Summer Lovin’

Summer brings abundance, if not excess, of everything: zucchinis, cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, lightning bugs, hummingbirds, ripe, juicy peaches, wild blackberries, festivals, picnics, perspiration, swimming in the lake. I can’t even say what I love the most about summer, so I’ll pick just one: wildflowers.
They are ubiquitous, even in the city. Any abandoned lot, a crack in the sidewalk, a river bank, will sprout their seeds.
Right now, I see an ocean of white lacy saucers suspended on tall green stalks everywhere I go. Lacking the color burst of other, more splashy, wildflowers, Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) compensates with her intricate, lacy flowerhead that’s really an accumulation of many tiny flowers.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace is also known as Wild Carrot for it’s edible white root that smells like carrot. However, before you start digging up wildflowers, be aware that Queen Anne’s Lace is part of the parsley family which contains the highly toxic Poison Hemlock. You really would not want to confuse these two plants.

Queen Anne's Lace side view

Queen Anne’s Lace side view

Queen Anne’s has a very flat flower cluster with characteristic bracts below the flower cluster. It often also has a dark purple floweret in the very center of the white lacy cluster.

Queen Anne's Lace flower cluster

Queen Anne’s Lace flower cluster

When the flower cluster is done blooming, it curls itself into a cup-like shape that resembles a bird’s nest:

Birdnest stage

Birdnest stage

To me, a field of Queen Anne’s Lace warmed abundantly by sun and swarming with insects is the epitome of Summer. Please take a look at a much earlier post with a meadow full of this elegant wildflower and a poem to go with it.

This post was created in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’.

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At the Water Fountain

My container of choice for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is a large ceramic pot that’s been converted into a water fountain.

Water fountain

Water fountain

The splashing sound of the water drowns out traffic sounds and turns a small urban backyard into a park-like setting. The water fountain has become a meeting spot of sorts – for the birds.

Here’s the first sparrow landing, checking things out:

One sparrow

One sparrow

Another one lands on the rim, dipping deeply into the cooling water:

splashing up a storm

splashing up a storm

And then the party begins

And you thought only your office colleagues enjoyed gathering around the water fountain?!

the pigeon has landed

the pigeon has landed

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Purple Daze

When Ailsa sent out her “Purple” Photo Challenge, I started pondering colors in general and this mixture of red and blue that we call purple in particular.
Recently, I wore what I considered a green blouse and a friend commented on how she liked my “blue” shirt. I wondered whether she was colorblind but when I looked more closely at my blouse, I realized (for the first time) that the green contained dots of blue. While my eyes chose to see the green as predominant, my friend focused on the blue.
This was quite an eye opener. How do we know what others see and what they envision when we mention a particular color (or anything else for that matter)?
Throw in the gender gap in differentiating between nuances of colors and labeling them, you can begin to see how complicated this color thing is. Seriously, how many guys who are not artists or interior designers will use the color word “mauve” or “chartreuse?”

To get some more clarity, I went to a paint store and collected a large number of “purple” color samples.

Shades of purple to indigo
I found a wide spectrum of purplish shades, from a more pinkish magenta (think “Plum Burst,” “Sonic Plum”), to a more reddish plum (“Plum Good”), to true true purple (“Purple Royalty, “Byzantine Purple”), to lavender or periwinkle shades (“Purple Gala, “Imperial Plum,” “Grape Parfait”) all the way into dark indigo blue (“Indigo Cloth,” “Indigo Streamer”, and “Nightshift”). Can you imagine being paid to come up with names for hundreds of color shades?
When I scanned my color samples, my scanner picked up the blue and purplish shades but for some reason couldn’t pick up the more reddish (magenta, plum) shades. Strange…

In looking through my photo archives, I selected a few purple shades that are leaning more towards the magenta/pink spectrum:

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And then a few stretching more into the lavender/periwinkle shades:

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The following pictures contain what I consider “true” purple, but your eyes may see it differently.

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I didn’t quite know what to call the purplish neck of this vulture, though:

vulture on fencepost

vulture on fencepost

What do you think?

One of my favorite shades of purple, unapologetically, comes in the shape of a rainbow.

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Sunday Stills: Looking through the Windows of my World

View from Desert Museum, Tucson AZ

View from Desert Museum, Tucson AZ

Windshield durig carwash

Windshield durig carwash

Window of car abandoned in desert

Window of car abandoned in desert

Restaurant window, Helvetia, WV

Restaurant window, Helvetia, WV

 

Old fort window, Puerto Rico

Old fort window, Puerto Rico

Painted Window, Sueno Azul, Costa Rica

Painted Window, Sueno Azul, Costa Rica

Castle window, Scotland

Castle window, Scotland

Rock window, Arizona

Rock window, Arizona

Through my living room window

Through my living room window

For more window looking, check out Ed’s Sunday Stills

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His Name was Skip

Earlier this week, I wrote a photo essay about an abandoned house. So many questions arose about the last occupant of the house who left an unfinished boat in the living room, that I decided to do some more research. This is what I found out:

John “Skip” Gerfin was passing through Dyer County, Tennessee, on that fateful day in late June 2003. He was on his way to Utah on his home-made motorcycle when he was pulled over by a deputy because his vehicle was missing a license plate.
For unknown reasons, Skip carried two weapons with him. The deputy claimed that Skip threatened him with a rifle when he was asked for his ID and driver’s license.
The deputy didn’t know that Skip, a 50-year old man appearing unkempt like a homeless person, probably never owned a driver’s license; nor did he want to be bothered with any other kind of bureaucratic procedures.
For over twenty years, Skip had been living by himself in a run-down house in an isolated valley in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia. He arrived there in the late 1970s, with a young wife and 6-month old baby. It was the time for disenchanted young people to look for a simpler and more authentic life in the country. As luck had it, the owner of the house was leaving for India and gave him permission to live in the house without rent until he returned. There was no electricity, no running water, no indoor toilet, no telephone. Some of the windows were missing already and the house had no insulation. The wife didn’t last long and left him taking the baby with her. He never saw his son again.

The house Skip lived in

The house Skip lived in

After his wife left, Skip became a recluse. He worked odd jobs for local farmers making just enough money for his weekly grocery run. He had given up his old car after several run-ins with the law for not having a driver’s license. Going for groceries meant bicycling many miles, all the way to the nearest town in West Virginia and back again – a day trip and hard workout on a bicycle.
Despite his oddness and disinterest in carrying on conversations with people, the locals looked out for him. They gave him old clothes and shoes when it looked like he needed them; they fed him home-cooked meals when he looked too thin. He was a good worker, always on time despite the fact that he never owned a watch.
In his free time, he tinkered with different projects. He rigged together a motorcycle of sorts that he would take on road trips South to escape the harsh winter months in the mountains. He was quite a traveler and knew the back roads like few others.

homemade lathe

homemade lathe

He began building a boat from wood he gathered from the property. He fashioned his own planer and lathe, essential tools for a craftsman. He would melt down beer cans and turn them into metal fasteners for his big project.

Skip's unfinished boat

Skip’s unfinished boat

The locals never saw him acting in any threatening manner, accepted him for his idiosyncratic tendencies, respected his need for privacy, and looked out for his wellbeing. When he returned in the spring from his winter trips, word spread around the county that Skip was back.
Nobody who knew Skip could really understand why he would have threatened a deputy with his rifle, or why he even traveled with two weapons. The deputy claimed he acted in self-defense when he shot Skip in the chest, killing him instantly.
After Skip’s death, the community found out that he had family members in Maine, an elderly mother and two sisters. His sister Allison said the following about Skip:
“The way he did things made it hard for himself, but I believe he found a peace most people never find. The world will be a little less free without him in it…. As tough as he seemed on the outside, he had a certain innocence, an idealism, that didn’t belong in this world.”

One of the local men who knew him called Skip “the only really free man I ever knew.”

Skip is buried in the village of Blue Grass, Virginia.

Many thanks to Anne Adams, owner of The Recorder (an award-winning newspaper in Highland County), who sent me a well researched article on Skip’s life, the obituary, and several letters to the editor from her archives.

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