an everyday photo, every day | photography • art • poetry

historic site

End of the Day

image

Ross Colonial Cemetery, a pre-Revolutionary family burial ground at the edge of a cliff that has overlooked the valley for milennia, at sunset on an autumn afternoon.

Copyright (c) 2015 Bernadette E. Kazmarski


Soldier

civil-war era headstone with flag
civil-war era headstone with flag

Soldier

In the dense, comforting shade of a century-old spreading maple, a section of the row of headstones farthest back in the military veteran’s section, the first stones to be installed during the Civil War, reads only:

SOLDIER
1861–1865

A father, brother, husband, son of someone, unknown, but honored by a headstone that tells of his final sacrifice, rests there.

One of the most moving photos I took from the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony at Chartiers Cemetery, but perhaps the most fitting, no name, no rank, no distinguishing remarks, but the most common thread of all, a soldier.

And not just in remembering the Civil War, or even other conflicts following. My ancestors were fighting their own civil wars in Eastern Europe at the time of America’s Civil War, only one in a long line of civil wars that perhaps finalized their decisions to leave the only land they’d known to come to America for freedom and a chance at the dream they’d never see, not even today, in the lands where their families had lived for centuries. A few decades later, they had no qualms about bearing arms and traveling back to those lands to protect the country they had embraced as their home. Centuries of soldiers everywhere who fought for freedom, protected their loved ones, gave their lives, each brought us a step closer. May the day soon come when no one needs to die for freedom.

This photo is one of my most often-shared images from this site; I am honored. 

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Wildflowers of a Summer Evening

wildflowers
wildflowers

Wildflowers of a Summer Evening

Some flowers are spent, some are fully leafed and petalled and colorful. I posted a slide show to my “Wildflowers of the Lower Chartiers Watershed” collection, a hillside of wildflowers taken in warm evening sunlight at Kane’s Woods in Scott Township in early August a few years ago. The memory of these flowers warmed me in the cold snowy months of winter, and while I’ve used a few here and there in designing one thing or another I’ve never decided what to do with the collection.

Though I used my Pentax K10D, for the lens I used my favorite non-digital 35mm fixed-focus lens with the 1.5X converter which shortens the depth of field allowing me to focus on just one insect if I choose; this lens is probably 30 years old, but it never fails me. In this way, I can manage the foreground and background and simply focus on one object, and I can achieve those lovely random abstract effects with lighting and shapes.

A slide show, even without music, will have to do for now.

The flowers you see are echinacea or purple coneflower, and its rarer cousin yellow coneflower, wingstem, Virginia stickseed, fleabane, black-eyed susan, Queen Anne’s lace, catnip, goldenrod, ragweed, and curled dock. Some are in seed already, but they add their drama to the mix.

Please enjoy the show. You can click here to bring it up as a flash slideshow or visit “Wildflowers of the Lower Chartiers Watershed”, scroll down and choose Wildflowers for a Summer Evening, and be sure to take the time to enjoy a few others as well.

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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.


Magic

soap bubble
soap bubble

Outlying Planet

More bubbles from the festival.

soap bubble

Foreign Sun

 

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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.


The Sun and Water

man and child walking by water
man and child walking by water

The Glow of Light and Water

I was enchanted by that big yellow ball in the sky and what it did to the scene of people and pavement and water; this is another in the series of photos from the Three Rivers Arts Festival. The photos above and below were taken through the spray that blew off the fountain over the water, and the sun is refracted through all those flying droplets, some of them landing on my camera lens. The blending of color from white hot to pale yellow to orange to red in the sun is pulled apart into a pattern that I didn’t notice at first until I started playing around with the RAW photos. I ended up not modifying them at all, I liked them just as shot, including a few others that are kind of abstract, shot through the fountain spire and fans.

The photo above shows a man and a little girl walking hand in hand, and I took a few shots as they walked past the yellow path on the water made by the glowing sun. The little girl stopped to point at something and the man paused.

The photo below is blurred, and that was unintentional—it was the first one I took as the two walked toward the path of light and my camera was finding its focus on the droplets of water flying around me, but I like the softened effect, and also the fact they are just stepping into the path.

man and child walking in sunlight by water

Entering The Sun’s Path

In the photos below, I intentionally shot with the sun shining into the fountain, trying to capture the little gold droplets as the water fell from the spire along with just tiny hints of the landscape beyond.

fountain spray

Fountain Spray

Catching a few droplets falling, and one person through the opening.

