Mindful Prairie Perspectives

“Smack in the middle of our great nation
Is a state that requires some explanation
To east-west coasters, who’ll come right out and ask ya
Is there anything of interest in the state of Nebraska…?”
(Urban Dictionary)

Having spent nearly two months in the Western United States, our road trip agenda would finally turn eastward. Traversing the emerging prairie lands east of Fort Collins , Colorado, we made efficient progress along Interstate 80 across Central Nebraska to our next destination, Lincoln. The transition from the staggering heights of the Rocky Mountains to vast sand dunes/farm dotted flatlands of the prairie seemed relatively boring at first. However, our desire to sidetrack off the main highway would reveal several unexpected moments of greater tourist interest in this long trek eastward.

In crossing mid- Nebraska,it made sense to imagine the arduous, pioneer travels along the Oregon Trail routes taken there in the mid 19th century. At a routine rest stop , I curiously spotted a historical exhibit pointing me to mucky footpaths marking the actual wagon ruts made of these west-seeking American settlers. A glance at bridge crossings of the wide, North Platte River gave clear notice about their mindset to follow its continuous flow westbound. I thus understood why Nebraska’s had built a grand arch hovering over Interstate Highway 80 at Kearney to honor the legacy of these intrepid wagon explorers .

Nebraska beef cattle represents a major source of income for farmers in this state. Sighting hundreds of black cattle penned tightly in mud filled corrals along I-80, however, did not exactly fulfill my desire to continue eating hamburger. How fortunate, it seemed, then, that we could obtain a firsthand, look at cattle ranching, by eagerly accepting an invitation by a Lincoln- based, Nebraska friend to visit his family farm. As a result, we would witness a more humane view of the cattle action as I soon learned that this farmer did not slaughter his own herd of cattle, occasionally selling off only a few young calves at a time as needed. Many of his older cow stock would also have plenty of room to graze freely in open fields and remain on the farm as lifer breed stock.Some were even given their own names.

Baseball now occupied my attention in our offbeat tour of Nebraska. Visiting the Museum of Nebraska Major League Baseball in the little town of St. Paul , I witnessed extensive displays about the forty two Nebraskans who had played in the big leagues in the past and present. Grover Cleveland Alexander, Dazzy Vance, Richie Ashburn, and Wade Boggs were notably featured in this small yet captivating museum.

Some intriguing political questions remained in our latest Nebraska adventure. Why was the U.S. flag displayed at half mast in mid- May throughout our state visit? Why were Israeli flags unfurled in our brief glance of an outdoor, evangelical church rally? Why did farmers allow oil fracking on their lands in view of the damage that such drilling incurs on the natural environment? What circumstances enabled a female “progressivist candidate” to win a Democratic congressional primary this week in this most conservatively Republican state?


Utah Visit Bears Truth Of Evolution

“It is bad news to science museums when four in ten Americans believe humans lived with dinosaurs, and fewer than two in ten understand the terms molecule and DNA.” (Larry Witham)

Road tripping east from Utah’s Wasatch mountains along isolated State Road 40, Ruth and I entered an arid plateau of colorfully layered cliffs bearing fossiled evidence of life’s evolution on a grand scale. Picture land roaming dinosaurs flourishing here in a warm and wet climate of lush forests and low lying seas hundreds of million years ago. Imagine the sudden extinction of these powerful reptiles with their skeletal remains scattered along dried river beds and nearby canyons. Such prehistoric riches laid bare the prospect for human scientific investigation.

In the town of Vernal Utah, the rise and fall of dinosaur life eons ago became intriguingly real for us in our visit to the the Utah Field House of Natural History there. Through interactive displays, we first discovered the sights/sounds of of a modern day dinosaur dig site. In the Fossil Lab, we then noted how excavated fossils specimens were carefully handled through a tedious uncovering, casting, and preserving process. Entering a a tunnel of prehistoric time passage, we next moved to the Jurassic Hall, examining authentic dinosaur skeletal remains lifted from the fossil beds of the “Morrison Formation” in the surrounding Vernal vicinity. Venturing outside the facility, we spotted Dinosaur Garden, displaying fourteen, life-size creatures, set within a prehistoric plants life setting.

Back on the road heading to our next destination, Steamboat Springs Colorado,I pondered some reasonable scientific assumptions made from our Vernal Museum visit.(1) Dinosaurs existed millions of years before humans.(2) Extreme changes to earth’s water,land, or air over eons of time best explains how dinosaurs and later humans could become extinct on earth.(3) The sheer quantity of real dinosaur specimens that I viewed today provided considerable evidence of life’s slow time procession on earth in an “evolutionary” fashion.

