SnowBird Diaries
Zeno's Paradox
Tue, 28 Feb 2006 18:24:04 -0800
Dear John,

We are savoring our last weeks in the Colorado Desert (yes, that's what the extension of the Sonoran Desert in S. Cal is called) before going east. Each week, after going up to the Indio/Palm Desert Area to buy organic food, we find ourselves returning again and again to Yaqui Wells in Anza Borrego.

Usually, after we've been in one area for a while, Bill reaches the point where he says he has painted all the things that he has the skill to tackle and he wants to move on. But Yaqui Wells is becoming the embodiment of Zeno's Paradox. The more time we spend there the further I am from feeling we have seen it all and are ready to move on. It's extraordinary, since one's first impression is likely to be that there is very little special there!

It is well marked on all the maps, yet so easy to miss the entrance when actually driving by. I suppose the initial attraction to stop and check it out is the history of the seep itself and the story of the characters recorded as being associated with it. Any place in the desert where there is water, if even cryptically hidden away, is alluring. But then, after checking out the "well" area, the deeply shaded interiors of the island-like ironwood tree ecosystems and their wildlife capture one - the phainopeplas, northern mocking birds, ladderbacked woodpeckers, ash-throated flycatchers, thrashers, quail, mice, rabbits, lizards and the marvelous red tangles of mistletoe etc. etc.

Then one starts up the road in the blinding sun and there one is dazzled by the varieties of saltbushes, cactus (at least four types of cholla, the ground-hugging opuntia. mammillarias -starting to bloom their little modest light pink treasures- echinocactus clumps on the slopes, then agaves and ocotillos on the better drained sites, and everywhere the creosotes, encellia, lotebushes, jojoba, chuparosa (one of the few shrubs blooming in spite of the low rainfall this winter). Then the road drops down to cross a wash and one is lured out on the sandy byways to wander among the fantastically knarled and twisted weeping-willow-shaped chilopsis groups with a carpet of fallen pods, mesquites, catclaw acacia, a few palo verde and occasional blooming badderpods.

Little quick-moving birds I can't identify and rodents scuttled between shrub clusters, and a flock of doves suddenly takes to the air startling me.

Everywhere the brilliant, tall, yellow-orange dead grasses still left from last year's rainy excesses fill in the spaces between the other vegetation. Every bare sandy spot, on close examination, is discovered to have those extensive nitrogen-fixing bacterial mats, so that one is loathe to set down a foot for fear if destroying some life-giving essential.

I begin my walk with my earphones on so I can pursue my language lessons. But too bad for my study objectives if I momentarily lift my eyes from the stony path to catch a view of sun and shadow moving across the mountains surrounding the valley on all sides - in no time I am in a trance, my pace has slowed to a crawl, every half foot forward so filled with marvelous living and dead shapes, like a tide pool, I am unable to make any progress forward or keep track of the lesson on my tape. I am lost in the marvelous diversity of it all.

Alas, the gradually rising temperatures will finally force us eastward and eventually north. I suppose with the rapidly warming climate the year will come when we will no longer able to come here at all, so sensitive have we become to temperature above 80 degrees.

Love, H