Tag Archives: Mojave Desert

Chris Clarke leaving the desert: las golondrinas chronicles

Yesterday’s post on “WeBLOG adobe las golondrinas” prompted me to go to Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing blog to see what is going on with his desert activism.  The ever-present need for economic vitality has visited Clarke with a vengeance upon his life in the desert so that now he is leaving the Mojave for urban Oakland (more than likely Oakland, he writes).   He has worked tirelessly to alter the building of the vast solar array out in the Mojave for alternative solar projects on home rooftops, vacant parking lots and probably the cathedral-like roofs of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley.   Do they really need helicopter pads on those roofs?  Chris has stopped his car alongside desert roads to aid tortoises get to the other side of the road.  There’s no tortoise soup on Chris’s menu.

Here’s a poster from Chris’s website that shows his activism at Mach 1 supersonic speed:

I do like the slap-in-the-face-with-pig-bladder approach on the poster.  Not much room for debate, just good straight-forward compromise that favors the people.  Davy Crockett would be proud of Chris Clarke.  See also Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston who also favored the commonweal.  I’m an historian, so you gotta be a little tolerant of my diversions here.

Chris is still going to be active in saving the deserts from a new location. He writes that he has been active on the issue from afar and he will do it again. I will be giving Chris Clarke and Coyote Crossing a Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 soon. The award doesn’t bring him any money to stay and proselytize, but it will illustrate his fine writing and love of the Mojave.

Do tortoises weep?


Notes, corrections and additions:

Correction from first posting:  Chris Clarke has not helped move the tortoise out of the construction area.  (That sentence has been removed.)  He has stopped his car and aided the tortoise across the roads.  See Clarke’s correction in the comments.


Filed under Mojave Desert, Solar Energy

WeBLOG adobe las golondrinas

Window with bars, Las Golondrinas, New Mexico (2011)

A few notes from las golondrinas behind the bars:

Private business in cahoots with governmental agencies build solar arrays and oil pipelines that crisscross the American West.  Is this really necessary?  Tortoises are relocated — or at least a great many of them were — and wildlife corridors “will” be constructed to allow wild game to browse in the Great American West.  By all means let’s  power our cell phones, televisions and gaming equipment so that we can “see” nature on television, iPhones and earn all the levels of virtual combat games that we can boast about to our chums by e-mail on yahoo, gmail and msn.com.  Why, who needs “real” critters when we have “virtual” critters?

* * *

An old Native American narrative:  Grandfather takes grandson to see a river that runs between two mountains.  The river has cut a deep gorge between the mountains.

Grandfather:  Grandson, which is stronger, the river or the mountains?

Grandson:  (trying hard, puzzled)  The river, Grandfather?

Grandfather says nothing, looks at Grandson.

Grandson:  (trying harder to figure it out, changing answer)  The mountains, Grandfather?

Grandfather says nothing for a minute or two.

Grandfather:  Grandson, it doesn’t matter!

* * *

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden that a telegraph line was being built to connect Maine with Texas.  He said, in effect, That’s nice, but will they have anything to say to each other?

* * *

On the topic of a lot things:  It doesn’t matter.


Notes, corrections and additions:

“Los Golondrinas” is Spanish for swallows.

There is a huge solar array system being built out on the Mojave Desert between California and Nevada.  Chris of Coyote Crossing has tried to impede the construction of the array because of the tortoise issue.  See his blog on my bloglist below for further news of these “necessary” and stupendous power grids in the making.

The narrative about Grandfather-Grandson is courtesy of Blu Cooksey.

Of course everyman has his Walden, so the quote is in there!  Please go look it up.

The origin of “blog” is from the two words, Web and log.  I don’t know if the OED has caught up with “blog” yet.  “In hindsight, it seems amazing that I did finish [her translation] — and, indeed, that anyone working the British university system ever finishes anything…,” writes translator Susanna Morton Braund in her preface of Juvenal and Persius, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.  Now, in my opinion, finishing the translation of Juvenal’s writing from Latin to English does matter.  Well, maybe not.


Filed under Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance

Frank Waters and The Man Who Killed The Deer

Frank Waters (1901-1995), photo via In The Grand Canyon – John Jauregui.

