Saturday, January 29, 2011

Blog Intermission no. 7 (entr’acte) – Nella Fantasia

Here are the lyrics of an Italian song called "Nella Fantasia." It is in the original Italian and I translated it afterward:

Battle in the Heavens, Nicholas Roerich, Russian 1874-1947

Nella Fantasia

Nella fantasia io vedo un mondo giusto,
Lì tutti vivono in pace e in onestà.
Io sogno d'anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano,
Pien' d'umanità in fondo all'anima.

Nella fantasia io vedo un mondo chiaro,
Lì anche la notte è meno oscura.
Io sogno d'anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano.

Nella fantasia esiste un vento caldo,
Che soffia sulle città, come amico.
Io sogno d'anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano,
Pien' d'umanità in fondo all'anima.

-Chiara Ferraù, Italian lyricist

picture taken in the Caribbeans


Here is my translation

Mainlandschaft by Hans Thoma, German 1839-1924

In my Fantasy

In my fantasy I see a just world,
Where everyone lives in peace and honesty.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like clouds that fly,
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

In my fantasy I see a bright world,
Where even the night is not so dark.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like clouds that fly.

In my fantasy exists a warm wind,
That breathes into the city, like a friend.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like clouds that fly,
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

Chiara Ferraù, Italian lyricist

Portrait of Grace, John Joseph Enneking, American 1841-1916

"Summer" singing Nella Fantasia

Top picture taken in Dallas, Paulding County, Georgia in 2010.

Note: Blogger Break - Post pre-programmed –

Friday, January 21, 2011

Recollection: Bird Drawings from Sir Peter Shepheard

“Thank you” to my blogging friends who helped me identify the birds on my last post. I delight in looking at the birds coming to our bird feeders and often spend too much time looking at them and trying to catch them with my camera. There are so many birds to watch whether we are in an urban setting or a rural one.

My husband and I often will stop what we are doing to watch a bird land on a branch close to the window or perch on one of the bird feeders. Often in the morning there will be 10 to 12 doves eating seeds on the ground. Once in a while we even see a hawk or an owl – such beautiful creatures.

Red Tailed Hawk, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, American 1874-1927
In my post about the spoon given to me by Duke Visconti (click here) I mentioned that I would show pictures of another Christmas gift I received years ago. The presents were drawings of birds created by Sir Peter Shepheard. Here is one of them below.

original Raptor drawing by Sir Peter Shepheard

My husband studied at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to obtain his Master’s Degree in Environmental Land Use Planning. At the time, in the early 1970s, the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at this university was offering some of the first graduate courses given anywhere in the US and abroad in the environmental land use planning field. These were the early days when to study the “environment” and “ecology” was considered very unconventional. Peter Shepheard (1913-2002), a British architect, planner and landscape designer was dean and professor at the university. Later on, in 1980, he was knighted for “service to architecture.”

Picture of Peter Shepheard in an earlier photograph
My husband, very interested in the environment before it became fashionable, had read “Design with Nature” written by Ian L. McHarg (1920-2001) a renowned Scottish landscape architect who pioneered the concept of ecological planning. Ian McHarg founded the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia which is why my husband went there. After my husband obtained his Master’s degree we thought we would go back to California. In the early 70s the environment, even in California, was not of much interest. One of the job offers was from a visionary young governor in Georgia who was trying to bring some good land use planning to his state. This is why we moved to Atlanta where my husband started working on a special project for Governor Jimmy Carter. But I don’t want to go on a tangent here.

University of Pennsylvania quadrangle Dorm, Philadelphia (source Wikimedia)
The 15 or so grad students attending these classes and their professors were a close group. We went to several parties. At one of these parties I spoke with Peter Shepheard who was a European like me, since he was from England. He was passionate about nature and enthusiastically promoted ecology and consideration for the environment. He wrote several books and articles where he produced all the line drawings as he was also an accomplished draughtsman/artist.

