WONDER at the Renwick… and bewilderment on the homefront

Sunday, January 17:  Today, Mike and I go on an outing to see WONDER at the Renwick Gallery, which has just opened after a two-year renovation.  He jokes that he’s taking the Yeti to Washington, because I’m wearing a fuzzy white vest I bought at Target.  Sometimes I like to wear funky clothes, as some of you know. 🙂

In the WONDER exhibit, “nine contemporary artists created site-specific installations, each taking over a different gallery.  The nine artists are connected by their interest in creating large-scale installations from unexpected materials like thread, tires, marbles, and blocks of wood — commonplace objects that are assembled, massed, and juxtaposed to transform the spaces and engage visitors in surprising ways.” (All descriptions are from Explore the New Renwick Gallery brochure. All photos are taken by me).

We arrive early and fall into place at the end of a long line that’s already formed outside the gallery.  Luckily it moves fairly quickly; before long, we’re inside with hordes of people.  I guess everyone is desperate to get out on this gray winter day.

 

WONDER at the Renwick
WONDER at the Renwick

The first installation is Shindig by Patrick Dougherty.  He uses willow osiers and saplings to weave enormous pods that offer discovery and sanctuary to visitors and Yetis alike.

the Yeti at Shindig
the Yeti at Shindig
Shindig by Patrick Dougherty
Shindig by Patrick Dougherty

“Dougherty has crisscrossed the world weaving sticks into marvelous architectures. Each structure is unique, an improvised response to its surroundings, as reliant on the materials at hand as the artist’s wishes: the branches tell him which way they want to bend.  Finding the right sticks remains a constant challenge, and part of the adventure of the art-making sends him scouring over the forgotten corners of land where plants grow wild and full of possibility” (plaque at the exhibit).

Mike in Shindig
Mike in Shindig

In the next gallery, Gabriel Dawe develops dazzling waves of colored light using miles of embroidery thread spanning floor to ceiling.  His installation is called Plexus A1.

Gabriel Dawe - Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe – Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe - Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe – Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe - Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe – Plexus A1

In Untitled, Tara Donovan glues thousands of styrene index cards to create ten towers — looming spires that seem like natural accretions.

Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled

“Employing mundane materials such as toothpicks, straws, Styrofoam cups, scotch tape, and index cards, Donovan gathers up the things we think we know, transforming the familiar into the unrecognizable through overwhelming accumulation. The resulting enigmatic landscapes force us to wonder just what it is we’re looking at and how to respond.  The mystery, and the potential for any material in her hands to capture it, prompts us to pay better attention to our surroundings, permitting the everyday to catch us up again” (plaque at the gallery).

Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled
Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled
Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled

In a central hallway, Leo Villareal’s light sculpture, called Volume, evokes the movement of falling stars; 320 hanging rods are encrusted with 23,000 LED lights that shimmer and sparkle in endless non-repeating sequences.

Leo Villareal - Volume
Leo Villareal – Volume
Leo Villareal - Volume
Leo Villareal – Volume

One of my favorite installations is Janet Echelman’s 1.8.  She explores volume without mass in a suspended net lit by colored lights; it surges across the Grand Salon in waves evoking a tsunami.

Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8

This exhibit is huge, covering the entire ceiling.  Visitors line up around the periphery before moving into the next gallery.

Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8
Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8
Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8

Some people lie on the carpet and take pictures from the floor.  I have a lie down as well. 🙂

people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman's 1.8
people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman’s 1.8
people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman's 1.8
people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman’s 1.8

In the next gallery, John Grade found a 150-year-old hemlock in the Cascade Mountains, made a plaster cast of it (without harming it), and then invited hundreds of volunteers to re-create the tree in recycled cedar strips – a tribute to the 150-year-old Renwick building.  He titles his work Middle Fork (Cascades).

John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)

After the exhibition closes, Middle Fork (Cascades) will be carried back to the hemlock’s location and left on the forest floor, where it will gradually return to the earth.

John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)

In Folding the Chesapeake, Maya Lin’s deluge of glass marbles flows across walls and floor, creating a map of the Chesapeake Bay.

Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake

Not part of the WONDER exhibit, Dale Chihuly’s Seafoam and Amber Tipped Chandelier was commissioned in 1994 for an oceanfront residence on Long Island, with shimmering seafoam colors and fanciful shell shapes echoing the seascape outside.  It is one of the first of a series of the artist’s “chandeliers” inspired in 1992 by a light fixture in a Spanish restaurant.  This series consists of large-scale nonfunctional sculptures with a dramatic presence in the space surrounding them, each made of hundreds or thousands of repeated elements.

