Friday Flashback – Venice of the East

Welcome to another edition of Fandango’s Flashback Friday, where we are opening up some of our blogging archives from yesteryear. This was originally posted for Sonofabeach96’s Which Way Challenge on June 24, 2019.

a canal in Suzhou, China

Suzhou was once at the center of the Chinese silk trade. Today, it is much more celebrated for it’s art, delicate gardens, thousand year old temples, and of course romantic water towns and canals. It is these that have earned it the name “Venice of the East.” A thoroughly charming city all modernized but still holding on to it’s 2,500 years of history and architecture.

Til next time ~Peace ~JP

Monday Mundanities – More Meme Fun

For today, a spectacular sunrise and micro poetry

Sunrise on Kauai – Oceans of Poetry

Oceans of poetry surround my eye
the sky dances with caramel fire
boundless joy and sacred rhythm
as beauty burns into my retina
I close my eyes and watch angels
dance with remembered longing

Til next time ~May your skies be blue and your coffee be strong ~JP

Sunday Stills – Ahhhh Summer Solstice – Again

In Sunday Stills this week, Terri invites to take a look at the Summer Solstice … again. While Marsha’s WQW prompt is June Holidays and Johnbo’s cellpic sunday invites us to get out and USE that cell phone camera! So without further ado, let’s get rollin’.

Little fluffy puffs of goose

Summer Solstice, also known as Litha and Midsummer’s Eve, is nearly upon us. Days are longer, nights are shorter, and the natural world is full of life. I adore Summer Solstice. The celebration of life, the long days, the warm evenings, a glass of iced tea on my deck, watching the goslings.

Young geese

It seems I can almost see them growing in just a few weeks. With the summer warmth and abundance of yummy green stuff, they have transformed from little balls of fluff into sturdy young geese.

Wee-bity bunny

“Life finds a way.” ~Dr. Ian Malcolm – Jurassic Park

A wee-bity bunny hides from the summer solstice heat in South Dakota. He is so perfectly camouflaged he is hard to spot. He was just a bit larger than the palm of my hand. Taken with my Moto g6, cropped and resized in windows photos and paint, yeah I know I’m such a techie ;-).

“Ancestor” metal sculpture Salisbury, UK

Because no Solstice celebration would be complete without some tribute to my beloved Stonehenge, “The Ancestor.” The Ancestor, built by Andy and Michelle Rawlings, made it’s debut at Stonehenge for the summer solstice 2010. It was built of thousands of bits of steel pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle and weighs about 7 tonnes. This shot was taken in front of the Holiday Inn Stonehenge, in Salisbury, UK.

Summer

There’s just something about a driftwood covered beach that says “I am Summer, come take off your shoes, dig your toes in my sand.” Here a couple of wild adventurers have ditched their shoes to dance in the waves on the beach near Kapaa, Hawaii.

A feather in the wind Westfir, Oregon

“Life is short. It can come and go like a feather in the wind.”
~Shania Twain

For that other beloved June Holiday – Father’s Day, I offer

“There are things that I’ve forgotten that I loved about the man,

but I’ll always remember the love in Daddy’s hands.”

~Holly Dunn

That’s it from Castle Serenity have a wonderful week ~Peace ~JP

Wednesday Walkabout – Red Canyon Utah

I’m back with another episode of Walkabout Wednesday where we’ll take a short walk in some of the places we’ve visited. Today we’re stopping off in Red Canyon, Utah. Located along Highway 12 in Southern Utah, just 13 miles from Bryce National Park lies Red Canyon. Part of the Dixie National Forest, it is home to several hiking trails and lots of fantasy spires and hoodoos for which the area is famous.

Hoodoos – rocks or sculptures?

We stopped by the visitor center only to learn that it was closed due to covid concerns. The restrooms and trails were open though so off we went. Poor air quality from wild fires conspired with an elevation of 7400 feet to keep us on the bunny trail which goes around the visitor center and back away off the road.

Legend People

We are surrounded by water and ice-shaped sculptures affectionately known as hoodoos. The hoodoo’s tall, knobby and eerie shapes have earned them many names throughout history. The Paiute Indians of this area call them “legend people.” When Anglo settlers saw the formations, they called them “fairy chimneys” from their own myths. This hoodoo rich area was dubbed “Utah’s Fairyland.”

Legend Person fall down, go boom

Legend person fall down, go boom. BIG boom. It is not uncommon to see fallen rocks from breaks in the formations and rock slides. The sandstone formations are permeable and over time break down which is how they were formed after all.

