Sunday, July 25, 2010

Orvieto Duomo

Last Tuesday I happened to turn on PBS in the middle of Rick Steves' travel program about Italy. Tufa rock...Signorelli...stone laid out in stripes----Orvieto! Suddenly I was back in Orvieto, following our friend Kyra down dark, narrow streets. We turned a corner and there, at the end of the street, a sliver of the Duomo glowed. The light reflecting off of the facade, with its gilded, brightly colored mosaics, nearly blinded me. We stepped into the sunlight and gaped at the church. This remains one of my most vivid travel memories. It takes very little to call it forth. There I am, once more walking down a dim street, about to be struck in the heart by a magnificent work of art.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Coneflower and Bee

It is the height of summer. This is the time when coneflowers reign. Coarse, sturdy stems and unsubtle colors divulge their wild and weedy origins as inhabitants of meadows and roadsides. Decked out in sometimes-garish shades of magenta, the contrast between purply-pink petals and orange-yellow centers is intriguing. Like a pine cone or an uncurling fern, coneflower centers are examples of a Fibonacci Series. As a graph, it is a pleasingly balanced set of squares and rectangles. The connected lines form a spiral. Whether it is intuitively or through knowledge and a deliberate choice, artists, architects and designers rely on the Fibonacci Series. The fact that order equals beauty is fascinating and somehow comforting. However, I don’t think the bumblebee cares.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cascade Fountain

A series of watery steps form a fountain in Cincinnati's Ault Park. Looking down at it from the pavilion steps, I followed the broken light cast here and there by the rippling water. Dedicated in 1930, the fountain heralds the Art Deco style that would take over the Midwest, culminating in silver-topped skyscrapers and train stations that look like radios. In this fountain, art nouveau's delicate whiplash curves have been smoothed out into sturdier shapes that refer more to compasses and wheels than to growing vines. I remembered how this fountain and the pavilion behind it sat crumbling for years. Now it is restored, with a beautiful garden spread out below it. Thank you, Cincinnati.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Unusual House

A surprise of a house confronted us as we rounded a bend. A triangular room of stained glass hangs out over the front, like the prow of a ship. Shingles rise and fall in waves, following the curves of the walls. Metal bands and circles of orange metal form a roller coaster of a stairway. Mosaics, created from smashed-up ceramics edge the house and decorate the chimney. I hadn't been in this Cincinnati neighborhood in a long time. Surrounded by neat little bungalows, this amazing house is an incongruity. I wonder what the neighbors think. I wonder who lives there. I wish I could drive by this house every day.