Dragon Boat Races in Kansas City

Thess dragon boat crew members paddle hard as they reach the finish in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

This dragon boat crew paddle hard as they reach the finish in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

Dragon boats full of hard-working crews raced on Brush Creek at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri,  today (June 14, 2014).  I enjoyed the race loafing on the banks.  It looked like hard work, especially turning the boat to return to the starting point, which was also the finish line, but I’m sure it was a lot of fun, too.  Two boats raced each other in each race.  Whichever boat got around the pink buoy at the turn first was hard to beat.

Dragon Boat races are a 2,000-year-old tradition in China that arrived in Kansas City ten years ago.

The two dragon boats make the turn in their race in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Whoever is able to make the turn first has a great advantage.

The two dragon boats make the turn in their race in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Whoever is able to make the turn first has a great advantage.

The annual International Chinese Dragon Boat Festival in Kansas City was founded by Mr. Robert S. Chien with the Society for Friendship with China.  The crews debuted the four new fiberglass boats that were made for the event in China, part of a fleet commemorating of the death of Qu Yuan in 278 B.C.  The dragon boat tradition began, according to Chinese legend, because friends and admirers of the statesman and poet used boats, noise and food to scare away hungry fish after Qu Yuan drowned after throwing himself into a river.  Qu Wanshen, a 71st generation descendant of Qu Yuan, was on the schedule to attend. That’s some genealogy chart!

During the festival, sticky rice rice dumplings are eaten in honor of the rice dumplings thrown in the way two millennia ago. The rice dumplings, called Zongzi in Chinese, are sticky rice wrapped in bamboo/lotus/banana leaves. I, unfortunately, didn’t stumble across the food tent so I missed out on those.  Next year, that will be my first stop!

Chinese lanterns blow in the breeze on a footbridge over Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri.

Chinese lanterns blow in the breeze on a footbridge over Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri.

Qu Yuan was the earliest great patriotic poet as well as a great statesman, ideologist, diplomat and reformer in ancient China.  He lived in the latter part of the Warring States Period (476 BC – 221 BC). According to the Society for Friendship with China,  Qu Yuan was a minister to the Zhou emperor during the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC). He was a wise man who was strongly opposed to the corruption of the imperial court.

Because of Qu Yuan’s success, he aroused jealousy in his fellow ministers. They plotted against him and convinced the emperor that Qu Yuan was a traitor. Qu Yuan was banished, and returned to his home town. During his years of banishment, Qu Yuan collected legends and folk tales, and wrote poetry. He never lost his patriotic love for his emperor, and was greatly concerned about the future of the Zhou dynasty.

Eventually the Qin warriors overthrew the Zhou rulers and proceeded to plunder the country. On the 5th day of May, 278 BC, Qu Yuan learned about the fall of his capital city, and in a fit of despair, committed suicide by throwing himself into the Miluo River. The townspeople, hearing of Qu Yuan’s fate, rushed to their boats to try to save him. Since he was much loved, they tried to prevent the fish from eating his body by throwing rice dumplings into the water. They beat drums to keep evil spirits away.

To this day, the 5th day of the 5th lunar month is celebrated by eating rice dumplings (zong zi) and racing dragon boats. It is also a day for wearing talismans to keep away evil spirits. Adults drink Xiong Huang wine, and children wear fragrant silk pouches to guard against evil.

In Chinese culture, Dragon boat festival has been an important holiday for centuries, but in recent years dragon boat racing has become an international sport.

Four dragon boats are tied up at the dock, awaiting their races.  These boats were built in China for the Kansas City race.

Four dragon boats are tied up at the dock, awaiting their races. These boats were built in China for the Kansas City race.

 

Spectators have fun while waiting for the next dragon boat race to begin on Brush Creek in Kansas City.

Spectators have fun while waiting for the next dragon boat race to begin on Brush Creek in Kansas City.

Click on a thumbnail to see a full-size photo and a caption.

About the Society for Friendship with China.

 

 

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Post Rock Fences in Kansas

I saw these limestone fence posts, called post rocks, on a recent drive to western Kansas.

I saw these limestone fence posts, called post rocks, on a recent drive to western Kansas.

I’ve lived in Kansas most of my life, but I hadn’t seen more than a few limestone fence posts until this past weekend when I saw miles of them as I drove west in a section of the state I’d never visited before.  It has been estimated that at the peak of their use, there were about 40,000 miles of these stone post fences in central Kansas.  In the last  quarter of the 19th century, ranchers and farmers needed fences to keep the cattle from wandering onto cropland, but wood was scarce. Providentially, there is a bed of limestone buried only a few inches beneath the top soil, which is about about 18 inches in thickness, the perfect dimension for fence posts. It was easy to shape the soft stone, which hardened, enabling the posts to resist weathering in the elements.

About Post Rocks in Kansas.

More about Post Rock Fences and Where to Find Them.

