Tulip Rock Picture of the Week

Tulip Rock - A formation that I passed on the Grotto Trail that looks like a tulip to me.
Tulip Rock – A formation I passed on the Grotto Trail that looks like a tulip to me.

One of my loyal readers commented that she couldn’t see the rock creatures like me. If you’re like her, that’s ok. Maybe your mind isn’t wound up like mine, or you’re not on the same prescriptions. Whatever the difference is, I’m simply trying to show you the world as I see it.

This week, I have another Rorschach test for you. It’s a picture of a second remarkable formation I found while hiking the Grotto Trail. I call it Tulip Rock because I think it looks like a flower. It could be a rosebud, a daisy, or a dew-covered morning poppy. Don’t see it? As long as you don’t see the Prince of Darkness who’s come to cast humanity into eternal damnation, you’re alright. If that were the case, I’d suggest you consider a change of meds.

When I composed this image, I wanted to show a couple of things. The first is that most of the hoodoos in Chiricahua don’t look like sculptures; they’re ordinary. That uniqueness makes the formations like this and last week even more special. I found two examples (there are more) on my short hike on the Grotto Trail. Imagine the images I’d have if I had visited the Chiricahuas as a younger man.

The other thing that I wanted to show is the background. The higher peaks of this range are along the horizon, including the 9700-foot Chiricahua Peak. As you can see in this image taken in late March, they are still snow-covered. They’re part of the Coronado National Forest—sometimes called the Sky Islands. The forest isn’t contiguous—it includes several southeastern ranges separated by broad basins. I’m not aware of another forest like it in the United States. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

You can see a larger version of Tulip Rock on its Web Page by clicking here. Come back next week when we finally make it to the Grotto—a four-pillar room with a rock roof.

Jeff Goggin

It’s painful to type these words. Jeff Goggin—the other half of the Ballast Brothers Racing Team—died Thursday a week ago (7 April 2022). He was the last surviving family member and lived alone in the family’s Scottsdale home. Jeff’s mother lost a long degenerative battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s still untreatable. Several years ago, he told me that he was starting to show the same symptoms. Being the insanely practical man we knew, he ended his life to spare himself further suffering while he could still make his own decisions. Jeff is survived by his estranged partner, Paula Hoff.

Jeff was a brilliant, caring, funny man who loved good music, sick jokes, fast cars, fine art, a good scotch, and pretty women. Queen Anne and I miss the jerk.

Till Next Time


Owl See You Later Life in Congress

We’ve never lived in a house that was previously owned before and after living here for a couple of years, I’m convinced that this one is haunted—or at the very least it has a poltergeist. Our house constantly talks to us. The doors squeak, the floors creak, and there are strange noises coming from inside the walls. We’ve put rocks at all the doors to keep them from opening or closing on their own. It gets worse at night after we turn off the TV and the house goes dark. For the first couple of months, one of us would be startled awake and shout, “What was that?” After getting out of bed to investigate—and I’m always the designated detective—I hopelessly search for the noise’s source. We’ve gotten used to much of it now and mostly ignore the strange sounds.

That was until the other night when I woke to what sounded like scuffling on the other side of the headboard. As I laid there trying to decide if the noise was real or if it was part of my dreams, it happened again, and I thought, “There’s something going on outside.” It was 3:00 am and my brain began cataloging all the possible causes for a noise like that. Could it be a coyote cornering a rabbit against the house? Was there a javelina rooting in the dirt? What if it’s a mountain lion? By the time I listed all the scenarios, the hooting started. I suspected that the cause of the racket was an owl. Now that I was pretty sure it wasn’t a lion, I could be brave enough to get up and take a look.

I’ve been on recon missions like this before. I know that I can’t see anything in the dark; especially on a moonless night. That’s why we have dozens of Pelican flashlights all over the house. I also know that if you turn the light on while inside the screen door, all you get is a well-lit close-up of the screen. Finally, I know that you have to wait to turn on the light until you’re ready for it, otherwise your prey will see you moving and they run-off. You get bits of wisdom like this from experience; lots and lots of experience.

