A Vertical Tide Pool

Let’s face it, erosion is inevitable. In the pictures below, what you will see was once a sea wall, that is, a futile attempt to keep sand where we humans think it should stay. The ocean moved the sand, as it always does; and the ocean removed pieces of the wall, one chemically weathered molecule at a time. The result is a relic that charges my imagination every time I visit its beach, in Santa Barbara, California.

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This former seawall now evokes a line of creatures.

 

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The creatures have tide pools growing up their sides!

 

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I’m guessing that the tidepool growth protects the remaining wall from more erosion.

 

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Detail of a creature’s “leg”.

 

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At the feet, anemones are open for business.

 

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The dense organization of shells makes complex designs in the creature’s hide!

 

The original image.

Sunset instills its own magic on the scene.

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic was “Relic”.

An Adoration of Pelicans

A gaggle of geese. A leap of leopards. A covey of quail. My vet has a poster with line after line of phrases that describe collections of critters, in ever-odder terms. A dule of doves. A charm of finches. A deceit of lapwings. An unkindness of ravens. Perhaps my favorite is a siege of herons. (Surely the crawfish in a local pond see herons that way, even though there is only one heron that plagues them. No, wait, plague would be locusts.) Have all these phrases truly been used? Maybe not – but for a richer language, let’s start today! (To get us started, I include more of the phrases at the bottom of this post.)

If I were to add pelicans to the list of phrases, I would have to call them an adoration of pelicans. What a spectacular creature the pelican is. Sitting around a dock, it may look homely and awkward, but airborne, it rules the coast. Pelicans fly together in innovative formations, skim the waves fearlessly, dive with conviction – and always get their fish.

I’ve taken many pictures of pelicans. In most of them, the bird appears as a speck on my camera lens. Last weekend, two pelicans put on an amazing show as I walked the beach. For the first time, I saw two pelicans dive simultaneously and hit the water a few feet apart. But they were coy and whenever I raised my phone camera, they masqueraded as specks. This was the closest I got to a good picture, so you can imagine the others:

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But I’ve had better luck in the past. Here are some pelicans enjoying sunrise on both coasts of the U.S.:

Pelican at sunrise, East River, NYC.

Pelican at sunrise, East River, NYC.

Pelicans at sunrise, Carlsbad Beach, San Diego County, CA

Pelicans at sunrise, Carlsbad Beach, San Diego County, CA

And here is a particularly fine squadron, which always reminds me of that Far Side cartoon. You know the one, right? Birds of prey know they’re cool.

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My best capture to date was this … er ….

HOLY FRIGGING — I’ve just spent what feels like a year scrolling through endless directories of unsorted photo files, in an unsuccessful search for one of my favorite shots. Ho-kay. Check back to this post later, I will add the photo when/if I find it. Perhaps it is finally time to attempt to organize my photos.

And in the meantime, enjoy some more critter phrases:

A crash of rhinoceroses.
A gang of elk.
A singular of boars.
A cast of woodpeckers.
A barren of moles.
A shrewdness of apes.
A smack of jellyfish.
A parliament of owls.

(This post is slightly in response to the recent WP photo challenge, “Split-Second Story”.)

Local Color

Here in southern California, we didn’t have a winter. We had autumn, an extended spring, and now an early summer. In other words, we went from wildfire to pollen to smog season, skipping the mudslide/debris flow season this year.

They are subtle but we do have detectable differences from season to season. In the spring, the flowers have an intensity of color that they lose in summer, when it is too hot to be bright and everybody including flowers must fade and dim to survive the heat.

It is definitely still spring in the garden. The native sage is most brilliantly blue in the mornings before the sun hits:

Gray green leaves, purple-blue flowers, and a wondrous spicy fragrance - this sage has got it all!

Gray green leaves, purple-blue flowers, and a wondrous spicy fragrance – this sage has it all!

Spring is when this blue morning glory – a relentless, destructive weed – strengthens its hold on the neighborhood. The flowers are too lovely to remove:

Morning glory appears to encircle this aloe. By mid-summer, it will have strangled the aloe unless ripped away.

