Monday, June 30, 2014

Palms Sunday

This weekend was a bit of a whirlwind. We're trying to purchase a second property in the desert, in Wonder Valley, and so had to stay in Los Angeles Saturday morning to tend to details. We arrived at the CopperMountain Mesa Community Association potluck shortly after 4:00 p.m. to a lovely spread. It was great to see everyone AND it was insufferably hot. My cucumber salad was a flop but Ken's German potato salad was a hit. It’s twelve kinds of delicious - makes me want to throw in the towel, as far as cooking is concerned.

We drove home around 5:30 p.m. as the sun began to lose its grip on the neck of the landscape and the heat began to relent.

Our neighbor, Michael, came by and brought a spare evaporative cooler. He and Ken tinkered with it until they got it back in working order. Michael had watered our trees while we were gone and composted them with horse manure.

We'd caged one of our two jojobas last week. This week the other, uncaged, was practically denuded by rabbits, so we took the cage off a dead Apache plume (encelia farinosa) and put it over the stripped jojoba. I had to put a top on the cage of our desert grape. It looks like the birds may have gotten in to nibble at its leaves. Our two desert willows are thriving, but our desert peaches are having a difficult time clinging to life.
After Michael left we pulled the chairs out onto the north patio and watched the sun set. It was unspectacular as there were no clouds in the sky, but still the "assent of dark air"* over the mountain is always relaxing and I took the photo above - larrea (creosote) blowing in the wind at sunset.

The next morning we did a few chores, then drove to the Palms in Wonder Valley to meet our new dear friends, Annelies and Jim, for breakfast. Our 14th anniversary was the next day so we brought a bottle of champagne.

Laurel and Frank were there from the Glass Outhouse Gallery, and I got to meet Leslie Mariah Andrews, a charming local musician and artist I'd heard so much about. Ben Vaughn, a music curator we usually listen to on our drive back to LA, came in and we got to meet him and hang out. Kip was there and he introduced us to artist Andrea Zittel who flitted in all fresh and powdered like an air-conditioned angel. The lovely Laura Sibley made us breakfast and served it on plates with hearts in the center for our anniversary.

Sunday breakfast at the Palms has become so special to us. It's probably what church aspires to, but I've never left a church feeling so well fed - body and soul.

Annelies and Jim dropped by the cabin a little later and Jim brought shade cloth for my last-gasping peach trees. The bolt was desert beige. We cut two pieces and I sewed up the sides and slipped them over the cages flopping the tops inward. My hope is the break in the sun will give them a chance to grow.

Ken was moved by the generosity and ingenuity of our neighbors who are always there to help when we need them. In both cases - with the swamp cooler and the shade cloth, the solutions were far superior than what we could have come up with from a trip to Home Depot. It's wonderful to see how people pull together in such a harsh environment. Maybe needs are amplified and easier to identify in a landscape that offers few distractions. Maybe with commercial services being so far away people have the chance to step in and shine. Living without conveniences has made me appreciate people more.

No animal sightings. I’m still on the lookout in the cool parts of the day for tortoises and snakes and tarantulas, but nothing this weekend.
* Ken gifted me with Flann O'Brien's image of "dark air" from the book At Swm Two Birds.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Musings on Creosote

In our little pocket of the Copper Mountain Mesa of Joshua Tree, California, our dominant plants are larrea tridentata (creosote) and ambrosia dumosa (white bursage). In addition to these we have, in much smaller numbers, hillaria rigida (big galleta grass), bladderpod, apricot mallow, various cholla, beavertail cactus and in the spring, desert lupine. That’s about it except for the area natives that we’ve planted. (I can type the names ambrosia dumosa and hilaria rigida from memory because they would make great, albeit nerdy, stripper names.)

I’m very fond of the creosote trees. Our house is ringed with about a dozen lovely deep green specimens, and beyond this ring exist the smaller and yellowed foot soldiers that populate the mesa floor. Creosote trees that ring houses and edge the roadways, on sandy banks, and other areas disturbed by humans, thrive and seem to respond to the human need to observe and describe. They offer in big print and simple pictures the processes the plants employ to survive in an arid and ovenish environment.

When I first laid eyes upon the mesa I saw a wasteland of indistinguishable and oversized weeds, acres and hectares of creosote, a plant no one cared enough about to give a better name. I thought there must be many species of creosote because I noticed that two trees next to each other could look completely different. Still today, knowing as I do that there is only one species in the Mojave, I swear that near our cabin, one tree among all the others testifies to there once being a red-headed mailman who rode his pony out this far. It doesn’t look like any of the other plants. It looks like another species entirely.

The first larrea tree that I loved I named Terpsichore, after the muse of dance. She is about 12 feet tall and has three main branches with many lacy fingers that reach up and sway and frame the sunrise. I love her most because she taught me that larreas share with cats the ability to extract from sameness a limitless variety of personalities. Of course I realize that in saying such things I am applying human conceits to something that exists in nature, that existed before me and will exist after me, swallowing up my observations, with no care as to whether I call it creosote or larrea or shoegoi. But this is how we humans understand, by mapping to the vagaries of nature and creating analogies, and if this analogous imagining can prevent the blading of one acre of mesa then the mapping, however poor and limited and inaccurate, will have been worth it.

Terpsichore at dawn
Terpsichore digs swales beneath her canopy which makes her a permaculturalist. Her broken and fallen outer branches, alive or dead, are raked back and forth across the ground, day after day by the fierce winds that rip across the mesa. The tiniest and most delicate branch can dig a swale four inches or more across, a foot or more in length and three inches or more in depth. In the dry season these swales catch seeds attracting small animals and insects, acting as feeding troughs. Some of these animals tunnel through the softer earth in the swale – where the desert crust has already been broken. In the wet seasons the swales draw water off the washes and stringers and divert it to the roots of the plant. Seriously ingenious.

Notice the little branch in the front left that curves back up into a sprig of leaves.
This little branch dug this swale.
One of my other favorite larreas I’ve named Melpomene, for the muse of tragedy. She has an upright aspect but each branch takes a circuitous route, creating elegant and graceful curves and their generous spacing creates an almost diaphanous affect. The branches reach up to the sky dramatically and because they are so thin they curve back downwards under the weight of their trichomes, which hang and sway like pearl earrings. Because her aspect is upright she cannot hold the detritus that would build community beneath her roots and nourish her. She has no hips – she springs from flat ground scrubbed clean by wind and sand. Recently, though, I noticed a fair-sized hole beneath her, about three inches across, housing some kind of creature with powerful hind legs that kicked the dirt out in a mound behind it.

Melpomene and her new tenant (right)
Some people theorize that the mounds, the hips, on which many creosote sit are caused by the wind blowing sand up against the crown. I might accept that but the wind on the mesa comes mostly from the west, so if that were the explanation the mounds would be larger on that side and in actuality they are very even all around. I believe that in addition to the wind the mounds are caused by animals that dig down among the roots of the larrea, pushing dirt up under the canopy. You can see this process beginning here with Melpomene. If the burrowing becomes a trend her outer branches, aided by the inevitable spitting of her crown, will be undermined and they will drop, remaining either alive or dying and in either case catching and holding organic materials blown across the desert, and providing cover to small animals who will shelter under them, leaving offerings of their own and perhaps digging more burrows to catch and hold more water when it comes.

Notice the rise of dirt kicked out in front of the hole,
and animal droppings and other detritus directed into the hole.
I have named the following larrea Cleo, after the muse of history. You can see that though her aspect is horizontal, her outer branches have dropped and her central branches are beginning to grow upwards. Cleo is a favorite of the house finches, being closest to their nest. The finches have removed the bark from some of her branches leaving them to whiten in the sun. Cleo has many snags that serve as perches for the finches who gather and consume her seeds. I wonder if this whitening of the branches allows the finches access to her seeds without getting oil and soap from the leaves of living branches on their feathers. Or perhaps I’m wrong and the transferred oil and soap protect or serve the finches in some way.

The lower branches are the deepest green. These are newer leaves, saturated with the strong chemicals that discourage the browsing of hungry rabbits and previously sheep, cattle, burros and others. When animals do eat creosote, which is not often, they prefer the upper leaves in which the concentrations of chemicals has dissipated. Because of the lower branches, the upper remain out of reach to small animals. The upper branches bear the flowers and seeds available to the bees and birds, and later when they fall, the ants who will take the seeds deep into the earth.

