I still am saddened by President Abraham Lincoln’s death. Reading about it, after reading about his life and the Civil War ever since I was young, it seems as new and shocking and horrible as it must have been that day, April 14, 1865. I remember standing in Ford’s Theater, being in the house across the street, and being transported back in time. The AP report in this link–just one of many media reports–is certainly not written in the pyramid style we learned in J-school.
It took millions of years for wind and water and subterranean upheavals to create Red Rock Canyon, a part of the southern Mojave Desert near Las Vegas. A world away from the bright lights of the city and well beyond the lush moraines of the Midwest, the desert is dry and deceiving. There is life here, all around and sometimes unseen. The desert cottontail finds vegetation in rocky canyons and mesquite thickets, but you rarely see him in the day. Bighorn sheep hug the rocky terrain and the white-tailed antelope ground squirrel spreads his body on shady desert soil seeking the cool. The creosote bush efficiently gathers up any water it can find to nourish its small yellow flowers. Native Americans used the Indian paintbrush to treat rheumatism, as a hair brightener and as a food.
Red-tailed hawks, cactus wrens and the clever greater roadrunner are among the birds who rule the air here, and the coyote, kit fox and mountain lion, snakes and chuckwallas are some of the hundreds of living things that roam the rugged terrain and make the desert washes their highways. You’ll see signs for wild horses and burros crossing the roads, and you may see a few humans on bikes, a row of water bottles buldging across their backs in the 100 degree heat.
At Red Rock, the great sandstone cliffs are made up of Aztec sandstone. A Bureau of Land Management publication says they are about 100 million years old and represent lithified sand dunes that formed in a vast desert that covered large part of the Southwest during the Jurassic age. The sand slowly changed into sandstone as subsurface water percolated throughout the sediments and deposited cements of iron oxide and calcium carbonate in the pore spaces between the grains. Over thousands of years, these rocks were slowly uplifted thousands of feet and exposed to the elements and erosion. The red color of much of the Aztec sandstone is from iron oxide that “rusted” to orange, red and brown hues. In some ares you can see the older gray Paleozoic limestone resting on top of the younger sandstone, the result of compressional forces in the crust that forced the old rock up over the younger rock and helped to preserve it.
The visitor center at Red Rock is beautifully presented, environmentally friendly and contains outstanding educational exhibits. A “sure bet” the next time you visit Las Vegas.
The start of school and the end of summer are almost synonymous, long after our own school days and those of our children are over. New scents and sounds take over, like they did for us at Washington School. Saddle shoes, polished wooden floors, white paste and construction paper, freshly laundered cotton dresses, bells ringing in the corridors, children rushing out to the playground. Can you find the Hopalong Cassidy shirt? I’m in the picture, along with my best friend, and others who are Facebook friends today. Hope your school year is as fun as ever.
For a miracle, take one shepherd’s sheepskin, throw
In a pinch of now, a grain of long ago,
And a handful of tomorrow. Add by eye
A little bit of ground, a piece of sky,
And it will happen. For miracles, gravitating
To earth, know just where people will be waiting,
And eagerly will find the right address
And tenant, even in a wilderness.
Or, if you’re leaving home, switch on a new
Four-pointed star in Heaven as you do,
To light a vacant world with steady blaze
And follow you forever with its gaze.
(Translated, from the Russian, by Richard Wilbur) 1999
Art gives us the means to see things in a different way. It not necessarily the artist’s point of view; it may be one that exclusively belongs to you, the viewer. What a refreshing summer Friday, at the end of a long, unimaginative week, to step into the Museum of Wisconsin Art, meet a few friends and neighbors, have a glass of wine, see something new and recharge.
I had seen the photographs of Edward S. Curtis on a previous visit, his marvelous dignified portraits of North American Indians taken in the early 20th Century. This Friday, Curtis’ “Vanishing Race” shared the museum’s windowed, white space with contemporary American Indian artist’s Tom Jones abstract stories made of color images and shadows of plastic toy “cowboys and Indians.” We stopped and stared and wondered what it all meant, and we started talking. “I am an Indian First and an Artist Second” is Tom Jones using metaphors about what he perceives as “a form of identity genocide” within the Ho-Chuck community. The bases of the toy figures, scanned from below, in bright reds and blues, made bold patterns in their arrangements, imprinted with “MADE IN CHINA,” while the figures themselves disappeared like strands of smoke beyond the glass. I guess you have to see it to even try to understand.
The woman on the bench gestured “Hush! Stop!” I stopped my bike on the paved park road and watched the tentative movements in the woods — a mother deer and her three young ones, looking to cross. We waited. A couple and their dog halted ahead of me. The children coming behind me quieted suddenly. For awhile we all stood still and took in the little pageant. Mother stepped across the road first, then waited patiently for her charges to follow, which they did, in their own time, with dainty fawn steps. Her family intact, the doe led the way up a small rise through the cedars and away out of sight. The human watchers stirred, breathed satisfied breaths, pleased at what they had witnessed, then renewed their hiking and their chatter. “We were seeing rock stars,” the woman said.
My son Jim is terrific. He is so terrific we took a mother-son road trip and he drove my Toyota all the way. I learned that both of us are planners and doers and love history. Jim also has a passion for maps so we were never lost. In fact, when in Washington, DC, he was asked for directions often and he always steered the tourists right. I also learned that Van Halen and the Who and McDonald’s coffee are great long-haul incentives.