Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Palm Tree Fingers

As I said before, the Osa Peninsula has no shortage of magical subjects to photograph. And when I saw these palm tree "fingers" I was completely intrigued by their other-worldliness. I know this will show my age, but they remind me of something straight out of the Dark Crystal (weird movie from my childhood).

The "fingers" are actually adventitious roots and the thing I found so visually interesting was the abrupt way they start on the trunk of the tree.

The base of these trees always reminds me of a woman wearing a dress with a big bustle.  It seems that, just like the women who used to wear those dresses, it is difficult for the trees to move around.  This particular tree below, however, appears to be gliding along just fine on her dress of adventitious roots.  I imagine her dancing partner to be the sun and she slowly moving towards him.

The "fingers" below are slightly grotesque but also beautiful at the same time.  I always think, "If I were a sculptor, how would I try to make this?  How much work would it be to make all those fingers?!"  These roots are really stunning when you think about it like that.

The tree below had a nice big "bustle".

Some of the roots seemed extra "hairy." The straw-colored fibers below added even more drama to this rich landscape of texture and color.

I also love the photo below because it captured the three distinct textures of this tree.

I was trying to figure out what it is about these images that intrigues me so much and I think, aside from the repetition (which you know I love), it is the dramatic transition from one form to another. Each texture is amazing all by itself, but when put next to another something marvelous occurs in the contrast.  There is an alchemy in their juxtaposition that creates a visceral, palpable tension.  You can feel this tension where the ocean meets the desert or where the mountains reach the plains.  I believe these places of tension are where the magic lies, where one form gives way to another...they are places of utter transformation.

"Indifference is isolation. In difference is texture and wonder." -Edwin Schlossberg

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

¡Vamos a la Playa!

The Osa Peninsula is a wild and wonderful place and I was lucky enough one day to spend time aimlessly meandering along the beach at Morgan's Jungle Lodge.  I love spending time like this.  I like to go off by myself and be lead by whatever catches my eye.  I might spend thirty seconds or twenty minutes at a single tree...but I am free to do so.  And whenever I allow myself this magical time I am never disappointed.  In fact, you will have to bear with me because I had a terrible time trying to limit the number of images for this post.

As I wandered along the beach that day I felt bombarded by the amazing colors and textures I came across. The first image in this post is of a rotting, sand-covered coconut I found on the beach.  I was blown away its color and texture.

The immature coconut below also caught my eye.  Where the above image seems very loud, this image seems very quiet to me and the green nut seems like it is practically glowing.

I won't comment on every image, but I love the photo below.  Something about the contrast between the colorful, lively coconut halves and the moonrock in the background makes me happy.

The next few images are chock full of beautiful Costa Rican texture. 

Most of the time I don't move things around when I am taking photos.  But I really liked the shape and color of these immature coconuts so I put them on a stone bench to photograph them.  As I was arranging them a large troop of at least thirty white-faced Capuchin monkeys was passing by overhead.  I could see them looking down at me wondering what I was doing.  

I don't know much about the geology of the area but many of the rocks had holes in them.  I thought it was interesting that it wasn't just one kind of rock, but both the orange and grey rocks had them.

I took so many picture of old root stumps that I couldn't include them all here.  But here are two of my favorites.

I also got a little carried away by photographing tree nubs.  I love the character of each of them.

The image above is of an almond tree fruit.  The scarlet macaws love this fruit and were all over the place squawking and making a ruckus.  The photo below is of a carapace of some kind of colorful lobster.

I also became quite enamored with the absurdly beautiful wood grains I found.  The bodies of these trees felt incredibly smooth and muscular. I couldn't help but run my hand over them.

And check out the wood grain pattern on the images below.  They looked like topo maps!

The subject of purposeless walking has been in the news of late and I hope that everyone who reads this will take the time to try it.  Don't try and combine it with exercising or making phone calls or texting...just take some real time for yourself.  And if you truly wander aimlessly you never know where you will end up!

“Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy.

There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.”
― Charlotte Eriksson

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Costa Rican Curiosities

After leaving the rainforest at Bijagual we drove south along the Talamanca mountain range to reach our second destination, El Mirador de Quetzales.  This adorable group of cabanas sits high in the mountains and not only has a spectacular mountain view but also offers incredible views of a variety of hummingbirds (check out Christina's photo here) and of course the elusive quetzal.  I was also quite taken by the blues, greens and pinks of their incredibly prolific succulents!

Below you can see our charming little cabins.

There is also a really nice trail on the property.  We woke up early and took a hike with their guide to find quetzals.  We only saw one on our hike but luckily one flew right next to the restaurant before lunch.  The photo below hardly captures how pretty the light was on that day in this mountain forest.  It was really quite magical and I felt like it was the perfect place for Costa Rican gnomes to live.

As you can see by this photo of the students, it was cold!  I didn't expect to be cold on this trip but the temperature can dip quite low in the mountains.

You can't really tell from this picture, but the ginger-colored moth below was as big as my hand.

After one night in the mountains we drove southward to the Osa Peninsula to Morgans' Jungle Lodge.  On our first day there we visited the Osa Interactive Gardens where they give a butterfly hike.  We got to go in and get a sneak peak at their tree houses in the mariposario (butterfly house).

One of my favorite tours on the Osa is of the organic chocolate farm Finca Kobo.  The farm not only grows chocolate but also a variety of interesting fruits and vegetables.  Part of the discussion on that day was about plant defenses and you couldn't find a better example than the tree below.  Those thorns were about the length of my pinky!

I also had to include a photo of the pichichillo fruit (Solanum mammosum) because it is so bizarre looking.  Wikipedia said it has many "colorful names," including nipplefruit and "Apple of Sodom." The fruit is also a member of the nightshade family, is related to tomatos, and is poisonous if ingested.

I couldn't resist sneaking in another Cecropia leaf image because I love the lines and shape of its leaves!  But this tree also has an interesting story.  Cecropia trees are myrmecophytes.  That is, they have a mutually beneficial relationship with ants.  In this case the ants protect the tree from being eaten by other animals (and from encroaching vines and plants) and the tree provides food and shelter for the ants.  George told me that if you bang on the tree the ants will come swarming out to protect it and if you squish them (which you shouldn't) they smell like bleu cheese.

I am still a mammalogist at heart and one of my absolute favorite mammal sightings on the trip is always the two-toed sloth.  We were lucky on this trip to have one right in the middle of campus.  I have a VERY high tolerance for watching them through the scope even though they barely move.  But every time there is a little stretch or the slightest adjustment I ooooh and aaaah. This one looked like a wet wooky because it rained really hard the night before he was spotted.

Although the sloth is a mighty strange creature (did you know they only come down from the treetops to defecate?), the squirrel monkey below wins the title of  the most curious of all creatures on this trip.  Because not only was she a baby squirrel monkey name Georgie that just took a grape from my hand...

but SHE LIKED TO RIDE DOGS!!!  This adorable little monkey was being rehabbed and was allowed the run of the entire house, inside and out.  Two dogs also live on the property and she would run around and hop on them like they were a horse.  The dogs didn't seem to think it was unusual and actually seemed to enjoy it.  I have never seen anything so cute!

The last day of our trip we visited the oxcart factory of Eloy Alfaro in Sarchi.  I love the beautifully decorated oxcarts and wheels.  The oxcarts were originally used to transport coffee from the growing fields to the coast.

The wheel below was about eight feet in diameter. 

Every time I go to Costa Rica I am always surprised by something new.  Although this trip was not without its difficulties (delayed flights, lack of sleep, and constipation just to name a few), it is always a grand adventure.  Even when I am exhausted and my stomach hurts and we have been on the bus for six hours I can hardly stand to let my eyes close because I LOVE to look out the window...just to see what I can see.    

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. " - Albert Einstein