The branch stripped bare by her finches
These are just some of the things I’ve noticed about larrea trees, which I imagine more as communities than as independent plants. And now, when I look across this arid forest I can distinguish the plants, one from another, and spot aberrations that make me wonder about their purpose and marvel at their effect. I consider adaptive processes that I map back to my own human life and community in this unique and demanding environment.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Larrea tridentata trichomes

I haven't posted on the Larrea Tridentata (creosote) lately and would hate for you to think I'm waning in my enthusiasm. I took the photo below off the back porch. There was a small, accidental depression in the sand in which a small gang of creosote trichomes were congregating.

After the petals fall from the larrea flower, the seed develops, covered with a fine feathering of bright white hair, something like a pussy willow. In the rising or setting sun the seeds glow like small crystals.

Finches eat the seeds, and other animals eat the seeds, surely. But a good many fall to the ground and these roll on the stiff hairs across the desert floor catching in depressions such as this, that the wind might cover with sand, leading to germination.

Last weekend I watched big black ants try to carry larrea trichomes to their dens. It was very windy and they'd tumble backwards hanging onto their quarry for dear life, and turn around to try again. I don't know what they use the trichomes for - food or something else but all the ants were carrying them. Again, the trichomes are buried in the sandy soil by the ants, where they can wait for water that will bring them to life.

The larrea has a complex relationship with the flora and auna of the desert, and with the desert itself. It is a village elder, sheltering, feeding, working with the other denizens for mutual survival.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pride of place

We arrived at Far North Joshua Tree late Friday night, opened up all the windows and doors to air out the cabin and let the cool air in. A full honey moon lit the sand around the cabin, making the broken glass scattered throughout sparkle like diamonds. We fell into a fast sleep.

Saturday we woke, made coffee, started slow. At 10:00 a.m. we drove over to the Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center for the Association board meeting. It was pretty typical of board meetings but I did walk away with a new sense of ownership of the community center, having paid my dues and being a member. Ken struck up a conversation with an old timer and got lost in the history of the mesa. I was asked to wait tables at the next pancake breakfast and though I declined I’m reconsidering. Maybe my poor old knees could handle one hour. I waited tables for 15 years and it was my all time favorite job, being, I suppose, an introverted people person, if that makes any kind of sense. So I have to remember to call Steve Tuttle back and tell him that I will.

My favorite decision of the board was to turn off the flood light at the fire station next door next to the community center. I know almost all of the surrounding night lights by heart and that one is so bright that it lights our cabin interior from two blocks away. I’m a fan of the Dark Sky Association and being able to see the stars,the Milky Way, and other heavenly bodies at night.

Another issue concerned outreach to seniors and veterans. Every weekend I read the Sheriff's Calls section of the local paper. This week there were at least four calls related to people wanting to kill themselves - not that this is related in particular to seniors and veterans. But this is a rural area and some people come out here to be left alone, but not always THAT alone. Vulnerable populations need outreach and sometimes just plain practical help - a ride to the store, or someone to talk to.

I introduced myself to a mother and daughter - members of the Center - and had to explain that for now Ken and I are "weekenders." The daughter made a negative comment about weekenders and I asked what that was about. She said a couple of them moved in next to them and tried to tell them how to live in the desert, and that they go out of their way to not wave to them when they pass by. (Waving is a thing out here, you have to wave.) I assured her that we’d never dream of telling them how to live in the desert and that we always wave.

The conversation made me think of a post on other desert cities that I'd read at another blog, a post that managed to be both presumptuous and condescending. Though this is about Twenty-nine Palms it speaks to the attitudes that some people pack out here and are unable to shed.
Further west, we came to Twentynine Palms, California. Twentynine Palms is a terrifying town full of chain stores, real estate agencies and massage parlors. It sits just south of the USMC Air Ground Combat Center, and I will tell you that I did not see a single adult male there who was not sporting a high-and-tight and a hostile glare. USMC tattoos were more usual than the lack of them. There was an air of barely controlled aggression in that town… it was a place that I’m not sure I would’ve felt safe in. -- I'll Explain Later
We go to the movies at Smith's Ranch Drive-In Theater in Twenty-nine Palms about once a month and stand in line at the snack bar with Marines and their children and we chat and joke around while waiting for our popcorn. Marines are not scary. They are people of integrity and I love sharing the desert with them. It helps that both Ken's father and mother were Marines, but it doesn't take a big brain to realize that assumptions will get you nowhere in the desert. Best leave them back at Interstate.

