Friday, May 31, 2019

Rarely Blue #SkywatchFriday

So much gloom, so much rain (not that we in upstate New York can complain - millions of people have it worse than us).  It seems as if the skies are rarely blue.

 This past weekend, though, the sun actually came out, and I rushed to take some pictures before it disappeared again.
I sat in my backyard and watched the sky.
Every few minutes, Nature presented me with a different view.
But the clear skies couldn't last forever.  As I photographed a young red horse chestnut tree in bloom, the storm clouds started to gather again.

And now, on this last day of May...

I'm thinking of the people in danger of floods and those who have been in the way of tornadoes.  I lived in the tornado belt (Wichita Falls, Texas, Wichita, Kansas), and not that far from one of the areas in Arkansas that is in dire danger of flooding.

Having been through a flood myself in 2011, there are a lot of people in my thoughts today. The scope of this unfolding disaster is massive.

Join Yogi and the other bloggers who watch the sky at #SkywatchFriday

Thursday, May 30, 2019


Who knew?

I grew up in the New York City of the 1950's and 1960's.  In my school years I was fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, however you view it) to take yearly school field trips to the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan and a play (I don't remember what the play was).  At some point I was taken to the Statue of Liberty.  My public elementary school even took our class to the World's Fair in Flushing Meadows in 1964.

One thing I never knew about, though, in all my growing years, was a phenomenon which is now called Manhattanhenge.  This celestrial event has been popularized by astrophysicist and educator Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Tyson, as it happens, went to the same high school as I did. (Just not at the same time!)

Tyson coined the name "Manhattanhenge" in 2002, almost 30 years after I left New York City for good.

So I never have seen it.  Me, the person who delights in photographing sunrises and sunsets, has never witnessed this event.

It happens that the sun, four times a year (twice for sunrise, and twice for sunset), aligns perfectly with Manhattan's street grid.  For the sunset, it is two sunsets in late May and, again, two sunsets in mid July.

Last night, half of the sun would have been visible on the grid if the weather had been favorable.  Tonight, the full sun will be visible, again, if the weather cooperates.

Here are dates and times for 2019.

Tyson says:

"For best effect, position yourself as far east in Manhattan as possible. But ensure that when you look west across the avenues you can still see New Jersey. Clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th and several streets adjacent to them. The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building render 34th street and 42nd streets especially striking vistas."

It also brings traffic to a standstill and crowds jostle for the best photographic angle.  Yes, I've seen those photos, too.

Should I or should I not Manhattanhenge? Have any of my readers witnessed it?

Why didn't I know about this in 1970?  Now, I would have to spend hundreds of dollars on a motel room and more money for the bus trip to see this, all the while hoping the weather cooperates.

Or that, by mid-July, it isn't 95 degrees and humid at sunset.
Florida in January - definitely not Manhattanhenge
I admit the New York street grid would make such a sunset unforgettable.

New York City skyline, December 25, 2018
Still....Tyson, what have you done?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

From Another Angle #WordlessWednesday

Part of the joy of photography is looking at the ordinary in a different way.

Take the bearded iris, for example.

Here is one of my irises, the way most of us see them.

But, try another angle. Look down on one and you see something totally different. 

Take a rest from writing today.  Stop and look at some flowers.

Join us each Wednesday for a #Wordless Wednesday, brought to us by Esha, the Skygirl, (who is taking a break this week) and Natasha Musing.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Sweetness Not So Sweet

It's a sobering thing to know that others gave their lives so my spouse (a non combat veteran), my son and I could enjoy a gorgeous day in upstate New York yesterday.  The rain clouds disappeared and the humidity with it, for one day, making the sunlight seem so sharp it threatened to cut you.

I love that kind of lighting.

It made for some interesting pictures, though, as spouse and I headed to the Vestal Rail Trail before our son came over to do some yardwork for us.

This wildflower is called Dame's Rocket or Sweet Rocket.  As beautiful as it is, it is also a noxious, invasive weed and should never be planted in any garden.

This is not phlox. You'll note the four petals where phlox has five petals.

It's really too bad, because it is so pretty.  It comes in white, pink, and even multicolored.

I apologize for the shadows - my back was cranky today and I couldn't bend that well to get the best angle.

No matter.  I hope this beauty brings a smile to your day today.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Heaven and the Other Place #MusicMovesMe

It's Monday.  In the United States, it's Memorial Day.  And what else is it?  It's time for #MusicMovesMe.

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only on this music train, please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-conductors are:   Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and me.  Callie of JAmerican Spice blogs from time to time.

Our guest conductor for the month of May is Michelle of Angel's Bark, who has declared the theme of Heaven or Hell.

The directions the Music Moves Me bloggers are going to take with this one are going to be interesting.  Myself, I struggled with this the past three days.  I'm not sure why it was hard, but I ended up with this.

 I warn you in advance, much of this post is going to get a little grim.  But first, how about a little fun?

For Heaven: as much as I like Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", I prefer the cover by Guns and Roses.  So, let's start with them.

 Who lives in Heaven?  Angels, of course.  Here's the group Real Life, singing "Send Me an Angel".

From 1987, The Cure and "Just Like Heaven".

Switching gears a bit, the group Heaven 17 and "Temptation".

Heaven and Hell - I chose this cover by Dio of the song Heaven and Hell.

For Hell, I am going to work in another tribute to our soldiers and their sacrifices in keeping us free. We who have never fought in a war can not imagine what it is like and I can not even try.   Their suffering doesn't end when the war is over, either.

From Five Finger Death Punch, Wrong Side of Heaven.

And now to Hell.

As someone who grew up among Holocaust survivors, I want especially to shout out those soldiers still alive who fought in World War II for the freedom of the entire world.

From Rush (the parents of their bassist, Geddy Lee, were both Holocaust survivors) - Red Sector A, which sings about a hell on earth that some insist never happen, or did happen or was exaggerated.  The saddest part of that denial is that mankind has made hells for others throughout our history - and we still do today.

Not quite about Hell, but Hell is in the title, so I bring you Pink Floyd.

Run Like Hell.
One last song, if you have the time to linger.  Yes, you knew I was going to include it, and I am.  From 1971, Led Zepplin's Stairway to Heaven.

To all my readers, may you have a wonderful week.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Faster and Faster They Slip Away

Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the United States.  I am a day early as tomorrow I will be joining Music Moves Me.

Faster and faster the generations who fought in war seem to be slipping away.  Just yesterday I read the news that a 94 year old Navajo (Diné) Code Talker and New Mexico Senator John Pinto had passed away.

His singing of his people's Potato Song was an annual ritual in the New Mexico senate.

What follows is a repost of a Memorial Day post from May 30, 2011, with some edits and updates.  I was talking to my now-adult son a while back, and remembering this trip.  It brought back such memories:

In 2002, we were on our way from upstate New York in the United States to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We stopped off in Iowa City, where one of my aunts (now deceased) then lived.  It was the Memorial Day weekend.

Just after we crossed into the city limits, we passed a cemetery.  It was a blizzard of American flags.  I could not believe how many flags there were.  It showed that the residents of Iowa City had not completely forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day, a special day for residents of the United States.

In 2010, I blogged about a GI love story for Memorial Day.  This year, I'd like to talk some more about the origin of this holiday, which is tied up with our Civil War, 1861-1865.  It's strange in a way, when I write about the Civil War, because I had no ancestors in this country during the Civil War.  So I don't have any direct family links to this war.  Rather, my links come from being born and growing up in this country.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day.  It was first observed in 1868 with laying of flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate troops at Arlington National Cemetery.

My home state, New York, was the first to adopt Decoration Day as a holiday.

After World War I, it became a holiday (Memorial Day) to honor the dead of all wars.

I can remember, growing up, when Memorial Day was observed on May 30, no matter what day of the week it was.  In 1971, I believe, it was changed to the current "last Monday in May" so that it could become part of several three day weekends being created.  Many people think that celebrating Memorial Day more as a "first day of summer" blowout beach/BBQ/shopping day has been recent, but apparently even in the early 20th century the day was already starting to drift away from its original meeting.

Another ceremony connected with this holiday is the playing of Taps.  Taps originated during the Civil War, composed by a member of the Army of the Potomac to serve as a "lights out" signal. Research I've done indicates that it didn't take long for Taps to be adopted by both Federal and Confederate armies.  It is so well suited to military burials that, again, its true origin is somewhat buried.

I am proud to say that my father was a (non combat related) disabled veteran of World War II.  One of his sisters served in the war, too, as a WAVE.  My mother worked in a parachute factory.  One of my spouse's aunts, who died earlier this month at age 107, worked in a bomb sight factory in Mt. Vernon, New York.

Today, and tomorrow, let us take a moment to honor the veterans of all wars, living and dead.  They are our living reminders that the price of freedom is sometimes a steep one for those who pay it on our behalf.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Sustainable Saturday - Linden Memories

When I moved to Binghamton, in upstate New York, in the 1980's, my first residence was in a neighborhood that had a Linden Street.

I never gave much thought to a street named after a tree.  In fact, I don't know if there are any linden trees on Linden Street.  But, there are some in the Binghamton neighborhood where I do my exercise walking, several miles away.

Tilia americana, Binghamton, NY
When full grown, it is a majestic tree.  But, as infomercials love to say, "But wait!  There's more!"

This tree is known as the linden, or basswood.  Some in Europe call it the lime tree (not our lime citrus tree, whose name is derived from Arabic). Not only is it a beautiful shade tree, and able to survive urban conditions, but it is a multi use tree.

The wood is excellent for hand carving.

The inside of the bark was used by native Americans for making cords and ropes.

 Its sap was used by the Native Americans the Europeans called Chippewa or Ojibwa in a way similar to maple syrup  The bloom are edible, too, and have medicinal uses.  A tea can be made from them.  And, the bees love them - if you've ever had basswood honey,this is the tree bees make that from.

(Caution: as usual, be careful when foraging any wild plant.  And, some people are allergic to these flowers.  I am not a wild food expert, and my provided links are for your reading pleasure only.)

As the trees age (these trees can live to 200 years old, or even longer) they start to decline.  The holes become shelter for various wildlife.

If that wasn't enough, foresters use this tree as a tree "canary", a first signal of environmental change.

Now, in late May, the trees are getting ready to bloom.  I am eager to smell their delightful scent once again.  Last year, they didn't seem to bloom heavily but this year, the trees are loaded.

Happy Saturday to you!  Do you have a tree in your area with delightful scented flowers?

Friday, May 24, 2019

Point of View #SkywatchFriday

I was outside on Monday morning around 7am, just minding my business, when I looked to the east and saw this.

It had rained the night before.  It looked to me that I might be seeing a rainbow form.

I kept watching.  I thought I saw it.  But it was only sunbeams.

It ever did, and the sun started to break through the crowds, so it was time to look elsewhere.So I switched my gaze 90 degrees.

The sky so blue, the cloud so white and the trees so green, just by turning in another direction. It's all about the point of view.

Thanking Yogi and the other bloggers who make Skywatch Friday possible  Join us each week for new view of the sky.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Horse Chestnuts Year 3 #ThursdayTreeLove

On the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, I join in with Parul of Happiness and Food and other tree loving bloggers from all over the world for #ThursdayTreeLove.

I've blogged about horse chestnuts before, but I never lose my fascination with them.  This is my third annual Thursday Tree Love post about them.

They are a little bit past peak - I took these pictures several days ago.

The trees get huge. It's hard to see the scale of how big these are.  They've been cultivated for hundreds of years, too, in Great Britain and other parts of Europe before being brought to the New World.

Perhaps this gives you an idea?

These trees bring back so many childhood memories for my spouse, playing a game called conkers.

Do they for you?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tulip O'Clock #WordlessWednesdy

Nature has a message for us.
There is always time for tulips.  There is always time to pause and listen to the birds singing, the wind blowing.

There is always time for flowers.

Take a rest from writing.  Join us each Wednesday for a #Wordless Wednesday, brought to us by Esha, the Skygirl, and Natasha Musing.

Why not visit both their sites, link up, and see what other bloggers are offering?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tribute to a Human Wormhole

It's been over two weeks now since my spouse's aunt passed away at the age of 107.  This aunt was born near New York City in 1912.  In some blog posts I called her a "human wormhole", a term I did not coin.

Here's a sample of life (and music) in 1912.

When my aunt-in-law was born:

Women in her native New York State had not yet won the right to vote.
The Titanic had not yet sunk.
The world had never fought a world war.
Kellogg's Shredded Wheat Cereal was brand new.
The electric traffic light had not yet been invented (that came later in 1912).
The first commercial radio broadcast had not yet been made.
Fenway Park was getting ready to open.

Just think of the many things she lived through which might have been thought of as "science fiction" when she was born.

Horses being replaced by motorized vehicles 
World Wars I, II, and the Cold War.
Transcontinental phone calls.
The popularizing of air travel.
Organ transplants
Humankind going into space.
Radio, TV, the Internet.
Cell and smartphones.

As a child, the city she spent all her life in had many rural spaces.  Horse drawn wagons would come and deliver live chickens to the housewife.  She picked edible greens such as violets and dandelions from the side of the road.  She also showed musical talent early in life.  She had some vague memories of the 1918 "Spanish" flu pandemic that killed up to 50 million people world wide. As an adult, her interests were wide, her curiosity was boundless, and she even traveled on her own (to see a sister in the Western United States) occasionally, into her 80's.

As a young adult, this woman would walk for miles.  She worked in a factory during World War II, helping to manufacture bomb sights. 
She crocheted, and made beaded flowers. 

The last time we saw her, in March, this woman who used to walk up to 18 miles in a day and ate with the heartiest of appetites could not get out of bed or feed herself without help. 

I don't know if this remarkable woman, who loved opera and a good discussion (she kept track of current events until relatively recently) ever used the Internet.  But she did many things women could only have dreamed of doing when she was born in 1912.

Goodbye.  Our world will not be the same without you.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Sentimental Journey- #MusicMovesMe

It's Monday, the start of a new week, and time to listen to more Music!
Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only on this music train, please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-conductors are:   Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and me.  Callie of JAmerican Spice visits from time to time.

Our guest conductor for the month of May is Michelle of Angel's Bark, who has declared a free day - we can blog about whatever music we want.

It's been such a sad week for the music world.

First, there was the passing of Doris Day from pneumonia at the age of 97.  She was an actress, a singer, an animal rights activist.   It amazes me that she began her musical career back in 1939.  She eventually reached music success around 1945.

Here is Doris performing with the Les Brown band (recorded in late 1944) singing "Sentimental Journey".

So many of us from certain generations remember the songs of Doris Day, especially a favorite of my late Mom's, my late mother in law - and me.  Que Sera Sera, from the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

From Guys and Dolls, "A Bushel and a Peck". Many know it from an insurance commercial from a couple of years ago, but it actually dates from 1950.

We lost comedian Tim Conway this week also at the age of 85.  Although (to the best of my knowledge) he wasn't a musician, he well deserves a mention.  There are so many beloved skits online to choose from.  I chose "The Dentist" where Tim goes in for a toothache and finds he is going to be Harvey Korman's first patient.....

...which reminds me of the Weird Al song "Cavity Search."

Finally, architect I.M. Pei died at the age of 102.  Among many of his famous designs was that of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Although this song was not written about I. M. Pei, singer Art Garfunkel was an architecture major.  Here, Simon and Garfunkel sing So Long Frank Lloyd Wright.

I decided to end with this song "Subdivisions" by Rush, one of my all time favorite songs.  

Tomorrow, I hope to post my tribute to an amazing 107 year old woman who passed away two weeks ago.

Join us again next week - same time same place.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Good Intentions Gone Bad

Yesterday, spouse and I took an exercise walk on our local Rail Trail (a walking trail that was railroad tracks years ago, when we still had rail service in our area).

So many sweetly smelling flowers are out right now - but there's a catch.

First, though, the flowers.
There are a number of honeysuckles blooming along the trail.  I know that some are native and some are imported invasives.  As there is so much of these, I suspect these are both invasives.  Here, pink.  I am wondering if this is something called showy fly honeysuckle, or Bell's honeysuckle, which is actually a hybrid.
Here, yellow and white.  I believe this is invasive Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica

These are definitely an invasive - Russian olive (and no, they don't produce olives) or Elaeagnus angustifolia.  My spouse loves their scent.  I don't.

Here's a closeup of the flower of the Russian olive.

These are fast growing shrubs that were introduced in the early 1900's as windbreaks and were valued as they would tolerate salt along highways.  However, besides choking out less rapidly growing native plants, they will use so much water they will use water other plants need.

Sometimes, what makes non native plants initially valued is what ends up allowing the plant to cause such damage.  In other words, good intentions gone bad.

Do you have any invasive plants or animals/insects that you battle where you live?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Sustainable Saturday - May Farmer's Markets

I used to have a Sustainable Saturday feature on my blog.  For today, I am bringing it back.

Food independence is more important than ever. We find that, increasingly, small farmers can not compete and stay in business.  Some of their farms have been in their families for several generations (of the two farms mentioned in this post, one is still in operation and one had to cease operations.).

It only takes one flood or one fire.  Or one drought.  Or one serious illness.

I wanted to show you a sample of offerings at our local farmers market this month.
Asparagus (alas, the season is so short!)

There are a couple of other offerings I present with a cautionary note.  The first one is ramps.  A couple of different vendors offer these in our market, and I do not know if they are wild or cultivated.  In New York, to the best of my knowledge, they are still not endangered due to over harvesting but that may not be true where you live.

Fiddle heads, which also have become endangered in some areas.

I'll end with broccoli rabe and arugula.  I love arugula.  My spouse loves broccoli rabe (it's too bitter for me, no matter how it is prepared). 

Not everyone in our society has access to fresh, local, nutritious food, which, in my view, is a disgrace.   And, sadly, not everyone can afford food from the farmers market.  This is a complex topic that deserves a lot more coverage in my blog. One day...

Friday, May 17, 2019

Appreciating A Blue Sky #SkywatchFriday

The Binghamton, New York rain festival has paused a couple of times this week just long enough to make us appreciate blue skies and puffy clouds.

As I blog this, the rain has returned.  No spectacular sunrises or sunsets for us. 

The plain and ordinary can become magical.  I spend my time in this part of spring looking down at flowers; it is time to appreciate what is above me.
These pictures were taken yesterday.

I also found the last magnolia blossom on a tree while I was looking at the sky.
Join Yogi and the other bloggers who watch the sky each week at Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Yearning for the Past

With some changes and minor edits, a post from April 2017.

What is nostalgia?  One definition I found (Wikipedia) says:
"The term nostalgia describes a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations."
 Or, you could say, it is Yearning for the past.

As we age, we find ourselves slipping into nostalgia more and more.  I recently thought about encyclopedias. Some years ago,  I was part of a conversation that turned to encyclopedias.  Remember encyclopedias?

Door to door salesmen (in those days, mainly "men") and supermarkets sold them.  Now, you can't even give them away, even to a library book sale.  Our local library will not accept them as sales donations.

As a 20-something participant in the conversation listened in amazement, the others in the conversations (mostly people in their 50's) talked about parents scrimping and saving so we could have a set of encyclopedias in our homes.  By the time they were paid off, (even before that!) they were obsolete.  Then, our parents would have to buy yearbook supplements so they would be up to date. Until the next year.  And then they would have to buy another yearbook.

The 20-something mused "And now we have the Internet."

It isn't just encyclopedias that are items of nostalgia now.  Nostalgia includes steel soda cans that had to be opened using church keys (those keys, not to be confused with keys to houses of worship, still exist, but the steel beverage cans don't - at least, here in the United States), candy or bubble gum cigarettes.  Additionally:  glasses whose lenses were glass (thank heavens we have moved past those), telephone party lines, rotary phones, Sand H Green Stamps, and other items of  my childhood.  I'm sure, depending on when and where you grew up, you can name totally different items.

My son is fascinated with these items.  On Mothers Day he helped clean out our garage and came up with some steel beer cans from a collection we created in our 20's.  Yes, we let him keep a couple.

As we grow older, these itme exist only in our memories, in a haze of nostalgia and yearning for the past.  Or, we spend tremendous amounts of money to own them.

This makes me think of my spouse's late 107 year old aunt and all the changes she witnessed in her life.  She was buried earlier this week, and I hope to blog a tribute to her next week.

What items of your childhood do you yearn for?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sweet May 2019- Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

The woman whose blog May Dreams Gardens originated the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day event  dreams of May, when "the sun is warm, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the garden is all new again!"

The grass is green - check.  The garden is all new again - check.  Now, about that warm sun and blue sky - right now it's still a dream.  Our sun does come and go, but things haven't settled yet.

Still it's the 15th of May, and garden bloggers (and bloggers who like flowers, like me) gather again to celebrate. 

In my zone 5b Binghamton, New York area garden, things have been wet and dreary for a lot of the season.  We had a lot of winter kill.  Our redbud is now a deadbud.  We lost most of our tulips, our wormwood, one of our three euphorbias, our thyme, and some more miscellaneous plants.

Our cherry tree is nearly done, but I want to show you the beauty of last week.

It was not a good daffodil year but I still have a few, rain and all.


These pansies are special cold hardy pansies bred to overwinter in our zone 5b climate.  Indeed they did, and the two we purchased (in the Erie, Pennsylvania area last September) are thriving.

One of our two lilac bushes.

A basket of Johnny Jump Ups I made last month.

The Mother's Day basket my son gave me - petunias.

This basket has its own story - I won it in a contest at a local nursery.

Raindrops keep falling on its head.  Sunpatien, but no sun.

My sweet woodruff, planted years ago, is blooming.  I'm thinking of getting into potpourri making again-I haven't done that in almost 30 years, I think.

Variegated Solomon's seal with its tiny white flowers.

Dead nettle.
Brunneria is trying to take over my back yard.  We have green, yellow, and variegated leafed varieties.
My bleeding hearts - white, yellow and pink.


In last year's May GBBD post, I blogged about a trillium we bought several years ago.  It finally bloomed last year but the flower bud never opened.  This year, it made a tiny bit more progress. 

And here you can actually see the inside of the flower.  We understand that a plant can take up to seven years to bloom for the first time.  This plant may actually outlive me (I'm in my mid 60's), sobering to think of.  But, this is as open as it is going to get.

Indoors, I have three African violets blooming and one of my Thanksgiving cactuses has put forth a stray bloom.  My one reblooming Phalaenopsis is still going strong.  But today, I will let my outdoor plants take center stage.

Thank you for joining me today!  If you garden, why not show us what's happening for you?

Thanks go to May Dreams Gardens, who has hosted this 15th of the month meme for many years.