Thursday, December 20, 2007

More at Red Rock

What's unusual when we visit Red Rock Canyon is the time I actually have to look, listen and feel the wind. If you've read Tony Hillerman detective novels, you will be aware that the arroyos carve the space, give depth to the wide expanse beneath the hills. Water, either its lack or overwhelming torrents on the rare occasions of fast-rising storms, dictates the rocky canyons. Here in the Mojave desert, you can see the scrub that survives along the edge of the wash. Details of tiny survivor plants arrest.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lyrical Landscape: Dr. Atomic

A few nights ago, I was lucky enough to stare intimately at the mountainous silhouette that was the Lyric opera's stage set for Dr. Atomic. Given my past life in the theater, I would be thrilled to attend anything done by the visionary librettist and stage director, Peter Sellars. And of course the composer, John Adams, is famed for his previous opera Nixon in China. Having missed that, I jumped at the chance to witness this production.
You are probably aware that the opera examines the actions and feelings of many of the principals involved in the Manhattan project. Set in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the summer of 1945, the opera focuses on J. Robert Oppenheimer. Sellars says that Dr. Atomic tries to put a human face on the human beings who created the atomic bomb. The opera was an amazing mix of trance-inducing, poetry-worshipping, heart-stopping and yes, lovely music, song, dance and art.
What does this have to do with landscape?
I quote Sellars: "The hope is that we make something that does have the feeling of what it's like to be alive right now -- with that intensity, with that sense that the stakes are that high -- global stakes. That what we do as Americans actually has incredible consequences -- genuinely high stakes for the future of the planet."
While we may not all be brilliant scientists poised to change the future on a scale this profound, we can all take responsibility for our earthly actions or lack thereof. The words still echo from one of my favorite poets, John Donne: "Batter my heart, three-person'd god. For you as yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend." Be there.

Since I don't have any images from New Mexico, above you can see Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. And if you wish to read an incredibly moving book about the effects of radiation fallout on humans and flooding on bird migration (among other things), read Terry Tempest Williams' book, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jon & Hans Olsson: Skiers Extraordinaire!

Speaking of snow, here's something fun that has nothing to do with landscape except that it couldn't exist without it. And last year's effects of global warming really influenced this sport: the Alps had so little snow early last winter that certain events were called off. I'm talking about the world's best alpine skiing competitions.

Two dear friends of ours since their births, Swedes of course, are notable in this arena. We are thrilled that Hans Olsson just came in 11th in the Men's Fis Alpine World Cup Downhill in Val Gardena, Italy. Go Hans! I still recall his older brother, Jon Olsson (at 25 the grandfather of extreme skiing) picking wildflowers in the Swedish countryside. Jon's website is way cooler than I could ever imagine.

Here's how we looked on Christmas day last year in Sweden.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


What a difference a month makes...note the pear tree: still covered in leaves, but set off by bright white. As I walked to shovel off my car, people I passed in the alley were already complaining. And I am thrilled. Not only is it magical, but the land needs the moisture. We haven't had this much snow since December of 2000, a different time. I remember that winter precisely: my husband was in Burma and so I was the sole dog-walker (a different dog too). I had recently had surgery and walked at a snail's pace. Our compassionate little Pomeranian kept in sinc with me as we traversed the ice mounds at the corner intersection. Having grown-up with big dogs, I was amazed by her prescient abilities.

The snow's luminescence juxtaposes against imaginary jungle green. Reading the wonderful novel, The Hamilton Case, (by Michelle de Kretser) set in Sri Lanka, I feel the vines twisting, smell the blossoms perfuming and hear the monkeys howling.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Urban Naturalist Goes Green!

One of our favorite spots has always been the North Park Village Nature Center in NW Chicago. Not only is the place special but their newsletter is worth its weight in gold since it details the many valuable programs. Unless you specifically request a paper copy, they are switching to an online version of the Newsletter. To receive it, go to and click on the "contact us" link at the bottom of the page. Next, mark the "yes" box for the Nature Newsletter on the following page.

Above see an image in the garden of one of our most amazing gardener clients/friends...all under Silver Maples (although that's an Acer pennsylvanicum, Snakebark Maple, in the center) think of the trees we save by switching to online communication. Of course, the electricity that powers all our servers and computers: that's another story.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More Day of the Dead in San Ildefonso

Communing between the living and the dead.

Day of the Dead: Guatemalan Cemetery

Boys flying kites: November is the month of wind.

Family resting.