It’s clear that scientists and religious zealots continue to be at war over this issue. For instance, many Americans today show disdain for evolutionary talk in our country. Notably, a recent U.S.poll in 2016 found that more than 35% of those surveyed agreed with the statement “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time”. I proceeded to delve into this issue further. At the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky,I noted an impressive showcase of biblical explanations for life’s first appearance wherein God created the earth and life less than 10,000 years ago, with humans and dinosaurs coexisting together in time. I also discovered evidence for the “Creationist “ ideal of life’s existence on earth at the Ark Encounter Museum, also in Kentucky. Displaying a full-size model of the famous ark, this controversial tourist center promoted the biblical legend that Noah saved a select group of humans/animals,(including dinosaurs) 4450 years ago in an immense boat from a catastrophic flood on earth.

So the next time you see a child engaged in play with a toy dinosaur, what would you tell them about where and when these scary creatures came from?






Springtime Simplicity In Park City

“The plainer the dress, the greater luster does beauty appear.” (Edward F. Halifax)

Ruth and I concluded a restful, four night stay in Boise, Idaho to visit our friend Tina. My main activities during this uneventful weekend would involve washing my filthy car, and continuously walking the family dog, Molly every 3-4 hours. I definitely needed less mind challenging, downtime after enduring a multitude of steep and winding roads in mountainous regions from the Seattle coast region southeastward.

Proceeding southeast on Interstate 84 in early morning , our five hour, desert valley drive would skirt the western edge of the Wasatch Mountain range and then curve into them for a gentle climb to over 6,000 feet at our next destination, Park City Utah. As a past host community for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, we expected to settle into a thriving ski town atmosphere in our three night, Air B&B stay stay there. Yet the town to us seemed relatively simple to navigate and surprisingly desolate in off season, springtime mode with the town’s renowned Olympic ski runs now largely devoid of snow.

Sticking to our budget, we had no desire to buy expensive artwork or sign up for enticing time share presentations, Thus a simple walk around Main Street downtown would suffice for us after dinner on our first evening. As most shops and art galleries were now closed, we casually admired the classy western town atmosphere of historic saloons, ornamental street sculptures, live bird talks, and eclectic window displays.

Since Ruth and and share a keen interest in observing wildlife in their natural habitats, the next afternoon we decided to take a look at Great Salt Lake via Antelope Island State Park. As we crossed the entry causeway, a pungent smell of salt permeated the air. How “cool” we imagined now to have an opportunity to spot a free-ranging bison , pronghorn antelope or migratory bird species on the island. Stopping for a picnic lunch on a remote overlook facing the eerie presence of this hyper-saline shoreline, we were attacked by hordes of brine flies that infest these salty shores. Spotting an accessible beach nearby, we moved swiftly away from these pesky insects by descending downhill through brittle rock and briny sand surface to this ever still lake. We had found an excellent spot to taste the salty waters and photograph thick concentrations of small, black feathered birds floating aimlessly on the surrounding lake. Ending our tour at the lake informative Visitor Center, we relished our decision to step out adventurously on our own in the Salt Lake environs today.

Over thirty years ago, Ruth and I dined at a small and unpretentious Mexican Cafe In Salt Lake City near the historic downtown Train Depot. Having booked inexpensive concert tickets for the evening at nearby Vivint Smart Home Arena, we would “kill time” before the performance with a nostalgic meal at this same Mexican restaurant. Enjoying “Back to back” concert sets by Hall and Oats/Train, we would end this long day in “giddy singalong” fashion.

On our third day, we embarked on an old fashioned train ride on the Deer Creek Express in nearby Heber City, which provided a relaxing end to our Utah mountain adventure. As an added attractions, a menacing group of armed bandits ran onto the train at midpoint in our journey to stage a simulated train robbery. Upon angrily finding a box with no money, they filled the air with fake gunshots and boisterously departed the train. Immediate relief from such chaos was provided as a talented guitarist strummed traditional cowboy hits for our listening pleasure for the remainder of our rail journey.

Reliving Lewis-Clark Idaho Feats

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost)

Ruth and I often find reason to veer off interstate highways in our road trip travels. Consulting road maps, weather conditions and GPS routing plans, we elect to drive scenic backroads for obtaining a closeup glimpse of natural beauty/small town America. So our most recent route plan from Missoula to Boise Idaho would unsurprisingly take us along the twisting Lochsa River, titled Highway 12 or the historic Lewis and Clark Highway.

Highway 12 for us provided an eye opening scenery of rushing river headwaters carved by a steep canyon for over one hundred miles. Yet I could only imagine the mindset of Lewis and Clark as they traveled west along this isolated route in 1805. How could they have navigated these rock strewn rapids downhill by canoe successfully? What strategies existed for riding horseback along vertical cliffs for more overland passage? How did they cope with the high snowdrifts and food shortages faced along this weatherbeaten Lolo Pass Trail? How would they avoid hostile Indian attacks to end their mission?

Feeling the rich wilderness of land seemingly unchanged from 200 years in the past, our minds were also filled with freedom-filled aloneness in this quiet region. With no vehicles present. we would pull off to the narrow road embankment at will. At bridge viewpoints, we would sit idly to photograph intimate scenes of a river gone wild. Taking a short rest at Lolo Point Rest Stop, we threw snowballs instead for sheer fun.

The Lewis and Clark Trail was a most difficult passage for these famous American explorers. While long ago they became ominously preoccupied in this region amidst thick timber and a raging river to haul their canoes and rations over steep mountain ridges, we could more relaxingly appreciate the breathtaking scenery that amazed these early explorers. As we would later learn that Route 12 earned the title as the most scenic road in Idaho, we felt very fortunate that we had chosen to take the slower road today.


http://www.history.idaho.gov/Lewis-and Clark-idaho

Awakenings Of “Glacier” In Spring

Taking a northerly turn from Interstate 90, Glacier National Park near the U.S./Canadian border would become our next destination on our road trip. We realized beforehand that park facilities and most access routes would be closed now until at least June. Yet we “caught a break”, learning that sections of the famed “Going To The Sun” road had recently opened. As hiking trails remained partially covered in muck and slippery, melting snow conditions, we opted today to simply embark on a slow drive for eleven miles in from the “West Glacier” entrance.

Following a recently snow cleared route along Lake McDonald in mid morning, some captivating sights and sounds of nature’s awakening in early spring caught our attention. A hungry deer quietly munched newly sprouting vegetation near the road. Black crows cawed loudly, flying low over the glassy, unfrozen lake searching for an opportune time to catch fish below. Chirping prairie dogs poked their heads out from underground burrows to curiously greet our nearby presence. Rushing water furiously fell from spring melting conditions along alpine ledges. Tree branches snapped loose, providing instant relief from the weighted burden of winter’s snow accumulations.

Spring weather in Glacier became unpredictably fickle on this visit as our sunny morning drive would soon end in drizzle and cold for the remainder of the day. We chose then to rest, read, and practice yoga, in our cozy room at Cedar Creek Lodge in nearby Columbia Falls for the remainder of the day. Several travel options remain “on the table”for tomorrow. Perhaps more spectacular sightings of a bear or moose will happen on tomorrow’s park visit. Or maybe we could hang around town to visit a relaxing hot springs to ease our physical tensions. Yet I would seem to be quite content in just staring out my lodge window, ponder some glacier inspired thoughts, and settle for a five star mountain panorama in the present moment. Which of these options would you choose?

Puget Sound Mind-Trip Perspective

**This poem represents my inspired attempt to share a Seattle based ferry ride, giving us our last glimpse of the Pacific Coast before resuming our 2018 road trip eastward. Thankfully it was a sunny and clear that day giving me unobstructed views in all directions.

When One Needs To Flee From Mind Chatter Unbound
Escape To The Vastness Of Puget Bay Sound
When Life’s Toils Consume Us In Desperate Strive
Step Onto Blissed Islands In Nature We Thrive

When Thoughts Stray To Coldness In Clouded Mist Gray
Seek Bright Light Restored Into Gentle Boat Sway
When Sameness Dulls Heart In Emotionless Drowned
Curious Eyes Rise To Witness Immense Mountain Surround

When One Tires Of Striving For Crunched City High Time
Sail Slowly From Shore In Seaworthy Sublime
When It’s Time To Cruise Home Do Not Dread, Fear or Wrath
For Life Now Seems Infinitely Better In Such Enlightened Bay Path

Shed Rut Filled Routine Leave Your Auto Behind
So Consider Next Ferry Savor Fruitful Unwind

** Seattle, the state’s largest city, lies in the center of the Puget Sound region and sits between Elliot Bay and Lake Washington. Across the Sound is Bainbridge Island, the Kitsap Peninsula and Olympic Peninsula.(Go Northwest Travel Guide).

Springtime Rapture In Seattle

“And the birds sang their songs of love. And the flowers serenaded with their sublime fragrances. And the whole world fell in love in spring!” (Avijeet Das)

Ruth and I increasingly find Air B&B to be an ideal way to find suitable lodging on our road trips. We typically look for one bedroom, studio apartments in outlying areas of a city near public transit lines. In Seattle, we hit a “bullseye” with our latest booking of a reasonably priced “flat” in suburban Columbia City.

Bearing semblance to Frank Lloyd Wright design, the unit blends organically with surrounding foliage on a steep hill overlooking a grassy descent leading to picturesque Lake Washington. From our bedroom window, we gazed easterly on this clear morning at the snowy peaks of the Cascade Mountain range in the distance. In the spacious interior, we could regain a sense of home as a temporary cure from the “cabin fever” of being cooped up in a car for so many days on this road trip.

In a city that rains over 150 days a year, we had been fortunate to begin our week in Seattle with clear weather. Enticed by the profusion of springtime blooms of colorful rhododendrons and cherry blossoms surrounding us, we impulsively decided to hike down to Lake Washington on foot to relax along the glassy waters. No rush to move on to more serious matters as we became soon immersed our minds into the meditative silence of these calming waters.

To the north of us lies the busy life of downtown Seattle, where in past visits to this dense core, we have chosen to restlessly play tourist. Perhaps Pioneer Square or the Space Needle will be on our agenda tomorrow. But today we had been content to make simpler times happen beyond such urban frenzy. I noticed the contentment of a keen sensed canine smell the cool, fresh air to become free from his car confinement. In experiencing a similar springtime rapture today, we knew we had joined him.

Enhanced Earth Day Enjoyment

“The Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.” (John Paul II)

How fortunate Ruth and I were to have arrived on our current road trip to witness the natural beauty of Seattle on Earth Day. Even more satisfying would be our decision to donate our time today for landscape restoration efforts at Volunteer Park on this chilly, Sunday morning. To be honest, this holiday,in the past, seemed little more than a once a year dose of “New Age” optimism. Yet this year, our active involvement to beautify Seattle seemed to manifest as a personal protest activity against a callously negative attitude our current Presidential regime manifests about endangered lands, animal protections and the role of scientific involvement in our country.

While the work we performed today to clear invasive weeds, pickup human debris and grade soil was dirty and basic, these old trees and surrounding shrubbery would be more likely to thrive in their natural habitat in summer and beyond. It would also be satisfying to know that a sizable crowd of new generation students from the University of Washington cared enough about Earth Day to eagerly join in with us today.

Being curious to see more of this park after our work ended, we would climb the steep steps of the nearby Water Tower to the Observation Deck for spectacular, 360 degree panoramas of the Seattle environs. Along the circular walls, a series of educational panels would document the historic commitment to develop and maintain public parks/open space throughout the city. With the imprint of Frederick Law Olmstead’s legacy of landscape beautification notably accomplished here, over fifty public parks now exist in Seattle today.

An interesting Earth Day for us would conclude with a short stroll around the sprawling campus of the U. Of Wash. Springtime bloomed prolifically along stately pedestrians walkways opening into a Central Campus Plaza. A mystical glimpse at the faint outlines of Mount Rainer would now be revealed to us over a cascade of water sculpture in the southerly distance. Seattle clearly had given us motivation today to think of Earth Day as a recurring theme for environmental preservation for every day of our lives.

Yankee Clipper-Master Of Seclusion

“A ball player has to be kept hungry to become a big leaguer. That’s why no boy from a rich family has never made the major leagues.” (Joe DiMaggio)

“Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio.”This famous lyric from the Simon and Garfunkel song , “Mrs Robinson”, suggested a major theme in our road trip excursion to his birthplace across San Francisco Bay to Martinez , California. Despite Joe’s legendary baseball fame and business prowess, I surprisingly would discover scant physical evidence of DiMaggio’s life story in this quaint, Bay Area town. It would thus become a major challenge of mine to “dig” more deeply into his storied life there.

