The air was dry–bone-dust drifting on a desert draft. A storm was coming, you just couldn’t see it yet.
I could hear an engine–distant but closing. The angry sound broke a stillness the desert was reluctant to give up.
A Border Patrol agent looked like he was cruising main on Saturday night, one hand on the wheel and one arm out the window–low and slow, The mud caked SUV stopped rolling and a red dust cloud wafted across the sun.
“What you boys doin’ out here?”
Grit ground in my teeth and I spat. “Taking pictures.” I held up my camera.
“Nice night for it,” he said. The sun was setting, but it wasn’t night yet. “Best be careful.”
The way he said it, I wondered if I should call my attorney. I nodded, not agreeing, just nodding.
“Ghosts,” he said, shaking his head like I knew what he was talking about, “don’t leave no tracks.” He looked down at the dirt and I couldn’t see his eyes. “They like to cross the border after dark.”
He continued to study the sandy ground for a long moment. Then he looked up. Our eyes met.
“Watch yourselves,” he said.
A coyote howled in the distance.
“Ghosts,” he said again. He tipped his hat and the SUV lurched forward. Tire tracks appeared where tires used to be and a new dust cloud buried their trail.
As the SUV disappeared into the desert, the sun touched a mountain and set the sky on fire. Quiet fell on falling dust.
My friend came out of the brush with his camera and tripod.
“What was that about?”
I thought I knew, but I wasn’t sure. I could hear movement in the brush. Footsteps, maybe.
“Ghosts.” I Pressed the cable release on my camera. The mirror popped up and the shutter opened. The sound was louder than I remembered. “They like to cross the border after dark.”
Lightning flashed on the horizon. The sound of a distant jet called from above. The coyote howled again.
We stayed there taking pictures until long after the light was gone.
Desert grasses and rock monuments catch the late afternoon in the Arizona desert not far from the Salt River.
The painted Arizona desert.
Arizona sunset near Marana, Arizona.
A crescent moon rises after sunset over the Arizona desert.
The sun sets over a cilantro farm on the Pima-Maricopa reservation.
Evening breezes waft the aromatic scents of cilantro across the valley as the sunsets on the Pima-Maricopa reservation.
Arizona highway? Jost a dirt road in the desert.
Painted mountain sunset in the Arizona desert near Marana.
Saguaro lake on the Salt River, Arizona.
Saguaro lake on the Salt River, Arizona.
A saguaro cactus stands tall in the Arizona desert.
Saguaro cactus populate the painted Arizona desert.
A saguaro cactus stands tall in the Arizona desert.
I lived in New England for two years. My first winter was spent in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, my second winter in Maine. Both winters were brutal. I was cold all the time. Nor’easters or down’easters were common. I survived the blizzard of ’78. One storm was so bad we couldn’t open our apartment door because the snow drifts were too high. We had to climb out the window and dig out the snow so we could open the door. Another time, we lost power for days because the ice storms had stripped the power lines and trees. The damage was horrific. But the world was sparklingly beautiful. It was during this time that I fell in love with the poetry of Robert Frost. His words evoke imagery and meaning with powerful poetic device which transcends place.
I no longer live in the east. Yet the seemingly simple home spun lessons of the New England poet stay with me. The words resonate in my western surroundings in spite of their New England sensibilities. Frost’s poetic imagery transcends time and place. The inspiration I found in the New England woods is also to be found in the Wasatch Mountains.
STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING
by Robert Frost (an extract)
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow…
…The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
by Robert Frost (an extract)
…He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours”…
I try to live in the moment, as much as possible; yet, many of the moments I live in become memories and the moments are gone. I would like to hold some of those moments and return to them often. Other moments, I am glad, have become memories. Some memories I would like to fade, except that I learned much in those moments and the experience shaped my life. Still other moments have faded and only return with sense memory–the smell of baking bread, the metallic taste of anesthesia, a favorite song, a familiar breeze, a majestic sunset or the troubled sleep of repeated dreams.
I haven’t been good at capturing them. Often, when I try, the moment is lost.
Nevertheless, I thought I would share my top ten list of Moments from 2015, at least, the ones I captured. Be sure and check out the hyper-links to past blogs.
10. Western Caribbean Cruise
Anytime my wife and I can get away, it’s a good moment.
In January we went on a Western Caribbean cruise–Mexico, Belize and Honduras.
