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NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY DAY

“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles.”  Mary Davis

Who knew?  June 15 has been designated by the North American Nature Photography Association as NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY DAY since 2009.  Did you know?  I didn’t.  Fortunately, even in my ignorance, I have been celebrating this holiday extensively throughout any given year anyway.

It is easy to take nature photographs.  One way to take nature photos is to go to incredible places—like Yosemite National Park or Monument Valley—and snap away at all you see.  However, you do not have to go anywhere special to enjoy Nature and capture its essence on film.  You can find the beauty, wonder and solace of Nature just about anywhere. Just take the time to notice what is around you.

Some of my favorite subjects are birds and trees and flowers. 

If you want to celebrate Nature Photography Day, just grab a camera and head outside. You can sit quietly for a bit in a garden, wander the sidewalks in your neighborhood or take a drive along a country road, even a highway once you are out of the city.  See what nature speaks to you.  Then capture the interaction by clicking the shutter.

Beware: Capturing the beauty and wonder of Nature in a photo can be habit-forming.

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QUOTES ABOUT NATURE

“We do not see Nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our heart.”  William Hazlitt

“Adopt the pace of Nature; her secret is patience.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.”   Ansel Adams

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  Kurt Vonnegut

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”  Vincent Van Gogh

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”  John Muir

“Nature, Time and Patience are the three great physicians.”  H. G. Bohn

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”   Laura Ingalls Wilder

“At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough.”   Toni Morrison

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”   John Burroughs

“Once destroyed, Nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.”  Ansel Adams

“There’s something of the marvelous in all things nature.”  Aristole

“A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”   Walt Whitman

“Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.”   Albert Einstein

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”   Lao Tzu

“Just feel the magic in the air and the power in the breeze.  Feel the energy of the plants, the bushes, and the trees.  Let yourself be surrounded by nature at its best.  Calm yourself, focus, and let magic do the rest.”   Sally Walker

Rock with Wings: A Book Review

Lt. Joe Leaphorn

Officer Jim Chee

Officer Bernie Manuelito

If you have read Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee Mystery Series set in and around the Navajo Nation, then you know and love these three main characters.  They are the tribal police officers who solve the problems inherent in each novel’s main action.  Their humanity shines through as they deal with not just their work but with love, family and culture as well.

After Tony Hillerman’s death, his daughter Anne Hillerman continued the lives and stories of these (and other) characters, much to the delight of her father’s fans. Her first effort –Spider Woman’s Daughter—proved she was up to the task of continuing the characters and stories bought to life by her father.

AnneHillermanrock with wings coverHer second novel Rock with Wings (2015) is another fitting addition to the series, adding another layer of complexity to the inter-relationships of the primary characters while exploring several interrelated mysteries.  Anne Hillerman uses adept character development and a sensitive sense of place to weave together an impressive tale as intricate and beautiful as a carefully designed rug. She weaves the lives of these likable characters together with a movie about Zombies, solar energy, secondary characters such as lost teens and an elderly grandfather, financial intrigue, and photo tours into a seamless whole that builds to an engaging conclusion that ties all the loose ends together.

IMG_5768Rock with Wings starts with Bernie and Chee planning a short vacation to Monument Valley to visit one of Chee’s relatives.  It is their first get-away since their honeymoon two years earlier.  As can be expected, the overdue vacation is interrupted as various cases and family matters pull at the time and attention of the two tribal officers.  Bernie is bothered by the nervous behavior of a driver she stopped for a traffic violation; the guy tries to bribe her to let him off with a ticket.  Federal interest further sparks her curiosity into this ongoing investigation aided by her attention to detail and interest in local flora.

The vacation is initially interrupted when Bernie rushes home to address family problems.  At the same time, Chee is temporarily re-assigned to work at the Monument Valley office, in part to serve as the liaison to a film crew using Monument Valley as its backdrop for a zombie movie, of all things.  This movie production twist allows Hillerman to skillfully add film history of the area into the novel.  In fact, John Ford’s classic Stagecoach offers a useful clue to solve one of many intertwining cases Chee is juggling.

Although exploring her odd-driver situation, Bernie also tends to family matters with her mother and sister. There are even a few glimpses of Chee’s rather atypical relationship with his mother-in-law.  Since the couple are separated for several days, when Chee is not working, he willingly helps his cousin who is setting up a photo tour guide business within Monument Valley.  This domestic theme shows insights into Navajo culture and adds a refreshing balance to the criminal trails that each officer is following.  This thread with its strong focus on family life is a nice addition to the series that Anne Hillerman brings to the novels.

Hillerman does a masterful job balancing Bernie’s and Chee’s investigations, and eventually—step by step—solving all the little questions and even showing some overlap of their various cases as part of a bigger picture.  An integral aspect of the novel that helps solve the cases is Lt. Joe Leaphorn.  He is retired and still recuperating from being shot in the head in the last novel.  His recovery is slow, but he is able to find ways to contribute to the investigations as both Chee and Bernie seek out his input and advice.  Hillerman has made these characters her own even while subtly clarifying their interdependence and allowing them all—especially Bernie—to develop new skills.

Anne Hillerman continues her father’s practice of making Nature in general and the Navajo Nation specifically an integral part of each novel.  The location is more than just a backdrop.  The protagonists’ constant awareness of the world around them—the pending rain, the gorgeous sunsets, the morning runs to welcome the day—highlights the importance of Nature to the characters; through Nature they are better able to achieve hozhoni, the Navajo sense of peace, harmony and balance.

In addition, the open spaces, long distances and rough terrain of the Navajo Nation compound the work conducted by tribal officers.  Bernie even gives a civic talk in this most recent novel, explaining how the long distances and rough country make policing the Navajo Nation a major challenge on the best of days.  Often, the tribal officers are on patrol alone, and they frequently have to travel long distances to and from crime scenes as well as to various offices.  Effective communication is often non-existent when not only cell phones but patrol car radios do not work given the rocky terrain.

IMG_7350But sense of place plays an even more important role in Anne Hillerman’s Rock with Wings. For one thing, “Rock with Wings” is the Navajo name for Ship Rock, an impressive monadnock that holds significance for the Navajo and is the exact setting for one of the major events in the novel. The rock formation rises almost 1600 feet above the high desert floor.  Second, Monument Valley—called Tse Bii Ndzisgaii in Navajo or Valley of Rocks—is the exact setting for the other major case being explored.  The realities of these places contribute to the stories as they unfold.

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I was incredibly lucky last spring to have literally visited both Ship Rock and Monument Valley just weeks before reading Rock with Wings.  The impressiveness as well as the isolation and openness of the two locales stayed with me as I read the novel, making the reality of the mysteries even more evident.  If you have not yet read Rock with Wings, I suggest you do—and if you can visit the Navajo Nation, do that too.  The novel can stand alone as an engaging mystery, but complex layers of character and place emerge if you read it as the continuation of the Leaphorn and Chee Mystery Series.

Either way, Rock with Wings is a good read.  I am hopeful that Anne Hillerman will offer another novel in the series, soon.

MONUMENT VALLEY NAVAJO TRIBAL PARK

Monument Valley 4Even before I visited Monument Valley, I knew of its iconic vistas and buttes from many of the old westerns like Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Cheyenne Autumn. Its use as a location, however, is not limited to westerns; the area was also featured in such productions as Easy Rider and two recent episodes of Dr. Who.

Of course, seeing the place in a movie is nothing like being there.  As filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich explains, “It’s breathtaking. You can’t believe it. It’s very photogenic; it has a kind of mythic feeling of age, of legend. . . You’ve seen it in the movies, but when you see it in life, it’s so epic in its proportions that it almost stands for the whole of the West.”

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I felt the various contrasts inherent in Monument Valley when I first visited years ago:  grandeur and simplicity, immediacy and timelessness, and vibrant beauty and engaging solitude cannot be overlooked.  Even though there are many visitors and tour groups sharing the road, I was patient.  The crowds eventually moved on and I discovered a few treasured moments of solitude.

