Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Frost is All Over

This is a picture I took on my way into work last week. The tree is rather ghostly, don't you think?

Below is another frosty picture I took the other day.

Going north from my little town, out into the wide open spaces, I ran into the following landscape. You can just barley see the mountain in the distance because there is snow in the air.

So the frost is all over. And I'm humming an Irish traditional jig called "The Frost is All Over." That's a strange name for a song, don't you think?

For quite a few years, I've been intrigued by the titles of Irish tunes. Many of them refer to love, people, and places. And I think the Irish have more than their share of drinking songs. But many tune names are very unusual. Here are a few:

-Merrily Kiss the Quaker
-Bag of Spuds
-Ladies' Pantalettes
-The Rambling Pitchfork
-Come up the Stairs with Me
-Indian Ate the Woodchuck
-Jack Gilder's Beard
-Oh Dear Mother My Toes Are Sore
-The Cat That Ate The Candle
-Pull Out the Knife and Stick it in Again

I think part of the reason the titles are so strange is because there are so many different (but similar) tunes. The Session, a very good Irish music website, has 8231 tunes on it. The classic Irish music reference, O'Neill's Dance Tunes of Ireland, has 1001 tunes in it. With so many tunes to name, I guess you'd eventually run out of ordinary names.

To play Irish music in a session with other people, you need to know lots of tunes. Irish musicians don't use sheet music -- it slows people down when they play, and much of the music is made for dancing. Irish musicians call people who read music "paper trained." Doug, my Irish musician friend and teacher, says that the tune names are designed to be memorable just so that the tunes, themselves, will be easier to remember.

Irish music is rooted in the stories and lives of the people. That's reflected in the titles. After being invaded by England, the Irish were forbidden to speak their own language, so music was used to remember or relay some of the important events. Of course, it was also a way to keep their heritage intact. So that may be why music is such an important part of the Irish culture.

Some people think all Irish tunes sound alike. If you have thousands of tunes, and 8 notes in a scale, and just 8 or 10 different rhythms/structures (jigs, reels, marches, polkas, slipjigs, hornpipes, mazurkas, srathspeys, waltzes), how different can the songs be? Is there a mathematician out there who could offer a solution to that problem? One thing is for sure -- the Irish keep the music interesting by the textures they create when they combine different instruments -- harps, fiddles, flutes, whistles, accordions, pipes, guitars, banjos, bouzoukis, mandolins...

Here are a couple of samples of The Frost is All Over:,boanns_clan//music/sUV8tspH/boanns_clan_the_frost_is_all_over/

The tune is fast (the way frost comes and goes) and has a cold feeling to it. But other than that, I can't figure where the title came from. Is there something crystalline about its structure? Did it have words at one time that talked about the frost and snow? My guess is that it was probably just the weather report that day.

Now that Christmas is all over, I hope everyone's resting, recovering from the festivities. I made it back to Ohio, where the Frost is NOT all over. It was 70 degrees yesterday!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Part 8 - Snow

It has finally started snowing here. And now it won’t stop. There are about 5 or 6 inches of it on the ground. It has snowed every day since Saturday, just a little bit each day. It’s now Tuesday. And the forecast calls for snow through the weekend.

It’s a white white white world! White sky, white fields, white mountains, and only a few fence posts and tall grasses to break it up.

On my way to work this morning, I saw a horse standing absolutely still next to a frozen tree (looking cold, miserable, almost afraid to move). That was a black and white world. After driving for 7 or 8 miles, I approached a traffic light and saw the little spot of green as the first color of the day, and something of a shock after all that white.

So I thought I’d post a few pictures, which I took at the beginning of this episode of snow, as well as a couple of random thoughts and questions about snow. I hope this will help you warmer climate folks feel Christmas-y (or, more likely, lucky to be warm).

