September 2011


I don’t know about you, but I’m of the philosophy that you can never have too many photos of chipmunks, especially when they pose quite obligingly atop a stone wall.

Spider web with raindrops

This morning we awoke to fog and lingering raindrops. On a misty morning, spider webs gleam, their threads strung with droplets like pearls. Now the sun is out and the morning mist has long burnt away, leaving an afternoon brimming with cricket-calls. Already this morning’s misty webs seem distant: long gone, brushed from the sleeve of time.

Fly on pink stonecrop

Consider this as proof that I’m officially addicted to taking macro shots of insects on flowers, and that insects and flowers are pretty predictable year after year.

Bumble bee and fly on pink stonecrop

Yesterday, I took several photos of a bumble bee and house fly on a patch of pink stonecrop in our backyard, only to realize I did the exact same thing last year, when I posted a nearly identical photo-set of bees and butterflies. Now that pink stonecrop is blooming right on schedule, I guess today’s task is to find some butterflies.

Japanese maple in morning light

In about a month, the trees in our neighborhood will glow as if turned on with a switch. In the meantime, otherwise ordinary Japanese maples look lovely when illuminated with morning light.

House sparrow in morning light

Everything looks heavenly when illuminated. This morning, the house sparrows glowed while the sun glinted off ripening berries and leaves that are just starting to turn. Who needs enlightenment when just plain light will do?

Today J and I walked to Boston College for an afternoon football game, and the weather was picture-perfect: brisk enough for a sweatshirt, with blue skies and plenty of sunshine. All along the way, we saw walkers, dog-walkers, parents with strollers, and clusters of lean, Lycra-clad cyclists enjoying the comfortable temperature and low humidity. It was a day that almost begged to be enjoyed: a happy medium between the sticky days of summer and the bone-aching cold of winter. It was, in other words, a perfectly golden, glowing day.

This is my belated contribution to yesterday’s Photo Friday theme, Glowing.

Sailing the Charles

Yesterday J and I went to the Charles River Esplanade for the “Massachusetts Remembers 9/11” concert and ceremony at the Hatch Shell.

Blue evokes blue

Sunday was a mild and sunny day–a day reminiscent of that turquoise-skied Tuesday ten years ago–so the Charles River was dotted with sailboats and kayaks while the Esplanade was thronged with cyclists, sun-bathers, and families with strollers. It was a day so lovely, you could almost pretend it was any ordinary Sunday until you came to a colorful patchwork tapestry spread on the grass like an enormous picnic blanket.

School children's flag mural

Half the size of a football field, this American flag consists of 50,000 red, white, and blue squares that contain messages written by Massachusetts school children in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks: a two-dimensional time-capsule to remind us of darker days.

School children's flag mural

J and I arrived at the Hatch Shell early, so we were able to enjoy a pre-concert performance by the Berklee College of Music’s Rhythm of the Universe, a collaborative project consisting of musicians from 90 countries from around the world.

Rhythm of the Universe

It seemed somehow apt that the first melodic line J and I heard as we approached the Hatch Shell was that of a headscarf-wearing woman keening to a Middle Eastern melody. It was a sound that was both moving and mournful, as clear and ethereal as a muezzin’s call to prayer.

Rhythm of the Universe

The two-hour concert and ceremony featured prayers led by the Massachusetts Interfaith Leadership Coalition and musical performances by the Boston Pops Brass Ensemble and the Boston Children’s Chorus.

Boston Pops Brass Ensemble with the Boston Children's Chorus

My thoughts, however, kept going back to the eclectic sounds of the Rhythm of the Universe, who illustrated quite vividly how the cultures of the world can come together to create harmony if they are united by a common melody.

Rhythm of the Universe

Click here for a photo-set of images from the “Massachusetts Remembers 9/11” concert and ceremony.

Hanging on

Loggers call them widowmakers: broken limbs or tree-tops that snag on the forest canopy, dangling and threatening to fall without warning. After tropical storm Irene gave our Newton neighborhood a thorough pruning last weekend, all that’s left of the wind and rain are a handful of blow-downs that never quite blew down.

Yard waste

In the immediate aftermath of Irene, it was prudent to watch your step, since our neighborhood was littered with leafy twigs, brittle sticks, and one ominous-looking cable that snaked across our street, the area cordoned off with red hazard tape. Once all those twigs and sticks had been gathered into trash barrels, leaf bags, and twine-tied piles, you’d best keep your head up when you walked, on the lookout for hazards overhead.

Now that I’ve spent the past week looking for widowmakers, I seem to find them everywhere: not just the new ones from Irene, but old seasoned specimens from past storms. The treetops, it turns out, are simply littered with broken limbs and dangling branches, each threatening to succumb to gravity at any minute. Who has time to watch their step when so much danger looms from above?


Humans are fragile creatures, thin-skinned and vulnerable. We live much of our lives in our heads, oblivious to the dangers that surmount them. With our heads, we think we can control our fate by being careful: if we watch our steps, watch our diet, and look both ways, we’re all but guaranteed a long and healthy life. The widowmaker called Time looms to prove otherwise. No matter how carefully we try to control our destinies, an oncoming car careens out of control, a cancer diagnosis strikes like lighting out of the blue, or a precariously dangling tree limb succumbs to gravity. You just never know what is hanging directly overhead, held by the thinnest thread.

Bent tree

Time itself is a widowmaker, as is history. Ten years ago this week, a crisp September day began like any other until not one but three planes sliced our lives into the separate segments of Before and After. As the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, I keep thinking of the so-called falling man, a worker who jumped from the World Trade Center rather than waiting to succumb to fire and smoke. In his iconic picture, the falling man hangs upside down and aloft, his legs crooked like a runner. Who knew that morning what horrors awaited: who knew then how many flying souls would fall?

On my commute from Newton to Keene, a church marquee asks, “Tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes: how prepared are you?” Although I might quibble with the sign’s theology, I agree wholeheartedly with its urgency. Not even a single second of our lives is guaranteed; at every moment, the widowmaker of mortality hangs overhead like a sword on a string. It’s fine and good to watch your step, but even our best-made plans pale in a world where we’re left hanging in a forest full of danger, malice, and chance.


In response to today’s Photo Friday theme, Cars, here’s an image from my archives, from a day-trip to New York J and I took in October, 2009.


Classes at Keene State started this week, so I spent a lot of time in my car this commuting between Newton and Keene…and for the first time in the 10 years I’ve taught at KSC, I actually parked on campus rather than walking from a nearby apartment. Keene State doesn’t stack ‘n’ pack commuters’ cars, but maybe they should, given how a free parking space can be a precious commodity on a bustling campus.