Tag Archives: beauty

The Real Deal

In the early 1960s I was in grade school, and my mother let me stay home to watch NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft launches on TV. We’d follow the whole exciting run-up and count-down, and cheer for blast-off, willing the fiery ship up, up and away into space.

This gave me my life-long love of space travel stories. Every moment of Star Trek the original series, the next generation, the movies. Star Wars amazed me with its realistic hardware, like Luke’s rusty little flying car – it felt so real!  I never miss a space flick on the big screen if I can help it.

I carried my space fandom into adulthood, thrilled when the Shuttle began to fly, and devastated when the Challenger burst apart before my eyes in the Florida sky. Then we lost Columbia, and the shuttle missions withered to an end.

While we may not be launching as many humans into orbit, NASA has stayed busy with amazing planetary missions and probes bringing us closer to the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets.

Today, the incredible Cassini mission to Saturn and its moons begins its final mission, 20 years after it lifted off from earth. For nearly 13 years Cassini has amazed with the data and imagery from the moons, rings and storms of Saturn.

Watch this. This is epic space opera, folks. And this one is REAL.

 

Oldest Library in Europe?

Reblogging for all you book and library lovers: Never before seen images of the oldest Bodleian Library reading room. How I’d love to write there, surrounded by history!  Click through to the article for more images. 

Photograph by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Built in 1487, Duke Humfrey’s Library is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Duke Humfrey’s Library is named after Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, a younger son of Henry IV of England. He was a connoisseur of literature…

via This Reading Room at the University of Oxford is One of the Oldest in Europe — TwistedSifter

Monarch update

My neighbor, naturalist Patrice Gribble-Fetter, was on TV this week, sharing about the Monarch research and support going on at Old Maryland Farm.

The farm grows milkweed  expressly for the Monarchs. See how they tag the butterflies, and also film clips of the huge migrations to Mexico.

 

I also learned about the Baltimore Checkerspot, a threatened Maryland butterfly with similarly gorgeous coloration.

baltimorecheckerspots

baltimorecheckerspotchrysalisThey like stream fed wet meadows and are found in the western uplands of Maryland. They like to eat milkweed but their key plant is the white turtlehead, I flower I see in the wetlands of Southern Maryland. Alas these beauties aren’t thriving around here anymore. They have a really striking chrysalis.

Law of the Jungle

I saw Disney’s new Jungle Book film, and it’s a magnificent experience – a beautiful, heart-wringing adventure. As one of the millions of kids who were a captive audience for the 1967 animated version, I watched it in rapt delight and breathless anticipation.

I’m more of an experiential viewer than a critic; thus I fell in love with Bagheera’s green eyes and cultured voice (Ben Kingsley.) Bill Murray as Baloo the bear was inspired. The lushly detailed environments, plants and animals is a feast for the eyes. But the story the crisis that Mowgli the man-cub brings to his jungle community is bittersweet.

Mowgli is raised by the wolf pack and mentored by Bagheera. They consider the boy one of their own. Shear Kan, the menacing Bengal tiger, claims that man is the most dangerous beast of all, and insists that the man-cub must leave, and later, die. The community erupts in debate, and Mowgli, unwilling to be the cause of such strife, agrees to leave.

For all the lush beauty of this film, with it’s depiction of vibrant life, knowing it’s all created with CGI leaves me with a hollow ache. The ‘jungle’ world that Kipling wrote of in 1894 no longer exists today, except in scraps of parkland.  So Shear Kan made a valid point: humans will bring the end of life as they know it.

Please, go enjoy the movie. It’s lovely. But then take some small action to help the creatures in the film.

To learn more about the state of the ‘jungle’ today, visit one of these organizations.

Global Tiger Initiative

Wildlife Conservation Society

World Wildlife Society

 

 

Cherry Blossom Joy!

I try to get out and paint plein-aire from the Yoshino cherries during their brief and glorious blooming. It’s always unpredictable! This year it seemed imminent, then a cold front delayed their progress, then BAM! an explosion of flowers.

CherriesPhotog2016
Ducks check out the Photographer

When I first came to Washington, I expected something gaudier. I was amazed by the subtle beauty of these earliest blooming trees. They are a ruddy color before their buds open, then a soft pink when they’re newly opened. Finally they create a soft glow of white with but a memory of pink, as if a cloud were caught in the dark and twisted branches of the old trees.

Morning at Capitol Plaza
Morning at Capitol Plaza

Saturday I spent the day with easel and paints under the pale clouds, enjoying the color and all the other folks who came there to do the same. Lily got lots of petting and I got one small and one large canvas started. It was a perfect day.

If you’d like to join me, leave a comment. I plan on heading down again on Saturday April 2 from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm. Visit me on Facebook for daily updates and spontaneous painting trips!

Floating in the Garden

fig treeMulberry and fig trees, heavy with shade and fruit, hung over the luminous turquoise pools as liquid light wrote sinuous patterns on the pool floor, the water and the bodies within. It was meditative bliss to float in the Warm Pool at  Harbin Hot Springs.

Harbin is a ‘take the waters’ resort in the hills north of Middletown, CA. You can find it by driving North through the Napa Valley, through the beautiful vineyard vistas and small towns north of the Bay Area.

What a beautiful place! in the apex of an increasingly steep valley the mountain gives forth her waters in a cool spring, a mineral spring and a very hot hot spring. There are a variety of pools from 113ºF/45ºC to the cold plunge at barely 60ºF/16ºC, with a full size lap pool that’s comfortably cool and a warm pool for silent soaking that’s big enough for dozens to share. There is an elven quality to the place, with lovely metalwork, tile, stone, gardens. There are cottages, dorm rooms, cabins and lodges as well as a campground. When you’re not soaking you can dance in the temple, stroll in the labyrinth, read in the library, snack in the cafe . And the dining hall serves delicious vegetarian food with a few fish & chicken options as well.

For Harbin pictures I refer you to their lovely web site, for the pools are clothing-optional and few opt for clothed bathing. There is a no-camera policy that forbids phones, iPads & iPods and computers in most areas of the resort, thankfully.  Really unplugging from technology is but a pleasant side effect. Harbin offers in impressive palette of bodywork with world class therapists, everything from reflexology to scalp massage, deep tissue and lymphatic massage to Watsu, a waterbourne treatment in addition to all its other restful qualities.

I’ve enjoyed naked swimming before in different settings. There is always a code: Growing up in Michigan skinny dipping always took place at night, since our cottages were crowded together at the river. At the Ithaca reservoir swimming itself was forbidden, so why not dispense with attire? Suited swimmers were greeted with suspicion.

Harbin Hot Springs takes great care to preserve the healing and peaceful experience, with three of the pools  dedicated to meditative and sacred space,  silence requested. It’s against the rules to proposition someone, so it’s not a cruising spot.

But I will say, as an artist, the people-watching is amazing. So many sizes, colors and ages, I wished for a painter’s day, when bathers would give permission to become inspiration for artwork. How I wanted to sketch and paint those figures in repose, surrounded by the Edenic beauty!

Was I self-conscious about stripping? A bit, at first. I was with friends whom I don’t often see, and hanging out naked with them brought us closer, faster. The trickiest part for me was shopping for spa-wear: what to wear when you’re not wearing anything! Sounds silly, but the linen big shirt I draped myself with, and the sarong I purchased, had to be just right.

In daily life I often feel like an outsider because I’m quite fat. At Harbin I experienced being a body amongst bodies, a goddess amongst gods and goddesses, connected and human, as if our differences, instead of being revealed had been shed like skin. We were in the garden, eating from the trees of life, and we did not notice our nakedness at all, except to feel that it was right and good. So mote it be.