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Details from the Vanderbilt Museum

a spring day on the former gold coast of Long Island

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Fountain FigureA Taste of Gatsby

The first weekend of May 2013 my wife, Pam, and I attended a New York City Ballet performance on Saturday. Sunday we visited the Vanderbilt Museum of Centerport, Long Island.

This is the former “Eagles Nest” estate of William (“Willie”) Kissam Vanderbilt II.

Museum visitors are first drawn to a grand Corinthian colonnade and view of this boathouse on Northport Harbor.

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Boat House

Vanderbilt and Gatsby

Willie K chose Centerport in 1910 for an anchorage on the well protected Northport Harbor, deep enough to his yacht the size of a destroyer class ship named for his mother, Alva.
The estate grounds are high above the harbor, the mansion and gardens designed to enhance the view.

There are superficial parallels between Willie K’s life and “The Great Gatsby.” The first suburban commuter, Willie K was an auto enthusiast. A theme of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” is travel back and forth from New York City to the great estates on Long Island’s North Shore. In Gatsby, while the vehicles are grand, the travel is pointless or worse. In comparison, Willie K as a pioneering automobile racer, achieved a land speed record and founded a major race, “The Vanderbilt Cup.” Gatsby, above and beyond his fictional status, is a tenuous, transient figure. Vanderbilt established this estate, grounds and museums we still enjoy today.

Rose Garden

A short walk from the colonnade is a rose garden surrounding a pool and fountain. These Corinthian columns sized to a human scale flank a dedication bench on the northern side overlooking the boathouse through a hillside forest.

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Rose Garden Bench

Spirit of the Mediterranean

This figure of a flourishing infant is atop the rose garden fountain. Pam and I first noticed this character of the Eagles Nest estate here, with his abundant grape cluster, and came to know him as an expression of Willie’s outlook.

To the northeast / east is a dramatic view of Northport harbor and the Long Island Sound.

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Rose Garden Fountain

The mansion and surrounding grounds were imagined by Willie and implemented by the architects Warren, Wetmore and Pearce, over a twenty five year building campaign, from his feeling for the Mediterranean.

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Museum Garden Statue

We were gifted with weather that evoked the full expression of the Mediterranean spirit.

Click Link for another Long Island posting “Sakura (Cherry Blossoms).”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

The Haw in Hawthorn

I originally published these blossoms as “wild  rose”.  It was my Facebook friends who pointed  out these are hawthorn flowers.  The key to identification was the shape of the leaves.

Hawthorne Blossoms on the former McArdle Home
Blossoms of Hawthorne taken on the site of the former McCardle Home, Proleek Townland, County Louth, Ireland.

In correcting my mistake, I learned the young leaves of Hawthorn are excellent for salads.  Wonder how the fairy folk, associated with single hawthorns (as in the following photograph from the Hill of Tara), react to picking leaves from their trees?  I didn’t hear of the practice during our time in Ireland.

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Speaking Stone Hill of Tara
View northwest from Hill of Tara looking across County Meath with views of Counties Westmeath and Cavan. On the horizon, right, is Hag’s Mountain, (Irish: Sliabh na Caillí) , site of the Loughcrew Cairns. The standing stone is the “Stone of Destiny: (Irish: Lia Fáil), which served in coronation the coronation of the High Kings of Ireland. It stands on the Inauguration Mound (Irish: an Forrad) of Tara. This photograph was taken the morning of May 27, 2014 hours before the stone was vandalized, doused with green and red paint.

My mistake was understandable, in botany the hawthorn is in the same family as the rose.  The flowers are similar, having five petals.  The “haw” in hawthorn is from the Old English word for hedge, as is this linear standoff the tree lining the way up to the Loughcrew Cairns.

Path on Hag's Mountain, Loughcrew
Reaching highest point of County Meath, Ireland means a steep path, not too long, to glorious views on all points plus Lough Craobh (Lake of the Branches).

I read these votive offerings are made at Beltane, in which case these are fresh from placement May 1.

Hawthorn Tree with Offerings
A hawthorn tree in bloom on May 27, 2016. Growing on the slope of Hag’s Mountain

The following year Pam underwent double total knee replacements, never the less, she was great company for all our adventures on the island.  Even this steep climb.

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Pam and the Offering Hawthorn
The steep path to Loughcrew passes a hawthorn covered with flowers and May offerings.

These views were our reward for reaching the top.

Loughcrew View, North by Northwest
View from Loughcrew Cairns, “Hags Mountain”

The Emerald Isle, we fully understood this name.

Standing Stone, Loughcrew
Loughcrew Megalithic Site, County Meath, Ireland. A solitary standing stone below the trail to the Loughcrew site surrounded by whin bush (gorse) and hawthorn hedge rows. A fieldstone fence, farmhouses, a patchwork quilt of fields completes the view.

