Monday, June 29, 2009

Green for Solidarity

Because I am lucky enough to have the freedom to do so, I chose one of the "greenest" photos I could find in my photo library to join with other bloggers today in voicing my solidarity with the people of Iran who wish to freely exercise their right to peaceful protests, a right which I have heard is supposedly guaranteed them by their own government.

I have had an affinity for Iranians and their culture ever since I made my first Iranian friends in 1977. To this day an Iranian woman with whom I attended college and shared an apartment is one of my dearest friends and someone I consider a sister.

Unfortunately, this tiny gesture of solidarity and my prayers for peace and freedom for all people are all I can offer.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Taking the Train

I used to take the Coast Starlight to Seattle often, then for a while I decided I needed to get there more quickly so for about 5 or 6 years I forgot about the train, but for my most recent trip I had no particular schedule to follow and I decided that a ride up and down the coast was just what my vacation needed.

A 10 minute ride on an Amtrak bus takes you from San Francisco to the Emeryville station, where you board the train around 10 pm. After a quick visit to the Pacific Parlour Car, which dates back to the fifties and has been completely refurbished and where not much is going on at 10 pm. since most train riders are early-to-bed-early-to-rise kinda folks, it's off to bed in your sleeper. I always get a "roomette", the least expensive but totally adequate private room option (more the size of a closet than a room, but I love it anyway).

The Parlour Car at night

Depending on when you wake up in the morning you may find yourself about to cross into Oregon, or having already done so. Wherever you are the view is awe inspiring.


A funny thing happened. The "who cares, I'm on vacation" effect took over. When I finished breakfast and returned to the Parlour Car, the attendant, a really likable man (good looking too) whom I have been running into on the train for about 10 years, said, "how about a Bloody Mary?" For a second I thought "it's 7:30 am!" then, immediately, "why not?". It's the first time I've ever had a drink in the morning, but it was the best Bloody Mary ever. It inspired me to read the entire manual for the digital camera I've had for 6 years, instead of just the "quick start guide" and, lo and behold, I discovered I can take videos with it!

The windows were particularly dirty because it had drizzled the night before, but my eyes got right past it.

The Portland train station

Somewhere between Portland and Seattle, but I'm sorry I don't know exactly where.

I tried to upload the following image of Puget Sound as a video, but Blogger would not let me, so here it is as a still. I'll save the return trip for another day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Prayerbook Cross

One of the few things I like about living in my current neighborhood, where I've been for three years now, is that I can walk about four blocks and enter Golden Gate Park, through the Rose Garden no less.

So continuing in my recently begun habit of going for walks in Golden Gate Park at least once a week, and more often if I can, this morning I took Eden for our 12th walk. Why I didn't start this weekly walk tradition sooner, I don't know. In any case, today I didn't take any photos of her cavorting on the lawns because I feel safe letting her off leash only on Saturdays when the main road is closed to traffic.

Instead we went somewhere new.

I've passed this sign several times and always wondered where it led. So we followed it up a small hill and arrived at the monument in the photo at the top of this post.

You can click on the photo to make it larger (don't know why only the first photo in each post can be enlarged, but maybe someday I'll find out...), but if you don't want to I'll tell you what the inscription says:

"Presented to Golden Gate Park at the opening of the Mid-Winter Fair January 1 AD 1894 as a memorial of the service held on the shore of Drakes Bay about Saint John Baptist's Day June 24 Anno Domini 1579 by Francis Fletcher - priest of the Church of England - Chaplain of Sir Francis Drake - Chronicler of the Servise. "

I'm not completely sure about the last four words because the stone is eroded where they are carved. In fact, the area seemed a bit neglected as well. When I read it I realized that if I had gone up there just two days ago I would have been there exactly on the 430th anniversary of the event it commemorates. It's such a strange feeling to think about walking where others who are long gone have walked, and that someday I too will be long gone.

Of course I also photographed plants, some whose name I know because they had a name tag, and most whose names I do not know. Maybe I'll enlist the help of Dave's Garden again.

'Honor' Rose

The folks at Dave's Garden did it again! The photos below are of
California Buckeye (Aesculus californica)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Beautiful Mystery

a beautiful mystery
Originally uploaded by stonetta
UPDATE! I know what it is and where it is. It is Masterwort (Astrantia), it is in the Rose Garden at Woodland Park in Seattle, and it is not a vine. All courtesy of the kind people at Dave's Garden. I am going to add their link in the sidebar if they are not there already.

Original post:
I shot this photo in the Seattle Botanical Gardens, or was it the Rose Garden? Or are they one and the same? It was near the zoo and it was a beautiful place, but I could not find an ID tag for this plant.

I've posted it to the Plant and Tree Identification forum on Dave's Garden, but am posting it here as well in case one of you knows what it is.

Unfortunately, I can't remember if it was a climber or a shrub. Darn.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Walk in the Park

On April 24th I started a routine of taking Eden for a walk in Golden Gate Park every Saturday morning, and more often when on vacation. Today was our 11th walk since that first one. Only Eden and I go because last September my sweetheart Asha died,

and Joshua would rather look out over cliffs by the ocean,

or sunbathe.

