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Monthly Archives: May 2014


What adjectives come to mind when describing heliconia?  Dramatic…eye-catching…head-turning…attention-grabbing…this plant screams “Look at me!” and won’t take “No” for an answer.


random bouquet

I came upon this flower “arrangement” in a commercial garden.  I say “arrangement” because I don’t really believe the flowers were arranged, but rather placed somewhat haphazardly into the bucket of water to keep them fresh until they could be packaged and shipped.

And yet, there’s something about the way these flowers are located in relation to each other that I find compelling.  The way the large white blossom takes front and center stage like an unabashed diva.  The way the bold red ginger spears, normally the show-stealers, aren’t as sharply focused and wind up playing a supporting role in the background.  The way the random green stems and leaves add a strong vertical element to the composition.

The unusual down- and back-lighting adds drama…and finally, the way that almost all the foliage continues out of the frame forces you to focus back on the white flower.

This isn’t a typical tropical bouquet, by any stretch of the imagination.

And it definitely does NOT follow the rules of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging that is performed in a meditative manner and results in a minimalist design.  (Practitioners of ikebana, please forgive my gross oversimplification of your art form, which I greatly admire.)

Therefore, it’s the antithesis of ikebana, but no less beautiful, at least to me.

Tank and boy

“War is harmful to children and other living things.”

I’ve been trying to find the source of this quote online, without success, so there’s no attribution.  If you know who said it, please let me know.

Even though I condemn violence and war, I wish our military personnel, past and present, were treated better, both during their tours as well as after they return to civilian life.

And I hope that all Americans today paused, at least for a moment, to reflect on the purpose of the holiday that granted them a three-day weekend and marked the beginning of the summer season and made it okay to wear white without fear of retribution from the fashion police.

It’s to remember the fallen soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their country.

Perhaps you had a relative that died while serving, or a friend, or a neighbor…sadly, I’ll be just about everyone can come up with a name, or several names.

Pause for a moment and say a silent thank you, and wish them godspeed.  Send them good thoughts, positive energy, and/or a prayer.  After all, they’re really the same thing, when you think about it.  Just take a few moments to acknowledge their sacrifice.

That’s what today is really about.

Great Horned Owls

Since I subjected you to dead baby whale posts two days in a row (no more, I promise!) I thought I would share an image today of a baby wild critter that’s alive and thriving.  Less than a mile from where the humpback calf washed up a few days ago, there is a pair of great horned owls that are raising two offspring.  Although the owlets can fly, the parents still keep close tabs on them when they’re away from the nest, and continue to feed them.

The tall eucalyptus trees make a perfect nesting site, as well as a good perch from which to survey the area.


Dead Humpback Whale Calf 2

Like a bad penny, the dead humpback calf that had washed out to sea returned again to a beach north of Half Moon Bay.  And so did the spectators, in droves.  News reports, word of mouth, and of course Facebook posts drew more people than the previous day.

While I’m still fact-checking, it seems that the whale did finally get examined by marine scientists, who determined that it was a female, but did not (could not?) determine a cause of death.  And it seems that afterwards it was pulled out to sea behind a boat.

RIP, young one.

I sincerely hope that many of the folks for whom this whale-viewing was a first will be inspired to go whale watching on a boat.  Those of you who have gotten close to whales on the open ocean know what I mean.  It’s there that you can appreciate how big they are, and how quickly yet elegantly they can move through the water.

May all your whale sightings be live ones!


Dead Humpback Whale Calf

A dead humpback whale calf washed up on the beach just north of Half Moon Bay, California a couple of days ago.  I was driving up Highway 1 at dusk yesterday evening when I spotted a group of about fifteen people clustered on the side of the highway, facing the ocean and holding their cell phones out in front of them.  Since it was a foggy evening and already getting dark, I figured they were photographing the whale.  I stopped to have a look as well as to photograph the whale myself, since this is–thank goodness!–not an every day occurence.  Not since an adult humpback named Humphrey famously entered the San Francisco Bay (in 1985 and again in 1990) has a whale–living or dead–gotten this much attention in the Bay Area.

I had very mixed feelings observing the crowd of onlookers, who were posing their children for photo ops in front of the unfortunate whale.  On one hand, it was but a decaying corpse–still a strange photo setting for children, in my opinion–and on the other it was the remains of a magnificent ocean creature that died well before its time.  I couldn’t help feeling that many people’s actions were downright disrespectful.

I’m willing to bet that very few people in that crowd realized that they were standing near the site of a whaling station that processed hundreds or thousands of whales in the 1800’s.  Whaling is not an activity most people associate with eco-conscious California.

In this image, I chose to not include the spectators, but I deliberately lined up the whale with Pillar Point in the background to give the image a sense of place.

The tide came in over night and the whale carcass washed back out to sea.  This morning it was gone.

Plant on Pink Steps

Tropical plants have a will of their own.  They have to grow into the sunlight or die, even if they begin life beneath the rain forest canopy…or a flight of wooden stairs!

This plant actually forced its way between the tread and the riser on this set of wooden steps that lead to a gathering hall behind a church.  You can see that some additional leaves are also beginning to poke their way through.

Now that’s what I call determination.

pink ginger

A pink ginger bract is another tropical stunner.  Just as with the heliconia featured in the last two posts, the actual “flower” is a small portion of what non-botanical types consider to be the plant’s bloom.  In the case of the ginger, the true flowers are the tiny white ones that encircle the much larger pink bract.  Deep pink “petals” at the base give way to the palest pink “petals” at the tip.  A study in color gradation, or a pretty “flower,” or both?  Take your pick.

heliconia 2

A heliconia bract–don’t call it a flower–shot against a shady background really stands out!


Tropical plants tend to be big and bold, but even by their standards, this one steals the show.  Its size, shape and color makes it hard to ignore.  There’s nothing understated about this plant, which can easily grow over 10′ tall.

Feast your eyes on Heliconia!