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

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Saturday reflections

Here's a little color, in that soft December light that I want to hoard like a miser against the long dark days ahead.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Urban poetry

And when I say urban, I do mean New York -- specifically, the Bronx. I took this picture while waiting at a bus stop a couple of weeks ago. It had to be black and white.

Toronto evening

I meant to post this earlier but somehow this week got away from me -- one last look at Toronto.

I'm going to Quebec City for Christmas, rounding out my Year of Seeing Canada. Next year, if all goes well, I will be crossing an ocean or two again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

I didn't post any astronomy pictures for the first several years I did this blog, and I didn't start regular Astronomy Tuesdays until 2013. Still, that's hundreds of pictures and I don't remember most of them, so the first thing I do when selecting images now is to check if I've run anything similar before. (Not that anyone is likely to notice if I did, but still....)

The first two pictures that caught my eye for today turned out to be repeats.  Then I saw this one, and I knew immediately that it was new, that in fact I'd never seen anything quite like it before.

So may I present: Hoag's Object! This ring galaxy is unusual for the large gap between the old red stars at the core and the new blue stars in the outer ring. Astronomers aren't sure how it originated -- maybe a collision between galaxies, or maybe this was a barred galaxy that somehow lost its bars. And of course, I always love seeing more galaxies in the background; in this image there's even another ring galaxy visible in that dark gap at about seven o'clock.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble; Processing: Benoit Blanco

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sunday bird blogging

It's rainy -- mixed with a little snow -- here in New York today, so the bright colors of a cardinal are more than usually welcome.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Random things I saw in Toronto

More random than usual -- just some streetscapes from a chilly city.

Saturday reflections

It's been a long time since I posted a Geometries shot, but I think these stairs reflected in the square windows on Dundas Street in Toronto would qualify.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Urban poetry

The Hockey Hall of Fame (or, in French, Le Temple de la renommée du hockey) in downtown Toronto. This building doesn't exactly scream “hockey” to me -- the building used to be the Bank of Montreal -- but it definitely looks like a temple.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

This is NGC 6995, the Bat Nebula. I think I see a bat, though it looks more like Batman to me.

Image Credit and Copyright: Josep Drudis

Monday, November 25, 2019

Life drawing

This was possibly my favorite thing at the AGO -- they had easels and a model available for sketching. I am not sure who, or what, that model is supposed to be, but anyone willing to go shirtless in Toronto in November certainly has enough courage to pose for strangers.

AGO arches

I loved the architecture in the AGO as much as the art. Here are some of the arches, in black and white.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Your looks are laughable, unphotographable

Bonus reflections.

Let's Survive Forever is an infinity mirrored room  by Yayoi Kusama at the AGO.

You have to make a reservation, and when I showed up at my reserved time, I got bumped to the front of the line because I was solo, paired up with another woman. There's a maximum of four people allowed inside at any time, but our group was just the two of us. First we had to divest, like supplicants at the altar of art, leaving purses and coats in a box. Then the young man with a stopwatch knocked on the door to notify the previous group that their time was up, and we were shut inside for our sixty second visit.

I did take pictures, and they were mostly useless -- it's really just a mirrored room, with mirrored balls on the floor and ceiling, but I laughed out loud when I walked in because it was just so fun.

This was the one thing worth photographing -- a column in the middle of the room that created an apex of all the reflections. Still makes me smile.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Saturday reflections

Another look at that Toronto sunrise, reflected on the buildings downtown.

Friday, November 22, 2019

More urban poetry

I did actually have one day of sun in Toronto, but this picture of the CN Tower is more typical of what I saw there.

Urban poetry

A pay phone in downtown Toronto. There was a Santa Claus parade on a nearby street, which may be why this graffiti looked rather jolly to me.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

The tiny black speck is Mercury, making its transit across the Sun last week.

I transited my way back to New York this afternoon. Toronto was fun, but I didn't take that many pictures. I'll post some more this week.

Image Credit and Copyright: John Chumack

Monday, November 18, 2019


This sunrise from my hotel room this morning has a whiff of Mordor about it -- those smokestacks in the distance! But we're going to have some distinctly un-Mordor snow this afternoon.

That's Lake Ontario behind the buildings.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Another unexpected treat at the AGO: I didn't make it to Ethiopia a few years ago, so I'd never seen any of their religious art. The exhibit had both Christian art and magic scrolls and they were fascinating. This diptych, from around 1700, shows a collection of archangels who could pass for modern supermodels on their way to a benefit at the Met.

Some of the AGO treasures

Here's something I'd never seen before -- a series of German chalices from around 1600. The ornate metal filigree is typical; what's unusual are the materials used for the cups themselves. The chalices on the left are made from carved coconut shells. The ones on the right are ostrich eggs.

I'm sure that coconuts and ostrich eggs were rare enough in 16th century Europe to be considered precious materials, but it's still jarring to see them mounted like jewels.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Saturday reflections

The very modern facade of the Art Gallery of Ontario (part of a Frank Gehry redesign 10 years ago), reflecting the much less modern facades across Dundas Street.

It was gray and gloomy today and I didn't spend much time outside, just the walk from my hotel to the AGO and back again. But there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than looking at art, and the AGO collection is wonderful.

Friday, November 15, 2019


I took this picture as the plane came in for a landing this afternoon.

Friends warned me to expect snow, but I was expecting a little dusting, some slushy gutters, not a Norman Rockwell Christmas card. And downtown, where I'm staying, it is mostly slush. Still, I feel as though the calendar suddenly fast forwarded a couple of months. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

“It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.” – Richard Feynman

A beautiful look at the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters (though through the magic of modern astronomy we can see that it's actually a much larger family than the ancient observers suspected.) Fall's careening into winter here which always makes one philosophical, and appreciative of the cycles of life. The universe does something similar, but on a much grander scale. Matter comes together, it glows, it burns, it dances, it dies. Darkness, light, then back to darkness, over and over again.

Image Credit and Copyright: Adam Block, Steward Observatory, University of Arizona

Monday, November 11, 2019

Something there is that doesn't love a wall

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, here's a picture of my own small piece of it.

It's small -- only a couple of inches across and maybe an inch thick. I think I paid around $5 for it. It was several years after the wall had come down, but there were still a few sections of it left standing, and young entrepreneurs were breaking off chunks of it and selling pieces, spread out on blankets on the ground.

I picked this piece because I liked the colors -- the paint shows that this was from the western side of the wall, which was covered with art and graffiti. It may have been more expensive than the plain concrete of the eastern side, but that didn't matter; I wanted a painted piece.

I'm glad I did, because the paint still astonishes me all these years later -- those dayglow colors on a relic of such a harsh history.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday bird blogging

This past week was emotionally and physically draining, and I'm happy to spend a gray Sunday afternoon eating chocolate and doing puzzles.

Here's the avian equivalent of chocolate: a tufted titmouse in Central Park. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Saturday reflections

It was a few degrees below freezing when I woke up this morning and it's only slightly warmer now, so here's a welcome flashback to July, and the Japanese garden in Butchart Gardens in Victoria.

Friday, November 8, 2019

In Memoriam

Appropriately gray skies on a sad and solemn day. This giant flag suspended from fire ladders across Yonkers Avenue yesterday was in honor of John Peteani, a firefighter who worked at Ground Zero and lost his long battle with the cancer he got as a result last Sunday.

The funeral was yesterday, and the police and fire departments of Yonkers and the surrounding communities did a wonderful job honoring his service. I'm tearing up remembering the funeral procession from the church to the cemetery, and how on every overpass on the highway fire trucks were parked with the crew standing at attention, saluting as we passed beneath.

Rest in Peace, John.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

So much universe, and so little time -- Terry Pratchett

The universe, of course, has all the time it needs. It's we poor mortals, gazing on its glories from the comfort of our little rock in the balcony, who never seem to have enough. But do spare a minute or two to admire this lovely image of the Lagoon Nebula, in Sagittarius. I just want to swim in those blues.

Image Credit and Copyright: Zhuoqun Wu, Chilescope

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sunday bird blogging

Here's another flashback, from the dolphin cruise in Hilton Head: a mama osprey tending her nest.

Saturday, November 2, 2019


This is what those windows at Burrard Landing are reflecting -- the wonderful sails at Canada Place on the waterfront in Vancouver.

Saturday reflections

Burrard Landing in Vancouver, this past July.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Urban poetry

I love the paint job in this alley in downtown Vancouver.

I think I've learned my lesson about scheduling trips to California in November -- I am 1 for 4 in the past several years. Either I'm sick or one or more of my friends is sick, or both; the fact that for the past two years there have been horrific wildfires is also a factor. I know so many people who yet again have been forced to evacuate without warning; many of those who are still in their homes have been subject to days of blackouts.

So I'm not heading west on Saturday. I will probably take a short trip elsewhere but haven't decided yet.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

Here's another black and white planet -- the far side of Pluto as photographed by New Horizons in 2015. The dim sunlight highlights Pluto's surprisingly complex atmosphere.

Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Institute

Monday, October 28, 2019

Welcome to the working week

Workmen seen from the High Line last week.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday bird blogging

Not a great photo, but this is a rare sighting -- or at least, a rare sighting for West 45th Street. I smiled at a group of house sparrows picking through the garbage and dead leaves near a construction site, and then noticed that one of the sparrows was a little strange looking -- greenish rather than brown.

There are plenty of ovenbirds in Central Park this time of year, but you don't usually see them on the sidewalks of Hell's Kitchen. (You usually don't see any birds on the streets of Manhattan except for house sparrows, starlings and pigeons.) I assume he found his way back to the park eventually, or maybe he just decided to see a little more of the city, maybe take in a show, until it was time to resume his journey south.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Saturday reflections

Here's a flashback to July, and the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria.

Dr. Grenfell

There are more feet than shoes in many families in Labrador, and we are frequently called upon to amputate legs which have been frozen.
Wilfred Grenfell, The Northern Lights

I've been haunted by that line since I first read it, at the Grenfell Center in St. Anthony. By that point I had no illusions about how hard life in Newfoundland and Labrador has been for most of its history. Every old cemetery was full of headstones testifying to the dangers of making a living on the ocean --  Drowned Age 16, Drowned Age 19, Drowned Age 30 -- and there were monuments to more spectacular tragedies, shipwrecks and seal hunters trapped on ice floes, that killed hundreds. And I'm sure all that hardship is part of the reason that so much of Newfoundlander culture seems like a celebration, the bright colors and rollicking music and dry humor and cookbooks celebrating 100 ways to cook bologna.

I'd never heard of Dr. Wilfred Grenfell until we visited St. Anthony, although his life was monumental by any standard. And I realize that's part of what I love so much about travel. It's not just getting to see beautiful scenery and historic sites and being able to brag that you've eaten crocodile or camel or kangaroo (or, if you happen to be in Newfoundland, fish and brewis or moose with honey and garlic.) But there are so many stories you'll never hear unless you seek them out, in a small museum full of the relics of lives past, or in the reminiscences of a tour guide or a waitress or the woman sitting next to you on the bus who asks where you're from.

Grenfell first came to Newfoundland as a medical missionary in 1892, and he made it his life's work, first with hospital ships visiting coastal towns once a year, then with establishing hospitals in the larger towns in Labrador and northern Newfoundland, followed by schools and orphanages and cooperatives. He died in 1940, but the Grenfell Association operated until 1981, when a governmental agency took over all of the operational responsibility.

He was as tough as the people he served -- in 1908, he was traveling by dog sled to operate on a sick boy and crashed through the ice while taking a short cut crossing a bay. He and the dogs managed to swim to an ice pan, where they were trapped without food or water or dry clothes. He survived for two days by killing and skinning three of the dogs to make a makeshift fur coat and dealt with his thirst by chewing a rubber band. After he was rescued his feet were so badly frostbitten he couldn't walk but he still managed to perform that urgent surgery, successfully, two days later.

That little Grenfell doll is in his house in St. Anthony which is now a museum. And there's a plaque there in memory of the three dogs -- Moody, Watch and Spy -- who died on the ice.

And with that story, I'm leaving Newfoundland. There are a few more random photos that may show up at some point, but I'm heading west next weekend and it's time to wrap this up before I have new stories to tell.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Urban poetry

A parking lot in Gander. I was amused and bemused by the large stones marking the boundary between two parking lots, though they certainly do the job and I guess you use what you've got.

We stopped there for lunch. It was raining and we only saw the main streets, a disappointment to the many fans of Come from Away on the tour. But you could tell right away that this was a place where they had been used to strangers passing through, both at the big airport that used to be the main stopping point for refueling on transatlantic flights, and military bases outside of town. There were chain stores and every fast food chain you can name, which I didn't see anywhere else on the island except for the extreme outskirts of St. John's.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

More random things I saw in Newfoundland

Finishing up: a tepee on the beach at Point Riche, a fish flake (the frame for drying cod) in Bonavista, the church in Woody Point, and some fabulous geology near the Bonavista Lighthouse.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Random things I saw in Newfoundland

Some bright colors in Twillingate.

Astronomy Tuesday

Ordinarily I wouldn't post another Saturn image but I couldn't possibly resist this one from Cassini: an array of moons.

Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, NASA

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