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Ten Years Later: After the Flood

flooded carnegie

Second and Main Streets in Carnegie on September 17, 2004.

On September 17, 2004, Hurricane Ivan stayed a little too long in our valley, dumping torrents of rain on our hillsides, already sodden from the visits of three other hurricane remnants in the month prior.

I’d watched Chartiers Creek flood from the time I was a child, and not only did I go to the Catholic school just blocks from the creek but my father’s family lived in the flood plain and nearly every spring there was water in the basement and in the streets, and we would drive to the bridge over the creek at Carothers Avenue and watch the thundering brown water writhe just below our feet on the walkway of the bridge.

When I was young, I was near enough to a bend in this creek to leave our house on the hill and run down through the old pasture to the valley below, along the road and the railroad tracks and to the creek, walking alongside its rippling path or even in the creek bed in the dryness of midsummer. In the late 70s an engineered solution to control the floods dredged and widened the channel, and for 35 years, there were no floods at all, the pollution in the creek from all the industries along its banks cleared up, and we watched the native flora and fauna return as we canoed the channel. Those ramblings with my friend, the creek, have been the inspiration for much of my creative efforts in landscape painting and photography, my poetry and stories, and became the theme for my series of poetry readings and the title of the very first, as well as the folio of my poetry, Paths I Have Walked.

So this flood was a huge shock. We heard later the flood control plan had protected us up to a “100-year flood”, and many of these had passed with no flooding, but the flood we’d experienced was a “500-year flood”, and indeed in all the memories and records of floods in Carnegie, the water had never been this high, rising in a matter of hours in the afternoon and into the night to fill the first floor of some homes on low ground, and as high as eight feet in some areas of Main Street, wiping out nearly every business along Main Street for up to three months.

The flood changed us all. Many people and businesses truly took years to recover, and some of them never truly recovered at all. My godparents lived in the family’s fine house that had weathered so many floods but floodwater had never entered the first floor, and at their age they were trapped on the second floor with no power, their portable oxygen running low. Though they were rescued and lived with a daughter for a month while we cleaned up the house for them to move back, it was temporary as they realized the house was difficult for them, and they moved to an apartment a few months later.

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After the Flood

Dedicated to the people and places of the Chartiers Valley after the flood of September 17, 2004

After a day of rain
the creek has been rising
and by night it thunders down its channel
writhing around its curves like a medieval dragon,
pulling at its banks and anything overhanging,
carrying whatever it can grasp along the way,
and I have seen this creature before
in the creek’s rise and fall,
now tamed by engineering,
filling its channel to the brim, then receding
each spring and summer
and not felt threatened but fascinated
by its power, power not of humans,
power to change absolutely to a form
unrecognizable from its usual character,
yet always returning to the quiet,
sleepy nature which I had explored from childhood.

But I am remembering another night
when the creek refused to stop at its brim
but spilled over and over and over,
thundering down all the hillsides came its sustenance
tributaries filling their valleys as never before,
rushing to join with the writhing creature,
mixing and turning and thrashing and smashing anything in its path
so drunk with its own power
that it forgot all those who loved it,
who lived on its banks and in its valleys,
listened to its soft murmuring voice in the darkness of a summer night,
but even as I pleaded with the creature to stop, it had gone too far,
my friend, my refuge, how could you betray me,
I knew that the creek would not listen,
it was no creature gone on a rampage
it was simply following its nature, and this one time
it defeated our intelligence with its simple power
and all our homes, possessions, lives
were nothing in its path.

The next day the beast no longer raged,
the sun shone and the air was mild,
and the autumn continued like any autumn before,
but we were changed, all of us,
the long journey ahead, longer than we knew
and our place here will never be the same.

poem © 2008 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.


poetry book

Paths I Have Walked, collected poems.

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski

FROM FOUR ANNUAL POETRY READINGS AT ANDREW CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY & MUSIC HALL IN CARNEGIE, PA

People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.

Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.

Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.

All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.

Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.

$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).

You can order one on my poetry page, or in my Marketplace.

About the books and the poetry readings

My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I  was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.

My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. Each year I am invited back to read my poetry and exhibit my artwork. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.

Flower Shadows

flower shadows

Flower Shadows

In photographing a vase of flowers in dappled sunlight, suddenly the sun shone full through the leaves and this shadow appeared like a vision. The photo of the flowers was nice, but this was so unexpected it deserves its own time.

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If you are interested in purchasing this painting or any other originals I have posted here on Today, please contact me. I will also have prints of this painting after the exhibit.

ALT “Vistas” Newsletter Summer 2014

Bernadette:

I love it when I get to use one of my photos for a design, and don’t miss the summer issue of Allegheny Land Trust’s “Vistas” newsletter.

Originally posted on What's New in Bernadette's Studio?:

newsletter design

ALT “Vistas” Summer 2014

The summer issue of Vistas has been out for a while! We’ve used the new look and layout again, including this wonderful magazine-style front cover with just a nice juicy photo of the grass in one of the conservation areas after a storm, and one blue darner damselfly. That’s a photo I took five years ago and I was thrilled to be able to use it.

Vistas had always printed with the same three colors from the logo and the green bars on the outside edge of each page and the same photo pasted into the text for the title, but a few years ago we began to use seasonal colors and then finally changed over to resemble more of a magazine on gloss-coated paper stock instead of the uncoated and a photo featured on the front cover. You can read more about the changes we…

View original 58 more words

The Caretaker’s Buddha

plastic buddha

The Caretaker’s Buddha

Buddha waves from the window of the cemetery caretaker’s cottage.

After the pet memorial ceremony on Sunday the host and I took a walk through the cemetery and grounds where we’d set it up. Along the edges we found some of the oldest graves and the caretaker’s cottage, which now only holds equipment and no one lives there, though a window held some of the treasures they’d no doubt found among the headstones through the years. I was heartened by this jovial Buddha, possibly ivory, holding onto one of the muntins and waving to me from the window. Below is the whole window with a tribal face and a painted plastic couple with a dog and a Christmas tree they’d apparently just cut, a nun with a lamb and a few other odds and ends.

CaretakersCollection

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If you are interested in purchasing this painting or any other originals I have posted here on Today, please contact me. I will also have prints of this painting after the exhibit.

Fly Free

white doves

Fly Free

These are the white doves released during out Pet Memorial Sunday ceremony over the weekend. This coming weekend I’ll be writing a little more about my remarks this year, and you can read a little more about the event.

(I’d meant to post this on Sunday evening, but technical difficulties have gotten in my way the past few days!)

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If you are interested in purchasing this painting or any other originals I have posted here on Today, please contact me. I will also have prints of this painting after the exhibit.

Diamonds in the Rough

raindrops on leaf

Diamond Dust

Rain fell overnight and into the morning, then as the clouds began to part the mid-morning sun reflected itself on every single tiny drop on the surface of each leaf. The window screen acts like a cross-screen filter to defract the sparkle, though it blurs the overall image just a bit that adds to the soft beauty of such a simple image.

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If you are interested in purchasing this painting or any other originals I have posted here on Today, please contact me. I will also have prints of this painting after the exhibit.

Shadows and Light

black and white photo of tub with leaves

Shadows and Light

As the season begins to color up from the greens of summer to all the colors of autumn, a black and white photo of waning summer sunlight.

It looks so mysterious, but it’s just my round galvanized tub with carrots growing in it and a few leaves around it, shadows, shapes, angles and lines, the wanted and unwanted, expected and unexpected, a new view on a common thing.

This photo is on traditional black and white film, taken with my Pentax K-1000 to capture the huge variety of textures and patterns without the distraction of color. I scanned the print, and someday may scan the negative.

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If you are interested in purchasing this painting or any other originals I have posted here on Today, please contact me. I will also have prints of this painting after the exhibit.

 

Remembering September 11, 2001

blue autumn sky, trees, field

Blue September Sky

September 12

Today looks no different from yesterday
but forever against the backdrop of a blue September sky
we will now remember the loss of our innocence.

September 11 was a blur of images and fears and unknowns, and for me it wasn’t until September 12 dawned and brightened into another seemingly perfect September day, blue sky and all, that what had happened, and the permanent change it brought, really settled in.

poem September 12 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

——————

September 11

Aside from being in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, I am nowhere near New York or Washington DC. I am, however, barely an hour away from Shanksville. On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was just finishing work in my garden and a coat of white paint on my wooden chairs when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Thinking it was an unfortunate accident I continued listening to the radio for details and shortly thereafter heard that a second plane had hit the South Tower and knew instinctively, as I’m sure we all did, that it was no accident.

My radar for tragedy was sensitized; just a few months before my mother had unexpectedly nearly died after lung cancer surgery, held on for six weeks then miraculously awakened from a near-coma one day and gone on to recover, rehabilitate and return home. The previous year my brother had suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident. I was integral to their recoveries and care, and my carefully-planned self-employment was unraveling.

When I heard the news just before 9:00 a.m. that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, I was out on my garden patio by the basement door, putting another coat of paint on some vintage wooden chairs I used on my deck before winter would peel the last of it off. I always worked in my garden and did small projects early in the day to make sure they got done before I hit my computer, and to make sure I didn’t hit the computer as soon as I got up and stayed on it all day long. It was a hot, sticky late summer morning, my verdant garden a green jungle, birds twittering everywhere stocking up for migration and winter, and work waiting for me indoors. The first report was that it was likely an accident, planes had hit buildings in the past. Then the second plane hit the other tower, and even though we had no proof it seems we all knew it was intentional. Everyone in the area was looking at the towers at that point and saw the direction, the turn, the increase in speed prior to hitting the tower, and suddenly a perfect morning had turned unreal.

After the plane hit the Pentagon, I put Moses, my garden cat, inside the basement, much to her consternation, as if she needed to be protected from what might be happening, and as the story grew I thought of my mother and brother and if I should get them and put them somewhere just to make sure they were safe too. Everything seemed suddenly slightly askew.

Jets fly overhead all the time. I have lived in the flight path for Pittsburgh International Airport all my life and close enough to an Air Force base and not only do they fly overhead, they circle and slow down and make noise and fly at crazy angles as they come in for a landing. A noisy plane flying low overhead is something I didn’t even notice. But two planes had just hit the two towers of the World Trade Center and a third had hit the Pentagon. I suddenly noticed that the sky was very quiet for that time of the morning.

Then in the growing quiet, in that empty perfect clear blue September sky, a single plane went overhead and my hackles rose, a cold tingle running to my fingers on that warm morning as I watched it seeming to struggle through the sky overhead. Shortly thereafter we heard about the crash in Shanksville and I imagined the comforting familiarity of perfect green rolling hills of my Western Pennsylvania home bathed in morning sun, now wrenched open and strewn with the wreckage of violence.

I hurried inside, no longer feeling safe under that warm blue sky. I thought of my mother in her home about a mile and a half away, just back from several months in various hospitals after lung cancer surgery that unexpectedly nearly killed her. She was still weak and needed daily assistance for most activities, many prescriptions and home oxygen. If all this was suddenly disrupted, what would I do? Should I go to her house now? Should I try to get her to a more secure place, like a hospital?

And my brother was in a nursing home 30 miles north of me, continuing his recovery from a traumatic brain injury the previous year, also requiring a lot of daily care, medications and supervision. Should I try to move him closer? What if I couldn’t get to him?

Anyone else would have run for the television, but I didn’t have one then, and I don’t have one now, so I never got to see the very first images that showed up on CNN that morning, heard the fear in the newscasters’ voices. I listened to the familiar voices of the local and NPR reporters describing the events on my radio, feeling calmer listening to their words and being able to move around my house than I would have being trapped in front of a television.

Did any of us know what to do in those first hours and days, even those of us so far from the terrible scenes of death and destruction more horrible than we could imagine?

September 12

It wasn’t until the gentle, perfect beauty of September 12 that the effects of what had happened became reality. I live very near Pittsburgh International Airport and at the intersection of two interstates right outside of Pittsburgh, and hear the noises of all this traffic every day, especially in the morning. The next day, with travel restricted on land and in the air, was so eerily quiet, and so strange that we didn’t have any more of our questions answered, or know the extent of the damage and death as it was still unfolding in all three areas. And yet those perfect September days continued to belie how our lives had changed.

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poem September 12 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Gold

ukrainian orthodox churcn

Gold Domes

Those gilded domes hold so many shades of gold, and the trees just starting to turn.

This is Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church  on Mansfield Boulevard in Carnegie, PA. My mother’s family attended this church and played roles in the building and administration of the church, social hall and club. It’s registered with the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

Wordless-Wednesday-Button-150

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If you are interested in purchasing this painting or any other originals I have posted here on Today, please contact me. I will also have prints of this painting after the exhibit.

