Pech Merle, Prehistoric Cave Paintings in France, and the CFFC Photo Challenge: Hands

What were we humans painting 16000 to 25000 years ago? — horses, bison, mammoths, sometimes people, and…  outlines of our hands.

Poster near the entrance to the Pech Merle cave, Southwestern France

It’s a poster in the entry lobby to Pech Merle, an ice age cave in Southern France, one of the few still open to the public.

Oh, and dots. We (our ancestors) were painting dots — dots that meander through the scenes and make us wonder about their meaning, and dotted horses that modern researchers have determined were not just another excuse for dots, but most likely represent ancient horses with coats in patterns similar to our Appaloosas.

Road sign - on the way to Pech Merle

Road sign – on the way to Pech Merle

A reproduction red hand-print sign in a village near Pech Merle, Southwestern France

A reproduction red hand-print on a sign in a village near Pech Merle, Southwestern France

Hand-print on a postcard - Pech Merle cave - Southwestern France

Hand print, souvenir postcard

We assume illiteracy, but their visual language was rich, and still speaks to us. Who’s to say the patterns of dots and animal shapes weren’t a language of symbols we just haven’t found the Rosetta Stone for?  Or maybe, as one of our group suggested, considering some of the exaggerated female figures we saw here we could argue instead for teenage-boy graffiti.

But there’s also a relatively recent study of prehistoric hand stencils that argues many if not most were made by women. Could female artists have had an equality in ancient times that we don’t have even today? (hey, maybe those cave-men weren’t such cave-men after all)

Hand-print and horses - from the tourist brochure for the Pech Merle cave

Hand-print and horses – from the tourist brochure for the Pech Merle cave

It couldn’t have been easy to do — in dark caves, with flickering torchlight, at difficult heights in corridors deep underground.  But on a lighter note, here’s one thing our ancestors may not have seen when exiting the caves…

Exit through the gift shop - Pech Merle furry mammoths and bats!

Exit through the gift shop – Pech Merle, with cute fuzzy mammoths and cave bats

And one thing we cave tourists have in common with the prehistoric world?  — no photography. And I understand that. I’m just glad they let us breathe (body heat, moisture and CO2 from our breath can be harmful to the paintings, with the result that only a few are still open to the public).

This was our favorite cave tour of our April trip to southern France. We thought it had some of everything — dots, horses, mammoths, reindeer, bison, and aurochs, some human figures, and of course, the outlines of hands along with incised drawings, and even fossilized footprints.

Do you have a cave tour to recommend?

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Hands

Pech Merle Cave  

More on Pech Merle

Who made those hand-stencils?

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge, Midwest Flooding, Hope, and the CFFC Photo Challenge: Feathers

At Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge – sometimes there’s a chance to get (relatively) up close and personal with feathers…

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - Heron - evening light

Heron – autumn light

And sometimes, still lots of feathers, but maybe not so close…

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - Fall Migration - geese in the air, masses of starlings

Fall Migration – geese in the air & a few stragglers from the masses of starlings that swarm like nanoparticles

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - Geese - ice in winter

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Geese – cold feet on the ice in winter.

I’ve been wondering if I’ll get a chance to see any birds when I visit the midwest this summer. Flooding along the Missouri River in March this spring breached many levees in the area. Not just the roadway around the wildlife refuge, but even the Expressway a few miles over had to be closed after damage from flooding.

There was a 500-year flood along the Missouri River in the 1990s too, the year our office was transferred from Kansas City to Atlanta. I remember flying back and forth for work, and seeing the river spread out like an inland sea below.

A few years earlier I’d seen a schoolhouse for sale in a small town near the river, and considered buying it to renovate as a home. I had regrets about passing on that plan, but during the flood, the roads leading to the town with the schoolhouse were closed. It would have been hard to sell my schoolhouse and move, so it was just as well my scheme didn’t work out.

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - heron in summer

Heron – Squaw Creek in summer.

Birds can fly to safety in a flood, but what happens to everyone else? Do they get swept away?

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - frog in the mud - spring 2018

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs – froggy nestling in the mud – spring 2018

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - swimming muskrat - spring 2018

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs – swimming muskrat – spring 2018

And fish – what happens to them when the river rages through?

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - fishing heron - spring 2018

Fishing heron/muskrat mounds – Spring 2018

Here’s hoping all the creatures survived. I just called the office and found that, despite what the website still says, the auto-tour route around the refuge is open again.  I’m hoping (there’s that word “hope” again) it stays that way. You know about hope, right? — “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

Hope is the Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all …

 

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Feathers

 

Herons, Swans, Outtakes, and CFFC – Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Funny

I’m a heron-stalker when it comes to photography, always looking for a close up of a stately bird, the more regal the pose, the better. It’s rare that I can get close enough to try.

Wading Heron at Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Preserve - Mound City MO

At Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge, Mound City MO

But the funny part is, the birds must sense a camera is nearby. And they’re fast. The joke is almost always on the photographer — they can fly away in an instant, or like this:  turn their backs and shake that booty…

On a recent trip to Piedmont Park in Atlanta, I found the resident heron unusually close to the turtle pond… until I got there with my camera. Then s/he took off. I whipped my camera out to catch the flight. The thumbnail on my viewing screen looked great. Then I downloaded the picture.

Heron in Piedmont Park, Atlanta

Oops, those chicken-legs don’t look so stately after all.

Swans are just as bad. Here’s what happened when I tried for a photos of a graceful three …

Three graceful swans? No - two took a dive

Three graceful swans? Nope — two took a last-minute dive.

What’s a photographer to do but keep trying?

More on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Using my Car as a Storage Bin, Missing my Truck, and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

 I’m still downsizing, even though I sold my house and moved last October. At least I’ve gone from three storage bins to two, but I seem to be stuck getting to one. Here’s what happens when I take stuff out of storage but I don’t want to bring it into the condo where it will be in the way…

My car - my storage bin

My car – my movable storage bin – and this is just the back seat. The trunk is full too. That Ohaus scale is a real oldie, once used for measuring out photographic chemicals. 

I got into this mode of movable storage when I still had my (beloved) truck. While parked in the garage at the house it was also handy for accumulating donations and recyclables, then for delivering them. I bought the truck in 1990, before moving to the Atlanta area. It was not so easy to drive in the city, but I still couldn’t seem to give it up even after buying a car in 2005.

My 1990 Nissan pick-up

Here it is last fall, parked in its foster-care driveway, waiting to be donated. It’s gone on to a new home now.

I need to get over the bad habit of car storage. On the night before I left town on a trip last week I noticed I’d sold a book on Amazon. Where was it? Oh yes, it was in my car. In the trunk. Somewhere.

Car Storage - Full trunk

Oops, where are the books? — a classic case of “Hello! This is the Universe; you really need to get organized.”

I trekked down to the parking garage at 10PM, pulled everything out of the trunk, found the book and took it along with me the next morning to mail on arrival.  What was the book?

Droodles # 1, by Roger Price

Droodles – “riddles expressed in visual form”

Here are some examples…

Droodles - Spider Doing a Handstand

The next page assures us it could also be “Total Eclipse of the Sun on a Stick,” ” Family of Worms Stuck in a Caramel apple,” or “Frightened Mop.”

Droodles - Fat Man Smoking

I think this one looks more like a turtle. Of course, that may be because I spent a good part of the morning watching and photographing turtles in the lake at Piedmont Park.

Droodles - Man in a Tuxedo

… or a turbolift, if you happen to be a Star Trek fan.

Now it’s time to start answering the call of the Universe and sort out some “stuff”. I’ve been trying to get organized for years now, so wish me luck on that?

P.S. Now, what’s stored in your car?

 

More on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Murals, Art and MARTA, and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

A sunny day last May, a walk to the neighborhood grocery store, and a discovery when passing the MARTA train station (that’s “Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority”) — there’s painting going on — it’s not just MARTA now, it’s MARTA.

Midtown MARTA Station painter

Midtown MARTA Station mural artist – Andrew Catanese

Yes – the wheels are off the ground.

And, it’s not just a one-side-of-the-door thing, there are several murals… and more painters.

Midtown MARTA Station mural - painter's helpers

Painter’s helpers – just starting out

The murals were commissioned by MARTA’s Artbound program. We watched as the weeks went by and the details got filled in… here are more recent photos.

Atlanta Midtown MARTA Station mural

I like to think of this next one as “Sheep may safely graze” but maybe they’re goats (they are across the street from the Dancing Goat coffee shop). A nearby sign tells us that the mural “celebrates Midtown as a diverse and collaborative community that welcomes all” – so I’m thinking safely grazing is accurate enough.
Atlanta Midtown MARTA Station mural

Details are lots of fun…

Atlanta Midtown MARTA Station mural

“Picasso eyes?”

Atlanta Midtown MARTA Station mural

Goose with glasses…

Atlanta Midtown MARTA Station mural

Peeking parrot, or bird with hands?

I see now that there were volunteer days — I wish I’d known, it would have been fun to go and help paint.  Meanwhile,  there’s a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the station on Monday July 23, for dedication of the murals. I’m putting that on my calendar. And, after looking at the page about the Artbound program, I see I’m going to have to get busy and tour more MARTA Station Art.

More about the Midtown MARTA Murals 

and MARTA’s Artbound program

 

Waterfalls, Lotus Ponds, Atlanta’s Midtown Open Garden Stroll, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Liquid

Sunday was the 4th year we’ve gone to the “Midtown Open Garden Stroll” in Atlanta – it’s always a joy, and speaking of liquid, it almost always rains at least some time during the day. This year there was thunder rumbling as we walked home, but the rain held off until later. We were lucky to see the sun shining on garden ponds and fountains. Here’s a favorite from this year’s tour —

Garden Pool with waterfall - Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll 2018

This one had everything: lotus flowers, koi, and electric-blue dragonflies who were determined not to sit still for their close-up.

 

Lotus Pool - Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll 2018

Here’s the lotus side of the pool.

Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll sign

Signs identify homes on the tour, indicating which part of the yard/garden is open.

Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll 2017 - frog planter

This frog planter is from a front garden on last year’s tour.

Side Garden - Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll  2017

Here’s a side garden from last year’s tour – even the narrow space between homes is beautifully planned and tended.

Back Garden - Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll  2017 and 2018

There’s a koi pond at the end of the walkway in this serene back yard garden.

Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll 2017: we liked this house across the street from one of the open gardens..

Sometimes there are surprises along the way. This house was across the street from one of last year’s open gardens. I was fascinated by the colors, the roofline, the arched windows and door. 

I’m lost in admiration for these gardens and the people who design them, care for them, and let all us strangers tromp in to see their private wonderlands. But I have a new outlook on garden tours now that I no longer have a back yard of my own. I can still identify and appreciate plants. If I see something new and different I want to know what it is, but there’s been a shift in my regard. They seem more like garden art, and (at least for now) I’ve lost my possessive instinct. I no longer yearn to have them for my own to nurture. Maybe it’s just laziness, or maybe it’s facing reality that there’s only so much time available. After all, I always liked development work more than maintenance and let’s face it – weeding is maintenance.

Here’s more on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Liquid

Do you have a favorite local garden tour?

The High Line, the BeltLine, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

The High Line: on this year’s trip to New York, we finally got to see it greening up for spring.

High Line Park NYC - from the Whitney Museum

From a balcony at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The High Line: a 1.45 mile long park in New York City, created on a stretch of elevated railway that was no longer used. 

High Line Park NYC - spring

Looking back toward the Whitney. I love it that pieces of the old railroad track are incorporated into the landscaping. 

High Line Park NYC - spring blooms

The daffodils were blooming. That’s a first for us, after the last two years when we traveled in March and were blessed with snow.

At home in Atlanta, we have the BeltLine, not elevated like the High Line, but destined to be much longer. It’s a proposed loop of around 22 miles of trails planned to connect 45 neighborhoods. Here’s Sam on a rainy day last fall. It was one of the days with lots of hurricane-engendered rain, and for a while we were the only ones out braving the storm.

Atlanta BeltLine - stormy day

The BeltLine already needs a new lane. It’s often mobbed. Between speeding bicycles and people with dogs on long leashes making trip-wires, it can be difficult to walk safely.

There’s lots of art along the way, and landscaping is coming along nicely. These are from a sunnier day —Atlanta BeltLine - morning glory Atlanta BeltLine - grasses

Turning disused rail lines into walking trails is not a new idea. Years (decades) ago, when the trains no longer came through my small hometown, there was a plan to remove the rails and ties and make the railroad line into a walking trail. I’d already moved away, so I’m not sure what became of that, but I think it would have been hard to keep the trails going. For example, they were fragmented by the removal of two of the three railroad bridges. Here’s one that stayed,  (I think it’s still there) —

NH railroad bridge

The bridge on the other end of town is a background in this next photo, a family history photo now — the girl wearing glasses is my mother at 16.

When I was growing up there, we walked on the railroad tracks, played on the bridges (gasp!) and along the way, picked berries and asparagus that grew beside the tracks. With all these railroad track paths, it sounds like I’ve spent my life walking railroad lines, doesn’t it?

Do you have a favorite rail line path?

More on the Manhattan High Line  Wow – I see you can adopt a plant. I’m considering… I’d want to see updates on mine though, and maybe visit it each year to check on progress and be allowed to give it a little compost treat.

More on the Atlanta BeltLine

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

Joris Laarman Lab – Design in the Digital Age, at the High Museum (Photo Challenge: Tour Guide)

Come see the future: Joris Laarman Lab – Design in the Digital Age encompasses a search for beauty as well as functionality, art in addition to technology, and includes maker-chairs, a bio-luminescent lamp, and yes, an exhibit on start-up company MX3D’s 3D-printing project to build a pedestrian bridge across an Amsterdam canal.

These elegant chairs were cast in 3D printed molds. They were designed using computer software based on the work of German professor Dr. Claus Mattheck, utilizing growth patterns of bones and trees to provide minimal structure for maximum strength.

Bone Rocker - beige noir marble and synthetic resin - Joris Laarman Lab - High Museum Atlanta GA 2018

Bone Rocker, Beige Noir marble and synthetic resin, 2007.

Bone Chair - marble and resin - Joris Laarman Labs - High Museum exhibit 2018

Bone Armchair, Carrara marble and synthetic resin, 2007.

As beautiful as they are, I have to admit, the first thing I thought was “What about the dust?” The second thing I thought was “The spiders would love these.”  Apparently I am too plebeian to have lovely minimalist chairs. They are gorgeous museum pieces, and if found in a home, it would be the home of someone with maid service.

Then I wondered about comfort. When I was in my 30’s (like these designers) that didn’t worry me at all. I loved my Arts-and-Crafts oak furniture with square sides and hard seats, and scoffed at comments about discomfort because who cared? — it looked good. Now I put pillows on everything, even one of Sam’s Eames chairs, to his dismay.

This robotic arm is building three “Digital Matter” tables from metal cubes that are 3D versions of pixels, large, medium, and small. (they’re “voxels” — volumetric pixels)

Still from video - Joris Laarman Lab - assembling Digital Matter Tables - photo from High Museum exhibit, Atlanta GA

Joris Laarman Lab – robot assembling Digital Matter Tables – photo still taken from exhibition video – High Museum exhibit, Atlanta GA, 2018

The three “Digital Matter” tables were commissioned by the High in 2011 and are now in the permanent collection — if soaked in acetone, the pieces separate and can be used to build something new. “Wow,” I thought, “that would have solved so many of my downsizing issues.”  It’s been slow work to clear the hoard while honoring my quest to be environmentally correct, and get stuff reused or recycled instead of taken to a landfill. 

Three Digital Matter Tables - High Museum, Atlanta GA - Joris Laarman Labs

With three sizes of cubes, the tables have graduating resolution. 

Here’s a detail of the middle table —

Digital Matter Tables/detail - Joris Laarman Labs -High Museum Atlanta GA

The ornamentation is a tribute to “Super Mario”, but up top, there’s a tip of the hat to Pac-Man…

Digital Matter tables - pac man detail - Joris Laarman Lab - High Museum Atlanta GAAnd here I go with “Art Museum Eyes” again — leaving the exhibition I saw this view out the window —

Cousins Building - art museum eyes

There’s far more in this innovative (and fun) exhibition than I can communicate in one blog post, so if you’re near Atlanta, come and see it for yourself. If you can’t make it by closing on May 13, come anyway, the High’s permanent collection features more work from Joris Laarman Lab than any museum outside the Netherlands.

High Museum of Art, Atlanta GA, Feb 18-May 13, 2018.

I wonder how many reconstituted tables it would take to make a building? We may find out. There are projects afoot …

 

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Tour Guide

More on the exhibition

 

Grief, Tree-hugging, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved

We love being close enough to walk to Piedmont Park, and on a walk last November, happened upon this sign, surrounded by trees that each had their own ribbon and “Hug Me” label attached —

Piedmont Park: Hug a Tree sign

Kate’s Club Memory Walk

The signs were up in preparation for an event the next day, sponsored by Kate’s Club, an organization that helps grieving children honor the memories of their loved ones who have died.

Hug Me Tree-sign

And who could resist a tree with a “Hug Me” sign?

We have absent loved ones, too, so we took the opportunity for some tree hugging. And yes, we also love trees, so there was some dual purpose hugging going on.

Treehugger in action - Piedmont Park

Treehugger in action – Piedmont Park – No trees were harmed in the making of this photograph.

There are other, perhaps less poignant, reasons for tree-hugging… when I left my house in Kansas City to move to Georgia, I had my own parting ceremony. It was January 1, the start of a new year, and I was leaving for a new city. I walked all around the yard in the snow, taking a circuitous path to hug each of the trees good bye.

Those trees were a large part of the reason I bought the house, and it was hard to leave them. I would have hugged the trees when I sold my house here too, but the frantic rush of last-minute packing left me with no time to spare.

Do you suppose the new home-owners would notice if I came sneaking over sometime and hugged their trees?

 

*tree hugger — A slang, sometimes derogatory, term for environmentalists; someone who loves the environment and believes it needs to be protected for the benefit of ourselves and generations to come.

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved

More on Kate’s Club; the Memory Walk is held in coordination with National Children’s Grief Awareness Day.

Home, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Variations on a Theme

“Home”- where is it?  The question has been on my mind since selling the house where I lived for a couple of decades, the house I worked so hard to downsize.  Two trips to the Midwest over the holidays, and a recent post by blogger Mabel Kwong made me think even more about the concept of home.

little bitty Kansas City

I call this “little bitty Kansas City”

When I fly into Kansas City I like to get a seat on the right side of the plane, so I can see downtown. It doesn’t look like much from this altitude, but Kansas City was my home for a couple of decades too. I loved it, and only moved because I had to, to keep my job. Here are some variations on the road home to Kansas City.

Missouri river at Kansas City

Bridges over the Missouri River, a gloomy day just before Thanksgiving.

Here’s the “Big Muddy” — the Missouri River. Yes, Kansas City is in the state of Missouri. If you’re one of the people who asks me if I’m going to Kansas for the holidays, I forgive you.

Missouri River north of Kansas City

I love looking for patterns in the fields.

The river is not always so well behaved. The year we moved was a flood year. In one of those boxes I’ll find in my storage bin (someday, maybe) I have a trove of aerial photos of the river swollen in flood.

Snow after Christmas- Kansas City 2017

By Christmas, there were patterns in the snow.

Flying into Kansas City

Here’s a photo from back in October when it was still green…the first week of October is my favorite time to be in the country. The leaves are just starting to turn, the light is slanting, and the air is never clearer than on an October day.

I’m one of the few people left on the planet who’s still enthusiastic about looking down from an airplane, no matter where I’m going. The Midwest may still be one of the places that seems like home to me, but from the air, the whole Earth is home.

Where is home for you?

More on the Big Muddy

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Variations on a Theme