We returned recently from our twice-postponed [COVID] celebration of my wife’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. We have generally visited one or the other Hawaiian islands at least every other year. My wife lived there for eight years, and I have traveled there for business and pleasure many times. Hawaii remains one of the great travel experiences in the world.
The pandemic disrupted the rhythm of our visits and at a bad time. The second postponement was necessary because the Governor and health chief publicly announced that the islands could not handle a wave of COVID cases in visitors and, therefore, no one should come for a while. Extraordinary and sad for everyone.
Then the situation improved and off we went. The actual going and coming had some issues but we’ll just leave them unsaid. We want to share a few of the reasons Hawaii is special – photos of the birds, the flowers, the extraordinary trees and the “scenes.” These are a very small sample so, by all means, book yourself a dream trip. And while you’re there, book a birding tour with Oahu Nature Tours. It’s run by Michael Walther who is extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife and t geography/geology/history of the islands. He and his delightful partner Cecilia took on a great ride around the island in a Mercedes sedan. We went places you would never know about on your own and had a great day’s unique experience.
You probably recall the experience of being invited to the home of a relative or friend to see the “slides” of their vacation somewhere. If you were fortunate, enough alcohol was served to get you through the seemingly interminable photos of places you hadn’t been and people you didn’t know, but you were sure a grand time was had by all. And how can I gracefully get out of here? If the internet had existed back then, the “slide show” would surely have been a popular meme.
I recall that because I did it, mostly to relatives who, I had convinced myself, were interested in what we had seen and done on the many trips I took for business and pleasure. I now doubt they were interested but tolerant enough.
That said, if you have followed this blog for long, you know that I occasionally post photos of places and sights that I think are worth sharing. The good news is you don’t have to look.
But I hope you will look at these few shots because they represent the future of ballet in Hawaii and these young people are genuinely amazing and deserving of support. What? Ballet in Hawaii? Indeed.
Our recent, twice postponed (pandemic) vacation/anniversary/wife’s birthday trip to Honolulu let to a surprising and inspiring discovery. As usual, we had planned many elements of the trip, but we found ourselves on the first day with … no plan! We had expected to be jet-lagged and not much into activity, but upon looking for something to do, we came upon https://ballethawaii.org. Their final studio performance was the next day, so we bought tickets and took an Uber to the studio.
What a wonderful surprise! These young and gifted people put on a show to remember. Short pieces involving different members of the group and covering the full range of classical and modern themes. Their commitment to the discipline of ballet was evident in the quality of their dancing and their obvious enthusiasm for this difficult art form.
These are two professional shots of the group that they kindly shared with us.
Below are a few of the shots I took. I wanted to capture some of the dancing, but the setting was too intimate for me to be clicking away while they did their thing.
You can see the Performing Ensemble up close here: https://ballethawaii.org/performing-ensemble/ Note them well. Someday, we’re sure, we’ll be seeing some of these names in major dance companies around the country.
The title of this post is a phrase often used in sports journalism to describe a team that has highly rate players in every position on the starting team. It is a gross understatement as it applies to the American Ballet Theater dancers and others involved in producing Don Quixote last night at the Kennedy Center. The program can be seen here: https://bit.ly/3J4cFeI
The evening began when Devon Teuscher, principal dancer with ABT, emerged on stage to announce that the evening’s performance was dedicated to Ukraine and its fight for independence. She then invited “those who are able” to stand for the playing of the Ukraine national anthem. The audience roared its approval and virtually everyone was on their feet. A wonderful moment.
The performance that followed was extraordinary as well. From the spectacular stagecraft to the dancing itself, words almost fail. The ballet has three acts, the middle one being somewhat slow but with elegance that reminded me of scenes from Swan Lake. The first and third acts were just high-energy explosive displays of artistry, discipline and skill. The unison of the dancing groups was surreal.
The leading role of Kitri, the heroine whose affections are the subject of the main “contest” for her hand in marriage, was performed by Christine Shevchenko, a native of Ukraine, making the evening’s dedication even more poignant. Her extraordinary biography is here: https://bit.ly/3u2yvek and last night she lived up to her credits, dominating every scene in which she appeared. Phenomenal in every way. That is not to take away from the other dancers. Everyone was exceptional in their assigned parts.
The evening ended with another surprise. Shevchenko, having taken her bows with the others, ran off stage and returned with the Ukraine flag, producing another roar of approval from the standing crowd. This is the photo, hurriedly taken with a cell phone to capture the unexpected moment.
New York City Ballet company is coming to the Kennedy Center in June. That too will be spectacular. There are likely seats left. Get yours before it’s too late!
When we moved to DC in December 2020, it was a drab time. Few cars, fewer pedestrians, no commercial activity to speak of, no night life, no entertainment. Compared to New York City whence we came, DC was a ghost town. To a large extent it still is.
