Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

I awoke for my usual start to the day, at sunrise.  But the sun doesn’t exactly rise in San Diego.  It’s a bit disorienting.  That thick haze.  You think it might rain, but it burns off around ten in the morning.  That mix of smog and humidity.  Then you can see the sun.

By the time I could see the sun, I had been at the zoo for almost two hours.

I have always loved going to the Zoo.  And the San Diego Zoo has been on my bucket list for a while.  It’s definitely worth the visit.

It’s really more than a zoo – it’s multiple zoos and it’s a botanical garden in its own right.

You have to admit there is a bit of irony in the concept of a zoo.  People, who are animals, are placing other animals into captivity to view them, enjoy them, and protect them from annihilation by the human animals that put them there.  There are some animals that are extinct in the world now and only exist in zoos being run by other animals.  Us animals.

Humans seem to want to divorce themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom.  Without truly understanding the animals they put in cages, humans may pass judgment believing their relatives are inferior, have limited brain capacity, and have no spirits.

I, and obviously many others, would disagree with those presumptions.  Most of us are probably happy that we’ve recognized our destructive abilities and are at least trying to preserve these beautiful spirits.

I have never seen a child fail to smile at some point during a visit to see the wondrous animals at the zoo.

Our society has been changing though.  When I was growing up, we were taught a sense of community first.  Then we were encouraged to develop our individuality.  Today that’s reversed and the concept of community may not be emphasized at all.

So I witnessed a big transition at this visit to the Zoo.  What were people taking pictures of – themselves.  Oh yeah, they might put an animal or two in the background, but the central idea appears to be wanting to document the humans’ existence at a particular place or time.  It is not “Look at the beautiful Giraffe!”  It is “Hey, look at me!  See what I’m doing.  I’m at the zoo.  The Giraffe proves it.”

Sorry if that sounds a bit cynical, but that seems to be a lot of what I witnessed in terms of the human animal at the zoo.   I could challenge many of the animals with cameras to show me a picture of just the animals.  Many would meet that challenge.  Others, perhaps not.

I saw an incredible amount of self-absorption and technological absorption out there.  It’s not healthy.  Many didn’t know how to react when a friendly stranger would say hi, or agree with a comment they made admiring the rhino.  They would stare at me in shock because they had actually been spoken too.  Maybe if I had texted 🙂

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying these folks are bad.  I just may have a few different priorities or a different orientation, and I think it would help pull people together to have a broad concept of  community – including all of the animal community.

To have a community bond, we must communicate.  Look each other in the eye and not be afraid to speak.  To share.

That’s just a little food for thought as I weave in the theme of contrasts.  And we’ll come back to that theme in a different context in another chapter.

For now, I’m going to post a gallery of pictures.  I’m not in any of them 🙂

Not every pic is crystal clear.  The animals didn’t always face me or pose for me. Sometimes I moved the camera.  One technique I tried to use when possible was blurring out bars and cages and fences.  It doesn’t always work though.

I included the Guam Kingfisher, even though the cage blurred the pic.  Because it’s extinct in the wild, this may be the only way to see it.

I hope there are a few you enjoy.

 

 

 

Digital

I love digital photography.  Instant gratification.  No waiting and no limit to the number of pics you can snap off.

I can remember the days when I had to plan how to spend a roll of 20 or 36 exposures.  Hope I got the shot, and then have to wait a couple of weeks for the pics to come back from the darkroom.  A mystical place, where the developer could make or break your summer vacation remembrances.

The digital age doesn’t, of course, correct for operator error.

And it does create another small problem – volume.  It is so easy to click off pics knowing you have no limit that you end up with far too many.  We don’t wait for that “best shot” anymore.  We keep releasing the shutter over and over, rapid fire, and then pick and choose.

And digital storage is so cheap now, we don’t even have to discard the bad shots.

As I’ve aged, and my eye-sight has gotten worse, this can be an advantage.  But then again I might end up with just a large volume of bad shots because another challenge has been created with automatic features.  Since my sight is hit and miss, I too often rely on the auto-focus.  When you get to a place like a zoo, there can be so many focal points in the fore or background that the camera simply doesn’t know what to do.

Yes, great shot of the bars there Stearley.

Or perhaps, the trees in the background.  Sharply in focus.  Or maybe even the concession stand.  But damn, missed the lion.

By the end of the day, I hope to make my post about the San Diego Zoo.  I’m screening pics right now.  They may not all be winners, but hopefully there’s enough in there for everyone to find a fav 🙂

***

Photo: The Secretary Bird.  This guy gets its name from the Arabic “seqr-et-tair” – the hunter bird.  It has extremely long legs and it hunts on foot taking small mammals, birds, large insects and snakes as its prey.  You might think of it as a Running Eagle.  It normally lives in Africa, unless it’s been netted up and brought to the spa in California . . .

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

It was time to come down out the high-desert mountains and head back to “civilization.”  So, what should one do along the way?  Why be a tourist of course.

For months I had lived in an amazing little oasis, hiked in beautiful spaces, and found peace being on my own and in the company of a few very special people and very special wild animals.  Simply put, Nature.  But it was time to move on and prepare a winter base.

I picked a few target sites and turned this into a bit of a winding path.  West, Northwest, Plains, Midwest.  I knew I would be encountering volumes of people, but there are many good ones out there.  What I saw, quite by accident, was some very interesting behavior.  The blacks and whites and the grays of social discourse.  And the rainbows of course.

One place I always wanted to visit was the San Diego Zoo.  I headed west through Yuma, Arizona – a hot, stifling, industrial and farming zone.  The contrasts there are incredible.

Bleached, beige sand with ribbons of blue water.

It was 108 degrees, surrounded by barren desert that normally receives a little over three inches of rain annually, and yet there was lush farming.  All because of a 53-mile system of irrigation canals that divert water from the Colorado river.

Not a place I would want to stay.

I was a little apprehensive as I headed into California.   A small-town boy, I had images of massive, intertwining freeway systems choked with a bazillion cars bellowing out vast amounts of toxic fumes.  Road rage nightmares.  Dirty inner-city avenues.  Muggings in poorly-lit alleyways . . .

I was packing my 9 mm.*

But I also had the contrasting images of deep blue ocean waters, sailboats at sunset, deep green valleys in the shadows of rolling mountains.  Heavy forests.  And palm trees, contrasting the desert scrub I’d become accustomed to.

And all of those visions did indeed come into view as I entered parts of the Cleveland National Forest.  The Pine Creek Wilderness.  Then the busy highways of San Diego.  And then, the Bay.

A couple of differences.  The forested areas seemed to me to be very dry, ripe for those California wildfires.  A layer of brown smog filled the air.  But the traffic was comparable to that of St. Louis – a mess, but not as much of a mess as I had anticipated.  I reached my destination in the center of the city without incident.

It was a cute rehab of an old stately home divided into condos.  The neighborhood was picture perfect.  Palm trees swayed among gingerbread homes on terraced streets.  Local businesses within walking distance perfumed the air with taste-bud delicacies.  Jazz resonated from three blocks down while neighbors across the boulevard gathered for a barbecue.

I divided my short days to visiting the Zoo, hiking around Cabrillo National Monument, strolling through the Museums of Art and Natural History at Balboa Park, and relaxing on a sunset sailboat ride in the bay.

The Zoo was nothing short of amazing.  I spent 10 hours there, Urban Hiking some 7 miles of Caged and packaged wilderness.

And it turns out, I was a bit of an attraction myself.  I looked out of place.  Wearing long pants and hiking boots.  My Aussie-style, wide-brimmed, bush hat.  Still shaking off a bit of desert sand and dust with each marching stride.

