Thursday, 29 January 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - January 29, 2015

Time to get outta Dodge...

It's grey and raw outside my door today, with the kind of dampness that invades every sinew, inflames every arthritic joint. There is a sharpness to the wind as it whines and wails in the trees. Yet the dark-eyed juncos don't seem to mind. I'm envious of their energised playfulness on display underneath my bird feeders. They are cleaning up and having a blast doing so, or so it seems from all their chatter and swooping about.

Me? Well I'm just having a day - nothing terrible, except the wrong buttons are done up on my fleece jacket ("Screw it," I say!), just a noon time sit in the flat calm of the doldrums. Even the noon weather radar bears me out:

Ah but change is coming. Our next great adventure is rising above the horizon - The Galapagos! Warm temperatures and ocean breezes, a sea voyage and a land trek all in Darwin's back yard. With any luck we may catch sight of newly hatched giant tortoises making a break for the sea. Wow!

Here's the itinerary for the cruise:

Here's the boat:

image courtesy of GAdventures

And here's the land portion:
Day 1 Santa Cruz Island: Transfer to hotel and meet the local guide

Day 2 Floreana Island: Enjoy guided walks to observe the bird and wildlife and learn about the natural history of the Island. Opportunities for swimming and snorkeling

Day 3 Isabela Island: Visit the Flamingo Lagoon, the largest coastal lagoon in the Galápagos and a principal breeding ground for flamingos.

Day 4-5 Isabela Island:
Hike up the active Sierra Negra Volcano and walk around the rim of the second-largest volcanic crater in the world. Continue to the lava fields of the Volcano Chico and enjoy your lunch admiring views of the surrounding volcanoes and Islands. Visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre and the 'Wall of Tears' historical site. Optional excursion to 'Islote Tintoreras', a large crevice with clear, calm water in which whitetip sharks (tintoreras) rest daily on the bottom. Get a close-up view of pelicans, frigate birds and diving blue footed boobies. Watch for manta rays and rare Galapagos penguins, of which only 800 pairs exist.

Day 6 Santa Cruz Island: Puerto Ayora

Day 7 Santa Cruz Island: Baltra airport to Quito

Phew! I've warmed up already. Supply lists have been started - the clothes, the footwear, the dive gear, the health supplies, the electronics, the chargers and power supplies, and our renewed passports will be ready next week.

Oh and just look outside my window NOW:

Not a bird in sight, not fit for man or beast...
It truly is time to get outta Dodge!

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 26 January 2015

Monday Moanings - January 26, 2015

A Fugue of Nothing. A Storm of Imagination

So here I am sitting at the top of the last week of January, staring down at a raging sea of things not done, which ought to have been done this month.What to do? Voices from the sea of tasks erupt in a cacophony of pleas.
"Pick me!"
"No, I'm the most urgent. Pick me!"
"But I'm the most important!"
"I'm the oldest!"
"I'm the newest!"
"I'm the most neglected!"
"I'm the best!"

And it all just ends up being so much noise in my head, the kind of disturbance that induces profound paralysis. Nothing gets started. Nothing gets worked on. Nothing gets done. Nothing gets to experience the satisfactory flourish of being crossed off the list. All are lost in this fugue of nothing. Is there anything that might rescue me from despair?

Why yes, as a matter of fact there is. As long as nothing significant is going to get done today, I might as well spend the time in my imagination, exploring and playing in this fertile field. So, sans constraints of any kind, where would I like to be today; what would I like to be doing?

I'd like to be at the beach. Not the Caribbean resort kind of beach, though that does have its charm, but rather the beach of my childhood, the one on the southern tip of Long Island, the one at Breezy Point. The place where on a clear day I could see the Jersey Highlands, the Verrazano Bridge, the Manhattan skyline and even pick out the Empire State Building. The beach of idyllic summers, sand, sea, salt air, clams on the half shell, and a few glorious storms of epic proportions.

And that's why I'd like to be there today - a storm, a "Massive Northeast Blizzard" is bearing down on New York City. The intrepid storm watcher/chaser in me would love to be there, right in the thick of it, in that cottage at the beach. Sadly the cottage is no more, having been gutted by fire in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in November 2012, but that's where my imagination comes to the rescue...

Outside the storm rages but inside we're sitting at the dining table sipping hot tea and munching on cinnamon toast. The wind howls, the windows shake, the rafters moan. From time to time Dad gets up to tap the barometer, look out the porch windows and maybe even crack open the door to sniff the air...

It's wild. It's exciting. It's fun! And I am so there!

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - January 22, 2015

I knew this day would come

It was inevitable I know. Such things come to us all, but I do like to live in hope. The die was cast from the moment I was created. I had been raised to perfection in such marvellous warmth, and lifted with care accompanied by soothing sounds of praise. "Careful now. Easy does it. Perfect, Oh so wonderfully perfect," I heard one say.

I was dusted and dressed in best white then tucked into a shiny white container alongside the others. Oh yes, I had siblings, dozens of them in fact all bumping and rubbing up against one another, all born on the same day. Each one as round and fragrant and plump as I was. Each one just as perfect.

At first all was cosy and quiet but then about month ago, my dear companions in the dark container began to disappear. It always happened in the same way: a tremor rumbled through the space, then a brief scraping sound announced the coming of the light. It came through the great round door above me,  a sliver of white that grew into blinding full brightness. A shiver of fresh air settled into every nook and cranny. Then the great claw descended. All five fingers of articulated dexterity hovered for a time, tracing out a menacing circle of doom over all of our heads. I always did my best to hide or at least look undesirable. When it came, the smash and grab was swift. One, two, three, sometimes as many at four perfect ones rose up into the light out of sight, gone forever. Then it was over; the soothing darkness returned and all was quiet again.

Many days there were multiple attacks on my little tin can. I've lost so many of my companions! Yet as our numbers have decreased so have the abductions. That's a small comfort, let me tell you!  I had a dozen buddies last week and today just ONE!

So she with her silver buttons and I in my white cloak await our fate...

 The light is coming. The claw descends.
The voice of the claw intones the judgement, "Time to finish these off."
It is done. I have been embraced by the light. The Christmas cookie tin lies empty.

And that folks is how the cookie crumbles!

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 19 January 2015

Monday Moanings - January 19, 2015

Blue Monday?

So apparently today, being the Monday of the last full week in January, has earned the title of  "Blue Monday" the most depressing day of the year. The razzle dazzle of December and optimistic outlooks of New Year's, all the smiles and memories and stories, all the hurry and excitement have died away. The hype and hoopla machine has finally run out of gas AND the credit card bills detailing the excesses of the past month have arrived.

Ah, but a little research reveals the truth about Blue Monday. It's origins date back to 2005 when Sky Travel in the UK wanted to drum up January business. They called in a prof at Cardiff University and he developed an equation to calculate the most depressing day of the year. Interestingly, it turned out to be in January! The idea caught on, along with the remedy: spend more money! The retail industry loved it and we bought it hook, line and sinker. But there is no scientific evidence to support a Blue Monday, or a Blue Wednesday in October, or any other day of the year.

Neuroscientist Dean Burnett calls it what it is, "This claim is incorrect. It is unscientific. It is pseudo scientific. It is uber-scientific." In short a PR stunt. In today's  rant in the Guardian, Burnett froths,
"And here’s the most important bit: is it really the most depressing day of the year?No.
No, no, no.
No. Na. Nein. Non. Nyet. Mhai. Illai. Não. Nee. Ne. Nope. Negatory. Nada. No way, Jose. Nil. Nu. Nie. Bu Dui. Iie. Nem. Nullus. Nej. Neen. And, in case any Klingons are reading this, Ghobe!"

For those of us in the northern hemisphere Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) does have some credibility in the world of science and medicine -  there just isn't enough sunlight to keep some of us merry and bright. But still there is nothing special about this Monday or any Monday in any January. And the first line of defense doesn't cost a cent: get up and go out for a walk in the daylight.

The bottom line for me today:
Blue Monday is a NO SALE!
(even for this occasional Monday curmudgeon) 

Where there are shadows, there is light.

It's time to smile and kick off into a new week!
Have a good one.

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - January 15, 2015

New Toy - New Joy

Among my Christmas bounty was one very grand present - this beauty:

It's a bit scary to hold something so powerful, so sophisticated: 24 megapixels of raw+jpeg images in panorama, HDR or video and even WiFi. Oh my! I hardly dared touch it for almost ten days, save only to attach the viewfinder eye cup, a lens cap lanyard and a wrist strap and even those little tasks were accompanied by held breath and ever so slight finger trembling. Of course I did turn it on a few times to ooh and ahh at the display, zoom in and out a few times, but then I tucked my shiny new toy away again, afraid I might do something wrong. Technology is like that - exciting and intimidating all at the same time - kind of like my stability ball?

