Monday, May 22, 2017

Today is a Good Day to Exhale...

Written on Saturday, May 20, New York City:

So, trip number 3, back to the east coast since 2015. Each one, a different season, a different reason, but the love remains the same. The love for my Family and my Friends, I have said hello and goodbye to, too many times over at this point to count...and today, my heart spilled over with emotion as I realized that I was beginning to exhale. My Cousins and I are close and I am thankfully, very free with them. My cousin Rita, her dog, Roxie died yesterday, so we spoke this morning. She told me the whole story of Roxie's last day, and most gratefully, Roxie passed away on her own and not in my cousins house. Rita and a friend were able to make it to the Vet pretty much in the nick of time, so that no papers had to be filled out, and the whole guilt of 'putting our pets down' or 'I just murdered my 4 legged family member', was dissolved. Thank you sweet Roxie for sparing Rita that part of her story. Then it was my turn to talk.I did not write about it publicly when my cousin Ellie died suddenly in December, it was a Family decision. Many months before her passing we talked about my clearing out her apartment in Chelsea, so, that was the main reason for the trip. Just this (chilly) morning, in this cozy room in this old brownstone in the West Village, I felt the loss and I grieved for yet another member of Mom's generation. Here is what I have learned about grief over these almost 5 years since Mom passed. Grief will get you. You might think that you are clever enough to tuck it away someplace, or to pretend that you are 'good', since a couple of years have passed and life has marched on. But grief is too powerful. It will rise up and it will come out and show itself when you least expect it. This is what happened to me this morning. I was not here when Ellie died, as much as I received many updates over those 2 days when difficult life and death decisions were being made, yet, it did happen to me too. Watching, partaking, as her apartment was dismantled painting by painting, photo by photo, plant by plant, would have made an eventful time lapse video. With anyone who reaches the impressive age of 88, there were many layers to Ellie. We learned upon her passing that she kept people and possessions very compartmentalized. What a great thing when all those people actually met, and the doors to Ellie's compartments swung wide open. I now have a couple of new friends on Facebook, one important, healed up relationship and some new/old photos to bring back to Colorado. Ellie, I am certain looked down with ridiculous pleasure to see how well the day unfolded. My sweet sweet Ellie. So, Rita got an earful too, but she had to run, conversation still spilling...

Post script: That day, I stayed very nuzzled in, ate potato chips, drank coconut water, watched 6 episodes of General Hospital, the last 3 episodes of Scandal (OMG), napped and slowly prepared myself to leave New York. Today is Wednesday, I feel much more rested and my joy has returned to its fullness...looking back, just these couple of days, I saw bubbles of the grief rising last week but, I was busy running, seeing, doing, yet, I could not hide it...grateful that I have learned to recognize it, let it happen, get it out, and then proceed forward...

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Playing Catch-up...

Translucent leaf, so pretty, floating in the shallows of the lake..
Alaskan geese taking a stroll on the frozen lake... 
Chubby, confused prairie dog....
Took the kayak out in the middle of March, twice!!!
On the lake in the kayak, like a mirror, so so so quiet...
Before the much needed rain as EVERYTHING is getting ready to burst with color...
Rains over the Rockies, headed east to us...much needed...
Daylight savings sunset...
After another round of precip...

It occurred to me, after seeing my cutback in blogging, that Instagram (amylikesjack) has become more of a daily log for hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Myself included. It is easy to get exposure globally, and instantly, and as a photographer, this form of social media, has proved/proven to be a worthy tool. It also occurred to me that many of you, who are on my mailing list, have absolutely no social media presence at all, which in this day and age, is almost more impressive. March blew in, we turned around, March blew out and here we are in April. The story here, in Colorado, has been the lack of any sort of moisture in the form of rain or snow, which, as I have stated many a time on my Instagram feed, it is 'scary, bone dry.' Having lived through 2 of Colorado's most destructive wild fires, it was abundantly clear, that the State could simply go up in flames with one careless move. So, we waited and waited and waited. We never really had a winter, and much to my surprise, with very mixed feelings, I was out on the lake (which should have been frozen) in the middle of March, twice. The Blue Herons are still gone, the Great White Pelicans are scant, forget about the Eagles altogether, they have eluded me, it has become personal! And then, finally after crazy warm temps, the rains, the much needed moisture started pouring down upon us. Gentle, sweet smelling rains. In other places around the state, massive amounts of snow, and more on the way, but, we welcome it! So, for those of you who (impressively) are not engaging on social media, this is a 'catch-up' post, so you can see, in part, some of the sites from the month of March!

'Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it.' Isaiah 45:8

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Astrolabe, Ancient Handheld Device

Imagine if you or I were to go back to Ancient times, around the time of the Maccabee's, for a point of reference or the time of Jesus which is more widely known. Then, imagine if you or I were to give any person in either of these settings an iPhone or an iPad. Chances are, they would not have the first clue of what it might be, or how to turn it on, not to mention the countless ways in which it can be used. And then, switch that very scenario to a Maccabee Brother or any person living in Jerusalem in the time of Jesus. If anyone of those people were to hand any one of us an Astrolabe, chances are, we would not have a clue to what it might be, how to 'turn it on', not to mention the countless ways in which it can be used. 
The Whole Astrolabe or the mater, Latin for Mother, is the main body of the Astrolabe. The edge of the mater is called the limb, on which are the degree scale and scale of hours are engraved. The hollowed-out part of the mater is called the womb and contains the latitude plate.

The rete (pronounced, 'reet'), acts as a model of the sky, with the plates lining up behind. The rete is the movable part on which the position of the sun and the stars are depicted.
Display of the rete and the plates, with the mater holding everything together, in the back.
Another view of the display of the Astrolabe parts: rete, plates and mater.
I have been sitting on this post for months now because there is no simple explanation to what an Astrolabe is, how and why it was created and the thousand ways it can be used. I first saw it on display at the 'Jerusalem:1000-1400, Every People Under Heaven' at the Met in New York last October. As I was walking though the exhibit, it was one of the first things which caught my eye. I had no idea what it was. What I did know was that it was very beautiful, looked very interesting, and it 'felt' important. I was also taking pics of the captions, thinking ahead to Instagram and this blog. Thank goodness these pics which I took at the exhibit are good, because the pic for the caption of the Astrolabe was blurry, impossible to know what it said, so, I still had no idea what on earth this was. When I came back to Colorado, I began to dig around to get some answers. I am not sure how I got there, but ohmygoodness, the information was mind boggling.

One great piece of information I found, was that there was a woman, her name was Mariam al Ijliya, a famous astrolabe maker who lived in Aleppo in the 10th century. So hard to imagine, given the images we see today of what was once a diverse and thriving ancient culture. If she could speak, she might say that she was a pioneer of this ancient device, and that it was the GPS of its day!!!! I am guessing none of us could have functioned without an Astrolabe to know the time of day, sunrise, sunset, seasons for planting, directions, celestial events, just to mention a few. I have highlighted the word Astrolabe to link to various sites where I gathered this information.

This is a brief overview of what I learned: 
'The astrolabe is an astronomical calculating device used from ancient times into the eighteenth century. Measuring the height of a star using the back of the instrument, and knowing the latitude, one could find the time of night and the position of other stars. The openwork piece on the front, called the rete, is a star map of the northern sky. Pointers on the rete correspond to stars; the outermost circle is the Tropic of Capricorn, and the circle that is off-center represents the zodiac, the apparent annual motion of the sun. Engraved plates that fit below the rete have scales of altitude and arc of the horizon for specific latitudes.'

 'A typical old astrolabe was made of brass and was about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter, although much larger and smaller ones were made. Astrolabes are used to show how the sky looks at a specific place at a given time. This is done by drawing the sky on the face of the astrolabe and marking it so positions in the sky are easy to find. To use an astrolabe, you adjust the movable components to a specific date and time. Once set, much of the sky, both visible and invisible, is represented on the face of the instrument. This allows a great many astronomical problems to be solved in a very visual way. Typical uses of the astrolabe include finding the time during the day or night, finding the time of a celestial event such as sunrise or sunset and as a handy reference of celestial positions. Astrolabes were also one of the basic astronomy education tools in the late Middle Ages. Old instruments were also used for astrological purposes. The typical astrolabe was not a navigational instrument although an instrument called the mariner's astrolabe was widely used in the Renaissance. The mariner's astrolabe is simply a ring marked in degrees for measuring celestial altitudes.'

'The origins of the astrolabe were in classical Greece. Apollonius (ca. 225 BC). The most influential individual on the theory of the astrolabe projection was Hipparchus who was born in Nicaea in Asia Minor (now Iznik in Turkey) about 180 BC but studied and worked on the island of Rhodes. Hipparchus, who also discovered the precession of the equinoxes and was influential in the development of trigonometry, redefined and formalized the projection as a method for solving complex astronomical problems without spherical trigonometry and probably proved its main characteristics. Hipparchus did not invent the astrolabe, but he did refine the projection theory.'

