Paper Models

Example of Crown Binding

Model of Crown Binding

I feel like I am moving in spirals these days: circling back around but learning and applying new skills as I go. Currently my major art focus is on working my way through the projects in Making Handmade Books by Alisa Golden, using just regular printer paper and making a model of each technique. In keeping with my “a little time every day” personal commitment, I’ve been doing one or two a day.

I’ve made several different types of handmade books over the last year or so, and especially enjoyed using my handmade papers, collage papers, and dyed papers in those. Then I got distracted from that by encaustic painting. But as I was working with encaustic, I kept thinking how it would be amazing in hand-bound books, especially in book covers. However, to really delve into that I felt I needed to beef up my skills and experience with making various types of books. That prompted me to go through my personal library of book-binding books, and I pulled out Golden’s as the most suited for I want right now. It has over a hundred different projects, starting with simple folded books and becoming more complex as you go along.

Then in July, I went back to John C. Campbell Folk School for a class in Stitched Collage, taught by Jennifer Reis. She is a talented artist and wonderful instructor, and it was a very inspiring class. Now I have even more techniques to bring to handmade books, and I am doubling down on working through those paper models.

So the spiral keeps coming back to books, with the desire to use all these fun skills and techniques to birth creative new ideas. Today’s project was crown binding, where one piece of paper is folded to make a spine that holds inserted pages in place.

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Burn, Baby, Burn

I’m making a real effort now to get back into doing art every morning. I still love encaustic painting, and I’ve gotten a book now on doing mixed media with encaustic. We had touched a little on this in my class back in May, but you can only do so much in a week.

My new book is “encaustic Mixed Media” by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch. One of the things I love about it is her attitude of playfulness and “just try it and see what happens”. (Safely, of course. Safety first.) There are a whole bunch of fun project ideas, AND she has an entire section on making your own embellishments to add to encaustic pieces. So this morning I made glue-and-paper burned embellishments. Parts: various papers and white glue. Tools: small propane torch and brush for glue. Working surface: asbestos soldering pads from jewelry workbench. Here’s a picture of my results.

Tomorrow: using one of these in an encaustic composition.

Burned glue-and-paper

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In My Dreams, I’m Still on Safari

We’ve been home for a few days now.

Our travel “day” ended up being literally 48 hours long.

  • We started at 9:15 Tuesday morning in Tanzania (2:15 AM in the US), flying from Ngorongoro to Mt. Kilimanjaro for Tanzanian departure processing then
  • flew to Wilson Airfield in Nairobi then
  • drove to the Jomo Kenyatte Airport for COVID testing then
  • to the Four Points hotel near the airport for a brief respite & dinner then
  • BACK to JKA to catch our 1:25 AM Wed flight from Nairobi to Doha (in Qatar) then
  • Doha to Miami (~16 hours)
  • weather there delayed us by a couple of hours, so that it was after 1:30 AM when we landed in Columbia
  • and 2:15 AM Thursday when we arrived home.

You can imagine that Thursday was pretty much a blur, and Friday was only a little better. Saturday (yesterday) was the first day I started to feel like myself again.

I wanted to start going through all my pictures right away, while everything was still fresh. I took pictures with both my phone and an old but pretty good digital camera, and Thursday I got all those images copied to my computer and sorted by date/location. Good thing I have such detailed notes in my travel journal – those were invaluable for that process. Then I started going through each set of pictures and changing the file names to something meaningful. I have loved looking through them all and remembering. I still have two more days/places to go – Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara.

But here’s the thing: every night now I dream about being on safari. Dreams are how we integrate our experiences into our mental landscapes: I’m still integrating. What will all this mean in my life going forward? To paraphrase Emily Bronte, these experiences have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. I don’t yet know where that will lead, but I’m willing to find out.

Wildebeest Migration on the Serengeti

Wildebeest Migration on the Serengeti

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Our Final Day – Lake Manyara National Park

Trunk of a ficus sycamore tree

Trunk of a ficus sycamore tree

It’s hard to believe our adventure is just about over. Our final outing this morning was to Lake Manyara National Park. This lovely lake is surrounded by groundwater forest that is a truly lovely lush green with many kinds of trees. I was particularly struck by the trunks of the ficus sycamore trees with their incredible textures. Among others were Cape mahogany trees, a variety of acacia trees, and palm trees. 

One big highlight of this trip was that we FINALLY saw a leopard! It was draped over a tree limb at least 30 feet off the ground, all four legs and tail just hanging down. I may have gotten a decent picture with my point-and-shoot digital camera, but I won’t know until I get home and get it on my computer. There were many, many safari vehicles jostling for a good angle to see, but they actually did a reasonable job of moving on and making room for others after their passengers had gotten a good look and taken pictures. 

Tree-climbing lioness

Tree-climbing lioness

We also saw one of the tree-climbing lions this park is known for. This is unusual behavior for lions, generally speaking. On one side of the road two lionesses were finishing up their lunch and a third, having finished eating, went across the road, climbed up to a comfortable branch, and stretched out. You can click on this photo to see it much larger and in clear detail. 

In addition to the wonderful cat sightings, we saw quite a few birds. These included three types of hornbills: ground, crowned, and Von de Decken. An African Pied wagtail sang to us as we drove over a creek.

There were baboons, including moms with really tiny babies. Even though they are really young, they can cling tight to mom’s belly as she walks. This has two benefits: they can suckle in that position, and they are safe from eagles. We also saw Sykes blue monkeys and vervet monkeys. Fun fact: while the vervet monkeys are tan with black faces and hands, the males have bright blue balls. Really. 

We leave for home tomorrow, flying from here to Nairobi and then off from there in the middle of the night. It will be another LOOOOONG travel day, and it will no doubt take two or three days to recover, reset our sleep schedules, and adjust back from the seven-hour time difference. After I get settled, I will be going through all my hundreds of pictures and creating photo-journal posts for you to enjoy. 

The group we’ve been traveling with have been a fun, lively group. It has been delightful to get to know them, and I’ll leave you with a group photo taken as we were about to leave the Migration Camp. 

Our safari group

Our safari group

Left to right: Peter and Barb, Randy and Patsy, Mary, Susana (kneeling), Jaycee, and Lloyd, Steve, Mick, Ann, Joe, and Kathleen. The only person missing is Elphas, our amazing guide on this adventure. I’ll make sure I get a picture of him before we go. 

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The Ngorongoro Caldera

It’s nearing the end of our wonderful adventure, and each day has brought amazing new sights and experiences. Today was no exception. We left early to get to the Ngorongoro Caldera, which is a very old, very large volcanic crater here in Tanzania. The road in goes up and over the surrounding ridge, and then down into the crater. Because the altitude is so high, the temp was quite chilly. Fun fact: in Tanzania, Spanish moss growing on trees indicates that the area regularly gets (relatively) cold temperatures, exactly the opposite of what we see in the US.

View of the Ngorongoro caldera

View of the Ngorongoro caldera

This photo was taken just a little way down the inside of the crater descent. That lake looks small, doesn’t it? It’s actually huge. It’s salt water even though all its tributaries are fresh water, due to mineral content in the soil. As we got to the bottom of the descent, a troupe of baboons was crossing the road, and several of them decided that the warm hood of our vehicle was a great place to hang out! Fortunately, none of them came in through the roof, which happens sometimes. After a few minutes they moved on.

Baboons on the hood of our vehicle

Baboons on the hood of our vehicle

We drove quite a ways on the crater floor and part way around the lake and saw many familiar animals from other parts of our safari. So I’ll mostly share here the ones that were unique to today’s trip. There were a LOT of birds down here. We saw a pied crow being harassed by smaller birds, spoonbills, gray herons, two different species of teals, pelicans, flamingos, black-winged stilts, Egyptian geese, barn swallows, an Augur buzzard, a male ostrich and his family of lady ostriches, a kite, egrets, yellow-billed storks, a Hamerkop, and quite a few Sacred ibises.