 

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Let Us Remember

Catherine Sherman:

I’m repeating this post from 2012 about Memorial Day.

Originally posted on Catherine Sherman:

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln and his family spent summers in a cottage near the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, in Washington, D.C. Although the cottage and grounds were a refuge from the heat of downtown three miles south, the nearby cemetery was a constant reminder of the daily carnage of the war. The cemetery, next to the Armed Forces Retirement Home, is one of only two national cemeteries administered by the Department of the Army, the other being Arlington National Cemetery. The national cemetery is adjacent to the historic Rock Creek Cemetery and to the Soldiers’ Home.

On this Memorial Day weekend in the United States, as we enjoy three days usually spent in some pleasant activity with family and friends, I wanted to spend a few moments thinking about the reason for the holiday.  Holiday seems too festive of a term for a day…

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Montez Gallery in Truchas, New Mexico

Rey Montez is a handsome man, but you'll have to visit his gallery in Truchas, New Mexico, to see for yourself. He doesn't like to be photographed!  His Montez Gallery showcases a variety of art, including Spanish colonial art, religious art and contemporary art.

Rey Montez is a handsome man, but you’ll have to visit his gallery in Truchas, New Mexico, to see for yourself. He doesn’t like to be photographed! His Montez Gallery showcases a variety of art, including Spanish colonial art, religious art and contemporary art.

On our recent photography tour, Lynn S. and I were heading to Taos, New Mexico, on the High Road on Easter Sunday, not thinking any galleries or shops would be open, but still hopeful.  If all doors were shut, there would always be the gorgeous mountain scenery to photograph and maybe the exterior of a church. Apple trees were in bloom.  An occasional lilac bush was a burst of purple along the road side.

The Montez Gallery occupies an old church in Truchas, New Mexico.

The Montez Gallery occupies an old church in Truchas, New Mexico.

We entered the little mountain town of Truchas, (Lynn at the wheel at the wheel of her car; I feel bad for not doing any driving…) on the lookout.  We saw a little adobe church with a tin roof and tin bell tower.   A sign said: The Montez Gallery.  The church was now a gallery. Cars were in the parking lot.  Could it be open?

The Montez Gallery celebrated its 25th year in 2014.  The gallery is in an old church in Truchas, New Mexico.

The Montez Gallery celebrated its 25th year in 2014. The gallery is in an old church in Truchas, New Mexico.

Not only was the Montez Gallery open, but there was a reception for the gallery’s 25th year. Cake, coffee, cookies!  The owner, Rey Montez, told guests about  the art featured in his gallery and the history of the people in the area.  His family has been in northern New Mexico for centuries. You can read more about him, the gallery and collectors in the links below.  Many notable people have made the same stop at the Montez Gallery.

Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Holy Rosary) Mission Church was built in 1764 in Truchas, New Mexico. It is open in June, July and August. We visited the town in April, so we weren't able to go inside to see the two large altar-screens (reredos) by the renowned santero Pedro Antonio Fresquis.

Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Holy Rosary) Mission Church was built in 1764 in Truchas, New Mexico. It is open in June, July and August.

We also found an old mission church in Truchas,  Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Holy Rosary) Mission Church, which was built in 1764. It’s open in June, July and August. We visited the town in April, so we weren’t able to go inside to see the two large altar-screens (reredos) by the renowned santero Pedro Antonio Fresquis.

Cake, coffee and cookies for 25th anniversary of The Montez Gallery.

Cake, coffee and cookies for 25th anniversary of The Montez Gallery.

Truchas was established by a Spanish Royal Land grant in 1754. The full name of the town is Río de las Truchas, which means “river of trout.”  The first settlers built irrigation ditches from the trout-filled river to bring water to the town, which is at an elevation of 8,000 feet.  Truchas is mentioned in Willa Cather’s 1927 novel “Death Comes for the Archbishop”; Book Two Chapter 2. Robert Redford’s “The Milagro Beanfield War” (1988) was filmed on location in Truchas.   Several Truchas residents had roles in the movie.

Here is a view of Truchas, New Mexico, just off of the road through the town, showing Truchas Peak.

Here is a view of Truchas, New Mexico, just off of the road through the town, showing Truchas Peak.

On a hillside, stones spell out the name of the city of Truchas.

On a hillside, stones spell out the name of the city of Truchas.

Church Bell Tower in Truchas, New Mexico Post Card
The Montez Gallery is in an old church. Here’s the church bell tower.

 

MóntezGallery Website.

About Móntez Gallery, Part One.

About Móntez Gallery, Part Two.

About High Road Artisans in Truchas.

 

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“Whale” You Help Me?

Whale mural, Kapa'a, Kauai.

Whale mural, Kapa’a, Kauai.

I grew up in Kansas, far from any ocean (though I was born within a stone’s throw of the Potomac River in Virginia), so visits to the ocean were rare, and I didn’t see a whale until I was an adult. But once I did, I was hooked. Who can resist the majesty of whales, their power and grace? I admit, I’m a landlubber, so the pull of the traveling the deep, blue sea is lost on me, but I love the creatures that live within it.

Some of my best photos of whales are of murals…I think these are all of Humpback whales. Can someone help me identify them?

Humpack whale, Kona, Hawaii.

Humpack whale, Kona, Hawaii.

I don’t have any good photos of a recent whale watching trip my husband and I took off of the Na Pali coast of Kauai, because my camera had to be put away in a waterproof area because of the 17-foot swells (as tall as the boat!).  Also, I spent at least fifteen minutes with my face in a bucket, my first time ever being seasick, after having been on ocean-going ships dozens of times. The captain warned us that the sea would be rough, but I thought I was an old salt and wouldn’t have any problem. Wrong!  Had an entire pod of whales been performing the Nutcracker Suite within feet of the boat, I wouldn’t and couldn’t have looked up from my beloved bucket.

After my stomach calmed, I did see a month-old humpback whale breaching time after time very close to the boat, it was wonderful! (Sadly, no photo.)  You could tell this baby was having such a fun time.

Humpback whale, Glacier Bay, Alaska.

Humpback whale, Glacier Bay, Alaska.

In addition to being in the right place to see whales, you also need to be there at the right time. One February, we watched Humpback whales off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.  They winter in Hawaiian waters.  Then that summer, we saw Humpback whales in Glacier Bay of Alaska, their summer feeding grounds.  In January 2013, we looked for whales off of the coast of South Africa, too, but it wasn’t the right season, alas.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Sadly, there are still whalers in modern times.

Whalers Museum in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.

A List and Photos of Cetaceans: Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises.

“In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” which inspired inspired Herman Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick.”

“In the Heart of the Sea” film, directed by Ron Howard, scheduled for release in 2015.

About the novel “Moby-Dick.”

History of Whaling.

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UFO Cattle Crossing Sign in New Mexico

Pranksters have placed UFO stickers on cattle crossing signs on US Highway 68 between Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.

Pranksters have placed UFO stickers on cattle crossing signs on US Highway 68 between Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.

My friend and fellow photographer Lynn and I recently returned from a thousand-mile (probably more) photography road trip, starting from Kansas City and making a round trip through New Mexico. I took about 4,000 photos, some great, some lousy, most were fun, especially this one of a UFO sign on a cattle crossing sign on Highway 68 from Santa Fe to Taos.

Pranksters placed the stickers on signs, which officials remove and then more stickers re-appear.   Click the link if you want to know the less humorous history behind the stickers… (I don’t recommend it.) Cattle Abductions.

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I Gotta Crow About Kauai Chickens

A chick stopped to take a drink in the rainwater in a snorkel mask in the yard of the house where we were staying.  His mothers and siblings are just ahead.

A chick stopped to take a drink in the rainwater in a snorkel mask in the yard of the house where we were staying. His mothers and siblings are just ahead.

Clucking and crowing chickens, crashing waves and whirring helicopters are the sounds I’ll always associate with Kauai, the oldest of the main inhabited Hawaiian islands.

Every morning during our too-short visit to paradise, my husband and I awoke to huge waves crashing on the beach in the bay outside of our house and the crowing of roosters.

A mother hen and her chicks would make the rounds of the neighborhood several times a day. First, you’d hear the cheep cheep cheep of the chicks and then the occasional cluck of the mother as they pecked their way through the grass and bushes of the yard.

Helicopters were often crossing the sky to take tourists to view the many incredible sights, which have often been filmed for movies (“Jurassic Park,” is one example.) I’ve only been in a helicopter once — to fly over Maui almost 20 years ago. It was gorgeous, but I haven’t gotten up the nerve to get into a helicopter since. My husband and I did take a boat trip on this vacation. First time I ever got sea sick. (More about that later…)

Mother hens and their chicks were everywhere on Kauai.

Mother hens and their chicks were everywhere on Kauai.

Chickens were everywhere! Other islands have wild chickens, (A rooster showed up for my son’s beach wedding in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands) but Kauai has CHICKENS. On every trail, on the beaches, in shopping center parking lots, on the sidewalks outside of restaurants, in parks, in churchyards, every neighborhood, everywhere. They are gorgeous and colorful. They are descended from the Junglefowl that the ancient Hawaiians brought with them centuries ago. They’ve bred with other types of chickens that others have brought to the island, but have mostly retained the gorgeous Junglefowl coloring. The chickens have no predator, other than man and cats, so they thrive.  People say they aren’t good to eat, so they are mostly even safe from humans. There are mongooses on some of the other islands, such as the Big Island and Maui, which eat chickens and eggs. There are mongooses on St. John, too. But mongooses were never introduced to Kauai.

Here’s What I Wrote About The Mongoose in an Earlier Post.

Here are some of my chicken photos. Yes, I do like to take photos of chickens, maybe a little too much.

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