Well, are we tiring of ice photos, ready to turn a cold shoulder?

I continue to be distracted by bright shiny objects, including ice.  I saw this little waterfall on a very icy day, and managed to take this picture by the skin of my teeth.  Or, to be more scientifically accurate, after sliding down a shale bank to the creek, there was some missing skin from another part of my anatomy.

I’ve been looking through the files, and there must be a couple thousand winter photos on my computer.  If life gives you lemons… well it’s too cold for lemonade, but we could stir up a little antifreeze – – if you’re going to the store for lemons, please pick up some more bourbon and a little Cointreau – – we’ll slap a few Fats Waller records on the Victrola and drink Sidecars until spring gets here.

 

 

 

I’m adding this third picture to the post, because I noticed something – – do you see the foreign object? Even if I’d spotted it at the time, there was no way to get across and nab it. I do not like litterbugs.

 

Clean Waters, Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Nature, NY, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. February. A Small Falls on Glen Creek.

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Well, it seems like the weather in Milwaukee has been a tad chilly lately.

I’ve always been mildly interested in the occasional news item about “cryonics,” preserving people in a deep freeze.  But I wasn’t planning on participating, just yet, which I nearly did, digging my car out of the polar vortex.

But warmer weather is on the way, and I’ve been looking forward to one of the great pleasures of walking in the winter – – admiring the countless shapes and shades of ice.

 

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Some days, it’s as if an artistic glass-maker had set up an outdoor gallery.

 

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As the weather changes, the artworks change, too.

 

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Growing, adding layers, shrinking…and for the final act, dissolving.

 

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Imagine some museum curator, carefully mounting a show, only to find that the artworks, like leprechaun gold, had dissolved away in the morning light.

Or that the artists had crept back into the galleries, to recast and refashion their artworks, with some torchwork or extra crystals, adding brushstrokes, melting their statues, or erasing figures from their paintings.

 

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We’ve all seen artworks that change over time, of course, or disappear.

 

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For people in more temperate climates, their first experiences of transitory art probably involved sand, not ice.  Sand castles at the beach – a great way to learn how impermanent our creations are.  “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and the tide came in, and the Frisbee players trod upon it, and beat upon that house; and it fell…”

 

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You can sometimes stop by the college library in Geneva, NY, and watch a Tibetan Lama and his class creating a sand mandala.  We’ve probably all done simple sand paintings and mosaics in school, but the mandala is huge and much more elaborate, and takes weeks to complete.  When the class was gone, you can examine it closely – and concentrate on not sneezing.

And when this colorful and complex creation is complete, the monk sweeps it into jars, and pours the sand into the lake.

 

 

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The ice and snow sculptures around northern cities, of course, aren’t permanent.  Milwaukee has signs posted, warning that in preparation for the 4th of July festivities, any un-melted snowmen will be cleared from public areas. Cavemen and woolly mammoths, relics from an ice age that must have seemed eternal to our Cro-Magnon ancestors, are emerging from the melting glaciers, and ancient microbes wake up and resume their decomposition chores, as if they’d just taken a winter’s nap.

Even metal statues aren’t really frozen in time.  Bronzed faces in the park turn green with verdigris, and white with pigeon droppings – that’s the pensioners on their bench, but it happens to statues, too.  Feet of clay are revealed, shiny reputations corrode, and the statues are disappeared.

 

 

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But the idea of an art gallery that evolves over time, could be kind of fun.

 

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Slender icicles grow into huge stalactites, and Giacometti statues turn Rubenesque.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mona Lisa is intrigued by a frozen-faced, enigmatic pair, and visits the frost-bitten folks in “American Gothic.”

 

This year, I want to learn a bit about editing and altering pictures in Photoshop and Lightroom.  I’ve only invested a few hours so far, and in my easily-distracted way,  have just played with the cheap-tricks-and-shiny-objects, like the funhouse reflections from a frozen window.  Did you notice?  the folks in Grant Wood’s painting are edited to be a bit less grim, less icy-looking, and Lisa is a bit sadder and thinner.  The ease with which you can edit and manipulate images sends a chill down your spine.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes the ice, and digital editing, create fantastic shapes, or transmogrifies ordinary objects into something magical…and sometimes, it’s just ice, and meretricious trickery.  Lumps of gray, and grotesque distortions from freezing & thawing – – like the distorted clods of propaganda bombarding us online, or the swollen factoids and skewed images on the news, showing no visible seams, but plenty of bias.

