Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Best Walk in Austin

I do believe I live in one of the prettiest parts of Texas. For just a street away from ours is a greenbelt that extends for miles and miles into the center of Austin. This greenbelt was the main attraction that convinced us that we were choosing the correct house to live in. And it has certainly not disappointed.

A short walk from home brings us to a little stream that often completely dries up during hot summer months. So most of the time we can skip over the rocks and cross over into the greenbelt and start our hike. It has been raining heavily in Austin this winter though, and so the little stream is now a swelling river! We could still have waded across, but we took a longer, drier route into the greenbelt some days ago.

A short distance down the trail there is a "waterfall". There is never much water here, and though the pool below the fall has always had at least a little water, it's usually dry enough to sit on the rocks above and watch the pool. So imagine our surprise when we saw this pretty waterfall that completely stopped us from crossing!

This beautiful greenbelt has a network of trails where one can easily get lost. So there is always another route that we can take if there's a problem with one of them. Instead of crossing over the fall as we usually do, we continued on this side of the stream and followed the trail further.

We were in the shade, but the setting sun lit up the trees across the stream from us, and their reflection in the still water was breathtaking.

We soon came to a second, more shallow waterfall where the water going over the smooth rock sheets was transparent as glass, then exploded like crystal as it fell on the rocks below.

We continued on the trail, and followed the sound of the water falling as it tripped over gnarled tree roots exposed by the force of the stream.

Further along, the setting sun lit up the foliage and its reflection marked the water like liquid gold.

We had by then walked for an hour and a half, following the stream, and the sound of the water falling.

It was getting dark, and so we stopped at this point where there was a deep, clear pool of water beneath us, and flat rocks along the stream. A perfect campsite ... and so close to home! Much as we wanted to continue along this endless trail, we decided to stop since it was rapidly getting dark. As we headed back home, we decided we would be back here to camp.

Three hours of walking in the crisp, cool air, listening to the gurgling sounds of water ... could there be anything more serene?

As this year ends and a new one begins, I wish for you (and for me) a world filled with peace, and serene, quiet moments of delightful contemplation. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Goddess II

About a year ago I had posted a picture of a painting that I made of the Goddess Kali. She is a powerful and ferocious Goddess in Hinduism, and is worshiped as the destroyer of evil. Goddesses are usually displayed as beautiful, soft and feminine, but Kali is the embodiment of all that is powerful within us, and I like her portrayal as a warrior - one who will fight evil and destroy it.

My plan was to make a series of three Goddesses in this partial-Madhubani style. Kali was my first choice since her portrayal is so dramatic and interesting. She stands on her consort, Lord Shiva, holds in her hand the severed head of one of the villians she has killed, sits on a tigress and holds in her hands all sorts of weapons. Here's that painting again -

I recently finished the second Goddess painting, and chose Saraswati this time, the Goddess of learning. In complete contrast to Kali, Saraswati is serene and smiling, bestowing intelligence and wisdom on us. She is clad in white, and stands on a white lotus, with a peacock as her companion.

It was a lot more difficult to make this painting interesting ... I struggled with the colors, and though I initially wanted to go with a completely different color scheme, I ended up again in the realm of earth colors, which I seem to always gravitate towards ...

Here she is -

I haven't decided on the next Goddess for this series. Am currently distracted with pottery, as you saw in my previous post. So it might be another year before I produce the 3rd Goddess!

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Experiments in Pottery - 1

I took a pottery class this semester, and we are almost done for the year. The last time I took a class in pottery, it was a fully wheel-thrown, short class. I was also working full-time, so couldn't spend much time practicing.

So I took a class again this semester. This time I mostly learned hand-building, and it was so much fun! Slab pots, coil pots, pinch pots and so on ...

I did try one on the wheel to see if I remembered anything from the previous class several years ago. The result was yet another lopsided pot that I glazed a bright blue. :)

One of my first attempts at making a slab pot was this mug. The glazing left some uncovered spots, and I'm not sure how to fix that. So I won't be drinking tea from it as I'd hoped, but it will make a nice cactus-holder!

This coil pot I made just a couple weeks ago, and I think this is the one that turned out closest to what I wanted to do with it, so I quite like it. I've not quite decided what I'll do with it. It was going to be a fruit holder, but now I'm not sure.

Before glazing -

Glazed and finished, waiting for an identity ...

I have a bunch more that I am finishing up. So parts 2 and 3 will feature more experiments. I'm still very unclear about glazing techniques, and need a lot more practice. So please feel free to give me suggestions and comments.

Take care!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Texas Capitol

Back to the blog world after more than a month ... thanks to those who sent me notes over this time asking if I was ok and saying I was missed. It was nice to know I have you as blog-friends. :)

It's just been very busy here with various activities. I'm back for now, and am looking forward to visiting my favourite blogs and seeing what you have been up to.

The photo club that I'm a member of is putting together an exhibit for the Austin Airport, which will go up in January. The theme for this exhibit is "Looking Up." For this I wanted to photograph the dome of the State Capitol from below, and so went over to the Capitol building several times. Once I got there I realized what an interesting place it is to photograph. I wandered around taking lots of pictures.

The dome is so beautiful seen from below! It took a lot of tries to get a perfectly symmetric picture of it, and this one was selected for the Airport exhibit.

Here is another angle - not symmetric, but with more depth.

The House of Representatives has a beautiful ceiling, with ornate carvings. This picture was also selected for the Airport exhibit.

Even the stairway is a great subject to photograph!

Walking outside, I turned around for one last shot, looking up, at the building against the blue sky.

In case I'm not able to post again before Thanksgiving, have a wonderful holiday, with your family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 25, 2009

New pots for my cacti?

I have joined a pottery class! I took a class on wheel-thrown pottery some years ago, and learned just enough to know that I have a LOT to learn about this, and to know that I really enjoy it.

That first time around I made a series of lopsided pots that are serving time now as holders for my cactus plants.

This blue-green trio usually sits on my kitchen window sill and adds some crooked cheer to that space.

We learned to make all kinds of pots, using one color of clay and two.

My pots are really thick-walled and quite small. I really like playing with clay though, and have been wanting to get better at it.

So since then I've been looking for a chance to take another class, and finally the stars aligned this semester to allow this chance. I have been making pinch pots and pieces using coils and slabs. None of the pieces is finished yet though.

I will get on the wheel next week and see if I remember anything. Only time will tell if I will end up with more crooked pots for my cacti or if the pieces will find other purposes in life. In the meantime I am having lots of fun with this, and keeping really busy.

Hope all is well with you!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Texas Mandrone, Some Desert Critters and a Strange Storm

All over the Guadalupe Mountains National Park area in Texas, we found this gorgeous little tree, the Texas Madrone. This tree is a native of Texas, and has the most gorgeous red bark I've ever seen. This particular tree was near the wash area of our campsite, and I spent a lot of time one evening photographing it lit up with light from the setting sun.

It's deep red and orange-brown bark peels off in thin sheets, exposing the light green surface underneath. The contrast of red and green was so beautiful!

I was standing under the tree with my camera, trying my best to hold still to take slow speed shots, when I saw a tiny movement on the branch near my face. It turned out to be this showy little catterpillar. It looked so pretty, its bright green colors blending well with the reds and greens around it.

Later on, on one of the trails we spotted this pair. They were pretty tiny, and so cute and colorful! I have no idea what kind of insects they are. Just haven't had the time to read up on it. Any clues?

On our drive back from this trip to the Guadalupe Mountains, we experienced the wide open Texas skies. It was very hot, but it was also beautiful in a stark and rugged way.

We also had the oddest experience with this tiny little storm. I have never seen anything like it before, though it probably is common in this part of the world. Though it was generally bright and sunny, there was this one cloud to the left of the highway that was darker than the rest. And there were sheets of rain coming down from it on to the ground directly below. It was moving towards the highway, and kicking up a lot of dust too. We could feel the force of the wind, and drove faster to get out of its way.

This wasn't the only one - we saw more small rain clouds like this a couple more times on this 9 hour drive back to East Texas.

As it got dark, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw this - the sun setting in the West, on the Guadalupe Mountains, as we sped away from it back home to the East.

Have a great week.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Desert Sunrise & the Roof of Texas

It turns out Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas is in the Mountain Time Zone. Just two hours east of there, we get back to Central Time. We didn't know this on our first night there, and set our little watch alarm for 6:30am, hoping to hit the trail early.

When the alarm went off (5:30am locally), it was still pitch dark. So we lay partially awake in the tent and waited. It was very pleasant after the rains of the previous night, and so I wasn't in any hurry to get up.

Soon however, it started getting light and I opened the tent flap and peeped out to see this -

I quickly pulled out my camera and scrambled out of the tent. No one else was up in the campsite, and I watched the fiery red sunrise as light slowly spread through the sky.

After taking these pictures, I quickly went in to wash up. In the short time I was in there, the strong desert sun had come out and all the red was gone from the sky. We could feel the heat rapidly taking over. So after a hurried breakfast, we started on an 8.5 mile RT hike to the roof of Texas - Guadalupe Peak.

There was literally no shade on the trail. It was dry and hot, but at 8:30am there still was a soft breeze that made the walk pleasant.

The trail led steadily uphill via switchbacks, and we quickly got higher up in elevation.

The view got better and better with each turn.

Little lizards darted under rocks as we approached, and desert insects kept up a steady chirping as the sun climbed higher into the sky. Bright red flowers peeped out cheerfully at intervals from the rocky landscape, relieving the monotony.

It took us about two hours to get to the top. Guadalupe Peak, at 8751 feet, is the highest point in Texas. The view from the top was lovely, and it was quiet and serene. We were the first people up there on this day, though we saw a dozen more people heading up as we made our way down.
We didn't stay long though, because it was too hot to sit out there under the sun.

The weekend is here again. Aren't the days just flying by?! Have a good one.