Broken Ground

2016-10-25broken-ground9967Canyonlands: Right Click on Image, Choose Open Image in New Tab for larger view


Broken ground is just what the words imply. Be careful, that ground is broken. Don’t go falling in there. If you go up to that edge because you want to look down and see what’s down there, don’t lean way out and start flailing around with your arms and yelling “Hey I’m falling here.” and expect a lot of sympathy from anybody when you do. If you got two eyes and a brain in your head you should have noticed that that is broken ground and not got up so close and act stupid because your goofy friends think it’s funny. Remember, after you fall in they’re just going to laugh and say how dumb that was and drink the rest of your beer. Plus your cousin, the one you didn’t want to come along on this trip anyway, will probably be putting the moves on your girl before you even hit bottom.

If you did kind of winkle up to the edge and kind of lay down on your stomach several yards from the drop-off so you could crawl up there and hang your head over the edge and look, you’ll notice that the only bodies down there are ones with a camera strapped around their necks or maybe an iPad laying next to them all busted up. That’s because   the locals and others that are familiar with the West and places you can fall into, don’t do that. They right away recognize broken ground and back up real quick. Lots of them will just sit in their pickups and drink coffee out of a thermos and watch the entertainment.

It needs to be said that there is one local and his horse down there. But it was a freak accident, he didn’t mean it. He doesn’t even own a camera. He had ridden up to tell someone not to get that close to the edge and a rattlesnake laying there looking like a cow pie, bit his horse in the leg right above the hoof and that caused no end of trouble. Horses after getting bit by things often don’t know if they’ve been snake-bit or struck by lightning so they’re apt to do unusual things. Having said that, what with the horse jumping around and trying to stomp on the snake and then rearing up and falling over backward into the abyss, it was just a colossal blunder.

Unfortunately that was really a bonehead play because as they were going over they snagged the poor, sort of innocent tourist who was trying to back up and took him along for the ride. So we can’t really hold that one responsible for his sudden demise. I guess the moral of that story is watch out for locals on horseback trying to tell you stuff, or check out the area for snakes before engaging in any meaningful dialogue with anyone, a quick motion with your hand and the simple phrase “Hey, Stay back there a minute. Looking for snakes.” will work, they’ll understand, or just stay back a ways. You can see enough from twenty feet back. You don’t need to get up there and act like some kind of nutball, all you’re going to see is dead bodies anyway.

We only bring this up to help. It’s not like we’re trying to tell you what to do or anything. It’s just the neighborly thing to do. Around here we don’t want you falling in places. It’s bad for business. OK then, remember, watch out for broken ground.

P.S. and for locals on horseback.

End Of Summer

2016-10-24endoffall-6941seed pods along the Gibbon River, Yellowstone: to see larger version, right-click, choose open image in new tab 


This time of year is probably more a start of fall rather than an end of summer but the exact name doesn’t matter that much. If you’re looking backward from here you see the trees starting to turn, the grass heading towards that golden color it gets when it’s ready to drop its seed for the year. If you’re looking forward, the air is cooler, almost cold in fact, and the grass is still stiff from the morning frost. Mist rising off the river is silvery opaque, and its passage downstream is slower, the surface of the water flat and mirror-like reflecting the foliage along its banks. Your jacket is buttoned up to the top button and you can see your breath with every step.

Your focus is on the smaller things now. Getting ready for winter, thinking about the chores you need to finish up now while it’s easy, before you’re doing them in the snow. Thinking about what’s left to harvest, some pumpkins, a few squash, root vegetables still in the ground. Turnips, rutabagas, bunching onions, small, round beets, short carrots, radishes, winter radishes,  mustard greens, leaf beets, bunching onions, Swiss chard, kale, spinach. Maybe there’s Brussels Sprouts, everybody’s favorite, right after any zucchini that needs picking.

