Washi Day

My husband and I are members at the Allentown Art Museum and I am sure you remember some previous visits I have described. They put on a lot of interesting exhibits as well as offering activities in which you interact with the collection (remember the Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt?)

We went to museum on Saturday, October 9, for the members’ preview of a new exhibit, Washi Transformed (which opens on October 10 and goes until January 2, 2022).

I also signed up for the members only art activity to be led by a local artist, Anthony Smith.

We arrived at our timed ticket reservation spot at noon and viewed the exhibit first. All I can say is, Wow! and that I will be returning to look at the art again. There is so much beauty and intricacy, it will take me more than one time to take it all in, I think.

I’m not going to write a lot about the art but instead show you some of the works. Although here is the introduction statement in the gallery, which can give you some background.

All of the art involves washi papers in one way or another, and as you can see, there are a lot of ways it can be used to express form, emotion, and just something beautiful to look at. The exhibit is laid out in two rooms upstairs, one larger than the other.

I took a lot of photos, more than usual. With my eyesight problems, I cannot always take in the details well. I thought if I had photos of the works, I could study them better at home, especially when it came to small details, that I could enlarge.

Here are some items from the larger room.

This large structure featured indigo-dyed paper panels suspended as you see in the photos. You could go inside. To me I felt as if I were in a sky full of stars.

This is a detail of a framed work in which the artist had pleated the paper and then dyed it indigo so that there were patterns left by the pleats – then cut the paper into squares and sewed them, like a quilt.

These large panels are a traditional Japanese form. The lamp in the second one is also constructed of paper.

This grouping was my favorite of the show. I love the colors. And the array looks like a school of happy fish to me.

These two pieces were made by the same artist who did the “fish”. The orange one is quite large and made of attached repeating sections; the little green one (that looks like a building to me) is at the opposite end of the scale.

The soft glow and the gentle shapes of these rounded lamps gave me a feeling of peace.

Here is a view of the second room:

And here is a close-up of one of that group of red sculptures to the right.

The same artist made these bowls; the paper fibers start off at the bottom as being in a braided pattern, very tight, and then blossom out into the free-form look at the ends.

And here is my other favorite in this show (yes, guess I had two favorites…) – this group of white organic forms, also made by the same artist (as the red group and the bowls). The forms are made int the same fashion – braided and woven tightly at the bottom and relaxing into their wild-haired personas at the top.

I loved looking at this group. It’s just beautiful and I liked the idea of restrained growing into free.

To me it was a metaphor for my life – when I was younger I was held in by many restrictions and responsibilities. Now—I let go, or things drop away, and though it is not always a happy process, it is a freeing one, too.

*******************

Then it was time for the art activity. My husband did not attend – he looked around at other exhibits for a while and then went out for a short walk around town.

I went into the activity room right off the main exhibit room. We sat down at tables – here is mine (including my purse, it looks like).

I’m going to be honest, I am not exactly sure how the activity fit in with the washi exhibit (though we did use some washi tape). But it did not matter, because I had a great time and so did everyone else.

Essentially, I believe the link was that we were working with paper and using it to create art, in this case, collages. The instructor had some people templates for us to use as figures in our compositions (one of whom looked like Carl Sagan, as the instructor pointed out, and after that everyone who used that figure referred to their character in that way) – setting them in an environment, clothing them, etc.

Everyone fell to work and found it absorbing and fun, I think.

I tried very hard to follow directions but I was unable to do so, and since I have reached my antique age I feel less and less worried about the implications when this happens (though I do try not to disrupt the class, because I know from teaching classes myself, it is hard to cope with a student who goes off on a tangent and is loud about it). I did stick with the theme of a figure, but I got drawn away by the magazines we were using – Bazaar, and all its clothes and people! Here is the final result:

Then, since I had some time left, I went on to the second suggested activity, a vertically-laid-out landscape, loosely following Japanese landscape principles, maybe or maybe not…

At the end we displayed our work – here is some of it:

Thank you to the Allentown Art Museum for this exhibit and all that it brought to me. I found the exhibit works to be beautiiful and prompting reflection. And, for the activity group, I just really enjoy being in a group that has the hum and buzz of people contentedly creating art.

At What Point Do You Realize You Have a Collection?

I believe I have the answer to this question, when it comes to brake pads and me.

And it came about this way: A long time ago I found a couple of brake pads, different times, different places, just lying on the asphalt, one in a parking lot and one on a bridge.

I kept them because I liked the look of them.

Then… a couple of weeks ago, on two separate walks, my husband came across two more. He donated them to the…collection.

Now I’ve said it. Collection. I collect brake pads that have become disassociated from their vehicles.

I do not understand how the vehicles don’t notice, but…I come into the story after the separation has ocurred, so I’m not going to speculate.

I just like the way they look.

Here is the collection. New ones on top, older ones on the bottom. Both sides. Take a look.

We Visit Longwood Gardens

Back in the winter I won free tickets to this local attraction, Longwood Gardens, in a raffle at my library. Their expiration date was 9/30/21, and I realized recently that we’d better get in a visit or else miss the chance. So a week or so ago my husband and I traveled down to Kennett Square, PA, to check things out.

I have visited here before – it’s a must on the Philadelphia tourist attractions list – but it has been decades. I admit that if not for the free tickets I would not have made the trip. I don’t find large formal gardens interesting and my previous trips had not given me the desire to return. But…the tickets were free. We were saving $44 (senior discount price) and it was a nice day. Motivation enough.

We arrived and ate lunch in the picnic site. It’s free, and shady, and quiet. It is supposed to be open only to ticket holders, but…I think if you are in the area you could slip in and eat lunch here. Note: it’s not open year round. Check the website.

After lunch we drove over to the parking lot and joined the hordes of people streaming into the admission area. As I said, this is a major tourist attraction. It was crowded. Lots of people. Everywhere.

I’m going to gloss over the visit. I enjoyed walking around in the sunshine. The gardens, to me, were ho-hum. We did a short tour of Pierre DuPont’s house on the grounds – I forgot to mention this place was developed by him over the first part of the 20th century. (If you want to know more about the history and general info about the gardens, look here). But I feel I’ve seen these scenes in a lot of different places.

We walked through the meadow area and a small forested area – more interesting to me, but once again, I have seen these scenes – for free, along the Skippack Trail in Montgomery County, for instance. And once again, the hordes of people made it less enjoyable.

What sticks in my mind from this visit are three things:

  • All those people. (Bad)
  • A number of beech trees with graffiti – their smooth bark makes them every-popular for the person with a sharp instrument and a timeless message to record. (Good but I do understand this kind of treatment is not good for the trees)
  • And, the picnic grounds. (The most enjoyable part of the experience.)

Here’s my summary: We had a nice afternoon. I don’t have the urge to visit again. I think there are plenty more places around here that are more interesting to me, and the costs for visiting here can mount up fast. But, as I said…we had free tickets. Overall, it turned out fine. That was enough for that day at that time.

Sights Along the Skippack Trail

On September 4, my husband and I decided to walk along the Skippack Trail in Skippack, PA. We wanted to acquire another trail for this year’s Montco Trail Challenge, in which participants walk or run or bike 10 county trails. We’ve done this in the past – last summer, in fact, we were very ambitious and even completed the 20 mile Perkiomen Trail – twice.

On this day, though, we wanted to take advantage of the nice weather while providing a good walk along a safe surface. I am currently having eyesight issues as I deal with an infection in my left eyelid. Eventually things will be fine, I am told, and my long term eyesight should be fine, but right now the swelling is pressing on my cornea and causing my vision to be quite distorted. My two eyes are not working well together. So this trail seemed like a good place to go as the trail surface is asphalt and the footing is good.

You may know that we here in the Philadelphia area came through the remnants of Hurricane Ida earliler in the week with severe damage to many parts of the area. There were tornadoes that flattened areas near my house, and all of us got enormous amounts of rain. The Schuylkill River flooded Center City and all the waterways around us were frightening in how they flooded and how quickly.

