January 1, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

new year’s wolf-moon

I went out my front door, with the camera on a tripod and just shot up at the moon. Also, I did nothing to the image in Photoshop except to crop it.
Fifty years ago, the album – Song of Leonard Cohen – was released. On the back cover of the album is a Mexican religious picture of the Anima Sola (Based on Roman Catholic tradition, the Anima Sola or Lonely Soul is an image depicting a soul in purgatory, popular in Latin America, as well as much of Andalusia, Naples and Palermo.) depicted as a woman breaking free of her chains surrounded by flames and gazing towards heaven. In a Rolling Stone interview, Cohen described the image as “the triumph of the spirit over matter. The spirit being that beautiful woman breaking out of the chains and the fire and prison.” Cohen found the picture in a botánica near the Hotel Chelsea in 1965. The album’s front cover depicts a sepia tint photo of Cohen credited to Machine.

The first two LPs I ever bought were Gordon Lightfoot’s first album – Lightfoot! – released in January of 1966 and Cohen’s debut album – Songs of Leonard Cohen – released on December 27, 1967.


January 3, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


and weave it on a loom
of smoke and gold
and breathing

The image is from Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller released June 24, 1971. It’s gorgeous Julie Christie toking in an opium den.
Film Facts 1

  • Carpenters for the film were locals and young men from the United States, fleeing conscription into the Vietnam War; they were dressed in period costume and used tools of the period, so that they could go about their business in the background, while the plot advanced in the foreground.
  • For a distinctive look, Altman and Zsigmond, the cinematographer, chose to “flash” (pre-fog) the film negative before its eventual exposure, as well as use a number of filters on the cameras, rather than manipulate the film in post-production; in this way the studio could not force him to change the film’s look to something less distinctive.
  • Pauline Kael wrote: The classical story is only a thread in the story that Altman is telling…The people who drop in and out of the place—a primitive mining town—are not just background for McCabe and Mrs. Miller; McCabe and Mrs. Miller are simply the two most interesting people in the town, and we catch their stories in glimpses, as they interact with the other characters and each other… Lives are picked up and let go, and the sense of how little we know about them becomes part of the texture; we generally know little about the characters in movies, but since we’re assured that that little is all we need to know, and thus all there is to know, we’re not bothered by it. Here we seem to be witnesses to a vision of the past.
  • The three Cohen songs used in the film were The Stranger Song, Sisters of Mercy and Winter Lady. (The title is from the chorus of Winter Lady.)
  • Altman had Lou Lombardo, the film’s editor, use the music to maintain a rhythm for the film (in effect using it as a “temp” track). He later said, “I think the reason they worked was because those lyrics were etched in my subconscious, so when I shot the scenes I fitted them to the songs, as if they were written for them.”
  • Scott Tobias wrote in 2014 that The film is unimaginable to me without the Cohen songs, which function as these mournful interstitials that unify the entire movie.
  • Julie Christie’s performance was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography received a nomination by the British Academy Film Awards, and the film’s screenplay garnered a Writers Guild of America nomination. Greeted with muted praise upon release, the film’s reputation has grown in stature in the intervening years.
  • In 2010, McCabe & Mrs. Miller was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.

1 The information in the Film Facts came from Wikipedia.


January 7, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 17
click to read the hiking posts


you chose your journey long before
you came upon this highway

The last time I did any walking was a week ago and that was indoors at Pearson Airport going from the domestic terminal to the new gates for the puddle-jumpers between Toronto and the American cities within a 500 miles radius. The pedometer clocked that walk at two-and-a-half miles.

Between getting over a cold and the miserably frigid temperatures, I’ve been indoors the last ten days. But today I wanted to see if I could get some walking in. Not too successful. After being out in the wind and cold for less than a half-hour – 1.1 miles – I turned around and headed back to the car. But I did shoot the red-tailed hawk in the above image; I’m on Lake Shore Drive with my camera pointing at the sky and clicking away.

I’m staying with lyrics from Cohen’s first album. The title, like that of the last post, is from Winter Lady.


January 9, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 18
click to read the hiking posts


and where do all these highways go
now that we are free

Today, the Park’s rodents ventured out – squirrels and chipmunks were everywhere. The miserable freeze is in retreat and the January thaw has marched in. The Park’s inhabitants, like its human users, ran the branches, rested on the tree-tops, crowded the roads and the tramped the trails.

I got in a 3.9 mile hike. And given that it was my first in a while, I stayed on the flats.

This is also the beginning of using the d7100 with the Tamron 18-400mm. Discovered that the lens couldn’t read the focus-point at 400mm, the solution was to switch to manual focus. (I want to see if there a difference in picture quality between the Tamron and the Nikon 18-300mm. The Tamron is a slightly lighter lens.)


January 11, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 19
click to read the hiking posts


the holly bears a berry
as red as any blood

I’ve been trying to incorporated hills into my North Park walks. The first was Walter Road; before I walked it, I drove Walter Road and knew where it lead, its terrain and elevation. North Ridge Drive is a second hill road. But a major part of the drive is currently closed to traffic and therefore I can’t picture the walk, the elevation or the ups and downs. (North Ridge Drive is approximately 3.3 miles. This is from rough calculations on Goggle Maps.)

The climb from the skating rink, at the bottom of Ridge Drive, to the top is a 250 foot elevation change. The initial hill, the rest of Ridge Drive and then Pearce Mill Road back to the car is a 5.2 miles trek. (I’m leaving this loop for a nice spring day.)

Ridge Drive at the top has a number of new plantings – American Holly Trees. These are native to Western Pennsylvania and have been planted along the northern slopes of the road where there is good drainage and much organic-laden mulch. It was a surprise to see these small evergreens among the tall, bare trees. I also saw and shot a young red-tail. I’m assuming it was a young bird, because it was half the size of the others I’ve seen.

I think I’ve settled on the d7100 and the Nikon 18-300mm for the trip to Machu Picchu. It’s definitely the lighter camera, much more versatile and easier to hand off it I want someone else to take a pic with me in it.

Today, I walked 3.7 miles.

L to R – dead tree with fungi and nest-hole, North Ridge Drive, young red-tail, observation tower top of Ridge Drive


January 17, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 20
click to read the hiking posts


in order to see birds
it’s necessary to become part of the silence

Walking Walter Road was a way of getting back into a routine. (The cold and snow have made walking sporadic. Today, the cold was still there, but it was sunny.) Walter Road, from its southern junction with Lake Shore Drive to its northern junction with Pearce Mill Road, is 1.2 miles with an elevation of 203 feet. I walked to Pearce Mill Road and back to the southern junction.

There were birds all along the walk. They flew in and out of the reeds, that were above the snow on the side of the hill, pecking for seeds. Most were brown, sparrow-like things, but the one in the image on the left could be a mockingbird, but I’m not sure. I liked that I caught it fluttering its dark-blue wing and I liked the contrast between its very white tail-feathers and the surrounding snow.

Actually today was a wildlife day; besides the various birds hunting for seeds, there was a red-tail hawk monitoring the skies and deer that came down to the roadside where the snow was less deep and twigs were accessible. Never mind that the snow, around the picnic shelters, was littered with animal tracks.


January 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 21
click to read the hiking posts


ballo con te, nell’oscurità

My favorite version of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect Symphony is the one he does with Andrea Bocelli. I like the orchestral arrangement and Bocelli’s tenor voice singing the choppy lines in Italian. Sheeran sings about dancing in the dark, Bocelli makes it even more intimate with his – ballo con te, nell’ oscurità. The English – dancing in the dark – provides an amazing image; the Italian wraps beautifully soft sounds, ballo con te, nell’ oscurità around the dancers.

Went back to Ridge Road for today’s walk. The southern half from the junction of Babcock Blvd/Pearce Mill Road to the Wyoming Grove – the midpoint – and back is 3.2 miles. So, I’ve now walked both the northern half and the southern half; somewhere along the line I’ll have to walk all of Ridge Road.

The second image in the slide-show – the trees – and the above image are both from today’s walk.


January 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


through the bare trees

This shot is from Frank’s balcony, looking west, and it’s the first time I’m seeing the steeples.

Winter in Canada is a miserable season. The ticket-clerk at Union Station commented on the cold, but it was a throw away line, because her tone suggested the freezing weather was nothing out of the ordinary. When I got off the train at Bloor, it was -100 Celsius and with the wind-chill factor it felt much much colder. In the one-block walk to Frank’s, it was so cold my face hurt.

Spielberg’s movie, The Post, is an interesting period piece. It reminds us, that the publication of The Pentagon Papers was the beginning of the end of Richard Nixon’s presidency; that women in the 1970’s were absent from the decision-making process (Katherine Graham’s father – Eugene Meyer – chose her husband – Philip Graham – to head The Washing Post, rather than his own daughter. And she didn’t see that as wrong or unusual.); that analogue technology ruled; that the entanglements among journalists, politicians and policymakers in Washington is normal.

I generally don’t like Spielberg movies. They are too romantic, too sappy, too pretty, too long. I hated what he did to Thomas Keneally’s book on Oskar Schindler. A character that in the book is anything but attractive, is impersonated in Spielberg’s romantic retelling by gorgeous Liam Neeson. Talk about making Schindler a superhero; talk about manipulating an audience.

The only over-the-top, sappy scene in the current movie is his having a reporter repeat out-loud the Supreme Court decision – In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.

Yes, Mr. Spielberg we get the message. Thank you Mr. Spielberg for making sure we don’t miss your elitist liberal views, because they weren’t on display throughout the film. (Frank says that I’m being too harsh and that normal people need the repetition, the pointing out of the obvious.)


January 25, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


barrie, ontario

Wikipedia describes Barrie as a city in central Ontario. The city was named after Sir Robert Barrie, who in the early 1800s was in charge of naval operations in Canada and frequently commanded forces through the city. Today, with a population of about 136,000, Barrie is the 34th largest city in Canada.

Barrie is 70 miles north-west of Toronto and in a show-belt. Prevailing westerly, blowing off Georgian Bay, just dump lake-effect snow onto the Barrie area. This morning, we drove up to Barrie to go cross-country skiing. (The last time I cross-countried, I had more hair, more stamina and less weight.)

What I like best about cross-country skiing in Canada are the groomed trails. (I used the above image to show the groomed trails.) When I tell Pittsburghers about groomed trails, they have no idea what I’m talking about; when I tell Canadians that people in the US cross-country in the woods, on golf courses, they look at me, shake their heads and whisper, crazy Americans.


January 28, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

ponte sul crati – dedication

For years, officials in the city of Cosenza have been working on an ambitious urban regeneration project. One of their primary goals was to bridge the gap between two neighborhoods, Contrada Gergeri on the eastern shore of the Crati and Via Reggio Calabria on the western shore of the Crati. (Cosenza is at the confluence of the Busento and Crati rivers; the Busento terminates in Cosenza and merges with the Crati that feeds into the Ionian Sea.) To accommodate this difficult site, Santiago Calatrava suggested a cable-stayed bridge with a single inclined pylon rising above its urban surroundings.

The slender steel pylon has a quadrilateral cross section shape with rounded corners (the image on the left is of Mario Occhiuto, the mayor of Cosenza, inside the pylon) and it is inclined backwards to show visible tension as well as create a clear visual direction towards the city. Overall the strings and form of this structure suggest a giant harp that’s been floated above moving water. The structure stretches some 460 feet between the two neighborhoods. Traffic for both vehicles and pedestrians moves in both directions.

“I’m proud and honored to be a part of this momentous urban improvement project for the City of Cosenza,” Santiago Calatrava said in a statement. “Thank you to the officials of Cosenza who have placed their trust in me to deliver such an important piece of urban infrastructure …”

Facts: – Cosenza, with a population of 71,000, is a city in Calabria (population – 735,000); it is also the capital of the Province of Cosenza which has a population of 268,000. The ancient town is the seat of the Accademia Cosentina, the second academy of philosophical and literary studies to be founded in the Kingdom of Naples (1511) and one of the oldest in Europe. To this day, the city remains a cultural hub in Southern Italy, with several museums, theaters, libraries and the University of Calabria.

Partial Text: Nick Mafi – Architectural Digest – link
Photos: Osvaldo Spizzirri – January, 2018


February 5, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

ponte sul crati – in b&w

The above images were posted by Antonio Rende on his Facebook page. They’re amazing.