Below, a little more abstract as the sun touches one thing after another.

fountain spray

Fountain Abstract

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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.


The Fountain at The Point

the fountain at the point at pittsburgh
the fountain at the point at pittsburgh

Two young girls run through the wading pool around the fountain.

I went to a concert at our annual Three Rivers Arts Festival weekend before last, and I captured so many images I was absolutely overwhelmed—as well as busy with a big project in house so I barely had a chance to review and edit photos. I realize it’s been a week since I posted anything at all! But a little distance from all those photos and getting the big project done gave me a little more perspective and choosing and editing images was actually easier.

The Point at Pittsburgh is the headwaters of the Ohio River, and the reason Pittsburgh exists where it does. The Allegheny River flows from the northeast and the Monongahela River flows from the south east and they come to a confluence in this valley and flow on to West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois until it reaches the Mississippi River in Cairo, Illinois. It’s an interesting feeling to stand above this point and see the rivers come together and flow off through this landscape that was once so scarred by industry and pollution, but which is now clean and green, the hills still tree-covered, the waters, well, I’ve had a swim in each of the rivers.

the fountain at the point at pittsburgh

People gather at the point during the festival.

The most surprising thing is the point itself. Because river travel was so important for industry, this very point was once the site of factories and warehouses, trainyards, docks and even coal tipples that loaded barges and boats to carry raw and finished materials from the hinterlands of Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia into Pittsburgh, and picking up more to travel down the Ohio. If you’ve ever seen the land left behind after a steel mill or a chemical factory or a glass plant has moved on, it’s about as dead as the earth can be. But with the beginning of Pittsburgh’s Renaissance in the 1950s, this point of land was taken for a state park, rehabilitated and made a lovely place to visit and see the city and the rivers from a unique point of view—Pittsburgh is very hilly, and there aren’t many places that are this flat.

The fountain celebrates this spot with three short fans each facing a river, and the spire in the center fed by the “fourth river”, an underground river that flows out of Coal Hill or Mt. Washington directly underneath the Point.

the fountain at the point at pittsburgh

The plate marking the Point.

The seal above is on the pavement near the edge of the wharf and has the names of each of the rivers on the side facing that river and also reads, “Point of Confluence, Point of Conflict, Point of Renewal”. A pentagonal shape marks the spot where Fort Duquesne once stood. I’ll be writing more about that with other photos coming in the next few days.

Below is a photo of the point from up on Mt. Washington from 2011 when the Point and the park were under construction so that you can get an idea where this fountain stands and see the confluence of two rivers that makes a third.

photo of pittsburgh pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

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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.


Relic No. 48: Cotton

photo of cotton boll on exhibit
photo of cotton boll on exhibit

Relic No. 48: Cotton

This is one of the relics in the Capt. Thos. Espy Post No. 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall.

Among other things, I’ve been photographing the artifacts for documentation and to use the images for the newsletter, for signage, to accompany press releases and many other purposes to let the public know the room exists and holds treasures.

And while I do this for the Library & Music Hall at other times, this week it’s in recognition of the first shot fired in what would become the American Civil War, 150 years ago yesterday, April 12, 1861.

Why is some dirty old cotton a cherished relic in this historic room? Luckily, the Post members published a Catalogue of Relics in 1911, naming and describing each of the exhibits held in the room. Not all of them are relics from the war itself; many of them are simply things the members found interesting or particularly moving, as with this cotton boll:

48—COTTON

Was picked from the cotton bushes in 1881 by W. H. H. Lea, late Lieutenant of Co. I, 112th Reg., Pa. Vols., while on a visit to the Virginia battlefield, from the narrow strip of ground between the Union and rebel lines and directly in front of the rebel fort at Petersburg, Va., blown up July 30, 1864. Over this ground the charging columns passed. Almost every foot of this ground was covered with Union dead or stained by as brave blood as ever flowed from the veins of American soldiers. Has been in possession of W. H. H. Lea for 25 years. Secured from him January, 1906, for Memorial Hall.

