Death Valley National Park boasts the highest air temperature ever recorded (134°) and routinely hits 120° in summer in the shade. Why would anyone go here? Well, it’s your closest chance of experiencing Mars on Earth. Cracked salt flats flanked by colorful striped hills and badlands. A valley that you both want to walk farther into and also run far away from. In December we thought the park would be empty. It was packed, parking lots teeming. But on our way out, we pulled off the perfectly paved road and watched dusk descend on the valley without another soul in sight.
We’re having a heat wave in Maryland. With temperatures in the 70s in February, many of us wander around delighted and frightened. For those with gardens, the temptation to get back in the dirt is strong. But will we have another frost before spring? After experiencing Japan’s gardens we’re more inspired than usual to prune this, shape that, plant those. When you look at this tree and you imagine the patience that went into forcing this pine to take that shape you remember that gardening is an exercise in restraint. Step away from the shears and wait a few weeks.
Before we got a dog, we watched an embarrassing amount of youtube videos of puppies doing funny things. Like the chow in a bowl. The bouvier behind a wheelbarrow. The confused malamute. Once we got our puppy, we realized we were now living inside a youtube video. Everything Balthasar does is hilarious to us. The whining and whistling to wheedle us into giving him absolutely anything. The natural curiosity that has him staring down everything that moves. The muted barks as he dreams. The head tilts. He has become a constant source of entertainment. Maybe we need a youtube channel?
Note: He doesn’t have a youtube channel, but Balthasar is on Instagram if you’d like to follow his adventures: @bouvierbalth.
If you find yourself with a garden space that is horizontally challenged, take a tip from the Spaniards and go vertical. In countless courtyards throughout Cordoba, gardeners are not deterred by limited space. Instead they put plants in containers that climb up the walls toward the sunlight. No need to get fancy with the pots, simple terra cotta will do. Add in some blossoming flowers in coordinating colors, mix up the textures of the foliage, and just keep rising higher and higher. One more thing: consider drought-resistant plants because watering all of these regularly would be bothersome.
Trees growing in a straight line? This is not coincidental. This is what happens when trees grow out and on top of dead, fallen trees. A concept called the nurse log. As you hike through the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park everything feels very alive – the greenery all around is teeming with life that supports more life. And if that weren’t enough to inspire, the local library placed signs with poetry along the trail (including the poem below).
Nature is what we know –
Yet have no art to say –
So impotent our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
In Kyoto we wanted to visit the bamboo grove Arashiyama. We had seen pictures of rows upon rows of bamboo that looked mesmerizing. We trudged there all the way across town and were, well, underwhelmed. Yes, lots of bamboos. But it didn’t have that dizzying quality we expected. (Plus it was packed with tourists). We had seen more impressive groves elsewhere in Kyoto. On an unassuming detour at Fushimi Inari, we walked by hundreds of bamboos lining the trail. Later at Enko-ji we saw the grove pictured here, which had a major advantage because we were the only people there.
You smell Takeshita Street before you see it. A saccharine cloud descends upon you. It’s not even noon and you find yourself craving ice cream wrapped in a crepe drizzled with syrup. As you walk down what’s supposed to be one of Tokyo’s most fashionable streets your every inhale is tinged with sugar. You expect to see Harajuku-style dresses and cosplay, but the predominant fashion on this weekday is sailor collars on school uniforms. Clusters of school children line up to buy candy, creme puffs and other goodies. Meanwhile you’re wondering whether they could all possibly be skipping school.
They talk a lot about energy in Sedona. They describe mystical qualities of their famed red rocks. As we hiked to Cathedral Rock, we didn’t quite experience an energy or magnetism about the place. We did, however, note that hiking there made us feel like we were on Mars. The almost unnatural red and organge, the odd rock formations, the super wide vistas all felt other worldly. As did the people-shaped rocks that looked down and watched over us as we explored, something we didn’t quite notice until we got home and looked at photos like this one.
We were in Los Angeles for a conference and wanted to do some sight-seeing. Not being interested in Hollywood or celebrity mansions, we decided to visit the Getty Center instead. The moment you arrive you think how is this free? You take a tram from the parking garage at the bottom of the mountain and step out in the bright, blaring sun at the top. A futuristic white structure looms before you. Inside is art, gardens, and dramatic L.A. views. You could spend hours here, not even going inside a building. It’s worth every penny. Even though you spent none.
If you’ve been to the Louvre, this photo of me “passed out” on its floor might make sense. The Louvre is daunting from the moment you enter. Climbing up marble stairs, a large statue looms over you from above, and like a reflex cameras all around go up, point, shoot. Walk on. Leave the whole admiring-the-artwork thing to a poorly lit laptop screen. You’ll go through wide expansive halls with canvases literally stacked upon one another and you’ll probably elbow your way by a Da Vinci without even noticing. But it’s the Louvre. And you must go to the Louvre.