Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend Walks

Sunday: Hudson Mills Park

This weekend we went to some of our favorite walking spots. This morning, we walked around Hudson Mills park using various new devices. At right you can see our track as created by Len's iPhone. The google map of the park has every feature: the turnaround at the end of the parking lot, the bridge. I'm not sure if you can see the various channels of the Huron River that parallel the walking trail.

Besides the iPhone, we were trying out my new camera, which just replaced one that wore out from so much use I guess. It's also very small so I can carry it around and take pictures of what I eat or whatever interests me.

The fall colors will be brighter in a couple of weeks -- in town some of the maples are already red, but here they are still quite deep green with a few early changers. Anyway I've taken photos of the same trees several years in a row, so this time I did something else.

We started out at a place where the path goes over a series of bridges between islands in the river. Someone had built a wood structure in an open area near the woods. Further on, in one of the low-lying marshy areas, a whole cluster of trees had fallen down, crossing the shallow water and upending a large emmeshed root structure about 20 feet high.

Wood Structure

Fallen trees across the water

Upended tree roots

Saturday: Matthaei Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens are another good place to walk -- and we've tested most new cameras here for years and years. We started inside the greenhouse, and continued outdoors, through the woods beside the creek. Like the river, it's rather full for this time of year as it's been raining often.

A cycad in the greenhouse

From inside a sculpture that has recently been constructed in the garden

I'm convinced that if you took refuge inside this sculpture, you would be safe from alien abduction. Better than a tin-foil hat, I think. Though from a distance I thought it was a reuse for old kettledrums.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bird Hills Park: A Walk With Prue

Prue looking at the soft ground beside a downed tree

Prue knew the name of every plant except this one

The Climbing Tree -- world famous
(All right, it's famous to all who walk in Bird Hills Park)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quotes from "War and Peace"

"Moscow meanwhile was empty. ... It was as deserted as a dying, queenless hive is deserted.
"In a queenless hive there is no life left. Yet at a superficial glance it seems as much alive as other hives.
"In the hot rays of the Midday sun the bees soar as gaily around the queenless hive as around other living hives; from a distance it smells of honey like the rest, and bees fly into and out of it just the same. Yet one has but to watch it a little to see that there is no life in the hive....
"So was Moscow deserted, as Napoleon, weary, uneasy and frowning paced up and down at the Kamerkolenzhsky wall..." (p. 815-817: a three page extended simile describing every aspect of the dying hive)

"A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child dreads bees, and says the object of the bee is to sting people. A poet admires the bee, sipping honey from the cup of the flower, and says the object of the bee is to sip the nectar of the flower. A beekeeper, noticing that the bee gathers pollen and brings it to the hive, says that the objet of the bee is to gather honey. Another beekeeper ... says that the object of the bee is the perpetuation of its race. The botanist observes that the bee flying with the pollen fertilises the pistil, and in this he sees the object of the bee. Another, watching the hybridisation of plants, sees that the bee contributes to that end also, and he may say that the bee's object is that. But the final aim of the bee is not exhausted by one or another, or a third aim, which the human intellect is capable of discovering. The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of such aims, the more obvious it becomes that the final aim is beyond its reach.
"All that is within the reach of man is the observation of the analogy of the life of the bee with other manifestations of life. And the same is true with the final amis of historical persons and of nations." (p. 1060-1061)

"Just as it is difficult to explain why the ants hurry back to a scattered ant-hill, some dragging away from it bits of refuse, eggs, and corpses, while others run back again, and what is their object in crowding together, overtaking one another, fighting with each other, so it would be hard to give the reasons that induced the Russians, after the departure of the French, to flock back to the place which had been known as Moscow." (p. 1034)

"To a flock of sheep the sheep who is every evening driven by the shepherd into a special pen to feed, and becomes twice as fat as the rest, must seem to be a genius. And the circumstance that every evening that sheep does not come into the common fold, but into a special pen full of oats, and that that same sheep grows fat and is killed for mutton, must present itself to the minds of the other sheep as a singular conjunction of genius with a whole series of exceptional chances." (p. 1055)

"The Frenchman is conceited from supposing himself mentally and physically to be inordinately fascinating both to men and to women. An Englishman is conceited on the ground of being a citizen of the best-constituted state in the world, and also because he as an Englishman always knows what is the correct thing to do, and knows that everything that he, as an Englishman, does do is indisputably the correct thing. An Italian is conceited from being excitable and easily forgetting himself and other people. A Russian is conceited precisely because he knows nothing and cares to know nothing, since he does not believe it possible to know anything fully. A conceited German is the worst of them all... for he imagines that he possesses the truth in a science of his own invention, which is to him absolute truth." (p. 596-597)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Morning on the Campus

A butterfly garden (full of bees today -- too chilly for butterflies) is now adjacent to the Exhibit Museum. I didn't know the museum guardians were basketball players, but it looks as if they are.

Friday, September 11, 2009


On my walks in California, I saw many beautiful and imaginative gates and entrances. Here in the midwest, front yards and gardens tend to be more open and public, with private spaces in the back yards. In my neighborhood, there are only a few elaborate gates, like the one above.

People with gates frequently leave them more or less permanently open.

Some homes have stairways and other decorative elements to welcome visitors -- the most lavish of these in our neighborhood is above. It belongs to a house called "The Hermitage."

Most of the walks, gates, and entrances are pretty standard. The oldest style has a straight cement walk from the sidewalk to the door. Some people have replaced the cement with brick. You also see good old chain-link gates and fences. The KEEP OUT sign is the exception, not the rule!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

From the Toledo Museum

We began our visit to the Toledo Art Museum with the early 20th century, and I was quite taken with the similarity of this Brancusi head to African heads. I have the impression that although the museum has a small collection, every item is a masterpiece. The arrangement and documentation of the works is remarkably well done. For example, the single room of African art (which we were heading for) is in between two rooms with early 20th century artists.

Many museums have questions for thought on the panels describing a work: here, I often thought they were good questions that I would actually like to think about. Frequently at other museums, I feel the writers are insulting my intelligence.

Baule Gold Pendant, Ivory Coast

Palm Wine Cup, Kuba people, Congo
The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutola is a great book, which I read a long time ago. The "drinkard" is from a good family, but overindulges in this beverage, which naturally ferments in the trunks of certain palm trees. I was really interested to see this vessel for consuming the wine.

Senufo Headdress, Ivory Coast
This has thematic similarity to the mask we bought recently in Washington D.C. The hornbill, which is the only motif on our mask, is one of several animals on this mask, along with a hyena, wild boar, chameleon, and ram. The function of this mask is spiritual protection and it is said to be able to emit fire (I don't know if that's literal or symbolic). In the background is a mask that once belonged to the early 20th century artist Andre Derain.

Hornbill Mask, Dan People, Liberia

Gu Mask, Guro People, Ivory Coast
Most of the masks and other objects in this museum are antiques up to 100 years old, which is unusual and demonstrates how excellent this small collection is.

Friday, September 04, 2009

African Art

On our recent trip, we shopped at two African art stores in Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington D.C. and we also visited the African art museum of the Smithsonian. At Bazaar Atlas, where our original two African masks were purchased around 12 years ago, we bought another mask (see above photos of our new and older masks). The proprietor told us it came from Burkina Faso. We think it is from the Senufo people who live in Burkina Faso, as well as Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and the extreme south of Mali, according to this website, which states:
"The Senufo produce a rich variety of sculptures, mainly associated with the poro society. The sculptors and metalsmiths, endogamous groups responsible for making the cult objects live on their own in a separate part of the village. The attitude shown toward them by other Senufo is a mixture of fear and respect, owing to their privileged relationship with the natural forces that they are capable of channeling in a sculpture. During initiations, headpieces are worn that have a flat, vertical, round or rectangular board on top decorated with paint or pierced work. ... Large statues representing hornbills (often seen also on masks) and used in the lo society as symbols of fertility are the standing birds called porpianong. Figures of the hornbill are used in initiation, and groups of birds on a pole are trophies for the best farmer."

At the Smithsonian, we saw a number of interesting art works, though were somewhat surprised that the overall selection was not as good as that of the Detroit Art Institute. In the foyer was another Linguist Staff from Ghana, and we also enjoyed the masks in a special collection on exhibit there.