Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand by da-AL

We’re a long way down in the Waitomo Caves.

Really I’d like to sound official, truly scholarly when I describe these magnificent caves. But I’d be faking it. I was too busy trying to keep my eyes in their sockets as I took in all the amazing sights to retain whatever our hard-working guide endeavored to teach us.

A mineral formation can be as delicate as a veil.

Here we were in New Zeand, and everywhere we visited was utterly beautiful and entirely distinctive from the prior site. Auckland wasn’t at all like Rotorua, which resembled neither the Redwoods nor Huka Falls, and Craters of the Moon (nor places we’d visit later like Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens) were like any of them. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2.)

And — the Waitomo Glowworms Caves were all their own too. We walked down, down, down, and then down, down, down some more while trying not to get bugs in our hair or smack our heads on nature’s sculptures along the way made of limestone and fossils.

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“The limestone formation in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago … These cave decorations take millions of years to form given that the average stalactite grows one cubic centimeter every 100 years,” according to Wikipedia.

This photo might look like nothing — but those pinpricks of light from glowworms! They exist in New Zealand! What you can’t see because without electric light its so dang dark down there, is that the GLOWWORMS give off spiderweb-like strings to ensnare their dinners.

The white dots in the immense darkness are glowworms.

Looking for an adventurous new job? They’re always looking for explorers to map out new tunnels. These are just mannequins, but they give an idea of what’s required…

The explorers who map out the caves are quite heroic.

Have you visited a limestone cave?

Happy Sounds Video, New Zealand Redwoods and Corrugated Pets by da-AL

Turn your sound up high to listen to the ASMR happy sounds of redwood trees creaking in the wind, sounding like old-fashioned rocking chairs…

Most people know of the redwoods of California, where trees are so awe-inspiring that they’ve got names and their Avenue of the Giants. But did you know that New Zealand has its own redwood forest? For our New Zealand vacation, we’d seen a bit of Auckland, then Rotorua, later Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2. Now we got out of our car and hiked up, up, up…

da-AL strolls up to New Zealand’s redwood forest.

Back in the early 1900s, New Zealand officials admired our redwoods — and then planted some of their own! — resulting in the Redwoods Forest of Whakarewarewa. New Zealand soil is so dense with nutrients that the trees grew faster there than they do in the U.S. Like California’s, New Zealand’s big trees provide homes to an abundance of wildlife, including endangered creatures.

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Trees actually talk to each other, creating an ecosystem among themselves that feeds everything from below their roots to far into the air! Redwoods can live for thousands of years — unless humans cut them down or pollute them to death. Alas, the largest was felled around 1945. The most massive tree on earth now is the General Sherman, at 83.8 meters (275 ft) high by 7.7 m (25 ft) wide. The world’s oldest tree lives in California too — a bristlecone pine that’s 5,068 years old. Let’s hope we don’t kill them or their kin.

A little further along, we stopped to pet corrugated animals in the city of Tirau!…

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What’s the biggest tree you’ve ever seen?

Video: Dark Waters

Before I was a soon-to-be self-published novelist, I was a radio, print, and cable TV journalist…

da-AL in Dark Waters documentary.
Pre-novelist days, here I am in a documentary I hosted and co-produced, “Dark Waters.”

Here’s a video that by my business partner at the time, David Hunt (who describes the event in additional detail here), and I won a Los Angeles Area Emmy Award for. Adam Yurman composed the haunting music for it. Earth Alert! funded it.

What a find — I thought it was lost!

Interviewees include Heal the Bay founding president/environmentalist Dorothy Green and marine biologist/environmentalist Rim Fay, Jr., along with former California senator Tom Hayden representative Cliff Gladstein and former California supervisor Dean Dana.

Back when it was made, we produced a documentary series, a talk show, and more for the cable TV station located in Hermosa Beach, CA, in addition to videos and commercials for small businesses. Once a show was produced, we’d ‘bicycle’ it, meaning we’d distribute copies of it to outlying cities to air on their channels.

In this episode, off-camera is an audience of passersby. Already nervous, the presence of onlookers made me borrow my partner’s jacket to calm my shivers despite the warm day.

Have you had your 5 minutes of fame yet?…

Guest Blog Post: “Seaweeds of the Irish Coast,” in the exact words of GaiaInAction

Photo of Irish seaweeds by GaiaInAction

Love eating seaweed (aka sea veggies)? They’re delish and massively awesome for us. Leave it to former branch librarian GaiaInAction to capture their beauty…

agoyvaerts

Yesterday saw a whole bunch of us interested folks going to explore the arboretum at Ardnagashel in Glengarriff, West Cork, but apart from admiring the wonderful trees we also received lots of information on the seaweeds and lichens along this stretch of coast. Ardnagashel was established by the Hutchins family and it was as part of the Heritage Week of Ireland that these activities took place, in memory of Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815)who was a remarkable Irish Botanist. The talks on the lichens and seaweeds were given by Howard Fox, who is the State Botanist (National Botanic Gardens) and by Maria Cullen. This ‘life’ introduction to the seaweeds and the lichens of the coast of Bantry Bay was so very interesting. a true first introduction in this field for me. Later in the afternoon Madeline Hutchins (Ellen’s great great grand niece) took us through the forested area of this garden and…

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Guest Blog Post: “Nature Cure by Richard Mabey: Overcoming depression through a love of nature,” a book review in Denzil Walton’s exact words

"Nature Cure," by Richard MabeyThe healing properties and potential of nature have always been known, but are finding a “comeback” these days, with hip terms like forest bathing now being recommended from psychiatrists’ couches. The book “Nature Cure” presents a personal re-discovery of the benefits of nature.

Richard Mabey is one of the UK’s finest nature writers. The first of his 32 books was Food for Free (1972), and his latest is The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination (2016).

Unfortunately, between 2000 and 2002, Mabey suffered a severe depression. We find him at the start of the book in bed, blankly gazing at the wall. But encouraged by friends and realizing the need for a change of air, he uproots himself from the family house in the Chilterns where he and his sister have lived for 110 years between them, and heads off to East Anglia to live in a room in a farmhouse. His room is “like a small forest” with “more oak inside it than out.” And here he strings up a series of low-energy lamps and makes his nest, amazingly not with a computer but two manual typewriters.

Throughout, Mabey describes his breakdown and steady recovery with his characteristic laid-back style, like your favourite uncle relating exploits from a distant past. We get a glimpse of what may have caused his freefall into depression when he describes what it takes to be a full-time writer: “doggedness to be alone in a room for a very long time.”

His honesty is admirable. Owning up to depression is never easy, even these days, perhaps especially for a successful writer at the pinnacle of his career (he had just completed the epic and lauded Flora Britannica). Even more difficult was when depression robbed him of his desire to write: “it made me lose that reflex, it was like losing the instinct to put one foot in front of the other.” But obviously Mabey regained that reflex, and how he did is very touching – and through writing he began to unlock “pieces of me that had been dormant for years.”

His style is warmly conversational, making the book easy and pleasurable to read, despite the subject matter. He gently leads you from subject to subject, so that you forget where the conversation started. One moment he is describing wild horses on Redgrove Fen, and his musings about their origins leads to cave paintings in France and then to local Stone Age flint mines in Norfolk, and somehow to Virginia Woolf and moats. Is this what he refers to later as “free-range reading?”

Nature Cure is definitely a recommended read, for anyone interested in good writing about nature, and the cure he describes might well be of benefit to others suffering from depression too.

Denzil Walton writes two blogs: Discovering Belgium and Life Sentences.

Cool Art 4 Hot Days at MOLAA by da-AL

On these heat rash inducing days when all I want to do is take showers and more showers, it’s extra nice to look at beautiful things within a cooled museum. Every time I visit the Museum of Latin American Art, I’m rewarded with something new, fun, and thought provoking.

Little Red Riding Hood reinterpreted in plasticine by Mondogo Argentine art collective
Little Red Riding Hood reinterpreted in plasticine by Mondogo Argentine art collective

This time I went for The Portfolio Series: Mondongo Argentine show.

Mondongo Argentine art collective wolves in plasticine clothing
Mondongo Argentine art collective wolves in plasticine clothing

My art-loving mom wanted to see it, especially since she’s from there. Lo and behold, the exhibit somewhat disappointing — great but tiny!

‘Somewhat’ only — because I was delighted to see oodles of other great stuff! Dunno how MOLAA decides to publicize one thing and not another — I’ll show you what I mean.

There’re Ramiro Gómez Jr.’s showy magazine photos cleverly brought up to the reality by the insertion of the workers (hover over or tap photos for titles) …

There’s historical political art …

Sun Mad by Ester Hernandez
Sun Mad by Ester Hernandez

There’s classically gorgeous stuff …

Precisely Here by Javier Marín
Precisely Here by Javier Marín

And then there’s Luis Tapia’s work! How can it be that he’s not given a dedicated calendar event listing when MOLAA’s dedicated an entire room to his work?! Is MOLAA afraid that this little museum, so beloved by all sorts of people, will get all the more popular and they won’t be able to accommodate everyone? (Hover over or tap pix to see titles.)

Who’s your favorite artist?

Happy Earth Day everyone! by da-AL

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is celebrated worldwide to heighten awareness about our obligation to protect the environment.

It was founded and created in 1970 by Iowan John McConnell, a devout Christian who believed it is essential for each of us to work for the common good. He committed his life to working for the relief of human suffering, namely peace and helping the environment.

John McConnell - Earth Day Founder
Earth Day founder and flag designer John McConnell. By Charles Michael Murray, Courtesy Endangered Planet, Laguna Beach, CA

Read more about Earth Day here and about McConnell here.