Archive for the ‘sabrina’ Category

meet Sage   no comments

Posted at 8:23 am in loss,sabrina,sage

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

As you might have guessed after reading my last post, Sabrina and I arrived home over a week ago. We’re busy every day as there’s a lot happening in our lives, not the least of which is the arrival of Sage, who is now part of what I guess you could refer to as our “family unit”. She’s a blue merle Rough Collie who came to us from Caralan and Bob Dams of Kars, Ont (Forestree Collies). The manner in which she arrived was a little unscheduled, but the search for a young collie has been more or less underway for quite some time. However, it was put on hold after Don became ill in 2007 as we knew I probably couldn’t deal with starting a young dog while also caring for him during the following months. Although Sabrina seems to be in good condition now, her deterioration during Don’s illness was a strong reminder that she won’t be with me forever and that this might be a good time to find an apprentice who can absorb some of her wisdom. That’s pretty much how Sabrina learned — by acquiring the wisdom passed along by my previous collie, Maggie. We’ve always had two collies at any given time, so I’m just attempting to return to the usual way that we did things around here in the past.

She’s only been here about a week, but Sage is fitting in well. She’s just a little over 3 months old and seems bright and quick to learn. We go for about 4 or 5 walks on the trails in our fields and woods each day. She has already learned which paths to take and likes to show off by racing ahead and hiding in the dry grass, waiting for Sabrina and I to catch up so that she can spring out and scare us (or so she believes). I’ve put up a short video clip in case anyone wants to see part of a walk from my point of view. Not that much happens, but what seems interesting to me is how Sabrina walks ahead, then stops to make sure that everyone is coming along.

In other news, it is with some sadness that I report on what is probably the demise of my trusty Windstar van. Last Sunday, while returning from the city after spending an evening with my mom and brothers, I heard a loud BANG and instantly felt the van lurching out of control. Although I had very little steering, I was able to swing the van onto the roadside. When the tow truck driver winched the van up onto the bed of his ramp truck, we could see that the steering parts – tie rod, etc.. had come apart and the right front drive axle had actually fallen out of the transmission. The right front wheel was turned out to the side at a crazy angle (see below – click on all images for larger views). A mechanic friend dropped by to look at the damage this week and we pretty much came to the conclusion that the van is probably not worth repairing. So, for now I’m driving a rental car and looking around for a replacement van — something appropriate as a home to a gypsy traveling with her two dogs — a van that is up to the challenge of being both a “camper” and a “construction workhorse” as we move into the next phase of our lives.

Although I probably haven’t written much about this on the blog, I’ll be putting my farm for sale very soon. In fact, I’ve spent the past week packing up all of the belongings I’d like to take with me as I move on. The rest, I’ll be disposing of, mainly using The Great Matter Transporter (putting things at the roadside with a big FREE sign set up beside — it works almost instantly to move objects out of my universe and into someone else’s). After I get all of the work done that needs to be taken care of, and I leave the farm in someone else’s hands to sell, my plan is to head east to Nova Scotia for awhile. At the moment, my intention is to look around for a place where we could spend spring through fall. In winter, we would return to southeast Arizona, to the region that I now like to think of as our “other home”. No doubt, there will be plenty of wandering in between points A and B as I’m restless and find it next to impossible to stay in one place for any length of time. Most days, I’d rather be off wandering around in the forests, deserts or along rivers or the ocean. However, I’m hopeful that I can find a place that will make me want to settle down for a time – or at least to plant a vegetable garden and do some hiking or canoeing around each summer. Also, to get back to my writing, photography and art — all of which I’ve largely abandoned over the past few months. But more about all of this a little later on. For now, I’m just busy packing and spending as much time as possible working with Sage so that she’ll be ready to go on the road with us when it comes time to depart for points as yet unknown.

One other note — a little belated as I’ve been without a net connection so much of the time for the past few weeks. The third edition of “Carnival of the Arid” has been up at Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing for a couple of weeks. You’ll find some nice things to see and read. Also, Chris invites anyone to submit posts or other material having to do with arid regions, so give that some consideration if you have something you would like to share.

Written by bev on April 19th, 2009

chiricahua   9 comments

Posted at 1:47 pm in Arizona,geology,sabrina,trees

panorama view of the stone columns at Chiricahua National Monument – as seen from Masai Point

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

Where to start when writing about the winter that Sabrina and I have spent in southeast Arizona? We have wandered in many places, beginning with slow walks along the San Pedro River, then eventually moving up to hiking the higher elevation trails in the many mountain ranges of this region. Both of us needed to regain a lot of the strength that had been drained away through many months of stress before leaving on our trip across the continent.