My own house was safe, for which I am thankful.

I give you this information as a prologue for our walk along this trail. It begins at a high elevation and moves gradually down hill toward the Perkiomen Creek. The walk was quite interesting for what it showed about the flooding of this waterway.

All right, let’s go. We parked in a local park and crossed the road over to the trail. There is a horse riding farm/academy that occupies the space under the high tension wires in this section.

I always find the juxtaposition of the horse farm and the surrounding townhouses quite interesting. Some of the residents can sit on their decks just feet from the horses.

We continued along the trail. As you can see, the trail follows along under the electrical wires. Once you pass the horse area, it is left natural by the power company, and it’s beautiful. Right now the area is filled with goldenrod, ragweed, milkweed, and lots of others plants and flowers whose names I do not know.

The trail heads downhill into the floodplain of the Perkiomen Creek. The power station is the white building complex ahead in the distance across the creek.

We walked on, eventually coming into the floodplain of the creek, which was underwater during the storm. We began to see the grasses flattened and some debris carried by the waters, such as these garbage cans.

The trail now turns and runs along the creek, maybe 30 feet back from it. You can see the brown water of the Perkiomen Creek through the muddied vegetation, a sign that flood waters rushed through this area.

At this point we are on a level with the creek. It’s clear now how high the waters were. See the grass and debris in the trees here? It’s at a level of 12-15 feet. That means the water here was that deep, or more. It’s hard for me to imagine the scene, much less take in how dangerous the water was at this point. It’s not a survivable situation if you happened to be in this area.

The Skippack Trail ends at this former railroad bridge, which is part of the Perkiomen Trail and crosses the creek.

You can see the branch caught in the underside of the bridge. That means the water was at least up to this height, about 15-20 feet. As I looked toward the section that goes over the creek, I saw that the underside was packed with branches and other debris left by the waters.

We walked up to the battered info sign at the intersection with the Perkiomen Trail and started back, sobered by what we had seen.

But something nice happened on the way back.

You say, what is this picture of a puddle you’re showing me? And I’ll tell you a little story. On the way down the trail, we noticed a tiny fish on his side in this puddle. It’s common to see fish stranded like this after a flood as the waters go down. Figuring he was dead, we passed on our way.

Returning, I stopped to look at him, and he chose that moment to twitch. I realized his eye was clear, not clouded – he was alive. Quick, I shrieked to my husband, grab him, and we can put him in the little runoff creek we just passed about a minute back.

My husband scooped him up and we ran back to one of the many small runoffs that go through the floodplain, now full of water. We got the little fish into the water and watched. He lay on his side, still. I thought maybe we were too late. The he twitched a couple more times and lay still again. Maybe he needed to be in deeper water. My husband scrambled down the bank to help him.

The, like a flash, the little guy flipped himself over and took off down the tiny creeklet as if nothing had ever happened. Only then did we notice the body of a giant carp, very dead, on the other side of the creek. He had been too big to make his way back to the creek when the water receded, but our little fish had no such problem. I am hoping he got back to the Perkiomen and is right now swimming happily away.

Monument

The other day my husband and I were driving around and we ended up in Collegeville, home of Ursinus College. You may remember a visit we made to the Berman Art Museum, which is located on campus, earlier in the summer.

While we were there we noticed this large smokestack with what looked like writing all over it, but we didn’t have time to eaxmine it. On this day, though, we did. Here is what we saw.

It’s the creation of Katie Merz, serving as artist in residence at the college in 2020, and the work was done in fall 2020 to commemorate the class of 2020, whose year was cut off so abruptly by the pandemic. I won’t go into the process: the museum has a very complete site on the work, its meaning, and how it was done, plus info on the artist. Look here.

I’ll just show you the photos I took, instead. You can enjoy the graphic look of the chimney and then you can delve into examining the symbols and deciphering their meanings. It’s something to see, all right.

Beach Trip

My husband and I had planned to take a short overnight trip to a museum about 3 hours away, but family circumstances had made the previous week very event-filled and we didn’t feel like being away overnight. We did need a bit of a spirit-lifter, though, and on impulse Saturday morning, we decided to take a day trip to a water site.

I love the water – lakes, bays, oceans, creeks, you name it. If there is water, I am happy being around it. I had a spot in mind – Slaughter Beach, Delaware, about 2+ hours from our house.

I’d been reading up on the Delaware beaches – there are bay and ocean beaches in the state – and this one was tops on my list because of a recent visit a friend had made. So we hopped in the car and took off.

Slaughter Beach is a tiny strip of beach along the Delaware Bay, about 15-20 miles north from the first ocean beaches in Delaware. There are several small places like this all the way up to Wilmington. The ocean beaches are vastly preferred by the public and are the typical shore experience around here – crowds, boardwalks, amusements, restaurants, etc. Where we were going is not the popular experience. Just some pebbly sand, low waves, lots of open marshland around, and few houses or buildings or people. Much better, to my way of thinking.

We arrived around 10:30 or so in the morning on a beautiful sunny July day. We parked at the firehouse parking lot where the main beach access was. Here’s the main road as we arrived:

We put on our water shoes and headed across the street to the beach. The bay is very wide here. You can see two container ships heading upstream way out in the distance.

The houses are set back from the water across a line of dunes. The beach is narrow and pebbly, and once we left the main access area, we passed very few people. We waded in the surf; the water was warm and the waves very gentle. As I usually do I had my eye on the ground looking at the stones. They are rounded and washed by the water and so many colors! I made the conscious decision not to pick up too many this time – I wanted to remind myself just to walk along slowly and enjoy the day. I could certainly see returning for a hunt, though…

We ate our lunch, hoagies picked up at a Wawa on the way, in a little park by the parking lot, overlooking the marsh view.

Now I’ll show you photos of the beachcomber herself, in different moods, all good…

Museum Visit – the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College

A nice summer day on June 27, and what to do with ourselves? My husband and I spent part of it on the campus of Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA, about 30 minutes from our house. We visited the Berman Museum of Art and toured the campus to look at the sculpture collection that fills the grounds.

This small liberal arts college has a big art presence due to its benefactors, Philip and Muriel Berman, who donated art and facilitated the founding of the museum in the 1980’s. If you want to know more, look here. I’ll keep moving on to our actual visit today.

We walked across the quiet campus (I can recommend it for a nice peaceful experience), looking at some of the sculptures. Sculpture was an important art form to the Bermans and evidence of this is all over the campus. There is a map and guide to the sculptures alone and a tour of the grounds to look at them is worth a trip in itself.

On our way we stopped at the labyrinth and did a walk.

This labyrinth featured a pattern I had not encountered before. Additionally, the lines of demarcation were not high contrast with the body colors. It was therefore necessary to pay close attention to the experience in order to follow the pattern. I liked how that worked out in practice, and I also enjoyed looking at the pattern the spirals made as a whole.

We arrived at the museum.

I had to wait outside for a few minutes while my husband went back to the car for his mask (turned out he didn’t need it) and noticed this face looking up at me:

Was it meant to be a work of art, underfoot? I don’t know. A companion a few feet away had no such personality:

I choose to believe that however it came to be, the little face was meant to be noticed, and I am glad I did.

Once inside we chatted with two students who were manning the information booth and learned about the exhibits currently running. I will show you my favorite one.

It’s called MAPPING CLIMATE CHANGE: The Knitting Map and The Tempestry Project. It’s a two-part experience, but both sections involve the use of knitting/fabric/tapestry to map out a visual picture of time and the environment. Here are the materials used.

In the first section, The Tempestry Project, knitting is used to depict, through colors, the changes in temperature/weather over periods of time. Each knitted strip represents a different time frame. Some strips covered decades and some one year. Others showed the changes over a large geographic land mass, the US, and then moving down to our state, Pennsylvania.

I found this concept fascinating and I began to wonder about doing something along these lines myself. Not just weather/climate change, but also, how this concept could make a visual diary of all kinds of subjects that evolve over time. Hmmm…

In the next gallery, the exhibit continued with The Knitting Map, a project done in Cork, Ireland, about 15 years ago. In this enormous textile, the variables are the weather and also the time of day. Weather conditions and the level of activity in the city were broken down into knitting stitches and colors, so that a rainy cool day at rush hour was depicted by a certain combination vs. a hot sunny day at the quiet time of dawn would be another combination. About 2500 knitters participated to make this fabric.

It’s truly monumental, isn’t it?

Taken together, the two rooms gave me a new way to envision the passage of time and how things change, and it is a way that I myself could take and apply to something in my own life or experience. I found the idea very exciting. I also took in the message about the environment in a way that I had not before, as a continuum that unrolls as time goes on. A lot to see and think about here today.

For information about the exhibit from the museum’s website, look here.

Reforesters Update 6/10/21

I was feeling restless today, so I thought I’d go over and take in a session with my trees at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust. It was a beautiful day, sunny, and not too hot. I arrived at PERT around 12:30.

On the way over I was thinking about today’s date, reminded by checking it to be ready to prepare my notes for the session. I graduated from high school on this day, 45 years ago. My goodness, what a long time ago that was, and how much has happened since then.

And then I arrived at PERT and focused on today.

First I decided to check on the trees. Now, this is harder than it sounds right now. With the rain and the sun, there is a lot of growth of all kinds of plants, and many of the trees are small. Weeds can grow as tall as they are. To compound the problem, since this area has been neglected for a long time, there is no pattern as to where the trees are, Whatever plan there was is obliterated by time and various events. So I kind of wander around and work my way in and out of the various clearings and areas in our plot.

Most trees were looking pretty good. I notice that this vine, don’t know what it is, but it is taking off right now all over the plot. It’s very flimsy; I can tear it away from the trees with my hands, but it has a sticky quality like Velcro that seems to help it grow in these masses that follow one little tendril. Anyway, it’s on every cage/tree right now. I don’t think it’s a bgi threat, but it seems to grow quickly and in the picture below several tentacles were pulling the tree limb down.

After checking the trees (I found one that we’d marked back when we started working here but the overgrowth had hidden it from us – oops. I apologized to the tree for forgetting it and cleared it posthaste of honeysuckle and gave it a more open area around it) I decided to return to the area we’ve been clearing in the middle of the plot.

I want to work to the left of the brown area today, right behind my blue tool bag.

Before I started, take a look – the brown area represents the dead cuttings from the last session.

All right. I got to work. My technique is to grab a handful of the invasives and clip, prioritizing those at eye level. (Because it is easy to walk right into a branch or rosebush cane when you are focused on something else. I have my goggles to protect my eyes but I have gotten some scratches on my face…ouch.)

I pull at the same time I clip and when I’ve gotten all the stems the tension is released and the handful comes loose. I throw it behind me.

I repeat this again and again. Eventually the interior of the clump is exposed and I can go into it, and clip the vines/rosebuseh canes/wineberry stems closer to the ground. I don’t try to pull them out – usually things are too tangled up top. Instead, I return to the outside and go back to my clipping and pulling. The difference is that now I often can pull out bigger pieces as the clump begins to clear and there is nothing holding the invasives to the ground now.

It is very surprising to me when I finish this process and find a straggly bush (usually a spicebush, they are everywhere in this plot) that was somehow surviving and holding up all these vines and other plants.

I end up with a big pile of clippings. I leave them on the ground and stomp on them. They will break down very quickly and in a few days look like those brown areas in the earlier photos.

Here’s where things ended up. It is hard to see in this photo, but in the middle, well, that is where the clump was. Now there is sunlight on the ground there.

I also found another dead tree in this thicket. I saw something shiny by my foot and leaped back, not knowing what it was. Then I realized I saw wire mesh. And a wooden stake. The cage had been smashed flat and buried. The tree was long gone, no sign of it.

I stood it up and attached a pink flag to show it had existed. It seemed the least I could do.

After a couple of hours I decided to stop work. I went down to the bottom of the hill to check on a couple more trees and took this photo.

To me this is a place of peace.

Reforesters Update 6/5/21

Well, the rain falls and the sun shines, and the green plants grow. Of all kinds. This morning, about 7 AM, my husband and I arrived at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust (PERT) for another session of tree care.

We’ve had torrential rains three of the last four days, I guess, and that and other things have kept me from visiting in the last week. But with sunny skies and a very warm day promised, it seemed like a good time to do some work here.

We arrived early, as I said, in order to beat the heat. I was suited up in my usual attire:

By the time we’re finished these clothes will be filthy and wet from the residual dampness from all the rain. But they do the job. Here’s what I have on:

  • shorts and tank top under a long-sleeved T shirt and scrub pants (I particularly love the pants. They are lightweight and have a number of useful pockets). I dress in these layers so that before I go home I can take off the top layers and do a quick cleanup in the bathroom.
  • white socks (supposedly they will help me see if any ticks are starting their journey up my body) tucked over my pant legs, and my heavy work boots.
  • a head covering (a gaiter, really) over my hair and my hat
  • goggles over my glasses. I have learned from experience that in these surroundings you must protect your eyes.
  • belt pack – the phone is securely zipped inside in and the ringer turned on in case I lose it. I carry it because we sometimes need to consult the PERT app’s GPS to make sure we are within our plot boundaries. I think we can also mark trees via GPS but I haven’t caught on to that yet – soon!

OK! Let’s go!

Here is a view down the hill. You can orient yourself by understanding that the trail is on the right of the electric pole. I am standing inside our plot looking straight down the hill.

We walked down to the other end, at the bottom of the hill. Here is a view uphill – the trail is now on the left. You see our blue tool bag – it’s located about the middle; and that is my husband heading into the undergrowth.

Today we decided to get right to work on clearing invasisves. The trees were in good shape a week ago and don’t need attention right now. We have made good progress through our own efforts and with the help of the PERT’s mechanical clearing some weeks back. This view shows how far back these efforts have pushed the undergrowth – when we started, it was within 10 feet or so of the trail.

Here is the area where I worked last week. The debris is dying/dead and turning brown. I spent a little time stomping around on it to settle thing for easier walking. You may notice that there is a tree trunk on the ground there. Last week, it was hidden under the growth.

This photo shows last week’s work to the right and to the left, a portion of what I want to work on this week. See that little pink tag to the right? It marks the dead tree we uncovered at the end of last week’s session.

You know, when you go into a big green mound like this, you have no idea what you might find. I used my technique of clipping stems and vines that were on the outside of the mound, taking a little at a time. Eventually this process leads to being able to get inside the growth and start taking out things from the ground level…but first you have to get there.

I found that this clump was full of wild roses, some wineberries, and a lot of honeysuckle and porcelain berry vines. I found honeysuckle vines as big around as two-three fingers. That means they have been in place a very long time.

Well, after a while, the answer as to what was inside this mess emerged. See those bare branches? That is a dead spicebush. It had served as a support for all the other plants.

Here is the same picture but closer. Note the pink-tagged dead tree to the right. Yes, it is the same one I mentioned earlier. I did a lot of clearing today all right.

The spicebush, it should be cut down, it’s dead. I will mention this to Maria Paula at PERT one day. I did find that there is another spicebush right behind it, but alive. Next week I will work to free it as I clear more in this area.

My husband worked a section to the left of mine. Here is his work.

I later cleared that small bushy area to the right while he was re-staking a tree. Just a couple of skinny rose canes and some honeysuckle.

Now we’ve got a nice big swath cleared. We will continue to work in this area, heading to the back of our plot. I think things will get easier there because there is more shade and not as much invasive growth.

Well, that is is for today. Thanks for coming along.

In Which I Aim at My 15 Minutes of Fame

You decide. A new icon or what, right here right now?

I am at the Allentown Art Museum on 5/30/21 posing in the kids’ area with this cutout.

Kind of nice how my mask goes with this color scheme, right? Now, here I am in my coy pose.

Icon for sure, if for no longer than it took to snap these photos. Right!

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