“Yes; we’re going to make a little road on the other side of the canal and build a little puente for you.” Continue reading
Once uponce a time in a world far away (Mississippi!), November delivered a nagging cough, and it stayed with me until about March of each year. It arrived with the package of cold weather. Many people scoff and state, “Mississippi doesn’t have cold weather!” - but it does.
Memories of ice storms and snow-swept landscapes marry well with other memories of burst water pipes that matched countless others when temperatures dropped below ten degrees Fahrenheit. I remember Mother awakening me with the words, “Look out your window,” and with joy in my heart I thought, “No school!” as I peered outside and admired the beauty of the snow. I often caught my horse and rode through snow-covered landscape. Continue reading
Years ago while I was visiting with expat friends and their on-vacation friends in Costa Rica, someone asked, “Did you ever dream when you were growing up that you’d live somewhere like this?”
My mind peddled backwards, and within seconds I recalled a wanderlust dream from grammar school. I smiled wistfully and answered, “When I was in 5th grade, I wanted to live in Argentina and raise quarter horses.” Continue reading
Last week I helped my Ecuador Expat Journeys friends on their Coastal Tour. Near Salinas, we spotted flamingos and black-necked stilts wading the shallows of the salt ponds. Upriver from Bahia de Caraquez, we toured Isla Corazon and marveled at thousands of magnificent frigates that shared the unique island with great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, tricolored herons, cormorants and cocoi herons. Cute little saffron finches decorated Canoa Beach Hotel’s tropical gardens.
On my way home on Thursday, I said, “Hello” to the Peruvian boobies in San Vicente and reached Casa Loca in time for the late-afternoon finale on the river.
This morning while reporting a thirty-minute bird-watching session on the Backyard Bird Count stats page, I scanned the online queue of species for Ecuador. The Peruvian Boobies! Their presence along the Ecuadorian coast should be reported, but they are not in my backyard!
If any of you have boobies in your neighborhood, please take time to add them to the online form! BACKYARD BIRD COUNT/Get Started.
Let’s decorate that BirdCount map! Thanks for speaking up for the birds!
OK; Not everyone can peer outside and see hundreds of Magnificent Frigates, one of 70 or more species that decorate the landscape around Casa Loca. Whether you know our feathered neighbors by name or just refer to them as little brown birds, they are our neighbors, and we should acknowledge their presence in our lives.
Take half an hour or half a day or an entire day or the entire period (February 13 – 16) of this bird count, and share your inventory with the world! Learn more HERE: THE GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT 2015.
I’m not quite sure how to count all of the birds in my back yard, so excuse me please, while I go back to counting the birds!
Jama (Manabi Province) Ecuador — Yippee! Almost two months overdue, the rains are finally quenching Manabi’s thirst! Dodging lagoons of water at every corner this morning, I assumed that the gray skies would offer few opportunities for good photos. I was wrong.
The rains fell during the night then resumed again mid morning; there are countless music options for these images, but I’ll nudge Eddie Rabbit a bit closer to the equator to kick off these images:
No one seemed discouraged by the mud and water, though without boots, I skirted around mud and leaped across swollen pools of water throughout town. While enjoying a cup of coffee and an extra sour lemonade “sin azucar” (without sugar – to chase away an allergy) I was well entertained by Silvana’s nephew who sported a new pair of boots. He pranced past my table, climbed aboard his cousin’s new motorcycle and stole the show! Continue reading
Headlines of winter storms make me grateful to live along Ecuador’s Pacific coast. Those of you who are enduring brutal weather, stay warm and safe and well. I wish I could send some of this climate in your direction. Yesterday I pondered how we fell trees for timber or we leave deep scars on Mother Earth so that we can produce concrete – how does one build homes without impacting our planet’s struggling health?
As we peer over the groundhog’s shoulder to see his shadow – or not – take time to peer into Mother Nature’s wetlands and ponder their importance on our planet.
Today I’ll be driving along Ecuador’s Pacific coast with a great tour group, but wanted to wave a token banner in honor of our precious wetlands. Hop over to SerenitySpell for a refresher course! Preserving Our Future – World Wetlands Day.
Have a good week, everyone! Z
Casa Loca’s windows are made of solid wood, and I enjoy opening those weathered panels at first light to embrace the awakening day. I usually open the kitchen window first to confirm that the daylight serenade was indeed given by the lovely kingbird. The wrens and seedeaters dart and forage in the dense foliage along the fence, while Amazilia hummingbirds search for the life-sustaining nectar of the opening flowers. Kingfishers awaken the riverside with nonstop chattering about the first catch of the morning.
Most mornings provide a feast of calming views as I open the windows and gaze outside. Every so often the view jolts me into a higher state of attention.
The presence of thousands of birds announces, “Urgent! Urgent! Something’s wrong with this picture!” On this sixth dawn of the new year, I scanned to see if my friend’s truck was home (yes) so I knew he had spotted the same view and had sounded the alarm. I grabbed my camera and bolted out the door. Continue reading
El Matal Ecuador – Dec 26, 2014
When living on the front line of a beach threatened by spring tides, most people stay home during that critical high-tide hour to be sure there is no threat of flooding. The high tides usually arrive with the new or full moon and hang around for a few days. The first high tide of each month usually arrives in the pre-dawn hours and then at sunset; it arrives a bit later each day. When staying at my friends’ home, I usually start peering outside around 4:30 in the morning. By 5:30 I am able photograph what’s happening at sea level.
While working on a holiday art project, my friends and I kept a close eye on the waves. On the second day of painting, I took a low-tide break and walked to the center area of El Matal. Life goes on, and the spirit of the fishermen remains strong. I was told, however, that “the people of El Matal are scared.”
The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. – William Faulkner
The above drawing hangs on a butterscotch-painted wall in my son’s kitchen. When I recently looked at it, memories of that long-ago 1993 pre-spring day came flooding back, and we were once again at No Mistake Plantation in Yazoo County. Charles had injured his ankle during a sports event, and we were sitting on the grounds of a daylily farm and soaking in the warm rays of sunshine. The hen ambled along with her chicks, fluffed out her feathers and settled into a comfortable pose not far from where we sat. The pencil drawing captured the moment much better than any camera, and the memories were branded with each stroke of the pencil.
A few days ago I visited the Union County Heritage Museum in New Albany, Mississippi, and the back gardens provided an abundance of artsy material. They will represent the first of many attempts to capture the essence of Mississippi!
Enjoy the walk through the gardens, and don’t forget to apply mosquito repellent!
“Morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour…” and for a minute some part of us “… awakens which slumbers the rest of the day and night…” – Thoreau
Matt at WordPress tossed a morsel of a prompt, and since I had just reviewed the images marked, ‘Dawn,” I quickly opened a “New Post” page.
Sometimes I work on artistic projects all night and am brought to a stopping point by the sounds of the awakening birds. Viewing dawn on the river reminds me of how timeless this last bend of the river can be.
My most memorable dawn moments happen when I awaken around 4 and venture outside to witness the visual beauty to the start of the day. My senses are usually heightened, and with a strong attachment to the surrounding landscape, I try to capture that beauty.
Join me on a cyber walk on one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, Playa San Miguel. We’ll start with photos from the awakening day photo from above: Continue reading
The past few weeks have offered so many impromptu photo ops, and most of the photos are self explanatory!
(Jama-El Matal-Manabi Ecuador) August 2014
Are you ready for a feeling-alright-unique scene here at latitude zero? Climb aboard! (Sun shades optional.)
Ahem, well the past week has been in-cre-EE-ble, so I thought, “Maybe I should wear shades for this visit…”
In my haste to leave the house, I forgot to wear shades… Continue reading
Jama-Manabi-Ecuador – July 2014
The shrimp ponds along Rio Jama are owned by a handful of families, and each one has a modest headquarters where pumps, feed and supplies are stored. Life is usually quiet on these cameroneras; the pumps run when fresh ocean water ebbs upriver each day, and they are quiet when the river is low.