Morning glory appears to crown this aloe. By mid-summer, its vines will have strangled the aloe if allowed to remain.

No one knows where this morning glory begins, it snakes from yard to yard, along phone lines, across fences. I’ve even found runners in my dark, dry garage! It looks especially pretty with the bougainvillea, though, doesn’t it?:

Another year of morning glory invasion begins.

Another year of morning glory invasion begins.

As soon as the blooms wither, however, the vines must go, lest the rest of the garden vanish behind their twisting tendrils. Stylistically, the morning glory and kudzu have much in common.

Clearly my days as a plant nerd are over. I once knew the common and Latin names for this fellow, whose flowers glow even in brightest sunlight:

The ... er... purple one.

The … er… purple plant.

I don’t know what this flower is, either, but I have a better excuse. I discovered it in a neighbor’s yard today and have never seen one before. My guess is that it’s South African:

The... er... one with tall spikes of orange flowers.

The… er… one with tall spikes of orange flowers.

My Channel Island Bush Poppy is one of my favorite plants. It is not supposed to fare well in my hot inland location, yet mine is 15 feet high and wide. It blooms profusely and cheerfully every spring. Best of all, it requires neglect. If I water it, it will die. The plant made for me!:

Imagine these flowers filling your screen and your vision. That is the Spring experience near a Channel Island Bush Poppy.

Care for this one at its peril!

All this blogging about my garden makes me realize I am overdue to do some gardening… Well. Those that can, do. Those that don’t feel like it, blog.

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge wants to see “Spring”.

A Floating Rorschach Test: Mud On the Move

Near my house is a place called La Tuna Canyon that has nothing to do with fish. I’ve lived here for a decade but never wondered how that name arose, until I began this post. I want only the best for my readers so have now investigated. Turns out La Tuna is “Spanish for, among other things, prickly pear.” Such an intriguing definition.

 Among other things. Where was I? Ah yes, La Tuna Canyon. Recently I took a hike there, and looked back down at my house:

View from the trail up La Tuna Canyon.

View from the trail up La Tuna Canyon.

Actually my house, down in the valley, is probably around the bend out of view. It is hard to tell with all the trees. It surprises me that the valley’s trees came with the housing tracts. A century ago, the valley was all fields and brush:

The valley in 1927.

The valley in 1927.

 (I got this photo from a site that has many swell photos of long ago Los Angeles.)

I continue to digress. On my hike, I turned a dusty corner like this one:

Mudtrail

 

And I came upon a mud puddle, drying rapidly:

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There was not much water remaining, and on the surface, mud flecks floated:

Mudflecks

The flecks were like floating islands, and in such interesting patterns and shapes, I had to snap some photos.

As I snapped, I noticed the flecks were moving! The water rippled in a light breeze, and that was enough to send the flecks into eddies and surges:

At first the motions of the flecks suggested plate tectonics. The flecks are an infinite variety of Hawaiian islands. Then I realized that in another few hours the water would be gone, the mud solidified, and now the flecks seemed like vacationers, desperate for a last bit of fun.

As I watch the video now, I remember when I was a kid, eating the last morsels of cereal swimming in a bowl of milk. I would pretend each Cocoa Krispie or Cheerio was a being and I was the royal monster, hunting it down. Among other things.

I’ve never seen mud flecks like this before. What do they look like to you?

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge wants to see On Top.)

 

PhotoTravelog: Escape from Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

Until a couple weeks ago, I had never been to Hawaii, which has always seemed terribly wrong, given that volcanoes and oceans are two of my favorite things. Also, I love that Hawaiian slack key guitar sound. So I was thrilled to get a chance to go to a conference in Honolulu, on Oahu, even though I knew that these were the Hawaiian island and area least likely to interest me.

I am a churlish tourist who hates being with her own kind. For me, the best way to travel is to plant myself somewhere for a stretch of time and get a sense of what it would be like to live there. During this one week trip I did get a couple chances to escape the tourist centers where my hotel and meetings were sited, and venture into areas where people actually live.

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One dawn I walked east, away from the beach into a neighborhood of boxy tired apartment complexes. At 7 am everything was dark and closed except for the bus stops with folks headed away to work. I happened by a park with some amazing graffiti. Note that the white form is some kind of creature with a tail.

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I’d  heard about the fragrance of plumeria in Hawaii, and I adore the scent of the small, captive plant a friend somehow keeps alive in a container in his non-tropical garden. I was disappointed to discover that on Oahu, the plumeria are trees with blooms  too high to smell! (Turns out I should have bought a plumeria lei, to envelop myself with the scent as I went through my day.)

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My last afternoon on Oahu, a Hawaiian coworker drove me around the eastern corner of the island. We stopped at a viewpoint with trails that could have taken us even higher up the mountain.

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A hang-glider happened by.

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From the viewpoint, I caught my first look at the north side of the island. After ogling the view, we headed down the hill, west and north, to lunch in a working class community nestled behind that beach.

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We stopped at a local hangout of a takeout restaurant.

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After ordering the barbeque chicken platter, we had lunch in the adjoining, semi-open-air dining room. There, between the walls and ceiling, dwell scruffy and bold pigeons who come out to forage for scraps. According to my local pal, pigeons are a new addition to the island, and they are quickly becoming a nuisance. (No. Really?) Over the last few years, the finches have disappeared from his bird feeders, crowded out by the pigeons. Turns out finches are plentiful in Hawaii. People trap the finches and sell them to pet stores. There is no market for pigeons.

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The dining area walls are painted with scriptures and lightning bolts.

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And the walls are covered with scriptural graffiti – Bible quotes in the handwriting of countless patrons.

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After lunch, we took the highway back to Honolulu. The mountains are actually the back rim of an ancient volcanic crater. The rest of the crater rim collapsed into the ocean, many thousands of years ago, in a massive landslide that created an enormous tsunami.

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The highway cuts through the mountains in a looooong tunnel. Here is the tunnel entrance

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and this is the view upon exit.

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The area looks remote but is scant few miles and minutes from Honolulu’s congestion.

These glimpses of Oahu away from Waikiki Beach gave me a better understanding of why people so love these islands.

See? Churlish. I told you.

This is the third of three posts about my trip to Hawaii. I also blogged about the sights near Waikiki and a walk from Waikiki to Diamond Head.

PhotoTravelog: From Waikiki to Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

There are a lot of great scenes waiting for cameras in Hawaii as I learned when I visited the Hawaiian island of Oahu for the first time.  I made the trip for work, so I spent most of my time at the convention center, or near my hotel on Waikiki Beach. My last day there, I walked a few miles from my hotel to another set of meetings near Diamond Head, and took lots of photos.

That distant hill and point is Diamond Head. I took this photo from the harbor near my hotel on the afternoon of my arrival. I didn’t see any bugs in Hawaii but saw much evidence of their existence, such as in the trunk of this tree.

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The walk to Diamond Head was the most ambitious excursion of my trip and most of it took me through spectacular scenery. in the distance is my goal, lit by dawn sunlight.

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The banyan tree is a common sight on Oahu. Older trees have roots that grow up and add themselves to the trunk, creating a broad, ropey base, like this tree en route to Diamond Head.

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Whatever you do, don’t feed those …. um …. those…. Altered signs seem to be a trend here.

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 And then there are signs that promise other alterations. Why wait until dinner? I call this one cutting to the chase.

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I loved the rough surface of this jetty, which exists to protect tourists from slipping into the sea. It may be too close to the lunchtime happy hour  to succeed at all times, however.

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Now I’m on the Diamond Head side of my earlier photos, looking west and back toward the Waikiki Beach hotels.

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The road took me uphill through neighborhoods that reminded me of Santa Barbara, California. Only 9a but it was getting warm.

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I went past cliffside parks with trails down to the ocean, some of which were not safe to hike. Or anyway I think that’s what the sign was trying to tell me.

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There was an old lighthouse, now occupied by an island bigwig.

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Surfers in Hawaii have so many choices of places with great waves!

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During my week on Oahu, the weather fluctuated continuously although the temperature held to the high 70s, low 80s. Sunny then cloudy then drizzle then wind. Blasts of rain punctuated with balmy breeze. Humid then less humid then more humid again. Clouds from the north were always piled up against the mountains that stretch along the center of the island. I took this photo of the clouds and mountains from the glass elevator at my hotel.

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Here is a cloudy moment near Diamond Head.

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It came amidst the sunny moments like this one.

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This is the second of three posts about my trip to Hawaii.

I also blogged about the sights near Waikiki and glimpses of non-tourist Oahu.

PhotoTravelog: Honolulu, Hawaii

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit the Hawaiian island of Oahu for the first time, and now here are some posts to share some of the experience.

Oahu is one of the smallest of the Hawaiian islands, and by far the most densely populated. I made the trip for work, so I spent most of my time indoors in meetings. Still, I managed to enjoy a week of sunrise and sunset at the beach, and although I was “stuck” in tourist-riddled Waikiki Beach – well, there are reasons that locations become popular, and here the natural beauty shines through the murk of tourism and overpopulation. Honolulu may be the least lovely spot in Hawaii, but that least surpasses many a most.

To get to Hawaii from Los Angeles I took a five hour flight over the Pacific Ocean.

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Traffic sucked on the shuttle from the airport to Waikiki. Turns out traffic sucks everywhere in Honolulu. I could even see traffic snarls from my hotel room.

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Fortunately my room had a big window and this was the rest of the view, at night

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and during the day.

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I was on the 17th floor and I kept the large window open all the time to luscious warm fresh air.

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The harbor water is brown for at least two reasons. The rocks and dirt are all volcanic – very high in iron –  which makes standing water look rusty.

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Also, the harbor water is filthy. You probably can’t see the black fish nibbling this trash from below.

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Best to view the harbor at night, especially when the neighboring hotel stages its weekly fireworks display.

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One wonders whether the hotels also stage the vast number of rainbows that materialize over their roofs. Many are double rainbows.

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Here’s a rainbow with a nearly full moon, just prior to a golden sunset.

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I spent my days at meetings in the convention center, where this was the view of the ocean.

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But the sunsets were my own to enjoy.

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And I was up to await the dawn, just like these palm trees.

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Amazing how many people were in the water at dawn!

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Hawaiian beaches are gorgeous yet incomplete, as they lack pelicans. There are plenty of pigeons and seagulls. Also, this handsome bird hung out with fisherman near a bridge.

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He never let me get any closer than this. Catlike, he would walk  as though indifferent to me, but aware of my every move, to maintain this distance whether I slowed down, sped up, or stopped.

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I have multiple  pictures of this bird, taken on more than one day, all at this distance.

This is the first of three posts about my trip to Hawaii. I also blogged about a walk from Waikiki to Diamond Head and glimpses of non-tourist Oahu.

Book Review: “Cathedral of the Wild” by Boyd Varty

97814000698595 STARS. RECOMMENDED!!

I guess I’m an ageist. As my age advances, my interest in young writers declines. They may have dazzling pyrotechnic writing styles – but I don’t care about style, I care about content, and I want to spend my time with writers who understand things that I don’t.  Generally, that means writers with a range of experiences and insights that can only come from living. Believe me, I’m not saying I know it all. Most of the time I can’t even say what it is. But there is something about a young person’s writing that usually feels thin and unseasoned to me.

Given my prejudice against tyro writers like Boyd Varty, I opened Cathedral of the Wild with skepticism that lasted about a page and a half. I love this book and found Varty’s writing to be funny, profound, moving, witty, informative, fascinating, and inspiring, often all at once.

This is a memoir of a remarkable childhood in a singular family. Varty comes of age on a game preserve in South Africa’s wildlands, the bushveld. The family land was purchased by ancestors who liked to hunt big game, but over time the family’s love of nature evolves and they become staunch, influential conservationists whose business is to bring tourists on photographic safaris and to make death-defying wildlife videos. The family is ambitious, passionate, risk-loving; heavy on vision and low on conformity. Varty’s early years are punctuated by brushes with death and exposure to the wonder of encounters with wild animals on their home turf.

For those who feel connection to nature, this book will resonate in every chapter. Throughout, Varty provides wonderful anecdotes about the animals he encounters, and he also powerfully conveys the spirituality he experiences in the natural world. When things go long and seriously wrong for his family, his quest  for recovery takes him on a memorable pilgrimage into the wild.

Few books are perfect and this one is excessively anecdotal, and succumbs to some New Age claptrap.  Ultimately, none of that matters. This is a wonderful book.

I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I savored reading it overmuch and read it slowly – so I missed my Librarything review deadline, which means I won’t qualify for more free books for a while. That’s okay, this was worth it!

The Art of Letting Go

My son and daughter have grown up. They are 20 now (yep, twins), and launched on their personal trajectories – to what heights and distances, none of us can yet say. I am in awe of the people they have become, so clever and kind, funny and wise. I love spending time with them, and am all too aware that I do so in an extended magic moment, before they settle into the careers and families that will take them farther from my own orbit.

My daughter’s university is a two hour drive away, and a couple times each term I drive up to spend the day with her. We’ve developed a routine: we go out for a meal, we share a long walk and talk on the beach, and then I buy her some groceries. Most recently, we saw this sunset together:

Sunset at East Beach, Santa Barbara, January, 2014.

Sunset at East Beach, Santa Barbara, January, 2014.

My son – and daughter, when she is home – enjoy a lot of live music together. Their musical interests are broader and deeper than mine, but we have many overlaps and intersections, and have each shared great finds with the others.

Still can’t decide whether this is a good mom or bad mom anecdote: The first time I took them to a concert, they were 12 or 13, and we went to see one of my favorite bands from the old days, X. The band had recently reformed to do the occasional “oldies” show, and they were as good as ever.

Here is what X were like back when they were not much older than my kids are now.

In the old days, I hated the crowd at X shows –  slamming, spitting, too much intrusion of personal space and sharing of bodily fluids for me! But at the new shows the mosh pit was small and friendly, and many of the attendees were clearly there with their kids – or grandkids.  So I brought my kids to a show in Orange County. Well, apparently that is where all the nasty fans went to die, or beget new generations. The music was awesome but the room was filled with disgusting drunks (vomiting on themselves without realizing it, that kind of thing). Oops. My kids loved the music but my son still complains that I wouldn’t let him enter the mosh pit, and my daughter still gets grossed out by the smell of beer.

Here is what X looked like last week, when my son and I went to see them at a Whisky-a-Go-Go 50th anniversary celebration:

X at the Whiskey on the Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, January, 2014.

X at the Whisky on the Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, January, 2014.

We don’t usually attend “oldies” shows – we’d rather hear something new – but we’ll keep going to X shows as long as there are X shows. Don’t know how long that may be – serious health problems in the band – which adds bittersweet  to each performance.

When my children were growing up, my most debilitating parental fear was that someday, they would spend time with their mother strictly to fulfill obligations. As is typical with all my free-floating worries, this one consumed much psychic energy for no good reason. At last I might be sort of, kind of, sometimes learning to cease all that worrying. Which leaves me more open to appreciate my moments with my kids right now.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic is family.)

Turtle Party!

I am lucky enough to work near Caltech, a beautiful campus that is perfect for a lunchtime stroll. In the ponds of its Japanese garden, there once were frogs, crayfish, carp, and turtles. Now there are only carp and turtles – and no one is talking about what happened to the others. If you stand near the sign that says “Do Not Feed the Animals”, many of the turtles will flock to you in anticipation of getting fed. (Apparently turtles are not the only ones who can’t read.)

Below are some of the turtles on a typical sunny day.

Turtle fun in the sun.

Turtle fun in the sun.

The party at its climax.

The party at its climax.

A recent WP Photo Challenge topic was “Community”.