Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mount Hood, Oregon

Image from splitboardoregon

Just as Vesuvius looms over Naples, the live volcano Mount Hood flanks the city of Portland.  The mountain has eleven glaciers and five ski areas.

As the US Geological Survey reports, this symmetrical glacier-clad peak is a source of "valuable water, scenic and recreational resources" that boost agriculture and tourism.

Mount Hood has been active for 500,000 years, and has undergone two periods of eruption in the past 1500. The most recent significant ones took place in the 1780's, when the volcanic material made significant changes to the surrounding area.

The volcano made some threatening noises in the mid-1800s, and also underwent a minor eruption in 1907. Since then it's been ominously quiet. As shown by the historic eruptions that buried the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, having a stratovolcano on your doorstep is a mixed blessing, and scientists monitor this one's potential for future activity, predicting that it could erupt within the next 75 years.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Mount Baker, Washington

Image from Simon Fraser University Geography

As I drive around the Lower Mainland, especially when headed south to White Rock through flat farmlands, the gorgeous peak of Mount Baker rises on the horizon, its moods changing with weather and season.

Yesterday, as sunset approached, the mountain was a blend of pink, blue and white. The blue shade comes no doubt from the six enormous glaciers on its summit.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Illimani, overlooking La Paz

Image from

Like many other South American glaciers, the one that overlooks the Bolivian city of La Paz is of crucial importance as a source of fresh water as the population approaches a million. 

Located 4100 m above sea level, this city is the world's highest administrative capital. It lies just 430 m below the Altiplano.

Inti-Illimani is a Chilean musical group that plays the traditional instruments of the high Andes. I heard them play at the Vogue in Vancouver around 30 years ago. Hear them play on You Tube, and watch a series of pictures from the mountain homeland of these amazing musicians.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chakaltaya in Bolivia melted in 2009

Chacaltaya image from iceagenow 

At 17,000 feet, Chacaltaya was once a ski resort. Though it was expected to last ten years longer, it melted in 2009.

Many other high Andean glaciers are receding and expected to disappear in the next few years.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Qolkepunku Glacier in Peruvian Andes

Qolkepunku image by Andrew McLeish in Time 

High in the Peruvian Andes, the Sinkakara Valley is the home of the Qolkepunku Glacier. This mountain of ice was seen by the Incas as a god, and its waters were considered holy.

Today pilgrims continue to enact rituals at the site and carry home chunks of the venerated ice and runoff water from the glacier.

Like so many of our earth's ice sheets, this one is melting. In fact, all 200 of Peru's glaciers are receding, and may be gone within the next ten years.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Who shed this feather?

Sometimes, it's the small things that catch the eye most compellingly.

This feather, for instance. Who owned it? A lady gull, perhaps; they have some brown plumage among the grey.

Or was it a different sort of bird entirely?

I resisted the temptation to pick it up. It looked so lovely lying there on the patterned sidewalk where it fell. The colours blend beautifully.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tourist in metal awaits long gone train

White Rock sculpture by Denis Kleine

On the beach at White Rock, this man in his retro fashion waits with his old-fashioned suitcase.

He looks calm and confident, even though the only passenger train that goes by here now is the Amtrak to Seattle and points south. Problem is, it doesn't stop.

I first saw this guy as a silhouette during an evening walk on the beach promenade. First I noticed the outline of his clothing. Dapper. And that hat. Very dated. But why was he standing so preternaturally still?

Finally, I realized he was not going anywhere. Denis Kleine's statue, Passenger, was placed here in January.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Euphorbia enjoys a huge spate of early growth

Euphorbia, also known as spurge, bursts into bloom at White Rock

Officially, Euphorbia got its botanical name from Linnaeus, who published his Species Plantarum in 1753.

However, Pliny the Elder, a Roman officer and botanist, had named the plant in his book in 79 AD. This volume was called The Natural History of Pliny.

According to Pliny, this name was conferred on the plant by Juba II of Mauretania, a Berber kingdom near present- day Algeria, when a Greek physician called Euphorbus treated the ailing king with a member of this family called Resin Spurge.