The remedy is knowledge. So I researched and then downloaded a massive manual, "The Complete Guide to Sony's Alpha 6000 Digital Camera" and dove in. There was jaw-dropping wonder almost everywhere I looked. Kudos to Gary L. Friedman and Ross Warner for putting together such a comprehensive guide in such accessible language! Well done guys! I've got the manual on both my desktop and tablet, so I'll be able to look up stuff when travelling.

I hung in, up close and personal, with the reading as long as I could, until my eyes glazed over and my brain overloaded. Then the time came for this photographer to get her head out of the book, pick up the camera and just go play. I tucked my new best buddy into my jacket pocket and out into the bitter cold (-15 to -20°C). No obsessing about settings or composition, just click away. We had a blast together and I'm loving the results, especially the low light pictures (all hand held).

Soap bubble forming crystals at -20C

Boiling water tossed into -20C air
My old Lumix DMX-TZ5 is taking our separation well and will still be able to slip into that small space in my pants pocket ready for clandestine use in the forbidden places (Sistine Chapel and the like). But the big old clunker Nikon D70s may just have fallen into the role of an expensive doorstop. The Sony and I are going to need a little more time to get to know each other but I'm confident we'll be ready for this year's travel adventure - The Galapagos!


Monday, 12 January 2015

Monday Moanings - January 12, 2015

A kinder, gentler week...

Phew! My goodness last week was a grueling one on the the world stage! The terrorist attacks in France while grabbing hearts and headlines, also spawned much fear and rhetoric. But then something more remarkable emerged - resolve. National leaders linked arms together to march through the streets of Paris yesterday. I honestly don't care who wasn't there in the front line. I'm betting the French security forces were thankful some of the more notable absentees were not there. The fact that this occurred at all is the amazing bit.

And yet as impressive as this was, the more heartening, the more reassuring thing to my mind was the huge number of ordinary people who walked streets not only in Paris but all over the world in solidarity with the people of France. Now that really was something to help me sleep at night and wake to go about my daily life free, confident and hopeful.

I'd like a kinder, gentler week, if that is at all possible.
No sudden descents into terror and death;
no sharp twists and turns around fear and vulnerability;
just time to breathe deeply, ponder calmly and rest.

Perhaps spend a little time in a garden...

Can we all just have a good week? Please?

©2015 April Hoeller
(all photos were taken in Paris in May 2012)

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - January 8, 2015

Je suis Charlie!

In the face of ridicule,
     In the face of condemnation,
          In the face of outrage,
               In the face of tyranny,
                    Even in the face of death,
Let our pens never go still.

Write On!

Draw On!

Keep the pen moving across the pages of the world, telling the stories; both the light and dark ones, in black and white and in full colour; tell of the sorrow, the wrong, the lies; tell of the hope, the right, the truth; tell of the dreams of us all.

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 5 January 2015

Monday Moanings - January 5, 2015

Too much, too many, too trite

The first Monday of a new year, the first full week of a new year, in the first month of a new year - either way it's sliced and diced, today is still just a Monday atop a new work week. Every Monday brings with it some plans, some decisions about what to do and to improve upon prior performance. But this particular Monday struggles to haul in a gargantuan trawler net bursting with such intentions, all emblazoned with the virtuous "New Year's Resolutions" title.
Well not here!

Too much, too many, too trite - these noble offerings are almost exclusively written from a plush armchair in a comfortable room with more than enough food and drink at hand, by one with some life experience of one kind or another, who has closets full of clothes and shoes for all seasons. Some declarations drip treacle from every syllable, while others are more practical mathematical compilations of addition and subtraction, more of this and less of that. Most are just hopes and dreams free to float away to never-never land without any ties to action.

There's nothing new in these inspirational aspirations, (or is it 'aspirational' inspirations?) - they make the rounds at every crossover to a new year. What is new for me, is how irksome it all is. It's not just the pious platitudes that provoke me, but also the sheer volume of proclamations of plans for personal renewal and transformation, local and global in reach. I protest the simplicity of words about change in contrast to the real challenge a change in direction, a change of heart, demands. I decry the air of pontification that swirls around most public pronouncements of New Year's Resolutions.

Perhaps Christmas fatigue has settled in my bones and I'm just overreacting.

Perhaps I've just become a cranky old fogey.

Perhaps this is just another Monday Moaning.


©2015 April Hoeller