This weathered fence is at least twenty years old and in need of replacement (fences can last longer, but we’ve never treated it with the chemicals that make that happen). It seems to have become its own ecosystem. Truth to tell, I like it the way it is.
Today is Twelfth Night, the eve of Epiphany. Which, loosely, means seeing the light. In my backwards look at 2017 it is January.
In some ways my memories of last January are clear, in others less so. There was so very much to take in. A year ago I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina boarding the Norwegian Sun for a cruise around Cape Horn to Valparaiso/Santiago Chile.
It was an amazing trip and I never pulled my pictures and thoughts together to post about it. So here is a whirlwind tour of our whirlwind tour.
Buenos Aires was what I think of as a conglomerate city. It is huge both in population and size, but made up of neighborhoods. It is bright and refined; old and modern; and crazy and conservative at the same time.
A highlight of our time in Buenos Aires was a day trip to the Parana Delta. There are many islands and channels, no roads and electricity. Everything comes and goes by boat. They have gas boats, grocery boats. Even though the water is brown it is not polluted, just “clean dirt”.
We only really got a grasp of how big the city was from the water of the Rio de la Plata, which is so wide you can’t see across it! This picture doesn’t do it justice, it goes at least as far as the eye can see in both directions.
The first port of call was Montevideo, Uruguay. We hung aboard the ship mostly with a brief walk into the old part of the city near the dock. We needed a rest day after Buenos Aires.
The second stop was Punta del Este.
Followed by a day at sea and a stop at Puerto Madryn. We were able to take a trip to Peninsula Valdes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its wildlife. An incredible variety of species live on the barren peninsula. The lad is so salty that the lamb meat doesn’t need to be salted.
Because of the distances we didn’t get much time in any one spot but still saw a lot.
The Patagonian land/sky scape:
We had a day at sea between Puerto Madryn and the Falkland Islands. We saw wales but I didn’t get a good picture of them. In the Falklands we took a four wheel drive tour out to Volunteer Point which has colonies of Magellanic, Gentoo and King Penguins. At one point I wasn’t sure we were going to make it back, but it all worked out in the end.
The next day we were at Cape Horn. The spot is renouned for having the worst weather in the world but we were blessed by three foot seas. Some of the staff said they had been there in 30 foot seas (I’d have been pretty blue!). It’s easy to see why the area is so treacherous in stormy conditions.
Next stop was Ushuaia, Argentina, on the Beagle Channel. This is the port from which many of the expeditions to the Antarctic head out. We took a boat trip east on the Beagle Channel to Estancia Harberton, the “Uttermost Part of the Earth”, then back through the mountains of Tierra del Fuego.
Leaving Ushuaia the ship sailed west along the beagle Channel through the Avenue of the glaciers.
Punte Arenas, first stop in Chile, we just took a bus into town and wandered about. It is a colorful town.
Puerto Chacabuco was tiny, we took an excursion to Coyhaique in hopes of see the Andes, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Still it was pretty.
Next was Puerto Montt, again the weather didn’t cooperate for see the Andes:
However we did see some great scenery lower down, especially Petrohue Falls, Lake Llanquihue and Puerto Varas.
Last stop was at Valparaiso, Chile. The tour/airport transfer was a whirlwind through Valparaiso and nearby Vino del Mar then across the Andes to Santiago. Thwarted again from seeing the Andes: Smoke from forest fires prevented seeing the mountains. There was really too much to take in (even too much food).
You have to get home sometime, but it would have been nice to take that day a little slower, especially since it ended with a very long wait at the airport, we couldn’t even check in because they don’t staff the desk until a couple of hours before your flight.
All in all it was a great trip. We got home on the 22nd and the only other thing I remember is that my son arrived on the 23rd for his Chinese New Year break.
It seems so very long ago.
Grandma was in a nursing home for rehab the whole month, my son visited from China over Chinese New Year, my youngest niece was born, a tree fell snapping power lines and pulling out a power pole over at Dad’s (he was out of town so I had to deal)…otherwise it was a wet, dreary month. Photographically moss caught my eye, the way it catches the low angle of sunlight in winters here makes it seem to glow from within, even on days with very little sunlight.
Ferries and flowers.
I almost don’t remember May, so much has happened since and it held no major milestones or stresses.
We did have a very nice Mother’s Day celebration at the residence where grandma lived at the time. Looking back now that was a very good thing. It may wind up as a milestone.
Half way there.
Photographically I took a lot of pictures of flowers, especially roses. looking through my photos for June was a blast of cheerful sunshine. Here is a sampling:
Thinking back on June it seems so long ago because so much has gone on since. At the time it seemed like it was a biggish month: my husband retired from 36 plus years at Boeing and my niece graduated from high school.
Retirement is starting into a new phase for us. I thought it would be more dramatically different than it has been. I was concerned about having someone around all the time. Somehow we seem to be rubbing along just fine. It’s been nice to have someone around to help pick up some of the slack with Grandma and Dad when I’ve been feeling tired and impatient. But we’ve also not had very long spells with both of us at home…
July was a relatively stress free month. Richard was retired by then and there were no health or administrative crises for grandma.
I spent some time experimenting with photography. In particular I was testing out settings for the eclipse. According to one source I found online you can practice your camera settings for an eclipse by using the full noon time sun for the partial phase using a filter and a full moon for totality. I have to say that those suggestions worked for my camera. You can see the eclipse pictures I took in my Twelve months of 2017-August post. I rather liked some of the pictures from my experimenting phase.
As always July seems to cry out for at least one picture from the beach:
We went to Mount Rainier for our annual trip in July since we had our Ecliptic Trip planned for August. As always it was beautiful and the earlier time meant that we got to see the avalanche and glacier lilies that are usually done blooming by August.
Going back through my August pictures I originally picked out 70 or so, don’t worry I’ve culled it down a lot. August was a busy month!
I just checked and I didn’t post at all from August 6 to October 19th. The reason for that is that my husband and I took an “ecliptic” trip Mid-August and we arrived home August 28th to my grandmother in the hospital and a letter from the VA challenging about 90% of the amount they gave her to pay for in-home care givers. By the time she was settled in a skilled nursing facility, I made copies of about fifty canceled checks showing she had used the money to pay for care, and got the annual paperwork for her Medicaid together it was late September and I was on a plane to China.
August started with smoke. Wildfires in British Columbia sent a haze down into the Puget Sound region. It was rather eerie.
Toward the middle of the month we flew to Los Angeles to embark on the Southwest Chief train to Kansas City. While I wouldn’t rave about Amtrak, the company is fine but passenger trains in the US are old, the track is not smooth, the food is so-so, etc.; even so train travel is relaxing since all you have to do is watch the scenery. The cloud formations were pretty spectacular (I was awfully glad to not be out driving in some of those storms).
Kansas City, Mo
We had one day in Kansas City, our train arrived early in the morning and our son was flying in from China and his plane didn’t get in until late evening. We wandered about. But the highlight of our time there, highly recommended to us by my sister-in-law, and now to you by me: if you are ever in Kansas City go to the Steamship Arabia museum. It is unique in the world. I won’t show pictures here because a couple of photos cannot do justice to the experience. I will try to finally pull together a post about it soon.
We rented a car from the airport and headed out to the farm owned by my husband’s sister and her husband. It is still farmed by a cousin and was under the path of totality for the eclipse.
We stayed on the farm for a week and had a very nice family reunion, plus friends. The weather was stormy on and off and one evening we watched a spectacular lighting storm, as good as fire works. Lighting was shooting from cloud to cloud as well as occasionally darting at the ground.
Another thing worth seeing, not horribly far from Kansas City, is the Powell Botanical Gardens. They have two butterfly houses, an indoor one for exotics and a screened outdoor one that is focused on the local butterflies. Like the Steamship it really deserves its own post.
During the eclipse itself, I did not take a lot of pictures, at least by my standards. I wanted to pay attention to what was happening not camera settings.
I did however do a couple of smart things that allowed me to take a few good pictures. I bought a couple of sheets of the solar filter paper and my husband made custom filters that fit my camera and binoculars. Ahead of time I went on-line to learn what settings I should use for the different parts, then tested them out.
My camera is a Nikon P610 which is a bridge camera with a 60 times zoom, it has several mode options: P which is partly automatic but you can change a few things, A for aperture controlled, S for shutter controlled, M for everything can be changed and U which is a saved set of M controls. Since M remembers the last set of settings used, I was able to set U to be the controls I wanted during totality, M to be the partial eclipse with a filter, and I used P for taking pictures without a filter. That meant I could switch easily between the modes without messing about much.
