Learn Something New Every Day!

Super Bloom 2017 was truly magnificent!  I took several little trips around California that spring, enjoying the wondrous blooms that seemed to be almost everywhere:  Carrizo Plain, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and California Poppy Preserve were some of my favorite stops. I visited Yosemite National Park in June, hoping to see some wildflowers there as well.  My first stop was Yosemite Valley.

For the rest of that Yosemite trip, I had planned to drive across Tioga Pass Road to see what might be in bloom.  The road closes for winter every year, usually opening again by late May, so I did not foresee travel problems.  In 2017, however, the road did not open until the end of June.  Thus, my plan for driving over the pass had to wait.

I tried again in August on a beautiful sunny day, and the drive was wonderful.  The route started near the Big Crane Flat Road, taking Highway 120 east, traveling about 90 miles from Yosemite Valley to the Eastern Entrance to Yosemite. The initial easy ascent into the mountains showcased some great wildflowers.

As the elevation increased, the flowers gave way to trees, rocky hillsides, and eventually open vistas.

Olmstead Point is always a great place to stop and park.  There are even some short hikes that start from this parking area.  The views are incredible. I especially liked the big boulders that seem to be randomly scattered across the hills like marbles, awaiting for someone to come back and play.

Moving further east, Lake Tenaya came up alongside the road.  It is the largest natural lake in Yosemite National Park that is so close to a roadside.  If you take the time to stop and explore, there are some hikes in the area as well.

 

Highway 120 finally travels past Toulumne Meadows, my favorite part of the drive.  This sub-alpine meadow sits 8,755 feet high.  Although flowers were not extensive, the meadows were beautiful and expansive.

 

At various stops along the meadow, I took some videos to capture the panoramic sense of the meadows.

Moving beyond Tuolumne Meadows, the route finally reached Tioga Pass, at an elevation of 9.943 feet. Then it was a steep decline the six miles to the Eastern Entrance. The road passed Tioga Lake before connecting with Highway 395.

 

ANY DAY ANYWHERE IN YOSEMITE IS A GOOD DAY!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is National Elephant Appreciation Day.  The day was started in 1996 mainly because Wayne Hepburn—owner of Mission Media—was really, really, really fascinated by elephants.  Makes sense to me!  I have always loved elephants.  One great day years ago, I was even able to take a walk with Nellie—a movie and television performer—out in the hills near Lancaster.

I’ve written about elephants several times in the past.  They truly are magnificent.  Large, of course, but also intelligent, curious, and creative.  They live in a matriarchal society and are very communicative, demonstrating actions that show caring, supportive, nurturing behavior towards one another.

These two relatively short videos (about 20 and almost 10 minutes) share some fascinating details about elephants, showing them in action in the wild.

As a society, we would do well to take much better care of them than we do.  I am in total agreement with Peter Matthiessen:  “Of all the 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 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, an ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.”  

Today, of course, is a day to celebrate their greatness.  You could always visit the zoo nearest you, or you could spend a little time watching the elephants at San Diego Zoo Safari Park via an Elephant Cam.

Zoo in Florida in the 1940s taken by my Uncle Bob

 

Family at San Diego Zoo via Photo from Website

You can also read about them—as there are lots of books out there about elephants in all their glory.  I always suggest reading some books about elephants to kids. Two great options are Rudyard Kipling’s The Elephants Child or Graeme Base’s Little Elephants.

A good recommendation for adults is Vicki Constantine Croke’s Elephant Company.  It tells the story of how elephants helped save lives during World War II.  As Sara Gruen, in the New York Times Book Review, explains:  “I have to confess—my love of elephants made me apprehensive to review a book about their role in World War II.  But as soon as I began to read Elephant Company, I realized that not only was my heart safe, but that this book is about far more than just the war, or even elephants.   This is a story of friendship, loyalty and breathtaking bravery that transcends species.” 

Me? Tonight I am going to watch the classic cartoon movie Dumbo.  It is always a delight for young and old.  Just have fun doing something fun to celebrate the grandeur, wonder and beauty of elephants.

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A FEW QUOTES ABOUT ELEPHANTS

“Mkhava’s herd is a good-sized group—sixteen in all, counting the calves—and even though they are the largest land mammals on earth, they are not always easy to find.  Elephants, it turns out, are surprisingly stealthy.”  Thomas French, Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives

“Elephants are quite enough.”  Agatha Christie, Elephants Can Remember

“For the herds of wild elephants show no resentment when domesticated animals join them. They have none of the herd instinct directed against the stranger that one finds in cattle, in small boys and among many grown-up men. This tolerance is just one of the things about elephants which makes one realise they are big in more ways than one.”  Lt. Col J. H. Williams, Elephant Bill

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

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

“Words are cheap.  The biggest thing you can say is ‘elephant.’”  Charlie Chaplin

“People are so difficult. Give me an elephant any day.”  Mark Shand

“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

“No one in the world needs an elephant tusk but an elephant.”  Thomas Schmidt

“If anyone wants to know what elephants are like, they are like people only more so.”  Peter Corneille

“We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits:  empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.”  Graydon Carter

NOTE:  I know zoos are not the ideal place for animals since they still hold animals in captivity even if the animals are (hopefully) treated humanely.  But zoos exist and allow us to see these great animals in action and to help keep the world animal populations growing.

I was given my first camera when I was about 10 years old.  Back then, I took lots of family pictures.  But as time went by, nature called to me more and more.  Now, I most often capture photos of Nature, views and vistas as well as smaller details likes flowers and birds.  My photos always start in color.

Converting nature images into black and white or various muted monochromatic tones turns them from being a memory of a specific trip into more generic images of anywhere, anytime.  Black and white photos—for me—take on a more illusive or abstract quality.  There is something more alluring about black and white photography, enticing the viewers to speculate on the missing details—are the hills green or brown, the rocks red or grey, the flowers any myriad of colors?  But in the end, those details don’t matter.

The intensity of black and white—even the varying greys that surface—mark the photos as somehow more permanent and eternal, something beyond our memories alone. As Tennessee Williams notes, “The object of art is to make eternal the desperately fleeting moment.”

Below are some black and white photos of some of my favorite places:

Red Rock Canyon, California

California Beach

Grand Teton National Park

Crater Lake, Oregon

Toulumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

 

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A Few Quotes

“Color is everything, black and white is more.”  Dominic Rouse

“Black and white is abstract; color is not. Looking at a black and white photograph, you are already looking at a strange world.”  Joel Sternfeld

“One very important difference between color and monochromatic photography is this: in black and white you suggest; in color you state. Much can be implied by suggestion, but statement demands certainty. . . absolute certainty.”  Paul Outerbridge

“I’ve been forty years discovering that the queen of all colors is black.”  Henri Mattise

“Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by so quickly you hardly catch it going.”  Tennessee Williams

“I work in color sometimes, but I guess the images I most connect to, historically speaking, are in black and white.  I see more in black and white—I like the abstraction of it.”  Mary Ellen Mark

“There’s something strange and powerful about black-and-white imagery.”   Stefan Kanfer

“Black and white creates a strange dreamscape that color never can.”  Jack Antonoff

“To see in color is a delight for the eye, but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.”  Andri Cauldwell

Lake Helen, Lassen Volcanic National Park

 

NOTE:  This post is my response to Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge Open Topic.  I posted a bit late, but figure better late than never.

YELLOWSTONE: A FEW ANIMALS

The wonders of Yellowstone National Park are numerous!  Eventually I will post something about its mountains and valleys, river and lakes, and—of course—its thermal features.

But seeing some of the animals that call Yellowstone National Park home is really incredible.  There are many I have not yet seen:  bear, moose, otter, beaver, and a range of smaller animals and birds.  Well, on one visit, I saw a moose—bigger than life.  By the time I pulled my camera up, he had sauntered off into the woods and disappeared.  They must be magical beasts, since he so fully disappeared among the trees in just seconds.  Oh well.

Probably the most iconic animal associated with Yellowstone National Park is the Buffalo.  More officially, buffalo are called bison—and I have shared a separate post about these magnificent creatures.  They are incredible.  I marvel at their strength and presence.

Of course, the buffalo know the park is their home and the tourists are merely visitors, so they stroll wherever they want, even along or even across the roads.  And they rarely hurry.

I especially liked when this guy strolled right to and then past the car.

Elk are also abundant at Yellowstone and in the open areas between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. They are beautiful and elegant as they meander along the roads and near the buildings.  It seems wrong to me that tourists crowd into the fields just to get a little closer to them.

Rocky Mountain Goats are in the area as well.  These young goats were playing along the highway en route to the park a couple days in a row.

On a drive around Yellowstone Lake, I spotted this creature.  I so wanted it to be a beaver or an otter, but no such luck.  My best guess is that it is muskrat.

Birds make their home at Yellowstone as well.  For me, the most impressive are the Swans.  On one visit, they were making a nest, but that was pretty far off.

Ravens, of course, are all over.

On one visit, I even saw a Robin, a Black-Billed Magpie, and some Canada Geese.

On my most recent visit, I had some nice views of a lone Coyote doing a bit of hunting out in a field.