IMG_5731The geology of the area helps add to its grandeur.  Monument Valley is part of the Colorado Plateau, which covers 130,000 square miles. More than 50 million years ago the area was a lowland basin that over lots and lots of time and extensive layers of sedimentation, ceaseless pressures from below the surface and eventual geological uplifts was transformed into a plateau.  Then wind and water took over the task of creating the dramatic vistas and formations evident today.

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The current elevation of the valley floor ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet.  The floor is basically siltstone from the Cutler Group.  Iron oxide gives the area its red color.  The blue gray rocks get their color from manganese oxide.  The buttes are clearly stratified in several distinct layers:  Organ Rock Shale, de Chelly Sandstone, and Shinarump Conglomerate.  These buttes rise high above the valley floor with many reaching 400 to 1,000 feet in elevation.

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In 1884 President Chester Arthur added the region that comprises Monument Valley to the Navajo Nation.  The park itself rests mainly in Arizona but spreads into Utah and New Mexico as well. It covers close to 92,000 acres, equal to about 45 square miles.  The tribal name for Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is Tse Bii Ndzisgaii, meaning Valley of the Rocks. Tourists can view many of the iconic buttes and mesas by driving the 17-mile scenic loop.  Navajo-led tours give access to other areas of the park as well.

IMG_5707On my most recent visit (April 2015), I traveled to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, heading north on Highway 163 through Kayenta, Arizona.  The landscape is vast and open, and eventually rock formations start rising along the route, suggesting what is to come.

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The first full panoramic view of Monument Valley in the distance is remarkable.

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IMG_5771It was a hazy day.  When strong winds picked up, I was glad I opted to drive the 17-mile scenic loop myself rather than being part of an official tour.  The tour groups were in open-air shuttles.  I at least could roll up my windows!  Fortunately, the little dust storms were short-lived and only happened a couple times throughout the day.

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IMG_6040It is expected that the scenic drive will take at least 2 to 3 hours to complete.  I managed to stay out all day, relishing the beauty and the solitude. The drive alternates between showcasing panoramic vistas and then closer views of the many park formations.  There are overlooks and parking areas, allowing visitors to take short hikes throughout the day.

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IMG_5831IMG_5934Being there in the spring, I was able to see some wildflowers along with the ever present juniper trees.  I was even fascinated by dirt, rocks and clouds. The only animals I saw were a couple horses and a wandering dog.  My bet is they belong to the several Navajo families that live within the park.

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Purple Sage

Purple Sage

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The Scenic Loop starts near the East and West Mittens and Merrick Butte.  These three formations are probably some of the most familiar within Monument Valley.

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Elephant Butte

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Camel Butte

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Three Sisters

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Totem Pole & Yei Bichei

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 The Hub 

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Cliffrose

Cliffrose

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The Thumb 

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Rabbitbrush

Rabbitbrush

Mojave Yucca

Mojave Yucca

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The Cube

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Spearhead Mesa 

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Thunderbird & Rain God Mesas

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Artist’s Point Overlook

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IMG_6043As the day ended, it was hard to head back to my hotel.  Next time, I hope to stay at the Inn right on the property, so it would be easier to be around for sunset and sunrise photos.  Then again, I do not really need an excuse to visit Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park again.  If you have not visited this majestic place yet, add it to your list.

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Monument Valley 1

Monument Valley 2

Where do you visit over and over again, seeing something new each time?

 

 

LANDSCAPES: America the Beautiful

“I am interested in the way that we look at a given landscape and take possession of it in our blood and brain. None of us lives apart from the land entirely; such an isolation is unimaginable.”         N. Scott Momaday

Zion National Park, UT

Zion National Park

For many years now, I have retreated to Nature for an extended visit at least once a year.  The destinations are varied, but they all have something in common:  vast open spaces.  Whether I am at the Grand Canyon,  Zion National Park or some local country road, the landscape sets the stage for wonder and solitude as well as awareness and reflection.  Each landscape—although different—suggests a sense of freedom and adventure inherent in the open road.

