Sunset Boulevard

In Hollywood, there’s a famous street called Sunset Boulevard. It is lined with tall palm trees, bright lights, commercial establishments, and is teeming with cars and people any time of the day. This is where the Star’s Walk of Fame is also located. I drove and walked in that road a couple of times.

Here’s our version of Sunset Boulevard here in Iowa, which I am more familiar with.

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Just me, the road, and the sunset.

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(*photos taken while on our way to my daughter’s university)

Barn and Silo

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(*photo taken with an iPhone during my morning run)

Story behind the photo:

Few months after we moved to Iowa in 2004, we were scouting for a permanent place to live in. We found a vacant lot for sale, whose front view is the above photo. We fell in love with the place and the view, a typical Iowa landscape of farm, barn and silo. However at that time, we were not ready to buy, and somebody else bought the property and built a house there. We were crushed.

I could have been waking up to this view every day! But it was not meant to be.

More than a year later, we found a house less than a mile away from this lot, with such an impressive view as well (maybe even better), which now I wake up to. To this I am very grateful.

Moreover, I can still enjoy the view in the above photo, when I go on my morning run.

Deer Run

I went out for a run in our neighborhood this morning. It was a beautiful summer day.

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As usual, I spotted many deer along the way. But unlike before, where they were too fast and scurried away before I get close, this time they seem to stand still and let me take their photo.

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There’s even two in one shot.

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Even the rabbits were not bounding away, as I was approaching.

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I even stopped to smell the flowers.

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Or maybe taking photos was just my excuse to stop and take a breather, in completing my 5-mile run.

And here’s one deer that even crossed my path. I was able to capture it in action.

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Just like the slogan of John Deere: nothing runs like a deer. Have a good day!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Shades of Lavender

In my last post, I told you of our misadventure of driving more than a hundred miles just to be disappointed. The lavender field was just an illusion.

Today, a friend of ours took photos in our backyard. We don’t need to go that far after all.

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They may not be the real lavender flowers, but their shade of color is close enough.

(*photo credit cashQ, horticulturalist: missus)

Masada: the Last Fortress

Masada, which means “fortress” in Hebrew, is a place of history, defiance, triumph and tragedy all rolled in one. About three months ago, we had the chance to visit this place.

After Jerusalem, Masada is the second most visited site for tourists in Israel. This fortress became a symbol of pride for the Jewish people, as it was their last stronghold against the Roman invasion.

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Masada is located at the western end of the Judean Desert. Sitting on top of an isolated rock plateau, with surrounding cliffs as natural barrier, it is understandable why it was so hard to conquer it.

Today, it does not shun intruders, instead it even invites guests to come for a visit. To get to this fortress though, you have to ride a lift.

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There is also a trail going through stairs that you can hike from the bottom of the valley to the top of the cliff.  This route is for the more adventurous souls, and definitely you need to be in excellent condition to go up this way.

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After reaching the top, we feasted on the spectacular view around us.

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Masada is overlooking the Dead Sea valley which is the lowest point on earth.

Photo below is the Dead Sea which is about 430 meters below sea level, while the height from the valley floor below to the Masada fortress is 450 meters. So even though it looks that this fortress is at such a height, in actuality, it is at sea level.

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While we were on top of the cliff, we saw some paragliders sailing above the Masada fort. I would say this is far more cooler way to tour Masada, that is through a bird’s-eye view.

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King Herod the Great built the Masada fortress as a refuge for himself. Not only as a fortress, but on the northern part of it, separated by a wall from the fort, is a residential villa for the king.

Below is what remains of a palace court.

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Even what was left were ruins, it can be noted that this king’s palace was such a lavish place during its heyday. Photo below is one of the terraces of the king’s villa.

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King Herod the Great found a way to bring water to this fortress. Not just that it was in the middle of a desert, but also bringing up water to such a high place took a lot of engineering, logistics and possibly enormous brute labor.

Below is what remains of a large bath house.

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This specific room is the caldarium, where the suspended floor was supported by rows of low pillars, so hot air from the furnace outside, can be blown under the floor and through clay pipes along the walls, to heat the room to the desired temperature. In other words, it was the sauna! Who would have thought sauna was existing already more than two thousand years ago?

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After Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70 CE, a group of Jewish rebels, zealots, and their family, held the fort of Masada. According to history written by Josephus Flavius, the Romans established camp at the base of Masada, and the fort was laid in siege. The Romans constructed a ramp from thousands of stones and beaten earth against the western wall of the fortress. It was said that part of the ramp were bodies of dead Roman soldiers, who died during the battle.

Below is the photo of the ramp the Romans built to conquer Masada.

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Finally in 74 CE, the Romans moved a battering ram up this ramp, and breached the wall of the fortress.

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The tragic story of Masada was when the Jewish defenders realized that it was apparent that the fortress would fall and they would be conquered, they decided to commit a mass suicide. There were almost one thousand men, women and children. They chose to die from their own swords than be conquered.

Those Jewish defenders casted lots to choose 10 men who would kill the last survivors. And then the last Jew killed himself, before the fort finally fell to the Roman invaders.

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Masada, a mighty fortress by a mighty people. Yes, it was breached and invaded. But never conquered.

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(*all photos taken by pinoytransplant)

 

 

 

Slow Run

It’s summer here in our place. Well, not quite officially, as the summer solstice is not until June 21 which marks the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere. Yet the mercury is rising, as our high temperature for the past few days and the coming week will be in the 90’s to even reaching 100 º F.

But this morning, it was a comfortable 74 º F, so I went out for a run. It is also about this time of year that I should start preparing for the half marathon, if I should decide to join again this coming fall.

As I was approaching the small pond in my running route, I have to stop and let the family of geese get off the road before I could pass. The mother goose was already hissing at me as I was approaching them. They can be very territorial you know. But that’s fine, I can share the road with them, and I have no plans on swimming in their pond.


When I came to the wooded areas, I also saw a deer. But it bounded quickly away before I could take out my phone out of my pocket to take a photo. It might be sneering at me that I am too slow.

Same thing happened when I came to an area where a couple of wild rabbits were on the side of the road foraging for food. They also scurried away at the sound of my slow feet, before I can get near them. They may also laughing at me for being slow.

I admit, I am getting slower. Maybe my age is catching up on me. I have no match for the swiftness of the deer and the hare. They seem to dash so effortlessly and yet so gracefully. While me, I push for every step of my way to get to a pace that runners would even consider “running.”

Maybe all of us can relate in one way or another, and in different endeavors, that we feel we are no match to the “competition” we are going against. Whether it be in sports, or in school, or in our work, and in life in general.

Then as I was fighting my way uphill, I saw this guy.


Yes, that is a snapping turtle. And I was “quick” enough to take a photo of him.

They are called snapping turtles not because they snap their fingers as they go, rather they have the ability to snap, as in bite an attacker. That’s why I kept my distance.

The pond, or any body of water that I know in this area, was hundreds of meters away. I don’t know how long it would take him to get there, if that was where he was heading. But I’m sure his slow pace does not stop him from continuing, for that’s who he is.

It gave me a good insight for the day.  Life they say could be like a race. But it is not always for the swift, but to those who kept on running.

 

Hamog

Parang kumot na sumusuklob sa damong giniginaw,

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O balabal na bumabalot sa paligid kong tanaw,

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At parang kurtinang tumatabing sa araw na sumisilaw,

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Ang mga ulap na humahalik sa lupa at nanliligaw,

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Gaya ng pag-ibig na tila hamog sa pusong nauuhaw.

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(*photos taken with an iPhone during my morning run)

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Post Note: since a reader asked, here’s the English translation for my non-Filipino readers and followers:

Dew
Like a blanket that covers the shivering grass,
Or a heavy cloak that the surrounding it wraps,
Or like a curtain that veils the sun’s glare,
Are the clouds that court and kiss the earth,
Just like love is like the dew to hearts that thirst.

 

Doorhenge

If you live near the equator, the time of the sunrise is almost the same throughout the year. When I was living in Manila, the earliest sunrise is about 5:30 in the morning, and the latest will be at 6:30. The more distance you live above or below the equator, the more the difference in the times of sunrises and sunsets through the year.

Where I live now here in Iowa, the earliest sunrise is at 4:40 (Standard time) in June, but due to Daylight Saving Time from March to November, so the adjusted time is 5:40 in the morning. We have about 15 hours of daylight at this time. Then the latest sunrise is at 7:40 in December, and have only 9 hours of daylight.

Have you also noticed that the sunrises and sunsets are not in the same spot on the horizon all year? This is due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis of rotation, which is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees (sorry, I’m such a nerd). As a result, at some points in the orbit of Earth, the north pole is tilted towards the sun, and at other points it is tilted away from the sun, making the location of sunrises and sunsets different depending on the time of year.

By the way, that specific tilt of 23.5 degrees of Earth is also the reason for the different seasons of the year. But that is a subject of discussion perhaps for another time.

With regards to viewing sunrises, one enigma of our civilization is the ancient structure, the Stonehenge. One theory is that it was built as a celestial observatory. Though it could be an altar or some kind of sacred monument as well. In any case, it is built to have been perfectly arranged to face the midsummer sunrise, and midwinter sunset. So if you stand in just the right place inside the Stonehenge monument on the day of the northern summer solstice, you’ll see the sunrise align through those pillars.

A similar phenomenon also happens in New York City, when the setting of the sun aligns perfectly with the grid-pattern streets of Manhattan, which happens twice a year, typically in May and July. This is also known as the Manhattanhenge.

Interestingly, I have a similar event in my house here in Iowa. That is on a certain time of the year, the sunrise perfectly aligns with my front door and shines directly through the corridor and into our living room.

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When this happen, I know that we are halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Or this is just time to let the sunshine in and start a new day.

Have a good day everyone!

(*photo taken last weekend with an iPhone)

 

 

 

Hanging Gardens

When we visited the Holy Land last month, we went to the city of Haifa, the third largest city in Israel. Haifa is where Mount Carmel is located.

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monument of Elijah in Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel, as you probably know, is the site where prophet Elijah, as recorded in the Bible, challenged the prophets of Baal in where his sacrificial offering was set ablaze by a fire from heaven. But that’s for another post.

What I want to feature now is another popular tourist site also found in Mount Carmel, the Baha’i Gardens.

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The Baha’i faith is a religion, which started under 200 years ago by a Persian, of the name Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi, who proclaimed himself as the prophet Bab (Bab means “gate” in Arabic). Today, some 7 million people practices this religion.

The Baha’i Gardens or also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, are garden terraces around the shrine of the Bab.

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These gardens are relatively new, as its construction was started in 1987, and was completed and opened to the public in 2001. It has 19 terraces and has about 600 steps.

From the garden terraces you can view the Mediterranean ocean, the port of Haifa, and part of the city.

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We entered the garden from the top entrance and work our way down through steep stairways. Definitely it was much easier going down than up, as long as you don’t get dizzy and fall down the steps.

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Starting from the bottom and going up the stairs will be a real chore, unless you feel like Rocky-in-training.DSC_0595

The gardens are linked by a set of stairs that are flanked by streams of running water cascading down the mountainside through the steps and terrace bridges. These waters are fed by fountains on each terrace level.

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The Shrine of the Bab is the second most holy place for the Baha’is. The Bab was executed in 1850 in Iran and his remains were later brought to Haifa and laid to rest in this site in 1909. The original mausoleum was turned into this beautiful shrine built in the 1950’s, complete with a golden dome.

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Located also in the gardens is the Baha’i Archive Library which holds many of the sacred items of the Baha’i faith (photo below).

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Today, this garden and shrine attracts more than a million visitors a year. It is also a pilgrimage site for the Baha’is. And since this place is considered sacred, they would like visitors to be reverent and be quiet while visiting this garden. For sure it is a beautiful place just to be silent and reflect.

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I may not be a Baha’i pilgrim, but as a life’s pilgrim, I feel grateful and blessed to visit this magnificent place.

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(*Most photos taken with an iPhone, except for the B&W photos, which I took with Nikon DSLR, but forgot to check that its mode is on “effects,” so the B&W shots were unintentional.)