And so it begins…

The Cherry Blossoms Rush at the Tidal Basin in Washington is in full swing.  Peak bloom is forecast for this weekend.  I hope the flowers survive the wind storm forecast for this afternoon (40-50 mph wind gusts) and the snow(!?) on Saturday.  Still, have at it, guys (and gals).  Traffic will be horrible, so if you can, take the metro.  The Smithsonian station is not far from where you want to go (art museum anyone?).

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Springing to Life in Arlington

A beautiful morning to go to the wildlife refuge and look (and photograph) birds and other wildlife was in the offing on the last day of March, 2018.  Unfortunately, errands must be run (life is not all for the birds after all).  With camera in hand, the trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles was at least uninteresting.  April, here we come.

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Our Little Planet

One of the interesting things to see at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is the nuclear power plant in the not so far off distance.  It is a tribute to nature’s resilience and diversity that one of the symbol’s of mastery of the resources available to him is readily seen in what is a reminder of the place that we live in.  The little blue marble that hangs like a jewel in the night, that delicate ball of water, minerals, air, the third planet from a smallish yellow main sequence star, the rock that we call Earth.  To walk at Bombay Hook is to appreciate nature’s gift to man.  A place of beauty, a place teeming with life, a place that must be nurtured if it is continue to be a dwelling place for all the creatures that live and visit there.  A place that is a microcosm of the ecosystems around the world that we live in.  We have diverse environments around the world, many of which are threatened by unbridled and undisciplined human activity.  Why do we throw out so much plastic every day, every year?  What happened to water fountains?  Or at least that reusable jug that we carried water in?  We think that the most visible and egregious symbols of environmental destruction are the wanton release of hydrocarbons in the air, the precursor to an unstoppable, runaway greenhouse effect that will doom the planet into a Venus like existence.  The nuclear plants that can release dangerous radiation into the air are often seen as threats to the world we live in.  And yet, they are efficient power generators that provide the electricity to millions of people and make industry and technological advances possible.  There are arguments for eliminating or at least reducing our reliance on systems that threaten the health of our world.  Lost in the discussion is something that we see with our eyes every day.  Our disposable society has made as much of a negative impact on the health of the planet as any other man made “intervention.”

I have some training in science and engineering.  I believe that someday, we will be able to remove gases from the air to lessen the effects of global warming.  We will be able to generate power more efficiently, more cleanly (though I worry about migrating birds running into vast power generating turbines on the shores and in the open fields).  And yet, will the climatic changes that are currently under way be stemmed (or reversed) by some future scientific endeavor?  Also, the debate presupposes that we have all the facts and that the answers are already clear (when it comes to the global warming debate).  I have some questions still.  How much of the perceived global warming is an artifact of human activity and how much of it can be attributed to a natural cycle that we do not understand?  The sun’s radiation output is not uniform.  Random events that release dust and gas into the atmosphere (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, meteor strikes) have short and long term effects on the environment.  If we pass through a “dusty” part of the galaxy, will there be a measurable drop in the amount of solar radiation that reaches the planet and what effect will it have on life?  So many questions left to be asked.  And answered.

All I know is that we must be better stewards of the world that we live in.  Higher efficiency power generation, less reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power plants.  Less pollution, more recycling.  The mantras of today’s environmental movement.  All good things.  And yet, we can start our own revolution at home.  Use less water when washing clothes.  Use less plastics.  You say they are bio degradable?  If they take hundreds of years to degrade, is that really harmless?  Drive less, walk more.  Use the bicycle a little bit more.  This would mean that the cities and suburbs that we live in may actually look like neighborhoods again.  Accessible stores, libraries, restaurants.  And if you walk enough, you may even meet someone new and interesting.  And if you walk enough, you may see that there are a lot of things that we  individuals can do to keep our planet cleaner.  Safer.  If you walk enough, you give yourself time to think about your own life, and maybe make it better.  So, here’s a random thought.  Walk a mile or two and in your own small way, foster a revolution that will make our planet a better world for all of us.  Today.  And ensure its future as that blue marble teeming with life, a world of varied ecosystems, all in harmony with each other.

Flare!

I spend a lot of time trying to avoid flare when shooting towards the sun.  In many instances, however, flare adds to the beauty of the shot.  This picture could have been just a picture of a house with the sun rising behind it.  With the flare creating diffracted sun rays (and the more pronounced oblong shaped projections towards the bottom of the image), life is injected into the light, so to speak.  While flare is not always a desirable feature in a photograph, it can be used to great advantage.

Awakening

Why is the familiar different now
The river by the bend
The trees, the rocks, the birds, the sky
A thousand steps walked alone
In solitude, nature was my friend

And yet today, even as the bird sang its welcoming song
As the winds of winter give way to the blossoms of spring
As the water lapped gently on the rock strewn shore
I heard my heart speak

In winter’s depth a flower bloomed
Joy came forth, the soul consumed
A life, thought dead, was vital still

And so it was this winter day
That the steps familiar had a different strain
There is beauty everywhere
And time enough for us to share

Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum

One of the many places in the Washington D.C. area that I have never visited in the decades that I have lived in the area is the National Arboretum in Northeast Washington D.C.  I don’t really have a reason why I have never set foot on this place.  I enjoy leisurely walks.  I enjoy taking pictures of flowers and gardens.  I enjoy taking pictures of birds.  Apparently, the Arboretum has no shortage of the things that make for a great day outdoors but somehow, I never stepped inside its grounds.  That oversight was corrected, somewhat, by a short trip to the National Arboretum in mid February.

Yes, it was winter.  There were few birds flying about.  The flowers are still weeks from coming out.  The gardens were in a state of hiatus.  Still, the landmark that many people come to see in the Arboretum are the Capitol Columns.  These columns used to be part of the Capitol Building.  When the Capitol was renovated, the columns were replaced by new, improved, more ornate cylindrical blocks.  What to do with the old columns?  Well, why not put them in a garden?  And so, eventually, the columns made their way to the National Arboretum.

It was a relatively mild winter afternoon.  The recent rains filled the reflecting pool with water and made for even more interesting photographs.  People were enjoying themselves in the warmth of the February sun.  A beautiful afternoon that surely will not be the last spent visiting this wonderful place.

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Old House Vineyards and Distillery

And coming soon, the Old House Brewery.

On a rainy mid winter day, the urge to drive to the countryside was too much to resist.  It was cloudy, drizzly, cool (but not too cold), grey and wet near Washington DC.  It was cloudy, drizzly, cool, grey and wet in Culpeper, Virginia as well.  And yet, none of that mattered when I visited Old House Vineyards and Distillery.  The vineyards and winery that Patrick and Allyson Kearney developed in the Virginia countryside is a wonderful place to visit.  And on a soggy Saturday morning, the mood was anything but damp.  Wine, chocolate fondue, good food, what could be better?

Rum.  Maybe not better, but the spirits sold by the distillery certainly lifted the spirit of this damp visitor from the DC suburbs.

A walk to the World War II themed ABC store was greeted by several samples of Old House Bumbo 1758 Spiced Rum and Grog 349 Rum.  Brewed in house by Keith Ballurio, the rums are enticement enough to make the drive through the rain more than worthwhile.  Ryan Kearney, the other partner in the distillery business, has a wonderful vodka and an agave nectar that provide even more reasons to drive to the countryside.

And did I say that the place is beautiful?  This is a great place to celebrate a wedding.  A vineyard, a lake, wine, vodka and rum.  Oh, the bride and groom would be ideal accouterments as well.

On this day in February, a groundhog was walking the grounds.  Maybe winter isn’t over after all.  One thing is certain.  No matter the season, Old House is certainly worth a visit. And after a few tastings, you will probably go home with a bottle (or two, perhaps even more) of wine, vodka, rum, agave nectar,…  I did.

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