Dappled Things in Their Pied Beauty

March 31st, 2016 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

The first time I read Gerald Manley Hopkins’ poem, “Pied Beauty,” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. Dappled things?

Was he really thanking God for the speckles on trout? After all, that’s what “stipple on trout” means.

Trout are pretty cool looking, but really?

Dappled Things Jane St Clair Rainbow Trout

The next thing you know Hopkins is thanking God for the stripes on cows. Stripes on cows are also cool, but yet …

Brinded Cow in Iceland by Christian Bickel wikipedia 1

The more I thought about Hopkins’ words and kept looking around me, I finally understood what he meant by Pied Beauty. Gerald Manley Hopkins meant that speckled or dappled things as well as striped or brinded things are all around you, and they are beautiful in their own way.

Beautiful striped skies, for example.

Brinded sky, Jane St. Clair

Or the way that tree shadows form long wavy stripes on sand …

Tree Shadows are Brinded Dappled Things Jane ST Clair

Or even everyday striped things like an everyday striped cat …

Dappled Things Brinded cat Jane St Clair

Or the wondrous beauty of vast striped things like the Grand Canyon ..
.
Dappled Things Jane St Clair Grand Canyon

Then I began to see dappled things  … the dappled things all around us … like pebbles in speckled patterns …

Speckled Dappled Things by Jane St Clair pebbles

And how wildflowers can be dappled too …

wildflowers Dappled Things Jane St Clair

The ability to see dappled and brinded things is a beautiful revelation.. because as Simon and Garfunkel wrote, once you’re dappled, you love life. ..

“…I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep. Let the morning time drop all its petals on me. Life, I love you, All is groovy …”

Thank you, Brother Gerald, for opening us up to dappled things.

Dappled Things Jane ST Clair Finch

Pied Beauty by Gerald Manley Hopkins

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

G.M. Hopkins

G.M. Hopkins poet and monk

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Dappled Things Brinded Sky over Mayer Jane St Clair

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Tucson Architecture: Who Knew We Had It?

March 3rd, 2016 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

The New York Times recently sent a photographer and writer to do a piece on Tucson architecture. Most of us in Tucson do not even know we have architecture, much less that we are living an “unsung architectural oasis” in a “dusty outpost on the fringes of the Sonoran Desert.” See Unsung Oasis.

Now the fellows who came here from where cement grows instead of cactus did not even pick my favorite examples of Tucson architecture –the San Xavier Mission, the courthouse, the credit union at Wilmot and Speedway, and the Tucson Barrio.

San Xavier Mission was built by Spanish padres and Native Americans. As you

Tucson Architecture San Xavier Mission

can see, our beautiful mission was never finished and one tower still needs to be topped off some 324 years later but then, things move more slowly out here compared to New York City.

The other building that I personally think is a great example of Tucson architecture is the Vantage West Credit Union on Wilmot and Speedway.

Tucson Architecture Vantage West Credit Union 1

Tucson Architecture Vantage West Mirrors 1

Every time I go by this building I’m tempted to hang from one of its corners and see if I can tilt it up and down.

It looks something like a gigantic boat made of mirrors.

A lot of buildings in Tucson can look church-y, including the old courthouse.

Tucson Architecture Old Courthouse

I love all the bright colors intrinsic to Tucson architecture. You can really see them in the Tucson Barrio around 100 South Stone Street near downtown. I really love the Barrio’s neat doorways and windows.

Tucson Architecture Barrio WindowTucson Architecture Barrio Door

However, the New York Times writer mostly liked Tucson architecture because of Sunshine Mile. This is a stretch of 1950s buildings on Broadway between Euclid and Country Club. Tucson architecture Sunshine Mile

He may be on to something because when you walk along this street, you do feel as if you’re on the set of a Doris Day movie. The Times writer raved that “Tucson possesses some of the densest concentrations of mid-century Modernist architecture in the Southwest, although it’s hard to find.”

He means you have to find Sunshine Mile, for example.

I like the Sunshine Mile building that looks as if it sprouts chimneys when no one is looking.

Tucson Architecture Chimneys Multiply

Hirsch’s Shoe Store from 1954 and the Top Hat building are particularly cute, though the Haas and Solot buildings are more famous.