The Greek name for the Hawthorn species is formed from two words meaning “strength” and “sharp”, referring to the thorny branches.

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Charlemagne of County Cork
For County Cork we stayed with Marantha House B&B.   Our day of arrival, that evening, I visited Charlemagne and fed him an apple, saved from dinner. We learned from our hosts, Olwen and Douglas Venn, he is a retired show horse they rescued. The following morning I visited Charlemagne again with an apple and my camera. As I walked up, starting from the far end of his field, Charlemagne rewarded me with a series of astounding poses, trotting toward me in fine form. The morning mists, hawthorn in bloom, distant hills came together for this memory.

We marveled at the hawthorn hedges in field after field.  I first notice them from the World Heritage Site, Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne, “Palace of the Boyne”).  Here is one on the Dingle Peninsula, on the other side of the island.

Field of Yellow Iris Flowers, Dingle Peninsula
A roadside field of yellow Iris flowers with flowering Hawthorn and Whin Bush in the windbreaks. Looking northwest toward Killeenagh and Caherpierce on the R561 between Lack West and Inch. Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland.

Another Ireland post of interest, “Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home.”

Above Muirthemne Plain

Romance of Ruins

This series of posts started with “Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home” where we explored the site of great grandfather James McCardle’s Proleek farm.  A kilometer from there, at Proleek Dolmen, the ancient portal stones line up to face the plain rising to Slieve Gullion, a name for the mountain taken from the Irish,  Sliabh gCuillinn, meaning “mountain of the steep slope” or Sliabh Cuilinn, “Culann’s mountain.”

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There is an connection between Proleek and Slieve Gullion.  Cycles of Irish Myth place a boy named Sétanta living on Muirthemne Plain, of which what we call Proleek Townland was a part.  One day, the king Conchobar was passing his kingdom, Muirthemne, on the way to a feast on the slopes of Slieve Gullion hosted by the blacksmith Culann when he stopped to watch boys playing hurling, Sétanta among them (it is ironic the Proleek Dolmen is surrounded by a golf course in modern times).

Impressed by the Sétanta’s skill, the king invites him to the feast.  Having a game to finish Sétanta promises to follow.  As evening falls the boy approaches the smith’s house to find himself attacked by a huge, aggressive dog.  Acting in the moment, Sétanta dispatches the dog with the hurley and ball he had at hand, driving the ball down the hound’s throat.  (In another version he smashes the hound against a standing stone.)

Feeling Culann mourn the loss of his beloved animal, Sétanta promises to raise and train a guard dog equal to the one he slew.  Until that time he also pledged to guard Culann’s home.  From that time Sétanta was known as “the hound of Cullann”, Cú Chulainn in Irish.

References
Wikipedia articles “Slieve Gullion” “Cú Chulainn” and “Conaille Muirtheimne.”

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

War Memorial with Sunbeams

the approach of hurricane Sandy

Some background on the World War I Memorial

October 23, 2006 was the 75th anniversary of the War Memorial, dedicate in 1932 to the memory of Cornell’s 264 casualties during World War I. The War Memorial building group is formed by the Army and Navy towers and the cloister connecting them.

The Story “War Memorial with sunbeams”

This view of the War Memorial and the west campus housing complex is across Libe Slope.

Taken late on an October Friday afternoon as hurricane Sandy approached the east coast, the view looks across Ithaca to the distant ridge of Connecticut Hill.

Click photograph for my Online Gallery “Finger Lakes Memories”

Details From Arcosanti, Paolo Solari’s Timeless Vision of a human environment

A Vision of a Human Environment

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Paolo Soleri passed away five years ago, April 9, 2013 at the age of 93.  I was fortunate to attend a University of Arizona lecture by Dr. Soleri in the 1970’s. He was at the height of his accomplishments that afternoon and for an hour we vicariously shared his vision and philosophy.  What most impressed me was Dr. Soleri’s openness and humanity.  Solari’s vision was of an architecture of a dense occupation of humanity that has a minimal environmental impact, Arcology was the term he coined for this idea.  I remembered that hour and Arcosanti, his desert village north of Phoenix since then.

Thirty years later my personal project of reconnecting to the University of Arizona brought me for the first time to Arcosanti. In that time, Dr. Soleri’s trained thousands of students and his desert village grew slowly. Arcosanti is now a vision that achieved a center while events which seemed to pass it by, actually are stones with the strength of Dr. Solari’s ideas and humanity.

Here is a sampling of architectural details from Arcosanti, a place that is real enough and quite charming.  To find the site, head north on US Route 17 in Phoenix, travel about 67 miles to Cordes Lakes and take Arcosanti Road to the site.

 

Pam Checking Her Equipment prior to our visit the summer of 2008.