I sat up and grabbed a flashlight from my nightstand drawer and tiptoed to the front door. Since the nights are very quiet out here, I purposefully opened the front door and gingerly slipped through the screen door. If there was an owl, the first place to look would be on the TV antenna, and there is only one spot on the front porch where you can see it. That spot is the outmost right corner, so I cautiously slipped into place and looked toward the aerial and then turned on the flashlight. Staring back at me were two pterodactyl sized great horned owls sitting at opposite ends of the antenna like it was a teeter-totter. To my surprise, they didn’t fly away. Instead, they stared at the light while shifting their heads in a circular motion. They were trying to figure out the light.

“Oh! Anne has to see this,” I thought and slipped back into the house to wake her. Now, this is the dangerous part because if I’m not careful, I could lose a limb … or worse. Because it’s summer, she was sleeping without covers in all of her natural beauty. I grasped her ankle which was beyond the reach of her claws and gently squeezed while I hushed her. “Huh … what?” she uttered as she woke. I whispered about the owls and how she should come and see. Her sleepiness turned to excitement as she followed me outside. I guided her into the spot and then turned on the flashlight. The owls were gone. They must have flown away when I went inside. I assured her that they were real and they were huge and they made a racket when they landed on the pole. She was disappointed that she didn’t get to see them. Then from my neighbor’s front porch, I heard John’s voice ask, “Hey! What’s all the commotion about?”

Until next time — jw

It Is No More … It Ceases To Exist … Rest in peace, Harvy.

The months before we married, my ex-wife bought a 59-cent Schefflera from Berridge Nursery as an apartment decoration. It came in a green plastic pint container and was less than six inches tall with the same number of shoots having the characteristic radial leaf pattern. She put it on the counter under the kitchen window so it could get enough light. Her cat, Frodo—the contemptuous animal cat—ate half of the tiny plant’s leaves at night. It would have made sense for her to toss the plant and run down the street to buy another, but she scolded the cat and moved the half-eaten plant to a safer place.

Ten years passed, and my ex and I went our separate ways. When we divided the house, I got custody of the Schefflera. By now, it was a waist-high shrubbery living in a large pot. When I moved into my condo, I put it at the end of my couch by French doors. It looked good there. Even when Queen Anne moved in, she agreed and promptly named it Harvey, which was how she marked her territory. Between the high ceilings and southern exposure, Harvey continued to grow. Like kids and shoes, we constantly re-potted him. He rose to eight feet. When we sat at that end of the couch, his overhead leaves would shade us.

After another decade, we wanted a house, and as we looked for a place, one of our considerations was where to put Harvey. He needed space. With the help of a realtor, we found a home only five miles away, and after navigating all the paperwork, we hired movers to schlep our crap to the new house. Harvey was among the last to go, so he was in someone’s pick-up truck. We didn’t trust him with the movers, but as I followed behind, I watched in horror as the forty-five-mile-an-hour wind began to shred his leaves. He looked like a tornado victim when we put him in the new house. He went into shock, and the taller branches were wind-burnt, so we pruned and nursed him. He managed to survive, but he was forever stunted.

The next time Queen Anne had her seven-year itch, we were wiser. We wrapped Harvey in a sheet on this move and put him inside the moving truck. He didn’t go into shock, and he made it without damage. He was a bit stubbier but had new growth each year. We found a spot for him in the family room at the end of the couch, where he watched TV and listened to music with us for another seven years.

Our latest move was two years ago—to Congress and retirement. By now, we were old hands moving our pygmy tree. Even though we stayed in temporary housing for a month, Harvey took his place at the couch’s end and stood proudly when we settled in. As we neared our Alaska Trip, he looked scraggly, and we worried he wouldn’t make it, so Anne found a plant-sitter to look after Harvey and his siblings. Before we left, we moved everyone to the dining room, where the light was better and not as warm. The plant-sitters did an excellent job, and all the plants survived the summer without us.

Even though we’ve stayed home this year, we haven’t been as lucky. With the porch and large Palo Verde tree out front, the light in the living room is marginal. We’ve also been closing the blinds to manage the summer heat, which means less light. Harvey started losing leaves. We moved him to the dining room and in front of the guest bedroom’s north-facing window to get more light. Anne has rooted in the soil, trying to aerate it. His last leaf fell off on Tuesday. I think he’s root-bound and has slowly drowned. He looks like the summer mesquite—just leafless branches. I’m afraid our forty-five-year-old living room centerpiece has gone to the great salad bar in the sky. I suggested to Anne that we throw in the towel and replace him.

She turned, scowled, and barked, “He’s not dead … he’s merely resting his eyes.”

Till then … jw