A Fall Walk

For the longest time the leaves stayed green, the temperatures were above average and people wondered if it was actually fall. Then, it seemed as if overnight, the leaves began to burst into magnificent colors of gold, orange and red.
It was at that point I knew the leaves were at peak, so I took my camera and went to photograph the fall foliage.

There’s many parks in the area I live, but the one I chose is special. It’s a place I’ve enjoyed my entire life, although I don’t exactly remember the first time I fell in love with it. Maybe it was the architecture, or the statues, or the carousel. Maybe it was its history, or its beauty or its serenity. Maybe it’s the memories that live inside the park. Or maybe it’s a combination of all the above. Whatever it is, I love this park. And it never ceases to amaze me no matter how many times I’ve been there there’s always something new to see, a new adventure to go on.

Carousel IIII entered by the carousel, a magical beauty constructed in the early 1900s. It has twenty-eight individually hand carved horses which were made by Lithuanian born Marcus Charles Illions. Walking around the cobblestone path that lines the way, I looked through the windows and saw all the horses. They appear to be running with their legs raised high or kicked out, ready to take another step. I think they’re majestic works of art with details so ornate I can’t help but marvel at them. Of all the carousels Illions constructed during his lifetime this is the only two-row carousel left still in working order.

A few steps away from the carousel is a stream of water that runs into a larger pond A Fall Viewwhere ducks like to gather. There’s benches around the edge as well as trees and shrubs. By this time of year most of the trees had shed their leaves. They now covered the ground with the colors of a rustic blanket shielding the green grass. The dried leaves crunched under my feet as I walked around the pond and when the breeze blew it carried with it the scent of fall.

The pond is surrounded by history. On one side stands the Canfield Casino and on the other, almost up on a hill, is The Spirit of Life. I never knew what the Canfield Casino was or understood its history until a couple of years ago. It was once a place to gamble, but today it stands as a historic landmark and a popular place for weddings. Even before I knew exactly what the building was, I was always fascinated by its architecture.

Final.jpgThe Spirit of Life and Spencer Task Memorial was constructed in the early 1900s. This bronze statue overlooks her reflecting pool as she has done since the day she was built. Sometimes, in the summer, mother ducks and babies can be found swimming in the pool. Over the years I’ve photographed her on a number of occasions with many different cameras. On this trip to the park, I found yet another way I wanted to photograph her. In my mind the flowers, small trees and reflecting pool framed her well.

I left the lower area of the park, walked up a hill and entered the woods. As soon as the path curved I saw a tree with all its leaves, bright with shades of red and orange. Limbs and branches reached toward the sky, arched over the path, and created a canopy of color. The path itself was scattered with fallen leaves and acorns. Squirrels and chipmunks rustled through the leaves looking for food to store before the approaching winter. My feet, once again, made the leaves crunch with each step. I paused once or twice to kick at a pile of leaves, making them fly up in the air and twist in the wind and they floated effortlessly to the ground. It made me feel like a kid again. I’m not sure what it is about fall, or any season, but certain things, no matter how old you become, make you feel like a kid.

Continuing along the path, I walked through the woods and above the lower level of the park. A fountain with a small stream connected to it ran below. There’s multiple fountains and sculptures set around the park. Soon the path began to descend and curve back around. As the wind blew it pushed the fallen leaves across the ground, bringing with it the crispness of fall. Before long, I was back at the carousel where I’d started, looking at the horses once more.

Throughout the park paths weave their way past trees and shrubs and benches. They take you by ponds and through the woods. Not only do they lead you through nature, but also history. There’s many historic things I didn’t mention about this place, but there’s simply so much to it. As I said in the beginning, I’m always finding something new. To this day I’m constantly learning about the park with which I fell in love.

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Paying A Visit to Emily Dickinson

The HomesteadOn my recent visit to Amherst, MA, I visited Emily Dickinson’s house as well as the house of her brother and his wife. I learned that the Dickinson homes certainly have a unique charm. Although on the same property, and belonging to the same family, The Homestead and The Evergreens have a different beauty that I was excited to see.

The Homestead – the childhood home of Emily Dickinson and the place she lived until she died in 1886. It’s thought by some that she was a recluse, only writing depressing poems. (And there was a time when I thought the same, but she wrote on a variety of different topics and was interested in life.) After visiting her home and learning more about her, I believe she was happy with her life, spending it with the people she cared about most while doing what she loved. (Although, she never published a single poem during her lifetime.)

The house she lived in was simple – canary yellow with dark green shutters. There was aBirdbath in the Garden small flower garden on the side of the house with a birdbath. A few times I watched as a robin flew to the rim of the bath and drank the water before flying away. Also, further down from the house there was a larger garden which also contained flowers, among various vegetables. (Along with a rather friendly cat whose name seemed to be Oscar Wilde.)

While walking through the house I saw various rooms including the library, a large room off from the foyer and Emily’s room. It didn’t really hit me until I was standing in Emily’s room – the profound thought that this is where she not only lived, but wrote all those poems so many years ago. Her small desk with a lamp and a chair faced the window and I wondered if she wrote long into the night or whenever inspiration struck.

As any artist’s house that is turned into a museum, things were pristine and most of the furniture was authentic. Maybe it’s my active imagination, or maybe something else, but I could imagine the people who once lived in the house walking up and down the stair, through the halls, sitting and talking, entertaining. It really was like stepping into the past. But there’s a difference between stepping back in time and feeling as though time itself has stopped.

The Evergreens IIThe Evergreens – the home of Emily’s brother and his wife, a wedding present built by his father across the way from The Homestead. Structurally, this house is very different from the one Emily lived in, but what I found more breathtaking was what was on the inside.

As soon as I stepped into the dimly lit foyer, I could smell the houses age. (Some may call it a musty sent, but it wasn’t musty, it was age and history that floated through the air.) It was written in the family will that the house was to remained untouched. So everything was still in the same place. Every single piece of furniture, down to the rugs and wood floors, were authentic.

The wallpaper in the halls was peeling, the paint was chipping, there were small holes and cracks in the ceiling and long cracks that ran the length of the wall. Some of the rugs were torn after a lifetime of foot-traffic and the wood floors worn in places after years of people walking on them. Even the fireplaces appeared to have ash still in them. (Although, I could’ve imagined this.) Either way, this house felt like the family left long ago, leaving all their belongings, and was waiting for them to return.

That was the beauty of this house. In no way am I calling it unkept or ugly. All of these things add to its character. It shows this house had a life and I could imagine it in its glory days as Emily’s brother and wife entertained or simply took care of their family. I could feel it’s history pouring from the walls and thought of the stories they could tell, if only they could speak.

Both these houses had their own charm and their own personality. I loved them equally, but for different reasons. In The Homestead it was walking the same halls as Emily Dickinson once did (to name one) and in The Evergreens it was the pure authenticity of the house and the history that was ingrained into every floorboard (to name one). In the end, I’m glad I was able to explore these gorgeous houses and that they could be preserved not only for today, but also for future generations.

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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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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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Pictorial History

Photographs of old buildings that were once busy factories, populated schools, adored homes and so much more hang on the wall. These buildings now sit abandoned, left to decay and be taken over by nature. Some of them are partially collapsed while others have been demolished since the photos were taken and now there’s nothing left but an empty lot or the looks of what used to be the foundation.

These are the Hudson Valley Ruins, a photography exhibit currently on display at the New York State Museum. (And I do recommend going to see this instillation.)

The photos are beautiful. From an artistic standpoint I loved the use of lighting, attention to detail, the textures and angles at which the pictures were taken. They capture the essence of the buildings – still beautiful with it’s boarded up doors, partially collapsed walls, broken windows, torn wallpaper, peeling paint and overall abandonment.

Each photo leads to a sense of wonder and, possibly, nostalgia. As I stood in the museum looking at these photos I found myself envisioning what they looked like in their prime – busy, bustling schools and factories, lavish homes.

Historically the photos capture a place that once was a prominent and important piece of the past. These buildings once produced goods, educated children and housed families among other things. Some of the buildings were repurposed before being abandoned while others were forgotten long ago.

I think that’s the sad thing about these places. While still beautiful in their own way, they’ve been forgotten and left to the forces of nature to destroy what once was grand. A lack of care has turned these buildings into so-called “eye sores.” I don’t believe they’re ugly sights to be seen. Instead, I think they’re interesting pieces of history. They’re meant to be preserved as best as possible so we can learn from them.