Many times a modest living area is located on the second floor above the bodega. (My house is this type of design.) Having someone watching over the ponds day and night helps protect against theft (yes- thieves sneak in at night and steal shrimp!). The employee also turns the pumps on and keeps an ear tuned for signs of mechanical problems. When the river water levels get low, the pumps are turned off.
The health of the ponds is closely monitored from the time the tiny larvae are delivered to a small nursery pond until the day of harvest. Oxygen levels are important, and sunny conditions produce healthier ponds than cloudy ones. The ponds are deep enough that herons and egrets are not tempted by the shrimp that stay near the bottom. If the birds line the edges, it’s a sign that something’s wrong – perhaps the shrimp need more oxygen, and they’re coming to the surface. Continue reading
(retweeet)@Petchary @PanosCaribbean (ZeebraDesigns said: Beneath full moon will be at front line, feet in sand, staring mother ocean’s eyes (mouth?) one wave at a time. – 11 Jul)
@Petchary @ZeebraDesigns @PanosCaribbean “That sounds poetic, but sad… Will be thinking of you.”
El Matal, Manabi, Jama, Ecuador
Mother Ocean was quite calm last night, and the night weaned into daytime without threatening and dangerous waves. I peered out at the waves about once an hour and was glad to see dawn arrive with a gentle awakening.
With palm trees flanking each side of my friends home, I remained all but incredulous when they told me that in 2010, they could step 54 paces from the end of their lot to the edge of the dry beach that angled to the ocean! I looked at their old photos, and I now sit with jaw agape at how much has been devoured by the ocean. Continue reading
“What if it lines up like it did in the Trojan War … Athena versus Poseidon?”
“I don’t know. But I just know that I’ll be fighting next to you.”
“Because you’re my friend, Seaweed Brain. Any more stupid questions?” ― Rick Riordan- The Lightning Thief
The good fight is the one that we fight in the name of our dreams. – Paulo Coelho (The Pilgrimage)
Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time. – Paulo Coelho
Tapping into her sensitive powers of observation about her surroundings, Linda of The Task at Hand often trusts her own predictions instead of the local weather forecasts. When not penning poetic salt-of-the earth stories about her life, Linda’s specialty is varnishing boats. An unexpected change in weather can ruin her meticulous work. Enjoy her post about the subtle weather-forecasting hints here: SCHOOLED BY SUMMER .
This past week Linda inquired about my friends at nearby Playa el Matal, where Mother Ocean chomped away the shoreline during the January and February (2014) spring tides. Everyone at El Matal is preparing for the third battle against tides that will barrel ashore beneath this weekend’s full moon. We are hoping there will be no need for new posts titled like the one written in February: It’s Devastating
Each evening when I gaze up at the waxing moon, a heavy sense of foreboding washes over my spirit. I think about the combination of high tides, storms at sea, the direction of winds, and how they affect the fierceness of the waves, especially when they reach the shore at high tide. Like those who live near the ocean, I am aware of the seriousness of the tides that will arrive this weekend.
This full moon brings an extra-high sea, and those who live at or near sea level will surely be participating in sea-watch vigils around the globe, including Panama’s Kuna Indians on the San Blas Islands. Continue reading
“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” Kurt Vonnegut
The ritual of sharpening pencils preps me with anticipation for drawing. Those of you who feel as if the talent fairy passed over you – stop long enough to sharpen a pencil and practice for half an hour per week, and most likely you will spend much more time in communication with your pencil and paper! An extra benefit is blocking out distractions and getting in touch with your true self!
Choose a forgiving subject and sketch the main areas, make very light notations for dark and medium shading, and be very careful around those light areas! Let the bare paper represent the lightest lights. For those of you who are celebrating holidays, try sketching an ear of corn or a wad of firecrackers, then shade the negative space that surrounds them! (Are firecrackers still allowed in the USA?)