There’s a minor avalanche on my metal roof. Avalanches are real here, not just something in the cartoons or movies that play with the imaginations of children, who are so intrigued by natural dangers. There is an avalanche hotline here. People take helicopters into the back country to ski, which is part of the reason we need the hot line. As soon as it started snowing, I saw snowmobiles on trailers behind SUVs and pickups headed for the canyons, too.

The ski resorts drop explosives into the snow where they think there’s a danger of avalanche, so that it happens before the skiers get there. The snow is beautiful AND dangerous. A woman died in an avalanche at the Snowbird ski resort on Sunday. Her sister was quoted as saying, “We are a skiing family and we’ll still be a skiing family.” They said that the woman who died was “an extremist.” But I don’t know. Is it extreme to hike 20 minutes with your skis in order to see the snow in the real wilderness? That doesn't seem extreme to me.

I’ve been singing with a little community Christmas choir. One of the songs we’re singing is Still, Still, Still (of German origin, something like a lullaby if you don't know it). It says, “You can hear the falling snow.” Have you ever heard the falling snow? I haven't. I guess you hear the snow just because of what you don’t hear. So is that hearing or not hearing?

I'm reminded of one of the first short stories that ever caught my attention – Silent Snow, Secret Snow, by Conrad Aiken. Have you read it? It was in the standard English curriculum when I was in junior high school, and I've seen it in more recently published readers. The critics say the story is about a kid’s descent into schizophrenia. He imagines that snow is getting deeper and deeper when he wakes up and hears the footsteps of the postman getting increasingly muffled each day. I don't know about the schizophrenia thing. I bet there’s not a kid alive (in northern climates, anyway) who hasn’t spent time imagining that it has snowed, as s/he wakes up. I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night as a grownup and gone to window and been fooled by a white street light or the moon shining down on pavement, making it look like it has snowed. I think the Aiken story tries to capture a kid’s interior world, and the natural isolation of being a child. But all this may not mean much to you if you haven't read the story. It's fun to think about kids waking up to new snow, though. Kids and snow go together. Snow still makes me feel like a kid.

"Snow” is a perfect word, isn't it? Soft and slippery and hushed … and it happens right NOW. Under normal circumstances, it might be gone tomorrow. But they say I won’t see the ground here until April.

I spotted snow falling at night against the backdrop of the log section of my cabin and thought it was incredibly beautiful. I’m not sure why. Was it an opening scene from a nice movie I can’t quite remember? Maybe it’s just the contrast of light, random flakes moving against large, solid, dark logs. I think snow on the wood pile is pretty too. But I might change my mind about that when I try to light a fire.

So the snow has fallen, and is falling, and we’re all getting ready for Christmas, and we'll probably hear the familiar story of something coming down from heaven, a transformed world, softness, animals, straw, and difficult journeys. It comes at just the right time.

I hope you get to see or hear something wonderful this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Part 7 - Pioneering

Utah Adventure Part 7 - Pioneering

I went all the way to Connecticut for Thanksgiving. It was great to see family, and to be in a place where I had absolutely no work to do. I noticed dramatic differences between New England and the West. One day, I drove from Glastonbury to Cromwell (just 2 towns over), which involved 4 or 5 highways, cloverleafs, wall to wall cars, and 2 or 3 “I’m lost” phone calls before I managed to get there and back. I was surprised by all the roads and cars, since I’m accustomed now to wide open spaces and a life with just a few places to go.

Here in Northern Utah, there are really only 2 places to go – Idaho or Temple Square. People go to Idaho (Preston, where Napoleon Dynamite was filmed, is just 19 miles north of here) probably to buy lottery tickets and full-strength beer. They go to Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see the lights at Christmas time.

Here, at night, I sometimes wonder how long it might be before another motorist would come along if my car broke down on the road. On the way back from the airport at 1 am on the Monday after Thanksgiving, I think I was the only person on the road from Brigham City all the way home (30 miles or so). But, oh, the stars! You can see heart-stopping stillness there. You can see lots of activity and movement in the night sky, too, if you look at it long enough. I'm not sure which is more curious and arresting, really.

Oh. There’s one other place to go from here – Bear Lake, which is a good-sized lake (takes an hour to drive around it), in the far northwest corner of the state, near the Wyoming and Idaho borders. It is about 45 minutes from Logan, on a winding canyon road that follows and cris-crosses the Logan River the whole way. I suppose it is an alpine lake. It is a resort community out there, a mini mini Jackson Hole. There is a little ski resort there that the local people use. I drove there last weekend, talked to one hyperactive guy (too much time alone?) with a strange headband attending to a gas station/market/western store, and noticed that everything seemed shut down for the winter. I didn't see much there, besides this sweet group of big ole turkeys by the side of the road:

Here’s a picture of the lake. It’s hard to see it because of the cloud rising from its surface (due to the change in temperature as the sun dipped behind the mountains, I suppose, which also makes pink light reflect from the lake).

So I’ll include a picture I took of the lake last summer, when I first came here to interview, which seems like a lifetime ago now:

Here’s a view of the canyon just south of Bear Lake. The shadow of the mountains on the land make for nice contrast, I think. And look at how far above the clouds we are:

I saw a ragged red fox making his way down to the lake. And I felt like something of a pioneer, just me, animals, and a dramatic landscape.

They talk about the pioneers alot around here. I already know of 4 cities that have "Pioneer" parks. There’s a Daughters of the Utah Pioneers organization. And the 24th of July is an official state holiday -- it commemorates the day the pioneers arrived in Utah. So I’ve been thinking about what the pioneer spirit really is. New Englanders were pioneers when they landed and built the colonies. There’s still a rugged independence there, but I’m not sure it is the same spirit the western pioneers have.

I guess the pioneer spirit involves taking risks, going to new places, opening up, and being tough enough to survive under harsh, uncivilized conditions. It’s not really about independence and individualism, like the New England spirit. It’s about pitching in, relying on each other, each person offering what they can to the community, which is a necessity if you’re going to survive. I think a big part of the pioneer spirit here is living with Nature, not conquering it.

Here's a somewhat unrefined example of living with Nature. They don't dispose of dead skunks in the road in Utah. It’s a practical issue -- who wants that job? You’d ruin a lot of shovels that way! And if you let a dead skunk sit there in the road, it will eventually dry up and stop stinking. I have to say that someone still needs to prove that to me -- there’s one spot on the way to work that has smelled like fresh skunk, ripe skunk, and now overripe skunk, over the course of the last 5 weeks! Are you having an imaginary unpleasant olifactory experience yet?

There’s also more than a little self-sufficiency mixed into the pioneer spirit. The LDS(Mormon) Church teaches that every family should have a year’s supply of food on hand, just in case hard times come along (not Armageddon – I asked about that). So a food storage area is a big part of every household. In the grocery stores, you can buy huge cans of dried mushrooms, cereal, blueberries, etc. Of course, people do a lot of their own canning – even dried beans!

I never dreamed that I’d ever compare myself to Eva Gabor in her role in the
Green Acres show. But I’ve thought of her several times in the last month – when I spent several hours dealing with a cord of firewood that a guy in bib overalls with a long curly beard dumped in a big pile behind my garage; when I bought mousetraps and considered the possibility of having to dispose of a trapped mouse (and decided not to set them just yet); when the "honey wagon" passes my house, dripping, on its way to fertilize the fields to the west; every time I wonder if the overhead flapping I sense sometimes when I open my front door at night is a bird or a bat. Where is that Eddie Albert when you need him?

I was talking to a group of women after the community choir practice last Sunday night about how to keep warm, about the bread they all make every week, and about canning food, and they said “We’ll make a pioneer out of you yet!” So they must think I have potential. Maybe it's because I left my diamonds at home. Dunno, though. I might have to buy a fur or two before Winter’s over.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Part 6 - Wild Life

Utah Adventure Part 6 - Wild Life

I was sitting in my living room one night last week, minding my own business, when I realized that there was some back-and-forth hooting going on outside. I wondered if it was the sound of dogs barking in the distance. Coyotes? I shut off my noise-maker of a TV, and then realized that it was the voices of owls overhead. There were 2 distinct calls or voices -- one lower than the other. I wasn't sure if they were on my roof or in the big cottonwood tree out front. So I turned off all the lights and went to the upstairs windows to see if I could spot them. No luck. I listened for a while (it was a lively converation), then went outside to see if I could find them, and scared them into silence.

I went straight to my computer to see if I could figure out what type of owls they were. I found out that Utah has Burrowing Owls that migrate in November, and also a variety called the Mexican Spotted Owl. And I listened to the voices of owls around the world and was amazed at the variety of sounds owls make, and the diversity of the species ... from Madagascar to Australia to Brazil to northern Utah ... screeching, hooting, squeaking, whistling, cooing. Fun! But how does a person get to see them, since they're active at night?!

I took a trip to the Bear River Migrating Bird Refuge in Brigham City (about 25 miles South of Logan) on Saturday. The interpretive center was small and specific to water birds. But a volunteer in the gift shop told me that my owls might have been "short-eared" owls (as opposed to "great horned" I suppose). It was a modern little museum building made of local stacked stone, with one park ranger who was on the phone with her babysitter, but motioned for me to sign up for their emailings.

The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Bear River runs through the middle of the refuge, and eventually runs into the Salt Lake just south of there. They say that the Refuge, with its fresh water ponds and canals, is one of the most important resting areas for migrating waterfowl in North America. In spring and summer, it is a nesting place for birds like western grebes, American avocet, Wilson's phalarope, black-necked stilt, snowy egret, and white-faced ibis. Most of it is closed to the public -- it really IS for protecting wildlife, not just a place for us to go see the birds.

From the museum/interpretive center, I drove about 10 miles to get to the beginning of a 12-mile loop road through the Refuge. There were only a handful of cars on that road -- I saw only 3 or 4 in 12 miles. I saw mostly water and mountains reflected in the water, and sky ... and a few duck hunters dressed in camouflage pulling their flat-bottomed boats (one was named "Fowl Play") out of the river. Some of the road was paved, some was gravel, and some was dirt. My van now looks like an off-road vehicle, covered in dust and splattered.

There weren't any bears in the river. And there weren't many birds flying or swimming close by, where I could really see them, either. I suppose most of them have migrated by this time of year.

But the volunteer at the interpretive center had said "I have 14,000 migrating swans in areas A and D. But you probably can't get to them." So I was on the lookout. I did see them from a distance of about a mile, through my binoculars (Ohio binoculars, under-powered for this place where you can see so far). The thousands of swans looked like a plump undulating ribbon of white on the shore of a pond that was far off the road. The path that went in that direction (for hikers or for maintenance, I imagine) was gated too.

If the duck hunters can put their boats in the water, I guess this Ohio "migrating bird" can bring her canoe back in the Spring and have a whole day of being amazed by the light and the reflections of the mountains and sky in the water. I'll look forward to that! Here's a glimpse:

I wonder if a bird refuge isn't something of an Indian reservation for birds. Has the White man taken the good land and given land that they can't easily use to the birds? Maybe so. But I guess that's better than just plundering through and ignoring the needs of all the other creatures.

If anyone is still wondering if I was just storytelling about the seagulls in Utah, here's proof. I spotted these 2 at Bear River:

With the Thanksgiving holiday in sight, I'd just like to say that I'm thankful for lots of things, including of you all who care enough about me to read this. Since I'm a stranger in a strange land, this year, I'm really glad to have nice neighbors:
- like the ones who used their riding mower to mulch my leaves last week
- like the owls who were calling to each other over my head
- like the people (starting with Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, I suppose) who set aside places for birds, other animals, and plants so that we can see and love them and rest for a little while in the sacred wild places.

What nice parts of life are YOU thinking about this Thanksgiving?

Good night (from the Bear River Migrating Bird Refuge):

Part 5 - Looking for Tony

Utah Adventure Part 5 - Looking for Tony

I'm sitting here on a Sunday night, eating pumpkin soup and avocado. The soup is great, if I do say so myself -- fresh pumpkin carved from my outdoor decorative pumpkin, a little bit of italian sausage, onion, garlic, curry, nutmeg. A touch of coconut milk or cream and rosemary would be good too, if I had it. I'm not sure how to explain the avocado. I've been on an avocado binge since I came out West. They're cheaper and fresher here, like the salmon. They must be California avocados.

Last weekend, the leaves were down from the trees so that I could see the snow on the mountain range as I was sitting at my table, looking out toward the east. So, rather than waiting for snow to find me in the valley, with its 50 degree temperatures last week, I thought I'd go try to find it. I took off for a place about 20 miles into Logan Canyon called Tony Grove. I had heard several people talk about it. I thought I might find snow and maybe even an Italian guy there.

I will include pictures. As always, they don't do justice to the beauty. But they'll give you an idea. Here's a view of the drive up, which was full of aspen trees and tall evergreens. To give you a sense of the scale, the twiggy trees near the bottom of the frame are full grown aspens.

The road to Tony Grove is a groomed snowmobile trail, maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, in Winter. There were lots of signs warning "Know Before You Go" and such. I suppose snowmobilers are a reckless lot, and student snowmobilers from USU even more so. That's the idea, isn't it? If you fall off, you land in poof of powdery stuff. But it looked kinda dangerous to me, with drop offs, and being out pretty far in the wilderness.

I saw 2 adult dear with a baby crossing the road on the way up. My car was scraping bottom (about a foot of snow) by the time I got to the top. There was a beautiful little glacial lake there at the end of the road, one carload of Asian tourists, and a young couple with a 3-year old on skis getting his first lesson.

I wondered why the place wasn't named Tony's Gove, rather than Tony Grove. There was a sign at the top that explained. Apparently "tony" is slang for socialites or jetsetters. A big banking family in Logan used camp there for 6 weeks at a time, back in the 1950's. They must had fun since they stayed way out there for 6 weeks. I suppose it's still something of a tony grove, with all the snowmobiling (jet-skiing rather than jet-setting).

I'll have to find someone to go Winter recereating with. Last week I went to a dinner at a Logan Indian Oven restaurant, put together by a group called the Logan Newcomers. There were lots of different types of people there, all ready for socializing, I think. There's a Winter resort fairly close called Beaver Mountain. So if I can find some "tony" cohorts, we could take a trip to that place, which is just beyond Tony Grove, and maybe a little tamer.

I didn't find the Italian guy named Tony up there. But, as usual, I got to see some beautiful country. And I traveled from Fall to Winter with a 7-mile drive that "took me higher," from the normal altitude of 4775 feet to 8100 feet in just a few minutes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Part 4 - Paradise

Utah Adventure Part 4

Everybody here in northern Utah is sort of holding their breath, waiting for the cold and snow to hit. I heard that Snowbird, which is one of the big ski resorts, is open already, and everyone's happy about that. The ski resorts are a big part of the economy here.

I'm still trying to get things squared away at home. And I'm diving a little deeper into work, which is good. Last Friday, they had a "demonstration day", which was sort of like a grown up science fair. That was interesting. I learned about people's work on lightweight antennas and camera lenses, metals that can tolerate extreme temperatures, special computer hardware for jpg 2000 compressed images, and some other stuff .

On the home front, last Saturday I cut down a medium-sized dead tree on my lot so that I could use it for firewood, with help from Casey, his chain saw, and his wife. Casey is a local guy (lives around the corner) who works construction, drinks beer, picks up odd jobs, and tells stories about getting buried alive in a construction-induced mudslide and surviving with lots of broken ribs and a big hole in his memory. Now I have to work on splitting the wood. We'll see if my hands and wrists and arms can stand up to that. If not, I'll have to call Casey and his wife back.

Since I was outside most of the day, my animal neighbors came to check me out. Here's a picture of the steer next door, lookin at me lookin at him:

I thought he might be a bull because of the horns. But Casey checked him out and assured me that he had lost his manhood and is harmless. So I went over and patted his head. I'm not sure either one of us really liked that! If you look in the background, you can see the neck of his friend the llama, who is looking away from the camera. He doesn't seem to want to have too much to do with people. I wonder what kind of treat he might like. It's a good idea to make friends with your neighbors.

Here's a closer view of the disinterested llama, who is much better looking than the steer.

Casey and his wife stopped by on Sunday, ran off fairly quickly to go watch NASCAR, and urged me to "Enjoy" while I still could (before the cold weather hits) by taking a drive down to a little town called Paradise, about 45 minutes south and east of here. They go somewhere near there to camp for a "Mountain Man" festival every year. Apparently, people dress up in old leathers and hats and act like trappers and cook on campfires and shoot guns for a couple of days. I asked if there are any single mountain men. They said, "You betcha," which is a favorite phrase around here. And so they have promised to take me with them next Spring.

I remembered that the desk clerk at the hotel where I stayed the first time I was in Logan mentioned that I should go to Paradise. So I went, even though it was a dreary day. So I found Paradise easily enough. But I didn't see anything very notable. I guess I found Paradise, but maybe not paradise.

It feels like ski country there, with lots of rounded mountains stacked together, snow-covered. And it is getting pretty close to the Powder Ridge resort. I did see some wonderful country and a few historical markers about trappers and early settlers. But I think I was the only person out there. It was Sunday in Utah, after all. So in just in case you've ever wondered what Paradise looks like, here it is:

If you're wondering what's on the other side of Paradise, I can tell you -- horses.

These great-looking young horses were looking at me in a little place called Avon on the other side of Paradise.

Speaking of paradise, the LDS (Mormon) missionaries have been visiting me. They are a couple of 20 year-old boys who always bring someone older, established, and from this town with them. They have to have 3 since I'm a single woman. And that's good because it gives me a chance to meet some neighbors.

Their view of a place called paradise is that it's a holding area where people who have died but haven't had the chance to hear/accept the gospel (like people from remote areas of the world, little children, etc) go until the spirit of a believer has the chance to get over there and tell them the story. Come to think of it, their view of paradise fits with what I experienced in Paradise, Utah -- it WAS kinda dead over there. :) Well, it's nice that the innocent aren't automatically condemned.

So I asked the missionaries what heaven is like, if it's not paradise. They believe there are several levels of glory-- true believers get to go be with God in the "celestial kingdom," people who haven't accepted the Gospel but who have lived honorable lives get to go to the "terrestial kingdom" which is a pretty good place, and unrepentent sinners go to the "telestial kingdom" (which they said is sort of like earth ... or maybe it actually IS earth).

Coming back to earth now ... I've been investigating the local ranch stores, which are full of saddles and gloves and hats, long underwear, bags of rag socks, stacks of blue jeans, "country girl" barbies, radio flyers, miniature John Deere tractors, hundreds of styles of boots, beef jerky and sunflower seeds. One of these stores had stuffed game with antlers on the wall and country music playing. Here is a sign I saw on a dressing room door there:

Is there a little man sitting in there with a stack of hats?

So the burning question is, "Why did several people tell me to go to Paradise? What was I supposed to see there?" Did I just miss the hiking trail and the Osmonds' vacation home cuz I was too busy looking up at the mountains? Or do people go there just so they can say they've been the Paradise and back?

Love to you all. I'm gonna go start a fire.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Part 1, East Meets West

Hi Everyone,

Liz and I successfully made the trip to Utah from Ohio. My western adventure has begun...

A crazy snow storm during the drive in plastered snow to the pines on the Wyoming and Utah mountains.

Sunrises are pink on the east-facing mountain tops.

