breakfast, Ecuador, Galapagos, Mail, Post Office, South America, Sudamerica, travel, Uncategorized, Winter

Message in a…barrel ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The Galapagos Post Office.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve just finished up my third winter in a row.  Pretty much twelve months spent in the winter seasons of Milwaukee, then Chile, then New York.

It’s natural that during this Ice Age, my mind would wander sometimes, and take a little vacation from the cold.

Leaving my frostbitten carcass behind, it would daydream of sun, gentle breezes, and warm beaches.

So when I got a break, and actually took a short trip to a sunny, warm beach, I stood in the warmth and sunshine, and naturally my mind strayed again, like that one pesky third-grader on a field trip, and left me with thoughts of…

Cream of Wheat?

 

 

By sheer good luck, in February I got the chance to tag along with a student group going to the Galapagos Islands, pretty close to the equator.  Walking around Floreana Island, under the most intense sunlight I’ve ever felt, suddenly my mind was thinking of my favorite hot breakfast cereal.

Sometimes I worry myself.

 

On the island, looking at a weathered barrel full of postcards, what came to mind, was a famous advertisement from the turn of the last century, which I’d seen for years, on a tin canister in our kitchen.

The ad ran in magazines over a hundred years ago, but a lot of folks would recognize it still.   “Rural Delivery”, painted by N.C. Wyeth in 1906, shows a cowpoke on horseback, six-shooter on his hip, dropping a letter into a wooden box on a post.   “Where The Mail Goes, Cream of Wheat Goes” says the caption.

 

 

The barrel post office I was standing by, on this remote island in the Galapagos, is even older than the ad.  The site (if not the current barrel) has been used  since the 1790’s.  Originally by sailors coming ashore for water or food – – whalers, seal-hunters, and sea-cooks looking to boil up a big pot of turtle soup – and now by tourists from all over the world.

Over two hundred years ago, a British sea captain set up the mail drop, with flags that signaled its existence to passing ships.  Outbound sailors would leave messages, and homeward bound sailors would retrieve letters left by others, to deliver when they got to port.

 

The legacy has continued – – each modern visitor leaves a postcard, and looks for one that they can deliver in person to the recipient.

I enjoyed looking through addresses in places as diverse as Mumbai and Moldova.  That last one, had languished here for twelve years.  One girl in the group, feeling sad for a letter marooned on the island for seventeen years, waiting to be carried to Turkey, said she would defy whatever curse came from violating tradition, and would mail it from the U.S., because she felt like matters had waited long enough.

On the day we were there, New Englanders seemed to have the most luck, and several kids found addresses close to their homes, that they could deliver at the end of the semester.  “This lady lives twenty minutes from my house!”

I am looking forward to hearing from myself, just a card, and it will be a nice surprise to learn what I was thinking, because I’ve already forgotten what I wrote.

The most poignant message, though, was very simple. I picked it up and in big letters it proclaimed:

“I will be back for this. If I die before then, my kids will. Leave me here, I’m coming back!”

 

 

 

Rural Delivery” painting is public domain, courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (a gift from the National Biscuit Company!)

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a “musher” or sled dog driver, looking a bit husky in his big coat.

 

sled dogs

 

in the surprisingly cozy bar

 

I’m not much of a drinker, but tried the hotel’s signature cider cocktail, in a glass made of ice, and found it delicious, almost impossible to put down.

 

In the chapel

 

Many of the rooms had amazing carvings on the walls. I didn’t meet anyone actually staying for the night. I overheard people discussing the possibility of renting rooms by the hour/hot sheet hotel, wondering if the room service would be glacial, etc. but no one actually planning on staying the night.

 

blocks of bluish ice

 

all the carvings were imaginative and well-done

 

My sister is impervious to cold. I cannot believe we’re related.

 

 

 

Canada, Quebec, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Uncategorized, Winter

Ice Hotel – – Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, Québec, Canada

Gallery

 

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman Go Bicycling in March

Afoot and light-headed I take to the open road,

Unhealthy, coughing, the world of snow before me,

The long white path before me leading wherever is plowed.

Hope is the thing with rubber tires

That perches in a snowdrift,

And hope has feathers, too,

If you run over a chicken during a whiteout.

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, NY, photography, Uncategorized, Upstate New York, Winter

“Optimism” Owning a Bicycle in Upstate New York

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Canada, photography, Quebec, Uncategorized, Winter

Heading for the hills.

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1903 Théâtre Capitole de Québec

1903 Théâtre Capitole de Québec

 

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copper roof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1893 Château Frontenac

1893 Château Frontenac

 

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advanced Lego project

 

 

Parliament

1886 Hôtel du Parlement (Parliament of Quebec)

 

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Ice floes on the St. Lawrence

 

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1817 Chapelle des Jésuites

 

 

 

 

 

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looking up toward La Promenade des Gouverneurs

 

 

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Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec. Famous as the “engulfed cathedral” and generally unable to be used until late July, when most of the snow has melted.

 

 

 

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Ok, baker’s dozen. What a beautiful city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

architecture, Canada, photography, Quebec, travel, Uncategorized, Winter

One Dozen Rooftops. Ville de Québec, Canada

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Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York, Winter

Pictures of Upstate New York. January, Frozen Puddles on Brink Hill.

