VIEWS FROM A CITY WINDOW: from the archives

I’ve been spending time scrolling back through the image archives, as I recover from an injury that prevents me from using a camera.  Also, a year ago my desktop computer crashed and though most of my files were backed up, there’s the laborious process of importing photos back into lightroom, keywording and rating them…I’m working on that, too.

The last post about Staten Island reminded me of a series of photos I took out the windows of the apartment where I lived, from 2008 -2012. It was a top floor corner apartment in an older building, drenched with light from many large windows, but quite vulnerable to the impact of powerful storms. A favorite window faced west, down my street. Lined with older two story homes and punctuated at the end by St. Peters Catholic church, it’s a quiet block in an area of quick transitions from low-income projects to middle class homes. My building struck the bargain between the two; there was nothing swank about it, but it retained a considerable charm from decades past.


I became interested in the intersecting roof lines and shingle patterns of the older homes.








The shadows were interesting, too. Below, the sun dried part of the cupola, leaving the shingles under the chimney’s shadow and out of the sun still wet from a summer shower.


There was plenty of light for cuttings to root in the windowsill.


Foggy mornings, summer and winter storms, September hurricanes – the weather always provided something to ponder (or cringe from).





This is a northwest-facing window after yet another major snowstorm, with the snow piled up like cotton candy on the screen. Those ugly black bars are NYC required child-proofing (no, I didn’t have a young child living with me, but neither was this the sort of building where the landlord would honor a request to remove the bars…nor requests for more heat!).  The radiator under this window didn’t work. But like I said, the light was plentiful even in winter, and hey, I had FIVE closets, high ceilings and hardwood floors!






Are you feeling cold yet? The man in the old house next door kept the cold away by burning anything he could find. His chimney belched smoke that made us gag.



There were days when we enjoyed a classic winter wonderland…


Enjoyed? There’s the matter of cars covered by fresh mounds of snow, thanks to efficient NYC snow removal.

Digging your car out, walking the dog, everything is a chore after a heavy snowfall.



On more than one occasion I got busted for not helping…


I admit, I was happier upstairs checking out the view. To the northwest we could see ships, barges and tugs on the Kill van Kull.


We benefited from beautiful sunsets and evening views out the west-facing windows.




All that, from one window! The second window I liked to look out is on an angle facing northwest, overlooking the busy shipping lanes of the Kill van Kull. According to Wikipedia, the strait is “the principal access for oceangoing container ships to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the busiest port facility in the eastern United States.”  A critical transportation corridor since at least colonial times, the channel tends to be too shallow for huge, modern bulk carriers. One of our many complaints about living on the north tip of Staten Island was the constant noise of dredging, as huge machines worked day and night to deepen the passageway and keep stuff moving.

Another complaint was hot summers (we were right under a flat, dark roof) and cold winters. It’s an old building with an old furnace system, monitored remotely by an un-generous landlord. The windows let in a lot of weather. In fact, once one window blew right out of the frame and landed on the floor in shattered pieces!

But here was a better day:


It was interesting to see the container ships with their tugs being guided in and out of the narrow passage. I found a ship tracking website which enabled me to identify amd ;earn about the ships I saw floating by. As I write this, looking at a ship tracking site, I see the ubiquitous McAllister and Moran tugs are racing through the Kill van Kull, the oil tanker Tenacity is tied up across the way in Bayonne, and Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, a huge cruise ship just launched last year, is at home port in Bayonne readying for a Bermuda cruise on the 15th of this month (it would be on the right edge of these photos).


Never a “cruise type” of person, I was not enthused when offered a cruise trip from NY to Bermuda on Holland America’s SS Statendam, back in the late 70’s. Eventually I capitulated to family pressure and went, bringing a friend. It was a fortunate decision – I was to be amazed on that trip, again and again. I was impressed by the elegant beauty of the ship with its teak decks and formal dining rooms, moved by the Indonesian and Dutch crew who were to a person, competent, gracious and dignified, and thrilled by Bermuda’s beauty and the sweet scents that floated on by as I scooted around the island.  But I was most deeply moved by an encounter on the island with a noted naturalist, David Wingate.

As a young, enthusiastic birder I thought I might as well contact someone on Bermuda to show me around. Birders are good that way. I knew little about Wingate but I wrote to him and he agreed to take my friend and me on an outing while we were in port. It turns out he is a notable naturalist, the man responsible for restoring the island’s national bird, once thought extinct, to a viable population. An intense, single-minded man who grew up on the island, he became Bermuda’s first Conservation Officer and embarked on a major project to save the endangered Bermuda petrel. His decades of tireless work creating favorable nesting habitat likely prevented the petrel from going extinct.

Wingate had enough focused energy for two people. He actually recreated the original habitat of native plants, which had been destroyed hundreds of years before, on one of Bermuda’s small islands, Nonsuch.  How did he accomplish that?  By hand, over fifty years time. Dedication.

We didn’t have time to see Nonsuch but Mr. Wingate took us in a small boat through a Bermuda mangrove swamp. As he introduced us to the ecology of mangroves he began to describe, in vivid detail, the depredations which resulted from all the introduced fauna people brought to the islands over the centuries. Islands are particularly vulnerable to loss of species when humans arrive with their pigs and rats and agricultural aspirations.

Take the Great kiscadaee – a cheerful, common bird that delighted me the first time I saw it on Bermuda. I was wrong to assume it was native – no, it was brought in to control a lizard problem (and the lizards had been brought in to control scale on plants) but it ate just about everything else, wreaking new havoc.

What is the solution? In a country with strict gun laws, it was shocking to hear Wingate quietly, almost cautiously declare that the answer was the gun. Kiscadees can’t be caught easily, but they can be shot. Pick them off, one by one, and Bermuda would have one less problem species. It was a chilling conclusion to reach in such a gently beautiful place, but the logic was clear.

David Wingate has retired, but that idea lives on.  When we met him, he was the only conservation officer allowed to use a gun at work (and he was probably the only conservation officer). Last year the Bermudian government considered widening the authority to use guns to destroy feral chickens, crows and pigeons to a certain members of the public. It’s controversial, but it may yet happen.

The big success story in Bermuda ecology is that Bermuda petrels are now successfully nesting on Nonsuch Island after a 300 year absence, thanks to Wingate’s work. Rising seas threaten some nesting sites but Nonsuch seems safer, having higher ground. However, in recent years hurricanes have taken a toll. There are only about 250 – 300 of the birds living on our planet now. They remain vulnerable.

But however the petrel’s numbers wax and wane, David Wingate’s passionate work on behalf of native Bermuda ecology continues to inspire.

Back to watching boats in New York:




There’s my favorite boat, below – must be a tight squeeze for the captain in there!


You’re looking at an industrialized part of Bayonne, New Jersey, but that is a golf course on the hill behind the oil tanks! The NY/NJ border runs down the middle of the waterway. The Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan are off to the right, out of sight.





Looking out the same window, a grand old tree held my attention on many afternoons.  Cherry trees bloomed under its sheltering branches in Spring.








Parting shots: even with the screen covered in ice, or obscuring the view at night, the view satisfied!



Note on the photos: Taken with an older camera phone, a Lumix point and shoot and an early SONY Nex, the quality of these photos wasn’t always what I wanted. I have reworked them in Lightroom.


Three years ago I posted about New York City’s Staten Island, the borough New Yorkers love to hate. As I said back then, I had lived in the city on and off for four decades – on Manhattan’s Lower and Upper East Sides, the Bowery, the Upper West Side, Brooklyn, the Bronx’s pretty Riverdale neighborhood, and other city locations. In 2008 I worked in Lower Manhattan and commuted from Connecticut – a four hour round trip by car, train, and subway: pure madness.  At the time I couldn’t afford Manhattan or Brooklyn rent, so I decided to look on Staten Island. I found a big, rambling apartment on the north end of the island, a pleasant ten minute walk to the ferry to Lower Manhattan. After the ferry ride, I could jump on the subway or walk the last bit to my job, in an office building next to the old World Trade Center site, then under construction.

On weekends I explored my new back yard: the somewhat wild and very weird Staten Island. I found it to be an endlessly fascinating mashup of the sublime and the ridiculous.

I’m grounded this month – I can’t drive, I can’t use my camera. I can pick away at the keyboard with my left hand though, so it’s an opportunity to dredge the archives and see what surfaces.This handful of images from New York’s forgotten borough has waited long enough.

As I said in that last Staten Island post, when I lived there I found plenty to hate – noise, traffic, pollution, rudeness, stupidity – but I also found lots to love, and much to wonder about.

This too, is New York City:

Great egrets stalk prey in a flooded park next to a Staten Island beach, after a September hurricane ripped apart the thin margin separating ocean and lawn. Like New York’s other boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx – Staten Island has an abundance of bird life. It offers good habitat variety and sits right on the Atlantic flyway, one of North America’s main avian migration routes.

The beaches also attract island residents, who migrate here from all over the world.

Our favorite stretch of beach for walks was off the beaten track and boasted a series of cairn sculptures that grew into an elaborate installation, transforming a good half mile of coastline into an ingenious wonderland.  A dedicated local zookeeper named Doug Schwartz was behind this obsessive labor of love. We ran into him once. A quiet man, he seemed to be a typically eccentric Staten Islander. Every piece of the stone monoliths was found on site, hauled and stacked by hand. Beach walkers, captivated by the impressive effort, would sometimes lend a hand, or add their own touches in typically spontaneous New York fashion.

Powerful storms washed the sturdy cairns away several times, but Doug kept at it. Then, unbelievably, he was ordered by the Department of Environmental Conservation to remove all the sculptures. I thought the sculptures were an intelligent, attractive solution to the problem of debris that continuously washes up on Staten Island’s none-too-pristine beaches. The DEC guys thought otherwise.  Here’s a story about that fiasco.  It exemplifies the bloated, inhuman, bureaucratic side of New York, which was partially responsible for my leaving the state.


Beach debris is so tempting, isn’t it?  The day I took this picture, we were sorely tempted by these rusted artifacts, but the car was too far away – a photo had to suffice.  In the background are migrating ducks and Brant geese.

Speaking of debris washing up, while exploring the industrialized north shore one day, we noticed a promising dirt road leading towards the waterfront.  OK, it was private property – but no one was around and the gate was open, so I insisted on checking it out. At the end of the narrow, overgrown road we came to a sliver of sand littered with debris. Looking closely, I realized that dozens of small, old potsherds and bits of glass were scattered about, and were still washing up in the gentle tide.

It was an amazing find – everything was quite old and seemed to have originated in the same place – maybe Britain circa 1920, or even earlier. A shipwreck?

I was unable to ferret out any clues as to the origin of this small bonanza. We returned once more that summer to collect more artifacts. The following year we returned again, but a tall fence blocked access to the road and property. A younger, braver member of our group tried to scale it, but he couldn’t. That was the end of that.

I wonder if old fragments of forgotten lives still wash ashore there, and if anyone notices.

Inland on Staten Island, the greenest borough, there are many parks and preserves – over 12,000 acres. Some are still fairly wild, considering you’re in a city of eight million souls.

But wildness attracts the “wrong kind” of New Yorker, too, and Staten Island has plenty of those. This park was beset with rusting car wrecks, tires and garbage.

In another park nearby, a sweet statue survived relatively unscathed at an open air shrine. Perched on a bluff overlooking the water and dating to 1935, the shrine is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. People leaves flowers, crosses, hand written prayers, photos of loved ones, rosaries…and during the four years I lived in the area, the offerings remained undisturbed. An old broom leaned against the wall, ready to tidy the shrine.

You can see the figure take the weather in stride – the second photo was taken a few years before the first one.


Staten Island is a famously Italian borough. Besides the shrine at Mount Loretto and fabulous Italian food, a local cultural center boasts a pretty little Italianate building and reflecting pool, built a few years ago for weddings and receptions.

A few steps away, the center (Snug Harbor) offers a charmingly overgrown botanical garden. It may be a poor cousin to the well known New York Botanical Garden, but I came to love it more, for its simple charms and air of subtly elegant neglect. I must have a thousand pictures of the gardens and flowers at Snug Harbor. It became my go-to place for R & R after long weeks of working for the state department of health, monitoring services for people with brain injuries.  My office in a building adjacent to the twin towers site was a stressful place to be during the reconstruction, and Snug Harbor provided respite.




There is a Chinese Scholar’s Garden at Snug Harbor, too. Other than a nominal charge to enter the Scholar’s Garden, the grounds of Snug Harbor are free to all.



Surprises are a dime a dozen on Staten Island – turn down a side street in a residential area, and you may find something like this next to a modest home.  Explore back roads in sparsely populated neighborhoods, and you’ll see the occasional rooster scratching in a side yard.

Here’s Superman atop a business that makes awnings. Around the corner in this mixed use neighborhood was a dignified, if dilapidated older home, with interesting curtains on the door.



The island was (and still is, I hope) a rich hunting ground for oddball attractions. One sunny Saturday we ventured warily through an open chain link gate in a post-industrial wasteland just off a highway. Someone had been living in an abandoned trailer on a concrete-covered lot that was quickly reverting to weeds. It was hard to tell how long ago they last used the space, but they certainly left their mark. Behind the trailer, hard by a marsh and winding creek, sculptures constructed from waste dumped at the site dotted the rough landscape.

This is REAL outsider art! Who else ever saw these? Anyone? What impulse moved the artist – you’d have to give them that – to create these?

On the trailer wall, a broken plastic candy cane played visual tag with a series of stencils. I couldn’t decide whether it was creepy or poignant.

I think the latter.

Staten Island offers quotidian delights like magnolia blossom-strewn sidewalks as readily as the strange sights of less traveled roads. This was on the block where I lived.


And sunsets – I remember sitting alone on the sandy beach and watching the sun go down on this beautiful April evening, reveling in that brief, glowing meld of color that settles in once the sun is below the horizon. How about wild deer on an island in New York City? Staten Island has that. Folks say they swam over from New Jersey. (We were in a car, when I took this, exploring back roads again).


The flora of Staten Island is what a botanist would consider degraded, since it is overrun with alien species and invasives. Still, I enjoyed my regular wildflower forays each summer and fall. I explored every back road I could find on that island. Pretty soon I knew exactly where I could go to put together a bouquet.



I drew maps to remember where I’d been – and how to get back.

If the weather didn’t cooperate, there was always the view from my window. Looking west, the old St. Peters clock tower is just visible during a winter ice storm. A neighbor is burning cardboard and trash in his old furnace to get warm – just don’t inhale too much!

To the northwest are the busy ports of Bayonne and Elizabeth, New Jersey, just past the Kill van Kull’s busy shipping lanes. I never tired of watching the ships and tugs. I would google a container ship name to learn where it came from and where it was going.  Here, a barge is pushed out the Kill van Kull by a local tug as another tug returns to port. Dramatic skies vie for attention.

There are too many window views to include here – they deserve their own post. Another day.

Parting shot: sunset on the Kill van Kull with the Bayonne Bridge in the distance. A curve of neglected rail track glints and a trio of gulls soars west past the ubiquitous chain link fence – a typical meeting of the mundane and sublime, on Staten Island.


Summer afternoons can evoke a certain dreamy nostalgia.

I was feeling it recently, and remembering a public garden I used to haunt. Snug Harbor Botanical Garden, in the New York City borough of Staten Island, is a somewhat forgotten place, being overshadowed by major institutions like the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the New York Botanical Garden.

It’s a gem though.

Never crowded, it sits on the grounds of an old sailor’s home and contains a wide variety of gardens – a rose garden, perennial borders, fish ponds with tropical plants set around them in the summer, a greenhouse and wonderful old trees, an herb garden, a white garden enclosed by old trellis, a pleached hornbeam allee…and that’s not to mention the impressive Chinese Scholar’s Garden and an Italianate garden.

Here is a selection of images from a landscape I came to love, taken from 2008- 2011.

I’ll save the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, Italianate Gardens and glass house for another time…



So many photographs. And there are many more. I spent many hours with my camera at Snug Harbor.

For those who like naming things, here are some names:

1) A clematis in the White Garden

2) Can’t remember the name of this pretty white flower

3) Rose

4) One of the old homes on the grounds, now sometimes used for photo shoots

5) Hosta, Hakone grass and other foliage plants make one of many wonderful compositions in the perennial garden

6) Cotinus, or Smoke tree, with leaf shadows in late afternoon sunlight

7) Crinum asiaticum, a tropical spider lily grown each year and set in containers outside the greenhouse

8) Walkway after heavy rain, planted with annuals and tropicals

9) Praying mantis with Joe

10) Praying mantis with asters

11) Japanese anemone in the White Garden

12) Hakone grass

13) Hakone grass going to seed

14) Spider lily (Crinum asiaticum)

15) Brugmansia – also called Angel’s trumpets, they provide a spectacular display in large containers each summer.

16) Clematis gone to seed in the White Garden

17) Poppy pods!

18) Peonies after a storm

19) Peony

20) Water lily – Nymphaea sp.

21) Fall color in the garden

22) Brugmansias – how I love them!

23) Fallen petals

24) Late summer border composition – Smoke tree, Perovskia (Russian sage), Yarrow, Bergamot

25) The Rose Garden, early September

26) Clematis on the trellis

27) Grasses in fall

28) Fallen petals in spring

29) The peached allee of hornbeam, a repsite on hot days

30) Quarter moon under a crooked tree

31) A resident Mallard pair


At Wind Against Current, a blog you should know, Johna and Vladimir have posted a terrific story and photos from a recent kayak paddle, titled Staten Island Serendipity.  I follow their blog because they take beautiful photographs and write entertaining, thoughtful posts about the city I love, but left: New York.

I lived in the city on and off for four decades. The last time I moved back was 2008.  I had a job in Lower Manhattan but couldn’t afford Manhattan or Brooklyn rent. I found an apartment at the north end of Staten Island where I could walk to the ferry, cross the water to Manhattan, and then walk to work. There were buses or subways at either end of the trip for rainy days.

On the weekends I spent a lot of time exploring this weird NYC borough, the one all New Yorkers love to bash. What I found was an unlikely amalgam of eccentricity and beauty, much of which I documented with camera and phone.  Little of that has appeared on my blog, so now, inspired by Wind Against Current, I’m determined to create a post about Staten Island.

Let’s start with the ferry – it’s a fun trip and a good place to watch people and photograph the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty.  Sometimes I brought my camera along too…


You never know what you’re going to see from the ferry, even as it docks.

A short walk from the ferry is Staten Island’s memorial to the 274 island residents who were killed on 9/11. The first time I stumbled across it, it took my breath away. I slowly realized what it was and teared up. As I approached the monument its outspread wings seem to release the suffering that occurred that day in that small piece of skyline across the water. Standing between the wings I saw the name and silhouette of each person, and on narrow shelves below the portraits there were flowers and mementos.

On a lighter note, Staten Island has its share of friendly, eccentric people. The corner deli near my old apartment sells coffee and the morning paper, and for a while the owner added a fountain full of soap suds, just to catch the eye of passers-by. Originally from Iran, he teaches college mathematics at a university in Manhattan and runs the deli on the side. I can’t vouch for the coffee – I take black tea in the morning, espresso later on – and I have no idea who Sean is.

I used to see this van around the island regularly – here, it’s all done up for Christmas. For Mothers Day it was every bit as colorful, festooned with plastic flowers.

We bought our vegetables at a wholesale produce store pretty far off the beaten path. One busy day we had to park in the back, and there we found this old Dodge, parked in the corner.  A faded 1956 New Jersey Inspection sticker was still affixed to the driver’s window.  “E H Scroggy, Barnegat, NJ” was painted on the door.  (A quick internet search shows the Scroggy name going back centuries in New Jersey.)

Some parts of Staten Island are not known for their friendliness and may welcome you with a mixed message:

But I suspect there’s always a friendly nod to be had this old bar:

In a residential neighborhood wild (or used-to-be-wild) turkeys have taken over. I’ve seen them standing on cars, too:

Back up near the Verrazano Bridge you might find a small herd of goats if you happen to wander around Fort Wadsworth on a summer day. It seems they do a bang-up job on the poison ivy that infests park land surrounding the fort.

Speaking of goats, in the old Arthur Kill neighborhood you might come across this – it’s got to be the city’s only feed store. Don’t ask me what’s going on in that second story window…

It’s not all weirdly wonderful though – there are beautiful birds to be found in the parks here, in surroundings worthy of a wildlife refuge. This Great Egret found a perfect hidden spot in a stream one May afternoon:

A church spire provides a hint of the city beyond this field set with wild iris glowing in the sun’s last rays.

Monarch butterflies seem to find ample nectar in local wildflowers. There are thousands of acres of open land here.

Sophisticated garden vignettes abound at Staten Island’s free Snug Harbor Botanical Garden:

And at the end of the day, there’s always the beach – a place to fish and relax like a native New Yorker…

I found far too many photos for one post, so this will be the first of an intermittent series.  I hope you find something of interest – and while I’m talking about the wonders of Staten Island, let me mention a friend who offers a very inexpensive room on airbnb. The disadvantage of course is that you are not in Manhattan but for some the relaxing ferry ride is an advantage, a way to decompress after a busy day.  The rate can’t be beat and you won’t find a more charming, urbane host.

(The header photo was taken from a vantage point on the Kill van Kull, the very dangerous-to-cross-at-night-in-your-kayak waterway described by Johna and Vlad in their post. In the distance is Brooklyn’s iconic 1929 Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.  My apologies for the sub-standard quality of a few of these images – they were taken with a phone, an older point & shoot camera, and a Sony Nex3.)

HOME – Weekly Photo Challenge

I’m thinking hard about this one. Having lived in about 24 different “homes” over the years, I never had a fixed abode, that abiding reference point that a place one has lived in for decades provides. My parents moved five times during their marriage, and my grandparents about the same, so no single physical location evokes home for me.  I do feel “home” often enough, but the place I’m in when I’m feeling that way might be my current residence, or it could belong to someone else.

Perhaps I feel most at home when I leave the building where I live and lose myself somewhere outdoors. The surroundings may be grand or they may be plain, but when I’m outside, absorbed in what I see and hear and smell and feel, the separate sense of myself as  “I” can disappear. And that’s Home.

Leaving the building called “home” to find Home outdoors, at an early age.

A rural intersection in North Carolina – at that moment it felt like home to me.

Staten Island’s industrial shoreline – chain link fence, railroad tracks, electrical wires, cranes…I was home free when I took this picture, inspired by the possibilities of color and patterns and lost into the rawness of the moment.

A road somewhere in New York curves out of view…follow it, and maybe I’ll be Home.

Other notions of home can be found here:

MAPPING A CONCEPT: Weekly Photo Challenge: Concept

Jake’s Weekly Photo Challenge topic is “Concept”.  I like maps as maps and I like maps as concepts – above, a plant found on Florida’s West coast sits on a map of the region, the plant’s tangled arcs echoing the curves of road and shoreline.

My scribbled map of local wanderings in the “wilds” of Staten Island, a forgotten borough of New York City that, if you explore its fringes, can reveal old pot shards at the water’s edge and fields of yellow sweet clover.


Photoshopping a picture of tropical leaves from a greenhouse produces a map-like array of lines and shapes – countries, rivers, boundaries and highways.


The broken glass at an abandoned greenhouse in Yonkers, New York reminds me of a map too. The fragments could be islands separated by canals.


Twigs reach into space like roads reach across a territory; their buds are the exits where something new awaits.



The Boardman Bombing Range in Oregon: No Public Access – says the map.

The Columbia River passing through Longview, and on down into the uncharted parts of a well eaten magnolia leaf.

Today I was planning to post some photographic studies I did earlier this week of  “skeletonized” leaves (their essence pared down to vein structure) and a map of Washington. The leaf  veins are a kind of map themselves, and when they are superimposed over the routes of the map a confusion of lines and scale erupts: the vast spaces represented by the map mix it up with the tiny interstices of leaf veins.  I must have intuited that Jake was going to challenge us to photograph a concept this week. Maps exist as objects but they’re deeply imprinted as concepts in our minds, too. There’s something deeply satisfying about the way maps  reflect our internal sense of order and our external knowledge of the land.

Maps fire the imagination. I like to pour over them at home, make a plan, follow it for awhile, then jettison the map and veer off into the unknown.

And I love GPS, especially when I drive onto a ferry and the screen puts the little car in the middle of the vast blue water.  There’s nothing so pleasurable as turning off the GPS once you’ve reached new territory and exploring until you’re hungry, knowing you can turn it back on again and find your way “Home” anytime.

“A map is by nature interdisciplinary.”  P.C. Meuhrcke



Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry










Church in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains, NY

Rooftops of St. Marks Place, Staten Island, NY, NY

Verrazano Bridge, New York City

Heirloom silver fork

Brugmansia, or Angel’s Trumpet


From the solidly comforting planes of an old church to the soft radial symmetry of a flower, geometry takes many forms.

from Wikipedia:  Geometry (Ancient Greek: γεωμετρία; geo- “earth”, -metron “measurement”) is a branch of mathematics concerned with questions of shape, size, relative position of figures, and the properties of space.

Better Times

Sandy has wreaked havoc with New York Harbor

“The Port of New York and New Jersey, the largest on the East Coast, was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, and officials there are now in the process of cleaning up after several feet of water sloshed through the huge linked facilities earlier this week.”   “…reports emerged of gasoline and oil spills in the Arthur Kill near Staten Island… numerous huge shipping containers blown off vessels into the harbor’s channels…”   “…huge surge from Newark Bay inundated a 120-acre lot at Port Newark where thousands of new cars were awaiting shipment, destroying many of them…”     “…the port’s most serious problem in the days ahead will likely be labor. ‘Many workers live in the affected areas,’ Mr. Curto said. ‘They lost homes and cars; some have no gas. We don’t know how many are going to be able to get to work. That’s the big question mark and no one has an answer yet.”


In better times, ships stay their courses as tugs guide them across New York Harbor and through the tricky twists and turns of the Kill Van Kull. Containers stay put on ships and on land, cargo is safely secured on shore, and the power needed to get the job done – be it electrical or human – is available.

The tanker Golden Energy sliding under the Verrazano Bridge.


An oil tanker is carefully maneuvered into its berth by a Moran tug.


Dawn on the Kill Van Kull, ships safely moored.


Lights dress up the harbor as the sun sets.


Mornings can be very busy.


The Kimberly Turecano heads home.


With the Brooklyn skyline in the distance, harbor waters reflect blue skies.


The Mol Paramount, a container ship built in 2005, heads out to sea.


Remnants of a December storm provide a striking backdrop as a tug steers a barge through the Kill Van Kull.


The stx Pan Ocean Oriole, a mammoth car carrier that can holds up to 4,780 autos, heads out to a distant port.


May New York harbor, Staten Island, and all the rest of New York City recover swiftly.

The Weekly Photo Challenge is a Foreign One…

Such an evocative word, foreign. Lately I’ve been taking it personally – feeling foreign myself. Scratching my head and wondering how a non-native fits in around here.

I’ll never be one, even if I try to insert myself into that picture:

I must come to terms with – no, I must get over feeling like a foreigner.

After all, if I were in this situation, I bet my feelings of being foreign would be more troubling, more complex:

(Photo taken by a Marine in Afghanistan last year – that’s my son on the right)

It’s tricky though – the nomads below would seem like foreigners to most people I know, but the Buddhist prayer wheel and the text resonate with me strongly enough to think that these people would not feel foreign to me:

                                                       (Screen capture from a TV program, 2004)

Some people have trouble connecting to anyone and are lifelong foreigners in their own land. I suspect that’s the case with the maker of some sculptures J. and I stumbled on two years ago, in a remote corner of New York City –

off a busy industrial road, through a gate,

beyond an abandoned trailer,

along the edge of a polluted marsh:

We went back several times. The place appeared to have been deserted for a long time. We wondered what foreign ideas and feelings gripped this person’s mind, and we hoped that making sculpture eased the strangeness. We delighted in the inventiveness, we respected the artistic choices, and wondered at the wonder of it all.  But undeniably, a feeling of foreignness hovered over this place.

More posts on the theme of foreign can be found here:

Stark Silhouettes

This week’s Photo Challenge from WordPress:  Silhouettes.  “The proper definition of a silhouette is ‘the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass.’ In photography, often we achieve that effect by putting light behind the object whose silhouette we want to capture, effectively darkening out the features of the subject instead of highlighting them.”

In my mind, a silhouette is not necessarily a “body” and not always a dark object against a lighter background.

You might agree after you scroll through to the end…

In Philadelphia, a statue of a Civil War hero (Union side, of course) points the way amidst a jumble of architectural styles.

In New York City, the Prince Street Station has wonderful public art on a MUCH smaller scale – a series of silhouettes of  people going about daily life, exactly like you see in the neighborhood.

Here, a homeless person, a yoga student and a musician –

And here, a workman and a smoker – an activity now practiced only outdoors, but be careful, not everywhere!–thank-you-for-not-smoking

A biker snaps the sunset in New York’s Battery Park.

In another borough,

a look up at dusk reveals the beautifully twisted structure of a tree:

Near the west coast,

fog and rain are

closing in

on Hurricane Ridge

in Olympic State Park:

And back in New York, in the forgotten borough of Staten Island, a reverse silhouette –

a Brugmansia blossom hangs

in perfect balance

at Snug Harbor Botanical Garden.

More bloggers have posted their silhouettes here: