Between Art and Nature

Photo credit: Mike Kepa, The San Francisco Chronicle, 2013

Earthscape Art by Bay Area Artist, Andres Amador

Some of my favorite art is temporary and outdoors. Such is the art of Andres Amador. Here he is at work by the seaside. Besides nature, the artist’s only tool here, is a leaf rake. His media is the beach/sand. Watch as he creates a mandala at Ocean Beach in this less than three minute long vimeo:

http://vimeo.com/80237736

Note: Although the vimeo is only two to three minutes long, it took an entire day to create the work.

City Scenes, San Francisco

This metal hitching post on Fresno Street is missing its horse (or bicycle).

hitching post

Around the corner, the Kerouac/Beat museum is wrapped in cardboard brown.

3 -looks like cardboard, righ

My favorite purchase from the museum is this postcard. If you haven’t visited The Beat Museum ….”

photo 2

The Coit Tower, though not very far away, can only be accessed via a very steep climb to Telegraph Hill. Here she is, looking down at the Embarcadero and this year’s Americas Cup Race. Her red and gold lace silhouette is quite becoming.

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coit tower
View from inside Coit Tower
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View from below Coit Tower (I think that’s Alcatraz Island in the distance)

Across town the following day:

photo 1 (1)
Living wall art on Mission Street
8 -view from yerba buena gardens
View from Yerba Buena Gardens
9 -view from de Young
A different view of the Bay, this time from the de Young Museum (Marin Headlands is in the distance)

Inaccessible Accessible Art

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A section of graffiti bridge

Graffiti Bridge

Parallel to Interstate 680 and the Union Pacific railroad tracks is a landmark that bicyclists refer to as graffiti bridge. Does this bridge rightly have a name? I don’t know, but graffiti bridge is a good locator when trying to get your bearings as you bicycle the Sunol/Pleasanton (and if you are feeling particularly adventurous or suicidal, /Niles) bike loop. It is the most monumental graffiti in this area simply because of its location along a suburban country road lined with trees and pasture.

From Public Roadway to Private Underpass

Graffiti bridge is done up in red and white, green, and blue aerosol spray paint. Sitting directly on a public roadway, its colorful paintings are accessible to any who care to stop and look. The opposite is true for the rest of the graffiti featured here. This second set of graffiti is located on private land close to Happy Valley Road. Tucked behind a gate that is operated by a digital keypad, the tunnel paintings are barely visible from the street. Still, enough of it is visible to arouse curiosity. And so, one morning, just as the owner emerged from behind his gated, protected from the public, lands, I was able to get his permission to view as well as photograph the pictures in the/his tunnel. I doubt very much, that the taggers had permission to enter the space and create their art. Such is the nature of graffiti.

Tunnel Photographs

(Spray paint on metal)

6-lovely blend of color 2
Beautiful in its simplicity is the juxtaposition of colors against the black backdrop of the tunnel.
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Street art in private, suburban underpass (Pleasanton-Sunol Road)

 Close-ups from tunnel graffiti

face forward

slanted

 

aint on concrete):

Bridge Photographs

(Spray paint on concrete):

10 -red 3

Untitled

Of Water Temples

temple 1
Sunol Water Temple

Sunol Water Temple

In a canyon in Northern California sits the classic marble pavilion, the Sunol Water Temple. Built in 1910 by a private water company, it now belongs to the municipality of San Francisco.

you'd be surprised how loud the roar of the water is inside the temple
Three subterranean water sources meet in Sunol

More than half of San Francisco’s water used to pass through Sunol. Now most of the Bay Area’s water comes from the Hetch Hetchy Water System  nearly one-hundred-and-sixty miles away in the Yosemite valley.

Hetch Hetchy Water System

Hetchhetchyprojmap
Water comes from far away Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite to San Francisco

Pulgas Water Temple

Pulgas_water_temple2
Pulgas Water Temple (photo, Wikicommons)

Another water temple, this one made of cast stone, is on the other side of the San Francisco Bay. Twenty-four years younger than its Sunol counterpart, the Pulgas Water Temple (in Redwood City) was built by the municipality of San Franciso to commemorate the completion of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. Compared to the water temples of Bali, however, these two are babes, aged as they are at seventy-eight (Pulgas) and one-hundred-and two years (Sunol).

balinese water temple (painting by U)
Temple on Bratan Lake, Bali, Indonesia (painting by Udit Mathur, India)

Balinese Water Temples

There is an ancient ritual of water management – irrigation – that has been practiced on the volcanic slopes of Bali for over a thousand years. This is subak, a custom built around water temples. It is/was at the heart of Balinese rice paddy/terrace farming. I wonder what materials are used to make these water temples. With their subdued color they blend into the landscape in a way that the California ones don’t.

The Essence of Subaks

In the subak system, priests apportioned the water for farming. Different communities (subaks) planted their crops at different times and allowed their  paddies to go fallow simultaneously. Rotating the cultivation was an effective means of distributing and conserving water; letting fields go completely fallow controlled pests.

Jatiluwih
Jatiluwih Rice Terrace (© Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)

Challenges to the System

The thousand year old subak system came under pressure when Asia embraced the Green Revolution in the 1970s. Conflicts between government agencies and subaks, plus a steady increase in tourism, significantly altered the Balinese landscape. In 1999 there was about 1,500 subaks on Bali (with about two-hundred members each), covering an irrigated area of more than 90,000 ha.* In 2012 when UNESCO gave subaks its national heritage designation, there were five rice terraces (and their water temples) covering 9,500 ha.** Although some of these changes can be attributed to post-colonial migration, much of it is due to the pressures of tourism on land use. Today, the remaining subaks still meet at water temples to discuss community farming decisions.

*Traditional Water Management in Bali, by Suarja and Thijssen, 1999.

**Cultural Landscape of Bali Province, UNESCO, 2012.

Ritual Rice Field (© Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)
Ritual Rice Field (© Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)

Soaking Up The Bay

The Bayview Trail at Coyote Hills

Oh the Bay, she is a wonder. See her from afar as you hike Coyote Hills and you will be treated to ribbons of pinks and greens mixed with whites, browns, blacks and reds. None of these colors are apparent when you stand next to her at ground level. I certainly saw no evidence of them when I  hiked along her shores at Eden Landing. Thanks to my time at Coyote Hills, some new colors are about to appear on my palette. Who knows how the piece that now sits on my easel will turn out!

along sf bay trail2
up close, by Eden Landing area

The San Francisco Bay Trail at Eden Landing 

When I’m at ground level with the deep, deep parts of the Bay (near the San Mateo Bridge and Eden Landing, for example), fear commingles with awe. This may be because of the sounds the Bay makes as it moves toward you and then backs away, sucking and gurgling, slapping and pulling. A few sharp slaps from the wind-whipped water were reminders of how small I am and how huge the Bay is. I felt this even more acutely as I walked across the long wooden bridge that is part of the trail at Eden Landing. At low tide the bridge crosses over shallow mudflats. At high tide, like the day I was there, the water surged beneath the bridge and slapped at the pilings. The bridge shook.

In Search of the Other End of the San Francisco Bay Trail

Perhaps I was by Alameda Creek or the Hayward Regional Shoreline. It could also be that I was near neither. Although my GPS indicated that I was ten or so miles away from the other end of the San Francisco Bay Trail (the section that starts at Eden Landing), I don’t know where I was. This part of town was very industralized. I could’ve been in Union City or in Hayward, or maybe even in Fremont. All three cities have highly industrialized spaces with sections running along the Bay. I get lost quite often but each wrong turn is an adventure.

I parked along a dead end street somewhere off Whipple Avenue and ducked through a locked gate to start my hike. I walked past garbage, old salt flats and marshland. At the beginning of the trail was a fenced in truck yard. Soon I was walking past marshland (to my left) and dried up salt flats (to my right). About a mile into the walk, I came across a concrete levee. Here, water flowed through a drainage pipe that ran under the embankment. This piped water ran into the marsh. In a pool of water sat piles of plastic and metal. Where was this garbage coming from? This was not good for the birds and other wildlife that live here. As the trail at levee’s end was blocked by a locked gate (to which was affixed a “No trespassing” sign), I headed back to the car.

Perhaps next month I’ll visit this area again. There was evidence of wildlife in the bird songs I heard and  in the scat of various small animals that I saw. I think too, that the residents of the nearby community walk their dogs on the trail and do not clean up after them. In the middle of this wasteland then, there was hope, sadness and possibilities. I counted at least six different bird songs along my walk and I found the feathers of three different kinds of birds. Their droppings lined the path, a definite sign of a robust population. Perhaps another tell-tale sign of a healthy bird population is the sign I saw on my way onto the trail, “Duck hunting permitted in season, by permission, California Department of Fish and Game.” Is this even necessary? Why not just let the ducks live?6

One June Day By the Bay

Bicycling by the Bay
Bicycling by the Bay (the Santa Cruz Mountains are in the distance)
along sf bay trail2
End of the road!
Who's going to tell the birds and other wildlife this water's unfit?
Who’s going to tell the birds and  the rest of the wildlife that this water’s unfit for contact?
An estuary of the estuary, the San Francisco Bay
Close up
Close up of house in marsh with salt pond (or flat) in background

All of these photos were taken along The Bay Trail, on the east side of the San Mateo Bridge. Tomorrow I will post more pictures and tell you about the marshes that were turned to salt ponds and are now returning to their  former state. Oh, the Bay, she is a changing, again.

