Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Bees Knees

I remember summers when I was little.  There were lots of bees.  Bees were part of the regular day when you were playing outside.  We weren't afraid of bees, they weren't likely to take any notice of you, they would buzz around on the flowers and plants.  Busy as a bee is a classic phrase, but in the abundance of plant life on the farm, the bees were actually kinda lazily buzzing about... maybe their little pollen carriers were full, but they didn't seem to be frantically working.  They would land on something, buzz buzz buzz in a little bee dance, and fly off.

But something happened to the bees.  Bee colonies collapsed to the extent that scientists are worried there won't be enough pollinators to keep the crops going that feed the world.  The near catastrophic collapse of bee colonies in 2007 was linked to a combination of all of the pesticides used today, bee parasitites (mites), pathogens, and habitat loss.  I have noticed the absence of bees when outside for several years now.

Walking home from Bear Paw, I thought I would take a picture of the little purple flowers on the corner of my street.  As I stopped to take in the flowers, the motion of a little bee caught my eye!
I was delighted to see  not one, but four different bees buzzing around on my block,

THESE bees, were busy bees.  They didn't sit still for photos, and they scurried over the flowers in a mad bee frenzy, an impressive speed since they were up to their knees in the lawn of fuzz on the flower.  Yes, that's right, I just referenced bees knees.

This little bee didn't really like the giant human lingering nearby.  It chose the furtherest flower possible and did it's best to avoid my lens.

There's a lot I didn't know about bees.  Sure, everyone wonders if they have knees.  But how about this...did you know they have tongues?  I don't know why but I never pictured bees with tongues, but they do indeed have them.  I had never noticed the detail in their little translucent wings before either.

I am used to their fuzzy striped little black and yellow stripes through.  Not sure I ever stared close enough to note the little antennae before, even though I knew they were there.

This little sweety was just in heaven in this bouquet, and he wiggled happily between the blossoms and the buds.  Again, those little wings are just fantastic.  The bee pictures in my National Geographic article were a little sad...I think these are much better.  They look much cuter and happir here...maybe they just like Alaska a lot too.

Bees have really big eyes...did you know that?  I do now.  That little bald patch on the legs -- that is normal on honeybees.  Other neat stuff about bees -- so they have a tongue and jaw for chewing...but no nose for smelling.  They smell with their antennae.  Do they use the jaw and tongue to communicate like us?  Nope.  Bees communicate primarily through interpretive dance.  The fundaments of bee speech are the round dance, and the waggle dance, both used to discuss food mainly.   Round dance is about food within 50 meters.  Waggling is when the tasty goods are 150 meters away.  The length of dance increases with the distance...more time needed to give directions I guess.

Other cool stuff about bees -- the difference between a queen and a worker bee is how the larvae are fertilized...worker bees are haploid and future queens start out as diploid.  A queen can lay 2000 eggs a day...yet we are still short on bees which shows we are really messing up this world.  Those bee wings are not just used for flying...they use them as fans in the hive when its hot.

How long does a bee live?  Well, it depends.  A queen honeybee could live up to 3 years of age.  Most of her worker bees and drones will only live 6 weeks, or 4 months, a year max, all dependent on their role in the colony.  What happens to them in the winter?  Do they freeze and die?  Migrate to Mexico like butterflies?  No.  They huddle together in the hive and shiver...all winter long...keeping the queen safe and warm from the constant vibration of their little bee bottoms and and wings...each bee rotating to the outside so that no bee stays cold for long.  Bees are awesome.  What can you do to help bees?  The obvious is donate to bee specific charities like the Pollinator local produce, buy organic.  But what should be even more obvious is even simpler.  Buy some outdoor plants and flowers.  A flowerbox will give the bees some food, a food source safe from pesticides and spray, and beautify your world as well.  If you are lucky, you will get a few birds stopping in as well.  I am far I just have non flowering greens in my 4th attempt at turning my flowerbox into a hummingbird garden...perhaps I just have to wait for the bees to show up and help them bloom.