I never thought I would enjoy cruising; however, I was pleasantly surprised. The food was good. The company was friendly. The entertainment was fun. The weather was great. The water was warm. The snorkeling was incredible. And, we explored ancient Mayan ruins. Cool.
I grew up in Seattle. I love the city. I love the scenery. I don’t like the rain.
When I was growing up, my parents used to tell people who were coming to visit that if you wanted to see the sun you should come to the city during the last week of July or the first week of August. It rains the rest of the year. Now, my son and his wife live in Seattle. We came for a visit–the last week of July, along with everyone else. It was fun and crowded.
Seafair week is amazing. It took us three days to get home flying standby. Next time we’ll buy tickets.
Located in South-central Utah, Capitol Reef National Park is a geologic wonder. We spent a night and a day in the park this summer. It was transformative. It would be hard to visit the park and not be changed in some way. However, the change may be so subtle that you won’t notice it for a millennium.
Anne and I spent a week in Aruba. It wasn’t enough. I now know why the Beach Boys sing about it. If you have a chance to visit the friendly Friendly Island, don’t miss it. You will create some amazing moments.
In August, my first full-length novel, Death Comes at Night, was published by Black Rose Writing. It was a challenging and rewarding process. I would get up early and write from 5:30 am to 6:30 am. My goal was to write at least one page per day. It took me about a year-and-a-half to write the book. It took longer to get it published.
You can buy the book online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Check out my book Facebook page. Buy my book, PLEASE. If you do, I’ll sign your copy next time we meet. And, if you like it, I will write more 🙂
My daughter Carrie graduated from the University of LaVerne with her bachelor’s degree. I am so proud of her effort and accomplishment. She finished her degree while working full-time, getting married and having a baby. Congratulations, Carrie.
3. Chloe Graduates from High School and goes to College
My youngest daughter Chloe graduated from Lone Peak High School this year. She is a bright and talented young woman. I’m so proud of her. She started college at Brigham Young University this fall with a scholarship.
The downside is that she no longer lives at home. The upside is that she often comes home to eat and do laundry.
My son Ryan, the one who lives in Seattle, was married in the Portland, Oregon LDS Temple in the spring of this year to Sheri Dougall. We are thrilled for them both. They are a wonderful couple. We love Sheri and welcome her to our family.
I have been an athlete all my life. I make an effort to stay in shape. So, when I started getting light headed during cardio workouts, I went in for a physical. The doctors thought I may have a clogged artery. They ran some tests. My arteries were clear and my heart was strong, it just wasn’t beating right. They thought they could fix it.
No such luck. Instead, they installed a cardioverter defibrillator. It’s kinda like having a combination insurance policy and time bomb in my chest all the time. It keeps my heart from going too slow. If my heart beats too fast, and out of sync for too long I get shocked.
I have to admit, I don’t like it. I can feel it all the time. I went to the heart Doc last week for a checkup. It is doing it’s job. I’m not. I need to change my lifestyle. I don’t want too, but I guess my life depends on it.
So, my number one moment of 2015 has to be my heart surgery, even though I was asleep for it. I do remember the before, and I look forward to living the after.
I enjoy the four seasons, I really do, especially Vivaldi’s. When it comes to the weather, I like it warm. Hot. Rarely is it ever too hot. I live in Utah. This week, Thanksgiving week, it is supposed to snow. Don’t get me wrong, I like snow. I even like to shovel snow. I just don’t like the cold that comes with the snow. I would enjoy the four seasons more in Aruba, where the average high temperature in November is 86ºƒ and the low temperature is 71ºƒ. Gentle breezes blow all year round and the temperature never varies by more than a few degrees.
I’ve been to Aruba.
I want to go back.
As our family gathers for the holidays, I give thanks for the warmth of home, family, food and abundant blessings. However, as the snow begins to fly, I will turn my electric blanket up and dream of warm Caribbean waters, tropical breezes and the white sands of Aruba. And, I will return, at least in my blog.
Pleasant shade trees abound on Rodgers Beach, Aruba.
The cool sand feels great at sunset in Aruba.
A couple watch the sunset at Palm Beach, Aruba.
A couple stroll along the beach in Aruba.
Anne sitting in a beach chair at Palm Beach, Aruba.
Consistent winds bend Arubian palms trees all year round.
At the southern tip of the island, Baby Beach has a number of pleasant palapas for shade.
Sunset at Palm Beach, Aruba.