He was so moved by his visit to this battlefield, and his memories from the war, that he picked this handful of cotton from the battlefield, brought it home and held onto it for 25 years until he felt he had a safe place to keep it, tacking it to velvet-covered cardboard. Such are the things that carry memories.

“Memorial Hall” was their name for the Espy Post as they saw the room to be the holding place for “the paraphernalia, books, records and papers belonging to said Post and all relics of the late Civil War now in possession of said Post, or hereafter acquired; …”.

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You’ll see this photo and many others I’ve taken of the Capt. Thos. Espy Post in an article The Civil War Picket outlining the room’s content, origins and functions and meaning the society of the day. Read “Intact GAR relics-meeting room in Pa.: A singular spot to share their war experiences” by Phil Gast: http://civil-war-picket.blogspot.com/2014/01/intact-gar-relics-meeting-room-in-pa.html

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


At the Window

woman in civil war dress
woman in civil war dress

At the Window

Remembrance Day commemorates the anniversary of the 1863 Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg during which President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, always held on a weekend near the actual date of November 19, 1863. The Capt. Thos. Espy Post No. 153 of the GAR is open for tours each Saturday from 11 to 3, but today we as part of our Remembrance Day activities we welcomed back Diane Klinefelter as the curator for the post, and she also gave tours today in authentic dress. Our mayor gave a presentation and reading of the Gettysburg Address.


Soldier

civil-war era headstone with flag
civil-war era headstone with flag

Soldier

In the dense, comforting shade of a century-old spreading maple, a section of the row of headstones farthest back in the military veteran’s section, the first stones to be installed during the Civil War, reads only:

SOLDIER
1861–1865

A father, brother, husband, son of someone, unknown, but honored by a headstone that tells of his final sacrifice, rests there.

One of the most moving photos I took from the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony at Chartiers Cemetery, but perhaps the most fitting, no name, no rank, no distinguishing remarks, but the most common thread of all, a soldier.

And not just in remembering the Civil War, or even other conflicts following. My ancestors were fighting their own civil wars in Eastern Europe at the time of America’s Civil War, only one in a long line of civil wars that perhaps finalized their decisions to leave the only land they’d known to come to America for freedom and a chance at the dream they’d never see, not even today, in the lands where their families had lived for centuries. A few decades later, they had no qualms about bearing arms and traveling back to those lands to protect the country they had embraced as their home. Centuries of soldiers everywhere who fought for freedom, protected their loved ones, gave their lives, each brought us a step closer. May the day soon come when no one needs to die for freedom.

This photo is one of my most often-shared images from this site and on Pinterest; I am honored. 


Soldier

civil-war era headstone with flag
civil-war era headstone with flag

Soldier

In the dense, comforting shade of a century-old spreading maple, a section of the row of headstones farthest back in the military veteran’s section, the first stones to be installed during the Civil War, read only:

SOLDIER
1861–1865

A father, brother, husband, son of someone, unknown, but honored by a headstone that tells of his final sacrifice, rests there.

One of the most moving photos I took from the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony at Chartiers Cemetery, but perhaps the most fitting, no name, no rank, no distinguishing remarks, but the most common thread of all, a soldier.

And not just in remembering the Civil War, or even other conflicts following. My ancestors were fighting their own civil wars in Eastern Europe at the time of America’s Civil War, only one in a long line of civil wars that perhaps finalized their decisions to leave the only land they’d known to come to America for freedom and a chance at the dream they’d never see, not even today, in the lands where their families had lived for centuries. A few decades later, they had no qualms about bearing arms and traveling back to those lands to protect the country they had embraced as their home. Centuries of soldiers everywhere who fought for freedom, protected their loved ones, gave their lives, each brought us a step closer. May the day soon come when no one needs to die for freedom.

This photo is one of my most often-shared images from this site and on Pinterest; I am honored. 


Soldier

civil-war era headstone with flag
civil-war era headstone with flag

Soldier

FOR VETERAN’S DAY…

In the dense, comforting shade of a century-old spreading maple, a section of the row of headstones farthest back in the military veteran’s section, the first stones to be installed during the Civil War, read only:

SOLDIER
1861–1865

A father, brother, husband, son of someone, unknown, but honored by a headstone that tells of his final sacrifice, rests there.

