It is now the dead of winter. One winter storm follows another, even here in the desert. Heavier desert rain this season is a good harbinger for a prolific, early wildflower season. Just a few weeks ago we saw lush, green growth and the bright red flowers of the Ocotillo in Hellhole Canyon.
There is already a hummingbird nest with two eggs in our California Bay Tree just outside our den window. We are in the middle of the third rain and windstorm this week and rain is expected through Saturday.
Each morning we peer outside our window to see if the nest survived the storms and each day we are amazed that the brave and dedicated mother is still there, hunkered down over her eggs.
During my last visit to Marshal South’s home, Yaquitepec, on Ghost Mountain, I thought about the bravery of Marshal South and his wife, Tanya, in choosing this desolate site for their experiment in desert primitive living and in raising a family here.
I contemplated about their experiences as recorded by Marshal South in his over 102 articles and poems written for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948.*
At one point the South’s windup kitchen clock failed and I was mesmerized by Marshal’s story of the making of his sundial and his reflections on time, as written in his Desert Diary 10 — October at Yaquitepec:
“So again, in peace, with neither tick nor tock time marches on at Yaquitepec…” (Allow time to slow as you savor reading this.)
“and the unhurried, silent shadow moves round and round on the chisel-marked granite block that stands on the terrace.”
“… It wasn’t originally intended to be a sundial. In the beginning it was part of a crude homemade grain mill. But another mill superseded it and in the course of time the upper millstone of the discarded apparatus was broken. Then one day the old clock folded its hands at 4:33 and we were without the time. Which didn’t matter much, for ‘time’ is an illusion anyway. But there is a sort of habit to the counting of it. So I resurrected the nether millstone with its central iron pin — which was a long iron bolt cemented into a hole in the stone — and set forth to make a sundial.”
“… It was winter when I made the sundial and I still have chilly recollections of ‘shooting’ the North Star through the old gun barrel, lashed to a post…” “There are teeth-chattering memories too of leveling and wedging and sighting under the chill starlight as I arranged the granite block on a big boulder pedestal in the exact position necessary…”
“… Our sundial works. Sometimes it proves, when checked against the haughty mechanism of expensive visiting watches, to be fifteen minutes or so out. But who would worry about a little thing like 15 minutes’ error? Certainly not here on Ghost Mountain, where there are no ‘limiteds’ to catch and where the golden sheen of the sun wraps the desert distances in a robe of glow…”
“… and dim mystery that is timeless.”
“What is Time, anyway?”*
Great thinkers have contemplated about time over the ages. (See video of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity illustrated here.)
This is food for thought and, with a little champagne (and appropriate music), I’ll muse on and contemplate the passages of time and other mysteries of life and the universe.
*(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living, 2005, Edited and with a Foreword by Diana Lindsay and Introduction by Rider and Lucile South, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.)