Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I enjoyed that enough to see whether the folks who posted it, the Institute of Musical Traditions in Maryland, had any other videos. Which they do indeed (YouTube channel here). But who would have guessed that "any other videos" would include an Alasdair Fraser/Natalie Haas duet?
Then the search veered off in another direction as I thought if I put up a fiddle version of "Gloomy Winter's Noo Awa'," I might do well to find a definitive sung version. It's hard to say if Ben the Hoose has a definitive sung version, as the sample they have on their website is likewise mostly fiddle, but they are another duo worth a listen, in any case.
Most coincidental of all (but far off the trad music track), the phrase "gloomy winter" had been used in this nature photography blog post--so if you'd like to see some birds in very sharp focus indeed, that would be the place to check. If you've had enough birds for one week, go have a look anyway. It's pure art.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The Davis Arboretum, thankfully, was about as far from bottlenecks and radios as you can get while still being within a mile of I-80. It was very quiet indeed; I had many a parking space to choose from (free, as it is on weekends, too) and gratefully left the car to its own devices for a while.
As I had decided to drive out on the spur of the moment, finding the Sunday afternoon heavy with the bright new intelligence that there was a botanical garden in Davis, I hadn't taken much time to research how the Arboretum was laid out. Without spending a good deal of time mulling it over, memories of other gardens had prepared me to expect something. . .well, if not expansive, giving, at least, a certain impression of spaciousness . This was why I was, at first, slightly disappointed to discover that the Arboretum is, through most of its considerable length, restricted to the banks of Putah Creek. It was, however, only a very momentary disappointment, which was pounced upon and devoured by the notion that there was far too much to see as it was.
While I am sure the creek has its charms as a feature in its own right, and likely enables the growing of some fine riparian flora, the greatest entertainment that it provided was the creatures living in and around it. I was only a few hundred yards on my wanderings when I was stopped by the sight of a barn swallow (or so I believe it was) calmly sitting on a branch over the water. I had never, in fact, seen a barn swallow calmly sitting anywhere, so I stopped to see it while I could, admiring the contrast of its sleek purple back and its scarlet face. It was just a hair too far away for me to get a sharp picture, but, since it didn't seem to be going anywhere, I had plenty of shots at it anyway.
It was carrying on a sporadic conversation with another swallow which would occasionally make an airborne appearance, coming in for a fly-by above the still water. The efforts of this second bird had a graceful conclusion, almost at my feet as I stood on the bridge. With sharp bank that would have done a Spitfire pilot proud, it came in on a blur that was a moth, winging, white beneath the overhanging trees. For an instant, sharp and startling as the best photo I missed all afternoon, all the unknown wonder of "footless halls of air" was suspended in the narrow void between the dark branches and the dark water. The moth was a darting star, wheeling across a strange, green inverted sky, and after it, exploded a presence, all spear-graceful wings, and purple smoke and red fire. Somewhere in the depths of space, these two impossible forces collided, and the star fluttered feebly in the mouth of the swallow.
Less graceful in its first impression was the green heron I glimpsed several times along stream's course. Its feathers were, from a distance, as smooth--and imaginative--as something that had been drawn in coloured pencil, but when it would sense anyone nearby, its efforts to make itself scarce gave an impression of great vexation, rather than fear. It had fine, strong, bright yellow legs, which it used to such a desperate effect, galloping off at a quick, but ungainly waddle, that at first I (who had never seen a green heron before and had no idea what I was looking at) wondered whether it could fly at all. When, at last, with a cry of exasperation, it took off, it proved quite steady in the air, with an elegant wingspan that came as a surprise on its stolid body. Much less airworthy and certainly lacking in long, yellow legs, turtles would surface through the murky water on occasion. The pictures I got of those were irredeemably out of focus, probably because of overabundance of lighting between the sun and its reflection on the water, but they were quite funny to watch. Their build dictates only one possible way for them to swim, their heavy shells dragging below the surface of the water and only their noses just barely above it. Of course, going around at an angle like this, with their noses literally in the air, they have quite a supercillious look about them. Perhaps they have good reason for looking as though they think they should be envied--in some of the long, sunny stretches, even that green water looked rather tempting to me, too.
As I said, though, an early impression of the Arboretum was that there was too much to see. I felt rather as though I was faced with a buffet where, in feeling obliged to taste everything, I put myself in danger of missing those dishes I knew I liked best. That is to say, I would stop in one place and shoot a few pictures, and instead of getting all I could out of that location, would stop and push myself around the next bend in the creek in the interest of "seeing it all." Which I never did. But that's enough for tonight.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Anyway, here is a very bluegrassy version, complete with a couple of smashing banjo breaks by a group called High LoneSome Bluegrass Band.
And here is something even more unexpected (and I'm not just talking about the hat), a fluent harmonica version by Buddy Greene, Jeff Taylor (accordion/piano) and Tricia Walker (percussion) preceded by "Blackberry Blossom".
Saturday, July 10, 2010
And, better and better, it looks as though this page is only a sliver in a forest of articles and biographies available on the site--but one must start somewhere.
Friday, July 9, 2010
I had brought a change of clothes with a hazy notion of going. . .somewhere after the parade and getting a few pictures of. . .something. Fortunately, I took a wrong turn early in the day, when I was trying to find the spot where the band was supposed to meet, and found myself crossing Silverado Trail. What was it about the name that sounded so familiar? The answer took the form of a second question, which burst upon me scarce seconds later--How did you forget that Robert Louis Stevenson used to live around here? So, after the parade, and fully aware that no stretch of the imagination was going to qualify what I was doing as a legitimate 4th of July custom, I got back on Silverado Trail and drove up towards St. Helena to see if there was a trace of RLS to be found. There were certainly a good many cars to see. St. Helena was a happenin' place. Still the slowed traffic meant I had plenty of time to see the sign pointing the way to to the Stevenson museum. I chortled in my joy at this stroke of luck; searching for small, rumoured historical sites by dead reckoning is a very chancy business. Of course, I was under no misapprehensions that luck would extend to fantastical lengths and that the museum would be open, but it was still gratifying to find the place, neatly labeled, next to the public library.
Not far from the fountain, a larger sign designated the library and museum, and beyond that was (perhaps not too surprisingly) a small, tidy vineyard.
Having satisfied, as far as I could, my literary curiousity by gazing at the stucco on the outside of the building, one might think I would be content and would head for home. Even I thought that-- but I did not do it. Instead I let myself be seized by an even wilder ambition, and, by rather devious routes, turned the car in a gradually westering direction.
After some time (the details of which I will spare you, as it mostly involved going around corners, so I could go around other corners and up grades so I could go down grades), I saw something grey and soft curled about the tops of the hills ahead of me. Fire? I didn't smell any smoke when I rolled the window down. Perhaps the wind was blowing the wrong way. But, no, the wind was just fine as it was, and great tufts of the grey stuff were eddying past the car. And it smelled wonderfully wet. "It's fog!" And grand fog it was, too, just flitting about in graceful pieces, cooling off July in a most unexpected way, and not interfering with driving in the least. And if fog on the hills was a sight for sore eyes, what was fog on the ocean? I, having driven about as far westward as I was going to get, got out at Doran Beach on Bodega Bay. Perhaps enthusiasm leads to exaggeration in this case, but the weather didn't feel much above 60, if it was even that. And there was plenty of ocean.
And if that wasn't a fine Independence Day, what is?