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

 

The Painted Hills in winter, an unfinished canvas

At first glance, covering the brilliant colors of the Painted Hills with snow seems an affront. Slowly, though, you realize the colors are more vivid and the landscape patterns surreal; it is a study in negative space. The intensity of the snow and depth of the shadows create an otherworldly effect that makes this fabulous place more so.

painted-hills-9248

painted-hills-9253

painted-hills-9228

painted-hills-9288

painted-hills-3813

painted-hills-9284

painted-hills-9245

woMAN; Woe, man; Whoa! Man.

wo MAN

When I was in third grade, the elementary school principal came into our class to speak with the students. I don’t now remember what the primary reason was for his visit; what I remember is only a fragment of his lecture.

He stood at the chalkboard and wrote in large letters:

M A N

Stepping to the side so everyone in the class could see the letters, he said, “Without man,” he stepped back to the board and wrote “wo” before completing his sentence, “you cannot have woman.”

On the board was the word:

wo MAN

Almost 50 years later, I can still see this man saying these words, spewing ignorance and sexism across a new generation of children.

The principal of a school stepped into a classroom to tell half of the students that they were not of value or importance, that without the other half, they simply did not exist.

At the time, I am not sure that I understood all of the implications of his words – I was, after all, a child. But, I still think about this often; clearly, it made an impression upon me.

To be told that, as girls, our very existence is entirely dependent upon men fundamentally undermines all that we intuitively know to be true about ourselves, our intrinsic value in the world, and all that we think ourselves capable of doing.

Woe, man.

Women innovators, explorers, and scientists the world around and for generations back have been discouraged from their pursuits. Surely, their place in the world did not involve pushing boundaries. Too many women have been punished for pursuing their dreams, for questioning the status quo, and for attempting to break barriers.

Sexism must die. In light of the recent election, the dis-ease that it has created, and the long road that lies ahead for us, it seems particularly important to bring these words out of the dark. They are words that can no longer be whispered. They must be clearly spoken, believed, and lived by every thinking person: sexism must die.

The possibility of a quiet revolution or a slow paradigm shift has passed. Improving women’s status has repercussions well beyond the individual; it has been proven time and again. Yet, repeatedly, women are held back, pushed down, and thrown out.

And, of course, this extends beyond women to every other minority (whom, collectively, create a majority).

Whoa! Man.

Imagine a world where all genders, orientations, colors, and religions are celebrated. Imagine collaborating across the board, and finding the best place for each of us to shine. Imagine if we were each encouraged to pursue our inherent talents and were supported in our dreams. What an amazing world we could create.

It’s time. Whoa! Everyone. What a cool world we live in.

85 Square Feet, Expanding your world by taking up less space

Part I

Like many decisions I’ve made through the years, leaving my house and moving into a camper didn’t seem particularly crazy to me. It wasn’t until I became obsessed with a steamer trunk that the enormity of my decision began to take form in my head.

The steamer trunk belonged to my great-grandmother who used it to tour Europe in some finer era of passenger ships and dressing for dinner. After many years in my care it was ready to go live with another member of the family. A friend helped load it into the backseat (I removed the actual backseat) of the truck several weeks before I left my house because its weight and bulk were too great for me to deal with alone. It brooded in the backseat, its old leather dusty and worn, and its metal-clad corners hard against the backs of the front seats (yes, both front seats).

IMG_1616

There was enough headroom to stow a duffel on top of it and for the cat to worm his way into a hidden corner if I didn’t stash my coat or anything else in the way and enough room at one end of the trunk for the necessary litter box.

Under ordinary circumstances, the trunk would be a minor inconvenience. My life rarely seems to hold ordinary circumstances. At this point most people would drive from point A to point B and deliver the trunk but, alas, this would be too easy.

Instead, I divested myself of the vast majority of my belongings and moved the remainder, including the cat, into the truck and the slide-in camper that have become my home.

By most standards, my house was small, approximately 780 square feet, with a shop that added maybe another 200 square feet. The most generous estimate of the total square footage of my new, combined truck and camper tiniest-house-ever is 85. Yes, 85 square feet. Total.

