Learn Something New Every Day!

IMG_6316Over the last several days I have been playing in and around Flagstaff, Arizona.  The pine trees are impressive—and the scent in the air is wondrous.  The pine trees also represent resilience and hope for the future.  The hillsides are not as thick with pine as they were years and years ago, since they were cut as lumber.  Fires have also worked through the hills, thinning the forests.  But the trees are still here.  Thank goodness. IMG_6329 IMG_6376 Today being Arbor Day makes me reflect on how important trees are—and how we need to take better care of them, if we want them around in the future.  They are our future, literally and figuratively. I certainly hope you have been noticing and enjoying the trees around you, especially today.  Did you sit in the shade, climb to the highest branches, harvest some fruit, or maybe make a fire or carve your initials into the bark?  Have you hugged a tree lately? Maybe you even planted a tree? And today, like every day—whether you notice and appreciate trees or not—I know you have been breathing the oxygen trees replenish for us throughout the world.

How did you celebrate Arbor Day?  I am sharing some photos of a few of my favorite trees!

Some Ancient Bristlecone Pines–some are thousands of years old!

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California Redwoods–some of the tallest and oldest trees on the planet!

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redwood up

redwood path

Fallen Trees & Stumps from Petrified Forest, Arizona

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Some Random Favorite Trees throughout the Years

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Bryce NP, red rock canyon 139

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new birch leaf growth

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pink tree

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ribbon of highway

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SOME QUOTES ON THE IMPORTANCE OF TREES

“It’s the little things citizens do.  That’s what will make the difference.  My little thing is planting trees.”  Wangari Meathal

“Research gathered over recent years has highlighted the countless benefits to people, wildlife and the environment that come from planting trees and creating new woodland habitat.  It’s obvious trees are good things.”  Clive Anderson

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”  Abraham Lincoln

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”  Warren Buffett

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant an apple tree.”  Martin Luther

“He who plants a tree plants hope.”  Lucy Larcorn

“Be like a tree in pursuit of your cause.  Stand firm, grip hard, thrust upward, bend to the winds of heaven, and learn tranquility.”  Dedication from Father of the Trees

“Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall.  Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone.  Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.”  William Alexander

“For in the future nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious that if it were made of gold and silver.”  Martin Luther

“What is a fish without a river?  What is a bird without a tree to nest in?  What is an Endangered Species Act without any enforcement mechanism to ensure their habitat is protected?  It is nothing.”  Jay Inslee

“Until you dig a hole, plant a tree, water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing.  You are just talking.”  Wangari Maathai

“I never saw a discontented tree.  They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.”  John Muir

“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.”  John Muir

“A man doesn’t plant a tree for himself.  He plants it for posterity.”  Alexander Smith

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is now.”  Anonymous

“The act of planting a tree is, yes, a simple one.  But rich.  Rich in symbolism, rich in personal satisfaction, rich in the exercise of responsibility.”  Michael Fisher

“Only caring individuals can restore the places we inhabit.  The simple act of planting a tree not only restores the places we live, but makes us whole and powerful again.”  Paul Hawken

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets.  To plant a tree, one need only own a shovel.”  Aldo Leopold

“In the woods we return to reason and faith.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To exist as a nation, to prosper as a state, and to live as people, we must have trees.”  Theodore Roosevelt

“Tree are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”  Rabindranath Tagor

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”  John Muir

“The best friend on earth of man is the tree: when we use the tree respectfully and economically we have one of the greatest resources of the earth.”  Frank Lloyd Wright

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”  Greek Proverb

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”  Willa Cather

SPRING IS HERE!

100_1623Yellow is the perfect color for spring.  It is vibrant, alive, boisterous, hopeful.  Yellow reminds us all that new life is just around the corner. It brings the brightness and warmth of the sun into the garden—or into the house through a bouquet.   A few weeks ago, I visited Red Rock Canyon State Park, near Mojave, California, and enjoyed a glorious spring day full of wildflowers and butterflies.  The Desert Dandelions stretched like a carpet across the desert floor.

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If spring has not yet started to dance around your gardens, be patient.  As Elizabeth Sangster says, “Never yet was a spring time when the buds forgot to bloom.”   Hope these yellow blooms bring a little springtime to your world.

