Coyote Crossing Writing and photography from the Mojave and Sonoran deserts by Chris Clarke Fri, 14 Nov 2014 02:12:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Last night’s dream, still not completely shaken by Chris Clarke Fri, 14 Nov 2014 02:11:04 +0000 It was bad news from the oncologist. Multiple myeloma, the same as killed my grandfather when he was just two years older than I am now, and I walked the street in a daze at the prognosis. Four months tops, he’d said, and that was after I cajoled him for optimism, talked about outliers and long right-hand tails of bell curves and essays by Stephen J. Gould.

Four months.


She was waiting for me in the park, right where she’d said she’d be when we parted that morning. Behind her a brilliant blaze of California poppies in full orange bloom, a sky uninterrupted by clouds. She saw me, beamed. She looked so happy.

How would I tell her?

I reached her, sat next to her on the bench. I forced a smile. She looked so happy. Impossibly black eyes gleaming the way they always did. Melted me, the way they always did. How had I lived for so long without her? How could I possibly leave her alone in just four months?

Time to break her heart.

“I have some news,” I told her.

She took my hand in both of hers, shook it a little side to side in not-at-all contained joy. She radiated joy. She shone at me.

“So do I,” she said.

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Found while reading the Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan by Chris Clarke Wed, 01 Oct 2014 22:30:41 +0000 “Siting renewable energy only on private land would not provide balance or flexibility in siting renewable energy development because there is limited private land throughout the DRECP Planning Area and the private land does not always correlate with areas with the highest energy resource values. In some instances, development on private land would not align with existing transmission corridors. Meeting statewide and federal renewable energy goals within the DRECP planning area boundary exclusively on private lands would result in substantial conflicts with current and proposed land uses on private lands. Some counties expressed concern that development of renewable energy on private land could impact county land-use programs and controls, and could negatively affect local economies, county resources, local character, jobs, property tax revenue, agriculture, and recreation and historical resources (County of Riverside 2011a, DRECP 2011a). Private lands that were not incorporated into the analyzed alternatives have high biological resource conflicts and do not align with DRECP purpose and need. For these reasons, the Private and Previously Disturbed Lands Alternative was not retained.”


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What she asked; what I did not say by Chris Clarke Tue, 23 Sep 2014 23:48:56 +0000 thin dark hand on mine
nails tracing tendons
she looked up.
“Why do you like me?”

my heart a well,
dark bottom unseen.
sounds of tossed pebbles fade
long before they might surface.

now a swift red-tail hawk
stripes the bottomless blue sky.
her eyes scan each rock
shining brilliant dark brown.

I would stand with her
I would stand with her
I would stand with her
and fill this void with stones.

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Heartbreak and Ivanpah; Ivanpah and heartbreak by Chris Clarke Wed, 10 Sep 2014 05:54:06 +0000 Sometimes, reflected glory burns too bright.
Sometimes, your feathery integument
ignites, and all that’s left: the earth approaching
stony swift. Decisions loom, and sad ones;
stay the course you set despite the certainty
of impact? Veer away from the bright light
that’s tempted you this far? There’s no real hope
of happy endings here. All that remains:
the strain of scorched, dis-feathered wing against
the unforgiving air, inevitable
contact with the earth, gorge-rising fear,
while those below you on the distant ground
see nothing but a bright, leisurely arc
and slow, and blinding white against the blue
and desert sky, almost ethereal
in your terminal agony; a wing
turned meteor, and all your nesting hopes
however long postponed, fall fluttering
as useless ash onto the desert stones.

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Poem with one vowel by Chris Clarke Fri, 29 Aug 2014 00:55:45 +0000 Edge effects
Glee! The deep freeze recedes.
Even the bejeweled bees, ever kept penned,
Greet the respected beekeeper.
These stretched present vessels, these feeble knees, 
These leveled, dependent legs,
End the secret sense the experts set,
The present red-dressed regret.
Yes, pen the letters. Send them west, 
Let sweet green verses rest well there.
Let them needle-test the chest-nerves’ senses.

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Chris reading in Joshua Tree: Save The Date by Chris Clarke Mon, 11 Aug 2014 06:15:30 +0000 I’ll be reading some essays and some poetry on Saturday, September 20 at 6:00 at the Radio Free Joshua Tree Listening Lounge, 61597 Twenty-Nine Palms Highway in Beautiful Downtown Joshua Tree. Admission is a few dollars tossed into the hat to keep Radio Free Joshua Tree and the Listening Lounge going, but no one will be turned away etc. etc..

More details are here.

This is the first time I’ll have read in public in six years, which makes this event an important collectible. I’ll try to arrange to have some copies of the Zeke book for sale and signing as well. Hope to see you there.

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Bump me with your plastron, you sexy Threatened thing you. by Chris Clarke Fri, 01 Aug 2014 20:39:29 +0000 Making new desert tortoises in Joshua Tree.

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Fencepost hawks by Chris Clarke Wed, 30 Jul 2014 04:45:26 +0000 Interstate 5 near Lost Hills. Photo by Annette Rojas

Interstate 5 near Lost Hills. Photo by Annette Rojas

I drove twelve hundred fifty miles this weekend, a quick trip to Oakland and then back again. Our anniversary. Six years.

From 1990 through 1998 I lived with my ex-wife and Zeke in an apartment not far from downtown Oakland. It was the longest span of time I have ever spent with one address. Annette and I stayed a few blocks away this weekend. Awoken Saturday by the sound of distant trains, the smell of trees, I remembered oddly that I woke that way every single day for eight years. Wondered how I could ever have forgotten.

Back then I drove that same route, more or less, on desperate trips to forsake Oakland for the Mojave. Interstate 5 through the San Joaquin Valley was a gauntlet to be run, and I breathed deeply only after dropping down the far side of Tehachapi Pass into the gloaming desert.

After a few trips I began to find things to value before the desert. Place names: Ortigalita Creek and Crows Landing. The cats’ paws of wind in green oat stems. As years passed and the spread of almond orchards swelled, February would fill the valley with vivid pink blossoms. Along the west verge of the highway, red-tailed hawks stood watch on rough fence posts, one hawk to the mile or more.

The suburbs have filled the valley. They strain against the freeway. They will soon break past it and run rampant through the Coast Ranges.

I saw not a single red-tailed hawk this weekend in more than 1,250 miles of driving.

There have been other losses since last I drove that way. A majestic old Joshua at roadside just east of Kramer Junction has gone missing. And so, it would seem, has this:

Outside North Edwards

Outside North Edwards

There are a hundred thousand blinking red lights outside Mojave now: the wind that stole at least three of my perfectly good hats has been broken to wheel, and turbine blades reflect the scarlet aircraft warning lights.

But it is the loss of those fencepost hawks that hurts today. In their stead, a thousand signs blame liberals for the drought.

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A Sonnet For Dawkins by Chris Clarke Sat, 28 Jun 2014 20:40:40 +0000 Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Eve?
Thou art more churlish and intemperate.
Fine words don’t camouflage a nasty peeve,
and someone here is past their sell-by date.
Sometime puffed-up a head too far refined,
and charm supplanted by a deathly prim;
and civil words that cloak a heart unkind
by chance (and nature’s winnowing) too dimmed.
So thou, eternal bummer, can go fade
just like the reverence you think we ow’st;
as those you would have led now throw you shade
for every portion of manure you throwest
so long as lungs can breathe, or eyes can see,
and you post tweets in insipidity.

(Revised from an earlier draft.)

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Despair by Chris Clarke Thu, 26 Jun 2014 02:20:20 +0000 Here is a story of a beautiful, once numerous bird going slowly extinct so that California can sell milk.
Here is a story of an agency delaying action to protect a disappearing predator.

I wake up in the morning to find bad news.

A new species of western pond turtle discovered: it’s already in serious trouble.
The Feds have refused to protect a rare lizard for decades, so activists turn in desperation to the state of California to do the job.

I find the worst of the news and take it in, bring myself to understand how bad it is, then share it with the world.

I look for good news. I do.

Here is a story about suing at significant expense to keep eagles marginally safer from wind turbines.
Here is a story about a much-heralded move to remove a handful of deadly poisons from the retail market, while others remain available.
Here is a story on common-sense measures to save water and wildlife that are too smart and sensible to be enacted.

Sometimes the only good news I can find is that someone, somewhere, has decided to stand up against the mounting horror.

I live alone now. I talk to others rarely. I see no one else for a week at a time. I awake at sunrise to read bad news that has been carefully emailed to me. Before the desert air warms I have had enough to sear my soul. I drink some coffee, bury any hopes of ever being happy, then keep reading.

This story is about why a virally popular idea to save the world won’t work.
This story is about why a virally popular idea to save the world is actually making things worse.
This story is about some good news that even its proponents say is only temporary.
This story is about our last chance to avoid catastrophic climate change being met with half-measures and compromise.

The stories linked above are a tiny fraction of everything I’ve written in the last month. I have been doing this since 1989. Technological advances allow me to compile and distribute the bad news much more quickly now.

Here’s a industrial energy project going in near a national park.
Here’s wildlife science being discarded at another industrial energy project near a national park.
Here’s a third industrial energy project threatening a rustic town’s groundwater.
Here’s an orchid being collected and trampled to the point of near-extinction.

If I stop I don’t eat. If I stop I don’t make the rent. Through disaster and dislocation, through moving everything I own into a storage locker at the beginning of May and then moving it all out again at the end of May, through the grief and isolation in my new life, I cannot stop this soul-destroying work.

This is no life. How did I find myself here?

Straining at good news: a lone condor visits Pescadero, and biologists say maybe if more come they can eat elephant seals.
Straining at good news: the tiny group of gray wolves poised to confront the guns of California’s wildlife-loathing yahoos may gain formal legal protection.
Straining at good news: A few fish spawn in a few feet of river downstream from an impassable dam.
Straining at good news: California may make it illegal to shoot as many coyotes as you can for cash prizes.

People tell me nice things. “Keep writing,” they say. They call my work important. It is intended as a kindness, and I take it as such. Lately I think the true kindness would be for someone to take this burden away. Is there a crowdfunding platform that helps people like me stop working for six months? A writers’ retreat where writers can retreat from writing?

I have known burnout before. This is different. I have worked in less than functional institutions with inadequate support insufficiently funded. It was bad. Now my world is burning to the ground.

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