Rising to the Challenge…


The San Francisco Bay became a hotspot for the corona virus and 7 counties in the area banded together to issue a “stay home order.” That was a week ago, followed only a few days later by California’s Governor Newsom ordering all residents to “shelter in place” and leave home only for essential trips. Today the state confirmed 2,382 cases (experts say there are more awaiting testing or test results) of Covid-19 zooming up from 565 last week. In our county alone the cases (86) have jumped >85% in a week. (source: Calif. Dept of Health)


We are among the “vulnerable” so my husband and I comply (as do most people.) Tomas was a little slow – insisting on Day 2,one last trip to the hardware store for wood to repair our deck; he needed a project. I’ve been doing some spring cleaning and gardening when weather permits (its unseasonably cold for March). A writing project, long on a back burner, is propped on my desk as well.


I draw some comfort from a friend who wrote “this too shall pass.” That is surely true, but when and at what cost? Epidemiologists think our local legislatures may have acted swiftly enough to tamp the worst of the outbreak in our area and a few other states.
We are lucky that we have some well-educated state governors and smart officials with moral fiber who– unlike the present US administration – listened to the experts. On January 22 Trump boasted “We have this totally under control” and a White House advisor a few weeks ago claimed “we have contained this.” How could they, when in 2018 he eliminated the National Security Council’s global health unit (our warning system for pandemics), the Center for Disease Control funding was cut by a third, and Hospital Preparedness within Health and Human Services cut by half? (Source: Time Mag.3/2020) Several high level government health positions have yet to be nominated, 3 yrs. into his term. Hence we were not prepared for a pandemic. There’s a saying “Poor planning on your part…..constitutes an emergency” …in this case on “we the people.” (Thus concludes my rant.)

Surprisingly time passes in our semi-confinement and we are not bored yet. The saving grace is we are allowed to go outside for exercise and to walk the dog.

A few days ago we went to our little “secret beach” and we were still the only ones there. Then when the sun came out, we decided to hike a local trail that often has wild flowers and not well-used in the past. That was then and this is now. The first clue was some traffic on the rural road, followed by lines of parked cars 100’s of feet from the small parking lot. With every one off work and home with their kids, they decided to enjoy nature just like us. It was strange sharing the trail with so many, but only one young guy refused to yield the 6-feet of “social distance” (in spite of my waiting and saying “excuse me”). We saw few flowers, but on the drive home I did find a field of poppies – alas on fenced private property, so we could only enjoy it from the road… but oh my!

Profusion of colorful poppies


How are you and yours faring in your corner of the world?

More California Wildflowers 2019

The ubiquitous California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and a fiddleneck to the left.

Now that the drought has broken, California is bursting with wildflowers. These pictures were taken in two areas south of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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There were carpets of baby blue eyes (above) in Canada del Oro– although this is a subspecies that is white rather than baby-blue. Contrast the colour with this one from Pacheco Park.

 

 

Woodland star –Lithophraga affine. Flowers are approx. 3/4 in. or 1 cm. across.

 

 

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Pacheco Park also had hillsides covered in blooms. The dominant species were shooting stars and violas.

 

 

This species of shooting stars, Dodecatheon clevelandii, takes on different colours.

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“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour” – William Blake

A WILDFLOWER TRAIL ALONG THE YUBA RIVER

My husband and I drove up to California’s “Gold Country” last week, specifically to hike a trail along Buttermilk Bend on the South Yuba River.

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The dog  scared us by running downslope to swim.  I had visions of throwing myself into the raging water to save him, but he was smart enough to find a pool and avoid the rapids.

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The wildflowers were fantastic – both in the abundance of display and diversity of species.

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For over a mile you could hardly take a step without discovering something.

Even the pipevine swallowtail butterflies were having a field day – they were everywhere.

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There’s Gold in them Hills: Wildflower Season

It’s wildflower season again and after years of drought the blooms are making up for lost time.  I choose the Gold Country (California foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mts.) this year as a hot spot.  We started near Yosemite and made our way north on HW 49 – and various floriferous side roads. 

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)  and gold fields (Lasthenia californica)

The discovery of gold in 1848 sparked the largest mass migration in U.S. history.  Prospectors moved from one strike to the next along rivers and streams .  Today there are remnants of diggings, rusting machinery, stamp mills and old camps. There are historic towns and wonderful plant diversity.  The California golden poppy has replaced the “gold in dem der hills.”

Gold fields a common sight in spring.

The small flowers above,aptly named “gold fields,”  are in the daisy family.

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Shooting stars- Dodecatheon hendersonii

I found a field of shooting stars too.

Numerous creeks flow out of the foothills of the Sierras and into rivers that eventually join the San Joaquin River, one of California’s largest. 