Dale Chihuly
Dale Chihuly

Chakaia Booker transforms hundreds of recycled rubber tires, splicing and weaving them into a mysterious labyrinth.

Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR

“Booker was inspired to explore tires as a material while walking the streets of New York in the 1980s, when retreads and melted pools of rubber from car fires littered the urban landscape.  By massing, slashing, and reworking the material we see daily yet never fully consider, she jolts us out of complacency to grasp these materials for what they are: a natural resource marshaled through astonishingly complex channels into a product of great convenience and superabundance” (from a plaque at the gallery).

Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR
the Yeti at Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
the Yeti at Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR

My other favorite in the gallery is Jennifer Angus’s In the Midnight Garden.  This artist creates spiraling designs across the gallery walls from shimmering, brilliantly colored insects, a novel “wallpaper” that displays nature’s spectacular range of colors and shapes in small-life forms.

Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden

From a plaque at the gallery: “Angus’s genius is the embrace of what is wholly natural, if unexpected.  Yes, the insects are real, and no, she has not altered them except to position their wings and legs. The species in this gallery are not endangered, but in fact are quite abundant, primarily in Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea, a corner of the world where Nature seems to play with greater freedom.  The pink wash is derived from the cochineal insect living on cacti in Mexico, where it has long been prized as the best source of the color red.  By altering the context in which we encounter such species, Angus startles us into recognition of what has always been a part of our world.”

Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden

I’m amazed at this exhibit. First, I’m surprised and delighted that the insects are real.  And the way they are displayed is amazing.

Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden

After exploring WONDER at the Renwick Gallery, we take a walk down to the White House, passing some interesting buildings along the way.

The Renwick Gallery
The Renwick Gallery
Renwick Gallery
Renwick Gallery

We stop to admire the White House, where I’m hoping a certain candidate will NOT be living come January of 2017.

The White House
The White House

We walk past the stately Executive Office Building.

Washington building
Washington building
Washington row houses
Washington row houses

We’re hungry for lunch by now, so we go to Cosi to grab some lunch.

We feel slightly more relaxed today than we’ve been over the last several months, having had to deal with the emotional upheaval and crash of our youngest son, Adam (23).  Last week, on January 8, we moved him out of our house to a loft apartment in Richmond, VA.  As of today, it doesn’t seem he has been looking for a job and we’re worried that he is just sleeping all day every day.  He hasn’t really communicated much with us, so we don’t know anything for sure.

Two days after today’s outing, late on the night of Tuesday the 19th, Adam comes up from Richmond to visit, telling us he is giving a permaculture presentation to some people in Maryland on Wednesday.  He spends all day sleeping in the basement on Wednesday.  While I’m out running errands, he goes out and we don’t see him the rest of the night.  I assume he has gone to give the presentation.

However, on Thursday morning the 21st, while I am still in bed, Mike comes up and turns on the light.  Grumpy, I ask why he is turning on the light.  He says, “You’re going to go crazy.”  Then he proceeds to read me the following note, written by Adam:

What we woke up to on January 21
What we woke up to on January 21

We are both aghast.  If he had already bought the ticket to go to Hawaii in December, as he claimed, why the heck didn’t he tell us BEFORE we got him an apartment in Richmond and committed to a 6-month lease?  We feel duped, furious and hopeless.  Not to mention totally baffled as to what to do.

The next 10 days are torture for us as we don’t know whether or not he’ll come back home at all (we half wish he’ll just stay in Hawaii as he’s been wanting to go there for some time and frankly, we’re sick of being stressed out about him); neither do we know how he plans to live or eat while there as we know he has no money; in addition, his credit cards, which several stupid banks gave him, are maxed out.

We never hear a word from him in the 10 days he was there.  In some ways, I have to say it’s a welcome break, although I try hard to send positive thoughts his way.

Argh!! Life.

 

an evening at lewis ginter’s dominion gardenfest of lights: “H2Whoa”

Saturday, December 5:  After I fetch Mike from the University of Richmond football game, we sit in Starbucks drinking hot coffee for about an hour before we’re due to pick up Alex and his girlfriend, Ariana.

From Alex’s house in The Fan, we head over to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for the Dominion GardenFest of Lights.  It’s quite a cold night, so we bundle up to walk through the 30-acre light and botanical display.  The “H2Whoa” theme showcases water in all its forms and highlights the many ways water shapes our world.

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of my photos, for without a tripod, I fear they’re pretty blurry!

blue fountain at Lewis Ginter
blue fountain at Lewis Ginter
Alex, me and Mike
Alex, me and Mike

Many of the flowers and fish throughout the gardens are made from recycled materials, especially plastic bottles — cut, painted and shaped into fantastical creatures and botanical features.

garden of recycled plastic
garden of recycled plastic
Pirate's booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Pirate’s booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Pirate's booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Pirate’s booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland
canopy of lights
canopy of lights

In the children’s area, we find a zoo of colorful animals.

Alex and Ariana are a cute couple, don’t you think?

Ariana and Alex
Ariana and Alex

We make our way slowly over toward the Conservatory.  The warmth inside beckons.

Conservatory
Conservatory
Fountain Garden
Fountain Garden
Fountain Garden
Fountain Garden

Inside the Conservatory, we’re greeted by a giant octopus and schools of fish on the “ocean’s floor.”

An underwater world in the Conservatory
An underwater world in the Conservatory
Gardens in the conservatory
Gardens in the conservatory

We find many garden features in the Conservatory, some real and some created out of plastic bottles.

In the Conservatory, we also admire the elaborate electric train dioramas.

Finally, we head back into the Visitor’s Center, where we wander around the gift shop to warm up.

heading back to the Visitor's Center
heading back to the Visitor’s Center
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
octopus ornament
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
sea creature ornaments
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
cute owl ornament
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
terrier ornament
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
elk ornament
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
butterflies
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
lanterns in the gift shop

After our fun exploration of the GardenFest of Lights, we go to The Fan, where we wait in line for a Cuban dinner at Kuba-Kuba Restaurante y Bodega.   We enjoy a lively atmosphere, delicious meals and cold beers, after which we take Alex and Ariana back home and we drive home two hours to northern Virginia. 🙂

an afternoon at the virginia museum of fine arts

Saturday, December 5:  Today, Mike and I drive down to Richmond for several “events.”  Mike is going to meet some friends for the University of Richmond vs. William & Mary football game.  I don’t enjoy football even though it’s my alma mater playing (W&M); I’d rather have lunch with my adult children, which I’ll refer to as my “kids.”

The kids are busy for much of the day as final exams are next week at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU); Alex has to attend a biology study group and Sarah has a big paper due and has to work on it all afternoon before going to work at 5:00.  So I meet Alex and Sarah for lunch at Fresca…on Addison.  We chat mostly about Sarah’s paper.  She’s writing a literary analysis of Katherine Porter’s short story “The Theft,” which she had me read over Thanksgiving.  We’ve already discussed it at great length and now we discuss it some more.  I miss analyzing literature, which is all I did during my four years as an English major at William & Mary.

The kids take off to meet their obligations, and I have some time to kill before I pick up Mike from the football game.  Later, we’ll pick up Alex and his girlfriend Ariana to go to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for the Dominion Gardenfest of Lights 2015-2016.  We plan to take them out for dinner after we walk through the light show.

In the meantime, I have several hours to kill, so I visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which I haven’t done in a long time.  I have forgotten how huge it is.  I mistakenly thought I could see the whole thing in several hours.  That simply isn’t possible unless you rush through.

I decide I’ll make my way through from top to bottom, so I begin with the South Asian collection on Level 3. This gallery has art from India, Nepal and Tibet.  It takes me back to my travels through India in 2011 and Nepal in 2013.  I still haven’t been to Tibet, though I’d love to go!

In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery

One room is completely occupied by “Garden Pavilion” from 19th century Rajasthan.  Elegant arcaded pavilions were standard features in royal gardens and palace complexes in India between the 17th and 19th centuries.  Large examples could accommodate a ruler and his court assembled for business or entertainment.  More intimately scaled pavilions such as this one were used for private retreat, pleasure, and contemplation (from a plaque at the museum).

Garden Pavilion
Garden Pavilion

I saw many pavilions such as these when I traveled around northern India and Rajasthan.

Garden Pavilion
Garden Pavilion

I’m fascinated by the Mughal paintings.  According to a plaque at the museum, “no event was more crucial to the history of Indian painting than the Mughal conquest of north India in 1526. This dynasty from Central Asia would endure in India until its last leader was deposed by the British in 1857.   From about 1550-1700, the so-called Great Mughal emperors were the undisputed masters of much of the Indian subcontinent. Great sponsors of the arts, they developed in their royal ateliers a sophisticated visual language that was both beautiful and awe-inspiring.”

In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings

Next, I explore the Art Deco collection.

Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Marble Hall
Marble Hall

I wander into the European collection featuring French art and French Impressionism.  Below, Eugene Boudin characteristically explores the theme of modernization as known in the late 19th century. His rapid brushstrokes capture the windblown clouds and white-capped waves as a fishing fleet is under sail on a windy day off the coast of France (from a plaque at the museum).

Eugene Boudin - A French Fishing Fleet with Packet Boat (1889)
Eugene Boudin – A French Fishing Fleet with Packet Boat (1889)

The barely tamed Arabian stallion portrayed here by Carle Vernet captures the Romantic interest in both the “exotic” and the supremacy of nature over humankind.

Carle Vernet - A Groom Holding an Arab Stallion (ca. 1830)
Carle Vernet – A Groom Holding an Arab Stallion (ca. 1830)

This is one of four paintings of poppy fields that Claude Monet painted during the summer of 1885 in Giverny, where the artist resided from 1883 until his death almost 45 years later.

Claude Monet - Field of Poppies, Giverny (1885)
Claude Monet – Field of Poppies, Giverny (1885)

This view from Vincent Van Gogh’s hospital window is one of many versions he painted while recovering from a serious emotional crisis.  The artist suffered from attacks of mania — perhaps stemming from a form of epilepsy — throughout his life, but they became more pronounced after his unsuccessful collaboration with Paul Gauguin in Arles.

Vincent Van Gogh - The Wheatfield Behind St. Paul's Hospital, St. Remy (1889)
Vincent Van Gogh – The Wheatfield Behind St. Paul’s Hospital, St. Remy (1889)

Kees Van Dongen, a Dutch painter active in France, shows his whimsical sense of humor in the comical contrast between the woman’s flamboyantly oversized hat and the miniscule dog.

Kees Van Dongen - Parisian Lady 1910
Kees Van Dongen – Parisian Lady 1910

During World War II, Raoul Dufy took refuge in his atelier in Perpignan in southern France. The quiet optimism in the power of art — here, a bouquet painted from life takes form on the artist’s easel — is greatly at odds with the tumultuous reality of global conflict.

Raoul Dufy - L'Atelier au Bouquet (1942)
Raoul Dufy – L’Atelier au Bouquet (1942)

By 1953, Pablo Picasso had long since departed from the hard abstraction of Analytic Cubism, however, this painting — though decorative in tone — retains the broken forms and skewed perspective that are characteristic of the artist.

Pablo Picasso - The Chinese Chest of Drawers (1953)
Pablo Picasso – The Chinese Chest of Drawers (1953)

Here, Pierre Bonnard greatly monumentalized a commonplace piece of household furniture. Presented almost as a secular altar, this table seems to embody the very idea of family, household and bourgeois abundance.

Pierre Bonnard - The Dining Room (ca. 1940-47)
Pierre Bonnard – The Dining Room (ca. 1940-47)

In one gallery, I find the ballerina by Edgar Degas, similar to the one I saw earlier this year at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas

Next, I wander into the Art Nouveau gallery, where I admire the Tiffany lamps.

Finally, I go downstairs to Level 2 and walk through the McGlothlin Galleries which feature the American collection.  This huge oil on canvas by Edwin Lord Weeks is the first painting to greet me.  He was the first known American artist to visit India. This painting dates from Weeks’ second India excursion. Depicting the Moti Masjid built by Shah Jahan — the Mughal emperor associated with the famed Taj Mahal — this painting won a gold medal in the 1889 Paris Salon, where the artist’s works created a public sensation.

Edwin Lord Weeks - The Hour of Prayer at the Pearl Mosque, Agra, ca. 1888-89
Edwin Lord Weeks – The Hour of Prayer at the Pearl Mosque, Agra, ca. 1888-89

George Inness was a leading figure of the Hudson River School and is best known for his serene renderings of landscapes that resonate with the ideal of America as the New Eden. Evening captures two men, one piling wood and one driving his livestock home, after a long day’s work.

George Inness - Evening, 1863
George Inness – Evening, 1863

This painting features the greatest steam yacht of its era, the Namouna, built in 1881, breaking through the waves, the oblique angle of the bow tilting the viewer toward the rush of surging white foam.

Julius LeBlanc Stewart - Yachting the Mediterranean, 1896
Julius LeBlanc Stewart – Yachting the Mediterranean, 1896

This painting channels Edith Wharton’s famed interior design guide, Decoration of Houses (1897), a bible for genteel taste during the Gilded Age.

William Merritt Chase - Friendly Advice, 1913
William Merritt Chase – Friendly Advice, 1913

Of all the places Sargent encountered in his travels, perhaps none captured his attention like Venice.  Beneath the Grand Canal’s Rialto Bridge, ornament is secondary to action.  Here the flow of traffic enlivens the painting with a sense of movement.

