Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bhutan on the mall

carvings of the 4 sacred animals

monks as prince on horse with protective animals

Friday I had the pleasure of going to the National Mall or the annual Smithsonian Folk Life Festival with my guy Keith and friends Bob and Doug to see the exotic artists from Bhutan. It was HOT and lucky for us a bit of a breeze and then a storm came and kept the temperatures down. This festival is always just about the hottest time of year near the 4th of July celebrations. It is a delightful addition to my year as a way to travel without going further than downtown and see things I wouldn't see even if I were in the land they come from. Bhutan is the big exotic section of three that are part of this year's celebration of culture and the arts and industries. We had a great time watching dancers and musicians perform. I have a video clip below and photos to show. After our meal of Bhutanese spicy foods we went to the show tent and caught part of several performances by monks and national dancers and singers. I thought the monks had the best costumes and dances which I show you here. Then we went inside the Sackler Asian Museum due to rain and thunder storms for an hour. Then back outside to see the artisans at work in the tents where they demonstrate there labors. This festival is held down by the Castle Building of the Smithsonian away from the area that is the test lawn site, I mentioned in my last post, much closer to the Capitol building. The Bhutanese food was great this year and later some Texas-Vietnamese was equally delicious. The artists were very talented and many spoke good English so they could describe what they were doing and what it means to them. In this first video clip you see four monks in costumes with animal masks on their heads dancing around to cymbals and long horns. The fifth dancer is a prince or king mounted on horse back seen in the photos above. 
I have a so many pictures I will load them on flicker and let you see them there. Click here to see my Bhutan photo set on Flicker
If you can go to the National Mall this week or next don't miss this group of artists but be sure to take a handkerchief to wipe your brow and a fan to cool you as you sit and watch in the shade these delights from half way around the world. The flight from New Delhi was 17 hours one presenter told me. That was after a long trip from Bhutan to New Delhi by bus. She also told us she comes from a country that is 70% covered in forests and that she didn't expect to see trees in Washington DC but she was pleased to find them shading her tents. 

SafeLawn National Mall turf project

I just read on DC Urban Gardener's blog a very sad story with pictures. In Washington DC we have a big section of the National Mall's lawn that has been a test site of non-toxic organic lawn maintenance for the past couple years.  Our National Park Service, who manage the lawns wanted to stop using chemicals and see if there is a way to make the mall organic and if that would hold up better than the way they have been doing the work with toxic chemicals. If you don't know the mall in Washington DC runs a mile long between the Capitol building and the Washington Monument, it is a national front yard. Various events happen there year round, from huge political protests like the Million Man March, to fun celebrations like the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. They also use it for after work sports groups who play baseball, kick ball, volley ball and runners, joggers, walkers and bikes as well as all the people visiting the museums use the mall. I was very upset this morning when I read on DC Urban Gardener's blog about the George Washington University graduation ceremony which has ruined most of the test section being done by 
You can see a Discovery channel short here: The Greenest Grass
It shows the whole idea they have about greening the Nat. Mall.
I just hope it can be fixed organically  and I wonder who is going to have to pay to repair the damage. 

Thursday, June 26, 2008

the pink tree

pink tree on 15th St. NW
closeup detail
Earlier this week I went to Dr. and for a nice late lunch afterwards and took my trusty point and shoot Kodak with me and on my walk from one place to the other I realized I wanted to document a wonder. The pink tree on 15th Street NW. I noticed it in spring when the dogwoods were blooming but knew it wasn't one somehow while passing seen from the car window. Then went back with partner Keith to make sure on foot during laundry day walk. Sure enough it was a beech tree with gray bark just like the one in my parents back yard that grew so slowly over the past 45 years except this one has pink leaves instead of green! A quick google for pink beech tree found this cool blog on Blogger called Aroboreality and there is a short article on the tri-color European beech or the latin name Fagus sylvatica'Roseo-Marginata' or Fagus sylatica'Purpurea' and the leaves are shades of red, purple, pink, white and green. 
I like it but wonder if the house shouldn't be another color besides that gray blue to set off the leaves better. None of it is mine, so I don't have to worry about it. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

house wren in the house

Wow we had a surprise visitor yesterday when we got home. The little house wren that hangs out in our yard got into the nest that the sparrows have been using and somehow it slipped in to our porch which is glassed in on two sides. I tried to film it and got something but it is a little difficult to follow him round and about in the studio. Perching everywhere and then flying to the next spot he found lots of fun stuff to explore in our over crowded back porch studio. Dried flowers sticks and branches. Bicycles hanging from the ceiling (no the video is not upside down) lamp over the desk, seeds in jars on the shelves and vases and art supplies and garden tools everywhere! So many places nooks and crannies like an English muffin for a small bird to explore. We were worried he would run into the windows but as you can see in the video he managed to keep away from them.  Please excuse the mess but this is where we store all sorts of supplies and old art work.
Eventually we decided that we better open the door and screens to let him find his way back outside because after dark it might just die of dehydration or something. So I went out and made a clear path for him to slip down the stairs and out to the wilds of our back yard. Then I came in and closed the inside door and went back to my TV while Keith was making our dinner house wren  slowly explored his way over to the door and the area near the door then he found the way out of our house to freedom and his usual garden home.

I am also happy to say that I got the bumblebee video to load up today so go back and have a look at the post bumble bee clip  at the bottom is the 22 second video of the bee on milk weed flowers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

sunday downtown

We went to the lecture that introduced the Martin Puryear retrospective which is open now in both East and West wings of the NGA (National Gallery of Art). It was an informative lecture and slide show. Martin is a local DC boy (b.1941) and lived here until he went away, after graduation from Catholic University as a painting major, to work for the Peace Corps for two years in Africa. He grew up playing on the national mall and visiting the NGA and the speaker liked to compare his sculptures to the domes and obelisk on the national mall. As a teenager Martin used to make wooden things that he wanted in his father's wood shop. Guitar, canoe, and bow and arrows were some of the things he told her he built and learned to use. Visiting his exhibition you see lots of attention to details that a furniture maker uses in the art works. I enjoyed the largest of the sculptures called Ad Astra, which is an antique set of wagon wheels from France that have a cart built for them that holds a big wooden polyhedron and a pole that would be the "hitch" for the oxen which is 63 feet long. This hitch pole looks like a long sapling tree going right up to the roof of the East wing. This tree is only in two parts. The first of which is 45 feet in length  and the attached tip is another 18 feet and the joint can be seen up close on the third story bridge. It is amazingly long and delicate standing in that void and we were told it was made expressly for the new atrium at the MoMA in NYC also a large open space. Another work I liked was titled Desire. 1981 It was a great wheel and axle attached to a lattice like bell in the west wing galleries where the bulk of the show is housed. I think it is great to see all that wood, tar, rawhide and wire in those galleries with their beautiful hard wood floors. It is quite different from the norm for NGA west wing to have such contemperary works housed in these galleries. The curator told us one of the installation people who has worked there for 20 years said while they were putting up the show that he thought after the Vermeer show this was the best he had seen in the NGA. I am not quite that excited about it but would highly reccomend this exhibit to my friends. Keith and I met Susan and had drinks and enjoyed some of the gallery and later the sculpture gardens and a bison burger over at our favorite NGA neighborhood restaurant Teaism before the rains came but this was a Sunday to remember. No photos were allowed of the sculptures in this show but I did make some nice shots of the "weeds"  in the field by our Brookland Metro station. Chickory blue flowers and tall Queen Anne's Lace white against the tall staff of the Mulleins.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

bumble bee clip

hosta colletion

I tried several times to load this video clip with yesterday's post but every time it failed. Today maybe I will be successful and you will be able to watch the black and yellow bumble bee dance over the tops of the little white flowers on the milk weed. I love to see bees that have all that pollen loaded up on their rear legs to take home to make food for babies and winter.
I tried a few more honey bee photos on the white clover this morning but the auto focus wasn't finding the bees, instead it chose the background clover leaves. However, I did find that the bed of shady hostas was well lighted by the early summer morning sun and the flowers in our main bed were showing more and more color as they mature to full bloom. 
I tried again to load my video today and it isn't working so I gave up on this clip. 
Today we are going to meet my old pal Susan Brown from NYC who works for AIDS research team up there and used to be a bartender at the Pyramid Club. I missed seeing her when I was up in NYC last weekend because she and husband Brad and daughter Iris were on the way to the country cabin in northern Pennsylvania. We are also going to see the Martin Puryear show opening today at the National Gallery of Art. It comes to us from MoMA in NYC.
Today instead of the bumble bee clip, that isn't working, I am going to post a few of the hosta's that are showing off their big delicious leaves for all my pals who love them.

Friday, June 20, 2008

bees in clover: an update

bumble bee on milk weed 1
bumble bee approaching milkweed 
two honey bees on lavender
honey bee on white clover 1

Yesterday, I said that we didn't see bees in the clover. This morning, I was sitting at my table and much to my surprise I saw a European honey bee doing just what I recalled they used to do when I was a child, drinking nectar from the white clover flowers in our lawn. I quickly took a couple photographs to show and record this for my readers. I also enjoyed a nice fat bumble bee on the white milkweed flowers; notice his hind legs full of yellow pollen.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I have been happy to have bees in our garden and have been documenting their work on my hosta flowers and many others as the nectar begins to flow and feed our fine winged friends. Recently colony collapse disorder in the honey bee population has been very distressing. K and I were discussing how as kids we had to be careful not to step on them there were so many in our yards feeding on the white clover flowers under foot. Now I don't see much white clover in lawns but when you do there are no bees drinking nectar from them. I read somewhere that clover is no longer in grass mix for lawns. It fell into disfavor a while back. I miss that bit of flower and hunting for four leaf clovers in the grass. My Mom's dad was always able to find four leaf clovers and I don't know if I ever did, but looking was fun. 
I also have some films of bees at work in our garden to share. 

orange lilies

This is a favorite lily of mine, the recurving petals are often called "Turks cap" lily because they resemble the large Turkish turban with a finial in the center worn in the Ottoman Empire's court of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent 1520-1566. He was over six feet tall and liked a big turban built up over a long cone finial set on the crown of the head. Washington DC had a major showing of his court's costumes back in Jan. 2005-2006 at the Sackler Asian Arts Museum. I found an interactive web gallery for that show called Style and Status here... where you can see one of the woodcuts I drew my sketches of Turk's caps and the beautifully crafted silk brocade finials that winter. This lily is called Lilium davidii an heirloom species which is orange with small black spots recurved petals and long anthers which host a vivid red pollen. I found out how red the pollen is today when I was making these photos one brushed against the back of my hand and left it's pollen powder all over the back of my hand. I blew it off easily but I warn anyone who has lilies in the house, if you spill the pollen don't wet it or it will stain fabrics, instead dust it off as much as you can before you wash any pollen spills. My tip for today. I used to call these tiger lilies because that was what my grand parents called the orange day lily that grows everywhere in the country of the appalachian mountains almost wild. I knew tiger lily by the black spots on the orange petals so for me that made every orange lily with black spots a tiger until I started studying flowers more closely.
When I did a google image search for tiger lily, every orange lily imaginable comes up labeled as a tiger lily so everyone knows what you mean when you say tiger lily but few know the refined latin name of wild lilium davidii. I feel lucky to have two in my garden but I didn't know they would be so short and so delicate. Maybe if the are moved to a less crowded spot with more sun they will grow bigger. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

NYC visiting

Sister Dimension at La Mama, Etc. June 15, 2008
Double click any of my images to see them larger.

Tomkins Sq. Park, NYC: Temperance Fountain

Temperance Fountain in NYC: which works serving up free fresh cool and clean water with no plastic additives. 

Crazy colorfully painted Bus

Bicycle Ricshaw with a flat :-(

I just spent a weekend in NYC's east village at the institution,
I was there with my dear friend John Kelly to talk on a panel of former friends of Larry Ree the creator and founder of the first all male drag ballet. It was called the Original Trockadero Gloxinia Ballet and got it's beginning in 1972 and many years of support at La MaMa where founder Ellen Stewart was a big fan & friend to the company. John Kelly and I were both dancers in this ballet from about 1982 . I dropped out of the practice in the late 1980's after a year long toe nail infection from one of my visits to NYC to dance on point shoes with too little rehearsal. John collected some excerpts from videos of us dancing and Larry in various roles as a drag performer as well as slides and guests to tell about their memories of Larry and Madame. We spent two hours story telling, watching the slides and videos to bring a very important theater and gay history to life. All of it was recorded for the La MaMa, Etc. Archives. I had a good time and got to stay in the 4th floor dormitory for my two nights in exchange for my testimony. Allen Mace: Sister Dimension the former manager and DJ at the Pyramid Club where we did many shows was a panelist and posed for a quick snap shot of his fabulous red hat and boa. Sister Dimension is now famous on You Tube for his role as the pickle in the Pickle Surprise video by Tom Rubnitz. Madame's "world's largest tutu" sat in the corner. This is a six foot wide ballet tutu skirt that stood erect on Madame's waist! Larry spent a couple years making it and beading it and the top skirt. I got a very short video of the tutu by accident when I thought I was making a photograph with my new camera. You can see it below. I also saw a few fun things on my walks around the old neighborhood I used to live in back in the early 1980's not to mention plenty of memories returning. While I was there in my free time I also got to see my best friend from Pratt Institute. He is a fabric designer with one of the world's largest makers of fabrics and has developed a love of flowers because of that work. I walked with him to see what we might find and came across lots of community gardens and city parks gardens where we shared stories about our gardens.  He has a big garden 3 hours north of NYC in western Massachusetts which is in a zone 4 area so that is quite different than mine in Washington DC our zone 7-8 of a warmer subtropical climate. I am posting a few photos of the Temperance Fountain I found in Tomkins Square Park built for the Prohibition era thirsty by some wealthy man. I also traveled up to New York City and back on the new fully wired for laptops and wifi BOLT BUS which was fun, on time and inexpensive. High gas prices make traveling on a bus very green.  
I saw an amazing new work of theater written, directed, composed and produced by Ellen Stewart, called THE RAVEN which was a musical in the style of the Peking Opera. It was a fantastic fairy tale of princes, ogres, spirits, magic and beautiful ladies all in elaborate costumes and head dresses with a live orchestra and special digital screen effects. It was truly a magical evening and it was opening weekend so if you are near and you like fantasy go see The Raven at La MaMa, Etc. it is a brilliantly colored story from the mysterious world of old China. It has nothing to do with Edgar Allen Poe's Raven. This one gets shot! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

weed flowers & house wrens

milk weed pink
giant rudbeckia
house wren's house
yarrow 's yellow flower and the soft fuzzy leaves of mullein  
This week we have butterfly weed and milk weed and yarrow blooming in our garden, and lots of buds on the cone flowers. The three wild mullein plants that have stalks are beginning to show some of their small yellow blooms and the tallest one is about to get lost in the dark red leaves of the Japanese maples. The giant rudbeckia which has a bloom like a cone flower has sent up nine stalks with a couple buds developing on each of them. This rudbeckia grows to stand six feet tall and the slow blooming tiny florets of the cone takes several weeks to move up to the tip of the cone.  I wonder why these regional flowers like butterfly weed are called weeds. They sure are great plants. Always drawing in the bees to drink their nectar and butterflies come in later then the birds look for their seeds to eat in fall. Milkweeds in our yard are tall and  new plants we got last summer at my favorite plant nursery up in Beltsville Md. called Behnkes . They have many native species of plants that the big box stores don't usually carry. These plants usually come back year after year and do really well at attracting birds and bees and butterflies better than the exotic stuff we get offered from climates that are different than our own in winter. Studies have proven that the lack of native species in our urban gardens and the reduction of native landscapes due to development cause stress and reduce populations of native birds and animals. So as lovely as the exotic geraniums are they should be balanced out with lots of natives to help support the wildlife that pollenate everything. 
This week I have a new camera and I got out after a friend suggested I do a film of the house wren and put it to the test. I got him calling on the long grape vine hanging over our lilac shrub from the choke cherry tree at the corner of our neighbor's yard. There are a few other birds singing too. If you look carefully you can see the wren throw back his head and sing which should help distinguish him from the others.  I think the other bird is a northern mocking bird but I didn't see it while shooting yesterday. 
Now that I have it loaded up on Blogger I see that it is sideways which is how I shot it but my edit to turn it upright didn't carry over to Blogger. In the future I will try to shoot the videos in this format rather than turning the camera on end. 

Friday, June 6, 2008

summer soon to be here

May closed with numerous blooming roses in Washington, DC and I took a long walk to collect a few photos of them because there is no prettier bloom on a rose than the first flush in spring. I used to grow a lot of roses and even had luck with floribunda roses in extra large terracotta pots years ago. They were so nice that some creepy guy came and took them away pot by pot over the course of a few weeks.  He dropped one and that ended the thief's interest. the first winter they all died after an ice storm deposited two inches of solid ice on them twice in one winter, very unusual weather for Washington DC. However it was all beautiful in spring and it still is where every you happen to see them. On my recent sunny afternoon walk I collected a few good photos of the neighbor's roses and the Monastery roses at the top of the hill here in Brookland. I also bought and planted a new type of rose called the care free shrub type rose for my mother on Mothers day in her yard. I steer away from roses now because of all the troubles we have with fungal infections on them in this region and the toxic spray needed to prevent those black spot and powdery mildew fungi. Since I came to Brookland I have become enchanted with the birds and bees and butterflies and fungicide kills them all. Guess they always looked best in spring before the fungi got to them anyway! Thanks to all those neighbors who have found some way to raise lovely roses; I hope none of you Brooklanders are using fungicides on your roses. I only have two in my garden they have been seen in previous posts.