That's it for today Bee kind...especially to bees, it's a rough world for them nowadays.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bear Paw

Eagle River has a little summer festival of it's own....they call it Bear Paw.  It's quite different from Forest Fair, but takes on the tone of the town.  This is not hippieville...this is frontier suburbia.  Bear Paw is more commercial than crafts, its tents selling everything from solar panels to postcards.  It is hosted on the sidewalks and streets of town, rather than off road in a wooded patch.  It also conveniently happened just a couple of blocks from my house, so I could pop over for a few minutes and check it out.

I somehow managed to miss the chainsaw carving competition, but I did arrive for the dog and owner look alike contest.  There were a couple of St. Bernard's content to be in a convent, or happy to be a nun on the run if the moment were to present itself.

This young lady and her mini me stated that they ere just a couple of nerds, and happy to be besties.

This puppy mom donned so wings so her little guy named Flutter could flitter about and vie for best dressed dog at Bear Paw.

This kid and bulldog actually did kinda look alike.  The kid was a real ham onstage too...the puppy turned out to respond to commands better...but the kid was an audience pleaser and he took his bows, and gave himself 3 or 4 encores before they could coach him off the stage.

Eagle River is a military town, with military families, and that loyalty runs deep...even the family sheepdog is proud to wear fatigues.

This boy and his dog love nothing more than hanging out with daddy...who is  painter.

And a pug in a wonderwoman suit?  I don't even NEED words to make that awesome.

This future doctor looks ready to see his first patients with mom.

And this little girl, well both of them, they like fashion and the color purple.

This beagle needs no costume to help dad scout for a photo opportunity.

And after that, there was still time to stop for nibbles at the Bushnell Salmon Bake off!  I had some tasty salmon dip, and got scouted myself.  As the chef scooped me up some of his dip, a lady leaned in and said "He's handsome, he cooks, and he's the hottest real estate agent in town."  "Are you his mom?" I asked.  "Yes," she said sheepishly as the handsome, successful, good cook tried to disappear into the fabric of his tent.  Made my smile, and that's all one needs on a good day off work.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Happy Feet

Further to my photography goals at Forest Fair, a new endeavor took shape.  I needed to a) stay dry and therefore remain in a static location, and b) not be overtly creepy by taking a bunch of head shots without permission.  While it's allowed, it didn't feel right.  Besides, these people had some pretty interesting things going on below eye level...Forest Fair footwear is an art of its own.

This flowing white full length skirt is the perfect example.  I loved the way the skirt flowed and gave the shoe surprise that went with this classic skirt.  What footwear should a Forest Maid wear?  Rubber boots with blue stars and script of course.

I started looking around and realized that Alaskans collect a special type of footwear.  In Bermuda, I had rows and rows of open toe, strappy, glitzy heels and sandals.  I may have to change my footwear accessories from rhinestone to rubber if Forest Fair is a good example of fashion days to come.  This lady is rocking out the rock star skinny jeans with green rubber boots with a puppy print.  I have to say it has a natural flair to it.

I didn't realize the wide array of possibilities for finding just the right rubber boot before this day.  I kept my eyes out for cat boots, but never did see a pair.

It wasn't all flamboyant on the feet...sometimes if the skirt was crazy enough, the boots would be a little more neutral.

However, the hardcore hippies were having no part of fancy footwear.  They let their feet run naked through the woods, which contributed to the overall effect of crazy wild forest guy.

This photo catches rubber boots, flip flops, and cowboy boots in conversation together.  A few stars and stripes for the 4th of July weekend, and some red, white,  Why not...anything goes at Forest Fair.

I kind of get the skirts and rubber boots....staying fashionable but keeping it practical.  Not quite sure the open back leather half man shoes and skirts were a success.

Every once in a while the outfit was too much, even for Forest Fair.  This Hawaii hippie print with triple layered fringed suede boots had me too confused to come up with  a funny commentary.  There was briefly something about hula dancing woolly mammoths...but i lost the thought in the chaos of the outfit passing by.

photo by Sharon Vernon

Here's the best dressed couple of Forest Fair Footwear.  Granted she saves him a bit with her awesome and unique boots, but the his and her look of red socks and skirts, the stance, and intertwined fingers makes this a Forest Fest Fave!

