Coyotes & Folks

Just past dawn, one morning, a coyote hopped over our garden wall and settled in under a bush for a nap. We had heard coyotes yelping from time to time during the night, so perhaps this one was part of that pack. We had seen them while hiking, but having one snoozing just outside the kitchen window was a new one for us. This picture of a coyote was taken in the Rio Grande Bosque.

They are intelligent and curious creatures who shadow hikers apparently to see what humans are up to in their territory.

A coyote’s territory varies widely. In rural areas of the southwest and south, where resources are scant, a coyote might roam over forty square miles. With an urban environment or in the northeast, food sources are more plentiful and the range is much less. Coyotes now encroach upon Central Park in New York City from time to time.

Here is a pack of about nine coyotes trotting along a path in the Bosque. The hind feet of a coyote settles in the print of the front feet. An entire pack might trot along a path and leave only one set of footprints.

Coyotes (canis laprans) are descended from the wolf line of canids, and are cousins of the domestic version, the dog. Like the dog, which adapted to exploit human waste dumps after our species settled down after learning to produce food with in agricultural technologies, the coyote is very adaptable.

Humans evidently encountered coyotes in the American southwest, and the Aztecs referred to Coyotlinauatl as the god whose faithful wore coyote skins. The Aztec moon goddess, Coyolxauhqui, was known as one who bays at the moon. Link

Over the last hundred years or so, coyotes have spread their range to New England and the South. The DNA evidence is murky and still being worked out, but northeastern coyotes are larger (befitting a lusher prey environment) and southern ones are smaller. And, there is evidence of repeated inter-breading with wolves and dogs. Today’s coyote is a mix master slush of canine DNA.

Regardless, listening to coyotes bay at night and glimpsing them observing you in the brush is an exhilarating experience in nature.

Metro-complex at Mesa Verde

In the mid-13th century, Native American corn growers and their families fled their drought stricken farms  south and west of their cultural center at Chaco in what is now New Mexico.

Image Credit: National Park Service: Pueblo Bonito, Chaco National Park

These ancestral pueblo peoples had endured year after year of drought. The religion and agronomy promoted by the Chaco elite had failed to induce the rain gods to nurture their crops. Famine destroyed their faith and led them to seek territory with more rain. Some fled north to the higher altitudes of southwestern Colorado and southern Utah. They built many pueblos on the mesas drained by McElmo’s Creek and farmed the mesa tops and stream bottoms. Canyons of the Ancients.

The crops thrived with more rain, but at the higher altitudes, the growing season was shorter and variable. A late planting or an early frost severely cut into the yields of corn, beans, and squash. Moreover, they competed for arable land with peoples who had been farming in the region for centuries.

Facing starvation, the men of a stricken pueblo would attack a town that had more ample food. The warfare destroyed vulnerable pueblos and led others to settle in defensible sites. For example, the Hovenweep settlement.

Perhaps, most dramatically, were the many defensive pueblos built below the southern rim of Mesa Verde.

Ancestral pueblo peoples had lived on top of the mesa for about three centuries. The arrival of immigrants from the south along with  drought led to conflict. For safety, they built the spectacular pueblos below the mesa top that are now preserved at Mesa Verde National Park.

 

 

However, the drought and the social chaos it generated forced the peoples to abandon the metro-complex that they had built at Mesa Verde and the Canyon lands. Most of them re-settled in the upper Rio Grande Valley and developed the various Pueblo societies and cultures that now reside there. Link

Albuquerque Rainbows

Albuquerque is on the high Chihuahua desert, about a mile above sea level, so rain is scarce. In the hot summer, some rainfall does not make it to the ground, because the drops of water evaporate on the way down. This phenomenon is called vigra. Link 

However, during the summer, warm spots in the eastern Pacific off the coast of Mexico, called El Nino and La Nina, generate water laden air masses that bring afternoon scattered showers to the southwest. New Mexicans refer to these predictable showers as the monsoon season.

Rainbows are created by the interaction of sunlight striking rain drops when the sun is at about 42 degrees above the horizon, or during the latter part of the afternoon and early evening. Link  Fortunate for New Mexicans, the presence of monsoon showers at that time of day produces beautiful rainbows.

Sometimes, they enjoy double rainbows.

But even a single rainbow colors the sky and reminds us of how essential rain, however scarce, is to life.

 

 

Volcanoes and Rock Art

Three cinder cones appear on Albuquerque’s west mesa, few miles west of the Rio Grande River.

Image result for image albuquerque volcanoes

Locals refer to them as the Three Sisters or the Albuquerque Volcanoes. Geologically, they are the visible remains of a fissure type volcano that was several miles long and spewed slow moving lava. This fissure is a small part of the volcanic activity generated by the Rio Grande Rift Valley. Link

The lava filled low lying arroyos and, upon cooling, formed a distinctive escarpment around one hundred feet high.

Much of the escarpment eroded into large rough boulders and cliffs.

However, some of the boulders have a smooth surface. Indigenous artists used stone harder than the basalt to chip designs onto the plane surface.

Some of the images are representational and depict humanoid figures

Some of the images appear to be more abstract.

Spanish era artists, inspired by their indigenous predecessors, also pecked away at the rocks as the cross in the picture illustrates.

Petroglyph National Monument protects many of these works of art. Link

 

 

Godzilla’s Godparents

By Ray Shortridge

Godzilla is the iconic Japanese dinosaur, having starred in several movies since Ishiro Honda brought him to life and international acclaim in the 1954 film, Godzilla.

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To no great surprise, this lovable (to the Japanese and the world-wide multitude in the Godzilla cult) monster has been further monetized beyond movie tickets, toys, and stuffed animals. In revving  up to the 2020 Olympics, Japanese entrepreneurs have written “the Godzilla experience” into destination tourist attractions, including a hotel and specialty foods. (For a sampling, navigate to this link.)

Brenda took this evening picture of the hotel with Godzilla peering over the McDonald’s golden arches at the passersby.

While wandering through the gift shop after making soba noodles for lunch, I came across dinosaur junk food products.

My initial thought was that these products were derived from the Godzilla craze. However, that wasn’t so. A Google search revealed that important real dinosaur fossils had been unearthed in the Fukui Prefecture and elsewhere in Japan. The Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum in Katsuyama is a leading dinosaur museum in Asia and houses many of the Japanese fossils. The gift shop was in Fukui Prefecture and was celebrating the dinosaur discoveries that were found more or less in their back yard.

As with Godzilla, entrepreneurs have found a way to profit from the dinosaurs. In Tokyo, where else?, the Henn na (Weird) Hotel is staffed largely by robots, many of which were designed to be dinosaurs.