Today, I thought I’d write a bit about Chiricahua National Monument as I’ve been there several times over the past four months. Each time family or friends have visited, this is the one place that I feel they cannot miss seeing. With that in mind, I felt it was something I should bring to all of you. I know that photographs cannot do it justice as the scale of this place is beyond imagining, but this is my attempt.

The Chiricahua Mountains are among several ranges of southeast Arizona, southwest New Mexico, and northwest Mexico, that are referred to as the Sky Islands. They rise up thousands of feet above the surrounding desert and grassland basins. Many are forested, and their canyons filled with a rich diversity of flora and fauna. It’s probably needless to say that, over the winter, I have spent many days walking among the canyons of several ranges.

Chiricahua National Monument is located on the northwest side of the Chiricahua Range. At some point, I will write about some other places in the range. Entering the park, a winding road leads through lower elevation forests of sycamore and live oaks along a canyon creek. Then the road begins to climb past massive “organ pipe” rock formations, eventually coming to a look-off at Masai Point. The panorama shot above (click on it to see a larger view) was taken from the look-off. The view defies description. You are looking out across a huge valley entirely filled with hundreds – well, perhaps more like thousands – of massive, tower-like columns. Many are said to be over 10 stories tall, and I believe the tallest stands almost 150 feet. The scale of what lies before you is perplexing. Tall trees seem diminutive, appearing more like small bushes clinging to the hillsides among the formations.

on the Echo Canyon Trail that leads through a section of the column-filled valley

There are trails leading down into the valley among the formations. I have hiked a section of the Echo Canyon Trail. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted in the trails that enter the valley, so my time was limited as I left Sabrina with my brother during one of my visits. However, an hour spent among the columns was enough to get some feel for the place and make me hopeful to come back to hike more of the trail system some day.

a view off to the side of the trail where the columns stand in deeper sections of the valley

Rather than struggle to write an explanation of how these columns were formed, I’ll cheat a little and point you to these photos taken of interpretive signboards here and here. The huge volcanic crater mentioned on one of the signs is visible in the distance when you are standing at the top of Masai Point.

many of the columns are encrusted with brilliant lichen

There is life all around as you wander along the trail between the columns. Many are encrusted with brilliant lichens. Trees manage to find places to grow – Manzanita, Alligator Juniper, Border pinyon and others – but my favourite among them is the Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica). The scent of these trees fills the air along many sections of the trail. It’s an odd but, to me, pleasant enough smell, although I have read a reference where it is described as “fetid”. You be the judge. These trees produce the oddest cones – rather like small wooden balls with cracks running through. Here is a photo of a branch with a few cones. One of my field guides states that, “the old round, gray, female cones are about 1 inch in diameter and remain attached for several years on the ends of the branchlets.”

columns range in shape from spires to mushroom-shaped hoodoos

I couldn’t resist including a couple of more photos of columns taken at close range. These were taken in an area called “the grotto” – which is almost cavern-like due to the type of formations.

a massive boulder lodged between spires in the grotto area along the Echo Canyon Trail

A large “boulder” hangs suspended, lodged between columns within the grotto (click on all photos for larger views).

Sabrina with “Cochise Head” in the background

After leaving Echo Canyon, my brother then took his turn hiking the trail while Sabrina and I walked the section of roadway that leads between the Echo Canyon and Sugarloaf Mountain parking lots. It’s a great little walk – birds calling from either side of the roadway bordered by a wonderful variety of trees and bushes that grow at higher elevation. We stopped to rest at a spot where I photographed Sabrina sitting in front of a conspicuous rock formation on a distant peak. It’s known as Cochise Head. Here’s a clearer photo of the formation. You must agree that it is interesting, no?

Despite being a little rushed, I’m going to try to put up another post or two this week. After that, posts may be asporadic for while. Believe it or not, after taking all of this time to write about my journey to southeast Arizona, and then the months spent here, the time has come to pack up and leave to return to my farm. I have mixed feelings about the next part of my journey. I am trying to find the “positive” in traveling through the western states and then back across Canada as the land awakens to springtime. However, I am not feeling any of the “drive” that it took to get to my winter refuge. In large part, it’s because I don’t look forward to my return home. For me, life has taken an irreversible change in direction. The farm that once meant so much to Don and I, no longer holds any attraction. In fact, it is now a reminder of a great deal of pain and sadness. My winter away has confirmed one thing, and that is that I will not overly miss the place that has been my home for the past 32 years. There are sure to be some major changes in the works over the next couple of months, but more about that later. For now, please enjoy the Arizona posts as I have time to put them up.

