Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Patriotic Window

As you might imagine, Washingtonians take federal holidays very seriously. When I lived in California, I don't recall building managers placing American flags on their property in observance of national occasions, like Memorial Day and Independence Day. While city governments decorated their streets and buildings in festive red, white and blue flags, streamers and bunting, private building management just did not seem to make a similar effort. In Washington, DC, this is not the case.

While walking around my neighborhood over Memorial Day weekend, there were American flags displayed all around town. In honor of every patriotic holiday, this large office building in the heart of North Arlington drapes a large flag -- at least three stories long -- down the front of the building. It can be seen for blocks when walking or driving on Clarendon or Wilson boulevards in the Court House area. On Sunday, the reflection of this flag could be seen in the window of one of its neighboring buildings creating a patriotic window. Even though it would have been easier to just photograph the large American flag hanging from the top of the AUSA Building, this composition offers viewers a glimpse of the flag through a more interesting filter.

Monday, May 30, 2011

An Arm, Unearthed

The children visiting National Harbor on Sunday loved crawling all over the buried giant in the sand. In this image, you can see children climbing on the giant's face. In spite of people hanging around the different parts of The Awakening, it is still very odd seeing this large aluminum arm rising out of the earth. Such a striking and imaginative sculpture. I can't wait to return during a less busy time of year to photograph The Awakening again. I'm sure there are lots of characteristics that I missed, because I couldn't get close enough due to the crowds.

The Awakening's Foot

Yes, that is a large aluminum foot coming out of the sand. It is one part of a very unusual sculpture called "The Awakening" which now resides at National Harbor near DC. Designed by Johnson & Johnson heir John Seward Johnson II, it depicts a giant embedded in the earth trying to free himself. About 70 feet in length, the sculpture features the giant's face, arm, knee and foot protruding from the National Harbor's sand. For more than 25 years, it was installed at Hains Point in East Potomac Park in DC and was moved to Maryland when the National Harbor development opened in 2008.

Since there were so many people visiting the sculpture during my visit, it was difficult to get a good wide shot of the entire sculpture. I'll have to try again another time. So, I focused instead on individual elements, like the giant's foot, to photograph.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thank You Frank

Every May, we get a three-day weekend to spend enjoying the start of summer with our family and friends. In between trips and activities, we spend little time thinking about the real reason for Memorial Day. It is a day for Americans to reflect on the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have served our country and sacrificed their lives for our freedom and liberty.

I didn't know Elmo W. Snowden of Kentucky or Nicholas Lee Natzke of Wisconsin. Both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery and their tombstones appear in this photograph taken last Memorial Day weekend. I'm sure they were great service members who were dedicated to protecting our freedoms and borders. Besides their military service, Elmo and Nicholas were most likely someone's husband, father, brother, son, and/or friend.

While I do know much about Elmo or Nicholas, soon I'll personally know someone whose name will appear on a tombstone here in Arlington. Frank W. Beach, Jr. was a gentle, sweet man who worked in my apartment building at our front desk. He passed away last weekend at the age of 90 after suffering a stroke. A military veteran who served in World War II and the Korean War, he will soon rest at Arlington among the other distinguished Americans who are interred there. I loved Frank's kindness; he often buzzed the door open for me, especially when I had packages in hand, so I wouldn't have to juggle with my keys, and always greeted me with a hello, a smile and a wave.
 This Memorial Day, I've added a new name to my growing list of Americans I admire for their service and sacrifices for our country. Thanks Frank from a grateful nation. I'll miss seeing you, but look forward to visiting you at Arlington National Cemetery. Now that I've learned that you loved photography as much as I do (I'm sorry we didn't get to discuss this in person!), I promise to visit and photograph your final resting place and keep it here on this blog and in my heart always.

Flag In

For Memorial Day each year, thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines gather at Arlington National Cemetery to place an American flag at every grave. Several days before Memorial Day weekend, more than 265,000 miniature flags are placed exactly one boot length away from each headstone as part of this "Flag In" tribute.

Last year, I visited Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend. During my walk, it was so moving to see rows and rows of American flags. Whether these flags were placed in front of a tombstone of a fallen service member, a distinguished veteran or a sacrificing family member of someone in the armed services, the Flag In is a simple, beautiful tradition honoring these heroic Americans on Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Water or Ice?

