15 March 2010

Where do you think this is located? In some tropics, hmm.... Actually this place is located in Mesa, Arizona. How is that possible? Well, from a permaculture perspective, it is given the right conditions. A microclimate can be created and thrive in such a place. During one of my many permaculture sessions, we went and toured a permaculture property on Saturday. The gentleman, Phil, turned his property using resources and principles of permaculture.
This is the bathroom facilities with full ammenities of a shower, toilet and sink. does not smell as he engineered it using natural systems.
This is his office space. Exterior is all of his dried bamboo/banana leaves with a natural building materials in the inside. The leaf debris actually keeps the structure cool even during the hot months of the summer. So without AC, it is comfortable in there.
Here is the kitchen. This is what I call a kitchen!! I think I want an outdoor kitchen someday.
Grows his own bananas and lots of them. Just imagine picking this fruit for a morning delight. The flower is beautiful too.
Phil raises his own goats. Very friendly. Milks them and does kill one or two a year for food source. There are chickens too but they were out and about among the bamboo forest foraging away.
Outside of his acre enclosure of bamboo/bananas haven, is the rest of the property that is compromised of gardens, as above, pecan trees, date trees and yes, a papya tree.
This was more of a tropic permaculture demonstration. They get their water from the irrigation. But the trees are fairly strong and hardy themselves past a certain age. The family sells dates, bamboo fencing, bananas (trees/fruit), banana leaves for folks who make banana leaf tamalaes, and other edibles when in season

26 January 2010

South Mountain - National Trail trek

On a bright and early morning, where the city still slept and the coyotes were yipping and howling on the fringes of the shadows and light, I stood huddled with a cup of hot chocolate awaiting to greet the rays of the dawning sun.
It was a special day as I checked my gear and loaded my pack. For the day brought the beginnings of a trek, the journey of traversing the entire National trail of South Mountain - 15.5 miles over the two ranges to meet the third range at the end of the trail. The trail started at Pima Canyon dirt road which led to the beginnings of the trailhead of the National Trail.
I started at a good pace and kept it steady throughout the trek. The trail is not difficult but the terrain changes going up hillsides, over rock boulders and desert pavement. The first part of the trail I have traversed many a time on smaller hikes when at South Mountain. On those hikes, I make a loop trail with the National trail and Mormon trail and visiting hidden valley among the rocks.
And on the trail continues.
I made several stops to hydrate, pause, and snack on energy foods. It is especially important to keep up with the continual energy so I may last for the entire trek and keep healthy. There are many people who came to participate in the National trail trek day. Many setting their own goals. It is no competition just a way to marvel at the beauty of it all and accomplish in the personal feats one pursues in such a journey as this.
At about 7.9 miles, I reach the halfway point by Telegraph pass. The views of the home stretch are in view but yet still many miles to go. At the halfway point, there is a stop where food for lunch is served for the hikers. I had started 7:40 and arrived at Telegraph pass at 10:30. I relish the much enjoyed sandwich and huddled close to the ground in my windbreaker. Even though it was clear and sunny with the clouds on the horizons and passing over, it was very windy with temps in the 50s. However, it is a perfect day for a ramble.
And so with still 7.6 miles yet to travel, I start again. Upwards I go onto the Gila range to where I spent most of the remaining miles traversing across the Gila ridgeline. The views are picturesque and sometimes I pause wondering just where am I. I seem to be in a place so far away. Or rather have stepped back into time crossing the dusty floor of years and years and years of change.
On a journey as a long as 15.5 miles, one must wonder what does one do to occupy time? Besides the obvious physical movements of stepping with one foot and the next and the next and the next. The mind comes alive or does it? I find my mind becoming quiet. Thoughts come and go but never remain too long. I find something deeper as I seem to go deeper and deeper. There is a rhythm in my walking and something in me finds balance, a tune to follow in step. For there is a tune within. It is song that is sung at the end of the movie, Never Cry Wolf (based on the Farley Mowat book, Never Cry Wolf). It is scene at the end of the movie where Farley and an old innut gentleman traverse a long ridgeline in the high altitudes of Alaska. It is that tune I hear whispering and dancing as I follow the trail.
For all else falls away, the daily toils of work and worries seem to hold no ground here. There instead in the emptiness of it all I am one, in being with myself, harmony. Joy and majestic just as the vistas unfold. And the journey unfolds. One step, two steps, always a step into the unknown.
And so the last roughly two miles crosses the wash and valley between the Gila range and Ma Ha Tuak range where the day's journey will end. The last mile is the longest mile I have ever walked. Never a mile was as long as this. Each moment felt, each rock I touched. The present moment unfolding into the new present moment seemed like an eternity from moment to the next. And who knows, perhaps a lifetime did pass as each moment came and went.
And rejoice. I finally arrived to the journey's end. I had completed the breath of the trail in five hours and 30 minutes. Much faster than originally anticipated for seven hours of hiking. I sat down while the park rangers were busy bustling to and fro and looked back from hence I come. Indeed it is the journey and not the destination that is the true goal. My feet are tired and it was good to unload my day pack. But my spirits elated with calm, quiet peace. I had arrived home.

15 January 2010

Picketpost Mountain

On my birthday I have started a tradition. I go hiking! Since I love hiking and the desert outdoors is the place to be, I was found rambling the desert countryside and up a mountain. My hiking destination was Picketpost Mountain. Rather meager mountain only boasting 4300 some feet; however, one does not let the elevation of desert mountains be the judge. The character which shapes the mountain is found instead along the trail of rocks, desert flats, bajadas, and the various species of plants (cacti, succulents, desert trees, shrubs, and wildflowers).
Roughly the first mile and quarter is navigating through dense chaparral which is defined by shrubs, trees, and cacti. Some plants including mesquite, palo verde, jojoba, ocotillo, creosote, cholla, Saguaro, and prickly pear were the most prevalent identified genres found. I had fun stopping occasionally in search of jojoba nuts and admiring the different plants along the trail.
So, finally I come to the base of the mountain where the trail starts to lead upward quite so. This is where I had a long break making sure I was still hydrated and ate some food. And studying the trail description and study the mountainside to visually map my route that I would be required to take. It clearly becomes evident that the trail up the mountain is for no wussies. The slope up to the base of the cliffs is complied of rocks, big boulders and thorny vegetation. A hike like this becomes rather technical. Where the mind works out strategies and moves.
And thus I commenced up the rocky terrain leaving the visible trail behind. Besides my trail description, one becomes attuned to the minute details of the trail. And this is very vital in navigating a course such as this. There are signs on the trail the lead the correct course such as the small rock sculpture pile in above picture. Also there were red dots and some arrows. But in the end some places required old fashion route finding skills of studying with trial and error. What is important in a terrain as such, I memorized the details of specific rocks and plants. This proves to be important as so when coming back, one is able to identify the correct passage or turn without going astray off down the mountainside. Or as four hikers ended up doing, straying on a ledge far off course. I had to direct them off the ledge and back onto the trail.
The trail continues to become more steeper and climbing over and up boulders.
The real challenge begins. I am on the mountain itself. The passage hugs the narrow ledge along the base of the cliffs and then up the narrow chute to a wall of rock face stretching many feet up. The above picture is indeed the route up the mountain. This is where the route becomes technical as I climbed and found places for foot and hand holds. It was not as bad as one thinks from appearances, but still, a wrong move could prove to be disastrous. And vertigo is not an option to have. Keep your eye on the immediate work at hand and don't look down.
After the ledge, chute, and rock face, I come to another passage of rather steep switchback slope that leads to the mountain top. It is steep and gravelly. And where I met one of my three near slides off the trail. Also the vegetation is starting to grow onto the trail in many places, such as the one above. Even if it is hard to see, the trail above is tilted at an angle and the pebbly, rocky dirt is so very slippery. In this one instance, my backpack happens to brush against the prickly pear causing me to loose my balance ever so. My foot slips off and to prevent myself from tumbling through cacti and part of the mountainside, I quickly throw myself in the other direction right into the prickly pear. My first cacti encounter where the thorns and glochids (smaller thorns) pierce through the skin of my upper leg and arm. Oddly enough the prickly pear seemed to be holding onto me, and I managed to regain balance and prevent a much scarier thorny experience. But spent hours picking out the thorns and some still could be felt a day later.
Finally after much work, the top was mastered and I got to the other side to see the vistas spreading Eastward. Magnificent vistas all around streching for miles and miles and miles. It was a perfect day weather wise as I could even see the mountain range of the Catalina's (by Tucson) rising up out of the floor of the desert (Sky Island).
I took a much deserved rest of lunch and admiration of such an incredible feat. Of course my mind always thought about the inevitable down climb. But I still had a mission to find on top of this mountain.
Yes, the mailbox. Someone has placed a mailbox atop of the mountain where hikers can sign in, some first aid, and other pieces of mementos people leave behind. I sign in.
I enjoy the circling hawk soaring above me and then out, out, out towards the horizon. My spirit animal has visited me and my spirit soars with it.

22 February 2009

Highland Games in the desert

The Scottish Games of Phoenix! Typically highland gathering and games is during the summer months but due to extreme summer temperatures of the desert, the Games in Arizona are held in the winter months (for both Phoenix and Tucson).

I arrived in time for the opening ceremonies of the massing of the bands and clans. They paraded around and then the bands clustered together forming a circle with the audience around them for the big celebration.

This is the group that I had joined, the Royal Scottish Country Dancing group of Phoenix. They dance to their heart's content. It is a small group and of course not enough males but oh well. The point is to have fun. And we did with our tent and lively talking and dancing.
There was also a British Car display at this games. Cute cars so small. It is a wonder why it is not so popular here the size of the cars. Well, size of cars are popular here in the US but at the other extreme end: big hulking SUVS and hummers. Eww, gross. Does not please the quaint Scottish wabi Sabi Ingrid.
I spent the majority of the afternoon following the pipers and the bands. I love the music and it is so haunting and amazing really. There is something about the music that just cannot be described into words. I think only a true Scot would understand.
I had brought my knitting along and sat in the shade knitting, snacking, and listening to the bands. The colors of the tartans are so festive.

Then the athletic fields. The caber toss! Unfortunately the field was not designed for good audience viewing. We were on one side of the field and the caber toss was the only athletic event that was closest to us and hence good footage for photography. Shame on them. But still fun.
So, I am noticing now that the Caledonian society and Scottish folk are rather a small group here. I am starting to recognize more and more folks in the bands, athletic department, dancing, vendors, and volunteers. Basically the folks who are part of the society and group make up the games. And the spectators are usually the family and supporters of those of us performing. There generally is not too many outside people coming to games and that makes the games rather small especially compared to the games in Washington and other places where there is more of a strong hold of Scottish folk.

01 February 2009

My Heart's in the Hielands

Ah, haggis. The one true meat that never goes out of style. Haggis is very rare as they say since as stories put it, the haggis only come out once a year around the full moon closest to January 25.

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to experience my rich heritage of Scottish roots. January is the birth month for the famous Scottish poet, Rabbie Burns. This year marks his 250 year anniversary of his birthdate on 25.

I recently joined the Calendonian society as well as the Scottish country dance branch. So now I am wonderfully plugged into the world of Scottish events, tales, meetings, dancing, and much more. It is a lively group. The Scottish country dancing class hosted a Burns night, which happens annually for any true Scottish who celebrates such important dates as Rabbie's birthdate. I had a blast and it by far exceeded my expectations for a real celebration.

After we all assembled into the large room in a quaint hall with a fake fireplace and chandlers, the haggis procession commenced. A piper came into the hall playing a sweet melody while the haggis barer followed carrying the plate of haggis, who was about 9 inches in length and 3 inches in width. When the piper and haggis barer had proceeded through the hall and to the front where the other important delegates for the haggis procession stood. The piper and haggis barer received a shot of whiskey. Some prayers were said over the haggis. And then a group prayer led by the piper toasting to the haggis was done. After this, the haggis was stabbed with a knife! And thus, concluded the haggis procession and toasting.

After a delicious meal of lamb stew, yum, yum, more toasting was done. The food was superb. And I had a wee bit of haggis that was so good. People truly don't know what they are missing out if they give up the opportunity to eat a mixture of liver, bladder, heart, kidney and such from a sheep! It is quite good contrary to public opinion.

