Another Haven

About 15 minutes my house are the Whitemarsh Foundation properties, preserved land that includes an open space area, a historic farm, and the Dixon Meadow House. This farm is privately owned but protected from development; the open space is for the public to wander and enjoy; the house is used for various activities related to the land.

This location is very near Chestnut Hill College, Morris Arboretum, and the beginning of the Green Ribbon Trail. All of these locations lie in or near the watershed of the Wissahickon Creek.

Earlier this week I took a short trip to this peaceful spot. Here’s a view from the house, where I parked the car:

and here is the view from the opposite site of the open space – you can see the house off in the distance.

There is a boardwalk across the wetlands section and I saw a lot of milkweed.

 

I also saw a LOT of large milkweed bugs. The season is coming to an end for them.

Whitemarsh #7 10-3-17002

 

Whitemarsh #6 10-3-17001

I noticed tiny orange insects on a few pod stems.

I did a little research and I think these are milkweed aphids. Opinions seems to be that they are not harmful, or maybe they are a little harmful, but what it takes in getting rid of them is more detrimental. It also seems that not much is known about these insects. Maybe people are paying more attention now that milkweed is being grown on purpose, rather than being seen as just a weed taken for granted. Monarch butterflies have friends and friends of monarchs like milkweed, so I have the feeling there will be more information coming along.

I am happy to have this location for me to enjoy and for the monarchs, other butterflies, grasshoppers galore, and lots of birds to have a place to thrive.

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Walk Through A Changing Landscape

Since my husband changed offices, from the city to the suburbs, he has been exploring different places to walk – necessary rehabilitation of his serious knee injury nine months ago. He has found some places we never knew existed. I’ll show you one today.

It’s the Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve, a property of Natural Lands, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring land in the eastern PA – southern NJ area.

This property was a farm for over a century. It’s now located in suburbia, about five minutes from Montgomery County Community College (of poetry marathon and Senior Games fame). The idea is to return the land to a native state. The site has different areas in transition; there are a lot of open fields as well as some wooded areas.

The preserve also connects to the Green Ribbon Trail, which winds along within the Wissahickon Creek watershed. (We hope to connect with and check out this end of the trail soon; you might remember me mentioning it in connection with a section I frequent, some miles away, nearer my house).

My husband was very enthusiastic about the site. So we went for a walk there on Sunday morning, October 1. We parked in their tiny lot and started out up the blacktop road.

There are several well-marked trails designated by color, but you can wander around without worrying too much about it, as long as you have some sense of direction. I think I’ll just show you pictures and describe them, since we did just that – wander.

Here is what a lot of the place looked like. Mowed paths and long views. You would have no idea that a lot of people live very near.

This caterpillar crossed our path. The photo is blurry because my hand shook, not because he was moving so fast. We saw a lot of these little guys on the ground. I love them; I like their outfits and their sense of purpose.

There was a pile of split wood near the office/garage. Look at the insect holes – what a pattern.

I do not know what kind of tree this was but I liked the leaves.

This bush also is unknown to me, but I like the dark berries and the sparkly sunlight coming through the leaves.

How about this birdhouse? I loved the look of it up there on this tall pole.

A good portion of the site is wooded. We went through two sections, this one pictured here, and then we crossed the road into another section.

After we finished walking in the woods, we came to where a woods is being created. These trees have been planted with the idea that they will turn into a forest. We saw oaks, maples, sassafrass…of all ages and sizes. The white sheaths keep them safe from hungry deer.

I do know what this tree is. Hickory. This specimen was at the top of a hill, alone. A farm tree in the middle of fields, that has been its life. The big green cases hold the small brown nut; they dry on the tree and split open, and the nut falls to the ground.

And my favorite – milkweed. They are drying up, splitting open, and spreading their seeds. I LOVE milkweed. Just saying.

And here is some more milkweed, with some really well-turned out insects hanging on. I researched them and learned they are specimens of…the large milkweed bug. Yes, that is truly their name, and they feed on milkweed. There is something very satisfying about this straightforward name they have, isn’t there?

All right, there you have it. I’ll come back to this spot. It was tranquil, a place for contemplation and enjoying being alive.

In Which We Visit Norris City Cemetery

On Sunday, September 10, my husband and I ran/walked at Norristown Farm Park. In our continuing exploration of the park and its environs, after we finished we drove over to the Norris City Cemetery, adjacent to the park.

I’ll mention that it is so adjacent that in an earlier run, I got lost (as I do so often and so easily and with so little ability to stop myself) and did a loop through the cemetery while I got myself back on track.

I’ll also say that once I run a route, I don’t get lost again. I did like the detour through this peaceful spot and I’ll do it again, on purpose.


All right, back to the topic. The cemetery is located on a hill next to an East Norriton township park. The township now owns the cemetery and maintains it (beautifully, I might add). We parked at the back of the cemetery next to the bocce courts and went in the rear entrance.

The cemetery was founded about 160 years ago. It was non-sectarian and seems to have been most used during the period 1880’s to about 1920.  It’s not filled up and I gather you could still be buried here, if you wanted.

(For all information on the history of the site I refer you to the cemetery’s really thorough website, which is where I got my information, Norris City Cemetery . There are also some great then-and-now photos of the cemetery. Thank you to the creators of this site.)

It’s a simple, open site. It flows down a hill, with plenty of room between the rows. We wandered down the hill.

There are not a lot of elaborate monuments here; this was the biggest one we saw.

Most of the monuments are marble or granite. As I’ve seen in other cemeteries, time has not been kind to the marble ones in particular. This stone was representative. To figure out the inscription you might be better with a rubbing rather than trying to decipher it.

But there is plenty to see, all the same. I’ll show you a few things that caught our eyes.

We noticed a bluish monument and took a closer look. I thought it might have been painted. But no; when I tapped it, it rang metal.

We didn’t know what to make of it at the time. We could tell it was hollow. Did that mean it was a container as well as a marker? My husband did some research when we got home and we learned that this monument was an example of a white bronze marker. (All information I mention on this subject is from A Grave Interest, “White Bronze – A Monument of Quality” – take a look, it’s fascinating.)

Long and short of it, the monument is hollow, does not contain anything, and is actually zinc. These markers were manufactured for only a short time around the turn of the last century and were a cheaper alternative to stone markers. Each one was custom made and therefore quite personal. Here is more of the Steiner monument:

Once we knew what to look for, we saw some more. This one:

This one, with a detail of the kind of information you could have included on your monument – the plates you chose were screwed into the structure:

And this one, which is big and elaborate:

All of these markers were in great shape. Apparently the manufacturer claimed these monuments would stand the test of time better than stone. From what I saw here, I would agree.


 

We saw some examples of cemetery symbolism: Lilies, for the resurrection of the soul:

And what looked like a dollar sign with too many vertical lines. (A dollar sign? A dollar sign? I thought.) Later research revealed it to be the IHS monogram (first three letters in Jesus’ name, in Greek.)

I’m glad this was cleared up, but not before I had some thoughts on “you can’t take it with you but maybe I’ll try…” I’m sorry, those thoughts just came into my mind and I couldn’t help it.

I had this thought about the life of Emma Louse Supplee – she lived one-half of her life on one side of 1900 and the other half on the other side. I liked that symmetry. I will need to live until 2042 to achieve the same.

We made our way down the hill. As we did, we noticed something I really liked: the view of the cornfield along one side of the cemetery. It’s part of the Farm Park.

We also saw remnants of stone piled along a section of the perimeter, in the brush. We knew that the cemetery had been derelict before the township took it over about 30 years ago. We figured these were broken/destroyed stones of various purposes and beyond saving. I say this because it is obvious that a lot of care was taken to rehabilitate all that could be, given the present look of the site.

Everything is transient, it says to me.

Here is a view from the bottom of the hill, near the front entrance of the cemetery.

I am glad we stopped and took the time to look around. There is a nice feeling to this location. The township park next door, with all the people and activity of today. The fields with their yearly cycle of growth and death and rebirth. The sky and the trees. The little American flags set on veterans’ graves. The care that today’s living are still taking for those gone long ago and to whom they have no connection other than living in the same city, decades and centuries apart.

Being remembered. It’s nice to think about.

 

If You Live Across the Street from the High School You Are Never Bored

We live across the street from our high school. Great place to be. I have the girls’ lacrosse/field hockey and softball fields right there and I attend a lot of games, despite not knowing much about any of them.

We can also watch the marching band practice, walk on the track, go to swim meets…art fairs…and it goes on and on.

The latest event, to mark the start of school, was a festival of food trucks held in front of the school, yesterday afternoon and evening. Food trucks are a common sight in the city – lots and lots of people eat lunch from one every work day, and you can get about anything. Nowadays they go around to festivals and the like, as well.

From our house, here was the view:

We walked over and paid our (minimal) admission fee. There was food, food, music, food, food, silent auction, picnicking, food, kids running around, food, people waiting in line for food, food…

It’s fun to live in a place like the one where I live!

Let’s Get Better Acquainted

I’ve mentioned Norristown Farm Park several times in the past. It’s a county park not too far from my house; I’ve done several orienteering events there, including the Montco Senior Games in 2016 and 2017 and in July, I ran a 5K on its grounds.

But I never spent much time there otherwise. I found the network of roads and trails confusing and I had no idea how to map out a run that would get me back to where I started. Then…my husband changed his office to a nearby location after his accident in December, 2016. He started exploring local parks, the Farm Park being one of them. And guess what: A Boy Scout Eagle Project has resulted in a 5K course all laid out nice and neatly.

Suddenly a trip to the park was necessary, so that I could try this route out.

A bit of history. This park is the former farm attached to the adjacent Norristown State Mental Hospital. In the early days of the hospital (founded in the 1880’s) this land was a working farm that provided food for the patients as well as occupation. It was thought that healthy outdoor work of this type would be beneficial to their recoveries. The farm included crop-growing fields, dairy cows, a dairy, stables, and even a fish hatchery (still in existence).

If you want to know more about Norristown State Hospital, which is now in the end stages of winding down (all that will be left is the forensic unit, meaning people who are in the hospital as part of the judicial/correction systems), you can see my experience in an orienteering event I did this summer on the grounds of the hospital. I will say that every time I go into the park I remember the people who have walked over and worked this land in the past; there is a history that needs to be respected, I feel.

Anyway, today, though, the idea was to try out this route. It’s different from the one I did in the competition in July and covers a lot of the same ground I did in the Senior Games events. The start is at the same place, the pavilion area. I was amazed at how different things look with 8-foot tall corn in the fields:

September, 2017

Here are a couple of places in the park –  the same locations at different times of the year. Things change.

My husband and I parked in the pavilion parking lot and set out. We planned to walk the 5K route. Corn all around us.

There are still signs left from when the park was a farm. There are many buildings, bridges, and other structures scattered over the acres.

 

Our route took us over a freight line crossing through the park.

As I said, there are a lot of buildings on the property, many of them falling into ruin, though some are being restored for other purposes. We saw a small brick and concrete building covered by undergrowth and took a look. I don’t know what its purpose was; I later found it on a 1950’s map when I did some internet searching, but I could not read the blurry print to find out what its function was. I liked the look of it so I took pictures.

We passed along Stony Creek – it runs through much of the park. The Stony Creek Anglers now run the fish hatchery.

We came upon this building. It appears on the 1950’s map I mentioned earlier, as being a stable. We took a look around.

The building and adjacent sheds appear to be used for nothing, really, although some picnic tables are stored in the shed. They look very out-of-place with the architecture and feeling of the buildings. Jarring, in fact.

Details of the stable building:

We saw this wagon back under the shed.

Well, we had to take a better look.

And a closer look at that set of gears.

 

I also liked the appearance of this door – it’s to a room in the shed.

I would have loved to have been able to see inside the stable. Maybe some other time it will be possible?

We got back on the road. We made our way to the finish of the 5K route, ending up at the pavilion area again.

I now feel I understand more about how the park is laid out, and I will be happy to come here and run on my own. I look forward to seeing how things look here later in the year.

 

 

I Continue to Practice Handwriting

You may remember my no-longer-secret ambition to improve my handwriting.

Here are a few recent samples – these from June:

and August:

I’ve got some thoughts on handwriting and what this quest has meant to me. But first, I’ll show you some of my tools.

I have learned a bit about pens and inks, enough to realize there is a whole world of handwriting that has been hidden from me until now. I now peruse pen and ink sites and read books on handwriting, not just how to do it, but also on the history of it. My tiny ambition has opened a whole new subject to me.

In my corner of the handwriting world, I have settled on medium nib fountain pens and rollerball pens as my favorites. Fine nibs and points scratch and drag at the paper for me. I like a nice thick flow of ink. Here is my current set of friends.

Top to bottom: Pilot V-ball 7 rollerball; Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen, medium; 2 different Lamy Safari fountain pens, both medium nib; a new pen I haven’t tried yet as I just received it in the mail today, the Pilot MultiBall rollerball medium; and the Platinum Preppy fountain pen medium.

I also am very fond of one of the cheapest pens around, too – Bic Cristal is my everyday go-to pen.

You may wonder about those pages of handwriting. I have developed a habit of practicing handwriting while watching television at night – I take notes on the show I am “watching” (when I’m not working a crossword puzzle or reading. You can see why I say “watching”.)

Anyway, I started the practice for…practice. But I have found handwriting to be a soothing meditative activity. I take my time and work to form the letters in a nice manner rather than in my hasty scrawl of the past. Writing has become a pleasant activity in of itself, not just something I have to do to get my thoughts on paper. I love seeing lines of nicely formed letters and words emerge and I love using a good pen full of quality ink.

Here is my ink filling station. I keep my inks on a shelf in the cabinet in the dining room.

And here are the ones I am using now. I can recommend all three of these inks. Beautiful colors and thick, intense color. That is what I like.

I am glad that at this later stage of life (I learned cursive handwriting in 1966) I can learn something new, I can improve a habit I was not happy with, and I can still stumble into an unknown world and find excitement in exploring it.

Handwriting is art to me now. I use it in my art, literally; I find inspirations in my handwriting practice for my poetry-writing; I enjoy the look of a nicely-written grocery list. I’m glad I took the step to try this handwriting thing out again.

Back On My Old Turf

On August 9, I took a little trip into Philadelphia; my husband had a meeting to go to and I got a ride in with him.

I walked all over Center City and the historical district; I’ve shown photo results of my day in the last few posts. Today I’ll talk about change and my life at work.

I am not originally from Philadelphia; I went to college in the area and then took a job with a local bank in 1980. Things were a lot different in those days, as you can imagine.

For instance, this building, a downtown mall, is being totally renovated. I remember it brand-new. I walked through the construction area on my way east on Market Street.

My destination was this location: 5th and Market Streets. I worked in this building, then known as the PNB Plaza, for many years. It looks exactly the same, except for the WF sign on top.

Next door, the National Constitution Center stands; it’s behind a construction fence – it is getting some kind of work done to it. In my era, this area was a giant paved plaza with a fountain that had some problems staying on the job.

Underneath it all (even today) is a parking garage; I zoomed in and out of there in my tiny car on my way to visit customers once a day, if not more often.

You may notice the tourists in the Plaza building picture. Many many tourists in this area – that is one thing that hasn’t changed!

Independence Hall is across the street and over a little.

In the past I was easily identified as a local, wearing my business clothes. Those tourists pictured earlier might have picked me out as a good person to ask for directions.

Today, I was just a late-middle aged lady wearing a sun hat. Oh dear.

Well, times change. I admit I was glad to see the Plaza building right where it ought to be, though.

On my way back uptown, I passed the hospital where my 2014 retina operation was done and my sight was saved. Thank you, Wills Eye Hospital, for giving me the ability to be out walking around today like this.

Seeds of the Present

My husband and I took a walk in the Morris Arboretum on Saturday, August 12, a muggy, gray day. We didn’t spend a lot of time, about an hour; we wanted to walk around the wetlands area and see what things looked like.

We visited the arboretum about two weeks ago, and the wetlands section really caught our attention.

We circled this pond and then ventured out to the creek – a walk of about one and a half miles.

Two themes emerged: seeds/nuts, and insects. Let me start with the first category. I’m going to show what I saw. I don’t know the names of any of them, except for the walnuts and milkweed. I just liked looking at the seeds in their various incarnations. See what you think.

I think this tree may be called “button ball” but I am not sure. From our observations, the balls start off green, turn red-orange, explode into white, and then fade away in brown. Obviously they are attractive to bees.

I do not know what tree this is, but I have seen these brilliant red leaves on the ground later in the fall. Here are berries and one early-turning leaf.

Dangling seed pods. I LOVE the look of these.

These grasses were near the creek. I love the woven look of the seedheads.

I don’t know what these are. Are they related? I photographed two different trees and didn’t pay enough attention as I was doing it.

These look like they should come from a maple tree, but they don’t. Look at the leaf.

Walnuts! Walnuts! I love walnut season. I love kicking them with my toe as I go along the trails. Walnuts!

Now that I recognize milkweed, I see it everywhere in the wetlands. The broad leaves stand out almost horizontally; I liked how they captured the rain. And those seedpods…

What is this? I don’t know. I saw it next to the parking lot.

I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Now, how about a few insects I met along the way:

I would love to have shown some of the many dragonflies I saw, with their electric blue features, but they were too quick for me…


I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Swim in the City

I made a trip to Center City Philadelphia on August 9 – my husband was going to a meeting and I took the opportunity for a chauffeured ride in.

I worked in the city for quite some time, but those days are in the distant past – 25 years ago I left office work. Still, those days at work here were some of the most important of my life. The memories are vivid and the streets of the city are full of places I have known for a long time.

I’ll give you a little tour of something new and old, all at once. Let’s start at 18th and Market, where my husband’s office was until his fall in December, 2016, and where he was going to his meeting today.

I started walking east toward City Hall along Market Street. City Hall is set in the very middle of the original plan of Philadelphia. Its location was originally the center square of five (the other five are still open space).

In the 1870’s construction began on City Hall and it took about 30 years to finish the building. It is monumental, to say the least, and a really interesting place. Courts and other functions are now handled in other more modern buildings around the square, but it is still full of offices, including the mayor’s.

In the early 80’s I used to cut through the building on the way to my office in the winter, coming from the train. That way I got to walk about a block in the nice overheated halls before I went back outside for the quick sprint to my office.

Anyway, I went east. Took a little detour through the Penn Center complex, but always there is City Hall in view.

But…things have changed here, too, at least outside the building. What used to be a grim granite plaza of varying levels, punctuated by non-fountaining fountains, desperate trees, and a lot of trash, is now a welcoming space. I’d been here last fall for the holiday events:

But I had no idea that in the summer – the plaza is a splash park! Fantastic!

There were tourists, locals, adults, kids…and one park policeman on lifeguard duty. I wondered if he wished he could take his shoes off and stand in the cool water.

There were “paths” through the jets to drain the water – I walked through the site for a while. This version of Dilworth Plaza, as it is known, is much better than the one I remembered from those years back.

OK, I’ll stop now. More later on.

Architecture Field Trip

On Sunday, June 25, my husband and I visited Allentown, PA, for a house tour sponsored by the West Park Civic Association. If you follow my art blog, you will know that I participate in an art show in the park each June. We were there last weekend (though it was held in the Masonic Temple, next door to the park, because of the weather; look here if you want to see more). Usually the house tour is set for the following day, and I never have had the energy to go back to try it out (we live about an hour away).

This year, though, the tour was held the following weekend. We decided to make a day of it.

We got to Allentown about 10 AM so that we could have something to eat before we walked around. We chose a restaurant recommended by a friend a short distance from the park (thank you, Adrian!) called Union and Finch. I can recommend it now myself, too – our meals were delicious, and everyone there very friendly.

Here is the apartment building across the street that you saw reflected in the window of the restaurant. I love the name of it, Julian Court. Very elegant sounding. The building is also beautiful – look at the brickwork and other details.

I’m warming you up for the tour by showing you this building. This section of the city dates from around 1900-1920. It’s densely settled, with apartment buildings, businesses, and rowhomes or twins lining the streets. Space is at a premium, so West Park itself makes an oasis of green and openness in the city layout.

After lunch we parked at the Masonic Temple and walked through the park to the ticket location outside the Church of the Mediator, located on the edge of the park.

Lots of people there. (You can see my husband in the chili-orange shirt.) Once we paid, we got a booklet with a map and some info on each house, and we set off.

I won’t go into much detail about the houses we visited, as photos were not allowed. Generally, the houses were tall and narrow and featured layouts with lots of bedrooms and less living space than you might find in today’s homes. Previous ages needed this layout because of larger families and yet fewer possessions. Kitchens in particular are small in this age of house, although we saw some innovative ways they had been enlarged or adjusted.

We also saw a lot of beautiful woodwork and flooring. We went in one house, now the headquarters of a local business, with the softest glowing wood on the stairs – I read later that it was Brazilian mahogany. Think about that!

So, I’ll give you a view of the outsides of the kinds of houses we saw.

Besides the street access, many houses had alleys running behind them. I’ve walked along these alleys in the past and I think it is more interesting what you can find in these spaces than along the front, many times.

One building really stood out to me – a church located at 15th and Turner, right off the park. I’ve noticed this building for years but never been inside – it has been closed for as long as I can remember except for a short period a couple of years ago.

A former Episcopal church, built in two parts – 1907, I think, and 1930. It is not enormous, but it takes up the entire lot, coming right on to the sidewalk. An individual now owns it and hopes to develop it in some way. We took a look inside – here is the 1930 section (pews removed some time ago) and a nice window – there were quite a few throughout the building.

It’s difficult to say what will happen to this building – for one thing, it has no parking. The neighborhood presses right up against it on all sides. And for another, it is very expensive to maintain, I am sure. Still, I hope a use can be found for it.

After that, we retrieved our car and went home – to our 1950’s split-level. And though I enjoyed visiting these older homes – they reminded me of our previous house, a Victorian from about 1890 – once again I reflected on the good fortune that brought us to our current home, airy and spacious-feeling as it is.

There is no place like home, that was the theme for this day.

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