GratiTuesday: Busy Bees

Last December, the United Nations General Assembly designated each May 20 going forward as World Bee Day. The purpose of the proclamation was to bring to the world’s attention the importance of preserving bees and other pollinators

I’m not sure if you noticed, but your bees didn’t take Sunday off to celebrate. Nope, they continued to tirelessly work in your yard and in the fields to ensure their important work got done.

Bees play a crucial role in increasing crop yields and promoting food security and nutrition. Without them, we would have ceased to exist long ago. We eat their honey, we use their wax, and we rely on them to help our food grow. Bees are responsible for pollinating nearly 85% of all food crops. A third of all food produced in the world depends on pollination.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of bee species die off each year due to a variety of factors, including disease, parasites, pesticides, and the destruction of their main food sources. As more species die, we will lose crops and, eventually, certain plants will become extinct because they can’t reproduce. The fate of bees can also indicate when environmental dangers exist. Mass bee deaths have been past indications of the use of toxic chemicals, or severe climate changes, giving scientists further proof of how fragile our environment really is. In fact, research indicates that our environment would collapse if honeybees no longer existed.

So, if you didn’t get a chance to thank your bees last Sunday on World Bee Day, today is a great day to tell them how grateful you are for all their hard work. And, even better, here are a few concrete steps you can take:

  • Do not use any pesticides, fungicides or herbicides on plants or in your garden.
  • Plant your garden with native and bee friendly plants. Lawns are bee deserts.
  • Provide water for bees by putting out a little water basin for the bees to drink from during the warm days of summer. Put a few stones and floating cork on the water so bees won’t drown.
  • Buy local and raw honey from your local beekeepers.
  • Educate yourself, your children, and your grandchildren about bees. The Pollinator Partnership is just one source of great information about bees and their importance to our world.

Sunday Stills: Recreational

The road down to Waipi’o Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii is steep. The 800 foot (243.84 m) vertical rise averages a 25% grade. At .6 miles (0.9 km) in length, it is the steepest road of its length in the United States. Because of the grade, only hikers and four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed on the road.

Although our shins ached after making the trek down to the bottom, we were rewarded with one of the most beautiful black sand beaches on the island. Waipi’o means curved water in Hawaiian and it’s easy to understand why the gently rounded coastline earned its name.

We found this beautiful outrigger canoe on the beach just waiting to be taken out for some recreational pleasure.

After exploring the shoreline and wandering a few trails that took us further into the valley, we began the slow, calve-challenging hike back up the hill to where we started. (This photo was taken several years ago. Waipi’o Valley is located on the northeast side of The Big Island. The current volcanic activity is located much further to the south.)

Sunday Stills is a weekly photography link-up co-hosted by my blogging friend Terri Webster Schrandt. Each week there is a new word prompt to inspire a shared photo (or photos). Follow this link to learn more about it, see other submissions, and to share your own.

Thursday Doors: Las Puertas de Oaxaca, Uno

One year ago this month, my husband and I began a six-week stay in Oaxaca, Mexico. Although I wrote about our trip when I returned (you can read about it here, here, and here), for some reason, I never got around to posting my pictures of the doors we encountered along the way. Recently, as I was going through the zillions of pictures I had in my files, I realized that I needed to remedy that. As you will see, Oaxaca has doors worth sharing, and it will take more than a single Thursday Doors to do that (which is why my title of this post is “uno”).

A door for giants.
Notice the pictures inside the house numbers.
This lovely door is the entrance to a home nestled into the arch of an aqueduct built in the mid-1700s.
Free form metal gate allows the breeze to come in.
Sometimes what surrounds the door is more interesting than the door itself.
Really a window but it goes with the door below.
I would have loved to see inside of this artist’s home.

Thursday Doors is a link-up of fellow door aficionados generously hosted by Norm Frampton. Head over to his blog and click on the rana azul (blue frog) to view all the amazing doors he and others have posted.

GratiTuesday: Whimsey on Wheels

My car is boring. It has the standard four wheels, hood and trunk, and interior with front and back seats. It is dark gray. Big whoop.

I saw my first Art Car many years ago in the parking lot of a local grocery store. I was on my way home from work and, since it was winter, it was getting pretty dark. In my hurry to get home, I might not have noticed the car except that it was all lit up – both inside and out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera with me, so I wasn’t able to take a picture of the chassis-mounted Christmas confection.

Several months later I was thrilled to see the car again, parked on a frontage road. This time I had my phone, so I was able to snap a picture. It was daytime, so it didn’t have the same magical quality, but I was pleased to capture its wonderfulness nonetheless.

I’ve seen a few Art Cars since then and have discovered that they are an actual “thing”. A simple search on the googles results in tons of information, including amazing images, locations of Art Car parades, and instructions on how you (yes, you) can create your own Art Car.

Wikipedia defines an Art Car as: “a vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression. Art Cars are often driven and owned by their creators, who are sometimes referred to as “Cartists”. Most car artists are ordinary people with no artistic training”.

Maybe many of these cartists have no formal artistic training, but they do have an abundance of creativity, a playful spirit, and the desire to share their masterpieces with others. This VW van, below, was on display at a local Tiki celebration weekend.

My latest Art Car encounter occurred just this past week. As I was out running errands, I saw this glorious vehicle out of the corner of my eye and had to stop. Not only was I able to see another of these cars up close, but I had the pleasure of meeting Jesus Garcia, the cartist, and all-around good guy. He was nice enough to spend about half an hour with me showing me his car and patiently answering all my questions (“Why did you decide to start decorating your car?” “What do you use as adhesive?” “What was the first object you placed on your car?” etc, etc, etc.).