My favorite is the image in the middle; il signore Rende was able to maintain the monochromatic elements even though there’s a red-light at the top of the tower and a person, with a mustard coat, on the bridge-deck.

Deciding how to organize and create the above composite was also great fun. The blog-page is 950 pixels across. And, I wanted to showcase the narrow center image and bookend it with two wider horizontal ones. The center image is 15 of 950 and the other two are each 25 of 950. (Visually, the image on the left looks wider than the image on the right, but they are the same width.)


February 6, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


in the bleak midwinter
frosty wind made moan
in the bleak midwinter
long long ago

The midwinter mark was February 3 (the season has 88 days); we have turned the corner and are moving towards the end of snow and cold.

Yes, there was a time, long long ago, when winter was full of things to do and the snow and the cold were just incidentals. Why pay attention to your cold toes when there was a rink to shovel; when there was a warming-hut full of friends and hot apple-cider? Why worry about the 10 inches of new snow when there was a Bon Soo 1 dance to get to and a promise that Jim Morrison would plead, Come on baby, light my fire?

Remember Ron’s 1959 Buick LaSabre?
Yeah, we spun round and round up on Pine Street hill.
Whoa! Man, that was great.

That was a boat not a car.
The tree-huger speaks. Oh speak again dark angel.
We all fit in that boat and in winter it went everywhere. And don’t forget, we were the only kids from the West-End
with a friend who had his own car. Yeah Ron!!

Hey, hadn’t you just started dating that Anita chick? Man, you were the first one to have a girlfriend.
Oh wait, you still have one of those.


My favorite memory, was tobogganing down Garson’s Hill.
You took my brother’s toboggan without even asking.
Well, I wasn’t going down on no sleigh. Them was for losers.

Tobogganing was great until we started cross-country. Remember going down the snowbanks at my parents’ with our first skis? Yeah! 2 seconds of downhill.

My sister smoked and she still kicked my ass on the trails. She could do the Pinder
9K extension and never break a sweat. Man, I hated her.
Aren’t you like supposed to get winded and wheeze when you smoke a pack a day?

This from the man who refused to pay trail-fees. And bragged about it. Of course, focus on your sister
and not on your ILLEGAL activities.

You have nothing to say, so put a straw in that mickey, shuck on it and shut-up.
Remember you refused to come skiing, because it was TOO COLD. A Canadian whining about winter.                                                                    

1 Bon Soo – the Ontario Winter Carnival, Sault Ste Marie
Images: top left – kitchen outside wall; top right – 1959 Buick LaSabre; bottom right – Hiawatha Highlands trail


February 10, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 22
click to read the hiking posts


no winter lasts forever and no spring skips its turn

Everyone who’s been hiding from the cold and snow came out today. The 4-mile loop around the manufactured lake was full of joggers, walkers and bikers. It was also the first time I saw two red-tails chasing each other.

hawk facts

  •      Red-tails are striking birds that belong to a group of hawks with broad wings and relatively short tails.
  •      The hawks can ride air currents in lazy circles, using very little energy. The combination of broad wings and short tail makes them
          well-adapted to soaring for hours at a time.
  •     Red-tails construct large, untidy nests made of sticks and twigs. These nests can be found at the top of large trees. 1

All I did was point the camera and shoot and that’s how the above image came about.
1 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


February 20, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 23
click to read the hiking posts


bucolic north park

The temperature at 4:00 pm was 78o; the previous record was 77o on February 8, 1900. Today, a 118-year old record was broken.

North Park was full of people and cars. I forget that there are many for whom a car-ride, on a nice day, is an outing. Why walk or jog when you can sit in the comfort of your monster-car and see the sunshine, see the walkers, see the joggers through your tinted windshield?

I hiked up Walter Road and walked the western half of Lake Shore Drive for a total 2.8 miles with a 70 feet elevation.

The photograph on the right is deceptive. I noticed the structure and the creek through the bare trees and decided that I could configure an image that would look rustic, remote, romantic. Didn’t realize it would also has an appalachian feel to it.

The structure, built many years ago, has been re-purposed as a concession stand and bathroom facility.

Today’s record-breaking temperatures and the 11 hours of daylight can cause deadly damage to dormant trees. A heat spike, followed by a week of above normal temperatures can start the sap running. And where that sounds promising and spring-like, running sap can turn lethal in a cold-spell. Trees running sap will die if the mercury drops below freezing. (In 2014, we had similar temperature aberrations that caused the sap to start running before the last frost date for Western Pennsylvania. That year, throughout the region, thousand of trees were lost – died when the running-sap froze. I lost the two huge fig trees.)


February 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


from winter’s wreckage

These appeared between yesterday afternoon and this evening. When I went looking for first shoots yesterday, the flower-bed was awash in wet rotting leaves; tonight, as the sun was leaving the western sky, I went looking again and there they were – the first shoots, the messengers, the heralds of spring.

This is also the beginning of the extreme-period – the last hurrah – that ends a season. (If only the same process spilled into the political arena, we could wake from our winter of discontent.)

It’s been a whirlwind of sunny/warm, windy/chilly, rain/close. And this turmoil will probably continue through March, expiring with the showers of April.

The first post on snowdrops is dated March 13, 2011 – le bucaneve – and I titled the post with the wonderful Italian word for these heralds of spring. (bucaneve is literally translated as puncturing through the snow.)


March 11, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


finding winter – again

Years ago, I promised to avoid coming up to Northern Ontario in March, because I knew I would find winter again. But family circumstances brought me back.

The flights up were a retreat back into a frozen, snow-covered landscape. Western Pennsylvania was snow-free, so was Toronto, but from Barrie north, white covered the land.

What I found is that the snow is slowly melting and that my dad is probably in the best mindset and the best health I’ve seen him since the onset of winter. The end of the seasonal confinement and the hope of spring are bringing smiles back. He’s also figured out how to use both the wheelchair and the walker to get around and he now goes all through the house. He, my mom and I spent two hours in the sun-room, talking about all the crazy relatives and basking in the late afternoon light. The image on the right is a Christmas cactus, in the sun-room, that has decided to bloom in artless March rather than in deep December.


March 12, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


in a small canadian town

This morning took my dad into the hospital for a follow-up appointment and I was able to reserve an ambulance that came to the house and comfortably wheeled him out on a portable chair. (My dad has limited mobility, because of severe arthritis in his knees.) The Canadian health-care system has its detractors both here and certainly in the US, but this public system provides extensive care and support for 36 million people. The ambulance service, part of the large out-of-hospital support, is an amazing component of this universal health-care. (I marvel at all the at-home support my parents are getting.) The at-home option is a way of keeping patients in familiar surroundings and out of the hospital unless absolutely necessary.

After the appointment, I called the ambulance service to schedule the return and the dispatcher told me it would be a two-hour wait. (Because I had no idea how long the appointment would take, I couldn’t make a reservation for the return portion, so we had to take what was available.) My dad didn’t want to wait, so I called my sister and we went to the lobby to wait for her. (I had ridden in the ambulance and expected to get home the same way, so I didn’t have a car.)

While we were waiting, a relative of my dad’s saw him and came over. When she realized we were waiting to go home, she immediately called her husband and arranged for him to come by and pick us up and take us home. This all happened so quickly and without any hesitation on the relative’s part, that I didn’t even get a chance to tell her that we already had a ride. So, I was left to call my sister and tell her not to come up.

Only in a small town, where one frequently sees extended family and where everyone lives near, is this happenstance possible. The flip side of this feeling of belonging/of community, is the suffocating experience of living in a place where everyone knows your name.

I left the small town 50 years ago; I thrived in the anonymity of New York City; I experienced the freedom of living away from parents and relatives; and I got to create my own non-biological extended family. But even I, skeptic and stranger, could appreciate the serendipity of this morning’s chance encounter.
The above image is the pond, still under winter snow, above the Fort Creek spillway.


March 13, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections



As Imperial England marched across the new continent, the Anglican Church was one of its most successful brigades. The Shingwauk/Fauquier Chapel, on the grounds of Algoma University, is a left-over from the time of subjugation and raping of Native people by the British Redcoats.

The Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel is a small red sandstone chapel built in 1881-1883 on the site of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School, a newly established school for boys, from the Garden River First Nation, in the Anglican Diocese of Algoma. 1

But the time of empire is over, and as it recedes into shadow its war-crimes get whitewashed and disguised in pageantry, romantic melodramas, heroic movies,2 country homes and quaint stone structures. I’m shooting a beautiful historic chapel, on a rise, on the north shore of the St. Mary’s River. In the early 19th century, what did the Indian children, ripped from their families and tribes, see when they looked out their dormitory windows, what did they feel when they heard the chapel bell toll?

1 – The Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel
2 – In Winston Churchill, Hollywood rewards a mass murderer


March 15, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


my aunt and my mother
making taralli

On Thursdays and Fridays, a relief-worker comes in to sit with my dad and my mother uses the time to go shopping, keep appointments or bake.

This week, because I’m visiting she asked if we could make taralli when the relief-worker was here on Thursday. This morning, I suggested we put off making the taralli and that she take the time to rest. Her answer – “Rest !!! And have people think I’m a vacabunna – a lazy good-for-nothing?” Needless to say, we made taralli. My mother is 93.)

Taralli are bread-sticks in an oval shape. They are most common in southern Italy, and in Calabria they are flavored with small black anise seeds.

My mother began early this morning to set the yeast and by noon, she had mixed the dough and was ready to make the taralli. In the image, my aunt, on the left, is rolling out the dough into a long thin strip that she will then form into an oval pinching the ends together. (The small bowl has water in it and both my aunt and my mother would lightly wet their hands while rolling out the dough. The wetness stops the dough from sticking to either their hands or the kneading board.) My mother, in the middle, is rolling the dough, she had cut and kneaded into small pieces, and making long ovals. Making the dough into long ovals begins to break the yeast down and gets it ready to roll into long strips. On the right are some of the raw taralli.

The most I could do during this portion of the process was admit that I could never roll out perfectly even strips; keep them company and take pictures. However, I could certainly do the next two steps – boil the taralli and then bake them.

The raw taralli get dropped into a pan of boiling water and removed once they float to the surface. Boiling the dough gives the baked taralli their shiny surface.

The boiled taralli are then put onto the oven rack and baked until golden brown. In my mother’s electric oven, because the heating coil is on the bottom, the taralli need to be flipped when the one side is golden brown. We made close to 75 taralli.


March 17, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


in the mist

We’re on the boardwalk east of Exhibition Place and I’m shooting the mills in Hamilton.

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun

But time has no beginnings and history has no bounds
As to this verdant country they came from all around
They sailed upon her waterways and they walked the forests tall
Built the mines the mills and the factories for the good of us all 1

There was a time when the steel-mills in Hamilton lit the horseshoe that is this section of Lake Ontario; when train-whistles and boat-horns serenaded the golden horseshoe. Today, the mills are silent, dark, skeletal. And the city is being invaded by Toronto hipsters looking for cheap rents. Dirty, polluted Hamilton is becoming the Brooklyn of Canada.

Lightfoot’s lyrics talk to an aging generation, my parents’ generation, a generation that is quickly passing. No one under 50 sees mines, mills and factories as good. And yet these aging infrastructures built the middle class; built modern Canada.

The province is on the cusp of an election that will either return the Liberals and Premier Kathleen Wynne to power or embrace a loud, obnoxious Tory – Dough Ford – who is promising to return Ontario to the manufacturing giant it was 50 years ago.

1 – Gordon Lightfoot. Canadian Railroad Trilogy.


March 18, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

morning light

It’s 7:00 am, it’s a chilly -3 Celsius, and we’re on our way to the St. Lawrence Market. Because we can’t find on-street parking, guess others were up well before us, Franchino parks in the Loblaws’ lot and we walk up to the Market. (The shot is from the roof of the parking lot. The shadow on the bottom right lets you know that we are in the eastern part of the city and the sun is coming up off the Scarborough bluffs.)

There has been a public market on the site – corner of Front Street East and Jarvis Street – since 1803. It was great to see a plethora of root vegetables in the various stalls. My favorites were the orange beets.

After the Market, Franchino went to Loblaws for mangoes and cilantro; he’s making a salad for Sunday dinner.

Finding a landscape, in Northern Ontario, that was still covered in feet of snow was disconcerting. Temperatures in Toronto may be chilly, but blue skies and the absence of snow point forward to spring not backwards to the misery of winter. It’s great to be out of snow country.

Besides the weather, being away from the claustrophobic immigrant community is another plus. I can’t figure out if the atrophy, in the Italian community in Sault Ste Marie, is due to aging. The majority of immigrants that came to Canada in the 40’s and 50′ are now in their 90’s and focused on end-of-life issues rather maintaining a healthy, progressive community. The claustrophobia may be symptomatic of aging and the lack of new blood, but Sault Ste Marie is not unique in this degeneration. Most manufacturing centers in Canada and the US are wasting away and the left-over populations are unable to deal with the protocols that impose a new world-order.

Small-town Canada – Sault Ste Marie, Harrow, Leamington – is where I know people that reject cell phones, reject the internet. These new fangled devices and technologies don’t fit into their analog experiences and are therefore marginalized. It’s these attitudes and fears that make slogans like – Make America Great Again – resonate because small-towns are being decimated my modernity.

h-park house

March 18, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

on grenadier pond

The lingering ice on the edges of ponds and lakes is a reminder that winter still holds Canada in its grip. The sea-gulls, in the bottom of the image, are standing on the thin edge-ice. Here in Toronto winter’s grip is not the tight fist that is still strangling Northern Ontario, instead it’s a velvet choker suggesting we wear winter coats, winter hats, gloves and scarves.

We did a 2.3 mile hike through High Park and I shot the house because I had never noticed it before – it’s been hidden by the greenery that perimeters Grenadier Pond. It’s one of the many high-end houses, in the upscale neighborhoods, that surround the Park.

When my family would visit back in the late 50s and early 60s, the Park was one of the first destinations my grandparents took us to. They lived 2 kilometers west of the Park on Jane north of Bloor. Sundays we would drive into the Park and picnic. My grandmother was in charge of the food and set-up; my grandfather walked us down to the pond and the zoo. And here I am, fifty years later, still in Toronto’s west-end; still walking High Park.

The main difference between that long-ago time and today, is that this morning the Park was full of young families, lycrad joggers, and determined walkers. In the late 50s/early 60s we had the picnic grove to ourselves. Immigrants went to the Park; the staid, nose-in-the-air Torontonias never did anything as plebeian as eat outdoors.

Back then, Toronto was ruled by first and second generation British immigrant families. Blue Laws were in effect and Toronto closed up at 5:00pm on a Friday and didn’t reopen until Monday morning. If you wanted to have a good time, you drove the 5 hours to Montreal. Them French were uncivilized, uncouth, peasants still. My aunts and uncles would often head east to Quebec for a weekend away from the rigidity that was English Toronto.

The British legacy families are in their twilight; their children have inter-married with the non-English and new immigrants have pushed the old British into the insignificant single-digit demographics.


March 25, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 24
click to read the hiking posts



I’ve refused to shoot or write about the March 21 snowstorm. After spending a week in Northern Ontario where there’s still two to three feet of snow in the backyard, I won’t showcase another winter event.

The shift to Daylight-Savings-Time is a major inconvenience. The only saving grace is that at 7:30pm it’s still light.


March 27, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

a hawk and a dead rat

I parked and there across the street on a white SUV was a hawk. Amazing! I had no camera, so I took our my phone, not the best telephoto, but … Figured I could get in the house and grab my camera. Before going in, I looked at the raptor and realized it held a dead rat in its talons.

By the time I got back out with camera in hand, something had scared it and it was flying, low to the ground, weighted down by a wet dead rat. It lighted onto the street sign and I ran up, in the rain, and started shooting. Palo Alto is half-a-block up from me and the white background is the corner house on Taylor and Palo Alto.

The image is amazingly incongruous – a raptor with its prey, perfectly perched on a blue Pittsburgh street-sign and photographed with a high-end camera using a Japanese telephoto lens.

Yeah, one wants to ask, What the hell is a hawk doing in a residential area? but then one is happy to see it killed a rat, so maybe the question of a raptor on a street with families with children is less important. (Too bad it wasn’t a pigeon in its claw. Oh come on, pigeons are just the rats of the air.)


April 23, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 25
click to read the hiking posts


eastern spring beauties

With every recent hike through North Park, I’ve been looking for early woodland wildflowers (I’ve been looking for violets, hoping to find a hillside covered in delicate purple hues) and it wasn’t until yesterday – late April – that I finally saw some. Research names them Eastern Spring-beauties – claytonia virginica. It’s an herbaceous perennial and its native range is Eastern North America. Its scientific name honors Colonial Virginia botanist John Clayton (1694–1773).

This plant has been used medicinally by the Iroquois, who would give a cold infusion of the powdered roots to children suffering from convulsions. They would also eat the raw roots, believing that they permanently prevented conception. They would also eat the roots as food, as would the Algonquin people, who cooked them like potatoes.



proof of heaven

By April 1945, the Allies had landed in Southern Italy; Mussolini was losing his grip on the country; and the Third Reich was considering surrender.

In late April, Benito Mussolini his mistress Claretta Petacci together with other Fascist leaders joined a German convoy fleeing Italy. A group of local communist partisans attacked the convoy and forced it to halt. In all, over fifty fascist leaders and their families were found in the convoy and arrested. On Saturday, April 28, 1945, Mussolini and Petacci were executed by Walter Audisio an Italian partisan, in the small village of Giulino de Mezzegra, 80 kilometers north of Milan.

The next day, the bodies of Mussolini and Petacci were brought to Piazzale Loreto in Milan, the scene of a mass execution of partisans the year before. The corpses were beaten and urinated upon and left to hang upside down from a rusty beam outside a gas station on the north-west corner of the square. (Petacci had not been wearing any underwear and a group of old women rearranged her skirt to preserve her modesty.) People surged around, desperate to get a look, to laugh at and spit upon the bodies, wanting to make sure that Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy for 23 years, was dead.


it’s still daylight

I’m at 46o North and 84o West and sunset wont be until 8:50. The area has almost 45 minute more daylight than Pittsburgh (40o North and 80o West).

The snow is finally gone. This is an amazing statement given that two weeks ago everything was covered in snow and the white stuff was still coming down. But the extended daylight has dried the ground and waken up the trees. I walked the neighborhood around my parents’ house and there were trees everywhere full of buds. Also, the new, soft-green grass is a clean breath in the industrial landscape.

My cousin and I drove up. (He had two goals – make it on one tank of gas and avoid getting a speeding ticket. He accomplished both.) It’s been 40 years since I made the trip from Toronto to Sault Ste Marie by car.

The trip has 3 section to it – Toronto/Parry Sound (150 miles), Parry Sound/Sudbury (107 miles), Sudbury/Sault Ste Marie (195 miles). My favorite part is the stretch between Toronto and Perry Sound particularly around Georgian Bay. The highway is one rock-cut after another. It’s a surreal landscape through low mountains of rock.

Also, from Toronto up to Perry Sound, it’s a divided highway. But at Perry Sound it becomes a two-lane road with occasional passing lanes. Finally after some 50 years, the province is rebuilding Highway 69 making it a modern divided highway from Toronto to Sudbury. And, you can see the path of the new lanes, of the new highway. (There was some evidence of new construction between Sudbury and the Sault, but it’s in its early stages. Sudbury to the Sault is still a two-lane highway. And because you’re following the contour of the lake, the landscape is flat and boring.)



hundreds and hundreds

I was in the East-end, where the better people live, driving down Queen Street, when I glanced this front-yard full of crocus. Had never seen so many naturalized crocus and totally unexpected up here in the northern latitudes.

I find a place to turn around and head back. There’s no parking on Queen, so I turn right and pull up in front of a 1970s bungalow on fancy Lake Street. There’s an older guy sitting on his crowded front-porch behind his painted wrought-iron railing which some West-end immigrant crafted and installed. (Why do men’s chests and abdomens, as we age, look like barrels when we sit?)

It’s a short walk across the street, to the yard covered with crocus. And in my head, I script the following monologue for the East-end home-owner who eyed me as I got out of my dad’s van:

who’s this person parking in front of my house
he doesn’t look like one of us and look at that old rusted van
must be one of them dark-skinned EYE-talian from the West-end
doesn’t he know his kind aren’t welcome in this end of town
bad enough them other people took over the university down the road
we need to take back our province from them EYE-talians and them Injuns
Dough Ford is my man; he’ll make Ontario strong again.



Highway 550, locally known as Second Line, runs 14 miles from Black Road in the east to Gros Cap in the west. (Gros Cap, is a jutting point on Lake Superior. It’s the southern tip of Goulais Bay, a small inlet on the south-eastern shore.) The western section of the Highway, rings the rock-ridge that borders the flats along the north shore of the Lake.

The white trees, in the above image, are birch and at this time of year, they shimmer in the sunlight.

As I’m driving Highway 550 towards Gros Cap, I’m wondering – are memories different for people who stay in the place they were born than for people who move away?

If you stay, the brain seems to adjusts for the contradiction between memory and current reality. You drive by the location where you experienced your first kiss, but now it’s a dilapidated, graffiti strewn wreck of a school building. The brain seems capable of allowing the memory and present to exist simultaneously. The brain doesn’t let the current reality tarnish or corrupt the memory.

If you leave the place of that first-kiss, then the brain hasn’t worked to balance and ameliorate the memory and the present reality. So, while in Pittsburgh, the first-kiss memory stays in that golden realm of long-ago. However, when I come back to the location of that memory and I see the wreck that is the school-yard, where someone kissed me for the first time, the contradiction between memory and reality is disconcerting. My brain has had no time, no practice to adjust, to ameliorate between the euphoric remembrance and the devastation that is the present location.

For me driving through sections of the West-end, where I spent my preteens and my teenage years is driving in a landscape of ghosts. An area that was full of young kids, full of young families is now an area in transition. My elementary school is wreckage; many houses that I hung out in are boarded up and abandoned; and my aging parents and some of their friends and neighbors, who have stayed in the area, are the last remnants of that long ago.



yes!  breakfast

My mother’s friend Teresa, whose son is getting married this summer, brought these amazing dolci as a thank-you for my mother’s gift for her son’s shower/stag. And Teresa made them all; she has a reputation, among the Calabresi in the Sault, as a great baker.

So, for breakfast, I indulged. (It’s OK to have sweets for breakfast, because you can burn off the calories throughout the day. Every Italian knows that; it’s one of our rules.)

I’ve seen these dolci all my life, but it’s the next generation that has made them bite-size. My mother and her group of friends made the orange peaches, bottom right, the green-yellow pears, top right and the walnuts, top left corner, actual size. (The round white cookie in the bottom left is known as a ginetti and the round brown cookie with an almond in its middle is an amaretti. The two custard cups are new and I didn’t try them. They don’t fit the definition of a Calabrian breakfast.)


beaver country

Yesterday, my cousin Joe and I drove back from the Sault to Toronto. (The last time I did this drive, I was in high-school.)

The trip has two distinct parts – the first part is east to Sudbury, the second part is south from Sudbury to Toronto. Between the Sault and Sudbury you’re on Highway 17, part of the Trans-Canada Highway, and the drive is very boring. The highway follows the contours of Lake Huron and is a flat uninteresting landscape. The highway also goes through many one-horse towns – Spragge, Serpent River – where the speed-limit drops to 30mph or traffic-lights force you to a complete stop. And did I mention that for the 190 miles it’s a two lanes road; this means that to pass you have to cross into the oncoming traffic lane. (Joe drives a Mercedes Coupe; and having an 8-cilinder engine in that driving environment made passing a ZOOM experience.)

However, once you get to Sudbury you turn south and for this portion of the drive down to Toronto, you follow the bend of Georgian Bay. Here you get to see the famous Canadian Shield or Laurentian Plateau. (The Shield is one of the world’s richest areas in terms of mineral ores. It is filled with substantial deposits of nickel, gold, silver, and copper. Throughout the Shield there are many mining towns extracting these minerals. The largest, and one of the best known, is Sudbury.) The highway is cut through exposed Precambrian and metamorphic rocks; these red-rocks formed the ancient geological core of the North American continent. There are areas in this part of the Shield that look totally surreal, other-worldly and there are areas where the rocks cradle deep-blue pools – above image – and everywhere there are marshes with evidence of beaver. There were beaver-dams and lodges in all the ponds and marshes off the highway.

The norther Georgian Bay region has slowly been sucked into what the Toronto urbanites call cottage-country. Yes, it’s almost 200 miles north-west of the city, but if you’re looking to buy a summer-home, prices in the established cottage-country area around Lake Simcoe, are in the stratosphere. Driving an extra hour brings young families into an affordable, hip and amazing landscape. It’s no wonder that the provincial government is invested millions into upgrading transportation into the region – there will soon be a modern divided highway from Toronto all the way to Sudbury.

After 50 years, the highway between the two largest cities in Northern Ontario – Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie – is still a two-lane road; and there are no plans to expand it into a modern divided highway.



lilies of the valley & sophia loren

Rather than photograph the fleur-de-lis  in the patch, in the back-yard, I decided to stage a more dramatic shoot. The lilies are in front of my black computer tower in a one-flower, heart-shaped, glass vase.

Also, I needed a segue from the posts about Northern Ontario to images and writings about the routines of daily life here at home. And here in Western Pennsylvania, the spring bulbs, the tree blossoms are done; and it’s now time for the lilies, the wisteria and the annuals.
Back in March, Franchino had given me a bunch of Dylan albums to listen to. (He’s taken on the job of educating me on his unparalleled fav – Bob Dylan.) And listening to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was one of the highlights of last week’s road-trip. It’s only my second time listening to an entire Dylan album. (The other Dylan album I’ve listened to is Tempest.) I had no idea that some of his best compositions and best-known songs – Blowin’ in the Wind, Girl from the North Country, Masters of War, A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, Bob Dylan’s Dream – were on that 1963 album. (Freewheelin’  is Dylan’s second studio album; and eleven of the thirteen songs are original compositions.)

The album cover is a photograph of Dylan with his girlfriend Suze Rotolo. It was taken in February 1963 by CBS staff photographer Don Hunstein at the corner of Jones Street and West 4th Street in the West Village.

But it was the last song in the album – I Shall Be Free – that had me howling. I was at the Thruway toll at Buffalo, laughing hysterically at Mr. Dylan’s surreal lyrics.

Well, my telephone rang it would not stop
It’s President Kennedy callin’ me up
He said, My friend, Bob, what do we need to make the country grow?
I said my friend, John, Brigitte Bardot
Anita Ekberg
Sophia Loren



almost wind-swept

I spent the day working in the back-yard. Began by pruning the Japanese Lilac. Wanted to get rid of the vertical branches near the garage wall for two reasons: (1) wanted to create a wind-swept effect (am thinking of the pine trees, leaning over the rocks that I saw around French River, Ontario) and (2) wanted to get sun in that corner, because the shade and moisture were creating idea conditions for moss.

The image on the left is from the French River area; the image on the right is the Lilac trimmed and leaning; hopefully I can work on making more of a flow and less of a jut.

After all the work trimming, I tackled the mess, on the pavers, that winter left behind. The four levels were covered in moss and the corners were filled with leaves, needles and sticks from the redwood; the debris and a layer of green covered everything. Grabbing the hose and a wire brush, I went to work. The moss was the most difficult to clean up; I literally wire-brushed half of the back-yard. The resulting accumulation of water, ripped moss and other winter residue was a witches’ brew. There’s a great Calabrese word for this kind of wet mess – fracoma. The meaning suggests something rotten, something putrefied. And the word even sounds like what it means. (As a junior, I had an English prof who explained that fuck was one of the few English examples of onomatopoeia. And that correlation between sound and meaning was more common in other languages, especially ones derived from Latin.)



through the cracked concrete

I noticed the cluster of violets in the corner of my neighbor’s front steps. They rose proud and defiant through the old, cracked concrete of the North Taylor sidewalk. The sidewalks are the home-owner’s responsibility and the results are a patchwork of new-and-old, brick-and-concrete slabs. The hodgepodge is proof that we are not a cookie-cutter suburban plan, even though when the area was first developed it certainly was a new, non-city housing development.

The Mexican War Streets, originally known as the Buena Vista Tract, is an area on Pittsburgh’s northside, filled with restored row houses, tree-lined streets and alleyways. The neighborhood dates to around the time of the Mexican–American War – 1846.

In the 1970’s, as a means of kicking off the gentrification process, community leaders and promoters planted trees in front of the historical houses; this meant breaking the sidewalks to create plots for the new trees. And once the cement was broken, the remaining slabs started to crack and chip. The results are what we have today – old cement that is broken, cracked and covered in thin layers of mildew.



black locust

The last time I was in North Park was April 23, almost a month ago. Between my trip up to Northern Ontario and the fact that it’s been raining for the last two weeks, my options for hiking have been reduced. But, the rain and the moving season have transformed the Park. The tree-canopy is the beautiful new-green of first growth and there are flowering trees everywhere. There are Black Locust throughout Western Pennsylvania and at this time of year the tall skinny trees are in bloom.

off on a tangent
Every once in a while, I can grab, a slice of an image that totally re-imagines the original shot. The cropping process always reminds me of the pre-digital photographers and artists looking through an eye-magnifier at slides; looking for a detail, in a large image, that is extraordinary that is transformative.

On today’s walk, I shot several images of flowering trees; the image on the right is of the loose drooping clumps of the Black Locust. I also shot the flowering clusters of a Northern Wild Raisin, also known as Viburnum. It’s a mid-size shrub that can reach 12 feet. (The naturalist at the Allegheny County Parks Department said that there only a few Viburnum in the Park – along North Ridge Drive, the section near the Ice Rink.) In Photoshop, I looked to see which section of the image showcased the tiny white flowers with the giant yellow stamens. The best detail was at the bottom of the cluster and that’s the section that I cropped. The result is one of my favorite images.  Click to see the image detail.


machu picchu – prologue
click to read the machu picchu posts



There have been five destinations that have been out of my comfort-zone. These were – England, Switzerland, Kuala Lumpur, Israel and Sicily.

I hate all things British and to voluntarily go to England was a big step. And still afterwards, none of my misgivings or prejudices needed correcting. Outside of the grand palaces, England was littered with tiny houses and tiny spaces; the highway shoulders were strewn with garbage; the food was terrible; Oxford was a warren; Stonehenge polluted by the car-noise from the A303; and London had none of the grandeur of a Paris or a Rome.
Switzerland was never on my radar, but the trip was a great experience. The place was super clean and the mountains were majestic. We took a gondola up into the Alps and it was truly surreal – going through the clouds, suspended above snow-covered peaks. There’s a famous family-photo of me and Mim, in our matching sweaters, at the restaurant at the top the mountain where the gondola dropped us off. It’s the iconic photo from the trip.
Went to Kuala Lumpur, reluctantly, for an Internet conference. Back then, the Common Knowledge: Pittsburgh project was the only example, world-wide, of school-kids having Internet access. And Rick and I were invited to talk about the Internet in schools. The place was an experience is contrasts – American style highways, American style suburbs, American skyscrapers, American hotels all floating in an equatorial, colonial soup. Whoa!
The Wertheimers took me along on their trip to Israel and it turned out to be one of my favorite places. The country is ethereal, intense, scary, inconsistent. I loved the food; breakfast at the kibbutz was great; the date syrup was worth every calorie. The winds in the Judean desert echoed the music of the spheres; and in Wadi Rumm, we heard the sounds of silence.
If you’re Calabrese and an immigrant, then Sicily is a place to avoid. It’s the land of Mafia. And it’s a people that you, as a Calabrese, are better than. I was 65 by the time I made it to Sicily. What an amazing place. It has a dynamic culture, a creative class, a beautiful landscape. But best of all, is its attitude towards political and Catholic Rome. The Sicilians look northward and raise their middle fingers. How can you not love a people that have blocked every effort to connect their island to the mainland via bridge; that have shuttered over 60% of their churches?

And now, I’m getting ready to add a sixth destination to my list. Bitonti and I are heading to South America, to Peru, to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, to Machu Picchu.


machu picchu – maimi
click to read the machu picchu posts


trying to sleep

This morning, American Airlines called Frank’s cell to suggest that we take their 1:00 flight, because the later flight, we were scheduled on, would probably not be flying out – mechanical problems. So, we got it together and headed to Pearson by 10:30.

It’s now 6:00 pm, we’re in the Miami Airport and our flight to Lima doesn’t leave for another 7 hours.

The airport is a sprawling complex and we put in almost a mile walking from the domestic gate where we landed to the international terminal. And the international concord is a Spanish speaking area. Miami is an eastern gateway to Central and South America.

I always bring my phone and tablet charges with me, but it never occurred to me to also have my laptop charger and do some work while I’m waiting for a flight. (I’m just getting used to having WI-FI access at airports.) This is the first post, I wrote at an airport. (Frank is sitting across from me grading papers for his online course-work.)

I couldn’t sit in the uncomfortable chairs any more and just laid down on the floor. That’s the image on the right.

Sitting at the international terminal, I can’t help but think that this morning we left Canada, a country that was part of the British empire; and here we are in Florida and getting ready to go to Peru – a country that was part of the vast Spanish empire.

A side note: Our Miami/Lima flight got posted on the Departures board as delayed an hour. When I went up to the gate-agent to ask, she told me that the flight was on-time and that I should just ignore the board. The agent made an announcement about the on-time departure, but only in Spanish. (The Departure board was never corrected.)


machu picchu – day1
click to read the machu picchu posts


11,000 feet

At the Lima airport we met our first VBT-person and he got us from the international terminal to the domestic one to check-in. The airport is extremely busy and having someone direct us was great. We also met the people that we will be traveling with.

At the Cusco airport, the guides took over and all we had to do was get in a small bus for the trip to the hotel. The pic is the courtyard in front of our room.

Cusco is 11,200 feet above sea-level and this is where everyone talks about altitude sickness. So far, I’ve had no reaction to the altitude. Tomorrow, we are descend into the Sacred Valley. Cusco is the highest point we will be at.

The VBT organizers, left today unplanned to give the group a chance to acclimate to both the altitude, weather and to give people traveling on their own time to get to Cusco.

We are in that space between the end of fall and the beginning of winter. So the weather is variable. We went out walking and I’m dressed in long-sleeves and layers. It never occurred to me to put on sun-screen and I can now feel that pre-sunburn tingle on my ears and face.


machu picchu – day1
click to read the machu picchu posts


spanish baroque

The main plaza in Cusco, with is magnificent Baroque cathedral, is so like the piazzas in Caltagirone, Catania, Modica, Noto, Ragusa and Scicli – the towns in the Valle di Noto. Both locations are magnificent examples of Spanish Baroque architecture. Here in Cusco, the facades of the convents, churches, basilicas are brown stone; in Sicily it’s the white rock, the tuffa stone, that is everywhere in Italy.

The Spanish, under Francisco Pizarro, with the Battle of Cajamarca in 1532, ambushed and captured Atahualpa – Emperor of the Inca Empire. It was the first step in a long campaign to subdue the mightiest empire in the Americas. To cement their control over the people, the Inca Empire’s central city – Cusco – was rebuild in the Spanish Baroque style.

Frank pointed out that Columbus’ first voyage in 1492 began the Spanish expansion in the Americas. And it would be 100 years before France and England joined the rush to conquer the New World. Imagine, for 100 years, Spain had sole access to the treasures and resources in the Americas.

In the seventeen century, the Spanish ruled the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. After a devastating earthquake in January of 1693, in south-eastern Sicily, the Spanish sent architects to the region to rebuild the devastated cities in the Baroque style.


machu picchu – day2
click to read the machu picchu posts


mother earth

Today, was the first tour-day and the guides took us 30 miles south and east to a rural community in the Urcos region. Community, in this instance, refers to extended families working together for their common good. To reach the community we took the Interoceanic Highway an east-west, two-lane road that spans 1,600 miles from Peru’s Pacific coast, across the Andes, through a large part of the Amazon rain forest and into Brazil where it connects with a network of existing highways ending at the Atlantic.

The Cuyuni community operates a way-station for pilgrims going to the glacier in the adjoining mountain range as well as hosting tourist group like ours. In the above image, the community wise-man and an assistant are performing a ritual to Mother Earth. And the goal of the ritual is to honor and ask Mother Earth for her help with their crops, their animals and their families.

The community is slowly building the tourist side of their business. The tour package included a 2-mile trek through their properties, various ceremonies, a weaving demonstration and lunch. Also, the group is slowly building up a gift-shop that stocks hand-made items that their women have woven. The above image is a table runner I shot while browsing.

A side note: Potatoes were being harvested at various plots in their large holdings. At one point, two community women stopped at a smoldering mound and began to dig into the hot earth uncovering potatoes roasted in the ashes. With their thick roasted skins and natural sweetness they were amazing.


machu picchu – day3
click to read the machu picchu posts


3,000 feet down – part one

We began at the top of the mountain in the small town of Chinchero, 12,346 feet above sea-level and followed a section of the Inca Trail down through the valley to the town of Urquillo on the valley floor. During the 4-hour trek, we walked 9 miles along the remains of the ancient Inca Trail. In places, the steps were totally gone and you were slowly going down the slope that remained.

The ancient trail hugged the side of the mountain and in 4 hours, we dropped 3,000 feet.

You would think that going downhill should make hiking easier, but downhill places particular demands on knees and hips.

This was a very strenuous trek, made difficult by rock-covered slopes. We all used two walking-poles for stability and to minimize sliding down.

In the above image, we are at the beginning of the trail; and you can still see the walls that the Incas built, along the side of the mountain, to hold the trail-path.


machu picchu – day3
click to read the machu picchu posts


3,000 feet down – part two

Halfway down and we reach a flat area and we all took pictures with the snow-capped mountain in the background.

Frank brought the hat with him; I quickly discovered that my ball-cap didn’t keep the equatorial sun off my nose or ears, so I had to buy a hat with a brim. (It will not come back to Pittsburgh.)

What I really wanted was a stovetop hat like the locals wear, but I was told that those are not sold at the tourist markets. Apparently, each town or district still has its own hat-maker and he makes the unique hats for the people of his community. The unique hats designate what section, of the area, a person is from. (I didn’t need it to have a flower.)

The other discovery was that winter in equatorial Peru is a misnomer. It is cold after the sun goes down and in the morning for a couple of hours, but for most of the day the weather is mild. I should have brought lighter pants and more T-shirts.


machu picchu – day4
click to read the machu picchu posts


the market – part one

We began the day by going to the sprawling Qotowincho Market in central Urubamba, the largest town in the Sacred Valley. The market has everything from gladiolas to guinea-pigs. In Peru, guinea-pigs are a food, not pets. (Yesterday, at the corn-beer tasting, the hosting family served roasted guinea-pigs. I passed. How can I eat an animal that Connie and Danny had as a pet?)

The market is all local products grown in the surrounding cooperatives. There were sacks of fava; potatoes took up all of the northern stalls; squash filled a whole aisle. The market showed how, at the equator, the growing season is year-round; fava, a spring crop, and winter squash, were being sold side-by-side.

The animal vendors had guinea-pigs, ducks, piglets, rabbits, chickens, and sheep. And only the American tourists were oohing and ahhing the baby animals; the locals were dragging piglets and chickens into their trucks. (I asked our tour-guide what the bundles of green reeds that everyone seemed to be carrying were. He explained that they were food for guinea-pigs. Every family keeps guinea-pigs and they fatten them up before cooking them.)


machu picchu – day4
click to read the machu picchu posts


cooperatives – part two

After the market, we drove up to the small town of Maras – 11,082 feet above sea-level – to begin our hike to the salt flats. We walked through a large, rather flat, farming area at the top of the mountain. Our guides kept reminding us that the area was farmed collectively by a number of the surrounding communities. (In the Andes, the notion of working collectively is not an ideology, it’s an economic and social necessity when living in such a steep and rugged environment.)

When my mother asked what Peru was like, I answered, “Like Calabria 80 years ago.” Her comment was, “So, you’re saying that the people are poor and that they live interdependently.” The tour-guide suggested that this interdependence makes for a less aggressive and more cooperative personality. And therefore more welcoming and accommodating of tourists. (The locals are nothing like the snooty French or the disdainful Italians I’ve dealt with on other trips.)


machu picchu – day4
click to read the machu picchu posts


salt flats – part three

The salt flats are another cooperative effort of the communities around Maras Town.

There is a huge salt deposit under the mountains in this area and subterranean streams carry the salt to the surface. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the terraced ponds. (This aqueduct system is like a giant spider web stretched over the salt-flats.) Each pond is about 40 square feet and only 11 inches deep. There are some 700 shallow ponds and maintenance of the feeder channels, the side walls, the water-entry notch, the bottom surface, the quantity of water, and the removal of the salt deposits requires close cooperation among the families and communities that own the flats. Locals and pond workers say that the cooperative system was established during the time of the Incas, if not earlier.

As the water evaporates what’s left behind are huge deposits of salt. The top layer of the salt-flat is harvested and used for the animals, the middle layer is used by the community and the bottom layer, the desirable pink salt, is sold to the tourists.

In a valley perimetered by rugged peaks, a set of cascading ridges, covered with shallow salt-water pools and made white by evaporation, create a prehistoric landscape.


machu picchu – day5
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getting to the ruins

The logistics of getting to the ruins at Machu Picchu were not clear in the travel packet. All I focused on, was the need to bring a secondary bag that would server as my luggage when we went to Machu Picchu. (It was only after talking to Allie at VBT that I understood the need for a “carry-on” size bag that I packed a backpack.)

Access to the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu is strictly controlled by the Peruvian Government.

VBT interfaced with the government agency managing Machu Picchu to secure all the needed tickets.

The only way to get to the ruins at Machu Picchu is by PeruRail. And luggage size and weight are heavily restricted.

We left from Ollantaytambo Train Station early in the morning. We stored our small bags in the narrow space between the seats. And even though luggage size is restricted, service on the two-car train was like service on a trans-Atlantic flight. It was amazing.

The trip takes about an hour-and-a-half. The tracks follow the sacred Urubamba River – the reflection of the Milky Way here on earth. The train stops twice; once, to let off hikers who are doing the 4-day hike to the ruins; and a second time to let off hikers who are doing the 6-hour hike.

The majority of our group got off at marker Km104 for the 6-hour hike up the Inca Trail to the ruins. Ann, Don and I passed on the hike.

The final stop is Aguas Calientes. This small town services, accommodates and transports the thousands who come to see the ruins.

The whole town is about tourism. Near the railroad station are all the hotels, hostels and other accommodations. To get to our hotel – Inkaterra, Machu Picchu – we walked through the warrens that are the souvenir stalls. The hotel porters lugged all the luggage from the train station to the hotel on flat-bed carts that they push up the steep inclines.

There are no private vehicles in Aguas Calientes. To get to the ruins, you board a bus in town and for an hour you ascent the mountain on a one lane, gravel road.

It was both amazing and nerve-racking when two buses had to negotiate the right-of-way. Only the corners, on the switch-back road, were paved with stones otherwise we were on a dusty dirt road.


machu picchu – day5
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the ruins from afar

Ann, Don and I opted to not do the 6-hour hike, following the Inca Trail up Machu Picchu mountain. Instead we went up to the ruins on the shuttle bus. (Sergio, one of our guides, came with us.) We walked the Inca Trail from the ruins up to the Sun Gate.

The image is somewhat deceptive, because the ruins are quite far away from where Sergio took the shot. We are standing on a small plateau south of the ruins. (The small plateau is part of Machu Picchu Mountain.) From this distance, the ruins, the smaller mountain look like a set; it’s hard to get a sense of the size of the settlement, the size of the various structures from this far away. But as a backdrop the whole thing is amazing, right?

The peak behind us was at one time part of Machu Picchu Mountain. The earthquake that split the mountain left an area in-between relatively workable and it’s on this in-between outcrop that the Incas build the settlement.

Also, at the top of the peak, behind us, is an Inca observation station that can be reached from steps along the side of the mountain. Jorge, our other guide, said that when he was a teenager, the rage among he and his friends was to see who could reach the observation station in the shortest time. He made it up the mountain in 16 minutes. However, it became such a draw that people began to do very risky and dangerous antics to get to the top. The Government now restricts access to the peak and you have to make an appointment and be approved to go up. You also have to sign all sorts of waivers promising to not hold the Government liable for any harm that comes to you while making the steep climb.


machu picchu – day6
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how do you write about extraordinary

Yesterday, seeing the ruins from the southern plateau did not prepare me for the experience of walking into the settlement.

The ruins of Machu Picchu require a rethinking of South America.

For many in the US, with its English Empire legacy, South America is seen as less than. American culture still holds on to those British prejudices towards southern people, towards people who are not English speaking, towards people who have dark skin.

And yet in Mach Picchu we are presented with indisputable evidence of a great culture, a society of scientists, mathematicians and astronomers; scientists who were breeding plants and animals for high altitudes; mathematicians who were using zero; astronomers who tracked the sun and the moon and believed the earth was round. (The astronomers were looking at the heavens through small reflecting pools found throughout the ruins. They were looking at reflections and had to convert what they saw back to a non-reflection.)
The ruins take their name from the mountain – Machu Picchu; no one knows what the Incas called the settlement, because there are no written accounts.

The Peruvian Government that manages the ruins, has roofed a number of the structures to show how they would have looked when people were living in the settlement. Both images are looking at the southern edge of the ruins; in the top pic I’m standing on the terrace directly in front of me. The bottom image, taken from the across the valley, shows the terraces that climb the side of the mountain.

In both images, I removed some of the people to give a better idea of the landscape and the ruins.


machu picchu – day6
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The settlement has a network of water troughs, pipes, and fountains that distribute the water the Incas channeled from the mountain streams in the vicinity. There’s even an underground sewage system that uses water to bring the waste out of the settlement and dumps it onto the agricultural terraces or over the mountain side.

The water story began on Tuesday when we entered the Sacred Valley. The valley is formed by the Urubamba or Sacred River. In the heartland of the Inca Empire, the Sacred Valley was the most important area for maize production; the valley also facilitated the import of products such as coca leaf and chili peppers from the tropical areas in the north and east. The valley was the main commerce channel to the empire’s capital at Cusco.

The Incas believed that the Urubamba River was a reflection of the Milky Way on earth. The Milky Way1 – the Mayu – was believed to be a river and the source of all water on earth. And since earth and sky are connected the Sacred River was the reflection of the celestial river.

1The Milky Way a barred spiral galaxy with roughly 400 billion stars appears like a band of light in the night sky. The galaxy stretches between 100,000 to 120,000 light-years in diameter.


machu picchu – day6
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the temple of the condor

In Inca mythology, the condor ruled the sky, the puma the earth and the snake the underworld.

The Temple of the Condor at Machu Picchu is a very small space in the south-east section of the settlement. The space is dominated by a massive abstract representation of a condor, its outstretched wings carved onto pre-existing slabs of stone.

On the floor of the temple is a rock carved in the shape of the condor’s head and neck feathers, completing the figure of a three-dimensional bird. Historians speculate that the head of the condor was used as a sacrificial altar.

Under the temple is a small cave that originally contained a mummy. Also, there’s a prison complex directly behind the temple comprised of human-sized niches and an underground maze of dungeons. According to historical chronicles that documented similar Inca prison sites, an accused citizen would be shackled into the niches for up to 3 days to await deliberation. He could be put to death for such sins as laziness, lust, or theft.

Throughout the settlement we saw example of where the Inca incorporated pre-existing slabs, outcrops or boulders into walls, stairs, floors. In the Temple of the Condor, the use of two gigantic slabs to represent the condor’s outstretched wings was the most spectacular.

This was the last location we entered before we made our way out of the ruins. By then we were all tired and the place was emptying out, so my options for finding a location to shoot this massive abstract were limited. It was the one time I regretted not bringing a wide-angle lens. To shoot the pic and to get any semblance of the wings, I had to press flat against the outside temple wall.

(I found the image on the left online. It gives a better idea of the outline of the condor and the massive slabs that form its wings. The low rock-wall on the right is an entrance into the temple.)


machu picchu – day7
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back in cusco

We were back at the train station in Aguas Calientes Town for our trip back to Ollantaytambo. The service was again spectacular, but this time the agents added a fashion-show. They modeled various alpaca clothing that you could buy. (It was quite strange and funny.)

From Ollantaytambo we got back onto the VBT bus for the ride back to Cusco. Between the train and the bus, we were sitting for almost 5 hours.

The trip into Cusco was very different than the trip from the airport. We came in from the north-west and at various points we saw the city laid out in the valley. Cusco has 600,000 residents and for the first time from various viewpoints we saw the whole city spread out through the valley and up the slopes.

We got dropped off in the artisan section and we walked the narrow cobblestone streets of the old city to San Blas church. The attraction in the church was an elaborately carved pulpit. The Archdiocese in Lima has ruled that no photographs are allowed in any church. The image on the left is from online and from a time when you could take photographs inside a church. (The story the guide told us is that the Archdiocese is afraid thieves will come and steal the valuable artifacts if they are photographed and put where anybody and everybody can see the treasured housed in the Peruvian churches.)

San Blas was another over-the-top Spanish Baroque church. I haven’t liked any church I’ve seen. Everything is over-decorated, everything looks oppressive, extreme, gaudy, unrecognizable. Yes, the pulpit required a master carver. But Oh my God what happened to simple lines? What happened to form and function? It seems it’s all made to overwhelm to overpower.

A side note: According to tradition, while Blas/Blaise was being taken into custody, a distraught mother, whose only child was choking on a fishbone, threw herself at his feet and implored his intercession. Touched at her grief, he offered up his prayers, and the child was cured.

On the feast-day of St. Blaise – February 3, the priest holds two burning candles in a crossed position over your head or on either side of your throat and gives the following blessing: “May Almighty God at the intercession of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, preserve you from infections of the throat and from all other afflictions”. This is supposed to keep you infection free for a year. (Note: You need to renew your blessing annually.)


machu picchu – day8
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our last day

The only day we had rain was our last day in Cusco. That didn’t deter anyone from donning our rain gear and heading out.

We began the morning at the fortress of Sacsayhuaman on a hilltop above the city. What is incredible is to see are the various megaliths that make up the walls; some weigh between 90 and 130 tons and they are amazing in their precision – cuts and fits. The site also has a large ceremonial plaza that was still used for re-enactments on the winter solstice.

And the vistas of Cusco from this vantage point were great – terra-cotta tiles filling an Andean valley. In Cusco, you are never far from Catholic symbols. On this mountain top, on an eastern promontory was a tall white statue of Jesus and on a western outcrop a huge wooden cross. The tiled rooftops below us made you forget the religious intruders.

My favorite part of the walk were the fountains and aqueducts at Tambomachay. The image on the right captures three of the fountains. The stone work and the masonry on the top wall are as good as any laser cuts and modern construction. And lets not forget that it was all done with relatively rudimentary tools.

Tomorrow morning we leave for the airport at Cusco and from there to Lima. Because of the long layover in Lima, VBT has reserved hotel rooms for us. And this time the layover in Miami is only 6 hours – Oh joy!


machu picchu – epilogue
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our group

L to R and B to F   don, ann, frank, bill, jane, tina, larry, tim, linda, kathleen, rick, meredith, rochelle, wayne, mario, ann, sarah, pete, barb
missing from the picture are our guides sergio and jorge
the four people in traditional clothing are cuyuni community members – the image was taken on monday, may 28



June 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

back to the garden

I always need some incentive, some starter to pay attention to the back-yard. And because this year’s spring-planting was interrupted by the trip to Peru and the re-acclamation once back, I didn’t get to the rock-garden until last weekend. The incentive came in the form of an urn. (i’ve been wanting to buy an amphora, that a potter in Highland Park makes, but never got around to it) I saw the urn at the greenhouse when I was looking for an organic-insecticide, (i’m now trafficking in oxymorons) because I’m determined to grow zucchini plants and not lose them to mildew and borers. (i don’t want to use monsanto poisons to achieve this goal, hence the organic-pesticide)

Hahn’s Nursery in the North Hills is my go-to place for organic sprays for the roses, vegetables and fruit-trees; it’s also my favorite place for wall ornaments and other decorative garden pieces. (i tend to buy at the end of the season and I buy items that are slightly damaged and therefore reduced) While walking through their non-plants area, I saw this large urn – in the middle in the pic – but when I looked at the $180 price-tag, I moved on. However, I did notice that it was missing two of its four handles, so I asked about it. The sales-woman, that always given me great advice on fungus and insect treatments, said that it was reduced to $75. I bought it. (a third handle was inside the urn and i glued it back on with super-glue)

Integrating the 3-feet tall urn into the flower area, required a redesign of the rocks and the pots that fill up the north-east corner of the back-yard. And I’ve been working on situating everything for the last 5 days. Today, I made the final re-arrangements.

Items in the pic – left to right – bay leaf, yellow daisies and vermillionaire or firecracker plant, the urn and an ornamental sweet-potato vine.


June 20, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

blueberries – 2018

This year’s crop is plentiful and the berries are big, plumb and juicy. I love going out, first thing in the morning, and eating the sweet fruit.

Jack has been picking at the plants since they set flowers and now that the berries are ripe, he can’t stay away from the back planter. Bilby has also discovered the berries, but he’s nowhere as obsessive as the other one. And Bilby eats because he’s hungry and even then he’s fussy about finishing his bowl; Jack on the other hand would eat and eat and eat. The berries are a treat that both will run in, sit and wait for me to give them a berry each.

Last night and this morning, the light has been amazing. I did nothing to the image on the right except crop it.


June 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


dalí in lego bricks

The Nathan Sawaya exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center is an unusual collection of pieces. I didn’t much like his rendering of famous sculptures, paintings or windows in Lego bricks. The Easter Island head worked best in plastic blocks; but The David, Caesar Augustus and Winged Victory were greatly reduced in size and looked amateurish rather than majestic. His original pieces, however, were very different and very interesting.
One of Sawaya’s original pieces – Hanging Man – reminded me of Dalí’s painting Corpus Hypercubus. Dalí’s geometry, his cubes, the lighting are all there in the way Hanging Man is rendered and exhibited.

BTW, the two images are the same width, height and resolution, and yet the image on the right looks wider. I think the outstretched arms fool the eye.

Also, the photographs Sawaya and Dean West collaborated on were great. The Lego sculptures – tree, towel, umbrella, dog, railroad tracks, dress – that were integrated into West’s photographs were part of the exhibit.


June 27, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

heron at the dam

The last time I went walking in North Park was the end of April. And back then, spring was just edging into the hillsides and shores around the man-made lake. Two months later and the park has pulled its green canopy over the roads, the trails and steams; it has dressed itself in thorny briar, new cattails, red berries, pink roses and hanging vines. (i began hiking north park in mid november, so I never saw it green)

Two things surprised me last night; Pine Creek, along the southern bend of Lake Shore Drive, was totally obscured by trees and shrubs; and the evening skies were filled with acrobatic chimney swifts.

From the Allegheny Parks Foundation Webpage
Chimney swifts are beneficial birds to the environment because they are voracious eaters of bothersome flying insects including mosquitoes and flies.

Chimney swifts are migrant birds, returning to our region in April, when they begin looking for nesting sites.

They roost by hanging vertically on the interior of hollowed trees and chimneys, but these options have been lost as dead trees are removed for suburban development and chimneys are capped for more efficient heating.

To counter this loss, the Parks Foundation in collaboration with the Audubon Society, Allegheny County Parks and The Pittsburgh Foundation constructed a number of towers that could serve as nesting sites for the returning birds. The 12-foot towers have a grooved wooden interior that allows the birds to hang and build their nests.


June 29, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

gentle curves

I certainly don’t consider myself a technically savvy photographer. (over the years, i’ve used more and more of the bells-and-whistles available on my cameras, but these are always secondary to identifying an interesting item to shoot) My skill has always been in the area of seeing a unique piece of the whole.

One of the people on the Machu Picchu trip said that he always looked to see where I was pointing my camera, because he would see something that he had missed or not considered. I understood his comment to mean that I focused and shot objects and landscapes that most others didn’t see.

Also, I’ve also gotten better at using Photoshop to make the unique perspective more evident. This usually involves removing excess people, distracting foliage, overhead wires, glaring signs. And most often taking a slice of the image and making that detail the photograph. I use the crop and stamping tools all the time. And yes, once I alter the photograph it’s no longer a visual record; it’s no longer a representation of reality, a snapshot of a particular time and place; it’s a new narrative. (i like to think that i don’t alter the original to the point where it’s no longer a photograph, but a photoshop piece that started as a photograph)

The image with this post is a good example of what I’m writing about. I saw the curve of the spillway as I come around the corner and onto Babcock Boulevard. It’s a perspective that you usually don’t see because it’s hidden behind the shrubs that crowd the hillsides and, most people wait until they get past the intersection to shoot the spillway into Pine Creek head on. What caught my eye was the gentle curve of the south rim. It was elegant in its simplicity. To emphasize the bend, I zoomed in on the original image and cropped out what you see in the above photo; I also stamped out leaves and two of the plumes on the Sumac on the bottom right; this excess foliage interfered with the sweep of the curve.


June 29, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

how terribly strange to be seventy

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my generation; its unwillingness to accept the fact that we’re old; its belief that to wind-down or slow-down is tantamount to surrender; its refusal to stand aside and let the next group come to bat.

And why should we? There’s a 72-year old in the White House who insists that he’s full of vigor; many of my contemporaries, who find themselves alone, are rushing into new romances; and even as we scoff and deride the modern world, we are bathing in its comforts and perks. (i expected something different from a generation of daydream believers and homecoming queens, really)

So, what brought on this introspection? The new car has Pandora and I’ve been listening to old songs from the 60s and 70s. OMG, some of them are embarrassingly trite and stupid.

The image is from the many I took when walking around North Park Lake. I saw the two guys and immediately thought of using the photograph for a post about friends on a park-bench. (the image is a detail of the larger wide-angle shot – i pretended to focus on the boat-house and the lake in order to not alert or disturb the guys) The subject is unusual, in that most people in the park are walking, jogging or fishing; they are the first two people I saw just sitting, enjoying the evening calm. And they seem the right age and the right shape to fit into my musings; also their idleness gives me hope that my generation may not be as far gone as i feared.


June 30, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

milkweed blossom

Yesterday after dinner, I decided to head to North Park to get a walk in. (managed 3.4 miles before the dark descended) The setting sun provided a soft light, bathing the low-lying plant in a delicate palette. With the light sliding through the canopy, I got some amazing shots. The image on the right is as it came out of the camera; I just cropped it to showcase the blossom. The twilight dying the stamens gold just takes my breath away.

I’m getting rid of the fanny-pack. The same problems that I found while in Peru became obvious again. It’s a pain to keep twisting it around to get anything; it holds nothing but my wallet and phone; and because there’s no room, I have to carry everything. Last night, for the last mile, I had my hat and headphones in one hand, the water bottle in the other and my camera over my shoulder. Bad set up. When I finally abandoned the fanny-pack in Aguas Calientes and started using the Inkaterra mini-backpack, carrying things while walking became easier; the camera even fits in the mini-pack.

Also, during the walk, the Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love came on and I just wanted to dance. But, it probably would have gotten me picked up; “Officer, there’s an old man thrashing and twisting. I think he’s having a seizure. You should probably send an ambulance.” After cancelling the urge to dance, I thought it would be funny to call Ron and tell him about my need to twist and shout, but even the call got cancelled. Ron is always surprised to hear me say that I’m out walking; it seems that for him walking needs another person. But give me my headphones and my camera and I can walk and walk; and I can even dance in my mind while walking.


evening light

After reviewing the shots, on the memory-card, I was amazed by the light in some of the images. The geese and goslings were in the direct path of the diffused evening light. (the sun is setting on the right hand side) I made no alterations to the image. What you see is what the camera captured.

What do I like best about the image?

  • the reflection of the sand-bar that the group is on
  • the softness of the browns and blacks
  • the out-of-focus reeds and daisies
  • the shadows on the water
  • how the light moves from right to left

For years, I’ve been shooting in afternoon light. I like its harshness; its extreme; its contrast. What’s been missing though is softness, but that was the trade-off. Also, afternoons were the time when I was out. I only started walking in the evening, because it’s been miserably hot during the day. I also kept thinking that evening light would be nothing more than a reduction, shrinking the majority through shadows. Instead, I began to see that objects, low to the ground, got bathed in delicate light; that branches grabbed the fading rays; that berries and fruit gleamed in the indirect glow. It never occurred to me that evening light could bring a new dimension a beautiful clarity to the objects I was shooting.

Earlier in the week, while reviewing my cable and Internet options, I upgraded to 5G. And the technicians are coming Tuesday to make the necessary adjustments. However, since the conversation with the agent, I’ve been noticing a degradation of my connectivity – movies and music weren’t streaming; and tonight, I just lost all access. Going in to reconnect, I noticed a new network, same name as the old except for the 5G add-on. I tried connecting using the old password and it accepted it. All of a sudden, I’m running on 5G and everything is streaming. Good-bye net-neutrality, hello higher costs.


driftwood antlers

Another image showing the delicate light of the evening sun. Look at the upper pool; at the glass surface, at the gold shimmer in the water before it spills over the rock-wall. The gold flecks in between the driftwood branches are a spider web catching the fading light. And like the picture of the geese in the previous post, what you see is what came out of the camera. All I did was crop the image. And like the geese picture, the light is coming from the right.

The dam is at the cross-over from Lake Shore Drive to the paddle and tennis courts, the zip line and the boathouse. And the dam is on the north fork of Pine Creek. I shot the driftwood from the small bridge that crosses the creek. The extra 100mm on the Tamron lens gave me enough of a close-up to both capture the image and render the driftwood surreal – a submerged prehistoric Megaloceros.

Also, it’s only when I’m reviewing the images that I get to see the amazing effects of the evening light; and at that point, in the post-production, it’s a total surprise.


the south fork

A glimpse of the south fork of Pine Creek – the stream, that in North Park creates a huge lake, meanders almost 30 miles south to Sharpsburg where is enters the Allegheny River just below the 62nd Street Bridge. Months ago, the winding creek was the most obvious landmark in the winter landscape, but summer has hidden it and it’s only at rare openings that you can even spy it through the green.

And keeping with the driftwood-as-animal theme, the two pieces of wood, lying on the creek mud-bed, look like giant pond-skaters.

Also, at 4:00, it’s still harsh afternoon light – the sun was almost directly over the western leg of the walking path. The sun needs to sit much lower in order to get a delicate diffusion.


July 18, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

whitefish island

The St. Mary’s River, at the bend between Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and Sault Michigan, runs between 4 islands. On the Canadian side, St. Mary’s Island and Whitefish Island interrupt the river’s rush to Lake Huron.

St. Mary’s Island has the Sault Ste Marie Canal going through it.

Whitefish Island, on Goggle Maps, is listed as an Indian Reservation; it belongs to the Batchewana First Nation, an Ojibway tribe. Among themselves, Ojibway refer to their people as Anishinaabe, which mean Original People.

When French settles got to this part of Canada, the island had a permanent Anishinaabe settlement; it was also a fishing base for the tribes in the area, and therefore an important trade center. The earliest written accounts of the island date back to Jesuit reports from the 1600s describing the fishery at the rapids. (a side note – smoked, freshwater whitefish is sold in delicatessens and eaten as part of ashkenazi jewish cuisine)

Because of its rich history, the Canadian Government designated Whitefish Island a national historic site. Today, the island is open to the public and wide dirt trails cross and perimeter the 22 acres between the rapids and the canal.

The artfully arranged stems of white berries were lying on a rock on the side of the trail; they look like poison-ivy berries. (the small drawing is from the webpage wikiHow) It’s hard to believe that someone would intentionally displayed a poisonous plant in a way that invited touching, picking it up, or bringing it home to put in a vase. But there’s no logic to what locals will do to fuck with them tourists.


July 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

wild elderberry

Tonight’s walk was through Fort Creek Park.

At the end of the walking path, a bee flew into my lower lip. (who ever heard of a bee just flying into a person) I quickly brushed it off, but not before it stung me. It didn’t get a full bite, and it didn’t leave behind a stinger, so my lip never swelled up, but it hurt. My cousin Rose had some salve and that helped to lessen the pain. Amazing, I’m walking and a bee runs into me.

I’ve never been on the Creek trail in summer; the conservation area is totally filled in with wild greenery; it’s like walking through the woods, but you’re in the middle of town.

The red berries in the above pic and the shrub they grow on are everywhere; they were all over Whitefish Island; they were on the side of the road up at Red Rock where Connie has her cottage; and they were all through Fort Creek Park. It’s wild elderberry – Sambucus racemosa.

The Italian liqueur Sambuca is made from elderberries. How come it’s taken me all these years to discover that fancy Sambuca is made from the lowly elderberry; and that the red variety is ubiquitous in Northern Ontario where thousands of Italian immigrants live? Not one of these transplants has ever identified the berries or explained that his/her preferred espresso sweetener is made from this wild fruit.


July 20, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

the english insisted on calling them horse-beans

This morning I harvested the fava in my parents’ garden.

Here in Northern Ontario, fava is ready between the middle and the end of July. (in calabria, it’s planted in the fall, where it overwinters and then is ready for harvesting in late spring) Earlier in the week, a local Calabrese farmer who grows fields of fava brought his crop to market and my parents and my uncle-and-aunt bought a bushel each. We shelled the beans and then my mother blanched them, put them in bags and froze them for later use.

My aunt and my parents still use the term – horse-beans – for the legume. I tried to explain that in the mouths of the English it was a pejorative and that it’s purpose was to insult and demean the immigrants by suggesting that their prized fava was nothing more than food fit for horses.

The left image is the fave on the plant; the middle image is the plants in a pile after I’ve pulled the fave off and then pulled the plants out; the right image is the harvested fave in a bushel.


July 20, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

the powerhouse

The shot is from the Canadian side; Frank and I are walking the downtown, river-front boardwalk. It’s the St. Mary’s River and the powerhouse of the Cloverland Electrical Cooperative on the American side. The massive structure has been a famous landmark when looking across the river and I finally found its history.

In 1885, with the state approval to divert water from the St. Marys River, the village of Sault Ste Marie voted to construct a canal and hydroelectric milling center. The St. Marys Falls Water Power Company was to dig the canal and construct the waterworks system.

The design agreed upon consisted of a canal 200 feet wide and 23 feet deep and running in length two and one half miles from the intake to the powerhouse at its end. In the canal, water traveled from six to seven feet per second. The bend would slow the water down in preparation for its entrance into the powerhouse.

In April of 1899 a Romanesque design was selected for the powerhouse. The design was both economical and would give the impression of power, importance, and stability to the building. The new design called for three large pavilions, one at either end of the structure and one in the center, thus breaking up the structure’s extraordinary length. The roof would be double pitched, also helping to counter balance the length of the powerhouse. 1

            The image is from the Cloverland Electric Cooperative webpage.     1 the history of the powerhouse


July 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

ducklings and goose

Frank and I walked the northern trail of Whitefish Island. We saw three beaver lodges, as well as all the other aquatics that live around the pond. There’s a large number of Canada geese and various ducks that make the beaver pond their home. And given that we were walking in early evening, many of the ducks were finding their way to sleeping areas. (i assumed ducks slept on the shore, but these three were snuggling on the large rock)

There are three beaver dams lower in the channel, but I wasn’t sure about the beavers, because there are very few large trees on the island and I thought that a pond covered in lily-pads could suggest no beaver. Not true.

Water lilies are one of their favorite foods, and through both consumption of the water lilies and construction of wetland habitats, beavers help support water lily populations. This is how John Eastman puts it in The Book of Swamp and Bog: “Beavers relish [water lilies], sometimes storing the rhizomes. Their damming activities create water lily habitat, and they widely disperse the plants by dropping rhizome fragments hither and yon.” 1

The lodges have weeds growing on them which suggests that they’ve been here for a while. In a large pond, one beaver family can maintain several lodges; the group here has three.

There were two surprises – the chipmunks on the trails seemed to have no fear of people, as a matter of fact they kept approaching us and approaching us. Because many walkers feed them, they were expecting us to do the same. And people also feed the ducks and geese, so when they saw us walk by, they made a beeline to the shore. Of the two wild animals expecting food, the chipmunks were the most startling.

1  Beavers and Water Lilies


July 29, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

michigan seems like a dream to me now 1

It’s good to be back home and to walk familiar paths. The perimeter of North Park Lake is filled; the shallow waters are covered with lily-pads and the shores are littered with wild hibiscus swaying in the evening breeze. (the spider web, between the two large flowers, is delicately surreal)

Left Northern Ontario on Tuesday afternoon and drove I-75 South to Oxford; David Sedaris’ new book Calypso kept me laughing all the way down. (the portion after saginaw is tedious, but david sedaris’ voice made me forget the drudgery, the long stretches, that michigan voted for that crazy man in white house) Visited with Rose-and-Derrick, Mary-and-Domenic and left to come home Thursday morning.

1 Simon & Garfunkel – America


August 3, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


everything turns, repeats, resonates

I bought the shorter spirals last year because I liked the yellow finish and they would add color to the backyard. They were not very good stakes for tomatoes, even when I added verticals to keep the spirals from falling over.

This year, I stuck them in among the blueberry bushes. I later saw the red verticals at Home Depot and added them. The configuration was looking interesting and so I went looking for more spirals. The newest ones are taller and in a variety of colors. Together with the shorter, yellow ones, I now have a composition of spirals.

I found the title online and just modified it a bit. (quotes about spirals aren’t all the plentiful) What I like about the title is all the R sounds.


August 13, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

moons and junes and ferris wheels 1

What amazes me about many Canadian songwriters and vocalists is their attraction to the surreal, their blending of bizarre images with images of nature and their compilation of unrelated words – o solitude of longing, where love has been confined 2. Guess when you live in a country settled by Native tribes, opened by French explorers and conquered by British Redcoats you live in a strange land; guess when you live in vastness – 7,000 miles East/West, 3,000 miles North/South – there’s no way to avoid wilderness, to avoid nature. And when you live in the Great White North, you realize that dreams are critical to surviving winter’s darkness and that dreams make you comfortable with contradictory words, ideas, images.


tragically hip
Sundown in the Paris of the prairies wheat kings have all their treasures buried
And all you hear are the rusty breezes pushing
Around the weather vane Jesus

gordon lightfoot
The way I feel is like a robin
Whose babes have flown to come no more
A tall oak tree alone and cryin’
When the birds have flown and the nest is bare

joni mitchell
We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

loreena mckennitt
Take me with you on this journey
Where the boundaries of time are now tossed
In cathedrals of the forest
In the words of the tongues now lost>/p>

leonard cohen
I lit a thin green candle to make you jealous of me,
But the room just filled up with mosquitoes, they heard that my body was free
Then I took the dust of a long sleepless night and I put it in your little shoe
And then I confess that I tortured the dress that you wore for the world to look through

julie doiron
Let’s get out of the romance
The house that I walk home to is in flames in this wind
The wind is getting stronger
The emptiness shows
The breath that moves the branches saying words that I don’t know

k.d. lang
I was lying in a burned out basement
With the full moon in my eyes.
I was hoping for replacement
When the sun burst thru the sky.

There was a time when the Hosta flowers signaled the end of summer and the coming school year; am gland that time is passed.

1 Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now
2 Leonard Cohen – Come Healing


August 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

on some of the rocks are timeless raindrops, under the rocks are words 1

Southern Ontario, the region above Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, is dry, the grass is brown; and fire warnings are everywhere. Western Pennsylvania is wet, the fields and streams are swelled with rain. Pine Creek runs fast with rainwater and North Park Lake is filled to the brim. (because of all the rain, the wisteria is still putting out shoots)

The sign on the right, at the southern entrance to North Park, is out of another time and another place. I remember when Smokey Bear was the spokesperson for forest fire prevention.

The five-mile route around the Lake is getting easier; somehow, it’s been internalized and I just walk it without thinking; without getting bored and counting shelter-signs. (the Erie shelter-sign let’s me know I’m nearing the end when walking the Ingomar Road/eastern side first; the Kilbuck sign lets me know I’m near the end when walking the Lake Shore Drive/western side first)

1 Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories


August 27, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

open are the double doors
of the horizon 1

Behind the Superintendent’s residence at the Sault Locks is the original garden and on the canal side of the garden are the gates in the picture on the right. (the residence was built in 1896)

Cement was a wonder material and the idea of building the frame for the gates out of this wonder material showed both ingenuity and wealth. Looking at these garden gates today, it’s an odd juxtaposition.

The Superintendent’s House 2
The Superintendent’s House is set among a group of buildings located on St. Mary’s Island, which is bisected by the Sault Ste. Marie Canal. The two-and-a-half-storey stone building has a gable roof with a decorative bargeboard – an ornamental board fixed to the gable end of a roof to hide the ends of the roof timbers – regularly placed windows and doors with stone surrounds. An open porch protects the main entrance.

The House is a late example of a building inspired by the Gothic Revival style. The massing, design and good functional interior arrangement of the Superintendent’s House reflects the important social position of the Superintendent in Sault Ste. Marie society.

The House is a good example of a building associated with the construction and operation of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal, commencing in 1889, and illustrates the theme of the development of the Canada’s transportation network during the later 19th century. The first ship passed through the locks at the Sault in September 1895, and most of the canal buildings were completed by 1896. The complex of buildings illustrates the crucial years when Sault Ste. Marie was transformed from a small community into a modern industrial center.

The title is from one of my favorite operas – Philip Glass’ Akhnaten – and when I saw the garden gates, I knew I had an image that could fit the refrain – Open are the double doors of the horizon, Unlocked are its bolts. – the scribe sings in Act I.

The image also marks my d800e going on the blink. The shutter-release button is not operating correctly. It’s acting on a delay.

1 Philip Glass – Akhnaten, Act I
2 Canada’s Historic Places – The Superintendent’s House


now in the fading light of day 1

maker of all to you we pray
that with thy wonted favor thou
wouldst be our guard and keeper now

from evil dreams defend out eyes
from nightly fears and fantasies
tread underfoot our ghostly foe
that no pollution we may know


now in the fading light of day 2

maker of all to you we pray
that in your ever watchful love
you’ll guide and keep us from above

help and defend us through the night
danger and terror put to flight
never let evil have its way
preserve us for another day

1 Opening Hymn, Compline (Liturgy of the Hours – Official Public Prayer Life of the Church)
2 Modern, Catholic Version


September 9, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

hints of fall

Last evening, Seane, Connie and I went walking and there was yellow yarrow along the side of the path. (it’s one of those flowers I can rarely pass up)

The cooler weather has been great. Going from miserably hot-and-humid to temperatures in the low 60s is OK. In Pittsburgh, schools were letting out 2 hours early, because of the heat and humidity.

Indian Summer is no longer a respite from the onset of fall; its extremes hearken to the dog-days of August not the last blush of summer.


September 12, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

on the river

Connie’s friends – Carl and Terri-Lyn – invited us to go on a boat-ride down the St. Mary’s River. We began at the marina in downtown Sault Ste Marie and followed the river some 30 miles south and east to Lake George/Echo Bay.

What always amazes me about this area of Northern Ontario is the vast scale of the wilderness. Lake George is part of greater Lake Huron. And in the middle of Lake George and looking south you can totally forget you’re in the middle of the continent. There’s water all the way to the horizon. (the lake has an official name mainly because it’s such a large body of water and the surrounding islands, that cluster in this northern section of Lake Huron, almost create a seamless shoreline)

Carl anchored the boat in 3 feet of water and the three of them – Connie, Carl and Terri-Lyn – all jumped in; not me. The three of them marveled at the fact that it was mid-September and that they were still able to still jump into the water. (normally, by this time of year the temperatures and the water is too cold)

In the pic, Connie has just come out of the water. The camp-grounds behind us are on the Garden River reserve; in front of us is the vastness of Lake George.


September 18, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


the road not taken 1

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled


1 Robert Frost  —  The Road Not Taken

(Saturday, September 8 – Fort Creek Park – Picture by Seane)



October 15, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


beaver dams
on whitefish island



once the cursed have been silenced
and sentenced to blistering flames

 call thou me with the blessed 1

1 The Dies irae – verse 16
   Confutatis maledictis
   Flammis acribus addictis
   Voca me cum benedictis

all souls – 2018

all souls – 2018


Helena McCaig

Sunday, January 21

Aged 75

(My cousin Rose’s mother-in-law)

Derryll McCaig

Friday, May 11

Aged 56

(My cousin Rose’s brother-in-law)

Hin Tan

Saturday, August 11

Aged 64

(My friend Carlo’s partner)

Ciccio Zinga

Thursday, September 6

Aged 92

(My father)


Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them.



November 12, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

remembrance day

Here in Toronto, most people are walking around with a poppy pinned to their clothing. The red poppy, a native plant along much of the Western Front – a meandering line of trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss border with France – has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in the First World War. It was inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields.

The poem, written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, and the poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols in Canada, where In Flanders Fields is one of the best-known literary works. But the wearing of a symbolic poppy to commemorate The Great War is a British tradition that has been adopted by Canada, Australia and New Zealand – countries that were once part of the British Empire.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
. . .

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
1 McCrae, John. “In Flanders Fields.”


November 13, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

the promise of the new

I’ve been going with Frank to the offices of TV-Ontario – Independent Learning Center for years. He goes to pick up the exams of the students he tutors online. One of my favorite things in the lobby are the doors leading to the TV-Ontario offices. This is one of the many examples of modern design throughout Canada.

A couple years ago, I began researching a road-trip from Toronto to Halifax and each time I looked at online pics of cities like Oshawa, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Moncton, I kept seeing modern housing, modern office buildings that looked like all the other housing and buildings throughout Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. (my sister reminds me that most of modern Canada was built in the 1970s and the 1980s)

Within this milieu is another characteristic of modern Canada an aversion to anything old. The last 50 years have see a rush away from the old downtowns, the abandoning of old housing; wholesale permission to rip down old buildings. The disdain of the old was balanced with an euphoria for new housing, new subdivisions. The immigrants that made Canada their home after the Second World War, wanted nothing to do with anything that looked old, that looked old-worldish. They wanted new bungalows, new appliances, new cars, new colors, new designs. They wanted the promise of the new.


November 13, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

the red door

After years, I crossed the tracks and found a whole new world.

The west-side of the tracks, where Frank lives, is the edge of the High Park North residential area; the other side is the Junction Triangle neighborhood. And on this east-side, developers have installed a green-way along the tracks, renovated an old warehouse (the red door is the entrance to the renovated warehouse) and razed old houses to create a new neighborhood of fancy condos and Millennial worthy apartments.

I’m amazed that it’s taken me all this time to cross the tracks and explore the area across the street from Frank’s condo. (the small image on the left is the bridge over the railroad tracks)


November 14, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

lake simcoe

The inland lake that the Huron people called Beautiful Water, was renamed by the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada – modern Southern Ontario – in memory of his father, Captain John Simcoe of the Royal Navy. (To the conquerors go the spoils.)

We drove up to Georgina, an administrative-township along the south shore of Lake Simcoe; the township is a collection of 5 smaller communities – Keswick, Sutton, Jackson’s Point, Pefferlaw, and Udora. We drove through Sutton along Hedge Road – a beautiful residential road that follows the shore of the lake.

The township, 40 miles north of the city, was covered in snow; it’s a micro climate, a snow-belt, in the Greater Toronto Area. I haven’t been in this part of the country, at this time of year, in a long time and it’s a surprise to see snow in early November. (I keep forgetting that Sault Ste Marie had snow in early October.)


November 27, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

winter rose

My complaint is less about the snow and more about the facts that I haven’t seen the sun in two-and-a-half weeks and that it’s been raining non-stop. (The last time I was able to go walking was back in early November.)

I’m slowly learning how to use the new camera with its 47.5 MP resolution; the image on the right was taken with the new camera and its unique 24-70mm Z-mount lens.

This is also the time to bring in all the summer stuff – chairs, tables, pots – and the weather has really hampered the process – I keep bringing things in that are wet or snow-covered.

The last winter-prep I need to do is wrap the fig tree. This year, I’ve decided to use roofing tar-paper and see if it keeps the branches from freezing. Roof-paper and duck-tape – what can go wrong?


November 29, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

oranging evergreens

This image made it to the blog because of the title. It’s not often you get to put the present participle of orange and the compound evergreen next to each other.

To quote from Sondheim’s Into the Woods, “Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.” So when it comes a-knocking, you steep the Earl-Grey, bring out the Fine-Bone china and lift your pinky as you slowly sip.


December 11, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

soft power
wielded like a machete

Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Chuck Schumer met with the President and Vice President to discuss a proposed wall on the southern border and whether Trump would, in fact, shut down the government if he doesn’t get the cash he wants for it.

The conversation, which was televised, quickly turned heated and ultimately ended without a compromise, but with the President accepting and owning the possibility of a government shutdown. The Democrats took that as a win.

And as soon as images of Pelosi emerging from the West Wing started making the rounds, Twitter was abuzz at the sight of the Speaker-designate’s power look: the sunglasses, the smirk, the impossibly fabulous rust-colored coat.

Barry Jenkins 1 – And she knew exactly what she was doing wearing THIS coat on THIS day coming out of THAT room, placing THOSE shades on JUST so. This is diplomacy in motion, soft power wielded like a machete through the diligent, decisive act of dressing. They’ve never been JUST clothes.

The New York Times was one of the first to correctly identify the maker of the coat: Max Mara 2. This wasn’t fresh-off-the-runway, just-hit-stores Max Mara, though, Pelosi’s burnt-red style dates back to 2013.

Ian Griffiths, the creative director of Max Mara, issued a statement on the Pelosi sighting too: “You develop an emotional relationship with a coat like nothing else in your wardrobe. I can imagine why Ms. Pelosi chose to wear it for this important moment, and I’m honored.” 3
Barry Jenkins – What I love about this coat is what it says about the supposed impotence of fashion. From the asymmetrical front to the high collar, the strong yet unstrained shoulder and, of course, that COLOR — a deeply serene yet emphatic & ravishing color. This look kicks soooo much ass.

And it kicked HIS ass.
1 Barry Jenkins is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter based in Los Angeles. The quotes are from his Twitter account.
2 Max Mara is an Italian fashion business. It markets up-market ready-to-wear clothing. It was established in 1951 in Reggio Emilia by Achille Maramotti.
3 Nancy Pelosi’s Red Coat – by Ana Colón at Glamor Magazine (excerpts)


December 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

solstice moon

The image is by Luigi Tuoto and it was posted on the Facebook page of Fuscaldo e le Sua Terra, a hill-town in Calabria north of Paola on the Tyrrhenian coast.

The following post accompanied the picture.
Una bella vista del Convento di S.Francesco di Paola di Fuscaldo paese con la luna pronta al solstizio d’inverno (21 dicembre) che fa registrare la notte più lunga e il giorno più breve dell’annoa beautiful vista of the Convent of St. Francis of Paola in the town of Fuscaldo with the moon ready for the Winter Solstice (December 21) which will mark the longest night and the shortest day of the year

Some interesting language differnces
 Fuscaldo paese – Fuscaldo town
This is to distinguish between Fuscaldo the hill-town and Marina di Fuscaldo the beach-town below on the Tyrrhenian coast.
 (21 dicembre) – December 21
In Italian, the numerical date is written first and then the month; also the month is not capitalized.
 che fa registrare – that will register
The verb register is used in American-English more as a legal term therefore, I translated the phrase using the verb mark.

I photoshopped Luigi Tuoto’s original image, because I wanted to focus on the structure at the top of the hill. And, I wanted to contrast the russet-browns of Calabria with the insipid white-christmas of America. The convent also reminds me of the Spanish mission in Kill Bill: Vol. 1  where The Bride  is spectacularly gunned down and presumed dead. A false assumption similar to the lie of  peace on earth and goodwill to men  when the reality of  this holy tide of Christmas-2018  is a world gone mad.


December 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

vigilia di natale

In the last 10 years, we’ve eaten at my aunt-and-uncle’s for Christmas Eve and then at my parents’ for Christmas Day. I’ve rarely brought my camera to Christmas Eve, but this year I wanted to capture some of the meal. Instead, I saw this beautiful orange cactus and decided to shoot it. The black background in the image – and great contrasting color – is the plastic pot the plant is in.

Derrick’s dad joined us for dinner; my uncle’s 97-year old aunt – Teresina – couldn’t make it this year and my dad was fondly remembered. Seane and Dave drove up and were there for the fish course (they still had the left-over pasta, even though both the white and red were cold – terribly non-Italian); by 10pm, the Melchiorres – Dom, Mary, Daniel and Alyssa – who spend Christmas Eve at Dominic’s mom’s, came by; so, we all got to visit – a day earlier than usual.

The Christmas Eve – vigilia di natale – Foods

pasta course
• white spaghetti with anchovies, red spaghetti with calamari sauce and a fish-stew topping,
fish course
• breaded fried shrimp, calamari, clams and muscles in a tomato sauce and cullurilli – potato donuts
• brussel-sprouts, broccoli salad
(I passed on the shrimp and ate the fish stew, using the cullurilli to soak up the delicious red sauce. Also, this was a reduced menu; in past years there would have been fried clams, perch, salt-water smelts and the old standby baccala – cod – prepared, in at least, 3 different ways.)
• leaf-greens and cherry tomato salad in a red wine vinaigrette
after-dinner palate-cleansers
• anise, cantaloupe and melon
• genetti – soft anice cookies, scalille, turdilli, tangerines, oranges, apples, espresso, and various liqueurs

And we easy went through 5 to 7 bottles of red wine.