The toasting was done in this format. First we toasted to the President of United States. Then we toasted "God save our Queen." Then we toasted to the lassies. And then toasted to the laddies. Several small performances of dance, song, and recitation of Rabbie's poems were read/performed.

The last part of the evening program was a circle song. Where everyone stood in a large circle (there was 60 some people present) holding hands. The song Auld Lang Syne was sung. It was quite beautiful and moving as our voices raised together in unison and harmony.

The real fun then began! The Celidh!! The highland fling! We were dancing and skipping being merry on the floor. It was so much fun. The dances are cute. Sadly, there are more females than males. So the couple ratio is way off. Tis a sad thing because guys don't know what they are missing out on... with all of the fun. I was completely worn out by the time I left but still charged with energy and joy. The music is truly the sweet melodies of my soul and inner being.

The evening is what I call a real celebration in every respects. And yes, everyone was dressed in their finery. Most of the gentlemen were in kilts. The women wear a kind of Reniassance kind of clothing with tartan shashes. I wore a tartan skirt, which some others did too. It is nice to know some traditions are still being continued. Espeically unique and ones such as these honoring the great Haggis and Rabbie Burns.

19 January 2009

The Moment

Perched on rocky outcrop
Sentinel watchful
Sweeping valley below
Northern harrier sentinel
Guardian to mountain Spirit
Preserver of Lifeway

24 November 2008

Tai Ch'i Walkabout

A few weeks ago several members of my Quang Ping Yang style tai ch'i group, along with our instructor and a naturalist, went on a walkabout combining tai ch'i and hiking. Our destination was the Cathedral Rocks in the McDowell Mountain Preserve, which is way North outside of the city above Scottsdale.

Tis was a glorious day for a hike. The sun was out but not too intense, the air cool, and a fine breeze that would shift through now and then. We started at about 1430 hours as this was an afternoon/sunset adventure.

So our lively group of twelve went on our way through the desert surrounded by wondrous desert life. Our extraordinary naturalist would stop now and then and talk about something a long the trail about plants and some birds. Quite fascinating. As this is not my childhood natural habitat, I lack in the acute awareness of the different functions that the desert holds. And the more I continue to learn about the desert, the more I am amazed and in awe.

One of the biggest fascinations of our walkabout/hike was the giant Saguaros. They hold a certain aura of strength and majestic presence that only one can truly feel when standing amidst their shadows.

Also, very tragically we found one chopped down. Pictures were taken and a couple volunteered to report to the authorities. It is illegal to cut down a saguaro. If one is in an inconvenient area, by law, the Saguaros must be transplanted to a different location with no harm coming to them. We have no idea why one was so cruelly chopped down and just left there. The only hint suggested was the power lines but the lines are so high up that it would be impossible for the Saguaro to even be in the way.

And lo, after much hiking our destination came into sight. Ahead were the rocks.

The Cathedral Rocks are two large rocks amidst the cluster of rocks which lean into each other creating this opening overlooking the desert. We came at the perfect hour where the sun was starting to sink lower in the sky. And thus, creating shafts of light streaking through.

We picked our places and commenced to do Tai ch'i moves out in the desert surrounded by the glories of the natural world. The vistas were grand, especially looking northward.

Our instruction for the homeward bound journey was a walking meditation. It seemed rather fitting. Our walkabout to the Cathedral rocks were full of jubilee and cheer as we all were talking, listening, observing the desert. Now it was time for a more introspective nature to be reflected on. And so we went more quietly than before. There were times of comment and spoken thoughts, listening and observing.

The colors of the desert in the continuous cycles of each passing moment offered a renewed outlook. The evening was upon us and we continued. There is definitely something about twilight (both morning and evening hours) when in the desert. Each offering a gift to share. The setting sun casts shadows and changing light. And then the coyotes started to yip, yip and then a chorus of howls. Some longer than others. So beautiful being surrounded by the stillness settling, pierced by the symphony of voices rising up to send greetings to mother earth.
The stars came out and the sky turned aqua and then midnight to darkness. Off in the distance was the lights of the mass metropolis that we all call home. But home is the desert where feet tread the dusty floors surrounded by the life that waits and whispers to teach us. Pause, listen, watch and you will know.