Thursday, September 23, 2010

Quilted, Naturally

Kali and I paid a visit to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza XVII last Sunday, September 18.  With "extravaganza" in the name, could the show be anything but hype?  Well, for once, there was truth in advertising.  The show was a spectacular extravaganza of quilts of all types from traditional patchwork to contemporary, cutting-edge (so to speak) appliqued wall hangings.  We spent over three hours at the show.

While I photographed many of the works on display, I'm presenting a gallery of some of the best of the nature themed quilts.

With one exception, every one of the quilts in the show was created by a woman.  As we were leaving the exhibition, Kali remarked, "If these pieces had been created by men, they'd be hanging in art museums."   

Medea Escaping  Not nature-themed, but a real show stopper!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Glorious Early Fall Field Trip

Autumn dogwood as stained glass

I'm teaching a graduate course in restoration ecology this term, and brought the students to my natural area to give them some first-hand experience with state of the art restoration techniques and land management strategies in a natural area that is subject to considerable pressure from white-tailed deer and from invasive plants. Many of the students are landscape architecture candidates, so they need some exposure to native ecosystems, not just design classes.

The day was absolutely perfect--temperatures in the mid 70s, low humidity, and billowy white clouds sailing across an azure sky.
The native grasslands are at their peak right now, especially where they contain goldenrod and white snakeroot. The meadows are just gorgeous!

Back at the nature center, white wood aster was blooming in the shade of a specimen tree alongside a white picket fence.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Artsy Weekend

Lucinda Childs' Dance (1979), with film by Sol LeWitt and music by Philip Glass

My wife and I had an artsy weekend. We started on Saturday morning with a 6-mile circumambulation of Lake Galena, a water supply reservoir and recreational area in Peace Valley County Park near Doylestown, Buck County, Pennsylvania. The walk is fairly boring; most of it is along the lakeshore though developed picnicking, boating, and fishing areas or along the crest of the earthen fill dam that holds back the waters of Neshaminy Creek to create the lake. We walk the lake almost solely for exercise.
Canoes brought ashore at Lake Galena

Some parts of the trail near the upper end of the lake pass through young woodlands and old fields, and are therefore more enjoyable. At the very upper end, where Neshaminy Creek enters the lake, an old highway bridge (closed to traffic) spans the creek. There, we joined a small crowd watching a big fat Northern Water Snake lolling in the warm shallows. A smaller specimen investigated riparian vegetation a short distance away. That's where I found out that I had failed to recharge my camera battery...

After our walk, we headed into Doylestown proper for the community's annual arts festival. We're art festival junkies, and this was B-quality work at best--lots of vendors with lots of acceptable work but nothing exciting, innovative, or of the best quality--with the exception of a woman who made beautiful and inventive women's coats. We did buy a quirky birdhouse that we'll mount on an old snag outside our house next spring.
Sunday we got a gentle rain in the morning--not enough to really relieve the terrible dryness we're experiencing, but better than nothing. It was our first rain in three weeks, and it let up by noon, though the day stayed cloudy and cool.

In the afternoon, we went into central Philadelphia to see a performance of Dance, a revival of a dance by choreographer Lucinda Childs that debuted in 1979. The work was part of the Live Arts/Philly Fringe Festival that's in full swing. The festival endeavors to present avant-garde and unusual performance pieces. Dance certainly was avant-garde when it was first performed; American and European audiences booed it off the stage. But, contemporary dance has evolved considerably since 1979, and the 1-hour piece now just feels a bit outdated.

The most interesting aspect of the piece was the juxtaposing of live dancers with film of dancers projected onto an upstage scrim. The filmed dancers and the live dancers, all attired in stark white outfits, performed exactly the same steps at the same time. It was fascinating to watch.

The piece was set to a score that choreographer Childs commissioned from Philip Glass, the minimalist contemporary composer. We never want to hear another piece of music by Philip Glass ever again. Glass's music is highly--highly--repetitive, almost to the point of monotony. My wife asked if I remembered that the U.S. Army had tried to get rid of Manuel Noriega in Panama by blasting him with incessant loud rock music; she said they made a mistake--they should have used Phillip Glass's music! Of course, it might have driven him insane, first. There were so few changes in the music that I don't know what cues the magnificent dancers were using to synchronize their movements.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Nighthawk Sunset

Despite temperatures in the low 90s, we decided that the humidity was temperate enough last evening to allow us to enjoy a walk in our natural area after dinner. Good call!

As we were nearing the end of the walk, we were treated to a sunset that rivaled the best that the West has to offer. Such sights are not common in the Mid-Atlantic, especially not in the summer, so we drank it in.

Though we've been keeping an eye out for the last week or so, we hadn't seen any migrating Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor), which usually grace the sky during the last week of August or the first week of September. These birds are in serious decline because of habitat loss, and I was beginning to despair that we wouldn't see any this year. Then, not 100 meters from the end of the trail, over the broad expanse of native grasses planted in the natural area, four nighthawks appeared in the sky, wheeling and swooping in pursuit of late flying insects. One flew no more than ten feet over our heads. Then, as the sunset faded, the birds vanished.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wild Turkeys vs.Great Blue Heron

Harper's Run, Summer

Last evening, I went for a bicycle ride in the large city park downstream of "my" natural area. My wife had to work late, and I'd had a large lunch and didn't need another meal, so I took advantage of this alignment of the stars to get some exercise. The only downside was that yesterday was among the hottest days of the year, with the temperature when I began at 5:30 p.m. still at 91 degrees!

Before setting off, I photographed Harper's Run, the third in my seasonal series of images of this stream taken from a footbridge over the creek. The lack of recent rains is reflected in the stream, which has dwindled to a trickle. However, if Hurricane Earl approaches the East Coast tomorrow, Harper's Run could become a raging torrent in a matter of minutes.

The bike trail through the city park is 10 miles long; I rode 7.5 miles of it for a total of 15 miles. The trail is paved and parallels the creek, so it's shaded. Most of the ride last night was relatively cool, but every once in a while--because of the topography, the wind, the orientation of the trail, or some other unknown reason--I'd puncture a mass of stifling hot air. Then, a few hundred yards later, I'd re-enter the cooler air. Ahh, relief!

On my return trip up the path, I came around a corner and had a view out over the creek where I captured this image. A group of three Wild Turkeys is on the sandbar on the left, and a Great Blue Heron is fishing the shallows on the right side of the creek. It suggested to me that the gang of turkey bullies had cornered the heron and driven it into the water. Of course, I know that's not the case, but I liked the juxtaposition. I made three images of the scene, and by the time I took the third shot the heron had flown away; the herons are skittish in this park, and I don't blame them because the park is very heavily used.