Any photograph, if we look closely enough, can be a learning tool. Every picture tells a story. They depict specifics about a person – their clothing, their personality, their inner being. Pictures capture a lifestyle. Photographs freeze the horror and/or the beauty of a moment. They’re a window to the past and hope for the future.

It’s said, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Maybe the saying is a bit cliched, but I believe there’s truth in those words. We can learn a lot from a photograph, if we’re willing to listen, look carefully with our eyes.

A Thought-Provoking History

Think of all the things you love – your family, your friends, your house, your country.

Now imagine you had to leave it all behind. Everything. Imagine it was a matter of life or death – and your life is precious. So you leave everything, take only what’s needed. Or maybe you’re only a child and your parents send you away to a place they believe to be safe. Either way you lose your home, your possessions, and your country. You’re separated from your family and spend half your time wondering if they’re still alive while the other half is spent trying to survive.

Recently I read Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys. It takes place during WWII. Thousands and thousands of people are making the long trek toward the port in the hopes of being cleared and placed on a ship that would take them to safety. The ship focused on in this book was the Wilhelm Gustloff, a large ship carrying about 10,000 people and destined for an ill fate. The events, as well as the ship, were real, but I hesitate to say much more since I highly suggest you read this book.

We can learn from history, even if it’s in the form of historical fiction. To think that these events actually took place and to think of what these characters went through is almost chilling. The characters themselves may not have been real, but they were based off real people. I can’t imagine leaving my home, fleeing my country and being separated from my family. I can’t imagine living in fear every day and constantly being on the run. Although, if your life is on the line, it’s really the only choice.

This is a time in history that has always fascinated me. I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around all the brutality. I’ve never been able to understand how humans could be so cruel to each other. But the one thing that’s always struck me in history, as well as in this book, is that somehow there is still a beauty and a lot of times that beauty is transformed into hope.

When I read things like this it makes me think that I have no right to complain about anything in my life. I still have my family and friends. I’m not being forced to leave my county. When winter comes I won’t risk freezing to death. I don’t have to fear for my life because of who I am or because of my ethnicity.

Again, I highly suggest this books goes on your reading list. It’s eye-opening and thought-provoking in many way. Not only that, but it’s simply a good read.

A Moment in History

A few days ago two friends and I took a little road trip to The Clark, an art museum in Williamstown, MA.

Road trip aside (which are always fun), I love art museums. I enjoy taking my time walking around to the different pieces of art. I like standing in front of each painting, reading the little card next to it and studying the brush strokes as much as the painting itself.

On display were works by artists I already loved, such as Monet and Renoir. There were paintings by those I had never heard of and those who seemed vaguely familiar. And there were those I found and fell in love with, such as Inness and Homer.

So what was it about theses artists that captured my attention?

Claude Monet, a French artist, is said to be a founder of Impressionist painting. Simply put, I have always found his work beautiful. When looking at one his paintings, I almost believe I could step right into it and become part of the image.

Pierrie-Auguste Renoir was a French painter who is said to have been the leading artist in the Impressionist style. Since I first saw Dance at Bougival a number of years ago (probably when I was in high school), I have loved his work. For me, seeing it in person was both a treat and an experience. The people in his paintings seem very much alive and ready to step off the canvas. There were a number of times when I thought how much emotion was expressed in their eyes and I found myself lost in them. Even his non-portrait paintings have a distinct beauty.

George Inness, American landscape painter, was influenced by those at the Hudson River school, the Barbizon school and the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg. The spiritualism of this theology can be vividly seen in Inness’ work as it matured. The lighting and realism of his work was gorgeous, at least in my opinion. I found myself able to stare at one his paintings for a very long time, feeling as if I could walk right into it.

Winslow Homer was a 19th century American landscape painter best known for his marine subjects. His work is absolutely beautiful and my love of the ocean made me immediately fall in love with these paintings.

While I was looking at these paintings, both by the artists mentioned here and the others I didn’t note, I was struck with a rather interesting thought. At one point in history the artist set up an easel and placed a canvas on it. He gathered up some paint and brushes and set to work on making what he saw with his own eyes come to life on the white canvas. These paintings capture a moment in time, people, a culture, a society. And long after the artist is gone, long after I am gone, these works of art will still exist for people to marvel.