Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's that day

Sunrise, Wonder Valley, September 30, 2015
It's that day I've waited for. It's that day in September when I turn off the AC and open the windows and the cool night air tumbles in like a waterfall. The not-quite-closed bedroom door, heartened by the gentlest of desert breezes, kisses the lintel, again and again, as if a long lost friend.

A specter of sweet perfume wends through the room. I've been reading about war time spies Harriett Tubman and Josephine Baker and I imagine this scent to be what remained when they left a room: a scent of bravery, hope, and loveliness. It's an intoxicating scent and my mind flails about to identify any part of it. It's so lovely that I ask myself who the president is. The scent reminds me of an expensive French perfume; the 1960s before Kennedy was killed; optimism; and wealthy great aunts, and my room is infused with it. A rooster crows. I want to stay here all day, and the gods would not blame me.

The surfeit of cool air brings the promise of possibility without recriminations. It's been too hot to do much, and many friends have been away. The cool air means they'll come wandering back and our little desert family will be complete again. Abandoned tasks will be resumed. Trees will be trimmed, trash hauled, windows and doors repainted. We'll cook with heat again -  inside. The cold water tap will run with cold water.

I can cut my hair and wear it down again. No more ponytail headaches. No more looking like a wretched, broke down Palmer Girl.

I really cannot imagine what that smell is. There are only five plants here and none of them smell like that: creosote, mesquite, smoke tree, athel pine and salt bush. It has to be a ghost, there is no other explanation, and no mansplaining scientist will come out this far to prove me wrong. Much remains unexplained out here, species remain unnamed and uncategorized, phenomena remain unexamined. Ghosts and aliens act as seat fillers for absent, soft-bellied experts. Even gods are loathe to come here, and when they do, they don't stay long, preferring to cling to the coasts.

If this were San Francisco, this would be Opening Day on the Bay. We all raise our sails, fill our water ballons, fire up our blenders, and come home covered in salt. 

It's that day.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Singing Saguaros

Singing Cacti for proposed Mine Train Ride at Disneyland, by Marc Davis

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Best Saturday Community Breakfast (and I work the door!)

Saturday, September 5 from 8:00am - 11:00am
Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center
65336 Winters Road, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

INVITE SOMEONE who's never been. <3

Start the month off right with a hearty breakfast and a lot of local color. This all-volunteer monthly event is lovingly created by long-time (and short-time) locals cooking and serving a good homemade breakfast for just $5.00!

Bring a friend, bring several. CMMC First Saturday Pancake Breakfast is the hippest and happeningest place in North Joshua Tree. We're OUT there!

We have outdoor seating, so bring your vices and your dogs as long as you agree to bring your dirty dishes back to the kitchen.

The Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center was started in 1981 and is one of the only privately funded Community Centers in the area. Your breakfast helps the Center doors stay open and the services to the community flowing.

The THRIFT STORE will be open. Bring a bag for a cheap treasure hunt.

How you can tell that it rained

We were away during this last rain, visiting friends out of town, trying to get a little break from the summer heat. It was easy to tell that it had rained, though. It was also easy to tell that no one but us had been here.

I've heard many stories of people tracking their stolen goods to the home of the thieves that took them, and after showing said thieves their business card (a golf club), bringing all their belonging back home.

When it rains, the sand lifts up, and then it crunches back down when you step on it, compressing it again. The picture above is of my footprint. From father away, it's easier to see, like the tire tracks in the driveway. Either that, or I've just gotten much better at tracking.

Dr. Nicole Pietrasiak, of John Carrol University, an expert in soil crusts, told me this lifting after rain is probably due to air displacement. As the water soaks into the soil, air is displaced, bubbling to the surface, moving and lifting the pieces of sand.

There seems to be, however, a slight cohesion between the pieces of sand and I wonder if it is due to the briefest resurrection of blue-green algae in the soil. Wonder Valley is Aeolian, formed by wind, so the soil is not stable enough to build proper soil crusts.

Blue-green algae will form microbial communities under white quartz rocks. Dr Pietrasiak told me the water is trapped. Sun shines through the quartz creating a greenhouse. This is why you often find sediment clinging to the underside of white quartz in the desert. If you knock this off you'll often find green microbial material clinging to the quartz.

See: Why haven't I heard about this before - it's like I was born under a rock!

But, I digress.

A snake track across the sand. I believe the tracks to the right are jack rabbit, not necessarily concurrent.
The coolest thing is that the rain creates a sort of tabula rasa, a blank slate, and reading the desert becomes much easier. As I walked around the property I found this: a snake trail from my neighbor's' house (they have water available) to a creosote village near my garage. The track is about one inch wide so it is not a small snake.

This type of motion is rectilinear, and is favored by rattlesnakes, but also boas, gopher snakes, and other large-bodies snakes. I haven't seen a single snake this year, though I've kept a careful eye out.

This phenomena of the sand rising after a rain is exploited by people who want to find out if someone has been sneaking around their house or property. They get the hose out, spray the sand, and when it dries it's ready to record new foot prints. Conversely, weekenders and snowbirds often pay people to "lay tracks" after a storm so that their places look lived in and thieves stay away.

It''s that time of year again

It hasn't been 120, that I know of, but our neighbor said it was 117 at his place last week. It been over 110 for some time and the humidity has made the heat deadly. It's the unrelenting nature of the heat that gets to me. It's between six and eight weeks around July through September. August is the worst.

We have air conditioning in one large room but I still feel imprisoned. The curtains are drawn because even with double pane E3 windows, the sun beats through. I tire of the ceaseless hum of the AC and the fans, my dry eyes and mouth, the dehydration headaches, drinking liter after liter of water.

Monday was nice in the morning. It wasn't cool, but it wasn't hot yet either and there was a breeze. It made me sense that fall was right around the corner and I immediately started inventorying the tasks I'd work on when the weather broke.

This is the tail end of yesterday's sunrise. It was all florid oranges and reds a few minutes before but I preferred this in its silvery blues.

So, anyway, my posting may be a little spotty for awhile until the heat subsides. I do the best I can but sometimes it's just too hot to do much.