Archive for the ‘California landmarks’ Category
One of the many treasures of Balboa Park is the Spreckels Pipe Organ—the world’s largest outdoor musical instrument. San Diego employs a civic organist and offers free organ concerts on many Sunday afternoons throughout the year. I’ve been wanting to attend one ever since we moved here, and yesterday we happened to think of it just in time to catch the Christmas concert and community sing-along. The timing was perfect; my mother was visiting for the weekend. (She comes out for my birthday every year, which is the best possible present.)
We wore our new Christmas hats that my sister Merry made for us.
It was really too warm for them, but we were full of Christmas spirit.
As were the many doggies who attended the concert along with enthusiastic carol-singers.
It was all very merry and bright.
Possibly a little too bright.
Our all potential Christmas card photos turned out to be outtakes. That’s okay because I’ve already abandoned hope on sending out Christmas cards this year anyway.
The best part was when the organist invited audience members to join her onstage for the carol-singing. We didn’t know we’d get to be part of the concert! Beanie, Jane, and I were eager to sing. The rest of the gang watched from the back of the amphitheater.
We thought of our snowed-under East Coast friends when we sang White Christmas.
(Out here it’s a white T-shirt Christmas.)
The best part was the final song—an enthusiastic and somewhat ad-libbed rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus. It is still ringing in my ears.
Methinks we have ourselves a new holiday tradition.
Thanks for the hats, sis!
Perusing my archives, I see the wonders of Balboa Park have inspired a good many posts. (And other creative pursuits.)
I draw (a little); she paints (a lot).
• Helixes (viewing mummies at the Museum of Man; visiting the Botanical Building)
We counted koi in the long lily pond outside the Botanical Building, their splotched orange-and-cream bodies undulating beneath spiky, ladylike blossoms and the notched round leaves that reminded us of Thumbelina’s prison and Mr. Jeremy Fisher’s raft. We peered inside the deep wells of pitcher-plant blossoms, angling to see if any hapless insects lay dissolving inside. How surreal, this eager scrutiny of death, the children chattering and lively in the moist green air of this palatial greenhouse, just as they had been in the domed, echoing hush of the museum.
• Got More Monet Than Time (Giverny exhibit at the art museum)
Giverny! The word is magical. It whispers: Monet, poppies, haystacks, light-streaked skies, picturesque laborers in wheat fields drenched with sun. We made a beeline for the visiting exhibit, a large collection of Impressionist works by the artists who congregated in the little French painters’ colony during the late 1800s. They took their easels out to the woods and fields in a golden frenzy of plein-air painting. All right, the wall placard describing the exhibit didn’t say anything about a frenzy per se, but it did talk a lot about plein-air painting, a term whose pronunciation I managed to fake quite passably but of whose definition I was ignorant until a kind-eyed Englishwoman explained it to Jane.
• Of Fowls and Fun (another art museum visit)
Yesterday my three oldest kids went to a workshop at the San Diego Museum of Art. A docent gave a short talk about elements of art—line, shape, color, etc—and then they split into small groups and went to look at four paintings up close. Afterward, they did an art project focusing on copying details from the paintings they’d viewed. I missed most of the workshop, because I was outside with the little ones. The girls had a splendid time, and Beanie was especially impressed by the dead chicken.
• Photos of the Japanese Friendship Garden (and other spots)
• And this month’s photoessay (Natural History Museum, Botanical Building)
San Diego Museum of Natural History at Balboa Park.
Lily Pond and lizard shirt
I have lots to write about this past week, but we’re heading into busy breakfast time so it’ll have to wait. In the meantime, a few more photos. Lots more at Flickr.
(If you have a Flickr account, let me know so I can Friend you.)
Day Four: Old Town San Diego. Fun and free—can’t beat that!
One of the beautiful rooms in the hacienda that belonged to the commandant of the Spanish fort circa 1825.
Candledipping takes fierce concentration.
Stencil on the wall of the visitor’s center.
