Monday 30 November 2020

Carpeted Slopes

    I have always enjoyed seeing these pine-covered slopes of Beaver Mountain after a snowfall.  They look like they are covered with velvet or a carpet.  

    The cones of pine trees only release their seeds by the heat of a fire, allowing them to be the first ones out of the gate for establishing themselves in the destroyed forest.  These slopes were burned by a forest fire in 1961 and Lodgepole Pine won the race and took over.

    While working at the Forest Service I often had to look at air photos.  When trying to identify timber types from an air photo, I learned that pine forests looked like a carpet, because the seeds were released at the same time making the trees are all the same age, and they grow tightly against one another.  The snow lets you see this carpet-like characteristic.

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Sunday 29 November 2020

Sunshine Through Trees

    We have so many dull, overcast, days during the winter that it is a real treat to periodically see the sun, even when it is filtered through snow-covered branches.

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Saturday 28 November 2020

That Crazy Dog is IN the Tree

    In previous blogs I have mentioned how squirrel-obsessed our dog Kona is.  Yesterday I glanced out the window and discovered her quest for squirrels had literally risen to a new level:  She had actually climbed into a willow tree to get closer her prey.     

    I can hardly wait to see what she will be doing next to satisfy her obsession.

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Friday 27 November 2020

Water Under Snow--Ugh

    I can’t think of anything messier than the kind of weather we have today.  We were supposed to get a big snow storm, but instead got a mixture of snow and rain (a lot more rain than snow).  Our already water-saturated ground is now even worse.   The ground is messy and so is what is coming down from the sky.

    It would be a good day to stay inside, but Kona is having none of that and as a result, we will get none of that.  She is driving us crazy trying to get us out there.

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Thursday 26 November 2020

Playing the Hand I'm Dealt

     While I am scanning the environment every day looking for something interesting or beautiful to photograph, often there isn’t much inspiration to be seen.  That was the case yesterday, it was a gray overcast day with a lot of low clouds.  I was able to find a bit of color in these weeds that snaked through the fields, so that is all I have to offer on today’s blog.

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Wednesday 25 November 2020

Kona: Fearless Hunter

    Our dog Kona thinks of herself as a fearless hunter.  She loves nothing more than to tree a squirrel (the squirrels like nothing more than to taunt Kona from above and drive her crazy).  It’s not just squirrels that are the prey, it is also mice.  

    Whenever we walk Kona down a road or runway lined with weeds, she stands very still as she scours the weeds for a scent of a mouse, suddenly, like a coyote, she pounces headlong into the wall of weeds, then muzzles around in the snow or mulch, then just as quickly, Kona jumps back, and proceeds down the road to the next mouse hideout.

    I don’t have any idea what she would do if she actually caught a mouse, but just the act of hunting sure keeps her entertained.

    During the darkness of our midnight walks, she sometimes senses a deer and with her hackles up slowly proceeds forward barking furiously.  When I call her back, she is always more than happy to oblige and retreat, not really wanting to get any closer to the unseen intruder.

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Tuesday 24 November 2020


    One of the places that stood out the most for me on my 1987 trip to Mexico was Tulum and the small Mayan “God of Winds Temple” that stood overlooking the amazingly turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.  It was an idyllic tropical location with its palm trees, rock cliffs, and white sand beaches.  

    Whenever I thought about the Maya, I always pictured the pyramids, built in the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala, so I was surprised when I got to the seaside Tulum site.  The Mayan where great traders and Tulum was their Caribbean port city.

    Back in 1987 when I travelled what is now called “The Mayan Trail” which includes many of the Mayan Pyramid locations, I did so on a regular bus, not a tourist bus.  I overnighted in the town of Tulum, where my $7.00 room was very much less than luxurious.  The old proprietor showed me how to turn on the ceiling fan by touching the ends of the two live wires that were sticking out of the wall.

    That night I ate in the local restaurant just down the road and had some very tasty shrimp in a spicy garlic sauce.  The eatery looked like a dive from the outside, but the dish was quite attractive, garnished with a twisted slice of orange, a radish cut like a flower, and a quartered slice of lime.  The meal cost me $3.70 (US).

       The Archeological site didn’t open until 8:00 AM and because I had been waken up by a barking dog at 5:00, I had to move slow in order to kill some time so I wouldn’t get there before then.  I took a bus but was a bit dismayed when I was dropped off at an intersection of the Highway and a local road.  I assumed that the site was down the road so began walking.  It was not a very scenic hike; flat with high brush obscuring everything but the sky.  There were some workers cutting weeds with machetes along the road, and I greeted them with “Buenos dias” to display my great fluency in Spanish.

    After about a kilometer’s hike, I got to the site where there were five other people waiting to get in.  Once through the gate, I walked around to see the different ruins, then suddenly the peace was interrupted by the sound of diesel engines and shortly thereafter I was surrounded by 100’s of people:  The tourist buses had arrived and unloaded. 

    Fortunately by that time I had pretty much seen everything there was to see.

    I just checked Google Earth to see what Tulum looks like today, and was amazed at how much development has occurred in the thirty years since I had been there.  I know that Mexico has recently put a lot of money into the pushing tourism along the “Mayan Trail”.

    Thinking back, it is the scene you see in the photo that really sticks in my mind.

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Monday 23 November 2020

Mexican Sidewalk Vendor

    I didn’t really have anything to blog about this morning, so I thought I would look through some of my slides to see if I could find something.  I came upon this photo that I took in 1987 of one of the many street vendors in San Cristobal de las Casas in the Chiapas area of Mexico.  This is one of the thousands of vendors that could be seen with their wares displayed on blankets spread out on sidewalks throughout Mexico and Guatemala. 

    A lot of them catered to the tourist trade and sold colorful woven garments and bags.  Others who seemed poorer had little stacks of sticks of chewing gum to sell.  While it made an exotic scene for me, it was serious business for those people, who depended upon their sales for their livelihood.

    Now with Covid causing so much havoc to so many businesses around the world, I can’t help but wonder about what is happening to people like this woman, who lived so low on the economic scale.  The tourists have disappeared as travel is restricted and curtailed.  With so many of them selling the same tourist-oriented products, how are they able to survive today?

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Sunday 22 November 2020

The Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

              Whenever I finished reading a book from OverDrive, I quickly looked for another.   Because of new restraints imposed by greedy publishers, it is now much more difficult to find a book that is immediately available for download on OverDrive, most books now have long waiting lists, but fortunately, I discovered that most of the older John Grisham novels were readily available, so I read a handful of them since March. 

       The one I liked the best was The Rogue Lawyer.   It tells the story of Sebastian Rudd, a much hated lawyer; hated because he took cases and defended people who the public despised.  Rudd took those cases because no other lawyers would defend them.  As a result he was often assaulted, his life threatening, and his office shot at and burned.  These actions caused him to live in a different place every week, and work out of a van that he used as an office. 

              One of the fascinating things that really made the novel memorable was one of his cases in which he defended a retired man whose wife was murdered by a police squad.  Even though Grisham wrote this novel in 2015, this case of police murder is eerily similar to the Brionna Taylor police murder that happened this summer. 

       In the novel a neighbor boy of the retired couple was a drug dealer. He recognized that the retired couple’s Internet was not secure, so he began using it to order his drug supplies.  The police were able to pinpoint the location of the internet being used for the drug transactions and mounted an attack on the retired couple’s home.

       The police SWAT team were all macho and gung-ho, decked out in their military style garb, and using military-style automatic weapons.  They had a “no knock” warrant and bashed down the front door in the dead of the night.  When they battered down the door, the retired couple’s dogs, who were asleep in the living room, started barking, so were shot by the police, the gunfire and commotion causing the retired owner of the house to think he and his wife were being attacked by a gang.   

       He grabbed a gun and shot at the intruders in his darken living room, wounding an officer.  The rest of the SWAT team then opened fire, killing the wife.  When the dust settled and the police realized what they had done, instead of admitting their mistake, they used the media to paint the retiree as a drug dealer and cop shooter.  Rudd took up the retired man’s case against the police.

      I found the fact that Grisham was so well versed in crime and law to imagine a situation which was so similar to an incident that happened years later, to be pretty impressive.   The cases the lawyer becomes involved in brings the reader in contact with a lot of characters they wouldn’t want to meet in read life, making The Rogue Lawyer an engaging book to spend time with. 

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Saturday 21 November 2020

It's A Cloud With A Silver Lining


    I spend a lot of time looking at the sky when I am outside.  While I often hear references to “a cloud with a silver lining”  this one may well be the first that I have recognized.  

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Friday 20 November 2020

Sunlit, Faraway, Trees

     Yesterday afternoon at the airfield walking Kona, I noticed some distant, snow-covered trees, highlighted by the sun, in front of the darker, shaded, forested slope that acted as the background.  I used the zoom on my camcorder to capture the wintery image.

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Thursday 19 November 2020

Looks Like Winter

    Officially we still have about a month to go before winter, but this morning on my walk down to the pond with Kona, I turned around to face the house and it sure looked as if winter had already arrived.  Last week the snow left on the ground from a previous storm had all melted away, but overnight it was replaced with about 3 inches (9cm) of new white stuff.

    I have taken similar photos before of the warm-feeling light shining in the house surrounded by the cool bluish landscape.  It seems rather Christmasy, but that too is still a month away.

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Wednesday 18 November 2020

The Tuesday Night Solo

    I always look forward to Tuesday night because that is when I would join other local musicians for our Tuesday Night Jam.   Last week I did something that was very difficult, I cancelled the jam for the foreseeable future.  Covid-19 is on the rise in BC.  For a long time those of us living in the isolated Robson Valley felt relatively safe because we didn’t have any local cases, but that has now changed.

    During the summer when the jam was playing out on the porch of the train station with the rain showers and mosquitoes, I felt that there wasn’t much threat of us spreading the virus.  When Fall’s colder and darker weather started to creep in, I scrambled around looking for an inside space where we could play, and luckily we were able to play in the empty Legion Hall.  It was a large enough space for us to spread out while we were playing. 

    I knew being in an enclosed area did increase the chances of virus spread, but it still seemed that it was a gamble we could win.  Once we got Covid cases in McBride, and we began to get more and more cases in Northern BC, I just didn’t want to take a chance that one of us would unknowingly spread the virus to others at the jam, and I shut it down.

    So here I am on Tuesday night playing my guitar to Kona.  Not very motivating; Kona quickly lost interest, jumped down off of the bed, and walked away after the photo was taken.  It sure is a lot more fun playing with others.  At present, things are looking fairly dire as far as our jam returning to “normal” anytime soon.

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Tuesday 17 November 2020

Lava And Fern

    Yesterday I was rummaging through my old Hawaii slides and came upon this one that has always been one of my favorites.  I took the shot more than 50 years ago, way back in 1969, when I was on the Big Island taking Peace Corp training. 

    It shows a fern that had managed to establish itself and survive in a lava field.  Ferns are about the first plants that are able to do this on the barren hardened lava.  Once they have set themselves up, other plants slowly do the same, which then provides opportunities for insects and other life.

    One of the reasons I have always loved this photo is that it somehow gave me hope that life (at least some variety of life) would eventually re-establish itself, even in an environment that had been totally destroyed by some disaster.  Of course I also liked the colors and composition of the photograph.

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Monday 16 November 2020

Killdeer: Some Surprises

    As is our daily afternoon practice; we took Kona for a walk.  We decided on doing it at the McBride Airfield.  As we drove there we could tell it wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience.   Flurried snow was slamming against our windshield.

    When we began our walk our earlier assumptions proved to be correct.  A strong wind was blowing, carrying the snowflakes horizontally.  We tightened up our coats and proceeded down the tarmac.  It was tolerable with the wind and snow at our back, but as soon as we got to the end of the runway and turned around we got to experience the wild weather in our face.

    Walking back I had my head down, looking at the tarmac, because of the snow blowing in my eyes and stinging the skin on my face.   Suddenly I saw movement out of the corner of my eye:  It was a pair of Killdeer that had just landed on the side of the runway.  It was a surprise, I certainly didn’t expect to see them during the winter.  

    Kona of course strained on the leash wanting to go over and investigate, but I kept her restrained.  The Killdeer walked along the edge of the runway looking for something to eat, and as you can see from the photo one of them found what looks like a worm; another surprise (why was there worms this time of year?).

    I got a third Killdeer surprise this morning as I checked one of my bird books to make sure I was right about these birds being Killdeer.  The book said:  “Common in meadows, farm fields, airfields--“What was that? --Airfields, they are common in airfields?  Who knew?

    While I have seen Killdeer at the airfield before, I didn’t realize that they are “commonly” seen in other airfields.  I always thought they mostly hung around shorelines of lakes and rivers.

    My bird book also said that they sometimes hang around their summer range during mild winter, but I assume these two are just hanging around while it is still moderately mild and will take off once more serious winter weather arrives.

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Sunday 15 November 2020

Swan in Flight

    The other day I blogged about what a treat it always is to see wild swans.  The swans I see are usually gracefully gliding across the water.  The other day I got an even bigger thrill seeing that lone swan in flight.  Luckily, I saw it from a distance, winging its way toward me, so I had time enough to dig my camera out from under my coat, get turn it on, and aim it, and get a photo.

    Their unusual shape during flight is so streamlined, aerodynamic, and beautiful.  Swans not only exhibit amazing gracefulness when in the water, but also in the air.

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Saturday 14 November 2020

Sunlit Snowcaps

    Because our house is tucked at the base of a mountain slope, we don’t get to see the Sun immediately in the morning; we are shaded by the mountain.  Before the sunshine gets to us, it illuminates the mountain peaks on the opposite side of the valley.  This is the view I had of the pink-tinted Cariboo Mountains this morning when I went out to put sunflower seeds in the bird feeders.

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Friday 13 November 2020

The Conspiracy to Wake Me at Night

    For the last week or so Kona has been waking me up around 3:00 AM so that I would take her outside to pee.  Last night I discovered that Lucifer, our cat has now joined into the conspiracy with the dog to wake me and get me out of bed.

    Since we again have a dog in the house I have once again moved the cat food bowls up onto the corner of my desk, so the cat can get to them, but the dog can’t.  I learned some time ago that I have to make sure my computer keyboard and mouse are out of the way or else the cat will step on them, which wakes up my computer, causing the whole room to light up.  Normally I put a box over the keyboard and mouse so that won’t happen.

    Last night before going to bed I forgot to put the box over them, so as I had just fallen asleep, the dog caused a commotion because the cat had stepped on the computer keyboard which not only lit up the room, but Lucifer must have also stepped on the computer space bar, which caused Tom Petty to start singing from my computer.

    I dragged myself from the bed to deal with the problem, that solved, I headed back to my bed, but Kona thought it might be a good time to go outside, so I took my groggy self down stairs, put on my coat and boots, grabbed a flashlight, and took Kona out to face the snow flurries.  Later Kona also decided to take me outside at her regular time; 3:40 AM.

    I hope this pet conspiracy soon ends.

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Thursday 12 November 2020

Fields of Gold, Mountains of Blue

    The bales of hay are off of the fields, which are now lightly powdered with snow, bracing for the winter.   I really love the contrast of the colors and the topography; our flat valley against in the blue mountains.

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Wednesday 11 November 2020

Winter Sun

    The Sun is getting lower and lower on the horizon as we move closer to Winter.  I took this shot yesterday afternoon at 2:00 when we were walking Kona at Koeneman Park.  