I have read most of Frank Waters’ work and I find him spot on for southwestern life and lore. In college history classes, I have used his novel of Pueblo Indian life as a literary example for the internal conflict people have when born and reared in the center of conflicting cultures. This excerpt I have is not about cultural conflict or diffusion, but about the web of all living things as Silence spoke about the Pueblo Indian, Martiniano, killing a deer out of season and failure to give proper respect.  The Pueblo council of elders contemplates:

Nothing is simple and alone.  We are not separate and alone.  The breathing mountains, the living stones, each blade of grass, the clouds, the rain, each star, the beasts, the birds and the invisible spirits of the air — we are all one, indivisible.  Nothing that any of us does but affects us all.

So I would have you look upon this thing not as a separate simple thing, but as a stone which is a star in the firmament of earth, as a ripple in a pool, as a kernel of corn.  I would have you consider how it fits into the pattern of the whole.  How far its influence may spread.  What it may grow into . . .

So there is something else to consider.  The deer.  It is dead.  In the old days we all remember, we did not go out on a hunt lightly.  We said to the deer we were going to kill, “We know your life is as precious as ours.  We know that we are both children of the same Great True Ones.  We know that we are all one life on the same Mother Earth, beneath the same plains of the sky.  But we also know that one life must sometimes give way to another so that the one great life of all may continue unbroken.  So we ask your permission, we obtain your consent to this killing.”

Ceremonially we said this, and we sprinkled meal and corn pollen to our Father Sun.  And when we killed the deer we laid his head toward the East, and sprinkled him with meal and pollen.  And we dropped drops of his blood and bits of his flesh on the ground for Our Mother Earth.  It was proper so.  For then when we too built its flesh into our flesh, when we walked in the moccasins of its skin, when we danced in its robe and antlers, we knew that the life of the deer was continued in our life, as it in turn was continued in the one life all around us, below us and above us.

We knew the deer knew this and was satisfied.

But this deer’s permission was not obtained.  What have we done to this deer, our brother?  What have we done to ourselves?  For we are all bound together, and our touch upon one travels through all to return to us again.  Let us not forget the deer.

(Frank Waters, The Man Who Killed the Deer, pp. 24-25.)

William Lattrell of Wild Ramblings Blog has written of the respect that is needed for the kill.  When I sent twenty-seven Angus calves to market, I sent them with words to the effect that they hopefully would become the essential nutrition for scientist that would discover a cure for cancer or a person that would perform a great act and get the Nobel Peace prize.  Chris Clarke of Coyote Crossing Blog has written post after post and started pressure groups to slow down the terrible effects upon the tortoise and wildlife in the Mojave Desert with the construction of the huge solar complex.  Hundreds of others in the blogosphere write similar pieces and attest to the preciousness of all living things.

It sounds primitive and mystical, “But this deer’s permission was not obtained.”  But it’s not.  The kicker in this whole excerpt of Waters is, “What have we done to ourselves?”

Things need not fall apart, but we have to keep the connections vibrant or they will indeed fall apart.  For those of us that buy at the supermarket, the first step toward keeping connections vibrant is to realize that we do not obtain our food from the supermarket.  The earth provides food, not H.E.B or Central Market.  Thinking that in all its ramifications will have us doing good things to ourselves and others.



The Frank Waters Foundation of Taos, New Mexico, provides grants for writers of Southwestern genre.  Frank Waters was nominated for a Nobel Prize during his lifetime.


Filed under Taos

Ivanpah is Us

The Ivanpah Valley in Nevada and California is us.  I mean you and me:  us.

A corporation wants to bulldoze the valley and construct solar energy complexes to provide California with a “green” source of energy: solar energy.

The valley, dry as it is, is not dry, but holds the habitat of tortoise, kangaroo rat, lizards and sidewinders (beautiful dancing snakes, but be careful).

These creatures will be displaced.  There is slated to be a relocation of these sentient beings by biologists when the permits are granted.  There will be a digging up of tortoises from their burrows and they will be relocated elsewhere!  Within a year, one-half of those tortoises relocated will die.

This sounds a lot like displacing human populations in the Nineteenth Century.  Do you remember reservations?  Moving hunting grounds for gold and silver?  Say, the American Indian?

Ah, that’s history, that’s the Mojave Desert, fit for nothing, build Solar Complexes!  On with it!

Who speaks for the tortoise, the cholla, the lizard?  I do.  Chris Clarke does and hundreds of thousands of citizens that want not only the solar complex at Ivanpah terminated, but also want our over consumption and greed-lined behavior to come to an end.  The tortoise waves its head and seeks a friend.  A mate.  That will come to and end if this project continues.

The Ivanpah is us.  If we allow corporations and the government to use bulldozers upon that sacred land, then it is us that the bulldozers grind.  The Ivanpah is us.


Filed under Life Out of Balance

Fine Sentences March 7-13, 2010

The best sentences from my friends on the blogroll for the week of March 7-March 13, 2010.  If the blogger did not post during the week, they are not quoted.

Old rose species are continuing the comeback they started about two decades ago, with vigorous, brilliantly-scented gallicas and dog roses gaining favor as tough, droughty hedges with tasty hips. –Coyote Crossing, Chris Clarke, on the failure to engineer genetically a blue rose.

I promise to try everything once (and all the good things twice) and let you know what I most highly recommend.  —Bunny Terry, I Love New Mexico Blog, on attending the Fiery Foods Show.

Mother Nature’s invitation to a spring party has begun:  Canadian geese fly overhead, a chorus to the tulips that nudge skyward; opened windows mean fresh air. –Kittie Howard, The Block, on spring and receiving The Honest Scrap Award.

The Honolulu Bar is the lone outpost in a service-less landscape of rusting panel trucks and constant wind. It’s four miles down Proving Ground Road where the paving and the world seems to end. –Karen Rivera, New Mexico Photography, on driving between Oregon and New Mexico today, lamenting the recession’s effect of closing Arizona and Mojave rest stops.

The principles of Ho’oponopono disarm the tendency to blame others for our frustrations by taking on full responsibility for any discord, and killing it with kindness.  —Kristy Sweetland, Stark Raving Zen Blog, on a variation of the Hawaiian philosophy and psychology to achieve a life in balance.

I’ve had potential tenants surveying the birdhouse in the carport this past week (Mountain Chickadees, I believe), and Hairy the woodpecker has been happily beating the daylights out of the vigas in the same carport…leaving his sawdust below. –Martie, Taos Sunflower, on Spring is in The Air.

The road unfolded before me in quiet beauty. –Teresa Evangeline, on her trip to Maine from Minnesota, comment near Lowell, Massachusetts.

El Paso is blessed with poppies in the Franklin Mountains in years with good rain.  This year it looks to be a great one for a beautiful display. Texas Mountain Trail Blog, on the emergence of poppies near El Paso, Texas.

Spring has finally come to central Texas and the trees are beginning to bud, the wildflowers are starting to pop and the rivers are running freely. I’m feeling that old familiar itch to get out and see the countryside. –Jeff Lynch, Texas Photography, on the impulse to bolt from the cabin and end the fever.

A really good movie — and why waste time on anything else — is like a good novel or poem; it deserves to be savored.  —Coffeeonthemesa’s Blog, on watching movies at home rather than a public theater.

I hereby declare an end to Cabin Fever. Even the calendar tells me that spring equinox arrived Friday, but better evidence is found by a stroll outdoors. –Jerry Wilson, Observations from a Missouri River Bluff, posting in March 2009.

Next Friday we had planned to do a litter sweep along one of our local parks as our Equinox celebrations, but we are changing plans to go and clear up the reserve. The decision was easy when we found a polystyrene fast food container with swan shaped bite marks out of it. –Spider’s Animist Blog, on an early morning walk to Brinburn local nature reserve in Darlington, U.K.  [Randomly selected blog quotation that has a fine sentence.]

Taos Pueblo American Doorway with Hand, Evangeline Chavez Art Photography

Oklahoma, Kristy Sweetland, Stark Raving Zen

Spring is in The Air, Taos Sunflower

Spring Poppies Near El Paso, Texas Mountain Trail Blog

Ducks Over Flying Hat Ranch, March 12, 2010 (click to enlarge)


Filed under Fine Sentences Series

Primm, Nevada, Power Station

[I have copied this post by Chris Clarke on his Comment on the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station.  His blog is Coyote Crossing: Writing and Photography from the Mojave Desert.]
Posted by Chris Clarke on February 11, 2010

I posted this earlier today at Desert Blog. My publicist tells me I should put it here as well. Today was the deadline for public comment.

re: Ivanpah SEGS Public Comment Thursday, February 11, 2010
To Whom It May Concern:

Of other public comments arriving with regard to the proposed Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station south of Primm, NV, I am confident many will address the abundant technical, hydrological, and wildlife-related problems contained in the proposal to bulldoze a broad swath of publicly owned ancient desert habitat for private industrial development. It is on these details that projects such as the Ivanpah SEGS are either approved or denied, and I am grateful that others can speak to those details more authoritatively than I.