Now THESE boots were made for walking.  Walking into stuff if the bandages  on the thigh are correct.  These boots brought the sexy back to Forest Fair.  I doubt they kept the feet dry without sufficient rain deflecting clothing above the calf, so while sloshing around through puddles with water squishing between your toes inside your sexy boot gets you on the best dressed (or best partially dressed) list, it isn't on the practical list.  Good look though.

Now this set really caught my eye.  This woman woke up and said "I am going to spend the day in the my red leather boots."  That says something.  Every girl should have a pair of red shoes...oh the stories that revolve around my red Dior heels could have a blog of their own (they have made cameo's in the odd Bermuda leaving video, some desperate women crawled under a table and tried to pry off my foot once, they may or may not have been the root of at least one international legendary shopping incident,  they may have been kidnapped by a crazy customs lady for a weekend before delivery, and I got several tourist comments about how amazing it was that my scooter matched my shoes).  The point is, red shoes are an awesome accessory.  Red boots don't come up that often.  Footloose is the only pop culture reference off the top of my head.  So these boots get on the Forest Fair path of footwear fame.

In the movie Back to the Future, they travel from 1985 to 2015.  This could be what happened in the image below.  Madonna may or may not have hopped in the Delorian with Michael J Fox midway through her Like a Virgin tour and landed in Girdwood Alaska, July 5, 2015.  There really is no other explanation.

photo by Sharon Vernon
That's the end of the freakiest feet of forest fair.  Hippies and kids, wellies and heels, rain and sun, Forest Fair is worth a look.  Next year I will make plans to stay for more than one afternoon.  Add this into your summer tour of Alaska!


Sprite:  noun 1.  an elf or fairy.  synonyms:  fairy, elf, pixie, imp, brownie, puck, peri, leprechaun, sylph, naiad.  By the light of the moon the woodland sprites do dance and play.

That is a pretty close enough definition for the next set of pictures.  It sounds a lot better than rugrats unleashed at hippie fest...and there was no moonlight because this is the land of the midnight sun...but there was dancing and the forest...and in the rain.

This first photo is one I just love.  People standing in the rain, listening to the tunes, just hanging out getting wet.  This little girl in her vivid raincoat, riding on dad's shoulders, quietly observing everything, her little fingers trying to pinch raindrops.  She didn't make a peep...neither complaining of the rain or delighting in it...just a little forest bug quietly enjoying it all. 

This little girl was delighting in the festival mood and alternated between skipping and stomping along in her sneakers and veils and flowers and frills...topped off with a magic wand.

There was something comical about this little lady.  I have always maintained that kids are pretty much born who they are going to be.  I became convinced of this watching my own nieces and nephews grow -- over the years, the expressions on their faces remain the same.  Perplexed at 3 months has the same raised brow as perplexed at 16 years old.  They grow, choices take them on certain paths than you might have imagined, but when a certain look crosses their face you know exactly what they are feeling...because you have seen that look their whole lives.  This little girl screams determination to me.  I got the sense that at least part of this look was of her choosing, and it's pretty rock and roll for a toddler.  I kind of hope she keeps the look.  It was also cute watching her size up a tree stump just about her height and watch her struggle to get to the top, kicking and wiggling until she was triumphant.

I have a feeling in 10 years she will be the one on stage.

This to me is "Little Boy Lost."  He looks the part of a hippie vagabond, weary and soulful.  He is trailing hippie grandma and grandpa, but I think he was ready for a nap.

Every once in a while the kids could wrestle a hula hoop away from the adults and have a little fun.  This little girl had high aspirations of hula dancing and spinning and jumping all at the same time...fortunately she has a few years to fine tune the skills, but she was sure having fun!

 And what is a generation without....Batman!  Fortunately this little dude was around to keep things in line.  Nobody was going to mess with his popcorn.

