Gorilla Trekking

Silverback Mountain Gorilla and Baby, Virunga Mountains, Rwanda, 2016

My good friend Trina Pate is an extraordinary photographer. She and her husband Bud have photographed animals all over the world.

One of her dream trips was to visit the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains where she was able to photograph them at a very close range.

Trina shared her story with me. Visiting Mountain Gorillas is carefully regulated. At the time we visited Rwanda, there were 10 groups of gorillas that were habituated to humans. You are assigned a group to visit. Visits last exactly one hour from the time you first encounter your assigned group. Trackers and porters, as well as a guide, accompany tour groups of no more than 8 people.

Our assigned gorilla group was the Kwitonda Group. It took us over 2 hours trekking uphill to find them. There are no “trails” — you’re trekking through steep forest with often difficult footing. Once you see the gorillas, all fatigue is suddenly forgotten, replaced by pure joy and wonder.

Each gorilla group receives only one group of humans daily. The groups also receive veterinary care from a wonderful organization called “Gorilla Doctors”. Normally, wild animals don’t receive veterinary care but these gorillas receive care because they are so endangered.

My photo shows the dominant Silverback of the Kwitonda Group. He and several females were napping, as the younger gorillas played in the trees. The tiniest gorilla was swinging on a branch that suddenly broke, and the baby fell into the sleeping adults. He landed with a thud on top of the Silverback. The looks on the Silverback’s face and the baby’s face say it all! The Silverback looked like he was thinking “This kid is driving me crazy!” The baby appears to be thinking “Oops!”

Throughout the years, Trina has given me several of her photographs and they are displayed in my house. I vicariously get to share in her travels. And now, I’m sharing a few favorites with you.

All photos were shot with a Nikon D750 with a Nikor 80-400mm Zoom lens. Trina and Bud have increased their photography acumen with the help of National Geographic photographers on many of their Lindblad/NatGeo trips.

Thank you Trina for this close up glimpse into the Mountain Gorillas. They are our closest cousins, displaying so many human-like emotions and behaviors.





My Poetry Box

My Poetry Box, Glendale, California, 2020

Last month, we rooted my poetry box firmly in the ground flanked by tall rosemary and Indian hawthorn bushes in my front yard. The box itself is made of oak and it sits on a Coast Live Oak limb donated from Descanso Gardens. Chris Ecker used his carpentry skills to craft the poetry box and mount it onto the limb.

I first became acquainted with poetry boxes when my stepdaughter, Christy Carr, sent me a photo of one she saw on her morning walks in San Diego. She always stopped to read the poems and sent me photos of a few she thought I would like. I loved the idea and thought how nice it would bring one to my Montecito Park neighborhood. And so, it finally all came together.

I’m hoping my neighbors and friends will stop by when walking their dogs or enjoying a nightly COVID stroll in the neighborhood and read the poems I post.

The first poem I displayed was Robert Frost’s “The Road not Taken.” Originally published in 1916, in the collection, Mountain Interval, it is one of the most read and remembered poems written by an American poet. There are tomes written about the interpretation and meaning of this poem but I think each reader will take from it what they need.

Poetry uses words, images, metaphors, symbols, sounds, formats and rhythms that communicate feelings or thoughts in a beautiful, and often, unique way. I think we need the beauty of poetry more than ever as we experience isolation and separateness from our lives as we once knew them.

If you have a favorite poem, let me know and I’ll post it. I plan to change the poem every week or so.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as far that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Until next time, stay well and safe.



Descanso Gardens – a Refuge from Coronavirus

Descanso Gardens, La Canada, California, 2020

Descanso Gardens reopened May 16, 2020 after being closed since March for coronavirus concerns. It felt like returning home again to a garden retreat that I’ve enjoyed for over 30 years. I’m lucky to live close to this beautiful garden and can stroll often among the camellias and towering ancient heritage oak trees.

I wanted to hear “The Sky Beneath Our Feet,” a symphony for trees inspired by Descanso’s coastal oaks. I wandered through the Camellia Forest as the choral and instrumental pieces filtered all around me through a patchwork of 72 audio speakers.

I was immersed in music as I slowly walked along the path, the crunching of fallen oak leaves under my feet, the beautiful blue sky with fluffy white clouds above. To me, the music had a heavenly quality. Soothing, comforting, welcoming. What a relief to be in nature again and to be surrounded by beautiful music.

Pete Wyer, a British composer, wrote the music, inspired by the coastal oaks that grace Descanso Gardens. Wyer has created scores for the London Symphony Orchestra, Juilliard, BBC Television and the Royal Opera House. The garden was not crowded on the Tuesday that I visited and all visitors wore masks. Clearly delineated walking paths guided you into the gardens and a new exit leads you out of the garden far away from the entrance.

The music begins at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm and plays for one hour. It will play throughout the summer until the end of August. Information: (818) 949-4200 or descansogardens.org.


A Poem In the Midst of Coronavirus

Last week, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, surrounded by uncertainty, hundreds of questions and countless fears, a friend e-mailed me a beautiful poem that soothed me.

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed”.

Kitty O’Meara, a wise woman and a retired teacher and chaplain from Madison, Wisconsin, wrote this poem.

The poem helped me consider that nature is taking my hand and walking me through this craziness. Spring, seemingly unaware of our troubled times, pushes up colorful tulips, sprinkles cherry blossoms along the sidewalk, paints incredible sunsets and graces us with sweet showers. Spring follows its seasonal rhythm and clothes our cloistered world in beauty.

May you all stay safe as we journey through the next few weeks.




Nature-inspired Woodworker – Sam Maloof

Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts, Alta Loma, California

Last year, I toured the house and workshops of celebrated woodworker Sam Maloof with my friends Jackie and Gilbert. A leader in the California modern arts movement, Maloof crafted furniture for over 50 years until his death in 2009 at the age of 93.

Nestled in a citrus grove in Alta Loma, California near the San Gabriel Mountains, the blue-roofed house features handcrafted fences, gates, door latches and a sumptuous spiral staircase. A favorite avocado tree’s fallen limb serves as a central beam in the upstairs “treehouse room” in the 22-room house.

Inside the house is a treasure chest of Maloof-crafted furniture. Most of his furniture is crafted from walnut, his favorite wood to work with. Every room pops with items from Sam’s and wife Alfreda’s worldwide travels that reflect the spirit of arts and crafts.

Maloof Chair, 2019

Maloof’s chairs have a curving grace and high shine and the natural wood grain is showcased – perfection in a thoughtfully worked piece of wood.

The California and Mediterranean native gardens imbue the property with a reflective space with benches, sculptures, and picnic areas for visitors.

Maloof’s work is displayed in the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, Boston Museum of Art and New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan owned Maloof rockers.

Maloof Workshop, 2019.

​The Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts is part of a coalition of 30 museums that were homes and working studios of American artists. The Maloof house and workshops were moved to this five-acre site in 1994 to make room for the 210 freeway extension.

Our visit to the historic Maloof house was a wonderful afternoon immersed in enjoying the work of an exceptional woodworker.

Maloof Residence Gate, 2019

Docent lead public tour information available at: www.malooffoundation.org/visit.