Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mini Marsh II

When I drove by the 'mini marsh' on Monday I saw baby ducklings!  Naturally, I didn't have my camera with me.  I took my camera on Tuesday, but no ducklings.  However Wednesday morning I caught a break.  There was a momma mallard (most probably and not the blue-winged teal as I had originally thought - my friend, Lynne, in NJ corrected me.  Will never be a birder because I have a terrible time identifying what I see!) with three little kids.  When I saw the ducklings on Monday I thought there were a few more babies, but it might have been a different duck and brood.  Mallards though usually lay 8 to 13 eggs, so either this mom has lost some babies, all the eggs didn't hatch, or possibly she was a first-time mom and didn't lay as many eggs??  Either way, the babies are the cutest!  Here's the proud momma...

and her kids.

At first momma was a little protective, but then she decided I didn't mean any harm.  In fact at one point I walked over to where the geese were and she (and the ducklings) followed me.  She was probably looking for a handout, but I was thrilled to get the pictures and have her feel so comfortable around me.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Crescent Park Carousel

In my Historic Slater Park post I mentioned that there was a Looff carousel there and that I would do a separate post about it.  Today instead of taking photos of the Slater Park carousel which I wasn't sure was open I decided to go check out Crescent Park in Riverside, RI where there is also a Looff carousel.  I hadn't been there for a while and it was one of the first places I decided to explore when I moved to Rhode Island.

Charles I. D. Looff was born in Denmark and became a master carver and builder of amusement rides.  He created the first carousel at Coney Island and also built the famous Santa Monica Pier.  Originally his factory was at Coney Island, but when the land his factory was on was claimed by eminent domain he moved his factory to Crescent Park.  Although the Slater Park carousel was built in 1894 and the Crescent Park carousel a year later, Looff used the Crescent Park carousel as a showpiece to drum up more business.  The Crescent Park carousel has sixty-one horses, one camel, two single coaches, and two double chariots.  Both the Slater Park and Crescent Park carousels are National Historic Landmarks.

Crescent Park is a lovely little park with a water view.

You can walk down some stairs to reach the water but there is no real beach.

The Crescent Park Carousel is across the street in a beautiful little onion dome building that's almost as interesting as the carousel.  Just as important as the carousel itself is the band organ that you can hear all over the park.  It is essential to the whole unique atmosphere.  To hear a recording of the organ, click here.

One step through the doors of the building and you're in Fantasyland.  There are stained glass windows around the entire building.

And there are intricate panels of different scenes around the top of the carousel.  Each one is unique.

But the horses are what catch your eye - each one also different.

Each one is truly a work of art, but like all art some just touch a part of you that defies explaination.  I LOVE this one.

And then there is the lone camel.  He didn't have much appeal as far as I was concerned.

And there was one fabulous dragon coach.  You can see the edge of it in this picture.

Here is a close up of the side.

I couldn't just take pictures and not experience a ride!  There was a fabulous black horse that I didn't realize I hadn't gotten a picture of until I got home.  I would have ridden him except he didn't go up and down!  What's the point?  Here is my trusty steed. 

Getting on was a bit of a challenge with my purse and camera and the fact that he had stopped at the top of the up and down sequence, but I managed.  And this is the horse next to mine.

The view from my horse.  And I couldn't help but look up at the ceiling.

I had to buy a ticket not only to ride but to get a close up shot of the tableau that was in the center of the carousel.

As you can see the detail in the carvings were incredible.  Young and old enjoyed the two (or three) minute escape from reality on a gorgeous day, except for one little girl who cried and screamed the entire time who was right in front of me!

That must have been grandpa she was with.  The guy who was collecting tickets went over and suggested that they sit in one of the chariots or on a horse that didn't go up and down, but grandpa insisted she ride where she was.  The only one who didn't have a fabulous time!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mystery Plant

I have a plant that's growing in the front of my house and in the neighbor's yard behind me.  It has small purple flowers and small 'berries' that turn red.  I like it but have no idea what it is.  Here are some pictures.

