Four-Fold Visions of

the American West

Reason Versus Transcendence

from Alaska to New Mexico

January 5, 2018

I grew up in Titusville, Pennsylvania, a town of some 7000 kindly souls, located a hop and a skip south of Erie in the famous Buffalo snow belt. Much has changed in the region since I left town five decades ago, but the snow continues. One weather website currently lists Erie as the second snowiest city in the United States, trailing only Billings, Montana, and edging out such contenders for the crown as Anchorage, Rochester, and Buffalo itself. [i] Just two weeks ago, Erie drew national attention when it recorded 58 inches of snow—2 inches short of five feet—on Chris...

December 24, 2017

In Part I of my story, I wrote of arriving in New Mexico with my wife Carol and my one-year-old son Jake, and there discovering the delights of Christmas in the Land of Enchantment. At the time, I was writing a book about New Mexico, one in which I took on many of the daunting problems facing New Mexicans and proposed new and sometimes controversial solutions to those problems. One such was homelessness. To deeper understand the issue, with Carol and Jake I spent Christmas Eve at Saint Elizabeth Shelter for the Homeless in Santa Fe. We pick up the story upon our arriv...

December 15, 2017

Carol and I moved to New Mexico in 1987. Our only child Jake was born in the village of Corrales three years later. In my book Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West, I wrote about Jake’s first “real” Christmas,” the first that would register “as more than a glow of candlelight in his eyes.” In this blog and the next, I’ll reprise that story, one that began with my ruminations on the scope and character and tragedy of homelessness in the United States, continued with our introduction to the pleasures of Christmas in New Mexico, and en...

December 2, 2017

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet...

                             Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of East and West”

How is the American West different from the

American East? As an insufferable Westie, I’m always on the lookout for books, statistics, surveys, anecdotes, history, quotations, and the like that go beyond simple identifications of West-East differences–that aim instead to show that the West is better than the East. Yes! Take, for example, the fact that the Eas...

November 18, 2017

All the sounds of the earth are like music.

Oscar Hammerstein II  

Sometime around the year 1600, the German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler undertook a study of the motions of the planets. Over the next decade-and-a-half he revolutionized the way astronomers understood the heavens. While every right-thinking star-gazer believed that the planets moved in circles around the Sun, Kepler proved that they travelled in ellipses—slightly squashed circles. Then, in 1618, he worked out the exquisite formula that relates a planet's period, p—the length of time it ta...

November 3, 2017

Horses evolved in North America during the Pliocene Epoch, some 4 to 4.5 million years ago. Superbly adaptable, this subspecies of the genus Equus had, within 2 million years, spread to South America and, by way of the Bering land bridge, to Asia and beyond.

            In the Americas, the horse flourished until 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, when, for reasons that are not clear, the species disappeared. Disease, climate change, and the arrival of meat-eating humans likely played a part. Because the Bering land bridge had become submerged, horses that inhabited Asia were...

October 23, 2017

And so, once more, the ravenous, the vain, and the simple-minded howl at the gates.

We learn, to our great surprise, that Trump and his lickspittles have their eyes on the Arctic. [i] But of course! There are billions to be made there! Billions! Why not! What other measure of ambition is there! Sure, the 10,000-year-long migration of the Porcupine caribou herd will be--well, let's get this out of the way: ENDED! But life goes on, sucker, because there are billions to be made! Billions! The annual migration of the herd to what the Inuvialuit people of northwest Canada c...

September 28, 2017

In a recent post I explained my reasons for opposing the captive breeding of the gravely endangered California condor; and, by extension, my reasons for opposing the imprisonment of any endangered creature whose life in the wild cannot reasonably be duplicated in captivity. “And so, to the obvious,” I concluded:

           If California condors are not bred in captivity, the species may in some dark future year go extinct, to be remembered by those of us who are alive today and by our descendants as a remarkable but unlucky species. Such a...

August 27, 2017

Former Park Resembles Iowa

Vacations Ruined

YOSEMITE, CA—In a move that caught park officials by surprise, Interior Secretary James Watt this morning destroyed Yosemite National Park with an earthquake. Watt ordered the earthquake after President Ronald Reagan directed him to “trim the fat” from the National Park Budget. The Interior Secretary reportedly resisted the move until it became clear that the only alternative was to cancel the Interior Department’s “Your Friend the Bulldozer” film series, now shown in all the nation’s elementary schools.

            According t...

August 11, 2017

A year ago next week, Carol, Jake, and I said goodbye to our beloved golden retriever, Goldie.

            Goldie had been with us for nearly sixteen years. At ten weeks of age she came home to Indian Hills, the unincorporated district a few miles south of Carson City where we live. In the years that followed she and I logged, by my rough calculations, some 5000 miles in the rolling hills and steep-sided canyons that reach west from our home into the Sierra Nevada.

            I took the above photo on an October morning...

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