A joy to behold!
Jesus Garcia, Cartist Extraordinaire.
Hard to miss coming at you in your rearview mirror.
The elk on the saw blade started it all.
How many creatures can you see?
The interior is as crazy as the exterior.

I will almost certainly continue to own conventional cars. Introverted me rather likes driving around without attracting much attention. I also try to avoid dings and scratches that mar the surface. On the other hand, I love that not everyone is just like me. I do so very much appreciate people who view their autos as very large blank slates begging to be decorated. I am grateful that they have the creativity and courage to pick up that first piece of whimsey and glue it to their car.

Thursday Doors: Santa Fe Train Depot

Anyone who has lived anywhere any length of time probably knows that feeling of sadness and loss when a beautiful but outdated structure is destroyed in the name of progress. The old building probably wasn’t up to modern codes and, often, the shiny new structure built in its place is bigger, taller, and capable of generating more tax dollars than the previous one.

Fortunately, though, sometimes a building is just too beautiful, too beloved, and has too much local historical significance to be touched by a wrecking ball. The Santa Fe Train Depot in downtown San Diego is such a structure. It is a jewel of a building surrounded by glass and steel high rises.

The structure draws heavily from the architecturally distinctive Spanish, Moorish, and Mexican styles.
The size and grandeur far surpassed anything the Santa Fe had ever built in the West.

The station was officially opened in 1915, to welcome visitors to the Panama-California Exposition. The Depot’s Spanish Colonial Revival architecture was the same style as was used for the buildings at the Exposition.

The massive arch of the front entrance is flanked by twin campaniles, each topped by a colorful tile-covered dome and displaying Santa Fe’s blue “cross” emblem on all four sides.
From the outside in.
From the inside out.
The grand interior space of the depot features natural redwood beam ceilings, highlighted by walls covered with a brightly colored ceramic tile wainscot.
All of the tiles were manufactured locally.
Your train is waiting.
Welcome to San Diego!
Doors within doors within doors.

Although the city lost its early battle to become the West Coast terminus of the Santa Fe Railway system’s transcontinental railroad to much larger Los Angeles, in its heyday, the facility handled Santa Fe train traffic and that of the San Diego and Arizona Railways. The Depot is still an active transportation center, providing not only train service but also service to the trolley and bus systems.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Oh, and speaking of structures being destroyed in the name of progress, the original train depot that had served San Diego for nearly three decades, was razed when the “modern” Santa Fe Depot opened for business. The old clock tower was pulled to the ground by a steel cable attached to two locomotives as part of the grand opening celebration on March 7, 1915.

Since the first National Train Day was held ten years ago today, on May 10, 2008, I thought it fitting to feature the Santa Fe Train Depot in my Thursday Doors post. To see other beautiful doors, choo-choo on over to Norm’s station and click on the ah-door-able blue frog.

GratiTuesday: Buy Nothing Project

It’s a simple concept really, one that has been around forever: neighbors helping neighbors. Borrowing a cup of sugar, lending a tool, or handing down clothes your child has outgrown. Because of social media, this transfer of items – no longer needed by one person but wanted by others – can extend beyond a few houses on a single block.

I discovered the Buy Nothing Project through another local Facebook site and was immediately intrigued. As anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, my husband and I have been focusing on getting rid of stuff. Most of our unwanted items are donated to our local charity shops or, sometimes, listed on eBay, but what about those items that don’t fit neatly in the Donate or Sell boxes? Things like half-used but perfectly good pads of paper, or partially used colored pencils, or three-ring binders that are no longer needed? Do we have to just throw them away? Despite our desire to get rid of clutter, we didn’t want to add to the landfill… especially if someone else could use them.

The Buy Nothing Project (buynothingproject.org) Mission Statement says it all:

We offer a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.

How great is that?

Here are just some of the listings found recently on our local Buy Nothing Facebook page: gently used shoes, a bag of yarn, board games, succulent cuttings, wine corks, a need for a ride to the doctor, an offer of lemons from a backyard tree, some used-once but no longer wanted skin lotion, a baby seat. (By the way, that baby seat gift was followed up by a delightful gratitude post showing the new owner’s baby enjoying his gifted seat. After he is done with it, my guess is that the seat will be regifted to someone else.)

On the Buy Nothing Project About page, you can learn more about their vision and principles, and find a group near you to join. What if there isn’t already a group in your area? They also provide information about how you can set one up.

The Buy Nothing Project started in 2013, when two friends, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, created an experimental hyper-local gift economy on Bainbridge Island, WA. I am grateful to them for having the vision and a shared belief in the kindness of others. Their little experiment in community giving has become a worldwide social movement, with groups in 20 nations.

GratiTuesday: May Day

I don’t know if it’s still done, but I have happy elementary school memories of making construction paper May Day baskets and dancing around the maypole on the school playground. Even though spring officially begins in March, it didn’t feel like it had really arrived until the first of May, when we all dressed up, performed the folk dances we learned, and wound the brightly colored ribbons around the maypole.

This winter has been especially challenging for many of you, and spring never really made an appearance until just recently. Many have written about the relief they are feeling to say goodbye to April’s snow and sleet, and welcome to May’s warmer temperatures.

In our corner of the U.S., we’ve experienced quite the opposite. Both winter and spring temperatures have been warmer than average and the little rainfall we received has been especially disappointing. In fact, it looks like we may be in the middle of the driest rainy season on record. Ironically, local meteorologists are predicting a 50% chance of rain starting this evening and into tomorrow. After that, zilch for the foreseeable future.

Despite the unusual weather we’ve been experiencing just about everywhere (or, maybe it’s the new normal we all need to get used to), I love the promise of May. Maypoles may be a relic of the past in most places but the warming weather, longer daylight hours, and emerging flora and fauna still make me want to do a little dance of gratitude to Mother Nature.