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QUOTES ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF ANIMALS

“Our task must be to free ourselves. . . by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”   Albert Einstein

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”   Anatole France

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”   Gandhi

“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man.  Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.”  Dalai Lama

“Lots of people talk to animals. . . , Not very many listen though. . . . That’s the problem.”  Benjamin Hoff

“Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.  And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.”  Milan Kundera

“I don’t believe in the concept of hell, but if I did I would think of it as filled with people who were cruel to animals.”  Gary Larson

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights.  That is the way of a whole human being.”   Abraham Lincoln

“The indifference, callousness and contempt that so many people exhibit toward animals is evil first because it results in great suffering in animals, and second because it results in an incalculably great impoverishment of the human spirit.”   Ashley Montagu

“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”  John Muir

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures in not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them.  That’s the essence of inhumanity.”  George Bernard Shaw

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”   St. Francis of Assisi

“The animals of the planet are in desperate peril.  Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen.”  Alice Walker

“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”   Immanuel Kant

“The fate of animals is of greater importance to me than the fear of appearing ridiculous; it is indissolubly connected with the fate of men.”   Emile Zola

“Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”   Albert Schweitzer

“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help.  Only if we help, shall they be saved.”   Jane Godall  [And I would add:  Only if we save the animals and the natural world, can we save ourselves, our world, our souls.]

ONE FINAL NOTE:  I have always loved Nature and Animals and—thus—have always felt the need to protect them.  I am especially aghast for the last several years to what is happening to all aspects of the environment under the guise of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Here is a list of some actions underway as of last November; of course, more have been underway since then as well.  If you are concerned too, please share your concerns with your locally and nationally elected officials.  Vote this issue. All of the environment—including national parks and all animals—needs to be protected from short term economic gains for limited companies and industries.

A LITTLE HISTORY

Currently, there are 19 Pueblos in New Mexico that trace their ancestry directly back to the Ancestral Puebloans:  Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojaque, Sandia, San Fellipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Zia, and Zuni.  (Hopi are also ancestors of the Ancestral Puebloans, but their Pueblo and reservation are in Arizona.)  Some of the New Mexico tribe names are better known than others; some stand out for their unique art whether as jewelry, baskets or pottery. Acoma and Taos are probably the two most well-known pueblos in New Mexico and throughout the world.

Tourism is an important industry for both Pueblos, and they welcome the opportunity to educate others about their history and culture.  Years ago, I visited both Acoma and Taos Pueblos on different trips. My visits confirmed what I have always valued about native cultures.  Their sense of community. Their connection to and appreciation of Nature.  Their historical feats of engineering and astronomy.  Their artistry demonstrated through their jewelry, pottery and other artifacts. But especially their perseverance.  Both Acoma and Taos Pueblos have been continuously inhabited since about the year 1000.  And their ancestors have been in the area since before Christ.  Their art, culture, religion, and language all continue on.   Remarkable.

ACOMA PUEBLO

Driving to Acoma Pueblo–also called Sky City–as It Sits Atop Its Plateau

Acoma Pueblo is the most southwestern of the pueblos, sitting about 60 miles west of Albuquerque. It is also one of the remaining pueblos that has been continuously populated since at least the year 1200.  It sits atop a plateau that is roughly 360 feet high.  The word Acoma means “the place that always was.”  In 1540, Alvarado, an explorer working with Coronado, offered this description of this stronghold sitting high atop a plateau:

Acoma is “the greatest stronghold ever seen in the world. The natives. . . came down to meet us peacefully, although they might have spared themselves the trouble and remained on their rock, for we would not have been able to disturb them in the least. . . . The city was built on a high rock.  The ascent was so difficult that we repented climbing to the top.  The houses are three and four stories high.  The people. . . have abundant supplies of maize, beans and turkeys like those of New Spain.” 

Although visited by the Spanish in the 1540s, Acoma was not invaded until several months after the arrival of Juan de Onate y Salazar in 1595.  When Onate’s men demanded food from the Acomas, food that was needed for the tribe to survive the winter, a skirmish took place.  Eleven Spaniards were killed, including Onate’s nephew.  In retaliation, the village and its provisions were burned, 600 people were killed, and another 500 men, women and children were taken as prisoners and sentenced to servitude.  Each warrior under the age of 25 had his right foot amputated.  These atrocities are some of the war crimes that Onate was eventually charged with when he was recalled to Mexico years later.

Google Image

In 1998, a statue of Onate was erected, paying tribute to him as the founder of New Mexico. He served as the area’s first governor from 1598 to 1608. Not surprisingly, many Puebloans protested the action.  Part of the protest was conducted one night: Someone used a chainsaw to cut the right foot off the bronze statue.  Seems a fitting action to me!

Although the lands held by the Acoma Pueblo originally totaled nearly 5,000,000 acres, Acoma today retains control over less than 10% of that original total.  The 2010 census says 4,989 native people live in the immediate area surrounding Acoma.  About 30 of the tribe members still live in the actual dwellings on top of the plateau without electricity, running water, and sewage.  In 1960, Acoma Pueblo was named a National Historic Landmark, and in 1966 it was placed in the National Registry of Historic Places.

VIEWS OF THE PUEBLO AND AREA

Mount Taylor

Enchanted Mesa from a Distance–about 2.5 Miles from Acoma

Tradition Says the Acoma Tribe Lived on Enchanted Mesa Until Storms Blocked Access

Stegosaurus Rock

 

Currently, Acoma allows tourists to visit the pueblo on guided tours.  A main attraction is its church called the San Esteban Del Rey Mission.  It is the largest southwest mission, and its construction was started in 1629 with the arrival of Father Juan Ramirez.  Natives were conscripted into building the massive structure, carrying logs 40 miles from Mount Taylor for use atop the plateau.  All sand needed for the construction also had to be carried to the top of the plateau.  The Acoma Pueblo participated in the Pueblo Revolt in 1680.

San Esteban Del Rey Mission

Despite the slave labor and harsh conditions, Acoma Pueblo today attaches cultural significance to its mission. After all, their ancestors built by hand a structure that has stood for nearly 390 years.  A group of men called the Gaugashti or “church caregivers” take on the responsibility of maintaining not only the structure but the culture associated with the mission.

Tour Guide

Tourists are able to take a tour through the village, seeing some of the original buildings and pathways. The tours also let you chat with some tribe members and hear about their history and culture.  On my visit to Acoma decades ago, the tour guide was a young woman, who was informative and friendly.

Some of the Original Buildings

Original Ovens, Some Still in Use

Street in the Pueblo

Pathway from the Pueblo

Postcard of Women Getting Water along the Pathway, 1920

Google Image Traditional Pottery

Another Traditional Pot Google Image

Acoma tribe members have always been noted as great pottery makers. The traditional pots are impressive.  Of course, on my visit, I bought a little pot—being a little smaller than a baseball, it fit easily in my hand.  But the intricate detailed design is what captivated me.  I loved chatting with Charlie—the artist—about the creative process.

My Delightful Little Acoma Pot Made by Charlie

If you have not visited the Acoma Pueblo—or any of the other pueblos open to the public—add such a visit to your list.  It is well worth the visit!

Patterns: Nature Up Close

“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

Patterns fascinate me.  Always have. Somehow the symmetry and repetition are both soothing and engaging. These patterns can be easily seen in Nature. Consider rows in a cultivated field or the rhythm of the ocean’s waves. Tree upon tree in a forest or the many cells of a honeycomb.

I especially enjoy the patterns evident in flowers, leaves, ferns and grasses.  They are beautiful and mesmerizing. Each detail a part of the pattern, but–at the same time–each can be a bit different and unique. Teh patterns of Nature are such a great metaphor for celebrating diversity in all life, since we are all really part of the same big pattern.

“The natural world is built upon common motifs and patterns. Recognizing patterns in nature creates a map for locating yourself in change, and anticipating what is yet to come.”  Sharon Weil

“Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.”  Junichiro Tanizaki

“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.”  Richard P. Fenyman

“There is no better designer than nature.” Alexander McQueen

This post is my response to the Artist Lens Photo Challenge Patterns. As others who have responded have noted, Nature is a great response to this challenge.

The fires in California this summer are devastating.  The whole state seems to be ablaze. So many fire fighters are doing their best against the many raging infernos, but full containment is elusive.  Lives have been lost, not to mention houses and other structures destroyed.  Countless communities are on edge, either under evacuation orders or nervously watching the fires approach.

Google Image

No fires are close to me.  Thank goodness. Smoke is invading Bakersfield’s atmosphere and creating bad air days, but the actual blazes are not just down my road. For me, the fire that most worries me is the Ferguson Fire, raging near Yosemite National Park.  That fire has been burning for about a month and is about 82% contained.  Yosemite Valley and other parts of the park have been closed for over a week but are scheduled to re-open to visitors in a couple of days.  Of course, getting back to normal will take much longer—and the burned areas may only recover years from now.

To try to ease my worries about Yosemite, I reviewed photos from my visit about this time last year (August 2017).  The drive through the Valley was as incredible as ever.

Driving in from Wawona to take a tour through Yosemite Valley.

I always love the view of Cloud’s Rest, coming out of Tunnel View.

It was great to drive along the Merced River, finding places to stop and relax.

 

The Merced River was delightfully raging at spots.  A holdover from the previous year’s rain.

 

 

Let’s hope this year’s fires do not actually destroy this wonderful national park.  But more importantly, let’s pray all the fires are contained soon and further losses are minimized and the fire fighters and other front-line personnel are praised and thanked for all they do.

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