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Tuesday 10 November 2020

Cone Collecting

    I noticed this collection of spruce cones neatly stored on a stump the other day.  I assume a squirrel gathered them for winter storage.  When I decided on a title for this piece, it reminded me of the “Cone Collecting” that used to take place at the Forest Service when I worked there.  

    In the early spring they would sometimes send out a small crew to collect cones from superior trees.  The crew had a rifle and would shoot off clusters of cones from the top of the tree then collect them as they lay on the ground.  I often wondered how efficient it was to collect cones this way; suspecting maybe it was more of a “fun” project.  Other times they would just fell a tree to get the cones.  

    We have a spruce tree adjacent to our house and every fall for a few days the spruce cones rain down and bounce on our metal roof as a busy squirrel bites them loose from the tree and lets them fall, then later spends days gathering the cones from the ground (and our roof). 

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Monday 9 November 2020

A Long Night of Too Much Love

    Normally when it is time to go to sleep, Kona our dog shuffles over to her big round dog bed, circles around in the middle, then sinks down and sleeps.  Last night for some reason instead of doing that she jumped up on my bed, made her circle, then collapsed into sleep there; tight against my legs.  That was alright, I figured she would soon awake, jump down, and retreat to her bed.   She didn’t, she slept tight against me all night long.  

    This didn’t sit right to Lucifer, our cat.  During the night, she likes to periodically come, jump up on the bed, and sit on top of me for some pets.   In the middle of last night when she did jump up, she was a bit tiffed when she noticed that Kona was there.  She lay on top of me, and I gave her more than the usual amount of pets because I didn’t want a dog/cat fight in the middle of the night in my bed.  

    As Lucifer sat on top of me, she soon decided to push her rights to me a bit further.  She quietly climbed off of me, down onto the side where Kona lay, then with cat feet she quietly inched very close to the sleeping dog and once positioned, she also plastered herself tight against me.

    So there I was with two animals snuggled against me and I didn’t want to make any move that might  cause a ruckus, so I just lay there, as still as I could, and tried to go to sleep.  After a long, long period of not sleeping or moving, my body started complaining that it had to change positions.  As slowly as I could, I rolled over onto my side, while the sleeping dog and cat adjusted to my new position.

    Normally I have to get up to visit the washroom in the middle of the night, but because of my situation I held off, but by 5:00 AM, I could hold off no longer.  I just threw caution to the wind, raised myself up, turned on the light, and watched Lucifer scramble from the bed, leaping onto the table and my open and empty guitar case for safety.  Kona then leaped off the bed, followed me downstairs where she indicated that she needed to go outside, so instead of going to the washroom, I put on my coat and boots and accompanied Kona outside where we both did what needed to be done under the stars.

    Once back in the bedroom, I took my previous sleeping position, as did Kona.  After I turned out the light Lucifer jumped back onto the bed and re-took her previous position.  This was the way it was until 7:00 when I woke up ( I guess I must have gotten some sleep) and we all got out of bed.

     I confess, I didn’t feel very rested as I faced the morning after my night of love.

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Sunday 8 November 2020

Swan And Friends

    I always get a special kind of excitement whenever I see wild swans as they migrate through the Robson Valley every Spring and Fall.  Throughout my early life my only experience seeing swans were the domesticated ones that were sometimes put in lakes to add a sense of peacefulness to the gardens that surrounded them. 

    I was quite intrigued upon moving to the valley, to hear about the wild swans landing on Horseshoe Lake.  Wild swans seemed so exotic and it was a thrill to first see them and that thrill remains.

    I think most of the swans have now flown on to more southern climes,  but this lone one was still hanging around Horseshoe Lake yesterday.

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Saturday 7 November 2020

Living In The Third World

    While what Brazil’s President Bolsonaro is now doing to the Amazon is clearly ecocide.  Canadians can’t be too smug because a lot of those same things are being done here.  I like living in a place that is surrounded by pristine wilderness, but it becomes depressing to watch how it is gradually and continually being whittlied away, as nature is being converted into money.

    I took this photo on our recent trip to Valemount.  I assume this area is being cleared for agriculture, but we also saw the all of the heavy machinery stripping the area beside Highway 5 to make way for the Trans-Mountain Pipeline “upgrade”, now owned by the Canadian taxpayer.  The size of the pipeline is be tripled so that the heavy oil from the Alberta Tar Sands can be shipped to Asia.   

    All the “green” talk about carbon reduction is sadly just that; talk.  The pipeline will assure oil will continue to be pumped into the atmosphere for 50 more years, and oil company stockholders will continue to increase their already obscene wealth.

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Friday 6 November 2020

Not A Robin; A Varied Thrush

    For a couple of weeks now as I have driven down the road, I have noticed robins out in the yards and wonder what are they still doing here, they should have flown south.  When I saw some of these robins around our house, I realized that they weren’t “robins” at all, but Varied Thrush.  They do look somewhat like robins, but they are a bit bigger and have a similar orangish chest.  They are flashier looking than a robin, sporting a black band below the throat and some the orange patches on their wings.

    They generally live deeper in the forest, but I generally see them very early in the spring before all the snow melts and of course, this time of year.  I used to call them “Telephone Birds” because from a distance their call sounded like our telephone ringing in the distance.   When we first move to the Robson Valley, I would sometimes be outside working when I heard their call, then go into the house to answer the phone.  

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Thursday 5 November 2020

Hydrology: There's Something Happening Here

    You have heard me often complain about all of the rain we have gotten through the Spring, Summer, and Fall, and how there are puddles and standing water in places where I have never seen it before in the forty years I have been here.  It has gotten to the point where even if it isn’t raining outside, I don’t want to go out and walk through the yard because of the mud under the grass.

    Months ago I re-cleared our old trail that snaked through the woods and now I have no desire to walk it because of all the mud and water that I would have to slog through.  

    The white lines in the photo above, shows the location of the trail.  Under the dashed line there is now probably 2-3 feet (60-90 meters) of water, and where you see water in the photo, it is usually just a dry depression.  There is probably at least 5 feet  (1.5 meters) of standing water.  This is not part of a stream or have surface water feeding it, the water is coming from underground sources.

    The last two years have been incredibly wet, after two years of being very dry.   It seems that our weather is flip-flopping back and forth between extremes.  I would sure appreciate getting back to what used to be our normal moderate weather.

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Wednesday 4 November 2020

Kona Has Baby Sitters: Squirrels

    See the  squirrel up on the board, Kona sure does.  She is transfixed by the critters.  They are always coming to the bird feeder to get the sunflower seeds, and Kona loves nothing more than to chase them up a tree then, watch them jump from branch to branch and tree to tree.  When they stop leaping around Kona  sits as still as a statue to watch them as they scold her about preventing them from going to the bird feeder.

    While it takes the pressure of us about keeping Kona entertained, it does have its down side.  Because everything around here is still so muddy, it means when we do get Kona back into the house, I have to immediately carry her to the shower so I can wash the mud off of her feet.

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Monday 2 November 2020

All Souls Day

    Today is All Souls Day which is part of the the Day of the Dead holidays in Mexico.  Forty years ago we traveled to Mexico to explore the Aztec and Mayan ruins and experience the country.  We weren’t aware of the Day of the Dead when we made our arrangements and were quite surprised to suddenly see the many displays of gruesome foods in store front windows:  sugar skulls, chocolate coffins, and “Bread of the Dead”, all displayed for customers in the stores of Mexico City.  

    Eventually we found out what it was all about.  On this weekend it is customary for families to pack up a “picnic” lunch and go to the graves of their ancestors.  There they eat their meal among the tombstones and talk to their deceased family members.  Marigolds seem to be the flower of choice for the occasion. 

    It all seemed a bit strange to us, but I guess foreigners viewing our “Halloween” have a similar feelings.  Below are some old photos of what we saw relating to the Day of the Dead.



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