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Lego At The Zoo

Having spent countless hours with the grandchildren, over the years, trying to make anything remotely recognizable out of Lego, I can appreciate how much work went into creating the more than 40 life-size creatures that featured in Brookfield Zoo’s Brick Safari this summer.

Do these creations qualify as sculptures? I’m not sure, but they are certainly works of art.

The resulting photos have the rather weird effect of looking over-pixelated ( if that’s the correct term.)

One of my favorites was Lance the Leopard who required 42,500 bricks and 340 hours to complete.

It took 375 hours and 110,000 bricks to make Grace the Giraffe who weighs in at 1,652 pounds.  That’s a lot of Lego!

The rhinoceros took 155,000 bricks and 403 hours to complete, while Eli the Elk took a mere 87,464 bricks. 

The grizzly bears were quite impressive, taking 136,569 bricks and 382 hours to build.  They looked quite at home in this woodland setting.

I’m not sure who worked on these amazing pieces but all I can say is, “Well done!”

 

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Man’s Best Friend…….A Salamander?

We don’t have any pets now, nor likely to have in the future.  So what to do for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge which Tina has designated as Precious Pets this week. I gave it some thought and decided to re-submit an article that I wrote many years ago for our camera club newsletter, with a few updates and some new pictures.

Many years ago, when my child’s teacher asked the angelic tots in her classroom whose mother would be willing to baby-sit the class pets over the summer vacation I was immediately volunteered, and before I knew what was happening or could lodge any kind of protest, a garter snake and salamander were installed in our living-room. They weren’t the first pets to find their way into our home and the family albums, but they were certainly the most unusual.  Up until then we had merely shared our living quarters with a giant white rabbit called Snowy who considered the wallpaper and my best lace tablecloth as a legitimate part of its diet, and a tank-full of sex-crazed guppies – not the easiest things in the world to capture on film.

The only time we’d had a dog in the house was on the occasion when, in a fit of desperation, I’d borrowed my in-law’s terrier – a feisty animal that had forced its way, on more than one occasion, to the forefront of our family’s group photos – in the hopes of quelling an unexpected insurgency of mice brought about by the clearing of an empty lot two doors down from us. The perfidious creature took one look at what it took to be an exceptionally belligerent mouse, promptly threw up on the carpet and was instantly sent home in disgrace.

There eventually came a time, however, when we were pet-free, which was when our youngest child asked if we could get a monkey.  “You could take pictures of it,” I was told magnanimously.
My reply, if I remember rightly, went something like this.  “If you bring anything else into this house, it will immediately be slung out on its ear. When you kids grow up and move out you can get whatever you want.”


Strange the way things work out. The kid who brought home the class pets and wanted a monkey eventually moved out and for several years never kept anything more demanding than a houseplant, and even that was handed over to me with a request to “make it better.”   Now, as well as a 15 month-old daughter, she has a 15 year-old cat called Sugar.

Our second-born was slightly more adventurous and at one time shared rooms with a friend who owned a Doberman, a ferret that learned how to open the fridge door, and an electric eel.
Some years later she branched out on her own and bought an aquarium, but as she traveled extensively on business and her home was too far for me to conveniently visit on a regular basis…. you guessed it. Other children come back home with laundry. Mine came back with a glass tank and two buckets full of tropical fish, all of which took up large amounts of space in the family room. Not wishing to let the opportunity go to waste, however, I took so many pictures of fish swimming about that I could have probably given Jacques Cousteau a run for his money. Now that she has a family of her own she is getting to experience the joys of dog, cat, fish and hamster ownership. The kids may say they’re going to take care of them, but don’t hold your breath!

Our eldest daughter, on the other hand, took me at my word. When she moved out, got married and had kids of her own, their home took on all the characteristics of Noah’s ark.  Dogs were just the beginning. Everything from a hyper-active Chihuahua to a deaf Great Pyrenees found its way to their door. They bred boxers (dogs, not fighters or shorts) and gave house-room to a variety of waifs and strays including a St. Bernard, a Basset hound, a Neapolitan Mastiff, and a Shih Tzu.  Cats were soon added to the mix and from then on, every visit became an adventure.

 

A Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, that in a burst of porcine exuberance blundered into the pantry and consumed an entire loaf of bread before it could be apprehended, was introduced into the family, much to the boys’ delight and after a while a lame Shetland pony and a blind horse quickly joined goats, ducks, chickens, boa constrictors and iguanas.

It was a far cry from those early days when a rabbit took center stage in our house but even then, with all that great variety of livestock on hand, when we got together to discuss the latest antics of the gerbils, guinea pigs, monitors and bearded dragons, someone invariably said wistfully, “Remember that salamander we used to have?” I wish now that I’d taken a picture of it. Now that the boys have grown up and have homes of their own, my daughter’s own menagerie has dwindled once more to a very large rabbit, although I did see her looking rather longingly at some Westie puppies that were being sold at the flea market other day.  My eldest grandson, who already has a cat and a Great Dane, has a son of his own now, and if things run true to form I’m sure there will be many more pets to follow in the years to come.

Summer And The God Of Honeybees

Summer has produced an abundance of flowers in our garden and I am finally coming to grips with all the weeds that have also been flourishing thanks to earlier rains. Here are just a few of the blooms that we have enjoyed over the past couple of months.

The only place you will find appropriately grouped colors is in these pictures. The garden itself is a jumble of colors, some of which complement each other and others that clash with little regard for text-book color palettes.

The place has been alive with bugs of all kinds, from the most unwelcome such as Japanese beetles to some of our favorites like brilliant dragonflies, butterflies and bees. Naturally, the minute I walk out there with the camera they all take off but I did manage to capture a few shots.

Which leads me very nicely to a topic close to my heart. My eldest grandson is currently promoting his podcast ” God of Honeybees ” the content of which I find thought-provoking and insightful. I do hope that you will be able to find time to visit his website as I’m sure you’ll find it interesting and well-worth delving into. I’ve written about this young man on several occasions and cannot say enough about his sincerity and kindness of heart. His thoughts on meditation, spirituality and consciousness come as welcome words particularly in this time of uncertainty and violence.

Pull Up A Seat – At Olbrich Gardens

With everything that’s been happening around our house over the past few weeks, I haven’t really had much time to Pull Up A Seat and relax but we did visit Olbrich Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin where I found a few seats that I wouldn’t have minded trying out if we hadn’t been chasing after four very energetic youngsters who didn’t want to stay in one place for more than a few minutes.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Animals

Part of the itinerary during our granddaughter’s visit a few weeks ago was a trip to Brookfield Zoo. I think the temperature was in the nineties so we didn’t stay long. Summer is never the best time to go to the zoo.  I don’t know who was feeling the more lethargic, us or the animals.  We didn’t get to see everything this time but you can bet that I will be making the most of my senior membership later on this year when the weather cools off a bit.

The Power Of Family

 

Last November, my 92-year-old mother-in-law was admitted to hospital with a serious medical condition. Let’s face it, at that age any medical condition is serious and we were becoming accustomed to receiving calls to come to the hospital, but this time things really didn’t look good.

After several tests to determine the problem, it was clear that surgery was definitely not an option so the plan was to stabilize her, treat her with various medications and hope for the best.

Normally mother-in-law lived at home with one son, and at least three more of us visited her regularly every week so it wasn’t surprising that once the word got around, everyone showed up at the hospital.

I hate to sound the alarm unless things are really dire but eventually there came a point where we really believed that she wasn’t going to survive this latest crisis, and I sent the message out to our three daughters, two of whom live quite a distance away, that now might be the time to gather round. Other family members had done the same and before long there were sons, daughters, in-laws, grandchildren and their husbands and even a great-grandchild at her bedside.