One of the most moving photos I took from the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony at Chartiers Cemetery, but perhaps the most fitting, no name, no rank, no distinguishing remarks, but the most common thread of all, a soldier.

And not just in remembering the Civil War, or even other conflicts following. My ancestors were fighting their own civil wars in Eastern Europe at the time of America’s Civil War, only one in a long line of civil wars that perhaps finalized their decisions to leave the only land they’d known to come to America for freedom and a chance at the dream they’d never see, not even today, in the lands where their families had lived for centuries. A few decades later, they had no qualms about bearing arms and traveling back to those lands to protect the country they had embraced as their home. Centuries of soldiers everywhere who fought for freedom, protected their loved ones, gave their lives, each brought us a step closer. May the day soon come when no one needs to die for freedom.

This photo is one of my most often-shared images from this site and on Pinterest; I am honored. 


When I Am Gone, 2011

stone marker
stone marker

A stone tablet with words in an old cemetery.

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.

detail of stone

Detail of Stone

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.


Gothic

photo of Union Trust Building
photo of Union Trust Building

Union Trust Building

Guess where?

You’ll never guess. It’s on Grant Street in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. This is the Union Trust Building with its roof of terracotta tiles and dormers and facade of limestone, one of the first “indoor arcades” or malls in the country, built in 1916 by Henry Clay Frick, modeled after a Gothic-style European building. Apparently he had  a little bit of extra cash in his pocket.

Here it takes in the reflected morning sun reflected from the building across the street.

 


Wildflowers of a Summer Evening

echinacea with bee
echinacea with bee

Wildflowers of a summer evening.

Don’t be concerned about the shriveled petals on this echinacea—some flowers are spent, most are fully leafed and petalled and colorful. I’ve posted a new slide show to my “Wildflowers of the Lower Chartiers Watershed” collection, a hillside of wildflowers taken in warm evening sunlight at Kane’s Woods in Scott Township last July. The memory of these flowers warmed me in the cold snowy months of winter, and while I’ve used a few here and there in designing one thing or another I’ve never decided what to do with the collection.

Though I used my Pentax K10D, for the lens I used my favorite non-digital 35mm fixed-focus lens with the 1.5X converter which shortens the depth of field allowing me to focus on just one insect if I choose; this lens is probably 30 years old, but it never fails me. In this way, I can manage the foreground and background and simply focus on one object, and I can achieve those lovely random abstract effects with lighting and shapes.

A slide show, even without music, will have to do for now.

The flowers you see are echinacea or purple coneflower, and its rarer cousin yellow coneflower, wingstem, Virginia stickseed, fleabane, black-eyed susan, Queen Anne’s lace, catnip, goldenrod, ragweed, and curled dock. Some are in seed already, but they add their drama to the mix.

Please enjoy the show. Visit “Wildflowers of the Lower Chartiers Watershed”, scroll down and choose Wildflowers for a Summer Evening.


Living History 2012

ACFL&MH 2012 Living History Civil War Reenactment
ACFL&MH 2012 Living History Civil War Reenactment

A father and young son dressed as bucktails, denoted by the buck's tail attached to their hats which marked them as sharpshooters.

I had always wondered about reenactors of various wars. Hadn’t we done our best to end them, to heal and move forward? I can see dressing up in clothing from another era, but why would anyone want to reenact a bloody battle?

After meeting and getting to know at least one group of Civil War reenactors, the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves based at the Capt. Thos. Espy Post No. 153 of the G.A.R. at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, I’ve come to understand that for most it’s not the battles, but respecting and learning from the history of the events, of spending a day or a few days literally in the shoes of someone—often an ancestor—who lived and may have even given their life more than a century before, to understand their decisions and maybe a little more about life in that era, and how it led to where we are today.

two women in antebellum dress on the swings

Mixing Metaphors, from last year's event.

So it’s more about history for many, about being an expert in how things were, and a perspective on how we are. It’s also about wearing neat clothes and living life as someone else for a while. And about adding your personality to that character, reacting to your surroundings as that person might have, as the two ladies on the swings did—had they been dressed like that and walking through a park and seen the swings, of course they would have hopped on and gone for a ride.