The common name spurge (from French espurgier) alludes to the plant's laxative properties. Poinsettia, Medusa's Head, Mexican fire plant, Crown of thorns, Snow-on-the-mountain, Scarlet plume and the poisonous Pencil Cactus are all members of Genus Euphorbiae.

Friday, February 20, 2015

February blues

The first flower in the garden this year popped in January -- a mini yellow iris. Now the baby blues are out.

These are blues we can use. The crocuses are in full fine fettle too.

And as the foliage in this pot reveals, the tulips and daffs are well along too.

This spring, it's better to be on the Wet Coast than under the snows cones back east.

My sympathies, PEI. Have fun tunneling from home to car. At least you get exercise and fresh air that way. Maybe a day off work too...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Goose and Common

The law will gaol the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater villains loose

Who steal the common from the goose. Anon,1820

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Glaciers of Patagonia melting fast

Image from earthtimes

The "Little Ice Age" occurred about 150 years ago. In South America, it caused the Andean glaciers of southern Chile to advance and form moraines. In our era, the glaciers of Patagonia are rapidly thinning and receding, a fact demonstrated by satellite images taken over the past 40 years. Since 2000, the shrinkage measured has been twice as rapid as that recorded a century ago.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tasman Glacier

Image from wikipedia

The Tasman Glacier, located on the South Island of New Zealand, is approximately 600 metres deep and 27 kilometres long.

Now calving as it melts, this river of ice is flanked by a terminal lake that is growing ever larger. On each side of the lake, moraines soar 100 m in the air, showing the outline of the glacier as it was just over a century ago.

At the "working end" of the glacier, where it melts and refreezes on a regular basis, a layer of rubble lies on top of the ice. This provides some insulation from the sun and inhibits the melting process to some degree. However, the glacier continues to lose height and drop a whole array of weird-shaped icebergs into its terminal lake.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rupert Sheldrake on Anatheism, Pantheism, Panpsychism

Image from Scientific American

According to wise and experienced "renegade" biologist Rupert Sheldrake, the scientific world view is hidebound and resistant to change. However, as he reports in a lecture in Dartington, the scientific community now agrees that the universe is conscious. "All religions are man-made," says Sheldrake, since they are shaped by human cultures and languages. In this new talk, he supports the idea that contemporary social, intellectual and cultural movements show a human desire to rediscover God.

Most people, he suggests, have "paranormal" or "mystical" experiences in their lives; however many conceal and downplay these aspects of their experience because contemporary culture tends to denigrate, deny, or attempt to debunk them.

The western ideals of materialism and atheism that rose in the "post-God" era are giving way, says Sheldrake, and humanity is rediscovering God in non-religious ways. Sheldrake explains the philosophy of Panthesim -- God in Nature and Nature in God -- and points out that the word animals actually means beings with souls.

Panpsychism, as defined by the Stanford Encylopaedia of Philosophy, is the view that "mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe." In other words, mind is everywhere.

The concept of Anatheism was expounded by Richard Kearney in a 2010 book called Returning to God after God. Sheldrake also cites Alain de Botton's book, Religion for Atheists. Describing what we have lost by turning away from religion, de Botton suggests helpful alternatives for non-believers, who still need meaningful community and shared rituals in their lives.

A no-nonsense open-minded scientific explorer, Sheldrake supports his ideas with a wide array of contemporary evidence. He also gives historic context to explain how we've arrived at our current worldviews. Using his wide experience as a scholar and individual as well as his scientific training, he positions his ideas against a background of western thought and other religious traditions.

For many years, I've felt a profound resonance with Sheldrake's work and ideas. I love the way he is able to back far enough away from our universal contemporary materialist culture to observe it as a whole. "Pilgrimage is a deep human urge," he says, that our times have transformed into tourism. I understand and share his desire to move away from the ultimately unsatisfying and largely unconscious "thingism" that dominates our culture.

In this lecture, he also describes some early experiences that set him on his path, and gives some insight into his personal views and current actions. I loved the story of how, in an effort to avoid giving a his godson a useless gift of more stuff, he offered instead to accompany the boy on a pilgrimage to Canterbury. Even though the teenager was not accustomed to walking eight miles at a go, they had a wonderful time.

The title of Sheldrake's talk is Finding God Again: the Rise of Anatheism.
Listen to the complete audio here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nimrod Glacier in Antarctica

Image from

The Nimrod Glacier in Antarctica, seen here from the air, is about 85 miles long. It was named for the ship of the British Explorer Ernest Shakleton.

Nimrod Glacier flows into Shakleton Inlet towards the Ross Ice Shelf, as seen on this Antarctic map from the University of Minnesota.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lupercalia, Valentine's and Wolves

Image from wonderfullywomen

It's said that Valentine's Day is named for an obscure third century  Roman saint who martyred on February 14. It took a few centuries for this celebration to be associated with the traditions of courtly love. But what has Valentine's Day to do with wolves?

(By the way, I'm not referring to the kind that whistle at women, but the four-legged furry kind.)

To answer the question, we need to go back to the early Roman festival of Lupercalia, held on February 15. The name of the festival has the same root as lupus, the wolf, and the priests were called Luperci. This was possibly related to a deity that protected herds from the predation of wolves. There may also have been a connection to the wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Lupercalia also involved fertility rites. Celebrants carried out ritual sacrifices involving goats, dogs, blood, wool, and milk. As they ran around the Palatine Hill, thongs of skin from the sacrificial animals were used to strike women; those who were hit in this way were believed to be made fertile. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lake Vostok, below the Antarctic ice cap

Image from tgdaily

In 2012, Antarctica's largest subglacial lake was exposed to air for the first time in 20 million years when Russian scientists drilled through the ice cap, a job that took them decades.

In 1983, a temperatures of -128.6 was recorded, making Vostok Station the coldest place on earth.

Is there life in this lake? Scientists speculate that there could be microbiological forms as yet unclassified. According to Aharon Etingoff, any organism that lived there would have to be an "extremeophile," capable of withstanding great pressure and longstanding light deprivation, along with incredibly cold temperatures.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cave at the foot of Svinafellsjokull Glacier

Image from Descent into Blogvion

It is quite common for ice caves to come and go around the feet of glaciers, as each season some of the ice melts and new ice forms.

Blue coloration of glacier ice occurs after years or even centuries of pressure have squeezed out all the air and changed the structure of this special type of ice to form crystals that reflect mostly blue or turquoise light.

This cave is located at Svinafellsjokull Glacier, in Skaftafell, Iceland.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Elephant Foot Glacier in Greenland

Image from

This is an aerial view of the Elephant Foot Glacier in Northeast Greenland National Park. Spillage glaciers form when ice overflows from a bowl-shaped depression, in this case, caused by the weight of the Greenland ice sheet. To imagine the enormous size of this formation, it's important to remember the surrounding mountains are thousands of feet high.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Treacherous Paradise -- the dark vision of Henning Mankell

Image from audible

Henning Mankell is best known for his Wallander series. These Ystad-based police stories were first televised in Sweden. The popular films contrast the beauty of Skane with the dystopic vision of the author, whose pervasive gloom is shared by his character, DCI Kurt Wallander.

BBC later filmed Kenneth Branagh as Wallander, and the program was again successful. Then, deeply affected by the suicide of the brilliant young actress Johanna Sallstrom, who played Wallander's detective daughter Linda, the author discontinued writing scripts for the series.

Mankell is also involved in theatre, and has recently created an opera in Mozambique, where he has spent a lot of time. A Treacherous Paradise is quite a recent novel which draws on his familiarity with East Africa. The Swedish edition was published in 2011, with the English version appearing two years later.

Building on some small fragments of history, Mankell has re-created the world of Portuguese East Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century. The protagonist is a Swedish woman from the poverty stricken back country. When her mother sends her to the city to seek a better life, Hannah takes a job as a cook on board a ship heading for Australia by way of the Cape of Good Hope. She is soon involved in a series of adventures. Within the space of about a year, she is married and widowed twice, both times in Africa, and has inherited a brothel.