Written by bev on March 11th, 2009

Tagged with , , , ,

strangers in a strange land – part 1   11 comments

Posted at 5:06 pm in california,geology,loss,sabrina

Sabrina at the entrance area to Trona Pinnacles

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

After the previous day of very hard driving, Sabrina and I slept far beyond our normal rising time. Fumbling in the darkness of the motel room, I pulled back the heavy curtains just a little, then swiftly recoiled, practically blinded by sunlight reflecting off every hard surface in the courtyard. Later, as Sabrina and I emerged from our room for a morning walk, we must have resembled a pair of moles, squinting and stumbling about for the first minute or so after stepping outdoors. The air felt hot and the light searing, and yet the temperature was probably not exceptionally warm for that location. The problem was “us”. Such are the perils of moving across several climate zones in the space of a few weeks.

Today’s game plan was to get some rest and perhaps play at being tourists for a few hours. The previous morning, I had it in the back of my mind that we might make a detour into Death Valley at some point along our route. However, after several recent experiences with gross miscalculations in time and distance, I had enough good sense not to make such an attempt. Instead, after studying my maps, I decided to drive east into the Searles Valley with the intention of visiting the Trona Pinnacles. After loading up the van with water and food, I attempted to convince Sabrina that this was a worthy adventure. She ignored my words and gazed toward the motel room door. Torn between a shady, air-conditioned room, or the alternative of hopping into our sun-drenched van, it was fairly clear that she wasn’t feeling too enthusiastic about my plan. But, being the good sport that she is, she finally decided to come along for the ride.

Desert Holly (Atriplex hymenelytra) in the Searle Valley region

The trip east from Ridgecrest is short and easy. You pass by some part of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. Don’t ask what goes on there for I have no idea. The installation seems to consist of several compact buildings baking in a parched valley with a hazy backdrop of mountains beyond.

We soon arrived at the entrance lane to Trona Pinnacles. Sabrina hopped out of the van and immediately began to inspect the rocks and plants while I read the interpretive sign boards. For an explanation of the geology of the pinnacles, see here and here. Turning from the sign, I caught sight of Sabrina carefully sniffing a white-leaved Desert Holly (Atriplex hymenelytra). She has her very own way inspecting plants — tilting her head to one side while studiously running her nose along the edges of leaves. This is a slow and tedious procedure. Her methodology causes me to wonder if she might have been a botanist in a past life. Once finished with her inspection, Sabrina gave me a sidelong “what the heck is this?” glance. I could see she wasn’t impressed with this place. I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that it’s probably not all that surprising that a predominantly black Rough Collie from Canada shouldn’t be enamoured with life on the desert. However, back to the Desert Holly. A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert (Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press), states that Atriplex, often referred to as saltbush, appears grayish “because they cope with saline soils by secreting excess salt into tiny hairs on the leaf surfaces. The hairs die from high salt concentration, leaving a deposit of salt crystals on the surface that reflects some of the intense light that would otherwise overload the photosynthetic system.” Further, “if water is available, these plants can photosynthesize on the hottest days, when most other plants are stressed and forced to shut down.” (pg 219-220).

Trona Pinnacles, as seen from a distance of about 4 miles

From the interpretive signboard, I could see the vague outline of the Trona Pinnacles wavering mirage-like in the light reflected by the saline sands of the dry lake bed (see above, click on all images for larger views). I felt both an attraction to, and a little uneasiness with, this place. While I had some desire to see the pinnacles up close, at the same time, I was acutely conscious of the intensity of the heat and dryness on this open plain. I scouted the area with my binoculars and saw no other vehicles. Although apprehensive, I decided to start down the road to see how it looked. The signs at the entrance mentioned that the road was passable by two-wheel drive vehicles most times, but could be impassable at others. Soon, the van was banging along over washboard. After the previous day’s expedition to Bodie, Sabrina was quicker and much more insistent with her nudging of my right arm in an attempt to convince me to abandon this mission. I pressed on a little longer, but the road grew increasingly worse.

Not much farther along, I decided to abort our little expedition. Turning the van in an open area next to a set of railway tracks, I caught sight of a sizable fissure in the road, one that could not be seen from the angle we had been traveling. It was wide and deep enough to have easily swallowed one of the van’s tires if I had unwittingly driven into it. I felt a brief jolt of panic as I realized just how serious it could be to find us stranded a few miles into this place — with me thinking more of Sabrina’s safety than of my own. Yes, this was a *bad* idea. If I was doing this trip with Don, I would have little fear. He and I had occasionally had to push or dig our truck out of a hole or rut from time to time. But alone with Sabrina, and in such an unforgiving environment. No. Not on this day. I drove us back up the lane. We would find some other less risky adventure to occupy the remainder of the day.

message in the sand at Trona Pinnacles

Shortly before reaching the entrance, I noticed the above message written in stones arranged on the sand. We got out of the van while I shot a few photos from various angles and distances. The artist in me has always found such ephemeral messages to be of visual interest. However, now they affect me in a different way — one that I am at a loss to explain. Maybe it’s the feeling that I am alone now and such messages are no longer part of my realm. Stepping closer to photograph the stone heart filled with fragments of broken glass (below), I thought, “This is the part of the message meant for me.”