If anybody knows what this is, please let me know.  Thanks!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Song for the Horse Nation

I don't normally do this, but I liked this article so much I decided to present it to you in its entirety - originally appearing in the May 2012 issue of Natural Awakenings' East Michigan/Metro Detroit Pet Magazine.

Horses: Brothers and Sisters in the Eyes of Native Americans


Historically, in tribes the horses and humans worked together toward the common goal of sustainability and wellbeing.


Horses & Native Americans
"Appeal to the Great Spirit," outside of
the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
In today’s society, stress and anxiety seem to be at epidemic proportions. It’s no wonder; the crashing economy, war, civil unrest and the upcoming political elections are the main things being broadcast on TV, radio and the internet.

People are constantly bombarded by mainstream media with negativity that produces stress-inducing thoughts such as not having enough money and never having enough time. Any sense of inner-peace seems to have become quite elusive.

However, many people have been finding that by turning (or, better yet, REturning), to nature, they feel more connected, balanced and centered. This is really no surprise to those who understand Native American culture.

According to ancient wisdom, total wellbeing is really as close as one’s own backyard, or at least a small patch of grass, a tree or even a dog or cat. Because Native American culture teaches that human beings are no different than any other living thing, it makes sense that everything shares a common bond on some level, especially spiritual.

This cannot be seen more clearly or beautifully than when observed through the sacred relationship between Native Americans and horses. Traditional Native Americans consider horses, and all animals for that matter, as brothers and sisters rather than utilitarian animals here only to serve the needs and wants of humans.

Therefore, their wisdom teaches them to treat the animals as they would a beloved family member, and not like a piece of sports equipment that can be honed to simply win people blue ribbons or bunches of money.

Historically, in tribes, the horses and humans worked together toward the common goal of sustainability and wellbeing. This relationship was embraced by the Mississippi Choctaw Indians, before these people were relocated via the “Trail of Tears” to Oklahoma.

Film producer, John Fusco wrote in a 2006 article, “The women were the Keepers of the Horse. It was the way of the Mississippi Choctaws; the men did the hunting, their wives later tracked the catch on horseback, with little more than a broken twig here and there to mark the trail. Even 'five moons' pregnant, it didn’t matter. Her Choctaw Pony was born gaited–like riding a cloud."

"In the dusk," Fusco continued, "while cooking for her children and the elders, her horse would fatten on grass nearby, small bells fastened to his outsized mane keeping him in earshot. Before dawn, she would travel to the bean field for harvest, walking alongside her horse while her small children, all three of them, would sit up in the packsaddle which was also bundled with supplies. She needed no rope to lead her partner. He just followed where she walked.”

In fact, the common image of Native Americans riding bareback with only a rope and leg cues for guidance is quite accurate. Simply because of the strong bond they established with their horses, harsh bits and mechanical coercion were not necessary.
Even today, to which many natural horsemanship advocates can attest, once this authentic relationship between the horse and human is in place, these artificial items are not needed, with any horse.

In her book Centered Riding, the late author Sally Swift points this out and teaches the perfect riding position by referencing the artwork called Appeal to the Great Spirit. This sculpture beautifully depicts a Native American warrior, sitting on his horse with his head back, eyes closed, arms outstretched with palms up, and legs relaxed and dangling on either side of the horse. Because there are no YouTube videos available of Native Americans riding hundreds of years ago, authentic, cultural artistic images such as this, and traditional teachings, are extremely valuable.

In 2010, for the Native American website, Whisper n Thunder, (, trainer Millie Chalk wrote, “We as Native Americans have a great heritage to live up to in many regards, but none so noble or worthy as being exemplary horsemen and women. No doubt our ancestors believed this in that the horse was more to them than simply a beast of burden. Their beliefs imbued the horse with great spiritual power along with strength and courage, the qualities they wanted to integrate into their lives.”

She continues, “The point I’m trying to make is that I feel strongly that we as a people have a cultural obligation to be an example to the world as we once were when it comes to how we care for our animals in general, but particularly when it comes to our horses. I believe we should make every attempt to learn as much as possible about everything that pertains to our horse’s well being, both old and new, and to develop a greater awareness of what it takes to be a proper steward of one of the Great Spirit’s most magnificent creations.”

These are wise words, indeed, and today’s society could use a strong dose of this powerful horse medicine. Maybe the mainstream media will pick up on some of these horse whispers on the wind before stress and anxiety reach any higher levels.

For more information about Millie Chalk, visit her website Leah Juarez is the President of Equesse, produces the Equesse Channel for women who love horses and contributes regularly to Natural Awakenings' East Michigan magazines. Leah has developed a long list of projects designed to help people enrich their lives through a passion for horses. Leah's personal mission is to make a positive difference in the world through a love of horses.

Also horse breeders we have Native Americans to thank for several breeds of horses including Appaloosas and the American Quarter Horse.

I totally agree with this article - I never feel as much at peace as when I'm connected to nature, the reason for the name of this blog.

I wanted to connect this article with a wonderful exhibit now showing at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC - A Song for the Horse Nation.  I saw this exhibit when it was at the George Gustav Heye Center in NYC.  Since moving to Washington, D.C. this exhibit has been expanded and I highly recommend seeing it.  It truly spoke to me.  You can click on the above link to the exhibit's website to see what the exhibit is all about and learn more about Native Americans' relationship with horses.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Monkey with a Mustache

Tamarins are primates found in Central and South America and the distinguishing characteristic of several species is their facial hair.  They live in the tropical rainforest and their diet consists of plants, fruit, insects, flowers, nectar and bird eggs.  Many species are found in the Amazon Basin and live in groups from 4 to 40 members.  They spend most of their time in the trees and are agile climbers.

Species include the brown-mantled tamarin...

Source:  Wikipedia

the golden-mantled tamarin...

Source:  Wikipedia

and the golden-handed (or red-handed) tamarin, also known as the Midas tamarin.

Source:  Wikipedia

Guess you can see how this guy got his name.  Interestingly enough, dad takes care of the kids except for the nursing duties.  These little guys can leap up to 60 feet through the trees.

There are two sub-species of moustached tamarins.

Source:  Wikipedia

While living in some protected areas, the pied tamarin is only found around one city in Brazil and is considered endangered.

 Source:  Wikipedia

Look like anyone you know?

My favorites though are the cotton-top tamarin...

 Photo by Michael Gabler  Source:  Wikipedia

which has quite an expressive communication system consisting of whistles, chirps, trills and calls, including a territorial song, and the emperor tamarin which has an even more impressive moustache than the moustached tamarin.

Source:  Wikipedia

All he needs is a monocle to complete the effect!

Click here, here and here for a couple of videos.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mini Marsh

Another little area I pass on the way to work is right off a major highway, but is a big hang out for Canadian geese.  They are there every day almost when I go by.  It's an area next to a large pond of water.  I stopped Sunday morning to take pictures and, of course, no geese in sight!  There were a few ducks and a bird that looked like a killdeer (also thought I heard the cry of a killdeer while I was there - click here to hear what they sound like) but it was too far away to get a photo.

Source:  Wikipedia

In the plover family, killdeers are not just shore birds but are common in fields and meadows as well as golf courses and parking lots.

I'd only been there for a few minutes taking a few pictures of the ducks, when I saw the geese swimming from another area of the marsh coming in my direction.

If you're thinking the water looks green, you're right.  The 'pond' is filled with algae and water lilies.

Then the geese came up on the banks and hung out with me.  Of course they probably thought I was going to feed them.  I'd been there for a little while when someone else arrived with bread.  Then all the geese, ducks and a few other birds, including some red-winged blackbirds joined in the feast.

I heard the glug of frogs but never saw one.  At one point I heard a squeek and a splash of water.  Not sure who else was out there, but could have been a frog.  There were also a few chipmunks hanging out.

One morning when I was close to this area I saw a long-legged wading bird headed in.  Probably a heron but no herons on Sunday.

It was great to get a closer look at this little area I see every day, but didn't know that much about.