Monday, May 30, 2011

Scene at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival

Every year since moving here from Denver, I have promised myself I would attend the Jacksonville Jazz Festival and somehow missed it. So during Memorial Day weekend this year I resolved to attend. What I discovered is that the event is the second or third largest Jazz festival in the nation, depending on the reporting source; one of the few that is free, and some really big names in Jazz have always performed here.

There was so much to see, hear, and do that this is the first of a 3 part feature to highlight the scene and some of the videos I took of the event. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

I really loved this year's slogan "Can you hear it yet?" because the middle of downtown was blocked off and four venues were located at various points. People were encouraged to park at an outlying location and take the people mover train into downtown (coming from Denver where these trains are everywhere, it was a good move to let the locals see how the system can work as it is rarely used). As soon as the train arrived downtown you instantly understood the meaning of the slogan because music was everywhere and you are struck by the press of people.

And just as I was moving through the crowd I was drawn to a face. I rarely do portraits but this face was like an angel walking. She was gracious in allowing me to take her picture. I hope I did it justice because this young woman was quite striking.

Adding to my good fortune, her friend and hair stylist was there as well to enjoy Jazz on a warm afternoon. They make a great looking couple!

I was there for the Roy Ayers concert near the front of City Hall (you will get a listen in a later blog). After a short wait the sun went down, it began to cool off, and City Hall took on a look that seemed to whisper "Slow down and just enjoy the sounds."

The set-up was the perfect setting for Jazz into the night and I also learned the national nature of the event. I met a man from Brooklyn, NY who had come down for the festival, and a great couple from South Carolina.

Here they are dancing into the night. I used my flash to make certain I got a good shot of them because he was a wealth of information both about the performances and locations to scout
later in South Carolina.

I have definitely become a convert to the festival because the line-up of performers was a Jazz lovers dream (Natalie Cole, Boney James, George Duke, David Sanborn, Herbie Hancock, Roy Ayers, and McCoy Tyner to name a few). I could hardly wait for the next day of the three day festival.

And, the event gave me a new sense of pride in Jacksonville. That my city could put together such an organized and fun festival made me look upon it in a totally different light. But more than anything I have to give a special thanks to all the people who worked so hard to make the event work. Like this transport Supervisor, Kenny Williams, who went the extra mile to get people on the right train and filled in the gap when things did not go as planned. If no one else said it, I'm saying "Thank You" for a job well done!

And, just to add to the fun, here is a time lapse view of the "Swinging Stage" set-up:

Next blog... video highlights from the performances!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Constant Gardner Returns: The Wonders of the Harvest

I have to say that there is a lot of work that goes into being a Constant Gardner, but after all that work is the post at the end of the rainbow of the harvest.

Even Sunny-Girl has become a constant gardener assistant in that she oversees my work (while sitting in the shade I might add) and even enjoys bits of the veggies I cook almost daily. As usual click each photo for a better view.

It does not seem that long ago that I started the garden and rapidly saw it grow. It helped to have purchased seedlings for some items and unlike Daddy not have to wait for seeds to germinate.

I don't know about Sunny-Girl but there was a lot of anticipation on my part with each new day's growth. And then, to see the veggies sprout and wait with gleeful excitement to be able to pick and sample each one was a reward in itself.

But the day to begin harvesting finally came. We have cheerfully eaten and given away vegetables to friends and neighbors who seemed to enjoy them almost as much as we did.

Tomatoes are also a wonder. Most people don't realize that tomatoes are a fruit and you can pick them once you see a slight bit of orange to then let them ripen into the juicy red we all recognize. I keep a sharp eye for the slightest change in color which is my excuse to pick and watch them ripen.

And, while it has not been a bumper crop, I have gotten the hang of growing squash. I find myself picking one or two each day along with the daily haul of tomatoes. Back in Denver people grew them without effort but for me in Florida it was a test of will chore.

In fact, just the other day I had a taste for one of Chrissy's and Daddy's favorites: Okra and Tomatoes. It is a tasty dish and a quick way to stay on top of the constant stream of tomatoes I collect.

I included a photo of my preparation to add to the visual excitement. And guess what? Sunny-Girl likes okra as well!

Oh yes, watermelons are on the way. My little niece has not yet staked out her claim. The last time she was over they were just vines... but the little gardennapper cannot be far off.

And to pour a little salt into the wound, I took a few tomatoes over to Daddy and mentioned our dinner for the evening. He and his cane really went into action because that was visible evidence of just how far behind he is. He is now watering his garden day and night and in this tale the hare might just win...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A House That Put It's Arms Around A Family

Another St. Augustine adventure and one with a sentimental note. I read a little about the Pena-Peck house and was surprised by my reaction seeing it in all it's glory. The house has stood through several generations, watching families come and go and reminds me of the Joyce Kilmer poem: "The House With Nobody In It"

But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.

The Pena-Peck house has wrapped its arms around generations of families almost 300 years. And, it is the embodiment of the shift from Spanish to English, and back again to Spanish control for the St Augustine area.

The Pena-Peck House was constructed by order of the King of Spain in 1740 to be the residence of his royal Treasurer, Juan Esteban de Pena. The house served as the Government House for the region until the official Government House was later constructed to house the colonial governors of Florida.

During the British Period (1763-1784) the home was leased to the aristocratic Dr. John Moultrie of Charleston, South Carolina, as his town house. Moultrie later became Lt. Governor of Florida,

Spain regained Florida as a reward for helping the Americans gain their independence from Britain. In 1821, the United States purchased Florida from Spain and opened the territory to American settlers. In 1834 Dr. Seth Peck purchased the property and found the house in disrepair. He began the process of restoring it and decided to add a second level.

The guide toured us through the first floor of the house and picture taking, but photos of the second level were not permitted. This view of the front dining room though is fairly representative of the rest of the house. The Pecks were from Connecticut and used the house as their winter residence to get away from the harsh northern winters.

The Doctor was also a wealthy businessman and established an office in the lower level near the courtyard garden. I can imagine this provided a moment of quiet reflection after a busy day.

The doctor's office particularly highlights the coquina stone construction of the house and explains why it survives to this day.

As the guide explained the layout of the doctor's office and the implements on his desk. I was particularly struck by the clock sitting on top.

Dr. Peck died during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1841 and is buried in the Protestant Cemetery north of the St Augustine City Gate. The house passed through subsequent generations until the final descendant, Anna Burt- Peck, who never married and had no other relatives died in 1931 and willed it to the City of St Augustine.

As you read through the names that have occupied the residence you come away with a feeling that the house really did wrap it's arms around a number of families but now sadly stands empty.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Grief on Mother's Day

I purposely waited almost a week after Mother's Day to write this post because somehow it touches a raw nerve: Having to visit a cemetery to celebrate the day. My Mother was always my champion, background cheerleader, and all round person of wisdom best friend. And, I always experience a sense of sadness when I have to acknowledge the fact that she is no longer in this world. The thought of sharing my progress in dealing with that sadness makes this post very important for me to let anyone else with those feelings know that you do come out on the other side of them.

I always love this picture from when she was a young woman. I say that because she seems so happy and carefree in it. And, I see my sister's face and realize where I got my smile.

I seem to dread going to her grave because somehow in my mind she is still alive and ever with me. Going to the cemetery somehow takes away that illusion but this Mother's Day seemed different.

The difference this time was that I tenderly tended the grave and told her all the family news as I had always done. This time I was amazed that there were no tears but almost a quiet acceptance that this was the way we would have our talks from now until the end of my days.

This time the overwhelming sense of loss did not envelope me to the point of wanting to collapse. It was simply me and her sharing the latest exploits. Me honoring her on Mother's Day, remembering all the secrets we had shared over a lifetime.

I turned around and looked at the flowers on all the other graves and could only hope that people experiencing those same feelings of loss were also able to finally reached this point.

Yes, I know this is my Mother's resting place and as the time has gone by I have been better able to accept the fact that she is no longer physically in my life.

But, I also accept that she lives on in my memory...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Crazy Over The Moon: The Best Laid Plans

Just when I figured a way to get more magnification for my moon shots... Mother Nature steps in to thwart me.

You may have heard about it on the news, A rapidly growing wildfire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has burned more than 96 square miles of the swamp and is still going. I knew there was a smoky haze when I awoke this morning that lasted the entire day, but I hadn't thought it would be so thick that the moon would be covered in a reddish brown haze.

But, we must press on and press on I did and took my pictures. This one has a lot more detail (even if blocked by the smoke) and has now confirmed for me that it can be done. That said, I can now promise I will leave future moon shots to the space shuttle!

Ok, I already admitted I have become a little obsessive about this moon thing. And, who says the shuttle has an exclusive on the subject ( I think that is what is called rationalization). I went back a few nights later and like what I got.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Crazy Over The Moon

I guess my thoughts about backyard gardening by the moon and the planets being aligned has made me a little crazy because it isn't often that I am of a mind to take out the tripod. But I was up late, happened to look outside and there was a beautiful crescent moon. It was then that I got the wild thought to go out and try a shot. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

What I got was a little noisy but marvelous none the less. What do you think?

My camera is not a super zoom but 12X is decent and I was really surprised that the result produced a little detail.

This one was even stranger. If you look closely you can see the outline of the dark portion that completes the circle. I know there is a scientific name for the effect, it just will not come at this late hour, but there it is...

And, just to add to the obsession, I'm providing a great link that highlights the moon in all it's glory.

And so my friends I bid you great moons and good nights!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Constant Gardner Returns: The Tortoise Awakens

I have been basking in the glow of my garden and a constant stream of harvested veggies and one day spied on my competition to discover that the tortoise has finally jumped into action. As usual click each photo for a better view.

Daddy has grown all his seedlings from scratch and in a little corner of his back yard has a big group of young plants ready to begin his garden. He is a slick old devil because he said nothing but quietly began his work.

He has a good mixture with lots of tomatoes, his favorite okra, and of course summer greens.

The tortoise is now a force to be reckoned with because he has quietly entered the competition.

Me, the hare, with my trusty sidekick Sunny-Girl have seen my garden take off nicely.

We have been feasting on a weekly diet of Georgia Collards...

and waiting on a huge crop of tomatoes to ripen.

(I couldn't resist the shot on the right because the tomatoes look more like little apples than tomatoes).

I recently learned tomatoes have gone up so much in price that bandits are now hijacking trucks loaded with Florida tomatoes. I guess Sunny-Girl will earn her doggie food by being on patrol. I just hope they don't out bid me and bribe her with doggie treats.

The Cucumbers, while the vines are not as big as they were last year are producing bigger fruit than before.

We even have the beginnings of Crimson watermelon plants, that will very soon turn into the sweet treat you see below.

Only time will tell what the old Constant Gardener has up his sleeves for the new Constant Gardner, but this little hare is still running as fast as she can. I'll say it again: "Don't look back, he might be gaining on you!"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It Really is A Small World

Every year since moving to Florida I have heard about the World of Nations Celebration and this year we decided to finally go. What I learned is that different immigrant groups work to put together a booth featuring things that would be of interest from their countries of origin. I applaud each of them because it truly did open a window to the world right from people who had lived it.

We went on Sunday and missed the big event the previous day which featured a huge citizenship ceremony of newly minted Americans. But, there was still loads of sights, sounds, and good food to be had on the final day as well. I've done this video in the hope it will give a feel of what we encountered. Feel free to expand the video to get a better view.