11:00 o’clock And All’s Sort Of OK

We had gray skies and Camelot rains here the last couple of days and this morning as I was making my rounds inventorying the trees here at the top of the world I was suddenly struck with the realization that one of my oldest friends was not doing so well.

We’ve known each other for over 25 years and have weathered many a storm together. Although old and past its prime it always appeared to be strong and vital and nowhere near ready to give up and lie down as so many of its peers have done. It has withstood one hundred and one mile per hour winds. Incredible snow loads. During the storm of the century the snow was half way up its trunk. Every bird that could peck holes in its slowly softening trunk have done so. Flickers, woodpeckers of several varieties, anything that could make a hole in it has. It has been the home of legions of Canyon wrens, black-capped chickadees, even a family of bluebirds. It has participated in life to its fullest.

Through it all it has stood steady and resolute, Nature’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Defiantly strong in the face of all adversity while its lesser brethren gave up, tottered and fell to the ground to begin their long journey back into the earth that had nourished them for so many years. Not so my friend. It was as if it seemed to say “Is that all you have? Come on throw it at me. I can take it.”

As the years passed we both have been through our storms together. As each wave of turmoil swept over me I would look out and there my friend would be leaning into life with a strength I envied and tried to emulate, not always doing the best job of it, but buoyed up by seeing my old friend still standing firm. There were the successes too, some monumental, at least in my life. Great huge highs that were caused by family, or business, or simply being in a place that I loved as much as life itself. Always I shared it with my friend just outside the window.

Sometime ago I went and stood next to it feeling the texture of its rough and weathered surface. Pieces flaked off beneath my fingers yet it still seemed vital and present. Not fragile, not at the end of its road. I even pushed at it, testing whether it was as firm in its stance as I thought it was. It didn’t budge. I thought, well there’s a lesson there bucko. Keep grounded, keep a firm grip and you can make it too.

Of course at that time I wasn’t taking in the fact that time marches on and all things change. Now I see that the slow passage of our journey together has finally caught up with my old friend and it is calling its name. It is a tired old tree now. I fancy that if I look real close I can see it shiver in the wind, slightly swaying. Then I don’t. I really don’t want to see that. I’ve always thought that my friend and its sons next to it have represented the hands of a clock. The hands pointing to eleven o’clock, measuring our friendship in its own slow way. I, unable to see the slight movement of its hands but knowing they were moving even if I can’t see them do so. Now it seems the hands have stopped moving for my friend, even reversing themselves a little. If their position is eleven o’clock now, it is inevitable that as it must do, they will move to nine o’clock some time. When that happens my friend will have completed its journey.

Soon my old friend and I will part company. I to a new place where hopefully there will be new old friends. It to its final journey and rest on the earth that has sustained it all its life. I hope that it waits to complete its mission until I’m gone. I need it there to be strong and resolute in its constancy so I can be too.



Denver March Powwow

Quick shot taken with my iPhone. Yes real photographers use their phones once in a while

Short Post today. I’m shooting the famous Denver March Powwow this weekend and as always it is fantastic. This is the Grand Entry from Friday night and as you can see not only was it well attended but everyone was dressed to the nines and it was incredible. If you get a chance go to the Denver Coliseum and take in this amazing spectacle. More later.

First Day of Spring

Oooooh Mann Does that feel good. I can’t believe I’ve been wearing this coat for like five whole months. We need a bigger clothing allowance if the honchos here at Yellowstone want us to look good when the season starts. I cannot wait to get this raggedy old thing off. It feels like my fleas have fleas.

It’s the first day of Spring and people are gonna be coming around looking at us and I feel like I just crawled out from under a bridge. Oh yes, right there. That spot has been making my teeth itch since the middle of February. Oh,k,k,k,k. I’m going to do this until June maybe even July.

The first day of spring is a time for celebration as it usually means good weather, new stuff to eat, time to look around for some of that winter kill. I am famished. Humans have it made. They can just take off their winter coats with a quick pull of a zipper and put on tank tops. Not us, I got like 12 more hours of scratching just to get the tangles out and then who knows how many days of squeezing through the oak brush to get my comb on. But I will look good. After all check me out. Even looking like this you know you want me.

Alright, the first day of Spring. I’m out of that smelly den.  After five months that’s enough to gag a man’s hinder. The suns out. I got the scratching tree first, looks like it might be a good year after all. Gotta run, well actually I gotta scratch and I need to concentrate here. Catch you later over on the flip side of Mt. Washburn. Where all the cool bears hang. I’ll be the one with the shiny new coat. Have a good one. Write if you get work.

P.S. Yeah I know I’m a little fuzzy in the picture but the guy taking the picture kept getting in my space so I had to back him up some. Apparently he was a little nervous after I ate his wrist watch and he didn’t hold the camera steady. And he was quite aways back and under his truck so I guess I can cut him some slack. You can decide how you want to handle it.

A Path Not Entered Lightly

This path we’re on, the one that gets you from one day to the next, one year to the next, one decade to the next and beyond is a convoluted, meandering trail that you can’t get off of. It’s filled with shadows and bright spots, twists and turns, only showing us a small glimpse of what’s in store for us and that murky at best.

During the dark parts of the journey you’re constantly gazing to the right or the left, always on the lookout for whatever may be lurking there, if anything. There must be something hidden in the shadows, waiting to come out. That’s where the things that growl softly and bare sharp teeth lie in wait. The three o’clock in the morning demons that call softly to you. The places where you just keep moving, move along folks, nothing to be seen here, yet you know there is. Those dark times when all you can hope for is that bright spot just down the trail doesn’t go away.

The bright spots are there, they’re always there and when you get to one you want to stand still for a while. Not moving, not going ahead and certainly not going backwards. Wanting to keep that feeling of the pure light of promise that something good lies ahead. Ignore the darkness down the path a bit, those shadows just past the beautiful place. We can deal with them when we get to them. Right now let’s just feel the warmth of this place. The darkness can wait. Let’s bask in this light for a while.

This odyssey we partake of, this long journey, is filled with marvels and tragedies, lightness and the heavy weight of sorrow. Goodness, sadness, love and the darker emotions that hide in the shadows, the pure joy of life when all seems well, all combine to make our journey incredible and terrifying. One in which if we had the choice we would certainly heed the muse when we’re advised to beware of the path not entered lightly. Of course we don’t have the choice, so travel on, perhaps the next bright spot will be a very wide one. If so stay there for as long as you can.


Just Past Full

Phases of the moon. For the uninitiated this is the naming nomenclature for how the moon appears to us as we look at it from our lowly perch here on Earth. For years people have looked at the moon and yelled out its name or phase so they and everyone else were clear on what time of the lunar calendar it was. “Hey it’s full moon! Don’t be leaving your Mother-in-law out on the porch tonight or she’ll turn into a real …. “(insert the expletive of your choice here). Naming the phase was important so they wouldn’t accidentally kill their chickens or maybe the sacrifices they were holding from another tribe, or plant their rutabagas too soon and screw things up. There is a system to all things and you could really screw the pooch if you weren’t in phase with the moon.

Luckily for us and actually for you too if you think about it, we have a department here at *The Institute that keeps track of the phases of the moon just in case something weird might occur and upset the balance of things. If you do not know the names of all the phases of the moon, and how could you actually, our staff here at The Institute, all trained Moonies by the way, have developed a short list that states the names of the different phases of the moon in their auspicious, propitious, timely, yet seasonable order. Here they are.

None : no moon, just darkness deep and scary, anything can happen

Only a Sliver, Just a bitty Mr. Nitty: A little rhyme that our interns use to remember this phase

Quarter Moon in a 10¢ Town: 1st Quarter of the moon. Thanks Emmy Lou for your help in naming this phase.

More’n a Quarter But not Half Bad:  This is the phase after Quarter Moon but not yet close to the next phase. Kind of like the Turkish moon with that star near it but not quite. Need training to spot this one.

Half Moon: This is the phase where the moon is exactly half way through its cycle. Half the moon is visible and half is not. This is up to the viewer to decide which is which but usually the brighter side is the one half visible. Some disagree with this but then they also believe that the earth is still flat after all these years, people actually care when they ask you how you are, and that there is some reason for things being the way they are now. Like a plan or something. Yeah, right.

Half Moon Plus a Bit: This is another ticklish phase that is difficult to recognize. Our Moonies can do it because they spend a lot of time sitting around singing, banging on tambourines and thinking about this stuff. If you’re not sure if you’re in this phase or not, Ask a Moonie.

3 Quarters no Dimes: This is another little mnemonic used by our interns to remember what comes after Half Moon.

Full: This is it, The Big Kahuna. The one all the crazies wait for. The one lovers like. The one that shines up the night like Nature’s own Klieg light. This is the full moon. Nearly everyone can recognize this phase with little or no help. Except the Half Moon people of course, they’re still working on that deal about the Earth being 8000 years old.

Just Past Full: This one often slips by without recognition because it looks so much like a Full moon. We have illustrated this phase with the image above taken just a day ago from the Lunar Imaging platform up the West Tower right below the eaves, way the bejuzus up in the air. It is in the Just Past Full phase. You can see it looks pretty much like a full moon and as we are usually still dealing with the crazies that come out to howl at the Full Moon we easily miss this phase.

3 Quarters on the other side of the Full moon: See explanation of 3 Quarters no dimes above and just reverse it.

Back To Half Full: Ditto

More’n a Quarter But not Half Bad The Other Way: You’re starting to get the picture here. Things are going backwards or reversing if you need a more lunar-like term.

Only a Sliver, Just a bitty Mr. Nitty but on the Flip Side: Just flip the picture of this moon left to right and you’ll be able to see it. This is often difficult for people with dyslexia. If you have this problem call our 1- 900 number Can’t tell which Sliver of the Moon it Is Hotline, and we’ll straighten you right out. Additional charges may apply. Consult your CPA or Personal Banker to determine if you can afford to make the call. Se Habla Espanol.

None: Yup, you’re back to the scary time again. We recommend staying indoors and bingeing on your favorite HBO series during this phase. Eat lots of carbs, drink lots of water. Lock your doors.

So…….There you have it. The complete skinny about the Phases of the Moon. Feel better? We know we do.

As always we want to remind you that this unsolicited bulletin educating you on the phases of the moon has been a Public Service of The Institute, a non-profit, non-existent, totally motivated organization dedicated to bringing you, our readers, the newest and most comprehensive information available. Remember we’re the Institute and we’re here to help.

* 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. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Wind Minnows of The High Plains Grasslands

If you’ve ever spent any time in the high prairie walking slowly through the waist-high grass you may have noticed out of the corner of your eye a brief golden flash amongst the greenery of the waving stems of grass. If you quickly glance over trying to catch a glimpse of what you saw, all you see are what appear to be the shining golden seed heads moving slowly back and forth in the wind. You may have even run your hand over them and felt the velvety softness along their sides. But those are not seed heads. They are instead a little known species called Wind Minnows.

Exclusive to the high plains as they run up against the base of the foothills leading to the Rocky mountains Wind Minnows are a rare but necessary species that have evolved to take care of the injured and damaged stalks of grass that occur due to predation by grazers, high wind, careless travelers that may have plucked the seed head from its place at the top of the grass stem, and any other natural misfortune to befall the delicate prairie growth. They may look like seed heads but they are something else entirely.

Most people viewing the grasslands for the first time see it as a strong vibrant lush expanse of foliage as far as the eye can see. But what is not generally known is that the grass itself is a delicate mechanism at risk of injury and death when parts of it are removed before its time. If for instance the seed head is removed prematurely it leaves an open wound at the end of the grass stem and the grass will then react much like a “ringed” tree where its bark is removed around the circumference of the trunk so the nutrients the tree needs to sustain life cannot reach the leaves and branches and the tree dies. The life force drains out of the grass stem through this open wound at the top of the stalk much the same way as the hapless tree and is carried away by the wind and lost forever. The grass unable to stem the flow of its vital nourishment dies.

That’s where Nature in its infinite wisdom has stepped in and provided a solution to this problem in the form of the Wind Minnows. Mimicking the appearance and feel of a seed head exactly, but free to move effortlessly through the canopy and the slender forest of grass stems by using the wing like fronds along its sides to propel it through the air, much like minnows use their fins in the water, they can move quickly from one stalk to another. When they find a damaged stalk they affix themselves to the top of the stem and placing their specially formed mouths over the wound they exude a substance much like an adhesive that seals the opening at the top of the stem thereby saving the grass from dying.

That’s why occasionally, if you are very fortunate, you will see the flash and the abrupt spiraling of the schools of Wind Minnows as they dart and swirl quietly through the tall prairie grass. Their flashing color catching the sun and reflecting their golden shapes as they twist and turn in great golden spirals until they find an area where the grazers have recently been feeding. They are looking for the hundreds if not thousands of damaged grass stems produced by the grazing animals as they forage through the tall grass. When found they spring into action, each Wind Minnow seeking out the nearest injured grass stem and beginning its life saving efforts to save the plant.

The next time you visit the high prairie take a moment to walk through the grasses, watch for the telltale glimpses of brightness as the Wind Minnows go about saving the grasslands. And thank Mother Nature for her foresight in creating Wind Minnows. An unusual solution to an unusual problem.

Coming Soon To A Season Near You

Coming Soon to a season near you! That’s right! It’s the color green! Always a crowd pleaser, green is the most asked for color in Spring, that busy little season that pokes its head out behind Winters gray, wind-stained skirts and says “Hey! whatchew doin’ ? How ’bout a little green?”

It’s been months now of cold blustery weather, grey skies, and bitter cold, and according to a random sample from over three of our neighbors, everyone is pretty darn tired of it. “Where’s the green?” is heard in sometimes strident voices. “Where’s the warm weather? I gotta fish!” is another. “When can we go out in skimpy clothing?” is one we hear from the college set. That doesn’t have much to do with green but we heard it said anyway, so we’re going to repeat it in the hopes that it happens sometime soon.

Since there has been interest in the color green mentioned we went back through our files and found this particular shade of green. Well several shades in fact, and decided to put it up today for your enjoyment and gratification. No need to thank us, this is a public service we provide for our viewing public at absolutely no charge to you. Yes, I know, It IS kind hearted but then look who you’re dealing with here. Nothing is too good for our readers. So enjoy and seeya soon.