Joyful Easter Celebration

Today we participated in an Easter celebration with friends from a variety of religious backgrounds (Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Atheist). It was a perfect day: sunshine, birds chirping, grass greening, and the leisure to allow the morning to unfold into the afternoon.

goldfinches in tree

goldfinches in tree

Our hostess had hidden 10 dozen colored eggs in her gardens and we all wandered off, basket in hand, to find the pagan symbol of fertility. She had told us that there was one very special egg, a golden one, more difficult to find than all the others. Whoever found the golden egg would win a prize. We wandered along the fence, the stream, trudged through the flower beds with blooming daffodils, looked into bushes and trees and came up with loads of eggs (and one prayer flag):

But the best part was being outside, walking on green grass, basking in the sunshine we all had been missing this winter. The dog was helping us look, too, and ended up eating two eggs in the process.

In the very end, with gentle directional prodding from the hostess, the youngest among us found the golden egg:

The golden egg

The golden egg

Hunting easter eggs makes you hungry, so while some peeled a large amount of the gathered (hard-boiled) eggs for egg salad, others got busy in the kitchen putting the final touches on all the food that had been brought:
muffins, asparagus-egg casserole, fresh lettuce greens, pancakes, sausage, cheese… it was a big feast when we finally sat down around the festive table.

table decorations

table decorations

Notice the chocolate bunnies, another ancient symbol of fertility.
The Christian celebration of Easter (the resurrection of the crucified Christ) has somehow incorporated the fertility symbols of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar (eggs and rabbits); probably a result of the blending of earlier pagan spring celebrations with the spreading Christian religion.

For more information about the origin of Easter symbols, you may want to read this fascinating article.

On the way home, we saw another Easter symbol, peacefully grazing in the pasture:

two sheep

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Monuments to Animals

A monument is something of lasting value and significance and often defines a city (e.g. the Washington Memorial), or sometimes even a country (e.g. the Statue of Liberty). In addition, there are monuments to historical characters, sports and entertainment figures, religious leaders and saints, war memorials, ruins of ancient temples and other structures (the Coliseum in Rome, the pyramids in Egypt and Central America). Entire facilities have been turned into monuments such as the Dachau concentration camp in Germany or South Africa’s Robben Island prison that held Nelson Mandela captive.

I chose a more light-hearted theme for my monument collection: animals. Here is a selection of monuments to animals from the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

Not surprisingly, a regal lion welcomes people at the main entrance to the Zoo. He IS the king of the animal kingdom. Of course, if dinosaurs were still around, they could easily trump the lion as top predator. Alas, they are history and we can only shudder looking at the huge skull with its large and sharp teeth. Monkeys are favorite characters, perhaps because they remind us of ourselves?

I also liked this mural at the Zoo, another monument to the many animals that enliven and enrich our world.

Animal mural

Animal mural

In the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I enjoyed these horse monuments that honor the wild horses still wandering free along the beaches.

Winged horse

Winged horse

Mermaid horse

Mermaid horse

The Mermaid horse does need a bit of restoration as part of her shell bra has either been stolen or fell off.

I will close with this thoughtful sculpture from a church yard in Charleston, South Carolina. It is a monument to the slaves who helped build the church (so, technically, it’s NOT a monument to an animal but only uses the symbolism of the bird to honor the human beings who worked so hard to create a place of worship, for a religion that did not even acknowledge them as full human beings).

bird monument

Learning from the past in order to move forward….

This post has been created in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument.

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Monumental Topiary Art in Costa Rica

A few years ago, I spent some time in beautiful Costa Rica. Due to a mudslide, our van driver had to take a much longer, circuitous route back to the airport. We came through a small town somewhere in the mountains and stopped in front of this church. The walkway up to the church was covered with huge living arches forming a green canopy.

Walkway to church

Walkway to church

I had seen topiary art before – the art of trimming or training shrubs and trees into unusual ornamental shapes -but not on this monumental scale. Someone, many decades ago, must have had a grand vision of these towering living garden arches and worked diligently, year after year, to create the shapes we can admire now.

Living arches

Living arches

Sometimes, detours are the best way to discover things you didn’t even know existed.

If you’d like to see a short video of a festival going on at this site (Parque de Zarcero, Costa Rica), click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55mybOdnC6k

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Would you kiss a frog? Or a toad?

For several weeks now I thought I was hearing spring peepers serenading us through the night. Spring peepers are little frogs that start their high-pitched songs very early in spring, marking the end of winter. Along with the first sighting of robins, everyone is excited to report their first “spring peepers.”

The dogs have been spending hours each day at the pond, circling it, wading into it.

dogs in pond

So I decided to investigate and found these creatures:

Our male dog (dark-haired) was content to just sniff the critters; but our female dog (sandy-colored) liked to paw them, snatch them with her mouth, then drop them at the edge of the pond. She didn’t seem to hurt them, certainly wasn’t interested in eating them, but the joy of the hunt entertained her for hours.

gotcha

gotcha

I noticed there were about half a dozen mating couples. They were so blissed out by their meditative activity that they didn’t even try to swim away from the dogs.
And then the trilling started: first one male bloating his throat sac, then another one at the other end of the pond responding (or perhaps competing). The sound was shrill but strangely harmonious and trance-like.

The things we don’t do to attract a mate!

I am sure this male would be very attractive to a female of its kind, sparkling gold accents, powerful voice, husky shoulders and all.

calling for a mate

calling for a mate

I believe these critters are probably toads instead of frogs (notice their “warty” skin). They are large enough to fit into the cup of my hand; that is, if I cared to place them in my hand, which I don’t. If anyone knows what they are, please leave a comment.

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Sunday Stills: Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte)

The best cake in the world is German Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte) (for the sake of full disclosure I must tell you that I grew up in the Black Forest). Forget the disappointing imitations of this cake that you find in the US. I am talking about the real thing: made from scratch, with real cherries, Kirschwasser (cherry spirits), real whipped cream, and shaved chocolate on top.

Here is the assembly part: three cake layers, cherries soaked in Kirschwasser (this cake is spirited and spiritual), two whipped cream layers…

Assembling the cake

Assembling the cake

And this is the final product (thank you, Ruth, if you are reading this):

Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte

Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte

Of course, there is no time to waste because fresh whipped cream stays fresh for only so long. So this dream of a cake disappears fast:

Going fast

Going fast

Check out Ed’s Sunday Stills, The Next Challenge: International Foods.

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