Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tonight's Dolphins

I was out at Quick Point Nature Preserve this evening not long before sundown and I happened to spot a few dolphin swimming by. There were several of them, and they'd all follow each other out of the water at about the same time, so I was able to get some shots. Frequently, they all emerge at the same time and then disappear, but these were playing some sort of follow the leader game that let me get some shots. Nothing too impressive, but more visible fins than usual.

I'm sure that cormorant was wondering if he'd be able to get his beak around one of these guys if he caught one.

That's a pretty distinctive mark on the dorsal fin of this one. I guess that's a good way of keeping track of the individual dolphins in a certain area. I bet with a little research, I could find out more about this individual. OK, maybe not...

The Oldest

What you are looking at is believed to be the oldest grave in all of Arlington National Cemetery. This one actually predates the creation of the cemetery and contains the godmother of General Robert E.. Lee's wife. Mary Randolph wrote the first American cookbook and died in 1828. The cemetery was not used for military burials until the Civil War. At the time, it was customary for people to be buried near their home, even on their own property. It's rather amazing to me that the monument has survived to this day.

More Unknowns

Close to Lee's House in Arlington National Cemetery lies a lesser known memorial to America's unknown war dead. This monument was erected to honor those unknown soldiers whose bodies were gathered after the Battle of Bull Run. They numbered 2,111 dead. I can't make out what it says completely, not in the pictures and not when I was there in person, but here's a link to a couple of pictures that allow you to read what it says.

More Maine

I brought you a couple of pictures last year of the USS Maine Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, but I didn't have any good pictures of the main component of the memorial. So here are a couple shot of the actual mast from the USS Maine, salvaged from Havana, Cuba, after the explosion that killed three-fourths of those on board.

Known But To God

Here are a couple of good close-up shots from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you look close, you'll see that the guard shows no rank. This is so that the guard does not outrank the unknowns who are interred here.

The inscription read "Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God".

Notice how the wreaths on the side of the tomb are upside down.


When I was in DC at Arlington (OK, which is in Virginia, not DC, but still...), we happened to stumble on a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was right after the changing of the guards, actually, but long enough that many people had wandered off. The soldier who had been on duty went into a small guard shack off to the left and another soldier came out and removed a wreath that had been on a stand near the tomb. He placed it on the ground behind the tomb alonside a long row of similar wreaths. I don't tknow how often they change the wreaths, but there were quite a few there on the ground.

Then the guard returned with a new wreath and a trumpeter. He walked up the steps of the viewing area where some ladies were waiting. He spoke to them for a few moments, then they all marched together down the steps.

The ladies placed the wreath on the stand, then stood at attention as the trumpeter blew Taps.

Then they turned and walked back up the steps. I believe the wreath was dedicated to their mother, but I'm not sure. I'm sure it was quite an honor to be allowed to lay a wreath in such a prestigious place.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Cherry Blossoms

There's something about the bright exuberance of the cherry tree blossoms set against the stoic silence of the soldier's graves at Arlington. All that color up in the air against the cold white stones. It's very beautiful.

Also From Arlington

I showed you a picture just a second ago from Arlington National Cemetery where you could see the Pentagon. Well, Arlington is on a rise in Virgina just across the Potomac River from DC, so you can see lots of things from there. Just as a quick example, you can see the Washington Monument rising beyond a cherry tree in the shot above, and way in the distance in the shot below you can see the Capitol Building. I'm sure I'll come across more as I flip through all my pictures.


The original entrance to Arlington National Cemetery is McClellan Gate, the rear of which is seen here. Someday I'm going to have to walk around to the other side of it to see the front. This was as close as we got, so I didn't see too much of it. The gate dates back to 1879, so it's been there for a good long time now. I'm sure it will be there when I get back to DC.
If you look beyond the gate, you can see the Pentagon way in the background.


As promised, here's the other big draw in Washington, DC's Lincoln Park. Sure enough, it's a statue of Abraham Lincoln where he's symbolically freeing the slaves. This statue was planned not long after Lincoln's death, and it was paid for through donations by former slaves. Sorry about the horrible light, I don't have too much control over the sun, and didn't know which way the statue faced before I got there. Note to self-Go in the morning! It doesn't seem to have an official name, but many folks call it Emancipation from the label across the front.

