Two Meetings

First view of Pine Creek

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Continued from the chapter “A Dry Piece of Paradise.”

Imagine a bowl with steep sides, rough and sharp in places.

Look along the bottom and see a silver stream, sparkling and singing through rocks.

A figure is clinging to the upper side, almost to the rim.

The figure is me in the setting of my blog, “A Dry Piece of Paradise”. Here is my view from that spot.

View from the rim of Nameless Canyon

Hiking along this bowl rim I came to a clearing in the juniper and Manzanita bushes, with a fire ring and pile of roughly broken wood with outstanding views on all sides. This tradition of leaving wood is a welcome intrusion of human kindness and sympathy in this wilderness. We gather wood for total strangers, people we will never meet, to potentially save them in a rainy, cold darkness.

At noon Pine Creek was two miles ahead as I looked into a steep descent, a wide canyon and open range of low oaks, almost shrubs, and small juniper trees. Later, well along the trail, I stepped over Walnut Spring, a silent thread of water through a thin blaze of trees, yellow flowers and continued toward Reavis Gap and Pine Creek on Oregon Ed’s recommendation.

Even a blind man could find water there this year,” Ed claimed.

Ed’s van was parked at the Superstition Wilderness Tule trailhead when my sister dropped me off the morning before. She noted the van thickly coated with dust over grey primer with an Oregon license plate and changed her plan to accompany me the first mile or so for fear the van’s owner was lurking inside.
It was just as well Diane stayed behind because I met Ed two miles up the trail that first day. From the start, Ed was too outgoing and his pack more empty than light. He chatted me up on how “blue my shirt was”, seen from above, about his trips from Oregon to Arizona a few times a year, about his claim to be returning from a five day round trip to Tortilla Flats.

Ed’s good news about how the usual springs were flowing was welcome. Then, Ed expected me to give him some water for this information. This expectation of his was irrational, given his reports of good water sources. Plus, Ed was only a few miles from his van showed no physical signs of needing water.
I was to discover, a few hours in the direction he claimed to have walked, a flowing stream.

Ed’s attitude changed upon his spotting my .45 in a tactical holster strapped to my leg. Thirty seconds later he was heading down the trail. I had no water to spare and was relieved I didn’t need to escort Diane back to her car. Maybe Ed was an anti-gun advocate, but my conclusion was he had some lurking to do, back at the van.

While planning this trip I imagined “Reavis Gap” to be a narrow trail between towering peaks. While walking under the water heavy pack I elaborated on this expectation, but coming on the gap I walked through and into the reality of this photograph, taken from a point looking over the gap and down into Two Bar trail. This was the site of my first meeting with “The Searcher.”

North from Reavis Gap

“The Gap” itself is a high, narrow ridge over a 7,000 foot high valley with peaks, ridges and the occasional hoodoo. That rock formation in the mid-distance includes a hoodoo. It was this hoodoo that introduced me to the gap, being what I saw first high above in the distance from Walnut Spring, a silent thread of water through a thin blaze of cottonwood trees and yellow flowers.

Here’s a link to a video I did of a vast field of Wild Oats which covered Reavis Gap that season.

I first saw the “The Searcher” on that high, narrow ridge above Two Bar trail. I guessed he was a mounted park ranger; from the wide brimmed hat he was holding and the loose fitting shirt. From a half mile away his golden brown mount was standing steady, apparently at rest. Walking up that long, moderate grade my feet hurt and the 70+ pound pack, heavy with water, was chafing. Eager to climb the steep ridge ahead, between me and Pine Creek, I passed the signpost marking the juncture of Two Bar and Reavis Ranch trails and headed up that rocky ridge.

The clatter of horse hooves came up behind much sooner than expected. Turning, I came upon the unexpected site of two horses. The mounted stranger was not a park ranger, but a well dressed cowboy on a western saddle, riding a buckskin gelding.

Behind them, on a lead, was a brown and white pinto loaded with panniers.

I was polite and climbed up on the rocks, off the path, to let them by.

Here’s a photograph of these horses, taken a few days later.
“Colorado and Nugget, grazing at Reavis Ranch”

Enjoying the lush grass of the Reavis Ranch apple orchard, Colorado and Nugget graze.

Our chat was brief, but practical and meaningful: where we came from and conditions along the way. The stranger, who I came to call “The Searcher”, inquired about conditions in the very steep bowl behind Two Bar Mountain. He planned to camp overnight and do a Two Bar Mountain daytrip the next day, but would not if the trail was washed out by that spring’s heavy rains.

I replied the trail was obliterated in spots and even though I could pass his horses might not get by. His reply, “If you got up, so can they.” And with that he gave the buckskin a nudge and they were soon out of sight, over the ridge.

Fifteen minutes later this was my view of Pine Creek, a valley of steep sides sloping to a stream of cool water with mountains and sheer cliffs on all sides. Part of The Arizona Trail.

From a vantage point overlooking Reavis Gap tot he north. This is the view of Pine Creek, to the south.

Just before reaching Pine Creek I passed a southeast facing bank sheltering a garden of tufted evening primrose and a member of the crassulaceae family both in flower. The white flower is the primrose and the yellow the crassulaceae. I was so moved by the beauty of this patch, after trekking for seven hours through endless rocks, cactus, juniper and oak, I unloaded my pack and captured this shot. The primrose opens every morning and wilts each evening. That’s why the flower is a bit floppy in this photograph.

The crassulaceae is a succulent, similar to a kalanchoe, with tiny flowers composed of tiny yellow balls.

Pine Creek of the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness hosts this wild Tufted Evening Primrose.

In future chapters you’ll see more of Pine Creek, visit the wilderness apple orchard at Reavis Ranch, learn more about The Searcher and an ancient, circular, rock wall on a peak overlooking Reavis Gap.

Click me for the first post of this series “Racing the Sun.”

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Growth and Beauty

a exploration of logarithmic spirals and symmetry

Growth

An early thought of mine, as a child, was to wonder, “How large does a person grow?” If growth was perpetual, there was no end to how large I will become; yet, tested against observed reality, “Why was it the case this was unlikely?” Years later, when recalling this, I understood my intuition touched upon the logarithmic spiral and mollusk shell.

Three Scallops and One Tallin

Sea Oat stalk, photographed above, after it dries slowly in the sun and wind, curls into a logarithmic spiral. One two dimensional spiral may be compared to another by measuring the rate and direction of opening, the increase in distance between the part closer to the source and the outer swirl. The growth of all shells follow a logarithmic spiral in three dimensions where the progression from a staring plane, as well as the direction, up or down from the plane, is an element.

Sea shells give evidence to my question of “how large can one grow.” The size of each of the millions encountered on a beach is an example of a life ended. Each of record of the length and character of the organism. For example, a close inspection of the bottom shell of the above photograph, a tellin of the family Tellinidae, reveals the spiral is growing toward the surface of the sand. Imagine wrapping your hand around the outer edge of the tellin with your thumb pointed down.

Each of the four shells of the above photograph had a mate, were one of a pair. Types of shells share characteristic pair symmetries. For example, a pair of tellins display a type of asymmetry called chirality, also called “handed-ness” after the same property of your right and left hands. One shell half (from the same individual) is the mirror image of the other, each unbalanced as the growth spirals toward opposite directions.

Asymmetry, halves from different individuals

When I started beachcombing, examining collected shells I did not have a pair from the same individual and incorrectly concluded direction of growth was unique to an individual. The ribbing of the above two shells illustrate three concepts: the logarithmic spiral growth pattern, chirality, as well as how I came to that wrong conclusion: that two individuals can grow in different directions. It was a logical hop to understand how, to make two shells hinged at the source of the growth spiral, each individual requires two halves, each a mirror image of the other. That every member of the species demonstrated the same asymmetry, each half grows in the opposite direction.

Asymmetry, attached matching halves

The above photograph shows attached matching halves. The attachment point was a surprise: the apparent source point is not attached to the ligament joining the halves? I have yet to understand this. Do you?

Beauty

The association of beauty with scallop shells bridges thousands of years. For example, a fresco of the Roman goddess Venus, born from the ocean riding a shell, was unearthed from Pompeii. The living organism is not part of the story, just the shell. Why the scallop? My answer is, “Each half is completely, in itself, symmetrical.”

The top three shells of the first photograph are scallops. The first and last, broken by the waves, are missing parts. The middle scallop, small and off-white, is complete. Place an imaginary line down the center and each side is identical. Applying the real world (i.e., physics) to myth, a scallop shell allows the goddess to move forward in a straight line. Sailing an asymmetrical shell, she moves in an eternal circle.

An object with symmetry is visually complete unto itself, self-contained; functionality aside, one scallop does not required a partner. The paired shells are interesting in they do not match, one is deeper, it encloses more volume. The deeper side rests under the surface, allowing the top halve to present a lower profile the better to hide from predators.

Calico Scallop Shell

The scallop echoes the beauty of Venus. Symmetry enhances human features (earch “Venus (mythology)” for images of her face through the ages), though it does not define beauty. An overly symmetrical face seems strange. I will close with an extreme example, the other day I came upon this beach crab wandering around in the daylight. Symmetry does NOT enhance its features.

Christmas Ornaments 2018 VII

Angels on High

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery

On this Christmas Eve we offer you our sincere wishes for a blessed celebration of your personal holiday tradition.

Click this link for the first post of the “Christmas Ornaments 2018” series.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Christmas Ornaments 2018 VI

The past summer, the first of my retirement, my early morning hours were spent on Ancestry.com researching our family histories to bring this process, started 2013 in preparation for our tour of Ireland, to a point where I can start to consolidate it into a document shared with other family members.

Pam, at the Cobh Heritage Center

It is a wonderful feeling when the pieces come together. For example the passenger manifest when Grandfather McArdle brought Grandmother and then three year old Mom to Quebec, Canada from the port of Belfast April 1926.

Outside the exhibits there was this collection of authentic emigration trunks on a hand cart.
My father’s trunk from the war was stenciled with his name. A. Lett. took such care marking this suitcase, blocking out the black ground for the carefully hand written white letters.

Their belongings are gathered together in just such a manner. My parents marked all my belongings that left the home with me with my name and address.

Our thought were on this when we selected this suitcase marked with the shamrock from a “Christmas Store” along the streets of the Pennsylvania town of Jim Thorpe, as the memory of our ancestors our exploration of Ireland.

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery

Click this link for the first “Christmas Ornaments 2018” post.

Click this link for another post about Cobh, Ireland, “Annie Moore and her Brothers.”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Christmas Ornaments 2018 V

approachable alternate reality

Our Nutcracker wooden figure carries a weight of memories.  Early memories are of my sister, Christina’s Sugar Plum Fairy solo for Saint Aidan Parish talent program, Mom’s appreciation of performance of Swan Lake in her pre-child past, a friend of my Mom was a former dancer who taught Christina ballet.  Hanging quietly, these memories swirl around the Nutcrackers open maw.   

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery.
Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery

Ten years ago we observed New Years Day 2009 in the lobby of Winthrop Medical Center, Mineola, New York waiting for the outcome of Mom’s hip replacement surgery grateful the head of Orthopedics was performing the surgery.  That year saw large changes played out in the last four years of her life, she never returned to her home of 52 years.  

From then on her winters were spent with her daughter Diane in Mesa, Arizona.  Mom would call us, amused at the sight of neighbors walking by in 50 degree weather in winter parkas.  She was well known in Albertson for her habit of walking everywhere, it was fortunate she never needed to learn how to drive a car: all she needed was readily at hand.  

I needed to return to Albertson several times a year to our childhood home.  December 2009, Pam and I melded the trip with a day in New York City.  Memories of Mom’s enjoyment of Swan Lake drew me to purchase tickets for The Nutcracker.  The New York City Ballet has performed The Nutcracker every Christmas season since 1954, when I was one year old.  The 56th performance was our first. 

As with Dante’s version of hell, the David H. Koch Theater has rings.  I sprang for the highest ring, the fourth, the least costly and, optimistically, the best vantage to view the formations of grouped dancers.

A full orchestra is dedicated to each performance, the hall acoustics are fabulous, and we were able to appreciate the scenes, the grouped dancers and, even, the soloists.  The last scene of the first act, the Snowflakes (or Snow Crystals), brought tears to my eyes, the music, the scene was impossibly beautiful and brought back some experiences of mine in winter nature.

We were hooked after that, immersed in the very real (i.e., non-virtual) alternate reality at least two Sunday afternoon performances each year, seeing all Tchaikovsky’s ballets in the style of Balanchine for which the New York Ballet is famous.  For the 59th season of The Nutcracker were brought two granddaughters, took fourth third row orchestra seats.  We marveled at the experience.  It included, during intermission, a photo session with a character from the performance.

Here they are with a Snowflake.  This is a scan of one of the 8 x 10 prints we received from this session.

Click the photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Nia and Gabby with the Nutcracker Ballet character “Snowflake” during the intermission of a December 2012 performance.

 

We planned to share a performance of Swan Lake with Mom during the September 2013 season, in her 90th year.  Mom passed away in her birth month, June, 2013.  

Click this link for the first posting of this series.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Christmas Ornaments 2018 IV

tongues of flame

Carrying on the thoughts on lambency from my last post, “Christmas Ornaments 2018 III”, here is a macro of our Christmas tree.  There is no element of the Christmas celebration so puzzling to outsiders as the practice of sacrificing a beautiful tree, to drag it inside for display, presenting a part of the forest as a sacred object, touched by light or, in earlier times, tongues of fire (candles).

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery.
Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Pam presents me with a Christmas ornament every year and this was the first.  

Stories of the fragrance of holiness, sometimes attributed to the Holy Spirit or Saints, are sprinkled throughout traditional Christianity within personal testimony and scripture as well as in our celebrations and rites as incense.  A character of the freshly cut pine that melds well with this tradition is the unmistakable fragrance of a freshly cut evergreen conifer , reminiscent of the precious, aromatic resin frankincense, one of the gifts to the infant Jesus from the three wise men of the east.  In spite of saving several dozen authentic trees, our artificial conifer has not acquired the sacred fragrance.

The first blown-glass bulbs, such as our large elaborate specimen of the photograph, were produced by heating sand to the melting point, putting a dab on the end of a very long heat resistant pipe.  When encircled by a clay mold, when the pipe is blown into the glass expands to coat with clay with a thin layer of glass.  The addition of silver and other shiny compounds allow the finished product to capture and reflect light.  Each bulb is its own lambent tongue of flame, licked with captive light.

Click this link for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills        

Christmas Ornaments 2018 III

of this world

The attitude of today’s resin figure, alert, vigilant, aware while not exactly at odds with her accoutrements, provide a counter point to the flower banner and crown, a basket of flowers.   

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Click this Photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery.

After publishing my previous post, “Christmas Ornaments 2018 II”, a word that escaped me during that writing came to mind.  Lambent came to mind.  From the Latin meaning “to lick”, used in the sense of “to glow with light”, as in a tongue of flickering flame, a visual analog to the numinous as in halos of the saints such as the “Immaculate Conception” of the first post of this series.

This fairy is entirely, by her dress, of an older version of this world, defiantly hanging on.  Proud of her accomplishments, ready to vanish in a moment.  Doing exactly as she pleases and happy to leave lambency to a fellow traveler, the Christmas Tree. 

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills