Back in early February I made this drawing poking fun at the Corona Virus that was just starting to cause problems in China, especially within the city of Wuhan. Now, some three months, we have a worldwide pandemic with this disease that is wrecking havoc in such civilized countries such as Spain, Italy, the UK and our very own USA. It hasn’t progressed to the point where pandas near face masks, but the extent of the global spread is quite troubling.
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I hope you like this photographic image of the serene beauty of winter. It was not put together by me, but instead the surreal landscape comes from the image bank of Hartwick Koppdelaney, who most graciously allows general non-commercial use of his photographic artwork. Even though the figure in this picture is not wearing snowshoes and the image is a composite of several pictures, the snowy scene accurately conveys the solitude and beauty of snowshoeing.
Road to A Wilderness Trailhead
Last week on a free day, I grabbed a pair of aluminum frame snowshoes (hardly anybody makes wooden shoes anymore), took a shuttle bus to the Taos Ski Valley and followed this snow-covered road to the Williams Lake trailhead near the Wheeler Peak wilderness in northern New Mexico. Just a walk along the graded route was a joy of discovery, because of the remarkable view of the mountains, which towered just over 13,000 feet. Williams Lake my final destination has an elevation of 11,040 feet and sits in a glacial cirque at the base of these mountains.
In January, Williams Lake is frozen solid as a rock and covered with several feet of snow. Because of the ring of lofty summits that surround the small body of water, it is a wonderful spot to sit and ponder the mysteries of life. Winter adds a special kind of beauty and peacefulness to place, as does the hike in, which passes through a beautiful spruce forest. Another advantage of winter is the lack of a crowded hiking trail, for the alpine lake is a popular hiking destination, especially in the autumn, when the leaves turn a golden yellow.
Clouds From the Bottomside
Since the walk out was just about all downhill, I had a much better chance to take in the stunning mountain landscape. As sunset quickly approached, the overhead clouds took on strange shapes, accented by the sun that was located low in the western sky. The high ridge line of the ring of mountains, which circled Williams Lake, made me feel very small as I continued my descent back to civilization.
Reflections On the Walk Out
Overall, I felt very fortunate to be able to access such a place by public transportation. I don’t own a car, so traveling to Nature’s most spectacular locales is often not a viable option. Furthermore I enjoyed my view of the sky as day slowly faded away and turned into night. By the time I made it back to the base of the ski resort (located some 1700 feet below the lake) the sun had set and the first evening stars were visible in the night sky.
Two mass killings in the U.S. during the second half of 2012 have saddened and shocked the entire nation. The last one in Connecticut was particularly disturbing because of the large number of school children that died and since its occurrence happened so close to the Christmas holidays. I hope that finally universal awareness that over 10,000 handgun deaths a year is way too high for such a technologically advanced country as the United States. However, bringing the number of deaths down in the future, may be not be so simple. The silver lining in this ominous cloud is that the goal has been clearly defined.
Awareness Of Global Warming
The situation with global warming is twice as complicated as the first issue. Awareness of the extent that global warming affects our lives is much more varied. Take for example the current cold snap that has gripped Southern California and the Southwest. Even though weather scientists attribute the root cause of this weather phenomena to unseasonably warm winter temperatures over Greenland, there will be many that see the cold weather outbreak as proof that global warming is a hoax. Please note that unseasonably warm temperatures have also found their way into Alaska. And then, there still remains the common scenario that even if global warming was more readily acknowledged, the solution to the problem may still prove to be very elusive.
Fifty Shades of Anything
English author E.L. James (Erika Leonard in real life) got this ball rolling with Fifty Shades of Grey. The popular piece of erotic fiction quickly sold millions of copies and soon thereafter morphed into the Fifty Shades Trilogy, which now includes two new volumes, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. So far the bundle, which is somewhat derivative of Stephanie Meyer’s characters in the Twilight series. So far, Miss James has sold over 65 million copies worldwide, making her one of the most popular modern authors.
Stylistically, Fifty Shades of Grey has fallen under the slang of “mommy porn”, due to the age and gender of a majority of its readers. The trilogy definitely falls under the catch-all category of erotica, but more specifically is labelled as BDSM or dominance/submission erotic fiction. Critical reception has varied widely, as many authors have joined the bandwagon and put out their own version of Fifty Shades. These titles range from 50 Shades of Alice In Wonderland to 50 Shades of Obama (or Romney)…..your choice.
The biological diversity of our planet has been decreasing, as of late. This sad fact has been well documented by many scientific organizations and more often than not the root cause is closely related to man’s economic activities on the planet. Some good news is out there, in that conservation efforts are still quite numerous and their practitioners are often very optimistic and dedicated towards this issue.
The unusually warm autumn temperatures that we have been experiencing in the nation’s highest state capitol abruptly came to an end last weekend, when temperatures took a big plunge and little white flakes of frozen precipitation came floating down from the sky. The snow soon melted, but early birds, who were up and about on Sunday were witnesses to a visual treat – a dusting of snow.
The cold crisp mountain air combined with early morning lighting conditions created ideal conditions for creating photographic images that looked with bas relief prints. Here, dry powdery snow on top of a blacktop parking lot created these striking results.
Wintertime Graphic Design
The snowfall created strange visual effects to letters and words painted to the asphalt road surfaces.
Abstract Art In the Snow
Many of the NY abstract painters of the post war (WWII) era, enjoyed working in black and white and shades of gray that fell in between. This snowfall gave me a chance to make an image that resembled an early Pousette-Dart painting.
On Canyon Road
Santa Fe is one of those scenic western towns that has seen an explosion of art galleries within its city limits and much of this displayed art can be found on the trendy Canyon Road.. Canyon Road is a long winding narrow lane that is filled numerous art galleries and studio spaces. The outdoor sculpture made for an interesting artistic element amidst the freshly fallen snow.
The dismissal caught me very much by surprise. One day I was a slave to the computer working long hours to make enough money to support my sojourn through Canada; and then without much notice I was minus my main source of income. Without any substantial resources at my disposal, I had to use my wits to get throught the crisis. The fact that my financial difficulties were a result of my failing to heed a whole bunch of warning signs was now immaterial; I had to resort to a different strategy in order to survive.
The Long Walk
The first thing to go was my 30 dollar a night bed in the Winnipeg hostel. I felt kind of strange, when I left my place-to-stay at 5 pm and started walking without any solid destination. Fortunately, it was a warm August night so I walked out of the city and found a place to sleep east of the city. Here, is the scene that greeted me the next morning as the sun rose across the Manitoba prairie. In some ways my misfortune had a silver lining, for I was now able to make pictures that I would have ever have attempted. I learned that being in the right place at the right time is often essential to a good photographic image.
The Way Back Home
My first day on the road, I walked all day long. I was total oblivious about trying to obtain a ride, I just wanted to figure a way out of this mess; and the best way to do that was by walking. Even despite my solitary frame of mind, two kind souls stopped their vehicles. In both cases, I accepted the offer; and in the second situation, I obtained a ride to a nearby town, where I could acquire some much-needed water, as the prairie sun had turned the day into a real scorcher.
Walking along the side of the road gave me ample time to observe things I would never have noticed – like this roadside butterfly. It is also gave me a chance to ponder my situation. Eventually, my walking decreased and I started to stick out my thumb in order to hasten my journey south. I learned about the kindness of strangers, as I occassionally received gits in the form of food, supplies and on one occasion – money. My journey eventually took me across the border and into Minnesota, where I found temporary shelter for several weeks and work.
The Canadian province of Manitoba has adopted the animal silhouette of the American bison as its official symbol. All across the prairie province, visitors and travelers will find signs like this. If perhaps you are wondering why the use of this symbol came about, then perhaps a short look into the survival and near-extinction of this large grazing animal is in order.
While its true that the Southern Canadian prairie was once covered with large herds of Buffalo, today the large herbivores are also gone and in their place visitors will find large areas of agricultural growth or sometimes, just a long stretching network of metal towers. However, since the Winnipeg area did once support one of the few surviving herds of bison, the symbol of the animal on the highway signs are definitely apropos. During the 1870’s large hunts nearly wiped out the prairie bison. According to General Sheridan, the attrition was a premeditated effort to bring the Plains Indian onto reservations and civilize him. So successful were the buffalo hunters that by 1870s only a few score of the once populous animal remained. One of these places was Winnipeg, where two ranchers, James McKay and Charles Alloway maintained a small heard. As it turned out this group of rescued calves turned out to be one of the major surviving gene pools.
Today agriculture is more important than ranching in Manitoba. Traditionally, wheat and other grains have been grown here, but a new product, canola beans has come into its own. All across the southern end of the province,the yellow flower comes out during the summer months and turns the fields to a brilliant hue of yellow. At first glance, the plants appear to be mustard, but it is the legume from which a cheap oil is made that provides the bright hue.
My journey took an unexpected delay, when I found out there was no bus service from Winnipeg to Minnesota. My response was to hoof it. This took a quite a long time because I decided on a rather untraveled route that lead Southeast to the American town, called Warroad and the nearby Lake of the Woods. The one benefit of this lengthy journal, was that I had lots of time to examine things left along the side of the road. It was remarkable how you could sense the presence of a nearby town by the great increase in of certain types garbage such as beer cans, soft drink bottles, coffee containers and plastic wrappers. And then the opposite effect would occur, as you passed through town and headed back for the wide-open rural spaces. And sometimes vehicular traffic has the habit of creating its own objects at the edge of the highway.
There is a lot of beauty and tragedy expressed by these flying insects that lie motionless along the side of the road. Though I doubt they amount to a significant portion of the butterfly population, it still seems a loss to find just one of these flying beauties sitting on the road shoulder. The marvelous little insects seem frozen in time, for their delicate bodies are so well preserved. Most likely these insects are not the result of a direct collision, but instead, they were probably overwhelmed by the heady winds created by larger vehicles. In fact, quite a few could be seen still fluttering the wings and very much alive, but unable to fly.
Interesting species such as this arctic butterfly dwell in the bog areas of Northern Minnesota. Here, just south of the border this colorful Lepidotera is at the very southern limit of the range. Still the northernedge of this state sits very near the Great Plains and the northern birch-maple woods, so the diversity of habitats is significant. Pictured below is a butterfly of unknown identification.