Water flows over a poured concrete low-head dam, the pattern of pebbles and sand in the concrete and flowing white water a contrast to each other, yet it almost looks as if the water is magically formed on the top of the dam.
I found her in her favorite morning fishing spot, though she grew angry and flew farther downstream before I had my camera ready. I readied my lens and crept to the top of the bank as off she flew!
This isn’t in a park or conservation area, this is right in the middle of Carnegie. I dropped my car off for service and walked back home, dipping down by the creek, studying a few industrial areas, walking down a few alleys instead of main streets and then walking on Main Street itself.
Chartiers Creek winds through the middle of town and beyond in both directions, and a colony of great blue herons nests about 11 miles away, considering the entirety of the creek’s channel as their hunting ground. For the most part the creek is less than a foot deep, and today the air turned slightly warmer again, warming the water and bringing out the small creek fish, carp and darters. The heron stands on the gravel on a shallow edge of the creek and as the fish swim between her legs she just reaches down with that long neck and picks them out of the water with her beak like tweezers.
When the heron is standing still in the water, she is so slender that she looks like a twig or thin tree branch standing up in the water. But when she decides to fly she is hard to miss as she looks like a prehistoric creature, some sort of pterodactyl, with her long beak, long hooked neck and immense wingspan, plus those long gangly legs. Not to mention she is quite blue.
Those big, long wings are so graceful that I can’t even describe it.
I’ve been playing in this creek since I was a child. Both the heron and the fish she eats are signs that a creek horribly polluted by industrial waste has found a new life. I’m glad to see it coming back.
A sunny winter day with big clouds can offer interesting lighting; in this case a huge cloud traveled over the geese and me, while all around the sky was bright and the hills were lit by winter sun. All the light in this image is comes in at an angle and reflects onto the geese and water, cool winter light enhancing all the shades of blue as the geese calmly paddle along on Chartiers Creek in Carnegie.
Trees and rocks and snow on a the steep banks of the creek; I only wish I’d had my better camera handy since the little one fails me except in bright sunlight.
This time, however, they are on the water.
Colors, colors, colors in the dark days of winter. Everything reflects on the rippling water, especially the bright blue sky from one angle and the brightly-lit hillside of auburn tree trunks and oak leaves. Love the orange foot on the duck, who’s giving one web foot a break.
I spent a good bit of time watching the ducks and geese on Chartiers Creek, feeling lucky that I have such a place to go and spend some quiet, meditative and creative time.
All the summer birds have flown, leaving their homes behind. Next year the couple who built this nest will return and refresh the materials, but for now it stands open to the elements, collecting snow and rain, some animal fur and perhaps its own down loosened and waving in the wind.
In walking along Chartiers Creek this day, I found at least a half-dozen nests of this type, usually only one per tree, and the trees were most often seated in the crook of sapling branches about 5 to 10 feet above the ground, growing at the top of the creek’s banks.
I wouldn’t guess which species of nest this might be, but it would be a songbird because it is small, cup-shaped and placed in a tree, and likely the bird would be a insect-eating bird because this area, in summer and fall, would be full of mosquitoes, gnats, moths, butterflies and other types of flying insects, day and night.
If you have an idea what type of bird the nest might belong to, please leave a comment.
Of course, we can never see the signal, but the front line floating down Chartiers Creek in Carnegie suddenly took flight and flew 100 yards or so upstream, leaving those behind milling around, trying to decide if they should do the same. Eventually the did. Perhaps there was a mark somewhere on the creek floor and a system set up that only geese understand.
I will go blocks out of my way to avoid a traffic light, or miles out of my way to avoid potential heavy traffic, but the truth of it is take shortcuts because I see really neat things on back streets and less-traveled roads.
I took a shortcut over Library Hill in Carnegie, passing by Ross Colonial Cemetery, named so for the Ross family of settlers around the time of the Revolutionary War and it contains graves and headstones that date from that time as well as more recent ones. I pass this tiny cemetery all the time, and have read or taken rubbings of all the weathered markers.
