The Smell of Rain

I can never seem to resist going down to the lake in a storm. I know I am not the only one. I see the odd car or two pulled in at the parking lot of Vinyard Beach , aggressive windshield wipers working hard to afford a view.

I encounter less human company out on the beach itself. Secretly  (or maybe not so much) I revel in a first hand experience. There is something primal in that energy; wind and water, and electricity. It resonates in, and sometimes chills, the bones.

Waves at Utah Lake
Storm Tossed waves at Utah Lake

Usually placid or gently undulating, Utah Lake  stirred by the invisible whisk of a forceful wind, roils and rolls. Because it is a shallow lake, waves peak and drop at an astonishing pace spilling the turbulence onto the shore in great ladles of froth. 

Thunders kettle drums rumble and tumble through the canyons along the Wasatch Front, punctuated at last by the whip crack of lightening splitting the slate sky with its zig-zag flail.

Swallow at Utah Lake on a Sunny Day
Swallows High, Staying Dry

Gathering clouds line up to dip and drop their heavy skirts in this meteorological dance. They release sheets of rain that wax and wane as they waltz  across the lake.

A cavalry of swallows follows in each wake. The whoosh of their scything wings audible even through the storms cacophony. They catch a feast of insects that have been ungraciously toppled from their thermal rise by the sinking of barometric pressures.  To read about a little more about the casualties of shifting barometric pressures link to  my post “Lady Bug Wash Up” here.

The old adage Swallows high – staying dry does hold some validity.

Utah Lake in Storm
Spring Storm at Utah Lake

Then, there is that moment when the brow of the storm, a formidable furrow of bruised cumulonimbus, begins to ease giving way to shafts of sunlight. Like the “eureka” after a troubled brood, it is a startling, sudden, relief: Illumination.

Rainbow
Rainbow

Overhead a variegated circlet, the rainbow, apparates.  Sometimes mirrored, reversed and doubled, light, through water’s lens reveals a brief window into its invisible workings. Magic in the purest form.

“Why are there so many, songs about rainbows? And what’s on the other side”.

KermitBeing of a certain generation, this little verse, so nostalgically belted out by a little green Muppet almost always comes to mind.  Yet, rainbows have ever been alive in the myths and lore of cultures and peoples.

Nature speaks to the senses of the sentient. Her whispers reaching beyond the obvious five to the five thousand secret senses that transcend human vocabulary. Her language is universal and without attachment to clan or tribe or classification of being.

Rain on LeafTake the smell of rain. You know it. I know you do!

It is one of the most ubiquitously recognized and admired aromas. And one of the reasons I can’t resist being out of doors in stormy weather.

Though it hard to describe in a simple word, and perhaps has gone by many names, today we call it Petrichor.  Petr for rock and ichor, for the sweet essence that runs through the veins of the Gods. 

Austrailian scientist first to documented the process of it’s formation, in 1964.  A  further investigation  took place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 2010s. This study gave  an ingredient list of sorts, delineating three distinct processes that when combined create the ‘smell of rain’ or Petrichor.

Below is the recipe; home style. Not that anyone can simply whip this up. But for the sake of this blog let’s just pretend. For the fun of it, of course!

Petrichor

For optimal results gather in the following order. 

1 Part Ozone: Split ditomic molecules of oxygen and nitrogen to create nitric oxide and ozone.  This can be done by hurtling bolts of lightening through gathering storm clouds. You might have to make an offering to Zeus or Thor or  beat a drum  to call in the Cloud Peoples in order to accomplish this task. Whichever method you choose, the ozone molecules will attach themselves nicely to mist and rain which will eventually fall to the earth in a place near you.

 

1 Part Geosmin:  Allow the ozone filled raindrops strike the soil forcefully. (Honestly, I don’t know how you might dis- allow this, but you could try yelling a firm “NO!”towards the heavens. However, as we want this to occur there is no need to test this out).  Alerted by raindrops kindly knocking at their door, colonies of Actinomycetes, a bacteria living in the soil will begin secrete this this fascinating compound.

Just as a side note: Geosmin can be detected by human noses at less than 5 parts per trillion.  It packs some pungent! Perfumers make use of its earthy tones in perfumes and in scented oils such as sandalwood, because of it’s powerful and popular appeal.

Great Basin plants1 Part Volatile Plant Oils: During hot and dry weather, vegetation such as trees and shrubs, release oils that accumulate in dirt, rocks, concrete and dry wood. So just let the plants do their thing!  Similar to geosmin, these aromatics are just waiting for rains percussive invitation to come out and play

Here in the Great Basin, sages, rabbit brush, wild rose, juniper, gamble oak, maples, and false mahogany among other high desert flora create a scent that is basically the aroma of heaven. In case you are wondering.  But I digress…

That’s it! Mix the above together and you’ve got a delicious stew of petrichor  to enjoy. At least through the olfactory orifices.

 The scent of rain has been informing and delighting the children of earth, however, long before  the word petrichor was invented or the ability to describe it’s process existed.

Natures lexicon is one that our grandmothers and grandmother’s grandmothers readily acknowledged. These are the innate wisdoms that have become obscured through the years as  populations moved away from working in and with the land to put on the cloak of industry and progress.  Yet they are not wholly lost to us.

Like the metaphorical pea hidden under a pile of mattresses, we still still feel their presence: When we sit in stillness out under the stars, or wander through a meadow blooming with wildflowers, or catch the first winter snow on our tongues.

Or when we are drawn out of our cozy houses at the sound of thunder to smell the rain and experience the raw power of a storm. 

Misty Rain StormIt is part of our inheritance ( just like the princess in ‘The Princess and the Pea’) revealing who we truly are.

I feel like the earth, astonished at fragrance borne in the air, made pregnant with mystery, from a drop of rain.

Rumi

 

Feel free to tell me about your stormy experiences or to leave a question or comment , by filling out the comment box under Leave a Reply, below. 

Until next time, happy storm chasing and wandering!

 

Here’s the Scoop and it’s A Pelican Brief: The American White Pelican in Utah

Carl Sagon Questions
Pelicans over Utah Lake

“Is a pelican considered a carnivore”? My fellow pod-caster/wandering companion, Christine, posed this question to me just a few weeks ago.

Christine has a brilliant mind  resplendent with curiosity. I really admire this about her.

She works at a local middle school as a student advocate. Students and co-workers alike, have come to realize that if you want an answer to almost anything you can just ask Christine.

How does she know so much, because she asks ALL the questions no matter how out there or mundane they seem. 

Is a pelican a carnivore?

Carnivorous Pelican
My Quick Rendition of a “Carnivorous Pelican”

Humorously enough, when the I put that question to my own mind,  I immediately  pictured a gargantuan pelican with a gaping maw full of dagger like teeth terrorizing the shorelines our local lakes.

This, of course, is an irrational image. Pelican’s don’t eat humans, or things that aren’t found swimming in the water, right? 

