Learn Something New Every Day!

redwood path

The New Year is already two weeks old.  My birthday was just the other day.  Those facts mean it is time for me to do some thinking and planning to make 2016 a great journey through life.  A good journey involves some plans and destinations as well as a bit of spontaneity and serendipity as well as lots of nature.  For some, each year’s journey starts by making resolutions. I do not.  As others have said, if you are really wanting to make a major change in your life, why wait for a new year.  Just start the adventure!

TearsGoals and plans for a new year make more sense.  But, of course, those need to be realistic and broad enough to not just give you a chance to fail.  You know, I will be more active in the new year rather than I will go to the gym an hour every day.  One missed weekend at the gym and you are a failure vs. having an off weekend.  I tend to agree with Mma. Ramostwe, the main character in Alexander McCall Smith’s series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  She basically says that humans tend to do what they do, over and over again:

“The trouble with plans, she thought, was that they tended to be expressions of hope. Everybody, it seemed, felt that they should have a plan, but for most people the plan merely said what they would like to happen rather than what they would actually achieve.  Most people did what they wanted to do, whether or not that was what their plan said they should do.  So plans were useful only in revealing what people wished for. If you wanted to know what they would actually do, then the only way of finding out was by watching them and seeing what they did.  Then you would know what they might do in the future—because most people did what they had always done.”  

All this means is that as my new journey begins, I am not making any specific plans.  I made some last year:  blog more (did not), read more (did), travel (did), eat better (did some, but not consistently) and complete various household projects (did a few).  This year, I still have the same basic projects and am hopeful I will be more productive than last year.  My plan is to focus more on attitude and perspective as well as on enjoying the adventure.  These are the real factors that can determine whether 2016 will be a G.R.E.A.T. year or not.

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Basically, I know my year will be G.R.E.A.T. because I commit myself to following the best path possible through the new year: 

GRATITUDE:   There is always something to be grateful for or a grateful way to look at whatever happens. For example, rather than being bummed that I was in a fender bender right before Christmas, I am thankful that no one was hurt and the older gentleman who hit me had insurance.  I always keep a gratitude journal but plan to be even more proactive in finding ways to appreciate all going on around me.  And I will share my appreciation and gratitude with others.  Gratitude—like laughter and happiness—can be contagious!  I vow to acknowledge and voice gratitude frequently!

reflection 5REFLECTION:  Looking back over what has happened, what worked and what didn’t is the true heart of learning. The old adage about experience being the best teacher is only half right.  It is easy to do dumb things over and over again.  What really matters is reflecting on the mistakes, outcomes, successes to become more conscious of the consequences, of the changes or action needed to improve the future.  Without reflection there is no real learning. I vow to reflect on each day and its lessons every week!

EXPECTATIONS:  It is rather easy to go through each day, week, even month just doing the norm, making it from morning to night and then starting all over again.  Something to celebrate surfaces when meeting or exceeding expectations.  Setting those expectations is the key. They cannot be set so high that they can never be reached, but not so low that they do not off the challenge to do more, to push beyond the comfort zone.  Realistic expectations lead to accomplishments which lead to celebrating each small step toward success.  Clear expectations lead to productivity rather than just activity.    I vow to have realistic but definite expectations!

IMG_8534IMG_8526ATTENTIVE:  Too many days are spent on auto-pilot, just going through the routine, getting from point A to point B.  When I was working full time and putting in way too many hours a week, chasing deadlines, it was too easy to never notice the little things that really do matter.  The smile or tear of a colleague, the gorgeous clouds, the rainbow amidst the storm, the stranger who holds a door for you or needs help picking up packages.  Of course, being busy is not the only reason the details—especially of nature—are too often overlooked.  The other day I actually did not notice blooming camellias on the bush outside my door until I was returning home several hours later.  I vow to be more consistently attentive this year! 

TIME:  168.  That’s how many hours we each have a week.  The trick to effective time management is recognizing that and using the available time strategically.  That strategy involves being conscious and deliberate with the use of time.  That means fewer hours mindlessly dozing in front of the TV or missing fun opportunities because time has been mindlessly wasted on doing not much of anything.  I vow to use my time purposely!

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My 2016 will be a grand adventure.  What are your plans for the new year?

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QUOTES ON LIVING A GREAT LIFE

“If you don’t get everything you want, think of the things you don’t get that you don’t want.”   Oscar Wilde

“Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”  Voltaire

“If you don’t think every day is a good day, just try missing one.”  Cavett Robert

“It’s so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to.”  Annie Gottlier

“Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts.  It’s what you do with what you have left.”  Hubert Humphrey

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”  Winston Churchill

“There are exactly as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate.”  Robert Brault

“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”  George Santayana

“So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”  The Eagles, “Already Gone”

“He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.”  Samuel Johnson

“Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures.”  H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“Every thought is a seed.  If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious.”  Bill Meyer

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.  One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”  Mahatma Gandhi

“Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.”  David Ben-Gurion

“There is a saying among prospectors: ‘Go out looking for one thing, and that’s all you’ll ever find.’”  Robert Flaherty

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”  Buddha

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”  Anne Frank

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.”  Jon Kabat-Zinn

“A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.”  Patricia Neal

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” 
William James

“Sometimes life’s Hell.  But hey!  Whatever gets the marshmallows toasty.”  J. Andrew Helt

Old Rock Day! Who Knew?

I saw “Old Rock Day” listed on a calendar for today and was rather dubious.  I had not heard of such a holiday before, and I really love rocks so would have willingly celebrated.  When I checked online, I found several sites that agreed the holiday existed, but no one knew anything about its origin and history.  Basically, it is a day set aside by geologists to celebrate rocks and fossils.  I especially like the one site that suggests that it was started by Fred Flintstone, but that he has not gotten back to their requests for more information.

Whatever its origins, Old Rock Day is a great holiday!  Rocks—boulders, stones, pebbles, mountains and peaks as well as fossils of all kinds—are the bedrock of our great natural world.  They are constant, varied, beautiful, useful.  They teach lessons of perseverance and patience, of rolling with whatever forces surface in your world and staying strong.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

Rocks are everywhere!  And they deserve our attention and admiration.  Of course, there are the giant iconic rock formations such as the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park and Zion National Park.  Really, you can just travel to any of the impressive mountain ranges with their spires and canyons and caves as well as to all the coastlines, shores, and mighty rivers that traverse the land.  But you can also find rocks, stones, pebbles just about anywhere you can walk:  city parks, rolling hills, back alleys, country roads, river banks, even major highways.  But you have to stop and notice these great souvenirs of our wonderful natural world.

rule 5 2Bryd Baylor wrote a great little book called EVERYBODY NEEDS A ROCK.  The illustrations by Peter Parnall complement the ten rules Baylor gives on how to select your own very special, personal rock to carry with you always.  As Baylor explains, “There aren’t many things that feel as good as a rock—if the rock is perfect.”  Of course, all rocks are perfect, once found by the right person.  She also stresses that she is “sorry for kids who don’t have a rock for a friend” and that everyone can find that “special rock that you find yourself and keep as long as you can—maybe forever.” 

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IMG_8553IMG_8554I follow her advice all the time.  No matter where I am, I constantly keep an eye out for a special little rocks to add to my collection.  Each rock is unique.  Marveling at the unique size, color, texture of each rock just seems like the right thing to do.  I carry mine with me in the car, in my purse, in my pockets.  I also place many rocks and fossils around the house.  Whether it is a fossilized snail or a butterfly captured inside a geode, some lava, tufa or petrified wood from various vacations, or just bowls of special little rocks and gems, it just feels right to have them close by.  I even have a couple cat rocks created by a great artist who sees the cats hiding in the various shapes evident in the river rocks she collects.

5 x 5 Petrified Wood

5 x 5 Petrified Wood

 

Petrified Wood Close-Up

Petrified Wood Close-Up

 

 

 

 

 

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Geode Design

Geode Design

Smooth Round River Rock, Size of a Baseball

Smooth Round River Rock, Size of a Baseball

If you do not yet have your own special rock or two, get busy.  If you know kids who do not have a treasure trove of rocks, help them get busy.  The rocks are there waiting to be found!  You can always start your search in your own lawn or garden or maybe a local park or country road.  Or seek out other locales where the permanence, beauty and grandeur of the rocks are harder to overlook.  You cannot always collect rocks from national or state parks, but you can see the wondrous rocks that dot the landscape, buy some souvenirs, or collect your own on the public roads near the parks themselves.

