Posts Tagged With: Mother Nature

Make Some Beauty? Oh, Piss Off!



On a fairly busy street in WarsawPoland‘s capital city – I watched a woman in the distance emerge from around the corner with a bouquet of red roses in her gloved hand.

On this day in which the calendar declared it was officially the first day of spring, the bitter reality was that winter was still upon us. It was one of the coldest days of the year, and new snow had fallen over the past two days. There was no hint of spring, not even a sprouting bud on any of the long bare trees that line sidewalks near the Warsaw University of Medicine in the neighborhood known as Ochota.
This part of Ochota teems with young students – fresh-faced future doctors – on their way to learn if they have what it takes to be doctors. On some days, even in the dead of winter, what young people choose to wear – fashion wins over cold common sense – befuddles. But not on this day. Everybody was bundled up, with scarves, hats, proper shoes and hoodies pulled tightly over heads. On this day, despite the appearance of the sun, the Siberian express that had crept across much of Poland like a slowly advancing fog, was not to be denied. Oh yes, earlier in the morning there was also – gasp – fog.
So far, everybody that I’ve talked to has said it is unusual to see snow or to be this cold so late into March. Not that I am some sort of expert – I am every bit new to Poland – but seems to me wherever there is winter, March has always been a winter month.

Snow beauty?: Everybody is a critic

Snow beauty?: Everybody is a critic

Ahead, the woman paused on the sidewalk that stretches for more than two city blocks. In one quick movement, as if to avoid notice, she then jammed the stems of the roses into the glistening snow, took one step back, looked at red roses, and walked off, lost in the crowd of medical students waiting for a city bus.

When I reached the flowers

I noticed that they were already wilted. But they still looked very beautiful against the white of the snow – red roses seemingly and curiously springing from a snowfield.

I will likely never know the woman’s reason for putting the roses in the snow. Was it a homage to first day of spring? Could it have been her way of sending a message to Mother Nature to get over her winter blues and at once make way for spring? Or was she perhaps making some sort of offering to the weather gods to replace the snow with flowers in full bloom? Or was it just a simple act of sharing – to have others enjoy flowers she had already enjoyed, rather than toss the droopy bouquet into the trash? Many questions, no answers.
I for one appreciated the gesture. I stood there, for a moment forgetting the bitter cold, and inspected the frosty red petals – and every sad leaf and determined thorn. Then, I too, walked away – but not before snapping a few photos.
No sooner had I walked away, I was struck with another reality, as an unleashed dog, the owner standing by, walked up to the bouquet of roses, sniffed them, and then lifted his leg and peed all over them. Goodbye nice-smelling roses. Goodbye white snow.
As I faced the rest of the day, what was I left with? Some in this world heal. Others create, often beauty. And there are those ready to piss on it all.

For them, a smile.

More "spring" creativity along the way

More “spring” creativity along the way

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A Waterfall Thousands Of Years Old Vanishes

The Loa River in Calama, Chile, is where many in the town go on Sunday afternoons to cool off in the river, barbecue, relax.

Until recently, there was a beautiful waterfall on this river. When I arrived there today with friends, to everybody’s surprise, including the locals, the waterfall was gone! All that was left was a big hole with standing water in it. No cascading waters. Just the bone-dry riverbed where the waters once flowed and fell over the edge.

Locals explained that water being diverted further upstream by the world’s largest open pit copper mine – a mine named Chuquicamata– has caused a serious drop in the river levels, resulting in the vanishing of the waterfall that has been there for thousands of years.

Waters from the Loa River would cascade down here, creating a beautiful waterfall. No more.

Since I got to Calama, I had been really looking forward to that waterfall. I had heard so much about it. For now, it’s no more. Residents hope that with the rainy season that arrives in January, the water levels of the river will again increase and the waterfall will return. This is the desert.

It’s the Atacama Desert. It’s the driest place on Earth. Doubtful it will get so much rain that the river will bounce back enough to bring back the cascade. But I won’t discount Mother Nature. She’s capable of  much.

A day on the Loa River with friends

Still, the Loa River was still a bit cold. Some have more tolerance for near-freezing waters than I do. My friends and I only got in up to our waists. The river is born from the snowmelt in the Andes Mountains, which loom in the horizon. The ice-cold water left our legs numb. It’s that cold. But we still enjoyed our lazy Sunday afternoon down by the river.

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The Mighty Pacific Ocean Shakes, Rattles And Roars

The waves proved too much for this fishing boat anchored just offshore in Iquique.

After more than a month in the desert in Calama, I was really looking forward to some beach time in the more hopping seaside town of Iquique. Mother Nature, however, wasn’t having it. Nope.

I woke up and pulled back the curtains of my hotel window and saw massive waves rolling in and pounding the beach. It was an impressive sight. They were waves that reminded me of the ones I had seen on my visits to Hawaii. I tried to open the windows but they are sealed shut. I jumped in the shower, got dressed and headed to the beach, a block away.

Swimming was banned. Boating activity curtailed. A surfing competition postponed.

Iquique is home to extreme water sports, but the extreme weather kept aficionados on land. Many of them, young and tanned men and women, just sat on the shore and gazed at the ocean, looking bored.

Surfers who jumped at the chance to “hang ten” were under strict orders to use jet skies to get out to the waves. Paddling out was an exercise in futility and dangerous, one lifeguard told me. Lifeguards were on duty to warn surfers – the only ones daring enough to venture in – to be cautious. Flooding was reported in several cities along the coast, including minor street flooding in Iquique. Residents flocked to the beach with cameras to record the huge waves. And for most of the day, the sky remained gray, though there wasn’t a drop of rain.

I spent the day walking on the beach, then headed inland to the center of town. Walked the length of Baquedano Boulevard, a pedestrian-only street lined with colorful colonial houses now occupied by businesses that include restaurants, gift shops, language schools, museums and tour agencies. Then I headed to the port, where fishing boats were firmly anchored. The rough seas were expected to last through Sunday, although the lifeguards said they had noticed a gradual calming. Good. I just might get my beach time in after all.

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