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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Lion

This week’s ‘alphabet with a twist’ segment of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge requires a word starting with L that has at least two syllables and, going through the photo files, I came across these images that I captured at Brookfield Zoo a while back.  This magnificent lion was in just the right spot to have his picture taken and I made the most of a rare opportunity to catch his different moods.

For more on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge go to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letter L – Needs to have at least two syllables

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Elk of Elk Grove Village

Continuing with the ‘alphabet with a twist’ theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, this week’s topic is the letter k.  If a word has only three letters and one of them is a k, there’s a pretty good chance that the word might be elk.  And what better place to find elk than in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. These majestic creatures are not native to the area but, because of the name association, a small herd of elk are kept in a protected part of Busse Woods Forest Preserve. They are cared for by the Chicago Zoological Society veterinary staff and Busse Woods Forest Preserve wildlife experts.

The original herd of 10 elk was brought in by train from Yellowstone National Park in Montana in 1925 by local resident William Busse.  The best time to see them is either early morning or at dusk.  They spend a lot of time amongst the trees but when they do come out into the open field they’re a beautiful sight.

I should add that these images were captured a few years ago.  For more on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge go to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letter K – Needs to have the letter K anywhere in the word

 

Art and Autumn at the Arboretum

Just in time, we were able to catch the last few days of this year’s sculpture exhibition, Origami in the Garden, at the Morton Arboretum last month. These beautiful metal sculptures, created by Kevin and Jennifer Box, are modelled after the art of Origami or paper folding and the Arboretum was the perfect backdrop for this amazing artwork.

 

Not only did we get to enjoy the art but also some nice autumn scenery, even if the colors weren’t as vibrant this year.

In order to replicate the Origami creations, each sculpture goes through a 35-step, 12-week process of casting in bronze, aluminum or steel.

The turtles are real, but the raptor is another of Kevin Box’s clever creations.

This piece, entitled Double Happiness, shows a pair of nesting cranes which often appear in art as the symbol of companionship and happiness in marriage.

These intricately designed birds appear to be flying away from Meadow Lake.

Cave in Rock

During our visit to Marion last month, we were feeling rather adventurous and decided to make a small side-trip to Cave in Rock State Park.  The cave, for which this park in southern Illinois is named, overlooks the Ohio River.

We had done a lot of walking along woodland trails during the previous couple of days and I must admit that I viewed the river and its rocky bluffs as a welcome change of scenery.

The bluffs towered above us as we made our way along the path towards the cave and I was once again reminded of how unpredictable nature can be, when I remembered the news that morning concerning a fatal rock fall in Yosemite National Park.  I felt extremely vulnerable walking under those great overhanging limestone rocks.

As far as caves go, this one, measuring 55ft across, is not that large, but it has an interesting history.   American Indians had already used the cave for thousands of years but the first European to discover it in 1729 was a Frenchman who mapped and named it “caverne dans Le Roc”.  During the late 1790’s the cave was a hideout for a gang of bandits, headed by Samuel Mason, that preyed on commercial boats using the river. Local lore even tells of Frank and Jesse James using the cave as a hiding place. Later, settlers founded the nearby town of Cave in Rock and it became the site of the ferry that crosses the Ohio River.

I’m not a huge fan of caves. My imagination works overtime in these places and I find them claustrophobic, rather like walking into an extremely large MRI machine. The last time I was in one was many years ago when I went with the Girl Scouts to Eagle Cave in Wisconsin. So it was with some trepidation that took the first few steps into this one and as our only source of light got smaller I felt more and more apprehensive.  What if there were bats!!  Eek!

 

But, I told myself, you can’t take pictures if you don’t get in there!  So on I went. There were no bats. In fact there wasn’t much of anything except a lot of graffiti scrawled across the rock.  It wasn’t easy to get a picture that didn’t include some childish desecration and, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there’s no way I will memorialize these idiotic scratchings by photographing them.

It was good to emerge into the sunlight again and I felt like I could breath a little easier, standing on the banks of the river.

I thought I’d check out the path in the opposite direction, which took me past another smaller cave that had been blocked by some huge tree trunks, whether by nature or the hand of man I wasn’t sure. No matter.  One cave per day was enough for me and this one didn’t look very safe so I was happy to finish the expedition and return to the car.

For those of you interested in visiting, Cave in Rock State Park has a restaurant and lodge as well as playground and picnic areas and plenty of hiking trails.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge – Scale

Sometimes when you take a photo it’s hard to get a feel for the actual scale of things.  It isn’t until you add something else to the picture that you get a better sense of just how large or how small that object really is.  Normally the vehicle seen in the lower half of the first image might seem quite large but, seen against the immensity of the mountains in Utah, it appears no bigger than an ant scurrying across the landscape.

The same could be said for the buffalo seen here on Antelope Island in Utah.

The cars in the lower decks of Marina City in Chicago look like nothing more than children’s toys.

You will have to look closely at the left of this picture to make out the parasailer, dwarfed by the mighty Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. He makes even the boat seem huge.

A close-up of these two window cleaners in downtown Chicago wouldn’t necessarily give you any idea of the height at which they were working which is why I pulled the camera back to give a better view of where they really were.

For more on The Weekly Photo Challenge go to Scale

A Good Day At Spring Valley

Because it was Columbus Day, school was out and the weather was gorgeous, Spring Valley Nature Center was packed!  The new recreation area was full of super-excited children, happy to have at least one more opportunity to play outside in shorts and sandals.  I was pleased to see, too, that parents were encouraging their families to not only enjoy the slides and climbing frames but to go exploring the rest of the nature center.  Great for them but not so good for someone who is hoping to do some wildlife photography.  Screaming youngsters and timid woodland creatures unfortunately don’t make for a good mix.  However, I had all day and waited patiently for the rare quiet moments when I was able to get a few shots.

Any day at Spring Valley is a good day.

A Hidden Gem in Marion

During our visit to Marion, Illinois, a couple of weeks ago we decided to take a chance and visit a place called Mandala Gardens.  I had read a brief review of the Gardens on TripAdvisor which sounded promising but the Mandala Gardens website itself mentioned something about calling ahead, and like many of the side-trips that we make, this one was rather spontaneous.  When we got to the privately owned Gardens early in the morning the gates were closed and I gazed longingly through the bars at what looked like an intriguing vista. I was just about to get back in the car when a lady came out of the adjoining house and walked down to greet us.  I explained that our visit was rather a last-minute idea and were sorry to turn up unannounced but she told us that it wasn’t a problem and ushered us in.

You immediately feel the peace and serenity that emanates from this tranquil setting.  Diana Tigerlily (pictured below) and her husband Greg Reid have lived at the property on North State Street for 20 years and during that time have put a lot of effort into making it the lovely place that it is today. Diana kindly allowed us to wander around and enjoy the Gardens and of course I made the most of this great photo opportunity.  For more on Diana and Greg’s story go to ABOUT

There are several interesting structures to explore at the Gardens one of which is The Infinity Arch created by Thea Alvin.

Another feature, also created by Thea Alvin, is Moongate which stands at the end of the pond. Here at the Gardens Diana holds Yoga practice sessions which are named Blue Heron Yoga and just as I was about to walk around the pond the blue heron, for which these sessions are named, flapped lazily away. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get a shot with the camera but luckily the pond and Moongate were still there.

Looking through Moongate you catch a glimpse of the sandstone labyrinth, a quiet place to meditate, or take a walk through the trees just beyond and return to the garden via the bridge. Both the labyrinth and the bridge are the result of Greg and Diana’s hard work.

 

Back among the flowers, there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the various pieces of artwork than can be found at Mandala Gardens, including Talisman, a metal sculpture by Carey Netherton and some delightful little stained-glass windows which are part of the potting shed.

If you are ever in the Marion area of Illinois, I can highly recommend a visit to Manadala Gardens.  Diana was most welcoming and made us feel right at home.