 

 

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This is my third winter this year.

It has something to do with hemispheres.

My sister, the science nerd, tells me it involves planetary Tilt & Wobble.

And I believe her, because it does feel like a time of great uncertainty and instability.

Sometimes I question the whole setup of this planet.   Why can’t we all just get along, and everyone could have winter at the same time?

Basically, most of us trust that the world keeps spinning and orbiting, I guess, but based on impartial scientific observation, days of tedium are too long, other times the good days speed by, leading me to question the constancy of the Earth’s revolution.

Gravity seems pretty predictable, and generally OK, until I slip on the ice and come down hard, landing somewhere south of the equator, and then think — why don’t we set things up like on the moon, with 83.3% less gravity (just looked it up).   I mean, just lighten up a bit.

Not really sure tectonic plates make a lot of sense.  Back in 1915, with a world war and so many horrible things already underway, a German geologist named Alfred Wegener somehow thought it a good idea to start up “continental drift”.

Not many people feel comfortable having huge land masses skating around.  It’s resulted in rifts.

“Continental” has come to connote a certain sophistication, but the sense of uncertainty has lead to earthquakes, very minimal breakfasts in hotels, the instability of the Weimar Republic, etc.

On a positive note, my sister also tells me that every year, I’m an inch closer to Hong Kong and Singapore.

But this is science, and there’s apparently a law about an equal and opposite reaction.  We draw closer to Asia, but the moon is moving away from Earth, did you know that??

You’ve probably sensed we’ve grown more distant and chilly — we never visit anymore.

Without that dynamic relationship, that old devil moon circling around us like a dynamo, this planet’s magnetic shields won’t hold forever.  We’ll be pelted with radiation, and comets and so on, most of which are, for pete’s sake, big chunks of ice, like we need more ice around here.

We’re also told that there’s this continuing issue with “geomagnetic pole reversal”.  Which is bound to upset Vladimir Putin, now that he owns the North Pole, when it suddenly flips to the other end of the planet.

If you call the United Nations’ IT department about these threats to global stability, they just tell you, try rebooting, and put you on hold.

I could go on with scientific stuff like this, but today’s concern:  as a minor side effect of traveling between the northern and southern hemispheres – – I’m currently living through my third winter in a row, meaning, almost continual winter for the better part of a year.

First, Milwaukee, a town where winter doesn’t kid around.  Wisconsin can be breathtaking.  Not in the sense of being beautiful, but literally so cold it’s hard to breathe some days.

Then Chile, in the foothills of the Andes, not snowy in my region, but with countless icy showers (both outside, and at my unheated hostel).  More than twice the rainfall of home, and mostly as a long chilly monsoon.

Third, back home in Upstate New York.

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Upstate New Yorkers rival the Aleuts in snow and ice expertise.

The Eskimo terminology may be larger and more detailed, but the NY Winter Vocabulary is more colorful and emphatic, and on occasion, has actually been known to melt things.  It’s audible from the cars in ditches, pedestrians careening down icy sidewalks in the teeth of the gale, and homeowners shoveling out their driveways for the third time in 24 hours.  The weather may be frigid, but we’re a hot-blooded, short-tempered crowd during the ice age.

 

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Abandoned farm road, now within a state forest.

Actually, although I do not camp in the winter, neither am I discontented.

I enjoy winter, and am more active in the colder temperatures, than when it’s hot.

We’ve been hiking a bit in the Southern Tier (bordering Pennsylvania), which hasn’t had much snowfall yet this year, and some unusual warm spells.

 

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Everyone is entitled to change their mind sometimes. I guess this former farm road decided it would rather be a creek bed.

 

The beautiful fall leaves are now mostly faded to brown, dark russet, and dull yellow, so the winter woods are pretty drab without the snow.

The ravines often have hemlocks, survivors of the forests that were cut up for lumber in the nineteenth century.  I love hemlocks, and their subtle fragrance, but on a gray day, with no snow, they can make for a dark and melancholy woods.

And our last two walks went through stretches of tangled second-growth — former farms that went belly-up during the Depression and were replanted with pines by the CCC or the state.

Sometimes, after eighty years, the abandoned pastures and fields have returned to being groves of mature maple, ash, and shagbark hickory, and are pretty nice woodlands.

Other times, former apple orchards are now a nasty tangle of black raspberry brambles, wild grapevines, and spiky hawthorns. The decaying apple trees are decidedly unlovely, and the thorny crap always seems to be trying to choke off the trail, cut up your hands, and stick something sharp through the seat of your pants when you’re not looking.

So, you cannot always be someplace beautiful and picturesque.  And it’s all good.  I watched my footing, and began admiring the patterns in the ice on the little pools and puddles of the old roads.

 

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The cycle of freezing and thawing has given the ice an opportunity for experimentation with a lot of different shapes and textures.  I just had a cellphone with me, but took some pictures to give an idea of what I’m talking about.

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Usually the ice crystals around here are pretty, well, crystalline – – sharp-edged Art Deco/Jazz Age.

 

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But this week, maybe because I’ve been looking at architecture from the turn of the last century, the streams and puddles around here seem to have a definite Art Nouveau look to them.

 

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