Caravaggio at the Getty

Spectacular birthdays are rare when you’re an adult. Most people, I find want to just pretend the years aren’t going by. Others celebrate with reckless abandon.  I’m for the latter. There is nothing you can do to stop the passage of time, so why not embrace it? Have fun with it?

This month we celebrate my Prince Charming husbands birthday, and I found something I knew would make his day special.

His favorite artist of all time is the incomparable, Caravaggio. His real name is Michelangelo Merisi, (no, not that Michelangelo that painted the Sistine Chapel, the other one), but he is known worldwide as Caravaggio.

Caravaggio is famous for his skill with light and shadow. A technique that would be copied by countless artists including Rembrandt, Rubens and Vermeer.

For those of us that paint, I enjoyed looking at the paintings, much like I do with Monet, (my favorite artist) trying to understand how he created these masterpieces. Studying brush strokes and drinking in their beauty.  Hoping that just being near them will instill in me some magical stroke of his genius and make me a better painter. My husband enjoyed them just for their beauty.

Seeing these paintings is extraordinary for several reasons. First, the Getty is located in Los Angeles and recently there was a fire raging on the museums doorstep. Fortunately the Getty was built with the foresight of just an event so all was well. But I admit, I was worried there for a while.  Second and probably most amazing is that these paintings haven’t been out of Italy for 400 years! They have been housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome and are just now being shown here in the US.  Finally, seeing these paintings is a gift because Caravaggio had a very short career that only spanned less than 20 years. He died, mysteriously at 39 years old taking his genius with him.

Fortunately, unlike some of us, and I mean me, I’m well past 39 years old and I still haven’t figured out what I’m meant to do. I’m so pleased that Caravaggio knew at a young age and pursued it, much like we should our birthdays with that reckless abandon I mentioned earlier. Otherwise we would never have seen these exquisite pieces of art that I believe, will change you forever once you see them.

The three Caravaggio paintings are on view at the Getty until February 18th and no matter where you are in the country, if you are an art lover, get yourself to Los Angeles and go see them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you’re here, I can safely say there will be a layer of smog hanging over L.A. like a warm blanket. The day we were there, it was clear as a bell.  You could see the ocean in the distance, far off buildings and the homes that barely skirted the fires. Another gift toward making this a spectacular day.

I’ve included a video I took of the view and trust me, a clear day like we got, is as remarkable as seeing these paintings.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xSeSLilqu3w

Next birthday, I hope you get a day this good…and every birthday after. They truly are a gift, go ahead and celebrate!

 

 

Wildflowers

From late 2016 up to April 2017, Southern California enjoyed more rain than it has in a long time. Gratefully, I took advantage and over those few months I would bike ride near my home and take pictures here and there. This video is the culmination of those trips. So, just in case you didn’t get to see the wildflowers this year, now you can. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JDy2EaBrOQ

 

 

Rocky Springs

Rocky Springs-A Town That Isn’t

Rocky Springs is, or should I say was, a town in Mississippi. I say was because it’s no longer there. All that remains of this once thriving small community is a church, cemetery and two rusted safes.

photo-3-6

A Growing Population

The settlement of this little hamlet along the Old Natchez Trace, began in the late 1790’s. Among those that thrived here over the years were carpenters, doctors, clergy, teachers, cabinet makers, cotton gin makers and blacksmiths. Parts of the 440 miles of the original Natchez Trace can still be seen here and you can walk on that section of history. The lovely little Church was erected in 1837. All in all the town flourished by 1860 to a population over 4000 people including slaves that are, sadly, not actually mentioned in the population statistics.

 

Bad Luck Strikes

Unfortunately there were three elements of bad luck destined to strike at the heart of this little burg and seal its fate. The Civil War, which began in 1861 and lasted almost exactly four years, killed many of its inhabitants. U.S. Grant himself came to Rocky Springs in 1863 and used the church as his headquarters for a short time. His desk was set up where the pulpit now stands. He planned much of his campaign here while the war raged on and put this poor town on the road to destruction with it.

After the war, Yellow Fever devastated the town in 1878, further killing many townsfolk including numerous small children. The cemeteries in the area, heavy with sadness, are filled with headstones that read ‘infant’ or have an angel or cherubim atop with dates that span only a year or so.

cemetery

A short time later, in the early 1900’s, the boll weevil killed crops and put the final nail in the coffin of this town. Interestingly, after everything that happened here, the spring and namesake for the town dried up. Did the spring know the town and the people were gone?

The last store closed sometime in the early 1930’s and all that proves this place was here are the church, and a lonely and worn cemetery with dates disappearing on the stones through the harsh hand of time.

Cemetery Stroll

If you visit here, and I recommend you do, there is no longer any evidence of a spring, but it was once as strong as the town. Pouring out fresh water for the people and the crops. A spring powerful enough to have thousands of people build their entire lives around it. Only to have it dry up and disappear with the town itself. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting and beautiful place to visit; quiet and peaceful with the ghosts of the past on the wind. Take some time to walk the deserted paths and enjoy some reflective time in nature. Sit in the church and enjoy reverence in a place visited by many from the past, but not so many now.

church-from-cemetery

An Afternoon In A Forgotten Place

We enjoyed walking through what remains of Rocky Springs. As many more years pass, there will be absolutely nothing left of this place to find. Walking the paths, we were moved by the history of roaming on some of the original pieces of the Natchez Trace. Covered in trees and brush in some places, it was hard to see where the path used to be. Those paths that were crossed by slaves, traders, and bandits. We noticed the earth eroding all around where this town and its inhabitants once worked, loved, and made lives. Tread slowly and listen to the wind in the trees. Going into the church one could be still and hear nothing but the echoes of people now gone. There are no cars, no city around for miles. If one listens hard enough you may hear the footsteps of the townspeople, soldiers from the war, people baptizing their children, or having funerals here to bury them. The people of this town, and the town itself, are now long gone, but I enjoyed being here in this place. A small reminder that life; whether during good times or bad, is precious and to enjoy every moment you can before it disappears.

A Life Well Lived

I saw a man die today. With that moment comes a need to reflect on your own life and to pause and ask yourself if you’re living the life you want. Are you living what you would consider to be a ‘life well lived?’

While working on new articles and assorted projects, I looked up to see outside my window.  A fire truck arrived at the house across the street for probably the fourth or fifth time in the last couple of weeks.  Although I’m not one to watch the accident victims on the side of the road or engage in any activity that watches other people be in misery, it was happening right outside my window and I had genuine concern for a neighbor.  It wasn’t a car accident or some tragic event, although it’s tragic enough, it was a neighbor. Although I did not know him well, we’d say hello as we walked by or waved as he drove past.

The fire truck arrived without their siren on so I had no idea they were there. After noticing the sound of the idling engine, I looked out to see the fire truck and the firemen performing CPR on him on the sidewalk. I can only assume he fell and that is where they found him. The heroic men continued to attempt to revive him for what felt like an eternity, but ultimately their efforts proved futile. That’s where it ended, on a street corner in front of a home in a small little residential area.  Just that quickly.  One moment you’re calling 911 because someone is ill and the next you have to come to grips with the fact that you will never see them again. Your life is changed irreparably and forever.

I know I didn’t know him, but my life was changed in that moment. I’ve lost people I’ve loved deeply and the pain, although it’s been years, is right here next to me.

I think of how young they died and how many things they never got to experience. The man across the street was elderly and many might say, ‘he had a great life.’ I hope they’re right. I hope we can all say that when the time comes.

I watched as the family stood on the corner and sobbed together.  The paramedics, defeated from their life-saving efforts, picked up the man and put him in the ambulance to take him away.

While looking on, I wondered how my own life would come to an end. I pondered whether or not I was living the life that I wanted, in front of me was a slap in the face reminder to live. Breathe in all the good moments, embrace the bad, embrace everything.  Become the person you want to be, become a person that’s happy.  So that when the day arrives like this one, you’re ready.  Of course, I’m not sure any of us are ever really ready but I’d like to think I will be.

