Category Archives: nature

Lan Su Chinese Garden, Late January

Two years and I have missed the plum blossom tree in full bloom, being too early and/or too late. This year I am determined. . . . Not quite yet though.
First view of plum blossom treeNot a bad show–and the best I’ve gotten so far– but not full bloom yet.

Now it is supposed to be the first bloom of winter, but the tree to the left either didn’t know that or decided to upstage it.

Tree to left

Actually the guide said that this tree was blooming over a month early since the winter had been so mild.

The floor mosaic honors the plum blossom tree too: Plum Blossoms on Cracked Ice. (My blocks for the Cracked Ice quilt reminded me of this floor, hence the quilt name.)

Floor mosaic

Other flowers were blooming.

These photos are to say to all folks stuck in snowdrifts that spring will come. The upper left flower is called Wintersweet, and it does have an amazing fragrance. The lower left is one I’ve been calling forsythia; however, it is winter jasmine. Today’s guide was very good about naming the plants–too bad I don’t remember all of the names. The bees were enjoying the other yellow flower–one whose name I didn’t catch. And the lower right is the red rose that has been in bloom every visit since I’ve been watching it.

And here is the ritual view of the landboat.

landboatNote that there are no longer any persimmons hanging on to the tree to the left. I’m thinking I need another ritual shot besides the land boat. How about this bridge?

Bridge and Lake Tai rockThese two views capture four of the five elements of a Chinese philosopher’s garden: water, stone, architecture, and of course plants. What is missing is poetry. Another visit.

And one last view of the plum blossoms.

plum close up



Filed under nature, photography, Portland OR

Lan Su Chinese Garden in the Rain

I finally got to the garden in the rain. Actually it wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t raining when my friend and I went to the bus stop. This is Portland, after all.

Moon Locking PavillionLook hard: see the red rose in the upper right? Still blooming. And the next photo is a close up of the white flower in the foreground.

white flower

Other flowers were blooming also.

yellow flower and lotus boat

It looks like the lotus boat is a permanent fixture, not just during lotus harvesting season.

And the ritual shots of the land boat, persimmons tree, and weeping willow:

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I wonder how long those last persimmons will hang on.

There are enough covered passage ways that we didn’t get too wet while visiting in the rain. But the tea room is one of the best sheltered places–quite a few visitors thought so; it was crowded. And rain did limit some of the spots where I like to take photos. I’m waterproof, but my camera isn’t.

And though it was raining, it wasn’t raining hard enough to hear the sound effect of the drip from the tile to the banana leaves. I think there are more visits in my future.

Oh, and in case you couldn’t see the red rose, here is a shot with a little zoom: It is said to bloom 8 out of 12 months; I’m counting.

red rose with zoom





Filed under nature, photography, Portland OR

Lan Su Chinese Garden–November 1

I missed an October visit by a day. Still, there was more green than fall color, and only one tree had dropped its leaves. There was more color in the penjing than in the larger plants.

However, there was some color among the larger trees.

view of lotus, willow and orange tree

Although the lotus seem past their season, the lotus boat was still out amidst some lush yellow.

lotus boat

And then there is my favorite view of the day.

photo showing layers with orange tree

This four layered view showing how the illusion of space is created for the one-city-block size garden. To the left is the Lake Tai rock sculpture that is formed naturally in the water currents over the soft stone in the lake.

November’s feature is potted mums placed all around the garden. Since it is the very beginning of the month there are more buds than full flowers, but there was a very good preview.

And yes, the red rose is still blooming. I wonder which four months it does not bloom.

red roseAnd finally, the land boat view.

landboat and  persimmonsNote the almost ripe persimmons, upper left.  A sign said they weren’t really ready till December and asked visitors to leave them for future visitors. This is the first I’ve seen them ripe on the tree. Come December there will still be a few clinging.


Filed under nature, Portland OR

September at Lan Su Chinese Garden

There were two surprises in this September visit: no changing leaf color even though I’d begun to see a little yellow and red in my neighborhood and more flowers blooming than in August.

Here is the tree that that last  big peach fuzzy flower grew on:

Tree with pink flower

See it between the two parallel arching foreground branches? I’m glad for my zoom lens. Wouldn’t it be nice if I knew more names of flowers?  Guides mention them and there are booklets with some identified. But always there are more flowers than identities.

There is a red rose that they say is in bloom 8 out of 12 months of the year–I’ll have to check on that.

red roseApparently September is the time to harvest lotus blossoms. There is a lotus boat amid the lotus patch.

lotus boat

The gardener would wade into the “lake” in hip boots to pick the lotus flowers.  (Not only is this lake shallow, but the lake in the actual ancient philosopher’s garden would have been shallow as well. These gardens’ purpose is to bring the country into the city.) The boat is not for the gardener but for the harvested lotus flowers.

lotus pods

The remaining pods have their own beauty.



Filed under nature, photography, Portland OR

Crow Intelligence

Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like HumansGifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John M. Marzluff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OK, so I started out interested in animal intelligence and had heard the author talk about the book a while back. I was primed to like it, and I did.

Of course I enjoyed the stories most. Crows and their relative corvids are fascinating as they solve problems, make tools, and recognize people. In fact, with mirror experiments, there is even the possibility of self recognition! ETA: One fascinating fact: Birds can sleep one brain hemisphere at a time. Helps on those long migration flights.

Woven among the stories is neuroscience in understandable terms. One could learn the detailed differences in fear and pleasure routes in the crow brain or one could get the generalities, as I did. The text was uncluttered by footnotes or numbers, but there were end notes referencing pages for the more serious researcher. There was a clear indication of what was known, what was hypothetical, and what needed more research. I especially appreciated sections where there were alternate theories presented and the data behind each.

The crow brain, while differently formed than the human functions similarly with “loops” of electrons that allow present to be compared to past and actions to be adjusted to the comparison. Another fascinating chapter on language showed the anatomy that allows crows (without lips and soft tongue) to form speech that sounds like humans. A story that accompanied that was about a crow that could call dogs so convincingly that there were several around it. Also interesting was the chapter on play, not only the descriptions of playfulness, but the explanation of the meaning of play to crow survival.

I”m thinking that studies of animal intelligence today function somewhat like Galileo’s earth-around-the-sun to displace human species self centeredness, a shift reinforced by the book’s conclusion.

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Filed under books, nature

Beyond the Rockies

Up to Jasper, the trip was by tour bus; at Jasper we boarded the Rocky Mountaineer. I had expected this to be the highlight, but really the Icefield Parkway of the day before was the best of the trip–I even thought of suggesting they do the tour in the reverse order. The train would have been better as introduction; it wasn’t long in the national park or even in the Rockies, though we traveled the Rockies Trench where the Columbia River has its source (not where we could see it though).

Much of the view was trees, and then the second day started out rainy. Luckily it did clear up. And it seemed that when there was a view it was on the other side of the train. The last two photos above are exceptions where the view came to the right. There was a viewing car we could walk to and an area between cars for better viewing–the latter was crowded.

Views got more dramatic in the afternoon of the second day when we emerged from rain forest and headed into desert at Fraser Canyon.

Fraser Canyon

Note the sagebrush in the foreground.

contrast of irrigation and desert

The green of the irrigated field was quite a contrast.

It was a long slow descent–partly for photographing and partly for safety. It was one of the longest stretches of 2% descent. That didn’t sound so dramatic to me until I read that because of the weight of a train, even 1% can be challenging.

Because there had been a mudslide that made the tracks impassible, we transferred from train to bus shortly after this canyon to get to Whistler. After an overnight and a morning in Whistler we continued by train to Vancouver, BC.

River scene

More improved scenery, this time from an old time open air viewing car.

white water

This was the highest bridge on the line.

Vancouver, BC, is a city I will be returning to. The nature of tours is two hours in a museum where I could spend all day. We visited the Museum of Anthropology at the University, the Vancouver Museum, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. There were more.



And that concludes the trip photos. It is time to get back to quilting.


Filed under nature, travel

More Rockies Photos

The Rockies in the U. S. are higher than those in Canada; however, the Canadian Rockies look higher because the glaciers carved the valleys deeper. Bow Summit, with its view of Lake Peyto, gives a sense of the path the Peyto Glacier took.

Lake PeytoThe cloudy, teal color of the lake water results from light on rock flour–small grains of rock scraped by the moving glacier. The teal color is more vivid on some days than others.

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

At Moraine Lake, the rock pile that created the lake can be climbed–and several members of the tour did.