Now, I’m in no way religious, but I have to say that the effect of seeing all those caring faces surrounding her was nothing short of miraculous! The joy of knowing that there were so many people who truly cared about her well-being was unmistakable. Some people may have frowned at our numbers and the sometimes-raucous joviality no doubt engendered by a nervous concern for the patient, but I truly believe that the power of family brought her back from the brink.

Over the course of the next couple of days she perked up! She sat up and started eating. She made jokes and even managed a few steps with the physical therapist. However, this progress was short-lived and over the course of the next few weeks she was shuttled between ICU and a standard hospital room with startling regularity. It was like being on a roller coaster ride, for her and us.

Eventually it was determined that nothing more could be done and the decision to send her home under hospice care was taken. Once again, everyone came to grips with the fact that this probably was the end. But this tough old bird was not going to go down without a fight, almost literally as it turned out.

Winter came and went and spring brought hopes that once again things might be looking up. Mother-in law rallied to the point where she was able to walk a few steps with some assistance. And then the unthinkable happened.

Answering a summons from the doorbell one morning, my brother-in-law was lured out of the house by a man claiming to be there to cut down some branches that were overhanging a neighbor’s yard. While he was outside, another man entered the house and started rummaging through drawers and cupboards. Mom called out for her son and when he didn’t answer she knew there was something wrong. She managed to get out of the hospital bed that had been set up in the living room and, filled with righteous indignation, came steaming out of the room unaided and without her walker, shouting at the intruder to “clear off!” And he did, along with his partner in crime. He must have got the fright of his life when she came at him shaking her fist.

We laughed about it afterwards but things could have turned out a lot differently. Despite her claims that she “wasn’t afraid,” this by now 93-year-old, who also relied on a pacemaker to keep her heart functioning, could have suffered a fatal fall, or even been attacked by someone who could have quite easily knocked her down. But neither of these things happened and the episode became the topic of conversation for several weeks thereafter.

Summer arrived and things settled down. Although she wasn’t in great shape, Mom continued to show signs of improvement. I suppose, realistically, we shouldn’t have expected this trend to last and it didn’t.

Last week she took another turn for the worse and once again family arrived from different parts of the country to be by her bedside. This time, rather than rallying her will to live, I think she took comfort in everyone’s presence, knowing that now she could finally let go of life and eventually, on Monday morning, she slipped away.

We didn’t always see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues and I certainly found her infuriating at times but her loss has certainly left a void in our lives and, for some, her leaving will be a difficult thing with which to come to terms. Still, the power of family will keep us strong and together we’ll face the future with some fond memories of a woman with an indomitable spirit.

Note; – The rose images were captured at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It became increasingly difficult to coax mother-in-law out of the house when she got older but one of the last places we visited together was the Garden.

I’m still catching up with posts and replies but be assured, I will get to all of them eventually.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Butterfly Kisses

This week, Amy has chosen something Unique as the subject for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with the butterflies at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and, rather like snowflakes, it seems as though every one is slightly different.  And they feel like snowflakes too, whispering past my arms and neck, giving me those butterfly kisses just like my mother used to brush against my cheeks with her eyelashes when I was a child.

And there is definitely some butterfly hanky panky going on in here. What I at first take to be one very large, oddly-shaped butterfly turns out to be two having a good time in the afternoon sun. And there are more of them at it a little further along the path.

I wonder if it’s the rotting fruit that is driving them sex mad? There seems to be a constant flow of visitors to these colorful trays of tempting delicacies, including a butterfly that looks strangely like an autumn leaf.

Whatever the reason, the butterflies are extremely active, the air is full of them fluttering around. It’s a strange thing but although moths usually send me running for the exits or screaming for assistance in the house, butterflies are welcome to land on my shoulder or, like this one, catch a ride on my camera bag.

Each one of these little gems is a unique creation of nature, living a brief, gaudy life, distributing butterfly kisses and filling the hearts of young and old alike, with joy.