Need a Ride?

A few days ago I was waiting at a traffic light and glanced to my right. I saw this little building and, though I’m sure I’ve seen it many times before, today I paid attention to it.

It’s a small yellow-painted concrete block building sitting against the rail line and with a parking lot in front of it. No pretensions, neatly kept, and I like the touch the orange awning over the door brings to it. There is some concern for comfort of customers and workers coming in and out of that door, and yet the building is so sparely constructed that originally, even this modest covering wasn’t included. Staying with the basics is what this place is about – it’s just here to do its job.

The clarity of its function really caught my eye:  the sign reading Taxi Cab Company says it all.  No flashy catchy euphemisms. Just a plain statement of purpose and a phone number.

Overall, the get-straight-to-the-point attitude of the place appealed to me.

I’ve never taken a taxi in the suburbs that I can remember, so I don’t know how the service is. But now I know where to look if I need a ride sometime, don’t I?

Happy Tuesday.

Taxi Cab Company Glenside 3-24-15

Taxi Cab Company, Glenside, PA

More Secrets Revealed

Remember yesterday’s discovery of the remnants of the rail line, now part of the Green Ribbon Trail in the Fort Washington State Park? I am still excited about it. I love the feeling of following the clues and figuring out something that’s hidden and yet in plain sight.

The entrance to the underpass. It is similar to many that I  have seen all over our regional rail system. Both sides have the date set into the concrete.

The entrance to the underpass. It is similar to many that I have seen all over our regional rail system. Both sides have the date set into the concrete.

Anyway, my husband did some research and found the rail line and its history. It was surprising to me to learn that the line, the Plymouth Branch of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, had its start as horse-powered line in the 1830’s, was extended and enlarged, changed owners, and fell into disuse and oblivion as the need for it changed and declined. Originally a freight line, it connected quarry and lime kilns workings in our area and also carried passengers at different times.

Looking at aerial maps, it’s still possible to see the marks of the line on the land.

But even more surprising to me, I learned that the large pedestrian bridge (mentioned in this Sunshine Project post and pictured below) is set on the old railroad bridge. I looked at some pictures from beneath the bridge (a view I’ve never seen but I will be searching out the next time I go to the park) and it’s clear as day.

Here are pictures from February of the large bridge. People have been crossing the creek at this point for more than one hundred years.

I am so excited to learn all of this information. What a gift to be able to see beyond the surface of these objects and locations I have encountered so often and yet knew so little about! I now know that when I run along this bridge and trail, for about a half mile or so, I am following a road many others have gone on before me and in such different circumstances. It will really give me something to think about.

Do you want to know more? My source for historical information: Abandoned Rails

I Had No Idea

I’m going to tell you a story about how a person can go along a path for years never dreaming of the presence of a secret located literally right beneath her feet.

And of course I am talking about myself. Here is what happened.

This morning my husband and I were walking along the Green Ribbon Trail in the Fort Washington State Park. Before the Sunshine Project, I often dropped off little clay figurine women here and there. Not on a schedule, just as I felt like it. I’m returning to that tradition and I took one with us to set along the trail.

The figurine herself.

The figurine herself.

You may remember that this trail mostly follows the flood plain of the Wissahickon Creek. There is, however, a section of it that was originally the roadbed of a rail line – it cut across the countryside and passed through Flourtown about 2 miles away. There is still a slight rise in Bethlehem Pike, the main road, where the tracks passed over it and were covered up, and you can see the path of the train line (now part of a parking lot).

What’s this got to do with the figurine? Well, I wanted to set her on a little concrete bridge on the trail.

The small bridge on the Green Ribbon Trail as we approached it.

The small bridge on the Green Ribbon Trail as we approached it.

I’ve run this route for 5 or more years, but I never stopped to look over the bridge. Just never bothered.

Today I set the figurine to one side of it.

The figurine is set at the lower right hand corner on the right-hand side of the bridge.

The figurine is set at the lower right hand corner on the right-hand side of the bridge.

Then I looked over. I expected to see a culvert for water runoff. Instead, I saw what looked liked a pedestrian underpass, the kind going under countless train tracks at stations all over our area.

Looking over - here is what I saw. It's not a drainage culvert. That  I could clearly see.

