A Celestial Retrospective

lucifer

I’ve been writing for this blog for over ten years. That’s a long time in the often-ephemeral blogging world! My early output, from the spring of 2004 to the spring of 2010, was lost to a hard drive crash — oh, well, that’s what having no back-ups got me!

Faithful commenter Joan Ryan saved many of my early photos and burned them to CDs. I’m still grateful for her gesture!

Since June of 2010 this blog has been hosted at commercial server farms, for a while a free one, but these days I pay for the service. Currently there are over six hundred posts on this blog and thousands of comments. Every now and then I will delve back into older posts. It’s fun to see what was on my mind a few years ago! I woke up early this morning; nothing much was happening on the net, so I began to read a series of posts I wrote just before my fateful move to Arizona. These posts involved meetings with gods and deities of various cultures. I can’t really remember how I got on that subject! It might have been the influence of Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite modern writers. Here are links to those short posts in chronological order; you might find them amusing:

Deity Encounter

Another Talk With Eos

Eos Gets The Blues

Meeting Another Deity

I Meet Atropos

Kokopelli Shows Up

Charon

A Visit From A Snow God

Thor

Loki

Quetzalcoatl

Ares and Eros

An Anomalous Visit From Poseidon

A Visit From God

Oh, No, Not Lucifer!

A Poker Game

Poker, Part Two

The Earth Mother Visits

A Visit From Cronus

The nature of blog posting is such that each new post appears at the “top” of the blog. These posts from 2011 are displayed in backwards or reverse chronological order if you click on the right sidebar link for “Eos Stories”. I restored real chronological order in the above links so that the little tales read sequentially. I hope someone out there enjoys them! I like them, but then I’m biased.

Larry

A Striking Bisbee Stairway

Three houses down from where I live in Bisbee is a house nearly hidden by vegetation. I always stop for a while and look at a set of steps which looks like it might have been transplanted from a villa in, oh, say Minorca or some other Mediterranean locale, the workmanship a remnant of the British colonial era when brilliant native craftsmen could be hired for a pittance.

The slightly run-down appearance contributes to the entrance’s charm.

An arched iron trellis supports a couple of trained apricot trees, and this time of year apricots are still hanging from those trees. Fallen fruits glow orange, scattered across the steps. Yesterday morning before the rains set in the light was just right and I snapped some photos, while Dingo the dog patiently awaited the resumption of our walk. Without further commentary, here is a sequence of photos for your delectation:

Brophy_Stairs-5

Brophy_Stairs-4

Brophy_Stairs-3

Brophy_Stairs-2

Brophy_Stairs-1

Larry

Dingo At The Falls

Wednesday morning the weather forecast looked dire. A plume of clouds and rain had been pushing up through the Gulf of California, like a celestial firehose aimed right at Southern Arizona. Mist shrouded the tops of the Mule Mountains but there was only a slight bit of drizzle at seven in the morning, so I thought I would go on a quick excursion before the world got too wet.

I also wanted to see how well my new dog Dingo (Lydia in a former life) would do riding in a truck and hiking unleashed on a trail. So off we went in the truck. The Falls are just a few miles north of town. Dingo rode well in the truck once she figured out that I wanted the driver’s side!

The trail to the falls is uphill all the way, but really not very far. Dingo kept ahead of me but didn’t venture too far away. In the final stretch the falls could be heard tumbling over the edge of Juniper Flats. I think this sound excited the dog and she got to the end of the trail before I did. Meanwhile this scene, a cavity in the granite delicately embroidered by patches of ferns, caught my eye:

Dingo--Bisbee_Falls-1

I was looking for the dog as the scene unfolded before me. I saw that Dingo had run off down to the rocky outlet of the falls, where the water leisurely flows over and through flats and boulders:

Dingo--Bisbee_Falls-3

Dingo--Bisbee_Falls-4
Looked like a happy dog to me!

The trail ends at a relatively flat area of granite boulders surrounding a twenty-foot-wide pool. Dingo caught up with me and immediately plunged into the water and began to swim across it. Bev suggests that Dingo might have some yellow lab blood in her:

Dingo--Bisbee_Falls-5

Dingo--Bisbee_Falls-6

Yeah, that dog was in her element!

Dingo--Bisbee_Falls-7

I shot a short video, panning down the falls and ending with a view of Dingo on the other side of the pool:

This shot is of some the upper ocotillo-dominated slopes surrounding the falls:

Dingo--Bisbee_Falls-2

This evening Dingo seemed tired; after all, she was adapting to a new home and has been on quite a few walks. She likes this dilapidated chair, which is unfit for human use:

Dingo_asleep

As I write this the area has received over two inches of rain since the excursion to the falls. It’s flooding in the valleys and washes and I’m sticking close to home for a while!

Larry

Basses Rule!

I’ve been playing the fiddle here in Bisbee for a couple of years. As the music which my friends and I play has become better known, other fiddlers and violinists have stepped out of their private shadows and joined in. Some just for a while or occasionally, while others have become frequent jam session partners. But there can be too many fiddles, hard as that may be to believe!

After playing in several sessions with as many as six or seven fiddles forming a soprano/alto wall of sound, I began to think about taking up the upright bass. There just aren’t enough bass players in Bisbee, and I’m sure I could pick it up without straining my powers of learning, a case of an old dog learning not a new trick, but a variation of a trick I already know pretty well. I just have to learn the larger scale of the bass. The musical intervals involved are analogous. Does it sound like I’m trying to convince myself?

So, I thought, how am I going to go about this project without going into debt, a state which I generally try to avoid. I figured it all out in one morning of many internet communications and transactions. The net to me is like water to a fish.

First, I had to sell a Hohner button accordion. I’ve realized recently that I will never get very good on that instrument. Strings are my musical medium. That accordion will soon be en route to the dealer in Massachusetts from whom I bought it. They are charging a small commission to sell it for me. Okay, now how to get hold of an upright bass for a good price?

Well, the current fiddle I play is a nice one made in a small factory near Shanghai. I’m familiar with several Chinese Ebay vendors who sell instruments made in a closely-knit group of of factories in the Shanghai area. Their instruments, in my opinion, are the best value in violin-family instruments today, especially if you don’t get hung up in the desire for that “old European mojo”.

So I did some searches on Ebay for new upright basses. I know what beat-up used ones go for in the US, and they are generally all-plywood student models. I don’t mind plywood for the back and sides, as the wide pieces of wood for solid-wood backs and sides are becoming rare and expensive. As a species we use the good stuff, wood-wise, faster than it is being grown. But the top is another matter entirely, and I prefer solid spruce for the tops of stringed instruments. That’s the part which vibrates, and plywood is a liability, in my opinion.

I found what looked to be a very good deal, especially for me, as I can do instrument assembly and set-up. It’s an “in-the-white” 3/4 size upright bass with the neck not yet glued to the body. The top is solid spruce, while the back and sides are rather plain-looking plywood. The neck is shipped unattached so that the shipping container wouldn’t be huge, and thus expensive to ship. What I will have to do is glue the neck into its socket with hot hide glue, apply finish (varnish over shellac sealer, maybe some decorative painting on the the back), install the tuners, bridge, end-pin, tailpiece, and maybe set a soundpost if that hasn’t already been done. This sort of fiddly work is one of my ideas of fun.

Because of this coming speculative musical transition I’ve been re-familiarizing myself with the best bass players on the planet. Being a person with non-specific and non-organized religious ideas, I have to say that included in my personal pantheon, along with various plant and fungal spirits, are those inspired musicians who stride among us as gods, capable of inimitable feats of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic magic. Here’s a long video of three bass players who have taken Leo Fender’s early and crude electric basses and exploited the successors to Leo’s instruments to the max. Stanley Clark is about my age, and I used to listen to his playing when we were both young. He’s still going strong! Marcus Miller is just one cool player, a masterful bassist who has played on a slew of pop, R&B, and jazz recordings. He’s the player in the porkpie hat. Victor Wooten is simply amazing, a younger player who has tapped into some divine veins of music. A few highlights of the video: Victor Wooten really struts his stuff starting at 11:50. Stanley Clark really wails on an upright bass starting at around 19:00. All three play wonderfully towards the end of the video in a funky instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s classic song “Beat It”. This is ultra-funky, groove-laden, and sexy music, and be warned that it might not be suitable for strait-laced and inhibited folks!

Larry

Hangdog Days

Lydia-1

Pardon me, readers, as I begin this post with a tangentially-related side issue; have no fear, I’ll gradually wend my way towards the real subject of this post.

Everyone has patterns in their life. This is partly due to individual character and partly due to those intriguing but inscrutable vagaries of fate. A couple of writers from days long past made parallel observations:

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Lao Tsu (maybe…)

Heraclitus was more succinct:

Character is destiny.

My destiny has become convoluted and weird during the past week or so. One of those Fates has been screwing with me, I think. They get bored sometimes and I’m an easy target. All I can hope for is that one of the kindlier Fates will step in and say, “Hey give that poor fiddler a break!”

I’m being purposely vague, and the next series of observations will reveal why, overly curious reader! (I’m thinking of you, Joan!)

One distinct pattern in my life is that I write stuff down, people read what I’ve written, and I get in trouble. This pattern first manifested itself when my father read some shockingly frank journal entries of mine concerning psychedelic drug use. I was seventeen years old, and that journal meant a lot to me. My father burned the journal in our back yard, and I didn’t write again for twenty years. I’m not blaming him — he was at his wit’s end with me. I took off for parts unknown soon after that.

The insidious pattern eventually led to my divorce, relocation to Hannibal, Missouri, and eventually to my arrival here in Bisbee, thanks to Bev.

Now Facebook serves as an additional danger for me. I toss off comments, many of them witty, but others are like planting seeds of destruction. It’s all too easy for me to shoot myself in my much-scarred foot.

So… let’s segue to the present. I have some issues with my landlady and she thinks it might be best if I find another place to live. She lives on a few fenced acres out in the valley between Bisbee and Douglas. She raises guinea fowl, and a couple of days ago one of her dogs killed and ate a guinea. My landlady loves her speckled guineas, and decided the dog, a female named Lydia, was beyond redemption. She brought the dog to town and asked if I would keep it here for the time being.

Oh, great! Now I had a killer dog on my hands. Lydia is overly affectionate due to abuse which happened early in her life. That’s how she ended up at my landlady’s place. The first day she seemed sad, morosely slinking around and not eating. I couldn’t find a leash and collar which I thought my landlady had left here, so I couldn’t take the dog for a walk.

Well, due to recent circumstances I had some affection and kindliness to spare. Lydia is gradually coming out of her abject funk. I used that peculiar dialect of English, which is closely akin to baby-talk, which dogs almost always respond to.

I found the leash and collar and this morning went on my first walk with Lydia. Of course she loved it. So many intriguing smells!

So here I am with an unexpected companion! I’m a talky son-of-a-bitch and Lydia gives me an outlet. And she can’t tell anyone else what I say!

I hope this post doesn’t cause me any problems. Maybe no-one will read it!

Larry

Early One September Morning…

…I was driving up the steep, switch-backed, and rocky road to the level top of Juniper Flats, just outside of Bisbee. As I began to see the characteristic piñon pines, Toumey oaks, Mountain Mahogany trees, and of course Alligator Junipers I thought “Why don’t I come up here more often?” Of course it’s because the road is so rough, with rock outcrops jutting up from the roadbed and some very steep stretches. It’s only two miles from the Divide parking area to the top, but it takes twenty minutes to get up there. You don’t drive up that road, your vehicle clambers up it.

