Wednesday, August 27, 2008

cliffs by the bay

Now plastic garbage is on every beach in the world. 
This is why we now use cloth shopping bags.

I got a surprise gift for Keith's and my own birthday. It was a trip to the amazing cliff house where we spent a couple days with Dan Vera the poet. Dan Vera who is finally getting his first book of poems published after years of writing and editing and being a very creative guy. He took me to the cliff house once before,  right after he & Peter first visited, because they had left a bag of tomatoes on the kitchen counter that they didn't want to leave behind to rot and greet the owner on her next visit.  I had a one hour visit and tour of the beach and cliff house to collect those vegetables. I instantly fell in love with the place and dreamed of staying there some day but it seemed unlikely because it was a house on loan to Peter by a coworker. Now a year or two after that visit I got my chance and we jumped at once planning and packing. It is very hard to show you what this house looks like because it is set in the woods on the edge of a 100 foot precipice that is surrounded by shrubs and trees and bushes and vines. The long wall of windows are truly Bay windows looking from on high over the vast Chesapeake bay. The house is full of interesting furniture and artworks that relate in some way to the bay or sailing or nautical things and has been put together with style and good taste. We took long walks on the edge of the Chesapeake bay beach at the foot of the cliffs. This is a place where nature is all around and scientists discovered ancient fossils in the bank of clay cliffs back in the 1930's and built a log cabin there to come and study them now it is a visitors center and museum. Around this cabin a little community of houses sprung up and developed into a very fine retreat only one hour's drive or 45 miles from downtown Washington, DC. I was happy to have this time there with Dan and Keith and Rufus the black dog who is so sociable and friendly. Keith made flower arrangements and I made photos of butterflies and a wasp, sky and bay and cliffs and trees. My favorite Bay laurel was everywhere along the edges of the cliffs. The scent is one of my favorites and these bushes were very aromatic with only a few berries showing. 
We had fun cooking with Dan and the big kitchen that was fully stocked and outfitted with some fine cooking tools and dishes to dine upon. All in all it was a devilishly good time. I was delighted to discover the sky full of stars from the bay balcony after the first night's dinner. We saw several shooting stars and the deck's Adirondack chairs were perfect for star gazing.  A dramatic rain storm passed the second day and gave every thing a needed drink and we watched as it passed on the Internets' weather radars. No rain fell in DC for our flower garden but it looks like today finally some of that Tropical Storm/hurricane Fay will be passing and give us downtown our first taste of rain for this month. The trees in our neighborhood look like they are dying from thirst many have yellow leaves from drought. We waited all day and not hardly any rain has fallen on our garden even with tropical storm Fay at our door step it is being held back by a high pressure system. It is so odd watching the rain stuck to the south of Washington, DC. There were lots of young butterflies at the beach and a few moths. I got my first Luna moth and several other butterflies in great detail while they sucked up minerals from the sand and clay cliffs. They were all very new and without damage to their colorful wings. The moth was so new it's wings were not yet flattened out enough to fly. Keith found it and knew I wanted to make a picture of one and came all the way back up the stairs to the house and took me back down to get this shot. When we came back it was right where he first spotted it drying in the breeze. The storm passed and the fog and gray clouds rolled in, the wind stopped. The bay went still except for soft waves you can see and hear in this video at the end. If the video isn't in your email you can go to the blog to see the video. In closing I noticed that the woods and beach side flora is all under attack by numerous invasive species like English Ivy &  Porcelain berry vines that crowds out all the native plants that should be growing in the woods and along the shore. The beach didn't have a lot of plastic garbage but we did see some when we looked carefully. The butterfly and the blue bag is one example. There was the barnacle covered Clorox bottle, I didn't take pictures of that sort of thing. We felt sad to see such a beautiful natural place filling with disposable society's trash. Even with all that sad stuff the natural world still worked it's magic on Keith and I and we had a lovely time and were reinvigorated. It reminded me how much I was uplifted last summer while visiting my pal in Ipswich, Mass. at the beach and Ipswich river's marsh. I would like to make a habit of going to the shore at the end of the summer for my birthday. 

noctilucent clouds

This is so cool, I love watching the sky at night and clouds in the day. I subscribe to a group list from NASA about the sky several times a week emails come which tell all sorts of current events in the sky to watch. These noctilucent clouds  (NLC) I discovered a year or so back and I was fascinated by the idea of glowing blue clouds in the dark night sky over northern European cities where they have been reported and photographed. On Space the photography and movie galleries are very entertaining and educational. NLC are oh so spooky and happening over the northern latitudes just like the other night time phenomenon I want to see some day the northern lights. I haven't seen either one of them myself but with a little help from NASA I get to imagine it via Internet video and photos from all around the globe, so far we have no national barriers for astronomers. 
This video of the entire year of snapshots done by the new satellite sent up to study noctilucent clouds is from 2007 and very inspiring. We are wondering if it is a symptom of global warming that caused these to appear at the dawn of the industrial age. 
Read more on the NASA space weather site about sky topics. Today it is about the extra colorful sunsets that have been happening in our country and in northern Europe because of a few volcanos that spewed ash up into the stratosphere on August 7th. 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August 21st

Corneille de la Haye, 
French, artist active 1534-1574

Portrait of a Merchant, c. 1530
artisit Jan Gossaert, Netherlandish 1478-1532

I went with Keith to the National Gallery of Art for Lunch. We had a great meal and a delicious desert. Strawberry short cake as seen above. Something about the mix of the red strawberry sweet & tart, rich whipped cream, mixed with yellow sponge cake is so good this time of year. We played with our cameras all around the gallery and looked at books and enjoyed the water fountains and a few rooms of masters artworks. I discovered a small work of art in the Dutch wing who's subject was insects and I had to document that for comparison with my bug pictures posted here recently. I am not the only artist interested in bugs! I think this artist Jan van Kessel had to use pin down techniques to capture his insects. Later I found a theme in my photos on my birthday at the National Gallery of water and details. This began with my favorite fountain in the central rotunda. The sculpture of Mercury who was the messenger of the gods and represents the arts is posed so deftly on the ball of his foot, above the smooth sound of water falling over the edges of his big marble bowl. It is very relaxing to sit in that round room listening to the water fall as people pass. Other pictures of water and light reflecting were outside in huge pink stone bowls of falling water under the sun mixed with shade from Oak trees. The portrait of a young man caught my eye years ago and became a favorite painting. This picture is only about a foot tall in that architecturally detailed frame it is a very intimate view that to me, speaks about love of youthful innocence. I wish I could get a better photograph of the young man's portrait, but the NGA's website has a good close up if you follow the link. Artworks on the wall with highly varnished surfaces are very difficult to photograph. I don't use flash because it only reflects back off the mirror like surfaces of the paintings' varnish. I believe flash also harms pigments in paintings, so it is annoying to see others use flash.  Another painting I like is a Netherlandish portrait of a merchant and in that picture all the details are amazing. I shot the hands but again on the NGA website they have better pictures you can see it all in very fine detail. Keith let me go where and do what I wanted on my birthday with the proviso that we needed to drop by the farmer's  market at Penn. Quarter just a couple blocks from NGA at 8th and D Sts., NW so he could buy more locally grown flowers for his ikebana arrangements blog. I was delighted to go there and find more fun things to photograph. We brought home a nice batch of flowers including richly perfumed tuber roses and a type of bright green pod on a milkweed related plant that is new in floral arrangements. On   Keith's blog, where he posts his ikebana arrangements you can see them in the first photo, today. Look for one tall sunflower and the fuzzy green pods below. Thanks to Keith and everyone who sent birthday wishes, gifts and to all my friends and family for a happy day. Back at home I watched an engaging costume historical Merchant Ivory film on cable after our trip to the gallery called The White Countess  while Keith was in ikebana class. If you like Merchant Ivory movies this was their last one before Ivory died.  When Keith got home from his class we topped the day off with a cold salmon dinner, more cake and gifts. August 21st, 2008 was a delightful 53rd birthday. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

birthday fifty-three

Here I am 53 years and still going! 
My new/old rotary dial, red phone is all hooked up and the pictures are ready. Blurrz  the I loaded 91 of my books in a new public web thing called Library Thing. Check it out on Orange Explains It All Blog click here. It is so cool to see all your book covers set out on a web page. I don't know what else is in the library thing really but just that visual was enough to get me going. Looking forward to a birthday out on the town, great summer days.  

Monday, August 18, 2008

some ideas

blurrzzzzzz the thing!

Today, I spent much of the day reviewing my 6,000 or more digital photos taken over the past two years with a few different cameras. I got the feeling that I was drowning in a sea of pictures and I wasn't sure what the overall collection looks like. I have them poorly organized or it felt like I did. Luckily the Kodak software that came with my two cameras helps keep them all in their original form and order according to the dates they were taken. The process of keeping and sharing digital photos goes like this: download them from the chip in the camera, then re size them smaller and adjust some of the images one way or another, next I group them according to what they are, in order to keep track of the photos on my Apple desk top. Once all that is done they are ready to share.  I have been thinking for a long time there is one category that might be fun to explore in my folders, that of the blurry photo, out of focus or accidentally messed up images sometimes are quite fun to see. Today as I reviewed the whole original collection I did a hunt for photos that may have been left out of my folders along the way that were blurry.  This turned out to be fun, seeing some of the places I have been, pictorial themes by season and themes that I was following from time to time,  but generally there are a few that always reoccur: the self portrait, Keith, flowers, insects, male figure models, sky and clouds, family, and friends, buildings and sometimes artworks. For some time now I realized that to have a single image adds more impact to the blog page when I post and that I rarely publish so narrowly edited. Tonight I am going to load one image with this post. It is the one that started me thinking that the abstract blur in a photo can be quite meditative, even haunting. It can sometimes tell more about the mood than the ones that are in tight focus.  This one of my lace cap hydrangea stuck with me for at least 3 months since I kept it with the others that are mostly in focus.
 I got the idea to write about blur as one of the topics that has been floating around in my imagination from my college pal Cynie's partner O's post on her blog HatHead YAYA and other things  from India! I have been enjoying her posts while she has been there for the past four weeks alone on vacation. Today, O posted a list of topics she had not found time to write about but she says they had been floating around in her mind. This got me to thinking about all the stuff I have wanted to write about but which I have not yet found the right moment to write. The blurry pictures is the first to check off my list and now I have a folder full of interesting blurry pictures to load up to account to show you. I will close with a thanks to O for a great number of interesting stories from her adventure in India and thank her too for the idea to write about things I haven't yet written about. 

My list of ideas to write about includes:
Old photos from the Library of Congress 1910's collection.
Vermeer's Hat, a book.
Digital photography has changed how I take pictures.
Jim Foster, my high school bud's portrait with a red setter. 
Cloud photos
Garuda & OilyD the Scottish Oil man.
My antique photo, the chickens, a post card. 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

August, in the middle of

orange blackberry lily

orange heirloom tomatoes 

small woodpecker

Well, this weekend is cool and clear like last! What a delight it is to have perfect weather inthe middle of  August. I am  just home from another trip to Manassas where mom and I went to get some fruits and vegetables at the farm market after probating Dad's will with the court and dropping off some tax records. Orange was everywhere and I am moved to post some things orange but also birds and butterflies not to mention some bees and a bouquet of lovely cock's comb in a vintage yellow McCoy vase that Keith bought in a second hand store recently while I was watching laundry spin in the dryers. This morning outside while I was writing I heard a sound and noticed a little woodpecker on the crusty old choke cherry tree. It didn't mind me at all, so I pulled out the camera to take a few zoom photos of him among the vines.  I suppose there are a lot of bugs under that dead English ivy vine clinging to the crusty bark. The dead leaves have been falling all summer, crunchy under foot. I really enjoyed looking at this woodpecker chipping away at the tree. The zoom photographs didn't turn out as detailed as I hoped but still it is a record and that was the only bird I saw in the yard this morning. I saw the monarch butterfly on the butterfly bush's purple blooms and caught it drinking nectar. While in Manassas I got a photo of a couple of the exotic finches my brother Dave gave to my parents a year or two ago. The brown one is a Spice Finch and the orange marked one is called a Zebra Finch and they have different songs they sing when ever inspired. Usually they sing when my cell phone rings.  Also in my camera I have a shot of the arrangement that Keith made from leftover orange cock's comb and some sort of yellow dried flowers from last year. His arrangements this week for his Ikebana blog have been very exciting, even exotic and you can go see them here >>>> SOGETSUDC. I haven't figured out which arragnement is my favorite yet. Earlier in the week I was happy to take Keith downtown to buy a new seamless back ground paper to put behind our still life photos. I think he has become a really good flower arrangement photographer. I began encouraging him to try back in 1999 to do his own. I was surprised to learn then he has been working with flowers for many years and didn't have a professional portfolio and the reason was mostly because he didn't know much about making studio photographs. I didn't either but I knew we could figure it out.  
I do still live photos of  my books and boxes. The worst part of it is figuring what arrangement looks best and how to light them. Then while I was in Manassas I decided to go downstairs and get a quick shot of the orange wall phone. It has been there since originally installed in the late 1960's or early 1970's I forget which. Dad installed that dark walnut paneling in his rooms and there was an orange shag carpet and this matching orange phone! The rotary dial still works and the cord is about 12-14 feet long. That was before cordless phones so when I was in high school I used to talk for hours on that phone and wander around the room twisting the cord and pulling it over obstacles. I found another 1970's tabletop phone with a rotary dial in a deep red last week at the antique store. This week my mother bought it for me as a birthday gift. It is now connected to my phone line with a jack splitter so I can use both: the wireless and the corded phone on the same phone line. When the power goes out due to storms in this part of North East Washington, and it did last week,  I have a hard wired line now I can use for some calls in the dark. I haven't photographed the red phone yet but it makes me smile and feel good to have a touch of the past around that still works. Technology has changed  so quickly a little touch of the past is a bit of reassurance that not everything is out dated. Another thing I saw on my way out the door this morning to write in the garden was a brown moth. It was in the corner of a window. I disturbed it causing it to fly off to the brick wall in the stairwell. Even brown is lovely next to pink and purple gray bricks which some people might call red. 
Well, I am sure I have written too much and loaded way too many photos for a normal well edited blog post.  I am seeing beauty everywhere all the time and photographing what I see is such fun that I would like to show you them all, but I can't.  I have so many photographs  I can't keep up and posting it is a real challenge. I am slowly loading some up on to my new web gallery that Keith gave to me. I just added a slide show feature to this blog and it scrolls through all the pictures in the flicker gallery on my "orange explains it all" page.  Next perhaps I will develop a book of photos on some theme with one of the new web based book publishers. They print out books of anyone who wants to pay a new technology I want to try out!
 I love to hear your comments. Please drop over to the blog and look at the bottom of each post for the comments icon to share your thoughts or send me an email directly if that doesn't work. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August in Manassas

Ball-Mason aqua-blue jar 

farmers market stand
This past week we have had very nice weather in the Washington DC region with unusually dry cool air for August. This unseasonable air continues to make being outside and having the windows open all day and night pleasant. Last week, visiting my mother in Manassas, we took some excursions which were fun in this unusual summer weather. The Farmer's market and antique shops in Manassas topped our list. The downtown Manassas  farmers market is held two days a week and it is now under a very large pavilion.  Last time we visited this market it was under the hot sun on a black asphalt next to the train station.  Now the market is in the beautiful pavilion shaded from the sun and full of fresh farm produce on the other side of the train tracks. We came home with some pretty tomatoes. I love the sweet and tart taste of the zebra green striped tomatoes which is almost citrus. Later that afternoon when we were antiquing at White Horse Antiques, I found a Ball-Mason aqua blue canning jar. It holds half a gallon and has a glass lined zinc lid which used to have a red rubber ring seal These jars always remind me of my grandmother's basement shelves. Those shelves were usually full of canned goods but only a few of those had the same aqua color in this extra large size. Those stood out in my childhood memory because they were so colorful and rare. Grandma didn't use them anymore because she couldn't get the red rings to seal them up safely.  Last week I had been dreaming about those blue canning jars and thinking I might like to have one to store walnuts for my cereal before I spotted this one. Knowing the ones in my grandmother's basement might be hard to get, or worse yet gone completely, I was delighted to buy one of my own that I brought home to use straight away.
When I visit Manassas, in good weather, I sit on the deck first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee. There I write my daily morning pages, a type of artists journal I have been keeping for many years. Growing on the deck this year mom has showy red and white caladiums and reliable orange-red begonias in flower pots and boxes.  A moon flower vine and a couple red Rothschild lilies grow in one pot; we are waiting to see if they bloom. Not far away from the deck, in a massive cloud of blooms, are the tall lavender crepe myrtles that were planted back in the 1960's. The deck is a nice place to have a quiet moment outdoors, away from the street and the hot sun, where birds sing and big trees shade the seating. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

brookland houses and gardens


nice porch 
barber's chair with rust and rotting leather seat

I went for a late afternoon walk last week and saw a few interesting things in the blocks around our apartment. I have been admiring this big house on the corner of 12th street for a few years. When I first discovered it the owner was working on the columns of the front porch. He had stripped all the paint down to the wood and was priming them white to portect them from the Carpenter Bees! He told me that he lives elsewhere but keeps this house with plans to refurbish it in it's original style as best he can, " the Sears and Roebuck mail order house"  is a beauty with it's matching garage for a dainty Model - T Ford.
Orange: I found the little garage from earlier this spring behind the dogwood tree on Sigsbee St. is looking hot in the summer heat under the big fir tree. Then further along, I caught sight of a big concrete pig in one yard surrounded by plants, stones and gravel with no lawn to mow, it is a very green design. This porch  looked very welcoming to me I imaged how nice it would be to sit and rock in a chair or glide on a glider and talk while the world went by there. Finally there was an unkempt yard behind a broken down gate that had two old barbers chairs sitting rusting and rotting in the shade. This chair brought so many memories back that I had to take a shot and show you. This chair reminded me of childhood hair cuts. I liked to hear the straight edge razor blades swiping over the long leather strops. After the buzz of the hair clippers for my flat top haircut we always got a quick shave of the neck and around ears before we were done. Barber finished clipping the head dusted the face and shoulders then he opened the collar clip to curl down the paper collar and dust away any hairs that got down your neck. He retightened the clip that held the apron and paper in place lower on the neck then applied the hot foamy shaving cream to the neck and above the ear. Next came the sound of stropping quickly smacking the razor back and forth on the leather strop attached to the counter top or the chair I forget, then he carefully trimmed all the edges.  Last after the apron and collar came off the barber applied the special tonic and finished it off with some powder and more dusting of your face and clothes with his big brush. My Dad used to say we were," going to get our ears lowered." I always got visions of my ears being sliced off by those big old barbers stropping their shinny cutthroat razors but they are still in tact so I see now it was just a joke after all.

Monday, August 4, 2008

bees everywhere, butterflies not so much

watering Keith 

bag of succulents from farmer's market

the same in our planter 

black butterfly & weeds called the lawn

This weekend we both worked in the garden. I took a lot of photos of bugs, bees and even one very small butterfly. We had delightful weather it was warm, sunny and very dry which, if you don't know Washington DCs'  triple-H weather Hot, Humid and Hazy, dry is not normal for August. That dry weather made being outside fun. I undertook a car washing, then I let it dry in the shade and later for the first time in almost 3 years I waxed and polished the whole thing by my self! Quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself. Now all that is left is to vacuum and window wash the inside. Keith spent his time pulling weeds and digging in the garden mixing in manure compost, later sewing coxcomb seeds.  Sunday, again we had the great weather and again we went to the yard after Keith's visit to the Farmer's Market at Dupont Circle to buys some goods. I saw to the need to clean up our compost area because the raccoons disrupted it and other creatures were lurking to get free leftovers. We pulled up a lot of broad leaf plantain or plantago rugelii that was taking over the yard and getting ready to spread lots of seeds. Pulling weeds isn't much fun unless you do it together and focus on the one type. You can see some of this broad leaf or door step plantain in the blurry black butterfly photo or go to this link for a full description and photos. It turns out one man's weed is the next buckeye moth's dinner sadly. 
The vast majority of today's photos are close up bees. I identified a bunch but not all of them.
It was fun watching and photographing them, then coming in with the pictures and hunting through What's that to see if I could find a match and learn about them. The wool carder bee, new to me, is a solo bee that nests in holes in wood left by carpenter bees. They say he claims an area of a flower garden and chases off other bees too make an attractive area for the female wool carder bees to feed on nectar and mate. This bee is aggressive to other bees only for this purpose of guarding the nectar for the females. The females then collect wool from fuzzy leaves and make a ball that they carry off to build the nest. One post on the What's that bug website shows the male and another describes and shows pictures of the bee working on a lamb's ear plant leaf and a leaf that has been stripped of almost all it's wool. In our garden we have several mullein plants with furry leaves but I haven't found them carding the wool off yet. I was surprised how many different bees come to our flower garden and excited to see that we have a wide selection, not all of which I got photos of this weekend. Now that the small nectar rich flowers of spearmint and lavender and sunflowers are full of flowers we should have many more days of visiting insects to study. Sadly the house wren never had a mate and the nests are quiet, the house wren has not been seen or heard this weekend. Maybe it went down the road with a new mate and built a new nest or maybe the season is over and they have begun to migrate south. Keith brought from the farm market a selection of lovely green succulents for the two flower boxes on our front door step which I planted the same day. The little pale blue butterfly on the spearmint flower was blowing in the wind so much I took numerous shots and only got blurry ones at best but I promised some butterfly in my last post and I wanted to deliver. I should not have promised because soon as I did I stopped seeing the big ones in the yard this one wasn't easy to capture in digital memory. Even so it was a beautiful little thing, powder blue with some small spots.  I tried to get a name and this is the best I could find. Seems there are a multitude of these Azure blue butterflies. Here is a link to a much better picture of what I think is the same butterfly I tried to capture in the breeze it is only about as big as your index finger nail: Cummer Azure - Celastrina neglecta