The Gift of Rain

“Nothing reminds us of an awakening more than rain.” ― Dejan Stojanovic

Gift of Rain

I am standing on the porch watching the rain come. It is beautiful. It seems to dance on the glistening foliage before falling to the ground and then releases its earthy aroma. Last rays of sunshine filter through the canopy making the magenta bougainvillea even more vibrant. For having a small urban lot, we have created our own jungle paradise, I’m thinking, which brings us joy and much-needed privacy. The palms, banana trees, Schefflera (umbrella tree) tall white bird of paradise and four large mango trees hide us from the street.

The sound of the rain has its effects. It triggers memories of a distant rain forest.

My mind takes me to the wide veranda of the Asa Wright Nature Center in Trinidad, a Caribbean island lying off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. High up in the mountains, Asa Wright is located on a former cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation surrounded by lush rainforest. With binoculars, we watched the jungle come to life with colorful and exotic birds in their natural habitat. The toucans were my favorite.

We stayed in a cottage behind the main house and every night we went to sleep with the steady rhythm of the rain and smelled that same earthy aroma. Every morning we were awakened by a raucous cry of green parrots arriving in the mango tree by our window, telling us it was time to get up. The sheets we slept under and the so-called dry clothes we put on every morning always felt damp, but a hot cup of tea on the veranda while watching the birds through the misty canopy was well worth it. Ponchos were worn daily as we walked through the rainforest with our guide, who helped us identify birds on our lengthy Audubon bird list.

Vivid memories.

Instead of macaws and toucans flying through my yard, I settle for the cardinal that comes and drinks water out of the bloom of the white bird of paradise.

Gift of Rain

And I am content to watch the pelicans in formation, fly overhead to get back home. I am content to know the egrets, blue herons, and yellow-crowned night herons are tucked away in the mangroves by the dock and are safe.

It is time to go in, now. The rain is coming down harder and lightening and thunder are accompanying it.

But first, one last look at our little rainforest.

Gift of Rain Gift of Rain




Posted in Musings, Summer, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Up Periscope


“Fresh water. This is so great and all to myself.”


“Hey! Where did you come from?”


“I guess we can share. There’s more than one stream.”


“Treading water gets awful tiresome.”


“Aah! That’s better. This is the life. Florida living at its best. Nothing like floating on my back, no cares in the world, and getting a cool refreshing drink of water at the same time. Now if I could just get someone to rub my belly.”


“The world’s finest wilderness lies beneath the waves …”
— Wyland, Marine Life Artist

More about manatees can be found in the following post:

***After boating and fishing, there is the routine of flushing the motor with fresh water, cleaning the boat and hopefully cleaning some fish. The manatees will congregate under the streams of fresh water and take long drinks, jostling for position.  They are fun to watch.

Posted in Musings, Summer | Tagged , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Let’s Hear it for the Driver

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!” Mark Twain

Our 1,122 mile road trip through Rajasthan, India, last year wouldn’t have been possible or remotely enjoyable if it weren’t for this man, Rejender Singh. He was the man behind the wheel, so to speak, our driver for 14 days, covering seven cities.

On the Road in Rajasthan

Of course, we visited many incredible, iconic temples, forts, palaces and museums along our route. The architectural legacy of the maharajas is this state’s signature attraction. Udaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Mandawa, Samode, Jaipur, and then to Agra. There are plenty of large bus tours, but that isn’t out travel style. Having a personal driver and the use of local guides made our trip more flexible. And, having the same driver the entire time allowed for more opportunities to engage in cultural exchanges with each other that went beyond just pleasantries. We couldn’t have been matched to a better driver, and for two weeks you wouldn’t want to have a bad experience. Our personalities and travel styles clicked.

Driving through the cities and the rural roads takes skill, experience, and even guts. It also requires an emphasis on safety. Rejender has all that. He has been driving for over 25 years with this travel company. That says a lot. Knowing that we are passionate about photography, he would pull off for us to see something he thought appealing or would go back if we mentioned something we just saw. He is patient, knowledgeable and has a sense of humor. He also realized we have a sense of adventure.

Upgrading our mode of transport from a Tata to an Air-conditioned SUV Toyota made for a comfortable journey that was well worth the investment.

This wasn’t a trip for dozing off. There was always something of interest to capture our attention while driving through the countryside. A way of life. Long, windy, dusty roads, past small villages with their open air markets and women in their colorful saris.

Unexpectedly, we came upon a parade of villagers in route to a holy festival nearby. They looked somber, but this young lady greeted us with a smile.

