August is the month of the long mornings.
Starting before sunrise Sol burns the air to the east sending it here in thick slow-rolling waves.
It is not at all unpleasant,
the effect is comforting in its ambient beauty.
There is a degree of perfection in this rounded nexus–a timelessness in time–in a singular day before the flat-heat whiteness begins.
All of this is August, the month of long mornings.
Some rocks (not this one) will speak. I remember the first time a rock ever spoke to me. I was out near the Colorado River in a wash littered with evenly shaped cobbles. They were slightly different subtle colors, red, blue, gray, pink, and so on, and so forth. They were so very pretty lying in the wash with blue sky, billowing clouds, and all of that was attractively scattered here, there, and everywhere.
One rock stood out to me. I picked it up and took a good look. It was a little bigger than the palm of my hand in a comfortably rounded shape. There were no blemishes or markings or really anything that would note this stone as different from any other stone in the wash. However, it felt different. It felt like it knew me and was waiting for the day that I would come and pick it up. Today.
Then it spoke to me. I stood there dumbfounded, mouth agape for quite a long time. The rock had said, “I want to go to your house.”
“Then what?” I thought.
It heard my thoughts. It must be, like, telepathic.
“You need me,” the rock said. It continued; “I am the exact size you need to cover that big red plastic tumbler that you use to soak pieces of mesquite in water to give your BBQ smokey flavor. I am the correct weight to keep the wood submerged so that it may get wet.”
So I brought it home and it was right. It has been perfect for the job. I use it every BBQ. Now, when the rock speaks to me you know what it says? It says nothing. Not a word. Not a sound. Just like it is just a rock.
It is still a cool rock though.
This subsection comprises the higher elevations and cooler parts of the San Bernardino Mountains. The mountains are a horst with faults and steep escarpments on the south-southwest, east-northeast, and west-northwest sides. The subsection is made up of steep and very steep mountains with narrow to rounded summits. The elevations range is from about 4000 feet up to 11,502 feet on Mount San Gorgonio. The predominant natural plant community is Ponderosa pine series. Precipitation is about 30 to 40 inches annually. Much of it is snow. All but the larger streams are dry through the summer. There have been natural lakes, but any lakes that persisted until historical times have been replaced by reservoirs.
For a more detailed description see;
Upper San Gorgonio Mountains
Lower San Gorgonio Mountains
At the mouth of Afton Canyon, it may be easier to visualize a great lake, Lake Manix, breaching its shores and its waters carving this terrible and yet beautiful gorge through the layers of the millions and millions of years of earth that have gone before. At least at one time, it was believed this all occurred rapidly, over the course of a few weeks, raging in colossal destruction. Now, I believe, the evidence shows it was not just one seismic event that provoked this tearing of the landscape, that it took place over thousands of years driven on by multiple events and changes in climate.
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.
The impending doom of Mr. Bubble
They were brothers, 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 fall.
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…
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 . . .
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.
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.
Various photos of Johnson & Lucerne Valleys
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.
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.
Bragging coyotes arrogantly squawk after a kill
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
“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.
We can speak of the unholy Wind
and no matter how clever or articulate,
the Wind may censure our little voice.
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.
Mojave National Preserve
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.
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.
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
It was crowded. It was colorful. It was riotous. It was like everybody brought their brother and his friends. When wildflowers have their wild parties everyone looks their best when they show up.
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
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/
Beware of the ‘TREENADO!’
Mojave River, Victorville, Ca.
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.