A Haunting Pop… The Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular of Providence, RI: Part 4

“My precious, the nasty Hobbit has stolen my precious.” Gollum of the “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” fame.



I’ve now reached day 4 of my  7 part Halloween series. Today’s art-carved pumpkins from the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular of Providence, R.I. take their inspiration from the pages of “The Hobbit.” My Halloween story for the day includes an encounter I had with a ghost…

Have you ever met a ghost? I’ve blogged about my three scary encounters in the past. One took place in Scotland near the grave of the Presbyterian martyr and a distant relative, John Brown. Another was at Fort Mifflin near Philadelphia where two of my ancestors died during the Revolutionary War. The fort is listed as one of the most haunted places in America and I believe it!

The third, and by far the most frightening, however, was when my dad, Pop, decided to haunt me. He had died in his Sacramento apartment and I had the misfortune of finding the 89-year-old sitting on the toilet, naked. That was scary enough, but nothing like a couple of days later when I went back in to clean his apartment. I was working in the bathroom when the light in his front room came on. I figured it was the apartment manager— except when I went into the front room, no one was there and the door was locked. “Okay, Curt,” I said to myself, “you are distraught and imagining things.” I shut off the light and went back into the bathroom. Just as I walked through the door, however, the water that had been running at a trickle in the sink went on full force! I watched the sink handle move. “Clean your own apartment!” I yelled as I rapidly exited the place, noticing that the front room light was on again.

That night, I was going to sleep with all the lights on, or at least trying to, when I heard a voice in my mind. “I’m okay, Curt,” Pop said as he exited down the proverbial white hall. It seems he was out of here. He’d once told me that he wanted to be a spaceship when he died, exploring the outer reaches of the Universe. It was his concept of heaven. He was a good Baptist, but streets paved with gold weren’t for him. Maybe he was finally on his way. Maybe. I hired a cleaning service to go in and take care of the apartment just in case he wasn’t.

Frightening white ghost at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

Our concepts of ghosts range from Caspar the Friendly Ghost to the scary fiend above that we found haunting the path at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular.

The elves of the Hobbit at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

Elvish bowmen, such as Legolas, played an important role in “The Hobbit.”

Knight in Lord of the Rings at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

As did righteous knights, Boromir perhaps.

Hobbit home at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence Rhode Island

A Hobbit hole is shown on the left. Bilbo might have had some serious second thoughts about his peaceful little community had he come out the door and been greeted by this bunch. But maybe they were protecting him.

Sharp toothed pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

I’m amazed that these guys hold together when so much material has been removed. A team of volunteers are on standby at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular to carve new pumpkins as old ones fail over the month-long festival.

Sharp carved pumkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island

One look at this pumpkin led me think that it might be a good character for Marvel Comics.

Many pumpkins at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence

A final group photo for the day.

Next Post: I grew up next to a graveyard. It was out our back door and across a dirt road. Since I slept outside during the summer months, I had plenty of opportunities to become acquainted with ghosts. Tomorrow I will describe an adventure I had as a six-year-old when I went into the graveyard late on a moonless night and met up with one of its denizens. The carved art will include some of the classics of the Renaissance. Think Mona Lisa.





Size Matters to a Pumpkin…The Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular: Part 3

While not world-class in size, this was still one heck of a big fellow in comparison to the majority of the other pumpkins at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular.


This is part three of my seven-day pumpkin carving series where I am featuring the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular of Providence, Rhode Island in leading up to Halloween. Today, my photos will show pumpkins we found in the Asian section of the Spectacular. My content will look at the hot competition that exists to create the world’s largest pumpkin.

It was only a matter of time until someone grew a 2,000 pound/one ton pumpkin. And it was grown in tiny Rhode Island, home of the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, which I have been featuring this week. Ron Wallace accomplished this feat in 2012 with a 2009-pound giant.  He had previously broken the world record in 2006 with a 1502-pound pumpkin. This speaks to how fast pumpkin weight is increasing. The sky is apparently the limit: One article noted that a perfectly round pumpkin could weigh up to 20,000 pounds! No world records were set this year, but a German grower raised a 2,624.6-pound colossus in 2016. His success also gave notice to Americans and Canadians that their dominance in the rather unusual sport of growing giant pumpkins might be at an end.

A quick perusal of the Internet showed me that there is a lot of interest in growing big pumpkins. Knowing the science, having the right seeds and soil, and even naming your pumpkin seems to be important. For example, I learned that you should never name your pumpkin Tiny Tim. It insults the pumpkin and it will refuse to grow. Here’s what an article in the Smithsonian had to say on growing giants: “Keep them at the perfect temperature, give them continuous food and water, protect their delicate skins from drying and cracking, and cover them at night for warmth.” Sounds like advice for raising a baby to me— without the diapers. Genetics are even more important: Big pumpkins come from the seeds of big pumpkins, which come from the seeds of big pumpkins and so on all the way back to Jack Dill who patented a seed in 1981 that he had been working on for 30-years.

Now, if you have a fairy god-mother and some glass slippers, you just might be able to make a pumpkin carriage fit to impress a prince or princess.

Chinese dragons are supposed be good guys, right, as opposed to some of the nasty creatures that were flying around in Europe, like the one St. George tangled with. Still, I would be reluctant to upset this fellow.

Pandas on pumpkin at Jack-0-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

The Asian section of the art-carved pumpkins featured a number of familiar scenes such as these Giant Pandas located beside the Great Wall of China.

Oriental scene on pumpkin at Jack-o-Lanter Spectacular in Rhode Island

A temple.

Mystical Eastern scene on Pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

We really liked the way the moon was used here.

Snow Leopard pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

A snow leopard with a Himalayan backdrop.

Pumpkin scene at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

Art-carved pumpkins were usually incorporated into scenes with traditionally carved pumpkins.

Gaggle of Ghouls at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

These fellows stood on their own.

50 plus pumpkins out of 5,000 at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

50 plus pumpkins (including the small ones in the distance) of the 5,000 that were at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular.

Bad Genie at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

A demon or evil genie, for sure.

Friendly fellow at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

And a pumpkin that has a ‘caught in the headlights’ look is my final photo of the day..


NEXT POST: We’ll catch up with Hobbits at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular while I share one of three ghostly tales I will include with this Halloween series. I grew up next to a graveyard, so my young life was filled with ghosts. None was quite as scary as the time my dead father decided to haunt me, however, which will be the the subject of my next post.









Back when a Carved Pumpkin Was a Turnip… Part 2 of the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

Mummies are naturally scary, so it isn’t surprising that one ended up on a pumpkin in the Egyptian section at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI.


Jack-o-Lantern wasn’t always a pumpkin. To find his ancestors, you have to travel back in time to Ireland and meet Stingy Jack. True to his name, Jack was a tight-fisted fellow who never spent a penny on buying anything if he could persuade someone else to. He even tricked the Devil— never a good idea.

Apparently, he was having a pint with the Devil at a local pub and persuaded him to become a silver coin to pay for the drinks. (Devils can do that kind of thing.) Jack decided to keep the coin, however, so he dropped it into his pocket next to a silver cross that kept the Devil from turning back into his nasty old self. Jack finally freed the fiend when he promised not to bother him for a year or claim his soul.

The next year, Jack pulled another trick on the Devil. It appears that the guy from Hell was a slow learner. This time Jack persuaded the Devil to climb a fruit tree and fetch a piece of fruit. Jack then carved a cross into the trunk so the Devil couldn’t climb down. Only when he promised not to bother Jack for another ten years, did he allow the Devil to descend.

Not long afterwards, Jack died, but there was no way that God was going to allow this stingy trickster into Heaven. So, he bounced him back to the Devil, who couldn’t let Jack into Hell because of his promise. Instead, he condemned Jack to forever roam the earth at night with nothing more than a candle held by a carved turnip.

In Ireland and Scotland, folks were soon carving scary faces on turnips and potatoes on Halloween to scare Jack and other nasty characters of the night away. When they arrived in America in the 1600s and 1700s, they discovered that pumpkins were much easier to carve and the tradition took hold.

Today marks my second day of featuring pumpkins from the Jack-0-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island that Peggy and I visited in early October. Today, the art-carved pumpkins are featuring Egypt. Enjoy and Happy Halloween.

The Scarab Beetle was also a powerful force against evil. On a more prosaic level, the Scarab Beetle is a member of the dung beetle family that likes to roll large balls of poop along behind them.

Not sure what this says, but I am going to assume that the message is scary.

Scary Egyptian beast at Jack-o-Lanter Spectacular in Providence Rhode Island

And if that isn’t scary enough, maybe this Egyptian beastie is. I’d have no desire to meet up with it on a dark night, or a sunny day, as far as that goes.

Egyptian scene at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

A final Egyptian scene featuring a sphinx that was looking more scary than inscrutable. The camels are a nice touch.

Pumpkin with checkered past at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

This guy isn’t too scary until you think about his checkered past.

Angry pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

Okay, scary!

Pumpkins in trees at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

The small pumpkins staring down at us from up in the trees at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular definitely added a touch of spooky.

Scary ghost at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

As did this colorful ghost that I will conclude today’s post with.


NEXT POST: We will journey off to the beautiful but mysterious Far East.




A Spectacular Spooktacular… The Jack-o-Lantern Show of Providence, Rhode Island

Imagine 5,000 pumpkins at one show. This photo provides an idea of what the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular held annually in Providence, Rhode Island is like. Over the next seven days, I will feature pumpkins from the show as I do a count-down to Halloween.


Our son Tony and daughter-in-law Cammie had sent us photos last year of the pumpkin carving show in Providence, Rhode Island at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. And we had been impressed. It included some 5,000 carved pumpkins. They were everywhere— along the trails, out in small lakes, and up in trees. They ranged in size from small fellows that would easily fit into the palm of one hand up to gigantic guys that would require several grunting weight-lifters working together to pick up. And what a job of carving! While most were traditional, as those featured above, others were works of art.

This year, we were visiting Tony, Cammie and our grandsons at the time of the show and the kids were eager for us to go. They knew that we had hosted family pumpkin carving contests for over 20 years, that we loved to get up to our elbows in pumpkin seeds, and that we had a box full of carving tools. They also knew that I loved everything pumpkin: pumpkin pies, pumpkin scones, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies— you name it!

There was no hesitation on our part and the show was everything we hoped for— and more. Over the next seven days, I will feature pumpkins from the show. It was definitely a Spectacular Spooktacular. Happy Halloween!

Laughing skeletons welcomed us to the show.

Pumpkins ranged from this spectacular Saber Toothed tiger…

Fiery pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence

To this more traditional carving.

Dinosaur pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence

The art-carved pumpkins were divided into themes starting with dinosaurs..

Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular dinosaur series

Dinosaur series at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

This winking, toothy character caught my attention…

As did this goofy skull.

My partners on the pumpkin path… Our son Tony, Peggy, and grandsons Cooper, Chris and Connor. Tony’s wife, Cammie, was visiting with her dad in South Carolina.

NEXT POST: We will journey off to Egypt and meet a scary mummy.







The Fall Colors of Southern Oregon… Who Needs New England?

Having just returned from Connecticut where fall colors were yet to make an appearance in mid-October, I found this Big Leaf Maple all decked out in my back yard on the Applegate River in Southern Oregon.


Peggy and I have been in Connecticut for the past couple of weeks. We went back to visit with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids, but I also hoped to get in some serious leaf-peeping. New England is world-famous for its fall colors and we had once spent a month in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire during the height of the season. We wanted more!

It wasn’t to be. It had been a warm fall in Connecticut and the leaves were being stubborn. Just as we were preparing to leave, a few trees had started to turn, but it was nothing in comparison to what we had experienced. Maybe the states north of Connecticut were having better luck. We packed our bags, took Amtrak to Boston, and flew back home to Oregon.

As we dropped into Medford from Portland, I glanced down at the ground and was greeted with bursts of yellow and red. Apparently, our trees had decided to show us that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, that the trees in New England aren’t always more colorful than the trees out West.

The drive home through Jacksonville and up and over into the Applegate Valley was spectacular. I thought to myself, “Who needs New England?” And I vowed that my camera and I would be up early the next morning to capture some of the color. I started with our yard and then took the Upper Applegate River road to Highway 238 and down into Jacksonville, stopping at the McKee Covered Bridge, Valley View Winery, and a favorite hiking trail. I finished off in Jacksonville, which was simply riotous with color.

Fall morning, Applegate Valley, Oregon

I considered this sunrise on Thursday morning a good omen that I would catch lots of fall color in the Applegate River Valley and in Jacksonville, Oregon.

White oak leaf in Applegate Valley, Oregon

This white oak leaf greeted me as I walked up our road. It was past its prime and looking a bit beat up, but I promised it a place in my blog.

Big Leaf Maple in Jacksonville, Oregon

The Big Leaf Maples of Oregon never disappoint when it comes to fall. They consider it a responsibility to decorate our yard.

Big leaf maple in Southern Oregon

And a close up.

McKee Bridge on Applegate River, Southern Oregon

Hopping in our truck, I drove over to the McKee Bridge, about four miles away. Peggy and I attended the bridge’s hundredth anniversary this summer.

Applegate River in fall, Southern Oregon

I took this photo of the Applegate River from the bridge.

Fall tree near McKee Bridge on Applegate River, Oregon

And found another maple on the other side.

Valley View Winery in Applegate Valley, Oregon

Driving on, I stopped at the Valley View Winery to capture some grape leaves that were turning.

Fall colors along Jacksonville Trail in Oregon

This hiking trail is part of a system of trails around the town of Jacksonville.

Light and shadows in fall leaves, Jacksonville, Oregon

Shooting up through the leaves I caught this photo with its contrast of shadows and light.

Jacksonville Oregon Church in fall

You certainly might think this photo was taken in New England with its village church and fall look, but it was in Jacksonville.

Fall trees and Church in Jacksonville, Oregon

Another perspective.

Orange fall leaves in Jacksonville, Oregon

I’d put this tree up against any tree in the country for sheer, glowing color.

Red fall colors in Jacksonville, Oregon

Jacksonville, is filled with riotous colors. I wanted to capture them before the big storms that were coming in did.

Fall leaves on sidewalk in Jacksonville, Oregon

Leaving the beautiful leaves on the ground…

Fall leaves on grass in Jacksonville, Oregon

Or in the grass.

Black walnut tree in fall, Jacksonville, Oregon

A black walnut tree added a dash of yellow…

Fall tree in Jacksonville, Oregon

I didn’t know what this fellow with its long pods was, but I liked its exotic look.

Fall colors in Jacksonville, Oregon

Another stranger to me, but it belonged on my post.

Street lamp and fall cors in Jacksonville, Oregon

Convenient lamps always make fun props.

Halloween Bed and Breakfast in Jacksonville, Oregon

And finally, I’d be remiss not to add this reminder of the season. A Jacksonville Bed and Breakfast was having fun with the rapidly approaching Halloween.


NEXT POST: Our kids took us to the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island while we were visiting and spectacular it was with over 5.000 pumpkins ranging from traditional to art carving. Starting on Wednesday, I will do a daily countdown up until Halloween featuring some or our favorites. You will want to check this out.


The MAN Burns… Burning Man 2017: Part 15


The crowd on Burn Night, Burning Man 2017

70,000 people encircle the Man on burn night. Mutant vehicles can be seen lighting up the sky in the distance.


Call it a huge party, if you want. Or a solemn ceremony. It’s a bit of both— the one event at Burning Man that almost everyone attends. People begin wandering out to the Man early on Saturday evening while the best seats on the Playa are still available. These are prime, sit in the dirt seats, where you get to watch the whole show up close and personal, where you can feel the heat. Burners travel by foot, bike and mutant vehicles. They arrive as individuals and in large groups, often walking behind a leader who holds up a long, lit wand that everyone can see. A circle has been laid out around the Man to establish the boundary of how close people can sit. Only Black Rock Rangers, performers, firemen, and the specialists that oversee the burn are allowed inside. A sizable promenade lies just outside the seating zone. Beyond that, mutant vehicles rule, hundreds of them ranging in size from huge to small and ringing the man. Thousands of bikes are parked farther out. It’s important to remember where— and easy to forget.

The burn is carefully orchestrated with BMORG more or less doing the same things in the same order every year. It starts with an official parade out from Center Camp carrying the fire that will be used to light the Man. The fire has been burning all week in front of the Center Camp Café, lit by an Earth Mother (or is that earthy) who utilizes the sun and a mirror. There is always a band with the parade, people on stilts, and a cart that carries the fire. Next fire dancers perform within the circle, hundreds of them twirling and dancing in a dozen different ways. There were even fire-breathers this year, spitting out flame and then taking another gulp of fuel. Finally, it’s time for the Man to raise his arms and signal the beginning of the burn. Fireworks cascade down and then shoot out in all directions, working inward until the Man is bathed in flame. After that, Burners watch and wait until the Man and the structure that holds him fall into the fire. A moment of silence, followed by a huge roar greets the fall. Then it is back to Black Rock City to party the night away, or join the long line of Burners heading home, often taking 4-6 hours to make it the five miles to the road.

I parked my bike at the Center Camp Café this year and walked out to the Man, following the Dixie Land band, stilt walkers and fire cart. Monitors made sure I kept my distance. I arrived well before the fire dancers started, so I strolled the promenade, walking in a full circle around the Man, and taking photos. Noise ruled. Dozens of mutant vehicles blasted music and fire into the night. Hundreds, if not thousands of people danced. Others scrambled for seats or simply walked the circle like me, checking out the elaborate costumes that Burners wore and the brightly lit mutant vehicles. I stopped to watch people dance and moved a bit myself, before moving on. A young man hit on me, emphasizing how he liked the company of older men. I made a not so graceful exit. By the time I had completed my walk, the fire dancers were strutting their stuff. It was too late to sit, but I found a good location to stand and watch the show. The dancers finished, the fireworks filled the night sky, and the fired burned. I left before the last of the structure came tumbling down.

Stilt walkers on way to lighting of the Man, Burning Man 2017

People on stilts are part of the parade that takes the fire out to the Man. It’s a long walk.

Fire cart on way to light Man at Burning Man 2017

The fire to light the Man is carried in a cart. The Man looks on from inside the Temple of the Golden Spike.

Distant shot of fire dancers, Burning Man 2017

I was too far out to get a good shot of the fire dancers, but there were hundreds of them performing all around the circle.

Golden Spike shoots out fireworks, Burning Man 2017

When the Man raises his arms, the fireworks display starts with a bang. Here they were shooting out from the golden spike.

Man shoots out fireworks at Burning Man 2017

Even the Man gets into the act, shooting out flames.

Fireworks on Burn night 4, Burning Man 2017

Soon, fireworks fill the sky.

Fireworks on burn night, Burning Man 2017

Fireworks on Burn night 3, Burning Man 2017

Burn night 2, Burning Man 2017

A large boom created this effect.

Temple of Golden Spike shoots flames into the air, Burning Man 2017

Before long, everything is engulfed in flame.

Burning of Temple of Golden Spike at Burning Man 2017

And then, only the structure remained with a vacant space where the Man once stood. It was time for me to leave.

I was back at camp being fed a feast by my new friends from Nevada City when someone came by and told us that a man had jumped into the fire, eluding officials who had tried to stop him. He died the next day at the UC Med Center in Sacramento. It saddened me; for the person, of course, but also for the people who had tried so hard to stop him, for his friends and family, for the thousands who were still at the burn, and for the event itself. I was ever so thankful I had left early.

I stayed through Sunday, attended the Temple burn, and was up by 3:30 on Monday morning making my way over the dusty, bumpy road out of Burning Man. It only took an hour. Another year was behind me. The sun lit the horizon over the desert as I drove the 60 miles between Gerlach and Interstate 80. Its beauty reminded me of how precious life is— and how privileged we are to be here and enjoy it.

View leaving Burning Man 2017

NEXT POST: In search of fall colors, I head to New England but find them at home. After that: A Halloween Extravaganza!





The MAN… Burning Man 2017: Part 14

Full view of Man at Burning Man 2017

The Man, as far as I know, has always stood on his own at Burning Man. This year he was located in a structure called the Temple of the Golden Spike.


I’ve never seen the Man enclosed in a building before. This year was a first; it changed his look. The reason made sense. The theme was Radical Ritual and one of Burning Man’s longest rituals has been to choose the Man’s location first each year and then build everything else on the Playa and in Black Rock City around him. The organization starts with pounding a ‘golden spike’ into the ground where the Man will be located, thus the name of the structure: the Temple of the Golden Spike.  It came with a long golden spike on top. I found the setting rather attractive.

I stopped by to pay my respects to the Man several times this year: in the evening, the morning, the day, and the night. And, of course, I was there on Saturday evening, the night the Man traditionally burns in a ceremony that serves as a climax for the week-long festival. I’ll divide this post into two parts. The first will feature the Man during the week; the second, which I will put up on Saturday, will focus on burn night.

Evening view of Temple of Golden Spike, Burning Man 2017

I made my first trip out to the Man when I arrived on Wednesday evening. The sun had just set. The tower on top represents the ‘golden spike’ that Burning Man pounds into the ground to serve as the central point from which Black Rock City is planned each year.

Man looks over edge at Temple of Gplden Spike, Burning Man 2017

Here, the Man peers out from the second story of the structure.

Looking up at Man in Temple of the Golden Spike, Burning Man 2017

Burners could either enter the building on the ground floor and look up at the man…

Man in Temple of Golden Spike at night, Burning Man 2 2017

Seen here at night…

Man in Temple of Golden Spike in evening, Burning Man 2017

Or admire him from the second floor, which also provided views of the Playa, Black Rock City and the desert.

Man in Temple of Golden Spike at night 3, Burning Man 2017

Another shot of the Man from outside the Temple. He’s come a long way from when he was first burned in San Francisco on Baker Beach in 1986.

Gongs in Temple of Golden Spike, Burning Man 2017

Gongs inside the temple provided a meditative sound.

Temple of Golden Spike is prepared for burning, Burning Man 2017

Visiting hours are closed as of Saturday when crews load the Man and structure up with fireworks in preparation for the Saturday night burn.


NEXT POST: The Man burns.




A 180,000 Pound Sculpture, A Giant Puppet, and Lots of Other Art… Burning Man 2017: Part 11

Euterpe is a giant teenage puppet who walks and talks. I found her resting on her bed. The artist is Miguel Angel Martin Bordera from Spain. The bicycle provides perspective.


I am wrapping up my coverage of Burning Man art today. Only the Man remains. This post will be mainly photos. Enjoy.

Gravity sculpture at Burning Man 2017

Zachary Coffin has been to Burning Man several times with his massive art. This year he brought a large steel dome with five arms, each of which supported a 15,000 pound block. Climbing was welcome and encouraged!

Múcaro sculpture at Burning Man 2017

Meet Múcaro, a 30 foot tall wise owl created by El NiNO from Los Angeles.

Múcaro close up, Burning Man 2017

A close-up.

Phoenix Rising out of Playa, Burning Man 2017

Another bird of legendary fame, the Phoenix rises out of the Playa.This sculpture was created by Nicholas Palmer from South Lake Tahoe, California.

Phoenix Rising sculpture at Burning Man 2017

From the other side. The Tree of Ténéré can be seen in the background.

Efflorescence at Burning Man 2017

Inspired by the Flaming Lotus Girls from San Francisco, the Blazin’ Lily Gals from Calgary, Canada brought 13-foot-tall metal flowers that shot fire into the air and named their work Efflorescence.

Efflorescence close up, Burning Man 2017

A close up of one of their flowers.

Noetica at Burning Man 2017

The Flaming Lotus Girls have been providing art to Burning Man for years. This year’s piece was named Noetica.

XOXO 3 Burning Man 2017

Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg are also regulars at Burning Man and return year after year with large letters that usually spell out words. This year it was XOXO, hugs and kisses.

XOXO 4 Burning Man 2017

Another perspective.

Shadowy love at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This sculpture by Laura and Jeff from 2014 provided a bit of hope for the people of Sonoma and Napa Counties being ravaged by fires over the past week. Being part of the Paradise Ridge Winery sculpture collection, it was still standing after the fire had burned through the area and has now gone viral on the Internet.

Daruma by Angela Chang Burning Man 2017

Small but quite interesting, this is a Japanese Daruma Doll that is used to set goals by painting in the eyes. The writing on the chest is Japanese for ‘enter good fortune.’ Angela Chang from Los Angeles is the artist.

Dancing Electricity, Burning Man 2017

Electricity danced between two poles.

Hurry Up Slowly, Burning Man 2017

Hurry Up Slowly by Freetown Christiania of Copenhagen, Denmark was a giant wooden snail.

Aluna sculpture, Burning Man 2017

Aluna by Juan David Marulanda-López and Team Aluna from Bogotá, Colombia was designed to be a reflection of itself.

ILUMINA with chairs at Burning Man 2017

ILUMINA by Pablo Gonzalez Vargas of Mexico City changed colors, vibrated, and talked to Burners. Here it is during the day with a set of futuristic chairs. The temple can be seen in the distance.

ILUMINA at night, Burning Man 2017

Lit up at night.

ILUMINA lit up by burning Temple, Burning Man 2017_edited-1

The night the Temple burned, ILUMINA was lit up by the fire. It serves as a fitting end for today’s post.


NEXT BLOG: The Man at Burning Man and his fiery end.








The Trees of Black Rock City… Burning Man 2017: Part 12

Nighttime view of Tree of Ténéré , Burning Man 2017

The Tree of Ténéré with its 15,000 leaves lit up at night by LED lights that changed color.


It seems strange to talk about the trees in the Black Rock Desert. The Playa stretches out to the distant mountains, flat and featureless, immense in its nothingness. But this year’s theme, Radical Ritual, encouraged a number of artists to imagine trees in the desert. And they imagined some very interesting ones. They ranged from Methuselah, a 4,848-year old Bristle Cone Pine that lives in the White Mountains of California, 325 miles south of Black Rock City, to the Tree of Ténéré, a solitary acacia that was once described as the most isolated tree on earth and lived some 7000 miles from Burning Man in the vast Sahara Desert of northern Niger.

Looking out from Burning Man across the treeless Black Rock Desert playa.

Tree of Ténéré at night, Burning Man 2017

This close up of Ténéré provides a view that shows some of the 175,000 LED lights that decorated the tree. Artists and technologists from around the world were invited to help develop the software that controlled the lighting and provided ever-changing light shows. The tree was also designed for climbing, capable of accommodating up to 60 climbers at one time.

Tree of Ténéré at Burning Man 2017

The Tree of Ténéré on the Playa provided shade from the burning sun for Burners in much the same way its namesake did in the Sahara Desert for Tuareg wanderers where the tree stood for decades by itself in hundreds of square miles.

Methuselah at Burning Man 2017

Methuselah of Biblical fame, was said to have lived to the ripe old age of 969, passing away just a few weeks before the Great Flood that his grandson built the Ark for. Reputedly, the oldest man ever, he was a mere youngster in comparison to Methuselah the Bristle Cone Pine, which, up until recently, was considered the oldest tree in existence. (A 5,000 year old Bristle Cone Pine has been found.)

Methuselah in balack and white, Burning Man 2017

A different view rendered in black and white. The twisted metal of the tree reflects the twisted wood of the actual tree. Peggy and I have visited Methuselah in its natural setting in the White Mountains and wandered among the ancient trees in a radical ritual of our own.

Sysimetsä was a poignant reminder of the forest fires that have been plaguing the West for the past several years. Put together by artists from Lake County in Northern California, it was a memorial to a fire that had destroyed their county and the Raven’s Landing Art Space in 2015. As I walked through the display at Burning Man, fires were threatening my home in Southern Oregon. As I write today, the terrible conflagration that has destroyed so much of California’s beautiful wine country and taken numerous lives, still rages.

Crows in trees, Sysimetsä at Burning Man 2017

Trees left naked by the Lake County fire were brought to Burning Man to create this sculpture. Ravens, representing the Raven’s Landing Art Space that was burned down by the fire, roost in the trees.

Sysimetsä crow at Burning Man 2017

A close-up.

Crow in Black and White, Sysimetsä at Burning Man 2017

Rendered in black and white by me, I wanted to capture the bleakness of areas that have been burned.

Sysimetsä at Burning Man 2017

The center piece of the Sysimetsä sculpture represented a different message, life rising out of the flames and the ashes, being regenerated by both nature and humans.

Malcolm Tibbett’s’, Wood Carver’s Dream, reminded me of the beauty of wood. This gracefully curving art piece is made up of wood from a number of different tree species reflecting their different colors, textures and grains. As Tibbetts notes on his Web site, “Segmented woodturning is an art form with few limitations. By combining components, I can create just about any shape or size and by arranging different wood species, I can create just about any type of surface design. There are few art forms with this much freedom.”

A Wood Turner's Dream at Burning Man 2017

Tibbetts’ creation seen from a distance. Wind is whipping up a dust storm on the Playa, reminding me that it is time to head back to camp.

A Wood Turner_s Dream close up at Burning Man 2017

A closer look.

Machina Naturale by Dave Boyer from Reno, Nevada brings us forward in time to a kinetic wind sculpture that resembles a tree and captures the wind, mimicking, or bringing together our natural and mechanical worlds.

Macchina Naturale at Burning Man 2017

Machina Naturale with its tree-like look and kinetic wind sculpture.

Looking up at Macchina Naturale, Burning Man 2017

Looking up.

It isn’t hard for me to imagine trees as being sacred, to understand how they have been involved in humankind’s rituals down through the ages. The heat from their fires provided warmth, a means of cooking, and a way to keep wild animals at bay on dark nights for ancient peoples. Spreading limbs and leaves provided shelter from rain, snow and hail— and the wood itself was used for making shelters. Many trees provided food necessary for survival. And finally, there is the awe that the size and beauty of trees can bring.

Giant redwood tree at Redwoods National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

How could one not feel awe when confronted by giant redwoods in their cathedral-like setting. This beauty is a couple of hours away from our home.

Peggy stands next to one of the giants.

Closer to home, we found our own sacred cove of virgin timber while out backpacking this summer, about eight miles from where we live.







The Sacred Temple of Black Rock City… Burning Man 2017: Part 11

Temple at Burning Man 2017

The 2017 Temple at Burning Man with its Black Rock Desert playa and mountain setting.


Peggy and I watched with dismay as several of the stately Ponderosa Pine trees on our property in Southern Oregon teetered on the edge of death, victims of pine beetles and the drought brought on by global warming. It is a story told over and over in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada where the US Forest Service reports that over a hundred million trees have suffered a similar fate.

This year’s Temple at Burning Man was a reflection on the devastation caused by global warming. The Temple was made from trees that had died. The write up on the Burning Man site described the structure of the temple:

Interlocking timber pieces in formation become a Temple that is both cloud and spire; inverted pyramidal columns suggest the negative-space of a forest canopy, simultaneously supporting a vast pagoda-like ‘cloud’ framework which in turn supports a central spire. In this way disorder gives way to harmony, and a group of dying trees is re-ordered into a cathedral of timbers stretching toward the sky.

Temple view at Burning Man 2017

The forest holding up a canopy of clouds and the spire

Side view of Temple at Burning Man 2017

Another perspective.

Temple view, Burning Man 2017

Looking up at the Temple’s central spire.

The Temple is not a religious edifice, like a church,  but it is a spiritual refuge. Burners come to mourn those who have passed on and seek peace. Thousands of messages are left for loved ones. I always make a point of working my way through the temple while enjoying the sense of peace, reading the messages, and quietly supporting those who mourn.

People inside Temple at Burning Man 2017

Burners gather for a period of quiet meditation.

Messages in Burning Man Temple, 2017

Thousands of messages are left for loved ones. The majority of these messages are written but photos and items of importance to those who have died are often included.

Mermaid Cello in Temple at Burning Man 2017

I would have liked to have known the story behind this cello, angel, mermaid.

It is never too late, Burning Man Temple 2017

More generic messages are included as well.

Change sign at Burning Man Temple 2017

Trans Lives Matter, Burning Man Temple 2017People also leave messages for their four legged friends that have died. The memorials almost always include photos and often include favorite toys, like a well-loved tennis ball. I am always moved by these memorials but I was particularly touched by the written memorial to Kozmo this year, as I am sure you will be.

Kozo memorial at Burning Man Temple, 2017

Meet Kozmo and then read his story below.

Memorial to Kozmo the cat at Temple, Burning Man 2017

Rama with tennis ball memorial at Burning Man Temple 2017

Rama and his well-loved tennis ball.

Toe Licker the Cat memorial at Burning Man Temple, 2017

Toe-Licker. I can almost feel that raspy tongue.

Memorial to cat at Burning Man Temple, 2017

And how can you not love this decorated cat. I remember putting reindeer antlers on our cat at Christmas and receiving a similar look of, “Really, do we have to do this?”

The Temple is always burned on Sunday in a solemn ritual that sends the messages skyward and provides an element of peace for those left behind. For once, the always boisterous, always noisy Burning Man is silent. The music has stopped, the dancing has stopped, the drinking has stopped; there is only silence and respect broken occasionally by the sound of someone crying or calling out the name of a loved one who has passed on.

People watch silently as Temple burns at Burning Man 2017

Flames shoot high at 2017 Temple burn at Burning Man

Final stages of Temple burn, Burning Man 2017

Sparks fly skyward from Temple at Burning Man 2017

I always feel like the sparks represent messages sent on their way.


NEXT POST: More sculptures from Burning Man 2017 with a special focus on trees in honor of the world’s remaining forests.