Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Colorado: Longmont: An Osprey Nest

Osprey nest by Twin Peaks Golf Course, Ninth Street, Longmont, CO. May 2016.

When we humans are good, we are very very good.

It gladdens my heart when I see examples of people creating a safe space for us to co-exist with other wildlife.**

This osprey nest in Longmont is an example.  It's on Ninth Street by the Twin Peaks Golf Course.

Another osprey nest in Longmont - at the Boulder County Fairgrounds - is the center of rapt(or) attention via webcam. Indeed, in 2015, the "ratings" soared when two female ospreys battled it out over a man.

Osprey nest by Twin Peaks Golf Course, Ninth Street, Longmont, CO. May 2016.

**Disclosure: I am not a proponent of the current fashion in feral cat management, but that's a conversation for some other day and maybe some other forum.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Colorado: Roxborough State Park

Larkspur in Roxborough State Park, Colorado. May 2016.

May in Colorado meant spring flowers to me.

I looked up a list of best places to see wildflowers in May, and came up with a short list of places that my sister, Murphy, and I might check out in a day's easy commute from Longmont.

Roxborough State Park was first on the list!

Murphy and one of our nephews met up with another nephew and his wife. We packed our lunches to eat outdoors.

It was brisk and sunny.

We walked two trails.

Here's a snip of one in the video below:

High, low, and in between at Roxborough - there was much to grab our attention.

We saw dead critters: Fox, snake, mouse. You can see these in the slideshow at the end of this post.

Some of us were more interested in a thing than others of us. One of my nephews and I could barely tear ourselves away from the American burying beetles (believed to be near extinction) that worked and worked over a clump of organic material toward some unknown end. Flies of various brands flitted about the stage. A video below:

Meanwhile, a gobsmacking event was occurring up the trail. 

My niece and another nephew saw this dead mouse on the trail and actually witnessed a beetle attempt to carry the dead mouse on its back and, MY GOD, THEY DIDN'T TAKE A PICTURE. By the time Nephew #1 and I arrived on the scene, the beetle had given up and moved on. Niece and Nephew #2 tried to make up for their lapse by offering to take me to see two halves of a dead rattlesnake they'd encountered in the parking lot.

Dead mouse at Roxborough State Park, Colorado. May 2016.

Moving our eyes from the minute to the grand, we admired mammoth slabs of red rock that jutted away and up from lush green fields massed with yellow wildflowers.

Roxborough State Park, Colorado. May 2016.

At one point, we could see what looked like the Emerald City in the distance, an island in a plain. Denver.

A view of Denver from Roxborough State Park, Colorado. May 2016

A fine spring day.

Roxborough State Park, Colorado. May 2016

A slideshow below:

Roxborough State Park
Roxborough State Park, Colorado. May 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

Flashback: Supra in a Fiat near Gori, Caucasus Georgia

As I write this, my smile is so big. What a day this was! First posted here on August 14, 2011.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gori: Supra in a Fiat

Gorijvari, outside Gori, in Caucasus Georgia. August 2011.

I've had some great days in Georgia, but this may have been one of the best.

I joined TLGer Sandy in "her" town of Gori, which, I may as well get out of the way now ... is the birthplace of Stalin. Yeah, that Stalin.

Two of Sandy's police students, Mariami and Sofi, had invited her to go with them up to Gorijvari today, which is a church atop a mountain in Gori. They welcomed me along.

To get to Gori, I took a marshurtka from Rustavi to Didube Station in Tbilisi, then a taxi to Gori. The marshurtka between Rustavi and Tbilisi costs 1.30 lari, which is less than a dollar USD. The taxi from Tbilisi to Gori costs five lari, which is about 3 dollars USD. The thing with the taxi is that you don't leave til the taxi is full. In the case of "my" taxi, this meant waiting for four passengers. This was accomplished in about half an hour. 

Gori is a little less than an hour from Tbilisi.

Upon my arrival in Gori, Sandy gave me a short walking tour of the town center, then we sat on a really pleasant, shady bench in front of the university and passed the time chatting about our experiences in Georgia thus far while waiting for Mariami and Sofi to pick us up.

Main square in Gori
While we talked, I looked up and damned if I didn't see my teaching assistant for my English classes in Rustavi, Gio! Gori is his hometown, and he was walking down the sidewalk with his mother.

Gori city hall in main square

We did introductions, talked for awhile, and Gio and his mom moved on.

Eventually, Mariami and Sofi, Sandy's police students, arrived in a tiny Fiat. Cute little thing - looked terribly small from the outside, but was surprisingly roomy inside. We headed  off for Gorijvari with the plan to drive up part way, then walk the rest of the hill. Mountain. Lucky us, we parked the car, began walking up the steep mountain, when a man and his daughter, happened by in a 4x4, and offered us a ride. Hell, yes.

The road was seriously rutted. Truly, I'm surprised we made it at all. But we did, and wow, the view of Gori from this mountaintop church was fantastic. What a change from Rustavi! Two rivers converged below us. Green forests. Rolling hills. Mountains in the distance.

The current church itself is relatively new. It is a replacement (and not the first) of the original old one. The current iteration replaces that destroyed during a earthquake in 1920. 

Mariami told us that if you walk around the church three times, your wish will come true. She and Sofi proceeded to do just that, pausing to kiss the church at each of its facets.

It began to rain a bit as we left the church to walk downhill. The rain did not deter us from the next stage of our adventure, which was to have a picnic.

In the little Fiat, Sofi drove us through a postcard-beautiful town called Ateni - rich because of its good wine. Garden vineyards everywhere. There were even pergolas over the road heavy with grape vines and grapes. The metal gates and wood fences to the family compounds were all spring green. A winding blacktop road led us between the mountains.

It had begun to rain in earnest, but nevertheless, we pulled into a picnic spot by the River Tana. Mariami jumped out of the Fiat, and pulled dish after dish from the Fiat's trunk, along with the small china plates Georgians use for eating, plus utensils. Sofi sliced farm-fresh white cheese and Mariami, now back inside the Fiat, made a tomato and cucumber salad in the front seat. Sofi laid a flat "loaf" of Georgian bread on the Fiat's dash. Mariami produced several one-liter Fanta and Coke bottles filled with local red wine. She said several times, "Now, let's begin!" Since we'd already begun eating the fabulous dishes she'd made - pastry filled with boiled potatoes, beet salad, a decadent and salty griled onion dish, a warm carrot salad, a bean dish - she meant, "let's get started with the drinking of wine!"

Mariami poured wine for all of us (though not poor Sofi, our designated driver), made a toast, and said, "Complete!" as in "Drink the whole thing!" She repeated this again. And again.

By the second cup, Sandy and I, both infrequent drinkers, were already giggling at stupid things (such as how our English skills have plummeted since living in Georgia, as our English has picked up a Georgian accent, and we have regressed to caveman English such as "we go now."). But presently, even Mariami was laughing tipsily. Poor Sofi, the designated driver, stolidly stuck with mineral water.

By the time we finished this fantastic supra, the rain had stopped. We got out of the car, and Sofi sliced watermelon by the river.


We finished our feast and then went to the "Mother's Church" in Ateni. Unlike Gorijvari, which had been rebuilt in the last century, the Mother's Church is very old (though I don't know age).

My hostess, Nino, feeling anxious for my whereabouts (Georgians are very solicitous hosts), called me while we were at the church. For efficiency, I handed the phone to Mariami, who assured her I was well.

Mariami reassures my hostess
We wended our way back through the picturesque Ateni (damned if I neglected to push the 'on' button for the otherwise terrific video I took of the trip through), listening to dance rap and waving to passersby.

Mariami and Sofi gave Sandy and me wine, dropped me off at a taxi to Tbilisi, and then took Sandy home.

A great day.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Colorado: Loveland: Benson Sculpture Garden

Benson Sculpture Garden, Loveland, Colorado. May 2016.

Earlier in the day, I toured the Art Castings of Colorado foundry in Loveland. Now it was time to visit the city's Benson Sculpture Garden.

Benson Sculpture Garden, Loveland, Colorado. May 2016.

Raindrops added a poignancy to the works, both man-made and natural.

Benson Sculpture Garden, Loveland, Colorado. May 2016.

It pleased me to see so many women subjects in the park. Ordinary women, doing ordinary things.

Benson Sculpture Garden, Loveland, Colorado. May 2016.

For a relatively small park, there is rich complexity in Benson Sculpture Garden. There are open spaces, wooded spaces, wide pathways, arched bridges, still water, moving water. Sculptures include women, men, children, mammals, birds, reptiles. Some figures are quiet, some full of movement, some sad, some joyful. There are trees, flowers, shrubs, grasses short and tall. You could visit the park many times and discover a new facet each time.

I've got not one, but two slideshows of the sculpture garden.

The youtube version with background music is here (about five minutes):

And below is a slide show from Flickr that you can move through as quickly or slowly as you wish:

Benson Sculpture Garden

And it's free. This is so important because it makes art and a natural space accessible to everyone in a community, regardless of income.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Colorado: Loveland: Making Sculpture

Making of a sculpture, Art Castings of Colorado. May 2016.

A surprise to me about Colorado - the Denver-Fort Collins corridor, anyway - is the abundance of sculpture in public spaces.

Based on lightweight research, it appears there are three art foundries in the small town of Loveland. There are others in Berthoud and Paonia. 

I was lucky enough to be able to tag along with an already-scheduled tour group of Art Castings of Colorado, thanks to the generosity of the foundry and the group leaders.

 It takes a village ...

I never put much thought into how a sculpture achieves its final state of being.

So it was a revelation to learn how many painstaking steps - and how much post-production artistry - it takes to render a sculptor's raw form into its final, durable maturity.

Below is a flow chart that describes the process. Begin with "pattern making," which is the first meetup with the sculptor's newborn chick.

Foundry flow chart. Credit: ZHY Casting.

Below is a slide show of the sculpture-finishing process, roughly in sequential order of the steps:

Making of a Sculpture

Foundry artists

Not long ago, I read an interview with a literary translator, Dr. Margaret Sayers Peden. Of working with the original writers whose work she was translating:
"[I worked with] authors who knew English very well and were happy to answer questions and untangle problems, with authors who knew no English at all and preferred not to be involved, and with authors who knew a little English but thought they knew it as well as their own, and thus were sure they were able to choose the best [English words] for their book." 

Making of a sculpture, Art Castings of Colorado. May 2016.

There seem to be two dimensions of art foundry work:
  • Technical knowledge and skill in the mechanics of the process; and
  • Artistic sensibility and skill in "translating" the sculptor's malleable form into the hard form. 

Making of a sculpture, Art Castings of Colorado. May 2016.

The tour guide noted that some sculptors, once they feel assured there is a shared understanding of desired outcomes, release the process to the foundry's experts. Some sculptors want to be hands-on with all steps that involve creative judgment. In the latter case, sometimes this works well and sometimes it doesn't. The artistic eye, paired with technical knowledge, for creating a sculpture is different from the creative eye and technical knowledge in the foundry process.


I'm tempted to work in a metaphor of baking a multi-layered, elaborately-decorated cake, and the multitude of different skills, ingredients, equipment, and energy that goes into that, but we've both got lives to lead.

Peculiar parts and pairings

One of the rooms at the foundry is a vast work space. Works in progress sit on shelves, table tops, on pallets, or on the floor.

Sometimes the results are amusing, like this one:

Making of a sculpture, Art Castings of Colorado. May 2016.

My God! My balls! What are they doing over there!? 

Sometimes they set up a cognitive dissonance for me that is uncomfortable:

Making of a sculpture, Art Castings of Colorado. May 2016.

On one hand, I see a smiling child, so I know the final product will be a happy one. On the other hand, I see dismemberment and violence, a reminder of the dark history we Americans share.

There are the odd historical juxtapositions that feel whimsical:

Making of a sculpture, Art Castings of Colorado. May 2016.

Finally ... Here is a piece going to its forever home:

Making of a sculpture, Art Castings of Colorado. May 2016.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park. Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.

My sister, Murphy, and one of our nephews entered Rocky Mountain National Park through Estes Park.

Although there is no carcass in this Colorado story, there is poo:

Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.

It's a rather dainty collection of poo, I'm thinking. Maybe that of a young maiden doe? A little boob-a-doop that fell so gently onto the soft woodland floor.

A wide, tidy boardwalk led us to a stream.

Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.

 Along the way, we passed new buds on a tree. They looked soft and nubby, inviting a caress of a finger along their length.

Tree bud. Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.

Tree bud. Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.

Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.

I watched a duck make its way down a meandering brook, bobbing and snacking.

In another location, we scrabbled over a rocky trail to get to a small waterfall. There were big boulders lying about. One had a hollowed-out bowl in which captured water held the reflections of sky and rock.

Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.

We passed a field of elk.

Elk. Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.

Elk. Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.

 We stopped at a magnificent look-out. We crawled about rock faces and protruding tree roots. 

Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, Colorado. May 2016.