Postcards and the Recipe for Summer

I woke up this morning stunned by the reality that there are 25 measly days left of my summer vacation.

Summer is my time to get.things.done. I usually use the time to “repair” and catch up on everything. I read. I write. I play. I watch a whole season of a television series I don’t have time to watch during the academic year. I create. I write letters and send lots of postcards. I purge toys, books, clothing. I catch up on [some of] the “household matters” that pile up from August to May. I plan for fall semester.

This summer is different. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night with an unchanged “to do list.”  Sure, I get some things done. But, despite my daily lists, I spend most of my time daydreaming or staring at the computer screen trying to figure out what to do next–or what I have the desire and energy to do next. Then, I take a nap.

As I was organizing the postcards I received over the last few months, I mulled over reasons I’m not as productive and considered strategies to increase my productivity over the next few weeks.  I paused when I ran across two love notes that scream “summer.” They reminded me that summer is not all about work, and what I need is rest not a reset.

“Pool at Luna Park,” Sketch/Watercolor by Andrea F.

Andrea F., an author/artist and Love Notes participant from Vienna, Austria, sent both images.

The first is a sketch Andrea completed while in Australia in February to escape the cold Austrian winter.  It depicts the North Sydney Olympic Pool with a view of Luna Park.  I’m impressed with how accurately Andrea sketched the scene. Check out a photograph here to see what I mean: North Sydney Olympic Pool [fourth image beneath the central image].

“Summer” by Andrea F.

 

With the collage postcard above, Andrea provided the recipe for summer–masterpieces, poetry, fancy, eternity, and pure art [see image for measurements].

Thanks for the reminder, Andrea! Summer is for all of this.

So, bear with me while I check myself: I work hard from August to May. My weekdays begin at 4:00 a.m. (sometimes 3:00), and I regularly put 75-80 hours per week into my work–preparing for classes, meeting with students, grading papers, attending other meetings, and doing my part for the committees on which I serve.  It’s insane to squeeze everything that I didn’t get around to from August to May into a two-month summer. It is absolutely okay to not kill myself working just as hard while I’m on break. Summer is, after all, the best perk of academia.

Thanks to two beautiful postcards, my break has finally begun–vacation from guilt, lists, schedules, and the fierce pressure to get it all done. I need the poetry, art, fancy, and naps (especially) to cope with life after July.

Soaring Like a Mountain Eagle

Eagle’s Wings: Photo captured at Brechtel Park in Algiers (Westbank New Orleans, Louisiana), 2011

…and there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar. –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Walk the Tinsel Trail with Me!

Happy Holidays!

When I wrote my last NaBloPoMo 2016 post, I planned to share (soon after) the photos from a post-Thanksgiving walk through the “Tinsel Trail” at Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama.  The end-of-semester wrap up, holiday preparations, and sheer exhaustion hindered that effort, but I cannot let the holiday season pass without sharing the photos I captured.

“Tinsel Trail” is a display of Christmas trees in the park, located in Downtown Huntsville.  The trees are sponsored by various companies, groups, and even families.

There are a lot of trees and far too many to share in one post.  I captured more than 150 photos (not every tree), but I’m sharing only about one-third of them with you.

The trees are decorated in various ways, expressing the personalities of the groups sponsoring them.  Some are traditional with ornaments, bulbs, and ribbon.  [Click one of the collaged images for a closer look]

Some are there simply for company advertisement.

Some promote the arts.

Some education.

Some support parks and recreational areas.

Some raise awareness about mental illness.

Some are full of sugary dreams of childhood.

There are trucks.

And trains serving childhood fantasies of the North Pole.

Of course, Santa is there.

And other characters familiar to kids (and adults).

There are superheroes.

And favored villains.

There are reminders that some of us go through the holidays carrying grief.

There is a cute owl tree I can’t wait to share with a little friend who loves them.

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Some represent universities.

And (for my many Alpha Kappa Alpha friends), at least one sorority.

Some are patriotic.

And, of course, many are religious, reminding us of the “reason for the season,” with messages of love and offers of hope in the Messiah.

Sometimes, I took in as much as I could of the whole image.

Sometimes, I focused on the details.

All in all, this was a wonderful visual feast and I hope you had a pleasurable walk with me.  Most of the photos were captured during late afternoon just before sunset, but we plan to go back before the trail vanishes to enjoy it in its evening glory.

For now, have a joyous Christmas season!

“Walk to the Cross”

"Cross" @ Burritt on the Mountain

74-Foot Cross @ Burritt on the Mountain, Monte Sano, Huntsville, Alabama

I lied.  Not intentionally, of course.  When I wrote “Autumn Has Flowers Too” would be my last blog post this year featuring autumn photos, I had no idea that my family and I would walk the nature trail at Burritt on the Mountain this week.  I expected the weather to turn really cold and shake what was left of autumn off the trees, but imagine my surprise when we reached the park and found lots of color!

Our goal today, as always, was to reach the very large cross.  The 74-foot cross (with a 31-foot crossbeam) is an impressive site. It was built in 1963, “a racially integrated and ecumenical effort during complicated times, symbolizing a city balanced by a symbol of peace and faith”  (Paige Minds the Gap).

"Cross" @ Burritt on the Mountain

The Cross @ Burritt on the Mountain weighs about 38 tons.

In the past, we visited Burritt during the winter months, after the trees lost their leaves, so it was nice to experience the trail and the cross in the golden glow of autumn.

As usual, I captured many photos, but I’ll just leave a “few” for you to enjoy.  “Few” is relative, right? [Click an image for a closer look]

 

Nature Photo Challenge: Fun with “The Fly”

The Mighty Mississippi, March 2012, New Orleans

“The Muddy Mississippi,” March 2012, New Orleans

Did you expect an up close and personal photo of an insect? Sorry to disappoint. 😀

I captured today’s nature photo at “The Fly” on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon just before the “official” beginning of spring–almost four years ago.

“The Fly,” formally known as “The Riverview,” is the waterfront part of Audubon Park in New Orleans, located behind the Audubon Zoo.  It’s a great place for small gatherings, hanging out, and casual walks.

I played with the photo a bit in PhotoShop and in various iPhone apps.

Here are some of my monochrome favorites:

Mississippi River

“The Muddy Mississippi in Black and White,” New Orleans, March 2012

Purple

“The Muddy Mississippi in Purple,” New Orleans, March 2012

The Fly Dark Sepia

“The Muddy Mississippi in Sepia,” New Orleans, March 2012

I love water and trees, so this nature scene was a given.

Interested in other photos I’ve shared for the nature photo challenge?  Click on the links below (or use the previous post button a few times):

Tune in tomorrow for Day 6’s post.

Ciao!

Monte Sano: Autumn Photo Walk

"My Guys" Chatting Through Monte Sano

My Guys Chatting Through Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, Alabama

At the very beginning of the year, I posted photos from a Monte Sano State Park walk and wondered what this beautiful place would look like in the spring.  I completely missed spring and summer, but thankfully, we made it to Monte Sano before autumn fades into winter again.

I captured nearly 300 photos the afternoon we visited, but unlike our last visit, I had far too many “favorites” to choose from.  It’s taken me two weeks to choose, and since my focus was “trees” and “leaves,” I decided to share the leaves in a separate post. With some shots, I tried to “recreate” what I could remember of the winter shots. Remember this tree?  It looks no different in autumn.

My favorite Monte Sano tree.

“Winter’s Heart” in Autumn

And this one:

tree

“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” in Autumn

Our tree-lined path was even more glorious with leaves forming a canopy over our heads and providing the crunch-crunch-crunch beneath our feet.  Is “crunching leaves” your favorite part of the season?

The Worn Path in Autumn

“The Well-Worn Path” in Autumn

With other shots, I just appreciated the splendor of the trees:

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Sometimes, I simply enjoyed the breathtaking view from the “lookout” accented or consumed by the range of autumn colors. Untitled copy 8 Untitled copy 8 Untitled copy 11 Then, there were those trees that made me wonder about their story.  Notice how these two lean toward each other–one resting in the other’s supportive embrace.

“Duet”

This one a “relic” of a “time before,” when it stood against elements and seasons.  A fallen comrade in the midst of those still standing strong and tall:

“Remains”

When we left the park, I exhaled deeply, as if all the cares of the world drained from my body as I walked through the park. Monte Sano is always a wonderfully therapeutic place, no matter the season. It must be the trees.

Untitled 5

Another Perspective of “Winter’s Heart”

Monte Sano: Trees, Hobbits, and Sunsets

"Father and Son Chat," Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, Alabama

“Father and Son Chat,” Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, Alabama

I trust your year is off to a grand start.  2014 has had a bit of a strange beginning for me, but after cramming some reflecting and planning into the last few days, I’m feeling a little more centered.  I’m engaging in a bit of avoidance behavior at the moment after taking full advantage of a bonus winter vacation day, thanks to the Polar Vortex.  I am not complaining.  Otherwise, I would not have time for this post I’d intended to write a week ago.

One of our favorite things to do as a family is to jump in one of the cars and drive/ride around, cameras in hand and snap shots from the car or park and take photos of the interesting things, places and people we find.  On New Year’s Day, the hubby, the little one and I took our photo-drive/walk to Monte Sano State Park.   Monte Sano, Spanish for “Mountain of Health,” is a 2,140-acre “mountaintop retreat” located in Huntsville, Alabama.  It rises 1,600 feet above sea level and has been attracting visitors since the early 1800s.

We walked quite a distance and took in so much beauty that we could hardly contain ourselves.  We only left because it was nearing sunset, the time the park closes.  It would have been great to see the wildlife in action during the evening hours.

I took dozens of shots, but I am mildly pleased with only a handful.

"Winter's Heart"

“Winter’s Heart”

If you look closely, or maybe with a bit of imagination, you can see the shape of a heart in this tree.  I have a “thing” for photographing trees, particularly the same tree through its seasonal changes.  This tree reminds me of a heart-shaped tree I shot last September.  That tree had lots of leaves, and the heart was a bit more obvious, but I imagine this is what “heart tree” looks like minus leaves.

“A ‘River’ Runs Through It”

"Fallen"

“Fallen”

The network of naked branches and limbs of the tall, thin, and fallen trees is intriguing enough to keep me occupied all day.

Hidden Cave

“Cozy Home”

Then, from another angle and with rock formations, nature tells a different story.

Hidden Cave

“Who Lives Here?”

My son and hubby had a nice long conversation about the possible tenant(s) of this tiny cave.  Raccoons? Possums? A fox?  [What does the fox say? Sorry.  I cannot say the word “fox” without singing that song].

Who goes there?

“Who Goes There?”

Who Goes There (up close)

“Who Goes There?” (up close)

I am also fascinated with tree stumps or tree “remains.”  Fueled by childhood stories of Hobbits, elves and fairies, I enjoy imagining tiny beings akin to humans living their lives beyond stumps and such, tiny hollowed tree communities thriving, undetected, right in the midst of us.  What stories await us?

Such Interesting

“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Note the twists and turns that must have occurred before this one (above) fell…as if it writhed and resisted the inevitable.

Pathway

“The Well-Worn Path”

Our tree-lined path.

"All Good Things Must Come to an End"

“All Good Things Must Come to an End”

Time to leave.

"Day Is Dying in the West"

“Happy New Year Sunset”

This sunset photo was actually taken outside the park, at a lookout a few miles away–the first sunset of 2014.

I’m looking forward to returning to Monte Sano soon and can hardly wait to capture its beauty in the full bloom of spring.

Happy New Year!