Four reenactment groups camped at Carnegie Park from a frosty 35-degree Friday night, through a misty, cold and sleeting Saturday. Both Union and Confederate reenactors participated, pitching their tents among the trees.

Their realistic setups showed us how Civil War camps were organized and what they actually carried around with them before the days of easy communications and even carbon copies. In addition to setting up and hanging around in period clothing, reenactors also participated in Artillery Demonstrations and a reenactment of skirmishes.

But this event wasn’t all about reenacting battles with guns as another two groups met on another field to play Civil War-era base ball. And back at the Library & Music Hall people enjoyed a Victorian Tea, an impressive fashion show narrated with letters from an ancestor, tours of the Espy Post and more activities.

Below is a slide show from events this year which I attended; this includes the tea, fashion show, reenactment, baseball and tours of the Post. I will use these in the future when I design the newsletter and promotional materials for the Library & Music Hall.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Old Allegheny City: 2011

photo of north side pittsburgh

Old Allegheny City

A section of Old Allegheny City, Pittsburgh’s North Side, the rooftops, dormers and windows keeping watch for more than a century.

This neighborhood is one of the oldest in Pittsburgh, and was at one time a separate municipality from Pittsburgh named Allegheny, laid out in 1788 and incorporated in 1828, featuring orderly brick streets and a mix of Victorian-era row houses, middle-class family homes and stately mansions softened by street trees.

Originally, lots and homes were awarded to Revolutionary War veterans. As the century wore on, this sophisticated and attractive urban metropolis became the first home to Pittsburgh’s millionaire industrialists. After the Mexican War, General William Robinson subdivided his plot of land and named all the streets after battles in the Mexican War, attracting even more wealthy homeowners; this photo is a section of the Mexican War Streets, sections of which are on the National Record of Historic Places.

Along with many other industries that found a home along the Allegheny River near the Point in Pittsburgh, the original H. J. Heinz factory built its home in Allegheny and employed generations of people in creating the “Heinz 57” varieties of pickled vegetables, relishes and chutneys, and many other condiments.

And who grew up in Allegheny City, or North Side? Mary Cassatt, Gertrude Stein, Martha Graham, Kate Harrington, George Washington Harris, John Pitcairn and Art Rooney, to name a few. And who else lived there? Mary Roberts Rinehart, Henry Phipps, H.J. Heinz, Andrew Carnegie, Henry O Tanner, Colonel James Anderson, William Thaw, Jr., Lois Weber and William Penn Snyder. And, of course, Andrew Carnegie built a library here. It must have been a hotbed of creative talent in those early days to have nurtured the likes of those people and attracted so many others. And lots of money.

It merged with the City of Pittsburgh in 1907 but maintained its small-town feel until “urban renewal” in the 1960s took out the original town center and replaced it with a mall and hotel, another portion was removed for highways and overpasses, and “old” sections of neighborhoods were removed because they were “old” and replaced with “new” multi-story modern style brick buildings, removing just enough of various neighborhoods to destroy their cohesion. The mansions of Millionaire’s Row on Ridge Avenue were largely incorporated into Community College of Allegheny County.

But you’ve got to call it the “Nor’side” now, even if it is becoming quite gentrified.

I actually took this photo with my inexpensive little digital point-and-shoot out of a window on the 11th floor of Allegheny General Hospital, so I didn’t have my better DSLR with me. Darn!


La Cueva de las Manos: 2010

photo of la cueva de las Manos

La Cueva de las Manos by Marcela K.

Graffiti? No—it’s 10,000-year-old art in a cave in Argentina. I get goosebumps when I look at the photos.

What an incredible signature to leave behind, it’s so joyful, as if these women and children are waving at us through all the millennia letting us know that things will at least turn out as they should. Life wasn’t easy that long ago, and if they could take the time to do this while hunting and gathering, we should hardly complain when we can’t get a signal for the cell phone.

No, I didn’t run off on a South American vacation! Marcela K., a tutor and translator in Buenos Aires, Argentina, commented on one of the photos on this blog. When someone visits me, I visit them, and on scrolling through her blog I saw these photos and read her narrative of her trip to this place. We were right in the middle of our big snowstorms, but her photos and description of walking through the parched, arid region to get to this cave took me away from all that.

Then I saw this photo and read about the hands. I’ll let her take it from there on her blog, Marcela in English, in 729 Hands Painted. She describes the landscape, the history, and how the hands were painted, plus other paintings in the caves. Below, she sent along another photo that isn’t in her photo essay. The hands look like children’s hands.

photo of cave of painted hands

One more photo of the painted hands by Marcela K.

And while you are there, Marcela recommends other photo narratives of other sites in Argentina she’s visited. From deserts to glaciers to a rose garden in the city—I had no idea Argentina was so diverse in regional weather. She also has an entry about the Chilean earthquake since they two countries are right next to each other.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Santa Cruz

Rosedal in Buenos Aires (a park full of roses in my city)

Quebrada de Humahuaca, Jujy (Part 1)

Quebrada de Humahuaca, Jujuy (Part 2)

So as we head into what may be a long, cool, wet spring, enjoy a little vacation in Argentina, compliments of Marcela.


Taking the Measure of a Tree: 2010

    The Red Oak Tree lifts its craggy old arms to a gray winter sky.

The Red Oak Tree lifts its craggy old arms to a gray winter sky.

Of course there was no February 29 in 2010, but because the extra day is about time, I’m reposting two posts that are, more or less, about time.

So this tree may have been a sapling during the Revolutionary War, and witnessed the Whiskey Rebellion on one of the battlefields of that little uprising.

The trouble with trees is that they can’t talk, though they’ve seen so much where they stand when we humans think they can’t understand what we are saying; even a younger tree has stories to tell, I’m sure, but those elders can talk about centuries.

This particular Red Oak tree is on the Scott Conservancy’s Kane’s Woods property which was once part of the estate of John Neville, aide to President Washington and on the government’s side in the Whiskey Rebellion. Neville’s mansion, Bower Hill, located about a quarter mile from where this tree stands, was burned during the uprising by soldier-farmers who disagreed with the government.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Whiskey Rebellion, aside from Shay’s rebellion it was the first major civil, then martial, action by the citizens and government of the new country. In order to to pay off the national debt incurred by the Revolutionary War, President Washington and his Treasurer Alexander Hamilton decided to impose a tax in 1791, choosing carriages and alcohol.

While I’m sure many an individual enjoyed a glass at the end of the day, and alcohol was also used for many medicinal purposes from medicine to extracting oils and essences from fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, and for preserving foodstuffs for winter consumption, grain alcohol was also made as the most convenient way to use up, store and ship extra grain produced on the farm. Alcohol was the most marketable item a farmer produced since selling produce and fresh meat was nearly impossible considering the isolation and difficulty of traveling in those days, and preserved foods and meats could only be sold in one season. Nearly every farm produced some alcohol to be used in home remedies and food preservation, and because actual cash was a scarce commodity in those early days it was also used for barter, and it could also be shipped and sold at any time of the year.

I’m not sure about the carriages tax, but the whiskey tax was on the makers of whiskey based on their volume, 9 cents on the gallon for small makers and 6 cents for large distillers or a flat tax based on their previous year’s volume, which clearly favored the larger distillers; incidentally, President Washington was a large distiller. Because most small farmers made it for personal use and barter this was a hardship since no money changed hands for a portion of the whiskey they produced, and for the other portion it was often the only income to a small farmer for an entire year.

By 1794 farmers had gone from civil disobedience to armed conflict numbering almost 13,000 and began terrorizing the tax collectors, judges and federal officials, including major landowners known to be friendly with President Washington. Neville was one of these, but he had two houses and simply sent his family down the hill to “Woodville” when the protesters arrived.

BACK TO THE TREE…one of Scott Conservancy’s members had estimated the tree at about 170 years by using an equation of the tree’s circumference and its height, but an accurate height couldn’t be obtained, and the closest guess was about 70 feet.

They called in the DCNR and the forestry expert measured the tree’s diameter, 52″ and circumference, 14′, more accurately, and later used an instrument to triangulate the tree’s height at about 82 feet.

The core sampling was difficult to obtain in a tight-grained Red Oak, partly because most trees that old have lost their heartwood to rot or inhabitants, as this one did. But the 8 inches that did come out showed about five inches of tight grain, and while it’s difficult to tell when the wood is fresh and wet, apparently about 56 years could be counted just in that little sample. The age guess has increased to about 225 years.

Red Oak trees are naturally occurring in this part of Pennsylvania, but they are also the sort of tree people would plant as a permanent marker—a property border, for instance, or to mark the spot of a momentous occasion. This was no doubt cleared farmland when this distinguished tree began reaching its young limbs toward the sky from the rocky soil of this steep slope, and perhaps it marked the corner of a pasture, or the edge of a piece of land someday deeded to a son, or perhaps to commemorate the survival of a young union of states.

As for the Whiskey Tax, it was abolished in 1802, never having been adequately collected, but it also had the effect of pushing the production of whiskey outside the union of 13 states into Kentucky and Tennessee, whose residents also discovered that excess corn was probably better for making whiskey, and the rest is history of another sort.

You can read more about the Scott Conservancy and find links to information about the Whiskey Rebellion on the Scott Conservancy’s website.


Snow in the Cemetery (2011)

snow falling in old cemetery

Snow in the Cemetery

This is from last year, not quite on this date but only a few days past; I couldn’t copy posts from last year for a few days and especially since we are having a rather warm and wet winter I don’t want to miss sharing some of last year’s snow photos.

How many snowfalls have blanketed this site in Carnegie, white flakes silently falling all around and filling the valley seen from this cliff?

Currently, it’s 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.

But the site has been a lookout for millennia as one can stand on the cliff’s edge and see most of the valley containing Carnegie and the oxbow of Chartiers Creek as it enters and leaves town. My mother told me her brothers and others found Native American artifacts in this area.

Standing there in any weather, I can feel the history beneath my feet, the land unchanged by time, holding the memories of all the watchers, like me, looking off into the distance of the valley and of history.


Ancestors

black and white photo of burial ground

Ancestors

Perhaps this is the season to remember out ancestors, or at least those who came before us in this place. This photo is a portion of the burial ground at Old St. Luke’s Church in Scott Township, PA.

The church was founded in 1765 and though in this century it was abandoned. I grew up near here and remember tiptoeing though that burial ground and peering into the church windows imagining we saw skeletons lying on the pews and ghosts flitting about in broad daylight. I am surprised the church survived intact with so many curious teens around, and yet it did, sans skeletons.

It has no congregation, but a group of people for the sake of history secured it, renovated and reopened it. Many of the markers date before the American Revolution and few in this section are newer than 1840. They are worn nearly smooth with age, or cracked and chipped, but a new technology has proved to show the text and images on the stones as if they were newly carved.

And in those days this little settlement on the bluff above Chartiers Creek was a tiny clearing the dense old-growth forest on the hills, hard to believe people could survive here.


The Light Within

photo of church window

The Light Within

The sunlight shone not only through the windows of this tiny historic church, but through the church itself, silhouetting the profile of someone waiting for the service to begin.

This is Old St. Luke’s Church in Scott Township, PA, the oldest Presbyterian church in America west of the Allegheny Mountains. Set on a bluff over Chartiers Creek, the setting sun shines through the west windows and right through the sanctuary to the east windows, very plain yet colorful and elegant stained glass in a traditional diamond shape.


When I Am Gone

stone marker

A stone tablet with words in an old cemetery.

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.

detail of stone

Detail of Stone

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.


Reflections and Reality

window with reflections

Reflections and Reality

Hard to tell which is which as autumn leaves are both clearly reflected upon and seen through these corner windows of Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie. A window in its Italianate style, tiny Corinthian column topped by a fountain of familiar symmetrical arches and circle above in terra cotta, warm clay brick in courses and arched above and a cool limestone sill seen in all its detail and color, and also in silhouette through the window, built solid to last a century and counting.


Clayton Through the Trees

the clay mansion

Clayton Through the Trees

Clayton is the name given to the Frick family’s mansion in the east end of Pittsburgh—yes, that Frick family. I attended a concert on the grounds, which are now a city park, on Friday night, a huge crowd of classical music lovers with picnics sitting in the grass to hear Daphne Alderson and her Amazing Band. The concert was truly amazing, the weather was perfect, and for all we call that group of filthy-rich industrialists a bunch of “robber barons”, I’m also glad they found the arts important enough to donate their homes and grounds for performance space and galleries and endowed several arts organizations and foundations in Pittsburgh.