According to American poet Robert Frost, the world will end either by fire or ice. Personally, I'm not sure which one will rule the day, but I thought of that poem when I viewed this close-up image of the water at the top of the fountain in the Clarendon Market Common shopping area today. Doesn't the water look frozen or like ice? I struggle with finding the right shutter speeds to photograph running water. While this setting was not perfect, I do enjoy the created effect in this composition. It looks as though an iceberg appears at the top of this fountain.

Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets and if you aren't familiar with "Fire and Ice," I've included the full text below for your enjoyment.
"Fire and Ice"
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Fountain at Clarendon Market Common

While I tell people I live in Washington, DC, the truth is I actually live in Arlington, Virginia, which is a suburb of the capital and part of the DC Metro area. Living here is like having the best of both worlds; I work in urban DC during the week and then call a more suburban residential neighborhood home. It is a lovely area to reside, but Arlington has it critics, especially of my neighborhood, Clarendon. According to some, Clarendon is an area for yuppies -- young urban professionals. I can't argue with that characterization, or the fact that I now fall into that category these days.

When an area has a Whole Foods, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and Apple stores within walking distance from each other, yuppies will gather. City designers actually created a special shopping area in Clarendon called Market Common where most of these stores are located. In the middle of this shopping area is a courtyard with a playground and a huge fountain. While window shopping today in Market Common, I was taken with how the summer sun illuminated the fountain and its cascading water. Luckily, I had my camera with me and was able to capture this image. So happy to see summer's blue skies at last!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Power of You

This week, I spent a lot of time talking on the blog about our capability to create change and impact the world around us. If it sounded preachy, it was not meant to be. Like you, I, too am a student of life, just trying to keep moving forward and embracing the person I am meant to be. No easy feat, but it is journey we must all travel.

This photograph captured a moment of perfect alignment in my life. I took this image standing on the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge in Kaua'i overlooking the Waimea River. Standing on that wooden bridge and surrounded by the blue sky, green mountains and sparkling river, I felt completely at peace and centered. In my soul, I knew that I was standing in exactly the right place at the right time and taking the right course of action. How many times have you felt that centered? That validated? I wish I could say that I experience that feeling all the time, but that would not be true.

Watching Oprah's final show this week, I was envious of her statement that every time she stood on her stage to tape The Oprah Winfrey Show, she had that validation of purpose. Over the past 25 seasons, Oprah always knew that she was doing exactly what she was meant to do in exactly the way she was meant to do it. That's impressive and powerful. We all can be Oprahs, perhaps not as wealthy or well-known or an influencer hundreds of millions of people worldwide. However, if we can tap into our own power -- the power of you generated through acknowledging and living our life's purpose -- we can also create impact and be Oprah in our own lives, homes, workplaces and communities. We can be like the sunlight reflecting off of the surface of this river. By living a life of purpose and taking actions wedded in our own aha moments, we too can create a legacy that illuminates the world around us and hopefully, like Oprah, inspires our children and others to live purposeful lives as well.

You might have noticed that I missed a few days this week on the blog. I'm planning to make it up to you over Memorial Day weekend by posting two photos a day in place of the three missed days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

For Good

I'm a big believer in reading the signs. Every moment of each day, we are presented with life's signposts. These signs can come in the form of people, conversations, events, books, weather, among others. Since so many different formats of signs exist, cynics would argue that by definition, everything is a sign. I would disagree. We know the sign when it appears. We might not like it or what the sign means, but if we are honest with ourselves, we know signs when we see it, or hear it, or feel it.

Today, I received an important sign and it came in the form of a song. Music can be a powerful medium to communicate. I've often included song lyrics in my posts on this blog as a way to reinforce my message. On "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and Fox's "Glee" shows today, the same song was sung. The song "For Good" from the Broadway musical, Wicked, was performed on both programs to illustrate the inner power we have to impact others' lives, good or bad. Our presence changes people. We change things by existing. We change our workplaces, our families and our communities just by being present. That power is a responsibility and should never be taken lightly. Imagine what we can accomplish when we dedicate our lives to bringing good change to others. I've witnessed the positive power of family and friends on my own life. It is a blessing I hope to give others each day of my life.

"For Good" from Wicked
Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I've done you blame me for
But then, I guess we know
There's blame to share
And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood
Who can say if I've been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better
And because I knew you...

Because I knew you...

Because I knew you...
I have been changed for good.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Glass Half-Fullness

Today, a co-worker exclaimed during a meeting, "Crystal, you are such a glass half-full person!" I took it as a great compliment. I am definitely a person who looks at situations and tries to see its possibilities and opportunities instead of what's missing or its challenges. It would be so depressing to look at life and fail to see its beauty and grace, seeing only ugliness. While it is easy to see what is lacking, it is more challenging to re-train our eyes (and our spirits) to see the truth before us -- life is more about creation than destruction, hope than despair, joy than sorrow.

After 25 years, one of my greatest reinforcers of this life philosophy -- The Oprah Winfrey Show -- will air its final episodes this week. While Oprah herself may be a polarizing figure, even her critics can agree that through her show she has helped millions of people around the world live their own lives differently. Each season, she inspired her viewers to see the world as a half-full. In spite of her own tumultuous childhood, Oprah grew into an empowered, resilient person and discovered how to turn life's lemons into lemonade. Her television show featured similar stories of ordinary people who faced extraordinary circumstances and chose to grab life's opportunities rather than succumbing to its obstacles. Like Oprah and her guests, I chose to be an example of glass half-fullness and seek out the life's color and richness by not dwelling on life's half-empty glasses.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Close-up of Sleeping Cat

As I mentioned yesterday, this cat in Kaua'i was a very good sleeper. Look how close I was able to get without it stirring. I think the best animal photography happens when you can get really close to your subject. When you zoom in, you can focus on the animal's interesting physical characteristics, such as the way the cat curls its body while sleeping or how tiny its paws are. Its delicate white whiskers would not even be visible from a greater distance. While getting as close as possible to photograph animals is ideal, it is a challenging task unless you encounter this sleeping cat, of course.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sleeping Cat

Oh, how I wish I could sleep as soundly as this cat! I'm not a cat person, but I couldn't help but take a few photos of this sleeping cat at a restaurant during my Kaua'i trip. Sleeping near a busy walkway in the restaurant, the cat never stirred throughout our meal. Not bustle of the kitchen, loud conversations of diners or even heavy footsteps on the restaurant's wood floor roused the cat from its slumber.

Sleep has been a limited activity in my life lately. A demanding work and social schedule have sadly reduced my sleep hours. When I sleep, it lacks restful depth. I miss really deep sleep. Even at night, my brain goes a mile-a-minute, so deep, restful sleep is always evasive. I need to learn to sleep like this cat, ignoring all those distractions and interruptions and just sleep, sleep and sleep.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lone Cherry Blossom

One of my mom's favorite poems is Max Erhmann's "Desiderata." It's one of her favorite gifts to give people on special occasions, like graduations and farewells. She often ends her notes in greeting cards with the final line of the poem, "Strive to be happy," although I didn't realize its origin until now. This photograph of a lone Cherry Blossom near the edge of the river made me think of the wisdom about life that is contained in Desiderata. In case you aren't familiar with the poem, I've included it below.
by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Breaking Through

Too tired to think, so I'll rely on the wisdom of others for today's post. Here's a thought to ponder:

"Let others lead small lives, but not you.
Let others argue over small things, but not you.
Let others cry over small hurts, but not you.
Let others leave their future in someone else's hands, but not you."
- Jim Rohn

Carpe diem. Seize the day. There are big things in store for each of us. So, let's all take a deep breath and face the new day. Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet? (Thanks Anne Shirley for the reminder.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seeing the Light on Mental Health

Photography is more than a just hobby in my life; it is one of my best stress relievers. Even if a photo excursion is really challenging or frustrating, it is never a stressful activity. Often, when I'm feeling the most stressed, I find opportunities to address my mental health and emotional wellbeing by discovering new places or revisiting favorite locations and capturing them on film.

Everyone needs a method to reduce life's stress and bring back balance to your body and mind. Whether through exercise, meditation, yoga and/or other hobbies, such as knitting or even blogging, we all need a vehicle to release tension and unhealthy strain. When those usual activities aren't enough, then it is important to find a professional like a psychologist or therapist to help you work through those destructive situations and restore a healthier life balance again.

Today, bloggers around the country are talking about the importance of mental health. Like them, I agree that mental health check-ups should be as routine as physicals or visits to the dentist. Here are some startling facts about stress and mental health in America:
  • One in four Americans experiences a mental health disorder every year, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.
  • Chronic stress can affect both our physical and psychological well-being by causing a variety of problems including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
  • A 2009 poll by the American Psychological Association found that 75 percent of adults report experiencing moderate to high levels of stress (24 percent extreme, 51 percent moderate) and nearly half report that their stress has increased in the past year (42 percent).
  • A 2008 survey by Harris Interactive and the American Psychological Association found that 25 percent of Americans report they do not have adequate access to mental health services and 44 percent either do not have mental health coverage or are not sure if they do.
  • Research recently published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Vol. 41, No. 2) finds that 68 percent of Americans do not want someone with a mental illness marrying into their family and 58 percent do not want people with mental illness in their workplaces.
So, what does this all mean? Bottom-line: our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect our lives. Maintaining good mental health helps us make better decisions and deal with daily stress more effectively and efficiently. Seeking help, especially when life feels out of control, is not only ok, but the best way to help yourself and those around you live a healthier mind-body life.

To improve your mind-body health, visit Your Mind Your Body blog by the American Psychological Association for more mental health ideas and resources.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Taking a Stroll

After days of thunderstorms, I'm longing for clear blue skies and light breezes of spring. Even though it was a misty day when I visited the blooming Cherry Blossoms along the Potomac River this year, the crisp weather was perfect for strolling and taking in the breathtaking view. I'm hoping for a mild summer, so there will be more opportunities for long photo walks around town without the bother of humidity and summer storms.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Be the Candle, Be the Mirror

Author Edith Wharton once said, "There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it." Oh, how I love that quotation. At times, we are called to be the candle, the source of new ideas or the change we wish to see in the world. Other times, we are asked to be the mirror; to strengthen and inspire others to be the candle themselves.

Fifty years ago this month, a group of young men and women chose to be both the candle and mirror by risking their lives to spread the truth about the treatment of people of color in the segregated southern United States. In 1961, these white and black students boarded commercial buses in Washington, D.C. and traveled throughout the deep South, challenging segregation laws along the way. They risked their lives and the possibility of imprisonment by defying the restrictive Jim Crow travel laws, such as using the wrong restrooms or sitting at the wrong lunch counters at bus stations. Over that summer, Freedom Riders were attacked and beaten by angry mobs, and some riders were almost killed.

In spite of the dangers, their courage and commitment to non-violent protest served as a candle showing the world the willingness of people to stand up against such inequality. Freedom Riders became a mirror as well, bringing national attention to the violent disregard for the law that was used to enforce segregation in the South in the 1960s. Thank goodness for you and for me that more than 200 young Americans answered the call to be candles in the Civil Rights Movement. I only hope that when I am asked to take a stand and also be the light of change that I will be as brave and courageous as these heroic Americans.

To learn more about the Freedom Riders, watch the American Experience documentary about their travels in 1961 on your local PBS station or online.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Patron Saint of Gardening

Since childhood, I've always been inspired by the lives of patron saints. In several religious traditions, patron saints are people considered to be worthy of higher honor, emulation, or veneration due to the lives they led. Their lives offer life lessons for us all, whether a believer or not.

This statue in a friend's backyard honors Saint Fiacre, the patron saint of gardening. Born in Ireland in the 7th century, Fiacre lived in a hermitage in County Kilkenny and was known for his skill as a herbal healer. His talent drew pilgrims to flock to him and for greater solitude, he left his native land and sought refuge in France. In France, he opened a hospice where he received strangers in need and lived a solitary life of prayer, fasting and manual labor in the garden. Hence, why he was recognized as the saint of growing food and medicinal plants. Now no one is perfect, of course; Fiacre had issues with women and banned them from his monastery. Those blemishes aside, I do admire his dedication to God and serving those in need.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fleeting Light

Great photographs capture fleeting moments. When the sunlight broke through the clouds and rested on these pink azaleas, I quickly got my camera in position to capture the light as it past over the flowers. Luckily, my quick response was rewarded with this interesting composition.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sunny Sunflowers

Whew! So glad that Blogger is working again. Apologies for missing yesterday's post. Blame Blogger.

