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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
In my last post, Homecoming Parade 2003, I described my initial reconnection with the University of Arizona (U of A) as a 1975 graduate and alumnus. This personal project of involvement with U of A and Arizona continued through 2011 with annual autumn trips to coincide with Homecoming. The travel was as a CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) Alumni Board of Directors member, a primary responsibility was raising funds for scholarships.
The Amerind Foundation and weathered boulders of Texas Canyon granite. Beyond are the Dragoon Mountains
I met, Linda Kelly, the owner of the Triangle T Guest Ranch, while camping in the Chiricahua Mountains. I arrived a week before homecoming to photograph the landscape, nature and rock formations of the Chiricahua National Monument. Click this link for my Arizona Online gallery, including some work from that time. Linda and a friend were visiting that day and we struck up a conversation about the area and her Triangle T Guest ranch. The next day I was scheduled to guest lecture a class at the U of A, as an alumnus of CALS. The ranch was on the way and I needed a place to stay, so Linda gave me directions and I checked in.
She gave me a tour of the incredible weather granite rock formations of Texas Canyon and, meanwhile, shared stories of the history of Texas Canyon. It is appropriate for the Amerind Foundation to be here (see first photograph), the winter camp of an Apache tribe for generations.
Weathered granite boulders greet visitors to the Triangle T Ranch.
That night, my request was for a room storied to be haunted by a spirit they call “Grandma,” as in when her foot steps wake you from a sound sleep you say, “It’s all right, Grandmother.” She woke me that night, footsteps in the dark, hollow on the wood floor, the room filled with a hard cold. I talked to her, without a response, while swinging my legs out of bed to reach the gas heater in the wall. I turned on the heat and the sound of expanding metal heat fins lulled me to sleep.
I call this pair, “Father and Son.” The restaurant is built around a round boulder.
It made a good story for the students. They were surprised I could fall back asleep, but after all I had to be there the following morning.
Your imagination roams among the natural forms.
I gave Linda a few of my photographs from that day and we made arrangements for the Triangle T to supply a two night package for the CALS “Dean’s Almost World Famous Burrito Breakfast” silent auction during 2008 homecoming.
A tableau of figures keep silent watch with the ghosts of Texas Canyon.
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
To close our time on the Tain Way I offer a poem written and presented to the congregation of the First Unitarian church of Ithaca New York 25 years ago, 1992. Interspersed are final photographs from our walk on the Tain Way of 2014.
The poem content is not directly biographical / confessional although it draws upon my experience as a single parent in the 1980’s through 1990’s.
A Poem Read To The Congregation
a crisis threatened an Irish village men women children filled the meeting place everyone participated especially the infants
raising John alone was not part of the plan Its been just john and me helen gave birth to john to have a part of me in case of loss i felt the same way and she understood
a welcome feminine voice in our home “Little House on the Prairie” and “Little House in the Big Woods” twice.
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article by Wilder called “HOME” that has an emotional resonance for me dated 1923 Wilder was in her 50’s.
Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.
Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back. I realize that’s all my life the teaching of these early days have influenced me, and the example set by Father and Mother has been something I have tried to follow, with failure here and there, with rebellion at times; but always coming back to it as the compass needle to the star.
So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work. Especially did I wonder when reading recently that there was a great many child suicides in the United States during the last year. Not long ago we had never heard of such a thing in our own country, and I am sure there must be something wrong with the home of a child who commits suicide.
we give so much to our children what’s left over though is ours
With grandchildren in the Miami Area and a sister in Daytona Beach, Florida was on my mind this morning and memories of this beautiful experience on Cocoa Beach came to mind. After an eventful day touring the NASA launch control center, Pam and I took an evening walk during the golden hour, me with camera in hand.
Full in expectation of catching the passing scene with lots of shot I set to full size jpeg mode using a Sony Alpha 700 dslr with a DT 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens. The light was exceptional, so I did not expect much post production work.
My first impression was of the line of cruise ships heading south from Port Canaveral, the starboard side lit perfectly behind human denizens of the Cocoa Beach shore, in full enjoyment mode. A synergy of the images struck me. I took a few experimental shots then, as we progressed down the beach front this unusual tableau came into view.
The session proceeded smoothly and professionally, it was a pleasure to watch. I felt no compunction for capturing these private moments on a public beach, the transcendence of the images reflect well on all participants.
The popular name of the Loughcrew megalithic site is, “The Hill of the Witch” (In Irish, Sliabh na Caillí). In lore sites such as this are associated with The Others (“fairies”), living lives parallel and invisible to ours, touched now and then with resolutely ill effect to our side though sometimes theirs as well. Resolute as in these meetings are fated to end poorly unless…..unless the mortal knows the rules. “If you are ever in an Other’s mansion for a party never, ever eat or drink anything. Eating or drinking will condemn you to an eternal round of parties. You will dance till dropping every night.” Rules such as that, and others, can be used to turn the tables, gain an advantage, of beings from the Other Side. The story of my wife, Pam, how our lives came to be touched by this afternoon of May 27, 2014, is parallel to the tales of mortals benefiting from contact with The Others. The immediate source was the passing of my mother, Catherine Ann Wills (McCardle), at the age of 90. Mom’s passport gave her place of birth as Proleek, a place in Louth. My maternal grandmother, Mary Catherine McCardle (Mills) spoke with a brogue, less a lilt than a down to earth and kind warmth. I remembered the stories of Mom’s passage to Canada with her mother and father in 1926 at the age of three. The Ireland connection with my father was less direct as I never met his mother as an adult and we seldom spoke of her. It was left to me in the time between my Mom’s passing, an invitation for a visit from our cousin’s in County Louth, and our arrival May 2014 to understand more about Elizabeth (Duffy) Wills, my paternal grandmother. In this way, I discovered Elizabeth came from a family of Dunderry, County Meath, Ireland, her parents Matthew and Teresa (Plunket) Duffy; our tour of Ireland came to start from a bed and breakfast near Trim, County Meath, with Dunderry up the road. May 27th, we planned as an exploration of all things County Meath, to include Loughcrew, the highest point of the county in the west. Along the steep path to the hilltop a hawthorn tree covered with flowers and offerings welcomes visitors. May is the month for decorating hawthorns, the blossoms are also known as “Mayflowers” as in the ship the pilgrims sailed to Plymouth Rock.
As if we entered a gateway, when pausing and turning high on the hill, this view was revealed, otherworldly in its fullness, scope and wonder as though we passed to the other side to the fairies. Cairnbane East of the Loughcrew Cairns site, County Meath Ireland, is also known as Hag’s Mountain. We are looking south, southwest from the north side toward Cairnbane West. Flowering yellow whin bush, also known as gorse, is in foreground; white flowering hawthorn trees in distance. No elements of this photograph hint at the year 2014.
A solitary standing stone below the trail to the Loughcrew site surrounded by whin bush in yellow flower and white blooms of hawthorn hedge rows. A fieldstone fence, farmhouses, a patchwork quilt of fields completes the view.
Meanwhile, in the real world, when Pam and I complete our round of the island to return to my cousins in County Louth, they told us, on this day, two young men were discovered parked next to a nearby lough, murdered during a drug deal gone bad.
Now’s time to share a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014.
Pam and I have many stories from that day, a favorite is from the parking lot of Portmagee where we met the fast boat to the island. I prepared for the day by making a reservation for our ride. We traveled from Killarney, where an early morning breakfast feast spread by The Killarney Royal Hotel fortified us for the adventure. Throughout our tour, experiencing Ireland was like taking blinders off, this first experience on The Ring of Kerry was no exception, driving on a tight timeline to reach Portmagee with minutes to spare, every turn of the road presented a new delight.
Grateful to have made it to Portmagee, we quickly pulled our kit together. As I closed the bonnet, Pam exclaimed “our umbrellas.” At this point of the story we laugh together. Umbrellas indeed. I had a dim clue of what lay in store for us and insisted the umbrellas be left behind, a counter-intuitive decision for a rainy Irish day the Wild Atlantic Way. Regardless of the time, we needed a bathroom break as there will be no facilities on the fast boat or the World Heritage Site where there is no space for human waste products.
Click any photograph for my Online gallery.
The humor is in our welcome aboard the fast boat, like a fishing boat with a small cabin and small deck dominated by the engine hatch. We crowded on, handed a full set of fisherman slickers. This is a heavy coat with hood and pants, all waterproof. Our close timing guaranteed the worse seat, away from the cabin in the open. It was a new experience for us and we felt a sense of dread as the craft left the protection of Valentia Sound into the open Atlantic Ocean.
We faced a west wind, driving 12+ foot waves, as the boat breached each wave the crest went over the cabin in a waterfall of salt water. Up and down, up and down. Thankfully neither of us lost breakfast as some did. I do not have photographs of the trip out or the approach to the island, my equipment was safely packed away.
In the above photograph you see the entire course of our approach to the island, a bit more than 10 (land) miles from Portmagee. We toured Valentia Island that afternoon.
Click any photograph for my Online gallery.
