Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A shot of color

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Serenity amidst the chaos

These are the only photographs I managed to take during the hectic 3 day school thing we had at Baguio City.

Its known as the summer capital of the Philippines because of its cold weather. It was even more of a delight to visit in October as it gets really cold when it rains. When you've lived in the hot humid zone of the city (36-43 degrees) freezing weather is a welcome respit.

Oh, these serene view is enough to tempt me to consider becoming a Good Shepherd nun. Now there's just the matter of getting accepted into the congregation. I wonder if they'd welcome a flamboyant pantheist into their quiet community. A-ha-ha!

My friends and I went to the Good Shepherd Seminary for a rest stop and to buy some of their famous pastries and fruit preserves. It just occured to me now that it would've been great to include a picture of such goodies but it is now day four since my arrival from Baguio ang the goodies are all gone. My sister just picked up her pasalubong (treats that friends and family bring back from the place they had a holiday. Its a Filipino tradition) yesterday. Next time then.

We had to leave on the last day of the seminar even though we would've wanted to stay another day. I'm glad we did. A storm came in a couple of hours after our 5:20PM bus left.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Summer is Sunset Time

Need I say anything. other than, "For those of you in Winter, take some Summer heat and sunshine and bask in it for a time."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sonoran Spring


I grew up in Michigan and was accustomed to the slow advance of a temperate spring, where it sidles ever so carefully closer, and then, one day, it is here! Blooms follw the same advance every year, snowdrops, hyacinths, and daffodils, then tulips and fruit trees, after that roses, berries and hardwoods, and finally the garden bursts in fecund glory; squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers,and melons all bloom and mature almost magically. The hard green tomato of this morning will be deep red, tangy, and juicy in three days. But I digress, I wanted to share the Sonoran Spring with you.

Here, in the middle of the Sonoran Desert; which extends from Western New Mexico to California, and from Nevada to Central Mexico; spring is sorrowfully brief. Spring is a few weeks in late April and early May, wedged between 'Snowbird Season' and Summer.

When Spring does spring though, it is amazing and glorious.
The varieties of cacti bloom with exuberant flowers in the shades of a desert sunset. Some cacti, like the Night-Blooming Cereus, bloom one night of the year, and the flower is dying by dawn.

Saguaro (sa-Warr-oh) are staunchly upright, with a single column until they are over 50 years old, they are home to cactus wrens and doves, that nest on, or in, the Saguaro. A mature Saguaro can literally weigh tons. The inner part of this bristling giant is one enormous sponge, full of stored water against the long dry spells of the desert

The Cactus Wren pecks a hollow in the body of the Saguaro and builds a snug home for her babies, safe from almost all predators.

Doves will choose a 'cosy' cranny in the branches of a mature Saguaro, and build their nest there, surrounded by the cactus' natural armament. I have seen them return to the same nest every year.

Prickly Pear Cactus, AKA 'Irishman's Mitten' is edible, once you have burned the spines and skin off the plant or the fruit. The plant is pickled and marketed as 'Nopalitos' (NO pah-lee-tos), the fruit are made into jelly, just as one would turn grapes, apple, or berries into a jelly. I have not tried this, although I always stop to admire the crystal-clear red of the Prickly Pear Jelly, and candy!

Agave (Ah-gah-vay) are not quite the same critter as cacti, but survive the dry seasons much the same way that cacti do. One of the Agave varieties is the basis for Tequila and Mezcal (Mess-cal), and yes, it really does have a 'pickled' grublike worm swirling in the bottom of the bottle!

While Aloe Vera is not native to the Sonoran Desert it thrives in the environment, the plant sends a tall, hollow shoot from the centre of the plant, which will be covered in numerous bright orange, yellow, or red trumpet blossoms peering intently at the ground.

Organ Pipe cacti live up to their name, each plant is a mass of fat stems, shooting Heavenwards and a crown of blooms on their top. To see a valley with the Organ Pipe cacti marching in disorganised groups to the cliffs is an amazing sight, for they can reach almost 40 feet tall in adulthood.

Old Man Cactus are popular as a landscaping cactus, being smaller, and having the added feature of white 'hair' swirling through the rows of spines.

The most commonly seen trees here are Palo Verde (Pal-oh Vurr-dee), Ironwood, Cottonwood, and Desert Willow. The Palo Verde are unmistakable with their light green leaves and bark.

Cottonwood scatter their 'cotton' far and wide, loose clumps of white threads holding one precious seed within.

The Desert Willow is best described as a 'short-haired' cousin to the Weeping Willow. The leaves on the Desert Willow are so small and leathery the plant often looks naked in the middle of spring.

The Ironwood Tree was very popular during World War II, my Grandmother told me years ago that it was used as a replacement for steel ball bearings in machines and equipment, and were found to be superior to the finest steel ball bearings. I trust my Grandmother's words on this, she worked in AC Spark Plug for year, as well as raising my Mum during those years.

The 'Brain Cactus' looks very much like a brain in its early years, if it is planted outside it will grow long graceful arms that arc across the ground and eventually touch the ground again.

No discussion of desert flora could be complete without the ubiquitous Cholla (Choy-yah), also known as the 'jumping cactus', from their method of propagation; when a person or animal walks too close to the living Cholla plant, pieces of the plant break off and hitch a ride using the barbed spines, thick as an ermine's coat, that give the cholla a fuzzy, huggable appearance.

Cacti will die, everything does. When the cacti fall over and begin returning to the earth as they ought, they leave behind amazing skeletons. The skeletons are as diverse as the cacti themselves. Saguro have long, straight ribs that are strong enough to be used as a walking stick or in a piece of furniture.

Because they are so popular for the 'desert landscaping' adopted here they are almost impossible to find in the desert, and when you do see them, they are on protected land and so are to be left there. Cholla skeletons are hollow, fragile and honeycombed with holes.

The desert also has short, fat sagebrush plants dotting the flatlands and foothills, and yes, there really are tumbleweeds! They grow, rooted in one place, until the seeds begin to mature, the plant dies and dries as the seed ripens. When the seed is ready, the plant is brittle and dry and a good wind will break it off at the base. As it scurries mindlessly about the landscape the tumbleweed scatters seed as it goes, the seed slips into crevices in the hardpan, or tiny patches of soil. Next rainy season the cycle begins anew.

Citrus bloom with dainty white, star-shaped petals that permeate the air with perfume. Although I am severely allergic to citrus, I still fill my nose with the scent of freshly watered citrus groves. The citrus are lookalike until they are reaching full size, all of them are a deep green, with that instantly recognisable thick, pockmared skin.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Big excitement in little A.J.

Apache Junction is a growing community on the eastern end of the 'Phoenix Metropolitan Area', such a charming label for almost a dozen cities butted up against one another. For 70 miles North to South, and 70 miles East to West it is solid city, with a population nearing 8 million people crammed in that area.

Being a city of 'Retirement Communities' Apache Junction can be mellow, especially when the 'Winter Visitors/Snowbirds' head back home to Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and so forth. It is too hot in the summer to do much outdoors, even with plenty of water to drink. The Telly, even with satellite or cable channells, is utterly mind-numbing. So, entertainment is rare, and excitement is even rarer.

Tuesday morning, Matt came charging into the house and shouted, "There's a fire on the freeway!! I heard the explosion!!"

So, after I had staggered out of sleep, prayed for the safety of whomever might have been in the vicinity and grabbed my camera, out the door I flew, barefoot, in my nightie, with a terminal case of bed-head.

Yes there was a horrific fire blazing, the smoke was black and dense, and reeked of burning rubber. The flames were orange, red, and yellow; while the two fire trucks had to park a distance away from the fire and walk in with their hoses. In the few minutes it had taken to get out of the house, traffic had backed up nearly a mile, all four lanes of it.

Once all the excitement had died down, and all the neighbours throughout the 'Manufactured Home Community' (a fancy term for a trailer park) had returned home to rehash what they had seen, I went back outside, and I could see that the vehicle fire was an early 60's Winnebago, all that remained now was a blackened skeleton crouching on the verge of the freeway.

This took Matt and I back to our childhoods, when we would spend every Saturday night watching the series "Emergency"... To be immediately followed by a structure fire within walking distance. Matt, our brother Jim, and myself were sure that there was a pyromaniac in the area.

Anywhoo... it was a bit of excitement, and I thought it would make for interesting reading, especially with photos to go along with it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I travelled across a bridge
that divides the people living in my city
Westgate Bridge is the link that binds us together
The East from the West
The factories and industry from high rise apartments
Differnces in where people live

It was early morning when I set out
Not by choice, but necessity
8 lanes of traffic
trucks,vans,utes and cars
It was windy ,speed reduced to 40kph.
Trucks ingnore these signs sometimes
As they roared past me
I had to hold tight to the wheel.

Then the 100 kph zone loomed up
I needed to keep up otherwise I would be tooted
I could be classed as dangerous for driving under this speed
Thirty minutes later I arrived at the turn off the freeway
Green gardens and houses with trees could be seen
People lived here in this newer area
Shops,schools ,there is a community
families with small children on there way to school
or kindergarden
Life was on the go.

Three hours later after my visit, I set off for home
Once again toward the Westgate bridge for the crossing
As I reached the top of the bridge the sea came into view
white capped waves straddled the bay
Then......into view came the pier near my home
Berthed was a gigantic cruise ship
taking up 2 places on the longest pier in Victoria
The bow seemed to reach out into the bay

All white with blue trim on the funnel
not a cut off design like some ferrys
but sleek and with a pointed bow
Then it disappeared from view as I took the turn off road
I decided to drive to where I could see HER (all ships are female)
As I sat in my small car I felt like an ant
as she towered above the buildings where she was tied up

I think there is nothing more exciting than watching
a ship set to sail
Standing as she leaves the wharf/pier assisted by 2 tugs
just enough to guide her into the channel
I felt excited ,just like when I was a child
In those days 30's 40's 50's as many as a dozen ships a week
Cargo was then unloaded by wharf labourers
Uncles,cousins and friends of our family
Those going to war,migrants arriving in a new land

Again I reminis and know that the past
is so much a part of the now
I thank my Mum & Dad for allowing me come back
to the home we all shared
I love to see others enjoying such a journey
But for me I can be happy just to live
here, that which I call home,
My North, my South, my East my West
This is my Lemuria.

Lois (Muse of the Sea) 12.4.06

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Home cooking for vegans and home for the creative mind

This is Likha Diwa, one of my favorite restaurants. Its a 15 minute walk from where I live. Roughly translated, the name means Creative Mind.

They serve vegan and sea food dishes. They also sell organic food products, condiments and meat substiture producs made from gluten and soy protein.

The floor of the restaurant is hand painted with nature motifs.

The a hand painted tarp doubles as a ceiling for the Garden Seating area.

Likha serves vegan dishes with homecooked taste. They use no MSG or any flavor enhanser on their food. In a country where MSG is considered a condiment, I was happy to have discovered this place. That its only a stone thrown away from where I live is but another blessing. Happiness!

They also have celebrations every full moon. Artists and musicians perform during such celebrations. When its not raining, the garden is also set up with tables and chairs to accomodate more people during festivities.

Again, I wish I could bring you all over to this place. I think you'd enjoy it here.