I typically like to photograph light-colored flowers against a dark background, like the shadows in the woods, but the breeze was moving the shadows and sunlight around and a very light patch ended up behind these cranesbill geranium flowers. I love the shade of green, and I like the effect. They are in my back yard, and have naturalized in a nice row at the edge of my “woodland garden”. The are a native wild plant, and I brought home bits and pieces of plants from old homesteads about to be bulldozed for development. They are a geranium, and if you look at the shape of the flower you’ll see a similarity with the flowers that grow in clusters in the geraniums we find more familiar. The name “cranesbill” is derived from the shape of the seeds, which grow in clusters like the buds you see on the left, a small oblong shape but with a long pointed protuberance that is reminiscent of the beak of a crane.
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My mother died in January 2011. I first wrote this post after her memorial; today we remember her.
I lost my mother at age 85 after so many levels of illness in her life: decades of chronic conditions and surgeries, the lung cancer ten years ago that weakened and eventually put her in personal care, the beginnings of dementia two years ago, the move to skilled nursing a year ago, the weight loss and greater need for care all leading to the last few months of decline.
She was in the hospital with the last bout of congestive heart failure when she died. The night she died my brother and I went to her room at the nursing home to take the few possessions she had left there; I didn’t want to go back there if I didn’t need to, and I knew the next few days would be very busy. I was holding back sobs as we walked in, but words were forming in my head and when we entered I took a small scrap of paper and wrote a few of them down. That was enough to ease my heart for the moment, setting the intent, enough to get me through that and back home.
After several phone calls, a visit from a friend and more calls, I had my time alone and was up quite late. As I sat in the quiet of the night outside watching the snow gently fill the air and fall in a soft blanket on the ground, the poem came to me in nearly one complete piece. I carefully went inside and tiptoed to my desk, wrote it down slowly, line for line, all as if I was afraid I’d scare it away, all the beautiful words I’d been thinking, or maybe I’d break it, like a bubble. I changed very little in a rewrite. I had decided I would go through with my poetry reading, just two days after my mother died, because it was an opportunity to share her with others, and to read the new poem, and that I would also read it at the little service we’d have for her at the funeral home.
I could never encapsulate 85 years of a life into one blog post or one photo or one poem, so I won’t even try, but I want to share this. The photo above is the one we placed in our mother’s casket, her wedding photo from 1946 when she was 21 years old. The little scrap of red in the lower left corner is the shirt she wore, the one she loved best, and I knew she’d want to be remembered in it; our mother was one who could wear a red chiffon blouse in her casket and be proud.
I’ve also written a post over on The Creative Cat about this process of loss.
Without further ado, here is the poem.
About My Mother
Regardless of the many outstanding qualities any person may have
we are essentially remembered for only one of them.
In my mother, all would agree
this one would be her remarkable beauty.
All through her life the compliments trailed her
as she carefully maintained “the look”, her look, so glamorous,
from tailored suits to taffeta dresses to palazzo pants,
hair perfectly styled, nails manicured and painted
a collar set just so, cuffs casually turned back,
hair worn long past the age of 50,
a dark, even tan and shorts into her 80s,
lipstick always perfectly applied,
and even at 84
people marveled on her perfect skin,
dark curly hair,
and big bright smile.
I see that smile
when I see my sister smile,
and I see my mother’s active, athletic bearing
when I look at my brother,
and her gray eyes are mine.
In each of her grandchildren
I see her round face,
graceful hands, pert nose,
proud upright posture
and a million other of her features and habits
and in all of us
her wild curly hair
is part of her legacy to us.
When we look at each other from now on
we will see the part of her she gave to each of us,
this little cluster of people who came from her
and who were her greatest treasure,
and when she looks at us from wherever she is
she will know that
she cannot be forgotten.
About My Mother © 2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski
The maple tree has seriously leafed out, and the new bright green leaves are lit by late afternoon sun and seem to glow.
Someone let me loose on a lovely sunny warm spring day in Pittsburgh with my camera. I really just wandered one area, Mt. Washington, from where you can see to the end of the world. i will actually use a number of these for a design project I’m working on. I couldn’t get a good photo of the point so above is one from last year on just about exactly this date. Below is a “tiled mosaic” of some of the photos I took today.
A tall, dark stranger came to town, casting a long shadow in the evening sun as he slowly walked across…the table.
For more cat photos, visit The Creative Cat.
We mean that literally! The beans were having a birthday party! They were born today! Don’t they look happy dancing there in the dirt?
I spend a lot of time out here when the weather is nice, it’s like an extra room—I even work out here some days if I can. I’ve cleaned it up after a few years so it’s welcoming again; now I’m hard-pressed to stay inside.
Everything is second-hand, repaired and refinished by me; some things are quite old, but very dear and familiar.
I used all the paints in my collection for a little project today, and as usual got a fair amount on my hands.
It’s a little difficult to photograph my own hand with my DSLR, so the heel of my hand is a little out of focus.
I like tulips of any sort, but most of mine have been eaten by small burrowing creatures or the bunnies who come to visit in spring. I quit replanting them in my yard, but this one single tulip continues to sprout and bloom each spring. Its leaves are smaller and shorter than the others, and the flower itself is as well, so perhaps it’s camouflaged by the ivy for long enough to actually make a showing. It’s just a tiny little thing too, just like a small cordial glass. Studying the red veins fading out into the petal never ceases to amaze me.
The lilacs I planted “temporarily” by my gate and side window about 20 years ago have become rather permanent, and despite being damaged by heavy snow have gracefully curved over my gate and the path to my back yard like a dappled green tunnel full of heavenly scent. I’ve never seen it bloom like this, but it’s only just begun–in a few days there won’t be any green in this photo. But no matter, once they began to bloom I could smell lilacs even with the windows closed. Spring is here.
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.
Nothing says spring is here like visiting a greenhouse, especially one where they started nearly all the annual flowers and vegetables themselves. And nothing says summer is on its way like a cluster of colorful gerbera daisies. I was there for vegetables, but I couldn’t keep away, they look like happy balloons. My only defense is to take lots of photos. This is at Bedner’s Farm Market, a place I’ve been visiting since I could barely see over the tables of vegetables.
Just one more colorful photo of snapdragons.
A mullein plant grows from between the bricks.
A seed on the wind found the only spot on a brick wall that has enough space to hold soil blown into it and perhaps a few decayed leaves, and sprouts. It’s a metaphor for many things.
No, that photo really is at the right angle, that is a vertical wall, and several feet off the ground as well. A little bit of moss is beginning to grow between the bricks, but a mullein plant? They have incredible tap roots and actually grow quite tall when they flower, but I guess it’s managed to find enough sustenance here to keep it growing and quite green.
Below, the full wall, just to get a perspective on what the mullein has accomplished.
The pear trees are blooming on Carnegie’s Main Street again, and though each year looks like the previous years I still can’t help myself from photographing and sketching the sight. This is one of the reference photos for my sketch, a bright late afternoon though a little bit overcast.
One of my favorite paintings of Carnegie, and also a favorite of others is also from this time of the year, and I realized as the pear trees began this year that I painted it ten years ago. It is called, not surprisingly, “Pear Trees on Main Street” and you can see it here where it is the signature image for my series “My Home Town”. Can’t wait to finish the new one.
And you can also see a slideshow of photos of the pear trees blooming on Main Street. It’s really quite a sight.
Nothing says “good morning” like yellow flowers in first light. These are a few of the turnip flowers I didn’t trim yesterday for a bouquet.
From a distance it looks like an abstract expressionist painting, perhaps a collage of images cut from printed materials.
Look a little more closely at the actual objects.
Yes, bottle caps, plastic water bottles, plastic containers, green glass, amber glass, cans, lids, pull-tabs, little bits and pieces of the refuse of our lives.
I stopped at the recycling drop-off on a sunny Earth Day morning in 2007, and the pile of mixed recyclable metal, glass and plastic that had been crushed was in an outdoor processing area, as big as my house, glittering and colorful as a pile of gemstones in the morning sunlight.
The forget-me-nots begin their first tentative blooms at the beginning of April, and continue through most of May. I permit—no, I encourage—the forget-me-nots, a native wildlflower, to naturalize all over my backyard, across the grass and into the flower beds, and each spring eagerly await their abundance. Every year I look for the first few rosettes of soft green leaves and check daily for the first flowers, then watch the green of my grass turn to a field of blue stars and carefully walk among them, watch the sun play across them as if on a cloud and reflect from the dewdrops in the morning or spring raindrops in the afternoon, humming with hungry insects, renewal, from one packet of seeds I tossed out there in the autumn of 1990, right after I moved in.
I don’t cut my grass until they are done blooming but let them finish their cycle, welcoming the bees to come and pollinate the flowers, offering migrating butterflies a meal of nectar, and the returning and nesting birds a hunting ground to feed themselves and their young. My back yard feels like a woodland meadow to look at from all angles and enjoy, a quiet and contemplative place to sit within, to listen to the insects and feel the life surging forth at the beginning of spring. It’s a place of renewal for me.
Life gives us, literally and figuratively, both light and darkness each day, each season, each era of our lives, from our own losses and joy to those of our family, friends, community and the world around us. Having this refuge for myself has been integral for me to weather these storms, of course a place to grieve the losses of my feline family and losses of friends and family, a place to wave my arms and spread my joy at good news or just a happy moment, as well as a place to let my sadness drop away to the soil, there to be worked into the fabric of life as only nature can do, to slowly break it down, use the best of what it has to offer, then discard the rest.
This has been a difficult week in particular, in what seems to be an increasing number of difficult years. It’s hard not to fall into despair at seeing innocent people killed and mutilated by an act of intentional violence and even grievous accidents, and harder, as we feel helpless at not being able to act, not to follow every fact and every image of the events, trying to resolve our own feelings, help resolve the sorrow and pain of the immediate victims, and still feel safe in our own homes and our own hearts. We are changed by each event in the world as the ripples of impact reach us from near or far, just as we are changed by personal events, but this is when I look at the broader example of nature and the earth itself, existent much longer than we individuals or even the human race, for the slow and careful process of healing. Even though the light may be dimmed, signs of life always appear even in the places of greatest devastation, and the earth folds herself around what is left and makes something fruitful and productive.
I don’t follow any individual religious belief but find wisdom in all I’ve read and learned. As a young girl in Catholic school trying to make my way through the King James version of the Holy Bible, one verse was remarkably clear to me then as it is today: One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4)
I have taken hundreds of photos of my forget-me-nots through the years to find one that is, for me, the essence of that space that heals me. The photo of the forget-me-nots below is the closest I have managed to come to that feeling of life and peace I feel at being within them. I allowed the play of light and shadow intentionally, and if you look closely you’ll even see a small sulphur butterfly on the left and a honeybee on the right, but you’ll have to supply the humming and buzzing, the chickadees and goldfinches, blue jays and cardinals and sparrows who are singing, the smell of the earth and the soft spring breeze—and please, spend some time in your imaginings. You can download this image and use it as a wallpaper on your electronic device or keep it to look at whenever you need to. Click on the image above to bring up the full 2000px version, then right-click and download as you please.
Lots of sparrows visit my feeders right outside the windows, and while I’ve heard white-throated sparrows I’ve not seen one, at least not up close. I know they are ground feeders, and in winter I will often hear their little “tseeet tseeet” at dusk and see them deep in one of the dense bushes. But those stripes on his head, the yellow markings and especially that white spot really stood out—this one was right up in my lilac, not coming to the feeder just above it, but scouting the ground underneath before diving down for a prize seed.
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.
Walking home through Carnegie on this date in 2005, carrying just my little 2MP digital camera that didn’t even have a zoom and a small lightweight tripod, I managed to photograph two of my favorite photos of all the photos I’ve taken, above, “The Jewel on the Hill” and below “Carnegie at Dusk”. Though I’ve got plenty of photos to share, and even newer ones from Carnegie, today I’ll celebrate these two, two of the photos that convinced me to take another, closer look at my photography.
So we call this treasure in our town so named for its builder, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall. This is actually an older photo but with a story, plus I recently installed an exhibit of photos of this facility at this facility, which is also one of my favorite places to go and which is also one of my regular customers for freelance design work. Quite a lot of connections.
Anyway, this photo is one we’ve used repeatedly as the signature image for the facility, and was a real stroke of luck and timing. I was walking home on a clear, warm spring dusk in late April, 2005, April 24 to be exact, and arrived at the bottom of Library Hill at just this moment. The sky was fading from brilliant turquoise to cobalt, the still-bare trees were etched against it in silhouette, and the grand building itself stood partially lit by the sunset but with all interior and exterior lights on, solid and stately, serving its public in its 104th year. By the time I had snapped a half dozen or so shots the light had changed completely and the moment was gone. That was part of the timing, the other part that they had only temporarily installed the foundation lighting but never used it again, and this was part of what gave the building that lovely definition against the dark hilltop. A few minutes earlier or later, the previous or following week, and this photo would never have existed. And it was taken with my first little point-and-shoot 2MP digital camera—I don’t know how it came out as clearly as it did!
A little background on the names…in 1894 the leaders of two small communities on either side of Chartiers Creek, Mansfield and Chartiers, decided to merge in order to provide better services as one community instead of two individual administrations. Andrew Carnegie, who had owned a mill in Carnegie, had by then sold off his mills and begun spending off his worldly wealth by building libraries. These town leaders had a proposal, that he build a library and a high school for the new community and they’d name it after him. He did build the library but said they were on their own with the high school; nonetheless our town is named “Carnegie” in his honor.
He also set up the Library itself a little differently from the others he’d had built. Where others are named “(name of town) Carnegie Library” or “Carnegie Library of (name of town)” and were built with his expense but maintained by the community, this Library bears his full name and given an endowment for its maintenance. Also, more than just the Library space, a Music Hall was incorporated into the design along with a gymnasium in the full basement.
What a lovely sunny morning to spend on a nap in the sun.
Not only does this photo contain Mimi, who has apparently been my photo muse lately (you haven’t seen the half of it, whatever that phrase means), it also has all the other elements I like in a black and white photo as listed above—clear patterns, varied textures, bright highlights and intense though not heavy shadows. All the direct and reflected light catches all those textures and patterns, and in turn the light is refracted and reflected into all the dark areas. The floor on the landing has always been an interesting subject for me with its old mixed woods, some hard, some soft, some with finish still on them, and that piece of rolled corrugated has more than earned its keep as a cat toy and lounging spot as well as photo and art backdrop, something the cats and I can share while using it for our own very different purposes. And of course, the princess herself adds an organic softness to all those lines. I just wish I’d moved the vertical stack of matboard in its segregated plastic bags, it’s not so pretty, but does add its own texture and some nice reflected light.
The one thing that’s been a little difficult to decide with these photos on the landing is whether I use them in black and white or color because the colors are almost monochromatic, certainly a limited palette, very warm and inviting.
I post daily photos of my cats past and present. Browse the archive of all daily photos, just photos from the archive or vintage photos or Wordless Wednesday, or choose a cat’s name from the category list on the home page to browse an archive of photos featuring and including that cat.
Finally my pear tree is blooming. the blossoms are actually pure white, but I liked this creamy tone in dappled sun, early.
It’s just the lilac with leaves opening in bright green, but this cardinal looks as if she is in a tunnel of magic twigs, fading in and out of reality. I love to play with depth of field.
I was also a little concerned, though, on opening the photo on my computer and seeing that she apparently has something wrong with her beak, and she also appeared smaller than other female cardinals. Babies aren’t even hatched yet so she managed to survive the winter, and she had two very bright and enthusiastic males courting her, so the injury or malformation is apparently not life-threatening, and the boys don’t seem to mind.