Here are some ideas of great places where you can visit and enjoy some wonderful rocks:

Kings River National Park, California

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Mono Lake, California

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Red Rock Canyon State Park, California

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Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park, California

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Capital Reef National Park, Utah

Coral Reef National Park 077

Capital Reef National Park 097

Coral Reef National Park 112

Coral Reef National Park 155

Valley of Fire State Park, near Las Vegas Nevada

Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

Monument Valley, Arizona

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The Cube Is Bigger Than My Car!

The Cube Is Bigger Than My Car!

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Tree Trunk

Petrified Tree Trunk

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WHERE DO YOU GO TO PLAY AMONG THE ROCKS?  ANY FAVORITE PLACES?

 DID YOU KNOW ALL BUT NINE OF THE UNITED STATES HAVE AN OFFICIAL STATE FOSSIL ON RECORD?  California’s is the Sabre Tooth Cat.  Alaska’s is the Wooly Mammoth.  Arizona’s is Petrified Wood.  Ohio’s is the Trilobite.

There is a website that gives a full list!

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QUOTES ABOUT ROCKS

Vision connects you.  But is also separates you.  In my work, and my life, I feel a desire to merge.  Not in terms of losing my own identity. . . but there’s a feeling that life is interconnected, that there’s life in stones and rocks and trees and dirt, like there is in us.”  Bill Viola

“Life has evolved to thrive in environments that are extreme only by our limited human standards:  in the boiling battery acid of Yellowstone hot springs, in the cracks of permanent ice sheets, in the cooling waters of nuclear reactors, miles beneath the Earth’s crust, in pure salt crystals, and inside the rocks of the dry valleys of Antarctica.”  Jill Tarter

“Geologists have a saying—rocks remember.”  Neil Armstrong

“The problem is not scientifically illiterate kids; it is scientifically illiterate adults.  Kids are born curious about the natural world.  They are always turning over rocks, jumping with two feet into mud puddles and playing with the tablecloth and fine china.”  Neil deGrasse Tyson

“If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song.”  Carl Perkins

“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”  Tennessee Williams

“TV’s like whitewater rafting:  Without rocks, there wouldn’t be rapids, and it wouldn’t be as much fun.”  Joss Whedon

“Leave part of the yard rough.  Don’t manicure everything.  Small children in particular love to turn over rocks and find bugs, and give them some space to do that.  Take your child fishing.  Take your child on hikes.”  Richard Louv

“What are men to rocks and mountains?”  Jane Austen

“And yet we couldn’t leave—it was as if the rocks were holding us there.  I mean, they were only rocks.  But for some reason, those rocks made lonely feel good.”  Cynthia Kadohata

“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“For a tree to become tall it must grow tough roots among the rocks.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

“Teachers who inspire realize there will always be rocks in the road ahead of us.  They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stone.  It all depends on how we use them.”  Anonymous

Tomorrow Is Christmas!

Mom's Santa & AnimalsSanta Making ToysI’ve been rather melancholy this holiday season.  It is the second Christmas without both Mom and Dad.  Even when I lived for years in Texas, I was always home for Christmas with them.  I enjoyed playing Santa for them, delighting them with silly little gifts and candy and ornaments.  I’d help decorate the tree, after Dad got the lights on just so.  I’d help Mom put up the manger—as I always did since I was little.  And together we helped grow the Christmas Village scene with new buildings and characters.  I have some great memories and am pulling out my own Christmas decorations—old and new.  But I still miss them, especially as Christmas comes around.

Norman Rockwell Christmas Village Plates and Some People from Mom's Village

Then this year, there has been so much tragedy.  The terrorist attacks in Paris.  The senseless shooting in San Bernardino and elsewhere.  Some politicians who pander to the fear and anger of some citizens, making things worse instead of exploring solutions.  And there has even been an increase in hate crimes against Muslims.  Heaven help us if the acts of a few Christians marked us all the same.

 

NativityBubble Light!Now more than ever we need the redemption and salvation of Christmas.  We need the wonder and glory that makes this time so magical.  We need the love, hope, and promise of the holiday, stretching into every part of life.  We might not need the cookies and candy and special meals of this time of year, but we certainly need friends and family and all the good cheer that comes with the festivities—especially the glorious music.  Thank goodness Christmas arrives in the morning, just in time.  Now, we just need to keep the love and good will to others our highest priority throughout the year.

 

Sleeping Santa Just Like DadChristmas Angels

This “Recipe for Christmas Joy” could help us keep Christmas—the real Christmas, not the hustle and bustle of shopping and rushing—alive throughout the year.  I have seen various versions of such recipes in the past, but I pulled this one from the radio broadcaster Delilah.  If you have not caught her show, you should.  You can Listen to Delilah on iHeart Radio.  Her words and music are always uplifting as she takes calls from across the country—and shares the perfect song for whatever her caller is discussing (love, relationships, starting over, moving on, or celebrating all aspects of life).

Annual Christmas Bears

RECIPE FOR CHRISTMAS JOY!

Preparation Time:  Just minutes.  Serves a multitude

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups Faith

1 tsp. Promise

1 tsp. Gratitude

1 cup (2 sticks) Belief

¾ cup Wonder

¾ cup Awe

1 tsp. Generosity

2 large scoops of Patience

2 cups Laughter

The Light of the North Star

Directions:  In a small bowl, combine Faith, Promise and Gratitude.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together Belief, Wonder, Awe, Generosity and Patience until creamy.  Gradually combine the mixture of the small bowl into the large bowl, stirring together evenly for a smooth consistency.  Stir in Laughter, and at the last minute add the Light of the North Star.

Sleeping Child & Lamb Candle HolderThe mixture will begin to rise immediately and will double in size every day.  Begin serving as quickly as possible.  Multiple servings per day are recommended for maximum benefit.  Excellent when accompanied with a slice of Glee and makes an excellent presentation alongside a full goblet of Glory.  Keep for yourself and give as gifts to family, friends, neighbors and strangers.  The more you share with others, the more you have to give away.  And if you are blessed, others will share cups of this recipe with you as well.  Enjoy!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

These songs are some of my favorites from when I was a kid, listening to Christmas albums throughout the season. (Yes, honest to goodness vinyl LPs). These are two of my favorites!

“O Holy Night” by Andy Williams

“The Ballad of the Christmas Donkey” by Ed Ames

And finally, here is a cute little video, reminding us all to keep the love and hope of Christmas alive at all times, especially when dealing with others.  As this little video reminds us, “Be Together, Not the Same!”

 

 

A grand tradition of Halloween is being scared to death.  Often through a movie.  Now, I enjoy a good cinematic scare, of a certain type.  I am not crazy about the movies that feature such stars as Chucky or Freddy Krueger.  Blood and gore, even vampires and zombies, do not thrill me.  I like a quieter scary, like the old Twilight Zone or Outer Limits television shows or movies like Misery or Poltergeist (the original).  Okay, Aliens is good too.

I have not watched a scary movie yet this season.  Maybe this weekend.  But—in reality—there is enough in our world to be frightened of that I do not need to seek fright as entertainment.

Take your pick:

  • Global Warming, whether politicians (I could not call them political leaders) recognize the problem or not.
  • Terrorist Attacks even if “they” never perfect nuclear weapons.
  • Escalating Societal Violence like shootings at schools, bombings of churches and senseless killings of anyone since every life matters.
  • Senseless Slaughtering of elephants and rhinos and other animals for the sheer lunacy of making a buck through such things as the ivory trade.

Aren’t those enough to be scared to death? 

Still, other fears plague me on a more personal immediate level:

  • President Donald Trump.  Just typing that made me cringe.
  • The Full Scope of the Presidential Campaigns and all those blasted commercials and speeches that will come our way and go on and on and on and on.
  • The Predicted 2016 El Nino.  I live in California where the drought is in its fourth year.  If the storm does not descend as expected, then will the state really run out of drinking water?  If the storm does descend as expected, will the state survive the floods and mudslides that will be part of its natural force?
  • The Commercialism of Christmas that has already started with the onslaught of catalogs already hawking so many things to buy to all the stores and all their continual sales and gimmicks to get our money.
  • Watching People’s Court.  I am a bit scared (maybe just worried) that somehow people will know that I do not only occasionally watch that show but actually know when it is on and look for it.  Embarrassing but true, so ssshh! Don’t tell anyone.
  • What if?  What if Downton Abbey Season 6 never starts?  What if I can no longer order such goodies as Kookaburra Licorice, Killer Pecans or any of the really good chocolates?  What if good books stop being published?  What?  Who said fears have to be rational?
  • Have a Good Day!  Some days, depending on how I am feeling, someone outrageously demanding simply saying, “Have a good day!”  can make me crazy.  That’s close to being scared, right?  Or maybe my reaction is what is scary.  How dare they infringe on my rights like that!
  • Feeling Old.  Some students in my online classes do not know any of these people or characters:   Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, The Monkees, the Fonz and Richie Cunningham, or even Pee Wee Herman or ALF.  One did not even know Robin Williams ever played Mork from Ork.  And then I grumble about “those kids these days”—now, that is really scary.  I don’t feel old, so how can they be so young?
Edvard Munch's

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

You cannot hear me, but right now I am screaming in fear.  I think I will stop thinking about life and go find some nice little horror movie to watch, so I can calm down.  Rocky Horror Picture show is on TV at midnight!  Or maybe I will forgo the scary movies and watch The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown where the scariest outcome happens over and over to Charlie Brown:  “I got a rock.”

How about you?  What scares you? Makes your skin crawl?  Freaks you out? 

Now, for your viewing pleasure, here is an excerpt from the opening of the Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).  Want to see something really scary?

HAPPY WORLD ELEPHANT DAY!

I have been saying for years how much I love elephants. 

I shared facts about them, praised them a few years ago on Elephant Appreciation Day, and lamented the world ivory trade.  I have posted many fun videos showing them in action.

back view

Today is World Elephant Day, so it only makes sense that I would applaud these gentle giants again.  They are truly impressive:  matriarchal, social, communicative and creative.  When I visited the World Elephant Day website, one of its logos said it all:  “BECAUSE WITHOUT ELEPHANTS WHAT KIND OF WORLD WOULD THIS BE?”

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standingwalkingOf course, my encounters with elephants have not been extensive, mainly from visiting zoos.  The first time was when I was little and decided then and there I wanted a baby elephant as a pet.  It could live in the basement and backyard.  That did not seem unreasonable to me when I was five!  I also—many, many years later—was able to interact with an elephant who works in movies.  It was an arranged group visit where I was able to give Nellie a bath and join her for a walk through the Lancaster Hills.

Nellie and Me

I would love to see them in the wild often, relishing in their gentle strength and impressive presence.  Of course, living in Bakersfield, California, I do not have many opportunities to go on safari.  But I do follow de Wets Wild Blog and savor all of the animal sightings shared there from South Africa.  However, its World Elephant Day posting shows elephants in action in all their natural glory.  Please go visit this site—and enjoy!

Of course, you could also view films such as the award-winning Return to the Forest or watch the elephants at the San Diego Zoo via the Elephant Video Cam.

Photo from San Diego Zoo Website

Photo from San Diego Zoo Website

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A FEW QUOTES ABOUT ELEPHANTS

“Elephants love reunions. They recognize one another after years and years of separation and greet each other with wild, boisterous joy. There’s bellowing and trumpeting, ear flapping and rubbing. Trunks entwine.”   Jennifer Richard Jacobson

“Of all African animals, the elephant is the most difficult for man to live with, yet its passing – if this must come – seems the most tragic of all. I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange such as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.”  Peter Matthiessen

“It seems safe to say that apes know about death, such as that is different from life and permanent. The same may apply to a few other animals, such as elephants, which pick up ivory or bones of a dead herd member, holding the pieces in their trunks and passing them around. Some pachyderms return for years to the spot where a relative died, only to touch and inspect the relics. Do they miss each other? Do they recall how he or she was during life?”   Frans de Waal

“But perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that there are no walls between humans and the elephants except those that we put up ourselves, and that until we allow not only elephants, but all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves.”   Lawrence Anthony

“Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing.”  John Donne

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant is faithful one hundred percent.”  Dr. Seuss

“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephants except in a picture book?”  David Attenborough

 “When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.”  Abraham Lincoln

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The Drama of Halves

Image from the Internet

Image from the Internet

Whenever I hear a reference to “half & half,” my first thought tends to the old adage about whether the glass is half full or half empty.  Sometimes I am pragmatic and agree with George Carlin:  “Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.” Most often, I figure there is just room for more wine!

Of course, “half” is most often seen as being incomplete because something is missing.  But are halves always incomplete?  It seems that in some situations, a half is more than enough.  For example, for one person, a half of pizza or half a bag of chips is more than enough.  Of course, the half of some things, such as half a kernel of corn is next to nothing at all.  And exactly what is half of a pair of scissors?  A letter opener with a funny handle? And what about half-truths?  Getting lost in such contemplation, can make anyone half-crazy!

