Archive for the ‘the future’ Category

among the sequoia – and some news   17 comments

Posted at 11:49 am in california,Don,Nova Scotia,the future

the bark of a Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) can be close to a meter (3 feet thick) and reminds me of coconut fiber

As mentioned in my last post, I had arrived at the decision to proceed with finding a place in Nova Scotia. In fact, Don and I had been searching for the right place for a couple of years before he became ill, so it was more a case of making it happen. Shortly after writing that post, I found a place that seemed just about right for us. In the space of a couple of weeks, I went from looking to owning.

I’m not quite ready to post photos or say too much about the house – probably not until after the closing – but will say that it’s a place I’d initially dismissed due to the size of the property. At a bit under two acres, it didn’t seem as though it could provide enough habitat to keep me busy roaming around studying insects. But, on a bit of a whim, I included this property in a list given to my agent. When she sent me the lot plans of several places, this one immediately tweaked my interest due to its location along a year-round brook which bends around the property before flowing onwards into an area of marsh and then on out into the Annapolis River. Could this be the place? Could I find enough to keep me busy on this odd-shaped property with the brook running by its doorstep? My terrific agent went out and shot more photos and video clips of the property. After viewing them, I felt strongly that, “Yup, this is the one.” It has a nice mix of trees, many quite large. There is quite a long stretch of frontage on the brook. The house is set back well from the road (a dog owner and peacefulness consideration), and is located atop a high knoll looking down upon the brook and across the Annapolis Valley to the North Mountain.

trunk of a Sequoia at “Trail of 100 Giants” – average diameter is 6 to 8 meters (18 to 24 feet)

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yes, indeed. But here’s the reality check. I’ll be the first to say that the house is in very rough condition — the kind of house I usually refer to as an “old beater”. However, I’d been looking for a project house – one that might keep me occupied for at least a couple of seasons. This place will, no doubt, take all of that and more, but I think it will be worth the time and effort. Unlike many very old houses – and this one could be quite old – maybe 150 years or so – it has many goodly sized windows and seems full of light. I must say “seems”, as I have not been there yet, and won’t arrive until after the closing — my decision to buy the place being based almost entirely on the setting of the property and its location, and not on the house. That said, after examining photos and watching video clips, the old place has continued to grow on me. I have a feeling that it and I will be comfortable together.

So, in about two weeks, the dogs and I will begin our northeast trek, first to Ottawa to visit my mom, and then to the storage locker to load up the van with tools. After that, it will be on to Nova Scotia. I hope to spend this season exploring the house, its property, and the surrounding area. It’s just a few miles from Annapolis Royal, so the region is familiar to me. Don and I passed through the town a number of times and hiked several nearby trails. I’m hoping that the move will seem like a homecoming of sorts. In between explorations, my time will be spent assessing the needs of the house and getting going with the most pressing repairs. It should be an interesting spring and summer.

No doubt, a few who see the house will think I’ve lost my mind for taking on such a project, but in fact, I think the house will help me to keep it. It’s probably no great secret that Don’s death has taken a huge toll on my interest in just about everything. For a creative person who has worked at all kinds of jobs and on many different projects, the past 18 or so months have seemed almost pointless to me. Regardless, I’ve pushed on, trying to keep going, with the hope that some day in the future, I would begin to feel something again. It appears that this place may be it. Since deciding to buy the property, most mornings I wake up feeling like I’ve made the right choice. The northward trek which I’d actually come to dread, now seems not so daunting as there is something interesting waiting at the end of the trail. In about a month, we’ll arrive in Nova Scotia to discover whether I’m right – whether this is the place. At that time, I will begin to post photos and may create a place on the net to document the history of the house along with my efforts towards its restoration.

view to the top – average height is 50 to 85 meters (165 to 280 feet)

Now, about these Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)! Last November, on my way to Arizona, I made a detour of monumental proportion. After leaving Red Rock Canyon, I turned away from my southward progress and journeyed up along the Kern River to the heart of the Sierras – home of the Sequoia. The decision to do more wandering before moving on to Arizona was made at Red Rock, in part because I was early arriving this far south — I had a couple of weeks or so to wait before I could move in at the house which I rent here in Bisbee. The dogs seemed very heat stressed once we got that far south, and life in a van can be difficult. Also, due to bad weather earlier in the trip, I’d decided not to go out to the coast. Now, the weather was looking good for awhile, so I turned in that direction with the intention of spending some time in the redwoods and going up as far as the Oregon coast to revisit the places I took Don to see when he came west to meet up with me and trip around in the autumn of 2006. Visiting the Sequoia was a special experience for me, and for my friend who had not been to see them in almost fifty years.

the cones of the Giant Sequoia are quite small – about 4 to 7 cm long (1.5 to 2.75 inches)

Our visit was late in the season, so there were few people around. We camped at a dispersed site beneath Ponderosa pine. We stopped at Trail of 100 Giants to see and photograph the trees. The trees in this grove are not among the largest Sequoia, but they are impressive and what’s a few feet in diameter when comparing giants? It seems amazing to find them growing at such an altitude in the western Sierras — such a different environment than the misty home of the their relations, the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). These trees look and feel ancient – the oldest in this grove are estimated to be about 1500 years old, but other examples of this species found only in a small region of the Sierras, are calculated to be in excess of 3000 years in age. We continued on the next day, descending through canyons cloaked with some of the richest growth of Manzanita that I’ve seen anywhere in my travels. It was good to visit the Sequoia and to make this return visit possible for my friend.

Written by bev on March 17th, 2010

red rock canyon & some ponderings   24 comments

Joshua tree in front of red cliffs along the Hagen Trail at Red Rock Canyon State Park

After my last post on the end of amnesia, dated January 31st, one might well be wondering if I’d regained my memory only to forget that I still have a blog. Over the past four weeks, I’ve thought about the blog and have tried to round up photos and write something, but with little success. Maybe we can blame this on me being preoccupied with matters to do with the future. After all, in about four more weeks, it will be time to pack up for the long trip back to eastern Canada. My only as-yet-vague plan is to return to southeast Arizona next winter after a season spent doing something up north. Just what that might be remains a little up in the air, but perhaps things are finally coming together (more on this below).

At times, I get annoyed at myself for not being able to figure out how (and sometimes even why) to carry on without Don. But then I recall that it’s not really my fault for not having the foresight to guess that, at this particular point in my life, instead of putting our retirement game plan into effect, I’d be pondering what to do now that everything has been vaporized by the events of the past couple of years. In retrospect, I probably did well just to get the farm sold, our belongings moved into storage, and get the dogs and me down here last autumn. However, now it’s time to start figuring out the what-comes-next part — which isn’t nearly as easy as some might suppose.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s difficult to work up much of an interest in a future without Don. Our plan had been that he would retire (at what would have been about a year ago), get the farm ready to sell and put it on the market, and then look for a place a little off the beaten track in some part of Nova Scotia. When Sabrina and I arrived home last spring, I decided to proceed with that plan and worked hard to get the farm sold, dispose of or move belongings into a storage locker, then look for a place in Nova Scotia. The first couple of gargantuan steps were accomplished by autumn. However, by the time the deal was closed and the last of our stuff jammed into the locker, I was feeling very weary and unsure of the moving-to-Nova-Scotia part of the plan. Did I really want to move there alone? Would it feel weird to go there without Don?

Last summer, during spare moments when I wasn’t busting my can to get the house ready to sell, I pondered over my motives for moving. Was some part of my subconscious hoping to find the right place in the hope that Don would reappear — a sort of Field of Dreams if-you-build-it-he-will-come cargo cult strategy? It didn’t take long to realize that this was definitely behind last summer’s frantic scramble to sell the farm and race to Nova Scotia to look at property. Scary how the mind works, isn’t it? However, as luck would have it, there were plenty of glitches in the house-selling process, so things didn’t proceed at quite the anticipated pace. I could not really leave to go looking for a new place until September. By then, I had lost much of my momentum. It would soon be time to muster the last of my remaining energy and hit the road for Arizona. Fortunately, I did not move us to Nova Scotia for the wrong reason last autumn. Instead, I wrapped things up in eastern Ontario and we headed west – Sabrina, me, and our new addition, Sage.

Red Rock Canyon State Park campground – note the uniform pitch of the layers of tilted rock in these formations

Fast forward to this February. The time to depart from Arizona draws nigh. Once more, I ponder our future. What are the dogs and I to do once we cross back into Canada? Should we spend spring-through-autumn tripping around camping? Is it too soon to look for a place and try to settle down for awhile?

After much contemplation, I’ve arrived at something of a decision. We need some kind of base camp back in Canada. A place where we can relax and feel “this is home” for at least a part of the year. Somewhere to put in a vegetable garden and work on projects. A landing spot where we can crash when needed, and stash a few cherished belongings — the stuff now buried in a storage locker in eastern Ontario. A location out of which I may be able to pick up where I left off with my mothballed photography and writing business. I’ve had a couple of wonderful and generous offers to keep a trailer or build a little shed on friends’ farms. As well, there’s an invite to accompany good friends as they conduct their 30 Years Later natural history survey this year – and I may well join them for part of the season. However, my most pressing goal is to search for a place that suits our purpose (the dogs and me).

Although I have tried to keep a very open mind to place, my instincts tell me to go east – east to Nova Scotia. Perhaps that will be a mistake. Perhaps my subconscious is still struggling to weave its own peculiar design. But maybe its rationale is as good as any. The simple truth is that I don’t know what’s right or best, and there’s no living person who knows anything more than me. However, that’s okay as I’m really not much concerned. At this point, I don’t worry much about the future. After all that has happened over the past few years, I’ve learned that there is nothing magical about the future. It’s a fleeting, undependable and untrustworthy thing that I don’t really believe in anymore. Now, about the only thing I trust is that my instincts are making the best choices for the three of us at any rapidly approaching point in time. Experience has proven that’s all I can depend on — and so it is that I’m in the process of looking for a place in Nova Scotia — a new home base to set a course for on our eastward journey. Enquiries about several properties have been made – mainly tracts of land near the ocean with project houses in various states of preservation (or lack of). Finding a place will not be difficult. I’m not looking for perfection. All we need is a haven where we will hang our hats for awhile until the next course change. After all, life is a lot like sailing – tacking one line, then quickly coming about onto a new heading as the shifting winds of time play their tricks. I’ll post updates on the search for a new place as they occur.

our campsite in front of the cliffs at Red Rock Canyon

Now, about the photos in this post. In November, I stayed at Red Rock Canyon State Park on two occasions. The first time, I visited with a photographer friend. The second time, I stopped to rest for a few days after making a long loop back up through California, to the Oregon Coast, and then back south on my way to Arizona. I’ll get to the why behind that part of the trip in an upcoming post. For now, I just wanted to write a little about Red Rock. The first stay was one of those happy accidents that sometimes occurs when you’re trying to pick your next campground based on its name or a brief description. My road atlas described Red Rock Canyon S.P. as a park with interesting red rock formations. We pulled into the campground in late afternoon only to find that the formations far exceeded interesting.

Red Cliffs formation at Red Rock Canyon State Park

By another bit of serendipity, we arrived at the beginning of an annual fossil collecting field trip which is held by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The leader was Dr. David Whistler, a vertebrate paleontologist who has been studying and working at Red Rock Canyon for fifty years. A group from the NHMLA was camped just down from our site. During the daytime, they went out on collecting and study forays. On the Saturday evening, we attended the slide presentation given by Dr. Whistler, at the park’s visitor center. The diversity of creatures found in this region is astounding. To quote from an article written by Dr. Whistler for Terra Magazine (Fall 1982), this is a list of what had been found there by that time. Since then, the list has grown considerably.

Water-loving animals including frogs, toads, three kinds of salamanders, a pond turtle, an extinct goose, an otter and a small species of beaver…. long-legged running animals like two different rhinos, ten species of horse, four kinds of camels and three prong buck antelope species suggest open plains. Two elephant-like gomphotheres, a vulture, two large land tortoises, a pika, two ground squirrel species, and deer mice and rabbits also frequented this habitat. Brush-loving animals are represented by two oreodonts (extinct sheep-like animals), a peccary, a three-toed browsing horse, a short-legged camel, a ringtailed cat, a small skunk, two weasel-like animals, a wolverine, two foxes, four distinctly different spiny lizards, a night lizard, rosey boa and racer snakes, a hedgehog, a chipmunk, two gopher-like rodents, two different pocket mice, a bat, and at least three small perching birds. A mole, four different shrews, a small, rear- fanged snake and two alligator lizards …. Six different species of dog, a very large bear-like animal and three large cats including a sabretooth….

This region is unique for its many clearly defined layers of strata in which fossils were deposited as if within a meticulously ordered time vault. Fossils found at this site have been used to create a sort of timeline against which similar fossils from other regions may be compared and correlated. It’s fascinating stuff. You don’t have to be a paleontologist to appreciate the significance of this geology, with its many examples of stratified columns and uniformly tilted formations. One can easily see that they’re walking about in what may best be described as an immense laboratory. But Red Rock is not entirely about the past. It’s also a living landscape of plants and creatures. At night, the profiles and shadows of the park’s many Joshua Trees move like wild dancers against the flickering light of campfires. By day, curious Cactus Wrens perch on vehicle roof racks as they survey your campsite, while Ravens swoop, soar, and occasionally descend from the towering backdrop of sandstone cliffs. In the evening, the shrill chittering of Chimney Swifts echoes from the canyon walls as they circle and dive, entering and leaving rock cavities in the upper rim.

Sage watching while I cook our dinner

On my second visit, I spent several nights almost alone in the canyon. I’d cook our dinner, then we would sit or lie about, watching the sky show. By luck, we were passing through this area at the same time as the peak of the Leonids. The dogs and I stayed long enough to rest and continue our exploration of the area until one morning when the campground began to fill up in advance of the weekend. I decided to break camp and within the hour, we were packed up and on the road, making our way onward to southeast Arizona.

Sabrina and Sage catching up on some sleep inside our van

Written by bev on February 27th, 2010