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Time to celebrate 8 years of barefoot running and hiking . . . with a 50-mile race?

January 25, 2018

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Back in January 2010, a chance encounter with some barefoot folks during a cold winter morning birding class led to me being 1) Amused that anyone would be silly enough to go shoeless outdoors and 2) Interested in WHY anyone would want to do this.

As per my entire life, “interest” opened the door to research, which led me down this crazy barefoot path that still stretches out ahead of me . . . I hope until the day my toes go cold for good.


Long before I had any interest in running barefoot, I was obsessed with just plain running–especially trail running–and in 2004 (at age 44) I set myself a goal of training for and completing a 50-mile trail race by the time I was 50.

Fast-forward through 14 years of chronically intermittent aches and pains (feet, knees, hips, low back, neck, you name it), through 14 years of all kinds of physical therapy and learning about less-obvious causes/cures, to the wonderful-ness of TODAY, when I am only a month away from the starting line of an awesome desert ultra-marathon, and–by the grace of God–feeling more healthy and fit and ready to run 50 miles than I ever have been (ha–or at least the “ever” that I can remember, my memory being a slowly eroding riverbank through the gully of my life).

Even in my 20s, probably my peak fitness years, when I was training in a gym and racing off-road motorcycles, I might have been stronger in terms of lifting power, but I know I could not have busted out the weekly 3-4 hour runs I’ve been doing the last few months with such enjoyment–and very little soreness etc. the next day.

So here’s to 2018, to being 58 years old and able to do my first chin-up on a bar in decades, and having a 50-mile challenge looming to look forward to.

(Truth in training note: it seems I should be up to runs a bit longer than 3-4 hours at this point in the training cycle, but Christmas. Family. Excuses.)


Here’s me & the granddaughters at the live-cut Christmas tree farm east of town. What’s up with all these boots?!

Below is a run-through of images from the last month-or-more . . . stuff I’ve had good intentions of posting on this-here blog right after each run. Hmmm. My aerobic exhilarations most definitely overshadow my blogging aspirations . . .

. . . Aspirations that have included schemings & ponderings on some-if-not-all of the following topics since the last post:

— Trying to stick to a race training schedule through the December holiday season

— Wildfires and rain and mudslides, oh my

— End-of-2017: musings on the year that was

— Equally deep beginning-of-2018 anticipation/trepidation

— Being the mother of a 42-year-old?! (his January birthday gets me every time)

— Running more than three hours, and the accompanying mind games; my longest run to date (almost two years ago): 34 miles in 10.75 hours. Looking forward? to? 50? miles?

— The idea that our worth as an individual is based on our productivity (this is a deep and wide thought-stream for yours truly, especially as retirement finds me without all the academic objective-outcome falderal)

— How much fun it is to while away an afternoon playing scales on a guitar using a variety of fingerings (see comment immediately above)

— Dealing with obsessive thoughts (watch the news, anyone?) using newly discovered “awareness” techniques. Yay for lifetime learning.

— The Alexander method and its intersection with running

— What constitutes a good list, really? (Knowing when to cut to the photos)




In the fire-denuded foothills, living creatures are few, so I appreciated this photo op with a Jerusalem cricket (which is neither a cricket nor from Jerusalem, but a non-venomous nocturnal creature capable of “emitting a foul smell and inflicting a painful bite” . . . sound like anyone you know?).


No, I was not a victim of a Jerusalem cricket attack, just my own momentary inattention to a submerged rock-iceberg on the trail.


When my feet are free from open wounds, nothing feels better than a dip.

roadrunner in burned area

This photo is un-retouched in terms of color . . . it’s just an ashy world out there in Weir Canyon where fire burned last fall. But, making its way back into the gray landscape: roadrunner!


The New Year dawned with this familiar face looking down on all the newly scorched hills, ridges, arroyos.


Another day, another moonscape. Here is a prickly pear that “survived” total annihilation, but what of its photosynthetic future?


With most of the vegetation scorched off the face of the hills, these spunky Nolina are a green inspiration.


And then it rained! Green days are on the way!


Local rains caused a few minor ash flows like this, but nothing along the lines of the Montecito devastation. Lord have mercy.


For a four-hour cruise, this has become my new favorite place. (And note the proximity of homes to burn area .)


Some intricate Weir Canyon geology, sans vegetation.

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I’m not sure what “winter” means any more, there’s been so many warm days lately.

Happy Barefoot Trails in 2018 . . . may it be a year of new growth!



A round-up of barefoot adventures and thoughts

December 12, 2017

Hole-in-the-Wall Trail, Mohave National Preserve

For many years, this blog averaged a post a week. For the most recent last long while, it seems like every couple of months is all that has been happening. (And grammar-philes out there: note the use of passive-verb-shenanigans to make it seem like it’s not my own damn fault.)

Just now, even, I was almost paralyzed into not-writing as I tried to decide whether this lack of regularity should be attributed to the Nirvana Fallacy OR Voltaire’s “the better is the enemy of the good.”

Background: last June I did some volunteer work near Paige, AZ, that served as my ticket into a forthcoming 50-mile race there next year.

Let the long-mileage training begin . . . and loads of photos taken along the way, until it just got too overwhelming, with the the backlog of ideas & photos amping up my procrastechniques until this blog-weight was causing me far less fun than a barrel of monkeys (and wasn’t that the best game to play back when you were about six and had just come home from a relaxing day at school getting swatted by your angry German first-grade teacher because you wouldn’t be quiet during the nuclear bomb “duck and cover” drill).

(Imagine “But I Digress” meme here.)

So this blog post will not be the pièce de résistance of my almost-eight-year (?! give or take a few) blog racket; rather, it’s a way to unburden my creative psyche of some of the idea-baggage that’s been circling on the carousel long after all the airport travelers have gone home.

This how it will go down: first a list o’ stuff I’ve been thinking about, then, photos o’ stuff I been doin’. Doing. What-evs. 

(My eventual goal, in a non-Nirvana-fallacy world, would be to develop timely, sensitive, vivid, artful, deeply-thought-provoking essays on each of these topics. (Cue maniacal laughter.)

But for now, in the interests of getting this stuff off my mental plate:

List #1: STUFF I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT (but have not gotten around to writing about except in my admittedly sketchy journal)

Lack of job stress considering it’s the end of the semester. (But wait! I’m retired! Yippee!)

Getting to watch/play with/sing-and-read to two tiny grandkids each week. (Yippee! I’m retired!)

Looking for (and finding/not-finding) things along the trail (both actual and metaphorical).

Worry and dealing with it.

Breathing (see above).

Bible verses for every situation. Or?

When journaling becomes just another way to keep from finishing other projects.

Writer’s block: friend or foe?

Training for a 50-mile race.

How/why my cultural background equates “productivity” and “busy-ness” with Goodness.

When evil people create worthy art

Who knew you could play scales on a guitar in so many different ways? (And are there metaphors lurking there also?) 

Why a 37-minute 5k race felt more rewarding that a 27-minute one a month previous. (Hint: the slower race was run on Thanksgiving Day with my 8-year-old granddaughter at my side.)

What trail running and running shoes and no shoes and music (melody vs. rhythm) have to say to/about each other.

Aging parents. Wildfires without end, amen. Death of relatives when divorce is part of the equation. Babies that sneeze green snot in your face. Short winter days. Supermoon. Amtrak travel. Sleeping on the ground in the Mojave desert. 

Is it admirable or despicable to state you are “too busy”?

Is there such a thing as fear of lists (it does not make this person’s otherwise-comprehensive “phobia list” for some reason, so I can’t pin List-fear down with a clever latinate name).

List #2: A carp-ton (I was recently chastised by a grandson for using the word “crap,” hence the fish mutation) of photos from some of the recent miles logged training for that 50-mile trail race coming my way early next year. Woo hoo!



Mohave National Preserve’s Hole-in-the-Wall area . . . I almost hate to publicize it (it’s one of So Cal’s last beautiful uncrowded spots), but this desert (like all ecologically intricate dry places) needs people to know and love and take care of it, too.

Mitchell Caverns . . . I highly recommend taking the tour next time you’re cruising from Barstow to Needles on Route 66 (get your kicks!).

The plants of the Providence Mountains are crazy-amazing, as is the complicated geology (the reason these plants are found here in odd juxtaposition).

Santiago Oaks Regional Park (my very closest and therefore favorite-est wild place) is the most recent to re-open of the three OC Parks that burned during October’s Canyon Two fire; in the soil waits all the seed-life necessary to re-vegetate the hills, depending on only one thing: winter rains. Let it rain!

Peters Canyon: some trails have re-opened here post-fire as well, and eager sprouts of encelia and wild cucumber paint green notes of hope in the scorched landscape.

Harding Truck trail (heading up Modjeska Peak, the “left shoulder” of Old Saddleback) = miles of shale shards, big views, interesting native plants: ouch, wow, gorgeous . . .

The trails at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park feature lovely sand and art and are fast-becoming my long-run home-away-from-home.


Old Saddleback: Orange County’s eastern sentinel.

There you go, Voltaire–my own attempt to get some good stuff going instead of waiting for the ain’t-gonna-happen “perfect” time to compose the blog-post-to-end-all-blog-posts.

(And how I LOVE creating freight-train-style hyphenated words!)

Happy (barefoot, Christmas) Trails!

A Recently Published Grand Canyon (Barefoot!) Poem & Some Whining Upon Returning Home to . . .

October 27, 2017


Last summer (2016) I did my first night-time rim to rim trek across Grand Canyon; here’s a story (and the usual plethora of pics) about that . . . mmm . . . interesting adventure.


Me & one of the many bark scorpions sharing a photo-flash moment along the night-time North Kaibab Trail through “The Box” in June 2016.      I’m kinda glad I didn’t know at the time that they are (and here I quote a Real Scientific Web Site)   “the most venomous scorpion in North America.”


I also wrote a poem about it, which was recently published online by the excellent environmental literary journal The Hopper. It contains material not as easily dealt with in prose, such as my certitude that the rocks along the trail that night were some kind of sentient beings . . .

And while I was scrounging around for photos from that night, I came across the very fine wooden sign that I cavorted upon during my 6-day rim to rim earlier this month.

What a difference some daylight makes, in terms of cavortitude & signage.

The whole week I was gone from my lifelong home in Orange, CA, the hills just outside town were burning burning burning . . . houses were lost, but no lives such as in the devastation of Nor Cal the same week. 

Nevertheless . . . these are “my” hills where I have been hiking and running for 20-some-odd years, lovingly photo-documenting (and eventually, blogging about) all their natural/tough/fragile beauty.

And now all the trails are closed, off limits to humans so the native chaparral and coastal sage scrub and oak woodland and riparian ecosystems can do their thing and recover recover recover (with the help of winter rains, I pray).

So here’s a poem that attempts to go beyond the above prose and convey other schizz I’m feeling. (And I’m having trouble with the “new” WordPress text editor and can’t get the #$O@(!*ing blog to single-space the poem. Insert other profanities here. )

After Another Wildfire

the fall of 2017

October devil

wind screams


up any ridge

high & mighty

enough to throw

skeletal chamise

and sage

in harm’s way.

Swirls of ash

reel between

Weir Canyon’s

ghost oaks,

a fine acorn crop

and all my

memories there

in harm’s way.


The irrigated interior of Irvine Park has reopened, but all the beautiful native plant/wildlife habitat surrounding the park is toast.


Ten days after the fire started there were still smolder-spots to be found in the 7,500 acres of burned hills and ravines and homes of so many critters/plants.


A prickly pear that used to be plump & lime green, earlier this month. How weird that the spines are still intact while so much other foliage in the area dissolved into ash.


The firefighting line is very clear here at the edge of the irrigated park.


Seems like Irvine Park’s most iridescent inhabitants made it through the blaze.


Acorns everywhere . . . this river bottom oak grove was a major food gathering spot for the original People, a few fires/years/sufferings ago.


The road in/out of Irvine Park. On this hill used to grow . . . now everything is . . .


So I’m reduced to wandering the (irrigated interior) park, and not looking forward to having to fight Orange County traffic to find open trails. (And yes, that is what whining sounds like . . . )

But God is good, life is OK, and so . . . (drum roll) Happy Trails, anywhere you can find them.

Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim: FKT vs SKT

October 20, 2017



GCAFI R2R 2017, Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, Plateau Point, Arizona

Photo by Nina Rehfeld at Plateau Point looking back at the South Rim. Thanks, Nina!

A few days before setting off on the long drive east (almost 500 miles) to Grand Canyon for another October rim-to-rim trek (here’s a few accounts of my other R2R adventures: one, two, three , four times before), I read online how yet another runner had set yet another FKT (Fastest Known Time) for crossing the Canyon more licketly-splitly than anyone since stop-watches were thunk up.

That’s right: on Oct. 1, 2017, 26-year-old Jim Freriks of Flagstaff ran 21 miles down the North Kaibab Trail (5,781 feet in elevation loss) and up the South Kaibab Trail (4,800 feet in elevation gain) faster than a desert bighorn sheep being chased by a salivating mountain lion: 2 hours, 39 minutes, and 38 seconds–roughly the same amount of time most other R2R runners and/or hikers spend in the trailhead outhouses dealing with pre-hike nervous stomach issues.

It’s a both a physically and psychologically stressful thing, to travel through so many gazillion years of geological history so stripingly laid out in in bands of chalky white Kaibab limestone, pink Coconino sandstone, multi-hued Muav frozen silt, purple-red Bright Angel shale, and on and on. Being confronted with such a rocky past pretty much necessitates lengthy pauses to consider the mind-numbing numbers of “years” (a helio-centric construct fer sure) that have transpired before one’s own entrance on the scene . . . yep, this is a situation that demands more than a few hours of zooming down and up the main corridor’s dusty, stair-steppy, mule-poopy paths.


That’s why I was so very happy last week to be tagging along on a Grand Canyon Association Field Institute trip that was dedicated to taking a Very Long Time to travel from the North Rim to the South Rim: seven days! Maybe a SKT! (Slowest Known Time)

We started at the South Rim with an equipment check to encourage hikers to jettison any un-needed gear. Crossing Grand Canyon, as with most backpacking ventures, less weight = more fun. So bye-bye went extra clothes, food, toiletries, electronic devices, dorm refrigerators, hiking boots. (Just kidding about that last one. Most everyone in the group had drunk from the cultural Kool-Aid that hornswaggles folks into thinking ankle-high rigid-soled foot caskets are necessary for backpacking comfortably/safely/stylishly. Sigh. The barefoot crusade continues.)


My food choices before re-packaging.


A week’s worth of food: 6.5 pounds all stuffed into packets & pouches.


A typical mushy one-pot dinner: edamame “pasta” mixed with instant mashed potatoes, freeze-dried mixed veggies, veggie bullion cube, tuna packet, and a single-serving pouch of Italian salad dressing. Amazeballs. (Especially when consumed at the edge of Plateau Point.)

Then, off to the North Rim via four-hour shuttle for a chilly night at 8,297 feet/elevation followed by The Plunge down past screaming-red maple foliage, acrid-mule-piss mud, fossil-embroidered rock, juniper log steps, rocky switchbacks, alleys of fluffy dust, hesitant bird calls . . .  all the sensory overload of another Grand Canyon fall day under a wide sky that was neither fulgent nor lambent but just plain blue & brilliant.

The next six leisurely days allowed for 37 miles of hiking–besides the “required” 14 miles down the North Kaibab Trail and 9 miles up the Bright Angel Trail, our group traipsed through some amazing side canyon, following water to where it dangled and bubbled and dazzled us all into silence . . . and lots of picture making (NOT “picture taking,” according to hike leader and photographer extraordinaire Larry Lindahl; photographers don’t just “take” whatever the pre-programmed camera hands them . . . they MAKE artful images that reflect a thoughtful consideration of “light, composition, depth, focus, vision, intimacy, and passion”).

While my little pocket camera carried major constraints of F-stop and ISO and aperture et al, it did its tiny best to help me create some visual memories: Let the image-making commence!

The North Rim in October: all golden aspen and glowing gambel oaks and my favorite views from the Transept Trail.


Ambling down the North Kaibab Trail in the morning always allows for fun shadow shots. Does this pack make my butt back look big?


Hike leader Larry invited us to pause to consider this ancient sentinel so our group could conjure up words and phrases to describe it, all of which were creative, none of which I remember (ahh . . . the importance of note-taking!).

What was up with all the dead mammals last week?! On the left is a face-down ringtail cat; upper right is a bat on a rock; lower right a fawn. All were fully intact and non-smelly (in other words: newly deceased).

The next images show just a few of my attempts (and how impossible to convey the frustration!) to “capture” the extraordinary light at this most light-crazy place. Especially with a little pocket camera. (But did I mention it fits in my pocket?)


The clouds provided much entertainment our first night at Cottonwood Camp.


Cottonwood Camp & Clouds, again.


She who would venture to capture the moon is destined for . . . (crappy shots like this).


While my camera maxed out at a two-second exposure, those with “real” cameras did some amazing work in the dark with light-painting and star-chasing.


Dinner with a view from Plateau Point. Shoes optional. Mice mandatory (who else would clean up all the invisible crumbs us clumsy humans left behind?).


Standing in the Colorado River at Boat Beach . . . an effective instigator of all kinds of goose bumps.

Yeah, I kind of think desert plants are bee-yoo-tiful.


Water in the desert: where geology makes miracles.


Ribbon Falls (from behind the curtain).



With so much to love, I guess it’s only natural that immense quantities of humans want to experience Grand Canyon’s main corridor trails . . . so . . . researchers from the University of New Mexico are conducting a years-long study on rim-to-rim hikers/runners; they counted 600  of them between the hours of 4 am and 3 pm on Saturday, Oct. 14. (And an additional 40 or so R2R2R runners.)

Problem: 600 people in one day (?!) have the potential to excrete a lot of waste products (no duh). While there are bathrooms along the trail, some oblivious knuckleheads think it’s OK to leave used toilet paper just . . . wherever. NO IT’S NOT.

And don’t get me started on how/why/WTF someone would leave a syringe along Bright Angel Creek . . .

Where was I? Waxing happy about Grand Canyon. Yeah, that’s right . . .





Seeing even the tail of a rare Grand Canyon rattlesnake counts as yet another “Transcendent Canyon Moment” (TCM).



And did we (the royal we happens when you’ve crowned yourself queen of the TCM) mention the relentless gold-rose light that reflects off the steep inner canyon walls in a way that threatens to decalibrate even the most durable TCM meter? Does the rattlesnake suck its scale-tint straight out of the air, like in an old “Just So” story?






And . . . more happy stuff, like this crimson monkeyflower (Mimulus cardinalis), to be stumbled upon near most side canyon waterfalls.


And the lichen! (Almost enough to make me want to pun about likin’ lichen. But I will refrain.)

This is starting to feel like a crap-ton of photos. Kind of reminds me of Weird Al’s new tour title: The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.  Yep. That is me and barefoot hiking & blogging (and balancing on stuff everywhere).

Thanks to all the adventurers who made this 6-day R2R so fabulous: Larry and Nina–for all your wise guidance — and Jim, Kim, Sophie, Spencer, Tom, Bill (gratitude!), Charlene, and Keith . . . super hikers and photographers all!

grand canyon group photo.jpg

Photo by Larry Lindahl at Plateau Point; filter by Prisma app.


(Photo by Nina? with my little camera . . . )

Happy Trails! Barefoot or Shod, FKT or SKT, Grand Canyon or ??? . . . just get outside and move and show some love!

“Barefoot? Wow! That’s Awesome” and other comments off the beaten track

September 14, 2017


The astute observation that titles this blog post was lobbed at me earlier this week by a manly mountain biker sweating his way up the dusty-rocky single-track I was gliding down like a no-longer-constipated cheetah.

If I had a nickel for this and all the other painfully obvious witticisms regarding my shoeless circumstance, I’d have enough money . . .  to make me wish I had more money.

As it was, that day, I made a mental note to remember his comment and write it down when I got home in my forthcoming/imaginary Book O’ Inane Barefoot Running Comments. But, of course, by the time I’d fought road construction and rustled up breakfast and shucked my perma-stink running shorts and read the local news and decided to do a few loads of laundry . . . what was I supposed to be doing again with my retirement?

There have been so many phrases much more memorable than the title of this blog post, phrases reflecting other cultural/gender/species perspectives (the quail have really made some poignant comments which unfortunately I am still working to translate), but alas, most of these other pithy quips have been snatched away by the “I’ll write it down later” goblin.

This evil entity would like to hijack my own–and every other writer in the world’s– creative output by reassuring us that all those intriguing thoughts and original ideas will surely stay in our brains until we “have time” to write them down. Then this “time” gets sucked down the swirling drain of a Busy Day, and when we finally reach the end of our procrastinating rope, we are left dangling out to dry in front of a relentlessly blank screen.


So although I would love to list all the crazy things people have said to me during my barefoot adventures, both locally and whilst wandering below the rim of the Grand Canyon,  I can’t.


But . . . running again this morning, a delightful 90 minutes of Thursday-at-seven-empty trails, I did remember the words quoted in the title of this blog piece as I passed the spot where I’d heard them uttered 48 hours previously.

And I had to admit: the spandex-y biker dude was spot-on-the-dot: being able to cruise these lovely trails on a morning when everyone else must be At Work was downright AWESOME! His thigh-hugging shortz had helped squeeze out a Universal Truth, and I needed to heed it:

I am a patched-up (spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally . . . you get the drift) 58-year-old wife of one/grandma of seven with the opportunity and tonicity and trail proximity to fly barefoot pretty much whenever I want to in a landscape that is not war-torn, or hurricane-ravaged, or dangerous in any way other than being dirty and full of sharp things and tripping hazards (is that not the very glorious definition of trail?).



Last night I heard a missionary speak; she was from Crisis Care Training International, an organization that provides trauma recovery resources for those who work with children, with the goal of “bringing healing and hope globally to children in crisis, and especially to those in refugee situations.”

Dr. Patricia Toland’s stories and photos were both heartbreaking and inspiring, and really helped to bring perspective to the tiny barefoot sphere I spin in: there’s a world of hurt out there, near and far, children and adults in all kinds of need.

What is truly “AWESOME”, then?

The work of people like Dr. Toland and Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, a PTSD researcher whose book The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma really changed my thinking about trauma: we are all products of hurt, we all need healing, and there are resources available!

So this blog post went down a weird path . . . from a light-hearted reaction to (yet another) inane trail comment . . . to . . . appreciation for trauma healing, and the desperate need for workers in this field that stretches from our own homes to all the way around–and around and around–the globe.








Me and Annie Dillard and the Total Eclipse of 2017

September 2, 2017

Once upon a time, I read an essay about a total solar eclipse.

That piece of writing not only changed my life, but also the two generations that follow me, because it emboldened me to plan a road trip of astronomical importance a few weeks ago . . . and drag along my daughter and her family (which includes two of my grandkids, hence the “two generations” brag/apology).


Blake and YaYa whiling away the miles on the way to the ECLIPSE, courtesy of YouDoodle.

The life-changing essay? “Total Eclipse” by Annie Dillard (who for purposes of brevity and aesthetic distance will hereafter referred to as AD), first published in 1982 . . . an essay (ostensibly) about a Feb. 26, 1979 eclipse that AD witnessed in Washington State.

(See for a not-so-news-flash recounting of how AD massaged key “cat facts” in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to suit her artistic intent. Here’s another one, complete with post-blog comments:

(Thus am I skeptical if she did indeed witness any sort of eclipse on 2/26/79, because, according to Weather Underground, “The path of this rare wintertime total eclipse coursed across Washington State, northern Idaho, and Montana before entering Canada from extreme northwest North Dakota. A large Pacific storm was affecting the region, and the sun was never clearly visible along the route.”)

Harrumph. Having got all that writerly envy/angst out of my system, I continue with my long-winded (but breathing only through its nose, as Scott Jurek would recommend) introduction to my 2017 eclipse adventure.

I’ve re-printed below (in red) major sections of AD’s iconic eclipse essay (say that fast three times), recently re-published online by The Atlantic as part of the media feeding frenzy leading up to Aug. 21, 2017. 

So we’re workin’ with two threads here, folks:

#1: An undetermined number of years ago, I read AD’s essay (remember: those are the words in RED below) and was stunned by her vividly stunning prose about how she was vividly stunned by the stunningly visceral (and vivid!) experience.

Which leads to #2: Almost two years ago, after a Grand Canyon hiking companion mentioned an upcoming total eclipse in North America, I jumped into research mode and began making plans to witness the sky show no matter what (with the unstated/underlying expectation I would then compose my own stunning prose about the experience, AD-style).

Hmm. How was I to know the opening day of my university’s fall semester would fall on the same Monday as the eclipse? Like any sane person, I quit my 20-year career as an English professor teaching creative writing and made darn sure I would be far to the north in the path of totality on 8/21/17. Preferably with grandkids.

Hmmmmmm. Now I have no steady job; nothing stands between me & the challenge of attempting to out-Dillard AD at the eclipse essay game.

So what follows below is some quick word-blurting created eight days after I returned home from a 12-day eclipse road trip with my husband and our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons in our custom-camper-fancy1972 Dodge van (the last two days especially memorable due to the van’s kaputt A/C system).

In the interest of timeliness & laziness (as mentioned previously, I am now retired/unemployed, and there are SO MANY trails that need running around here!), and to get this piece of writing out of the realm of “I really should write something” into the annals of “Yay. I just wrote something,” I’ve used AD’s extremely deep thoughts (in red) to kickstart my own shallow reactions.

Here we go:

“To put ourselves in the path of the total eclipse, that day we had driven five hours inland from the Washington coast, where we lived. ”

(Remember: all this stuff in RED is COPIED from AD’s 1982 essay. End of plagiarism disclosures.)

Unlike AD’s mere five-hour trek, my own eclipse journey found me & the fam driving for ten days, starting  way down south in Orange, CA. North we trundled along Interstate 15, visiting hot springs/geysers/museums/rivers/friends along the way. After pausing several fun-filled days in Bozeman, MT, on Eclipse Eve Day at 11 am we finally headed east on Interstate 90, then south on Highway 310 along two-lane Wyoming roads through the Sunday-afternoon-empty main streets of Lovell, Greybull, Worland, Thermopolis, Shoshone . . . 


What Mapquest had optimistically labeled a 6.75-hour drive took us a full ten hours in our overloaded rig, a bloated tub-of-a-van stuffed with six people and two weeks worth of camping gear/food/clothes/ukulele AND guitar  . . .  so much STUFF piled in and strapped onto our rumbling, lumbering wanna-be RV.


August 20, 9 pm. Eclipse Eve, hurtling through the inky Wyoming night, very close to the belly button of nowhere on Hwy. 20, daunted by the miles of blinking signs: “NO ECLIPSE PARKING ALONG HIGHWAY.” Our BLM website directions said 6.5 miles east of Natrona. But Natrona is not even a town, and our van’s tires were not original-sized, making the van’s odometer a bit removed from reality (no metaphors here; keep moving, folks).


East of Shoshone: Wyoming sunset magic.

Finally: in the dark off to the left: a string of lights crawling perpendicular to the highway, the only way we would ever have noticed the Goldeneye Reservoir turnoff, since the sign was tiny, unlit, and set far enough off the highway to make sure no-one from California who’d been driving for ten days would notice it.

A “picnic area” for day use only, Goldeneye Reservoir appeared on Mapquest as Burlington Lake. So that’s not confusing. Which made me suspicious if this REALLY was the place that the BLM had designated for free eclipse-only overnight parking (kind of hard to call this camping after a glorious three days in the Gallatin National Forest along the Madison River near West Yellowstone).

9 pm in Wyoming in late August = very very very darkness of nightness. A fine situation to pitch a tent in a ground-hugging prickly pear cactus patch. But it got done. (Just not by me.) Thus endeth Eclipse Eve.

Early the next morning we checked out. It was February 26, 1979, a Monday morning.

That’s weirdly cool! Our 2017 eclipse happened on a Monday morning as well! What are the odds?! (But see April 8, 2024, as the Freaky Eclipse Monday Sequence continues.) 

We would drive out of town, find a hilltop, watch the eclipse, and then drive back over the mountains and home to the coast.

Good for you and your five-hour drive, AD. We had a much more ambitious itinerary; all the pre-eclipse sightseeing (including two days touring some of Yellowstone Park’s wonders) followed by a visit to the Durham Ranch in east central Wyoming where my brother had worked in the 1990s-2000s–and where we’d taken our kids (and finally just ourselves when our kids all grew past family road trips) for summer vacations many of those years.


We spent one chilly morning enjoying the thermal wonders of Yellowstone National Park. My daughter and her oldest sun are both fine photographers.


The falls of Yellowstone! Yikes!


Everywhere we went: signs of the coming Eclipse-pocalypse!


The Madison River is warmed by nearby thermal activity and therefore amazing to play in.


I had never heard of Bozeman Beach before. Apparently not too many other folks have, either. (If this fun & free place were in Orange County, it would be wall-to-wall recreationists.)

(And now back to your regularly scheduled eclipse tale.)

It was dawn when we found a highway out of town and drove into the unfamiliar countryside. By the growing light we could see a band of cirrostratus clouds in the sky.

Later the rising sun would clear these clouds before the eclipse began. We drove at random until we came to a range of unfenced hills.

Unfamiliar countryside: check.

Cirrostratus clouds: check. (All morning long these created a lovely gauzy complement to the solar shenanigans.)

Driving at random: nope. We were a bit limited by virtue of cattle grazing rights/fences and our heavy van’s lack of off-road suitability. The best we could do was wobble down off the edge of the raised gravel road a few yards into the grass/cactus scrub pasture.

(Did somebody say, “Cirro-stratus”?!)

We pulled off the highway, bundled up, and climbed one of these hills.

No need to bundle up. Mid-August in Wyoming = quite pleasant morning temps, TYVM (Thank You Very Much).

The hill was 500 feet high.

I’d wished for–hoped for–longed for–a 500-foot high hill like AD had found. Dreamed of it, so that we could witness the moonshadow racing across the landscape, a shadow whose description (thanks AD) had got me stirred up all those many years ago and eager to someday witness it myself. Dang. No such luck at Goldeneye.

Long winter-killed grass covered it, as high as our knees.

No hill, but we did have tawny late-summer grass (with its itchy seed heads) to contend with in our summer shorts, along with the previously mentioned low-growing prickly pear, which caused me not a little consternation since I hated to spoil a good eclipse by having to wear shoes.

We passed clumps of bundled people on the hillside who were setting up telescopes and fiddling with cameras.

Oh yes . . . the clumps of people. We weren’t the only thrifty travelers who thought that $150 to park for the day in the parking lot of the Casper, WY, Events Center was a little ridic.

As the moon (apparently a slow eater) continued to nibble on the sun for brunch, I took a meander around the sudden campground; plenty of folks were clumped around big ol’ telescopes pointed up at the soon-to-be-devoured sun. Ah, space nerds, I salute you. (Along with Stephen Colbert, who said this: “NASA scientists have discovered a new form of life. Unfortunately, it won’t date them either.”) 

Directly behind us was more sky, and empty lowlands blued by distance, and Mount Adams. Mount Adams was an enormous, snow-covered volcanic cone rising flat, like so much scenery.

We had no Mount Adams, just the endless rolling Wyoming high prairie and even-more-endless Wyoming sky. A different kind of beauty, appreciated more by connoisseurs of steppe than fans of crags.

Now the sun was up.

Yes, it was. With our eclipse scheduled (how do they KNOW THIS STUFF?!) for just before noon, we had plenty of time for the kids to sleep in (a byproduct of some other genetic material, not mine; I’d been up since before daylight) as well as time to make a big ol’ eclipse breakfast: scrambled eggs, Costco nitrate-free Canadian bacon, TJs gluten free (i.e. mostly sugar) pancake mix, along with fresh (hopefully local) peaches from the Bozeman grocery store.


The last one up (always) 8-year-old Blake, acted a little skittish right out of the gate; he is not much for out-of-the ordinary (i.e. scary) movies and/or natural phenomena, and the whole eclipse buildup (The sun’s gonna disappear! Yay!) had been freaking him out more and more as the day had approached.

More people were parking near the highway and climbing the hills. It was the West. All of us rugged individualists were wearing knit caps and blue nylon parkas. People were climbing the nearby hills and setting up shop in clumps among the dead grasses. It looked as though we had all gathered on hilltops to pray for the world on its last day.

Oh yeah. All us rugged individualists. Or not. This scene seemed more alongs the lines of . . . an AARP concert without a main stage? A family reunion without name-tags, so everyone was just kind of wandering around?


It looked as though we had all crawled out of spaceships and were preparing to assault the valley below.

I beg to differ, AD. It’s Aug. 21, 2017, in the hills west of Casper, WY, where a bunch of people have crawled out of their RVs and SUVs and Subarus, not spaceships. (Disclaimer: I am no AD when it comes to crazy simile. But I can rhyme at unfortunate times.)

It looked as though we were scattered on hilltops at dawn to sacrifice virgins, make rain, set stone stelae in a ring.

Again: I got nothin’ like this.

I did, however, try to take pictures to show how many people there were, but everyone was spread out over the mile of entrance road leading to the circular parking lot that bordered the reservoir and that the web site said held 130 vehicles . . . all lined with docile revelers.

There was no place out of the wind.

A natural wonder almost equal to a total eclipse: even though we were a mile high out on the wide-open/treeless plains, no relentless Wyoming wind tugged at all the tents and awnings decorating the prairie . . . . just a lovely breeze to carry away the dust from late-arriving folks.

The straw grasses banged our legs.

Hindsight (and the Urban Dictionary) make this seem like an unfortunate verb choice in 2017. To keep the horny pasture plants at bay, we spread out a 12×12 blue tarp under the Easy Up and then retreated to the sky (or at least the sturdy van roof viewing platform).


Approaching totality . . . the light was weird!

It began with no ado. It was odd that such a well advertised public event should have no starting gun, no overture, no introductory speaker.

Talk about well advertised! The media circus had been grinding along for weeks, so much so that at times, toward the end, I almost lost my eclipse mojo and considered staying home out of the doomsday crowds/traffic jams/gasoline-and-food shortages predicted by our media compadres.

I should have known right then that I was out of my depth. Without pause or preamble, silent as orbits, a piece of the sun went away. We looked at it through welders’ goggles. A piece of the sun was missing; in its place we saw empty sky.

Huh. Welder’s goggles would have made perfect sense (being married to a welder for 41 years and all that), but our daughter had seen fit to order six pairs of Eclipse Glasses on Amazon about a month before the shortages hit amidst news hysteria about “fake glasses” that would not protect anyone’s sun-lovin’ eyes.

The previous day, our Bozeman friends had mentioned the difficulty in obtaining any (fake OR real) dark glasses at such a late date, so we left them a couple of pairs: one for the adorable Poppy to watch the eclipse, and the other to try to sell for $50 on Craigslist. You never know how desperate those wealthy Bozemaniacs might get.

The hill was 500 feet high.

Our van perch . . . not so much. Maybe 8 feet above the prairie. Just enough to widen our perspective, but . . . dang . . . I sure would have liked a bleepin’ HILL.

Up in the sky where we stood the air was lusterless yellow. To the west the sky was blue. Now the sun cleared the clouds. We cast rough shadows on the blowing grass; freezing, we waved our arms. Near the sun, the sky was bright and colorless. There was nothing to see.

I don’t know, AD . . . there’s always SOMETHING to see: the people, for one thing. From our van perch we could see all the different rituals playing out: arm selfies and stick selfies and group portraits and telescope peering and the nearby family of five looking cool in their dark glasses kicked back next to their rented RV in camping chairs just. Staring. At the sun.

Sheesh. No matter how much I trusted my Verified Amazon Purchase Eclipse Glasses, I just could not bring myself to take more than quick glimpses up at the dark bite being nibbled into a thing we’ve been told all our lives NOT TO STARE AT.

A piece of the sun was missing; in its place we saw empty sky.

How cool was this?! Now the grandkids were getting into it, although the eight-year-old had an initial bit of coordination difficulty and would take off his glasses while his head was still in tilt-back position. And of course my subsequent threats of impending blindness probably did not enhance his eclipse comfort level. The ten-year-old, however, was really diggin’ it, almost bragging: “Oops! I forgot to tilt my head down again! Now I see a bright spot even when I’m not looking at the sun. I’m not going to go blind, am I?” Cue maniacal ten-year-old chuckle . . .


I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970.

I was 10 years old on March 7, 1970 and on the West Coast, so I don’t really remember this event. It seems that totality stretched from central Mexico up through Florida. Woulda lasted for over three minutes, but apparently it was TOO CLOUDY TO SEE IT in the United States. 

Yay for cloudless Wyo in 2017!

(But . . . I wonder, again, if AD “really” saw a partial eclipse in 1970. That’s the thing about the “creative” aspect of creative nonfiction: once the truth-pact with the reader is broken, a giant wall of skepticism looms from thence forth, calling into question pretty much . . . everything a writer (e.g. AD) claims to be “witness” to. 

It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it. During a partial eclipse the sky does not darken—not even when 94 percent of the sun is hidden.

You go, AD! This is what I’d spent the last how many months trying to explain to anyone who would listen back home in Southern California. Didn’t help. But maybe it was a good thing that pretty much everyone local stayed home. Old Goldeneye Reservoir couldn’t have handled my three million Orange County neighbors (not to mention the twelve million just to the north in LaLa Land).

Nor does the sun, seen colorless through protective devices, seem terribly strange. We have all seen a sliver of light in the sky; we have all seen the crescent moon by day. However, during a partial eclipse the air does indeed get cold, precisely as if someone were standing between you and the fire.

Love the simile, AD! We sure did put on our fleecy jackets as the temps plunged and the light grew just . . . plain . . . weird.

Look at Mount Adams,” I said, and that was the last sane moment I remember.

Here is the moment I remember in AD’s essay (from my years-ago reading). Then and now, my skeptical self sez a big “Puh-leeze.” And then AD goes on and on in artful (perhaps even a bit over-the-top, to some of us negative Nancy’s) fashion about all the color changes. And So Forth:

I was watching a faded color print of a movie filmed in the Middle Ages; I was standing in it, by some mistake. I was standing in a movie of hillside grasses filmed in the Middle Ages. I missed my own century, the people I knew, and the real light of day.

My mind was going out; my eyes were receding the way galaxies recede to the rim of space. We had all started down a chute of time. God save our life.

(I left out big chunks, but you get her drift. SOMETHING HUUUUGE was happening, dontcha know?)

From all the hills came screams.

Now this was one of the best moments of the eclipse sequence. Because we were in a gathering of hundreds of people clever enough to find a free and unfettered viewing place, because we were all from far away (with license plates from Alaska to Massachusetts) and had made great effort to be exactly here at this exact moment for this exact reason, because all the media hype was wrong about banana shortages in Idaho but exactly right that this was a Big Deal, when totality hit and the light went away and we were all nothing but colorless silhouettes, we all began whooping and hollering like ??? (If I were AD I’d insert the coolest simile ever here, but just imagine a winning three-pointer in the last seconds of the tournament championship, and you’ll hear something similar. But slightly more fun, ’cause nobody had to lose for all of us to have so much to cheer about.)

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Almost totality . . .

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. . . vs. TOTALITY!

We were the world’s dead people rotating and orbiting around and around, embedded in the planet’s crust, while the Earth rolled down. Our minds were light-years distant, forgetful of almost everything. Only an extraordinary act of will could recall to us our former, living selves and our contexts in matter and time. We had, it seems, loved the planet and loved our lives, but could no longer remember the way of them. We got the light wrong. In the sky was something that should not be there. In the black sky was a ring of light. It was a thin ring, an old, thin silver wedding band, an old, worn ring. It was an old wedding band in the sky, or a morsel of bone. There were stars. It was all over.

Astronomic histrionics, anyone?

But, yeah, it was pretty cool. So freakin’ cool I wanted to do nothing more than capture it in photos, somehow, some way, even though every amazing situation in my life that I have attempted to digitize has NEVER done the actual event justice.

I still had to try.


The best my little pocket camera could do. Sigh.

It is a sickness: technological optimism mixed with premature nostalgia (the act of feeling regret about the event’s passing while still in the middle of experiencing it) tainted with self-sabotage . . . for the minute one turns one’s attention from actually experiencing something (all five senses engaged, present in the moment, zen-tastic), when you turn away from the real and toward the digitized/digital/technology-mediated devilish DEVICE. . . you lose everything.

The resulting diminished memory then results in . . . post-eclipse angst that you were fiddling with not one, but two pieces of techno-crap, and neither was properly designed and/or set up to take in an occasion of such (literally, yo!) magnitude.

What now entertains me, though, is replaying my iPad’s inadvertent movie that I made when I somehow hit the “record” button and proceeded to spin in my little circle of interacting with my family up on the van and setting off the timer on my tiny tripod-ed pocket camera. The movie is dizzying only because I am swinging the iPad around with me as I turn to witness the grandkids’ reaction and then swivel back to look at the sun. Which is gone, by the way, and in its place is a thin ring of light that has feather-flares coming off it (The corona. Oddly the same brand name as my high-quality garden shears). In all the flurry, I managed to remember that I could look at it without glasses during totality, so I did, and finally shut my mouth and quit my fidgeting and stared. At the (non)sun.

You have seen photographs of the sun taken during a total eclipse.

Yes indeedy. And they were nothin’ like my pathetic blurry/grainy images.

All of those photographs were taken through telescopes.

Now she tells me.

(And then follows another of AD’s melodramatic side wanders into the territory of the “mindless dead.” Then her description of going to a restaurant for breakfast after, where everyone was abuzz with “Did you see?”)

My story continues with awe as well: BAM! The minute after totality passed, after the glorious “diamond ring” effect glittered for its few astonishing seconds, after the crowds stopped cheering and the dogs stopped barking and the air started to warm again . . . pretty much immediately the RVs and SUVs and Subarus lined up on the exit road, headed for who knows where, maybe back where their license plates said they belonged (Nebraska to New Mexico), or their next Good Sam Club road trip adventure destination.

It being lunchtime at the Goldeneye Reservoir west of Casper, Wyoming, we fixed us up some chicken sandwiches, and began to wonder: what to do with our barely used eclipse glasses?

AD ends her essay with more facts about the shadow that precedes the eclipse–a shadow we were unfortunate to not observe due to our hill-less vantage point.

This bummed me more than a little, since AD’s powerful description of the shadow racing over the earth’s surface had lodged in my imagination all these many years, and made me hope I would be awed by such a sight as well.

So here’s to another opportunity to see the shadow of the moon race across the Texas plains at lotsa miles per hour (disclaimer: speed varies depending on location: 1502 mph to 2410 mph during the 8/21/17 US eclipse) on April 8, 2024–ANOTHER MONDAY eclipse, with the path of totality stretching from Texas to Maine . . . and up to 4 minutes of darkness on the schedule. (How do they KNOW this stuff?!)

All the red words were excerpted from Dillard’s book The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New. Copyright © 2016 by Annie Dillard.

Here’s a PS of photos that didn’t fit into the story above. Happy (Sunny!) Trails!


Eclipse selfie.


My daughter and oldest grandson posing for YaYa (that’s me). (Daughter later pointed out the lens cap kind of ruined the newsworthiness of the photo).


Trail running on one of the many options in Bozeman, MT. Lovely forests, threatened by development. Sound familiar?


Meanwhile, back at the Durham Ranch: it’s a little dicier to run on the red gravel (“scoria,” a sort of baked clay) that covers many roads in east/central Wyoming . . .


. . . so I dragged out my Sockwas and cruised for a few amazing miles through the high prairie, startling pronghorn as I loped along at my own YaYa speed.


Our Bozeman hosts had (among many other fun toys) . . . a SLACKLINE! Another bucket list item, checked. (Photo credit: Tina Davidson . . . thanks!)

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This is one of my favorite images from the entire trip: thousands of folks from all over God’s Green Earth waiting in the hot sun for Old Faithful geyser to erupt. We sauntered up at the last minute and saw the same thing that these folks had waited 90 minutes for . . .


If you are ever near Wright, WY . . . make sure to stop by the Durham Ranch and take the tour of the bison herd in this nifty little tour bus. Such nice folks! We really appreciated all the hospitality!


This is how close you can safely get to these historic (and delicious) creatures . . . as long as you stay within arm’s length of the tour bus. (Note the oil rig in the background; energy extraction is a Big Thing in Wyoming, where the tap water is ignitable. Yes, I’ve done that.)


These monstrous bison patties were an important source of fuel for cooking/heating by the prairie’s earlier inhabitants. They also work for Frisbee/Disc Golf. JK. LOL. 🙂


Singing “On the Road Again” . . .  with beautifully sunsetted miles to go before we sleep (this night would be in Rock Springs, WY, at the KOA where the manager was AMAZING and kind and helped us out even though it was past 9 pm and the office was closed but she unlocked for us anyway and the bathrooms were spotless and we were gone before dawn the next morning . . . )


Saying “buh-bye” to Goldeneye. Thanks, BLM, for making a (temporary) place for so many of us to enjoy a truly astronomical spectacle!

“In response to” all kinds of stuff, some barefoot

July 26, 2017

This is where many of my barefoot adventures begin:


In the winter, all is muck and mire, but then the rainy season ends, allowing relentless mountain bike traffic to pulverize what briefly was mud to fabulous dust.

I respond with mixed feelings to the smooth trails.

Sure, fluffy dirt is fun to prance shoelessly through, but at the same time, I resent the ever-increasing busy-ness (and dangerous-ness) of “my” local trails.


Bike tracks everywhere . . . but there’s a hidden sign: the “letter K” that shows a roadrunner also shares this trail.

How about a positive response to something, Gramma Grumpy-pants?

Let’s see . . . how about a recent “response” poetry exercise that resulted in a poem I was pleased to see take shape?

Background: Although I’ve never “done improv,” I do appreciate the art form, and had the happy idea to steal a basic improv exercise and apply it to poetry.

“Yes, and” is the ultimate “response” game; it forces players to follow whatever comment is made (no matter how crazy) with “yes, and” + their own impromptu sentence, thus continuing the play of ideas.

Last month, I hunkered down with some other writers in aspen shade (Grand Canyon National Park/North Rim forest), distributed poetry books, and began our “yes, and” exercise by extending the invitation to “allow your book to fall open and let a poem choose you.”


Here’s the books we used for inspiration (by Kern County, CA, Poet Laureate  Don Thompson.)

Then we each chose a line from “our” poem, copied it at the top of a blank journal page, and followed the quote with the words, “Yes, and . . . .” followed by whatever images/ideas seemed to want to be a part of the party.

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Two pages of scribbles: in response to the last lines of Don Thompson’s poem “Drought.”


I am a big fan of Don Thompson’s work; he seems like a most kindred of spirits, another dusty path wanderer (his trails wind around the San Joaquin Valley where he has lived all his life), who pays close attention to his local places, plants, critters . . . and then composes simple-but-never-simplistic poems about what he notices.

[Confessional tangent: after my review of his book Everything Barren Will Be Blessed was published four years ago, Don began sending me a lovely Christmas present each year: limited-edition chapbooks of his work in thematic arrangements, with both old and new poems resonating off each other in compelling ways. And, even though I was raised by a mother who was high priestess of the Prompt-Thank-You-Note cult, I have not, to this day, ever acknowledged these most precious poetic gifts. Sigh. Can such a gross omission be atoned for via a blog post? One can hope . . . ]

Those pages of notes began to tug at me this week, so I dug out my North Rim journal and started copying into a computer document any words/phrases that seemed interesting. It’s a comfortable composing method that bypasses any chance for writer’s block: I’ve already written a bunch of schizz, now I can just play around and see how things want to fall into lines/stanzas (deleting/adding words is part of the fun).

The resulting poem will end this post, but first . . . more photos from  recent wandering:


You can bet I had an elevated-blood-pressure response to this 12-balloon mylar nightmare–perhaps it drifted over from the cemetery in the background? (Side note: running near a cemetery = highly recommended to help keep priorities straight. A few deep breaths; a prayer; some satisfying helium-releasing balloon-stabs with my trusty pocket knife = lower BP, stat.)


Robber’s Peak: a high point for my local wanderings . . . and another place that makes me think of “big picture” ideas, such as, “Wow! I can run up and down this hill again, after so many years of injuries. Guess I better not take my strong legs & lungs for granted.” *truth in blogging note: that ain’t me in the picture.


They seem odd/out of place, but there are four palo verde trees in brilliant bloom right now, just outside Irvine Park, far from the trees’ native desert habitat. A quick search uncovers two facts I did not know: it’s the state tree of Arizona, and it’s a habitat-destroying weed in parts of Australia.

Here’s the response poem . . . Happy (“yes, and”) Trails . . .

In response to

. . . their hooves pelting the road / more like rain than rain
(from “Drought” by Don Thompson)

Who has not mis-imagined
a sound? Tires crunching
down the gravel and you think:
finally, he’s home,
until the neighbor’s door slams?

Once a lovely cloying
perfume–Youth Dew–
caught me; I closed my eyes,
hoping for another hug,
but the cemetery
remained 2,000 miles
down the road.

Clouds on the boil
over faint mountains:
is it a thunderstorm
or the first roil of wildland inferno,
thousands of acres torched,
grandmother oak and her woodland
community scorched: woodrat, newt,
sister butterfly, lichen, oak
titmouse, mychorrhizae, acorn
woodpecker, all
our secret paths?

Who has not been tricked:
thirsty for rain,
desperate to wake
to the first hard drops
overhead, not the staccato
pop of gunshots,
desperate now
to go back
to dream time.