Serval in the Ngorongoro crater

Serval in the Ngorongoro crater

On the animal side, we saw most of the usual suspects, but new to us was a serval, which is a cat that is a little bigger than a house cat. It has lovely markings, as you can see in this photo. It came very close to our vehicle. We also saw Golden jackals.

One sad thing regards a lovely yellow flower that grows extensively down there. It’s actually invasive, and hardly any of the herd animals like to eat it. Efforts to eradicate it are limited to mowing the plants before they flower.

Lovely but invasive yellow flowers

Lovely but invasive yellow flowers

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Breakfast Monkeyshines and off to Ngorongoro

The Milky Way was gorgeous at 5:00 this morning. We took the comforter from our bed out to the deck behind our tent, wrapped ourselves in it on the lounge chairs, and watched the stars for an hour. I swear one of the constellations looked just like a scorpion, so whether that was actually Scorpio I don’t know but it sure looked like it. In addition to all those gorgeous stars, we saw a few planes way up high (looking like little moving stars), a satellite, and a shooting star. We also heard hippos bellowing, something that sounded like a dog barking (definitely not a monkey but could have been a jackal), and an odd little purring noise. Mystery sounds!  Little by little the sky brightened behind us in the east and we finally went back inside and got ready to go up for breakfast. 

At this place, the restaurant has one side completely open, with seating on a covered deck, and a tent-type canvas wall that rolls up. We were seated just inside, next to the deck and the rolled-up canvas. They first brought us a wooden tray with assorted fruit, a little croissant, and a fruit/nut bar. We had eaten some of the fruit, but not the croissant or bar, when our orders came and we shifted our attention to that. Then, SOMETHING jumped down onto our table from the rolled-up canvas! I looked up, and it was a monkey! I was so startled I screamed a little, and it looked right back at me, grabbed the croissant in one little hand and the fruit/nut bar in the other, and leapt back up to the canvas. From there it went out to a tree right next to the deck and proceeded to enjoy its stolen prizes. The whole thing took about 5 seconds. Of course, we just cracked up – and talk about adrenaline spikes!!! – but the staff were quick to make sure we were ok. Two guys were posted on the deck after that to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Then it was off to the airstrip for our final location, the Ngorongoro Conservancy. After landing, we drove through a couple of towns – more people than we’ve seen since leaving Nairobi – and ended  up at our lodging, The Manor at Ngorongoro. We are not staying in tents now. This is an extremely luxurious establishment modeled on colonial Dutch architecture, and a lovely way to end our African adventure. We had the luxury of a free afternoon, which was wonderful. Tomorrow, we are off to the Ngorongoro Caldera, which is the largest in the world.  

View of our room from the outside

View of our room from the outside

Our sitting room

Our sitting room

 

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The Amazing Serengeti, Part 3

Our final outing for the day was in the evening, to see if we could spot any leopards. That is the only “big” animal that we haven’t seen at all. They’re a little tricky to spot, because they hang out in tall trees with horizontal branches and you have to look for their tails hanging down. 

As it turned out, there was nobody home in any of the trees on our two hour drive. But we did see many other very cool things. There were some vervet monkeys hanging out in trees by the river, and olive baboons heading up into trees for the night. Mick spotted a Verraux’s Eagle Owl in a tree, and also a White-Backed Vulture nest with a baby vulture in it. Way to go, Mick! There were some lovely colorful birds called Little Bee Eaters, and a Bared-Face Go-Away Bird, named for its call. Steven, our driver, picked some Bushman’s Tea for us to smell – I think it was a member of the mint family because it had a square stem and a sweet citrusy-minty smell.

While we were driving around, Steven also told us about the hierarchy of predators:

  • Lions are number one. 
  • Hyenas are next, although sometimes hyenas will gang up on a solo lioness and try to steal her prey. 
  • Then leopards,
  • Then cheetahs,
  • Then the wild dogs (like jackals)

As a general rule, each predator can and will take prey from those lower on the list, and each has strategies to protect their kills from those higher on the list. Although sometimes that strategy is to just run away, and live to kill something else. Leopards drag their prey up into trees, and cheetahs eat really fast. Also, cheetahs will run away (no surprise!) if they are challenged by a leopard or hyenas or a lion for their kill. 

At sunset, as we finally gave up on seeing a leopard and started back to camp, we drove through an area that had been part of a controlled burn. These are done selectively to help get rid of the tall dry grass, which is not very nutritious, and make way for new green growth that is better for the baby animals. This area had been burned just a few weeks earlier and was already putting up new green shoots all over the place. 

Tomorrow, we head for the Ngorongoro region for our final three days of this adventure. Mick and I plan to get up at 5:00 AM to go out and star-gaze.

Sunset over the Serengeti

Sunset over the Serengeti

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The Amazing Serengeti, Part 2

It is astonishingly beautiful here. The word “Serengeti” is a Maasai word meaning “Endless Plains” and they do just go on and on and on…. Leaving the camp this morning for today’s game drive, we saw more hyrax, including babies, a red-billed hornbill, and a Klipspringer, which is a little antelope that stands and walks on the front edge of its hooves so it looks like it’s tiptoeing around.  

As we drove, we saw these amazing little communal spiders who build a giant web together between the tress and the ground, and all hang out in it waiting for prey. You really don’t notice the huge webs until you drive past and they catch the sunlight. Each spider has its own little section. We also saw weaver bird nests, which hang down from the tree branches like funny-looking fruit and have their opening at the bottom. They tend to cluster a lot of nests in a single tree.

In my last post, I included a picture of wild morning glories. They were a beautiful and unexpected grace note scattered across the savannah. Of course we saw many animals and birds, including: wildebeests, zebras, both Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles, wart hogs, ostriches, hawks, Nubian vultures, Crested Francolins, a Martial Eagle (which are very strong – they can take a small lion cub), hyenas, buffalo, hartebeests, topi (a colorful species of antelope), Ground Hornbills, elephants, and giraffes. But the highlight of the drive was our visit to Pride Rock, where the name refers to the pride of lions that has claimed it as their own. How many can you spot in this picture? And there were several more scattered around on the other side and on the surrounding ground. All snoozing in the sun, just like the cats they are.

Lions sunning on Pride Rock

Lions sunning on Pride Rock

After spending some time with the lions, all three of our vehicles met up at the “Bone Tree” (my name for it) where three different skulls (lion, zebra, and mystery carnivore) and some animal’s spine were there for us to look at. We had some snacks and then moved on. As we went back past Pride Rock, we spotted one of the lionesses stalking a herd of zebras that were a few hundred yards away. She was downwind from them, like a good hunter, and kept flattening herself down into the tall grass every time they looked her way. Elphas, who is our guide for the whole trip, said they did not see her, because they did not spook and run, but they were moving away and she finally gave up. He also pointed out that she is hungry because you could see how her belly was sunken in. So we all got a little nervous when she walked right past our stopped vehicle on her way back to Pride Rock. He urgently told us, “DON’T MOVE” several times. And we did not, until after she had passed.

From there, we worked our leisurely way back to camp. Random observations:  

  • With the sun at our back, the tall grasses were silvery against the dark green trees on the horizon beneath the pale blue sky with puffy white clouds. Nature’s palettes can’t be beaten.
  • There are giant weathered rocks and boulders in isolated outcroppings (like Pride Rock) that almost look like someone placed them there. In fact they are clusters of metamorphic rock that long, long ago were underground, but have been gradually exposed over millennia of erosion. 
  • One type of fig tree grows on top of rocks and sends roots down around them into the ground.
  • Herd animals (gazelles, zebras, buffalo, topi, impalas, hartebeests) gather in twos and threes under shade trees in the heat of the midday sun.
  • Waterboks and Impalas are the only antelopes where the females don’t have horns. 
  • The horns of all the antelope species are ridged in some way, not smooth like cattle horns.

The last animals we saw as we approached camp were a herd of elephants, including several females with tiny babies, less than a year old. The babies were so adorable! One of them actually waved his little ears at us just like mama. 

We had one more outing after that, but I’ll save that story for another post. 

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The Amazing Serengeti, part 1

I can’t cover all of the last 24 hours in a single post. We arrived here at the Serengeti Migration Camp yesterday evening around 6 PM, a half-hour before sunset. Snacks and beverages were served on the sunset viewing deck, which also has an expansive view of the Serengeti. A sliver crescent moon was in the sky above the setting sun.

There are cute little animals called hyraxes all over this camp, They look sort of like groundhogs, but smaller, and are actually related to elephants and manatees. Lots of lizards, too, in all kinds of sizes and colors. A river runs right past the camp; it is home to hippos which come out of the water at night to eat. Because of them, and the close presence of other wild animals like elephants and lions, we once again have to have escorts to and from our tents when it’s dark. You can hear the hippos talking to each other all night.

One other exciting aspect of this camp is the presence of tse-tse flies. Most Americans do not pronounce this correctly, so I will help you with that: it is pronounced seh-seh. The “t” is silent and the “e” is short. Now you know! They are extremely annoying and their bite is painful. Fortunately, the ones in this area do not carry sleeping sickness. Unfortunately, they are so annoying that in the afternoon we had to shut all the windows and the roof in the Land Cruiser, which makes taking pictures difficult. 

Last night we went out on the deck at our tent and looked at stars – the sky was so clear and dark we could see millions of stars. I can now say I’ve seen the Southern Cross. Mick was up early this morning and he says the Milky Way is spectacular then, so I will be setting an early alarm for tomorrow to see for myself. 

This morning we started our game drive earlier than usual, to get as much in as possible before the tse-tse flies come out in force in the afternoon. The grass is taller here than anywhere else we’ve been, and some areas have trees as well (woodland savannah) and some do not (open savannah). This is the beginning of the Great Migration and we saw that with wildebeests and zebras. In that migration, the animals travel in a line and whatever the leader does, the ones behind also do, Our guide shot some sweet video of that that I will post later when I do my photo journal at the end. 

I leave you with a photo of wild Morning Glories.

Wild Morning Glories on the Serengeti

Wild Morning Glories on the Serengeti

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A Balloon Ride, Lions, and Petting a Rhino

Cheetah posing for us

Cheetah posing for us

Yesterday was a very long day. We got up at 4:00 AM to leave for a hot air balloon ride over the Mara Conservancy, which is right next to the Maasi Mara. This was my first hot air balloon ride, and it did not disappoint. Our pilot was Carlos, who is originally from Barcelona and has been piloting balloons for over 15 years. He made us feel very safe. We drifted at about 30-50 feet most of the time, high enough to clear the acacia trees but low enough to have a superb view of the landscape and wildlife. We saw quite a few hyenas, gazelles, giraffes, topi (a type of antelope), a couple of vultures, and there were quite a few songbirds welcoming the sun. Excitingly, when we landed the basket tipped sideways so the we were on our backs and had to scoot out that way.

Then we had breakfast out in the bush not far from the landing site. After that we were off to the day’s first game drive.

Male Ostrich

Male Ostrich

On that trip, we saw a Cheetah posing (seemingly!) for us at the base of an acacia tree, and then FINALLY a male lion. First one. He was sleeping off a meal of hippo (we saw the bones) and could care less about our presence. Also on that drive we saw a big troupe of olive baboons, three ostriches, and a large herd of zebras having a pool party at a watering hole. I got some great video of that.

On the afternoon game drive, we had our best view yet of some black-backed jackals, which are very dog-like. The big surprise was a visit to a place (it didn’t have a name that I ever saw) where there were two very docile white rhinos and their human friends. We got lots of close-up pictures and even got to pet one of them, who is named Kofi Annan. He was busy grazing and pretty much ignored us altogether, Back on the road after that, we saw a LOT more lions. Including an adorable appx 1 year old male lion cub. Later we saw a BIG male who was probably his dad. When the adult males face you straight on, it’s easy to see where the inspiration for Maasi Lion Masks came from.

Male Lion Cub

Male Lion Cub

At the end, we were treated to another “surprise” bonfire party way up a slope with an incredible view of the valley.

Today we proceed on to Tanzania, ending up at our camp at the Serengeti. Fortunately, they allowed us to sleep in this morning so everyone is blessedly rested.

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