I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Urban poetry

I love the paint job in this alley in downtown Vancouver.

I think I've learned my lesson about scheduling trips to California in November -- I am 1 for 4 in the past several years. Either I'm sick or one or more of my friends is sick, or both; the fact that for the past two years there have been horrific wildfires is also a factor. I know so many people who yet again have been forced to evacuate without warning; many of those who are still in their homes have been subject to days of blackouts.

So I'm not heading west on Saturday. I will probably take a short trip elsewhere but haven't decided yet.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's another black and white planet -- the far side of Pluto as photographed by New Horizons in 2015. The dim sunlight highlights Pluto's surprisingly complex atmosphere.

Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Institute

Monday, October 28, 2019

Welcome to the working week

Workmen seen from the High Line last week.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday bird blogging

Not a great photo, but this is a rare sighting -- or at least, a rare sighting for West 45th Street. I smiled at a group of house sparrows picking through the garbage and dead leaves near a construction site, and then noticed that one of the sparrows was a little strange looking -- greenish rather than brown.

There are plenty of ovenbirds in Central Park this time of year, but you don't usually see them on the sidewalks of Hell's Kitchen. (You usually don't see any birds on the streets of Manhattan except for house sparrows, starlings and pigeons.) I assume he found his way back to the park eventually, or maybe he just decided to see a little more of the city, maybe take in a show, until it was time to resume his journey south.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Saturday reflections

Here's a flashback to July, and the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria.

Dr. Grenfell

There are more feet than shoes in many families in Labrador, and we are frequently called upon to amputate legs which have been frozen.
Wilfred Grenfell, The Northern Lights

I've been haunted by that line since I first read it, at the Grenfell Center in St. Anthony. By that point I had no illusions about how hard life in Newfoundland and Labrador has been for most of its history. Every old cemetery was full of headstones testifying to the dangers of making a living on the ocean --  Drowned Age 16, Drowned Age 19, Drowned Age 30 -- and there were monuments to more spectacular tragedies, shipwrecks and seal hunters trapped on ice floes, that killed hundreds. And I'm sure all that hardship is part of the reason that so much of Newfoundlander culture seems like a celebration, the bright colors and rollicking music and dry humor and cookbooks celebrating 100 ways to cook bologna.

I'd never heard of Dr. Wilfred Grenfell until we visited St. Anthony, although his life was monumental by any standard. And I realize that's part of what I love so much about travel. It's not just getting to see beautiful scenery and historic sites and being able to brag that you've eaten crocodile or camel or kangaroo (or, if you happen to be in Newfoundland, fish and brewis or moose with honey and garlic.) But there are so many stories you'll never hear unless you seek them out, in a small museum full of the relics of lives past, or in the reminiscences of a tour guide or a waitress or the woman sitting next to you on the bus who asks where you're from.

Grenfell first came to Newfoundland as a medical missionary in 1892, and he made it his life's work, first with hospital ships visiting coastal towns once a year, then with establishing hospitals in the larger towns in Labrador and northern Newfoundland, followed by schools and orphanages and cooperatives. He died in 1940, but the Grenfell Association operated until 1981, when a governmental agency took over all of the operational responsibility.

He was as tough as the people he served -- in 1908, he was traveling by dog sled to operate on a sick boy and crashed through the ice while taking a short cut crossing a bay. He and the dogs managed to swim to an ice pan, where they were trapped without food or water or dry clothes. He survived for two days by killing and skinning three of the dogs to make a makeshift fur coat and dealt with his thirst by chewing a rubber band. After he was rescued his feet were so badly frostbitten he couldn't walk but he still managed to perform that urgent surgery, successfully, two days later.

That little Grenfell doll is in his house in St. Anthony which is now a museum. And there's a plaque there in memory of the three dogs -- Moody, Watch and Spy -- who died on the ice.

And with that story, I'm leaving Newfoundland. There are a few more random photos that may show up at some point, but I'm heading west next weekend and it's time to wrap this up before I have new stories to tell.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Urban poetry

A parking lot in Gander. I was amused and bemused by the large stones marking the boundary between two parking lots, though they certainly do the job and I guess you use what you've got.

We stopped there for lunch. It was raining and we only saw the main streets, a disappointment to the many fans of Come from Away on the tour. But you could tell right away that this was a place where they had been used to strangers passing through, both at the big airport that used to be the main stopping point for refueling on transatlantic flights, and military bases outside of town. There were chain stores and every fast food chain you can name, which I didn't see anywhere else on the island except for the extreme outskirts of St. John's.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

More random things I saw in Newfoundland

Finishing up: a tepee on the beach at Point Riche, a fish flake (the frame for drying cod) in Bonavista, the church in Woody Point, and some fabulous geology near the Bonavista Lighthouse.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Random things I saw in Newfoundland

Some bright colors in Twillingate.

Astronomy Tuesday

Ordinarily I wouldn't post another Saturn image but I couldn't possibly resist this one from Cassini: an array of moons.

Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, NASA

Monday, October 21, 2019

More Maritime seating

I love how this pair at Norstead look like the Viking version of the usual chairs.

Maritime seating

These colorful chairs (the same ones on the harbor in Halifax) were everywhere in Newfoundland. I'm guessing that most of them come inside when summer's over.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday bird blogging

A gull checks out the offerings left by the receding tide in St. Anthony, and then takes off with something good.

Saturday, October 19, 2019


Even on our last morning, we visited a museum before heading to the airport. The Insectarium in Deer Lake has a hive of bees (under glass so you watch them dance when they come back from a flower run and tell the other bees where the flowers are), ants and spiders, and a room full of butterflies. I am always a sucker for butterflies.

Saturday reflections

Newfoundland is undeniably photogenic -- almost ridiculously so -- but there weren't a lot of reflections there. This view of St. Anthony harbor before we went whale watching will do though.

I'm almost finished with the Newfoundland pictures, and I'm equal parts relieved and sorry. It was a wonderful trip -- stunning scenery, congenial companions, good food, and fascinating history that I knew very little about -- but it has consumed most of my free time for weeks now. I'm going to see Come from Away tomorrow, and that will be the perfect coda.

Until I can go back.

Friday, October 18, 2019

My own Antonioni moment

This building was near the Point Riche lighthouse and the beach with the caribou. I don't think I noticed the people in the background when I took the picture; I just liked the building and the boat in the distance.

But when I was cleaning and cropping, I took a closer look and it looks as though there could have been, if not a murder, at least some kind of emergency. A man seems to be lying on the ground, held up from behind by a woman. His head looks like he's slumped over. Is he sick or injured and she's trying to help him? Are they just goofing around? It's impossible to tell. There wasn't any shouting or calling for help -- I would have noticed that, and other people were around -- so I assume it wasn't too serious. But it definitely gave me a start.

Everyone has a camera now, all the time, so it's no longer a question of whether something gets photographed, it's whether we'll understand what we're looking at, like poor David Hemmings finding  that the blur in his photos of the London park was really a dead body in Blowup

Thursday, October 17, 2019

(Slightly) better look at the caribou

I wasn't able to get great pictures of the caribou because -- funny story! -- once I realized that there were caribou, I went back to the bus to get my long lens and someone closed the bus door behind me, shutting me in. It was like a scene from a sitcom, where my fellow travelers and Daphne the driver were walking past the bus and I was inside, yelling and waving my arms and pounding on the door and no one noticed me.

Port au Choix beach

We stopped for a group photo at a monument with this as a backdrop. Afterwards, I took several photos of this little building out in the middle of nowhere without noticing that the brown lumps to the left were caribou.

The name Port au Choix does not mean “Port of Choice”, by the way -- the Basque fishermen who visited in the 16th century called it Portutxoa, or Little Port. Later it was part of an area where the French had rights to fish, and the name morphed into its French soundalike.

Port au Choix

The view outside the Visitor Centre, and yet another completely new landscape in Newfoundland. This is a small peninsula on the western side of the Great Northern Peninsula, about halfway between Cow Head and St. Anthony, and looking nothing like either of them.

The barren limestone soil at Port au Choix is excellent for preserving fossils and archaeological artifacts, and they have found evidence of more than 5500 years of habitation. The Visitor Centre has interesting exhibits on what they've found and what it tells us about the indigenous peoples who lived there. One of the staff (whose name I unfortunately don't remember) gave a very interesting informal overview of the history of the First Nations in Canada who, sadly but not unsurprisingly, were treated as badly as we treated our own Native Americans.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

This beautiful star cluster, captured by Hubble, has the very unromantic name of NGC 290. An open cluster like this one, as opposed to a globular cluster, tends to be younger and so has many more bright blue stars. Since all of the stars in an open cluster were born at around the same time, astronomers find them useful for studying how stars of differing masses evolve differently.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble; Acknowledgement: E. Olzewski (U. Arizona)

Early Halloween present

These spooky trees were at the Arches park, across from the beach.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Completely unnecessary beach shot

This is the view looking up the beach from the Arches.

I realize that I have already posted dozens and dozens of pictures of the Newfoundland coastline, but I really like this one for some reason. There's that giant rock, for one thing -- too big to just ignore, but not big enough to get its own park. And the fallen tree in the foreground that I keep thinking is a dinosaur bone. And the memory of how unpleasant it was walking on that rocky shore -- medium-sized round boulders are my least favorite walking surface -- but I managed not to fall and break any bones, so I can enjoy the fact that I am sitting in New York relatively undamaged.

Arch details

The Arches

This provincial park on the coast south of St. Anthony features a large rock formation that's eroded by the waves into a series of arches.

My last lighthouse

I thought I still had one more, but it turns out I jumped ahead and posted the Point Riche lighthouse last week.

So this cute little lighthouse in St. Anthony is actually the last one.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Synchronized spouting

And one final whale shot -- two of those little fins, two blowholes, two spouts.

More bits and pieces

One of the things I find frankly adorable about humpbacks is that tiny fin on that great big humped back. And I love the barnacles on the flipper -- whale jewelry!

Now that's a mouth

Here's a good look at the mouth, with both jaws visible and the baleen inside.

Grandma, what big baleen you have!

The picture on the left is of a humpback's head, but what isn't obvious -- or at least, it wasn't, for me -- is that it's really only the upper jaw. I had to Google images of humpbacks feeding in order to make sense of the various whale body parts I saw.

If you picture a giant toilet with the seat up, the upper jaw in the picture is just the seat. Underneath the water, the lower jaw is sitting there like an enormous bowl -- you can see part of the lower jaw in the picture on the right. That gives you a much better sense of the size of the creature who is basically just poking his nose above the surface.

More bits and pieces

This is a good look at the blowhole on top of the humpback's head, and the baleen inside its mouth that filters all the water out as it feeds, leaving the yummy fish.

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