There were a lot of tweens about as well. They managed to make Forest Fair a little more punk.

I call these Trippies...Trainee Hippies.

So many spirited sprites in the woods that weekend.  I am sure there are many more tales to tell.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

People of the Forest

Leaving your camera in the car when you expect to be standing in a constant drizzle of rain for the next several hours is a good idea.  Yet, the moment I walked by a woman furiously hula hooping in an open back gold lame jumpsuit that somehow reminded me of Star Wars, I realized that I had made a grave mistake and found myself pining for my camera, a solid mile away in the trunk of my car.  So I was kind of relieved when Sharon offered me her camera from the protection of the Keul FM booth.  However, I was still kind of in a fixed point due to the rain, so had to wait for the entertainment to come to me.  It felt too creepy to take pictures of people unawares, so I had a little fun trying to catch the spirit of the people, without actually photographing them head on.  For example, there were a few wise souls who brought their hippiest umbrellas.

A lot of the modern age flower children didn't mind the rain, and didn't even bother to put their hoods up.  Maiden or modern day hipster, they stand hand in hand at Forest Fair.

In true hippie style, love was in the air, and lots of couples were cuddling under their umbrellas.  There was a lot of smooching and hand holding going on...the love vibe is alive and well.

There is something to be said for practicality.  This woman may be wearing a giant sandwich bag, but unlike me, she does not have pneumonia a week later.

Bride of nature?  Wood nymph?  Mystic sprite?  So many flowered headdresses I didn't know who was what.

A couple of psychedelic frogs were enjoying the show from the booth.  I am sure they look more innocent when viewed from outside the booth, but I found myself wondering about the volunteer who set up the booth from my angle.

This lady was camouflaged well enough to blend right in with the local flora.

And the crafts were awesome.  I bought some advance Christmas gifts.  I also almost bought these 'wee winkies' because they were so cute....and so soft...and because saying wee winkies makes me smile.  

Saturday stayed pretty damp at Forest Fair.  Even though I left around supper time, I am pretty sure the party went long into the night.  Even this wooden bear statue...

...looked a little more tripped out by Sunday morning as evidenced in the photo below.

photo by Sharon Vernon
My friend Sharon is a big supporter of Forest Fair, and this blog, so she carried on with the themes I started on her camera on Sunday.  She was bold enough to get a few awesome head on shots as well.  This is a pretty conservative look for forest fair -- don a sunglass wearing bear head hat on top of what would otherwise double as a "Heidi" costume (think Swiss Alps and yodelling), and spice it up with your favorite cowboy boots and accessorize with a fur wrapped least i think that's a cello...and then rock your heart out on stage.

photo by Sharon Vernon
Imagine waking up, wondering what you were going to wear to Forest Fair, and coming up with this next outfit.  It leaves me extremely curious about what else is in that closet.  I am willing to bet he has Mr. DressUp's whole Tickle Trunk in there.  And I am dying to know what didn't make the cut that day.  I have seen a few episodes of Fashion Police...I think they could do a Forest Fair Segment and the ratings would go through the roof!
Photo by Sharon Vernon
A picture is worth a thousand words.  In this case, I need a thousand words to understand how this photo came to be, in 2015, in a quiet mountain town in Alaska.  It's quite the paradox when you put it in that perspective.  My Fashion Police commentary -- BeetleJuice remake.  But seriously, being a bit crazy is part of the Forest Fair experience, and in that respect, this guy gets an A+.

photo by Sharon Vernon

If Sharon meant go get an iconic Forest Fair feel photo, she did it here.  I think a man in a dog mask wearing a tutu while hula hooping with children under the blissful and wreathed gaze of a carved wooden bear visually sums up the quirkiness of Forest Fair.  The colors reflect the vibrancy felt in the air, a moment where young and old take time out to play, where conventional is replaced for unconventional, people dance like no one is watching (even though they totally know everyone is watching), and life pulses to the main stage beat for one magical weekend in the woods of Girdwood.

photo by Sharon Vernon