Monday, December 31, 2007

Scenes of Lucca, Italy





Recently I've been reading a mystery series written by Michael Dibben, an author who is very familiar with Italy and its regions. His central character, Aurelio Zen, is a detective for the Italian government who was born in Venice but is constantly transfered from city to city because he is effective enough to have job security but unpopular with his superiors because he solves cases regardless of the political consequences. The series brought back memories of the week I stayed in Lucca, a city in Tuscany. The series also made me realize that there are many more parts of Italy to explore.

The photos that I have included are from the walled old city. This is where we stayed at the recommendation of friends instead of the more modern section of the city located outside of the walls. If you ever do get the chance to stay for a few days, seriously consider doing that instead of rushing through the city in a line of tourists dropped off by a bus and watching for the green umbrella held up by your tour guide rather than the sights and sounds of Lucca. The warm and friendly people, relaxed open air cafes, narrow streets flowing with people and their histories will make your effort all worthwhile.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Memories of Fall





Suddenly the Wisconsin landscape is white and frigid. It seems like yesterday that there was color and warmth all around us. Still, having lived in parts of the world where seasonal changes were less dramatic, I really wouldn't have it any other way. Contrasts make you appreciate those things that you truly enjoy. It is now time to enjoy the relative sameness of winter scenes while holding on to memories of Fall and the promise of Spring yet to come.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

French street art





When people think of France and art, the Louvre and its Grand Masters come to mind. I enjoy the Louvre and other museums, but there is also something exciting about wandering down a side street and discovering an unexpected piece of street art created by an unknown artist. Its presence compels me to photograph the art piece and preserve it before it is worn away by the forces of nature.

The photos that you see were taken either in southern France or in the western coastal towns. While I am especially drawn to the earth tones used in two of the paintings, all four of them are my particular favorites from all that I took during my 2006 trip. The monk journeying through the Himalayas serves as a contrast to the urban music lover in his approach to life. The two beings gazing into the heavens cause me to wonder what they are seeing that I am not. The building that appears to have a side street view is a subtle statement of illusion.
The artists will probably be only known to themselves and a few members of the community in which they live. Their works of art, if stumbled upon and noticed, will touch the lives of countless people.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

the Kennebec River


Recently, I returned to Maine because of my mothers death. The event caused me to revisit some of the places connected to my childhood, one of them being the banks of the Kennebec River.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "the Kennebec River

River, west-central Maine, U.S. rises from Moosehead Lake and flows south for about 150 mi (240 km) to the Atlantic Ocean. It was explored by Samuel de Champlain in 1604 – 05. With its main tributary, the Androscoggin River, it forms Merrymeeting Bay, which extends 16 mi (26 km) to the Atlantic."

To me, this tidal river holds historical significance. It is the pathway that encouraged European colonists to settle along its banks starting in the 17th Century. The River was also the route that Benedict Arnold took on his way to Canada during the American Revolutionary War.

In more recent times, the River has felt the impact of Man in a variety of ways. During the 19th Century its waters were so pure that ships would travel to it, collect its ice, pack it in sawdust, and ship it all over the world as a source of refrigeration. Then came the mills that harnessed water power and produced industrial pollution as a byproduct. Add the growth of towns as industry grew and we observe the additional pollutant of raw sewage added to the once clear waters. The result was a river environment that was avoided whenever possible, one that I hold strong memories of (and not so pleasant at that).

Fortunately, my teenage memories of walking across Memorial Bridge in Augusta on my way to high school in the early 1960's are part of the unglorious past. The stench of the River is gone. Mills no longer add toxins to the River, and cities have effective water treatment plants. Boating along the Kennebec is now a pleasant experience. Native fish such as the Atlantic salmon have returned. Old riverside train tracks have been converted to scenic walkways. There is once more a balance of nature.

Revisiting the Kennebec River has restored a bit of hope for me. It has shown me that it is sometimes possible to undo the harm to nature that Man has thoughtlessly inflicted. Thank you, Rachael Carson, for telling us decades ago of a potential "Silent Spring". You did make a difference. If only others who are touting the dangers of global warming would concentrate upon resolving environmental impact rather than personal recognition, they too could make a difference.

If you ever have a chance, walk along the banks of the Kennebec, you'll enjoy the experience

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Faces of New England





Where is the "real" New England? Is it tacky lobster claws jutting from the side of a tourist shop in Bar Harbor Maine? Is it a quiet harbor scene on the Maine coast? Perhaps a river view from a fusion cuisine restaurant located in a converted building in west-central Vermont? Or could it be the former Concord School of Philosophy on the Alcott property in Concord Mass.? It all depends on your inclinations.

I personally enjoyed all of the above, depending on my mindset on a particular day. The tackiness of a street lined with tourist traps can be fun, as long as you know that the gross commercialism will be contained and prevented from spilling over into historical and natural areas of beauty. Admittedly, you can only look at so many items with a lobster motif and then your head starts to spin, but it can be a blast. My question is: What do the people of Asia really think of Americans as they mass produce these trinkets for our consumption?

The coastal harbor towns of New England are some of my favorite places to visit, bringing back memories of my own childhood. Peaceful, quiet, lasting are descriptors that come to mind. Booth Bay Harbor, Camden, Belfast-places where you can watch the tides ebb and flow in harmony with nature.

Former mills and other buildings converted into restaurants, artists' galleries, and living spaces while maintaining the original integrity of the buildings. I'm glad that it's happening rather than a thoughtless trashing of existing structures to make way for chrome, steel, and glass structures that have no soul. I hope the trend continues-it creates a much more interesting environment to explore. The setting for the third photo is Middlebury, Vermont-a town well worth visiting.

Concord, Mass. was the home of Alcott's Concord School of Philosophy. The father of the author of "Little Women" established the school. One of his unusual contributions to the field of education was the concept of "recess". The building remains as a monument to his efforts.

The four photos represent some of the faces of New England, just a few of the countless possibilities. The battlefields of the American Revolution, places of worship, coffee houses, lobster boats, people, cemeteries, factories, natural wildernesses, mansions, narrow and winding streets of Boston present more paths to explore. I look forward to some time in the future when I can spend a month or two in the Fall and gain a more in-depth understanding of the faces of New England.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Brandon,Vermont

Sometimes the best travel finds are by happenstance. We were traveling through west-central Vermont on our way to Fort Ticondaroga (just over the Vermont/New York border). Struck by a stong need for caffine, we stopped in Brandon. As we searched for a coffee house, we stumbled across colorful dogs and cats that a local artist placed around as sidewalk art. On that day, art won over history. We never did make it to the fort, but did have an excellent time exploring a small Vermont town with a lot of character. This dog, in my mind, took first place. All of the other statues vied for second.
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