A few years back, after attending a local storytelling festival, I wondered in this post what would happen if I released a story into public domain. I resolved to work up the nerve to let go what some might imagine to be my intellectual property, to “breathe it out” into the common atmosphere, where anybody might breathe it in and make use of it.
Then two years ago, members of that same storytelling festival committee recruited me to participate. I was assigned to write an introduction for the festival, a preamble that would signal to visitors that the storytelling was about to begin. Another purpose for the introduction: To support the opening ceremony during which each of the evening’s participants carried a lit candle into the auditorium as they entered single file. The candles symbolized the intentional passing of stories–heirloom narrative valuables–from generation to generation. Continue reading “Setting the story free: Words as worldstuff”
Saturday, June 13. As I was coming up out of Crossfire I heard voices. Much has happened lately in our small, southeast Utah town, so I was curious about who might be coming into the canyon. I saw a woman on the rocks above me, well off the trail, turning back in response to a companion’s call. Picking up my step to be sure to meet them, I caught up with the two retirement-aged women—out-of-towners—as one helped the other over the arched rebar cattle guard at the trailhead. They had no idea I was there. I greeted them then asked where they were from. They were coy about saying, replying only that they were visiting. €œYou? € they asked. I answered I lived up the road but was not originally from the area. €œAre you going to see the cliff dwellings? € I asked. There’s a nice Ancestral Puebloan (“Anasazi”) structure at the base of the cliffs, a little off the beaten trail. €œYes, € they said. Then one of them pointed to the yellow, green, and white, heavy-gauge metal, BLM sign posted at the trailhead announcing the canyon’s September 2007 closure to off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and displaying the extent of the restricted area.
€œBut we really wanted to see this, € one said.
€œThis sign? € I said, puzzled. Continue reading “Getting digs in: On the 6/11 SE Utah artifact raids”
From time to time, someone asks why I don’t write about the meaner, nastier side of nature, especially the predator-prey drama. Until I go on that man-eating African lion-hunting trip or bag me an Alaskan grizzly or happen to be on hand when a puma takes down a mule deer buck, I just don’t have much to offer on predator vs. prey. Sorry.
However, something did come to mind the other day, musings upon a kind of predator-prey relationship that I jotted down in my hiking journal as I strolled through Crossfire. It isn’t pretty, but I thought I’d pass it along.
Warning: This post shows Patricia in a mood. If you’re in a mood today, you might want to skip this one.
May 21, 2009
Overcast, humid, cooler-that-has-been morning. I set out for Coyote Way, the trail leading down into Crossfire Canyon. As usual, I pass my mouldering friend, the dead coyote lying off to one side of the trailhead. I stop to look at him whenever I take this path.
After a month of decompostion he looks considerably worse for wear, though that lovely triangular earform still holds up well. Gone, the shine and softness his coat had when he was first dumped. Matted patches have loosened, as if he were going through a heavy shed, or they have been peeled back in the course of some other scavenger’s work. A gaping entrance into his inner cavern has formed in his side. His coat has taken on the patina of old carpet across whose nap mud has been tracked and into whose fibers a wide variety of liquids has soaked. The flies that earlier clouded his vicinity have gone through their cycle; no insects are visible, though something must be creeping through the body. Every time I stop here, I wonder how and why this animal died. Anything could have happened, but the dominant reason folks kill these animals—if, in fact, he was killed—can usually be summed up in this word: competition.
A week ago, winds blowing up out of the canyon carried the scent of the coyote’s chemical crush into the earth. Today, cliffrose pollen lightly perfumes breezes swirling past. Continue reading “Field Notes #5”
Wilderness Interface Zone is happy to announce the arrival of its spring photo gallery, now showing in the photo box in the upper right-hand corner of the page displayed on your screen. It’s a little late, I know, but flowers, tree leaves, migratory birds, and torpid amphibians and reptiles have only emerged in abundance here in San Juan County, Utah over the last three weeks. I did include some photos from the winter gallery I couldn’t bear to part with.
My son Saul took these pictures using a Kodak DX6490. He shot somewhere around four hundred photographs, from which we chose these seventeen. Many spring flowers haven’t yet bloomed. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get nice shots of can’t-be-missed subjects to add to this collection. Continue reading “WIZ’s spring photo gallery”
April 13, 2009
Why do I still do this? Why, at my age, do I follow as if I were nine years old unmarked, unpaved trails away from what I know into the wilds of what I don’t know? That’s how this striving creation—part light, part water, part air, part earth, and all aspiring flesh—shows itself to me, in the mutual bodying forth between us. It seems an involvement composed of equal slices revelation and formation, since in discovery, everything changes, the New erupts into being, not just in me, the older wide-eyed child, but in this juvenile Creation.
Today, I begin at the Crossfire Canyon’s cliffs, taking inventory of the birds. A few days earlier I saw cliff swallows flash between the rims, returning or passing through. Had they stayed or gone? To find out, I take to the air myself, or at least to the boundary between earth and air, the rimrocks. Continue reading “Field Notes #2”
As I walked out of a nearby canyon last week using the same trail where I reported having an encounter with a curious coyote, my nose detected gases given off by putrefaction. Somewhere nearby, bacteria were at work breaking down formerly living tissue to simpler matter, dispersing an organism’s worldly goods to its biological heritors.
To this we must all come. But who has come to it now, and where?
Walking deeper into the field of decomposition gases, I looked around, guessing what I would find. I was approaching the gravel pit, a dumping ground for domestic and wild animal carcasses and the scene of occasional war crimes of the sort some people commit against animals. It’s common to find coyote remains around the pit, along with elk and deer carcasses, tree prunings, the ashes of bonfires, articles of clothing, and aerosol cans—the residue of “huffing” parties. Continue reading “Degrees of Coyoteness”
One of the reasons I moved from Utah County to San Juan County was to provide my oldest son and youngest daughter greater exposure to nature. Household circumstances have resulted in their being confined to the house more than is natural for children in general but is even more unnatural for children of an outdoors-type like myself. I wanted them to have a better chance at the kind of engagement in the natural world I enjoyed growing up, a level of deep involvement that has provided for me all my life.
But it’s been difficult business breaking up their bonds with interior spaces and tempering their fascination with electronic frontiers. Until recently, many of my attempts at getting them “out there” into the yard and surrounding countryside were met with grim doubtfulness. Continue reading “The fetish”