Saturday, November 22, 2008


Welcome to Gaia's Guard, which is an eco-fantasy that
tells of a park ranger naturalist who attends to visions
of an ancient American Indian spirit guide. They lead
him into a variety of different parks and wildlands. It's
essentially a story that allows a modicum of information
about the different natural systems of the Earth.

Please go to the very last post, which is the Introduction,
and move forward.

(2) Gaia's Guard

Also, during my work as a cultural anthropologist--indeed long before
I embarked on this second career--I became aware of the deep
reverence that the American Indian has held towards the Earth and
all the different life-forms therein. More recently I came across one
of the best ecological tomes I have ever read. At the very beginning
of this book, the American Indians were given their due. To quote:

"In America the Great Work of the First Peoples was to occupy this
continent and establish an intimate rapport with the powers that
brought this continent into existence in all its magnificence. They
did this through their ceremonies such as the Great Thanksgiving
ritual of the Iroquois, the sweat lodge and the vision quest of the
Plains Indians, through the Chantways of the Navaho, and the
Katsina rituals of the Hopi. Through these and a multitude of other
aspects of the indigenous cultures of this continent, certain models
were established of how humans become integral with the larger
context of our existence here on the planet Earth."
FUTURE, Well Tower, 1999, p. 2.]

And it would seem that once again American Indian spiritual
scholars are attending to their old ways and applying them in
contemporary ways when it comes to the human relationship
with Mother Earth. Continuing in my thought, I oft ponder over
my very own Indian spirit guide. Who is he? What does he

Surmising, considering the presence of the American Indian
on this continent for thousands of years, perhaps their composite
spirits are "embedded* in the Earth. Indeed, many of their
Creation stories talk about their coming forth out of the Earth.
They are creations of the Earth, so to speak. Perhaps they
return to the Earth, and somehow their spirits speak with a
common voice--hence, for me, my Indian spirit guide. I was

Perhaps others as well? I am thinking of my idea of the "Guard,"
in that in other ways this Indian Spirit speaks to them, draws them
towards becoming stewards of the Earth.

However, these days it is different I suppose. It is ironic that all
manner of folk now seem to be graced, drawn towards a greater
respect for the planet and its majestic natural enclaves. Perhaps
seeing the astronauts' Earth photographs, seeing our beautiful
blue planet from the perspective of the moon, now privy to satellite
pictures, we are finally viewing this planet and its continents, our
continent, in a keenly different way. It really, really is our
"precious home."

To end my little story, I must make mention the word "Gaia."
Though I'm mystical in my way, I'm also scientifically inclined.
Gaia was a Greek goddess who personified the Earth. But
we moderns have taken over her name. Awhile back a scientist
by the name of James Lovelock, a fellow of Britain's Royal
Society, worked with the NASA space program. Looking at
satellite photographs, he could see the Earth as a *whole.*

He re-coined the word "Gaia." And in more scientific terms, the
name for Earth, Gaia, is represented as a "vast self-regulating
organism." As for myself, I think of the Earth as a self-regulating
natural system composed of nearly an infinity of intelligible
natural systems.

And it is the All of this incredible natural system, our precious
home, that we need protect as "Gaia's Guard."

(1) Gaia's Guard

Since that grand finale of a vision the years have rolled-by fast.
Though I have yet to qualify for the "rocking-chair," I have started
to slow down physically. I still volunteer out in the field, but not
as much. As for my career as a cultural anthropologist, it also
has been on the wane. If anything, I have traveled more--visiting
national parks, of course!

Sometimes I have taken my camper, going off to wonderful
places like Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, Death Valley, and the
Grand Canyon. These parks are always thrilling for me. And
what with my advancing age, I have discovered a more
luxurious and easier mode of travel: the cruise. Hence I've
gone up and down the Pacific coastline, like to Glacier National
Park in Alaska and over to the Baja Lagoons in Mexico.

And--now-- as my energy slowly diminishes, I am finding myself
sitting more often by the San Diego Bay. Oddly, I prefer the bay
to the ocean. The Pacific Ocean is way too vast, I guess, and
always thunderous with its pounding waves. There's distractions,
too! Too many kite surfers, zipping around at tremendous
speeds. My part of the bay has more placid distractions, like
gliding sailboats with beautiful billowing sails. The bay lends a
calm for me, quiet, where I can more readily clarify my thoughts.

Quite often I wonder over that magnificent last vision I experienced,
now some years back. As my Indian spirit guide said, "Guard well
our precious home." If somehow he had put this message in past
tense, I would have understood what he said more clearly.

If put in past tense, I could have quickly presumed that he was
talking about me--giving me a "kudo," if you will. It's not that I
deserve any praise for my achievements, but rather I should give
thanks to my Indian spirit guide for leading me into a truly bountiful
career as both a park ranger-naturalist and a cultural anthropologist.
I couldn't have been happier (or lucky).

Overall, I really had to look beyond myself when it came to
interpreting this final vision. As for the word "guard," well that is
about protecting, watching over, keeping something safe. My
thoughts flowed into this line of thinking, into a broader context.

The "Guard," all those guardians who manned, helped out, worked
at our great parks, at our wildlands, were surely the ones who my
Indian spirit guide addressed. The Guard were those professionals
and attendents with organizations such as the National Park
Service, the U.S. Forestry Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service,
the Bureau of Land Management, and all the State Parks Services.
Beyond this, there are the thousands upon thousands of volunteers
at these special natural enclaves.

I think about the volunteers at the Tijuana Estuary, young and old,
skilled, unskilled--all dedicated. Within the National Park Service
there are Junior Ranger volunteers, oft an offshoot of the Boy
Scouts of America. And now in the Age of the Internet, there are
the WebRangers--a learning activity that involves not only students
but teachers in the classroom. WebRangers are children who can
explore and participate in our national parks, becoming more
eco-literate and historically informed.

And though I never moved much into the present-day Environmental
Movement, surely those who work towards gaining new laws--and
attending to old laws--that protect our national parks and wildlands
can surely be considered part of this special Guard.

(3) Waters Meet

There are a great variety of birds that make their home--or their
stopover--at the Tijuana Estuary. Out of their multitude I will only
mention a prominent few, especially focusing on the length of their
beaks and legs. The significance is that the *length* determines
how different birds adapt in regard to how/where they find their food!

For example the Great Egret and the Great Blue Heron exhibit long
legs and beaks; so, they are better able to wade out further into the
water channels, into the bordering plant growth to secure their food.

The Clapper Rail is an example of a bird that exhibits a middle-level
in terms of leg and beak length. So they can secure food from the
less deep ponds.

And the Red Knot is an example of a bird with a shorter beak and
leg. These birds can forage under the mudflats, where they can
find shrimp and crabs.

Of course, too, there are many others types of birds at the Tijuana
Estuary. There's the Least Tern, Sandpiper, Willet, Greater
Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Semipalmated
Plover, Killdeer, and Black-bellied Plover. Also the Brown California
Pelican frequents this estuary. And again there's many more birds,
far too many to list.

Anyway, coming by all this information about the Tijuana Estuary,
while walking along its paths, I was once again struck by the
noticeable intelligibility involved in both the layout of the estuary,
its different habitats that, in turn, seemingly correspond to the exact
needs of those birds with varied lengths of beak and legs. What I
was looking at during these walks seemed nearly "adaptation
personified." Sometimes when I perceive the intelligence exhibited
in these great natural systems, I am left with a profound fascination
and appreciation of our magnificent planetary system that manages
so well to accommodate all of Life that dwells in its midst.

Continuing, one day my path took me up atop the sand dunes.
Peering out towards the ocean for quite awhile, I turned and looked
towards the land. Being at the farthest southwestern corner of the
United States, I realized that my gaze towards the northeast led
forth straight across the entire country. While standing on the dunes,
I suddenly felt that someone was standing beside me.

Turning slightly, I realized it was my Indian spirit guide. We stood
together in silence, for ever so long it seemed. Dressed in a multi-
colored garb, with feathers of the Scarlet Macaw, he finally spoke.
Very quietly he said "Guard well our precious home." With this, in
my mind's eye, he lifted his arms out towards the land--and arc after
arc of rainbows curved over the entire continent.

After my Indian spirit guide disappeared, I felt very strongly that this
encounter was like a "finale." Somehow I knew that it was my very
final vision. Sad, in a sense of a farewell, I had to admit that this last
vision of mine was nonetheless an absolutely glorious vision!

(2) Waters Meet

To return to our present day, the Tijuana Estuary is a wetland
rarity. Many of California's estuaries and wetlands have been
destroyed because of highway and housing construction. Including
Oregon and Washington State, along with California, these special
wetlands are a necessity for the many kinds of migratory birds--
during seasonal change--that fly down and up the North and
South American coastlines. This migratory route is called the
"Pacific Flyway."

Now, with so few wetland stops available, the Tijuana Estuary is
a very important haven for these migratory birds--as well as for the
local birds who permanently make their home here. Besides being
a food source, the estuary is also a safe haven for birds to raise their

I specifically came to volunteer at this estuary, because this is a
place "where the waters meet." This is a place where fresh water
intersperses with sea water, hence producing what is called brackish
water--a kind of salty water, if you will. The tides come and go in
the Tijuana Estuary, naturally bringing in fresh nutrients. These
provide a constant food source for the inhabitants of the estuary.
As for it being a safe haven, its high sand dunes protect the
estuary from the ocean, hence allowing safe nesting areas for
the birds who stop-over or make their permanent home in this

But, now, let me be more specific. There are eight different kinds
of habitats within the estuary that mesh one into the other.

• Riparian: This habitat runs along the Tijuana River where fresh
water dominates.

• Uplands: Here desert plants--such as cactus--grow, a few inches
above the marsh.