IMG_0991Although I have traveled a bit in Europe and Mexico, most of my travels are across the good old United States of America.  As I travel across these vast vistas, I cannot help but think of the native peoples and early pioneers who crossed these same expanses without benefit of car and rest stops.  Such strength and courage.  Such determination and perseverance.  Such hope for the future and sense of adventure.  These traits—a lingering part of the American spirit—are evident for me in the open vistas from these panoramic photos of various scenes from across America.

View from Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ

View from Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ

This post is my second response to the Daily Post Photo Challenge: Landscapes.

Mono Lake, California

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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

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Bryce Hoodoo Vista pano

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

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Tioga Pass Road, Yosemite National Park, California

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Red Rock Canyon State Park, California

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Some General Vistas

Monterey, California

Monterey, California

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Coast, California

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Coast, California

Petrified Forest, Arizona

Petrified Forest, Arizona

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Canyonlands, Island in the Sky Section, Utah

Canyonlands, Island in the Sky Section, Utah

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QUOTES ABOUT LANDSCAPES

“The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere—in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves.  No one would desire not to be beautiful.  When we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming.”  John O’Donohue

“There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.”  Josephine Hart

“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer—and often the supreme disappointment.”  Ansel Adams

“Life is like a landscape.  You live in the midst of it but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance.”  Charles Lindbergh

“You cannot, in human experience, rush into the light.  You have to go through the twilight into the broadening day before the noon comes and the full sun is upon the landscape.”  Woodrow Wilson

“The landscape is like being there with a powerful personality and I’m searching for just the right angles to make that portrait come across as meaningfully as possible.”  Galen Rowell

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”  Andrew Wyeth

“I think landscape photography in general is somewhat undervalued.”  Galen Rowell

“Any landscape is a condition of the spirit.”  Henri Frederic Amiel

“Memory is the fourth dimension to any landscape.”  Janet Fitch

“I can go into the wilderness and not see anyone for days and experience a kind of space that hasn’t changed for tens of thousands of years.  Having that experience was necessary to my perception of how photography can look at the changes humanity has brought about in the landscape.  My work does become a kind of lament.”  Edward Burtynsky

MY SOUTHWEST SOLITUDE ROAD TRIP 2015

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” Henry David Thoreau

“Solitude never hurt anyone.  Emily Dickinson lived alone, and she wrote some of the most beautiful poetry the world has ever known. . . then went crazy as a loon.”  spoken by Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons (Matt Groening)

MY SOUTHWEST SOLITUDE ROAD TRIP 2015: An Overview

IMG_7063In April, I traveled a total of 3,870 miles on a two-week road trip into the Southwest.  I knew what cities I would stay in for a few days each time and had some key attractions I wanted to visit.  But most of the trip was going to be simply wandering Arizona and New Mexico, enjoying the scenery and history of the area.  I even traveled a bit on an old stretch of historic Highway 66.  I had a wonderful time.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

I travel alone on these trips—and typically someone will ask, “Why?”  Speculation is often that I would be lonely.  But that is never the case! Solitude is not loneliness—and I love the peace and quiet of the back roads I tend to travel. On those roads, it is easier to pull over and stop to watch some clouds drift by, appreciate some wildflowers, listen to some birds, even see some animals I wouldn’t otherwise notice.  Even without such wonders, the wide open spaces can be relaxing.  How can that be lonely?

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly

My overall game plan was to stay a few nights in Flagstaff, Arizona; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Gallup, New Mexico, taking day trips from those locations.  In part, I just wanted to immerse myself in the area geography, driving the backroads and visiting the small cities that are an integral part of the Tony Hillerman novels I enjoy.  I also knew I wanted to visit Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and Four Corners.  Other trips would be decided each day, from a list of possibilities I had generated.  I was also open to just following signs and seeing what I could see.

