Tag Archives: nature

Creation Turtle

15 Jan

Wiley, the Midget Coyote, and She took a break in their routine to hike in Closed Canyon along the Rio Grande del Norte.

“Wow! This is a neat place!”

“Yup. Canyons, like many land forms, are like books. When you open a book in the middle and read the two flanking pages, you might wonder just how the story led there and where it goes. You might thumb through previous pages, or perhaps those leading to the end. Unless you read all the pages, you are left with pieces of narrative, dialogue and pictures that lie in wait for the whole story. That is what canyons are.

Canyons are slices in the upper layers of the planet we live on. Yet these levels we see were once buried deep in the earth’s crust, flowed from places  far away, or crashed into by other layers and heaving them up. As in Santa Elena Canyon,  there may be bumpy levels of stone made of accumulated bodies of minute sea animals. Or, as in Closed Canyon, they might be hard sleek cliffs of what was once flowing molten rock.

In essence, Wiley, canyons are open books, their steep cliffs pages of time and accumulated activity, far far greater than we can imagine. Layers of differential stone and rock, colors and form, tell us pieces of stories, events long before mammals and humans walked the surface. Remains of living entities that precede us may lie in wait to provide a dialogue enriching the story. Canyons talk to you if you listen.”

Wiley stood still. “Well, I hear things, but not sure what canyons talk like. Do they growl like me? Yip? Grunt like Josephine? This is like my Home where I was a pup.  Sort of.”

“The canyon is a bit different than those you remember, aren’t they?”

“Yup. This one is only big enough for two of us coyotes to run in side-by-side.”

“It’s called a slot canyon, Wiley.”

“Hey, remember I am ‘Coyote‘!”

Sigh. “Yes, Wiley; you are that, too.” She and Wiley sat on a big boulder.

Wiley took a deep breath and then……. “Okay, so this is my turn to tell a story. They say…..  Are  you writing this down? I can’t hear talking pages, you know.”

“I am writing your story, Wiley.  I will read aloud the talking pages to you so you can hear them.”

“Okay. So.

They say this is the way it was, long ago. When Sky  Woman fell from Sky World and down towards the Great Water world, Turtle saved her. He swam underneath her and she fell on his back.

When she did, Turtle’s feet pushed mud up underneath him so they would both not drown. The mountains, valleys and oceans formed underneath them. Where his claws dug into the mud, water flowed and they grew into rivers. So the world grew from Turtle’s back, the mud underneath him, and Sky Woman’s songs.

Some of those claw marks in the mud lost their water. Some are narrow, like this here, and some are wider, like those where I grew up. Yet, when waters fall from Sky World and call on Turtle and Sky Woman below, that water will run through these gashes in the mud that is now rock. They look and search for Turtle and Sky Woman. And they take pieces of the rock mud with them when they go. That is how they remember how this world was created.

That was how it happened, they say. A long time ago.”

“That was a good nature story, Wiley.”

“What is this ‘nature’ ? What do you mean?”

“It is many things. It is the water in the well that was there before any of us came to be. It is also the bucket into which we put things, or ‘the’ things we call ‘Nature’. And it is a leaky  bucket.”

“What do you put in the bucket?”

“We put in things we meet: lions, thunder, wind, water, rocks,  you. Some people see only a bucket with one thing and call it ‘Nature’. Or they see only certain things in the bucket that they call ‘Nature’. Or things that have already been called ‘Nature’. ”

“But how did all those things get in the well?”

“Ah, well, that depends on who you ask, or who is looking. Some of us humans believe that things have been in there long before we could see them, and probably many things that we can’t see or even know about. Yet.

Many of these things were not created in the human mind, or in any living thing’s mind. They just ‘are’. Or ‘are not’. ”

Wiley said, “I don’t know about this ‘Nature’ thing. I only know I have to find food to eat. If I don’t, I may starve, maybe even die. Or I might become food for something else. Is that in the well, too?”

“Well, that is more an interaction with other things in the well. That tends to be put into the bucket, too, sometimes. Just as sometimes that tends to leak out,” She replied.

Wiley paused, then asked, “So, is Nature only those things that we see, touch, smell, taste, hear, and….?”

“Yes and no. It is all those things. We put all those things we encounter matching our world into a container. But Nature also does things on its own – with no containers. It did so long before we arrived with our buckets and it will continue to do so long after we are done with our looking and investigating and leaves it alone. Because it is a only word in our language. And a very leaky bucket.

Shall we continue on our hike?”

“Yeah. But can we leave the bucket behind for now?

I’m going to teach you how to stalk. You need to learn how if  you are going to hunt rabbits like I do. First you have to get low to the ground. Then move slowly and quiet, so the rabbit won’t know you are there. Hide behind a rock or tree, or slide along side this canyon side. See those rabbits up there? I’m watching your back.”


“Those aren’t rabbits, Wiley. Those are people.”

“So! You can pretend they are rabbits! That way you can practice for when you do see a real rabbit.”

“Okay, Wiley. Can I get up now?”

“It sure took them a long time to crawl around that deep pool of water. I’m getting thirsty……”

“We’ll just sit here and watch them. Here, have some water from my bottle.”

“Good, ’cause I don’t think I could get out of that pool. I wonder if Turtle is in there……”

(Original story written by this author in 2011 and published in issue of ‘Alpine Daily News,’ Alpine, Texas, 2013)


Deserts are not wastelands

13 Sep

I continue to read and hear how desert lands are considered wastelands: places devoid of life, landscapes to be avoided, plundered, exploited, and serve as repositories for our garbage. “Not in my backyard! Put it in the desert!”

Our misconceptions of deserts influence our perceptions, value judgements and policy. The most influential component of this is our language: words. The word ‘desert’ often conveys perceptions of ‘dead’, ‘nothingness’,  ‘wasteland’, ‘the void’. Thus, deserts have been the scapegoat throughout human civilization. We have the ‘Garden of Eden’ on one hand, and the ‘Nothing-but-sand Desert’ on the other. Consequently, whenever we encounter a landscape that we are unused to, or uncomfortable in, we call it a ‘desert’.

Case in point: Any landscape devoid of trees or agriculture was considered and named a ‘desert’. When early explorers began traveling west of the Mississippi River and onto the vast grasslands, this area was referred to as The Great American Desert. This region was depicted and labeled as such on early maps of the North American continent. We now know it as the Great Plains. Now much of that Great American Desert is covered by industrial agriculture and hotspots of urban cities with satellite suburbs.

We now have a myriad of definitions of what a ‘desert’ is; be it defined by geology, geography, climatology, hydrology, ecology……  And our own sense of identity. Regardless, the old conception of ‘deserted desert’ remains. Especially places that have been ‘ruined’, or drastically changed from its former landscape, especially one endeared to the human senses. In other words, one that has become a ‘wasteland’.

We desert dwellers, and many ecologists, take issue with that.

For those who think a desert is a wasteland, I challenge you to spend time in the desert. Not a day, a day in the desert offers such a rush of solitude and harsness that the body and mind often buck away. Spend a week, or better yet a month. Be safe, of course, but be curious. Poke about in a wash. Find a rattlesnake and watch it from afar. Sit on a peak on a hot light and watch lightning from a storm over 100 miles away. Drink water from a spring that has not seen sunlight since the Ice Age (it’s best to filter it if you aren’t sure, but that won’t take away its spirit). Sleep outside and wake up at 3 AM to see so many stars it appears the light has dark spots in it between the lights rather than the other way around.

(excerpted from blog post, ‘Destroying a Place Does Not Create a Desert‘, by Chris Clarke. Read in entirety on his blog, Slow Water Movement)

I can’t agree more. In future blog posts, definitions and perceptions of deserts will appear here on this blog site.


Chisos agave hiding in a desert oasis.

Juxta Sun and Moon

17 Nov Sunrise to the south

Full moon setting in the west while sun rises in east.

I have a predilection for juxtapositions. Maybe it’s the contrary Indian* in me, or the Trickster that sits on my shoulder. Contrasts fascinate me. Not just the binary, the extreme opposites: it is also the transitions, all the gray in between.

One early morning before sunrise, I dug out the monopod, attached the Sony NEX camera and climbed up the hill behind us in the dark trying my best to avoid the prickly pear and other thorny things that grab and don’t let go without leaving a reminder. At 3,493 feet, lonely Maverick Mnt. obscures the rising sun from us while situated at its base. However, a small hill allows enough elevation for an expansive view to the north and west and invites a contemplatin’ mood’.  I have climbed it in the past and sat on my haunches while observing life below like a Fool on the Hill.

This time I climbed with a mission. I knew the full moon would be setting on the west horizon as the sun rose in the eastern sky. Although I didn’t expect to capture the magnificent sunrises we are rewarded with at El Punto, views of the western skies on this hill are outstanding. So I crouched, waiting, like a coyote; quietly watching. And was rewarded.

Moon fades to the west as sun rises in the east.

Although the sunrise was obscured in the east, I caught its glow to the south. I especially like this time of the day as the angle of light illuminates and greets plants and other surfaces that face south. And the opposite sides are hidden in shadow. Another subject of contrasts and juxtapositions; food for a Contrary.

Sun and shadows: interplay of light and darkness, day and night.

* A Contrary was a member of a Native American tribe or group who adopted behavior that was deliberately the opposite of other tribal members, and often displayed in ritual dances and ceremonies. Contraries were usually found among the historical tribes of the Great Plains.  It was their life, rather than just an occasional performance, and it was often antagonistic to the tribe’s  lifestyles and conventions. It was analogous to the European clown. Another form of the social trickster (or, shall we say, Devil’s Advocate?).

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