A Tribute to My Dad, Doyle Lightle


Dad lived his entire life, 90 years, on the farm which my great grandfather, Gottlieb Werth, homesteaded in the middle 1800s.  Gottlieb Werth came to the United States from Switzerland when he was 18.  Even though Dad lived in the same place all his life, he liked road trips.  The first occurred when I was three.  He drove us all the way from Northwest Missouri to Monterey, Mexico.  I still have photos of us wading in the Gulf in Texas before we crossed into Mexico.  Thereafter, we almost never missed at least one road trip a year between wheat harvest and the start of school.  Sometimes instead of a summer trip we took one around Christmas, like the year we went to Florida when I was in elementary school.  I skipped school a couple of weeks, took my work along, and came home ahead because the flu, which I missed, put everything behind.

By the time I was six, I had probably covered half the continental United States and, of course, been to Mexico.  I do not remember some of those first trips but the later ones I remember well, like the summer we spent in Crested Butte, Colorado, when it was still a mining town, and another in Placerville, Colorado, down the road from Telluride.  Then it was just a nowhere place, filled with the Victorian houses of its mining heyday.  Dad joked later that he should have bought one of those houses when it was cheap.

One year, the year between my junior and senior year in high school, we took a one month trip and drove 6,000 miles, from home to the Black Hills, where we had relatives, to Vancouver, to Vancouver Island and then to Victoria.  We visited every national park along the way,  Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympic, then drove up the Columbia and cut back across Rocky Mountain National Park and through Colorado. On an earlier trip we went to every park in Utah and Northern Arizona and Mesa Verde.

Dad’s interest in and curiosity about everything seemed endless.  He tried the latest agricultural methods in his farming, was an avid conservationist, wanted to check everything out on these trips, talked to people about what they were doing.  At home he read National Geographic and Scientific American and endless books.

Because of these trips, his sense of wonder, his propensity for intellectual activity, my friends in college were always shocked to find out he was a farmer.  They often thought, originally, that he was a college professor.

He moved into this house where I grew up when he was ten.  After Mom died, Dad and I were at her grave on Memorial Day when a man came up and starting talking with Dad.  I learned that the building in the foreground of this photo, before it was used for livestock and storage, was used for dancing during the Depression. The sheriff would send out deputies to make sure no illegal alcohol was consumed. I took this photo four years ago when I took a trip back.

12193406_10204105678156113_6043720938154804167_n

There used to be woods to the right of this photo but someone bought the land and bulldozed down all the huge oak trees.  The tall douglas fir tree in the middle was tiny when we brought it home on one of our trips out West.

I will forever be thankful to Dad for instilling in me a love of exploration, wonder, and curiosity.

 

 

Weekend Adventure


This past weekend my family had to return to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to finish some family business.  While there, we decided to explore as well.  After completing what we needed to accomplish on Friday, we decided to check out the Tulsa Zoo located in Mohawk Park.  Tulsa Zoo contains lots of green, open spaces, and some extremely interesting architecture.  For example the Malayan tigers live in an area made to look like ancient, abandoned temples.

IMG_2682

Then there are animals I have never even heard of before like the siamangs.

IMG_2686

I was surprised to see komodo dragons.

IMG_2681

The intensity of the colors in the American flamingoes never cease to amaze.

IMG_2690

IMG_2691

Apparently, the rest of my family liked them as well.

IMG_2689

The next day, Saturday, we decided to head east through the Cheyenne Nation to visit Natural Falls State Park. If we had known what it is really like, we would have taken a picnic.

IMG_2693

The area above where the falls drop off.

IMG_2697

IMG_2698

Dripping Springs

IMG_2700

Just below the falls another stream enters and then flows down to a lake.

IMG_2709

The lake becomes larger as it flows farther.  It is a moderate to difficult hike getting to the lake.  Fishing is permitted here.  This park is also a good place to camp.

While gone, a giant thunderstorm arrived at my house with 8 inches of hail and three inches of rain in a short period.  Although the juniper trees look close to normal, most of the deciduous plants were denuded.  I have no idea whether they will recover.  A few of the small native flowers appear normal.  Luckily, my house was not damaged. However, this evening with my grandson’s help I will tackle the drive which is full of about 8 inches, in some places, of dirt, rocks, and gravel.  Luckily, after removing the larger rocks, I will get most of it with the tractor bucket and move it back to where it belongs.

San Jose, Costa Rica


Two friends are headed to Costa Rica this summer.  While they will join a tour, they have a couple of days in San Jose before the tour begins.  I promised them I would suggest a few places they might enjoy, El Mercado, the downtown market,  the National Theatre, and the precolonial museum which is full of pre-Columbian gold and other ancient artifacts.  It remains my favorite but security there is tight.  To get in, you must surrender just about everything but your clothes.  You get a locker in which to place your valuables; the key to the locker is about all you can take with you.  As a consequence, no photos.  They do have a gift shop with quality items of all sorts including copies of many of the artifacts and jewelry.

Much of the downtown area is foot traffic only.  Vendors sell various goods on the street, you can wander El Mercado, in which various stalls for goods and food are located, and tour the National Theatre.  Inside the National Theatre next to the main lobby area is a lovely little restaurant, the perfect place for lunch.  The following are photos I took  in the National Theatre about one and one-half years ago.

IMG_1915

IMG_1914

IMG_1921

IMG_1919

IMG_1911

The first photo below is the highway from the airport into San Jose and the second shows a typical downtown pedestrian only area.

IMG_1904

IMG_1912

I have been to Costa Rica in what in the US is summer and also at Christmastime.  Summer here is their rainy season so if you go then, be prepared for rain, sometimes a lot of it.  It is sort of a joke that on the east side of the main mountain chain, it is always the rainy season.  However, I have been there when it did not rain.  Take a sturdy, easy to lug around slicker with a hood because sooner or later it will rain.

The huge advantages of going this time of year are a lot fewer tourists and it is considerably cheaper.

 

 

Two Kinds of People


The novel I finished yesterday described one of the characters as “the kind of man who would find his place anywhere because of how he interpreted the world.”  He was the kind of man who saw the world not as a system of barriers but rather a place of common ground, a man with an openness to the world, an openness to the unfamiliar, a man who welcomed the unknown.

This made me think of people I know and how they react, to where they want to travel, if at all, to what they desire to explore, to know.  Many of my friends travel little and rarely, if ever, outside the United States.  Others, like me, desire to visit places and cultures totally different, unfamiliar, to “know” the unknown.

This lead me to question how these two different types of people come to be.  In my case perhaps it started with family road trips, the earliest of which occurred when I was three and my dad drove from northwest Missouri all the way to Monterey, Mexico, and back.  I still love road trips.

Which kind of person are you?  Why?  Is it upbringing, heredity, environment?

 

Celebrating Earth Day–Photos


I decided the best way I should share my reverence and love for nature and this precious planet on which we live is to share photos from various countries, states, and my own little piece of wonder.

IMG_2641

img_2445

img_2454

The three photos above were taken at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas about ten minutes from where I live.

IMG_2617

Above and below the Rio Grande looking into Mexico.

IMG_2607

image

image

image

image

Four photos above — Big Bend National Park.

IMG_2604

Between Marfa and Alpine, Texas.

IMG_2359

The Rio Grande north of Albuquerque on the Santa Ana Pueblo Nation.

IMG_0577

IMG_0592

IMG_0635IMG_0633

The above four photos taken in Simien Mountain National Park, Ethiopia.  The animals are gelada–the only surviving grass eating primates found solely in Ethiopia.  They actually “talk” to each other.

IMG_0266

Menelik’s Window, Ethiopia

IMG_1144

Awash Falls, Ethiopia

IMG_0849

Where the Blue Nile begins draining from Lake Tana, Ethiopia

IMG_2024

IMG_2052

IMG_2070

IMG_1971

IMG_1927

The photos above were taken at various places in Costa Rica.

IMG_1730

IMG_1711

IMG_1718

Northern New Mexico

SAM_1195

Grand Canyon North Rim

SAM_1139

The Missouri River running full.

SAM_1218

California dropping down from Sequoia National Monument

SAM_1342

Near Lake Marvin, Texas

Sunday Sunrise ©Dawn Wink

IMG_1589

IMG_1419

SAM_0483

IMG_2304

IMG_2337

IMG_2323

The above photos were all taken within the last year on my little rim of wonder.

And finally below, my favorite animal.

CA_Cougar24

Gratitude


Thanksgiving brings so many thoughts, including thoughts about the divisive political discourse in the country now.  However, it seems more productive and in keeping with the day to focus on gratitude.  As I write this I think of both personal and broader things for which I am grateful, one of which is that I live in a country where divisive political discourse can actually and legally occur.  Now to the more personal (even though I think the personal is political, I will not focus on that)–here is my starter list:

-my family–daugher, son, and grandson; daughter and grandson will join me shortly to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

-my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe which my grandson will help me prepare when he arrives; he says it is the only pumpkin pie he really likes.

-my job which I truly love–teaching public high school; my students frequently make my day.

-where I live in beauty truly on the Rim of Wonder.

IMG_2376

IMG_2373

IMG_2323

IMG_2165

IMG_1645

IMG_1584

IMG_1807

IMG_1596

IMG_1580

IMG_1589

IMG_1419

-my health

-my friends

-my ability to travel to all sorts of fascinating places

IMG_0592

IMG_0577

IMG_0169

IMG_0198

IMG_2069

 

IMG_2040

IMG_1966

-a life I love

 

Ethiopian Journey–From Addis Ababa to Debre Birhan


Addis is the second highest capital in the world.  Only La Paz, Bolivia, is higher.  To a large extent, altitude determines climate in Ethiopia.  Addis and the surrounding area, much of which is high altitude farmland, receives a lot of rain this time of year and looks totally unlike what a lot of people think of when they hear the word Ethiopia–not desert but rather miles and miles of green.

IMG_0248

IMG_0249

We had not driven far from Addis when we crossed a river, an area of which is considered healing.  Many people had come for priests to bless them and to experience the healing power of the water.

IMG_0246

I saw only three tractors in ten days of criss crossing farmland.  Why so few?  One reason is rocks.  Many of the fields remain rather full of rocks in spite of many having been removed.

IMG_0258

Therefore, they farm the “old fashioned” way; horses or cattle pulling plows with a human behind.

IMG_0251

Houses in the villages in the farming areas demonstrate old ways alongside new.

IMG_0257

IMG_0259

Winnowing the way we did in the USA a century ago.

IMG_0253

IMG_0261

Much of the farmland is a picturesque patchwork quilt of browns and greens.

IMG_0266

Before dropping down to lower country, we drove by Menelik’s Window.   The drop off here is steep and far.  I did not go near it–I had not yet become used to the endless drop-offs or even realized that I would need to do so.  This is one of four places in Ethiopian where you can see gelada baboons.  They are extinct elsewhere. Menelik was an Ethiopian emperor.  This “window” allows one to look from the high country for miles and miles to the landscape beyond.

IMG_0262

The large tufts of grass provide food for the gelada which are grass eating herbivores, the last of the grass eating primates.  All others are extinct.  This same grass is used by the locals for roofing material so boys stay in these areas all day chasing off the baboons.

IMG_0264

To keep themselves busy they weave woolen baskets and hats to sell which they display in the grass.

IMG_0267

This ten year old boy happily donned the hat he had made.  I bought it for my grandson who was the same age when I took the trip.

IMG_0268

Except for the different vegetation, driving down the mountain looked a lot like driving through Colorado.

IMG_0271

IMG_0272

IMG_0276

Down from the mountain the landscape appears quite different and considerably drier.  We drove through several smaller towns on our way to Debre Birhan where we stayed the first night.

IMG_0279

Driving in Ethiopia requires navigating around animals.  Everyone drives their cattle, camels, horses, all livestock down the road whenever possible.  The roads are generally very good.  Many, built by the Italians, have stood the test of decades.

IMG_0282

Along the road we saw many of these “apples”.  My friend told us how they played with them as a child.  However, the adults all warned the children not to touch their eyes when they did–it will make you blind.  They are called Apples of Sodom–so many things in Ethiopia have symbolic meaning.

IMG_0283

These fruit could be seen all along the road and even on the road.  After driving through this drier area we rose above a huge valley with miles and miles of grass.

IMG_0285

A semi-nomadic group brings their immense herds of cattle here in the rainy season to graze.  When we drove further on above the valley, I saw the first tractor working a field as big as this grazing land.

 

 

 

Ethiopian Journey, Dubai


If you have a long enough layover in Dubai, they put you up in their Emirates hotel and feed you in the cafeteria free.  The hotel is nice, the food excellent–quite a nice perk.  From the hotel it is easy to walk to several places as well as take a van tour around the city.  We did both.

IMG_0167

The view from my room.  The pool has a swim up bar but it is not open during Ramadan which was occurring two years ago when we were there.  Alcohol is available in some restaurants and bars but you must imbibe inside.

IMG_0169

One of the first places we visited on the tour was this mosque, designed to look like the famous mosque in Istanbul.  The following photos are of typical houses near the mosque.

IMG_0170

IMG_0171

IMG_0172

IMG_0180

Then we arrived at the beachfront of the Persian Gulf.  The water is warm, like lukewarm soup.  In the background two of the most expensive hotels in the world tower above the water.

IMG_0184

The street goes along the waterfront with luxury hotels on the left.  Many of these areas are fill–manmade peninsulas.

IMG_0185

You can visit the sister hotel in the Bahamas.

IMG_0189

Because of the fill, the fake peninsulas, it is easy to get a bit disoriented.  Plus during the summer there is so much haze, it is rather difficult to determine directions.

IMG_0190

The tallest building in the world.

IMG_0191

After visiting several smaller shopping areas, we arrived here, the famous Dubai mall.  This is the largest aquarium in a mall in the world. Here you see people from everywhere in the world dressed in every way imaginable.

IMG_0192

A children’s store across from the aquarium contained this lollipop tree with giant lollipops.

IMG_0194

In spite of high heat–it was 108 when we arrived–no wind and high humidity (yes, because on the Gulf, even though it is desert, the humidity is stifling), many people were outside awaiting the fountain show.

IMG_0198

One part of the skyline reflected in the lake.  The fountain show, synchronized with music, is worth the wait even in the heat.

IMG_0202

On to the gold and silver souk.

IMG_0203

Gold and silver are sold by weight.  You can also buy gold in shops at the airport; however, nothing quite has heavy and exotic as some of this.

IMG_0204

We did actually shop in the food shops and bought nuts covered in various spices to take along for snacks.

IMG_0205

Ethiopian Journey–The Beginning


Two years ago today, two friends and I flew from here to Dallas to Dubai.  The final destination:  Ethiopia, where I spent nearly three weeks with them and my friends’s family plus a road trip through the north.  Ethiopia was nothing like what one sees in the news, in famine photographs, nothing like the image most people in the USA have of it.  My main goal when I returned home was to show people photos and inform them what it really looks like, how incredibly beautiful it is there.  This mission continues two years hence.  For the next several weeks I plan to relive this journey and share it on my blog here.

It is a short trip from Amarillo to Dallas via air.  In order to carry the baggage allowed on Emirate Airlines, we first flew via Southwest to Love Field, then took a taxi to Dallas International.  If you plan to fly long distances, I highly recommend Emirates Airlines.  Compared with all the others I have experienced even coach class is wonderful:  bigger seat room, more than a hundred movies to watch, good food, an area where you can help yourself to fruit and snacks, unlimited wine and beer, and an international group of flight attendants.

From Dallas to Dubai is fifteen hours of flying.

IMG_0155

IMG_0163

People wonder why they fly over Greenland, Iceland, northern Europe to get to Dubai.  Do not look at a flat map.  Get a globe and trace the route.  It is the shortest way to go.  Dubai is not like many think here.  No, I did not see endless lines of Lamborghinis and Ferraris.  In fact, I do not recall seeing any at all.  Tomorrow, photos of Dubai before heading on to Addis.

Costa Rica Adventure, Day Three–Part One


After lunch at the National Theatre we headed to Monteverde, a small town with only one unpaved road in and out.  One big change since I was there three years ago is the road.  It has been widened considerably and apparently plans to pave it are in the works.  The original reason for not paving was to prevent hoards of tourists from invading.  Apparently, that failed; tourists came anyway.

This town’s origination grew out of Costa Rica’s decision to disband its military in 1948, a practice which continues today.  Quakers from Canada moved here for that reason and created Monteverde, now famous for its cheese and, of course, the nearby Cloud Forest.  The hotel, where I have now stayed twice, El Establo, is owned in part by Quakers and serves a favorite of mine, fried cheese.

SAM_0640

Nine buildings up and down the mountain house rooms.  Previously, I stayed in one of the lower buildings; this time we were near the top way above this lake.

SAM_0641

The views from all the rooms provide a vista all the way to Nocoya Bay.  After we put luggage in our rooms, we headed out for a night walk in the forest, the reason we had been instructed to bring flashlights on the tour.  We saw spiders, birds sleeping, a mouse, all sorts of insects, but nothing too exciting.  Probably some of the group members were too scared and too noisy.

The next day breakfast occurred at 7 just before we took off for the Cloud Forest and a hike to the Continental Divide–all six miles or so.  I had hiked here before but on a different trail and in a huge downpour.  Luckily, it rained only a little.  However, if you are in the clouds, you get wet.

Lush does not even begin to describe the Cloud Forest, a huge reserve with numerous indigenous species of everything from hummingbirds to insects to all sort of plants that exist nowhere else on earth.

IMG_1923

Every tree, branch, every living things is covered with other living things.  This must be botanist heaven.

IMG_1924

IMG_1926

Looking up into the branches of a tree fern.  Yes, that is a fern. So much to see, it is hard to keep up with the guide, a native Quaker whose father was one of the founders of Monteverde.

IMG_1929

IMG_1927

It is difficult to know what photos to take; everything holds some kind of fascination and lots of beauty.

IMG_1931

Another tree fern right by the trail.

IMG_1934

In the clouds at the Continental Divide it’s incredibly windy yet the clouds stay and you get wetter and wetter even though it is not raining.  Water dripped off my slicker, the trail oozed mud and water, it was hard to keep my footing on slopes.

IMG_1935

IMG_1936

On the way back we crossed several streams.  Everywhere in Costa Rica signs in both Spanish and English instruct people to save water.  They made me chuckle.  Streams run everywhere in much of the country, especially on the Caribbean side.  Here I live in a semi-arid environment where I see wasted water running down streets in town and in Costa Rica they conserve water and recycle things I did not even know were recyclable.  Hotels provide recycling bins and some even turn off lights automatically when you are not in the room.

IMG_1937

The name for this flower translates from Spanish as hot lips.

IMG_1938

This looks like a tree but it is not.  A giant, parasitic fig plant surrounded the tree, eventually killed it, and this is the result.

After we finished the hike, we walked over to a shop that feeds hummingbirds, hundreds of species of which live in Costa Rica, many only in the Cloud Forest. Took a video of them, but it refuses to upload here.  Some were incredibly iridescent and much larger than any I had ever previously seen.