• Salt Marsh: It is here where plants adapt to the changing water levels,
moving more into a salty environment.

• Ponds: These are now full of brackish water.

• Mudflats: At low tide the water rushes out of the estuary, leaving a
muddy flatland that exposes a waterlogged soil full of food.

• River valleys.

• Salt Pannes: These are poorly drained areas, where the salt content
can be three times that of ocean water.

• Dunes: These sand dunes protect a calm estuary from the sea.

As for food, the Tijuana Estuary is full of different forms of algae,
phytoplankton, benthic invertebrates, and bivalbe molluscus.
There are also fish, crabs, ghost shrimp, and worms.

And throughout the estuary there are indigenous "salt marsh" plants.
To name a few: Pickleweed, Glasswort, Heath, Rosemary, Sea
Lavender, Cordgrass; Saltwort, Marsh Bird's Beak, Shoregrass,
Saltgrass, Rabbit's Foot Grass, Tamarix, and Sea Fig.

(1) Waters Meet

After reading the newspaper advertisement, I was quick to
interview with the volunteer coordinator of the Tijuana River
National Estaurine Research Reserve (more popularly known
as the Tijuana Estuary). This estuary is under the aegis of
California State Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
and also serves as a research facility for the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

A 2500 acre reserve, where the fresh water of the Tijuana River
meets with the sea water of the Pacific Ocean, this estuary is
located literally on the very far southwestern edge of the United
States. The Tijuana Estuary nearly borders Mexico, with only
a very slim Border Field State Park standing in between; and
to the west, this estuary looks out toward the ocean with sand
dunes providing protection.

The advertisement called for volunteers to "restore habitat, care
for native gardens, nurture plants in the nursery, maintain trails,
and perform other maintenance activities at the reserve." No
experience needed, because there would be volunteer training.
Of course when the estuary's volunteer coordinator learned that
I was a retired park ranger with the National Park Service, well
the good lady could hardly contain her pleasure! It felt good,
being wanted.

Still fairly busy working as a cultural anthropologist, at first I
only committed to one day a week at the Tijuana Estuary. But
over time, I began to wind down my academic life and felt more
drawn to the "field," as I put it. So I put in more days working
in the nursery and garden as well doing needed maintenance.
Nothing I did proved very difficult. Still there was the enjoyment
working alongside a good crew of both professionals and

However, at the beginning of my volunteering at the Tijuana
Estuary, I decided to take advantage of the training program
offered by the education director. I had never worked at an
estuary, and I felt that I had a lot to learn before I started pitching
in. So for a few months I capitalized on the training.

I also learned that the Kumeyaay Indians--going back thousands
of years--lived in this particular coastal region. I knew that the
Kumeyaay wintered inland and spent their summers along the
coast. Evidently the tribe early on lived near the Tijuana Estuary,
mainly because of its biodiversity.

The Kumeyaay collected shellfish and fished along the coast.
They used nets, spears, and hook-and-line to fish. They even
fished offshore, using reed boats. And I found out, too, that they
even found clams. scallops, and abalone at the tidepools.

And farther inland they planted and harvested various food
products, such as corn. And following a harvest they carried out
small levels of burning that actually controlled plant viruses.
Also they were hunters, mainly of small game such as doves,
quail, geese, rabbits, wood rats, and squirrels. However, larger
game was available farther inland--such as deer. antelope, and
mountain sheep. And they gathered nuts and acorns, too, that
they stored in basket granaries.

A rather ingenious people, the Kumeyaay also engaged in what
today we would call "erosion control." They placed rocks alongside
natural drainage ditches to slow the flow of water, to create wider
water reservoirs.

(4) The Shield

My thesis was accepted, and USD presented me with a Master's
Degree. I guess that I now could consider myself a cultural
anthropologist--of sorts. Then came the question: now what?

I really had no desire to go on for a Phd nor become a professor.
Perhaps I might write a book, though I had barely scratched through
a thesis. That prospect didn't seem in the works; but, as it turned
out, it was!

My anthropologist professor friend came to the rescue. He was
very interested in my approach regarding the Indians relationship
with the environment. Times were changing in academe, and
during this period more emphasis was given to the topic of
Environmental Ethics and Ecological Literacy. My work as a
park ranger was a "plus," along with my newly acquired status
as a cultural anthropologist, when it came to these growing
popular topics.

So just in a few years I became a co-author, along with my friend,
of a few articles on these now evolving topics that were becoming
more and more important in light of such issues as Climate Change
and the Environmental Crisis. Gads! We even had our articles
discussed, we even talked, at university conferences.

Still, I felt quietly driven towards another "quality" when it came to
all this activity. I thought back to my Indian spirit guide, to the
handing over the shield, to the depiction of the painting on the
shield. The point taken from this experience was that overall we
need focus on the Spirit, or upon our relationship with the Earth
as a spiritual undertaking. After talking with my agreeable friend,
I decided to pursue this spiritual perspective and see if we could
blend it with our so-called scientific or technological perspective.

As luck would have it, while at a small USD conference, I ran into
an attendee who had recently returned from a retreat given by a
Sioux spiritual master. I decided to find this fellow--and my pursuit
led me to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Flying up, I had to take a couple of puddle-jumping planes to reach
Rapid City, South Dakota. Renting a car, I drove on out into the
Badlands, on to the Black Hills, where I had made an appointment
with the Sioux spiritual master. He lived at a reservation not far
from Crazy Horse Monument--and we agreed to meet at the large
Indian Museum of North America located at this site. I was genuinely
struck by the size of both the monument and the museum--really
huge, really impressive!

This great museum also provided education, and the Sioux master
I was meeting gave retreats there. He had agreed to talk with me
personally, and I agreed to attend one of his retreats that focused
on Sioux Spirituality as it related to the People's special relationship
with Mother Earth. Throughout the retreat I was really impressed
with this Sioux scholar, in that he had compiled generations of
creation stories, of deeply embedded outlooks brought forth via
oral tradition, that he was able to present in a thoughtful manner
when it came to what was becoming a new field: Eco-Spirituality.

The Sioux master had already made arrangements to publish his
pathfinding work. Regardless, I asked if he might eventually agree
to be a contributor in a book that I and my anthropologist friend
intended to write, wherein we would blend the Eco-Spirituality
approach with the American Indian cultural-technical approach
towards intelligent land use. He agreed, and we slowly have
set-out to put this work together.

Working to develop a book, especially an academic-type book,
isn't easy. And sometimes the effort can seem tedious and painful.
Anyway, we are still plugging away on this. Time continues to
roll on, but I remain patient in this endeavor. Much older now, I'm
pleased that my anthropologist friend has taken the lead on this
proposed book. Hence my own personal time is not so much
consumed by this project--albeit, I do remain content that I took
this route, working as a cultural anthropologist.

At this point I was more than happy to rest, to put my feet up
and ponder and play with my thoughts. More often I went down
to a local park looking out on San Diego Bay. Sitting in my
camping chair, looking out on the sparkling water, I strangely
began to wish that I was "back in the field." I missed being a
park ranger, I guess.

And as I was engaging in this wistful thinking, I spotted my
Indian spirit guide gliding towards me, across the bay, sitting
straight and tall in a roughly hewn wooden canoe. Coming
close, he said "Work where the waters meet." Then he was
gone, leaving me nearly breathless.

Once again I knew that I was in for a change; and, oddly, I
welcomed the prospect.

(3) The Shield

My first year at USD concentrated on course work, such as...
• A survey of the prehistory, history, worldview, and current issues
of the American Indian.
• An overview of the cultural and environmental history of native
Californian tribes, such as the Cahuilla, the Gabrileno, Serrano,
Cupeno, Luiseno, and Kumeyaay tribes.
• A survey of the Indian tribes in the Greater Southwest.

These various courses gave me a much more depth knowledge
and understanding of the American Indian; and, especially, of
those tribes who lived in the area of the country where I now live.

The following year at USD I had to concentrate on developing a
thesis for my Master's Degree. My anthropologist friend suggested
I might like to make appointments with the curators at some of the
archaeological museums in the Southwest, discussing with them
about how the major Indian tribes in this area related their cultural
outlook with Mother Earth--or, as scientists would put today,
towards the natural ecological systems that formed their
environment. This seemed the right focus for me.

Considering my friend's idea, I was off and running. Immediately
I made contact with San Diego's Museum of Man as well as the
nearby Barona Museum and Cultural Center. Both were a gold
mine when it came to Kumeyaay connections with the

My next move was to load-up my camper and head out to Arizona,
where I had appointments with some of the curatorial professionals
at the Heard Museum in Phoenix for an overview of the Apache
and Navajo Nations, particularly in regard to my thesis' focus. And
more specifically I also visited the White Mountain Apache Culture
Center and Museum at the Fort Apache Historic Park. Next I dropped
by the Navajo National Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, not far
from Gallup, New Mexico. And from Gallup I headed east on to
Albuquerque, the locale of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

After collecting lots of ideas and materials from these above
mentioned museums, I decided to head north to that familiar
territory where I once lived--when I worked at the Bandelier National
Monument. I stopped at the Museum of the Institute of American
Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Indian artwork is important, because it is
yet another kind of language that expresses their culture and their
ceremonials. One could learn to discern from their artwork their
emphasis on Mother Earth and the animals and plants and rocks
and mountains that form around her mantle.

I drove up farther north to Taos--and visited the great Pueblo there.
It too had a small museum--where I met with people knowledgeable
in not only the Pueblo, but also Hopi and Zuni traditions. And from
Taos, I turned south back to Bandelier. It seemed ages ago since
I had worked there, but as I entered the park I felt such a sense of
well-being. I felt a deep belonging, if you will. As I approached the
old Anasazi dwellings, I found myself walking alone. Suddenly I
heard the sound of thundering hooves! I found myself surrounded
by a small herd of deer. They kept circling around me as I continued
my walk. I laughed, I nearly cried too! It was a profound experience.
I lifted up my arms, gave thanks to these friendly deer, and shooed
them kindly on their way.

With this good omen, I turned my camper back towards California.
And back home, with mounds of information, I managed to write
a fairly decent thesis that concentrated on the Greater Southwestern
and Californian Indian cultures and their relationship(s) with the Earth.
For the most part I took a fairly scientific perspective when it came to
this relationship, emphasizing not only their cultural attitudes but
also their technological techniques--such that pertain to agriculture
and irrigation.

(2) The Shield

Gleaning through a myriad of library books about the American
Indian's symbol of the eagle, I found somewhat of a common
descriptive representing many tribes. They viewed the eagle as
a spirit bird, in the sense that it soared higher than other birds,
moving closest to the heavens or to Father Sky. Indians, too,
felt that eagle feathers could be seen as prayers. However, the
eagle was not to be mistaken for the Thunderbird.

Beyond this, I had to consider that this special shield was given to
me--as the young Indian brave--therefore I had to inject my own
interpretation into the depiction, the drawings, painted on the shield.

Studying this issue for quite awhile, I began to consolidate my
thoughts. The eagle was a representative of the Great Spirit, an
observer perhaps--even perhaps the eye of God. It's sun streaked
feathers lent a cosmic dimension to this particular eagle. As for the
eagle hovering over the globe, apt with attention, was it representative
of "protection" or at least "concern."

As for the shield itself, from what I could tell an Indian's shield served
as his protection. For myself, I had to take all this a step further. In
time I decided that the painting on the shield indeed represented
"protection," but it was about protecting the Earth. The green globe
on the shield's painting was a no-brainer, in that it obviously
represented the Earth--our beautiful blue-green planet.

Need I say that I waxed poetic in all this symbolism. Yet I had to
boil it all down to my present life! Looking back at my career with
the National Park Service, yes I could see myself as a protector of
sorts when it came to the good Earth. But why did I have this special
vision, now that I had *retired* from the park service? I got the
feeling that this shield vision was about the here and now, also the
future, and not only my past.

Deep-down I knew this special vision meant that I was once again
to move into a new situation, maybe into a different direction. Earlier
my Indian spirit guide had pointed the way, throughout all my career
changes; and now, once again, I had to seek, to try to find my way as
this special vision points. At least I was smart enough to not push
myself into this very much, but rather let any new circumstances flow
more naturally into my life.

To backtrack some, during my time at Cabrillo National Monument
I had taken these adult extension courses about the Kumeyaay
Indians. I developed a friendship with the professor, a cultural
anthropologist, and we kept in touch. And one day I met him for
lunch, and we talked about what I might want to do now that I had
retired. I was still "young-ish," and with any luck I had time for a
fairly extended lifetime. So why not pursue another career?

My friend knew of my abiding interest in the American Indian. So!
Why not academically concentrate on the subject? He suggested
that I might look into the field of cultural anthropology. He noted that
the University of San Diego (USD), a small private college, offered
advanced degree programs in its Anthropology Department that
focused on Native American Studies. My heart jumped, my head
followed, and with my friend's help I was accepted into a Master's
Degree program at USD.

(1) The Shield

I had bought myself a small camper as a "retirement" gift,
figuring I would have some spare time to take some trips.
Wasting no time, I piled my gear into the camper and set
off for the Kings Canyon National Park. Situated at the
southern end of the Sierra Nevada mountains, it was home
to some of the planet's largest trees--the Giant Sequoias.

The highest elevations at Kings Canyon can range up to
13,000 feet. And I was coming to that idea when driving
up a steeply inclined highway that led into the park. On my
way I spotted something that made me pull over at a lookout
point. There I stood, looking down at the deep valleys,
and the billowing clouds were floating far *below* us! It
was like I was standing still in an airplane--but here I was,
on land, peering at these clouds deep down over the valleys.
All I could say to myself was "Wow!"

Upon reaching the park, yet another "wow" was forthcoming.
There I was walking amongst the Giant Sequoias, one of the
different forms of redwood. Talking to a ranger, he mentioned
that these mammoth trees could range in height up to 300
feet and could be as large as 24 feet in width. And they also
had a giant life span. These big trees could really put us
puny humans in our place, when it comes to comparisons.

This ranger also pointed out a Sequoia "two-some," if you will.
Oft trees will compete for space; but these two big fellows
somehow decided to cooperate, blending their root systems,
gathering nourishment and energy together. And they
flourished quite nicely! All I could think, once again when
I observe natural systems, is that there surely is a form of
intelligence that they exude. In particular, these two Giant
Sequoias chose to adapt and survive by cooperating rather
than competing! Interesting, most interesting.

Besides the Sequoia trees, there were also large conifer forests
at Kings Canyon. My designated camp ground was near these
evergreen trees, near the higher ridge-lines. After a couple of
wonderful days hiking, yet always taking care to watch out for
black bears in the area, I decided to relax near a sturdy precipice
looking down towards the valleys.

Leaning against a rock wall, suddenly the light seemed brighter.
There sitting before me, with arms stretched out toward the sky,
was a young Indian brave. There seemed a luminous glow all
around him. Agape, then and there, in my mind's eye, I was
made to understand that I was looking at *my self* as this
young Indian of centuries past.

Before me, before the young brave, up out of the clouds emerged
my ancient Indian spirit guide. He held a warrior's shield, which
he presented to the young Indian. Painted on the shield was an
eagle's head, sun streaked with golden colors --and this eagle
was hovering over a green globe, rapt with attention.

Then the vision was gone! I was awe-struck, barely able to move.
When I came to my senses, I had to wonder whether the high
altitude had affected me. But having had visions literally all my
life, I decided that I best accept this really special vision that I had
just experienced.

What could it mean, this vision? Was I this young Indian brave in a
past-life? Not having dwelled much on the subject of reincarnation,
I was a bit surprised by this line-of-thinking. Still, I had to wonder.
Perhaps my Indian spirit guide has been with my soul through many
"incarnations," including that of the young warrior. Perhaps this
might also be an explanation for my persevering inclination towards
the American Indian. Wandering back to camp, I still remained
dazed with all sorts of strange ideas soaring through my mind.

Above all, what did the shield mean? What did the drawings
depict? With these questions racing around, I decided to head
for home and try to find out more when it came to Indian symbolism.

(4) Pacific Pause

I digress, but I learned so much about the Kumeyaay by taking these
adult education courses. This experience put an idea in my head,
but I'll return to that later. In the meanwhile, I had to remember that I
hired on at Cabrillo as a ranger-naturalist. This meant protecting the
indigenous plant life and animal life in this small park; and it meant,
too, presenting information to the many tourists who visited the tide
pool located here.

The tide pool proved a challenge for me, in that I was forced to learn
something totally new. First off I needed to understand what a tide
pool was! To quote from a scientific treatise, "Tide pools are
collections of ocean water stranded by outgoing tides." What with
the tide going out, up near the shoreline there are what is called
"drying intertidal zones" that are home to fish and organisms that
can handle a little exposure to air.

But before I could put on my rubber boots to wander out into the tide
pool, I had to understand better the tides. They are a rhythmic rise
and fall of water. Oceanographers consider tides the longest waves
in the world, spreading half the circumference of the earth. And, as
is more popularly known, the gravitational attraction of both the sun
and the moon on earth cause tides. Simply put, there are the
high tide and the low tide.

And with the low tide, we arrive back at our tide pool where we have
what is called "Zonation" between the sea and the shore. As put:

• Low Intertidal Zone. This is an area that is never dry. Here one can
find algae and kelp--and animals that feed on them, such as abalones,
sea hares, and chiton. Tidepool fish, spiny lobsters, sea urchins, snails,
and crabs are also found in this zone. Most of these inhabitants
can only withstand a small exposure to air, in that they remain mainly
creatures of the sea.

• Mid Intertidal Zone. This zone is exposed to both air and to drying.
Here we find mussels, anemones, goose barnacles, and sea stars.

• High Intertidal Zone. This area is only covered by the sea for short
periods, thus its inhabitants can withstand a longer exposure to the air.
Small barnacles, limpets, and Periwinkle snails are found here.

• Splash Zone. Above high tide level, this zone is only reached by spray.
The inhabitants here are mostly land dwellers that include blue-green
algae, buckshot barnacles, and rock lice.

The small creatures that live in these zones, in the tide pool, have a
very tough existence. Most have to firmly attach themselves to rocks
and crevices in order to protect themselves from battering waves. And,
again, most must be able to survive some exposure to air. Many of
these life forms only "endure."

As for myself, I had to learn how *not* to turn my ankle on the tidepool's
slippery rocks--and I also had to take care over the tourists who chose
to wander into the tidepool, that they not only hurt their ankles but
would not fall into the water.

Nonetheless, I had no complaints over the few years I worked at the
Cabrillo National Monuments. Close to retirement from the National
Park Service, I decided to make San Diego my permanent residence.
Great place, full of all sorts of opportunities when it comes to keeping
active. Anyway, the magic day arrived. My fellows at Cabrillo gave me
a fine retirement party, and suddenly it seemed that I was catapulted
out into a whole new life!

So what does a newly minted retired park ranger do? Me? Well after
some settling-in, I decided to go camping at another national park.

(3) Pacific Pause

The Mexican Government at that time decided to turn over
religious land to civil ownership. In due course land in the
San Diego area was either stolen or sold to wealthy Mexicans
or Anglo-American settlers, who established huge ranches
(also known as "ranchos').

With this development many of the Kumeyaay were out-on-the-street,
so to speak. Much of their culture and village life gone, now there were
no more missions. Many opted to work for the ranchers. Over time
the rancho labor force was deemed nearly cost-free, which meant the
Kumeyaay found themselves again in a nearly slave labor situation.
Beyond this, fueled by avarice, the ranchers seized Indian land to
expand their ranches. Many Kumeyaay were forced off their own land.

However, the Kumeyaay did not go easily. They fought back, and by
1844 the Indians had retrieved most of their land; and this situation
eventually made the rancho system nearly non-functional. The ranches
were abandoned. By 1846 the Americans were advancing into
Southern California. And the Kumeyaay assisted the Americans at
the Battle of San Pasqual during the Mexican-American War. Hence
entered the Americans. By 1850 California was admitted as a state
and joined the United States of America.

Unfortunately there was this American mindset called "Manifest
Destiny." As a matter of policy the American Government attempted
to break-up and disband Indian governments . The attitude was that
within a few generations Indian communities would cease to exist.
As one scholar put, "the white majority treated American Indians as
if they were a vanishing race." But the Indians did not disappear, and
neither did the Kumeyaay!

By 1852 the American Government negotiated 18 treaties allotting
7,488,000 acres of land to be set aside for Native Californians. Not
surprising a good portion of this "valuable" land was grabbed by the
Whites. Almost a quarter-century later, finally, San Diego Indian
reservations were officially established--under the control of a then
corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Not surprising, many Native Californians remained homeless,
landless, and jobless. And the old attitude that American Indians
were "inferior" continued to prevail. The Indians were voiceless,
until the U.S. Congress declared American Indians citizens--and
the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 allowed that American Indian
governments be created that "ran on the notion of democracy."

I could go on and on about the long tragedy of the American Indian,
about the boarding schools where many indigenous people were taken
against their will. This enforced educational system had a devastating
effect on Indian cultures, causing many to forget their own language
and ceremonies.

Life for the Kumeyaay bands in the San Diego area still remains
uneven. Some are lucky, like the Sychuan, the Viejas, and Barona
Bands of the Kumeyaay Nation. Being close to the large urban area
of San Diego, they discovered the American penchant for gambling.
Consequently, these particular Kumeyaay Bands became wealthy
by establishing casinos, resorts, and entertainment centers.

Perhaps a historical irony, but these rich Kumeyaay chose to share
their wealth with the greater San Diego community--providing jobs
at their facilities and via charitable acts. Still, there's the disparity of
wealth amongst many Indian Nations--including even those more
rural Kumeyaay Indians. Still, they remain a gracious people.

(2) Pacific Pause

The main emphasis at the Cabrillo National Monument is cultural.
There's a small theatre and lecture hall with displays about the
discovery of San Diego Bay, about the early Spanish exploration
of this region. And there's festive days when volunteers dress in
old Spanish garb. Included, also, are representatives of the local
Kumeyaay Indian tribe in native garb performing their bird songs.

These songs are not necessarily about birds, but rather are a
rhythmic form of music that has long perpetuated the cultural
wisdom of the Kumeyaay Tribe. Today these birdsongs are oft
presented at funerals and special memorials.

Always interested in the connection of the American Indian with
a particular region where I was working, I took the opportunity to
attend several adult education courses presented at night at a
local university. Our class was lucky to have a a really committed
cultural anthropologist teaching us. He specialized in both what
is called the "Mission Period" (under Spain) and the "Rancho
Period" (under Mexico) when it came to the history of the
Kumeyaay Indians. And I read up on yet another period of their
history--the "American Period."

I must say that this was the first time that I had formally studied an
Indian tribe. The extension courses utterly shocked me when it
came to understanding the incredibly sad tragedy which the
Kumeyaay Indians endured over a long period of time.

In 1769 the Franciscan Junipero Serra established the first
mission in what is now the State of California--San Diego de
Alcala. And the Spanish military nearly simultaneously
established the Presidio, literally at the location of the Kumeyaay
village of Kwesaay (or Cosoy). The mission moved to another
location, essentially situating itself on Kumeyaay sacred ground
where they had held their own religious ceremonies. The move
was intentional; i.e., replacing one sacred space for another.

Shortly after the mission was established many of the Kumeyaay
tribe were gathered and placed within the mission compound,
where they labored to help construct the church, to learn European
methods when it came to agriculture, weaving clothes, making
European products, etc. At first glance, it seemed as if the Spanish
were trying to "advance" the Indians' abilities. However, there was
that old familiar presumption of "our way is the better way."

The Kumeyaay Indians did not take well to this attitude, nor to their
confinement at the mission compound. Some tried to escape, but
the Spanish soldiers assigned to the mission usually caught them,
brought them back, and oft beat them or punished them in other
ways. Sometimes the Spanish soldiers killed them.

Eventually there were uprisings, resulting in the killing of Padre
Jaime--a successor to Padre Serra, who had moved on to
establish other missions. (As an aside, as Franciscan missions
were established up the coast of California, the same method of
confinement was applied to other Indian tribes.)

After some 52 years the Spanish Mission Period was over.
Unfortunately, it left the Kumeyaay in disarray, their culture, even
their language was nearly lost. What happened? In 1821 Mexico
gained its independence from Spain--and San Diego and much
of present-day California fell under Mexican rule.

(1) Pacific Pause

After working many years in huge national parks it suddenly
seemed like I was working on a "postage stamp," so to speak.
Located on the very southern tip of the Point Loma peninsula,
the Cabrillo National Monument was incredibly small in
comparison. Basically it was a historical park, looking out
onto the San Diego Bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean
westward. And towards the south, one could see Mexico.

Years back, when San Diego was a very small upstart city,
the citizens decided they needed a special place to commemorate
the discovery of this area by early Spanish explorers. Hence the
name and emphasis on Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who sailed
from Mexico up along the West Coast of North America. His
first stop was a great bay on September 28, 1542, which he
named "San Miguel." Later this bay was renamed the San Diego

Today this great bay is the lifeblood of San Diego and its
ancillary adjacent cities. As for the greater San Diego region,
I could only say that it is close to spectacular when it comes to
its beauty, energy, and locale. I was more than happy to move
here. The climate was reasonable; and Its location offered
not only the ocean and bay(s), but also the nearby mountains
and the Anza-Borrego Desert. This area served as a paradise
for those inclined towards the outdoors.

Traversing up a sharply inclined peninsular hill, one had to
drive through a U.S. Navy facility as well a military cemetery
to reach the Cabrillo National Monument. Also, on another
part of Point Loma there was a major nuclear submarine facility.
And across the San Diego Bay there was the North Island Navy
Base at Coronado, home of large aircraft carriers and flight
facilities. Navy Seals trained here as well. And there was
also a major naval surface fleet situated along the southeastern
end of the bay.

Beyond this there were cruise ships, merchantile ships, and
pleasure craft sailing in and out of the San Diego Bay. So,
one does not have to wait long while visiting the Cabrillo
National Monment to view all these various vessels. No dull
moments when it comes to all this maritime activity.

There's also a *different* kind of maritime activity to be seen
from the Cabrillo National Monument, during the period
between December and March observers can spot large gray
whales heading down to the Baja Lagoons (in Mexico) to
have their babies or returning in the Spring to their home
territory in Alaskan waters.

During this period, I did take a whale-watching cruise off
Point Loma. The sea was absolutely full of not only whales
close-up, but also what seemed like dancing sea-lions and
dolphin gymnasts! I was rendered incredulous by the sight
of all this seemingly joyous activity. Nonetheless, as experts
will tell you, smart folk need be aware that the ocean is yet
another wilderness where danger can always lurk.

Not forgetting its ocean connection, one of the tourist attractions
at the Cabrillo park is an old lighthouse now treated as a museum.
The U.S. Navy now has a modern lighthouse situated below this
area on Point Loma.

(4) The Patriarchs

Following a number of years spent at Zion, I finally got my nerve up
to spend a day whitewater rafting with one of the outfitters along the
Virgin River. A tributary of the Colorado River, the Virgin River
flows through the park. It is mainly responsible for the erosion
that built the canyons in Zion. It drops 70 feet a minute, 10 times
faster than that of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Anyway, years back when I first joined the National Park Service,
I had spent a day whitewater rafting on the Shenandoah River
near Harper's Ferry where I was taking an introductory course.
So armed with this limited experience, I felt some confidence
embarking out into the Virgin River. Sometimes our thought
processes aren't working, and somehow I ignored the velocity
of this river. In spite being a professional park ranger, I somehow
was acting like an "innocent abroad."

Swinging out into the river, we were suddenly swept away at a
breathtaking speed. Wearing a bulky lifesaving vest, I wondered
if it would even do any good if we were catapulted into the river
itself. Others in the raft were obviously tourists, and obviously as
frightened as I was! One fellow--a tourist--lost control of himself
and became hysterical. Evidently not thinking straight, he literally
was trying to climb out of the raft. The outfitter guide yelled to
throw him spread-eagle down into the middle of the raft. This
helped balance the raft, thank heavens!

We spent the rest of the trip listening to the screaming and
whimpering of this fellow laying down in the midst of our feet.
Need I say, it made for a terrifying journey. No fun this, not at
all. Eventually we made land, and I wobbled gratefully onto
the shore. At this point I held such a respect for the Virgin River
that I decided I would never "ride" her again!

Wet, worn, and still shaking, I wandered off by myself before
heading for my car. I needed a quiet moment to calm down.
Sitting on a log, in a nearby meadow of swaying Cottonwood
trees, I raised my head and gasped. Walking towards me was
my ancient Indian guide. Speaking to me, he said "pause by
pacific waters." After he disappeared, I had to smile. He had
said the obvious. Henceforth, I would stay put *only* along
side placid waters. No more whitewater rafting for me!