Frustrated by the violent cruelty and racism of the society in which she finds herself, Hannah tries and fails to bridge the barrier between black and white. Even so, the novel does end on a cautiously hopeful note. This book shares themes with Wallander: Mankell's work is much concerned with the evils of racism, xenophobia, and social inequality.

Monday, February 9, 2015

All are one and all are connected

Image of "psychic cats" from coast to coast am

As we grow ever more reliant on the wealth of communications technology, are we losing faith in our natural abilities? We can communicate with others at a distance, using only our own body-minds.

Why did we invent these communications devices in the first place? I've often thought that the underlying reason behind technologies like the telephone and the internet was to amplify the abilities we already knew we had.

I remember something interesting about the death of my grandmother, who lived thousands of miles away. When she died, my mother woke in the night startled, having sensed her passing. By the time the telephone call came in the morning with the news, Mom already "knew."

Also, like most people, I have often thought of certain people only to run into them or receive a phone call. Once when my husband was working on a graveyard shift, I woke at 4 am with a dream that his eye was bleeding, and lay wakeful until I heard his key turn in the lock, two hours early. He greeted me with a bandaged eye. "A speck flew in my eye and I had to have First Aid take it out," he said. When I asked him what time the accident happened, he replied, "About 4 am."

Even with our elderly cat, I seem to have an open communication line. As soon as I think it's about time to get him in from his brief outdoor patrols, I hear the "Let me in" meow at the same moment.

There is a certain irony in the fact that we become ever more reliant on the external manifestations while we allow our natural communicative abilities to atrophy. Perhaps it is the increase of noise around us too, that drowns out the low hum of background connections. These require attention to become perceptible.

As Ervin Laszlo says, ancient people and "primitives" knew that we were all connected. He also recalls how psychologist William James said that although, like islands, we are separate on the visible surface, we remain deeply connected beneath.

In this new century and millennium, we must and will learn that we are all one.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Why have candle snuffers become so rare?

Found them at last, but it wasn't easy! I asked at several shops for a candle snuffer, and drew a blank. Most of those I asked had never heard of a candle snuffer, hadn't a clue what it was.

My daughter found one in the IKEA catalogue, but I didn't go to the giant store for a tiny item.

finally, I got one, then another. the key is from Pier I, and the other I had to send for. It's from Etsy and comes all the way from Florida. I'm pleased with these, but I still wonder: how do people snuff their candles nowadays?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Basic Code of the Universe, by Massimo Citro

Image from amazon

From a scientific perspective, Massimo Citro explains an array of developments that connect physics, medicine and spirituality, and explain why intention is a such a powerful way of making things happen.

Yet people resist new knowledge. There can be no evolution without fear, admits Dr. Citro, but we are constantly evolving, and "Knowledge is also a medicine for fear."

According to quantum physics, an intelligent field of information, non-local and omnipresent, underlies all that is visible, both living and non-living. We are all literally connected through the zero-point field (sometimes called the Akashic field), which contains a record of everything.

However, Citro emphasizes, "Reality remains veiled; nobody knows it, and everything is an interpretation." In their search for the truth, a philosophers or scientist must use imagination, and send out intuition "like a truffle dog" into the night.

"Water," explains the author, "is able to receive, retain, and return information because it fluctuates between coherent and incoherent states." Therefore, in an ailing body, the introduction of water that carries the appropriate information can return the body's fluids to a coherent state. This mechanism explains how homeopathy works. For readers who have not experienced this type of healing or who prefer scientific explanations to other forms of evidence, the author goes on to describe the experiments by Nobel Laureate Luc Montagnier "in which he officially demonstrated the existence of homeopathy" (paper published 2009).

The Basic Code exists at two levels. On the one hand it governs living systems, by holding the information that makes plant and animal bodies grow and replicate in the fashion of their previous generations, (biologist Rupert Sheldrake explains this as morphic resonance within fields). But the field also contains all information needed to program the entire evolution; it is "the essence of the thing itself." Not only do the basic codes govern individuals, but also ensembles (termite colonies, beehives) and non-living things (crystals).

Everything is information, and as the ancient philosopher Heraclitus said, "everything flows and nothing is repeated." The field is extremely complex. Far more than the electromagnetic energy that is only  one aspect of it. The field "creates, corrects, modifies." In fact, it has three functions: to form the shape and architecture of all things, to organize, relate and control all things, and to communicate by exchanging information between sub fields "through incessant inaudible communication of a very weak intensity, the whisperings of matter."

In case it is is too hard for the reader to accept the the book's argument, "The exchange of information is life, and there is no life without communication or communication without life," Citro reminds readers that "everything is inexplicable when it is new." To illustrate, he suggests that one who attempted to use a radio to communicate in the Middle Ages "would have been burned at the stake."

Whatever we may prefer to think, or resist believing, information "is energy being transmitted on electromagnetic waves, propagating variations in the field." Scientific investigation that supports this reality goes back to the nineteenth century, when Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose demonstrated for the initially unwilling Royal Society the similarity in the response curves of inorganic substances and living animal tissues; in other words, "the dividing line between non-living metals and living organisms was very tenuous."

Experiments done by Citro's research group, the Alberto Sorti Institute of Research in Turin, Italy, have revealed that TFF (Transfer Pharmacological Frequency) is capable of impregnating water with the information of a particular medicine, so that the "informed" water can convey the benefits of the medicine.

The reality of TFF has enormous implications. Without side effects, this kind of treatment has already proved efficacious against a wide range of conditions including acute infection, heroin addiction, and Parkinson's. Fortunately, such treatment brings no new dangers, since the body can "discriminate among the range of frequencies that come to it...and resonate with [only] the useful ones." Clearly, we are on the cusp of a very new science.

In his engaging book, Massimo Citro not only gives clear scientific explanations for a wide range of phenomena, he layers in mythological and historic tidbits, and writes with an artistic flair and flashes of humour.

The introduction is by Ervin Laszlo. Twice nominated for the Nobel Prize, this researcher has written eighty-three widely translated books and founded The General Evolution Research Group and the Club of Budapest. One book is Science and the Akashic Field, an Integrated Theory of Everything (2nd Edition, 2007).

Friday, February 6, 2015

Storglaciaren in Sweden

Image from glaciers

Storglaciaren in northern Sweden is a type of geological formation called a polythermal valley glacier. Below the frozen upper surface, the ice is at the temperature of water.

This unusual glacier has been studied intensely since 1947 when Tarfala Research Station was built and Swedish glaciologist Walter Schytt began his formal observations of the ice. The station is operated by the Department of Physical Geography at Stockholm University.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jostedal Glacier National Park

Image by G Lanting

Jostedal Glacier National Park is located on Norway's west coast of, northeast of  Bergenon on Sognefjord.

Jostedal is the largest glacier in continental Europe. It can be accessed from the Glacier Bus or on foot.

This You Tube video follows a hiker as he approaches the glacier and then we follow his careful walk among the pitted crevasses of the glacier itself.

As well as opportunities for mountain climbing and glacier exploration, the park has extensive facilities for camping, glacier lake kayaking, and whitewater rafting. Located beside another large park, the much-visited Jostedal Park also has a bed and breakfast, a museum and a hotel.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Austfonna Glacier waterfall on Svalbard

Images by photographer Hans Strand

Left: On Svalbard, a waterfall pours off Austfonna Glacier.

Below, sea ice off Svalbard, Norway in 2004. Svalbard lies between 74 to 81 degrees North. Once common here, says Strand, sea ice is no longer found off these islands. By 2012, the photographer had to travel as far north as the 82nd parallel to find summer sea ice.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Groundhog Day was cloudy so spring is coming

Image from hdimages gallery

The little guy doesn't look the least bit concerned. After yesterday's overcast weather, he couldn't possibly have seen his shadow.

Obviously, we can expect an early spring. As the presence of flowering crocuses and mini-irises in the garden has already suggested.

Herds of birds, or is that gaggles of geese and gulls?

A recent walk on White Rock beach revealed herds of birds. At least that's what this gaggle of geese resembles as they graze, unconcerned by passers-by on the beach promenade.

The gulls below are huddled together on the railroad tracks. They look for all the world like chilly passengers in overcoats, waiting for a train.

Wild birds, yes. But these urban birds have an aura of domesticity about them too.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Grandmother's war service featured in Kearsley thriller

Image from Susanna Kearsley

What did you do in the war? It's never occurred to the young journalist Kate Murray to ask the grandmother she thinks she knows so well. When she finally does ask, it's too late.

This thriller, originally published under the name Emma Cole and recently re-issued, begins with an apparently chance encounter. While Kate works at covering a London trial for her newspaper, an elderly man introduces himself as Andrew Deacon, addresses her by name, asks after her grandmother, and tells her he has a story he believes will interest her. Intrigued but still distracted by her current task, she accepts his card and agrees to dine with him later. She never gets the chance.

Just minutes later, Deacon is killed in a "hit and run" accident, right in front of Kate. But who was this man, and how was he connected to her grandmother? The timing of his death seems suspicious, and she broods on it while visiting the English family of a man who is pursuing her romantically. Thus tipped from her ordinary life, Kate enters an astonishing reality where few things or people are what they seem.

Back home in Toronto, when Kate asks her grandma how she knew the dead man, Grandma responds with a surprising story of the secret work she did in New York during WWII. When Grandma is then shot dead, Kate realizes she's on the trail of something truly dangerous. She decides to travel in secret to Portugal, to interview some people who know about a nasty cover-up that happened in 1941.

At the hotel, she literally bumps into a friendly man. She declines to have coffee with him, but soon sees him again. Is he following her? He's there again when she interviews an old woman, and she's horrified to think she may be putting her source in danger. As if that isn't bad enough, can it be coincidence that someone else agrees to talk to her, then dies before they can meet?

Fast paced and exciting, this novel is a classic thriller that differs from Kearsley's other work. As we have learned to expect from this author, the story is also grounded in real history, in this case the work of the World War II spy William Stephenson, (hand-picked by Churchill and and portrayed in the 1970 TV series as A Man Called Intrepid) and the Canadian women who worked for him in secret. In the line of duty, women like Kate's fictitious grandmother sometimes had to do much more than routine office work.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ale's Stones in Skane

Image from Visit Sweden

I learned about Ale's Stones while watching a Swedish TV series based on Henning Mankell's legendary police inspector, Kurt Wallander.

I love the Wallander's character -- so flawed, so human. There's something else I get from watching these shows. It helps me get past the violence that is part of the drama.

While Kurt interacts with fellow cops like the smart but unkempt Martinsson and the crusty CSI expert Nyberg, I get to bathe in the language of my forbears. My paternal grandfather originally came to the US from Skane. Later they settled in rural Alberta.

From what I see on this show, Swedes can be abrupt, and they can be uncommunicative. But the veteran Wallander, well aware of his personal weaknesses and scarred by emotional losses, is also brilliant at talking to young colleagues Isabelle and Pontus, who work through their own pain as the old guy earns and holds their trust.

Sometimes it's the small things

About Face by Donna Leon

Image from tower

My latest delightful discovery among mystery writers is Donna Leon. This novel is part of a series featuring police Commisario Guido Brunetti. Husband of the literature professor Paola, son-in-law to the wealthy business man Conte Falier, and father of a teenage son and daughter, Guido and his honest colleagues must do their best in the midst of appalling official incompetence and corruption.

Reading about the challenges faced by Guido and his fellow characters is fascinating, terrifying and occasionally funny. Especially when seen under a dusting of snow, Venice is an irresistible setting.

But the real genius of this work is how the author makes the reader slyly complicit in judgments we like to think we have risen above. Reading the lines "her face expressed pleasant, permanent anticipation, fixed there immutably by the attentions of a surgeon," we have the woman pegged. The whole trope is in place, but we don't see its falsity till the end of the book.

Franca is the wife of a business man Conte Falier is considering as an investment partner. When his father in law seats Guido opposite her at a dinner party, he is impressed to discover that she has read Ovid's Metamorphoses, including passages he had long forgotten.

But there is something strange about the woman's face, far beyond the fact that she's had extensive plastic surgery. As the story unfolds, the reader discovers how she got that face.