Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Reiterating: Lessons From the Trees

A couple of prosaic pieces I wrote some time ago, reflecting upon my relationship with wilderness.

Legacies of Endurance

I made a pilgrimage this weekend to the slopes of Mount Evans, to pay my respects to a grove of peculiar trees that inhabit that locale.

These the pines of a particular breed that choose to live their lives out, at forbidding lofty heights, where other species abjure. Fire and rain, wind and snow, all the elements combine to blast these enduring creatures without pity or respite.

Not the towering graceful beauties of the forest, these. The aged pines are twisted and gnarled into bizarre stunted gnomes. Battle scars from eons of withstanding the destructive forces of nature cover their flanks.

And yet they endure.

Some of the oldest patriarchs, clinging to life by the thinnest of threads, have witnessed the awesome pageant of an unimaginable span of ages, as time passed before them, hundreds upon hundreds of seasons spinning by, a thousand generations in the lifetime of men.

I consider these trees, with their stunning longevity. They do not complain about the travail or suffering, though many of them have obviously suffered greatly. They do not question their purpose, or falter in the mission -- to live, and keep on living. The trees endure, and do not ask why.

There is an incredible, priceless beauty in endurance. Perhaps it is beyond our understanding today. I feel certain that the trees possess this secret knowledge.

How long will it take us to learn?

Great and Small

Towering firs raise into the blazing blue,
their boughs reaching up in mighty supplication.
Framing the world across mountain tops and airy ridges,
seemingly, holding up the sky.

On forest floor below, humbly graced,
with lacy bracken ferns, lush green, so pleasing to the eye.
Bowed with fronds sweeping low to the earth,
catching the sun's few spare rays.

Climbing Paradise Ridge

I owned the tops of the mountains today. No others tracked the smooth white surface of the cold, clean snow. The mountain heights and I held our secret soul tryst, a chaste and joyous virtue only open to the lone and lonely.

I traverse the high passes, seeming so near to the pale blue sky, bracing against the fierce onslaught of the merciless freezing north wind. Howling gusts sweep up gritty blasts of icy snow grains in a ground blizzard, below a dark horizon troubled by passing storm clouds. As I struggle upward, the icy wind steals my breath away with each passing burst.

In the shelter of the deep shady canyon, I pause before tall green firs swaying and sighing as the force of the gale funnels up the slope, the wind whistling and moaning through the tossing boughs like the keening of mourners. The feet of the great trees stand deeply buried beneath the drifts.

Laboring to slowly climb the steep slope, bundled heavily against the freezing cold, my body is soon dripping with sweat. As the moisture accumulates under my hat and across the back of my neck, a rime of ice quickly forms around my head, into the simulation of a frosted white helmet.

I stop at the summit for a brief respite, in the lee of a swarm of boulders. I comb the ice out of my hair. Over the top of the broad peak, bare crusted snow is sculptured by the wind. The blowing snow appears to form sinuous snakes that writhe and coil and dance like living creatures. A sort of white noise, the continuous susurration of millions of snow grains skittering and slithering along, masks the roaring of the wind and creates a deep dynamic silence. Pressure against my back builds and ebbs from the force of the wild wind.

I have overstayed my welcome. The wind intensifies and the snow turns into heavier pellets that plaster across the front of my jacket and trousers, until I start to resemble an animate snowman. I hasten down the front side of the mountain, and as I pass, drifting snow quickly obliterates the traces of my passage.

Revisiting: The Masks Come Off

Some of the posturing of tolerance and respect has dropped away today, even more so than in recent times.

The real faces of protest and screaming demands are revealed to be twisted with hatred, ugly grimaces with dramatically hostile countenances.  It is apparent that this ideology was underlying fundamental sentiment all the time.  How can any protagonist of the current status even try to approach this howling wolf pack!  In their frenzied madness these unreasoning vigilantes would lynch us from the nearest tree.

We the beleaguered seek refuge in more comfortable places, while the screaming mobs mock with derision for our withdrawing from this daunting fray.

Each camp incites themselves to taunt and ridicule what they perceive as the enemy.  Ironically, it will only require some dramatic event to throw things back into a more realist perspective for all partisans.  The impact of one explosive event will be facilitated by all the current dissent and disorder.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Wasatch Wildflowers: Cleome serrulata, Rocky Mountain beeplant

Cleome serrulata is common across North America.

Insects are attracted to it, especially bees, which helps in the pollination of nearby plants. It is native to southern Canada and western and central United States. C. serrulata is an important cultural plant for many Southwestern Indian tribes. The young, tender shoots and leaves are good sources of vitamin A and calcium. In the past they were used as potherbs or medicinally as teas for fevers and other ailments. The seeds were ground and used to make gruel or bread.

The Navajo still use the plant as a source of yellow-green dye for their beautiful wool rugs and blankets. Many pueblo tribes use a concentrated form of dye, made from boiling the plant into a thick black resin, to paint designs on pottery or for decorating their baskets

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wasatch Wildflowers: Abies lasiocarpa, Sub-Alpine Fir

Perhaps among the most distinguishing features of this fir tree is the upright presentation of dark purplish cones early in the season.  The cones exude sticky sap that drips down.

The bark of mature trunks of the tree is smooth gray, punctuated with elongated lenticels and minor branch scars, which give it a stippled appearance.

The crown of mature firs present as a sharply pointed and gradually tapering pyramidal shape, typically with major branches reaching to the ground, or nearly so


Firneedles adopt a very dark green color overall, with the new growth appearing much lighter in color.

On close examination, in can be seen the needle is pyramidal in cross section, and that the needle surface is densely packed with white lenticels on either side of the needle midrib, with the upper surface less dense and the lower white stripe being wider.

Interesting to note that the Sub Alpine Fir at the highest elevations adapts a "Krumholtz" growth habit, the trees presenting stunted and twisted shapes with little height, sometimes even reduced to mat-like prostrate and ground hugging growths that bear scant resemblance to trees at lower elevation.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ancestors: Alexander Neibaur

Alexander Neibaur

Alexander Neibaur (January 8, 1808 – December 15, 1883) was the first dentist to practice in Utah and first Jewish person to join the Mormon Church. He was educated for the profession at the University of Berlin and was a skilled dentist before the establishment of dental schools in America. He was fluent in 7 languages and as many dialects.

 It was in England where Neibaur learned about the Mormon faith.  Prior to meeting preachers from the Church, he had had dreams of a book being given him, but he did not know what they meant.  When he heard of Mormon elders in the area, he approached them and asked if they had a book, which they did and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon.  Neibaur recognized this book as the one from his dreams, and he read it in three days.  He wanted to be baptized immediately, but was convinced to wait until he had a chance to fully investigate the Church.  Neibaur was baptized on April 9, 1838, becoming one of the first Jews to join the Church.  Three years later he and his wife migrated to the United States and joined the Saints in Nauvoo in April 1841.  

Neibaur arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois on 18 April 1841. There he established his dental practice, using a room in Brigham Young's house for his practice, and developed a close friendship with Joseph Smith, Jr., whom he helped study German and Hebrew.  (Neibaur made gold dentures for Brigham.)

Neibaur described in his journal what Joseph told him during a dinner conversation. Brother Neibaur wrote that the Prophet said he had been “struck” by a passage on prayer in the Bible and so went into the woods to pray. After his tongue cleaved temporarily to the roof of his mouth, he saw a fire which gradually drew nearer to him. He “saw a personage in the fire, light complexion, blue eyes. … [Another] person came to the side of the first. Mr. Smith then asked, must I join the Methodist Church. No, they are not my People, [they] have gone astray. There is none that Doeth good, not one, but this is my Beloved Son harken ye him.”

After the Mormons were driven from Nauvoo, Neibaur went to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, rejoining with the main body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1848. In Utah Territory he continued the practice of dentistry and was a manufacturer of matches.

Ancestors: Peter Barton

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Peter Barton, Bishop of Kaysville, Davis county, Utah, is the son of John Barton and Elizabeth Bell, and was born March 21, 1845, at St. Helens, Lancashire England. He was baptized by Elder James Barton in 1853; ordained a Deacon and later a Priest while in England.

He emigrated to Utah in 1862, crossing the Atlantic in the ship "Manchester".

He then traveled over the plains in Ansil P. Harmon's ox-train. After his arrival in Utah, he settled in Kaysville.  He was ordained an Elder and subsequently a Seventy, and in 1874-76 he labored as a missionary in Great Britain.

Peter Barton Home in Kaysville

June 18, 1877, he was ordained a High Priest and Bishop and set apart to preside over the Kaysville Ward, which position he filled with honor, both to himself and the Ward. He also served as Ward clerk in Kaysville for a number of years.

Peter Barton (center) at Sugarhouse Penitentiary
In February, 1889, he was sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment for "unlawful cohabitation," but before having served his full term, he was pardoned, being the first "Mormon" ever pardoned by Pres. Benjamin Harrison. Bishop Barton has held a number of civil positions, such as justice of the peace, city recorder of Kaysville, etc. He has also served two terms in the Utah legislature.

Ancestors: Ferdinand Frederick Ludwick Cobabe

Image may contain: 1 person
Ferdinand Frederick Ludwick Cobabe moved his family from the ancestral home in Malchow Prussia to Copenhagen Denmark around 1850-1860 . Ferdinand raised his family for some years in Copenhagen Denmark until he came in contact with Mormon missionaries, apparently some time around 1860. He was baptized 12 Oct 1862.

In 1864 the Ferdinand Cobabe family sailed to America with a company of Scandinavian converts on the sailing ship "Monarch of the Sea".

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy Mothers Day!


Moms are in a unique position to affect the future, through their influence with children.

Dads do mean a lot as well, and parents should work together, but mom sets the stage for future years.

So it was with me and my mom. I grew up in a home with six sisters, two brothers, a a gang of assorted others from time to time.

Family units, with mother and dad are integral to the foundation of the Church. In fact some pertinent counsel is formally declared in Church Doctrine – The Proclamation on the Family

HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.  Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live….
Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners….
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife...

My mom fulfilled this responsibility as fully as any mother could. 

I’m thinking of all the things for which moms are an example for us…

She created my life…
She gave me her love…
She is my teacher…
She is my therapist when I am troubled…
She ministers when I am in need…
She cares for me when I am sick…
She gives me hope that I can survive through life’s hardships…
She taught me about spirituality…
She taught me reverence for sacred things...
She taught me to pray...

She is my mom. All these things and many more…

Mothers inherit the grand tradition of Eve, the mother of all the human family, the one who understood that she and Adam had to fall in order that “men [and women] might be” and that there would be joy. Yours is the grand tradition of Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel, without whom there could not have been those magnificent patriarchal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which bless us all. Yours is the grand tradition of mothers and grandmothers, and the mothers of the 2,000 stripling warriors. Yours is the grand tradition of Mary, chosen and foreordained from before this world was, to conceive, carry, and bear the Son of God Himself. We thank all of you, including our own mothers, and tell you there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God, in bringing to pass the mortality and earthly life of His daughters and sons, so that immortality and eternal life can come in those celestial realms on high. (Elder Holland)

When I was growing up, we had a big house with plenty of room for our growing family.

When we were very little, she would come and read stories to us at bed time.

We had closet doors in our bedrooms that were chalkboards, and way before any schoolteachers taught me to read and write, my mother taught me at home.

In fact, when I started first grade in elementary school, this was the source of all kinds of misunderstanding and unhappiness. The teacher could not believe I already knew the first-grade basics. He insisted that I should participate in group activities with the other children.  Before I could understand that different people have different talents at different stages, I was impatient with those who made so laborious things that came so easy to me.  I suspected that some of the kids in our group activities were playing dumb, just to irritate me. 

As I learned to pay better attention, I noticed that my mother had limitless patience with guests in our home, she set a good example for us.

Among so many other things, my mom had an exceptional musical talent. I didn’t inherit any particular talent myself, but I came to appreciate good music, after so much exposure to it.  I recall many musical performances in which she was featured or took part, in groups like the Southern California Mormon Choir, in places like the Hollywood Bowl, and the Chandler Pavilion for Performing Arts in  Los Angeles.

Not to say I was a perfect little boy that never had any conflicts at home.  I have a snapshot of myself from 1956, at our brand new home in Manhattan Beach.  It was not yet landscaped, and it featured a large and deep mud puddle in the back yard. The photo shows me proudly standing in the middle, wearing yellow fuzzy footy pajamas, padding trough the muddy swamp.  I thought it was a fine swimming pool, those antics perhaps in part responsible for my later enthusiasm for swimming. I could not understand why she was so upset about the mud and mess...

But as I said, I was not always involved in such trivial incidents, notwithstanding my mothers teaching.  I remember one particularly acrimonious exchange.. around twelve years old, after which I decided I must run away from home. I grabbed a few provisions, wrote a heartfelt note announcing my intention - it  featured  a bleeding heart that was pierced by a couple of arrows - and I pedaled away on my bike, resolved to never return. I ended up at the playground of the local grade school, riding my bike with some friends. Subsequently I had a disastrous crashing of my bike while climbing up some dirt hills, and tearfully marched home to display my pitiful wounds - to my mother, of course. Who else would wash away the blood and tears, and put on band aids?

One of the occasions that stands out in my memory involved my taking some things that were my mothers property, to sell them.  I used my ill-gotten gains to buy cheap toys.  When she found out about my misdeeds, she let me know she was really disappointed.  It made such a deep impression on me that I was never again tempted to steal.

On many other occasions I was better-behaved, and we had many fun times together.  We took lots of “field trips” with my mom,  exploring places like the nearby tidal pools, several museums and garden areas around Los Angeles and San Diego.  She encouraged us to participate in planting and keeping a backyard garden. We became well acquainted with the local nursery grower, and my mom always gave the birthday gift of one tree to plant.  Our yard was a showplace for flowers and fruit trees.  I’ve never had better peaches than those from our back yard.

We also had a collection of farmyard pets to learn to take care of – ducks and chickens, pigeons, and rabbits, dogs and cats.

Well, I do recognize that some of us, for one reason or another, grow up without our mother’s guiding care. I am sure that throughout our lives we frequently borrow from other moms, because like my mom, many seem to have the capacity to spread out their love inclusively, to a  circle with more than the local family.

My mom is like that. Though my family made a pretty substantial group, we always had more – sometimes many more - that were welcomed around our dinner table.  She hosted a Cub Scout den for a number of years.  And served in numerous other Church callings.

Well, my mom is eighty six now, and we seldom have the excitement and misadventures I so enjoyed growing up.  But she still makes an effort to express love for everyone. And is still my most effective therapist.

On one recent occasion, she was sitting in the foyer during church.  She noticed one very little boy acting out, so she captured him with a big hug and held  quiet him on her lap.  He was suddenly still,  gazing up into her grandma smile, and he asked her, “How did you get those cracks in your face?”  She really DID crack up over that!

I send roses to her on Mothers Day as a token of my love, recognizing I can never repay all that I have enjoyed or been blessed with, because of her.