This seemingly straight forward question, as any good question does, lead to me to ponder further about this remarkable bird: the pelican; In particular the American White Pelican which has so recently made it’s vernal return to Utah Lake.

So we will start back with my image of the terrifying “carnivorous pelican”, hungry for beach bound human flesh. Was there once a pelican ancestor like this?

It turns out, that during the late Triassic to the early Cretaceous period, a pterosaur, C. Hanseni, glided over the arid landscape of Utah, sporting a probable flange or wattle pouch, very similar to a pelican.

3 D printed Skull of C. Hanseni by Matt Wedel

And yes, it did claim a mouth full of teeth. 112 plus four jutting fangs to be exact! And it’s wingspan was quite impressive…for it’s era.

Here is where my people eating version starts to break down.

C. Hanseni ‘s wingspan was about 5 feet – that is about 4 feet shy of the American White Pelican of today.  And it probably existed on a diet of insects and small reptiles, not frightened humans or even mammals or their prototypes.

The American White Pelican by contrast can have a wing span of over 9 feet  and weighs in at anywhere from 15 – 30 lbs. That makes it the second largest bird in North America next to the California condor!  But it still it is not nor ever has been a people eater.

Despite this slight disappointment to my imagination, pelicans do claim an an ancient avian heritage having evolved some 30 million years ago into the modern birds they are today.

Pelicans at Utah Lake
Pelicans at Utah Lake

I have met several people in Utah Valley, where I live,  who were surprised to learn that “briefs, “pods”, “pouches”, “scoops” and or “squadrons”  of pelican, as they can be collectively referred to,  inhabit Utah Lake for a season every year. And to be honest, when I first started visiting the lake regularly I,too, was surprised by this.

Having lived by the Oregon coast as a teen and young adult,  I primarily associated pelicans with the ocean.

It turns out that, of the two species of pelican that live in North America, only the Brown Pelican is a salty dog. The American White Pelican is considered a fresh water bird, though, here in Utah, it gives a special sort of nod to its briny cousin.

THe Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake

Gunnison Island, a remote piece of real estate off the shores of The Great Salt Lake is home to the third largest White American Pelican nesting colony in North America.  10-20 percent of the total population of American White Pelicans use this isolated island as a rookery.

The Great Salt Lake, however, is devoid of the pelican’s main food source: fish. Hence the birds rise on the thermals each morning flying miles every day to catch dinner. Many of them go to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, but a few take the nearly 100 mile southbound trip  to hunt in Utah Lake.

American White Pelicans have a very unique and effective way of feeding. They are fish herders!

Pelican's feedingThat’s right, these clever birds, will flock together in the water, using coordinated efforts to force schools of fish into the shallows. Once there, the whole group, just dives right in to collect their tasty snacks. 

Below is a wonderful audio description I am sharing from the wonderful Utah Public Radio Production: Wild About Utah.

What about those funny looking pouches, you might be asking? Do they store dinner whole, fish bowl style, while jetting it back to hungry chicks?

The answer is no.  Although the pelican pouch can hold up to 3 gallons of water, once these birds engulf or “net” their prey, they drain the water out by tipping their heads before swallowing their captives whole.

Chicks are fed by the ever the  so appetizing regurgitation method. Yummy!  (I am being a bit anthropomorphic and human-centrist here). This method of feeding young, adopted by many avian species, is both practical and  highly efficient when considering the distances these parent birds have to travel between nesting sites and hunting grounds.

American White Pelican in FlightThe American White Pelican is impressive in many ways.   It is spectacular to observe these pro flyers cruising above the water without flapping a a wing. Resembling some sort of power glider, they can travel this way for quite a distance until at last the wings rotate vertically and  webbed feet extend just in time to execute a perfect water landing. 

wing tip shoesThis cagey bird also secrets a showy surprise, visible only when wings are extended.  A neat row of black flight feathers doubles as a dapper trim.  Against the American White Penguins nearly ubiquitous snowy  plumage, it recalls to my mind the spectator wing tip oxfords that were so popular in the swing era.

I wonder if the American White Pelican might have inspired the design?  If you know the answer to this question, be sure to let me know through leaving a comment.

American White Pelican with Horn
American White Pelican at Utah Lake with Horn

During the early spring, until about May,  one might notice a peculiar hump or “horn” as it is often referred to, growing on top of a pelican’s beak. This unique appendage apparently makes an appearance only during the mating season. Occurring on both male and female birds, it simply falls off after young are produced.

Somewhere out on a sandy beach or rocky shoreline, there is a curiosity to be discovered; A pelican horn, kind of like a unicorn horn, only different! Here is a fun and informative blog  I enjoyed about this funky feature.

 I could go on and on about how interesting these bird peoples are, but that would make this blog quite a tome. And I will leave room for you, dear reader, to investigate further.

Before I end, however, I would like to rewind a bit and revisit Gunnison Island. Although American White Pelican numbers have generally been increasing in the U.S., they are certainly  becoming a bird of concern here in Utah.  During my research I learned that In 2020 the number of chicks produced on Gunnison island had decreased drastically from what used to be be between 4000 – 5000 chicks per season down to only 500.

Why is this happening?

Pelicanno waterThere is no question that drought and climate change are effecting this iconic lake.  Yet, the biggest hand in this environmental emergency, it turns out is the largely unbridled interests of big industry and agriculture.  Aided and abetted by short sighted politicians,  precious fresh water tributaries  are continually being diverted away from the lake towards the unchecked demands of a growing urban population.

To read an excellent article  by the Audubon Society about the crisis at the Great Salt Lake and the precarious fate of the American White Pelican be sure to click on the links at the end of this blog.

When I first began this post, I started with the exercise of writing a poem about the American White Pelican. I do not profess to be a great poet, but I love the practice of this art form. My mind (often a bit on the  goofy side) could not resist the idea of writing a poem in canticle form – a “Peli-Canticle” if you will. 

I hesitated, at first, to share this activity. Yet, despite the slightly silly title, I think this attempt does capture, at least a little, the current struggle that the White Pelican is facing here in Utah. 

I hope you will enjoy it, and that it might give you pause to think and maybe ask more questions of your own.

Peli-canticle for the American White Pelican in Utah

The coyote knows a thing or two – like Moses

Coyote knows to sally forth at the parting of the sea

In this case the Great Salt Lake has birthed a briny passage

Gunnison Island, no more but aye, land! Ironic coyote laughs – poor

Pelican, it’s pallid rookery, brief colony of (once) isolated egg and young

The idyll of this Eden (as with all Edens) fate will not endure

In the sweating city, eternal fountains flow towards thirsty lawns who drink up and yawn,

It is a slow asteroid, for the modern pterasaur, in dryness raining down

Penguins at Utah Lake
Penguins at Utah Lake

Oh yeah! I almost forgot to answer the question posed at the beginning of this blog.

