Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Flowering Jordan Calendar~March 2013

Yep, more flowers. It's March, after all.


Friday, March 08, 2013

Come Celebrate Spring...

For my nearby friends:

I am glad for the chance to promote the beautiful flora of Jordan--an what better time of year!--and to promote the exquisite carved olive wood products of Glad Tidings Holy Land Designs. Their workers, underprivileged and deaf Jordanians, produce the finest olive wood products I've seen in Jordan.

This should be a fun time, and goodness knows, I have plenty to say about the wildflowers of Jordan!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

and Just a Little More Meandering

We spent Saturday in Jerash visiting with friends, and in the late afternoon met the bus which was bringing Tayta back from her youth retreat. It was another beautiful day so Dear Husband took a couple side-roads on our way back to Mafraq. Carpe Diem in the modus operandi in Jordan when it comes to enjoying the spring landscapes.

Anemone coronaria (Crown Anemone)

Overlooking the Jabbok River Valley

And a little bonus: my first sighting of Orchis sancta. I did have to untangle it from the Sarcopoterium spinosum which it was growing in the midst of.

Orchis sancta (Holy Orchid)

Monday, March 04, 2013

Meandering Around the Countryside, Part II~Um Qais

Upon enjoying the beauty of Thursday's meander around the countryside, Dear Husband and I decided to get out on Friday in search of more fresh, green landscapes, short-lived as they are in Jordan. We headed north on the road from Mafraq to Irbid, and then continued north into the countryside.

As we began descending a hill and on a road that wound between more limestone hills dotted with oaks, Dear Husband commented that we might be getting close to the Jordanian-Syrian border and would need to turn back. Just after he said this we rounded a bend and found ourselves at a check-point. Though the guards were polite, as we've always known Jordanian guards to be, these were the toughest looking border guards we had ever seen, and we've seen quite a few. We turned around, of course, and headed back up the hill. The landscape was so beautiful that I took a few pictures from the inside of our moving vehicle; We didn't think it a good time or place to stop the car or get out to take pictures.

Maybe it is my advancing age, but I am growing ever more aware of the beauty of trees. 

We decided to wander over to Um Qais, to see what wildflowers were blooming. We didn't go into the main ruins of Um Qais, another ancient decapolis city, but drove a a few kilometers north. This was the area where I first discovered, some ten years ago or so, the bounty of Jordan's flora. Some friends took us to an area which has been closed off as a security area for many years, but which has recently been opened after Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel. We picnicked in this area, in which we found ourselves waist deep in an incredible variety of wildflowers. The fields are grazed and degraded now that the area has been open for a number of years, though the view into the Golan Heights and to the Sea of Galilee is beautiful on a clear day.

A patch of bright yellow and chartreuse caught our eye, so this is where we stopped to explore.
The euphorbia and fennel (a shorter, clumpier variety, I think) grew in such a way from the extended ruins of the old city, that it looked as if someone had planned and planted a lovely rock garden.

Ferula (wild fennel)

Cerinthe palaestina (Honeywart)

But where was Dear Husband? Oh, there he is, over yonder, exploring more ruins.

We were a couple kilometers outside the restored ruins of Um Qais, so began to get an idea of how big this decapolis city once was.

The base of a column

A well preserved Corinthian capital

A closer look of the capital shows the carving of leaves from the acanthus plant. I found a couple acanthus plants, though not yet in bloom, growing nearby.

Edit: per a close look at my field guide, I would now identify the leaf below as belonging to the Syrian Artichoke plant, note the Syrian Acanthus--similar appearance, entirely different plant family.

I was surprised to find the Chrysanthemum already beginning to bloom as I have memories of visiting Um Qais in April and this flower being in full bloom, brightening the hills and the meadows surrounding the old city.

Chrysanthemum segetum (Corn Marigold)

Leaving the ruins, we stopped by the family home of our oldest and dearest Jordanian friend. We thought we would stop in for a quick hello, if our friend was there. It turns out he was still on the road from Irbid to Um Qais, but his brother saw us from the roof and came down to greet us. Once we were seen by his brother, it was if the drawbridge was drawn up--we were now "prisoners" to our friend's Jordanian hospitality, even though he wasn't even there yet. Dear Husband and I smiled at each other knowingly. Though we've lived in Jordan for many years, we were reminded that we are still foreigners and had not yet learned how to graciously extract ourselves from Jordanian hospitality. Though, as Dear Husband later commented, it is nice to experience the value of relationships and friendship in the Arab world.

Our friend arrived and we had a nice chat over first tea, then fruit, then coffee, before we were allowed to leave. Once on the road again, we determined to drive straight home as we had a Skype appointment with Oldest Daughter, and no time to spare lollygagging over more wildflowers, but as Dear Husband drove, I caught site of an extended blue patch of growth out of the corner of my left eye. Dear Husband, who has grown very forbearing, yea even interested and encouraging, turned the car around at the next possible place to make a U-turn, and headed back. I'm glad he did.

Lupinus varius (Lupine)

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Meandering Around the Countryside

Yesterday we drove along the country roads from Mafraq to Ajloun, taking Tayta to meet up with her friends for the annual youth retreat. It was a beautiful Spring-is-Just-Around-the-Corner day, so we decided to make a long afternoon of the trip, meandering at a relaxed pace to Ajloun and back, enjoying the exquisite beauty of early spring in northern Jordan.

The most notable sign of spring, besides the green hills, were the hundreds of almond trees that are at the peak of bloom, mixed in with the evergreen olive trees and the still winter-naked fig trees.

Almond~Amygdalus communis

The trees were thick with white and pinkish blossoms. Soon, produce stands and street vendors will be selling green almonds, a favorite spring treat in Jordan, but one of those acquired tastes I have yet to acquire.

The country roads we followed took us through a number of villages. I see many scenes that I'd like to photograph, but usually Dear Husband or I decide it wouldn't be appropriate. This door was on the edge a village and no people were around, so I took my chance. Dear Husband commented that the Google camera glasses might come in handy for photography in such situations in the future. Yes!

As we drove toward the old decapolis city of Jerash, we enjoyed more green hills and meadows bright yellow from the bloom of wild mustard. I spotted this lovely specimen of borage along the side of the road.

Alkanna strigosa

From Jerash we headed further north to Ajloun, to drop Tayta off at her youth retreat. When we arrived, the band was setting up and we had a nice chat with Layla, a retired Jordanian nurse who has run the conference center for years. Both Dear Husband and I felt a bit wistful as we left; we have wonderful memories of the years we helped with the youth group and youth retreats in Ajloun were highlights of those years. 

We purposed to take the long road home, in search of some more creation beauty, so when Dear Husband noticed a side road heading up to the tip-top of a hill, he decided to take it. We entered a lovely old oak forest, the kind where the oaks grow in more limestone than soil, weathered, sturdy, fixed.

There must be a dozen metaphors bound up in the roots of this old oak:

My imagination was captured by the beauty of the limestone bedrock.

Art quilt inspiration?

"...even the rocks will cry out..." Luke 19

Nestled  amongst the oaks, limestone, mosses, and ferns, was one beautiful species of wildflower, the dainty muscari at the peak of its bloom.

Muscari pulchellum ~Grape Hyacinth

While I'm wildflower-spotting, Dear Husband is ever on the lookout for ruins. He found the remains of a ancient road, the stones peaking out from under both edges of the asphalt.

We made our way back to Jerash and enjoyed a light supper at our favorite Lebanese restaurant. The baba ghanoush (smoked eggplant salad) was perfect, as was the shanklish, a dip/spread of salty goat cheese, chopped tomatoes, and onion. They were out of our favorite muhammara, so we substituted keskeh, a dip of thick yogurt, cracked wheat, walnuts, and of course, olive oil.

The sun was beginning to set as we left Jerash, and as we glanced over our shoulders we were treated to colors more glorious than those we experienced on hills and forests of the countryside.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."  Psalm 19

Such a lovely afternoon.