I was surrounded by short pants, pastel Becker-style T-shirts, retro bowling shirts, sun dresses, bikini tops, and sandals.  Designer everything.  Several people looked me up and down, and when their eyes reached my boots they visibly laughed out loud.

I was an outsider in a city where multicultural diversity thrived.  Many tourists blended in, but me, not so much.

But I was fine with that.

***

Next Chapter of “Contrasts” – The Zoo.

Photo: San Diego Cityscape at night.

*Don’t worry, I had trained and had my permit for it.  Besides, one can’t travel alone these days without considering some form of self-protection.  Highway robbery has never died out.

Sunset Sail - 5

Grand !

About a week ago I posted a piece in my photo journal titled “Soon.”  I spoke there about not revealing my locations and why I don’t usually do that, or I mess up the timing so no one really knows where I’m at any any precise moment in time.  In fact, I could have been sitting in front of the keyboard in my pajamas the past year writing stories of my experiences from ten years ago this whole time.

But I wasn’t – maybe 🙂

For those of you following my photo journal you may have guessed one of the places I visited in my latest travels was Yellowstone National Park because of the Grizzly.  And that Park, and the surrounding area are absolutely amazing for its diversity.  Valleys with rolling grasslands, deep canyons with waterfalls, massive lakes and rivers, and crazy geyser basins.

Before I start writing about my adventures there and elsewhere, I thought I’d add to the photo library.  The pictures today are from one of the most spectacular geographic features in the Park – the Grand Prismatic Spring.  The third largest hot spring in the world.  It is 370 feet in diameter, 160 feet deep, and it discharges an estimated 560 gallons of water per minute with a temperature varying between 160 and 190 degrees.  Yes, hot enough to fry you.

And there is a trail that will lead you to an aerial view of it so you can try to take it all in.

But it will still baffle your brain.

What gives the Spring its amazing colors, believe it or not, is bacteria.  A group of bacteria known as cyanobacteria, and several species in particular, including Synechococcus and Chloroflexi , love the heat.  And the photosynthetic pigment used by the bacteria to capture the sun’s light to make energy is familiar to all of us – chlorophyll, which generally emits the color spectrum wavelengths of what we call green.   What’s not so familiar is that chlorophyll has buddies called carotenoids that emit reds, oranges, and yellows.  So depending on the temperature band, the mix of bacteria, and the refraction angles, you get a whole rainbow of colors.

Gorgeous !!

So enjoy these shots of this amazing geothermic wonder while I figure out how to write up some of my latest experiences.  Why so much thought on that?  Well, these later adventures involved people.  Large groups of people.  And while people’s behaviors can be interesting, and odd, and sometimes quite obnoxious, I really don’t want to offend anyone or sound overly critical.  But I have to tell you, I generally enjoyed the wildlife more than the people 🙂

Feast yourself on these !

***

Time to Fill the Page . . .

Well, I have settled in another place for a little while, and it’s been a couple of hectic days unpacking.  But I guess I better get back to the keyboard.

I have stories formulating but I’m not quite sure yet just how I want to tell them.  Who knows?  I certainly don’t, but I know I need to get some content together.

I’ll have to get some words on that blank page, and then I’ll have something to edit – the fun part.

I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend 🙂

***

Back Country

I’m really amazed when I travel that I see so many different biomes in a single state or area.  From corner to corner you can go from flat, wide-open spaces to sky-embracing mountains, deeply cut valleys, meandering river basins, high dessert plateaus – and all are beautiful.

This particular view was one I came upon while on horseback.  I’m a total amateur at riding a horse, but love how you can delve into the deep wilderness so quickly and effortlessly riding on the back of such a spirited animal.

Hat’s off to my wrangler, Tina, a free spirit roaming the country picking up work she loves where ever she finds it.

Horseback Ride 7

***

Soon . . .

A few weeks back, I wrote a piece about having an encounter with a Bear.  As you can see from my feature pic, I have had another.  This time, I was able to get a nice photo of this magnificent spirit.

You may have noticed that while I’ve been making posts to my Photo Journal, I usually don’t reveal my exact location.  I do this for a number of reasons.  One is I often see people on social media giving the play-by-play of everything they are doing and everywhere they are.  They share their personal information as well.

And predictably, people doing this on Facebook have had their homes burglarized while telling everyone they’re soaking up the sun on the beach.  I’ve also learned that privacy protections on social media platforms basically suck.

But I am going to make a post soon where I do reveal some locations, after the fact, because I want to make some fun comparisons.

In the meant time, appreciate this magnificent  Grizzly 🙂

Grizzly - Day 2 - 1+C1

***

 

Fishing

This is sort of an iconic image.  A sole person testing his skills fly fishing in a mountain stream.  I’ve never done fly fishing per se, at least not the way it is supposed to be done.  But I do love fishing because I find it to be meditative.

Repetitious motion.  Casting.  Reeling.  Casting.  Reeling.  Letting your thoughts drift.

Then there is the thrill of catching one, and in most cases for me, releasing it again.  Although there have been times when I’ve eaten a few.

Many moons ago, I was in a remote part of southern Utah living off the land, and was catching trout by hand.  Amazing.  And nourishing on different levels.

It is said that to dream of fishing is to really be dreaming about spiritual pursuits.  I like that image.  And just looking at this one, I find it to be meditative.  Relaxing.  Letting inner thoughts fade into quietness . . .

Fly Fishing

***

Water is Life

I have to say that I haven’t always been that observant.  We pass through time and places and forget to pay attention to the little things.  Sometimes the very obvious things.  As I travel, I now see that many of the communities I drive through are river cities.  And it makes sense.

These towns and cities sprung up over a couple of centuries ago because there was a major source of water for drinking, agriculture, and for travel and shipping.  Some of the cities have grown beyond the ability to provide fresh water and water tables are dropping.

I’m currently in a “land of water.”  It surrounds me in all forms.  I see it rushing down mountainsides, feeding rivers that cut deep valleys, forming lakes that stretch out over the horizon.  Yet I’m reminded of the need to conserve and the residents here go to extraordinary efforts to collect and store water for the basics.

Water is life.  We emerged from the ocean as a process of evolution.  Our lungs and our kidneys maintain the salt water environment internally that our primordial species used to splash around in externally.  Without pure water we would all perish.  We can’t take it for granted.  We must be observant 🙂

Undine Falls Area

***

Be the Light

I think most people like lighthouses.  They are very beautiful and each has its own uniqueness.  We also like the image of having a warning light, or a light that helps lead us through a storm.

This seems to me to be a very troubled time in the world at large.  When I’m out, I don’t see many smiles.  I don’t hear much laughter.  Happiness seems to missing in this fast-paced, hectic society.  And people won’t find happiness chasing material wealth or from any external source.

We all need to venture inside.  Find our spark.  Light up our own inner house.  Then venture outside.

When we do that, we see that happiness is contagious.  Just smile and watch the people around you light up.

Be the lighthouse.  Let your own light shine.  Be the guiding light.  The light of wisdom.

Cabrillo 5

***

Take the Wheel

I’ve been on the road now for a week straight, and I really love it.  I’m looking forward to having the time to sit down and write some more stories.  In the mean time, I’ll keep it short.

Since I’m on the move, I haven’t been able to keep up with every one’s posts, but I promise, I’ll catch up.  I enjoy your beautiful writing and don’t want to miss anything.

A couple of interesting points.  In the last few days, I’ve gone from the desert to the ocean to the mountains, arid to wet, from a second home atmosphere to a self-absorbed population that looks shocked when you say hello, to a friendly howdy-town where people look shocked if you don’t say hi.  It’s amazing what you’ll see on the journey.  And fun too 🙂

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