Of course by this time I knew that I was in for a change. So
once again I flipped through the job announcements. In due
course I found an opening that caught my eye. It was for a
ranger naturalist at the Cabrillo National Monument, located
in San Diego. It was situated at the very tip of a peninsula
that looked out upon the vast Pacific Ocean.

With only a few years away from retirement, I felt that--yes--
this assignment would provide the perfect "pause" for me.
After the complex duties I held at Zion, I wasn't really looking
for any more demanding work. This small national park facility
seemed to fit the bill, so to speak.

Not surprised, after applying, I got the job at Cabrillo.
Packing, I was soon heading back to California.

(3) The Patriarchs

Zion is a geologic wonderland. Its ancient seabeds became
limestone. The mud and clay became mudstone and shale.
And the desert sand became sandstone. And forces deep within
the earth pushed the surface upward. Zion's elevation rose
from nearly sea level to as high as 10,000 feet above sea level.
Also this uplift gave the streams a greater cutting force during
their descent, hence erosion bigtime!

And what we have most strikingly noticeable at Zion are its
magnificent monoliths. These massively tall monoliths attract
climbers from all over the world--mainly highly skilled climbers,
in that these monoliths are not recommended for amateurs.
Not only are the climbs high, but they are what are called "big
wall climbs" that literally could range 800 to 2,000 feet high.

When I first gazed upon Zion's monoliths, they seemed almost
like skyscraper towers with a nearly smooth surface going
straight up. I was astonished when I first spotted what seemed
like small "specks" nestled against the walls of these monoliths.
Those specks were people! They were climbers who could spend
days and nights, attached to their ropes, perched, as they moved
slowly upwards under very dangerous conditions. These monoliths
are made of sandstone, and sandstone is loose material. And
the cracks (for holding) are mainly vertical, making it very
difficult getting a good grip.

Need I say that there were fatalities, whether from climbing or
even hiking in the canyons. And the park was kept busy, too,
when it came to rescue operations. Park rangers and medics
engaged in numerous rescues; but, there were also civilian
professionals--a "high angle search and rescue team"--always
on call.

The beauty of Zion was both aesthetically pleasing and frightfully

(2) The Patriarchs

Nearly 230 square miles in size, Zion has a long human and
geologic background. Not surprising, but the southern end
of the park area was once inhabited by the ancient Anasazi.
They had disappeared by 1200-1300 c.e.. Centuries later the
Paiute traversed across the land. And eventually the Mormons
discovered Zion. Indeed a number of sections in the park are
named after Mormon historical markers.

And fossils discovered at Zion indicate that this land was once
under the ocean, later submerged under broad rivers, and
now is located within a desert area. Everything changes over
the course of time. Land changes, peoples change. Zion is
a witness to this!

Immediately outside the entrance to Zion, there's the small village
of Springdale, in southern Utah. The time I was there it was a
community of only 500 souls at most. But I thought it was a
fabulous place, in that the community nearly seemed a
congregation of artists and craftsmen. The place boasted
some really neat galleries that more than often displayed
spectacular paintings and photography of Zion's landmarks as
well as the Indian culture of this area.

Springdale also held an annual music festival that oft featured
Indian-New Age music, with truly beautiful flute music as well.
It was here that I began to acquire a serious appreciation of what
is called "Native American" music. Also, modern day electronic
technology has really enhanced this nature-oriented music. An
odd combination, but it somehow works well together.

One of the sections at Zion is called the Temple of Sinawava,
who was the Coyote God of the Paiute Indians. When the
Southern Paiute lived here, they were hunter-gatherers and
practiced limited water irrigation agriculture along Zion's Virgin

The Paiute Indians held a deep reverence for the large
monoliths and turbulent waters in Zion Canyon. They
considered this area their land, but by the mid-19th century
their land was over-run by the Euro-American migration
heading West. After losing their battle against the Whites, the
Paiute fled to the nearby hills and desert of southern Utah.
However, by the early 20th century they received tracts of
reserved land. But, even today members of the Southern
Paiute visit Zion to perform special rituals.

(1) The Patriarchs

Need I say that upon arrival at Zion National Park I immediately
went to the Court of the Patriarchs. Standing before these three
great mountains, looking about and around, I realized that I was
situated in the midst of one of the greatest geological displays
existing on the American continent. The mountains and monoliths
at Zion exhibited all sorts of coloring and formations. Breathtaking,
it was like standing in some grand Temple of Nature!

But now I had to settle in at Zion--as a resource management
specialist. Over my years I had accrued not only experience but
also seniority. This new position was wide-ranging in that it
demanded a considerable overview of the park. Not senior
enough to be a supervisor, nor wishing actually to be one,
I nonetheless had to spread my wings when it came to multi-tasks
and when it came to working with all sorts of people and programs
at the park. Happily I was not totally office bound, though I was
expected to be able to understand scientific and technical material
come my way--and be able to write succinct technical reports.
And that meant working long hours at the desk.

This new position certainly looked to be a challenge. When I
took my degree at Ohio State, in "Wildlife and Wildlands Science
and Management," several courses covered more specifically
resource management. But that was a long time ago. Consequently
I spent nearly a year at Zion as a novice, so to speak. There was
a lot of territory to cover--for example:

• Inventory and Funding
• Potential Liability
• Federal Environmental Regulations
• Habitat Restoration
• Fire Management
• Risk Management
• Corrective Maintenance
• Monitoring (such as for potential diseases)
• Land Acquisition Priorities
• Wildlife Protection
• Cultural Resources
• Volunteer Programs
• Park Store
• Visitor Satisfaction

None of this multi-tasking proved boring. Still it's difficult to talk
in a composite way about all these specific duties. Boiled down,
it amounted to a lot of downright hard work. Engaging in the
over-view and over-sight of a large park system is very demanding,
albeit I was only a member of a dedicated team. One could hardly
say that this work is "fun," though I took some considerable
satisfaction being able to do the job well.

As for specific interests, Zion's geological history proved fascinating.
And more surprising for me was the *aesthetics* of the place. The
beauty in this park simply was overwhelming. Wherever I went in
Zion I was struck with awe and appreciation.

(4) Marching Trees

When you are busy the years roll by very fast. As I had put
upon my arrival, I really enjoyed the desert. When I wasn't
leading nature walks or telling amateur rock-climbers to
watch where they put their hands--to avoid rattlesnakes who
lurked in crevices--I spent my spare time observing the
colors, the night sky, and savoring the few quiet moments
I found after the tourists had left. Indeed, I walked among
the Marching Trees and felt a certain pulse in their midst!

I did find some time to talk to the park's archaeologist about
the early Indians who once lived in the vicinity of Joshua
Tree. There were three tribes: the Serrano (who first settled
in this area), the Cahuilla, and the Chemehuevi. And before
these tribes arrived, there was the Pinto Culture that settled
in this area for some four to eight thousand years before

Though sparsely populated, the Serrano and the Cahuilla
shared the "Oasis of Mara" that existed in the Twenty-Nine
Palms area. It consisted of a small spring and some grass-
land. And the Chemehuevi setttled for some 400 years in
the eastern portion of Joshua Tree.

There's evidence that these tribes actually flourished in this
desert environment. They hunted bighorn sheep, deer, birds,
rabbits, reptiles, and amphibians. At the oasis they actually
planted beans, pumpkins, squash, and corn. And, as
gatherers, they picked acorns, nuts, seeds, berries, and
cactus fruits.

It appeared that these Indians were a cultural and spiritual
people, leaving petroglyphs that dot the landscape of
Joshua Tree. Eventually they were pushed out of this area
by miners and cattlemen during the 1870's-1880's. But in
spite of their small populations, some still exist today in
nearby reservations. There's the Serrano Morongo Band
and the Serrano San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. And
the Cahuilla are, today, represented by the Agua Caliente
Band near Palm Springs--replete with a resort/spa/casino!

As time flicked by, I thought that perhaps I would eventually
retire here in the desert, perhaps drifting into Palm Springs.
That wasn't to be, however. One day--at sunset--driving near
the Joshua Trees, I stopped, got out of the truck to take pause.
As the sun slowly drifted down I thought I saw the shadow of
a man walking toward me. Gasping, I realized that it was my
ancient Indian guide. Standing near, he said "Go stand
before the Patriarchs." Then he faded and disappeared.

Then and there I knew that I would be making yet another
move. Deep down I knew it was wise to pay attention to this
ancient Indian spirit. Yet, once again, what/where will all
this point? The "Patriarchs?" The message almost sounded
biblical, but by this time I knew they had to be a place! And
likely it was a park.

So, once again I started searching the job opening pages.
This process went on for almost a half-year; then, suddenly,
a photograph popped out before my eyes. It was a picture of
the Three Patriarchs, three mountain peaks in what was called
the "Court of the Patriarchs" at Zion National Park.

I applied for the position, and soon I was on my way to Utah.

(3) Marching Trees

When it came to the animal life in the desert, I was profoundly
fascinated over how savvy the variety of animals were! Again,
"adaptation" was the main priority. Many desert animals were
nocturnal, in that they were active at night. And most of the
diurnal, daytime animals were keyed to the shade where they
could find it. Also some animals had their own inner thermostats,
such as the cold-blooded snakes. And snakes, too, have special
eye coverings that protect from the sand and the dust.

Additionally, as part of adaptation, some animals employed
camouflage that they could skillfully use in the predator-prey
relationship. For example the Sidewinder Snake has colorings
that match the desert. It can simply stay still, in place, and wait
for its prey to march by. And the Coyote also utilizes camouflage,
in that its fur blends into the desert surroundings.

There are far too many particular animals to discuss, rather I will
discuss only a couple that convey this sense of adaptation.

The little Kangaroo Rat has so many adaptations that it actually
never has to drink water. It gets all the moisture it requires
from dry seeds. The Bighorn Sheep--the largest of desert mammals--
can consume 23% of its weight in one visit to a water hole, hence
it is able to go for long periods without water Additionally, it eats
tender young flower stalks of Agave, which are a source of both
water and carbohydrates. And one of the more interesting
examples, in terms of survival, is the Chuckwalla, a large lizard.
If frightened, pursued by a predator, it can squeeze through cracks
of rock, into a crevice, and actually inflate itself by swallowing air--
thus, a predator cannot pull the lizard out from the crevice.

I could go on and on referring to specific animals, how smart,
how savvy they are when it comes to survival. Instead, however,
I'll be more general. Plain and simple, desert animals are better
adapted to withstand high-temperatures than others. Basically
they survive by avoiding the heat. More specifically:
• Animals live as much as possible in the shade. Some find
shade under leaves and rocks.
• Most desert animals live underground, either immediately under
the sand or deeper down in burrows. Temperatures beneath the
surface are much cooler than those on the desert floor. Some
animals do not dig their own burrows but install themselves in
homes built by others.
• Most animals search for food during the night or in the cool dawn.
Some rise early, hunt, and go back into hiding before the day's
heat; they hunt again in the cool hours of dusk, also. Others do
not go abroad until night.

Also, we often hear about a given "food chain;" but in the desert as
well as in other environs, there's also the "food web." Put simply,
plants produce food through photosynthesis. Plants are consumed
by plant-eaters (herbivores). In turn they may be eaten by meat-
eaters (carnivores). Some consumers eat both plants and animals
(omnivores). Dead animals are eaten by scavengers. Decomposers
break down the remains of both animals and plants, returning basic
chemicals into the soil where they are again available to plants. As
put, food webs make up the cycles of life and death.

For me, living in the desert, studying life in the desert, proved utterly
profound. Again, I was able to appreciate the incredible intelligence
required to survive in this environment. Life is just so amazing!

(2) Marching Trees

As I began to review all the material I needed to better interpret
the desert, my co-workers suggested I travel over to the nearby
town of Palm Desert to visit their special garden-park called the
"Living Desert." Officials there were professionals, specializing
in the desert environment and its ecology. Through my own
efforts, as well as conferring with the scientists at Palm Desert,
I was able to gather together a lot of data about both the plant
life and the animal life rampant at Joshua Tree.

First of all, I have to admit how amazed I was to discover how
"alive" the desert is! Most of us probably figure that there isn't
much life in a desert, because of the incredibly harsh conditions.
Surprisingly life is crawling all over the place, or it is waiting
to burst forth when the few rains do come.

As for rain, when it does come, campers need be aware that
there can be flash floods--especially with water roaring through
previously dry riverbeds. But with the rain comes a myriad of
wildflowers, coloring the desert like a rainbow.

Also, one thinks of the cactus when it comes to the desert. I
found it fascinating how cacti have adapted in order to survive.
They have a wide-spreading, shallow root system. And they
collect water rapidly through this root system. Cacti store the
water in their stem, and they do not have water-losing leaves.
Rather, cacti have spines instead of leaves--and their spines
protect them from damage by animals. And their surface area
catches dew and drip-off.

Another representative desert plant would be Mesquite, different
from the cactus, Mesquite has extremely long roots, on average
30 feet long but some more than 250 feet long. Also Mesquite
has deep root "anchors" that guarantees that the plant will not
be washed away during a cloudburst. Growth is centered on the
root, then the above-ground part of the plant. The mature seeds
of Mesquite are protected by an extremely hard coat, which
prevents germination until the pod is cracked or broken.

Neither a cactus or a succulent, the Ocotillo is a deciduous
drought-resistant plant that can grow up to thirty feet high. The
Ocotillo's leaves respond to the presence of water, and in the
Spring produces orange-crimson flowers that can grow up to
six-to-ten inches. In turn the Ocotillo's flowers attract humming-
birds which transfer pollen. I was surprised to learn that evolving
over the years, the Ocotillo have survived by presenting their
flowers in time for the hummingbirds' annual migration!

I could continue with various plant examples, but rather I feel
that I should inject my opinion about these observations. As
any naturalist will tell you, the crux for survival is adaptation.
But I remain amazed over the "how" of this adaptation. There's
different media, different modes, but underlying all this--at least
in my opinion--is *intelligence.* Now I'm not even alluding that
this sense of a special intelligence is similar to our form of human
intelligence; nonetheless, over the millennia, these plants have
responded and evolved most intelligently.

A simple dictionary description of "Intelligence" is as follows:
the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Well,
maybe not done on human terms, these plants certainly have
applied a knowledge of their particular environ and have
skillfully adapted their situation in order to survive successfully
in a very harsh place!

(1) Marching Trees

Never in my whole life could I have imagined a "traffic jam"
in the middle of a desert. That is until I reported to my new
assignment at the Joshua Tree National Park. Arriving in the
Spring, when the weather and temperature was still fairly
moderate, the park seemed utterly over-run with rock climbers
and campers. At least the park was big enough, consisting of
around 800,000 acres of land that included various mountain
ranges in the midst of two deserts: the Mojave Desert and the
Colorado Desert, which is an extension of the Sonoran Desert.
Located in Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is
north of Palm Springs and south of Twentynine Palms, noted
for the U.S. Marine Base nearby.

Having put my trust in my ancient Indian guide, I was not
surprised having been accepted for the job as a park ranger
naturalist at Joshua Tree. As a historical-cultural interpreter at
Bandelier for such a long time, I was ready for a role change.
As a naturalist, I would be giving talks to groups on the trails.
Of course what I didn't know about desert plant and animal
life would fill a desert--to turn a pun.

But with the scorching summer season just ahead, when
temperatures could soar even beyond 110 degrees, we park
rangers would be mostly office bound. The traffic, the rock
climbers, and the campers disappear rapidly under these
conditions. So, I would have time putting in a lot of study in
my cooled office. And much to my surprise, I was informed
that I could look forward to a load of work!

However, with a couple of moderate months remaining before
the onset of Summer, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself
with the territory. And there I was--walking among the "Marching
Trees," the famous Joshua Trees that give this great national
park its name!

At the park there are groves of these tree-like yuccas that seem
almost like a battalion, ready to march forward in unison. From
a distance they do appear like warriors ready for battle. Still
there's a softening affect, when the Joshua tree's pale yellow
bloom appears anywhere between March and May.

Utterly fascinating, too, are the really strange-looking, oft twisted
rock formations at Joshua Tree National Park. Born more than a
million years ago, these geologic curiosities were created out of
molten liquid heated by the movement of the Earth's crust. These
geologic displays are mainly in the western part of the park, part
of the Mojave Desert that is situated in the higher elevations. This
area, too, is where one finds the Joshua Tree groves as well as
fan palm oases. And the Colorado Desert makes up the eastern
part of the park, where there are natural gardens of ocotillo, cactus,
and creosote bushes.

Just "eye-balling" this desert park, walking and driving in its vast
terrain, I realized that I surely would need more than one summer
to even grasp, much less master, the extensive bio-diversity in
this incredible park. Looks to be another long stay, but I was
comfortable with this thought. Oddly, I found that I quite liked
the desert.

(4) The Ancients

Taos, itself, was an interesting place. Historically it was a town
of the Old West, put on the map by its famed citizen--Kit Carson.
But by the time I visited this fascinating place, it had become a
rather "bohemian" place, full of artists and craftsmen, literary
figures, and mystics. No doubt this trend was started back in the
earlier part of the twentieth century, when D. H. Lawrence
established a ranch in Taos. A British poet and author his most
famous book is "Lady Chatterley's Lover," which was hot stuff
back then. He lived in Taos for only a few months, but in death
he remains there! His gravesite is at his ranch.

As for Santa Fe, originally the area was occupied by a number
of pueblo villages; however, Spanish explorers arrived and
established the town in 1598. Since then it has evolved into an
artistic and cultural capitol for the Southwest. Famous for artists
like Georgia O'Keefe, for example. During my visits, I quite
enjoyed the artist's shops, the Plaza, the cathedral, and mingling
with all the interesting people who lived in this beautiful place.

But I digress, still I guess I wanted to mention some of my small
pleasures. The years at Bandelier were rolling-by, but I enjoyed
every minute roaming the park, roaming in nearby towns that
had become small gems.

As for my sense about being a park ranger, well unofficially I
realized that I had moved from being an apprentice to that of a
journeyman. Not at all attached to our GS-rating, these old
medieval titles were fun to consider--and not far from the mark.
As a journeyman, I knew that I was now a fully trained worker!

Then one day, after visiting Albuquerque, driving back, I decided
to stop off and further explore the Pecos National Historical Park.
During my time in New Mexico, I had visited Pecos several times
before; but, I never tired visiting these old places, so full of history,
that remained under the aegis of the National Park Service.

There were the ruins of the Pecos Pueblo, of the Mission church,
and there were also reconstructed kivas. On this, my last visit to
Pecos, I climbed down the ladder that took me into an underground
kiva. I stayed, pondering what it must have been like to have
attended the ancient religious ceremonies in such a place. Then
I looked up, towards the light of the open sky, and there standing
at the head of the ladder, looking down at me, was my ancient
Indian guide, dressed in the ceremonial feathers of scarlet, blue
and yellow--like those found on the Scarlet Macaw!

Again startled, but not frightened, I heard him say clearly: "Go
walk among the marching trees." Then he was gone!

Another vision, another message that I had to figure through.
About the only firm grip I had was that it was time to move on to
yet another place. I was reluctant, because I had come to love
Bandelier. But even from a practical perspective, I knew that
I was expected to move around in the park service. If nothing
else, one need apply for ever higher positions with higher
GS-ratings. That's how you moved up in your career. But what
in the world did my vision's message mean, when it came to
"marching trees"?

Months later, I found the answer.

Reviewing position announcements, I happened onto an
opening for a park ranger at the Joshua Tree National Park.
Essentially it is a "desert" park. That, in itself, did not exactly
thrill me. But what caught my eye was one of the photos
attached to the announcement, and *that* did thrill me!
The photo showed hundreds and hundreds of Joshua trees,
looking for all the world like an army of marching trees!

(3) The Ancients

Having met my Park Service guide at the Chaco Canyon museum,
we headed off to see some of the most formidable sights I have
ever seen when it came to American Indian culture. There were
pueblos: one--the Pueblo Bonito--could hold up to 800 inhabitants;
another pueblo spanned some two blocks. (Pueblos are multi-storied
houses.) The Center of Chaco Canyon appeared to be a religious
center, boasting an incredibly large kiva accompanied by many other
smaller kivas. (A kiva is a wholly or partly underground chamber,
used for religious rites.)

There were also a number of quite wide roads that linked the
various pueblos spread out over miles from the Center. Since the
Anasazi hadn't discovered the wheel, it seemed these roads were
not meant for ordinary traffic. Rather, scholars speculate that these
roads were built for vast religious pilgrimages.

The religion of the Anasazi has mostly been gleaned from their
symbolism, from petroglyths (rock carvings) and their kachina dolls
(that represent a spirit). Like other ancient Indian cultures, the
Anasazi believed they emerged from the Earth--as did their
deified spirits. There's some speculation, too, that they may have
followed what is deemed the "Scarlet Macaw Sun Religion."
The Scarlet Macaw is well known in Mesoamerica. It's a scarlet
colored, parrot-like bird with additional blue and yellow feathers.
(As for my own speculation, I have to wonder if the Scarlet Macaw
might represent the "Sunbird," long alluded in stories and dreams.)

Additionally, it's well known that the Anasazi were more than
fledgling astronomers. They used what is call the "sun dagger"
to determine the seasons. It was a shaft of sun that hit upon special
stone drawings, and at certain times the Anasazi could figure the
onset of the Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring Solstices. Interestingly,
it reminds me of a story once told by the famous psychologist
Carl Jung. During his travels, Jung once stopped and interviewed
an elder at the famous Taos Pueblo. The elder told him that he
helped the sun across the sky. Jung has another interpretation for
the Pueblo's statement, but I suspect it may have had a connection
with the astronomical observations of the ancient Anasazi.

Talking to visiting archaeologists as well as the Park interpreters,
I learned more about the farming practices of the Anasazi, about
their art work and pottery. They were famous for their "black on
white" motifs on their pottery, and they traded for turquoise that
also factored into their art. As for their farming, importantly focused
on corn (to make flour), in their early period the Anasazi had
reservoirs and irrigation ditches--so at least in their earlier days
the climate was more amenable when it came to available water.
But in their later period drought surely assisted in their
disappearance and perhaps their demise.

However, the contemporary Pueblo Indians still have their
connection with Bandelier. Occasionally they would come to
the park to perform their dances, explain their ceremonies,
and relate their thoughts about their ancient ancestors. And
they would tell of their myths that link their way of life
with Nature, the Earth, plants and animals.

Though I did not visit the Hopi and Zuni reservations, the
Pueblo tribe was very open to visitors viewing their ceremonies.
Mostly I spent much of my spare time nearby, either in Taos or
in Santa Fe. In Taos, there was the world-famouse Taos Pueblo,
still a living pueblo, composed of adobe, rising several floors in
height. Parts of it was open to visitors.

(2) The Ancients

In a nutshell, from what I gleaned from my study, scientists
believe that volcanic eruptions are a key process in the
Earth's dynamics. They do not signify anything out of the
ordinary. A volcanic event happens when there is a sudden
(or even a continuing) release of energy caused by surface
movement. This pent-up energy is oft associated with the
movement of tectonic plates.

There's volcanic activity under the ocean as well as on land.
Much of the ocean floors consist of rocks derived from lava
during the last 200 million years. And on land a volcano is
usually a mound or hill or mountain that serves as a vent, a
conduit that extends from the Earth's upper mantle. And
when energy is released, material can be carried into the

The volcanos at Bandelier erupted over a million years ago.
Venting fully their magna, these volcanos collapsed--leaving
what is called a "caldera," which is a gigantic crater. There's
also cliff walls composed of rock made out of volcanic residue.
And the Anasazi "Longhouse," near the Bandelier entrance
is such a wall, where these ancient Indians built their cave
homes. They also built houses out of brick that they made
out of this volcanic residue.

After I began to understand the connection between the natural
environ of Bandelier and the Anasazi, it was deemed time to
review the history of these mysterious Indians.

Traced back even before the first millennium c.e., the Anasazi
culture spanned over parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and
Arizona. Early on they were basketmakers, then accomplished
farmers. By the mid-16th century c.e., these ancient Indians
had seemed to have disappeared. Scholars have wondered
whether drought may have caused them to leave, looking for
new regions where they might continue farming. Or, perhaps a
drought caused starvation--and maybe the Anasazi might have
warred upon one another, until they just simply were no more.

Regardless the disappearance of the Anasazi, contemporary
Pueblo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes consider themselves descendants
of the Anasazi. And--nowadays--they much prefer to refer to
their ancient ancestors as "Ancestral Pueblans."

As for the Anasazi sites at Bandelier, archaeologists and other
scholars have determined that several hundred Anasazi farmers
lived in a pueblo on the valley floor as well as the cave dwellings
in the cliffs. The cliff dwellings were dug out of what is called the
"Longhouse," which is approximately 800 feet in length. Culturally
speaking, besides a reconstructed kiva, there are also ancient
decorations in some of these cliff dwellings, and the ceilings are
still blackened with the soot of Anasazi fires for cooking and warmth.

Scholars believe that the Anasazi settlers at Bandelier likely
are remnants of the Chaco Culture Anasazi, situated earlier in
New Mexico--at what today is known as the "Four Corners" of the
States of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Not a readily
accessible location, I nonetheless was told that it was time to spend
a few weeks training at the Chaco Culture National Historical Park--
administered by the National Park Service. It's the locale of
the great cultural and ceremonial center of the ancient Anasazi.

(1) The Ancients

Like the Cherokee, I had to make my way west beyond the
Mississippi River--much father west, in my case. And far
more comfortable, too, as I winged my way to New Mexico.
Landing at the Albuquerque airport, I was suddenly made
aware that I was in a new land when I walked into the
terminal. Called the "Sunport," its emblem seemed to be
the Thunderbird. Throughout American Indian motifs were
displayed on the terminal's colorful walls as well as in other
ways. There was no doubt that I had arrived in the Southwest.

Yes--I had passed an initial interpreter's test, had applied
for, and got the job at the Bandelier National Monument.
The driver of the National Park Service car held up a sign,
noting my name. He helped me with my baggage, and
soon we were on our way to Bandelier.

The driver was a Pueblo Indian, a member of one of the
tribes who are direct descendents of the ancient Anasazi.
As we wound our way up towards Santa Fe, viewing the
backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, I noted a
road sign for the Pecos National Historical Park. From
preliminary study on the Anasazi, I knew that tthis park
included the ruins of an ancient pueblo.

As for the Bandalier National Monument, it was situated
north of Santa Fe and just south of Los Alamos, the famous
nuclear laboratory built during World War II, where the first
atom bombs were developed.

Upon settling-in, the Bandalier Center notified me that after
some exposure to the wildlands that I would mostly serve as
a historical-cultural interpreter at both the "Longhouse," which
includes dwellings of the ancient Anasazi as well as at the
museum that houses artifacts of these ancestral people of
the contemporary Pueblo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes.

The entire park encompassed more than 30,000 acres, most
of which was wildland that was home to a multitude of animals
and plants and trees. Our black bear was present. So
"Smokey" had made his way out here! There were mule deer,
elk, and mountain lions too! Birds and butterflies galore, and
snakes and lizards. There were hiking trails; and in the winter,
when much of the park lies under a vast snow-field, people
would oft do cross country ski-ing as well as tramp around the
trails on snow shoes. In varied ways Bandelier was enjoyed
by many all year round.

But before I would start as an interpreter, I was not only
to receive basic training at Bandelier but also would be
sent to Chaco Canyon for more advanced training about
the cultural history of the Anasazi. So, having understood all
this, I figured that I probably would be at Bandelier for a long
time--considering all the investment.

However, my first order of business at Bandelier was to
reconnoiter the wildlands that composed at least 70 percent
of the park. Bordering the Jemez Mountains, there were
fairly deep canyons forged by the Rio Grande. And near the
river there was a wetland with cranes, frogs, all sorts of life
that would be associated with such. What got me, mainly, was
the fact that some of these areas were initially "rims" of vast
ancient volcanoes. And, when it came to the dwellings of
the ancient Anasazi, well those dug into a canyon wall, were
made possible because the material was a soft porous stone,
called "tuff," shaped by prehistoric volcanic eruptions of lava.

Right off, I knew that I would have to gain at least a minimal
understanding when it came to vulcanology.

Friday, November 21, 2008

(4) Great Smokey

At least I had a moment in time studying the Cherokee, but I had
to return to my duties. Huge tracts of land, like National Parks, are
susceptible to fire. There's a constant watch, and there need be
a quick response in the case of fire. Park rangers are trained in
wildland firefighting, but when you actually are in the midst of
such an emergency it's scary. After all my time now spent in
Great Smokey, I finally had to help fight a fire!

