Sunday, September 30, 2007

Arroyos and Beer

I have finally got around to reading How Spanish Grew by Robert K. Spaulding, and what an interesting passtime it is proving! The book is a history of the Spanish language from pre-Latin (I mean, pre-Latin-in-Spain) days through the 1940's. I'm only through the first two chapters, but what a ride that was!

The history of Spain, let alone its language, is new to me, so I am delighted at trifles. One word Spaulding offers as pre-Roman is arroyo which he defines as a "small stream". Although I've never come across that particular usage in English, ours is fairly close as it means a washout or, as Merriam Webster's has it, "a water-carved gully or channel." Upon reflection, I suppose we probably use a good many words that are as old and well-traveled as this one. . .still, there it is, a pre-Christian word that belonged to some vague, faceless people with good taste in cave drawings; a word that survived a flood of Latin and a couple of thousand years, crossed an ocean and wandered about a new land until it got itself pinned on the Southern Californian coast in Arroyo Grande.

Arroyo, as I said, was the linguistic property of some pre-Roman people. Spaulding (and Strabo before him) list quite an array of Iberian tribes, several of whom, evidently, spoke separate languages. Some of these were the ancestors of today's Basques, others were the Celtic populations of Galicia. Not surprisingly, it was the Celts who are credited with giving the Spanish language the indispensable word cerveza, that is, "beer."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sand Canyon--Further South

Another striking feature of Sand Canyon were the fields of rabbit bush*, all in bloom. I pulled over for another picture. . .

. . .and then had to try one on the east side of the road as well.

I very much admired the contrasts I saw in an hour's drive. As the previous set of pictures show, the road rises up into pine country; lower down where the rabbit bush grows, the Mojave Desert is trying to climb up into the southern Sierras.

*I've always known it as rabbit bush, but a quick internet search convinced me that common names can be very confusing on that count; I believe it is either the genus Chrysothamnus or Ericameria.

Explorations in Sand Canyon

A couple of weeks ago I happened to be downtown with a couple of hours to kill before piping practice. It would be such a drive, I thought, to go home. . .so instead I went for a much, much longer drive out in Sand Canyon northeast of town. Although it's near here, probably 20 minutes from work, I've been there less than half a dozen times in my whole life. The unfamiliar road gave the trip the satisfying flavor of a journey rather than the jaunt that it was.

The picture above shows the most fascinating thing I ran across in my wanderings that afternoon (unfortunately, it is also probably the worst picture I ended up with). Those little black specks are ravens, and only a small portion of the ravens that were flying around the top of the hill. When I first noticed them I made the gruesome assumption that a large animal had died and the unusually large flock was there for supper, but after I had watched them a few moments, I realized that they were not paying attention to anything on the ground. The air was where their interest lay; they were darting and wheeling about the hilltop in a manner that, the longer I watched, suggested an overflow of high spirits. I know nothing about ravens, of course; perhaps a biologist would have ascertained right away that they were engaged in their tribal mating dance or sending a gathering signal to others of their kin, but those birds really looked like they were having fun, perfectly pointless and delightful fun, swimming in pools and eddys and rivers of air.

The mountain which was inexplicably so popular with the ravens was on the northeast side of the road. When I turned the car around to come back towards the south, this was the view that I found myself driving into. . .so after a few hundred halting yards I had to get out and take another picture. (It was close to sunset and the gold tones were much more vibrant in real life.) I believe the furthest mountain is the ubiquitous Tehachapi Peak, shown from yet another angle.

Update on. . .?

I am afraid that for the last month I have been pretty much like Fido in the previous picture--enjoying myself, but not doing anything that makes much of a story. My job will be going to full time as of next week, which is good, though hardly anything to expound on. My pipe band is trying to put together a competition section, which will be exciting in the future, though it is just in the planning stage now. We've been a "street band" (an informal, non-competing group) since we began and, while the plan is to continue this tradition, the competing option should certainly be an encouragement to practice! Other than that, I've been teaching a little music (fiddle, guitar and mandolin), fooling around with macreme, reading entirely too many Westerns, and becoming addicted to Ella Fitzgerald's singing.