Saturday, September 20, 2014

Desert Dweller by Cynthia Anderson

My new book of poems, Desert Dweller, is now out--available on (where you can preview the book by clicking the Blurb icon on this blog's sidebar),, and locally at Rainbow Stew (as well as directly from me for $15 plus $4 shipping and handling--just send an email through my website,

The cover photo is "Ryan Ranch" by Bill--there are more photos by Bill inside, and also Julianne Koza's photo of our rare local white raven.

Thanks to Steve Brown at The Sun Runner Magazine for reviewing the book in the current Desert Writers issue. He says, "If you love the desert, you will love this book."

Here's what the back cover blurbs have to say.

Cynthia Anderson’s Desert Dweller is spare and unsparing, a desiccated cholla lattice framed by an eternal sky, poetry on the edge of the ineffable. Anderson provides keen observations and a sense of solitary wonder – a trickster coyote’s unheralded death, a woman’s walk at daybreak, the last camel spotted in the wild, stones left on a miner’s grave. I love this collection of poetry and the desert it presents.
– Greg Gilbert, Trustee and Professor Emeritus, Copper Mountain College

Anderson’s language is as stark and spellbound as her subject, rising from the land itself, its alchemy of silence and time, from arias of beauty and melancholy the wind sings. Walk with her through arroyos and canyons, through quicksilver light out past the creosote and lava flows—let her show you how to know the desert with new senses. Desert Dweller is radiant, alive, waiting…
– Marsha de la O, author of Black Hope

Desert Dweller wounds your heart with an animal darkness and heals it with the Mojave sunrise. Her poems are the real deal, an authentic voice exploring and mapping territory where “if you want to be baptized / in the place of no water / humans are not the center.” The poetic intelligence on these pages moves gracefully between human mind and natural world, carrying feathers and songs, dancing with fear and joy. I urge anyone who loves poetry of place to read and learn in Anderson's spirit-bird language how “the desert rests on giants / whose bones hold up the earth.”
– Michael Dwayne Smith, publisher/editor of Mojave River Press & Review

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rainbow Falls

Nine years ago, we took the shuttle from Mammoth to Devil's Postpile. We didn't go on to Rainbow Falls, though. This time, we hesitated. Would it be worth it? Would there be enough water in the falls? Would we see the rainbow? Yes, yes, and yes!

We got off at Stop 9 on the shuttle and hiked about 1.2 miles to the falls. (This is the shortest hike to get there--the hike from Devil's Postpile is much longer.) Everything we read said to show up around midday to see the rainbow. That's what we did, and we found that the rainbow effect started around 12:15. At first, the rainbow wasn't in the waterfall itself, but across the pool--see above.

Over the next hour, the rainbow moved steadily into the falls and then higher within the falls. It's faint, but you can see the rainbow across the falls in the picture above. When we were there, the best vantage point was from the first overlook. We tried the middle overlook, too, which wasn't as good. We didn't try the lowest viewpoint--the base of the falls--as getting there involved negotiating a steep and long stone staircase.

The chipmunks have this place wired. They're fat and sassy, stuffing themselves with trail mix. They eat the nuts first and leave the raisins til last. (We didn't feed them, but many others did.)

We heard from several people about how the water level was much lower than a normal water year. But you have to remember, we live in the desert. This is the most water we've seen in forever. It was totally worth it, even the hike back (which was uphill, in full sun--whew)!

Eating and Staying in Bridgeport, California

This trip was the first time we have ever visited or stayed in Bridgeport. It turned out to be a positive experience. Bridgeport is tiny, quaint, and old-fashioned, not to mention convenient to both Bodie and Mono Lake. We stayed at Walker River Lodge, which had everything we needed--the Jacuzzi came in handy after our days of too much hiking. Above: the town's main landmark, the Mono County Courthouse, ca. 1881.

The town is just a few blocks long, but there are a few good places to eat. We had a delicious dinner at the Bridgeport Inn--pot roast for Bill, salmon for me (with a side of blended couscous/ quinoa--unexpected and very good). It was a Friday night, and the place was packed with locals.

The "Most Fun" eating award goes to J's on the Corner, home of the Kaiser Soze sandwich: pastrami, grilled onion, peperoncini, bacon, pepper jack cheese, spicy mustard, and BBQ sauce. On a Kaiser roll, of course. Bill loved it! I wonder if Kevin Spacey has ever had one. (I had the grilled chicken sandwich, delicious but ordinary in comparison...)

After we checked out, we decided to take a drive up to Twin Lakes, past all the Harris Ranch beef cows, looking happy and lolling about in the grassy pastures. The first lake was our favorite--less crowded--there's a resort at the second lake. My camera was acting up, but this photo of the first lake gives you the idea. Quiet and peaceful, clear water, tall Jeffrey pines. Would we go back? Yes we would!

Poetry Reading by Cynthia Anderson & Noreen Lawlor, Saturday, Sept. 13 in Santa Barbara

"The Desert Meets the Sea"

A Poetry Reading by
Cynthia Anderson and Noreen Lawlor

Saturday, September 13, 4 pm
Granada Books, 1224 State Street, Santa Barbara

Open Reading to Follow

Host: Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle

Cynthia Anderson, formerly of Santa Barbara, was long active in the local poetry scene,
organizing readings for the Santa Barbara Arts Festival, Poetry Festival, Botanic Garden,
and Outdoor Dance Festival in the 1980s and 1990s. She moved to the high desert
near Joshua Tree in 2008. She will be reading poems from her new book,
Desert Dweller, as well as poems about the Central Coast.

Noreen Lawlor, previously from Ojai, has lived in Joshua Tree since 2006. For many
years she has participated in Perie Longo’s poetry workshops and the Santa Barbara
Writers Conference, and she helped organize the Ojai Poetry Festival. An accomplished
artist, writer, and poetry therapist, she will be sharing poetry about art,
family, and her current and former homes.

(Photo of Cynthia and Noreen in Joshua Tree National Park by Robert Morris)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Canoe Tour of Mono Lake

One of the highlights of our trip was a canoe tour of Mono Lake, sponsored by the Mono Lake Committee. The tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months. We were advised that the first tour of the day, the 8 am tour, was the best because the lake is calmer and the tour less crowded. Both proved to be the case. The lake was smooth and there were only six people taking the tour--three canoes, each with a guide and two passengers.

The tours leave from Navy Beach, which is a short walk from the South Tufa parking area. Once you put on your life vest and help launch the canoe, you paddle towards South Tufa. I was the bow paddler--our guide was in the stern, providing a running commentary as well as steering--and Bill was seated in the middle, shooting pictures.

It was thrilling to get up close to the tufa--to see the mirror-like reflections in the water--and to enjoy the early morning peace and quiet. We saw gulls, grebes, osprey, and phallaropes. We watched air bubbles break the surface, made by new tufa forming under water. Thanks to our guide's running commentary, we learned that Mono Lake is the second oldest lake in California--the oldest is Lake Tahoe.

Bill and our guide. Other things we learned from our guide, who was a college student interning with the Mono Lake Committee for the summer: there are 7 trillion brine shrimp in the lake; the lake level has dropped three feet this year; and in the past 40-50 years, the lake has shrunk to half its former size, due to various human interventions.

We highly recommend this tour. We've been to Mono Lake before, but had never been on the water--it adds a whole new dimension to the experience. For more information, visit or email

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bodie Revisited

We began this trip nine years ago to the day from our first trip to the Eastern Sierras. We hadn't been back to Bodie since then, so it was one of our priorities this time. Got there just after the 9 am opening, and spent the morning exploring the far edge of town. Very few tourists venture into this area...we had it to ourselves...

The remains of the bank vault. The plaque tells the story of banker James Stuart Cain, a leading citizen of Bodie in its heyday, who passed away in 1938--"through his faith and efforts, Bodie remains today."

Brilliant yellow rabbit bush was blooming everywhere...

I was attracted to the Tracey House, high on a hill on the outskirts, because it rattled in the wind and the house seemed like it was talking. I hiked up the hill, and as I was photographing the porch, I was startled to hear a mumbling male voice! A ghost of Bodie, speaking! I kid you not.

We ate our lunch at a quiet and scenic picnic area, which you can find by taking the road from the parking lot and heading in the opposite direction from the entry gate. The road skirts the far edge of town you see in these photos and ultimately heads to another ghost town, Aurora. As we were finishing our lunch, Bill spotted four mule deer climbing the hills opposite us. A beautiful sight!