July 22, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

With all the storms and flash floods this last week, I was looking forward to getting out with the camera for some cool shots of mud and dribbled sand.  Yesterday morning, I packed up my gear and headed out early to a short canyon near Moab with deep pools, a slotty nature, and few footprints.

While hiking in the area last year I came upon some wonderful mud formations and sand sculptures and was hoping for some of the same spectacular showings after the recent rains.




But when I entered the wash, the pools were filled with sand rather than water.  The microbursts must have centered directly over Moab and missed the canyon and its drainage further north altogether.

I walked down the wash a ways - might as well take advantage of the cool temperature and shade from the east canyon wall to get some exercise.  I found some interesting patterns in the sand drawn by Indian rice grass stalks swaying in the wind and I played around with my shadow and some dry tanks.  

SHADOW POOLS And for anyone wondering, that's my lumbar gear bag hanging from my hips, not the size of my butt.

I was stopped in my tracks though, when I caught two pin feathers from an owl swirling around with the breeze.  At first I thought there had been a scuffle between the owl and another animal, but found no mammal prints or other evidence to further that idea.  I left the plumes to dance in the wind and continued on.  A few steps later, I came upon a large primary wing feather from the owl.

A few years back I scared up a nesting pair in the early spring in a riparian area in the same canyon.  Actually they were probably watching me and I was the one that ended up startled as they flew off.  Another time I hiked up out of the canyon, following a side drainage and found an overhang with a sandy floor covered in downy owl feathers.  I quickly left so as not to disturb the birds or any nest that might be near.

Owls have always fascinated me - their silent flight, their solitary nature, their covert comings and goings.  Last winter I was traveling home from Moab and saw a great-horned lying by the side of the road, dead.  Not knowing it's a federal crime to possess owls and other birds of prey, it's feathers, or any other part of such birds, I brought it home.  In researching it's type, I came upon the legal notice and promptly buried the body.  Other forces of nature have since disposed of the carcass in an appropriate way.

feather, owlOWL FEATHER I studied the feather for some time, awed by the serrated leading edge which contributes to the owl's silent flight.  The comb-like feature breaks down the turbulence from air flowing over the wing according to an article compiled by Deanne Lewis of the Owl Pages

Based on this article and other websites I visited, owls molt annually, usually after fledging their young, which is likely the circumstance of my find.

I didn't stay long in the canyon.  The sun was warming the sand beyond what my sandaled feet could endure.  I headed home.

Just as I approached the turn-off to the road home, lightning lit the sky and rain began to pelt the windshield.  This turn of events left me no choice, but to continue down the road to Canyon Rims rather than turning left toward my house.  I drove through a torrential downpour and headed out to Needles Overlook, but the light and remnants of the storm were uninspiring. 


 I decided to take the Looking Glass road home, driving across Hatch Wash which was running chocolate milk.  I walked along the pooling water to a waterfall then back up the wash searching for mud.

 I stepped into the water to cool my feet and cross the stream and almost tripped on a red-spotted toad.  He kept still while I took his portrait and when I returned from my mud hunt, his little eyes were peeking up over the edge of the pool.  He slipped beneath the surface and disappeared when I crouched for another shot

Few of the images I took yesterday are fine art material, but by opening up to the possibilities of what did present itself rather than staying stuck in feelings of disappointment and discouragement, I engaged with the environment in a way that deepened my sense of awe and wonder about the natural world.

I feel like a child again when I can let go of should and ought and allow myself to really see and be with what is.



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