 

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Some days I just want to go out with a camera, and see what shots I can get, straight out of the box, freeze-frame.  And some days, digital editing is fascinating, and fun, and might even be a useful job skill sometime.

But often, the constant refashioning, remodeling, fiddling of images gets on the nerves.  So many photos look too jazzed, and our ideal of human beauty becomes freeze-dried, as every portrait is botoxed & photoshopped into an icy, blank flawlessness.  So…I blow hot and cold on this, and I guess I’ll do both, just work on taking decent photos, maybe tackle RAW format, and think of Photoshop, etc. as a separate hobby.  Some of the shots on today’s post were taken with an agèd iPhone, and it’s interesting to see what you can get with a tiny lens.

 

 

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It’s not a winter scene, but I’m thinking about an exhibition I saw recently — seven versions of the same scene, by the same artist.  Monet stood on a balcony at the Savoy Hotel, peering through the smog day after day, until he’d painted “Waterloo Bridge” over forty times.

Looking at the paintings, almost immediately, you get past their familiarity (a false sense of bland prettiness, after years of seeing them on posters & greeting cards, umbrellas & iPad cases), you realize what amazing and complex works they are.

 

 

Streams, rivers, and bridges, of course, are symbols of change and transition.  And Monet was manipulating people’s visual systems, in his wonderful way, re-working and layering colors, over and over, while keeping an impression of spontaneity.  Some paintings change, as you continue to look at them.

 

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But as far as I know, Monet never ducked into a gallery, armed with a hairdryer, to shrink his canvases, or make the paint melt into something Dalí-esque.

 

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The Persistence of Memory. MOMA

Another painting that to me, refers to change – – iconic, unforgettable, and one of my favorites – – Dalí’s “Persistence of Memory,” with its melting clocks.  It reminds me of times when I return somewhere, and am told, nothing’s changed, nothing has been altered.  But the place is so different than in my memory, that the details seem to have melted and run.

 

 

 

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And we know, that even in the seemingly frozen world of an art museum, those UV-screened, climate-controlled sanctums, things are happening beneath the surface of the oil paintings.  Even when the temperature and humidity levels are almost constant, the fibers of the canvas expand and contract, sawing against each other.  No matter how much we try to freeze time, and preserve the paintings, there are proteins bonding, and chemical reactions continuing.

 

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Beneath the skin, all of us keep changing.  Stillness and lack of reaction, can be an active statement, indicating a lack of interest, or giving someone the Big Freeze, or just inner tranquility.  But when people sit there expressionless, a lot of the time, we know, or sense, there’s movement under the skin.   They could be unmoving, and appear unmoveable, and all the time, they’re silently and happily humming a tune in their head.

 

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Just like walking alongside an iced-over, snow-covered stream, in the depth of winter, and it’s a picture of stillness.  But there’s that subtle, wonderful musical sound from the stream flowing underneath, almost like underwater chimes.

 

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Walking over a frozen pond, it will look solid and static, but by early March, you usually hear grinding noises far beneath you.    I’ve stood next to someone, who’s still as a statue, and then become aware somehow of their inner tension and friction, and even noises under the frozen face, like ice breaking up.  (They might be grinding their teeth in frustration, or, as in my case, trying to do sums in their head.)

 

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We’re Americans, and therefore, we love Change.  Most of us love to travel, see new sights, try new foods, hear new bands, watch new movies.  But, if you love history, you also enjoy listening to music repeatedly,and re-watching movies, to discover nuances and feelings, that escaped you, the first time around.

And sometimes, you experience a warmth when revisiting places, and finding them unchanged.

 

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There’s the pleasure of the new (novelty, stimulation, sometimes the humor in the unexpected).  We enjoy going to see new works of art, and new shows, but  for me, there’s an equally keen pleasure in returning to a place, that I’ve been many times before, and seeing things I’ve seen many times before.  I walk down a familiar street, looking forward to seeing a beautiful old oak, a fountain, or a handsome building that’s survived the years.  Re-watching Bogart or Hepburn movies.  Or spending a day wandering through an art museum, especially when it’s twenty below outside, to look at paintings you’ve seen many times, without growing one bit bored.

 

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It’s one of the ways that you know it’s the good stuff – – you enjoy experiencing it over and over.   And, I think, there’s also the separate pleasure, and relief, of returning to see something you like, and finding it, like a friend, unchanged, not looking a day older.

 

 

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It’s not exactly exciting, but there’s a pleasant satisfaction in walking by the dioramas in old museums, often relegated to some dusty, dimly-lit back corridors.  During a visit home in December, I went to a couple of museums that I’ve visited since I was a kid. I enjoyed the new exhibitions, fresh is nice, but also enjoyed seeing the old stuff, still frozen.

 

 

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OK, we’re on thin ice here, this is skating awfully close to a digression, so I’ll end it here, on a note of warm nostalgia!

 

 

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Historical Footnote

Sometimes, of course, ice isn’t fun, and is kind of treacherous.  Glittering snow crystals descend on us in a fantastical, dreamlike shower, too delicate to be real…and overnight, all that fairy stuff coalesces into ugly gray stumbling blocks, or a lethal concrete of black ice on the roadway, a slippery slope to the body shops and chiropractors.  The ice can destroy roads, and shatter rocks – –  I’ve read that many times, about ice cracking the hardest stone.

When I was in grade school, there was a great old history book, with pictures of Hannibal and a whole  army of elephants, trying get through the Alps, to attack Italy.  Babar-ians sacking Rome, I gathered.

I had no idea what it was all about, or how the Romans had ticked off the elephants.  I guessed it was a lack of peanuts at the Circus Maximus, or maybe something to do with the hippodromes.

 

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But the book mentioned the Carthaginian soldiers using vinegar, not ice, to split the giant boulders blocking a path through the mountains.

I didn’t understand that part, either.

I asked my father, who explained that, like so many things in the old days, vinegar was explosive back then.  The Colosseum is in ruins, because someone dropped a Caesar salad, and it went off.

I’d learned by the age of six to ignore my father.  Thinking about it, I guessed that they’d poured liquid into the cracks, and waited for it to freeze, using ice to split the rocks.  But I looked it up, and apparently, ancient people used heat up the biggest boulders with wood fires, and then pour vinegar into the cracks, to make it shatter.  I’m still not clear on why it has to be vinegar, and not, say, elephant pee, since you had all those elephants, but I’m no engineer.

 

I’m very sorry not to have an attribution for this painting, which I really like. Pretty sure it’s Amsterdam mid-1600’s, when the “Little Ice Age” kicked in again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, hiking, Nature, snow, Sweaters, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Uncategorized, Upstate New York, Winter

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. Watkins Glen, December.

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I was taking pictures through a frosted window pane.

This one isn’t the sharpest or most glittery of the bunch, but I somehow like it the best.

 

 

Cold War, Frostbite, photography, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Winter

street lights through a frosty windowpane

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Hello from Boston, Massachusetts, Winter Wonderland!

I haven’t posted any pictures from this town yet.

So I thought I’d send a few cellphone photos, from where we’re holed up,

above the snow line and away from the wolves, atop the Hancock Building.

We’re OK up here for now — we have 7 cans of Sterno, 4 boxes of Saltines, and a whole crate of Ovaltine.

Above is a shot of residents fleeing Boston on snowshoes, over the rooftops.  That’s Quincy Market to the left.

In the next picture, I think the mound at the bottom is the dome of the Statehouse.

 

 

I took a few more pictures from the sledge, when the Lyft dogsledder picked us up.

 

 

Here’s the Castle at Park Plaza (on Columbus Avenue)

 

And the entrance to my subway stop on the MBTA line

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And a new advertisement for the ferry to Hingham

 

Dairy aisle in the Whole Foods store.

 

“Looking for the Bus Stop, Friday Night”

 

Heck, I’m from Upstate New York – no worries.

They warned me the Yankees were a bit on the cool side, and a bit of weather doesn’t bother me.

So long for now!  Keep warm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old pictures are from the Library of Congress.  The engraving is by Conradus Lycosthenes (Switzerland, 1500’s) from the Wellcome Library.  The Retreat from Moscow is from the Saratov National Research State University on behalf of NG Chernyshevsky.
Those are actually New York ice crystals in the last photo, as you can probably tell – – sharp-edged, stony-hearted.

 

 

 

 

Boston, Frostbite, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Winter

Pictures of Boston. January. The Evacuation.

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I figured everybody’s seen a million photos of Niagara Falls, by better photographers than me!  So these are mostly snapshots of the area around the Falls, taken on Saturday.

The freezing spray glazed our coats, so they crackled when we took them off, and added layer after layer of ice to every non-moving object in the area, making a walk kind of tricky, but it’s always very interesting and beautiful to visit the Falls in winter.  Until your blood begins to gel, of course.

1,2 = Coin-operated binoculars, coated with ice and turned into friendly-looking robots.

3-6 = Trees and shrubs covered with ice on Goat Island, in the middle of the Niagara River, and the American side of Falls.

7-13 = getting toward dusk, near Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side.  The Falls are illuminated with colored spotlights.

I hope everybody out there has a wonderful New Year’s, and best wishes for a peaceful, happy 2018.

 

Xmas lights reflected in the ice

 

I just ran across this poem, “A Crystal Forest” by William Sharp (1913), (and quoted by Emma Watson as Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast)

The air is blue and keen and cold,
With snow the roads and fields are white;
But here the forest’s clothed with light
And in a shining sheath enrolled.
Each branch, each twig, each blade of grass,
Seems clad miraculously with glass:
Above the ice-bound streamlet bends
Each frozen fern with crystal ends.

 

 

Canada, Frostbite, NY, photography, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Upstate New York, Winter

Pictures of Upstate New York/Upper Canada. December. Niagara Falls.

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Clean Waters, Finger Lakes, FLX, Ithaca, Nature, NY, photography, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. December. Taughannock Falls. 7℉

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breakfast, Ecuador, Galapagos, Mail, Post Office, South America, Sudamerica, travel, Uncategorized, Winter

Message in a…barrel ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The Galapagos Post Office.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve just finished up my third winter in a row.  Pretty much twelve months spent in the winter seasons of Milwaukee, then Chile, then New York.

It’s natural that during this Ice Age, my mind would wander sometimes, and take a little vacation from the cold.

Leaving my frostbitten carcass behind, it would daydream of sun, gentle breezes, and warm beaches.

So when I got a break, and actually took a short trip to a sunny, warm beach, I stood in the warmth and sunshine, and naturally my mind strayed again, like that one pesky third-grader on a field trip, and left me with thoughts of…

Cream of Wheat?

 

 

By sheer good luck, in February I got the chance to tag along with a student group going to the Galapagos Islands, pretty close to the equator.  Walking around Floreana Island, under the most intense sunlight I’ve ever felt, suddenly my mind was thinking of my favorite hot breakfast cereal.

Sometimes I worry myself.

 

On the island, looking at a weathered barrel full of postcards, what came to mind, was a famous advertisement from the turn of the last century, which I’d seen for years, on a tin canister in our kitchen.

The ad ran in magazines over a hundred years ago, but a lot of folks would recognize it still.   “Rural Delivery”, painted by N.C. Wyeth in 1906, shows a cowpoke on horseback, six-shooter on his hip, dropping a letter into a wooden box on a post.   “Where The Mail Goes, Cream of Wheat Goes” says the caption.

 

 

The barrel post office I was standing by, on this remote island in the Galapagos, is even older than the ad.  The site (if not the current barrel) has been used  since the 1790’s.  Originally by sailors coming ashore for water or food – – whalers, seal-hunters, and sea-cooks looking to boil up a big pot of turtle soup – and now by tourists from all over the world.

Over two hundred years ago, a British sea captain set up the mail drop, with flags that signaled its existence to passing ships.  Outbound sailors would leave messages, and homeward bound sailors would retrieve letters left by others, to deliver when they got to port.

 

The legacy has continued – – each modern visitor leaves a postcard, and looks for one that they can deliver in person to the recipient.

I enjoyed looking through addresses in places as diverse as Mumbai and Moldova.  That last one, had languished here for twelve years.  One girl in the group, feeling sad for a letter marooned on the island for seventeen years, waiting to be carried to Turkey, said she would defy whatever curse came from violating tradition, and would mail it from the U.S., because she felt like matters had waited long enough.

On the day we were there, New Englanders seemed to have the most luck, and several kids found addresses close to their homes, that they could deliver at the end of the semester.  “This lady lives twenty minutes from my house!”

I am looking forward to hearing from myself, just a card, and it will be a nice surprise to learn what I was thinking, because I’ve already forgotten what I wrote.

The most poignant message, though, was very simple. I picked it up and in big letters it proclaimed:

“I will be back for this. If I die before then, my kids will. Leave me here, I’m coming back!”

 

 

 

Rural Delivery” painting is public domain, courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (a gift from the National Biscuit Company!)

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