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Entrance and a Tower of the Crafts III building

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Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels I

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Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels II

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Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels III

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Bell and Panel from the Colly Soleri Amphitheater

Bell Casting was and continues to be a major source of income.

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View from the East Housing complex to the East Across Arcosanti

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View to the South with Cypress Trees from a Portal of the Crafts III Building

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Bench Sitting Nature Watch

a monarch in steady progress south

On a sunny autumn morning we set out, my soon to be three grandson Sam and I, to the Lime Hollow Nature Center near Cortland for an adventure.  For the first time I brought a newly purchased iPhone 7 instead of the usual slr camera.  The phone can be carried in a pocket and is simpler to us, to allow me to give full attention to Sam.

WillsSamuelJackBenchsitting20181014-1

At the start is a large, today sunlit, field with an “art trail.”  There are various anthropomorphic transformations on the trees and a very large sculpture of a blue face.  Here is a tree from another place near here, to give you an idea.

PumpkinFarmTreeFace2012

I do not point out the tree faces to Sam.  His Mom likes to say he enjoys being frightened and, when the blue face came into view, he turned back and said, “home.”  Sam was mildly anxious, so I carried him and tried to turn him up the trail away from the face.  He turned to keep an eye on it while I assured him it could not move.  This and a climb up a 230 foot hill were the only times he didn’t walk the half mile to a open grassy knoll with a bench.

WillsSamuelJackBenchsitting20181014-2

There we sat for 30 minutes, still and watching, Sam and I talked about our sightings:
1. The sunlit sky of clouds, from a milky blue towards the north to, overhead, a bright robins egg blue.
2. A circling hawk, shadow crossing over us.
3. One blue jay in a maple turning red, loudly calling over and over.
4. A little while after a second jay, landing in a tree turned yellow, drawn in and giving answer.
5. A monarch butterfly’s steady progress south. Such a strong gliding path.
6. A yellow butterfly who did not leave us, fluttering round and round.
7. Four honking Canadian geese flying north east, turned to check out a nearby pond, the returned to the original heading.
8. The sound of wind through the trees, listening to the sound made by each tree.
9. The late season golden rod, now dried gray.
10. A distant chittering red squirrel.
11. Distant peeper frogs in the swamps at the foot of the hill.

Sam did not want to leave the bench, eventually we headed on to the pond the geese checked out.

WillsSamuelJackBenchsitting20181014-3

I used the “panoramic” feature of the iPhone 7 for this shot. On the hill we were sheltered by trees and bushes from the steady northeast wind. Here, on a bench by the pond, that direction was open to the wind. The sun kept us warm. It was clear why the geese did not land, the water surface was deserted, filled only by rippling wind driven waves.

On our walk back we sat on a bench on the edge of the art trail field, the blue face out of sight. A woman, the only other person encountered, emerged from one of the trails cut from the brush, camera in hand. She was collecting images for a Cortland Historical Society publication and asked to take our photograph. “OK,”, I said and gave the story of living here for 25 years in the house on Fall Creek where my son’s family lives now. She replied, “My daughter is in San Francisco. We don’t know who will have our house when we are gone.”

Click me for “Celestial Geese with two haiku by Issa”.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Wilderness Textures

Abstract Beauty of the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona

These abstracts are some of my photographic output from four days and nights spent alone in the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness.  For the first three days I met not a soul, all these images were captured on a single afternoon spent in the canyon below Reavis Falls, a jumble of landslides, flood debris and boulders.  There is no trail.  The few people who enter the canyon must negotiate around boulders, crossing Reavis Creek many times.

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Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

My backpack kit included a full sized Manfrotto studio tripod with hydrostatic ball head.  The benefits more than outweighed the effort (I was a lot younger in 2008) when the Canon EF 100mm (macro) lens is mounted on a  Kodak dSLR body, allowing me to take crisp shots.  The tripod legs can be adjusted to precise positions for stability.

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I can feel the bright afternoon desert spring sunshine in this photos.  It was after the spring floods, the flow of Reavis Creek and ample still but slow.  Gathering in pools over the rough stones of the creek bed, the water absolutely clear.

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I held the shot over many minutes, capturing ever changing diffraction patterns.

We see in all these photos, not a homogenous blend of stones from a shared geology.  Reavis Creek washes over diverse geologies: volcanic, ancient igneous extrusions, sedimentary and metamorphic are jumbled together.

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Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

This is a series of photographs of smooth, white igneous boulders with shadows of  still leafless sycamore and cottonwood trees.

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Graceful shadows

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Strong, demonstrative shadows.

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Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A leaning cairn, not a trail marker….

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A 15 foot high jumble of stones piled at the bottom of Reavis Falls, carried over by the floods.

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A metamorphic conglomerate stone….

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Another metamorphic conglomerate.

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Here’s another of my Arizona wilderness adventures, “Racing the Sun.”

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved