Long Island Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

Clouds of Blossoms

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We have a selection of teas at home for brewing afternoons as a pick-me-up. Some brought back from travels, most from a local supermarket. This Japanese green tea brings to mind my childhood and our trips to Long Island to visit my Mom until she passed away June 2013.

As you can see from this photograph of the tea in a white lotus bowl, there are pieces of pink and white stuff mixed in. These are called by the Japanese “sakura”, cherry blossoms.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Japanese Sakura Sencha Green Tea – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

In Japan, since the 8th century, “Hanami” is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume tree. Here in the United States, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated commemorating the 1912 gift of Prunus serrulata Japanese cherry trees from Tokyo to the city of Washington.

Traditionally cherry blossoms remind the Japanese of clouds, the blooms come out en mass, the tree changes shape with the breeze.  Viewing sakura brings to mind thoughts of the transience of existence, the fragility and transience of the exquisite blooms leads one to appreciate the moment.  The following photograph of Pam was taken a month before my Mother’s sudden decline and passing in 2013.  We’d travel to Long Island several times a year to visit her, then take in familiar sights.

The tree over Pam is called a Shirofugen (Scientific name: Prunus serrulata, of the Rosaceae family) and is one species planted around National Tidal Basin, Washington D.C. Shirofugen blossoms are described “Flowers double, deep pink at first, fading to pale pink.”


Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Pam with a Shirofugen Flowering Cherry in bloom – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Growing up, our family visited the Planting Fields, a state park, several times in the spring and summer. As an adult with a growing family in Glen Cove, right around the corner, the Planting Fields were a welcome outing and visited several time times a year. The following photograph, taken that same May 2013 day, was a favorite park scene.

The two flowering cherry trees in the foreground are a type of Japanese sakura called Yoshino, one the most popular flowering cherries in temperate climates worldwide. All Yoshinos are clones from a single grafting and propagated throughout the world. The scientific name outlines the cross breeding of this variety, Prunus X Yeaoensis. Behind the cherries is an Oak tree, new leaves a bright green, and a pink child’s playhouse cottage.

A changing scene of the park is the now frequent visits by wedding parties and photographers, groups of Asian people, the bride and groom posing under the clouds of blossoms. By frequent I mean a steady stream, one after the other, when the blossoms are full.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Playhouse with Flowering Cherry and Oak trees – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

In 2007 I spent hours framing and capturing the following photograph on a Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, during a visit to my Mother, who was widowed December, 1995. I used an inexpensive tripod, a Kodak DCS Pro slr/c camera body with the Canon 50mm f 1.4 USM lens, a UV filter and lots of time. There were no interruptions that day, at 5:30 pm I had the area to myself.

This child’s garden playhouse, framed by an ancient oak, pink Japanese cherry blossoms and gracious lawn was awarded a Photographic Society of American, Pictorial Print Division, Print of the Month award, published in the society magazine for that month.

My online gallery (see link below) “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”, has this print available for sale on high quality photographic stock with optional framing.

This week, I submitted the photograph for my Getty portfolio.  As of today, I have not received their decision.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Playhouse – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography.  License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog.  Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link to purchase a print of “Playhouse” with optional custom framing from my Fine Art Gallery.

Saint Patrick’s Return to Ireland

Thoughts on the Fifth Century return of Saint Patrick to Ireland

In follow-up to my last post my IStock photograph of Saint Patrick on the Hill of Tara was accepted and is available for viewing (click the link to go there).

Since July 2008 SeaGen produces electricity (1.2 MW) for between 18 and 20 hours a day while the tide is forced in and out of Strangeford Lough through the Narrows where the generator is installed. SeaGen is the first large scale commercial production of electricity from the tide. Located between the Northern Ireland towns of Strangeford and Portaferry, the strength of the tides there were used by the earliest tidal mill known, the Nendrum Monastery mill dating 787 based on archeological excavation.

History records Patrick converted the island of Erin (Ireland) to Christianity in the Fifth Century AD as a return to his place of captivity and slavery.

Saint Patrick legend, Down Cathedral
An informational plaque mounted on granite next to the grave of Saint Patrick.

There is a connection between SeaGen and the return of Patrick to Ireland. The first sanctuary dedicated by Patrick was at Saul, County Down not far from River Quoile that drains into Strangeford Lough. Historians identify Patrick’s first landing site, upon return, as Wicklow where he was forced to leave by the locals. Heading north in the boats of the time, the strong tide of Strangeford Narrows pulled them into the Lough and, from there, headed up the River Quoile to encounter the local chieftain, Díchu mac Trichim. Patrick’s first Irish convert to Christianity, the feast of Saint Dichu is April 29.

On June 7, 2014 Pam and I visited this area. Here are some photographs of the traditional burial place of Saint Patrick.

View of Downpatrick
View of Downpatrick from the hill of the Cathedral Church of Holy Trinity (Down Cathedral)
Downpatrick High Cross
The High Cross of Downpatrick fronts Down Cathedral on a hill overlooking the town. The informational placard reads
“The granite head and shaft date to about 900 AD and were once re-used as part of a Market Cross at the bottom of English Street. The pieces were found in various places in town, reassembled and presented to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral in 1897.”
St Patrick's Grave
The placard text reads:
“A large memorial stone of Mourne granite was place here in 1900 to mark the traditional burial-place of St. Patrick. The stone was quarried at Slieve-na-largie near Castlewellan, and it took 12 men 14 days to cut from the quarry.”
Inscription, St Patrick Grave
Inscription on the upper surface of stone marking grave of Saint Patrick.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography. License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Ireland” Fine Art Gallery.

Here’s another of my Ireland postings featuring Irish history, “Irish Countryside: Aghameen Schoolhouse.”

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Saint Patrick’s Return to the Hill of Tara

The year 2000 AD return of Saint Patrick to the Hill of Tara

To continue my posting “Endless Views of Ireland from Hill of Tara” my first submission of three Hill of Tara photographs to Getty Istock had two of the photographs returned for revision.

For the fenced statue of Saint Patrick the reviewed wrote:

Please provide a full description for the work of art featured in this image. Include the artist, date of creation, location, etc. Works of art created by someone other than yourself must be free of copyright protection to be considered. If this work of art is indeed under copyright protection, a property release signed by the copyright holder will need to be provided.

Hmmmm….What I do while capturing a photograph of a statue is take photos of any plaque, sign, whatever to acquire the name of the creator, how it came to be there, community connections. There was nothing around the statue nor the very informative Office of Public Works placards at the entrance.  I was proud to submit the statue photograph, as it turned out so well, and hoped for the best.

Last week, I put in a query to Ireland’s Office of Public Works (OPW), the agency responsible for the Hill of Tara, and did not receive a response when, for other queries, they were helpful.  This Saturday and Monday mornings, several hours of internet research revealed this history.

The original statue was placed on Tara sometime after the 1829 Catholic emancipation.  It was molded concrete, created by Thomas Curry of Navan at his own expense to honor the connection of Saint Patrick to Tara.

The OPW removed Curry’s statue 1992 for repair of a century of wear.  During the removal the statue was damaged beyond repair and, afterwards, was further damaged by vandals who decapitated and used it for target practice.

Initially, the OWP decided not to replace Saint Patrick citing the “pagan” nature of the place. After an angry meeting of local people at the Skryne Parish Hall.  In this meeting the local Rathfeigh Historical Society formed the “Committee to Restore St. Patrick to Tara.”  In turn, pressure was put on Michael D. Higgins, Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (and the OPW). It was decided a new statue was to be created, based on a competition, and instead of it former place at the hill summit (called Rath na Rí), it was to be near the entrance, outside the Interpretative Center, to offer a Céad Míle Fáilte to visitors and be seen on departure.

The outcome was the competition winner was rejected by locals.  The winning entry, by sculptor Annette Hennessy, did not follow competition rules that specified the statue incorporate traditional features to include shamrocks, harp, miter, a crozier and, perhaps, fleeing snakes. Hennessy’s design was of a shaven headed teenage boy in a short (“mini-skirt”) kilt, a handbag-shaped bell in hand.  She agreed hers was “not a traditional style statue” saying it “acknowledges our Pagan Celtic history.”

The rejection included a statement from Dr. Leo Curran, chairman of the Rathfeigh Historical Society, “We agreed that most of the monuments in Tara are from the pre-Christian era, but St. Patrick should be at the uppermost layer, representing Christian tradition extinguishing paganism.”

By this time, a new government and minister were in place.  The decision was made to search Ireland to find a suitable, existing, replacement statue.  By 2000 the present statue, donated by the Sisters of Charity, was in place at the Hill of Tara entrance.

At the end of this post I provide the two references from my internet research and from which many facts and all the quotes were used here.  I concluded the statue author was anonymous without copyright protection and submitted a revised image description, attaching a copy of my research.

Let’s see what happens to my IStock photograph of Saint Patrick on the Hill of Tara.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography.  License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog.  Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Ireland” Fine Art Gallery.

Here’s another of my Ireland postings featuring another IStock photograph, “On the River Cong.”

References :
“Should St Patrick stand again on Tara?” Independent, Dublin, Ireland March 17, 1999.
“Statue of Saint Patrick”, Meath Roots web site. The page includes photograph of the Thomas Curry statue.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Endless Views of Ireland from Hill of Tara

Climb the Hill of Tara for endless views of Ireland

Arriving around noon on a Tuesday, Pam and I were greeted at the Hill of Tara for these children, headed to the school bus.

Schoolchildren on Hill of Tara – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

A statue of Saint Patrick fittingly welcomes visitors to the Hill of Tara, County Meath, Ireland. This statue of cast concrete was an existing statue donated by the Sisters of Charity, moved from an existing installation to the Hill of Tara in the year 2000 AD. The creator is anonymous, the is no plaque or other attribution on or around the statue.
The original statue was erected on the summit of the Hill of Tara shortly after Catholic emancipation in 1829, commemorated the events of 433AD when St. Patrick lit a bonfire on the nearby hill of Slane on the eve of Easter Sunday. Slane was the second site we visited on our day of arrival, Saturday, May 24.

Lighting such a fire was contrary to the pagan laws of the time which dictated that the first fire lit that night be in Tara. Observing St. Patrick’s bonfire from afar, the chief druid of the ancient Gaelic capital predicted that if the flame were not extinguished that night, Christianity would never be extinguished in Ireland.
The saint’s bonfire continued burning and the next morning, Easter Sunday, St. Patrick entered Tara to convert the king and his followers to Christianity.

Here is more about the history of this statue.

Saint Patrick Hill of Tara – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

A series of mounds surmounts the hilltop, one is visible across the expanse of grass.

Hill of Tara View – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

Climbing higher, the view opens.

Hill of Tara View – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

On the top, views from all cardinal directions, 360 degrees.

Hill of Tara View – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

The Hill of Slane is visible in the east, the tall cathedral ruin though not visible in this view.

Hill of Tara View – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

The first of the following panel is a view northwest from 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.

A bit to the east is the Mound of the Hostages, a passage tomb.

Walk into a glade, through the ancient graveyard to the visitors center in a deconsecrated church.

Browse my reasonably priced stock photography. This blog features three (3) photographs I published last week to Getty Istock and my Fine Art gallery.

License the photo, download and use it. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Ireland” Fine Art Gallery.

Here’s another of my Ireland postings, “Skellig Puffins.”

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Happy New Year 2018

Here is my post to welcome in 2018 to my 383 subscribers across all seven continents.

Thank You for your support with my compliments and best wishes.

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Here’s a fireworks display to help you celebrate.  Click on any image for a larger view.

Click link to visit my online Fine Art Photography Gallery.

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Me and the War on Christmas

Flourishing after 2017 Years

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
― Charles Bukowski

It is necessary to find insights in unpleasant places. Take this quote from Bukowski, a reprehensible individual in that following in the totality of his actions will lead to bad results.  What can you say about a guy who believed his downtown Los Angeles neighborhood was ruined after the the pimps and whores were forced out?  Still, Bukowski wrote well about the personal truth of his self-made environment, one he drank, whored and wrote his way to become a present-day saint of atheists.

With Trump and his “War on Christmas” is analogous.  Trump does the magician’s, the practiced thief’s, slight of hand, distracting us while pocketing the coin, picking the pocket.  His use of this slight of hand is effective in so far the premise is true.  Sure, there is a War on Christmas.  It started 2017 years ago when Herod ordered the innocents slaughtered to destroy the rumored Messiah.  Then, as now, Herod was defeated by dreams and determined action.  This is a link to my take on the story, ““Christmas Angels”.

A return to Christmas Past brings us to the “Me” of the title and how Amol K. shared in our 2002 celebration.  Amol had arrived from India as a new hire for our team.  That fall I searched for a roommate to share in household expenses.  Human resources brought Amol and I together.  He required temporary lodging until his marriage planned for 2003.

A single parent who raised a son alone, my Christmas preparations started immediately after Thankgiving with boxes of materials and decorations organized over fourteen years into beginning, middle and end boxes.  In this way, day by day, I gradually transformed our home for Christmas.  Workday evenings, unpacking a box at a time and laying out the contents.

The changes caught the attention of Amol.  Raise in a middle class family of Bombay, India, Amol, a practicing Hindu, asked questions about the objects and images slowing building with the month, the sun drawing down lower and lower on the horizon, darkness now falling soon after 4 pm.  Amol was curious to understand these new experiences.

Christmas2002-11

Amol saw correlations with his own belief systems and stories and enjoyed helping decorate the tree on Christmas Eve.

Christmas2002-12

We attended Christmas night mass together, shared presents Christmas morning.  It was not a question of Amol becoming a Roman Catholic proselyte, he enjoyed experiencing the stories, practices and celebrations of Christmas.
Christmas2002-13

Beliefs and religious practices are like a sky scraper.  A push against natural law, constantly under pressure from gravity, wind, frost/thaw cycles and human fanatics who must see them come down by whatever means necessary.  “You must break eggs to make an omelet.”  This is a photograph taken on the returning training ship Empire State July 2001, less than two months before a fanatical suicide attack brought the Twin Towers down.
Christmas2002-14

Happy New Year, remember to love your neighbor as yourself in 2018.

Click for the first post in this series, “Christmas Tableau”.

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Christmas Angels

Angels I Have Known

This is part of my project to document our Christmas memories through photography. Here we explore the themes angels of the Christmas Story and in our lives.

Previous Posts, “Christmas Tableau” and “Ireland on the Mind at Christmas” provide context. The photographs from “Christmas Tableau” were accepted to Getty’s stock image collection. Click the link to take a look: “Cozy Snowmen” on Getty Stock.

The angels of our Christmas tree and home remind us of the Jesus birth stories of scripture and the force of love in our own lives.

What comes to mind with the sudden appearance of Gabriel to Mary and that astounding message? Unlike the attempt of Jonah to avoid his calling, the subtext to Mary’s ready acceptance is the risks faced by an affianced woman who becomes pregnant. The book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 22 verses 13 – 21) calls for stoning a woman who presents herself for marriage as a virgin, when she is not.

When learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, as a follower of Mosaic Law, was to divorce her quietly to avoid exposing her to shame. It was a visit from an angel, in a dream, that convinced Joseph to accept Mary (Matthew Chapter 2, verses 18 – 24).

ChristmasAngel-3

An angel visited shepherds, announcing “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God.” Luke Chapter 2, verses 8 – 13.

ChristmasAngel-1

Was it an angel who warned the Magi, in a dream, not to return to King Herod with news of Jesus (Matthew Chapter 2 Verse 12)? Scriptures clearly state (Matthew Chapter 2 verse 13) “the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt.”

ChristmasAngel-4

People can be angelic in expressing love for others through action. I am thinking of a movie Pam and I viewed last evening, “The Theory of Everything.” Jane Wilde, in her love for Stephen Hawking, stays with him when, shortly after their romance began, he was diagnosed with ALS. The prognosis was death in two years. In all likelihood, Jane gave Stephen his life and work through loving him. He is alive and working today at 75.

Nested Angel

The love of our parents is more common, no less precious.

ChristmasAngel-7

A note on the photographs, I used a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr with Canon lens EF 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt, Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head.  Some of the photographs were hand held.  When the flash was used, it supplemented ambient light from a large north facing bay window.

Click the link for my next Christmas Season post “Me and the War on Christmas”.

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved