Saturday, October 29, 2011

Harry the Heron -- One More Look

Pretty soon, Harry the Heron will headed south -- or wherever herons go when the water in Michigan becomes covered with ice.

Indulge me with an all-heron post. One more look at Harry!

I will miss his style of natural camouflage. There are times when I really have to look for him.

I'll miss trying hard to hold my small little camera steady, the lens at full zoom, as I wait for him to give me his profile.

I'll miss his positions -- that beautiful neck extended and handsome...

...gracefully bent into an S-shape...

... or crouched as he searches for the next hapless fish to swim by.

Or this one -- gracefully twisted.

I love watching him fish. His eyes are sharp.

He'll watch the water, statue-still...

... then pounce!

I'll miss watching him preen and using that sharp beak, pick off whatever is bothering him.

I'll miss the camaraderie as people walk around the Ditch and say, "Is the bird here yet?" I've met lovely people, just talking about Harry, as we watch, spellbound, his reflection a mirror image in silhouette.

I'll miss the colors of Harry -- his gray and white against the greens and golds of autumn.

I'll miss looking for him in new places -- this wee island brought him closer than ever.

And I'll miss his dramatic contrast which would often elude me.

Sometimes photographing Harry at such a distance in light that doesn't always cooperate is tough. But even the results bring their own energy and memories.

Some moments are simply, as Relyn says, unphotographable. I call them photographs of the heart. This is almost the closest I could get to Harry in flight. And that's OK.

It's twilight at the Ditch. Soon, the last of the color will be whisked away by windy nights and rainy days.

Harry will head to warmer waters. And I will await his return...

... remembering a beautiful autumn and my beautiful big bird.

NOTE #1: For those of you in the Lansing area who would like to catch a look at Harry, he's located in the largest pond of the drainage ditch between Wood and Fairview, just north of Grand River.

NOTE #2: Visit "Chopsticks and String" for a look at the book "The Paris Wife."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One More Kansas City Post

A free day in Kansas City! What to do? A grand idea!

Of all the things I was most looking forward to in Kansas City, the biggest was meeting blogger Beth (Gathering Dust).

Once again, it was that terrific feeling of meeting someone you've known a very long time! And I loved every minute!

Beth picked me up and we went to an area of Kansas City called Country Club Plaza. Originally built in 1922 by J.C. Nichols, it was then called "Nichols' Folly." He had a vision that the former hog farm and dumping ground would one day be the first suburban shopping area that could service the up-and-coming automobile owners.

Nichols had traveled in Europe and the Southwest and created a Spanish/Moorish style for the plaza with courtyards, plenty of outdoor seating, tile roofs and beautiful towers.

Sculpture is everywhere, from a large fountain ... a small wishing pool...

...And everything in-between!

There are just lovely bronzes.

There are plenty of tiled mosaics, as well.

I particularly liked this one.

On the buildings you can see strands of light. Beth tells me that at Christmas, everything is lit, with the towers and buildings outlined.

The Plaza managed to survive a number of challenging times including the Depression, the death of its original founder, Nichols, and his son's rise to the top of the company, and a 1977 flood.

Many national stores are there -- you'll find high-end chains like Restoration Hardware, North Face, Williams-Sonoma, Tiffany and more. But my favorite was Paper Source, where Beth and I had a grand time!

After Beth left, I stayed on, shopping a bit...

...and taking photos of the buildings and sculpture.

Several women rode by on horseback, promoting the rodeo. They looked right at home amidst the architecture.

(I loved their horses!)

And I loved the light fixtures...

...the towers...

...the details.

It was indeed an extraordinary day.

And as the lights went down and I returned to my hotel to figure out how in the world I would get the rolls of paper home that I bought at Paper Source, I just couldn't stop smiling! Thanks, Beth!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hallmark Visitors Center - A Mixed Review

There are a number of free things to do in Kansas City. One of them includes going to the Hallmark Visitors Center where they'll promise you'll see exactly how cards are made.

Do they deliver? Do they get to wear the crown?

Sort of.

Is it worth it?

Sort of.

Let me put it this way -- if I had only a wee bit of time, I wouldn't bother. But if you're out shopping in Crown Center, you can whip through it in a half hour or less. It's kind of interesting and fun, especially if you prefer history over process.

The history is well displayed in showcases following decades, as well as showing a huge amount of the various cards and products produced by Hallmark over the years. The graphic descriptive info is brief but tells the story.

I grew up with Hallmark. This card is very similar to one I have from my grandparents that I received as a child. My parents always bought Hallmark cards, and while I don't so much now, they still come out with terrific cards.

And merchandising.

Their Hallmark Hall of Fame specials are always well done. There is a theatre where you can see segments of these as well as their tear-jerking commercials. (And yes, I've cried at Hallmark commercials). They also have a great collection of original art that appeared on their cards by famous artists like Grandma Moses (and Norman Rockwell and Winston Churchill!)

Most of us with Christmas trees have at least one Hallmark ornament -- you can see them all here, along with some of their vintage holiday home accessories.

And it was interesting to see the presidential cards.

This was Gerald Ford's. I thought it the prettiest of all of them.

So, in history and pleasing displays, I give the center high marks. But in "seeing how a card gets made" (which interests me tremendously), the marks aren't so great. One of the employees just seemed bored, once she hung up the phone to answer questions about die-cutting.

The displays were a little more helpful and I'll show them one after another in order.

I got excited when I saw a printing room behind glass.

Then I realized the room was a big mural and the presses only ran when a fellow came out to talk to folks.

I know a lot about printing, so I didn't ask him many questions, but those from the group there at the same time were well answered and enthusiastically. He showed them how the word "wife" was printed on a Valentine. He was knowledgeable, enthusiastic. But they could have shown so much more.

In addition to the video there were some fun interactive exhibits. The photo on the bow making machine didn't show well, but this is what turns out those bows we can buy at bulk at the holidays.

Press a button and you get to take home a bow.

I had enjoyed seeing some of the various Hallmark crowns that were made from year to year.

They also have a virtual crown photo spot. One stands there, looks at the camera and it "finds" your head and places a virtual crown on it.

So, back to the hotel I went, in Kansas City's lovely covered walkway, "The Link."

In some ways, it is art in itself, with its lovely angular design...

... and a great view.

Hallmark -- you get a mixed review. History: A- / Production: C- / Price? A+

NOTE #2: Visit "Chopsticks and String" for a look at the book "The Paris Wife."

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