We got control of the flames, not only with fire-trucks but also
air-drops. Being such a dense forested area, combined with
mountains, knowledgeable controllers had to be aboard the
helicopters who came in close to the fire. Tree-tops, high ridges,
all under a cloud of smoke, all hard to see, can make for a
disaster if one isn't careful. Fortunately the climate in Great
Smokey usually works to our advantage avoiding fires or
putting them out. There's always the high humidity, and usually
there's a guarantee of rain every few days. So it helps.

Our fire was finally put out, but a few of us stayed on watch to
make sure it didn't flare-up again. Tired, hot, dirty, gulping
down water, by myself, I leaned against a tree and slumped
onto the ground. Weary, I saw a figure on the nearby trail.
Walking toward me, I gasped when I realized who it was!
There was my old Indian, wearing tattered clothes, looking
worn and sad. He stood off and said "Attend to the ancients."
Suddenly he disappeared and I was left wondering, why now?
But I was just too exhausted to think much beyond the question.

Happier times arrived, fortunately. I decided to review the Botany
books in our Center's library. Need I say I forgot nearly all
that I once learned in this field, when I studied it in High School.
Since I was getting more and more visitor questions about the
flowers, about the trees, I decided that I need get beyond just
the identifiers and try to understand more of the basics about
both flowering plants and trees.

Delving into my self-study, I found--for example--that the typical
flowering plant has six kinds of parts: roots, stems, leaves (called
vegetative organs) and flowers, fruits, and seeds (that are the
reproductive organs). Roots grow down, away from the light,
whereas stems grow above ground, upward towards the light,
and bear leaves. The main function of green leaf foodmaking
is by *photosynthesis.* It's a process where simple sugars are
made from carbon dioxide and water, using energy, captured
from sunlight. As for the reproductive process, most flowering
plants reproduce vegetatively or asexually. Reproduction--oft
via pollination--gives rise to the seed, which if properly nurtured
by both climate and condition produces a new plant.

As for trees and shrubs, the trunk is the absolutely central fixture.
There are wood tubes that run up-and-down the trunk. Wood
cells induce branches, that in turn produce leaves that spread in
the sunlight. Interesting, too, the outer bark of a tree is mostly
dead, but it protects the trunk from injury and disease. Most trees,
at least in temperate zones like Great Smokey, are seasonal. But
fir trees keep growing the year around. As for the rings of a tree
determining its age, well that gets rather complicated. There's
thick rings (when a tree grows well), there's thin rings (when a
tree grows poorly). And when the thickness jumps into thinness,
well one can analyze that the tree at a given point in time went
through a crisis of some sort. So one needs historical data and
dates, one needs rainfall records that reach back hundred of
years to try to determine the possible age of a specific tree at
this particular crisis point.

Into my fifth year at Great Smokey, I was plump full of pride. I was
no longer a novice park ranger. Not a senior, but at least I had
turned into a fairly informed apprentice!

But time brings change. Park rangers don't make the biggest
salary in the world, yet you can go up the GS-rating scale if you
move into new positions. Though given our first assignment,
afterwards we were expected to look after ourselves, and keep
abreast of new job offerings that could broaden our experience
and enhance our career.

So having said this, I spotted a job opening at Bandelier National
Monument in New Mexico. The work would include some of
our usual wildland duties, but mainly the position called for a
park ranger "interpreter." And in this situation, it involved the
historical-cultural interpretation of the Ancient Anasazi Indians
who one lived in that location.

Instantly I *knew* that I was bound for Bandelier! My vision back
at the fire scene suddenly was made clear.

(3) Great Smokey

Like many Indian societies, the Cherokee engaged in hunting,
trading, and agriculture--and their lands covered a large portion
of what is now southeastern United States. As scholars have
put, spiritual forces shaped the Cherokee world. It was a world
where spiritual power resided not only in plants and animals, but
also in the rivers, caves, and mountains. Their's was an interaction
with the land and the life in it. The seven clans of the Cherokee
partly reflect this: Bird, Paint, Deer, Wolf, Blue, Long Hair, and
Wild Potato.

By the late 18th century European settlers began arriving in the
lands of the Cherokee. There were battles, and the Whites also
brought disease. The Cherokees were decimated, as the settlers
expanded their stakes. And eventually the tribe was forced to
sign over much of their land, first to the British and latter to the

In due course the American Government decided to relocate the
Indians. The idea of relocation was actually first broached by
Thomas Jefferson, but it was enacted in full force by Andrew
Jackson. The Cherokee--as well as other Eastern Indian tribes--
were to be transported to Oklahoma, west of the Mississippi

This proved a sad situation, because the Cherokee had tried
to adapt to the Euro-American Culture. They began farming,
successfully so, they wore western clothes, some became
highly educated, and one Cherokee scholar devised a Cherokee
alphabet that could record their language. Basically, they were
trying to be solid citizens in this New World that fell on them!

But the White avarice for land eventually spelled doom for the
Cherokee. There was rumor of gold to be found, too! The
Indians had to go, thus relocation was legally enacted--and the
Cherokee were to be moved to Oklahoma. Thus, the tragedy
of the "Trail of Tears" began.

First the Cherokee were gathered in stockades, waiting for the
trek west. The journey began as early as 1834. The "Trail of
Tears" was not just one particular trail. The earliest detachment
went by river, but the 900 who went on boats suffered immensely.
The river boat crews--as reported by one overseer--made the
boats "nurseries and receptacles of idleness, drunkenness, and
vice." Measles broke out. And then the boats ran into trouble
when they began ascending the Arkansas River. Low water
forced the passengers to abandon both the boats and their
provisions. The Cherokee has to walk the rest of the way.
Affliction was everywhere. Cholera struck. Entire families died.

These detachments of Cherokee continued, repeating the
disastrous water routes where drought make it impossible
to continue. More Cherokees had to disembark and walk.
Then the rains came, as well as snow. Sickness followed.
And little children died.

A few years later American soldiers came and literally removed
the remaining Cherokee from their land. (Some did escape
into the mountains and never made the trip to Oklahoma. Today
they are recognized as the "Eastern Cherokee.") But most of
the Cherokee were rounded up, put under guard at forts, and
finally marched to Oklahoma. As one departing Indian put:
"we are now about to take our final leave and kind farewell to
our native land the country that the Great Spirit gave our Fathers."

Again exposure and fatigue plagued the Cherokee as they
walked on the "Trail of Tears." More diseases--besides measles
they suffered whooping cough, dysentery, and respiratory
infections. As put: "children and elders died in disproportionate

The Cherokee arrived in Oklahoma--in the designated Indian
territory--"exhausted and dispirited." But their tribe were survivors!
Eventually they began to thrive in Oklahoma, and the Eastern
Cherokee fugitives came out of the mountains and returned to
small areas of their ancestral lands.

But in the end, tragedy oft rules for so many of these American
Indian tribes. The Cherokee and the "Trail of Tears" will always
be a constant reminder of this fact.

(2) Great Smokey

The Black Bear is one animal that is famous in Great Smokey.
See all those National Park safety advertisements that feature
"Smokey the Bear." Also, the standard answer to the question
"what do I do if I see a bear?" is likely all you will see is its back
end while running away. Probably true most of the time, because
these bears are smart enough to stay away from people--unless
people are dumb enough to try to feed these creatures. Then
there's trouble.

On into my time at Great Smokey I have had more than one
occasion where I had to stop visitors from chasing or trying
to play with bear cubs. They are cute and might seem cuddly;
but one *always* has to keep in mind that if there are cubs
about, than it is more than likely Mother Bear is nearby. And
if she moves in to "protect" her cubs, well that could be a very
ugly scene!

Just getting a handle on this myriad of animal and plant life
took a lot of time and effort on my part. We had an excellent
wildlife collection of books at our Center's library; and, of course
I learned from my superiors, who were mostly patient with us
new park rangers. But they suggested that we enroll in some
home study courses that related to some of the specifics of our
work. Taking their advise, I wangled into the Bird Biology course
provided by Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology.
As advertised, the course was entirely "self-paced." A perfect
situation for me!

This course involved learning the classification of living birds.
For example, in Great Smokey's neck-of-the-woods there's
"Strigiformes" which include owls. Than there's those sweet
birds, the "Passeriformes," with which we are familiar: songbirds,
perching birds, robins, thrushes, orioles, finches, sparrows. Than
there the "Piciformes," the woodpeckers who pec and pic, if you
will. As for our more common pigeons and doves, they fall under
the classification of "Columbiformes."

More specificially I had to learn about the "topography" of the
land bird--about the crown, the eyes, the nostril, the ear, the
throat, the shoulders, the belly, the rump, the tail, along with
the upper and under surface of the wing. We also learned the
significance of the bills and the feet of birds when it came to
their different kinds of feeding.

Interesting, too, was the study of the sounds and songs of birds.
Pretty intelligent, these birds! Calls inform others of a bird's
whereabouts. Also the location of food is oft signaled by call
notes. And calls can be alarms, alerting danger. And birds
rearing their young employ certain calls that relay survival
specifics to their chicks. Also, last but not least, a bird's "song"
is really about establishing a territory and securing a mate.

Anyway, throughout this home study course I was sent a number
of exams to take. Upon passing the exams, taking the final,
I completed the course and was granted a Certificate of Study
from Cornell. All in all, it was a nice addition to my resume!

Finally, after some two years working at Great Smokey, I found
enough breathing space to return to my interest in the American
Indian. Being stationed at the "Cherokee" gate, I was constantly
aware that part of this park, and much of the territory around,
was once the ancestral home of the Cherokee Indians--who,
by the way, were remnants of the Mississippian Culture.