Wanna hear the lyrics to the song my daughter’s first grade class sings whenever it’s time to gather as an orderly assemblage on the rug?
I found her singing this last night:
Come to the carpet
And use your walking feet
Come to the carpet
Moving to the beat
Come to the carpet
Remember not to shout
Come to the carpet
And use your quiet mouth
As you can see, the great socialization/domestication program of our children has begun. I think we all know that the “carpet” is corporate, capitalist, middle-class America. “Shut your traps, kids. Fall into lockstep. Dial it down. It’s better…over here…on the carpet.”
But Lali told me that while the rest of the class is singing “Come to the Carpet,” she and her friend Evie are singing:
Bum boobee barpet
Booboo boppin’ beep
Bum boobee barpet
Boobin to the beat
Bum boobee barpet
Bebember bopoo bout
Bum boobee barpet
Byboo bybit bouth
She says her teacher doesn’t notice that she’s altered the words.
So eff you, Corporate America.
And now in the days of Standing Rock and downward political spirals, let our voices all together ring out, over pitched roofs and flat roofs, over telephone wires and cell towers, over railyards and air strips, in this refrain:
Bum Boobee Barpet!
And thank you, Lali, for inspiring adults everywhere in their freedom fight against their own childhood grooming.
Do you want to improve your life? Do you know about improving your life? How about some advices on improvement your life?
The preceding three sentences were all examples of very bad introductory hooks. And yet, they are also, in a way, very good hooks for their spectacular vagueness and unusual turns of phrase. This is, in part, why I like teaching ESL writing.
But I promise not to teach you ESL writing here (for now, anyway). No, what I want to impart are some tips and tricks that you may not find on the Internet, where tips and tricks go to breed and grow into underhanded little “life hacks.”
My tips are more like anti-tricks. They won’t make you blindly subscribe to the myth that easier = better. They won’t claim that “This Unbelievable New Trick to Cut an Avocado Will Change Your Life,” and then leave you alone over single-serving guacamole to realize that you saved yourself a mere two seconds, while the gaping abyss of gross meaninglessness in your trick-filled life still looms large (for example).
No, these tricks will in some way make your life more difficult or more controversial. Isn’t that the real byzantine sort of trickery that you truly crave?
I think it is.
Because in the end, the person we most need to trick in life is our own self-sabotaging selves. Human civilization is nothing if not the cumulative record of life hacking. And how has it really worked out for us? Let’s see…
Evidently, it cuts both ways. Now let’s commence:
Tip 1: “False devil” your deviled eggs
“One of the most onerous tasks in life is deviling eggs,” said someone probably once.
Solutions of yore included making small children devil the eggs for you, purchasing them ready-made from a deli, invoking Satan to do his handiwork, or simply not making them at all.
Wrong. Here’s what you do: Soft boil your eggs and dress them with mayo, chives, onion and maybe mustard, as pictured here. Do NOT remove the yolk.
It’s not just that it saves you time, it’s that it will disturb everyone at the party as they are blindsided by the realization of the pointlessness of deviling eggs. They will start to think about all of the other pointless things they do that they take for granted (paperwork, their jobs, social media). They’ll wonder, why did I carve these watermelon wedges into arrows? Why did I fashion this lace with bobbin and needle (I could have used a lace machine!). Why did I clink glasses with twelve people before drinking my champagne?
But these people, briefly on target, are now missing the point. The point is not to conformity and convention with craft and tradition. One includes delight and imagination, the other does not. It’s a fine distinction, embodied in the false-deviled egg.
2. Drop the “th” in your speech.
The interdental fricative is a relatively rare sound in world languages. (There are two “th” sounds in American Standard English -voiced and voiceless, “the” and “this”- if you want to get technical, but who wants to get technical? Not me, it wastes valuable time.)
“Th” sounds bear a low functional load (meaning ditching it rarely interfers with intelligibility), and plenty of English dialects (Irish, Nigerian, Cockney, Carribbean, etc.) don’t even use it.
Bonus: People say English speakers sound like snakes, and this adjustment would makes us sound ever so slightly less like snakes.
