Happy Valentine’s Day!
When I was in school, we remembered Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th and celebrated Washington’s birthday as a holiday on February 22nd. When the government made Mondays the holiday of choice in 1971, we no longer observed the actual birthdays, but instead began to honor all presidents on the Presidents Day holiday, the third Monday in February.
Today’s post goes back to the more traditional celebration of Lincoln’s actual birthday. Here are some quotes from this great leader:
“As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ Now we practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”
— letter to Joshua F. Speed, August 22,1855
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic destroyed.”
— letter to Col. William F. Elkins, November 21, 1864
“The struggle for today is not altogether for today — it is for a vast future also.”
We are still struggling. Sometimes progress feels like one step forward and two steps back.
This year’s poster for the Elisabeth C. Miller Library‘s annual used-book sale features one of my watercolor paintings of hydrangeas.
The Miller Library is located at the Center for Urban Horticulture on the University of Washington campus. The Miller Horticultural Library is one of my favorite places in Seattle, and I am delighted to use my art to support one of their fund-raising efforts.
There is a slight chance Seattle may see some snowflakes for a white Christmas this year.
“To live till you die
is to live long enough.”
— Ursula Le Guin, Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way
Returning to the Root
from — Ursula Le Guin, Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way
Be completely empty.
Be perfectly serene.
The ten thousand things arise together;
in their arising is their return.
Now they flower,
returning to the root.
The return to the root
Peace: to accept what must be,
to know what endures.
In that knowledge is wisdom.
Without it, ruin, disorder.
To know what endures
is to be openhearted,
following the Tao,
the way that endures forever.
The body comes to its ending,
but there is nothing to fear.
So many variations of poinsettias!
The highlight of my trip to Australia was a seven-day hiking experience along the Great Ocean Trail in Great Otway National Park. This is a 104-kilometer (65-mile) trail from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles on the rugged Southern Ocean coast. I had arranged a self-guided hike through Walk 91 — they took care of all meals, lodging, and daily transport to and from the trailheads.
Originally I had intended a thru-hike over all 104 kilometers. But my hiking partner was dealing with a respiratory infection, so my experience ended up being more of a sampling of shorter hikes all along the trail. Walk 91 staff accommodated our changes to the initial itinerary so that we could be outdoors hiking for several hours every day, but not do the longer full-day walks. This ended up being just perfect for me. And I didn’t feel short-changed in experiencing the scenic wonders of this part of Australia.
If I were ever to return to the Great Ocean Road, I would allow an extra day or two in Apollo Bay. I saw from the bus windows that it would be possible to walk for miles and miles along the shores and beaches of this large bay. You could easily do this from your hotel.
The first day’s hike on the Walk 91 itinerary was a short 5-mile hike from Shelly Beach back to our hotel in Apollo Bay. The trail passed along sandy beaches, pastures and farmland, bluffs, a caravan park, suburbs, and the Great Ocean Road (highway).
While the Great Ocean Walk does follow the rugged coastline of the Southern Ocean, long stretches of the walk are too far inland to afford views of the water. We hiked through coastal forests of gum trees and eucalyptus, and along bluffs of coastal scrub bushes that were too high to see over. The occasional breaks in the foliage gave out on amazing ocean vistas. And all of the trail’s beach stretches were our favorite parts of the Great Ocean Walk. And where we took the most photographs!
We stopped for a scone with Devonshire cream at the cafe opposite the Cape Otway Lighthouse. You couldn’t beat the setting for this afternoon break.
I knew I was in Australia when I saw koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and echidna in the wild — animals I had previously seen only in zoos or television documentaries.
These wildlife viewing opportunities came on a seven-day Great Ocean Walking tour that I had arranged through Walk 91. From Melbourne, we took a one-hour train ride to Geelong, and there we transferred to a bus for a 2-1/2 hour ride to Apollo Bay. Most of the bus ride followed the coast of the Southern Ocean — a very scenic and wild coast. For seven days, we hiked portions of the coast trail, the Great Ocean Walk, which is in the Great Otway National Park. And we stayed in several different accommodations along the way. Most of our Australian animal sightings were in the evenings or mornings by our accommodations.
We saw koalas in the trees near the Cape Otway Lighthouse area. Most often, the koalas were lethargic, sleeping or dozing on tree limbs. But in Bimbi Park, near our lodging, we saw a couple of more active koalas. We watched one climb down a tree, jump to another one, fall down, and then run to another tree, which it climbed to safety. So I got some good, up-close photos.
Koalas are marsupials, mammals that carry their developing young in pouches. Kangaroos and wallabies are also marsupials. We saw both. The wallabies looked like kangaroos to us, but they were darker and heftier.
The wallabies seemed curious, and stood and stared at us for a while. The kangaroos we saw, however, seemed much more wary. We saw them only from a distance as they grazed in a meadow at sunrise near the place we were staying. They took off as soon as they spotted us. I was surprised at how high they could jump!
Another of Australia’s unusual animals is the echidna. It is sometimes called a spiny anteater. It is just one of two egg-laying mammals (the other is the platypus). I saw one along the hiking trail between Station Beach and the Cape Otway Lighthouse.
On Saturday after I returned to the mainland from Mallard Island, I pointed my car south and drove 6 hours to the Minnesota farm where I grew up. My youngest and oldest brothers each own and live on half of the farm, and on Saturday my youngest brother was hosting a reunion for the extended family on my father’s side. The reunion was winding down by the time I finally arrived. I missed seeing my three surviving aunts and many cousins and their kids. Thankfully my siblings hung around to see me. Seven of the nine of us kids made it to the reunion. After all the cousins left, my siblings and some spouses talked around a fire pit as we roasted hot dogs.
My brother has made many changes and improvements since my Dad died. He replaced the old farmhouse, garage, and machine shed with new structures. Only the old red barn remains from my parents’ and grandparents’ time on the farm. My brother has worked hard to bring the farm into the modern age, and I love all the improvements. He keeps everything trim and neat and orderly. The land still holds the memories of our childhood there, and it still feels like I am returning home whenever I travel there.
Part of what is bringing the farm back to life are the animals. In the last decade of my father’s life, he no longer kept domesticated animals. Now my brother is raising hogs and a few beef cattle and lots of chickens. There are at least four or five barn cats and two dogs that have the run of the place.
I was able to spend just one night and morning with my brother and his family before continuing my drive. Here are two of my favorite pictures from this year’s trip to my childhood farm home: another lovely red sunrise . . .