The city lights across the valley, 15 miles or so, twinkle at night with the stars.

The cats escaped out a window yesterday (it has warmed up now), scared themselves silly, and dashed back in when I opened the door.

Box elder bugs (like thin lightening bugs without the lights) and wasps are trying to get in for the winter, and succeeding.

The moving men delivered boxes, cursed the spiral staircase and the stray cat who kept getting in.

My sister Betsy came in to help me unpack the other night. So I have nice company and a kitchen again now.

Farmers seem to be spreading manure, if my nose is working.

Met my neighbors from Peru who have 3 teenagers, a bull, a llama, 2 lambs, a shi-tzu, and a cat to handle the mouse population.

A big ole forlorn-looking white moon rose over the mounded fields last night.

Love to all--

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Part 2, The Mouse House

I started my new job this week. It's pretty quiet in the office -- maybe it's because I have my own office with a real door (and two windows that look out on the mountains!). Also, I'm on the first floor of the building, while most of my cohorts are on the 2nd floor or in an adjacent building.

Here's a cell phone photo of my office building, with its mountainous backdrop:

Here's the view from my office window which looks in the opposite direction (notice the light low clouds):

I've been going through online training modules, and going to bed early so I can stay awake for that during the day. There are lots of students employed here (100 out of 500). But they, of course, aren't too interested in me ... except for the security guys who wanted to know if I could help them with their English papers.

The movers delivered my furniture last Thursday, and my sister Betsy visited for a long weekend to help me unpack. That was great. There's still lots to do -- I can't seem to find space for much of anything. I guess this little downsizing was bigger than I thought, due to a big difference in basement, cabinet, and closet space.

Betsy and I drove out to the salt flats/mud flats west of the Salt Lake. It's pretty desolate out there. I'm not sure how much life that terrain/climate can support. We just saw a few dried-out guys with ATVs and dirt bikes. One guy told us that people come and camp out on the flats in the summer and watch for UFOs. Well, if you could see UFOs anywhere in this country, I'm sure it would be there. On the way back home we saw 8 mule deer scrounging in the greener pastures of Newton, in the field across from my house. Pretty little things. Big ears.

Everyone here talks about how cold it is in the Winter, which is due to arrive right after Halloween. So I cooked a stew last night, thinking it would be good to have it on hand. I was standing at the stove, putting the stew into smaller containers, and a mouse ran across the back of the stove, the kitchen counter, and then down into a small space between the end of the counter and a rock wall. "Welcome to the farm!" Of course my cats weren't at all interested. They're city cats after all, and accustomed to eating, sleeping, and destroying furniture whenever possible. I think they will need some training for their new job in Utah!

The clouds sit in the hollows of this high valley in the strangest way in the mornings -- patches of fog sit in a different spot each day. At first I thought the fog was hanging over a river or little pond, like it would in Ohio. But this is Utah, and the weather patterns in the mountains are mysterious. I looked at a local map and saw that there are hot springs sprinkled throughout the part of the valley I drive through in the morning. The drive into work is easy, even if it is 10 or 15 miles.

So now I'm also connected to the Internet at home (it was a long week without it). I've cancelled my Dayton phone. So my old email address will disappear soon.

Here's a picture of me arriving at the Mouse House in Utah on Oct 11th, with snow on the roof and Liz, the fields, and mountains reflected in the window:

I guess it's not an exciting episode this time. I'll try to find some cowboys or Indians for the next installment.

Love to you all,

Part 3, Head in the Clouds

It's snowing in the mountains today. I can see that it starts about 300-500 feet up. They say there will be 7 inches of snow in the mountains by nightfall. But in the valley, they are predicting just half an inch. So I thought I'd better get my Fall pictures published before they get covered over with snow impressions.

