The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Yellowstone’s geyser basins; bubbling, spounting, spewing, steaming, gurgling, roaring, scalding, shrieking and stinking. You walk along paths and boardwalks past crystal clear pools, bubbling mud pots, scalding springs and screaming steam vents. It might be a light warm spray of breeze blown mist from Old Faithful that dampens your skin, the steam heat from a bubbling pool, the wail of steam from a vent that pierces your ears, the noxious sulfuric smell of a mud pot or the bright, brilliant azure of a pool or the multicolored thermophiles, heat loving bacteria that thrive in an environment that flash cooks any other living thing. The geyser basins are a varietal stimulus to the senses.

Squeezed into two square miles of the Upper Geyser Basin are one fifth of the world’s geysers. It’s the home of the one and only star of the spouting show, Old Faithful which erupts not quite like clockwork but pretty darn close for a hydrogeological phenomenon. Being a celebrity she can be capricious about when she chooses to repeat her performance. It might be 35 minutes or it might be two hours but when showtime arrives Old Faithful leaves the standing room only crowd oohing and awing. More about Old Faithful later.

Upper Geyser Basin

Steam rises from Upper Geyser Basin   Canon EOS 60D   1/400 sec. f/11 79mm  ISO 100

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Imagine taking your car into the shop.  You know the “shop?” The shop is the generic name for the place that takes temporary possession of your car and permanent possession of the contents of your wallet. Your car is running in fits and starts so you take it to the shop. The mechanic tells you that he’d like to start by changing the oil and, “we’ll see what happens from there.” Okay, you tell him with a little tremble of doubt in your voice.

You bring the car home and nothing’s fixed and so you bring it back. “Let’s try flushing out the transmission and if that doesn’t work we’ll change out the plugs.”  

“Okay, you’re the expert, let’s do it.”

Couple days later and you’re back at the mechanic who, with a bewildered scratch of his head, offers, “Well let’s hook it up to the diagnostic and see what’s going on.”

“Huh? Why didn’t we do that from the start?”

Most mechanics don’t work that way and those that do usually find themselves in another line of work. Normally they do a diagnostic at the start, find the root cause and fix it. If they didn’t follow that protocol you’d be outraged. Doesn’t it seem reasonable to expect the same treatment when something in your own physical body goes a little south?

If your healthcare is in the hands of Kaiser Permanente that isn’t necessarily the case. Take my shoulder – please.

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When nature drew up her blueprint for Yellowstone she included a wealth of wonders. Would you like waterfalls? We have hundreds. Rivers? Aplenty.  Wildlife? A magnificent lake? You’ve got ’em. Canyons, geysers, hot springs, forests and sprawling valleys tucked beautifully into majestic peaks? Yeah, we got those too. About the only missing ingredient is an ocean.

Cora and I entered the vast park from the south, the west and the north and still only scratched the surface. From the parkside town of West Yellowstone we explored the Gibbon River.

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To a large segment of the American public today is a dark, if not the darkest, day of the year. Today is the Monday following the Super Bowl marking the end of the football season and about a six month drought until the beginning of exhibition games in midsummer – it’s the sports equivalent of the end of days. Many will satiate their sports drought with basketball or hockey or the impending advent of baseball. Others will weep over the dark season and go through severe withdrawal and depression, satisfied briefly by player trades and the college draft.  The final outcome of the game has given the people of New England a slight celebratory reprieve but once the shine wears off they too will descend into their athletic apocalypse.

Today is also the day that America will suffer an epidemic of declared illnesses ranging from sore throats, to coughs to pulled muscles to back spasms to the ever convenient “under the weather” – about 17 million of them. In an amazing fluke that would normally stump medical science all of these different claimed ailments can be traced to the same cause – overdoses.  A national overdose of pizza, hot dogs, bean dip and a mishmash of alcoholic beverages. There is no scientific name for this epidemic, just the common designation – Super Sick Monday, or “I had too much to eat/drink yesterday.”

nfl stadium field full with crowd watching the game during daytime

Photo by Robert Villalta on

In Los Angeles, home of the losing team, a fair number of those calling in sick are actually healthy. They’re just observing a one day period of mourning oftentimes with more alcohol. 

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We’re drought prone here in California and there are some years when we’re under water restriction.  Now I understand that there’s a fellow over on the other side of the country who doesn’t buy that whole drought thing and he’s put forth the proposition that the problem with California is that we keep diverting rivers so that they flow into the ocean – shame on us.

Well despite that interesting notion I’ve decided to err on the side of droughts so we’ve let the lawn die and we’ve been turning over our garden to succulents and drought tolerant plants. Not only less water but less maintenance.

This week I cruised the garden and discovered that drought tolerant not only doesn’t mean boring it can mean colorful and vibrant. Continue reading

Last weekend Cora and I attended the Golden Gate Kennel Club dog show. It’s an annual pilgrimage for us that began many years ago when our children were still, well, children. The show is held every year in a drafty arena in Daly City, just south of San Francisco called the Cow Palace.

The Cow Palace is a venerable old place that was completed in 1941.  In it’s salad days the Cow Palace was THE Bay Area arena, hosting professional sports, the Ringling Brothers Circus and major concerts.  The old palace has been home to livestock expositions, WWF wrestling and two Republican National Conventions which, depending on your point of view, could all three be considered coequal events. Nowadays the Cow Palace is usually empty save for the the ghosts of its glory days. Gone are the sports teams, the music headliners and even the politicians which goes to prove that every cloud does have a silver lining. One of the holdovers is the GGKC’s annual dog show. 

So Cora and I bundled up against the drafts that blow into and swirl around the big old place and we went to the dogs. Over the past 12 or so years we’ve gone to the dog show to connect with our friend who we got our Gordon Setters, Rainey and Lexi from. We don’t really go to watch the conformation; dogs getting trotted around and then prodded and inspected by a judge. We haven’t the foggiest idea what the judges are looking for. It is fun to watch the obedience competitions and to watch a really cool event called flyball (To see what flyball is all about follow the link to  World of FlyBall dogs 2.)

The Golden Gate show is a benched show which means that the dogs are required to be present for the duration of the show on assigned benches so that spectators can get up close and personal with the dogs, their handlers, owners and breeders. It’s a good place to get information from the various booths as well as all sorts of information on doggy stuff from food to grooming supplies to license plate frames and any number of googaws  trinkets and absolute nonsense that show off your favorite breed.  Most of all it’s a pleasant afternoon given to canine schmoozing. 

For me it was also a chance to photograph that four legged creation that man couldn’t measure up to on his best day. Continue reading

The deluges are done for a while and there’s a strange bright ball in the sky. With the welcome appearance of that odd, warm orb I did a photo tour of the yard.  Amid all the happy flowers who would have thought that I’d find an interesting subject in our big old cactus.

A Field of Thorns

cactus flat

Canon EOS 60D;  1/1250 sec. f/4.5 39mm;  ISO 100

As anyone who’s dabbled in photography knows it takes a lot of shots to come up with something that you’re happy with. I took a whole lotta shots with a macro lens meaning that I was doing all manner of contortions and getting very close to that big cactus when a sobering thought came to mind, “I hope I don’t fall into this thing.”

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