Tucson Architecture Hirsch's Shoe Store

Tucson Architecture Fred Astaire

The Times reporter also wrote how he liked how Tucson “boasts more about its thrift stores than its hipster brunch spots” and that he liked Tucson’s “dry clear air and abundant supply of wizened drifters right out of Richard Avedon’s ‘In the American West’ …

… and “how deeply he enjoyed the ramshackle dispersion of the city.”

Is that high praise or what?

On behalf of wizened drifters in ramshackle cities everywhere, I say, “Thanks, pardner. You’all come back real soon.”

tucson architecture tucson sign on miracle mileTucson architecture Miracle Mile 2tucson architecture tucson sign on miracle mileTucson architecture Miracle Mile 2

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Sometimes I dream I am in Sedona Again …

February 2nd, 2016 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

Sometimes I dream I am in Sedona again …

Bell Rock Landscape Jane St Clair
Usually I am standing by a vortex .. One of the seven energy votices in Sedona. Each one is sacred to the Native Americans, who have always called Sedona their home. They don’t go there to hike but rather for vision-quests or to work out their medicine.

The sky is always this bright turquoise and the rocks with their turrets and furrows are always this intense rust red ..

Sedona God's Rocks Jane St. Clair

Sometimes I look up and see the red rocks cast an enchanted jagged outline against the sky .. rocks that have this magical quality to form a dreamscape you’ve seen before .. You get deja vue the first time you stand there … even if you know you’ve never been there before … because you are looking at a place that exists and has always existed somewhere inside you … A place of “Then sings my soul… How great Thou art …”

Sedona Dreamscape by Jane St. Clair
The New Age People say a vortex is where the earth’s energy is more concentrated, and it is supposed to awaken you. The word conjures up a volcano shape and a whirlwind of energy — funneling and fierce.

The vortex at Bell Rock actually has a funnel shape …
Sedona Bell Rock Vortex by Jane St. Clair

While the Cathedral Rock vortex looks like this …
Cathedral Rock, AZ

Another vortex sets near the entrance of Oak Creek …
Sedona Oak Creek by Jane St Clair

Boynton Canyon vortex has Kachina Woman jutting out like this ….

Kachina Woman in Boynton Canyon Jane St Clair

When you stand in a vortex in Sedona, all you may feel is a lightening up … it may just be a slight feeling of relaxation … as if you are being carried along weightlessly …

I have been to Sedona many times .. And once I even went there in a dark gray rainstorm. At first I felt disappointed until I went out walking and I could see that…. even without its colors, Sedona is just as magical and just as enchanted, but in a different way.
Sedona in Shadows Jane St. Clair

Yet it is the colors that always call me back. They are a kindergartner’s colors .. a primary crayon box of bright red, green, yellow and blue.

Sedona in Authmn Jane St Clair
Love….
Boynton-Canyon-Kachina-Woman
Joy….
Sedona with fall colors Jane St. Clair
Peace…
Sedona Farewell by Jane St Clair
Sedona.

For more pictures of Sedona, see Where Castles Come From.”

→ No CommentsTags: Arizona · Arizona photography · Jane St. Clair · Sedona

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragons, Pusch Ridge AZ

December 31st, 2015 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

I have always loved the way the ocean is ever-changing and moving so that it hypnotizes and yet at the same time relaxes your mind. To me, she has light feet and dances the samba. But now I live in the mountains, and they are more sober than friend-ocean. They play great thunder music – symphony, not samba.

My own mountain is called Pusch Ridge but that is such a prosaic name for a huge everest that looks like a gigantic dinosaur.

Pusch Ridge with Clouds by Jane St. Clair

I am not the only one who sees this mountain that way. A Feng Shui master took one look at Pusch Ridge and proclaimed him to be a dragon protecting our valley. Like China we too have crouching tigers and hidden dragons in our mountains. A dragon protecting your valley, though, is considered very very lucky.

He is never the same from day to day or even hour to hour. At sunrise he wears a halo.

Pusch Ridge with Turquoise Sky by Jane St. Clair

At sunset he turns bright red and then fades to black.

Pusch Ridge Lighted by Sunset by Jane St Clair

During monsoon he is green; during dry heat, he is brown. In some lights he is purple mountain majesty;

Pusch Ridge Purple with Flowers by Jane St. Clair

in others he is maroon with a white top of snow.

Pusch Ridge with Snow Cover by Jane St. Clair

Sunlight and moonlight can drop into his holes or a cloud can turn parts of him into gray umbrage.

Pusch Ridge with Monsoon Clouds by Jane St. Clair

I greet him every day. I love him. I trust him. Like friend-ocean, he is eternal and forever.

bright light over pusch ridge shape changer1
If he could speak, he would say like the Navajo people do in their Blessingway ceremonies:

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty

–Navajo Blessingway Ceremony

Double Rainbow over Catalinas by Jane St. Clair

Henry David Thoreau once said it is wise to fall in love with your own small and special piece of real estate. He had Walden Pond, but I think he would have loved Pusch Ridge.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jane’s essay on Emily Dickinson placed in the 2015 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Essay Contest. See “The Colonel Catches A CatFish”. Read Jane’s funny flash fiction in The Reject File “Husky.” Jane’s story “The Man Who Liked 1959” placed in a contest from Twisted Road Publishing and will be included in a print anthology of stories from that publisher.

→ No CommentsTags: Arizona · Jane St. Clair · nature essay

Silence and Awe: A Walk With Sequoia

December 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

Sequoia Jane St. Clair - My, You Are Tall

by Jane St. Clair

Sequoia trees are colossal beings and yet they have a softness about them. Their bark swirls in a deep red soft pattern, and even their leaves look soft and furry. You might expect a “don’t-mess-with-me” hostile energy from such giants — but instead their spirits are calm, peaceful and majestic. It’s as if these trees, the largest and oldest living things on earth, have nothing to prove to anyone. They seem completely happy. Their peaceful energy makes you feel as if you’re in a cathedral where only beauty, hope, joy and the celebration of all things great and wonderful takes place.

The main thing about sequoia is that they are tall. You look up and they are tall as far as your eyes can see. They also have gigantic widths. People use to drive their cars through certain of their trunks in the Sequoia National Forest until the park rangers became more ecologically-minded.

Sequoia have enormous feet. Their feet are so big that they look like dinosaur feet. Some sequoia have dark green feet, others have red.

Sequoia Trees like Dinosaur Feet - Jane St. Clair

The oldest sequoia are over 5,000 years old which means they were already 1500 years old when Moses was alive, and 3000 years old when Christ was born. The Sequoia forest has survived fire, drought, insect hordes, floods, avalanches, and even tourists.

I like what John Steinbeck wrote about sequoia:

Sequoia by Jane St Clair (Oh My You Are Tall)

Redwoods seem to be out of time and out of our ordinary thinking. The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It is not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which shifts and varies under your eyes, –no—they are not like any trees we know. They are ambassadors from another time. The vainest and most irreverent of men goes under a spell of wonder and respect in the presence of the sequoia.

For information on your visit to the Sequoia National Forest this year, see Sequoia National Park.Sequoia Board Meeting - Sequoia National Forest by Jane St. Clair

If you like nature essays about trees, try The Noble Saguaro and Me and In My Next Life I’ll be a Tree

Jane’s essay on Emily Dickinson placed in the 2015 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Essay Contest. See “The Colonel Catches A CatFish”. Read Jane’s funny flash fiction in The Reject File “Husky.” Jane’s story “The Man Who Liked 1959” placed in a contest from Twisted Road Publishing and will be included in a print anthology of stories from that publisher.

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Walking Through Yosemite National Park with Mr. Muir

November 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

Yosemite National Park with its waterfalls and mountains and trees is the place where you stop wanting or needing anything more. It’s where you’re meant to be. When you’re in Yosemite, you keep looking up and wondering, “How can any place be so perfectly and elegantly beautiful?” … I’ve fallen in love with Yosemite National Park and the way John Muir writes about it.

Yosemite Beautiful Misty Waterfall Jane St Clair

Yosemite in the Words of John Muir

No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life. Some lean back in majestic repose; others, absolutely sheer or nearly so for thousands of feet, advance beyond their companions in thoughtful attitudes, giving welcome to storms and calms alike, seemingly aware, yet heedless, of everything going on about them. Awful in stern, immovable majesty, how softly these rocks are adorned.

Yosemite Panorama with Forest Jane St. Clair1

Yosemite Misty Waterfall Jane St Clair

Here stands Nature’s cathedrals, hewn from the living rock, almost conventional in form, nobly adorned with spires and pinnacles, thrilling under floods of sunshine as if alive like a grove-temple …

No where will you see the majestic operations of Nature more clearly revealed beside the frailest, most gentle and peaceful things than in Yosemite.

Nearly all Yosemite is a profound solitude. Yet it is full of charming company, full of God’s thoughts,a place of peace and safety amid the most exalted grandeur and eager enthusiastic action, a new song, a place of beginning abounding in the first lessons of life, mountain-building,

Yosemite Double Waterfall Another View Jane St Clair

eternal, invincible, unbreakable order, with sermons in stones, storms, trees, flowers and animals brimful of humanity.

The sublime rocks were trembling with the tones of the mighty chanting congregation of waters gathered from all the mountains round about, making music that might draw angels out of heaven … Yosemite Waterfall Cascade Jane St Clair

This was the most sublime waterfall flood I ever saw — clouds, winds, rocks, waters, throbbing together as one. … In Hetch Hetchy Valley and the great King’s River Yosemite, thousands of rejoicing flood waterfalls were charging together in jubilee dress. And the winds were singing in wild accord, playing on every tree and rock, surging against the huge brows and domes and outstanding battlements …Yosemite Waterfall with Baby Waterfall Jane St Clair

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
Yosemite Lake at Sunset Jane St Clair 1

Jane’s essay on Emily Dickinson placed in the 2015 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Essay Contest. See The Colonel Catches A CatFish

Read Jane’s funny flash fiction “Husky” The Reject Pile

→ No CommentsTags: Jane St. Clair · National Parks · nature essay

Red Moon Dancing -Lunar Eclipse 2015

October 1st, 2015 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

Every 14th full moon is a supermoon –an extra big and bright moon like the one in E.T. And every now and then we get a lunar eclipse and a red supermoon, as we did on Sunday, September 28, 2015. This rare red lunar eclipse is one of nature’s most spectacular light shows, and we won’t see another one until the year 2033.

Supermoon_at_Umaid_Bhavan_Palace,_Jodhpur-Wikipedia

Here in Arizona the moon was brighter than usual Sunday night and not particularly big, but it was blood red..Lunar Eclipse Beautiful Red Yellow Moon Jane St. Clair It lost one of its sides to an arc as if a giant had taken a bite out of it. It disappeared completely but then later it came back. I thought how these events must have terrified ancient people who were watchers of the skies, more so than we are. I understand that even some modern people believe that this rare red lunar eclipse means the end-of-the-world times are here, but whatever.

NASA-2015_LUNAR_ECLIPSE_CALCULATIONS

Looking at a red moon is awesome in the original sense of the word –awe as in the absolute wonder of it. Ancient people beat drums and offered sacrifices to their gods to feel less fear when they saw a lunar eclipse; we consult charts and do math.

Yet it is always startling to watch an eclipse. It feels like an old reliable friend –someone you always can count on– has suddenly changed colors! I mean, what if your dog turned redLunar Eclipse September 2015 Beautiful Red White Moon Jane St. Clair or worse, your boyfriend? We take eclipses for granted because we can predict them, but yet the event is still amazing. The truth is a lunar eclipse, especially one with a giant red moon, is so strange that it spooks the horses and makes all the little crawling things and birds take cover. Apparently, they can’t do math either, and they’re still awed and frightened by it.

I love the way the moon dances though her phases during a lunar eclipse, Lunar Eclipse Sept 2015 Beautiful PacMan Moon Jane St Clairlike Pac-Man dancing through the sky, jumping and cavorting to his little tune: doo doo da doop doop doop! The eclipse does not take long, just a few hours and that’s it. But I wonder if ancient people worried that the sun would never return. Would their sacrifices be enough? Or would they be without food forever because the sun would never ever come back?

Lunar Eclipse Sept 2015 Playful double Exposure Jane St Clair

The next morning the moon was his usual bright smiling self again, and so all was right with the world one more time.

Morning moon after lunar eclipsewith Henry Van Dyke Quote Jane St. Clair

If you like moon posts, try Blue Moon Shines Over Arizona

Jane’s essay on Emily Dickinson placed in the 2015 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Essay Contest. See The Colonel Catches A CatFish

→ No CommentsTags: Arizona · Arizona photography · Jane St. Clair · nature essay

A Godful Cosmic Wildness: The Grand Canyon

September 3rd, 2015 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

An architect once told me that when you design a building, you think in terms of the perfect size –and the perfect size is you! You’re the perfect size! Anything taller than you looks high, and anything shorter looks low.

I remembered that saying the last time I saw the Grand Canyon. If I’m the perfect size, then the Grand Canyon is WAY BIG.

Panaromic View of Grand Canyon

How big is the Grand Canyon? 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and one mile deep.

As Bill Bryson said, You could set the Empire State Building down in it and still be thousands of feet above it — indeed, you could set the whole of Manhattan down inside it! The Grand Canyon is WAY BIG.

Grand Canyon Visitors  by Jane St. Clair

Even when you suspect it’s just a few more steps in front of you, the Grand Canyon always surprises you. It’s unexpected. You just don’t expect to see a gigantic gash stretching for so very long and cutting so very deep into the earth. If you stand on the canyon’s ledge, the Colorado River looks like a tiny little stream, and you can’t even see the hikers below, much less coyotes. It’s like a mountain in reverse — a mountain that left the earth and left a hole.

Grand Canyon with Colorado River by Jane St. Clair

It’s the “Oh Wow” moment, and it’s very quiet. The Grand Canyon is a silent place, a place with very little movement, except for the occasional raven who sky-dances with the Canyon’s strange wind tunnels. The colors of the Grand Canyon are quiet too, nothing gaudy, just pastels in purple, russet red, browns, and greens.

Beautiful Grand Canyon by Jane St. Clair

The Canyon has amazing colored layers that are perfectly horizontal — the whole panorama is a series of beautiful horizontals — all done in perfectly straight lines because water formed them, and water never lays crooked. The Grand Canyon is perfectly formed.

Grand Canyon Majesty by Jane St. Clair

J.B. Priestly said you feel when you are there that God gave the Colorado River its instructions. The Canyon is all Beethoven’s nine symphonies in stone and magic light.

Condor in the Grand CanyonThe Native Americans called the Grand Canyon by the name “Ongtupqa,” and they made pilgrimages to it as a holy place. It is a holy place, a place to experience transcendence and meaningfulness.

John Muir, an American hero who helped create our National Park System, said, “The Canyon seems like a gigantic statement for even Nature to make all in one mighty stone work. Wildness so Godful, cosmic, primeval, bestows a new sense of earth’s beauty and size. But the colors, the living, rejoicing colors, are chanting morning and evening in chorus to heaven!”

Amen, Brother Muir.

WPA-Grand-Canyon-National-Park-Poster
For information on how to become one of the five million people who visit the Grand Canyon this year, see The Grand Canyon National Park.

→ No CommentsTags: Arizona · Arizona photography · Jane St. Clair · National Parks · nature essay

Cruising Death Valley At 123 Degrees in Summer

August 6th, 2015 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

Death Valley has this bad-ass reputation. The Hottest. The Driest. The Lowest spot in North America. It’s got Hells Gate and Furnace Creek. As you drive toward Death Valley, signs warn you — “Extreme Heat”  … “No gasoline for miles” … “You don’t want to go there” … “Are you crazy? Go home already.”

Abandon all hope all ye who enter here.

Its roads seem to go on and on to nowhere.

Death Valley Road to Nowhere - Jane St Clair
And yet Death Valley is eerily beautiful in its own way with its amazing rocks in strange formations you won’t see anywhere else. The Native Americans in Arizona say that every rock as well as every plant, animal and human has its own Kachina or spirit. I finally understood what they mean by Rock Kachinas for the first time in Death Valley.

Death Valley by -- Jane St Clair At Zabriskie Point you can look up and see these bizarre white rocks, so white in the noon August heat that they blind your eyes. One rock shaped like a majestic white shark sails forward into the sky —

while others knoll and fold and peak like folds of luxurious cloth to form a beautiful three-dimensional abstract work of art.
Death Valley Subtle Folds -- Jane St Clair

This strange foreboding place lets you see for miles and miles and reminds you that the space between things is just as important as the things themselves —

Death Valley Devils Golf Course x

–and that a simple substance like salt can be very beautiful.

Salt Flats in Death Valley

Death Valley is home to a thousand species of plants and a thousand kinds of animals, but on that soundless still day in summer when I went there, I heard no birds singing or animals burrowing or leaves rustling or any of that. I wondered how this expanse of whiteness could provide cover for coyote or puma — two of the creatures that call this place home.

Death Valley sailing stoneIf anything, Death Valley has a spooky quality where unexplained events occur — such as rocks that slide by themselves, perhaps propelled by poltergeists.

And yet despite the spectral qualities and loneliness of this landscape, I think I would go there again and I think I could learn to love this fearful and fierce place, and to agree with the seeker who said, “How can we feel so much fear in the face of these rocks and mountains when they are at once so wonderful?”

Death Valley Beauty Jane St Clair 8

For more information on visiting Death Valley National Park in California, see Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park Post Card

Updates: Carbon Culture Review has a terrific issue on the intersection of technology, art and literature– Read Jane’s piece ScreenBytes

Wising Up Press has just published a new book about relationships between brothers and sisters – Jane’s piece “Talking Berkeley Down” is included. See SIBLINGS: Our First Macrocosm

Read Jane’s funny flash fiction “Husky” The Reject Pile

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Tucson’s Tale of Oleander and Boy Scouts

July 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

I was only in Tucson a few months when I heard the horrible story of the oleander and Boy Scouts. Now this story is not for anyone who gets scared easily!horror_movie_tab_lg_clr So if that means you, you better stop reading right this minute!

The story goes like this:

About twenty years ago, a troop of Tucson Boy Scouts was camping on Mount Lemmon.Oleander and Boy Scouts It was summer, and the Scouts like everyone else in Tucson had climbed up the mountain to escape the heat.

Night was beginning to fall. The Scouts pitched their tents and built a campfire. They broke off sticks from oleander and Boy Scouts made them into skewers to roast hot dogs.

The next morning EVERY SINGLE BOY SCOUT WAS DEAD!

Oleander and Boy Scouts These Plants

Some died from eating the wieners, and others died from just inhaling the smoke of burning oleander.

OLEANDER is that POISONOUS!

Star-Shaped Oleander Jane St. Clair

If you touch it, YOU DIE. But these city slicker Boy Scouts were from New York or some such place and did not know any better.

zombie_walk_lg_clr

DON’T EVER TOUCH OLEANDER! or else!

The only problem is oleander grows all over the parts of Arizona where people live. The plant grows tall –up to 20 feet– and it’s big and green and full of flowers. It’s not picky about heat and water in a land of lots of heat and no water, and in a land with no big green plants full of flowers.

Oleander Mountains Jane St Clair

This means is … OLEANDER IS EVERYWHERE! …. YIKES!

This week I tried to find the oleander and Boy Scouts story in old newspapers. I couldn’t find it. That bothered me because by now I’d heard this story many times. Storytellers always tell it with great drama and a catch in their voices.

The thing is the story of the oleander and Boy Scouts is not true. It’s urban legend, Blurry Oleander Jane St. Claireven though people tell it not only in Arizona, but also in California, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Asia, the Mediterranean and anywhere that oleander grows.

The story probably dates back to a troop of French soldiers wandering around Spain during the Peninsula War of 1809. They were stealing food and camping near Madrid when they used oleander sticks to roast raw meat. The next morning 12 were dead, and 5 were deathly sick.

The oleander and Boy Scout story has staying power because its warning serves a purpose. Oleander is poison. It only takes an ounce of its leaves to kill a horse, and even less to kill a child.
Two-girls-with-oleander-klimt
I did find a 2007 article from a newspaper in Yorba Linda, California. The city fathers were deciding whether to ban oleander because of its threat to horses. I got a kick out of a comment someone posted at the end:

“Do you remember the horrible incident in California years ago (actually, about 20 years ago) where a group of Boy Scouts used oleander twigs to grill hotdogs and marshmallows over a campfire? Several of the boys and one of the Scoutmasters died as a result. I would never plant oleander. It’s a beautiful plant, but it is really, really toxic.”

Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1Little Hot Dog1

For more information on oleander and Boy Scouts, try snopes.com
July 2015: Read Jane’s funny flash fiction “Husky” The Reject Pile

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