The generosity of the Earth

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The generosity of the Earth.

I am warm and cozy in the Bunny House, the name of my friend’s Pioneertown house. I think about the Earth and how generous it is. The earth is always there for us. The plants, the animals, insects, soil, minerals, air – all there. I’m enjoying the beauty and the abundance of the earth. I’m enjoying the Bunny House and intrigued by my feelings and attachment for this place. The smallish, rustic cabin-like dwelling is situated within sight of the San Bernardino Mountains near the Pioneertown Preserve. My friend is an architect, and although the house is rural and cabin-like, it is also a tribute to well-thought-out details and comfort. The raised ceiling lined with wood slats and beams points upward to well-placed skylights rendering it open and offering sunlight during the day. The floors – painted cement with a range of wear and stains are like a painting. The two bedrooms are separated by the living room, informal dining room, and entry. The kitchen is parallel to one of the bedrooms. The desert encircles the house and spreads out into the distance on at least two sides. The remaining two sides reveal neighbors, close enough for comfort but far enough away to maintain the feeling of being alone in this beautiful country.

The house evokes an image I had in my teens of a New York Apartment. That image stood for everything I desired out of life, a place of my own, a place away from the chaos of my family, a place of beauty, design, freedom – things both abstract and real. This house has the same feeling and the same atmosphere that I imagined all those years back. I never got to live in that apartment or anything that came close, but I get to stay in this house from time to time. I stay here on occasion when I rent my house out. I have a beautiful home, elegant, large and spacious. It also has land around it, although not as much as here. There is the sound of traffic nearby and the awareness of development closing in, but it is still wonderful. It is a delight to have my house and to be able to stay at unique and interesting places from time to time. A gift from generous friends.

I got up early today, watched the end of a Poirot episode on Netflix and then took a shower before going into town. It’s not yet noon, and I’m back at the Bunny House. I have the feeling of being wrapped in a mother’s arms.

I think about that feeling as I listen to the hum of the heater, and the clicking of the stove cooling down. I made tea. There is an electrical buzz in the house and not much more. It’s not quite silent. Now I hear a plane overhead and the dropping of burnt logs in the cast iron stove, the tick of the mouse clock – a local artist’s expression and the drone of the electric heater.

The art on the walls are collectible, again from local artists, and southwest finds. A Native American poncho hangs on the wall near the black, leather deco couch. A western wagon wheel table with horseshoes holds a Patron bottle with candles, and a brass and crystal lamp illuminates a small area of the room. The furniture is small and compact. There are tire tracks in the dirt outside the house. I can see them from my chair. The sun is setting just beyond the snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains.

The sun, the snow, the clouds, the wind – how rich the earth is.2016-01-14 11.49.03

Munich in January

January 6, 2016
In Munich, at a Starbucks. The Epiphany, January 6 and the 12th day of Christmas.

Pope Francis held the Vatican’s annual Holy Mass for the Epiphany in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The Epiphany represents the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, as well as a more general celebration of his birth. The six Sundays which follow Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation.

The Twelfth Night (Epiphany) also marks a visit to the baby Jesus by the three Kings or Wise Men. It is the day Jesus was shown to the world.

At Starbucks in Munich. I have been here a couple of hours using the internet and getting work doing. It’s 12:15 and Starbucks is getting crowded. In Germany stores are closed on the Epiphany. Restaurants are open, but Starbucks was almost empty until the last half hour. I will stay just a little longer and move on. I’ll walk streets I haven’t taken before although I have seen most of this city over time. I have been to Munich about seven times over the last 13 years and often have stayed between 4 to 6 weeks. This Christmas trip is two weeks long.

A friend, Zoe Childerley flew in from London and joined Hannah and me in Munich. The first couple of days after Christmas Hannah stayed home and Zoe, and I traveled around the city and then to Schliersee, a small town and a municipality in the district of Miesbach in Bavaria. It is named after the nearby Lake Schliersee.

Zoe left just before New Years Eve, and I have spent time with Hannah or traveling around the city alone, as I am doing today.

There is a riveting exhibit of Jean Paul Gaultier a French fashion designer in Munich. At the exhibit, I was as taken by the people who flocked to the museum as I was by the display of photographs, designs, and memorabilia that made up this man’s life. I spent an hour watching and capturing the crowd through my lens.

Gaultier’s designs are provocative and controversial. More so when he first became famous than now, but I find his ideas of male and female sexuality challenging. He’s well known for sponsoring the 2003–04 exhibit in the Costume Institute of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art – “Braveheart: Men in Skirts.” Gaultier also designed Madonna’s trademark Corset with a cone bra.

Hannah and I found another exhibit of Salgado’s photographs. A whole other world of art, one I am so moved by.

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National Monuments in the California Desert.

This writing is about preserving California lands as National Monuments. This was written a while ago, and I had hoped to publish it. That did not happen, and I decided to post it on my blog. I realize it is one-sided. I don’t know the objections to making these lands a monument. I have not pursued the other side.

I am generally for finding a middle ground for every question. In this case, my particular preferences are strongly tied to one side. This is an opinion piece. If anyone has an opinion or wants to comment on this, feel free to do so. I seek a greater understanding of all issues.


Big Morongo Canyon

Big Morongo Canyon





Senator Dianne Feinstein has asked President Obama to enact the Antiquities Act and create three National Monuments in the California Desert.

The California desert is a place of great beauty with unique natural features. Residents and tourists are drawn to the three national park units – Mojave Preserve, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree National Park. All three provide recreational opportunities, unpolluted night skies, vast space, outstanding vistas, and cultural and historic landmarks as well as economic resources. This area is also important to the fragile ecological health of the area.

But the California Desert is at risk of losing its unprotected areas to development.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposed 2008 legislation to protect the California desert. It has been stalled in Congress for years. This has been going on despite a large, diverse support base that includes conservation groups, off-road recreation groups, counties, cities, energy companies, water districts, business groups, individuals, and Native American Tribes. Due to increasing urbanization, encroaching industrial development and climate change there is a pressing need to protect our public lands.

Senator Feinstein has now asked President Obama to enact the Antiquities Act and create three National Monuments.

The first proposed monument is Sand to Snow, 135,000 acres that start on the western edge of the Joshua Tree National Park and extend to the high peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains, including Big Morongo Canyon. This land would be managed by the forest service and the BLM collectively and would respect all private property rights that currently exist.

“Sand and Snow is a particularly important connective tissue between the Joshua Tree National Park and the higher snow-capped peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains,” said Seth Shteir, Program Manager for the National Park Conservation Association. “It is particularly important considering climate change, which animals have the room to roam to find food, shelter, mates, water and suitable habitat.”

The second proposal will make the Mojave Trails National Monument, approximately 1 million acres of land, a National Monument. The Mojave Trails National Monument runs along Route 66 – what John Steinbeck called “The Mother Road,” a historical, and cultural resource that can generate a tremendous amount of economic benefit for states, and local and regional economy. The Mojave Trail is also the connective tissue for wildlife corridors that link Joshua Tree National Park, the Marine Air Ground Combat Center, and the Mojave National Preserve.

The third proposal is to designate Castle Mountain as a national monument. Managed by the National Parks Service it is cut out along the Nevada border and surrounded on three sides by the Mojave Preserve. Castle Mountain was in the original 1994 California Desert Protection Act but was removed because of gold mining in the area.

Castle Mountain is a high desert grassland. It provides critical habitat for the desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, golden eagles, Swainson’s hawks, desert tortoise, Gila monsters, prairie falcons, Bendire’s Thrashers, grey vireo, Townsend big-eared bats and California leaf-nosed bats. Additionally, state and federal agencies are studying the possibility of reintroducing pronghorn antelope, the second fastest land animal in the world, back into the area.

Castle Mountain is home to the historic mining town of Hart and has a view of Spirit Mountain, a sacred Native American site.

“We at National Parks Conservation Association believe the new National Monuments will enhance the national economy, provide new recreational opportunities, raise the profile of the California desert as a destination for tourism and attract visitors from around the globe,” said Shteir

“We have to remember,” added Shteir, “Our parks are not biologically isolated islands. To protect species you have to protect the core area and surrounding wildlife corridors. These lands [Sand and Snow, Mojave Trails and Castle Mountain] deserve designations that recognize their scenic, ecological, cultural, and economic importance.”