Across the world, an unseen virus, emanating out of China, is obsessing people and governments. Daily, we are shown body bags and stressed hospitals, see death totals that are not yet of the Black Plague category. Total economies are shut down and we are told our jobs and businesses are not essential, but you can still buy pot and alcohol. Some people, driving the same streets they have driven for decades, are fined for being on the road and neighbors are told to call a hot line to tell the government who is not following orders. Banks are closed and you have to make an appointment for most services and you are questioned if you want to take your money out of the bank. Congress magically finds 2 trillion plus dollars when we have been arguing about healthcare for decades and bails their crony’s out, again.
Walking, quite by chance, out my front door, I am greeted by a rainbow masterpiece. This double rainbow, just fading, has the right proportions, right colors, and a gorgeous, rich lustre. It is quite breathtaking, radiant, and rejuvenating.
Troubled times will pass and then talking heads will analyse and tell us what they want us to believe has just happened, politicians will claim they fixed the problems they created, and life, will go on.
In a year, most of this will be forgotten, but the precedents created will live with us, forever.
There are memories and words and photos on all trips, but there are also objects that get packed in your suitcase and brought back home. Maybe it is a piece of art from Uruguay? Maybe it is a recipe? Maybe it is a T shirt or a special cap? Maybe it is a new watch or a pack of seeds to try something new in your garden?
This little insect box, from a market place in Panama, hangs in a hallway at home.
Insects, as most of us know, can be good – like ladybugs, or bad – like mosquitos. Most often we feel insects before we see them. Casual research suggests there might be as many as five million species on the planet with only a million species identified and described.
There is still plenty for ” bug lovers ” to do on our planet.
My insects on the wall are the best kind. They don’t wake me up, bite me, or talk trash. They remind me of great engineering designs and adaptability. We’re not in this world alone, even if we think we are.
If I were to take a trip into the jungles of Panama, I’d meet all of these guys on a first name basis.
Somehow, I like them on a wall in a box, the best.
As soon as we say we haven’t seen any deer, we spot some.
This family unit nips leaves off branches, ears cocked, knowing we were here long before we spotted them. Animals, these days, have issues caused by us humans encroaching on their territories. There are a whole lot more of us these days than them.
I say a little prayer for them this morning as the sun comes over the Sandia’s and the humming of I-40 freeway traffic grows louder through Tijeras Canyon. It is currently bow hunting season and the bucks, not far from us, are at risk.
I pray hunters this year are lousy shots.
I don’t know, for sure, but I think I see a big buck pointing a big telephoto lens at me, getting closeups for his own Facebook page.
Going through a hunting season as the target isn’t rewarding but these guys and girls seem pretty nonchalant considering the price on their heads.
Hiking is always better when you see some nature.
We pass these deer, in peace, and I can almost hear their sigh of relief.
If I were a true horticulturist, I would know what this bush in my back yard is called.
I would know its scientific and common names. I would know if the plant has medicinal uses, how much water it needs, the proper way to trim it, the best times of the year to transplant. In the city, us city folks don’t always keep up on the nature around us. In jungle villages, even little children know every plant and animal within their touch, how they can help and hurt.
I do like the fact that this getting bigger bush gives me shade, hides a neighbor’s back yard from view,doesn’t take a lot of maintenance and care, has nice flowers and attracts birds and bees.
This bee doesn’t pay me mind as he digs into nature’s lunchbox.
Dining, while hovering in mid air, is a tricky and remarkable skill.
This guy would make a damn good helicopter pilot in the next U.S. nation building exercise.
Appreciating nature, before we eliminate it all, seems to be good operating policy.
The reflection of the clouds,on the lake’s calm surface,quiver. The reflection of the forest’s trees, on the lake’s surface, reaches across the lake almost to the bank we are fishing from and look as if trees themselves are growing out of the lake, right in front of me.
If I had a long enough arm, I could reach down and scoop up these clouds in the palm of my right hand and they would wiggle like the fishing earthworms we just dug up in a close by field.
I know the clouds and forest on the lake’s surface are reflections. The real clouds are in the sky and the real forest covers the rugged mountain sides directly to the south of us, across Hermit’s Lake.
If my mind can be even temporarily fooled by nature’s slight of hand, how much more of what I see is not what is really there?
When scientists come up with better measuring sticks, we might start seeing more of the world as it is, not fooled by reflections, optical illusions, mirages, black holes, mirrors and miracles..
There will, on that day, as Jerry Lee Lewis sings in his rollicking rock and roll classic,be ” a whole lot of shaking going on.”
Mornings and evenings at Hermit’s Lakes are natural wonders.
The lake, this evening, is without ripples. Fish rise with a splash to the water’s surface for flies, an eagle lazily circles above us, watching the lake’s surface for the same fish we are trying to catch. Richard and Maria share a bench, all of us fishing hard as the sun drops and you hunker in your jacket to keep warm.
It will be dark soon.
Ninety nine out of a hundred people would say this is a good definition of paradise and they wouldn’t be wrong.
Whether all this natural wonder is by design or the result of chaotic chance is a question I ponder with the same intensity of a kid playing with a rubric cube.