John Singer Sargent - The Rialto, 1909
John Singer Sargent – The Rialto, 1909

Theodore Robinson was instructed in a centuries-old manner that emphasized the laborious sketching of live models in a variety of traditional poses. In the Sun features one such model lying in a field of grass, blanched by the summer sun.  Marie, as she was known, was Robinson’s romantic companion and prospective wife.  Sadly, the artist died unmarried just four years later at the young age of forty-three.

Theodore Robinson - In the Sun, 1891
Theodore Robinson – In the Sun, 1891

May Day festivals in New York City featured schoolgirls dressed in white parading through Central Park. This painting identifies the parade with all socio-economic levels, and includes the diverse group on the same canvas.

George Bellows - May Day in Central Park, 1905
George Bellows – May Day in Central Park, 1905

After leaving the American collection on the 2nd floor, I head straight through the East Asian, Ancient and European collections to the African collection.  By now I am getting tired and my feet are sore from walking and standing on the unforgiving stone floor. I do a quick walk-through of the African gallery and the Mid- to Late 20th Century Gallery.

Marsden Hartley’s Franconia Notch is a quintessential expression of the leading modernist’s self-proclaimed “Americanness” at a time of growing cultural nationalism.

Marsden Hartley - Franconia Notch (Mt. Lafayette, Franconia Notch, N.H.), 1930
Marsden Hartley – Franconia Notch (Mt. Lafayette, Franconia Notch, N.H.), 1930

Ecuadoran Oswaldo Guayasamin, a leading Pan-American painter, focuses here on Latin America’s indigenous heritage and various ethnic groups, especially the poor and dispossessed.

Oswaldo Guayasamin - Cartuchos (Lilies), 1949
Oswaldo Guayasamin – Cartuchos (Lilies), 1949

Edward Hopper’s House at Dusk is set at the “exquisite hour” of dusk, that most transitional time of day.  The painter introduces a suspenseful narrative element with the figure of a woman silhouetted by artificial light, seemingly unaware of the subtle afterglow taking place behind her apartment house.

Edward Hopper - House at Dusk, 1935
Edward Hopper – House at Dusk, 1935

After this, I’m exhausted from all my walking and there is still much to see in the museum.  I will have to return several more times to take it all in.  But for today, I leave and head out to Richmond’s west end to pick up Mike at the University of Richmond.  After a quick stop at Starbucks, we head into the Fan to pick up Alex and Ariana to head to the Gardenfest of Lights.

All brief descriptions of the art are taken from plaques at the museum. 🙂

in search of a “happy” 4th of july

Friday, July 4:  This year I didn’t get to celebrate our country’s independence, or much of anything else.  No fireworks, no barbecue, no parties. Things started falling apart on Monday of this week.  While I was at work, Mike texted me that his mother had been admitted to the hospital with a bad cough.  She is very frail already, and on oxygen.  In the hospital, she weighed in at a wispy 83 pounds.  She’s also very confused, talking non-stop about things that simply don’t make any sense.

Fourth of July on Boulevard in Richmond
Fourth of July on Boulevard in Richmond
On Grove Avenue in the Fan District
On Grove Avenue in the Fan District
Grove Avenue
Grove Avenue

On Tuesday, I got the sad news that Christine, fellow blogger of DADIRRIDREAMING, had died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage.  Christine was a lovely and spiritual woman.  When I was stressed out after returning home to Virginia from Oman, she sent me an hour-long guided meditation, in her voice, which I listen to when I need to relax.  I’m happy to have a bit of her voice to keep with me forever.

a lone bicycle in the Fan
a lone bicycle in the Fan
Fan District
Fan District
Hanover St.
Hanover St.

On Wednesday, my daughter Sarah got a ride up from Richmond and we went to visit her Nana in the hospital.  We were afraid she didn’t have long to live. The doctors decided on Thursday to release her to go home, under the care of hospice. They say there’s nothing else they can do for her.

the iconic New York Deli of Carytown
the iconic New York Deli of Carytown
Carytown, Richmond
Carytown, Richmond
Carytown
Carytown
Carytown shops
Carytown shops

Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, my sister called to tell me that my dad had been admitted to the hospital for an emergency surgery.  It turns out the surgery fixed the problem and he was sent home on Thursday.  I called to ask if he’d like a visitor. He sounded like he’d appreciate it.

Carytown in Richmond
Carytown in Richmond
Cupcakes
Cupcakes
All decked out for 4th of July
All decked out for 4th of July

On Thursday, after Nana was settled in at her home in a bed set up by hospice in her family room, with a view of her beloved garden, Sarah shared this video with her grandmother, hoping to cheer her up.  It’s a rendition of the Pharrell Williams “Happy” song, filmed in Richmond.

All Thursday afternoon, and over the next couple of days, Nana replayed the video repeatedly. I was happy that it seemed to make her happy.  Later, I found out the reason.  She told one of the around-the-clock caregivers that her granddaughter was in the video.  I said, “Nana, no, Sarah’s not in the video, she just likes it.”  But Nana insisted that her granddaughter was in the video, and continued to watch it non-stop.  Later, I heard she told another caregiver that all three of her grandchildren were in the video.

At another time, I heard her tell a friend who phoned, in an agitated voice: “I need to go now so I can get the cushions so I can get to Richmond.” Somehow, Richmond and her grandchildren and the urgency of her getting to them are all tied up together in her mind. Sweet, but sad.

Carytown
Carytown
Carytown
Carytown
Vintage Clothing
Vintage Clothing

Sarah had to go back to Richmond for work, so we got on the road at 5 a.m. on the 4th and drove 2 hours to Richmond, where I went for a walk and she for a run.  I then showered and headed another hour south to visit my father.  He seems to be okay; he’s just having a little trouble getting around because of the incision.  I visited for a couple of hours, then got in the car and drove 3 hours back to northern Virginia, where I was too exhausted from the stressful week to do any kind of celebrating.

Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Portrait House
Portrait House
Street Art
Street Art
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

We spent a lot of time with family over the last week: my kids, Mike, his mom and sister, my dad and his wife.  It was a week of connecting, with the sad awareness that ties could be cut at any moment.

I had a lovely walk around Richmond on the most beautiful Fourth of July, weather-wise, that I’ve ever experienced in Virginia. Usually, it’s unbearably hot and humid, and generally miserable in July. I realized that Richmond holds a lot of memories for our family.  I used to live here, and Mike’s first wife, who died of breast cancer, lived here.  I met Mike in Richmond.  Sarah lives here now, working and going to school at VCU.  It’s truly my favorite Virginia city.

The Fan
The Fan
Wall art to honor a former employee of Joe's Inn, who passed away
Wall art to honor a former employee of Joe’s Inn, who passed away
Street art at Joe's Inn, a Richmond dining establishment where Sarah works
Street art at Joe’s Inn, a Richmond dining establishment where Sarah works
Heroes & Ghosts Tattoos
Heroes & Ghosts Tattoos
Vespa Love
Vespa Love

When I drove home from my dad’s on Route 17, a mostly deserted highway that runs nearly parallel to the dreaded I-95, the setting sun cast a glowing light over dancing cornfields, and I felt overwhelmed by the beauty and changing nature of our world.

springtime at lewis ginter & a milestone birthday party

Friday, May 9:  Today, I drive to Richmond to meet my daughter Sarah to celebrate her 30th birthday, which was on April 26.  We’re a couple of weeks late.  She’s been busy with four classes and as today is the last of her final exams, she’ll finally be able to relax and enjoy the party.  Mike and the boys drive separately to meet us at 4:00.  They plan to drive back home after dinner, while I intend to stay the night with Sarah in Richmond.  We have some shopping to do on Saturday for that birthday.

Since I arrive in Richmond around 2:00, and Sarah is still taking her exam, I drop by Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens to see what’s in bloom for spring.  As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the nicest gardens in Virginia, although I’m sure there must be many more beautiful ones throughout the state that I haven’t visited.  Here’s a little of what I find.

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

I have probably misnamed some of the flowers, so I would appreciate any gardeners out there who can set me straight.  For instance, I’m not sure if the flowers I’ve labeled azaleas are such, or if they’re rhododendron.  And I wish someone would tell me the name of the white flowers with the yellow Chihuly-like centers.

{Thanks so much to Carol of Wanderings of an Elusive Mind and Jonah from Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for setting me straight on the flower names!)

By the time I finish walking around the gardens on this hot and humid day, I’m soaked and my hair is sticking out like it’s been whipped with egg-beaters.  I run to Sarah’s and take a shower so I won’t look like the dregs of society when we go out tonight.  The celebration is mainly for Sarah’s birthday, but also for the end of her demanding semester. It’s also a celebration for Mother’s Day.  It’s not often I have all three of my children together.

Sarah has the idea to go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for wine tasting on the patio.  In the pond beside the patio are Chihuly’s Red Reeds.

Chihuly's Red Reeds
Chihuly’s Red Reeds

I take a picture of my three children, but, as I don’t have my glasses on, I don’t realize until later that Sarah’s eyes are closed. 🙂

Alex, Sarah & Adam
Alex, Sarah & Adam
Mike, Sarah, Alex & Adam
Mike, Sarah, Alex & Adam

We then head to dinner at Bacchus on Main, where we have a feast fit for kings, a queen and a princess.  As Sarah seems to know all the waiters in the Richmond establishments, we get some little perks, like a dessert we don’t order and an extra appetizer.  Happy birthday to Sarah!

Bacchus: Sarah on the left, Alex, Adam and Mike on the right. :-)
Bacchus: Sarah on the left, Alex, Adam and Mike on the right. 🙂
Enhanced by Zemanta

the ukrop’s monument avenue 10k

Friday, March 28:  This afternoon, I leave my house at 3:00 for what should be a two-hour drive to Richmond, Virginia.  I’m planning to walk tomorrow morning in the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k along with my 29-year-old daughter Sarah, who’s planning to run.

I sit in barely moving traffic on I-95 south from Washington to Fredericksburg, at which time the traffic finally begins to move at more than a snail’s pace.  It takes me 3 hours and 40 minutes to make what should be a 2-hour drive.  When I arrive in Richmond, I stop at the Arthur Ashe Junior Athletic Center to pick up my bib and race packet, along with thousands of other people.

Traffic on I-95 South on a Friday night
Traffic on I-95 South on a Friday night

When I arrive at Sarah’s house in the Fan District, she’s making a linguine and Bella mushroom dish, accompanied by warm decadent garlic bread.  After all, we need to load up on carbs for the race.  Her friend and running-mate Rose, her roommate Daniel, and her annoying cat, Chicken Little, who insists on jumping up on the table at every chance, also share the meal.  We relax soon after dinner so we’ll be ready for the event tomorrow.

Saturday, March 29: According to the Richmond Time-Dispatch: Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K by the numbers,  36,365 people registered for this event.  Despite the rain, 27,404 participants finished the race, including me. 🙂

Sarah and Rose on Sarah's porch
Sarah and Rose on Sarah’s porch
Me with Sarah
Me with Sarah

Since there are so many people, there is no parking nearby.  We have to walk to the starting line near Harrison and  Broad.  When I MapMyWalk, I find the walk to the start from Sarah’s is one mile.  So, including the walk there, the 10k and the walk back, I cover a total of 8.2 miles.  In the rain.  Needless to say, I’m soaked like a wet puppy by the time I return to Sarah’s house.

Passing the runners on Monument Avenue as I walk to the start
Passing the runners on Monument Avenue as I walk to the start
I pass a church along the way
I pass a church along the way
Monument Avenue - one of the many monuments along the road
Monument Avenue – one of the many monuments along the road
Runners
Runners
A shop on Broad Street
A shop on Broad Street
A team in yellow runs by
A team in yellow runs by
Street art on the side of Club 534 along Broad Street
Street art on the side of Club 534 along Broad Street
Painted Wall at Club 534
Painted Wall at Club 534

There are a total of 90 minutes of wave starts.  I’m pretty impressed that the organizers, Sports Backers, do such a good job with the logistics of organizing such a huge event.  Sarah and her friend Rose are in an early wave of runners so she actually finishes running before I even start.  The walkers are at the back of the pack, and my wave, XB, doesn’t start until nearly 10 a.m.

My wave, XB, one of the last to start
My wave, XB, one of the last to start
At the starting line
At the starting line

Sarah meets her goal of finishing at 58:32.  She’s pleased with her results of finishing 7,420th out of all participants, and 613th place out of her division of women 25-29.

Mile 1!
Mile 1!

Since I am walking, I’m hoping to keep around a 16:45 minute per mile pace throughout.  My total time ends up being 1:46:58, about a 17.25 minute pace.  The first 3.1 miles of my walk is an average pace of 16:42, so I meet my goal in the first half.  In the second half of the run, it begins to pour, and I think that slows me down. I finish way at the back of the pack at 24,348th!!  I didn’t realize I was so slow. I finish 625th in my division of women age 55-59. I may be slow, but it seemed like a lot of work to me!

Margaritaville??
Margaritaville??
Jimmy Buffet land
Jimmy Buffett land

I figure that I walk a little over 3 miles every day, so it should be easy to simply double it.  However, I find that my back is really hurting in the second half, quite a surprise as I don’t normally have back problems when walking.  Maybe it’s the distance combined with the hard asphalt.  My toes also feel like they’re stuck with pins and needles.  It’s hell getting older!!

Stonewall Jackson stands on his pedestal and horse on Monument Ave
Stonewall Jackson stands on his pedestal and horse on Monument Ave

Despite the rain, hordes of Richmonders come out to cheer on the walkers and runners.  Thirty-three small bands are set up along the route, under tents, playing jazz, R&B, classic rock, blues, folk, bluegrass, jammin’ oldies, Christian rock, funk and surf instrumentals.  Many participants and bystanders are decked out in costumes.  I pass some ladies wearing a pirate ship!  Some guys mime from a balcony in Superhero costumes.  There are people dressed in team costumes and holding signs and banners.  Thank goodness for all the people who came out to cheer on the runners and walkers on such a miserable day.  They kept our spirits up!

Superhero cheerleaders perched on a roof
Superhero cheerleaders perched on a roof
Falun Dafa
Falun Dafa

The VCU Massey Cancer Center is the official charitable fundraising partner of the 10k.  Participants take an active role in cancer prevention.

Some signs of spring - cherry blossoms?
Some signs of spring – cherry blossoms?
two walkers wearing a pirate ship
two walkers wearing a pirate ship

So after all that hard work, what do we do?  We head straight to the Star-Lite Dining and Lounge, where I order possibly the most unhealthy thing on the menu, biscuits and sausage gravy.  Sarah orders Crab Cake Bennies – “Classic Bennies with a pair of grilled crab cakes added to the stack.”  We also each have a beer. 🙂

I would challenge anyone to undo hard work as efficiently and thoroughly as I do!

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

shirley plantation & lunch at joe’s inn

Sunday, September 29:  This morning I leave my dad’s house in Yorktown, taking a detour off of I-64 to stop at Shirley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia. The eleventh generation of one family continues to own, operate and work this colonial plantation.

Driving to Shirley Plantation
Driving to Shirley Plantation
Shirley Plantation
Shirley Plantation

It is also the oldest family owned business in North America, dating to the establishment of the farm by Edward Hill I in 1638.  The home has been continuously inhabited by descendents of the same family since 1738.  The mansion is referred to as “The Great House.” (Shirley Plantation: Shirley’s History)

James River
James River

The most important building, the Great House, is closest to the James River, with buildings of lesser importance further away.  The Great House was originally flanked on either side by freestanding wings, which have since been dismantled.

Shirley Plantation from the James River side
Shirley Plantation from the James River side

According to the plantation brochure: Shirley Plantation is America’s first plantation; it was founded in 1613, only six years after the first permanent English settlement of Jamestown.  Shirley Plantation survived Indian uprisings, Bacon’s Rebellion, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, and the Great Depression.

Shirley Plantation
Shirley Plantation

Pork was a major staple in Colonial Virginia.  As much as 10 tons a year were butchered, cured and smoked at Shirley.  Hogs were butchered in the winter months, then rubbed with salt and cured in tubs for two weeks. The meat was hung from the rafters and pegs in the smokehouse. The smoking process lasted two weeks and required burning a fire outside the Smokehouse day and night to supply coals. Green wood was placed on the hot coals in the pit to create a rolling smoke.  The most popular types of wood used for flavoring included hickory, oak and apple.  Apple wood was preferred at Shirley.

extended plantation
extended plantation with the smokehouse in the foreground
stellar flowers
stellar flowers
plantation buildings
plantation buildings
kitchen
me in the kitchen
fake food
full fake working kitchen
full fake working kitchen

outbuilding

cotton
cotton
cotton and machine
cotton and machine

I get a tour of the house, and see the original family furnishings and portraits.  However, we’re sadly not allowed to take pictures in the house.

After the tour, I wander around the grounds to get the full lay of the land.

the lay of the land
the lay of the land
purple berries
purple berries

Shirley’s dovecote is round and made of brick. Shirley’s dovecote was built between 1723 and 1738 and has 6 rows of 18 roosts for a total of 108 roosts.  Doves were an important source of dietary protein, both from their meat and eggs.  Outside the dovecote, I run across some goat and chicken crossings.

It’s bizarre to me that I’ve lived my whole life in Virginia, and I’ve traveled the road between Yorktown and Richmond too many times to count, yet this is the first time I’ve ever taken time to stop and visit this plantation.

I love tree-lined lanes like this
I love tree-lined lanes like this

After leaving Shirley Plantation, I drive another 15 miles to Richmond, where I stop in to visit Sarah at Joe’s Inn, where today she’s working as bartender.  After about 45 minutes, she gets off and joins me at the bar.

the bar at Joe's Inn
the bar at Joe’s Inn
Joe's Inn
Joe’s Inn
Wall art on the wall of Joe's Inn
Wall art on the wall of Joe’s Inn

After our lunch, I head back home to the dreaded northern Virginia, to prepare for another week of work. 😦