I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

After the deluge

Location, location, location.

That's the old joke about the only thing that matters in the world of real estate, but sometimes matters of life and death use the same criteria. Sandy was catastrophic: New Jersey, Long Island, the Rockaways, have all been ravaged. I know people whose homes were seriously damaged, and many others whose houses are intact but without power so they're camping out with friends and relatives, sometimes moving every night. And, sadly, a couple of families whose homes were destroyed.

But I was a winner in this round of the geography lottery, never even lost power. This branch poking between the wheels of a bicycle is the only damage I saw on my block.

This has left me with a kind of survivor's guilt. How is it fair that those of us in upper Manhattan came through this basically unscathed when some people are hurt so badly?

I know that's not a question with an answer -- or rather, we all know the answer but just refuse to accept it. It isn't fair. It never will be. And all we can do is be generous when it's in our power to do so, and hope that someone in turn will be kind to us someday.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Welcome to the working week

Not around here, of course. Everything is battened down and closed up tight, including my office, while we wait out Hurricane Sandy, a deceptively sweet name for a killer storm.

I've been singing Bruce Springsteen all weekend -- Hey Sandy girl, my my my my my baybay -- but sadly, this Sandy is a ballbuster, hurling rain at the windows in a way that does not really inspire raspy-voiced troubadours in wistful song.

Here's hoping you're safe and dry wherever you are, and don't need a canoe to get you to your next destination.

(River guide, Zimbabwe)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Déjà vu all over again

Rain from Hurricane Sandy isn't expected until later tonight, but it's been a gray, gloomy weekend of anticipation here on the Eastern Seaboard, with long lines at the supermarket and hardware store giving me flashbacks to Irene last summer. There doesn't seem to be much chance that this one is going to miss us, but at least we're only expecting rain, not the snow that's going to be dumped farther inland. And last year it didn't snow until -- well, Halloween.

There's no such thing as global warming...there's no such thing as global warming...there's no such thing...

I wanted to try some macro photography this weekend but the gloom has kept me mostly indoors, so I practiced with bright colors from my sewing basket. Even with all the light I could muster, I didn't have the right conditions to get any depth of field, but the contrast between the sharp detail and the blurred backgrounds makes fun abstracts.

Sunday bird blogging

A red-bellied woodpecker.

I took this picture shortly before I left for Africa last spring, so it got lost in the digital overflow, and never made it to the Blog Ready folder. But it's definitely one of my best bird photos ever, so I'm glad I found it again.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hawks just want to have fun

Bonus bird blogging.

I had to drag myself to the park yesterday morning, and I got there late and every bird I saw was spooked away by joggers or dog walkers before I could get close enough to get a good look.

And then, this: a red-tailed hawk hanging out on a rock in the Azalea Pond, and periodically jumping in the water to splash around.

Hawks are a common sight in the park, but I usually see them flying overhead or sitting on a tree branch scouting their next meal. Seeing one at the water's edge was so unexpected that I spent several minutes looking for songbirds in the nearby trees before noticing the very large raptor practically at my feet. More walkers and birders and photographers wandered by until there were eight or nine of us, grinning and mouthing Wow at each other.

The hawk posed for about fifteen minutes, then moved to a nearby tree, water still dripping from its beak. I love that big red tail.

Autumn leaves

The trees in Central Park are just starting to turn, but here's one spectacular specimen reflected in the lake yesterday. Apparently summer really is over.

Sunday bird blogging

Between travel and bronchitis, I didn't spend much time in the park during fall migration season, but here's one visitor I did manage to see: a ruby-crowned kinglet. It's not a great picture but the only one I've ever managed to get, and you can just see the patch of red on top of his head that gives him his name.

Photos really don't do kinglets justice though as you can't tell how tiny, and therefore by definition, adorable, they are. (Maybe four inches from beak to tail, so if you laid three of them in a row you'd have one bluejay.) And I love those skinny little legs!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday reflections

This year has sped by so relentlessly that at some level I kept thinking it was still summer. I was finally convinced that summer was really, actually gone, and not just gone but long gone, no longer even visible in the rear view mirror, not by the fact that I haven't used the air conditioning in weeks or that I wear a coat every day and there are new episodes of Homeland and The Big Bang Theory on TV -- no, what made me finally believe that summer is gone and winter is bearing down fast was getting a flu shot yesterday. For some reason that got my attention.

I don't even like New York summer that much -- no fan of humidity -- and October is usually the most beautiful month here, so I plan to get outside and enjoy it while I can. But you can't beat summer for the thick greens that flourish in the park then, so here's a belated farewell with reflections in the Azalea Pond from last July.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Urban poetry

I call this one Classical Gas.

It reminds me of classical columns, or the pedestal under some old marble god. But it's actually rusty tire rims at a body shop off Eleventh Avenue in Manhattan.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday bird blogging

We will return to our usual songbirds, gritty cityscapes, and endless window reflections next week, when my rib will hurt less and my dreams will be less vivid.

In the meantime, here's another semi-surreal photo, of a stork taking off from one of the grassy river islands in Zambia. It's not very sharp, which is why I didn't include it with the other Africa pictures I posted in April, but today the blurriness suits my mood and makes this landscape and that bright bird seem like something I only dreamed about, long ago, in another country.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Poetical Saturday

Although I am usually either geometric or reflective on Saturdays, I am recuperating from a bad case of bronchitis that left me with a cracked rib and memories of strange half-waking dreams when photos I was taking came to life.

So here's a change of routine: a slightly surreal photo of purple flowers in Copenhagen that looks like something out of my cough-wracked dreams, and a few lines from the great Sufi poet Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.

Don't ask questions about longing.
Look in my face.

Soul drunk, body ruined, these two
sit helpless in a wrecked wagon.
Neither knows how to fix it.

And my heart, I'd say it was more
like a donkey sunk in a mudhole,
struggling and miring deeper.

But listen to me: for one moment,
quit being sad. Hear blessings
dropping their blossoms
around you. God.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Urban poetry

Scaffolding on a new building going up between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.

The rust adds nice color and texture to the photo, but it's not what I'd want to see on a metal structure I was placing my trust -- or my body weight -- on.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday bird blogging

And he sticks the landing!

A gull in Stockholm.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Shadows on the bridge to Skeppsholmen in Stockholm.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Urban poetry

Chairs stacked in a conference room.

Not urban, necessarily, but big city corporate. And I love the shapes of the arms.

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