Happy Birthday to…

His Holiness the Dalai Lama … happy birthday to you today as you turn 85 years old!

Thirty to forty years ago I lined up to enter New York City’s Central Park to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan spiritual leader, speak. What first struck me was how quietly thousands of people could stand and wait to enter the grassy area of the park and for him to arrive. And then we listened to his insights.

In 2001 while trekking in Nepal, I became most interested in Mount Everest and learning more about Buddhism. For years since, I continue to read and watch programs about the Himalayan Mountains and mountaineers, along with some Buddhist readings.

Through the years, I have read and listened to the Tibetan spiritual leader. Not for any chosen religion, but to learn what he is saying about moral values, love and compassion, global issues and Buddhism. I had always loved the fact he believed in science. He has had no political responsibilities the last 10 years, yet the Chinese government still cannot tolerate or welcome any ideas he has offered, such as the Five Point Peace Plan presented in 1987. Unfortunately too, he may never be able to return to his homeland which he had hoped could be a demilitarized zone.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile for almost 70 years in a beautiful area near Dharamshala, India. In 2017, I did visit there and the Tibetan Refuge Village. The Dalai Lama was not in town, but the Tibetan Buddhist spirit surely was evident.

There are many Dalai Lama quotes. Today I have chosen one of the “overcoming difficulties” quotes:

Tolerance is very important. If you have tolerance, you can easily overcome difficulties. If you have little tolerance or are without it, then the smallest thing immediately irritates you.

– His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Happy birthday to you. I wish you good health for years to come. Namaste.

Monday Memories: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

January 2019, international travel started for me and a friend with a supported bicycling tour in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. It was my first time to this region of the world and an area I will definitely return, one country at a time. The weather was good for cycling, visiting places, and the people especially in Vietnam were friendly.

Here are a few photos as I remember this trip. Many people were also on bicycles, cycling on walkways between rice paddies, small trails, or roads which were crazy with hectic interchanges. It seemed however there were more riders on scooters and motorcycles. Unfortunately the last day of our cycling, a motorcyclist was killed in Thailand. When I first heard a thud, I worried it was a fellow bicyclist. Once I rounded the corner I saw the man on the road … instantly killed. As sorry as I was about the accident, I was also relieved to be going home in a few days and not be on a bicycle as I grieved his death.

Our guide made arrangements for us to visit many temples and historic places. Prior to meeting our guide, we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, where we saw a very small section of the 70 mile wartime tunnels used by the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War. Near Siem Reap, Cambodia, we visited Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious monuments in the world. Little time was spent in Thailand, thus my need to return there someday, along with more time in Vietnam and Cambodia.

I like Vietnamese food and love Thai food, but the best food during our travels was the fresh seafood. We saw many markets and local people shopping for all kinds of items. I was introduced to dragon fruit which grows on cacti-like trees. When the reddish, scaly exterior is cut open, one sees the white flesh and black, crunchy seeds within the fruit.

Travel is also done by boat and many people live on the river. One day we spent 6 hours on a boat to travel to another location and continue our bicycle ride. It was fascinating to see fishing rigs, school children being brought to school by boat, local people doing their work, but depressing to see garbage dumped into the river.

We had opportunities to cook some food and make rice wrappers, all of which I did not meet with success. People work hard and I was really impressed with an older woman who collected dead wood, balanced them on the rear of her bicycle and brought the load to her family as they cooked at their oven. She never stopped smiling so I had to capture a photo of her. The other woman was working hard at the river’s edge from her boat.

What I love most about travel is seeing people in action and interacting with them when possible. One young lady was waiting for a ferry ride across the river and a child’s attention was absorbed while playing with straws. We met many wonderful people and had a safe tour. Someday I will return to this region of the world; so much more to see!

Monday Memories: Death Valley National Park

I have visited Death Valley National Park in California a couple of times. Hiked the various trails and Badwater Basin salt flat, and another trip bicycled on the few roads within the park boundary. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes along with other points of interest in the park were worth seeing in this unique ecosystem. There are climate and geography extremes so plan your visit carefully.

There were flowers during my past visits, but my wish is to visit again and see a “super bloom”. I heard about the one in 2016 and saw many colorful wildflower photographs. Now in 2020, along with our pandemic time and no travel, there also was no super bloom. Maybe I can get there next year and witness a “super bloom” too!

It would be fun to see the Artist’s Palette again. With my new photography skills I know the importance of being there as the sun shines on the colors.

Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point in North America, and photographing the salt flat and salt crystals would be fun too. If the heat is to much I know I can go to the surrounding mountains.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes had a dust devil moving across it while I was there. After my Sahara Desert visit in Morocco last year, I wish to spend some time back on this park’s dunes.

My future goal: visit Death Valley National Park again, and if there is a “super bloom” that will be wonderful!

Urban Wildlife Habitat

Sweetwater Wetlands is a water treatment facility originally constructed in 1996. The wetlands now use reclaimed water and has become a wildlife viewing area in Tucson, AZ. There is about 2.5 miles of pathway for visitors to walk and it does connect with the “Loop”, yet no bicycles are allowed on the property. You can lock you bike at the fence and take a walk on a pathway from there.

On any given day, I never know if water birds will on the settling ponds, other birds in various trees, insects on the marsh grasses or hawks overhead. There have been days I viewed javelina and bobcats! Many people visit this urban wildlife habitat.

Here are some photos from my recent visit:

The red-winged blackbirds were definitely the noisiest of all the bunch, the duck was nonchalantly walking down a path … no doubt due to few people out in the late morning hot hours … and the turtles, well they may be finishing their mating act. Other visitors to the wetland may be more interested and focused on capturing insects as I guessed this man was with the specific net he was using. I could not capture any moth or butterfly in a photo, but he may have been also interested in damselflies.

For early morning time in nature, this urban wildlife habitat is an easy place to get to and visit, relax and observe nature. As the heat of the day rises, most wildlife settle in away from the hot air. This adds to my challenge, but I also like being out with fewer people on the trail and to see what else may be nonchalantly walking down the trail! (Reminds me too of the coyote I saw lying on a person’s driveway while I rode past on my bicycle.)

Always keep your eyes open; one can never predict what you’ll see in nature. That’s what makes being outdoors so exciting! Where and when are you headed outdoors? Enjoy.

Hummingbirds and Camera Work!

It requires patience to photograph hummingbirds; much easier to simply observe them and place the image in your brain!

During these pandemic days though, I have had time to watch the hummingbirds at our backyard desert willow tree. Its colorful flowers often welcome hummingbirds to flit from flower to flower and so some hummingbirds do. I decided one day to photograph them in our backyard at the desert willow tree. Although the hummingbird’s speed was enough to drive this photographer crazy, I held on.

Once I was all set to photograph a bird it was all about patience. The hummingbird flew in and around and under and beyond and was hard to capture in focus. I waited again … The bird would flit from flower to flower and hide behind leaves when taking its breather. I cannot say the bird was accommodating me.

But, I managed to capture some photos, see below, and am happy to share them with you. I know what I need to do with my camera work to capture better photos, but that is for another day. Enjoy!

Hummingbird coming in for the flower’s nectar.
Hummingbird enjoying this desert willow’s flower.
Hummingbird landing at a desert willow's flower to get nectar.
Hummingbird about to land.

Wish, then Take Action!

Decades go by as I continue to wish for increased global solar energy usage, equality, justice and education for all, along with clean air and water for the ever increasing planet’s population! Wishing for anything is never enough; what is needed is action! Even with action, reaction and solutions take time. Frustration does mount as the time it takes to solve issues is ridiculously long!

I understand all peaceful protests no matter the issue. What I do not condone is the violence, vandalism and arson most often happening under the cover of darkness. It might not be a bad idea for locals to not protest at night, so the agitators who are destroying our businesses are caught!

I understand we need to increase pressure on our politicians. Many of them collect paychecks with little to show in making the world a safer, healthier, just place for all. Why can’t our energy systems be environmentally safer? Everyone’s health, physical and mental, be cared for with the same health care policies as our politicians?

Racial and gender inequalities need justice to prevail so no one lives in fear. Our communities all need regulations to have and maintain the best quality air and water. All can be accomplished while simultaneously growing businesses and wealth for all. If we wish and take action, let’s prompt the legislators, business leaders and world leaders to see the benefit for all is a minimum requirement in making this a planet where we can all survive even 10 years from now.

Write your politicians, peacefully protest, support local businesses, speak up when injustice happens and you are present, boycott places you cannot support their stance on issues, and be an ally for those needing protection. You and I are in this together; let’s take action!

Under the cover of darkness, let there be peace!

Driven Weed Crazy …

My front yard is covered with many weeds; yes, it is weedy. Who cares? Well, actually there are people and home associations that care. They see green growth on my front yard that are not on the approved plant list. Oops! Yet for me, I see the unwanted plant, a weed, important for all of us and especially while it has a flower. No way will I pull that plant out by its roots at that time. A seed blew in or was part of the hydro-seed thrown down when the landscape was created and now the plant is growing. It is beautiful with its flower and I want to see it each day it is there. When there is no flower, then I will pull it. You see I have a method to caring for my landscape. I appreciate nature’s colors and the role of all plants in our world.

During my latest weed-pulling hours, I thought this would be a good time to remind myself of the importance of weeds. Often people think they do not want that plant, the weed, and forget the role these plants play in our natural world. Weeds do grow much faster than other garden plants and for good reasons. They grow, flower, and produce more young weeds to continue the cycle of life. Weeds hold soil in place for a hillside to remain stable and not be washed away in a heavy rain. Weeds absorb nutrients from the soil and when they die the nutrients are released. Their process of photosynthesis is important for us all too! In nature, you rarely see many bare soil areas. There is much to be accomplished by these weeds and their seeds simply move in and do what they need to do.

There is one weed that drives me crazy! I get so frustrated with this one. Unless I look at the plant from a particular angle I cannot see it! This plant is called skeletonweed. Perfect name choice! I am sure it is doing all that a weed is supposed to do. But just as I walk away from an area of the yard where I think my weeding is done, there is another skeletonweed! Take a look for yourself … do you see it in the photo below?

Skeletonweed growing out of the rocks.

Your welcome. I photographed it so you could see it! If I included a photo of its first growth or younger growth or from a different angle, you would not see the plant. I don’t care it is a species of wild buckwheat; I just know it arrives every year to drive me crazy. For me, this weed is tougher to love!

Wished for Wisconsin Travel

January 2020, I had a great idea! Could I organize a road trip to Madison, Wisconsin? Once settled at a state campground, here was my plan: photography and bird watch in the morning, photography and bicycle ride on bike paths and rural roads during the day, and enjoy dinner and craft beers in the evening.

February 2020. So I could camp at state parks, I got my Non-resident Annual Admission Sticker to WI State Parks and Forests and to bicycle ride on their trails I got the WI Annual State Trail Pass. I wanted both done to have 2 less things to do when in the state. Campground and hotel reservations were also made from Arizona to Madison and Stevens Point, Wisconsin. My plan was to be traveling for a month but I only booked half the accommodations. I researched Audubon Centers and other places of interest, along with bike paths that criss cross the state of Wisconsin. How could I not get excited about eating cheese in this state? It has the largest number of milk goats and 600 or more cheesemakers. I did not know it is a large cranberry producer and despite being known for its Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, I heard a craft brewery scene had been growing. I wanted to check all of this out!

I was ready for Wisconsin camping and bicycling!

March 2020, do I have to cancel my May into June visit to Wisconsin? Covid-19 has run rampant the past few months around the world, including the USA. What shelter-in-place world am I living in now?

April 2020. The numbers of USA Covid-19 cases and deaths related to the virus increase across our nation. I cancel all my accommodations. Thank goodness I only booked a couple of weeks, but I am sad. I love to travel and discover new places and things. Darn, darn, darn!

May 25, 2020, I thought I was going to be on the road this day, Memorial Day. I had booked my WI state park reservation back in the winter since I figured everyone else would be camping this weekend too. Instead I am home in Arizona with limited access to most places and our Covid-19 cases still on the rise. I will take time on this day to honor the men and women who died while serving in the US military. There usually are parades, but there is a 3pm, your local time, national moment of remembrance on this day too … a time to think and thank those who served, and I want to thank those individuals who still serve!

You and I are alive; let’s have a good Memorial Day wherever we are!

The message on this trail is a good one!

Day 27: Team

Habitat for Humanity projects necessitate team work! While I have participated in various projects in NYS and AZ, my most recent project was in Poland, yes the country of Poland! A group of us from central Arizona traveled to Gliwice, a town north of Krakow, Poland. For 5 days we worked on an old building needing renovation for future use as a center for young people with addictions.

Half of the volunteers chose plastering work. The others, myself included, chose to pull up the flooring in each room. We discovered linoleum on top of another layer of linoleum which was on top of some very old wooden boards. Under those boards we found chunks of wood holding the floor beams apart and dirt… all needing to be removed! This work REQUIRED a team of people to even make a dent in the overall project.

Crowbars, muscle, sweat, hammers, shovels, brooms, and more muscle and sweat from everyone at work! It was back-breaking work, but we looked after each other as we tried to rotate some of the jobs around and took time for water breaks, snacks, and a walk to an ice cream/bakery place in the local area. Lunch was provided each day with a wonderful opportunity to sit down and time to see the other team members and their plastering work. Amazing … another example of great team work!

This project will not be entirely finished for some time as there is plenty of work to be done, but it will get done with more teams coming in to help. Kudos to Habitat for Humanity – Poland for the work they are doing! Their team is the best. They made our stay enjoyable as we helped them with their project. It would be wonderful to return to Poland and see this project completed with the young people making use of the facility. Someday I might be able to make that happen!