Make Like a Tree

It’s wintertime and although I know it’s supposed to be cold, I wish it wasn’t so dark. It was bright and sunny last October when a friend and I took a walk in Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, enjoyed a guided tour, and learned about the trees that populate the grounds. I’ve always loved trees.

I took copious notes on my phone about all the different kinds of trees we saw. But when I got home, I discovered that my app had not saved a single word. I did manage to identify the trees I saw and if you click on each picture here, the tree name will pop up.

Now I am fully aware of of how to spell Ginkgo. But if you click on the images to see the captions, you will notice that the word Ginkgo is misspelled. I chose not to correct it. The gremlins at WordPress already lost this post once before, and I don’t want to risk losing it again by futzing around with it. After all, blogging is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby for me and not an ordeal that makes me want to tear my hair out. Let sleeping Ginkgos lie.

Bartram’s Garden is home to the oldest Ginkgo tree in the United States, planted by the Bartram brothers in 1785. Read more about it here. If you want a complete list of trees and plants at Bartram’s Garden, press here. For a video history of Bartram’s Garden, press here. If you would like to visit, which I heartily recommend, press here.

Happy New Year!

Boris and his best pal Sweety the Stuffed Cat (who apparently thinks it’s someone’s birthday-he’s always ready for a celebration) wish you all a Happy New Year filled with snacks and scritches, and most of all, love. Can’t have too much of that.

Happy Holidays From My Neighborhood

Happy holidays from South Philadelphia! Things have been a bit unwieldy around the house since Boris published his little Christmas story, How the Tabby Got Its “M.” He’s walking around with his tail in the air, and expects us to wait on him hand and foot. Like we don’t do that already, right?

Thinking that I need an excuse to build my character, I have decided to sort out and organize the mishmash of files that have become more unruly with every computer upgrade. They go back more years than I’d like to count, to the days when the Internet had no pictures and some people with dial phones accessed on-line bulletin boards with gizmos from Radio Shack (not what we called it) that emulated touch tones.

But not everything new is an improvement. That’s why I love my neighborhood, especially during the holidays. Besides the abundance of Italian delicacies, the Ninth Street Market and surrounding neighborhood is packed with Asian groceries, Mexican groceries and food purveyors from all over the place. Buying from local on-the-street vendors, bakeries, butcher shops and so forth must be what food shopping was like in years past before everything got sorted and shrink wrapped. I realize that big food is likely here to stay and some of it does make its way into the market. The vendors are in business and they have to make a living. Still, I feel so lucky to have such a treasure within walking distance.

The market’s been around for a long time. Take a look at some older pictures here.

Looking for Inspiration

I must confess that I am feeling particularly uninspired as of late. I’ve been making ceramic mugs in the pottery studio and decorating them with underglaze, but even this seems forced.

The Penn Archeology and Anthropology Museum has been a great source of inspiration for me in the past. Flea Markets are a great source of inspiration, too. If those don’t work for you, the Huffington Post offers a few suggestions to stoke your creativity. I find that the best thing for me is to take a long walk and to try to look at things differently.

So last week, I revisited a Philadelphia neighborhood I lived in years ago which happened to be hosting a vintage flea market on a beautiful fall day. Even if the walk didn’t open the inspiration floodgates, I figured that at least I would get some exercise since I walked to Powelton Village and back from my South Philadelphia neighborhood. And got to look at Center City Philadelphia architecture from the west rather than my usual eastern view. Architecture can be another source of inspiration.

I’m not feeling inspired yet, but when I do, you’ll be the first to know.

A Visit to Elfreth’s Alley

Years ago, I met a woman who, for a time, owned a house in Philadelphia’s Elfreth’s Alley. She liked the house she lived in but said she never got used to total strangers peering in her front windows and knocking on her door at all hours.

As the nation’s oldest, continuously occupied residential street, Elfreth’s Alley is a tourist attraction. Not a manufactured tourist attraction. Elfreth’s Alley, located in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia is the real deal. The people who live there are not historical reenactors, and the houses are privately owned, not part of the National Park Service. I’ve always wanted to explore Elfreth’s Alley more closely, (I pass by it on the way to The Clay Studio), but I am reluctant to go snapping pictures of people’s houses without an invitation. And then the invitation came. A flea market of antiques and crafts to support the Elfreth’s Alley museum, complete with guided tours.

I was pressed for time that day and didn’t have a lot of time to stick around, but I did manage to take a lot of pictures.

Plenty to do after you’ve been to Elfreth’s Alley

A Walk to Northern Liberties from South Philadelphia

One of the best ways to see Philadelphia is to walk it. Here are some pictures I took on a stroll to Northern Liberties from my own neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

Fairmount Flea Market is Back

It was good to get outside last week, stretch my legs and attend the Fairmount Flea Market. Fairmount is a Philadelphia Neighborhood north of the Art Museum district. Fairmount’s distinctive landmark is Eastern State Penitentiary which sits on the neighborhood’s southern border. I used to live in Fairmount on a street right behind the prison. Of course, the prison was no longer operating by this time and the prison grounds were home to bands of feral cats who roamed the large expanse.

