Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


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Stairway to the stars…

After having such a fun Thursday, I am compelled to detour away from my tales of Switzerland just a little bit more. It is no secret that I have a passion for tile (in particular Heath), so when an opportunity came to visit San Francisco with a group of retired teachers from the school where I taught before going to Moraga’s JMIS, I was very excited. My heart skips anytime there are mosaics around. We started the morning by traveling to the Flora Grubb Gardens Nursery. Lots of inspiration there and it was well worth the trip as a prelude to what was to come. (They even have a coffee bar…can’t ask for anything more!) Loved this old car planted fully making itself into a garden ornament. Emphasizing the rule that anything can be a container…

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Then we drove to the Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood. This is in the Inner Sunset District and at 16th Street and Moraga Street are the steps. These 163 panels are of a sea to sky theme all the way up to the top. They are constructed with Heath Tile, handmade tile, mirrored tile and since it is a neighborhood supported project there are dedications, remembrances, and names of people and businesses from the neighborhood. The mosaic was completed in 2005 by Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher. The stairs are used for exercise and tourists come to photograph them. They are well used by the residents. We were there at around noon with full sun making photography tricky (I have mentioned before the difficulty taking photos with an iPhone with bright light and glare. There was also the factor that some areas were in sun and some were in shade.) Despite the handicaps, it was fun to photograph this artful reflection of a community.

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This woman ran up and down the stairs four times before our group had made it to the top once. Her feat was very impressive!

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I did love the use of the mirror tile…

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And then we were at the top…if you squint you can see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge…

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After walking down again, we went over to the Hidden Garden Steps located on 16th between Kirkham and Lawton. These steps were approached from the top and we walked down each flight to look back up for the impact. (It was definitely an impact!) These steps were dedicated in 2013. Once again you could purchase a tile to have your name on it or a business could purchase an entire motif such as a flower. (Here are photographs of how the artists plotted out the designs.) My pictures are from the top working down.

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Luckily for us, one of our group members was Susan Dannenfelser, a ceramic artist, who knows the artists who created the mosaics.  Aileen Barr met us and guided us around her work. This is Aileen resting on her artwork (or is that resting on her laurels…I think there probably are some laurels in this garden!)

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Came home from this field trip pumped up and ready to create…thanks Del Rey Rovers for the great day!!


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Zentrum Paul Klee…

Ponder two words: Renzo Piano

The Italian architect that designed…

#1. The Pompidou Center in Paris. (In collaboration with Richard Rogers.) I loved taking pictures of this building…

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However, I was not sure how much I liked the building itself, plopped down in the midst of the beauty of Paris and all of its formal architecture. My mind gave it a minus grade, most likely because it puts all its inner workings on the outside. (I am perfectly willing to take another trip to Paris to re-evaluate the situation, mind you!)

#2 The Academy of Sciences building in San Francisco. This building is one of my favorites from its living roof of California native plants down to its aquarium. It sits within the nature of Golden Gate Park and has a perfect view of the deYoung Museum. It houses multiple purposes (the planetarium, live penguins, a rainforest, as well as scientists doing their research and work). We visit here often and it gets a big plus from me.

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#3 Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland. Situated so it has an interplay with nature, this building by Piano knocked my socks off with its exuberance and swoop. It perfectly illustrates this quote from Paul Klee in 1902: ” Everywhere all I see is architecture, line rhythms, plane rhythms.” A very big plus from me. That makes it 2-1 in favor of Mr. Piano. (I am so presumptuous to think this matters!)

I linked to a full picture of the building because I did not actually take one of all three of the curves. It started to drizzle and I was balancing my umbrella on my shoulder and trying to hold my iPhone with two hands…if I had only known. At the time I had not made the connection that all three buildings had been designed by the same architect.

We left the bear pit after being unsuccessful in catching sight of the bears. This is the old pit that they sometimes still use, but they do have new digs with lots of vegetative cover and big fishing pools.

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We hopped onto the #12 bus and rode it to its end at the Zentrum.

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This sculpture is taken from a line Paul Klee drew in one of his pieces of art…

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The lobby and cafe…

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Most wonderful of wonderful…the lower area given over to allowing creativity to develop. A whole light-filled space for kids’ art. This building is about the interaction of nature and culture…I could feel it…

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The next post will be about the art in the exhibit rooms…


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An impression of Lands End…

When we arrived for the bird walk last week, it was frigid weather and I opted to sit in the car for the first twenty minutes while the birders stood on the bluff with the cold wind whirling around them.They were oriented to the area by their guide. The hardy gazed off into the distant foggy sea while I decided to clean up my camera roll in my iPhone. That put me in mind that I had not looked at the Hipstamatic app for a long time and when I scrolled through I found there were four combo packs I had not downloaded.  I purchased them and then tested each one out. One combo reminded me of the feeling of the area (the visitor center that we had been in on a previous visit contains lots of old photos of  when the Sutro Baths were in their heyday).  I decided to do some triple barreled shooting on the walk. My Canon for the view shots, my native camera on the iPhone for the close-ups of flowers, and Hipstamatic app for atmosphere/flights of fancy. The Canon was slung around my neck and the iPhone was in my pocket and I had to keep thinking which of the three I wanted to use…but I think it helped with getting me to be alert…it was awfully early on a Saturday, after all. This post is the impression shots of the area using the combination of  Yoona lens and Shilshole film in Hipstamatic…there is a story, here, of craggy bluffs, wind-trained trees, and crashing waves with the foundation remnants of history. That is my visual story, and I am sticking to it…think I will make a book…

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June Bird Walk…

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Lands End

From Leah Garchik’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle this week: “The season of summer vacations is upon us. Laurie Ustruck was at the western edge of the city looking at the ruins of Sutro Baths, alongside a mom who seemed to be visiting her daughter. Said the mother, “I thought you were bringing me to a Lands’ End outlet store.”

Definitely not one of your outlets, we found…

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The building on the left is the Cliff House Restaurant (more about that later)…

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We gathered with the group of birdwatchers from TM’s class. Early morning last Saturday. Actually, we were there by 8:00 a.m. which meant we left home at 7:00 and, much to my surprise, where we live was blistering hot, the beautiful coast stayed cool and foggy all morning as we walked. This National Park has stunning views and lots of history behind it. We parked above the Sutro Baths and walked the path that was where the steam train and later the electric street car delivered San Franciscans to the Baths. No outlet has that kind of history behind it!

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We were surrounded by yellows on the trek (and a little red, orange and pink) what with all the lupine in bloom…

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of course, monkeyflower…

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I finally identified what this is (and it came in many shades)…it is wild radish and is quite tasty!

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Caught our first glimpse of the Golden Gate (but was not golden in this light…couldn’t even see the tops)…

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A plethora of cormorants and gulls…Gulps of cormorants, rookery, sunning, swimming…

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and thickets where if we spent some time we would probably see many species…

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We circled up behind the Palace of Fine Arts where we had been the week before visiting the “Intimate Impressionism” show. I did not know there was a nice dome on the back…but the redtails were circling…

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We went down and around the golf course (watching our heads for errant golf balls)…

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and in these trees saw juvenile redtails learning stuff that birds learn when they fledge out of their nests…

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Once we came around the golf course we walked down the trail the way we had come…

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Harbor seals were up on the rock (definitely not “sunning” themselves).

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Oyster catchers (almost bright enough to see their flame scarlet bill with its orange yellow tip).

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Back to the parking lot and down the hill to the Cliff House for (wait for it…) Popovers and this view…

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As we walked back up the hill to our car we saw a redtail motionless on a draft having a good ride before he bore down on an unsuspecting rodent…

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The graffiti on the sidewalk said it all…

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Mt. Diablo, part two…

Our second hike on Mt. Diablo was the following weekend. We started out on the same trail but at the fork in the road we took a side trail that gave us some elevation and a different perspective on the landscape. The same plants were blooming but we found a few new ones, also. Significantly, the sky was quite different with a texture of cotton balls.

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The lovely Ithurial’s spear…

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Coast paintbrush…

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Blue elderberry…

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Pitcher sage…

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and some insects…

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Square mariposa lily

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California sagebrush with a ton of monkey flower…

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The monkey flowers up close and personal…

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California poppy…

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and then at the end, like frosting on a cake, a Redtailed hawk sitting on the branch of a tree…

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May Bird Walk…

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The month of May and TM’s bird walk, with me tagging along, was once again close to home. It could not have been better weather, too. The site was Mt. Diablo, where it can get very hot and water is a must to carry, but our walk had perfect weather. . .in fact it was so pleasant we took the hike two Saturdays in a row. We arrived from the town of Clayton on Mitchell Canyon Road. The day-use fee of this park is $6.00 and there is a lovely picnic area, a park headquarters for trail maps, and a demonstration garden of native plants. We didn’t actually need the garden because we saw examples of native plants all along the trail, plus a couple of new (to us), very showy types.

On the first part of the hike we got a view of the quarry that is just outside of the boundaries of the park (what man can do to a mountain…)

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Many types of oaks…

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and a demonstration of how Monkey flowers (Mimulus aurantiacus) can evidently grow anywhere and with very little water…

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While the birders looked for the small, flitting birds (here they are looking for a Lazuli Bunting)…

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I looked on the trail for insects, wildflowers, and blooming plants…found a Swallowtail…

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I found Ithurial’s spear (Triteleia laxa)

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California buckeye (Aesculus californica)

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California wild rose (Rosa californica)

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Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla)

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The unique Globe Lily Mt. Diablo Fairy Lantern (Calochortus pulchellus)…(new to me)…

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and the Wind poppy (Stylomecon heterophylla) that I had never seen before…

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This one I did not know…please identify if you know it…

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The trail was easy…

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We passed a bushtit nest by the side (talk about small, flitting birds that are hard to photograph…the story of my day!)…

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Finally, at the end of the hike I was able to get a photo of the Lazuli Bunting…with a lot of cropping you can kind of see the blue…

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Garden goodies…

The garden still blooms…despite drought and neglect…some highlights…

Checkerbloom (Sidalcea malviflora) prostrate

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Chalk Dudleya (Dudleya pulverulenta)

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Shasta Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum)

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California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

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Monkey flower (Mimulus alatus) “Curious Orange”

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Rose Firecracker Flower (Dichelostemma x venustum)

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Checkerbloom (Malvaceae) upright

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Western Spicebush (Calycanthus occidentalis)

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