Month: August 2013

sandpaper days

I have to admit that the last couple of days have been a struggle, I don’t know why but there it is.  I call them sandpaper days…the kind of days where everything just grates on your nerves and seems much harder than it should be.  The kind of days where you find that you forgot to put the lovely meat spaghetti sauce that you spent hours making back into the refrigerator the night before.  The kind of days where you fight with Network Solutions to access your e-mail and can’t seem to remember any of your passwords and where the hell IS that little slip of paper that you wrote it down on?  The kind of days where you really try to get up in the morning and be adventurous only to find yourself back in bed until lunchtime.

No, don’t feel sorry for me, it is part of the grand design of my life and is only a passing blip (I hope).  But in the spirit of this blog, I thought I would show some pictures that I have been working on that best describe how I feel.  Perhaps you will be able to relate to them.  I’m not totally happy with the focusing and placement but then again, I’m not happy with much of anything…

what do I do???
what do I do???
struggle
struggle
struggle from above
struggle from above
three
three

I should tell you that I found these figures in a box of soldiers, etc. before the estate sale at my dad’s house.  Most of them were probably my brother’s.  I’ve been wanting some soldiers or Indians to play with in my photography for a while so they have come in handy.

hidden treasure

As some of you may know I recently had the job of emptying my parents’ house before its prospective sale.  Today, the sale became final which leads to feelings of sadness and relief…an interesting combination.  I thought I would feel more relief and less sadness, but alas, per usual, nothing is as I imagined and I am having to process a whole lot of emotional stuff before I can put this whole episode behind me.

One of the things which caught me unawares was the amount of “oooooh, I remember that” as I walked through the house before the estate sale happened.   For the most part, the things in the house were “just stuff”.  But, perhaps because everything had been moved from their usual place, some things popped out at me.  All of a sudden I noticed items like a big doll with black yarn hair that I had as a child, my Brownie handbook (complete with the story about brownies keeping a house clean that I remember after all these years) and various tchotchkes that my mother collected throughout her life.

When my sister and I started the clearing out process back in June, I looked for a specific item, one that I gave to my mother when I was in high school.  It was a hand-carved wooden figure of a peasant woman that I bought in Quebec the year my French Club visited that city.  (ooooh, the beignets that we cooked and sold to raise funds…yummmmm.)  I don’t remember the exact place where I found the carving but I’m sure it was in the old city.  I vaguely recall buying a painting as well…don’t know what happened to that though.  When I got home, I gave my mother the figure and she (of course) loved it.

Anyway, this little figure, all of 5 inches tall, sat by my mother’s stove for over 30 years.  It collected its fair share of sticky grease, and other food spills.  But it didn’t move.  It stuck around, even after my mother died.

So I went looking for it in June, expecting it would still be by the stove.  It wasn’t.  I couldn’t find it anywhere.  There was so much to be done in such a short time that I couldn’t spend all day looking for this one little item.  In my mind I let it go.

Fast forward to August 8.  The estate sale people had pulled everything out of cupboards, drawers and closets and displayed it like the house was one big tag sale.  The books were arranged by subject, the linens and lace were lying together on a bed, and all the little figurines and knickknacks were on the shelves in the hallway.  I just happened to glance at them as I walked by and…you guessed it…there was the carved figure that I had been looking for.  I don’t know where they found it, but I scarfed it up and put it in my pocket while no one was looking. I reclaimed it.

wooden figure
wooden figure

And now…well, she’s in the corner of my kitchen watching all the cooking that is happening.

 

hiding in the corner
hiding in the corner

Today, it was tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes from my garden.

tonight's meal
tonight’s meal

I’m still trying to find the right place for her, but she will stay in my kitchen until I am no longer around.  And then maybe she will find her way to another kitchen.

side view
side view

ready for my close up

I really don’t want this blog to become a travelogue with best bets and touts on where to stay when you visit different cities.  However, I can’t pass up the chance to show you what I saw out my window when I was in NYC.  It was an unexpected treat, the receptionist found out that it was my birthday weekend and upgraded me to “a room with a view”…

Altar end of St. Patrick's
Altar end of St. Patrick’s

The hotel is called The New York Palace Hotel and I definitely would recommend it.  It is located in a very good spot, close to everything in the midtown area.  Rockefeller Plaza, Radio City Music Hall, Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, subways, buses, MoMA…all of these are within walking distance of this hotel.  The staff is very friendly and the concierges worked hard to get me a table at a good restaurant at very short notice.

Speaking of MoMA, I went on Sunday (before I went to Pippin on Broadway) and, as usual, I enjoyed myself enormously.  I decided to become a member which allowed me into the advanced showing of their new exhibit “from Hopper to O’Keefe”.  I spent some time really looking at all the paintings and sculptures, trying to see how they achieved certain effects.  I would stand really close and look at the brush strokes. I could see how one artist used pencil to outline what he would paint and then change his mind and not paint everything he had planned.  Sometimes looking at the details can change how you view the whole.  I especially love doing this with Hopper, his paintings are so precise and yet up close that precision wavers a little bit.

The best photographic example of this is when I was in front of a very large Jackson Pollock (in another section of the museum).  I’m not enamored of his work, although I can appreciate that it was harder to do than most people think.  To me, the art of his paintings come from detailed shots, vignettes, short stories.  Looking at the painting closely shows fascinating changes in saturation and texture.  My eye finds it easier to make sense of the chaos when looking at smaller sections of it.

detail 1
detail 1
detail 2
detail 3
the entire painting
the entire painting

So next time you are in a museum, or even in front of a painting in your house, stand close to it and maybe to the side a little and really look at a small section of it.  It might change how you see the painting in the future.

bridges and buildings

Saturday the 10th of August…I walked out of my hotel (which was a lovely hotel, more on that later) and walked over to Lexington Ave to find breakfast (a bagel) and get onto the subway downtown.  Got off at Lafayette and Canal.  This was the day the city had closed Park Ave. and Lafayette St. to traffic.  Seven miles of biking, running and walking without getting run over.

blocked off to traffic
blocked off to traffic

They also had stops along the way for things like a mini zip line, a climbing wall and art installations.

climbing wall
climbing wall

The architecture in this area varies from typical row houses with front fire escapes to looming office buildings and towering pillars on the municipal court building.

front fire escape
front fire escape
clouds and windows
clouds and windows
pillars
pillars

At the end of Lafayette I did something I have never done before, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It’s not as sexy as I thought it would be, in fact it was hot and sticky and full of tourists walking and riding bikes. There were children in gargantuan strollers, grandmothers who stopped right in front of me, people taking their pictures to prove they were there (okay, I was one of them, I posted a picture on fb…).  Fortunately there was a separate bike path but the bikers were in a hurry and yelled if anyone wandered into their lane.  In addition, the path mostly went along the center of the bridge so there was little chance of seeing the water, just the bridge and a bunch of construction walls.  At one point the bridge itself was obscured by a see-through tarp that stopped things from falling on the pedestrians.  (One of my favorite pictures, see below) I could also see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.  By the time I got on the bridge, the weather had changed and clouds were the norm.

bridge cable
bridge cable
top o' the bridge
top o’ the bridge
obscured
obscured

I still managed to get across (despite being very hot and having sore feet) and celebrated by having a glass of chilled white wine in a bar in the park in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn looking at the bridge from underneath.

And at the end of the trip, I found a hole in a wall…

just a hole in the wall
just a hole in the wall

Not a bad day!

NY Botanical Garden

I’m back from Connecticut.  My dad’s house is totally empty and ready to go to the new owner.  It was a tough week, I kept finding memories swirling around in the dust and dirt of 30 years of accumulated inertia.

While the estate sale was happening, I took off to NYC and spent the weekend doing what I wanted to do, eating what I wanted to eat and generally having a marvelous time.  The fact that it was my birthday gave the whole weekend a celebratory flair, so much so that I did things I might not have done otherwise.

I understand that it is unusual for most people to understand how someone can enjoy going to New York City by themselves and enjoy it.  My father kept saying “Couldn’t you find someone to share it with?”  The answer is yes, but I didn’t want to.  For some reason, freedom is going out the door of whatever building I am in and choosing what direction to go in without having to run it by other people.

As a result, everything that I did came from my interest in gardening, modern art, walking, eating, drinking, books, and theater.  This post is about the first interest…gardening.

The first thing I did on my trip was to stop at the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx on my way into the city. This was more difficult than I had anticipated, starting with an absolute downpour in the morning that made me and everything I was carrying kinda soggy.  I also had to change trains twice before I got to the gardens.  Despite this, the weather cleared enough (although it stayed quite humid) to enjoy strolling around the grounds and the buildings.

After lunch I pulled out my camera and started to take pictures.  At first I didn’t really look at the pix I took but after a couple of minutes I realized that they were coming out very misty.  Hmmmm.  Turns out that the inside of the lens was fogging up due to being damp in the knapsack and being out in the humidity.  Funny thing is that I actually liked some of the foggy pictures.

foggy dahlia
foggy dahlia

After I cleaned off the lens I was able to get a couple of gorgeous shots of flowers…including one of an oak leaf hydrangea and some gorgeous yellow/orange flower that I (embarrassingly) don’t know the name of.  (If you know what it is, let me know!!!)

oak leaf hydrangea flower
oak leaf hydrangea flower
Yellow
Yellow

During a short rain storm, I went into the wonderful Conservatory where there was an exhibit of healing plants from around the world.  They also have a palm Courtyard that is a permanent display of different palms from around the world.  I had fun finding interesting patterns and textures.  Don’t be surprised if you see some of these ideas in my next sculptures.

reflection
reflection
P1050310
back lit
concentric half circles
concentric half circles
Jumble
Jumble
Strings of the palm trunk
Strings of the palm trunk

And finally, I wandered back outside and found some very cool scuptures of the four seasons. I’ll share Winter with you, I liked him the best.  Check out the artist info, I found it intriguing.

Winter
Winter
Detail
Detail
Artist info
Artist info

So that is a glimpse of the three hours I spent at the Botannical Gardens.  I got my plant/flower fix and was quite happy when I got on the fourth train of the day for the short ride to Grand Central Station.  More in the next post…stay tuned!!!

Gaudi Part 3

Tomorrow I am off to the wilds of CT.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, my goal is to have my dad’s house completely emptied and clean by the time I leave there on the 17th.  There will be an estate sale this coming weekend and then everything else leaves the house…probably in a dumpster.

It has been an emotional (and sometimes unhealthy) process for me and my three siblings.  The basement alone was the recipient of floods and vermin.  It’s amazing what happens when the occupants are too old to actually climb down the stairs to see what’s there.  However, everybody has pitched in and labored mightily and the upshot is that we are almost done.

Anyway, that’s not what I want to write in this post.  I just want to let you know why I may not be present here on my blog for a few days.  However, before I take off I want to relieve the suspense you must be feeling over my last Gaudi post…as in “what IS her favorite part of “La Sagrada Familia???”

The short answer…walk through the doors with me and stand inside for a while.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in was a feeling of space.  There is almost a shocking lack of adornment at human level, and because of this the world seems clean, precise and creamy white.  And yet I knew that everything was there for a purpose.  I was intrigued by the circular staircase in the back corner.  I’m not quite sure where it goes but it is very cool.  Then…

First view

…I looked up.  And I couldn’t help smiling.  The wonder, the magic, the feeling like I instinctively knew why Gaudi had designed this building the way he did, it all swirled around in my brain.

Columns

First I saw the columns.  I learned later that Gaudi based his design of the columns on tree trunks.  The round pieces further up were to represent the burls that you find in certain species of trees.  I really got the feeling that I was in an old growth forest…that unless I looked up, I really wasn’t going to understand the vastness of the trees, the height of which would be almost out of my eye-sight.

Stained Glass

I also noticed the color of the light at this level.  There is lots of stained glass that tints the light all the primary colors of the forest.  It sends rays of green sunshine across the air, and leaves yellow shadows on the floor.

PillarsLooking up

Just before the tree/columns go out of sight, more light is let through in the form of clear windows.  I don’t know whether they will eventually be stained glass windows, but I think it is kind of cool that the upper windows are clear and let in un-tinted sunlight. And it’s also great because it allows a lit and un-tinted view of the ceiling of the canopy.

Ceiling Ceiling

I think I mentioned before that Gaudi loves ceilings.  This one is no exception.  I wanted to lie on the floor and gaze at it for a while. (I thought that might be frowned on, for after all, it is a church.)  So instead I pointed my camera straight up and took pictures without knowing how they would turn out.  I think this ornamentation is perfect, it is like the leaves radiating out from the tree trunks, and filtering light and dark.

And now, because I like balance, I will show you what I liked least about this wonderful building…the altar.  I leave you with the pictures, you can make up your own mind what you think it looks like.  I just know that it feels so out of place and out of character to the whole story that Gaudi was trying to tell.

I hope you enjoyed walking around with me.

Towards the altar Altar

Around the house, Part deux

I must do a follow up post to Around the House.  There are so many wonderful pictures happening around here that it is a shame not to share them.

First, an update on the weed that I pulled out of the patio.  It has not moved.  But it dried out and is still really interesting despite having very little color.  I placed a sprig of rosemary next to it to show the size of the weed.  It was not that big, but because I have zoomed it, it looks much bigger.

dead or alive
dead or alive

Next, my friend Gallivanta took me to task for not showing whether there was dog fur in the making of the nest.  The answer is…of course!  It is difficult to see but there are traces of it way down at the bottom.  What is easier to see is the pieces of netting that my neighbors cut off their hay bales.  There is also a piece of string, some mud and lots of twigs.

pieces parts of the nest
pieces parts of the nest

Yes, today is the day Max showed up in my jaunt around the house.  He had just come outside after a lovely afternoon nap.  The reason for his focused attention will become apparent…

disdain
disdain

…the butterfly bush is doing its job.  I know, I know…butterfly bushes are invasive. But I don’t think they’re as bad as Honeysuckle, Japanese stilt grass or Multiflora Rose.  So I keep one in the yard and Max loves to find the butterflies.  I do too.  I know I’ve been posting lots of butterfly pictures, but this really seems to be a special year for them.  So here’s two that I particularly like.

Butterfly bush
Butterfly bush
sun on the wing
sun on the wing

And finally, the clouds were quite lovely this afternoon.  I feel like pictures of clouds are not always successful, there seems to be something missing when I try to take them.  But I think you can see in this picture why they reminded me of corduroy.  There were some vultures circling around that made the picture even cooler.

corduroy clouds
corduroy clouds