The weekend before last, I should have stayed home to unpack and fix up. But it was a beautiful weekend, so I went out exploring the Logan Canyon. I had my cell phone with me and took some pictures. The Logan Canyon is part of the Cache-Wasatch National Park, which covers a lot of ground -- maybe 1/2 of the upper and eastern part of the state - up to Wyoming and Idaho. The Wasatch mountains are the western edge of the Rockies. And the Logan canyon begins just around the corner from where I work in Logan. I'll include some pictures. Pictures don't do justice, though, because they can't capture the vastness, distance, and line of sight. I'd need a 360 degree camera for that. Or maybe you'll just have to come and visit me to see for yourself.

It was very quiet outside at home in Newton on Sunday morning with the Mormons - known as "LDS" around here - in church from 9-noon or so. It was just me and the pheasants out there. So I decided to venture out and try to get closer to the body of water that I can see from my house. It is sort of a marshland with branched-out ponds and a slow river that winds its way through the valley. A small reservoir has been made by damming the river, called Bear Creek. I can launch my canoe into it about 1/4 mile from my house. There are lots of ducks, other birds, and cattails in the marsh. And I even saw a group of seagulls. The seagull is the state bird of Utah. Go figure -- in a "dry" state (although I did find the local liquor store). Although I suppose the Salt Lake is a lot like an ocean. I'll also attach a picture or 2 of the valley. There are lots of cattle and horses in this valley, too, as you'll see.

The "official" story about the seagulls says that they're here because there was a plague of crickets that threatened the crops one year, way back when. So God sent seagulls from California. These bulimic gulls ate the crickets and then threw them up in the ditches, and then went and ate some more, which save the crops that year. And they liked this place so much that they just never left.

Last Saturday, the valley fields were full of hunters. Quail and pheasant hunting season started that day. And I heard guns going off on and off all day. And some pretty pheasants were hiding in the back corner of my yard. I guess they could tell I was gunless.

The neighbors have been stopping by with caramel corn, bread, advice about where to find the best views, questions about the big boat that's in dry dock in my back yard (it's a large, semi-famous racing yacht called Bay Bea, that belongs to the previous owner), and information about the LDS (latter day saints) church. I went to the Episcopal Church on Sunday, which was very small, and reminded me of the solid simple beauty of the churches/mosques/temples in Spain. The choir was as big as the congregation. They were shaking incense ahead of the procession-- I don't know if I've ever seen that in the Episcopal church before.

After church, I stopped in a college-oriented cafe. They had good coffee and a keyboard-guitar duo playing jazz. So that was a welcome reminder of civilization as I know it. It was raining. I didn't realize how high up we are until I noticed that I was sort of looking down on the clouds, which sit in the valleys between the mountains. the picture at the top of this post is a view of the valley from the top of chocolate mountain, which is just west of Newton.

I don't have much information to offer about my work yet ... and if I did, I couldn't tell you anyway ;). I suppose the security clearance issue around here will teach me to keep my mouth shut (do I hear applause coming from the ghosts of all of my Jr. high school teachers?). Funny, they didn't ask me about those particular skills during the interview process.

Seriously, it is relaxed, quiet, and comfortable for me at work right now. A new director started on the same day I did. He calls this organization a "national treasure." I'm sure it is. Most of our work is with sensors (cameras, lenses, mirrors, etc) which go in satellites, airplanes, and spacecraft and the storage and transmittal of images. There is a drawing of a cowboy (looks like a young John Wayne) in the conference room with some a quote under it that says: "There's a helluvalot they didn't tell me when I signed onto this outfit." There are lots of outer space pictures on the walls -- a Hubble space telescope photo of star cloud in the Eagle Nebula, a space photo of the lights on earth, a photo of "Daybreak over the Rockies" taken from space. There are also displays of interesting equipment, which is manufactured and tested here. You can't tell the managers from the phDs from the workers here. Everyone just works together in an honest way. About 100 students work here part time. So I'm uniquely "experienced." Some people might call it "elderly," which seems as strange to me as seagulls in northern Utah.

See you later (I hope) ... as soon as I get my head out of the clouds.