Autumn Color

Autumn is my favorite time of year, mostly for the changing leaves and a brief respite of coziness and relative warmth before it gets too cold to do much outdoors except for getting from one place to another.

The foliage isn’t as robust as in past years, thanks to an ongoing lack of rain over the warmer months.

Fortunately, that does not mean no color at all.

The park near my house in early October is not without at least one burst of red.

Those three trees in the background never fail to transform at least one small section of the park’s landscape every Autumn.

However, for the most part, a burnt, somewhat dingy orange predominates this year.

Granted, this hue is more or less the norm for the tall trees at the edge of my backyard.

On one of my periodic, two-to-three mile neighborhood walks, I spotted this brilliant yellow, made even more striking by the blue of the house next to it.

To see ample colors in one place, however, I had to visit Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

On the third Sunday in October, I spent an afternoon there, seeking out as many seasonal shades I could find.

Walking around Mt. Auburn, I was not disappointed. Robust reds, bright oranges, sparkling yellows were all around.

I’m not a religious man, but parks, cemeteries, woods–any kind of green space is the sort of place my soul thrives in.

I remember driving out to Kettle Moraine North in Wisconsin with my parents when I was four or five, collecting pretty fallen leaves to place into a construction paper album.

I held onto that album for most of my childhood, no matter how brown and crinkly the leaves turned.

For those few bright red maple trees I see around Boston, I think fondly of the street I grew up on, which was lined with them. There was a particularly big one in front of our house–I can recall the impossibly massive piles of leaves my dad would rake from everything that fell onto the front yard, the sidewalk, even the street.

Within weeks, the trees will once again be bare. However, I’m genuinely optimistic for the first time in four years. The trees will bud again come April or May, hopefully stronger than ever before as we begin to heal and nourish our collective soul.

This Year’s Garden

When I moved into my current home four years ago, the best thing the former residents left behind was a garden box in the backyard. Overgrown with weeds and spaghetti-like remnants of long-forgotten plants, I thought to myself, “It’s too late in the season, but next year, I can do something with this.”

May 27

Since then, I’ve cultivated a garden each summer. Growing up, I used to love helping my mom out with her garden–basically two narrow strips, one alongside the house (where we always planted tomatoes); the other next to the garage (chives, radishes and a catnip plant we could never fully exhume.)

June 28

Figuring out what works here has been a matter of trial-and-error. I knew I wanted tomatoes, and put in three plants the first year. Since I’m the only one here who eats them, I went down to two plants last year and only one (a cherry tomato) this year. Marigolds tend to always be bountiful; for 2020, I also put in two of each of the following: blue lobelias, red salvias and multicolored lantanas (the latter were the only real duds.)

July 4

I also tried out a six-pack of multicolored zinnias, which I did not expect to get so tall.

July 16

The zinnia’s flowers, however, were worth their domineering overgrowth.

July 24

I was concerned about the cherry tomato at first; it was a brash Home Depot purchase at the height of quarantine and took awhile to get going. Fortunately, it came through as the zinnias bloomed.

August 30

By August 30, the garden was at its peak. When I planted it back in May, it was by far the most therapeutic activity I had partaken in since quarantine commenced, reminding me why I liked to garden and what serenity and spiritual refreshment I got out of it.

A red zinnia up close.

Fresh cherry tomatoes, a side dish fit for almost every occasion.

Jalapeños–I also planted another type of chili pepper this year (can’t remember the exact name) that, left unpicked turns nearly candy apple red, becoming *extremely* spicy.

September 20

After Labor Day, I began taking out the zinnias one by one as the flowers lost their petals and brilliant colors. Close to the Autumn Equinox, I replaced them with three gelosias (red, purple and orange) and a hearty pink-and-green coleus. Somewhat late in the season, but I appreciated what they added to the tableaux.

October 17

As of this weekend, the garden is in its last throes. The cherry tomato is mostly dead, though I refuse to remove it until it stops bearing fruit. Marigolds and peppers are still plentiful; the coleus turned out to be not so hearty after all. Considering potting the rosemary (in the rear left) for the winter.

July 20

I’d rather remember this year’s garden for its summer brilliance–particularly that one early evening when it attracted a bluebird.

York Harbor and Wiggly Bridge

A few weeks ago, prior to a socially-distanced dinner with friends in Kittery, Maine, we made a pitstop in nearby York Harbor.

Slotted in between York Village and York Beach, York Harbor neither has much of a charming Main Street (the former) nor gift shops, restaurants and sandy beaches beholden to tourists (the latter.)  It’s mostly residential and thus much quieter.

We actually met up with my parents for a mini-vacation near here a dozen years ago this month, but haven’t been back since. We must have explored this marina then, although I barely remembered it.

Boaters will know exactly what this doohickey’s for; I just admire the contrast of its colors and textures against the deep blue sky.

For me, it’s not a trip to coastal Southern Maine if I haven’t taken at least one photo of a hanging buoy.

On that mini-vacation I might’ve made a joke about this directed towards my Mom, but in all seriousness, I wasn’t aware crabbing was a thing here; I mostly associate Maine with lobsters and oysters.

I enjoy taking pictures of little dinghies–the junkier, the better.

Early Autumn in Maine can be quite lovely.

This is along the North Basin of York River.

Glance to the West and you’ll see this bridge, Route 103.

Looking West on Route 103 before the bridge…

…and on the bridge, where one can spot another, decidedly tinier bridge in the distance:

The Wiggly Bridge is famous enough to have its own Atlas Obscura entry. This I remember from that mini-vacation.

Looking straight-ahead across Wiggly Bridge back towards Route 103.

To the right of Wiggly Bridge, it’s Barrells Millpond.

About 45 minutes before sunset.

Above and below: a narrow path from Wiggly Bridge back to Route 103.

So long, you can barely make out Wiggly Bridge in the distance.

And, if you walk past Wiggly Bridge in the other direction, you’ll find this serene beauty.

Toronto, 2005

In normal times, I’d be in Toronto for TIFF. I am currently attending the modified “virtual edition” of it, but it’s not the same as being there in person. My last TIFF was in 2014 (see here and here) and I’m overdue for a return (just not this year, naturally.)

I’m thinking a lot about my first TIFF, 15 years ago. Earlier this summer, going through a slew of CD-Rs full of photos from the Oughts, I found one disc I didn’t know I had from that trip. I believe this was right before I acquired my first digital camera, so these pix are among the last I ever took with my old, trusty point-and-shoot (before it unceremoniously died.) Above is McCaul Street and the ever-distinct OCAD University building.

I’m certain I saw more films at the Paramount (now ScotiaBank) Theatre than any other venue that year, thus spending much time around this nearby stretch of Queen Street West. Club Monaco and Steve’s Music (not pictured) are still there, but I’m guessing not much else is.

My first TIFF was also my first time in Toronto (and Canada, for that matter). Although I managed to see 16 films in five days, I also made time for sightseeing. Here’s Spadina Avenue in Chinatown…

…and nearby Kensington Market. Above is a stretch of Kensington Avenue; I don’t seem to have a shot of Augusta Avenue, where I just had to seek out the building used for exterior shots in the cult sitcom Twitch City.

Back in 2005, I found Toronto City Hall fairly ugly; now, I appreciate its mid-century modern splendor. It’s sleeker than Boston’s Government Center, anyway.

University Avenue. I retain fond memories of getting iced coffee from Second Cup along this stretch and being puzzled that the straws available for use had no paper on them (particularly shocking in 2020.)

Further up University Ave: Queen’s Park, and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

I was lucky enough to visit Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street before it closed.

I stayed at a bed and breakfast over on Jarvis Street, across from Allan Gardens, pictured here. (Please ignore the (incorrect) time stamp.)

I was amused to see a bar/restaurant named after my hometown in Toronto at 220 Adelaide Street West. It’s long gone (as of 2007, according to Google Maps.)

I don’t recall if I went up the CN Tower back then (I know I did in 2009.) Anyway, here’s a bit of Old (the smokestack), New (the glassy high-rises) and Mid-Century Toronto (along with a seabird.) I look forward to seeing it all again, maybe in 2021.

Sunday At The Cranberry Bog

Looking for a new COVID-safe activity (preferably one outdoors), we checked out a cranberry bog last week.

The Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog, as a matter of fact–located at Patriot Place in Foxboro, of all places, directly behind the Bass Pro Shop.

It consists of a half-mile trail that takes one through some woods…

…and voilà! A cranberry bog. Though mid-July is decidedly not cranberry season.

However, it was the kind of pastoral, sparsely-attended space we were looking for, along with less than a dozen other mostly socially distanced attendees (including multiple dog-walkers.)

Someone even left behind a rosary.

A river runs through this hidden, lovely space.

I enjoyed the numerous textures on display. Particularly all the lily pads:

We’ll be back to the bog in Autumn for the foliage and presumably, some cranberries.

Short Sands Sunrise

Fourteen years ago today, I watched the sunrise in York Beach, Maine.

My parents had flown out from Iowa and we had driven up from Boston for a few days to celebrate the 4th of July.

It was my mother’s idea to awaken so painfully early to witness a sunrise. The previous morning was our first attempt, where we ended up at the Long Sands Beach. Unfortunately, we faced the wrong direction.

Thus, the next day, with great strain (I’m not much of a “morning person”), we tried it again, this time at the Short Sands Beach near the center of town. Bingo.

If you ever have the chance and gumption to watch a sunrise, I recommend it. I haven’t seen such brilliant hues in the sky before or since.

I’ll attempt another sunrise someday, when I’m in the right place and frame of mind. For now, I’ll always remember and treasure this one.

P-Town Scenes

Normally, I’d be in Provincetown this weekend for their annual film festival; I’ve missed it only twice in the last fifteen years. I’ve gone to P-Town in Winter, Autumn and Spring, but Father’s Day weekend (falling near the Summer Solstice) always means PIFF.

As with my New York essay, I thought in these crazy times it’d be therapeutic to look back at some P-Town pix I’ve taken over the years. Above is a 2010 view of the town (the tall building is the Library) and MacMillan Pier from the ferry dock. Traveling there by sea from Boston is highly preferable to doing so by land (and shorter!)

From the same year: a banner for the 12th PIFF (with the Library in the background.)

The heart of Commercial Street, P-Town’s main thoroughfare. Lined with restaurants, gift shops, bars and other tourist attractions, you can drive (one-way) along it, but IMO it would be so much better if you couldn’t.

Town Hall, 2018. At the 20th PIFF, nature provided a serendipitous backdrop for the unveiling of an AIDS memorial.

Town Hall at New Year’s Eve, 2016. P-Town does not entirely shut down for the off-season.

A restored Library, sometime after 2010. I used to joke that the restoration dragged on forever, but I now admit it was worth the wait.

Arch Street, one of dozens of narrow, mostly residential roads that link Commercial Street to its adjacent neighbor, Bradford Street/Route 6A.

P-Town has its share of colorful signage, first and foremost being the vintage red neon of The Lobster Pot.

With signage less flashy but still distinct, Utilities is a kitchen/bathroom store where one can find everything from a teakettle to a shot glass. With its densely but neatly packed shelves and show tunes playing overhead, it’s the type of local gem you wish would stay open forever.

Of course, not everything in P-Town endures. This long-standing, curiously-named restaurant bit the dust sometime in the last decade, although the space lives on as Liz’s Cafe/Anybody’s Bar.

Other businesses pop up for a few summers before quietly disappearing, like Blue Light, which later became Blondie’s Burgers; it has now housed The Canteen for over five years.

Over on the West End: who doesn’t appreciate signage so straight to the point?

Back near the center of town: this whimsical warning also lets people know they’re just around the corner from Napi’s Restaurant, a year-round P-Town institution.

One of Napi’s restrooms; the other one is marked “Or.”

Some signage is fleeting, as seen days after a certain, infamous tweet in June 2017.

The town part of P-Town provides only half of its allure. Located on the tip of Cape Cod, water surrounds it on three of four sides. Above, a beach right in town (if not an ideal one for swimming.)

Another beach a little further along the coast: have you ever seen such a schizoid sky?

If you walk far West enough, this is what you’ll find: Bradford Street’s end, with the dunes, Herring Cove and the Atlantic Ocean just beyond.

Coastal land far more suitable for beaching and swimming.

North of town, the Province Lands contain miles of biking trails running around the dunes.

Wood End Lighthouse, often the first sight of P-Town from an incoming ferry.

We return to MacMillan Pier at what is undoubtedly the “golden hour” for photography.

MacMillan Pier is lined with these cute little shacks. Founded centuries ago as a fishing village by Portuguese immigrants, you can spot their flag proudly flown all over town.

That tall, narrow building is the Pilgrim Monument, the most iconic feature of the town’s skyline.

The Provincetown Causeway in the West End, October 2012. Until we meet again, P-Town…

Unique New York

I’ve been to New York City at least a dozen times in the past two decades. Since another visit right now is out of the question, here are a few favorite pics from those trips. Above is a view of West 23rd Street taken from the High Line in 2013.

Given how massive (and ubiquitous) NYC is, I’m eschewing landmarks for selected obscurities teeming within this metropolis. This tunnel, one of many in Central Park, may be my most recognizable image from here on out.

Manhattan architecture is a caustic mixture of old and new (and Duane Reade stores.)

A typical block in the East Fifties that could be just about anywhere in Manhattan.

This block’s much more distinct: MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village, not too far from Washington Square Park.

Even less fancy corners, such as Avenue A and East Third Street in the East Village are marked with such oddities as this zigzag-bricked building.

Despite all-encompassing gentrification, remnants of old New York hang on, like this ancient supermarket on the Upper West Side…

…or this established-in-1950-and-miraculously-still-looks-it steak joint on the Upper East Side.

Took this in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 2006. The business has since closed but the sign remains, sort of.

21st Century signage in NYC doesn’t have to be dull or uniform, as seen at the Soho outpost of this five-store chain.

However, clever can only take you so far: my gut reaction at first seeing this in 2015 was, “OH NO THEY DIDN’T.”

This cleverness I can appreciate, given my folks were Des Moines-ers for twenty years.

This sign is still my favorite ever spotted in NYC: April 2006, on Broadway in Soho.

Over to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, six months later. There’s something funny about a “Teabag Variety Hour” that I’m guessing the proprietors of this establishment never intended.

Over to the Bowery and Spanjer Signs on Chrystie Street (enhanced by some whimsical graffiti) in February 2012.

In terms of attitude, this pic from the West Village circa 2007 might be the New York-iest of them all.

Well, this jalopy found a parking spot; god knows how long it’s been left there.

My last couple of trips to NYC have included dinner at Lilli and Loo, a cozy, bi-level pan-Asian restaurant in Lenox Hill.

Around the corner from Lilli and Loo, May 2014. I just love the exaggerated, lackadaisical posture of the guy in the middle: Candid New York, if you will.

In my opinion, one of the city’s most beguiling oddities, spotted at the John Derian Dry Goods store on East Second Street in 2017. Half Carol Channing, half Buster Brown?

Thankful I thought to take a pic of Gonzalez Y Gonzalez restaurant and its gaudy, giant sombrero back in 2009 because this location is long since gone (though relocated sans hat on the exterior.)

El Quijote, a venerable Spanish restaurant next to the Chelsea Hotel, is also now gone (and sadly has not relocated.) Took this pic of one of their typically ancient menus on my last visit there in 2015.

I was last in New York about three years ago for the funeral of my closest friend who lived there. After the service, my husband and I took a restorative walk around Stuyvesant Square Park where I spotted this tableau: like a mighty stone fortress emerging from the flora, providing hope that through all the inevitable changes in a city like New York, some things remain and appear indestructible.

I leave you this pic from Greenpoint, October 2006: Endless Brooklyn. I hope someday to return to this maddening, magnificent metropolis.

The Park

I live a ten-minute walk from an enormous park; it’s in Boston, but up against the city’s Western border. From here on out, I’ll refer to it simply as The Park.

I frequented The Park with my husband and our dog for years before I lived so close to it. To be honest, its proximity was one of the most compelling reasons to buy our current home about four years ago.

Since the COVID-19 quarantine began, as with many green spaces for most people, The Park’s one of the few places I’ve been able to leave home for, apart from the local supermarket and various restaurants offering takeout. I’ll walk over there about once, maybe twice a week depending on the weather.

Apparently, The Park was once a landfill, filled up and transformed into its current state about two decades or so ago. It’s laid out with paths in three concentric circles, each one significantly more elevated than the last.

As a result, the walking paths contain many curves.

With each walk I’ve taken this early Spring, the grass has turned a little greener…

…and trees have begun to blossom more fully.

The Park isn’t empty as these pictures make it seem; after all, as previously noted, it’s one of the few places people can go. Still, it’s not unusual to see such spaces as this vast soccer/rugby field nearly uninhabited.

For me, walking is a lifeline. Before, I spent at least an hour a day on my feet, to and from the Commuter Rail station, using my lunch break at work to walk through the leafy streets of Brookline, making the rounds through the Back Bay to kill time before catching a train home.

I have a treadmill in my basement that I use more frequently now, but it’s not the same as being out in the open air, taking in my surroundings as I move forward.

As the weather gets warmer, I hope to visit The Park more frequently.

I anticipate all the pastels of Spring gradually becoming greener until Summer returns and it’s difficult to remember a time when it was too chilly to go outside at all.

Presently, everything’s in limbo; I wonder, among many other things, when I’ll be able to rent a canoe to paddle along the Charles River (seen in the background above) again.

For now, the kiddie playground at The Park remains empty, closed off as the Prudential Center and the John Hancock Tower loom way off in the distance.

I’ll always love The Park, but I long to return to all the other places I love as well.

Afternoon at Iguana Island

Five days into our Turks and Caicos trip, we signed up for an afternoon snorkeling excursion, part of which included an hour-long stop at Little Water Cay…

…also informally known as Iguana Island, for reasons that will soon be apparent.

A couple of bright orange-beaked birds near the shore.

Little Water Cay is long and narrow; squint and you might see the opposite shore.

Not every track came from a human.

Here come the iguanas!

They allow you to get pretty close, though I wouldn’t be in a hurry to stick out my hand.

The opposite shore, I think–we were easily turned around at one point.

Color like this is what I come to the Caribbean for.

Make that late afternoon at Iguana Island.

It wasn’t long before we had to head back to Grace Bay.

On the way, we docked near here and were invited to ride a water slide from the boat’s very top on down into the ocean.

Sunset approaching.

Grace Bay beckons.

We fondly look back at the setting sun after departing the boat. A half-day of sea, snorkeling, conch salad and plenty of rum punch comes to a close.