Saturday, September 21: Today I join a photography group to explore the waterfalls at Cunningham Falls State Park in Maryland. Last evening, I went to a photography store to buy a tripod, which I have never used before. I also bought some filters. I checked into the price for a wide-angle lens, but sadly, I can’t afford $700 now. Feeling all geared up, I embark on this new adventure.
Sadly the waterfall doesn’t have much water in it because there has been so little rain over the summer. It is also quite an overcast day. This is my first experiment with a tripod and a filter. I can’t say I’m overly impressed with my first attempts.
Cunningham Falls State Park is in the Catoctin Mountains. It is divided into two separate but unique areas. Today, we visit the William Houck area with its lake, falls and campground.
The park is named for its 78-foot waterfall. Cunningham Falls are the largest cascading waterfalls in the state. The falls are locally known as McAfee Falls.
Sunday, September 15: We decide on this Sunday afternoon to go on a little outing to Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, Virginia. This 1,864-acre park has scenic views, rolling pastures and woodlands on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park has 7 miles of bridle trails, 17 miles of hiking trails and a trailhead for the Appalachian Trail.
My intention today is to spend time with family and to continue looking for people and objects interacting with clouds for the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project #WHPmindingtheclouds. It’s a beautiful day with a hint of fall in the air. Sky Meadows is all rolling hills and fields of goldenrod and corn stalks. I’d like to hang out and take a walk in quiet and solitude, but solitude is not in the cards for me today.
Sometimes I feel a stuck-in-time quality to my life, and today is one of those days. I’ve been to Sky Meadows many times with my sons in various stages of their lives. They are now 22 and 20, and they still run around doing cartwheels and handstands as they did when they were little boys, although their abilities have increased considerably. Alex, my 22-year-old, spends hours in solitary training sessions developing control over his body and making it do things I would never aspire to or be able to do. He is still trying to figure out what to do with his life, and much to my frustration, this process is taking longer than I think it should. We’re encouraging him to get a certificate in personal training since he’s so obsessed with health and fitness.
Adam, 20, is also obsessed with health and fitness and simple living, namely permaculture, or self-sustaining, off-the-grid communities. Permaculture has these tenets:
Care of the earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
Care of the people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
Return of Surplus: Reinvesting surpluses back into the system to provide for the first two ethics. This includes returning waste back into the system to recycle into usefulness. (Wikipedia: Permaculture)
Adam has also toyed with the idea of starting a business building specialized backyard exercise equipment and involving communities in growing and sharing vegetables and then selling the excess in a farmer’s market, a kind of co-op arrangement. His ideas are many and varied; he’s got to find out himself what will work in the real world and what won’t.
Alex, Bailey and Adam
Neither of my sons seem to think they need any kind of education to do these things. This is heartbreaking to me, but as young men with ideas of their own, they don’t feel their parents have any wisdom to impart. They will simply have to find out things the hard way. All we can do is give them a time limit and an ultimatum, which we have now done, although many might think we’re being too generous giving them a year’s time frame to get their acts together and get out of the house.
As of last month, we had both boys sign a contract that they should start paying us rent by September 30 and that we expect them to be out of the house and self-supportive (or in school full-time) by the end of August 2014.
As I intended, I take some cloud pictures, but frankly the clouds today are not that interesting. Here’s what I come up with.
Little do I know that the boys have other intentions for me: they want me to take pictures of them doing their gymnastics moves so that they can post the pictures on their Facebook pages. They have some idea of starting a business involving videos of their workout moves, which I think seems to be falling by the wayside now that they realize the difficulty of creating a viable business plan and marketing this business.
Anyway, I’m roped into taking pictures of their many moves, which isn’t exactly relaxing for me and isn’t really the way I hoped to spend my rare day off. Oh well, it makes them happy, so I do it. After all, the first 40 years of motherhood are always the hardest. 🙂
Alex does a handstand at Sky Meadows
After leaving Sky Meadows, we make a stop at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, where the boys balance on the church railings and do handstands in front of the old church door. Adam leapfrogs over stone gates and squats in the tree like a wise & serious owl.
Adam balances on the church railings
Alex does handstands in front of the church door
Adam in the tree
Upperville is our last stop this Sunday afternoon, meaning that the weekend coming to a close and another hectic work week begins. My weeks, and even parts of my weekends, are occupied more than I would like with running from class to class or zipping to the office to make lesson plans, mark papers and make photocopies. Thank goodness that we have over a month off between semesters. 🙂
Saturday, September 14: I got a new iPhone at the end of July, finally joining (most of) the rest of the world in having a smart phone. The main reason I wanted a smart phone was to be able to take decent pictures when I don’t happen to be lugging my Olympus PEN EPL-1 along. In late August, I joined Instagram because I like the idea of taking random pictures using the phone and posting them immediately. I also really like Instagram’s Weekend Hastag Projects, which seem more creative and challenging than most of the other photo challenges I see out there, including the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. I really do enjoy the Photography 101 blog posts that WordPress has initiated of late, and I love the photo challenges related to those photography lessons. However, I admit I am getting a little tired of entering photo challenges by just looking in my archives and finding photos that match the challenge. It seems to me that a photo challenge should be about taking pictures AFTER the challenge is entered, within a certain time frame, say a week. Many people, often including myself, post pictures the minute the challenge is posted, meaning they’re not actually going out and taking pictures in direct response to the challenge.
My goal is to do the opposite whenever I can, because I want to be challenged to actually take new pictures meeting the challenge. I want to learn to think outside the box, something I’ve never been good at, and try to see things in the world that I might not otherwise notice. I may not always succeed, but at least I’m going to try.
This weekend’s project is to get people interacting with clouds.
Instagram’s Hashtag Project’s challenge for the weekend of September 14-15 was to take creative and playful photos and videos of people or objects interacting with clouds. Some tips to get you started: Take time to notice the shapes of clouds and what you think of when you see them, then use that inspiration as a starting point for the shot you put together. Second, be patient and pay attention to perspective. It’s important to line your shot up well so others can understand what you’ve created. Finally, have fun! Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild. PROJECT RULES: Please only add the #WHPmindtheclouds hashtag to photos and videos taken over this weekend and only submit your own photographs and videos to the project. Any image or video taken then tagged over the weekend is eligible to be featured right here on Monday morning.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
Children’s area at Brookside Gardens
Flowers at Brookside Gardens
Flowers at Brookside Gardens
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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).
And a quote to think about. I think I need this one myself now.