Month: July 2013


This has been a wonderful year for seeing butterflies in my garden.  They are loving up the Echinacea (Purple Cone Flower) and I have been enjoying standing amongst the flowers and taking their pictures.   Occasionally I use the manual focus, but they are so fast that it is difficult to take the time to make sure that everything is clear…so the automatic button gets used a lot. My camera can focus way faster than I can and most of the time it picks the right thing to focus on.  In fact, it’s almost obscene as to how good the picture can be, I almost feel like I am really a small part of the photographic equation.

There were two types of butterflies this morning. The first was a very friendly and lovely Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.  There was a plethora of them hanging around and they didn’t seem to mind me and my ugly metal thing that made clicking sounds very close to them while they were eating.

The second type was the Monarch which is one of my personal favorites.  I have a lovely memory of them hanging out in a small garden outside the laundry room of the house when I was growing up.  I am currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Flight Behavior which is quite informative about them along with being a good story (not surprising coming from her) and so to find one in my garden this morning was a special treat.  Funnily enough, it was much more shy than the Yellowtails.  I wished I had my longer lens so I didn’t have to get so close…it kept flying away just when I was ready to get a picture.  I wondered if the Yellowtails had safety in numbers since the Monarch was by itself.  Who knows?

I have seen a third butterfly lurking about recently, the Black Swallowtail, but it wasn’t in evidence this morning.  Perhaps I will get a good picture of it in the next couple of days.  I will also work on getting some of the smaller critters, the moths and bees and wasps.  There’s a gorgeous indigo blue wasp on the bronze fennel that I’m hoping I can capture on film, it will have to be in sunlight as that is when the blue shows up, otherwise it looks totally black.  Wish me luck!

And for those of you who read my last post, the studio tour was not very successful, no landscape architects came out to see my sculptures and gardens…alas. It was a good idea but evidently I need to tweak it a bit.

studio tour

We interrupt the regularly scheduled program on Barcelona to talk about my studio tour tomorrow.  I have invited the Potomac chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects to come visit the studio and walk around the grounds and see my sculptures and my gardens.  When we moved into this house seven years ago, I started on a journey to create gardens around the property.  I have to say that they’ve never looked better.  This year, with the help of my gardening assistants Julio and Noel, I am finally seeing all the hard work come together.  So now I feel comfortable showing off the gardens and my sculptures to people who do this for a living.  Crazy?  Perhaps.


This morning, after finishing up all the weeding and watering, I went out to take pictures.  Once again, I was struck by how ridiculously easy it is to take amazing pictures with a camera.  I put it on automatic everything, simply because my camera does not have a viewfinder and I can’t see anything when I am outside.  And so basically I pointed and shot without knowing what I was going to end up with.  And here are some of the results.


Wish me luck!!! 

Gaudi part 2

It is difficult to stay away from Gaudi in Barcelona, especially if the closest metro stop to your apartment lets you off right at Casa Batlio.  If you are not familiar with Antoni Gaudi, he was an amazing man. Born in 1852, he was an architect who came to epitomize the Modernista architecture movement.  I could easily get caught up in talking about Gaudi himself but there are far greater scholars than I who have studied the man and his work, so I urge you to look him up and find out about him.  (A good place to start is the website for the Casa Museu Gaudi.)  Besides, this blog is more about what he left behind and how it inspires me.  And hopefully he can inspire you through my blogpost!

Gaudi Part 1 showed one of the myriad of quotes that is on display at La Sagrada Familia.  Today’s post will move outside that building (viewed from the ground) to show the dichotomy of Gaudi’s designs.  I actually find it almost confusing when looking at the outside of this cathedral because on one side of the church the facade is absolutely covered in what first appears to be frippery.  There is so much stuff that it is hard to see what the stuff actually is.  My eye remains confused, even as it is delighted at the curlicues and the stories that it tells. (Disclaimer…While Gaudi was, by all accounts, a very religious person, I am definitely not and despite growing up Episcopalian, I have very little knowledge of the Bible…so don’t ask me what all those stories are.)

looking up
looking up

When I look at these pictures I am almost reminded of a confectioner’s store and think maybe this church is really made of sugar and just hasn’t had the food coloring added yet.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that the awful ribbon candy that was in my Advent candy box every Christmas looked like a red and green version of what is in this last picture.  It’s impossible to believe that Gaudi did not have a sense of humor, or at the very least a sense of whimsy.

What Gaudi did have was a huge repertoire of styles and designs.  This is apparent when looking at the other side of the church.  After walking through the admission gates, I was struck by the simplicity of the surface treatment.  Instead of curlicues, there are block carvings of saints, words and patterns. Instead of ribbon candy, we get ice sculptures. Instead of stories we get pure emotion.

words on the door
words on the door
words on the door
words on the door


So from the very first I was confused by this amazing building.  The confusion came from seeing such extremes on different sides of the same church.  Perhaps if I studied more about the stories and ideas that Gaudi was trying to achieve the exterior would make more sense to me.  I don’t know.  Suffice it to say that the exterior of La Sagrada Familia, while impressive and memorable, was not my favorite part of the building.  Stay tuned for what was…

Light and Shadow

The last post was all about color.  This post has very little color in it.  All the better to see the difference in light contrasts as the sun hits the building.