One thing, mentioned on-line but you have to see to believe, is that the sun is as bright as usual until totality. These two pictures were taken a minute or so apart, the first with the solar filter shows how much of the sun is covered. The second, filtered only by the clouds shows how the sun appears without the filter:
Another side by side shows the darkness approaching over the landscape:
My experimenting paid off, it looks like thousands you have already seen, but I was very proud of my little camera for producing this beauty:
I got very excited when I realized I caught the solar prominences.
The day after the eclipse we headed back to Kansas City, dropped James off to return to China, then caught the Southwest Chief to Chicago.
Here is a view of Norborne’s water tower from the train as we sped by the next morning:
Chicago was never on my must see list. We had to overnight there because the Southwest Chief gets in an hour after the Empire Builder heads out so we had 23 hours. It’s a big city. It has interesting things to see and do, but it is a BIG, big, modern city. After a week in Norborne the big modernness was a little overwhelming. We took a river tour of the architecture and that was a very nice way to spend the morning. But it was nice to get back on the train heading for our last stop:
Glacier National Park
We visited Glacier for the first time in September 2016. This time we had just a couple fo days. The wildfire that devastated Glacier this fall was just starting and there was some smoke but the weather was glorious and the views were only slightly impaired. We made a point of visiting the western side of the park since in 2016 we only saw the eastern part of it.
We were fortunate to see quite a bit of wildlife, even had a bear run across the road in front of our car as we headed back to catch the train home. We got home on the 28th.
September seems so long ago.
The first two pictures go together to tell a story. My Dad’s dog Sam is getting older. She is deaf for practical purposes and when she stays out in the water (the Puget Sound water is cold all year) she gets very stiff and sore. She likes to fish: going out after the little flounder and bullheads that get disturbed when you wade near them. She doesn’t swim but goes out as far as she can wade chasing them. Since she can’t hear you call her anymore, you have to go out with smelly treats and lure her back to shore before she overdoes it.
I waded out to lure Sam back in and when I turned around I saw that Ginger followed me as far as she could and is looking imploringly at me to come back. In the distance you can see Asta, who has even shorter legs, running to catch up with us.
Two other favorites from the beach:
On the 26th I flew to China to visit my son. Here is a favorite sculpture in the lobby of the hotel I always stay at near the Beijing Airport.
This seems to have been an auspicious time of year for weddings. The fireworks start at about 4 am. I got a kick out of the blow-up mythical beast, qilin, being ridden by what looks to me like a martian or tele-tubby. I saw several of them this time. I’ve seen the beasts, lions, etc. before but never the martian. I never did get an answer to what it was supposed to be.
I also got a kick out of the vegetable and fruit sculptures in Shouguang parks. These pumpkins were the first I saw.
A highlight of this trip was that my son had a couple of days off for Mid-Autumn festival and we took an overnight trip to Penglai. Penglai is at the narrow point that defines the boundary between the Yellow sea and Bohai, the large bay that has the harbors for Tianjin and Beijing. The area has been important strategically for ever and has a very long history. In folklore it is where the eight immortals arrived from over the sea.
Penglai is called a fairy land.
I’ll end with a favorite picture from our visit to the temple complex:
October for me had two distinct parts.
I worked on composition while I was in China. Not technical composition, like the rule of thirds or leading lines (although I use these); I was trying to create images that gave a sense of place: What makes Shouguang uniquely itself? what does it share? The question of sharing was with respect to other cities in China and to other places in the world.
I did manage to do a series of posts on Shouguang after I got home this fall (posting has been pretty haphazard for me this year). The pictures for the above gallery were chosen to attempt to show the magnitude of the “small” city and convey that it also feels like a place for people. It didn’t feel impersonal, just spread out. Plus one picture from a traditional Chinese garden in Weifang, and a rather blurry photo of the smallest hummingbird I have ever seen. I thought at first that it was one very large bumblebee, then my son pointed out its beak. It was a dark, grey day so there was no chance for clarity.
Arriving home the clear air and splendid fall colors hit me between the eyes. I believe that my perception was sharpened by the muted and hazy conditions in Shouguang during the first half of the month. It really was a “The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle” experience.