Saturday, September 01, 2007

Out and about

Master Gardeners

I've been wanting for a long time to go check out the demonstration garden in Palo Alto. Glancing at the calender, I saw that they were offering a class, "Insects in the Garden: the good, the bad, and the ugly." It seemed the perfect opportunity. So we piled into the car and headed over.

The garden is beautiful. The class was interesting. They had lots of insects in jars to take a look at, and piles of little magnifying glasses to roam the garden with. I've never taken a magnifying class to a living plant before, and I saw plenty of miniature creatures whose existence I would never have suspected.

We also saw some lacewing eggs. I had just read about lacewing eggs a few nights previously:

I would burst suddenly into the house and startle the family with the news that the strange, spiky black caterpillars on the roses were not roses at all, but the young of lady-birds, or with the equally astonishing news that lacewing-flies laid eggs on stilts. This last miracle I was lucky enough to witness. I found a lacewing-fly on the roses and watched her as she climbed about the leaves, admiring her beautiful, fragile wings like green glass, and her enormous liquid golden eyes. Presently she stopped on the surface of a rose-leaf and lowered the tip of her abdomen. She remained like that for a moment and then raised her tail, and from it, to my astonishment, rose a slender thread, like a pale hair. Then, on the very tip of this stalk, appeared the egg. The female had a rest, and then repeated the performance until the surface of the rose-leaf looked as though it was covered with a forest of tiny club moss. The laying over, the female rippled her antennae briefly and flew off in a mist of green gauze wings.

--Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals
These lacewing eggs were not so prolific, but still amazing to view.

Unfortunately, heat and hunger gave us short attention spans, so we left early and headed over to the Cantor Arts Center, where we ate lunch and visited their exhibit

The Art of Being Touareg

We saw:

a tent -- the tent was beautiful in it's own right, but also interesting, because tents traditionally belong to the women. As the Touareg settle into houses, which are typically owned by men, the women are losing their property rights, and what was once a matrilineal society is changing.

silver work
There was a lot of silver jewelry, and two craftsmen on hand demonstrating their art. In addition to the jewelry, they had made several little silver animals that Ziad was very taken with.

veiled men -- the craftsmen were in traditional clothes, which include turbans and veils for the men. It's clear that these veils are an important protection for people who spend their lives in the harsh desert environment, and it really made me think about societies where this style of dress has morphed into a tool of oppression. If you've ever read Dune, these men looked like they could have stepped right out of its pages. I gather they mostly wear these clothes now when they are acting as cultural representatives to Westerners. It's too bad, because the robes are both elegant and impressive, giving them a real sense of presence.

modern applications -- there was a section showing fashion motifs taken from Touareg design elements.

Guess what? The air conditioning was too cold. We couldn't really linger as long as I would have liked. The exhibit is over now, but I would like to do some research and find out more about this culture.



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