Saturday, April 30, 2011

Plants and Stones: The Petrified Forest

A plant can grow to look like a stone. The desert is slightly spring green today with tiny somewhat camouflaged plants as well as the showier flowering ones among the rocks:



Trees can turn to stone, or once they did so. The back story: once there was a tropical forest full of huge trees and dinosaurs. The trees fell, and were covered by silt, or maybe a volcano or two erupted and covered the broken forest. Eventually, the trees all turned to stone and sparkling, colorful minerals replaced their organic elements.


Around 250,000,000 years later, humans have evolved. Early Indian tribes found the petrified trees, which had by then been delivered to North America by continental drift. At least two groups built pueblos in the area, and left petroglyphs on the rocks that as yet have no translation.




A few centuries later, humans discovered what they could do with mineral resources, invented the steam engine, and began looking for places to put railroads. The explorers and rail planners found the stone trees. Once the railroads were built, a whole industry grew up near the forest, ready to grind up the petrified wood and process it into many things. The railroad shipped tons of petrified rock out of the West, and brought tourists to see the natural wonders that seemed inexhaustible. Also, the beautiful agates, geodes, and other sparkling crystals that sparkle mysteriously in the ancient tree trunks were in time all pried out of the petrified wood and taken away.

By the time the Petrified Forest National Park was founded a century ago, it was almost too late, and the looting didn't stop. What's left of the petrified wood is beautiful and fascinating, but a little sad, especially the area called the Crystal Forest where all the sparkle is gone.


The landscape itself is still utterly beautiful.


And the older park buildings have a lot of their early-20th-century charm.


We had a lovely day in the park, while driving from Albuquerque to Flagstaff.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oklahoma from a moving car

Today we drove from Oklahoma City to Albuquerque -- definitely a scenic route in a southwestern way. Western Oklahoma has ranches, cattle, oil wells, wind farms, and bales of hay. The Texas Panhandle is vast, flat, almost vacant. Eastern New Mexico has deep arroyos with exposed red rock sides, as one is climbing all the time to get to the high plane. At one point we could briefly spot some snow-topped mountains, but never caught sight of them again.

Scenes along the way driving through Oklahoma:






Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shaw's Garden

The weather wizards relented! We had all the sunshine we could imagine at the Missouri Botanical Garden (Shaw's Garden).

In front of the Climatron, statues by Carl Milles, whose fountains I have always liked. I think prototypes for some of these are at Cranbrook near Carol's house.


Some of the Garden's collected works in glass by Dale Chihuly.

Ruby with Henry Shaw, founder of the gardens.

High school art class from nearby school.

I found the Japanese gardens amazingly beautiful!

Several more photos are on Flickr including:

shaw5823 shaw5863 shaw5886 shaw5892 shaw5870

Dark Cloud over St.Louis

We made it from West Lafayette to St.Louis yesterday around 1:30 PM. At first we drove through a pleasant spring rain, enjoying greening fields and a few wide, vivid expanses of new clover the same color as the blooming redbud trees. As we approached the junction just before St.Louis we saw a dark and threatening cloud over the city. Are evil weather wizards angry with this city? The international news was already featuring the severe tornado that filled the airport with glass, rain, and stranded passengers last Friday!

We began fulfilling the purpose of the trip in the afternoon, visiting Len's 2 sisters, 2 brothers-in-law, 4 nieces & 2 nephews (counting spouses), and several of their children. Some by lucky coincidence were also visiting here.

Sunny today? I don't think so.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pelicans in West Lafayette

White pelicans have strayed from their usual migration route to the west of here and are now hanging out at the Celery Bog near Elaine and Larry's house. We saw them circling in the sky, and also sitting on this rock in the pond.

The wooded areas were carpeted with little white flowers, the frogs in the bog were singing loudly, and we also saw a very tiny turtle basking on the painted strip that divides the lanes of the bike path. Many other birds were flying and swimming, including this one:

Photos by Lenny.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Silly Silly Silly

Irish connection for Mona Lisa? See: Leonardo DaVinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ - the Irish connection by Cathy Hayes.
"Dominus Otho Gherardini ... travelled to Normandy with a caravan of Norman knights in 1056. ... Otho was a member of the Florentine family, the Gherardini. He came to the court of King Edward the Confessor in about 1056, ten years before the Norman Conquest of England. He then joined the invasion of England. After the Battle of Hastings he was given land in England. His son Walter FitzOther is mentioned in the Domesday book in 1086. About a century later his Norman descendants settled in Ireland. They were known as the Fitzgeralds."
Yeah, right. Mona Lisa had Irish cousins.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Still More Silly Research on Mona Lisa!

Again in Italy the so-called researcher Silvano Vinceti has people jumping at his crazed suggestions. This time, he has convinced Italian authorities to dig up bones in a convent in Florence to see if they can find the real Mona Lisa. He says she's buried there.

In December his "discovery" was that Mona Lisa's eyes have "tiny letters" depicted in them -- see this article in the Washington Post: Mona Lisa's eyes reveal some secrets. See: More Silly Research on Mona Lisa

He must be an incredible con man!

Sunday, April 03, 2011


Soap film finds the surface with the least area.