Our wandering path
By Judy Nichols
The day we entered Canyon de Chelly, in mid-May, water, lots of it, was flowing through the canyon.
“Usually, by mid-April, the water has dried up,” our guide, Daniel, told us. “This year, we had more than 15 inches of snow. Last year, we had none. I can’t get my tractor in to plant the corn on my mother’s land. My cousin’s bringing his tractor in today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take the day off to try.”
Both sides of Daniel’s family have lived in the canyon for three generations, growing corn and tending orchards of apple, peach, pear and plum. His mother has two, 5-acre fields and about four acres of orchards. The land, about an hour-and-a-quarter drive into the canyon, has passed from Daniel’s great-grandmother, to his grandmother, to his mother, always to the oldest female in the family.
As a child, Daniel would climb sandstone cliffs, which rise up to 1,000 feet and hold treasures of Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs, pictographs, ladders used to escape marauding U.S. Cavalry, and caves that still bear chips from the bullets of Spanish conquistadors who killed 115 defenseless Navajos.
By Judy Nichols
The Coral Castle, not really coral or a castle, is a charming roadside oddity filled with mystery and romance.
We stumbled upon it last year on our trip to the Everglades.
We live in a metal box on wheels, so weather becomes a demanding taskmaster we can never ignore.
This spring, we faced down the polar vortex and the bomb cyclone.
Each time my Mothers Who Write group came to poetry week, I would groan, not because I hate poetry, but because I feel so inadequate in its world.
Still, Deborah Sussman, our highly literate instructor, (who with Amy Silverman forms the MWW yin/yang) would coax us along like discombobulated chicks, encouraging and praising our efforts, no matter how pitiful.
I’ve also been inspired by my friend David Stabler’s brother, Martin, who each morning sends out Daily Sightings, a collection of his and others photos, poetry and thoughts.
So, this year, as I vow to broaden my self-expression (because those who know me know I don’t express myself nearly enough), I’m dabbling with colored pencils and watercolor (another out-of-my-element endeavor) and trying different kinds of writing.
Hence, I offer this, Desert Invitation.
Deborah and Martin, this one’s for you
1 – Driving past old haunts like the Catalina Odeon Cineplex Cinemas and remembering when Tom and I, newly in love in journalism grad school at the University of Arizona, would ride our bikes on dates, coming out after the movie to cycle home in moonlight and warm breezes. The poor shuttered Cineplex is looking a little worse for wear, slightly decrepit, should I say, aged, but don’t we all.
Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.
So says the iconic scout song I learned as a Brownie, too many years ago to count.
The sentiment is true. The past four years full-timing in The Epic Van has been a testament to this theme. We’ve driveway surfed from Washington to California to Kansas to New Orleans, looking up old newspaper colleagues scattered to the four winds. We’ve broken bread with relatives near and far. And we’ve camped with and made fabulous new friends on the fly in Idaho, Montana and California.
There is an odd rhythm to nomadism, a dance, a feeling of slight disorientation as you get to know and embrace each new spot you call home, even if only for a few days.
Now, in year four of our journey in The Epic Van, we seem to have gotten better at it, reaching a comfort level we didn’t have in the beginning, when each new place felt wildly exciting, exotic and fascinating, but a little foreign.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, Tom has become a true tree freak.
On hikes, he frequently stops to gaze upward at branch arrays, set his hand on a trunk’s bark, count the number of leaflets in a bunch and test the spikiness of needles against his fingers.
He takes photos of the whole tree, the leaves and the bark, and then compares them to photos and descriptions in his tree book when he returns to The Epic Van.
He’s so thorough that I’m beginning to know the difference between an Engelmann spruce and a limber pine.
And so, when we were at Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada this week, we headed for the ancient Bristlecone Pine Grove on Wheeler Peak.