Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z is for zigzag travels through Grand Island

These past two Saturdays, I have been visiting businesses and events on Grand Island. Now that winter is over, loads of activities have been scheduled. Sometimes, it seems as if I am traveling in a zig zag sort of fashion. Here is an illustrated story of where I've been, what I've seen, and who I've met on my journeys.
A hard stone slab on the ground
serves as a reminder that this
baby lived and was loved.

On Saturday, April 22nd, I went to visit the Maple Grove Cemetery because I wanted to take pictures of something that was "hard," as part of my 52-week photography project. I could interpret hard in any way that I chose. It could be something that was literally hard, such as a rock. It could be something that was difficult to do. Or it could be something that is emotionally painful. I chose to interpret hard as both physically hard and emotionally painful, and I decided that the cemetery was the best place in which to illustrate that interpretation.

After I left the cemetery, I went to Saint Timothy Lutheran Church, where a free pancake breakfast was being served. I love food, and I especially love free food! They did ask for a good will offering. Apparently, the folks at Saint Timothy want to make this a regular event. At Saint Timothy, I came across Larry Austin, editor of the Island Dispatch, and Paul Leuchner, who I consider to be my conservation mentor. 
The crew gathered to clean up the trail
at Spicer Creek.

At that point, I decided that following Larry on his rounds would be a good idea and would lead to potential topics for blog posts. The first place that we visited was Spicer Creek, where a group was celebrating Earth Day by cleaning up the litter along the path. I picked up some litter and took a few pictures. A girl found a large stash of empty beer cans and bottles in a hollow tree. Apparently, the beer drinkers thought that the hollow tree was their personal trash receptacle. There were twenty bottles and cans in one hollow tree.
Never forgotten, but loss is hard.
Before I left that area, I walked over to Whitehaven Cemetery to take more pictures of "hard things" and to spend some time visiting with my dad's grave.

The next stop was to the Tops Plaza, where we went to the grand opening of Alz Rootz Cafe, located inside the Soma Cura Wellness Center.
Larry Austin (left) inter-
views Soma Cura co-
owner Matt Green. The other
co-owner is Sue Zinter.
The beverages offered include coffee, tea, and komboucha, which is a strongly steeped tea that is considered to be effervescent and probiotic.  It also tastes good. There were a variety of free samples of komboucha and several other beverages to sample. Larry and I saw Kelly Petrie, editor of the online publication, Grand Island News, and we had a journalist sort of conversation.

My last stop for the day was to the Golden Age Center and to the new teen art studio at the Nike base, a complex on the west side of Grand Island that also houses the town's recreation department.
The fundraiser consisted of a brunch
and a Bingo tournament.
The Golden Age Center was running a fundraiser to provide financial assistance for some of the recipients of the meals on wheels program. The meals on wheels program is a program that provides a hot meal for elderly people who have difficulty getting out of their houses. It costs five dollars per day to get the meals, which are brought by volunteers five days a week. For some older people who may have a lot of expenses, such as medications, an additional one hundred or so dollars per month may be too much for them to handle. 

Cindy Wynne (left), art teacher
at Grand Island High School, with
her art teacher, Lenore
Tetkowski, who taught
at Grand Island High School
from 1966 until 1985,
when she retired.

The teen art studio is a place where teenagers can go to paint, draw, do crafts, homework, play the piano, or write stories. It has been furnished with donations and it will be open part time during the school year and full time during the summer.
Art students from Grand Island
High School hold the ribbon that
was cut to celebrate the grand opening
of the art space.
Donations of any arts or crafts supplies are cheerfully accepted at the Grand Island Recreation Department. There was a ribbon cutting and reception at the studio, which featured the delicious foods prepared by the Village Inn.

I went home well fed and happy.

On Saturday, April 29th, I went to Town Commons, the park connected to Town Hall for two separate events. The first was Paint the Town Purple. 

Tying purple ribbons around
the trees to remind
people to support
Relay for Life and its fund-
raising efforts against
It's the day when people attach purple bows to trees, lampposts, and other visible object. The activity is organized by the Relay for Life committee, and we attached bows in both Town Commons and in Veterans Park, next to the Grand Island Memorial Library.

The second event was a tree planting that was organized by Gillian Worrall, a Girl Scout Ambassador (the highest level that a Girl Scout can attain), who is working to earn her Gold Award. That is the highest achievement for a Girl Scout. Gillian's project was to plant five trees in Town Commons. The tree species are: pin oak, maple, swamp white oak, river birch, and white oak.

Gillian and a group of Girl Scout Daisies,
the youngest Girl Scouts.
Unfortunately, because of the copious rain which has been falling lately, the ground was too saturated for digging, even with machinery. According to Deputy Highway Superintendent Dick Crawford, there are white flags at various places in the park, which indicate where the trees will go. Gillian sad that her work centers around "tree conservation and replanting," to replace the ash trees that will die as a result of the emerald ash borer infestation.
Diane Evans leads
the group in a song about
Gillian also put together posters and information sheets about the benefits of trees and the damage caused by emerald ash borer infestations.

That was the end of my zigzagging through Grand Island because I then hopped on a bus and managed to zig zag my way through Buffalo. 

This is the group that came to
Town Commons on Arbor Day
to plant trees.
This is also the end of the annual Blogging from A through Z April Challenge and the quarterly Ultimate Blogging Challenge. Thank you to everyone from both of those challenges who has visited this blog. Everyone is always welcome to visit this blog. My 52 week photography project is still in progress so come back to see the upcoming installments. 

Y is for Yes, it's springtime in beautiful Buffalo!

Today, I went to Buffalo to buy a few art supplies and to visit the cherry blossom festival at the Japanese gardens at Mirror Lake behind the Buffalo History Museum.

I traveled to and around Buffalo by bus and subway. For five dollars, you can get a day pass, which is good all day long. I made good use of that bus pass.
I saw this little cutie on Allen Street,
after my visit to Hyatt's.
My first stop, once I got into the city, was to go to Hyatt's (All Things Creative), on Main Street, near Allen Street.  Today was the second day of the attic sale. Everything was nicely discounted. I purchased a drawing set for half price. It includes: artists pencils, graphite pencils, hard pastels, a kneaded eraser, a pencil sharpener, sandpaper, and a blending stick. My other purchase was a gessoed painting panel. Media suggested are oils, acrylics, and various multi media techniques.

Window display at Allen Street business.
After that, I left Hyatts and walked down Allen Street to Elmwood Avenue, to wait for the bus. It felt kind of cold and it looked as if it might rain, but I still decided to see the cherry blossoms at the Japanese gardens. While I was waiting for the bus, I noticed that a lot of bubbles were floating in the air. Where did they come from? Then I saw that, every few minutes, large groups of bubbles came from the second story window in the building across the street. The bubbles fluttered across the street and, eventually, broke apart as they hit pavement. I watched people walking by to see how they would react to the sudden onslaught of bubbles. Oddly enough, almost no one paid the slightest attention to the fact that, as they crossed the street, they were surrounded by bubbles.

Tree is covered with pink
blossoms and buds.
After I got on the bus, I watched the city as I traveled through it. Elmwood Avenue is full of shops and restaurants and people walking down the street. Almost before I know it, it was time to get off the bus. I was at the History Museum! I walked behind the building and I was at the Japanese Gardens, a gift from Buffalo's sister city, Kanazawa, Japan. People were there, looking at the trees, taking pictures, and going for a boat ride.
Sculpture on an island in Mirror Lake
The trees were covered in soft blossoms, some white and some pink, and in delicate baby leaves. I got a chance to have a ride in a boat. The water in the lake was clear and calm. 

After exploring the gardens, I went inside to explore the Buffalo History Museum, which was founded in 1862 by a group that had compiled a collection of manuscripts, photographs, paintings, and other artifacts. Over time, the collection of artifacts, available to the general public and to researchers, grew, and the museum needed more space. In 1901, Buffalo was the host site of the Pan American Exposition. Most of the buildings 
A group enjoys a boat ride.
at the exposition were temporary, but a few still stand. One of those buildings was used as the New York State Building. It was designed by George Cary. Ever since the Pan American Exposition closed, that building has been the home of the Buffalo History Museum.

The trees are covered with lush flowers
and soft baby leaves.
After I left the Buffalo History Museum, I walked down one of the richest streets in Buffalo. The architecture of these large mansion-style houses was fascinating so I had a good time taking pictures of doors, windows, trees, and flowers.
This is the Buffalo History Museum.

Once I arrived at Delaware Avenue, I headed home by a variety of transportation options, including bus, my own feet, and automobile. 

And, fortunately, the rain held off. 
Celebrating the cherry blossoms.
I had ridden on a bus, a subway, and a few automobiles. It wasn't quite "train, plane, and automobile" because... well... no airplane.

A mansion and some of its
doors and windows.

Friday, April 28, 2017

X is for Xylology and other tree-related stuff

Xylology is the study of wood. Here is how the word is broken down: "logy" is means the study of and Xylo, which is derived from the Greek word xylon, which means wood. Xylologists focus specifically on the wood, while dendrologists study trees and other woody plants. Dendrologists study, identifies, and names woody plants. They'll be kept in business for some time because there are actually more than 100,000 different species of trees.
That's quite a variety.

Unfortunately, in many communities, the variety of tree species is much more limited. Oftentimes, this limited variety of tree species is by choice. Large numbers of the same type of trees, known as a "monoculture," are planted in many communities. The ongoing crisis caused by the emerald ash borer, an invasive species, really dramatizes the danger of planting a monoculture, instead of a great variety of tree species. In New York State, the emerald ash borer is in the process of producing disaster, putting the state's 900 million ash trees at risk.

Here, in Grand Island, anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the trees are ash trees. According to entomologist Mark Whitmore of Cornell University, all of Grand Island's ash trees are infested.

Unfortunately, other tree species are at risk to infestation by invasive insect species, including:

  • Asian longhorned beetle, which poses a threat to maple trees.
  • Hemlock wooly adelgid, which poses a threat to hemlock trees. There are at least 274 cultivars of the hemlock trees known to exist.
So why do we need trees? Would the loss of all of these trees be a huge disaster? In a word, yes. In a few more words, trees are necessary for the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the environment and they put out oxygen. They provide shade. If trees are well placed around buildings, they can reduce the cost of air conditioning and heat because they act as wind breakers. Trees have deep roots, which helps prevent soil erosion and runoff.

I am writing about trees today because tomorrow is arbor day. It is a day in which trees are celebrated and planted. Many countries observe arbor day. In Japan, it's called "Greenery Day." And, speaking of Japan, there is, in Buffalo's Delaware Park, a beautiful Japanese garden. It came about because of a sister city relationship between Buffalo and Kanazawa, Japan. It was conceived in 1970 and the garden, with sculptures and cherry trees, was completed in 1974.

Buffalo's cherry blossom festival, held at the Japanese garden, began today and will continue tomorrow. I hope to have photographs of that to share within the next few days.

Conversation point: What are common species of trees in your community? Do you celebrate arbor day and how?

W is for the wow factor

There is something about doing art that just seems astonishing. For sure, there is a "wow factor" involved.

From a blank sheet of paper to
an image of springtime.
You take a blank sheet of watercolor paper and you start drawing on it. You draw vague shapes at first. It still looks like nothing but a bunch of light pencil lines on a background of white. Then you start adding detail to the shapes. The circles become flowers. The ovals become faces. You're starting to see objects or people or flowers or a landscape or a bunch of grapes, instead of random shapes. Your picture becomes more real, although, as a line drawing, it still has a very two dimensional feel to it.

Potted pansies.
When you start painting, the wow moments just start multiplying. You're adding color and, because the world is color, you are giving your image life. You add more color and then you add the details. You figure out where the light source is coming from and you add shadows and high lights. And then you stop. The hardest part of painting is knowing when to stop painting. 

You look at the painting and you realize that you've managed to capture a little bit of the world on paper. The shadows and the highlights give the appearance of being three dimensional. 

Sometimes you just want to capture a feeling.
In March, I was trying to capture
the feeling of warmth on a
bright, golden day.
It is totally wow, this feeling of transforming a blank sheet of watercolor paper to a representation of something that you've seen. If you are a painter, you will understand that feeling. If not, why not give it a try? If you don't really care for watercolor, why not try another medium, such as acrylics or oil paint? 

Conversation point: What is the wow factor in your world?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Teacher stories 10: V is for a teacher's vision

Note: Today's teacher story focuses on Jeanne Percival, who teaches third grade at Huth Road Elementary School. Jeanne is the organizer of the school's Relay for Life team. I have known Jeanne for more than ten years, as we are both members of the choir at Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church in Grand Island. In addition, Jeanne is playing the role of a plate in Beauty and the Beast with the Saint Stephens Players. Showtimes: Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday (sold out), and Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Jeanne shared with me her experiences and her vision of education. Here is Jeanne's story.

Did you have any other career dreams or did you know from an early age that you wanted to be a teacher?
 At an early age, I wanted to be an actress but my mom wouldn’t let me go to California. I wanted to go to Pepperdine University because that’s where "Battle of the Network Stars" was being filmed.

After my dreams were dashed, I decided to go to Niagara University, and I tried Hotel Management until I realized that I had to work weekends. Then I transferred to the theater department, where I did one show. We did "Oklahoma" at Artpark. However, I transferred again to the education department, and I found my true calling. Then I had to move back home and transfer to Buffalo State College because Niagara University was too expensive.

I graduated from Buff State in 1992 and got a job at Holy Cross Head Start in the city of Buffalo. I was a teacher in a pre-K classroom, and I absolutely loved it. I worked there for four years, and I learned an awful lot about the difference in cultures. It was a multicultural environment. I learned about life outside of Grand Island. I also developed an interest in working with students with special needs while I was working at Head Start. When I was working at Head Start, I went to get my master’s degree in special education at Buff State.

After that, I worked at LaSalle Middle School in Niagara Falls as a special ed teacher. It was a difficult jump because I just had my second daughter five weeks before school started. I had a brand new baby and a three year old and I had jumped from pre K to sixth grade. While I was in the Falls, it opened my eyes again to inner city life and the struggles that students and families have. I was able to work with a lot of families that had domestic violence issues and families that lived in poverty.

And I worked with students that were illiterate. In middle school, they couldn’t read or write at more than the first grade level. They felt like the forgotten kids because nobody seemed to care about them, not even their own families. They were kind of on their own. It was very sad. Many of them turned to violence or other inappropriate behaviors to find where they could fit in.  So I became their mom at school. I would make them cookies, feed them breakfast, give them any kind of encouragement that they needed to find out that they were valued and had worth. 

One of the things that we did was that we would close the classroom door when we did reading lessons because the kids were embarrassed. But they worked hard for me because they knew that I cared. I was the only one who had full attendance on half days because they knew that I would feed them breakfast. So those two experiences made me the educator that I am today because I learned so much about life and that there’s more to students than just test scores. We have to look at the whole student and nurture the whole student and not just focus on the academics. I worked in Niagara Falls for four years.

The next step in my journey was putting my love of theater and teaching together. I was doing the musical, “Mame,” at Niagara Falls Little Theater. Frank Cannata was the accompanist. At the time, he was the principal at Sidway. So we got to talking, and he told me that they were having a big recruitment day on Grand Island for teachers. So I went. While I loved my career in Niagara Falls, my heart was in Grand Island because I grew up there.

I got hired in 2001. My first year was when September 11th happened, and that was terrible. I was teaching first grade at Sidway Elementary School. I’ll never forget my first year for many reasons. The biggest was the jump from eighth grade inner city to first grade suburb. One thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of parental support on Grand Island because I had none in the Falls. It took me a while to understand the idea that the parents here want to help the kids. That was a huge difference. I was an island of one for four years. Grand Island is more of a community learning experience. I was at Sidway for two years. I piloted the inclusion program there. It was a kindergarten inclusion class. At the time, there was a self-contained class, and the kids were ready to be integrated into an inclusive setting. There was no classroom available for them. The program is still going strong. However, I got transferred to Huth after the initial year of the inclusion program. I was at Sidway for two years.

How do you feel about teaching at Huth Road School?
 Well, I went to Huth Road school as a child so I was thrilled to return as a teacher. I loved Sidway but when you get to the new experience, you love that, too. I was a second grade teacher for seven years.  I liked how excited the kids were to learn new things, and the content starts to get a little more involved and just watching them grow. It’s a big growth year from second to third. An opportunity came up to switch grades with another teacher. So I came to third grade. I absolutely, positively love third grade. The students have a desire for learning, and they get my corny jokes. My motto is a day without laughter is a day wasted. Part of my personal mission is to nurture the entire child and foster a love of learning. Kids are more than just test scores, and watching them learn new things is indescribable. It makes me happy. I also try to remind them that there is a bigger world than Grand Island, so we try to give back to the community as much as possible.

How do you and your class give back to the community?
 We make fleece blankets for Project Linus in the spring. At Christmas, we donate to various charities, instead of a teacher gift. In the past, we’ve donated to the SPCA and to Children’s Hospital. One year, we donated a Target gift card to a family that lost everything in a fire. At the end of the year, my hope is that my students leave third grade remembering how much they enjoyed school, loved learning new things, and are ready to take on whatever fourth grade or the world throws at them with a smile.

What gives you the most joy as a teacher?
There’s a lot of things that give me joy. One is when they accidentally call me Mom.  Another is that spark in their eyes when they get what I’m teaching or when we have a dance party.

Describe a typical day in school.
Students come in and get to their morning work. They each have jobs assigned, so they work on their jobs. Agenda checker, lunch counter, calendar person, things like that. After announcements, we start our day with math. Then we transfer into writer’s workshop, which they love more than math. After writers workshop, we have our special for the day and lunch. After lunch, we always have a read aloud, which is my favorite time of day. Currently, we are reading Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The kids are amazed by how life was different in the late 1800s than it is today. For example, in the story, Laura and Mary in their stocking got one penny, a candy cane, a tin cup, and a pastry, and they were thrilled. The kids were like, “What?” It was funny. No electronics? 

After that, we have literacy stations, where the kids work in small groups with the teacher or independently on a variety of literacy skills. I think that’s their favorite. They really like that time. When we can’t do literacy stations, they are disappointed. We follow that up with free time because it is so important for the kids to have a chance to unwind and just play. They work so hard during the day. I think that kids really need play to learn social skills, turn taking, and how to get along with others. We end the day with our social studies or science unit, which is currently Egypt and simple machines.

What have you observed in the students in the course of this school year?
I have observed lots of growth in a variety of areas, both academic and social. They’re not the same little kids that they were when they started in September. Now they tell me corny jokes. They’ve really developed strong relationships with each other, and they truly enjoy coming to school every day.

What afterschool activities do you coordinate?
I am the team captain of Huth’s Heroes. I started being the captain five years ago when my dad passed away from bladder cancer. I wanted to do something to honor his memory and to give back to the community. We have about fifteen team member. We involve the students by having a mini relay, where we raise money for Relay for Life and the playground fund. I find relay very inspiring to listen to the stories of the survivors. Watching the survivor lap brings me to tears every year. I also love the luminaria lighting ceremony and how the track looks when it is lit with the luminaria bags. We’ve been a silver or bronze team for the last five years.

What do you like to do when you’re not at school?
I am active at St. Martin in the Fields, and I sing in the choir. In the past, I directed the annual Christmas pageant for twelve years. I am active with the St. Stephens Parish Players. You can see me as a plate in "Beauty and the Beast" this weekend. This is my third show with them. Being a plate is liberating. I get to dance and sing and be silly.

What would you like to tell parents?
 I would first like to tell parents how much I appreciate their support for their children and much I truly care about their kids. I always tell my parents and the kids that, once you’re mine, you’re mine forever. I want to hear about all of their successes. Keep bringing me birthday cupcakes. And I just want to stay in touch with them. I love to hear everything they’re doing in their lives, where they’re going to college and how school is going. I will always be there for the children, even when they are not in my classroom anymore.

U is for uxurious and other unique, unusual words

I love words. Since today is sponsored by the letter "U," I thought that I would share some of the words beginning with that letter. The words that I am sharing are probably not words that you hear or see everyday. Nevertheless, I think that they look really cool. They are Unique, Unusual, and never Ugly.

Here is the list of ten cool-looking words that begin with the letter "u":

  • Uxorious: having or showing an excessive or submissive fondness for one's wife
  • ubiquitous: omnipresent
  • unctuous: greasy
  • ukulele: a small, four-stringed guitar-like instrument
  • unzymotic: fabulous
  • ucalegon: neighbor whose house is on fire 
  • ulmaceous: of or like elms
  • unberufen: exclamation to avert ill luck following boasting
  • undercroft: crypt or vault under a church
  • upaithric: roofless, open to the sky
OK, let's see if I can write a little story with these words. 

I can see clearly now, sang
the drunken uxorious
man as he staggered
in the wrong direction
A very uxorious man was singing a happy song as he walked home from the neighborhood bar. He had enough sense to walk, instead of drive, because he was completely inebriated. He walked past the place where his beautiful, most radiant wife had planted trees. He especially loved the ulmaceous plantings but she insisted that it was important to plant a variety of species, not just elms. He worshiped his wife so much that he believed that she knew his every secret because she was ubiquitous

Just then, he smelled something suspicious. Even with his drunken nose, he could smell fire. Or was it just bad cooking? Was somebody cooking in an unctuous mess? His unzymotic wife would never create such a stinky, disgusting fire hazard when cooking. Her cooking was always heavenly, a real treat for the senses. Oh! What a magnificent wife! Perfect in every way. He suddenly, in his drunken stupor, realized that he was boasting too much about his magnificent marriage and that boasting could be bad luck. He uttered an unberufen quickly and fervently. 

All of a sudden, the man discovered that he was lost. He had taken a wrong turn somewhere. He regretted not calling a taxi cab. Then, all of a sudden, he saw the source of the smell. It was a restaurant on fire. It wasn't just the odor of the unctuous mess. The roof was gone. The building had become upaithric. Firefighters were rushing to the scene. The drunk man was fascinated by the fire and wanted to see it up close. He was prevented from getting anywhere near it by police, who held their noses when they got close to him. He was so drunk that he was unaware that he reeked of stale beer and tobacco.   The police, however, weren't interested in him and his odors. They had found the ucalegon and they were questioning her. He tried to get close enough to hear the questioning and heard something about concern that her siding was being melted by the conflagration. The cops pushed him to get him away from the questioning session. The drunk man lurched forward and rolled on the ground several times before coming to a rest at the trunk of an oak tree.

"Not an elm," he thought sadly as he staggered and lurched in an effort to get up. Finally, he made it to his feet and walked away, a bit unsteadily. He was uninjured, though a bit dusty. He tried to find his way back home. There was a church nearby. He remembered once sleeping in the undercroft after his wife kicked him out of the house for, he forgot what. It wasn't drunkenness. It was something. They had had a spat. He actually yelled at his most magnificent of spouses. Oh yeah, it was his turn to cook dinner and he cooked something that she didn't like but he forgot that she didn't like it. So he cooked it. She held her nose and told him that he just wanted her to take him out to a restaurant and that he cooked something inedible on purpose. He admitted that it was probably true and that he wanted to show her off in a restaurant. She told him that his obsequious behavior seemed sarcastic and that he could go somewhere else for the night. So he snuck into a church and slept in the undercroft and left before the cops found him.

The uxorious man had a strange relationship with cops, probably because, every time he encountered them, he smelled atrocious. He walked and walked and walked. He saw the sun rise and he wondered how long he had been walking. His feet grew sore but, all of a sudden, he recognized the neighborhood. His house! It was there and still standing! He staggered up the front steps and was surprised to hear the sound of ukelele music from inside the house. He looked inside and saw his wife with a young boy, who was playing the ukelele, slightly awkwardly. He remembered that his wife gave music lessons in the morning. He was much less drunk than he had been before he had gotten lost. He quietly entered the house via the side door and, after the lesson was over, his wife found him snoring loudly on the sofa. She covered him with a blanket and shook her head at her very smelly husband.

Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for tulips and other early spring flowers

It's spring at last.  

These determined crocuses
grow through snow early
in the growing season.
The romance of the daffodils
When I think of all of problems in this world that were created by humans, I feel sad. I am horrified by the violence and by the meanness and by the prejudice. Then I go outside and am confronted by beauty, which gives me hope. I see the baby leaves, popping from formerly bare tree branches. 

Early in the spring, the leaves feel and look like flowers. They are soft and 
translucent. It feels miraculous.
Hyacinths come in a wide variety of colors.
Spring is my favorite season because it is colorful and soft. The harshness of winter chill has departed. The air smell sweet, and the birdsongs can be heard early in the morning. 

Buttercups look like little rays
of sunshine growing from the ground.
Every day, there is something new to explore. Another flower has opened. I can see the progress of the peonies as their stems grow taller. I watch the buds on the trees grow fuller, as they swell to popping open.  

T is for tulips
Spring is an adventure and an exploration into the world of color and light.

What's your favorite season and why? Tell me in the comments section below.

S is for story

On Friday, I shared the characters, setting, situation, and character action of a story, which features a cliche master and I invited people to play along with me.  People, however, are busy. So I've decided to do something different. I'd still like to make this interactive. I'm going to write a scene and I will invite you to suggest something that might come next. Be wildly creative and have fun.

First, I'll give the characters names. The restless woman in her 70s will be Edith. The easy going and quirky man in his 60s, who speaks in cliches, will be Bill.

All right. Here goes. 

Edith was traveling by bus, from Buffalo to a small town in northern California, to watch her oldest granddaughter graduate from high school. Edith was excited to travel cross country, as she wanted to see the great tall mountains of the west. She had seen pictures of them but she had never seen them for real. She had read all of the dramatic stories about cross country trips in the past, especially the story about the Donner party traveling to California by wagon in 1848. As she sat on the bus, she looked out of the window at the changing scenery. She was headed west. West toward what? She thought that it would be an easy trip, but didn't the Donner party think that it would be an easy trip...

... until they were stopped by a freak storm and spent the entire winter in the Sierra Nevada. It was then that they resorted to cannibalism. Edith was terrified of cannibals, even though she had never met any in her more than 70 years of life. What if the bus should be hit by a freak storm? Would her seatmate, a lanky man who looked to be in his 60s, look at her with hungry eyes, not for love but for nutrition? The man, who held a giant cowboy hat on his lap, had his head tipped back. Suddenly, in mid-snore, the man gulped and his eyes popped open.

"I'm Bill. Aren't you as cute as a button?" Bill said to Edith. "I was as snug as a bug in a rug. Are we there yet?"

Not Border Patrol cars but still
cops in vast numbers. (more cop cars on the
other side of the street)
"No," Edith said. Just then, the bus driver announced that the bus was stopping in Erie, Pennsylvania. The bus went around a few corners and stopped at the station. All of a sudden, the bus was surrounded by Border Patrol agents. 

"Once bitten, twice shy," Bill said to Edith. 

Edith, who was very literal, wondered why Border Patrol agents were biting her seat mate. She decided not to ask. Bill talked in an odd way and he seemed quirky, but harmless. He fiddled with his cowboy hat as the Border Patrol agents stomped onto the bus.

"Well, boys will be boys," the seatmate said. 

Edith wondered what her seatmate meant by his comments, which just seemed to cliches strung together. The border patrol agents stomped through the bus and questioned everyone who seemed to fit a variety of ethnic types. In fact, the border patrol agents were beginners and they were openly comparing the faces of passengers to pictures on a card with the words on top: "People Who Look Like This May Be Deportables or They May Be Terrorist's." Edith saw the card and wondered why it hadn't been proofread. Everyone else on the bus saw the card.

"Wow," said one passenger, who, apparently looked either deportable or like a terrorist. "You're really blatantly prejudiced. You're not even subtle about it."

"I need to see some ID from you," said the Border Patrol agent. He rubbed his eyes and said, "So tired. We hit three houses yesterday."

The ever-literal Edith said to her quirky seatmate, "That guy needs to go back to driving school if he's hitting houses."

"He'd better go back to the drawing board," Bill said. Edith wondered where a driving school would place a drawing board but she decided not to ask the man, for fear that he would spout another cliche. Edith also wondered why someone on the bus was shrieking and why the Border Patrol was blocking the door. Edith also realized that she had a strong urge to visit the restroom. She remembered that, in all of the cop shows that she'd seen, no one ever had to go to the bathroom. They never slept, ate, burped, or sneezed. Apparently, this was real life because one of the Border Patrol agents sneezed loudly.

"Hmm, that woman is wearing too much perfume. Also the person third from the left on the Bottom Row looks like he could be her third cousin, five times removed. She must be an Illegal Alien!" Five agents surrounded a tiny woman, who was holding a baby. Her eyes bulged and she gulped in air and gripped the baby.

"Why don't you pick on someone your own size," asked Bill loudly. Edith was amazed because she didn't realize that a man who spoke only in cliches could be that assertive. The Border Patrol stomped to the front of the bus and glared at him.

"You're obstructing justice. I could arrest you," announced the Border Patrol agent who was waving around the card that showed pictures of members of the ethnic groups that were most likely to be Undocumented Terrorists or Documented Terrorists or Appearing in Documentaries about Documented Terrorists or Something Like That. Oddly enough, the name on his nametag was "Donner." Edith gaped at him as he then snatched the cowboy hat from Bill's lap. Was the descendant of Cannibals actually ethnically profiling bus passengers, she wondered.

"I like the hat. I won't bother you if you give me a gift..."

Just then, the bus passengers, who were tired of being ethnically profiled and of being prevented from getting off of the bus, started chanting, "Let me off. I have to go to the bathroom" over and over again. Edith, who had little experience of protesting, was astonished that a protest chant would include the word "bathroom."

At that moment...

What comes next? Please make your suggestions in the comments section below! I will post suggestions in an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The 52-week photography project: R is for remembrance

The theme for week 15 of the 52-week photography project was "hard." It is an artistic theme and the people who organized the challenge at Dogwood Photography invited participants to interpret the theme in any way that they were inspired to do so.

Unyielding and unchanging. The loss
of a baby. Just one year on a grave marker.
I thought about the word "hard" and images associated with hard, and I thought of cemeteries. Tombstones are hard, in more than one way. They are unyielding and they can't be changed. They are made of various materials, such as fieldstones, granite, marble, limestone, sandstone, or slate. 

Cemetery marker seen at Maple Grove
Cemetery, Grand Island
From a human, emotional level, tombstones are hard. They are a reminder that a loved one is gone, never to come back. Because tombstones exist, however, they are also a reminder that the person buried at that marker had existed. That person had some influence on the world.
Love means never forgetting.
The tombstones are a reminder that the person is not forgotten and, even after death, is still loved. 

My father, Roy Gerard is buried at Whitehaven
Cemetery. I will always cherish my
memories of him. He was a brilliant
man who could add long lists of numbers
in his head. He was also a father, grandfather,
and great grandfather.
One of the most painful aspects of losing a loved one is the inability to make new memories with that person. It becomes necessary to focus on past memories, to keep the loved one alive. 

Today, I thought about remembrance when I visited two cemeteries in Grand Island: the Whitehaven Cemetery, established in 1865, and Maple Grove Cemetery, established in 1902.

Monument to Grand Island's first
town supervisor, John Nice.
The Whitehaven Cemetery is located near the Niagara River on the eastern side of Grand Island. Spicer Creek is adjacent to the cemetery. Many famous Grand Island people are buried there, including John Nice, who was the first town supervisor. He was elected town supervisor in 1852, shortly after the town was incorporated. The election was held in his house. The cemetery is a peaceful location, surrounded by woods. 

Grave for Grand Island's war hero,
Charles DeGlopper, killed in action
in Normandy during World War II.
Maple Grove Cemetery is located in the interior of Grand Island. The most famous person buried there is Charles Neilens DeGlopper. This Grand Island native was born in November 1921 to Mary Neilens DeGlopper and Charles Leonard DeGlopper. He attended a one-room schoolhouse in Grand Island, called Schoolhouse #5 at the corner of Baseline and Bush roads. In 1941, he graduated from Tonawanda High School. This young man, who was noted to be very tall and very friendly, worked on the family farm until he joined the U.S. Army in November of 1942. He was trained in Camp Croft in South Carolina, and he was sent overseas in 1943.

Maple Grove Cemetery
Charles DeGopper, a member of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, was sent overseas in April 1943. He served in Sicily, Italy, and North Africa. The 325th Glider Infantry landed on Normandy by glider on June 7th, the day after D Day. Two days later, Private First Class Charles DeGlopper single-handedly defended his platoon's position. He kept firing, even after being shot several times, until he was killed outright. He died in La Fiere, France, at the age of 22. He was considered to have saved his entire platoon, while sacrificing his own life. On February 28th, 1945, Captain Wayne W. Pierce, 325 Glider Infantry, Commanding Company C, recommended Charles DeGlopper for the Medal of Honor. Posthumously, Charles DeGlopper was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest honor awarded to any member of the Army. The award was presented to his father at Trinity Evangelical United Brethren Church on March 10th, 1946, by General Leland S. Hobbs. 

Whitehaven Cemetery,
Grand Island, New York.
Grand Island residents consider Charles DeGlopper to be their war hero. There is a park named for him, and he is pictured on a mural on the wall of the Grand Island Plaza that faces Baseline Road. The park is currently undergoing expansion. Those honored at DeGlopper Memorial Park will be Islanders killed in action, Island veterans, and Gold Star mothers. 

Note: The story that I planned to post today will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Z is for zigzag travels through Grand Island

These past two Saturdays, I have been visiting businesses and events on Grand Island. Now that winter is over, loads of activities have been...