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!

 

 

Mission Trails Nature Walk

Join me for three minutes, walking through Mission Trails in San Diego. I’m just learning the video thing so bear with me. It’s a perfect place to get back to nature, be mindful and just enjoy a nice afternoon walk. All just minutes from the chaos of the city of San Diego. I hope you enjoy it.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Las Vegas

 

Attending a festival here later this evening (which I’ll share with you later), right now I wanted to share this awesome sunrise with you.

Astonishingly last night when we checked in we were upgraded to a suite with a lovely balcony and view of McCarren International Airport, the strip and the mountains in the distance.

Although I did not realize it last night, behind those mountains this morning was quite a lovely sunrise and I didn’t want you to miss it.

The show is starting!

I love the reflection in the glass of the hotel.
I love the reflection in the glass of the hotel.
Sunrise reflecting in the golf course ponds below.
Sunrise reflecting in the golf course ponds below.

I think my balcony must also be strategically positioned over an area of the kitchen far below, because the smell of breakfast has been tormenting me for the last hour.  Time to go find where those heavenly scents are wafting from.

Have a beautiful day…and Happy Travels!

 

 

James Dean And A Country Drive

JAMES DEAN AND A COUNTRY DRIVE

On a drive through California’s San Joaquin Valley, on our way to Monterey, my Prince Charming husband and I drove through miles of farmland growing every crop imaginable. Traveling west on Route 46, ahead of us we could see the soft rolling hills that border the western edge of the valley. There were horses, grazing cattle and nut trees as far as the eye could see. We were passing out of the bread basket of California and into the beautiful vineyard country of the central coast. In typical fashion for farming country, we passed several signs inviting us to a country store and gas station offering edible treasures from the surrounding area. My husband read one of them, “Pistachio Almond Bark.” “Let’s go in”, I said, thinking that sounded good. Besides, I love these kinds of country stores with homemade yummies.

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Turning into the parking lot, we passed a towering cut out figure of James Dean in rolled up blue jeans and t-shirt, his hand pointing us in the direction we should go. Inside we were greeted by a vast array of plastic bags of flavored nuts; honey almonds, maple cashews, jalapeño pistachios and a hundred others lining the aisles. There were jars of jams, jellies, syrups and other delectables, everything made from the bounty of the land around us.

The walls were covered with pictures, posters and artists renditions of the famed actor James Dean. I initially thought they were there because of the charming 1950’s style diner in the back corner of the store. The real reason though was one my Prince Charming husband was about to discover. As I was busy photographing an interesting truck display in the center of the store that I was so enamored with, my husband interrupted me and called me over to him. Holding up one of the jars of preserves, he showed me the label on the front of all the jars on the numerous shelves. It said ‘Blackwells Corner. James Dean’s Last Stop.’

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Having chosen our yummy selections; a jalapeño honey mustard, two jalapeño preserves, some almonds and pistachios, I asked the young man at the register what it meant by ‘James Dean’s Last Stop’. He informed us that the legendary actor’s tragic auto accident happened about 25 miles up the road, in Cholame, and while passing through he stopped in this very truckstop. Perhaps he wanted a cup of coffee, a sandwich or some of the wonderful nuts, just like we were buying now. It was approaching sunset as we left with our goodies and we continued up the hills toward the spot where the acclaimed actor lost his young life. As we passed the junction of highway 46 and 41 we saw it was marked by a small official looking sign that reads ‘James Dean Memorial Junction’.

On September 30, 1955, James Dean was on his way to an auto rally in Salinas, California with his friend and mechanic, Rolf Wuetherich. Unfortunately they would never make their destination. At the junction of Highway 466 (now State Route 46) and Highway 41, shortly before sunset, a vehicle turning left didn’t see the silver Porsche coming toward him until it was too late. The Porsche rammed into the Ford, the small sports car torn through like tin foil. Sustaining fatal injuries including near decapitation, James Dean, the actor who was astonishingly talented, and achingly beautiful, was gone forever.

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About 900 yards from the accident site on Route 46 there’s a tree called ‘The Tree Of Heaven’ where a memorial for the actor still stands today 59 years later. There’s a quote from a dear friend and an epitaph. On the epitaph it says, ‘Death in youth is life that glows eternal.’ Appropriate, since his legacy still lives on. It’s a lovely, simple tribute to a man who made a huge impact in only 24 short years on this earth.

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James Dean only completed three films in his life as the lead, two of which were released after his death. All three are classics and must-see viewing for movie lovers. He is, to this day, the only actor to earn two Academy Award Oscar nominations after his death, none in his lifetime.

We continued on the road James Dean would have driven, had he lived, thankful to enjoy the pastoral drive through Paso Robles, admiring all the wineries that beautify the landscape. We talked about the actor, films, young lives cut short and, of course, we drove very carefully.

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My husband and I, being the classic movie lovers we are, had always heard about how James Dean died but never really knew any details or even where it happened. We were simply driving to our destination for an art show I was participating in. We had no idea that we were about to stumble upon a bit of film history, however sad it was. That is what I love most about traveling. Whether it is around the world or just around the next bend, you never know what amazing things you might discover.

James Dean

Great hike…Santa Margarita Trail

I know I said yesterday that we were going on a new hike that was a 6 mile round trip. But…

I think it ended up being closer to 8 miles. To be honest, I have no idea.

We got in there and it was truly beautiful, but the storm and heavy rains that we had a few days earlier left their mark.

Trees were down and parts of the trail in numerous places were washed away, to a point where we couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to go.

We ended up going down part of a trail and ending up at a dead end or impassable spot. Then we would head back and ultimately ended up hiking for well over 4 hours.

By the time we found our car again, I was completely exhausted.

Here are the pictures I took. I hope, as usual that you enjoy them.

It was a wonderful hike and really gorgeous out there. Quiet, peaceful and although exhausting…fabulous!

 

 

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

 

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