So it's just me and my Eden for our walks in the park.

We walk through the Rose Garden on our way in and on our way out. It's definitely the time to enjoy its bounty.


Strike it Rich

Tournament of Roses

And one of my favorites, which I keep photographing over and over,


The way I see it, you've got to fill your senses with beauty and color, whenever possible.

The Blue Hibiscus

The Blue Hibiscus is apparently no longer classified in the genus Hibiscus. Its botanical name is Alyogyne huegelii (formerly Hibiscus huegelii).

I've had one growing in my backyard for a year now and it's surviving quite well, with not too much care. I'm an erratic and fickle gardener, lavishing attention and affection on the plants in my life in sudden bursts of passion, when every yellowing leaf is promptly removed, the slightest thirst is quenched with gentle showers of cool water, and organic nourishment is proffered, only to later forget them for months at a time.

Luckily for them, and for me, I am currently going through one of my nurturing phases.

Whatever her real name is, I call her "beautiful".

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day 2009

I've been doing so much gardening lately that my parents have been on my mind even more than usual.

Both my parents loved being surrounded by lush plants and both were excellent cooks. While they lived at their house in the southern Italian countryside, from 1972 to 1987, my father was a gardening fiend, staying out until after dark to tend to 3 acres of flowers, vegetables, fruiting and non-fruiting trees. In the summer the sun would have long gone down and he would still be outside. When we yelled to him from the house, "What ARE you doing out there?" he would sometimes answer, "Fertilizing the roses!", the fertilizer being "liquid gold", if you know what I mean.

In the photo above and in the one below he is the light blue speck in the distance.

When they moved to Seattle in 1987 my mother became quite passionate about the plants on the deck of their condo and in the apartment, and joined my father in his love for gardening. After his death in 1993, for the next 12 years, she kept the flowers blooming.

Friday, June 19, 2009

June Gardening Bug

It's the June gardening bug, and I've got it bad.

Since my return from Seattle less than a week ago I've been to the garden center four times and I've never come out empty handed. In fact, I've always come out carrying a lot of plants.

My latest trip was this morning and my excuse for going there at 8:30 am was that there was a sale and I needed a new pruner. Right. I walked 16 blocks to get there and came home by bus and on foot carrying a box full of plants and dangling a small bag with the pruners.

Annuals, perennials, natives and non-natives. You name it, I got it. Well, that's obviously a huge exaggeration, but that's how it feels. I also have to keep buying bags of something called Organic Bay Area Forest Mulch Plus, which I love, because I live in one of the foggier parts of San Francisco and the "soil" is sand. I do, however, feel lucky to have any dirt at all in which to garden. It's not loam, but it will do. Until I can move to Seattle anyway.

Seattle and my brother's and his girlfriend's garden there, with the beautiful peonies I went on about in my last post, are what got me gardening crazed. Before going there for vacation I was a bit despondent about my foggy, sandy backyard. By the time I got back I was plant-obsessed. From the photos below, taken in their garden, you can see why I went a little crazy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Peony Extravaganza

I just returned from eight beautiful days in Seattle. The sun was shining, the sky and water sparkled, the vegetation glowed with the energy and vibrancy of life.

While I was there I stayed with my brother, Giancarlo, and his girlfriend, Debra, in the home they share and where they spend their days creating culinary and garden magic. I started taking photos before boarding the train in Emeryville and stopped when I got back home in San Francisco, for a grand total of 595 photos and videos. I think I should have enough material for several weeks of posts!

Peonies in all their glory, nurtured and coddled by Giancarlo and Debra in their Seattle garden.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friends and Family

On Tuesday night I boarded Amtrak's Coast Starlight in Emeryville, CA and traveled up to Seattle to visit friends and family.

The trip on the train was long, but as wonderful as always, and totally on time. When I get back to San Francisco I will post photos of the ride up and of my stay here, but for the moment I do not know how to download just a selection of photos, rather than the entire equivalent of 500 photos I have taken in the last 3 days - this includes videos.

Before buying a new camera, an idea I've been mulling over for the past couple of weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the manual for my Canon PowerShot S50 on the train with me, just to see what I did not know about it. Guess what, I didn't know much.

It turns out I had read the "quickstart" guide and stopped there. On the train I learned to take videos (pathetic little videos, but videos nonetheless), BW photos, sepia tone photos, how to set the camera for sun and overcast, vivid color, and how to do manual focus. What I still can't achieve is a decent focus with telephoto, but I don't think this justifies getting a new camera. Not yet, anyway, because this did not stop me from looking at cameras at Costco here in Seattle, and noticing that they have a good deal on a Canon EOS XSi (or something like that), a camera that is highly rated on Flickr.

My friends in Seattle say "hi", from the other side of the sliding glass door right outside the living room of my brother's and his girlfriend's home.

Photos courtesy of Debra L.