Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ancient pack rat poop

Maybe I just have a thing about poop lately, but this is actually kind of cool on a few counts. First off, a little discussion about pack rats. They apparently are rather intelligent, quick, resourceful, and quite adaptive, considering how long they've been around. They're also the subjects of scientific studies. Little creatures, being picked apart (so to speak--hopefully not literally, unless they're already dead) by highly-educated human minds. We are interested in the strangest things, aren't we?

I've rarely seen the little critters around here--but let me tell you, they are definitely at home in the high desert Southwest. How do I know that for sure? Big, unmistakable piles of pack rat poop, crammed into the nooks and hollows of the rock walls. Like this:Yes, that is a pile--a wet, totally gross pile--of pack rat shit. Interestingly enough (to me, at least), I often find it very near ancient settlements. This pile is dripping from the rocks right by this handprint:
Curious, no? Well, according to my biologist friend Dave, pack rats are known to poop in the same spot their ancestors did--as in, for the last 10,000 years. So the new poop is on top of very old poop, practically fossilized by now.

The mind boggles.

So the next time you're out and about and come across one of these impressive leavings, look around for ancient corn cobs, pottery shards, and rock art. I'm sure the resourceful pack rats lived among the humans for the easy food access, and habit kept them there centuries after the people left. Guess it's better to have one toilet rather than hundreds scattered about...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

homeland, again

On the topic of home again. I ran across a fun article today, from Inside-Outside magazine, a little rag I read all the time in Durango, but which I have not found out here in the back of beyond. The article is about Hanksville, UT, one of the little Wayne County towns. Hanksville is home to--well, read the article and you'll find out. It mentions Mesa Farm Market, a little organic farm with lots of heart in neighboring Caineville. Mesa Market is run by a playful man, who is also a musician, named Randy Ramsley. Several friends work on the farm, including Beth and Tim. They had a hard spring, and there's a Harvest Benefit being held for the farm next Saturday, which I am excited to attend.

There is so much to be said for community--especially when said community is in such a small, isolated, wild area! Pulling together in times of need is so damn important. I am feeling a part of this place again, and I love it. It's odd, actually. I've been a bit of a hermit all summer long, not fully participating in community. Feeling so busy between day job, writing, and personal goals that demanded a lot of solitude and contemplation.

But this is still home. I am home, in my community, no matter how I have been (or not) interacting.

What is home for you? What makes it home? Is it place, is it people, is it ritual and ceremony? Is it familiarity?

Part of home is, for me, a certain knowing that simply makes it so. This is home. And I just know that.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

moon dancin'

The moon is almost full, folks! Dance madly! I love the almost-full moon. It's a sacred time to me, from my vision quest last year...and it's pretty damn cool anyway. I mean, the moon. Amazing.

So dance, everyone! Just go outside and flap your arms and wiggle your butt in the moonlight. If nothing else, you'll feel silly, and therefore laugh (even if it's at yourself). And generous laughter is always a beautiful thing.

I'll be doing it too, so you won't feel too lonesome or too silly. ;)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

private sojourn; or, can I please poop in peace?

Okay. This is a bit of a rant. You are thusly forewarned.

I have loved the wild spaces since I was very little, and I have done many things in the mountains and deserts over the years. Ogle great views. Nap under pine trees. Camp for days at a time. Cook. Clean dishes. Attend to bodily functions. Now, this latter can be somewhat horrifying to those city folk who must have their toilets and flushing conveniences, but for those of us who wander at will, the great outdoors becomes a comfortable place to do what a bear does naturally in the woods.

This is a situation to which I have been accustomed. Need to go? Find a private spot, dig a hole, and there you have it. Certain rules are followed (don't leave tp behind, cover it up, don't do it near water), of course. And honestly, I'd rather use a clean natural spot with a gorgeous view than a stinky, disgusting pit toilet, as are commonly available at the outdoor places frequented by humans.

But I digress.

This summer, people have descended upon Wayne County like flies. In some respects, this is of course a good thing. The local economy needs them. My tips depended on them. But wow--were they everywhere! I felt surrounded by my kind as never before. On one day off, Pippin and I went exploring up on the Velvet Ridge, this gorgeous redrock cliff that runs east-west to the north of Hwy. 24 between Torrey and Bicknell Bottoms. We drove up early in the morning, midweek, and had a fabulous time marching across the land, looking for arrowheads and the like. I found an old, dried deer shed and, of course, petrified wood. We took in the view. We avoided a few ATVers. On the way in, a boy who appeared to be approximately 12 was driving a tractor behind a truck as they tooled up a two-track road, presumably to grade areas flattened by rushing waters after all the rain we'd had. Folks, that's a lot of people out there.

And back at the truck, I stepped behind a bush for a pee.

When I was done and stood up, I heard someone walking along the ATV track on which I'd parked. Someone walking nearby. Someone walking away from me. As in, the person had passed by me while I'd been peeing. Apparently, peeing visibly.

Okay, you say. You were a little too close to the road, Julie. Got what you deserved, if someone saw you peeing and quickly walked away!

I politely disagree. First off, it's not a road. Second off, who the hell are all these people invading my land? (Grr, the adoptive local snarls.) Third, what the hell in general? I leave for about two years, and this place is overrun.

Can a person not pee, poop, or whatever in peace out here anymore?

I know, I know. I am ranting, as warned. And of course there are miles of areas where no one roams, and people poop outside often. But I like, need, and crave the open spaces here. I'm a southern Californian by raising, one who took to this area with an eagerness that likely befuddles most who live in the smoggy area my family still calls home. I want it to be open, empty, little travelled, private.

Things change, of course. And look at me--this summer, I work for an outfitter and actually take people out there to the sacred, secret spots. (Well, not all of them, that's for sure!) But even so. The wide spaces seem to keep shrinking. I know more people will visit here, and more people will live here, and that's fine. That's expected.

I just ask for a little more space, a little more privacy, a little more solitude. Especially when I'm out answering the call of the wild, in all its forms, out in the deserts and mountains I call home. And that's all I have to say about that. (For now, she says in dire tones...)