“Sunflower Dreams” is now available for sale (everything from canvas prints to throw pillows, mugs, t-shirts, shower curtains and cell-phone cases, all in time for Christmas shopping) on my website. p.s. I had a 16×20 canvas print made for my own bedroom wall. http://fineartamerica.com/featured/sunflower-dreams-jennifer-crites.html?newartwork=true
Beautiful nature to brighten up the day
Right or Left? That was our choice when we arrived at Base Camp—my nickname for the concrete entryway, lined with small shops and a ticket booth—at the Great Wall of China’s Badaling section, 40 mi…
Source: Climbing China’s Great Wall
For Cee’s Black & White photo challenge: https://ceenphotography.com/cees-challenges/cees-black-white-challenge/
In a faraway land called India, a great emperor named Shah Jahan adored his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. When she died giving birth to their 14th child, he built her the most magnificent tomb in the history of the world—the Taj Mahal.
“We’ll meet at the bus at 5:30am,” our India tour guide informed us the night before. “We want to be first in line.”
Ugh! Near the front of the line, we stood in the dark for what seemed like forever, waiting for the gates to open. Luckily we were squeezed between “stand in line” railings, so I had something to lean on in my groggy condition.
When we finally entered at sunrise, all sleepiness disappeared, and we were struck by the ethereal beauty of one of the world’s most beloved edifices. Consistently named one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the ivory-white marble tomb takes your breath away when you see it up close for the first time. Its name is Persian for “Crown of Palaces,” and so it is, reigning on a marble base, or plinth, at the far end of a narrow reflecting pool, and guarded by a minaret at each corner.
The tomb was commissioned in 1632 and finished in 1643 using materials from all over Asia (white marble from India, jade and crystal from China, turquoise from Tibet, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, sapphire from Sri Lanka), and it’s thought that more than 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials. The rest of the 42-acre complex—finished between five and ten years later—includes a mosque, guesthouse and formal gardens. Total cost in 2015 U.S. dollars—$827 million. The project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects. In 1983 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India.”
Clever subterfuge: To protect the building during WWII, the Indian government erected scaffolding around it in anticipation of air attacks by the Japanese Air Force. Scaffolding was again used during the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 to mislead bomber pilots.
To this day, the Taj Mahal still stands as a symbol of love. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore poetically described it as “the tear drop on the cheek of time.” And so it was for Shah Jahan. When he died, he was laid to rest in a sarcophagus next to his beloved Mumtaz.
The troop-carrier jeep bounced along a dirt road carpeted with large potholes that looked like they’d been blown out by meteorites. I tightened my grip on side railings and those attached to the back of the seat in front of me, but still, every pothole sent me careening in four different directions. Twice, my mouth connected with the side bar, and once, while I was looking up, the bar behind my head rose up to crash into my skull.
We were in the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, on safari, looking for wild tigers. So far, we’d spotted a lot of sika and samboor deer—including two young bucks testing their fighting mettle by locking horns—and several birds. But no tigers. Where the deer were, the tigers weren’t, which makes sense from a deer’s point of view.
To give you some background, the Ranthambhore Reserve covers an area of 1334 square kilometers, was started in 1973, and is home to six species of cats, three species of mongoose and marsh crocodile, an estimated 38 species of other mammals (the deer would fit in here), 315 species of birds and 402 species of plants. Whew!
The road wound up and down, crossing streams and the aforementioned potholes, through a thickly forested underbrush area categorized as tropical dry deciduous. If the tigers had been there, we might not have been able to see them in the tall grass. I was disappointed—and a little banged up. So, to avoid the whiplash affecting my lower back, I opted out of the next morning’s safari. My husband did go, though, and we were both happy about the results. Not only did they spot a tiger, but also a marsh crocodile, monkeys, and different birds.
Tigers are king in Ranthambhore, and tiger images are everywhere, including at a craft shop known as the Village Women Crafts, where sari-clad women (sometimes with a small child nearby) sew and weave beautiful designs into wall hangings, clothing and other fabric items. It may be a woman’s craft center, but men, it seems, are the ones painting tiger images. All the work is exquisite.
Another craft center again offered the vibrantly colored fabrics India is known for, as well as camel-pulled carriage rides. It was here that a group of sassy local barely-teenage boys (the girls are much more reserved) presented themselves to me to have their picture taken, and, wanted to take their picture with me. It was a delightful international exchange, and we all had fun. For me, this is one of the big perks of travel—random exchanges between people. It helps us bond with people of other cultures—and they with us—and reminds us that we are really all the same, despite different skin colors, religions and customs.
To see the slideshow, just click on any photo and use the arrows to move back and forth.
