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    In The Garden: Earliest Spring in the Pacific Northwest

    Four weeks in a garden on the Puget Sound of Washington State . . . .

    The earliest days, misty and damp.  The end of a long, wet winter in the Pacific Northwest.  This is the garden as it begins to awaken.
    Lat years glory subdues . . . but awakening.
    The misty forest that surrounds the house is beginning to stir.
    The sheltered ferns made it through the cold snaps.
    The mosses and lichens are adapted to thrive through the winter . . . when all the leaves have fallen from the trees.
    Here and there buds are starting to appear.
    The front yard Magnolia flashes it's first promise of wild flowering . . .
    A week later . . . and the sun broke through for an afternoon of amazing light and color!
    The bold blossoms of the Forsythia and Oriental Plum dominate the garden.
    You can almost hear the trunks and branches stretch under the turgor rising from the roots.
    Promises of what is to come in the garden.
    A few brave blossoms gambling against a late frost.
    A sunny day one week later . . . and the whit Magnolia has burst out in a constellation of white flowers.
    A sunny blue garden wheelbarrow . . . 
    New flowering everywhere!
    The ferns seem to be exploding out of the ground!
    The purple Magnolia is beginning to show color in its buds.
    Leafing . . . right before your eyes.
    The Japanese Pear blossoms seemed to appear overnight!
    The rhododendron buds continue to swell . . .
    Down under the rhododendrons, a small violet flower blooms.
    Like an arrangement from a florist . . .
    White Magnolia.
    Delicate beauty.
    Hidden in the dark shadows at the edge of the garden . . .
    These gave off a wonderful aroma.
    A (rare) wonderful sunny day in the great Northwest.

    Weeks later . . . more wet and dark days . . . the famous Washington State rain has been relentless, but that has not stopped the powerful urge of Nature to break free.
    The Rhododendron are just now beginning to emerge from the tight buds.
    New buds . . . fraught with beauty.
    Warped and twisted as they unfurl their beauty . . .
    The magnolia in the front yard is beginning to show purple.
    The purple Magnolia only budding, lagging behind their white neighbors.
    A wet afternoon in the garden.
    A white Magnolia in bloom deep in the dark bushes . . .
    Buds and pink blooms . . . everywhere you look.
    A new splash of beauty emerges.
    Perfect.
    Everything is showing new growth . . . Winter is at last receding.
    Every day sees a new kind of flower appearing.
    Tiny flowers hidden deep within the foliage.
    Flowers everywhere . . . these volunteer perennial were beautiful.
    Native species also appear here and there in and a round the garden.
    This part of Washington State sees extreme amounts of rainfall. The trees are covered in moss.
    Fresh, wet moss everywhere.
    In addition to the moss, tufts of lichen adhere to almost every branch.
    Bark and moss.

    A Ramble in Scotland with a Visiting Friend (10/31 - 11/3, 2015)

    Although I have left Scotland and am living back in Bangkok now, I am still going through photos I took on my many photographic rambles.  This entry is of a three day ramble (mostly the northeast of Scotland) I took when my good friend John Stiles visited me.  I took many, many photos on this ramble, so it will take some time for me to complete it. These are 'The Best of John's Visit.'  Enjoy.

    A North Sea sunrise along the Aberdeen Esplanade. Just above freezing.

     

    First Light.  North Sea.

     

    A church along an Aberdeenshire rural road.

     

    Stunning November weather for northeast Scotland.

     

    I the middle of the Aberdeen city centre is a wonderful church and cemetery.

     

    When an old friend visits that you haven't seen in a while, and it's Halloween, and you are in an old graveyard . . . you must play!

     

    After that stunning sunrise at the Aberdeen Esplanade, our day one ramble took us up the coast to the little fishing berg of Baddam where the hulls of the beached trawlers provided extraordinary abstract studies in decay and color.

     

    The lighthouse at Baddam.

     

    Exposed rocks near Baddam harbour.

     

    The austere old section of Baddam village.

     

    All along our small road route, we were continually 'discovering' fantastically beautiful scenes.

     

    The stunning Fyvie Castle.

     

    Gorgeous autumn scenes all around the grounds of Fyvie Castle.

     

    Superb Fall colors reflected in the castle goose pond.

     

    For three glorious days we rambled about the small roads of northeast Scotland.  My AWD Juke NISMO was the perfect car for the narrow, winding, wet-leaf-covered country lanes.

     

    Castles and castle ruins everywhere in Aberdeenshire.

     

    The Aberdeenshire roads would alternately suddenly diving into the deep shade of small forests . . .

     

    . . . and back out onto the bright, stone wall lined country roads.

     

    We were always up for a quick stop at an old country cemetery.

     

    There is so much to see in the old cemeteries: colors, textures, old surfaces . . . . and . . . .

     

    . . .  and the occasional Class III freefloating spirit vapour.

     

    Autumn in a Scottish cemetery can be very beautiful.

     

    No trip to Aberdeenshire would be complete without a stop at New Slaines Castle . . . a photographer's paradise.

     

    A stairwell in the ruins of New Slains Castle.

     

    Some of the views from inside the castle ruins onto the North Sea were stunning.

     

    North Sea view from New Slaines Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

     

    John and I spent several hours wandering around inside the ruins of New Slaines Castle enjoying the play of light and shadow on the deserted halls and rooms . . . . . . as well as making portraits of each other among the ruins.

     

    The castle on the North Sea cliffs, New Slaines.

     

    The Benholme Kirke, built on the site of a 9th century hermitage.

     

    Although we interrupted the Benholm Kirke bookkeeper . . . but he obliged with a tour and short history of this interesting place.

     

    Benholm Kirke had a fine old 'kirkegaard' as well.

     

    Moss and lichen-covered grave stone and ancient cottage slate roof . . .

     

    We sometimes consulted the GPS as to any 'points of interest' . . . and discovered this old mill.

     

    The sluice and water wheel were still there and still intact.

     

    Down by the Old Mill Stream . . . A photographer's dream!

     

    The opportunities for still life studies of mill paraphernalia was incredible.  I enter only a few of the many beautiful photographs I took here.

     

    An old mill stone.

     

    An old mill stone made of several stone segments.

     

    The wood-shimed center bearing of an old mill stone.

     

    One morning we drove south on the old coastal road to the fishing village of Johnshaven.

     

    The Johnshaven townsfolk had quite the sense of humor!

     

    Johnshaven was a grey and austere village (like many Scottish villages) but with a splash of color here and there.

     

    The fine old stone harbour jetty of Johnshaven.

     

    Johnshaven is a fishing village with many great nautical-themed photos to be had.

     

    Old anchors in the boatyards.

     

    Low tide along the Johnshaven sea wall.

     

    The only bad weather we saw during three days.  A stormy North Sea.

     

    Near Montrose there were signs of a recent flood of the River Esk.

     

    Whenever we would see magic light on an old stone building we would stop and take photographs.

     

    We stopped for coffee one late afternoon in the old market town of Montrose.

     

    Yes, more ghoulish fun . . . in the Montrose Cemetery.

     

    Montrose had some fine statues in the town square . . . here a good Samaritan was honored.

     

    Montrose is typical of many Scottish towns.

     

    OK, maybe Montrose is not so typical after all.

     

    But what I will remember most about Montrose was the most incredible sunset of my life playing over us across the estuary bridge!

     

    From beginning to end . . . we were completely enthralled.

     

    Another day along the small country lanes above the North Sea.

     

    Old farm houses along a strand of the North Sea.

     

    A wild North Sea below the cliffs of Aberdeenshire.

     

    North Sea hay bales.

     

    We saw so much and did so much in those short three days . . . and this blog entry represents only a small part of it all.  I may elaborate more on this entry at a later date, but for now, that is all.

    Suphanburi Province: A Day Trip Northwest Of Bangkok

    A RAMBLE IN FOUR PARTS

     

    Part Four: A Field of Buddha Crypts and a Hell Garden - Wat Phai Rong Wua

     

    My friend John Stiles and I set off in my old truck up the road to the rural province of Suphanburi, to the northwest of Bangkok.  As usual, we had a vague idea, from a tertiary Google search, of what we wanted to see, but no particular plan: we would ramble.  We would eventually see several amazing Buddhist temple complexes, a Buffalo park, and a Farm Museum.  We never 'found' the actual town of Suphanburi, but we didn't care: we had a grand adventure rambling about the rural Thai countryside.

    We found Wat Phai Rong Wua on the GPS and noticed it was on the road back to Bangkok.  Good.  There was suppose to be a giant Buddha image and something called a Hell Garden.  OK, Lets take a look.  The Buddha colossus was remarkable!

     

    Just to give perspective . . . notice the size of this Buddha image compared to the truck parked below it!!!

     

    We arrived at Wat Phai Ron Wua as the sun was beginning to set.  We knew we would only have about an hour of light left, and only about 20 minutes of good light.  We dashed across the street from the parking area and were immediately overwhelmed with the sight of hundreds of Buddha images!