Chores that need to be done now are stuff like tilling up the garden, draining the fuel out of the lawnmower so it starts next spring. Making sure the  flap in your long johns isn’t sewn shut. That’s a favorite reminder from your spouse if you weren’t nice enough to her over the summer. Haul that hay in from from that very last field. You really want to plow all the way out there when there’s four feet of snow on the ground.

Yes there are chores to be done, and equipment to be gotten ready or put up for the season but there is also the need to get out there and walk the trails around the place. See how things are winding up. Get your fill of looking at the things you love before they’re covered by winter’s snow. Take in that fall feeling before it changes into that frozen ears, snow down your boots, winter we all get tired of way to soon. Be in the moment.

This is one of the good times of the year. Make sure you make the most of it.


Wings In The Sunrise


The time is 7:48:47 am, February 9th of a year gone past. It is bitter, bitterly cold. And it is the exact moment that the conditions are just right for the thousands of Snow Geese wintering here at Bosque del Apache to lift into the air en masse. The rushing noise of their wings punctuated by their coarse honking calls creates a sound unique to this moment. As they lift and try for altitude they will pass overhead so closely you can feel the downward force of the wind from their wings, perhaps only a dozen feet or more over your head.

It is a mesmerizing sight to see, with sometimes 30,000 birds clustered together on long rafts that nearly fill the ponds they spend the night in suddenly, at some unknown cue explode into the air. They rarely circle the pond as they ascend, instead the various family groups, or tribes, or however they relate to each other begin to separate and choose the course to their day’s feeding area. Soon in mere seconds it seems, the pond is empty and quiet. Perhaps there may be one or two stragglers left on the ponds flat surface, those who have decided that they’re going to take the day off today, or perhaps the floating bodies of a few who have given up the ghost during the night, due to age or injury or just plain fatigue, but quiet. The silence is deafening.

This event takes place every morning the Snow geese are here at Bosque del Apache until one morning, again on some unknown cue,  they rise once more but instead of returning they head North to their summer range and the ponds are quiet and still until the coming Fall. Then each morning without fail you can take part in the wings in the sunrise experience. It is truly an unforgettable moment.


No Solicitations


Owls are *day sleepers, which means they work at night and sleep during the day. Because it is difficult to get to sleep during the day and then stay asleep once you do, they are very unforgiving of interruptions. That’s why they post signs all around their nests saying things like “Do Not Disturb” or “Hey! I’m Sleeping here!” or “Beware of the Dog” or “Owl Resting. Don’t even Think about it.” and other notices to make sure it is not disturbed. Because once you disturb an owl it gets, well, owly.

Owly, is a phrase my grandmother, the big one, or big grandma as she was known in the family, compared to little grandma, the small one, who ironically was actually the larger of the two size-wise, (their names had more to do with the volume of said grandmas more than anything else, but never mind that’s a story for another time), would use to warn us that she was aware of our chronic inability to behave, and that she was about to inflict some form of punitive action if we didn’t just stop it. Whatever it was. “You kids are too damn owly. Stop it or I’ll shave your heads again!” One tried but usually failed to behave enough to not get tagged with the owly accusation. I think that may be why I have difficulty maintaining a full head of hair today. Or to be able to look a straight razor in the eye again.

This owl lives in a cemetery where one would think that there would be a surplus of quiet. However that’s not the case. First, lots of people know that the owl lives there and will stop by regularly thinking that whatever they had on their minds was of sufficient importance that it warranted letting the owl know what it was. It wasn’t and the owl being by nature owly, let them know about it in no uncertain terms. So you’re saying to yourself  ” Uhm, hey. That owl is looking directly at you.” and my reply is “Yeah, but…”  I didn’t wake it up I just happened by right after a bunch of Moonies had rung the owl’s bell and tried to convert it. That and the playing of those drums and singing the same thing over and over again did nothing to improve the owls mood. Owls have their own religious beliefs and do not take kindly to zealots trying to change its mind, especially at two PM in the afternoon. Which as you know is their middle of the night. This was taken right after it had hacked up one of those big hairy owl pellets that it can spit with unerring accuracy and scattered said Moonies in every direction. It did look directly at me but having been a day sleeper in another life, I simply gave it the secret hand sign used between all day sleepers and went on my way. I know how hard it is to get great hairy owl pellet stains out of your cashmere sports coat.

Word of caution then, if you happen to stumble onto an owls nest in the daytime, take heed of those signs, leave that owl be. It has no interest in what you have to say. No matter what you may think. It means it when it says No Solicitations.

*For further information on “Day Sleepers” please see the following posts.  and 





We here at *The Institute know from the many cards and letters we get, that many if not all of you out there wake up nearly every morning with one word in your mind. And Yes, that word is Transmogrification.

Transmogrification as I don’t have to tell you, means to Transform in a surprising or magical manner. So here’s the deal. It seems a lot of you wake up to the following scenario or something like it regularly. You overslept so you didn’t hear Cantu, your piebald Great Dane, whining to go out and now you have a large, gently smoking pile of Cantu’s delight that he off-loaded onto the rug next to your bed and casually spilled over the top of your left slipper so that now you have to take him out in the freaking cold with one bare foot. The toaster oven welded your bagel to its surface and in trying to scrape it off with the butcher knife you didn’t put away last night, you inadvertently touched something in there that carries a large amount of electricity, and now you have cut great huge rents in the kitchen curtains and several of the cabinet doors while in your electrically induced Gran Mal seizure.

You look out of the window and see that someone has stolen the windshield and back seat out of your Prius and spilled those little batteries it uses all over your lawn. This of course caused you to take a cab to the Emergency Room because the Samsung 7 you tried to call the police on, went off in a glorious fireball and now you need an ear graft and one new finger.

There is more but you get the picture. Some of you will have less or greater amounts of these events dependent on how you got along in your past life. You have only yourself to blame for that. However, the one saving grace in the midst of this vale of tears we call our life, is the ability to draw on, you guessed it, Transmogrification. By uttering this word over and over in a clear but steady voice what you see around you will slowly turn itself into the exact image of the picture above and you can draw on its soothing colors and quiet stillness until your life matches the calmness and serenity you see above.

This is a proven and effective technique used daily here at The Institute as the scenarios mentioned above are like the calmness of the surface of Walden’s Pond compared to what goes on here every moment of our day. So use it, use it whenever you feel the need and your day will change we guarantee it. And try and live a better life as this will greatly help you in the next one.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind.

When Yellow Trees Shine Brightly


Arches National Park is not really known for its forests or its trees. In fact you can walk a good long way and not see a single one. But when you do it is a marvelous surprise. To see the strong dark trunks rising up out of the arid plain, limbs with their lime green leaves in the spring, bright riotous yellow in the fall, is more than a special sight in this water-less, some say desolate place. It is nearly miraculous.

Although the deep earth tones of the sand and rocks are beautiful in their own way, the addition of these brightly colored wonders make them even more so by the contrast between one lifestyle and another. The hot enduring reds of the cliff faces, the firmly grounded tans with its shimmering heat waves rising up towards the heavens, the occasional dusty burst of color from a flower are the mainstay of this country, but  there is always the special place hidden in a shadowed arroyo where water flows slowly and fitfully under the ground and in rare miraculous occurrences on top of it, that allow the trees, especially the cottonwoods to grow and survive, when by the look of the place they shouldn’t be here at all.

Such is the case with this image taken in late October in Arches National Park. For the high desert it is cool now, the water coursing along beneath the earth as it has been too hot earlier for it to flow on the surface. The sun has been kinder the last few weeks and the trees noticing, have changed their colors to prepare for winter when all things except the wind and snow and occasional jackrabbit and the coyote following it, stop, and it is quiet and still throughout the dark days and nights of that long season until the warmth of Spring returns and the cycle begins again. But that is still a time in the future, right now when yellow trees shine brightly it is a good time to be alive.