Underground Railroad

Autumn Wonder

We have often travelled Lower Creek Road as an alternate route to visit my son and his family who live in Freeville, a village named for the activity of the Underground Railroad. After noticing this sign in passing for years, this week we stopped on a glorious autumn morning to capture it. I had packed the Sony Alpha 700 dslr for just such an opportunity.

Just off the road, under a maple tree in full autumn color (yellow), ground covered with fallen leaves (brown) on a fine early October morning, the sign reads, “New York, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, HOME OF WILLIAM HANFORD AND WIFE ALTHA C. TODD, WHO SHELTERED FUGITIVE SLAVES ON THE WAY TO CANADA AND FREEDOM, STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT 1932”. These dark blue background, bright yellow letter signed are found throughout this region and much appreciated.

An added plus for me is the acceptance of both photographs by Getty Istock. Click this link to view a selection of my Getty photography in and around Ithaca, New York.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Night Blooming Cereus IX

Mass Bloom

It is possible to puzzled over my choice of an ungainly potted plant acquired over three years ago from the Eddydale farm stand. We popped in for tomatoes, sweet corn and watermelons after a hike along nearby Treman Park, I spotted the plant on display in the front. The cashier suggested we visit the greenhouse to view the parent, currently in bloom. Memory of the those blossoms were short lived as we lived with this collection of malformed green lobes sprouting long stalks.

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The plant occupied a pool-side water barrel summers, a bedroom corner winters. This year, 2021, flower buds formed late July, each on a lengthening stalk, and have continued into October. “Dutchman’s pipe cactus” is a popular name, from the appearance of the flower on the end of a stalk turned up with a terminal curve.

On a September morning we were expecting guests I walked out to find four blooms fulling open. Grabbing an available camera (Sony Alpha 700 with a DT 18 – 200 mm F3.5 – 6.3 lens) I captured these images of the event.

Enjoy!!

Click me for another flower post, “Another Woody Peony.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Smoke Tree, late June

Three species of the genus Cotinus, commonly called “Smoke Tree,”in the family Anacardiaceae exist in North America, Europe and Asia. Ours is more like a shrub with numerous, long branches. Flowers with profuse filaments in clusters resembling whiffs of smoke. Here we see the flower filaments, interspersed with small drupes, each containing a single seed.

The post header, and these photographs were made from the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon Lens EF 50mm f/1.2L USM stabilized with a Manfrotto 468ZMZ tripod with hydrostatic head. Late afternoons, evenings the tree is shaded by a hemlock hedge (line of trees running north/south) this is the shade here. This Canonn dslr excels in color rendition. The flower masses are a burgundy wine color, the leaves have a purple tinge. I do not directly fertilize, as the plant is said to do best with unfertile soil though the surrounding cedars do get fertilizer stakes.

Eight AM a following morning I followed up with a handheld session using a Sony DSLR-Alpha700, Sony Lens DT 18-200 mm F3.5-6.5. Took these two shots with a lower ISO and tweaked the images in Lightroom, reducing the exposure. The flower smoky effect is well captured, the color in bright sunlight is not as wine-like as in shade.

By the time I proceeded to macros, a morning breeze kicked up, handled by upping the ISO to 3200 for a faster shutter speed to stop the movement. The bright sun helped with this.

Fertilized flowers develop into fruit stalks with radiating filaments, the yellow dots are the drupes (fleshy bodies surrounding a single seed). Fresh leaves are purple, turning to dark green with age. The leaves are as unusual as the flowers: aromatic, simple and round on long stalks. Autumn, the leaves turn a stunning bright red-orange, a scarlet shade. In winter some stalks die off, new growth appears from the roots in spring.

References

“The Botanical Garden Vol 1 Trees and Shrubs”, Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, Firefly Books, Buffalo NY, 2000, p 361

Wikipedia, “Smoke Tree”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Marantha House Five

Charlemagne

Continued….yesterday included a view along a fairway of Saint Ann’s Hill on which Marantha House B&B is sited. Not far away was a pasture where Charlemagne, a rescued former show horse lives. Our first evening, the one just before this morning, I brought an apple out to Charlemagne. The next morning I returned with another apple to share. Charlemagne rewarded me with a brilliant approach I captured below with my Sony Alpha DSLR with variable lens.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 8

A Dangerous Game

Hard on the Ithaca City Cemetery is our version of the crookedest street. Cascadilla Park road ascends East Hill as a series of switchbacks, charming homes cut into the hillside. A foot path overlooks the gorge, seen here.

Today, two young teens used the hill bottom for skateboarding. Taking turns on watch, each sped onto intersecting University Avenue. A dangerous game.

A brass plaque commemorates Daniel D Tompkins on eponymous Tompkins County courthouse. When the county was formed, 1817, Daniel Tompkins was a former governor of New York and Vice President to James Monroe. Tompkins never visited “his” county, there is no other connection between him. His family and life was rooted in eastern part of New York, around “The City.”

“Maternidad”, Seneca Street Garage, a mural by Nick Gilbert was the 2014 winner of 2014 @culturaithaca Latinx Mural Design Contest.

Mosaic Mural “Feels Like Ithaca” by Annamarie Zwack, Seneca Street Garage Also known as “Spirit of Ithaca”

I am not finding the attribution for this undersea idyll, also on the Seneca Street garage adjoining “Feels Like Ithaca.”

This completes my Sunday afternoon walk around Ithaca.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 7

Hillside Rest

We pick up this walk through Ithaca from the December 23rd post, next to a waterfall and the “Theory Center,” starting with the spiffed up rear façade of the Cornell Health Building, renamed from Gannett Health after a right wing newspaper publishing magnate. The building fronts “Ho Plaza” thus carries an address with unfortunate allusions, named for a distinguished Cornell alumna who’s family name is Ho. I included this building in appreciation to Cornell University and students for being good neighbors during this COVID-19 pandemic, controlling the virus.

Today, I avoided the views of the popular Lib Hill to minimize personal contact. Instead, descending the hill on footpaths, found myself on Stewart Avenue and the eastern side of City Cemetery.

Enjoying the solitude and long shadows of our northern afteroon.

Traversed a gate of hemlock branches….

Admired random monuments. By the way, George Washington Schuyler, whose family anecdote I shared in a previous post, rests here under an impressive stone. Not this one.

More afternoon light, fallen leaves, hemlocks.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 5

Golden Hour and “Happy New Year”

Walking the Lower Cascadilla Gorge Trail from the end of Court Street, downtown Ithaca, named for the Tompkins County Court is a favorite way for students to walk from the Cornell Campus.

I avoided the route today, the trail is narrow, much less than the 6 foot minimum distance. The footpath from Eddy Gate to College Avenue passes where the trail climbs up from the gorge. I did opt to catch the Upper Cascadilla Gorge trail, much wider. The trail passes two footbridges accessing the Engineering Quadrangle and the main Cornell Campus. Photographed here is the approach to the second, smaller, footbridge.

Late fall/winter afternoons the “Golden Hour” is hours long for this view of the footbridge and waterfall.

Waterfall views from the bridge. I left the tripod at home, so these exposures “freeze” water motion.

Look up from the other side for this view. Baptized 1985 as “The Theory Center,” 2007 saw the name changed to the more evocative, “Center for Advanced Computing.” It always filled with supercomputers. Socially, the culture of the place was retrograde from the beginning with “faculty only” lounges that kept out the lowly staff members. As if on cue, I came upon a group of the privileged, unmasked, strutting down the hill toward me, like vacuous moles.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 4

Past Eddy Gate

At this point most of the climb from downtown Ithaca is behind me and the Cornell Campus is underfoot. I pass the Eddy Gate, the former main entrance to Cornell University, where Eddy Street vaporizes to become a footpath along the rim of Cascadilla Gorge. This ramshackle hexagonal structure rest on the friable shale gorge rim. It does NOT look inviting and, over the years, I’ve not spotted a single person hanging out there.

Fluffy gone-to-seed goldenrod on the gorge rim.

As I duck into the Upper Cascadilla Gorge Trail above College Avenue a poster visualizes an effective defense against crowd control munitions, the umbrella. Below the call to “Stand with Hong Kong” is another newsflash/movie review from outside the mainstream media, “Donnie Darko Makes No Sense.”

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 3

Up East Hill

Today a large fox devoured a squirrel on our front lawn while I wrote this post. Further up Green Street is this mural, I do not find an attribution and assume it is from 2020.

Continuing past all the new development in downtown Ithaca, I head up the steep sidewalk up east hill on Seneca Street, named for the Iroquois Confederacy tribe of the westernmost lands. Here is a flowering tree with attractive red haws growing on the corner of Seneca Street and Schuyler Place.

From the doorway of the former Henry W. Sage mansion at 603 E. Seneca St designed by William Henry Miller in1876. Today, it is broken into six apartments. This is the Sage of Cornell University Sage Chapel. Henry Sage was a supporter of admitting women to Cornell to the extent of donating $250,000 around the year 1870.

206 North Quarry Street, the northwest corner of Seneca and Quarry. It, too, once a single family home now broken into apartments.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 2

A family story and artistic expression

Across the street from Tompkins County Public Library, next to City Hall, is the Green Street Garage decorated with artistic graffiti by the French artist Amir Roti.

Completed during Fall 2012. This artist’s style is seen around town, black and white with touches of blue of inscrutable, dream inspired (?) scenes. The winters winds do whip through these streets.

A few steps away, some propaganda. I recognize the characters as Native Americans from the feather object. Doing some research I found it was completed in 2014 by Brandon Lazore here is some text from the artist, “”Women’s Nomination” is dedicated to all Haudenosaunee women. A silhouette of “Sky Woman” falls from Sky World. In moments, she will be caught by flying geese & put on turtle’s back – “Turtle Island.” In her hands she holds roots of the 3 sisters – corn, beans, & squash. The woman in green represents Clan Mother, grandmother, elder. The woman in purple is her daughter & the baby is her daughter’s daughter. The wampum belt is the Women’s Nomination Belt which represents, among other things, the right that Haudenosaunee woman have to give their child a clan, to chose names of children, & to choose chiefs. Strawberries represent medicine like mother’s love is medicine to a child. The moon represents fertility & how it’s cycle plays a huge role in every woman’s life. The Sky Domes are inspired by traditional art decorating our clothing for centuries. It represents the sky world & the plants that were given to us – corn, beans, squash, & tobacco.” Haudenosaunee are also known as Iroquois.

To counterbalance the sentimentality of the mural here is historical context, a family anecdote from George Washington Schuyler of Ithaca, New York from the life of his paternal ancestor, Peter Schuyler, known to the Mohawks as “Quidor,” as told to the author, John Fisk, in 1881. “After a severe tramp in the wilderness, half starved with hunger and cold, Quidor came on evening upon an encampment of Mohawks, where he was cordially welcomed. In a few moment he was seated before a bright blaze, with a calabash of hot soup, the most delicious he had ever tasted. Presently, when he dipped his rude ladle once more into the kettle and brought up a couple of parboiled human fingers, it gave him a queer turn, but he repressed all show of feeling and quietly asked a feathered chieftain, ‘What is this soup made of?’ The chief as calmly replied, ‘Of a Frenchman we killed this morning; isn’t it good?'” Words even more significant because I would soon walk past the grave of George Washington Schuyler, laid to rest 132 years ago.

References:

The Dutch and Quaker Colonies, Volume II, by John Fisk, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1899, p214 “Peter Schuyler and his influence over the Mohawks”.

The 2019 Ithaca Mural Map

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved