Come dance to Kokopelli

Somehow, this hunchbacked flute player has become the most widely recognized Native symbol around. Maybe because there’s something playful in his step. He even became a character in one of my novellas in The Secret Side of Jaya.

Here are some facts about him.

  1. He’s often shown with feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head. They often make him look like an insect.
  2. He may have originally been a representation of Aztec traders who brought their goods in sacks slung over their backs. His first appearance, however, is on pottery dated to 750 to 850 CE, before the Aztec empire.
  3. He represents the spirit of music and has roles related to fertility. He’s also fluent in languages and an enchanting storyteller.
  4. He appears on ancient petroglyphs and pictographs as far back as the Anasazi cliff dwellers. Guess that makes him the first rock star.
  5. In these representations, he’s often accompanied by animal companions or an apprentice. Well, he does preside over the reproduction of game animals.
  6. He’s venerated in some Native cultures in the Southwest, where he chases away winter and brings on spring as well as rain. But watch out, he is a trickster deity.
  7. The popularized image of today usually omits the phallus.
  8. Among the Hopi, it is said that he carries unborn children on his back and distributes them to children. For that reason, young girls often fear him. He also participates in marriage rituals. The Zuni also have stories.
  9. He’s seen on the changing moon, much like the “man” on the moon.
  10. He was a noisy visitor, bringing welcome news from afar and leading to a night of revelry.

True facts about New Hampshire’s Mount Washington

  1. At 6,288 feet elevation, it’s the tallest point in the Northeast U.S. and part of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains.
  2. Access to the summit is by the Mount Washington Cog Railway on the western slope or by the Mount Washington Auto Road on the east, in addition to hiking. The Appalachian trail crosses the crest.
  3. The mountain is known for its record-making weather. Scientists spending a residency in the winter at the Mount Washington Observatory near the summit have wild tales to tell.
  4. Several storm tracks converge on the mountain, making forecasting difficult.
  5. Hurricane-force gusts are observed there an average 110 days a year.
  6. Tuckerman Ravine, with 50-degree slopes, is snow-covered for much of the year and notorious for its avalanches. Care to ski in June?
  7. The Alpine Garden and Bigelow Lawn plateaus above tree line feature many plants otherwise found in the Arctic.
  8. The first European to record the mountain was Giovanni da Verrazzano, viewing it from the Atlantic Ocean in 1524. The first ascent was claimed in 1642 by Darby Field.
  9. A race up the mountain every June attracts hundreds of seasoned runners. The Mount Washington Bicycle Hillclimb retraces the route in August for top-flight cyclists.
  10. No, the state’s iconic emblem, the Old Man of the Mountain, wasn’t attached to Washington but rather Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch to the west before finally succumbing to gravity in 2003.


My favorite smaller cities and towns

Being a college town really makes a difference. My selections are definitely skewered by the stretch of the country I’ve lived in.

Here goes:

  1. Dover, New Hampshire (population 32,191): Yes, my provenance for two decades and the source for much of the material here at the Red Barn.
  2. Portsmouth, New Hampshire (21,927): Just a dozen or so miles down the road from us, the Port City is wealthier and more tourist oriented, especially around the photogenic harbor. With a strong Colonial flavor, thanks to its array of mansions, it’s a prime example of a New England seaport, a category that could easily lead to its own Tendrils entry.
  3. Portland, Maine (66,215/metro area of a half million): A hour up the Interstate from Dover, the Forest City is the center of a third of the state’s population, as counted in the metro area. The Old Port District is especially charming and pedestrian friendly.
  4. Brunswick, Maine (20,278): A bit further on is the home of Bowdoin College and a fun-to-explore downtown. I love its Vietnamese restaurant.
  5. Eastport, Maine (1,331): And much further up the coast is this much shrunken city that’s fighting for survival. No college, though. No Laundromat, either, or pizza parlor. Its saving grace is an spunky arts scene and the ocean, including a really deep-water port. As you’re seeing, it’s won our hearts … enough to lure us from Dover.
  6. Port Townsend, Washington (9,704): Jumping to the other side of the continent, this artsy community on the Olympic Peninsula relies on ferry service across Puget Sound for access to about everything other than the mountains and forests at its back. It’s also home to a state park dedicated to the arts.
  7. Ellensburg, Washington (21,111): Situated in the desert east of Seattle, this small college town blends Wild West atmosphere with outdoors opportunities, including the Yakima Canyon. You may have seen it in the TV series “Northern Exposure.”
  8. Yellow Springs, Ohio (3,487): Returning back across the heartland, I thought about adding Iowa City or Madison, Wisconsin, but don’t know enough about either to speak fluently. Yellow Springs, long the home of bohemian Antioch College, fills the bill for me with its small-town New England touches and the Glen Helen Nature Preserve.
  9. Bloomington, Indiana (85,000): Set in a wooded, rolling landscape, it’s the home of Big Ten Indiana University and its plethora of cultural opportunities. It also bears a passing resemblance to Daffodil in a few of my novels.
  10. Burlington, Vermont (42,417): Look, it’s the biggest city in the Green Mountain State and has Lake Champlain at its foot and great views of the Adirondacks beyond. It’s also about as hippie crunchy as you can get, though it helps if your grandparents set you up with a trust fund or two. You might consider Middlebury as an alternative.


I can think of some suburban Boston communities, but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?

Your turn to weigh in with worthy nominations!