Christmas Ornaments 2018 VII

Angels on High

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On this Christmas Eve we offer you our sincere wishes for a blessed celebration of your personal holiday tradition.

Click this link for the first post of the “Christmas Ornaments 2018” series.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Christmas Ornaments 2018 VI

The past summer, the first of my retirement, my early morning hours were spent on Ancestry.com researching our family histories to bring this process, started 2013 in preparation for our tour of Ireland, to a point where I can start to consolidate it into a document shared with other family members.

Pam, at the Cobh Heritage Center

It is a wonderful feeling when the pieces come together. For example the passenger manifest when Grandfather McArdle brought Grandmother and then three year old Mom to Quebec, Canada from the port of Belfast April 1926.

Outside the exhibits there was this collection of authentic emigration trunks on a hand cart.
My father’s trunk from the war was stenciled with his name. A. Lett. took such care marking this suitcase, blocking out the black ground for the carefully hand written white letters.

Their belongings are gathered together in just such a manner. My parents marked all my belongings that left the home with me with my name and address.

Our thought were on this when we selected this suitcase marked with the shamrock from a “Christmas Store” along the streets of the Pennsylvania town of Jim Thorpe, as the memory of our ancestors our exploration of Ireland.

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery

Click this link for the first “Christmas Ornaments 2018” post.

Click this link for another post about Cobh, Ireland, “Annie Moore and her Brothers.”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Christmas Ornaments 2018 III

of this world

The attitude of today’s resin figure, alert, vigilant, aware while not exactly at odds with her accoutrements, provide a counter point to the flower banner and crown, a basket of flowers.   

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Click this Photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery.

After publishing my previous post, “Christmas Ornaments 2018 II”, a word that escaped me during that writing came to mind.  Lambent came to mind.  From the Latin meaning “to lick”, used in the sense of “to glow with light”, as in a tongue of flickering flame, a visual analog to the numinous as in halos of the saints such as the “Immaculate Conception” of the first post of this series.

This fairy is entirely, by her dress, of an older version of this world, defiantly hanging on.  Proud of her accomplishments, ready to vanish in a moment.  Doing exactly as she pleases and happy to leave lambency to a fellow traveler, the Christmas Tree. 

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills      

Christmas Ornaments 2018 II

gift from a friend

Pam integrated this charming resin figure into her mantle “Immaculate Conception” Christmas tableau (click link for this post).  A former co-worker (Pam is retired) gifted a pair of these for Christmas.  The lady was a dedicated cable shopper before the internet era, sharing with Pam the news of her latest acquisitions.  She was similar to my Mother in this way, at the time of Mom’s passing the Asian Immaculate Conception statue of the previous post was set aside, carefully packed away, in her basement to be used as a future gift for one of us (her) children.  Mom was a catalog shopper.

Click pic for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Click photograph for my Fine Art Photography Gallery

This winged creature, placed as an attendant to the Virgin within the tableau, is a fairy or sprite, not an angel.  As visualized for the popular imagination, descendants of Victorian fancy, these are nature spirits, tied to the earth, part of the natural environment as in the illustrations of Arthur Rackham for Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  

Our attendant is a citified, well dressed, cousin of the rural sprites.  She could walk down a New York City street and may not incite too much attention from passerbys except for her flower banner, spring garland headdress and preternatural beauty, not to mention the gemstone the size of a egg around her right wrist.  Oh, and the wings.     

Our sprite bears a well wrapped gift, signaling her as an emblem of the Christmas (or birthday?) season, an attendant to the future Mother of Jesus walking on a tinsel cloud among the spheres of heaven.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Christmas Ornaments 2018 I

for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8

During the summer of 2013, while, gathering my Mother’s estate I found this statue, about 9 inches high on a wood plinth, among her belongings.  It is of a type of unglazed porcelain called “biscuit” or “bisque” commonly used for decorative figures.  From the coloring, especially the brushwork on the robe and shade of the cloak, it is a product of an Asian workshop.  The halo, erect stature and figuration of the arms and hands, identify it as the Immaculate Conception.  December 8th is the feast day of the Immaculate Conception for the Roman Catholic church and, so, I have chosen this as our first Christmas ornament to post for this year.     

Click photograph for my Fine Art Photography Gallery
Click this Photograph for my Fine Art Photography Gallerry

In 2017 I produced four posts featuring photographs of Pam’s Christmas displays or our household Christmas ornaments.  These were “Christmas Tableau”, “Ireland on the Mind at Christmas”, “Christmas Angels”, “Me and the War on Christmas”.

This year, Pam featured our Asian Immaculate Conception on the mantle with festive silver ornaments.  She is placed in front of a wall sized mirror in which the reverse of her cloak and halo are reflected.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Iron Grace


A storage building fashioned into an overlook, just off South Pulteney Road, Routh 76, as the road climbs the hillside. This cast iron decoration graces the fence around the roof. The building is built into the hillside, one edge level with the ground.