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Below is the Stanislaus River.Stanislaus_pse1230

Old bridge over the Stanislaus. A sign says it was covered to make it last longer.  In the foreground are the remains of an old stamp mill, which crushed rock for extraction of gold ore.covrd bridge Stanislaus_pse1232

Many wildflowers have evolved to root in serpentine soil and gravels – which are toxic to most other plant life.  This is Bitter root – Lewisia rediviva (named after explorer M. Lewis of Lewis and Clarke fame).Lewisia r_pse1185

I was hunting for one particular wildflower I’d never seen: a fawn lily,  Erythronium tuolumnensii – and was excited to find it….  The thrill of the chase.

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Fawn lily –  Erythronium tuolumnensii

 

Below: wait for it – it’s a brief  slide show ( or click if feeling impatient 😉 )

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Lupins and goldfields in front of snickering horse.

Is that horse sticking his tongue out at me?

    

horse grin_pse1224Yeah pretty funny trying to ruin my shot. (I did not photo-shop this horse – he really was mocking me.  So disrespectful!)

The one(s) that got away 😉 :  I had some fabulous photos of a place famous (with botanists anyway) for wildflowers near Yosemite Park.  That night I downloaded over one hundred photos to my laptop and was going through them, deleting those that were out of focus etc. and taking pleasure in the ones that were sharp.  Long story short, my laptop died and I’d deleted the photos in the camera card to make room for the next day’s findings.  I paid a computer guy to retrieve them and he found everything else – that I had already backed up, except those photos I had driven many hours to take.  Ah well another year, and excuse for another trip!

Wildflowers near Skywalker Ranch

We went up Lucas Valley in Marin County (north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco) to see what was blooming and were amply rewarded. Walking up the Loma Alta Trail by Big Rock we found:numerous yellow lilies with blue gilias,

Calochortus luteus & Gilia capitata

Calochortus luteus & Gilia capitata

Sidalcea diploscypha Marin_psE0096

Sidalcea diploscypha

       A few sidalceas…

 

and clarkias.

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Clarkia amoena

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Collinsia sparsiflora

Across from Skywalker Ranch, the Chinese Houses (Collinsia sparsiflora) were still blooming, but passing their prime (it is late for them anyway!)

Skywalker Ranch is home to (George) LucasFilms of Star Wars fame. Built as a movie-makers retreat out in the countryside, it is a working production facility and includes a huge technical sound building.

T&G Skywalker_psE0122 Skywalker Ranch in the background with my dog and husband (aren’t they handsome?)  in the foreground. The flowers are mostly yarrow (close-up below).

Yarrow Pt Reyes 05psYou never know what you will discover when you explore country roads and trails. (But as you can see, in spring, my blog becomes a forum for my wildflower photos)  🙂

DESERT LANDSCAPES – Part II

The California Deserts (Mojave and Colorado) are unique and fascinating places, with many plant species and wildlife that are found nowhere else on earth.

When I first went looking for wildflowers in the desert over 20 yrs ago, one had to carefully to plan where to refuel and stock up on water and food. Lodging was dodgy so we camped. None of these is a factor anymore. Highways quickly get you where you want to go and pit stops like Mojave have become towns. The scary thing is that little desert towns have become cities. (Palmdale has an IMAX now!) All this means development – and loss of wild lands (and loss of wildflowers). Solar panels cover acres ( a double edged sword I’ll discuss another time).

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Large numbers of these caterpillars were busy eating wildflowers – I hope they become beautiful butterflies!

Near Red Rock Park.

Near Red Rock Park. The line below the rocks in the back ground is a highway, the linear feature below that is the California Aquaduct heading towards L.A – and in the foreground are purple phacelia and white camissonias.

There is a certain to beauty to desert landscapes and, as you can see, it is not a barren wasteland, but has its own ecosystem. The slides below were taken in the Mojave, just east or southeast of where the Sierra Nevada Mountains die out, near Red Rock.

 

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I have hundreds of pictures – the trick is choosing the right ones. Don’t you hate to go to someone’s house and realize they have 300 slides of their trip to Disneyland with the kids and they haven’t even culled the out-of focus ones! (Rule of thumb: one slide/minute thus 60 is generally plenty for friends or a talk.)

I have emphasized wildflowers ( and some  wildlife) because it is spring, but the rocks and sand dunes are interesting in themselves.

Have you ever visited a desert?

DESERT LANDSCAPES – the missing photographs!

For some reason the slide show meant to highlight the post today did not show up. So let me try that again!

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These pictures were taken in Mojave Desert in southern California where the San Gabriel foot hills merge with the desert floor.

Are you surprised by the colour?

WILDFLOWER SEASON! A Preview of Spring.

Spring is coming to the desert and my once a year hobby – photographing wildflowers – takes up all the time I can give it.  I’ve been a bit remiss with blogging recently and I’m afraid this will continue for a couple of months.  Last year the display was disappointing due to the drought, but this month we had some rain and the flowers are starting to bud.  I’ll give you a preview of what’s to come.

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Butterfly in wild “garden” in Central California.

Dodecatheon clevelandii, shooting star, Mines Rd (by CCM)

Dodecatheon clevelandii, shooting star, Mines Rd (by CCM)

California is probably the best place for wildflowers in the U.S. (with Texas coming a close second) – perhaps the best in the world.  Early explorers and settlers said the grasslands were carpets of color.

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A desert species -Mentzelia invlct. (by CCM)

 

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The blooms usually start in the southern California desert in March and flowers slowly open up in April as they “march their way” north with the warmer weather.

b.  L. parvum TAhoe 7-15 060-3

L. parvum (leopard lily) – Sierra Nevada Range (by ccm)

Finally the lilies and clarkias come out in May – and even later in the mountains. This is all dependent on precipitation – so pray for more rain!  …..our reservoirs and farmers need it too.

If you go in search of wildflowers – take only photographs (each flower contains the seeds for next years blooms), and leave only footprints (but not on the flowers!).

For this global nomad, botany buff and blossoming novelist, a picture says…

The Displaced Nation

Cinda 1000 Words CollageWelcome to our monthly series “A picture says…”, created to celebrate expats and other global residents for whom photography is a creative outlet. The series host is English expat, blogger, writer, world traveler and photography enthusiast James King, who thinks of a camera as a mirror with memory. If you like what you see here, be sure to check out his blog, Jamoroki.

My guest this month is Cinda MacKinnon, an American who grew up overseas and is the author of an award-winning novel set in one of her former homes, Colombia. Called A Place in the World, the book was featured almost exactly a year ago on the Displaced Nation.

Cinda shoots mainly “macro” (extremely close up) pictures, a habit she developed because of her interest in nature and plants—especially wildflowers. A writer, former university lecturer, and environmental scientist, Cinda is trained…

View original post 2,105 more words

Where Are You From?

Expat File #16 (In answer to South African writer-expat Charlotte Otter)

I am from Costa Rica. I am from eternal spring with blue skies and billowing clouds that sometimes rush in from both coasts and clash in the middle in a torrential downpour.   I am from green slopes of volcanoes and hot beaches that were once deserted. I am from coffee fincas, gallo pinto (rice and black beans) and beautiful birds. I am from warm smiles and friends. (My high school classmates have dinner together once a month and I am invited whenever I am in town – which isn’t often, but I am on the mailing list nevertheless.)

Coffee beans drying in the sun.

Coffee beans drying in the sun.

Clase de  67 ps -crp 033Photo of my HS reunion a couple of yrs ago (I’m in 1st row, 2nd from R). We were always a small class but half of us have moved away.

I am from Costa Rica…that is what I used to say as I had no state or other place in the world to claim as my own. I grew up as an expat with American parents. I lived in Costa Rica longer than anywhere else… from earliest adolescence and into my twenties. I went home to visit until my parents left Costa Rica in my thirties (they had lived out of the country by then for forty years).

Oxcart on Samara beach circa 1980.

Oxcart on Samara beach circa 1980.

Resplendant Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I might say I am from Greece where we moved when I was but weeks old.  And my first sentence was   “Thélo̱ pso̱mí” (I want bread) – or so I’m told.

white tower thslnk_crp0815

The White Tower in the background was originally built by the Ottomans, but it has long been a symbol of Thessaloniki.  My parents hung this painting on the walls of our houses wherever we moved.  My mother and I returned to Greece in the 1990’s – and to my great delight –  the harbor looked much the same as this watercolour I know so well.  I remember the blue water where we went to the beach …or do I just imagine it? …because we moved to Germany before I was three.

My mother said I spoke German before English, so I dutifully studied it for a semester in High School. That was in Costa Rica where the teacher, Frau Marin really was  German (and spoke Spanish, but not English) – but I didn’t speak it any better than anyone else. But I am from Germany… Because when I was twenty-five I suddenly found myself singing” Baa Baa black sheep” in German – lyrics hidden in the recesses of my mind for a quarter century.  I know all the words to a nursery rhyme I learned as a preschooler:   Mäh Mäh Schwarzes Schaf, Haben Sie Wolle? Ja, ja, ja drei Mal voll.…

old house_0192

Old timbered house.

I am from Colombia … I am from cool mountains with orchids and flower farms, hot beaches and lowlands… I remember flying over jungles and snow peaked volcanoes; I remember“onzes” (snack-time), kind  people, and colonial villages.  My elementary school had a reunion last year and I went with my sister and ate ajaico (wonderfully seasoned chicken stew) and danced the cumbia.  It felt like home – from a lifetime ago.

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… And now I am from California. From warm days and cool nights, egalitarian people, incredible spring wildflowers, tall redwoods, beaches, and deserts  … the Sierras, Monterey County and Yosemite.

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 Panoramic photos above of the San Francisco Bay Area seen from Mt. Tamalpais.

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Finally I could pretend to be from Hawaii where I’d love to retire .

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay


My siblings are scattered like the wind as are my children, but we are used to traveling for family get togethers. It has always been that way. We are from everywhere.

Disclosure: the idea for the post came from a South African expat-writer, Charlotte Otter. She is the author of a crime novel, Balthasar’s Gift and her blog can be found at Charlotte’s Web.

Where are YOU from?