One surprise, however, was the extent to which DC was a city of flowers. They seemed to be everywhere, even in the dark winter months. Naturally, I began to take pictures of them. It was easy in Georgetown, a comparative oasis, but there were flower boxes on some of the main commercial streets and in other surprising locations. Whenever I had the camera, I took the shots. Passersby often seemed to think it was strange, but for us, the flowers were life renewed, not just the promise but the reality right then. We were particularly grateful for the colors and for the effort to which so many people had gone to plant and care for them even in our darkest hours.
I have turned to these photos for sustenance more than once during this past winter as we coped with omicron and the lingering dangers of COVID. As hints of spring begin to appear, I want to share these beautiful examples of what is to come. DC truly is a city of flowers. We should be sure to take time to appreciate them in light of the horrors that are visiting the world.
These photos and memes were captured from Twitter and Facebook. They present in images and a few words the essence of important messages for these times.
In closing, I want to note that Ukraine was never a threat to Russia. Putin’s claims otherwise are pretextual. His rationale of needing a bulwark against NATO likewise fails because, if he takes Ukraine, his new border will line up against multiple other current NATO members. Then what? Will he stop there or is Ukraine Putin’s Sudetenland? If you’re not familiar with Sudetenland’s place in history, read this: https://bit.ly/3sqaddo
We must not make that mistake again.
Are you offended by the Featured Meme above? If yes, you’re probably a Republican. Kind of a litmus test, you might say. It’s art, but it’s art with a message.
Of course, there are reasons to be offended by it. It involves a child. It’s about violence done to children. It also relates, in a manner of speaking, to religion. Yet, it’s not about religion exactly. It simply says that people who are prepared to sacrifice children to school shootings to continue having unlimited access to guns for anyone and everyone while also claiming to be a Christian following the teachings of Jesus is a **** ing hypocrite. Politest way to put it. I’m having a hard time being polite these days, what with anti-vaxxers prolonging the pandemic and Trumpers still believing in phantasmagorical conspiracy theories. The suffering conitnues, and for the anti-vaxxers, anti-mandaters and other aggrieved haters, I have no more f***s to give.
Meanwhile, here is the latest collection of memes/photos/call-them-what-you-will. These items say much about our society and the issues we face now. I provide them for those of you wise enough to stay off Twitter and Facebook from which they have been purloined. But some are very clever and, I think, worthy of wider distribution, a picture being worth a thousand words and all.
WARNING: This is political art. Some of it is harsh. It’s art meant to convey a point of view, not merely an interesting array of shapes, colors and so on. As such, it has jagged edges and sharp points. Our democracy and thus our country, in my opinion, are under extreme threat. If you’re concerned about the jagged edges and sharp points, please stop now and await my next kinder, gentler post.
No, that’s not the name of an obscure card game. The title reflects that over the holidays we visited three local parks expecting to see little wildlife based on recent cold-weather experiences. As is often the case with expectations, ours were defeated, repeatedly, but in a good way. As these photos reveal.
After Christmas, we returned to our familiar haunts at Huntley Meadows Park. We immediately saw that the resident beavers had been hard at work since our last visit:
More familiar residents of the park were seen:
But we were really fortunate to capture this magnificent bird in flight:
in addition to seeing these Northern Shovelers
Numerous Northern Pintails:
and last, but certainly not least, these beautiful Hooded Mergansers:
On December 28, 2021, we returned to Great Falls Park on the Virginia side. We walked all the way along the Potomac River to the dam that is actually below Riverbend Park further north. This is the dam, looking upstream:
We spotted the long-term resident of the Great Falls Park — the Great Blue Heron — just standing around as he seems usually to do:
Geese were plentiful, diving for whatever they find in the river this time of year:
In the trees behind us we spotted one of the park’s treasures, a Bald Eagle in a far tree:
It is not unusual to see an eagle at Great Falls Park, but we were very surprised to see both this woodpecker:
and, even more so, this spectacular Indigo Bunting:
This beautiful creature attracted a bit of a crowd but never budged.
Finally, we visited Great Falls Park on the Maryland side, where I had last been decades ago. The physical side of the park here is alone a remarkable sight. Trees and rocks are covered with green lichen and moss.
The fast-moving water is a playground for adventurous kayakers who sometimes don’t know when to quit:
But, of course, we didn’t come here just to see people in tiny boats trying to overcome the outsized forces of nature. No, this is what we came for:
This huge bird extracted something from the water in a narrow channel and struggled to swallow it, but eventually his superior size and power won the day.
and, last but not least, a cute dog that can’t read:
He obviously did not understand why his owner would not let him cross the bridge.