Regal

Long ago at a local zoo (using a basic camera with limited zoom), I photographed this very proud and royal looking male blue or Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus). With his flamboyant plumage in gemstone shades of sapphire, emerald, turquoise and gold, the peacock is a fitting subject for this week’s One-a-week Photo Challenge prompt, Regal.

Native to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Indian peafowl is associated with deities in Hinduism and Buddhism and was considered a royal guardian and a symbol of paradise in India, Babylonia and Persia. Ancient Greeks believed these birds were immortal, an idea adopted by early Christians who used them to depict eternal life. The ocelli (‘eyes’) of a peafowl’s train have come to represent the all-seeing god and the heavens studded with the sun, moon and stars. Although the strutting of the peacock to display his magnificent train is a sign of pride and vanity in some cultures, in others the bird represents creativity and joy, with the quills being a metaphor for a writer’s inspiration.

The peafowl was introduced to the rest of the world, first by the upper classes as beautiful and entertaining symbols of their wealth and status, and eventually to zoos. In the Middle Ages, peafowl were considered a gustatory delicacy. Plucked and roasted birds would be presented at the feast table redressed in their feathers as if to appear alive. Apparently, they were coarse, tough and bad-tasting and were thought to cause indigestion and ‘bad humours’. Ah, well, if one has the money…

The term for a group of peafowl is bevy, but also muster, party or – most appropriate – ostentation!

The peacock lends a royal theme to this rich display of colour, form and texture: opal, garnet, amethyst, onyx and smokey quartz gems, a peacock-hued bead necklace dotted with gold, sumptuous furs and fabrics, fine stationery and a peacock-painted china cup.

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Rusted!

These two photos belong together because they were taken on the same day in the same place, and I couldn’t pick just one for this week’s One-a-week Photo Challenge prompt, Rust!

The images are of the tool shed attached to our family’s cottage, built in 1914 by my 18-year-old grandfather with guidance from his wheelchair-bound father, a former carpenter and jack-of-all-trades Who Knew Things.

The door’s hardware is original (its skeleton key is equally rusty!), and these old tools have been lovingly used by generations of gardeners.

Photographing the door was a challenge in itself, as the knob is closer to the eye (and camera lens) than the keyhole. Previous attempts resulted in either one or the other being drastically out of focus. Using advice from my photographer sister on dealing with depth of field, I managed to get this image. It’s not perfect, but I’m happy with it, and it’s a nice memento of a cherished place.

Please check out nanacathydotcom and Wild Daffodil for more rusty images!

Shadows

Just sneaking in under the wire for this week’s One-a-week Photo Challenge!

The week’s prompt has been Shadow. Of course, I couldn’t take that literally, so here’s my interpretation based on a Book of Shadows. This one happens to be a chapter heading from the wonderful Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation by Silver RavenWolf, whose many talents include a blog here on WordPress.

Many of the objects in my photo have appeared in previous posts, particularly those of October 2016, so this image also represents shadows of things past!

Thanks to nanacathydotcom and Wild Daffodil for this challenge. I’m looking forward to the next prompt, Rust!

Celestial Serenade

Today I experienced the North American total solar eclipse. Sort of. As I live in Toronto, north of the band of totality cutting centrally across the continent, ours was a semi-eclipse, with about 70% coverage. I call it the Partialclypse (cue Brian May’s Mad Max soundtrack).

There have been other solar eclipses visible in my part of the world during my lifetime; I have very vague memories of watching one when I was a kid … I think. Back in the early ’90s, my future astrophysicist-teacher husband – I call him Mr. Science – travelled with the Royal Astronomical Society to Mexico one whirlwind weekend to view a Total Eclipse of the Sun (cue Bonnie Tyler). (This is the same man who went to Australia in 1986 to view Halley’s Comet.) He still talks about the eclipse as a spiritual experience: when the day went dark, all the hairs on his arms and neck stood straight up, and he was deeply moved. In 2008, Mr. Science and I viewed a total lunar eclipse together, on the shore of Lake Ontario one icy February night when I got so cold, I thought I’d developed hypothermia. This was before I had my “good” camera, so I used a point-and-shoot with lousy zoom and no tripod. My teeth were chattering and hands shaking so much, this is the best image I could capture.

Total lunar eclipse as seen from Toronto, Canada February 20, 2008.

The term eclipse, by the way, comes from the Greek word for ‘disappearance’ or ‘abandonment’ (cue the bouzouki). Cultural folklore, from ancient peoples on down, deals extensively with solar eclipses, ranging from creation myths to omens of imminent misfortune to giant demons (dragons, frogs, bears, serpents, werewolves or vampires) devouring the sun to rocky relations between heavenly lovers.

Despite the fact that I knew today’s eclipse would not be the awe-inspiring total blackout, complete with Baily’s beads and corona (hmm, sounds like that trip to Mexico) that other parts of North America would be treated to, I was really looking forward to it. The weather cooperated beautifully. Too bad Mr. Science didn’t; at the last minute, he decided to scarper to a friend’s cottage, taking the protective eclipse-viewing glasses with him (cue Marche funèbre from Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2). Since I had no intention of melting my retinas or destroying my camera’s lens by pointing any of them directly at the sun (cue Thomas Dolby), I was left to fashion a rudimentary pinhole viewer out of a couple of pieces of cardboard, aluminum foil, tape and a pin to make the “lens” through which the tiny but harmless solar image would be projected.

It worked! The images are like moon shadows, but in reverse (cue Cat Stevens). Using this homemade viewer, I was able to track the progress of the Moon’s silhouette across the surface of the Sun, taking photographs every few minutes. Lacking a proper tripod for both my big camera and cell phone, I had to hold my phone in one hand while trying to steady and “focus” the cardboard lens in the other. As a result, the images are primitive and indistinct, but I still enjoyed this bit of old-school science.

Pinhole images of the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse as seen from Toronto, Ontario.

Continuing the musical theme, my next post will focus on my nomination by a fellow blogger for the Shuffle the Music Tag.

 

Bring On Spring!

I mentioned in an earlier post, New Beginnings, that the practice of looking for signs of seasonal change in nature is called phenology. The lightening of days, less bite to the breeze, shy heads of crocus peeking through last year’s leaves. With that first robin’s song or even a softer, gentler rain, suddenly our hearts are lifted and there is, yes, a spring in our step!

Today marks the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. Here’s a look at just a few of our earliest-emerging species, typically seen in eastern Canada mid to late March, early April and May. To me, they are the surest signs that Monsieur l’Hiver has left us for another nine months or so, and that sweet Mademoiselle Printemps is here to stay!

Click on each image for expansion/slideshow and details.

Still Life: Perfect Prose

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Jane Austen collection by Penguin Classics, with beautiful foil-stamped clothbound hardcovers designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, shown with Heathcote bone china teacup.