In the Moon of Strawberries

Picture of double rainbow over Sedona, AZ

What is interesting about double rainbows, like this one I caught over Sedona, Arizona, is that the second rainbow is reversed. It starts with red and progresses to violet on the other side. The second is also softer in hue, and very rare. They just don’t occur frequently.

The second rainbow reminds me of quiet people, those shy individuals who don’t choose to speak up often. When they do reveal their inner selves–wow, so amazing. Worth the wait!

~When you are beside me my heart sings.
A branch it is, dancing before the Wind Spirit
in the moon of strawberries.~

~Objiway love song~

 

Cover reveal: Silence in West Fork

Cover for upcoming release: SILENCE IN WEST FORK

West Fork is one of my favorite places in the whole world. A tributary of Oak Creek Canyon in the Verde Valley of Arizona, this clear stream runs through ponderosa pine and fir trees. Ferns and yellow columbines carpet the ground, and golden eagles nest in its boundary red cliffs.

And, for the inveterate mystery writer, it’s the perfect place for a murder to occur!

Join me in SILENCE IN WEST FORK as Pegasus Quincy works against time to solve a life-or-death murder case. The stakes are high. If she fails, her good friend Shepherd Malone’s daughter may go to prison for life, even if she is innocent.

Coming soon!

 

Keep your eye on the sky

Sunlight behind the clouds

I had just come out of the grocery store. My mind was filled with eggs and celery and pork cutlets. Then I turned around and saw this.

I was transfixed, and so was everyone else in the parking lot. We stopped and stared. And then turned and nodded to each other, aware that what had transfixed us had halted others, too.

For one moment, we were united in a community of beauty. Water vapor and sunlight. Transformed just for us.

Happiness sneaks in through a door
you didn’t know you left open.
~John Barrymore~

 

Everything vanishes if you wait long enough

Picture of Coffee Pot Rock, Sedona, AZ

One of the most famous rock formations near Sedona, Arizona is called Coffee Pot Rock. It is shaped like one of those old-fashioned campfire coffee pots that the cowboy cooks always used to keep at the ready, of course. What could be more fitting for this Western town.

I took this picture from an urban trail, located right in the middle of West Sedona. Later in the day there would be sightseeing helicopters buzzing over head and packs of tourists taking selfies. But just now, with the sun early up and the light still golden-wonderful, it was just me and the red rocks.

Coffee Pot Rock isn’t permanent, though. Just as the Old-Man-in-the-Mountain granite profile in New Hampshire lost its nose a few years back, this icon is slowly fading away, too. What you can’t see from this picture is a neat slice off the back of the spout of the pot, now lying crumbling at the base of the cliff. Nothing lasts forever!

Glance at the sun. See the moon and stars. Gaze at the beauty of the green earth. Now think.
~Hildegard of Bingen~

Look behind you

It was a cold, sunlit morning in November when I took this photograph of the crystal water at Red Rock Crossing. Behind me were the magnificent totems of Cathedral Rock, but I chose to look down, instead.

The soft sandstone had been worn smooth by the creek that ebbs and flows according to the season, and the rock glowed red under the edge of water.

I’ve found in photography that what is behind me may more interesting as the obvious subject in front, as it was this morning.

That happens in life. Focused on what we expect to see, we ignore everything else around us. We lose the beauty gained using “soft eyes.”

I searched through rebellion, drugs, diet, mysticism, religion, intellectualism and much more, only to find that truth is basically simple and feels good, clear and right.
~Chick Corea~

Dancing in the sunlight

red penstamen

Desert wildflowers are an exercise in impossibility and stubbornness.

They chose where they will grow, often in a mere handful of dirt deposited among the rocks by the spring rains.

And yet attempt to plant and grow these red penstemons, or beardtongues, in your own garden and they often will refuse to sprout, year after year. They rarely can be transplanted. They know where they belong.

We should consider every day lost on which
we have not danced at least once.

~Friedrich Nietzsche~

The tracks we leave in the sand

tracks in the sand

One of the amazing attributes of the dry washes in Red Rock country is that they are used as major thoroughfares when water isn’t flooding down them. Rabbits, coyotes, deer, even a mountain lion or two, travel at night through what becomes a hikers’ highway in the sunlight!

There are so many worlds that we don’t see, alternate realities that co-exist right under our noses and go undetected. This is one.

Words cannot, and probably will never, replace the richness of life–no matter how
articulately or artfully they are conveyed.

~Jon Kabat-Zinn~

Setting for PERIL IN SILVER NIGHTSHADE

Peril In Silver NightshadeOne of the fun things about setting a fictional novel in a real locale is that I get to describe favorite places of mine.

The setting for PERIL IN SILVER NIGHTSHADE, Red Rock State Park, has to rank right up there. This park was purchased for a state park about 25 years ago from the estate of Helen Frye. Helen was the wife of Jack Frye who in turn owned T.W.A. airlines, about the time that Howard Hughes was also active in aviation.

Helen and Jack flew over the Sedona area and she fell in love with the Oak Creek vistas. She asked her husband to buy property here for her. And he did.

So when I chose the setting for PERIL IN SILVER NIGHTSHADE I knew it had to be here. I’ve walked all the park trails numerous times and was for a time a volunteer at the park. I gave dozens of docent tours and knew when the wildflowers bloomed, and where to point out the desert varnish on the rocks, and when the bridges went out with the high water of the spring snowmelts.

I’d like to share two YouTube videos with you. The first, narrated by the park ranger I’ve worked with, Keith Ayotte, headlines one of the critters that also appears in my mystery, a black-tailed rattlesnake.

In the second, bear with heavy hiker breathing for a moment or two. Then you’ll be able to see the floating anchors for the wooden bridges on Black Hawk crossing, also featured in PERIL IN SILVER NIGHTSHADE during a chase scene where Pegasus Quincy gets very wet and very cold in order to catch her man. Does she succeed?

PERIL IN SILVER NIGHTSHADE.  Now available on pre-order through Amazon, just for you!

Wanting to fly away

West Fork, Sedona, Arizona

Bird flight is a miraculous event. I once had the privilege of watching two golden eagles in mating flight over the Red Rocks of Sedona. They swooped and swirled, and at the very last moment the female turned on her back in mid-flight and they joined, the male carrying both of them with his strong wings. That numinous vision has remained with me to this day.

I sat on the back porch at dawn the other day, watching the sparrows dive in to the feeder, while the hummingbirds performed aerial acrobatics overhead. Even the pigeons, so clumsy on the ground, soared and gyrated in the morning air.

As a species, humans have always wanted to fly. It’s the only motion of the animals that we can’t do ourselves: we can walk, crawl, swim, climb—but not fly. And we want to. But it is a particular type of flight—the flight of the angels. Not for us the flittering, bare-skinned flight of bats and pterodactyls.

No, we want wings! And feathers! Or better yet, nothing at all. Think of the magic when Peter Pan first shows Wendy how to fly, just by holding on tight. Or when Superman gives Lois Lane that first breath-taking ride over the city.

My heart stopped at that sword fight among the bamboo branches in Crouching Tiger, Flying Dragon. They had to be sorcerers, to stop time that way, in midair. Yes! That’s what I wanted, too.

We’ve tried to copy it the best we can, through airplanes. But traveling enclosed in a metal cocoon with windows that don’t open is like comparing a sedate freeway bus ride to swooping down Highway 1 along the coastline of California at 90 mph on your Harley with no helmet!

We know what we want: That startling adrenaline rush of being in total control of our own destiny. We yearn to soar through the air on the wax wings of Icarus, and yet we crash just as inevitably to the ground. We want the ability to fly. And that’s just what we can’t have.

Some people cope through complacency and forgetting. Peter Bruegel once painted a picture of Icarus plunging into the sea while a plowman nearby focused on his fields and the ships continued to sail by as though nothing important was happening.
Some people cope by dreaming. We fly only in our dreams, in our imagination, in our flights of fantasy and creation.

Maybe wanting what we can’t have is a good thing. And maybe that’s why we can’t fly.
That inability becomes both a lesson in humility and a rainbow to the future.

As long as that desire exists, the hoping and the wishing that is the most quintessentially human of virtues continues to vibrate through our species.

It pulls us forward, helping us to grow, allowing us to dream of the someday when perhaps we can fly!

Early morning walk in Sedona

Sedona dawn clouds arizonaI started the walk before dawn, collecting clouds as I went. Wispy ones darted in and out of the red rock formations; others nestled in puddles after midnight rains. The pine needles had felted into heavy mats that softened the ground beneath my feet. They created soft nests for windfalls of storm-blown pine cones.

prickly pear cactusThe prickly pear cactus were loaded with buds of gray-green fruit that would swell to magenta chalices in the fall, luring families of javelina to gorge on the ripe fruit. I might walk down the road then and see scatterings of red seedy scat.

The Pyracantha were loaded with caper-sized green berries that would turn red later in the year, a bonanza for urbanized deer who would jump five-foot fences to gorge on the orange-red berries.

In the pre-dawn hush, the birds weren’t feeding, just quietly murmuring in the trees like a group of dorm buddies waiting for breakfast. The flies would wait until full sun, but the mosquitoes were active.  A red welt swelled on my wrist and I picked up the pace.

As the sun burned the morning air gold, a male cardinal swooped from a shaggy-bark juniper, its feathers a carmine red. In the scrub oak, a nearby rival acted serenely unimpressed.

Overhead, a phainopepla’s black-and-white wingtips flashed semaphore signals as it landed, bending the top needle-branch of a pinion pine.

 

The dog walkers hadn’t arrived yet, but one skinny marathon runner adjusted a knee brace and jogged painfully down the hill. I waved to early morning construction crews who were setting up for the day’s work. A scruffy bicyclist wearing a military green scrub cap, old T-shirt and cargo pants puffed heavily as he made the hill top. He gave me a grin of co-conspirators, out in these early hours.

sedona cat on wall

 

I shared the morning with the animals.  A calico cat jumped from a stone wall for a scritch behind one ear.  A gray Kaibab squirrel gleaned sunflower seeds from the feeder almost too high above its reach.  A cottontail rabbit elongated its hops into leaps as I grew closer.

 

I didn’t have to own anything to be a part of that glorious morning, and yet I felt immensely wealthy.

The whole world spread before me, free for the taking, when I slowed down and paid attention to the gifts the day offered.