I was determined to go up there because I’d been with a group of fellow plant enthusiasts the day before. Two women told me that there was a species of rare orchid blooming up there — right now! They hadn’t identified the orchid to species yet. Have camera, will travel to where interesting plants are blooming — that’s one of my personal mottoes.

As I wound my way up the sun was just beginning to kiss the granite above me:

Flats-1

Here’s a fairly good stretch of the road, about halfway up. I had to stop to pee! Pardon the lens artifacts; the lens of my camera has a few scratches which sometimes catch the light.

Flats-2

Looking out over the San Pedro Valley glimpses of Sierra Vista can be seen, with the Huachuca Mountains in the background. The shadow of Juniper Flats darkens the foreground dramatically:

Flats-3

I drove to a point between the two highest places on the Flats, which is where the cell phone towers are. A steel gate to some private land stood open, and I descended into the canyon which sometimes, when it rains enough, feeds Bisbee Falls.

I love that canyon. It’s like stepping into a pre-human world. Not many people visit the place, and the last time I was there was two years ago. I prowled slowly among the granite expanses and stream channels. Little grottoes, fairyland scenes, induced a meditative calm; I was simply there, just observing, and time seemed to stretch out, or maybe disappear altogether!

I squatted down to look at a clump of what looked like Dayflowers, Commelinas of a species I saw last week at Turkey Creek in the Chiricuahuas. Two flowers seemed to be engaged in a dialogue, and they ignored my presence:

Flats-4

Then the light dimmed, as if a cloud had passed over the morning sun. The two flowers slowly turned on their stems and faced me.

One of them said in a barely audible high-pitched voice, “What are you doing here, mobile biped? You have interrupted our conversation!”

I was a bit abashed, as I am rarely addressed directly by flowers.

“I’m looking for an orchid which I believe to be blooming somewhere in this canyon!”

The two flowers glanced at each other and giggled.

“You must be one of those botanical humans. Homo sapiens, right?” said the flower on the left.

“Yeah, that’s my species. What species are you two?”

“Botanists call us Commelina dianthifolia, but we call ourselves a name which simply can’t be rendered into your language. Sorry!”

The other Commelina said “Human, you won’t ever see that orchid! They are quite shy, and when they saw you coming they hid in the pine needle duff.”

Oh, well, I tried, and by this point I was so charmed by the ambience of that nameless canyon that I really didn’t care!

I wandered on down the canyon, knowing that I would face an ascent when I returned. It’s the opposite of climbing a mountain, when the hard part is first. Then as I began my return I happened across a happy colony of Agave Parryi, one of the less common Agave species in this area. I love their broad leaves and generally stout appearance. Behind the colony stoic Border Piñon Pines brooded upon the difficulty of forcing roots into the crevices in granite. Several dead manzanitas were in the foreground, evidence of the rigors of a fifteen-year drought.

Flats-5

A native species of Coral Bell, Heuchera sanguinea, growing from a thoroughly be-lichened granite boulder:

Flats-9-1

As I drove back down the winding road I saw many clumps of a blue-flowering plant, one which I once ID-ed to species but I can’t remember its name now. Masses of tubular blue trumpets:

Flats-6

I really liked the cast off blossoms of this plant strewn randomly in the roadside gravel:

Flats-7

A couple of landscape shots I took on the way down into the Real World. The dramatically-shadowed Mule Mountains are in the foreground; the Sulphur Springs Valley is in the middle distance, and the Swisshelm and Chiricuahua Mountains are swathed in clouds in the distance.

Flats-8

Flats-9

It’s all food for the spirit!

Larry

Pipeline Morning Glory

Yesterday there was a unique convocation of plant geeks at that little un-named city park at the corner of Rt. 92 and Schoolhouse Terrace Road, in between Old Bisbee and San José.

Cado Daily organized the gathering; she’s my friend and musical cohort, and incidentally a State Extension Agent for this county.

It was a slow-moving flock of plant-lovers which wandered up the path, with people grouping and re-grouping and with a lot of photography happening. I simply love that little park; I’ve been there at least ten times this year. There’s always something new to be seen, such varied plants growing from between shingles of decaying limestone, and there always seems to be at least one Curve-billed Thrasher piping up with its interrogatory call: “Peet, peet?”

I talked at length with an employee of the City Of Bisbee, a man who loves the park and wants to make it more accessible without affecting its ecological integrity. He pointed out to me and some others a rare species of morning glory clambering up a yucca.

This man explained to me that the park had originally been a right-of-way for a natural gas pipeline, which is still buried there, and that the gas company had donated the property to the city ten years ago.

The meeting took place in the afternoon, so the morning glory’s blooms were faded. This morning, after a quick jaunt up a canyon up on Juniper Flats, I walked down the path at the little park again and found the Canyon Morning Glories (Ipomoea barbatisepala) in splendid full bloom. I was impressed.

Two blossoms with yucca background and support:

Pipeline-1

The peculiarly lobed leaves:

Pipeline-2

Pretty cool, eh? Just wait until you see my photos from Juniper Flats!

Larry

Orb-weavers Gotta Weave

A couple days ago I wrote a post about some local arthropods:

Arthropodia

I thought I had seen the last of the Smiley Face Spider (Araneus illaudatus) illustrated in that post. I couldn’t blame the creature, as I had kept it in captivity in a jar for far too long.

But this afternoon I noticed that an orb-weaver spider had built an elaborate orb web between my front porch’s roof and a post. I got out my camera, and with its nice zoom capability I quickly determined that the spider silhouetted against the deep blue sky was of the same species, and possibly even the same one that I had photographed! How incredibly cool that a mistreated spider would take up residence here, where I can see it every day!

The spider kept advancing and retreating from a web-captured insect near the center of the web, probably giving the doomed prey another shot of venom each time. I patiently waited until the female predator stopped to catch its breath.

Here’s a rather grainy zoomed shot:

Orb-weaver

Larry

I’m In Musical Love…

After viewing this wonderful video I’m now a fan and devotee of Kate Davis. She both sings and plays the upright bass in such a masterful way that I’m just blown away, drifting on the desert breeze. Have a listen:

Larry

Morning Safeway Run

This morning I woke up just before dawn, as is my wont. I was terribly hungry, with a fierce gnawing in my gut. I got up, pulled on some jeans, and went prospecting in the fridge. I really wanted some eggs, but I was all out!

Okay, that was fine, I really like an excuse to exit this confining canyon in the morning and get a better look at the sky.

Before long I was cruising past the appalling Lavender Pit and the wastelands of mine spoils. After the traffic circle I turned onto Rt. 92, on my way to the Safeway store.

As I left the canyon and gained altitude a morning sky of wondrous splendor greeted me. The mountains just south of the border were swathed in cloud-banks just being tinged with rosy hues from the rising sun.

Unfortunately I was behind a slow-poke driver and I resisted the impulse to tailgate and honk my truck’s horn. Mentally I transmitted a message to the driver of the slow car: “Damn it, pull over and regard the splendid sight before you! GTF out of my way!”

As I came into San José I just couldn’t find a good vantage point from which I could take photos. That southermost extension of Bisbee is simply riddled and swathed with power, phone, and cable lines and poles! I pulled over anyway and took this shot:

Sept_Morning-1

I drove south a little ways on the Naco Highway and found a better spot, right between the Dollar General store and Ace hardware:

Sept_Morning-2

I then went to the Safeway store and bought eggs. Once I was back at the apartment I cooked this, ate the plate of food with great enjoyment, and now I’m going back to bed for a while!

Sept_Morning-3

Larry