Learn Something New Every Day!

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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

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chaco pueblo bonito beams

chaco pueblo bonito beams and wall corner

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chaco pueblo bonito mid view

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Yosemite National Park.  It is such a vast natural wonderland. It is one of my favorite places.  Typically when I visit, I stay in the popular Yosemite Valley area, driving in through Wawona.  I bet most tourists do the same thing.  I’ve written about some of my past visits several times, once as a general overview and again about a more recent fall visit.

IMG_7903Last week, a friend and I wandered through Yosemite again, enjoying its wonders.  This time, however, we entered from the east via the Tioga Pass. This is the highest pass through the Sierras, reaching an elevation of 9,945 feet.   I had driven this pass before, years ago, but its magnificent vistas and wondrous geology had faded from memory.  If you have not already, consider using this eastern entrance close to Lee Vining, CA, off Interstate 395.

IMG_7918Highway 120 over the Tioga Pass follows a route that is not new.  The Indians in the area crossed the pass routinely for thousands of years, and then wagons started making the trek in the 1800s.  Eventually, the road was developed into an unpaved winding treacherous road that was used for decades, even though it took forever and was hell on tires.  In 1961, the National Park Service completed the major highway across the pass, greatly increasing traffic into Yosemite National Park from this entrance.

The day before our journey, it was rainy.  In fact, there were thunderstorms and downpours in Bishop, CA, where we stayed overnight.  The morning was dry, but still cloudy and grey with a 20% chance of thunderstorms in Yosemite itself.  We were hopeful—that we might get to experience one of those quick thunderstorms, but no such luck.  We did not get rained on.  We did see gorgeous scenery, some wildflowers and a couple animals throughout the day as we traveled the roughly 75 miles from the Tioga Pass into Yosemite Valley.

IMG_7894As we started the drive up over the Tioga Pass, the majestic grey mountains were dominant.  There was a relatively small body of water to the south hugging the road.

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IMG_7924Later, when we stopped at another overlook, we realized we were in the alpine zone (9,500 to 13,000 feet).  It was easy to see the tree line, above which trees would not grow, on the rugged terrain high overhead.  The Pika is a little animal well suited to this terrain, and one came out to investigate—when he was not running hither and yon across the little meadow.

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IMG_7930Mount Dana (13,057 feet) and Mount Gibson (8,412 feet) are two of the highest—and perhaps most unique—peaks in Yosemite.  Unlike the granite monoliths throughout the park, these two peaks are the aftermath of volcanic activity and the metamorphic rock that spewed forth through a long-ago eruption and then were later exposed through erosion.  When not covered in snow, they are more brownish in color that the rest of Yosemite’s grey peaks.

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IMG_7941The Cathedral Mountain Range, an offshoot of the Sierra Nevada, is due south of Toulumne Meadows.  These peaks were formed by glaciers.  However, the tops of the range were above the level of the highest glaciation, so they remain un-eroded and thus have more spires than other peaks in Yosemite.

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IMG_7937The area in the foreground of the Cathedral Range, as recently as the 1960s, was a wet meadow.  But the meadow is slowly drying out, giving rise to conditions that better support the growth of trees.  There are no definitive answers yet as to why this is happening, but most scientists agree it is a reaction to global warming.

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IMG_7971As we traveled west, the road ran along sheer walls of rocks that were punctuated with trees and other plants that just put down roots and hung on.

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IMG_8006Tenaya Lake is situated between Toulumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley.  Its surface sits at an elevation of 8,150 feet.  Even in 2015—the fourth year of a drought—the lake is impressive.  The lake’s basin was formed by the same glacier activity that formed Half Dome in the Yosemite Valley.  The Mariposa Brigade that entered the area in 1851 to relocate local Indians onto reservations named the lake Tenaya, after a local chief.  Chief Tenaya protested, saying the lake already had a name:  Pie-we-ack, meaning “Lake of the Shining Rocks.”

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IMG_8017IMG_8015Olmsted Point is an overlook that offers an impressive vista, showcasing remnants of the powerful geological forces that shaped this landscape.  It was 80 to 100 million years ago that deep pools of magma crystalized into the massive granite blocks evident today.  The most recent glacier passed through this area about 20,000 years ago, polishing the granite with a smooth surface.  Whether they fell or were left behind by the passing glacier, huge granite boulders dot the landscape, looking as if some giant toddler dropped a bag of marbles.

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From Olmsted Point the North Side of Half Dome is VIsible

From Olmsted Point the North Side of Half Dome is Visible

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IMG_8052Our next mini-excursion was to drive the 1.7-mile narrow bumpy road out to the parking area for the May Lake Trail.  With the recent rains in the areas over the last several days, the landscape was luscious, green, wet.  The only thing not appreciated was the mosquitos enjoying the small pockets of standing water!

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IMG_8156On the main road again, heading to Yosemite Valley, we saw lots of wildflowers. Unfortunately, opportunities to photograph those flowers did not surface. We captured a couple shots of a small red flower nestled among the rocks, but we are not sure of its name.

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The wildflowers we could name included lupine, wallflowers, snow plants, and dogwood.  The following photos are from earlier trips.

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wall flower

snow plant

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IMG_8165A sad note on the drive were the many brown and brittle trees along the road.  We speculate that either the drought or perhaps some blight have attacked the trees.  There did not seem to be evidence of fire in these locales.

The closer we came to the popular seven-mile Yosemite Valley, the more the most iconic images of Yosemite came into view:

Half Dome is the granite dome on the eastern edge of Yosemite Valley that rises 4,737 feet above the valley floor.

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El Capitan is the 3,000 foot granite monolith at the north end of Yosemite Valley.

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The Mighty Merced River is a 145-mile river than runs a steep and swift route through the southern portion of Yosemite Valley.

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Bridalveil Fall is one of the most prominent falls in Yosemite Valley; it measures 617 feet in height and flows year-round.

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The Road Through One of Several Tunnels, Like Driving Through a Mountain

The Road Through One of Several Tunnels, Like Driving Through a Mountain

IMG_8185There was even a small waterfall along the road, enhanced—it seems—by the overnight rain.  Many visitors stopped to gawk and snap photos.

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Tunnel View on an Earlier Visit

Tunnel View on an Earlier Visit

Before exiting via the South Gate—heading to Highway 41, Fresno and eventually back to Bakersfield—we enjoyed my favorite view of the valley: Tunnel View.  I can still recall my first trip to Yosemite, coming out of the tunnel and seeing the panoramic sweep from El Capitan to Cloud’s Rest, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall.  First constructed in 1993, the tunnel was renovated in 2008, mainly to improve drainage and add accessible parking and better pedestrian flow.  The actual tunnel and view were not changed, leaving the majestic view that as many as 6,000 people a day enjoy during the height of the tourist season.  Blue skies create a more dramatic view, but even the muted gray tones of this gloomy day were impressive.

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Tunnel View: El Capitan, Cloud's Rest, Half Dome & Bridalveil Fall

Tunnel View: El Capitan, Cloud’s Rest, Half Dome & Bridalveil Fall

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IMG_8122Thanks go to my friend Raquel, who joined me on this Yosemite trip.  We shared my camera, but she took the photos that required hiking any distance from the car.  She plans to wait for another day to hike the 10 miles from the May Lake Trail to Yosemite Valley!

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A Few John Muir Quotes from His First Visit in Yosemite

“I have crossed the Range of Light, surely the brightest and best of all the Lord has built; and rejoicing in its glory, I gladly, gratefully, hopefully pray I may see it again.” 

“Everything seems consciously peaceful, thoughtful, faithfully waiting God’s will.”

“But now I’ll have to go, for there is nothing to spare in the way of provisions.  I’ll surely be back, however, surely I’ll be back. No other place has ever so overwhelmingly attracted me as this hospitable, Godful wilderness.”

“The basin of this famous Yosemite stream is extremely rocky—seems fairly to be paved with domes like a street with big cobblestones. I wonder if I shall ever be allowed to explore it.  It draws me so strongly. I would make any sacrifice to try and read its lessons.  I thank God for this glimpse of it.  The charms of these mountains are beyond all common reason, unexplainable and mysterious as life itself.” 

A FEW LAST VIEWS FROM THE TIOGA PASS

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Any dictionary would give two basic definitions for the noun, perspective:

1.  The representation in a drawing of parallel lines converging to give the illusion of depth and distance.

and

2.  The human capacity to view things in such a way as to see relationships and relative importance.

Those definitions are accurate but do little to explore the importance of perspective in day-to-day living.  They do share the idea of illusion, suggesting that what we see can change depending on lots of things:  our line of sight, expectations and assumptions, past experiences, other people’s views and input, ongoing events, and hundreds of other little things.

Perspective encourages us to look beyond ourselves, see things from other points of view and recognize the varying importance or significance of something.  Perspective says to throw assumptions and common expectations out the window, to look for something new and different. Perspective helps add meaning, depth, understanding to many activities and relationships of life.  Being able to acknowledge varying perspectives can help add meaning to life.

As a lesson on life, perspective reminds us to keep our minds open and to look for alternatives.  With enough perspective, we can better appreciate life and control how we feel and react to people and events.  One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Any defeat is the chance to start over.  Do you see the rain or the rainbow?  Curse the thorns or smell the rose?  Perspective gives us the ability to make choices while withholding judgment.

This little video offers a great reminder that nothing is ever really what it seems. 