Now, consider this: the steamer trunk has a footprint of 7 square feet. Of course, 7 square feet is nothing, unless your living space totals 85 square feet. If you additionally consider the three dimensional bulk of the trunk…

Needless to say, I became obsessed with getting the trunk out of my space.

Part II

As I said, under ordinary circumstances one would move the trunk and get on with life. Which is sort of what happened. Only moving the trunk involved emptying a house, moving into a camper, crossing a continent in winter (and no, not by a southern route and, admittedly, by choice), visiting some friends along the way, and working around the elephant in the truck.

When I bought the house, I chose it because nothing needed to be done. The first thing I did after moving in was, essentially, gut it. I tore out the carpeting, the windows, an old chimney, several walls, the kitchen cabinets, the air conditioner, the patio roof, the back door…

The only home improvement project necessary for my new truck and camper home was an organizational system in the backseat, in the exact spot entirely consumed by the Trunk.

By this time, the Trunk has taken on its own persona, becoming larger than life, and now deserving of a capital letter “T.”

Part III

I am generally not an owner of stuff. I try not to accumulate things; I try to move unwanted items on to happier homes. Some would say I am obsessive. When I have decided something has to go, it has to go.

Alas. The Trunk stayed, for weeks, through provinces and states, through bitter cold and mild days, through sun, snow, and freezing rain. Until, finally, one mild winter day in Vermont it was extracted from the truck. Pulled out like a bad tooth and taken away.

IMG_1741

Now, finally, the truck has become palatial. The sudden expansion of the extended cab is almost a little daunting. I don’t feel obligated to immediately fill that space but I do feel compelled to organize it (see above, re: obsessive).

A few days later, on a pretty damn cold New Hampshire day through the good graces of an old friend, a new structure takes the Trunk’s place. A box for the solar panel is bolted to the seat mounts. Upright supports are installed, a wall is built, shelves take shape, rims are glued to the shelf edges. There is a massive rearranging of items and Voila! the truck becomes home.

IMG_1744 IMG_1745

I have moved in.

My entire life now takes up far less space in the universe. I have a few things stored, a canoe, some books and clothes, a moose skeleton (doesn’t everyone?), but I am essentially self-contained and self-sufficient. Like a turtle with her home on her back, I can now wander freely, dip my toes in the next pond, and leave only a small ripple.

I don’t feel like I am living a smaller life. I don’t feel like I have lost anything of importance or value. Rather, I have found a new space for myself. It’s called the World.

Societal Insanity v. A Safer World

In 1997 I moved from western Massachusetts to Maine. Several people asked me, “Are you going to get a gun?” I laughed. I thought this was an odd question.

When I left Maine to work in Alaska, many people told me, “You better get a gun.” I guess Alaska is a scary place relative to Maine.

After that summer in Alaska, I spent the winter in Utah. I went back to Alaska the next summer and then worked in Wyoming the following winter. I moved to Montana. Each step along the way, people said the same thing, “ You better start packin’.”

I left Montana and moved to eastern Washington State. My boyfriend at the time gave me his shotgun. It remained in the back corner of a closet until we broke up and he asked me to return it.

Now, I am leaving Washington. I have bought a camper for the bed of my pick-up and plan to spend a few months, maybe years, cruising around to the many places I haven’t had time to visit during other busy travels. And, once again, people have begun asking me if I have a gun or if I am going to get one.

I have never owned a gun. I have used them for clay pigeon shooting on occasion, I have carried one as a mandatory safety precaution in polar bear country, I shot at woodchucks when I was a teenager.

How many school shootings, mass shootings, random shootings have there been this year? How many people have been killed in the U.S. this year by a gun, self-inflicted, accidental, or intended?

I’m not anti-gun. I don’t think gun control will resolve all of the insanity of our society.

I may lead a charmed life.

I choose to step into the world unarmed. I believe that adding a gun to my travel gear will not make me safer.

Rather, I believe that choosing not to carry a gun will make the world safer.