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angel flowers 4

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Flower yellow cactus close

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daisies

yellow cropped with bee

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mulit tulips

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sunflowers in vase

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A FEW QUOTES ABOUT YELLOW

“Yellow flowers are like physical manifestations of sunlight.”  Jarod Kintz

“She wore her yellow sun-bonnet, she wore her greenest gown’ she turned to the south wind and curtsied up and down. She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head, and whispered to her neighbor, ‘Winter is dead.”  A. A. Milne

light daffodills

“Yellow is a very favorable vibration for mental or intellectual activity, as it promotes a clear state of mind.  Yellow heightens your awareness and alleviates depression, sadness, or any kind of despondency.”  Tae Yun Kim

“Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.”  Pablo Picasso

“How wonderful yellow is.  It stands for the sun.”  Vincent Van Gogh

yellow with bee

 NOTE:  This post is my response to Sunday Stills, the Next Challenge: Yellow or Wildflowers. You’ll see some great shots when you enjoy all the responses to this challenge.

IMG_5074California’s Red Rock Canyon State Park sits in Kern County, about 80 miles from Bakersfield, 25 miles from Mojave, and maybe 150 miles from Los Angeles.  For me, these details indicate the park is a local attraction.  But one I rarely visit.  The last time was about 20 years ago.  I am so glad I corrected that mistake this spring.

IMG_5022When first entering the park, the area may not seem that impressive.

 

 

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IMG_5069But Red Rock Canyon is impressive. It was established as a state park in 1968 and covers nearly 27,000 square acres.  It is a lovely little place with first-come-first-serve camping sites and a range of hiking trails.  The 300-foot cliffs are marked with rust staining caused by the iron oxide in the sandstone.  The cliffs and buttes at the entrance off Highway 14 are breath-taking! That little mushroom-shaped outcrop is about 25 feet tall.

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IMG_5029The vistas once inside Red Rock Canyon are also impressive.

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IMG_5020Various trails let visitors wander into the desert landscape to explore some of the cliffs’ nooks and crannies.

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IMG_5036IMG_5031At the end of March, when a friend and I visited this little gem, we were overwhelmed with the wildflower display.  We could not have picked a better day for our adventure.

Desert Dandelions carpeted the floor of Red Rock Canyon.

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There were several other wildflowers bursting forth as well.

Creosote Bush

Creosote Bush

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Owl Clover

Owl Clover

Goldenfields

Goldenfields

Poppies

Poppies

Chollo

Chollo

Joshua Trees were abundant, dotting the landscape in all directions.  Some were starting to bud.

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IMG_5335IMG_5358I returned the next week to see if the Joshua Tree buds were in bloom or other flowers had made an appearance.  Very little luck.  The flowers we had seen were waning, and no impressive Joshua Tree blooms were evident.

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The Indigo Bush was more apparent, and some little white and purple flowers were starting to bloom.  Dozens of Painted Ladies were flying around—although they were very camera shy.

Indigo Bush

Indigo Bush

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Shy Painted Lady

Shy Painted Lady

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Beavertail Cactus by Visitor Center

Beavertail Cactus by Visitor Center

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IMG_5081IMG_5078Leaving the park after the first visit, we headed north.  In about 25 miles, Highway 14 becomes U. S. Scenic Route 395—and we were moving on to see what we could see.  En route, these Globe Mallow caught our eye and the Desert Dandelions were still carpeting the desert floor.  I love the vibrant colors!

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If you have not visited Red Rock Canyon, put it on your list.

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mono vista close

Mono dad by tufaMono sunset dad with tripod rearMono Lake is an impressive body of water.  I first discovered this great destination almost 20 years ago on a trip with my dad.  We had driven to Bishop, California, to see the fall colors and took a break in Lee Vining.  While there, we met some folks who were talking about photographing the sunset at Mono Lake, so we decided we would check the place out.  And we were sure glad we did!  The afterglow during the sunset generated some great colors.

Mono sunset deep colors

Mono evening

IMG_5227In 1864, John Muir offered this description of the area surrounding this majestic body of water:  “A country of wonderful contrasts, hot deserts bordered by snow-laden mountains, cinders and ashes scattered on glacier-polished pavement, frost and fire working in the making of beauty.”  His geological assessment was accurate.  Mono Lake is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada to the west, ancient volcanic Bodie Hills to the north and Anchorite Hills to the east, desert sands also to the east, and the relatively young volcanic Mono Craters to the south.

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IMG_5251The two islands in the middle of the lake were formed by volcanic activity as well:  the black island erupted about 1700 years ago while the white island erupted only about 250 years ago.

IMG_5216Having no access to the ocean, Mono Lake has a fluctuating but always high salt concentration.  The strange spires and knobs that rise out of and surround the lake shore are the most unique features of Mono Lake.  These formations—called tufa (too-fah)—are whitish limestone deposits that are formed when fresh water springs containing calcium bubble up into the carbonite-rich lake water.  As water evaporates—or more recently is diverted—the lake’s mineral content fluctuates but often is recorded around 10%.  In other words, Mono Lake ranges from two to three times more salty than the ocean.

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Mark Twain called the area “the loneliest place on earth” in his book Roughing It (1872). In reality, Mono Lake—although seemingly desolate—is really full of life.  No fish can survive in its alkaline waters, but green algae, brine shrimp and alkali flies thrive and in the past helped sustain the tribe called Kutzadaika who lived nearby. The area—which contains 14 different ecological zones—is home to over 1000 plants and 400 animals.  The lake itself is home to 80 species of migrating birds, including two nesting species (California Gull and Snowy Plover).

A RECENT VISIT

IMG_5202In March 2015, I visited Mono Lake again—and it is still beautiful.  There are several viewing sites where tourists can walk to the lake’s edge.  One spot, called the Old Marina, is a few miles north of the Visitor Center.

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IMG_5228The most popular viewing site is the South Tufa Area, situated a bit southeast of the Visitor Center. It can be reached via a gravel road from a turn-off about 5 miles south of Mono Lake.

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IMG_5262There are two view sites in the South Tufa Area. Of the two locales, South Beach is easier to reach and is patrolled by a patient raven.

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I preferred the more remote Navy Beach.

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IMG_5280The drive back to U.S. Route 395 offered some wondrous clouds in the late afternoon.

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SOME RECENT HISTORY

This wondrous lake and the ecological systems it is a part of have been in existence for over 760,000 years, making it one of the oldest lakes in North America.  In 1941, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began diverting water from Mono Lake’s tributary streams to meet the water needs of Los Angeles.  Quickly, the lake’s volume was greatly diminished, and the ecosystem was negatively impacted.  For example, the higher salinity content undermined the life cycles of the algae, shrimp and flies, thus also impacting the migratory birds who feasted on them.  Here’s another example:  The lower water levels turned the islands into peninsulas, making the nesting birds and their eggs easy prey for predators who could now reach them.

Before the water diversion started, Mono Lake measured 86 square miles and its water level was 6,417 feet. In the 1970s some major research studies were conducted to document the disruption of Mono Lake and its ecosystem caused by the water diversion.  The Mono Lake Committee was formed in 1978, taking legal and media action to try to return water to Mono Lake to save the area’s ecology.  The lake’s historic low was recorded in 1982 when it covered only 57 square miles with a water level of 6,372 feet. At that point, 18,500 acres of the pre-diversion lake bed were exposed.

In 1984, Congress named the area the Mono Lake National Forest Scenic Area.  By 1994, legal battles conducted by the Mono Lake Committee concluded, reaching a compromise regarding the water level situation.  Now, a formula is used to determine when and how much water can be diverted; there is a goal to maintain Mono Lake at 76 square miles with a water level of 6,392 feet.  At that level, 6,700 acres of the pre-diversion lake bed would be exposed.  A sign in the parking lot at the Visitor Center says the parking lot itself would be underwater if no diversion had ever been started.  The area was named the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve in 1994.

Although nothing like its past glory, Mono Lake is still a magnificent body of water.  This year—2015—is the fourth year of a major drought. As a result, the water level has dropped below the mandated minimum level used as part of the formula that determines how much water can be diverted from the area.  Right now, Mono Lake–at its lowest level in 18 years–only covers 71 square miles with a water level of 6,379 feet.  10,000 acres of the pre-diversion lake bed are exposed.

Mono Lake is still incredible and still supports extensive life.  If you drive by the area, I expect you will agree with the description offered by Israel C. Russell, an historian working in the area in 1889:  “In the middle distance there rests upon the desert plain what appears to be a wide sheet of burnished metal, so even and brilliant is its surface.  It is Lake Mono.”

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If you have not visited this area, do so. And if you live in California, do all you can to conserve water.  It would be a shame if this wondrous lake did not last another 760,000 years.

Mono reflections Dad panorama

 

 

 

 

ANCIENT VOICES

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 019I love driving cross country, especially when the roads—whether highways or back roads—follow along wide open spaces.  I feel lucky whenever I travel.  There are good roads these days with gas stations and fast food joints at almost every exit.  There are rest stops where one can just kick back and stretch one’s legs before getting back into an air-conditioned vehicle.  Next month I will be traveling in the southwest, and I still have not decided if I will travel out to Chaco Canyon because I know the 25-mile road into the place is gravel—so bumpy, dusty and slow.  But it is still a road!

Eventually on my travels my thoughts turn to the Native People who lived in this land long before asphalt roads became the norm.  These people called these open spaces home.  They lived and loved and raised their families for hundreds of years before we even knew these lands existed.  Many current Native American Tribes trace their roots back to these courageous, hard-working, remarkable people who survived for centuries.

Whenever I can visit the ruins and petroglyphs these people left behind, I am in awe.  I can only imagine what these ancient people could share with us about what is really important in life.  Here are a few of the locations that give a glimpse into these past lives.

TONTO NATIONAL MONUMENT, ARIZONA

TNP in caveThe Tonto Basin sits near the Sonoran Desert and was home to Native People for centuries.  They lived, hunted and farmed here as they settled into life in and around these cliffs.  Rugged terrain isolated the area from the modern world until at least 1870 when ranchers and soldiers started into the basin.  In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt set the area aside as a national monument to protect the site from vandals who would excavate the site for pots, cloth and other artifacts that show the life from the area—and could easily be sold to collectors.

View Looking Out from Lower Cliff Dwelling

View Looking Out from Lower Cliff Dwelling

TNP looking outTwo of the hundreds of dwellings evident throughout the area are preserved within the national monument.  These two cliff dwellings—Lower Cliff and Upper Cliff —were in use from 1250-1450.   Here are some photos of the Lower Cliff Dwelling that can be reached via a short hike from the Tonto National Monument Visitor Center.

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TNP mid 1

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CASA GRANDE RUINS NATIONAL MONUMENT, ARIZONA

CG general wallsThe Casa Grande Ruins National Monument preserves multiple structures that were created by the Hohokam, who farmed the Gila Valley in the 13th century.  Archeological evidence suggests the Hohokam practiced irrigation farming and extensive trade connections in this area until about 1450.  Casa Grande is the largest structure within the village; it was named by Father Kino, the first European to view the complex in 1694.

CG whole house distantThis large house was four stories tall in the center with outer rooms that were three stories high.  The walls are made of caliche, following the traditional adobe process.  The separate covering—rather like a carport—was erected in 1932, even though the original adobe has withstood the harsh elements for centuries.  Situated roughly halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, Casa Grande is easy to find and thus catch a glimpse into the past.

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In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison named the Casa Grande Ruins a national monument, the first cultural and prehistoric site to be protected in the country.  The purpose of Casa Grande is not known, but there is an Indian Legend.  Supposedly, Casa Grande is God’s House and he comes once a year to visit, or a Crazy Man lives there and celebrates the sun.  For me, not knowing its purpose makes this grand house that much more intriguing.

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KUAUA PUEBLO MURALS, CORONADO HISTORIC SITE, NEW MEXICO

KP 3Located outside of Albuquerque, the Coronado Historic Site was dedicated in 1940 as part of the 400th anniversary of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s entry into New Mexico.  Although named for Coronado, what is really impressive about the site is that it houses the ruins of the Kuaua Pueblo that was established about 1235.  The area was abandoned by Kuaua in the late 16th century in response to encroachment and pressure from the Spanish as well as the Navajos.

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KP 1The excavation of the area in 1930 revealed a Kuaua village that existed for at least three centuries and included several kivas.  The murals found in one of the kivas are now on display at the Coronado Historic Site Visitor Center.  These impressive murals represent the finest examples of pre-contact (pre-1492) Native American art from anywhere in North America. The artistry displayed in these murals is overwhelming. Here are photos of four of the fourteen murals on display.

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PETROGLYPHS AT PARAWAN GAP, UTAH

PG Road distant“God’s Own House” is what Chief Wakara, a respected Paiute tribal leader, called the Parawan Gap in 1840 when the first Mormon Pioneers entered the area.  The Gap is a canyon and passage through the Red Hills west of Parawan Valley. Fremont and Anasazi Indians lived in the area from 750-1250.  The ancient trail through the Gap provided convenient annual passage to the west where desert resources could be harvested.

PG Gap Road

A brochure about the area explains how the Gap was formed:

“Approximately 15 million years ago, a long slender section of sedimentary rock sheared from the earth’s crust along parallel fault lines.  This up-thrown block, later named the Red Hills, began to inch its way above the surrounding valley floor.  At the same time the block was rising, a stream was cutting a path perpendicularly across the ridge.  For millions of years the uplifting of the ridge and the down-cutting of the stream remained in equilibrium.

“Eventually, however, the relentless rise of the ridge and the drying of the region’s climate combined forces to defeat the stream.  The stream disappeared and the valley became a waterless wind gap. Continued erosion by wind and rain have shaped the gap into the pass seen today.”

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PG 1When I visited this site years ago, the drive took me across fields and through a small flock of sheep before arriving at the Gap.  It was a delightful afternoon. Once there, I was able to view the site’s numerous petroglyphs.  Recent research suggests that the area was used to mark the passage of time by tracking the travel of the sun throughout the year.  Since no human intervention created the pass, Chief Wakara’s name of the area seems more and more accurate!

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A FEW QUOTES

“When you are in doubt, be still and wait; when doubt no longer exists for you, then go forward with courage.  So long as mists envelop you, be still; be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists—as it surely will.  Then act with courage.”  Chief White Eagle, Ponca (1840-1914)

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together.  All things connect.”  Chief Seattle, Duwamish 1854

“What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot (1830-1890)

“Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus should we do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World.”  Black Elk, Ogala Lakota Sioux (1863-1950)

“I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man.”  Sun Bear, Chippewa (1929-1992)

“All things share the same breath—the beast, the tree, the man, the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”  Chief Seattle, Duwamish (1786-1866)

“When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”  Cree Prophecy

NOTE:  This post is my response to Sunday Stills: The Next Challenge 100+.

SMILE!

This is my entry to Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge 2015 Week 13.

I was traveling in the Alabama Hills the other day, heading up into the Eastern Sierra Nevada toward the hiking trail up to Mount Whitney.  It is a glorious drive.  This time, I noticed a new creature that had never been visible on other trips.  I was a bit taken back at first, hoping that this animal was not some distant cousin to the monsters shown in the odd little movie Tremors.  It is not.  At least, if it is, it’s a friendly cousin.  I think this one just wanted a little attention, as she willingly posed for a couple shots.  And I think she even winked at me as I moved on back down the mountains.

I think I will call her Trudy, since she is much more than just some strange creature!

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Under Umbrellas

I love prepositions in general.  When I was in the classroom teaching English, the students always had fun coming up with extreme examples, once I set them loose with my proviso:  prepositions simply explain where Tweety Bird runs trying to get away from Sylvester the Cat. Or Rocky flies to allude Boris and Natasha.  Or The Joker hides to escape Batman.  You get the idea.  Of course, that could be anywhere:  over the rainbow, into the cage, beyond the horizon, beside the dog, up up and away, and under the bridge are just a few options.

Under LYNX UNDER LEDGEFor me, UNDER has always been an especially lively preposition.  My favorite, I guess.  Cats—wild and domesticated—find refuge UNDER a rock formation or UNDER a table.

Under CAT

 

Under PRAIRIE DOG UTAHSome animals live UNDER the ground or UNDER the water, but pop UP to visit.

Under DOLPHIN

Some look UNDER water for lunch.

Under DUCK DIVE

If you are so inclined, you could hike UNDER arches and natural bridges, such as Angel Arch (Canyonlands National Park, Utah) or Rainbow Bridge (Lake Powell, Utah).

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UNDER rainbow bridge

At Christmas, my dog’s favorite place was sleeping UNDER the Christmas Tree, waiting for Santa and hoping Grandma might drop some of the candy she hid UNDER the Christmas tree skirt.

Under MURPHY TREE

Under UMBRELLA 1Under UMBRELLA 2Of course, one of the best views is being UNDER an UMBRELLA.  My favorite Umbrellas were displayed by Christo as an art exhibit along I-5 UP the middle of California.  Christo placed yellow umbrellas in California and blue umbrellas in Japan, creating a temporary international art exhibit back in October 1991.  The umbrellas were on display for several weeks—a piece of art you had to experience at the time because it would not last.  To learn more about the Christo’s Umbrellas, you can view my earlier posts:  Christo’s Umbrellas: A Look Back and Christo’s Umbrellas: The Japanese Route.

umbrella and fauna

This post is my response to Sunday Stills, The Next Challenge: The Letter “U.”  To see the other responses, visit here.

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