I guess there's a lot of controversy about this statue and it's representation of the slave at Lincoln's feet. All I can say is that you have to look at such things as they would have appeared to the people contemporary with it's creation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I mentioned in my last post that I had some old pictures of a Robert Berks sculpture, and here it is. This is John F. Kennedy, found inside Kennedy Center. I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of this look. I think it seems a long way from finished. I suppose I have to give the sculptor a great deal of credit, though, for being able to capture the look of the subject even in such an apparently unfinished state.

I visited Kennedy Center back in September of 2009. I didn't share too many (any?) pictures of it, I'm afraid. I get in moods sometimes where I want to post every picture I take, and sometimes I don't want to post any of them because I don't think they're any good.

Mary McLeod Bethune

From the National Arboretum, I take you to Lincoln Park, a few miles from the Capitol building, but still on Capitol Ave. Mary McLeod Bethune is a hero of the Civil Rights movement, but I know her from the college in Daytona Beach that bears her name, Bethune-Cookman University.

Her memorial wasn't my main reason for visiting this park, as you'll see shortly. (Think about it, it's called Lincoln Park for a reason...) But it was a nice monument so I took some photos. It's in a pretty nice neighborhood, and there were lots of people playing in the park. Lots of kids and dogs, so if you're ever in DC, it's a nice place to visit.

The artist who created this artwork is Robert Berks. You'll see another sculpture of his later that I found on this trip, and if you're good, I think I have an old picture of one of this other works from an earlier trip to DC.

Some Tulips

I haven't shown you any tulips from DC in a couple of days, so here are some cool red ones from the National Arboretum. Enjoy!

Chutes Open

I only saw skydivers once at Sun-N-Fun this year, and I think it was right at the start of the airshow on Saturday. Unfortunately, it was nothing but gray skies that afternoon, so these probably aren't pictures to write home about. But just imagine that red smoke against a bright blue sky. *sigh*

In case you can't figure out what's going on here, there's a rope trailing off the jumpers leg. Every few feet on that rope is another smoke pot, and that's what's creating the lines of red smoke in the sky. Neat trick.

Even without blue sky, this is a nice shot.

And here he is, just about to touch down. I rarely fight my way to the front of the crowd, so I never get the shot of his feet actually touching the ground. Not worth the hassle, I suppose.

Not Bonsai

I just showed you a great selection of bonsai trees at the National Arboretum, and that reminded me of this tree on Lake Hollingsworth in Lakeland, FL. It's by no means a bonsai, I'd guess it's 8-10 feet tall, but the root structure seems to be growing over a large rock, so it reminded me of some of those bonsai trees. Maybe if you could shoot it with some little miniaturization beam and shrink it down to under 2' tall, then you could call it a bonsai.


Next up at the US National Arboretum is the National Bonsai & Penjiang Museum. I had no idea such a thing existed, but they have a very impressive collection of very tiny trees. These aren't the same as the bonsai trees you see for sale at some stores or local plant shows. These are champion specimens, raised by some of the finest practitioners of the art of miniaturization. And there is one tree in the collection that stands above all the others, even though it's only two feet tall, but I'm going to save that one until the end. The collection was split up into a Chinese collection (the Penjiang part of the name, which seems to predate Bonsai), the Japanese part, and then an American section. I didn't do a good job of keeping track of what I shot where, so it's just going to be a collection of random pictures here.

As I mentioned earlier, the last two pictures above are of the same tree, and it's a very special tree. I had to read the ID tag for it more than once. And then I thought it was a typo, but I asked and I was assured it was correct. This tree has been growing under the care of a bonsai master since 1625.  That's right, 385 years!  And that's not counting the time it may have spent in the wild before it was collected.  I can't even imagine anything that old.  And in all that time, it's only been allowed to grow to it's present height of about 30".  That's dedication on the part of a very long string of gardeners.  I also read online that this tree was in Hiroshima during the atomic blast in 1945.  I didn't hear that at the Arboretum, so take it with a grain of salt.