There is a fair climb to the top to view the former monastery buildings. The steps are uneven and, when wet as it was that day, slippery. I wore a waterproof North Face shell with hood for the low threatening clouds. There was no rain as such, a constant fog on the top kept all exposed surfaces wet.
From the point on, until the top, was the most exposed and uncomfortable (frightening, chilling…you get the idea). Spare yourself the experience if you are afraid of open spaces and heights. Here was a stiff wind blowing from the right, on the left the cliff falls away to the ocean. Ahead, the path narrows to about 10 inches with a cliff wall on one side, the precipice on the other. Then come the monastery entrance and rock wall safety.
Click any photograph for my Online gallery.
This single image gives a succinct impression of the monastery setting. The bee hive shaped stone monk cell requires a stooped crawl to enter. Inside, the space is small and, thankfully, dry. The structure keeps out the rain and wind, a marvel of stone construction. This cell is off to the side, on a cliff balcony, over the wall an ocean precipice.
My closing advice is to plan your time wisely. The ship boards in less than an hour, in that time you climb the 700 steps and explore. There are people all over the place, in waves. To capture the structures without humans, you need to wait until the cohort become bored and leaves. There will be a space before the next wave of tourists breaks. Leave enough time to descend the steps safely. People have suffered fatal falls on the steps and cliffs, it is easy to do. Make your personal safety a priority.
Since 1877 primary education in Uruguay is universal, compulsory and free. These days students receive free education through university, literacy is the highest in South America at 95%, equally for males and females.
These photographs are from a cruise around South American my wife, Pam, and I enjoyed February / March 2016 on the Oceania ship Regatta. This was the evening of February 26, 2016, a Friday, in the city Montevideo, Uruguay.
This image is the theme of this blog, “back to school”. On Avenue Gral Eugenio Garzon of the Colon neighborhood of Montevideo a mother and four daughters discuss a shop window featuring “back to school” clothing and necessaries. The children range in age from pre-school to teen. This is evidently a serious discussion about preparing for the school year which starts in March for Uruguay.
A government program launched in 2007 expands Information and Communication technologies in primary schools with these goals:
— To distribute technology,
— To promote knowledge,
— To generate social equity.
Called Ceibal, after a tree native to Uruguay, the program was a success. From 2009 – 2012 450,000 laptops, popularly named “”ceibalitas”, were delivered to children coordinate with teacher training and a monitoring and evaluation model for assessing the impact nationally. Ceibal is the acronym for “Conectividad Educativa de Informática Básica para el Aprendizaje en Línea” (Educational Connectivity/Basic Computing for Online Learning in English).
These photographs build on the theme of the positive influence education has on the lives of Uruguayans, many of whom live in poverty.
A family gathering in their yard on Avenue Gral Eugenio Garzon, enjoying a cool late summer evening.
Traffic and a gas station. People were out and about, walking and conversing. There is a makeshift trailer attached to the motorcycle, behind is a large truck.
Storefront with customer and man loitering on wall. A mini-Honda all terrain vehicle is on display.
Mate is a beverage enjoyed throughout South America. Here companions enjoy a warm summer evening with a thermos of hot water and mate gourd behind a restaurant, their view across the train tracks and the Colon rail station is of a playground and playing fields.
A family of very young soccer players coming from practice with teammates. The sponsors of lucky number 7 are the bank Banrisul and Tramontina, a kitchenware manufacturer.
We waited to board an historic train and shared the station with Montevideans waiting for a passenger train. Here are two families: a mother and pre-teen daughter colorfully dressed, a grandmother and grandson. Behind them are the playing fields and playground.
A passenger train heading north passed while we waited for our ride to begin. Curiosity shines from this child’s eyes.
Happy families greeted us with waves and smiles during our trip to downtown Montevideo.
Some of the homes along the rail line. Pools such as that are popular in cities. We saw a great many on the streets in Lima, Peru.
Reaction to the historic train from a group of young men.
Curious playmates gather at the end of the road.
A well attended playground.
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
Known as the Hag’s Chair in some contexts, K29 or the Mass Rock, in others, set as a Cairn T, Loughcrew kerbstone thousands of years ago the carved symbols on front, rear and seat are very worn. There is no surviving record to inform us of the stone’s purpose. The upper side appears carved to enhance the form as chair. Set to the north of Cairn T, not in front of the entrance as with Newgrange, even this is a mystery. It is the third largest curbstone.
The popular name refers to the hill itself, “The Hill of the Witch” (In Irish, Sliabh na Caillí). In lore sites such as this are associated with The Others (“fairies”), living lives parallel to ours.
Tradition holds that, during times of the Penal Laws, Catholics gathers on for Mass using this curbstone as the altar. By this it is known as the Mass Rock.