Below is a beautiful, short video of a gifted, dedicated, contemporary Astrolabe maker!!!

 'To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:
 The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:
The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.'   Psalm 136:5-9

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Orchid Show

So, allot has changed since Christmas, however, life marches forward, and so it has, right to the annual Orchid Show at The Denver Botanic Gardens. Last year, I was still using my trustee little Nikon, but this year, my sweet, not so new anymore, Sony has proven worthy. I have been studying up on how to take photos of flowers and I am so pleased with these results. The Orchids are ridiculously colorful, delicate, sensuous, strong, and very very tricky to bring  to full bloom. Hats off to the miracle workers at the Gardens for making this feast for the eyes, beauty for the soul, happen. It was an usually warm day, so the greenhouse sliders were open, and instead of glass and steel for some of the backgrounds, I had full access to the big Colorado skies. I took my time, met some nice people along the way, and lo and behold...for those of you on social media, I will be posting the 6 pics you have not yet seen on my Instagram feed, but spreading them out over the next many days, so, enjoy twice over. For those of you not on social media, enjoy!
'O Lord, how manifold are your works!'  Psalm 104:24

Saturday, December 24, 2016

His Sheep Listen/Hear...

'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
 And I give unto them eternal life;
 and they shall never perish, 
neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
 My Father, which gave them me, 
is greater than all; 
and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
 I and my Father are one.'
                                                  John 10:27-30

To our Friends and Family who celebrate, have a blessed, inspired, joyous and
hope-filled Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Those Maccabee Boys...

For years I have been posting about the Maccabee Brothers, every Chanukah, I post about the Maccabees. So, if you anything about me at all, you know how much I love those Maccabee Boys. They said, no way, no how, it is not going to happen to Antiochus' men when they came to a village in Modi'in. A Greco-Syrian soldier entered the Temple and started to sacrifice a pig on the altar. Enraged by this action, an old priest named Mattathias stabbed the soldier to death and the revolt began! 

For me, this year Chanukah carries even more meaning. When I was in New York in October, as I have mentioned a few times, I went to the 'Jerusalem:1000-1400, Every People Under Heaven' exhibit at the Met. I had one of those moments when history, DNA, the resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto, and the present collided and had me completely frozen with awe. There it was, one of the Books of The Maccabees. I wanted to hug the exhibit glass, but, that would have landed me out of the museum. I wished they had had a stool or ladder for short people to see the case of these books from above. I don't know how long I stood there soaking it all in, time stood still. This book is huge, at least 2 feet or more by 18" or more. The craftsmanship, unmatched. What an incredible work of art! This is so amazing, because if it looks like sheet music, it is! Here is what the caption said, "Europeans fighting for the Holy Land considered the Maccabees, Jews of the 2nd century, B.C. as examples of the struggle for Jerusalem. The hymn that begins with this pitched battle is a plea for peace taken from the book of the Maccabees." It is strewn throughout the Bible that praise, blowing of the shofar(s), songs of worship were sung before battle, Joshua 6:1-20, being a well known example. As was custom, I learned from this exhibit, that everyone, of every religion, in the region scribed. More so, the books have survived literally thousands of years. 

Pursued by the Greco-Syrians, Mattathias and his 5 sons, known as the Maccabees fled to the hills surrounding Jerusalem. There, the resistance movement took form. Before he died, Mattathias selected his son, Judah to lead the fight, which he did, and valiantly. Through strategy and foresight, the rebels overcame all of Antiochus' forces, including an army riding elephants. In victory, the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem from the invaders, and on the 25th day of Kislev (this year, the first night is tomorrow, the 24th day of Kislev) they cleansed the temple which had been defiled. Chanukah, which means dedication, commemorates that day.

The miracle occurred, when looking for holy oil to light the Temple's candelabrum, there was just a very small cruse of sacramental oil, just enough to last a day. Knowing it would take eight days to prepare new holy oil, the Maccabee Boys, used the little bit they had and lit the menorah. Lo and behold, the oil burned for 8 days. Look at God!

To my Family and Friends who celebrate, a very joyful and blessed Chanukah!

Monday, November 28, 2016


The 'REFLECTIONS II 2017', limited edition calendar was delivered the day before Thanksgiving...and it began! I have the 'REFLECTIONS II 2017' calendar and the 'REFLECTIONS' Jewish calendar, 2016-2017/5776-5777, both listed in my Etsy shop, Lilleypics, with FREE shippping  in the U.S., for this day labeled, CYBER-MONDAY. May it be known, that shipping is normally $10. Both calendars have been well received, most thankfully/gratefully. The Jewish calendar, although we are almost 2 months into 5777, will continue to be sold in the shop until the very last day of 5777. With each passing month, the price will drop. 

I am signing and dating every page of every calendar which leaves my home, as the 10"x10" archival quality of the photos can be easily framed! The calendars make a great gift for this busy holiday season!!! So, happy shopping!!

'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.'
                                                                               Psalm 46:1

Friday, November 18, 2016

Reflections II 2017, The Calendar

It happened quickly. The inspiration to create a 2017 calendar came upon me, and within a couple of days, it was finished. The kinks had been worked out from the REFLECTIONS, Jewish Calendar, I had some new photos to add, prayed about what scriptures the Lord would have me to use in this critical hour, got back in touch with Jonathan, from Mixbook, (his customer service was so excellent, he was an important reason I have called on Mixbook a second time, along with the rich quality of the finished product), ordered 1 copy to proof, and I was on my way. I received my copy yesterday, and this is why it is a must when publishing anything, to have that all important, 1 copy. All of the pictures, front and back covers, were 'auto-enhanced'. This is a feature which Mixbook offers, but it is one which I do not choose, as I have done all the editing on the photos. Thankfully, I was able to take side by side pics from the Jewish calendar and send them off to Jonathan, along with previous e-mails, confirming that the auto-enhance was not to be applied. I had some minor changes to be made with type size and my back cover statement. Jonathan and I worked everything out, and I placed my order. I am not sure when the calendars will be arriving, probably after Thanksgiving, so I have listed them in my Etsy shop as, 'Pre-order REFLECTIONS II 2017' Limited Edition. So, Psalm 46, and for the month of December, 1 verse from the Book of Isaiah! Whew....

'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
 Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.'
                                                                                                               Psalm 46

Thursday, October 27, 2016

East Coast, This Go Round

The Atlantic, my old Friend...
I went, I saw, I conquered. I came back with a mean head cold, I am still processing conversations, hard fought get-togethers with precious friends, how many times I ate Japanese food, having some alone time to see some of my old haunts and an afternoon @ The Met, seeing my Goddaughter, Jennie, star in her first lead role on Broadway as Nettie in 'The Color Purple', (she was beautiful and perfect, see Jennie, if you can!), celebrating my Aunt's 95th birthday in Baltimore, and totally touched that she was totally touched when she saw me, I was a surprise...lots of happy tears shed.
Sunrise looking north from Chelsea and, below, the full moon over the beautiful!

I stayed with my cousin in Chelsea. She is 88 1/2. Just to give you an idea of her energy, on Friday's, she has 4 exercise classes, in 4 different locations, all before one in the afternoon. I stayed with her from Saturday-Saturday, and every night we would hug, so pleased with ourselves that we still liked one another. It was very sweet. We did so well together. I decided that she lives in the center of the universe, because everything anyone could possibly need, juts out, like spokes on a wheel, from her building. But, that is what a neighborhood is. Definition: a district, especially one forming a community within a town or city; synonyms: district, area, locality, locale, quarter, community; part, region, zone; informal neck of the woods, hood, nabe, stomping ground, stamping ground. 
Lobby of the Met, fresh flowers, beautiful!
Jennie, in 'The Color Purple', so beautiful!!!

When I went back East last summer, I decided that I simply had to go back at least one time a year. So, when the idea of going to Baltimore was presented to me, I knew it was the right time, and I worked backwards, as Baltimore was the last stop. This was such a different trip than last year. When I said 'hard fought' get-togethers, what I mean is, we are doing this, the arrangements might be last minute, and then change on a dime, there was allot of improvising, texting, and phone calls, but every 'Okay great', made the way for me to spend time over pizza, Japanese, Greek, Vegan, Spanish, and Japanese food again, with people who wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see them, and we all made it work. I loved that with my whole heart. Discussions ranged from getting older, more than once, to hearing about a friends surgery for a large brain aneurysm and the metal which is now in her head, to lovely fellowship and sharing of hearts, firming up old relationships and building on some new ones, and of course, as if no time had passed, (because what G_d does, He does well), with many.

So, this happened. It was a week ago Tuesday. I went to The Met to see the Jerusalem: 1000-1400, 'Every People Under Heaven' exhibit. I went up the grand stairs, made a left, looking down @ the American Wing, hung a right @ the statue, walked down another hall, and there it was. The exhibit. It was a little dark, as there are slides being projected on to the walls. I thought I heard my name, but, really, what are the odds? And then in the next moment, a clear voice calling, 'Auntie Amy!' I turned around and it was Mari Harney (older sister of my Goddaughter, Jennie), working @ the exhibit!! Hand over mouth, other hand in the air, leaning back a little, then ginormous hugs. This visit, this meeting was not scheduled by either of us, but clearly, well appointed. Imagine, in a little corner of a massive museum in a City of 8 million. Just too too good!!!
Pot for cooking lentils, brass, 11th century, beautiful!

Spending a short 24 hours in Baltimore was full, it was joyous. I was with my Cousins and it was perfect. I felt my body telling me that it had had enough, as I began to get emotional about leaving, all guards were way down. I do not know what the future holds. I do know, that New York, the East Coast, will always be home, that I cannot be in 2 places at one time, that coming back to the quiet of Colorado along with all of its gifts is exactly where I am supposed to be, so, in that I rest and recoup from all the running around, eating, talking, loving on my Friends and Family, and receiving equal portions in return. I am so thankful, so grateful, so deeply appreciative. Until the next time New York; you can take the Girl out of the City, but no way can you ever take The City, out of the Girl...but you already knew that...

Betsy and Aunt Sue, and below Jennifer helping to blow out candles, joy overflowing, so beautiful!
Descending into Denver, Rockies in the background, so beautiful!!

'To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.'
                                                                                                 Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Garden, Beginning, Middle and End...

2 things. Wow, it has been a month since my last post and I did not post anything on the blog about this years garden. To close the gap a bit, the last day of the outdoor pool could not have ended any better given the perfect weather that day, and taking in all the hundreds of laps I clocked in by the end of the season, I was grateful beyond words. As one of the lifeguards said, 'You have just been a swimming machine this summer!'. Best thing I could have heard. So, to back track, to around Memorial Day. I bought a 3 tiered raised garden bed KIT. I had to build it. Seemed simple enough, but, as has been stated here before on many other projects, it was more work than anticipated...and it took a ton of soil. With the help of our neighbors, drilling some drainage holes on the floor board we bought to keep the soil in place, and the brand spanking new palettes we found outside of a shop, whose owners said, 'Please, take them off of our hands!' I was on my way.
 I bought small heirloom tomatoes, white eggplants, green peppers, strawberries, 6 varieties of basil for eating all summer and then to make pesto to take us to next summer, flat leaf parsley, which we have also been enjoying all summer as well, and dill. The strawberries died almost immediately, replaced them with something else (I forget), and it died, then replaced that with cucumbers which had blight, so that little corner never happened. 
That said, I have never had tomatoes grow so fast and with such strength in their stems. They are still blooming, and I have hundreds of them. The white eggplants were beautiful to watch bloom and grow from a lovely purple flower to a baseball sized eggplant. I cut back 10 of them just yesterday and cooked up some eggplant parm. There are ALLOT of seeds in these small guys, so, they can border on bitter. But, the Boys enjoyed it, along with the fresh basil and pesto made from scratch included in the ingredients. It was a great moment in the kitchen, and I froze 7 healthy portions!! I am in the process of dismantling, the large, beautifully weathered terra cotta pots of basil, making pesto like a machine. Last summer I froze 58 4 oz. containers, and so far, as of today, I have 41. The nights have been cool, so time is of the essence. All in all a great garden, yielding a bounty for us as I harvest the haul. I am a grateful little gardener, still busy busy busy, just like the bees who have graced us with their presence all season....
It is hard to imagine what will happen..
...but in a short amount of time, THIS!!!
The whole gift giving plants and herbs...
Strawberry leaf which never took, but so pretty..
White eggplant showing herself...
Strong and tall, still blooming...
Cut back bouquet of 6 basil varieties for pesto...
Last but not least, just yesterday, 10 of these babies...more still growing!!!
'Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.'
                                                           Jeremiah 29:5

Post script: By days end, there are now 51 frozen 4oz. containers of pesto!!!