Apologies for having been in absentia for most of a week.
If you've been paying attention, you know two things: I like cemeteries -- mostly for the photographic opportunities they afford -- and I love poetry.
My favorite poet by a country mile is Emily Dickinson, the Belle of Amherst. Emily was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts.
On May 15, 1886, at the young age of fifty-five, Emily was "called back" -- those are the words inscribed on her tombstone -- and left this earth from Amherst.
On my own grave marker -- which I sure hope I won't need for a long time -- I have asked that these words of Emily's be inscribed:
In this short Life / That only lasts an hour
How much -- how little -- is / Within our power
A few Christmases ago, Audrey gave me the book The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems, which offers stunning close-up photos of the scraps of paper on which Emily scribbled her timeless words.
I recently discovered the online Emily Dickinson Archive, where you may view those same photos, and more. If stuff like that interests you.
Of all my ambitions in the area of cemetery photography -- and I've got lots -- my primary goal for many years has been to visit Emily's grave in West Cemetery, Amherst.
Until the happy day I am able to do that, on the one-hundred twenty-ninth anniversary of Emily being called back, I am sharing a few pictures I imagine she might have liked.
In closing I give you my favorite of all the poems written by my favorite poet:
Ample make this Bed --
Make this Bed with Awe --
In it wait till Judgment break
Excellent and Fair.
Be its mattress straight --
Be its Pillow round --
Let no Sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this Ground --
Truth be told, that's the poem I'd really like on my someday-tombstone. But the other one is shorter. I'll let the kids decide. When the time comes.
Until then, let's enjoy life while it lasts.
Happy Friday ~ Happy Weekend
This will be a short post. Well, shortish. Short for me.
Sometimes I don't have all that much to say. I will thank you not to snicker.
Audrey and I (Erica was unable to accompany us this time) took another mini-day-trip (meaning it took up only part of the day) last Saturday.
You may or may not know this about me but I am more or less obsessed with ruins.
I love the abandoned, the left-to-rot spots. I don't know why. I have a list of ruins I plan to visit, get to know, and subject to my lavish and sincere photographic attentions.
Sometimes I think ruins remind me of cemeteries, where all that is going to be done, has been done, and what is left is the marveling at how quickly it all went.
But I know a big draw for me is the quiet, the calm, the peace, of no more struggle.
Not that cemeteries or abandoned places have given up. They haven't. In fact they supply so much noisy beauty, it takes specially-trained ears and eyes to hear and see it.
As for my eye, it may not be especially trained in any sort of classical or traditional sense involving schooling or anything, but it has trained itself to see.
Since becoming especially enamored of photography within the last ten years -- meaning, I refused any longer to think, you're not a photographer, leave it to those who know what they're doing, you've been told and best heed, you are no artist -- I have learned how to look at things.
That is to say, I've learned a great deal but I hope to continue learning until the day before I'm ushered out of this world.
And I don't care what anyone thinks about any of that. I really don't. But I'm chuffed when they think (of something I wrote, or of one of my pictures): That's pretty neat.
On the way I actually stopped to take a picture of a parked semi trailer emblazoned with Old Glory.
And also the -- ahem -- interesting signage on the brightly-painted building beside which the trailer sits.
Winnsboro was chosen as a preliminary destination because there is a historic clock tower there (not much else, sorry Winnsboro), and Ridgeway, because of the school ruins.
By the way: Winnsboro's aforementioned clock, at over one hundred years of ticking, is billed as the oldest continually-running clock in the United States. I'm only reporting what I've read and what is said.
In addition to the clock and its charming tower, I did get this shot on South Congress Street in Winnsboro -- once a bustling retail community but now not so much -- because you know how I love such upshot perspectives on vintage buildings.
Then on to Ridgeway, a scant fifteen minutes away by chariot.
When old Ridgeway High School was demolished -- I know not when -- a single doorway was left standing.
There's no actual door; only a pedimented archway and enough brick around it, to let it stand there.
Ivy has made it its mission to decorate one side of the structure in a most lush and stylish fashion.
The doorway dominates a field on an ordinary residential street in the sleepy town, only a block off the main drag which I told you about here.
I learned of the school ruins (such as they be) only after not one, but two somewhat recent visits to Ridgeway, which drowsy hamlet turns out to be a deep reservoir of photographic delights. If -- again -- you know where to look and how to see.
And now I'll have to go back because soon after arriving at the ruins, I realized I was there on the wrong day and at the wrong time of that day.
The ruins face southeast; meaning, they're best photographed as the sun rises and strikes the front of the structure.
Also the day was relentlessly bright, nearly cloudless. And as the sun sank behind the ruin, it would render it a mere silhouette.
But we popped The World's Cutest Little Baby up on the ledge anyway, and she began smiling and laughing at her mother, and my lens loved her tiny face and sparkling eyes for a few minutes.
We will take her back too, at which time we will plan better, stay longer, and do it all more justice, if only of the poetic variety.
Before leaving for home, we swung by a quaint lovely church with a small immaculate graveyard, where honeysuckle was blooming rampant, perfuming the warm air like you wouldn't believe.
It was a day for doorways and I'm a sucker for a red ecclesiastical door. It did not hurt that said door was set in a gothic archway itself set into a chalet-style roofline under antique slate shingles, flanked by genuine leaded-glass windows, beyond a perfect wrought-iron gate at the start of a brick path shaded by old trees.
The scene brought heaven to mind.
And there was a nice black amber-eyed dog, who approached and wanted to be friendly but wasn't sure.
We inadvertently allowed him outside the main gate and were concerned until we realized he freely goes in and out. Even so, Audrey offered him one of Dagny's arrowroot cookies to lure him back inside.
But he balked. I was like: In or out, Blackie. Make up your mind. You remind me of that freestanding door down the street: neither here nor there.
Upon which he stepped on a burr (or something), temporarily semi-laming himself, and loped off across the adjoining property. It was our signal to move along too.
Until we return to Ridgeway and environs for further adventures and additional artistic opportunities, I hope I haven't ruined your day.
Au revoir for the nonce, friends and neighbors.
Earlier this week, I and the girls were thirsty for adventure.
So we set out for Sumter, South Carolina, some forty-odd miles due east of Columbia, where there is a nature preserve called Swan Lake Iris Gardens.
The story is that SLIG is the only public park in the US to feature all eight swan species.
I'm no stripe of a swannoisseur but I identified only two species: black and white.
But since it happens that noir/blanc be my favorite color combination, it was all good.
And on the black'uns you've got to love that pop of color in the red beak. It's attitude.
The white ones were all mad at the black ones the day we visited, so maybe they'd heard of the goings-on in Baltimore. I did not stop to inquire.
Temperature-wise it was ideal: in the low seventies with even lower stupidity. I mean humidity. Alas the sky was not pretty but we made do.
A gorgeous and rather recent addition to Swan Lake is Recovery, an eighteen-foot sculpture by the artist Grainger McKoy, depicting a pintail duck wing in flight mode.
The large bronze plaque accompanying the installation brought us up to speed:
If you know me at all, you're aware that I prefer the King James translation of any Bible verse, this one in particular because, as they say, if it ain't broke:
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
I was grateful for the opportunity to see the sculpture, take its picture, and read the plaque. The setting is so splendidly serene, so sweetly stunning, I cannot describe it so I won't try.
The lake is full of cypress trees and their reflections were rather fantastic.
Along the bank of the lake where the swans come to walk up and be landlubbers for a time before wading back in, are whole colonies of cypress-stump people, waving their arms or simply standing still.
There is even a beach of sorts, where the swans and ducks waddle up to two generous feeders. On their way they nearly trip over an army of turtles camping out in the shallows, even wading on shore too, for what reason I could not tell.
The feeders are too tall for turtle use.
Across the road from Swan Lake the park continues, in a deep green forest of cypress, complete with drippy Spanish moss, which one doesn't often see this far north.
The swans are less in evidence there; it seems to be more of a duck reserve. The mallards are in residence, lovely shimmering jewel-tone feathers a delight to the eye.
Bridges provide walkpaths and aside from a strong smell of bird dung (sorry but I have to say, it was overwhelming at times), the experience was most pleasant.
Almost dreamy in fact, because my Nikon was loving it, nearly cooing as I snapped away at this calm green vista and that. Except by then, my leg was hurting from having walked so much.
In the company of swans, one wishes to swan as much as possible. But in the presence of osteoarthritis, after a time one is prone to perambulate like a much less graceful bird. I miss my youth.
Speaking of youth, and love: Baby Dagny loved it, loved it, loved it. The child adores being outside, adores being with all of us. And of course, having her with us is a treat and a delight so keen, we wonder what good thing we did to deserve it.
Children are precious. Swans and ducks and turtles are breathtakingly graceful, somtimes clumsy, always noisy, wonderfully natural, uniquely spectacular symbols of God's presence, His provision, His plan, and His providence. They remind us that all lives matter.
Black and white, and every color in between. At all stages, from conception to passing, and even beyond.
This is what I saw and what I knew at Swan Lake Iris Gardens.
As it should be.
Our Allissa turned seven last week.
Here be the OBP (Official Birthday Photo):
Or, if you prefer (as do I) what I call the Wednesday Addams edit of same:
Haaahaha. Anyway. Last Saturday afternoon at an appointed time, we convened at the Flying Biscuit Cafe in Charlotte to fete Allissa.
We'd never been there before and it was a great success: whimsical ambience (with wings, and you know I have a thing for wings), courteous server, good food, all at a reasonable price.
Dagny, a birthday-party novice, was suitably impressed. I didn't get a picture of it, but she chowed down on cheese grits as though they were leaving the planet tomorrow.
According to prominent signage over our table, they've been partying down at the Flying Biscuit for many a moon.
Stephanie stood in the right -- or wrong -- place at just the right -- or wrong -- time, and was rendered a beautiful winged being.
I guess you've figured out by now that Allissa's theme was Minnie Mouse. This was the adornment from the proper sheet cake her parents provided on her actual birthday:
Allissa made free to bedazzle Minnie's dress and bow. I posed MM in front of Allissa's new pink-and-white chevron purse.
In other chevron-inspired sartorial news, the birthday girl was wearing an on-trend black-and-white outfit which was a gift from her paternal grandparents:
The child is after my own heart. Black lace ... long flowing feminine skirt ... white denim layering piece ... yes. Muy bueno. Tres chic. Pretty sweet.
After dinner, our party repaired to the patio for cake and presents. Even though she'd had a long day, Dagny was still in great spirits.
Allissa got down to business like only seven-year-olds can, opening her presents. She always reads each card aloud.
TG and I gave her Bananagrams ...
... and Shaun the Sheep. She received several other nice gifts and seemed both grateful and overjoyed.
Glamorous Aunt Erica and little Andrew were absorbed in something or other at some point.
Aunt Audrey and her mini-me enjoyed hanging out with one another and the family. Have you ever noticed how babies love new experiences? At least this one does.
At the end of the evening I insisted that Allissa and her entourage pose for a more formal portrait.
As far as I'm concerned, that's one for all the ages. Allissa loves life and we love Allissa.
Something else we did that evening was watch a slideshow I'd put together for Allissa. It made almost everybody cry. If you wish, you may watch it here.
And that is all for now.
On Monday, Audrey and I took Dagny to a local park.
This park is new, having opened in late 2013.
The fairly lavish fourteen-acre facility -- construction of which cost taxpayers nearly two million dollars -- gained instant notoriety by being the place where a three-year-old boy, playing there last summer, was killed when a tree branch fell on him.
Following the macabre accident, the park was closed briefly. Yesterday was my first time to see it, although Audrey said she took newborn Dagny there last July, just to get out of the house.
It's a beautiful park with several fantastic play areas for kids.
Yesterday it was all but empty. There is no sign of the unthinkable tragedy; the trees are beautiful and the breeze was delightful.
I've always loved play equipment, especially swings. Did I ever tell you that on our first date, TG and I sat in a little park at night, on a carousel-type installation, and TG nearly became ill?
My beloved is afflicted with motion sickness. I am not affected in the least by motion; it's getting up early that makes me sick.
Anyway the park where we took Dagny yesterday has a huge shallow-bowl type swing that immediately caught my attention.
It's like the love child of a hammock and a flying saucer, with a suspension bridge as godparent. I had a great time swinging languidly and looking up at the trees, hoping fervently nothing would fall on me.
When I finally vacated the disc-swing-thing -- I've since found out that at least one of its commercial names is Biggo Swing -- Audrey got in and I handed Dagny to her.
They both loved it.
After enjoying that for a time, we walked around -- walkies -- and took pictures of Dagny, who turns ten months old today.
We couldn't help but notice, situated near the three play areas, at least four tall shiny black poles supporting sophisticated (and expensive) ominously Orwellian multi-directional security camera balls.
No telling what those cost. Can't kids just be cut loose to play anymore, without cameras being necessary to catch the moment when someone gets hurt -- or worse -- and a lawsuit inevitably ensues?
Guess not. Because you never know what might happen and when it does, we must know precisely where to place the blame.
At the tail-end of our visit I spotted a Boston Terrier who turned out to be named Toddy. That's the waggies part.
For a look at all of my shots from Monday at the park with Dagny, click here.
And that is all for now.
Andrew is participating today in the eighth annual Mountain Man Memorial March.
He's marching to honor the memory of TSgt Herman "Tre" Mackey III, a boom operator who was killed in the line of duty on May 3, 2013, when a KC-135 crashed in Kyrgyzstan.
March on, Andrew. Way to go buddy.
Happy Saturday ~ Happy Weekend