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Suburban-urban adventure

Hmmm…racquetball…hiking…birthdays…knees…. My exercise for the past almost two months has consisted of walks around the circuit of the underground parking garage at work, five laps of which equals 1.15 miles.  It’s too warm during the day to walk outside with Phoenix temperatures ranging lately from 99 to 106 degrees, so I walk underground.  Five laps at lunch makes me sweat…two laps at a time during stolen 7-8 minute breaks from my desk just makes me warm and is doable.  I’ve not been hiking for months, like almost a year of months.  Anyway.

I left the house with camera a couple of Saturdays ago at the same time I normally leave with my son to take him to work and then myself to work.  I wanted to capture something of the sunrise near the cultivated and fenced meadows where horses graze at 60th Avenue and Thunderbird.  I have seen them in the mornings and wanted to see them on my own when I had nowhere else to be.  It held a promise that wasn’t fulfilled this morning. 

The horses were too far away from the pipe fence boundary keeping me out and the sun was too far behind and to my side for me to be able to even see anything that was resembling of what I hoped to find.  I did stop, however, and made a few images of horses grazing, trees biding their lives in their row-planted places between meadows, and then left to find something else.

I found coffee at McDonalds, an image of a jogger heading south and east along the canal bank from 43rd Ave/Peoria, found some images of Prince on the wall next to Rodriguez’s Boxing Club at 15th Ave/Roosevelt, and then found myself at La Canasta, at 7th Ave/Grant St, purchasing a bit of Mexican wonderfulness.

I took my goodies to Encanto Park, at 15th Ave/Entcanto Blvd, where I sat and watched the quiet morning further unfold as mothers pushed their stroller-bound little ones along the sidewalk, transients sitting on cement benches watching those same young mothers walk past, and another likely transient, a severely aged man with full white hair and beard, baby-stepping from his evening’s bed in the grass heading toward the park’s restrooms. 

I wanted to go ask him if I could take his picture, to add that experience to my memory files of uncomfortable things that I have made myself do, but I had no cash to offer him and had only my half-eaten burrito, something that I was not going to offer or relinquish for a couple of photographs.

The twenty-or-so-minutes that I spent at the park was full of memories, anyway, as consuming the particular burrito that I had ordered sparked an opening of old folders from when I worked at the police department and with the health department the first time. 

The burritos were a favorite Saturday or Sunday morning treat, often bought with bags of chips and salsa to share with coworker friends on the supervisors’ pod.  Other times, it was just me at the park alone, sitting in my vehicle or at a bench having a burrito and watching the morning or afternoon foot traffic of park visitors or denizens as they made their various ways or circuits along wherever.

I was going to return home then, but thought I would head down to the river bottom at 7th Ave just south of Watkins and see what the restoration area looked like, to see if I might enjoy a still fairly early morning walk along the river’s greenery and then.  I parked at the west lot and went down and under the overpass and slowly headed east on the paved walkway, then stepped off and continued along on the parallel graveled service road.

I encountered a friendly transient who mumbled a “good morning,” and then continued eastward along the “river and through the woods.”  There was not a full canopy of trees with their cathedral arching boughs, but it was often shaded and comfortable enough walking nearly beneath the desert riparian vegetation.

The goal was to go from the 7th Avenue trailhead east to 16th Street and then back again, but I encountered several fences blocking my way, as there had been construction to repair the 7th Street bridge over the river from where it had been damaged in last year’s monsoons. 

I did not find any “no trespassing” signs, so I went around a couple of the fences where they ended at the river bank, scooted between two panels that were ajar because of their position on the downward slope of the hillside up from the river, and then walked through an open gate when I found one. 

Desert…water…dense vegetation…incongruity….

I was past the 7th Street bridge, a mile from my starting point, and heard a construction worker yelling down or at someone while he appeared to be pointing out in my direction, but I kept walking in my casual pace and making photos of a white egret that I happened to see on the far bank. 

Having heard the construction worker yelling and pointing, apparently in my direction, caused a bit of unease, so when I encountered another fence about a quarter mile before my intended goal at 16th Street, I turned around and headed back to my truck. 

I was approaching the overly-warm condition that told me that I needed to turn around anyway, so it was good to do so.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought any water with me, so I was starting to feel stupid, as well as overly-warm. And fortunately, my animal brain was still alert enough to notice a snake-like something in the shadows that my then-awakened and present mind discerned to be a piece of rope.

For context, I will add that this is the Rio Salado River that passes through the metropolitan Phoenix area about a mile or so south of downtown.  Its origins are far north and east of the valley; it is dammed-up at “Roosevelt Lake,” and then flows, when it flows, down to the Phoenix area, fills the “Tempe Town Lake,” and then continues westward into Phoenix proper.  The river bed continues south and west, beyond my experience and detailed knowledge, and way far away.  Back in the early 2000s, the City of Phoenix spent over 10 million dollars restoring a stretch between 7th Avenue and 24th Street, cleaning decades’ worth of trash and dumpings, and then planting native riparian species all along the river bed.

There are even locations where fresh water is piped-in to the area, keeping water in the river bed throughout the year.  Driving over the bridges at 7th Ave and 7th St, and even to a lesser degree at 16th and 24th Streets, one can see the intense greenery around the riverbed and be tempted to forget that one is actually in the middle of the Phoenix desert. That’s actually a blue/gray heron in the above image. 

When I researched the riparian restoration project a few years ago for an earlier blog post, I was surprised to learn that before the river was dammed and formed Roosevelt Lake, it used to flow at such a depth and breadth that there was a ferry service used to cross the river, many years ago.

It was nice to be out there again.  Yes, I could see and hear the road and air traffic around and above me, could hear the beep-beeping of construction vehicles moving and backing around as the drivers were doing their work, and I could see the various warehouse and other light-industrial buildings hundreds of yards away on both sides of the river…but I could also see the intensely green natural and other vegetation surrounding the river, see reeds and sedges and other things that have no business being in the middle of the urban desert where I found them.

I saw pigeons, mourning doves, sparrows, some type of woodpecker, quail, ground squirrels, cotton-tail and jack rabbits, a grey/blue heron, a couple snowy egret, several lizards, and too many dragon-flies to count.  I enjoyed that I was there and able to moderately participate in Nature again, to appraise my human weaknesses and strengths against the essentially mild desert environment…to feel stupid at being there without water, and to feel relief when I made it back to my truck and had the A/C blowing full-force into my face for several minutes while I drank the bottled water that I had there in the cab…

…and then to be alive later, here at home, sitting in my recliner in the A/C cooled TV room with music playing quietly in my headphones, with a cup of ice-cooled Gatorade at hand…with leg muscles telling me that I had been out hiking/wandering further than the neighborhood circuit where I usually walk on the weekends or the parking garage circuit where I walk during the week.  Yes, in the broader context of my experience, it was “nice.”

Camino a las Nubes

Heading north on Castle Hot Springs Road, just west of Lake Pleasant Regional Park in northern Maricopa County.

Birds of My New River Exploration

In January of last year, I went for a bit of a hike, walk, or exploration in the greenbelt area where the New River desert water-feature flows.  It wasn’t a particularly thrilling adventure, but I was looking to experience something akin to wildness that existed within the suburban/metropolitan area of greater Phoenix…and found a bit of it here.

If you’re interested, you can go back in time by clicking here to visit the post that detailed the exploration.

I was expecting to see various plant life, hopefully a fish or two in the small stream,  but I was surprised when I found an abundance of bird life, especially the birds of prey.

The very first photo above may be of some type of finch (couldn’t find an exact match), the second may be a crowned or hooded sparrow, and the pretty bird in the photograph immediately above and below these words appears to be an American Kestrel, also called a sparrow hawk, reportedly the smallest falcon in North America.

The next three photos strike me as being of a Harris Hawk.

I thought the bird might be a Cooper’s Hawk, but it was too darkly colored.

It is also too darkly colored to be a Red Tailed Hawk.

So through the process of elimination, I have settled for the appellation of Harris Hawk.

Lastly, we have a Peregrine Falcon.  This guy/gal was not comfortable with anything resembling a “close” encounter, so I made the photo from “way far away” and thank the zoom feature of my camera for this fine little treasure.

As I mentioned in that earlier post, the physical setting for this New River exploration is equidistant between the NFL Arizona Cardinals’ stadium and the Glendale Municipal Airport.  I nice little retreat from civilization while nestled in the middle of it.

Thank you for visiting….

barbed-wire kisses

Somewhere between the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s, I was taking a creative writing class at a local community college.  One of the assignments was to write poetry…and I put together something about two lovers who could only meet at the fence of the jail yard where one of them was incarcerated.  All told, it was rather lame; kissing through the fence, etc., right, whatever; but the title remains in my memory.  It is refreshed, somehow, when I encounter the stuff again, the barbed-wire; it just pops to mind.

Anyway…sunrise along a high-desert highway in Arizona, 7/21/2019…there it is all over again…barbed-wire kisses….

portrait of a young christ

Not on a burned tortilla, grilled-cheese sandwich, or even in the faded paint on the side of an old weathered barn…but walking among us…sleeping under our same roof for almost 20 years…who knew…?

City Paint Phoenix 24 – Salt River Pima-Maricopa Woman

If you have been following the blog for some time, you might recognize the art/artist presented in this current installment of City Paint Phoenix.

The artist goes by the name of “El Mac” and he has painted murals all over the United States and across the globe.

I have shared images of his other works on at least six other occasions…which you can find by scrolling to the bottom of this page and clicking on the Category, “Street Art – Graffiti,” or by simply clicking on the highlighted link.

As you can read in this article in AZCentral.com, the image is based upon an actual person, a teenaged Native American girl who lives on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which is located just east of Scottsdale.

For those of you who live in, or are going to visit the Phoenix area, you can find the 45 foot tall mural on the southeast corner of the building at 111 W Monroe Street, just one block south of the better known Van Buren Street, and one block west of Central Avenue, in the heart of downtown Phoenix. There is metered parking on the north side of the building, but if you’re only going to be there for a few minutes, you could probably get away with parking in the alley on the south side, as I did. A security officer came out of the building to check on my truck parked in the alley, but he just smiled, said “Good morning,” and then walked away as he saw me with my camera admiring the mural.

El Mac painted the main feature of the mural and his friend and collaborator, Breeze, painted the decorative trim that we see in brighter colors surrounding the mural and extending around the building and down the walls.

And again…

After viewing the mural the first time and having taken multiple photographs with my phone, I purposed to return the next morning with my camera to make some “real” images, which I did.

I should also add that I left the scene that first morning with something of a lightness of spirit…like an inspiration or a feeling of calm…like it didn’t matter that I still had to go to work for eight hours and be stuck inside an office or talk to people with whom I really didn’t want to talk…it was okay. I was further touched each time I got out my camera during the day to look at the images again and again.

Maybe it was the serenity and hopefulness that I could see in the young woman’s expression…

…or maybe I was still awestruck from having been in the presence of a simple beauty that transcended even the need for words to describe it.

a flower in the trash**

A good friend and former coworker gave me an orchid plant a few years ago…four years ago in January, actually, when I returned to work after being out for a week when my mother died.

The plant was in a small dark reddish/maroon ceramic cup and had four broad, intensely green leaves and two vines or stems that were about six to eight inches long/tall and had anywhere from eight or ten flowers on each…I don’t remember exactly…

After a few months of “watering” it with crushed ice a couple of times a week, I found that I just couldn’t keep it watered enough and that the ice just melted and ran straight through the cup and the flowers wilted very soon and the broad dark leaves went soft and then stayed that way.

Not too long after that, I purchased a much larger pot and a bag of Miracle-Grow-infused orchid bark and repotted my little plant.  When I removed it from the smaller cup, I found that there were “tons” of root material curled into a huge twisted mass at the bottom of the cup, something that I sadly trimmed away and discarded in the trash…but it had to be done.

And now, four years later, I have seen a second plant grow up from the bark and sprout its own four leaves and two vines or stems with their many flowers, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all, 15, 18, 20….  My morning routine each day at work is to stop and greet the plant on the window sill near my desk.  I gently rub the dark green surface of the uppermost leaves, maybe rotate the planter to make sure the flowers aren’t touching the glass, and whisper “Hello,” something that seems silly as I type it here, but seems natural and only right when I do it every morning.  I think I probably perform this ritual to honor the plant’s life and the trust it must have in my routine to care for it…and to likewise honor the friend who gave it to me, his compassion and empathy, and to remember my mother, to acknowledge her continued presence and absence and all of the things I could and don’t say about that.

And it is now my weekly routine upon coming back to the office on Mondays to trim/pluck the flowers that have wilted over the weekend…and so we have this post. After I tossed the single flower into the trash a couple of weeks ago, went about my new morning at the desk, and then happened to look down into the trash. I was struck by the color and textures of the wilted body and leaves in its surroundings of the clean clearish-white trash bag…and was reminded immediately of some images that my blog friend, Lynn, has shared with us at Bluebrightly, particularly the ones of leaves and flowers pressed against the inside surface of a green-house’s windows or plastic tarpaulin partitions…the texture and form and light all combining to give us another micro-celebration of awe and wonder at the event and the artist’s eye and mind and heart to find it and capture it so.

**iPhound art

American Bison in Context

August 14, 2019 was the 33rd Wednesday of the year….the 54th day of Summer…and the 226th day of the year.  It was also Pakistan Independence Day…and World Lizard Day…six police officers were shot in Philadelphia on this day…and the Arizona Diamondbacks lost to the Colorado Rockies by the score of 6-7.

I was up from the desert to visit my Utah kids and to hike on Antelope Island…and to see a summer sunrise from a favored place.

It may seem odd to find American Bison on a large island out in The Great Salt Lake in northern Utah…but they’re there anyway and they create something of an allure to visitors from both home and abroad.

Wikipedia provides that there are between 550 and 700 individual bison on the island during any given year…and that, because of the lack of natural, non-human predators, the herd can increase by about 25% per year.

I saw 5-6 different groupings of the bison during my hours on the island that day…including this medium-sized collection and another one that I will share in a later post.

Commuter Sunset

I suppose one could say that it’s worth the occasional blinding sunset when heading west in the evenings after work…because of the occasional treasure one finds smack-dab in front of them on other days…..

iPhound art two nights ago….