The weather was just awful. The mercury read 95 °F, but with the humidity it felt like 110 °F. I got up at dawn to mow the lawn. It hadn’t been touched in almost a month and was nearing jungle state. As soon as I was done, Anne and I walked. Come dinnertime, the storm arrived. I kept wondering if the new gas stove would continue to run, if it lost power. This wasn’t a problem with the old stove, but the new one is so high-tech who knows what would happen…
Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain,
And the waving wheat can sure smell sweet,
When the wind comes right behind the rain.
We only got about 50 MPH winds. The bowed squall line that hit Chicago head-on, extended from south of here in Saint Louis, all the way up to Milwaukee. We never lost power, but the block across the street did. There were lots of little branches down in the yard, but no big ones. Part of the reason that we lucked out was that we had asked the city to remove the Silver maple on the parking strip. It had lots of dead branches. They took it down while we were at the cabin.
When we walked the next day, we saw a lot more debris. The storm sewers were roaring like I’ve never heard them before. The product of all that sewer work that we had to endure. Still, the damage wasn’t as bad as I had expected it to be.
One casualty though has been the area’s weather radar. Since the storm it has been down repeatedly. This morning, we went for another walk and it being cloudy out I checked the radar. Everything looked A-OK. Anne noted as we continued to walk that it appeared to be getting darker. I checked again and everything was still clear. Then we heard the first peal of thunder. This time when I checked the radar, I noticed that the reading was two-hours out-of-date. The radar was down again. We beat feet home, as the sky turned darker and the thunder more ominous, but made it to the house before the heavens opened up on us. By the time we made it home, we were only a wee bit fresh and not soaked like drowned cats. Now we’re under another flood warning. I bet the storm sewers are working overtime again.
I played Ennio Morricone’s theme from the Clint Eastwood movie A Fistful of Dollars to get us psyched up to go squirrel hunting. Earlier we had heard a squirrel inside the cabin. Anne had gone outside and snapped this photo that captured said squirrel sticking its head out of the cabin. So, I got myself strapped up as a good gunslinger should. My iron this day was a staple gun that I used to affix hardware cloth, but come high noon the pesky varmint had departed.
We spent until mid-afternoon working. We plugged two holes and discovered the cause of the previous night’s leak during a storm. It looks like the porch could use a new roof. We felt pretty good about ourselves come bedtime, but come morning the squirrel was back inside. After some badgering Anne managed to dislodge it from its favorite spot right above the bed and it went skittering across the loft towards the kitchen side before disappearing again. This means that there is another undiscovered hole. Later, the squirrel returned. It started gnawing again and Anne once again chased it away. I set out the Have-a-Heart trap and baited it with peanut butter. Maybe we’ll get lucky.
You know, mosquitos wake up everyday and choose violence over peace. They are so bad that they are able to disable a creature a million times their size. They manipulate people. They made me write this paragraph about them. Thus creating mosquito lit and they do this without even having opposable thumbs.
We’ve been getting our steps in as of late. Striving to reach 10,000 steps each day. The weather has slowly been getting nicer, if only in fits and starts, gradually making this goal easier to attain. On Thursday, we walked in the park and yesterday, we did the long neighborhood walk. I first heard that 10,000 steps was a thing, while listening to Wisconsin Public Radio’s call-in doctor show, On Your Health, with Zorba Paster. He is still broadcasting, but his show no longer airs here in Saint Louis. He was a big fan of walking 10K steps a day. Later at work, Boeing initiated its Boeing on the Move fitness program. Over ten weeks, with the aid of a company supplied pedometer, employees would log their steps daily. The first year’s goal was 10,000 steps a day. In subsequent years this goal began to creep up, eventually hitting 14K steps. It was with these changes I came to realize that the 10,000 step figure was rather arbitrary. Only recently though did I learn its origin story. It turns out that in the sixties, a Japanese electronics manufacturer decided to make a pedometer and as a marketing strategy they called it the “10,000 Steps Meter”, because the Japanese character for 10,000 (一万) looks somewhat like a running man. The rest is history.
On Thursday, we drove to the edge of the park and then walked into it, across the golf course, around the art museum and then down to the base of the World’s Fair Pavilion. Once we had made it that far, we had exited the western half of the park that currently is shut to vehicle traffic. There were significantly more people there too. This is a phenomenon that we’ve noticed in the national parks, there are more people about, the closer you get to the parking lot. There were also three cop cars parked, I guess to enforce social distancing. We had to do some social distance dancing to get around Post Dispatch Lake and over to the Grand Basin, where the no-car quarantine zone reappeared. The highlight of that walk were two Canada geese, who were set upon by a big black dog. It came at them at a full tilt boogie and the pair only just got airborne in the nick of time. It was a sight to see, but it happened too quickly to photograph, the geese were still squawking about the confrontation long after we moved out of ear shot.
Yesterday, was cold and rainy, so we just walked in the neighborhood. Once we got going though, we managed to stretch out our walk to the magic 10K. The poor weather limited the number of people about, such that even though I had my face mask on, I never had to pull it up over my face. Anne wore hers all the time though, because it helped to keep her face warmer. Today, looks like a nice day for another walk, or maybe even a bike ride. We’ll see, once it warms up. There was frost on the windshield this morning.
Eriogonum inflatum is a plant more commonly known as Desert Trumpet, but is also sometimes called Indian Pipe Weed, Bladder Stem or Bottle Stopper. Its most salient feature is a prominent bulging of its central stem. Originally thought to be a gall caused by an insect infestation, it is now believed to be related to regulating the plant’s carbon-dioxide levels. It has small yellow flowers (not shown) that are a primary food source for the Metalmark butterfly. Southwest Native Americans once used the plant to fashion pipes for smoking tobacco mixed with mistletoe.
It has an unworldly appearance. With its base of petal-like leaves, long sinuous arms and bulbous head, it could easily be reimagined as some alien creature. Imagine it swaying on the high desert plain, while being buffeted by the wind, its arms seemingly grasping every which way. It is the stuff of science fiction.
Anne photographed these Desert Trumpets, last year, on the occasion of our visit to Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. Know for its maze of hoodoo formations, Goblin Valley is just the kind of place that one would expect to find such an unusual species. When we visited the park, it was high noon. The parking lot was situated on a promontory that overlooked the portion of the valley that we had chosen to explore. It had rained heavily the day before and there were still rivulets of water flowing in-between the myriad of standing stones. Running water in the desert is always an incongruitous sight. There were already people down there, as we descended to the valley floor, but they soon disappeared as the hoodoos rose up to meet us. The shouts and laughter of the nearby children was pretty much all that remained of their neighboring presence.
We had left Moab that morning and still had a drive of several hours, before reaching Capitol Reef, the evening’s destination. So, we only had a couple of hours to explore Goblin, but since we had skipped it two years earlier, I didn’t want to miss it this time around. We used what time that we had to wander among the hoodoos, photographing them and marveling at their naked weirdness. All the while, I kept my bearings, by keeping an eye out for the parking lot promontory that we had originally descended from.
As we progressed across the valley floor, towards the gray topped ridge of rock that demarcated the other side of this immediate valley, we talked about further exploring the next valley over. That would have been nice, because the number of people that we could still occasionally glimpse had decreased markedly from the start, but thoughts of miles yet to go and then a campsite to erect cautioned us against such an endeavor. Besides, with the dwindling human companionship there was something a little spooky about the place.
In the next valley over, the promontory where the Prius, our home away from home, was parked would be out of sight. I feared us getting lost in another maze, without any familiar landmarks and then I further imagined us out after dark, lost among the hoodoos, with only a new moon and our iPhones for light. What if instead of seeing more of the just few foot high Desert Trumpets, we ran into their gigantic queen? Would she call out to us using the melodious tones of her trumpeter’s voice and in her siren’s song, demand we, “Feed me, Seymour!”