Tag Archives: Nature

Night Trees

16 Jan

The other night, I was walking the dog and noticed that the sky looked weird and cool. It especially looked weird and cool through the bare limbs of the trees. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and took a picture.img_2212

The next night, I was walking the dog and noticed that the sky looked weird and cool. It especially looked weird and cool through the bare limbs of the trees. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and took a picture.img_2213

Since I took those pictures, I have been close to writing a post that conveys in words what the pictures convey in images. However, nothing has come to mind. Heck, I even looked up poems that may fit the pictures.

Despite my best efforts, the pictures will be left to speak for themselves. In fact, that is probably what pictures are for.

Four Corners – Up and Down Tent Rocks

2 Aug

There are a lot of things to do in Santa Fe, but there were a few that we wanted the girls to experience. One was Maria’s. The other was Tent Rocks, a hike that takes you through a slot canyon and to the top of a mesa. This is all while being surrounded by some of the most interesting rock formations in the Southwest.

We woke up early and made our way to a hike that my wife and I have both completed. However, I have to give everyone credit. This was the toughest day that I have seen at Tent Rocks. It was hot, and the air was thin.

The hike started easy enough, and everyone was in the mood for pictures.image-25

However, it was not long before we were all looking for an excuse to stop. Sitting on this rock looked like a good excuse.image-26

Of course, the scenery was beautiful. I think I have taken this shot each time I have passed it.image-27

Oh yeah, there were more pictures to take.image-28

After a lot of huffing and puffing. After a lot of stopping and starting. We made it to the top of Tent Rocks and a great view of northern New Mexico.image-29

Then, it was time to go back down. The way down is always easier than the way up, but there still needs to be some pit stops along the way.image-30

There are also those people who wander around looking up at the wall of the canyon.image-31

After the hike, we had lunch at Santa Fe Bite, another one of those things that must be done is Santa Fe. I do not know about everyone else, but my green chile cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake was awesome.

We rested. We lounged by the pool. We bought a painting by Jessica Garrett. Then we ate at The Shed, a place that I have spent years trying to get into. We made reservations a week in advance and arrived to find that they had erased it. However, they got us in quickly, and it was worth the wait. Not the 10 minute wait. It was worth the years wait.

 

Lessons From Snowmageddon

22 Jan

We are currently experiencing our worst snowstorm in 13 years. I realize that it pales in comparison to the experiences of our northern neighbors, but it is a big deal for a place that is not prepared for the worst snowstorm in 13 years.image-5

During this time of being cooped up in the house, I have learned a few things. Here is a list.

Some people actually like this stuff.

Everything is closed. Schools. Businesses. Government offices. The list goes on and on. However, our local Chamber of Commerce decided to continue with their scheduled meeting. This freaked out my wife because she is on the Chamber board and was afraid she was going to miss something. They ended up getting her on a conference call because they were one short of a quorum. What did I learn from that? Half of the folks at our Chamber of Commerce are willing to put their lives on the line to support local businesses.

By the way, whenever I hear the words Chamber of Commerce, I think of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, a movie that stars Don Knotts. There is a guard at the Chamber of Commerce picnic. If you are not C. of C., then you do not get in. Atta boy, Luther.

If Leonardo DiCaprio wins an Oscar for trouncing through the snow and not saying anything in The Revenant, then I should win an Oscar for trouncing through the snow and not saying anything while taking out the trash.

It pays to have a gas fireplace, but it does not pay to stub your toe on said fireplace. I think I am going to have to stick my foot in the snow to numb it.

Friends stole the body of Gram Parsons from the airport and tried to cremate it in Joshua Tree National Park. I learned this from my wife, who is working on an article about Nudie. If you do not know about Nudie, then you need to look him up.

Hanging around the house all day leads one to eat a lot. I need to get on the treadmill, but I have to wait until my foot stops hurting.

There are different Rummy rules for different people.

If you think you have Man of Steel, then you had better make sure before the worst snowstorm in 13 years. That will be the time that you want to watch and discover that you do not have it.

Anyway, that is what I have learned during our worst snowstorm in 13 years. In a few hours, I will not be able to learn anything because I will have lost my mind from cabin fever.

 

 

 

The American West Coming Through My Speakers

14 Jan

After lunch, I was driving back to work with my iPod cranked up. The sun was shining and masked the coldness of the air. Before turning onto campus, one of my favorite songs came through the speakers.

