Thursday, March 31, 2016

California's Salton Sea

Another interesting place we visited on our recent trip to California, was the Salton Sea, a basin of water below sea level located on the San Andreas Fault.

The lake (or sea) has a long history, which I don't completely understand. I think it was a lake (or salt-water sea) on various occasions in prehistoric times, but would then dry out. The saline soil around it attests to its previous life as a body of salt water.

When we visited the information center, we were told that the current lake was created in 1905 by engineers trying to fill a basin with water from the Colorado River, to create a controlled body of water to provide water for irrigation.

The river accidentally broke through a canal, and for two years the Colorado River ran into the basin, creating this sea. That had repercussions elsewhere, as well as here - where desert towns were sudden flooded. Eventually the problem was repaired.

In the 1950's it became a popular tourist attraction in the desert, attracting weekend fishermen and boaters.

Since then, it has decreased in size and become increasingly saline. Consequently many of its fish are dying. The beach is littered with dead tilapia that, from a distance, look like flat stones.

Birds still nest on its shores.

Currently the lake is being filled with irrigation runoff (which probably makes it even more saline, given that irrigation water carries fertilizers in it).

The environmental goal is to keep the Salton Sea at its current level, which is a challenge: Water evaporates quickly in this hot, dry desert location.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Palm Springs Street Festival - and Art Show

One evening a week, there is street festival in Palm Springs.

Vendors fill the street - drawing tourists and locals.

Food is always a popular item!

But there are also art displays...

Paintings, large and small...

Also, sculptures...

You'd need a big vehicle to get some of them home - like the Star Wars creature above, and this replica musical instrument made entirely of bits and pieces of golf clubs.

Some sculptors have a lot of imagination!

Several woodcarvers were selling their wares.

These wooden castle blocks on display were popular with the block-building crowd!

I was drawn to an ice cream parlor that sold Dole Whip, a treat I first tasted in Hawaii... a mix of pineapple and ice cream.

The street fair was a busy event.

There was even an "Ask a rabbi" booth!

What a great idea! Maybe there should be an "Ask a priest" stand, too!

What about "Ask a mother?!"

I just had to photograph this bumper sticker on a vehicle parked near ours, a reminder that I wasn't in Canada!

There were a lot of lovely hand-made goods. The only thing holding me back from buying more was the realization that I only had one small suitcase... and I didn't want to pay extra on my flight home for a second bag.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Palm Tree Trivia You May NOT Want to Know!

Palm trees are so elegant...

I never gave much thought to pests that might inhabit them... But I do now!

A few days before I visited Palm Springs, a friend happened to be in Los Angeles during a fierce wind storm.

The winds were so strong, she later told me, that all the cockroaches were blown out of the palm trees! It was strange seeing so many cockroaches running around on the sidewalks after the storm. 

It did made me more wary of walking under palm trees!

I mentioned my friend's experience to a woman whose sister lives in southern California. She commented:
Cockroaches aren't the only pests living in palm trees. The blanket of dead fronds hanging down can also house rats... which is why people keep these dead branches trimmed.

(I wonder if the storm blew any rats out of their comfy nests as well!)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Salvation Mountain

One of the more unusual sights we saw when we visited Palm Springs a few weeks ago...

...was an interesting piece of artwork in the desert...

... ... a creation of rubber tires, bundles of hay, dead branches...

... and paint!

From a distance, it looks like a giant mound of colorful icing!

The artist who created it died before it was finished.

Did he live in this vehicle when he was here? I wondered... Is it another of his creations?!

He is gone, but his monument is far from forgotten!

Dozens of people drive out into the desert daily to look for it.

Some venture to climb the yellow steps going up "Salvation Mountain."

Supporters are trying to maintain this mammoth monument to one man's faith. They hope to raise enough money to buy the land the monument was built on - in the hope that Salvation Mountain will not be destroyed or left to disintegrate over time.

Among the interesting objects scattered around is this boat - which reminds me that Noah's ark was built on dry land, where it must have looked as out of place as this one.

And as out of place as this painted mountain in the middle of the desert.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Biblical Garden in Palm Springs

On my recent trip to Palm Springs, I visited a newly built Biblical garden next door to a  field of date palms.

The garden was peopled with statues depicting the life and ministry of Jesus.

(This scene depicts Jesus blessing little children.)

As I look back at the photos I took there, I realize that the cross is a more striking image than the empty tomb.

Yet both are vivid reminders of the Easter story...

The story of Jesus' ministry enacted in stone sculptures... an interesting place to visit and spend some time.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

My Lenten Discipline is Done

My forty days of getting rid of things I no longer use or need is over...

It has been a good exercise in de-cluttering by sharing what I no longer use. I hope to do it again.

Will these things I've chosen to pass on be useful to someone else?

Hopefully, yes... If not, at least I've tried to be responsible, providing another opportunity for them to be enjoyed.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Good Friday Meditation

Every year on Good Friday, at the church I attend, members of the congregation are asked to lead a personal meditation on the last words of Jesus before his death on the cross. 

Last year I was asked to speak on the words: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing. Here is what I said:

My first memory of Easter isn’t of chocolate bunnies and colorful eggs, but of GoodFriday. I was four years old at the time, living in a small town in Alberta. Playing in the kitchen one day, I heard the announcer on the radio mention Calgary. I turned to my mother and asked: Is Calgary far from here?
Not very far, she replied. Why?

I want to go and see where Jesus died, I replied.

I was disappointed to discover that Jesus didn’t die in Calgary, Alberta but in a distant place called “Calvary” –  across the ocean, too far away to visit. Why was everything in the Bible so far away, in time and place?!

Fast forward 25 years, and I am (strangely enough) living in Jerusalem, Israel, teaching at the Anglican International School and studying at the Hebrew University. I have become familiar with many Biblical places I never expected to visit: Mount Zion, the Mount of Olives, Bethlehem, Nazareth. But one place I haven’t visited is Calvary: Why? The city of Jerusalem has changed so much in 2000 years that archeologists can’t agree on its exact location.

But I’m learning a lot. Among other things, I am learning what it is to be a Christian. As I desperately try to finish my thesis, I deliver a chapter to my Jewish professor for his comments. 

When I return a few days later to discuss any changes, he says: You’re a Christian, aren’t you? Christians believe in forgiveness… Well, I have a confession to make. I lost the envelope with your work in it. Can you bring me another copy?

Students today wouldn’t understand, but in the mid 1970s personal computers were unheard of. Photocopiers were new. It hadn’t occurred to me to photocopy the rough draft I had given him, so I didn’t have another copy. I remember rushing home in a panic, trying to remember what I had written.

But I couldn’t be angry now, could I? I was a Christian. Christians forgive…

When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray, he taught them the Lord’s Prayer, and in it: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. And just in case the disciples didn’t really get it, he repeated:  Because if you forgive people their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive people their offenses, your Father will not forgive your offenses.

For me, Good Friday is the hardest day of the Christian year because it makes me stand at the foot of the cross and view the crucifixion of Jesus the only way I can -  though the eye witness reports found in the New Testament gospels. These detailed accounts, which gripped me when I was 4, grip me still. After all these years, I still cringe when I read of the mocking, the insults, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the weight of carrying the cross, and the crucifixion.

So I am shocked when Jesus, nailed to a cross where he hangs in excruciating pain, cries out: Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

Forgive them…? The onlookers hurling insults at him? The soldiers who have removed his clothing and now are gambling for his garments? Forgive all who have participated in bringing him to this horrible moment of pain and shame?

Like Jesus’ disciples, James and John, when rejected by a group of Samaritans, my natural inclination would be to pray for fire to come down from heaven to destroy all his enemies. But Jesus rebuked James and John. Fire and instant retribution are not his way. Jesus way is the way of forgiveness: Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

These words call us – Christ’s followers - to a life of forgiveness, too: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Forgive me my sins as I forgive all who sin against me.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mid-Century Modern Elvis Home

Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee is Elvis Presley's best-known residence. But in Palm Springs, California, his name is associated with his "honeymoon hideaway," a house he leased and lived in the year he got married.

The house once belonged to a developer who created a "mid-century modern" neighborhood in Palm Springs between 1955 and 1965.

A short walk from a home owned by Marilyn Monroe and near another belonging to Frank Sinatra, it saw many stars in its day.

The house once owned by Marilyn Monroe was not open to the public.

But we were able to tour the house where Elvis spent a year (and take lots of pictures!)

The steps leading up to the gate reminded me of giant lily-pads.

The living room, with its long white leather sofa, and "peanut brittle" stone wall, was my favorite room.

(We sat on the sofa to have our pictures taken, while my uncle played a replica guitar!)

The living room overlooks a lovely pool...

The kitchen still looks surprisingly modern...

Our tour guide informed us that every room in the house is an irregular shape, the only "regular" shape in the whole place being a rectangular sky-light!

We were able to wander around the master bedroom and sit on the bed and chairs.

Many rooms - as well as the grounds itself - had "secret" exits, through which one could escape from intruding paparazzi!

Replica guitars, golden records, paintings and photographs of Elvis with his wife and daughter fill the house.

In need of updated insulation and windows, the house is currently for sale for $7,000,000.

(But who would want to change a thing?!!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Trip to Palm Springs

I wasn't planning on heading south this past winter...

But one stormy February day an invitation came...

A plan was hatched to visit relatives who winter annually in Palm Springs, California...

It was a dream come true!

Trips like this require planning... so it didn't happen until last week, when our weather here in Ottawa was a bit warmer...

But it was still a treat to step out of a plane into balmy 90-degree (32-degree Celsius) weather!

The next few days we ate fresh-off-the-tree oranges, grapefruit and dates.

We wandered through date palm gardens - and shops.

The home we stayed in was attached to a golf course. I walked on the grass, but I didn't play golf!

We wandered around outdoors without coats and hats! We attended a street festival, like this one...

It was a wonderful break!