As far back as I can remember, over thirty years, yet unmarked on maps, this building and view has been part of the experience of Keuka Lake.  During that time, the fence was erected to protect us.  The place symbolizes the gracious hospitality of the Finger Lakes Region.

I caught this feature during our last outing to Dr. Frank Winery, just a ways up the road, one day of an unusually cold early December.

Valparaiso Connections VII

Fertile Land and Saltpeter, spoils of war

Plaza Victoria

This is an answer for those of who responded to my last post Valparaiso Connections VI with “what does that desert in Peru have to do with Valparaiso?”  It starts with the Plaza Victoria at the end of Pedro Montt Avenue.  Victoria, as in victory not Queen Victoria.   At the beginning of the 19thcentury this was a beach, the site of several ship wrecks.  It was set aside as a gathering place by the Mayor, named Plaza Nueva (New Plaza), for a bullring until bullfights a law banned bullfighting on September 1823. The plaza became a place of public executions and, after Chile’s victory in the Battle of Yungay, a place of celebration, formally renamed for the victory.

The Central Valley of Chile is an exception to the topology north through Lima where agriculture and population centers follow river valleys watered by the Andes and surrounded by waterless wastes.  Yungay, is among one of those watered desert valleys.  Located 120 miles north of Lima, Peru at about 8,000 feet just below a summit of the Western Andes, remnants of cultures from 10,000 B.C. are proof of agriculture and human settlement. It was near Yungay, on January 20, 1839 (summer in the southern hemisphere) a force of Chilean and Peruvian dissidents called the United Restorative Army defeated a Peru-Bolivian Confederation Army to end the War of Confederation. The resulting split into different countries of Peru and Bolivia weakened a threat to Chile and Argentina, aimed in large part toward the broad and fertile Central Valley of Chile. The desperation in view in my post Valparaiso Connections VI was in large measure a motivation war, this motivation is still powerful today.

 The subsequent prosperity allowed reclamation of the land of Plaza Victoria from the sea.  For example, in my post Valparaiso Connections V we learned how French immigrants arrived and developed Central Valley wineries in the 19th century.   Around the time of the victory Chacobuco Street was built adjacent to the plaza on reclaimed land, the Plaza Victoria was pulled from the sea.  

The concrete Lions and bronze statue captured in the above gallery, were elements of a round of enhancements to Plaza Victoria begun 1870.

Monument to the Heroes of Iquique

Here we see from the Regatta bridge a monument to the Heroes of Iquique.   The Battle of Iquique, May 21, 1879, is remembered annually as Naval Glories Day (Dia de las Glorias Navales) .

  Click this Link for the Fine Art Photography Gallery.

This monument commemorates the destruction of the Chilean warship Esmeralda.  At the monument peak is Arturo Prat Chacón, captain of the Esmeralda who perished with his wooden ship.  He and the crew were blockading the then Peruvian port of Iquique along with another ship, the Covadonga.

May 1879 was in the initial phase of the War of the Pacific, fought over rich mineral deposits of the Atacama desert.  Today, the Chilean flag is over these barren wastes, seen here flying over a roadside memorial to an automobile accident victim.  The desert is the backdrop, there are no animals or plants here, only red dirt.  NASA uses the Atacama in simulations of the Martian environment. 

There are deposits of the mineral saltpeter, mined by large operations.  Here is the entrance of a World Heritate site we visited while docked at Iquique. 

The mining operation was literally scraping the deposits lying on the ground and processing it into, among other products, nitrogen
fertilizer.  At that time the operation was hugely lucrative, employing thousands in very difficult conditions.  That is a different story. 

Captain Prat faced two armored Peruvian warships, one the iron clad Huáscar.  Over the course of four hours the Esmeralda was overpowered and sunk.  The Huascar and the 22,500 mountain peak at Yungay, Huascarán, are named for an Inca chief.  

The monument honors the bravery of Captain Prat and his crew, all of whom are named on plaques.

After the Huáscar rammed Esmeralda a third time to sink it, the Huáscar captain, Miguel Grau Seminario, rescued Chilean survivors in danger of drowning.  In the meantime, the armored Peruvian warship was lured into the shallows and destroyed.  Although the blockage on Iquique was lifted Peru lost one of its most powerful ships at the cost to Chile of an older wooden ship.

The defeat and examples of the Esmerelda crew and captain brought a wave of recruits to the Chilean forces.  Chile was the victor of the War of the Pacific, vast tracks of the Atacama desert were taken from Bolivia, including the Saltpeter mines, shutting that country off from the Pacific Ocean.  There is a connection between these memories and the Training Ship anchored in the harbor, the sixth ship to carry the name, Esmeralda (BE-43). 

See my posting Valparaiso Connections V for the more recent history of the Esmeralda.


Click this link for the first of the Valparaiso Connections 

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills