Carnival season in the desert

Carnival season is an annual period of public revelry traditionally beginning on Twelfth Night (January 6), and culminating on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and is thought to have its origins in primitive times as a way of celebrating the new year, return of the sun, and rebirth of nature.  For us, it began in the Anza-Borrego Desert with gorgeous sunrises that make it worthwhile to leave a warm bed before the crack of dawn, quickly throw on clothes and scamper out of the Airstream Safari with a Nikon camera* in hand to capture the moment.*

DSC_0017 Desert sunrise

Larry had gotten up even earlier and was chatting with Monica from San Diego with her rescue dogs Gus & Bali (whom we have seen here on two other occasions).

DSC_0027 Larry, Monica with Gus & Bali

After my photo shoot, I dashed back into the trailer to get warm and brew coffee.*  I love the aroma of coffee steaming up from the filter and glistening in the morning sun. (They have a lot of coffee in Brazil per The Coffee Song sung by Frank Sinatra)*  (In the background of the photo below are homegrown Mexican limes from Monica’s garden.)

DSC_0047 Coffee steaming

For years we have enjoyed deliciously rich San Francisco Bay French Roast Whole Bean Coffee, available at Costco and made by the socially responsible Rogers Family Company,* who run their own coffee farms and mills. As the sun rose and the air warmed, I enjoyed this coffee, along with panettone (seen below)* and apple and orange slices at the picnic table festooned with carnival beads, masks, and Mardi Gras colors of purple (justice), gold (power), and green (faith).

DSC_0102 Panettone on Mardi Gras table

Venetian masks, such as the Commedia dell’Arte mask (seen above) re-emerged in 16th-century Italy and became the emblem of Carnevale di Venezia,* and allowed people to feel free and able to express themselves regardless of social class.  Carnival was outlawed by the fascist government in the 1930s and it was not until a modern mask shop was founded in the 1980s that Carnival enjoyed a revival.  “People dress up because they need moments of freedom,” says artist mask maker Sergio Boldrin.* (Enjoy the spirit and beauty of the masks and this season by viewing Mysterious masks of Venice masquerade*)

The jester character is the most popular costume for Mardi Gras.  Jesters often wear a motley costume of bright colors, especially the Mardi Gras colors, and a distinctive hat with floppy points with jingle bells.  Jesters are often seen laughing and holding a mock scepter.  (See The Jester; Court Jester or a Fool!*)  Larry enjoyed sewing jester style floppy points together for a costume collar for our corgi Mac.

DSC_0160 Larry sewing jester hat pieces

DSC_0201 Mac with jester collar

Meanwhile, I enjoyed another hike. This time I joined Monica for a hike up Agua Caliente County Park’s Desert Overlook Trail, which features views of the entire park and surrounding desert floor as seen in “It’s cooking up in the desert, again!

DSC_0176 Monica on Desert Overlook Trail

At sunset we lit on our festive wreath celebrating the return of the sun…*

DSC_0180 Festive wreath and sun

and enjoyed the Full Wolf Moon.*  Giorgia Fumanti: *Spente le stelle*

DSC_0185 Full Wolf Moon

The next full moon will occur on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar and will mark the celebration of the Chinese Lantern Festival,* the final day of the lunar new year celebrations.*  2017 is the Year of the Fire Rooster.*  (See your Chinese zodiac horoscope prediction!)*

Encore song: Emma Shapplin – Spente Le Stelle*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Joyful air streaming into 2017

dsc_0024-bill-corgis-its-a-new-dayWe are so ready to charge out of 2016 and stream into a fresh new year with joyful possibilities. Yesterday, our Airstream smoke detector commemorated our 10th year of Airstreaming by emitting a death rattle just before its programmed death… the wonders of “smart” technology.  And in 2014, California passed a law, Senate Bill 745, with new requirements for smoke alarms sold in California.

Every new smoke detector sold and installed in California must come with a 10-year battery that can’t be removed!  So our 10-year old OEM Universal Security Instruments SS-775 smoke and fire alarm installed by Airstream must be replaced by an undoubtedly more expensive “smart” one.

So out with the old  and in with the new!  Swiftly streaming air swept away the desert dust and lifted our spirits.

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And when the wind stops.. there is peace, serenity, and a silent beauty…* and a sense of timelessness…

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And a joyful playfulness as exhibited by the Costa’s hummingbirds* visiting our campsite.

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Joyfulness was contagious as our corgis Mac and Tasha showed off their holiday outfits made by Larry!

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Our corgis are so looking forward to the new year when they can return to the beach!

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Our Safari basked in the morning sun after a wild night of wind and flying rain…

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And a beautiful rainbow gave us hope* that this will indeed be a happy new year…

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And together, we will bring joy back into this world!*

*This is a link to a You Tube video.

Happy Holidays from the desert!

Recovering from post-election blues and a bout of tendonitis that scuttled last month’s trip to the desert, we sorted through our Christmas decorations and rediscovered our Nacimiento de barro bruñido that had not been displayed in a decade and was up for review.  As Larry unwrapped the pieces and placed them in the early morning sun, he experienced a flood of sentimental feelings and memories of a 2-month stay in Cuernavaca,* Mexico, attending a special class on Neurodevelopmental Treatment for cerebral palsy in 1980 when he was an Occupational Therapist.  His experience studying and living in a foreign country, knowing only a semester of Spanish endeared him to the children and people of Mexico.  Many of his patients were Mexican immigrants.  We both agreed the nacimiento continues to be an important part of our family reminding us of peace on earth, good will toward men, women and children, and will continue to have a home with us!

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Larry made two holiday decorative panels that can be attached to our corgis’ harnesses in preparation for our attendance at the San Diego Corgi Meetup – Caroling in Balboa Park upon our return from the desert.  They double as table displays, as seen below!

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We returned to Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert, California, last week and enjoyed 5 days of sunny weather and temperatures in the 70s!

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Larry brought along his delicious homemade Craisin-date panettone (traditional Italian Christmas bread).*

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I brought along Airstream Life, 2016 Winter Issue.

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Larry continued on his project of making various corgi costumes, decorative panels, and accessories.  On this trip, he drafted, cut out, and sewed Airstream appliqués for panels to be attached to their harnesses…

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While I hiked and photographed Moonlight Canyon.

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At night, we lit our Holiday Tree of Lights and lantern candles… and will light the candles of freedom!*

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And enjoyed the quiet serenity of the desert floor in winter.

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Happy Holidays from Bill and Larry, and Mac & Tasha!

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Though we’ve grown old, the bell still rings for us as it does for all who truly believe.*

Added feature: Watching Ryen and his corgi Gatsby in Merry Ramen Christmas Feast* helps keep us young at heart!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert bighorn sheep – Part 2

The obvious feature of the desert bighorn sheep is its big horns.  Rams have the largest horns, which are curled and weigh up to 30 pounds (including the skull, according to Mark Jorgensen, in his book and slideshow, Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon*), and become especially important in dominance rituals* during mating season.

DSC_0259 Resting ram & annular rings)

DSC_0263 Resting ram (2)

The ewes have smaller, spike-like horns that help protect themselves from predators such as coyotes.

DSC_0244 Ram and ewe

DSC_0290 Desert bighorn ewes

Mark writes (page 73) that ewes use their horns to strike other ewes in competition for food and water, and that they also use their horns to expose the fleshy fruit of cactus, which is then picked out by their lips.

DSC_0140 Cactus chewed by bighorn sheep

Agua Caliente Regional Park was once occupied by residents that planted oleander for its durability, flowers, windbreak and privacy features.  Unfortunately, this non-native plant is toxic and one oleander leaf ingested by a bighorn sheep can be deadly (page 116).  Efforts are underway by the State of California to eradicate oleander from Agua Caliente County Park within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  The plants were cut down and chemicals applied to the stumps, but last month we spotted an oleander regrowing at Agua Caliente site #80.

DSC_0068 Oleander poisonous to bighhorn sheep

Peninsular bighorn sheep were listed as an endangered species in 1998 and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife now monitors their recovery* by briefly capturing, testing, counting, radio-collaring and tagging sheep.

DSC_0301 Desert bighorn sheep close-up

While the sheep socialized, I imagined them “talking” to each other, but according to Mark, the lip curl (seen below) is actually the ram’s testing of the hormonal levels and receptivity of the ewe (page 77).

DSC_0303 Bighorn sheep lip curl

DSC_0302 Large horns on rams

Not only did the sheep appear contented, I was definitely contented and feelin’ groovy* with our special time together and am looking forward to the next meeting when our camping season in the desert resumes next fall.

DSC_0284 Contented ram

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert bighorn sheep – Part 1

Ancestors of the desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) once roamed the mountains and valleys of Iran, Afghanistan, China, Mongolia, and Siberia before crossing on ice and land bridges during interglacial periods across what is now the Bering Sea into the Western Hemisphere, says Marc Jorgensen* in his comprehensive book, Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon.  My first close-up encounter and photo shoot with the desert bighorn sheep occurred five years ago and is documented in my posts, “Peninsular Bighorn Sheep” and “Bighorn Sheep revisited.”  My second close encounter occurred last month and is seen below and in a following post.

Coming out of the restroom in Agua Caliente Regional Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert region, I spotted desert bighorn sheep on a nearby hill just above the campsites.  Their color and size blends in well with the landscape.

DSC_0163 Distant view desert bighorn sheep

This herd consisted of 14 sheep that often positioned themselves in different positions to look for danger such as mountain lions, coyotes, and humans that have been seen here.  I slowly and quietly hiked in their direction as they moved down the slope to the lush greenery around the campsites.

DSC_0168 Sheep coming down to eat

They first had a good look at me on the road just as they were about to cross into the campground and had to make a decision on proceeding to food or to safety.

DSC_0177_2 Decision time

I believe some recognized me from the previous encounter and others perceived I was not a threat, so they continued on toward their brunch.

DSC_0182 Crossing into campground

They enjoyed their picnic by the campsites…

DSC_0204 Campsite sheep picnic

until oblivious and noisy campers cut through the sites on their way to soak in the nearby spa and pools.*

DSC_0207 sheep wrapped up picnic

So the sheep crossed back to relax in their own “day use area”…

DSC_0211 Sheep on way to "day use" area

DSC_0223 Sheep in "day use" area

where they posed for me…

DSC_0251_2 Desert bighorn sheep

and then settled down to relax and sunbathe.

DSC_0237 Bighorn sheep group 2

 

DSC_0235 Ram smiling while sunbathing

I shared in the warmth and happiness of the moment and heard “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy“.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.