Tag Archives: flowers

Pictorial Highlight: Mono Basin

The Mono Basin, whose grandeur includes but is most definitely not limited to the famous Mono Lake, is one of my absolute favorite places.  It has so many stunning features.  Hopefully I capture and convey some of them to you, Dear Reader, with these pictures.

The “suds” seen on the bottom of this picture are from the incredible alkalinity of the lake; it’s like swishing around saltwater and baking soda!

The magnificent tufa formations are comprised mainly of calcium carbonate, formed when underground springs bubble up with minerals, coalescing and hardening and growing over thousands of years.  Mono Lake is one of the most unique lakes in the world; it was birthed from nearby geologic activity over 1,000,000 years ago!  David Carle is one of the foremost authorities (and writers) on Mono Lake and California ecology in general, and one of my inspirations for The Rewild West, my narrative nonfiction book for which I’m slowly gathering experience and research and material, of which this blog is a part.  Here’s a terrific piece Carle wrote about the tufa.  As he says therein, “Sure, a picture is worth a thousand words, but the real thing is always worth a thousand pictures….words strain to do [the tufa formations] justice.”

In the background is the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park, the eastern Sierra Nevadas.

Atop Panum Crater, with the lake in the background. Mono is rimmed by numerous craters; the last eruption was about 600 years ago.

I love the phenomenal little trees growing out of the incredibly harsh, unforgiving landscape of a rocky crater!

The formation on the left is, appropriately, called Obsidian Dome…

…and here’s what the beautiful rocks look like up close. They are literally made of cooled-off MAGMA! The time scale on which nature operates is so humbling and fascinating. During the time it took for this piece of rock to form from a hot spewing volcano, civilizations have been built and fallen, empires have risen and collapsed; before wind and snow and rain erodes it much more, the current global empire of industrial civilization will crumble and collapse. Oh how I yearn for it to begin in earnest…

Rikki enjoying herself near a 30-foot tufa formation.

Given the propensity of geothermal activity in the Basin, that means lots of hot springs!! This one was scalding (as you can see), so we stayed away–but nearby in the river there bubbled up some nice warm water in which to get naked =)

This shows Negit Island (which also supposedly has lots of geothermal activity going on), one of the two main islands within Mono Lake; this photo and the next were taken from the mountain pass about 1,000 feet above the lake.

Arrow-leaved balsom root flowers and mountains directly west of Mono Lake.

Thank you for viewing!  Nothing compares to the real thing though…hope you enjoyed this week’s Pictorial Highlight ❤

Vivisection and Flowers

This post brings together two seemingly disparate topics which in reality connect well together.  I’m putting them in one post because I happened to do the two separate things on the same day (UC Davis animal research protest with the Open the Cages Tour and a nature and arboretum walk).

First we got our protest on at the despicable California National Primate Research Center; there were young activists in their 20s like myself, and people who have been protesting vivisection since before many of us were born (perhaps it’s long past time we as a ‘movement’ reevaluate the tactics we support and advocate?).  A great mixture of old-school and new-school coming together.

One of the tourers got some good messages out there as he was interviewed by two separate local channels (I don’t know how much they actually showed–my guess is not-much, but such is the way of the world).  He was eloquent and concise, although I do wish he’d talked not just about primates, since rats and mice constitute 95% of the animals used in vivisection, and they suffer unfathomably as well; of course, it was a protest focusing on the Primate Research Center, but there’s nothing wrong with mentioning the millions of beautiful, sweet little creatures (I’ve had rescued pet rats for the last 5 years, and they’re wonderful and amazing companions!) who aren’t even covered under the already-pitiful and rarely-enforced Animal Welfare Act.  That’s right, the AWA excludes all rodents, so they’re basically like naked soldiers walking into a nuclear test range.


I also got to get a little megaphone time; I already have what they call “megaphone mouth,” meaning the ability to make my voice very, very loud, so I’m hoping the monkeys in their tiny cages could hear me calling for their freedom from their Nazi imprisoners deep behind the walls of the torture chambers.

