Saltation

Thin clouds of purest white streaked through the crystalline sky miles above the dune as it glistened and glittered in the morning’s golden sunlight. The ever-present wind swirled down out of its invisibility above grazing the crests of each swell placing a yellow halo at the crown of each and every rise. Soon, these phenomena broadened and covered everything leeward. Never just one grain but nearly an infinite amount of particles bouncing and flying over the top. The sandscape vibrating and flirting with focus and vision. Wave after wave, all as if it were applauding itself, this audience of at least trillions upon trillions upon trillions of its own. This is the way sand dunes travel and comfort themselves.

There is no apparent grand purpose other than subtle providence, yet, that is grand in itself.

After all the commotion, Bug, the darkling beetle, emerged from its hiding place an inch below the surface. Rat, arrived first, however, and it ate Bug. Then Hawk swirled down out of its invisibility high above in the crystal sky and snatched Rat with bloody talons.

Rat knew he had come to his end, for all rats die as does everything else that lives. Rat was pleased that it was Hawk that would consume him. Coyote or Snake would not honor him with such an aerial showing of the vast world he lived in before he was killed.

END
w.feller

END
w.feller

The Natural History of a Raindrop

They were twins, airborne, spiraling to earth together. Brothers as brothers can be they remained brothers until they splashed on the divide together and one rolled to the desert and one, the larger of the two, rolled toward the sea. That large raindrop would do fine, however, the small one would have to find its own ocean. Until then the little raindrop did what most other raindrops do and that is to go down.

At this point, many raindrops would soak into the earth joining the stormwater underground. These rainshadow renegades would travel to the aquifers deep into the earth below to ancient, private, and murky waters.

From sticks and dead leaves and rocks and out of crevices other little raindrops dripped to trickle together in intricate alpine streams hastily making way through a myriad of delicate and fragile waterfalls, into pools, then resting a few moments before being pushed out by the increasing deluge behind them.

From these streams to creeks the raindrops gathered rushing rather blindly through boulders and fallen trees in the narrow canyon joined by other smaller canyons and joining itself to larger creeks coming from larger canyons until swirling and twisting, colored with mud and dirty foam, all of a sudden coming together to become a river.

“Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,” thought the little raindrop. It had found its way–to a river that should by all accounts transport it to the sea.

That didn’t happen, though. The river fell into the quicksands and disappeared into an eerie underworld layered below the clouded skies, under the sands of the empty river, and above the dark and mysterious aquifer.

Later, there was the bright and sunny sky overhead when the raindrop, risking evaporation, surfaced for a breath then soaked back into the safety of the shallows.

Again and one more time again this happened. Finally, there is no finally. The little raindrop simply never came back. After all, it was just a raindrop…

The end.

Rainbows Timeless

Ancient rainbows

I like to watch the very end of the day–the last slivers of light seen while everyone has gone home to have their dinner and watch the television. Those last shreds of light must be mine, at least as far as my eyes can see. I see how lovely this light is, nearly, nearly an invisible veil as shear as color. There are final bits of sunlight delicately pulled away from jagged edges in order to begin the evening properly. And here, especially where rainbows once beautiful and bold, now faded and wicked, tear the low light trying to hold on to the day, these olden days past . . .

Rainbow Basin

Hear the Wind

Coyote Lake

Mike was alone now. It was just him and the wind in the desert. He wasn’t scared. He would listen to Nature. It would speak to him–tell him what he needed to do. In fact, the wind was trying to touch base with Mike at that very moment. It was saying, “Hey Mike? Mike? Can you hear me, Mike? Mike?” Mike, however, was preoccupied with trying to get a signal. Without water or shelter, Mike was a goner. Too bad for Mike.

River’s End

It is the strangest thing; the river; I follow it downstream and it becomes smaller and smaller and smaller. With every step, it becomes less and less and less. The water diminishes and depletes until it is just a trickle, until a glisten, until just a wet spot surrounded by damp sand, and then nothing. That is how this river ends–not mightily at an ocean, but quietly, subdued in the sand and rubble and stone becoming as if it never were.

Mojave River
https://digital-desert.com/mojave-river/

Trees

There are three ravens in the sky above the oak on the left. The raven on the far right of those three flew in front of me after first cawing and catching my attention. Over the years I have learned when this happens there are two ravens flying safely and quietly behind me. I like to believe they do this as a strategy to distract potential predators.

