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Archive for September, 2018

NATIONAL ELEPHANT APPRECIATION 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.

Some Photos in (Mostly) Black & White

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.

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