Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pelican's in Jeopardy

Any followers of this blog will know of my passion for Pelicans and understand my distress for their problems caused by the freak storms last week.

Kevin Herrera, Editor in Chief of the Santa Monica Daily Press, last weekend reported (see photo insert) how many California Brown Pelicans have been battered by rains and urban runoff along the coast, including Santa Monica Beach. He quotes a spokesman for the International Bird and Rescue Center at San Pedro as saying that: "Most of the birds are suffering from hypothermia and appear disorientated. Their feathers normally form a natural barrier to the water and act as insulation from the cold but instead are matted by oil, grease and other gunk from massive runoff, much of it from roads and freeways."

The IBRRC report that they have now treated 152 Pelicans, among other sea birds. It can take 5 to 7 days and can cost about $500 to treat each bird. If you'd like to help these wonderful symbols of the Pacific Coast, check out the IBRRC website: www.ibrrc.org

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coral Trees and Moreton Bay Figs and Violet

Last week I had to look after my very new Granddaughter- Violet- for a few hours in Santa Monica. Having her in her sling, I decided to take her on a walk to view- whether awake or asleep- two of my very favourite species of trees that are in the same vicinity. They happen both to be unbelievably fabulous, in the original meaning of the word.

I was slightly hampered by the fact that Violet's sling was sized for her mother who is much taller than me- so if I did not manually support her she banged against my legs at each step...and me being far too aged to be a natural mother, and having her in this ill-fitting sling rather than a stroller, I did fantasize that a cop car might waylay me as a child abductor...

First we walked to San Vicente Boulevard. Here are the always rewarding and exciting Coral trees which form a wondrous central pageant of extraordinary pale pinky,lilacy orange sculptures on the green median, where they replaced the Pacific Electric trolly track. In previous posts I have described how an early environmental activist, fellow Treesaver Carol Purcell, together with Mayor Clo Hoover, saved these trees from destruction by the City Council back in the 60's. Since then, they became the official tree emblem of Los Angeles and certain trees on San Vicente were given Historic-Cultural status.

Secondly, we left San Vicente to walk down La Mesa Drive, famous for yet more extraordinary, sculptural trees- the over the top, excessively rooted Moreton Bay Figs. These super-cousins of my beloved Ficus/ Green Gem trees, I have also featured before on this blog. Here they form a curved avenue and each tree amazes you with its uniqueness. On this particular day it had been raining, so the bark, instead of being silvery gray, was often streaked in rich, rusty brown.

I will start with five images of details of Coral trees, followed by the Moreton Bay Figs:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chihuly at Kew Gardens, 2005/6

Today, coming across Debra Prinzing's site Shed Style, two of her posts caught my eye: first, having just been writing about the patterns of Palm trees, there were some delightful photos from Tuscany, showing the patterns made by rows of Italian Cypresses alternated with Italian Stone Pines- both trees popular in Santa Monica.

Secondly, there was a post about the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, including some of the unbelievable glass sculptures made by Dale Chihuly, an artist from Washington who initially studied glass blowing in the Venini factory in Venice. This reminded me that I had long been intending to share some of my memories and photos of an inspiring installation Chihuly created in Kew Gardens in 2005.

I was taken to Kew Gardens by one of my cousins on a cold Winter's day and was overwhelmed by these glowing exotic fantasies, which I would have loved to have made myself! As one approached the Gardens, there was the lake afloat with brilliant coloured bubbles of glass and then the Glasshouses were full of these highly stylized but amazingly convincing glass tropical plants, interspersed among the wondrous residential ones. Often it was difficult to distinguish what was organic and what was glass. Chihuly had totally connected with Kew's environment and Kew Gardens were inspired to use his conception.

Kew is always wonderfully rewarding in itself but there is something very exciting about combining Art and Nature.

Starting with the lake:

Monday, January 11, 2010

More Patterns of Palm Trees

Last week I wrote of my enjoyment of the patterns the birds made on Malibu Lagoon. Today I want to write of my fascination with the patterns of Palm Trees, which I have written about previously: I am talking about the very common, skinny, scrawny Washingtonia Robusta that line so many streets in Santa Monica and Los Angeles. My Scottish mother would have described their untidy foliage as "desjasket": but their spindly trunks and their relationships to neighbouring trunks are refined and orderly and I find the subtle differences in these relationships totally absorbing. When I am looking at them through the lens the excitement and tension I experience is something very akin to music- the intervals between them are to me music.

So here are some of them:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cross Creek Road Trees

When I visit Malibu Lagoon, I usually start my operations from Malibu Country Mart, in Cross Creek Road, just opposite the Lagoon, on the other side of the Pacific Coast Highway. Today these trees caught my eye: first, a peacock-tail-like heavily pruned Ficus tree against the blue sky and secondly an extraordinary Gaudi-like Coral tree- but then Coral trees always are extraordinary...so here they are, starting with the Ficus tree:

Malibu Lagoon

Malibu Lagoon is one of my very favourite places- I have spent many idyllic hours there photographing Pelicans, Egrets, Cormorants and countless other birds as well as the ocean.

The Lagoon is where Malibu Creek meets the Pacific Ocean and consists of 22 acres of wetlands and sandy beaches. One of the wonderful things about it is this juxtaposition to the sea: the bird-packed lagoon is just separated from the Ocean by a narrow strip of sand- so always you can see the sea beyond the Lagoon. When you have had your fill of gazing at the Lagoon you can go onto the beach and gaze at the waves and the surfers- and watch the Pelicans flying from the Lagoon to the Ocean and dramatically, vertically diving into it. Also, the plants and shrubs on the land give out exotic smells. To me it is a Paradise, and hard to believe it is so close to Los Angeles.

Today was hot and sunny so I rushed to it. It is always unpredictable whether you hit a good moment for photographing birds. Today they were all skulking out of reach- except for a very powerful lens which I did not have- so it was a day for watching their patterns on the water rather then taking close ups. Here are some of the patterns I enjoyed:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas Tree

Christmas may be over but as Twelfth Night is not yet here I will show a couple of images of a very pretty Christmas tree I saw tonight, when wandering about the streets of Santa Monica...


January 1st 2010: I cannot let this pass without making an effort to return to my blog. For the last two months I have had many other preoccupations that have distracted me from actually recording events on the blog, although as always I have been taking endless photographs with it in mind.

Since my last post, I have returned to the US, though this time I am staying in Los Angeles instead of Santa Monica. This is because my first Grandchild- my daughter’s daughter- lives here. She was born just over two weeks ago and I was lucky enough to share the magical experience of her home birth.

Because her first name is Violet- Violet Sophi May- I am dedicating this New Year blog to the word Violet. I love the name Violet because it is both a strong, vibrant colour and a Spring flower- colours and flowers meaning so much to me. May, the name of a flower as well as the month, was my mother’s second name.

The colour Violet was named after the flower- first being recorded as a colour name in English in 1370. It is used in two senses, both as referring to the colour of light at the short-wavelength of the visible spectrum and as a shade of purple, a mixture of red and blue light, and not a spectral colour (click for more info). And then there is Ultraviolet light- so named because the spectrum consists of electromagnetic waves with frequencies higher than those we humans can identify as the colour violet (click for more info)...

Violet has many symbolic meanings, such as: in Chinese painting, Violet represents the harmony of the Universe because it is a combination of Red (yang) and Blue (yin); Violet auras are said to be significant, people with them being forward looking visionaries; in Hinduism Violet symbolizes the Seventh Crown, Chakra and in Western churches Violet is the liturgical colour for both Advent and Lent. Coincidentally, Violet having been born in a year of the Ox, in the Chinese Zodiac the colour for the Ox is Violet!

As a Flower, Violet also has a variety of meanings: Love; Modesty; Virtue; Affection; “I’ll always be true” and a Good Luck symbol for women.

The flower itself belongs to the Viola family, which includes the wonderfully patterned Pansies and the charming little wild Heartsease. Violets can be either White or Violet and finding the first ones in the Spring hedgerows always excites me.

Violet as a name was common in Scotland in the 16th Century and became common as an English name in the 19th Century. I have a doll that belonged to my Scottish Great Grandmother that is named Violet- of course this will be given to my Granddaughter, the incomparable Violet Sophi May!

(White Violet, Violet Violets, May blossom)