Archive for the ‘Places’ category

Midsummer Tale

August 20, 2018

In the middle of this harsh, Tucson summer filled with plenty of heat and anticipation of the monsoon rains, plus my exhaustion with our country’s political reality show, something very joyful happened that directed my attention to a very different reality.

Returning home from a three week vacation, I discovered that I had a new neighbor!  A charming, energetic female established her home very near my studio where I work. Actually, she moved so close that it was a bit shocking for me, as I never imagined such a possibility. Her place is so near that I can see it (and her, as well) from the window above my desk and when opening the studio’s door. Such a neighbor could be very annoying if it were a human, but it is… a hummingbird!

In the Nest

Yes, they are present around our property, and we are aware of them. A couple of feeders and local desert plants, which are part of our landscape, keep them happy. They seem to like the long dense row of oleanders next to the small white building that is my Word Studio.

It was immediately very clear that my tiny neighbor is a SHE, because I know that HEs (male hummingbirds) do not participate in building nests, or sitting on those two (they lay only two) precious eggs, or feeding the offspring. She has to do it all! As a woman and a mother, I immediately felt solidarity with her!  I have felt such solidarity with cats, cows, horses, and other mammals, but not with a bird.

What possessed her to build that nest on the wires of lights decorating our outdoor covered ‘sitting room’? I do not know! Perhaps she is an intellectual bird that likes books? Actually (joking apart), it is a very safe place – sheltered from rain and winds by a huge tree on the north side and the walls of the enclosed part of the patio on the south side. There also is a fringe benefit – closeness to a hummingbird feeder that might be very handy for a busy, expecting mother hummingbird.

Lenika's Nest

The next question was, will she accept my frequent coming to my studio or will she abandon the nest? Being concerned and knowing that hummingbirds love red and other bright colors, I initially wore my red summer dress. Each time I approached the door of my studio while she was in her nest, my heart was beating a bit faster from excitement, but of course, it could never match her amazingly powerful heart that beats more than 1000 times per minute when in flight. She did not fly away from her nest, and I felt great relief!

A day or so later, she accepted my presence around the studio, even when I was wearing a variety of colors. Wow, it felt great!  Soon a couple of frequent visitors were accepted by her, as well. One of them suggested that we should name her; after all she (the hummingbird) is a part of this establishment now. ”Tina or Tania, perhaps?” They were almost okay – short, energetic names…. “Oh, no, nothing with a T”, I protested!  “Grace maybe, since she is so graceful?” That one did not fly either — there was something “too much” about that name. “How about Ana, Ania, Anna?” The fact that there are Anna’s hummingbirds, and I am still not sure what kind of hummingbird she is, we decided that such a name might be too confusing. Finally we settled for Lenika, created from parts of our two middle names. And that’s who she is – Lenika.

Lenika closer

One day Lenika got inside my studio by accident and immediately flew straight into one of the windows. Of course, she was not able to get out. Surprisingly, Lenika let me take her into my hands without any resistance or fight. She sat there calmly and let me enjoy feeling her silky small body as I walked outside to let her go free. Soon enough she was back in her nest.

Lenika trapped 2

Three weeks or so past, and I noticed that Lenika became restless and less trusting. She flew away when I entered my studio, or even when I approached it from the far side of our large patio. I have to confess that upset and hurt me, as if she were a real person and not a very small bird. I concluded that it might be the time for her to become a mother, and I started tip toeing around her, like around a woman at the very end of her pregnancy. Other times she behaved like before and at night was back in her nest – very calm, deep in her sleep. That made me calmer, too. Still, some worrying thoughts entered my mind; maybe there is some delay in hatching? Perhaps they are already hatched, and I can’t see them because new born hummingbirds are the size of a raisin and would not be visible yet. And what if the eggs got broken for some reason?

Nest on Patio 2

I truly hope that Lenika’s story will have a happy ending — for her sake and mine. She will have her babies, and I will be free from worries! In the meantime, I am amazed how powerful this tiny, wild creature influenced my behavior and feelings!  Such is the case when one cares about another person or another living thing. It can by joyful, and it can be painful, but it makes us more connected to each other and to this planet.

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Text and photos Copyright © 2018 by Alicja Mann, alicjamann.com

 

 

Helsinki Moment

July 19, 2018

A few days ago, one of my friends brought me a small gift – a bumper sticker that she thought I would like, knowing my political compass. On a white, frugally used space you can see two rhyming words in dark caps – DUMP TRUMP. No exclamation point, just a straight message. I loved it and immediately thought that it should be distributed around. “Perhaps we should reproduce it in large numbers and pass them out in supermarkets and other public places?”

Later that evening I thought about that sticker again. “OK, it is cute, it is clever, and it feels good to have it, but in the reality of today’s political situation in our country, how could Trump be dumped?!  Impeachment comes to mind, but… it’s a very lengthy, complicated process and with today’s Republicans infected by the Trumpism disease and their self-interest… forget it!

I recall numerous slogans, propaganda statements, and political posters from the time of my growing up in post-war Poland controlled by Soviet style Communist apparatchiks. I developed a strong dislike of propaganda that stayed with me till today. After years of living in this country, I learned to accept the fact that propaganda is alive here as well, but it’s called “political advertising.” However, I like bumper stickers, and when I am touched by one, I put it on my car or on my studio’s wall like this one: DUMP TRUMP.

Like many, I have been very frustrated, stressed, and politically angry from the day Trump got elected and became the 45th President of this country! Trump’s domination by creating chaos and entering our lives every day with his bombastic personality, lies and endless tweets made me sick and evoked a form of political lethargy. This is similar to the response by many of us living in Tucson to its powerful sun generating almost unbearable heat in summer – it evokes physical lethargy with a desire to sleep and wait for cooler days. And they do come – with the monsoon’s rains! The lethargy disappears and new energy emerges! But that is the work of Nature. Political lethargy is much more complicated to deal with because is it caused by man-made politics and, in this particular case, Trump-made confusing politics. The cure has to come from us – society.

Then came the 16th of July 2018 which we Americans and the entire world will remember for a long time – the Helsinki Summit of Trump and Putin.

Helsinki Moment

In truth it was not a Summit, but a two and a half hour private chat of the two most powerful leaders of the world: President Trump and President Putin! Such a private chat should take place in a bar and focus on their wives, lovers, children, pets, or favorite sports, but NOT on matters concerning world politics! Such private chats are fine for us, the ordinary people. However, private chats of Trump and Putin are a totally different matter because they have great consequences.

You can imagine that I watched that Helsinki press conference glued to our TV – making notes, taking photos and recording words of Trump and Putin. Like many I was out-raged.

I will not repeat the epithets or statements the press and some political figures addressed towards Trump at that time. Those opinions are flying like small and large birds on the world’s political sky. However, I will share the one text I immediately sent to a close friend, “Trump’s ‘performance’ was a great embarrassment to this country!”

Let’s face it; Putin definitely won that “match”! With his characteristic calm confidence he presented Trump with a soccer ball from the World Cup, which Trump quickly tossed to Melania as a gift for their son Baron.

Tossing ball

World politics is not like a soccer game, a business deal, or a TV entertainment show – it is more like a very sophisticated chess game! In such a game Putin is a much better player than Trump, who most likely couldn’t beat Putin in a game of checkers!

I have been living here long enough to notice that this society does not like losers – the focus is always on the winner. So why not to DUMP TRUMP?!

Helsinki’s 16th July event will not be forgotten. It was proclaimed by many journalists, diplomats, and politicians as one of the darkest moments in American history.

The Helsinki sky on that memorable night did not get dark. There was a penetrating, gentle light diluting the sky’s darkness. One who does not live there might be surprise by that. But that is Finland – light is always present on summer nights! It might be hard to sleep on such nights, and that specific night was sleepless for many, especially journalists like Anderson Cooper and others.

Helsinki Moment 2

Poetically and politically speaking, I see that gentle light as a symbol of an awakening. Perhaps that Helsinki event will be an awaking moment for our society to see this divisive President in a new light. Perhaps we will unite and decide to DUMP TRUMP.

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Text and photos copyright © 2018 by Alicja Mann, alicjamann.com

Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy and … Happy New Year!

January 3, 2014

This past year I started with “dancing my troubles away.” I also danced for rain in Tucson while on Solana Beach last June. In both cases the dancing was not very effective – my troubles did not go away, and we did not get as much rain as we needed.

Every New Year is supposed to be joyful, and of course often it’s not. When you live long enough, you lower your expectations. To my surprise, this New Year’s Eve was more joyful than I anticipated. For that I am very grateful to Tucson’s Laffs Comedy Caffe! That is where I met the New Year of 2014 (http://www.Laffstucson.com).

Comedy Club at New Year's Eve

Alicja laughing

Every one of us defines joy differently. However, we can all agree that a smile is a good indicator of joy … I mean a genuine smile!

Rodney's Smile

It is hard not to feel the power of Rodney’s smile, which is totally disarming. He owns a one-man-operation restaurant on the main street of Wilcox, AZ. If you are ever in Wilcox, I am sure you will try his cooking as I did in November.

Rodney Menu posted on the window

There is another type of smile full of joy that is not interactive, but self contained. This flower girl in a wedding ceremony on a Cape Cod beach just couldn’t resist the joy of touching and sifting the soft, warm sand.

Flower Girl smiling while playing with the sand

I experience a similar feeling of joy while looking at luminaries – the characteristic holiday lights that are common in this part of the country – their soft glow evokes a soft smile.

Luminaries in Tucson

Happy New Year 2014! 

Let it glow with JOY for each of us!

Alicja at New Year's Celebration

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

December 12, 2013

Silver Bridge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

There are many grand things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life, but the day of hiking the Grand Canyon down and up with my Canadian friend several years ago stands out. It was awesome to be able to face that ancient and grand creation of nature and at the same time to feel our minuteness in contrast with that rocky giant. I took this photo on Silver Bridge over the Colorado River – at the bottom of the Canyon, facing the lengthy journey (9.5 miles = 15.3 km) up the Bright Angel Trail to reach the top before the inevitable arrival of darkness.

I wrote about that hike in my post Footprints Left Behind  https://alicjamann.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/footprints-left-behind/

Potrait of Nelson Mandela

A similar feeling of awe and humbleness enveloped me last week when we faced the departure of Nelson Mandela – his strength, vision, perseverance, and political skills were not only grand, but super GRAND and will continue to inspire others for many years to come. I am happy to cherish memories of encountering that man during his visit to Boston in 1990 – soon after his release from prison. Even though I was a minute spot in the huge crowd of others who gathered at the Hatch Shell to honor Mandela, I will never forget that grand day.

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

November 21, 2013

Commonly the word layers is associated with layers of rocks or bricks, layers of sweet tasty cake, or layers of clothes – especially now when cold days are on our horizon. However, there are several meanings of this word. Here is one of them: layer – “a hen kept for egg production.”

Chicken in their coop

Here are my photos of “layers of layers” traveling or rather being transported to their new destination – perhaps to lay more eggs or…perhaps not.

Layers of white containers with chickens (layers)

Chicken in theirs containers being transported on a red truck

During one of my visits in Amsterdam (several years ago) I was stunned and mesmerized by colorful layers of bicycles waiting patiently for their riders in specially designated places – right in the heart of that big European city.

Layers of parked bicycles in special designated multi level place in center of Amsterdam

Many European cities are bicycle-friendly. Amsterdam is in fact super friendly. Consequently, the Dutch can eat their layered cakes without feeling guilty or fearful of gaining weight. Our cities should be full of bicycle-envy and follow Amsterdam’s path.

More bicycles in Amsterdam

 

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit

November 13, 2013

There is a natural readiness in us to label our habits as bad or good ones. They are also difficult to photograph. For instance, my good habit of religiously wearing a seatbelt while driving is not very photogenic, nor is my bad habit of misplacing sunglasses and frantically searching for them – a few moments before leaving home.

My custom of drinking wine on the patio at sunset I consider a very pleasant and definitely photogenic habit.

Patio on the end of the day.Glass of wine on the patio's table

Ever since we built our large, sunny patio that connects and embraces the house, my studio and a beautiful mesquite tree, we have had the custom, an end-of-the-day routine, to sit on the patio and enjoy the last warm rays of sun. The fact that the sun goes down right behind my studio is a nice coincidence for me. I welcome that soft announcement of the end of the day and, perhaps, the end of my work…. A glass of wine is a must!

closeup of the glass of wine and image of the studio

I offer a toast to the gentle, late warmth of Tucson’s sun, since most of the day that very same sun is hot and harsh – even in the middle of November.

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

October 31, 2013

This photo challenge arrived at a perfect moment for me. Being absent for three months from these pages, I was having a hard time to get back to them. Why? Many doubts, many worries, lack of time. So I welcomed “the horizon challenge” photographically and, even more so, metaphorically.

The boundary between earth and sky, as the horizon is usually defined, is easy to visualize. The synonyms of horizon – range, perspective, limit, scope, reach – are also familiar. My favorite is “a field of vision.”

Here is a photo that I took this past September while visiting Cape Cod.

Two birds and the horizon

The minute I noticed these birds’ synchronized sitting, I knew that I had to capture the moment! I was afraid that they would fly away the minute I touched my camera. This time I was lucky – they did not! I was even able to take a couple more pictures of them.

One bird with the dark horizon

The field of vision differs greatly for each bird. For this one, it is a dark field.

Another bird with the bright horizon

And for this bird, it is a very bright field – almost blinding.

The same horizon, different fields of vision! This is also how we, people, perceive our horizons, our vistas, or our dreams…very differently!

The darkness arriving with the night or heavy dark clouds covering the sky affect greatly our visions, our perspectives. And that’s what has happened to me recently. The huge dark cloud of grief and disappointment engulfed me and blocked my vista.

For birds dark clouds will be blown away by strong winds. For us, people, that seldom happens. So I know that it is I who has to move that dark cloud away– inch by inch– till the horizon appears again, clear and crisp….

Sea horizon with a dark cloud over it

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann


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