I needed something bright and cheery today, so I'm posting an image of the sunflowers in my aunt's kitchen. While we visited in her kitchen over the weekend, my eyes kept being drawn to these happy bouquet. So, before I left I photographed them. The perfect remedy to this gloomy Friday is staring at this image and recalling these sunny sunflowers. Now, I can end today and jump start my weekend.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tree Phalanges

When I took this photograph, I didn't mean for it to be so creepy. Since the Big Tree's large roots are above ground, I spent a lot of time photographing the roots from different angles. At the time, I didn't see that from this vantage point the roots looked like crooked fingers growing into the soil. Yuck. No one said that great photographs had to be beautiful; they can be startling too.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I just spent the weekend with the most important people in my life -- my family. They are like Big Tree. My parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins have all grown impressive roots in my life.

While I believe we are pre-programed for who we are meant to be at birth, our family helps to fertilize and nurture the seeds of our being so we grow into the adults we are created to be. Last week, I was once again reminded how blessed I am to have been blessed with a loving family who encouraged and supported me throughout my life. Everyone is not as lucky. It is a truth I hold on to when facing life's grown-up challenges, such as loved ones' illnesses and death. 

Like Big Tree, families take a long time to grow. Roots grow deeply into the earth and expand. In essence, we are a combination of the people who came before us and those who exist with us, all tied together in this endless cycle. I'm grateful our family's cycle carries more good things than bad. If I am honest, it is because they taught me to be honest. If I am generous, it is because they showed me how to be generous. If I am loving, it is because they loved me and showed me how to return love. It is a legacy of lessons I will hopefully pass on to my children, a legacy that will live beyond us all.

We must always strive to be good gardeners of our family's plot by removing weeds and helping what's good grow and flourish in future generations.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Big Tree

This tree in Glendora, California -- just minutes away from my parents' home -- is so large that it was hard to capture the whole tree in one photograph. Known in the neighborhood as "Big Tree," it is a type of fig tree native to Australia that was planted in this spot in the 1880s. It is now 90 feet tall with a 110-foot branch spread and a trunk 30 feet in circumference. It's unusual root system -- my favorite characteristic of the tree -- covers more than 1,200 square feet of land beneath the tree's branches.

When we were younger, my parents once took us to Big Tree for a family holiday photo session. We clamored over the roots and stood among them for the photo. At certain points, the roots were almost as tall as we were. While visiting Los Angeles for the weekend, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit and photograph one of my favorite trees one more time.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Lesson of the Leaning Tree

If the Marine Corps War Memorial, or Iwo Jima, was like the bar on the TV show, "Cheers," I think that I might be Norm.[cue for you to shout, "Crystal!"] Even though I enjoy visiting and exploring new places, there a special joy that results from returning to a familiar place and uncovering new treasures. The Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery are both places on that list for me. Each visit, I see or experience something that I may have missed during earlier explorations.

The Marine Corps War Memorial, which is circular in design, is surrounded by large, open, grassy fields. On the Fourth of July holiday, the lawn area is covered with people waiting to see the national fireworks show on the National Mall. Bordering the grass area on the side away from the National Mall are large pine trees with a few other smaller trees sprinkled throughout the lawn. Somehow during past visits, I never saw this leaning tree.

I'm sure it has been there since my first visit and I must have missed it. Perhaps I overlooked this tree because I was trying to photograph the statue of the Iwo Jima flag-raisers, or I was focusing on capturing the spectacular view of downtown DC from the memorial. Regardless of the reason, it was only last month that the leaning tree and I met. I captured this intriguing image of the leaning tree as it was ready to burst into purple blossoms and greet spring. There is a kinship between the leaning tree and myself. Often, I feel like this tree, battered and blown by life's bad weather and at times, I also respond by bending or moving in an unplanned direction. But like this tree, in spite of these uncontrollable forces, we can still defiantly bloom and grow.

The lesson of the leaning tree is that we too must be flexible in the face of external forces, but also be resilient and blossom in spite of adversity.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Protected Trunk

So, I think that I have just entered my tree phase. For the past few weeks, all of the photos I've been inspired to share have featured flowers. Now, all I want to post about are trees. My apologies in advance to the people who love flowers or DC locales or other subjects I like to photograph. At least for a while, I want to talk about trees.

Yesterday's post was a composition featuring the top part of this tree. Today, let's look at its base -- its trunk. The most impressive tree trunk I've ever seen in person was a giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park in California. This tree's trunk cannot even begin to rival a sequoia's trunk, however in this residential neighborhood in DC, it does dwarf its neighbors. According to my friend who lives next door to this beast of an oak, this tree is supposedly a historic landmark because it is the oldest tree in the District of Columbia. While my Internet sleuthing could not verify his claim, I like the idea that a beautiful, well-aged tree would be protected from our destructive need to change and control the natural environment around us. Sometimes, I think that we should be building around nature instead of demanding nature to surrender to our will.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grand Old Oak

It's no secret my fascination with trees, especially oak trees. I blame my love of oak trees on my school district. It's logo is a large oak tree. Even my alma mater high school had "oak" in the name.

What I love most about oak trees, like this one in a northwest neighborhood in Washington, DC, is its strength. They have such solid-looking trunks and large, long branches with lots of leaves. Oak trees create such a wide, beautiful green canopy that entices people to pause and rest beneath its branches.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Smiling Face

Recently, a good friend asked me to photograph his backyard which was in full bloom. Behind the pink, purple and white azalea bushes was this hidden jem -- a sculpture of a smiling face on the garden wall. Doesn't he just make you laugh? Luckily, my friend pointed him out and I was able to capture him on film. It was a good reminder that sometimes photographers need to be explorers too, checking out locations from all different angles. While I try not to disturb nature too much, I'm glad that we pulled aside these branches to reveal his jolly visage.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Children's Mental Health Matters

Today is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. Did you know that one in five children in the United States experience a mental health issue or problem and only one in five receive treatment? Research shows that recovery is possible when community-based services and supports are provided to children with mental health challenges. If you have a child who needs help, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to find resources in your area.

SAMHSA will be observing Awareness Day at a special event in Washington, DC this evening with actress Jamie Lee Curtis and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. You can watch the live webcast here. SAMHSA's focus this year for Awareness Day is building resilience for young children coping with traumatic experiences. Nearly 26 percent of children experience a traumatic experience, such as death of a loved one, divorce, natural disasters and/or physical or sexual abuse, before the age of four. It is a shocking statistic, but we can help children deal with trauma and prevent negative outcomes from occurring as they develop. Learn more about this important issue and help yourself and your family face these issues and bloom, developing a healthier, more successful future.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fresh Start

Big news last night from the White House about the fate of the al Qaeda mastermind behind the horrific acts of terrorism over the past two decades. President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces, achieving the highest goal of the U.S. Armed Services since the September 11th attacks in New York, DC and Pennsylvania almost 10 years ago. So what's next?

Perhaps President George W. Bush in his statement yesterday succinctly summed up my thoughts:
The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.
While bin Laden's death may bring closure to his victims' loved ones and our wounded nation, both Presidents Bush and Obama are right, our fight goes on. We cannot lose sight of our ultimate goal -- ending global terrorism.

History has shown that even though a movement may lose its figurehead, its followers may not lose their commitment to the cause. Bin Laden's death gives us a fresh start and new opportunity to destroy the roots of this violence and hatred. Our work must continue and identify the base causes of these actions and educate people to follow teachers of nonviolence, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., instead of inhumane instructors like bin Laden and his al Qaeda cronies.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pink Tulip

Apparently, the tulips at the Netherlands Carillon are a bit ambiguous. The parrot tulips in full bloom resemble peonies or even lotus flowers. This pink tulip looks like a rose bud, doesn't it?

So what's in a name? On this topic, Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare mused in Romeo and Juliet:
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
Regardless of its name, this flower is just beautiful.