Pech Merle, Prehistoric Cave Paintings in France, and the CFFC Photo Challenge: Hands

What were we humans painting 16000 to 25000 years ago? — horses, bison, mammoths, sometimes people, and…  outlines of our hands.

Poster near the entrance to the Pech Merle cave, Southwestern France

It’s a poster in the entry lobby to Pech Merle, an ice age cave in Southern France, one of the few still open to the public.

Oh, and dots. We (our ancestors) were painting dots — dots that meander through the scenes and make us wonder about their meaning, and dotted horses that modern researchers have determined were not just another excuse for dots, but most likely represent ancient horses with coats in patterns similar to our Appaloosas.

Road sign - on the way to Pech Merle

Road sign – on the way to Pech Merle

A reproduction red hand-print sign in a village near Pech Merle, Southwestern France

A reproduction red hand-print on a sign in a village near Pech Merle, Southwestern France

Hand-print on a postcard - Pech Merle cave - Southwestern France

Hand print, souvenir postcard

We assume illiteracy, but their visual language was rich, and still speaks to us. Who’s to say the patterns of dots and animal shapes weren’t a language of symbols we just haven’t found the Rosetta Stone for?  Or maybe, as one of our group suggested, considering some of the exaggerated female figures we saw here we could argue instead for teenage-boy graffiti.

But there’s also a relatively recent study of prehistoric hand stencils that argues many if not most were made by women. Could female artists have had an equality in ancient times that we don’t have even today? (hey, maybe those cave-men weren’t such cave-men after all)

Hand-print and horses - from the tourist brochure for the Pech Merle cave

Hand-print and horses – from the tourist brochure for the Pech Merle cave

It couldn’t have been easy to do — in dark caves, with flickering torchlight, at difficult heights in corridors deep underground.  But on a lighter note, here’s one thing our ancestors may not have seen when exiting the caves…

Exit through the gift shop - Pech Merle furry mammoths and bats!

Exit through the gift shop – Pech Merle, with cute fuzzy mammoths and cave bats

And one thing we cave tourists have in common with the prehistoric world?  — no photography. And I understand that. I’m just glad they let us breathe (body heat, moisture and CO2 from our breath can be harmful to the paintings, with the result that only a few are still open to the public).

This was our favorite cave tour of our April trip to southern France. We thought it had some of everything — dots, horses, mammoths, reindeer, bison, and aurochs, some human figures, and of course, the outlines of hands along with incised drawings, and even fossilized footprints.

Do you have a cave tour to recommend?

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Hands

Pech Merle Cave  

More on Pech Merle

Who made those hand-stencils?

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Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge, Midwest Flooding, Hope, and the CFFC Photo Challenge: Feathers

At Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge – sometimes there’s a chance to get (relatively) up close and personal with feathers…

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - Heron - evening light

Heron – autumn light

And sometimes, still lots of feathers, but maybe not so close…

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - Fall Migration - geese in the air, masses of starlings

Fall Migration – geese in the air & a few stragglers from the masses of starlings that swarm like nanoparticles

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - Geese - ice in winter

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Geese – cold feet on the ice in winter.

I’ve been wondering if I’ll get a chance to see any birds when I visit the midwest this summer. Flooding along the Missouri River in March this spring breached many levees in the area. Not just the roadway around the wildlife refuge, but even the Expressway a few miles over had to be closed after damage from flooding.

There was a 500-year flood along the Missouri River in the 1990s too, the year our office was transferred from Kansas City to Atlanta. I remember flying back and forth for work, and seeing the river spread out like an inland sea below.

A few years earlier I’d seen a schoolhouse for sale in a small town near the river, and considered buying it to renovate as a home. I had regrets about passing on that plan, but during the flood, the roads leading to the town with the schoolhouse were closed. It would have been hard to sell my schoolhouse and move, so it was just as well my scheme didn’t work out.

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - heron in summer

Heron – Squaw Creek in summer.

Birds can fly to safety in a flood, but what happens to everyone else? Do they get swept away?

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - frog in the mud - spring 2018

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs – froggy nestling in the mud – spring 2018

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - swimming muskrat - spring 2018

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs – swimming muskrat – spring 2018

And fish – what happens to them when the river rages through?

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - fishing heron - spring 2018

Fishing heron/muskrat mounds – Spring 2018

Here’s hoping all the creatures survived. I just called the office and found that, despite what the website still says, the auto-tour route around the refuge is open again.  I’m hoping (there’s that word “hope” again) it stays that way. You know about hope, right? — “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

Hope is the Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all …

 

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Feathers

 

Amsterdam: Keukenhof Gardens (and the CFFC challenge: Eyes)

You may think I’m reaching, using Keukenhof Gardens for the CFFC “Eyes” challenge, but it’s hard to think of anything but our eyes — staring goggle-eyed and visually dazzled — when confronted with so much color and light and so many beautiful blooms.

Eye dazzling displays – rivers of tulips. And see the fellow tourists on the upper left? We were part of a river of people touring that river of blooms. 

When we first planned to stop-over in Amsterdam for a few days on the way back from a tour, I was thinking about art, not flowers. “But wait –,” I thought, “We’ve only been to Amsterdam in autumn. If we’re going in the spring, shouldn’t we see tulips?” Sam agreed to a tulip tour, so we booked early. After all, we were going to be there Easter weekend. There would be crowds. And so there were…

The fields alongside were full of color too…

Tulip fields - alongside Keukenhof Gardens

Tulips and hyacinths in the fields alongside Keukenhof Gardens.

I’ve since read that there were a record 200,000 visitors to Keukenhof over the 4 days of Easter weekend. Compare that to 236,000 visitors in the entire first year the park was open – 1950. We were 2 of the multi-thousand there on Good Friday. It was “hot, flat, and crowded” (thank you Thomas L Friedman) but still drop-dead gorgeous. Keukenhof crowds - Easter Weekend 2019We took a tour bus from the Central Train Station, a ride of 30-40 minutes depending on traffic. I later read that by Saturday, traffic was so heavy that there were problems just getting to the Gardens, and tourists went into the fields along the way instead. We saw that happening on Friday too — here are some pictures I took out the bus window on the way back to Amsterdam…

Tourists in the tulip fields near Keukenhof Gardens - Amsterdam 2019 -- Driving by Tulip Fields

Tourists in the tulip fields near Keukenhof Gardens – Amsterdam 2019 

Near Keukenhof - Posing in the tulip fields - snapshot out the bus window

Posing in the tulips

 

Snapshot out the bus window - posing in the tulip field near Keukenhof

Snapshot out the bus window – posing in the tulip field near Keukenhof

Meanwhile, no flowers were harmed in the actual gardens — Is this peak tulip or what?

Keukenhof Gardens - iphonography

Iphonography – one more look before we go.

Keukenhof wasn’t exactly a bucket-list item, but now that I’ve been there I’m tempted to count it as such.  Tulips and other spring bulbs were among the first things I planted when I bought a house. Along with violets, irises, and peonies, they’re the plants most likely to evoke a sense of home and childhood memories. The graceful arc of a stem, light slanting through blossoms, or the heady scent of a large bed of blossoms in sunlight are enough to transport me.

I guess I qualify as a flower-fanatic… do you?

 

Keukenhof Gardens

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Eyes

Atlanta Pride Parade 2018 (Catch-up CFFC “Rainbow Colors”)

It’s hard to get more colorful than the Atlanta (LGBTQ) Pride parade, with its giant rainbow flag. In 2015 we watched the parade coming up Peachtree Street from an upstairs window on the front of the building. Here’s the flag approaching — Atlanta Pride Parade 2015

We missed the next 2 years’ parades while traveling, but were in town for the last fall’s parade. This time I went down to street level — here comes the October 2018 parade.Atlanta Pride parade 2018Atlanta Pride Parade - rainbow flag 2018A little recent history (thanks to Wikipedia) In June 2015, The MoMA – the Museum of Modern Art in New York – acquired the rainbow flag symbol as part of its design collection. Later that month, the White House used rainbow flag colors for illumination to commemorate same-sex marriage legalization in all 50 U.S. states.Atlanta Pride Parade - rainbow flag approaching 2Atlanta Pride Parade - rainbow flag passing 2018

 

Pride parade 2018 - waiting to start

Rainbow colors were everywhere…

 I’m not usually a fan of crowds and noise, but energy and solidarity and goodwill were running high, and it was a joy to be there. Of course it didn’t hurt that they were serving rainbow-iced cupcakes downstairs in the lobby. 

Atlanta Pride Parade Dog 2018

… even pets came to show their support.

