Falling in Love

Published August 2nd, 2012

Touching down at Venice’s Marco Polo International Airport, one thought crossed my mind and this was either the person who is to meet me will be just as I envisioned or after five minutes I will know to politely go my own way. Well, walking through the doors after clearing customs, I knew immediately I was walking into an experience like no other. My eyes scanned the awaiting crowd and my nerves calmed when they focused on two gleaming eyes peering over a handwritten sign reading “Welcome Mr MP Texas.”

You see, Janys and I had “known” one another for months via Flickr and had developed quite a rapport bantering back and forth beyond commenting one another’s photographs. Venice had always been on my list of places to see, but it was Janys who convinced me to, at last, make the journey. With a hug and a kiss on the cheek after identifying her, our conversation began immediately without a skip or an awkward moment. ”How was your journey?” ”Do you need a drink?” ”Let’s sit down for ...

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HIGH OVER ICELAND

Published July 18th, 2012

"We were left alone in the middle of the ocean for 1,000 years and nobody paid notice to us." So said artist Hallgrimur Helgason in a short video about Icelandic creativity that I watched on the flight to Reykjavik. He was talking about the so-called Dark Ages, when the Danish conquered Iceland, then essentially abandoned it to plague, pirates, famine and volcanoes.

Beneath the dying light of a northern sun, we crouch around small rocky pools to boil fresh eggs in water that rises from the molten center of the planet. Clouds of steam billow skyward from dozens of spots along the riverbank. The smell of sulphur hangs in the air. In the distance, a glowing greenhouse seems to hover above the horizon, looking eerily like a golden unidentified flying object.

Sometimes in Iceland, it's hard to remember you're still on planet Earth.

Where else do car rental agencies offer insurance for pumice damage? Only in Iceland is a "lava stick" an essential item in a bag of golf clubs. Is there ano ...

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LAND OF JOSHUA

Published July 12th, 2012

Deep in the Mohave Desert the sweat drips from the brow as one wanders the unforgiving arid landscape. A natural toned palette is everywhere in the peripheral providing a subtlety to this otherwise colourful world. Then springing up, as if to reach like the giraffe's long neck, a sci-fi looking cacti towers above.

The name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree's unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Ranchers and miners who were contemporary with the Mormon immigrants also took advantage of the Joshua tree, using the trunks and branches as fencing and for fuel for ore-processing steam engines. It is also called izote de desert. It was first formally described in the botanical literature as Yucca brevifolia by George Engelmann in 1871 as part of the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel.

This monocotyledonous tree is native to ...

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Flying High Over White Sands

Published July 3rd, 2012

Deep in the brown Chihuahuan Desert lies the largest white gypsum sand dune area in the world - an area called White Sands National Monument, which is part of the USA National Park System.

You may wonder how all this white sand arrive in the area. To understand that, you would have to travel back in time two-hundred-fifty-million years. An inland ocean once covered the area. The minerals, calcium and sulfur, were at the bottom of the ocean. Over time, the water slowly disappeared. The calcium, and sulfur, remained. The minerals formed gypsum rock.

Then, seventy-million years ago, the Earth's surface, or crust, pushed upward. The rocks formed two groups of mountains. Later, the crust pulled apart. The area between the mountains broke, and fell down. It formed a half-circle shape of a bowl. This bowl of rock is known as the Tularosa Basin.

About twenty-four thousand years ago, it rained a great deal in the area. The rain filled the Tularosa Basin, and formed Lake Otero. ...

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