Monday, May 28, 2018

A Memorial Day Salute

 Yesterday we took an impromptu trip into Washington DC to take in some of the atmosphere following the annual Rolling Thunder parade. I was hoping to get some images of all those motor cycles lined up but I guess we never did find where they had parked them. But we certainly did get a good flavor of the day as we wandered around and did our own self guided tour of the memorials  from the most recent 100 or so years of war. 
 There was a display of the Poppy Memorial which featured some very poignant verses and commentary and I am going to feature some of them beginning with this from WWI above. The exhibit commemorates the 645,000 Americans killed in conflict since the beginning of WWI and was created by the USAA.

 The WWII Memorial.
 Speaks for itself.
 The Korean War Memorial.
 The Vietnam War Memorial aka The Wall continues to draw huge crowds. Many visitors have a specific person's entry that they are searching for and then taking a quiet moment, among the crowd, to pause and remember their loved one. In the rear of the crowd the man up the ladder is taking a rubbing of his special person's name.
 While we did not see the motor cycles we did see who might have been riding them. This is a good day for people watching. And remembering those for whom there has not yet been an official closure.
 A time for personal reflections.
 At the apex of The Wall.
 Veterans left their personal memorials in various places.
 At last, some of the Rolling Thunder bikes leaving the scene at the close of the day.
 This marine stationed himself by The Wall to give commentary and answer questions.
 Remembering all facets of the Vietnam War.
 This morning I created my own small floral salute to the day.
Maybe you would like to leave a tribute.

Never forget those who gave their all so that we could have freedom.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Two Days in Canterbury New Zealand

 Our recent trip to New Zealand was entirely to the South Island. When we arrived on April 9 we were expecting mild early autumn weather with temperatures ranging in the 60sF/15 - 20C. Hah! were we in for a surprise.
We landed in Christchurch in the morning and by the time we were done getting out of the airport with our rental car (later dubbed the pohutukar - watch for it in later posts) it was lunchtime. A foot tour through the city environs seemed like a good introduction to our trip. The sight of the traditional red phonebox with Queen Victoria in the background reminded us that Christchurch is known for  having an English heritage and ambiance.
The next day we set our sights on a day trip to Akaroa, a small harbor on Banks Peninsula and regarded as the most French town in New Zealand having been settled by both French and British people. When we set out the day was overcast and temperatures were going down rather than up. Overcast changed to rain and maybe this was why, on this day at least, we were delighted by the birdlife that we saw. Pulling off the road to look down into the harbor I spotted this native wood pigeon, the kereru, seeking shelter in a tree. Five or six hours later when we drove by again on the return trip that bird was still there in the same tree.
 We took a quick side jaunt towards French Farm in the Akaroa Harbor on the opposite side from Akaroa. I noticed these boat sheds, hidden away below the roadside and built making good use of the quintessential corrugated iron.
 Further on we came across this cluster of birds. Clearly the three at the back have not yet heard the command to turn around and face away from the wind. I think these are South Island pied oystercatchers but maybe someone will correct me.
I loved the look of this older traditional style cottage complete with the red corrugated iron roof. It must be lovely in the summer when the front porch vine is blooming.
A signpost directed us to a small lavender farm. There was some lavender still in bloom on these plants right at the road frontage but a chat with the owner educated us that the season was really over by April.
 At last we arrived in Akaroa. The weather was getting cooler and much more overcast. Were these seagulls waiting for their ship to come in and take them away to sunnier climes?
 The sky was looking ominous behind the Akaroa lighthouse. This historic lighthouse, which was first lit in 1880 in it's original location on the Akaroa Head, was relocated in 1980 to this spot by the Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society.
Yes, more seagulls waiting. But look at the end of the jetty and you will see some other birds. These might be shags but again, I am hoping for confirmation by someone
 Our driver had fun posing for the artist! This statue is of Charles Meryon (1821 - 1868) who was an artist and engraver and also a lieutenant on board the French naval escort ship "Le Rhin" stationed at Akaroa from 1843 to 1846.
 As you can see by the note taped to the sign, daily cruises to see the harbor and birdlife were cancelled on this stormy day. But still the seagulls wait.
 A last view of the lighthouse and those ominous clouds.
 We stopped again on the roadside to birdwatch. The driver headed in one direction to look for pukekos while I headed the other way to see the birdlife in the shallow estuary water. Among them was this paradise duck.

Heading back up the winding road out of Akaroa Harbor we hit the highest point at the same time as a scary short sleet/snowfall. Now we are used to snow but being on an unfamiliar narrow and winding road where we were driving on the "other side" (yes, the left side) did not make for pleasant driving and it was not only the driver who had a big sigh of relief when we arrived safely at the bottom of the hilly portion. There was no thought to stop for photos during that portion of the trip!
We did arrive safely back in Christchurch however and spent the evening plotting the course for the next day. In closing I leave you with this shot of the statue of James Cook, the Royal Navy circumnavigator who first hoisted the British flag in New Zealand and explored her seas and coasts 1769 -70, 1773 - 74 and again in 1777 (as described on the plaque). While he was not the only non-native person to discover New Zealand he seemed to leave the biggest legacy. If you look carefully in the right lower background you can see workers on the site of the restoration of the major damage done to the Christchurch Town Hall during the earthquake of February, 2011.

Many of the coastal areas we visited in the South  Island have road infrastructure that has been recently badly damaged by either earthquake or major rainstorm/cyclone activity. This made for some interesting driving experiences shall we say.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Out and About in my Mid May Garden and Nearby

While we wait for me to sort through the New Zealand photos here is a quick overview of what nature is showcasing in my garden and in the nearby Potomac River as of yesterday.
 Last week we had a lot of rain and it went on for days and days. Yesterday, with no rain imminent, it seemed like a good chance to go view the Great Falls on the Potomac river. The water was running fast and furious and was very muddy colored.
Here is a similar shot taken on January 16, 2017. Now there had been snow a few days previous to this trip so you might have expected that, being a midwinter shot, there would be a good amount of water in the river. But you will notice there are way more rocks visible than there yesterday.
 In the water yesterday all sorts of debris was being washed along. A small boy near to us at the viewing overlook number 3 was thrilled to spot this ball and kept his eye on it for several minutes as it bobbed along with the fallen tree trunks and more.
 Arriving back home and coming up the driveway I thought the kousa dogwood was at about peak bloom. This is one of it's more spectacular bloom years.
 A closer view of the dogwood.
 Out back the peonies are coming out. They took a real beating in the rain and the hasty emergency tying up to try and protect them meant they are leaning in all sorts of weird directions. But I love the pretty pastel pink of this one. My plan for the back garden is for it to be a pastel white, pink and blue theme and this bloom epitomizes the pink I aim for.
 Down on the shady rear patio I can see it is well time for a good power washing of the brick. Before that happens however I can marvel at the heuchera (coral bells) that take root there and seem to stay unnoticed by the browsing deer.
 In the front garden it is the week of the iris.
 Here's a pretty one.
 The lacecap hydrangea has plenty of buds on it and I am pretty sure we won't be getting any more frosts this season. Now if I can just keep the deer away it might be a good season for hydrangea blooms.
 When I was outside yesterday I thought this peony was just one day away from peak bloom. Today, it would have been nice to have some sun to coax out the full beauty but instead, yes, more rain.
Another shot of Great Falls on January 16 last year...
And the same aspect yesterday.

The downside of all this rain means the weeds are getting out of control in the garden because I cannot get out there to pull them. The upside is that I should, surely, have more time to go through my New Zealand photos and get them ready for posting here.

We did have a lot of rain during our time in New Zealand also. Seems to be a theme for now!