Sunday, December 20, 2009

2nd snow breaks the records

pen pals share their snowy photos. this is northern Norway

the driveway at Cor's retreat in Sarrecave, France

the 600 year old olive tree named Martha at Cor's mountain home in southern France with a dusting of snow.

view out my bedroom window through the white cedar branches by our building where I also filmed the following snow falling>

the snow began falling Friday evening about 9:30 while I was visiting Doug and Bob over in Mt. Pleasant in North West for a nice holiday dinner. We had a fire in their fireplace and a beautiful Christmas tree near the hearth. I sat in the rocking chair by the fire for a while after a great day of museums. Went to see John Singer Sargent and the Sea an exhibition at the Corcoran Museum of Art. Sargent show includes formal portraits and paintings but also watercolors, oil studies, drawings and even some simple stamp sized figures on a boat from a post card sized sketchbook. After dinner I headed home in the snow via Metro, a long walk to and from metro with wet snow falling in my face all the way. Once I got home and in bed I was naturally wondering how much snow we would get here in DC and how my friends and family in the area might get and what would become of us all. It was fine powdery snow falling and it stayed dry powdery snow all through the storm in this region. It snowed all night and all day till several hours after dark on Saturday making 24 hours non stop snow. 16.3 inches officially at National Airport for Washington DC but that is along way from my home here in North East. We got that much and maybe a little more in Brookland. This storm broke the records for December snowfall in Washington DC the previous record was set in 1932 on Dec. 17th with 11.5 inches 77 years ago. How exciting to set a new record for snow fall but I wonder how this relates to our climate change?
This week The Copenhagen Climate Conference ended with Obama presiding over a failure in my eyes. He came home with no binding legal agreement, that means we got nothing so it is up to us to make the difference and cut back on our own carbon foot prints. Keep pressure on your representatives... Green technology for clean energy is not going to get us much more energy but it will give lots of people work and boost a failing economy.

They had a big snow storm in Europe too. My Dutch friend Cor Windhouwer set out for his winter holidays in southern France and spent 15 hours on snowy highways Friday driving a trip that should normally be 12 hours. He sent a couple pictures of his snow in the Pyrenees not far from Spain. Norway has snow but not as much as DC yet. My other pen pal Jonny Jamtjord shared a couple pictures of his snowy views far north in Norway. We will see our snow vanish in a week or two here in DC but predictions say we may have some more for Christmas next weekend. Let it snow, let it snow but give me time to get fresh supplies in the pantry...
More pictures on

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

a walk in my neighorhood

oak tree gnarled branches bare

bright red holly berries

another red berry in the same yard

small creeping sedum are showing lots of color this time of year in boxes on our doorstep.

I went for a walk a few days back when the sun came out and took my camera along to see what I could see. These are a few of the sights that caught my eye and made me stop and look closer. Winter's dark days mean every bright spot in your day should be coveted and kept close to your heart to warm you through to spring. I collect pictures that pop up on my screen when I let my computer rest. These are some of my smile makers for today. I am happy to be part of Brookland a great garden community in upper northeast Washington DC.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Moving parts, dance, music, drinks and books

guests enter from the cold night air and sign in
Moving Parts: box sets stacked and open
bass and percussion
center pink Kelly O'Brein Moving Parts leader
the first of two dances

This week we met our goal to complete 10 sets of the Moving Parts collection for City Dance and Pyramid Atlantic studios. There was a party with live music and dance performing as well as silent auction of book parts individually and a raffle for a complete set. The whole event was wrapped in a very frosty December night air but the folks inside were happy to be warm and curious to see all that was on display. I had a good time watching and even though my raffle ticket wasn't the lucky one I still feel lucky to have made new friends and advanced my skills as a clam shell box maker. Now we begin the next phase of our project completing the other 40 boxed sets.
The highlight besides all the joyful faces of the artists who contributed to this project and the support people who made it happen was near the end. The man who got me involved at Pyramid Atlantic Studios almost ten years ago Steven Stichter arrived looking a little worn from rushing to find the gallery. He went to some other location and just made it during the last minutes of the party. He has been away from printing and Pyramid for some time now even though he works only three blocks away but said he is making a big effort to come back now. That was happy news for me. I miss his company, friendship and talents.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Roxy + orange and some red

"graft" is the title of this new stainless steel sculpture by Roxy Paine in the NGA sculpture garden
one part is upright and very vertical
the other part is more gnarled and winding thus the title is illustrated by grafting two types of growth to the same trunk
oak leaf hydrangea showed off it's autumn colors at dusk under the hard flash lighting.
unknown garden shrub had purple, red, and orange leaves
topiary azaleas leaves orange up as winter approaches

bright orange Alexander Calder sculpture stands near the new Roxy Paine stainless steel "GRAFT" (tree?)
red roses in concrete pots still blooming

Sunday afternoon Keith and I went down to National Gallery with our cameras and took photos in the garden. We found NGA's garden surprisingly colorful the day after a snow storm with flowers and changing leaves of shrubs and bushes. We went to photograph holiday trees inside and the newly installed sculpture by Roxy Paine which is very big and very shinny outside. It sits in the sculpture garden near the restaurant and just beyond the great Alexander Calder orange installation from the 1970's. "Graft's" creator Roxy Paine, a Virginian who lives in New York, was only about 10 years old when Calder built his orange stay-bill. Paine's massive creations are in museum collections around the world now and they are such a surprise to discover. At first one wants to see it as a tree. I thought to myself, "who is this guy doing copies of nature in stainless steel and why the heck did he make such an awkward looking almost ugly tree? It doesn't look right at all with one half being this and the other half looking like that." Once I did a little research I discovered he was a very accomplished creative fellow. This isn't a tree, it is a system. It reminds us of a tree but also other things and the manipulation of nature by doing purely human things like grafting one tree part to another and I think that is his point. We are part of nature and we impact it all the time. We have systems inside our bodies that look like these branches in the veins and arteries or millions of nerve fiber connections. Art needs to be studied to really understand the layers of meaning are more than what meets the eye on first impression. Being a tree lover I was drawn to look and then repelled by his steel tree, then drawn deeper again. Imagine if we killed all the trees with global warming, I thought and this is all we had left. Only man made copies of trees in non perishable metals. If trees were to die away it is likely we would go too Oh how this sculpture speaks to me. I wonder what other people see and read it's hidden messages?

There were lots of beautiful colorful autumn leaves and late flowers outside the gallery which made Roxy Paine's work all the more stark.
We went inside and saw a photographic process history show and had a nice lunch then enjoyed some gift shop browsing and then an attempt to photograph the Holiday trees in the gallery. These are all live trees that smell so sweetly of fir or some evergreen that has a heavy association with Christmas. I hope if you are in town you make it down to see the beautiful installation in the West wing rotunda. I will be posting more of the pictures on my flickr. page and they are already in an album on my facebook page. Happy holidays to you all.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

1st snow

collecting on the evergreens

rain wet branches slowing coated in white

Today it began as rain then switched over to large flake snow that is so common early in the winter. I was sitting at my desk instant messaging with Keith and later my mother watching as it began to collect on the limbs of trees and grass.
We are going out to the memorial service for Margaret Cox Ayers my back up mom, aka godmother, who died a couple weeks ago suddenly. She was a beautiful woman, full of love, kind words, wishes and actions. She left a big family full of the same love and kindness to the world but we are all very sad that she left us so suddenly. I feel lucky that I got to speak to her in hospital by phone about a week before she died and to tell her how much I loved her. I am hoping everyone travels safely today to this gathering.
Meanwhile we have a beautiful Saturday surprise. You can see in my little video the view from my window as it just begins to cover the grass and branches of trees newly bared of their leaves. Houston, Texas where my sister Jenny lives and all across the south saw rare snowfalls last 24 hours.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

sunny blue skies light up the oaks

tangled branches seek the light
unfolding in graceful systems of asymmetry
bursting through the giggling wind tossed leaves

sun lights bright blue skies
a few oak trees full of leaves
shift from green
becoming embers, flickering fiery orange, red and gold

I delight in the sight of flashing brilliance
as the cool autumn wind tugs them back and forth,
securely stuck to their branch tips.

I went for a walk today and was overjoyed by the sunshine pouring over the leaves of a few oaks on the edge of Turkey Thicket Park. Keith and I noticed the same trees a couple days ago when we took a similar walk but today they were even more colorful than the last time. I felt so inspired. I walked all the way home and got the camera then back to record the colors before the light changed. The funny thing about autumn leaves, we see them and think "how beautiful these colors are" but leaves are constantly changing as the light moves across the sky and the wind blows hour by hour. With a camera you never really know what you can catch until you try shooting and with a digital camera one is free to make all the mistakes you care to try. Hip hip hurray for 21st century digital technology! Slowly you discover ways to make the camera capture what your mind's eye sees, in addition to what is actually in front of you. Changes the angles and composition enjoy the fun of any experiment since you can only make one mistake. The mistake I think is not taking a the picture. You won't know if you could catch a delight to hold dear in those cold dark weeks ahead unless you try.
I heard the "state" tree of Washington DC is a Scarlet Oak "Quercus coccinea". I don't know if these are that type but the colors fit the name. Naming trees is hard to do and there are a lot of different types of oak tree. I wish we had a couple of these trees planted next to our house but a short walk down the street gave me some exercise and a destination to go visit my favorite Brookland oak trees. The best shape and style of oak are the oldest ones and the grandest ones are like the one across the street which is left to grow in full sun with no obstructions. The Elementary School Oak across the street has almost lost all it's leaves but the shape of the gnarled twisting branches and lumpy stems are one of my favorites. I also like the huge tall oak in our alley mid block but I didn't try to capture a photo of that one today.
I remember from my childhood a single ancient oak tree in the center of a narrow Appalachian valley cow pasture in Pulaski County Virginia where my Aunt Alice lives. It was broad, thick, round and stood all alone in a that pasture just past the gap where we turned to drive up in the valley to her farm. This country dairy we visited to see them using the milking machines and feeding kittens bowls of warm milk. That oak was the shade tree during the hot afternoon to the whole herd of milking cows. Some time in the past it was struck by lighting and burned down to the base so it is no longer there and I can tell you I really felt sad when I learned of it's fate. Trees are great monuments and should be respected and cared for to the best of our ability. I doubt there would be much help for a tree that caught fire from lightening so this was unavoidable. When I see the trees here in the city I know they live on the razor's edge. I am especially impressed by the old ones that stand in the hellish city forests.