I’ve never seen another dogwood like this one except out in the woods here in western Pennsylvania, which is where I found it. With friends, I was exploring an old abandoned farm that had been sold for development. A long row of blooming daffodils lined the driveway, leading us to the spot where the house had been; only an open rectangle of grass was left, but it was surrounded by forsythia and roses and lilacs and Star of Bethlehem spilling around in the grass and many, many more plants which would have bloomed all through the growing season. Someone had loved growing things and so did we, so we took what we could to preserve their memory knowing they’d only be plowed under.
Off in the woods, irregular clouds of white blossoms lit the shadows along what had been roads or paths to outbuildings, and we found lovely native dogwoods with the largest flowers I’ve ever seen, at least four inches across with creamy ridged petals and the characteristic divot at the end of each. What had been but a twig growing on a hillside in the woods is now a full and fervent tree with white flowers in spring, dense green leaves all summer, bright red fruits in late summer and red-violet leaves in fall. Who could improve on that?
One year as it bloomed I saw it at night, a hazy glowing shape, the light of spring that could not be extinguished even by darkness. Hence, this poem.
The dogwoods are blooming up and down my street.
The breaking of the cold,
The unusually warm, brilliant spring day
Has brought my neighbors out to wash cars and cut grass.
Like the returning birds
Their conversations drift and circle from yard to yard
And cross the street on capricious breezes;
We have been put away all winter
Like articles of summer clothing
Our potential at rest,
Yet now, even at night,
Pale, airy clouds of blossoms
Hover in the darkness all over the neighborhood.
Dogwoods ©2005 Bernadette E. Kazmarski
I read this poem as part of my very first poetry reading and art exhibit at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, “Paths I Have Walked”.
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; Dogwoods and Road Trip, Late July, Western Pennsylvania were both chosen as two of the first entries and led to my annual poetry readings—more on that below.
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).
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. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.
Wonder which neighborhood kid is missing a pair of tennis shoes. Traditions.
Someone left a number of quart-size canning jars outside their door for most of the winter. They don’t have the lids, only rings, so rain and snow fell inside, melted, froze and did all the things water does. I’m surprised only one jar is shattered, but it looks like four friends who are a little worse for the wear.
The view out my side window of my neighbor’s hemlock trees with the hills far beyond and the morning sky with clouds and sun and snow. In this sketch, I not only wanted to capture the sun streaming through the hemlock and the cool colors of a snowy morning, I also wanted to capture the nature of the hemlocks, their shape and growth habit, the straight trunks with the branches that tend to break easily, the bare little twigs inside the tree, and the tufts of needles at the ends of the branches. At one time there had been another hemlock that completely blocked the view, and the sun, hence the bare insides of these trees. I hate to see a tree go down but when that one was lost in a storm it literally opened up a new view for me, and much more sunlight.
Where this site has featured a daily photo, I’ve decided to also use it for my occasional sketches. At one time I always carried some art materials with me as well as my camera. I fell away from the sketches, mostly landscapes and Main Street and still lifes around the house, as life grew a little too busy for a while to take the 15 to 30 minutes needed for a little inspiration. As when I visited the Panhandle Trail on Christmas day, I hope to post more sketches in addition to the photographs from each day.
I did not photograph this scene, only drew it as I stood at the window, so you have no photo to compare.
I also post daily sketches of my cats on The Creative Cat as well as daily photos, which many people follow already; today Mr. Sunshine had something to say about this sketch in particular.
Sunset fading orange casts a warm glow on snow-covered rooftops and streets; shadows tinge violet. Houses, mill and more houses march across the valley in courses, filling from one hill to the next.
Dusk is falling yet the snow reflects light from the sky in its violet-dusk way, each home capped with a pale violet rectangle.
What is this? Are those eyes in wrinkled skin?
It’s funny when you take things out of context that a familiar item can appear to be something else entirely. And when the leaves fall from the trees and suddenly you see the eyes in the bark of the silver maple you’ve walked past every day.
I had a lovely photo of yesterday’s frosty morning in my back yard, but as the day grew dark early today I passed this ebullient display of holiday cheer on a dark rainy day and decided I had to share it.
This particular little house was once a garage to a huge Victorian home. It not only faces the alley but the narrow porch steps right onto the sunken and undulating bricks of the alley. One would think it wasn’t the choicest place to live, yet I always see children and adults around, lots of toys and talk and play; it seems to be a happy little house. I wasn’t surprised to see this complete selection of holiday decorations.
The shining bricks and puddles in the alley reflect the holiday cheer. Note the homemade Steelers emblem in the left-hand window; no display in Pittsburgh would be complete without it.
I usually associate holiday lights with snow, or at least with a clear cold night, but I also love colorful night photography and especially rainy nights.
Carnegie’s holiday decorations light up the street.
Hmmm, how can I make a street I photograph all the time look a little different from the last year? Well, get out the cross-screen filter for starters so that each light or highlight in the images has extra interest; I like to set the cross a little off-kilter, not a plus-sign, not an “X”, but something in between. Next, use the 70-300mm zoom lens and manual focus so just the very first light and wreath are in focus and all the rest, all the wreaths all the way down Main Street to Washington Avenue, are successively blurred just a little each step of the way. Even the stop lights look festive, as noted in a holiday song. I liked the effect.
Last night as I was crouched to photograph this in a fairly dark spot on Main Street, I frightened a couple of teenage guys who apparently didn’t see me before I suddenly stood up very near to them, and the shuttle that takes residents from one of the local nursing homes on their errands stopped, opened the door and looked at me, then went on. I photographed this last year as well, and included a story of photographing where people don’t expect it, including hunching down in the dark by a wall wearing a cape and having the police stop to ask what you’re up to.
Just the right amount of mist just after sunrise is enough to enhance the reds in the oaks and maples surrounding Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall. This is actually the view from one of the back windows of my house.
Just a lucky moment—I’ve seen these four rockers at other times, but without the sun shining on them to catch the red, to make the shadows, they were just rockers on the front porch. Now they look like each has a personality.
Ironically, even with the red, the photo looks equally good in black and white. I’ll just have to change the title.
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.
A sketch I did from my window today of a brief break in the clouds and a bit of sunshine on the landscape. I left the buildings and bottom unfinished because it was in such darkness, and it’s still quite wet.
One of my neighborhood friends sits on his neighbor’s steps to do his homework. What else can you do on a beautiful autumn afternoon after school? You can’t go in yet, but the homework needs to be done. He had been in the sun, but it moved on and illuminates the hedges.
The story is yours to write.
If you’d like a print of this photo it is available in my photography collection in my Fine Art America gallery entitled “Ruby Slipper”.
The garage wall is cracked and unpainted, the wooden window is peeling, the flowers have faded and the grass grows long, but the Blessed Virgin is fresh and new. I know this older woman who tends her garden and yard in her walker, and she would tell you that keeping the statue clean and new-looking was more important than anything else.
Remembering my days in Catholic school, I remembered the Blessed Virgin as a much friendlier holy person, kind of like the universal Mom. Is that why so many have her statue lovingly placed in their gardens?
Houses are tightly packed here; the parking lot was at one point a home as well. The weathered concrete sidewalk sprouts autumn wildflowers.
Sometimes the scene is just visually stunning, especially with a little flash of angled late afternoon sun on that bright red Virginia Creeper. Love the peeling paint, the weathered wood, cloudy windows and the door hinge. Yet the plant flashes its brilliance before it fades, while the building simply fades.
This is from several years ago, but each October, on a day as warm as summer, I remember this moment and share it again.
If you’d like a print of this photo it is available in my photography collection in my Fine Art America gallery entitled, simply, “Red”.
My neighbor balanced a few beefsteaks on his deck rail. Perfect composition; often the best are unintentional.
The morning glories are still blooming and in noonday sun add a big splash of color. Of course, I desaturated anything that wasn’t morning glories, but that was my impression of them.
Just this one red leaf in all those other colors. It’s from a Virginia Creeper vine that was mingling with the morning glories, though all the other leaves were still mostly green. But when the sun came out and touched this leaf it was as if the leaf itself was emitting the vibrant red.
I originally planned to crop out the morning glories thinking the red would be even more vibrant against all that green, its natural complement, and without the distraction of any other color in the photo, but I was wrong. The purple actually enhances the red.
I enjoy the shapes of the vines too; where did we humans get the idea for fences like that anyway? And the contrast of geometric and organic shapes was why I focused on this little scene to begin with, and then the sun came out and it got even better.
Just barely caught at the peak of the roof of my neighbor’s old barn catching the details and crisp shadows at the top, softening to dusk at the bottom. The window is slipping, letting the world inside.
Such a perfect natural composition with no help from me, perfectly balanced patterns, lights and darks, even framed. Of course, I saw this in color, but could see it would really excel in black and white with just patterns to enjoy.
But there was also something I liked about the whole shot, below. I think the billowing clouds above made it look like an old abandoned barn, especially the placement of the one house to the right. It is just an old garage in a neighborhood I pass through.
Who doesn’t welcome the sight of a brilliant pink rose on a dark autumn day?
Catching such voluptuous raindrops as these is a rare event—it either has to be right after the rain has stopped (falling raindrops will blur the photo with movement) or a day where rain falls intermittently and the humidity remains high so the raindrops don’t evaporate.
In either case, it’s generally pretty dark and overcast so all those lovely raindrops have few highlights, and shadows are saturated.
In this case, between the showers, the sky brightened enough to pick up each and every droplet, and to highlight the brilliant pink of this rose on one of my neighbor’s rose bushes. It had rained so hard that the water was even pooling in between the petals.
Raindrops on roses…and for my feline-oriented friends, we all know the next line!