Sir Peter Shepheard’s drawing of an albatross from “The Wandering Albatross” by William Jameson
In England his work included landscape designs for the London Zoo, garden design for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Bessborough Gardens. He also worked on the restoration of the garden at Charleston Farmhouse in the heart of South Downs in Sussex. He drew up the design and the planting plans for these gardens. This was the former home of Clive and Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) was the sister of renowned author Virginia Woolf.

Gardens at Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, England (source Wikimedia)

In 1916 Clive and Vanessa Bell and her partner Duncan Grant acquired this Sussex farmhouse and garden. They were pacifists and conscientious objectors to World War I. To be exempted from military service one had to work on the land. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) lived with her husband, writer and publisher Leonard Woolf, across the fields in Rodmell.

Picture of Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia Woolf

The Charleston farmhouse and gardens became a place where the Bloomsbury set (a group of intellectuals, philosophers, writers and artists) would meet and create.

Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf had a bohemian lifestyle and they decorated the house with paintings and pottery. Vanessa Bell and her partner Duncan Grant planted a cottage garden with Mediterranean influences. They chose plants with intense colors and beautiful foliage which became the subject of many still life paintings. This was an enchanted retreat for the Bloomsbury Group. Unfortunately when Clive Bell passed away in 1964 the house and the gardens started to deteriorate. Sir Peter Shepheard helped with the garden restoration.

There is now a festival at the Charleston Farmhouse each May with several events presented by international writers, historians, artists, architects, etc. With its beautiful garden and luxuriant plants this is an enchanted spot to have a festival. In addition to the colorful flowers there are mosaic pavements, tile edged pools and a variety of sculptures.

Sir Peter Shepheard explained all this history to me and when we left the party he told us he would see us again at the forthcoming Christmas party. I spent the week prior to Christmas baking a great assortment of cookies, bars, and sweets. I brought them to the party but I also gave both Sir Peter and Ian McHarg a Christmas tin full of my baking. Sir Peter was very pleased and asked me to select several drawings from his sketchbook (which he always kept with him.) I chose the two below -

Sir Peter insisted that I chose at least 3 or 4 more. I chose the drawing of the raptor shown above and the following two drawings which we had framed later.

We have treasured these two framed pictures for years now. We also enjoy looking at our collection of vintage postcards of birds. Here are some from a series produced by the National Wildlife Federation, copyrighted in 1939.

Below are more postcards that are from a series published by the Audubon Society.

Either in our yard or inside the house on the wall, birds have always been a part of our lives.

Wondrous Birds by Hans Thoma, German, 1839-1924

Friday, January 14, 2011

Atlanta Snow in the New Year

It snowed in Atlanta on Christmas Day 2010. It was the first time since 1882 (see my post here.) By the time we came back from Nashville the snow had almost melted and within another day, it was gone. It snowed again, this time in the New Year 2011, early on Monday 10th of January. It continued snowing a bit. The snow has not melted yet. It was a heavy snowfall for Atlanta – between 4 and 7 inches. It paralyzed the city and the surrounding areas.

Click on pictures to enlarge

We in the Deep South are not prepared for such weather – Atlanta has only 8 snow plows and the small towns around the city have even less. In our county, Cobb County, there are just two road graders and six sand-and-salt trucks for 2,400 miles of road, so our road was not sanded. When it snows we usually wait one day or two until the snow melts. Not this time. On that Monday morning when we woke up the snow was soft and brilliant under a timid sunshine.

I just went outside briefly to take a few photographs.

Click on collage to enlarge, then click on each picture to biggify

The next day, Tuesday, there were some passing snow flurries. All schools and many or most businesses were closed too. The schools stayed closed the whole week. No mail. At Atlanta's airport, the world's busiest, nearly 2,000 flights were canceled for two days and many the next day . The newspaper said that around the metro Atlanta area hundreds of jackknifed tractor trailers littered the highways and hundreds of vehicles had been abandoned on the roads. This created monumental traffic jams. Some truckers were on the Atlanta highways, without moving, from Monday morning till Tuesday night or even later.

(photos courtesy the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Removing the snow cost the state of Georgia $2 million a day – the budget has been exhausted now and we are just starting the New Year. Some ice on the road in front of our house did melt but large patches of road stayed encased with thick, slippery sheets of ice – still there on Friday night.. All the black areas on the pictures below have iced over.

On Tuesday we bundled up in warm clothes (although I could not find a hat or gloves) and walked behind our barn and down the hill to our neighbor’s lake. It was chilly, around 29 F (-1½ C) which is quite cold for us since our average daytime temperature in January is 50 F (10 C.) There was no sun. A sheet of ice covered a large area of the lake.

The little stream though was not frozen and looked pretty with the snow on its banks.

We walked back to the main road and then a few hundred yards down past the two old barns. I took many pictures of these old barns, until my hands were frozen. The following days (on Wednesday and Thursday) we walked again on the same route and I took more pictures of the barns. I have 40 pictures of the barns and it is hard to decide which ones to show. I’ll assemble a small mosaic and you can click on it, then again on each photo to enlarge it.

Click on collage to enlarge, then click on each picture to biggify

Then we walked another 100 yards or so to the farm. It is a couple of houses past ours. Again I took many pictures of the field. The first day the snow was soft and a couple of cows were out. We left when it started to snow again. The snow is visible on the picture below showing Lost Mountain in the background (bottom right.)

We went back home, had a nice cup of tea, then I tried to take some pictures of all the birds coming to our bird feeders. As soon as I came near the window they flew away so I used the telephoto on my Sony camera. The pictures are not very sharp but you can still make out the birds. Apart from the cardinals, blue jays, doves, I am not sure what kind of birds they were.

We placed black tubes on the feeder posts which are supposed to prevent the squirrels from jumping on the feeders, but they still do. They scatter the seeds all over the ground to the delight of the little sparrows. I knocked on the window to scare the squirrel. He looked at me then turned his back to me while his mate was busy picking up the seeds on the ground.

There are a couple of pretty yellow birds coming all the time to our feeders and I finally found out that they are called “Pine Warblers.”

About those pretty birds below – they also come to snack at my bird restaurant every day, do you know their names?

This little bird with a red top on its head is in the garden all year long. I saw a picture of a “Flicker” on the web but its beak was much longer.

There is a large gray woodpecker that comes often; he is as large as a dove. The little fellow below comes also all the time. He has a lovely striped pattern on its back and a bright red head. I wonder if he is a “small” woodpecker.

It’s easier for me to take a picture of our stationary “bird” sitting on the window sill. A little bird came out of the snow to take a look at him.

On Thursday we went to see if the ice on the lake had melted. It had – just a little. The resident ducks were gingerly walking on the ice, sometimes falling in.

On Friday we managed to get the car down the driveway even though it was very slippery. We drove to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, not far from our home. We tried to walk on the road going to the top of the mountain but it was treacherous – ski poles were helpful for walking as this intrepid hiker demonstrates.

A heavy glaze of ice had hardened on the surface of the snow – it was ¼ to ½ inch thick. You could walk on top of it, it was just like an ice skating rink – your footstep would not even dent it.

We just walked a few hundred yards to the monument and turned back.

The snow looked very shiny, just like whipped cream with a heavy ice glaze on top. The footsteps made earlier in the soft snow were still there but even my husband in his big boots could not now pierce the surface of this snow.

I had never seen snow frosted with a glassy coating like this before. I tried to take photos to show this glossy effect – trees and shadows glistening on the snow. The Inuit people from the Arctic have at least 67 words to describe “snow.” I wished we had a dozen or so as this snow was not your plain everyday snow – certainly not in the Deep South.

This New Year snow gave us a week of beauty. The snow blanketing our landscape was enchanting and peaceful. For people who live with snow most of the winter this might not be such an event, but for us in Georgia, it was a fairy land.


With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

W. S. Merwin, American Poet born in 1927
2010 United States Poet Laureate

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