On the Road in Rajasthan On the Road in Rajasthan


Rejender is an opportunist, and when he saw a man by his well, pumping water by using his oxen to turn the wheel, he stopped for us to see it and to make sure I got a chance behind the oxen. The water was being pumped under the road to irrigate a sugar cane field.

On the Road in Rajasthan     On the Road in Rajasthan

I loved the colorful trucks everywhere, but some were overloaded. See what happens. I hope the driver wasn’t terribly hurt.

On the Road in Rajasthan

On the Road in Rajasthan

On the Road in Rajasthan       On the Road in Rajasthan

Time to get the milk to market.

On the Road in Rajasthan

Road blocks are opportunities to stretch one’s legs as Ron is doing while waiting for a rather long train to pass by.

On the Road in Rajasthan

Sheep are just a way of life and also have to use the roads. Goats, too. Cows, too.

Trucks laden with marble. There are many quarries and the stone is an abundant building material.

On the Road in Rajasthan

We notice brick kilns dotting the landscape.

On the Road in Rajasthan

Another opportunity to stretch our legs. Our first encounter with a camel driver surrounded by wheat fields and another one loaded down.

On the Road in RajasthanOn the Road in Rajasthan

Farm trucks are interestingly home made.

On the Road in Rajasthan

This part of the drive was horrendous, but it was our only way to get to Mandawa. Due to unexpected road construction, the ride took much longer, and Rejender was quite tired when we finally arrived. Many trucks and machinery on the road including tons of red Massey Ferguson tractors.

On the Road in Rajasthan

I loved the arid Aravilli Hills, rocky mountainsides and ridges, including terrain that is harsh and barren. Pushkar is remote and we climbed a mountain pass to get there. Rejender is cautious as we go around the curves, but he seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to driving.

On the Road in Rajasthan

It was a treat to wind up a narrow road to get a glimpse of a lake.

On the Road in Rajasthan

Part of a driver’s time is not driving, but waiting. Here Rejender waits for us to finish touring the Panna Meena stepwell near Jaipur. Regardless of the dust and grime that covered the SUV each day, Rejender somehow wiped it down during his wait time and polished it spotless after each day’s driving. He also made sure the cooler was full of bottled water.

On the Road in Rajasthan

Working with Dream Vacation Pvt.Ltd., to customize an itinerary for us, was also rewarding. Ron had worked with them the year before while planning a trip to Kumba Mela. The team made sure our 50th wedding anniversary trip would be of the best quality and it was. Our thanks to Sudip Sen and Sanjeev Mehra, owners of the company, who came to our hotel in New Delhi to meet us. They referred to us as “the golden couple”. These men had planned our 26 day itinerary, which included Mumbai, New Delhi, Kerala, Munnar, and coordinated all the in-country flights, our overnight train ride to Varanasi, and of course, the details of our memorable road trip. Thank you, gentlemen.

And, let’s hear it for Rejender.

“So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.” Mark Twain




Posted in Bucket List, India, Musings, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Saris in the Breeze

“It is the lives we encounter that make life worth living.”  ~
Guy de Maupassant

Saris in the Breeze, Udaipur, India

Standing on the raised platform of the ancient Sas-Bah temple at Nagda in Rajasthan, we looked once more at the barren landscape in the distance. We noticed a procession of women in colorful saris walking single file toward an area dotted with palm trees. Why? What were they doing? Where could they possibly be going? No crops in the field to harvest. No buildings around. We asked our guide. He wasn’t sure. Our curiosity was too great to just let this cultural moment flutter away in the breeze like the image of their saris. We asked him if he would take us to them.

“No! I won’t escort you. It would be better for you to go yourself. Just walk down that dirt road and you will come to a path, and then you can catch up with them.”

After a check with our driver and the time constraints we were under, it was agreed we could go. “Just don’t take too long,” they reminded.

Our escort would be little children that appeared instantly, hands out, smiling and saying, “ten rupee.” One little boy handed me a yellow dandelion. Getting to the path required us to climb over a crude rock wall, overgrown with vines and brambles. Ron first, then holding my camera and hand, I climbed over while holding my skirt up. Giggles from the children.

Once on the path, we realize we are intruding on a couple of women who are cooking on an open fire. No house, few belongings. We smile, bow and say, “namaste.”

Rushing to catch up with the procession was my priority, while not stumbling over rocks and twisting an ankle. There was already blood dripping down my leg from scratches encountered climbing over the wall.

Those at the end of the procession now see us and stop. The others slow down, turn, and just watch these crazy people approach.