Green Streets & Seals In My Backyard

CameraAwesomePhoto (44)
One winter’s day at Ano Nuevo

Green Streets: Revenue From Trash

“Damn! Am I a part of that?”

Green Streets, a film in progress, was featured at this weekend’s 2013 San Franciso Green Film Festival. The quote above is from one of the film’s participants. It illustrates the feeling that comes from doing something worthwhile. Here is a short clip from the documentary:

http://www.citizenfilm.org/green-streets/

Seals in My Back Yard

If you are no where near California’s Bay Area or Mexico’s Baja coast, you may never have heard of an elephant seal. And although you may have read about them in my earlier posts, you may still not realize how interesting and special these creatures are. I hope you enjoy learning (more) about them as you watch this very short video.

Video of elephant seals at Año Nuevo

The River Road, Part One

The Morant River in the vicinity of Serge Island, Jamaica. The Blue Mountains are in the background (credit: Claude Fletcher, amataiclaudius)

Morant River (maybe)

I’ve been around rivers all my life. In the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, a river ran behind our house and also across the street. It could have been two different rivers or maybe it was one river and the Jamaica Public Works Department interfered with it by running a road across it. I don’t know. Since we lived about twenty miles upriver in the same direction as Serge Island, I would guess that the river of my early memories is the Morant River. Later on, when we moved further down towards the sea, I again encountered rivers, including the one that emptied out into the Caribbean about a mile or two from my first school. That too, may have been the Morant River. I don’t know.

Constant Companions

1987 New Monklands, Jamaica photo NewMonklandsSept87.jpg
Windows from which I used to watch the river as a child. Decades later, my boy plays outside in the yard.

As a small child, I took all these rivers for granted. They were constant companions to play in, get stranded on boulders in, watch from the upstairs rooms of our house, and follow as we drove down the valley to places like Serge Island, Trinityville and Morant Bay. On longer drives, as we made our way down winding mountain roads to Kingston or towards Golden Grove in Portland, we drove past children splashing about as their mothers, aunts and grandmothers washed and dried clothes by the river banks. Always of interest, were the lambs, new arrivals to the kingdom of god, dressed in their flowing white robes and tightly wound turbans. Dipped into the river, they were born anew and welcomed into the fold of believers. There was the occasional Rastaman, bathing and shaking his locks dry, and there was also me, a small girl, skipping over rocks, collecting “beads” from river grasses, following the river to its end by Lyssons Beach. I didn’t realize it then but these things were all my special friends.

Plantain Garden River

My all time favorite river in our home parish was the Plantain Garden River. I loved its name and I reveled in the names of the communities through which it ran. Most of all, I loved that it “walked its own walk,” refusing to run in the same direction that the other rivers on the island did. This river, the Plantain Garden, runs through communities with names like Ginger Hall, Airy Castle and Sunny Hill. Whereas all the other rivers in Jamaica (nearly one hundred of them) flow north or south, my idol flows eastwards. I am sure there is some geographical reason for this but for me, it is its difference that makes it memorable.

1987 Knutts River, Jamaica photo KingoftheWorldSep87.jpg
Standing atop steps that are needed to cross Knutts River during the rainy season

The parish of St.Thomas is filled with rivers. These include the Clock and Roaring rivers, both of which meet the Plantain Garden River in the district of Ginger Hall. As memorable as the Plantain Garden may be, it is the Yallahs River that is most striking. Just about every year this river floods its banks, rages across the land making roads impassable and in some cases, makes lives unbearable and unlivable. During floods and hurricane season, it cuts country off from town and vice versa. It surges in a mad rush, taking crops, livestock, homes and humans with it.

Yallahs River

Yallahs is a heavily mined river. It is valued by the construction industry for its sand and river rocks. It is also valuable to the National Water Commission (NWC). The primary provider of potable water in Jamaica, the NWC designed the Yallahs Pipeline Scheme to divert an estimated average annual yield of 16.4 million imperial gallons of water per day from the Yallahs River. This water is channeled into the Mona Reservoir, a large concrete dam that serves the semi-metropolitan area of St. Andrew. In some ways this undertaking is similar to the construction of California’s Hetch Hetchy Dam and the diversion of water from the Sierras to the San Francisco Bay area. In both cases, the corporate area gathers water at the expense of the countryside. To learn more about the Blue Mountain Multi-Purpose Project of 1980 and its possible ecological impacts, access the Ministry of Mining and Natural Resources of the Government of Jamaica’s special report here: <http://www.pcj.com/dnn/Portals/0/Documents/SWECO%20PREINVESTMENT%20B3.PDF>

~Please stay tuned for next week’s, “The RiverRoad” part two.~

Literature Lovers’ Hike: Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House

eugene oneill

Where: Danville, CA (approximately 31 miles east of San Francisco)

Note: This property can only be accessed on foot or by a National Park Service shuttle.

