Thursday, April 30, 2009

Psychedelic Magnolia

Another image from my artist and photographer friend. She made an image of a magnolia in flower, and then manipulated it on PhotoShop to come up with this image. Not one of my favorite works of hers, but an unusual way to look at a magnolia in bloom.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Springing...into Summer

Another image from my artist/photographer friend, this time of a redbud tree growing at the bottom of a canyon in a local city park. I think that the contrast between the luminescent tree and the muted gray of the rocks is striking. Great image!


My wife and I took a day trip via chartered bus to Washington DC on Saturday. All of the folks in the group had a connection with a local photographer whose work is featured prominently in a major new exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History.

The museum was very crowded--Saturday afternoon at the end of the school year probably wasn't the best time to visit. Nevertheless, we got an hour-long guided tour of the exhibition, and then had 1-1/2 hours of free time before we had to board the bus back home. Because the natural history museum was so crowded, we headed over to the National Museum of Art's East Building, which features a collection of contemporary art. I wanted to see the installation called Roofs by Scottish landscape sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, an artist whose work has intrigued and inspired me. It's worth a visit if you're in Washington, but not worth a special trip.

We returned to the bus with a few minutes to spare, boarded promptly at 4:30--and then waited. One of the tour group's members failed to show up at the appointed time. It was very warm in Washington on Saturday--in the low 90s--and the bus was like a greenhouse. A few members of the group got off the bus to wait in the shade of the trees near the museum while other members of the group scoured the museum to try to find the wayward traveler. Many of the group's members stayed on the bus--I don't know how they tolerated the heat. Forty-five minutes later, the woman showed up at the bus stop, confused and flustered.

To make matters worse,the bus's air conditioning system didn't work, so we rode back home in considerable discomfort, arriving back at the rendezvous point about 8:45 p.m.
Roofs, Andy Goldsworthy

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Great Horned Owl Rescue

My wife and I went walking in our local natural area preserve last Friday evening after work. As we were walking along a trail paralleling the main watercourse in the preserve, we passed two women who enthused, "There's an owl sitting on the bank of the creek just around the corner!" Naturally, I was excited about the possibility of seeing an owl up close, but also approached with trepidation because, of course, owls shouldn't be sitting on the ground. I hoped against hope that the owl had just made a kill, but when I saw the bird I saw that it was not sitting on a rodent or a rabbit.

The owl was across the creek, and the creek was too wide and deep to wade, so I made a long detour to a bridge, crossed the creek, and backtracked to the owl's location. When I finally approached, the bird went into a defensive posture--puffing up, hissing, and clacking its beak, but it didn't fly. A bad sign. So, I called the preserve headquarters and, luckily, a staff member and a wildlife biologist were working late on a research project that evening. They quickly came down to the stream to rescue the owl.

The biologist threw his jacket over the bird and then held it tightly to avoid the talons. The owl bit him several times, but he told me that owls' beaks are actually pretty weak--the feet are the business part. He examined the bird visually and manually and declared it looked healthy and he didn't detect any broken bones. However, to play it safe, he decided to take the bird to a local rehab center.

Fast forward two days... The rehab center staff suggested that the owl had probably ingested poison, probably a poisoned rodent. They said that the owl likely would respond well to rehab, but that full recovery might require up to three months.

In any case, the owl wouldn't have survived long on the ground. Our good deed for the day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Water Images and Vacation Plans

My artist friend passed along two more images, this time of streams in one of the area's city parks. She's got an "eye" that I can appreciate, and I'm a sucker for water images.

On another topic, my wife and I are planning an 11-day trip to western New Mexico in mid-May. We'll be staying at a gay-owned bed-and-breakfast outside Gallup, New Mexico. (We're not staying there specifically because it's gay-owned; we're staying there because of convenience and because it's the only bed-and-breakfast for many, many miles around. We plan to visit Chaco Canyon National Historical Park (our main reason for staying near Gallup), several other lesser-known cultural and natural attractions, plus Gallup and Zuni Pueblo to shop for Southwest Native American crafts.

From the Gallup area, we'll move south to Silver City where we'll spend some time at The Nature Conservancy's Bear Mountain Lodge birding, hiking, and visiting more Anasazi sites in and around the Gila Wilderness.

We've been to northern New Mexico (i.e., Santa Fe, Taos, Bandalier National Monument, Pecos Wilderness), and southeastern New Mexico (Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks, Ruidoso, White Sands National Monument, and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge), so this trip should fill-out our New Mexico dance card with most of the best remaining natural and cultural attractions. We've wanted to visit Chaco Canyon especially for a long time now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Springtime Full Moon

April's full moon fell on Wednesday, April 8. I went out for a walk and took my digital camera along. Here's the best shot out of 57 images that I made that evening. Actually, all but eight of the 57 were blurry (these were hand-held images made using the "night landscape" feature on my Nikon S-10 camera). In fact, it was only when I decided to prop the camera on a tree stump that I was able to get any "keepers."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

American Gods

In March, I stopped by a Barnes and Noble store. Featured on one of the tables near the entrance was a collection of short fiction and poetry by Neil Gaiman, an author with whom I was not acquainted. The blurbs in the book sounded interesting, but I wasn't ready to commit on the spot. So, a few days later, I went onto and checked out the reviews of some of his work.

First, most of the reviewers thought that Gaiman's novels were better than his shorter fiction, so I felt vindicated that I hadn't bought the collection. The general consensus among the reviews seemed to be that his novels American Gods and Neverland were his two best works, and the reviews seemed to tip slightly in favor of American Gods. So, I borrowed the book from the library and took it along on my trip to San Diego. I cracked open the book on my outbound flight...and was instantly captivated.

I have to say that the novel, which is 460 pages long, didn't keep me as completely captivated throughout as did the first chapter, but I am definitely a fan. American Gods is probably the strangest novel I've ever read, and parts of it are deeply disturbing and graphic. But Gaiman is like a cross between H.P. Lovecraft, Mark Twain, and Jack Kerouac. The book is definitely oriented toward male readers; most women, I believe, would find it subliminally sexist and portions of it especially disturbing. Nevertheless, I haven't been reading much fiction lately, and I'm not sorry that that I picked up this book.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Midsummer Night's Tree

My friend who is an painter and photographer sent me this image she made by digitally manipulating an image from her garden. I like it because it evokes mystery, lushness, and rank summer growth. It's also intimate, sheltering, and comforting. I've made it the screensaver on my computer.