Either My Truck Was Attacked

by a maniacal baker hurling poppy seeds all over the landscape, or the trees are doing the birds and the bees.

We got half an inch of rain last night (yeah!!!! [happy dance]), most of which fell slowly over 5-6 hours. A million-dollar rain, in other words.  Wind followed as the low pressure system passed. So everything was nice and moist. Slightly tacky. And so my vehicle got attacked by . . . the Pollinator. Continue reading

Lapis Glow of Twilight

The magic moment had arrived, when the evening sky glowed deep, diazo blue, and the stars and moon gleamed silver.

The clouds of day had raced east, chased by the onset of a very strong high-pressure system that also stilled the wind. Although we had gotten snow-dust and not rain, the passing system had scoured out the dust and other things, leaving the air clear, too clear for a colorful sunset. I set out on my evening stroll knowing that once the sun set, we’d lack the displays of rose and gold that had blessed a few nights the previous week. Continue reading

“Bad” Places and Spa History in Germany and Austria

The question came up last week: How do towns get “Bad” in their names and what does it mean? And how recent is it? The answers required more than just a comments-comment, so here are the answers.

The super-condensed version: government interventions, place to bathe, and generally modern (post 1789.) Continue reading

Mary Austin: Writer, Poet, Naturalist

In Familiar Roads, Rodney and Tay get into a mildly warm discussion about whether North American in general and the Southwest in particular can have geni loci, spirits bound to a place, or at least magical things that act as if they are spirits bound to a place. Part of what inspired that little scene was remembering a fragment of Mary Austin’s poem, “Southwest Magic.”

There are no fairy-folk in our Southwest,

The cactus spines would tear their filmy wings,

There’s no dew anywhere for them to drink

And no green grass to make them fairy rings. Continue reading

Harz Mountain Stories

Two years ago, my summer wanderings took me to the Harz Mountains in eastern Germany. As is my habit, I found a couple books of regional folk-lore, and one very detailed sort of “Folk-Lore Road Guide to the Harz.” In German, and no, I’m not up to translating it, at least not at the moment. But once I found a detailed enough map, or could match the locations to where I was going that day, I found a wonderful treasure trove of stories, and patterns. The patterns . . . Very different from what I’d found in the mining areas of Austria. Continue reading

Cattle, by Berta Heart Nance

I was reminded of this poem the other evening. The opening stanzas were used in the beginning of the great PBS Texas history program “Lone Star,” which was based on a book of that title.

by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)

Other states were carved or born
Texas grew from hide and horn.

Other states are long and wide,
Texas is a shaggy hide. Continue reading

Winter Sunrises

The combination of sheets of high clouds from storm systems that miss the Panhandle, plus the southerly track of the sun, have combined to give us amazing sunrises this past week. They incline towards crimson and gold, with splashes of pink in the opposite sky.

The storm tracks have been south of this area, or north. As a result, the moisture and lower clouds remained far away. However, the ice clouds that trail along the sides of the storm track have been a near-constant presence, some days thickening until they form a sheer, milky cover that mutes the afternoon sun and swallows any sunset. Continue reading