Nothin’ on top but a bucket and a mop and an illustrated book about birds.

It is a grassland really, more than any sort of desert. Yes it is arid and often windswept, but the mountains to the south and west are covered with trees, and down here in the Round, where the Little Colorado flows, it is mostly grass. Tall windswept grass, leaning perennially north/north-east, in response to the winds, currently brownish tan and glowing golden in certain light. And yes, there are some trees down here too, but I have a sense that most were likely put here. Otherwise, yeah, it is a high altitude grassland. Hence the various ungulates. Muleys, elk, and antelope by course of nature; cattle and horse more recent installments.


A windy day in the foothills


Too, it is a plateau; though a ragged one. It is somewhat hard to envision this from down in the valley, but the truth of it is that those mountains over there are the eastern end of the Mogollon Rim, an imposing escarpment from which the world falls off to the south, to the proper desert. While, from the right vantage, looking north, the land seems to go on in flatness forever, though in truth, that is not at all the case. No, up here in the wind, while arid, we benefit from a more temperate clime than a proper desert does. Cold, but not too cold in winter. Warm, but not overly in summer. Windy in spring, with a monsoon season in late summer. Or so I gather. What the hell do I know, having only been here 6 weeks or so?


The perspective from the point of the mountain, looking generally north.


One thing I do know; I am going a bit stir-crazy living in this trailer park. Even the coo cooing of the “doves” (band tail pigeons actually… illustrated book, remember) is beginning to grate on the nerves a bit. But, I am going to attempt to avoid going down that particular path in this current narrative. It is why I have been so quiet of late, for fear of whining over much… for there really is no call for that, though it does, at times, happen.


On a run the other day. I paused only briefly, not wanting to get involved in whatever might be afoot…


Anyway. Cattle wander in the wind swept grass, bedraggled horses lay, playing dead it seems to me, in the dusty heat of mid-day. Ravens, of which in certain places I have seen more in congregation than I would previously have thought possible, are prevalent. The Little river is mostly ice free now, and with the snows melting from the higher ground, has become a bit more obviously ambitious. Although it was colder today than it has been in some time, there are buds on the trees and things are sprouting from the earth here and there, if one takes the time to look.


South Fork of the Little Colorado.

As for us, we are still living a life in transition, but at the same time settling in. In doing so, it seems to me that that is what works best here; settling. I do not mean that to sound fatalistic or anything, for I do not suggest that one must settle for a lesser existence or anything, though perhaps some here have. No, I refer more to the persistence of those that originally settled. Many of the names here, the families, are still active, as opposed to remnants of a bygone era. There are some of the latter for certain, as with anywhere, but some roots persist here it would seem. That is not to say that the town has not fallen on hard times. The numerous closed and boarded-up shops, the very numerous for sale signs, the ominous rusting hulk on the edge of town that was the timber plant, all show that once, things were better… or at least different. We are still learning the rhythms of the place it is true, but we are settling. Somewhat.

In truth though, the past is close here. Some, very close, even though it is very far back in time. Sorry to be obscure.

There are vestiges of homesteads, still hanging on. Like the names. Sometimes an old corral or falling down cabin. More often, windmills, in various stages of disrepair; some creaking in the breeze, those that still retain blades, others standing idle, bladeless, sad skeletons emulating early oil derricks or perhaps Eifel’s tower. Miles of fence, much of it barely keeping the tumbleweeds at bay. Miles of old roads and trails.


The Saffel homestead; 1913.


And then there are the ruins, but I am hesitant to speak much of them, for I know little. It would seem however, that several hundred years ago, this was a well populated area, with the valley here ostensibly serving as a sort of regional center; a gathering place it is said, for trade or religious pursuits. Evidence suggests this, as the ruin just over there, which I have yet to be able to visit, was at one time very well established. A large compound pueblo with a series of structures and features; rooms and stairways and the great kiva. And there are other smaller pueblos all over the region, not to mention the great cliff dwellings. Truly, this is indian country. But again, I only know very little at this point.


Petroglyph we found on a hike to one of the local cindercones recently; possibly undocumented.


For now, I will settle on the idea of grass. And wind. For both are immediate, here on the plateau; here in the Round. While our various explorations, in the time that we have been here, have taken us to some rather dramatic places in many different places, it is the explorations closer to “home” that I look to now. Explorations of grass and wind and local history. While there is a whole new world to explore here, it seems a good thing to learn to settle. The other stories still need to germinate some.




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