Travel Notebook: Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park

It's not the sun itself that makes a sunset for me. There is no doubt that it plays a prime role, but there is more to it.

Say, here in Joshua Tree NP, the sunset creates vistas over this boulder landscape that are fascinating to the point where each rock, each curve, each pit, takes on a personality. The large, tapered boulder to my front sheds a complacent tan glow, giving its reflection to me from an oblique angle. And the rock outcropping to the right catches flame as the shadow of the mountain to the west plods on to quench it. The sky, too, wil do the same, casting off its cool blue to be replaced with peach, then rose, and lavendar, fading back to indigo before giving way to the deep blue of night. Only the cirrus clous above to project a memory of the sol over Joshua Tree.

A pun: when climbing, fortune favors the boulder.

Travel Notebook: Lost Palms Oasis

Lost Palms Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park

Act I

I've come to understand a bit about why the desert reaches me on a personal level. We have similar personalities in many respects. There is something -- something -- about the balance of life out here. The near-death that occurs every summer. The apparent diappearance of the living that thrusts itself back every spring. The opportunistic explosion after heavy rain.

Evenwhen my dreams are nearly dead, they lie. It might be somewhere under the surface and under the dirt where you can't see -- but it's always there, ready to bloom.

Act II

It ain't your mom's park. You're gonna have to sweat. Bleed. And you will burn. And often hurt. You'll wonder why you got out of bed to do this to yourself.

But you've found truth. Veriditas. Live hard. Find everything. Look.


Sometimes you have to be prepared to keep walking -- that oasis on your map might be a sham.

Act IV

It's not hard to see your/my face in everyone/thing.

Act V

In the quest to find my personal path, I may have uncovered a common thread.

What do the desert and Washington, DC have in common?

Act VI

Reiterate: what do Washington, DC and the Mojae Desert possess that has caught my attention in such a firm manner?

It appears that they both offer opportunities in three things tht I love: space exploration, education, and wilderness management. Yes, a funny mix I've created here, but let's examine...

First, let's that pursuing education is ubiquitous, can be done anywhere. DC offers the aded advantage of being the location of the Dept. of Education and probably a number of other organizations like AAAS, NSF, etc.

Second, wilderness. For the desert, this doesn't have to be explained -- I'm in JTNP. Iin DC, there is the Dept. of the Interior and the NPS.

Finally, there is space. In Southern California there are space companies on all levels of the continuum, from Boeing and LockMart to JPL, to Interorbital and Scaled. In DC, there is both the source and solution to the problems of space: NASA. Plus there are numerous other agencies, Dept. of Commerce, for example, that have a say in what goes up (or stays on the ground).

Gut feeling -- this observation is the gateway to the road I will travel. Now, it is time to take stock of what I have (forget what I don't have for the time being, must not focus on what I can't do, it's hindering my progress)... and go. Fortune favors the bold. Let the meek inherit the Earth, there are those of us who have our sights set on other things. Me, I'm going to examine this thread, this underlying piece of myself, and prepare to change the world in a positive way.

Finally, the beginning of a mission. Stay tuned.

Yuri's Night Mojave

Music for post, "Annie Oakley" by Actionslacks. Why? It seems right.

Dobre vyecher! Yuri's Night, the World Space Party. On April 12, space enthusiasts and partygoers will celebrate the anniversary of the first human spaceflight of Yuri Gagarin in 1961 and the first flight of the Space Shuttle in 1981. As of now, there are 49 parties scheduled in 18 different countries, including the country that first rocketed to space, Russia.

A small group of X PRIZE SpaceShipOne Replica Project interns will be invading the Green Tea bar in California City, CA, to celebrate Yuri's milestone flight on Tuesday. Several good friends of mine are preparing to host their own party back at the University of Illinois. Los Angeles will have its trademark high-class party.

Yuri's Night is a fantastic idea that I hope can continue through the years. This year marks the fifth year of YN. Here's to the ongoing success and the network of beautiful people who will be taking part in the party.




Greater Peoria Regional Airport to Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Starting off, the plane climbs fast enough and my internal orinetation is off enough that the Illinois River looks more like Kickapoo Creek. The illusion is not scuttled until a river barge appears, its known bulk belied by its toylike appearance from altitude.

The presence of small creeks is piercingly obvious. Gleaming ribbons of relfected sunlight course through plots of sectional farmland. The farms and fields are not regular here, but are portioned into unusual shapes by amoebic woodlands. Fingers and hands and arms of these small forests alert you to the presence of hills and gullies and the inevitable prairie plain.

As the course turns onward, northward, irregularity ceases. Rectangles become the rule and the tree stands diminish, soon becoming only the occasional windbreak for the Illinois farmhouses.

Eventually, all is gone to cloud (20 minutes to Chicago anyway). Give me mountains and valleys. But give me also the remnant of glacier toil, the patterned and patched land of home.

Travel Notebook: Panamint Dunes

Panamint Dunes, Death Valley National Park

Act I

Here, there are a few truths, which is all I ask out of every day.
True: there is a breeze which blows up and over this dune from the valley to the south, the Panamint Valley.
Gray area: the breeze feels neither hot nor cold itself, however it does provide a welcome cool as it evaporates the day's hike from my face.
False: This view can be properly captured by my camera. What can you save in a picture?
Gray area: The view cannot be captured but the memory of the view can be evoked by examining the picture. Not a full and accurate memory, maybe but a memory of a memory.
True: The 'now' of this moment exists.

Life as a sine wave; up, down, amplitude, frequency. True, false, curves in between.

Act II

Sometimes on these trips to Death Valley, I feel as though I am walking on the moon. Volcanic rocks lie in no discernible pattern, blasted from an explosion that was bigger than I can fully imagine. Black rocks with spherical cavities, granitic rocks with speckled variety, sand filling in the spaces in between the scattered stones. Scramble up and glissade down dunes of fine, wrinkled sand, flowing in patterns that evoke an oceanic memory-- waves locked in the air. Dreams of the beach, waiting here for me to return when the memory weakens. Water, a vague pinprick in the distance of memory, absent from the actual experience except as cloudbursts and snowmelt allow.


Desert --

Formerly, I thought nothing of you. You were beyond the prairie, the foothills, the canyons the mountains.

We were divided and separated. I lived in temperate bliss. You scorched in sun-bleached agony.

Now that we are together, properly met, you are the most beautiful earth, a rugged and staggering calm to my senses.

There are feelings in this life that are true to all of us. The transformation of the desert from evil to angelic in my mind is the truest to me in this now.

May I continue to learn more about you.

Act IV

Words in the sand are fleeting
I come to these dunes for memory
I will leave something more lasting
Stronger than the slow fade
That the wind of change can not erase so easily
What great things are pent up in me?
Why can't I sleep at night?

I have left only words in the sand
Footprints on the dune and trail

It's time to lay something down
Not gaudy, not superficial
But to make something real

Act V

My memories --
words on the sand
fade away

My pictures --
words on the page
throw away

My goal --
words on the rock
stay, stay

Travel Notebook: Stovepipe Wells Dunes

Stovepipe Wells Dunes, Death Valley National Park

Yesterday: Climb to the top of Death Valley Buttes from Hells Gate.

Today: Sunrise from the most westerly dune at Stovepipe Wells.

Blue sky like water rolling over navy sand
Navy water over blue
Light sand
Waves like water
Nature imitating nature
The lazy fade to orange
The subtle fade to light
The moon transfers responsibility to
The sun
All over
A valley sits
There is everything here

Mountains appear where there previously existed nothing
At least that is what it seemed
The truth is
The mountains were always there
Waiting for you
To find yourself
At the right time, place
In nature
In life
There are rewards
For your preparation