After feeling devastated and crying for a person I didn’t even know, I needed to feel better. I turned on some happy music and danced around my living room, trying desperately to lift my spirits. Dance like nobody’s watching, isn’t that the saying? I was determined to embrace this moment and enjoy it. I’m sure the man across the street would come down and tell me, and everyone, to live, enjoy every day, love deeply and dance. Next, I think I’ll plan my newest adventure. I hope there are many more to come.

live

Heceta Lighthouse

 

A Lighthouse Adventure

The recently renovated Heceta Head Lighthouse is about twelve miles from the charming small town of Florence, Oregon. It has a 56 foot tower and sits 205 feet above the ocean. First lit in 1894 it is one of the strongest lights on the Oregon coast. Now modernized, it is still functioning today, keeping Mariners from running aground on the coastline rocks below.

An Arduous Walk…Ok..not really.

The sign said the lighthouse was just a short walk from the parking area, so we started upward along the lush green path. After a few minutes we realized the sign lied. Not that we minded the walk, but the elderly or people with disabilities might have trouble. Truth be told, I might have minded a little. After all, I’m not in the best shape, but it was such a pretty walk I couldn’t resist. Besides, I always need the exercise.

The walk consisted of two halves. The first ended on a plateau where the lighthouse keepers homes were built. There were originally two houses, side by side, but only one remains. The home that is still here is now a bed and breakfast, and although we couldn’t go inside, it was easy to see this would be a wonderful, romantic and serene place to spend a night, or two. I can see the allure of staying overnight here, listening to the waves, and seeing the lighthouse up close at night.

Continuing up the path, we eventually reached our ultimate goal, the Heceta Head lighthouse.

From The Top

The free tour of the historic structure was not scheduled to begin for a few minutes. We spent the time looking out over the bluff at the spectacular view below. We enjoyed the show of waves crashing on the huge rocks at the base of the cliffs. Seabirds flew back and forth below us, their wings glistening in the sunshine. It always looks to me like the surface of the ocean is covered in diamonds when it shimmers in the sunlight. Now those are my kind of diamonds. Several whales frolicked below. To our delight, one jumped out of the water as we looked on. It was truly an awesome sight.

The Work Of A Lighthouse

Emerging from one of the adjacent outbuildings, a volunteer announced the next tour was about to begin. We huddled around her and waited for a few others that wished to join in, then headed inside a door at the back of the lighthouse. As we entered a small room the guide began to tell us about the history and accomplishments of the lighthouse. She talked about the technology, how things worked and the incredible people that made this lighthouse what it was. The work was difficult, the hours were long and great strength was necessary for most tasks. We learned about the people that worked the lighthouse, but also a little about their families. They kept a garden and the children were schooled on the property. Provisions were brought in by horse and wagon. Running a lighthouse was a hard and lonely life, but rewarding.

We started to ascend the rounding staircase getting closer to the top. She explained how the building was built, different levels for different things. One was an office level, the other held the oil waiting for the hike up to the top. The windows inside were very small and let in very little light or air. Many years ago the walls were stuccoed, unfortunately they learned over time that stucco, sea air and small windows don’t mix. Eventually the stucco molded and destroyed parts of the lighthouse. After the renovation they removed all of it and now only the original brick remains, which is a much nicer choice if you ask me.

Reaching the top we got to see close up the Fresnel glass that creates the light for all those on the ocean to see by. A spectacular invention that shines the light out to sea for an astonishing 20 miles!

The current lighthouse no longer requires oil to keep the light moving, but it still shines that beacon of light out to sea to light the way of the seamen of today and tomorrow.

Spending Time On The Beach

Once the tour was complete and we walked back down the path we decided to spend some time on the beach. It’s a large, wide beach with lots of seabirds that bathe themselves in the nearby stream that flows into the ocean here. The rocks in the water provide safe nesting and a convenient perch, not to mention beauty for us to enjoy. I must have taken 500 images of those rocks trying to get just the right one.

We liked it here so much we ended up staying the entire day. We pulled out some snacks we had in a cooler in the car and picnicked at one of the tables next to the beach. Then we decided to hike back up to the top and do the tour again. Why not right?

Above The Lighthouse

Afterward we noticed an easily missed trail going up above the lighthouse so we climbed that too and I’m glad we did. We got some amazing pictures of the lighthouse from above that you can’t get unless you go up this trail.

It was a really beautiful day spent on the beach with this lovely historic light looking over us. We toured a piece of history, learned about those that came before us and appreciated the restoration for those that would come after us. We hiked, ate and breathed in the salty sea air spending our whole day in this spectacular spot on the wondrous Oregon coast.

Indian Canyons

I thought it strange that my friend asked me to go to Desert Hot Springs with her. She was going to a dentist appointment and asked me to tag along. Fortunately, I didn’t have anything else to do. Besides, I love spending time with her, so I agreed to go.

After her appointment, she drove me to Palm Springs and out to a place called Indian Canyons. She and I had spoken about this place many times, always promising we’d go together. Obviously, today was the day. When she asked me to accompany her that day, she only mentioned seeing the dentist and never said anything about this wonderful place. Otherwise, I would have dressed accordingly. I had the wrong clothes on and flip-flops. Not exactly perfect for hiking through a canyon, but I made the best of it. We paid our entrance fee and went in.

Indian Canyons are the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. These canyons are especially sacred to these people and the land is historically important to scientists and nature lovers alike.

Driving up to the Trading Post we passed the beautiful landscape, but it wasn’t until we arrived at the parking lot that I saw some of the true beauty. I certainly don’t think they were indigenous to the area, although the brochure says they are, and I don’t know how they got there, but looking down from the parking area into the canyon you’re greeted by palm trees. Lots of them. We went into the Visitors Center and looked around. Although it was a perfect day with a cool breeze and reasonable temperature, I bought water for us. We hiked down into the canyon, slowly, considering my footwear. Following the trail, we passed small bunches of wildflowers blooming here and there. Once at the bottom, we walked in and through the clusters of palm trees, past the stream bubbling along over rocks, and enjoyed the serene setting. Everything seemed so out-of-place around us. We were in the middle of the desert, yet were surrounded by palm trees and listening to a gurgling creek. It was a delight.

 

We stayed for a while, took pictures, and talked about the people who found this place and lived here so long ago. After a while, we hiked out and drove over to another trailhead.

Arriving a few minutes later at the parking lot of the Andreas Canyon trailhead, we parked and ventured out. Regretfully we arrived there at almost four in the afternoon and the park closes promptly at 5 and you will be towed if you’re still in the parking lot. Watching the time we hiked in a short way and I just fell in love with the place. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a fan of the desert. Some people love it, I’m not one of them. But this wasn’t a desert, this was something extraordinary in the middle of the desert. The huge and jagged rock formations, the babbling creek, the trees. I was in an oasis. The kind you see in movies that people dream about when they’re dehydrating in the desert after being stranded there. It was so lush and peaceful. A great place to be, but not in the summer. It would also be an awesome place to meditate, have a picnic, hike or go for a bike ride.

During the hike, my friend asked how the Cahuilla people would have ever found this place. I told her that I believe that some people have a gift for reading nature. They can read the clouds, the movement of the birds, and possibly even the wind. The Cahuilla people must have possessed that gift because they sure found an amazing spot to call home.

The Indian Canyons can be found at 38520 South Palm Canyon Dr in Palm Springs California. The entrance fee is $9.00 per person for adults. Hours are daily October 1st to July 4th, 8 am-5 pm. I certainly wouldn’t recommend going during the summer months as the heat will be scorching, but if you really want to, please keep in mind that it is only open on the weekends then.

Griffith Observatory

GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY

I drove up Hillhurst and N. Vermont Avenues heading toward Griffith Park.  Having a few hours to kill before meeting friends for dinner, my internet research told me that this park had an excellent view of the iconic and historic Hollywood sign. I plugged the address into my GPS and before I knew it, I was driving past magnificent and majestic homes that cost more than I will ever make in my lifetime. The streets were lined with stately trees, their trunks the diameter of a small car and roots popping up the sidewalks. There were perfectly manicured lawns with large, beautifully made, decorative fences that all screamed, “go away!”

Reaching the entrance of the park, I thought I’d drive through it to see as much as I could. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to walk the trails, even though I would have loved to. After a few minutes I was surprised as I came across a sign that said ‘Griffith Observatory’ with an arrow.  I turned my car in that direction. I don’t know why I didn’t put it together. Griffith Park and Griffith Observatory. Of course, I had heard about the Observatory, but I’d never been here. Excited now to see two of Los Angeles’ must-see attractions, I drove up to the top.  After parking my car I got out and headed over to the side to inspect the view. There it was, the Hollywood sign, lit up in the sunshine, displaying it’s large white letters proudly for all to see. Being the traditional tourist that I am, I proceeded to get my camera out and capture the view numerous times and from several angles. Pleased with my image souvenir, I headed toward the observatory.

Reading the sign, I realized that it was closed for the day. Disappointed, I decided to make the best of it and enjoy the view and the serene, relaxing feeling in the air.  Others felt it too.  There were hikers just finishing the trails, sprawled out, catching their breath on the green lawn.  Couples snuggling up in corners to kiss, with the Los Angeles skyline providing a stunning backdrop to their camera phone selfies. Parents lifted their children up to see the pretty buildings in the distance.

I came across a sculpture statue of James dean, the actor. Part of the movie ‘Rebel Without A Cause’, which I saw, was filmed here at the Griffith Observatory, but I didn’t remember that until the statue reminded me. Did James Dean walk where I did? Did he too enjoy the view of the Hollywood sign from up here? I paused on the walkway to take in the view. Did the famous actor stop right here where I’m standing and have a cigarette? Although his view would have been much less populated and surely with less smog, did he appreciate the fact that Los Angeles looked so nice, pretty and almost kind from here? No wonder it’s a popular spot to come to. Still in the city but away from it all with nature and history all around.

The breeze kissed my face and made my hair dance. I looked out at the layer of smog below. It looked like a ribbon about to tie up the city into a dirty colored bow. Occasionally you could hear the screech of a car slamming on its brakes or an ambulance siren in the far distance. The only tell tale signs of the metropolis below.

As the sun began to sink in the sky, photographers began to appear and lined up along the edge of the terrace. Where I would normally have felt at home I suddenly felt out of place. I had not brought my ‘real’ camera. Armed with only my camera phone and a couple of small after market lenses I captured what I could of the view.

I looked out at the view and day dreamed a little. James Dean filming up here. The Hollywood sign and film history.  What would it have been like to be Natalie Wood, filming with James Dean? Getting to kiss him. What did it look like up here at night? I was dreaming, because that’s what you do in L.A.  You dream.

Sign of Hollywood

Dean Sculpture

Trails of Griffith Park

Observatory Entrance

James Dean Figure

Through the Arch

Welcome To Griffith Park

Another View of Sign

Tower Stairs

Dean Sign

Spyglass

Sign Through Arch

Iconic Sign

Skyline

Hollywood Sign With Tree

LA

Downtown From The Terrace

Stairway to Tower

Griffith Observatory

LA with Trails

Downtown LA Sign

James Dean Sculpture

Downtown

 

A Painful Hike…Yet Enlightening

Since my head injury in high school, migraine headaches have plagued me. After the accident I spent years in unbearable pain. Often the headaches were so bad I would pass out. I lost job after job, had test after test done and still the headaches were there. Unfortunately, not much has changed, until this hike.

I still have terrible headaches, but truth be told they are less in severity now, and on this hike I realized that I have truly come a long, long way.

Years ago, I would spend days, sometimes weeks in bed, in agony. I just didn’t know how to fight back. I was in so much pain, I was so young and I didn’t know how to deal with it. That is why today, I’m overweight and out of shape. It’s hard to exercise when your in bed or on the couch.

Yesterday, however, was different. Migraine headache in tow, I went for a hike with my Prince Charming husband. It was the most painful exercise I’ve ever endured. Fortunately the miracle of the day is that I did endure it. I didn’t go to bed. Didn’t give in. (Even though I really wanted to) Oh don’t misunderstand, on this hike I rested and stopped, A LOT! We took more breaks than steps, I think, but I did it. I went, I walked, I hiked and we made it further this time then the last time. When the headache got really bad I stopped to sit on a rock or fallen tree to keep myself from falling. My husband would aid me along the way when my vision got too bad or I was wobbling too much. When the shooting pain through my head subsided a bit, I pressed on.

I pressed on. Wow! A truly amazing day!

Here are some images I took. I hope you enjoy them.

More trail...keep walking

Gorgeous view

Snow on the trail

Sun hitting the snow

Stay on the trail

Sunshine hitting the trail

Rocky trail

Gorgeous tree

Trail

Tree root on the trail

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