North of Pecos, Texas

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Coming home from a conference in San Antonio I decided to take an alternate route and headed north from Fort Stockton on U.S. 285.  It’s a road under reconstruction.  I found out why as I travelled north from Pecos.  There was activity on both sides of the road, apparently many companies making a play for some part of the oil fields below.  It is hard to describe, and couldn’t be photographed from the road, it would require an aerial view.

Flat landscape flattened,
scraped, large rectangles
of sand, a small
building or a few trucks
on each.  Construction
that is destruction
of a delicate ecosystem.

It must be an unpleasant place to work when wind stirs up the sand. And it must be a discouraging place to work now that the demand for fuel has gone down.  That’s another story.

If I had continued north toward Carlsbad I would have seen the same thing in New Mexico; the road runs above the Delaware section of the Permian basin.  Fortunately for me I turned off US 285 toward the Guadalupe Mountains, where I soon had desert bushes on both sides of the road, though there were several signs warning of pipe line construction.  It had been forty long miles of landscape damaged to feed our human world’s need for fossil fuels.


First Report of First Trip to Bali


I have been back from Bali for over a month and am still sorting photos and impressions.


It is a place of lush growth and smooth beaches and lots of people.  There are many impressions for which I have no photos.  One is the traffic.  Streets always crowded, more motor bikes than cars, but not a lot of horns. Drivers take turns at intersections.  People are generally considerate.  (This trait makes them good at hospitality, and tourism seems to be the main industry.)

One common activity for both locals and tourists is visiting temples at sunset.  We went to Tanah Lot, which stands on a promontory a short distance from the shore.


We were fortunate to arrive there at low tide.  Beyond this entrance one walks down over water-worn rocks to see the temple rising above.  (Temples, being active worship sites, are not open to foreigners.)


Afterward, we tourists go back and up the hill to buy drinks and watch the tide come in and the sun go down.

tl-tideThere were few tourists and a long row of shops with tables and chairs offering a good view.


This describes one late afternoon in a seven day visit.  A very short time, and there was much we did not see, but watch for more installments of what we did see.  As I said, I am still sorting my impressions.


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Hi-ā-tus.  Comes from the Latin hiare, to gape.  I wonder if that is connected to the fact that the “ah” sound is when the mouth opens widest.  The “a” turned long in hiatus, a word which first appeared in 1563, according to the OED.

I’ve had a number of gaps in my blogging in the past year, because other things got in the way.  Unscheduled interruptions.  I am now taking an intentional break.  I’m heading east and attending my college reunion.  I won’t have my laptop there.

My garden is sending me off with some healthy looking flowers.  The pansies have given me color all winter and haven’t quit yet.P1000508

These yellow daisy-like flowers are called Chocolate Flower.  Supposedly they smell like chocolate if you brush past them early in the morning.  I’ve never caught the scent.  Maybe it’s not dark chocolate.P1000506

I plan to be back in action about June 1, with pictures, I hope, from past and upcoming travels.  And the new thoughts that being in a new place sometimes brings.

Hong Kong Visit

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I’ve just had a great trip to Hong Kong, my first there, and only my second ever to Asia.  Hong Kong is a very lively city, and fairly compact for its size, as it is hemmed in by steep mountains.  The central part of the city, on Hong Kong Island, is built on the side of a hill.  Streets uphill are frequently replaced by stairs.  Clearly, the harbor was the important feature in the selection of this location by the British back in the nineteenth century.  The city continues to be bi-lingual, with a large foreign population – it takes seven years, I learned, to become a permanent resident.  And there are enough foreigners to support quite a few coffee shops, a feature I appreciated in the mornings, though I enjoy Chinese tea the rest of the day.

It was grey when we arrived, a result of the typhoons in the area.  This was convenient for one coming from a colder climate.

From the Star Ferry

From the Star Ferry

Gradually the weather warmed and the sun came out, providing an opportunity to enjoy the view from Victoria Peak.  Across the harbor is Kowloon, another part of the city, which is a peninsula of the mainland.

View from the Peak

View from the Peak

The look back at the peak, from a 42nd floor hotel room, shows how close the green landscape is, where it gets too steep to build.

Southern view from hotel

Southern view from hotel, morning sun

A half hour bus or taxi ride takes one around the hills and down to the south side of the island, where there are villages with nice beaches and houses which seem far away from the city high rises.  More of that in another post.

On The Road: Hot Springs, AR

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park sign

Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas has a network of trails up its small mountains, but in other ways it is unlike most national parks.  There is no entrance gate and no fee.  There is and has always been a public/private partnership.

hot spring

We stopped here because it is a park we’ve never visited, and because it was on the way from our home base to where we needed to be two days later.  The park began as a federal preserve to protect the source of the spring water from developers before there was a park system.  A row of bath houses right downtown are fed by these springs, grand buildings, two of which are working bath houses; others are in disrepair, one is the national park office/store.  The buildings and the preserve were established as pleasure places for the elite in the late nineteenth century.  These days the clientele is more varied; the woman who served breakfast at our hotel said she gets “the works” (soak, massage, etc.) once a year.

The water is also available at several open spigots.  People come to fill jugs with the water, which has been extensively analyzed and tastes very good.

mountain road

I was hoping for more wildflowers on the drive up the mountain.  We saw mostly straggly buttercups along the road.  And we came upon one resting place which must have been there a long time.  They don’t build them like this anymore.

rest stop

Reflections on Contemporary Travel, with a Poem

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When my husband and I travel, we usually use one motel chain, one which claims, and usually provides, certain amenities such as a decent breakfast, thick towels and internet service.  This practice also enables us to build up points toward a free stay once or twice a year.

There is one problem with having a “rewards card” however.  It means they have our email address.  After each stay we get a request to fill out a survey.  There is no “I choose not to” option at this point – if we don’t answer it we’ll get a “friendly reminder.”  Part of the survey includes “when did you last stay in a motel?”  “Which brand was it?” and “Did the brand name influence your choice?”  By this time I want to scream “Yes!  Of course the name influenced us!  We have a rewards card!  Aren’t you paying attention?”  But they are not paying attention.  They offer no place to make a comment to the organization, instead of to the individual hotel.

But the question which gives me the most trouble is “Was this trip for business or pleasure?”  If I have to get across the country to visit family, there ought to be a third category.  Would it be both?  Neither?  This became an acute issue for me when I was travelling to visit my mother because she was ill.  The culprit that time was an airline, but the reaction was the same.  Is it business or pleasure?  It’s both.  it’s neither.

My chapbook The Map of Longing includes a number of poems related to my mother’s last months.  The fact that it happened at the same time we were preparing to move made everything sharper and more complicated.  In the poem below I tried to express some of my frustration.


The form asks, “business or pleasure?”
No “other” category for this trip
which is neither―or both:
my mother’s business,
her pleasure in our visit,
our pain in the strained connection,
spoiled arm, scattered mind.

The web of family combines
what marketers want to segment,
as if pain and pleasure could
be wrapped separately, like
the chocolates she loves, as if
“all of the above” were an option
one could choose not to check.

The Map of Longing is available through Amazon.  You can get a signed copy from me via ERYBooks.