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 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Cocoa Beach Kite Skating

Kiteskaters and Cruise Ships

In the early morning hours of Sunday, September 10, 2017 as Hurricane Irma approached the Florida Keys, I cannot sleep, worried about family members north of Miami and in Daytona Beach. To pass the time, I returned to the golden hours of March 4, 2017 evening.  On vacation, Pam and I walked Cocoa Beach starting from Lori Wilson Park, headed north.

The light was perfect when I decided to switch to Raw-Jpeg mode, feeling the extra space was worth it.  I don’t know why I don’t shoot Raw 100% of the time, as always, in retrospect, I regret using jpeg only. The camera was the Sony Alpha 700 dslr with a DT 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens purchased 2008 after an expedition to the Superstition Wilderness.

After capturing a wedding photo shoot and surfers there was this set of two Kite Skaters going at least 20 miles an hour. The Sony Alpha was quick enough to capture some of the action in raw mode, I am not satisfied with the sharpness of the images as the lens was not fast enough.

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Overview, Approaching Kite skater

We had never watched kite skaters before and were prepared to understand the vision from watching distant kite surfers out beyond the breakers. North winds are the best for any type of kiting on Cocoa Beach and, that day, the wind was northeast. These riders zipped by in less than a minute. The sport is low key, it does not exist on Wikipedia. Image that. These two are having a fantastic time and stayed upright, going on and on and on down the miles long beach.

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Sailskater Dreamview with Cruise Ship

1990 KiteSkate pioneers on the USA east coast experimented with four-line controllable parafoil kites powering in-line skates for exciting rides on asphalt surfaces.

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Her partner approaches

The name “Wheels of Doom” suggest the danger of going this fast over a hard, rough surface.

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He makes it look easy

These Cocoa Beach riders are outfitted for speed and safety: pads, helmets.

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He maneuvers kite overhead to slow down.

Barefeet?? Unprotected skin? They must know how to dress, though maybe not.  He has never fallen?

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Full speed ahead with the kite positioned forward.

The beach within the tide line is solid, the pebbles, broken shells and such unforgiving as asphalt.

Click this link for another Cocoa Beach post
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Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bridging the Lethe

notes from November 2231 AD

Hook

Ancient legends speak of the River Lethe, crossed by departing souls.  The waters of the Lethe wash away memory, allowing for spiritual rebirth, reincarnation, a return to the world in new form.

SycamoreGrove20170404-10

This memory implant represents a bridge over the Lethe.

Footbridge over Enfield CreekFor those chosen to cross over to the new land in return for

Sycamore Grove

their treasure, lives and selves.

Sycamore Grove

Description

This virtual monoculture glade from the long time of forests,

Sycamore Grove

a place of happy gatherings, of families, plentiful food and water.

Sycamore Grove

These sycamores grew over centuries, through thousands of days, wider than 10 people,

Sycamores

white with age as the outer covering, called bark, falls away.

Sycamores

forked, trunks

Sycamore Trunk

climbing to the sky.

Sycamore Sky
Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

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 a sea generation tidal turban, “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. The first large scale commercial production of electricity from the tide, “SeaGen” is 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.

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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 “Climb 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.

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 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Leprechaun Home Invasion

Saint Patrick Day Family Humor

In a previous posting we hiked through the only European Union Leprechaun Preserve on Slieve Foy above Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

EuHabitatsDirective-02267

This home was lower on the mountain, on the way to town.

Entrance with Calla Lilies, Carlingford
Caring touches to a well tended home entrance along the Tain Way, Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

You will not find Calla Lilies thriving in front yards here in Ithaca, New York (43 degrees north latitude) as they do in the Temperate Oceanic Climate of Ireland, pictured in Carlingford on a June day.  At 54 degrees these Calla Lilies are growing at a latitude 800 miles north of Ithaca, in the middle of Quebec Province, Canada.

In spite of this, here in Ithaca we keep March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day, warm.  In the home of our three grandchildren (3, 4 and 6 years old) who live in Ithaca they celebrate by playing tricks on Leprechauns.

This year, we visited Saint Patrick’s Day eve and reviewed their bag of tricks with the Leprechaun in Chief, their Mom.  In response, the Leprechauns leave them letters to make it clear the tricks did not work.  On top of this, the children have big laughs on the tricks played in return.  A favorite is finding their socks taped all over the mirror.

Mom pulled out a few of the Leprechaun letters and we read them for the children to great laughter as they remembered tricks of previous years.  Afterwards, when alone with Mom, Pam and I recalled the tradition in Chicago, to color the river green (a well as green milkshakes, etc), and suggested to the Leprechaun in Chief to put green food color in the toilet.  It was a winning idea.

The next morning Mom, on hearing the toilet flushed repeatedly, found her 4 year old daughter totally appalled.  “The Leprechauns used our toilet (and did not flush).  YUUUUKKKK.”  She then ran upstairs hoping for a “clean” bathroom up there.  Well, green milkshakes are off the menu.

Climb the Hill of Tara

Endless views of Ireland

Arriving around noon on a Tuesday, Pam and I were greeted at the Hill of Tara by 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, “St. Patrick’s Return to the Hill of Tara.”

Lady Feeding Gulls, Cocoa Beach Dawn

unflappable lady hand feeds seagulls

When Pam read my post “Black Skimmers Feeding” she asked, “Where is the photo of resting Skimmers?”

To answer her question, I looked through Cocoa Beach photographs and discovered I did NOT capture the Skimmers resting.  Instead, here are a related species, the Royal Tern (scientific name: Thalasseus maximus), whose behavior is similar in that it exclusively feeds from the water. There was a wind that morning and these individuals face into it.  These birds are, from a human point of view, well behaved, unlike the opportunistic gull.

Royal Terns at rest – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

I searched around the web for identification of this gull without success.

Scavenging Gull – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

It dines on a dead fish washed up by the surf.  In my previous posting I used the word “grifting” to describe gull behavior, again this is from the human point of view.  Gulls are notorious for stealing food from unwary beach goers, brazening walking over to unguarded chips (any kind), for instance, grabbing them and flying off.  If the chip stash is large, this sets off a nasty feeding frenzy when tens of gulls swoop in and grab.

Here is a series of photographs, demonstrating this behavior.

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The dawn flowed over Cocoa Beach as a lady attracted a crowd of hungry gulls, reminiscent of scenes from Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

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She is obviously an experienced gull feeder, unflappable with a steady hand.

Lady and Gulls – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

She had come to the shore at dawn for a photo shoot.  Her male companion (husband?) was there with a camera.

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Pam and I were there for the dawn, me with the Sony camera.
Lady and Gulls – CLICK ME for more Florida photography.

At first, I stood there amazed at the spectacle.  She was in such control of the situation, not a victim, more like a lion tamer.

Then, Pam said, “You have to get this.”  And I did.

Newlyweds and the Cruise Ship

Images of Newlyweds on the beach

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.

Wedding Immersion
Newlyweds on Cocoa Beach give rapt attention to a distant cruise ship, it looks like an elegant child’s toy.

Pulling back the focal length a bit the reason for the bride and groom on the beach is clear.

Newlyweds and Photographer
Photographer approaches from left.

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.

Newlywed Photoshoot
Bride and groom pose while photographer composes the shot, her assistant behind.

Pull back to capture the entire environment.
Enjoy!!!

Valparaiso Connections V

A Deeper Understanding

Monuments Then and Now

Trundled along within our bubble, the Mercedes tour bus proceeded up Avenue Montt when Ricardo pointed out this statue for ridicule.  A depiction of the Chilean national bird, the Condor, porteños derisively call it “The Chicken,” and in truth the wingspan is undersized.  From the vantage of the above photograph, the statue form does capture an impression of soaring among the hills of Valparaiso.  Keep in mind, beyond those hills is Aconcagua, the highest mountain of the western hemisphere, home to Condors.  

A reason for writing multiple Varparaiso “connection” posts is to better understand the jumbled impressions from that day.  In a previous post I coined the term Varparasians for natives of the city.    I found in researching this post the residents, as for Buenos Aires, call themselves porteños (people of the port).  This cast iron statue speaks to the contributions of French immigrants to the city and nation.

Gift of the French Colony for the Centennial of Chile – Valparaíso, 1810 – 1910.

Here the view is south towards (what I believe is) Cerro Florida (Florida Hill).  France Avenue continues, beyond the monument, following a steep and winding path up the hills, at the crest intersecting with German Avenue.  Adjacent, on the right, is Park Italia where we’ll visit in part VI.  Above a cast iron basin, at each corner of the commemorative column base is a female mask, above them a gold band inscribed (from the) “The French of Valparaiso” with 1810 – 1910 to denote the centennial.  A condor with outspread wings surmounts the column.

The artist, Nicanor Plaza, born in Santiago, Chile was living in Florence, Italy at the time of this commission.  He was a natural choice for the commission.  Trained in Chile and Paris, Plaza taught for the Academy of Fine Arts of Santiago.  It is of cast iron, produced by the French company Val Osne, an art foundry dating back to 1835.  The owner, Jean Pierre Andre Victor, invented a cast iron ornamental technique originally used to produce street furniture.  

 From 1854 to 1895 immigration from France burgeoned, from a country total of 1,654 to 8,266.  This cohort is credited with developing the vineyards of the Central Valley, still famous today.  The Chilean president Augusto Pinochet descended on his father’s side from an 18th-century French Breton immigrant from Lamballe and his mother was a descendant from 17th century immigrants, partially Basque.  Pinochet’s legacy can only be attributed to himself and the ruling Junta.  What is of concern is (1) Pinochet was protected against prosecution throughout his life. (2)  The same people who protected him still hold power.  A case in point is the Esmeralda, still in service.

The Naval Training Vessel Esmeralda

 I took this photograph at dawn from our stateroom balcony, it is the
Esmeralda, a four-masted  top sail schooner, from Spain, christened May 12, 1953.  From 1973 to 1980 it was a floating torture chamber where up to 100 persons were subjected to hideous treatment by the Pinochet regime.  Protests erupt wherever it docks in a foreign port yet it remains in service.  A relatively small part of the puzzle, yet it serves as an unacknowledged monument to the failure of Chile’s ruling elite to come to terms with the recent past.

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