Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Ring of Fire

DSC03377 Andy Goldsworthy faultline

I live within the Ring of Fire, less than five miles from the San Andreas Fault. The Ring of Fire is a 40,000 kilometer horseshoe partly encircling the Pacific Basin. Its continuous oceanic trenches and volcanic arcs create 90% of the world's earthquakes. With four significant earthquakes, in Haiti, Chile, Japan, and Taiwan, since the beginning of the year, there is talk whether the Ring of Fire is hyper-agitated right now.

Our half-hearted discussions about updating our earthquake preparedness kits resurfaced these past few weeks, but I don't know anyone who is actually doing it. It may surprise those who live on firmer ground how matter-of-fact most of us in this region are about this Sword of Damocles looming over our heads. We trade in this brewing threat for our perfect Mediterranean climate, abundant natural wonders, and wonderful fresh food. We bask in all this glory as the Pacific Plate slides beneath the North American Plate under our feet.

Don't get me wrong, we aren't completely complacent. Our building codes aim to be vigilant about "The Next Big One". All brick buildings must be reinforced, our Bay Bridge is being rebuilt, and many of our favorite buildings were condemned to the wrecking ball after the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989.

One of the buildings suffering devastating damage in the 1989 earthquake was the De Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. During the construction of the new building, the museum approached British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy to create an installation for the entry courtyard. Goldsworthy already completed the earthquake-related sculpture, Stone River, at nearby Stanford University. Formerly called "Faultline", now called "Drawn Stone", Goldsworthy drew inspiration from the seismic movement that ultimately brought the De Young's original 1895 building down.Visitors can now follow a tiny fissure in the stone pavers, beginning just outside the building, into the courtyard, where it builds momentum and rises in amplitude bisecting large cuboid boulders.

DSC03375 Andy Goldsworthy faultline
Appleton Greenmoore sandstone pavers

DSC03376 Andy Goldsworthy faultline

Many visitors pass without noticing the faultlines snaking through the courtyard. Its understated appearance belies the force required to form this work.

DSC03378 Andy Goldsworthy faultline

DSC03563 Andy Goldsworthy faultline

Goldsworthy painstakingly created this installation over the period of three months. Click here to view a great video of Goldsworthy in action.

While you do that, I think I'll review our earthquake-preparedness kit while Johnny Cash sings of a different "Ring of Fire" altogether:

Note: Many earthquake victims around the world still need aide. See the badge on my side bar to learn of one way to help.

Another note:  Please forgive the blue-green cast of the last photo; I was shooting through the second floor window.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Macro Monday - Water Lilies at the Okavango Delta

DSC08868 Water Lily

Ten minutes after we first encountered Tripod, we arrived at Chief’s Camp, situated at the lip of a rich flood plain of the Okavango Delta. We sipped a cup of warm rooibos tea on the back deck of the lodge.

DSC08505 Chief's Camp

Across the flood plain, we observed a giraffe...

DSC08312 Giraffe at Chiefs Camp

...quietly nibble the tender leaves of an acacia bush.

DSC08359 Giraffe

Later we were invited explore our exotic "back yard" in a faux-dugout canoe called a mokoro. I sat flat on the floor of the boat with my feet pointed towards the bow while my gentle guide propelled the
boat forward like a Venetian gondolier. It was comforting to silently glide through the water after our usual roaring through the wilderness in the open Landcruiser.

DSC08833 Canoe Ride

My guide, whose name I've regretfully forgotten, was boundlessly patient and stopped the boat each time I greedily snapped photo after photo with the water surface only inches from my lens.

DSC08843 Waterlilies

 I saw my son shake his head at me with a smile of great relief as he and his dad faded into the distance. What a luxury to creep through the reeds without feeling guilt for slowing down the expedition and without having to explain to my travel partners that I took these photos simply because I loved the colors...

DSC08909 water lilies

DSC08845 Waterlilies

...and that I needed yet another photo just because this was a different aquatic plant:

DSC08851 Waterlilies

My guide pulled out one of the water hyacinths and expressed the clear liquid out of the bulb that floats just below the blossom. He told me, in very good English, that the local people use this liquid as medicine to treat river blindness, also known as Robles' Disease (Oncocerciasis), caused by a nematode worm.

He went on to say: "I see you like the water lilies. I will make you a necklace." I was eager to learn what he meant by this. He began by pulling out a water lily with a stalk that seemed to go on forever:

DSC08862 Making Water Lily Necklace step 1

Then I heard a "snap... snap... snap ..." at an even tempo.

DSC08863 Making Water Lily Necklace step 2

I turned around again and saw that he snapped the stalk at one inch intervals without severing it completely and slid off the outermost fibers down about another inch. He repeated this from the opposite sides of the stalk...

DSC08864 Making Water Lily Necklace step 2 detail

...until he finished snapping the entire stalk. He tied the ends to finish this beautiful fresh necklace from nature and ceremoniously handed it to me:

DSC08866 Making Water Lily Necklace step 3

I proudly wore my new jewelry as we continued our ride. By this time my husband and son were completely out of sight.  We stopped to view the Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus)

DSC08876 Little Bee-eater cropped

Some of you already met the Painted Reed Frog during a Macro Monday last November; here's another one:

DSC08878 Painted Reed Frog

We caught up with the other boat and my son pointed out a hippo in the distance. We clambered out of the boat onto a termite hill and zoomed our cameras for a photo .

At the end the ride, my guide stopped the boat one more time, patiently waiting for me to notice more wildlife. I felt completely dense. I did not see a thing, only grass:

DSC08911 snake in the grass

I turned around and gave my best quizzical look.

"Look closely," he said, "it's green."

And then I saw it. Eegads! I suddenly had the urge to take inventory of the boat and check to see if I was carrying any hitchhikers.

DSC08913 Olive Green Snake cropped

Spiders and tarantulas don't bother me one bit, but I get the willies when an animal has no legs. If you have any desire to see a larger version of the Olive Whip Snake, click here.

Slightly relieved that we weren't going to be brushing up against any more reeds, we docked back at the camp and I looked forward to showing off my new necklace at dinner.

DSC08922 Water Lily Necklace

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