My blogging friend Kelly at Compass and Camera posted photos a week or so ago that showed stained glass windows and reminded me of Gaudi’s masterpiece cathedral, Sagrada Familia. The soaring faith required to imagine and build this beautiful sanctuary in Barcelona is a reminder that faith and hope together have tremendous power, enough to build a soaring cathedral— and enough to get through the darkest night, which is a comforting thought given the troubling times we have experienced the past few years and are especially experiencing now. (These photos were taken on a visit that Peggy and I made to the Cathedral in 2015.)
Barcelona arrived in the Twentieth Century with its own brand of Art Nouveau, Modernisme. Combining whimsical and practical with a healthy dollop of nature, Barcelona’s Catalan artists and architects did a makeover of their city. Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), the best known among the Modernistas, added strong religious belief to his work and became the architect of Sagrada Familia, the Church of the Holy Family.
Started in 1883, the church continues to be a work in progress today. Like the great cathedrals of the Gothic and Renaissance periods, it is a work of generations, and like the great cathedrals of Europe, is a masterpiece of art and architecture. Peggy, our traveling companions, and I walked inside and could only stare in awe at the beauty. I’ve selected the photos for this blog to provide a sense of why.
It’s time for more nature tales brought to you by the wild animals that live on our property and entertain us continually by doing what comes naturally.
Our property is a regular herpetarium. We have wall to wall lizards ranging in size from tiny babies that have hit the ground running up to foot-long alligator lizards that can scare the heck out of you. We also have skinks, beautifully iridescent lizards with bright blue tails.
Fence lizards dominate, however. You can’t go outside without seeing dozens at this time of the year. They are fun to watch as they scamper across our yard in search of bugs. And they are even more entertaining when they try to impress another lizard by doing push-ups and puffing up their bodies to almost twice their normal size.
They are also quite curious. Or at least they seem to be. Anytime I am outside working around the house, they show up and watch me, often choosing a high perch for a better view. If I do something that chases them away, they’re back in a minute or two. The fellow below came out to watch me when I was building a brick planter around our yellow rose bush earlier this week.
I think we have seen all of one wren since Peggy and I moved here. But a couple of weeks ago, a pair showed up looking for a home. It was pretty funny. The male wren, it turns out, is responsible for house hunting and nest building. The location may be a tree cavity, a birdhouse, a drain pipe, etc. Even an old shoe will do in a pinch. Once he finds what he considers the ideal site, he fills it with twigs and invites his lady love over to check it out. She’s the one that makes the ultimate decision about his nest finding abilities. I can see where she might be concerned if he has picked an old shoe. The poor guy may find himself building 3 or 4 nests before she finally says yes.
I think ours must have been on number four— or maybe five— when he showed her our bird house. He seemed very eager, or maybe he was nervous, like a real estate agent about to close or lose a big sale. He talked and talked and talked. Finally, she hopped in to take a look. And immediately hopped out with a feather in her mouth that she spit out. I could almost hear the discussion. “You are trying to sell me a used house!” “No, no sweetie. Think of it as an already feathered nest.” Whatever he said, she went back inside and came out with another feather. This time she ate it! Apparently that meant yes because the little guy started hopping around and talking twice as fast. Then he zoomed off to pick up some grass to add to the nest. Soon, they were both busy at work.
I’ll close today with a few more photos of the deer herd. Do you remember when I did the post on young buck and his fearless leaps over a wall and a fence to get at our honeysuckle and native shrub garden? Well, it turns out he isn’t so young…
A while back I posted a photo essay on Pompeii that many of you would have seen. This post will include some of those photos but the focus will be on the Roman gods (adopted and adapted from Greek gods) that were a daily part of Pompeian life before Mt. Vesuvius blew its top. Once again, I am traveling back in time and pulling up a post from my archives for my armchair travel series in the time of Covid-19.
It is impossible to visit the ancient cities of the Mediterranean without thinking about the importance of the all-too-human early gods.
Back before they were relegated to the status of myths, they were as alive and real to the people as say Christ might be to today’s faithful Christians. A primary difference was their misbehavior. They became involved in feuds, had affairs, became jealous, drank too much, etc. Other than the fact they were immortal and extremely powerful, they might be your neighbor.
If they liked you, they could be your best buddy. Make you healthy, wealthy and wise. But if they disliked you, watch out! They were like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. “When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.” (From a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
So it isn’t surprising that the ancient folks of the Mediterranean spent a great deal of energy and money trying to stay on the good side of their gods. Some of the world’s greatest art was created in their honor and whole herds of castrated animals were sacrificed and cooked to keep them smiling. Interestingly, the smoke from the cooking meat seemed to satisfy the gods. Mere mortals consumed the flesh. As the old saying goes, “Man is nothing, if not practical.”
The Romans, who lacked Greek creativity, obtained their gods wholesale from Greece, only changing their names to sound more Latin. Zeus with his fiery lightning bolt became Jupiter, his wife/sister Hera, became Juno, and his daughter Athena, who sprang fully armed from his head and gave him a headache, became Minerva. And of course there was a whole pantheon of other gods.
Each of these gods had a role to play. If you wanted to kick someone’s tail, Zeus was your ‘man.’ Juno could help you through a difficult childbirth. If you needed more wisdom, and who among us doesn’t, Minerva was there for you. There was no one stop shopping like today’s church goers enjoy.
The gods did gain more power as they aged, however. They took on the roles, and sometimes personalities, of the earlier gods they replaced. Juno, for example, was responsible for both “loosening a bride’s girdle” and protecting the money of the Roman Empire. In her latter role she was the patron Goddess of the Royal Mint.
Jupiter, Juno and Minerva were worshipped as a triad in both Pompeii and Rome. Possibly it saved time and money. There was also a temple to Mercury in Pompeii. His earlier persona had been that of the super fast Greek God Hermes who carried messages for the gods and had wings on his feet. He was also the god of getting rich, luck, trickery and thievery. Hmmm. Sometimes a fast get-a-way is critical.
Another post from my armchair travel series during Covid-19. This time I’ll take you on a window shopping tour of Venice with an emphasis on glassware, including face masks that come with a long nose…
I promised a window-shopping trip in Venice so window-shopping we will go. Staring in store windows is fun. Like people watching, it falls under the category of vicarious pleasure. And it’s free. Of course the shop owners have other objectives in mind.
Venice does a fabulous job with window displays. We saw mouth-watering pastries, chocolate fantasies, clunky shoes, a bejeweled rear end, and an interesting ceramic cow.
What impressed me the most about the window displays in Venice were those featuring glassware and masks. Both reach back into the city’s ancient history.
How many places can claim they have been “supplying quality glass products since 1291”? That’s the year that a Venice made of wood required all of its glass makers to move to the island of Murano in the Venice Lagoon. Community leaders feared that the glass making process would burn the city down. Venice quickly became the center of Europe’s trade in beautiful glass objects.
The upside for the glass makers was that they were invited into the highest ranks of Venetian society. The downside was they were threatened with having their hands chopped off or assassination if they moved and took their talents elsewhere.
Venetians apparently carried out numerous activities they felt were best done while wearing masks. For example, in 1339 Venice passed a law that forbade inhabitants from visiting convents while wearing masks. One can only wonder. During plague times doctors wore long nose masks they believed protected them from the disease. Today masks are a central part of the Carnival of Venice that ends on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras).
NEXT POST: Continuing on our armchair journey during Covid-19, it’s off to Pompeii to visit with the gods.
Peggy and I were sitting in our library downing an English muffin and a bowl of fruit on Friday morning when a movement outside caught my attention. A fox was climbing our eight-foot deer fence after a Stellar jay that was hassling it. Once again we found ourselves in a zoo looking out from our comfortable cage. The fox climbed down, made its way through our shrub garden, and climbed under the fence. I took this photo right after it climbed under the fence.
Given its reddish color, my first thought was red fox, but its black capped grey tail and climbing ability quickly identified it as a grey fox. Grey foxes are the only ones that climbs trees (and apparently deer fences). They have even been known to raise their families in tree dens high above the ground. We catch glimpses of them occasionally on our property but normally they are secretive. One time, we watched a doe stalk one, following along behind, carefully raising and placing each hoof. That was neat.
My guess is that they have a den (or dens) on our property. The male and female raise the kits together. For the first couple of weeks the mother tends to her babies while the male hunts and supplies food. Our experience is that they form a close bond. A few years ago a fox was run over on the highway below our property. Each night we would hear its partner howling down on the road. Only when I went down and buried the fox did the howling end.
Having enjoyed the fox, it was only appropriate that we would see a coyote as well. We met up with it last week as we were hiking in the forest behind our house. It seemed as curious about us as we were about it.
This is hot off the press, and it isn’t about Covid-19. Woohoo! I was skimming through Apple News this morning and I came across an article that bumble bees bite plants. How could I not read the article? Had the plants somehow irritated the bees. Was there a bee-plant war going on? No, there wasn’t a war. The bees depend on the pollen from the plants for their survival. But they were irritated. The plants weren’t blooming and providing the pollen. So the bees bit the plants to speed up the process. Apparently it cuts two to three weeks off the wait period. I rushed outside to see if I could spot a bumble bee biting a plant. No luck, the flowers were already blooming. I did catch a couple of photos of bumble bees harvesting pollen, however. I conclude my post with them. Bzzzzzzz.
NEXT POSTS: Tomorrow I’ll take you window shopping in Venice. Thursday: Part 2 of nature tales. Among other things, you will meet a Buddhist lizard.
I am continuing to dip back into my archives for armchair travel in the time of Covid-19. This is my third post in a series of five on Venice where Peggy and I travelled in 2013.
Remember the old Frank Sinatra hit song “Love and Marriage Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage.” Venice’s canals and gondolas are like that. It is hard to imagine one without the other. Also, it is hard to imagine gondolas without tourists. I suspect that most of them are docked in this time of Covid-19. In fact, satellite photos show the canals to be surprisingly clean. Even jellyfish have returned to take advantage of the tourist free waters! While Venetians may miss the tourist dollars, they, too, are appreciating their tourist free city. The government is searching for ways to reduce the dependence on tourist dollars— and the number of tourists. Gondolas aren’t about to go away, but there may be far fewer of them in the future.
It is impossible to think of Venice without thinking of canals and romantic gondolas with singing gondoliers. Or possibly your vision of Venice is of fast boats with roaring engines and good guys/bad guys chasing each other with guns blazing as depicted in any number of movies.
We were in off-season, however. Only a few hardy tourists braved the cold for gondola rides and no movies were being made. The canals had reverted to their primary role as transportation corridors, a role which they have played for a thousand years.
We chose to walk on the carless streets that parallel the canals and cross over them on bridges that have as much personality of the canals and provide intriguing glimpses of life along the canals. The highlight of our journey was the famous Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal but the smaller canals, known as rivers, provided more intimate views.
When I first ventured out onto the Playa on my 2010 visit to Burning Man, I was immediately drawn to a large sculpture of a nude woman that struck me as being beautiful and full of life. The sculpture, I learned was titled Bliss Dance and had been created by the Bay Area artist Marco Cochrane based on his model, the dancer Deja Solis. Bliss Dance would go from Burning Man to Treasure Island next to San Francisco and is now on permanent exhibition in Las Vegas. Here’s what Cochrane had to say during the unveiling of the sculpture in Las Vegas:
What I see missing in the world is an appreciation and respect for feminine energy and power that results when women are free and safe. It seems obvious to me that feminine energy is being suppressed and that this must change. If we are to find real, lasting solutions to the problems facing humanity, men and women must be able to work together as equals. Bliss Dance is intended to focus attention on this issue.— Marco Cochrane, Feb. 2016 press release
This sentiment also applies to the two other sculptures that Cochrane created for Burning Man as part of a trilogy: Truth Is Beauty in 2013 and R-Evolution in 2015. I consider myself privileged to have been at Burning Man on each of these years. Truth Is Beauty is now on permanent exhibit overlooking the BART station in San Leandro, California.
An 18-foot rendition of Truth Is Beauty and several other art works from Burning Man were recently on display at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. An introduction to the exhibit stated:
Burning Man, one of the most influential events in contemporary art, is both a cultural movement and a thriving temporary city of more than 70,000 people that rises out of the dust for a single week each year in late summer in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. During that time, enormous experimental art installations are erected, some of which are then ritually burned to the ground. The desert gathering is a uniquely American hotbed of artistic ingenuity, driving innovation through its philosophies of radical self-expression, community participation, rejection of commodification and reverence for the handmade.
Nora Atkinson, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at The Renwick went on to say this about the exhibit’s title: No Spectators
“‘No Spectators’ is a long-standing saying on Playa. You are encouraged to fully participate. It’s all about being there, being fully present, and not just observing. Two of the ten principles of Burning Man are radical participation and radical inclusivity, meaning that there are no outsiders. Everyone is part of the experience.”
If both of these statements seem a bit familiar, they reflect what I have been saying about Burning Man art and Burning Man in my posts over the last several years. In ways, I believe that Burning Man has been fostering a mini-renaissance in art and is now being recognized world-wide for its contributions.
R-Evolution, the last of Cochrane’s trilogy was actually scheduled to be exhibited on the National Mall in Washington DC between the Washington Monument and the White House. The group responsible for moving and installing the sculpture had written to me and asked for permission to use photos from my blog in a documentary it was preparing for the exhibit. The exhibit was cancelled. It may have been that the idea of a giant nude on the mall was too controversial. Anyway, here is one of my favorite photos of the sculpture:
Peggy (my wife) says what she loves about sculpture is that it is three dimensional art that you can touch and feel as well as see. One of her favorite things about Burning Man is that the art has an up-close and personal aspect, a hands on policy. Most museums have a hands-off policy. The three dimensional aspect of sculpture also has great appeal to me. I believe that that you should be able to appreciate sculpture from any angle. I’ll use the concluding photos on this post to further look at the three sculptures.
BLISS DANCE AT BURNING MAN 2010
TRUTH IS BEAUTY AT BURNING MAN 2013.
R-EVOLUTION AT BURNING MAN 2015
That’s it for today. NEXT POST: UFO’s, aliens, and a giant robot at Burning Man.
Situated on a flat playa that stretches out for over 100 miles, Burning Man is dwarfed by surrounding mountains and a vast, flat, desert floor. Once, the playa was filled with a huge, glacier fed lake that was over 500 feet deep. Wooly mammoths and Native Americans lived on its shore and called it home. Like other Great Basin Lakes, there were no outlets. Water that flowed into the lake stayed there and sediments carried in from the surrounding mountains sank to the bottom. As the climate changed, becoming hotter and drier, the lake dried up and the sediments became the base for today’s Playa.
By the 1840s and 50s pioneers and gold seekers from the young United States of America made their first forays into the desert heading for the goldfields of Northern California and Southern Oregon. The Applegate brothers created a trail through the Black Rock Desert that bears their name. I live in the Applegate Valley of Oregon beside the Applegate River, all named for the family. I also have family connections. Applegates and Mekemsons intermarried in the early 1800s.
Today, I am going to post several photos that place Burning Man in its Black Rock Desert surroundings.
NEXT POST: I was reading Walter Isaacson’s book on Leonardo Da Vinci this morning and Isaacson was discussing how incredibly observant Da Vinci was. This led me to look up at our house from a slightly different perspective. I was struck by some of the weird things we collect and decided it would make a fun post. The next post: A Home Full of Whimsy… What’s in your House?
I drove into the Pleasant Valley Campground near Tillamook, Oregon and there were bunnies everywhere, including this magnificent creature.
With Easter having arrived, I couldn’t resist re-blogging/modifying a post I did on some really cute bunnies a while back.
I had stopped over in Tillamook, Oregon to visit the cheese factory. It sends out tons of the stuff annually. I assume all over the world. I watched women whip around 50 pound blocks of cheese like they had been working out with Arnold Schwarzenegger. This made me hungry, so I ordered a sample plate of Tillamook ice cream. Bad idea. It’s really good. I mean really, really good. But eating all of those calories made me tired. It was time to find a campground.
And this is where the bunnies came in. I pulled into Pleasant Valley Campground, a few miles south of Tillamook, and was greeted by (drum roll please) RABBITS, dozens of them. There were black ones, and brown ones, and white ones, all of whom seemed to be chasing each other around in a glorious romp to make more bunnies. After all, isn’t that what rabbits do beside deliver Easter eggs?
Ignoring the obvious, for the moment, I asked the owner where all the rabbits came from. “Oh they used to live across the street,” she informed me. “One day, a few moved over here. They didn’t do any harm and the campers seemed to like them. So I let them stay.” The rest is history, as they say. Anyway, here are some photos I took of the rabbits. Enjoy.
I am going for the “awww” factor with this baby bunny.
This was only a few of the rabbits, but it makes the point.
This furry gal was napping when I snuck up on her, but then, her eyes popped open…
And she was all wiggly ears and twitchy nose.
It rained hard that night. I discovered I had several rabbits using my van as shelter. The step is my doorstep. My flashlight caught their eyes. Scary. Was it a case of when good bunnies go bad?
Nah. I’ll finish off with another baby bunny. It was cold out and this tyke looks cold. I almost invited it into my van to warm up.
I don’t know how many of these bunnies participate in delivering Easter Eggs, but any of them would be welcomed here! A very Happy Easter to our friends throughout the blogging world— Curt and Peggy
I spend the majority of my ‘out and about’ time at Burning Man on the Playa. That’s where the major art pieces are displayed, and seeing them is my primary reason for going to the event. Some, I return to several times to admire and photograph in different light. And there is night, where they take on a totally different personality.
Peggy and I always reserve a day for walking around Black Rock City, however. The same creativity found in the creation of art, mutant vehicles, and major camps is found in BRC as well. In fact, you never know what you will find, such as the goat above. In addition to the fun and curious, there are things to do, food to eat, more art, and camps to admire. People watching is also fun, as it is out on the Playa and at the Center Camp cafe.
I’ll let today’s photos reflect our walks over the years. Most of them were taken by Peggy and me, but some were taken by the two other photographers in our camp, Tom Lovering and Don Green.
NEXT POST: A look at the Black Rock Desert, home to Burning Man and Black Rock City.
The Bush Devil Ate Sam is an important record and a serious story, yet told easily, and with delightful humor. This is one of the most satisfying books I have ever read, because it entertained me thoroughly AND made me feel better informed. —Hilary Custance Green: British Author... Click on the image to learn more about my book, the Bush Devil Ate Sam, and find out where it can be ordered.
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