Monday, March 28, 2016

Bruce Munro’s SONORAN LIGHT Exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

Water - Towers, Sonoran Light Exhibit by Bruce Munro, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ
Every night, until May 8, 2016, the landscape in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Desert Botanical Garden will glow with colorful sculptures, strategically placed among the cacti and other plants by British artist Bruce Munro. Sparkling with hundreds of miles of fiber optics and lit by a rainbow of colored lights, the installations reflect his interpretation of the Sonoran Desert.
Several weeks ago, I visited the Desert Botanical Garden with friends. We arrived about 6:30, just as the sun was setting and the local mountains were becoming silhouetted against the sky. The sculptures were already glowing and only became more dramatic as the sky grew dark. Eight installations are located throughout the garden.
Our first stop was at a large terrace where 58 giant columns had been created with clear plastic water bottles threaded with optic fibers. Hidden lights filled the columns with red, purple, blue, green and yellow light. As we walked through the forest of glowing bottles, New Age music played quietly in the background creating an otherworldly atmosphere. In the distance, a mountain studded with a patchwork of colored lights formed another background to the exhibit.
We then proceeded to the Cactus and Succulent Gallery. Near the entrance was a large structure, also made from water bottles and light fibers, but this time formed into a dome created from different colored triangles.
Nearby, giant dandelion shaped light structures were placed among the cacti and succulents. As we turned each corner, we discovered a new one, each seemingly more fantastic than the rest.
By the time I left the Desert Botanical Garden, the sky was dark and dotted with stars. It had been a magical evening.
On the evening we visited the tickets had been sold out (ours were bought ahead of time) and we had to park some distance away from the entrance. Because of this event's overwhelming popularity, it is strongly recommend you purchase tickets ahead of time. Nighttime Munro ticket: $25 adults | $12.50 children (3-12).

Location of the Desert Botanical Garden:
1201 N. Galvin Parkway
Phoenix, AZ 85008
480 941.1225

Open Daily 8 A.M. - 8 P.M.
7 A.M. for members Wed. & Sun.
Bruce Munro Exhibit: 6 P.M. - 11 P.M.
For more information go to the Desert Botanical Garden website.

Monday, March 21, 2016

FINLAND, 1952: Midnight Sun and Summer Olympics, from the Memoir of Carolyn T. Arnold

Midnight Sun, Finland
My husband's Aunt Carolyn traveled to Finland in 1952 for the Summer Olympics and wrote about the trip in her memoir. Here is her report.

In 1952, three friends and I decided to attend the Olympics in Helsinki. We flew to London. Then, by train we went through France and Germany. Just below the Danish border, we stopped at Flensberg, a small city, to buy new bicycles. The shopkeeper had only one in stock, but if we could stay overnight, he could get us three more.
Flower Market, Helsinki Waterfront
The next day on our new bikes, we crossed into Denmark, a cyclist’s paradise. The land is so flat no pushing up hills was necessary. In Copenhagen, we found that the first flight we could get to Helsinki was ten days before the Opening Day of the Olympics. We took that flight and spent the ten days seeing something of Finland. We bought train tickets as far north as the train went. From there, we rode the bus to the end of its line into Finnish Lapland. We had not realized the extent of the Nazi occupation which had burned over most of northern Finland. Finland was just beginning reconstruction.

The train still burned wood, so smoke and dust were constantly with us. The Finns are normally very clean people, so every hour “train maids” would come through the coach to dust and clean. The next hour the seats and windows were just as smokey.
Far north Finland--End of the Bus Line
We rode all day through miles of green forest, the “green gold” of Finland. At the end of the first day, we stayed at a hostel, which was far better than others we had lived in. The second day we were booked at a new hotel in Rovaniemi, right on the Arctic Circle. When we left the train, no hotel or any other person or building was in sight. We waited a short time, wondering what to do. Then a police “paddy wagon” drove up to the train platform. We thought they had come for us. By pantomime, we learned they had been sent to pick up some drunks, but we persuaded them to take us to the hotel. The police demurred at first, finally deciding to leave the drunks, and we drove up the hill from where we could see the town of Rovaniemi. They deposited us in front of the hotel. I wonder what the hotel people thought of our unusual arrival. We continued the next day by bus. It was also a pre-war model and broke down frequently. We did not mind this as some of my most pleasant memories are of meeting people who gathered around, offering advice about the broken vehicle, sometimes offering us a cup of coffee at their homes.
Our destination was a simple lodge far to the north in Lapland. Even though we arrived at midnight, we climbed up a small mountain behind the lodge, anxious to see the midnight sun, which was hidden from view at the lodge. The permafrost and mosquitoes made the climb uncomfortable, but we took pictures of the sun at 1:00 a.m. and saw a herd of reindeer.
1952 Summer Olympics, Helsinki, Finland
Our return journey brought us to Helsinki in time for the Opening Day of the Olympics. Paavo Nurmi, the famous Finnish runner, had the honor of opening the XV Olympiad. He carried the torch around the track and then ascended the tower to light the flame, which burns constantly until the games end. We looked anxiously for our flag in the colorful parade of athletes. We could see the parade was nearing the end and no U.S.A. in sight. Then, there it was, and such an uproar rose from the crowd. We had forgotten the names were in the Finnish language, and U.S.A. became Uni des Etats.
Boarding TWA for Europe and Olympics, 1952
Perhaps the original intrepid tourist was Carolyn Arnold, my husband’s aunt.  A single school teacher in Des Moines, she began traveling abroad when she was in her forties, beginning with a bicycling trip through Ireland in 1950.  She went on from there to spend a year as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Wales, to more trips to Europe and beyond, and eventually became a tour leader, taking all her nieces and nephews (including Art) on her travels.  When she retired from teaching, she wrote of her experiences in a memoir called Up and Down and Around the World with Carrie.  Today, as I read of her travels, I marvel at her spirit of adventure at a time when women did not have the independence they do today. 

All photos by Carolyn T. Arnold. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Western Australia, Part 3: Freemantle, Perth and Rottnest Island

At the ferry landing at Rottnest Island, Western Australia
Recently, I was cleaning out and found my diary from our trip to Australia in 2007, when we toured the west coast with our friend Mike in his camper van, traveling from Augusta to Shark Bay and back to Perth. As I read through the entries I was reminded of the uniqueness of that landscape–different from anything else we had seen in Australia. Here is the third installment of some highlights from the trip.
New Holland Honeyeaters gather att our campground in Freemantle
From Eneabba we continued driving south to Perth and our campground at the port of Freemantle. The next morning we took the ferry from Victoria Quay in Freemantle to Rottnest Island.
Victoria Quay, Freemantle harbor
Originally built as a penal colony, Rottnest Island is now a protected reserve and tourist destination.  No cars are allowed, but one can rent bicycles, which we did, and rode to the Rottnest Lighthouse. (See my blog of March 31, 2014.)
Rottnest Lighthouse
On our way we met numerous quokkas–small marsupials extinct everywhere in Australia except on Rottnest.  They were remarkably fearless and approached us hoping for a handout. One was so friendly it bit my finger!  We then biked to a World War II gun emplacement on Oliver Hill and had a short tour by a volunteer guide. By the time we returned to town it started to rain so we spent the rest of the time in the museum, learning about the use of the island in the 1800s as an aboriginal prison and a boys reform school.
Quokka on Rottnest Island
Our final day was spent in Perth, walking along the Swan River and visiting the Western Australia Museum where we saw giant meteorites, a megamouth shark, and an exhibit focusing on the “lost generation”--aboriginal children taken away from their mothers. (The Australian film Rabbit Proof Fence is the powerful retelling of the story of three such girls who ran away from their boarding school and walked 1500 miles home. The story takes place in 1931.)

Walking along the Swan River in Perth
We then headed to the airport for the long flight over the Great Victoria Desert to Melbourne and from there, home to Los Angeles.
Our trip up the coast of Western Australia had been full, but still there was an enormous amount of the country yet to see. Someday, we’ll have to go back!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Western Australia, Part 2: Shark Bay--Dolphins, Pearls, Pelicans and More

Pelican at Monkey Mia, Shark Bay
Recently, I was cleaning out and found my diary from our trip to Australia in 2007, when we toured the west coast with our friend Mike in his camper van, traveling from Augusta to Shark Bay and back to Perth. As I read through the entries I was reminded of the uniqueness of that landscape–different from anything else we had seen in Australia. Here is the second installment of some highlights from the trip.
Dolphin at Monkey Mia
Shark Bay, located about 500 miles north of Perth on the westernmost point of the Australian continent, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its friendly dolphins, dugongs (relatives of the manatee), ancient stromatolites, and rich marine life. After spending the night camping nearby in Denham, we got up early to go to Monkey Mia to see the dolphin feeding at 8:00. A crowd of onlookers waited on the beach for the dolphins to appear.
Feeding the dolphins at Monkey Mia
Bottlenose dolphins have been visiting the beach at Monkey Mia for more than 40 years. In the 1960s, fishermen returning to Monkey Mia began sharing their catch with some local dolphins. Over the years, the dolphins’ trust grew and several more were fed at the jetty and later the beach. An increasing numbers of visitors came to see the dolphins. Now the feeding of the dolphins is managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife. When the dolphins came in to the shallow water, we watched as volunteers fed them from buckets of fish.
Catamaran tour at Monkey Mia, Shark Bay
Later that morning we took a catamaran trip on the bay, where we saw more dolphins and stopped at a floating pearling enterprise. That evening we had dinner in a restaurant in Denham called the Old Pearler built of bricks made from leftover shells.
Demonstration of seeding oysters with pearls
The following day we started on the long drive back to Perth and stopped for the night at the Wildflower Caravan Park at Eneabba.
An example of Australian humor
Because of the long-running drought, there were not as many wildflowers as in wet years, but we had an interesting tour to see the few plants that were in bloom and a slide show of some others. In the morning, we met a number of VERY friendly kangaroos. Like many Australians, the owners of the caravan park foster orphaned joeys, who, when they are old enough, have free run of the campground. Not surprisingly, some of them allowed us to get quite close!
Caroline with young Western Gray Kangaroo