My most essential stop for information would thus become the the local Martinez Historical Museum. Inquiring directly in the lobby with two, receptive representatives about my DiMaggio interest, I was disappointed that no current exhibits currently were on display. However, would soon hand me a thick file of memorabilia from DiMaggio’s entire life. I would proceed to examine each document in fine detail and subsequently follow up with Google research on noted special topics of interest. My research soon revealed a humble man whose flamboyant baseball legacy as a famous New York Yankee overshadowed his brusquely reserved nature that often led him to shun the limelight that he so deserved.

Consider the logic of the following scene that I later discovered online. One night in a supper club, a woman who had been drinking approached DiMaggio’s table. When he did not ask her to join him, she snapped: “All right, I guess I’m not Marilyn Monroe.” He ignored her remark, but when she repeated it, he replied, barely controlling his anger, “No – I wish you were, but you’re not” The tone of his voice softened her, and she asked, “Am I saying something wrong?” “You already have,” he said. “Now will you please leave me alone?”

I also learned from newspaper clippings that big plans were frequently “on the table” to celebrate the “Joltin Joe”legacy in Martinez. Yet little progress had been made to date there to finalize these ambitious plans. I pondered about feasible causes of this delay. Why would his family object to erecting a Joe DiMaggio Museum to celebrate his early life there? How did the town view the controversial religious scandal related to his marriage to Marilyn Monroe? Did shy Joe himself refuse to oblige the town in his lifetime to showcase his family roots there? What legal litigations were pending to prevent publicizing Joe’s life there? These provocative questions I believed were unanswered in the files I observed.

I would now think back to my own personal encounter with Joe over twenty years ago at a busy airport. I was standing in line, awaiting to board a commercial aircraft and observed Joe standing in line directly in front of me. Never bothering to acknowledge my obvious interest in complimenting him about his baseball greatness, he quietly boarded the aircraft with little notice. I thus imagined a similarly aloof reaction from him , upon hearing that Martinez planned to publicly promote his name there.

As I stood near the lot where Joe’s birthplace once stood, I imagined Joe’s humble beginning. He was in fact born as the son of a modest, Italian fisherman living in a simple dockside house within the once bustling fishing village of Granger’s Wharf. Here was where his “rags to riches”story had truly begun. It’s clearly due time that that this homegrown hero in America be recognized with a museum in his honor in the town that he was born.

For More Information:

Encyclopedia World Biography, http://www.notablebiographies.com
Allen, Maury. Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio? The Story of America’s Last Hero. New York: Dutton, 1975.
Cramer, Richard Ben. Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
Seidel, Michael. Streak: DiMaggio and the Summer of ’41. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988.
Testa, Maria. Becoming Joe DiMaggio. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2002.

Impermanence Overwhelms Today

“Awareness of impermanence and appreciation of our human potential will give us a sense of urgency that we must use every precious moment.” (Dalai Lama)

Ruth and I just finished an inspiring walk near Jack London Historic Ranch in picturesque Napa Valley California. This famous American writer in the early 20th century, lived a busy life here, farming his vast crop lands, entertaining guests and writing many of his famous novels/stories. Sadly, I felt a sense of loss for him, as he would tragically die in the “prime of his life”at age 40. Strolling through his Winery Cottage, I noted his treasured book collections, cluttered writing desk area and well used travel bags now sitting unused, functioning as mere showpieces for brief tourist visits today. In fact , much of the original ranch and nearby farmstead buildings would be destroyed in his lifetime by raging fire and devastating earthquake.

London’s self-sustaining methods to nourish his fields would become a great source of personal pride. Using terraced irrigation drainage from a man-made lake as well as recycled, manure fertilization methods, he successfully farmed his land. As commercial vineyards have now have replaced his agrarian dreamland, few relics remained of these “horse and plow” times. His beloved lake, once used as an idyllic respite for hikers, swimmers and horseback riders, had shrunk to one quarter of its size , becoming choked by invasive algae.

Our tour of Jack London’s estate today would end with a chilly walk through thick strands of nearby Redwood Tree forest. Surviving for thousands of years, these massive behemoths of nature appeared indestructible to the naked eye. Yet a closer look at ground level would reveal the death of many species as their rotting stumps and branches littered the surrounding landscape alongside the trail.

As a world traveler, I desire to amass direct experience of place while I can. As a blog writer, I wish to use my present mind to inspire new literary achievements without dreading the future. In Buddhistic terms, nothing lasts forever and you control very little about when and where your life contributions will end. Clearly, impermanence” as expressed by the following “Eagles” song seems quite useful to me as I review the vanishing Jack London imprint on his ranch today.