The author of a novel about Sedona writes about its quirks and beauty.

Sedona Musings

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Tale of Birds

Although this is but one day into summer, my yard is alive with newborns. This morning while having coffee and enjoying our glorious lawn that is doing beautifully, my husband and I had a good laugh at all the youngsters interacting with parents.

First, there was the lone male quail with his one baby. I don't know what happened to the mom, but pop is raising the kiddie all by himself. The kid is now big enough to jump up on top of the bird bath to get a drink. They're a lonely little pair.

Then there is the curved-bill thrasher. We couldn't figure out why two thrashers were going round and round the sage bush at the edge of the yard, one constantly chasing the other. We finally figured it out--it's a baby chasing momma. When they wandered closer to us at the edge of the grass we saw one of the thrashers pick up something and then drop it in the dirt. The other thrasher picked it up (with a note of disgust) and shoved it in the mouth of the one who dropped it. The one who dropped it was busy fluttering his wings, telling mama he wasn't adept enough to eat without her shoving it down his/her throat. Oh the trials of motherhood! The kid followed her everywhere even though she tried to get rid of him by flying in another direction.

We have a group of teen-age quail, about twelve in all. A couple of weeks ago, they all very primly followed mom and dad wherever they went. Now they can fly on their own and they seem to be having great fun going in many different directions while mom and dad seem to look like they are fed up with the whole unruly bunch.

Last, but not least, is the mom and dad sparrow who have for the third time built a nest in my wreath that hangs on the front door. The first wreath went through two families. When the fledglings left, I took the wreath down and scrubbed my door--bird poop is like glue. I dumped the first wreath, waited about ten days and put up another only to find the makings of a nest in it. I kept pulling the nest out to discourage the sparrows, but finally was overcome with their tenacious work. OK, so now there are either three or four ugly little birds with their beaks peaking up out of the nest and bird poop building up. A strange note here...while mom sits on the eggs, there is no poop. She keeps it in pristine order.

I know I shouldn't be snooping on the birds, but's my wreath they are fouling up!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Update on Oak Creek Canyon

A couple of days ago, my husband and I drove up Oak Creek Canyon. We have a family reunion planned in July at the Butterfly Garden Inn (could be about 30-36 people there from my husband's four children, ten grandchildren, and 12 great-grand children, spouses and significant others!). We drove up because we were concerned about the damage to the canyon from the Slide fire a few weeks ago.

Slide Rock State Park is about eight miles north of Uptown Sedona, thus there is no fire damage until you get there, but once there, the devastation is awful. Thanks to the work of the many fire fighters, the fire was kept on the west side of the canyon and it seemed to crawl upward and over the top, into the side canyons, and of course into West Fork. When we got to the Butterfly Garden Inn (formerly Don Hoel's Cabins), we saw no fire damage at all. It burned across from it, but the dense trees along the banks of Oak Creek hide any damage.

We spoke to the owners of the inn who are a youngish couple. Indeed, it was hellish for them, having to leave within a half hour of the warning. I can't even imagine how much food in the store was lost because of no electricity--freezers of frozen, milk, and other food, not to mention being worried about losing their livelihood. But all looked good and we are looking forward to staying with them.

On our way back down the canyon, we stopped at Garland's. In a previous post, I mentioned that my husband worked at Garland's (then known as Todd's Lodge) just before he entered the USAF in the early 50's.

Talk about a close call--the fire burned all around the edges of the resort. The reason the lodge is still there is because Gary Garland, former fire chief of the Sedona Fire Department (when it was volunteer) had set up a water system for such an emergency where a pumper truck could get water from the lodge's irrigation ditch and keep the fire at bay. There are also sprinklers everywhere on the property. Although they were told to evacuate, the Garland's stayed and fought. Below are some photos of the fire which burned to the edges of the resort--the tennis court and the small canyon west of the lodge buildings.

Pic. 1 shows how close the fire came to the tennis court. Pic 2 shows burned trees next to Oak Creek on the lodge's property line. Pic 3 is the fire devastation beyond Garland's apple orchard.

Thursday, May 22, 2014 the Fire in Oak Creek Canyon Burns Toward Flagstaff

As the Slide fire keeps spreading toward Flagstaff today, I keep thinking about that interview I did with the head of the Coconino National Forest 20 years ago--he gave me a scary scenario, one I hardly believed at that time. He asked me to imagine that a camper would leave an unattended fire in an Oak Creek Canyon campground, that the wind would be moving hard from the south with dry conditions and that the fire could spread all the way toward Flagstaff.

Frankly, the more I think about what the District Ranger predicted, the more freaked I am. He complained about "tree huggers" who were adverse to the US Forest Service clearing forest at the at the rim of Oak Creek Canyon (not clear cutting, but burning off deadwood and debris on the forest floor). Nevertheless, despite those opposed to burns of underbrush, the Coconino National Forest has worked hard during those 20 years to prevent what is happening today. But the odds were against them despite their work--a dry winter, high winds, attacks of the bark beetle during these dry years which left many dead trees. All it needed was a spark from someone careless.

The Arizona Republic is reporting that Garland's Lodge was saved last night. My husband has a history there--having grown up near Sedona, when he graduated from high school, he worked at Garland's during a cold winter in the early 1950s (it was known then as Todd's Lodge) helping to build some of the cabins. That was before he joined the US Air Force. He said it was the coldest winter he ever experienced and all he owned was a thin denim coat.

Last fall, when the leaves seemed to turn more gorgeous than usual we drove up the canyon, stopping at Garland's. We took lots of pictures and talked to someone at the desk. Since we are locals, Garland's is nice enough to let those of us who live near to book for one night only instead of the required two. We got a call from Mary Garland a couple of weeks ago saying there were some openings in June. Unfortunately, my husband had rotator cuff surgery and going for physical therapy seems to be our permanent occupation at the moment, so we declined.

The top photo is Garland's Lodge with pumpkins on the porch. The bottom photo is looking north up the canyon from Oak Creek Market.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oak Creek Canyon is Burning

I've lived in or near Sedona for nearly a quarter of a century. One of my very favorite places is Oak Creek Canyon, a beautiful forested area where apples grow and children play in Oak Creek or slide down the slippery red rocks at Slide Rock State Park. Away from the madness of Sedona, you can fish in the canyon, hike, wade into the cold river and just lay on your back and look at the beauty of the red rocks that surrounds you. It's a great place to tune into nature.

Late today a fire began burning near Slide Rock State Park and everyone north of Slide Rock is being evacuated. I live in an area that has an incredible view of Sedona from my front room window. I can see the smoke rising from the fire. It looks like a plume from an explosion of an atomic bomb.

My heart goes out to all the people and wildlife who live there and who are trying to get out as I write this. All resorts near Slide Rock have been evacuated--beautiful Garland's Lodge, the Butterfly Inn which for many years was known as Don Hoel's Cabins, and other places in the canyon I can't think of at this moment.

Many years ago, when I was a reporter for the Sedona Red Rock News, one of my beats was the U.S. Forest Service. One day, I interviewed the head of the Coconino National Forest, the forest area of Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. The District Ranger was an interesting guy who has long since retired. I'll never forget what he said, and I quoted him in my article a few days later--At that time in 1994, no one believed what he said could even be feasible but a lot has changed in 20 years, especially the hot climate of the American Southwest.

What the District Ranger said was this: Imagine a camper who simply forgets to put out his campfire as prescribed in one of Oak Creek's campgrounds--he just throws a few cups of water on the embers, not really taking the time to put it out thoroughly. That day, there happens to be a heavy wind, blowing from the south. This I know, he said to me and I felt chills go up my spine as he said it: the fire will burn all the way through Oak Creek Canyon, up the mountain to the outskirts of Flagstaff. Because of the terrain, we will not be able to put it out.

Today, it has been that kind of wind. We have not had a decent rain in months, and very little snow this past winter. The evening news is saying hotshot crews are on scene, but as I look at the waning light, as the horrible cloud of smoke begins to change color with the setting sun, and become ever bigger within the last two hours,  I hope to God the District Ranger's prediction will not come true.

Below is a photo of the fire as seen from my house. Under that is a photo of the lawn area at Garland's Lodge in Oak Creek Canyon taken in the October 2013.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Are Psychics for Real?

I guess it depends on the psychic. In Sedona, there are dozens of psychics. Just walk into a New Age shop and ask to have a reading. All it costs is money, and not a little bit either.

A long time ago--almost 25 years when I first moved to Sedona--I had a reading done while sitting on the porch of the Center of the New Age on the bank of Oak Creek. (The center has since moved to another location not far from the old spot.)

Anyway, it was a glorious fall day and I thought I would try my luck. If my memory is correct, I paid $20 for a half hour reading. The psychic was about 45 years old, dressed casually in a shirt that hung out of his baggy pants, a pair of sandals, and his hair was cut short. He said a strong masculine being from a different duality was "around me," and that he would guide me in the right direction.

The reading was so general that when I left, I felt I had been the victim of a con. That day, when I went home, I made notes of what the psychic said. A few years later, when I wrote my novel, "Sedona: City of Refugees, I put in a scene where a character is having a psychic reading. The conversation in that scene is from the reading I had done on that long-ago fall day.

Recently, I decided to have another psychic reading. My next blog will be about that experience.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Walking Around Sedona's Wastewater Plant

Geez, who would think the area around a wastewater plant would be glorious? But, as most people who live in Sedona know, this place is filled with wonders.

The other day, because the weather is so great, I took a walk around the Sedona Wastewater Plant...well, not actually the plant, but the settling ponds.

With a far-away view of the red rocks, the plant is in an area west of the actual city of Sedona. The ponds were re-created last year, and with all the nice growth of cat tails, many coots and ducks have found the spot.

There may be hundreds of people roaming Uptown Sedona or the various shops on Highway 179, but this spot has virtually no one around. It's wonderful!!! Frankly, I think it's better than the so-called vortexes where tourists nearly step on one another to feel "energy." What could be better than being along with ducks, coots, and the overpowering landscape?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Another Excerpt from "Sedona: City of Refugees"

The Mass moved into the last stage, with many in the church

stepping forward to accept Holy Communion, including the


            But Kathleen did not get up. She sat, looking straight ahead.

Her expression hardened as she watched her husband’s family

piously communing with God despite their adulteries and

cunning business deals.

            There stood her brother-in-law, Philip, standing straight as

an arrow, holding out his hands to receive the symbolic body of

Christ. Kathleen knew Philip’s sudden sanctity was only for

show. Even Scott, who took great pride in swinging a sweet deal

whenever he could, was suspicious of Philip.

            Then came Jessica, whose string of well-muscled paid-off

studs was the constant talk of Sedona. Kathleen once heard

Jessica referred to as the slut of Sedona, a comment that did not

surprise her considering Jessica’s voracious sexual appetite.

            And then there was Natalie. Kathleen marveled how easily

her youngest step daughter could receive communion when

everyone in the community knew she left the church years ago to

embrace New Age philosophies.

            A wash of hopelessness enveloped Kathleen. The Buckleys

only worship at their own temples, she thought. Only money and

power make a difference to them, not God.

            As the crowd began to leave the church, Kathleen stayed in

her pew with Charley and her mother, not wanting to talk to

anyone. Her friends from the newspaper offered their

condolences, and Carrie and Marlene said they would wait

outside for her.

            When the church emptied, the three of them walked up to the

closed casket. Kathleen brushed the side of it with her hand,

noting how cold it was, like the body inside. She stood there for

a moment, reflecting on her life with Scott Buckley.

            Despite all the outward appearances of being married to a

wealthy, charming man, it had been an empty, loveless life.

Feeling exhausted, she realized the years spent with him were

wasted, leaving no real meaning. The countless social events to

raise money for the local symphony or arts center, the dinner

parties to impress some big shot, and the political machinations

behind the scene that were so important to Scott brought nothing

of import to the grave.

            All she wanted for herself was to find peace. She felt shamed

by her behavior during Mass, crying uncontrollably, not for

Scott, but for herself. Kathleen silently vowed that she would

never cry like that again.

            “Let’s get out of here,” she said to her family.

            As they walked outside, Father O’Malley stood alone by the

door. The priest seemed hesitant to approach her, so she walked

up to him.

            “Thanks, Father, for mentioning my name. I know that was a

hard thing for you to do, considering the mere mention of my

existence might affect Philip Buckley’s donation to the church.”

            “Kathleen...” the priest began, but she cut him off.

            “Never mind, Father. I don’t need any explanations. If

anyone knows how things work in this town, I do.”