Tag Archives: Nature

Bend, Texas Arroyo

Bend, Texas Arroyo

If you choose, you may follow this arroyo for a tenth-of-a-mile down to the Colorado River at Bend, Texas. The above photo was taken in early spring, this year.

When I was ten or eleven-years old, I built two fragile, but sturdy, bridges across the arroyo. They have long since collapsed from my “construction” in the 1950s. Seventy-plus years ago. There’s neither sign of them, nor of the water pump and pipeline used to bring water from the Colorado up to my grandmother’s house in Bend. The water filled a 500-gallon tank that often overflowed when I failed to turn the pump off at night. The house my grandmother stayed in was the Southwestern States Telephone house, holding the switchboard for Bend and surrounding area. Effie Morris Parks was my grandmother’s name, and she had been born and reared in the Bend community.

Effie drove to San Saba every couple of weeks for supplies, and I maintained the switchboard for customers to reach one another and the outside world.

This early spring of 2022, my wife and I drove to Bend, and I gave her a memory tour of Bend. The switchboard has been removed, the telephone lines coiled up, the poles cut down. My little bridges are gone as well. But there’s cell service and a new bridge across the Colorado.

I have memories I’ll turn into stories from the Bend, Texas Arroyo and the spirit of those days will be reconstituted with a “bridge” to my past.

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Filed under Adventure, Bend Texas

Book released! Jack Matthews, Death at La Osa: A Pueblo Tribal Police Mystery, Sunstone Press, December 21, 2021

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!

To all my Sage to Meadow followers! I have a novel of nature with a murder mystery! Or, a mystery novel set deeply in nature!

I am so happy to announce the Sunstone Press release of my novel, Death at La Osa: A Pueblo Tribal Police Mystery! Available on Amazon, B&N, independent bookstores!

Dendrite turquoise as written about in book.
Back cover of Death at La Osa

I am pleased that Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico, has published my first novel in a series, Death at La Osa. I am currently editing my second novel, Arroyo of Shells (title tentative), and finishing the third in the series, The Cave of the Infinite Symbol.

You may order via https://bookshop.org/shop/jackmatthews (Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. You also contribute to a local, independent bookstore of your choice when you use Bookshop.org.) If you order through Amazon, you can use the smile.amazon.com to contribute 0.5 % of your purchase to a charity of your choice. Also order, conventionally, through Amazon and B&N websites.

See my Author Page on WordPress: https://jackmatthews.net for more information, book signings, and presentations.

In front of MoMo’s Shop, Taos, New Mexico, December 21, 2021

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Filed under Adventure, Christmas, Deer, Horses, Juniper, Life in Balance, Nature Writers, Nature Writing Series, New Mexico, Taos

Truchas Peaks, New Mexico

 

Truchas Peaks near Mora Pass

Looking westward toward the Truchas Peaks, New Mexico, November 2017.

I have been traveling to Taos, New Mexico, several times in the past year.  I stop at this spot near Mora Pass that is up in altitude from Sipapu Lodge in order to look back at the mountains before I head down the Mora Pass to Holman, Cleveland, Mora, and Las Vegas.  The valley you see in the foreground is the starting valley and surrounds for Rio Pueblo that flows eventually into the Rio Grande near Embudo.

I have climbed two of the three Truchas Peaks, encountering Bighorn sheep on the trail to the summit.  I was in my twenties when I climbed; now I am seventy-five years old and I stop and look back on the mountains and my life, the near and the faraway.

Lately, within the last few weeks, I have seen near my home in Fort Worth the most beautiful coyote poised and stationary alongside the Chisholm Trail Tollway, its coat shiny and tail bushy and full.  In my frontyard, two racoons ambled by and climbed into the trees.  A bluejay in the neighborhood warns others of my approach as I walkabout.  At my Far Field near Mingus, Texas (the source of most of my posts on this blog), I have heard the Sandhill Cranes in the sky, but failed to see them catch the thermals.  But, I hear them.  I see the turned soil of wild hogs in my field, the voles that run away from my tractor when I shred mesquite.  When I was in Lubbock at Thanksgiving I heard and saw flocks of Canadian geese in the air and along the playas of the region.

Magpies fly across the backyard of my daughter’s home in Taos.

I am looking and I see the wild on this earth.  I am having a conversation with the wild.  And, I listen so attentively and look so closely that I am beginning to grieve as I never had before.

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Filed under Adventure, Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance, Nature Writing Series, Sandhill Crane

Berries and birds

I am almost, but not completely, compelled to camp next to this chokecherry (?) tree in my front yard to watch the birds (juncos, etc.) strip the tree and come back time and time again.

Last year I saw the flock of birds that stripped the tree and identified them, but I did not write down my observations, so, here I go again and I will record this time.

I write this nature post and I do not have either bird or berry tree identified. But, so, I adore berry and bird regardless.

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Filed under Birds, Field Log, Life in Balance, Nature Writers, Nature Writing Series, Plants and Shrubs

Acequia alongside road to Dixon, New Mexico

Last September I attended a water association meeting in Penasco, New Mexico.  The acequia photographed above is one of several thousand water ditches and collateral offshoots in New Mexico.  This ditch alongside the road to Dixon, New Mexico, is not a part of the water association at Penasco although the two towns are close together and divert off of the Embudo Watershed.

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Norman Clyde and Life on Mountain Trails

Norman Clyde taught, read, guided mountain climbs and rescues.  “Norman Clyde still guided parties into the Sierra into the 1960s, when he was in his seventies. In the 1950s and 1960s, he lived by himself at the old Baker ranch-house on Baker Creek near Big Pine. Because he was trained in the classics, Norman Clyde loved to read books in Latin and Greek. At the Baker ranch-house, Clyde had thousands of rare classical books. At age 80, he was still sleeping outside the ranch-house on a mattress and sleeping bag, as long as it was fair weather.”

The above photograph on the cover of the magazine, Climbing, I have kept since a friend of mine, Mark Garlin, gave me the magazine in 1972.  Norman Clyde died later that year, December, 1972, at the age of 87.  I have kept the magazine at my ready shelf since that time because of my love of climbing mountains and the presence of strength and fortitude in Clyde’s face and posture.  Despite age, he has tools of his love and trade beside him:  rope, ice axe, and rucksack.

When I have climbed mountains by way of trail and path, not rope nor ice axe, I have met young and old, educated and not, rich and poor, and men and women who love the outdoors and the challenge of a good climb.  Without fail, those that are on the trail take an interest in the columbine and rushing waters and all the conifers in high country.  Oh, the trees: ponderosa pine, spruce, juniper, pinion.  There is learning in the austere mountain trail that is both external and internal.  In the external, one sees and usually identifies geological formations, the topography, the magpies and jays, and the trees.  Internally, the lessons run deep and are formative, even in old age.

Norman Clyde in the photograph above was in his eighties.  The perseverance in his climbing is found off the slopes in building strawbale compounds (as my good friend, Jimmy Henley, was doing at the time of his death in his seventies), performing the arts, climbing trees as a trimmer, and pursuing goals in getting a degree.  If ever you think you are too old, think of Norman Clyde on the front cover, the mountains behind and the tools of his adventure about him.  Clyde will climb until his body fails.

As I wrote, I keep Clyde’s photograph on my ready shelf.  If he can climb at his age, I can hike and build fence and mountaineer at my age.  As I climb in the high country, three questions arise:  What am I doing here?  What should I do?  And, how do I know?  The answers are simple and complex.  I am hiking.  I am hiking.  I know I am hiking in this moment at my pace, walking among the trees, hearing birds, seeing and hearing rushing waters, touching ground, seeing the sky as I meet others on the trail.  Those are my three answers.  In a sense, those are everyone’s answers.  Until our bodies fail.   Norman Clyde, front cover, Norma Clyde, front cover….

*******

Photograph of Norman Clyde by David Hiser.

Quote in first paragraph from Wikipedia, “Norman Clyde,” accessed Aug. 23, 2016.

The three questions in the last paragraph are derivative from my course in philosophy at University of Texas at Austin, 1961.  On the Philosophy Department’s website page (at least a couple of years ago) those questions were posed in a slightly different way.

I climbed with Mark Garlin, my friend who gave me the magazine.  He lectured at the Air Force Academy in the 1970s on climbing and survival in the mountains.

 

 

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Filed under Adventure, Juniper, Recollections 1966-1990, Recollections 1990-

Robert Macfarlane: why we need nature writing

A new “culture of nature” is changing the way we live – and could change our politics, too.

Source: Robert Macfarlane: why we need nature writing

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Filed under Life in Balance, Nature Quote of the Day, Nature Writers, Nature Writing Series

Rain at Flying Hat in central Texas

Within the last month, rain fell on central Texas and upon my place, Flying Hat Ranch, or ranchito.  My former professor, Donald Worcester of TCU, used to say of his 142 acres near Fort Worth was a “ranchito,” due to its size and to the calculations of John Wesley Powell, noted surveyor of the West in the nineteenth century, who opined that a ranch in the semi-arid West should be at least 2,560 acres to run cattle and attain self-sufficient for a family.  So, notwithstanding a definition of terms, my 53 acre ranchito has received rain.  And, we are forecast for more rain starting at 4:00 p.m. today.

Since the flourishing of grass and trees this spring, I have observed large eruptions of milkweed.  More milkweed has grown about the pastures and especially the roadways, such as Texas State Highways 16 and 114, than I have ever seen since moving here in 2000.  In certain places, where I would seasonally see ten blossoms of milkweed, I now see a hundred.  Monarch butterflies, however, have not passed by here.  I see one or two in my grove, but no more than that–for now.

Rain and milkweed abound.  Yet, there is a different caliber of field news.  Worms have destroyed many elm trees on the ranchito.  I saw an elm tree covered in worm strands down by the grove, encased like a cocoon.  I have not counted the loss precisely, but my elm tree loss is between fifty and a hundred trees.  Some elms survived the worm infestation and remain hardy; others have partially damaged limbs.  I shall bring out the axe and chainsaw to harvest the dead trees.

I am closing with a video of my petting a wild, juvenile cottontail rabbit.  I have seen its parents in the tall grass, not far from where I rescued the roadrunner from the water trough.  Yes, I know as you do, cycles of life and death on ranches, farms, cities, and this good earth.  And, lately, rain has fallen.

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Salt Creek, Texas

Milkweed for Monarchs at My Place

IMG_3540

Milkweed Clusters

I have located three milkweed clusters since 2003 on my place–central Texas, Erath County. Today I sought the three clusters again, one directly in front of the house, one alongside the road to the barn, and the cluster in the far field, one-quarter of a mile away. I found only the cluster photographed above–the cluster beside the road to the barn.  I found no milkweed in the far field nor in the front yard.  I believe that this spring has been mild so far and some heat is needed to bring out other patches of milkweed. Today, as I walked the fields, I discovered a large Monarch in the grove that soared out of the grass and into the sky above the trees.  A huge Monarch, one the largest I have ever seen.  Then as I finished my field trip, in the front yard, a Monarch flitted above the cut-leaf daisy and lawn grass. Two Monarchs, one patch of milkweed that has ten clusters of blossoms (you can only see seven in the above photograph)–definitely an event to be recorded for 2015. I will continue to monitor the milkweed and Monarchs, posting the field trips I take to far and near fields on my place.

IMG_3541

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Filed under Life in Balance, Monarch Butterfly

Spring at Flying Hat: The Constant and the Transient

   It is spring at my place, Flying Hat Ranch or Ranchito, and I am not sad, even though it is said, “April is the cruelest month.”  I understand the sadness and lament, but yesterday I took several photographs of the constant and the transient forms on Flying Hat.

The constants are the live oaks and yucca.  You see them, they seem always present, but the blossoms of plants erupt, then fade out.  They are the “transients.”

Yet, as the blossoms drop off, transient as they are, I know their roots and stems remain.  That is constant, and given another year about this earth, I will see them again.

Transient, though I may be.

 

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Life in Balance