This trick won’t actually save you time, because you’ll just substitute “t,” “d,” “v” or “z” for “th,” but it will save you the effort of incessantly sticking your tongue between your teeth.
Note that people will think you’re being weird or pretentious to change your pronunciation so suddenly, which is why this tip might be difficult to implement. Just tell them, “Dis is a personal choice dat I’m making for myself to improve dee life of myself and dose around me.”
#3 Choose a Different Geological Era
Let’s be frank. We have created boof a beautiful and horribly cruel world. To deny dee latter means you’re probably a rich, white person who hasn’t lived very long, or listened to many people not like you.
But one fing you can do, just temporarily, just momentarily, is pretend you’re not here. Or dat “here” is not here. For instance, I can go out into dee New Mexican desert and find geological evidence dat where I now live was once covered by a shallow sea. Dere are places where you can dig in anthills and find prehistoric sharks teef (I know dis because dis is how I spent part of my Labor Day weekend, sifting frough anthills on my knees near Cabezon).
Collectively, we found seven shark’s teef. No joke.
But my point is, all you have to do is look at rock formations. Every striation is a different world, and if you know where to find dee P-T (Permian-Triassic) boundary, anotter era. And when fings get bad you can fink, “Inland sea, hot lava, colossal ferns.” Stuff like dat. You can say “None of dis was even here in dee Cretaceous period,” and “Dere wasn’t even people in dee Mesozoic, which includes Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous, not to mention all of dee otter eras before dat.”
You can take sweet succor in dee knowledge dat not only will you pass away, and everyone you know, but all of humankind and all of dee current land formations as well. Anover world is coming. Worlds cover eachotter in laminate at dee place where you are now standing, and you can just close your eyes and imagine it. Now, doesn’t dat feel better?
Sell all your possessions
Move to Taiwan
Walk some sea cliffs
Renew your library books
Apply for conference funding
Do some push-ups
(Some of dese are more of a to-do list for myself.)
Just remember:”The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life, which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long-run.” Dis from dee ultimate life hacker, Henry David Doreau.
I hope you found some of dis helpful, but not in dee usual way.
Art on wheels. You in art. Careening through the night, smashing into other art (don’t do that).
Adam Wohlwend has worked really hard on his Gallery Exhibit Viewing Apparatuses. He has burned the midnight bulbs in the Mattox Sculpture Center for months now – sawing, piecing, bolting, riveting, pinning, glossing, fitting, stretching, joining, testing (I’m guessing at some of these), and you can tell.
Because look at these beauties. Dainty, sturdy, spindle-legged, fake latex and metal carapaces in pop-art colors, decoratively fenestrated.
The idea (one of them) is that you can view art (and be art) via your own moveable stall / pod / wagon / ark/ apparatus. They aren’t death traps. Step inside!
The point is, you’re supposed to step inside, and this Friday, August 19, from 5-8 p.m., you’ll have your last chance to do just that at UNM’s CFA Downtown Studio. Note that unlike Adam’s Mobile Event Viewing Apparatuses, these pieces are meant to stay in place.
If you wanted to run amok at full speed in one of Adam’s pieces dressed as a giant clam, you should have been at the Civic Plaza (Creative 505) or Santa Fe Railyard (AHA Festival of Progressive Arts), or Taos (Paseo 2015). (Someone did that.)
Those were Mobile Event Viewing Apparatuses; these are Gallery Exhibit Viewing Apparatuses, which means they’re tethered down. But you can still insert yourself, cast your eyes around, and look at stationary “place-holder” art (also created by Adam), or other gallery visitors.
What will that bearded guy with the horn-rimmed glasses be eating? Rugelach? Rice crackers? Will he have a third, fourth, fifth glass of wine? You can see! Through the portholes of the exhibit viewing apparatus. Will that small child obey her mother’s instructions not to touch the contemporary art? What are those people doing on their phones? Texting? Googling? WHAT? You can watch them all from the viewing apparatus, and they won’t know.
The thing is that everything is more magnificent, more significant, when viewed through a frame – eyelet, porthole, or window, your attention is forcibly constricted. And it is mere, glorious attention that can transform objects/scenes from blah to art.
Now, let’s turn to Adam for more insight into his mysterious, multi-hued spying machines (he doesn’t call them that). SH= Spartan Holiday, AW= Adam Wohlwend
SH: So Adam, how do you explain your work to others?
AW: I think a lot of people view contemporary art as inaccessible and elitist. My goal is to create a body of work that can be literally and physically accessible to all people whether they understand the finer points of art history or not. I’m creating interactive sculpture that allows people to become a part of the work through the same investigative senses that get them through their daily lives.
SH: (This sounds good to me, and I vow again to get through my daily life with greater use of my investigative senses, noticing, for instance that, while camping, I just tossed my box of matches into a puddle). Adam, how is your current show related to what you’ve done in the past?
AW: Gallery Exhibit Viewing Apparatuses is directly related to my most recent series of works called Mobile Event Viewing Apparatuses. I’m certainly not trying to trick anyone with the titles.
SH: (It’s true. Adam, wouldn’t do that; he is a nice guy).
AW: Both of these series are pieces of sculpture meant for looking at other works of art. They act as viewing windows, or extensions of the art goer’s body, in order to draw attention to how beautiful and essential the act of viewing art is to the art world. They also take into consideration the social aspect of being at art shows or art events. M.E.V.A.s are for viewing public art events, while G.E.V.A.s are meant specifically for looking at art in a traditional gallery setting.
SH: (MEVAs, GEVAs, MEVAs, GEVAs- It’s good to practice so you can say these acronyms over and over at the show- MEVAs, GEVAs. But out loud I say:) How did you learn to build shit?
AW: My father was an union electrician at an aluminum mill, and my mother, before staying at home with my brother and I, was an apprenticing artist, and designed clothes for the family and local theatrical performances. Because of both of them, I always felt comfortable around materials and tools. I remember watching my family do work on houses, build cars, sod lawns, etc. There was usually a family gathering around these events to help each other out. I learned a lot about materials and processes in college, but I also worked years of low level construction labor jobs where I noted how things were made. Mostly, making objects just seems to make sense to me. I close my eyes and start visualizing how things work. Most of my designs start with my eyes closed. I find simple, obvious, and overlooked interactions to be beautiful, so it fits that these pieces are made through simple, honest means.
SH: (I am so impressed by Adam’s resume of hard-won skills, including, but not limited to, sodding lawns, that I don’t know what to say, and clam up, and blurt something about materials).
What materials are you even working with?
AW: Steel rod, faux latex fabric, bendy plywood, plywood, chrome hardware, casters, linear bearings, cotter pins, water-based high gloss finish.
SH: (Faux-latex?? I wonder, where do I get THAT? And what would I do with it? If I’m honest with myself, I’d probably give it to Adam…)
Adam, what are you going to do next?
AW: I plan on proposing Exhibit Viewing Apparatuses specifically made for existing pieces of art work in a museums permanent collection. Also, I’m considering public apparatuses that can be taken on commutes to work or other city locations. These would be made for specific public interactions like grocery shopping, running errands, simply walking on sidewalks, tandem apparatuses promoting social interaction etc.
Here we stop, because basically what Adam is saying is that you could take a viewing apparatus grocery shopping, and that means everything you see could snap into focus, from banal stacks of colored paperboard and plastic and foil, to art. That box of crackers, that carton of milk…
Meanwhile you would also be art, and fellow shoppers would be like, “Who’s that weirdo inside that exquisite contraption?”
Unless maybe you were at Whole Foods and then they’d say: “Look at that artistic shopper.” Or possibly: “You have to leave our store because you are wrecking our sense of upper-middle-class safety.” Depends on the day, I guess.
The point is, think how your life could be enhanced encountering everything through the window of an Everything Viewing Apparatus.
But for now, let’s just stick to Friday night, August 19. I will be making chocolate raspberry rugelach. You should probably come, so people can enjoy watching you eat it.
And you should probably like Adam’s Facebook page for information on more upcoming fantastical events.
You suspect you have some knowledge, but feel uncertain that it has not just been twisting and turning in your brain, warping to some other kind of different knowledge, without your knowledge.
It’s creepy, that this could happen, but it will eventually leads to more abstract thought or surprise expertise. So, don’t worry– that’s good!
Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge. It’s not a standardized test. Do your best to answer. Don’t just give up after the first one or two–what if this is a test of the perseverence of the human spirit? Or a test to see if you’re a non-test-taker. Remember, sometimes tests that you think are about one thing are actually about something else.
Can you answer the following questions correctly?
Q. 1 It’s 1940 and you’ve just parachuted into rural England. Maybe there’s hay around or mown grass. Whatever it is, the landing went badly and you broke your ankle. You crawl into a nearby ditch and take a concussion-related, pretty disappointed nap. This is when you’re discovered by a farmhand who sees your feet poking out of the hedge. Why didn’t you tuck your feet in the hedge? On your person: 200 pounds, a loaded pistol, and a radio transmitter. Also a thick-as-paint Swedish accent. Oops. You are taken to jail. WHO ARE YOU?
Answer: Gosta Caroli, A WWII era spy
Q. 2 You are in jail, but that’s okay because your guard is bored and playing solitaire with his back towards you. As he moves eights under nines and jacks under queens, you find some rope. While he’s moving tens under jacks and threes under fours, you tie him to a chair. When he’s all tied up, you apologize and escape with a pineapple, a canoe, and a can of sardines. What an unexpected assortment of things to find in a police station, but you can’t complain. Better also steal a motorcycle and motor to the coast with the canoe on your head so you can row to Holland. You fall off your motorcycle and ask a passing motorist to help you toss the canoe over the hedge. Oops. The motorist calls the police and you’re imprisoned again. WHO ARE YOU?
Answer: Gosta Caroli, A WWII era spy (the same one)
Q. You are best friends in the prime of life and you’re also Norwegian. How great it is to be best friends and Norwegian to boot. There’s so much snow, and the flag is so red, blue, and white (mostly red). You, the both of you, have just been deposited via German seaplane in the foggy waters off the Scottish coast. Along with: a rubber dinghy full of things like: wireless transmitter, a couple of bicycles, and sabotage tools/devices. As soon as you land, you turn yourself in to British police because you WANT to be double agents. WHO ARE YOU?
Answer: John Moe and Tor Glad, WWII era spies.
Q. You also just parachuted into the English countryside and landed badly. You sprained your ankle, but the saving grace is you have packed a fashionable, to-the-nines-nothing-suspicious-here suit. Oops, but also a super thick Danish accent. Like plaster. You limp into the town of Willingham (Cambridgeshire), open your mouth, and are seen in your suit. You are arrested on the spot. WHO ARE YOU?
Wulf Schmidt, WWII era spy
How did you do? Not sure? Here’s a scale.
3/4 Pretty Good
Remember, there will always be another Spartan Holiday Test Your Knowledge Quiz and a chance to improve your score. Now I need to go pack for a trip.
Up until May, I enjoyed straining my personal and business relationships by conducting all of my affairs from a flip phone. I made this choice for several reasons: I wanted to keep the Internet off my back when I was in the real world; I liked the non-stop flipping action; I was locked into the world’s shittiest phone contract; and I could use my phone to shock people, particularly fresh-off-the-boat millennials, like my English language students.
“Welcome to America.” I could say and then pause and pretend to painstakingly text someone.
There was nothing “addictive” about my flip phone, other than the satisfying coconut shell sound of it snapping shut, and I knew no one would ever rough me up on campus to rip it out of my hand (unless as a hate crime against flip phones).
Texting took an eternity and bred lavish errors/misunderstandings as I didn’t know where to find the exclamation points or emoticons. But that was okay, because this allowed me to always shift the blame to my flip phone if I said something socially awkward or disturbing or weird. Such as:
I hv all beef France at my house, Do you hv any buns
Whats the guys name again, Justin Beaver?
Using technlgy 2 edit human genome re: heart disease = a really gd idea
In more convoluted situations, instead of texting back, I would call, which really threw people into a tailspin.
Some people acted as if in not keeping pace with human tools, I was crimping the forward momentum style of civilization, breaking some kind of social contract that none of us ever really signed on for. Others simply objected to the musical “ding ding DING ding” tones of my texting, because it was hard to turn off the keyboard sounds. They asked, what was I doing over there, playing a game? And I said that I wished my phone had a game. And then we’d both kind of laugh. (But my laugh was more hearty.)
That’s how I liked it. My texting sounded musical and magical. I was free from the shackles of instant information and overly-porous boundaries between my thoughts and other people’s need to ask me for muffin recipes while I’m having those thoughts. I could discover things for myself, and regale people about an awful restaurant I stumbled upon, instead of always looking for the top-rated “best experience.”
I basked in my ignorance of the overly-mapped, overly-analyzed world like it was the Corsican sun and announced to roomfuls of smartphone users that I was sorry I was late, but I had gotten lost, AGAIN. “This is how we do,” I told my friends, trying (and succeeding?) to sound hip.
Suffice it to say, that no one was as besotted by my flip phone, and everything it stood for (freedom, ignorance, self-reliance, contract entrapment), more than me.
My friend Paul understood because he acquired his first smartphone the same time I got mine. In the beginning, we joked about smudging our new phones (with smudge sticks that neither of us actually had) and he said how he hoped that we weren’t going to become “smartphone assholes.”
“That will NEVER happen to me,” I said.
I ensured it wouldn’t happen to me by refusing to download the Facebook app or my gmail notifications. I vowed to never look at the GPS while driving, only before I left the house. I even considered downloading this make-your-keyboard-function-like-a-typewriter app to make typing even more difficult than it was on my flip phone (Over-The-Top is not touchscreen compatible).
I was doing pretty good at being a happy-go-lucky, smartphone dolt until mid-June when I found myself on an island in the Puget Sound without a car, trying to beat the crowds to a sheepdog show. (I think you see where this is going.)
Google Maps pulled up a walking route, the BEST, most crow-flying-est route, a good mile shorter than the second best route. The satellite view allowed me to see where exactly I should cut left on a dirt path (around a rectangular barn thingy).
It’s true, Maps threw up a few barely noticeable hazard signs that I would be crossing private property, but the signs were minuscule, and why would friendly, helpful Google lead me into peril, so I was like, “Who cares? Let’s see some mother’n sheepherding, motherf’rs!” And I followed that map exactly where it took me.
Some time later, as I was being hemmed against a fence by murderous angus cattle, after I had escaped the barking dogs, and given up on finding an open gate through the security walls of the mega-estate of Misty Isle Farms, I decided I actually did care.
It was while I was planning an escape route over the fence and cow-whispering for my life, and thinking about all of the tall, ginger-haired people who were going to beat me to the sheepdog show and set up their lawn chairs right in front of me if I survived – it was then that I thought: “I AM a smartphone asshole.”
But when I had backed away without incident from the cattle, the panic subsided, and it was not shame I felt, but chilling, successive waves of great and unspeakable power. I had never gotten lost with such technological élan before.
I filed this away and reverted to temperate and responsible smartphone use until last week when it happened again. I was talking with some friends about the draconian atmosphere of working at Disney World, as relayed by my cousin, a former intern at the Animal Kingdom. But I couldn’t remember any of the rules.
This made me feel dull and distraught, so I texted my cousin. By the time she responded, I had ignored half the conversation bumbling around on my phone (at Disney you can only point with two fingers or your whole hand, not one finger. At Disney you are not allowed to tell anyone that anything at Disney is “not real”).
“I’m a smartphone asshole,” I thought later. But then I wondered: Was I a “smartphone asshole” or “an efficient gatherer of crowd-pleasing facts?”
I’m still not sure. It seems like the more knowledge my smartphone feeds me, the less I actually understand of myself and the world around me. The wider the spray of information, the less anything gels. It seems like while my smartphone has saved me from some scrapes, it has air-dropped me right in the thick of others. Which brings me back to that classic quote from Tristram Shandy:
“Intricate are the troubles which the pursuit of this bewitching phantom KNOWLEDGE will bring upon thee.”
“I really enjoy the convenience it offers,” is all he said.
l thought that would be a good campaign slogan for the Smartphone Asshole Resistance movement. We Are Enjoying the Convenience It Offers. Or maybe just: Enjoy the Convenience. Or: Try to Enjoy the Convenience a Little Bit.
If you have tricks to guard against enjoying the convenience too much, please let me know.
SH fizzled out and died a couple of years ago, and for good reason. Somewhere between the death grip of grad school and a painful breakup, I let it drift away. I didn’t feel funny or wise, and the world went limp and gray. Like this, except without all the gold braid:
So I stepped aside. I stopped writing and started teaching. I taught the past progressive and obsessed over the shit-show present perfect. I chugged coffee and cried every day on my bike ride home. I read essays about hunting with falcons, and problems in Pakistani education, and turbo engines versus fuel-injected engines. I read books about Saudi culture and taught English via Bruno Mars. My students made me laugh, but the world was threatened by hate. I felt lonely and old.
I got angry and screamed in my car because it’s the only place you can scream in public. I shivered by a revolving dessert case at the Hotel Congress in Tucson. I ran up volcanoes and down beaches and through snow. I studied Vygotsky. I wrote my comps. I graduated. I shouted gangsta rap at birds on the shores of the Puget Sound. I was cornered by angus cattle. I read the Tao of Physics. I cried at sheepdog shows. I cried at nice people in the English countryside baking drizzle cakes together. I cried at airplanes coming and going over Albuquerque. I cried like I was getting paid to do it (but I wasn’t, according to my income statements).
Somewhere I started seeing my own failings as a door out, to a place that is home, a place we all leave at some point, and wander away from for decades. I saw fear and imagined superiority as the root of all earthly shittiness and distance between people, and realized the thing that was deeply “wrong” with me was also deeply wrong with most everyone of a certain age and culture, and we can choose something else.
Then one day, I was up at dawn, to see the sun rise over the Atlantic and the world was a different planet. The masses were playing Pokemon Go, and falling into acid pools, and punching the air to get stronger. Children with lisps were running around holding toy snakes and trying desperately to hiss. Seals were floating in estuaries with buck teeth (not in this ocean, in other ones). Somewhere gullible people were buying helenite rings “forged” from the molten ash of Mount St. Helens, and men in offices at Boeing were slamming their fists on desks ordering higher monthly production of planes.
Holy hell, I said. Spartan Holiday is back, and there will be no soap boxes here. Just an ode to life, humankind, and the exultant weirdness of the worlds we live in. Cultural oddities, outsider insights, illegal research, interviews, one-offs, and listicles that skim the cream of existence in Albuquerque-America-World. Flower essences, pop culture, ethnomusicology, mayonnaise, children’s melt-downs– everything is fair game.
And so, be kind to each other and yourselves. Leave the world, but come back.
“Money on the wood makes the game go good. Money out of sight causes fights,” said Thomas Merton or someone.
Was there ever a greater mockery of summer than “summer school?” No, there wasn’t.
We have summer school to blame for this very delinquent post on the Rio Grande Bosque. And for most other current reckless behavior in my life (like backing into my driveway wall as I was leaving my house for… summer school.)
But that’s okay, because now instead of a practical, timely, must-see guide to the bosque, I have a nostalgic, too-late-now, retrospective guide to the bosque. My guide will allow you to lament all of those things you didn’t see in the bosque this spring and yearn to see them next year (while also suspecting that this is an impossible dream, and vaguely wanting to die).
One night in the Jemez, my friend Molly spun us a campfire yarn of a famous thru hiker known as “Insane Dwayne” who lives in a canoe in the Everglades surviving on turtles and alligators (when he is not hiking thru things).
This set in motion a false-nostalgic train of thought that began with: Freedom of Choice(!), veered to Freedom to Ingest Turtles, and ended with: Could I (me??) live in the bosque? (I say false-nostalgic because I have never myself lived in a canoe, but I also somehow feel like I have.) Could I live in the bosque?
No, as everyone who knows how much I hate mysteriously rustling grass can tell you, I could not. But I could hike thru it. That is an attainable goal. The Paseo del Bosque is only 16 miles. I could hike through it this fall and probably survive if I am well equipped and well versed in bosque flora.
For this reason, I am compiling a season-specific bosque reference guide, which I am archiving here on Spartan Holiday. My purpose is twofold: to make you feel false-nostalgic pangs about the majesties of spring that you missed (yet somehow feel like you didn’t), and to ensure my own survival in any season.
Bosque Thru-Hikers Guide: Late Spring
The sweetest, most identifiable berry, and nostalgic crayon color. Has there ever been a berry so stacked, luscious, and fiendishly scrappy as the mulberries in the bosque this damp spring? Now they’re past season.
Always be careful who you tell about the locations of mulberry trees in the bosque. Do not tell bored teenagers or Amish people (who in my experience can clean a tree in three minutes) or little girls with buckets.
2) Yerba Mansa
You might still catch the lovely, and deliquescent yerba mansa, but if you pick it, God help you.
This is an endangered flower slated for certain death, but for an entire movement called the Yerba Mansa Project devoted to resuscitating the potent herb in the bosque.
How would you have recognized it if you had seen it? “In the light of the setting sun the white petal-like sepals of Yerba Mansa radiate an iridescent glow that reflects an otherworldly palate of colors,” writes my friend, herbal sorceress, and project founder, Dara Saville.
Oh there is nothing I wouldn’t do for this flower whose roots are (according to Dara) “anti-inflammatory, broadly anti-microbial, astringent, anti-catarrhal, and tonifying to the mucous membranes!”
3) Ravenna Grass
Invasive Ravenna grass clusters in grotesque tussocks mostly near the zoo where it escaped from the Africa exhibit, in a way, way more boring version of Jurassic Park. Ravenna grass is locked in a zero sum death match with yerba mansa, which makes it a mortal enemy of the Yerba Mansa Project.
You can still see it; it will never die because it is invasive. Unless we all take it upon ourselves (during sanctioned workdays) to dig them up.
Which we will. Because if there’s one thing we can say about humanity, it’s that we are geniuses at coming together to safeguard the integrity of our ecosystems, especially on hot weekend mornings when we could be eating waffles instead (at least I think that’s what people say).
4) Wild Irises
Louis, Carry, and I were walking by the clear ditch in late May when Carry noticed this electrifying patch of wild yellow irises. I didn’t know that irises grew near riverbanks. I picture them mostly as the hobby flowers of shrill-voiced English ladies, so I was suspicious and cynical, at first.
But then Louis screamed, “Lemon curd and buttercream!” It put me at ease. Oh, Louis. Never will I have a more resplendent day in the Bosque than that day with Louis (and his mom) and his encyclopedic knowledge of native plants.
5) Bike-In Coffee
The Bike-In Coffee food truck, parked on Old Town Farm property (just southwards and eastwards of I-40), is a thru-hikers dream. It will be open until October but never dreamier than in the month of May.
It’s called Bike-In Coffee because, really, it’s for bikers and hikers, not lazy people driving their cars and bounding like spaniels up to the counter. But if you’re smart, you’ll park two miles away and then hike in, loudly announce how hot it is, and how far you walked, so as not to be associated with those people who parked much closer. After a taxing day of eating only mulberries, you can relax a spell and order an iced coffee and giant slab of recycled chocolate cake (so-named from left-over coffee and spent grains procured from Ponderosa Brewing Co). Or this blue cornmeal cake with farm cherries (which is probably already off the menu).
I think no cake will ever taste as good as this cake in the company of my lone self, pining over memories of my old friends Carry and Louis, who had walked with me there mere days before. Okay, let’s get real for a second, at this point of my thru-hike, I will probably be tempted to flame out and hide from my sponsors in one of the horse stables with a plateful of cookie scones.
I want to tell my future self: “No. Keep Going. Those horses don’t like you. And there is so much more to see,” as future installments of this guide will make abundantly clear.
City life is hard–what with its density, urbanity, and impossible Chihuahuas. Sometimes a person just wants to throw off the shackles of civilization/summer school and go AWOL in the Rio Grande Bosque for a couple of weeks. I understand. And so, we shall return in the fall to see what you missed late summer.