Broken Lands

Amargosa River at China Ranch

There is a broken land where mountain ranges rise like angry tidal waves in turbulent, slow-motion seas, senselessly wrestling in convection.

Occasionally, countless battalions of clouds march briskly left to right without leaving a drop of water, all saved for a brutal assault in a faraway war.

Broken people–adapt or die–that is all that can be said.

Broken animals and plants living in arrhythmic symbiosis.

and above; thrown into the wind, birds fly incorrectly and confused
then tumble from the sky in mid-breath.

tiny fish in the broken river’s warm water quietly dance an intricately choreographed ballet.

Trees are not trees, . . .
and the rabbit is not in charge as he would have you believe.
remember that.

Bragging coyotes arrogantly squawk after a kill

The Northers

Then there were the “Northers,” which the heavy winds that swept down the Cajon Pass from the Mohave desert were called. They were much more severe then and sometimes very cold, blowing for about three days at a time. Many people treated them as they would rainy weather, and by way of derision, they were sometimes called “Mormon rains,” coming as they did by way of San Bernardino. They often came before the rains and when sheep had been pastured in the early summer the surface of the ground was cut into fine dust and we would have a dust storm which would cover the inside of the houses with dust. Since the land was planted and roads oiled, the “Northers” have lost most of their disagreeable features. Being dry they clear the atmosphere and are one of the beneficial features in our healthy climate.

History of San Bernardino County – John Brown Jr., 1922

Undesert

“It is often said that America has no real deserts. This is true in the sense that there are no regions such as are found in Asia and Africa where one can travel a hundred miles at a stretch and scarcely see a sign of vegetation—nothing but barren gravel, graceful, wavy sand dunes, hard, wind-swept clay, or still harder rock salt broken into rough blocks with upturned edges. In the broader sense of the term, however, America has an abundance of deserts—regions which bear a thin cover of bushy vegetation but are too dry for agriculture without irrigation…. In the United States the deserts lie almost wholly between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountain ranges, which keep out any moisture that might come from either the west or the east. Beginning on the north with the sagebrush plateau of southern Washington, the desert expands to a width of seven hundred miles in the gray, sage-covered basins of Nevada and Utah. In southern California and Arizona the sagebrush gives place to smaller forms like the salt-bush, and the desert assumes a sterner aspect. Next comes the cactus desert extending from Arizona far south into Mexico. One of the notable features of the desert is the extreme heat of certain portions. Close to the Nevada border in southern California, Death Valley, 250 feet below sea-level, is the hottest place in America. There alone among the American regions familiar to the writer does one have the feeling of intense, overpowering aridity which prevails so often in the deserts of Arabia and Central Asia. Some years ago a Weather Bureau thermometer was installed in Death Valley at Furnace Creek, where the only flowing water in more than a hundred miles supports a depressing little ranch. There one or two white men, helped by a few Indians, raise alfalfa, which they sell at exorbitant prices to deluded prospectors searching for riches which they never find. Though the terrible heat ruins the health of the white men in a year or two, so that they have to move away, they have succeeded in keeping a thermometer record for some years. No other properly exposed out-of-door thermometer in the United States, or perhaps in the world, is so familiar with a temperature of 100° F. or more. During the period of not quite fifteen hundred days from the spring of 1911 to May, 1915, a maximum temperature of 100° F. or more was reached in five hundred and forty-eight days, or more than one-third of the time. On July 10, 1913, the mercury rose to 134° F. and touched the top of the tube. How much higher it might have gone no one can tell. That day marks the limit of temperature yet reached in this country according to official records. In the summer of 1914 there was one night when the thermometer dropped only to 114° F., having been 128° F. at noon. The branches of a pepper-tree whose roots had been freshly watered wilted as a flower wilts when broken from the stalk.”

—The Chronicles of America.—Volume I. “The Red Man’s Continent,” by Ellsworth Huntington.

How Survival Looks

I believe it misleading when looking out over the broad plains and shallow valleys; that it appears nearly lifeless. This, however, is how survival looks. A lot is going on out there; birds, lizards, rats, rabbits, and snakes. It depends on the season. Some varmints only come out at night. All come out to eat–some to be eaten. The tussles and killings are kept discrete and as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the next meal, now searching for its food in the crevices between the rocks and hollows of the cactus plants. Every single thing dies. Out there, every single thing dies bravely, without fear–we imagine.

Kelso Wash
https://digital-desert.com/ecosections/322ai.htm
Mojave National Preserve

Early One Morning

Hidden Valley

Very early one morning in Joshua Tree National Park . . .

It was, of course, quiet. It was, of course, dark. It was also a little bit chilly, and after a moment it was a moment before dawn.

Midnight blue to dark blue to blue and sky blue.

Clouds in waves of deep red, red, orange, yellow, and ultimately white.

Everything collected the light, saving it, glowing with it. Warming.

The night was over. The day had begun.

Joshua Tree National Park . . .

The Prophet and a Vision

John Brown senior was prolific in early San Bernardino County history. He was a man of many careers; sailor, soldier, frontiersman, store owner, road builder, and community leader. John Brown was also a Spiritualist and wrote a book about his experiences titled ‘Medium of the Rockies.’

John Brown had a Spirit Guide who would come to him and give him visions of things that were to happen.  Mr. Brown claimed his guide was very accurate in his predictions. He recalls one experience as follows:

One night, in my wild Mountain home, it was about 1843 or 4, dates I have forgotten, my guide came to me and told me: “Tomorrow you will throw a stone and break your riding mule’s hind leg. . . .

Mr. Brown may have been in a dream or meditative state when he had this vision.

. . . My guide took me out into the valley where my mule was standing, about 30 yards distant from us. I picked up a stone, threw it and broke the leg as my guide had said. He then said: “There, see what you have done. Now, you tell all your companions what I have shown you, and let them prevent it if they can.”

Establishing the sanctity of the moment:

At this time I lived in a lodge in Indian style, with two men named Brinks and Burrows, and as usual, I found, on waking, all the men encamped sitting quietly around me; as by this time they had become firm believers in what I could tell them, and no one would leave camp, or turn loose any horses until they consulted the prophet, as they called me, and would then use such means as they thought would prevent coming to pass what I had told them.

I suppose John’s talents and abilities have impressed the men previously since they call him the “prophet.”

And as use such means as they thought would prevent coming to pass what I had told them on this occasion, I requested them to prevent, if possible, breaking the mule’s leg; I told them it would occur about sunset. They then placed a guard over me and declared I should not go out of the lodge that day; and thus they felt sure they had Spirit and Prophet both in their power. And, I assure you, reader, I was just as just desirous as anyone to prevent the act from taking place. But notwithstanding they, on many other occasions, had used the same or similar methods to prevent my sayings coming true and always failed, yet they had the hopes of being successful this time. —

Mr. Brown details how horses were separated into two groups to keep marauders from stealing them all at once.

— I must explain to the reader that in the wild country, in those days, we had one man hired, usually a Mexican, the guard are animals in the daytime when we were not traveling, and bring them up to our camp about sunset, when every man who own horses would take them to some secluded spot and hide them, retaining a few, that would be tied encamped by the foot to a large stake. This was done to prevent the Indians from getting all, in case they came upon us.–

With that being said, Mr. Brown remains in the lodge throughout the day in order to prevent the events of his vision from taking place.

— I remained a prisoner and till nearly sunset, when a you and a cry was raised for all hands could turn out. Here comes the cabaloto! Band the horses, every man take care of his horses! Thus a tumult was raised, to which all were accustomed on occasions of this kind, and I, with all the camp rushed for two separate then drive my horses to their hiding place for the night.

Before Mr. Brown proceeds with the rest of the story he reminds the reader about the prediction and explains that at that moment it was on no one’s mind.

Reader, not a man in that camp remembered one word or thing which had been said or done regarding this mysterious affair. All thought in reference thereto was taken from all, not even myself, who had been a prisoner all day, had the least conceivable idea of breaking my mule’s leg. —

Of course. Perfect.

It so happened that one of Burrows’ mares had foaled a colt that day, to which my mule had become attached. Mr. B. was near his mare looking at the young colt, and as I was driving my horses, the mule, having made friends with the colt and its mother, would run back, which he continued to do as I would try to drive him away; after I had worked in this way for some time, I passed close to where Burrows stood and remarked to him that I would throw a stone at him which I did.

Within all the ruckus and confusion, a moment of clarity–A self-fulfilling prophecy?

And the instant the stone went from my fingers everything flashed upon my mind; I turned my back towards the mule and remarked to Burrows that I had broken my mule’s leg. He said: I reckon not at that distance, which was about 30 yards. I told him I saw the stone go just as I did in the night and I knew the leg was broken. He then said: “I believe you have, for the mule made a jump and now cannot put his foot to the ground.”

The witness speaks:

Mr. Burrows then remarked, “there is something wonderful about this affair–it is certainly mysterious to think that we never can prevent anything from transpiring that you say will.” . .

So says Mr. Burrows of the Prophet, the Medium of the Rockies.

. . . He then called all to come and witness that what I had told them had come true.

No one seems phased over the loss of a good mule.

Mormon Mesa

Mormon Mesa, Overton, Nevada

It was time to choose the first people. Everyone gathered to make their pleas and arguments. Rabbit’s ideas were mean and stupid. Rabbit wanted to be the first people. He became angry and kicked a large rock into the river changing its course. This is how the Virgin River came to meet the Colorado. . . . And why we are not rabbits.- Paiute legend

Virgin River
https://digital-desert.com/virgin-river/

Ver:

Antelope Valley

Beautiful memories of beautiful moments — I was there the day the valley floor was being painted. Each brushstroke was evenly pulled across the plain as the sun rose and the day grew warm. The colors covered everything with life. There were bugs and brightly detailed butterflies and the creatures that eat them. There were the diminutive blue and pink fairies that made it all worth living for and meek mice, humble hares (although no one seems to remember one in particular), rats underground and birds that flew higher than could be seen, and then there were the birds that flew in between.

Rats. Rats were everywhere–typically.

Ver (Latin)- very, new, truth, life, forward . . .
‘verdant’ meaning green and growing and ‘veritas’ or truth.

24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
— luke 12:24-26

End of the River

Sink of the Mojave River, Afton Canyon, Soda Lake

Rather than growing wider and emptying into the sea the Mojave River becomes smaller and smaller finding its way in the sand between the cobbles and rocks curling into crescent -shaped dark meanders and swales transitioning to dry sand and finally, collections of same sized stones.

Mojave River https://digital-desert.com/mojave-river/

One Fine Day

If you want to see the desert pick a fine day and go to the desert. It will be cloudless, hot, and asleep and pretty much as you expect it. If you want to be in the desert while it is awake and alive and changing its own character–go when there is drama in the skies and in the wind. Go when its army of clouds cast unshaped shadows of camouflage on its colored hills. Go when rain is pouring down from the heavens in patches and flooding the landscapes and carving the canyons and washes. Go when the wind is blowing sand that scars its cliffs and uprooting the Joshua trees that have become old and weak. Go while the desert is growing, reshaping, and in a dubious struggle with itself. Go then.

Red Rock Canyon

A Striking Image

A survivor yucca grows out of a cleft appearing to be damaged from a high-speed contact. Taken during the last sliver of direct sunlight of the day. I thought the little shrub exquisite and beautiful. The granite, reddish and perfect–the light was a shear veil laid like a blessing. All the way from my birth and experiences and all the way from the time before time began when the stone was born and born again and again under oceans and earth and heat and wear. All the way from then through the life of the thing, growing its spikes like crazily splashed slashes of bold green paint contrasted on a red canvas, its sacred moment, its peak of existence. Pause, then slowly, deeply, exhale.

West Fork – Mojave River

Just Sayin’

I suppose, if there is any hard and clear boundary to the Mojave Desert that this is where it is. Over time, the Mojave River has cut away the bluff in Summit Valley, east of the Cajon Pass, as the Mojave Desert moves with the rest of the Mojave Block as it separates from the San Bernardino mountain range.

https://digital-desert.com/mojave-river/

Mono Lake

from: Roughing It, by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Mono Lake lies in a lifeless, treeless, hideous desert, eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, and is guarded by mountains two thousand feet higher, whose summits are always clothed in clouds. This solemn, silent, sail-less sea—this lonely tenant of the loneliest spot on earth—is little graced with the picturesque. It is an unpretending expanse of grayish water, about a hundred miles in circumference, with two islands in its centre, mere upheavals of rent and scorched and blistered lava, snowed over with gray banks and drifts of pumice-stone and ashes, the winding sheet of the dead volcano, whose vast crater the lake has seized upon and occupied.