The souther tip of Aruba features some deserted but rugged beaches.
A cool drink in the hot sun is never too far away in Aruba.
The sands of time seem to stop while relaxing in Aruba.
Fresh water showers have surfboard style in Aruba.
Come sail away…
Strong surf carves numerous rock bridges on the south shore of Aruba.
A secluded cove makes for a nice place to relax on the south side of the island.
I believe we are brothers and sisters, all of us, sons and daughters of a loving Father in Heaven. I have not yet been to every country, but, I have been to every continent. I have found that kindness, love and compassion unite us regardless of political or religious belief. We are, all of us, one family.
So, when events transpire like that which took place in Paris last week, the ground beneath our feet quakes with the shaking of our collective faith. Anger burns, like bile, in the back of our throats and we want to do something, anything to stop the violence.
I acknowledge the existence of evil. There are those who would take without giving, lie without conscience, hurt without reason, compel without care and kill without remorse. Their numbers are growing.
The events of Paris are repeated regularly in places of less visibility, and we do not notice, except when these events touch the outskirts of our neighborhoods or reach the screens of our mobile devices.
Evil thrives when our faith in God and each other is diminished. Mistrust increases when our differences, rather than our similarities are emphasized. Fear takes root when acts of violence claim the lives of our friends and our children.
Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters give away their rights to make a difference as leaders of small and large countries tell us tales we should not believe. We do not build a better world when we ignore an approaching tsunami of self-interest.
September 11 should remind us of lessons taught, though not yet learned. The same God who made us all will not take from us the agency to choose our own paths. Our condemnation will grow from our reluctance to use this agency to bless the lives of our brothers and sisters. Evil grows in the cracks and crags of our own cowardice when we do not rise up to condemn and combat its growing influence.
And they suffer most who are not able to comprehend a world of cruel intent–the children. Yet, it is in the eyes of the children that I see hope. It is in the hearts of the children that I find love, and compassion, and the courage to be good.
I believe God loves us and that he has a plan for us. For some, this plan includes great deeds. For most of us, this plan includes simple acts of kindness. Wherever and whenever I travel, I see evidence of His plan in the eyes of our children.
While his little sister shyly watches, this African boy stands proud in his Adidas.
I met this girl in a little town in the mountains of Guatemala, near lake Atitlan. She wanted me to buy some fruit from her stand. How could I resist?
In the village of Yamoransah, Ghana, this little boy with the penetrating eyes followed us everywhere we went.
I met this little girl in a little village high the Peruvian Andes. The burdens she carries haunt me still.
Talofa lava–a young boy waves in greeting.
With bright eyes and a knowing look, this Sierra Leonean girl lets me take her picture.
It’s a big wide world outside the yurt near Ulan Bataar.
I know how he feels.
Three children snack on the way home from school in Hong Kong.
My daughter Rachel has strong opinions, bright ideas and a desire to change the world for the better.
The water tastes sweeter when the drinking fountain is 500 years old.
When I tried to take her picture, she would hide her face and then laugh. When I showed her pictures of her friends, she opened up enough to let take this photo.
Playing in the sand outside the Palace of Versailles
A wandering child returns as his mother waits patiently just outside Paris.
This teenager enjoys a field trip to the Plaza in Lima, Peru.
Sack lunches and school uniforms for this class in Lima, Peru.
I turned off the engine and got out of my car. The first thing I noticed was the quiet. My footsteps crunched. The sound shattered the quiet so I stopped moving.
Not even a breath of air disturbed the stillness.
I strained to hear something, anything. A distant bird cry, found my ears. A hawk floated on invisible air currents above a mountain meadow. It had seen me first. Its screech brought relief. I had not lost my hearing, rather, I had lost the noise of cities and people when I drove beyond the paved road. It would take some time for my brain to adjust to the back country silence.
Heavy footsteps echoed against the mountains, coming closer. A father and son lumbered past, walking a nearby trail with rifles and backpacks. Deer hunters. They were not quiet. The deer would hear them coming.
I turned from my overlook and hiked into the Aspens. The stillness of open land evaporated amidst the stand of trees. It was not that it wasn’t quiet. It was more that the trees were aware of my passing and were whispering among themselves. I could hear them, but I could not understand the words. I was not unwelcome, but I was watched.
Fall had come to the high mountains. The calendar did not yet speak of winter, but the nearly barren branches spoke of cold nights and shortened days. Fall colors still glowed beneath the trees, holding on to their end-of-life color. There must be an inherent knowledge in nature that life will come again in order to celebrate death with such brilliance.
In the distance I could hear the soughing of water. In a few minutes I found the stream. It wasn’t a big stream but it had been raining and the gentle babble was swelling to a rush. A persistent drizzle suggested more rain was coming. Perhaps the stream had river aspirations.
I would not stay long in these mountains, this day. My journey was meant only as a reminder of peace and place and permanence in Mother Nature’s cycles.
I would touch the earth to quiet my soul and take with me a portion of stillness.
Deer Creek Overlook, Wasatch Back.
The leaves are mostly gone from this aspen grove behind Mt. Timpanogos, although fall colors remain.
Moss grows rich and thick and green near a small stream in American Fork Canyon.
Berries brightly accent the fall colors of American Fork Canyon.
Berries remain, perhaps as bear food for the coming winter in American Fork Canyon.
Water drops bead on forest floor foliage in American Fork Canyon.
Although many leaves have fallen at high elevations, some fall colors remain along this stream in American Fork Canyon.
Mountain stream in American Fork Canyon.
Slowing time on a mountain stream in American Fork Canyon.
Moss grows on all sides of these woods in American Fork Canyon.
Late fall colors behind Mt. Timpanogos.
Fall colors reamin in an aspen grove near Mt. Timpanogos.
Rays of light penetrate the clouds just before sunset in American Fork Canyon behind Mount Timpanogos.
She left for college last week, my youngest daughter. She was so excited and busy preparing. We were out together and I wanted to take her picture.
People are watching.
Come on, just stand over there. The light is nice.
She can be that way, stubborn, strong willed, opinionated. If there were still knights in the world, I’m sure she would be among their order, defending the weak, championing the right and the good against injustice. She was not shy about telling me when my decisions were, in her opinion, unjust. She was, often, like now, embarrassed by my actions.
Dad, not now.
I took a picture of her shadow as she walked away. I didn’t ask for permission.
She is gone, away to college. I am confident that in her studies she will find a grail, or bring back an elixir that will change the world. Her quest has certainly changed mine.
Our house is much quieter. I don’t wait up at night for her to come home. Her room is clean.
Yet, in the early morning, I still catch glimpses of her shadow and I find that I miss the light of her smile.
There are moments in life which transcend expectation, which transcend time. And there are places in life which transcend those moments. Transcendent experience is something to hope for, even, to seek after. Yet, the fleeting nature of transcendence reveals an existential quality of mortality.
Transcendence can not be achieved, it can only be experienced. And, the experience of transcendence comes when least expected.
It may be that transcendence is only possible when the imposition of expectation has been removed. Perhaps, in those moments, there is a void which only grace can fill. As grace reveals divinity, divinity reveals truth. Truth transcends the moment and our understanding of existence, who we are, where we come from, what our purpose is, becomes clear, or, if not clear, at least implied. In transcendent moments, inspired questions transform the heart. The sacred nature of transcendent transformation ennobles the soul.
Capitol Reef is such a place–a place of transcendent transformation; transcendent because it exceeds expectation; transformative because it is slowly, yet contagiously transforming.
I have , purposely, waxed philosophic. Indeed, the loftiness of the ideas expressed can not compare to the actual grandeur of visiting Capitol Reef, however briefly I was there. In geologic terms, any time that I could spend there, however long that might be, would be brief. Nevertheless,the time I spent in the park was transcendent.
It is impossible to capture the essence of the place, nevertheless, the majesty of the rocks cried out for something beyond the ordinary. So, forgive, if you will, my HDR sensibilities. While the images presented may lean toward hyper-reality, the actual experience of moments in Capitol Reef transcends the ordinary and claims the extraordinary.
Besides that, it was a lot of fun 🙂
Chimney Rock from a distance, Capitol Reef.
Capitol Reef rock formation on the trail to Hickman Bridge.
Chimney Rock in HDR
Freemont River cut, Capitol Reef National Park.
Davy and Anne at Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef.
Davy and Anne at Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef.
The road through Grand Valley, Capitol Reef.
Wind Gate, Capitol Reef.
Chimney Rock, Capitol Reef.
In the distance, Capitol Dome rises above the sentinels of Capitol Reef.
Wide shot of Capitol Reef rock formation on the trail to Hickman Bridge.
It takes a while for things to change.
Patience and faith, they say.
I can’t wait. I won’t, I say.
Deep time puts the age of Earth at four-and-one-half billion years.
I sense immense distance in Earth’s span, yet the years mean nothing in comprehending the patterns of death and life and death again which deposit layers of yesterdays upon tomorrows, until all that remains is this moment.
I stand in a place where the evidence of change surrounds me, yet actual change can not be seen.
Perhaps these rocks crumble to dirt,
for a million, maybe a billion years, for me to walk this path.
Red dirt sticks to my shoes and I carry it with me in defiance of the law of long waits.
I am here. Now.
The wind soughs and the rocks speak in whispers. I stand still and listen. The words do not bring me comfort. Change is as the rocks.
I look up at the sandstone sentinels and the sky stretches out before me.
I am small, insignificant, tenuous.
I look down and a silver stream glints below towering canyon walls. My heart skips a beat and I step back from the ledge. I have climbed much higher than I realize.
My breath catches as my son scales the cliffs below me. The rocks he climbs are hard broken. I call out not to walk those rocks, they may crumble. He has not yet reached the precipice on which I stand and must choose his path. I squint in harsh sunlight and see myself in his approaching shadow.
I feel old.
I see in him that I am old,
old in that my body is not what it once was;
not so old, in that the elements which make up my frame have not yet been scattered by hot winds relentlessly carving through stone.
My son will climb much higher than I have steps remaining. Yet, I still have steps remaining.
And the Gods said, “Let it be so.” And they watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed. For even the Gods must watch and wait.
In the vast continuum of eternity, patience and faith take time.
So I am learning.
Wistfully, I lift a handful of dust and toss it to the sky. The wind accepts my offering.
My time has come. I have touched the rock of ages and must not linger.
In deep time,
the changes I hope for are carving the canyons of my soul.
Looking up at Hickman Bridge.
Red dirt gives way to azure skies.
Worn ragged by the forces of nature, this rock came to rest at the bottom of a cliff as a wrecked ship rests on the sea bottom.
Among the aging sandstone some forms of live thrive, others pass out of existence.
Towering sentinels of Capitol Reef.
Evidence indicates that in a flash flood, Grand Wash is not the place to be.
Very little water and harsh conditions favor plants which learn to adapt.
Davy scales the cliffs near Hickman Bridge bowl.
Morning sun rises over Hickman Bridge.
Named after Joseph Hickman, Hickman natural bridge is 133 feet long and 125 feet high.
Weather sandstone makes for interesting trail markers on the Hickman Bridge trail in Capitol Reef.
The Freemont river cuts a valley just below Capitol Dome.
Anne and Davy stand below 125 foot high Hickman Bridge.
Capitol Dome, Capitol Reef National Park.
Red dirt still glows just after sunset in Capitol Reef National Park.
Moon sets over Capitol Reef National Park.
The Big Dipper rises above Grand Wash Wind Gate in Capitol Reef.
Stars above Grand Wash Capitol Reef.
View of Chimney Rock Capitol Reef.
Capitol Reef National Park.
Verdant valleys contrast the sandstone cliffs of Capitol Reef National Park.
Trees provide welcome shade at the Fuita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park.
Apple orchards thrive in the valleys of Capitol Reef National Park.
Apple orchards thrive in the valleys of Capitol Reef.
This is the last of ten images in my show at the Cedar City Art Walk, in Cedar City, Utah. If you haven’t yet seen the show, there is still time. The show runs through the end of the month. If you can’t see the show check out each of the images on my blog. Thanks for stopping by.
Her fingers were relentless, working the root fibers back and forth, back and forth, smooth; arms and shoulders made strong with the repetition of mat making. In a crumbling stone building, the women of Yamoransah toil daily to transform roots into food. Mats are a useful by-product.
She showed me how she made them; the same way her mother made them, and her grandmother before her; the heat of West Africa bringing nothing more than a sheen to her chocolate smooth skin, while I was drenched in sweat.
Without words we watched each other work, I with my camera, she with her body. When I motioned for permission to take her photograph, she held my gaze. I looked in her eyes and she did not look away. Our worlds were separated by barely bridgeable miles and Lifetimes of experience. Our lives were mutually incomprehensible. Yet, in this moment I was blessed by her grace. I left Yamoransah with more than I expected.
For more info on my show check out a June 11th article in The Spectrum.