Thursday, February 11, 2016

Four Years of Mood, Magic and Mystery

It has gestating for months, it has been under construction for many more months and it has been re-edited for yet another month or so, but finally it has arrived!

I have rounded up the most meaningful images I have acquired over the fours years hiking, playing and simply enjoying the times I have spent in the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and it's adjoining Covington Park.  This oasis with it's velvet green soothing interior echoing the songs of dozens of birds who flit around in the cooling shade is  relatively unknown to the thousands of tourists who pass daily, literally within a quarter of a mile of it's gates, on their way to the much more famous Joshua Tree National Park.

The oasis has more to offer than the serene green canopy and gently flowing water.  Within 5 minutes of walking the shade gives way to rugged barren hillsides with brittle sharp desert foliage, rocky trails and brilliant desert sun.  Hiking trails lead up above the oasis and where the view takes in Mt San Gorgonio, Mt San Jacinto and the Morongo Basin.

This 50 page coffee table book of mostly photos, but a little text here and there, is a gift to myself.  Something I can revisit whenever the peaceful core of my soul gets a little turbulent and I am craving the serenity of the oasis.  I showed the finished book to a couple of friends and the orders have started coming in.  I knew I wasn't the only one who loves the Preserve but, even so, I am startled and thrilled by the interest shown in my book.  I've had several more printed and am being encouraged to do a book signing at the Art Colony of Morongo Valley's 52nd Anniversary this weekend.  I am donating a portion of the proceeds back to the Preserve.

It can also be purchased at the Cactus Mart, in Morongo Valley.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Passion and the Monkey

"Follow your passion", I've heard it said. "Do what you love and the money will come", is another.  Or perhaps my favorite: "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours", as claimed by Thoreau.  These are all motivators with a solid strain of wisdom in them and when followed I am sure they work.

But for me there is always the fear, or a least lack of confidence, that my work I'm passionate about wouldn't quite be 'good enough'  to hold its own.  It was deemed much 'safer' to put in a good solid, oh so mundane, day's work for someone else and receive a modest but regular stipend.  The dreams and passions could wait for the weekend warrior.

Then there is always the "jump before you are pushed" motivator for those who need a little more incentive.

Well, I am now mid jump.  My current job is phasing out forcing me to be more engaged in what my passions are and how I can create a new life for myself.  My passions have always been consistent: I love taking photos and I love writing. I have to ask myself just who are the 'they' who are judging my writing or photography as not quite good enough?  Could it simply be my own inner critic?  That annoying monkey mind determined to keep me firmly entrenched in it's perceived 'safety zone'?

I have reached the point where Thoreau's advice is becoming more attractive by the day. It is time to advance confidently in the direction of my dreams.  I am quite sure that being confident and committed to my decision is the key to success.  In view of these current insights I have completed several online refresher writing courses on Udemy, and I am writing the monthly newletter for a local business, the Cactus Mart, who is also gracious enough to display my photography.

It is time.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Cutting Edge of History

The Desert Queen Ranch, aka Key's Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park

I've been doing quite a lot of research lately on the early history of my area. 

I love history. When Nicole, the owner of the Cactus Mart, our local plant nursery, cum art gallery, cum hardware store asked me if I wanted to write a couple of paragraphs on our local history for her shop newsletter each month I jumped at the chance.

As I was delving through any old literature I could find on the area it occurred to me that while I was fascinated with the past, with the struggles these early miners, prospectors and settlers dealt with,  they were actually on the cutting edge of progress!  They were on their game.  They had hopes and dreams of striking it rich with their mines and being able to create lives for themselves and their families far better than what they had left behind. 

In this area, close to Joshua Tree National Park, the heat is intense during the summers, flash floods occur without warning any time and natural water sources are few and far between.  It's a tough place to live without air conditioning, a good well, and trucks constantly delivering food to the local stores and restaurants.

The windmill and the well at the Desert Queen Ranch -very innovative for the time

As I glance around my comfortable home, my new lap top in front of me and a cup of freshly brewed coffee at hand there is no inner drive in me to conquer new horizons.  I very much doubt I will be mentioned in future history books as a pioneer in my field (though it could happen I suppose).

I am their future looking back into the past; they are the past with their eyes on the future. I think their lives may just be a little more exciting than mine.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

It IS What You Look at that Counts

Recently I saw the beginnings of what could turn out to be a fabulous sunset. I scooped up my camera and bolted outside in anticipation.  I took a few shots as the intensity of the colors increased but this sunset was over fairly quickly so I retired back inside to look at my images.

Interesting. All these pictures were taken within minutes of each other, and they certainly aren't the greatest pictures I've ever taken, but the message is there just the same: I could put my attention on the fabulous sunset ...

Or I could be drawn in by the distractions, in this case very pretty distractions, and miss my sunset....

However, another option would be just to focus on the light beyond the distractions.

That was just the reminder I needed.  A great metaphor for life for me.  If I keep my eyes on the goal, and not look at the distractions I will have success in my endeavors.

Now this is the way I want to start my new year.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The "New" Historic Warren Homestead of Morongo Valley

As our group arrived for our Monday morning hike through Covington Park and the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve we stood for a moment, stunned.  A new road had been blazed through the dense brush of what we had thought was a protected wildlife area, an internationally recognized birding site, for heaven's sake, toward a stand of cottonwood trees on the far side of the park!

Hikers winding down the trail into Covington Park, Morongo Valley.
I am very protective of our wild areas and was feeling quite jittery.  I can only imagine how the bird watchers were feeling. However, before I lost my composure I wanted to know what was going on.  I knew the area had a rich history and rightly so, as this is one of the few areas of permanent water in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.

History is a peculiar beast at times.  Getting a definitive fact seems to be only authoritative until I find someone who disagrees.  This is a fairly accurate, if brief, time line of history of Covington Park and the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

The Morongo Clan of the Serrano Indians were the first settlers I know of, however, they succumbed to small pox when the  white settlers arrived. The survivors moved to Banning in the 1860's.

About 10 years after the arrival of the white settlers the Warren Family arrived and set up a cattle ranch and also provided supplies for travelers passing through.  They built a fairly big home for the time and lived at the oasis for around 35 years before selling to the Covington family in 1912.  In 1968 the Covingtons sold 80 acres to the Nature Conservancy, and soon after the County of San Bernardino purchased a further 160 acres which became a wild life preserve. It is now managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Barbed wire from the ranching days.

So why had a trail been ploughed though this protected and very beautiful wilderness area? The answer was much more benign than I'd feared.

Descendants of the Warren family had needed the access to excavate the family homestead.  They wanted to create a lasting monument to their pioneering forebears and set the archaeological remains up as permanent Historical Site, further protecting the area for the enjoyment of future generations.

Park visitors taking in a history lesson.

The area where the cabin stood in the foreground.

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and adjacent Covington Park are only a 25 minute drive from Palm Springs in the town of Morongo Valley, on Highway 62, the main drag to Joshua Tree National Park. Highway 62. Green, scenic, cool with many hiking trails and now an Historic Site, it is well worth stopping by for a relaxing hour or two.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

When is a Blog not a Blog

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, Morongo Valley

I've been sitting in limbo with blogging for quite a while now.  I thought perhaps my blogging days were over but it kept niggling in the back of my mind.  I love to write, I love to take pictures and yet I have stepped away from it, so I am back.

I may spend some time upgrading and reformatting, giving it a fresh new look and I will be posting my thoughts and photos again so.  We have a beautiful planet about us and I love to share my view of what is right in my world.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Subtle Benefits of Perseverance

Back in November of 2012 an assortment of middle aged to older girls in our tiny town started a hiking group.  We all had differing reasons for getting active:  One of us had recently retired and the celebrations that followed had her girth expanding faster than a starving dog can inhale a hotdog; another had lost her daughter in a tragic car accident a couple of years previously, and in the fall out from dealing with that had  lost her job, gained too much weight, gone into depression etc but was now ready to start living again.  I was struggling to find enough work and had way too much time on my hands, also out of shape and losing hope for a bright future.
Looking across at our shadows in the early morning light.

On our first hike there were three of us and we sweated and huffed our way around an approximate 2.5 mile loop with 2 good aerobic climbs included.  We were jubilant! By the end of the second week there were five pairs of dusty boots pounding the trail which had now included one more steep climb and another mile. 

Taking a quick breather at the top of the ridge.

Looking back over the 18 months we have come a long way.  Our mission has always been to uplift each other and support each other in what ever way was a appropriate for the situation.  We have prayed over illnesses, we have pitched in when someone needed help, we made food and delivered to another's  home, we have laughed - a lot!,  told off colored jokes, celebrated each others lives,  and we have cried. 

Two of our girls have passed on over the year in unexpected circumstances.  Two little crosses are now high up on the hill above the trail.  Those girls are with us still.

Me with Simone & Sarah

The benefits we have gained through a year and half of 3 day a week hiking are quite profound, but quite subtle, too.  Aches and pains not longer bother us, and the ability just to be able to get up and do the next task at hand is a matter of ease.  However, those are not the only benefits.  The wisdom and insights I've gained from the others have helped in many situations.  The oldest of us is 74 and she is very knowledgeable about wildlife, especially the reptiles. Another is very knowledgeable about the plants.  I pick their brains often as I'm always looking to identify some bush or creature I have photographed.

Hiking up one of the steepest parts of the trail
Two of the original three are still hiking and the third one has found a great job, which is what she wanted.  Others have joined us for a while and then they lives moved on - or ceased.  I have learned from them all and will be grateful to our little group for the rest of my life.  I may move on, too, but I will carry very special memories with me.  That kind of baggage I will enjoy hauling.        

Looking down from above as the trail winds back through the cool marshy area.

       I'm linking this to Friday My Town Shoot Out!
The topic this week is looking up, looking down and looking across.  I hope this qualifies.  Click the link to see more entries from across the world.