For Loretta

Our black cat Emma lays on her side on the ottoman in my office of our house in Portland, Oregon in August 2013

We didn’t bring my love seat from Portland as the affections of one dog and five cats had taken its toll over the years, especially from Emma (sleeping here on the matching ottoman in August of 2013). My wife also needed a sofa for her office in the den so she started looking while I was at work. We found a nice sofa for my office at a secondhand store and then tried a few other stores before visiting the store with a sofa my wife had seen and liked quite a bit, she wanted to see if I liked it as well.

The woman who helped her was named Loretta, we were introduced and she showed us a few options. She was the sort of salesperson you are lucky to find, she listened to what we wanted and guided us to the furniture they had that would work best for us. Not only did she not try to give us a hard sell to get us into an expensive custom set, she didn’t even give us a soft sell, rather after seeing that we both fit best on a reduced price floor model she happily sold that to us despite of how much less of a commission she must have gotten.

We also wanted an ottoman so she setup an appointment with my wife to go over the options and again, after listening to what we wanted, found one I think we’ll like and helped choose the colors. When they had the wrong phone number for us, because she lived kind of in this direction she stopped by the house to get the right number so there wouldn’t be any confusion or delays.

She was thinking of moving to Portland, her fiancé lives there, and I hoped they would be as happy there as we had been. Sadly it is not to be as we found out she died unexpectedly Thursday night. Given how briefly our lives had touched I was surprised how taken aback I was by the news. Given the past few months I’ve been worn out mentally and physically but she was kind and attentive and made everything so pleasant for both of us.

Here’s to Loretta and all those who are kind to strangers, not because of how much they’ll benefit, but because it’s who they are. If only briefly, I’m thankful we met.

Moving On

My white 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited is parked in front of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

After the movers packed up our belongings, I took a quick picture with my phone before leaving the rental house for the last time. Or almost the last time, I was back yesterday to let the carpet cleaner in. As excited as I am about our new house, I was a little sad pulling away from the rental house as it was a great home for us during our first year in Arizona. That’s my Crosstrek out front, its utility proved itself multiple times both on the move a year ago and in this last move, even if I replace it with something a little better suited to my current commute I will always love this little Subaru.

At the back of the large backyard was this old bird feeder, it provided endless entertainment for both me and the cats during our year there. I saw 30 bird species over the year, many of which fed at or below the feeder. The most surprising visitors were the boisterous rosy-faced lovebirds, they aren’t native but a population has established itself in Scottsdale.

An old metal bird feeder in the backyard of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

Moving Day

Our dog Ellie relaxes on the back porch next to a bottle of Dr. Pepper on the day the movers brought our stuff to our new house

After meeting the movers at the rental house in the morning, I drove to the new house when they were finished and sat with Ellie on the back porch to keep her from “helping” them. My wife had picked up this old school Dr. Pepper, nectar of the gods. It was a beautiful morning, best St. Patrick’s Day ever. I’m worn out from not getting lots of sleep the past couple of days, between looking after Ellie and Boo mewing during the night, but I’m glad we’re home.

Second

My Tom Bihn Guide's Pack backpack with my tripod underneath sits on quartz rocks on the Quartz Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A week ago I went to a trail near what I expected was going to be my second choice in houses to help cement my opinion. I went further than I’ve gone before, continuing on to the Quartz Trail and wandering up to this outcropping of quartz that looks out over Scottsdale. I had a fun morning and confirmed the other house was my first choice but also that I’d be happy living in the second if we didn’t get the first.

Tom and Nik and I

My Tom Bihn Nik's Minimalist Wallet sits on top of my dusty Tom Bihn Guide's Pack

I had been looking to get a smaller wallet so when I saw the colorful designs of the new Tom Bihn wallets, Nik’s Minimalist Wallet, I ordered one in the color of Island in 210 ballistic. I chose design number 4 with the outside pocket and the little webbing loop at the top. I love it, it carries my essentials and is much less obtrusive in my back pocket than the old leather wallet I’ve had for many years. I usually carry it in my back pocket but sometimes I like to clip it into a bag using the loop. During the week I keep a credit card and my cafeteria rewards card in the outside pocket for easy access during lunch at work, and on days I have to stop for gas I’ll put the gas rewards card in that pocket too.

A photo of some of my Tom Bihn gear on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

During a water break on a recent hike I photographed the wallet along with a couple of new buckle straps for securing my tripod to the bottom of my backpack (the Tom Bihn Guide’s Pack). I have been using some simpler lash straps without the buckle and thought I’d try the buckle straps to see if it makes it a little quicker to attach and detach the tripod. I’ll let my summer self decide, it’s his heat-addled brain at the end of a hike that I’m thinking of, so far my winter self has been happy with both designs.

A closer photo of some of my Tom Bihn gear on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

This spot is on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve, I discovered the trail last month and immediately fell in love and have hiked it a number of times since. The sign marks the boundary to an adjacent county park and has been a good spot for bird-watching, I’ve gotten close photos of phainopepla, white-crowned sparrows, mockingbirds, and curve-billed thrashers in the past few weeks. When I decide to head back to the car, the camera goes into my camera bag and I swap the tripod for my trekking poles that otherwise are folded up inside the main bag compartment.

The Tom Bihn Nik's Minimalist Wallet compared to a saguaro

The specs of the little wallet are available on the Tom Bihn website but sometimes I feel photos give a better sense of size than numbers. Here, taken in the area of the landslide itself, you can see the wallet is about as tall as a saguaro cactus. I’d guess this specimen was about 30 feet tall but I’m not good at estimating distances, so take that with a grain of salt.

The Tom Bihn Nik's Minimalist Wallet compared to a massive rock formation know as Tom's Thumb

As another example, you can see the wallet is about the same size as Tom’s Thumb, a massive rock formation on the nearby Tom’s Thumb Trail. And yet somehow the wallet still fits in my pocket with minimal thickness and weight. Not sure how that works, but I love the wallet and highly recommend it.

1842

A petroglyph at Inpsiration Viewpoint in McDowell Sonoran Preserve is dated 1842

As I hiked up to Inspiration Viewpoint I was surprised to find this petroglyph carved into a rock. I don’t know if it is genuinely from 1842 but it’s certainly carved with a lot more attention than the ham-fisted scratches around it by more modern visitors. There are petroglyphs in Arizona far older, by comparison this one is rather recent, but 1842 was still 70 years before Arizona would become a state, the last of the contiguous 48 states. The territory was still six years from being ceded to the US from Mexico after the Mexican-American War, with the southern part following in 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase.

It was 106 years before the native people here would be allowed to vote, despite a federal law giving them the right in 1924, and even then it took a decision of the Supreme Court. Today all three branches of our government, including that Supreme Court, gleefully strip away voting rights from those who don’t look like themselves, don’t think like themselves.

I wish 1842 seemed like a long time ago.

Yellowstone was still 30 years away from being America’s first national park, the recognition as a country that some sacred places needed to be saved. We carved the faces of our Presidents into others. Today we know the consequences of climate change but have buried our heads in the sand. There is profit to be made, by a select few.

In the past few days we’ve had an attempted mass assassination of the leaders of a political party. We’ve had an an attempted mass shooting at a black church in Kentucky, with locked doors turning away an angry man who shot black pedestrians instead. And this morning we had a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. All angry men emboldened by the hateful rhetoric of the radical right, a hatred winked at and encouraged by the mainstream.

The history of this country is written in blood more than stone. We build monuments to those who conquer more than those who love but I hope it will not always be so. May we love the world we live in. May we love the animals we share it with. May we love the people we share it with too.

Heroes

A saguaro has broken apart and fallen over along the Watershed Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.
Zechariah 7:9-11

Let us not delight in the suffering of others, nor celebrate lies and cruelty. We know why assault victims don’t come forward, it is because we are monsters. Enough. We need not be. To those who suffer in silence. To those who suffer in public. To Anita Hill. To Christine Blasey Ford. To those who stood tall, to those knocked down, to those who suffered for us, you are heroes, still.