Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Little Garden in which to walk...

We had heard a lot about the Cummer Museum Garden and one day looking for something to photograph we grabbed our cameras and set off.

The garden is the combination of adjoining estates owned by two millionaire brothers from the turn of the century who donated the property to the museum. What we discovered is an area dedicated to quiet repose that overlooks the St. Johns River. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

The entrance above has the look of going into a secret garden loaded with plants, fountains, and pergolas. I'm certain the brothers took their inspiration from gardens they saw in Europe as that was the trend at the time to make the voyage there and recreate items seen once you returned.

A closer view of the little fountain that sits in the middle of the walk.

This part of Florida is known for it's growth of oak trees and this one really impressed. It has stood for a millennium, and in the process of venerable growth the limbs have stretched in unbelievable shapes and directions. They not only reach to the sky but cover the ground. We both stood in awe because it is a fantastic sight.

Under one of the pergolas I saw this vase that created the perfect mood of being in Italy rather than Florida.

And the berries attached to the vine provided the perfect play of light to create a great shot.

This fountain made a leisurely afternoon of listening to the fall of water and the view of the river very enjoyable. We went later in the afternoon just before dark and we could understand how walking here could remove all the stress of the day for the financial titans.

This gargoyle was one of my favorites. It gives a sense of malevolence that seems to stare out at you.

I also find it strange that the side view which offers more detail does not seem as threatening.

And talk about a place for peaceful contemplation. This little pond has a raised seat that allows a great view. This shot was taken with the idea that this is what you would see if you were sitting on that concrete bench.

Another of my favorite shots is this little fountain with a branch of the big oak suspended above it and a little boy among the plants. The sculpture is so life like I at first thought it was a real child playing in the flowers. It is such a charming view that you almost think you are a secret observer of a quiet moment.

And finally a real stolen moment: I saw this young woman quietly resting near a branch of the same great oak and it seemed like the perfect way to end the day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Walk Like an Egyptian...

A trip to the Karpeles Museum is always a treat because they have some of the most interesting manuscripts and artifacts that help explain the workings of history.

They recently had an Egyptian exhibit and while it was not King Tut it served to explain all the different hieroglyphics as well as the thinking of the ancient Egyptians. As usual click each photo for a better view.

Magic played an important role in the life of ancient Egyptians, and these small statues, Ushabti, were placed in the tombs of the dead. They were intended to be servants in the next life that would magically come to life and do any chores the deceased might call upon them to do, like planting crops in the fields. Because the Egyptians imagined that life would be rural in the next life as it was in the present the little statues took on the appearance of field workers. They were mummiformed but their hands were allowed free from the bandages so they could do the work.

Since Ushabtis were provided to do the work of the dead, it was desirable to have many of them. It was assumed because the number of Ushabti found in tombs was often 365 that the intent was to have one for each day of the year. However, one tomb had over one thousand! I guess that guy didn't want to take any chances...

This next statue I found interesting on several levels, it is Anubis the god of the dead. Anubis is depicted as a man with the head of a jackal,and his head is always shown black representing his position as god of the dead. His job was to watch over the mummification process and conduct souls through the underworld. As part of the judging in the underworld he placed the heart of the dead on the scales of justice and fed the souls of the wicked to the wild animals of the underworld.

To the left is a relief carving of the famous Pharaoh Amenhotep I, the son of Ahmose and Queen Nefretiri. He is shown wearing a nemes headdress which was a royal head covering made of stiff cloth pleated with different colors. In front is the ureaus, or the cobra symbol, which was the emblem of lower Egypt (the northern half of Egypt).

Another interesting character was Tohr the god of writing, wisdom, and the moon. The curved beak of Tohr was suppose remind the Egyptians of the crescent moon and his representation as the lunar deity of wisdom. Tohr could bear away the dead on his wings over the obstacles of the other world. As the inventor of writing he was believed to have written the book of the dead., and is commonly represented as holding a palette and a reed pen as a symbol of his status as the god of writing and learning.

Sekhment, on the other hand, was the lion headed goddess of war and destruction. She was supposed to have been created by the fire in the eye of Re, the sun god. Re created her as a weapon of vengeance to destroy men for their wicked ways and disobedience to him.

And finally Horus who represented many deities but in an earthly context referenced the current Pharaoh. In this stone carving he is depicted as wearing the double crown of upper and lower Egypt. It was believed that the all seeing Eye of Horus roamed the skies of ancient Egypt looking for the return of his father Osiris from the other world or the dead.

And two final shots that give you a full view of the statues.

I have seen many pictures of these statues over the years and wondered what some of the hieroglyphics meant, but after this visit they have a lot more meaning. Think you can name a few after our tour?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Cautionary Tale...

Madam Kjeldsen was right, when I first mentioned the garden she said "start small", but by then I had thrown caution to the wind and planted almost every vegetable known to man.

I particularly counted myself lucky after sampling some Spaghetti Squash and saving the seeds to try growing that as well. As usual click each photo for a better view.

Spaghetti squash is wonderful in that you bake or steam it and then it flakes out just like pasta. Any dish where you use pasta, you can substitute spaghetti squash and it tastes almost the same with fewer calories and lots of nutrients. That said I planted every seed I harvested from the tasty meal and was more than happy when they began to rise from the soil. Visions of wonderful cooking sessions danced in my head and it would not be long now...

Just in terms of an update: The garden is progressing nicely, I pick about two tomatoes daily for salads or sandwiches and Daddy is on the defensive in our competition because I have collected "style points" by planting such a diverse crop. But what has pushed me ahead is that I am already harvesting. Eating is 9 /10ths of winning!

But, dear reader I am on the verge of an ecological nightmare! I started doing a little reading on the Spaghetti Squash and found out it is a monster crop, and I have planted tons of the the seeds I saved!

One man started out with this, which seems harmless enough...

and ended up with this!

One woman even went as far as building a cage for the monster and still could not keep it contained! Another man said he had to daily check his corn to make sure the vines had not attached themselves to his corn stalks. Notice how the vines have grown over the chicken wire and in some places have managed to grow in between the spaces.

And, this growth was from about 10 seeds... I planted at least 30!

My one hope is a suggestion made by another gardener to build a climbing cage so that the vines will go up and not out.

Funny, but I see another visit to the gardening store in my future for chicken wire to build a barrier and a lot of those climbing cages.

And so I end this cautionary tale by repeating Madam Kjeldsen's warning to "start small".

Thursday, May 13, 2010

There is Something About a Balcony

I promised pictures of a few interesting houses we encountered in St. Augustine and as I promised here is the post. Some of the houses do not have one but a defining feature that really interested me was the balcony. As usual, feel free to click each photo for a better view.

What I discovered as I took these shots is that balconies are a throw-back to a time before air conditioning and our retreat into our own little isolated boxes. They offered an escape from the heat of the house, a chance to display your creativity in making the space your own, as well as a chance to interact with your neighbors as they strolled in the streets or enjoyed their balconies as well. I call the picture above "the plain house" because nothing has been done to it and the house has actually been abandoned. I know because we snooped and looked through the windows and it is loaded with furniture that is covered with layers of dust.

A good number of these houses have wrap around balconies which I find really appealing. This one I have titled the "Mark Twain house" because I could imagine Huckleberry Finn running out of the door and off to some new adventure.

This one does not have a balcony but is simply interesting because it is so weathered. As I said in an earlier post: it screams "mystery". Each board and plank looks as if at any moment it will crumble into dust and blow away, but somehow it has stood for a long, long time.

The owners of this house "the pink house" have added flowers and seating and created a small oasis to while away the evenings.

I really liked this shot of another pink house further down a side street because there is the contrast in color of the back of the stairs, the pink of the house, and how they move the eye up to the balcony.

An finally, a full view of the" secret garden house". The unseen elderly lady or young couple have truly made this their own by continuing the garden theme on the balcony. I really like the way they have kept the old world feel of the house and the overgrown garden puts a fine point on that theme.

The point of these pictures is that despite the fact that we and most tourists regard St. Augustine as our play ground, it is actually a place where real people live and go about their daily lives. I say that because just as these balconies were designed to do they helped us interact with a number of people...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Bridge Runs Through It

Jacksonville is a city of bridges. In fact, there are very few places you can go here without crossing over some type of bridge. So this last weekend we decided to get up close and personal with bridges. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

The City has taken advantage of all the bridges by setting up what is called "The River Walk". It is a fairly long stretch that runs along the St. Johns River and provides a view of the city, a place for exercise if you like, or simple reflection if that is what you desire.

The walk takes you under one of the major bridges that leads to I-95, the highway that runs from the Canadian border to the keys. People here rattle off the different names when asking you where you are going: the Fuller Warren, the Hart, the Buckman, the list goes on and on. Until now the names meant very little to me except for where each bridge would take me. But after close inspection, the Fuller Warren is a beautiful bridge in it's own way. The walk allows you to see both the strength and geometry that went into it's construction.

Alex says I am a sucker for perspective and I think he is right. I always seem drawn to those types of shots. For example, I love this shot that highlights the lines of the pillars and the way the stretch of the bridge seems to fade away as it rounds the curve. Even the lines in the parking lot seem to move your eye toward the curve.

The expanse also serves as shelter for the very popular "Arts Market" which takes place rain or shine every Saturday. Artists can come and display their work safe from the oppressive beat of the sun and covered if there is rain.

Further down the walk is a bridge next to a bridge (the Fuller Warren). This bridge is strictly for trains and I loved the rusted worn look of it.

And we were treated to a train actually crossing over it.

There are flowers planted along the walk which adds to the feeling of a garden along the river.

We also discovered this oddly shaped monument dedicated to a local politician, Tillie Fowler, who served in the House of Representatives.

And the find of the day was this office building that almost appears to be Jacksonville's architectural version of the Guggenheim Museum. I have to smile... notice the geometry?

And finally, on our way back on one of the side streets we ran into this funny door I simply had to include. The ferns above the door look like a bushy mustache. A fitting end to the River Walk!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Doors are the Windows of the World

Alex and I have called a truce realizing that there are no bad feeling between us, just an inability at this point to maintain a deeper relationship. That said we realized we still enjoyed going on little adventures together. And of course the most natural place to go on an adventure was... St. Augustine! We decided to get off the usual track and venture out to see what was on some of the side streets of the historic district.

Doing this I somehow fell into taking pictures of doors. Recently I attended an art show and there was a presenter who took some mysteriously engaging photos of doors from all over the world. Each one caused you to marvel at it's beauty and set you wondering what was behind each portal. Once I downloaded my pictures, I realized just how interesting doors can be. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

The first door we encountered was the Villa Zorayda which was the winter home of a millionaire built in 1883 as a replica of a wing of the Alhambra Palace in Spain. A door and entrance this ornate does make you wonder what he decided to put inside.

Next came the Bed and Breakfast door. Alex said it looked ordinary but to me it looked like a doll house. And, given the history of St. Augustine who knows how many affairs have been carried on in just such an innocent looking place?

I have to say we both debated taking this shot, but looking at it now reminds me of the French Quarter in New Orleans before the hurricane. Many houses there had/have courtyards that lead to the front door. The door is hidden away down this long courtyard.

And now to the very popular door that I call "the friendly door" to the right that Ana liked so much. I gave her a preview and she quickly free-handed a drawing that is both interesting and whimsical. It looks almost like a watercolor rather than free hand drawing.

As I told her, I like the hand in the picture because it gives a perspective that you are looking over her shoulder while she draws. So it is a drawing and a photo rolled into one! I liked it so much I have made it a permanent logo for the gallery.

And then one of my favorites. I call this door "The Secret garden" because the entrance is through this lush growth of plants and flowers. Is it a kindly old lady who lives here or a young couple who enjoys the privacy that the garden provides?

This next door was hard to place because in my mind it says "strength" and I call it "The Rough Door" Somehow this door says to me the design is to keep people out so it is strong and sturdy. But, you never know, there could be a lush garden behind it just like above... we just can't see it.

And finally, the "Palm Door". I loved this house because every board and plank is faded and weather-beaten. It shouts mystery! And then the palm on the door. Is it from Palm Sunday and just had not been taken down? Or, is it a permanent fixture, weather-beaten like the house?