Symbiosis at work

We came across this stunning boulder in varying states of decomposition. The black and colored specks are lichen which makes it a stunning example of nature’s symbiosis.

Oh, that’s what symbiosis is

Above, for those of you who were wondering what the heck red rocks have to do with symbiosis …. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough lichen in the world to filter out that much ozone and smoke so we headed off to our next destination, Vernal Utah.

Vernal Dino Land

We had plans to visit all of the dino attractions and had been looking forward to this section of the trip in particular. Unfortunately, upon arriving I discovered that the throbbing headache I’d been fighting all day was accompanied by a fever. Quick call to my PCP back in South Dakota advised that it could be Covid delta variant (that was making the rounds last year) we were both fully vaccinated so best advice was to treat it like a flu, rest, water, and self-quarantine for 5 days.

Dino Art At Last!

So this towel sculpture at our hotel was as close as we got to the dino-art I was hoping to photograph. The museums and activities would have to wait for another time as we spent our 5 day stay in the hotel. On the upside, we did find several restaurants that delivered to our hotel, so we didn’t starve and honestly, the virus laid me out too bad to do much but sleep anyway.

Linking up to Marsha’s PPAC #50 this week. Do go check out some of the posts so much fun 🙂

That’s the conclusion of our walkabout this week.

From Castle Serenity ~Remember there is beauty as far as the eye can see ~JP

Sunday Stills a Rosy Perspective

For Terri’s Sunday Stills monthly color challenge where we are working with “Pink.” I love pink, all kinds and shades of pink. I love pink flowers, pink clothes, pink sunrises, one of my favorite crystals to work with is rose quartz, you get the idea.

from my digital art collage collection

“Pretty pretty please don’t you ever, ever feel like you’re less than, less than perfect. And pretty, pretty please don’t you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing, ’cause you are perfect to me.” ~Pink

Above, a little digital piece with a quote from Pink’s song “Perfect.” There is a more explicit version so be warned if you go looking for the song lyrics.

A crazed computer screen on the fritz? A bizarre finger painting? Hmmmm

Here’s an eclectic bit of pink. What the heck are we looking at? A fish finder sonar screen of Loch Ness from our Nessie hunting trip. The different colors indicate varying water temperatures. It was a fabulous day spent on the waters of Loch Ness, if you have a chance to visit the Scottish Highlands, I highly recommend it.

Sign at the Osaka Rail Station

Here’s an interesting bit of pink signage. It seems that pink is universally associated with feminine. Here the boarding point for the “women only” car on a commuter train in Osaka, Japan. From what I have been told, at peak hours the train can be jam-packed and women complained that being squeezed up against men was undignified. Osaka responded by designating one or more cars as “women only” no men allowed.

An intrepid adventurer

Here a bright pink jacket and very long queue displayed on an intrepid adventurer climbing steps to a small shrine at the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” near Kyoto. Yes, that’s me ;-). Balancing precariously without a handrail I felt like a tightrope walker.

Pretty People

A young couple in traditional dress pose for pictures near Kyomizu. Love the bright pink kimono. Such charming people, they just smiled and waved to tourists snapping away. We were trying to capture the changing foliage but couldn’t find a way to frame the walkway and pond due to limited space. Ultimately, we just left the lovely people in and it turned out beautiful.

Of course, I can’t leave without some pink flowers.

Pale pink lotus flower

A delicate pink lotus flower growing in a large serenity pond in Suzhou, China. There were many different varieties of water lily and lotus in the pond. Lotus tend to be taller and rise above the water much more than a water lily. There you have it, teaching moment. 😉

pink rhododendron

And finally, a gorgeous rhododendron from my all-time favorite flower photography place, the Queens Garden in Invercargill, NZ. The park nearly over flows with rhododendrons of every color and size.

This week’s challenge prompts:

Cee’s Midweek Madness “Any pale color” – see Lotus above
Cee’s FOTD – rhododendron

That’s it from Castle Serenity for this week. Til next time remember

~ Look for me where the wild things are ~JP

Wednesday Walkabout – St. George Utah Pioneer Square

Ahhhh I have a computer … FINALLY so I thought we’d go walkabout in St. George, UT and see what we can find for Marsha’s PPAC along the way. Last summer was a crazy kind of blur running from every disaster known to man, crowds, fires, air quality (or lack there of), hail storms, you name it. During the mad dash across the west, we spent some time in St. George, UT when a blown wheel bearing caused some rescheduling. Never one to shirk from the unexpected day trip, we set off on an adventure while the cheese-mobile was in the shop. We stopped at “Pioneer Square” in downtown St. George to visit some museums and other artsy spots

Sushi at Pioneer Square

First Stop was lunch at Benja Thai & Sushi. Good food and cool inside. With temps over 110° f, this was a major consideration. We lingered over cold noodle bowls, sushi and iced green tea for as long as we could ;-).