None of us three say anything to upset the balance this evening, our planet a colorful top spinning on a sidewalk, a perpetual motion machine set in motion with one flip of God’s wrist.
The fish this evening must be enjoying the sunset as much as we are.
The Rio Grande river runs through New Mexico and most of the state’s population and bigger cities hug the river’s edges all the way through the state, from north to south. The river is sustained by melting winter snow pack in Colorado and this is a good year with today’s river running fast and high. Along its entire length, Indian, state, county officials, and even private individuals dip their hoses and buckets into the currents and draw off water they need for their life and livelihood.
By the time our Rio Grande gets to Texas and Mexico, it is shallow enough in places to walk across, and it’s color is a muddy brown. There are packed legal folders full of legal challenges about who owns this river’s water, who gets to use it, and in what quantities. Our Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico and has always been the lifeblood of farmers, ranchers, outlaws, Indians, miners and immigrants, legal or not, all co-existing inside our state borders.
This afternoon, rafts carry fishermen downstream with paid guides maneuvering clients to some of the best fishing spots.
I don’t know what it cost these fishermen for their guide and raft, but it all adds up to an expensive trout dinner.
This guide will give this sportsman a better than average chance to catch something worth catching.
When you come this far to catch fish you want good pictures to show your buddies back home.
A few extra bucks for a trophy fish,you can brag on for twenty or thirty years, even if it seems way too high, is money well spent.
I was told by a brother, Neal, and, by Pat, that the Great Sand Dunes are worth a look so I take a quick side trip to test their recommendation.
The dunes get bigger as I drive a narrow two lane road from the big highway deeper into the National Monument.There appears no reason for the dunes to be here amid natural junipers, high desert grass, cactus. It is, as if, a celestial construction crew got wrong work orders and dumped truckload after truckload of sand right here until some angel woke up from a good night’s sleep and immediately cancelled the project. In New Mexico, we have our White Sands National Monument, but none of those dunes are as tall as these. Here, the sand seems very much out of place, but, nature can’t ever be accused of making mistakes.
At the National Monument visitor center, there are photos, posters, and displays for those who want to be educated on sand. Visitors can climb the dunes by following a path out to them from the visitor center. Visitors, hiking up the dunes, look like ants trying to touch the lazy white drifting clouds.
Not having time to stay long, I get back on the road to Creede, Colorado and Hermit’s Lake.
I’m guessing, even if I don’t see these dunes again, this would be one of the first places a tour of foreign cats, from Japan ,would stop and spend an entire day romping in the kitty litter.
Seeing cats surfing down these hills on boogie boards would be amazing.
Neal and Pat, I decide,on my way out of the National resource, are worth listening too, sometimes.
County road 40, cutting away from Colorado State Highway 69, takes me straight to the Alvarado Campground in the nearby Sangre de Cristo mountains – the end of a long driving day from New Mexico.
The campground,in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests,is where we camp out during the 2019 Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival in Westcliff. It is a summer July, warm, and these brilliant blue and white flowers are growing in no discernible order in these cow pastures. This pastoral scene should be printed on a grocery store container of vanilla ice cream.
County road 40 is two lane and well maintained and flat as the countryside we are cutting through. On each side of the road are barbed wire fences that keep cattle in their fields as well as designating people’s property lines. In old times, ranching folks hung cattle rustlers and used buckshot on kids getting into their gardens. Now, lawyers shoot it out in court for all of us and disputes in the sandbox are for judges to decide instead of pistols and rifles.
This evening, as the sun drops and night coolness is coming, I can see these cow’s don’t give a damn about fences, or us,or my philosophy, whichever side of the fence they,or we,are on.
I drive past them at 30 miles per hour, the posted speed limit, hopeful that tomorrow’s bluegrass music makes this long drive worth doing.
When you listen to bluegrass music there should be a few cows in the neighborhood,like this, just to make the music sound more authentic.
Setting up camp this evening will be a happy chore long overdue.
The mountain range, to the west, rises ten thousand feet plus into the clouds. These clouds, turning dark and ominous,prompt festival help to lower the flaps of our music tent to protect the performers and us, in the audience, from soon to come wind and driving rain.
The mountains are ten to fifteen miles away and there is a time lapse between something forming out there and something reaching here. There is space and distance around us and between us and the peaks, space punctuated by scattered homesteads stuck in the land like fallen arrows from ancient bow and arrows. Neighbors are not within a handshake and going to Westcliff is an activity you do when you need groceries you don’t grow, hardware you can’t make yourself, stuff you want but can probably do without, or the kids just need to get out of the house.
Change happens here, just like everywhere else, but it takes a while longer to get to you.
In the country, you know you are small, tiny, insignificant, a small sentence fluttering in a big book in the wind.
In the country, folks get together on the front porch to watch weather and talk about the harvest.
In the city, folks lock their front doors,don’t get too close to their neighbors, watch news about what is happening world’s away but feel powerless to affect change on their own block.
in the country, the world is what is in front of you that you can touch. You have time to get ready for events to reach you that start way way way out there, in the distance, in the mountains.
Out here, being lost in space, is literally, and figuratively, true.