Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Bird Black As the Sun

We interrupt this blog's current Eastern Sierra travelogue for a very important new book announcement: A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens is out!

For the past year and a half, my dear friend Enid Osborn and I have been co-editing this anthology of poems about crows and ravens. The finished book includes 87 poets who offer passionate, vivid, sometimes humorous, and ever-surprising views of these common yet mysterious birds, called “black as the sun” by Gary Snyder. Among other outstanding poets in the book are Christopher Buckley, William Everson (Brother Antoninus), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dan Gerber, Michael Hannon, Steve Kowit, Carol Muske-Dukes, Jim Natal, Kay Ryan, Barry Spacks, Ann Stanford, Joseph Stroud, Cecilia Woloch, and many more. The full list is on the back cover, see below. (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

Over 30 poets will participate in a kick-off reading for the anthology on Sunday, November 13 at the Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 E. Anapamu St., from 1:30-3:30 p.m. The event will be hosted by Paul Fericano.

The idea for the book originated in Santa Barbara, where Enid's Green Poet Project sponsored a reading titled “Crow Talk” in February 2010. Margy Brown Design of Santa Barbara created the anthology’s beautiful design and layout.

For more details, including our press release and a list of other poetry readings being organized around the state, visit The book can be ordered online at and

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bristlecone Pines

We were bound and determined to visit the Bristlecone Pines on our recent trip to the Eastern Sierras. As it turned out, the weather set the terms and conditions for that. A storm was coming, and we were told to get up there ASAP or not at all.

So we started at the crack of dawn and drove two hours from Lone Pine--up, up, up, up!--to the Schulman Grove. There we were greeted by a chorus of hammers at the new visitor center under construction. So we pressed on another half hour to the Patriarch Grove at 11,000+ square feet, where we we got our reward--perfect weather and the entire place to ourselves. (Above: the road in)

"Perfect weather" meant temperatures in the 30s with brilliant sunshine and puffs of picturesque clouds moving through at high speed. We were dressed for the cold and were in heaven tramping about, first up one trail and then another. All the pictures in this post are from the Patriarch Grove.

I was surprised and happy to see that the bristlecone pines aren't just the half-dead, picturesque oldsters. There is a forest in all stages of development coming up, from babies to adolescents to young adults. The new cones are a bright, royal blue color.

Above, the Patriarch itself--the largest bristlecone pine with a diameter of over 30 feet. A relative youngster, the Patriarch is around 1,500 years old. Some of the bristlecones are well over 4,000 years old. It is unforgettable to be in their presence.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Keeler: The Town that Time Passed By

We just spent a week traveling in the Eastern Sierras and the old mining towns around Ridgecrest, seeing many new places and revisiting some old favorites.

On the way to Lone Pine, we decided to take Rte. 190 around Owens Dry Lake to Keeler. Thanks to plaques placed by E. Clampus Vitus, we learned that Keeler had been a bustling place in the mid-19th century due to the Cerro Gordo mines in the hills above town. Mostly known for silver, these Mexican mines shipped ore across Owens Lake and on to the pueblo of Los Angeles via Remi Nadeau's wagon trains.

Here's the old train station. Keeler was the "end of the line" for a major railroad. There were plans to extend the line in the 1880s--but then the mines played out, and Keeler was left out. Another blow came to Keeler when the Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power infamously managed to drain Owens Lake and take the water for Los Angeles.

Today Keeler is a wreck of a place with few inhabitants and clouds of blowing sand and dust. There's a strange, toxic smell in the air. We had heard about the swimming pool at the edge of town from other photographers--managed to find it and take our own pictures of it.

The wrecked trailer and sign here say it all: "Safe Beach! Please! Wear your Hazmat suits at all times!" and, "This beautiful setting provided by LA Water Dept."

Saturday, October 1, 2011


The annual Joshua Tree Gem & Mineral Show is a funky affair and lots of fun. Phyllis and I headed down to the JT Community Center early on Friday to troll through the rocky curiosities. I came up with a couple of unusual items (to me, at least): above, a Moqui marble. Also known as a shaman stone, it comes from Utah. Apparently these flying saucer-like blobs are found in sandstone formations. The seller said something about Native Americans using them...for what I don't know. (Communicating with extraterrestrials, no doubt!)

Above: a piece of Archaen butterstone. It came with a little flyer that says: "This rock is from the Greenstone Belt of Southern Africa and is over 2500 million years old" (predating the dinosaurs by a long ways). They claim these stones are left over from the very beginnings of life on earth, back when the surface of the earth was formed and life began in shallow sea environments. I asked the guy,"Is this for real?" He laughed. Of course he said yes, but in any case, it's a beautiful piece of stone, polished on three sides and as smooth as butter.

Closer to home--in fact, in our kitchen window--are some lithops. They are from Africa too, and they are renowned as plants that look like stones. We got them at the annual 1/2 off August sale at Cactus Mart. They are thriving in our greenhouse window, which gets too hot for any other plants. In fact they have grown like crazy and look a lot less like stones than when we got them. Here's hoping they can hold on through the winter.