Turning Night Into Day

There was once a wise old rabbi who asked his students, “How can you know the exact moment when night ends and day begins?”

“I think I know,” said one of his pupils.  “Is it when, from a great distance, you can tell a dog from a sheep?”

“No,” said the rabbi.

“I know,” said another.  “It must be when, from a distance, you can tell a date palm from a fig tree.”

“No,” said the rabbi.

His students looked at each other and then at the rabbi.  “We don’t know,” they said.  “Please tell us.”

And the rabbi replied, “It is when you look into the face of any person from any nation…

…man…

…or woman…

…Jew or gentile…

…and see your brother…

…or your sister.”

”And that is the blessed moment,” said the rabbi,  “when the dawn is come.”

c2014NaomiBaltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime.

Fifty Shades of Yellow

Purple is my favorite color, and it always has been.  But I love yellow for its cheerfulness.

It’s my daughter Bea’s favorite color.

And she wears it well, don’t you think?

She isn’t the only one.

Whether yellow comes as a tasteful accent…

…a warm background…

…a pleasing bit of contrast…

…or a big splash of color…

…Ma Nature wears it well too.

…and so do her children.

We’ve borrowed this sunny hue from nature to brighten our homes on the outside…

…and on the inside too.

It shines a cheerful light through the darkness…

…and lifts our spirits.

It warms us from the inside out.

Yellow comes in many eye-catching colors and goes by many names…goldenrod, schoolbus, taxicab yellow…

Maize, saffron, lemon…mmm, yellow never smelled so good.

 Yellow means different things to different people.  Does this signal mean approach slowly?  Or go very very fast?

It might depend on whether you’re coming…

 

…or going.

Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?

Never mind.   That’s neither here nor there.

Want to dance?

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow.

Bumbershots

In my hometown of Seattle, there are two kinds of people.  Those who carry “bumbershoots”…

…and those who don’t.

I always regarded carriers as sissies, but before we left for Europe, my sister Constance talked me into buying an umbrella, and I’m glad she did.  We had one day to explore the city of Liege…

…and one day in Paris.

It rained both days.

What are you gonna do?  As the sign says, “You are here.”

You can’t make hay while the sun don’t shine, but there’s no better time to snap bumbershots.

We decided to just relax and enjoy it, from the bus stop in front of the Guillemins train station in Liege

…to the citadel park overlooking Liege.

By the end of the day, even with our umbrellas…

…we were so saturated that we had to find our way home by map wad.

In Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg is the go-to place for pond sailing.

Just as we got there, the last boat was hauled out of the water…

…and wheeled off into dry dock.

But it was still perfect weather for dads…

…ducks, and little children.

Not to mention friends…

..and lovers.

After all, this was Paris.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for The Weekly Travel Theme: Relaxing.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturated.

Streamlined

When I told my Belgian friend Johan that my sister Constance and I would be staying in the hotel across from the Guillemins train station, he said, “You will see the most amazing train station in Belgium.”  Guillemins was near the historic heart of Liege.

I was looking forward to seeing something old and elegant, like Grand Central Station in New York.  It was not at all what I expected.

We arrived in the afternoon.  Sunlight streamed in through skylights, highlighting an amazing structure of steel, glass, and white concrete.

Our eyes were drawn by graceful lines and patterns inside and out.

It was like beaming into our own episode of Star Trek.

After a wonderful visit with our dear friends, we had to catch a very early train out of Liege.

Sleepy-eyed, we left our warm beds to board the 5:30AM train to Paris.

One glimpse of the station lighting up the darkness was enough to stir our senses and wake us up.

Night or day, Guillemins is an inspiration.

A work of art.

True, it was not what we expected.

No stained glass.

No iron grillwork

No weathered stone that echoed with footsteps from the past.

Life is a blend of new and old.  We treasure tradition, but new and unexpected can be a good thing too.

And the trains still run on time.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns.
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Through.

The Inside Story

When my daughter Bea was studying at the Yiddish Book Center in Massachusetts, I went to  visit her.  We zipped down the turnpike to Old Sturbridge Village.

The village is a living museum including 59 restored buildings, a working farm and water-powered mills.  There were craftsmen…

…artisans…

…tradesmen…

 …and re-enactors.

We were invited to look through a window in time…

We saw village life as it was lived between the 1790s and the 1830s.

I enjoyed the opportunity to see the old buildings from the inside out.

 Everywhere we went there were whispers, hinting at the inside story.

Upon reflection, one thing was clear…


Just as we do today,  those people worked hard…

…fell in love…or not…

…cherished their children…

…and valued their friends.

Some things never change.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside.

The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

When visiting the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio with my cousins June and Nancy, a huge sculpture immediately captured my attention.

It dominated the back wall of the entry hall, a 3D rainbow of recycled paper, cardboard, and plastic.


The sculptor, Lisa Hoke, titled the piece “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be” in a nod to baseball player Yogi Berra, who was famous for employing the English language in surprising and humorous ways.  I don’t know exactly what Lisa intended when she chose that title for this piece, but it seems appropriate.

This work of art features colorful patterns created by discarded packaging of consumer goods, mostly paper and plastic.

Trash, really.


But Lisa has mindfully and creatively transformed refuse into something beautiful– and useful, too—for art satisfies the senses and stimulates thoughts and feelings.

Here’s what this piece brought to my mind: We are trashing our planet.  Landfills are overflowing and oceans have become dumping grounds.  Imagine if we could do what Lisa has done, only in our real lives and on a larger scale–by making less garbage, of course, but finding ways to make the most of it.

Our deck is made of recycled plastic.  Paper products like toweling, books, and stationary are made of recycled paper.  Instead of adding countless plastic grocery bags to the landfill, cloth shopping bags can be used again and again.

There’s no doubt that Yogi was right—the future ain’t what it used to be.  But wouldn’t it be a fine thing to recycle the old future into a better one for ourselves and our children?

All photos and words c 2013Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Sculpture.

The Very Picture

The king was plagued with the heavy burden of responsibility. “Drought and famine, war and rebellion, disease and disaster, one after the other!  I must find a way to quiet my troubled heart, so I can sleep at night!”  He offered a reward to the artist who could paint him a picture of perfect peace.  Artists came from all over the kingdom, each bringing his own vision of peace.

 

One painted a sheltered mountain valley.

Another a pristine lake, still and calm, a perfect mirror to reflect a clear blue sky.

There was an orchard in full bloom.

Fluffy clouds with silver linings.


Cheerful sunny days.

And so many sunsets!

The king studied them all, and at last he decided.  He chose a painting of a waterfall, tumbling down a mountainside, beneath a dark, angry sky.

“But your majesty,” said his counselor. “Why this painting? This is a portrayal of chaos.”

“Look closely,” said the king.  He pointed to a sheltered spot behind the waterfall, where there was a ledge between the jagged rocks. Upon that ledge a mother bird had built her nest.  Snuggled beneath her wings, safe and warm, were her precious chicks.

“I understand now,” said the king. “Peace happens not only where there is an absence of strife and suffering.   In the midst of chaos, if there is calm in your heart, will you know the true meaning of peace.”

(Mrs. Bradford Ripley and Her Children, 1852. By Robert Walter Weir, Detroit Institute of Art)

(Sculpture for his friend Robert Arthur by Samuel Murray, Detroit Institute of Art)

Copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Enveloped.

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Travel Theme: Peaceful

You Can’t Change That

Like a brilliant sunset, it’s here and then gone.

As fleet as a bird on the wing…

Passing as unnoticed as the morning dew…

…even as it goes speeding down the track of no return.

From here.

To here.

Like a river, it flows, with its twists and turns, its highs and lows.

But mostly highs.

But it’s just as they say.

 Time…

…and tides wait for no one.

Childhood, theirs–not ours–slips away like water through our fingers.

 

Or a kite caught up in a strong wind.

As warm and wonderful as a hug, but just as fleeting.

Suddenly they’re all grown up; intelligent, creative, compassionate human beings, ready to make their contributions to the world.  Which is the whole point, isn’t it?

Their childhood is a gift…

…we gave to each other.

It has its season, and then it’s gone…

Off they go to seek their fortunes.

Dang!  And just when they learned how to cook!

But here’s something they won’t know until they have children of their own.  Long after our kids are parents, long after they’ve gone gray, long after they are elderly orphans…they will still be our babies.

 photo e44fa7f6-b8ce-4182-b007-8bfc3bce5a47_zpsee121352.jpg
Neither time nor tides can ever change that.

