Snow, Leaves and Art before Panama

We’ve had a wet year in Maryland, and got more rain last week. In my 11 day turn-around between the Transatlantic and the up-coming Panama transit, I thought I might have enough time to get several chores done around the house, but hadn’t figured in the wet weather, a 2-day volunteer stint, the election, and a family visit. Packing for travel is becoming more of a habit, but it still needed to be done in a bit of a flurry this time.

Thursday was the first dry-enough day to take care of the first tranche of leaf-fall in my yard. At the end of Thursday, most of these leaves ended up in the compost bins in the back yard, but since they were damp, they were not particularly cooperative. Much as I like yardwork (and I do), this could have been more enjoyable.


Friday, Gary and Cindy reunited with 3 couples in WDC, old friends from younger working days, and we and their friends took an excursion to the Smithsonian. We began our tour at the Air and Space Museum, which lots of visitors, including busloads of school kids, do. Then Cindy and Gary and I went to the art museums across the mall, starting with the beautiful old masters in the National Gallery of Art and moving on to the amazing modern art in the East Wing gallery. Below are Cindy and Gary in the Air and Space, standing in front of mannequins of well-dressed air travelers of earlier times.

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The interesting sculpture below looks like it might be made of paper. (It is resin.) From different angles you see different suggested images, of birds, horses, faces. And the structure has windows through it. From this photo, I see Stonehenge, a gaping-mouthed spook, a giraffe – and Gary, with one arm of the Calder mobile hanging above his head.


The rooms of the East Wing are organized by date and origin. The works in the room representing European artists after WWII reflected on the destruction, confusion and disarray of their post-war world. Below, Cindy is standing by a sculpture resembling a signpost, but a signpost that is disorganized, incoherent, without direction. In this room it was easy for me to project on the art my present sense of cultural unease.

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Cindy and I both were taken by the painting below by Joaquin Torrez-Garcia, an Uruguayan artist, with its color, rhythm, and balance. It was painted in the late 1940’s. There is a tension in the “containers”, like cells, preventing freedom of thought and movement.

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Last night (Saturday) I took an uneventful flight to Denver. It was cold in WDC, in the 30’s, but mild in Denver, in the 50’s. However, early this morning, a large weather system started dropping a steady, moderate snow that stuck on the lawns and cars but mostly melted on the sidewalk and street. It has been snowing for hours, foggy, slushy, cold, wet, and by dark, freezing slickly. What a fitting prelude to a cruise through the Panama Canal.


Tonight, in Colorado, we are having family dinner, brought to us by Yvonne and Mike, – ribs and sides. Among family and friends there is much joy and comfort to be taken. And you have to admit, Andi rocks those pink ruffled socks.

Mom and I will be leaving at 7AM for the airport to fly to Miami. We are excited and trying not to drive each other nuts with our pre-trip jitters.

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Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores

This is a statute of Goncalo Velho Cabral, who some say in 1427 discovered the Azores; he was a monk-navigator in the employ of Henry the Navigator. It’s a marvel that these islands in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic were discovered that early, but they were – that early, or earlier.

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The Azores consist of 9 volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean about 850 miles west of Portugal and 1200 miles southeast of Newfoundland. The islands are located on an active triple junction of the Eurasian, African and North American tectonic plates. Earthquakes are common but usually small, and other continuing volcanic activity includes fumaroles, hot springs and boiling mud pots. Sao Miguel is the largest and most populated of the islands. Ponta Delgada, located on Sao Miguel, is the largest city on the islands. The Azores were first populated by Portuguese entrepreneurs in 1439 CE as a small fishing and agricultural village.

When I visited (for the third time this year), it was overcast and sometimes raining in Ponta Delgada. It was a good day for walking and a little shopping and the occasionally ducking into a coffee shop for a cappuccino. The rain made the Portuguese paving patterns in the sidewalks pop. Portuguese paving is made with dark and light (usually black and white) square stone pieces and is similar to mosaic work. The paving practice is said to have started in 1842 when a military commander, Eusebius Furtado, assigned a group of prisoners to lay a zigzag patterned courtyard as a make-work project. The patio made quite a stir and by the end of the 19th century, all new construction in Lisbon had to have Portuguese paving. It is now found throughout the world, wherever Portugal had colonies. Some of the larger pedestrian areas of Ponta Delgada have the most elaborate patterns:

But smaller areas, even narrow sidewalks, are also have patterned pavement.

The last time I was in Ponta Delgada, I walked with a cane and my trekking distances were limited. Now, with new knees, I walk all over the place. For this visit, one of my objectives was to walk up the hill to visit the gardens. There are several gardens, but because of the length of our port stay and the frequent rains, I needed to focus on just one. The garden I visited is called Jardin do Palacio de Sant’Ana. It surrounds what is now the presidential palace of the Azores. The palace is a large coral-red and white structure with classical statuary and suitable gingerbread. It is off limits to visitors to the gardens, although, really, you walk right up to it, around it and behind it and can photograph it from every possible angle.

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Jose Jacome Correia (José do Canto, 1820-1898), a native son of the Azores who was a intellectual, scientist, agricultural reformer, and gardener, built the palace and the gardens in the 19th century. Here is an example of allegorical statuary from the palace – a statue of Navigation.
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The garden contains many mature trees and palms from many places in the world. They have grown large and lush in the Azorean volcanic soil and humid, ocean-regulated climate. Many of us have seen beautiful flowering bougainvillea vines. In this garden, there is a bougainvillea tree, with a trunk 18 inches in diameter. These beautiful gardens include rose gardens that are not at their best at this time of year, and formal plantings including color blocks created with coleus in multiple hues.
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The garden paths are red gravel and curve and twist to reveal spectacular views of plants and plantings.
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This pond is a highlight of the garden, with a cluster of papyrus growing in the middle.
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This plant is from Australia, a macrozamia; its common name is burrawang.
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The plant below is from Madagascar and is a pandanus or pandano, also called a screw palm or screw pine.
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These succulents grow with wild abandon on a small embankment along the garden path.

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What is she doing in Colorado??

I have only been in Colorado 24 hours, so there’s not that much to report. It is unseasonably warm here for September: only a few trees here in Lakewood are starting to turn color: Mom’s cacti are blooming again.

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This morning we visited my sister who is recovering from back surgery, and brother-in-law who was babysitter-in-chief of granddaughter, Andi (or Andrea, your choice.) Andi has gorgeous huge hazel eyes and an adorable smile, and at 5 months of age is learning quickly how to use her gifts. And, while getting the hang of that, she’s just starting to sit up and working on crawling. She’s adorable. She’s adored. She also has a death-grip when she gets ahold of a hank of your hair.



This afternoon I had a much-needed and much-anticipated appointment with my very favorite hairdresser, Kim, of Costcutter’s. Kim is the Best!

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Tomorrow, Mom and I will do some shopping, cooking, mending, and maybe some photo scanning. If the day does not get too hot too soon, we will do some weeding, to get a couple flower beds ready for the winter.

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Mom’s birthday is on September 21st. She will be 94 years young, and has plenty of wisdom to share.


Corner office for rent

This corner office has a great view of the front parking lot and stoplight and lots of built in shelving. It is a one of a kind property with uniquely oblique walls on the north side and half a pillar in the northeast wall, but with creative furniture placement can have overall good flow. Lots of sunlight in the morning. Located at a crucial intersection between RA and RW, but with quiet neighbors. No mold or leaks, although one window pane traps dampness when it rains. Not just one but two AC units. Previous occupant wishes you well.


So. Stick a fork in me for I am done. Tomorrow is the first day of my retirement, and it will be grand. For the past few days, while writing a manual and editing a file for data delivery, I have cleared out my office. I didn’t want my last day at this place to be panicked with packing and frustration.

Over the past weeks I recycled pounds of paper. On that paper was a lot that I had created, designed, originated, and written over the past 39 years, most of it obsolete now, replaced by  technical changes and by youngsters who have to learn by doing, just as I had to, decades ago. That paper represented experience, and it is a curious feeling to throw away experience. But it is only in the physical sense that it was I who threw it away. (Post-publication editorial/explainer: the socioeconomic model of doing business now is to shed experience in favor of cheap labor.) I lived in that particular office 5 days a week for more than 15 years, and worked for that organization for 39 years. I know, it will be interesting not going back there next Tuesday morning. But I know it won’t be painful.

This morning, a gladiolus bloomed, late but appreciated. Since the neighborhood deer have not discovered and eaten it yet, I snapped a photo. And then because I was there, I captured the marigolds again – what a wonderful flower that is — and the astilbe that decided to bloom a second time, and the pot of impatiens my sister planted for me when I was recovering from knee replacements. So. We’ll see what can happen to a garden when the gardener can give it the attention it needs.




Oh, THAT transition…

I have kicked this can down the road long enough. My last day at Westat is August 31. I am cleaning out my office and tying up loose ends. My office is full of the accumulations of a dozen years. There is a file to finish editing and an manual to finish writing. There are goodbyes to be said. It has been a good ride, most of the time. I will miss the people.


Knowledge workers are paid to use their brains for someone else. After 39 years, I won’t have to use my brain for the Company every day. I am looking forward to using my brain for what I choose from now on.

And my time… my time will be mine, too. For one thing, I will be able to give the gardens some needed attention.

After several months recovering from knee surgery and from the wound on the back of my knee, acquired at the rehab hospital, the gardens are looking pretty shabby. My sister and my friends helped plant herbs and flowers in pots, and in the front yard, I found marigolds to put in the bed along the driveway. Why is it that marigolds don’t really come into their own until late August? These plants were pampered all summer and finally are filling out with blooms. Saturday I weeded their bed and mulched them to help their color pop out. In addition, the irises were cut back and a major patch of weeds was removed and the spot covered with newspaper, landscape fabric, and mulch. What a difference a little time and attention can make to a landscape.