Displaying my fashion sense, I wear North Dakota.
There were two signs on the front of the building. The more prominent sign did not declare 2 7/8 as the name of the bar, but, rather, said, “ZERO TOLERANCE TO FIGHTING ON 2 7/8 PREMISES.” Welcome to fracking-boomtown North Dakota. I drove by.
That evening a massive thunderstorm piled up along the horizon, clouds towering above open plains, building strength, collecting moisture. Until, in the deepest dark of a moonless night, they had enough and let loose.
The Great Plains create some pretty vivid thunderstorms; this was a beauty. Lightning exploded across town in so many consecutive flashes I could see the length of the main street clearly for several seconds. Not just the blink of an eye that leaves you blinded and wondering if the light had been there at all, these flashes lingered. Clearly jumping from cloud to cloud and ground to cloud, there was constant light. The thunder kept pace, a steady rumble in the background with skull-crushing claps in between.
Then the rain came, pounding on the roof two stories above. The parking lot under my window disappeared behind the downpour, truck tires several inches deep in standing rain, as the drains overloaded.
The storm raged for what seemed hours, eventually tapering off as it moved across the open landscape. I fell back into fitful sleep for too few hours.
Many places become entirely inaccessible after a storm like this. Dirt roads turn to what we called Gumbo in Montana. Red dust, yellow dust, brown dirt, it’s all the same after a night like that, bacon-greased ball bearings. The collective hangover of too much.
Enter, the fracking industry, with its heavily graded and graveled roads that go everywhere, and took me where I needed to go that day. I don’t recall what I was surveying, plants or birds. I remember the landscape, wet and misty from the night’s excess. And, I remember repeatedly scraping mud from the bottom of my boots as I slid through the morning’s work. I took this photo when I realized I was wearing a large chunk of North Dakota. With my newly established fashion sense, I might fit in at the 2 7/8.
The summer blues of Crater Lake and Wizard Island
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.
Swallowtail and balsamroot
Looked down upon by a northern harrier
Subtle layers of color and texture
Bumblebee with balsamroot
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
And, I hope you will send comments in support of retaining the national monuments.
Stay the executions.
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
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.
Morning row on Emigrant Lake.
Reflections on Emigrant Lake.
Inundated island of oaks in Emigrant Lake.
Yellow-rumped warbler in spring oaks.