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

panhandle trail

“Spring Morning Leaves” original pastel

pastel sketch of leafy trees
pastel sketch of leafy trees

“Spring Morning Leaves”, pastel, 9″ x 12″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

It looks like I’m in the deep woods, but it’s just the line of trees between our back yards; it all depends on the angle you look at it.

When I looked out my kitchen window this morning, above is what I saw. I couldn’t paint it because the light was changing fast at that early hour, so I photographed it and worked on it a little later. I wanted to keep it leafy with a lot of movement, so I used all my pastels on their sides.

This is painted on Colourfix sanded pastel paper with a variety of brands of pastels.

original framed pastel

“Spring Morning Leaves”, framed.

Buy this artwork

This pastel is for sale, framed, in my Etsy shop. There is no mat but the white wooden frame has a 1″ linen liner. Frame is 9″ x 12″.

Click here to see this painting in my Etsy shop.

 

See other original art and landscapes on “Today”

Click here to see an archive of original art.

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


Set Down Roots, Reach for the Sky

tree roots
tree roots

Set Down Roots

This maple tree has roots deeply embedded in the hillside, and even though the flow of the stream when it floods has exposed them the maple grows tall and reaches straight up for the sky.

Locals may know this as the “rope swing tree”, along Robinson Run, right off the Panhandle Trail. A favorite spot.

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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.


Rock Face

limestone outcrop with face
limestone outcrop with face

Rock Face

I looked up and saw the profile of a face in the rock.

. . . . . . .

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.


A Day In the Woods: 2011

girl in stream water
girl in stream water

Looking Forward

Rather than post a photo of frost or snow or something else to do with this frigid weather, I thought I’d share one of my all-time favorite photos from my visits to the woods along the Panhandle Trail, from summer 2011 when a great-niece and great-nephew came to visit from out of town and we went exploring, and swimming in the swimming hole. Feel warm? I do!

I spent Sunday afternoon in the woods along the Panhandle Trail with my great-niece and and great-nephew, 9 and 11, just to run around, explore, be outdoors and make up our own activities with whatever was there—paths up and down hills, wildflowers, trees, a stream (Robinson Run), a trail made from an ex-train track (rail-to-trail), and an absolutely perfect day.

And we did. We did everything. I was so happy to have someone to play with, a few sun-warmed black raspberries and muck on our feet. Above is one of my favorite photos for the light, the color, the composition and the memories; that might have been me forty-odd years ago wading in a stream barefoot, carrying my shoes. It’s my great-niece Cassidy, just as fearless as I was then, and we were joined by her brother Kyler. We enjoyed exploring the woods, but we liked being in the water best. They live in Savannah, GA now, 88 degrees “is kind of like what it’s like in the spring,” but their streams happen to have alligators so they can’t go swimming like you can here.

And the rope swing…there is nothing like swinging on a rope swing, even if you don’t go too high it’s just that feeling of freedom, letting go, waving your feet around—the things that usually carry you around are off the ground!

Yes, their great-aunt was right there in the woods and the water and the rope swing with them, who do you think showed the way and was the first in the water and the first on the swing? But I had the camera so there were no photos of me.

I was also scouting places to paint and this year I’m determined to get out there. One little casualty was that I slipped sideways and my little Lumix digital went underwater in my pocket. It was out of order until I could take it apart and things could dry out a little and I got some action from it; I put it in my gas oven with the warm pilot light overnight and today it works but I need to replace the battery pack. I looked at the waterproof cameras for a reason, but they just didn’t take good photos. The other casualty from the same little slip-up, and more serious, was my 70-300 zoom lens for my Pentax K10D. I think it may come back too, but I am awfully fond of that lens. My camera bag is breaking down and took on water where it never used to.

Click here to see last year’s post for a brief slideshow of some of our events.

I enjoyed this day so much, and this photo has become one of my favorites of all time for so many reasons: the literal and metaphorical meanings behind my great-niece standing in shallow water, looking upstream, the ripples rolling out from her, she is growing up; the colors and spatters of sun on the water, and how much she reminded me of myself at that age, going barefoot and carrying my shoes, which I still do as I was standing barefoot in the water behind her with my camera, and the practicality of a bathing suit she can grow into, tied in a knot in the back because it was a little too big for her right then. I have a large print of this in my home to enjoy and wonder how I caught such a moment.


Poem for Sunday: A Little Thaw

A Little Thaw.
A Little Thaw.

A Little Thaw.

Imagine the sound of water amid a world of ice.

The limestone cliffs of the quarry seep groundwater dripping down the rock face into the partially melted quarry pond in a constant patter. The gray of the limestone and pale yellow of the wan winter sun color this image into a burnished antique gold.

The trail can be so noisy on a bright winter afternoon with all the water dripping and the stream surging with icemelt, and the birds making the best of a clear day to stock up on food. Even tiny bits of fresh green showed in protected spots, ferns and mosses just waiting for a sunny day to store up some energy to make it through the winter.

. . . . . . .

A Little Thaw

The silence of ice
hard-smooth glaringly mocking
a manufactured perfection
life, birth, spring
held captive in plain view
under a solid clear glaze
pale world strangely hushed
I tiptoe through
afraid to break the surface with my sound
but a snap, a crack, a drip, another
whispers return to life around me
once broken, the ice cannot hold its captives
dripping, pattering, babbling
life begins again
the stream torrent rushing
beneath the clear, fragile, broken cage of its captor.

poem (c) 2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

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


poetry book

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the books and the poetry readings

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

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

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


Guarding the Cave

123013-GuardingTheCave

There is a cave of sorts at the bottom of the hill next to Robinson Run that I check now and then but have never seen anything enter or leave, here it’s guarded by icy teeth on a cold day.

. . . . . . .

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.


Christmas Day Trail Sketches

sketch of trail and trees and overcast sky
charcoal sketch of path in woods

“Uphill Path”, charcoal pencils on 2-ply vellum bristol paper, 5″ x 7″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I like to capture whatever winter happens to be doing with a visit to the Panhandle Trail on Christmas Day, with photos of course, and also with sketches, and I captured three that I like.

Above is the first of a path I often walk up into the woods. It is steep, and actually continues up and up until it somewhat levels off, and in temperate times has a huge number of varied wildflowers, including the first trilliums of the year. We’d only had a dusting of snow but on this north facing side of the hill it was a little deeper and hadn’t melted. I like the look of rich black charcoal against pure white paper to capture a sense of the woods.

sketch of trail and trees and overcast sky

“Charcoal Dusk”, black and white charcoal on gray toned paper, 5.5″ x 8.5″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Above, the trail with a dusting of snow, the denseness of the trees along side and on a hill beyond, and the overcast sky. This is the first time I’ve used this toned paper while sketching, and it’s ideal for these winter types of sketches to start with a mid-tone.

The day began with a sunny morning but was so murky dark by the time I was ready to go in the early afternoon I held off until later. We did see some sun here and there, but I decided a late afternoon or even dusk visit would be good, and it was. It meant color was pretty much out of the question, not because there wasn’t any but because an overcast sky like that can really change the way my pastels look in the box and on paper. I did start one but decided to bring it home to finish, and will do others from photos—the clouds broke briefly just before sunset with lots of wispy color in the sky, awakening the cool blues and purples in the landscape, but the light changed so fast it was impossible to catch.

charcoal sketch of woods

“Ravine”, black and white charcoal on tan toned paper, 5.5″ x 8.5″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Above, a ravine with varied textures, and there happened to be a good bit of tan longer grass bend over under the snow.

See other original art and also original trail sketches here and here, my Christmas sketch from 2011.

. . . . . . .

If you’d be interested in purchasing any of these sketches, please contact me.


Christmas Night

house with christmas lights in the woods
house with christmas lights in the woods

Christmas Night

I was on the trail for my annual Christmas walk, and coming home in near darkness I saw this house off in the woods, a blocky old farmhouse joyfully festooned with lights and banners and little figures, though only the lights are seen in the dark. If we’d had a little more snow it would have been even more perfect.

. . . . . . .

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.


Cherry Sno Cones

cherry sno cones
cherry sno cones

Cherry Sno Cones

Luke and Ava enjoyed their cherry sno-cones and everyone else had a great time too at RTQ XIII! Great weather, music, friends and food. More photos to come.

. . . . . . .

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.


Lugnasadh and Lammas

photo of grasses and sparkling water
photo of grasses and sparkling water

Late summer woods.

Seasons meld from one to another, not at the equinox and solstice but halfway between, in the quiet time when there are no other celebrations, but the sensitive person can feel the change, especially standing in the quiet relentless heat of a backwoods trail in August. I visited the trail on the traditional Celtic cross-quarter Lugnasadh and the Christian Feast of Lammas, when summer gently gives over to autumn, growth turns to ripening, the natural world begins to settle itself in for harvest and rest in the dark of winter, and later that day the sense of change, in the woods and in myself, was still strong with me, and I wrote this poem. I also recorded it with a slideshow of images; this is embedded after the text of the poem.

Wild Apples
by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

At a bend in the trail,
The scent of wild apples greets me.
A tree abandoned from an old orchard
Or sprung up on its own from old stock, wild and uncultivated,
Stands trailside,
Heavy with small round burnished apples.
The late summer heat releases their scent,
Sweet and tart, that the world may know they have reached their prime;
The wild perfume of the coming season.

From another tree one single leaf lets go
And falls, papery, dry and curled, slipping through branches
Clattering to the summer-hardened clay of the trail,
Loud in the silent heat of the August afternoon.
Months before,
Winter lost her grip, and, one by one,
The wildflowers of spring began to bloom,
Which, in their turn, faded into the shadows of the dense summer woods.
Now summer is losing her strength,
Autumn is thinning the woods
And bearing her own flowers and fruits,
Changing the palette of the landscape
With bright summer greens turning gold,
Deep rich shadows fading hazy blue.

Soon autumn will blaze along the trail,
And songbirds will move their chorus south.
Already winter has touched my hair,
And the smell of wild apples is in the air.

Poem “Wild Apples” by Bernadette E. Kazmarski © 2007, may not be reproduced in any way without express written permission of the author. Links to this blog are fine.

We notice these changes in ourselves in the great cycle of our own lives. This was the topic of my 2009 poetry reading at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, Change of Season. I have published the collections of poetry from each of the four poetry readings, 2007 through 2010, in a book entitled Paths I Have Walked, which you can purchase on my website. Also visit the writing section of my website to read more poetry and see more art and photos.

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

 


poetry book

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the books and the poetry readings

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

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

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


Life Survives Where It Will

mullein growing in brick wall
mullein growing in brick wall

A mullein plant grows from a brick wall.

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 rest of the wall it came from.

The rest of the wall it came from.


A Day of Spring Sketches

pastel sketch of leafy trees
pastel sketch of leafy trees

“Spring Morning Leaves”, pastel, 9″ x 12″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

When I looked out my kitchen window this morning, above is what I saw. I couldn’t paint it because the light was changing fast at that early hour, so I photographed it and worked on it a little later. I wanted to keep it leafy with a lot of movement, so I used all my pastels on their sides.

Below are two small sketches I did of Robinson Run along the Panhandle Trail. Both are pastel, and while there are areas I am very pleased with there are also areas I am not…but it just means I need to restock my field boxes of pastels with some of the colors I’m missing.

The first sketch was:

pastel ketch of creek with trees

“Robinson Run Early Spring”, pastel, 8″ x 10″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

The second sketch was:

pastel sketch of stream

“The Swimming Hole in Spring”, pastel, 6″ x 8″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski


Poem for Sunday: Things I Found in the Woods

fern frond in the woods

A delicate fern frond reaches for the sun from last year’s dried stems.

Every year the winter opens up to a few days of warm intoxicating sun and mud in January or February, and I’ve run outside to celebrate the day. In 2012 it was February 5, two days after my 20-year-old tortoiseshell kitty Cookie died, and as I enjoyed the warm day and remembered this poem, I knew exactly what I wanted to create as a dedication to my faithful heart cat, my best friend.

I originally wrote this poem in 2006 for another senior Kitty, Moses, as I knew her body was failing and she had little time left, and in 2012 was glad to dedicate my first recording of one of my poems to Cookie, leading me to a new means of expression and sharing my creative efforts. I have a link to the recorded poem with slideshow at the end of this article along with a few notes about creating it. You can read and listen to the poem and also more about Cookie, Moses, and the creative inspirations of my feline muses in this post on The Creative Cat; here on Today I have only the poem and the recording.

Things I Found in the Woods

Dedicated to Moses, the most gentle, loving being I have ever encountered.

Tiny rivulets of water released from thawing soil
flowing beneath last year’s debris, trickling and gurgling all around
hurrying down hillsides before the freeze returns.

A cup-shaped fungus holding a tablespoon of snowmelt
for a song sparrow to sip, practicing its vernal melody
for the time when spring arrives in earnest.

Ferns, newly-green, draped on cliffs,
fluttering like garlands in the mild, caressing breeze
gathering a little nourishment to last the rest of the winter.

Fallen trees blanketed with bright green moss,
thick and lush already in the brief January thaw
filling a span of life in but a few days.

Four young white-tailed deer, capricious as the gusts,
feeling the flush of their first spring as adults
cavorting as if winter might not return tomorrow.

An understanding that life and love are cycles,
and that the moment must be taken for what it offers
even if what it offers is not what we expect.

The strength and courage to show as much dignity as you,
and to walk this last precious part of your path with you
and when I can walk no more beside you
to let you go.

“Things I Found in the Woods” © 2006 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I had never before experienced the spring thaw in such wonderment at the transience of life—still winter but everything that lived was taking advantage of the moment.

So was Moses. So should I.

So I resolved just to let her follow her course and she would let me know what to do.

Listen to the Poem

I have always enjoyed reading my poetry to others, and had always wanted to try a little multi-media project including a slideshow of photos with narration. In February 2012 I lost my 20-year-old kitty Cookie, my best friend from practically the day she joined my household as a rescue and who spent many long days and nights over those years staying by my side as I found my creative life; I created this first recorded presentation in honor of her.

There are no photos of Cookie or any other cats in this; though I wrote it for Moses and dedicate this project to Cookie, it is what I found I feel about love, loss, and letting go. I was led to this knowledge, of course, by my cats. Thank you, my feline muses, as always, for showing me the way.

It’s also not timed quite right as some of the groups of images are shorter or longer than the stanza. Some of the photos I included at the end are from significant moments, for instance, the asters on Cookie’s picnic table bench from a morning Cookie and I were in the yard last October, the “Wolf Moon” in the bare tree and the sunset with the evening stars references to my mother who also passed last year at this time. Coordinating, more or less, with the second verse, the forsythia with the tiny song sparrow in the middle of it is actually from the morning of February 2 as I held Cookie on my lap and knew her process of dying had begun; it was the day of transition from winter to spring and all the birds were singing their spring songs, and a song sparrow landed very near to us and sang for a while.

I could have gotten a better microphone too, but I will stop explaining and making excuses, and I hope you enjoy it. Watch the video below or click here to see the video on YouTube, “Things I Found in the Woods”.

“Things I Found in the Woods” recording © 2012 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I read this poem as part of my 2008 annual poetry reading and art exhibit, “Winter Twilight”.

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


poetry book

Paths I Have Walked, collected poems.

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the books and the poetry readings

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

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

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


Sands of Time

photo of layers of limestone and sandstone
photo of layers of limestone and sandstone

Sands of Time

What primordial wash left these deposits of colored sand between layers of limestone? How many times did the landscape change to create these layers? How much time does this represent?

This highwall is a man-made cut along the Panhandle Trail in Collier Twp., PA, a former rail line from Pittsburgh to Weirton, WV and connecting to points north and west. A section at the trail head runs through the McShane Quarry of Collier Stone, providing Collier Gray limestone and other products around southwestern Pennsylvania.

The portion of the quarry around the trail is no longer mined, but several quarry ponds still provide interest and habitat, and in the woods huge quarried and natural boulders left behind are covered with lichen and moss. And like most limestone and sandstone formations, there’s a natural cave to explore. Farther along the trail is another limestone feature, the Fossil Cliffs where millennia of flora and fauna remain in this ghostly form.


Welcome to the Neighborhood

hand-painted bird house
hand-painted birdhouse

The Pink Birdhouse

Hand made birdhouses, created by local kids in school, hang in young maples along the Panhandle Trail in Collier Township. You can’t miss this one! And it looks like the birds have noticed it as well—this one is either showing signs of occupation from last year, or a new resident this year.


Rock Face

limestone outcrop with face
limestone outcrop with face

Rock Face

I looked up and saw the profile of a face in the rock.


A Little Thaw

water dripping from rocks

A Little Thaw.

Imagine the sound of water.

The limestone cliffs of the quarry seep groundwater dripping down the rock face into the partially melted quarry pond in a constant patter. The gray of the limestone and pale yellow of the wan winter sun color this image into a burnished antique gold.

The trail can be so noisy on a bright winter afternoon with all the water dripping and the stream surging with icemelt, and the birds making the best of a clear day to stock up on food. Even tiny bits of fresh green showed in protected spots, ferns and mosses just waiting for a sunny day to store up some energy to make it through the winter.


Moonlit Sycamores

moon and sycamore trees
moon and sycamore trees

Moonlit Sycamores

The Cold Moon of December is not quite full but illumines the land with the cool blue of coming winter in the deep dusk of a winter evening.


Oriental Bittersweet

oriental bittersweet

Oriental bittersweet

Oriental bittersweet putting on one heck of a show among the bare branches in the woods. Too bad it’s invasive, and this patch may end up being only Oriental bittersweet in a few years if we don’t remove it, but the multitude of berries all through the woods is fascinating. I think I’ll go back and cut this patch out of the trees, bring it home for holiday decorating–and bird feeding.


December Mosses

photo of mosses in the woods
photo of mosses in the woods

Mosses

The mosses have been so thrilled with the unusually warm weather they are glowing, especially on an overcast day.

Do you suppose mosses were the original inspiration for shag carpeting?


Ancient Fishes

Ancient Fishes
black and white photo of driftwood

Ancient Fishes

Seen along the trail, perhaps washed up eons ago in the ocean that created our layers of limestone and fossils here in Western Pennsylvania.

Really just an old weathered tree trunk. But they certainly looked like ancient fishes at first.


Twilight on the Trail

landscape at twilight
landscape at twilight

Twilight on the Trail

There is magic as the landscape becomes a velvety darkness beneath the bright sky on a clear autumn evening.


What Does Silence Look Like? 2010

trees sky and trail
trees sky and trail

Summer Silence

On a still, hot afternoon, the time of day in the time of year when sensible wildlife take refuge in shade and rest, and even insects take a break in their brief but incessant calling for the continuation of their species, I encountered a trail off into time.

At first my ears rang with the silence of the afternoon and of my own stillness, accustomed to the noise of my daily life, the radio programs I listen to, the white noise of my computer, the sounds of my neighbors going about their summer days drifting into my windows, the thoughts that accompany my own daily activities.

Then, in the same way we let our eyes adjust to darkness and suddenly we can see all about us, I let my ears adjust to the silence and heard the slight rustle of a breeze in the very tops of the black willows, crickets in the grass, the occasional chirp or click of other insects, an occasional bird moving from one branch to another. My mind was momentarily as empty as the air with the resting of my senses.

This trail off the trail leading through woods to a field was so enticing but time was elusive.

I remember exploring the woods and fields that still existed when I was young, following a path just because it was there, soaking up the sun and heat of a summer afternoon and filling my senses with all it offered.

Because our daily lives are so full of activity we rarely experience silence, or at least the quiet that generations of people heard before us, before we had so many ingenious motorized things and methods of transportation, then there are those cell phones ringing everywhere and one-sided conversations. Even once we escape all these noisemakers our silence today is rarely complete. It is, however, restful to the ears and to the soul, as I find in an afternoon outing on the trail, in the woods, out in a field somewhere.

A few minutes into my trek onto the trail, no matter the season or the weather, and the reduction of sounds has an impact on me that nothing else ever does. I don’t realize until then how I’m often breathing shallowly or even holding my breath, gritting my teeth, holding my shoulders rigid, even when I think I’m relaxed and happy and ready to stay all day, or forever.


This Is Not A Sunflower, 2011

single false sunflower with bud

False Sunflower with bud for next in line.

Actually, it is a false sunflower, but of all the woodland sunflowers I saw this weekend on the Panhandle Trail, I liked this one the best. Those five petals are so deliberate that they are difficult to ignore, and remind me of a wind turbine. Most sunflowers have petals, or rays, all the way around the central disk, but this one has apparently chosen, by genetics, to have only five. this variety, Heliopsis helianthoides, can have anywhere between five and eight. All the plants in this area with similar leaves and stems had five rays, yet in other areas along the trail, I know I’ve seen others with six rays and more. I guess they each have their own territory.

And the photo below is interesting in its own right. I use several different lenses when I photograph wildflowers, and I also manually change the settings, shooting “dark” so that I get all the highlights in the petals where the sun highlights them, for instance, while the background detail fades to focus interest on the flower. I usually have to adjust the levels when I get into PhotoShop, to lighten it up a bit. Often, I’ll simply choose “auto levels” and see what happens. I rarely like what it does—it’s usually too contrasty for me—but it often shows me elements of the image I wouldn’t see otherwise, like this! This photo began with the same color ranges as the one above, but who would think there would be blue and purple in the background and no green? And that zappy yellow! I love the effect.

zappy sunflowers

Zappy Sunflowers