Mono Lake
Mono Lake

The lake is two hundred feet deep, and its sluggish waters are so strong with alkali that if you only dip the most hopelessly soiled garment into them once or twice, and wring it out, it will be found as clean as if it had been through the ablest of washerwomen’s hands. While we camped there our laundry work was easy. We tied the week’s washing astern of our boat, and sailed a quarter of a mile, and the job was complete, all to the wringing out. If we threw the water on our heads and gave them a rub or so, the white lather would pile up three inches high. This water is not good for bruised places and abrasions of the skin. We had a valuable dog. He had raw places on him. He had more raw places on him than sound ones. He was the rawest dog I almost ever saw. He jumped overboard one day to get away from the flies. But it was bad judgment. In his condition, it would have been just as comfortable to jump into the fire.

Mono Lake canoe

The alkali water nipped him in all the raw places simultaneously, and he struck out for the shore with considerable interest. He yelped and barked and howled as he went—and by the time he got to the shore there was no bark to him—for he had barked the bark all out of his inside, and the alkali water had cleaned the bark all off his outside, and he probably wished he had never embarked in any such enterprise. He ran round and round in a circle, and pawed the earth and clawed the air, and threw double somersaults, sometimes backward and sometimes forward, in the most extraordinary manner. He was not a demonstrative dog, as a general thing, but rather of a grave and serious turn of mind, and I never saw him take so much interest in anything before. He finally struck out over the mountains, at a gait which we estimated at about two hundred and fifty miles an hour, and he is going yet. This was about nine years ago. We look for what is left of him along here every day.

also see;

Mono Lake

Mono Lake, at an elevation of 6,382 feet has held water for over 760,000 years. Of volcanic origins, Mono Lake covers an area of …

Pictorialism

Pictorialism, an approach to photography that emphasizes beauty of subject matter, tonality, and composition rather than the documentation of reality.

The Pictorialist perspective was born in the late 1860s and held sway through the first decade of the 20th century. It approached the camera as a tool that, like the paintbrush and chisel, could be used to make an artistic statement. Thus photographs could have aesthetic value and be linked to the world of art expression.

Encyclopædia Britannica

Kwanamis

Kwanamis

The dream world was as important to the Mojave People as was the physical world. It was from this dream state instruction was given that would guide them to their destiny.

The Mojave Warrior was as brutal and violent in battle as his enemy. Even more so, not only because of strength and endurance but because those who had bad dreams; dreams of death and misfortune, were left behind in the villages with the women so not to bring a curse to the war.

Among the small and dangerous bands were mixed the Kwanamis.  They were the elite warrior captains.  The Kwanamis were said to have dreamed of war and the death of their opponents in the womb before their birth.  Their dreams would be of ripping lion and bear creatures apart with bare hands and emerging from the dust victorious and unscathed.

The Kwanamis lived apart from the rest of the Mohave People, in the south of the valley where Mastamho, the God-son, fought with the serpent under the three peaks.  It was here they would fast and meditate on the death of their opponents and the art of warfare.

These men who were stoic and impervious to heat, cold, hunger, and pain, would practice with their war bows and clubs in order to be the most effective in ministering death to their foes.

Getting Used to the Wind

Death Valley was having one of its periodic wind storms when the tourists drove up in front of Inferno store to have their gas tank filled.

Hard Rock Shorty was seated on the bench under the lean-to porch with his hat pulled down to his ears to keep it from blowing away.

Desert wind storm
Desert wind storm

“Have many of these wind storms?” one of the dudes asked.

“Shucks, man, this ain’t no wind storm. Jest a little breeze like we have nearly every day. You have to go up in Windy Pass in the Panamints to find out what a real wind is like.

“Three-four years ago I wuz up there doin’ some prospectin’. Got together a little pile o’ wood an’ finally got the coffee to boilin’. Then I set it on a rock to cool while I fried the eggs.

“About that time one of them blasts o’ wind come along and blowed the fire right out from under the fryin’ pan. Blowed ‘er away all in one heap so I kept after it tryin’ to keep that fryin’ pan over the fire to git my supper cooked.

“I usually like my eggs over easy, but by the time 1 got one side done I wuz all tired out so I let ‘er go at that. Had to walk four miles back to the coffee pot.”

 

from; Desert Magazine – December 1953