     

    The Buddhas were actually crypts, no doubt of the wealthy people who built the larger wat complex.

     

    The Buddha images were all unique and many had been tended recently.

     

    The last of the golden light of sun shone on the field of Buddhas.  I just started clicking away with my camera.

     

    One of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen in my life!

     

    Looking back into the golden sunset . . .

     

    The tropical sun setting behind a field of Buddhas . . . Ah! Thailand!

     

    There were a few exceptionally large Buddhas in the field.

     

    Some of the Buddhas had been draped with cloth. We knew we were losing the light, so we moved on.  I must have taken hundreds of photos in this field of Buddhas!

     

    A field of Buddhas in the last of day.

     

    Next to the Colossus was this charming reclining Buddha shrine.

     

    And then, quite by accident, we saw a gate across from the big Buddha . . . The Gate of the Hell Garden!

     

    And by Hell Garden, I mean a garden of Hellish statuary!

     

    There were many sections of the Hell Garden, each held stylistically different depictions of all the horrific things humans do to themselves and each other.

     

    Some of the statuary were very amateurishly made.

     

    There were places where it looked like whoever made these awful beings had run out of ideas and were just being nutty.  I guess making a Hell Garden can have that effect on a person.

     

    I hate it when this happens. [You KNEW I was going to have to say that!]

     

    Another style variation on the theme of suffering.

     

    I'm not sure what kind of bad gamma you must have earned to reappear in the Hell Garden as a lizardhead.

     

    I don't know if it means anything, but I own the exact same shirt.

     

    The Hell Garden covered a very large area.  A group of Buddhist monks walked through pointing and laughing . . . I was so fascinated with their jovial attitude that I completely forgot to take their photo!

     

    There was a small structure within the Hell Garden that held what seemed like offerings.

     

    There was even a row of Buddha images . . . but it was hard to tell if these weren't depictions of 'fallen' Buddhas . . .

     

    When we had seen enough human suffering we left over the bridge we came over.

     

    It had been a wonderful day that left us with fabulous images running around our heads (and on our storage cards!) . . . and many questions left unanswered.


    Suphanburi Province: A Day Trip Northwest Of Bangkok

    A RAMBLE IN FOUR PARTS

     

    Part Three: Thai Farm Museum and Lemon Temple

     

    My friend John Stiles and I set off in my old truck up the road to the rural province of Suphanburi, to the northwest of Bangkok.  As usual, we had a vague idea, from a tertiary Google search, of what we wanted to see, but no particular plan: we would ramble.  We would eventually see several amazing Buddhist temple complexes, a Buffalo park, and a Farm Museum.  We never 'found' the actual town of Suphanburi, but we didn't care: we had a grand adventure rambling about the rural Thai countryside.

    Never trust your GPS completely.  After a wonderful stop at a river Wat we decided we wanted to see the Farm Museum, so we punched it into the GPS and took off.  20 minutes later we arrived at the spot on the GPS map and found the Lemon Temple instead.  Where is the Farm Museum, we thought?

     

    We walked around a little and could not find anything like a Farm Museum. Instead we found an interesting 'spiritual center' - a kind of Buddhist temple - and walked in to ask where the Farm Museum was.

     

    Whoever is making donations to this temple must be expecting large crowds.  Beautiful wooden pews.  John found someone to ask . . . they said we were about 20K from the Farm Museum.  Oops!  Wrong place . . . but still interesting.

     

    I walked around a bit and went up some stairs to find a locked door.  Fortunately there was a window I could rest my camera on to take this HDR shot of the temple upper floor.  The raised platform to the left is where the monks would sit and chant.

     

    We spent 10 minutes at the Lemon Temple, found the lemon bushes, and left for Farm Museum.

     

    The entrance to the Lifestyle and Spirit of Thai Farmers Learning Center looked promising.  And we were hungry.

     

    Fortunately they had an eatery where we could get a bowl of noodle soup.  They also had a cafe where we had a fine cup of coffee.

     

    The museum had a fine recreated historical rural shop.

     

    Historical store.

     

    A very beautiful space.

     

    Strangely, not all the items on the display shelves were old and antique.

     

    It was a very beautiful place with covered walkways.

     

    There were fields to show different types of rice.

     

    Trimming the rice fields . . . only at the museum.

     

    Flowers in the rice fields.

     

    The center is designed to educate farmers about farming methods, and to educate the public about farming in general.  None of the visitors we saw looked like farmers.

     

    A child's teeter-totter made of parts from an old buffalo farm cart.  You hate to see these old items repurposed this way.

     

    It was interesting to watch workers reassemble an old Thai style teak house.

     

    There  were a few small exhibits of random 'old stuff.'  This old Suzuki and bicycle in a grass shack was particularly beautiful.  We headed on to our next destination:  The Hell Garden (Wat Phai Rong Wua) of Suphanburi.

    Suphanburi Province: A Day Trip Northwest Of Bangkok

    A RAMBLE IN FOUR PARTS

     

    Part Two: A Rural Suphanburi [Water] Buffalo Park

     

    My friend John Stiles and I set off in my old truck up the road to the rural province of Suphanburi, to the northwest of Bangkok.  As usual, we had a vague idea, from a tertiary Google search, of what we wanted to see, but no particular plan: we would ramble.  We would eventually see several amazing Buddhist temple complexes, a Buffalo park, and a Farm Museum.  We never 'found' the actual town of Suphanburi, but we didn't care: we had a grand adventure rambling about the rural Thai countryside.

    As there is only one kind of buffalo in Thailand, they are referred to as Buffalo . . . not Water Buffalo!

     

    Baan Kwai (Buffalo Village) in rural Si Prachan,  Suphanburi Province a delightful 17 acres of ponds, buffalos, old Thai houses reassembled in tidy gardens, buffalo, intended to educate the public about . . . buffalo.

     

    The grounds of Baan Kwai are very nicely tended and the old Thai houses are beautifully restored and maintained.  This is the ideal of old Thai culture.

     

    I love these old Thai style houses . . . normally made of teak wood.

     

    Beautiful old trees threw their shade throughout the park.

     

    They made a nice effort to create an 'old time' rural feel to the place.

     

    There was an area set aside for a exhibit of rice cultivation.

     

    A Thai scarecrow.  We saw many of these in the fields all across Suphanburi Province.

     

    There were several ponds for the buffalo and ducks and geese.  Those are fish traps . . . although I do not believe they used them . . . they are for the visitors to look at.

     

    The ducks came near . . . expecting a hand out.

     

    A park employee called the buffalo over . . . so she could sell us some buffalo feed to hand-feed them.

     

    The buffalo in the water happily obliged and came over to be fed.

     

    A mother buffalo and her baby swam over too.

     

    These buffalo were a pleasing color . . . and moved with such slow grace in the water.

     

    Feeding time!

     

    This one came right up and under the netting we were sitting on while feeding them . . . making for an interesting photo, no?

     

    There was a lot more to see here than we anticipated.

     

    The buffalo village also served as a kind of agriculture museum as well.  What a wonderful haystack!

     

    I fell in love with this old agricultural work truck.  Each of those scratches and dents came with a story . . .

     

    The extreme of utilitarian equipment.

     

    Classic.

     

    Some of the buffalo were brought into a shed for feeding.

     

    The purple . . . perhaps medical treatment of some kind.

     

    No: not a cowlick . . . a buffalolick!

     

    Buffalo are a noble creature . . .

     

    It was a pleasant day for just walking a round.  There was always something of interest to see.

     

    The large seed pod of a fern palm.

     

    It was the end of the rainy season and everything was looking good.

     

    A lovely Hibiscus flower.

     

    No buffalo park would be complete without a fiberglass replica of a buffalo cartoon character from Thai childrens' TV.

     

    We saw only three other visitors during the hour we spent at the buffalo village.  Granted, it was a Monday, but there must be a tourist season.  A school teacher friend of mine said that his school takes elementary school kids here by bus once a year . . . .

     

    The whole buffalo village was dotted with the fine old Thai style houses.  Beautiful.

     

    Buffalo pull buffalo carts . . . duh!  I was glad to have found this shed containing many very old and restored carts.

     

    A cart for every purpose.

     

    Very simple construction, but strong.

     

    This was a very old Thai house that was open for inspection.  We went in and were amazed at what we saw!

     

    Many old antique items remained in the old farm house.

     

    Fantastic light and color inside the old Thai farmhouse.

     

    Huge teak planks made up the floor.

     

    Such quiet spiritual beauty!

     

    Marvelous light, color, shape, and texture.

     

    Every wall, every room . . . held visual marvels!

     

    A perfect still life study wherever I looked.

     

    A collection of things one might find in an old Thai farmhouse.

     

    Parts of the old farmhouse were open to the outside . . . it is the tropics, so no need for heating . . . most likely the open kitchen area.

     

    As we were leaving Baan Kwai, we couldn't help but notice a large fish tank . . . with fantastic reflections . . . of us!  Bizarre selfie opportunities like this do not come along all that often.