Red Is The Color

My regular hiking shoes are olive green. Here is a picture of them:

This photo is not a cruel joke on those with red-green color blindness. Rather, it’s a testament to the tenacity of the red dust that erodes from the little red stones that fall from the massive red rocks that surround and define the Sedona region, the lion’s share of their visible vertical height composed of iron-rich Schnebly Hill Sandstone. As you hike about the countryside here, red dominates the visual field, clearly, though there is also more green than I would have predicted given the dry climate, with chlorophyll evident in both the expected desert cacti and agave and yucca and such, and from surprisingly diverse and robust communities of trees in the many protected forest wilderness regions. There are also white, yellow, blue and grey bands in the rocks, but their narrow vertical faces really just make the dominant red seem more, well, dominant.

The red rocks tend to make one notice other reds, too, most especially those evident around sunrise and sunset:

In between the big scenery formations and the dust that coats everything, there’s plenty of smaller, broken red rocks too, in transition. They are helped along on their journey back to particulate state by wind and rain and lichens, some of which seem to be notably friendly:

The wildlife gets involved in the red palette too. I’ve put up four bird-feeders around our property. The first guest that arrived at the one outside my office window was this handsome fellow (sorry for the blurry shot):

I had always thought it was kind of dumb that the National Football League team based in the Phoenix metro areas kept the name “Cardinals” after they moved from Missouri, since I never associated that particular species with Arizona. But here I am, and here they are. Learn something new every day!

Red comes indoors, too, not only on our shoes. The wooden floors in our house are reddish, even without a coating of dust from outdoors. And yesterday, we had the first chilly and rainy day since moving into the new digs. So we created our own additional red ambience while staying roasty toasty under our blankets:

I was staring into that fire soon after I made it, and the family iPod queued up a much-loved song, “Red” by Jarboe, from her 1991 debut solo album, Thirteen Masks. We’ve been listening to Jarboe a lot of late, since watching the outstanding documentary Where Does A Body End?, about her former band, Swans. I learned more and gained more useful perspective about a band I adore from Jarboe’s interviews than I did from anything else in the film. She’s a brilliant and thoughtful artist, and also a fellow native Southerner, from the other major region of the country where everything turns red eventually, though it’s a product of sticky clay there, rather than adhesive dust. I associate that form of red earth with my father’s home country, in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, where I used to romp and stomp about along creeks and in woods that left their ferrous marks on everything that happened to touch ground around them.

At bottom line, Jarboe’s early song was just so very perfect for the moment and the mood here. It sounded great. It felt right. I loved it, again, all these years on from acquiring that album way back when we lived in Idaho, with a baby crawling about the house, who’s now pushing 30 years old. The title of this post is the first line of the lyrics from “Red;” the full text with explanatory annotations by Jarboe are available at her website, here. She describes the song’s meaning as “deliberately intense, disturbing, perverse.” It was produced and mixed by Jim “Foetus” Thirlwell, another long-time favorite musical genius. I’ve embedded the song below so you can spin it, and I commend it to you, strongly, along with the rest of Jarboe’s still-evolving and always-challenging catalog. You’re better red . . .


Setting Up and Settling In

We closed out our Des Moines apartment and drove out of Iowa on October 22. On November 27, our moving truck arrived, and we and all of our stuff spent our first night together in our new home in the Village of Oak Creek, just south of Sedona, Arizona. So our limbo hiatus period (including finding, buying, and closing on a new house) was 36 days long, far shorter than we had expected it to be, which is deeply pleasing. We’ve got all of the boxes unpacked now, most of the furniture placed (except for some new things we have on order), and are at the art-hanging stage of the process. It’s conceptually possible that we’ll be past the setting up phase this week, so that we can get on with the settling in phase. Ahhhh!

While our focus has primarily been on getting into the house, we have continued to explore and have adventures and appreciate our new surroundings. Of particular note since my last photo report, our experiences have included:

  • Discovering that the javalinas (collared peccaries) that we were seeing in and around the yard at our temporary AirBnB in Sedona were actually living in the crawl space under our house!
  • Hiking the Transept Trail near our new house, from which we can easily look down onto our neighborhood from atop the rocks north of it.
  • Hiking up to the top of Bear Mountain, one of the more strenuous walks we’ve done in a long, long time, with some hairy hand-work, slippery screes, cactus-lined chutes, and other challenges, all worth the incredible views all along the trail, especially at the summit.

I’ve captured pictures of those and other activities in a photo album, as one does, if one is me. You can click on one of my suggested contributions to home decor (below) to see the full gallery. I suspect that when I post a final “house set up, family settled in” album, this particular display may be subject to change. Unless Marcia never turns around at the sink, anyway.

I think my Saturn V model looks great in the dining room!!

Ten More Days in Sedona

Ten days ago, I wrote the following sentence regarding our new life in and around Sedona, Arizona: “As the region takes on more of a home feel, and less of a vacation vibe, I know that my photographer’s reflex will eventually relax a bit, but for now, I just can’t stop snapping the crazy beautiful scenes around me.”

Well, it was optimistic of me to think that I’d soon reach such a blasé attitude about my surroundings, and I continue to snap away as new vistas and sites present themselves to me, many times each day. We have continued to hike every day (even in what passes for bad weather locally, but which would have been considered glorious autumn days in Iowa at this time of the year), revisiting trails that have already become favorites, and exploring new reaches and branches in the crazy huge network of walking paths hereabouts. Katelin has been here the past three days, visiting from Las Vegas, so it’s been lovely to have her join us on our treks as well, as well as for a day trip over to Cottonwood and historic Jerome, far up Mingus Mountain.

We’ve also been relishing the local wildlife, different from anyplace we’ve ever lived before. We hear coyotes wailing most nights, and saw one on a trail one afternoon. We’ve also had a couple of encounters with a herd of javalinas (a.k.a. collared peccaries) that live in our neighborhood, watched a mule deer scale a ridiculously steep rock wall as we hiked, and gloried in birds beyond measure everywhere we look. I’ve already ID’ed 17 species in my Birds of Arizona guide, several of them while just sitting on the living room couch looking out the window at the yard. That’s good birding!

Things are moving quickly with our home purchase as well. We are scheduled to close on Friday the 20th, and our household goods should be delivered a week later. House set-up might curtail some of our time outdoors for a little while, but we won’t likely be able to stay off the trails for long, given their strong magic and overwhelming allure. If you’d like a peek at our second ten days hereabouts, I’ve compiled my best photos in an album on Flickr, as I usually do. You can click the pic of Marcia and Katelin atop Hole in the Sky Rock below to see the rest of the scenes. I’m sure there will be more to come at some point. Probably sooner rather than later, knowing me!


Ten Days In

Since yesterday’s Special Election Selection playlist may still be relevant for a least a few more days, I thought about doing an updated list this afternoon featuring songs about patience and waiting and time not hurrying on. But as I started working on it, I decided that it wasn’t really making the time pass any faster, nor making me feel any better. Scratch that.

So instead I started going through the photos I’ve taken during our first ten days here in Sedona, and organizing them into an album. As the region takes on more of a home feel, and less of a vacation vibe, I know that my photographer’s reflex will eventually relax a bit, but for now, I just can’t stop snapping the crazy beautiful scenes around me.

We’ve made the most of the past fortnight, even beyond buying a new house, with my pedometer telling me that we’ve walked about 75 miles since arriving. We’ve climbed up some rocks and mountains and ambled down into some canyons and washes, and I took a solo trek one morning to find a “hidden” cave high above a fairly well-traveled trail. It was worth the schlep for sure. As were all of the other destinations we’ve visited thus far. We also got lucky, timing-wise, as the deciduous trees in the region seem to be in peak color, adding even more to the already rich regional palette. Wow.

If you’d like to see some of my shots of the various treks we’ve undertaken, click on the photo of the Midgley Bridge over Oak Creek Canyon below, taken this afternoon, during the Golden Hour just before sunset. Sedona sure is a special place. We’re glad to be here!


While the weather has been utterly grotesque lately, Marcia and I have still diligently prioritized our daily perambulations, using online weather resources to find windows of opportunity for fresh air and foot work whenever they open. My pedometer tells me that we’ve managed to hoof it at least five miles on 26 of the past 30 days, which has been a key component of our mental and physical health program since the dawn of the dread. Whenever we are able, we head way out into the countryside for our walks to avoid the more cavalier citizens in our community who think social distancing is for sissies, and masks (or the lack thereof) are for political purposes. But occasionally the rain-free time available for walking is brief enough that we just have to head out from home, walking our own neighborhood. We always go out with face coverings, are always respectful of others’ personal spaces, and quickly move defensively when we encounter those who just blither up on us, obliviously. It has certainly been nice to see spring properly sprung over the past month, at least in terms of leafage and greenery, if not in terms of balmy air and sunshine. As always, I snap scenes that capture my attention, and as usual, I share some of them with you below. While the trails themselves aren’t happy, it makes us more so when we walk them. (Note: pics can be clicked for full-size viewing).

Outside Cats

A couple of weeks ago, I published a post inspired by the Jethro Tull song “Inside,” sharing a collection of images shot from within the confines of our apartment as we sheltered in place. Today I heard another song that seemed apt for our times, and served as inspiration for a different set of photos: “Outside Cats (We Are Already In Hell)” by The Wasted. It’s darker fare, as is much of the canon penned by its creator, Stephen Gaylord. When I left Albany, I included Steve and his various bands in my “things I will miss most” list, noting:

Stephen Gaylord writes deeply-emotional songs about often-flawed individuals, and his work is frequently rooted in the rural culture of his native Kinderhook and its environs. He has offered these riveting compositions onstage hereabouts for the better part of two decades with Beef, The Wasted, and as a solo artist (under the pseudonym Gay Tastee), and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone write or sing music that hurts as good as his does. Marcia and I both count his heart-wrenching “Beautiful Brand New” among our favorite songs, ever, and Beef’s “Spavid Story” provides the greatest description of the creative urge to rock that I’ve ever heard, including the classic couplet: “We never listened to the reasons why it didn’t sound right / We was fuckin’ around on a Friday night.” If I had to pick a single album to stand as the soundtrack to my 18 years in Upstate New York, there is no doubt that it would be The Wasted’s We Are Already in Hell, a loosely-conceptual masterpiece of insightful lyrics and brilliant riffs, featuring a killer performance by the band (Gaylord, Kelly Murphy, Dave Reynolds) from soup to nuts. I will never hear this record without being transported back to a place where “there’s a certain shade of red the weeds down by the creeks will get between the Catskills and the Berkshire hills / and if you’re from down here you shouldn’t need to ask if it’s a theme park or a labor camp.”


Here are the lyrics to “Outside Cats,” if you’d like to sing along:

skipped out when he figured out that we ain’t but
specks of shit in the universe
left behind an empty vodka bottle
with a poorly written note inside
for leaving me with my moron mother
in the ignorance of indigence
and everything I learned from someone else
well bred well read enough to know the difference
that we are already in hell

and they don’t come and go like outside cats
all the priests and the teachers
they could never answer that
once we’re all meditating mendicants
who’s gonna wanna shovel all our shit
and set the table so I can set and think
about dead presidents and philosopher kings
and how they’re killing each other
while the food runs out
and the choirs of street urchins sing
that we are already in hell

It feels like that sometimes these days, doesn’t it? Still and all, one of the ways that Marcia and I try to keep the hellish overtones at bay is by taking a daily walk or two, turning ourselves into outside cats, meow meow meow. We always go out masked, and generally we head way out into the countryside to get away from the blithering idiots who congregate on the city paths and trails around our apartment, unmasked, disrespectful of personal space, unwanted vectors for possible contagion. Bad neighbors! Boo!

As always, I snap pictures when I ramble. So here’s a sample of our outside views from corona time, appreciating the beauty, sounds and smells of nature, perhaps more so than we ever have before. I’ve also been converting these and other recent images into new headers for the website, as the old photos up there had gotten stale for me, whether or not you actually noticed them there! (Note: The horse photo is Marcia’s. We applauded them for their excellent social distancing).