Monday, October 31, 2011

Facing Halloween

Bat pumpkin
Scary pumpkin

Halloween offers anyone a chance to try on - for a few hours or a day - a new face or persona. How extraordinary it is to put on a costume, mask or make-up and instantly be transported into another being and hide our true selves! Then, we can go out into the world and see how we are received. Will we get a treat or a trick? Likewise, pumpkins, delicious orange squashes that they are, get transformed into fabulous faces and different personalities when they have their hides carved. They even get to light up the night with their interior fire - a lit candle.

This idea of "face" is intriguing. In Asian cultures the concept of face is taken quite seriously. Face can be one’s social standing, reputation, influence, honor and worth. It is important in these cultures to save face or give face which means to take great care not to deliberately cause someone to lose face by humiliating, disrespecting, or pointing out flaws or mistakes. Saving face can raise the esteem and self worth of a person. I think deeply about this concept. It would be a good practice to always consider the self esteem and feelings of others before I act or speak.

And what if our actual faces are flawed or less-than-perfect? Will this cause us a considerable amount of grief and shame? Yes, of course.  It is much easier to have flaws we can cover up with clothing, but our faces stick out there for all to see. Our bare faces are our nakedness. How can one survive such nakedness? I recall a saying I heard decades ago: 
I've never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful. Author unknown.
It is such a truth and something to hold onto. If one can’t be perfectly beautiful then perhaps one can smile and by doing so - transform into another kind of beauty.

Zip - my inspiration
The Cheshire Cat with big smile

This Halloween I decided to carve my pumpkin with all these thoughts in mind. My cat Zip's  face inspired me to carve and imitate the Cheshire cat with his grandiose smile, and it became "the face" this year. I must remember to smile more ;-D.


Rosenberg, Sarah. "Knowledge Based Essay - Face." Beyond Intractability. University of Colorado Boulder, Feb 2004. Web. 31 Oct 2011. <>.
Rodgers, Greg. "An Introduction to the Concept of Face in ." - Asia Travel., n.d. Web. 31 Oct 2011. <>.

"Quotations about Beauty." The Quote Garden., 05 Sep 2011. Web. 31 Oct 2011. <Rodgers, Greg. "An Introduction to the Concept of Face in ." - Asia Travel., n.d. Web. 31 Oct 2011. .>.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Speaking of change...

After waxing poetic on the subject of change - what a difference a day makes in Denver. Here is a beautiful maple adorned with fiery fall color on Tuesday (see above), and the same tree on Wednesday after an early season snow storm (see below). We went from wearing shorts to winter coats - Brrrr!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cuttlefish, Autumn and Change

The colorful cuttlefish - courtesy of Google Images
So you think being human makes you pretty amazing, intelligent, and accomplished? With those opposable thumbs that offer a high degree of manual dexterity and the gift of language and communication, you probably believe humans are superior over other life forms. I have one word for you – cuttlefish.  Yes, cuttlefish. These creatures are “other worldly.” 

Imagine being able to change your appearance in a split second – to alter colors, textures, and even shape – and to morph in under a second. How would you like to change from a plump blond with golden skin and into a red-haired, brown-freckled skinny person? How about being able to change the color and texture of your skin so masterfully that you blend into your surroundings becoming almost invisible?

Find the cuttlefish - courtesy Google Images
Think about how clever it would be to shoot out a screen of dark inky smoke and then magically disappear behind this cloud away from a scene in which you feel threatened.  Poof and you’re gone.  Or imagine waving your arms like the Hindu goddess Kali, mesmerizing the opposite sex into an immovable trance.  Cuttlefish can do this and more. They have the largest brain to body size ratio of any invertebrate, huge W-shaped eyes, and three hearts that pump blue blood. One glance at them and you will feel you are in the presence of something alien. Not only can they change the color and shape of their skin in seconds they can also put on visual display of flashing oscillating colors like a Las Vegas neon sign. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.

Ash tree in Observatory Park
A professor in college once said to the class, “If you think humans are sexy and interesting wait until you study plants.”  

In autumn, trees and bushes put on their amazing displays of morphing colors for our visual pleasure.  It takes a few weeks, but the results are glorious and the mesmerizing power of color in nature can inspire. Bumble calls it “eye candy.” The aspens in the mountains turn from green to gold, the local street and park trees turn numerous shades of yellow and red - depending on the species. Maples never disappoint with their rowdy reds, or ashes and cottonwoods with their gaudy golds. With all the beautiful parks in Denver (and a quick commute into the mountains), I cannot think of better adventure than to get outside (walk, bike, or stroll) at one of Denver’s 200 parks and 80 miles of trails and take in the changing colors of the autumn. Furthermore, it is delightful to breathe in the crisper cooler air and maybe wear that sweater Grandma knit for you last year. 

All these changes that occur in nature bring up thoughts about the transformations that occur continually in our lives. Like the Heraclitus quote: Nothing endures but change. Humans and circumstances can and will change. Every day we get 24 hours older or further along in a pregnancy. My mom used to say, “Time marches on.” 

Luckily, humans have the ability to make choices about changing themselves. We can superficially change our exterior selves - the length or color of our hair, the color and style of our clothing, and even the color of our skin temporarily with sun exposure. We can change the size and shape of our bodies with a commitment to diet, various forms of exercise, weight lifting or even surgery. On a deeper, more interior level, we can change our minds with education or acquiring a new skill, and our souls with meditation or our own spiritual practice. We can change jobs, apartments, towns, states, friends and lovers. Change can instill fear and panic or it can be wonderful and good. But since it is constant - we may as well look at it squarely, hang on and go for the ride.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Treasures of Lookout Mountain

View west from Lookout Mountain trail
I spent an amazing day - only a half hour drive from Denver - at two places on Lookout Mountain which are wonderful western experiences:  Lookout Mountain Nature Center & Preserve and the Buffalo Bill Museum, Grave, Gift Shop & Café.   I had so much fun I did not want to leave either place and tried to share the day equally between the two adventures that I had planned. 
Lookout Mountain Nature Center (LMNC) is part of the Jefferson County Open Space and Parks program and sits on 110 acres of ponderosa pine forest and meadow. The land was a generous gift from the Boettcher family to Jefferson County, and the Boettcher Mansion, the family’s summer home, still stands on the site. The mansion, built in 1917, is on the National Register of Historic Places and makes a great venue for social or business events. 

LMNC sits near the mansion and is a gorgeous building. Built of pine trees and locally quarried stone, the center boasts green architectural practices. The floors were built from recycled train box cars, the bathroom tiles from used windshield glass and the decking from plastic pop bottles and sawdust. The taxidermy displays feature the “locals” such as the black bear, mountain lion and mule deer lurking amidst other native species such as an Abert’s Squirrel, Ponderosa Pine, and raccoon. At one point a child commented about the display showing a mountain lion coming up behind a mule deer, “Well, that is not going to end well.” It was evident that the display was successfully telling a story about nature.  But wait, there is more.
There is a cozy children’s discovery corner, a windowed observation room, and nature-inspired educational gifts.  Hovering about the ceiling of the center is a myriad of local and migratory birds – each one hand carved of wood and with bird calls coming mysteriously from all corners of the center.  On one wall a flat screen TV displays video clips of the local animals caught on camera and photographed at night with an infrared motion sensor camera.  It was amazing to view black bear, elk, deer, red fox, coyote, and the elusive mountain lion doing what they do when humans are not about.  The best part was getting outdoors and walking the trails (Forest Loop and Meadow Loop); this is a where one can breathe the pine-scented air and perhaps see a glimpse of wildlife. It was here we kicked up, quite to our surprise, a dozen deer that were bedded down under the Ponderosa Pines. See photo below. 
Mule Deer on the Forest Loop Trail, LMNC

The grave site of Buffalo Bill and Louisa

Getting There:
Lookout Mountain Nature Center/Preserve  910 Colorow Road, Golden CO 80401-  is just minutes off I-70.  Westbound, take exit 256 and turn right.  Eastbound, use exit 254 and turn left.  Then follow the brown highway signs. Also you can drive via Golden on the Scenic Lariat Loop Byway!

Down the hill a ways from the LMNC is the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, which is part of the Denver Mountain Parks System. From the observation deck (located directly east of the parking lot) one can view the city of Denver, which appears so small and is swallowed up by the enormous expanse of the Great Plains. It is rumored that on a clear day you can see four states. This vantage point in the foothills was one of Col. Wm. F. Cody’s favorite places and the reason he requested burial here. The setting is glorious, and a short walk up a trail takes the visitor to his grave site. Here Buffalo Bill rests next to his wife, Louisa, and the grave site commands the surrounding area. The gift shop is stocked with great educational toys and books, tourist goodies, and many Wild West trinkets. One can even nosh on a buffalo burger in the café.  

Prepare yourself with plenty of time for the grand tour of Col. Wm. F. Cody’s life displayed in the museum. The enormous painting which consumes the entry wall down to the museum - Buffalo Bill on Horseback - is breathtaking. It took the French painter, Robert Lindneux, a full five years to complete the work. Lindneux met Buffalo Bill in Paris while the Wild West Show was touring Europe, and he was inspired by the show to visit the real western United States. 
Robert Lindneux painting of Buffalo Bill on Horseback - Buffalo Bill Museum
Throughout the museum the displays and colorful artistic posters read like a giant history book. One of the “aha” moments I had, while drinking in Buffalo Bill’s life history, was that he definitely evolved and grew from his experiences.  He went from buffalo hunter to becoming a preserver of the buffalo herd; from fighting the Native Americans to employing them in the Wild West Show and getting them off the reservation, traveling the world, and sharing their culture so many more would have a better regard and understanding.
Bumble and Buffalo Bill Cody share the same birth date of February 26, what a coincidence!

Tribute to Sitting Bull - Buffalo Bill Museum

Getting there:
Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave 987 1/2 Lookout Mountain Road, Golden, CO 80401
Take I-70 W. to exit 256. Turn right at the top of the ramp, and then an immediate left. Follow this to Lookout Mountain Road. Turn right and travel approximately 4 miles. The Museum will be on your left following an open park and picnic area. Or from Golden -Take 19th Street west, toward the mountains. This will turn into the Lariat Loop Historic Byway. Follow this to the top of the mountain. The Museum is the first possible right driveway at the top of the hill.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

God Bless You Steve

Courtesy of Google Images

Steve Jobs passed away a few days ago and it affected me greatly. I knew he was ill but it still caught me off my guard and I felt deeply sad. The brilliant artistic innovator in the world of computer technology, who gave us the Apple, IPod, I Pad, Pixar, and so much more, has crossed over. The loss is enormous.
Luckily, many people emailed me a copy of his 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address, and it was like medicine to my sick stomach. I got to hear his words of wisdom and revel in his stories. Here are a few messages that stood out for me from his speech which I will hold onto:
1. Remember we are all going to die. No one wants to die but one cannot escape it. Don’t waste your life living someone else's.
2. Trust your own gut -- follow your curiosity and your intuition. In the long run it will turn out to be what is best for you.
3. You cannot control all of life’s situations like you think you can. Connecting the dots backwards can show you a plan greater than your own will.
4. No matter how much you may love something, you may lose it anyway. The lessons we learn from this may be invaluable.
5. Find what you love to do and follow your heart. If you haven’t found it yet, then keep on looking. Do not settle.
Thank you, Steve, and God bless you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October is here

October pumpkin hiding

What is it about October? Is it the cerulean blue sky, that incredible backdrop, behind every outdoor glimpse we take? Is it the crisp fragrant air inviting one to come hither and walk, jog or bike with a renewed vigor? Or is it the Aspen trees dressing the mountains with gold leaf – a last hurrah before wearing their ermine coat of winter snow? And could it be the orange pumpkins and Halloween costumes that delight? October reminds us that some of the best things in life are free and that we should take to the hills and drink in nature with our eyes.

When I was in the fourth grade, our teacher had the class memorize and recite the poem, “October’s Bright Blue Weather,” written by Helen Hunt Jackson. Besides her well-known poem, she was a tireless activist for Native Americans and their mistreatment by the U.S. government.  She wrote about the repeated violations of Indian Treaties and documented corruption, systematic land grabs, prejudice and murder. Two books stand out which informed the reader about the Native American plight during the 19th century:  A Century of Dishonor (1882) and Ramona (1884). 

Here is her ode to October from the website Poem of the Week:

The rest of this month Bumble and I will be getting outside, heading to the hills and drinking in the colors of October. Stay tuned!


Sky, Doris. "Helen Hunt Jackson." Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, 01 May 2011. Web. 5 Oct 2011. <>.

Terri, Jean. "Helen Hunt Jackson." Native Village., n.p.. Web. 5 Oct 2011. < from the People/helen_hunt_jackson.htm>.