In my previous post, I took you on a visual tour of Lake Pichola in the India city of Udaipur, district of Rajasthan.
Today we embark on an exploration of Udaipur’s City Palace, which is one of the architectural marvels of Rajasthan.
Indeed, Udaipur City Palace on the banks of Lake Pichola is the most-visited tourist attraction of Udaipur and the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. It was started in 1559 and not completed until the 18th century because each new ruler kept adding on to it using granite and marble in a surprisingly harmonious blend of Medieval, European and Chinese architecture.
Inside its walls are eleven palaces, including Manak Mahal (Ruby Palace) that features figures of crystal and porcelain, Bhim Vilas and its collection of miniature paintings, and Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). Other palaces hold Chinese and Dutch ornamental tiles, murals, wall paintings, silver art, inlay, and an amazing amount of colored glass.
There is also an arena where elephant fights were staged, and an area of marble arches where eight times, maharanas were known to weigh themselves and then distribute their weight in gold and silver to lucky locals.
In addition, there are bird cages and carrier-pigeon boxes in tower rooms; glass mosaics of peacocks representing the three seasons of summer, winter and monsoon; ubiquitous Indian scalloped arches, and towers that look out over the city on one side and Lake Pichola on the other.
Check out workers cleaning the palace walls while perched on bamboo scaffolding, which is really amazing when you remember that bamboo is a grass.
My apologies for the blurry photo of the palace gate. It was a grab shot as the bus was driving past, but I did want to show you the gate’s spikes. They were installed to prevent the enemy’s elephants from pushing through the gate.
Click on any photo below to enlarge, and then use the arrows to move back and forth. Likes and comments are always appreciated, and if you’ve been to India, I’d love to hear about your travels there.
There is a beautiful lake in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India….. Its name is Pichola.
On one side, its waters lap at the base of ancient homes; boat docks; wide concrete steps called ghats, where women come to wash their saris or string marigold garlands; and the towering fort-like walls of the City Palace. On the other side, hazy mountains seem to float in the sky.
Legend has it that the lake was created in the 15th century when a gypsy Banjara tribesman built a dam so that his livestock could cross a stream. Maharani Udai Singh II built his shining city of Udaipur around the lake in 1560, while strengthening the dam and enlarging the lake. It’s currently 3-miles long, 2-miles wide and 30-feet deep.
Within its waters are two natural islands, each supporting a palace. The white Taj Lake Palace is exclusive to guests staying at its hotel, but you can see its interior in the 1983 James Bond film “Octopussy.”
The Jag Mandir, or Lake Garden Palace, made of marble and yellow sandstone (including 8 white-marble elephants guarding the palace), was built in the 1550s as a hiding place for Prince Khurram, who became Shah Jahan—builder of the Taj Mahal. Later, Maharana Swaroop Singh sheltered several European families here during the revolt of 1867. The hotel caters to weddings and other lavish events, and the palace gardens bloom with roses, jasmine flowers, palms, frangipani and bougainvillea.
From the comfort of a marigold-draped boat, our small tour group cruised the lake and then disembarked for an exploration of Jag Mandir, where we learned that jazz legend Kenny G, who had been on our flight from Delhi to Udaipur the previous day, was scheduled to perform on the palace stage that evening.. Afterwards, we re-boarded our boat and headed back to the city proper.
I hope you enjoy the visual tour of Pichola Lake. As always, click on any photo to begin the slideshow.
I’m fascinated by English idioms. Did you know that “sweating like a pig” isn’t referring to an animal but to “pig iron,” an iron ore, as it cools? This Smithsonian article discusses some other idioms, like “once in a blue moon,” but I’d like to know if YOU have the background scoop on any idioms not listed in the article: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/05/once-in-a-blue-moon-and-other-idioms-that-dont-make-scientific-sense/?utm_source=smithsoniantopic&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20130526-Weekender
Are you married to your job? Here’s an important post we’d all do well to heed.
“I feel like I’d be less of a person, a bad employee, if I didn’t work on vacation,” says Jermaine Turner, director of current series for Walt Disney Pictures Animation in a recent BusinessWeek.com article.
Mr. Turner is not alone. A Harris Interactive study “found that 57 percent of working Americans will have unused vacation time at the end of , and most of them will leave an average of 11 days on the table – or nearly 70 percent of their allotted time off.”
That is a remarkable finding: the majority of us take less than one third of our vacation time. And on those rare occasions when we do break away, we bring work along with us. Why?
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This image depicts the merging of old and new, past and present, and the rise of plastic urbanization in the form of cars, roads and buildings. In the words of singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, “they paved Paradise, put up a parking lot.”
It was a party on wheels at the Windward Mall in Kaneohe town, Oahu, Hawaii, and all the classy guys and dolls were there—Bel Air, Mustang, Model-T, Corvette and the rest—decked out in their finest chrome, perfect paint jobs polished till you could see your reflection, and scandalous enough to permit a lingering look under the hood. My fisheye lens and I were covering the event and getting a little too close for the comfort of one four-legged partygoer who eyed me suspiciously. Anyway, the motor oil was flowing freely, and everyone was getting a little tipsy on the nostalgia. All that finery was making me a little giddy, too, and I forgot to jot down make, model and year. So I turn to you, dear reader, to help me out. Do you recognize any of the subjects in these photos?
At first brush, you might think them enemies, but, in truth, that was not the case. They didn’t hate each other. In fact, they never met. But had they met, they would have liked each other.
The Englishman signed up for the Army because he thought it was his patriotic duty to do so. Each morning, he was given 3 bullets. Each night he had to turn them in. He was captured at Dunkirk and forced to march into what was once East Germany. Many of the men with him did not survive the march.
At the prison camp, he was assigned to work in the sugar-beet fields. Often food was scarce and he relied on potato peelings and other scraps to survive. He credited the Red Cross food supplies for saving his life. There’s a photo of him with a group of men on his work gang. He looks emaciated. He had diphtheria.
Considering it also his patriotic duty, he escaped three times, was recaptured each time and sent to a new prison camp. Near the end of the war, guards deserted the camp and he made his way back to England. He’d spent five years as a prisoner in Germany, but he held no animosity toward Germans.
The German just did what he was ordered to do. He was just a boy of sixteen when he was conscripted into the German Army. Shortly thereafter he was sent to the Russian front where he was captured and sent to work as slave labor in the Siberian mines. Many of his colleagues died from the atrocious conditions. His incarceration lasted seven years.
The Englishman was my father who passed away much too soon at the age of 73. The German is now my 87-year-old neighbor. He has heart problems and cancer. They’re both fine men who went to war for their countries.
This Memorial Day, I remember them and all other brave members of the armed forces, living and dead, who sacrificed. And I pray for a miracle: that one day we will all become enlightened enough that the world will have no more need of wars.
The history of Mother’s Day goes way back. In early Egypt, the goddess Isis was regarded as Mother of the Pharaohs and honored in an annual festival. Romans also celebrated the Isis festival—with mostly female dancers, singers and musicians—but they also revered Cybele (Rhea) as the mother of all the major gods, including Zeus.
From goddess moms to real moms: In 1600AD England, Mothering Day was established by clerical decree as a compassionate holiday for working-class mothers during which, servants and trade workers were allowed to travel back to their towns of origin to visit their families, who gave them cakes and flowers.
Original English settlers to the U.S. discontinued Mothering Day, probably because they were preoccupied with survival in the new, harsh land. In 1870, however, Julia Ward Howe, author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood, after seeing the futility of sons killing the sons of other mothers during the Civil War. She even proposed converting July 4 into Mother’s Day as a dedication to peace, but eventually settled on June 2.
When Howe stopped funding the celebrations, most of them languished, but the seeds had taken root. On May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place in a West Virginia church. By 1909, 46 states were holding Mother’s Day services, and the idea had spread to Canada and Mexico. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Today, more than 70 countries observe Mother’s Day in varied styles:
• In Argentina, groups of children circle their mothers and read them poetry.
• In France, after WWI, mothers received medals: bronze for 4-5 children, silver for 6-7, and gold for 8 or more. Today a common gift is a cake shaped like a bouquet of flowers.
• In India, Hindus honor their divine mother, Durga, during a 10-day fest.
• In Japan, since WWII, children enter drawings of their mothers in an art contest held every 4 years. Winning drawings tour through Japan and other countries to celebrate mothers and peace.
• In Mexico, mothers are treated to a song sung by their families, or a serenade by a hired band.
• In Ethiopia, mothers and daughters anoint themselves on the face and chest with butter.
• In Italy, there’s a big feast and a cake in the shape of a heart.
• In Sweden, the Swedish Red Cross sells small plastic flowers, with the proceeds going to poor mothers and their children.
• In Yugoslavia and Serbia, everyone gets tied up. Children, until they promise to be good (Children’s Day), mothers, until they offer treats and candy (Mother’s Day), and fathers, until he promises more lavish gifts, clothing or shoes (Father’s Day), which usually become the family’s Christmas gifts.
The National Retail Foundation estimates that Mother’s Day is a $16-billion industry. Retailers report it as the second highest gift-giving day, behind Christmas.
Happy Mother’s Day!