This is our first spring here in Virginia, and all I can say is "wowsers!!! When one is used to the momentary spring that appears between winter and road construction in Wisconsin, Virginia redefines the word spring! The warm hits and the snow is gone - without leaving grey mounds of debris in its wake! The blooms have time to sway and glisten in the breeze and mist of spring rains and sunshine! I could get used to this! Good thing I got a new camera just in time! Click any of these to see them larger and as a slide show.
Since moving from Wisconsin to Virginia, we have had a bit to learn about winter in the south. After pooh-poohing their complete shut-downs for [what seemed like to us] minor snowfalls, We have come to respect the approach!
While the winters are less severe and the snowfalls both less frequent and less deep, the treachery produced by the just-above and just-below freezing temperatures, are a whole different game! Snowfalls, quickly melt into puddles which transform into sheets of black or white ice by morning, just to fool you into thinking they are still puddles. The last couple days have been like that.
Headed to the gym, I crossed three inch deep ice, bare ground, puddles, and snow... only to find the gym closed while the got the parking lot under control. So I thought I would finally post in this forgotten blog with some of pictures taken this morning. I headed home, got out the camera, and took another (very careful) walk around the block. Below is a slide show of the photos I took... hope you enjoy!
I went out today to explore the Skyline Drive of Shenandohah National Park today. Hoped to hike one of the many trails, but evidently the freeze and thaw of this past week made the road treacherous, so the Drive was closed. I spent a long time talking to a very nice person at the visitors center about alternative jaunts for my day. Part of the Blue Ridge Parkway (a bit to the south) was open so I headed off towards that area. Past a winery or three, a couple of cider works, a distillery and around about a million more curves, I found the entrance to the Blue Ridge. The roads are very slim and very curvy. It dawned on me that they don't need wide shoulders to hold the mounds of snow like we do in Wisconsin, but it sure makes it hard to pull over when you see a shot you want to take - and may explain the prevalence of 'God-fearing' people around here!
There were a few overviews to take advantage of though, and here are a couple of the many photos I took.
click on a photo to enlarge it.
I had the most magical encounter this AM, just had to tell you all about it. I was walking to the library to return a book (Goldfinch! loved it, and read every one of the 700+ pages!). As I went up one of the side streets, there was a Gingko tree in all its autumnal glory. Not only were its branches filled with gold, but the sidewalk below it was carpeted with gold leaves and diamond raindrops.
I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures, when a gentleman (actually a gentle man) walked up and inquired about my love of Gingko trees. He said that he too was a fan and asked if I would do him a favor. He pulled out a camera from his pocket and said he had tried something the day before, but there was no one to help him, so would I mind taking a photo of him under the tree. I said of course I would. He got under the tree and counted to three, at which time he shook the trunk of the tree and it showered down yellow leaves, and I snapped away. He was so excited!
Turns out his father was responsible for the planting of many of Charlottesville's many Gingko trees. This included the giant one on the lawn of the UVA campus. (See picture below) He told me about a long line of Gingkos that had been planted on the UVA lawns, that later had to be taken down because they were all female trees and had stinky fruits! He told me of some streets to wander down where the Gingkos are especially bountiful and beautiful. Such a nice man, and a wonderful encounter. Here is a pic of the UVA Gingko - planted in 1924 - that I took earlier this year, and some more pics from this AM (click on any of them to see a larger slide show:
What's not to like; sweaters, deserved coffee, dramatic skies, colors galore, cold sheets and warm blankets... and did I mention sweaters! Nothing like putting on the wool or cashmere or even a bulky acrylic (or that, now rare, jill2day creation!) and heading out to kick some leaves, or as we did tonight, to pick up a growler of beer from the neighborhood brewery to go with hubby's curry!
We have had almost a week of drizzle and grey, but the sun broke through late today and mixed with the fluffy clouds to bring us the best fall could offer. Here are some pics I took. Click on any of them to see the full crop!
My sister belongs to a drumming circle in Boulder CO, and I have had the opportunity to hear them a couple of times. It is both mesmerizing and strikes primal chords within those within hearing distance.
