ILLUMINATING AURAS and PINPRICKS of LIGHT: WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE

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This week, The Daily Post at WordPress challenged readers to post photographs on the subject of illumination. Here are  illuminations of scenes that brightened my day: subtle auras surrounding hothouse orchids, a crescent moon rising over New York harbor and twinkling lights screening a landmark building in the making.

The first two pictures were taken at Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle. It’s warm, humid conditions contrasted sharply with dry, frosty January air, and it felt good being surrounded by orchids and tropical plants, basking in radiant sunlight that’s in scarce supply during the Northwest winter. Our winter color palette plays the deep greens of Douglas firs and sword ferns off soft grays and browns, but inside the greenhouse, hot colors soaked up the sunlight, casting tropical candy auras around the voluptuous flowers.

At Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, a November sunset created an unusually quiet moment at the edge of the city that never sleeps.  The street lamps, reproductions of posts dating back about a hundred years, seem to tilt because of the wide angle lens, leaning in towards the distant Statue of Liberty. Smudgy gray clouds almost conceal a crescent moon and a plane heading up the Hudson River.

On a cool fall evening in Lower Manhattan, tiny lights threaded through the trees of Zuccotti Park cast pinpricks of light against the still incomplete One World Trade Center.  Over ten years ago this park and surrounding blocks were severely damaged by the 9/11 attacks. New York politics has prevented timely completion of the Twin Towers replacement – you can see a construction crew elevator ascending the corner of the building –  but it is almost finished.  Zuccotti Park also was the site of the recent Occupy Wall Street Movement; on this night, the delicate filigree of honey locust tree leaves against a soft blue sky belied the unrest of the past.

Illumination, along with those light bulbs constantly popping with ideas behind my eyes, allows me to create photographs that I can share with you. Thanks for visiting!

The challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/lights/

Weekly Photo Challenge

This is a very late weekly photo challenge, because I have been away, back in New York.  For two days we stayed in a house with no power. After that we had a hotel room, complete with electricity, but between the family events, my slow netbook and a desperate need to spend time revisiting some favorite places in the city, I didn’t post last week.

The Weekly Photo Challenge from WordPress is “Renewal” and Jakesprinter’s Weekly Photo Challenge is “Surroundings”. I have definitely been in unusual surroundings in the past week. And being in New York for the first time since moving west earlier this year, I experienced a renewal of my love for new York and a renewal of my intentions in moving out here. Yes, I miss the pleasures of the city, but the pleasures here are sweet, too.

We took off into the sunrise – a promising start. However, the NYC forecast called for a “significant storm” to hit the region just as we arrived. I was anxious.  Sure enough, just as we began our descent into JFK, the plane suddenly pulled up.  The monitor map traced a huge circle away from the airport, as ice flew by the shaking wing at my side.

But of course we made it, arriving at a messy airport still dealing with Hurricane Sandy clean-up. Many other flights were cancelled due to this second storm – we just made it in time.

The surroundings were chaotic. This we knew! We had called ahead to be sure our rental car had a full tank of gas because of the reports (all true) that people were waiting in long lines for 3-5 hours to fill their tanks. We drove onto the Belt, slushy with snow and snarled with traffic – what a welcome!

We were staying with family on Long Island. It was Day 9 without power for them, and it was plenty cold outside. “Surroundings” began to take on a new meaning.

We huddled around the fire and ate a simple meal of pasta – thank god the house has a gas stove. A picnic cooler outside kept perishable food cool. We turned in early, buried under quilts, tired but cozy.

The next morning we lent a hand in the yard. A telephone pole in the front yard had snapped in two and the transformer now dangled precariously, its wires weaving a complicated web through a prized plum tree, which had split down the middle. More wires traced a long arc across the driveway. We sawed off  limbs to free the wires, and hoped LIPA (the hated Long Island Power Authority) would get to our street soon.

Back inside, we warmed up around the fire again, stuffing our wet gloves with newspaper (enough stories of suffering!) and setting them by the fire to dry.

The village had power, so we drove down to a packed Starbucks to recharge phones and laptops (and recharge my brain with the daily double espresso). A thoughtful customer had plugged a power strip into the wall outlet – otherwise, we could have waited an hour or more to charge our phones. Later we went to a rehearsal dinner – this trip was in honor of a nephew’s wedding, taking place the next day at a catering hall, which happily had power. The surroundings were convivial, the food was incredible, and the wine flowed. I guess that was in the opposite order.

The next day we checked into a hotel. Our reservations were made months ago – lucky for us, because there were no hotel rooms available on Long Island. Our hotel was packed with line and tree workers from all over the country; a scrawled sign on the door read, “No Rooms”. The thought of getting ready for a wedding in the dark? Not too good. So we were glad to have the room. The wedding and reception went off without a hitch, and after another day spent with family, we finally had time to jump on the train to Manhattan.

As soon as I emerged from the subway I felt renewed. These surroundings – the crowds, the noise, the cabs and bikes and vendors – will always draw and energize me.

Another family get together was planned for midtown, so we wandered through Central Park. We had to leave downtown – my preference – for another day.

The park looked surprisingly intact – I only saw one large tree lost to the hurricane. But the Central Park Conservancy website says over 800 of its 20,000 trees were lost in the storm.

That night we ate at John’s Shanghai in midtown with my sister-in-law, who’s from Shanghai. She ordered of course, and it was funny to hear how she and the waiter began speaking English, then added a few Chinese words, and gradually morphed into full Chinese as they negotiated the details. Their famous soup dumplings were delicious.

The next day we were able to spend a few hours downtown.

First, the Rubin Museum, which always renews me:

Then a train down to the World Trade Center area, where I worked.

One World Trade Center is looking good. There are lights on in my old office building, on the right. It felt good to touch base, but it feels great not to be working here anymore. Talk about stressful surroundings – constant worries about security, never ending construction – we even had to put up with snipers on our roof one day when Obama visited.

Over in Battery Park, which took the brunt of the storm surge, it looked like nothing had ever happened. I suspect that had we walked the length of the park, down to the ferry terminal, it would have been another story.

Here though, boats were safely tied up and lights sparkled across the Hudson River as evening fell. I used to come over here after work to walk and be renewed by my surroundings. Now, they inspired me again. But inside, I felt disoriented – perfectly relaxed, alert and at home in New York, and yet not. I was a tourist now, this was not my home any more. Sill, I felt more attached to the city than to my new home in the west.

I wished I had more time in the city, but this was our last day. We topped it off with Kobe burgers at Zaitzeff and headed over to Financier, where I bought as many of their outrageous pastries as I could tuck into my bag for the plane ride back. Chocolate eclair, Madelaines, Apple Gallette, Macaroon…umm.

Our plane took off at dusk the next day and the moon was new so the skies were bright with stars. I nodded off after a glass of wine and woke up over Montana to see a mysterious glowing curtain hanging below the Big Dipper – I stared and stared at this weird shape shifter, and finally I was convinced that this really was the Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights. Of course I tried to get a picture, but it’s just a green blob. What are the chances of waking up from a nap on a six hour flight just as your plane flies by the Northern Lights? What rare surroundings!

The next day was quiet, and I didn’t get out of the house until almost dark. I drove over to the waterfront and watched a beautiful sunset. The ducks were content. The surroundings were lovely. I felt pretty content, too.

And yesterday morning, a foggy dawn gave way to clear skies. I had just enough time after taking care of business for a walk on the Coal Creek Falls trail on Cougar Mountain.

The surroundings were magical.

Moss glowed on cedars, aspens and maples.

Mushrooms sprouted.

Lichens dripped with moisture.

Leaves dangled, caught by branches as they fell to the ground.

The sun set.

I felt renewed.

More information about these Weekly Photo Challenges, and many more submissions, can be found here:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/weekly-photo-challenge-renewal/

http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/sunday-post-surroundings/