We got back into the van, drove on up the lane and back out onto the highway to continue our exploration of the Searles Valley.

Written by bev on February 7th, 2009

Tagged with , ,

return to the redwoods – part 3   11 comments

Posted at 4:33 pm in california,history,loss,sabrina,trees

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

In the last post, I wrote about my thoughts on traveling alone. Of course, I was never truly alone, as Sabrina has been with me on every step of a journey that began long before we left our home in Ontario. I haven’t said much about all that took place during the previous year of Don’s illness, but it was a very difficult time for all of us, including Sabrina. Being a smart and sensitive dog, she quickly intuited changes in Don’s health status, particularly during the final weeks of his life. As his health deteriorated, Sabrina spent an increasing part of her day lying next to him. Eventually, she became so worried that it was difficult to get her to eat, so her health gradually began to fail too. Two days after Don’s death, she was so weak and unsteady that I had to help her get up onto her feet. Over the next six weeks, I tried to get her eating and up moving around to rebuild her strength. However, it was clear that she was grieving in her own way and resisted most of my efforts.

When I first contemplated leaving for the west, I was concerned about Sabrina’s condition. Would she be able to cope with long days of traveling in the van? Could I provide the kind of food she was accustomed to at home? I was a little worried about the logistics of preparing the fresh food she was used to receiving. As the day for our departure drew near, I was still feeling uncertain about how we would manage once on the road. What would I do if Sabrina grew weaker after we were a few thousand kilometers from home? The morning of our departure, as I finished packing, she lay on the ground in front of the sliding side door of the van, refusing to move. Clearly, she was worried about being left behind. I took that as a sign that she too was anxious to be “on the road”. For both of us, I believe that our journey to the west turned out to be the right thing to do as it forced us to move, at least marginally, beyond the sad events of the previous year.

Once on the road, it was interesting to see how Sabrina reacted to each new place or situation. I felt a little bad for her each time we checked into a motel along our route. In the past, Sabrina and I would wait in the van while Don picked up our key at the front desk, then opened the room for us. As I assumed that part of the process, I noticed how Sabrina would rush into each new motel room, quickly searching every corner including looking up on top of the bed. After discovering that it was “just us”, she would flop down, stretch out her neck with her head on the carpet as she gave me the longest of long faces as only a collie can do. I would comment, “Yes, I know.” Those motel room check-ins were among the most difficult moments of our journey and one of the reasons that, whenever possible, I preferred to stay at campsites.

When we reached the redwoods, I was very curious to see how Sabrina would react to what must have seemed a very odd landscape. Along our entire trip, I noticed how carefully she inspected earth and plants. No doubt, her olfactory senses were sending her odd messages about these strange new places. After spending the night at the Burlington campsite in the Humboldt Redwoods, we visited the California Federation of Women’s Club grove before continuing on with our journey. Some of you may remember me writing about The Hearthstone designed by the architect, Julia Morgan, during my autumn 2007 trip through the west. I decided to return to the site in the hope of shooting better photos than on my previous visit. As we walked along the trails of that grove, Sabrina seemed eager to explore and, in her own canine way, expressed awe at the surroundings. Several times, I caught her inspecting a gargantuan mushroom, or gazing up and then back at me as if to see whether I’d taken note of the trees towering above. For both of us, this “new territory” was a good place to explore, far distant from home trails now strewn with countless memory land mines.

After leaving the redwood groves, we stopped at the historic lumber mill town of Scotia. During last year’s trip, I had taken only a few pathetic photos due to rain and a camera malfunction. This time, weather and cameras cooperated well enough to capture a few photos of the unique architecture along the main street. The Scotia museum (above), with its redwood interpretation of the columns and portico of a Greek temple, and the all-redwood Winema Theatre (below) are reminders of those bygone days when it seemed that logging of the redwoods could go on forever. Of course, that notion proved to be false, as evidenced by the many decommissioned mills and abandoned wigwam burners throughout the Pacific northwest.

Under gray skies, we left Scotia, retracing our trail northwards a little before turning east, now bound for Arizona. There will be more about that leg of our journey coming up very soon.

Written by bev on January 18th, 2009