Of course pelicans are considered carnivores, mostly of the pescatarian kind – meaning fish eater. However, American White Pelicans have *also been known to eat a craw fish, turtle, an occasional duck or pigeon and yes, even small mammals! Who knew? I didn’t…

Questioning is the minds way of wandering. It is the  blooming of awareness that brings us closer to understanding this beautiful world and our relationship with and to it.

Happy Wandering…

Click HERE to read the Audubon article about the Great Salt Lake.

Click HERE to read further about the 2020 decline at the  Pelican rookery on Gunnison Island

 

An Inventory, an Invocation on the Advent of Spring 2022

March 2022

I have struggled this month, to find words to fit on a page. Possibly like many others, I feel a sort of shock into silence at the state of things that are occurring in our world right now.

It is hard not to feel the collective stress, deep sadness and near helpless  empathy for the suffering of nations.

And while I realize that most days, somewhere in the world, there is warring between humans, with the current clash between Russia and Ukraine, I feel this drag towards a potential global conflict. It is not prophesy, just an undercurrent of things that might be. And I continually pray will not.

I have many thoughts that swirl.

I wonder about the human condition; If we as a species, on this beautiful living planet, have ever really evolved beyond base passions: greed, lust for power, desire to dominate.

I know some might go on about complexities.

And I get it. Such situations are knotted up with economies, old alliances, and balances of power that have been twisting and turning for years before they reach a flashpoint that breeds such volatility.

Ultimately, though, the behavior of the major players remains the same as that of the bullies in the school yard. Only now instead of whispered threats and sideways punches, weapons of mass destruction are hurled about as carelessly as spit wads.

Tragically, for the people who are caught in the crossfire, the cause will never be equal  to the consequence.  No amount of apologies, money, or retributions can restore the lives that are lost.

An Inventory, An Invocation

Even under all this upheaval, I continue to find solace, beauty and stillness in wandering. In escaping from the constructed world, into a more authentic space; Nature, who’s endless creation and abundance leaves me equally as speechless, but with wonder and beauty rather than terror, and depression.

White Capped Sparrow
White Capped Sparrow

Walking along Utah lake, I revel in a cacophony of birdsong: The red wing blackbird, spotted towhee, the white capped sparrow. Sweet is the sing song of their gossip as they perch  and peak out at me  from a sway of pussy willows.

Beneath the cottonwood, pairs of ring necked doves court and coo, dipping like gentlemen at a ball.

A single pelican drifts in the shallows; a cumulus cloud puffed and aloof, shadowing a din of ducks and squabbling gulls.

Over head, three sand cranes wing their way towards the southern shore. It is a graceful ballet of long necks and legs, wing-borne, I think.

So much life returning.

And yes, even the midgefly, followed sooner than later by their vampiric cousins (mosquito) – love them or not, are slowly unpacking their campers, ready to make the beaches home and nursery once again.

Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk near nest in Dry Canyon

In the hills, red tailed hawk collide, tumbling towards earth until just at the last minute they release.  Dangerous and dizzying, and completely exhilarating, they play the mating game. Powerful calls echo through the greening canyons where nests hold precious new life.

Purple corksbill, yellow monkeyflower, butterwort, and whitlow grass blooms, mirror the many petaled sun ascending towards its summer throne. Soon they will be joined by camus, sweet pea, doe lily, and the  luminous little blues that flower beneath the budding gamble oak and maple.

Squirrels scramble up the still bare branches and scold passers by. “Don’t get too close to my babies”!  These fierce little bushy tails chirp.

Heavy hoof prints, of pregnant deer, big horned sheep and mountain goat dot the hillsides, still muddy with melted snow.  Soon a trail of smaller prints will follow.

Walking along these trails I welcome the white sulfer, california tortoishell and blue skipper butterfly,  to be joined by many other butterfly folk, delighting the eye of ALL children – young and old. It is hard to be unhappy in such company.

First Week of Spring 20220
First Week of Spring 20220

Life is waking from its winters slumber…the hum of the earth is rising. It is a song older than time that dances this world into being each spring.

Again, again!

Such symphony, remains unbroken,  undeterred and unbothered by the dissonance of mankind.

It is this tenacity, this consistency that soothes me…to know that humans aren’t in charge, after all,  is comforting.

As of today, I don’t put much faith and or trust in humans as a species. We are too driven, it seems, by primal fears…though I keep hoping that one day, the human mind will enlighten enough to bring about a balance within the  heart; Such that the destruction of each-other or that of another species or of an ecosystem will no longer seem needful and or acceptable as a means to survival.

This is my invocation, an invitation towards finding a way to make this possible.

In the meantime, individually,  we can show support for each other and for the other beings that inhabit this planet. One way we cant do that is by volunteering with  or sending donations to  reputable organizations, that are personally meaningful. Below is a small list of the organizations that I support.  🙂  Feel free to share ways and places you support your communities by commenting on this blog post. 

As always, happy, and peaceful, wandering.

A list of reputable places  to help the people of Ukraine

Conserve Utah Valley   is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization committed to protecting and sustaining the treasured canyons, foothills, open spaces, and waters of Utah Valley.  Conserve Utah Valley seeks to work collaboratively with all levels of government, the business community, and individuals to preserve spaces that add so much to our quality of life.

Sign the Don’t Pave Utah Lake Petition HERE

Hawk Watch International The mission of HawkWatch International is to conserve our environment through education, long-term monitoring, and scientific research on raptors as indicators of ecosystem health. 

Mama Dragons     Mama Dragons is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that supports, educates, and empowers mothers of LGBTQ children. Since 2013, it has grown from just a handful of moms to an organization that now supports over 7,000 mothers. Mama Dragons’ focus is on providing safe online spaces and educational programs where mothers can learn and connect with other Mama Dragons traveling similar paths as they learn accepting and affirming parenting practices that can help prevent LGBTQ youth suicide, depression, and homelessness.

 

 

Kicking the Hornet’s Nest

Kicking the Hornet’s Nest: Why,When,Where

If you are going to kick a hornet’s nest, it is best to do so in winter. In this case, I am not talking about a metaphorical hornet’s nest, which is unaffected by seasonal change.

I am talking about the real deal, an actual home of hornets, paper wasps, or yellow jackets the most assertive and well armed in the family known as hymenoptera vespidae, or wasp.

Wasp NestYes, if you do wish to physically accost an actual hornet’s nest, winter is best. This is because winter is when these structures are most likely to be emptied of their prickly inhabitants.

Walking along the paved Provo River Park Trail heading east of Johnson’s Hole, it is easy to spy several good sized nest. No longer secreted beneath the leafy ruffles of summer’s skirts, these interesting structures hang from winter barren branches, like mummy wrapped footballs. The hexagonal hatcheries are enfolded in a variegated, D.I.Y. paper as protection from the elements, other winged insects and birds who like to prey upon the defenseless young.

Collecting paper wasp material
That’s me with a very long stick “kicking” the hornet’s nest.

It is this miraculous material that I am after.

Wasps, hornets, yellow jackets…what can I say? Next to tiny Nosferatu -mosquito (see my entry blog entry entitled Midgefly Mitigation) I am not particularly fond of these insects.

Though I haven’t been stung often, the few times I have played the dart board to this insects sharp barb, is more than enough for me. It really hurts! Further more, a wasp sting can lead to residual swelling, soreness, itchiness and just plain misery that can last for days.

The fact is that more than 90% of perceived “bee” stings are actually from, yours truly, the bee’s less bumbling and cuddly cousin, the wasp. This does not make them a popular guest at the pic-nick table, or in the garden or as a hiking companion.

So why write about wasps? The fact is that they really don’t deserve the bad rap they are given. Wasps play an important role in a healthy ecological system. You can check out their many benefits here

The wasps or hornet that most people associate with painful probes, are social wasps and really only make up  about 1,000 species out of the 30,000 varieties. The rest are referred to as solitary wasps and are much less likely to sting, unless seriously provoked.

From the 5 inch long ichneuman wasp to the microscopic Tinkerbell fairy fly, wasps run the variety gambit of shapes, sizes and colors. I recommend listening to this fabulous podcast on Spheksology ( the study of wasps) on one of my favorite nature podcast Ologies .

In this blog, however, I want to relate some of of my own wasp encounters; What I have observed and learned about their remarkable behaviors and what I have found actually works very well if you end up playing the pincushion. OUCH!!!

Pollen Wasps

Wasp in the Penstemon
Wasp in the Penstemon

One of the strangest insect behaviors I have run into,  is that of the pollen wasp.

Growing along the sandy ravines from June through August, is a beautiful flower known as Wasatch beards tongue penstemon. A few years ago, I happened to stop to admire a some of these blooms, when I noticed what I thought was a familiar yellow and black bum protruding from one of the bell shaped blossoms like nature’s caution tape.

 I froze, not wanting to disturb, dislodge or disgruntle this temporary tenant. However, after a few minutes of observing with seeming no effort on the part of the wasp to disengage from this floral garage, I began to get more curious. I carefully pushed the stem of the penstemon to see if the wasp would be encouraged to move on. To my surprise, nothing at all happened!

Hmmmm…curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.

Feeling a little more daring I decided to use a twig to gently prod  this  flower enamored little creature to see if that might elicit some response… any response. To my surprise, it did not!

Did these penstemon contain a sort of yellow jacket nepenthe or soma? I remember thinking. And how could I garner some in case of future unhappy run ins with less stupefied stingers?

Pollen Wasp in Beardstongue
Pollen Wasp Parked in
Wasatch Beards-tongue Penstemon

Turns out, however, after a decent amount of digging around, that these florally amorous wasps are not yellow jackets at all, but an entirely different species known as the pollen wasps and of course what they are doing behind their petaled curtain is gathering pollen.

Though as to why they are so completely entranced and entrenched in their activity as to be seemingly oblivious to a human literally hoisting them up their petard, remains to be understood.

So if you are a wasp expert and understand the process of these solitary yellow jacket doppelgangers, I would love to hear more!

A Farewell to Wasps

As I mentioned at the beginning, the reason you should wait until winter to approach a hornets nest for any type of reason is that it is  likely to be abandoned.

Where do all the wasps go, you might ask?

Wasp Queen
Queen of Wasps

Well, the answer is to die.

All except for the new queens. These fortunate few will leave the nest to shelter in trees or other such dark cozy crevices to wait out the winter. Come spring they emerge like little lady Lazeruses to build a new nest, don their tiny little (metaphorical) crowns and begin their reign as the new queen bee of the wasp colony.

For every other wasp, it is then end of the line.  I am going to make a bold (ish) observation here. I think, that often, the end of the line happens to be in a creek-bed.  I don’t have any reference for this, just something I have noticed.

Wasp dying in creekbed
Wasp Dying in Autumn Creek-bed.

Year after year, in late fall, I have encountered wasps congregating lethargically on the rocks and damp soil of a creek bed ravine. No longer able to fly (much anyway) they seem to be just sort of wandering aimlessly until they succumb to stillness amongst fallen kin.

I am always caught of guard at the amount of empathy I feel for these once fierce and feared little warriors. They too are humbled by the ever sweeping broom of time.

On wasp Stings

Despite what you might think, wasps do not actually fly around looking for tender human skin to prick.

Most of the time a person is stung because they have wandered into nest territory or the wasps feels threatened in some way, such as being swatted at. Better to back away slowly or try to move on with a calm demeanor.

As I mentioned above, a wasp sting is really quite painful! Luckily I’ve only been stung by your average yellow jacket or maybe bald face wasp (they look and act very similar) and not the wasp whose sting is referred to as the “cow killer.”

Cow Killer
Velvet Ant

This wasp doesn’t really look like a wasp at all, but instead it resembles a large ant with a luxurious taste in outer wear. For this reason it is known as the velvet ant. I have encountered quite a few in my wanderings.

With gorgeous crimson, azure or silvery coats, these wingless wasps lure unsuspecting humans into thinking they are fuzzy fancy friends.  Okay, they don’t actually try to get you to pet them, But, either way do not be fooled or tempted! On the Schmidt’s sting pain index which ranks and describes insects based on one scientists evaluation of stinging insects, it is ranked 3 out of 4.

The good news is that the venom is not high on the toxicity scale and no known deaths have ensued from having been stung by the “cow killer”. 

You can watch Coyote Peterson self inflict with a velvet ant on his you tube channel, Brave Wilderness here. Is he crazy? Just a little!!

So what do I do after I’ve been stung by a wasp or hornet? I couldn’t end this blog without a shout out to my favorite and quite effective remedy And that is a poultice made from Common Mullein.

Mullein, (Verbascum  thaspus L) grows quite abundant in North America and can be found on sandy hill sides, along fence posts and in ravines, open meadows or abandoned fields. The first year plants form large rosettes of fuzzy oval shaped leaves that measure up to a foot long. The second year plants shoot a stalk straight up into the air that can be as high as 8 feet tall. Though, the ones around here are usally 3 – 4 feet in height. Along this stalk will bloom a beautiful array of creamy yellow flowers. While this plant has amazing healing properties, for many ailments, it is excellent for soothing and healing wasp and other insects stings.

Here’s what to do: Select a good sized clean leaf and mash or bruise with a rock or your hands then apply directly to sting site. You can use a bandage or cloth wrapped around to hold it in place. I like to reapply every few hours. Truly though, this herbal remedy works quickly to help lessen the painful sting and or itching. It’s miraculous!

Beauty and the “Beast”

So why was I collecting a paper wasps nest this past month?  For an art project! It turns out these tiny beasties, construct a beautiful medium for painting on, or for other nature inspired projects.  My project is a gift that I gave to my mother for her 80th birthday this past week. On sections of wasp paper I painted images from a letter her mother had written about her childhood.  Here is the finished project.

 I am hoping that by reading this blog, and clicking on the links, I have dispelled some of the negativity  that is in the general zeitgeist towards wasps.  In reality, these insects are incredibly interesting and creative creatures. Some indigenous cultures even honor the wasps in their mythologies as creator beings and for good reason!  Certainly wasp should garner our respect if not our love.

Synchronicity and the Giant Purple Balloon

Synchronicity

It is astonishing how many surprises a person can come across when wandering.  From unique structures, to bizarre animal behaviors to interesting items left out in the wilderness.  But every now and then you stumble across something so extraordinary, so outside of any sort of expectation that you know it is truly a once in a life time experience.

So much is the strange timing of it, that you realize that if you hadn’t stepped into this window somehow, you would have missed it all together.  For that window is short and it’s opening narrow. And it makes you wonder….

About Synchronicity

Synchronicity is a concept first brought into the modern zeitgeist by one of the founding fathers of psychodynamic therapy, Carl Gustav Jung. (c. 1875 – 1961) He later developed this idea with in collaboration with physicist and Nobel laureate Wolfgang Pauli, culminating in a work entitled the Pauli–Jung conjecture.

Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung

Jung and Pauli defined synchronicity in several different ways, but the one that I find most resonant is this one which defines synchronicity as; “an acausal connecting principle”, “acausal parallelism“, and as the “meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved”.(Jung, Carl G. [1951] 2005. “Synchronicity“. Pp. 91–98 in Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal, edited by R. Main. London: Taylor & Francis.)

The Giant Purple Balloon

On a gloomy overcast afternoon in early March of last year, my youngest daughter,  Sienna, and I were both feeling a little sludgy, stuck in the dull drums between late winter and spring in a state that I refer to as being in the “ humpty dumps.”  To pick up our spirits, we decided to climb up a mountain, which is almost always my go to remedy, of course!

It was getting on towards evening so we decided to hike up a familiar pathway leading north above a natural sink, known as Johnson’s Hole.  There we secured ourselves on a rock that overlooks the canyon gates. 

To the west, the valley spills out; a once high desert wilderness, now become a river of industry fanning out into a wide delta of human habitation until it meets the shores of Utah Lake, where nature once again commands the scene.

Provo Canyon
The Canyon Gates, Provo, Canyon.

Beyond the western shore, the sun, a giant salmon eye, had begun it’s downward dive, setting the lake on fire in it’s ember glow.

Tranquil for a moment, we sat in silence, as we often do when in this beautiful place. Suddenly, however, Sienna jumped up and pointed towards the crest of the hole.

“What is that”? she cried.

As the evening was darkening it took me a minute to adjust and focus my eyes.  Finally I registered a large round object rising out of the depression like some specter summoned by the sweeping skirts of night.

Floating about 6 feet above ground a huge purple orb glided towards our general direction.  The nature of it was so surreal that for a moment I couldn’t think of the word for ‘ floating ball thing .’

My daughter jumped up and started running down the slope towards the object, which was traveling, now at some good speed.

“It’s a balloon!” I finally managed, fully realizing that it was already evident to my daughter who was closing in on it before it slipped over the sharp eastward cliff edge.

The balloon was fast, but Sienna was faster!  And quick as she is, she snapped up the ribbon to which it was attached just before our UFO reached the point of no return.

IT…WAS…HUGE!!!!

This was no ordinary latex birthday blow up…no average Joe Blow escaped from the confines of some pop up wedding arch.  Nope.  This was giant purple people eating meter wide helium powered machine!

Giant Purple Balloon
Giant Purple Balloon

We both laughed until our sides felt to bursting with disbelief.

Our balloon friend came home with us that day.  It took up residence in our living room, until it decided to play a roll it was a natural for, as a unique birthday party gift, complete with added one eye.

To this day it remains a big question mark, however. The origin story of this strange entity. 

The where, why and how did it find itself floating freely in a canyon miles from it’s natural habitat; car lot or real estate display.  Late winter is a bit cold and early for a festival fugitive.

How it did not get tangled or punctured in the more than capable arms of the gamble oak thickets that are abundant in this landscape, we will never know.

Yet, somehow on March, 4, 2021, precisely around 6:15 p.m. Sienna and I just happened to be in the right place, at the right time, to quite literally catch it.

Needless to say, the ” humpty dumps ” dissipated that day.  And soon enough, spring arrived, bringing with it a renewed sense of energy for all living creatures, lifting the whole of us upwards and outwards from the dragging pall of winter’s coat tail.

Deer in Johnson's Hole
Deer Crossing Johnson’s Hole, January 2022

As I write this, we have just barely stepped out onto the icy bank of the cold and dark season.

It is good to think back and remember that day in March of last year.

To remember that life can surprise us.

To know that sometimes things happen without having any rational reason to them.  And yet, being without reason, it inversely increases in significance.  And in so doing can, suddenly, hold all the meaning in the world.  Who knew it could come in the form of a giant purple balloon?

As always, feel free to leave a comment or relevant question and join in on this conversation below.  Also, don’t forget to subscribe, to be notified each time a blog or podcast is posted to this site.  Thank you so much for stopping by and for reading.

Happy Wandering…

*( This blog post is lovingly dedicated to my dad, who asked me last august, when I was going to write about the purple balloon.  Well, now I have, and so I did. I hope you enjoy it, dad.  Likewise I hope everyone else who might read this blog will too ). 

Midge Fly Mitigation

A Farewell

There is that time when summer finally shuts its gilded door.  And the shadow of it, falling heavily against the memory of warmth and light makes an impact – louder, in the silence of it, than it’s final closing thud.

That time when clinging tender greens are found upon a morning, studded with a coat of diamonds – icy daggers. Death, I think, should always have such poetic beauty.

That time when the green song of the earth decrescendos towards stillness. 

This is the time when you go down to the shoreline at Utah lake, and it is remarkably silent, despite the regular staccato squabbling of gulls and the familiar lullaby of the lapping water.  The spaces between the melody of these is suddenly pronounced.

You think, at first, it is strange and wonder what notes are missing from the chorus.  And then it dawns.  Gone is the drone of insect wings, the high incessant soprano whine of the tiny Nosferatu.

You know what I am talking about.

The one fanged vampire: Mosquito.  Suddenly, his bloodthirsty longing has ceased.

And you for a moment are glad! Soooooo glad.

No more constant swatting, and or stinking of insect spray and still coming home with itchy red mounds that keep you up all night.

But then you remember the delight of the butterfly – madly dancing from bloom to bloom.  And the inexplicable happiness of a ladybug sporting a shiny suit of red, pink, yellow, orange. 

You find yourself, wishing for the coaxing bumble bee in the thistle, legs beaded with bright pollen – such a sweet promise that will be absent until a far away spring.

A Problem?

And the mosquito, and the midge fly?  Too often the two are mistaken.Midge Fly vs. Mosquito

These, also, belong to the golden world that begins at that vernal awakening where LIFE! is not whispered but shouted.  The celebration parties of spring and summer include all such guests, whether we enjoy them or not.

The midge fly…more than a few have I consumed by accident or insect suicide – I do not know.

How they flew up my nose or down my throat?  But so they did and I choked them down, a thankless and equally un-thanked for nutrition.

The midge fly at Utah Lake,  bite-less despite their resemblance to the tinier, meaner, mosquito, rise in reproductive columns  like smoke signals winding up and up as the summer sun sinks low on the horizon.  “We are here, and here and here”!

They are ubiquitous at the lake in these months.

People shout, “Mosquito”!  and run.  All the while baring and flapping dangerous arms at the clouds that seem To hover constantly overhead.  It is a territorial war zone of sorts, after-all.

The midge fly continues to hover despite this mistaken exchange of aggression.  A few may fall, and many be accidentally or incidentally consumed.  Yet undeterred they persist all through the warm days and nights; The stone ever rolling away from the darkness of their watery incubation chamber, and like an army of tiny messiah they continue to rise, winged and ready to ascend.

A Solution?

bug spray Mitigation…that’s what they call it when they spray insecticide.

We will control the troublesome populations by population man–ipulation.  Disrupt the egg production by spraying larvae, or sterilizing the adult.

Wanted dead, not at all alive for the horrible crime of annoyance.

Destroy the cradle and the grave appears more readily.

Problem solved.  Population of midge fly down, population of smiling happy humans at the lakeside up.  It’s what we want.  Isn’t it?

It’s  what we celebrate for just an instant in October or say November, when we at last realize that we can walk without any excessive exorcising of arms? 

This is the natural order though, the cold and darkness – a part of natures tool kit.

A Question

But the creation of such unseasonable and unnatural graveyards, they tend to take on a life and a death all their own.  Just ask the American bison, or the  passenger  pigeon , the wolves of yellow stone, or the June sucker for that matter.

Ask the turbidity inducing, midge fly larvae eating carp, that were introduced into Utah Lake after non native settlers, depleted natural fish populations.

Algea Bloom
Algea Bloom

Ask the cyanobacteria, who in the absence of the pesky midge fly, more readily form poisonous blooms unchecked by sedimentary stabilizing silk tube nets that the midge fly larvae naturally form.

Ask the indigenous peoples of any kind, leafed, feathered furred, scaled or mineral, about the wisdom or folly of population mitigation.

Or, If you don’t speak the language of the wilderness – maybe ask the beautiful bronzed skinned human beings that have lived, and thrived in this place since a time before time.

I can not, and do not attempt here to speak for these peoples.

Perhaps, though, they might only shake their heads and ask back, what is it that we think we understand more or better than the wisdom and balance found in Nature, Herself.

Purple Haze: Feeling Blue and Seeing Red on a Stormy Day at Utah Lake

Feeling Blue and Seeing Red

Utah Lake StormEvery once and a while the cloud beings band together in force and let loose their long liquid skirts upon this high desert country in torrential rains. And though, we need it this year, and I do feel grateful for it, it’s been one of those days when the heavy, bruised dome above, matches my inner climate.

I often wonder about the color blue…how it is both the color of happiness – as in the blue bird of happiness, blue skies smiling at me, and blue seas for smooth sailing. Yet it is also the color of sadness – singing the blues, down in the blues and just plain being blue. It has of course it’s many shades, as does any hue, but I don’t think any other color shares such a dichotomy for description. Maybe that’s why I am drawn to it so much. Blue…a beautiful experience in continuum. Today though, I am definitely in the sad camp of this color.

I walk in this daze of color and mood, along the equally brooding shore of Utah Lake this afternoon.

My head aches with a dull red, painful ache. I am still trying to recover from this monster, this virus, Covid 19, that has so recently and so violently shaped the landscape of our human experience for the past two years.

On a personal level, I have done everything in my power to be responsible, to be careful and to not contract this virus, and yet, I still have managed to harbor and replicate and become ill with the mechanisms of mysterious organism. It has been a month and a half now.  And after yet another visit to my doctor, I am officially falling into the long term category, with symptoms that are often debilitating, or at the very least, creating road blocks in my work and daily living. Though I am hoping not to be there for long! At least that is my constant silent mantra.

I would like more clarity and certainty here, that I probably am not apt to get. But most of all I want to just feel better! If any of you out there are experiencing something similar, or you are grieving from the loss of a loved one due to this virus, please know you are not alone. Though I know it doesn’t make it physically easier.

If I am being candid, as I am now, I have too often entertained a vague sense of betrayal; at the government, at politicians – the arguing and mudslinging of the reds and blues that seems only to breed more division and less actual healing, at the media, at mankind, at loved ones, at the universe even! Just step in line. Though I know this is irrational.  My lot, is no different than many others, worse or better. That is all subjective, and mostly out of my control. But today, I admit I am not only feeling blue, but I am also seeing red….I’m angry! And human it turns out, after all.

I walk as I am stewing, these two primary colors swirling my mind into a perfect purple haze.

Purple haze: I can hear the late genius Jimmy Hendrix soulfully wailing, “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky”! I’d much rather kiss the sky than “kiss this guy”.   He probably is spreading covid, I think sarcastically recalling this popular  mondegreen.  Sky wins over guy any day nowadays, in my book. This is my angry mind speaking, dear reader, so please forgive.

(A mondegreen is a word or phrase resulting from mishearing another word or lyrics -in case you wondered….yeah there’s a word for that and now you know it you smarty pants! ).

It has been claimed that Hendrix was writing about a drug experience when he wrote that famous song title.  In an NPR blog I read recently, however,  Jimmy, himself, debunked this theory in pointing its meaning to the last line in the second stanza of Purple Haze: Never happy or in misery / Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me.”

A state of uncomfortable confusion…Purple Haze…yeah Jimmy, I’m with you there.

Carl Sandburg: 1958, Poet, journalist, and eminent Lincoln historian: His portrait was created by Avard T. Fairbanks during the Lincoln Sesquicentennial.

I have often wonder if he ever read Carl Sandburg’s poem, Haze. Which is actually where I first connected with this phrase, being the nerdy, introverted, poetry loving, wanderer I was.

The fourth stanza of this poem reads:

“Yesterday and tomorrow cross and mix on the skyline. The two are lost in a purple haze. One forgets, one waits”.

Purple Haze…again, a place of indeterminate being,  kind of lost uncertainty, and certainly not a place of clarity, yep…down with you too Sandburg. I’m deep in the discomfort of it

Lady Bug Wash Up

I keep my eyes sweeping along the waters edge, at least that’s a definition I can grasp on to.  Though, this edge  has crept ever further inward towards her sister shore it has seemed almost daily. This summers long procession has revealed so many surprises, such as vintage, intact soda, bottles, old toys and tools and even artifacts from the indigenous civilizations that utilized and cared for this beautiful resource long before the pioneers set their industrious eyes upon it. These treasures  have delighted and fascinated me, despite the fact that it’s expanding shoreline is a result of a severe drought that we have been experiencing in Utah this past year.

Lady But Wash UpI stop to examine a little gray rock, where several little lady bugs have oddly congregated. As I walk further down the shore, I notice other such gatherings on concrete, or old logs, and some laying still and silent piled up into frowning rows just above the water line.

I think about how, when paddle boarding, I have often run into lots of these bright coated winged ones, floating, helpless in the water. And I have more than once scooped them from a certain watery grave to give them a lift back to safe harbor on my board. Though, it turns out, there are always far too many for me to feel much a hero.

What is happening here? Why do these little land insects end up on the shores or in the waters of this lake and others? Do they have covid and have they consequently lost their tiny pin tip minds? Is this is their last hurrah because they are so very frustrated with life? Oh wait…nope, that’s me, trying to anthropomorphize this insect behavior with my own situation. But really, I wonder, what is happening?

It turns out, there is a phenomenon known as Ladybug Wash up.

Say what?

Yep, Lady Bug Wash Up is a thing! Sadly, this is not some sort of happy bath house where six legged spotted red coats gather to casually gossip and bath in tiny little pools of water while sipping aphid-tinis.

I’m going to digress here for just a moment: Actually lady bugs aren’t always spotted or even red! Some are spotless, pink and or yellow…Mind Blown…I know right?! Next I will be telling you that the blue jay’s feather is only blue from the outside! I forgot to mention this in my blog about feathers. It’s a pretty cool fact, none the less. If  you shine a light underneath the jay feather, it will appear to be brown and not the brilliant azure that is so very striking when sunlight reflects off of it. Those magic birds are full of tricks!

But let’s get back to the topic at hand. A Lady Bug Wash Up is an occurrence where several lady bugs, hundreds, thousands even into the millions, as once occurred on the Libyan Desert coast of Egypt in April 1939, end up floating in sea or lake water and washing up in clumps, both dead and alive along the shorelines of large and small bodies of water.

The fact is, no one really knows for certain why such morbid lady bug parties tend to occur, but there are plenty of theories.

Lady Bug
A Variety of Washed Up Lady Bugs at Utah Lake

One theory that has gained credence since a 2008 study that was published by a student at Cornell University, maintains the idea that certain types of breezes generated by warm temperatures, unseasonable weather or  following a storm, create havoc for these hapless creatures.  The idea is that they are flying during such times or at altitudes that lend them susceptible to being relocated out into the bodies of water that are generating them. This is more apt to occur during times of the year where lady bugs are gathering for wintering over or for mating. You can read more about it, and about lady bugs, here in this excellent blog called The Lost Lady Bug Project.

In other words, these poor little beetles, just flying about, minding their own buggy business, suddenly find themselves caught up in a perfect purple haze of their own, but instead of kissing the sky, as the winged folk so effortlessly do, or even this guy, which would indeed be preferable to the following, they find themselves washing around in a liquid danger zone where yesterday and tomorrow mingle into the mystery of beyond. 

I’m for sure with you lady bugs…this purple haze has got us all feeling the blue and seeing red.

Good news is, that it has been determined in that same study, that lady bugs can float for an average of 33 hours, up to 150 hours before expiring. That’s not too shabby! Furthermore, despite the fact that several of these tiny drifters do float on beyond the horizon of this existence, enough of them make it to shore, to eat, drink and make more little lady bugs for another day.

I guess, that means, I might have to wade through the purple haze of this covid experience for at least as long in human terms. Which I do not know how I would calculate. But the message is clear. If in the haze, just keep swimming…the shore is out there, and it even may be expanding towards you and you might get there sooner than later, or later than sooner, but you will get there, and that is the point. Or as a lady bug might say, the spot. Unless it’s a pink one with no spots….

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.

 

 

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Thank you for reading, as always, feel free to connect with us below and happy wandering!

Juni-Jen

Podcast Episode 2 “Bones” Photo Gallery

Enjoy this photo gallery that corresponds to our second podcast which is all about “dem” bones; where we find them, what kinds of bones we find and what we do with them.  Feel free to leave a comment and join in this conversation, and as always, happy wandering! 

* Some of the images are a bit graphic containing flesh and dried blood

Following Feathers

“Feathers fall; soft as a song, light as morning dreams.”
― Eirene Evripidou

I am hiking in Grove Creek Canyon along the Eastern foothills of Pleasant Grove, Utah, one of the several canyons close to my home. For a moment shadow blocks the mid-day sun from above. Looking up, I see the brilliant flame fan of the red tailed hawk, who gives out it’s familiar Screeeeee! It seems to be calling to me as it passes over head again and again, dropping bright feathers along the way to mark my path. I gather these enchanting “breadcrumbs” as I climb up the mountain side towards the jutting cliffs where my winged guide waits.

Such is one of the many dreams I have had over the past few years, that have featured one of my most favorite treasures to find when wandering: Feathers.

And it is conversely true to claim that following feathers has contributed greatly to my wandering.

Turkey Vulture Feathers

A week ago, I was walking up the side of a particular mountain and came across several turkey vulture feathers. This is a place where I often find these remarkable raptor plumes and so I always have one eye to the ground. Turkey vulture feathers are a rich  chocolate brown  that fades from tawny to a beautiful snowy white. The micro barbs of some of the secondary flight feathers and the semi plumes act like a prism, refracting sunlight. In these feathers the result is a beautiful indigo iridescence. Many birds have feathers like this, such as hummingbirds, magpie, and wild turkey. It is utterly enchanting when viewed in person, and one of the many astounding and magical properties of feathers.

There is truly something fascinating about the structure of a feather in general. They look so delicate, yet they are built to endure extremes. Both Peregrines and Gyrfalcons can withstand up to 25 Gs. That’s over 2 times the amount of force (9 g) that a human can tolerate.

Notice the shiny tegmen layer along the rachis of this goose feather.

Feathers further provide insulation against the harshest of environments allowing birds to tolerate a wide range of temperatures from high heat to freezing.

Many birds also have specialized plumes which help a species to flourish in a variety of specific habitats, such as water fowl.

Through preening, aquatic birds are able to spread oils over their feathers to help repel the constant moisture of their watery existence. Water fowl feathers can often easily be identified by a a pronounced tegmen, or waxy layer which is found along the rachis of the primary and secondary feathers which further helps to keep these birds from becoming water logged.

Other birds have plumes that are built to absorb water such as the sandgrouse. Click on the link if you’d like to learn how these inventive birds use this specialized mechanism  to reproduce and thrive in some of the most parched environments on earth.

Sure, a single feather is quite fragile, but the combined force and function of these structures on a single organism makes them a formidable evolutionary development.

Which Came First, the Bird or the Feather?

Turns out it is the feather, as most Jurassic Park aficionados will gladly inform you. Flight was a later adaptation for this interesting feature, which it is theorized started out as an innovation for insulation or display. Sometimes I try to imagine beautifully plumed  Utah-raptors – one of the largest variety of velociraptor running across the high desert mountain meadows where I wander. These feathered dromaeosaurids actually roamed a little further to the south of where I live, it seems. But still, it would be awesome to witness. Just not too close up!

Turkey Feathers…so many beautiful designs on one bird!

If you wander long enough, you begin to notice the many patterns in nature and among these patterns is the seasonal nature of feather finding. Each bird has its migration and molting season. Likewise each has a breeding and hatching season.  Also interactions with other creatures (most of the time, not so great an outcome for the smaller avian set) play a role in the finding of feathers.

In the fall, I have a favorite place to hunt for turkey feathers. These remain one of my favorite feathers to collect because of the sheer variety of patterns and colors to be found. They are just so pretty!

But many times, you run across a feather, or a feather runs across you, without any apparent rhyme or reason. I have had this happen on many occasions and each time I feel a sense of wonder, honor and gratitude.

Throughout time, feathers have been revered as having mystical/ magical properties. Many people believe that found feathers bear messages from higher beings, or from loved ones who have passed on. Sometimes a found feather is  thought to infer magical properties, related to the type of bird it came from, to the person to whom the feather is gifted. Feathers have further played important roles in many cultural ceremonies that are deeply powerful and meaningful, from time immemorial.

Feathers, are perhaps the perfect medium for such events, because of their ethereal nature and their inherent connection to wings and flight…something that lends the ability to move through space in four dimensions versus three as us poor naked apes seem to be bound to, without the aid of artificial devices.  Furthermore, the inclination for up and sky to be associated with “heaven” and flight with angels, promotes this doubly.

And who can really say these events are not serendipitous? The actual scientific reason behind such a kismet as finding a feather, can neither credit NOR can it discredit any meaning that might be in it. It is up to each individual to discover for themselves and I believe that is a beautiful gift.

There also many idioms or proverbs around feathers. One of the most well known is “birds of a feather flock together”.  Which works as a conventional wisdom, as it’s often true that like minded people tend to gather. 

In actuality, however,  birds often participate in what is called mixed species flocking.  I think this fact is quite beautiful and actually points to a bigger wisdom, that was relayed to me once. And that is that we all bear and are sustained by the feathers from one single Great Bird.

If there is one thing I have learned from nature, it’s that no organism, flora or fauna,  can flourish and exists without all the other organisms. Everything is connected and interdependent in this miraculous web that is LIFE. We all partake, act and interact, what touches one, will eventually touch the other. It is beautiful, profound and terribly significant…

Feathers truly are magical in their variety. From the tiny fuchsia tipped jewel tones of the rock pigeon, to the bright cerulean of a jay, to the absolutely show stopping  salmon and black feathers of the northern flicker. Each one is my favorite!!!

To me, finding feathers remains both a miracle and sign. A reminder of a past so vast and strange that we can only imagine, and a harbinger of hope towards a future in which possibility is as open and bright as a hawk circling the sun.

Have you found feathers that are significant to you? If so, please feel free to share in the comments below.

Disclaimer *Please be aware of any state or federal regulations regarding feather gathering, as there are several. But always it is perfectly okay to hunt for feathers to photograph.

Coming Soon! Learn more about the structure of a feather and the 7 types that are found on most birds, in our first video blog. 

Until then, happy wandering…

The Wonder of Wandering

Have you ever wandered just for wanderings sake? Meandered down a trail and then wondered what lay beyond a curious boulder outcropping – so much so, that you let go of any inclination you had to get to a destination, such as the end of the trail or a particular viewpoint?

If so, then this is a blog for you. A blog about  letting go of check lists, destinations and expectation.  A  blog about the items, places, creatures, things and discoveries made by simply exploring. 

Me in one of my juniper tree friends

I consider myself a consummate wanderer. Sure, you could say I hike, but that might be misleading. Instead, I may start at a specific trail,  yet rarely do I end up at the intended destination.  Sometimes I travel far from the beaten path and other times I meander only a few hundred steps before I find what I am “looking” for. Always I discover something intriguing, mysterious, funny, or puzzling. 

I am fortunate to live in an area that is both remarkably close to a beautiful lake and a magnificent mountain range. However, wandering does not require either of these.  Wandering can be done in an empty lot, a nearby park or even the urban jungle. There are many different kinds of wilderness spaces. I think you will be surprised at what you might find, once you let go of trying to get somewhere or fulfill a checklist.

Wasatch Mountains Near my Home
Utah Lake
Me at Utah Lake Image by Rachel Hamilton
View of Utah Lake from Wasatch Mountains

 

 

How, What and Why Wander

The super good news is that you don’t need special equipment or clothing to take up wandering. Some sensible footwear, possibly, depending on where you wander and appropriate attire for your location. ‘Could be from Good Will. As long as it works for you, it’s perfect! 

You also don’t have to be an athlete or even be particularly athletic, though wandering in general might lead towards some gain in fitness, depending on how far it takes you. But again, it is not the aim as wandering eschews such aims, (see below).  You also don’t need to partake of a special diet consisting only of twigs and leaves and maybe donuts, because life without a donuts!?

Unicorn, donut
No Resisting Unicorns or Donuts

Lastly there is no requirement to become a member of a secret society. So no bloodletting , or hat-tipping, nose- nodding or demands that you run naked through the woods while blind folded. (Not a bad idea to try sometime – just for fun, minus the blindfold).

All that is required is a healthy curiosity and the willingness to take a little risk. That risk  being,  giving  yourself permission to open up to the  full sensory experience; to become completely present in the moment.  Something we all did almost everyday, as children, so you’ve most likely already had lots of practice, even if you are a bit rusty from all the adulting you’ve had to endure.

I sometimes like to turn this oft quoted  phrase a bit to say “Lost not are those who wander”.

Wandering by it’s very connotation is about straying a bit from an expected course,(let’s face it – you know you’ve always wanted to) be it a literal trail or some explicit or implicit agenda.  A wanderer’s path is not aimless, though it’s purpose is to have no purpose other than allowing discovery to unfold. In this way wandering is state of BEING, much more than it is of doing. Far from being lost,  wandering is the doorway to finding, to infinite discovery…both inner and outer.

For the wanderer, to miss out on a beautiful journey, for the sake of “accomplishing” a constructed destination would mean being lost…hopefully you are getting the gist, or even better yet, maybe you’ve had it long before I spelled it out on this page.

John Muir

John Muir, the American naturalist and environmental philosopher known as the “Father of the National Parks” sums it up perfectly:

“Off into the woods I go to lose my mind and find my soul”.

I hope you will follow me, and also my fellow wander woman, good friend and contributor to this blog, Christine, through our wandering escapades. And read on to discover a world that is sometimes weird, always wonderful and often beyond belief.  Or better yet, I hope that this blog might lead to adventures of your own.

And as always…happy wandering!

Feel free to tell me about where you wander and what you find in the comment section below. I would love to hear about your discoveries.