Guest Blog Post: Wildlife then. by equinoxio21

Magic, fiction, and art: journalist/novelist/blogger equinoxio21 weaves them together with compassion and wisdom to create his fascinating equinoxio21 site.

equinoxio21 as a toddler
“Shah taught me Urdu, and proper table manners, the latter with great difficulty I might add.” equinoxio21

From the start, he‘s led exciting life! In a short reply to a reader, he described himself: “I am a cultural “mongrel”. Born in Pakistan, raised in Africa. It helps to add tiny details, the “couleur locale”. Reality, to me, is what adds weight to fiction.

Here he combines his historical photos (and here’s some of his original art) with those from antique books…

Equinoxio

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Wildlife is under a death sentence everywhere. Those giraffes (and ostrich, look closely) I saw in Kenya in 1969, fifty years ago (!) are being snared by poachers. What for? For giraffe hair bracelets? To turn their skin into a carpet? Pointless. As a teen, I was fortunate enough to see the last of the wild. Isolated pockets still remain with Game wardens practically turned into a military force. But who knows how long they will last?

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This is how giraffes were seen in 1879. (In Mammifères, Louis Viguier). 140 years ago. This is yet another of my books falling apart. Major restoration in the works. The engravings are priceless. Many would tear the book apart and sell each engraving for 20 Euros on the banks of the Seine.

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Warthog, 1879.

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1969, Nairobi National park.

IMG_7011“In the jungle, the mighty jungle…”

kdd10-14“The lion sleeps…

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Birds of Australia Part 2 of 2 by da-AL

When’s the last time you saw a bush Turkey at the beach?

In the history of where I live, I doubt wandering bush turkeys, or any variation of them was as plentiful as they are on the streets of Gold Coast, Australia. No bird specialist am it, but it only takes a few minutes of walking along the shore of Gold Coast, Australia, to conclude that they’ve got lots more types of birds than we do here in Los Angeles.

We were having a great time, enjoying our Australian family while bugging our eyes out at what they consider run-of-the-mill critters. Our vacation covered Auckland / Rotorua / New Zealand’s Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / Hamilton Gardens / met family in Gold Coast, Australia / and established in Part 1 of 2 Birds of Australia that theirs love to dress up in color.

For instance, whereas here we have white swans (when we have them), over there black swans such as these are abundant. Wikipedia describes them: “…a large waterbird… Within Australia, they are nomadic, with erratic migration patterns dependent upon climatic conditions… They are monogamous breeders, and are unusual in that one-quarter of all pairings are homosexual, mostly between males. Both partners share incubation and cygnet rearing duties.”

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We have pigeons — they have ibis! Now, this is one impressive bird! Its pate is bald yet pleated and striped, it’s long bill curves, and it’s feet and legs are as sturdy as avian appendages come.

The back of an Ibis’ head is like nothing I’ve ever seen on a bird before!
Ibis are quite bold if they think you might feed them.

As natural habitats for ibis continue to recede, they move to cities — and thrive. They’re made for dredging their live food out of deep mud, which doesn’t tend to impress city humans (who mock them as ‘bin chickens’ and ‘trash turkeys’) when the birds dig through garbage.

My gorgeous cousin Hengi makes feeding look lorikeets easy (it isn’t!).

One evening, around twilight, when bugs come out, we happened by an extraordinarily noisy tree. Australian rainbow lorikeets are so picturesque that they hardly seem real — until they make this loud of a racket…

A resident Australian magpie

What bird do you wish you saw every day?

Birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 (and a cute black dog) by da-AL

California seagull by Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/).

Seagulls in California are like this — great to look at — and unmistakably made to blend in, not to stand out with color.

Traveling brings to my mind architecture, fashion, culture, food… stuff like that. Animals, not so much. After all, the city dweller that I’ve ever been, animals are just animals, right?

Not when it comes to Australia! After New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters fo the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / Hamilton Gardens / and then meeting marvelous family in Gold Coast, Australia / and later seeing even more birds of Australia (see Part 2 of 2).

Aussie creatures come in attention-getting colors — here’s their seagull — red legs, beak, and eye rims! He’s just wetting your feet — In the next post, you’ll meet way more dramatic variations of birds.

Australian seagulls, decorated in red, are made to be seen!

Ok — their dogs are as doggy and as cute as ours…

I can’t resist medium-to-large black dogs! Here’s Nugget!

What color are your local birds?

Family, Vegemite, and Tai Chi in Gold Coast, Australia by da-ALi

Our first evening in Gold Coast, Australia!

Australia is a quick flight from New Zealand. Getting there marked the second half of our vacation, which began with Auckland + Rotorua + New Zealand’s Redwoods + Huka Falls + Craters of the Moon + Waitomo Glowworms Caves + Taupo + Pirongia + Hamilton Gardens,as well as the birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2.)

We landed in Gold Coast to visit cousins who I’d heretofore not had the pleasure of meeting. Lovely inside and out, they were generous to us in every way!

What took me so long to meet these lovely family members?!
Good food, greater people!
Some of my Australian family is striped!

The following morning, a delicious breakfast awaited us — including yeast extract to spread on our buttered toast. Brands for the ‘acquired taste’ can be a heated topic: Australians generally vote for Vegemite, New Zealanders like Our Mate, folks in other places are partial to Marmite or Promite or Bovril or Cenovis or…

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After all the eating and relaxing, it was time to get moving!

Tai chi is healthy for all ages!

Admirably fit and flexible Rita (the beautiful lady with her arm around my waist) introduced me to a free tai chi class at the local park. If you’re ever in the area, Robina Tai Chi Club Secretary/Treasurer Yulan deSalve assured me that all are welcome to email her at yulandesalvo@gmail.com for particulars. Ask her nicely, and she might demonstrate the sitting koala pose!

Geckos are common guests in Gold Coast, Australia.

What animals do you have near your home that are unique to your area?

Paradise, Fantasy, Productive: Hamilton Gardens, NZ by da-AL

Chinoise Garden at Hamilton Gardens, NZ: How non-Chinese people think of Chinese design is not altogether authentic.

Without Vicky Apps’ (more about her here) recommendation that we visit New Zealand’s Hamilton Gardens and had we not followed it, I’d have missed what’s my new fascination: Chinoiserie, namely the idea of it. The term has to do with European imitation of Chinese design during the 1600s and 1700s, and then again in the 1930s.

Replication isn’t what fascinates me, however — it’s the revelation that I’m so accustomed to seeing European-ized versions of Chinese art — that the non-real stuff looks more real than what’s authentic!

In addition, thanks to the park’s Katherine Mansfield garden, I’ve discovered that she was a pivotal New Zealand short story writer, feminist, and activist for Māori rights.

Khashayar at Katherine Mansfield’s garden.

Vacationing from Auckland to Rotorua, from New Zealand’s Redwoods to Huka Falls, from Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves to Taupo, my husband and I had the good fortune of meeting kind and wise Vicky in Pirongia. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2.)

Created in the 1960s on an old rubbish dump, 1.1 million people a year visit Hamilton Gardens! The ongoing mission of the park is to tell the International Story of Gardens as it relates to the evolution of culture. The result is an expanding collection of gardens inspired by various nations, arts including story-telling, and our use of plants on a day-to-day basis…

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What comes to mind when you think of gardens?

Pirongia, New Zealand: Hospitality and Recipe by da-AL

Vicky Apps (with her kitty) is a wonderful hostess!

We had less than a week to sample beautiful New Zealand. We’d landed in Auckland, spent a night in Rotorua, hiked a few hours in the Redwoods, strolled along Huka Falls, peered into Craters of the Moon and visited the Waitomo Glowworms Caves, and then river rafted in Taupo — then later Hamilton Gardens. (Eventually in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2.)

Pirongia was a lovely village (by the way, it was interesting to find that as far as I know, here in the U.S. we only use the term ‘city’, not ‘village’) to spend our final night before returning to Auckland. Short as our visit to Pirongia was, our hostess, Vicky Apps, made it memorable. If you’re ever in the area and need a cozy room at a reasonable price, I highly recommend emailing her at apps@xtra.co.nz

Vicky and her charming kitty, made us feel like family at her gorgeous, spacious home. We so enjoyed sitting in her flower-filled backyard and chatting with her. Moreover, she even washed (and folded!) my clothes at no charge. For breakfast, she shared delicious homemade jams and preserves, including one that was made from a guava type fruit found only in New Zealand. (By the way, New Zealand has its own variation of sweet potato too, which I regret not getting a chance to sample.)

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash.

When I much enjoyed some of Vicky’s Anzac biscuits, an immensely satisfying sort of oatmeal cookie that was devised for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War I, she generously hand-wrote the recipe for me!…

Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 1.
Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 2.

Do you have a biscuit or cookie that’s special to where you live?

Video: Taupo, New Zealand: From a Duckling to Rafting by da-AL

Taupo Public Library.

At the risk of sounding like I’m getting paid for this (all us bloggers are wealthy, no?) New Zealand truly has everything! We loved urban Auckland, relaxing Rotorua, the stunning Redwoods, amazing Huka Falls, and astounding Craters of the Moon and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2.)

In Taupo, we had great fun! We stayed at Sharon Drinnan’s small family farm cottage (you can reach her at DrinnanClan@Farmside.co.NZ). Sharon was so kind that she even made sure we saw this charmer who’d hatched only hours earlier!…

Can one ever get enough of looking wonderfulnesses that includes a dog as black and cute as mine? This dog belongs to our hostess, Sharon…

After breakfast, we drove into town. On the way — “Stop the car!” I yelled, intending to photograph a mamma pig with her small piggies. She, however, had other plans! Before I knew it, she’d corralled the babies into a far corner, then returned to confront me!…

Don’t mess with Mother Pig.

Anyone who visits Happiness Between Tails knows I adore libraries. Taupo has a great one! (More later about the Pūkana expression on the red Māori sculpture)…

The city of Taupo lies along the shore of Lake Taupo — where we enjoyed a river rafting adventure. We had too much fun to take photos. However, after our adventure, my husband took these photos of me with our river guide, Tau Thompson of Tongariro River Rafting when another river guide photo-bombed us. Those Pūkana expressions we’re making (same as on the library statue). Facial expressions are essential to Māori performance…

What’s your best facial expression?