Wednesday, August 14, 2013

And Then the Garden . . . .

Whenever we go away I get inspired by the gardens, landscapes, and various other things, to the point where I can hardly wait to get home to try out some of those new ideas. Among my favorite places are botanical gardens of any kind - or just walking around neighborhoods in other places to see what people are doing with their yards. On our first full day in Carlsbad, Joe and I, along with Gregg and the kids, visited the San Diego Botanical Garden, and what a delight it was!

Dante really didn't want to leave his electronic devices in the car at first, but he quickly got into the spirit of the place. Among the first things we saw were these crazy trees - it was mid-afternoon and they looked like they'd begun the cocktail hour early:
I knew the corks in our wine bottles came from trees but had never seen one; the trunk on this one was at least 3 feet wide:
We found a lovely gazebo
orchids growing wild,
along with many different bromeliads
and a rainforest complete with waterfall:

In another area we found this shed covered with vines and strange blossoms as big as dinner plates.
The white thing is like a balloon containing nectar that insects feed on; one of the gardeners said she thought it was a variety of Dutchman's pipe, though I think those are usually smaller. When that chamber bursts open it's filled with a sooty substance that you can see on the ground around the garbage can (I really should have moved that before I took the picture!).

Of course there were other strange and wonderful flowers as well, like these:

and we learned where bananas come from,
and were reminded of the importance of balance in nature
when we got to the bamboo grove, where we saw this gigantic bamboo sculpture
and various varieties of that amazing plant, including gorgeous painted bamboo:
Geneva and Dante located a lily pond
and Geneva's sharp eyes spotted its tiny, jewel-like residents

Then we moved on a Mexican-themed area, complete with lovely dancers and a mariachi band, all life-sized and dressed in succulents, a delightful variation on the topiaries we see in so many other places.

and further along the path we were reminded again of the importance of nature in our lives:
At last we came to the children's garden, full of whimsical sculptures and a variety of activity areas:

including a wonderful and elaborate treehouse with several entrances and exits at different levels.
These bromeliads are growing on tree limbs high above the ground. In the lower left corner of the this photo you can see a xylophone made of flat stones, each of which has its own distinct rich and complex musical tone, so you can actually play "real" music on it. 
(Yes, I did climb up to the top, and so did Joe.)
That area below contained several other music makers, and nearby Dante beat everyone at tic-tac-toe played on a permanent board laid out in the sand, about four feet square, with X's and O's a foot wide and made of wood. But that's where my camera ran out of energy, just after I caught Dante relaxing in the giant's chair. We left shortly after that.

Surprisingly, in many less planned and developed areas, we found cacti and cholla just like the ones here at home. And of course, I came back excited to try out some new gardening ideas based on what we saw there. It's nice to go away, but it's also nice to come home, especially when there's some vacation time left in which to recover from the vacation!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back on the Mission Trail

Joe and I are back in California this week, and enjoying ourselves in spite of the sad reason for our trip: my Aunt Vera's memorial, which was held on Saturday at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, a truly lovely place in which to remember a truly lovely woman. She enjoyed this blog, and I'd often find myself choosing topics and pictures because I thought she would like them. I still find myself thinking, "Oh, I'll have to tell Vera about that."
     Now we're in Carlsbad, where Gregg and family have rented a place for a couple of weeks and where we now have a few days to reconnect with the grandkids (and their parents); their rental is just 2 blocks from the beach, where we enjoyed this gray sunset last night.

That blob of hot coral on the horizon looked rounder, more the sun that it is, in real life. Dante called it a ghost ship - I like that.
     But before that we stopped on our way to Carlsbad to visit the Mission San Luis Rey outside Oceanside, a place neither Joe nor I had ever been to before.

The mission is named for Saint Louis IX, the medieval French king who became a saint because of his piety and devotion, a devotion that included going on crusade twice (he didn't make it back the second time). I think he looks quite regal in this large figure above the entrance to the historic church (I specify "historic" because there's also a new church on the grounds, not shown in these pictures but just to the east, housing the current active parish, along with a nice social hall and a Montessori school).
When you enter the historic church, the original baptistry is on the left; this is the original stone baptismal font. This picture also offers a good first look at the remarkable restoration that's been done here.
This is the view from the front entrance down the nave to the main altar. I love the decorated timbers across the flat ceiling; the entire church has been beautifully restored and maintained, right down to the shine on the bricks of the floor and the wood of the pews.

Off the nave to the right is the Lady Chapel, with prie-dieux and racks for candles on both sides as well as in front of the altar. You must buy a specific type of candle sold at the gift shop there, not only to raise money for  church maintenance but because other kinds might cause a build-up of soot. It's the same back home in Tucson, where prior to restoration some of the walls at Mission San Xavier del Bac were virtually black from centuries of devotion.

Here's a closer view of the main altar, with good Saint Louis at the top and center, looking handsome and heroic in a golden breastplate.
As an earlier picture shows, the ceiling over the nave is flat, but there is a high dome over the crossing before the altar; this photograph does not do it justice. 

Outside and to the right of the historic mission church is the cemetery, which contains historic graves but is also in use today. This beautiful, life-sized bronze statue reaches out toward a fountain. I'm not sure who she's meant to represent since there was no identifying plate, but her welcoming gesture and her calm, peaceful face seem to invite the visitor to rest for a bit on the nearby bench, to enjoy the shade of the trees and the sound of falling water.

Here's Joe passing through the archway that separates the older part of the cemetery from what seems to be a more recent addition. In looking at one of the pamphlets from the visitor center we discovered that one of the former priests from Mission San Xavier outside Tucson is now head of the cemetery at Mission San Luis Rey. When we found out he'd left - this was probably 15 years ago - my mother, a retired nurse, observed that she didn't think he'd been looking well. She'll be happy to see that he looks quite well and happy in the photo in the pamphlet. Joe and I were delighted because we liked Father Michael and his sort of Zen-Catholic homilies, very much.

This is one of the most interesting places on the grounds, downhill from the rest of the buildings; the sign above explains it much better than I could. The steps leading up from the lavanderia to the arch are a reconstruction, but as with so much of the mission complex, the feeling of being in a place where real people lived their very real, not always easy, day-to-day lives remains. That's especially true here, where we were quite literally the only visitors!

The people who climbed those steps, tended those long-ago orchards, prayed in the mission church when it was new, were not really any different from us today. Especially in this area, away from the parking lot and gift shop and tourists, it was almost possible to feel them still there.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Room of Her Own

Well, my own, actually, and a new study, to be precise. We've been in this house 13 years and my study was one of only two rooms that hadn't been repainted (the other is Joe's bathroom, and it's not next on his list).  It was a mint green that I didn't mind at first but had grown to dislike very much, and then I had an inspiration for an entirely different look.

My mother joined the U.S. Army near the end of World War II, straight out of nurses' training. She was sent first to the Philippines, where she was dancing at the officers' club on Leyte when they got the news about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Soon after that she was posted to Yokohama, where she worked in what had been the Swedish consulate before being transformed into an army hospital.
    This lavender and gold (it looks more lavender in real life) kimono is a souvenir of her time in Japan - I grew up hearing stories of her time there, and her adventures with the handsome officers she dated, one of whom bought her this gorgeous lavender and gold kimono, which might be considered an antique now. At any rate, it's certainly vintage.
    When she got home, she gave it to my grandmother, who was disappointed that it didn't have an obi and folded it away into a cedar chest. Grandma died and Mom recovered the kimono but didn't quite know what to do with it, so she too put it away, until about a year ago she gave it to me. My study faces north and the wall the kimono hangs on doesn't get direct light; it seemed only right that it should finally come out of hiding and be appreciated.

I want to keep things very simple. There's just the one big window, and Joe found a roll-up rice paper shade for it. We already had the light wood table I'm using for a desk, a 2-drawer file cabinet, and this rather battered but serviceable coffee table. Since I've just given up my day job, I brought home my two small bookcases (there's a corner of one in the photo of the kimono) from the office, as well as these batik prayer flags that hung across the wall behind my desk there.

What I want to achieve is a feeling of simplicity, peace, and serenity, and not to clutter it up with too much stuff, as is so often my wont. So far so good.