An Oxymoron: Time/Life is Fast but Slow

August is moving along like a ‘grin and bear’ hiker instead of a ‘stop and stare’ one. Perhaps it’s because the beginning of the fall semester is looming, but I’m still wondering where July went. In the current warp state (twilight zone?) the events that happen in a week could have happened in a month. Time drags yet paradoxically moves swiftly. July showed that COVID-19 is out of control in the US and in some weeks records were toppling daily. For a couple of weeks unmarked federal agents took over from local law enforcement in the abuse of protesters in Portland, Oregon while the ‘leader of the free world’ threatened to deploy them to several other cities (can you say banana republic?) as he brandished the results of his cognitive test (he recognized an elephant). New protests against federal abuses in Portland cropped up around the country. The threat of deporting international students taking virtual classes died a swift and deserving death, though perhaps temporarily, because the ‘Muslim ban’ did happen eventually.

I’m happy that Black Lives Still Matter and the protests are ongoing. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are still in focus. My BLM flag finally arrived and now flies proudly outside my house. If my neighbours didn’t have some insight before they certainly should now.

This post took a while and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the time warp. I started writing this post on July 27th, the day that my country’s fifth and to date, longest serving Prime Minister, Mr. Owen Seymour Arthur died. As a Caribbeanist myself, I respected his ability to see the Caribbean as an integrated region and his work to extend that vision in new ways like the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. Barbados mourned officially for 3 days; actual mourning of his loss will be much longer.

Amidst all of this, I continued to hike and garden (frequency and time depend on whether it’s 90 degrees or 100 degrees), allowing nature to replenish me. I’ve been working remotely since mid-March but as much as I love it, it’s taking a toll. Sometimes one day bleeds into another and I have to check the day and date to orient myself. The summer is flying/creeping along and more than usual I find myself looking back and wondering where the time went and what I spent it doing. Hours of virtual meetings are mentally, visually, and physically challenging and those stresses are in addition to the normal demands of my job.

When I’m working on campus I leisurely or quickly walk to and from meetings. On a big campus like mine, I sometimes walk a mile or two as I go from meeting to meeting; that’s good for my health. In contrast, too often nowadays I just log off from one meeting and log on to another; sometimes I don’t even have a few minutes to step outside to breathe deeply. Fortunately, my workspace looks out onto a patio and I can always see plants. Plus when I don’t have those back-to-back meetings, it’s very easy to go outside as needed. In addition to the plants, I may spot a cottontail rabbit or a hummingbird – that’s one upside of working from home. Here’s a quick read about our connectedness to wildlife – Why we hunger for a connection to the wild during quarantine. Funny/fitting that the link to this article was in one of the weekly newsletters that came in while I was writing this post. The author, Richard Louv, has also written a very well regarded book called Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.

I chair an academic department called Recreation & Tourism Management and I’m a professor specializing in tourism (who recreates a lot). I know through research and experience that not taking the time to replenish and re-create is harmful to my wellbeing. So I try hard to take the time as needed and encourage others to do the same. Thus after I wrote that statement, I went out to the backyard to breathe for a few minutes 😊. You too can enjoy what I saw during that brief break:

You’re welcome. My sisters and a few friends can also confirm that the garden/backyard help to keep me grounded because they too get unsolicited garden photos often 😊.

More of time being fast but slow. During a recent backyard jaunt a hummingbird stopped me in my tracks as it zoomed up to an Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) to feed (I appreciate my good reflexes). I stood still and breathed. The hummingbird’s wings were beating so swiftly I could hear them, yet it too was almost still, hovering in one spot and extracting nectar from one flower before moving on to the next and the next to do the same. It was beautiful moment that felt like a long time but was probably just two minutes.

Now to the hiking. I’m back in the rhythm of hiking at least once a week, sometimes locally, sometimes a bit further away. I was supposed to go on two out of town hiking trips in July, but cancelled both (😢) because of logistical and other concerns related to COVID-19. Nonetheless, I hiked 8 times last month and enjoyed each of them. Some of the trails I hiked offer interpretation; some do not, but as always I wondered about the stories of those in whose footsteps I was walked.

Trailing the Chumash

I decided to look a bit deeper for more history on two areas I hiked in July – Solstice Canyon and Big Horn Mine. Unfortunately, the information that is readily available tends to be about the Eurocentric settlers rather than the Native Americans. Yet 10,000 – 15,000 years ago and prior to the arrival of the Spanish, coastal California was occupied by Native American tribes, including the Chumash and the Tongva/Gabrielino (NPS). Solstice Canyon Park and Big Horn Mine are in areas that were mainly inhabited by the Chumash.

Interaction between the Chumash and Europeans first occurred in 1542 (Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History) and before their numbers were decimated, the Chumash numbered some 22,000 – 25,000 living in 150 villages and towns spread between San Luis Obispo County (north), Topanga Canyon (south) and San Joaquin County (east) (Gamble (2008); Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians; SB Museum). It wasn’t unusual for a woman to be a chief or a priest (Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians).

The Chumash spoke six languages and traded with each other across land and water. The tomol – a plank canoe – was what they used to travel across the water between the mainland and the islands. Chumash families lived in houses called aps and their basketry remains one of the better-known artifacts. In some areas, Chumash grinding stones and cave paintings can still be seen – I’ve seen Chumash grinding stones on previous hikes at Tejon Ranch and Vasquez Rocks; also rock paintings at Vasquez Rocks.

Solstice Canyon

Solstice Canyon is in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (at 153,075 acres, SAMO is the largest urban national park in the world (NPS, n.d.). According to NPS, the Chumash discovered Solstice Canyon thousands of years ago. In Solstice Canyon I hiked two trails: Solstice Canyon Trail and TRW Loop Trail.

Solstice Canyon TrailThe interpretation on this trail focuses on the ruins

The Waterfall

TRW Loop TrailSome spots on this trail really spoke to me

Big Horn Mine

Google ‘Big Horn Mine’ and the first two pages of results mostly mention the trail to get there and Charles Vincent, its notorious ‘discoverer’. It seems to be a popular trail and is a relatively easy 2 mile hike. Vincent (possibly with another prospector) found gold in the area in 1891 and the mine operated from 1895 to the 1985 under various owners and lessees (F. Yarnell, Wrightwood Historical Society, 2000). The mine is in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness of the Angeles National Forest (US Forest Service, n,d,). In 2012 the Forest Service purchased the mine from Wilderness Land Trust, which had purchased it from a private owner in 2007 to secure it for the Forest Service.

It took a bit more research to find out that the Chumash also inhabited this area in the Angeles National Forest. There is no interpretation along the trail nor at the mine. So know before you go or research after.

First, Vincent’s Mine

Then, the search for Vincent’s cabin …

If only Ivan had continued on that trail …We didn’t find the cabin 😕, but(t) we burned some calories to get back out 😉. Nature … gotta love it!

Interested in Learning More About the Chumash?

Here are some resources to get you started.

5 thoughts on “An Oxymoron: Time/Life is Fast but Slow

  1. Love this blog and can truly relate to the “life is fast but slow” premise. I have not been hiking for months now I think it is time to get back out there. Your writing and photos have put voice to my wanderlust 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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