About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Best Photos of 2016 - January

Best wishes for a healthy, happy and creative 2017. Many of us are glad to see the end of 2016, but are uncertain of what the new year brings. One thing that always makes me happy is to observe nature and try to capture the best of what I observe through photography. I take photos most every day and have selected my favorites here from January 2016:

Red-bellied Woodpecker - this photo reveals how it got its name--not always evident in most photos:

Red-bellied Woodpecker showing off its flashy cape and hood:

Pileated Woodpecker, a rare visitor to my yard. Here it shows off a striking red Mohawk:

Blue Jay--striking markings stand out against the snow:

Some closeups of the small Downy Woodpecker:

Last January was a snowy month so it was a real pleasure to feed the birds and capture them on camera. If you enjoyed these photos, check back in a day or so for the February favorites.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mountain Soul

(Photo: mid-1960s-home on Cow Pen Creek, Pike County, Kentucky--visiting my family from college)

This past weekend the new season at Actor's Theater opened with Fire on the Mountain, a musical about the joys, struggles, and sorrows of coal mining families in the Appalachians. With each familiar tune--Dark as a Dungeon, Single Girl, Where the Soul of Man Never Dies, Which Side are You On?, Bright Morning Stars--I returned to my childhood. It was a childhood shaped, like many others, by growing up in the coal camps of eastern Kentucky.

(Photo 1958: Keyser Holler, Pike County - one of my childhood homes)

The grainy photographs of the miners, their families, and the coal camps that served as backdrops for the play were quite familiar to me--Joe's Creek, Big Shoal, Little Shoal, Keyser, Coal Run. In the late '40s and '50s, these camps were home. Coal companies cut narrow roads up the hollows along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, hardly more than walking paths since very few people living there owned cars. Next, they threw up small three-room--for the most part--houses to rent to mining families. We moved around often in these camps, always looking for a bigger house or one with a barn and some land to farm on the side. And, finding a house with a roof that didn't leak was also a big plus!

(Photo 1950s: my dad, Dennie Lowe - by this time he had to leave the coal mines because of black lung disease)

Daily life was all about coal. My earliest memory was around four years old. It was seeing my dad leave the house before daylight wearing his miner's hat with its carbide light turned on in order to see to walk out of the hollow to meet up with other miners. He carried dinner and water in an aluminum pail. At four years old, I worried that he wouldn't come home, especially when he and my mother had been arguing at breakfast. In mining families, the arguments were often about earning enough money to support a family and the dangers of going into the mines. However, in the evening my dad did return--after dark. He'd wash his face, eat supper, and go to bed only to start all over the next day.

Saturdays and Sundays were special for mining families. On Saturday my dad got off work early and got paid. He'd wash all the coal dust off and put on clean clothes. Then, we kids were allowed to walk with him and my mom to a little general store--there were always these stores near the mining camps--to buy staples for the week. Oh, it was exciting because we'd each get pop and a candy bar and that one night we'd have bologna sandwiches for supper. Each week my dad paid on the running account we kept with the store, never quite coming out ahead.

After electricity came to the camps in the early '50s, music was an even greater joy to all of us. After supper on Saturday night the whole family gathered around a big upright radio, sometimes neighbors who didn't have a radio would join us. We always listened to the Grand Ole Oprey, singing along with our favorite performers. And, we stayed up late because there was no working in the mines on Sunday.
(Photo: early 1960s- my parents Dennie and Bonnie Lowe leaving their church)

On Sunday, the music continued. After breakfast, straightening the house, and starting Sunday dinner we could relax--Sunday was the only day of rest. We listened to Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadian Band on the radio, walked to a nearby church, and then in the evening sat on the porch or by the fireplace singing together out of old hymnals we always had around. Sometimes we sang the old mountain ballads like Barbara Allen or Knoxville Girl. These tunes were handed down from our Scots-Irish ancestors.

(Photo 1960s - left my brothers Thurman and Truman and sister Margaret; right my brother Thurman and me and our white charger!)

(My brothers worked in the coal mines, but like many other men left eastern Kentucky to find better jobs in the industrial north.  Here they, along with some of my uncles and cousins, would travel to Michigan and New York and work as migrant fruit pickers--cherries in Michigan and apples in New York.  Most came back home to Kentucky by Christmas.) 

We lived this way, with only minor changes, until I graduated from high school in the mid-60s. Like the stories told of other mining families in Fire on the Mountain, our lives were molded by coal mining. My dad left the mines in the late '50s with black lung disease. My older brothers took his place until they were old enough to find other work in Ohio, Michigan, and New York. I was the lucky one, escaping to a better life though education. However, I always remember that I have, and will always have, a mountain soul.

(Note:  this is an updated post from 2007.  I have just read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance about his growing up poor in eastern Kentucky and the "Rust Belt" of Middletown, Ohio.  I wanted to write my own hillbilly elegy.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Catching Light -Mykonos, Good-bye Greek Isles


In June I finished a tour of eight European countries, Austria to Turkey and mostly along the Dalmatian coast with a brief cruise of the Greek Islands.  Mykonos was the last island on the cruise before ending the trip in Athens, Greece.  I chose Mykonos for this "catching light" post because the day we spent on the island offered countless opportunities to photograph brilliant light--blue skies and sea, white cube-shaped houses glittering in the sun.

(Click on collages to enlarge.)

Here are some of the best sights from my tour of the harbor and town, including the lime washed cubical buildings with their blue accents and flat terrace roofs:

Mykonos has many churches, most very small.  In the past churches were built on sites to avoid paying taxes--example the small sanctuary middle left.  The large free form church is the Paraportiani and is quite unique as it is a blending of five churches each with different architecture:

Here are some common sights walking along the harbor:  fishing boat, the Alexandria Restaurant by the sea, an old anchor, fresh seafood (including octopus which is pounded and then hung to dry from fishing boats before preparing) and a playful dog making a pest of himself on the beach:

Streets are narrow and paved with flat stones that are painted white all around.  The white-washed buildings are accented with colorful doors, windows, and balconies.  Blooming bougainvillea, oleander, hibiscus, and fuchsia tumble over walls and balconies.

The windmill is a classic symbol of Mykonos.  At one time the windmills were used for grinding grain.  Now they are part of the character of the island.  Notice the Barbie pink scooter lower right!

These final shots are of the setting sun over the Aegean Sea as we walked back to our ship along the harbor:

 By this time I had been away from home for 21 days so was getting quite homesick.  Still, I'm glad to have these memories of sparkling white light against the blue Aegean Sea.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Catching Light - Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

September 1 - a quiet Labor Day here in the U.S. and a favorite holiday because it's not too early to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall. I see the first hints of fall around the lake at Bernheim Forest. Brilliant skies reflected in the lake, grasses along the water's edge just turning and catching the light. A quiet and welcome time of the year. Enjoy. (Click on image to enlarge.)


Monday, August 25, 2014

Catching Light - Big Sky Sweden

Slowly getting back into blogging after a long absence by participating in "Inspiring Photography-Catching Light", a very intriguing meme hosted by Monica at Nature Footstep . Looking for--and capturing--the light in all its surprising variations is both a challenge and a pleasure for most photographers. Especially when I travel, I'm always aware of the different light wherever I am, looking for something that I would not see at home. For this week, I'll show you examples of the light in the landscapes of mostly southern Sweden, captured on a trip from Stockholm to Malmo (2008).

(Click on images to enlarge.)