The absence of erasers (while drawing) disciplines me to be careful and to think ahead, and the drawing stays fresh. I also use a second sheet of paper to cover my work. If there’s no available sheet around, I’ll use a paper napkin or a thin board – anything to avoid smudges! Students often spend as much time erasing as they do drawing; learning to sketch without the crutch of an eraser will reward you with drawings that are not overworked.
Pencil drawing allows you to stop at any time and resume later. Little by little, the sketch evolves into a stronger work of art. Trees are my favorite subject to sketch, and after working from life, I can complete the drawing days or weeks or months or even years later! Many times my preliminary sketch is filled with notations so that I remember where the lights, darks and middle values are located.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”John Muir”
Manabi Province, Ecuador –
Many birds feast in the shrimp ponds; when the water is drained for harvest, the avian telegraph announces the all-you-can-eat buffet!
Elusive white ibis flock to the ponds for their ration of shellfish; petite kingfishers perch near the outlet pipes and spear random hors d’oeuvres. Great egrets tower over snowy egrets and little blue herons as they scramble, squawk and poke for shrimp and fish.
Conceited snowy egrets, pairing black leggings with bright-yellow slippers, fluff their wispy feathers to claim entitlement to the choicest morsels!
In formal attire, the black-necked stilts add a modest touch of elegance and keep a low profile along the edges of the pond! Although the stilts have always captured my attention, I realized that I knew little when I began a study based on an old photo. They are black and white and have very long reddish-pink legs. Do they all have pink legs, or do the male and female have different colorations?
Consulting a bird book, I was surprised to learn that stilts have red eyes! (Red eyes?) I looked at photos on the computer. The less-than precise images showed dark eyes. Details were lacking on the bill as well, and I was unsure – was it curved slightly like an ibis, or did it have a slight upturn – or was it straight as a sewing needle? Rather than guess, I waited for an opportunity for field research. Continue reading
The Daily Post tossed out a challenge with four options this week; I selected this one: “Take a draft post that you didn’t published because it didn’t turn out as you expected. Change the story, revise it, and publish.”
I found two posts in drafts; one recent post from April 3rd stalled because of slow internet and low battery:
Reaching back to a post from January 2013, I can finally release these birds from their cyber cages. May they soar from my back door round the world and lighten your day! Continue reading
And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking,
Racing around to come up behind you again.
— Pink Floyd (Time)
Marking the sun’s shadow during Ecuador’s rainy season depends on the mood of the clouds! It also requires a bit of discipline to watch for that sunset hour and the presence or absence of light and shadow. 2013 is represented with hit and miss notations across the balcony wall, and the new year is marked with pencil.
This past week I’ve cherished the sunlight a bit more than usual, because the circle of houses near the farm has been without power for four days! One squeezes the most out of the daylight hours when candle power illuminates the evening! (I’m taking a timeout at Hostal Ciragan in town!)
When I noted the end-of-day sunlight earlier this week, I marked the solar calendar and noted that the shadow matched (thank goodness!) last year’s mark! Continue reading
(Near Volcano Chimborazo and Guaranda Ecuador)
My friends Hank and Marie trusted my recommendations and veered off the beaten path to view the lovely snow-capped Volcano Chimborazo. Beyond “Chimbo” was the quiet Andean city of Guaranda, our destination for the next few days.
Time slows while white-knuckle driving through dangerous cloud-shrouded mountain switchbacks. I had traveled that road ten years earlier, and at times I wondered if I had pointed us in the wrong direction! Continue reading
Manabi Province/Ecuador –
Yesterday while pulling tender rank growth in the shady recesses of the gardens, I noted an abnormal splash of electric color near ground level. Pausing for a closer look, this Zeebra allowed a psychedelic caterpillar to alter the next ten or so minutes of my day! Continue reading
At sunset yesterday, I noted that the tidal waters seemed a bit different – I could not articulate why, but there was something strange or surreal about the way the water was moving; the birds used different flight patterns as well, and many more egrets and herons roosted in the mangroves; the pelicans were absent. (That happened last year a few days before bad weather approached.)
After sunset, I came inside and followed a random ‘tweet……. tweet……………….. tweet…………….’ to its source and welcomed a frightened nomad for a B&B night at Casa Loca! Last year I flunked Baby Bird Rescue, so this year I tried a different menu.
When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. (Georgia O’Keeffe)
Inspired by my friends’ gardens in Mindo Ecuador, this evolving make-believe garden of acrylic paint has grown one flower at a time! Gingers and heliconias make excellent subject matter for botanical studies, but it’s been about ten years since I painted the lovely queen of the night.
Capturing the essence of the elegant datura (brugmansia) raised the bar and challenged me to transport the viewer into the mysteries of a nocturnal cloud-forest scene. Datura, a bewitching queen of the evening, opens at dusk and releases her intoxicating fragrance throughout the night. A dangerous hallucinogen, it is used by shamans in ayahuasca ceremonies and is also abused by criminals to drug unsuspecting victims. Devoted gardeners cultivate it for the beauty of its flowers and the delicate lemony aroma.
The daturas preside over shade loving plants, and each compliments the other. Deep crimson king’s torch gingers dig their toes into the cool soil and stretch skyward toward the datura. Flaming-orange heliconias squeeze between available gaps and fill in the middle ground. At night, I sometimes wonder what creature might be lurking in the shadows only a few feet away!
Almost twenty years ago, a friend sneaked this flamingo into my gardens in Natchez, Mississippi. Kathy’s calling card moves with me, and it still triggers a smile. Presently it watches over a young ceibo tree that was rescued from the blade of an excavator.
The pink flamingo proudly watches over this assortment of flowers in honor of Ailsa’s travel theme, PINK!
“There are times when we stop, we sit still. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.” James Carroll
There are also times that beg for a fast timeout for art; the above image illustrates one minute’s prep in the kitchen, a dash outside to record the sun’s shadow at high noon, and a few minutes of doodling with a paint program for a hand-drawn smile!
Compare today’s shadow with the image from last June’s solstice, when the sun stretched as far north as the celestial laws permit! Continue reading
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” Camille Pissarro
Hacienda Guachala, the oldest hacienda in Ecuador, provides endless subject matter, especially when the early-morning sun warms the gardens. Although dramatic shadows showcased the architecture of the two churches, my attention wavered to the subtle voice of the agaves.
Walk with me through the gardens, and hopefully you’ll agree with my choice for this (above) watercolor study. Continue reading
(Webster’s II – Office Edition 1984)
Incongruent – adj. 1. Not congruent. 2. Incongruous
Incongruous – adj – 1. Not corresponding: disagreeing 2. Made up of diverse or discordant elements. 3. Unsuited to the surroundings or settings.
Congruent – adj. 1. Corresponding: congruous.
Congruous – adj – 1. /Corresponding in nature or kind.
Jama & El Matal Ecuador – February 2014
If this last bend of Rio Jama were populated with thousands of Cocoi Herons and few egrets, a different species might be featured above! There’s something special about close encounters with elusive species. On the first day of this year, the distinct call of the lone osprey whispered, ‘I’m back; did you miss me?” (Yes, I did!)
Equally elusive is the lone Cocoi Heron, a pearl of a recluse that dodges society. At times this feathered beauty stands guard in the mud flats upriver, or it edges closer to the ibis and egrets that forage beneath the blue-green mangroves. Quite shy and untrusting, it soars away at the slightest hint of human presence. Today, however, this closest neighbor of mine stood guard slightly downriver from the house while rough-winged swallows flitted nearby!
Gazing out the other windows, I’ve observed a different scene for over a month. I’ve briefly mentioned this new activity, though I’ve tried to dismiss it; this daily intrusion sometimes lasts into the night. Continue reading
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El Matal (Manabi) Ecuador
Residents of El Matal and concerned citizens from nearby areas displayed a united front at the public meeting to discuss the critical status of the eroding beach. Engineer Daniel Santata, a coastal specialist, joined the Minister of Pescadores and the Director of Risk (Portoviejo), though the meeting began without the presence of Mayor/Alcade Alex Cevallos.
Because of difficulty in understanding sometimes rapid-fire Spanish, and straining to grasp what I heard through the outdoor acoustics, I apologize in advance for errors in translation. The essence of the meeting follows. Z Continue reading
El Matal (Manabi) Ecuador – February 2014
While waiting for a bus connection, I’m pulling these photos out of draft status before rolling to home sweet jama! These photos were taken one week after the destructive tides that washed away most of the remaining beach. (See It’s Devastating)
Gallivanta continues her support with helpful feedback from across the Pacific (New Zealand) – i am especially grateful for this radio interview with coastal scientist Jim Dahm: http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2585167
The bus just rolled into town, so without any captions added to the photos, I share the images taken in front of El Matal “proper, past Coco Beach Village, and along a natural area. Continue reading
El Matal Ecuador – This past Friday, I walked almost the entire stretch of El Matal’s beach, from the southern end closest to the landmark of Punta Ballena to El Matal “Proper” and Coco Beach Village, past the site of the new Punta Ballena Development, through the river mouth (low tide) and stopped for a very late lunch at the community of La Division. I’ve surely earned the title of “Beach Inspector” for this past week!
Although I missed seeing the devastating high tides, the beach wears its scars from its battle with Mother Ocean. The powerful waves stripped the sand beneath the thatched-roof bamboo structures that once sheltered the boats. In the next assault, will she devour the road and advance to the houses and restaurants?
Overwhelmed with hundreds of photos, I’ll start with the southern end of the beach. Walk with me and enjoy the beauty while pondering the dilemma of the vanishing coastline. Continue reading
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Degas
A random conversation inspired this whimsical illustration. Sketched and painted between a hurried breakfast and a check-out departure via tour bus, this illustration will provide a big smile to a friend’s friend – who requested, ‘Bring me a feather from a blue-footed booby!”
Since we didn’t cross paths with a blue-footed booby, we hope that the image (at the top) will give her a grand smile!
Ironically, Jonathan, the director/operator of this coastal tour, looked at the image and remarked, ‘A blue-footed owl!” Immediately an entire series of blue-footed creatures raced through my mind!
Sometimes it’s not important to get everything perfect. Allow the mistakes to shine while you capture the memories of the moment!
Place your bets; will more blue-footed creatures parade through future posts?!
I’ve never appreciated misleading headlines, and this one slightly tilts in that direction! The past six months have kept my dance card full, and my slow or no internet has made it difficult to open a compose page or even leave comments (or answer them!) When traveling, I am able to read websites and emails, yet an external keyboard is necessary for replying. My sometimes-cryptic replies are often written with copy/paste functions if retrieving the keyboard is not an option.
The past few months presented unique experiences; I wrestled Diablo Huma into a shipping tube and blasted him into his first international trip in the midst of a winter storm.
I joined others in witnessing the first assault of destructive waves at El Matal Ecuador then felt equally powerless as last week’s sobering battle confirmed that these people deserve national attention and help. While my friends played David and Goliath with Mother Ocean, I spent time with a delightful coastal Ecuador Expat Journeys group.
Behind the scenes on other WordPress channels, many people are fighting their own personal battles. You embraced Jenna’s story, and I suspect this next one will have a profound effect as well. With zero preface about his history, I introduce you to an incredible man who closed his last post with the sentence, ” …As I continue on this wild journey, I maintain the promise I’ve made to many people to…”
Prepare for an amazing journey.
Start here: ArashRecovery Never Satisfied
(Real life trumps fun times; Timeout for Art coming later today!)