Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Paradigm Shift


This is the back cover of the most amazing book I've come across this year - maybe this decade.  It provoked (or should I say legitimized?) a kind of stream of consciousness experience that will most certainly affect this blog, and will likely affect a book I'm trying to put together (while badly afflicted with procrastination and distraction) but which I cannot write about further until after dinner. Hmmm, procrastination again?
There: I've had a bowl of granola with a banana, and now I can carry this story a little further.  I discovered this book during my end-of-May drive to Pittsburgh, PA, to see my daughter, the art professor.  This book, backside up, was on a table full of books and papers in her living room.  The words "writing the unthinkable" caught my eye.  I turned it over and saw the title: WHAT IT IS: The formless thing which gives things form.  Some sort of paradox?  It would have been easy to ignore this book because it looked so unconventional (euphemism for quirky?), but I already had a copy of Lynda Barry's Syllabus, so I was hooked. Since my mind is frequently racing all over the place, I am often told by others watching my work, my office, etc., that I need to get organized.  Then I claim that I am organized, despite appearances.  So, after another break - maybe even a good night's sleep - I will try to give form to the formless messages I got from this book.  As I write this, my mind frequently flashes on another interesting book I found this past week: Kerri Majors' This Is Not a Writing Manual, which definitely is a writing manual.  So,  I do think I need some sleep before I can give form to it all.  For one thing, a blog in this format is inherently linear, but the processes of thinking and writing I am alluding to definitely are not.  Will I be able to fit a round peg into a square hole?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Beetlemania strikes again

 I've undoubtedly used this title or a similar one at least once each year for the past five - ever since I first discovered the Red Milkweed Beetle - Tetraopes basalis.  So far the summer of 2017 has been very dry and hot, and I've only seen one of these beetles at a time in just a few places.  But a few days ago I stopped by one of my favorite spots on Chandler Road, just in case.  As I said in an earlier post, most of the Milkweeds here had already succumbed to the Road Department's weed eater attacks.  But on this day, there were three on one plant, and one each on three other plants.  I took lots of photos.  My favorite is the last one in this series.  For some reason the inclusion of part of the fence appealed to me even though that's what I usually avoid.  I also like number 5 in the series because of the way the beetle folded her antennae back in response to my close approach. It reminded me of cat behavior.

Are books natural?

 Currently, my blog has become a stream of consciousness kind of thing.  I'm still trying to catch up on posting photos and thoughts from last weekend's trip to the coast.  Meanwhile, a whole week has gone by back in Quincy and I've done some wandering and photographing and thinking here.  As I said earlier, the destination following our drive down the Mendocino and Sonoma County coasts was "bookstore heaven" from Pt. Reyes Station to Corte Madera and San Rafael.  Always one to enjoy the simpler things, I appreciated hearing a Spanish speaker pronounce "reyes" as a two-syllable word as it should be.  AS we were preparing for this trip, I fantasized about bringing home a box full of books.  It turns out I only bought two (pictured here) and regret passing up one other.  The two I bought and the one I passed up were greatly influenced by the authors' experiences of nature.  I love the feel of a book in my hands - much more than the "feel" of the laptop I am now using.  I wonder if books are more natural than computers.  One can approach this question superficially or deeply.  Either way, "nature" and "natural" are human constructs.  When I get home where the Internet speed is pathetically slow, I will add some narrative about what influenced me to buy these two books and why I regret passing up the third.  For now, I am sitting outside a cafe with very high speed Internet where I could add each photo to my blog in 15 - 20 seconds, a process that can take as long as 5 minutes at home.  So, until then....

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Spring is Back!

 I still need to go back a post or two to finish my narrative about last weekend's trip to the coast.  But today, I just had to escape the heat and go somewhere, like high altitude, where I wouldn't run into a crowd with the same goal.  I made a lucky choice, and these two photos of Monkshood made the drive worthwhile, and I got lots more good photos which I'll post soon.  The drive began at the road that leads up to Argentine Peak from the spot on Highway 70 across the road from Williams Loop.  The first few miles were pretty dusty and bumpy and I was nervous about abusing my truck. I was looking forward to the first major stream crossing which has always been a good spot for wildflowers and the butterflies and moths that pollinate them.  Several hopes were fulfilled, and others were exceeded.  I saw blooming Washington Lilies, Leopard Lilies, and Corn Lilies, Pennyroyal and other members of the mint family, and some orchids and onions.  But, the highlight was the Monkshood shown here.  They belong to my favorite wildflower family, Ranunculaceae, to which the Crimson Columbine and Buttercups also belong.

