Archive for the ‘desert’ Category

hidden landscapes   10 comments

This morning as I write this post, I’m feeling very aware of how fragmented my life has become. I’m still writing about last autumn’s travels through Utah (soon to be finished up), and about the last couple of things that happened before I left Bisbee to head back to Canada. Add to that the past couple of weeks of traveling eastward across the U.S., and now my preparations and plans for this summer’s work program at the old house in Nova Scotia. On top of all of that, I’m wanting to write something about how it feels to be back here in the area where Don and I lived for over thirty years until his death in September 2008. While the first few topics may be of interest to many, I suspect that the last is of interest mainly to me, but I do wish to record at least something here – to look back upon someday, I suppose. Eventually, I will get to all of the above – I just have to post a little more often. But let me just take a moment to write something about being back here in Ontario.

It’s weird. Very, very weird. This is my third return from traveling across North America. This year’s trip was over new terrain as I cut a diagonal across the U.S. to get back to Ontario, instead of doing my usual route up through the western states, and then eastward across Canada. I’m realizing that there’s something very different about these routes – something that goes beyond the obvious geographic path and distance. It has more to do with how I feel while traveling. The longer route seems to give me a chance to make the transition between being “out west” and “back here in the east.” By taking the diagonal, I feel very differently – almost as though something messy has happened – rather like spilling ink across a page. Also, I’ve realized that I seem to need time to prepare for my confrontation with this place.

The final day on the road, I crossed into Ontario and drove straight through the area where we had our farm, our friends had farms scattered between Ottawa and Kingston, and where we hiked and canoed during every spare moment of our lives. I found myself having to toss up my mental force field to fend off the pain and sadness which I experience while in this region. It’s a familiar feeling. I used to use this form of self defense when I took Don (and before that – my father) to the hospital for chemo and radiation treatments and other appointments. I called it being in my Terminator mode. Of course, I don’t mean that in the literal sense – my role was always that of protector and not destroyer – but during our countless hospital forays, I had to throw up an impenetrable exterior to make it possible to continue functioning at high efficiency while deflecting bombs and missiles. These days, while in other places, I can pretty much drop my bulletproof shields, but when I am back here in our old stomping grounds, the shields must remain up in place at all times. It’s really no way to live.

On Tuesday, I took Sage for a hike on one of our favourite trails – one that Don and I walked several times a month in those Elysian days before cancer struck. Soon after setting out, I realized that I felt like crap – as though I was wearing cement shoes and that the landscape had nothing to say to me. When part way along the trail, I discovered that it was now impassable due to the footbridge having been washed away during a storm. I took that as a sign to abandon this mission and return home, but not without stopping at our favourite whole food store. That was yet another mistake. It looks pretty much exactly the same as the last time I was there – with Don – to pick up some lunch at the deli. He was doing a lot of chemo at that point. After we left the store to go for a walk on the above-mentioned trail, he found he couldn’t eat anything because the smell of the food made him ill. All of this came back to me like flashbacks in the trailer of some demented movie. I ended the day feeling morose and more than ready to head east to work on the old house at Round Hill. Of course that’s not very practical, as the weather is as cool and rainy there as it has been here in Ontario. However, as soon as things warm up and the sun begins to shine, I will be ready.

That’s about all that I’ll say about how things are with me at this time. I’m doing alright. I live with a good deal of what probably qualifies as PTSD, but manage to carry on. I’ve found ways that make it possible to function and live, but they don’t include hanging around the scene of the crime, so to speak. Gotta move on and make life happen where it can.

Anyhow, turning to the photos that I’ve put up, these were taken last November, shortly before leaving Utah to visit Chaco Canyon, in New Mexico. From there, I traveled on down to Bisbee. All of these were taken at Butler Wash, which is along Hwy 95 between the town of Blanding and Natural Bridges National Monument. My next post will be about an afternoon spent there.

First, what I’d like to say about this area, is that I’ve wanted to travel through ever since the day that I set eyes on it from a vantage point east of Escalante. If you check out this map, you’ll see a spot marked “The Million Dollar Road”. That’s just about where I stood, looking east, while taking this photo. At that moment, I said to myself, “Someday, I’m going to go there and see what it’s like to wander over that region of Navajo sandstone.” Well, on this trip, I finally did so – or at least, I got a taste of it. I will return to spend more time there – maybe a few weeks – hopefully this coming autumn.

So, about these photos. You may or may not have discovered this already, but the first and second photos are of the same spot. The first photo is looking into a canyon with my camera not zoomed in. That is how the canyon would look to the naked eye. The second is a zoomed in shot of one of the arches in the rock formations, revealing the ruins of a cliff dwelling (this is one time when it is worth clicking on all of the photos to see larger views of each). The third and fourth photos are a similar pair of a cliff as it appears to the naked eye, and then zoomed in. If you study the third photo, you’ll see that there are cliff dwellings in other arches, similar to the one in the fourth photo. Now, go back and think about this photo. What must it be like to hike through any of the canyons in this vast expanse between Escalante and Blanding? I scratched the surface on this day’s travels, but wish to return to spend more time – much more time – exploring the area.

On this day, I left Sabrina in the van – all the windows open, blinds down, and a good breeze blowing through. Sage and I walked to Butler Wash – a short hike of maybe 15 to 20 minutes – over and through the undulating yellow sandstone dunes. The trail is marked with rocks or small cairns. Although there is no danger of losing one’s way, I quickly intuited that this is a region where one could easily become disoriented as you can rarely move from one spot to the next in a direct line. Always, you are walking a curving path around one rock dome then around the next. There are few distinctive points visible, and an eerie sameness that I have not often experienced in the natural world. In other places, there is always this or that kind of tree with a certain shaped trunk or branch, or a boulder that looks like a dinosaur head, or even something so small as a cluster of ferns on a seep between rocks. Not here. Although I looked for natural guideposts, I found that there were very few that spoke to me. In spite of having a very good sense of direction, I know I would have cause to make good use of a compass and GPS while hiking through this country.

As well, this is a very arid place. There are few sources of water in this landscape. In summer, the heat can be extreme. Even on this mid-November day, I found it warm. The dogs drank a lot of water throughout the day – always as good an indicator as any, that the humidity levels are very low. One must be properly prepared to venture into such a landscape, especially alone as I always am these days. However, although alone, I will return.

Written by bev wigney on April 15th, 2011

my yesterday   12 comments

Posted at 1:04 pm in Arizona,Art,being alone,birds,desert,friends

the completed “Nevermore Cat” painting

Back to some chronological leaping around. A couple of days ago, I added to the account of our November travels through Utah. Today, I’m jumping forward to yesterday. I would like to share some photos taken over the past forty-eight hours, illustrating what the dogs and I did in lieu of celebrating christmas. The night before last, I presented good friends with a 12 x 16 inch canvas of the “Nevermore Cat”. As most of you know, it is based on Paul Gauguin’s 1897 painting Nevermore. In 2008, I had created a smaller version on some canvas board, but decided to make a larger version on a stretched canvas, this time working from a better photograph of their cat. My friends were surprised and pleased when I handed over the finished painting. (Note: Click on all photos for larger views).

an unusually deserted view of Main Street in Bisbee

Yesterday, I spent the morning working around the place and then playing guitar for awhile. Around noon, a friend called to ask if I might like to go for a walk around town. I’m always game for that as Bisbee is a place unlike any other. For those who harbor an appreciation of art, architecture, building materials, texture, and history, there is much to see. I never fail to see something new each time I go for a stroll with my camera. Yesterday proved to be especially nice as there were so few people out and about. That’s a rare thing as there are usually dozens of tourists wandering around the streets on any given day.

giant fly-on-the-wall above the entrance of the Sam Poe Gallery

My friend and I are both art and architecture junkies, so our attention was drawn to stone, tile and ironwork, old doors and windows, cast-iron manhole covers, metal rain gutters, crumbling concrete walls, graffiti, hand-painted signs and lettering on brickwork, and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t even begin to go into here.

large panel of an agave and kangaroo rats

As mentioned, each time I wander around town, I see something that I’ve never noticed before. Yesterday’s coup was the above panel of an agave and kangaroo rats, and its twin, a panel of a yucca and a horned lizard.

ironwork gate and figures by Benjamin Dale

For some time, I’ve been meaning to stop and photograph the wonderful gate and figures created by metal sculptor, Benjamin Dale. If you have spent any amount of time walking around Bisbee, you will have encountered his work. More examples can be found on his website.

Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw

Our afternoon walk-and-photo session was cut short when we ran into friends who were heading over to Whitewater Draw to visit the Sandhill Cranes. My friend and I decided to join them, tossed our binoculars and cameras into the van, and made the short drive to the playa where the cranes gather between foraging forays. On this occasion, they were on the east side of the playa, affording a very good view. We remained for an hour or so before heading back to town. I arrived home in time for my evening walk-about with the dogs before making our dinner – leftover stir-fry from the previous night. Not your traditional holiday fare, but then, who keeps track of this kind of thing anymore? Not I.

Sage looking over the garden gate

Written by bev wigney on December 26th, 2010