All words and images copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgia.

Whatever the Hell It Takes

Well?  What do you think?  Is it half full or half empty?

Do you see a gray cloudy day or blue skies?

Is the task before you huge and daunting?

Or are you ready to dig in?

Of course, your perspective will be affected by where you are…

…where you’re going…

…or your current situation in life.

Timing can certainly affect your perspective.

When you have no control over certain events, you can still choose the lens through which you look.

Will this injury leave a horrible scar or provide material for a good story to tell the relatives back home?

Is this an obstacle to folding clean laundry, or the cutest kid in the world?

Do you feel the damp and see the darkness, or admire the view?

It’s not always this easy to find a happy place….

…or even the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes you have to write yourself a better ending.

It helps to have someone who understands.

Who can lend a hand.

Who can help you put things in perspective.

If you can’t change your path, then do whatever the hell it takes to change your perspective.

Sometimes the glass really is half empty, but who says you can’t fill up the darn thing?  In fact, fill up another one too, for a friend.

All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck.
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Refreshing.

Tempest in a Teapot

When my daughter Bea and I were in England, I took her to the picturesque little town of Rye.

 

Rye was a Cinque Port, charged in 1155 by Royal Charter to provide ships for the royal navy, and rewarded with tax-exempt status and other privileges.

Rye was situated on the coast until The Great Storm of 1287 silted the harbor, and transformed the coastal port into a river port, two miles inland.

The town’s history is colorful, with smuggling, and raids by and against the French, just across the Channel. It’s also said to be the most haunted town in England. There’s the ghost of the girl who fell in love with a smuggler and was murdered by him for her indiscretion.  Turkey Cock Lane is haunted by the ghost of the monk bricked up alive behind a wall for trying to elope with a local lass. The mysterious boy wrapped in a shroud, and a pair of duelers reenacting their last fatal sword fight are just a few of the ghosts who frequent The Mermaid Inn.   So many stories!

Every house has a story.   In Rye, as with everywhere else in England, they like to give their houses a name.  White Vine House was very pretty.

On a narrow cobbled lane called Mermaid Street stands The Mermaid Inn, which dates back to 1156.

 It was remodeled in anticipation of a visit from Queen Elizabeth I.  On a previous trip, I stayed at The Mermaid in a room with a plaque on the door boasting that the Queen Mum had once spent the night in that very room.  I think I can truthfully say I have slept in the same bed, looked out the same window and, at least for a little while, sat on the same throne as Queen Elizabeth II’s mum!

The Mermaid Inn was so famous that the house across the street was known simply as “The House Opposite.”

 

We discovered an unusual house, with two front doors.  The owners called it, “The House With Two Front Doors.”  (Well, of course, they did!)  They even had the name painted on it in shiny gold paint.

The neighbors who lived next to The House With Two Front Doors also had a house with one distinguishing feature, a bench built into one side of the porch.  Maybe they thought the neighbors were getting too high and mighty, with their spiffy gold-painted signs and their highfalutin name.  In what seems a clear case of one downmanship, they too gave their house a name, and put up their own sign to let passersby know they were looking at “The House With the Seat.”

I want to know all the stories–big ones like The Great Storm that changed the whole coast of England overnight, compelling but heartbreaking ones like the Mary Stanford Lifeboat Disaster, in which the entire heroic rescue crew was drowned in a storm, trying to save survivors of a shipwreck who had already been saved.  Some of my favorite tales are the Tempests in the Teapots.  Those you won’t find in tour guides or history books, but you might be fortunate enough to stumble upon one.  A local told us stories about watching the filming of Cold Comfort Farm in Rye.  Afterwards we took afternoon tea in the teahouse where one scene was filmed.

Stories live all around us. Some fall into our lap like ripened fruit from a tree.  Others are hiding in nooks and crannies, waiting to be ferreted out.  Often we are left to speculate over the missing details–not unlike trying to read tea leaves in the bottom of the tea cup.  Who hid in the priest hole over the fireplace at The Mermaid Inn?  Who was left to mourn the seventeen lads lost in the Mary Stanford disaster?  Do the occupants of The House With Two Front Doors and those of The House With the Seat ever sit down together for a cup of tea?

All images and words c2013 by Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Old-fashioned.