On the penultimate day in Barcelona I took my camera around the block where our apartment was, searching for pictures.  Every building on the block had some interesting pattern, texture or shape carved in the stone or concrete.  At a glance the buildings all sort of look the same but when you pause at each one, you realize that there is scrollwork on one, diamonds on another and a guy trying to hold up the world on a third.

The mediterranean sun was on its way down but was still very strong.  It left such distinct shadows on the sides of the buildings. I was intrigued by the patterns that it picked out in the facades of the stone and concrete. Even on very clear days here the sun doesn’t seem to make such crisp lines as it does in Barcelona.

On the shady side of the building the contrast was more subtle but still amazing and because there is no color, it is easier to see the value contrasts in order to draw the figure. But mostly I like these pictures because they play with concept of two-dimensions vs. three-dimensions.  The pictures are two-dimensional but, because of the stark value contrasts, one can really feel the three-dimensionality of the stones.

concrete texture
concrete texture
over the door scroll
over the door scroll
single diamond
seen better days
seen better days
dramatic diamonds
dramatic diamonds
holding up the building
holding up the building


Colors in Barcelona

When you are in a city for 10 days, you start craving color. Most of the buildings are made from concrete or stone, with some brick thrown in occasionally.  Gray is the predominant color spectrum and although the city is full of clothes stores, parks and “Ramblas”, it is still a city.

So I picked six photos that showed some of the color that I found while I was there:



This was the view out our living room window.  The mediterranean sky is such an amazing blue and I think it sets of the rust and yellow building quite well.



Gaudi loved mosaics and he loved ceilings…to him it made sense to put the two together.  This picture was taken looking straight up at the ceiling in the market place at the unfinished Park Guell.


Primary Colors

Tagging is truly an art form and there is plenty of it in Barcelona.  Some think it is ugly and a scourge, I am not so sure, especially when the alternative is to look at bare concrete.



Another example of graffiti, perhaps because of tagging, spray paint manufacturers are coming out with more and more vibrant colors.


Warm and cool

A knitting store with some serious spotlights makes for a treasure trove of colors.  I wanted to buy them all and I don’t even knit!



The inverted stained glass dome at the Palau de Musica is an amazing piece of art, and the light stays on while the concert is happening…every so often I would just look up and smile.  “Toto, we’re not in Kansas any more.”


Yellow light

This is one of the many stained glass windows in La Sagrada Familia.  It casts such a lovely warm light and made me feel so welcome in the vastness of the church.

Gaudi Part 1

I just returned from 10 days in Barcelona.  It was a wonderful trip, full of art, food, wine and a real Catalan wedding.  There were many high points (both figuratively and literally) and a LOT of Gaudi. I thought I’d start off this group of posts with a picture of a quote from a didactic display at the Sagrada Familia by Gaudi.  If you don’t know this amazing work-in-progress, it is Gaudi’s piece de resistance…a cathedral that is still being built, many years after his death.  His inspiration comes from nature, as is seen in many of the organic lines and sculptures of reptiles, amphibians etc.

This quote, which talks about one of his favorite ways of incorporating an organic wavy line into his roofs, speaks to me because I am continually struggling against the inner voice that says…”You can’t do that, nobody has done it before, nobody will know what to make of it.”

Gaudi struggled with it too.  I feel better.  Of course one has to have a bit of an ego in order to shrug off the feeling of insecurity.  I think Gaudi had that in spades.

Gaudi quote
Gaudi quote

Stay tuned for more Barcelona posts…

Fly, catch, eat.

Today is Independence Day in the United States of America.  I am so blessed to be able to live where I live and enjoy it the way I do.  Independence Day to me is not just freedom from tyranny, but freedom as a woman to make the choices I want to make.

I can vote.

I can choose what to wear on a daily (and hourly) basis.

I can choose whether or not to be religious and how to incorporate it into my daily life.

I can create great things out of steel and lightning.

I can travel to other countries and share in their culture.

I can drive myself anywhere at any time.

I can stand on my head in a public place.  (Well, it would hurt a lot and I would be cripple afterwards, but nobody would arrest me, unless I showed more of my anatomy than people wanted to see.)

I can choose to have children…or not.

I can express my opinions, even if they are counter to everyone else’s opinion.

I can get a Master’s degree…or two or three.

I can write whatever I want.

I can stand on a beach, a mountain, a prairie, a desert, a swamp, a highway, a country road or a skyscraper and never leave my country.

I can call or write my politicians and complain.

There’s so much more that I can do because I live in this country, I can’t even begin to see the end of the list.  But I want to leave you with one last thing that I can do on this day of Independence.  Because I am fortunate enough to live on a farm, I can watch the swallows catch all the bugs that the lawnmower kicks up.  I don’t have the freedom to fly, catch and eat, but I can marvel at the grace of these incredibly fast birds, as they revel in eating the food that leaps into their mouths.

I hope you enjoy this video as well.  Happy Independence Day!


Update…My apologies, I accidentally made the video private…I have corrected this and you should be able to see it now.