Trees through the Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon

Trees through the Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon

IMG_6473Instead of worrying about what is missing when a half is by itself, I realize it is more important to appreciate what is created when two halves are juxtaposed, especially when the two halves are not connected like a seashell.  That new creation from two halves can offer drama, intensity, awareness, or appreciation.

A specific action can be better appreciated when poised between past and future, between looking back and looking forward, between two halves of a trip:

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In the moment and on the spot in Capitol Reef National Park: above and below

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And visitors can be more commanding when they surprise us by intruding halfway into our space:

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 314

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Perhaps in landscapes, the drama of contrasts–when two halves are paired–can best be seen.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly

Mammoth Lakes, CA

Mammoth Lakes, CA

Death Valley

Death Valley

A FEW QUOTES ABOUT HALVES

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“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”  Charles Spurgeon

“Today I begin to understand what love must be, if it exists. . . . When we are parted, we each feel the lack of the other half of ourselves. We are incomplete like a book in two volumes of which the first has been lost. That is what I imagine love to be: incompleteness in absence.”  Edmond de Goncourt

“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep saying it.”  Robert Frost

“Winning is only half of it.  Having fun is the other half.”  Bum Phillips

“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.”  Napoleon Hill

“A smart man only believes half of what he hears, a wise man knows which half.”  Jeff Cooper

“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them.  You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”  Norman Vincent Peale

“To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy.”  Will Durant

“To be prepared is half the victory.”  Miguel de Cervantes

“It is often easier to become outraged by injustice half a world away than by oppression and discrimination half a block from home.”  Carl T. Rowan

“One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it.  If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half.  Never run away from anything.  Never!”  Winston Churchill

“Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.”  Benjamin Franklin

“Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal.  As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.”  C. S. Lewis

“Women hold up half the sky.”  Mao Zedong

“Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.”  Saint Francis de Sales

“Searching is half the fun:  life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.”  Jimmy Buffett

“How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.”  Lou Holtz

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare.  They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.”  Erma Bombeck

NOTE:  This is my entry to the Weekly Photo Challenge:  Half and Half.  Visit the site to see all the other responses!

Is this partly cloudy? Partly sunny?  Half & Half?

Is this partly cloudy? Partly sunny? Half & Half?

Anasazi.  Most of us have heard that term before and have a general sense to whom it refers.  The Anasazi are the ancient people who lived in the Southwest (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah), first emerging about 1200 BC.  At first nomadic, the groups eventually started putting down roots, creating singular dwellings as well as vast community pueblos as far back as a 1000 years ago.

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Many ruins from those communities have already been discovered and excavated.   Archaeological evidence suggests these ruins were once thriving communities where families lived and loved, planting and irrigating crops; making pottery, baskets and tools; trading with other groups; protecting themselves from invaders while interacting with neighbors; and practicing religious and community activities. Some of the sites seemed to have been left with the expectation of the people returning in the not too distant future.

Montezuma's Well

Montezuma’s Well

Some of the ruins are well known and frequently visited.  I have marveled at these Ancient Voices already, noting such locations as Parawan Gap in Utah and Tonto National Monument and Casa Grande in Arizona.  Other area ruins includes cliff dwellings called Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot National Monument as well as various ruins in Canyon de Chelly.

Montezuma's Castle

Montezuma’s Castle

Tuzigoot National Monument, Looking Out from Inside the Ruins

Tuzigoot National Monument, Looking Out from Inside the Ruins

First Ruins, Canyon de Chelly

First Ruins, Canyon de Chelly

One of the largest ancient communities associated with the Anasazi is in Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico. This site was designated the Chaco Canyon National Monument by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1907.  In 1966, it was entered into the U. S. National Register of Historic Places.  Then in 1980, its official designation was changed from a national monument to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, better emphasizing the cultural as well as historical importance of this location.  In 1987, Chaco Canyon was named as a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Historic Site.

chaco road in 1It is easy to set these fancy designations aside when visiting Chaco Canyon because the entry is over a 25-mile gravel road.  Bumping along that dusty road, I easily focused on the stark environment and started thinking back to the lives that made this site so magnificent thousands of years ago.  This huge complex served social and cultural purposes for up to 1200 people until about 1250.  The evidence of their existence is incredible as are their astronomical and engineering feats.  Their accomplishments are one of the reasons I am so enamored of the southwest area and culture.

chaco road in 2

chaco entering

chaco pueblo bonito map booklet

Evidence suggests that this cohesive communal site began unraveling around 1140, probably in reaction to a 50-year drought that started about ten years earlier.  More droughts hit the area between 1250 and 1450, along with corresponding deforestation and poor water management as well as the depopulation of outlying areas.  There is some suggestion that violence and warfare contributed to Chaco’s population decline, but there is little to no archaeological evidence to support that conclusion.  Most scientists agree that the Chaco people migrated south, east and west.

