Impermanence (Badlands V)

The direct ascent to Saddle Pass is not particularly steep but does become difficult when rain has turned the ground into mud.

Much of the landscape is in fact rather viscose, it flows.

And there is little that attempts resistance.

Curiously, there are not even little ponds where the water stays. Everything disappears, slowly.

All the apparent permanence of this landscape is illusion.

Surprisingly though, this universal giving in acquires an esthetic quality in its abstraction.

Dissolution has become a state.

Medicine Root Trail (Badlands IV)

The Medicine Root Trail offers an alternative return to the Castle Trail from Saddle Pass to the Notch trailhead (and parking lot).

We are getting further away from the larger rock structures, and solitude becomes dominant.

Are these the promised roots?

But then there is the surprising occasional spot of intense color, like here with Oenothera caespitosa (Tufted evening primrose)

or Musineon divaricatum (Leafy wildparsley).

Time to return for today. Tomorrow will be a longer day.

Castle Trail (Badlands III)

After the Notch Trail’s gloomy rock faces it’s time for the Castle Trail, an 11mile long easy hike through serene Badlands scenery. Today we are hiking the first portion, tomorrow we will close the loop by returning on the Medicine Root Trail.

The beginning gives the impression of a Badlands nursery where smaller and younger Badlands rock structures emerge from the ground and grow.

But the further one walks, the more distant they become, tantalizingly so. What is the right distance? Do we always want to stay apart, or do we always want to be near?

Few people walk here during a cloudy afternoon, and there are few signs of civilization.

Trails and phones lines allow for different kinds of connections — what is more important, instantaneity or physicality?

Then the landscape opens up, becoming inviting and forbidding at the same time, another strangely familiar balance.

Could this become home? Now we have reached Saddle Pass — —

Rock Faces (Badlands II)

Let’s walk the Notch Trail once again, adding another layer, that of the spectator.

The richly textured canyon walls allows us to see things that are probably not there.

Some of them seem friendly, others a bit scary.

Sometimes there are only faces, and sometimes entire bodies.

What does this tell us about what we see? Do we have proof now of humanoid alien life forms? Do we have to believe what we see?

Or, rather, what does this tell us about us? Are we seeing these faces only because we don’t want to be alone?

Lastly, a lesson might be learned — that we are maybe not so different from what we are able to see.

Notch Trail (Badlands I)

Let’s begin to approach the landscape of the Badlands appropriately, through layers.

This is the beginning of the Notch Trail, a short hike that gets you intimately close to the rock formations, if we allow for it. Not yet, though.

I hiked this trail twice, first on a cloudy afternoon, and then the next morning accompanied by some fog, giving me layers of time and weather.

Here we just follow the trail up, looking forward and backward.

Near the end there is a choice. We can enter a side canyon that narrows

and allows to climb up,

or we can reach the notch – the end of a world.

All this is already fascinating in its otherness, but there are more layers that reveal themselves when we look differently.

Cedar Valley Nature Trail (Northwest II)

Continuing northwest, I spent an hour on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, a 50 mile long trail along the Cedar River in Iowa.

It not only looks very straight, it is very straight, probably because it is a replacement (??) of an old railroad track.

Gaps between the trees allow for views into the landscape.

Road crossings happen with proper warnings. There were neither cars nor other hikers.

What can I say? My excitement grew when I saw the building below, with the stylized cat detail above.

What else can we expect even further northwest?!

Starved Rock

On my way Northwest I stopped at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.

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This is a scenic and much photographed place, so here is a slightly different perspective. 

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Above you see the holes made my water droplets in the eroded rock. These holes are deep enough to create resonance not unlike organ pipes, but of course using tones from a grown scale. Together with the constant drone of the nearby waterfall this was a wonderful peculiar experience.

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Time has created larger pits. Don’t fall down there. 

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Instead, let’s meditate about water. If you take two of these little water droplets, can you tell them apart? Can we hear the difference when we listen careful enough, at the moment when they hit the ground?

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A Week Later (Brood X – 4)

A week after the first emergence, the cicadas from Brood X are still coming, they and their exoskeletons are everywhere.

There is no point of hiding.

Instead, leaving the exoskeletons for the birds creates an essential diversion.

That the birds live in the land of plenty this year allowed me to harvest for the first time the cherries from my weeping cherry. Tiny, tart, and tasty.

They just have three weeks. Every second counts. Maybe we should live like that, too.

Up Close (Brood X, Part 3)

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So here is one of our new friends, up close, with the two big eyes and the three small ocelli.

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Reduced distance to the unknown is disconcerting, so I turned off color to create the illusion that we are seeing something abstract, not a living being.

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As in Julio Cortázar’s short story Axolotl, the question arises who is looking at whom here.

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Are we as different to them as they are to us?


The Morning After (Brood X, Part 2)

After a glorious night, most of the emergence is done, or at least paused, as it is a cold morning here.

The imagos have matured over night and blackened. I didn’t know that they can have different eye colors.

The one of top decided to move a little, and to let go:

Some of them look weary into the future. The birds have been particularly loud this morning.

Here is one I rescued after it falling to the ground.

Time passes.