Monday, July 28, 2003

packing up

I'm trying to get packed up--John and the car leave tomorrow, I have one more night here before going to pick up the kids and fly home. Hard to believe that the month is up. We had another long interview with Ruth Patrick today. Tomorrow I need to try to get through some files we just found out about. Very hectic and pressured; heading back home (by way of Cape Cod) feels like more change just when I was feeling a little settled.

Sunday, July 27, 2003


Most of the other participants in the mosaic workshop were artists or art teachers, and at least three were professional mosaic artists (including one from Israel and one from Quebec). I usually hate being a beginner at something. But in this case I found that an advantage. Isaiah kept saying to the group that we were there to learn his techniques and we were his hands for the day; we had to do everything his way. That was easy for me, since I didn't know any other way. The main mural we made is in a narrow 40 foot space and can't really be photographed, but we also completed a smaller one. These were Isaiah's designs; we did the filling in.

Today's work

Making a mural at Isaiah Zagar's workshop.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

William Penn again

Looking north on Broad Street at city hall. We went out to the Hagley library this morning and it was nice to be in the country but you can see from this picture that I am still enjoying the visual clutter of the city. The tower is a part of the City Hall building in the center, despite the different color of stone.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The Patrick Principle

We gave a talk on our research today, obviously very much as a work-in-progress. It was clear during the question period that at least some people had not understood from our talk that Ruth Patrick was a very eminent scientist. They hadn't heard of her, but then I'm not sure how many historians of science who haven't read in the history of ecology would know even the biggest names of 20th century ecology, such as Eugene Odum. The Patrick Principle hasn't caught on as a general term. I think I was too modest (a matter of female style?) and should have done more to brag on Patrick's accomplishments. She wasn't someone who went after publicity; that is part of why she worked so well with industry. But I wonder how much even our audience assumed that because Ruth Patrick was a woman she wasn't that important. What I've added to the talk for the next time I give it is that she was one of the top five ecologists of the mid-20th century.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003


Two oral history interviews today, one a little over an hour long but an hour and a half out of town and the other almost three hours. Tired. It takes such concentrated attention that it takes a while for the rest of my life to feel real again at all.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Andy Goldsworthy

I went to see a film called "Rivers and Tides" about the work of Andy Goldsworthy. The South Carolina Botanical Garden near my home has a significant collection of site-specific, nature-based art, but Goldsworthy's work is still more ephemeral. To see the works move on film is wonderful, but for some examples in still photography see Iris Blades and Rowan Berries, Leaves with Hole and Soul of a Tree. The Center for Global Environmental Education has more images.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

city life

I didn't go do anything exciting today, but I enjoyed living in a city. In the morning I walked to the jewelry store district and got my wedding ring made larger. How long will it take for the groove in my finger to go away? In the afternoon I walked to a bakery and enjoyed the row houses and the variety of people on the way. I took a nap, and I did a little writing on my project. Restful.

Friday, July 18, 2003


I had a long, trafficky drive to an interview this afternoon, but now I have a quiet weekend alone. On the way home I bought myself a bunch of lilies for $3. I'm glad not to be flying--last weekend my flight south was cancelled after boarding 2 hours late and sitting on the runway with no air conditioning for half an hour and my flight north was two hours late so we had less than 5 minutes to make our connection (we did but our bags didn't). I've been worrying about being so alone, no one to see me, but right now the quiet just makes me happy.

While I ate my supper I read a story in a local weekly paper about a student who has taken a two-month vow of silence. He has a blog and also a free-form web site. A providential reminder to enjoy the silence, make it my own retreat.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Philadelphia murals

Philadephia has over 2500 murals, an anti-graffiti project that has grown and grown. The one I've photographed near our apartment isn't in the data base, so I don't know much about it. What you are looking at in my picture is a trompe de l'oeil painting on the flat side of a four-story building above a parking lot. It is only part of the mural, which continues to the left and then wraps around onto the building on the next side of the parking lot.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

back in Philadelphia

It was pretty disorienting, starting at home in South Carolina Monday morning, spending a night at the family summer house on Cape Cod, and arriving back in Philadelphia Tuesday night. We flew from Greenville to Cape Cod Monday, barely making our connection, and then I took the bus to Providence and the train from Providence to Philadelphia Tuesday. Amtrack hasn't changed much, though I took someone else's word for it that the food you can buy in the snack bar on the train hasn't improved in the last 25 years. The ride is still just as pretty from Providence to New Haven. One thing I noticed new was lots of osprey nesting platforms, a good number of them inhabited.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

a weekend of traveling

I'm off tomorrow back home to South Carolina, to pick up the kids at camp Sunday morning. Monday the kids and I fly to Massachusetts, and Tuesday I return to Philadelphia by train. Prayers for weathering the stress of transitions would be appreciated.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

the wild woman and the unicorn

I went looking for a coloring book for myself and found one I liked about unicorns. It has not only the late medieval virgins with unicorns, but also earlier images of wild women and men with unicorns. I also didn't know that the unicorn is mentioned several times in the Bible. The King James translates Job 39:9-12 as:
9: Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
10: Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
11: Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
12: Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?
The New English Bible and New Revised Standard Version translate the animal as wild ox.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

taxonomy vs. ecology

The Academy of Natural Sciences where we are doing our archival research was founded in 1812 and has strong tradition of taxonomy (classification of species) and large collections of specimins from which species were classified. I think of that as very-old-fashioned scientific research, in opposition to more modern genetic and ecological approaches. But I sat up and took notice today when I read a comment scrawled on a copy of a letter to the editor of a scientific journal. The letter pointed out that a major problem in understanding tropical ecosystems is that a significant number of the species important to the ecosystem haven't been named and described. The handwritten comment pointed out that this brought taxonomy back to central importance in modern science.

Monday, July 07, 2003


A professor I had when I was an undergraduate died a few weeks ago. I was taking his course when I decided to major in history of science; I wonder how much I was influenced by the fact that my mother had taken his course about 25 years earlier and hated him.

I ran into a historian of science yesterday who worked with that professor when she was a graduate student and she told me about his death. Apparently he had a disease that required blood transfusions to keep him alive. He was writing a book, and when he had finished the book and mailed it to the publisher he said no more transfusions and died a week later. She saw that as heroic, but I'm not sure I do.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

William Penn's Hat

Here's a view out our apartment window:
You can see the statue of William Penn (why did I always think it was Benjamin Franklin?) on top of city hall, though the tower on which it stands is mostly blocked by a closer building. Until 1987, Philadelphia had a height restriction that no building in center city could be taller than William Penn's hat. Apparently this was an unwritten regulation; it says something about Philadelphia that it lasted until 1987. There is an interesting blog about Philadelphia called Philadelphia Reflections.

Friday, July 04, 2003

My pictures of Isaiah Zagar's murals

I went by early this morning to photograph Isaiah's murals and constructions with the morning light on them, though a still camera just doesn't capture it because so much life comes from the changing reflections in the mirrors. Isaiah came in and invited me to wander around--the rooms around the courtyard are filled walls and ceilings with more mosaics. Here's an article about Isaiah.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

letting down

I've hardly had a chance to think, with getting organized to travel and then 15 hours of driving over two days (counting taking the kids to camp) and then getting settled in a sublet apartment and two new workplaces where I didn't know anyone. We went to the symphony last night as we wanted to go to the hall a block and a half from our apartment rather than to the outdoor concerts in the park. The Philadelphia Orchestra has a brand new hall, which is interesting architecturally but a bit heavy-handed. Simplicity is appealing but it is hard for a building to be both simple and impressive without looking facist.

So now after all this activity we head into a three day weekend. When I have been holding things together intensely it is hard to let down, hard to feel it is safe to let down. I'm afraid too much dark wildness will come out. I'm trying to use art to give me an alternative way to let things out while I am away from my home safety net; I will see what I can come up with this weekend.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Isaiah's murals

I had forgotten until I stumbled upon them again the mosaics here and here on South Street in Philadelphia by Isaiah Zagar. I remember some existed 25 years ago when I lived in Philadelphia before--in fact he began them in 1969--but I can't visualize what it looked like then. What a wonderful image of hope they are.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003


Leaving the kids at camp was as hard as the first time two years ago. John stayed home and loaded the car for our trip to Philadelphia, and it is a lot to juggle getting both kids settled on opposite sides of the camp. But I suppose it is also my fears of being in a new place myself that it was hard to leave them in a new place.

Our drive to Philadelphia went smoothly--about 12 hours total. The only snag was that the message to let us in didn't get passed on to the right doorperson and we couldn't get into the apartment when we first got there, but we got safely in about an hour later. I don't feel settled in, but at least I have a place to settle into now, both the apartment and an office at work.

I was very strained yesterday morning but since we have gotten to Philadelphia I have been forcing myself to cope. I hope to be able to let down some this evening.