What a moment. A mixture of shyness, smiles, cautiousness, curiosity and perplexity among the group.

Saris in the Breeze, Udaipur, India

Some gather with Ron and others around me. We ask if anyone can speak English and a few laugh. I point to women with gray hair and point to my gray hair and call them Mama and Grandmother and jester to myself. They seem to know what I mean and banter with each other. The group relaxes.

We ask to take photos and many allow us. A few are still cautious. I respect that.

And then, on cue, the women once again get in their processional and leave us to ponder the same questions we had originally.

Saris in the Breeze, Udaipur, India

Was this a religious ritual? Was it an observance to pay respects to the recently departed?

As we watched them leave, they began singing. It was solemn and spiritual.

They carried no babies, no food, and no water. No small children accompanied them. They were taking time out from their domestic responsibilities. Obviously, these women were bonded and committed to something of meaning to them. Hindu traditions and social identities are complex, and I knew we had witnessed something special.

Women, dressed in their finest saris, fluttering in the breeze.

Posted in India, Musings, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Enigma, Spirals and Salvador Dali

Salvadore Dali MuseumThe new Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, was intentionally designed to reflect the mind of Dali.

A walk up the spiral staircase isn’t just a means to get from one floor to another. It was created to emphasize Dali’s obsession with the double helical shape of the DNA molecule. To him, the very basis of life would prove to be spiral. His art would reflect this principal. Note how the concrete spiral continues upward beyond the stairs representing Dali’s thoughts on infinity.

Salvadore Dali Museum

Once on the third floor, you are now in an area that erupts into a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the “Enigma” named after a 1929 Dali painting. Made up of 1,062 triangular glass panels it opens the museum to the bay and sky while forming an atrium roof that draws in natural daylight. This is the first use of this type of free-form geodesic geometry in the United States and no two glass panels are alike. Amazing.

Salvadore Dali Museum

It’s a photographer’s play house. Angles. Shadows. Shapes.

Looking out at the beautiful bay is the Mathematical Garden which allows students and visitors to experience the relationship between math and nature. Also, there is a labyrinth or maze in the southeast corner which invites exploration.

Salvadore Dali Museum

The building itself is known as the right-angled Euclidean “treasure box” because of Dali’s fixation with geometry. The architects also had their own requirements. Build a museum that would withstand a category 5 hurricane, hence the thick concrete walls and industrial shape look from the exterior.

Salvadore Dali Museum

Internationally recognized architect Yann Weymouth, who also served as chief of design for I.M. Pei for both the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and for the Grand Louvre in Paris was responsible for this fantastical and surrealistic design for the HOK architect firm.

The gift shop is a destination in itself. The Rainy Day Taxi is a Rolls Royce with a diver behind the wheel as he is covered with water. One can’t help but notice the praying mantis and colorful Dali umbrellas suspended from the ceiling.

This museum houses the most comprehensive collection of Dali’s art outside of Spain.

We planned this trip in December to coincide with the special Picasso exhibit entitled, Two Legends Side by Side.

Even though the work by these two artists was thematically grouped, Picasso’s art was dwarfed by the magnitude of the Dali collection. However, the self-guided audio tour provided much detail into the mind and art of these two unique men. We weren’t able to take photos in the combined gallery, but were able to in the main Dali gallery.

Docent-led tours are educational and entertaining. This woman was decorated for the part.

Salvadore Dali Museum

I know very little of Dali’s background, but I learned that he incorporated Euclid’s math into some of his art. Known as the Golden Ratio or what photographers call the rule of thirds, he found this pleasing in art and represented the natural world, like the grouping of seeds in the common sunflower, an ordered and methodical arrangement which he felt is very appealing to our human eyes. The Sacrament of the Last Supper hanging in our National Gallery is a good example of mathematical structure.

Dali, one of the most famous Surrealist artists, was known for his wild art and public personality to match. He once said, “It is not necessary of the public to know whether I am joking or whether I am serious, just as it is not necessary for me to know it myself.”

The Surrealist art movement opened the doors to a style of art that the world had never before seen. Odd techniques were used to paint and interpret images of the subconscious and the dream world to bring metaphor and meaning to their work.

During the 1930’s his style of surrealism is depicted in:

Three Young Surrealist Women Holding in Their Arm the Skins of an Orchestra

Salvadore Dali Museum

Dali and his wife Gala fled war-torn Europe and lived in the US from 1940-1948. It was during this period that he no longer considered himself a surrealist. Instead, he turned to classical art and realism. His oil on canvas, Eucharistic Still Life painted in 1952 shows his interest in the Renaissance. This piece I could understand.