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SOME QUOTES ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSPECTIVE

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”   Anonymous

“You have your way.  I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”   Friedrich Nietzsche

“Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not, and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.”   Christopher Morley

“If you do not raise your eyes you will think that you are the highest point.”  Antonio Porchia translated by W. S. Merwin

“The world is round, and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.”  Ivy Baker Priest

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”   Henry Miller

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”   Abraham Maslow

“When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute.  But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute—and it’s longer than any hour.  That’s relativity.”   Albert Einstein

“There will be a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning.”   Louis L’Amour

“Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.”   Stevie Wonder

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”  Abraham Lincoln

“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.”  George Carlin

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”   Frances Hodgson Burnett

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”  Bertrand Russell

“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time.  People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the hose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”  Isaac Asimov

“’Fairy Tales always have a happy ending.’ That depends. . .on whether you are Rumpelstiltskin or the Queen.”  Jane Yolen

“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth.  I didn’t feel like a giant.  I felt very, very small.”   Neil Armstrong

“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar, and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.”  Alan Cohen

“Sometimes a change of perspective is all it takes to see the light.”   Dan Brown

“It’s not what you look at that matters—it’s what you see.”  Henry David Thoreau

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”  Dr. Seuss

“With only a change in one’s perspective, the most ordinary thing takes on inexpressible beauty.”   Karen Maeza Miller

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE TO SEE THE WORLD?  THORNS OR ROSES? EMPTY OR FULL?  EXCITING, FRIGHTENING, OR CHALLENGING?  

IT IS UP TO YOU!

VISITING BEARIZONA

Opening SignOutside of Williams, Arizona, is a tourist attraction called Bearizona.  The sign was hokey enough that it caught my eye as I drove past.  It certainly was not on my list of places to visit in the area.  Still—that night—I checked it out online and learned it was a drive-through wildlife adventure that housed lions and wolves and bison. Oh my.  I decided I might give the place a try, if I finished planned activities some day in the late afternoon.

IMG_6487A few days later, I was finishing my visit at Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument late in the afternoon, so I headed for Bearizona. I arrived a bit after 4 pm, knowing the place closed to new entrants at 5 pm.  I was the only tourist in sight!  The entrance fee was steep:  $20 per person (not car!) with tax added on.  The drive-through portion was only 3-miles wandering through some pine trees, so I was more and more doubtful that visiting Bearizona was a good idea.  At least some of the animals were rescues, and the habitats seemed very open and natural.

3-mile loop map

Then I started the drive through Bearizona—and had a great time!  The attendant handed me a GPS gizmo that narrated the tour over the car radio, sharing info on each animal group as I drove into its area.  Each car could travel at its own pace, even stopping along the road at times.  A couple cars entered after me, but rushed through the little drive as soon as possible.  I was very content to sit and watch and wait to see what animals would become visible.  Most came out to play!

First up were the Rocky Mountain Goats and American Burros.  They did not do much, but were content to let tourists watch them.

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There were also American Bison and Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep.  They did not do much either but stand around and eat, but they seemed content enough.  Later in the year, maybe they would not be molting.

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IMG_6613A separate exhibit showed White Bison.  The two tourists who started the tour after me zipped by me as I was waiting and watching these big beasts.  After they rushed past, the baby bison came into view.  He’d been there, just hidden behind his mom.

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The Black Bears were pretty active.  Younger ones were playing together, but it was not easy to catch them on film.  Some were content to sit—or nap—so I could take their picture.

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By far my favorite animal was the Artic Wolf.  Two of them were chasing each other in a great game of tag, seeming very much like dogs I have known and loved.  And the four of them greeted each other in a little group, as if they had not seen each other for quite some time.  Watching these wolves was a delight!

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I arrived at Bearizona too late in the day to enjoy one of the Bird of Prey shows.  I also opted to not wander through the little petting zoo with a handful of kids who were there ahead of me.  But when those options are included, the cost does not seem quite so exorbitant.  If you are ever in the area, I would suggest you stop and enjoy these animals.  Just make sure your windows are clean for the best photo opportunities.  Funny.  The zoo stresses you cannot have your windows rolled down as you drive through the bear and wolf enclosures.  I sure would have loved to pet them!

They seemed interested in me too!

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“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” Henry David Thoreau

“Solitude never hurt anyone.  Emily Dickinson lived alone, and she wrote some of the most beautiful poetry the world has ever known. . . then went crazy as a loon.”  spoken by Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons (Matt Groening)

MY SOUTHWEST SOLITUDE ROAD TRIP 2015: An Overview

IMG_7063In April, I traveled a total of 3,870 miles on a two-week road trip into the Southwest.  I knew what cities I would stay in for a few days each time and had some key attractions I wanted to visit.  But most of the trip was going to be simply wandering Arizona and New Mexico, enjoying the scenery and history of the area.  I even traveled a bit on an old stretch of historic Highway 66.  I had a wonderful time.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

I travel alone on these trips—and typically someone will ask, “Why?”  Speculation is often that I would be lonely.  But that is never the case! Solitude is not loneliness—and I love the peace and quiet of the back roads I tend to travel. On those roads, it is easier to pull over and stop to watch some clouds drift by, appreciate some wildflowers, listen to some birds, even see some animals I wouldn’t otherwise notice.  Even without such wonders, the wide open spaces can be relaxing.  How can that be lonely?

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly

My overall game plan was to stay a few nights in Flagstaff, Arizona; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Gallup, New Mexico, taking day trips from those locations.  In part, I just wanted to immerse myself in the area geography, driving the backroads and visiting the small cities that are an integral part of the Tony Hillerman novels I enjoy.  I also knew I wanted to visit Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and Four Corners.  Other trips would be decided each day, from a list of possibilities I had generated.  I was also open to just following signs and seeing what I could see.

Some Views from Monument Valley:

Merrick Butte

Merrick Butte

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El Malpais National Monument

El Malpais National Monument

Eventually, I will share photos of some of the major stops I made on this two-week adventure.  But many of the memories are the smaller moments of each day, some that could not even be captured with a photo. For example, every morning as I left the Gallup hotel, there was a little sparrow in the tree by where I parked who sang good morning loud and clear.  But he was shy and never, ever let me capture his photo.  In fact, many birds and even some small animals kept me company along the road, but rarely let me take their pictures.  It is always a fun little game to try to catch them on film.

Some of these smaller memories I was able to preserve in photographs.

IMG_6906The promise of rain was a constant companion.  I was only ever really caught in a storm a couple of times, but the clouds were gorgeous almost every day.  One day, it even snowed on me in Santa Fe.  How cool is that?

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Lilacs in a Back Yard in Gallup

Lilacs in a Back Yard in Gallup

Flowers were also plentiful.  They always brighten any day!  Some flowers were in the cities, like some gorgeous lilac bushes that made me think of my mom.  One stretch near Shiprock, Aizona, offered miles and miles of wildflowers lining the road.  Other times, wildflowers offered isolated splashes of color and beauty.

False Red Yucca (Hesperaloe), Las Vegas

False Red Yucca (Hesperaloe), Las Vegas

False Red Yucca Close Up

False Red Yucca Close Up

Some views around Shiprock, Arizona, mostly Desert Mallow:

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Canyon de Chelly Roadside

Canyon de Chelly Roadside

Along the Verde River

Along the Verde River

Small Cactus Holding On Near Sedona

Small Cactus Holding On Near Sedona

Taking Root in Monument Valley

Taking Root in Monument Valley

Yucca in Bloom, Monument Valley

Yucca in Bloom, Monument Valley

Yucca Bloom Up Close

Yucca Bloom Up Close

Growing Out of Lava, Sunset Crater National Park

Growing Out of Lava, Sunset Crater National Park

Some Flowers in Petrified Forest National Park:

Desert Poppies

Desert Poppies

Indian Paintbrush Close Up

Indian Paintbrush Close Up

Common Name is Wild Apache Rose (I think)

Common Name is Wild Apache Rose (I think)

Apache Rose Close Up

Apache Rose Close Up

Shiprock National Monument in the Background

Shiprock National Monument in the Background

A few animals also cooperated as I traveled along, letting me catch them on film.  Horses wandered along the road at several locations.  Prairie Dogs were chittering alarms as I bounced along a gravel road traversing Valles Caldera National Preserve. Most scampered away, but eventually a few sentries came back to their posts.  I also shared shade with a little bunny on a break at the El Malpais National Conservation Area.

Prairie Dog, Valles Caldera National Preserve

Prairie Dog, Valles Caldera National Preserve

Near Canyon de Chelly

Near Canyon de Chelly

IMG_7152At one spot some sheep were literally running along the side of the road.  A ram was trailing behind, trying desperately—it seemed to me—to get back to the front of his little flock. That’s one of the hardest things about being a good leader—you need good followers!

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This little trip confirmed for me that Nature and Solitude are great traveling companions!

Canyon de Chelly Rim Drive

Canyon de Chelly Rim Drive

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THOUGHTS ABOUT NATURE & SOLITUDE

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”  E. B. White

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”  Anne Frank

“If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature.”  John Burroughs

“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility.  This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.”  Albert Einstein

“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone.  It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”  Paul Tillich

“We live in a very tense society.  We are pulled apart. . . . and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together. . . . I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.”  Helen Hayes

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”  Lorraine Hansberry

“What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it—like a secret vice.”  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”  John Muir

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  Henry David Thoreau

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