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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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.

Foxes Big and Small

It’s almost spring!  With winter set to deal one more Nor’easter to the Northeast, it was a good time to visit Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge to see if there are foxes walking around.  Not quite.  The mother and kits were quite easy to spot though.  There were three cars stopped by a pond.  I figured, I’d park behind the other cars and see what was going on.  Soon, other cars parked behind my car.  It was time to listen to music and eat a granola bar.  I thought that there might be an owl nestle in the woods.  Not quite.  It was a fox and her kits.  Not the best view, and they were just basically walking around to check on the humans with the cameras and lenses.

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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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When I Listen to Beethoven’s Ninth

I feel like I am at Mesa Arch again, watching the sun rise through the distant mountains, Washerwoman Arch etched in the brightening light, the soft glow of the sun reflected on the red hued arch above me.  Great music is a gift of supernal majesty.  Like the beams of sunlight illuminating the valley below, it lights up my soul.  He could not hear, but his music speaks to all mankind.  Let not our differences divide us.  We are all born from the dust of stars, our humanity an enduring testament to the greatness that we, as a species, can achieve when we transcend our limitations and draw inspiration from the Creator that made us all.