•          •          •         •          •          •          •

Take a leisurely hike through the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Follow either the Williams or Madrone Trail to where they junction at a fire road leading to the back of Eugene O’Neill’s old property. Enter the gate and walk past the final resting place of Blemie, O’Neill’s elderly Dalmatian.

The residence, Tao House, sits on a one-hundred-and-fifty-eight acre property that was once part of the Rancho San Ramon Mexican land grant. Many of the almond and walnut trees that Eugene and Carlotta O’Neill planted are still here. Except for Saturdays, entrance to this National Historic Site is by reservation only.

A black gate (pictured above) leading to the courtyard is decorated with four Taoist characters, Dao, Da, Bie, and Shu. Navigate the zigzag path directly beyond to arrive at the house’s main entryway. Inside the first floor guest room are two wall murals titled, The Mountains of Mist. Although they are representative of the Chinese countryside, they also remind me of the California mountains — Las Trampas Ridge and Mount Diablo — both visible from either side of the property.

ACTIVITIES: Hike, Art (Literature)

REGION: East Bay

HOURS: Varies: depends on whether you are doing a guided or self-guided tour. For details visit: http://www.nps.gov/euon/planyourvisit/hours.htm

COST: Free

LOCATION/VENUE: National Park Service, Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, 1000 Kuss Road, Danville, CA 94526 Phone: (925) 838-0249

DIRECTIONS: Hiking: 5.9 miles (moderate, 3 hour hike) through the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Start your hike at the west end of Hemme Avenue in Danville. Take the Ringtail Cat and Madrone Trails to Tao House. Enter through the back gate near the barn.

Shuttle: The National Park Service’s  shuttle picks visitors up at The Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville. For details visit: http://www.nps.gov/euon/planyourvisit/directions.htm

TIP: If you visit in the late spring – early to mid-May – be sure to catch one of the plays being hosted in The Old Barn/Playwrights’ Theatre. The 2012 lineup included a recently discovered one-act play, Exorcism, that was thought to have been destroyed by the author in 1920. It is based on O’Neill’s 1913 suicide attempt. Don’t forget to get a first hand look at the replica of O’Neill’s 1936 Nobel Prize before you leave. It is the only Nobel Prize to have been awarded to an American playwright. See the National Park Service’s Web site, http://www.nps.gov/euon, for more information on arranging a visit to Tao House, the home where O’Neill penned his final plays, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh, and A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Additional: Here is a short video about Tao House: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMheCcsBYb0

A slightly different version of this hike appeared in my Bay Area Adventures Summer 2012 blog post.

San Francisco, Monterey Bay, and La Honda. Oh My!

The Music Conductor

This was a busy weekend. I BARTed into San Francisco for a look at the light show at the new Bay Bridge and for happy hour at Chaya (across the street from the bridge). I also went on a behind the scenes tour at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (awesome!) and today, re-experienced art in the woods at Djerassic, in the Santa Cruz Mountains (more awesome!!).

Friday Night on the Embarcadero

The new Bay Bridge is nearing completion and is set to be opened soon. Here is a nighttime view of the waterfront along the Embarcadero with a view of the bridge. The new installation art piece (an LED light show) is in the foreground of the bridge. (Those are the lights you see in the upper right hand side of the photograph.) It looks like San Francisco is almost ready for the 2013 Americas Cup!

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On the waterfront of the Embarcadero, San Francisco
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View of bridge & light show from Chaya’s patio (photo by Brian R)

Moon Jellies and Such, Oh My!

Oh, the jellies I saw! Lot and lots of jelly fishes were on show at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Moon jellies. White moon jellies. Purple sprite jellies. Spotted jellies. Mediterranean jellies. Can you figure out which ones these are?

Jellies
Jellies, jellies, jellies!!!

The history of how the Monterey Bay Aquarium came to be is fascinating. It involves David Packard (of Hewlett Packard fame) and his daughter who was at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station (in Monterey Bay). The senior Packard was looking for a family project to do with his daughter. That project evolved into the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The Aquarium sits at the far corner of Cannery Row. The entire area was made famous by John Steinbeck in his books, Cannery Row, and The Sea of Cortez. His friend Doc features prominently in both novels and also on the Row, where he died in a car crash. One interesting note is that Monterey Bay is, in fact, a bight, not a bay. It is more open (less sheltered) than a bay and shallower also. The rocks in Monterey Bay are also an indication that it is not a true bay. A bay, by contrast, is a inlet of water enclosed on three sides by the land. Monterey Bay is not enclosed at all. It is wide open to the ocean with tide pools and salt water constantly moving in and out.

Outdoor Art

Here are some art installations in the woods at Djerassic and also, a window view from the Artist’s Barn.

The Music Conductor (made of redwood branches)
djerassic -woodsprite 1
Woodland fairy?
djerassic -the barn 2
Window View of Oak Tree (from Artist’s Barn)

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