Some Views from Monument Valley:

Merrick Butte

Merrick Butte

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El Malpais National Monument

El Malpais National Monument

Eventually, I will share photos of some of the major stops I made on this two-week adventure.  But many of the memories are the smaller moments of each day, some that could not even be captured with a photo. For example, every morning as I left the Gallup hotel, there was a little sparrow in the tree by where I parked who sang good morning loud and clear.  But he was shy and never, ever let me capture his photo.  In fact, many birds and even some small animals kept me company along the road, but rarely let me take their pictures.  It is always a fun little game to try to catch them on film.

Some of these smaller memories I was able to preserve in photographs.

IMG_6906The promise of rain was a constant companion.  I was only ever really caught in a storm a couple of times, but the clouds were gorgeous almost every day.  One day, it even snowed on me in Santa Fe.  How cool is that?

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Lilacs in a Back Yard in Gallup

Lilacs in a Back Yard in Gallup

Flowers were also plentiful.  They always brighten any day!  Some flowers were in the cities, like some gorgeous lilac bushes that made me think of my mom.  One stretch near Shiprock, Aizona, offered miles and miles of wildflowers lining the road.  Other times, wildflowers offered isolated splashes of color and beauty.

False Red Yucca (Hesperaloe), Las Vegas

False Red Yucca (Hesperaloe), Las Vegas

False Red Yucca Close Up

False Red Yucca Close Up

Some views around Shiprock, Arizona, mostly Desert Mallow:

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Canyon de Chelly Roadside

Canyon de Chelly Roadside

Along the Verde River

Along the Verde River

Small Cactus Holding On Near Sedona

Small Cactus Holding On Near Sedona

Taking Root in Monument Valley

Taking Root in Monument Valley

Yucca in Bloom, Monument Valley

Yucca in Bloom, Monument Valley

Yucca Bloom Up Close

Yucca Bloom Up Close

Growing Out of Lava, Sunset Crater National Park

Growing Out of Lava, Sunset Crater National Park

Some Flowers in Petrified Forest National Park:

Desert Poppies

Desert Poppies

Indian Paintbrush Close Up

Indian Paintbrush Close Up

Common Name is Wild Apache Rose (I think)

Common Name is Wild Apache Rose (I think)

Apache Rose Close Up

Apache Rose Close Up

Shiprock National Monument in the Background

Shiprock National Monument in the Background

A few animals also cooperated as I traveled along, letting me catch them on film.  Horses wandered along the road at several locations.  Prairie Dogs were chittering alarms as I bounced along a gravel road traversing Valles Caldera National Preserve. Most scampered away, but eventually a few sentries came back to their posts.  I also shared shade with a little bunny on a break at the El Malpais National Conservation Area.

Prairie Dog, Valles Caldera National Preserve

Prairie Dog, Valles Caldera National Preserve

Near Canyon de Chelly

Near Canyon de Chelly

IMG_7152At one spot some sheep were literally running along the side of the road.  A ram was trailing behind, trying desperately—it seemed to me—to get back to the front of his little flock. That’s one of the hardest things about being a good leader—you need good followers!

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This little trip confirmed for me that Nature and Solitude are great traveling companions!

Canyon de Chelly Rim Drive

Canyon de Chelly Rim Drive

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THOUGHTS ABOUT NATURE & SOLITUDE

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”  E. B. White

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”  Anne Frank

“If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature.”  John Burroughs

“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility.  This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.”  Albert Einstein

“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone.  It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”  Paul Tillich

“We live in a very tense society.  We are pulled apart. . . . and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together. . . . I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.”  Helen Hayes

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”  Lorraine Hansberry

“What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it—like a secret vice.”  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”  John Muir

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  Henry David Thoreau

NATURE CALLS: Musings of a Roadside Naturalist (1996)*

I have never hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon nor climbed past Yosemite’s Vernal Falls. I have not camped out in the wilds, ridden rapids or climbed steep canyon walls looking for petroglyphs.  But I have stood in dinosaur footprints, waded in the Colorado River, and walked through the ruins at Chaco National Park.  As I see it, such wanderings qualify me as a naturalist, even though I don’t often stray far from the roadside.  What matters is that I seek Nature’s comfort and spirituality.

monument valley 2Fortunately, this quest is not difficult.  At the beginning of every summer, I take off for a Nature and Solitude Retreat, just to rejuvenate my soul. On those trips I head for the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or maybe Canyon de Chelly. One year I toured the Acoma Pueblo; this year I visited Monument Valley. But I could just as easily delight over a drive along Route 66 or down the Big Sur Coastline.  Where I go does not matter—as long as I focus on Nature.