I have to admit that after years of seeing rainbow flags, it was just a few months ago — at the Rainbow Crosswalk at 10th and Piedmont no less — that I stared at the pavement and suddenly realized, “There are 7 colors in a rainbow but only 6 colors here! Why?” (if you’re curious, Wikipedia can help with that too)

When I was a child there was a song called “I Love a Parade” my grandmother and her friends used to refer to. Now that I live on a parade-street, I’m beginning to see what they were talking about.

Do you love a parade?

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Rainbow Colors

Atlanta Pride: History

Rainbow Colors: Symbolism

Iowa Farm Fun, Baby Chicks, and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Farm Animals

Picture a warm summer day in the midwest. I’m on my way through Iowa. The corn is about as high as an elephant’s knee, and I see — a giraffe! Wait, what? That’s what happened to me last summer…

Iowa corn giraffe

Seen grazing just north of Clarinda Iowa. I was hurrying to meet a friend, so found the giraffe again on my way back for its photo op. S/he was still there a few weeks later, on my next midwest trip.

By October’s trip most of the corn was harvested, and I didn’t see the giraffe anywhere. But “just up the road a piece” something else caught my eye…  It’s further from the road than it looks here. I used significant zoom.

Iowa: roadside moose

A moosely cutout. It’s good to know that farmers have a sense of humor. I wonder how many people noticed this Iowa moose. It was still there on Thanksgiving week.

And yes, the title here is “Farm Animals.” I haven’t forgotten. But these are animals (sort of)– and they’re on a farm.

Here’s a little farm-reality from same part of the country. On last year’s trip I saw these squirmy baby chicks at the Mennonite Country Store. They wouldn’t hold still for their close-up …

Chicks at Galaxy Country Store

Chicks at the Galaxy Country Store – I heard them peeping before I saw them. 

All the Easters of my childhood flashed before my eyes at the first peep, each year’s downy chick a little side-kick to follow me around, to be raised in the yard and eventually taken back to the farm by the time Easter came again. Now I suddenly wonder what happened to them after they went home. At the time, I pictured them hanging out in the pasture, garden, and chicken house with the flock, eating bugs, laying eggs, squawking, scratching, all those chicken-activities. But, um… now I know that life is not kind to chickens. Still, I hope they survived.

Are there Easter chicks in your past?

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Snow, Thanksgiving, Aerial Views, and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Cold

Thanksgiving week in the midwest — need I say more?

Thanksgiving snow storm

Snow at the house next door: I love how a blizzard gets creative with drifting snow. Check out the roofline — how does that even happen?

Snow basketball at Kansas City airport

Snowbound basketball goal: a view out the window at MCI, the Kansas City airport. I have to wonder who plays basketball there (and why they aren’t loading our bags or putting more snacks on our plane – isn’t it all about us…?)

Snow on the ground - Aerial view, leaving MCI, Kansas City to Atlanta flight

You’d recognize me on any flight. I’m the one in the window seat, monopolizing the view. Especially if there’s a smokestack with the light behind it.

Aerial view, Missouri river and snow

The Big Muddy (Missouri River) rolls on… aerial view, leaving Kansas City

Sometimes it snows in Atlanta too. Here’s an example from last year, looking down on the parking lot next door…

A little night parking on Peachtree St

A little night parking …

Have you been snowed in lately? (one day was enough for us)

More on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Herons, Swans, Outtakes, and CFFC – Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Funny

I’m a heron-stalker when it comes to photography, always looking for a close up of a stately bird, the more regal the pose, the better. It’s rare that I can get close enough to try.

Wading Heron at Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Preserve - Mound City MO

At Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge, Mound City MO

But the funny part is, the birds must sense a camera is nearby. And they’re fast. The joke is almost always on the photographer — they can fly away in an instant, or like this:  turn their backs and shake that booty…

On a recent trip to Piedmont Park in Atlanta, I found the resident heron unusually close to the turtle pond… until I got there with my camera. Then s/he took off. I whipped my camera out to catch the flight. The thumbnail on my viewing screen looked great. Then I downloaded the picture.

Heron in Piedmont Park, Atlanta

Oops, those chicken-legs don’t look so stately after all.

Swans are just as bad. Here’s what happened when I tried for a photos of a graceful three …

Three graceful swans? No - two took a dive

Three graceful swans? Nope — two took a last-minute dive.

What’s a photographer to do but keep trying?

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