Lens-Artists #89: A River Runs Through It

Amy at Lens-Artists has as her theme for this week’s challenge: river.

Starting out close to home, here is the Des Plaines River during a November walk on the Des Plaines River Trail. This is a very pretty stretch of the slow-moving river, but it is responsible for many floods in the cities along its banks due to heavy rain.
The Des Plaines River, which gave the suburban city that was my home for over 30 years its name, flows 133 miles southward from southern Wisconsin to south of Joliet, Illinois, where it joins the Kankakee River and becomes part of the Illinois River. Contrary to popular opinion, Des Plaines, a French name, does not mean “of the plains.” It actually refers to either the sycamore or the maple tree, which resembles the European plane tree, and was named by French traders in the 18th century.

The Chicago River is prominently featured in many photos of downtown Chicago and can be viewed from any of the bridges on  main thoroughfares of the city. This photo was taken at Michigan and Wacker near the site of the original Fort Dearborn.
Chicago celebrates its river by dying it Kelly green every St. Patrick’s Day (although they didn’t do that this year – celebrations were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic), by constructing a pleasant river walk lined with eateries, which is still under construction, and opening a River Museum that tells the story of the Chicago River and offers nice views of the river from its windows. The river is most famous for an engineering feat undertaken at the turn of the 20th century: the main stem of the river’s flow was reversed so that it now flows out of Lake Michigan, through a system of locks. This increased the volume of the river, which now empties into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

The Colorado River is the most iconic and important river in southwestern United States. It is responsible for carving some of the most beautiful scenery of the west, including the Grand Canyon and others preserved in 11 national parks. This photo was  taken at the Grand Canyon and is strangely the only photo I have of the river!
The Colorado River starts in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and meanders southward 1,450 miles to the Gulf of California. The river and its tributaries provide water for 40 million people in the Southwest. Native Americans have occupied the Colorado Basin for at least 8,000 years and the culture of the region is strongly influenced by their presence. The Desert View Watchtower, from where the above photo was taken, was designed by Mary Colter who took inspiration from the native peoples that inhabited and continue to dwell in the region. Below is the Watchtower from the inside and outside.

No tour of American rivers would be complete without the Mighty Mississippi! Below are two photos of the river just north of St. Louis on the Illinois side of the border. It was nearly sunset when we got to this spot.
A view of a couple of the bridges across the Mississippi at that spot
Flowing southward 2,320 miles from its origin near Lake Itasca, Minnesota, it is the second longest river in North America. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi watershed drains 32 American states and 2 Canadian provinces. Native Americans have lived along this river for thousands of years, including the mound builders who are now thought to have been one of the major ancient civilizations in the Americas. The region along which it passes is very fertile and it is now a common riverboat cruise vacation, inspired by the steamboats that have plied its waters for the last two centuries, as well as other riverboats carrying cargo, animals and people as a main form of transportation.

Jumping to another continent, Africa is home to the longest river in the world, the Nile. The Nile was at the center of the ancient Egyptian civilization, which grew up along its banks where the land was fertile. The ancient Egyptians depended on its annual inundation, which no longer occurs due to dams, especially the High Dam of Aswan.
Sunset on the Nile:
Fishermen on the Nile

The Nile originates south of the equator and flows northward 4,132 miles to empty into the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient Egyptians called the river Ar or Aur, meaning “black” due to the color of the mud created by the sediments when it was flooded. Because of the direction of flow from south to north, the ancient Egyptians referred to their southern territory as “Upper Egypt” and the northern territory and the Delta “Lower Egypt.”

The most famous river in the Bible is the Jordan River. Many songs and prayers refer to it and today many pilgrims go to the river to be baptized.
A friend about to be baptized at Yardenit Baptismal Center
The Jordan River connects the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. 156 miles long, it runs north to south along the border between Jordan, the Palestinian West Bank, Israel and Southwestern Syria.

Another river in Israel is the Dan. The Dan River originates in Israel and is the largest of the three principal tributaries of the Jordan River. The Dan River flows from Tel Dan, the site of the biblical city of Dan (Laish). The river is fed by the rains and snowmelt that pass through the rock of Mount Hermon and emerge at its foot to form hundreds of springs.
The Tel Dan Nature Reserve has hiking trails and encompasses the ruins of Tel Dan.

Last summer we took a river cruise in Europe, on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers.
Cruises on the Rhine River are popular, because one can view a series of medieval castles rising on the hills along its banks, as well as sample a variety of wines grown in its vineyards that cover the hillsides. This photo was taken from Marksburg Castle in Germany.
Wine growing and castles are beautiful scenery on the Rhine.

The Rhine is the second longest river in central/west Europe, about 760 miles (1,230 km) long. It originates in the Swiss Alps and flows north to empty into the North Sea. The Rhine and Danube rivers comprised most of the northern inland frontier of the Roman Empire.

Through a series of locks, a river cruise travels from the Rhine into the Main River and then into the Danube. The Main River is located entirely within Germany.
We went through a series of locks.

The Main River is 326 miles (525 km) long, the longest tributary of the Rhine. Major cities along the Main include Frankfurt and Würzburg.

The Danube River is the second longest river in Europe (longest is the Volga) and flows through 10 countries, more than any other river in the world.
The Danube, called Donau in German, flows 1,770 miles (2,580 km) southeast, originating in the Black Forest of Germany and emptying into the Black Sea. Four national capitals are located along the river: Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade.

A tributary of the Danube is the Inn River which flows through Switzerland, Austria and southern Germany.
Ducks on the Inn River at Schärding, Austria
The Inn is 322 miles (518 km) long and forms part of the Austria-Germany border at Passau. There is a coin-sized marker on this bridge, indicating the border: on the left is Germany, on the right is Austria.


January Square and One Word Sunday: Cacti & Petroglyphs in Saguaro National Park

We visited Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona late in the afternoon, where I got some great backlit shots of saguaro, such as this one:
KODAK Digital Still Camera
I am fascinated with saguaros, which are the trees of life in the Sonoran Desert, because of the interesting shapes that sprout as “arms” from their main trunk.
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Saguaros grow very slowly, so these photos are of cacti that are fairly old. These majestic giants live as long as 200 years!
The saguaro harbors a variety of life forms – such as woodpeckers (who make holes in their trunks) and elf owls (who live in the abandoned holes), as well as many others who shelter beneath the cactus – snakes, rodents, and other animals. Native American tribes traditionally collected the fruit of the saguaro, which was used in their diet. They would use long poles to get the fruit down or collect it after it fell to the ground.
During its long life, the saguaro stores water in the folds of its trunk and arms – the folds act like an accordion, expanding in years with more rainfall, and contracting in dry years.


Late in life, a saguaro may have many limbs, which form curves and other shapes.

Even when this giant dies, creatures take advantage of its large bulk, where they burrow and lay eggs. Native peoples stripped its stems and used them as building materials.

Note the tangle of curved arms in this saguaro!
Another interesting sight to explore at Saguaro National Park are the petroglyphs carved on rocks by ancient peoples who lived in the area.
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Swirls, curves, wheel-like circles, suns, animals, and other carvings were symbols which had religious or social meanings for their creators.
KODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still Camera
Posted for:
Becky’s January Square – backlight.
One Word Sunday: Curve

October Squares #2: Glass Art

I am featuring pieces from a museum again, for Becky’s Month of Squares in October with the topic “Lines & Square.”.

These pieces are from the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington. We went there to see Chihuly’s glass art, but the museum has so much more than that. The first exhibit we went into featured Native American artists using themes from the Northwest tribal art.


This piece is entitled Fox by Skokomish artist taqWitsa Vera Smith (born 2002), using fused glass.

Here are more beautiful pieces from that exhibit.


John Edward Smith (Skokomish, born 1973), Untitled, (2015-2018), blown and sand carved glass



All 3 pieces by Old Peter, (Chehalis/Skokomish, born 1980)



Delbert Miller (Skokomish, born 1957) & Jack-lyn Smith (Skokomish, born 1980), Family Outing, 2015-2018, brown & sand-carved glass and hair


Blue Squares: Here It Is!

Becky has her monthlong square challenge this month and the topic is Blue.  (#JulySquare)

Last summer we took a road trip across 2/3 of the United States on Route 66. Between Arizona and New Mexico, we kept seeing road signs with this rabbit logo which piqued our curiosity (as it was supposed to!). We finally arrived at this store, with a sign saying “Here It Is!”
And the rabbit was very much an identifying feature even though the store had nothing to do with rabbits per se. Just an advertising gimmick to get you into the store! In fact, although seemingly of dubious quality judging from the exterior,
the interior turned out to have some very nice things, including Native American crafts, and I bought a couple of kachinas there!
I blogged about this and other Route 66 discoveries in my series Getting Our Kicks last summer!

A Photo a Week: Things With Wings

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week challenge this week is Things With Wings.

Yesterday a friend and I visited Christkindlmarkt in Chicago – an annual German market that sets up for the holiday season at the Daley Plaza. Someone must have been generous with bird seed to attract this plethora of pigeons!
Then today it was warm enough to walk outside and while walking a park district track, I came across this lone bird – a killdeer, someone informed me. I wondered if he/she felt cold.
There are more exotic birds in Tanzania, such as the ubiquitous maribou stork,
a colorful tiny bird whose name I don’t know,
and this well-camouflaged pair in an acacia tree.
Since it’s almost Christmas, I thought of this Native American nativity scene that we saw at Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson three years ago. This is a very unique-looking angel!
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Thinking of warmer days, I remembered all the monarch butterflies I saw this summer, such as this one I spotted in someone’s front garden. I was able to get quite close and take several photos.
I also visited the butterfly garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden in July.
This moth has a large spot on its wing that looks like an eye to ward off predators.
This moth was perched on a screen at my house.

CB&WPC: Carvings & Sculptures

Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week is sculptures, carvings and statues.

I have always loved Native Southwestern art and had often coveted my oldest sister’s collection of Navajo kachinas. Recently, I’ve begun to collect them for myself.  The first one I got is the round faced one with a feathered headdress, at the Crazy Horse Monument store in South Dakota. The second, the fearsome wolf in the background, I ordered from a Southwest Indian Foundation catalog last winter. In June, I bought several smaller ones in New Mexico. I display them all on a shelf between my living room and dining room. They are carved in wood, with other materials (such as feathers and
leather) added, then painted.
20180824_093849 (2)
I saw this weird sculpture at the Chicago Art Institute earlier this month, in the section of ancient Roman art. It struck me as unique, so I took this photo.

20180802_143052 (2)

Statue of a Young Satyr Wearing a Theatre Mask of Sileno (about 1st century Roman, restored 1628 by Alessandro Algardi [1598-1654]; marble)

The following are all from the Santa Fe state capitol. This one, of children playing, is in front of the capitol building.
20180612_112610d (2)
Like most state capitols, the one in Santa Fe contains a collection of art. This carving was inside, in the capitol’s art gallery.
20180612_112116 (2)
Detail of a multimedia buffalo head
20180612_113645 (2)
To see more of the Santa Fe state capitol, go to my upcoming post in my capitol series.

Getting Our Kicks in Santa Fe, NM (Route 66, Day 5, Pt. 3)

June 11, 2018

There is plenty to see and do in Santa Fe. Head for the historic Plaza in the center of town to see adobe Pueblo-style buildings and a square (the Plaza) that resembles similar plazas in Mexico. Adjacent to the Plaza is another historic hotel, La Fonda. The hotel operated as a Harvey House for over 40 years, accommodating guests arriving by car as well as the Santa Fe Railroad. In 1937, Route 66 was realigned to bypass Santa Fe, but La Fonda continued as a Harvey House until 1968.  Still in operation as one of the city’s elegant hotels, we went in to look around.20180611_190200


Entrance to La Fonda Hotel


The entrance from the inside – notice the beautiful stained glass panels on either side of the entrance.

The hotel lobby

20180611_190439The hotel also displays some beautiful
artwork by local and Native American

(Left) Marla Allison (1980 – ), Laguna
Pueblo, NM; A Hint of Blue, 2011,
acrylic paint, gold & silver leaf
on canvas. This Native American artist
is inspired by traditional pottery
designs of the Pueblo and Hopi tribes.

(Below) Tammy Garcia (1969 – ), Santa
Clara Pueblo, NM; Basket Dancer, glass
on granite base.  Ms. Garcia began her
career as a potter, like her mother and
grandmother. While still connected to
her cultural roots, she uses new
imagery and materials. An award-
winning artist, she now lives in Taos,
New Mexico.


The hotel has a nice restaurant, so we inquired about a table.
We were told the restaurant was full and without reservations, we would not be able to get in, so I could only take these pictures of it. The restaurant was decorated with stained glass panels, old-fashioned light fixtures and trees sparkling with little white lights. (Click on photos to see them larger.)

Exiting the hotel, we figured we should look for another place to eat, since it was dinnertime. We found one – Anasazi – where we had a delicious and inexpensive meal on the patio (see my blog post Getting Our Kicks…, Day 5, Pt. 2 for more about this restaurant).  We also had a look at the Basilica Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi, which was closed, so we viewed the exterior and planned to return the next morning.


Here are some more photos we took while wandering around the central plaza area that evening.



Fields of Ancestors

Frank at Dutch Goes the Photo has a Tuesday challenge and the theme this week is field.

Last year in May, we took a road trip to the Dakotas. It was our first visit to North Dakota. Fields are ubiquitous in North Dakota – wide fields of planted crops or endless prairie.

Some fields harbor the secrets of the grave, the souls of ancestors. At the Son of Jacob cemetery, in a remote corner of east central North Dakota reached by a long strip of road surrounded by undulating grasses, one can visit scattered graves of Jewish pioneers who settled in this area more than a century ago. Most of their descendants have scattered, too – finding opportunities in larger communities, universities, or even fertile farms. Only the bones of their ancestors remain here, but some of their pioneer soul remains too.
A sign informs the infrequent visitors that this cemetery is built on a native prairie, much like the land the original settlers encountered.

Farther west, in central North Dakota, is the Knife River Indian Villages National Monument. At first, these fields seem completely empty – not even grave markers to indicate people are buried here.KODAK Digital Still Camera
Yet here were villages that harbored a sizeable population of the Awatixa, ancestors of the Hidatsa culture.KODAK Digital Still Camera
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Look closer across these fields with their tall grasses and unceasing winds and notice undulating mounds and large round depressions – these are the traces of a once thriving village, Awatixa Xi’e, full of earth lodges. When their houses collapsed, they left circular mounds and depressions, where hardened floors once were. KODAK Digital Still Camera
KODAK Digital Still Camera
The village was situated next to a river, which allowed the people to become more settled. However, it also exposed them to contact with the agents of change.
2017 Summer&Fall 195.JPGThe Awatixa died from European diseases or were absorbed into the European American economy, but the clues they left behind tell us about their lives.  This is a reconstructed earth lodge.2017 Summer&Fall 187.JPG
The interior of the dwellings looked something like this.

Archaeologists learned a lot by excavating middens, or trash pits. They found bits of pottery, bone tools, flaked stones, and a lot of bison bones. The Awatixa grew corn, a vital part of their sustenance. They built flat boats from which to fish or for transportation. A museum on the site contains artifacts and provides information about the villages in this area. Walking paths lead through the fields where the villages once stood.

The Knife River Indian Villages site is an interesting and informative place to visit for anyone who wishes to learn more about the peoples who came before us. Although only fields are left, the information provided allows the life of the Awatixa to come alive.

Getting Our Kicks in New Mexico – from Gallup to Santa Fe (Route 66 Day 5, Pt. 2)

June 11, 2018

Leaving Gallup, I-40 and old Route 66 run parallel to each other. On the eastern edge of Gallup, we were somewhat surprised to see this mosque.20180611_110952We stayed on Route 66 and stopped at the Continental Divide (I-40 exit 47). Rivers west of the Continental Divide flow into the Pacific Ocean, while rivers east of the Divide empty into the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean. A much more spectacular Continental Divide view is in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, where we had been 10 days before.

The Continental Divide in New Mexico is marked along Route 66 near the town of Thoreau. It’s a rather run-down place. First you see this abandoned building with two USA red, white and blue missile prototypes rising up in front.
The sign marking the Continental Divide is somewhat battered.
In the middle of this desert nowhere, it was hard to believe we were as high as 7,245 ft.! But in fact, south of here is Lookout Mountain, elevation 9,111 ft.

There were morning glories blooming at the base of the sign.
The next placed we stopped was the small town of Milan, where there were signs of life, but many once-thriving businesses have been shuttered. This is common along Route 66 because major highways bypass these small towns, leaving them behind.  Curious were these brightly painted bicycles in front of a deserted building.
Of course, there were also thriving businesses.
New Mexico has a lot of Indian Reservations, including several in this area called the “Checkerboard.” Milan is located between two of them, just northwest of the larger town of Grants.

We got back on I-40 at Grants, heading toward Albuquerque. Originally we had planned to stay the night there, but decided we would rather stop in Santa Fe.  Bordering the western edge of Albuquerque is Petroglyphs National Monument.  In this protected area, there are trails that take you through the lava rocks to some beautiful petroglyphs made by the ancestors of the Pueblo people. However, even a short walk from the parking lots reveal some interesting ones. We opted for this – the longer trails  wound their way up high rocky hills and we didn’t want to stay too long.
DSC_0662SONY DSC All the petroglyphs made by these ancient people face southward. On the Macaw Trail, signs told us that the style found in this area is called “Rio Grande” by archaeologists. This style emerged rather suddenly around 1300 A.D., which coincided with a large increase in population.  20180611_151847
To create these images, using handheld stone tools the Ancestral Puebloans carefully removed the desert varnish which exposed the basalt’s lighter interior.
After centuries of exposure, the images oxidize and turn darker, attesting to their old age and authenticity. 20180611_152547dOn the Cliff Base Trail, we learned that petroglyphs are not just rock art, picture writing, or a depiction of the natural world. They are powerful symbols reflecting the society and religion of surrounding tribes.
The placement of each petroglyph was never a random decision. It had to do with the position of the image relative to the horizon and to other petroglyphs.20180611_152623
Some petroglyphs have meaning only to the individual who made them. Others represent tribal, kiva or community symbols. 20180611_152839
Some of the petroglyphs have meaning to present day Pueblos, while the meaning of the others has been lost, but still respected by their descendants.
Archaeologists today believe that the 23,000 petroglyphs found within this monument date from 1000 B.C. to about 1700 A.D., using a variety of methods to determine their approximate age.
Authentic petroglyphs are valuable and irreplaceable. However, some modern people have taken it upon themselves to add their own markings. (Click on image to enlarge.)

This graffiti damages the images as there are no long-term ways to cover up these desecrations.
This image is so bright and on this smaller rock, it’s hard to tell whether it is authentic or not.
This is the Cliff Base Trail we were walking on. It is mostly level, with a few stairs and rocky areas that take you to petroglyphs a little higher up.SONY DSC

With my telephoto lens, standing next to our car in the parking lot, I was able to get this clear photo of petroglyphs visitors on the more rugged trail could see close up.SONY DSC
It was about 4:00 p.m. when we got back in our car and headed north to Santa Fe. We checked into our hotel about an hour later, then went to the historic area of downtown Santa Fe to look around. Most places of interest were closed, so we had dinner at Anasazi Restaurant at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi near Santa Fe Plaza. The food was excellent – we ordered off the appetizers menu and it was plenty.  20180611_193007
A post about Santa Fe will be coming up shortly.  Stay tuned!!








Getting Our Kicks at El Rancho Hotel (and Thursday Doors) (Route 66, Day 5, Part 1)

June 11, 2018

Our AAA Route 66 map & guide featured the famous El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico. Although we didn’t stay there (but our Best Western was right across the street from it), we headed over there to have a look as soon as we had checked out. We were in for a treat!


Over the front door, an inviting sign:
Front entrance (there were four sets of these doors)
Inside the foyer, another set of doors into the hotel lobby
And what a lobby!
The Southwestern elegance of this hotel was in keeping with the type of clientele that used to pass through here. It was popular with many movie stars and other famous people.
In one corner of the lobby were some benches made from longhorn cattle horns, in front of a set of doors with octagon-shaped windows.
The art on the walls (as in the painting at above left) depicted Western scenes, and featured a lot of Native American art, pottery and weavings.

There was a beautiful player piano and an old fashioned cigarette machine, next to a shoe shine stand.


We climbed the red carpeted curved stairway to the 2nd floor balcony.  On this floor in this part of the hotel were rooms reserved for movie stars. To stay in one of these rooms today, you pay a higher price, $175 and up, which still isn’t too bad, considering.


This is one of the 2nd floor hallways, where movie stars had their own reserved rooms. The walls are adorned with Southwest Indian art.

Door to a 2nd floor ladies’ room
The walls of the balcony are covered with autographed photographs of film stars, which were given as gifts of appreciation to the hotel.

2nd floor balcony20180611_101836

Another 2nd floor hallway lined with doors to the reserved rooms of the stars20180611_103541


Looking down at the lobby from the balcony

Over the registration desk décor:

We inquired at the front desk about prices for the rooms. We were told that the lower prices (ranging from $110 to $150) were for “regular” rooms, in one of the more recently built wings of the hotel.
We lingered for a few minutes in the hotel store, which sold beautiful items made by peoples of the Southwest. Other items (not for sale) on display included pottery and miniature Navajo weavers, showing the different kinds of wool they used to make different colors and patterns.
As we left the hotel, another sign bade us good-bye.
Although Norm will be on vacation for two weeks, you can join the fun after that by submitting photos to his weekly Thursday Doors photo feature.