Friday, March 30, 2012

Short Bursts: Ginkgoes Emerging

So, that I love ginkgo trees should be readily apparent from previous posts to this little blog of mine.  They are coming to life these days here in the midst of New York City where they line city streets and are scattered throughout Central, Riverside, and other city parks.  It's a magical thing to see tiny little ginkgo leaves unpack from the tight confines of their winter homes.  I don't have time to do that much writing this week.  Or is it that I lack the brainpower to form full thoughts?    Hmm, at this time of night (after 11:00) and year (March heading into April), I am thinking it is the latter rather than the former.

So, herewith a few assorted photos that tell the story of ginkgoes over the past several weeks.  More to follow as the mood and the energy level match up.

Looking a bit like dinosaurs as the buds start to break open.....

Those leaves are just hankering to bust out......

And burst out they do.......

I love these trees.  My thanks to the Buddhist monks who saved them so many years ago.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Passing Neighbors

Cherry Blossoms (NYC)
If it's Sunday morning, I can generally be found trudging back and forth between the building laundry room and my apartment.  My own washer/dryer combo has been broken for a year now and I am eternally torn between replacing it and repairing it.  So I do my laundry downstairs with my neighbor from another floor whose name I do not know.  We exchange pleasantries every week.  She has a daughter who moved to Alaska (for love) that she plans to visit this spring.  In turn, she knows that I just went to Canada for a couple of weeks.  My Sunday morning routine will often include a dash to the Dunkin Donuts -- coffee for me, OJ without pulp for Miguel the doorman.  Miguel, like most NYC doormen, probably knows everything there is to know about me.  Those lazy Sunday mornings always include Law & Order playing in the background as I putter around my apartment (or more often around Facebook, that evil time suck to quote a friend).  Lately, I've been running into one half of my neighbor couple as he takes their dog for a walk.  All of this before the clock strikes ten.

Cherry Blossoms (wide-angle lens)
This past month, I've added orders from Fresh Direct to my routine.  They have a fairly good selection of nutritious meals at the 500 calorie mark and since I'm counting calories (but not working out on my Wii -- oh dear, what will that dang trainer say to me when I go back) and Fresh Direct has the tastiest meals. Plus, I can complete my shopping in about 15 minutes from the comfort of my couch -- can't beat that.  These days, forays to the grocery store are usually reserved for things that Fresh Direct either doesn't carry or that another store does better.  The only downside to Fresh Direct is that they deliver in cardboard boxes and I do feel a bit guilty about the environment PLUS it means I am not acquiring garbage bags.  (As an aside, is it better for the environment to have cloth carry alls for your groceries and buy garbage bags or to get plastic bags and recycle those as garbage bags?)

Habit and routine are what those 2-3 hours on a Sunday morning are about.  There is something about the familiarity of the routine of simple tasks like laundry and tidying up that is restorative.

Transparent Cherry Blossoms
This Sunday was no different.  I was up at 7:45 and the laundry was in by 8:15.  On my way out the front door on the Dunkin Donuts run, Fresh Direct arrived with my order.  I had them leave the boxes at the elevator, dashed to Dunking Donuts, arrived back in time to tip the delivery guy.  And then I headed upstairs with three boxes of food and my laundry.  As I was loading into my apartment, my neighbor came out to take the dog for a walk.  As he was waiting for the elevator, he asked if they could have my boxes.  Of course, and I have two more that I'll leave for you too.  The back story I built in my mind was that these neighbors must be moving or maybe their Christmas decorations had outgrown the boxes they had. Didn't think about the insurance statements that had been mis-delivered to me while I was away and that I'd left under their door.  Didn't think about much more than leave the boxes for the neighbors next door.

We ran into each other again this morning as I was going down for my laundry and Steve was heading out to work.  He thanked me for the boxes and said something about spending his life packing.  I said (back story at the fore in my mind), are you guys moving?  He said, Patty died the last week in December.  Oh, I'm so sorry I said.  How are you doing?  He replied that the dog was taking good care of him.  We chit chatted for a bit and parted ways for the day.
Cherry Blossom Close Up

I am wondering how I missed this death next door.  Usually when someone dies in this building, there is a picture in the lobby but I don't remember seeing one.  I don't remember any hustle and bustle next door of people making condolence visits.  I don't remember anything that marks the moment that Steve went from being a two to being a one.  They'd been married forever these neighbors of mine and were not of an age where death is a normal expectation.  They could be found playing tennis on a nice weekend morning, she was the long-distance caregiver for her parents, she was on the co-op board when I moved in, they both worked long hours.  All in all, they were a quiet couple on the side of the building where there are only four apartments per floor.  If we ran into each other, we would nod, say hello, chit chat about the weather and  then part ways in the lobby.  Each bound for his/her/their own life (lives).
Cherry Blossom Interiors

It's weird how death can creep up on us when we least expect it.  One minute I'm in the midst of my Sunday morning routine and the next I am grappling with the unexpected news of a death in my neighborhood.  For that is what my floor is, a neighborhood (albeit small).  We live in close proximity yet know little of each other's lives and on most days, that is OK.  Today, I kind of wish I lived in the neighborhood I grew up in.  The neighborhood where we reached out to the widowers and widows and offered up our support.  Having said that, I think that Steve is kind of glad that it's not that kind of neighborhood.  He's always been the more taciturn of the twosome and I doubt he'd like folks fawning over him.

The small thing I can do for this neighbor I barely know is to leave my Fresh Direct boxes outside his door until he says I don't need them anymore.  I'm done packing up Patty's things.  Just like on some long ago days I was done with packing up the things that were the physical detritus of those in my life  while working hard to hold onto the memories.  I am sure there will be other days like that for me and for he, other losses.  I can only hope that we both will remember not to pack up the memories -- the good, the bad, the ugly. For those are a part of our history, nay a part of who we are.

A Lone Cherry Blossom Tree

Thursday, March 22, 2012

World Days: In Search of Attention to Older Adults

Droplets (Shakespeare's Garden)
Today is World Water Day, following close on the heels of March 21st which was World Forestry Day, World Sleep Day, and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination -- all wrapped into one day.  Although yesterday, the only day I saw commemorated was World Forestry Day.  Most notably by Google which used its street view technology to immerse us in the landscape of the Amazon River.  Pretty cool stuff.  I would have enjoyed celebrating World Sleep Day though -- I think a collective postprandial nap around the world around 2:00 pm in each time zone would be just the right thing to celebrate that day.

Leaf Boat (Conservatory Garden)
I was curious about the World Days and so set off to investigate this on the Web.  It took a lot of trial and error to find an article on Hub Pages about world important days with an actual list.  Tomorrow is World Meteorological Day -- it makes sense to have a run of days that elevate climate and environmental awareness (maybe it would make more sense to put them together with Earth Day in April and have a week's worth of events?).  Not all of these days are United Nations created but from the article it sounds like some are.  The belief is that it gives countries a common frame to focus attention on issues deemed to be of world importance.

If you consider yourself an achiever, you might want to mark your calendar for March 24th -- it's International Day for Achievers!  I wonder how that one is celebrated?  Do achievers get the day off?  How would we know who is an achiever and, thus, eligible for the day off?  'Aar she goes on September 19th -- it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  For that one, are we talking like an old style pirate or a modern day pirate?  Not really clear and I'm not sure I would be celebrating pirates -- aren't they the originators of walking the plank and keel hauling?

So being a bit obsessive, I scanned the list for days that celebrated older adults and the workforce that cares for them (that's what I think about in my other life -- a lot).  There is an International Day for Older Persons (October 1) and an International Day of the Families (May 15th) and a Global Family Day (January 1) -- although I think that one is often overlooked in the aftermath of our international celebrations of New Year's Eve.  There are doctor (1), nurse (1) and engineer (2) days and a day where we celebrate "hello" plus one where we celebrate television (OK, I confess, I think we need to celebrate television -- and maybe now we can move on and celebrate reality television too but that's for someone else to blog about).

Bedewed (Shakespeare's Garden)
So, life is a journey (my friend Mike has just blogged about journeys and winning over at Wass Doc's blog).  And NOW that I know what search terms to use, I've continued my Web journey in search of the official UN list of days and found it!  The official UN list of days is quite a bit shorter than Hub Pages' list.  The pirates, doctors, nurses, engineers, achievers, and hello days did not make the cut.  The International Day of Older Persons and the International Families Day did (woo  hoo) but I still don't see any World Day to celebrate the workforce that cares for older adults.  There is a World Teachers Day (as there should be) on October 5th.  It does not look like there is anyone leading that particular celebration over there at the UN.   Perhaps they should get on that.

The United Nations does have a fairly decent body of work on aging issues although it seems to be time for a World Congress focused on aging (the last one was in 2002).  It may be worth an inquiry to the UN about a World Day focused on the workforce needed to meet the needs of an aging populations.  If we can't get that day, maybe we could get a World Congress focused on aging?  Now that is much needed -- aging is a big challenge around the world.

In the meantime, Global Water Day is an important world holiday that's already on the UN calendar.  It  focuses our attention on water -- clean water in particular -- as a scarce resource. So, in the spirit of celebrating World Water Day, here are some photos of one of my favorite subjects -- you guessed it -- water in all its glorious forms (fresh, frozen, salt, falling).

Iguazu Falls (Argentina)
Tofino Waves at Sunset (Canada)
Yukon Iceblock (Canada)
Canada? Zambia? Argentina?

Yukon Iceblock Ii (Canada)

Welcome Back, Spring

Purple Haze
Although yesterday was the "official" first day of spring, it seems like it's been here for about three weeks now in New York City.  The temperatures have been balmy, leaves are starting to unfurl, and all sorts of flowers are making their appearance, bringing with them the hunter gatherers that spend their day flitting from flower to flower gathering the raw ingredients for honey.  Every morning, the birds seem to be singing a little louder -- celebrating the arrival of warmer weather no doubt.

Gathering Nectar
Although there is still a bare spot in the Conservatory Garden where my star magnolia once stood, the flowers are busting out all around and the tulips are growing ever bigger with each passing week.  I am always a little surprised by spring -- it seems to creep up on me when I least expect it, bringing with it the need to think about what to wear (coat or no coat) and thoughts of the hot summer days that are all too soon to follow.
Tulip Emerging

So welcome back, spring, into my little neck of the woods.  I like what you're bringing this year and am looking forward to getting to know you.  All over again.

Yellow Spring

Siberian Iris

Magnolia III
Glimpse of a Bud

Crocus Mix

Crocus Up Close

Magnolia Buds

Magnolia Transparent

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wide Angle Fun

Leg Off Kilter (Coronado Beach, SD)

I recently purchased a Zuiko Digital ED 9-18 lens.  Translated into English, it's a wide angle lens.  Translated into plain English, the person walking on the beach in the photo above was maybe three feet from me as opposed to looking like she was miles away.  It's the perfect lens if you want to take big sweeping landscape pictures.
Tofino (Vancouver Island, Canada)

But what's the good of a one trick lens?  So, while up in Canada, I began to play with tilting the lens slightly upwards to see how it would do in capturing big trees.  Hmm, these are a lot bigger than they were in person.

A Walk in the Woods (Yukon, Canada)
Lately, I've taken it one step further and instead of trying to get the whole tree by tilting the lens slightly upwards, I've just been shooting straight up.  Nothing particularly earth shattering about that -- I'm sure it's been done before.  The resulting pictures do make me smile, perhaps even a little giddy.  As if I was lying under that tree on a warm day with nothing better to do than read a good novel, sip on a  cold lemonade, and every so often gaze up at the puffy clouds galloping across a deep blue sky.

All in all, gives new meaning to the word perspective.

A favorite Gingko on a Winter Day (Central Park)

A low hanging Magnolia Branch (and holding the camera close; Central Park)

Cherries in Bloom (Central Park, mid-March)
Cherries in Bloom (Central Park)


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Big City Nature

Northwoods Waterfall (Central Park)
The North Woods in New York City's Central Park are like having a little piece of a New England forest as a backyard.  Whether because of their distance from midtown or their not being on the tourist route, one can often find a quiet spot where there is nary a soul around.  Yesterday was not such a day -- a truly outstanding late winter day with April-like temperatures and sun brought many New Yorkers to this neck of the woods.  Yet, this waterfall (one of two) that breaks up the stream that runs through the ravine was remarkably quiet.  It was a great place to take advantage of my discovery that some "auto" settings on your camera are worth knowing better -- at least when it comes to photographing moving water and not wanting to be burdened with a tripod.

North Woods Waterfall II (Central Park)
The setting I speak of is the action setting (you know, the little running figure that is a picture on most dials).  It's there for when you want to catch people moving -- whether it be your kid playing soccer or Roger Federer serving for a match.  It's a bit of a cheat, this going on autopilot but it does catch water in some interesting ways.  And, since I am still stuck on having learned aperture and not tackling shutter and aperture together, the setting offers an easy way to play with the two (without having to do much work).

Given that I like the photos taken on the aperture setting better (they are the ones with less fine detail in this series), I may never try to learn the two together.  I suspect that in some eyes that will make me less of a photographer.   Frankly, I am not sure that matters in this digital photography age with all the software tools we have at our disposal.  Seems like we can Photoshop any picture into a winning picture.  In this journey I have been on, I've stuck to Picasa and now iPhoto.  I like the simplicity of those tools and they've served me in good stead.  For me, photography is as much of about getting out of my own head as it is about the images I produce.  In that regard, yesterday was a perfect day as I meandered through the northern reaches of the park.

In a nutshell, I got my Zen back.

Waterfall Action
Waterfall Aperture