Clouds Over Sonora

I like the name of the Mexican state Sonora. It sounds musical, like the word sonorous,but the etymology is a bit confused. Was it just Spanish Catholic bullshit, perhaps derived from some female saint’s name? Nobody will ever know for sure. The name has been used, though, for hundreds of years, and it’s here to stay.

Yesterday afternoon I drove to the Safeway store on Rt. 92. As the vista across the border opened up before me, I noticed an appealing clump of cumulus clouds burgeoning up from behind one of the Sonoran mountains in the distance. I parked in the Dollar General parking lot and tried to find a view without too many interfering wires and other evidences of civilization. I propped my camera on a high fence, a barrier which prevents invasion of the Dollar General territory by Ace Hardware barbarians, and got this one shot:


I love these Southwest sky scenes. What could that small dark-gray object be appearing towards the right? It looks like a crude flying saucer prototype, perhaps part of an R&D project undertaken in secret by the Mexican Air Force.

I got back to the truck and found Dingo, my dog, calmly waiting for me on the passenger seat. She is very tolerant of my inexplicable eccentricities!


High Water Abounding

I guess I forgot to post this! A selection of photos taken on a walk around Bisbee before the recent rains!

A diaphanous Coprinus cluster, well-hydrated:


Perhaps a species of Lepiota growing from decaying cottonwood roots, near a three-foot-wide stump:


Notice how this cluster of mushrooms has engulfed an Ailanthus leaf, which nevertheless continues its photosynthesis:


Drainage canal shots:




A mysterious door on Mayer Avenue gushes forth water:


Three shots of Brewery Gulch, still taped off but after six dump-truck loads of gravel and debris had been hauled away:





To The Charleston Bridge And Back

It was the evening of September 19th, last Thursday. Several of my musical cohorts had gathered at my apartment to play a few tunes. Of course these occasions are social as well as musical, and occasionally we would take a break and talk.

Jim, one of our bodhran (Irish drum) players works for the federal Bureau Of Land Management. The BLM manages quite a bit of wild and semi-wild land in our area, including much of the watershed of the San Pedro River. Jim loves that river and his job requires that he spend a lot of time in and around the stream. He has been excited lately by the record high levels of the river’s flow after the recent monsoon rains. Jim said to me:

“Larry, tomorrow morning you really should drive over to the Charleston Bridge over the San Pedro. The channel narrows in that reach of the river and the water should be really roaring!”

I can take a hint! The following morning I got up early, drank some coffee, and ate some eggs fried with chile peppers and onion. Just as dawn was lightening the eastern horizon I was driving towards Juniper Flats, a miles-long flat-topped granite mountain just outside of Bisbee. Mist shrouded the eminence and the whole scene was surreal. The cell-phone towers on top of the Flats were barely visible:


I found a spot where I could pull over as morning traffic whizzed by. More mist swirled around the towers until they were barely visible. An imaginary scene from an old novel imperfectly remembered took form in my mind:

Frodo and Sam, cloaks wrapped around them to counter the chill morning breeze, gazed in wonder at the scene before them. Sam said:

“Could those be the towers of Minas Tirith, Frodo?”

Frodo’s eyes narrowed and his look of melancholy determination made him seem older. He said:

“I’m afraid so, Sam. Saruman awaits us in his dark tower!”


The sky began to lighten as I descended into the broad San Pedro Valley. The river is bordered by cottonwoods, an undulating dark-green ribbon bisecting the valley. I crossed the highway bridge, then after a few miles turned on to Moson Road. The landscape in that morning light was simply stunning. Mist swathed the Mule Mountains in cascading layers of white and gray. I had to pull over or run off the road. I shot a few photos that charmed morning:




A pickup truck passed me, going fast, and I pulled out behind it. There were no speed limit signs, but I figured that the truck was probably driven by a local rancher, and he probably knew the local speed limit. I was buzzing along at fifty-five or so when I passed a parked sheriff’s car. “Hmm”, I thought, “I wonder what he’s waiting for?”

Me, it turned out! The sheriff, with blue and red lights flashing, promptly pulled me over into some high grass on the road’s shoulder.

I’m a bit skittish about having run-ins with law enforcement officers. I’ve had some unpleasant experiences and I hoped this wouldn’t be one to add to the list!

The sheriff seemed to be in a good mood as he walked up to me from his car.

“Y’know that there’s a speed limit of 45 miles per hour on Moson?” he asked me.

“I really didn’t know! I didn’t see any signs.”

“Well, I’m just givin’ ya a friendly warning. Try to keep your speed down, okay?”

Just then another armed and uniformed man walked up and stood beside the sheriff. He was from the BLM. He said:

“Hi! Was that you parked by the side of the road back there a ways? Havin’ some trouble, were ya?”

“No, no trouble. I was shooting photos of the Mules…”

“Yeah, that mist is somethin’ else this morning, isn’t it! Where ya headin’?”

“I’m going to the Charleston Road Bridge to see the floodwaters, take some photos.”

“Well, have fun! I might see you over there later!”

Both the sheriff and the BLM guy seemed cheery, almost ebullient. Not too surprising, as they were being paid to be out and around in this splendid landscape!

The sheriff indicated that I was free to go. It’s always a relief to hear that!

After a few miles more of driving at 45 MPH I turned right on Charleston Road, which would take me back to the river and the Charleston Road Bridge, my destination. There was a parking lot near the bridge, and angled across the river was an older iron bridge. I parked and let Dingo, my dog, out. Dingo followed me onto the old bridge, where I encountered a woman with her young son. We peered down at the brown torrents raging below.


I said to the woman “This is amazing! Have you ever seen the San Pedro so high?”

“Yeah, a few times, but I’ve never seen it last this long!”

The young boy petted Dingo while we watched the water rush on past.

I decided to walk down to the edge of the riverbank below the bridge. Dingo followed me and the dog was soon invisible in the rank streamside vegetation.

Then the woman, still on the bridge with her boy, shouted down to me:

“Your dog! Your dog! It’s in the water!”

Oh, no! that current would snatch that dog away, and who knows where she would end up! I couldn’t find Dingo anywhere. Then the woman shouted to me again:

“Your dog’s up here with us!”

I looked up towards the parking lot, and there was Dingo, prowling around and doubtless soaking up new and strange scents.

I shot a few more photos of the torrential river water:



I was ready to head for home, as I felt I had adequately recorded the scene. I headed back up Charleston Road. Perhaps because I was watching my speed carefully I missed my turnoff on to Moson Road and ended up at a busy Sierra Vista intersection. The morning rush was in full swing. Damn, I thought. I really don’t like driving in heavy traffic. I saw an opportunity to drive the long way back, south on Rt. 92, so I took it and sped out of town.

That drive was frustrating, as there were incredible scenes of morning light illuminating the cloud-swathed Huachuca Mountains, but traffic was heavy and it was hard to find a place to pull off. I finally found a place, parked, and shot some photos. In the next photo Rt. 92 can be seen stretching out across the San Pedro Valley, headed for the Mule Mountains and Bisbee:


Another shot of the Mules nearly obscured by clouds:


I was tired after all of this and took a nap after I got back to the apartment! So did Dingo.


A Simple Walk Becomes Complicated

My new companion, a mixed-breed yellow dog named Dingo, really, really, likes to go out on walks. If I so much as start to put my shoes on, don a hat, or slip my wallet into my back pocket, she becomes excited and spins around, emitting squeaks of anticipation. This is good for me, I admit. I’m probably walking twice as much around town as I did before Dingo arrived here.

Yesterday afternoon the sky was cloudy and the temperature cool, perfect walking weather. Dingo and I descended the twenty-five steps to Brophy St. and endured the gaze of my downstairs neighbor Sue’s cat, whose coat is almost exactly the same color as Dingo’s. The two animals regarded each other, reminding me of the recurrent scene in the Seinfeld show: “Hello, Jerry!” “Hello, Newman!”.

Brophy St. descends steeply to its intersection with Tombstone Avenue. Looking down the hill, the view partially obscured by blown-over giant Arundo reed stalks, I saw a familiar black-and white feral cat toying with something in the street. I think my neighbor Sue feeds that cat, but it can’t be approached.

The cat fled as we approached, and I saw something like a short snake crawling around on the pitted concrete. A closer look revealed that the creature was a half-grown Madrean Alligator Lizard:


Oh, why had I left my camera up in the apartment? I keep telling myself “There are no boring walks — something interesting will always be encountered!” I turned around and trotted back towards the steps. Dingo thought “Hmm, this new master is proving to be a bit erratic! Why are we going back up the stairs? I swear, I distinctly heard Larry utter the magic word ‘walk’!”

By the time we got back to the scene of the feline crime that cat had resumed its torments. The beleaguered lizard was wheeling about and snapping viciously at the cat, who didn’t look very threatened. I ran up and tried to kick the cat away but it fled into the giant reeds.

What a moral dilemma! I knew that if I left the lizard, the cat would be right back. I knelt down and closely inspected the lizard’s injuries. The right front leg seemed to be broken and useless, and a bite had been taken from the creature’s flank right next to that leg. This lizard probably wouldn’t survive. I made a tentative effort to pick it up by its tail, but with surprising and disconcerting swiftness it snapped at me like a snake striking.

Notice in the above photo the clear line separating the patterning of the body and the single color of the tail. This is a sign that some other predator bit off the tail some time ago. A new one grew back, but without the original colors and patterns. This lizard was born under a bad sign!

Two more photos:



So I left the doomed lizard to its fate, a grim one most likely involving that merciless cat.

Just opposite the Brophy St. hill is a pleasant vacant lot shaded by tall and stout cottonwood trees. This lot borders the drainage canal which gathers up flood waters and conveys them who knows where. The water probably ends up in Mexico. Several Palmer’s Agaves live in that lot, and one of them had intercepted falling cottonwood leaves with the wickedly-sharp spines which terminate every leaf. A couple of photos of this agave, scenes which charmed me:



Just two days ago the waters roaring and churning through the canals were reddish-brown with silt and sand from the canyon slopes. Yesterday the flow was clear, and the numerous waterfalls and riffles reminded me of a mountain stream. How nice, that at certain times Bisbee’s main drag is bordered by such a picturesque series of streams!


A closer view:


One of my goals for this walk was to see how the flow had changed on Wood Canyon Road, where Bev and I lived for two winters. Dingo and I walked up past the fire station and turned across the canal bridge onto Wood Canyon. The flow had gone down since I had last seen it the day before. Then the road was a river, from curb to curb, but here’s what it looked like Sunday afternoon:


As we walked back down Tombstone I wondered if the lizard would still be there on the Brophy St. hill. Perhaps only a mangled corpse would be left. I saw nothing; presumably the cat devoured the poor lizard.


A Celestial Retrospective


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


A Visit From A Snow God




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.


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:







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:


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:


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:



Yeah, that dog was in her element!


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:


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:


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!


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!


Hangdog Days


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!


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:


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.


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:


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:


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.


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


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:


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


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.



It’s all food for the spirit!