We invited some of our new friends over to the cabin for a pre-Joshua Tree PRIDE mini-bash and then drove to Yucca Valley for supplies. Four neighbors, Annelies, Jim, Kip and Gloria stopped by and we drank Malibu rum and pineapple juice in the shade on the east side of the cabin. Kip brought delicious homemade guacamole. Later we piled into cars and drove the twenty minutes to town.

Joshua Tree PRIDE was great. We took our folding chairs to the stage area and found friend to sit with. I especially loved this stacked tire treatment that looked oh-so-very Chanel.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert-style stage, complete with a background bus
The stage was beautiful – colorful, sparkley, cheerful and professionally homemade. The first act we heard was Shari Elf and her friends, of the Crochet Museum fame. She was fetching and her enthusiasm was infectious.
The captivating Shari Elf in a one-of-a-kind Fashion Risk creation
Next came the Sibleys. Laura’s mic was on the fritz so they had trouble but shined nonetheless.

Denise and Michael Myers had a booth for their church, Oneness Ministries, and animal rescue. They plan to board the pets of deployed Marines so that they have something to come back to when they return from overseas. They had a good day, met a lot of people and received lots of donations for their projects. The trees we planted last week were much the better for Michael coming by and watering them while we were gone. We're very grateful for good neighbors.

Michael Myers at Oneness Ministries
Comedian Julie Goldman kept the crowd in stitches, and the crowd loved her song Wear Your Pussy As a Hat, though I think she did scandalize a few children with her comments about using babies to fuel her SUV. A small gaggle of tots occupied the dance area at the beginning of the show, troubled an ant hill, built conceptual earth art, and danced exuberantly.

Ken was smitten by Jesika von Rabbit but I had succumbed to an introvert shut down, so just barely heard them. I came out of it in time to see the Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics act of Zircon and Wish Aerial Circus, stunning in the balmy desert night.
Our new friends, Annelise and Jim.
We hurried home around 9:45 p.m. to watch the InternationalSpace Station cross the night sky. The neighbors were having a party in a Quonset hut aglow across the mesa. The music wafted over and served as a backdrop to the small point of light - the ISS - that wandered for a minute and then faded into the darkness.

Sunday morning we drove to the Palms for breakfast and hung out with Laurel and Frank of the Glass Outhouse Gallery, Annelies and Jim, the lovely and adorable Sibleys and Kip (who one day deserves a post of his own). 

Here's another comment that tickled my fancy from the good people at I'll Explain Later,
Really, Wonder Valley stands out in my mind as a silhouette of lost innocence. People moved here to escape regulation, to leave city life behind and make their own way, but in Wonder Valley, that dream hangs in tatters...
There was a diner along the highway that looked like a promising hamburger possibility… but it was closed. Beyond the fence, behind the restaurant and the massive AC unit that accompanied it, stood a guillotine.
Yep. There is a guillotine back of the Palms, a prop for a Sibleys' song  Can I borrow your guillotine? And, by the way, it's an evaporative cooler - not an AC. There. Take that!

Our bill came to $16 and change - for 2 bloody marys, 2 vodka grapefruits and 2 breakfasts. We can't afford NOT to eat at the Palms.

We drove home, finished building the drawers for our IKEA bed and table and started to hang the new drapes but discovered IKEA didn’t include screws for the fixtures. What’s up with that, IKEA?! A nap, another watering and back to L.A.

We left via Aberdeen and at Ancient Woman Springs Road were surprised by Andrew Roger’s Rhythms of Life sculpture on the mountainside. What a nice end to another great weekend!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Prescription for desert life

There's a Luckie Park in Twentynine Palms - a little patch of green with a swimming pool in the middle of the sandy town. You realize the park must honor someone named "Luckie," probably someone from the 50s or 60s, probably pictured in a simply framed, low contrast, black and white photograph just inside the door of the pool house.

If you're fortunate, you'll find out something more about Dr. James Buckner Luckie.

He served in World War I and had a medical practice in Pasadena. He served a lot of veterans who returned form WWI with asthma, TB, lungs damaged from mustard gas and nerves destroyed from warfare. Back then they were referred to as "shell shocked." Now we call their malady PTSD. After the war the government sent Southern California veterans to the VA hospital near the ocean, and they did not get better.

Dr. Luckie traveled around California looking for a place where his veteran patients could heal and live their lives as freely as possible. When he arrived at the Oasis of Mara (now Twentynine Palms) he knew he'd found the place he was looking for. The elevation, the dry air, the peacefulness all contributed to the health of his patients.

He later wrote his thoughts in this note to the author of Sand in My Shoes, Helen Bagley.

From Dr, James B. Luckie.

The prescription reads, "The thought that came to me when I first saw the valley, 'If scenes like these thy heart can share, Then bide a welcome pilgrim here.'" Dr. James B. Luckie *

During Dr. Luckie's career he sent hundreds of suffering young men to the desert and many of them stayed and built a life for themselves. He wrote that if there were ever a monument built to him he wanted these lines from Mozart's The Magic Flute to grace it:

Here far from noise and turmoil
May brotherly love prevail.

It's difficult for me to write of the people here. The desert is full of secrets and those entrusted to me I will not share. I will not betray my friends by writing about them even in generalities. But I can write about myself. Never have I felt so able to be myself in any place, among any other people. Never have I been the recipient of such lavish generosity. Never have I felt so inclined to give.

I feel a swell of understanding and affinity when I read Dr. Luckie's words. I feel I know exactly what he meant and I feel fortunate to step into, along with others who live here, the continuing line of his legacy.

Should you have what it takes to live in the Mojave: the ability to withstand the elements, the crazy insects and snakes, the bombing in the nearby hills, the dirt roads, the tenuous utilities, the vast and looming space, the inky and still darkness, and the ability to take people as they are, you will in time, become the recipients of desert's secrets, too.

Dr. James B, Luckie, in full color.
A short history of Dr. James B. Luckie.

* Song. From B. Beresford

Trees of life

We now have 12 trees at Saturn Sands. (See the list below.) We decided to splurge last weekend and buy a few larger trees in 5 gallon pots at Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley. We bought a palo verde, a mesquite and an ironwood - all previously on our list, and with which we fell in love immediately.

Before we put the palo verde in the ground a host of bees descended upon its flowers, but not the usual honeybees. These were a slightly larger, sort of olive drab bee that I later recognized as centris pallida, a digger bee.

We had rented a truck for this weekend's errands. We drove to 29 Palms to pick up the metal base for the cast iron sink we bought from our neighbors. Later in the day we drove to Builder's Supply in Yucca Valley and bought lumber, concrete and fasteners for a U-shaped enclosure/sun/wind block going up on the west side of the house. We'll put our outdoor propane shower there and our composting toilets - at least until we build a proper bath house. Then we'll take the panels off the enclosure and it will become a garden cage/green house.

After dropping off the load of wood, we drove back through Yucca to pick up the trees. We had planned to join our new friends Annelies and Jim at the fifth anniversary of the Glass Outhouse, but we were too pooped. So we met them instead the next morning for breakfast at the Palms and immediately regretted foregoing the party, from which everyone was recovering. We took some of Ken's ribs to the Palms with us, which he'd rubbed from his own recipe, and passed them out to Annelise and Jim, and the Sibleys. I introduced myself to the woman sitting next to me who happened to be Laurel, who owns the Glass Outhouse and we gave her a rib, too. She was very inspiring and both Annelise and I promised ourselves we'd pull out artwork to submit in the fall.

After breakfast Laura Sibley took us on a tour of their greenhouse. We walked through the patio, past the guillotine (there really IS one), the stage, the giant pinwheels, an abandoned outdoor bowling graveyard and finally arrived at the fiberglass greenhouse and the goats.

After that Ken and Annelies walked over to Wonderland Books across the street while Jim and I waited in the bar. Annelies donated a copy of her book, Kenya Cowgirl, to the store. She gave me a copy recently because I couldn't afford to buy it at Amazon, where it sells for $2,420.43. Go figure!

It was an amazing morning. I love my new friends. What I think I love most about living in the desert are the endless possibilities. No one out here says no. They're all, "Go for it! Try it!" and "How can I help?"

