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Things You Never See

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ithaca turns out to be a good place to see things you never see otherwise, especially with Alan Poole as my guide. I had never seen people riding unicycles in my life. Maybe I saw a chimp ride one once on television. But here were these two dudes going along a very narrow, very fast road with nothing but two pedals and a wheel between them and Eternity. It's the mother in me, I'm sure, that made me gasp and immediately begin to worry for them. Think about it. They've got nothing to grab should they hit a rock or a pothole or a squirrel or a dead possum. How in the world do they dismount safely? How do they go down huge hills? Why don't they get down off those damn things?
I was completely in awe of them, and I couldn't stop taking pictures of them, something they found very funny. My inner Gomer was gaaawww-leeeeee-in' all over the place.I did get to see them dismount and remount near Taughannock Falls. There was a whole lot of arm waving going on as they attained their balance and rhythm atop those dreadful wheels. I was glad they were wearing helmets, at least. You couldn't get me on one of those things on a dare. But then, I won't even play volleyball, and I suit up in steel wrist guards to roller skate. I break a wrist, I'm S.O.L., and the workman's comp plan for freelance artist/writers is raiding the piggybank.
That said, they made excellent time, almost beating us to Taughannock Falls. But we were birding.

Taughannock Falls was a pilgrimage for me, because it was there that ornithophotographer Arthur Allen shot his famous peregrine photos, when a pair nested naturally there in the early 1900's. It looked like a piece of the Rio Grande in New Mexico, plopped down in the Finger Lakes country. That's Alan for scale.
I believe Louis Agassiz Fuertes also painted those peregrines at this spot, where they nested just to the left of the falls. Just knowing my greatest bird art influence had stood on this spot filled me with awe.
Chet Baker came with me on this trip, and it was absolutely lovely to have him along. Almost nine hours on the road each way, Baker kept me company and showered me with kisses. We talked and I ran my hand over his muscular little thigh as we drove. We ran around after squirrels at the rest stops and jumped creeks in the woods. Alan took an immediate shine to Baker, and was amused at how he'd leap atop walls, catlike, to walk along the tops.Baker was not allowed in the Asian Art floor of the Johnson Museum on the Cornell campus, so he spent the afternoon curled in bed instead. The sheer age of most of these artifacts filled me with awe. Here's a cloisonne Chinese dragon vase.

A beautiful man, carved from an elephant tusk. His backward lean is thanks to the curvature of the tusk, but it perfectly evokes the weight of the ivory basket he carries. I am sure there were carved fish inside the basket, but I couldn't see inside it. How do you carve a fishnet out of ivory? I could only shake my head.

A painting of Kali, my favorite Indian goddess. This is me, oh, about one week a month. Look out, demons and wrongdoers. I am riding the lion with my sixteen arms. Mess with me: I will slice and dice you. I find it interesting that Liam makes the same bloodspurts on his headless people that this artist did several centuries back.

Looking down on the magnificent Cornell campus. Because of its history of great ornithologists, this was the college I most wanted to attend, but when my parents drove me all the way up there from Virginia, an admissions officer told me I'd never get in as a biology major with my crummy math SAT scores. He told me I'd better emphasize that I wanted to major in journalism. Which I didn't. So, being a timid but principled high school student, I didn't even apply. That's OK. I got educated anyway. Still, the visit made me wistful, remembering and appreciating the vision of my father and mother walking little baby me up these same sidewalks. Dad was looking for a good ice cream place. He said college towns always have the best ice cream places, and he knew Cornell had a dairy somewhere. That was Dad. I sought out a local ice cream factory in his honor, where Bacon and I shared a hotdog and a coconut almond shake. Dad would have ordered maple walnut ice cream.
Because I knew the daffodils wouldn't be blooming yet in Ithaca, I cut a huge bunch of mine and took them up for Alan and Charles. I was sitting across from Alan, with the still-cold spring light coming in the window, and was struck by the beauty of the scene. It was a Vermeer interior, timeless and serene.
These are my two favorite photos from the whole trip. For me, they evoke the peace that animals bring to us, with their quiet, caring presence. If you want to see me happy, give me a cup of tea or a glass of Shiraz, and sleek little Chet Baker on my lap.


What a lovely post...those falls are amazing. I am not sure I have ever seen them.

And the light in those last two photos is truly stunning, cool and watery but clear.

But the Chinese art work is breathtaking.


Those pictures of Chet and your friend are just perfect.



"My inner Gomer was gaaawww-leeeeee-in' all over the place." I would have been gaaawww-leeee-in with you! I cherish my bones.

Memories of DOD...happy ones indeed. And the memories of the high school senior with low math scores - to be expected from a true artist like you. Coming from a visual learner who struggled in math, I understand!

Your photos are fantastic, especially the ones of Baker at the table. Peaceful. Soaking up the atmosphere. Lovely.

Julie--about 3 jobs ago, I had a boss who rode a unicycle. He also rode one of those early bicycles--with the HUGE front wheel. He was always being asked to ride in parades--the novelty factor.
The ivory carving is amazing.
And I think you are right--were Vermeer alive today, that's a scene he would have painted.

a post of many wonders, one right after another...

I loved the Vermeer-like photos. And you are right: there is nothing that touches an animal for dishing out serenity. Even my bad pony makes sure I'm totally focussed on what we're doing (that, actually, may not count as serenity).

I loved the ivory man; that lean is so perfect, you really can feel the weight. Now if I could only draw so you could feel the weight ...

On the college note -- that place where we were educated had the nerve to reject my beautiful and clever daughter.

Ohh, Ivy. I'm totally braced for that, for that... place... not to recognize what we know we have in Phoebe. Big hug to you.

Oh, a coconut almond shake! You can see where my mind is. Maple walnut was my mother's favorite and whenever I get together with my sisters we go out for maple walnut ice cream in her honor.

Last two photos are so serene and reflective. Yes, animals are so therapeutic. Don't know what I would have done lately without my remaining kitties keeping my sane.

Oh, I forgot to add--I just LOVE dogs (Baker)and cats that love people other than their caretakers. Every person they meet is a new best friend. There's something really special about that.

I went to Wells College, also on Cayuga Lake, loved the photos of a familiar spot, my brother-in-law was at Cornell at the same time.
I'm with your dad, maple walnut, unless, of course, they have black raspberry. They don't know about that in South Dakota.
Caroline in the Black Hills

Hello fellow Nature lover and participant of Nature Blog Network!! Great meeting you and your wonderful posts!! Oh those woodpecker images that you posted way back!! sunkissed in Sedona NG

Beautiful. Those last two shots are pure art.

Unicyclessss, never done that... feels 'ouch' just to look at it :S

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