It was rather enjoyable and cathartic to exorcise some of my pent-up prison rage =)

Tonight the Open the Cages Tour will be having an Animal Rights workshop in Seattle, and tomorrow there will be a protest at the University of Washington.  Then it’s farther on up the Best Coast to Vancouver!  Here is their tour schedule.

After that, I met up with a friend from college, Kirsti, whom I haven’t seen in nearly three years.  She’s a major plant enthusiast and has a degree in Biological Science with an emphasis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, so she taught me a LOT about plants; usually I’m the one telling others about the natural features of an area, so it was very nice and humbling to be schooled; hopefully I can impart some of her impressive knowledge to you, Dear Reader.  First we went to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, just outside Davis, where we saw some lovely flowers, snowy egrets and a great blue heron, red-winged blackbirds, and swarms of beautiful dragonflies above our heads.

Kirsti says:  “Most people think that the sunflower is a single flower, but actually it is a composite of numerous florets (small flowers). Each single outer petal is actually a sterile floret, and the real flowers are arranged in the center in a beautiful Fibannochi pattern to maximize packing of seeds after they are fertilized.”  So cool!  I never knew that–had no idea.

“This showy orange flower is a south African plant called Wild Dagga. The plant’s modest water requirements and ability to attract hummingbirds makes it a popular ornamental in the Central Valley and Southern California.”

We couldn’t figure out what this plant is, but its geometry is so stunning and even psychedelic that I had to include it.

“[This] succulent is a hybrid of Echeveria elegans and it is being showcased in a garden filled with hand-picked “All Stars” chosen by the Arboretum Master Gardener staff for their ability to flourish in Davis and the Central Valley with minimal upkeep.”  I referred to the Echeveria as the “dancers” because the flowers look like they’re swing-dancing!

I was a little conflicted about posting a single non-native plant picture on this blog (the Wild Dagga), but Kirsti can provide a scholarly interpretation of the arboretum’s general ecological soundness; obviously it has value in teaching people about plants, but you always have to ask, At what cost?  Like how zoos can teach us about animals, but at a horrific cost to the animals and our own psyches (on this topic, I cannot more highly recommend Derrick Jensen’s beautiful, heartbreaking book, Thought to Exist in the Wild:  Awakening From the Nightmare of Zoos).  But this arboretum is a good one.  As we come nearer and nearer to a post-oil world, learning about and propagating plants is becoming immeasurably important.  I’ll let Kirsti take it away!

“As climate change threatens the [Central] Valley with increasing water shortages, the Arboretum emphasizes the practice of xeriscaping, aka green landscaping– or designing gardens that use plants that reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation. [emphasis added]

“Using native plants is one obvious tactic, as they are already adapted to the particular water needs of the region, and their presence supports the myriad insects, birds and other organisms that exist in the native community. Although most exotic plants tend to require more maintenance or water than natives, the Arboretum has done a great job of identifying specific drought-resistant exotic plants from other countries that synergize with the Central Valley’s climate.

“Invasive species are a real problem because they compete with native species for space and resources and might possess novel qualities that allow them to proliferate out of control and wipe out scores of native species and communities in their wake. Although some exotic plants may be beneficial in green landscaping, it is important to remember that these seemingly isolated plants start as source population for spreading beyond your garden, and this may have tragic consequences to the local ecosystem. In the interest of protecting native communities, the real focus should be on landscaping with native plants that are relatively beneficial to the native community in the event they escape beyond your garden.” [emphasis added]

Beautifully rendered explanations, Kirsti, thank you so much for your input!

Pictorial Highlight: Anza-Borrego #2

 

These structures in the hard-packed sand are called “Elephant’s Knees,” created by the channeling of water and wind into an erosive force…

 

 

Cholla cactus flower.

 

 

Wind Caves!

 


Got SUPER sick our first night from bad Gardein; ended up puking for several hours the next morning.  This is how I roll–whenever I get sick, I finger-fuck myself until I puke out all the poison 🙂

 

 

 

 

Lookit this beautiful bugger. HUGE!

 

 

The ocotillo plant, one of my favorite plants, so amazing…they have thick, SHARP thorns. And their branches…

 

 

…like this! Hard and brittle and peely, almost like thinly sliced dried fruit, but HARD. Their root systems begin aboveground, perched over the sand like spiders. Marvelous plants.

 

 

Found this desert lily just as the sun was rising…

 

 

More brittlebush, at dusk.

 

Inside the Wind Caves!!

 

 

Are you ready for the finale?  The triple-whammy grand finale?

 

 

 

 

‘Nuff said!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonoma Coast and Synchronicity

A couple days ago my fiance Rebecca and I took a half-day trip to explore the northern Sonoma coast; what a majestic place it is!  We started off from the 101 by driving through the towering redwoods and past the Russian River, following it all the way to its mouth.  Then we turned north and climbed the coastal bluffs and the scenery became more and more stunning.  Wildflowers were abundant on the shoulder and the hillsides:  California poppies and their almost-psychedelic oranges and yellows, purple and white lupine, the brilliant red of the occasional Indian paintbrush…

Lovely pine tree in its earliest stages of development.

The cliffs are rugged pastiches of gray and black and auburn and sandstone, rocky and jagged from the ceaseless slicing hands of wind and sand and wave.  I stared for miles and miles into the azure distance of the open ocean, feeling so very free and liberated, the total antithesis of the ceaseless, manic, cruel and loathsome mental condition forced on the incarcerated.  I thank Earth every day that I am a free man–free from prison, anyway.

We stopped at a beach and threw a stick for our American bulldog and pit bull mix Rikki; she and I jogged through a stream (from which Rikki and I both took cool, sweet sips–to Rebecca’s ire–but I can’t help but taste real water, when it’s from what appears to be a safe source) that led into the ocean and through the rocky surf.  Rikki also is an unquestionable symbol of freedom.  To see her bound along on the beach is to truly know ecstasy and unadulterated joie de vivre.  If only we humans were lucky and smart enough to capture and maintain that kind of attitude.

On the way home we had an interesting and profound interaction with some other humans, one of those serendipitous events that wouldn‘t have happened if not for the perfect collusion of random choices.  Rebecca pulled us into a turnout so we could take Rikki to pee.  An older man and woman pulled up in a silver van and got out.  Rebecca and I were both immediately struck with how much the man resembled an older version of her dearly departed father, Bob.  He had the same fine, combed-back white hair that Bob had toward the end of his long and courageous battle with cancer and other ailments.  His lips were soft and drawn down in the way that those with few or no teeth are–just like Bob without his dentures.  So adorable!

Some of my most interesting moments on the road have begun by striking up conversation with strangers, so I approached the couple.  Turns out they’ve lived in the New Orleans area their entire life.  The woman had never even left Louisiana!  I told them about my volunteer relief work with Common Ground after Hurricane Katrina, and about how intensely profound an experience it was.  They told us how wonderful a time they were having in California already on the very start of their three-week trip.  I recommended several places they just had to see along their route.  Rebecca and I were both stunned further by the resemblance between the gentleman and her father:  he had the same goofy sense of humor; and his name was also Bob!  It was eerie, and our subsequent discussion confirmed that we both felt the same vibes pulsing off the sweet old man with his lovely N’awleans twang.

This is not the place for me to wax philosophical on synchronicity–because I could, for pages and pages–but it is something to think about.

I told the couple how to avoid a three-hour clusterfuck on their drive from there to Humboldt, then shook hands with Bob and his wife and I hugged.  I wish them the best, and am so grateful that our respective orbits entwined for a brief stretch.

People come from all over the country, all over the world, to California, because it is the Wild West; it is one of the last areas with large unbroken tracts of wilderness in the lower 48.  It is a place of magic and incomprehensible beauty.  But soon it will all be gone–logged, decimated completely of wildlife, poisoned, “developed,” and plowed for agriculture to feed the growing overpopulation of humans (GET A VASECTOMY, guys!); unless, that is, we build a serious resistance movement to the destruction of the west and the planet.  Let’s Rewild the West, and All the Rest!