In the Garden


I was in Birmingham for a while this past weekend visiting friends, and I made a stop at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Besides my friends and Milo burgers, this place is what I miss most about Birmingham. Atlanta has a beautiful garden, but it’s smaller, more “manicured,” and it costs a good bit to visit it. Birmingham’s garden, on the other hand, is more expansive, more natural, and costs nothing to enjoy… maintained by donations and volunteers.

I was there early, which in itself is unusual, so there were only a few people already out, the dew was still on the roses, and the weather was cool even if a bit humid. The rose garden was gorgeous and the fragrance as I approached it was unmistakable. I tried to make sure I smelled each section of the different varieties. It never ceases to amaze me how a “rose” can smell so different from type to type.

In this photo, the rose garden is to the left, and the area where several couples marry is to the right, out of sight. This portico was shady and quiet, and the earthy aroma of the roses, the grass, and the overhead vines was so pleasant that I stayed there for several minutes. Composing this photo then got me to thinking about perspective, vanishing points, architecture and such, and I got lost in the revelry of the mathematics of it all. I guess I’m a bit of a nerd that way. :)

Anyway, the thing I enjoyed most was that moment of peace, and I was grateful to be back in the gardens that I love so much.

I feel badly that I don’t have something profound to post about the storms that have rocked Alabama and the rest of the South, but it all seems beyond words. Everyone grieves in their own way, and this natural disaster, more than the Japanese one, hits literally too close to home to be able to give voice to the sadness I feel for those affected. I am grateful that it didn’t happen to me or my close family and friends, but then I feel guilty for feeling grateful. It could have just as easily been me and mine. The randomness of something so life altering is frightening, and I guess that’s one lesson to remind myself of again… that life can turn on a dime.

Live well, let those you love know it, and be sure to smell the roses along the way.

Bryce Hospital

They're Coming to Take You Away

I recently received the documents from Bryce Hospital (the Alabama State Mental Hospital) regarding my maternal grandmother’s stay there. While she was only a patient for two weeks before she died of tuberculosis at age 36 while suffering from mental illness brought on by the disease,  it made me very sad to read of her time there. I can only hope that she received the compassion and care due everyone, but since it was in the 1940s, the records were not very detailed, handwritten, and some were difficult to read.

During this weekend’s visit to Gordo, Sandee and her mother, Gail, were kind enough to make a side trip to the Bryce campus, just off the UA campus. Many of the buildings are gone, some in disrepair, and some still being used. I think it’s a shame that the buildings weren’t put on a historical register and renovated, because the architecture, layout, and concepts were truly ahead of their time, especially since they were built for those who were often on the fringes of society and families.

The layout of the buildings and grounds were designed by the famous mid-1800s mental health advocate, Thomas Kirkbride. He believed that the mentally ill could be helped, or at least calmed, by beautiful, soothing and natural settings, both in buildings and the surrounding grounds. He layed out or influenced the layout of several mental health campuses across the country, with the “bat wing” layout of the main building as his trademark.

This photo above is of the main administration building, the oldest on the campus, and it is still in use. Fortunately for me, Mrs. House was an employee at Bryce for several years, and so she told me what the various buildings were used for. I took a photo of the building where my grandmother was received, and where she died, but it’s a much more ordinary looking photo.

I’d love to go back and take some really thought-out photos and possibly get permission to go inside the old buildings, but this weekend, because of patient privacy issues, I had to just snap photos as I could, most of them from inside the car.

It was an odd feeling, for the first time being at the place where she spent her last days. She’s the grandmother who I think I get most of my looks from, ( and so I feel some connection with her, even though my mom couldn’t remember much either since she was only 12 when her mother passed away. I can’t really even put my finger on how I felt as I stood taking photos in front of the building where she died. I was hoping for closure or something, but it was more of a melancholy feeling I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shake when thinking of her.

Good Friday Eve

Easter's a Comin'

I probably won’t have a chance to post much this weekend, so I thought I’d get my Easter shot in early.

This Easter display is at a church near my subdivision. I went out a couple of days ago on the way home from work and took this picture from many different angles. (This flowerbed is where I shot the irises from my post a couple of days ago.)

Anyway, the purple drape on the cross is supposed to be hanging down on both sides, but as you can see, one side had gotten blown over onto the other side of the cross beam. I gingerly stepped into the large bed of flowers and attempted to pull the drape back down into position. However, it was firmly wedged down into a space between the beams… the harder I pulled, the more it got stuck. At one point, I felt like I almost pulled the cross down, so I quit trying. I was wondering if anyone from the highway saw me up there and thought I was vandalizing the display!

So this picture is the best I can do, but I still think it came out okay. Happy Easter everyone!!

The House of Escher

Its Not Nice to Stair

On the way to the Dogwood Festival, I passed by the walkway into this apartment/condominium complex, and was entranced by the twists, turns, lines, and shadows. On the way back from the festival, the light and shadows were even more appealing, so I took this photo.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Escher, you’ll probably recognize his work. Some images can be found here.

Thinking of Ellen

My Favorite Flowers

I heard the news today that a high school friend passed away after a battle with cancer at only 50 years old… way too young. I reconnected with Ellen (aka Harper to her Idaho friends) on Facebook about this time last year.

I noticed that in some of her photos, she had lost her hair and was wearing a hat to cover her baldness. When we first made contact, I don’t know where she was in her journey, but I didn’t ask any details and just wished her well with treatment and recovery. She said that she had a Caring Bridge site up for those who wanted to follow her story. I wrote back and said that I would like to keep up with her in that regard, but I never heard back from her with a password. So until someone who knows more can share information, all I know is that she had been battling some sort of cancer.

Ellen’s mother was my English teacher in 12th grade, and I can only imagine the grief she’s experiencing right now. I plan to buy a card tomorrow and send good thoughts and sympathies her way.

My most vivid memory of Ellen is from a Saturday night probably in 1978 when she and my friends Mark and Beth were at my house watching Saturday Night Live. It was a show that Steve Martin (in his heyday) hosted. There was a scene where he and Gilda Radner were in a bar and they “locked eyes” across the room, then began to dance. It started off well, but then collapsed into one of the funniest dance scenes ever. We were all literally on the floor laughing until our sides and faces hurt. I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed that hard since.

Part of it was the funnyness of the show, but I’m sure part of it was just having a belly laugh with good friends that then becomes contagious in its hilarity. It’s one of my favorite memories from my teen years. I’ve since reconnected on FB with Mark and am so glad to have rekindled our friendship, if only virtually for now. I hope to reconnect with Beth some day. And even if only for too brief a time, it was good to reconnect with Ellen.

I took this picture on the way home tonight, and thought these irises were beautiful. Since I won’t be sending flowers to Ellen’s memorial in Idaho, I thought I’d send them along virtually (as that’s how we last connected) and pay tribute to her with my blog post for tonight.

Happy Cows Come From Tallassee

"I'm afraid you have cows, Mr. Farnsworth."

I spent some time this weekend in Tallassee. On the way to my parents’ house, I pass a field and there are almost always cows in it… sometimes in the shade, sometimes eating.

Saturday, as Sandee and I were passing by, these beautiful Holstein heifers were gathered around their feed trough. I pulled onto the dirt road that paralleled the fence they were closest to. As soon as I got out of the car, most of them headed over the fence to see who I was (and I presume to see if I had any food), and were totally unafraid of me.

They were so pretty, just standing/laying in the field with the yellow flowers, the blue sky, and their total calm around me. I love the way the picture turned out. Hope you like it too, Sandee. :)

(BTW, the caption is from one of my favorite Far Side cartoons.)

Pretty in Pink

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Took this photo of azaleas in my backyard. At first, I started to write that the photo was of “nothing special.” But then I realized, they really are. Shame on me for almost passing off such delicate beauty as nothing special.