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January 14, 2017
by David Ryan
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Wandering into Pure Joy

Earlier this week the dogs and I headed south to spend an afternoon with birds. Surprisingly the Rio Grande valley in central New Mexico is the winter home of over ten thousand Sandhill cranes. Most of them can be found at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge about ninety minutes south of Albuquerque.

You can see birds all day long at the refuge, but main event occurs near dusk when wave after wave of cranes, snow geese, and other bird species in V-shape formations return to their roost after a long day of feeding. Seeing thousands of birds fly into the Bosque, seemingly out of nowhere, within a matter of minutes is a sight you’ll never forget.

On this week’s journey, we cut our drive short by forty-five minutes and pulled off of I-25 at the U.S. 60 / Bernardo exit. Just east of I-25 at this exit, the State of New Mexico has planted several hundred acres in corn with the sole purpose of feeding birds. And out of gratitude the birds have been happy to pack the fields and chomp away.

The "Waterfowl Management Area" is north of U.S. 60.

The “Waterfowl Management Area” is north of U.S. 60.

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The bubblers operate year round in Portland. Unfortunately they were turned off because of ice and snow when I took this picture.

December 22, 2016
by David Ryan
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Foot Friendly Portland

Many of the recent posts in this blog have pointed out characteristics, for example the “cream colored” brick buildings of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that help give that location a “sense of place.” For Portland, Oregon, that characteristic could be its “foot friendliness.” The city is compact; it has a great light rail, streetcar, and bus network; many of its neighborhoods have very high “walk scores”; and it is always easy to find a great place to walk. You can find several previous posts about walking in Portland by entering “Portland” in the search box.

Earlier this month, I had another opportunity to experience the “foot friendliness” of Portland. In the course of several walks with my grandson, daughter, and son in law, we found many items to add to why Portland is a great place to be on foot.

For starters, there is the newly opened (September 2015) Tilikum Crossing Bridge. It is the largest car-free bridge in the United States. It was built to accommodate a new streetcar and light rail route and has lanes for both pedestrians and bicycles. It is extremely attractive and is a great way to cross the Willamette River, even in the middle of an ice storm, without the noise of cars zooming by you.

As you can see, it was very snowy and icy day when my grandson and I walked across the bridge.

As you can see, it was a very snowy and icy day when my grandson and I walked across the bridge.

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This Buddhist temple used to be a Presbyterian church and is right door to the Catholic monastery.

November 27, 2016
by David Ryan
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Walking Through the Urban Landscape of a Chicago Neighborhood

If you happen to be driving through Chicago on one of its expressways, you can’t help but to notice the number of church steeples soaring above the surrounding trees and houses. There are so many of them that it seems like there could be a church on every block. The only way for you to find out for sure is to get out of your car and start walking.

When you do this, you’ll not only find an answer to your question; you’ll also have the opportunity to walk through the urban landscape to see what else you might notice. Your walk could give you some idea about the community’s geography, history, or culture. You might even spot something that you wouldn’t readily find anywhere else.

Last month while on a whirlwind trip through the Midwest to take some photographs to complement research that I have been doing on the urban landscape of various cities, my dog Petey and I did get off a Chicago expressway to see how close together those churches actually were. We spent a good part of a Saturday walking around an area not too far from the long-gone stockyards. One hundred years ago Chicago was in deed the “Hog butcher of the world” and meat packing along with the stockyards was one of its defining industries. Continue Reading →