weekly photo challenge: an unusual point of view

Sunday, September 8:  This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is to share a shot that reveals a new and different POV. You can take a picture of a familiar subject in a fresh way.

You can consider other approaches, too:

  • Use something natural (window, tree, wall of a building, etc.) to frame your shot.
  • Get low on the ground to take a picture from a very different angle.
  • Focus on a specific part of a person, object, or structure (instead of all of it) — or intentionally cut off a part of your subject or scene.
  • Place something in between you and your subject/scene to offer a distinct perspective.

This weekend, I go out to explore a bit of the Capitol Region on the Maryland side, including Rockville and Silver Spring.  In Rockville, I find F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald‘s burial place in a small cemetery behind St. Mary’s Church.  It’s a nondescript cemetery beside a busy highway intersection near a metro station.  Not a place where one would expect to find such a famous writer laid to rest.  It’s a challenge to take a photo of the tombstone from an unusual point of view, but in this picture, I try to focus on the crepe myrtle sprig placed on the tomb, along with the two bottles of wine placed on either side of the headstone, one of which has a small American flag in it.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's tomb at St. Mary's church cemetery
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s tomb at St. Mary’s Church cemetery

I also think the sky is fascinating today, with clouds streaked across its blueness, so I take this picture of the church with the focus being on the clouds, the stained glass window above the entryway, and the bell tower.

St. Mary's Church in Rockville, final resting place of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, final resting place of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

I also visit Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring, where I take a lot of photos, playing around with different points of view.  Here are a few of my attempts.

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view from the back of the flower
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Spanish moss
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side view of a Japanese maple
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bird’s-eye view

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I had a fun time on my outing and I have a lot more to post about each of these places, so stay tuned for more to come, as time permits. 🙂

brookside gardens in wheaton & an evening in bethesda

Saturday, September 7: After visiting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s burial site at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, I head to Brookside Gardens, Montgomery County’s 50-acre public display garden situated within Wheaton Regional Park.  The gardens include several distinct areas: Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden and the Woodland Walk. The Formal Gardens areas include a Perennial Garden, Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and Fragrance Garden.  Two conservatories offer year-round displays, including a butterfly garden which I don’t visit today.

In the gardens today, some areas are blocked off for construction and others for a wedding.  There’s quite a bustle of activity everywhere.  I wander around enjoying the gardens for a couple of hours. (Brookside Gardens)

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slideshow.

After visiting the gardens, I head to Bethesda, intending to go to Jaleo for some Spanish tapas.  Sadly, when I arrive, I find the restaurant is closed for this week only for renovations.  Just my luck.  I walk around Bethesda and finally settle on Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant because it has an outdoor cafe.  Bethesda really is trying to create a European environment, with a plethora of outdoor cafes; sadly I feel that nothing in America can ever feel like Europe because most of the cafes are chain restaurants.  They’re generally not locally owned restaurants such as what one would find in Europe.  I stupidly order the salmon special, a bad move considering that not only is it outrageously expensive, but it’s also not a Mexican dish.  From now on, if I’m eating in a Mexican restaurant, I need to stick with what they do best: Mexican!  At least my Corona Light fits the bill.

Salmon topped with crabmeat and sauce from Uncle Julio's
Salmon topped with crabmeat and sauce from Uncle Julio’s

After dinner, I head to Bethesda Row Cinemas. I have noted four movies I’d like to see; their start times are staggered one after the other at 10 minute intervals.  Since I didn’t buy my tickets online and since now there are assigned seats at movie theaters (a recent phenomenon in the U.S., as seats were not assigned in movie theaters the last time I was here!), I find the only movie that has a reasonable seat (not in the 1st row but in the 4th!) is Museum Hours.

IMDb describes the plot as such: In the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum in Vienna, Johann is a security guard who finds a special quiet magic at the institution. One day, a Canadian woman arrives on a compassionate visit to the city, and the two strike up a friendship through their appreciation of art. That relationship helps put all the other goings on at the museum and in the city in perspective as Johann observes and participates in them in a world where art can say so much more than a casual visitor might know (IMDb: Museum Hours).

I find the movie to be very slow-moving; at the same time, it’s interesting in the way that it depicts our human existence as bleak and mundane in drab wintertime Vienna. The only relief from the boredom and grayness is the art in the museum, which adds a meaningful dimension to the lives of the characters.

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f. scott fitzgerald in rockville, maryland: how did the creator of “the great gatsby” end up here?

Saturday, September 7:  When I got home in late July from living abroad for the last three years, I headed directly to the nearest bookstore and bought Moon Handbooks for Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania.  I also bought Lonely Planet Washington, D.C.  I figure if I am going to be stuck here for a good long while, I may as well explore the areas surrounding my home on long day or weekend trips.  Eliminating wanderlust from my life is simply not an option, at least not an option I could live with happily.

a cool-looking tombstone in St. Mary's Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland
a cool-looking tombstone in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland

Today, I decide I will set out to explore the Maryland suburbs of Washington.  I have a big trip planned.  I will head to Rockville, then to Silver Spring, then to Bethesda, where I will eat dinner at my favorite tapas place, Jaleo, and then watch one of four movies at Bethesda Row Cinema.  It’ll be a Maryland kind of day.

I’m surprised, while looking through An Explorer’s Guide: Marlyand (yet another book I bought), to find the F. Scott Fitzgerald Burial Place at St. Mary’s Church on the corner of Rockville Pike and Viers Mill Road in Rockville.  Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda Sayre, lies beside him in the middle of this busy intersection next to a metro rail station.  I can’t help but wonder how such a famous author ended up here, in this green island bordered by strip malls and passed by thousands of commuters daily.

St. Mary's Church in Rockville, Maryland
St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, Maryland

Later, I listen to an NPR story by Kitty Eisele called ‘Gatsby’ Author Fitzgerald Rests In A D.C. Suburb.  In the story, Eisele says that Fitzgerald defined the Jazz Age, living out the era’s excesses.  Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, he also lived in Paris and New York. He wrote his first novel, This Side of Paradise, while an undergraduate at Princeton; this novel won him fame and wealth. His third novel The Great Gatsby is one of the most celebrated books in American literature.

My personal favorite Fitzgerald novel is his fourth, Tender is the Night, which I read when I was an English major at the College of William and Mary.  It’s the story of the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychoanalyst, and his wife, Nicole, who is also one of his patients. It was Fitzgerald’s first novel in nine years, and the last that he would complete.  The novel seemed to run parallel to Scott and Zelda’s lives in the 1930s, while Zelda was hospitalized in Baltimore for schizophrenia.

Fitzgerald died in December 1940, leaving behind 5 novels and 180 short stories — and only about $40 in the bank.  He was writing screenplays in Hollywood when he died at 44 of a heart attack; during this time, his wife Zelda, mentally ill, was being shuttled back and forth between hospitals and sanatoriums. He considered himself a failure at the time of his death because, by that time, people were no longer interested in his novels about the Jazz Age.

When his family tried to have Scott buried in his father’s plot at St. Mary’s, the priests turned him away because he hadn’t been a practicing Catholic.  He was buried in a nearby cemetery under rainy skies with only 25 people in attendance, much like the Great Gatsby himself.   The Protestant minister who buried him didn’t even know who he was.  There was not even a headstone, as Fitzgerald was penniless when he died.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre's tomb at St. Mary's Church near some busy Rockville roads
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre’s tomb at St. Mary’s Church near some busy Rockville roads

The NPR story tells how Zelda wrote that Scott seemed to think he would end up in Maryland, “snuggled up under a stone” with Zelda.

It was only later, 35 years after he had been turned away from St. Mary’s, that the church finally allowed him to be buried, alongside Zelda, in the family plot.  The NPR story tells about gifts that people have left on the grave: an amber-colored necklace, a fountain pen with pink sparkles on it, spare change, and even small bottles of alcohol that one would get on an airplane.  The last is ironic because Fitzgerald was a heavy drinker.

On my visit today, I find an empty bottle of Prosecco with an American flag in it, another empty wine bottle, coins, and a sprig of crepe myrtle.

A sprig of crepe myrtle left for the Fitzgeralds
A sprig of crepe myrtle left for the Fitzgeralds

Engraved on the headstone at St. Mary’s are the last words from The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for WHYY’s Fresh Air and a professor of literature at Georgetown University, sees that last line as a challenge to Americans.

“What those last lines are asking us to think about,” she says, “is whether or not it’s a worthless effort to try to get ahead, run faster, be stronger, in light of the fact that ultimately we all die and are pulled back into the past, or whether that’s what makes us great, that we do try.”

Final words from "The Great Gatsby"
Final words from “The Great Gatsby”
St. Mary's Church
St. Mary’s Church
St. Mary's Church
St. Mary’s Church

I think it’s depressing and shameful that a writer of Scott Fitzgerald’s talent and stature lived such a sad tale in the end.  I write blogs and fully expect to die in obscurity, but I don’t understand how such an immensely talented man could have lived his final days penniless and wracked by failure.  Sadly, it says a lot about our money- and success-obsessed society.

travel theme: distance {the march on washington & “i have a dream”}

Monday, September 2:  This week was a big deal in Washington as the country celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the August 28, 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” accompanied by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.  (For more about what was happening at that tumultuous time in the USA, see the Atlantic’s article: 50 Years Ago: The World in 1963).

I decide to go into Washington today, during the Labor Day holiday, to photograph the view from the Lincoln Memorial across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument.  In a famous photograph, Martin Luther King, Jr. stands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gives a famous speech that includes these words (For the rest of his speech see Martin Luther King, Jr.: I Have a Dream):

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

Today’s view is different than the one above.  For one, today is 50 years at a distance from the 1963 historic moment.  The only crowds today are tourists, wandering haphazardly around.  The Washington Monument, in the distance, is now covered in scaffolding for renovations after it sustained structural damage during the 2011 earthquake.  And my pictures, unlike those taken in 1963, are in color.   Except for the one below.  And of course, Martin Luther King, Jr. is absent as he was, sadly, assassinated on April 4, 1968.

The Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument today
The Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument today
The Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States
Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial
Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial
The view from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial across the Reflecting Pool to the scaffolded Washington Monument
The view from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial across the Reflecting Pool to the scaffolded Washington Monument
Reflecting pool & Washington Monument
Reflecting pool & Washington Monument
the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument
the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument

I also decide to stop by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which was just completed on August 28, 2011, 48 years after the “March on Washington.”

entrance to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
entrance to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

From the National Park Service website about the memorial: August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the groundbreaking March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom witnessed the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It is fitting that on this date, reminiscent of the defining moment in Dr. King’s leadership in the Civil Rights movement; in the form of solid granite, his legacy is further cemented in the tapestry of the American experience. His leadership in the drive for realization of the freedoms and liberties laid down in the foundation of the United States of America for all of its citizens, without regard to race, color, or creed is what introduced this young southern clergyman to the nation. The delivery of his message of love and tolerance through the means of his powerful gift of speech and eloquent writings inspire to this day, those who yearn for a gentler, kinder world . His inspiration broke the boundaries of intolerance and even national borders, as he became a symbol, recognized worldwide of the quest for civil rights of the citizens of the world (National Park Service: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: History & Culture).

looking back at the entrance to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
looking back at the entrance to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

And a quote to think about.  I think I need this one myself now.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

For other takes on Ailsa’s challenge at Where’s my backpack? see Travel Theme: Distance.