But in addition to this being a family cemetery, this very spot at the top of a cliff over an oxbow in Chartiers Creek where it winds through Carnegie was a lookout for millennia, for all the people who lived in the area or passed through. My mother told me her brothers and others found arrowheads and even older artifacts in the soil. I can feel history under my feet as I stand, and voices in the wind brushing past me to other eras.
So it was that I passed it on a starkly sunny November day and saw this stone leaning against a tree trunk. I knew I’d never seen it before—I would certainly have noticed a stone tablet with writing on it leaning against a tree. Errand be damned, I went around the block, parked and went to investigate.
I could see another portion of a stone nearby which looked fairly smooth but with a trace of writing which matched the angled dark area on the stone leaning against the tree. Under that portion of stone on the ground I also saw a rectangular patch of rather bare earth with grass pulled up around the edges. This stone, thin and fragile, had broken and laid in two pieces in that spot for perhaps years, until the trough grass and native ground cover grew completely over it. The portion of the stone against the tree had been preserved by the section which had lain on top of it; that section had been worn nearly smooth, and no amount of rubbing with tissue and pencil, charcoal or anything brought the text forward.
Even on the preserved stone the text was nearly impossible to read. I picked out a few lines, did a rubbing to get a few more, but decided to forgo the ancient magic of pencil rubbings for the modern magic of PhotoShop, making sure I had several good images in which I could adjust contrast and color.
At home, using both the rubbings and photo, I searched for one fragment after another until I found a portion of the book on Google books, but the text had been digitized without proofreading and page numbers and line markers were mixed in with text, which frequently had odd letters as if the optical character reader didn’t recognize the letter in that place. However, from that, I found the name of the book in which the piece appeared:
Revival and Camp Meeting Minstrel.
containing the best hymns and spiritual songs, original and selected.
I searched for that title and found a listing for it in the New York Public Library, and saw that it also had a page on OpenLibrary.org
And there it was: published in Philadelphia: Perkinpine & Higgins, 56 N. Fourth Street. “C. 1867″ was handwritten under the publisher’s address. On the copyright page a stamp showed it had been entered into the collection at the New York Public Library in 1939 and that it had indeed been entered into the Library of Congress in 1867.
The purpose of the book was to collect hymns “such as are not found in the Church Hymn Book—the compilers being careful to give those which are more desirable for social and prayer-meetings.”
And, finally, the lyrics to the song which I hoped might tell me something about the person whose resting place had been guarded by this stone.
[Song number 399, beginning on page 387]
MY Christian friends, weep not for me,
When I am gone ;
And when my lowly grave you see.
Oh, do not mourn ;
But praise the Lord, I’m freed from pain
And life’s rough storm ;
And pray that we may meet again
When I am gone.
2 Plant ye some wild-flowers on my tomb,
When I am gone ;
That they may there in silence bloom,
O’er your loved one ;
Entwine a chaplet round my head,
And often come
And view where sleep the early dead,
When I am gone.
3 And oft, my friends, in after years,
When I am gone,
When memory opes the fount of tears,
Sing ye this song ;
And know that though I mouldering lie,
‘Twill not be long
Till we shall meet in yonder sky,
When I am gone.
In all of this I found no name, no date, no age or cause of death or other indication of who this might have been. I pictured a young person, a single man—a woman would have been buried with either her parents or her husband—possibly a Civil War veteran, this being only two years after the cessation of hostilities.
Perhaps some day I’ll pursue the records of this little cemetery and find out more about this person and others buried here. For now I prefer visiting them as if I’m walking through their neighborhood, a glance, a nod, a polite comment or simply a smile, then the assurance of their privacy.
Rain had fallen intermittently all day, but the day had been steadily dark and cold even without falling rain. But as often happens on long rainy days, the clouds broke at about sunset to give a view of faded blue sky trimmed along the edges with heavy clouds, offering reflected light but no direct sunlight. Suddenly the autumn leaves shone again even in the cooler light. I carefully watched the light, deciding that when my errand was done, or as soon as I could, whichever came first, I’d head for my favorite ridge to photograph what there was of the sunset, hoping for lots of red from the humidity in the air and sunrays from the layers of clouds breaking up, but I’d take what I could get.
No such dramatics were in the plan for this evening, but watching the valley settle into night as I watched the clouds march steadily from the north, hearing only the wind as it swept from far beyond the horizon across my face, tugging at my hair and skirt on the hilltop where I stood, one tiny dot of a figure in this complicated and beautiful landscape, chilling my fingers with the first real cold of winter in its direct and determined path. In the center is Carnegie, somewhere in there is my house, and all of the familiar streets and scenes of my days reduced to a few amorphous blots of color, light and shadow.
In just minutes the north wind had carried the cloud cover over the valley once again like a blanket, leaving the valley in deep shadow but for the dots of light collected in the velvet darkness, small shreds of red showing through at the horizon; the sun has not given over yet, there is still some fire in its day.
More reflections. As the sun’s angle drops farther toward the horizon and the days grow shorter, reflections are also more clear on reflective surfaces such as water and glass. Even a small puddle will hold a reflection in the darker portion of the year where the sun farther overhead would have shone directly on the surface and either faded or eliminated the reflection.
This was the last bright flash of sun on Chartiers Creek near where I walk.
I hang out near Chartiers Creek, a meandering but navigable waterway that runs 52 miles along its full course, 26 miles in the part I know best, the Lower Chartiers. In some areas where humanity has had very little obvious impact I can always feel the presence of the generations before me who wandered to its banks on a lovely autumn afternoon, or a summer morning, or a winter dusk after a heavy snowfall, or to see the thundering freshet of the spring thaw.
This photo really is right-side up—take a look at the object on the left, which is a railroad bridge pier in actual image and in reflection, and the trees are on the hillside opposite me. The lighting creates the effect with the water, unusually still over a deep pool turning it into a perfect mirror, in shadow while the hillside catches the glow of the late afternoon sun full on its face. I’ve seen people pick this up at my display and turn it, and turn it, and turn it again. It’s a fun one to share.
These concrete bridges and flood walls aren’t really very attractive until they are dressed with the first changing leaves of autumn and a perfect blue evening sky and a nearly perfect mirrored reflection in the still waters of Chartiers Creek.
This bridge is just outside of Canonsburg and will be part of a photo series I’ve been considering compiling into a calendar to benefit watershed and environmental groups along Chartiers Creek entitled “The Bridges of Chartiers Creek”. Exciting stuff, I know, except that as we canoed beneath the many bridges I noticed that each one was different from the next, with some of the oldest train trestles still standing and a variety of other styles and sizes of bridges all up and down the channel. Each of them is a particular style of construction which in itself is very interesting, and in a way, they chronicle the uses of the creek and the surrounding countryside. That’s the real purpose of it, to tell the stories.
Some bridges have been replaced since I began this project. If I take long enough we can all remember these neat bridges.
There are six killdeer in this photo, cleverly camouflaged in their natural living and nesting habitat of rocks and pebbles in moving water.
I had focused on one of the birds, and saw a few others, but it wasn’t until I downloaded the images and opened them on my monitor that I saw all the others. Clever camouflage!
I took the photo along Chartiers Creek in Carnegie.
A story about killdeer actually inspired me to set up this daily photo blog, and they are the subject of my very first post on this blog: http://bernadettestoday.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/a-fathers-day-drama/. All birds are the centers of their own universes, but the killdeer’s self-absorption is comical—the parent birds do the “broken wing” routine with suspected predators, and it’s not at all convincing, especially when they are nesting in the gravel of the train tracks that run right through town. But I will admit, they are darned difficult to spot if they’re not moving.
The water is shallow at this point in the year and at this point in Chartiers Creek, and I was on a gravel bar, the sun down behind a hill and just the glow of twilight and the shadows of dusk to illuminate the surface. This is not black and white, but the natural coloring of that time of day.
Members of Congregation Ahavath Achim in Carnegie, PA toss bread off the bridge at Tashlich at the Chestnut Street Bridge over Chartiers Creek, as they have for apparently many years on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. I was honored to observe and photograph the event, albeit from afar to make sure I could get the entire shot.
If you look closely you can see little blurred specks of white against the greenery in the background.
For as much as I know about my home town, Carnegie, and as much as I know about my home creek, Chartiers Creek, I never knew they performed this ceremony here in Carnegie, on this bridge over the creek. I know the president of the Shul, Rick D’Loss, and when he sent out the notice about events during the High Holidays at the Shul I noticed this and asked about it. Even though it was the first night of our festival I wanted to photograph it if I would be permitted. Rick welcomed me to do so.
Rick is also a photographer, and while I usually try to get a few photos of our community festival I’m usually pretty busy, so as soon as his holiday events are under control he’ll be photographing our festival, this Saturday afternoon and evening.
You can find many resources to read about Tashlich on the internet, but maybe I’ll see if I can get Rick to write something eventually about the ceremony at our local congregation. You can read about the Carnegie Shul on the site that Rick maintains.
A young man fishes in the shade under the Mansfield Bridge on Chartiers Creek in Carnegie on a hot afternoon.
This creek was so polluted by industry when I was growing up that it was a different color each day, sometimes with wisps of unknown steam rising from its surface. Nothing lived in its waters, and it flooded the low-lying areas, like Carnegie which is on a floodplain, each spring. Perhaps unwisely, none of this kept me out of the water.
Now, after a flood control project widened and deepened the channel and decades of the Clean Water Act stopped dumping in its waters, at least 30 species of fish and myriad other species live in its waters. In addition, annual creek cleanups have pulled tons of used tires, appliances, old furniture and other debris out of the channel. I’ve canoed the 22 miles of the Lower Chartiers numerous times and have seen schools of 12 to 14 inch carp glistening along just under the surface. It’s a testament to the revival of a natural resource, and I still enjoy wading around in it and canoeing when I can, plus it’s been a regular subject for photography and painting.
I don’t know that he caught anything this particular day, but he just enjoyed casting his line and seeing what might come up.
The Canada geese were paddling along on Chartiers Creek as I made my late afternoon errands and they generally move with grace and composition, but they got all bunched up as they were going under the bridge—I think it was because the bridge has a pier in the center and some of them decided to go on the other side…and these guys just couldn’t decide what to do.
Then some goose took the initiative and everyone got in line. Geese like to know where they stand, or paddle.
The plants in the background of this photo of wingstem are all green, and in sunlight so I have no idea what turned the background this shade of blue purple except that it’s a contrast with the warm yellow. The light on the flowers and the purple background bring to mind the light before a coming storm, and perhaps that is what happened. These grow along Chartiers Creek and I saw them on one of my walks to Main Street.
The geese were paddling along in formation on Chartiers Creek, but it looked to me as if one of them had another idea.
I’m on a roll with the fireworks photos. This is over Chartiers Creek in Carnegie, not on July 4 but at the end of our community festival in 2002 or 2003. Chartiers Creek flows right through the middle of town and bridges span it in several places, including these two bridges about 100 yards apart. The fireworks are being set off on the Main Street Bridge, I am on the Mansfield Street Bridge. Of all the fireworks photos I’ve taken, this is my favorite.
The extreme heat and overbaked sunshine were uncomfortable but made for a nice effect on the water in Chartiers Creek as this goose floated directly below me, the sun at the perfect angle.
No special lenses or filters for this one, the color is natural and the sparkles happened all on their own. The shot was a little under contrast because the brilliant sparkles totally confused the light sensor in my camera and I didn’t have the chance to manually change my settings before the goose drifted under the bridge so I had to adjust the lightness and contrast.
This umbel of Queen Anne’s Lace is about the biggest I’ve seen anywhere, and it’s early in the season. There was nothing near enough to give it scale—QAL likes to grow taller than everything around it—so you’ll just have to believe me when I say it was easily 5″ in diameter measured by the width of my hand. It was beautiful to look at on my walk along Chartiers Creek to Main Street in Carnegie, PA.
The sun sparkles like magic on my humble Chartiers Creek.
I used my cross-screen filter, which doesn’t fit my new digital camera, but then it didn’t really fit my old camera lens either. Just hold the filter in front of the lends and turn by moving your hand.
I can almost hear the little stars, they are so real.