Category Archives: Field Notes

Field Notes #13 : Spider in the hand of a goodly snow

800px-Crab_spider by RedRue

Polar fleece. One of the best.  Inventions. Ever.

My admiration for this virtuous fabric prompted me to do a bit of research on it. On Wikipedia, I came across this: “Aaron Feuerstein [inventor] intentionally declined to patent polar fleece, allowing the material to be produced cheaply and widely by many vendors, leading to the material’s quick and wide acceptance.”

What a lovely man for doing this for us.

Until recently, my polar fleece jacket has been out of commission, in need of repair. I’ve been wearing an uncomfortable coat—the shell, actually, from my husband’s coat—made of polyester. The coat is much bigger, heavier, and longer than my fleece jacket but nowhere near as warm. Continue reading Field Notes #13 : Spider in the hand of a goodly snow

Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt.3) by Patricia Karamesines

Desert storm with rainbow

This is the third part of a three-part entry. To read part one, go here. To read part two, go here.

Glancing at Belle, I can tell she needs water, and soon. I lead her away from the beaver ponds before she’s tempted beyond her ability to resist to drink from its giardia-laced teapots. I hurry her to the shade of a big juniper, another of my stops, and sit down in the dirt beneath a broken branch that hangs across the trail. Obviously, Belle needs more water than I can provide by cupping my hand. I relent and pour her a drink in the canteen lid. She laps four or five lids full then lies down in the shade without my prompting, her shoulder pressing against my knee. She pants rapidly but seems to have gotten enough to drink, refusing another offered lid.

Looking around inside the juniper’s shadow, I notice a single penstemon blossom, looking like a wind sock on a pole, glowing red against the litter. Its color leaps to the eye from a backdrop of live blue-green and dead brown juniper stubble; last year’s curled, tawny oak leaves; green wisps of grass growing in a clump; spider webs clouded with dirt and other debris; and round, purplish-blue juniper berries dropped into grey-toned soil speckled with blacker grains, probably of decayed organic material. From somewhere up-canyon, a canyon wren’s laugh pipes its downward-falling scale. Continue reading Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt.3) by Patricia Karamesines

Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt. 2) by Patricia Karamesines

Brown's Canyon.
This canyon is a tributary canyon to Crossfire Canyon..

Part Two of a three-part post. To read Part One, go here.

Nearing the grove, I find the trail leading into it paved with a light mosaic of shed brown and yellow leaves. I resist the impulse to resent fall’s steady encroachment into summer’s back edge. When I reach the interior of the woods, Belle, very thirsty, trots ahead to a beaver-felled trunk, our customary bench, and plops down to wait for me to offer her water. I open my waist pack to discover that I’ve forgotten to bring her little plastic water dish. Thinking about how that might have happened, I can’t even remember why it isn’t in the pack. Maybe I took it out of the pack when I refilled her water bottle in the kitchen then forgot to put it back in. This is the kind of mistake I make when I’m worn down. I’m unhappy about this error and try to figure out what to do. I cup my hand and pour water into it, continuing to pour as Belle laps water off my palm. Looking at her face, I can tell it isn’t enough. The cap on my canteen is big and will probably hold 4 ounces of water, but I don’t want to offer the lid of my canteen to my dog’s tongue unless the need becomes urgent. Continue reading Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt. 2) by Patricia Karamesines

Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt. 1) by Patricia Karamesines

Crossfire in the Fall

What a mystery is the air, what an enigma to these human senses! [T]he air is the most pervasive presence I can name, enveloping, embracing, and caressing me both inside and out, moving in ripples along my skin, flowing between my fingers, swirling around my arms and thighs, rolling in eddies along the roof of my mouth, slipping ceaselessly thought the throat and trachea to fill the lungs, to feed my blood, my heart, my self. I cannot act, cannot speak, cannot think a single thought without the participation of this fluid element. I am immersed in its depths as surely as fish are immersed in the sea. 

David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Part One of a three-part post.

August 24, 2013. When I head out today for Crossfire Canyon, I step into a world in motion. Currents of surface wind, smooth in texture, cool to the touch, flood out of the south, curling around every solid body be it person, fencepost, or stone, leaning into every curve in the terrain. Weeds and spindly desert sunflowers undulate in it. As I pass my neighbor’s orchard, waves of wind sound in the apple and pear trees’ leaves, oceanic in temperament, noising like breakers crushing themselves against sand.

Here on White Mesa, the character of the desert air ranges widely from spring’s sandpaper winds that rattle windows and flake shingles off roofs, to the sudden dust-ups of sand spouts or dust devils, to dead still, the odd hour where the air’s quiescence reminds me of a motionless pool deposited in a stream bed after a flash flood has rumbled through. Today’s wind surges without half smothering me. I’ve walked into mesa blasts that grapple with me for my breath. This wind is respiration friendly. Continue reading Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt. 1) by Patricia Karamesines

Crossing Boundaries, Part Two by Steven L. Peck

Steve, friend, and redrock country

To read Part One, click here.

H. is unwilling to give up and is looking more closely at the little hole we might be able to climb in. I back up and find a passage behind a fallen slab about the size of a pancaked SUV leaning against the wall of rock. I tell H. and he looks and we decide it is worth a try. He goes first (again, being the less timid) and wiggles his way through on his belly. He yells that it ends at a drop off about seven feet high. I hear grunting, huffing and puffing . . . ”If I can just twist around . . . I can go feet first . . .” More grunting then an exclamation, “I’ve done it!” I then belly through the birth canal and emerge scratched up but smiling. We continue. The canyon is very narrow now. We cannot face forward in some places without each shoulder touching the wall. Two more places require us to chimney to get down similar seven-foot drops, but they are coming more often and getting trickier to negotiate. Continue reading Crossing Boundaries, Part Two by Steven L. Peck

Crossing Boundaries, Part One by Steven L. Peck

Steve and friend heading out

Every year an old friend and I undertake an adventure. H. and I are middle-aged now. Past our prime and youth when our adventures were bolder and more carefree. I can remember when we then, full of laughter, took his new pickup and rubbed its shiny sides against aspens for luck while searching out some secreted beaver dam in which to toss a fly. Now we fuss and fret. We worry endlessly about our kids and their kids and temper our exuberance with caution, having faced too many sorrows and misfortunes since. We are stressed and plagued with the press of the day to day, and we both in demeanor have that worn edge that cheese graters achieve when used on granite.

But once a year we become eighteen again. We plan a day and fashion ourselves into grand explorers and take to the environs of our youth. His wife drops us off on a dirt road. In pictures she took, we cut a pair of comical figures. Camelbacks, pants, and trekking poles make us look like a pair of amateur bird watchers more suited to a stroll along a paved parkway than two bold men (in our minds at least) out for rugged adventure. In one of the pictures, one of us points to the desert. It is a hint that today we are not taking to common trails. Continue reading Crossing Boundaries, Part One by Steven L. Peck

Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Five

Parts one, two, three, and four.

The mid-sized Ancestral Puebloan site sitting up on that “erosional layer of lower strata” (love that phrase) of Crossfire’s east cliffs is one of my favorites because of the serene view it offers down-canyon.  From what I’ve seen of that portion of Crossfire, including about a mile or so of what lies below the “No Drive Zone,” the farther south the canyon runs the wider it opens out and the higher the cliffs soar above its floor.  This Pueblo II-Pueblo III site’s impressive field of view takes in several of the canyon’s other ruins, including the first site across canyon that the archaeologist and I visited and, possibly, the tower. An ATV trail, badly eroded now as its illegality has come clear and nobody wants to risk keeping it up, crosses this site and runs onto the mesa east of Crossfire.  Sometimes I climb just above the ruin and sit on a flat rock jutting from the canyon wall out of which the trail was carved.  It’s nice up there, the size of the place intimates itself more deeply, and I feel the canyon’s inclusiveness fold me in. Continue reading Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Five

Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Four

Part One.  Part Two.  Part Three.

As we’d searched for the incised grooves and then the tower, the archaeologist and I traded small details about our families.  He mentioned how, when he takes his kids for hikes, they’re always running up to him and asking, “Is this an artifact, Dad?”  I told him how, when we first moved to the area, my two ambulatory kids would go out exploring and bring home rocks that struck their fancy.  A flashy array of jasper crops up from the ground here along with colorful cherts, etc.—the stones Ancestral Puebloans flint-knapped into arrowheads and other tools.  Lithic flakes—the waste and “misfires” of flint-knapping—abound, as well as partial and whole arrowheads and cores, which are the rounded remains of rocks from which workable pieces have been flaked off—a stone’s unusable “pit.” I had to sort through the adopted rocks for lithic flakes then explain to my kids, “This is an artifact.  Take it back.” Finally, I went out with them and taught them how to recognize possible lithic flakes and related artifacts.  These, I told them, were to be left in situ. Continue reading Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Four

Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice, Part Three

Part One here.  Part Two here.

The rain that earlier diluted a few thoughts in my journal failed to commit, but the overcast thickened. Light making it through the clouds fell flatly. Trees in the juniper forest through which we walked cast no shade that could be distinguished from cloud shadow. Below us on the creek’s banks, Fremont cottonwoods had lost most of their heart-shaped scales to autumn winds. Remaining leaves flapped on their stems, working free from the trees’ upper stories, winging back to their roots.  With the loss of the cottonwoods’ stands of verdure and the stalks of most of the other plants gone to straw, Crossfire’s green flames burned very low, deep inside the trees and in the ashes of the canyon’s seed-time. “Grey” was the word for the day. I guessed temperatures were hovering around 38 degrees, but high humidity accompanying the storm front whetted the chill.  The archaeologist is a light, slim man.  He wore no gloves and not much of a coat.  He remarked that he felt cold. Continue reading Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice, Part Three

Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Two

Part One below on the “Home” page or click here.

As the archaeologist and I pushed uphill through sage and rabbit brush, he stopped to explain, quite diplomatically and in precise language, that he was in the canyon doing work pursuant to the BLM’s weighing a county government proposal to establish an ATV right-of-way through Crossfire, length to be determined.  Having lately become one of the canyon’s resident creatures, I found this information intriguing. Continue reading Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Two