This first dawn photo was taken through the airplane window.  According to the "you are flying here" map we were just south of Reykjavik, Iceland, flying over Aberdeen, Scotland and about two hours from landing in Stockholm.  The light of dawn is always a welcome sight after a long night flying:

The view from your hotel window is always the luck of the draw.  Sometimes you get the blank wall, the air conditioning units, or parking lot.  Other times--as I did in Stockholm--you get beautifully lit architecture on the water.  This is a night view of the Stockholm City Hall with its gold capped tower and Three Crowns, the official symbol of Sweden (by the way, the Nobel Prize ceremonies are held in the Gold Room of this building every year):

After a few day's sightseeing in and around Stockholm, my tour group began a long drive through the farmland of south central Sweden.  The light was so clear, the clouds just huge and appearing so close to the rolling grain fields along the highway.  The farm buildings in this region are painted with Falu or Falun Red, a color resulting from mixing copper ore castings into the paint.  This color has been commonly used in Sweden for hundreds of years:

Many of the farms lay along Lake Vattern, a long finger lake which feeds into the Baltic Sea and the second largest lake in Sweden.  Here I loved the sky's reflections in the glassine surface of the lake:

In small villages and towns along Lake Vattern we saw many gaily painted and trimmed cottage homes like this one in the traditional Falu Red, which looked wonderful caught in the sunlight:

And finally, late in the day we stopped at a family owned inn in Toflahom for the night.  This was our twilight view of a small lake from the dining room window.  The next day we had just a short drive to Malmo where we took a long bridge/causeway across the sea to Copenhagen, Denmark:

I must say the light surprised me in Sweden.  I expected weak, watery skies, but got brilliant almost painterly light instead.  If you too find chasing light with a camera fascinating, be sure to check out Monica's link above.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Catching Light - Mykonos at Dawn

After a blog re-design hiatus of eight months, a new meme, "Inspiring Photography-Catching Light" hosted by Monica at Nature Footstep Memes has inspired me to get posting again. So, please ignore the signs of "under construction" on my blog and enjoy the breaking dawn light as my cruise ship, the Lewis Crystal, came into the harbor of the Greek island of Mykonos (June 2014).  All these photos were shot through my cabin port holes. That "crackling" is from salt spray on the glass.

(Click on images to enlarge --I'm still trying to figure out how to manage larger photos in my blog template. :-)

I started shooting before dawn, sun rising over the open sea:

Here you can see ghostly outlines of the Mykonos harbor and its lights through heavy fog:

A favorite shot in this series, the little red tug boat that could -guide our ship into the harbor:

Shadowed structures on the dock:

Views: of the waterfront before fog fully lifted, sunlight just starting to hit the buildings:
Golden dawn light on the harbor:

Hope you enjoyed my attempts to "catch the light". Be sure to go over to Monica's place at Nature Footstep Memes to link to more light shots.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mosaic Monday - Swiss Travel Dog

click on mosaic to enlarge

While on a somewhat blogging hiatus over the recent holidays I was trying to come up with some fresh post topics for the new year.  Here's my first effort:  Dog a Day.  Whenever I travel I miss my dog(s) that are left at home.  So, not far into the trip I'm looking for dogs to pet and photograph no matter what country I'm traveling in.  To begin this series I give you the Swiss Bernese Mountain Dog from a 2008 European trip.

Spotted this grand dog at an outdoor cafĂ© in the historic center of Lucerne, Switzerland.  The Bernese is as much a symbol of Switzerland as its red cross flag (flying from buildings in top left photo), chocolate, and fine timepieces.  The Reuss River runs through the historic city center and cafes and shops line either side of the river where the Swiss enjoy the outdoors.  The flower decked wooden Chapel Bridge spans the river and provides a beautiful walkway.  This wooden bridge is one of the oldest in Europe, built in the 1330s.  The inside bridge roof is covered with very old paintings.  Middle right photo was taken from a cruise boat on Lake Lucerne and is the classic Swiss landscape of small wooden farmhouses and chalets nestled into the steep mountainside.  Lower right is a shot of the cloud-covered Alps.  I took this pic from the summit of Mount Pilatus near Lucerne.  Getting to the summit involved thrilling rides in a cable car, ski lift AND aerial gondola!  Think you'll agree that the view was worth the effort.

So, I hope you enjoyed this first Dog a Day post.  If so, come back next week.  Who knows where we'll go-Russia, Italy, France, New Zealand? 

Linking to Mosaic Monday