Chetro Ketl Site

Chetro Ketl Site

What was left behind at Chaco Canyon is impressive!  Within the canyon were thirteen major multi-room complexes, with hundreds of many-storied rooms in each, including Kivas or Great Houses for ceremonial purposes.  There were also extensive alignments of buildings that seem to capture the solar and lunar cycles, including some specialized alignments and markings associated with the Fajado Butte.

chaco hungo pavi two storyHungo Pavo is still unexcavated, so it looks much like it did when first seen by Europeans in 1849. As in all the ruins, the wall construction has stood the test of time.  Wandering through the ruins, it is easy to see how the corners were mitered, the windows, and even the wooden beams that added strength the roof.  The trees were transported from over 30 miles away.

chaco humgo pavo full

chaco hungo pavi wall close 1

chaco hungo pavi wall close 2

chaco hungo pavi wall close window

chaco hungo pavi wall close with wood beam

The Pueblo Bonito site is the best known at Chaco Canyon.  It has been extensively excavated, revealing more than 600 rooms and numerous two- and three-story buildings that served a population between 800 and 1200 people.  There were also several ceremonial structures called kivas.

Aerial View of Pueblo Bonito from Site Booklet

Aerial View of Pueblo Bonito from Site Booklet

chaco pueblo bonito against cliff mid

chaco pueblo bonito long view

chaco pueblo bonito beams

chaco pueblo bonito beams and wall corner

chaco pueblo bonito door and light

chaco pueblo bonito mid view

chaco pueblo bonito several rooms

chaco pueblo bonito side window

chaco pueblo bonito wall up

chaco pueblo bonito window detail

Part of the Pueblo Bonito Kiva

Part of the Pueblo Bonito Kiva

The Chacoans built this retaining wall to protect their dwellings from Threatening Rock perched precariously  on the butte.  The retaining wall worked!  Of course, it was built 800 years before the rocks fell in January 1941!

The Chacoans built this retaining wall to protect their dwellings from Threatening Rock perched precariously on the butte. The retaining wall worked! Of course, it was built 800 years before the rocks fell in January 1941!

chaco stairs 1Radiating throughout Chaco Canyon is a large system of roads that are incredibly straight, often reached via staircases cut into the cliffs.  The straight lines or roads extend 10 to 20 miles into the desert.  That the straight path of these roads do not always lead to other populated areas suggests to some archaeologists that the roads had a ceremonial purpose rather than a commercial one.  Whatever their purpose, they are a remarkable engineering feat. Part of this system are the stairs cut into the walls, giving access from the top to the bottom of  the buttes. Many of these stairways still exist today.

chaco stairs wide view

View of the Stairs from Site Booklet

View of the Stairs from Site Booklet

Boy Scout Group at the Top of the Butte Ready to Climb Down

Boy Scout Group at the Top of the Butte Ready to Climb Down

chaco stairs kids hiking down

chaco fajada butteAnother major achievement at Chaco Canyon is the highly sophisticated solstice markers atop the Fajado Butte.  Various markings line up with the sun and moon at different times of the year to mark celestial events.  This example is provided at the site:  “A sliver of noontime sunlight slashes between stone slabs onto two spiral petroglyphs, precisely timing the equinoxes and solstices by which the Chacoans planted their crops and marked their years.”  This aspect of Chaco Canyon is why this site is compared to England’s Stonehenge. Due to damage from excessive visits and vandalism, the Fajada Butte is no longer open to the public.

chaco fajada butte 2

chaco hungo pavi wall with fajada back

The following illustration is from a site publication, demonstrating how the markings work.  Fascinating!

chaco fajada butte solstice markes lyle yazzie pub

chaco fajada butte wide

If you have not yet visited the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, add it to your list.  It preserves the past for all of us and awakens the imagination about what was and what can be. Have you visited any historical sites here or elsewhere?  Share some details, so I can add new adventures to my list of places to visit.

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