We were greeted by this glowing green apparition on the screen of our front door this morning. Stayed around long enough to be photographed by the iPhone and a traditional camera and tripod. But I liked this iPhone pix best of all Mark's shots because it captured the interior of the hallway right throught the screen. Amazing bug, amazing phone.
I believe the bug is a common green darner Damselfly (male). We get lots of dragonflies on the pond but this is the first damsel I've seen.
Last summer the couple who live behind us got a dog and needed to fence their yard. They were concerned to get something whose quality and design would not detract from the beautiful fence Mark built across our joint lot line. Ultimately they went with a simple cedar fence and gates from Struck & Irwin. We thought it looked so nice we had S&I replace the rusty old wire fence on the east side of our property with the same cedar design. Mark had them set 9' tall 6x6 pressure-treated gate posts in cement with the intention of designing our gate himself. This will be a permanent fixture replacing his bamboo gate.
He began construction late last week. He was moving along so rapidly, I noted that he needed to take a few pictures to record the process. At that, he turned to me and said, "You have a phone, don't you?" So this is my "phone" record of the first stage of building what we've always referred to as the "East Gate."
This fence and gate is not intended as the entrance to the garden, so we decided to make it simple and serviceable. Its purpose is to hide our work/materials yard from the driveway and front of the house.
The design is an alternating pattern of boards and bamboo poles. It is somewhat similar to the gate we built on the west side of the garden that links us with those neighbors. The bamboo has been sitting outside for a long time developing a nice patina.
If you garden seriously you always need a materials yard where you stockpile supplies, pile junk, have a potting bench, compost pile, whatever. As we completed different areas of the garden over the years, our work area moved to whatever spot was incomplete.
This narrow area adjacent to the garage has been our work area for quite a long time. There are no windows in our house that look directly on this and our neighbor often puts his ladder etc. on his side of the fence. The black plastic bags hold garden debris which we take to the city compost/recycling site. The other side is filled with assorted building materials which we might need for a project.
Since we are nearing the end of major garden projects, what doesn't get used soon will probably be given away free to neighbors. That's how we got much of it in the first place.
There will be a double gate that looks the same as the fence just a bit lower as the bar indicates in the photo below. The gate will have a board roof rather than shingles. The roof angle matches that of our garage overhang which is adjacent to this area.
We've always talked about the East Gate and West Gate areas of the garden and what kind of gates they might have: physical or symbolic. These gates, the interior of the Tea House and its surrounding garden area and the west driveway slope are the last few garden areas that still need significant work. While there's still lots of do, this is probably the shortest list of garden projects we've ever had. Once we get them all done we can work on the areas that need attention due to their age — and ours.
I first became interested in gardening through Elizabethan textiles, English country estates and the photos of Edward Steichen. Those ideas and images of gardens eventually led me to the real thing: creating my own garden. I dreamed of someday growing a shad blow tree (below) like the one Steichen photographed in a famous pictorial series that I first saw in the mid-1960s. Steichen spent his early years in Wisconsin and left a record of that time with scenes of misty Milwaukee woods (bottom) and a stunning portrait of his sister, Lilian, and her husband, Carl Sandburg (directly below).
On December 29, 1907, Sandburg met Lilian Steichen when she stopped by the Milwaukee headquarters of the Wisconsin Social-Democratic party to say hello to her socialist friends. It was Sandburg's first day on the job as an organizer for the party. You can read details of their romantic correspondence and relationship here, in an article published in the Wisconsin Academy Review.
But what I love most about this young couple is their passion for progressive politics. According to the Wisconsin Academy Review, Lilian was actively involved in politics, translating socialist pamphlets from German to English, and vice versa. She and her mother were often the only women in attendance at the Social-Democratic party meetings. Among their friends were famed Wisconsin socialists, Victor Berger and Emil Seidel.
In 1908, the year Lilian and Carl were married, he was often away working on the presidential campaign of Eugene Debs. The following year they moved to Milwaukee where Carl was a newpaper reporter. When the Socialists took office in the spring of 1910, Carl became secretary to Mayor Emil Seidel.
If you know your Wisconsin history, then you know that this state has a proud history of socialism. It was under their leadership at the local and state level that some of the most progressive legislation in Wisconsin history was written and and passed into law.
So today I'll be voting in our local elections channeling the spirit of Lilian and Carl. Then I'll go home and remember Edward Steichen as I work in my garden.
With the 100th anniversary of World War I looming on the horizon, the number of new books on the subject would make one think it had never been covered before. That volume makes it hard to pick and choose among many great titles. Two of my top choices are visual considerations of the event.
By Joe Sacco, W.W. Norton & Company, $35.00
This is a book that is a stunning achievment on any level. It's a panoramic look at one day of the war that unfolds in thick acordian pages covered with black and white drawings of soldiers, animals, buildings, weapons. The story of the war is captured in one vast 24-foot-long panorama. When you take the "book" out of its protective slipcase and begin to open it, the experience is both chilling and thrilling. I can't remember ever seeing anything quite like it in concept, scale or detail.
There's an acompanying booklet with an essay about the battle by Adam Hochschild along with Sacco's annotations of his drawing. Even if you don't read everything, this is one of the few books that manages to give us a sense of the vastness of the battle. This video The Great War by Joe Sacco from WW Norton on Vimeo lets the artist talk about his book.
By Mark Holborn and Hilary Roberts (Imperial War Museums), Alfred A. Knopf, $100.00
A mammoth book (almost 11 and 1/2 inches square and 2 inches thick) with 380 photos from the Imperial War Museums in London, so the pictures are all nice and big. I had been looking forward to this book for weeks but found it less satisfying in some ways than both Sacco's book (above) and the Met's history of photography seen through the lens of the Civil War.
My response was due to the fact that I realized I've already seen a huge number of images of the war and also the sheer number of images in this book became dulling after a while. What was most noteworthy is this book looks at a much broader canvas, so we see the war as it was played out in Palestine, Africa, and the Ottoman Empire/Gallipoli, as well as many photos of the air and sea war. There are also images of Indian and Zulu soldiers among the many ethinic groups who fought in the war.
The book has time lines for each year of the war and the chapters open with full color close-ups of uniforms, including the one that Franz Ferdinand was wearing when he was asssassinated at Sarajevo. I also discovered a number of facts that were new to me; for example, there was a strict ban on soldiers using personal cameras on the Western Front, though many of these photos are a testament to the fact that the ban was not rigidly enforced elsewhere.
There were still plenty of amazing pictures I'd never seen like an aerial view of the village of Passchendale after the battle that looks like the surface of the moon; vast mountains of spent shell cases, and the officers of the No. 3 Squadron of the Royal Australian Flying Corps putting floral wreaths on the grave of the "Red Baron," the German flying ace, in a bit of photographic respect/news/propaganda. While the book is heavy on British photos, there are images from all sides; apparently many German archives were destroyed in WWII.
And despite all the pictures I've seen of the Western Front with its blasted mucky landscape, I was still taken aback at a picture of stretcher bearers carrying a wounded soldier through a sea of mud that reached their knees and above in the Ypres Salient in 1917. As well as a heartrending image of a "Pals Battalion" from East Yorkshire, all the men turning toward the camera and broadly smiling as they march down the road at the Somme.
Very near the end of the book, there's a photo noting that when the Armistice brought fighting to an end at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11th, 1918, the Allied line was located at Mons, Belgium, the scene of the first encounter between British and German troops in 1914. A sad bit of irony reminscent of the American Civil War that began and ended at Wilmer McLean's home. Plus ca change.
Both books are available through Wisconsin's South Central Library System.
These are the three non-fiction books I read last month, all very different from each other and all engrossing and well-worth the time and effort to read. With books like these I tend to take notes on 5x7 index cards and each book required more than one card (covered on both sides) for me to record everything I wanted to remember, research or reflect upon (despite the fact that my reviews here are short).
This engrossing volume is based on a traveling photography exhibit at the Met Museum that has gotten lots of press. You can see some of the images in this NYTimes review and slide show.
The book is beautifully designed and printed, excellently written and big enough so that the photos are reproduced in clear and crisp fashion. The Civil War is the lens through which this book looks at photography. The war was the catalyst for great advances in photography as well as the kind of pictures that began to be taken, reproduced and sold. While the two are linked, in this book photography and photographers are the story. So much info that was new to me; all of it fascinating. To begin with, Matthew Brady — whose name is linked with photos of the American Civil War — never muddied his shoes on the battlefield.
Another book that has received lots of positive attention. Lepore has managed to write a captivating book about Ben Franklin's sister based on only the barest outlines of her life. It gives a sobering picture of the life of a woman in colonial and post-colonial America, as well as a different view of Franklin himself. Daily life, religion, travel, mental and physical illness all come under the lens of Jane and Lepore.
This NYTImes review caused me to add this book to my "hold" list at the local public library. Read this for yourself rather than thinking in terms of parents. The stats for having the kind of end of life experience we are all picturing for ourselves are not good. No one is going to make this system better unless we go out and do it ourselves, while plenty of institutions like hospitals, big pharma and the makers of medical equipment are more than ready to defend the status quo. A painful, educational and inspiring read.
I get periodic photo updates from Gemma Comas whose work I first wrote about here. These two photos from her recent-email caught my gardener's eye for the fanciful treatment of plants in each setting.
They were taken in the Chelsea loft of photographer Anita Calero, who "is moving on to new adventures" according to Gemma. She took these images for Christie's catalogue for the auction of a number of Calero's treasures.
For me, both images convey the same message: it's all about scale and contrast whether you are designing indoors or in the garden.
You can see more of Gemma Comas' work on her web site.
On Friday a friend mentioned that CBS was streaming in real time their original Kennedy assassination footage all weekend. I tuned in Saturday morning and had trouble tuning out again. I felt like Alice falling down the hole into a world that I had once lived in. When I've thought about that long weekend in 1963, I remember that my family watched everything unfolding in front of us as national television networks broadcast round the clock. But I couldn't quite picture what that was like until I saw members of Congress, the diplomatic corps, and governors of all 50 states start arriving at the White House to pay their respects to President Kennedy, whose body lay in state in the East Room, as part of the CBS footage.
With that blurry black and white broadcast flickering on the screen and the voices of Harry Reasoner and Walter Cronkite describing the proceedings I was transported back to our living room. I was a political junkie even in high school and remember watching all these people arrive with rapt attention. This time around I recognized a fair number of faces but what I noticed about the situation was nothing that would have struck me at the time.
This time I first noticed the little things: Almost everyone — man or woman — was wearing a hat. Then the big thing hit me: It was a white man's world in 1963. Almost every woman I saw arrived on the arm of a man. There were few people of color visible or minorities of any kind. That world is what the Tea Party folks want to return to; a world where we all know our place and wouldn't dream of stepping outside of our assigned role. That's a world that I have no intention of living in. No woman in her right mind wants to go back there.
What was also striking to me this time around was the quality of the work done by the broadcasters who were winging it most of the time as unforseen events unfolded around them. They used big words and assumed listeners understood them; I caught Cronkite saying "embroglio"! When have you heard anyone use a word like that on TV? They refered to the funeral cortege without explaining cortege and noted the riderless horse had its "stirrups inverted" without further ado. While I mostly saw male reporters, I did spot a female journalist in the basement of the Dallas Police Station just after Oswald was shot.
And that was another surprise. Bob Jackson's iconic photo of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald is burned into the brain of everyone who was alive back then. But when you watch the live footage you realize that's not what you see. An interview with Jackson in the Denver Post points out that it's photojournalism that told that amazing story because it has "the capability of telling a full story by freezing time." It's a striking thought given that it is TV that has always been touted as the medium that came of age with JFK's assassination. Yet it is the image from print journalism that has stayed with us for 50 years.
Watching even snippets of those events in 1963 is painful; not so much for the events themselves — tragic as they were — but for the realization that we seem to have lost the best part of ourselves in the intervening years and none of us have yet figured out how to make our nation whole again.
There is nothing Mark likes better than flowers that are past their prime. When he goes out into the garden to take pictures for the blog, I never know what to expect. Same thing when it comes to cut flowers in arrangements in the house. He's taken dozens of shots of this white peony from Seneca Hill Perennials as it fades and the petals becomes more and more elongated and transparent. Since this is a young plant, I brought the second bloom indoors to enjoy as I didn't want the peony to use any energy setting seed. He won't let me toss the arrangment as there's lots more life to it from his photographic point of view!
The first appearance of snowdrops in the garden is typically one of the harbingers of Spring. In the past we've always used the arrival of our mallard ducks, Fred and Ethel, to note the changing season. They show up as soon as the pond ice melts — which should be this week — but we've had snowdrops since February 17th.
So it occurs to me that I should be recording the first snowdrop sighting as one of my phenological records, the same way I take note of the ducks. And since digital photos all have the date embedded, I realized I could instantly assemble a snowdrop history merely by looking at all my snowdrop images taken in the years since we bought our first digitial camera.
And yes, this year the snowdrops popped up earlier than any year since we started snapping their pictures in 2005. You can see from the list below that there is a fluctuation of almost 7 weeks in the first appearance of the snowdrops; though interestingly the arrival dates for the ducks just barely span a month: March 6 (2000, 2004) to April 2 (2011).