Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Blooming Desert

After the spectacular superbloom in Walker Canyon we proceeded to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This park is always worth a visit in the spring when the desert comes to life after the winter rains. Since we had so much rain this year the bloom in the desert was stunning, however, not quite as bright and "happy colored" as in Walker Canyon (you really can't beat a California poppy in that). Anza-Borrego is a very different landscape, rocky and barren - a hot hot desert in the summer.

But spring is the time to be here - it's warm, but not unbearable. Actually a really nice change after the rainy, grey and rather chilly days.

The dominant colors were purple - lots of phacelia here - yellow, white and pink.

The Red Barrel Cactus had blooms and so had the Silver Cholla.

We saw a lot of old wood decaying on the ground with new growth around it. It was like seeing the circle of life in one place.

The Ocotillo stands out because it's taller than all the other plants and birds often like to land on it. When it's blooming the orioles (and probably other birds) like to feed from its nectar.

Deserts are interesting and unique landscapes since they're all different. I'm not quite sure what attracts me to them, but they sure are places I enjoy tremendously.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Mother of All Cathedrals

Sometimes things happen thousands of miles away that slice right through your heart.

On Monday after I had left work I saw that my daughter had sent me a text, asking me whether I had heard about the big fire in Notre-Dame. I had not - I don't check my phone at work and I don't go online outside of work-related tasks. Therefore, I was oblivious what had happened that evening in Paris.

I checked in on the European news when I came home, and what I saw filled me with deep sadness. Watching that beautiful steeple fall in the flames... on top, the smoke and the fire raised very unpleasant memories. Someone once said that there is a forest in the roof of the cathedral - centuries-old timber of oaks - and it burned up like that. Half of that roof was still from the 13th century (in comparison, the roof of the Cologne cathedral was built with steel in the 19th century, a decision that was very controversial at that time but proved to be a wise choice).

I saw footage of a robot vehicle sent into the cathedral to retrieve some of the artwork. Firefighters tried to save some of these treasures. It seems that a lot was saved - but there is artwork that is lost forever.

The beautiful stained glass windows - many of them made with medieval glass (just think about that!) - seem to have survived the fire. Those big windows in the choir are stunning and how much do I love the rose windows.

Since there was a lot of renovating and reconstruction work going on (maybe the cause of the fire?) it was just luck that many of the bronze statues on the outside of the church like the apostles were removed just a week before or so.

When I was in Paris the last time I visited Notre-Dame while there was a mass going on inside which added a special atmosphere to this place of worship (and I'm not a religious person).

Like in so many catholic churches and cathedrals in Europe there were many places where you could light a candle. Their warm light put a beautiful glow in so many nooks and corners (and no, as far as I know they didn't cause this fire).

So many details on the outside of Notre-Dame - you could spend a lot of time looking at them and probably still haven't seen all of them.

I do hope they will rebuild. For me it's the heart of Paris. It's on the Île de la Cité where Paris began. Notre-Dame is the mother of all cathedrals, serving as a sample for so many Gothic cathedrals. I can't even imagine what this loss means to the French people.

And I'm forever grateful that my daughter was able to visit Notre-Dame back in the summer of 2014 and could also listen to the magnificent ringing of the bells.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

An Image and Its Story - March 2019

March was full of photos, most of them taken during our trip to Arizona. My chosen photo of the month is from the last day of that trip, when we were already back in Northern California on our way to cross the Sierra Nevada near Tahoe. This is not a very good photo - shot with my phone out of a driving car in bad light - but still, I had to. Do you see why I shot this photo?

Of course it's because of the coyote. These animals keep a special spot in my heart, they are my spirit animal and I just like their cleverness, sassyness, resilience and admire their incredible ability to adapt to all kinds of surroundings and environments.

The Navajo refer to the coyote as "God's dog"  and coyote appears in Native American legends as an evasive and puzzling character, playing the multiple roles of fool, trickster and demi-god. When Kaefer was a little girl, one of our favorite books was Harriet Peck Taylor's "Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies". Coyotes have outstanding survival skills and you can find them in almost any environment - deserts, forests, prairies, mountains and cities (I probably forgot a few). There are many people who outright hate them, but I love and respect them. They are wild animals trying to survive in an often hostile environment.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The California Superbloom

Last week we returned from a short road trip through Southern California into Arizona. It was spring break for me; both the Geek and I were more than ready for a change of scenery.

We left right after I came home from teaching at the German School and made it to Monterey where we stayed the night. While driving down stunning Highway 1 along the California coast we realized that this was the first sunny weekend we had in weeks and everybody was out and about.

One of our destinations was Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Southeast of Los Angeles, where the superbloom after all this rain was said to be spectacular. But we were getting second thoughts whether it was such a brilliant idea to go there on a Sunday afternoon - we were pretty sure more people would have the same idea. Instead, we booked a hotel in Lake Elsinore, arrived there when it was already dark and walked into Walker Canyon first thing the following morning.

Good thing we did! We heard that on that Sunday about 50,000 people tried to get to Walker Canyon and caused complete chaos - it actually made it into the national news! The trailhead in Walker Canyon is right next to the Interstate, and at some point they even had to close the exit ramps because the chaos was just too much and out of control.

However, when we arrived early on Monday morning there was still ample parking. It was already busy, but far from the chaos of the weekend before. We walked up the trail and were speechless when we saw the blooming hills - a brilliant display of green, purple and LOTS of orange.

It was spectacular.

So early in the morning the California poppies - the source of the orange - hadn't opened yet, but the higher the sun rose in the sky and it became warmer the flowers opened up and the orange color became even more intense. It was an incredibly beautiful display of nature's endless treasures.

If only people respected and treated her more responsibly.