A gentleman on horseback ambled through my viewfinder not long ago, and without stopping, asked me what I was taking pictures of. His words made me pause for a minute. I was standing in that sun swept North Georgia field for a reason, but how do you explain how special the light is in late winter to a stranger who had to ask? How the sun transforms everything it touches with its amber glow, the grasses, those oceans of wild wheat that pulsate in the light, rows of nimble dancers swaying in the wind. I started to sweep my arm around to show why it moved me, then dropped it back to my side and mentioned something vague about the setting sun and wished him a wonderful evening. His friendly voice carried across the field as he and his horse continued on, half shouting about how bad the traffic had become and that he can’t take his horses on the roads anymore because of it, and did I know he used to photograph his daughters during their many years of horse shows. After they disappeared into the woods I slowly turned and drank in what was left of the day, then quietly whispered a goodbye to winter.
Hot summer days, lots of haze and a need for a local escape landed me in the north Georgia mountains to a favorite little garden center where I go to take walks, fool around with my camera and to enjoy the scenery. I like it here because it’s usually a few degrees cooler in the summer, there are lots of paths to hike around the wooded naturalized gardens or some that head off toward the more centralized more formal designs. It’s a friendly environment and the air has the cool freshness that comes from being near the mountains. One of the things I look forward to seeing here are the resident garden cats. They happily hop up from their place in the shade to welcome unsuspecting visitors in a confusing tangle of leg rubbing and twisting around the ankles until everybody’s on the ground for a belly rubbing session. Being on the receiving end of a cat’s love is one of life’s simple pleasures I think.
Every Monday my friend Jo welcomes bloggers to walk along with her on her wonderful travels. This week she showcases the coast of Seaton Sluice, a beautiful rural area where the channel meets the sea in Northumberland England. You can see her beautiful photography here: Jo’s Monday Walk: Seaton Sluice. Meanwhile, I hope you’re enjoying your summer, and wherever you’ve landed make sure to stop now and then to enjoy all that’s beautiful around you.
My cat friends at Gibbs Gardens made me think of another blog I’d like to recommend. If you are a cat lover, and enjoy horses and the world of equestrian competition, you would like my friend David’s blog, “Through the Viewfinder” His life stories are a joy to read, his photography, wonderful.
Click on the link if you’d like to read more about North Georgia’s Gibbs Gardens.
New seasons, new beginnings. Warm days, star-filled nights and hope. Beaches beckon, families gather, food grown fresh finds its way to table. Hammocks are hung, porches swept, flags curl in the breeze. The sun rises, memories are made and tucked away. We celebrate our fathers, cherish our friends and honor those passed. We reflect. Happy summer, happy fathers. Be safe.
Chenonceau was the icing on our travel cake, the multi-arched trophy for completing a meandering two-hour bike ride through the breathtaking French countryside. No amount of reading or research prepared me for the beauty of the site, the stunning architecture, its delicate design. And at first glance, it didn’t surprise me that the château, also known as the “Château of the Ladies,” or in French “Châteaux des Dames,” for the succession of powerful French noblewomen who each made an impact on the castle. The original owner, Thomas Bohier, disappeared on the king’s business so often that his wife, Katherine Briçonnet, made most of the (stunning) design decisions, during construction of the main château. In 1547, King Henry II gave the château to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and after he died in a jousting tournament in Paris, his wife Catherine de Médicis, unceremoniously forced Diane out of the château and into another as a sort of consolation prize. Catherine, as regent of France would continue to spend a fortune on the château turning it into a spectacular party destination for the local aristocracy, and with a bang hosted the first fireworks display in France in honor of the ascension to the throne of her son Francis II. Another notable and quick thinking female resident, Louise Dupin, saved her family and the château from destruction during the French Revolution. She negotiated with the revolutionaries, convincing them that the castle was the only way to cross the river Cher, and offered that the bridge be open to everyone. If there was an 1700’s equivalent of “you go, girl,” it might have been quietly whispered among her entire staff that evening.
Visiting the Loire Valley wasn’t on our original itinerary to Paris, but I was eager to make it happen since seeing the great châteaux in their natural setting was long on my list of places to go. These days it’s easy to be both travel agent and client with all the necessary resources found right on our own computers. By shortening our time in Paris by a few days, and arranging for a rental car at De Gaulle, we could relax and drive at our own pace to the charming small town of Amboise, known for being a home base for the eastern section of the Loire Valley. I found the perfect hotel with views of the Loire River and the Château d’Amboise, the Hotel Manoir les Minimes, (thank you, Trip Advisor) making our side trip itinerary complete. I eased the worry of managing Paris traffic, and a possibly delirious jet lagged four-hour car drive by embracing the encouraging online tips from other travelers, and ignoring the advice to take the train from those absolutely terrified of the famous tangle of rush-hour on the Périphérique. It was also helpful to figure out where to find a strong cup of French java before we exited the airport terminal. All worth it for the beautiful drive from Paris to Amboise, the chance to castle hop by bike, a road break to visit the remarkable Chartres (stained glass madness!) Cathedral on the way back to Paris, and to experience – in the most beautiful way – one of the prettiest regions of France. Recommended reading: Rick Steve’s Snapshot, Loire Valley
It was just over four years ago when our son made his decision to attend Indiana University, a large public research institution in the charming mid-western college town of Bloomington. And it was five years ago during our student tour, that I remember standing at the entrance to the oldest part of the campus from our place under the graceful limestone arches known as the Sample Gates. A few years later we gathered for parents weekend and cheered on the football team, met roommates and friends, and celebrated university life. Time marched on, the distance between the school and our home is several hours, young men aren’t in need of their parents as often, and the visits to the Bloomington campus ceased, until a few weeks ago. With graduation looming, I heard the call of this beautiful mid-western university and felt an instinctive pull toward our son to spend a last visit together, cement graduation plans and to dream of the future. I met housemates and friends, celebrated university life and embraced the instinctive moment of motherhood when I knew that everything would be, alright. Before I drove back to the airport, I stood again at the Sample Gates and imagined a young man from Atlanta, Georgia tossing his graduation cap from the sunroof of his car as he turned left at the limestone gates for the last time, driving towards a friendly fading sun who lightly whispered a future of love, laughter, hope and promise.
A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light. ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Three crowded expressways, a couple of darkened blocks through Hollywood, one steep drive up what seemed like a small mountain range later, and I had finally reached my 5:30 am destination at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. The unknown perils of wandering alone in a dark park across the country from my home were quickly erased from my mind once I entered a parking lot busy with cars and saw the mix of hikers, walkers and photographers milling about as though it was their lunch hour break on a sunny afternoon. No longer a believer in new year’s resolutions, I began 2015 with one promise, to get up more often for the sunrise. A daily routine so simple for many people is a chore for this confirmed night owl, and when I do try to crawl out of bed by 6:30, the sun fun is long over.
Alone in Los Angeles for a few days, I spent a few too many hours fretting about whether I should just do it, get up in the tired hours and drive across the city in the dark to a place I’d only been once before in the daylight, to practice photography on the edge of morning. Funny how one internet article stands out among many others as a voice of reason, with concise instructions on the preparations for the best sunrise photography. So I followed the advice and encouragement of a virtual stranger, and before I settled in the night before, I filled the rental car with gas, put my tripod in the trunk, charged the camera battery, loaded empty memory cards and double checked the driving directions.
I’m still learning the ins and outs of photography, but at this point should be a little more on my game with the technical aspects and a master of the manual settings. Once I get going however, I tend to get distracted by the beauty of a moment, the quirks of the people around me, and this trip was no different. I became both intimated and awestruck by the roller bags filled with camera equipment and compact car sized lenses around me, and lost focus once I realized that the space I claimed overlooking the city was the one worth waiting in line for. Not enjoying the performing under pressure feeling, I gathered up my tripod and backpack and began the hike up the Hollywood Hills to gain a quieter perspective on the arrival of the new day. Along the way I passed dozens of walkers trekking back down, and like the slow dawn around me, I realized that they had already made a “get up before sunset” resolution, ignored the misery of rising in the dark having already discovered its rewards and joys. Their connection with the world was evidence. Cheerful good morning greetings and the smiles I received propelled me forward to fulfill the New Year’s promise to myself, and to finish my pre-dawn photography journey that morning, and if I stick with it, many more to come. Bring it on, sunrise.
Happy Morning People
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles January 8, 2015
Build a 10 million gallon aquarium and they will come. Four whale sharks, four beluga whales, eleven bottle nose dolphins, four manta rays and over 100,000 fish and other sea creatures made their home at the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta. Built in 2005, then the largest in the world, the aquarium is a wonder to experience. Although there are many highlights, the show stealers are the whale sharks, known for being the largest sharks and the largest fish in the world, with some growing as large as forty feet in length. Nothing can prepare you (although I am trying) for the impact of seeing these gentle giants glide silently by for the first time. Like a pied piper of the sea they are rarely alone, a trail of colorful schooling fish following along, a continuous parade along the viewing window. The whale sharks are imported from Asia, and if you feel unsettled at the thought of these great beasts living in captivity, you’ll rest a bit easier knowing that they were taken from Taiwan’s annual fishing kill quota, and would have been eaten had they not been purchased by the Aquarium.
In Atlanta? I recommend finding the time to dive into this remarkable underwater experience.
Bringing a camera? Read this informative article “How to Take Great Photos at the Aquarium” by Nikon