Sunday, January 23, 2022

Banyan Roots


 A type of fig native to India and Southeast Asia, banyan trees are a prized novelty in the tropical regions of the US. Sometimes called strangler figs, the nickname illustrates its method of propagation; seeds germinate within the branches of a host tree and eventually kill off the host. There is something spooky about the way banyans send down roots that eventually develop into a network of trunks, like a room with way too many columns. The smooth bark and gracefully curving roots give banyans a dripping "art nouveauish" look. I have never seen an illustration of a banyan from that time period, but I'm guessing that Hector Guimard, Victor Horta and Aubrey Beardley would have been entranced by a banyan.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Kids On the Beach


 It's that time of winter when those who are tired of shoveling snow begin to dream of a  sunny beach.  A beach is a reminder that it takes very little to keep a child busy. Toddlers scream and jump with delight each time a wave rolls over their toes then recedes, leaving bubbles on the surface of the sand. There are birds to chase and never catch, horseshoe crabs and bits of flotsam to examine.  A shovel and some plastic take-out containers are enough to keep Sand Architects building castles and fortifications until the tides change. I am a shell person, not knowledgeable, but always scanning the sand for something pretty, a souvenir of my time in the sunshine.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Snowy Tree


 On Monday, it snowed for most of the day with big quiet flakes that clung to everything they touched. For a while, the view from my window narrowed down to a hundred shades of white and gray. When the snow stopped, I heard the first scraping sounds of shoveling. Then a county truck rumbled along the street, adding a deeper-toned scraping, accompanied by the faint clatter of salt hitting pavement. Then the afternoon sun came out, bathing the tree across the street in warmer tones, beautiful but ephemeral.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Love In Lights


 A talented neighbor created this heart cutout. The colors of the lights change according to the season. Sometimes the neon word has been HOPE and, leading up to the election, VOTE. Now the heart's lights are still in Christmas mode, complementing the bright rainbow of lights edging the fence and roofline. LOVE is the word of this season. LOVE makes sense for Valentine’s Day. LOVE makes sense as the word of choice for the entire year. I will remember that on days when anger and frustration bring other words to mind. Let's choose love instead.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

A Triptych For Christmas


 Nardo di Cione was considered the least-talented of three brothers. In his time, artists were seen more as craftsmen than "fine artists." Their skills often encompassed  several types of media. You can still see the frescoes of Nardo and his brothers in the Strozzi Chapel in Florence’s Santa Maria Novella.  "Madonna and Child With St Peter and St John the Evangelist" resides in the National Gallery in Washington, DC. He painted it in about 1360, when artists were transitioning from a stiffer Byzantine style to the more realistic Renaissance style.  Nardo and his brothers lived through the Great Bubonic Plague of 1348. Surely there was a sense of gratitude and relief in every artwork he created after surviving that. Hopefully, artists of today will carry those emotions in their hearts once Covid has subsided.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Candy Canes


 They appear right after Halloween; out with the candy corn and in with the candy canes. Peppermint is a signature flavor of Christmas. But do we really need organic candy canes? How many candy canes does the average person consume during the holidays? Most are given out to children after their visit with Santa at the mall. Adults might stir hot chocolate with one, or have a delicious encounter with candy cane rubble topping peppermint bark. But I suspect that most candy canes hang from tree branches or decorate centerpieces and wreaths. Their sturdiness and stripes make them a graphically and structurally important part of gingerbread house architecture. Whether or not we eat them, it wouldn't seem like Christmas without candy canes.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

All Lit Up


 Every December, we look forward to seeing one particular house, a stellar example of Design Maximalism. Snowmen, elves, Santas, penguins, deer, stars and trees congregate on every inch of the yard. A sleigh waits for children to sit in it and pose for their parents. The display changes and grows each year. Neighbors might donate a deer or a candy cane. A string of stars may have died since last Christmas. It’s always a beacon of joy and festivity. But only until New Year’s Day. That’s when the disassembling process begins. That’s when we can begin looking forward to next December.