Back and Gone

I’m just back from a trip to Chicago, and leaving now for a few days in Ontario. After that I’ll really be settling in to my desk in Ann Arbor.

early winter on chicago beach

A Pareidoliac Quest for the Southwest

I’m back from my two-week ramble through the public lands of Arizona and New Mexico. This was an ideal destination for me: I’ve been in the area a few times before, just enough to begin to know what to seek out and what sorts of landscape patterns might be waiting for me, but not nearly enough for it not to seem entirely exotic and impossible to my boreal-based brain. Well, I’ve only now scratched the variations on landscape and vegetation and physiognomy of the great American southwest. But I did get to run down some old leads and spend some really solid time in a couple of regions I’ve long wanted to. And do so with the wonder of ignorance.

And oh yes, I was there to do some research reconnaissance. Looking to see what vegetation pattern looks like from side-on and roots-up instead of from above. I have a lot of digesting to do, but I suspect the trip was successful on that criterion. For sure I had great meetings with people who really do know the ecology of the magnificent semi-arid zones: Dave Breshears (who made time for me the day his right-hand-guy was leaving for a faculty position), Neil Cobb (who made time for me the week he was prepping for his wedding celebration) and Michaela Buenemann (who made time for me in between settling into her new faculty position and road tripping to Dr. Cobb’s wedding celebration). The reflexive generosity of time and ideas that researchers have for each other is one of the things I love about working in the sciences. It seems the best people are the ones who are the most giving of their resources. (Including data! Thanks guys. Thanks also to Dr. Alfredo Huete, whom I now really regret not having been organized enough to ask for a meeting with.)

Thanks also to this guy, whose website drove home the point that, unless it specifically says “no camping”, you can pretty much camp anywhere you want in the southwest. This turned out to be a key idea in my trip. There were a lot of places I wanted to camp, and did. And while I’m at it, thanks also to Enterprise, for not freaking out when I brought some rental cars back with a little dust in the wheel-wells.

Much of the point of being there was to take photos I could later reference while taking the remote-sensing god’s eye view of the same landscapes. So I had my camera in my hand a lot, and I’ll post some photos as I work through them.

Hunting for Pattern in the South West

I’m leaving today for 2 weeks of field work in Arizona and New Mexico.

I’m doing some field reconnaissance in support of my weird thesis research on self-organizing plant patterns in the semi-desert. That mostly means I’ll be driving around in rental cars, looking to see what the places I’ve been peering at from above actually look like in person. Also camping out in the high desert at night, looking to see what patterns the stars have. I’ll be in the Tucson/Sierra Vista region, then north of Flagstaff and up to the rim of the Canyon, then training into Santa Fe/Los Alamos area. I’m taking the Southwest Chief back to Chicago and Ann Arbor on the 23rd.

no pattern in central texas
Do you see a pattern? I don’t see a pattern.

The Boy is Back in Town

Well, I’m home in Michigan. I would say it’s been a great summer’s travels, but I’ve got some travels still ahead. Ann Arbor is looking good. I’d best get out there.

sunset clouds over ontario

Planting Above the Clouds and On the Border

The sun has returned to Kootenay Valley, but for days we have been working above the clouds more often than below them. And often in them. Which looks just like clouds do from inside an airplane, except you’re outside walking around in them in a slash-filled clearcut instead of peering through a porthole. The blocks we work in have often been hidden from us until early afternoon, which can make flagging in pieces a bit of a mind game. The view from the clearcuts can likewise be obscure until mid afternoon, being slowly revealed in patches and pieces as the clouds rise and fall and tease apart.

urmston above clouds

Another novel planting condition: 2 shifts ago we worked on the Canada-US border. As in, right smack on it. It turns out the border is physically delineated by a cut-line running through the mountains, tracking the 49th parallel. If you’ve ever wondered what a line of latitude looks like in person, this is it. From our side of the valley, we could clearly see it running down the mountains on the other side, and across the valley, presumably through the Porthill border station. And, we eventually realized, up our side of the valley and right along the edge of the cut block.

border block pan

I’ve been joking about how they probably don’t emphasize the “longest undefended border” factoid so much in elementary schools anymore, but this really drove it home. We worked on the physical border for 2 days without even realizing it.

Away From My Desk

I’m leaving town today, heading for Canada. Once I’m across the border my phone pretty quickly ceases to work, little traitor that it is. I’ll be in Ontario for a couple of days, where I won’t have internet, but my folk’s landline is 519-986-1834. After that I’ll be in BC, where I will have access to email most days, I think.

Ann Arbor Pow Wow

Last year I went to the Ann Arbor Pow Wow on a whim. I can’t really tell you what it was I liked so much about it, but I sure did. I just sat in the stands and ate overpriced buffalo burgers and watched. Somehow that was really satisfying. Something about the energy and the event felt really right.

Since then I’ve had a dream of spending a good chunk of summer riding from pow wow to pow wow across the US. I haven’t quite been able to figure out when that is going to happen, probably not this summer, but next summer is still a possibility.

The 36th annual is this weekend.

pow wow mc

North to the Present

My bff Tim Irvin has just launched a new project: Arctic Inspired

He’s compiling arctic canoeist’s experiences for a non-profit book. Tim is a veteran arctic canoer. I’m really stoked that he’s also planning a major solo trip this summer.

lone caribou, tim irvin

This book is for all those who have travelled in the tundra and been moved by those experiences. It is for all those who are intrigued, but have not yet made the journey, cannot make the journey, or would rather read about black flies than swat them. It is also for the people of the north; in gratitude for the opportunity visitors have had to see, and be inspired by, themselves and their land.”

(If you’re shocked by the beauty of the website compared to other non-profit nascent concepts, it’s because it was made by a couple of my other bff’s over at Pink Sheep Media. Full disclosure: I am an occasional consultant for Pink Sheep in return for couch credit.)

From an Assembly Church of Yahweh Member

Received a comment on this post regarding one of Michigan’s churches of Yahweh.

Back in the Duece

I’m back in Ann Arbor and will start on my backlog of emails. It was surprisingly cold back home. I assumed we were in pretty much the same climate, and I think we are, but it seems there are exceptional periods.

snowy ascent into beaver valley

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