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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

If you suffer from arachnophobia, you might want to click away from this post.

You were warned, so I will continue…  Two spiders, a Neoscona oaxacensis and an Argiope, have taken up residence on my terrace.  This isn’t the first time I have played hostess to these two kinds of orb weaver spiders.

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Neoscona oaxacensis (back)

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Neoscona oaxacensis (underside)

My latest guests arrived a week ago and have been settling in ever since.  Their webs are strung across neighboring plants, though the Argiope’s also extends across a walkway onto the deck.  Unfortunately, a few days ago, I inadvertently walked through it but, undeterred, she rewove it in the same place.  So I have blocked the route with an extremely spiky cactus, to prevent further human destruction.

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Argiope (top)

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Argiope (underside)

Aren’t my new visitors beautiful?  By the way, they eat insects and are harmless to humans, so nothing to be afraid of!

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When atop the massive plateau that is the archaelogical site of Monte Albán, one can’t help but reflect on the pre-Hispanic cultures that built and inhabited this place; cultures whose gods were of the environment — the elements and the agricultural gifts, to man and beast, those elements provided.

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Today, as we celebrate Earth Day, perhaps we need a return to the old gods…

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I went to Teotitlán del Valle yesterday for the annual Virgen de Guadalupe performance of the Danza de la Pluma.  As many of you know, I’ve seen it many times, BUT I’ve never stayed until the end, as the dance lasts for eight hours.  Yes, 8 hours!  It would mean returning to the city late at night — and driving at night is something most try to avoid.  Thus, I decided to spend the night at Las Granadas, one of the few B&Bs in town.  However, the thought of waking to the sounds of roosters crowing, burros braying, sheep bleating, AND going for a morning walk in the country sealed the deal.

And so, a little before 9 AM today, I headed up (down?) Calle 2 de abril toward El Picacho.  The work day had long since begun…

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Crossing the Arroyo Grande, I turned right to begin the trek up Revolución.  El Picacho kept a watchful eye as I kept pausing to snap photos and just take in the sights and sounds of being out in the country.

El Picacho

Black bull crossing dirt road

My destination was the presa (dam) and its precious reservoir.  Most of my life has been spent living five minutes from the San Francisco Bay and fifteen minutes from the Pacific Ocean — and now living in a landlocked city, I do miss bodies of water.

Dam, reservoir, and mountains

Reservoir

Crossing to the other side of the arroyo, I turned right on Avenida Benito Juárez for the return trip to the B&B.

Dirt crossroads

Houses on hillside

As I walked, the lyrics to Al Kooper’s, House in the Country kept playing in my mind.

No need to worry
Folks in a hurry
Leave them behind you
No one can find you
House in the country
House in the country

All the relaxin`
Will soon fill the cracks in
Good for your head too
If you are led to
House in the country
House in the country
Green surrounding
Love abounding
You won`t find a manhole there

A sublime morning in Teotitlán del Valle.  Ahhh…

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At long last, and with not much fanfare, the Atzompa archeological site is open to the public!

Panoramic view of Atzompa archaeological site.

The winding road, cut into the side of the mountain, has been visible for a while and we could see platforms when we were up at Monte Alban (about 5 miles away) two weeks ago.

Winding road on side of mountain.

It’s a bit of a hike up a newly paved road from the small (temporary?) parking area under the pine trees, but we eventually reached the site and the ball court.

Ball court with mountains in background

It is small, but the setting is spectacular.

Ruins in foreground with mountains in back.

One can see a recreation of the 1,000+ year old Zapotec kiln that was uncovered 8 feet down — offering proof of continuity to today’s renown potters of Santa María Atzompa.

Kiln with shade covering.

Then there is the vegetation….  The architecture of native trees adds to aura of this ancient site.

Tree in front of side of pyramid

And, the white flowers of one of the trees has attracted the tiniest hummingbirds I’ve ever seen.

Hummingbird sitting on branch

Nopal cactus, in full fruit (tunas) at this time of year, dot the landscape.

Nopal cactus loaded with red fruit "tunas"

Archaeologists and their crews continue their work excavating and restoring, and much is blocked from amateur exploration, including the 1,100-year-old burial chamber.  Darn!

Workers restoring a building

The only “facilities” available at the site, thus far, are bathrooms (which were a trip, but I won’t go into it).  Lest you worry about comida for the workers, it arrived by motorcycle and was waiting in insulated boxes in the parking area.

6 motorcycles with soft insulated boxes.

Aside from those working at the site, we had the place to ourselves… no tour groups and no vendors.  We were left alone to listen to the birds and insects and imagine a highly developed culture, alive with the ancestors of the energetic, creative, and spiritual people we are privileged to live among.

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Fifteen hundred years may have passed since Monte Albán was in full bloom as the center of Zapotec civilization.  However, the flowering continues…

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Monte Albán on an early October morning.

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Monday morning, I went out onto the terrace to hang the wind chimes back up (too loud for sleeping), pick up spent African tulip tree blossoms (20 to 30), and say buenos días to Argiope (previously mentioned spider).

Hmmm… all was definitely not “as usual” in the spider’s web.  Argiope, what in the world is going on?

Argiope spider with dragonfly caught in her web.

Good grief, she had caught a dragonfly!  It must have been quite a battle, as her web was a mess and now she was trying to wrap it up.

Close-up of dragonfly caught in an Argiope orb weaver spider web.

This was serious business for her and she worked at it most of the day.  However I had to chuckle, as sayings from childhood rose up from the cobwebs in my brain  —  Your eyes bigger than your stomach.  Have you bitten off more than you can chew?  Pick on someone your own size!

Dragonfly hanging by a thread on the web as Argiope spider has moved away from her prey

Monday evening, she finally gave up and let it loose from her clutches.  When I retired for the night, the dragonfly was hanging by a thread.

Argiope spider sitting in middle of web with a wrapped up fly.

By the next morning, the remains of the dragonfly had fallen onto the patio and Argiope was sitting happily in her newly repaired web with a more appropriately sized breakfast.

Mother Nature is amazing!

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Warning:  If you are an arachnophobe, read no further!

Remember Argiope, one of the orb weaver spiders who hung around Casita Colibrí’s garden from September of last year through January of this year?  When last seen, she was laying eggs on my screen door.  Alas (or perhaps, thank goodness), a workman who was coming in and out of my apartment must have brushed her and her eggs away,  thus relieving me of answering the question, “Do I really want thousands of little spiders beginning to explore the world from my screen door?”

However, I suspect that wasn’t her first attempt at motherhood.   One day this past June, I was surprised to find…

Argiope spider in the center of her web

Argiope’s daughter?  That is what I would like to think!  And she is just as beautiful as her mother…

Close-up of back of Argiope

… both back (above) and front (below).

Close-up of back of Argiope

And, she is just as good as catching her lunch!  I watched as she finished wrapping up the unfortunate fly above.  I guess she needs all that nourishment…

Bright yellow tear-drop shaped egg sack attached to an agave cactus

Another generation of Argiopes in waiting!  And, as I write, the hunting continues…

Close-up of Argiope wrapping up fly

More to come?  La vida may be loca, but on it goes!

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Just before this afternoon’s rains came, Casita Colibrí’s first African tulip tree blossom of the season.Orange red African tulip tree blossom .

And that means, colibríes (hummingbirds) won’t be far behind!

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I’m from the cradle of modern mountain biking; Marin County, California.  In fact, it has become so popular in Marin over the past 30+ years, traffic jams have ensued at trail heads and battles between hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers over safety and environmental issues frequently make the headlines of local papers.

With this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, it looks like mountain biking has “officially” come to Oaxaca.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the wise Zapotec elders up in Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte will find a way to keep the peace.  And, more than that, I’m hoping all you mountain bikers out there will be respectful of this beautiful land and her people.

From Friday, April 13, 2012 online Wall Street Journal…

Blazing Trails in Mexico

Mountain biking is rare in Oaxaca—but not for long

By TREVOR CLARK

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Mountain biking on the Tequila Trail near Oaxaca, Mexico – Trevor Clark

IT WAS EARLY. Hours from sunrise kind of early. My wimpy headlamp struggled to break through the predawn drizzle, and I could barely see my front tire or the trail ahead. Roots, rocks and stumps all seemed to be in cahoots, working together to upend me.

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WHEEL WORLD | Riding out of the village of Benito Juárez in Oaxaca –  Trevor Clark 

I tried to become one with the bike. I tried to feel out the trail with my other senses. I tried to anticipate obstacles, but I am no Zen master. My mountain biking skills are rough under the best conditions, and I was in the jungle in the dark.

My mate’s more powerful headlamp suddenly provided a snapshot of a sharp turn and a wooden footbridge ahead. Then, lights out. I made an educated guess, went straight and took a hit that emptied my lungs: “Huhhhhh!” Cold water rushed into my clothes and pack as I lay in the stream, bike still on my feet, straight up in the air.

For a few moments, I laughed hysterically at my predicament and the fact that I was OK after missing the bridge. Then I picked myself up and kept moving.

We made it to the peak of Piedra Larga, a 10,761-foot-high lookout, for breakfast, corn-based hot chocolate and sunrise. As the sun slowly emerged from a thick layer of fog, we found ourselves hovering above a golden sea of clouds. The scenery was worth every blind pedal stroke.

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HIGH ROAD | Taking in the view from a rock spire in the Sierra Norte – Trevor Clark

Seven of us had come to the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico, a forested mountain range in the northern part of the state. Oaxaca is known as the country’s culinary and cultural center, and many visitors experience it through cooking classes and gallery walks in the capital city. We, instead, were mountain-biking part of an ancient Zapotec network of walking trails that have connected eight villages to each other and the rest of the world for eons.

Mountain biking is fairly new to Mexico…. [Read FULL ARTICLE]

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Way back in the very early 1980s, I was captivated by the PBS series, The Flame Trees of Thika, based on the Elspeth Huxley memoir, by the same name, about her early years in Kenya.

African Tulip tree reddish orange blossoms

We had a black and white TV back then and so, if they even showed the “Flame Trees,” they never “registered.

African Tulip tree reddish orange blossoms

However, here I am in Oaxaca, Mexico and I’ve got two African Tulip Trees (aka, Flame of the Forest) hovering over my terrace, bursting with color, providing a modicum of shade, feeding the hummingbirds, and adding to the enchantment of Casita Colibrí.

African Tulip tree reddish orange blossoms

There was something about the sky, the light, and the trees this morning…

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