Looking over – here is what I saw. It’s not a drainage culvert. That I could clearly see.

Naturally we had to investigate. So we scrambled down the bank and – here is what we saw. It was an underpass, beautifully designed and solid as a rock, for the now-extinct train line. What a dignified structure it was. We looked around a bit and then climbed back to the trail.

Curious now, we noticed a short way down the trail that the rail roadbed continues. It’s only in this season that it is apparent – any other time the vegetation disguises it. The trail makes a sharp turn away from it and I’ve run by it many times and never ever noticed.

View from the trail. The rail bed continues ahead - you might be able to see the clear space above it between the trees.

View from the trail. The rail bed continues ahead – you might be able to see the clear space above it between the trees.

We worked our along, fighting through thickets of wild raspberry bushes. Once we knew what to look for, the railroad’s path was obvious. It dead-ended at a road that, now that we knew what to look for, had obviously been raised and is now above and covering a section of the line. Walking a little further along, we could see the remnants of the line crossing a nearby golf course – a softened embankment marked its course, with a break in it for a little creek, the train bridge long gone.

We made our way back to the trail. We figured the line might have had something to do with a nearby quarry. But maybe not. We’ll have to look into it. But what is almost magic about this experience is the idea that this structure, what I thought was just an ordinary bridge, really was a gate into the past, wasn’t it?

Happy Saturday.

A Personality Struck Me

I can’t quite get out of the mindset of the Sunshine Project, and maybe I don’t want to. I’m talking about the increased awareness it has brought me of my surroundings, mainly. I’ve resolved to keep my camera at the ready to preserve the memories, as I did with the project. I do not have a good visual memory and so the camera will help me a lot, I think.

This morning I was about to set off on my run at a local park when an old factory building next to the parking lot caught my eye. Though I’ve noticed it before, today I felt I had to take some pictures of it.

This type of building was very common locally – I can remember touring factories of this configuration 30 years ago or so when I worked for a local bank and many customers occupied this kind of facility. I think these structures are beautiful and from inside them I always got a feeling of openness and light and plenty of space and room to move around.

I took a lot of pictures and I posted the whole group on my art blog – you can look here if you want to see them all. But at this location I want to commemorate not only this building but all the ones I remember by posting some views that made a real impression on me today. This building has a dignity and beauty and for some reason, it seemed particularly apparent to me today.

Happy Thursday.


The Poetry Marathon Led To A Poetry Collection Led To A Poetry Book

Do you remember the Poetry Marathon I did in January? It was another activity I did to fight against winter – an accompaniment to the Sunshine Project. I spent two hours a day for five days in a row writing poetry. Just writing. A lot of good came from those hours and a lot of poems, too. About one hundred of them, to be sure – some very short, some a bit longer. More than I had thought, but I wasn’t sorry. Far from it. I set myself to doing some editing and I got them in shape. Some had to be tossed out but most of them met my hopes. The results encouraged me to publish the collection in a book. So – here it is…

The book is called Look Winter in the Face. If you are interested in reading it, it costs $12 and here’s the link:

Look Winter in the Face


Look Winter in the Face book cover with border small


As I went through whole sequence of poems, it seemed to me that they belonged together. It was almost as if they were chapters in my own story of winter. Now, they can certainly be read as individuals, one at a time, out of order. Enjoying one poem does not depend on reading the others. But I wanted to show them as what they became to me: an entity, a unified body, a coherent picture made of many pieces.

So I decided to put them together as a book. Thanks to self-publishing, I could do that, and I did. It means something to me to have these poems on paper in a collection.


Poetry Marathon Links…

Introduction to the Poetry Marathon

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Wrap up – Review of the experience

Bird Watching

I’ve collected some photos of birds over the last few weeks. I’m not a birdwatcher but I do notice them. I like how they go about their business with no interest in what I’m doing. And I admire how they get along in any kind of weather. They are tough, even the tiniest chickadees and the brown sparrows and the gray doves I see in my back yard.

So here they are and what I thought about them.

In the parking lot at the gym, I saw these two birds facing each other, perched on different lightposts. The crow was settled in and looking around, commenting a bit: Erk. Erk. Erk. The seagull was more restless, its head turning all around, and it made its characteristic calls that of course remind me of the beach in summer. Why this bird was in the area I don’t know, because we are dozens of miles from the sea. The crow is a more familiar sight around here, of course.

These two birds seemed fearless to me. Think about it. They don’t have many predators, I would think, and no people hunt them. The birds live lives parallel to our own and manage their own affairs just fine.

I like crows a lot. Their confidence appeals to me. Seagulls, not so much. I find their personalities to be on the verge of annoying.

The dove is sitting on a snow mound on top of one of our birdhouses in the back yard, a couple of weeks ago. It looked comfortable and at ease in the falling snow. We have many doves around here and I like to see how they fluff themselves up in the cold.

This cardinal was in a tree in Fort Washington State Park yesterday. My husband and I saw it as we were taking a walk there. Everything was quiet around us except for the call of this one bird. We could clearly hear and see it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the voice of a cardinal all alone like that before.



Happy Monday.

Sunshine Project – Epilogue

The Sunshine Project is over. Spring is here. Winter has passed. I am very grateful to have arrived at this point. I want to thank everyone who has followed along on this journey. It has made a difference to me to do this project and to know that others have supported me.

I will not go on at great length about what I gained from doing this activity. But I want to say that having a framework such as this project provided had benefits beyond what I had expected. Not only did I have to get out and participate in the world each day, something that has been hard for me since my illness, but I had to write about it, and reflect on my experiences. In this way each day had a shape and a meaning. I learned something every day; I went places I had never been before; I got a lot of ideas about things I want to do after the project – plein air painting, visits to local historic sites, writing poetry in libraries instead of holed up at home. I feel I’ve been on a pilgrimage and returned renewed and with greater knowledge. Thank you, Sunshine Project.

Happy sunshine.

Here are all the sunshines from the project in one array.

Sunshine Project – Day 91, Craft Show, Warminster, PA

Today is the last day of the Sunshine Project. Spring is here. I survived the winter. I have been reflecting on what the Project has meant to me, but today, well, I’ve still got a sunshine to set in place.

What did I do this last day? I participated in a craft show – held at Archbishop Wood High School to benefit the marching band. This show was aimed at people who want to spend a modest amount of money in most cases and who were looking for all kinds of items. It’s not an art show and so I brought my clay tiles and small figurines.

I’ve done this show before and it’s such a nice situation. Each vendor gets a table (provided and set up) and we are inside a comfortable building, safe from the weather. Most of my shows are outside and so not worrying about setup or weather problems is just great.

The day went very quickly. The show turned out well. I walked around a little to see what else was on sale and bought a couple of gifts.

The high school the event was held in is a large structure with two large wings. Originally this school was divided into two schools occupying identical buildings side by side, a girls’ school and a boys’ school. Each operated separately for decades until they merged to form one, and now the buildings are connected by a gallery. I found it interesting that the tiled hallways were pink in the girls’ side and pale green on the boys’.

Pink tile. Very 1950's, which was when this school was newly built.

Pink tile. Very 1950’s, which was when this school was newly built.

The day ended early, at 3 PM. I am always interested to see the site of a show returning to its everyday self, as all of us vendors pack up and leave.

Earlier, during my survey of the show, I noticed a fountain outside the north wing. The day had turned out sunny and warm; the snow that fell yesterday was melting quickly. After the show was over, my husband and I walked outside to see the fountain.

I decided it was a great place to set the sunshine. Water is a sign of renewal and it’s life-giving – the fountain seemed to be a symbol of spring to me. Endings and beginning, that is what today is for me.

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, March 21, 2015.

Sunshine, March 21, 2015.

If you want to know more about the Sunshine Project, look here, or search under the category “Sunshine Project.”

Sunshine Project – Day 90, Parking Lot, Glenside, PA

Today is one of those days when you can clearly see how the seasons change – it’s not a sharp cutoff between winter and spring, but more like waves rolling in the tide on the beach. The old season and the new one advance and retreat, until finally the point is reached and the situation set. At which point, of course, the new season begins the process with the next one.

We’ve got a little snow this morning. I decided to take the sunshine to the parking lot at the Glenside train station and while I was there, the flakes started coming down. It’s not sticking on the roads and it will turn to rain, but snow is falling today. A perfect illustration of the transition from winter to spring.

My husband parked the car on the street and went to his train. I took the sunshine and went into the parking lot. it’s a long narrow strip stretching along the tracks. The sky was dark.

Just as I stepped the flakes began to fall. A train was coming into the station, heading for the city.

Train going into GL station 3-20-15 small

I walked further out and set the sunshine on a yellow barrier pillar.

The snow was falling a bit more heavily now.

I love the array of wires at this station.

I love the array of wires at this station.

I walked back toward the car in the snow. It was an experience I don’t remember having before, being outside just as the snow started.

As I got in the car, I was struck by the way the world looked through the water-streaked windshield. I think it’s beautiful, how the droplets merge to create a blurring effect on everything outside.

I went home. The snow was falling more heavily. I took a look at the plants in my front yard. All of them were getting edgings of white from the snow.

This pot on my porch was waiting for dirt and a flower, maybe, but right now it’s getting snow. I imagined the sunshine in the parking lot already covered, waiting to emerge when the weather warms up again. Tomorrow!

Empty pot with snow in it 3-20-15 small

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, March 20, 2015.

Sunshine, March 20, 2015.

You can look here to find out more about the Sunshine Project or you can search the category “Sunshine Project”.

Sunshine Project – Day 89, Cemetery, Fort Washington, PA

I have always liked cemeteries. I find them peaceful and calm, usually full of trees and bushes, and quiet enough to hear birds sing. I also find the idea of so many life stories in such a small space something to think about.

So I decided to take a sunshine to the cemetery of St Thomas Episcopal Church, about 15 minutes from home. A church has occupied this site since the 1690’s – the current building from the 1880’s. It’s a large piece of ground and the church is set on top of a hill. Many people around us know of this church because of their carillon – concerts are given in the summer and I have heard the bells ringing while running or walking on the nearby Green Ribbon Trail.

I’ve never been in the church or even on the grounds before today. Why am I interested, then? Well, it’s because of traffic. I pass through this area several times a week and usually have to wait at the light at the corner of the property. As you do, I glance out the window to pass the time, and for years I have looked at this cemetery. There is one grave in particular, very near the road, that I always seem to be stopped beside. So, I thought I’d take the time to walk around the site today.

I parked near the church at the top of the hill. The oldest graves are near the front door of the church. I saw some with dates in the 1700’s. Some of them can’t be read at all – time has eroded their message. I believe these are made of marble and I know that marble does not stand up to the weather as well as granite.

I wanted to go down the hill to see the area I view from the car so often. There is a long flight of steps.

Steps down the hill St Thomas Church 3-19-15 small

I could the see the traffic on the Church Road below lined up trying to get on to Bethlehem Pike. I had not thought of this intersection as having a religious flavor before, but – look at those two names. I will tell you that “Bethlehem” refers to Bethlehem, PA, though, not the other one. There are several churches along Church Road, though; it covers quite a distance.

Here is the grave I most often see. I have often wondered why, with such a long life, that the event commemorated is service in World War II.

I started back up the steps. I noticed some very elaborate stones and I had to stop at this one particular area – everyone in the family had a stone like this one. Quite a sight.

I set the sunshine at the top of the steps. It seemed the right place, up here at the top, looking out like this, over the ranks of stones and the busy traffic below.

The sunshine is set on the low stone wall near the edge.

The sunshine is set on the low stone wall near the edge.

I walked back toward the church, meaning to examine it a bit more closely, but this table-like memorial stopped me. I have seen these before and I have to say, it would not be my choice of remembrance. It just reminds me too much of a kitchen table.

Table gravestone St Thomas Church 3-19-15 small

The church is built of a beautiful red stone, simple, but with the right amount of detail.

I was also very interested in the patterns of the stone. I think some of these markings are not decoration but are from when the stones were cut for the church, but I don’t know – I also think it might have been a style to work the surfaces like this. I guess maybe a combination of both thing? I will have to investigate. No matter what, it makes for a good play of light and shadow on the walls and keeps them from looking too overwhelming.

As I left, I noticed mothers and little children carrying their backpacks coming into one of the other buildings for preschool. The flow of people’s lives through this site continues.

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, March 19, 2015.

Sunshine, March 19, 2015.

More about the Sunshine Project here – or search under the category “Sunshine Project”.

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