Central Park with path, benches and lamps

Central Park with path, benches and lamps

Central Park in autumn left me with feelings of nostalgia and romance.  I found that the special effects manipulations on my Photo Express iPad app helped to evoke these soft and elegiac feelings better than the unedited photos.  For example, consider these three versions of the above photo:

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Which one do you like best?  It’s hard to choose, isn’t it?

I did get carried away with the dramatic, artsy manipulations of my photos from Central Park.  I hope you like the kaleidoscope of colors and images as much as I do.

The Mall

The Mall

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Watercolor sketch of oak leaves and acorns from the trees lining the reservoir at Central Park

Watercolor sketch of oak leaves and acorns from the trees lining the reservoir at Central Park

 

 

Just before I left for my trip to New York City, I heard about the photographic series called “Humans of New York” by Brandon Stanton.  What started as a website and blog eventually turned into a book featuring the most amazing photographs of ordinary people.  I still haven’t seen the book, but I’m on the reserve list for it at my library.

Another NYC photographer, Richard Renaldi, inspires even more creativity in making portraits — he stages shots of two or more people — total strangers he meets on the streets — touching each other in intimate and formal photographs.  You can see a short YouTube video of Renaldi at work here.

I aspire to take more and better portraits of people, and although this wasn’t the focus of my forays in NYC with my camera, I did capture in my viewfinder a few “humans of New York.”  Enjoy.

Cigarette break

On break from the counter

Photographer and model on the High Line

Photographer and model on the High Line

Jazz performers at Washington Square

Jazz performers at Washington Square

Professionals in black, taken in an office building in Midtown

Professionals in black, taken in an office building in Midtown

Macaroons anyone?

Macaroons anyone?

On break at the Chelsea Market

On break at the Chelsea Market

Waiting in line for coffee, Chelsea Market  (New Yorkers have to get used to waiting in lines)

Waiting in line for coffee, Chelsea Market (New Yorkers have to get used to waiting in lines)

Clown sighting on a subway train

Clown sighting on a subway train

Man in a striped scarf in coffee shop

Man in a striped scarf in coffee shop

Photographer and squirrel in Central Park

Photographer and squirrel in Central Park

Texting and driving (do not try this at home)

Texting and driving (do not try this at home)

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“The whole character of the squirrel culminates and finds expression in its tail — all its nervous restlessness and wild beauty, all its jauntiness, archness, and suspicion, and every change of emotion, seem to ripple out along this appendage.”
— John Burroughs, Under the Apple Tree

Watercolor sketch of squirrel

Watercolor sketch of squirrel

 

Fox squirrel raiding Dad's birdfeeder

Fox squirrel raiding Dad’s birdfeeder

What quiet pleasure wild and semi-tamed creatures bring!  Every day my Dad fills his birdfeeders, puts out cracked corn in a small trough, and refills the suet holder.  Several times each day, Dad stands at the windows watching his avian and animal visitors.  During my stay, I saw three white-tailed deer, four or five wild turkeys, a pheasant, a couple of rabbits, frisky squirrels, chipmunks, and a host of colorful birds like bluejays, cardinals and even a bluebird.  A St. Francis-like scene . . .

Dad filling re-filling the suet holder

Dad filling re-filling the suet holder

St. Francis statue on the smokehouse

St. Francis statue on the smokehouse

Wild turkeys on the lawn (they run like prehistoric dinosaurs)

Wild turkeys on the lawn (they run like prehistoric dinosaurs)

Tom turkey

Tom turkey

Wild pheasant

Wild pheasant

White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer

But as Alice Walker states in her poem, “The Part of God That Stings,” this appreciation for animals “seldom means no killing or cursing.”  Living on a Minnesota farm is not all paradise.  Those pesky mosquitoes, for one, will be sent to their just rewards if I can slap them.  And mice are trying to make themselves at home, too.  Thus the mousetraps on the kitchen countertops, which sent two to their deaths during my visit.  How to reconcile these conflicting points of view about God’s creatures great and small!

Mousetrap on the kitchen counter

Mousetrap on the kitchen counter

This one fell victim to the lure of the trap

This one fell victim to the lure of the trap

The Part of God That Stings
by Alice Walker, from The World Will Follow Joy:  Turning Madness into Flowers, New Poems

I am in agreement with the Buddha:
that these are natural
perhaps inevitable
human states; that spiritual retreats
though invaluable
are not essential
to their
achievement.
One day it will simply become
crystal clear
that all creatures
younger than us
are
our children;
just as all creatures
and entities
older than us
trees
and oceans
included
are our parents.
Amma
the hugging saint from Kerala
has put
this beautifully:
She speaks of this awareness
of being Mother
of all
while being Mothered
by all
as Divine Love.
As God.

One day
perhaps while sitting blankly
before a leaping fire
at home
or even while stalled in traffic
on the freeway
you will realize
that all creatures
when they enter
your house
are guests
regardless
of whether
they frighten you:
the ant, the gecko,
the cockroach,
the bat;
and that you are a guest
also
in their
much larger
home.
Mutual respect
though this seldom means
no killing
or cursing at all
is due.
There will seem to be
a few exceptions
but surely
this is illusion
as much is!

For instance:
scorpions, vipers, and yellow jackets
in paradise?
How to accept
gracefully
the part of God
that stings!

Busy squirrel at Green Lake

“The squirrels have no notion of starving in a hard winter, and therefore they are unceasingly employed in the fall in foraging.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Faith in a Seed

Squirrels as seed-dispersal mechanisms

Thoreau called squirrels “forest planters”

Burying seeds and nuts for winter

I enjoyed watching this industrious squirrel at Green Lake, busy caching food provisions for the cold winter ahead.  Thoreau called squirrels “forest planters” because their buried seeds and nuts sometimes sprout into new trees.

 

 

 

 

“It was one of those perfect English autumnal days, which occur more frequently in memory than in life.”
— P. D. James

Vacant bench along the shores of Green Lake

This was one of those nearly perfect days of fall in the Pacific Northwest.  Join me for a virtual walk around Green Lake.

Lake path with Bathhouse Theater on the distant shore

An alley of yellow on the north side of Green Lake

Old evergreen trees

Puddle in the footpath

Lovely pattern of yellow and green leaves

On the dock

Foraging squirrel

Maple leaves along the shore

“Consider what a vast crop is thus annually shed on the earth!  This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of the year.  The trees are now repaying the earth with interest what they have taken from it.  They are discounting.  They are about to add a leaf’s thickness to the depth of the soil. . . . We are all the richer for their decay. . . . It prepares the virgin mould for future corn-fields and forests, on which the earth fattens.  It keeps our homestead in good heart.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “Harvest”

The maintained trail through our woods

My family’s farm is bordered on the south by a small woods.  When I was young, our dairy herd had free run of the woods and adjoining pasture, and it kept the ground well cleared of brush.  It’s been many years since cows have trod through our woods, and the wilderness is taking over.  The woods are brushy with tangled undergrowth, which makes walking more difficult.

My Dad and brothers do maintain a groomed trail that loops around and through the woods so that we can enjoy our walks there.  The cleared path is quiet and sheltered.  This time of year, the path was blanketed with fallen leaves, mostly brown.  The threadbare trees have their own kind of beauty.

“The woods now going threadbare show us the forest’s inner strength.”
— Allen M. Young, Small Creatures and Ordinary Places

I took this week’s Thoreau quote, not from Walden, but from another of his published writings because it reminded me of my walks through the woods at our Minnesota farm.  I invite you to accompany me on a virtual walk through the woods with these photos:

Stalks of goldenrod

The fall colors have muted to browns and greens

The woods are tangled with new growth and brush.

Looking up into the canopy

Looking down onto the leaf-strewn path

Pine cones amidst the pine needles

Fox squirrel

Stripped bark

My brother's hunting blind

“After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things.”
Wallace Stevens, from “The Plain Sense of Things”

Watercolor sketch of red oak leaves from Glenn's memorial tree

Watercolor sketch of white oak leaves

Another watercolor sketch of white oak, red oak leaves and acorns

Curious squirrel at Green Lake

I love how poets describe the squirrel — “a furry question-mark of gray,” “a piece of perpetual motion,” or “the curliest thing.”  Enjoy these squirrel-themed poems!

The Squirrel
by Frances Stacy Keely

As quick as fire, as light as flame
His movements lick the ground;
He seems epitome of life,
The verve of life around.
A furry question-mark of gray
He makes upon a tree;
As quick as an electric sign,
Reverse, tail down, is he.
His movements tingle in my mind;
I feel his furry prance,
A spiritual activity,
Soul wrong side out a-dance.

 

The Ground Squirrel
by Paul Hamilton Hayne

Bless us, and save us! What’s here?
Pop!
At a bound,
A tiny brown creature, grotesque in his grace,
Is sitting before us, and washing his face
With his little fat paws overlapping;
Where does he hail from? Where?
Why, there,
Underground,
From a nook just as cosy,
And tranquil, and dozy,
As e’er wooed to sybarite napping
(But none ever caught him a-napping).
“Don’t you see his soft burrow so quaint, lad! and queer?”
Gone! like the flash of a gun!
This oddest of chaps,
Mercurial,
Disappears
Head and ears!
Then, sly as a fox,
Swift as Jack in his box,
Pops up boldly again!
What does he mean by this frisking about,
Now up and now down, and now in and now out,
And all done quicker than winking?
What does it mean? Why, ’tis plain, fun!
Only fun! or, perhaps,
The pert little rascal’s been drinking?
There’s a cider press yonder all day on the run!
Capture him! no, we won’t do it,
Or, be sure in due time we would rue it!
Such a piece of perpetual motion,
Full of bother
And pother,
Would make paralytic old Bridget
A fidget.
So you see (to my notion),
Better leave our downy
Diminutive browny
Alone near his “diggings”;
Ever free to pursue,
Rush round, and renew
His loved vaulting
Unhalting,
His whirling,
And curling,
And twirling,
And swirling,
And his ways, on the whole,
So unsteady!
‘Pon my soul,
Having gazed
Quite amazed,
On each wonderful antic
And summersault frantic,
For just a bare minute,
My head, it feels whizzing;
My eyesight’s grown dizzy;
And both legs, unstable
As a ghost’s tipping table,
Seem waltzing, already!
Capture him! no, we won’t do it,
Or in less than no time, how we’d rue it!

 

The Curliest Thing
from The Book of a Thousand Poems, ed. J. Murray MacBain

 The squirrel is the curliest thing
I think I ever saw;
He curls his back, he curls his tail,
He curls each little paw,
He curls his little vest so white,
His little coat so grey —
He is the most curled-up wee soul
Out in the woods at play!

 

 

“I have learned that the swiftest traveler is he that goes afoot.” 
— Henry David Thoreau,  Walden

My well-worn hiking boots

Thoreau asserts that the fastest traveler is the one on foot.  A seeming paradox.  But when he goes on to explain, the mystery becomes clearer.  In Thoreau’s day, to travel 30 miles by train cost the equivalent of a day’s labor.  Thoreau could walk that distance in one day and arrive by evening.  The person traveling by rail would first have to spend a day laboring to earn the fare, and then take the train the next day.  Thus, the walking man arrived first and had a day full of the pleasures of the countryside.

The economics of walking as a form of travel have changed.  The price of a tank of gas is still less than a day’s labor, and it transports us over distances that would take days traveling by foot. Today a better argument for slow travel might focus on the quality of the journey, the best way to travel.  We might romanticize train travel over air travel, as Paul Theroux does in The Tao of Travel:  “Every airplane trip is the same; every railway journey is different.”  Or we might learn that the most rewarding journeys are on foot, as Gardner McKay does in Journey Without a Map:  “I came to realize that I traveled best when I traveled no faster than a dog could trot.”

As I read more about walking, I began to wonder just how far I could walk in one day.  I don’t even know the farthest distance I’ve ever walked in one day.  I began to crave taking a long walk.  A walk in the city would do:

“These are near journeys, but there are times when they do not satisfy, when one must set out on a far journey, test one’s will and endurance of body, or get away from the usual.  Sometimes the long walk is the only medicine.”
— John Finley, “Traveling Afoot,” from The Pleasures of Walking, edited by Edwin Valentine Mitchell

I planned my pedestrian expedition for one of my days off work.  Now that summer is here, the days are long.  I had always wanted to walk across the I-90 floating bridge, so I set my goal to walk from my home in Green Lake to Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island, a distance of about 14 miles.

I set out under cloudy skies at 7:00 a.m. and, after stopping to take photos and have a coffee and breakfast sandwich, I arrived at my destination at noon. It was a pleasurable walk but hard on my feet.  I had to apologize to my poor feet for the extra 25 pounds I’m carrying. (Another good reason to lose some weight!)  I could have walked more, as the day was still young, but I decided not to risk becoming more footsore.  So I caught a bus home from the Mercer Island Park and Ride.

This experience of walking 14 miles gave me new appreciation for Thoreau’s energy and stamina.  Maybe I can gradually work up to walking 30 miles in one day.

Here are some photos from my first long walk in the city:

7:00 a.m. I left my front door under cloudy skies.

I walked across the UW campus and saw this squirrel in a cherry tree on the Quad.

Rose garden by the fountain on the UW campus

Pale purple rose (UW Husky colors are purple and gold)

8:00 a.m. I cross the bridge over Ship Canal between Lake Union and Lake Washington.

Morning rowers on Lake Washington

Totem pole carved by Haida artist

Signpost to Arboretum Waterfront Trail

The trail skirts the parking lot at the Museum of History and Industry

The trail runs along Hwy 520 floating bridge. Floating walkways link Foster and Marsh Islands. A sign warns of water over the trail. I proceed carefully. It's very muddy on the islands.

I see a blue heron along the trail.

The heron flies off as I approach.

Here the trail is under 4 inches of water. I take my shoes off and wade across.

Wild iris flags

Reflections of the underside of the Hwy 520 floating bridge

Next I walk down through the Washington Park Arboretum.

Western Red Cedar boughs, Washington Park Arboretum

9:00 a.m. I am standing under this Golden English Oak, Washington Park Arboretum.

Maple leaves, Washington Park Arboretum

Peaceful amble through the Washington Park Arboretum

From the Arboretum, I follow Lake Washington Blvd to the shores of Lake Washington. It's now 10:00 a.m. and I am nearing Leschi Marina, with the Bellevue skyline on the opposite shore.

Willows on the shore of Lake Washington

11:00 a.m. After a break for coffee and a breakfast sandwich, I approach the I-90 floating bridge.

I-90 floating bridge over Lake Washington to Mercer Island

Signpost for I-90 Bridge Trail

Almost across, looking back toward Seattle. It's noisy on the bridge.

Luther Burbank Park, Mercer Island

Blackberry blossoms

Old vine on tree looks like a huge crawling insect, Luther Burbank Park

Earthworks, "The Source," in Luther Burbank Park

I take the bus home from the Mercer Island Park & Ride. I transfer in the bus tunnel, Pioneer Square Station.

Autumn’s Beautiful Face

November 5, 2009

“No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace,
As I have seen in one autumnal face.”
     — John Donne

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Red maples glow as the morning mist lifts at Greenlake

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A biker enjoys the tree-lined path at Greenlake

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Morning fog on Phinney Ridge up from Greenlake

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Two rowers enjoy a November morning at Greenlake

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Blue heron on the shore at Greenlake

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Busy squirrel on a bench at Greenlake

I took these photos on Tuesday’s walk around Greenlake with my friend Ann. It was a perfect, crisp fall morning.  How lucky I am to have such a beautiful park in my neighborhood.