Only a quickie post for now. What a day we had yesterday! Took the big girls to Julian, our favorite little California mountain town. This time we tried something new: visited the beautiful Smith Ranch and took a narrow-gauge train ride into an old gold mine. SO MUCH FUN. The engineer/tour guide/ranch owner was the nicest guy and had so much fascinating history to share with us. The tour usually lasts an hour but we were having so much fun he stretched it almost to two hours for us! More detailed post to follow. Have put some pix up at Flickr if you want a preview. (Added a few more photos to the Sea World set, too.)
Scott is taking his first real vacation since we moved to San Diego. Yes, I’m excited. My awesome parents have flown in from Denver and are entertaining my “twins” while Scott and I take the big girls on some outings of the sort that can be a wee bit difficult to mesh with the needs of little ones.
So yesterday, after two years of oohing wistfully over the proximity (i.e. 20 minutes from home), we went to Sea World.
Of course, if you follow me on Twitter, you already know this.
I’ve put a few photos up at Flickr. Mostly, though, I was too busy waving to my girls as their cars paused at the top of horrifically scary rides and revisiting my adolescent Vicky Austin-wannabe fantasies at the dolphin tanks.
Not to mention sobbing with awe through the Shamu show.
Not sure what’s in store for today. It’s possible I overdid the walking a teeny tiny bit yesterday. Today might have to be even more of a sit-and-wave-at-daughters kind of day for me.
This time last year, I was driving through Kansas. It was our fifth day on the road en route from Virginia to California: the five kids and me. If you’d like to read about our trip, I’ve pulled all the posts together into one big page, here.
It’s hard to believe it has been a year. Hard to believe we are West Coasters now, decorating for autumn by plopping pumpkins alongside our rainbow of moss roses. (This year I’ll know to keep watch against pumpkin mush.) We’re planting sunflowers in the back yard at the same time that we’re planning Halloween and All Saints’ Day costumes. It’s a bit surreal.
We went to Balboa Park again today. This time we visited the Museum of Man, lingering particularly long in the Egyptian wing. The kids were fascinated by the mummies, but I was a little bothered by the sad remains of the Lemon Grove Mummy, the body of what seems to have been a girl around fifteen years of age, possibly pregnant, curled into a fetal position. Her skin sags loosely around her old, old bones. She was found in a cave near Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1966 by two teenagers, who stole her and smuggled her home to Lemon Grove, California. Apparently she sat in a garage for 14 years because the boys didn’t want their parents to find out what they’d done. Eventually she was discovered and donated to the Museum of Man. She’s a special part of the mummy display, but I felt uncomfortable gawking at her in her glass case: it seems like a violation of her humanity for her to be cached there in public view next to the interactive media display about how scientists determined her age and origin. She’s one of several mummies there, and all the others had struck me as simply fascinating until we got to the Lemon Grove girl. Maybe it’s because she wasn’t wrapped up in linens like the Egyptian mummies. She reminded me of the Irish Bog People, and Seamus Heaney’s poems about them.
Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.
In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach…
(—from “Tollund Man” by Seamus Heaney.)
And that made me think of grad school, where I first read Heaney’s poems, back in the early ’90s when I had no inkling that one day I would stand in a Southern California museum, recalling those lines while watching four blonde heads peer at a long Mexican teenager in a glass case, another golden-haired child perched on my hip in a sling. I didn’t see today coming even two years ago, even 18 months ago.
Rilla was born in April of ’06 and Scott got the job offer in June. I planted a cherry tree in our yard that spring, a gift from my mother. I wonder if the new homeowners got cherries this summer?
This day last year we rolled into Kansas, where the prairie “slices the big sun at evening,” to quote Heaney’s “Bogland.” Today we watched the frothy spray of the big Balboa Park fountain paint a rainbow on the blue canvas of the sky. We counted koi in the long lily pond outside the Botanical Building, their splotched orange-and-cream bodies undulating beneath spiky, ladylike blossoms and the notched round leaves that reminded us of Thumbelina’s prison and Mr. Jeremy Fisher’s raft. We peered inside the deep wells of pitcher-plant blossoms, angling to see if any hapless insects lay dissolving inside. How surreal, this eager scrutiny of death, the children chattering and lively in the moist green air of this palatial greenhouse, just as they had been in the domed, echoing hush of the museum.
How surreal to be pondering corpses while the children are laughing. Pondering the human bodies, preserved; the insects, acid-eaten, their final resting place the polar opposite of Heaney’s peat bog, where hastily buried bodies remained clothed and well-manicured for centuries, and
Butter sunk under
More than a hundred years
Was recovered salty and white.
Sometimes I think about how life is like the very DNA it’s made of, a set of intertwined spirals full of small stories. A girl dies in Mexico and centuries later is brought to another country, where a woman stares at her empty skin and remembers an Irishman with a rope round his neck, preserved through the long march of years by the tannic acid in the peat and the ripe syllables of a bristle-browed poet. A child leans out over a reflecting pool and joyously points at a fish the same color as the pumpkins she begged her mother to buy that morning. A man in Virginia wanders, perhaps, out into his yard, and plucks a withered, mummified cherry he missed during the summer harvest, while the hands that planted the tree are pushing sunflower seeds into gritty soil a continent away.
And Saturday is when I play with my photos.
I love this picture of Beanie admiring a stand of bamboo in the Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park.
That was the day we visited the art museum. We had parked behind the Organ Pavilion, which is next to the Japanese Garden, so of course we had to stroll through the garden on our way back to the car.
We were just in time to feed the koi.
I loved the bonsai collection.
Isn’t that one stunning?
Even with five kids in tow, the garden is a peaceful place.
On the way out, we bumped into some friends. Rose took over the camera while the moms chatted.
I think this shot of the Spreckles Organ Pavilion was hers, too.
This next one is from outside the delightfully named House of Charm, which holds the San Diego Art Institute (not to be confused with the San Diego Museum of Art) and the Mingei International Museum, a collection of folk art from around the world.
We haven’t been inside yet, but we found plenty to look at (and climb on) outside the building.
That’s El Cid on his warhorse, by the way. This statue was presented to the park by the San Diego Historical Society in 1930.
And how best to unwind after a day at the park? Relax on your own personal park bench at home, of course! (Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa, for the bench and the countless photo ops it provides.)
We’ve been meaning to visit all the Balboa Park museums since our arrival in San Diego, but the zoo and the aquarium kept wooing us back for repeat visits this summer, hogging our outing time. Then a couple of weeks ago, Alice discovered an incredible art museum near her San Fran abode, and her stories of close encounters with works by Rembrandt, Cassatt, and Monet fired me up to move “take kids to San Diego Museum of Art” from the Sometime list to the Do It Now one.
Yesterday, as I mentioned in my somewhat grumbly tale at Lilting House, was the monthly Free Tuesday there, so off we went.
Lesson number one: You might think you are being all kinds of clever and responsible by spending the morning cleaning house before packing up the kids for the big museum outing—”We’ll come home to a nice clean house, won’t that be nice?”—but you are wrong. The parking lot police officer took time out from writing tickets for cars illegally parked in the handicapped spaces to tell me, jovially, that you have to arrive before 10 a.m. if you want to get a (legal) parking spot. It was 11:45 when he was telling me this, so: whoops.
He very kindly told me where to go to find a parking lot I could drive around in for 25 minutes hunting for a space. I took his advice, and figured out all on my own how to stalk a pedestrian strolling into the lot with keys jangling, suggesting the possibility that she was returning to her car and therefore about to vacate a space. The space was approximately four inches wider than my minivan, so I spent another 18 minutes backing-and-filling in order to get into it.
By this time the kids were fed up with Balboa Park and asked if we could go home. I laughed like a crazy person and told them if they thought I was going to give up this parking space, EVER, they were sorely mistaken. “We are going to LIVE here from now on,” I told them. “Forever. I worked too hard for this space. I am never going to leave it, you can bury me here. Hold on, I need to call Daddy and give him our new address. Honey, we now reside at Space #16, The Lot Behind Spreckles Organ Pavilion, Balboa Park, San Diego, I don’t know the zip code yet. Can you change the mail forwarding? Because I can’t leave this spot to go to the Post Office.”
Then one of the kids pointed out the sign that said the lot closes at 6 p.m.
“Shoot,” I sighed. “We’d better go see that museum before they kick us out.”
The facade of the museum is currently hidden behind plywood and tarps, presumably for a restoration of some kind, but you scarcely notice that as you herd your children up the stroller ramp, because your gaze is transfixed by the lovely pensive face of the Young Shepherdess, the gem of the museum’s collection. Painted in 1895 by William Bougereau, the Shepherdess is arguably the gallery’s most beloved work of art. My daughters want to be her (because she is pretty, goes barefoot, and has sheep) and were desperately eager to see her.
Turns out she is off gallivanting around the country right now. A museum guard told me (very chatty these Balboa Park personnel are, and don’t I appreciate it!) that the painting is making a U.S. tour this summer. But she’ll be back in a few months, and that’s fine because it will probably take me that long to find another parking space.
Instead of the Shepherdess, we visited Giverny. Oh! Giverny! The word is magical. It whispers: Monet, poppies, haystacks, light-streaked skies, picturesque laborers in wheat fields drenched with sun. We made a beeline for the visiting exhibit, a large collection of Impressionist works by the artists who congregated in the little French painters’ colony during the late 1800s. They took their easels out to the woods and fields in a golden frenzy of plein-air painting. All right, the wall placard describing the exhibit didn’t say anything about a frenzy per se, but it did talk a lot about plein-air painting, a term whose pronunciation I managed to fake quite passably but of whose definition I was ignorant until a kind-eyed Englishwoman explained it to Jane.
She was quite a knowledgeable woman and shared many tidbits of information with us as we strolled from painting to breathtaking painting. Monet was everywhere, shimmering in leaf green and spruce green, plummy shadows, frothy blues. Forget my parking space, I want to live in one of those paintings.
I particularly liked the work of American Impressionist Theodore Robinson, about whom I probably ought to have known before but didn’t. (Oh look! I just realized he’s the same guy Elizabeth posted about a few days ago. Maybe that’s why his name jumped out at me.) We also greatly admired the work of John Leslie Breck and Guy Rose. But it was Monet who gave us the goosebumps. Jane and I could not believe we were standing there in front of his actual paintings, a dozen of them at least. I lost count. I was too occupied with counting the heads—and more to the point, hands—of my own children. “Don’t touch the wall, honey. Oh! And don’t point at the paintings. What if you accidentally touched one! Good heavens! Oh! No, Wonderboy, don’t poke the nice English lady. She’s your sisters’ only chance of having their questions answered here because Mommy is distr—Oh! No, Beanie, you can’t eat string cheese in an art museum!”
I do not pretend our outings are serene.
If I get a chance later, I will link to some of the paintings we got to look at. This one, Morning on the Seine Near Giverny (which looks washed out in every image I could find online but is in reality saturated with color so rich it’s like light poured itself into pigment) is the one I mentioned in yesterday’s Lilting House post, the print Rose fell in love with in the bookstore. There were other paintings we liked even better: I think all of us favored the golden haystack ones (and there were many—mighty fond of painting haystacks were those Impressionists) over the misty river paintings.
Not that there’s any reason to choose. The world is an art gallery nowadays. I foresee many virtual pilgrimages to Giverny in our future. As there have been in our past—Linnea in Monet’s Garden and Katie Meets the Impressionists have ranked highly in our book catalogue for many years.
After the Giverny exhibit, we toured several other galleries in the museum, encountering Goya, Renoir, O’Keefe, Warhol, Fra Angelico, and Giotto. We missed Picasso, Rembrandt, and Chagall, but we’ll be back.
As soon as I find parking.