When they built the prison, it was located far outside the city in a cornfield. Now, it’s surrounded by busy streets and row houses. The prison was considered an improvement on crowded, violent penal conditions of the day. It was felt that giving an inmate solitude and opportunity to reflect would help rehabilitation. But the road to hell, so the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. And so it was with Eastern State. Solitary confinement proved to have a disastrous effect on inmates who it destroyed psychologically. Charles Dickens witnessed this when he visited Eastern State in 1842 and later wrote about it.

Fast forward 160 years and the inmates are gone. Eastern State has been cleaned up, is open for tours, and beautiful playgrounds and gardens cover the grounds where the feral cats roamed. Funny how these things work. Here are some pictures.

Speaking of cats, I met two of them on the way home and they graciously let me take their pictures.

How Irises Almost Led Me to a Life of Crime

I have always been a sucker for irises. They are my favorite flower. And of all the colors irises come in, my favorite is purple. Purple irises impede my judgment faster than a couple of shots of whiskey on an empty stomach. The closest analogy I can make is to people who turn stupid and gaga at the sight of a cute baby. They struggle to maintain a sense of boundaries and decency as they poke some stranger’s child and go kitchy-coo. I feel the same loss of control when I see a purple iris. I want to pluck it and take it hostage. I am an adult woman and these days, I manage to control myself when I see irises. But when I saw the riot of purple irises you see below during a recent walk in Philadelphia, I was taken back to my youth and recalled the time I did something that could have gone terribly wrong.

I was attending a small college in central Pennsylvania. My dormitory was next to a ramshackle wooden house with a detached garage that was not part of the college. A fence surrounded the house which had a small yard and garden. I never paid much attention to it.

But one day when I was coming back from class, there they were. The irises. Purple irises, bales and bales of them growing like crazy in the yard, under the fence and fairly stuffed into a narrow strip of ground between the fence and the sidewalk. Hundreds and hundreds of irises. I had never seen so many irises. I was gobsmacked.

I decided right then and there to liberate some of the irises. But not in the light of day-no I didn’t dare. I didn’t want to hear the disdainful clucks of any townies or my fellow students who, I felt, were so judgmental and so conservative that they ironed creases in their jeans. So I hatched a plan. I set my alarm to wake me at 5:00 am on a Sunday morning when I figured most people would be sleeping. I threw a coat on over my pajamas and crept out of my dormitory with a pair of sharp scissors, a flashlight, and a paper grocery bag. I made my way down the road and crept behind the garage where the irises where growing profusely. I knelt down and began to saw away with my scissors.

“Do you go to college here?” I heard a voice behind me. My heart jumped. It was a woman’s voice and it sounded pleasant enough, but maybe she was softening me up for the kill before marching me off to the Dean’s office where she would tell the Dean, in a shrieking and not so pleasant voice this time, what I had done. Then the Dean would call my parents. I had visions of drama. Much drama. The kind of drama only my parents were capable of. Followed by my father having a fit of apoplexy and exploding into little bits (which he never did) or screaming and threatening to write me out of his will (which he did all the time.)

I decided to play it cool, and took a deep breath. “Yes, ” I replied trying to sound as innocent as I could, trying to sound like secreting myself behind an old garage dressed in a coat and pajamas, and cutting some stranger’s flowers and shoving them into a grocery sack as fast as I could at 5:00 am on a Sunday morning was a normal activity for a college student.

I looked up and she was holding some small magazines fanned out like a deck of cards. “Would you like one?” She asked. I didn’t dare say no. “Sure,” I replied, “I’ll take one. She pulled one out and handed it to me. When I saw the name of the magazine, I knew I was home free. There would be no visit to the Dean’s office and no drama.

“I’ve heard of The Watchtower,” I said, “but I never read one. I’ll take a look at this. Thanks.”

“Do you think any of your classmates would be interested?” she asked, pressing the rest of the magazines into my hand. “They might be, ” I replied, “I can put these in the student union lounge.””Thank you, she replied, “and have a blessed day.

I returned to my room, and put my purloined irises into a jar. I can’t remember if I put the magazines in the student union building. I probably did, after my heart stopped pounding. But that is the last time I ever helped myself to anyone else’s flowers. Not that I haven’t been tempted.

Spring’s Blossoms

Every Spring for a week or so, the flowering trees in Philadelphia burst into bloom all over the city.

The view from my bedroom window

Everywhere you look, the trees are showing off their blossoms like they’re in a competition to see who can be the showiest.

The party lasts about a week and then it’s over. Enjoy it while you can.

Want to see more? Check here and here.

A Winter’s Day

Winter dumped a load on the East coast this week. I’m glad I didn’t have to be anywhere. Still, it’s fun to go out and explore.

One of my favourite murals is a snow scene!

A little South Philly humor. I have yet to meet a poop fairy.
Local basketball court under snow
Bob’s garden is closed for the winter and turtle is fast asleep in the heated Koi pond dreaming about sunny days ahead.