Street music

Solo sax, such a sweet soulful sound. I first heard it as I walked up 17th Street, well below Chestnut, and it filled the street so totally it was hard to tell exactly where it was coming. I’m fascinated by the power music has to evoke emotion, in this case a satisfying sense of yearning, a sadness that still contained some spark of joy. Opposites of the heart, all mixed together. I gave him all the change in my pocket and later wished I’d given him more in gratitude for sharing this gift.

Keep on loving

Boarding the bus. An ordinary, everyday part of city life. I’ve been remembering 9/11 this morning, praying for the victims and their families and all those first responders, thinking about the shock and fear I felt on that day and the days that followed. My husband was overseas, my son was the right age to be sucked into the war machine if things had gone that way. I didn’t know if life would ever be the same again. And eventually it was, and it wasn’t.

I think the best way to stand up to the terrorists, whether they be religious extremists from abroad or white supremacists raised up in our own good land, is to go right on living our ordinary lives. Get on the bus and go to work. Ride the subway. Go to church. Take the elevator to the top of tall city buildings and admire the view.

But most of all, keep on loving. Don’t ever let fear close your heart.


I’ve been reworking some old photos with new software I’ve been learning to use. Of course any time you go to black and white in New Mexico it’s going to look like a pale imitation of Ansel Adams, but I did it anyway.

I’m moved by the looming presence of this church, the way it reaches for the sky but is so solidly grounded at the same time.

“The heart of the Christian path is learning to manifest the presence of God, who is already in us, through our manner of life. Our vocation is to make Christ tangible.

—David Keller

Lessons from rocks

My granddaughter spent her first day at the beach collecting shell fragments. She took them back to the house and painted them purple, her new favorite color (replacing “rainbow”). The next day she moved on to rocks. It was low tide and to her delight they were everywhere. She picked up every rock she saw—a few dozen by the time she was done—and carried them away in a big red bucket.

I was a little more discriminating, searching out the ones that were small and smooth. My favorite is the ovoid pinkish rock pointing to 1 o’clock in the picture. Her parents left her rock collection behind when they headed home from our big family beach week, and I added a few of hers to my own before I returned the rest to nature.

Over the years I’ve brought home rocks from beaches all over the world. I put them in a desk drawer in little plastic bags, sure I’ll remember where each one came from, but in time I always forget. This time, at least for now, my Ocean City rocks are on top of my desk in a dish my daughter made way back in a high school ceramics class.

These are the things I want to remember when I see them:

My family is the most important thing to me in the world.

Each little rock in the the dish is interesting; some are more appealing than others. But they’re best when they’re all together, a whole that’s bigger than the sum of the parts.

The smooth ones don’t start out that way. My granddaughter says they get smooth because “the sand pushes down on them.” Life is like that sometimes.

And one more thing, this one not a lesson from rocks. A painted purple shell fragment is prettier than you might think when it’s the handiwork of someone you love.


An early portrait of the photographer herself. The tradition of the extended family shore vacation took root when my kids were very small. We did this every summer for a number of years, but it fell off when the kids became teenagers and life got to be a lot more complicated. This year, though, we’re doing it again with a whole new generation. We happen to be people who are bound not only by love and by DNA but also by a variety of little rituals that have developed over the years, and one of those is that my brother, the keeper of the family photos, always brings an assortment of old pictures to share. This year’s collection includes this photo of me at about the age of 4. I remember that my parents gave me a Brown Starflex camera for my birthday when I was about 7 or 8, but apparently my interest in photography goes back even farther than I remembered.

Connemara again

We’re back from Ireland and getting past the jet lag – though I’m still waking when the sun rises over the Atlantic somewhere a few time zones east of here – but it will be a while before I have all the pictures straightened out. It has taken more work than usual to get them to show something close to what I saw. The Irish landscape is more than pretty. It’s one of those places that seems to have an elusive quality of presence all its own, and it’s been a job to try to bring that out. But here at last is my favorite photo from Connemara. I can’t say what I would have made of the place if we’d visited on a different day, a day when the sun was shining. It turned out to be the only day on the trip that was rainy and grey all day, so the Connemara we saw was rocky and bleak and lush and inviting all at the same time. Both photos – the fog-shrouded hill and the flowers blooming on the edge of the bog – are from Connemara National Park.

Listening to the kids

Matt Molloy is a member of the famous group called The Chieftains, and his pub in Westport is known as a venue for really good Irish music, so you have to give the kid points for chutzpah. He got a lot of attention and quite a few contributions in the time we watched him.

The sculpture in Rosses Point is called “Waiting on Shore” and according to the plaque at its base, it “reflects the age-old anguish of a seafaring people who watched and waited for the safe return of loved ones.” I was touched by the pathos of the arms stretched out toward the sea, but I didn’t know quite what to make of the way the dress stuck straight out to a point behind her. It took a child to see it as a the perfect grab hold for climbing.

We’ve encountered some delightful children on this trip. Yesterday one of our fellow passengers on the shuttle bus to Glenveagh Castle was a little guy who was very unimpressed by the idea of visiting a castle but just thrilled to be on a bus. It seems that buses are his passion, and he had a lot to say about them. 

We were in the back of the bus and he was in the front, so we couldn’t see him but we could hear him very clearly as spoke with great enthusiasm about buses in general and about different types of buses including race buses. I don’t know if there really is such a thing but I love the idea that something we think of as basically rather cumbersome could be sleek and swift. Maybe there’s hope for all dreams.

Distant rain

I haven’t been happy overall with the pictures I’ve been taking here. The colors haven’t seemed quite right. I’ve been spending a long time trying to adjust and finally realized that the problem is the camera doesn’t know how to handle so much green. I need a special setting called “Ireland.”

On rainbows

Rainbow view from the breakfast table at our B&B in Westport, Ireland. If it’s going to rain all the time, I guess at least there’s that.