The Key to Good Eavesdropping

Collared Peccary
Photo: JoHanna Massey 2016

“The key to good eavesdropping is not getting caught.”
Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

Along with the few dogs walking their people, familiar birds, lizards, a coyote, solitary power walkers, and a regular group of youthful women who jog together on Saturday mornings, I also see  a particular sounder (herd) of collared peccary, during my early dawn walk abouts the neighborhood. 

There are about twelve of the Collared Peccaries, which is average for a group, the smallest a  baby and always running very fast to keep his position just beneath the slower moving mother or nursemaid. They always give me  a wide berth if in the open, or quickly hide if there is cover. The rest are of mix sizes and genders, with one, maybe two males topping sixty pounds. Locally we call them Javelina, but I’ve also heard them referred to as Quenk, Skunk Pig, B’quiro, or Sainos.

They  announce themselves with  a swampy, too deep musk odor.  Both male and female have glands that run the length of their backs, and each member of the herd ritualistically grooms with one another, mixing their individual scents into one,  to create a distinctive stink for their herd.

Today’s Collared Peccaries are quite small compared to their predecessors 25 million years ago who left behind in the Agate Springs Quarry in Nebraska fossilized jaw and teeth that indicated a skull length of over three feet.  These modern urban desert versions have dainty small feet, and fashionable slender legs to support a barrel shape body and big heads.

They can look fairly menacing with razor sharp tusks and a mouth full of teeth  that they snap together loudly when distressed. But my experience for many years has been that any  sudden charging on their part is more likely they have heard and  smelled me and are coming closer in  their very near sighted attempt to see what I am. While I have had many encounters with the Javelina, and have never been shown aggression, I would never consider feeding, touching, or cornering them, always mindful they are best as wild beasts. They grunt, snuffle, bark and woof their way through the neighborhood early to forage on the well maintained irrigated  landscaping or remain ‘outside’ on the Nation Forest Trails where they take big bite-fuls of the toughest prickly pear cactus, seemingly without distress, getting not only food, but moisture during dry periods.

While certainly not fully nocturnal, they do tend to be most active at night, dusk, and dawn, taking their repose in hidden, secluded shady overhangs, ledges, arroyos during the bright heat of the daylight hours.

People have strong, often opposing opinions, ideas, or fears about the Wildlife in the neighborhoods.  I’ve learned to never speak out loud in passing to anyone about seeing the Javelina. Even when the entire  Javelina clan are silently hiding in plain sight, eavesdropping on the unsuspecting gathering  of young women,  finishing off their coffees with some Girl Talk before starting their Saturday morning jog.

“Let’s get going.”  says the pretty brunette dressed in blue.”Something really stinks.”

I wish each and all a safe, calm, and peaceful weekend.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Collared Peccary this is a very interesting read:  Habitat Use by Collared Peccaries in an Urban Environment
Elizabeth S. Bellantoni and Paul R. Krausman
The Southwestern Naturalist
Vol. 38, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 345-351
Published by: Southwestern Association of Naturalists

DOI: 10.2307/3671613  Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3671613
Page Count: 7
Today’s Music: Dave Edmunds & the Rockpile: Girls Talk

 

19 of the Very Best ‘Uplifting Photos of the Day’

Good Sunday Morning to all:

Wanted to share these inspiring photos that I did not take with you.  If you want your spirits lifted, these beautiful visuals of humans at their best will do it!  Thank you to the Kindness Blog for offering to share. Enjoy.

19 of the Very Best ‘Uplifting Photos of the Day’,                                                           by Kindness Blog.

One of my favorites:

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Look at This Mother Listening to her Deceased Son’s Heartbeat Inside the Donor Recipient…

 

 

Oak Creek Canyon: The Equivalent of Churchgoing

My father considered a walk among the mountains 

as the equivalent of churchgoing.

Aldoux Huxley

 

Woke up with a need for some churchgoing. Headed out to Oak Creek Canyon,  a long time sacrosanct place for me,   a place which had experienced some serious trouble while I was living in the South. The Canyon stretches between Flagstaff and Sedona for about twelve miles of a most scenic of routes.  Oak Creek runs along the bottom, an all seasons flowing  stream and tributary of the Verde River.

 

Hundreds of thousands of global  visitors come to Oak Creek Canyon, for camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, photography, or their own personal form and need of spiritual renewal. Others pass through traveling to Sedona from the Grand Canyon, or to the Grand Canyon from Sedona, white knuckle navigating the high canyon switchbacks, seeking a pullout to take their perfect vacation photos.

 

Now I knew it was a Saturday in summer and water is always  an attraction in the desert. And  I knew that Sedona was hosting it’s annual Cowboys Weekend.  I had no thoughts or expectations of anything but sharing Oak Creek Canyon with many others. Even as layperson,  I  knew many people were going to be showing up to get near the renewing water. The analogy of a very well attended service sits well.

 

The Canyon welcomed me with easy familiarity and recognition, the prodigal   daughter returned.

 

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” Giant’s Mitten or Teapot Rock”
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“Camel Rock”
About 9:30 AM catching site of Midgley Bridge. Cars were already overflowing the parking area,  and even along the narrow shoulder of the roadway.

 

Now I admit to knowing where there used to be some very  carefully camouflaged  local knowledge only  paths to plunge into the baptism of ice cold deep water pools that Big Fish trout shared without fuss or flight. This was before GPS, cell phones, Sharing, and Links, and when these places were under a kind of unspoken local blessing and protection.
By the time we had passed Grasshopper Point and arrived at Slide Rock State Park, named one of America’s top ten state Parks, we realized with a gut punch the our beloved Canyon was in deep trouble again this year, only it is not fire scorching it to ruin.

 

While many  visitors  paid the fees that help maintain the parks, campgrounds,  and picnic ares, hundreds of vehicles lined both sides of the narrow road up the Canyon, filled the pullouts double and triple parking.
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Image result for no parking sign
Over and over, and then over and over once again groups of thirty or more people were  carting coolers, cases, umbrella’s tarps, boxes, fishing gear, babies, suitcases, diaper bags, plastic containers, bar b q’s, strollers, cell phones, inner tubes,  chairs, tables, pull behind wagons,  and plastic bags of ice down the narrow road to the now many public citizen created trails and paths along the creek. It was for me, an environmental Dark Night of The Soul.

 

 Maybe you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands. That’s right. Even if you don’t own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many other natural treasures.

John Garamen

I embrace John Garamendi’s words and believe them to be true. How do they reconcile with the numbers of people coming into Oak Creek Canyon on this Saturday morning in July? The ‘public lands’ they are enjoying do not have parking, trash cans, fire pits, potable water, and most important of all,   they do not have bathrooms.

 

The designated recreational areas in Oak Creek Canyon, and they are numerous, are designed around the carrying capacity of Oak Creek Canyon’s ecosystem. The carrying capacity being the number of people living and recreating, in addition to all the other plants, animals, birds, insects, amphibians, all living things that can be supported in an ecosystem without causing  degradation.
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Standing up at Oak Creek Vista  at the top of Oak Creek Canyon, you could not see one hint  of what was going on below.  It looked as pristine as the brochures and tourism promotions that abound.

 

How can the Canyon heal from the Slide Rock Fire with so many people flooding in and no longer using the designated recreational areas?  How can this beautiful unique ecosystem survive with even a semblance of health and vitality?
I think first of all, people need to know what is actually happening to  Oak Creek Canyon. The shock, futility and sadness that I felt  at seeing such disrespect for this hallowed area, gave way to my belief that giving up and giving in to it’s demise is not an option. With proper management and respect and a zero tolerance for violating the creek while continuing to provide the recreational areas so many use, Oak Creek Canyon will not only survive but thrive and be available to the next generations.

 

I encourage you to watch this slice of what the Mornings After look like up in Oak Creek Canyon. What 3,736 pounds of trash, 2,041 pounds of recycles, 260 pounds of feces, 69 diapers, The Oak Creek Watershed Council has made this excellent short film:
                                          Loved to Death

 

Then get involved. Whether you live in the Verde Valley area, or are one of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to enjoy or who have enjoyed in the past  the Oak Creek Canyon, let your voice be heard that Oak Creek Canyon should be saved.
Steps you can take:

 

Practice:  Leave No Trace
Join or support the Oak Creek Watershed Council,
Friends of The Forest or your organization of choice that is committed
to preserving and protecting the integrity of this or any watershed, and is at ground zero with boots on the ground doing the dirty work of cleaning up, restoration, public education, research, and water sampling.

 

and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. Let them know that Oak Creek Canyon matters for recreational, spiritual, and economic and environmental reasons.

&nsbp;

 And if you are a praying person, now would be the time.
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It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
Neil Armstrong

BIG BLOG DEALS

Big Blog Deal Happily I announce  205 followers for my blog. This is truly something to celebrate and I just want to say thank you so very much. And what a following it is. Writers, students, artists, mechanics, mothers, music men, IT people, farmers, science geeks, ministers, travelers, photographers, athletes, pilots, teachers, chefs, and comedians. Flung far and wide around the globe from New York City, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Kenya, and everywhere in between.  Crossing over gender, age, politics, faith,  demographic distances and differences that demonstrate just how positive an impact for peace and unity that the WordPress Community is. Your support and encouragement of my blog is so appreciated, and I learn so much, and have so much fun  each time I visit with you, and you inspire me every day.  Thank you. Another BIG BLOG DEAL

Original Artwork by Lori Preusch

Lots of people have them, whether they travel in their heads, hearts, or are stuffed away in attics, bottom desk drawers, or Misc Archived Files. They are the half considered yearning to be …. stories and novels, paintings, videos, sketches, jewelery,  sculptures ,collages, any and all of our creative ideas and yearnings that we keep stuffed away.  Our blogs are a true example of bringing our creative power out into the light …worldwide light of day. My life long desire  is contained in a red trunk as bits and pieces of memorabilia, notes, photos and family documents. This story  has sat in my heart wanting out for a long time. I have to say that this blogging community has really given me the confidence, and my recent lifestyle changes the opportunity, and there is in me such a sense of urgency… that if it is to be told, it’s now or never. And so I take a deep breath and begin.  Connors Reach is now in progress! This is just so exciting…no exhilarating is more like it. There is also a fair amount of anxiety about writing this novel , but it’s power is waning as I embrace my characters and let my imagination out to play. Feeling kind of bold and breathless in the decision to post as it progresses, but I am thinking sharing the creating with you will help me tremendously.   Your ideas, input and continued support is valued and requested. Thanking everyone.

 

The GREAT STUFF PURGE is officially over. It has now been one month since we moved into the townhouse. The car went into the garage for the first time yesterday.  This may not seem like a big deal to most, but even after literally shedding over a ton of stuff before the move, we were still downsizing from approximately two thousand six hundred feet of living space to thirteen hundred, brought too much stuff across country,  and Terry has many jokes now about me being a ‘specialty hoarder.’ That is a hoarder who selectively hoards books, shells, photos, fossils, and rocks. I admit that while I can offload a ‘valuable’ Chippendale chair, or an oak  dining-room set  without a second’s thought to where I will set my bottom  or dinner plate, I will defend my chunks of marbled petrified wood from Arizona, bright pink conch shells from Nevis, a bit of pottery from Civita, and thousands of photos from thousands of days, people,  and places. And yes I did keep ninety percent of my books, even the entire collection of hardbound Anne Rice vampire books.  For my Granddaughter of course, to disappear into this summer. So relieved and happy to be past this part of the path to  that lifestyle of Elegant Simplicity I keep yakking about and striving for. The trick now not to haul home more stuff. Here we go!

Feet In the Right Place: Sedona Arizona

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

Abraham Lincoln

The remains of Hurricane Andres began showing up early Friday morning as a low pressure area with gray clouds, possibly rain.  Unusual for the Verde Valley, but certainly not going to keep us  inside.
My Nikon CoolPix L830 was just back from a trip to California for repair, and I was eager to use it. I had received it as a gift from Terry to photograph our move, two months ago, and from the start it did not focus or respond correctly. Declared ‘a defective unit’ by a Nikon dealer, and off it went for warranty repair. Now returned,  I put the settings on one of the two ‘auto’ features,  laced up my boots, packed us  water and snacks and we were out the door of the townhouse  to hike Courthouse Butte Loop in the Village of Oak Creek. An easy gentle 4.2 mile hike that loops around the Courthouse towards Lee Mountain, heads  north briefly touching into  the Wilderness area. Then around to the (heavily used by quick photo stop visitors) Bell Rock Pathway, passed the cosmically famous Bell Rock, then returning to the parking lot.

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“Why are the rocks red?” you ask. Larry D. Fellows, State Geologist, answered that  question quite eloquently:

Red Rock Country is beautiful because of its geology
–colorful rocks shaped by natural weathering and ero-
sion processes.
What is now red rock was originally soft mud and sand
that were deposited during a 50-million-year time period
that began about 320 million years ago. During that time
the area was a low, arid coastal plain next to a shallow sea.
As usually happens in nature, many changes took
place–rivers, wind, and ocean waves and currents deposit-
ed sediment at different times. When sea level rose, layers
of mud accumulated on the sea floor on top of the river
deposits. When sea level fell, wind-blown sand and dunes
covered the area. Later on, all of the sediment was changed
to hard rock (lithified).
The red color of the rocks is caused by a thin coating
of iron oxide on the particles in the rocks. The iron oxide
was formed by chemical weathering of iron-bearing minerals in the rocks in the arid setting.
 These sandstone formations are old and trusted friends,  whom I have missed. I feel such a sense of belonging and acceptance here.  And while over four and one half million people visit Red Rock Country every year, we encountered very few fellow hikers and no mountain bikers. I surmise that the clouds were serving as gatekeepers. Shoes seemed to be the issue of the day, one gentlemen lamenting to his companion that he should not have worn his brand new boots, his wife really uncomfortable in sandals. Then a bare foot young woman leading a couple through a wash, and later we encountered them again, the barefoot lass perched just above the kneeling couple ; they gazing  at her in rapt attention. She explained that the              Great Spirit was affirming to her that She was in fact the One chosen to speak for Him, that she had brought them to the correct place, it was time,   and they must open themselves to the message and words of Great Spirit speaking now through her.  Without disturbing them, I placed two bottles of water where the couple could see them, asked Great Spirit silently to immediately provide shoes for the oracle, and on we hiked to the Wilderness Boundary where we encountered no one. DSCN9603
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We  stretched out near the dome and spoke awhile of all of the busy details and tasks of the last two months, the decisions, blessings, and how synchronicity  had showed up so many times making our journey home smooth, pointing us to the answers, the people, the assistance, and choices that created a smooth path for the big change parts of our transformation of our lifestyle.  Whether named God, Great Spirit, Universe, or that which has no name…we sat for awhile in gratitude, joined by a raven, a rabbit, and the silence. DSCN9671

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Onward we go around the back of  Courthouse Butte, past flowering  yucca, shaggy bark junipers, and pinon pines.  Yes, the ones who produce pine nuts for pesto.

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Yucca

The very best of the days flowering show offs, and our good luck to be there at the right time is that we got to see the agave, also known as the century plant. With very sharp points on their bluish green base spikes , they were a favorite with Native Tribes for needles, and the pulp in the leaves roasted or used for flour. In the same family of plants as the tequila agave, but quite sobering if they break your skin.   Somewhere between ten and twenty five years of growth, the agave  will respond to some unknown prompt and begin the growth of a thick asparagus like stalk, often over 25 feet in height that erupts into red buds and then blooms into yellow flowers. You can literally see these stalks grow from one day until the next. We were thrilled to see so many flowering.

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The raven stayed with us all the way to Bell Rock Pathway, where we weaved the last few steps of our day through the throngs of tourists freed for fifteen minutes from two large tour buses parked in the lot.

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A perfect day that I am happy to share with you. Peace and Blessings.

Towards A Lifestyle of Elegant Simplicity

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.”      Barack Obama

Part 1:  “Are you sure you want to get rid of this?” 

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She is quite the charmer. A big old Southern Lady House, with a past.  She is 121 years old, or she is 103 years old.  Ladies do lie about their age.   Known locally as  Miss Knight’s House, for the family of school teachers who taught several generations of children  in this small southern village tucked tightly into  the eastern shoreline  of the United States.There are rooms for sewing, and reading, built in shelves for all of the books. Rooms for  the Grandchildren, a great big bathtub, showers tucked under stairs, warm cypress flooring, and spare rooms to accumulate finds from yard sale, craft, and antiquing. There are front porches where  neighbors gather to drink tea, mint juleps, or home made wine. There are back porches off that beautiful warm  kitchen where breakfast is  served, crabs are  eaten, laundry gets  hung on rainy days, and lemon trees in big clay pots thrive, their fragrance permeating into the house and back yard.. I listen to many stories on those porches, often long into the night.  Stories  of the Old South and the New South. We lived and loved in the Southern Lady-House. I heard my own true voice again in that house, felt my heart beat strong and vibrant,  discovered MOOCS, created this blog, and understood without a doubt what I wanted and needed to do was leave that house and most of that stuff, get closer to family,  and return home to the high desert of the Verde Vally.  Ready to live lightly on the planet. Good news that my beloved and the universe not only agreed, but pitched in with enthusiasm.

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Got rid  of over 5,000 pounds of stuff. Books, furniture, nick knacks, tools, and at least a thousand of those pounds being the “WHAT WERE WE THINKING!” piles. One box a day gone a minimum, working through one shelf of books, one drawer at a time, putting FREE signs on dressers, a boat, shelves, rugs,  hauling them out to the sidewalk where they were quickly loaded up and driven away by someone glad to have them. Passing stuff on to our Daughter,                   Grandchildren,  neighbors, charity, and friends. If you came into the door and your eyes lingered with interest on something, chances are you could go home with it.

Once we got into this shedding of the stuff, we began to really enjoy it, and I can only describe it as a feeling of freedom and lightnIMG_0025_6ess. Said our prayers, buried our Saint Joseph’s  and put the  Southern Lady House on the market For Sale. The Southern Lady House sold. Just that quick. Atlas Movers headed west with the remaining stuff,  while we stayed behind over a last minute change to the settlement date. The quiet after the hectic activity of the last few months was simple, clean and right. No bringing to order the house as we prepared it for realtors to show perspective buyers, no To Do List of things to get rid of and services to change. We had a blow up bed, two plates, two sets of utensils, one pot and one pan. Did not shop as we ate our way through the remaining food in the fridge and freezer. It was during the last week of Lent, and we turned the week into a time of meditative silence, reading, naps, yoga,  with periodic  conversational walks about the village as we said our goodbyes to friends. One last dive into a still chilly  Atlantic Ocean, one last meal of fresh from the boat fish.

IMG_0009_10 It was during those last few days that friends and neighbors, shop keepers, and passersby began to reveal  to us in private hushed, don’t tell anyone voices their own desire to leave the village, some of those desires twenty or more years old. They expressed anxiety over economics, strangers, making a mistake, social/political upheaval, their church, and facing the new and the unknown. They blamed their staying on their spouses, children, exhausted finances, community obligations, and Obama. They voiced with regret their years long unhappiness with the village, their life there,  and long lists of should have, would have and could haves. Some yearned for a different country or climate, most for more convenience and opportunity, and for several even a longing to  move inland out of hurricane alley had somehow seemed insurmountable. They spoke of a renewed interest in that yearned for place, career,  or lifestyle they always wanted.  They stopped by and watched, helped, whispered their renewed determination  to go, or warned us of the danger and risk involved as we continued our  preparations to leave. “Aren’t you scared?” they asked. “Only on occasional Tuesday mornings.” I replied. They did not laugh.

The new owner arrived, the sale closed,  and I glimpsed  that larger cosmic picture often discussed called synchronicity about showing up at the right time in the right place for the right people.  The Southern Lady House all spruced up and poised to continue her role of mentor, champion, seducer, and home. In gratitude and joy I leave her. “I Tramp a Perpetual Journey” with life, embrace it,  and  know that the only constant in my  life has been and will continue to be change.

The goal currently is to create a lifestyle of Elegant Simplicity. Not being responsible for a big Southern Lady House was the first big step. The next steps  will surely be alot easier  without  that extra  ton of baggage along. I thank you all for hanging in there during my absence on the blogs.  And promise to catch you up and catch up with you as I continue forward as a committed participant. And boy did I miss you!

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Coming Soon: Part Two

Terry surprises me with a new Nikon COOLPIX L830, as we take off on our road trip across America.

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Photo by: JoHanna Massey

Breathe before it is gone.

Photography 101: Day Eleven: A Pop of Color

“Medieval” was the way Civita, located  in the Province of Viterbo, was described to me. I confess to having to look up exactly what that meant. It was the time between the 5th century fall of the Roman Empire in the west, and the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

By the time I had walked up the long narrow steep causeway, and  through the arched tunnel,  stone warnings to invaders overhead, far from the lavish art and architecture of Renaissance Italy I was enraptured by,  I no longer needed the dictionary because I was there: Medieval.

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                              The morning   wind                                                           spreads it’s fresh smell

We must get up and take that in,

that wind that lets us live

Breathe before it’s gone.

IMG_0121_2Rumi

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