I have much to learn about the rhythm of our new home. I took some time off in late December and was surprised to see the desert awash in yellow flowers (brittlebush I think but I’m still learning).
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.
A week ago I hiked the Marcus Landslide Trail for the first time and came upon Mushroom Rock before sunup. I decided to photograph the rock formation until the sun was up and then explore the rest of the trail. It took a while for the sun to fully clear the hills and not leave the left of the frame in shadow, but my favorite image from the series was this one before any direct light fell on the rocks. There are other places on the trail I found later that I would like to photograph in those fleeting moments of reflected light but I had trouble falling asleep this weekend so those pictures will have to wait.
There is a little light falling on my country too but in this case I’d prefer a lot rather than a little, that we be its source and its receiver. But a little is better than none.
I don’t use all caps much in any of my writing, online or otherwise, but my journal for July 8th starts “MAGICAL DAY!!!!!”. The five bangs are unusual too.
It was going to be hot, that I knew. It was already in the mid-80’s before sunrise, the coolest part of the day, even at Brown’s Ranch where it is typically cooler than the city. I was still getting used to hiking in the desert so while I planned to be back before the heat got severe I chose trails I had hiked before and where I had cell phone coverage just to be safe. The chance for a lovely sunrise fizzled as the overnight clouds dissipated as I drove out in the dark. I didn’t see many animals in the early morning light and fumbled with my camera even when I tried for pictures. Some days are like that, I learned long ago not to fight it, I was just happy to know that as long as I got out early I could still hike on the hottest summer days.
I reached my turnaround point at Cathedral Rock and stopped for a water break, taking a group photo for some cyclists who were also out enjoying the summer morning. I saw a desert spiny lizard but couldn’t get a picture as it scampered behind a rock. I had started seeing them on the trails on occasion, despite their size they are rather skittish so I wasn’t expecting any pictures. I sat there for a while, enjoying my new desert home, when the spiny lizard came out again. I didn’t move, taking some pictures from where I sat, and the lovely little thing got more comfortable with me. It scampered over underneath the massive rocks that make up Cathedral Rock and as I slowly approached it let me take some more pictures.
Another group of cyclists came up and I thought the lizard would disappear but instead it came closer to me. At one point it ran right in front of me and snagged an insect off the rock wall a few feet to my left, I didn’t risk any pictures but turned my head enough to watch it eat its breakfast. It stayed near me for quite some time and I took so many pictures even I decided it was enough. I put my Canon camera in my backpack but thankfully still had the Sony out with the long lens attached as I turned around and my lizard had suddenly grown larger and more colorful. I quickly realized another lizard had come out (a male? an adult?) and took pictures of it as well, then walked around a bit, before I decided to head back as the heat was rising quickly. I attached my tripod to my backpack when I noticed the first spiny lizard was now perched on a rock right beside me. Having so completely earned its trust I couldn’t resist more pictures, I took this one sitting on the ground with the lens resting on my legs, relying on the flip-out screen to frame the image.
Then it really was time to go, having spent 2 hours and 15 minutes with the two lizards. It felt good to stretch my legs as I headed back to the trailhead, and though it was 101 degrees as I reached the car I didn’t mind. I had plenty of water, I had plenty of energy, and my heart was full of joy.
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.
An American crow pauses while preening before moss-covered rocks on the beach at Heceta Head on the Oregon coast. It’s a bit bittersweet looking back at the pictures I took a year ago on this wonderful trip as it turned out to be my last visit to the coast, a few weeks later my team got laid off and the wheels were set in motion that led us from Oregon. Someday I’d love to go back, the Oregon coast is so wonderful even I’d consider getting on a plane to visit, but for now my interest is in exploring my new home.