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Photo: The College Crusade Rhode Island
At Great Salt Pond, young students from Rhode Island cities learn how to make and tow plankton nets and test water quality.

There’s a lovely story at ecoRI News that I wanted to share with you. It makes me both happy and sad — happy that some underserved urban kids are getting an inspiring engagement with nature in the summer but sad that it’s unusual for them. The experiences are those that my own children and grandchildren have had almost every year of their lives, experiences that really should be accessible to all children.

Frank Carni writes, “Most of the teenagers arriving on Block Island this summer, at least those affiliated with The College Crusade of Rhode Island, are coming from communities covered in pavement. Many had never been on a boat before and most had never set foot on New Shoreham.

“The students are making a good first impression, with their observations, curiosity, and passion for the environment, despite living among more gray and black than green and blue. The island community has embraced the out-of-towners from Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, and Cranston.

“ ‘We throw a lot at them and it’s amazing what they absorb,’ said Valerie Preler, program director for the Block Island Maritime Institute (BIMI).

‘I learn a lot by watching what they see and what they say.’

“For the past 10 years the BIMI’s Dolphin Program has worked with and learned from students from underserved communities from Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York City. Last year BIMI partnered with Providence-based The College Crusade of Rhode Island, as Block Island hosted a group of students from the college-readiness and scholarship program for middle-school and high-school students in low-income urban school districts for a week of learning and fun. …

“The mission of The College Crusade is to increase high-school graduation, college and career readiness, and college completion for youth in Rhode Island’s low-income communities. The organization supports about 4,200 students in middle school, high school, and college annually. Students join the program in grade 6 and continue through the early years of college, if they attend a public college in Rhode Island. …

“They learn to problem solve, study ecology by exploring the Great Salt Pond, and discuss the island’s different levels of biodiversity.

“During their visit to the museum at the Block Island Historical Society the students learn how colonists deforested in the island in the 1660s, how the island’s swordfish population was depleted by overfishing, how the introduction of deer in the 1960s for hunting purposes has led to the island’s current overpopulation problem, and why there is less bird migration to the island — more people and a growing population of feral cats.

“ ‘It’s an eye-opening experience for these kids, and for some it’s life-changing,’ [Lauren Schechtman, director of middle-school operations for The College Crusade] said. ‘Our kids don’t normally have access to these type of educational resources.’

“This Block Island adventure, like The College Crusade program, is free to the students and their families. They stay in a house rented by The College Crusade, enjoy dinners with Block Island families, and some New Shoreham restaurants help feed the island’s young guests for free.

“Besides visiting the island’s Great Salt Pond, the students go bird banding with The Nature Conservancy, learn about the Block Island Wind Farm, take a night-sky walk, tour New Harbor on the island’s west side, and conduct a beach cleanup. They also enjoy kayaking and/or paddle boarding, a beach visit, and fishing by the Coast Guard Station.”

I hope they loved the whole experience. Great Salt Pond is an especially intriguing place, where just this past weekend John, with family and friends, went seining and pulled up some real treasures: three pipe fish, a baby flounder, shrimp, and many minnows. They threw them back for another day.

More at ecoRI News, here. Be sure to check the other photos, including the one of bird banding. Our family has many great memories of bird banding with the woman who would have taught the kids in the story.

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090118-morning-glories-New-Shoreham

The calendar says we have more days of summer to come, but for school children, it’s over. Also for me.

For a variety of reasons, it wasn’t my happiest summer, but one has to be grateful for the beauties all around. It certainly is my favorite season for taking pictures. In winter, after I’ve shot all the snow-covered fences and bent-over trees, the photographic opportunities are mostly versions of gray. I’m no Sally Mann, in love with black and white, although I want to get better at finding curious shadows in winter.

The photo collection below starts with the working harbor where one boards the boat to New Shoreham and continues into sights that caught my eye in late August: horse chestnuts, Dusty Miller holding down the fragile dunes, a house sign with a sailboat, a gallery sign with a scarecrow, and the famous Painted Rock. I was so happy to see that 2018 at last had a good piece of art on the rock, not to mention that it stayed up a whole day without getting sloppily spray-painted over. The local paper promised to print my picture of the octopus side and seek out the artist.

Finally, I give you a curious sunset rainbow on an oppressively hot and humid evening. The weather had really gotten me down when this rainbow showed up, so beautiful I felt like saying, Sorry, Sorry, because one needs to remind oneself when feeling down that one won’t always feel that way.

This rainbow was amazing in a couple ways. First of all, there wasn’t even any rain: The air was just loaded with moisture. Second, the sunset on the clouds seemed to spread out the rainbow into several times its true size.

You have to be grateful for these things when you see them.

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Summer has its own pace — sometimes slow and sleepy, sometimes fast and exhausting. The grandchildren like to go-go-go. The older folks wouldn’t mind taking a nap every day.

This photo collection starts out with my energetic older grandson, who learned to surf this summer. Suzanne tried it, too, because John bought her a surfing lesson for her birthday. She says her nephew was really a natural.

Today’s pictures are all from Providence and New Shoreham.

Suzanne’s neighbor has the goofy fairy houses, and the elegant used bookstore Paper Nautilus is also near her home.

The Painted Rock is a beloved island feature — too beloved these days. People paint over one another’s messages within hours, and even a decent picture gets no respect. There were few decent pictures this year, mostly spray painted graffiti.

On our morning walk, Sandra and I snuck up on the bird that was visiting the Manissean cemetery, thinking we’d get a great shot of a heron. You have probably already realized it was only a cormorant. But what a cormorant was doing in the cemetery is anybody’s guess.

I wrap up with a pre-dawn view. “The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.” (Wish I’d written that myself.)

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Thinking of a line from Edna St. Vincent Millay: “O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!”

We’ve had some beautiful days lately, some wild, stormy ones, and some that were so hot and humid, I just sat around like a bump on a log. In fact, I was so hot I was ready to post one of the March snowstorm photos to cool us all off, but I’d promised Deb to pick a day in August.

I took most of the pictures myself, but I’m going to start off with two that Suzanne took in Bohuslän on Sweden’s west coast. The place looks to me like the skin of the earth, like the hide of an elephant. Note the children climbing in the giant hole left by a rock in the last Ice Age.

The bunny photo was taken in Massachusetts. He’s pretending that he doesn’t see me. Simple Pleasures is a charming little shop in Providence.

Next are three photos from the farmers market. This market has a couple wonderful farmstands and a lot of stands selling crafts or baked goods. The little boy was watching two folk musicians who perform using a washtub. They come every summer and play for tips. The boy looked to me like he wanted to be invited to join in.

The other photos are from morning walks and include lotus buds and wildflowers like Bouncing Bet and Ragged Sailor.

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John took the photo of my eldest grandson and the fish as well as the picture of my eldest granddaughter investigating the seaweed. The large-mouthed bass popped right out on the first cast early one morning, but the lucky fish got thrown back. My husband and I were also lucky, having that family visiting us last week and Suzanne’s family the week before. Suzanne’s children, like their cousins, were absolute fish in the ocean, but are pictured on land, climbing a tree.

The painting on the rock was not created for me, but I had to take a picture anyway.

Now look carefully at the photo of the fence and some weeds. What do you see far away?

The boats are docked in an active Rhode Island fishing port, Point Judith. The nautical weathervane is in Providence, as is the field of sunflowers planted to rehabilitate soil that was ruined when Interstate 195 ran above it. See my post from 2016, here. Where the highway used to be, a research center and a pedestrian bridge to span the river are coming along well and are likely to be finished in 2019.

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060118-not-a-fox-6tag

This is not a fox. Or as René Magritte might say, “Ceci n’est pas un renard.”

I crept up on it slowly, slowly near the North Bridge, wondering why it stayed so still. Didn’t it see me?

So much for my eyesight: It was a statue. But I did see a real fox crossing a road Friday. (I knew it must be a fox because it trotted like a cartoon fox and had a long, bushy tail.) I have also seen a fawn with its mother and a little weasel recently.

Alas, I wasn’t fast enough with the camera for any of those. I can give you mental pictures only — the deer ambling in a leisurely way, the fox trotting, and the weasel a high-speed blur.

My other photos are mostly accounts of spring in New England, although I couldn’t resist shooting the funny bar inside an actual bank vault. It was located in a Harvard Square restaurant called the Hourly Oyster.

Next you have a view of the Buttrick House garden in Minuteman National Park, an evening shot of our dogwood, a morning shot of a neighbor’s lupines (they do remind me of visiting Sweden’s west coast last year), roses, clematis, honeysuckle, and topiary.

The last two photos are from Rhode Island — early morning at an old house and yellow iris near where Suzanne’s family lives.

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Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Detail showing Abraham Lincoln’s signature in an autograph quilt created by a seventeen-year-old Rhode Island girl in 1856.

To boldly go where no one has gone before (Star Trek)

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I like to think of myself as occasionally creative, but when I read a story like this one about a 19th century Rhode Island girl, I’m humbled. See how she took a traditional idea and expanded on it.

According to Public Domain Review, “In 1856, a seventeen-year-old girl from Rhode Island embarked on a unique and brilliant quiltmaking project.

“The girl’s name was Adeline Harris and her project was to make a quilt incorporating hundreds of celebrity autographs. While signature quilts were nothing new, the contributions were typically sourced from within a small community, such as a church, and functioned to commemorate a single event, such as a birth or marriage.

“Adeline, however, had bigger ideas, her community as the notable figures of her day, her event the phenomenon of nineteenth-century celebrity. …

“She sent a small diamond of white silk in the post with an explanation of her project and a request that they send it back to her signed. The returned and now autographed fragments were then worked into the quilt as the ‘top’ planes in a wonderful trompe l’oeil tumbling block design.

“The response she got to her unusual request was nothing short of phenomenal — she ended up incorporating 360 signed pieces in total, including those from such luminaries as Jacob Grimm, Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Abraham Lincoln (one of eight American presidents represented). …

“One of the people Adeline contacted in 1864 was Sarah Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who, as well as providing her signature, also promptly wrote up ‘the very beautiful idea’ in her magazine. Hale explains how it is not only the signed pieces which tell a story:

Each autograph is written, with common black ink, on a diamond shaped piece of white silk (placed over a diagram of white paper and basted at the edges), each piece the centre of a group of colored diamonds, formed in many instances, from ‘storied’ fragments of dresses which were worn in the olden days of our country. For instance, there are pieces of a pink satin dress which flaunted at one of President Washington’s dinner parties …

“As for the process, conservator Elena Philips explains that, after examining the seams along the quilt top, it can be seen that ‘first she stitched the individual diamonds into blocks, then connected the blocks into columns, and finally seamed the columns together across the entire width. In total, she cut and stitched 1,840 individual silk pieces to create the quilt … [and used] more than one hundred and fifty different silk fabrics.’

“This is just one example from the Metropolitan Museum’s superb collection of 151 American quilts and coverlets, more about which you can read in curator Amelia Peck’s American Quilts and Coverlets in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009).”

More at Public Domain Review.

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