Moraine at Moraine Lake

Wild life is a fun feature when out in nature.  We had a couple sitings of Big Horn Sheep families.

Big Horn Sheep

The driver stopped the bus, but there wasn’t time to get out. We also saw a couple bear and a bison herd. Some group members, while walking through town, saw a black bear eating berries about ten feet away.  A little close for their comfort, but the bear seemed not to notice them and just kept eating.

At the entrance to Banff is a bridge made from rock smoothed by the glacial river.


Also at Banff was the Cave and Basin Hot Springs.

Cave and Basin

No longer is it open for bathing. There are endangered snails that live there that would be harmed by the pH change from even dipping hands in the water. Because of the temperature of water from the hot springs, there are some tropical fish up in the cold Rockies.

The days in Banff and Jasper areas included lectures and field trips, Ben Gadd in Banff and Kirsten Schmitten in Jasper. From Jasper we took the Rocky Mountaineer train to Vancouver–those photos are yet to be sorted out.

One more mountain view.

Mountain in Banff area



Filed under nature, photography, travel

Back from the Rockies

I’ve been back a day and am getting my photos sorted. The Rockies, like the Grand Canyon, are hard to capture in photos. Add to that hazy skies from forest fires in British Columbia and Alberta, rain, and shooting from moving vehicles, and most of my pictures are mental.

Rockies in haze

We did wonder if we would get any views.  Of course the real concern was containing the forest fires. Rain the first night settled things a bit, and there were views on the Banff Gondola ride.

Gondola up Sulfur Mountain

Here is the route of the gondola up Sulphur Mountain, lifting us to about 8,000 feet.

Gondola machinery

The gondola looked sturdy enough to trust for that uphill ride. Each held four people, and the view was stunning. It was possible to walk yet higher after we got off–I thought I was high enough. Here is one view from the stopping point.

View from gondola drop offAnother participatory event was riding the Ice Explorer on the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park. (The hardy people could hike up to it.) Athabasca combines with five other glaciers that feed from the Columbia Ice Field. Unlike the Continental Divide that feeds two oceans, the Columbia Ice Field feeds three: Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic. Our guide said this was the only proven one, though there are one or two others assumed, one in Siberia.

Ice Explorer

We were told that the glacier was as deep as the Eiffel Tower is high. And that it retreats 10 feet a year (gaining 15 in the winter and losing 25 in the summer). Here is an article about retreat with slightly different figures.

Melt run off

Watching the rushing melt run off was quite dramatic, as was watching the rushing river at Natural Bridge. You’ll have to imagine the sound of the rushing water.

Natural Bridge, side view

Natural Bridge frong It was mentioned that the water was so high that it was flowing over instead of under natural bridge.

I’ll sort some more photos and be back in a day or two.


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Filed under nature, travel

Head of the Metolius River

Metolius River just beyond headAfter following the trail to the head of the Metolius, this is the first view. It was my first time to visit the head of any river, and I expected something more like a trickle! In the actual view, one of the mountains was off in the distance, farther away than my camera can “see.” Turning to the left I saw the actual head, the springs bubbling forth.

head of metolius RiverThere really is water down there in those shadows.  It pours out and almost instantly is a river. Our cabin at Cool Springs Resort was a few miles on down, and the rushing water was a very soothing sound. There was a trail from the resort area to the head, but we opted to drive to a paved and accessible trail with a shorter walk.

TrailNext year we will allow more time for nature when we go to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. From what we did see, we could tell it is worth more time than we gave it.



Filed under nature, photography, travel

Lan Su Chinese Garden–July

The feature at Lan Su for July was silk embroidery–all of it stunning.  Until I got close to the framed ones on the wall, I thought they were water color paintings.  The parrot was unframed, so it was easier to view the stitches, of which there are two: parallel and random.

silk embroidery

silk embroidery

Water lilies continue to bloom; new to me were the tall ones.

water lily 'field'


water lilies closer view                                                                                                                                       tall water lilies




The overall look of the garden was lush green; most of the blooming plants were at ground level. And I learned the name of the mystery flower, unlike hyacinths I’d seen before.

lush green

Land Boat



Mystery solved–it’s a hyacinth

Two especially pretty blooms


Pomegranate blossom

unknown flower

























Filed under nature, Portland OR