Landscape Art

Venturing into the heat of the afternoon and came upon a nifty little water feature which provided a natural cooling ambiance. Water features are works of art in the desert as humans endeavor to make the stark landscape more palatable. The heat quickly overcame us though so we headed back indoors to find the aforementioned museums and art galleries.

A welcome cool-down spot

Regrettably, all museums and galleries within our walking distance (albeit very short distance in the heat), were closed due to pandemic concerns. Southern Utah got hit pretty hard and “elective” services were few and far between. Our driver told us that several restaurants and other entertainment venues remained closed through summer 2021. We quickly became seriously overheated and so very happy to come across this lovely little cafe. I love the graphics on the sign, as well as the name of the place and the greenery along the building.

Chalkboard Art – and beignets

I just adore chalkboard art. The graphics and colors for some reason just call to me. I may have to do a spread on chalkboard art. Not to mention that iced coffee and a lovely little treat was just the restorative I needed. The beignets looked lovely but in that kind of heat, fried food is just not for me so I opted for a beautiful little fruit tart and a half-sweet iced chai. Yummmm….

vintage looking tile mosaic

This vintage-looking floor mosaic really captured my attention. I love tile floors for their vintage feel and the sheer artistry involved in making them. Alas, this was about all the art we found with the galleries either closed or beyond my walking distance.

hotel room view – smoke haze in the distance

Time to pick up the car and head to a local hotel for the next couple of days. This is the view off of our room’s balcony. If you can look beyond the traffic and signs the mountains are really beautiful. The skies were filled with haze from distant fires filtering south. No matter where we went, pervasive smoke drove us ever on.

Dino art

And so, the next morning we headed out to the local grocery for supplies. I was delighted by this lobby display of the local velociraptor guarding the chips. There are several dinosaur track attractions nearby featuring velociraptor tracks and I do adore all things Dino. 😉

That’s all from Castle Serenity for today. Til next time remember, there is beauty everywhere if you look for it. If you can’t see it, look again. And if you still can’t see it, look harder. ~JP

Sunday Stills – Counting the Moments

For Terri’s Sunday Stills Where we’re working “by the numbers.” Also linking up with Johnbo’s Cellpic Sunday (yep every one was taken with my cell phone), and Marsha’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday; H.G. Wells quote which totally works for vacations, some of the time travel destinations.

Interesting prompt, particularly for a former bean counter. You’d think, counter that I am I’d have lots of number related pics but nooooo. Although a good portion of my life was spent in the “thrill of totting up a balanced book, a thousand ciphers neatly in a row” (A British Bank ~Mary Poppins 1964).

does anybody else miss 13-column pads? ;-p

Sometimes, numbers do kind of tell a story though so let’s see what we come up with.

pitch by numbers trainer

Above is a junior throw trainer we worked on in Kunshan, China. The background is made up of “hook” fabric (as in hook and loop, grabby side) and when tennis balls are thrown at it they stick so a young baseball player can see where his throw is ending up. Helps develop aim and muscle memory. It was a fun project although I will say that I learned more about the hook side of “velcro” fabric than I ever wanted to know, including that it can break skin ouch.

Bus schedule – Taipei Taiwan

Thankfully numbers are a constant when traveling in Asia. Here at the station in Taipei, Taiwan it was actually pretty easy to find our way around as we were taking the 208 bus back to the hotel. I wish I had a taken a picture of Superhubs with a map showing our driver how to get to the factory we were touring. 😉

Virgin River Springdale Uah

Now this one doesn’t have any numbers, but oh my it tells a numbery story. Thousands of rock cairns gathered alongside the Virgin River at Zion National Park. It tells the story of the “hundred year flood” that hit the park in 2014, altering the path of the river in several places. They also remind me of man’s inherent need to leave his mark upon the world, to create some artistic tribute, proof that “we were here.”

Big Clock marking the moments

At this stage of my life, most numbers are markers of time. Above a large clock at the Wellington Museum, Wellington, NZ.

It’s Time

“It’s Time” they say
the seconds tick by
in a runic sort of rhyme
each filled with a kind
of mysterious portent
of times that once were
moments that are
and some things
that have not yet been ~JP

Time Machine in Wellington, NZ

The display at the Time Machine immersive show at Wellington Museum in Wellington, NZ. The 14 minute show covers Wellington’s story from the Big Bang through the future. The experience blurs the lines between real and cinematic in a thoroughly delightful way.

“We all have our time machines, don’t we. Those that take us back are memories… And those that carry us forward, are dreams.” ~H.G. Wells

Some numbers alter the course of reality

For me at least it all boils down to this: “Time is not measured by clocks, but by moments.” ~Unknown

Here are numbers that will always remain in my memory. 391372 is Superhubs, 1518 was the time his (first) surgery was complete. Happy, joyful numbers that remind me that tomorrow is never guaranteed and every day is a gift.

That’s it from Castle Serenity ~Til next time in the words of Casey Kasem “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” ~JP

Sunday Stills – some aquatic teal adventures

For Terri’s Sunday Stills where our monthly color challenge isTeal or Aqua. Hmmm … water seems to be a natural, and perhaps skies, but let’s start with some aquatic adventures from around the world.

Broad Bay, New Zealand on the Otago Harbour coast of the Otago Penninsula. The morning haze casts reflections on sky and water tinting everything teal and leaving only the green hillsides to separate the two.

An Australian Coot swims lazily in the brilliant teal waters of Lake Wakatipu, near Queenstown, NZ.

Some aqua-colored umbrellas on a rainy day at the Otowa Waterfalls at Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, Japan. The waters are said to have wish-granting powers and we were told that to drink from the “pure waters” for which the temple is named would ensure prosperity and long life. Obviously, we stood in line on this rainy day and partook with joy.

Aqua and teal colored sky and water combine into a beautiful seascape on a cloudy day in Kapaa, Island of Kauai, Hawaii. Why yes, I do have many, many (like hundreds) of shots of this particular piece of driftwood taken over the course of our seven trips. 😉

Drawing closer to home we find the breathtaking teal waters of Crater Lake, Oregon. Some 7,700 years ago a violent volcanic eruption caused the collapse of Mount Mazama in what is now southern Oregon. The ensuing lake is fed by rain and snow and is the deepest lake in the USA. It is also the cleanest and purest as there are no inlets or outlets for water from the lake. Here we looked out from a forested trail, you can see “Phantom Ship Island” rising up out of the lake.

Even though it’s not aquatic in nature this bit of Public Art captured my attention for the PPAC 46. A teal painted buffalo statue in Custer, SD. These painted buffalos appear in many places in the Black Hills, as well as the live ones.

That’s it from Castle Serenity for now. Til next time, remember “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” ~Frank Lloyd Wright

~Sending you good vibes ~JP

Sunday Stills – As Spring Emerges

For Terri’s Sunday Stills where our prompt is “Emerging”

If we were having coffee at Natalie’s weekend coffee share, I’d tell you that we’re spending May emerging from our winter hibernation mode into a much more active Spring mode. Lots of yard work to be done as I recover from a rather nasty autoimmune flare. 😉 Then we’d spend some time reminiscing about Springs past and I’d share some photos and memories. Let’s take a walk around Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota and see what emerges.

Waiting for the Cliff Swallows to emerge from their nests. They build mud nests under eaves and cliff faces. Here a couple of nests under the eaves at the Wildlife Loop Visitor Center in Custer State Park, Custer South Dakota.

Two humans emerging from a wooded trail are treated to a new perspective of fire damage. In December 2017, 50 mph wind gusts knocked over a telephone pole which sparked and started the Legion Lake Fire. Before it could be contained the fire burned over 54,000 acres of our beloved Custer State Park and sparked several minor fires in the area. This overlook above the once lush valley brought tears to the eye. But the forest will recover, as forests always do bringing more life and restoring balance.

An outstanding reminder that life will always find a way, tiny wild violets emerge from a crack in a huge boulder on Sylvan Lake, Custer, South Dakota.

As we prepare to depart Custer, a wee bitty bunny emerges from the cover of the shrubbery near the parking lot, another reminder that Spring is the season of birth and renewal.

Returning home, I came across this Allium just emerging from it’s bud ready to burst forth in welcome with it’s spectacular purple bloom.

Of course, we couldn’t really emerge from winter into spring without one of these spectacular South Dakota sunrises, taken at Hart Ranch, Rapid City, SD.

That’s it from Castle Serenity this week, til next time

~May the wind be always at your back ~JP