Monday, February 17, 2014

Los Gigantes

Yesterday a friend and I were making our way to El Morro National Monument in New Mexico, and avoided the interstate by taking secondary roads. (You'll note that the abbreviation for El Morro is ELMO, but no fuzzy little red Muppets there.) We passed through an intersection in Witch Well, Arizona with this building on the corner, the only structure anywhere around. It always makes me wonder what are they thinking?! to see a tavern/liquor store with a drive up window.

The road took us though the Zuni reservation and a couple of really small communities but it's mostly wide open country. Beautiful, wide open country, and when I spied hoodoos off to the north we made a u-turn and traveled down a brand-new dirt road that was smoother than many highways I've been on.

A little farther down the road was this sign. I don't know what 32 Los Gigantes means - are there 32 hoodoos (giants)? Is it an address on the road? I don't know and a quick Google didn't turn anything up other than to say they're in Cibola County, New Mexico, which I already knew. They're so close to the Zuni reservation I have to believe they have a religious or cultural significance, but the new road gives me a bad feeling the area is being developed. Or maybe they're just geologic formations and nothing more.

I'm including a near-duplicate of the first photo simply because I like the dip in the mountains in the background.
Hoodoos are also called tent rocks, fairy chimneys, and earth pyramids. They're tall, thin spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. They range from 5 to 150 feet tall and typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by  harder, less easily-eroded stone that protects each column from the elements. Thank you, Wikipedia.

I can see where the name Los Gigantes came from, especially when seeing the figure below. I think these formations would be spectacular in glowing, early-morning light.

The photos from El Morro are all processed and are coming up next. Wow. What a place.

Quote of the day:
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. (Sigmund Freud)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

1/3 of the trifecta

In Lafayette, Louisiana which, incidentally, has worse drivers than Maryland and that's saying a lot, I hit the trifecta - a cathedral, cemetery, and museum all belonging to the parish of St. John the Evangelist. The cemetery and museum photos still await processing but I finished the Cathedral last night.

The Cathedral is the third church built on the site donated by Jean Mouton in 1821, when Lafayette was the town of Vermilionville. In fact, there is a sign in French and English outside the Cathedral that calls it St~ Jean du Vermilion. The cathedral was built in the style of Dutch Romanesque in 1916, and is on the National Registry of Historic Properties. (And another one bites the dust!)

The nave consists of a series of arches supported by columns, a blind story, and a clerestory. 

Oil paintings of Christ the King and Apostles decorate the groin-vaulted ceiling.

Flambeau stained glass, made in Munich, Germany, portrays the life of Saint John the Evangelist, the patron of the Cathedral. His red cloak usually identifies him. 

As I worked on the stained glass photos I noticed a big difference in the processing effects from the other hundreds and hundreds of stained glass photos I've done. Increasing or decreasing highlights and shadows tended to act the same as if I was increasing or decreasing exposure; the entirety of the photo was affected, not just the highlights or shadows. It was difficult to get definition in faces, for example, or in the dove's wings, below. These windows don't feel like my best work, that's for sure. I tried looking up flambeau stained glass and found nothing other than a few references to it as a type of glass, but nothing as to the manufacture. Flambeau means torch and that might be a hint, but I found nothing.

It looks like this window was donated by the Happy Death Society. You'd maybe have to be Catholic to understand.

I worked a long time on this one, trying to correct the perspective - to get it to stand up straight and be even side to side, and this was the best I could do. It was taken from far below and off to one side and the original was really skewed. Believe it or not, this is an improvement. I include it so you can take a look at St. John, to Jesus' left. Have you seen The DaVinci Code? Sorry I can't make it bigger.

 Another window with better luck on the face.

There are many windows in the cathedral, but just one more. Dripping blood.

Fourteen mosaic Stations of the Cross line the walls of the two side aisles. This is the only photo I took.

The Italian marble main altar displays mosaic representations of wheat and grapes, symbolizing the bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The center mosaic, a mother pelican feeding her young, is also a Eucharistic symbol. Additionally, four stone medallions, as revealed in Ezekiel 10:14, depict the four Evangelists: Matthew by a human head; Mark by the head of a lion; Luke by the head of an ox and John by the head of an eagle.

The evangelists' symbols are also represented on the podium in the sanctuary. The eagle for John:

Located to the left of the sanctuary, the Blessed Sacrament altar is one of the most sacred places in the Cathedral. The tabernacle has the Ciborium (a receptacle for holding the consecrated Eucharist) inside and has two gilt-wood angels as its guards. Above this altar, a wooden crucifix hangs between the alpha and the omega.

Priests, during the Sacrament of Baptism, use the marble baptismal font. Above the altar, the Holy Spirit is symbolized by a gilt metal sculpture of a dove and sun rays. On the altar are the repositories for holy oils used in the Cathedral during Baptism, Confirmation, Ordinations, and Anointing of the Sick.

Behind the altar, a marble chair is fashioned with columns, Corinthian capitals, and a miter motif. A multi-colored mosaic of the first bishop of the Diocese's coat of arms decorates the upper portion of the chair. The Latin name of this chair is cathedra, which is the origin of the English word Cathedral. Only the local Ordinary (Bishop) uses the chair when he celebrates or presides at Mass or a special liturgical event.

The Casavant Frères, Limitée organ was installed in the l985 renovation.

 The organist came in to play while I was there.

 I liked the shooting star effect on the ceiling.

The side aisles don't have the glory of the main, but they usually have their own subdued beauty.

One final photo out of many more, the gate guarding the stairs to the choir loft.

Many thanks to the parish for the copy & paste, unauthorized use of the text on their website, the plagiarism of which gave me no end of problems formatting this post, and I still can't get it right.


Thought of the day:
Ain't no such thing as a free lunch. (Anon.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Back in the saddle again -

 - and not just working. It took a few days, and I know I'll hear cries of you wuss! from everyone north of me, but it was cold and it was windy so I delayed getting out in the park until the weather decided to behave itself again. It felt great to finally stretch my legs on the road to the Painted Desert Inn and I only huffed and puffed a little.

Without further ado, and not finishing all the photos waiting in the queue to be processed from when I left here in September, here are the latest from this wonderful place (but wonderful only when my water's not frozen in the morning because somehow I blew the GFCI and the heat tape wasn't on).

First off, some things don't change. People toss petrified wood out their windows when they see a sign that says there's a vehicle inspection ahead, and there are often small chunks of wood on the side of the road. This is the biggest I've seen and to put it in perspective, I have big feet and you can see the size of this chunk compared to the toe of my shoe. It must have weighed four or five pounds. I can see why someone wanted it; it's gorgeous.

Four deer! That was a treat.

There was the Painted Desert Inn, just where I left it, and Pilot Rock also still in the same place.

The late afternoon light was just starting to make soft shadowplay, softening the colors and smoothing the badlands.

Pilot Rock looks much closer than seven miles out. Petrified Forest has some of the cleanest air of all the National Parks and I never realized how clarity affects perception of distance until I left Big Bend National Park. Between it and Marathon, TX is a Border Patrol station. It was after dark when I could see the flashing lights for the station very clearly, right ahead, so I tapped off the cruise control and started slowing down. And drove and drove. There were the lights like they were on the next corner but I still drove. It was probably another twenty minutes' driving before I got to the station, but the clear, clean air made it look like it was close enough to touch. Pilot Rock looks about a mile out here, but you'd better pack a big lunch and carry a gallon of water.

This is from another day, when I walked down old Route 66, which skirts the eastern side of the Painted Desert, near I-40. I love this country.

There's something about the West. The light is so different here. I did nothing to enhance the color on this photo of the desert - the colors, the glow, are just as the camera saw them, with a little contrast and sharpening thrown in.

How could this be called Badlands? 
Before I go all dewey-eyed, though, I need to remember hauling a 35-pound pack through, over, and around this godforsaken landscape last summer. After swearing I'd never do it again, it's in the plans. Stay tuned.

Day's end can take my breath away, just as I remember. I'm so glad I'm back.

Thought of the day:
I plan on growing old much later in life, or maybe not at all. (Patty Carey, 1901)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tropical not-quite-paradise

Now that I've volunteered in all of one national park and one national historic site, I'm making it a point to see as many as I can - that includes the parks, monuments, historic sites, landmarks, and whatever else is out there. Valley of Fires, where I stayed a couple of nights in New Mexico, is a Bureau of Land Management property, and that counts too. Of course now, after I saw I don't know how many parks on my way to Arizona last year, now I'm deciding to get the stamps that all of them have. Many people buy the passport book, where there are pages for each of the regions around the country, and you can also buy sticker-like stamps for each of the locations, but I haven't jumped on that bandwagon. I just take my journal in and hunt out the rubber stamp station and mark my book. I know I'm the only one who cares about this; when I kick the bucket my kids will toss it in the trash, but it's a way of collecting something from each of the places I've been (since collecting anything else is a felony), and maybe a way of jogging my memory about that place. When I was at Andersonville, I talked to a visitor who had 70 parks stamped into his book.

I was surprised to learn that many parks/sites/monuments have more than one stamp. Andersonville had two: one for the prison site, one for the national cemetery. Big Bend, in Texas, had five: one for each of the visitor centers. That was the thing that kept me driving for 12 hours that day. I couldn't miss one stamp so I had to drive down all these miles-long spurs just to get a stamp. Crazy. What we do when we're obsessed.

Getting a stamp and seeing a Civil War site that I hadn't even known about before Andersonville was what took me to Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park. Well, that and the prospect of good snorkeling, but really, it was the intellectual pursuit that counted more. Really.

The only way to get to Dry Tortugas is via a park-sanctioned ferry, the Yankee Freedom, or by float plane. When I compared the fares and saw the float plane was about 1000 times more expensive than the ferry, you can guess which way I traveled. It takes about 2 1/2 hours, breakfast and lunch is included in the fare, and it's a pretty pleasant way to go.

Fort Jefferson was begun in the 1800s to protect the lucrative shipping channel between the Gulf of Mexico, the western Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest all-masonry fort in the United States and was never completed because of supply problems (some materials were brought from as far away as New England) and because its weight was causing it to sink into the earth.

The tortugas part of the name comes from Ponce De León, who noted the large number of tortoises on the island. The dry part comes from the fact there is no fresh water in any of the keys. Even today, all water is brought in by the daily ferry. There are no services there either, no restaurants and no restrooms other than that on the ferry. The park allows overnight camping with a permit and campers have to haul everything in and out, but there are carts on the ferry that help to move their gear the short distance to the campground. I'd really like to camp there sometime. Just imagine the stars.

Fort Jefferson was used as a Union prison during the Civil War. I never know how to word it. The Union housed Confederate prisoners there. Probably its most famous inmate was Dr. Samuel Mudd.

This is the ferry. It makes one round trip a day.
Part of the fortification includes a moat. Look at the color of the water!

It's possible to climb to the top of the fort. I didn't. I was anxious to get in the water pursue the intellectual opportunities of studying history.

I imagine these are the stairs to the top of the fort. Atmospheric, aren't they?

Richer people than I arrived by plane. Once again, look at the color of the water.

If you were on cannon duty, guarding US maritime interests, this would have been the view out of your office window.

Approximately 4 million people have taken this shot, doorway after doorway and, unlike me, about 99% of them actually got it centered.

This pelican barely noticed me. He knew the ferry was leaving soon, taking all the pesky tourists with it.

Aren't these birds, whatever they are, fun? Yak, yak, yak.

This is a walkway on the interior of the site. The Park Service is pouring money like mad into preservation. There was a lot of work going on, and everything, including labor, has to be imported.

This is one of the snorkel sites. They're old pilings and fish were hanging around them like mad. For some crazy reason, you couldn't enter the water via a nice sandy beach that's just to the left of here, but had to walk way over to the right, get in the water by going across a broken shell (sharp) beach, and swim around a retaining wall, buffeted by waves, to get to the same place. It's the government.

Here's another park that seems to be an idyllic place to be stationed, but like Big Bend, no thanks. It's literally in the middle of nowhere. There's no driving even half an hour to get to the grocery store, rationed water, electricity by generator, no internet.... It's great for a day trip and for a couple nights' camping, but in general I like my regular creature comforts.

Thought of the day:
I'm not really a tropical paradise kind of person. (Matthew Fox)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Meanwhile, back in Florida

I'm still processing piles of pixels and am learning to be brutal about discarding the junk. I got a new-to-me computer and to keep from overloading the hard drive I'm learning to take a hard look at the hundreds and hundreds of shots on the camera's memory card. I used to keep almost everything and have previously filled up a one-terabyte external drive with photos that I thought one day software would be invented for, software that would transform the garbage into Pulitzer material. I'll go out on a limb here and say nobody, nowhere, will invent any miracle that will save some of the true trash I have in storage. I've even started back on my Flickr pages, deleting the embarrassing stuff. I think to myself, I posted that?! and put a figurative bag over my head. But even though I'm getting better at discarding, I still have to go through every shot and make a judgment on each and every one, and there's always a little wishing and hoping in the background.

I easily had twice as many shots of the two Key West venues I'm showing today, and that's a reason I'm so far behind. I was there a month ago and haven't finished other Key West photos, nor all of them from just about anyplace else. But these two are done.

First is Hemingway's house. I admit to never being a fan but since I was there and it's on the National Register of Historic Places, why not go?

In the past few months I've toured this house, Roosevelt's Little White House in Georgia, and Truman's Little White House in Key West, as well as antebellum homes in Georgia in a variety of styles, and I never know what to expect. People with a lot of money live very well, and people with a lot of money live very simply. The living room, below, was the fanciest room in the house and it's not really all that fancy for a guy with a lot of money and large appetites.

There was too much light coming in the dining room to get a good photo, except for the chandelier, which is pretty in a 1920s kind of way.

The kitchen was also simple but I wonder how much cooking he did. I loved the tile.

One of the tiles. It reminds me of Pewabic Pottery work, in Detroit, but I don't know where this came from.

More pretty tile.

The big windows on the second floor and the cool tile were inviting. I could have a bathroom like this.

Imagine having to chain off the bed. They wouldn't do it if someone hadn't made himself at home.

The view from one of the verandas. Nice.

Out back is a real, genuine cat house. Not being a fan, I wasn't aware of the famous Hemingway cats, except for hearing about the polydactyl population. I just read there are 50-60 of them on the property! My first cat was a polydactyl Siamese and I had no idea it's unusual. Her kittens were also multi-toed. The cats here appear to be well taken care of,

even as far as memorializing them. I wonder how some of them rated names like Marilyn Monroe and some got stuck with Bubba?

Here's the star of the place. Love those toes!

A second set of Key West photos is from a Catholic church. I have a lot of good ones from an Episcopal church that will be done soon; it's much more ornate than the Basilica of St. Mary, Star of the Sea. The Episcopal church has stunning stained glass windows, but the Catholic church has louvered shutters that make it al fresco. It's a tossup which one I like more.

 Don't you love all the natural light flooding in?

 And here too?

 This is the only stained glass window in the place.

 The inviting look from the outside; the cool interior beckoning.

More KW and lots of other places soon, but I'm back in the saddle again at Petrified Forest. Depressingly, no little records management fairies appeared while I was gone to finish off the old work I left undone. It is, of course, what I expected to be the boring stuff, but one box I opened yesterday was half full of financial records from the early 1990s. Lucky for me, there's no records retention schedule in the world that makes you keep them that long. They'll be an easy pitch into the recycle bin.

Thought of the day:

There is, incidentallly, no way of talking about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person. (Dan Greeenberg)