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Archive for March, 2016

A Spring Drive through the Saguaro Cactus Forest

IMAG00064A friend and I made a trip to the Sonoran Desert last weekend to look for desert blooms.  We were lucky and found some vibrant colors that I will share in a later post.  But—as usual—I just love the desert itself, especially the forest of Giant Saguaros.  Whenever I visit, a sense of calm and belonging takes hold of my soul.

Something about the desert’s vast open vistas and abundant life intrigues me.  Cacti have been growing here for hundreds of years.  The saguaros themselves grow very slowly, so an individual cactus may only be a foot tall after about 15 years.  After about 75 years, a saguaro will start to sprout its first branches or arms.  Saguaros reaching 25 to 50 feet in height are typically older than 100 to 150 years.

These impressive saguaros persevere, endure, even thrive in what some say is a harsh climate.  Their fruits and seeds feed local animals and make important contributions to ongoing life for those people who live in the desert as well, such as the Tohono O’odham.

IMG_9295IMG_9238These impressive plants have been a part of the desert landscape forever.  Capturing these scenes in black and white helps to present this timeless aspect of the environment.  These scenes taken a few days ago could just as easily have been taken years and years ago.  I hope you enjoy this little trip through the Saguaro Forest of the Saguaro National Park on the outskirts of Tucson.  On this day, the weather was spectacular, reaching into the 80’s with clear skies.

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This post is my contribution to Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge: Take a New Photo.  I have written about the Saguaro Cactus before and will again, but these photos were taken on Saturday, 19 March 2016.

 

Feeling Lucky: Happy St. Patrick’s Day

“If you are lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough!”

Wikipedia Image

Wikipedia Image

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

You know Saint Patrick, right?  He lived in the fifth century and used the shamrock as a metaphor to explain the Holy Trinity.  He is also credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland.  Now, most naturalists agree there were never any snakes in Ireland, but does that really matter?

This day seems a good time for me to take note of all that makes me feel lucky.

Mom and GrandmaI am part Irish through my mom’s mom.  It is a great legacy through two great women.  I love the memories that come to mind of them, especially when I am wearing green in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day.  That both Mom and Grandma enjoyed gardening, I thought of them especially the other day when I noticed some shamrocks sprouting near my apartment.

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I also feel lucky that this year’s El Nino is ending the drought in California.  Well, that might be an overstatement—perhaps I have kissed the Blarney Stone? The truth is that the nearly 20 storms that have come through my area this year have provided enough rain to almost reach our norm for the year.  That is a good start at helping to break the drought.

IMG_9024The weather has been glorious lately—making it seem like spring with flowers blooming all over.  I was able to take a short trip to Death Valley to witness the Superbloom erupting there this spring, a maybe once a decade event.  It was wonderful!  But I am also lucky that flowers are showing the wonder of nature all over town.

You just have to take the minute to notice them!

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In general, I am just lucky to be as healthy and happy as I am. Sure I am not thrilled with the current political rhetoric that is igniting fear and hate throughout the country, but I am hopeful that truth, charity and community responsibility will eventually generate a wise outcome.  That hope makes me feel lucky to live in America where even crazy people can run for office and crazier people can vote for them.

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 115Saugaro NP Rincon & West 124In my day-to-day life, I have good family and friends.  I have plans for a couple more trips this spring to enjoy Nature.  One later this week—in fact—where I might see some desert blooms!  I have recently discovered some new authors I am enjoying like Stan Jones and R. Allen Chappell and rediscovering others who are worth re-reading like Stieg Larsson and Alice Walker.  I am working on some projects—and completion is in sight.  My federal tax refund just showed up in my account, Cadbury mini-chocolate eggs are just so good, and a neighbor’s cat was enjoying the sunshine on my patio earlier today.  Overall, gratitude and appreciation regularly help make my life better in every way possible.

HAPPY SAINT PATRICK’S DAY!

 What are you feeling lucky about today?

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 A Little Irish Wisdom

 “May the road rise to meet you.  May the wind be always at your back.  May the sun shine warm about your face  and rains fall soft upon your fields.  And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”

“Health and a long life to you.  Land without rent to you.  A child every year to you.  And if you can’t go to heaven, may you at least die in Ireland.”

“May God grant you many years to live, For sure he must be knowing the earth has angels all too few, and heaven is overflowing.”

“May the roof above us never fall in, and may the friends gathered below it never fall out.”

“May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.”

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.”

“May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light.  May good luck pursue you each morning and night.”

“Bless you and yours as well as the cottage you live in.  May the roof overhead be well thatched, and those inside be well matched.”

“May those who love us love us, and those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.  And if he doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles, so we’ll know them by their limping.”

“Praise the child and you praise the mother.”

 “’Tis better to buy a small bouquet and give to your friend this very day than a bushel of roses white and red to lay on his coffin after he’s dead.”

 “Humor to a man is like a feather pillow.  It is filled with what is easy to get but gives great comfort.”

 “God is good, but never dance in a small boat.”

 “Life is like a cup of tea.  It’s all in how you make it.”

 “May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”

 “May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks.  May your heart be as light as a song.  May each day bring you bright, happy hours that stay with you all the year long.”

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.”

 “May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head.  May you be forty years in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.”

“May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends.  And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.”

“May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.”

 “May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.”

 “A life making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing at all.”  George Bernard Shaw

 “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go” Oscar Wilde

Wildflowers in Death Valley 2016

El Nino has brought rains to California over the last several months.  More rain is still likely, so maybe—after enough rain and extensive snow pack throughout the year—the state’s long, long drought will start to subside. I certainly hope that the drought comes to an end sooner, rather than later.

IMG_8774But I am also hopeful that this year might generate some impressive wildflowers. 

In late March 2015, I saw some great wildflowers in Mojave’s Red Rock CanyonThe California Poppy Preserve is hopeful for a good bloom this year, again in late March or April.  Thus far no extensive blooms are evident in the park or on the Gorman Hills along the Grapevine.  I figured I would start my hunt for wildflowers in about a month.

Then I heard about the 2016 Superbloom erupting in Death Valley.

A Ranger posted the above YouTube video on this year’s blossoms in early February.  Even though I did not notice the video until late February—so the blooms would have started to fade—I decided I would head to Death Valley for a wildflower adventure.  If nothing else, I knew from my Death Valley trip last spring that I would enjoy the great scenery and fun curvy steep roads.

IMG_8590I started my trip, heading east on Highway 178.  Its route along the Kern River is always lush and green after a good rain.  This year, California Poppies adorn the hills and other wildflowers jumped out along the roadside.

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Lupine

Lupine

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Yucca

Yucca

My quick detour through Red Rock Canyon confirmed it was too early for extensive flowers this early in the spring.  About all I saw were the yellow blossoms of the Creosote Bushes that dot the area near the Visitor Center and an occasional Yucca starting to bud.

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Creosote Bush

Creosote Bush

IMG_8701The next day, when I first started into Death Valley, I did not see much color.

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Eventually, gold and purple bushes dotted the roads, but the color was still minimal.

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Golden Evening Primrose

Golden Evening Primrose

IMG_8749Just as I was thinking the Superbloom must be over, I hit a stretch along Highway 190 where Desert Gold bushes spread out across the fields.  Although the blossoms were rather muted and starting to wane, they were quite impressive as they stretched across field after field throughout the park.  Other wildflowers jumped into view at various places, adding to the colorful palette.  Obviously, the Ranger was right:  If this more extensive blanketing of color only happens about once every ten years, my trip to Death Valley was well worth the effort.  The wonder and diversity of nature is always impressive!

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Gravel Ghost

Gravel Ghost

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Phacelia

Phacelia

Red Mat

Red Mat

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Cream Cup

Cream Cup

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That's a Woman Out in the Field

That’s a Woman Out in the Field

Desert Gold Sunflower

Desert Gold Sunflower

IMG_8971The next day I headed home, traveling Highways 14 and 58 through Tehachapi.  Once again, some California Poppies and a few other wildflowers painted the hills and roadsides.

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Desert Dandelions

Desert Dandelions

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Gravel Ghost

Gravel Ghost

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California Poppies

California Poppies

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All in all, it was a beautiful and colorful couple of days!

NOTE:  I’ve done my best to give the names of some of the flowers, but if you can add a name or make a correction, please do so.  Thanks.

Do you have any favorite places you visit to see wildflowers in bloom?

SOME QUOTES ABOUT WILDFLOWERS

“Change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like a stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.”   John Steinbeck

“No matter how chaotic it is, wildflowers will still spring up in the middle of nowhere.”  Sheryl Crow

“Love is like wildflowers; it’s often found in the most unlikely places.”  Ralph Waldo  Emerson

“It is easier to tell a person what life is not, rather than to tell them what it is.  A child understands weeds that grow from lack of attention in a garden.  However, it is hard to explain the wildflowers that one gardener calls weeds, and another considers beautiful ground cover.”  Shannon L. Adler

“There are as many ways of loving as there are people, and that wildflower variety is the great beauty of this dimension of existence.”  Rumi

“Wildflowers are the stuff of my heart!”  Lady Bird Johnson

“The more often we see the things around us—even the beautiful and wonderful things—the more they become invisible to us.  That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world:  the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds, even those we love.  Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.”  Joseph B. Wirthlin

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence, see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.  We need silence to be able to touch souls.”  Mother Teresa

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”  Henri Matisse

“Earth laughs in flowers.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”  A. A. Milne

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter. . . to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in the spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”  John Burroughs

A Couple Last Views from Death Valley Superbloom

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