Postcards from the edge

OK, one last post before heading off into the backcountry. Some bits of “Americana” from rural Colorado.

Or, perhaps, postcards from the edge…

On the Highway to Nowhere and Everywhere. Rural Colorado, 2014
On the Highway to Nowhere and Everywhere. Rural Colorado, 2014
Yak Meat, Ammo, and Biker Stuff. Rural Colorado, 2014
Yak Meat, Ammo, and Biker Stuff. Rural Colorado, 2014
Washington Redskin in King Yankee's Court. Durango, Colorado, 2014
Washington Redskin in King Yankee’s Court. Durango, Colorado, 2014
Testosterone Stops Here. Rural, Colorado, 2014
Testosterone Stops Here. Rural, Colorado, 2014

Dale Chihuly at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Dale Chihuly is a very well-known artist who uses glass as his medium–spectacular, smooth, elegant, explosive, psycho-colorful, environmental, massive, impossible, collections of glass. In the Denver gardens, his work is now nicely integrated into the landscape of plants, trees, grasses, and ponds. A veritable feast of dandy delight for the artistic eye, you might say…or might not (more on that in a moment).

The exhibit has been extremely popular. Indeed, when we went (on a Sunday), there was barely elbow room between the many, many human beans to pass through the pathways between his various works. Judging from the comments of visitors, most were quite impressed…but not all (and I’ll get to that in a moment).

There were many photographers there as well, from the amateur to the pro, loaded with every conceivable type of camera, lens, monopod, tripod, video machine and so on. Chihuly’s work is nothing if not extremely photogenic. If you went, and you made pictures, they might look something like this…

Chihuly, #1. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014
Chihuly, #1. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014

Or this…

Chihuly, #3. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014
Chihuly, #3. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014

Or even this…

Chihuly, #4. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014
Chihuly, #4. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014

My eye tended to wander, though, and after one last color image–this one of the inside of an empty plant pot…

Blue Flow. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014
Blue Flow. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014

…I moved on to black and white, looking for interesting patterns. Like this…

Lily Pad, #10. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014
Lily Pad, #10. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014

And this…

Palm, #7. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014
Palm, #7. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014

And even this…

Shadows and Shapes. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014
Shadows and Shapes. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014

While there, I even managed to make a “street photography” image I really like. This picture made me think of images done by the urban and war correspondents of the previous century, thus the title…

Madrid, 1936. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014
Madrid, 1936. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado, 2014

So, don’t just focus your lens on Chihuly’s glass–there are other interesting subjects awaiting your memory card there in the gardens.

Now, I mentioned above that not all thought the Chihuly exhibit was to their taste. Art is nothing if not subjective. To get there, however, I first need to explain a funny little slang term sometimes facetiously used in the Spanish language: un pongo.

The word is derived from the verb poner, which means “to put” or “to place”. Thus pongo would mean “I put”. Spanish speakers may turn this word into an adjective, though…Thus, un pongo becomes a physical object that must be put somewhere. For example, you might receive a Christmas or birthday present that you don’t really know what to do with–we might call it a “knick-knack” in English, something you might put on your shelf somewhere as a passive adornment. This, then, is un pongo. As in ¿Dónde lo pongo? (“Where do I put it?”).

“What did you get for your birthday from Aunt Matilda?” Nada…sólo un pongo.

Back to the Chihuly exhibit. Yes, it is colorful. Yes, it is unique, even spectacular. Yes, it is gracefully and professionally executed. But, in the end as my art critic would say, it is but a collection of giant pongos. Very pretty pongos gigantes, lacking deeper levels of meaning or social commentary.

OK, that is just one dissenting opinion from someone for whom the novelty of it quickly wore off. The majority of folks loved it and you probably will, too.

So go. See if Chihuly’s exhibit speaks to you. Don’t go on a weekend, though, if you want to avoid the crowds of human beans. Consider going late in the day so you can see his works by sunlight, but then you can watch the transformation as they come alive with wonderfully-done night illumination.  And go before the exhibit closes at the end of the day on November 30, 2014.

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

A Crescent Moon. From Mt. Massive, Colorado, 2014
A Crescent Moon. From Mt. Massive, Colorado, 2014

And left a HUGE vapor trail!

The old English nursery rhyme…

Hey diddle diddle,
The Cat and the fiddle,
The Cow jumped over the moon.
The little Dog laughed,
To see such sport,
And the Dish ran away with the Spoon.

 

Then there is Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam)…

The lyrics:

Yes, I’m bein’ followed by a moon shadow
Moon shadow, moon shadow
Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moon shadow
Moon shadow, moon shadow

And if I ever lose my hands
Lose my power, lose my land
Oh, if I ever lose my hands
Ooh, I won’t have to work no more

And if I ever lose my eyes
If my colors all run dry
Yes, if I ever lose my eyes
Ooh, I won’t have to cry no more

Yes, I’m bein’ followed by a moon shadow
Moon shadow, moon shadow
Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moon shadow
Moon shadow, moon shadow

And if I ever lose my legs
I won’t moan and I won’t beg
Oh, if I ever lose my legs
Ooh, I won’t have to walk no more

And if I ever lose my mouth
All my teeth north and south
Yes, if I ever lose my mouth
Ooh, I won’t have to talk

“Did it take long to find me?”
I asked the faithful light
“Oh, did it take long to find me
And are you gonna stay the night?”

I’m bein’ followed by a moon shadow
Moon shadow, moon shadow
Leapin’ und hoppin’ on a moon shadow
Moon shadow, moon shadow

Moon shadow, moon shadow
Moon shadow, moon shadow

14er Report #10: South Massive, Mt. Massive, Massive Green, North Massive, Point 14,169′ (Late Summer/Early Fall, Southwest Slopes & Tour de Massive)

The Mt Massive Massif, #3. From near Leadville, Colorado, 2014
The Mt. Massive Massif, #3. From near Leadville, Colorado, 2014

 

“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

Ah, karma

I probably shouldn’t have gone on this trip. My cranium was filled to the brim with other worries–family issues and scheduling matters mostly–and I was not very focused or in the moment. Result: I managed to leave a very expensive camera lens somewhere along the Massive-South Massive ridge. I just wasn’t paying attention and it fell out of a side pocket of my backpack where it had been improperly secured. (Yes, I did go back and look–essentially climbing both Mt. Massive and South Massive twice from the saddle–but no luck.)

It reminded me of those dark days you sometimes have running errands (or, worse, doing something even more serious) when nothing goes right. You hit all the red lights, the person you need to see at the Acme office is out on vacation, you set a plastic bag down on a hot stove top, you temporarily lose your wallet or purse in the house then find it in a stupid place, you drop your cell phone in the toilet, you discover you are supposed to be in two places at the same time for appointments, the dog barfs on the sofa, and so on.

When you run upstream against the universe like that (and you do know it when it is happening if you pay attention), maybe it’s time to just back off and try to climb those peaks or run those errands on another day. If you do that, often you’ll find yourself flowing easily with the downstream current of the universe and the peaks get climbed in a snap and the errands get done in a jiffy-pop.

Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to the echo of the universe today. The peaks got climbed, but the needle on my enjoyment meter was bouncing against the “Low” mark on the far left of the dial. I also paid much more attention to foot placement on the scree, loose boulders, and scrambling sections, as I figured today–based on karma–would be the day I’d fall or twist an ankle and have to get carried out ignominiously on a Stokes litter.

Luckily, that didn’t come to pass.

So, if you happen to be up on Mt. Massive’s summit ridge over the next few days, you just might come across an abandoned Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens resting quietly among the rocks enjoying the view. Please let me know if you do. A monetary reward as well as lunch at the Walnut Café in Boulder will be waiting for you. Click here for the Trip Report and some selected images.

Apex Predators and Ecosystems

Yellowstone Moonrise. Yellowstone NP, Wyoming, 2013
Moonrise. Yellowstone NP, Wyoming, 2013

It seems to me that the environmental folks have not done an adequate job explaining to the general public just how an ecosystem works and the importance of the apex predators in those ecosystems.

One quick example that springs to my mind: The controversy over the Spotted Owl versus the possible loss of jobs in the Pacific Northwest logging industry back in the 1990s. For the masses, it seemed a simple question of deciding between whether we wanted to save some stupid little bird, or have economic growth. Here’s the problem, and here is what the environmentalists needed to explain…

An ecosystem is like a house of cards. You can start pulling out random cards and, initially, your house of cards will remain standing. But, at some point, you will pull out a card–say, some seemingly insignificant creature like a Mexican long-nosed bat (pollinators), or the Stephens’ kangaroo rat, or the Giant leaf frog–and the ecosystem will collapse. If not collapse, it will become seriously debilitated. And we’ll never know exactly which might be the “last card.”

All of this is important because we are part of the Earth’s ecosystem. The more we degrade these ecosystems, the more we put in danger our own survival as a species.

Healthy ecosystems give us

–Healthy soil and water

–More diversified agricultural food sources–less prone to collapse in the case of a single-crop failure

–More diversified stock animal populations

–Flood protection

–Seacoast storm protection

–Healthy and varied fish populations, thus more abundant marine food resources

–Cleaner air and a better capacity for the Earth to generate O2 and absorb CO2

–More capacity to clean and filter polluted water, air and soil

–More possible sources for medicines and drugs

–A healthy “savings account” for future, unforeseen, needs

–Recreation, outdoor activities, general enjoyment of the miracle that is the Earth and her systems

Now, how do apex predators fit in? They are sort of like “health indicators” of the condition of an ecosystem. If you see that the apex predators are missing (wolf, Polar bear, mountain lion, sharks), or endangered, there is a good chance that the ecosystem is under severe stress or is in danger.

In the U.S., we spent much of the early centuries killing off these apex and other lesser predators (foxes, coyotes, grizzlies, etc.). Indeed, even as late as the 1970s of my youth (and probably even today), I know of hunters who would go “varmint hunting” to kill whatever predator they could find–mostly coyotes as they seemed to be the most common “varmints”.

This has thrown our ecosystems so out of whack that hunting is actually a necessity now to keep things in balance. Without the predators, the elk and deer overpopulate. This means these animals have a greater than normal impact on the riparian areas, the grasslands, the brushy areas. This, in turn, affects the creeks and rivers, the fishing, and the bird, rodent and reptile populations. Overpopulation of deer and elk also lead to more diseases, weakened herds, possible large die-offs during a harsh winter, and so on. Everything in an ecosystem is inter-related.

In the oceans, the sharks act as the health indicators–and they are being hard pressed by fisherman and the demand for cheery things like shark fin soup and shark fin home remedies. We don’t necessarily see it as easily, but through acidification and overfishing, our oceans may be one of the hardest hit of Earth’s ecosystems. (Take a look at the various “dead zones” around the world, including the some thousands of square miles surrounding the Mississippi delta.)

In the forest and mountains, the wolf can be a good index of overall environmental health. As a culminating example of how ecosystem-apex predator thing all works, check out this short video (about 4 1/2 minutes) about the introduction of the wolf into the Yellowstone area. Within a few years of the wolf’s arrival, the elk and deer herds increased their health (and more normal behavior), the beavers came back, the number of hawks increased, even the fly fishing got better…all through something called the “trophic cascade” effect…