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Climbing Joshua~

Look and spot the climber.

Here he is close up.

Spot this climber,

resting on the top.

Here she is, getting ready to come down.

This guy at the top is waiting for his climbing friends (do you see them),

to come up.

He climbs barefoot.

Here are all three without zoom. There is a fourth person at the bottom that you many be able to spot.

(Click to enlarge)

Cheers to you from the Joshua Tree National Park climbers~

Sweet Bud~

Why doth thou,

stink so much?

This is the flower bud of a corpse plant, named for the rancid corpse like smell the flower emits when it blooms. The smell attracts carrion beetles who pollinate the flower. The flower itself is the tallest in the world and can grow up to twelve feet in the wild. You can get a sense of how huge the bud is by comparing it to the exit door in the first photo, and the child in the second. It grows only on the island of Sumatra and is extremely endangered with about 1000 of the plants left in the wild. The flower bud grows six inches a day, and when it blooms, the flower only lasts for 48 hours. There are two of these flowers at The San Diego Botanic Garden. Watch the first one bloom in a time lapse video below filmed by Botanic Garden staff, appropriately enough, on Halloween:

This plant reminds me of the Saturday Sci Fi movies I used to watch as a kid! The plant takes about ten years to bloom, and will only bloom every four-ten years thereafter. It’s corm can weigh 339 pounds! As the flower begins to bloom, the temperature of parts of the flower rise by up to 10 degrees Celsius in a process called thermogenesis. The second bud at the San Diego Botanic Garden is due to bloom around Thanksgiving. The garden stays open until midnight during the bloom and 5000 people queued to see the first flower! People drive from out of state to see it.

Notice the detail of the bud petals. It looks a bit like a giant Bok choy!

This is the base of the first flower that bloomed. The female flowers are the red ones on the bottom, and the males are the brown ones above. It is the male flowers that rise in temperature during the bloom.

Cheers to you from the soon to bloom, very tall, and very stinky corpse flower~

Wings~

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world. Anna’s weigh about .14 ounce, but they can fly at speeds of up to 60 mph.

Unlike other birds they can fly backwards and upside down, and they are among the 1% of birds who can hover.

Hummers fly upright, not flat like other birds.

Their wings rotate 180 degrees, on their shoulder ball and socket joints,

and can beat up to 200 times per minute!

Despite their petite size, hummingbirds have mega-brains. Their brains constitute 4.2% of their body weight, greater than any other bird, and greater than human beings whose brains are about 2% of their body mass. Hummers remember how to fly thousands of miles, they know and remember which humans can be counted on to feed them, and they remember which flowers have the best nectar.

Cheers to you from the small but mighty hummer~

Soaring~

The architecturally interesting Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, sits on a stunning property with views over the ocean cliffs.

(Note: Salk is buttoned up these days due to their COVID- 19 research. They are working on vaccine development, viral imaging and immunity studies. Guards are patrolling and visitors are not allowed. Thank you Salk for what you do).

Next to Salk is the Torrey Pines Glider Port.

A couple steps and you are off the cliff,

soaring,

with the birds,

helicopters and planes,

over the ocean,

far below.

Sailing off into the sky,

seems so freeing, except for the cliffs and rocks below!

Cheers to you from my life on the ground~

Anxiety Management During Pandemic Days~

Many of us are experiencing emotional distress from the pandemic which can affect each of us in different ways, but often presents as increasing anxiety, worry, sleep disruption, feelings of helplessness, panic, and/or depression.

The shrieking headlines don’t help do they? So what can we do to manage these feelings and feel stronger emotionally and psychologically as we prepare ourselves to face the difficult days ahead?

As a psychotherapist who has practiced for many decades, I have some ideas that can help. So if you are interested, read on.

We are going to make a customized anxiety toolbox. One approach doesn’t work for everyone, pick and choose what feels right for you. Of course I’m including relaxing photos intermixed in this post because looking at positive images is an objective and powerful anxiety reducer. What you perceive influences how you think and feel.

ANXIETY TOOLBOX:

Self Talk Reframing (Cognitive Therapy)

Guided Imagination/Visualization

Exposure Management

Progressive Relaxation

Distraction in Action

Self Soothing

Spiritual Meditation/Prayer

Second Voice

Exercise, Diet & Good Health Practices

This topic will be broken up into separate posts, and start with Self Talk, Guided Imagination and Exposure Limitation. These are the tools I use most frequently to manage my anxiety. Yes, I have anxiety, and now pandemic anxiety, and I don’t like any of it, so I have learned over the years to better manage all of it.

Self Talk is one of your most powerful anxiety busting tools. It can be best understood through the ABC Model:

A: is an objective event that occurs (Covid 19 for example).

B: is what you immediately and silently say to yourself, sometimes many times a day, about this event, usually without conscious awareness (“Oh no, we’re in a high risk group, we’re gonna die, badly,” is my example). Insert your personal pandemic negative self talk here.

C: are the feelings that immediately arise in response to our self talk (Anxiety, pandemic preoccupation, worry and/or panic)

In this case my self talk was awfulizing , which is the tendency to assume the worst possible outcomes will happen to me or the people I love. I can challenge and change this self talk by making it more realistic. An example for me might be, “Stop thinking the worst. Most high risk people survive. You can take steps to improve your chances.”

I use self talk reframing in combination with guided imagination everyday. These are two of my most trusty tools and they work synergistically with each other to reduce anxiety, each making the other more effective. Like any learned skill, the more you practice it, the better you get at it.

Guided imagination is exactly what it says it is. When you are resting, napping, or going to sleep, don’t let your imagination run you. You run your imagination. Guide it to a place, a story, a visualization, that engages your mind, and is positive, happy and fun. Challenge yourself to come up with imaginative stories that involve you. This is wonderful for your mental and physical health. Make yourself a central character in your story. I have ongoing stories that I return to everynight before I fall asleep. I come up with new stories when the old ones start to lose interest.

This kind of guided imagination reduces stress hormone levels, aids sleep and reduces anxiety. It can even positively influence, or guide, our dreams which is beneficial to our mental and physical health. It is harnessing the creative power of your brain to control its own production. Long term prison inmates report using this technique to escape their cells and fly free. If they can do this, so can you and I.

And finally, reduce your exposure to news. Yes, it is important to stay well informed and safe, especially in a pandemic. But constant media onslaught can be psychologically overwhelming and add to an unhealthy level of anxiety. So take charge of the news in your own best interest. Consciously limit your exposure according to your best choice about how much you can absorb without becoming overwhelmed. This is truly important in managing your anxiety during pandemic times, and really at all times.

Switch from the news after you’ve had enough to stay informed, and read blogs or a book. Watch a movie. Look for positive imagery. Write blogs and stories. After all, you are bloggers! You have awesome creative imaginations. Use your imaginations in positive ways to help you, and your readers, stay on even keel during the coming stressful days.

Cheers & calm to you from me at The Holler~

Note: Australian birds in order, New Holland Honey Eater, Gouldian Finch, Superb Fairy Wren.

Inner Inn (Pt. II)

The Mission Inn in Riverside California, built over a sixty year period beginning in 1876, is a living museum full of priceless art and antiquities. It has two onsite chapels, one is dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi and has glass works designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1906 for a chapel in New York.

Many Della Robbia style ceramics from Italy,

are on stunning display throughout the property.

The Inn is a National Historic Landmark which you can tour on your own or with a docent. The art and artifacts overflow the spacious Inn and there is a museum with more art across the street that can also be toured.

Ten US presidents have visited The Inn,

and there is a presidential lounge dedicated to them.

The mission style interiors are comfortable and spacious, but the most amazing spaces for me are all the inner courtyards which are like beautiful outdoor rooms full of whimsical artwork and constant surprises.

Exploring is great fun as everywhere you look you find precious art and artifacts.

The clock tower has a glockenspiel with full size rotating figurines that is a replica of the original built in Nuremberg Germany in 1709.

The Inn has over 400 antique bells. One from Nanjing China dates from 1247 and is the oldest bell in Christendom.

Cheers to you from the fascinating and fun Mission Inn in Riverside California~

Mission Inn~

The historic Mission Inn which occupies several blocks in downtown Riverside California is the largest Mission Revival building in the United States.

The Inn was built in 1902 by an engineer named Christopher Columbus Miller. His son Frank expanded his father’s original efforts, and added wings, rotundas, chapels, museums and galleries.

The building contains a mixture of Spanish Gothic, Moorish and Mediterranean revival architectural styles. There is a Spanish Wing, an Alhambra Wing, and flights of fancy everywhere you look.

Frank Miller traveled the world collecting museum quality treasures to fill the inn, including what some say is the oldest bell in in the new world dating from 1247.

There are two chapels on the property including the one pictured dedicated to St Francis of Assisi.

Louis Tiffany designed two of the mosaics in the chapel.

The Rotunda Wing features a five story open air staircase.

The rotunda tops a suite dedicated to the writer Anne Rice.

Presidents, world leaders, and many famous folk have stayed in the inn over its history and the inn has a presidential lounge dedicated to the many presidents who have stayed here.

The Inn began a period of slow decline in the 1960’s where ownership changed hands multiple times and bankruptcies occurred, eventually forcing the city of Riverside to purchase and close the property for eight and a half years. In 1992, The Historic Mission Inn Corporation purchased the property and reopened it in all its former glory.

I will show you more details and the interiors of this amazing building in my next post. Until then, cheers to you from The Mission Inn in Riverside California~

Churchill Manitoba~

Oh course I have to lead with the bears. Churchill is often referred to as ‘The Polar Bear Capitol of the world’ and I do have more of them to show you. This is a different mother and cub from the ones I posted before and they are shot in black and white.

Churchill itself is a most remarkable and unique place. In the summer it is nippy, but in the winter, it is another story altogether. Hudson Bay freezes over and the polar bears are in their element. People, not so much. But clever and resourceful humans have adapted many ways to make life in this forbidding climate livable. Check out this polar research vehicle which you have to admit is pretty darn nifty. (In the background you can see an abandoned missile silo. More about this later).

Decades ago polar bear populations around Churchill were in very serious decline. Protection and creative bear management practices have brought numbers up significantly. This is the ‘Polar Bear Holding Facility,’ which locals call, “Polar Bear Jail.” Bears that cause repeated problems in town are held in this facility and then relocated by helicopter far away in the tundra. The town has a Bear Patrol, which is called out when bears become a threat, to shoo them out of town. These smart practices are saving the lives of both bears and people.

Inukshuks were used by northern Inuit people as traditional directional markers. An Inukshuk like this one symbolizes friendship and safety. Today, “Inukshuks have been transformed into worldwide symbols of hope and friendship transcending borders and welcoming people all over the world.”

(Source: https://www.sustainabilitytelevision.com/news/why-inukshuk-represents-heart-canada)

Respecting the meaning of symbols like this seems more important than ever in today’s world.

Note: the femur bone at the bottom right of the photo. Most likely caribou. This is polar bear country after all.

Traditional Caribou Hall is a National Landmark and a town centerpiece.

My son is checking out the wreck of a plane that crashed in Churchill in 1979. All aboard survived, but what ends up in Churchill, often stays in Churchill, because the only way in and out of town is either a train ride that takes about 45 hours, or an air flight. The commuter airline that makes the trip between Winnipeg and Churchill is called “Calm Air.” It offers a lovely ride that we enjoyed immensely, even though some locals refer to the airline as “Calamity Air,” due to, errrr…..unforeseen weather variations enroute.

These are the community vegetable gardens. Vegetables are prized and hard to grow in this frozen tundra environment, so community effort is important. Recycled arctic buggy wheels make useful above frozen ground planters.

A traditional cabin built to withstand the arctic winter.

Our lodge was built of reclaimed logs and has this sign in front.

Churchill is filled with amazing open air art. Click on this link and read how and why this is so. You will be glad you did. The story is awe inspiring: https://www.cbc.ca/cbcdocspov/features/a-winnipeg-artist-brought-hope-to-churchill-manitoba-when-they-needed-it-th

This abandoned building is a concrete blast shelter connected to a former missile test facility by underground tunnels. This facility operated in Churchill from the 1950’s until the mid 1980’s. All the missile testing buildings are now abandoned.

The seemingly endless miles and miles of tundra topography surrounding Churchill is stunning and utterly unique.

Cheers to you from amazingly beautiful Churchill Manitoba~

Palms to Pines & Rare Desert Storm~

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has the world’s largest rotating tram cars.

The two and a half mile trip up the mountain from the desert floor takes ten minutes.

It brings you from a desert floor elevation of 479 feet to 8, 516 feet. That’s a big climb in ten minutes!

The ride up moves through five different life zones, from the Sonoran Desert floor to the Arctic/Alpine Zone, where the highest peak, Mt. San Jacinto, is 10, 834 feet.

You leave the stark, baking desert, and hike in the mountains where the temperatures are 30 degrees cooler than below.

During our trip, a summer storm was moving in, causing it to rain on the mountain, and dropping the temperatures even more.

By the time we returned to the desert, we could watch the rain clouds move in over the mountains accompanied by lots of thunder. This is a rare summer occurrence and one I have never seen before. Despite the rain, the temperature remained a steady 112 degrees fahrenheit, and the drops evaporated quickly after contact with the superheated desert.

After the passage of the brief storm, the light was lovely.

Cheers to you from the scorching, but beautiful, summer desert~