Monday, October 31, 2016

And...later that afternoon

You will remember in a prior post last week I did a photo journey of our three day visit to do some hiking in the mountains of West Virginia.  The fall was peaking and I had dozens of good photos.  I will not bore and share them all, but I will share our walk to our lunch spot on that perfect fall day and the view when we finally rested.

We were heading all the way to the ridge up ahead for a view during lunch.  As you can see, the trail sort of petered out.  I was being very careful at my age since it is easy to twist an ankle.

One way of being sure you do not fall is re-tying your shoes!

We still had a long way to go and as you can see lots of rocks are hidden beneath the shrubs.  There is no trail in actuality.

Yet, many have gone before us and had far more energy as they created markers to remind us we were not breaking new ground.

Then just up ahead we saw the wind farm which I think is a token non-fossil activity to warrant the HUGE power plant that you can see on the horizon on the left.

Finally we found the perfect lunch spot.  Someone had even put up a windbreak, although our day was not so windy.

Now you can sit on the hard rocks and I will pass you the ham and cheese sandwich that the hotel made for us.  Catch your breath because hubby wants to go back to the car via the woods to the West!

Sunday, October 30, 2016


I woke up for no apparent reason (usually able to blame husband's snoring, room being too warm, having to pee, or an odd animal sound outside) around 4:30 this morning.  I got up in the predawn dark house of late October, made a small pot of decaffeinated coffee (blood pressure issues?) and booted up the laptop.  First I go through FB and wonder how I can have so many updates on this page overnight.  Then I check my emails and delete 90% as they are requests for money for politics or good causes.  Then I read news headlines until I am thankful that my little corner of the world is still safe and quiet.  After an hour or so of this self-flagellation, I head upstairs to where my PC sits and begin to work on photographs.  It seems that the 30 I took yesterday of flowers and butterflies, which are still hanging around, are not very focused.  I have to delete almost all, and am upset because I think that I used the tripod yesterday!

Then in the silence of this little office in which the only sound is the computer fan, I hear a chirp.  Like a bird with its foot caught in something but is too shy to complain very loudly.  Since it is coming from one of the spare bedrooms I accept that it is not some little wren caught inside, and instead, must be the smoke alarm.  I. hate. these. safety. devices!  I have spent days in the past trying to fix them when they become dyslexic.  We paid a small fortune to have our basement freezer rewired about a year ago and also had the electricians replace all of the smoke detectors at that time as they needed electrical changes in plugs to install the newer versions I had purchased from the hardware store.  I was told that these are 10-year devices.  I was so relieved, because my experience has been when a device like this chirps, it is not a dead battery.  It is a poltergeist.

Hubby is still sleeping and will never be awakened by the chirp...chirp...chirp which is so much worse than the drip...drip...drip of a leaky faucet.  I, on the other hand, am getting an ulcer.  So I put up the step ladder, unscrew the device, blow in the holes, and reattached it.  Still chirping every 30 seconds!  I cannot push the reset button until hubby is up as that will sound like the house is indeed on fire.

Do you think this has something to do with Halloween?  I have not put up a single decoration this year.  Nada. I am so over decorating a house that very few even see.  Are the evil spirits upset that they are being ignored?  Are they punishing me for lack of pumpkins, ghost figures and hanging plastic spiders?  Chirp...chirp...chirp.

I think I need more coffee.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Asking for Help!

I have noticed in some of my comments to other blog my icon/avatar and my backlink are not available.  If clicked it just goes to a Google blogger page with no links or anything.  Just how long I have been blogging and how many profile views under a generic blogger profile.  Therefore, if someone wanted to comment directly and did not have my URL it would not appear there.  On a few other sites it appears as an accurate linkback to my site.  I think this has something to do with Google+ or perhaps the ID I am posting under?  Any help would be greatly appreciated as I used to have correct info posted on almost all of the blogger sites that I visited in the past and do not know why or how this has changed.  I cannot find any detail on the layout page that would help.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Come Take A Hike

After the wedding that I posted about below we took a few days off and drove up into the mountains of West Virginia.  We went way up high where the air is thin enough for the only spruce forest south of New York!  It is an area we have visited many times, and this time the leaves were peaking.  Put on your hiking boots or waterproof walking shoes (because we are going to cross a cranberry bog) and grab a sandwich, an apple and some water.  We will be home before sunset.

The rains that fell as Hurricane Matthew collided with a cool front from these mountains left a full day of heavy rain and the rivers that are usually just trickles of water were not so easy to cross.  In the photo below at the top is a patch of rhododendrons which will be lovely and fragrant in the spring.

When we got to the promontory and looked out at the falls a fellow hiker said she had been there just a few days before and the waterfall was just a trickle!  (I did not set the camera to stop the water but still like this version.)

You can hear the power of this rushing wall of water, can't you?

Then we drove to the summit for more hiking.

Up ahead after parking is a selection of trails.  As we got out of the car and headed to an overlook near one of the trails, dogs began barking furiously off in the trees at the side of the slope.  We later learned from the man at the hunter's two trucks that the hunters were training their dogs although the hunting season was over.  The noise we heard was because the dogs had tracked a bear.  Nothing more stimulating than thinking you might encounter a running and fearful bear on your trail!

We headed out over one of the trails we had not taken a prior time.  The trails are rocky as you can see from the geology above.  It is hard to enjoy views and vistas because you always have to keep secure footing and avoid the pockets of water.  We were crossing a cranberry bog that had intermittent islands of blueberry shrubs.

And, yes, there were cranberries.  Very bitter, but beautiful.

Hubby was able to keep his shoes dry as he had a different style.  My feet got wet several times, but the day was warm and it did not bother me to have slightly damp feet.  The air is as pure as it gets and the views are phenominal.  It is a harsh and unforgiving land with trees that struggle against winter winds.  Maybe next I will post about our lunch and the woods and our afternoon.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pass It On

This season is one of dynamic contrast.  Bright colors reflected in sunlight and charcoal death reflected in rain.  If your hair (if you have hair) is gray and you have reached that time in your life when you can ponder the changes rather than rushing past them onto something more demanding and commanding, then you know the contrasts are most important to you.  The shorter days tell stories of death and dying and endings and in the distance another brighter future.  The maples go out with flying colors and claim flamboyance as their curtain call.  The obedient plant, like other small perennials, turns flakey gray and dark and then shatters into ashes around a black spot, not even a hint of its summer beauty.

Even though the rhythm and repetition bring comfort to us, the movement and shifting bring inevitable endings that are bittersweet.  You can ponder the celebrating of lives on social media with friends who meet challenges happily and post the success of the goals they reached.  Joyful families, children growing like weeds, successful careers, and exotic celebrations.  Why would I want to read their worries and their failures anyway?  And yet one of the posts I remember so very well was about a young man revealing that his balding head had been a heavy burden which he was no longer going to carry around.  He was closing that door and moving on by accepting his appearance and only wearing a hat when it was cold.  He was in his thirties when many men begin to have that receding hairline.  I do not remember his birthday and wedding/anniversary celebrations including the photos of his beautiful daughter that they celebrate almost weekly nearly as much as his honest acceptance of this evolution.  Accepting the superficial concern and moving on.  Accepting the inevitable and moving on.

The circle remains unbroken.  Or does it?  I am just in another place in my life.  Those who have passed before me did not share this life of mine for many of these decades and therefore I can study faded photographs with nostalgia and not pain because their world was so different and so long ago.  We were together in another life.  They added richness to my memories and helped me get perspective even with their mistakes.  Dwelling on regrets will not change that history.  I hope the faded photographs of me are viewed the same in the future ahead as part of a complicated tapestry.  Not with regret at my moving on, but as acceptance that my life contributed something to theirs and it is now time to pass it on.  And now I will pass on a lovely trail we took.

Autumn is the more bittersweet of the seasons.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Is There a Doctor in the House?

We attended the wedding of close friends a few days ago.  These are friends we made years ago when we all decided that car-pooling was a good environmental thing to do, even though we did live a few miles from each other at the time.  One thing I learned about carpooling is that you get to know each other quite well when spending time in a car for about 30 minutes both morning and evening.  And we grew close.

Their daughter's wedding was a bit different than most weddings I have attended.  It was not unusual that it was at a countryside farm converted to a wedding venue.

This was not a grand extravagant affair.  While both sets of parents could have spent more money, they honored their children's desire to keep the wedding "comfortable."  There were between 100 and 200 guests and we were told to dress "comfortably" since the ceremony was outside.  The breezes were coolish and sometimes strong unfortunately.  But that was not what made the wedding a bit unique.

Both couples families are Chinese American and thus 80% of the guests were Asian.  The other 20% consisted of European American, African American and a few Latin Americans thrown in to keep it balanced.  Nope, no one came directly from China or other places in that part of the world. But it seemed to be a mini-UN with some in exotic dress.

During the ceremony I sat next to an ex-Marine and his wife who worked for the Federal Government in the Environmental Satellite Data program.  During the reception I sat next to a gentleman, newly retired, who wrote policy for the Federal Government on computer security, and no, I did not ask him about the Hillary Clinton issue, but did sympathize with his former challenge.  He was glad to be retired.  He said it was hard to appease the 300 people to whom he reported. I said he was in charge of writing poetry and he agreed.  I think he would have rather written computer code.

The wedding party were all pretty successful in their professional careers.

Among the members of the wedding party above are a doctor, an environmental lawyer, a computer programmer for a start-up company and a neurosurgeon.  These are just the ones that I either knew or talked to!

The reception was held in an old dairy barn with the bar on the first floor and the eating in the hay loft! Charmingly low key.

While the food had lost much of its appeal by the time it was carried up the stairs to the drafty venue, the conversation and wine were terrific.  The tributes were touching and I actually was crying by the time the bride gave a little speech.  The nieces and nephews of the bride read their tributes on their cell phone, which I guess is the new way to do this!  My old eyes would find this small screen electronic notepad somewhat stressful.

Finally, my tie-in to the title.  One of the female guests arrived with a crutch having broken her foot a day and half before at Stanford University checking her daughter into school.  Since weddings involve lots of standing, she was brave.  The husband of one of the sisters of the bride and seated at our dinner table had arrived with a cane.  He had fallen that very morning and sprained his ankle severely.  Since his brother-in-law, a Puerto Rican, was also an emergency room doctor and the sister-in-law a pediatrician, he was surrounded by good advice, which he said consisted of "Take a few ibuprofen, get a stiff drink and we will review this again in the morning."   I guess they had both seen so much worse that this was a no-brainer.  He did not seem to be in any pain.

This was a wonderful break from my daily boring life.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Raising Morale in Times of War

As mentioned in a prior post I went up to the Hirshhorn Museum for a lecture.  It did not start until 6:30 and since we wanted to beat the rush hour we got there several hours early, giving us time to wander around.  Outside the back (or front since there are two entrances) of the museum we came across the car and rock that I uploaded in a prior post.  More information on it:  Jimmie Durham: Still Life with Spirit and Xitle, 2007.  I did not walk around the sculpture and therefore missed the whimsy of the eyes on the rock! The explanation: "Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Mexican volcano Xitle, or “spirit,” erupted and destroyed the ancient city of Cuicuilo. To create the seemingly impulsive sculpture, Durham quarried a 9-ton boulder of red basalt from the archaeological site and used a crane to drop it onto the roof of a 1992 Chrysler Spirit. As a finishing touch, he graffitied the stone with a smug, cartoon-like face. Despite its comedy, the work carries a complex gravity, capturing the moment at which the spirits of ancient and modern collide. "  Now at least I have a little better understanding of the artwork.

While I am always interested in the various sculptures, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is always a compelling draw for me.    Rodin has a very broad style and as he aged he became more rebellious with form and space and abstraction using marble and bronze and even later in life had his sculpture of Honore de Balzac rejected by those who commissioned him after a long time of missing deadlines.  I like his more traditional work, but realize he was truly a genius.   He grew up poor and studied under a "Romantic" teacher and I can see that influence in his early works as he was finding his style.   His sculpture, The Kiss, which I saw in France was truly magical and very erotic.

One of the most interesting places in my city to see some of his work is the Hirshhorn sculpture garden across the street from the museum itself.  It is buried a story down into the ground and therefore a lovely quiet place in the heart of the Washington DC Mall.  I have rarely found it busy, but it was particularly quiet on the early evening of our visit.

The Burghers of Calais is prominent in the garden and I have to pause each time I see it.  I can write about the story behind the sculpture but I will take text from the Rodin museum in Philadelphia which is much more succinct.  "In 1346 the English king Edward III laid siege to the French port of Calais. Eleven months later, Edward demanded the surrender of six of the town’s leading men, or burghers, in return for sparing its citizens. Rodin’s sculpture commemorates this episode and emphasizes the internal struggle of each man as he walks toward his fate wearing a sackcloth and rope halter. The burghers were later spared thanks to the intervention of the English queen, who feared that their deaths would bring bad luck to her unborn child."  There are SEVEN copies of this sculpture around the world.

Glyptoteket in Copenhagen, cast 1903.
the Royal Museum in Mariemont, Belgium, cast 1905.
Victoria Tower Gardens in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament in London; cast 1908, installed on this site in 1914 and unveiled 19 July 1915. The inscription on the pedestal was carved by Eric Gill.[9]
the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, cast 1925 and installed in 1929.
the gardens of the Musée Rodin in Paris, cast 1926 and given to the museum in 1955.
Kunstmuseum in Basel, cast 1943 and installed in 1948.
the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., cast 1943 and installed in 1966.
the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, cast 1953 and installed in 1959.[10]
the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, cast 1968.
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, cast 1985 and installed in 1989.[11]
PLATEAU (formerly the Rodin Gallery[12]) in Seoul.[13] This is the 12th and final cast in the edition, cast 1995.

Therefore, maybe you will have an opportunity to see it in reality.

It is set out in enough space that you can stroll around it.  I see tremendous fluidity and can almost hear them breathing.  The anguish is portrayed with a purity one does not often see in bronze.  Each stands alone in his sorrow, not connecting with another.  They are larger than life and you have to look up to see the faces.

"The Burghers of Calais , was in no small measure prompted by a deliberate policy of raising morale after the disasters of the Franco-Prussian War and the ensuing Commune by creating public monuments to patriotic Frenchmen. "  It took ten years to complete.