Tag Archive | gardens

Early Spring Break

It’s not my spring break yet, but my mother was in town recently, so we went on some excursions. We heard the UCLA Early Music Ensemble’s winter concert, Bach? What Bach?: A Program of Early Music from Germany. They sang two selections from Carmina Burana, and one of them, “Bacche, bene,” was very familiar. I knew I’d heard the melody before, and I was pretty sure it had been in a Tri Yann song, but I didn’t know how I was going to figure out which one. Of course it was going to bother me until I figured it out. But it turns out Googling “Tri Yann Carmina Burana” gets you what you want! The song is “Brian Boru” from the album Portraits.

We went to the Huntington, as per tradition, and saw lots of camellias, as well as a heron, some hawks, some woodpeckers in palm trees, and other birds.

My pavilion

Heron in the Japanese Garden

Later in the week, we stopped by the ocean on the Pacific Coast Highway and watched the waves. At our first stop, I saw what I think was a seal in the water! I may have been mistaken, but I’d rather think it was actually a seal. At our second stop, we saw lots of sandpipers.

Octavia Butler at the Huntington

At the beginning of August, I went to the WriteGirl workshop at the Huntington. WriteGirl is an organization that runs creative writing workshops for teenage girls in Los Angeles (that’s really just a fraction of what they do–you should check them out!), and I’ve been a volunteer with them for almost a year now, though I’ve only been able to serve as a mentor at a few of their monthly workshops.

The summer workshop at the Huntington featured a private tour of the current exhibit on Octavia Butler, the celebrated black science fiction author. The promised tour was part of the reason I really wanted to make this workshop. A WriteGirl staff member gave me a ride, and we arrived bright and early to help set up. Upon our arrival, I realized that the Huntington is closed to the public on Tuesdays, meaning that we had special access to the library and gardens and that the only other people there were staff and researchers using the library.

I wound up with two mentees for the day, both rising high school seniors, and our group was the first to visit the exhibit Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories. We were welcomed by the exhibit’s curator, Natalie Russell, who told us how she’d spent a little over three years sifting through and cataloging all of Butler’s papers when they came to the Huntington after her untimely death. She’d selected about a hundred items for the exhibit.

The only novel of Octavia Butler’s I’ve read is Parable of the Sower, on the recommendation of my friend Leland. I bought it at graduation from the Swarthmore bookstore and read it shortly after. One of the many fascinating items on display was Butler’s typewritten outline for Parable of the Sower, with additional handwritten notes and highlighting in pastel colors. Some of the notes that caught my eye were: “ADD more racism”; “Add more Hispanics. …More Hispanic surnames on people…who seem ordinary blacks, or ordinary whites.”; “More casual, horrible death”; “GOD IS HER OPPONENT, AND/OR HER PARTNER” (Parable of the Sower is in part about the protagonist’s elaboration of a religion founded on the notion that God is change).

There was another item in the exhibit that featured Butler’s brief reflection on how science fiction treats religion. She said there was a prevailing attitude among science fiction writers of “Oh, we all know this is BS,” but she pointed out that no human society lives without religion (I think she acknowledged that some had tried, but she stood by this statement). This made me think about Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and its companion, A Closed and Common Orbit, two science fiction novels I recently read. I enjoyed them (I loved Angry Planet), but I remember being struck by how despite all the exploration of different sentient species and cultures in the galaxy, there was almost no mention of religion. Shouldn’t many of these cultures have religions?

Another item was what I think was a self-interview with Butler, perhaps a stock of answers to questions she might get in interviews. The first question was something like, “Who are you?” and about halfway through her answer there was: “I am also comfortably asocial–a hermit in the middle of Los Angeles.”

Yet another item was her answer to “Why do I write about mixed-race couples?” She said it was for the same reason she wrote about egalitarian societies (in terms of gender, I believe).

One of the drafts on display was of the short story “Speech Sounds,” which won the Hugo Award. I was curious about the title, since it sounded very linguisticky/phonetics-y. It’s about an outbreak of a mysterious illness (hmm, sound familiar?) that strikes Los Angeles, depriving people of the ability to use language. The page of the draft that was exhibited was from a scene on a bus, and the curator’s notes said that Butler would have been familiar with buses because she didn’t drive! It reminded me of the bus stories at BUSted!.

The exhibit also had the manuscript of a short story called “Flash-Silver Star” that Butler wrote at age 11 in cursive on lined paper. It was about horses. It reminded me so much of how I wrote my stories around that age!

Among the most striking parts of the exhibit were the motivational notes that Butler wrote to herself, long before she came successful. There were different variations on these, but they included affirmations about her writing life: “I am a Bestselling Writer. I write Bestselling Books And Excellent Short Stories. Both Books and Short Stories Win prizes and awards. Everyday in Every way I am researching and writing My Awardwinning Best selling Books and Short Stories” as well as what she intended to do with her earnings as an author: buy her own home in a good neighborhood, obtain the best healthcare for herself and her mother, fund the educations and aspirations of young black people. It was inspiring. I have to admit I’m skeptical about this kind of motivational technique even though I’ve heard it touted before. I’m sure it can’t hurt, and it can probably actually help.

After we’d seen the exhibit, which you can probably tell I loved, my group had lunch and did some brainstorming of speculative fiction story ideas. The workshop wrapped up with some of the girls reading pieces they’d written that day. Afterwards, I got to catch up briefly with two mentees I’d worked with at previous WriteGirl workshops, which was lovely.

The staff member I’d gotten a ride with was running a focus group for some of the girls after the workshop, so that meant I had almost two hours to wander the gardens by myself. On a day the Huntington was closed to the public. I cannot overstate how excited I was by this prospect.

I made my way to the Chinese garden, which I’ve visited multiple times. On those occasions, the garden was always teeming with people, but this time it was beautifully empty. For most of the hour and a half I spent there, I felt like I had the whole garden entirely to myself. It was very hot that day, around 95°F, so I sat in the 愛蓮榭, my eponymous pavilion, writing in my journal and listening to the koi splash around the lotuses.

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愛蓮榭, amid the lotuses

When the sun was somewhat lower in the sky, I left the pavilion and wandered along the blissfully empty paths. It was glorious having the Chinese garden all to myself. So, thank you to WriteGirl for an amazing day at the Huntington.

Chasing Wildflowers

It’s that time of year again: spring break (ish–it’s actually still finals week), the annual pilgrimage to the Huntington, and, like last year, more wildflower hunting because superbloom.

At the Huntington, we visited the Library Exhibition Hall (I’m pretty sure some of the books and documents had been switched out since the last time I was there, though the stars of the show–and some of my favorites, like the John Dowland songbook–remained) as well as the Beautiful Science exhibit, which I hadn’t seen before and which featured more wonderful old books. We also hit the clivia show and the Chinese and Japanese gardens, as per usual.

Poppy

Anemone

The Chinese garden has a new pavilion, the 愛蓮榭 (Ài Lián Xiè–Love for the Lotus Pavilion)! I was delighted because the Chinese name I’ve had since the beginning of college is 愛蓮. It’s my pavilion! The explanatory panel in the garden mentioned Zhou Dunyi’s 11th century essay 愛蓮說 (Ài Lián Shuō–On the Love of the Lotus), which I learned about for the first time only last year, thanks to department Chinese lunch.

On Monday, my parents, Adeline, and I drove to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to witness the superbloom. We were not the only ones, but the crowds weren’t unmanageable. The park, at least the part we visited, is in a valley surrounded by mountains. After stopping at the visitors center, where I discovered thanks to some photos in the gift shop just how adorable bighorn sheep lambs are, we drove to two other destinations to see wildflowers. The first was Desert Gardens, where we’d hoped to find Parish’s poppies, but instead we saw lots of ocotillos, a lot of hawksweed, chollas, blossoming prickly pear, and a couple of desert lilies. Next we went to the sunflower fields along Henderson Canyon Road. Finally, we returned to the visitors center to poke around among the labeled specimens.

Indigo bush

A vetch of some sort

Desert lily

Phacelia with cactus

Some cactus flower

Some other cactus flower

Maui

First, here’s a lovely review of Wildings I stumbled upon!

At the end of February, I went to Maui for a family wedding. After all my friends in the Phonetics Lab went to Honolulu for the Acoustical Society of America’s conference at the end of November, I was particularly eager to go to Hawaii myself, especially since I’d never been there before. I’d never visited the non-continental U.S. or flown over the Pacific Ocean before either.

It was my mother’s cousin who was getting married, and my mother and I were the only representatives of the groom’s extended family. The bride had scads of relatives who traveled to Maui from Los Angeles, Toronto, Washington, D.C., Jakarta, and Singapore, among other places. Her family was very warm. And multilingual! Mandarin, Cantonese, Lao, English, French…

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My great-aunt (the mother of the groom) and me at the rehearsal dinner

We were invited to the tea ceremony in the morning before the wedding itself. I’d never participated in any traditional Chinese wedding ceremonies before, so it was fascinating for me. And as a younger relative, I received 紅包 from the couple!

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View from the lawn where the wedding was held

The day after the wedding, my mother and I went snorkeling. On the boat ride to Molokini, we saw half a dozen or so humpback whales logging, breaching, and waving their pectoral fins out of the dark blue waves! It was quite spectacular. Definitely topped the whale watching I did off the coast of Maine once. Once we reached Molokini, a crescent-shaped volcanic crater I’d seen from the plane flying into Maui, we donned wetsuits, flippers, and snorkels and plopped off the back of the boat into the water. I’d never really swum in the ocean before; it was fun being so buoyant. The water was beautifully clear, and the coral and the fish were gorgeous. It was especially wondrous when those silky, gem-colored fish swam right past your face or your hands.

The next day, my mother and I drove along the northern coast of Maui on the road to Hana (we didn’t actually go all the way to Hana). This extremely twisty road, with its one-lane bridges, winds through mountains and rain forest, past many lovely waterfalls. There was even a hillside with goats on it! We stopped at the Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden, where we admired the peacocks, exotic ducks, and many interesting native and non-native plants.

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View of Puohokamoa Falls from the Garden of Eden

On our last morning, we visited the town of Lahaina and the Wo Hing Temple, now the Chinese Museum. The museum seemed to have actual Shang Dynasty oracle bones (?!) and Song Dynasty pottery, among other Chinese artifacts. There were also photographs depicting the history of the Chinese community in Maui and lots of information on Sun Yat-sen, who visited Hawaii six times in his life and lived for a time in Maui.

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Inside the Wo Hing Society’s cookhouse at the Chinese Museum in Lahaina

All in all, it was a delightful family wedding and an idyllic post-prospectus defense vacation.

England, Part I

I’m on vacation in England! Mostly in Oxford, but we’ve made some excursions. Photos, forthwith:

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In the courtyard of the Bodleian Library

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Tom Tower, Christ Church

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All Souls College

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Ceiling of the Divinity School

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The original conducting score of Messiah!

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Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Iffley

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Detail of beaks on the doorway of St. Mary’s

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Modern day thatching in Iffley, by the Rumpelstiltskin Thatching Company

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Christ Church (a.k.a Hogwarts?)

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Sheep on the Derwent moors, Peak District

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Me and Bismarck over the River Derwent

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Himalayan blue poppy, Hidcote

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Hidcote

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Cream tea (and elderflower and mint pressé)

A Visit to the Getty

This past weekend was a bit of a whirlwind. Be warned: this is a long post with lots of photos!

I devoted most of Saturday to visiting the Getty Center. Allow me to tell you how we got there. The Getty’s website will tell the intrepid public transportation user to take the 761, which will drop you off right in front of the entrance. However, I didn’t really know where to catch the 761 (nowhere particularly close to where we live), and it would cost money (though the fare is admittedly cheap). On the other hand, we have passes for the Big Blue Bus, and I saw that we could catch the 14 practically on our doorstep and ride it to the end of the line, which seemed to be just a few blocks south of the Getty entrance. So we rode the 14 to the end of the line and began walking north on Sepulveda Blvd, only to discover that the sidewalk ended almost immediately. Beyond, Sepulveda looked more like a highway, running alongside the 405. There was no sidewalk on the other side of the street, only the dirt embankment of the freeway.

Silly me for assuming Los Angeles would be designed for pedestrians. But no matter! If we went one block eastward and struck out north, we might find a way back to Sepulveda at a point where it had a sidewalk again. The streets weren’t quite grid-like, but as long as we kept track of the cardinal directions, we would be fine. We found ourselves wandering through the quiet and very exclusive-feeling streets of Bel Air. We hopefully followed a long, meandering lane whose through-ness was ambiguously labeled and reached a dead end. Hopes dashed, we doubled back to the last outlet onto Sepulveda, at which point it became clear we would have to walk on the sidewalk-less curb or retrace our steps by quite a ways to find a 761 bus stop. We chose to go forward.

Happily, after a short stretch of Sepulveda in which we had to push past shrubs, an asphalt path, narrower than a sidewalk, appeared, and we were able to walk on that until the sidewalk returned. The moral of the story: you can’t really take the 14 to the Getty.

Once through the entrance, we rode the tram up the hill to the Getty Center itself. The Getty has gardens, multiple pavilions of art, and panoramic views of Los Angeles, and apparently the architecture of the place itself is impressive, though I’m afraid I didn’t pay much attention to it. I’d heard the Getty had illuminated manuscripts and some famous Impressionist paintings, so seeing those was my priority.

The illuminated manuscripts currently on display are all part of an exhibit called Chivalry in the Middle Ages. This is a page from Tristan and Isolde (or Yseult, or whatever your favorite spelling is). The manuscript is in French, and I was surprised how much I could read and understand of this and of the copy of the Roman de la Rose. The chief impediment to understanding was the script, not the actual words.

Tristan and Isolde

I liked this plate (which might be…Italian?) for the ship in the center. It was only when looking at the photo at home that I noticed the musical instruments around the edge.

Plate

This is apparently Orpheus, even though I always picture him with a lyre. On the left side of this vase is a depiction of the prophet Elisha, who, in an episode I do not recall from 2 Kings, had some sort of mystical experience provoked by the sound of a stringed instrument.

Orpheus

You can probably guess why I took a picture of this portrait.

Pink Lady

If you squint at her music, it almost looks like a shape note tunebook!

Music Book

We left this pavilion and took in the view from the hilltop. We could see mountains in the distance, but also the smudgy air settled over the city. We spotted UCLA, which includes the reddish Romanesque buildings in the middleground of this photo.

Getty View

Next, we looked at some more recent art. These goats in J. M. W. Turner’s Modern Rome–Campo Vaccino are so cute!

Goats

And Monet’s Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning is really lovely.

Wheatstacks

The Getty also has Vincent van Gogh’s Irises, which was beautiful.

From the museum, we moved on to the main garden, which is basically a bowl with a fountain/azalea maze at its center. It was pretty enough, and there were some interesting plants, including a huge, tree-like Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia), a pomegranate tree (California is so exotic!), and a vine with unusually-shaped purple flowers that made me think “sweet pea,” though I could be totally wrong. Weirdest of all was the black petunia below; I overheard a woman talking about it and had to go find it.

Black Petunia

By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but our trip to the Getty was well worth it. Oh, and on our way home, we caught the 761 directly in front of the entrance.

Other things I did this weekend:

  • My roommate went on a field trip to West Hollywood with her Russian class and brought back pastries, candy, and a bottle of kvas. We split the pastries, which included a poppy seed roll and a croissant filled with cheese (almost like cream cheese frosting) and raisins.
Russian Candy

What is with Russian candy and squirrels?

  • I finally got myself to the local English country dance group’s Sunday afternoon dance. It was fun, and there was a decent amount of overlap with the contra and shape note communities. It was also open band day, so there were twenty or so musicians playing an eclectic assortment of instruments. Have you ever done English country dance to tuba?