Rhinoceros resort, restore, restart

Extirpated from the wild in most of Africa,  I had the good fortune to see black rhinoceroses on a private preserve in Zimbabwe last year.

Finding them after dark, a spotlight illuminated a calf scampering about behind its placidly eating mother. Her horns were cut off to deter poaching and the animals are under 24-hour armed guard.

The black rhino population dropped from an estimate of several hundred thousand in the early 1900s to 2,410 by the late 1990s. The primary cause for this decline is poaching. Several subspecies are extinct.

These photos are fuzzy and full of nighttime darkness and shadows. At first, I was disappointed by them. A year later, they seem to appropriately suit their state in the world.

rhino calf
Wary of the light and strangers, a rhino calf hides behind its mother.
rhinocerous
The mama rhino has been dehorned as a measure of protection against poaching. Her dehorned shadow is visible on her calf’s side as it moves behind her.
rhinoceros back
Rhino back, fade to black. What will the world be without rhinos?

‘Merica

“’Merica. Fuck, yeah. God bless.” Quote (consciously) unattributed

Cynicism and sarcasm toward my country and its future are hard for me to get around these days; sometimes I trip over them in unexpected ways. This was clear recently when two European friends and I spent a month traveling together in the West. We discussed the current state of America – the political climate, gutting national healthcare, the disenfranchised majority, the “love it or leave it” attitude, the obvious homeless populations, and our vast resources.

At some point during our travels, one of my friends, in his extroverted and exuberant way, began saying, “’Merica! Fuck, yeah. God bless.” I was amused, of course. This epitomizes what is both great and not so great about America.

I was also somewhat annoyed by this antic. It was perplexing. Although I’m not patriotic, being an American citizen has brought many advantages for which I am grateful – among them, it allows me to freely write and publish this essay.

I swear a lot. This doesn’t offend me. I often say, “’Merica. Fuck, yeah,” when confronted with egregious Americanisms.

I never say, “God bless.” I don’t believe in a God, as long as people don’t dump their personal responsibility into God’s hands (or their God onto me), hearing it doesn’t concern me.

I think the phrase is overused. I hear it every day within the dysfunctional political system – the shysters peddling watches and bridges. More poignantly, I see it on the signs of homeless people asking for money, “Hungry, homeless, anything will help. God bless.”

I wonder how the most disenfranchised of our population has come to embrace the most privileged and those least apparently concerned with their fates. Is it an appeal to those they know have the most to give? Statistically, the less you have, the more you share. How is it, that in “the greatest country on Earth,” we have a staggering homeless and hungry population in the first place? Is this not a contradiction?

Beliefs

“Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?” E. O. Wilson

 

As recently as 2014, 63% of Americans believe with absolute certainty that God exists (Pew Research Center). And, in 2013, only 21% of Americans believed that humans evolved without divine guidance (Huffington Post). Stated in the reverse, this means that 79% (79%!) believe that God created humans.

As an American, this embarrasses me. As a biologist, it frightens me.

 “I tend to believe that religious dogma is a consequence of evolution.” E. O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson is one of the great biologists of our time. (Forgive me, Dr. Wilson, for dragging you into this.) He is an Alabaman, an Eagle Scout, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, a New York Times bestselling author, and a forty-year Harvard University professor, now Emeritus. He was raised as a Christian and a Baptist – although, he says, “I drifted away from the church, not definitively agnostic or atheistic, just Baptist and Christian no more.” If he is correct, we can potentially evolve past religious dogma.

False gods.

Stopping for coffee and pastries in a seaside town on the fourth of July, my friend specifically bought a cupcake for the tiny American flag stuck in the top. He waved it at passing vehicles and held it up proudly at every opportunity. I shook my head.

To my knowledge, I have never waved an American flag. I find it odd that Americans are so dedicated to their flag and are so vehement about it as a symbol of our country. Should not deeds be the greater symbol of our strength and unity?

We continued north to a local brewery for a tour. On display was a beer glass –a pint glass the like of which is found in every pub, taproom, and brewery in the country – with the brewery’s name and an American flag printed on the side. Shortly after its release, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) confiscated every.last.glass (although apparently, they missed a few). It is illegal to portray the American flag in such (an undignified?) manner. How is it then, that we can wear clothing that puts American flags squarely on American Asses? I asked this but it seemed to offend everyone in the room. Have you noticed that car dealerships have the largest flags? (Be an American. Buy a car.)

Independence day progressed and it came time for the obligatory fireworks. We walked from the campsite along the jetty to the harbor bridge for viewing. Being a dead-end, there was one way onto the jetty and one way off. Both sides of the road were lined with vehicles pointed toward the anticipated display; most people were sitting in their cars with the engines idling. No one seemed concerned that at some point they had to get off the jetty.

My friends were astounded by this display of a quintessentially American way of doing things. It was a recipe for a long night of burning fuel and wasting time. I have long resisted these occasions because I foresee the end result. It is not something I enjoy.

“It’s the American way,” I said.

We continued walking, commenting on the scene. “I can’t believe all these people are just sitting in their cars,” my friend said again. Then, finally acquiescing, “I guess it’s the American way.” With this last statement, we passed a minivan. The passenger side window was down and the dashboard was lined with fireworks awaiting detonation. The man in the seat, cigarette in hand, inches from the fireworks, challenged, “What about America?”

My friend turned, flashed his most beautiful smile, and waved his tiny American flag.

He was rewarded with a thumbs-up.

God bless.

If history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth. E. O. Wilson

 

Another true story in one sentence

A man named Hooker offered me an electric wench.

Summer blues

Oregon Crater Lake
The summer blues of Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Hart Mountain – spring delights

For too many years Hart Mountain was out of my line of travel and added just enough extra time and miles to the trip at hand that I by-passed it. This spring I made the effort to go there, just there, and was well rewarded. It is a long slog from anywhere, the roads can be quagmires, the dust invasive, the heat crushing, and the mosquitoes draining. May it always remain this way.

 

butterfly flower
Swallowtail and balsamroot
sagebrush, thunderheads
Sky drama
raptor harrier
Looked down upon by a northern harrier
Subtle layers of color and texture
hills valleys
Sagebrush landscape
glowing yellow flowers bumblebee
Bumblebee with balsamroot

The commercial strip v. the National Monuments – a request for stay of execution

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
On the executioner’s block: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

 

It is already true that one can be dropped on any commercial strip in the USA and have no idea where they are. Each is so much the same, so not unique, that Chattanooga and Bakersfield look much the same. We have eradicated the prairies, slaughtered the forests, and filled the wetlands, must we also quash the individuality of the national monuments and make them conform to the ideals of capitalism, consumerism, and corporate expansion? What of calm, contentment, and courage to step outside of the box, to appreciate the subtle realm of time, space, and light that is not under our control? Where will we go for peace when we have used up all that is wild?

You have seen my photos over the last year. Many of those photos were taken in national monuments (including the two on this page). If you enjoyed my meager attempts at conveying the intensity of these landscapes, you will enjoy this (free ebook) photographic journey through the national monuments by exquisite landscape photographers

http://landalmostlost.com/

And, I hope you will send comments in support of retaining the national monuments.

 https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001

Stay the executions.

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

 

Mid-Summer’s morning among the Painted Hills

volcanic hill Oregon
At the edge of the Painted Hills, Red Hill sits among spring grasses.

Spring reflections on Emigrant Lake

Spring arrived on Emigrant Lake recently. The lake is calm and beautiful and rowers are again plying its waters. Larkspurs and biscuitroot are blooming. The oaks are pushing leaves. The Siskiyous create a misty, almost-mythical backdrop.

Ashland, Oregon, spring
Morning row on Emigrant Lake.
Siskiyou Mountains, spring, clouds
Reflections on Emigrant Lake.
Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland, Oregon
Inundated island of oaks in Emigrant Lake.
Emigrant Lake, Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland, Oregon
Yellow-rumped warbler in spring oaks.
yellow-rumped warbler, Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland, Oregon
Topsy-turvy. Can’t.quite.reach.

Hobart Bluff Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Spring in the Rogue River Valley. Finally.

Hobart Bluff Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Spring green brightens the Rogue River Valley

Correction

re: Potholes and the Law of Attraction

…although I did spend a lot of last fall in Utah, Joshua Tree is, and always has been, in California.

Please forgive my geographic blunder.