Soaking Up the Sun

I’m gonna soak up the sun . . .
                Sheryl Crow

Spring, sun, and warming days have come to Kansas. On a visit last week, the transition from winter’s bare branches to spring’s color was evident and so fascinating to this California girl (where sun is pretty much a constant). The trees wait for green to sprout, but on bushes the green unfurls.

The tulips that herald the new season did not disappoint. Color burst up from the ground everywhere.

The buds promise more blooms to come.

Meanwhile the trees decorated Kansas City in lovely white and pink.

I learned that tulips grow on tulip trees. Most of the delicate blossoms blew off the trees in a recent storm, but a few hang on.

The most striking herald of spring for me is the forsythia bushes, ablaze in yellow.

This week in Kansas we enjoyed the sun, taking long walks around the neighborhood and in parks. It’s obvious that spring is arriving, but the starkness of winter is alongside the new life.

Buds will open with time and more sun.

Isn’t this a picture of life for most of us? Troubles have stripped some branches bare, but love and warmth and care nurture budding beauty. Life holds the promise of the new, the potential for blooming. A storm may strip the young blooms, but more are on the way.

How about you? How is spring looking where you live? Does life hold some welcome budding joys?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, Life Thru the Lens, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. The photos of the white pear trees are edited with Kim Klassen’s Lightroom preset Dreamlike. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the song is “Soak Up the Sun” by Sheryl Crow.

The Roman Colosseum — Masterpiece of Stone and Brick

Another brick in the wall . . .
                          Pink Floyd

Where have I seen wall on wall of bricks? The title of this Pink Floyd song immediately brought to mind our visit to the Colosseum in Rome. So many bricks, so many walls, such a vast and fascinating place.

The Colosseum, a world landmark, sits in the middle of Rome, visited by masses of people year round. Construction started in AD 70 and finished about 20 years later. Today, this grand structure is officially a ruin. Stones, bronze, and bricks were “borrowed” through the years, leaving the Colosseum without some of the top level. The roof over the gladiator dressing area is long gone. The ruined nature of the Colosseum adds to the romance and intrigue.

Here’s a description of what went on here, according to the museum on site:

“The spectacle day began in the morning with the presentation of all the participants. This was followed by the hunts, in which hunters tackled wild animals lurking among sets replicating the geographical contexts from which they came. During the lunch interval, when executions took place, the condemned, naked, and unarmed faced the wild beasts which would eventually tear them to pieces. During the intervals there were performances by jugglers, acrobats, and magicians. . . . Finally, gladatorial combats were held in the afternoon.”

Here’s a rendering of what the Colosseum may have looked like in its heyday.

It’s evident that thousands upon thousands of bricks were laid in complex patterns.

The top level is being rebuilt. Scaffolding lines part of it, and a bit of it recently reopened to tourists.

A platform reaches over part of the bottom level and holds groups of people.

We were able to join a tour with this lovely Italian young lady as our guide.

She took us below the main level, where we got to picture what the gladiators saw as they entered the arena.

Our guide pointed out that some of the blocks and bricks overhead hold together without mortar. I think I walked pretty quickly under these freestanding giant stones, but they have been hanging there for centuries so far.

If you visit the Colosseum today, you learn that scholars are still trying to piece together its history. We know that people and animals died here, and that gladiators fought bravely, both by force and by choice. If only these bricks could talk, what stories they could tell . . .

How about you? Have you visited a historical place that piqued your imagination?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, Life Thru the Lens, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Some photos are edited with Kim Klassen’s Lightroom preset Organic. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the song is “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd. The song actually has nothing to do with real bricks, but I’m taking just the title for this post.

A Day with the Daffodils

It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away . . .
It’s a beautiful day.

What says spring better than wild daffodils popping up on hillsides, waving their happy faces? In the mountains near my home, pine trees stand guard over cheery groups of daffodils. Residents of the Julian area planted hundreds of bulbs through the years, ensuring a riot of color each spring. You can drive back roads in search of blooms shooting up through the ground willy nilly.

They grow right alongside barbed wire fences. You think, “I see. No matter how sharp and hurtful life is, the barb can’t extinguish delicate beauty, color, and wonder.”

I ended my day with a visit to the town hall, where a show of cultivated daffodils amazed me. I didn’t know all these colors of daffodils existed.

Capturing the these flowers with my camera is my way of savoring the day, of not letting it get away.

Spending a beautiful day in the fresh air with the little daffodils restored my spirits.

So how about you? Have you enjoyed a “beautiful day” lately?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays.The photo of the daffodil festival is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Felicity. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where we choose our own theme song this week; I’ve chosen “A Beautiful Day” by U2.

Random 5 Friday — the Almost-Spring Edition

Spring is only a few days away! Here are my 5 randoms as we usher in the season of sun and warmth and renewed life.

1. The photo of the 2 bicycles is a happy accident. If I had tried to plan a shot of 2 bicycles moving opposite directions with 2 young girl riders and a pup in a basket — well, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Isn’t this fun?!

2. I’m super excited for spring because I have visits planned to both my daughter and my son. We’re flying to Kansas City and later to Saginaw, Michigan. I can’t wait to see so many of the people I love dearly. And to top it off, we’re meeting my granddog pup Huntley. Here he is in the snow. We hear he loves to swim in water, too.

3. I recently read the book, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre. What a magnificent story of deceit and intrigue. The twist at the end amazed me. Some say that this book from the 1960s is the model for many spy stories. Now I’m reading A Murder of Quality by the same author. If you enjoy elegant writing, a puzzle of a plot, and characters who come alive, you will enjoy le Carre’s books.

4. Recently I went shopping for a tripod. The one I have is so old that I’m not finding a way to attach my camera. Do you use a tripod sometimes? Often? Do you travel with one that’s not too heavy to lug around? The camera shop expert recommends this one. Any advice?

5. A big thank you to Nancy for reopening her blog and once again hosting this enjoyable link-up. Nancy, I’ve missed you and your writing and your beautiful dogs. I’m so happy that you’re BACK!

So how about you? What are up to this week as we officially welcome spring?

Linking up with Random 5 Friday.

Here Comes Spring

Is spring visiting your corner of the world? When I arrived at the neighborhood lake, I found sunny yellows in wild bloom. Spring officially starts the end of this week — and the warm temps here have ushered it in with all its glory. [It was 91 degrees today; I could do with a cooling trend any time now . . .] Fresh air, sun, a slight breeze, and colors strewn all around made me smile.

The day proved perfect for a little fishing . . .

or strolling with a friend.

So how about you? Are you seeing welcome signs of spring?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays.The last photo is edited with Kim Klassen’s Lightroom preset Chocolate.



Stormy Weather in Cinque Terre

Five little towns known as Cinque Terre cling to the west coast of Italy. The history of these communities goes back to the 1100s. The people living here today have known their share of stormy weather. They remember well the massive rainfall in 2011 that caused flooding and mudslides that buried the ground floor of so many structures. People and cars were swept out to sea. Digging out from the mud took a while, but today all five towns are open to tourists and are thriving once again.

Fishing is a healthy industry . . .

and the homegrown tomatoes and homemade pesto sauce make the best pizza you can find anywhere.

Running around in the rain here, we couldn’t help but think about how vulnerable Cinque Terre is to the weather. The tall hills where grapes, tomatoes, and other crops grow are so steep that they serve as a funnel when too much rain falls. Since 2011, a better system of drainage allows streams to flow under or beside the streets to carry the water to the sea. Still, some hiking paths on the hills are closed. We were warned not to hike even on the open trails during rain.

Once you see how these towns are built, you wonder what miracle allows these houses, shops, and castles to remain perched precariously on the hills.

During a storm, beaches sit deserted, with umbrellas closed tight. Boats bob in the water, waiting for the weather to clear.

One of the towns, Monterroso, has visible wire netting in place to hold back rock slides.

By afternoon, the sun shone and we were able to hike in the hills above Manarola. But we will always remember Cinque Terre as a fragile place, cobbled together through hundreds of years with whatever’s at hand. Let’s hope it’s strong enough to survive at least another century or two.

How about you? Have you visited a place that’s existence seems especially fragile?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays.The first deserted beach photo is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Storm.

Riding a Jeep through Normandy

I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did,
I swear I lived . . . I swear I lived.

How can we focus on living every second? One way is to pay tribute to those whose lives were cut short, who didn’t live to grow older, who died young along with others in their band of brothers.

A highlight of my travels is a tour of the Normandy D-Day area in a 1942 Jeep.

On this pastoral land, battles were fought for bridges, roads, tiny towns. The quiet country lanes belie the chaos and violence that took place here.

We sped down dirt lanes and clipped along thick hedgerows, clinging to the same vehicle ridden by soldiers during the intense fighting.

Many of the wartime buildings stand, though decay has overtaken some of them.

The words of a poem by Laurence Binyon come to mind:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

At the tour’s end, I climbed out of the Jeep with a heart of gratitude to the brave young people who died here — those who would not grow old. What a poignant reminder to own every second this world gives.

How about you? What’s reminded you to count your days with thankfulness?

Check out D-Day Battle Tours for more information about the tour. Here’s my husband Curt with our excellent guide Monica.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays.The first photo is edited with 2 layers of Kim Klassen’s texture History. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme song this week is “I Lived” by One Republic.


A Gift to Humanity — Les Invalides

In the heart of Paris, you will find Les Invalides. The cannon stand guard in front of the complex of buildings, hinting at the military history of this place.

But it’s easy for tourists to be confused about what Les Invalides is, exactly. That’s because it is many things at once. What started as a hospital for war wounded invalids, built in the late 1600s, is today a military museum. The landmark gold dome tops a church.

And underneath the dome is the most famous tomb in Paris — the final resting place of Napoleon I.

Les Invalides is more fascinating if you know a bit of its history. It is on the short list of Paris treasures that Hitler visited during his only trip to Paris, in 1940.

The church’s artistic domed ceiling may have merited an upward glance from the dictator. What he didn’t know was that the French Resistance met in the secret space between the ceiling bottom and the outside walls of curved gold.

Les Invalides, despite its beauty, was set with explosives later in WWII. The world came close to losing it. When the wartime mayor of Paris met with the German major general Choltitz one day, they stood on a balcony and looked out over the city. The mayor pleaded with Choltitz to spare Paris.

“Often it is given a general to destroy, rarely to preserve. Imagine that one day it may be given you to stand on this balcony again, as a tourist, to look once more on these monuments to our joys, to our sufferings, and be able to say, ‘One day I could have destroyed this, and I preserved it as a gift to humanity.’”

For more of the story of the occupation of Paris, I highly recommend the book Is Paris Burning? by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins.

Today, Les Invalides with its glittering dome survives. Choltitz never gave the orders to blow it up.

Cars and pedestrians pass Les Invalides every day. I wonder how many of them know about the layers of history and what happened here. And what almost happened here. And how thankful we can be that this gift to humanity sits safe and sound.


Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays.The first photo showing the dome is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Evolve2.

Seeing Clearly at Torrey Pines

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day.

Blue skies, no obstacles . . . but wait. What about obstacles we can’t see under those skies of blue?

Hiking above the ocean on the cliffs of Torrey Pines on a bright December day, we enjoyed magnificent views.
This area is home to the rare Torrey Pine, a lovely and scraggly tree that prospers in the layers of sandstone.

Here’s the unseen problem at Torrey Pines beach. The top layer of earth is so fragile that it’s in danger of toppling.

This week, the beach below the cliffs is closed. Geologists expect a landslide any minute. I saw people sauntering on the sand a few weeks ago, but you won’t see that if you go there today.

You may not want to venture up and down the stairs on the cliffs, either.

All looks well above ground, but below the surface the unsettled sand causes problems. Isn’t that just like people? We may see smiles and hear “I’m fine” if we ask how someone is doing. But beneath the surface, inside, who knows what another person is battling? An ancient Greek named Philo gave us the famous quote: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

I just came from signing papers at a dealer, and the man who passed me document after document for my John Hancock really was downright mean. I had never met him before, and he had no reason to treat me, a stranger, as he did. When he repeatedly told me what would happen on February 29, I wanted to pounce and correct him on this nonexistent date out of spite. But I didn’t. As I left I thought about this man and obstacles and the cliffs of Torrey Pines. Who knows what this guy is dealing with? Better to smile and stay cheerful, and maybe brighten his day a little bit.

Meanwhile the cliffs hold on, the Torrey Pines bend and stand firm above the crashing waves . . .

. . . and another day of blue skies comes to a peaceful end.
How about you? Do you struggle like I do to remember to be kind to the grumpy?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays.The first photo is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Isobel. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme song this week is “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff.




Walking a Narrow Path

Did you know that not all the streets of Venice are waterways? A few streets are built on the land. These are dedicated solely to people–no cars allowed.

Many of these paths will surprise you with their narrowness.

Residents figured out long ago how to cope with a city where land is at a premium and streets are rare and confined. Street signs, for example, don’t take up any space on the streets; they hang high on walls. Visitors get confused about which street below a sign may be referring to, but it’s fun to get lost in Venice, so that’s no problem.

The folks in Venice have figured out how to live and thrive in this unique place on the tiny bit of land available. They set up shops.

They grow their gardens out the window rather than in the ground.

Their pets watch the world from high above.

The city couldn’t sprawl as it grew because it’s surrounded by water. So it went up instead.

You won’t find backyards or clotheslines, but that’s no problem.

We all have times when the paths of our lives narrow. The going gets harder. For me, this has come in the form of illness, surgeries, money issues. In those times, we can think about the Venetians. They get creative, they build up if need be, they keep on with their laundry and their lives.

How about you? What kind of path are you traveling this week?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays.The first photo is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture History






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