Archive for June, 2008

On Mountains

This is my photo essay on mountains, inspired by a car ride to the summit of Mount Evans in Colorado.  Mount Evans is a park of the city of Denver.  Interestingly, the city of Denver owns quite a bit of mountain property.  In the post just before this one, there is a photo of a mountain range taken from Mount Evans. 

Mountains from a distance look to me like solid rock, forced up out of the earth.  So it is a continuing surprise to me that actually, mountains are not solid, but chunky.  They also seem pretty barren and forbidding.  So it is also a surprize to me that they have such an interesting, beautiful — and delicate — ecosystem.  This is a photo of the actual summit of Mount Evans — I made it to the parking lot, but since I was wearing tennis shoes I didn’t attempt a climb up the snowcovered path.

On the summit of Mount Evans there is an observatory, and there are also stone walls which are the ruins of what was a restaurant.  The restaurant burned down several decades ago — darn, because a cup of coffee would have been nice. 

Besides the visiting people, there are actual residents of Mount Evans, and we saw two types — the marmots and the mountain goats.  I hadn’t seen so many marmots before — there were pairs and individuals beside the road in several places.  No photo, sorry, but here is a link http://www.mountevans.com/Mount-Evans-Critters-Marmots.HTML.  Very sorry, actually, to have missed getting a photo of a marmot who had holed up in a pot hole and popped his head up every minute or so to check on us visitors.  He created a regular marmot-jam.  (Potholes — deep.  Frost heaves — elevated!  And when the signs said “Road Damage” – they meant serious!) 

There were three very healthy looking mountain goats near Summit Lake.  Here is their leader, surveying the area. At first I spotted them in the distance up a steep hill, but they wandered closer over the span of a half hour — and the sun came out, too, so I got a few of these beauty shots (and a sunburned forehead!) 


The goats were eating tiny plants — not much to fuel such glorious creatures.  High up in these harsh conditions, there are enchanting miniature gardens.  Here is Summit Lake, with its surrounding grassland.  Very fragile — you shouldn’t walk on it (as I tried to tell a foreign tourist who brushed me off.)

On a path up the hill toward the goats, the grassy plants give way to smaller plants growing on and among the rocks:

The lichens and herbs and grasses hide among the rocks and gravel.

The flowers are small and hidden, and a wonderful discovery for those who look.  This red-flowering plant is about the size of a 50 cent piece.

This morning I dreamed about John for the first time since he died.  I dreamed he told me to shut off the clock radio this morning.  Yeah, it was a hard weekend.   



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Yesterday I worked on sorting some of the papers in John’s “den” and today I cleaned his workshed and re-stacked and stored his lumber pile in the shed. Now his tools are organized, and the shed’s deck is cleared, and I’m pretty sore.  John bought tools, wood, woodworking books, plans and magazines long after he wasn’t physically able to use them.  He lived with pain and disability and — depression, I guess, for so many years.  It was really hot working in the shed — over 90 inside.  I sweated more than cried.

Here are a few more pictures from Colorado.

Here are some cute, bright violas (I think — or possibly pansies) from the Denver Botanical Garden.

The Cloud Garden – Shofu-en.  A peaceful, structured garden where the pines are trained and trimmed to represent mountian clouds.

This is a view of the Rockie Mountains from Mt Evans, a 14, 000 foot high peak.  Mt Evans is a Denver park, and the highest peak with a road to the summit.

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Denver Botanical Gardens

Celia and Mike and John and I formed a garden-visiting club, and for several years visited nearby gardens.  John was not always able to walk as far or as long as we did, but really enjoyed gardens.  One of the best was our trip to Longwood Gardens, where John had the use of a scooter, and really got around.  On our trip to Denver, one of the top goals on Celia’s and Mike’s and my list was to visit the Denver Botanical Garden.  We knew this garden would be quite different from the gardens of the east coast — higher, subject to more severe winters, and much drier. 

The Denver Botanical Garden has some interesting features, some beautiful features, and some ‘educational’ features.  There are many very attractive garden ‘rooms’ with excellent use of fencing, benches, urns, water features, and a little bit of statuary.  There are several divisions or sections, including a ‘Japanese Garden’ that includes a tea room, a pond, and weather-beaten and purpose-pruned fir trees collected from Mount Goliath (around 12,000 ft.) to reference clouds.  There are some problems with maintenance and upkeep in the flower beds.  There are weeds, for example, and the signage often names a plant that has not survived one winter or another.  I thougt that the small section containing stone pots and troughs planted with native plants from various mountains and dry plains areas in Colorado was very interesting.  The tiny alpine plants are especially intriguing — although mostly mis-labeled.

Here are some photos, along with a few comments.

This is a section of river-stone paving on the path leading into the Japanese Cloud Garden.  A sign said “Slippery when wet” – but as a lady nearby remarked, this path was slippery when dry.  Beautiful to look at however.  This idea could be applied to a vertical surface, too.

Columbines are the Colorado State Flower, and this is the correct colorway.  Columbines were also present in other shades including solid yellow, solid white, and deep pink and white.  In this really nice urn they are grown with beaconia and parsley.   I need to work on the contrast in the photo.  Need to load up some decent photo software.


Mother and I are iris fans, and at the time of our visit the DBG had several dozen varieties in bloom, mostly of the frilly bearded iris type,  The exotic iris above was an eye catcher both because of it’s orchid-like design and because of the grey grass backdrop.

 This is a sedum.  The photo might want to be flipped on its side — I can’t tell tonight.  This particular sedum must spred pretty easily, because it turned up in a lot of different beds throughout the garden.  It’s gold-green-rust tones make it a good contrast plant in many situations.  It was about 2 inches high at it’s highest points.  I would like to find some for my garden.  I’m pretty fond of sedums, too.


This floating pot of reeds(?) or maybe chives(?) is one of several in the stream-like pond of the Japanese garden.   The garden was quiet, and the pond was nearly still, so the reflections were very crisp. 

 This is Lady’s Mantle, which has yellow green flowers that don’t amount to much, but has the nicest cupped and toothed leaves.  This plant had just been watered and the droplets beaded up on the leaves like jewelry.

Here is a grey-green grass, getting ready to flower.  This type of plant looks more suited to the Denver-area climate than fluffy, frilly flowers. 

Here’s one of the garden urns in the shadows.  Many of the garden areas made excellent use of objects with the plants.  This is something I could spend a lot of money on, myself!

I am going to close with a quotation from the book Naked by David Sedaris.  There wasn’t a lot that grabbed me in this book — I don’t know why John bought it and I’m sending it to the library’s used book store.  I will just keep this one quotation, from the chapter titled Ashes (pp. 249-250), which is about anticipating his mother’s death from cancer:

“You can’t brace yourself for famine if you’ve never known  hunger:  it is foolish even to try.  The most you can do is eat up while you still can, stuffing yourself, shoveling it in with both hands and licking clean the plates, recalling every course in vivid detail.”

This is pretty good advice. 



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My niece, Courtney, graduated from Bear Creek High School on May 29.  This was an occasion to head for Colorado.  Most of Gary’s family (Gary, Cindy, Ben and Becky) came to Colorado, too, and so did my friends from Maryland, Celia and Mike.


Here is a picture of Courtney with my Mom and Dad.  Picture taken by Kevin (Courntney’s boyfriend), in my sister Yvonne’s back yard.  Courtney’s school colors were green and gold.  Courtney’s medal is for having a high grade point average.

Here’s Courtney with Yvonne and Mike.  There were very proud parents.  The graduation was on the 29th and they had a huge party on the 30th.  They had three kinds of barbeque, potato salad, cole slaw, potato chips, cookies and cake.  Yvonne decorated 60 sugar cookies that looked like graduation hats — should have taken a photo of one before we ate them all.

Here’s a photo of Gary’s family with Courtney (Ben, Cindy, Courtney, Becky, and Gary).  Molly couldn’t come because her school was not out and she needed to be there for finals.  The Connecticut Johnsons were only with us from Wednesday through Sunday morning, so we planned a very nice field trip for Saturday, to Flourisant Fossil Beds, Garden of the Gods, and a very pretty old mission church in Colorado Springs.  We also had an afternoon field trip out Highway 74 where we saw some elk up close, including a bull elk with fabulous antlers, still in velvet.  The pictures for the field trips are not edited yet, but will turn up in future posts.

Courtney’s graduation ceremony was at the Red Rocks Ampitheater.  The photo above shows the grads walking in — no, really, they are there! — lined up at the top of the rim, and walking down along the stairs at the far edge of the crowd.  Red Rocks is a natural sedementary outcrop of red sandstone in the hogbacks range of the foothills of Denver.  The ampitheater hosts concerts as well as graduations and is completely open-air.  Access to the seating area is Really Bad for handicapped people.  They should fix that, but there doesn’t seem to be any inclination to do it.  My parents were stuck in the handicapped parking area for an hour waiting for the ONE (4-seater!) handicapped van to take them to the handicapped entrance.  We are all very anxious for them. 

Eventually the graduating class (about 350) ended up seated right in front of us (and Mom and Dad with Mike and Yvonne in the handicapped section in front of them.)  Above is a view of the stage, anc I know you can’t see Courtney, but she’s standing up in the back row of the choir — they were recognizing grads who had received scholarship awards at the colleges they were going to attend.  The day was quite warm and the sun was quite strong, and there were loads of people at the ceremony, which was longer than Becky’s college graduation.  I’d found a sunscreen that doesn’t cause me hives, and wore John’s outbacker sun hat, so escaped burning — just was a little wilted. We are all proud and happy for Courtney and wishing her the best at Wittenberg University in Ohio, where she’s going to study biology.

Red Rocks is stunning (when you are not broiling in the sun) and someday I hope to get to a concert there.  I have more photos of Red Rocks to come — we went to the park with Celia and Mike and Mom the day before, and also saw Dinosaur Ridge (real honest to gosh dinosaur tracks!!!). 

Over all, this trip was good, but I had hopes that I would come out of it feeling less heartbroken, and that didn’t happen.  Or at least more centered, and that didn’t happen either.  I still feel like I have a hole in my soul and a wound in my guts.  Maybe that’s how it will be, and I guess I will learn to cope.

 This post will close with a photo of Celia and Mike, from the 27th — when the weather was still pretty cool.  Celia and Mike are good friends — and musicians and gardeners — from Maryland.


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