Stairways, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Descent

My logical choice for picturing descent would be the stairs to my basement – but I’ll branch out a bit instead. Here’s a steep and winding staircase from “Our Lord in the Attic” in Amsterdam.  Catholic Mass was outlawed in Amsterdam in the Alteration of 1578. The wealthy owner of this house built it in the 1660s with the entire top floor as a hidden Catholic Church, complete with resident Priest. In 1888 it was converted into a museum.

Steep and winding staircase, Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam

Staircase, Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam

We happened to walk by Our Lord in the Attic on the way to the Oude Kerk (Old Church) on the last morning of our trip, and happily had time to stop in on our way back. There wasn’t quite enough light for pictures but I tried anyway, mostly for documentation in case someone needed to explain “this is why Sandy fell headfirst trying to walk down the stairs — she’s not that awkward, it was just really steep”. But on the bright side I did make it safely down.

I was glad this next one had a railing.

Looking down a 17th Century staircase,  Our Lord in the Attic - Amsterdam

Sam’s standing at the bottom in case I need something to fall on. (that’s probably not a period fire extinguisher behind him)

Now, back to my basement. Despite my efforts it’s still a catch-all hold-all hoarder’s dream. But I’ve already posted my before/after basement stairway photos so instead I’ll include something I found not long ago. I was more than a little surprised to open a box and (eeeek!) see this…

Plastic Skull

Spooky, yes? Luckily, I quickly realized it’s plastic. By the way, it has a hinged jaw — nice touch.

I think that skull is a good candidate for my most unusual “What’s this doing in my basement” find.  Maybe I got overly dramatic with its portrait, but tonight is Halloween. The whole neighborhood is partying.  Here’s a little something we saw on our walk this evening…

Halloween - Skeleton Joyride

Halloween Joyride

They look like they’re having fun, whether they’re off toward the stairway to Heaven or a descent into Hell (or maybe just a descent into a neighbor’s basement, to be packed away until they can come out for another ride next Halloween).

 Do you have any skeletons in your closet? Or, how about skulls in your basement?

 

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Descent

‘Make a Joyful Noise’ at the High Museum in Atlanta, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

Here’s one small detail that’s gorgeous enough to be cover art It’s from an illuminated book of chants for the Mass for Florence Cathedral, currently part of the exhibition Make A Joyful Noise at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta GA (USA). The lamb gets a place of honor as the emblem of the Wool Guild that supervised and subsidized the cathedral project.

Florence Italy, "Dedication of Florence Cathedral" detail.The lamb is the emblem of the Wool Guild that supervised and subsidized the cathedral project.

“Dedication of Florence Cathedral” detail.

Now let’s back up and put that lamb in context. Can you find it?

Dedication of Florence Cathedral Gradual, Edili 151, fols. 7v–8r, 1470-1471 Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on parchment Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

Dedication of Florence Cathedral;
Gradual, Edili 151, fols. 7v–8r, 1470-1471;
Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on parchment.
Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, This photo courtesy of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta GA

I can’t decide if I’m more transported by the heavenly blue, by the gold that’s glimmered through the centuries in candlelight and shadow, or by the intricate bird and flower drawings in the border. The three choir books in this exhibition have survived for over 500 years, much of that time in use.

Here’s another photo for context — these are not small books. In the 15th century, one illuminated book could take years to construct, making it too precious for individual use as a hymnal. These giant books were mounted on lecterns above eye-level for use by more than one person.

Choir books from Florence Cathedral

Stepping back for an exhibition overview.

Now for a closer look. What more proof do we need that God is in the details? There’s an energy flowing through the dark inked lines that decorate the golden buds. They rhyme with the combs on the heads of the birds. It’s there again in the white lines that curl over colored leaves. The forms connect and entwine and meander, and somehow make me gladder than ever to be part of life on earth.

Fabulous birds and flowers:  Francesco di Antonio del Chierico  Italian, 1433-1484 Dedication of Florence Cathedral Gradual, Edili 151, fols. 7v–8r, 1470-1471 Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on parchment Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

I love these fabulous birds.

Another fabulous bird:  Francesco di Antonio del Chierico  Italian, 1433-1484 Dedication of Florence Cathedral Gradual, Edili 151, fols. 7v–8r, 1470-1471 Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on parchment Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

Another manuscript shows the wear of daily use — years upon years of fingers turning pages to sing the Hours — as well as water damage from the Nov 4 1966 flood which reached the Cathedral and many other historical treasures in Florence.

Psalm 81 Psalter N. 2, n. 3, fols. 117v-118r, ca. 1439 Ink and tempera on parchment Collection of the Archivio dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

Psalm 81
Psalter N. 2, n. 3, fols. 117v-118r, ca. 1439
Ink and tempera on parchment
Collection of the Archivio dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

I’ve focused here on the manuscripts, but they’re just part of an exhibition that includes three of the marble panels from Luca Della Robbia’s organ loft, also from Florence Cathedral. The audio guides feature music from transcriptions of the medieval notation. Live performances will be scheduled throughout the exhibition, which is on view through January 11, 2015.

I’m already overloading this post, so I’ll just include a few more pictures and say “see it!” (the following photos of Luca della Robbia work courtesy of the High Museum of Art)

(If you’re reading this in email and have an extra minute, please click through to the blog for a better view of the marble sculpture.)

And yes, I’ve taken a little time off from downsizing but I’m still getting there bit by bit, and sometimes an ‘art fix’ is exactly what’s needed to get recharged. Um, too bad I won’t be finding any 500 year old illuminated manuscripts in my basement. Or at least I don’t think I will…

 Have you had an art fix lately?

Related links:

For more on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

For the High’s exhibition site

Dreamy Landscapes, Cleaning up the Compost Bins, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

When I took this photo I thought it was dreamy enough to be a study for a painting. It’s from a long-ago photo expedition to Germany and Belgium, taking pictures for a program my brother was working on. If this one had a title it would be “Somewhere in Bavaria” since I no longer remember exactly where we were. I just remember saying, “oooh, quick, pull over and let me take a picture.”

Evening landscape, Germany

Evening landscape, Germany – in the Swabian Jura, and in case you’re wondering, it was long before photoshop, so this was the real color.

I have boxes and boxes of slides (remember slides?). And besides my own, I have boxes of Bob’s slides, and boxes of Bob’s father’s slides. The bad news is, the only ones I have a projector for are mine. There is a big sorting job in my future.

I think this next one is from the same trip, but since it was a while ago that I pulled it out and scanned it, I can’t be sure unless I go back to those boxes (not gonna happen today).

German or Swiss Landscape with full moon

Small town, big moon, Germany or Switzerland.

Fast-forwarding a couple of decades, here’s Sam in a dreamy landscape, on last year’s stopover in Iceland.

Sam - Iceland Geysir tour

Man of Mystery on an Iceland Geysir tour – with a little steam to stay warm on a cold day.

Now for a segue, proving dreamy is as dreamy does — yesterday (a holiday, yet) he came over and cleaned out my compost bins so they’re ready for the fall onslaught of leaves. It’s hard to believe that mountain of leaves from last fall has composted so well over the summer. Since I no longer have a traditional lawn, we’re using up a leftover bag of lawn fertilizer, a handful at a time, to speed along the process. All the credit for composting progress goes to Sam. I’ve delegated far too much since my last year’s incident with the yellow-jackets, and I’m vowing now to do better in future — no more wimpy yellow-jacket avoidance for me.

Compost bins, contents combined into one bin

Compost bins in the rain today – that’s a good thing! By tomorrow the contents will shrink down even more.

The acorns were falling so fast we needed hardhats. I’m going to be in big trouble when they start sprouting in the spring.

Too many acorns

Maybe having so many squirrels around will turn out to be a good thing.

 I won’t say I didn’t think about this —   http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Acorns-for-Food

 Yes, I wandered off-topic, but what do you think – do you have any dreamy acorn recipes?

More on the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

Three Signs, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Taking the ‘signs’ challenge literally, here’s one of my favorites. It’s from a drive in the country on my visit to the mid-west last summer.

"No Trespassing, We're Tired of Hiding the Bodies"Sign, south of Albany MO

A country construction site: be careful, they’re ruthless out there.

Here’s another sign. This one’s from our trip last week. It might be helpful for those of us who are de-cluttering if every city had this option.

Amsterdam mail slot,  NEE for NO junk mail.

Amsterdam mail slot: “No” to junk mail.

We’re told these stickers, just above the mail slots in the doors in Amsterdam, mean ‘NO’ to junk mail. (In the unlikely event that you want junk mail, the sign would day “JA”) Here, CatalogChoice.com has worked well for me on cutting down the number of catalogs I receive, but there are still some junk mail lists I can’t seem to get away from. Although I don’t see how this solution would get rid of junk mail at the source, it would cut way down on individual annoyance. Oh and by the way… I did look, and saw very few “JA” signs.

But now that I’m home, I’m looking for a sign of what to work on next. First, I’ll recycle my Amsterdam tour books (well cared for, maps intact) by listing them for resale on Amazon – hey, it worked well for our Copenhagen and Vancouver books last year.

 Now back to the mid-west…

Missouri Rainbow

It’s too far away for the pot ‘o gold to be in my basement, but maybe it’s in my brother’s.

 Could this rainbow be one last sign? (definitely more hopeful)

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Coming Home, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Night time

Sam and I got home last night from a trip to Amsterdam.  When I went out for a walk in my home neighborhood today, I caught myself thinking “but where are the canals?” and “Why don’t I hear the tram?” and most of all “Where shall I stop for coffee?”

Amsterdam canal - coming back from dinner at De Bolhoed on Prinsengracht

Amsterdam canal – coming back from dinner at De Bolhoed on Prinsengracht

Amsterdam canal

Oh how I love being a tourist.

I’m hoping that a vacation cleared my palate and gave me inspiration to get more done now that I’m home. But for today, I’m still getting over being spoiled by going out to breakfast every morning, having a cappucchino every afternoon, seeing the Ruisdael sky above, and in general spending every day learning something. It takes a little time to get out of that wonderful vacation groove.

I’m always surprised by how different home looks after time away. As for downsizing, I made an effort to get a load of accumulated donations delivered the day before leaving, so it doesn’t actually look too bad around here. But this is a short post, since our flight arrived home late in the nighttime and today is the first day back.

Where is your favorite place to vacation?

Related posts:

More on the weekly photo challenge: Nighttime