Weekly Photo Challenge: Rounded

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A liquid can assume the shape of any vessel in which it is stored, and this reservoir has curved borders since it would be strange indeed to find a reservoir with angled corners. I suppose a polygonal shape would be too weak to withstand the pressure that water exerts. And now I remember learning that a circle is a polygon with infinite sides, so a rounded corner could distribute the pressure and mass of water over more pressure points that can be easily counted.

All of the foregoing is a stream-of-consciousness related to my school days. The image above shows a place I gravitated toward during that era of my life. I’d go to this reservoir to walk alone and clear my mind, which was not so easy to do at that time given all of the angst and information that was stuffed into it during my teenage days.

I’d dream of what my life might be like once I was done with school. I’d imagine living in one of those apartments in that building with a view of the water. I’d have peace at a glance when I looked through the windows.

Eventually, I did move into an apartment with a balcony that overlooked a little lake (but not the one shown in this picture). I did feel peace when I looked out the windows. I lived there until my life became too large to fit in a two-bedroom apartment.

Rounded

Throwback Thursday: The Ten Dollar Garden of 2007

Thursday is near its expiration this week, but I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect on the garden I tended ten years ago. At that time, my funds available for gardening were next to nothing, so I bought ten dollars worth of seed at our neighborhood dollar store. My daughter and I just sprinkled and raked all ten packets over a 15′ x 10′ plot in my parents’ back yard. We didn’t do much else in the way of maintenance other than keeping it watered and enjoying its parade of blooms. A couple of the packets were oddball mixes that contained a great variety of flowers, ranging from baby’s breath to black eyed susan.

During that summer, a few neighborhood kittens had regular adventures in this dense garden:

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This was the last summer of my daughter’s early childhood. She started Kindergarten that fall, and I went to work full time during that school year. After that summer, our lives changed in ways that we could not have imagined. I met my husband. I found a job where I finally felt at ease at work, a job I still have to this day. We found a place of our own, where we lived for five years next to the little lake full of mallard ducks.

These pictures remind that we once reveled in simple pleasures and that our lives would only be better if we took the time to do so again.

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Wetlands Photo Walk, July 15

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The neighborhood wetlands are thriving in the wake of recent heavy rain. Gray-headed coneflower and its drooping petals are dominating that landscape. There were thousands of them in bloom as I walked through the wetlands this morning:

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I also spotted chicory, which blooms in abundance around here, both in drought and heavy rain:

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Every year when I first see chicory, I remember the summer of 1988, when so little rain fell that I worried it might be the only plant to survive. That was the summer my dad began working as a church groundskeeper, but the drought gave him no reprieve from mowing. The chicory was so abundant it could be mowed.

So far the summer has established a pattern of cloudy weekdays with sunny weekend mornings. I could use more sunshine during the week, but I hope the Saturday and Sunday light persists.

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Sawtooth Sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus)
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Gray-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) fluttering in the breeze
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Sawtooth Sunflower
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Gray-Headed Coneflower

TBT: Koresh Van Turned Pick Up

I didn’t move out of my parent’s house for good until I was well into my 30’s. I’d leave for a while and some fiasco or bout of ill health would lead me back. When I moved back for the last time with my daughter along, my parents had a few nickname-worthy neighbors.

One of them was a young man my family privately called David Koresh, who predictably lived on a property known as the Compound. David radiated a half-baked, cult-forming charisma but lacked the looks or vision to exploit this charm. There was a small but shifting cast of characters who’d frequent the Compound.

David tried starting several junking businesses without much luck. For a season, he collected appliances from various curbsides on garbage day, but these washers and the like would end up in pieces on his curb within a fortnight of their arrival.

Somehow he acquired a white cargo van (the kind my mom calls a serial killer van) that barely ran, and he decided that he’d convert it into a pick up for hauling pallets.

Here’s what the van looked like when it appeared at the Koresh Compound:

These pallets were to be made from salvage wood, i.e. hammering together good wood from broken pallets he’d recovered from who-knows-where.

I’d imagine that economy of scale doomed this venture. Some of my parents’ other neighbors could not tolerate the noise and debris from the van make-over. Within days of its transformation into a creeking pick up, the authorities determined it was not street legal (with pressure from the neighbors, of course).

The van/pick up was towed away shortly thereafter. I did take a couple pictures of this gem before it was gone:

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Something Lupine

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Today I am lingering on some of the sights I captured on this morning’s photo walk at Kendrick Woods instead of doing a single post combining them all. I’d guess that this photo shows a wildflower close to a lupine, which reminds me of the experience that inspired me to photograph wildflowers.

Way back when hair was bigger and waists were higher (a phrase that brings to mind the best band name I ever heard, When People Were Shorter and Lived Near the Water), I won a scholarship to participate in an Earthwatch wildflowers census at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory located high in the Colorado Rockies. I spent two weeks counting lupine, fireweed, linum, and other wildflowers. That fortnight was as rough on my body as it was uplifting to my spirit. Dancing weasels popped out of the holes in the floor of my unheated cabin every morning.

I left there with a permanent faith in the beauty of the natural world. I only had a cheap Vivitar camera packed with me, and I vowed that I would work on taking better pictures ever since.

(Edited to add, 7/15/17: I have now identified this wildflower. It is Baptisia Alba, or White Wild Indigo.)

Buttercream Dreams

My daughter and I have signed up for an entry-level Wilton cake decorating class in June. Provided at least two other people register for the evening session we prefer, I may be close to learning how to ice a cake evenly. When I was my daughter’s age, I iced a friend’s birthday cake, and her mother asked me if I was paying a pink tribute to the mashed potato mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

I shied away from learning the Wilton method in the past because I thought that I might be better off being bad at icing cakes than learning passé or gauche techniques. I imagine that someone in America made a cake shaped like bell-bottom Levi’s Action Slacks and decorated it with a tiny star tip to reflect the tight polyester weave of that fabric. Last week I bought some large Wilton icing tips and was just thrilled with the results. Maybe just maybe this is the clan who can help me decorate a cake decently.

A dear friend of mine dug into the Wilton hobby twenty years ago, and she lent me her class books and the fantastic 1997 Wilton Yearbook. When I think of the late 90’s, I feel like this era happened about five years ago. These catalogs remind me that my sense of time is warping. 1997 really was 20 years ago, and my daughter, who already ices a cake better than I do, was minus four years old.

Before I close, I will share some shots of these catalog pages. By the way, I love aged catalogs. When I worked at a department store, I’d study the store’s past catalogs whenever customer traffic evaporated. I learned that the store had offered a hookah bong by mail order back in 1977, with the advice, “filter with water or liquor for a smoother smoke.”

The bong could have paired well with the clown technique below. This method must be more responsive to trends than I suspected. While you can learn to make buttercream mountains on top of cupcakes nowadays, back then creating a 3D figure was part of the class:

I hoped Robert liked chocolate. The script on this cake looks positively funereal:

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I need this cat pan! I ordered it off Ebay, and my daughter and I hope to ice cat cakes in several versions based on our favorite shelter cats:

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All that is missing is tobacco, or else one could have birthday cake candles to represent all three players in the unhold ATF trinity:

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I don’t remember that the 90’s were so baroque:

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Row House, Haller Street

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My city is littered with a few row house apartments, and several of them have fallen into disrepair. I noticed one listed in the real estate classifieds a couple years ago, and the asking price was just $40,000, with all four units rented. Maybe these structures lost out to the rise of suburban apartment complexes, with the siren call of dishwashers and steady maintenance service.

My daughter attended a birthday party in a row house situated about a block away from the buildings shown above. The birthday house had gorgeous woodwork inside, all wood floors and staircase. The place had a charm that had not dimmed with time and the sinking economic prospects of its neighborhood.

My family moved into a house right next door to these row houses back in the early 80’s. The term “motley crew” definitely applied to the residents back then. Nearly every car parked on the street, all of which looked impossibly long, had roach clips with feathers hanging from their rear view mirrors. One woman attempted suicide on a random Saturday morning, and the radio resting in her open kitchen window was broadcasting “Only the Lonely” by the Motels as the medics loaded her into the ambulance.

I’ve heard rumors that the row houses on Haller Street have since become crack houses. When I took a walk to take this picture, I did not get the sense that something so malevolent had salted this earth, at least not thorougly. Judging from the chatter I heard, I think the same combo of irreverence and light hedonism that helped their predecessors survive the Reagan years still reigned over this street.

After I took this picture, I could hear two men discussing my appearance as I walked away. One asked the other if I really lived down there, and his friend replied, “No, I haven’t seen her around. I’d remember that ass.”