Starry

purple asters

Asters on Parade

It’s time for the autumn asters to bloom in earnest. These pale violet asters appear along the road, at the edge of woods, , along a fence, even in your garden if you haven’t pulled everything that’s not what you’ve planted. They’ve been growing there, quietly, all summer long, and now that nearly all else is done, and before the riot of autumn leaves, the asters add their grace. Migrating birds and butterflies depend on them for a meal while traveling, bees make their last honey from their pollen. Celebrate this bounty.

This photo was taken on ISO100 Kodak color print film (don’t remember the brand) with my Pentax K-1000 fully manual SLR, 50mm lens with 1.5X adapter. Now when I look back at many of these photos I see the reddish cast in the prints. I really have to get a film scanner.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.

Kayaking at the Point

Kayak on the River

Kayak on the River

On waters flecked with gold a kayaker rounds the Point in Pittsburgh where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers come together to form the Ohio.

I took this photo and the one below during the Three Rivers Arts Festival in June 2014. Today looked much the same as I drove through downtown Pittsburgh and looked at the rivers. Because the kayaker is in silhouette it was a little difficult to tell what he’s doing so I wanted to capture a shot with a clear shape of the paddle somewhere in the image, but the silhouette itself and the angle of the kayaker made that nearly impossible. I walked along the wharf keeping the kayaker in the line of the sun’s reflection, taking photos all the way, hoping I wouldn’t run into someone in the crowds at the festival and also hoping I wouldn’t just walk off the edge of the wharf.

I was rewarded with the photo above, also capturing the clear and focused sparkles in the front and softened sparkles behind the subject, and absolutely nothing else but him in the water. Below, I also wanted to get that fantastic sun that turned out so cool in so many of these photos, as well as a bridge and the hills beyond, so “Pittsburgh”.

Kayaking at the Point

Kayaking at the Point

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.

 

All-Day Vegetable Soup

photo of a pot of soup

All-day Vegetable Soup

I first ran this on Labor Day 2010, and it’s coming around to the time for it this year. At the height of the growing season, visiting the farmer’s market with all its shapes and colors and people and languages and sounds and smells, and gathering herbs and vegetables in the quiet of my own garden, then the afternoon of organizing the ingredients, cleaning and trimming and chopping, stirring things in the big pot, the slightly steamy windows and the scents filling every area of the house seems to set the tone for autumn on our first cool day as the leaves begin to change.

I long ago finished the last container from the freezer from last year’s pot of soup. I’m looking forward to taking out a container of harvest freshness in the dark of the coming winter.

I make All-day Vegetable Soup on the first cool day in the fall with the freshest vegetables from my garden or the farmer’s market if I’m out of something. A big pot of soup simmered all day tastes different from a small pot of soup cooked an hour or two. Think of our ancestors, not so long ago even, who cooked huge vats of soups made from what was on hand to feed large families, simmering over the fire all day so the flavors would blend but the vegetables keep their shapes with no mush, and it preserves well frozen or pressure canned too.

It’s also a great day to make bread because it will rise beautifully with the steam and warmth from a big pot of soup.

Use the big canning pot that holds five gallons of liquid, add two gallons of stock you’ve made over the summer from simmering vegetables, or just use plain water.

Add, to taste:

  • garlic (I use a whole clove)
  • onion, white or yellow, one or two large ones
  • six stalks chopped celery, reserve tops for later
  • 3 lbs. chopped tomatoes
  • four cups chopped carrots
  • four cups chopped potatoes
  • four cups green and/or yellow beans snapped in 1-inch sections
  • whole small head of cabbage or half large, chopped
  • four cups slice zucchini
  • fresh corn kernels from four ears of corn
  • four cups fresh peas
  • four cups chopped broccoli
  • four cups chopped cauliflower
  • anything else you have on hand: turnips, parsnips or other root crops, brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, mustard or other greens whatever you want in your soup
  • two cups of dried beans, can be all the same but I use a little of each kind of dried bean I have in the kitchen: kidney, pink, great northern, navy, lima, etc.
  • chopped fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon, thyme

Boil stock.

Reduce to simmer—and remember: “simmer” is the operative word all the way through.

Add dry beans.

Add chopped vegetables one by one, beginning with the firmest, like carrots, and ending with the greens.

Simmer at least two hours past the last vegetable added.

Add chopped fresh herbs, simmer one half hour more.

Let sit, covered, for about an hour.

Eat several bowls.

Let cool completely, which can take hours depending on how much you made.

Can in pressure canner or freeze in freezer containers.

Open a jar in January and remember summer.

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