Sunday, October 19, 2014

Maya Lin, Wedding Poetry, and the Ice Cream Brain Freeze Rush of Too Many Ideas at Once

notes about creativity

Charles Hood here, making a brief guest appearance while the “Under New Management” aspect of the AVC Blog continues to evolve.

I have just come back from one of those kinds of events that has you remembering things days later, and saying, “Oh yeah, how cool was that?” It was the Center for Art + Environment Conference at Nevada Museum of Art, a reminder yet again of how fun it is (a) to get to hang out with interesting people and (b) to get to fill up a trick-or-treat bag with ideas, ideas, and more ideas, all free for the asking.

In class we were talking about nursery rhymes the other night, and the “marriage poem” came up. I reminded students that traditionally it’s not four lines long, but five:

Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue,
and a silver sixpence in her shoe.

Like so many pieces of classic folklore that endure and endure, this one seems to fit many situations perfectly, this conference included. The rhyme --- and the conference --- keep staying with me.

Something old:

How old is the wind? (Well, how old is the atmosphere?) In the Antelope Valley, we live with the wind all year long, but most especially in spring, as these pines on my block verify.

Invisible, everywhere, nowhere—how can artists show the wind to us, help us think about it? At the conference we had a presentation by my heroes, the math / Google artists Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg. They gave us a wind map that's free and online, and that I'll show a bit further down this post. First just a quick (very quick) survey of things artists have done prior to this, when they show / talk about / think about wind.

In Basque Spain, Eduardo Chillida made a "wind comb" in 1976. (This photo and several below come from The Book of the Wind, Alessandro Nova.)

It works even in still weather, especially since the sea always is doing something. I bet it must be really amazing in a pounding winter storm.

If you can read Spanish, there's a full entry for this on the Spanish language version of Wikipedia. Artists have long shown the effects of wind, as in this medieval manuscript:

Or as in this dramatic and chaotic scene by Turner.

But how can we show the wind itself? Not the results, but the actual force itself? After sharing with us their failed ideas, Viegas and Wattenberg talked a bit about a free map that I just have fallen in love with. Here's my screen capture just before Hurricane Sandy hit.

Unlike my screen grab, the map is not static, and little horse-tails of wind are always in motion all across the Lower 48, in real time. The website for this is

The website says this: "The wind map is a personal art project, not associated with any company. We've done our best to make this as accurate as possible, but can't make any guarantees about the correctness of the data or our software. Please do not use the map or its data to fly a plane, sail a boat, or fight wildfires."

My wife couldn't be in Reno for this event, and when she found out I had met the wind map people, she added that to the list of things about me that really annoy her. (Another was that I saw a wild Pallas's Cat without her last summer in Tibet.)

Something new:

Kate Clark’s 2014 piece Licking the Plate was commissioned for the exhibition titled Late Harvest, up at the Nevada Museum of Art right now. I rarely use a word like mesmerizing about a piece of art, but this one truly transfixes a viewer, stopping person after person in her or his tracks. A full-size taxidermied kudu—an African game species much prized by Hemingway—has been given a human face. Take that, Star Trek: this is much creepier (and much grander) than anything one ever sees in the company of Captain Kirk.

The image here comes from the exhibition catalog for the Late Harvest show:

Is this piece saying that all animals have a face or soul? Inuit hunters would agree, if so. Or is it a comment on us as Homo sapiens --- we are each partly an animal, inside? We don't mind if it artists give animals a tiny bit of anthropomorphic modeling, as Audubon did with these owls.

If the artist takes it too far, though, it unsettles most people very greatly, myself included. You want to tell this kudu-centaur-mermaid-priestess, "Stop looking back: you're bugging the bejesus out of me."

Goya would admire it, since his Disasters of War etchings are so brutal and honest and unflinching that one can barely stand up under their witnessing. This piece will be up until January, and I urge folks to make the drive to see it in person. 

Something borrowed:

This image also comes from the Late Harvest exhibition catalog but represents an absence. The piece itself, after a nightmare of export permits and negotiations, was headed to the US to be in the art show, but then it turns out that while it was in storage insects had done their thing and the piece was too fragile and too damaged to be shipped. 