The road was in rough shape and I wondered which damage was done by a hard winter and which was the result of aggressive logging.  I wondered about a lot of things, but had time limits as usual, so some things I'll just have to keep on wondering about.  I thought of Thoreau and what must have been on his mind when he wrote "Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in."
I titled this post "Spring is Back!" because going up in elevation feels like going back in time.  The foothills are bone dry and most species of flowers have gone to seed long ago, but from 5,000 to 6,500' feet elevation where I explored today, lots of those same species are at their peak of blooming.  Feels like spring again.

Friday, July 14, 2017

In the vicinity of Anchor Bay

Time for a lunch break during which I will contemplate Newton "unweaving the rainbow" and how I want to revise my memory of what I saw and felt in relation to these scenes.

Bowling Ball Beach, II

 While we continued to converse, off and on, cognizant of the other's main interests, we also meandered separately, each focused on our own main interest - Bib on the rocks with "finger" holes in them, and me on anything alive besides humans.  When I wandered a little bit south from our entry to the beach, I found huge accumulations of seaweed and poked through quite a bit of it looking for amphipods, flies, and crabs.  The wind was probably making me impatient because I didn't find much, and I wasn't as persistent as I usually am in such situations.
 Turning north again, wondering where the large bowling balls had gone, I recognized the furthest cliffs (left-hand edge of the above photo) as the ones immediately behind the bowling balls we had seen on our last trip here.  That area appeared to be around a mile away, so we decided not to walk that far.
 Back to looking for signs of life, I was intrigued by the glow of sunlight emanating from this bunch of grass.  Stealing a phrase from an iconic Ansel Adams photo, I love the "early morning light."
 This lone specimen of Bull Kelp seemed particularly photogenic to me.  The wavy pattern of mini-sand dunes brought forth images of desert and other places of isolation, but the kelp was a reminder of the tenacity of life found in such places - such as Ed Abbey wrote about after exploring Death Valley.
 Considering how the waves bash everything against the rocks, I felt privileged to find an intact crab shell.

Then, on the trail back up to our parking space, I found a great specimen of Harvest Brodiaea that I overlooked on the way down.  Again, the early morning light made this one especially beautiful.  Onward to points south - coffee, chile relleno, and bookstores.

Bowling Ball Beach, I

 Our long-awaited return to Bowling Ball Beach was a different experience this time.  In fact, one of the exciting aspects of the seashore is that it is different every time.  But this time, I was reminded of an old Disney documentary, "Four Artists Paint a Tree."  My wife and I hike the trails and wander the beach together, and we talk, and we look around, but we see different things - or, we see the same things in different ways.  For instance, the approach to the trail descending to the beach is a long, flat area covered with dried out grass.  It was very windy, and I suspect most people walk quickly through this section just to get out of the wind.  Or, they decide it's too windy and return to their cars.  We never turn back due to wind, but my wife walked quickly while I was stopped in my tracks by this one flower (above).  I haven't yet identified it, but it was the only one I saw, and I will consult the field guides later.  Meanwhile, I tried to be patient as the wind moved the flower back and forth like a pendulum, until I could catch it at the end of its swing where it was still enough, for a split second, for a clear shot.
 When we descended the steep trail to the beach, including the last slippery ten feet or so, our separate missions became apparent.  Here's Bib looking for miniatures of the rocks that give the beach its name.
 Here she is again in an area covered with these kinds of rocks.
 These two examples now adorn our front deck and a few places inside the house.
 Meanwhile, I was looking for more biological rather than geological items.  I'll feature my findings in my next post.  At this point (below), I realized that the really large "bowling balls" we saw on our 2012 trip to this area were yet a mile or so ahead.  We retreated because there was more coast to explore and limited time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Burma Shave? Better.

 As we headed south from Mendocino toward Bowling Ball Beach, we ended up spending more time than planned in Pt. Arena.  First stop in the very windy and foggy morning was this series of signs on cedar trees at the edge of the highway.  This brought back all sorts of memories for me, especially the contrast between my home state of Massachusetts which had very little roadside advertising to the South which seemed to me to have a surplus of such.  I went to pubic schools in grades 1 through 12 in Massachusetts before there were freeways, turnpikes, or other high-speed, divided highways.  THe statewide speed limit was 45 m.p.h as most two-lane roads were curvy and tree-lined.  There was virtually no open road between towns, so nearly all advertising was mounted on actual retail establishments rather than billboards.  When I went south for college in 1960, I was startled at the amount of roadside advertising of all sorts.  Billboards, crappy sign boards on wheels that had replaceable black letters, crosses with the words "Jesus Saves" to which my college buddies often added "Moses Invests," and the fancier series of signs advertising the South of the Border Motel for many, many miles in all directions from its location and the SC, NC border.  This place was "heir conditioned."  You can imagine the rest of the story.  The old Burma Shave signs (Google that brand if you're not old enough to remember.) were removed in the 60's when I was finishing college. A month ago, on my round trip to  Pittsburgh, PA, I encountered a sad modern version of this sort of advertising as I sped through Iowa on I-80.  On four sequential signs I read "Roses are red; my gun is blue.  I feel safe; how about you?"  Jeesh!!!
So, the signs on the outskirts of Point Arena gave me mixed feelings.  Click on each one if necessary to read them.  I pretty much agreed with the sentiments which I considered a sign (pun) of an improved social climate compared to what I experienced when I taught there for a year back around 1979.  I remember the town as a place of conflict between three main cultures - sheep ranchers and other agriculture traditionalists, Native Americans from the nearby Manchester rancheria, and more recently arrived New-Age types (AKA Hippies) moving up the coast from SF area.  Interestingly, a popular book at the time by a local author was titled "Can You Survive Your Escape."  Well, I'm happy to report that many people apparently did.  There were several really nice new shops including an amazing bakery, the waterfront was interesting with shops and a relatively new pier, and practically no roadside litter.  I plan to go back to Point Arena and spend more time in that area. Meanwhile, enjoy the signs.

Mussel Beach and Vicinity

No, not Muscle Beach.  That's a southern California image.  This is the "real" thing by Mendocino.  Another beach comber got here first and tried to make order out of chaos.  I liked it, so I photographed it.  This is the beach just below Mendocino which I've been visiting ever since 1965, but never knew the name of it until last week's visit.  I saw it called Portuguese Beach on a map.   That makes sense since the area was settled (a few thousand years after the Native Americans) by Portuguese fishermen.
On the bluffs above the beach I found one of my favorite plants, Rattlesnake Grass, is still  plentiful.
And the opportunistic Seep Spring Monkeyflower grows wherever there's a minimal amount of soil and a reliable water supply, in this case dripping off the cliffs.
Balancing among piles of driftwood, I got a shot of the beach with the tent of the Music Festival visible on the plateau above.  Click on the photo for a closer view
When I turned 90 degrees to the right, I got a perfect view of one of the longer tunnels which during winter is the scene of explosive gushes of sea water with every incoming wave.  In the summer, some folks paddle through on kayaks which practice can result in deadly surprises.
Punctuating the cliffside greenery were occasional blossoms of Nasturtium which can also be found topping salads in the finer restaurants around here.
I always find fragments of ocean-battered seaweed to be photogenic and also the hiding place of all sorts of small invertebrate creatures like amphipods and different kinds of flies.
This specimen of Bull Kelp was just beginning to get a bit smelly so I resisted the temptation to make a horn of it with my pocket knife.
Back up in the village we wandered the sidewalks for a while.  I was stopped by the appearance of evidence for gravity at which point I looked up - and, sure enough, a Swallow's nest overhead.  We watched the parents make frequent trips to feed their young, but they were too high up to get a good photo of their tiny heads peeking over the edge of the nest.
Growing out of a crack in the pavement was a nice patch of Scarlet Pimpernel, a plant I first learned about some 20 years ago on the baseball field of Leggett Valley School.
It was satisfying to spend several hours roaming around this interesting place without spending any money.  We were trying to save it for anticipated bookstores and coffee shops as we continued our journey southward down the coast.