“I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado” was recorded by John Denver, and that is the version on my iPod. However, that is not the version that I first heard and made the song hit me in my soul.

Merle Haggard sang the song in the last scene of Centennial, a 1970s miniseries about the American West. I have already written about that movie and will not repeat myself. That scene is on YouTube, and I urge you to watch it. You will probably recognize some of the actors, and there is a great message. It gets me every time.

When I hear the song, I am reminded of my love for the American West. Its history. Its land. There is nothing better than climbing the dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Mesa Verde National Park brings back the echoes of the ancient peoples. The streets of Durango harken to the days of yesteryear, and the train in Durango will take you on a great ride to Silverton.Durango

The song is about Colorado, but, to me, it is about the entirety of the West. The mountains. The plains. The deserts. Life the way it was, and life the way it is. This song takes my mind to New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and all of the others states that make up that region. The song says Colorado, but it means everything. To me, the song means relaxation, peace of mind and wide open spaces.

The words go like this.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
He’d rather spend his time out where the sky looks like a pearl after the rain.
Once again I see him walking, once again I hear him talking
to the stars he makes and asking them the bus fare.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
He’d rather play his banjo in the morning when the moon is scarcely gone.
In the dawn the subway’s coming, in the dawn I hear him humming
some old song he wrote of love in Boulder Canyon. I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
I guess he’d rather work out where the only thing you earn is what you spend.
In the end up in his office, in the end a quiet cough is all he has to show,
he lives in New York City. I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.

Many Rivers to Cross

30 Nov

Last week, my friends and I drove to Missouri for a football game. To get there, we had to drive through Kentucky; across southern Illinois; into St. Louis; and over to the middle of the state. It is a route that I have driven many times to begin a road trip into the West, but this was the first time that I noticed the rivers. We crossed a bunch of them.

Oh yeah, the title of this post is also the title of a great song by Jimmy Cliff.Cliff

I have always been fascinated by rivers. Their power. Their constant movement. It is interesting to watch a loaded barge being pushed along the way. However, I am mostly fascinated by their history. The rivers of North America have shaped the lives of everyone who have encountered them.

That is what interesting about the drive to Columbia, Missouri. It was like we were driving through a nautical version of American history. We crossed rivers that are not just any rivers. We crossed rivers that have had a huge impact on my state and our nation.

Cumberland River

Tennessee River

Ohio River

Mississippi River

Missouri River

The Cumberland River has had a huge impact on Tennessee. The first settlers made their way to its banks when they came to Middle Tennessee. Nashville, the state’s capital, was the result of their journey. It is the same river that flooded downtown Nashville a few years ago.

At one time, the Tennessee River was a wide and uncontrollable waterway. Then, the Tennessee Valley Authority, known better as the TVA, dammed the river. This made it more navigable and provided electricity for people throughout Tennessee and Alabama.

The Ohio River was the original way into the West. I am not writing about the Trans-Mississippi West. I am writing about the original West, which is now known as the Midwest. It also served as the western extension of the Mason Dixon Line. Yes, it was the border between slavery and freedom.

The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world, and it has a history that is just as long. At one time, it was the nation’s western boundary. It has been a vital target in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. It has inspired literature and music. In other words, I cannot write enough about it.

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, and I have been lucky enough to see different parts of it. As we crossed the bridge in Missouri, I thought Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery. In 1804, they started their journey somewhere near our crossing, and they had little idea of where they were going. Two years later, they returned with tales of the West and started our nation on a history of expansion.

Each day, thousands of people take the route that we drove. I wonder if they realize the stories of the rivers that they cross. Without those rivers, history would have turned out quite differently.

 

Bad Moon Rising

29 Sep

Last night, we went outside and looked at the eclipse of the Supermoon. It was cloudy, but, in my mind, it made the event more cool. As the clouds floated by, we could see the eclipse behind them. The special effects people on a scary movie could not have done a better job.

As we looked into the night sky, the words of Creedence Clearwater Revival entered my mind.

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
I see bad times today.

It is a great song, and the words were fitting. However, some people took those words to heart and believed that the eclipsed Supermoon heralded the End Times. I have been reading about these people and wanted to tell them that their idea could not be true. As I wrote in an earlier post, the Second Coming has already occurred. I was there when it happened.

As this day progressed, I began to think that their beliefs may have some merits. Seriously, think about some of the strange things that have gone on.

Facebook went offline, and the lives of many people were altered forever. I read about it on Twitter, which did not have any Apocalyptic problems.

NASA announced that there is water on Mars. That means the Martians that seeded our planet may still be around. If they are still around, then they may show up and punish us for bad behavior.

The night before the eclipse of the Supermoon, Mick Jagger performed on a Nashville stage with Taylor Swift.Mick Taylor

That may have been the true sign of the End Times. At least, it was the final death knell for Rock and Roll. If that is the case, then there is no reason for humanity go survive.

It is enough to make someone crawl into a bunker filled with canned goods and a ham radio. I only hope that the radio picks up real music from Creedence Clearwater Revival and Mick Jagger in the days before he was Taylor Swift’s BFF.

New Mexico Days

26 May

Another trip to New Mexico has been completed, and it is time to write about our adventures in the Land of Enchantment. For those who do not know, a few members of our faculty teach a field trip course in northern New Mexico. With Santa Fe as our base, we take students on daily excursions.

The days were packed with various activities and learning experiences, but I am not going to write about all of them. That would take a week’s worth of posts. Instead, this post will be about the thing I liked most about each day.

Friday – The morning was spent in a ghost town and at a national park. However, lunch at Horseman’s Haven was the highlight of the day. I saw the restaurant on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show and asked that it be added to the dining list. My burrito proved this choice to be a good one.image-30

Saturday – We went to a few places that are on the itinerary every year. Then, we went to a place that was new for the trip. I have been told that Taos is a great place to visit, but the trip organizer has a bad opinion of the place. Due to months of badgering on my part, he agreed to take us there. He got more grumpy with every mile closer we got.

Unfortunately, it was raining in Taos, and we did not see much. However, it was not raining when we crossed the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which is 565 feet above the river. It was cool to walk across it and take a peak at the bottom of the canyon.image-31

Sunday – This day brought the highlight of the trip. We had lunch at the home of Josephine, a lady who lives in the Santo Domingo Pueblo. It was a feast of Native American food prepared by her and the other women in her family. Everything was delicious, and the tamales topped it all.image-32

While we ate, Josephine talked about growing up in the pueblo and about the problems facing her people. She mourned the slow disappearance of her native language and lamented the effects of alcoholism on her community. Hopefully, the students were as touched by her hospitality and honesty as much as we teachers.

Monday – As a historian, I should pick a historic site as the highlight of this day, but we visited a site that I have seen many times. Instead, I am picking a hike up one of the volcanoes that helped create the northern New Mexico landscape.image-33

Three ancient volcanoes sit on the edge of Albuquerque and serve as sentinels over the city. I climbed one of them with a former colleague who retired and moved to Santa Fe. It was great to walk with him and rekindle our friendship.

Tuesday – Have you ever been to a town that died from its evil and was reborn through love? When I first went to Madrid and asked about its history, that was the story that I heard. We jokingly call Madrid a hippie colony, but it is an old ghost town that, in the 1970s, became inhabited by people who wanted to escape the rat race and live a simpler life.

I did not take any pictures of Madrid, but you have seen it if you have watched Wild Hogs. In fact, that movie became part of this year’s experience.

Madrid has become a destination for motorcyclists who have seen that film. As we stood in front of the building featured in one of the pivotal scenes, I explained to a student that the building was part of the movie set. An old biker overheard and got mad because he had ridden a long way to eat in a fake diner.

Unlike him, I am never disappointed in Madrid. I always wonder what it would be like to escape to an old town and live a life without worry. Of course, I would probably get tired of it after two days.

Wednesday – Chaco Canyon is an amazing place to visit. It is even worth the long journey to get there. The canyon was home to a people who disappeared, and archaeologists have been trying to figure them out ever since. The conclusions often change, and some are scoffed at with ridicule. The questions may be hard to answer, but the beauty of the canyon leaves no doubts.image-34

Thursday – This was another day of national parks and historic sites. However, they did not compare to our visit to Santa Fe Bite, home of the city’s best green chile cheeseburgers. The restaurant used to be in another location and go by a different name. The important thing has not changed.image-35

Friday – Our last day in New Mexico was spent at Ghost Ranch, where dinosaur remains have been found and artists have been inspired. We hiked the high mesa trail and looked over a landscape that can be found in the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe.image-36

Like I did on all of our hikes, I looked over the land and listened to the theme of Centennial, the 1970s miniseries about the American West. Everyone else thought I was insane, but the music inspires me. I knew that listening to it would add something to my experience and offer something to visualize when I hear that music in the future.

As always, we had a great trip filled with great experiences. These were just a few of them.