Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Birds of Pompeii: LXXIX

Yesterday Terry took me to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science
which I regard as one of my most favorite places on this Earth.

The occasion?
An incredible temporary exhibit called A Day in Pompeii.

I cannot remember a time that I did not know the word "Pompeii" and what it meant.
I may have learned it from my mother who was passionate about world history and art.
I may have learned it while exploring my grandmother MacBeath's bookcase as a small child.

For sure I knew it by first grade
when I would run home from school, 
where I had read about Dick and Jane and Sally and Puff and Spot,
and dive into our encyclopedias,
The Book of Knowledge: Lands and Peoples, 
to explore the world.

I recognized no disconnect at the time.
It was what it was.
Seriously, who could not love Puff and Spot?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dick_and_Jane.jpg                                                            http://sidsmith.blogspot.com/2012/05/book-of-knowledge-i.html

In my young mind 
erupting Vesuvius and sudden death 
with the tragic and the  romantic
not in the sense of love, 
but in the sense of heroic, mysterious, remote, idealized, and adventurous.
I was entranced with Pompeii, and I still am.

Vesuvius Erupting August 24, LXXIX

One Death Among Thousands


One of the first things I saw in the exhibit, 
and most unexpected,
was a garden.
I had never understood how much the people of Pompeii loved their gardens.

And, even more unexpected, 
I learned they loved their birds.

Portion of a Garden Fresco from House of the Golden Bracelet

Portion of the Same Garden Fresco

and its nearly as well-known sister city in the disaster, 
are famous for their beautiful and lifelike frescos,
often found on the walls of buildings that were buried in volcanic ash and mud. 

Fresco is an ancient technique for painting large murals.  
Artists used water-based pigments to paint on fresh or wet lime plaster.
The pigments sink into the wet plaster
and create glowing colors
that are very different from those 
obtained by applying pigments to dry plaster.
The earliest known fresco-like paintings were created some 30,000 years ago 
in the Chauvet cave in southern France.

The Garden Fresco from House of the Golden Bracelet, Pompeii

Pompeii also contained beautiful mosaics with birds.
Mosaics are images created by
putting together pieces of colored stone, glass, or other materials.
Two exquisite examples of this decorative art, 
unfortunately not in the DMNS exhibit, 
come from the House of the Faun in Pompeii. 

Cat with Partridge (upper tier)
Teal (left lower tier) and Common Shelduck (right lower tier)

Bird and Duck

Some Pompeians died in the Garden of the Fugitives
on that terrible day in LXXIX.

 Garden of the Fugitives, Pompeii

The 79 A.D. tragedy in Pompeii gives us,
we who live almost 2,000 years later,
more than a glimpse into the lives of these ancient Romans;
in their love of gardens and birds, we can recognize ourselves.
In the haunting casts of their final moments,
we can recognize our common humanity.

Does this ever happen to you, fellow bloggers?  
You start writing what you think will be a quick post on a narrow topic,
and you discover you have lost hours and hours.
Good grief!
How long is it going to take me to write my A Pompeii Kitchen post?


  1. "House of the Golden Bracelet"! It just invites the mind to dream!

  2. Hi Terry,
    Some of my lost hours today were spent exploring the House of the Golden Bracelet on-line, and of course tracking down an image of the bracelet. The bracelet is exquisite! I'm still looking for an open domain image I can work into a future post about Pompeii. But first for Ivan and Jim, I've got to write "A Pompeii Kitchen" which will also take hours and hours. Thank God I'm retired, and I can spend time exploring all kinds of fascinating things!

  3. Wonderful post. The 'A Day in Pompeii' exhibit sounds amazing. That last photo is so disturbing.

    And yes, sometimes I do write a post longer than intended. When we're passionate about something, we are excited to share our thoughts about it.

    1. I agree that the last photo is disturbing, Martha.
      It haunts me; and, last night when I was trying to go to sleep, I realized that I had ended my post too abruptly. So this morning I have added a concluding thought.

      The Orto dei Fuggiaschi, or Garden of the Fugitives, contained the largest number of victims found in one place, including a number of children.

      Some of the latest research, conducted by vulcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo of the Naples Observatory and others, suggests that the victims were fleeing on the second day of the eruption when the cone of Vesuvius collapsed and sent a lethal heat surge along with a pyroclastic flow of hot gas, mud, and ash that overwhelmed and killed them instantly.

      Most disturbing to me is the fact that the modern city of Naples is at risk from a catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius, which is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. That is because the population of Naples and its surrounding area is 3,000,000 people. How to evacuate such a large population from an urban area with little or no warning is a challenge.

      The exhibit was amazing, and I hope to go back before it closes. I've been called in for jury duty on Friday, so if I'm put on a multi-day trial, I probably won't get back. The consequences of my own procrastination! :(

      Have a good day.

  4. Well when we feel passionate about something, time flies!
    I agree, Pompeii and its tragedy has something fascinating about it.
    We can't avoid wondering how that horrific moment was lived by these people who enjoyed so much their nature.
    The mosaic is absolutely stunning, I also know it since my childhood!
    Great post, Fundy!

    1. Thanks, Noushka, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.
      When I went to the exhibit and saw the fresco with the birds, I immediately thought of you and your beautiful birds. That is what prompted me to write my first Pompeii post about its birds.
      I was unfamiliar with the bird/cat mosaic until I stumbled across it on-line yesterday. I agree it is stunning, and now I want to see it for real! The bucket list just grows and grows!
      I hope you are having a good day!

  5. Do I sometimes write more than I intend? Oh YES, and I am the same way in my comments too!
    First of all, I think this museum in Denver is the same one that we went to in 1996 when our son was CRAZY about dinosaurs, and it was such a wonderful museum!
    Like you, my uncle gave us a set of Encycopedias and I would race home to look things up sometimes, after reading my Dick and Jane books! (And I too loved Spot and Puff!)
    Pompeii, that is something that find fascinating. Now, I know they loved their gardens and birds, it makes me see how much I have in common with them.
    Very good post, I am glad you made it longer than you intended!

  6. Thanks Kay! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.
    I'm sure you went to DMNS, if your son loved dinosaurs.
    I volunteered at the fossil lab in the museum for over thirteen years, and I worked on many of the major dinosaurs in the Prehistoric Journey Exhibit when it was being built. I also worked on the plesiosaurs suspended above the gift shop. And concurrently, I did a two year stint as a docent for the PJE and went on two museum digs in the Bridger basin of Wyoming.
    Then a seriously increasing workload at school required me to quit volunteering - not to mention being on the executive board of our education association.
    Now that I'm retired, I'm hoping to start volunteering at DMNS again soon, because I miss it terribly. I was so happy to be back on New Year's Eve - without the responsibility of 50 - 75 kids! Don't get me wrong - I loved taking kids to the museum. But I felt like I was "home."
    I've already got another ticket to go back and see the Pompeii exhibit again before it closes. One would think 495 photos would be enough, but I'll probably take more! I'm working on a post called "A Pompeii Kitchen" now. I was fascinated with a 2,000 year old carbonized loaf of bread in the exhibit.
    I'm glad you loved Spot and Puff!

  7. Louise, your passion for how you feel and what you write about comes through all your post! And you know what? You take us right along with you! I would have so loved to have had you as my teacher in elementary school! You leave a lasting impression. As I am sure your great grandmother thought too!! lol

    1. Hi, Jim!
      Thanks for the encouraging comments about my blog posts. I try very hard to make my posts interesting, informative, and accurate, while indulging in my passions!
      I miss my kiddos, I so loved being with them, and I was dreaming about them just before I woke up! We had a lot of fun. But every morning I wake up and think "Thank God I'm retired" because there is so much I want to do and to learn that I didn't have time for in the past.
      So thank you for encouraging me and helping me with my beginning blog. Your comments are the sweetest carrots that keep me moving! I am having so much fun!

  8. I lose it and hours upon hours slip by so easily because I am doing something that I enjoy....photography, editing and blogging! This is made for me in this time in my life. I thought I was the only lost soul....silly me.
    Thanks for this Pompeii refresh and how I remember Dick and Jane...vividly I guess. Imagine being in Grade 1 and then going home to Pompeian history...that just wouldn't have happened on Prospect St in my life....I did soak it up later though!

    PS...I am heading for the basement to seek out the pics now...after breakfast tomorrow!

    1. I Ron!
      I hope you had a thoroughly enjoyable birthday yesterday! I know I enjoyed your birthday a lot!
      I think blogging is made for me in this time of my life too.

      I've waited many years to have the time to write, and I've helped my sister Bertie, of whom I am extraordinarily proud, as she has gone through the process of writing and publishing her first two books, with a third in the works!

      Finally it's my time. As I get more organized and clear up the projects I need to take care of around the house, I'll start working on my manuscript writing more. Blogging challenges me in shorter and encouraging blocks of time, and it requires excellent writing skills too. You have that in spades!

      I love your blog, Ron. Sophie Doodle is such a beautiful, adventurous dog, and how you photograph her and write her blog is imaginative, creative, and fun!

      Happy hunting in the basement!

  9. Hello Louise,
    Such a fascinating subject, I watched an amazing documentary on the BBC a year or so ago about it with video reconstructions. Yes, the gardens were very important. Love the mosaics. I look forwards to the food post!!

  10. Hi Ivan,
    Pompeii is an endlessly fascinating subject! The museum has some excellent video reconstructions of the houses and the eruption at the exhibit too. I'm going back to the exhibit on Wednesday because it is such an amazing and emotional exhibit. I'm working on the food/kitchen post, but I'm going to have to split it into about 3 or 4 posts. I've edited my pictures, and I'm going to take a few more. I'm going to start with "Garum." I'm sorry you've been under the weather. I hope you feel tickety-boo very soon!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.