Another Wonder From Rwanda

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StatsTo the left you can see yesterday’s viewership of our posts, by country. Viewership has recently been low, for obvious reasons. It has made me wonder whether we should take a hiatus. My counter-thought is, if on a day like yesterday, just one person visited this site and found something of value, we should continue. As of today there have been 696,713 views of all of our posts since we started in mid-2011. Yesterday someone viewed a post I distinctly remember writing some months ago, which brought a smile to my face. And just now I was downloading a file using WeTransfer, and this story presented itself, and it seems a perfect companion piece:

Savane Rutongo-Kabuye Embroideries of the Women of Rwanda

tiger_giclee_-_CopyFor 22 years, 15 Rwandan women have been turning their surroundings and their memories into beautiful textile art. Founded in 1997 by Christiane Rwagatare a short time after the genocide of 1994, the Savane Rutongo-Kabuye workshop offered a distraction, a source of income and a creative avenue to those who had been affected. The workshop has gone from strength to strength, and thanks to educator-turned-curator Juliana Meehan, the embroideries of the women of Rwanda have now been exhibited and seen across the US. Alex Kahl spoke to Christiane and Juliana to explore their uplifting story.

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Due to her home country Rwanda’s turbulent history, Christiane Rwagatare lived much of her early life in exile. When she returned in 1994 in the aftermath of the genocide, the country had been devastated. “It was a very difficult time,” she says. In 1997, when she was visiting a relative in the small village of Rutongo, she saw women selling hand embroidered linens on the roadside, and felt an immediate sense of hope and possibility. At this moment, she recalled all that she had learned about art while in Europe, and knew she could contribute something positive. She announced that she would be starting an embroidery workshop, and asked that anyone interested come to the village church the next day. She was shocked when more than 100 women arrived with samples of their work.

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“I must admit that I panicked,” Christiane says. Continue reading

Roadside Wildflowers In The UK

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Traffic passing pyramidal orchids and other wildflowers along the A354, near Weymouth, Dorset. Photograph: http://www.pqpictures.co.uk/Alamy

A dose of this kind of news, taken daily, is surely good for mental hygiene:

Citizen Science & Northern Lights

We believe citizen science, in all its forms, is one of the latest greatest innovations of mankind, and here is one more example:

A New Form Of Northern Lights Discovered In Finland – By Amateur Sky Watchers

People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.

There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights. Continue reading

An Unexpected Rose Garden

Rose5In the parking lot of a shop called El Rey, of all places, I came upon this small garden of roses yesterday. I was rushing to make a purchase of something relatively unimportant, and when I got out of the car after parking I did not even notice the garden.

But when I came back out after the purchase it was almost cinematic the way, from a distance, I noticed the garden right in front of where I had parked. It was like a ray of light focused on that part of the parking lot of El Rey, telling me to come over and, yes, stop and smell the roses.

As I got closer, there was a tinge of thoughts like, no time for this, and: it will likely disappoint because this is not where rose gardens flourish.

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I fought those doubts off and the reward was remarkable. I have never tried growing my own roses, so it would be strange to claim an obsession with this flower. But I do favor it. When we lived in Croatia I developed a theory, never disproven, that the most fragrant roses in the world are in monasteries built centuries ago. In that theory the roses are antiques, tended by monks and nuns who have ensured survival of the fittest roses. And fitness is evidenced by fragrance.

By the time I had walked over to this garden the cinematic effect was slow motion. I tried to avoid cliche, but nonetheless found myself slowing to a stop. To smell the roses.

And my theory fell apart. These roses were as fragrant as if they had been planted here hundreds of years earlier.

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This one above seemed to confirm one of my other silly assumptions, that a rose can either put its effort into dazzling color, or fragrance, but must choose. Likewise the one below, which was the deepest most natural red I remember ever seeing, but not as fragrant as others in the garden.

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And just next to it, a white one with a variation that caught my attention, in the lower of the two flowers below, where I suppose the fragrance is produced. Before the flower opens it seems pure white but when it opens it offers stimulating color. A choice made that did not diminish its intense fragrance.

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The one below, with white outer petals and pink at the core, was the most fragrant, perhaps because perfectly mature, with the outer petals preparing to drop but the core at maximum strength. And the mix of color, combined with the intensity of fragrance, was the one that forced me to abandon my various rose theories. The garden attendant in this parking lot rivals any of the monks and nuns who I have thanked in the past for their rose-tending, and this white-pink mix tells me roses have more tricks up their sleeves than I gave them credit for.

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If You Happen To Be In Or Going To Cornwall

A great writer can get you to consider doing something you normally would not consider doing:

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After nine Heligan men died in the First World War, the grounds of the estate, in southwestern England, grew unkempt, then neglected, then were abandoned. Illustration by Daniel Salmieri

I don’t understand the point of garden visits. Why do ordinary people, the owners of mere balconies and tiny yards, torment themselves by touring other people’s grand estates? Nut trees, stables, ancestral compost heaps: I need no reminder of what I am missing. So, unlike virtually every other gardener in Britain, I had no intention of spending my summer wandering among aristocratic roses and marvelling at the fine tilth of Lord Whatsit’s sandy carrot beds. All those rambling sweet peas make me furious; yes, Tristram, it is a handsome cardoon bed, but some of us are struggling to find space for a single extra lettuce. And then, wholly by accident, I found myself in the Lost Gardens of Heligan…

And suddenly you cannot resist virtually doing that thing:

And the rabbit hole in this case gets you thinking about Cornwall:

Opening Hours and Prices

The Lost Gardens are open every day*, all year round, for your enjoyment and exploration.

*except Christmas Day.

We’re one of the most unique and fascinating places to visit in Cornwall, with an incredible 200 acres of gardens and estate awaiting your exploration. We therefore recommend that you allow as much time as you can, to see as much as possible; ideally a whole day. However, please don’t expect to see everything in the one visit!

If you would like to plan your route before you visit, click here to download our map or a German map can be found here.

Sometimes, restoration work, events or adverse weather conditions may restrict access and opening times. In these events we will keep you up to date with details of any restrictions via our News page.

Garden Admission Single Visit Charges
Adults £15.00
Students £9.00
Children (5 – 17) £7.00
Children (Under 5) Free
Family (2 adults & up to 3 children) £40
Companions who are required to assist disabled visitors Free

Weavers at Hand

This video expresses the concept of artisan ethos in almost too many ways to count: from the centuries old traditions of weaving in India , to creative communities coming together to rebuild cultural patrimony in the face of natural disasters, not to mention the well-crafted visual storytelling of the piece itself. (Kudos yet again to Anoodha and her Curiouser team for their own style of weaving.) Continue reading

Macro Views

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(Clockwise, from upper left) Seven-square-mile views of Manhattan; Chaganbulage Administrative Village in Inner Mongolia; Venice, Italy; and farms in Plymouth, Washington  © Google

Every now and then, it is good to just let the mind wander. And some of those times, visual prompts are the fastest way to get from here to there.

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A seven-square-mile snapshot of the 2,700,000-square-mile Amazon rainforest in Brazil © Google

Thanks to the Atlantic’s Senior Editor of the photo section, Alan Taylor, for this:

 Seven Square Miles

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Multiple channels of a braided river in southern Iceland. See it mapped © Google

Spending time looking at the varying and beautiful images of our planet from above in Google Earth, zooming in and out at dizzying rates, I thought it would be interesting to compare all of these vistas at a fixed scale—to see what New York City, Venice, or the Grand Canyon would look like from the same virtual height. So, the following images are snapshots from Google Earth, all rectangles of the same size and scale, approximately three and a half miles (5.6 kilometers) wide by two miles (3.2 kilometers) tall—showing seven square miles (18.1 square kilometers, or 4,480 acres) of the surface of our planet in each view.

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A section of Upsala Glacier in Argentina. Explore more here, in Google Maps.  © Google

Continue reading

Celebrating A Force Of Nature, The Sky, With Clouds In All Their Visual Wonder

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Nebraska, June, 2012.

Just because the climate is changing at a pace both dangerous and seemingly impossible to slow, given human tendencies; just because the storms that come from clouds can cause fear and worse; none of that diminishes our wonder and our ability to see importance in those clouds:

A Storm Chaser’s Unforgiving View of the Sky

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Texas, June, 2014.

By Alan Burdick

Photography by Camille Seaman

A cloud is a shade in motion. Shape-shifting and moody, it arrives with a message that is opaque as often as it is threatening. “Clouds always tell a true story,” the Scottish meteorologist Ralph Abercromby wrote, in 1887, “but one which is difficult to read.”

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Kansas, June, 2008.

The appeal of clouds is obvious: no two are the same, and no one is the same for long. And they not only manifest change but inflict it as well. A cloud can be beautiful, terrible, or both—the embodiment of the sublime. Few other things on earth still present us with a power larger than ourselves. To watch a supercell gather force over the plains, as storm chasers take such pleasure in doing, is to watch Zeus take shape on earth. Continue reading

Blue Planet II’s Attenborough Masterpiece

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The broadclub cuttlefish is one of the psychedelic creatures featured in “Blue Planet II.” Photograph courtesy BBC

blue_planetWe have not linked to many television reviews, and the reason is simply that we instead mostly promote going and seeing instead of sitting and watching.

But this one seems a perfect exception to the norm because the series narrator is such a frequent guest in these pages, for good reason after many good reasons. This show may be his own sense of a masterpiece, if you consider what he says in a recent interview to a confirmed urbanist, which is worth half an hour of listening to in addition to the review below:

“Blue Planet II” Reviewed: The Ocean Continues to Impress

The seven-episode follow-up to the 2001 series flexes the BBC’s mastery of a genre that it created.

By Troy Patterson

The nature documentary “Blue Planet II” is oceanic in topic, tone, scope, and majesty. A production of the BBC Natural History Unit, the seven-episode series flexes its broadcaster’s mastery of a genre that it created. Over excellent footage shot on a circumglobal photo safari, the venerable narrator David Attenborough orates zoological narratives as if delivering a state-of-nature address. “Blue Planet II” follows the network’s “The Blue Planet,” which dropped in 2001, but it is less a sequel than a subsequent quest, like the second voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, or Apollo 14. Continue reading

Fruit With Alternative Beauty

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And now for something completely different:

Morrisons to sell ‘wonky’ pomegranates to meet rising demand

Fruit will come in different sizes and have blemishes but will cost 30p, compared to average 74p in UK supermarkets

A UK supermarket is to be the first to sell misshapen or “wonky”pomegranates, in order to keep prices down in the face of surging demand from consumers.

Packs of four will be sold in Morrisons for £1.20 – equivalent to 30p per fruit – when the average price of a pomegranate in UK supermarkets is 74p. Continue reading

Peregrines Make for Better Starling Murmurations

Image via Audubon.org, by Nick Dunlop

We last mentioned murmurations about three years ago, linking to slideshows from the Guardian that covered European Starlings in the UK. And in our Bird of the Day feature we have shared photos of seven different species of starlings from around Europe and Asia, but somehow none of those species was the European Starling, which is an invasive species in North America (and at least some of Central America as well), but still a good-looking bird.

In this video, there are fantastic moments where the enormous flocks of European Starlings in Napa Valley, California form incredible shapes, largely because they’re being chased by Peregrine Falcons and other raptors.

Continue reading

Feathers’ Fine Flourish

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Charles-Donatien paints and lacquers goose feathers in his studio. Photograph by Pari Dukovic for The New Yorker

The Style issue of the New Yorker is the least interesting of the year, from the perspective of these pages; and yet on occasion even in this one they deliver something we can mull over:

The Eternal, Seductive Beauty of Feathers

We’ve been dressing up as birds since the Stone Age. Eric Charles-Donatien has brought the craft of featherwork into the twenty-first century.

Not surprisingly Burkhard Bilger is the journalist who pulls this off. Our Bird Of The Day (365 times for seven years running) feature exposes us to feathers of such variety that we could not resist giving Mr. Bilger the benefit of the doubt on this one:

170925_r30592There is such a thing as too much beauty. So the stuffed bird on the counter seemed to be saying. It was a Himalayan monal, Lophophorus impejanus, Liberace of land fowl. Its head was emerald, its neck amber and gold, its back a phosphorescent violet that flared to a sunburst at the tail. A pouf of feathers jutted from its head like a tiny bouquet. Named for Lady Mary Impey, the wife of the Chief Justice of Bengal in the late seventeen-hundreds, it had a stout, ungainly body swaddled in bright plumes as if for an audience with the maharaja. It was a turkey that wanted to be a hummingbird. Continue reading

Richard O. Prum’s Beauty Challenge

EvolutionBeautyFor evolutionary biology, on this platform we have favored E.O. Wilson because of his biophilia ideas (about which, plenty). For ornithology, we have leaned heavily on the Lab at Cornell and its many wonderful folks. Now, a scientist at Yale combines both of those fields and takes on the topic of beauty in a challenging manner–I am looking forward to this.

Click the book image at the left to go Indie Bound, a community of independent local bookstores, or if you need more convincing, read the beautifully illustrated Challenging Mainstream Thought About Beauty’s Big Hand in Evolution by James Gorman in the Science section of the New York Times. It is as much profile as review and asks:

Are aesthetic judgments about mates invariably tied to traits we see as adaptive and worth passing on Or, does beauty just ‘happen’?

Not long ago, a physicist at Stanford posed a rhetorical question that took me by surprise.

“Why is there so much beauty?” he asked.

Beauty was not what I was thinking the world was full of when he brought it up. The physicist, Manu Prakash, was captivated by the patterns in seawater made as starfish larvae swam about. But he did put his finger on quite a puzzle: Why is there beauty? Why is there any beauty at all? Continue reading

Ladybugs, Awe & Design Inspiration

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After ladybugs fly, they tuck their wings into a sliver of space between their abdomen and the colorful outer wings for which they are best known. Credit Jean-Michel Labat/Science Source

Even without words this item from the Science section would tell a full story just with the gif below, which captures what any of us might remember being awed by as a kid. Thanks to Joanna Klein for this:

Ladybugs Pack Wings and Engineering Secrets in Tidy Origami Packages

The ladybug is a tiny insect with hind wings four times its size. Like an origami master, it folds them up into a neat package, tucking them away within a slender sliver of space between its abdomen and the usually polka-dotted, harder wings that protect it. Continue reading

Birdsong, Beauty & Beholder

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Thanks as always to Barbara King, who we link to from time to time on topics of simple, natural beauty:

What Do Birds Hear When They Sing Beautiful Songs?

Birdsong is music to human ears.

It has inspired famous composers. For the rest of us, it may uplift the spirit and improve attention or simply be a source of delight, fun and learning.

But have you ever wondered what birds themselves hear when they sing? Continue reading

Iridescence & Pretty, Shiny Natural Things

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Matthew Jacobs

The Atlantic’s science writers are back in the saddle, leading the way with the best stories recently:

Why Do These Plants Have Metallic Blue Leaves?

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Roses are red but violets aren’t blue. They’re mostly violet. The peacock begonia, however, is blue—and not just a boring matte shade, but a shiny metallic one. Its leaves are typically dark green in color, but if you look at them from the right angle, they take on a metallic blue sheen. “It’s like green silk, shot through with a deep royal blue,” says Heather Whitney from the University of Bristol.

And she thinks she knows why. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Jiuzhaigou National Park, China

 

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Five Flower Lake. Source: thousandwonders.net

Located in the northern part of Sichuan province in China, Jiuzhaigou National Park is comprised of a speckling of multi-colored lakes surrounded by deep woodlands and impressive conic waterfalls in between precipitous mountains. Given the high altitude of the jagged valley, 4,800 meters, the landscape has a range of diverse forest ecosystems over the 300 square km and half of which is virgin forest. About 140 bird species inhabit the valley as well as a number of endangered plant and animal species, including the giant panda, the Sichuan takin, and the golden snub-nosed monkey. Continue reading

Air, Water, Land

"This was somewhere over Meghna river, most probably over Narshingdi. I was looking for a shot when I noticed the boat splitting the waves and heading strong like an arrow. I was smiling while pressing the shutter – this is one of my favourite pictures." Photo credit: Shamim Shorif Susom

“This was somewhere over Meghna river, most probably over Narshingdi. I was looking for a shot when I noticed the boat splitting the waves and heading strong like an arrow. I was smiling while pressing the shutter – this is one of my favourite pictures.” – All photographs and captions by Shamim Shorif Susom.

Shamin Shorif Susom is a man of many talents. A pilot by vocation and a passionate photographer by hobby,  he grabs his aerial opportunities with amazing results. His photos over the waters of his home country Bangladesh are particularly inspiring. Thanks to the Guardian for sharing this set.  Continue reading

A New Weekly Feature!

 

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Ergaki National Park. Source: siberiatimes.com

Drawing inspiration from our site’s Bird of the Day, a new weekly feature titled National Park of the Week will publish every Sunday starting on August 28th. We love birds – but other wildlife too! – and we love the environment they (as well as we) live in, so we decided to start this new “column” (if this was a newspaper) to promulgate the protected areas that reflect the range of biodiversity and natural beauty around the globe. Although this weekly article has the words national park in the title, all types of government-protected areas, such as refuges, reserves, sanctuaries, and parks, will be featured in this category.  Continue reading

Sea Sonata

Sometimes a moment of Zen is meant to be just that. In this case the ingenuity of the concept and the elegance of the execution increase the impact all the more. The sea creates random chords with this natural musical instrument as the waves push air through 35 tuned subterranean tubes set into the steps.

For a period of time some of of our team called Croatia home. This is definitely a Siren Call to return…