Travel Theme: Foliage

Ailsa, at Where’smybackpack, has given bloggers a new challenge:  Travel Theme – Foliage. Anyone who knows me, knows I love all things botanical. I must have close to a thousand images of foliage of one kind or another, so I’m going to restrict my offerings to foliage seen while traveling – but you’ll see that restriction still permits quite a bit of latitude.

A yucca plant in Colt’s Neck, NJ, a township in rural Monmouth County.  Love those curls!

Sensitive fern on the Buffalo River in the Ozarks, in northern Arkansas. The Buffalo River “flows freely for 135 miles and is one of the few remaining un-dammed rivers in the lower 48 states.”  The National Park Service warns visitors not to rely on GPS in this remote area, but to use Arkansas road maps. Remember road maps? Flooding caused some of these leaves to be covered in mud; later, new leaves grew among the old.

On the edge of a parking lot in Fort Myers, Florida, tropical foliage is torn and caught on a bamboo stalk.

This old home on Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington, is almost invisable under layers of moss, bushes, weeds and trees.

More rampant foliage takes over another overgrown roadside attraction – an old tobacco barn in rural Duplin County, North Carolina.

Foliage of a completely different sort – a Tillandsia – an “air plant” that grows by anchoring its roots in tree branches for support while its leaves absorb nutrients and water from the air.  When I placed it on a map of the area where I found it, its leaves seemed to echo the roadway lines.

Undersea foliage: kelp and a bull whip plant lie on a beach on Whidbey Island, Washington.

Western Hemlocks, their foliage drained of color in the gloom of the forest, tower over Lodge Lake Trail in the  Snoqualmie National Forest, in northern Washington state.

You can find more bloggers’ foliage photos at:

Weekly Travel Theme: White!

Beached…Gulf Coast, Florida

Toppled…Rainforest, Pacific Northwest

Hung…PS 1, Long Island, New York

Blown…Somewhere in Upstate New York

Exalted…Everglades City, Florida

Wrapped…Pike Place Market, Seattle

Washed Up…Your humble Photographer, reflected in a beach bubble on Topsail Island, North Carolina

Solitary: Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s Photo Challenge, hosted by Cheri Lucas, is “Solitary”. This time of year feels anything but solitary to me, but  there are always moments when people are alone with their thoughts.

When you think about it, just about any kid in the world who has the chance will play with water. I wish there was no hunger and adequate water, especially for kids, because I know some children will never enjoy playing alone like this.

This man has been around and seen a lot, I suppose. On an overcast spring afternoon he enjoyed a cigar and a solitary moment in an alley downtown.  Seattle’s Space Needle brings everything into focus – or not, depending on your aesthetic inclinations.

I was in the right place at the right time on this November evening in lower Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty provides a focal point for this man’s thoughts as the sun sets over New Jersey.

A lone kayaker on Puget Sound, north of Seattle, drifts near a flock of brant. I have yet to see a brant alone, on the east  or west coast – they are decidedly gregarious, and they make the most appealing guttural murmurs while plying the shoreline together for bits of eelgrass and other marine plants.

The Great Blue Heron, however, almost always hunts alone.  But on this warm January afternoon on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the heron stuck close to a solitary fisherman, whose bucket of bait was too tempting to let out of sight.

Running up and over the railroad tracks – another seriously fit Seattlite taking fitness seriously. I’m serious. They’re everywhere, making me feel guilty or inspiring me, depending on my own turn of mind.

This is Larry, who lives alone in an old home in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Though he talked a blue streak the day we met him, he was clearly a man content spending most of his time alone. I think his inspiration comes from inside his own mind and from nature – those trees reflected in the window are about to completely obscure his home, and he told us he won’t cut a single branch, not ever.

A young man leans against the barred window of a water tower, high above Volunteer Park in Seattle. A perfect place for a little solitude.

More offerings from around the world on this weeks’ theme are at:

Travel Theme: Texture

Ailsa at has a weekly photography challenge called Travel Theme.  This week it’s Texture.  It’s been up about two days & already there are 183 links to people’s texture photos. On a short trip to Philadelphia last year I noticed these textures with pleasure:

This terrific gargoyle was on a building somewhere in the vicinity of Rittenhouse Square.

These textures are on the Church of the Holy Trinity, on Rittenhouse Square. Built around 1859, it’s a well known Romanesque Revival wonder, with the most amazing stained glass windows inside.  Some historical data I found online says the exterior is “Brownstone ashlar” and “Coarse sand mortar patchwork is visible in some areas, punched and gouged for textural effect.” I love that – punched & gouged for textural effect. Just don’t do it to me.

Incidentally, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” was written by the church’s second rector, the music by its organist.

Finally, looking up at dusk towards Philly’s skyline, the light shining on nearby tree branches seems to make a scrim through which the slick dark rectangles of modern buildings shine dimly.

Link to more texture photos:

Everyday Life is Extraordinary – Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s Photo Challenge is about showing people at their everyday activities. Here are some images of people in everyday situations (to them, I believe) which looked pretty cool (to me).

These men paused to talk in Manhattan, at the Staten Island Ferry plaza. Old friends who took different directions? Or strangers rehashing a Yankees game?

This man is painting an ad on the side of a building in lower Manhattan on a freezing cold day in January. His precision was amazing. He wore big headphones – blocking noise?  Listening to a song about mischief?

I don’t think they had any idea how beautiful their choreography looked from above. Taken from the High Line, NY.

A Buddhist nun and her friend buy flowers at Pike Place Market in Seattle. Very possibly an everyday activity for them – but to my eye a delicious image. (Too bad it was taken on the run with the phone).

An ice storm closed Sea Tac Airport in Seattle. When it finally re-opened there was lots of work to do.  An ordinary day for them – just keeping us from falling through the air from an unacceptable height.

Everyday for them, joy for me. Street musicians in downtown Philadelphia.

Cutting stems for a bouquet at Pike Place Market. Another day for her, but for me – well, almost a Pre-Raphealite moment.

Celebration, Wonder and Not Knowing

Celebration…is self-restraint,

is attentiveness,

is questioning,

is meditating,

is awaiting,

is the step over into the more wakeful glimpse of the wonder—

the wonder

that a world is worlding around us at all,

that there are beings rather than nothing, that things are

and we ourselves are in their midst,

 that we ourselves are

and yet barely

know who we are, and barely know

that we do not

know this.”


– Martin Heidegger

“For Heidegger, human reality is both primary and irreducible. Instead of being ‘something’ in the world and thus open to scientific explanation Heidegger views human experience as the basis upon which the world shows up at all. He talks about human being as a ‘clearing’ in which the world is revealed. As such, it is beyond the easy grasp of human science which is, itself, a product of that clearing. This is not to say that we cannot, should not, seek to illuminate the nature of this clearing. The point is that this illumination can only be at best an interpretation, it is a mistake to present it as a form of scientific explanation. In addition, the fact that this clearing exists at all is a source of wonder for Heidegger. It is, simply, a mystery.

The American psychologist Louis Sass relates these Heideggarian themes to the experience of madness. He points out that many aspects of psychotic experience can be understood as a concern with the fact that human existence is not just ‘something’ in the world but rather provides the framework through which the world can be revealed. In the course of everyday life we are not aware of this framework, not aware that our reality is constructed and shaped in a particular way. Madness involves a confrontation with this framework. This confrontation is experienced by all involved: patients, relatives and professionals. Sass argues against understanding madness as a deficit state and instead suggests that it often involves a hyperalertness and a ‘hyper-realisation’ that the coherence and meaningfullness of reality are dependent on the ‘clearing’ of lived human experience. He suggests that many of the concerns which become apparent in the course of psychosis resonate with the preoccupations of contemporary artists and writers. These concerns often relate to the constructed, and thus contingent, nature of selfhood and reality.”

…from an article by Pat Bracken and Phil Thomas titled “Science, Psychiatry and the Mystery of Madness” posted at:

As a social worker, artist, nature lover, questioner and a being-in-the-world, the Heidegger quote and this article excerpt really speak to me.  I thought it would be interesting to throw some of my photographs into the mix. I hope you find inspiration here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

At the beach – it’s where near and far intertwine. Walking on the beach, the broad view envelops me and the close-up obsesses me. Back and forth, back and forth between dazzling intricacies of  tiny shells, rocks and littoral animals, and the equally dazzling dance of water and light on the horizon.

Starfish, shells and beachcombers on Sanibel Island on Florida’s west coast.

Another winter beach, a colder latitude: Whidbey Island, Washington. Giant bullwhip kelp washes up at Ebey’s Landing as a gull wings across the cold bay.

On this June day my job in New York City had taken me to a home care agency on Long Island’s southern shore. After investigating and interviewing all day, I took off for nearby Fire Island. I put in long hours and traveled many miles on that job, but often, at the end of the day, I was happy to skip dinner and explore. It was worth it.

They grow kelp big in the Pacific! Camano Island, Washington.

Distant sea stacks seen through driftwood at La Push, Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Selenium style processing in Lightroom.

A beach of a different sort: on the industrial north shore of New York City’s Staten Island, railroad tracks curve out of view towards the Bayonne Bridge. Built in 1931, it’s one of the longest steel arch bridges in the world, but it won’t be tall enough for mammoth container ships that the widening of the Panama Canal will bring to the port. The plan is to build a new roadway higher up within the existing arch, then tear down the old road. Somehow I doubt the view from this spot will change much – the city is full of forgotten corners with compelling views that haven’t changed in decades. From many of these forgotten corners, the close-up view is of garbage and detritus, but look in the distance and there’s gold.

Urban Reflections

A Chelsea (NYC) gallery window reflects buildings and traffic outside, and inside an employee paints walls for an upcoming installation. Does she realize how well the paintings reflect her harness?

On Staten Island in NYC,  locust tree shadows skid over a brick wall as a dark window reflects the old chandelier inside.

On the High Line in New York, escaped grasses poke through a glass partition. Their reflections draw linear symmetries.

On West 17th Street a Buddhist demon in a window of the Rubin Museum gobbles every leaf, but what about the ladder?


And that’s me, puzzled in Seattle…



Shadow Play

Late summer wildflowers, angled northern light, fallen petals, an old book, an empty frame…

An empty frame collects flower shadows, their reflections, and reflections of sky and trees beyond.

                            Half  Hours in Field and Forest by the Rev. J.G. Wood,  NY 1886.

This image is less about shadows and more about framing the bouquet. Most of these wildflowers were picked along an unused railroad track near home. The Buddleia, or Butterfly Bush, has escaped cultivation, springing up along roadsides and other neglected spaces. Same with the California Poppy. Fireweed (Epilobium augustifolium) is a native whose seed fluff was used by indigenous tribes here in blankets & mattresses. The tansy is an introduced weed – I can see why someone would “introduce” the tansy, with those bright yellow button flowers and its herby scent.

Here’s the whole lot of them in an old dented silver pitcher that belonged to my grandmother.