Sunday, August 29, 2010

Trumpet Player

Music is always in the air on Beale Street in Memphis, even on a Tuesday afternoon. Each restaurant and souvenir shop comes armed with speakers aimed out towards the sidewalk. Aretha faded into Elvis who faded into B.B. King as we wandered down the street. A roots rock group strutted and sweated on the stage in a tiny park right off Beale Street. This gentleman played the blues with confidence and skill. The notes mingled with barbecue smoke---burnt offerings to the gods of music. I noticed the bits of red everywhere, right down to the trumpeter's hat band. Beale Street may be the home of the blues but its main color seems to be red.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Striped Eggplants

An old wooden barrel at the farmers market contains the most remarkable eggplants. Purple striations lead my eye this way and that, running into the seductive curves of their plump little bodies. Those stems look like the original inspiration for elves' hats in every book of fairy tales that I devoured as a child. Vegetables as objets d'art, too beautiful, too dramatic, too whimsical to eat. What a good thing it is that I don’t like eggplant.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


This unfriendly-looking plant is flourishing in the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, my favorite of the many Smithsonian gardens. Currently growing happily among the hostas and begonias, the naranjillo (Solanum Quitoense) is a native of Equador. Nasty-looking thorns stud leaves as much as two feet long. The thorns stick out of both the top and the bottom of the leaves. More thorns cover the stems. All to protect the plant's unassuming white flowers and round, hairy fruits. I can't help but admire this extraordinary display of defenses. But it doesn't make me want to go for a walk in an Equadorian jungle any time soon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Last week I went to the Hirshhorn Museum to see the Yves Klein exhibit. Klein is best known for his Monochromes: canvases painted entirely in a deep, velvety, matte-finish ultramarine. He patented it as International Klein Blue. He also "painted" with fire's scorch marks, exhibited an empty room and created performance art. What is the nature of art? I expect to be mulling that over for the rest of my life. Monsieur Klein spoke of "the experience of having seen and traveled into the blue of my paintings." In honor of his vision, I'm offering my own little bit of blue, not International Klein Blue, but a blue in which one can immerse oneself.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hudson River At Night

In Manhattan, there are paths that run from Riverside Park, right along the edge of the Hudson River. Piers jut out into the river. The muffled roar of the always-busy streets sifts down from a distance, a reminder that the city is still right there. On a summer night, I set my camera on a bench to steady it and snapped this photo of the river and the New Jersey skyline. Fooled by the bit of light still in the sky, I picked up the camera too soon. That’s how I ended up with the trails of light. It's my favorite photo from that particular day. To me, the light trails represent the energy and sounds of that time and place.