Salvadore Dali Museum

In 1931, he painted his most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory which illustrates melting watches. However between 1952 and 1954 he painted The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory. He said he was inspired one hot day while working in his studio when he noticed some runny Camembert cheese.

Salvadore Dali Museum

It is not clear why these melting watches are so startling and memorable, but they do suggest several powerful associations. According to art analysts, they illustrate how time can be fluid, as in a dream. But a more essential and threatening association concerns our dependence upon clocks. The world runs by the clock – scheduling events is essential for life to function normally. If clocks melt, time becomes meaningless, and there is no way to control activities, leading to chaos.

Reacting to the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Dali began to focus on religious themes. In the early 1950’s he referred to his work as the principles of Nuclear Mysticism. He wanted to reanimate his art with spirituality as can be seen in the following. But, of course, he drew himself into the picture.

Salvadore Dali Museum

One of a number of large paintings Dali completed in this era was The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus which stands a massive 14 feet tall by 9 feet wide. The painting was commissioned by Huntington Hartford, an American businessman, who was heir to the A&P Supermarket, for the opening of his museum, Gallery of Modern Art, in New York. The museum was located on Columbus circle, hence the inspiration for the subject of the painting. As a devout Roman Catholic, Dali portrayed Columbus as the Christian savior, bringing the true church and salvation to the new world.

Salvadore Dali Museum

In the 1960’s Dali experimented with Pop and Op Art, as well as Abstract Expressionism, which eventually led him to creating holographs during the 1970’s.

Can you make out Abraham Lincoln’s profile in the following?

Salvadore Dali Museum

We are so glad we visited this museum which is located only a couple of hours away from us, making return trips easy to do in one day. It is on Florida’s Top Attraction’s list and I can see why.

“Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali.” ~ Salvador Dali  

 1904 – 1989

Salvadore Dali Museum

Posted in Musings, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Joy is…

Joy is...Varanasi, IndiaJoy is taking time to play.

An early morning boat ride along the Ganges in Varanasi will always be one of the most significant travel memories for me. This ancient and holy city in India draws thousands of devotees daily to wash a lifetime of sins away in these sacred waters. Watching this ritual itself was spiritually cleansing, but to my surprise (and joy) was seeing a soccer ball being thrown around by a small group of guys. They were having a good time while life was going on around them. Quite a juxtaposition.

This post is linked to Kan Walk Will Travel who has created the Joy is…Challenge.

Posted in India, Musings, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Bad Timing ~ Woes of Travel

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.  ~Charles Kuralt, On the Road With Charles Kuralt

Travel Woes

Holiday travel can be most frustrating. Canceled flights due to lousy weather or icy roads making driving hazardous. After spending a delightful Christmas in Raleigh with family, we knew there would be traffic on our return home to South West Florida but were shocked at the epic proportions. Driving south on Interstate 95 through South Carolina last week was like driving in a parking lot. It was stop and go for eight hours with speeds of 5- 10 miles an hour for miles and miles. Thank goodness we made reservations south of Savanna well in advance because, we were told, there were no rooms anywhere because of the traffic. It was a combination of post holiday travel as well as the exchange of our national demographics. This means the snow birds are returning to Florida for the winter. This yearly ritual clogged the roads to a standstill and we were caught in it. I believe Montréal had the record with the most RV’s caravanning together. Lots of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Illinois tags to count.

The good news is that it wasn’t raining. We had plenty of snacks and water, and mostly time to discus the past, present and future many times over. We took turns driving when we dared get off the interstate and then take a number to get back on. What torture.

During my break from driving, I decided to capture the moment. Obviously, I was bored.

I also turned my attention to the clouds. How unusual I thought. Looked like contrails of planes zigzagging across the sky. So, I cloud gazed and took pictures while occupants of cars creeping along gave me a smile or a thumbs up. A few others began looking up.

Travel Woes Travel Woes

Later on, as the sun began to set, unpretentious color revealed itself; almost the end of an imperfect day. Or was it? We observed no major accidents and we eventually arrived home safely to greet a new and meaningful New Year.

Travel Woes Travel Woes Travel Woes

We look forward to more travel and adventures… abroad, and on the back roads (and yes, interstates) of this beautiful country we live in. And in between those times, I still reminisce about previous trips and the rich cultural experiences Ron and I have shared together.

Where ever life leads you this year, enjoy the journey, the moment, friendships, family, good books, good health, new recipes, laughter, and don’t forget to study the clouds.

Our forecast today is 84 and sunny. No snow here in Paradise.

Posted in Musings, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments