THE RETURN OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE

Today at 11:28 AM marks the occurrence of the winter solstice. Its Latin roots are sol and stit or sun stopped. As a practical matter the sun appears to have moved as far south as it ever goes and will now start its journey back north. Tomorrow there will be two more seconds of daylight.  Phew! What a relief. However, even so, it’s going to take a few months to warm up again.

Cold or not it’s a beautiful time of the year but, come on, it can also be a little hectic. Sometimes it whirls by in a swirl of color and that helps make the short bleak cold days tolerable.

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The little figures above were as seen by my Lensbaby Composer Pro lens. Sometimes it gives the effect of too much partying but I like what it does. The little figures were in a stand at Philadelphia’s Christmas Market in Love Park near City Hall. It’s always fun to wander amongst the families enjoying the scene with its Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) character.

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Elsewhere in the area, in Dilworth Park Garden just west of the City Hall building we found an enchanting America’s Garden Capital Maze. A half dozen of these big guys were watching over everything and I thought they were a great contrast with the downtown center-city buildings.

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Still in the Christmas Market area I came across this artist who created animals from heated colored glass rods. Seen again through the eye of my Lensbaby lens there is an aura of 10,000 B.C. to it all.

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We’ve been blessed with two decorative snow storms. They’re decorative in that traffic didn’t get snarled and they didn’t have much impact, and lingering warmth disposed of them pretty quickly. While they last the results are magical and fit our northern concept of Christmas. Here was my view of my friends’ nearby town house, that of Valerie and Dick C. They always enhance their place with decoration and lights, both inside and outside, and it adds to our life.

On a snowy night, perfect.

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After the snow my late wife Marty Lou’s crafty snowman looked good and felt at home. Marty and three of her buds would get together in December and make a Christmas Craft. They started here with a clear glass lamp chimney and painted it white. The get-outta-here felt hat is pinned up in front with a tiny sleigh bell. On the rim is a cardinal’s nest and miscellaneous grasses. There’s also some mistletoe berries and a tiny ceramic ginger bread man on the back of the rim. A plaid scarf protects against a sore throat, and the nose is a painted slash.

Sadly, of those four crafty ladies only one is still with us. I look forward to the annual reappearance of the little snow man. Christmas as a family event refreshes memories of family and friends who have left us. This year that includes Miss Pearl who I lost last December.  I miss her very much.

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HAS CHRISTMAS ARRIVED IN MY TOWN HOUSE?

You bet!  Too many traditions to ignore. First, my 86th Christmas Tree. I don’t remember the first three or four. Frankly, there are lots of others that I might not specifically remember, but I do remember the concepts and isolated memories of Christmases past. Notably, the $2.00 Charley Brown tree from our salad days in the early 70’s. This year’s tree is beautiful, loaded as always with ornaments from over the years including some from my grandparents’ trees. Age? I don’t know, but my parents married in 1918 and probably had their first tree that year.

Barb and I decorated mine last Saturday and we applied the tinsel one strand at a time as my childhood friend, Bimmie W. trained me to do.

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Elsewhere Christmas has cropped up in my living room. The Snow Village houses have appeared on the top of the china cabinet and on top of my wall unit. The houses and trains of my youth are on the shelves of the wall unit. One of the centerpieces which Sigrid made for our recent joint (Barbara and me) birthday party is on my coffee table. A basket of tree ornaments is on the little side table between the two chairs, and crystal and pressed glass pieces are on the dining table and on the coffee table. With the candles lit it is festive.

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A BEVELED GLASS PANEL

Finally, I tackled and completed another beveled glass panel this fall. It doesn’t say Christmas but it will be a long-requested gift. Details and construction are seen here (scroll to the bottom) on my Stained Glass page.  Tho not specifically a Christmas theme, it is a warm inviting window panel for the holidays.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS OR A HAPPY HOLIDAY

TO ALL OF MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS

AND A HAPPY, PROSPEROUS AND HEALTHY 2018

 

ANOTHER JOURNEY TO A DISTANT SHORE – 2015

Friends know that I become a little antsy mid-summer, wanting to get away to another venue.  (Fifty-six images of the Holyoke Avenue jetty are quite enough).  I find these trips to be good for both my sensor and my psyche.  And though I live at the shore for the summer months I’m also drawn to other shores.  Last summer was great on Cape Cod;  this year Cape Ann bubbled up out of my considerations and it, too, was pleasant and productive.  It’s certainly a different kind of shore.

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Cape Ann is located about thirty miles northeast of Boston, and is probably best known for the commercial fishing port, Gloucester, made famous by the book and movie, The Perfect Storm.  My destination, however, was out at the eastern end of the Cape, the less busy village of Rockport, an art colony and a home for lobster fisherman, surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, and loaded with charm.  We discovered it a good many years ago when I was stationed in my navy days at Quonset Point, RI, from which we frequently explored New England.

The name is derived from its 19th century granite trade, and the harbors and beaches confirm that stony life.  Beginning in the mid-1800s, however, it morphed into more of an art colony planted amongst large estates and summer homes.  The winding, hilly roads, the New England architecture, the flower gardens and the spectacular views are irresistible.  It is certainly a Norman Rockwell kind of place.  Here is one of the granite sea-walled harbors from which lobster fisherman go forth daily. (Note to colleagues:  this is a five vertical image pano.)

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The harbor is best known, however, for this 1840 fishing shack which came to be known as Motif #1, said to be the most painted building in America. It was considered such an important element for the town’s commerce that when it was blown down in a winter blizzard in 1978 the town rebuilt it as it had been.

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The focal point of tourist activity is a section called Bearskin Neck.  This is a 0.2 mile long peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic from the largely residential area.  It’s lined with art galleries, artist’s studios, gift shops, clothing from T-shirts to up-scale, and eating places including Roy Moore’s lobster store.  Pick one out and they’ll cook it on the spot and you can eat it overlooking the harbor.  Here’s a view early in the morning before the tourists arrived.  Turning left, there is a short walk to the tip on the Atlantic.  There is also a splendid premier restaurant out there, My Place By The Sea, which I’ve enjoyed over the years, and did again while overlooking the harbor and the sea.

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The back street behind the stores to the right includes a row of charming one-time fishermen’s cottages.

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Along the way, one of the more colorful spots is the kayak rental business.  I photographed this scene fifteen years ago and there were two dozen boats there.  I gather that the business has done well.

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 A charming doorway invites us in to the store but, notably, it’s the rear entrance from a back street reserved for residents’ parking.  One sees the flowers everywhere!

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But, it was to the harbor that I returned many times from sunrise to sunset.  This scene is from the T-wharf looking out to the harbor entrance, an area that seems to be reserved for pleasure craft rather than lobstermen.  Here, in the words of Parish Kohanim who spoke to us at the Rehoboth Beach seminar last spring, I sought “to offer an expanded awareness of the beauty in the world around us.”  I tried to do that as well in the images that are shown in the related gallery (see below).

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I recently purchased a Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens.  This is designed to yield soft, ethereal images with only a small center section in somewhat sharper focus.  As I have said elsewhere, we spend shocking sums to acquire high quality sensors and lenses and then we spend more money to soften things just a little bit.

The result, for me, was dramatic.  Again, I thought of another of Kohanim’s admonitions: “Seek to transform the mundane into the extraordinary.”  Here, a lobsterman slowly moves out of the harbor for his day’s work.  Two accompanying seagulls can be faintly seen.  The image is suggestive of watercolorist James Sessions whose work included scenes of nearby Gloucester’s fishermen. We purchased two of his prints in our first year of marriage and one still hangs in my shore house.

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Finally, even the night offers magic.  I was blessed to be visiting  during the recent blue moon.  The first night of it was a washout because of cloud cover.  The second night — my last at Rockport — was a fulfilling event as were all of my harbor visits.

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On one of our visits over the years I was in a funk over career issues.  I fantasized about dropping out and getting a little shop on Bearskin Neck in which I would make and sell driftwood lamps.  Fortunately (I guess) it never happened.  However, it’s never too late.  If you visit Rockport please look me up.  I’ll be wondering up and down the Neck taking souvenir family portraits.

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 There is a gallery of more images of Rockport from this trip.  To visit it, click here.

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