Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Antelope Spotting

You can learn a lot at rest stops. While waiting for my traveling companions, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman awaiting his passengers. Looking at the vast Wyoming landscape, I believe I muttered something to the effect, “this is truly magnificent in its own way.” The gentleman agreed, noting with some regret that his granddaughters spent most of their time in the back seat playing with their hand-held games. And his daughter sat in the passenger seat reading her book. I was about to tell him what I did to enjoy the ride when our respective parties reassembled and we left in separate vehicles.

All the way across Wyoming, I practiced antelope spotting. [Well, I thought the mammals in question were pronghorn antelopes but according to Wikipedia, they’re not antelopes at all so it is best to refer to them simply as pronghorns.] At any rate, sitting in the backseat with three suitcases piled to my left and a window to my right, I had a grand time trying to spot these graceful creatures. It takes concentration but is really quite rewarding. Often I’d see one wandering alone. One shared a spacious pasture with a scattering of cattle. One doe stood with her two fawns as if posing for a portrait. Once in a great while, a buck.

 As the sun began to sink toward the horizon, many seemed to settle down for the night, facing west. The only exceptions to the mammalian landscape of cattle and pronghorn were an occasional herd of horses and two mule deer. All of these creatures kept me delighted until dusk after the overcast sky was graced with rainbows that segued into sunsets before dissolving into rain.

And it was magnificent.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Late Bloomers

Around here, the catalpa trees are in abundant bloom
 -- actually spectacular.
Unlike the fruit trees and dogwood 
which detonate color into the spring landscape,
catalpas bloom in mid-summer
 -- after crocus, tulip, daffodil, and iris
have come and gone 
and all the trees are so lush with green 
that I suspect many people do not even notice.

It's a little sad.
It should not matter
when a tree (or person) blossoms.
Beauty is beauty, whenever and however it happens.
And appreciation is always appropriate.
So, thank you. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This is not a squirrel

I know. It looks like a squirrel. It's almost as big as a squirrel. But it's a prairie dog. It lives, with hundreds of others, at a rest stop on I80 east of Park City, Utah. It, and hundreds of others, have learned to scamper close to the sidewalk looking cute. They peer out of the undergrowth and pose when people pass. And people feed them -- which is why they are as big as squirrels.

It's probably not evil. But it doesn't do the prairie dogs much good. I wonder if they can fit into their burrows.

Just a passing thought on a long drive home

Saturday, June 18, 2011


How's this for a classic photo? It was taken in Monument Valley, Utah. The cowboy in the red shirt is a Navajo who sits behind a little wooden shelter topped by a sign -- "Photos $2.00." When a tour jeep pulls up, he rides his horse out to the mesa while dozens of people take the same picture.

[I was with the North American Cultural Tour, which paid for the photo.]

Monument Valley became synonymous with the American West because the proprietors of the local trading post sent photographs to Hollywood producers encouraging them to make Westerns in this spectacular landscape. So they did. Especially John Ford (in movies starring John Wayne).

This testament to American entrepreneurial spirit, lives on --- in the cowboy in the red shirt

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Whatever Works (part two)

This (one of several) statues of a Navajo Code Talker. This one stands in front of the Gallup, New Mexico, Cultural Center.

As most of us have finally acknowledged, the Navajo used their language (adapted for American military terms) to bamboozle the Japanese during World War II -- thus saving many hundreds of American lives.

To me, this not only demonstrates the courage and patriotism of the Navajo but also underlines the importance of all peoples retaining their languages and cultures. [It's okay if they learn English too.]

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Whatever Works

This is a (mediocre) photograph of dogs herding sheep (without the assistance of a human being) on the Navajo reservation in Arizona.

While on the Native American Cultural Tour, I learned that the Navajo also use llamas to herd sheep. The llamas use their sharp hooves to protect their charges.
There is no word for 'llama' in the Navajo language so they call them, goats uncles.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Canyon Connection

For some 5,000 years, people have lived in, and worshiped in, Canyon de Chelly. When I went there as part of the Native American Cultural Tour, I rode in a 'group jeep' that drove deep into the canyon (and then back out). It stopped a couple of times, at places with portable outhouses and vendors. At one of those stops, I walked past a pickup, noticing that two little girls were sitting in the cab. One of them seemed quite anxious to connect with me. She climbed over to the driver’s side window and rolled it down, waving her box of Minute Maid apple juice (inadvertently sprinkling me). I talked to her briefly then, when she opened the back cab window and climbed through, met her at the back of the truck. She began playing with two little carved turtles. Everything else on the truck bed display seemed pretty feminine but when I asked her if one of the turtles might make a nice gift for my son, she smiled. So I bought it and her grandmother put it on a cord. I asked the girl’s mother if I could take her picture and she said yes (you can see the mom’s arms in the photo).

Connections are possible everywhere.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly from the rim looking down
Canyon de Chelly from the floor looking up
People have lived and worked and hidden
in this canyon for some 5,000 years.