the sculpture garden at the national gallery of art

Sunday, August 25:  After giving up trying to find photos of people interacting with art at the National Gallery of Art, I went to the Sculpture Garden to see if I would have any luck there.  This search was to meet the challenge posed by Instagram to post photos taken over the weekend for their Hashtag project: #WHPartwatching.

Finally, I got this interesting fellow wearing purple athletic pants and a turquoise shirt, with a video camera partially balanced over his turquoise-dyed hair.  He was actually interacting with this metal tree sculpture.  Bingo!  Not the greatest, but it met the challenge.

a wild looking man interacting with a metal tree at the Sculpture Garden
a wild looking man interacting with a metal tree at the Sculpture Garden
this is what I entered on the Instagram #WHPartwatching
this is what I entered on the Instagram #WHPartwatching

After I got my picture, I walked around the Sculpture Garden, taking more photos of all the cool sculptures on the grounds.

Alexander Calder American, 1898-1976 George Rickey American, 1907-2002 Cluster of Four Cubes, 1992 stainless steel
Alexander Calder
American, 1898-1976
George Rickey
American, 1907-2002
Cluster of Four Cubes, 1992
stainless steel
Mark di Suvero American, born 1933 Aurora, 1992-1993
Mark di Suvero
American, born 1933
Aurora, 1992-1993
Joan Miró Spanish, 1893-1983 Personnage Gothique, Oiseau-Éclair (Gothic Personage, Bird-Flash), 1974, cast 1977
Joan Miró
Spanish, 1893-1983
Personnage Gothique, Oiseau-Éclair (Gothic Personage, Bird-Flash), 1974, cast 1977
Typewriter eraser by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Typewriter eraser by Claes Oldenburg
and Coosje van Bruggen
Alexander Calder American, 1898-1976 Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974 painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder
American, 1898-1976
Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974
painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder American, 1898-1976 Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974 painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder
American, 1898-1976
Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974
painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder American, 1898-1976 Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974 painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder
American, 1898-1976
Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974
painted sheet metal
Sol LeWitt American, born 1928 Four-Sided Pyramid, 1999, first installation 1997
Sol LeWitt
American, born 1928
Four-Sided Pyramid, 1999, first installation 1997
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Flower by Mother Nature 🙂
pond & fountains at the Sculpture Garden
pond & fountains at the Sculpture Garden
Barry Flanagan British, born 1941 Thinker on a Rock, 1997
Barry Flanagan
British, born 1941
Thinker on a Rock, 1997

By this time I was getting pretty hungry, as I always do, and I found these colorful food trucks, or kiosks, sitting along the road serving up some culinary delights.

Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall

I decided I would indulge at the “froyotogo” truck, mainly because it was painted purple, on some frozen yogurt with raspberry and kiwi toppings.

Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Frozen yogurt with raspberries and kiwi :-)
Frozen yogurt with raspberries and kiwi 🙂

Now that the Instagram project was over, I could simply enjoy my frozen treat on a bench along the long stretch of the Mall.  A lovely day in Washington, D.C. 🙂

On Friday evenings during the summer, jazz concerts are held at the Sculpture Garden.  I didn’t make it to any concerts this summer, but here’s me before I went to Korea, in the summer of 2009, holding a leafy plant (??) at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden.   I don’t know why, but I always get a hoot out of this photo. 🙂

me at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden in the summer of 2009
me at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden in the summer of 2009
Enhanced by Zemanta

in search of the weekend hashtag project: the national gallery of art

Sunday, August 25:  On this Sunday, I went in search of photos to enter in Instagram‘s Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPartwatching.  The challenge, as posed by Instagram, which I just joined, was this: The goal this weekend is to take creative photos and videos of people interacting with art. Some tips to get you started: Head to a museum or sculpture park if you have one nearby, but don’t be afraid to explore unconventional art like neighborhood murals and statues. Look for interesting colors and patterns, both in the art and in the clothing of the people in your shot. Finally, think about the way your art watchers move and pause—groups assembling, viewers sketching or solitary people contemplating a piece.

the West Wing of the National Art Gallery
the West Wing of the National Art Gallery

I thought it sounded like an interesting challenge, but I found it was much harder than I imagined.  If I had taken along a willing subject to pose “interacting with art,” it might have been much more interesting.  Instead, I went around trying to take surreptitious pictures of strangers interacting with art.  I didn’t have much success at this project, but it was fun to try anyway.  I headed first to the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing.  I went to the East Tower, where there was a special exhibition of paintings by Kerry James Marshall, born in the same year as I was.  His work explores the experiences of African-Americans and the narratives of American history that have often excluded black people. Drawing upon the artist’s prodigious knowledge of art history and the African diaspora, his paintings combine figurative and abstract styles and multiple allusions, drawing from “high” and “low” sources (National Gallery of Art: In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall).

Upon first entering the Tower Gallery, I found this man sitting on a bench looking at the paintings, but I felt uncomfortable being so intrusive, even though his back was turned to me.  We were the only two people in the gallery, besides the guard, and I’m sure he could hear my camera clicking behind him, taking a shot that included him in the picture.

In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall ~ "artwatching" :-)
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall ~ “artwatching” 🙂

I didn’t think this picture was particularly interesting, so I continued to search.  But the pictures I wanted to take would have required me to get up close and personal, and intrusive, on that person’s experience of art.  So instead I resorted to just taking pictures of the paintings. 🙂

In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall

It’s difficult to take pictures of people interacting with art when there are only one or two people in the gallery.  The only exhibit that had big crowds was the Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music exhibit.  However, when I pulled out my camera to take pictures in that gallery, the guard wagged his finger at me.  “No pictures in this exhibit, miss!” And he promptly pointed out the sign that said just that.

In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall

In a small exhibit next to the Ellsworth Kelly Colored Paper Images, I saw some fish hanging in a small exhibit.  I especially liked the shadows the fish made on the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
fish scales & shadows

Still, no people were interacting with this colorful fish! I found this cool sculpture in the lobby, but no one was interacting with it.

a cool sculpture in the lobby
a cool sculpture in the lobby

And later, when I walked past it again, people were interacting with it, but I couldn’t get a good angle.

a father and daughter interacting both with each other and the sculpture
a father and daughter interacting both with each other and the sculpture

I was fascinated by this colorful wall art, but I couldn’t figure out a way to get someone in front of it.  Even if someone had been in front of it, it wouldn’t have been interesting unless they were posing or doing something interesting!

I liked this colorful wall art, but couldn't find any people interacting with it!
I liked this colorful wall art, but couldn’t find any people interacting with it!
Another colorful painting, with no people!
Another colorful painting, with no people!

Oh well.  I was starting to get discouraged so I went to the Concourse walkway between the East and West wings.  At least I could get some lunch and see the Multiverse, the largest and most complex light sculpture created by American artist Leo Villareal.  The work features approximately 41,000 computer-programmed LED (light-emitting diode) nodes that run through channels along the 200-foot-long space. Development of this LED project began in 2005, and installation took place between September and December 2008.

Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse

You can see a couple of people “interacting” with this art, but they were kind of blurry in the dark!

Multiverse
Multiverse

When I reached the end of the moving walkway, I came to the cafeteria, where I ordered lunch and watched this waterfall flowing down steep steps behind glass.  It’s very soothing to watch while eating lunch.

waterfall in the concourse
waterfall in the concourse
the waterfall in the concourse
the waterfall in the concourse

Finally, I gave up and went outside, where I found these little mini glass pyramids and fountains, and I took some photos here.  I found this couple interacting with the fountain, which I guess you could say is “art!”

a couple interacting with the fountain!!
a couple interacting with the fountain!!

And these young people walking through the pyramids.

mini glass pyramids between the East and West wings of the National Gallery of Art
mini glass pyramids between the East and West wings of the National Gallery of Art

But I actually thought the pyramids were more interesting with no people and their interesting reflections.

more mini pyramids
more mini pyramids

I finally gave up and went to try my luck at the Sculpture Garden….

By the way, the thousands of people who entered the Instagram Weekend Hashtag project seemed to have taken much better photos than I was able to get, and I couldn’t help wondering if many of them were posed.  Next time I think I better take along an accomplice. 🙂

Enhanced by Zemanta

the united states capitol

Sunday, August 25: Since I returned home to the USA at the end of July after three years living abroad, I’ve been posing as a tourist in my own country.  I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area for most of the last 25 years, and though I don’t live in the city itself, I live in one of the largest of the metropolitan area suburbs:  Fairfax County, Virginia.  The monuments in Washington seem commonplace to me since I’ve seen them so many times.  In fact they seem so commonplace that I’ve hardly ever bothered to photograph them.  Isn’t it funny how sometimes you don’t even notice the things in your own backyard?

Today I venture into Washington on a Sunday morning in search of photos for the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project: The project is called Partwatching and the goal is to take creative photos of people interacting with art.  I’m heading for the National Gallery of Art, where I hope to surreptitiously capture people interacting with art.   However, before going there, I decide I’ll talk a little stroll around the United States Capitol, the iconic symbol of Washington.  I’ve taken the tour of the interior before, but today I just walk around the grounds out front.

The United States Capitol, according to The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, is a symbol of the American people and their government, the meeting place of the nation’s legislature. It is built in neo-classical style with a white exterior.  Construction of the U.S. Capitol began in 1793. In November 1800, the U.S. Congress met in the first completed portion, the north wing. In the 1850s, major extensions to the North and South ends of the Capitol were authorized because of the westward expansion of our nation and the resultant growth of Congress. Since that time, the U.S. Capitol and its stately dome have become international symbols of our representative democracy.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

Though it has never been the geographic center of the federal district, the Capitol is the origin by which the quadrants of the District are divided and the city was planned (Wikipedia: United States Capitol).

The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol

The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is a presidential memorial at the base of Capitol Hill, honoring American Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. The sculpture of Grant on horseback faces west toward the Lincoln Memorial, which honors Grant’s wartime president, Abraham Lincoln; together, the Grant and Lincoln memorials define the eastern and western boundaries of the National Mall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

A striking feature of the central statue is Grant’s calm attitude amidst the raging fighting going on around him. This is not surprising because Grant was known for his calmness and coolheadedness during battle. In sharp contrast to Grant are the sculpture groups on either side, Cavalry Charge and Artillery (Wikipedia: Ulysses S. Grant Memorial).

Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Artillery Sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol

Standing on the grounds of the Capitol and looking West, I can see the National Mall stretching before me, with the Washington Monument, covered in scaffolding, standing between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Mall and the Washington Monument
The Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument

I hop into a small traffic circle with a garden and a statue, behind which looms the dome of the Capitol.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

I love the view below of the National Mall and the Washington Monument.  The Monument is like an alien object now; it’s covered in black scaffolding while it undergoes repairs due to structural damage from the 2011 earthquake.  My first reaction when I saw it upon my return was the same irritation I felt when I went to Angkor Wat and found its front facade covered in scaffolding and green netting.  But… now that I’ve gotten used to it, I think I like it!  Maybe they should keep it like this forever. 🙂

the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol

I then head to the National Art Gallery, in search of people interacting with art.

weekly photo challenge: focus

Saturday, August 24This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is inspired by Matthew George’s post on focus, in which he introduced us to the basics of depth of field and aperture. He explained what an image with a shallow depth of field looks like (or conversely, a photo with a greater depth of field), and how the aperture setting on your camera affects it.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands of WordPress writes: For this challenge, get out there and take a picture demonstrating the concept of focus. Depending on your skill level or type of camera, tinker with the manual settings, use the auto focus feature, or play around with an app. Some ideas:

  • Snap a photo of something or someone in focus, against a blurred background.
  • Share a panorama or landscape in sharp focus, in which you can see details far away.
  • Use a camera app to force focus (or blur) in an experimental way.
  • Take multiple photos of the same scene or subject using different aperture settings and publishing the results.

IN A NEW POST CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO DEMONSTRATING THE CONCEPT OF FOCUS.

I worked on this today, specifically following the instructions to change my aperture settings, using the smaller number f-stop to get a shallow depth of field and a larger numbered f-stop to get a greater depth of field.  I’m not sure my experiments worked very well, especially because when I used the higher f-stop number, I just got a lot of blur all around.  Here’s an example of one I thought worked well.

Shallow depth of field, F-stop 3.5
Shallow depth of field, F-stop 3.5

I’m excited that WordPress is doing this Photography 101 series and then pushing us in the photography challenges to use what we learn.  This is the first time I’ve gotten off my lazy butt and opened my camera manual and tried to use the manual settings!

Here are Matthew George’s instructions:

  • For a more shallow depth of field, use a bigger opening/aperture, which is a lower-numbered f-stop.
  • If you want a greater depth of field, use a smaller opening/aperture, which is a higher-numbered f-stop.

I liked this one too, although I wasn’t sure how this worked as some of the fungi on the foreground of the tree are blurred; the middle ground seems in focus and the distance is blurred.

f-stop 4.0
f-stop 4.0

And yet another photo of fungi.  I know, exciting, right?

f-stop 4.7
f-stop 4.7
f--stop 4.4
f–stop 4.4

I took these shots of my son with a f-stop of 3.5, but I don’t understand why the background isn’t more blurred.

f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5

Here are a few successful shots (I think!) from my archives.  These, however, were done with pure luck, and automatic settings.  With much chagrin, I have to admit today is the first day I experimented with adjusting aperture manually.

f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 4.9
f-stop 4.9
f-stop 5
f-stop 5

Finally, in one weird moment today I tried an f-stop of 22 and here’s what I got.  I took this in my living room and the focus was supposed to be the pot.  Now, that’s just wrong!

f-stop 22 in my living room
f-stop 22 in my living room

What went wrong here?

Enhanced by Zemanta

a walk at scott’s run nature preserve

Saturday, August 24: Today, I go with Mike, Alex & Bailey on a short 3 mile walk through Scott’s Run Nature Preserve along the Potomac River.  This park wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for citizen protesters in the late 1960s and early 1970s who fought against development of the area.

We walk through mature hardwood forests of large oak and beech trees, among ancient hemlock and wild cherry trees.  We toss sticks into the Potomac River for Bailey; we clamber up cliffs and across creeks.  We lose Alex for a while and when Mike makes a strange bird call, Alex answers back from the  depths of the forest. We add stones to a large cairn in the middle of the creek and find leaves rippling under flowing water.  Alex does hand stands and leg lifts.  I find fungi on fallen tree trunks and photograph the strange colors and shapes from every angle.  We discover initials carved into a large tree that tell of those who have gone before us.

It’s hot today, but I can feel fall is around the corner.  I can’t wait.

Alex prepares for the walk with a gymnastics move
Alex prepares for the walk with a gymnastics move
Mike and Bailey at Scott's Run
Mike and Bailey at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Alex
Alex
initials carved into trees
initials carved into trees
Alex does another gymnastics move
Alex does another gymnastics move
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run

Scott’s Run is the main creek that runs through the park.  It winds to its journey’s end where it spills over a small yet lovely waterfall before entering the Potomac River

waterfall at Scott's Run
waterfall at Scott’s Run
the Potomac River
the Potomac River
waterfall at Scott's Run
waterfall at Scott’s Run
The Potomac River
The Potomac River
The Potomac River
The Potomac River
Alex
Alex
cairn at Scott's Run
cairn at Scott’s Run
in the creek
in the creek
a lone leaf
a lone leaf
Alex does a handstand
Alex does a handstand

Scott’s Run was once a battlefield between developers and environmentalists.  Mike remembers going with high school friends in 1970 to a Fairfax County Board Meeting where opposing sides presented arguments for and against the formation of a park. It turned into a major battle. According to the website for Fairfax County, Virginia: Scott’s Run Nature Preserve:

In the 1960s, there were 336 wooded acres along the Georgetown Pike known as the Burling Tract. The land had belonged to an attorney named Edward Burling, Sr., who had a secluded cabin at the site. A developer bought the land after Burling’s death in 1966 and proposed 309 cluster homes for the area that would have left about half of the site as preserved, open land.

Neighbors saw small rezoning signs in the woods, and the clash of philosophies was under way. A citizen movement to stop the development arose, and the conflict of ideas that followed over the next year eventually enveloped county residents, the governor of Virginia and local elected officials, four U. S. senators, conservation and park agencies, the federal government, the New York Times, a national conservation organization, developers, protesting high school students and door-to-door petitioners.

Eventually a local public referenda passed as voters decided to tax themselves one and a-half million dollars to buy the land, although negotiations over the price continued. Eventually the U.S. Department of the Interior provided $3.6 million dollars to buy the land, which today belongs to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

travel theme: play

Friday, August 23: Ailsa’s Travel Theme for this week is play.  She quotes:

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

My son Alex loves pushing himself to the limits to accomplish tough gymnastics moves. Here he is playing in our backyard doing some handstands and plank moves on his rings.

Click on any of the pictures below to see a full-sized slide show.

Here are some monks playing drums and doing Sunmudo Martial Arts at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple near Gyeongju, South Korea.

Koreans playing drums at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple near Gyeongju, Korea
Koreans playing drums at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple near Gyeongju, Korea
monks doing Sunmudo at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple in Korea
monks doing Sunmudo at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple in Korea

These children are driving around helter-skelter in motorized cars in Gyeonju, South Korea.

Korean children in Gyeongju, South Korea, playing in motorized cars
Korean children in Gyeongju, South Korea, playing in motorized cars

And these children are playing at Sports Day at Chojeon Elementary School in Chojeon, South Korea.

children playing at a sports day at Chojeon Elementary School, Chojeon, South Korea
children playing at a sports day at Chojeon Elementary School, Chojeon, South Korea

These Omani girls are having fun playing with mud on Jebel Akhdar, Oman.

Omani girls playing in the mud on Jebel Akhdar, Oman
Omani girls playing in the mud on Jebel Akhdar, Oman

And in Ethiopia, during a slow time at the Bishangari Lodge in Lake Langano, the staff plays a game of checkers using bottle caps to pass the time.

Lake Langano, Ethiopia
Lake Langano, Ethiopia
checkers with bottle caps
checkers with bottle caps

Finally, part of play is just relaxing while on holiday in exotic places with a glass of wine.  This is me, a self-portrait, having a glass of wine on the rooftop of the Acropolis View Hotel, with, guess what (?), the Acropolis behind me. 🙂

me, at "play," atop the Acropolis View Hotel in Athens :-)
me, at “play,” atop the Acropolis View Hotel in Athens 🙂

crab cakes and cupcakes in berlin, maryland

Thursday, August 22:  This morning, my sister Joan and I lounge around her house in Salisbury, chatting and drinking coffee. After we’re tired of being totally lazy, she suggests we take a little trip to Berlin, Maryland.  Before we go, I set the self-timer and take a picture of the two of us in front of her backyard pool.

me and Joan in front of her backyard pool
me and Joan in front of her backyard pool

The town of Berlin had its start around the 1790s, part of the Burley Plantation, a 300-acre land grant dating back to 1677. The name Berlin is believed to be derived from a contraction of “Burleigh Inn,” an old tavern. Berlin incorporated as a town in 1868.

Hotel Atlantic in Berlin
Hotel Atlantic in Berlin

We head straight for lunch at the Hotel Atlantic.  I order the most delicious crab cake sandwich; this one has no filler and is broiled instead of deep-fried.  It’s absolutely perfect.

Crabcakes at the Hotel Atlantic
Crab cake sandwich at the Hotel Atlantic

Since the late 1980s, Berlin has undergone considerable revitalization of its historic downtown commercial district and adjacent residential areas. Berlin’s historic residential areas feature nearly two centuries of architectural heritage from three distinct periods: Federal, Victorian, and 20th Century.  Forty-seven of these structures have been noted in the National Register of Historic Places as well as the historic commercial district. Berlin has also been designated as a “Main Street Community” by the State of Maryland.

Berlin’s claim to fame is that its Main Street and some of the outlying areas were altered to become the fictitious town of Hale, Maryland in the 1999 film The Runaway Bride, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.

For the 2002 movie Tuck Everlasting, starring Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley, and William Hurt, alteration of the streets and sidewalks transformed Berlin into the fictitious town of Treegap (Wikipedia: Berlin, Maryland).

After lunch, Joan and I wander through the little shops, each of us buying a few trinkets.  I’m enticed by the little cupcake shop, Cupcakes in Bloom.

Cupcakes in Bloom
Cupcakes in Bloom

The walls are decorated with pretty cupcake liners.

the walls of Cupcakes in Bloom
the walls of Cupcakes in Bloom

And the glass case is full of enticing and pretty cupcake creations.

cupcakes in bloom
cupcakes in bloom
bouquets of colorful cupcake liners
bouquets of colorful cupcake liners

I buy some cupcakes to take home to the family: S’mores, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Lemon and German Chocolate.

cupcakes
cupcakes

Other shops in the town are cute little enticements.

Main Street Sweets in Berlin
Main Street Sweets in Berlin
shop window in Berlin
shop window in Berlin

After we finish our wanderings, we drive back to Salisbury, where I say goodbye to my darling little sister and head back home to Virginia.  On the way, I make a stop at a farmer’s market, where I load up on watermelons, cantaloupes, and fresh corn, and admire the colorful Adirondack chairs displayed out front. 🙂

Adirondack chairs at the farm market
Adirondack chairs at the farm market

feeling reverse culture shock: escaping to blackwater national wildlife refuge on maryland’s eastern shore

Wednesday, August 21:  In September of 2011, I wrote a post about Reverse Culture Shock: six months of reverse culture shock.  I wrote this after returning from Korea for a six month period before heading out to Oman for two years.  It is definitely a phenomenon that expats feel when they return home after living abroad for an extended time.

Bird House at the Dorchester County Visitor's Center
Bird House at the Dorchester County Visitor’s Center

Many of the issues I talked about in that post are really hitting hard now that I’ve returned home to the USA.  The two that issues that are a challenge for me now are these:

1) You find it hard to accept some of the ways people do things at home, and you find yourself questioning habits and customs that have been a part of your life for a long time.

sculpture at the Dorchester County Visitor's Center
sculpture at the Dorchester County Visitor’s Center

Right now, I’m having a hard time accepting the choices that my sons are making in their lives.  I’m unhappy with the way their father has allowed this to happen.  Even though he’s a good-hearted person and has good intentions, his acceptance of our sons’ every whim has turned out to be detrimental to their growth and development as young men.  A firm hand is called for.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Yet, because I have been absent for three years, I don’t feel I have much say in the unraveling that has occurred and continues to happen.  I have to take responsibility and accept that this situation is partly a result of my own lack of involvement with our sons’ upbringing.  It’s a difficult situation, because of course I’m partly to blame and cannot be too critical of their father’s parenting.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

It’s heartbreaking to see both of my sons going backwards in their lives instead of moving forward to becoming mature and responsible young men.  I am therefore questioning my whole relationship with their father and with them.  Right now, I am in uncertain territory and am struggling to find my way.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Because of this very uncomfortable situation, I escape, as I often have, into dreaming about my time abroad.  Though I don’t miss Oman at all, I do miss living alone and not having to deal with these miserable family dynamics.  So the other Reverse Culture Shock issue in the forefront of my life at this moment is the second:

2) You wish you were back on your trip or living abroad, and you spend a lot of time keeping in touch with the people you met during that experience, or looking over your pictures from your travels, or reading your old blogs.  Or simply daydreaming about the parts of the life abroad that brought you immense pleasure.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

I have decided to stay at home in the USA indefinitely, although I could easily get a job working abroad again.  I’m committed.  But I still feel that urge to escape because of the above situation.  Therefore, I’m committed to getting out to explore the world around me with a camera in hand.  I’m also trying to reconnect with my extended family however possible.  So I escape this week, one last time, before my job begins next week.  I head to visit my sister in Salisbury, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore.  Sadly, while traveling in Spain and Portugal, I missed her daughter’s (my niece’s) wedding on July 13.  I have a lot of making up to do to my family.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Yes, I know I’ve been living a selfish life, but it was the life of my dreams.  These three years were probably the only years I’ve had in over 50 years that I can truly call my own.

So, committed though I am to staying home and working out these issues, I still must carve out something for myself, for my sanity.  Travel within the USA, and dreams of travel, will still be my escape.  That I hope will never change.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

On my way to visit my sister, I make a stop in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland.  Many years ago, when Mike and I were first dating, we visited here together on a cool, crisp November day.  I remember walking on boardwalks through the marshland and thinking it was stunningly beautiful.  Now there are no longer boardwalks and it’s mainly a drive-through.  It’s a little disappointing this time around.  I miss the boardwalks and don’t like having to keep stopping the car, pulling over and getting out.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

On top of my disappointment with the place itself, when I first arrive at Blackwater’s Visitor’s Center, I get a call from one of my closest high school friends telling me that our other friend’s husband has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  This same friend just lost her niece earlier this year to stomach cancer.  I feel incredibly sad for my friend and her husband and this colors my experience here.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge sits about 12 miles south of the town of Cambridge, in Dorchester County. The Refuge includes over 27,000 acres, composed mainly of rich tidal marsh characterized by fluctuating water levels and varying salinity. Other habitat types include freshwater ponds, mixed evergreen and deciduous forests, and small amounts of cropland and managed impoundments that are seasonally flooded for waterfowl use.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater Refuge was originally established in 1933 as a haven for ducks and geese migrating along the Atlantic Flyway. The Refuge is a popular place during the November migration when upwards of 35,000 geese and 15,000 ducks visit Blackwater.

Blackwater is also a haven for several troubled species including the American bald eagle, the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel, and the migrant peregrine falcon. The Refuge is unique in that it hosts the largest remaining natural population of Delmarva fox squirrels and is also host to the largest breeding population of bald eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida (Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge).

a field bordered by cattails outside of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
a field bordered by cattails outside of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Though I’m struggling with a lot now, and though this place isn’t what I remember it to be, I still do find some peace of mind here on this warm summer afternoon.

a lone barn in Dorchester County
a lone barn in Dorchester County

I leave here and meet my sister at her house in Salisbury, about a half hour further south.  It’s nice that no one else is home at her house, so we have an evening just to catch up with each other, without any distractions.  It’s truly lovely to spend time with her, sharing our struggles and experiences over the last year over a bottle of wine.  I also get to hear all about Kelsey’s wedding, and though it will never be the same as my having been there, at least I can imagine… and pretend I was there. 🙂

urbanna, virginia: “fine neanderthal cuisine,” a marina, a crafts festival and a tidbit of history

Saturday, August 17:  Whenever I leave my dad’s house in Yorktown, rather than driving up the chaotic and heavily traveled I-64 and I-95 toward Washington, I like to drive on Route 17 through Gloucester County, Middlesex County, Rappahannock and Fredericksburg.  There’s hardly any traffic once you leave Gloucester and the drive is relaxing and serene, with farmland, forests, old churches and rolling hills.

Today, I stop off at the little waterfront town of Urbanna in Middlesex County.  It’s just a little pin drop on a map, with a total area of 0.5 square miles and 543 people as of the 2000 census.  The name means “City of Anne” and was named in honor of England’s Queen Anne.  It’s claim to fame is the Urbanna Oyster Festival, which has been held for 50 years on the first weekend in November.  I’ve already penciled it in on my calendar for this fall. 🙂

As far as I know, the only thing of historic interest in the town is Lansdowne, shown below.  In 1763, Ralph Wormeley sold this house to Scottish merchant James Mills. In 1791, Arthur Lee bought it, along with 1,000 adjacent acres, to be his home in retirement.  Lee named his estate Lansdowne in honor of his friend William Fitzmaurice, Earl of Shelburne and Marquess of Lansdowne, a British statesman who supported the American cause before and during the Revolution.  Fitzmaurice became Prime Minister in 1782 and negotiated the Treaty of Peace, recognizing the independence of the United States.

Lansdowne
Lansdowne

Other than that, Urbanna is just a cute little town with a couple of restaurants and shops and today, a little crafts festival with a few booths selling jewelry, paintings and other crafts.

little shop in Urbanna
little shop in Urbanna
crafts booths in Urbanna
crafts booths in Urbanna
crafts booths
crafts booths

I’m hungry for some lunch, so I stop at the little cafe, Something Different (“Specializing in Find Neanderthal Cuisine”), where I sit at the bar and order some crab cakes – “Award Winning – NO FILLER” – and a diet coke.  The crab cakes come with hoecakes, which are cornmeal griddlecakes with jalapeno.   The “NO FILLER” promise wins me over to the crab cakes, but I’m disappointed to find they’re deep-fried.  I’m in search of perfect crab cakes (NO FILLER and BROILED) now that I’ve returned to my home state.  These are tasty, and I don’t hesitate to gobble them down, but they’re not perfect.

Coke at Something Different
Coke at Something Different
Something Different
Something Different
"Fine Neanderthal Cuisine"
“Fine Neanderthal Cuisine”

I chat with a gentleman who lives in Richmond but obviously must have a waterfront place in Urbanna.  When he asks if I live in Urbanna, I tell him “I’m just passing through,” from my dad’s house in Yorktown, where I grew up, to northern Virginia, where I live.  He says, “How can someone from southern Virginia live in northern Virgina?”  I say, “I don’t know, but I really do hate it!  Sadly, that’s where I live and that’s where I work, so I seem to be stuck there.”  We discuss the perils of northern Virginia and the laid-back lifestyle of southern Virginia, and I feel nostalgic for my younger days.

After lunch, I wander through the little drop of a town and then down to the marina, where the skies are looking a little foreboding.  I love these kinds of waterfront towns found all through Virginia.

Urbanna
Urbanna
the marina in Urbanna
the marina in Urbanna

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I really want a waterfront house with a screened-in wrap-around porch and a big green lawn like this.  Maybe in another lifetime?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I’m driving out of town, I come upon this cute little “antiques” store, where I stop in for a gander.  It seems I’m starting to pick up my southern “Virginia talk” now that I’ve returned to my home state. 🙂OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s so much fun rediscovering Virginia now that I’m home again. 🙂