted it out in scarred lands than I will in another century of writing, I think these days.

When I went to Santa Catalina Island in 2013 for work I rode past a small compound in the middle of the island, a nursery run by the Catalina Conservancy to increase the stock of plants endemic to the island, and even though I rode past on a fancy eco-tour on which I was comped due to my impressive gig as eco-writer for a large TV station in the nation’s entertainment capital, I envied the people working in that nursery so much it hurt.

In the real world, in the physical manifest world, I read some of my writing last weekend to a friend I met in the physical, manifest world, and we mutually and simultaneously observed the difference in my work of summer 2008 and my work today. I have polished my craft since then, a bit, through the simple expedient of writing multiple pieces almost every single day. But my writing in 2008 was unquestionably and ineffably better. More beautiful. More fulfilling to read, in retrospect. More meaningful.

In the summer of 2008 I was living alone in the desert, as now. I am far happier now than I was then, know myself far better, and yet in the summer of 2008 my access to the Internet was extremely limited. To post something on my blog back then took a walk across the road with the laptop to use the wifi in Nipton’s laundromat, and that wifi was slow. Once a post was uploaded, I could count on perhaps two dozen people reading what I had written.

I wrote much more for myself, in other words, and a few friends, and the artistry came first.

Sometime this month KCET will publish the 1,500th piece I’ve written for them, and I’m proud of that output. I’m likewise proud of many of the pieces I’ve written for them. This one comes to mind especially, though it was written in a much darker frame of mind than I generally inhabit these days.

And though KCET has in most ways been a dream gig for me, there will come a point at which I tire of finding the bad news, taking it into my soul, making it part of who I am, and then interpreting it for the reader.

No, scratch that: I grew tired of that 20 years ago. There will come a time at which I simply cannot do it any longer.

And there’s this: I love the Mojave Desert. It is home. And I learned last week that the Palen solar project, which was abandoned when its owner went bankrupt and then abandoned again when its new owner couldn’t gloss over the unimaginable toll the project would take on wildlife is going to be revived again by its remaining owner, and the state and the feds fully intend to approve it.

Will writing about it help? I have more of my articles introduced into the California Energy Commission’s proceedings’ official record on Palen than I can count. I could write a thousand more articles on the thing, or I could Kryptonite my neck to a bulldozer. Which would be more effective at stopping the project?

Or perhaps cutting the project fence, trespassing onto the construction site, and revegetating the landscape with Pleuraphis divisions ready to come out of their one-gallon pots. Though I’d probably only get away with that once.

And that’s just Palen. Palen is just one project in a desert full of them. The Executive Branch, and the California Governor, and the well-funded, comfortable sector of the mainstream environmental movement, have all decided that the landscape I love is an acceptable sacrifice to their larger goals, just as Floyd Dominy et al decided Black and Glen Canyons were acceptable sacrifices to the larger goals of building Phoenix and Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

I’m not about to pack up and leave just yet, but I am more and more certain I don’t want to be sitting in this here front row seat when the final act starts.

Increasingly I have come to realize I’d like to spend most of the rest of my life being somewhere else, doing something else. Growing plants to feed the people I love and to restore a little corner of the planet, in a place where the land is both slightly forgiving and in need of help, in a place where my household can be reasonably assured of a small amount of water to meet our needs, if we husband it wisely. I can easily imagine never writing again; I only started writing in my 30s, so I have a lot of years as a non-writer to use as a model. But even better: writing only when I am moved to write, writing only what I am moved to write, with as little of an online presence as I can reasonably manage.

Slowing all the way down, in other words; living my life at a pace to match the slow unfolding of seedlings and the passage of increasingly precious rainclouds across the sky.

Five years seems a reasonable timeline.

Click

Desert senna, Senna armata

Senna armata

I drove a few days back, with a friend I had not seen for years, through the Pinto Basin and into the Chuckwalla Valley. She drove, which afforded me an unusual opportunity. Living alone except for Heart I am usually the one behind the wheel. On Saturday I had the chance to gawk at the desert through which we drove.

There were wonders. The Pinto Basin ocotillos are in fine bloom, and psychotropically magenta flowers blaze from every clump of hedgehog cactus, and the roadsides were lined everywhere other than the pits of washes with desert senna blooming yellow like wallflowers in a cottage garden.

The palo verdes bore sprays of blossoms, translucent yellow veils showing uninterrupted blue sky beyond. Even the desert ironwoods outside looked greener, their usual washed out olive drab leaves and charcoal trunks a bit less washed out drab.

I looked past them all to the bunchgrasses, the big galleta grass overflowing from the washes. Near my house, where big galleta is the third most common perennial plant after creosote and senna, each bunch is maybe a foot tall, with a dozen or fewer new flower stems per bunch. They bring me joy, to watch them knitting the desert together, but it is a special kind of rarefied, austere joy, the feeling that seeps in to fill the void when you give up, at long last, on disappointment.

In the Pinto Basin, though, the big galleta is lush and green, fair billowing across the smoketree-studded washes, and I fell into place with a click so profound I looked at my friend to see whether the noise had startled her.

My life is good these days. I have frustrations and sadnesses in full measure, fears and regrets, and yet I think when I look back at the full run of my life from some vantage point toward its end, the weeks since last autumn will be one of the highlights, one of the stretches of which I will say “that. That was the entire point of this exercise.”

A few weeks back I walked in the Oakland Hills, along trails I once knew well, and counted one wild plant species after another that I had not seen in years. The weather was perfect, the company even more so, and I had a moment of unnerving split perspective, like the one provided by the bifocals I have finally relented to wearing: I was suddenly seeing the world from two perspectives at once. I was in my old haunts but looking forward to future happiness, no Marley’s Chain of memory and regret dragging behind me. I was home at last and yet I was away from home, a long haul over the Tehachapis between me and the thin joys of big galleta.

Pleuraphis rigida, big galleta grass

Pleuraphis rigida, big galleta grass