This is both a sculpture and the projection of a sculpture: look on the wall to see how the assembled animals create the profile of a man and a women. I quote from Joanne Northrup's very helpful introductory essay in the catalog. "Tim Noble and Sue Webster's British Wildlife (2000) is a complex shadow sculpture that includes eighty-eight taxidermy animals: forty-six birds (thirty-five species), forty mammals (eighteen species), and two fish." The project is partly an homage to Mr. Noble's father, who had acquired the Victorian specimens as props when he taught drawing classes. As Ms. Northrup says, the piece encompasses "fundamental dyads: light and shadow, form and anti-form, nature and culture, predator and prey, male and female, life and death."

It also is a testament to the transience of all matter, given that it's no longer in showable condition. (The artists had other pieces to represent their work, instead.) An assemblage like this may have some slight degree of "eeeww" factor, along the lines of "those poor animals" or "how barbaric." To my mind, this is too easy of a response. Let's just take one species, the Ring-necked Pheasant, a common game bird in England, and, after its introduction, common even in America. 

I've seen them not far from Reno itself, between Carson City and Minden, and around Antelope Valley College they occur along Ave D towards Quail Lake and up in Green Valley. Besides its introduction throughout the U.S., a pheasant is a very "British" bird, the kind of thing landed gentry would hunt on large estates. They are mentioned in Shakespeare and are one of about ten species that most lay people in England can name on sight.

(Photo credit: um, sorry, it's "out there" on the Internet but I can't find any authorship credits.

Yet the pheasant is not native to Europe but instead to China, and so its presence in British culture --- the Bard not withstanding --- is in some ways misleading. They're not native there nor here, and to say it's wrong to shoot them is to be perhaps too immediately judgmental. It might be that in shooting pheasants the British hunters are doing good things, if they were in some way creating better conditions for a less common and more properly indigenous species. Similarly, we probably all have an opinion about fox hunting, to name another species frequently seen in taxidermy shops, but the objective fact is that the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the most successful, widespread carnivore in the world. You think the coyote is adaptable and widespread? Our friend the coyote ain't got nuthun on the fox, which can be see in midday in Kew Gardens, at dusk by the Dead Sea in Israel, outside of Nome, Alaska, near the Mongolian border in China, or even trotting at dawn along an expressway in New Jersey. (How do I know? Range maps tell me so, plus in each of those instances, I've seen them myself.) It may well be wrong to shoot any animal for any purpose, but to shoot a fox, stuff it, and use it in an art piece (recycled or otherwise) will not change the worldwide status of the red fox.

Ethics and the distribution of candis aside, that shadow piece and the others similar to it strike me as extravagantly cool. Right on for art (and for the art museum), if it gives us experiences like that.

Something blue:

I have met Santa Monica-based Lita Albuquerque before and she impresses me more each time we speak. That may be because we share an affection for (and former art residencies in) Antarctica. A new book celebrates Stellar Axis, her installation in Antarctica that mapped out the unseen stars present in the sunlight-all-the-time austral summer sky. This picture comes from that book, released a few weeks ago by the Nevada Museum of Art and Skira Rizzoli. Here is the book cover and a shot of the installation.

The concept included participation by and interaction from science and support staff based in Antarctica, as this aerial shot from the book shows:

A good overview of her work can be found on her website,

and a silver sixpence in her shoe.

Maya Lin is best known to the general public for the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C., and that indeed is one of the most remarkable pieces of memorial architecture since the Renaissance. Her art and architecture since then have explored many other themes, subjects, media, and geographies, and for the Nevada Museum of Art her exhibition up now considers Arctic ice / Arctic rivers and hence, by implication, Arctic futures.

This is a topic that I have been thinking about as well, and this photo was taken within about 600 miles of the North Pole. Is there less ice each year? Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus is in trouble; I have seen it myself.

Maya Lin does many interesting things with topography, sea ice histories, and wave patterns. Among her art projects are representations of river systems cast in recycled silver. One thing about her exhibits and her website though, she sure does not like random bloggers like me doing right-click borrowings of her images. Her main gallery, Pace, feels the same way. Even captions for images are hard to come by. Here though is a representative of a wall-sized piece cast in silver that shows how she represents ocean basins.

This shot is a screen grab from her website, It's a really interesting place; it too is highly recommended.

The Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art does something I have benefited from personally and try to model in my own teaching and life, and that is that it's really good at creating the right conditions for collaboration. Maya Lin spoke about this during her talk.

When asked about working with a team on projects, she said, "I leave my artist ego at the door; I need to disappear." Why? It's all about results. Maya Lin: "True success is the real connection. My goal is to put the visitor back into the landscape, and how that happens does not matter, just so long as it DOES happen."

I think one mistaken notion we've inherited from the Romantics is the idea of the mad scientist or the crazy poet locked in a tower. Even if we go back to High Modernism (which had as much a cult of personality as any contemporary issue of People magazine), there would never have been T.S. Eliot's masterpiece The Wateland if he and Ezra Pound had not sat down to go over a rough draft. Luckily, their notes survive, or at least Pound's comments right on the manuscript. (What Eliot said we can't be quite so certain about.)

I tried to pick a sample page where Pound had not just crossed out everything on the whole page top to bottom, and one on which he had not scribbled bad words in furious frustration. (Hi, Ez, I know how you feel.) His grumpiness helped, though; Eliot's 1922 book-length poem is widely credited as the single most important poem in the past 100 years. (As a side note, Modernism marks the arrival of the typewriter as a mean of production, and with it, the sense of the page as a typographical space.)

After too many years of in-fighting and territoriality, it feels like our campus is about to put into practice some of the ideas that I have seen carried out at the Nevada Museum of Art. AVC Language Arts teacher Scott Covell is making a zombie movie (slash parody of MTV music videos slash meditation on the power of images), and he recently let me sit in on a shooting session. 

He brought together folks from six departments on campus, and all I can say is, (a) making a movie is hard work, and (b), as I stated earlier on, hanging out with productive, smart, energized people is the best rush there is. He has a follow-up feature planned for next summer, and Covell asked if I would be willing to go with him when he approaches the Foundation for funding.

"Damn straight, amigo," I told him. It's just as Maya Lin says: "What matters are the connections. Who cares about status or name badges? Get some committed people together, give them permission to generate all the ideas they want, and then just stand back and watch great things happen."


Charles Hood teaches in Language Arts and can be reached at This blog does not represent the views or endorsement of the Board of Trustees nor the District as a whole, and the AVC Blog in no way wishes to suggest that you go out tomorrow and shoot foxes, pheasants, or any other animal, native or introduced.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Starting on the Good Foot

In the military a common phrase is to “get started on the good foot”. This refers to stepping out smartly with a 30-inch stride leading with the left foot. The college is starting fall semester on the good foot.

Ed Knudson
I routinely walk around campus each day.  I enjoy the atmosphere, the interaction with all the characters and players who comprise our community.  Antelope Valley College has a particularly beautiful campus. The mature trees, green spaces, and the new desert-scape areas blend with the building architecture to provide a tranquil and stately environment. It feels like college.

Inasmuch as this is the first week of class, I tend to walkabout more often each day; at least twice, and in the evening if possible.  I just returned from a pre-lunch walk, needing to make some stops along the way to conduct business. It was at the 11:30 class break time frame so there was significant human movement and gathering on campus.  

Today is an extremely pleasant one in the Antelope Valley; temperature is in the mid-80s, there is no wind just the slightest of breezes, and brilliant sunlight.  The skies are clear and the air is fresh. Students are gathered in small groups in the library quad, others lounging on the grass beneath the trees, some napping, some chatting in small groups, and still others keeping their resolution to stay current in class and doing some studying.  It looks like college.

The beginning to this Fall Semester has been particularly smooth, nervously so; I keep waiting for the first shoe to drop, much less the other one.  Lines in student services are short, parking lot traffic has calmed, classes are full and yet we are accommodating more students than in the past five years, and we are looking to open some late start classes to provide access to even more students.  As of this morning just over 15,000 students are enrolled in over 1600 class sections covering over 500 course offerings.  We are just 1,000 students shy of the all-time enrollment record the college achieved in 2009.

I have talked with students, faculty and staff and have tried to assess why such a smooth start. Some thoughts came to mind: we came together as a full college community before classes started; our course schedule is more complete and offers varied times; we started registration for both summer and fall simultaneously in early May to better facilitate choices for continuing students and to meet their needs before leaving campus in the spring; we dedicated Friday mornings to packaging and processing financial aid applications; we conducted drops for non-payment weekly to keep class lists current; and we permanently extended service hours to better accommodate the work and family needs of our students’. It acts like college.

I love watching a college campus wake up and come to life each day.  There is a renewed optimism and excitement with each student arrival and each classroom opening. Today was just an especially inspirational one.  

Thank you all for making this all happen so wonderfully for our students and the community.

Ed Knudson 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Meet the New VP of Academic Affairs

Dr. Bonnie Suderman --- Academic, Mother, Shot Putter

In first meeting AVC's new Vice President of Academic Affairs, one might make any number of assumptions about her skills and interests, just as we all do when we meet somebody new.

I must confess, putting her down as a former shot putter was not on my list of possibilities.

"Well," she told me, laughing. "That was a long time ago. My father was the coach of the track team in high school, at a small private school district in San Diego. He needed somebody for the shot put. That became me."

Dr. Suderman says that her father probably would have rather have had three sons instead of the three daughters that the family became blessed with. Still, he took them fishing and backpacking in the High Sierra, just the same.

She said, "He really didn't think much of the Antelope Valley.  If we were going up to any of the Eastern Sierra trailheads, he tried to time it so we drove through the AV in the middle of the night. We were from San Diego --- he did not like the heat."

His was an equal-opportunity dislike; to get to the Western Sierra, he tried to pass Bakersfield in the dark as well. She laughs about it now. "He told me, 'Bonnie, whatever you do, don't marry a man from Bakersfield.'"

Yet she did, and Dr. Suderman raised her family there, including spending time as a stay-at-home Mom. "Each family has to make their own choices about parenting. For us, it worked out well. My girls are just terrific."

In time, she went back to work. Here is the summary that Jim Reddish shared in the "Around AVC" campus update.

Antelope Valley College is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Bonnie Suderman as Vice-President, Academic Affairs.

Dr. Suderman has an extensive background in higher education spanning over twenty years. Beginning as a classroom instructor and full-time faculty member at both Bakersfield College and California State University-Bakersfield, in disciplines emphasizing work with adult learners and adult literacy for over twelve years, Dr. Suderman began work as a Dean of Instruction at Bakersfield College in 2006. She has had varying assignments as a Dean at Bakersfield since that time and has developed a deep understanding of the challenges and regulations required in the operation of a California Community College instructional program.

Dr. Suderman received a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities from Biola University, a Master’s degree in Literacy from California State University-Bakersfield, and a Doctoral degree from University of the Pacific.

In our conversation we talked about online teaching, returning veterans, success rates in Developmental Composition, and her season playing basketball.

"One season was definitely enough. That was not quite the right sport for me."

At Biola College she let her sports abilities stay in the closet, as she focused on her studies and graduated in an astounding three years.

One of the things that attracts her to Antelope Valley College is the quality of the staff, as well as the beauty of the grounds. "We have such a beautiful campus here ---- and so much to be proud of. I am very happy to join the AVC Family."

Dr. Suderman's office is in the front-most Administration Building, the one-story building that is nearest to the corner of 30th and K. Her email is and her phone extension is (661) 722-6304. If you see her on campus, do stop and introduce yourself --- she is open and approachable, and may be able to give you pointers on your track and field career.


Photographs not credited to an outside source were taken by the blog curator, Charles Hood, Language Arts. He can be reached at This blog does not represent the views of the Board of Trustees nor the District as a whole. To leave comments, you need to be logged into some kind of blogspot or gmail account, or so it seems. Sorry about that: it's just how the system is set up. Hood also can forward comments through email. 

In the near future the AVC Blog will go through a make-over, with a new look and a new series of contributors. See you soon!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Putting Out the "Gone Fishin'" Sign

blog's hiatus / new direction (probably and maybe)

The Antelope College Blog started a few years ago, when the usual author (me, Charles Hood) reported from Antarctica, when I was on a research grant with the National Science Foundation.

For all of June, the "gone fishin'" sign will be out.

Several reasons for this. In my case, I will be in Tibet all month and am not checking email nor phone messages. I will be off the grid as completely as possible. Among other species, I look forward to seeing of my favorite birds, the Hoopoe. Of course, at 16,000 feet, I will be panting so hard I probably won't be able to hold my binoculars steady.

Separate from that, it may be time for a new look / new direction for the AVC blog. Starting in July, a new Public Information Officer will start work at the college, and so perhaps there will be an overhaul to many public faces of Antelope Valley College. Perhaps not --- I am not suggesting there will be something big and dramatic happening --- but perhaps so, if whoever it is has a new vision for how this space can be used.

Until then, keep your powder dry and your canoes pointed downstream.

See everybody in July.


Charles Hood can usually be reached at This blog does not represent the views of the Board of Trustees nor the District as a whole, nor do they endorse the predation of our finny friends for sport or profit.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Water in the Antelope Valley (Part 2)

A Continued Look at the Infrastructure That Makes Life Possible

To follow up from the previous post, when you go to take a shower, where did that water come from?

In a previous blog we looked at some of the ponds and dams around the Antelope Valley. It was suggested that while people often say, "Oh, I live in the desert," for many of us, judging just by our houses and lifestyles, we don't really. We're as "wet" as any other suburb in America.

Now, let's connect up the flow (pun intended). If you fill a glass of water at the sink, where does it come from? (Well, out of the faucet, but where, before that?)

Well, okay, it came to the house from the street, via a water main --- unless of course you're not "on the grid." Some local families use wells on their own property, and that means they need storage tanks. This homestead site near mine seems ready to forgo the usual options and remain self-contained, even though housing tracts on each side have normal water lines.

 And just because a government agency provides water, that doesn't mean we always can use it for showers, cooking, and drinking. One problem with our current distribution networks is we lack easy ways to use secondary-levels of treated waste water for gardening.

But let's stick to just the main experience that most of us have. We live in a traditional neighborhood with a traditional water supply. The water goes from the main supply into the house and hence into our hot tubs and ice makers. Before that? To the mains it came from a treatment plant and pumps and distribution networks. Here is part of the treatment plant for Palmdale Water District, where I live. They spend a million and a half dollars a year just on activated charcoal alone.

Sure, fine, but where did THEY get their water?

In Palmdale, some of it comes into Lake Palmdale from Littlerock Dam, which means the water starts as snowfall in Angeles Crest. From Littlerock Dam (shown in the previous blog), it flows down the partially-underground, partially above-ground Palmdale Ditch. This only happens when the Dam is full, so it runs just in spring usually, but isn't this fun? Look at it shoot along, like a flume ride at an amusement park.

This is drinking water (though it has not yet been treated) and as such, part of "critical national infrastructure." Don't mess about with it, or I am sure you face ten consecutive life terms in the worst jail in the world. Still, just as an object of visual beauty, doesn't it seem like a miracle?

Even when it's dead calm, there's a certain strange, inexplicable charm.

Another way we get our local water is through wells. Sometimes this is called drawing down fossil water: it is pumped up 200+ feet from the water table, which in essence means it comes from an aquifer that was 10,000 years in the making. In banking terms, we are spending down principal, not interest. In pioneer times, the water table was much higher --- hence the term, "Barrel Springs Road": there were springs many places in the Antelope Valley. Now one has to go deep and use a pump to get the water under our feet.

As a guess, and I may be misremembering my tour of the Palmdale Water Treatment Plant, but in Palmdale between 10% and 20% of the drinking water comes from wells. There also are other districts and authorities, such as the large water storage tank recently refurbished by the onramp to the North 14 from near the mall. If I am way off on my numbers, please somebody send me a cranky email. Here is a shot of a well close to my house. Which one is it? Apparently it is Well 16.

As far as I know, most agriculture in the Valley is using pumped well water also. If I am wrong, let me know on that, too, at the address below. As part of a conservation program I once hand-watered newly planted oak trees all summer, using buckets of water filled from a swamp and carried up a steep hill. Looking at this monster of an irrigation system below, I am a touch envious. (This shot immediately below also reinforces my thesis that in many ways, the Antelope Valley is NOT a desert.)

Looking out more broadly, some of Southern California's water comes from the Colorado River --- or past tense, it used to. This body has always been over-allocated, and recent droughts make the fight worse. I quote from The New York Times, January 05, 2014:

These new realities are forcing a profound reassessment of how the 1,450-mile Colorado, the Southwest’s only major river, can continue to slake the thirst of one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions. Agriculture, from California’s Imperial Valley to Wyoming’s cattle herds, soaks up about three-quarters of its water, and produces 15 percent of the nation’s food. But 40 million people also depend on the river and its tributaries, and their numbers are rising rapidly.

The labyrinthine rules by which the seven Colorado states share the river’s water are rife with potential points of conflict. And while some states have made huge strides in conserving water — and even reducing the amount they consume — they have yet to chart a united path through shortages that could last years or even decades.

I wrote my MFA thesis on John Wesley Powell, a manuscript that became my first book, Red Sky, Red Water. Civil War hero John Wesley Powell was the first person (Anglo or Native American) to follow the Colorado River down its whole length, and helped establish Grand Canyon National Park with his reports. In researching the book, I spent a lot of time hiking off trail and exploring the Colorado River drainage and its tributaries, as the shot below shows. The Colorado is many things, but what it can't be is an endless faucet for Los Angeles.

Most of the local water though comes not from Littlerock Dam or from wells, but from the state aqueduct system that flows down the western side of the Sierra and past our Valley. (That one is not to be confused with the one that drains the Owens Valley; that aqueduct is for Los Angeles.) This is water that collected as snow in the High Sierra and made its way as meltwater down into the Sacramento Delta, from which it is diverted towards us. Here is our aqueduct from the air.

Although bike riding is banned, it's a great place to walk, think, fish, or just watch colors change as twilight merges with true dusk. Most people take it for granted, yet it's a special place, and one of the hidden treasures of the Antelope Valley

At times the gravity-powered aqueduct needs to cross a valley and so goes underground for a while, regulated by sluice gates and helped by electric pumps. Here, the early-evening lighting at one of these transfer stations looks a bit like the moonrise in an Ansel Adams photograph.

The water at times leaves the system in ways not usually intended. During the terrible Station Fire in Angeles Crest, fire crews refilled their helicopters directly from the aqueduct.

This of course is an unusual circumstance. More typical might be the fire that comes from a vivid sunrise. I took this picture of the California Aqueduct in Palmdale earlier this year.

So from the aqueduct it goes to a treatment center, is processed and filtered and supplemented with well water and local snowmelt, and from there it goes to your faucet. After you do whatever it is you do with it, it goes to the sewage treatment plant at Ave. D, and from there, Piute Ponds or Apollo Park. It evaporates, joins the clouds, falls as rain or snow, and circles back around again. We will close with a brief suite of pictures from Piute Ponds, the marshland on Edwards Air Force Base. (Caution --- this is military property; permission to enter must be given by the Base Commander. It's worth knowing about though, and they have a good website.) Water in the desert? Yes indeed --- and often in surprising and visually stunning ways.


Photographs not credited to an outside source were taken by the blog curator, Charles Hood, Language Arts. He can be reached at This blog does not represent the views of the Board of Trustees nor the District as a whole. To leave comments, you need to be logged into some kind of blogspot or gmail account, or so it seems. Sorry about that: it's just how the system is set up. Hood also can forward comments through email.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Water in the Antelope Valley

A Tour of Sprinklers, Waterfalls, Gullies, and Sewage Ponds (Part I)

To quote one of my own poems, "For a desert, there sure is a lot of water here."

Do many people recognize this view, below? It's looking southwest from Piute Ponds, the marsh on Edwards Air Force Base. This is kept full and thriving by treated outflow from the big sewage plant on Ave. D. If we think of the Antelope Valley not as flat (since it isn't), and instead more like a pool table with one leg propped up on a small phone book, we can picture why this marsh is here. Historically there was surface flow of water from the Palmdale foothills where the landfill is now, up past the Mall, down through the Valley, collecting in a natural marshland near Edwards. To keep the lake bed dry for aviation, now dykes and berms collect that runoff into the wetlands called Piute Ponds, and natural drainage is supplemented with input from treated sewage. Don't laugh: all of Apollo Park is filled this way too.

For most of us, water comes more often in a package like this backyard shot below, and given the homes many of us prefer to have, we no more live in a desert than do the people in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, or, for that matter, Des Moines. We take long showers and keep green lawns. Ours very much is a water-rich lifestyle.

I am not saying it's wrong to have a green lawn (not least of which, because this happens to be my own backyard); it's just the "desert" aspect is kept pretty far at bay, moreso than some people like to admit. We take pride in being "desert rats," yet are we really?

This motel below is named after a bigger desert even than ours. The water feature installment seems not to be going well.

God bless Sierra Highway. Without it, wouldn't you feel a bit let down? It makes all the rest of our neighborhoods seem so much nicer in comparison.

Besides pools and motels, we even have a goodly amount of wet weather, if we take the year as a whole. Pretty soon we can start looking forward to the late-summer Monsoon. Here in the AV it's not as reliable or drenching at Tucson's, but at times, we do get some picture-perfect clouds.

Don't you just love the smell of it, when summer rain first starts falling?

Winter rain tends to be colder, harder, longer, and more likely to wreck the commute to L.A. with piled up car crashes. I probably should not have taken this picture while driving.

Summer or winter, the rain causes flooding, and doesn't that always seem like an odd contradiction in the desert? For a while, this car had a "for sale" sign waggishly added.

What about this intersection? A lot of water moved through very quickly.

Ultimately our drinking water comes from snow --- more on that in the Part 2 post --- and usually once a winter the snow comes to us, direct delivery, no intermediary steps involved. Some day we will wake up on Christmas morning to this view.

Even more rare than snow is fog. Whenever we get a foggy morning, I like to find roads that go straight up into and disappear, just for the novelty of it. Some deserts, including Chile's Atacama, have fog and no rain; the neblina-based plants learn to accrue moisture right from the fog droplets.

Water is good for marketing. We do name schools and streets after desert plants, but a secret part of us still covets marshes, fells, lakes, and sinkholes.

Water lives in our folklore too. Does anybody remember the legend of Lake Una? One nickname is "bottomless pond." There would be a lovely picture of it here, except the AVC Blog believes in following all signs, even one that says "Keep Out."

Find a good lake, there is bound to be a sign. Welcome to America, land of "No Trespassing" signs. This is Holiday Lake, on the west side of the Antelope Valley, home in spring to a significant population of an endangered bird, the Tri-colored Blackbird.

You want lakes? Welcome to the Antelope Valley, Land of Lakes. Some days Lake Palmdale looks very properly green. This marks the San Andreas Fault and would have collected water naturally, where springs intersect with folds of the bedrock. Dams as far back as 1900 have added capacity. These days is a combination of a private hunt / fishing club and a water-storage site.

Alas, poor Lake Elizabeth, also on the San Adreas --- this was NOT a green day for it. You know it's bad luck when your lakes start to burn down.

As mentioned above, Apollo Park does have a lake and it is kept full from your toilet. Flush away: it all ends of at Ave D, and from there, either Piute Ponds or Apollo Park. The geese like it too.

 Do quarries count? Here's the view from Littlerock. All the groundwater fills a hole that has become the aggregate for somebody's freeway or lovely concrete driveway. To be honest, there might have been a "no trespassing" sign that I conveniently didn't read too closely.

Next, staying on that side of the Valley, see below. Littlerock Dam Lake looks a bit shoddy these days too. Drought and reservoirs don't match up. It took has endured a lot of fires. If it is possible for water to look ugly, that might be how to describe this view:

In good water years, the dam fills up so high that the water spills over the top.

 How small can a lake be before we call it a puddle? At least it catches the sunset nicely.

There's a secret part of Little Rock Creek I nearly don't want to share. Shot 1, "Secret Place." (Well, not secret to the taggers.)

Same place, different view. Shot 2. Call us a desert. Hah! We defy "desert." Do you like the artistic blur of falling water in this version of Secret Place Pond?

Up next? Palmdale Ditch . . . but first we need to let the Blog server catch its breath, given how many images have been uploaded into this stream. Part II of this subject will be where the water comes from and how we move it around.


Photographs not credited to an outside source were taken by the blog curator, Charles Hood, Language Arts. He can be reached at This blog does not represent the views of the Board of Trustees nor the District as a whole. To leave comments, you need to be logged into some kind of blogspot or gmail account, or so it seems. Sorry about that: it's just how the system is set up. Hood also can forward comments through email.