I Found my Park

Joshua Tree National Park, August 19, 2016, copyright 2016 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

The National Parks Service has been encouraging the country to “Find Your Park” in this, its 100th anniversary year. My husband found his park several years ago. He loves Death Valley National Park so much that we set aside our own Death Valley Day whenever we visit Las Vegas. Feeling a bit left out, I suggested that this trip we set aside another day for Joshua Tree National Park, which I’ve wanted to see since I laid eyes on my first Joshua Tree some years ago.

It was with no small level of anticipation that I awoke the morning of our adventure. It takes roughly four hours to drive from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree if you take the diagonal route through the Mojave National Preserve, which is a visual treat in itself. Miles and miles of undulating roadway past creosote bushes and Joshua Trees, jagged mountains in the distance. A few abandoned rail yards and old buildings along the way reminded us that this area once thrived. I especially enjoyed passing through the town of Kelso, California, with its old rail cars and abandoned post office.

Many miles of starkly captivating desert scenery later (including a short jog through Amboy, CA, on Route 66) we arrived in the village of Joshua Tree, the funky, artsy capital of the Morongo Basin. I bought a cup of coffee and some beans to take home from the Joshua Tree Coffee Company. Between it and the park entrance, we drove through one of the most unusual, yet visually appealing, residential areas I’ve ever seen: small desert houses plunked down on semicircular hardpan streets in hodgepodge fashion, sloping gradually upward along the side of a hill to the park entrance.

The park is the coolest place on the planet, so far as I’m concerned. Otherworldly Joshua Trees, branches raised heavenward, and massive, odd rock formations that resemble clay pieces left behind by giants eons ago: I felt like a wide-eyed child watching the scenery pass by from the air conditioned comfort of our rental. (The wall of heat that greeted me every time I opened the door got to be a bit much, I confess. I took photographs from inside the car.)

It speaks to me, this place. It tugs and lifts my spirits like none other, perhaps for no other reason than its simplicity. It’s Mother Earth at her most elemental. As time goes on, I find that it’s the untouched landscapes that call to me. Artificial, man made wonders cannot compare to the masterpieces created by unseen natural forces. Fortunately for us and for future generations, the U.S. government has seen fit to preserve these masterpieces.

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For Me, September is Bittersweet

copyright 2016 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

for summer’s end, the time of year when the sun’s angle slips too low and the nights grow too cool to keep the pool’s water temperature warm enough for swimming. Every September, I try to best my record for latest swim; this year I swam to my heart’s content on September 20. That felt wonderful.

I already miss the feel of the water on my skin and that flying sensation as I float underneath the surface. In my pool, I am a kid again.

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Desert Healing

Joshua Tree National Park, August 19, 2016, © 2016 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

 

My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert. We love the Desert Southwest. Las Vegas has become our home base for day trips to the area’s natural attractions, most notably Death Valley National Park, Nevada’s otherworldly Valley of Fire State Park, Snow Canyon State Park in southwestern Utah, Malibu Beach and Los Angeles in California, and Sedona, Arizona. This trip, we expanded that list to include the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park.

We drove the Mojave National Preserve cut-through to Joshua Tree in a state of wonder at the beauty unfolding around us. Whoever believes the desert is devoid of life hasn’t truly seen the desert. Creosote bushes (“future tumbleweeds,” we call them) flourish alongside hundreds upon hundreds of Joshua trees tall enough to rival any adult tree back East. Distant mountains stand sentinel over the landscape.

Somewhere along the way, my mind quieted. The constant, senseless thought chatter that fills my head drifted apart. The world around me came into sharper focus. Is this how moments of clarity feel? If so, I highly recommend it. What a wonderful sensation!

This how I want to live my life: peaceful, accepting, appreciative of the gifts the Universe provides. Being human means, of course, slipping off the path more than once, but I’m willing to deal with those slips if I can recall the calm of the desert to quiet my mind.

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Love Those Soft Summer Nights

copyright 2013 Elizabeth Maginnis

My husband reminded me the other day of our two-night honeymoon at a local hotel. We were kids (college students) and basically broke, so the Marriott it was. Being the middle of August, we were able to sit outside on the patio after dark, listening to the hush of the cars on the thruway as we enjoyed a warm summer evening.

That is what I love the most about summer. Although I eagerly dive into our pool each spring for several months of swimming bliss, it’s the nights when the wind hisses through the leaves after dark that I remember most fondly.

So far, this summer has brought hot days and warm nights that necessitate another kind of hiss: that of the air conditioner. Maybe when the season winds down we’ll be able to welcome refreshing breezes as we fall asleep beneath an open window.

For now, I’ll remember our first nights as husband and wife, sitting together on a hotel room patio, in our own world, feeling the warm breeze on our faces while the cars hurtled past on the nearby thruway.

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Missing Maisie

Pet guardians know that there’s that one special animal who tugs at your heart. The one they miss the most after she’s gone. Maisie is that one for my husband and me.

Maisie’s kidney disease finally won. She passed peacefully in my husband’s arms in our vet’s office three weeks ago tomorrow. Quality of life was gone. We knew she was suffering. Yet our lives are sadder and emptier with her gone, even with all the medications and fluid treatments we administered toward the end. My husband commented recently on how lonely the house feels without her.

Maisie fought her disease hard. For two years you wouldn’t have known that that cat had a terminal illness. She was a tough little lady. Two months ago, though, the disease took over as it inevitably does, and we knew we would soon have to say goodbye.

Knowing and expecting the outcome of a terminal illness doesn’t make the end any easier. I cried yesterday after picking her ashes up from the vet. There are days when the sadness appears out of nowhere, but I can feel the happier memories begin to surface. It’ll get better.

We plan to adopt another cat to honor her memory, sometime soon but not yet. I think Maisie will have a “paw” in that, as she did in so many other aspects of our lives. Ever the nosy little Miss Bossy Boots, she never allowed any household goings-on to miss her careful scrutiny. She’ll let us know when the right candidate comes along.

We haven’t lost her. She’s just taken on a different form.

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What Will It Take to Stop the Gun Madness?

Image result for peace symbol images

Courtesy shutterstock.com.

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today …

The first verse of Marvin Gaye’s memorable song “What’s Going On” (© 1971) applies to the proliferation of cop on black man shootings across our country these past few years. It applies to the epidemic of shootings in general.

TIME OUT! We as a society need to toss our guns aside and take a deep breath and a few steps back. What the hell is going on that we are so quick to shoot out, not talk out, our differences? While not Chicago, my hometown is rife with shootings just about every night. Recently a man shot from his car into another moving vehicle down a city street. For what? Apparently the threat to public safety is just another casualty in whatever turf war they were waging.

The hardening of our culture saddens and disgusts me. So many good intentioned people work every day to make a difference in the lives of kids at risk of falling prey to this lifestyle. Yet the killings continue.

I shouldn’t be discouraged, yet I am.

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Love our Public Market!

We finally got around to checking out our local public market last Saturday morning. Wow! Should have done it years ago. I’ve never seen such beautiful fruits and vegetables. I took my new Nikon D5300 along and shot some pics to get a feel for the thing and to attempt to capture the essence of the market experience. (Someday, when I figure out how to upload and add my photos to the blog, I’ll share them. For now, you get to look at a web shot of an adorable Scottish coo, one of my favorite animals.)

People everywhere at 7:30 on a Saturday morning! (Usually I’m just getting out of bed at that hour.) So many local farmers and artisans displaying their wares — such a good vibe all around. A couple of street musicians played us through the market entrance and prepared food areas. Who knew folks would line up for spicy hot breakfast sandwiches at that hour?

We indulged in cafe mochas prepared by a local coffee shop. The coffee may not have been Starbucks but it sure was good! Maybe the ambiance helped add flavor to my drink. People seated at schoolhouse style bench tables and chairs decorated with small potted plants. Hardwood floors. Plenty of outdoor seating. Loved it!

Summer here is so fleeting. People pour out of doors when the weather turns warm. The public market, with its inexpensive — and local — wares and opportunity for community building offers an ideal place to soak up the summer sun. I enjoyed chatting with some of the vendors.

We left with bags bulging with fresh berries, radishes, green beans, locally harvested honey and maple syrup and are already discussing what we’ll buy on our next visit. Both of us believe in supporting area growers and small business owners whenever we can. The public market is a great place to do both!

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#NoBillNoBreak #EndGunViolence

The sit-in. From C-Span.

Will all members of Congress willing to subordinate personal interest to the will of the people please stand up? No, wait. They’re sitting down. Sitting down in protest of the GOP majority’s refusal to allow a vote on proposed gun control measures.

Led by the courageous Representative John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement, Democratic representatives and some of their Senate colleagues are occupying the floor of the House to force a showdown and take a stand against gun violence. My own representative joined the protest. Good for her!

Can anyone open the GOP’s eyes to the pervasiveness of senseless gun violence across this country and the urgent need to control illegal weapons sales? Even constitutional rights have boundaries when they conflict with the common good.

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Orlando Angels Triumph Over Hate

Courtesy NBC News, John Raoux/AP.

A strikingly beautiful image: angel wings worn by members of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater blocking Westboro Baptist Church protestors from disrupting the funeral of one of the Orlando massacre victims. In the words of Lin-Manual Miranda, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” Westboro’s message of hate failed to hit its mark this time. #OrlandoUnited

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Donald Trump, Just Be Quiet

Image result for pride flag orlando

Courtesy flickr.com

Republican presidential candidate Trump, never one to pass up an opportunity to self-promote, made Orlando All About Him. (See? Look how smart I am! I knew Muslim immigrants were up to no good! Even if it’s simply by association with immigrant parents.)

Who cares about you, Donald? People died. Good people worth a lot more in heaven’s eyes than you’ll ever be in this lifetime. Your opinion doesn’t matter this time. Go comb your hair or kiss your image in the mirror.

Did he offer to help the Orlando LGBTQ community heal or do anything remotely positive to inspire a reeling nation? Way to do something for somebody else for a change.

For heaven’s sake, Trump, if you can’t do something nice then BE QUIET.

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