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Cactus along Route 66, Arizona

Cactus along Route 66, Arizona

Big Sur Coast, California

Big Sur Coast, California

red tail hawkpeacock arboretumI don’t even have to go on a trip to experience that refreshing connection.  At least once a week, I spot a red-tailed hawk circling over my morning commute.  Any weekend I can breeze through the Los Angeles County Arboretum, finding peacocks on display or some new flower in bloom. On the morning of the Northridge Earthquake, at about 6 am, most of us from my Chatsworth apartment complex were still sitting out by the cracked pool, avoiding the shattered darkness of our homes.  But as the morning brightened, there it was:  a tree in bloom, offering a silent protest against the morning’s jarring destruction.  Even the mocking birds were chattering away like it was any other day. How could my spirits not be lifted?

Morning of Northridge Earthquake

Morning of Northridge Earthquake

sunflower vaseBut being aware of my natural surroundings is not automatic.  I am often rushed and pre-occupied. If I can forget a loved one’s birthday, I can certainly block out the Wonders of Nature without much effort.  Therefore, I try to remind myself to stop and smell the roses. Although an obvious cliché, it’s still good advice. For a start, I try to consciously put nature on my agenda. At night, instead of watching the same old reruns again and again, I take a walk and notice the moon and the stars.  It’s best to make a wish!  Or I try to get up fifteen minutes early to feed the birds outside the window or to notice the bright blue sky before the smog settles in for the day. The colors and sounds and textures of Nature are always there, if only we take the time to notice.  Even the little things help, like putting a fresh flower on my office desk.

horses in NVWhenever I do plan activities away from home, I always keep Nature in mind. It’s easy to do; after all, Nature is just waiting to be explored. For example, for me, a trip to Las Vegas is not complete unless I also visit Red Rock Canyon that lies about 20 minutes outside the city. On my last trip, I was lucky:  I won $20 and saw a herd of wild mustang that calls that area home. Another time, I ventured a bit further—maybe two hours—to the Valley of Fire. Yes, it is as spectacular as it sounds.  I especially like the rock formation called Elephant Rock.

Wood Duck, Lithia Park

Wood Duck, Lithia Park

The point is that everywhere has some natural setting to escape to. Whenever I travel, I check for parks through cities, counties, and universities. For example, there’s a great arboretum at Washington State University in Seattle and some extensive rose gardens in Portland, Oregon. Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon, is a wondrous place.  Perfect for leisurely strolls. If you get there early enough, you may awaken the many ducks and swans that make the ponds their home. Bring bread crumbs!

Finding such places to visit is easy enough by checking tour books and maps of the area. Of course, AAA is a great source for such materials. But I also contact the local chapter of the National Audubon Society, since “birders” tend to know the prettiest areas to visit. In fact, any locals you can talk to will often give great advice. Without it, I never would have discovered a back road to Gold Beach, Oregon. But is proved to be a stupendous drive, full of gorgeous wildflowers and numerous butterflies.

Desert Sunrise

Desert Sunrise

Knowing where to find Nature is not the only thing that allows for a grand adventure.  I also need enough time. Time to wait, to notice, to watch. It’s hard to really enjoy Nature if you have to watch the clock so you can rush off to an appointment.  To allow a leisurely pace, I usually figure I need a four or five hour block of play time. The plan usually includes watching a sunrise or sunset, but such scheduling is not always possible.

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quailI do try, however, to schedule times during early mornings and late afternoons because I am interested in more than just scenery.  Those are the times when more animals and birds are active. For example, outside Tucson, Arizona, I once shared an evening picnic area with a large covey of quail, some persistent jays and a squirrel.

 

yellow headed blackbird 1yellow headed blackbird 2Anytime of day, however, can give me a slice of Nature to make my own. For example, it was about noon on a hot desert afternoon when I say a coyote.  He was too hot to care that I was following him along the road for a mile or so.  Eventually he slowly wandered away into the brush, but he was forever captured on the pages of my journal—along with the yellow-headed blackbirds I fed at a parking area in Yellowstone National Park, the bear I saw at a distance at Yosemite National Park, and the golden eagle I watched along the highway as it soared against an azure sky in New Mexico.

utah praire dogFinally, to make the most of my sojourns into Nature, I always bring along two things:  a camera and a journal.  Binoculars are a nice addition as well.  These items help me capture my thoughts, ideas, and experiences for later reflection.  Besides, sitting quietly for the few minutes it takes ti write that journal entry or to contemplate the best photo angle is often all it take to entice birds and animals back into action.  Sometimes right at my feet.  For example, on an afternoon in Bryce Canyon National Park, I took the time to entice a prairie dog out into the meadow with me. This species is an endangered animal that lives only in Utah, making the encounter all the more special.

bryce 5

Patience is such a great companion.  But perhaps the best tool for an effective Nature Adventure is simply a fine-tuned sense of Wonder.  As Albert Einstein says, “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead, his eyes are closed.”  When I look with my heart as well as my eyes, I am never disappointed.

I invite you to be a Roadside Naturalist whenever you can.  It is a great adventure!

Where are your favorite places to travel and enjoy Nature?

*END NOTE:  I first wrote this piece about being a Roadside Naturalist 18 years ago.  This year, when I once again took a long driving trip into Nature, I was still contemplating Nature, Wonder and Spirituality. Thus, I decided to share my earlier musing via my blog.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

“My teacher asked my favorite color. I said ‘Rainbow.’  I was punished to stand out of my class.”   Saket Assertive

On any given day, I am likely to give a different answer to the question, “What is your favorite color?” I guess you could say I am fickle.  I love the dark violet blue of the sky just after sunset. My favorite flowers tend to be purple (iris, Texas bluebonnet, lilacs), but oh those glorious pink roses.  The soft grey of wolves and pussy willows and kittens is amazing.  And when I see a big yellow dog, reminiscent of my long ago dog Murphy, my heart literally skips a beat.  I also love green, even speculating in the past that it was possibly God’s favorite color.

Today, my favorite color is ORANGE.  In all its shades and hues:  peach, terra cotta, sienna, vermillion, tangerine, amber, and coral just to name a few.  Orange is less vibrant than red but exudes more warmth than yellow.  It is earthy, enticing, and energetic.  According to one website, orange is associated with enthusiasm and creativity, vitality and endurance, curiosity and change. No wonder orange is a hue that speaks to me!

leaves 2

orange rose

bryce national canyon

poppies blurry

butterfly on ice plant

monument valley

sunset

angel arch

tulip fields

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I love quotes, but who would’ve thought I could find some about “ORANGE”?

 “There is no blue without yellow and without orange.”  Vincent Van Gogh

“Orange is the happiest color.”   Frank Sinatra

 “If love were a color, it’d be orange. Not because that’s a romantic color, but because it’s the sweetest.”  Jarod Kintz

“Orange is one of God’s favorite colors— He stuck it right there between red and yellow as the second color in the rainbow. He decorates entire forests with shades of orange every autumn. It shows up in sunrises at the start of the day, sunsets at the end of the day, and in the glow of the moon at the right time of night.”   Reggie Joiner

 “Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow.”  Wassily Kandinsky

 “The woman had told the truth. The flowers were the color of sunset. And not the yellowish tinge of a lazy sun either, but the intense orange of a sun refusing to set on anyone else’s terms.”  Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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 This is my first time completing a weekly photo challenge.  I was inspired by the entries of two bloggers I follow: Tricia Booker Photography and  de Wets Wild.

This was fun!  What is your favorite color?

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