The Nature of California

November 13, 2017 at 9:45 pm (Art, California, Family)

The bark of the Madrone Tree is reddish in color. When you handle it, it feels like some sort of heavy fabric, pliable and singularly lacking in the expected brittleness.

Bet you didn’t know that…

Neither did I. But this I learned and more, while walking and hiking in the woods and forests of the Bay Area, more specifically the Peninsular region of Northern California. The photo above was taken in Huddart Park in Woodside. We hiked the Bay Tree Trail.   Being enveloped by these woods was delicious. Most of the time, we were the only ones there. The words that kept recurring to me were: ‘This is the forest primeval….’

From Bay Trees such as these, we get the leaves of culinary fame. Growing in profusion along the eponymous trail,  they gave their scent to the air around us.

I’m a great lover of ferns; they are so primordial. They were plentiful along this trail.

And then. of course,  there are the majestic redwoods….

My younger brother, who loves and savors the nature of California

We went for a walk in a place called Hidden Villa. Nestled in a nook of Los Altos Hills – when they say ‘Hidden,’ they mean Hidden!’ – this is a nature preserve with a mission, to wit:

Hidden Villa is a nonprofit educational organization that uses its organic farm, wilderness, and community to teach and provide opportunities to learn about the environment and social justice.

From the Hidden Villa website

At Hidden Villa, we encountered a lush growth of trees and shrubs, a modest number of sheep, goats, cows, horses – oh, and plenty of children on school outings. All added to the magic of the afternoon.

We even came across a brook that was actually babbling! This was significant, as many dry creek beds were pointed out to us in the course of this visit. In a dry land, that sound is magical.

Hidden Villa was established by Frank and Josephine Duveneck.   The Duvenecks come across as entirely admirable people, but something else was going on for me as well. ‘Duveneck’ is an unusual name, and as soon as I saw it on the information brochure, I recognized it as a name I’d seen before – and recently, too.

Of late, I’ve been reading quite  a bit about American artists of the late nineteenth century, and the early part of the twentieth. The father of Frank Duveneck, husband of Josephine pictured above, was also (confusingly) named Frank. Frank the elder was a painter of some repute. He was married to Elizabeth  Boott, herself a painter as well. Elizabeth Boott and her father Francis were good friends of the novelist Henry James (someone I am always reading, and reading about).

All of this was revealed to me in the Wikipedia entry for Frank Duveneck. (I had simply googled ‘Duveneck.’) Click on the name of the son – Frank Boott Duveneck – and you’re taken straight to the entry for Hidden Villa.

In 1886, Lizzie Boott gave birth to a son Frank; she died of pneumonia in 1888, leaving behind her small son and a devastated husband.

Apple Tree Branches, by Elizabeth Boott

Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Boott, by Frank Duveneck

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Linden Tree Books in Los Altos specializes in Children’s books. In this era of disappearing bookstores, it was a pleasure to spend time there.

When I mentioned that I’d like a book for my four-year-old grandson, a lover of cars and other means of transportation, one of the sales associates suggested this:

My sister-in-law favored this:

And I simply coundn’t leave without The Water Hole by Graeme Base, a truly amazing illustrator:

This shop also carries a small but carefully chosen selection of books for adults. Luckily, the marvelous News of the World was there. Handing it to my sister-in-law I exclaimed “You have to read this!” Naturally it made the cut.

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My lucky brother and sister-in-law live amidst great beauty. In their yard, a lemon tree flourishes:

In the yard also is a sign of the times, alas….

Finally, in the kitchen of their lovely home, my sister-in-law, a gifted and enthusiastic cook, whipped up one heck of a moussaka!

Yours Truly helped as best I could. This assistance mostly consisted of measuring out spices and other foodstuffs, stirring the bechamel sauce, and struggling with recalcitrant containers:

When finally assembled, the dish was delicious!
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On our final night, a harvest moon shone brightly:

Ah California, mi amor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Once again, Etta and Grandma ‘Berta visit the Art Institute of Chicago

October 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm (Art, Family)

Etta and I enjoyed our first visit to the Art Institute of Chicago so much that we decided to go again. This we were able to do, earlier this month.

This time we entered through the Modern Wing.

We went first to an architecture display.  One of the exhibits allowed you to draw lines on a screen just by waving your hands around! Etta enjoyed this quite a bit.

Next we went to the French Impressionist Gallery. We have decided that this is one of our favorite spaces in the museum. We saw some of our old friends, and some new art as well.

And then of course there’s Georges Seurat’s marvelous canvas, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (‘Un dimanche aprèsmidi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte‘). Etta has learned about the technique of pointillism used by Seurat in the creation of this masterpiece. As a result, she refers to it as ‘the dot painting.’

A beautiful child, a beautiful painting…Life is good

One pleasing result of time spent with the French Impressionists: Etta now delights in  the art of Claude Monet:

Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect, 1903

 

Irises 1914-1917

 

Étretat, The Beach and the Falaise d’Amont, 1885

For this visit, we were lucky to come across some lovely objets d’art.

We then proceeded to the Asian and ancient art galleries. We had our eye out for a truly strange object that had fascinated us on our previous visit and that I’d somehow failed to photograph. As we rounded a corner on our way to the Artist’s Studio in the Ryan Learning Center, Etta spotted it – “There it is!” we chorused together.

This is actually a some kind of Roman theater prop. (I had thought it was Asian.) Etta attempted to enter into the spirit of the thing:

Next, we went to the Artist’s Studio. In this gracious space, tables and art supplies are freely provided for the children. We came here last time, and Etta was looking forward to a return visit.

Finally, it was time to visit the Museum Shop. This being partly a celebration of Etta’s birthday, I encouraged her to pick out several items that appealed to her. (Actually, I might’ve said, “Knock yourself out, Kid!” – I don’t quite remember.) Museums are among my favorite shopping venues, and this one did not disappoint – quite the opposite, in fact. We were both like kids in a candy store (Etta being the actual kid, of course).

Etta understood what was being asked of her and rose wonderfully to the occasion. As befits her generous nature, she picked out a nifty toy for little brother Welles, and a set of coasters for her Mom and Dad. Finally, for herself she selected this lovely tote bag:

Finally, after this thoroughly exhilarating day, we trooped back outside, to be hailed by Etta’s Dad, who’d been with Welles at a birthday party not far from the museum. Welles – known to some of us as ‘Wellesy’ – was also on hand to greet us; Mom too.
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The Art Institute is located within the grounds of Grant Park (much as the Metropolitan Museum of Art dwells within the precincts of Central Park). When we initially arrived at the museum, it was not yet open. It being a beautiful day, Etta and I crossed  the street and strolled a bit through the park.

We found a peaceful water feature and sat down on the coping above it.   People had thrown coins into the water and presumably made wishes in the process. Etta wished to do this, and I provided her with the means. She solemnly explained to me that you shouldn’t reveal the substance of your wish until after the coin had  been tossed. I concurred. She followed suit, making several wishes as she did so. A benign sun shone down on us.

I admit that I can’t recall Etta’s wishes. I know that I had only one: that this moment could last forever, and that my heartfelt gratitude would be known.

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A Story for Etta and Welles

September 1, 2017 at 8:12 pm (Family)

Last month, Grandma and Grandpa came for a visit.

They got to see Welles and Etta honing their computer skills.

Welles and Etta have just been to Yellowstone National Park! This is why Welles has a nice new stuffed bison. Etta has one too.

Etta and Welles are about to leave for a Superhero-themed birthday party.
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During the visit, Welles and Etta made a fort. This is an activity which all children seem to enjoy.

 

 

(A fort can be a great hiding place.)

Grandma, Etta, and Welles went for a walk to the park. Along the way, they saw some interesting sights:

As they walk, they hold hands, ever mindful of safety.

Etta really loves her little brother! The feeling is mutual.

 

Sometimes the sheer joy of being alive takes hold. And then you just have to take off running! (That’s okay, as long as you stop at the intersection. Welles  and Etta are very good about that.)

Etta and Welles both have birthdays coming soon. Happy birthday to both of you!

 

 

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Joan

May 21, 2017 at 7:15 pm (Family, Remembrance)

My beloved sister-in-law Joan has said farewell to life in this world. She leaves behind a large circle of family and friends, all of whom cherished her wit, cheerfulness, loyalty, and unstinting generosity. These qualities, which she possessed in abundance, will remain with us.

Several years ago, Joan and I were talking about poetry and the possibility of an afterlife. Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” came into the conversation – specifically this passage:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
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Joan said that is how she thought of life and the existence that follows: God sends out all these souls from a secret stash of sorts; then after their appointed time on Earth, He calls them home.
His stash of souls has just been greatly enriched: Joan’s own soul now dwells among them.

Joan, at her wedding in 1964. Radiant then; radiant now

 

 

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Things of Beauty, for Joan

May 14, 2017 at 8:26 pm (Art, Family, Music)

For my entire adult life, Joan has been more sister than sister-in-law: an exemplar of quiet strength, generosity, and compassion, sustained at all times by her unwavering Jewish faith.

Like me, Joan has always loved the Impressionists. For Hanukah last December, I sent her Norbert Wolf’s magnificent new volume:

She was thrilled to receive it, filled  as it is with images we both love. (I also own this book.) Here are some of those images, with accompanying music by the great Impressionist composer, Claude Debussy:

View from Artist’s Window at Eragny, by Camille Pissarro

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, by John Singer Sargent

For the Little One, by William Merritt Chase

Ballet Class, by Edgar Degas

Woman with Parasol (Madame Monet and Her Son), by Claude Monet

In a Park, by Berthe Morisot

La Loge, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir


Femmes au Jardin, par Claude Monet

Mother and Child Against a Green Background, by Mary Cassatt

The Pergola, by Sylvestro Lega

Irises in Monet’s Garden, by Claude Monet

Poppy Field in Argenteuil, by Claude Monet

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Etta and Grandma ‘Berta visit the Art Institute of Chicago

April 28, 2017 at 4:06 pm (Art, Family)

My granddaughter Etta loves to make art:

So I thought she might enjoy a visit to one of our country’s premier Art Museums:

Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879: Michigan Avenue Entrance

This visit being for Etta, I let her set the agenda. First, we worked on a craft together at the Ryan Education Center. Then we proceeded to wander the galleries. First stop: Asian art, where we encountered many strange and beautiful objects.

Suspension Bell (Bo), Eastern Zhou dynasty (770–256 B.C.), first half of 5th century BC China

 

Bodhisattva, Tang dynasty, China (AD 618–907), 725-50

 

Seated Bodhisattva, c 775 AD Japan

 

Bird Shaped Ewer with Crowned Rider Holding a Bowl, Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), 12th century Korea

(What is it about that celadon green….I can envision an entire room filled with that dreamy color.)

Then, on to European painting and sculpture.  As we came through the doors to these galleries, Etta was quite literally stopped in her tracks. “It’s the Little Dancer!” she exclaimed. Her eyes grew round and saucer-wide. “There’s a story about this,” she continued excitedly, “and it’s true! I have a book about it.”

Little Dancer, Age Fourteen, ca 1881, Edgar Degas

 

Little Dancer and her Little Admirer!

Other attractions in this room:

Renoir’s Two Sisters (On the Terrace), 1881:

Gustave Caillbotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877.

(O painting, so beloved of tote bag makers, there you actually are! You can get this one from CafePress, last I checked.)

And of course, the unutterably wonderful “Sunday Afternoon on la Grande Jatte” (Le Dimanche Après-midi à L’ÎIe de La Grande Jatte”), 1884, by Georges Seurat:

By happenstance, we stumbled into a room full of gorgeous paperweights. This was the Arthur Rubloff Collection:

From time to time we found ourselves wandering through the museum’s modern wing, a structure designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano and opened in 2009. It is wonderfully light and spacious.

Then it was time for the Thorne Miniature Rooms. Etta was enchanted by these, and so was I.

(This  was Etta’s day to be pretty in pink. She received several compliments on her outfit from museum staff!)

Of course, no trip to an art museum is complete without a visit to  the shop. Etta selected several small decorated boxes. I threw in a book of postcards depicting the Thorne Miniatures. Etta also picked out a gift for her little brother Welles, another budding artist, as can be seen here: 

The Art Institute of Chicago is the second largest art museum in the U.S. (New York City’s fabled “Met” is the largest.) What a gorgeous place it is, filled with countless treasures beautifully and accessibly displayed. And to be in such a place with my lovely Etta – well, it was a very special day!

 

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Post election thoughts

November 9, 2016 at 10:34 am (Family, United States of America)

What I was hearing from many people was that their only wish was for this election to be over.

It is now over.

Of course, each individual must plot his or her own course of action. I can only speak for myself. I am not moving any time soon. I have no plans to travel, except to visit beloved family and friends who live at a distance in this vast and beautiful land.

I will always be thankful to live in a country that provided a refuge for my grandparents as they fled persecution and had nowhere else to turn. Once here, they were able to work, meet, fall in love, and begin life anew.

I owe my existence to their courage and determination.

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Of love and baseball

October 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm (Art, baseball, Family)

So for once, I turned up in the right place at the right time…

Naturally the primary reason for my weekend visit to Chicago was to spend time with these most excellent people:

img_20161023_143546‘Mr. Bones’ joined the family for  this portrait; the children are very excited about the approaching Halloween festivities.

img_20161023_143016The presence of my daughter-in-law’s parents was a most welcome bonus.

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ettagypsy2

We got to preview Etta’s Halloween costume. She’s going to be a fortune teller.

Back Camera

This is a far cry from her first Halloween. At the age of about three weeks, she was a ladybug! As for Welles, he wants only to be Spiderman, his current favorite action hero.

wellesasspidey

Amidst all the family activities, a great drama was unfolding in the world of baseball: the Cubs were on the verge of winning their first National League Pennant since 1945. I’m not much of a sports fan, but I have a residual affection for the game of baseball. Growing up in northern New Jersey in the 1950s, with the New York Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he New York Giants nearby, it would have been hard to stay aloof from the National Pastime. My brothers and I didn’t even try. At one point, my older brother actually wrote a letter to the Yankees – the team we rooted for – to tell them of a magical occurrence: every  time he wore his Yankee baseball cap, the Yanks won!

My Dad loved baseball too. And Dad, you would have appreciated that game last Saturday. The Cubs hit the ground running, scoring immediately in the first inning. The high octane drama continued, with pitcher Kyle Hendricks keeping the Dodgers scoreless and very nearly hitless (he allowed two). I loved watching him. His  form was a thing of  beauty; his face an absolute mask of concentration. The game ended with an electrifying double play, clinching a 5-0 win over the LA Dodgers. Then, all you-know-what broke loose:

At 9:45, cheers erupted, not only from our gang but outside  too, up and down the street. Car horns honking, fireworks, police sirens (but things did not get out of hand). Chicago is a city that’s taken its lumps in the press lately, so this healthy dose of good news was especially appreciated.

Sunday morning we were greeted by this Chicago Tribune front page story:

cubswin

Now, two games into the 2016 World Series, the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians each have one win under their respective belts. Of course, I’ll continue  to root for the Cubs, but no matter which team wins the championship, there’s no taking away the gift that the Cubs bestowed on the people of Chicago last Saturday.

And as the weekend drew to a close, our dear Etta, who loves to paint and draw, made this gift for Ron and me:

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The Book of Etta

October 1, 2016 at 2:59 pm (Family)

In honor of her approaching birthday, we present Etta, her parents, her brother, and any other interested parties, with The Book of Etta!

From an  early age, Etta has loved  to travel with the family. She enjoys their frequent visit to the beautiful mountains of Jackson, Wyoming. Here she is with her Dad. jacksonbeauty  At an early age she became an avid beachcomber. Here she is, fashionably attired as always,  enjoying the sun and sand. dadbeach (Once again, Dad’s along for the ride!)

Etta takes just as much pleasure in local outings with family and friends. Here we all are last year at a picnic to celebrate the end of the school year. It was a typical Spring day in beautiful Chicago: mid fifties, spitting rain, high winds… But we had fun anyway! (The company was excellent.)

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dancing  Etta’s always ready to cut a rug while playing at home. Little brother Welles – himself a recent birthday celebrant –  often joins in the fun.

13239427_10154600152858912_9032734599531339471_n-copy In addition, Etta has performed at dance recitals and been fêted by her proud family and friends!


Etta likes a variety of sports. Here she instructs her Mom in the fine art of wielding a lacrosse stick while playing defense: img_1996-x2 Etta is bold in the pursuit of athletic achievement: 14115562_10154043844712408_2684280195702690897_o And then, of course, there was the famous ski adventure. (She was only four years old!)

But let us not forget her artistic side. One day when we were at home doing various tasks, she found the time to create this flower out of found materials: img_20160605_160440

Finally, I just have to compliment Etta on her wardrobe choices. As a grandmother, I can tell you: You could go crazy buying clothes for the little ones! img_1608-x2  ettaturquoise Sometimes she just likes to dress up for fun:img_1833-x2

Whether it’s the first day of the new school year or on the trail in Jackson, Etta always has time for her little brother.

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I could go on – what grandparent couldn’t – but I’m sure you get the idea. As you turn six, Dearest Etta, may you discover more and more people and things in the world to bring you joy!

The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Happy Birthday!!

With love from Grandpa Ron and Grandma ‘Berta

 

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Welles is Three Years Old!

September 13, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Family)

wellesandmom

Welles with his beautiful Mom

 

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With big sister Etta

Words seems inadequate, so I will just say, from Ron and me, from the  bottom of our hearts: Happy Birthday, Beloved Little Boy!

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