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Archive for April, 2010

I never realized how connected I am to nature until we moved to Philadelphia.  When we first moved here we lived in the northwest, in a neighborhood called Germantown.  To get to work/school we would ride commuter rail every day—40 minutes spent watching the city speed (more like creep) past.  I couldn’t believe how much JUNK there was… garbage, cars, abandoned houses, graffiti.  I remember thinking what a tragedy it is to allow vacant lots to rot, to see acres of land given over to abandoned warehouses, to realize that A LOT of people in this city don’t care enough to throw their garbage in a trashcan.  It was kind of a depressing commute!

The city is beautiful in its own way but I needed to see some green.  We found the wonderful Schuylkill Banks trail.  We ventured out to the Arboretum.  We moved to West Philly where we have a backyard with trees and crazy vines.  I started to realize that even though a lot of people don’t give a crap about the environment I am not one of those people.  Neither is my husband.  And you know what?  That makes me feel bad for the people who don’t care.  They are missing a lot!  Being in nature restores me.  It somehow both invigorates and calms me.  Feeling sunshine on my face gives me more energy than the super-caffeinated bev Pat likes to whip up for me (The Power Drink: 4 shots of espresso over ice, one Splenda and a splash of half and half … hello world!)  There is nothing I love more than exploring the natural world with my hubby, feeling like we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and just enjoying this beautiful planet.

This quote from naturalist/conservationist John Muir kind of sums it up for me:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

This weekend I had some worries that needed to “drop off like autumn leaves” so we rode to Fairmount Park and hiked back into the woods.   We found a sunny spot, spread our picnic blanket and spent the afternoon soaking in the natural goodness.

 

Pat working in the woods

The next day we went on a ride in the city and I took this video.  I’m experimenting with on-bike video techniques so please excuse the bumpiness.  This is my absolute favorite place to ride through in the city.  It’s a tunnel that goes under the freeway and they PUT A BIKE LANE IN IT!  Pat and I yelp for joy.

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Admiring Photography

I love seeing art in everyday situations.  The world around us can be so beautiful.  I think that is why I always find good photography to be such a compelling medium; maybe my favorite.  A good photograph can capture a story in mid-sentence.  Composition, lighting and printing can create a moment.  They can stir a feeling.  I feel like I can describe a photograph, even postulate on its meaning, but I usually have a hard time saying the essence.  The opening sentence of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (I majored in Art History….): “Seeing comes before words.  The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.”  

 

I think photographs of other places, interesting situations and people I don’t know best exemplify the idea that photographs can speak without words.  Getting National Geographic in the mail each month is like getting my own little documentary photography exhibit with an excellent curator and education department.  Check out this gallery  on their website, I looked at the photograph of all those people around the well for about 5 minutes!  I know I will never be a professional artist, but I do want to be able to tell the story of our around-the-world trip through photographs.  I’m sure I’ll have a lot of words to accompany the pictures but I know I’ll never perfectly capture the visual moment with the right words. 

 

My mom gave me her old 35mm SLR several years ago and instructed me to “look for something interesting” (sorry to paraphrase, mom!) and I’ve been trying to work on that in the pictures I take on our bike rides.  Focusing on what it is, exactly, that I want to record, and then putting it together correctly.  Pat and I want to buy a snazzy camera for our trip because when you’re an amateur photographer the helping hand of a nice camera is beneficial. 

The weather was weird tonight and we watched a very dramatic sky from our livingroom windows tonight.  I took artsy photos of the backyard as Pat cooked delicious kielbasa for dinner. 

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If it is raining tomorrow we have agreed to do spring cleaning in our apartment.  As you can guess I have my fingers crossed for clear blue skies– no cleaning and a bike ride, please!

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Goodbye, my speedy friend

After spending several months on Craigslist’s “Bicycles” classifieds, my road bike has finally found a new home.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that I felt a twinge of sadness as I watched Joe College ride it off into the sunset.  “Don’t crash!” I called after him as he sped down Chester Avenue (helmet-less, I must add).

Before selling it, I gave it one last spin, a test drive for my future buyer, I told myself.  I flew down Chestnut Street, pleased as could be that I timed the lights just right.  I laughed to myself as I raced past a girl on an antique cruiser: what a dinosaur! see you at the finish line, slowpoke!  Hunched over the drop handlebars I felt like Lance Armstrong sprinting to the finish– look out, it’s greased lightning coming at ya!  I met up with Pat at his work, breathless and a little jacked up on adrenaline from  speeding through yellow lights, passing between lumbering city buses and nimbly maneuvering torn up city streets.  How could I bear to part with this speed machine?

As we turned toward home discomfort started to set in.  I remembered that sore spot between my shoulder blades, resumed the anxiety of having my face hover a little too parallel to the pavement and worried for my fillings as I felt my teeth chatter over each and every bump in the road.  What my Long Haul Trucker lacks in speed it more than makes up for in comfort, handling and endurance.  I can’t imagine riding my road bike around the world– I’d end up in Asia 2 months before Pat but with a hunchback and quads the size of Hulk Hogan’s neck.  Maybe it’s for the best that I traded in my Corvette for one sweet-ass Cadillac.

So here’s to you, Panasonic Road Bike!  You were my first road bike, my introduction to riding on city streets, my main mode of transport for two years and a great partner in crime.  May your tires always be full of air, your brake pads never be worn and may I never find you mangled on the side of the road!

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Beautiful springtime!  I love this time of year, especially in Philadelphia where everything is completely transformed in a few short weeks.  The city loses some of its grit to the watercolor of cherry trees in bloom, warmer winds blow in off the Delaware River and Clark Park comes alive again with dogs and children ecstatic for the sunshine.  I rode the 8.5 mile Kelly Drive/West River Drive loop a few times after work last week– being shut inside all day makes me very antsy for fresh air!  Something about sharing the path with my fellow Philadelphians while we all shake off the extra-long winter makes me feel like I really belong here.  I can’t believe Patrick and I have lived here for nearly 4 years!  Besides my hometown, this is the longest I’ve lived in one place.  I would have never imagined that we’d call Philadelphia one of our homes.  I wonder where else we’ll park our wagon in this life?

Yesterday we ventured out on the Manayunk Tow Path again, not really sure where we were headed.   My legs and booty were aching and neither Patrick nor I were in the mood for tourists so we decided not to go all the way out to Valley Forge.  Instead we purposefully took the spur to Plymouth Meeting.  We had a pit stop under some weeping willows where we ate lunch and honked at the geese hanging out in the ditch below.

I’m not sure why this photo has weird discoloration on the top– maybe my digital camera is on its way out… let’s hope not!

Today we are both suffering from my least favorite part of spring: seasonal allergies.  Yes, I may feel like a real Philadelphian in my mind but my sinuses definitely disagree.  Michigan just doesn’t have this type of pollen!  A coworker suggested we try Nasal Irrigation, I think I’ll stick to the Benadryl!  Anyway, we wandered around the park to check out the flea market (same old junk as last year…), strolled across Penn’s campus where “Spring Fling” is in full force, and ended up at Dock Street Brewery where we shared a very delicious pizza.  Now it’s time to relax before another workweek sets in.

Last week we walked over to Bartram’s Garden.  The batteries in my camera died a few minutes into our walk… luckily I was able to take some good mental images along with one actual picture 🙂

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Fairmount Park

I had a job interview this morning!  I don’t want to jinx myself so I’ll just say that I did my best and I feel pretty good about that.  I’ve been a little anxious about it the past few days so I was really glad we were able to ride around the park this afternoon.  I love peddling through Fairmount Park– feeling the sunshine on my face, the breeze in my hair, to be out of the city a teeny bit… it’s so relaxing.

We found a beautiful min-grove of cherry trees in the park where we had a picnic and relaxed for a bit.

A passing bum was kind enough to let us know that we shouldn’t try to drink beer under there– cop’s sitting right across the street.  And I complain about the lack of Brotherly Love in this city…

Later on we found our way to the Japanese House.  It was closed so we just took a few pictures and then checked out a few trails behind it.

Click on a picture below for a few more images:

I love spring!

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Morris Arboretum

I had a short weekend this week so we decided to make the most of it (and the beautiful weather) and headed out to the Morris Arboretum on Friday.  The Arb is conveniently located off Forbidden Drive in Chestnut Hill.  This was one of the more challenging rides we have been on– lots of hills, gravel paths and even more hills.  Additionally a small stretch of the Lincoln Drive section of the trail was closed for tree cutting.  So we had to carry our bikes up 600 storeys worth of stairs (that’s what it felt like to me…), ride around a very nice neighborhood and finally careen down a steep path to join up with the trail again.  Scenic detour!

The Arb was not in full bloom yet but we did get to see some beautiful trees:

 be amazed by the new “Out on a Limb” exhibit:

and check out the Fernery:

The Morris Arboretum was founded in 1887 by siblings John and Lydia Morris.  John and Lydia traveled widely, gathering plants and sculptures for their 92-acre Victorian garden.  The Fernery is my absolute favorite part of the Arb.  Apparently Victorians were crazy about ferns and glass houses and a Fernery was the perfect combination of those items.  I love to imagine little fairies live in the waterfall cove!

I put some more pictures on our Flickr site, you can find them at this link here.  Does anyone know if you can embed Flickr sets into a blog post?

The Arb also maintains a blog, you can check it out here.

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