A Visit to Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole's HouseVisiting historical places feels like stepping back in time. You might need to use your imagination to see the artist working or the writer writing, but often times the place you’re visiting has a personality all its own.

Recently, I visited Thomas Cole’s house. Thomas Cole was an artist, best known for his paintings, and credited with the founding of the Hudson River School. His paintings transform the landscape and captivates anyone who looks at them (at least in my opinion).

The house is simple – pale yellow with dark green shutters and an elevated porch. It used to sit on a large plot of land, orchards, but now there’s a road that goes through it and a Mountain Viewfew houses on the other side. In no way does this take away from the gorgeous view when standing on the porch. Beyond the bit of present-day construction lays the woods with its tall trees and mountains that appear to touch the sky. It’s a view that I believe must me seen to fully appreciate its beauty.

Of all the rooms in the house, I think the studio was my favorite. It’s one thing to step into the foyer of an old house, to see the different rooms, to imagine the use of each room and admire the authenticity of it all, but it’s another things entirely to enter a room that still feels as if it’s being used.

His studio is separate from the house, part of an old barn. Upon entering there’s a smell that matches that of an old barn, mixed with paint and age. Two easels site in the middle A Painter's Toolsof the room, one with a canvas balanced on it, the other empty and waiting for art to be created. A long desk is pushed against the wall and holds books, papers and some small paints. A separate, smaller desk, is positioned between the two easels where bottles of pigment (which would be transformed into his paints) sat. It was as if Thomas Cole had walked out of his studio and everything was left waiting for his return.

It’s possible the old studio sparked my imagination as the room still seemed to be alive. It felt special. And maybe that’s why these historical places feel like stepping back in time – each one is special in it’s own way.

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Aftershows Are Special

They don’t happen all the time, but it’s not their spontaneity that fully makes them special. It’s not having a rehearsed set. It’s not having all the flashy lights or disco balls or bubbles. It’s not having an electric guitar that sings through the amps and speakers into the crowd. It’s not having a bass or drums vibrate through your body and match the beating of your heart.

Don’t get me wrong, those things are all great, but when a song is played with a simple acoustic guitar it’s like stripping the song down to it’s soul.

Over the last week I’ve had the privilege of seeing two aftershows. The first was in New Hampshire. There was a group of us down on the beach – toes in the cool sand, the sound of the ocean behind us – as the melody of each song floated through the starry night.

The second one was in Boston. This time there was a group of us crowded around a pair of trashcans, a makeshift stage, as the sounds of the city echoed around us and blended with each song.

That’s the thing about aftershows. You never know where you’re going to end up or what’s going to happen. It could be anywhere from a back alley by the bus to the sidewalk to the beach. It’s spontaneous with none of the glamor of a rehearsed show.

There’s something to be said for a song played with nothing but a guitar. It may be simple, but it’s also beautiful.

The Picture of Innocence

It still amazes me that two people can create something so small and beautiful – a child. Everything about them, from their fingers to their toes to their cute button nose, is tiny. At first they can barely open their eyes, but once they do they seem to look at the world in wonder.

When I finally had the chance to hold my cousin’s baby, I was struck by how he seemed to look at the world around him. His gorgeous blue eyes were open wide, taking in everything. As I held him, watched him, I couldn’t help but smile. (It’s hard not to when you’re holding something so precious.) When he looked at me, eyes still bright with curiosity, it was my turn to fully take in his little face. And when he finally fell asleep in my arms (on more then one occasion) there was a sense of trust.

It wasn’t only while he slept, but also while I bounced him on my hip and swayed back and forth and watched the way he looked at me that I realized what I had always subconsciously believed – not only are babies depended on their parents and those around them, but they’re also completely innocent. They know no good or evil. They don’t understand right from wrong. They haven’t had to make any life decisions or choices in general. They know nothing of the world. For a short time they live in their own world and with that comes the beautiful innocence of a child.

I know it’s natural to grow up, become an adult. We live our lives based on what we believe and the choices we make. And those choices, those experiences, shape us.

But what if we clung to a small part of that childhood innocence?

If we could, at times, still see the world through the eyes of a child – what would that be like? Maybe we wouldn’t be so fast to judge. Maybe we would realize it’s okay to need the help of others? Maybe we would laugh more, smile more. Maybe, just maybe, we would not only realize, but see all the wonders the world is constantly offering us.

A Visit to The George Eastman House

George Eastman's HouseFor someone who likes photography and old cameras, visiting the George Eastman House is a welcomed opportunity. It’s not only the house that George Eastman (the maker of Kodak) built and lived in during his lifetime, but also a gallery and museum surrounded by many beautiful gardens.

From the outside the stone walls of the house appear gorgeous. The house itself is a work of art. At the front of the house there’s a patio, or sitting area, with two chairs. The door leads into a large foyer with a grand staircase straight ahead.

Inside the house it appears as if time has stood still. Some of the paintings, and I believe fixtures, are exact replicas, but everything is still as it would’ve been if Eastman himself was still living. From the crystal chandlers to the dishes to the bedrooms to the clothing hanging in the closet and the bathroom products sitting in the medicine cabinet, a tour through the house feels like stepping into the past.

The gardens on the property are full of flowers as well as lush, green grass and bushes. Some have stone, or slate, paths while others have paths laid in brick. One garden had lattice with grape vines growing. Another had a small pond in the center with fish and lily pads.

At the back of the house sits the gallery which is currently showing the work of Eugene Richards. It’s titled: Eugene Richards: The Run-On Time. His work explores large, complex social topics. While the photos are engaging, some may be difficult and uncomfortable to look at. Still, this exhibition is worth seeing.

Besides the gallery, the museum is also the home of many old cameras. They’re all gathered in one room and placed in multiply glass cases. They range from wooden cameras with wet plates to the camera of the 90s and, I believe, early digital. Along with the cameras are pictures lining the walls. In the same room are color and black and white photographs by famous photographers.

Whether it’s photography, cameras, a beautiful garden to walk through or even a little bit of history, I believe there’s something for everyone here.

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Something About the Ocean

The sound of crashing waves echoed through the night. The ocean churned, rushing for the shore and touching the sand before being pulled back out to sea. It kept up it’s constant rhythmic breathing all through the night and into the early morning.

HeavenlyAs the sun rose the ocean waves continued to crash. In the light of day the rolling, tossing sea could be seen. The water curled, crashed, whitewash spraying as it advanced toward the shore. And the ocean never stopped breathing. No matter the time of day the soothing sound of the ocean could be heard.

The hotel sat on the boardwalk, facing the ocean. Every night I fell asleep to the crashing waves and every morning I woke to them. The salty sea air blew in through the open screen door and some mornings I was torn between staying in bed and getting up. But the ocean always called me, pulled me, and I wanted nothing more then to be down on that beach before it became crowed with the day’s beach-goers. So, really, there was never a choice to be made.

Every morning I walked the beach with my camera. I took pictures and collected shells. The water was so rough that it was difficult to find one that wasn’t broken, but even the broken and chipped ones were beautiful. I walked under the pier, continued along the shoreline and dragged by toes in my water that would rush up and over my feet. There were only a few times where I walked in deep. (Once I walked in up to my knees and a wave came and pushed water up my shorts. I laughed, not really caring, and knowing Sand, Shells and Stonesthat my pockets were already full of sand from the shells I had picked up.)

There was a place on that beach where it seemed all the shells would wash up. Some were broken, some were shattered, some were in one piece. I had never seen anything like it, but where there should be sand there was a stretch of shells. They laid on the beach like a blanket. There was no way around them so I had to walk on them. I didn’t mind. I was looking for shells. Plus, the way the sun was bouncing off the surface made the shells look like they were glistening.

One day, I went down with my camera, but instead of walking along the water’s edge like all the other mornings, I climbed into a lifeguard stand and simply watch and listened. There’s something about the ocean. Time stops. The crashing waves wash away all worries, if only for a moment. Waves barrel and rush toward the shore, keeping the sound of rhythmic breathing. The smell of saltwater and the gentle sea breeze while the sun warms your skin is wonderful. It pulls me, like two opposite ends of a magnet coming together. Much like the ocean always find the shore, I can’t resist the ocean. There’s something about the ocean and I wonder, even though I’ve written about it many times, if there’s any words to truly do it justice.

And I can’t forget about the boardwalk with it’s many shops and eateries. I love the soft pretzels and how their always warm, the funnel cake and all its confectionery sugar and I think I found one of the best pizza places the boardwalk has to offer. One place I always go is the taffy shop. I’ve tried a lot of different taffy in my lifetime, but Ocean City, NJ has Evening Wavesthe best. (They also have really good chocolate.) There’s also two arcades and two or three amusement parks, one which has been around since 1929. For shopping, there’s even more stores in town which are worth exploring.

The ocean is one of my favorite places in the world. To me, the ocean is many things – feisty, calming, dangerous, strong, beautiful, alive. It’s one of the places I want to go to find peace. The reasons are almost indescribable, but it’s natural, like the rushing of waves to the shore. I also believe the ocean is one of the purest places on earth.

To see more pictures from Ocean City, NJ please check out my photo page by clicking here.

Crossroads

Life is not only made up of moments, but a series of choices. And maybe it’s our choices that help define these moments. It’s like the Domino Effect – each choice affects the possibilities of the next choice and so on.

Recently, I had to make a tough decision. I had to decide if I was going to stay at my day job or leave to pursue my passion. There were so many reasons to stay, but an equal number of reasons to leave. In the end, my gut told me leaving was the right choice, but in the back of my mind I still felt like I was, somehow, letting people down and leaving people behind. In the time I had been there, I made friends and built bonds. And it was the little things I always did that I thought of when I put myself in the shoes of those I felt like I was leaving behind, disappointing, because it’s those little things that are noticed once they’re not done any longer. I’m not only talking about the work related things, but also the jokes I would tell, my silly ways when people were having a bad day, being there for people to talk to or vent to, being a cheerleader for some, the laughs – simply being there. But it wasn’t just the things I did for other – it’s the things others did for me. (Maybe, sometimes, without even realizing it.)

No one said life was going to be easy. (Although, I have a theory on this – maybe life is easy and we, as human beings, complicate things.) There’s no manual, no easy button, no hints or clues on how to live life. It’s something we all figure out as we go.

I always thought, and still do, that the people who are my friends and who truly care about me will follow. That is, I’ve always thought that those are the ones who will stay in touch. Sure, it might take a little extra effort, but, really, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll admit that things may be a little different, but I’m still me and I’m not going anywhere. All I’m doing is following my passion.

So here’s what it comes down to – don’t ever be afraid to follow your passion. It might seem scary, the road may seem unsure, but don’t ever be afraid to pursue what you love. Don’t be afraid of leaving people behind or disappointing them because those who care about you will always support you.

Being Human

one heart
dances rhythmically
in our chest
pumping blood
through a series of canals
veins
pulse with life
fragile
hearts may break
elusive
dreams may shatter
saltwater
may flood our eyes
love
is patient
unconditional
fickle
intoxicating
moments
intertwine
becoming the past
present
future
as we march on
we rise and fall
and rise again
like a Phoenix from the ashes
we are
resilient