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  • Botany | Coyote Crossing
    writing desk does not exactly fill me with an uncomplicated sense of joy in acquisition The year that Becky and I were married we drove south to an un named valley near Blythe a small river town in the middle of the Colorado Desert California s subsection of the Sonoran Desert There we camped for the night in a grove of Olneya tesota The valley was bleak indeed It was October far from the hottest part of the year and yet we saw little in the way of vertebrate life during the day A house sparrow that had probably strayed from the alfalfa fields flitted briefly into the ironwood canopy then returned eastward Other than that I don t recall seeing so much as a lizard Not a creature stirred the desiccated husks of summer annuals the pallid leaves of desert ironwood and palo verde All was silent This was driven home when eyes on the desert pavement at my feet I absently muttered something to Becky She replied with a tone of amusement I looked up to see we were at least two hundred yards apart yet we could hear each other s normal speaking voices perfectly That afternoon I found a comfortable looking spot in the wash shaded by a bit of ironwood and laid down for a nap shifting my back to gouge out a depression in the gravel I opened my eyes for a moment saw nothing but a few ironwood leaves silhouetted against an impossibly blue sky then dozed Not a few minutes later something soft brushed my cheek and I started awake Eyes the color of polished ironwood gleamed Becky had kissed me The image of my wife s face bean tree leaves behind her deep blue firmament framing all would prove to haunt me through months of desultory wood carving Things picked up a bit when the sun went down A wind came up from the south bearing the slightest odor of the Sea of Cortez Zeke our dog noticed a desert packrat or two whose stick homes we had missed among the fallen trees Far off coyote song punctured the twilight the local great horned owl providing a bass line After dark the valley was palpably alive I sat by a fire We were far remote there was an abundance of dead wood in the wash and I wanted a fire so the first two clauses in this sentence seemed sufficient justification Ironwood burns hot A pile of fuel the size of a regulation softball and we couldn t get closer than ten feet to the blaze With wood like that you don t need much fire The next morning half the small pile of scraps I d collected lay unburned next to the coals I grabbed a few and put them in the truck They ve sat near my computer since then I pick up one of the larger pieces now a rough splintery crescent a foot long four or five inches wide at its thickest It looks weathered old rotten yet it weighs at least three pounds I heft the wood in my hand I can t be sure this stick is a millennium and a half old but I can t rule it out either When did this piece of wood die When did its tree release it into the desert soil there to bleach and suffer futile attacks by termites 1500 years ago the Anasazi were just learning how to add roofs to their adobe houses Augustine was writing his Confessions The Roman Empire had collapsed within living memory And this stick perhaps or one just like it in the same valley was already turning gray on that alluvial pediment west of Blythe Essentially non biodegradable these few pieces of dead tree straddle the line between biology and geology A tree grew them but they may as well be rocks for all the effect that the centuries have on them Driftwood hell it s just as likely that I found these pieces where they fell and the ironwood grove drifted away from them over the intervening millennium The immense antiquity of this firewood makes my collection of it seem in retrospect abhorrent like the actions of the guy who cut down the world s oldest bristlecone pine to count the rings But there is something in the desert ironwood that seems to ask for more than simple Euclidean geometry which naggingly reminds me that issues are never as straightforward as ideology would insist Who would criticize the Seri for turning ironwood detritus into grocery money Ironwood supported human beings long before the first Seri carver ever saw a chisel Leached of a mild toxin ironwood seeds were used for centuries as food by the Seri the Tohono O odham and other Sonoran Desert people Warriors and hunters used ironwood bark tea as a ceremonial purgative When an O odham couple married elders gave them an ironwood branch to hold between them so that the wood s durability would infuse itself into the marriage Though we ve done it some wrong the past few decades this is a tree whose memory is long and it was deeply involved in human lives long before the invention of the four way file and the chain steakhouse I look again at the piece I ve been carving I won t be collecting any more and I certainly won t insist on a fire when I m camping in ironwood country but giving this piece to my wife seems somehow appropriate a way to infuse this marriage with the permanence ironwood engenders A bit of dark wood and the knowledge that more grows protected in the heart of the Sonoran Desert Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged BLM Botany Desert Family Public Lands on April 19 2011 by Chris Clarke Cephalocereus apicephalium by Chris Clarke Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry

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  • Coyote | Coyote Crossing
    jasmine Sounds from the crowd four hundred feet below reach me borne on the wind The big friendly dog whose barking will cancel any coyote concert tonight The joyful complaints of old women And then a rasping chainsaw sound and then another and I recoil inside Off road motorcycles starting up knife sound to my ears My hat is brown my clothing black skin red they could not see me up here in the mountain if they looked but I see them The mountain has eyes today and we are watching them and not kindly Seven of them Eight Nine They roll one by one past my campsite They keep a sedate pace I will grant them that much In time I will find their dust has drifted inside my sleeping bag clogged the burners on my stove but that comes later They turn one by one keep to the road roar off northward down the dusty two rut They think they do no harm I tell myself Someone has told them I tell myself that if they keep to something on the map labeled road and do not raise giant clouds of dust near asthmatic campers that they are thus comporting themselves without harm A dozen species in this forest rely on sharp hearing to survive to find prey or to avoid becoming prey A dirt bike engine commonly puts out about 100 decibels sometimes more Human hearing begins to show damage from exposure to sounds of 85 decibels Those fucking machines are loud They are loud up here a mile away There are rabbits living in the blackbrush stands along the road I met some on my way up here I think of their reaction to this acoustic assault and wince hard And of course the dust settles coating leaves that may not feel rain for years covering pistils and stamens open just now cutting photosynthetic efficiency of the plants at roadside by increments and making it harder for those plants to control their internal temperatures damaging what cryptobiotic crust was left when the cattle were finally removed from this forest one more injury in a century of injury and for what For fun They deny this earth is alive They deny the forest can be injured There is them and there is a desert landscape that is to their minds a paved track with a dust covering and some landscaping they cannot identify and they deny the commonality between the two They may be good people with good hearts It is true that the off road community possesses a shockingly high percentage of ignorant thugs who respond to concerns of environmental damage with threats of violence to children and pets This forest has seen enough of that sort it was a leg of the infamous Barstow to Vegas hare and hounds race an event so useless and destructive that even the US federal government had to agree at long last to stop it ever happening again These riders may not be that sort They seem well mannered considerate of campers I do not care There is no excuse for ignorance of the damage their sport inflicts damage to the desert and to themselves Their ignorance of the desert earth allows them to indulge in its destruction and their so indulging protects and extends their ignorance I am furious I feel as if I should answer this assault somehow and yet if I had a gun and plinked their tires somehow I would become the bad guy My eyes ache the tire spun dust reaching up this far and I turn to the trees for counsel I should do something What would you do I don t know A hundred trees face downcanyon watching the dirt bikers watching me Atop the summit ridge one tree its view obscured by another red monolith cranes hard around to get a glimpse They will all of them leave eventually A lesson I have had to learn repeatedly from these instructors There is a rock behind me slanted imperfectly toward my spine I lean back varnished quartz nubs hard against my knotted muscle There is nothing to do I sit for a long time in the company of the desert The sun has moved and I am cold There is a flat rock in the sun in front of me and forty feet upslope I move to it and sit crosslegged The sun puts me to sleep partway I talk to a far distant friend a conversation interrupted down there an hour before dawn I wake again and doze again and sit and wake again The sun has moved more The bikers have not returned Did they pass by on a broad loop from the Interstate Perhaps they fell into an impossibly deep hole on the other side of this range I care somewhat less now I am content I have not moved a muscle for some minutes There is a rattlesnake in the shade of the shrub next to me It rattles almost hesitantly I move away and then circle back to get a glimpse It does not show itself but rattles again more insistently this time Dirt bikes a mile away and a deadly poisonous snake at arm s length and the sound of the first roils my mind while the second spurs a cautious fondness Still I take it as a hint Snakes greet me all the way back to the truck I pack I leave Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Coyote Desert photos Wildlife on November 12 2007 by Chris Clarke Upside by Chris Clarke It was wide open on Route 101 this afternoon The traffic heading north from the Golden Gate bridge was doing about 60 The truck carried me up the headlands slope past Alexander Avenue to the tunnel then down the Waldo Grade toward Sausalito There s a canyon to the west right there a

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  • Crow’s Foot | Coyote Crossing
    again suffused with sanguine heat and tucked under Crow s breast of velvet night Crow s feet can rest when Crow s heart is in flight Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Crow s Foot Poetry on November 3 2007 by Chris Clarke Crow s foot III by Chris Clarke It is time and the killdeer s cry comes whistling ominous and sad out of the night attenuated echoing and away and gone Hair on my neck stands up An owl Noiseless white wings as soft as thought in stealth approach a grating rasp breathless urgent and then in stealth departs Waves break unseen wash up in between algae slicked cobbles drain back to the bay in silence One could spend a lifetime in this single night night a deep wild territory of the ephemeral So much of it all hidden It is a tapetum knowledge and beyond us Instead I draw the night down around my shoulders I draw the night down around my shoulders and my vision clears but not enough My chest burns from the inside outward My eyes are open but not enough I long for an illuminated path My heart is wide but not enough Jet eyes onyx feathers watch me Someone else is up too late as well draped in night and pacing this unlit way amid the glass shards I glance and am alone again five strong wingbeats against the dark and silent again Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Crow s Foot Wildlife on October 10 2007 by Chris Clarke Crow s foot II by Chris Clarke An endlessness of sand A world of sand Crow lifts Crow s foot off sun hot sand and lifts the other Long late light a last and slanted longing light a sandy sun slides down the slip face dune sidelong illuminated Wind lofts Crow s wings Crow lifted from the sea of sand bird borne from barchan tilts a tip of wing then tumbles topples in the lee and sheltered slip face side A feather flick and righted Crow arises risible lands on the crest again Crow lifts Crow s foot off sun hot sand and lifts the other one Sand scatters sunset wind Aloft Crow leaps at last in late and slanted laughing light Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Crow s Foot Poetry on September 23 2007 by Chris Clarke Crow s foot by Chris Clarke Crow wears a band of silver on his ankle holds it out to watch it glint in the sun like cool creek water It is noon He is the only one out All others have sought shelter under the canopy of live oak the leaves beneath the chaparral Crow the only one among them unafraid to cast a shadow He is a black body to absorb the sun s heat

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  • Desert | Coyote Crossing
    his making love with his new bride there a half century before noting the trees growth and the rocks increased age And now I wonder will the wash still be there The rocks Those ancient essentially non biodegradable trees When I wrote this in 2000 they stood for permanence Ironwood The dark wood is cool in my hand and smooth It sheds sawdust to my old grafting knife a slow reluctant yielding of deep brown flecks like ground cinnamon powdered chocolate I put a moistened fingertip to the pile of dust on my knee then to my tongue and am surprised despite myself when I taste nothing but cellulose Just as well There isn t enough of this tree for people to start eating its wood Restricted in range to the increasingly impacted Sonoran Desert the desert ironwood Olneya tesota is faced with threats ranging from harvesting for mesquite charcoal to suburban sprawl to exotic plants spread by cattle grazing And as goes the desert ironwood so goes the desert the tree is the shelter under which the rest of the desert lives I harvested this piece of ironwood in what I thought was as benign a fashion as possible I found it and a couple others sticking out of the gravel in a dry wash Something it seemed a desert windstorm a flash flood a band of stick fetching coyotes had carried them from a copse of trees a hundred feet away They looked like they d lain in the sun for years wearing a gray patina that only year round UV can provide A few passes of the knife over this piece though and gray gave way to reveal this deep confectionery brown A few strokes with the coarse section of a four way file and the wood looks nearly polished I m not the first person ever to pick up a piece of desert ironwood with art in mind The Seri people along the Gulf Coast in Sonora Mexico among the last hunter gatherers on the North American continent list ironwood carving among their contributions to world culture You ve probably seen their work or its imitators deep dark fluid sculptures of sharks sea turtles birds and desert animals The best carvings made by artists with a hunter gatherer s familiarity with nature seem about to come alive Frogs crouch in a pose they strike when under threat by something big Sea turtles seem to bear exaggeratedly large forepaws until you learn that like husky puppies baby sea turtles have to grow into their feet Sharks are I think the pinnacle of Seri art carved as the natural curves of the wood suggest they are fluidity embodied You expect them to flick a tail and disappear from the display case Other Sonorans have adopted the art form as a means of generating tourist revenue The differences aren t hard to spot Where the Seri opt for spareness of form and smooth line their Mexican neighbors turn out angular pieces with gouged out hatch marks The Seri rarely carve fish other than sharks and almost never portray subjects other than local animals Sonorans on the other hand will offer carvings of everything from stereotypical siestans leaning on saguaros to stunningly detailed representations of local beer bottles The Mexicans powered machine shops turn out sculptures at a far faster rate than the Seri s human powered hand tools More to the point the Seri with an ecological ethos not uncommon among hunter gatherers carve only wood from downed or dead trees The Mexican machine shops with their higher capacity have spurred a demand for cutting green trees The US and Mexican governments have taken some steps to restrict trade in non Seri carvings I ve been carving this piece of wood for several months You wouldn t know that to look at it It s hardly an intricate form a rectangle with a bend in the middle which I labor to make symmetrical I imagine polishing its final perfected geometry with double ought steel wool fixing a barrette clasp giving it to Becky to wear in her hair The colors of wood and hair would complement one another well differing shades of dark brown For the hundredth time I consider carving a bas relief on the surface a raven or coyote something appropriate to the provenance of the medium Perhaps the leaves of the desert ironwood itself plain compound leguminous leaves like those that littered the wash from whose gravel this wood protruded driftwood miles from the nearest sea It s hard to say There is something in the heft of the wood the soapstone texture that seems to ask for more than simple Euclidean geometry and yet my inclination is to scour the slightest ridge away to make a mirror of this dark piece of old dead tree The eponymous bean trees of Barbara Kingsolver s Tucson novel were wisteria thirsty exotic plants brought in from the Far East by way of England and the East Coast growing in a well watered downtown garden behind a tire repair shop The wisteria would wither with most of its human neighbors in Tucson if not for the constant pumping of millennia old water from aquifers under the city But climb the adobe wall that fictitious vine encumbered Cross the street Pass the Sonic drive ins and Waffle Shops and motels and the metastasizing spread of stylish homes of ringing urban Tucson get out into the unadulterated stinking hot slopes of the Sonoran Desert where the rattlesnakes and tarantulas play there you ll find bean trees of another sort Native to the place they do just fine without any help from us or pumped Pleistocene aquifers or the Central Arizona Project Four species of palo verde acacias with sharp claws that snag hikers clothing like rabid Velcro knee high desert senna with its complement of buzzing pollinators the notorious and fashionable mesquites and the desert ironwood beans all make up much of the perennial plant cover of the Sonoran Desert Column cacti may have better PR but if it wasn t for the bean trees there d be damn few saguaros to grace kitschy postcards and travel magazines The desert ironwood and its cousins are the ecological foundation of the Sonoran Desert Remove them and the rest of the plants and animals in the desert would likely vanish as well If you re a plant that wants to survive in the desert it s a good idea to sink your roots under a desert ironwood or one of its cousins Shade is one reason as sparse as a bean tree s leaves generally are they re better than nothing at all Then there s the heat and the humidity even droughty desert legumes exhale a little bit of water through their leaves and their loss is your gain Higher relative humidity due to the bean tree means you ll transpire less water yourself There s the simple fact of shelter germinate under a bean tree and it s less likely that browsing animals will find you and eat you Leguminous thorns also help protect young plants Nitrogen from shed leaves is augmented by that excreted by birds and other small animals who come for shade shelter or nutritious bean seeds The shade beneath the trees is optimal habitat for cacti Each majestic saguaro each venerable multi stemmed organ pipe each white bearded senita you see on your travels to the desert quite likely got its start beneath one of the region s legumes Remove the trees as happens when a subdivision goes in or wood is cut for the burgeoning gourmet mesquite charcoal industry or the bosque burns after an invasion of exotic buffelgrass ups the fuel load and you close down the nurseries from which new generations of column cacti are fledged With this in mind Bill Clinton in one of his final acts in office established a bit less than 130 000 acres of the Sonoran Desert as the Ironwood Forest National Monument Desert ironwood trees tend toward far longer lives than do mesquites or palos verdes One live tree near Tucson has been carbon dated at 1200 years old 300 years is a fairly probable average life expectancy Even after dying the tree can provide an oasis of shade in the desert for an immense stretch of time The wood is in the words of A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert Stephen J Phillips and Patricia Wentworth Comus eds Arizona Sonora Desert Museum UC Press 2000 rich in toxic chemicals and essentially non biodegradable Once ironwood dies nothing eats it though I ve seen termites making stalwart attempts Firewood sized chunks found in desert washes have been determined to be 1600 years old A standing snag may after its death provide valuable habitat for a thousand years This knowledge gained after I collected the few pieces of wood now sitting on my writing desk does not exactly fill me with an uncomplicated sense of joy in acquisition The year that Becky and I were married we drove south to an un named valley near Blythe a small river town in the middle of the Colorado Desert California s subsection of the Sonoran Desert There we camped for the night in a grove of Olneya tesota The valley was bleak indeed It was October far from the hottest part of the year and yet we saw little in the way of vertebrate life during the day A house sparrow that had probably strayed from the alfalfa fields flitted briefly into the ironwood canopy then returned eastward Other than that I don t recall seeing so much as a lizard Not a creature stirred the desiccated husks of summer annuals the pallid leaves of desert ironwood and palo verde All was silent This was driven home when eyes on the desert pavement at my feet I absently muttered something to Becky She replied with a tone of amusement I looked up to see we were at least two hundred yards apart yet we could hear each other s normal speaking voices perfectly That afternoon I found a comfortable looking spot in the wash shaded by a bit of ironwood and laid down for a nap shifting my back to gouge out a depression in the gravel I opened my eyes for a moment saw nothing but a few ironwood leaves silhouetted against an impossibly blue sky then dozed Not a few minutes later something soft brushed my cheek and I started awake Eyes the color of polished ironwood gleamed Becky had kissed me The image of my wife s face bean tree leaves behind her deep blue firmament framing all would prove to haunt me through months of desultory wood carving Things picked up a bit when the sun went down A wind came up from the south bearing the slightest odor of the Sea of Cortez Zeke our dog noticed a desert packrat or two whose stick homes we had missed among the fallen trees Far off coyote song punctured the twilight the local great horned owl providing a bass line After dark the valley was palpably alive I sat by a fire We were far remote there was an abundance of dead wood in the wash and I wanted a fire so the first two clauses in this sentence seemed sufficient justification Ironwood burns hot A pile of fuel the size of a regulation softball and we couldn t get closer than ten feet to the blaze With wood like that you don t need much fire The next morning half the small pile of scraps I d collected lay unburned next to the coals I grabbed a few and put them in the truck They ve sat near my computer since then I pick up one of the larger pieces now a rough splintery crescent a foot long four or five inches wide at its thickest It looks weathered old rotten yet it weighs at least three pounds I heft the wood in my hand I can t be sure this stick is a millennium and a half old but I can t rule it out either When did this piece of wood die When did its tree release it into the desert soil there to bleach and suffer futile attacks by termites 1500 years ago the Anasazi were just learning how to add roofs to their adobe houses Augustine was writing his Confessions The Roman Empire had collapsed within living memory And this stick perhaps or one just like it in the same valley was already turning gray on that alluvial pediment west of Blythe Essentially non biodegradable these few pieces of dead tree straddle the line between biology and geology A tree grew them but they may as well be rocks for all the effect that the centuries have on them Driftwood hell it s just as likely that I found these pieces where they fell and the ironwood grove drifted away from them over the intervening millennium The immense antiquity of this firewood makes my collection of it seem in retrospect abhorrent like the actions of the guy who cut down the world s oldest bristlecone pine to count the rings But there is something in the desert ironwood that seems to ask for more than simple Euclidean geometry which naggingly reminds me that issues are never as straightforward as ideology would insist Who would criticize the Seri for turning ironwood detritus into grocery money Ironwood supported human beings long before the first Seri carver ever saw a chisel Leached of a mild toxin ironwood seeds were used for centuries as food by the Seri the Tohono O odham and other Sonoran Desert people Warriors and hunters used ironwood bark tea as a ceremonial purgative When an O odham couple married elders gave them an ironwood branch to hold between them so that the wood s durability would infuse itself into the marriage Though we ve done it some wrong the past few decades this is a tree whose memory is long and it was deeply involved in human lives long before the invention of the four way file and the chain steakhouse I look again at the piece I ve been carving I won t be collecting any more and I certainly won t insist on a fire when I m camping in ironwood country but giving this piece to my wife seems somehow appropriate a way to infuse this marriage with the permanence ironwood engenders A bit of dark wood and the knowledge that more grows protected in the heart of the Sonoran Desert Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged BLM Botany Desert Family Public Lands on April 19 2011 by Chris Clarke Share this Email Like this Like Loading On Cima Dome July 25 2009 Exfoliation by Chris Clarke It rained in the Mojave this week Driving up onto Cima Dome on Friday was driving into a wall of electified sleet Immense bolts of blue lightning snaked horizontally for miles just above the surface of the Dome I fretted about fire until I got under the storm The windshield filled up with melting hail The Dome was sodden Home Home I filled the pickup with four fifths of my books at least those I hadn t given away in the previous month and coaxed that overloaded truck over the mountains and into the desert 420 miles of heavy wind and awkward center of gravity an ungainly migration and it had daunted me Thursday morning as I carried the boxes Flinging yourself into the abyss is a scary thing to anticipate I needn t have fretted Rolling down the east slope of the Tehachapi Mountains I felt it leave this stale and cloying sadness I have carried in me the last months It evanesced blew off toward Harper Lake in shattered wisps under Mojave s constant wind and I was free Home A notable change this change The human lifespan being what it is the number of times you can leave a place you ve lived for a generation is somewhat limited This will be my second time I suspect that if I live in any other place for a generation I ll leave it with my bootsoles pointed at the horizon Right now I ve got my gaze pointed that way I ve got a place to stay starting in July in Nipton in a small house 400 feet from a mainline train track and only 16 miles from Joshua trees I ve got a post office box in Cima CA 92323 something I ve long desired and you can send me a letter there at PO Box 43 I ve got a storage locker in Barstow with four fifths of my books in it I ve got a 14 foot truck reserved to haul the rest of my belongings down there on June 1 Which means my last full day in Pinole and quite possibly my last day living in the Bay Area will be May 31 2008 This will be five years almost to the day since I started Creek Running North I find the logic irrefutable Creek Running North is shutting down I m a firm believer in the merit of a finite lifespan for projects artistic and otherwise and my intent in starting Creek Running North was to describe the world around this creek down the hill from where I sit typing this and I may never see it again after this week I ranged crazily afield but the creek was my pole star For five years I always found my way back to it Obviously I can t do that anymore I ll still maintain a website here and it will still have some of my writing on it and after July some of that writing

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  • Endangered Species | Coyote Crossing
    facet of the larger problem of biodiversity erosion and if we focus on climate change to the exclusion of other facets of that larger issue we do so at our peril And more importantly at the peril of the millions of other species on the planet of which we are but one Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Blog Entries and tagged Endangered Species Extinction on July 3 2012 by Chris Clarke Democrats and mice by Chris Clarke GOP Talking Point The Stimulus Package includes ludicrous and wasteful porkbarrel spending such as 30 million dollars to help preserve the salt marsh harvest mouse in San Francisco Bay Democratic Talking Point Actually the stimulus package does not include any ludicrous and wasteful porkbarrel spending to help preserve the salt marsh harvest mouse in San Francisco Bay Responses from progressive bloggers pointing out that protecting the wetland habitat of the salt marsh harvest mouse is neither ludicrous nor wasteful but is in fact our goddamned moral obligation are detailed below the fold Continue reading Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Endangered Species Politics on February 22 2009 by Chris Clarke Tortoise alert letters needed by Chris Clarke From the Center for Biological Diversity Last year the Army moved more than 750 tortoises off of pristine desert lands in order to expand its Fort Irwin army base in California s Mojave desert Not all tortoises were monitored but of those that were more than 90 of them died many eaten by starving coyotes who had lost their typical prey base of squirrels and rabbits due to epic desert drought Also the Army moved healthy tortoises into populations known to have the often deadly upper respiratory tract disease against the recommendations of epidemiologists Because of the high tortoise death toll and legal action by the Center the Army temporarily suspended the translocation of tortoises in 2008 Now the Army and the Bureau of Land Management are rushing to move more tortoises in 2009 in order to rid the expanded Army base of more of their tortoises The federally threatened desert tortoise population cannot withstand yet another ill conceived and hastily implemented translocation Please write to the Army and Bureau of Land Management today asking that they implement a full environmental review process based on a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement The accelerated comment period is a joke It was announced by press release on the weekend of February 7 set for February 18 eleven days notice Take action here Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Animals BLM Endangered Species Fort Irwin Military Public Lands Science Tortoises on February 10 2009 by Chris Clarke Using Google Earth researchers find unmapped Mozambique wilderness by Chris Clarke From Birdlife Org blockquote cite http www birdlife org news news 2009 01 mount mabu html scientists who recently discovered a hidden forest in Mozambique show the

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  • Energy | Coyote Crossing
    in this state to any energy corridors ever Absolutely not According to Amy Atwood an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity It s hard to see which Western constituency could possibly support this Well how about a constituency that recognizes that climate change is already dangerously altering Western ecosystems contributing to droughts wildfires and shrinking and shifting habitats We have to destroy the wilderness to save it Mark would seem to be saying Or take renewable energy activist Gar Lipow s odd rant in comments on a post in the online magazine Grist responding to desert protection activists concerned about careless renewable development Yeah let s stay pure Lets burn more coal cause we can t put up one acre of mirrors in the desert Let s drill oil off the coasts of California and Florida because we are too pure to put wind generators offshore where a couple of Senators have to look at them Let 1 in 4 children in Harlem continue to suffer asthma caused by fossil fuels so that we don t have besmirch the purity of Wolverine and Stopgreenpath I hope those snowy white garments you wear don t get stained by splatters from all the people you will trample if you win what you are asking for Lipow s comment really has it all the straw children the conflation of habitat preservation with scenery the Cheneyan accusation that the opponents environmental concern is a matter of personal purity and a literal bloody shirt threat besides An explanation of just what effect transmission lines in the desert would have on the diesel exhaust that chokes kids in Harlem That Lipow does not provide Here s the thing The Glen Canyon Dam provides renewable energy too and yet I don t see too many big picture enviros like Mark and Lipow self righteously demanding new dams be put up on free flowing rivers Big hydro is a cost effective source of huge amounts of electricity and new large dams could conceivably replace a significant amount of fossil fuel generated power Why aren t enviros demanding new dams and spattering fishermen and river rafters with the figurative blood of their straw victims Hochschild s question about drawing lines would seem relevant here Where exactly is the line between a new Glen Canyon Dam on the wild river of your choice on the one hand and paving 689 910 times as much desert as Lipow sneers about on the other The line I suggest is entirely in the minds of people who talk the way the above quoted environmentalists do The fact is reactions like those offered by Mark and Lipow are fueled by a combination of ignorance of and apathy toward the actual groundtruthable reality in the desert As Hochschild put it later in Unquiet Ghost We are back again at the issue raised by the finger on the map I want a railroad there Because it s good for humanity Or perhaps because I want it there Those who would save the planet at the cost of the desert look at maps like this and this and put their fingers on the map right on that sunny blank spot In the absence of evidence to the contrary it would seem that the functional difference between the Mojave Desert and Glen Canyon is not in the value of the habitat to its wildlife nor in the efficiency of power generation in each locale but simply in the fact that most environmentalists don t give a shit about the Mojave Desert The thing is even if enviros don t ground truth their decisions about the Mojave Desert the developers do lest they sink their own metaphorical railroad ties in bogs As a result there are other more useful maps of the areas proposed for solar development Here s a fragment of one obtained from this site hat tip to Larry Hogue That s 1 3 square miles of the Ivanpah Valley about a third of the planned Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System The developers hired someone to walk every square foot of their project site to note what would be displaced Those little colored dots which turn out to be numbers if you look closely are tortoise related sites The brown and black numbers mark burrows or other sign The green numbers are places where live tortoises were found by the surveyors The red numbers mark the location of found carcasses Four times as many carcasses as live torts seen in part because dead tortoises aren t as good at hiding as live ones and in part because tortoises are dying off from a contagious respiratory infection and heightened predation and general habitat disruption By law all live tortoises on a site to be developed must be relocated to intact habitat The two dozen live tortoises found on the Ivanpah SEGS site will need to be moved uphill toward Clark Mountain There they d rub elbows with a whole lot more tortoises relocated from the immediately adjacent Ivanpah Airport One problem with tortoise relocation is that it spreads that respiratory disease Another is that disoriented tortoises relocated away from a territory they may have known for decades are easy prey for coyotes a fact that shut down the US Army s relocation program at Fort Irwin last year The proposal for Ivanpah SEGS tortoise relocation uses the same target tortoise density as Fort Irwin s plan That s just one of several threatened species on the site and we re only discussing one big solar thermal site in dozens proposed in the American desert And yet any hesitation desert habitat advocates express to scraping away the soil denuding habitat and building massive industrial facilities to generate solar thermal power is criticized as obstructionist Meanwhile big hydroelectric which also offers a theoretically carbon neutral source of electrical power is opposed by those same critics simply because it destroys habitat with neither hemming nor hawing about regrettable sacrifice and

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  • Family | Coyote Crossing
    trees there d be damn few saguaros to grace kitschy postcards and travel magazines The desert ironwood and its cousins are the ecological foundation of the Sonoran Desert Remove them and the rest of the plants and animals in the desert would likely vanish as well If you re a plant that wants to survive in the desert it s a good idea to sink your roots under a desert ironwood or one of its cousins Shade is one reason as sparse as a bean tree s leaves generally are they re better than nothing at all Then there s the heat and the humidity even droughty desert legumes exhale a little bit of water through their leaves and their loss is your gain Higher relative humidity due to the bean tree means you ll transpire less water yourself There s the simple fact of shelter germinate under a bean tree and it s less likely that browsing animals will find you and eat you Leguminous thorns also help protect young plants Nitrogen from shed leaves is augmented by that excreted by birds and other small animals who come for shade shelter or nutritious bean seeds The shade beneath the trees is optimal habitat for cacti Each majestic saguaro each venerable multi stemmed organ pipe each white bearded senita you see on your travels to the desert quite likely got its start beneath one of the region s legumes Remove the trees as happens when a subdivision goes in or wood is cut for the burgeoning gourmet mesquite charcoal industry or the bosque burns after an invasion of exotic buffelgrass ups the fuel load and you close down the nurseries from which new generations of column cacti are fledged With this in mind Bill Clinton in one of his final acts in office established a bit less than 130 000 acres of the Sonoran Desert as the Ironwood Forest National Monument Desert ironwood trees tend toward far longer lives than do mesquites or palos verdes One live tree near Tucson has been carbon dated at 1200 years old 300 years is a fairly probable average life expectancy Even after dying the tree can provide an oasis of shade in the desert for an immense stretch of time The wood is in the words of A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert Stephen J Phillips and Patricia Wentworth Comus eds Arizona Sonora Desert Museum UC Press 2000 rich in toxic chemicals and essentially non biodegradable Once ironwood dies nothing eats it though I ve seen termites making stalwart attempts Firewood sized chunks found in desert washes have been determined to be 1600 years old A standing snag may after its death provide valuable habitat for a thousand years This knowledge gained after I collected the few pieces of wood now sitting on my writing desk does not exactly fill me with an uncomplicated sense of joy in acquisition The year that Becky and I were married we drove south to an un named valley near Blythe a small river town in the middle of the Colorado Desert California s subsection of the Sonoran Desert There we camped for the night in a grove of Olneya tesota The valley was bleak indeed It was October far from the hottest part of the year and yet we saw little in the way of vertebrate life during the day A house sparrow that had probably strayed from the alfalfa fields flitted briefly into the ironwood canopy then returned eastward Other than that I don t recall seeing so much as a lizard Not a creature stirred the desiccated husks of summer annuals the pallid leaves of desert ironwood and palo verde All was silent This was driven home when eyes on the desert pavement at my feet I absently muttered something to Becky She replied with a tone of amusement I looked up to see we were at least two hundred yards apart yet we could hear each other s normal speaking voices perfectly That afternoon I found a comfortable looking spot in the wash shaded by a bit of ironwood and laid down for a nap shifting my back to gouge out a depression in the gravel I opened my eyes for a moment saw nothing but a few ironwood leaves silhouetted against an impossibly blue sky then dozed Not a few minutes later something soft brushed my cheek and I started awake Eyes the color of polished ironwood gleamed Becky had kissed me The image of my wife s face bean tree leaves behind her deep blue firmament framing all would prove to haunt me through months of desultory wood carving Things picked up a bit when the sun went down A wind came up from the south bearing the slightest odor of the Sea of Cortez Zeke our dog noticed a desert packrat or two whose stick homes we had missed among the fallen trees Far off coyote song punctured the twilight the local great horned owl providing a bass line After dark the valley was palpably alive I sat by a fire We were far remote there was an abundance of dead wood in the wash and I wanted a fire so the first two clauses in this sentence seemed sufficient justification Ironwood burns hot A pile of fuel the size of a regulation softball and we couldn t get closer than ten feet to the blaze With wood like that you don t need much fire The next morning half the small pile of scraps I d collected lay unburned next to the coals I grabbed a few and put them in the truck They ve sat near my computer since then I pick up one of the larger pieces now a rough splintery crescent a foot long four or five inches wide at its thickest It looks weathered old rotten yet it weighs at least three pounds I heft the wood in my hand I can t be

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  • Food | Coyote Crossing
    boundary of water against water solid as a wall and yet impossible to chart precisely except by navigating it These days my skin seems indistinct as the wall between river and eddy my turbulent self contained by boundaries laminar and liminal These days I strain at the oars I struggle to cast myself out into the main stream again to entrench meandered canyons in the swiftly rising desert I am part of the river and though it flows past me I must rejoin it There is another river in the desert It has no banks no rapids One cannot swim in it one cannot drown in it Its headwaters are in the earth and it flows upward molecule by molecule until the precipice at the surface And then the cataract a desert wide river ephemeral as desert rivers are falls vaporous into the sky Along its edges skins form they separate small whorls from the river The eddies grow push seed leaves through stony soil sprout stalks and ears fill burgeoning seeds from which new eddies propagate Corn is a chain of whirlpools in the sky river We drink them and they swallow us in turn Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Desert Food on August 17 2007 by Chris Clarke Some people just don t get it by Chris Clarke The usually mild mannered shy and retiring PZ Myers has apparently taken offense at my recent decision to abjure pointless and destructive political blog spats What can I do but shake my head sadly and make sure I have sufficient panko and lemon Update I reconsider Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Blogging Food on August 6 2007 by Chris Clarke What the blogger had for breakfast by Chris Clarke The secret to cooking omelets is to use a pan on a much lower flame than one would for fried eggs A 12 inch non stick skillet is ideal for three egg omelets and should nonetheless be lubed with a bit of good cooking oil olive oil being my favorite and the oil allowed to heat thoroughly If the omelet filling requires frying before you assemble the omelet you can do so in the same pan but be sure when you remove the filling that the pan is smooth and slick Add more oil if necessary and let it heat The base of the omelet is plain unadulterated egg three or four of them beaten with a fork until nearly uniform with perhaps a stripe or two of white among the yolk Making sure the pan s surface is uniformly hot and slick with oil coating well up the sides one pours the egg mixture into the center with a flourish then lifts the pan and tilts it so that egg covers the entire bottom running up perhaps a little on the sides If the pan is the right temperature on its medium flame the sides will cook through almost instantly while the center remains a pool of liquid With a bamboo spatula push the cooked sides slightly toward the center an inch or so tilting the pan to flood the space you ve freed with egg In three or four minutes the egg should be nearly cooked through with only a bit of uncooked liquid atop it in the center and bubbles may have formed in the center above the flame Shake the pan by its handle the egg should move freely in the pan If it does not use a lower flame or more oil next time or both If the egg sticks in the pan gently try to lift it free with the bamboo spatula It may tear in which case you may as well just fill the omelet at this point cutting your losses But if the egg moves freely in the pan clear the kitchen of onlookers move the pan to a place where you have a few feet of airspace and breathe for a moment Toss the egg into the air with a flip of pan A round sided well oiled pan will send the egg toward the front of the pan up the side and vertical into the air where angular momentum will flip it and gravity pull it back into the pan upside down This is easier than it sounds but if trepiditious you can always run through a few dozen practice eggs The egg flipped you return the pan to the stove draw an imaginary line bisecting the egg and put your filling in the center of one of the halves so designated An omelet s filling is best arranged with an eye toward symmetry the eventual flavors in combination in each bite and prevention of loss out the sides Fold the omelet cover the filling A few more minutes on the flame will meld flavors warm the filling I have in this past week filled omelets with handsful of herbs from the garden savory and oregano sage and sorrel chopped fine and added raw or sauteed first in olive oil and then removed to a plate to await the eggs I have filled them with wilted dandelion greens I have filled them with Genovese basil from the farmer s market a bit of sticky white chevre and a couple tablespoons of chopped walnuts added in a moment of blinding inspiration A few days ago I rummaged through the kitchen for omelet filling and found a jar of pickled fern fiddleheads a gift from Kat and a piece of goat brie we bought before our hike this month and made a Kat omelet of fiddleheads and goat brie Or that same cheese and a sauce of roasted dried chiles Sometimes I add to the eggs before beating them a pinch of truffle salt an extravagance of twenty dollars when I was employed three ounces black Abruzzi truffles ground fine and mixed with

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