Trees we've planted this year.
2 desert peach (1 died)
2 desert willow
1 desert soapberry
1 mystery tree (died)
2 jojoba (1 died)
2 pomegranate
1 palo verde
1 mesquite
1 ironwood

Trees we want to plant in the fall.
Big Shade - Canopy
  • Carob
  • Mimosa
  • Chinese Elm
  • Pistachio
  • Persian Mullberry
  • Jujube
  • Sea Buckthorn (sold only in the spring)
  • Goji
  • Catsclaw Acacia
For the hell of it
  • Manzanita (from  Theodore Payne - waiting to go in)
  • Shoestring Acacia

Monday, June 2, 2014

Friday night lights

We left Los Angeles around 9:00 p.m. on Friday, taking the 10 east to the 62 and then on to our cabin in Far North Joshua Tree. I don’t like traveling on Friday night as people drive erratically, having just gotten off work, or having just finished eating dinner, or impressing a female and succeeding or failing at that, or testing the margins of their vehicles’ performance. We end up dropping back in traffic from time to time to let the testosterone-fueled weave and speed past us.

Shortly before we left Los Angeles, around 8:30, Jimmie Fisher stepped out onto Railroad Avenue, a frontage road near Cabazon, and was hit by a car. His body was flung across the street. A man driving a truck stopped to see why the other car had stopped and his truck hit Fisher again, and then sped away. The California Highway patrol arrived and closed the road.

A news article reports that Fisher was jaywalking, but he was about 2000 feet or more from the closest crosswalk in a particularly pedestrian-unfriendly section of Cabazon. He was walking in the desert on a frontage road between the 10 Freeway and the railroad. There’s not much out there on that side of the freeway: a couple of old farmhouses, a failed subdivision reclaimed by the desert, the Arrowhead water factory and the Morongo Indian Reservation.

We didn’t know about Jimmie Fisher yet. We kept driving east.

Traffic slowed just past Etiwanda and I could see red and blue flashing lights ahead. An ambulance sped past us, and shortly after that a fire truck. As we drove past I looked away from the accident. I grow more tenderhearted as I age and my curiosity takes a back seat to my desire to prevent distressing images from claiming permanent residence in my head. Ken told me one car was on its side and someone was still inside.

We drove on. We passed the Morongo Casino, that looming monolith with its garish and pulsating cyclopean eye, about 10:30. About a mile later, across the freeway from the giant shotcrete dinosaurs, I saw red and blue flashing lights on the frontage road to the right and about 15 feet below the freeway. The California Highway Patrol was there. It didn’t look like a fresh accident, and in fact, I found out later that the accident happened two hours before. I thought, as I looked down, that I might see a car being towed off the road, or two cars entangled, but what I saw was much worse. I saw a man lying face up, on the ground, alone in the middle of the road in a pool of light. Nothing and no one was near him. The patrol cars and patrolmen were all about 50 feet away and busied. There was no mistaking that the man was dead. He was broken and crushed and bloodied. I caught just the quickest glimpse and then whipped my head away and told Ken what I saw.

“Oh, God! I saw a dead man on the road! Why don’t they cover him up?”

Jimmie Fisher laid out on Railroad Avenue for more than two hours without cover, for anyone driving by to see. I doubt it is the policy of the CHP to leave dead bodies exposed, to not cover them up, so my second question, after “Why don’t they cover him up?,” was “Who was Jimmie Fisher?” that the CHP felt him undeserving of the decency of cover? Was he homeless? Was he walking to the reservation? Why was he out walking alone in the desert at night?

It was an awful thing to see. It caught me in the gut, and I kept returning to the memory, the vision, again and again as if in returning I might discover something I could do to undo what had been done. But as I was pulled back throughout the evening to what I had seen, and through the following day, the vision began to fragment. I wondered if I had imagined it - my glance being so brief. The picture of the man began to disintegrate and the vision faded and was replaced with the words, the symbols: broken, crushed, bloodied, and my mind was increasingly spared the sight of the dead man.

We drove on. turning off onto the 62 and arrived at our cabin around 11:15 p.m. We drove the last two miles on bumpy dirt roads, and then turned up our bumpy dirt driveway. After we unpacked the car we pulled chairs out onto the porch and turned off all the lights. A warm, comforting wind grazed our shoulders as we looked up at the Milky Way. I couldn't help but wonder if Jimmie Fisher was still on his back, face up to the same stars, or if he had finally been given cover from the night.