What I can address with confidence and authority, however, is the fact that the Brightsource project threatens one of the most beautiful places in the United States. True, that beauty may not be apparent to the casual traveler on I-15 speeding through the desert with the airconditioning cranked up as they peer through tinted safety glass. It takes a few moments of quiet for the Ivanpah Valley’s beauty to sink in fully.

I lived in the Ivanpah Valley for much of 2008. I have been spending time there and in neighboring places in the desert for much of my life. The Ivanpah Valley is not wilderness, at least not that part of it outside the Preserve. There are many visible human intrusions there. Freight trains roar through the valley sounding loud horns, engines on both ends straining to build up momentum for the long climb to Cima. Off I-15 there is traffic on Nipton Road, long-haul truckers heading for Searchlight, vacationers in RVs and motorcycles heading for the Colorado River. One can in fact hear them from several miles away. They approach. They grow louder. They pass. The noise recedes.

And then the noise ebbs, and the cricket song swells, and the coyotes’ song, the breeze, the sound of blood in your veins. In the south end of the Ivanpah Valley, at least, human influence is limited and inconstant. From the Mojave National Preserve even Interstate 15 recedes in significance, becoming not much more than a pretty string of far head- and taillights in the distance, and that only at night. The sere backdrop of Clark Mountain, the McCulloghs and Lucy Grays in the east, and the protected peaks of the New York and Ivanpah mountain ranges contain between them a vast, largely wild piece of the Mojave. The Ivanpah Valley contains nearly all the Mojave’s landscapes in its boundaries — alkali flat, old-growth creosote and ancient Mojave yucca, Joshua tree woodland, piñon-juniper forests on the slopes of the fringing ranges. There is even an alpine sky-island overlooking the Ivanpah Valley, white firs clinging to the higher slopes of Clark Mountain, directly above the project site. The Valley is the Mojave in microcosm.

Paving thousands of acres of the Ivanpah Valley with mirrors would utterly destroy the wild character of the place. It would be an encroachment on the peace of the Preserve and the lands around it, with the noise and dust of construction and the subsequent blinding glare of the completed facility an intrusion into a peace I have found nowhere else on earth.

Others will question the actual carbon reduction benefit provided by building this plant, and rightly so. They will question the validity of tortoise relocation and mitigation, the additional demand on the 12,000-year-old water in the Ivanpah Valley’s aquifer, the loss of Mojave milkweed habitat. These are all crucial questions that absolutely must be answered. Neither Brightsource nor Interior have done so.

The loss I want to question, however, is the loss of our soul.

Are we really so bereft of wisdom that we see this beleaguered but beautiful stretch of ancient desert as nothing more than a blank spot on a map? Are we really so callous that we can consider the improbably old creosote, Mojave yucca and barrel cacti on the Ivanpah site less valuable than leaving our closet lights on when the door is closed? Many of the plants growing there are older than this nation. Some may pre-date European presence on the continent. We may as well raze the Parthenon to build a strip mall, knock down Stonehenge for use as highway berms. There is something very wrong in us if we value this place not for its beauty but for its square footage. There is something broken in us if we look at the Ivanpah Valley and see not peace, but merely a way to increase our power and the profit we derive from it.

In 2008, just before sunset after a day of scattered small rainstorms, a friend and I got out of her car near the abandoned railroad siding known as “Ivanpah,” in the southern Ivanpah Valley well within the Preserve. We had a clear and unobstructed view of the whole valley there at the end of the paved section of Ivanpah Road. A desert tortoise stood at roadside. We’d stopped to make sure no passing cars hit her as she tried to cross but there were no passing cars, and she had no apparent intent to cross. Unperturbed by our presence, she fell asleep as we watched. A band of coyotes began singing somewhere off toward Morning Star Mine Road. It was hard not to feel very small. The valley held an immensity of space and of time as well, humbling both in the sense of personal insignificance it conveyed and in the realization of our frightening capacity to do unintended harm.

It was one of those moments I have found surprisingly common in the Ivanpah Valley, a place that though altered by human hands is still precious, still wild in essence, well worth being defended from further unnecessary and destructive change.

I urge you to halt this project.

Chris Clarke
Private citizen


Filed under Life Out of Balance