Dancing Flowers in Carlsbad

There is a slight breeze in the air as my aunt, her family, and me step inside the grounds of the Carlsbad Flower Fields. I fumble with my DSLR for a few minutes while we look at a small spread of flowers. Why am I holding back? Guess I’m rusty. I remember the promise I intend to keep: practice and publish your photography! We proceed to climb onto an orange wagon for a loop around the blooms. Out of the 50 acres of flowers, 30 are in bloom today. The tour satisfies me, but not nearly enough. With the rumbling of the tractor, my shots are blurry and the composition is mediocre.

The first stop we make I beeline for the exit and jump down onto the dusty dirt road. Pictures don’t take themselves, I think and follow my aunt’s sister to the rows of orange, pink, white, red, yellow and purple dahlias. I happen to really like dahlias, and these have fragile, but small vibrant petals. The last dahlia I touched at Orange County Wholesale Flowers was a purple and robust, quarter-inch thick specimen. I reminisce on the weeks I spent last quarter reporting a longform story at the Santa Ana warehouse. Who knew that I would end up with a growing respect and admiration for flowers and the people who help make them beautiful?

I’m snapped out of my reverie as my aunt pulls up in a wagon once she’s done with the loop of the fields. We stroll down the long row of flowers together and look for photo ops. I’m lucky because she loves taking photos on outings and has such a fun personality. I insist that we pose for photos along the walk, and that being silly is a good thing. Not only is my aunt a fantastic conversationalist, but her perspective on life encourages me to be a kinder, more thoughtful person.

We end up joining the rest of the group and wander the rose garden, sweet pea maze, poinsettia greenhouse and a greenhouse full of Cymbidium orchids, which are very popular in California. They are huge plants, but I wanted to see other varieties of orchids too. Maybe someday when I return they will have more plants.

As we head back to Orange County, my mind replays the moments of quiet introspection back at the fields. I think flowers are my new addiction.

Beauty Lies Among the Ruins

Originally published here
Located in San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, California, the ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano are a gem to behold. The 7th of 21 California missions, it was one of the best known Alta California missions. Father Junipero Serra founded the mission on All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1776. Father Serra’s Chapel, built in 1778, is the oldest building in California still in use. Inside the peaceful room, people celebrate mass every morning at 7.

A tiny flower sits on the lip of the fountain in the Sacred Garden, a splash of color in the shadows. Trickling water is the only sound you can hear in the late afternoon.

The Great Stone Church is one of the major draws for sightseers. Construction began in 1797 and took nine years to complete. On December 8, 1812 an earthquake caused the walls and bell tower to collapse during mass. It is fascinating to imagine the grandness of the original structure, as it nearly swallows you up the closer you get to the high ceiling.

Adjacent to the old church sits the Bell Wall. Four bells, two small and two large, tolled at mealtimes and at the passing of San Juan Capistrano residents. The large bells are recast from the bells that were lost during the 1812 earthquake while the small bells date to 1804.

Inside the Central Courtyard, the Mission’s men and women would occupy their time with activities like spinning, weaving and leather crafts. Today it is a resting place for visitors to enjoy the flora and architecture, as well as the koi in the pond.

Esther Williams is a California Impressionist artist who has been painting the Mission for eight years. For 40 years she has been perfecting her craft, and finds the Mission an attractive subject because of its spirituality, historical value, and beauty.

Williams likes to paint the koi at the Moore style Fountain of the Four Evangelists, though she finds it a challenge to capture the light on the canvas with evening approaching. She dips her brush into the white paint to add highlights to the fish and the ripples in her painting before leaving.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

TURNING THE TIDE 2.0

Dear all,

Hello! It has been some time since I last sat down and wrote a Blog. I regret not taking the time to write, because so many special things happened over the summer, and I wish I had kept some sort of record on TURNING THE TIDE. To make up for the all the posts I didn’t write, I’d like to take a moment to tell you a bit about my summer, this blog and myself.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m from NorCal and I’m a literary journalism major at University of California, Irvine. Yes, I’m a writer, borne from my love of reading. I am a freelance writer for two startup companies, and plan to move into public relations this fall. This is my final year of college. I’m really excited to use my potential to do good, but I’m definitely nervous at the same time!

Summer highlights:

– Landed my dream journalism internship at the UCI ANTrepreneur Center. I learned the importance of networking, how to listen and how to talk to anyone. This internship helped me find my first public relations opportunity.

– Went on a backpacking trip with my uncles, in NorCal. Want to read more? Check out my article. 🙂

– Had a great time with my friends at the beach on multiple occasions. Having a car is wonderful!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I started this blog, I had trouble pinpointing exactly what interested me and keeping readers engaged. I would write about some pretty random stuff. Then, I branched out into writing prompt style posts, which got a bit more traffic. I think the most recent stage was when I wrote about study abroad in Ireland.

Now, I am going to try something new! My new theme makes my blog pop, and motivates me to write engaging content. There’s something deeply satisfying in straying away from a traditional look. Besides the theme, the content will change. From here on out, the blog will focus on photography, student life, careers and current events. Occasionally I will do a writing prompt if I need the practice. I think my new direction will keep me on my toes, since I’ll need to read the news, search for interesting subjects, etc. That said, I’m going to post at least once a week, on Mondays.

To all my past readers, thanks for reading this post and following my blog. I appreciate your patience, and I’m sorry to have left you hanging this summer! I look forward to seeing what you’re up to and will do my best to maintain a presence here on WordPress.To first time visitors, I hope that we can connect. If one of my posts inspires you, please don’t hesitate to comment on it. I’ll take a look at your blog, too.

Cheers,

–Jennifer

Escape to Skerries

Dear readers,

My apologies for it being a month since my last post. I appreciate your patience. Finals were stressful (the good kind of stress) and I wanted to prepare as much as I could. I survived my semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland, so now I just have to wait for my grades! I’ll elaborate on study abroad in a future post, I promise. I’d love to share a final set of experiences with you before I do.

Last Saturday was my first day of summer. I was so excited to go to Skerries in North Dublin I couldn’t sleep much the night before. Two months before I had read about Skerries in my guide-book, and while it didn’t go into detail about the town, it did mention Skerries Mills. Also around this time the international and Erasmus student society I was a part of on campus gave us the opportunity to do a clean up project in Skerries. I wasn’t able to participate, but once I started Googling Skerries I became more and more intrigued. I learned that they hold an annual Traditional Music Weekend there, for three days in May filled with dance and instrument workshops in the morning, street music in the afternoon and concerts at night. My host mom took one look at the lineup and said I had chosen well. Clearly, this was a cultural opportunity I wasn’t about to miss.

I decided to plan a trip out to Skerries once my finals were over, as a reward for finishing strong and as a chance to see another seaside town before I left for the States. (I leave this week. It’s bittersweet). My Irish friend Nwanne and I couldn’t have picked a better day to go. The journey was simple, as I took the DART (Irish Rail) towards Drogheda, and the route led me directly to Skerries. The weather was quite balmy, the sky a pretty blue mixed in with a few clouds. I talked with a very pleasant elderly gentleman on my walk into town. He seemed dedicated to the music festival, as he had been there before and knew which bands at the pubs I shouldn’t miss. He’d listened to all their music as well, which made him 100% more of an expert than I was.

I had to laugh at myself soon after when I went on a wild goose chase for a tourist office and a public restroom. Signs in the town pointed in the opposite direction of these facilities, which was at once very frustrating and humorous at the same time. After heading in the wrong direction for the monument (I was one street over), I finally met up with Nwanne. It was so good to see her, as she was also recovering from our chaotic finals schedule. When I asked her what she wanted to do, she let me decide what we’d do that day since this was the end of my study abroad experience. She was up for anything I wanted to do, which I really appreciated.

The first place we went to was Skerries Mills. There are three mills at Skerries; two windmills and a watermill. It is famous in part because it was one of the few mills with both wind and waterpower. I found them marvelous structures, and I desperately wanted to take pictures of them to seal it forever in my memory. We went on a nice tour of the Mills and really enjoyed it. In the huge watermill the guide demonstrated how workers would turn grain into flour, their pulley system to haul the bags of flour up to the next floor and then powered up the mill to show us how all the parts worked together. I thought it was pretty neat. Then we got to tour the inside of the Small Windmill. It was drafty inside, and we could hear the wind howling outside (it was not actually that windy outside, but inside the mill sound became more amplified). Anyway, it was my first time in a windmill!  I liked the Small Windmill better than the Great Windmill because it had a more rustic look and the red door with a fence surrounding it was a nice touch. When we got closer to the Great Windmill, however, I loved how it seemed to effortlessly work with the landscape. The thing that amazes me about these mills is the back-breaking work the men did everyday to earn a living. To think that they faced many trials in order to make the mill more efficient showed their dedication to work. Their jobs were very dangerous and the monotony, I assume, made it difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment.

At the Small Windmill--built in 1500
At the Small Windmill–built in 1500
Hands down the most warm and beautiful day in Dublin!
Hands down the most warm and beautiful day in Dublin!
The Great Windmill of Skerries
The Great Windmill of Skerries–built in 1700

After we’d snapped several selfies and soaked up the sun, Nwanne and I headed back into town. We went to South Beach and sat down in the sand. We looked out to the islands there and had fun watching children chase their parents around in circles until we were nearly dizzy ourselves. We wanted to make it to Keane’s Bus Bar by 5 PM for live music, so we skipped the harbor and went to get dinner and wait.

Nwanne and I at South Beach
Nwanne and I at South Beach

Keane’s Bus Bar has the kind of ambiance that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the early 20th century. The seats were cushy, the tables tiny and several paintings of the Dublin area hung on the walls. We ate our meal with gusto and settled in for some good music. While the band that played was fine, the guitarist was the only one who sang for us. Still, the harp, the fiddle and the Uilleann pipes made the music legitimate and quite colorful. The gentleman I had talked to earlier sat at the table closest to the band, and when he saw me he explained that we had missed a fantastic traditional music session at 3 PM–apparently the whole town went to that one! While I was a little sad, I did not regret any moment spent in Skerries and I happily listened to the music playing. The three small children trying to out-dance each other at the pub stole the show! The band enthusiastically invited them to “play” the Uilleann pipes. Spending time with my friend and with the kind people of Dublin made my day. On my next trip to Ireland, I’ll make a point to return to the quiet and peaceful town of Skerries.

The band at Keane's Bus Bar
The band at Keane’s Bus Bar

 

San Diego Zoo Photo Gallery

Having only been to two zoos in my life (the Boise Zoo and a zoo in China), yesterday I went and saw what could only be called the “zoo of the zoos” in San Diego. My roommates and friends from Southern California helped me get psyched up to go. So, I left school for the weekend and spent the day seeing cuddly and not-so-cuddly animals with Keith and his family. Here are some pictures from the trip.

IMG_2520My favorite green snake.IMG_2524He looked just like the display picture! IMG_2528 Hogging the lunch plate. IMG_2529The start of the digestion process.

IMG_2533Getting ready for a face off. IMG_2534Collision! IMG_2535 I quit.IMG_2537Another one of the Galapagos Tortoises getting ready for a bath.

IMG_2542Stinky flamingos…they can’t help it, I guess. IMG_2544I liked him. IMG_2550 Thanks, Keith, for taking this one!IMG_2555This one too. I think it pays to be tall. IMG_2561His name is 高高,or “High High” in Chinese. IMG_2562He looks so peaceful! IMG_2567The lynx was very active, compared to the other big cats. IMG_2572Before his feathers puffed up. IMG_2579Meercat, contemplating. IMG_2584In sync. IMG_2585 That elephant had a knack for walking away from me right when I wanted to get a shot–but I put this picture in the gallery because I like the balance of the landscape.IMG_2612The spoonbill spent so much of his concentrated energy on dead fishies! It was exhausting watching him play with his food and not eat a bite.

Why they invented the camera

And yes, I use a Canon. Picture credit of the lovely fields, the shore line and of Joshua Tree National Park goes to EarthPorn.