Summer Walks, Summer Flowers

  One of the things I love most about Philadelphia is the unexpected little streets and alley ways that stretch from Queen Village to Point Breeze and all the neighborhoods in between.   Here are some flower pictures I took on some walks around the city.1.SummerFlars0728_1417522.SummerFlars0728_1418043.SummerFlars0728_1418204.SummerFlars0728_1418235.SummerFlars4526.SummerFlars5077.SummerFlars5368.SummerFlars556

The Secret Life Of Flowers

I love to walk around my neighborhood with my camera and I spent some time this weekend taking pictures. Flowers were blooming in beds, patches, window boxes and containers. The tulips were dying off and the irises were coming out. As I happily snapped my way around my bit of South Philadelphia, I started concentrating on flowers that were still in the bud stage, those emerging from the bud stage, the insides of flowers in bloom and the ones that were on the decline. It felt a little like I was peeking into their undies or seeing them without their makeup or their hair combed. I felt a bit like an intruder. Here are some pictures you will never see in the National Enquirer.


Summer’s End in Bob’s Garden

Summer is coming to an end in Bob’s garden. The plants are going to seed and the blossoms are shriveling and   dropping off. This would be the time when the turtles would start to get ready for a winter’s sleep, but all of the turtles have been stolen out of the Koi Pond along with most of the beautiful Koi fish. I managed to get a picture of one of them earlier this summer. Isn’t he a handsome fellow?  I hope whoever stole him (and shame on that person) gave him a good home.  

Here are some end-of-the-summer pictures for you to enjoy.
















Doors from Barri Gotic in Barcelona

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is – infinite” – William Blake

 Barcelona is famous for its beautiful  and varied architecture as well as  a number of breathtaking  buildings designed by modernist architect  Antoni Gaudi.  I was lucky enough to visit Barcelona a short while ago.   You can see pictures I took of Casa de Mila,  Sagrada  Famila  and Parc  Guell on my Tumblr blog.
The Barri Gotic is the center of old Barcelona and some of the buildings there reportedly date to the 13th century.   I saw many elaborate wood and metal doors in the Barri Gotic quarter with heavy metal hinges, massive door knockers and  knobs worn down from years of use.   We have all seen pictures of doors like that,  but the doors that really interested me were the ones covered with graffiti. They seemed to be out of place  yet at the same time I felt like they belonged right there in the narrow winding streets.  I took the pictures below as I wandered around with my camera.  I wonder what Blake would think of them?

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The End of Summer in Bob’s Garden

It’s the end of summer in my neighbor Bob’s sidewalk garden, which now takes up the front of four row houses in South Philadelphia. Bob takes care of the garden and koi pond. The only thing he asks is permission to place a beautiful flowering plant in front of your house, which adds badly needed curb appeal in an urban environment. There’s a new addition to the koi pond this year: A big, sleepy turtle. He just appeared one day. Do you think he’s a magic turtle? Bob thinks he’s blind. All I know is that he’s very lazy. Once I saw him on a Lilly pad and thought he might have died. Then I realized that if Turtle had gone to the great hereafter, it is likely he would have fallen off the Lilly pad. But he bobbed up and down on that Lilly pad for quite some time. Turtle is lazier than a house cat. If you don’t believe me, try to sit through this video.

The Garden

Do you think Turtle is really blind?

Enjoy the slideshow.

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Ten Years On

A couple of years ago my husband and I visited friends in Montclair New Jersey. On a Saturday they took us to see the September 11 Memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation. There’s a cliff in the park on the side of a mountain and from there you can see the Manhattan skyline. It was there that one of our friends witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001.

As we walked around the memorial and looked at the names of people who died engraved in the granite wall, our friends’ six-year-old son took his father’s hand and gazed up at him with a concerned look on his face. “Why is this here, Dad?” he asked,”did something happen?” Only then did it occur to me that the attacks took place before he was born. I remembered my parents telling me about events from World War II and how I could never quite get my young mind around them. I could get a good grade on a history test but how could I comprehend the emotions my parents felt witnessing those historical events? Words were not enough for me.

View of Lower Manhattan From Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange, NJ

View of Lower Manhattan From Eagle Rock Reservation 1999

Memorial at Eagle Rock

There are many monuments commemorating the events of September 11, 2001. But why do we create monuments? A monument memorializes an important person or event. A monument is supposed to have meaning. A well executed monument gives us an emotional connection to the person or event it is intended to commemorate. We also make monuments from sites or locations that have meaning because of a natural or historical significance. That is why feelings swept over me that were so powerful they made my knees buckle when I walked across Dealy Plaza in Dallas. The Memorial at Eagle Rock was likely the start of a little boy’s emotional connection to the events his mother witnessed from that spot before he was born, because it spoke to him like words never could.

But monuments are not the only way we hold important people and events in our memories. Ordinary things can take on significance too. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is hosting an exhibit titled Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments from 9/11 that consists of 15 items salvaged from the site: a melted computer keyboard, eyeglasses, visitors passes; mundane objects that have achieved significance because of their connection to a tragic historical event. They give a human face to the events of that day because they are things that we all use and never think about. The objects in the exhibit could have belonged to any one of us. I had a friend who was chronically late, and as he made his way into Manhattan on the morning of September 11, he and thousands of other people were turned back at the George Washington Bridge. He had been on his way to a meeting in one of the twin towers. It might have been his glasses in the exhibit.

Another friend was working on the roof of a Washington, D.C. apartment building when he heard a loud noise. He turned to look and saw smoke billowing from the Pentagon.


These items belonged to a reporter who died covering the attack


More wreckage

2966 civilians including fire fighters, police, the passengers on Flight 93 plus 55 military personnel died on that day. It is estimated that at least 200 people died jumping from the twin towers. People unfortunate enough to have personally witnessed the horrible events of that day carry sounds and images with them the likes of which I pray I will never see or hear. That is my prayer for everyone. I know it will not be answered but I make it nonetheless.

People will continue to commemorate the events of that day for a long time to come. Commemoration can be a way of holding onto the past, of freezing a moment in time and trying to give some kind of meaning to events that seem senseless; it can be a way of trying to gain some illusion of control. We humans tend to want to fill in the blanks whether they are in optical illusions or in cruelly random events in our lives.

But keeping memories of the past alive is key to people understanding their history and themselves. This is so important. The hope is that by remembering, such things will not be repeated. This is a huge yet noble goal. There can be another result, however, that is so subtle you will never read it in the headlines: perhaps memorializing those events will help us to become better people. Maybe. If you can’t change the world, you can tend your own garden. That counts too.

Here are some links to art inspired by the events of September 11, 2011. There is much more out there and more waiting to be created.

The Twin Towers and the City

911 Memorial Quilt

Charting Ground Zero: Ten Years After (Scientific Exhibit)

Rescue Me (Television Show)

Art in the Open: Brian Dennis

When my friend Jeri told me that her friend Brian was participating in the second Philadelphia Art in the Open, which  took place  on June 9-12, 2011,  I was itching to go. I had never seen one of his installations “in person” before, but I had seen The Brian Dennis Project – a film documenting  how he designed a wooden installation  that seemed to defy gravity and then built it on a staircase inside the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 2004.   (To see pictures of  the installation, “Leaning Keep,” press here.)

Art in the Open aims to  give a different perspective on the creative process by inviting the public to watch artists working outdoors and, consequently, enabling artists to draw inspiration directly the environment.  In Philadelphia, this is an urban environment.  So it seemed appropriate that Brian had decided to build giant towers under a bridge near the  Waterworks.   

On our drive there, Jeri told me that Brian built the towers from  wooden coffee stirrers.   Talk about the environment having an effect on the creative process!  We wondered how the towers had withstood thunderstorms the night before.  Were they still there?  What would they look like?

We met Brian standing in front of his installation answering people’s questions and talking  about the challenges of building an art installation on a steep, rocky incline under a bridge trestle during a heat wave.  But he wasn’t alone; he  explained good naturedly  how a family of   baby rats, a  garter snake and a  suspicious groundhog watched his every move.  And take it from me, Philadelphia groundhogs are tough!  Brian knew enough not to mess with the groundhog (he was on the groundhog’s turf, after all) and he completed the installation.    To see the installation as it looked when Brian finished it, press here

But then it rained and the installation took on a different form.  Not what Brian had planned.  Even so, his installation  caught the attention of everyone who passed by the next day.

Here are some pictures.  

And a couple who had just gotten married had the courage to climb up under the bridge to have some wedding photographs taken next to Brian’s creation.  I wonder if the rats, snake and groundhog minded?

 To go to Brian’s web site, press here.    To go to his blog, which contains in-depth information about the creation of the installation, press here.

Litter Critters!

The City of Philadelphia invested in some solar powered trash and recycling units a couple of years ago.  But I knew something was up when I was walking on South Street recently and saw they had mysteriously transformed into brightly colored animals.  Litter Critters are a product of  the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s   Big Picture Program in which artists work with kids aged 10 to 14 to give them visual art training and to  promote social responsibility.       I’d say the Litter Critters fills the bill.  Hey, I’d rather feed my trash to a happy critter than a trash unit, even a solar powered one, any day in the week. Wouldn’t you?

Here are some pictures.

For more information on this program, press here and here.

Bob’s Garden, May 2011

Passers By look into the koi pond.

It’s early in the season, but Bob’s garden is already underway.  There are new fish in the koi pond, a big, happy turtle, and lots of new plants.  Barbra chewed off her perch in the tree, so Bob made her a new one.  Enjoy the slide show.

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Earlier Posts on Bob’s Garden

August 16, 2007

June 13, 2008

June 4, 2009

September 3, 2009



Ars Medendi

Ars medendi is Latin for medical arts.  Is medicine an art or a science?    Some say it’s both; medical knowledge is gathered through scientific study, but the application of that knowledge  is an art .   That’s why they call it practicing medicine, and it is not coincidental that practicing is also the same way you get to Carnegie Hall.
But seriously folks-I live in Philadelphia and walk past  a couple of fascinating sculptures almost every day.  One is a tall weathered metal cylinder in which mysterious looking symbols and foreign words in several alphabets-Latin, Cyrillic, Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese-are punched out of the metal as if the creator wanted to make a giant stencil.  The other sculpture is a long trapezoid-shaped screen with the same design motif.   They intrigued me from the first time I saw them, but there are no plaques indicating what they are, who the sculptor is, or why they sit on opposite ends of   the plaza of Thomas Jefferson University Medical College.

People must have been asking the Jefferson administration the same questions because it appears that Jefferson recently added information to its web site about the sculptures.  They are entitled Ars Medende and the artist is Jim Sanborn, known for his Kryptos sculpture at CIA headquarters in Langley Virginia. You can read more about Sanborn and his work here.

And now for the sculptures

The Medical Arts cylinder was installed on the corner of 9th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia in 2009.   It interesting by day but captivating at night.

When the cylinder is lit up at night it reflects  cryptic  symbols and foreign words onto the walkway and an adjacent building.   What do they mean?

I got a clue one night as my husband and I walked across the plaza.  He pointed  to the top of the  cylinder and asked me, “Do you recognize that?  It’s a DNA sequence.”  He should know, because he wrote a book called Corporate DNA: Learning from Life and did a lot of thinking about DNA and how it works while he was writing that book.   I admitted that the letters bore a strange familiarity even though I would be hard pressed to remember anything about DNA from high school biology.

Another look at the cylinder by day.  See the DNA sequence at near the top? Can you recognize anything else?

The Medical Arts screen  on the other side of the plaza on 10th Street  was placed there in 2008.  The first time I saw it, I was transfixed.  When I finally looked down,  I found two rusty X shapes from the stamped out metal that lying on the sidewalk.

There is other beautiful  art on the Jefferson Campus and I wish they would let the public know more about it.  You might remember the controversy that ensued after TJU decided to sell Thomas Eakins’ painting “The Gross Clinic” to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007.   American surgeon Samuel Gross taught at Jefferson Medical College and the story is that Eakins took one of his anatomy classes.

There is a statue of Gross in the courtyard by Alexander Sterling Calder who was the father of  Alexander Calder, known for his jewelry and  better known for his mobiles.  There is so much history at TJU both artistic and scientific.  But that is a topic for another post.

Enjoy the video about Jim Sanborn