Today as I walked to the Farmer's Market here in Charlotesville, I heard the heartbeat of drums. At first, because this is the weekend of UVA's first football game, I thought maybe there was some sort of a pep rally with the UVA band, but no, it was a small group of joyful people playing in front of one of the coffee shops.
Both the participants and the crowd were diverse in age and style and all; but all were smiling. Some were allowing the beat to move their feet, while others gently swayed. But there was a magnetism and joyousness to the sound. Evidently they perform every Saturday around noon, and invite anyone who wants to join in to sit at one of the extra chairs and drums (see above).
It was amazing, and I can not wait for my sis to visit so she can join in. Here is a gallery of some of the shots I took... click on them to see them full crop and large. (as you can see - kids had mixed emotions about it all!)
I just ordered this book so that the many animals and plants from our WI home can be remembered and enjoyed here in Charlottesville. I do miss them all, but finding many more new ones here!
A long time ago a very wise man, and a mentor of mine, told me that an artist should be able to find inspiration from whatever is in an eight foot radius around them at any time. I believe this with my heart and soul.
As I was thinking about Walter's words, I have noticed myself carrying my camera everywhere, trying to take “good” pictures, and not just looking around and experiencing. So to solve this I am taking a two pronged approach for the next thirty days.
First, all photos will be taken within a one block radius of my home. I will have to concentrate on that which I see regularly and find something new about it. Secondly, I will not take my camera elsewhere*. I need to go back to enjoying and experiencing the whole and not worry about how everything will look through a lens or on screen. It is odd, but in some ways, taking pictures has taken me a few steps from experiencing reality.
There was one time this distance served me very well, though! Years ago we were on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands. Every day we had been safely nestled within the small islands there. The one day, we decided to head out into the ocean, beyond the sight of land. I was excited and not at all apprehensive, until land disappeared. It was then that I learned the panic that happens when one discovers a new phobia! The only way I made it through that day was to look through my camera… it took me far enough from reality that I stopped panicking.
I think I have stopped panicking again, but this time I want that thrill and uncertainty of reality. My husband was telling me about a lizard he saw the other day, and I replied that I hoped I got to see it and that I better have my camera with me when I did. It was almost like I thought the experience wouldn’t be valid unless I recorded it. That feeling both surprised me and made me think hard about what I want from my photography.
The creative process, not the end product has always been the best part of art for me. I want to express the way I see and look, but I do not want the icon to be more a priority than the experience, so time for this exercise. I find it so easy to gt enthused and excited, but also it is so easy to fall into comfortable or safe ruts. I am not taking photos for fame or profit, so I must do it for my enjoyment and expansion first, so off I am to do that. I have to see if I can focus in and expand out at the same time!
You will see the results in my daily photo posts this month. Today I have posted the last theme photo for a while (my trusty foil) and have a few more words there about this topic, if it interests you. Wish me luck both on the new activity and the withdrawal!
*unless I am visiting the grand kids, maybe!
Recently "The Guardian" reported the following about Charlottesville, VA:
Last week, this central Virginian town was named America's happiest city – or Joy Town, USA, as America's media quickly had it – by the US National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). It's quite an accolade. But an informal poll of residents didn't find too many who rejected the finding. "I don't know about the happiest but it's certainly all right," says Jackson Greg, on Main Street late on Friday evening.
The band was also quite the mix of talent and people! I think every musician played several instruments and, as you can see here, sometimes two at once! Thanks to them and kudos for the fun they had and brought to us!
Here are a few more shots of Baaba Seth; just click on any of them to see the whole picture and a larger view!
After that, the documentation of the trip took a rather interesting turn. They charm of the landscape was lost to me, and I turned to the car interior and immediate surroundings. Thankfully we made it home to VA safe and sane, and I thought I would share the results of my boredom with you:
We are now in Charlottesville, VA.Establishing new routines, finding new places, meeting new people, and suffering from exhaustion. But totally loving it. Today we spent 5 hours shopping at IKEA and to today spent 7 hours putting everything together! We decided to do that rather than move our stuff 800 miles to a place where it wouldn't fit, we would start new!
But before we started that, we walked about two blocks over and went to the farmer's market. It was great - and like in Madison, it is best before 8AM! Fresh coffee, beautiful produce, and other goodies. I present to you the proof below!
For dinner we just had fresh carrots, goat cheese, Italian bread, scallions, and other local goodies, with the wine jon got at the wine tasting he went to last night. We are both exhausted, so I will say good night.
I have taken so many pictures of our birds, and with a wren house in the tree right outside my window, you would think getting one of him would be easy-peasy... but no. This little guy and I have been dancing around each other for weeks now. I do not think that a wren stands still for more than a millisecond at a time, and they are the same size as the leaves they perch in. That combined with my general lack of patience (some would say severe ADD) has made for a real dance - one that I am positive the wren knows he is a part of! Anyhow, today I finally got an acceptable shot, but thought you might enjoy the lead up to it...
DISCLAIMER: Please note the following shots are numbered for your convenience... I have not included the many that were taken just after he left, or when I knocked the tripod in my excitement to shoot. Accuracy would have them numbered "shot 108, shot 437, etc", but I have simplified it for you.
Above: I decide to focus on the house... Day one (top left) he never appeared. Day two (top right), this was as good as it got. Day three (bottom left) he mocked me by photo bombing my shot as I waited thinking he was in the house! Day four (bottom right) (coincidentally right after finding a four-leaf clover) I got a great pic of the house, but he was twitching a bit fast.
ABOVE: After another week or two of trying to follow him from branch to branch - resulting in many blurry photos of our apple tree - I decided to tripod-up and wait for him to land in one place. This required almost more patience than I could endure, but because it was possible to wait with both coffee and sitting down, I made it. The first shot (upper left), he was almost out of the frame, the second (upper right) he was posed beautifully with his head directly hidden behind the branch. In the third shot (lower left) he shows us how he can hide - yes he really is in the shot. The fourth shot (bottom right); we are almost there.
Finally an acceptable shot. We have now called a truce. I have learned that I will never have the patience (and probably not the equipment) for really amazing nature photos, but it sure is fun trying. It is amazing how much you learn about the habits and reactions of something you are trying to photograph. I have also learned why you see many pictures of finches, cardinals, oriels, and robins, but rarely the little wren.
You can relax now Wren, The paparazzi have left.
I like the resulting photos (above) They show the story of the spring flowers - not just a record of their botany, but recognition of their place in the cycle of spring and in the world around them.
Perhaps that is just true of life in general... neither we or our actions exists in a vacuum, and the context is what often gives us our meaning. Our position and perspective changes within the place and surroundings, what is mundane in one place, is glorious in another. That which hurts us today could be the basis for our happiness tomorrow. Context. hmmm. just another thing to think about when being creative.
I guess it is the same with the horses I photo'ed yesterday. While the horses were fantastic; They are fantastic anywhere anytime! The specific story of these photos is the horse in the specific context of the Midwest horse fair. (see Daily pictures for 4/13/2014 for other horse fair pics or go to THIS Facebook post)
It was also time to say good bye to some of the things that have made winter tolerable. The corn cobs and stalks will be tilled under; the dry weeds that are our 'flowers' during the winter will get used in nests, or fall as their replacements grow; and the sumac that provided some subtle color all winter, will start over. Thanks to them for sticking around through the winter!
This morning was that perfect combination of factors. Enough precipitation to leave drops on the trees, cold enough for them to stay there a while, and not raining so that my camera would get wet.
The droplets were hanging on to every tiny branch and reflecting the surroundings so nicely.
It is amazing how after months of snow, how warm a cold drizzle can feel. A few days of this, followed by a warm day or two and things will actually start sprouting in earnest.
In the meantime, the weather helps keep me inside doing what I should be doing... purging and packing. It seems each corner or cupboard or crevice just yields more decisions, memories and junk to go through.
But, back to the drips... these are for you today. Next week I will get back to the memories and junk in a couple of posts!
Downtown Madison has always been a place that I have loved. I grew up here, and when I was a small child (in the land before Malls) it is where we went shopping, went to church and for entertainment. State Street runs from the Capital building to the University Mall, so it is a slow metamorphosis of people from business to students, with shop owners and restauranteurs being the basis for it all.
It is where the protests happened in the 1960s. It is where parades, protests,parties and people still happen. And, most recently, a huge celebration for UW getting into the Final Four! (click here for 17 reasons you should be cheering for them!)
Cars are generally not allowed on the mall, buses and bikes abound. and even a firetruck now and then.
It seemed only right to go check it out on one of the first warm days we have had. Besides I had just been to the accountants to pick up my taxes, and had enough of reality, so needed the fun of the street.
So I started on the "square" (the area around the capital) and found this group of guys having a sunny day debate. I love the contrast between them and the reflections in the window next to them. From there I headed down State Street. The minute the warmth hits, so do the hammers and cranes. Construction is as much a part of spring in the North as are crocuses and daffodils! These guys (below) all seem to be enjoying being able to work in shirt sleeves for a change!
This young woman (below) was really enjoying the day, the people watching and her cigarettes. When she saw me and my camera, she immediately produced a puff of as much smoke as she possibly could! I caught her and a friend talking on my way back up the street, but they guy passing them seemed to have a problem with them. hmmm. Wonder what the full story is here!
I have always liked when an artist or several artists create many views or takes on the same subject, so while doing my other photos, I try to take pictures of this barn.
It is a white barn down the road from us. I like the minimalism of the setting, The way it catches light. and how the color changes when the roof is seen or not. It also has great access for photography! Here are some of my pics of it from January, February and March.
Below are a couple of others that I really like one very edited and one not so much.
I went out looking for the earliest signs of spring today. They are there; perhaps few and far between, but there!
The first of the crocuses are sticking out between the fallen oak leaves. The next couple of days should be warm, so maybe they will pop up soon. But until the yellows and purple they bring, we can enjoy the ever yellowing finches. This little guy was just glowing in the sun this morning. He and his buddies were flitting in the tress and chirping away!
But two of my favorite events of spring are also evident; moss and the Pasque flowers. The mosses are so green with the moistness they get from the melting snow and the sun they get before they get overpowered by everything else. This emerald green stretches along the fallen trees, the rocks and anywhere it can. I wish I could lie in a bed of it sometime, I am sure it would be soft and have the best musty earth smell ever... probably a bit on the damp side though.
The Pasque flowers don't look like much yet, but they are starting to make their furry presence known. Soon the delicate lavender blooms will emerge and spot the hillside before even the grasses grow around them... They are the "dessert first" flower, holding off working on leaves until the flowers are done blooming. They are an event I wait for every year, so I will be checking the hillside frequently in the coming days.
I hope spring is sprouting around you also. It has been a longer than usual wait for too many of us this year.
P.S. No post about a walk through our woods would be complete without a few pics of my tree buddies so here they are:
It snowed last night for the 147,568th time this winter. I had started grumbling, when I thought "why not just go with it?" I had run across my husband's snowshoes a while back (when looking for something interesting to photograph) But now actually thought about putting them on my feet.
Yesterday I went on a long hike in the woods and fields by our house wearing my heavy winter boots. It wasn't so much a hike as a slog; One that could have easily turned into a leg-breaking incident. There was easily 18 inches of snow on the ground, hiding every downed branch, ankle-grabbing twig, and any uneven ground. Each step was a tentative footfall followed by either surprise or relief.
Nonetheless, I found many wonderful photo opportunities and they are now in my daily pic for today. But decided I probably shouldn't push my luck again - I have never been mistaken for sure-footed.
So I decided with an additional five to seven inches of new fluffy pristine snow, the hazards would be even more hidden, so why not try the snow shoes. Boy were they great! One doesn't exactly glide on the top of the snow with them, but they sure made for better footing than yesterday's boots! The poles were a big improvement also - the trees never seemed handy when I needed something to grab! So with my camera tucked safely in my jacket, I set out to explore the new snow.
After watching the Olympics for days now, I decided to go check out some of our home grown skiers and snowboarders. Tyrol Basin is right up the road from us, and so I drove up there to see what is going on.
This hill has been around since I was a teenager, and it continues to provide great recreational opportunities for the winter. We don't have mountains here, so this hill has to do. It wasn't very busy, and the sun was so warm, it was gloriously relaxing sitting there watching people of every age out for a ski.
There was a group of snowboarders that were really fun to watch. They had the swagger down, if they didn't have all the moves yet! The last picture shows three of them on the ramp at once... they were coming down in a line, and went down like dominoes, when the first one fell, and surprise the second when he came over the hill...then came the third. Didn't seem like a great idea to me. But I am old and know my bones are brittle!!
I really went there to take my daily challenge photo - "S" + transport = where else could I go!
Because of the lack of elevation, Tyrol tends to be populated by beginners and snowboarders. They seem to have a lot of bumps and slider (or whatever they are called) for the boarders, and there were multiple lessons for the beginners. Note the aforementioned triplets on the snowboard hill in the picture below.
It is snowing all day again today... again...at times almost white out conditions. There is a trail across from our house that is my walking trail for three seasons, but in the winter it becomes a highway for the snowmobiles, so I usually stay away. Today I decided to use them as my models! I wanted to check out the trail in this pristine snow, and I was pretty sure they would be showing up. The walk to the trail was daunting! I have a whole new respect for all those snow sports I have been watching from the comfort of my chair. The snow was powder and deep and took quite the slog to make it to the trail. The trail was a bit easier, and really beautiful.
During the summer, I share the trail with bicyclists. They are a quiet crew and often take me by surprise as the come up from behind. The snowmobiles give lots of warrrrrrrrrrrrrrning and the buzz can be heard for quit a distance.
It has been a long cold winter here, and for the first time in my life, the white is getting to me; Maybe because I am older, maybe because I am noticing more as I photograph, maybe just because there really has been a lot of it. I am starting to understand that old tale about the native people of Alaska having fifteen words for the color white. Because, as I write this, I realize it isn't the white I am sick of, but the monotone. While the sky is blue and the snow sparkles, it is beautiful. The deep blue to violet shadows are what has moved pleine air painters throughout the years, but we have had day after day where the sky and the fields are virtually the same no-chroma hue. During mid day they match, at other times the sky is a bit darker, and then sometimes the ground is a bit darker than the sky. Only the orange traffic cones and yellow yield signs stand out. The tree silhouettes were once intriguing, but are getting just a bit "been there, done that" by now.
Late yesterday afternoon I took a trip to the Post Office, then decided to cruise around and look for some photo ops in the area. As I was driving, I noticed a crack in the gray. a pinkish glow started appearing on the horizon, breaking the line between the sky and the ground. It was a subtle change, but one I welcomed with open arms and shutter. I took the shot and got back into my car and drove a short way up the road for a different perspective.
As I stood there (avoiding the splash of snow and slush from passing cars and trying desperately to keep my fingers from freezing) the sky started to change. The heavens opened up...literally. I could almost hear the angels sing (or maybe it was just NPR on my car radio). There was blue and pink added to the gray, and pattern to the sky and texture came out with the shadows. And within moments it had changed to this:
I have stood many times looking at the Monet haystacks in the Chicago Art institute, and marveled at this pioneer of impressionism and light. One of my favorite places on earth is the badlands - the vast minimalist landscapes there change with every cloud or hour that passes. Light changes everything. There is a white barn down the road from us. It is my haystack. I pass it daily, and never pass without checking out the lighting... here are four of my recent snaps of the "white Barn"
Yesterday we drove down to Chicago to attend a memorial service for a wonderful man. He was my cousin's husband and a gentle, intelligent and compassionate human. One of those good people who just go through life making a huge impact with little fanfare. May you rest in peace, Norm.
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !