Friday, June 14, 2019

High School Madness

The last few weeks of the high school year are usually extremely busy and often quite chaotic. Our library is closed, but we have the back windows open (those are the windows to the textbookroom) where students can return their textbooks and English novels, pay fines for damaged or lost books and seniors get their clearance so that they can walk in the graduation ceremony.

The first day of this madness I worked on my own since my colleague had a day off, and when I came to work in the morning I was greeted by this:

A non-working computer. Yay!!!

That meant that I packed all the books I received on a cart, wheeled them to the computer on my desk in the library where I checked them in, brought them  in the workroom to clean them and finally back into the textbookroom where I could finally put them on the shelves.

 Please notice the empty shelves...

Our IT guy arrived an hour later, fixed the computer and after that everything went a bit more smoothly.

We usually put the books on carts according to section before we shelve them. It's a more efficient system since we always have to move the shelves. They look strong, but they're very sensitive, and the one thing we don't want during these weeks are broken shelves that don't move anymore. That happened to us last year when we couldn't access the math section anymore.

No matter how many books we received during the day, every evening before I left work most of them were cleared away and the carts were empty, ready for the onslaught of the next day.

The shelves filled up more and more each day.

I actually love working at the back windows because I can see what's going on. Some students were painting the ground and one day during lunch break the band played a couple songs.

The last few days of the school year were minimum days when students went home right after finals. It was lovely to have the campus to ourselves and wander along the empty buildings.

Even the crows enjoyed the quiet.

I finally had time to admire the impressive artwork of our students.

Every evening when I came home I was ready for this before dinner - I think I deserved it after the madness of each day.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

An Image and Its Story: May 2019

Since I have joined The 100 Day Project I have mainly shot pictures for my theme "100 days in my garden" throughout the month and not much else. May is also the month of high school madness due to the end of the school year and the high amount of work in the school library. Ergo - not much else was going on in regards to photography. No wonder then that my chosen photo - actually two of them that I collaged into one image - is from the garden, but also connected to work. Both were taken on the very last day of the month.

Friday was the last day of school which meant we had a steady flow of students wanting to return their books, paying overdue fines and getting clearance slips for their graduation ceremony in the evening. I opened up earlier in the morning than usual and the first time I could actually sit down for a couple of minutes was almost four hours later. When I finally got home another four hours later I was totally wiped out, my feet and hips hurt and the only thing I was able to do was lying down on the sofa and within minutes I was fast asleep. Oh, the bliss of a good nap! It was early evening by then, the Geek came home from his work and we just had a lovely quiet hour outside in the garden, sipping a glass of rosé and reading - a book I had brought home form the library that was just returned a couple days before. It was pure bliss and the perfect start in the weekend.

I have a few more days at work until my long summer break - almost eight weeks! - will begin. There is always work for the German School to be done during the summer, but it is far calmer and slower than the end (and beginning) of the high school year.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Making the Desert a Home

The desert is an interesting and fascinating but also very hostile and unforgiving environment. Living here sounds like hardship and constant fighting for survival. And yet, there are animals who call this place their home, and they not only survive, they thrive here.

What comes to mind first are all kinds of lizards and iguanas. They are made for this environment. I'm not quite sure what kinds of iguanas or lizards these are - I suspect the first and third ones are Spinytail iguanas (but I can't say for sure) and the one in the middle is a Chuckwalla.

Of course our super survivalist, the coyote, calls the desert home just like he feels at home in so many other areas. No matter what other people say and think about coyotes, I love these animals. They preferred to escape the heat of the day by sleeping in the shade.

 Do I see a smile on this face?

Another favorite of mine, misunderstood and hated by so many, is the wolf, and I was quite surprised to learn that wolves are found in the desert as well. Mexican Gray Wolf, that is - also known as lobo. It was once native to southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, western Texas and northern Mexico. It is now the most endangered gray wolf in North America. In a collaboration between the USA and Mexico, all remaining lobos in the wild were captured to prevent them from becoming extinct. Five wild Mexican wolves were used to start a captive breeding program from which captive-bred animals were released into recovery areas in Arizona and New Mexico to recolonize them in their former historical range. By now there are about 150 Mexican wolves living wild and about 240 in captive breeding programs.

They are stunningly beautiful animals.

Any idea who this paw belongs to?

It's a mountain lion (cougar, puma - take your pick) - yes, another one of my favorites. I was actually looking forward to seeing the cougar but she wasn't in the mood to present herself. Therefore, a picture from several years back, my all-time favorite:

Cougars, of course, are not limited to the desert. They also can be found in other environments and areas. Sometimes they venture into urban areas. Just a couple weeks ago a juvenile cougar strolled around our downtown mall in the early hours of a Monday morning. Every now and then mountain lions are also spotted in or near my neighborhood. I usually don't walk alone between dusk and dawn.

Another "desert cat" is the bobcat that - like the cougar - is also found in other areas. This one was resting in its cave and therefore the photo is mediocre at best.

There's an animal that looks like a pig - its home is the Sonora-Arizona desert, but it is also found throughout Central and South America. However, it's by no means a pig (don't ever call it a pig!) but a Collared Peccary or Javelina, as they are called here. Yes, they do look like wild pigs... but they aren't. They are very social animals and often form herds. They have scent glands under each eye and on their back; they use scent to mark herd territory and each other so that they quickly recognize Javelinas from outside their herd. They have communal spaces that they share - for example, they always poop in the same space. It's like their bathroom.

Bighorn Sheep live in the desert as well, and I can easily picture them in the rocky parts, climbing easily and watching their surroundings from their high point of advantage.

Of course opportunists make their home in the desert as well. Any place where we don't find these guys?

I can't forget the birds that live in the desert, many of which, like the Gila woodpecker, I only heard but didn't see. But I saw orioles and cactus wrens who were singing their little hearts out. Their song actually reminded me of sounds I had heard in Hawai'i. They loved to hang out in the Ocotillos.

And of course the most famous of them all, the Roadrunner:

All these photos were taken in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson. We have been visiting this place since 2002 and have always loved it. If you have never been and happen to be in that area, do yourself a favor and spend a few hours here. You won't regret it.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Wine and Waves

It is tradition in our family that on Mother's Day I decide how we will spend the day. We often went to Mendocino, walking the streets of this beautiful coastal town and hiking out on the headlands. But this year I wanted something different. A wine-making friend of ours had told us about a winery in Anderson Valley that makes great Gewürztraminer. This is one of my favorite white wines, but I have seldom found a really good one in the States (the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, by the way, makes excellent Gewürztraminer). I wanted to try this, but since Anderson Valley is a bit to drive to we waited until this special occasion.

Mother's Day was beautiful with warm temperatures and sunny skies. We stopped on the way for breakfast to have some "foundation" before tasting wine. The drive up Anderson Valley is beautiful especially right now when everything is still rather green, but we already saw - with weariness - the first dry spots.

Coming from Sonoma County we were prepared to pay a tasting fee (that is always waived when you buy a bottle) and were pleasantly surprised when we didn't have to pay but got our first tastings right away. I have to say, the Gewürztraminer was delicious and reminded me of the Alsatian ones (which are my favorites). They also had some very decent Riesling (another favorite) including a Late Harvest one which is not my thing at all (way too sweet). These wines have the flavor of home for me.

The winery is beautifully located in the rolling hills among the vineyards. There is ample space to sit outside, have a picnic, drink a bottle of their wine and just enjoy the scenery.

We didn't spent too much time here, though, but bought a few bottles and then went on toward the ocean. I love the Pacific and I especially love driving along our Highway 1 that hugs the rugged coast with repeatedly stunning views of the ocean and the cliffs.

It was a typical Northern California day at the coast - some sun, lots of wind - and of course fog. The marine layer seems to be omnipresent here.

We stopped several times just to enjoy the view, listen to the waves crashing onto the shore and watching the birds and insects humming around the cow parsnip and the purple thistles.

The lighthouse at Point Arena is halfway down the highway - a place where we always stop. This is the tallest lighthouse on the coast and - you always wanted to know this - sitting on a piece of land of the Continental US that is the closest to the Hawai'ian islands.

This is also the location where the infamous San Andreas Fault dips into the ocean.

The coastline is rough here - no soft sandy beaches. The wind has no mercy. Some trees don't make it, but are still beautiful.

Others just find a different way to survive.