Happy New Year

Monarch Butterfly, Horicon Marsh, WI

Monarch Butterfly, Horicon Marsh, WI

May you find the tender leaves of hope

wherever you turn in this new year.

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

Line one: William Shakespeare, King Henry VIII (1613)

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Wishing you this holiday season…

 

Lioness, Africa

Lioness, Africa

 

 

Time to relax,

 

 

 

 

Otter, Alaska

Otter, Kenai, Alaska

and enjoy~~

 

 

 

 

Denali, Alaska

Denali, Alaska

Plenty of beauty on your path,

 

 

 

 

Elephants, Tanzania, Africa

Elephants, Tanzania, Africa

lots of love,

 

 

 

 

Purple Finch, California

Purple Finch, California

health,

 

 

 

 

 

Kangaroos, Australia

Kangaroos, Australia

and hoppin’ good times.

 

 

 

 

 

Elegant Trogon, Mexico

Elegant Trogon, Mexico

Happy Holidays, my friends, and many thanks for your valuable friendship~~

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

 

 

 

 

Golden Gate GraveyardA good last minute gift is a digital e-book, and I know just the one — it’s hot off the press, suspenseful, and written by someone you know. Also available in paperback.

Purchase from the publisher or Amazon or any major online book retailer.

 

Rock Hyrax

Lilac-breasted Roller, Africa

Lilac-breasted Roller, Africa

One day years ago we were traveling through northern Kenya, not far from the border of Somalia.

 

We were isolated, on dirt roads, en route to our next lodge when our driver  heard that a different tour bus ahead of us had come upon bandits.

 

The unlucky tourists had stopped on the side of the road, were looking at something, and subsequently robbed.

 

We were warned we were not going to be making any stops until we reached our next lodge, except for one bathroom pit-stop. They assured us we would be fine, but no dallying was the strong message.

 

Eventually we stopped for our bathroom break, privately dispersed behind the rocks. The guides watched for suspicious travelers while we hurried.

 

I was there behind a rock when a terrifying, shrill scream erupted.

 

I didn’t know what to do. So I waited a minute, heard nothing more. Then I peered out from behind the boulder, shaking and rattled, ready and resolved to surrender my precious wedding band and binoculars.

 

But the only vehicle there was ours, and my safari mates were calmly filing back into it.

 

Back on the road, my heart still pounding, I asked what that horrible scream was. That’s when I learned what a rock hyrax was.

 

Rock Hyrax. Photo B. Torrissen, courtesy Wikipedia

Soft, furry creatures, the wee size of a guinea pig.

 

Procavia capensis live in rocky outcroppings in Africa and the Middle East (see range map below).

 

A small mammal, the rock hyrax have a hearty diet. They eat quickly, never lingering long.

 

Leopard, Africa

Leopard, Africa

There is a good reason they hide inside rocks and don’t linger, they have many predators:  wild cats, like leopard, as well as hawks, owls, and eagles.

 

Cobras, puff adders, pythons, and wild dogs also hunt them.

 

Egyptian Cobra, Africa

Egyptian Cobra, Africa

More rock hyrax info here.

 

The rock hyrax have many tools for survival, including more than 20 different vocalizations.

 

They communicate within their large colonies with growls, twitters, whistles, and songs. When the sentry senses danger they scream and shriek.

 

Apparently I was the perceived danger.

 

Hyrax Family.jpg

Rock Hyrax. Photo: Siegmund K.M., courtesy Wikipeida

Click here for the shriek.

 

What a crazy little animal. Small body, ferocious scream. I was glad we were not accosted by bandits, but I could’ve used a gentler introduction.

 

Rock Hyrax area.png

Rock Hyrax Range Map, courtesy Wikipedia

Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified

 

 

 

Golden Gate GraveyardHere’s my newly released novel. Suspense that will rock you.

Click here to purchase or at Amazon or any other major book retailer.

 

The Mission Dolores Cemetery, San Francisco

Mission Dolores, San Francisco

Mission Dolores, San Francisco

The oldest building in San Francisco, the Mission San Francisco de Asis, more commonly known as Mission Dolores, was built in San Francisco in 1776.

 

In the back, behind a white adobe wall, is the old cemetery. It is one of the quietest spots in this urban sprawl.

 

Between 1769 and 1833, 21 Spanish missions  were established by Franciscan priests throughout what was later to become the state of California. The sixth mission to be founded was the San Francisco one. The missions were the origins of the state’s communities.

 

Mission San Francisco De Asís

Old Mission on left, Basilica on right. Photo: Robert A. Estremo, courtesy Wikipedia.

More information about the missions.

 

The old San Francisco Mission has a small chapel, museum, cemetery, and tiny gift shop; the basilica next door hosts regular Catholic church services. As a city, state, and national historical landmark, it is also a popular destination for tour buses.

 

Original adobe walls, inside the Mission Dolores

Original adobe walls, inside the Mission Dolores

History of Mission Dolores here.

 

Mission Dolores, 1856. Courtesy Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

The chapel is popular and interesting, decorated and devoted. But it is busy with tourists and sounds echo.

 

Chapel interior. Courtesy Wikipedia

The cemetery, however, is hushed–with old rose bushes, palm trees, birds, and vibrant sunshine. This is where I like to be.

 

There are only two cemeteries in San Francisco, this tiny plot is one of them. It was originally much bigger.

 

Mission Dolores Cemetery

Mission Dolores Cemetery

Today the earthquake-rippled sidewalks still lead you down a path of centuries-old gravestones. It holds the markers of San Francisco’s pioneers, leaders, old residents. There is also a revered sculpture of Father Junipero Serra.

 

I like to linger here among the broken graves with worn-off names, quietly listening to the sound of the chickadee singing overhead, feeling the penetrating warmth of the sun.

 

Mission Dolores Cemetery

Mission Dolores Cemetery

Sometimes I think about the people who shaped this city, sometimes I think about Alfred Hitchcock who filmed a scene from “Vertigo” right here, and sometimes I wonder how long it will be before my parking time runs out.

 

Photo credit: Jet Eliot unless otherwise specified

 

Golden Gate GraveyardYou can read more about Mission Dolores in my newly released mystery novel. Purchase here or at Amazon or any other major book retailer.

 

 

The Lights of Seattle’s Great Wheel

Seattle's Great Wheel, candy canes during holidays

Seattle’s Great Wheel, candy canes during holidays

Seattle’s Great Wheel greets residents and visitors every night in a dazzling salute. There are 500,000 LED lights embellishing this ferris wheel, adorning the skyline for miles.

 

Perched on the shoreline at Pier 57, it stands 175 feet (53.3 m) high, and extends 40 feet (12.2 m) over the waters of Elliott Bay.

 

The Seattle Great Wheel

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

The ferris wheel is open for riding year round and in all weather, click here.

 

There is one man who lights up the Wheel:  Gerry Hall. He is in charge of the lights, including repairing broken ones (they repel down the ferris wheel).

 

While his job title is General Manager, and light displays were not originally under the job description, he took an interest in the lights and started programming designs as a hobby. He creates the mesmerizing light design from his laptop in his living room.

 

Seattle and the Puget Sound

Seattle and the Puget Sound

The displays have become more sophisticated and elaborate over the four years since the Wheel was constructed, with flashing, swirling, and even messages. There are holiday themes, like the candy canes pictured here, and other Seattle-based themes.

 

Home football light shows are a big hit, including a recent time-lapsed spelling of S-e-a-h-a-w-k-s, proud Seattle’s National Football League team. Just last week I was watching a Seahawks game when they showed the Great Wheel radiating blue and green (team colors) with a flashing football spinning in the center.

 

More images here.

 

He receives requests of all kinds, and in a recent interview said that “gender reveals” are a current favorite. Couples expecting a baby who do not know the gender yet, stand in view of the Wheel. Their doctor or friend find out the gender, call it in to Mr. Hall, and pink or blue flashes up for the expecting couple.

Image result for seattle great wheel ferris wheel images

Photo: Geoff Vlcek, Courtesy My Modern Met

I once arrived in Seattle by boat at night, having come from Victoria. Glowing purple lights adorned the entire Wheel, bejeweling the waters below.

 

It was a passionate greeting saying, “Welcome to this spirited city.”

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified.

 

Golden Gate GraveyardLight up your life with my newly-released mystery novel. Purchase here or at Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Edge of the Sea

Western Gull

Western Gull

To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and the flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.
~~Rachel Carson, Under the Sea-Wind (1941)

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

Golden Gate GraveyardMy new mystery novel will keep you on the edge of your seat. Purchase here.

 

 

Remembering Pearl Harbor Day

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

It was 75 years ago today when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, launching the United States into World War II.

 

I visited this Hawaiian harbor last month.  Headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and still a U.S. naval station, it was fortunately much quieter than “the day that will live in infamy.”

 

USS Arizona, Oahu

USS Arizona, Oahu

On December 7, 1941, the United States was hit by an extensive Japanese surprise aerial attack on Oahu, Hawaii. An initial wave of 183 Japanese aircraft, launched from six aircraft carriers, attacked the U.S. naval base.  A half hour later a second wave of 167 aircraft stormed in.

 

Within 90 minutes 2,403 Americans were killed, 1,178 were wounded.

 

Here the USS Arizona battleship was bombed and sunk.  It violently exploded, tearing the ship in half, instantly entombing 1,177 military people on board.

1930’s, USS Arizona. Courtesy US Navy, Wikipedia.

 

USS Arizona, sinking, on Dec. 7, 1941. Courtesy Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

 

Today you can take a navy boat shuttle across the peaceful harbor waters to the site of the memorial.

 

Inside the USS Arizona

Inside the USS Arizona

Built in 1962 and designed by Alfred Preis, the 184-foot-long (56 m) memorial straddles the battleship’s sunken hull. Visitors arriving by boat cross a walkway bridge and enter a large, open-air room.

 

Here you experience the whipping Pacific winds and see through an opening in the floor to the sunken battleship below where over 1,100 people lost their lives.

Diagram of the sunken USS Arizona and white (vertical, center) memorial

Diagram of the sunken USS Arizona and white (vertical, center) memorial

USS Arizona beneath the Memorial. Photo: J. Pastoric, USN. Courtesy Wikipeida.

 

 

 

 

 

In the next room is a sobering shrine, a marble wall inscribed with the names of the Arizona’s honored dead. “The Tree of Life” resides here too, it symbolizes rebirth and renewal.

 

On shore is a modern visitor center with many exhibits and displays.

 

Base of the gun turret on USS Arizona

Base of the gun turret on USS Arizona

Read more about the memorial here, and U.S. Park and visitor center here.

 

I found this moving memorial another striking reminder of the beauty of peace.

 

pearl-harbor-75-aniversary
Photo credit: Athena Alexander (unless otherwise specified)

 

 

 

My recently released mystery novel, available for purchase here.

Golden Gate Graveyard