The Churches of Lalibela


Last night part of 60 Minutes featured these churches.  Several years ago I went with friends from Ethiopia to see them.  We spent almost an entire day hiking through around and up and down all eleven of them. I decided to travel back a few years and relive my experiences there and share it here.

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800 years ago these churches were carved from the top down out of solid stone. They dug a trench deep all around what is now each church and then worked from there.  Everything is stone, including the interior columns and spaces.

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There are areas around all the churches and drainage canals so they do not flood in the rainy season.

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The inside of each church is decorated with carvings, frescoes, and wall hangings.

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Because 800 years of wear and tear and especially rain was beginning to take its toll, they covered them several years ago.  Now, according the the architect on 60 Minutes, they are experiencing the opposite problem.  The stone is getting too dry and contracting. They are teaching local people how to preserve the stone so it will last hundreds more years.

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Dino, my Ethiopia friend, and the guide, in white.

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Why the ridiculous looking socks?  Fleas are a problem.  Many of the churches have old carpet on the floors, thousands of people still workshop in them regularly.  We were told to spray our ankles, tuck our pants inside out socks, spray our socks. It worked.

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And here is probably the most photographed of them from up above. Yes, you do get to climb all the way down there if you want to go inside.  We did. The story goes that the king went to Jerusalem and wanted to create an Ethiopian Jerusalem.  There is a river nearby which they call the River Jordan. As you tour, they explain every detail and how they match passages and stories from the Biblical Jerusalem.  How did they build all of these out of solid stone?  With the help of angels.

 

 

 

 

Desert


Give me the long view

the endless space,

let my bones gleam white

beneath a desert willow

where a diamondback seeks shade.

 

Let me walk through red rock, climb to eternity,

stretch arms into the azure, crystalline air,

laugh out loud.

 

Give me the long view,

let me laugh out loud,

look down the Kaibab

Plateau into eternity.

 

Let me sing songs to emptiness,

to stark, open, free,

dance in sun, moonlight,

laugh out loud.

 

Give me the long view.

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The World in One Room


 

Four jaguar heads stare at me,

Mexican, Costa Rican.

A third guards the mantel,

partially hidden in tropical plants,

attack ready, tail raised, jaws open,

teeth bared.

 

My feet rest on a coffee table

carved in Kashmir.  I look at the photo

of the young man whose family made it.

He took me home to meet his mom,

to the floating market.

Once peace reigned there.

Now I wonder if he is safe, alive.

 

The Hoop Dancer raises his arms,

the Acoma pot exudes ancient

black on white beauty, painted

by the tips of yucca stems.

The Thai Spirit House begs

to appease evil spirits.

I should put food and flowers there;

I never do.

 

Corn plant of life–for Navaho, Hopi,

me, painted, growing up my wall,

blue and red birds flitting through

the stalks, singing ancient songs.

Corn Maiden rug hanging on the wall;

an Isleta Pueblo girl won a contest

with its design.  Four Corn Maiden

Kachinas watch the room.

Corn everywhere–Sacred Corn.

 

Three Ethiopian crosses, St. George

and the Dragon, Frida Kahlo doll,

Argentinian Madonna, Tohono O’odham

baskets, a painted cow skull, Nigerian carved

wooden elephants, including a Chieftains chair,

the stained glass transom window from the house

where my dad lived from birth to ten.

 

In a room filled with windows, there

is little room for paintings, yet–

purple bison glide across the prairie,

an Iraqi woman flies through an azure

sky filled with dark blue birds,

a 15th century mystic, Kabir, tells

a tale in poetry, Navaho spirits,

pumas walking toward me–

my obsession.

 

Rugs scattered–Kerman,

an unknown Persian city, Afghani,

Egyptian, Indian, Zapotec, scraps of old

Turkish rugs sewn together.

 

In one cabinet, Grandmother’s china,

Mom’s Czech crystal–a wedding present

decades ago, Grandson’s painted art,

the silverware Dad gave Mom on their

first wedding anniversary,  Mom’s

everyday dishes–flowers blooming.

I use them every day.

 

These objects–a testament to who I am:

World wanderer, seeker, citizen.

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Italy–Pompeii


Although I had heard about, read articles, seen photos and documentaries, nothing prepared me for its size, grandeur, and wealth.

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To get here you have to climb up a hill.  This is where the gladiators lived and trained.

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The doors are copies, the rest not.  Gladiators lived in the rooms behind the doors and exercised and practiced in the green area shown in the previous two photos.

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This is the tiny amphitheater which holds about 1000 persons. Occasionally, performances, e.g. concerts, are still held here.

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An we walked around, I took pictures of the various buildings, streets, walls.

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Looking back toward the small amphitheater.

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This is the large amphitheater which holds 5000.  Just like in theaters now, the seats vary in size, view, etc. so that the where you get to sit depends on who you are and how much you have to spend.

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Looking toward what remains of the stage and area behind the stage.

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Streets were laid out in a grid at right angles to each other.  This is a typical street with sidewalks on each side.  Notice the large stones in the middle.  At times with excessive rain, the streets would flood.  The large stones allowed people to cross without getting their feet wet.  The spaces in the middle were designed so carts could pass through.  Along the sides are spaces for shops.

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The wealthy in Pompeii lived in very large, elegant houses, with water collection systems, heated and running water.  This is the entry to one such house.

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The courtyard at the same house.

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What remain of the frescoes there.  Considering this was buried for nearly 2000 years…

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Part of the dining room.  There, like in Rome, people reclined while eating.

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We moved on to another house.

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More frescoes.  Most of them tell a well known story.

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When they excavated this second house, they found this table with three legs–common then apparently.  This is not a new table, it is one from Pompeii found in this house.

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Decorated walls in this second house.

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An original floor in the same house.

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A place where someone had a shop with items for sale.

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We also visited the bathhouse area where there would be separate bathhouses for men and women, exercise rooms, hot water, steam, just like today.

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Although the walls, floors, streets and sidewalks are as they were before the volcanic eruption, in some places they have restored roofs to look like what they would have looked like then.

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They knew that domed structures are more stable.

Next we walked to the brothel.  Many of the sexually graphic frescoes remain.  They illustrate different positions.  I might also add that both stone and painted penises are everywhere in Pompeii.  Why?  They were the symbol of a good life, of prosperity, of fertility, of joy, of, well, everything good. I took some photos of the frescoes at the brothel but do not want to get thrown off my blogging site so will not put them here.

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Another typical street headed toward the giant city square.

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Standing in the middle, looking toward one direction.  I was astonished at the size of this place.  We went a good time of the year–the off season.  The guide told us that in high season there are so many people here, it is difficult to move through them at times.

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Looking the other direction with Mount Vesuvius in the background. Before the eruption this volcano was just a tall mountain or so the people there thought.  Then it was approximately 10,000 feet.  The eruption made it fall into itself and decrease by about 6000 feet.

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More photos of the square.

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The countryside near Pompeii is lush green. IMG_4454

The view walking down the steps leaving Pompeii.

 

 

 

 

California Dreaming–Part Two


My friends and I spent the last two days of my California sojourn driving to and staying in San Francisco where they have an apartment.  I had not been in this part of San Francisco before and some things there surprised me.  Next to their apartment building resides a grocery where we went shopping for some salad items and cheese.  Much to my astonishment most prices were no greater than in Amarillo Texas, near where I live.  Some items were cheaper.  Who would have thought?  Not me.

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On the road to San Francisco.

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The view from their apartment.

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The purpose of our going to San Francisco rather than staying near Carmel was to see the new opera, “if I were you”, commissioned by Merola Opera.  It is a modern retelling of the Faust story.  The devil is female and much to my astonishment sung/acted by a young woman, Cara Collins, from Amarillo, Texas.  The director, a good friend of my hosts, informed me that Cara’s teacher, Mary Jane Johnson who is famous throughout the opera world, was there also.  That saying about how small the world is seemed all too true.

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After the opera several of us went to a French restaurant where the waiter spoke several languages.  I felt a bit envious.

After breakfast the next morning, we took a walk to Alamo Square and to The Mill, a famous coffee shop.

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A view of City Hall through the trees.

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Above:  the Painted Ladies.

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Latte at The Mill.

Then off to my flight home.

 

 

Day Trip to Caprock Canyons


Caprock Canyons State Park, at the southern end of Palo Duro Canyon, requires about 1 1/2 hours to drive from my house.  Yesterday, we met the Panhandle Native Plant Society there to investigate flowers and grasses.

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When we first arrived, it seemed blue might break through the cloud cover, but it did not.

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The park ranger took us to several different sites to identify different flower and grass species.  The above is an area which in the early 90s was a cotton field and has been restored with native vegetation.

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We drove to another area which remained “wild”–never cultivated.

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Then we drove to a picnic area overlooking the lake.  Close to there we found the poppy below.

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After lunch, we parted with the rest of the group and drove to the end of the road.  Martina had hoped to see bison–the state bison herd roams there.  At this point we had seen none. As I drove along, a bison bull was strolling down the road.  Martina took this photo from the side window.  He was only a couple of meters from the car.

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We stopped and took a few more photos where the road ends. I have hiked from this point in the past, but not yesterday.

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After leaving the park, we headed to Silverton, Texas, to visit a coffee shop there which was recently featured in a Texas magazine as the place to go.

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I loved the murals and sculptures.  The owner is a sculptor and also a raptor trainer. The shop features coffee, desserts, unique clothing, and art.

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On the way back we stopped at the Palo Duro Canyon overlook/picnic area on highway 207.

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If you are in the Amarillo or Canyon, Texas, area, I highly recommend this day trip.

 

 

A Birthday Tale


Several weeks ago, the tail of my favorite horse, Miracle, disappeared.  When she died from colic after giving birth several years ago, one young lady at the vets took hairs from her tail, made a braid, and gave it to me.  Since then, it had hung in the hallway next to Dad’s spurs and a photo of the family farm above Dad’s parade saddle. Suddenly, it disappeared.  Where could it have gone?  No one had recently been to the house except Martina, my Italian exchange student, and me.  My daughter and grandson had stopped by, but no one else.  Nothing else had disappeared.  It was a mystery like the time I found a handful of dry dog food under the saddle.  I never solved that one and had given up on solving this one.  I had even considered looking for something else to hang in its place.

On my birthday yesterday, the principal walked to my room with a bouquet of flowers and a package.  The bouquet was from my grandson.  I opened the package. Much to my astonishment, there was Miracle’s tail, the top of the braid carefully and colorfully wrapped, a thin copper wire winding through it, and and then wrapped around the bottom.  My daughter had managed to take it without my seeing her do so, took it home, and had wrapped it so it would not come apart.  When I originally told her about it, she and my grandson commented how strange it was and made note of the dog food incident as if some mystery lurked in that particular place in my house.

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My grandson had picked out each individual flower.  He obviously knows my favorite color is orange.

Then to top off the day my son also sent flowers.  It dropped 50 degrees from yesterday afternoon to late last night, the wind shrieks, clouds loom dark and ominous.  It is a good day for bright flowers.

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