Archive for the ‘Memories’ category

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

December 12, 2013

Silver Bridge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

There are many grand things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life, but the day of hiking the Grand Canyon down and up with my Canadian friend several years ago stands out. It was awesome to be able to face that ancient and grand creation of nature and at the same time to feel our minuteness in contrast with that rocky giant. I took this photo on Silver Bridge over the Colorado River – at the bottom of the Canyon, facing the lengthy journey (9.5 miles = 15.3 km) up the Bright Angel Trail to reach the top before the inevitable arrival of darkness.

I wrote about that hike in my post Footprints Left Behind  https://alicjamann.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/footprints-left-behind/

Potrait of Nelson Mandela

A similar feeling of awe and humbleness enveloped me last week when we faced the departure of Nelson Mandela – his strength, vision, perseverance, and political skills were not only grand, but super GRAND and will continue to inspire others for many years to come. I am happy to cherish memories of encountering that man during his visit to Boston in 1990 – soon after his release from prison. Even though I was a minute spot in the huge crowd of others who gathered at the Hatch Shell to honor Mandela, I will never forget that grand day.

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

November 21, 2013

Commonly the word layers is associated with layers of rocks or bricks, layers of sweet tasty cake, or layers of clothes – especially now when cold days are on our horizon. However, there are several meanings of this word. Here is one of them: layer – “a hen kept for egg production.”

Chicken in their coop

Here are my photos of “layers of layers” traveling or rather being transported to their new destination – perhaps to lay more eggs or…perhaps not.

Layers of white containers with chickens (layers)

Chicken in theirs containers being transported on a red truck

During one of my visits in Amsterdam (several years ago) I was stunned and mesmerized by colorful layers of bicycles waiting patiently for their riders in specially designated places – right in the heart of that big European city.

Layers of parked bicycles in special designated multi level place in center of Amsterdam

Many European cities are bicycle-friendly. Amsterdam is in fact super friendly. Consequently, the Dutch can eat their layered cakes without feeling guilty or fearful of gaining weight. Our cities should be full of bicycle-envy and follow Amsterdam’s path.

More bicycles in Amsterdam

 

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

July 4, 2013

I hesitate greatly to reveal my secrets, but this weekly photo challenge calls for it … so here you have it – my favorite companionable friend is… my shadow! By stating this I might upset some of my dear “flesh and blood” friends, but yes – I truly like my shadow and enjoy its companionship a lot! We walk and hike together; we sit together and think about thousands of issues and wonders of the world.

My shadow is very patient and flexible – never complains or argues. It follows me everywhere, disappears tactfully when I go to sleep, and is ready to go at weird hours in the morning. What a great companion in the very late hours of the night since it is never tired! Youthful, reliable, and very loyal. This is truly one of my best “for better, for worse… till death do us part” relationships!

My shadow on the patio

Shadow on the patio

My shadow on the deck

Shadow on the deck

And here is another secret of mine. I learned to pay attention to my shadow many years ago and I learned it from my 4 year-old (at that time) son Leo (not his real name but an astrological one for my writings). I do remember that day so well, as if time had not passed at all since then!

It was the quiet morning of a sunny spring day on Cape Cod. My toddler Leo was playing outside all by himself; his older brother was in school already, and no other friends of Leo were around. Being a bit concerned, I walked outside and asked, “You don’t have any friends to play with today, Leo – aren’t you feeling lonely?” “Oh no, Mommy,” he responded, “I am playing with my shadow!”

What a terrific concept! I was stunned and deeply touched, my eyes became misty.

From that day my shadow and I started a good friendship as well. That relationship became even more significant when I began my photographic endeavors. In fact, after several years, I honored my shadow by making it the trademark of my photography. Some of you who have read my blog for a while might have noticed that already, especially since my shadow is placed in the header of this blog.

 My shadow - my trademark

My shadow – my trademark

I love to travel in summer, and so does my shadow. Every year in June Tucson is under a strong and very uncomfortable spell of heat. What a pity! June is a lovely month elsewhere. So I followed the call of the ocean as indicated in the previous post: https://alicjamann.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/weekly-photo-challenge-curves/

This time an attempt to escape the heat took us, for a short time, to the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, California. Del Mar was the destination, but Solana Beach became my favorite spot.

 Entry to Solana Beach - long and steep wooden stairs

Entry to Solana Beach

 View of Solana Beach

Solana Beach

Author of the post walking on the line where ocean meets the sand

On that line

What a treat it was – I wish everybody who needs a small break could have it!

My shadow and I took late afternoon walks on the beach (usually empty at that time) following that line where the hard wet sand and the water touch each other in the rhythm of the ocean waves.

I love dancing, and I never had a better dance partner than my shadow. The day before returning home, we made a perfectly synchronized dance in honor of the monsoon which was supposed to arrive in Tucson any day.

Dancing on the beach - step one

Dancing on the beach - step two

Dancing on the beach - step three

Dancing on the beach - step four

The dance was effective – there was some rain in Tucson upon our return, but it did not last long. Perhaps the dance was too short. Perhaps we will have to repeat it over here in the desert. Perhaps more people should dance to bring down the rain – just like Native Americans do. I wrote about that in my post: https://alicjamann.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/monsoon-report-from-the-patio/

Have a nice Independence Day holiday!

Please do some dancing for rain or for sunshine… or for whatever you wish the dance will bring.

Alicja

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

June 6, 2013

Signs are all around us – warning, informing, communicating, decorating, and often irritating. They seem to be more visible when we travel by car.

I looked through some of my travel photos and made a choice of just a few, but with signs that differ greatly.   

Huge Rooster mounted on  white truck

This huge rooster is welcoming visitors to the small village of Hatch (population less than 2000) in New Mexico, located 40 miles north of Las Cruces. This village is proud of its bountiful chile crops and the annual event – The Hatch Chile Festival. The village is known as the chile capitol of the world!

Warm hospitality is part of the charm of Hatch and will stay in my memory as strongly pronounced Americana sprinkled with the chilli powders that I purchased there.

New Mexico Americana

While Hatch is a small village and there are so many small villages worth visiting, I had no idea that it is possible to have an official town of population 1… till we stumbled upon Lost Springs while driving along highway 20 West in Wyoming. So there it was – a green official highway sign stating just that: POP1.

Green road sign of Lost Springs with POP 1

I took this photo in 2010, not being aware that Lost Springs had a lot of media attention due to its demographic uniqueness at that time. Today, I learned, Lost Springs lost considerably its attraction since its population grew to 4 in 2011. Oh well… some gains and some losses.

The Sherwin-Williams Paint truck

Close up of the SWP truck  with their slogan - Cover the Earth.

This Sherwin-Williams Paint truck took my attention immediately. The Cover the Earth slogan reminded me of a political joke from the Cold War times when the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States also generated a strong competition in the exploration of space. Although in reality the Soviets did not land on the moon, for the sake of this joke they are placed there together with the Americans.

The Joke

Two teams of astronauts, one from the Soviet Union and one from the United States, were sent to the moon. After their landing, the Soviets immediately started to paint the surface of the moon with red paint – the color of their flag and symbol of Communism. Concerned, the Americans called Mission Control and reported that. They were advised to ignore the Soviets’ action.

When half of the moon was covered with red paint, the Americans called Earth again asking, “What shall we do?” The answer was, “Wait and do not worry!” So they did.

After a while, the American team called Earth again – this time with great urgency. “Look, the Soviets have already covered most of the moon with their paint – the whole world will see the moon in red!  What shall we do?! “

Mission Control now gave them an order, “Wait till the Soviets have covered the entire moon with red and then paint in huge white letters Coca Cola.

The End 🙂

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

April 25, 2013

Sometimes we do not need words of explanation or captions for photos. Such is the case here with my interpretation of “Up”.

 

Tall building in New Yourk

GW Bridge

View from the car of  a highway loop

Soutwestern Church with ringing bell

Tall business building in Tucson

I responded to several Weekly Photo Challenges before:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kiss

Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

The Power of Daffodils

March 30, 2013

I consider daffodils to be a cosmopolitan flower. They are cultivated in many countries at this time of year to be sold for spring celebrations.

The power of daffodils is the same over here as it is in Poland, Bulgaria, or Sweden. It lies in the power of the contradiction between their energy and their vulnerability. Their yellow represents great energy and optimism. At the same time these delicate plants are greatly dependent on an abundant supply of water for their survival. They definitely are not suitable for my Tucson garden!

Yellow daffodils on a dark background

Daffodils are beautiful when in masses – as in an open field. They are as beautiful in cut form, but their lives then are much, much shorter.

The daffodils of this spring have had a strong touch of sadness and drama for me. I brought them to my dear friend, Susan, in the last hours of her intense and brave battle with cancer. I shared them with good friends to honor both Susan’s departure and this Easter Holiday’s arrival.

I am now looking at the daffodils standing royally in a vase in the center of the table at my home. They look strong and happy, while I feel deflated and sad. Never before had their yellow reminded me of other yellows: the massive gold of forsythia blooms next to my house on the Cape – the plant that I have always considered the birthday plant for my older son who now is totally estranged from me…. The yellow of the lower row of the daffodils’ petals reminds me of the gentle yellow of the roses associated with two friends who are no longer among us. Finally the strong yellow of the daffodils’ blooms brings to my mind the bloom of the mesquite tree that I loved and lost several years ago. Losses, losses, losses – all in a yellow hue….

Is that yellow melancholy going to take over my heart for the entire Easter weekend? I wondered. So I examined again carefully the daffodils in the vase. And here was the surprise – their tender green stems and ruffled yellow trumpets were not affected by my dark mood at all! Yet, their irresistible yellow energy slowly replaced my darkness. That is the power of flowers!

Alicja

P.S.

Many poems were written about daffodils and their youthful dancing energy. Here you can listen to the poem of William Wordsworth:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EK9UWpYuZiE

Have a good Easter weekend and a MULTICOLORED Spring!

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

To Vote, or Not to Vote, that is NOT the Question.

October 20, 2012

We are in the midst of political campaigns and debates as Election Day approaches. Actually, we have been living in the midst of campaigns for the entire year! I feel fatigued by it and am looking forward to the end of it on November 6th. Regardless, I recognize how important casting one’s vote is and how important it is to be a well informed voter.

I did not always feel this way. Before my emigration to this country, my voting or not voting was totally irrelevant. Why?

Well, imagine yourself living behind the iron curtain in so called Communist Poland where you would have to vote for the list of candidates preselected by the Communist Party.

On Voting Day, which was always a Sunday, you would go to the voting place, pick up your ballot, glance at it quickly, and promptly insert it into the slot of the voting box. Most likely that box would be positioned in front of a rectangular table decorated with flowers and flags. At that table you would see the faces of several Party officials, sitting there and watching you carefully.

Oh yes! There would be available one booth with a black or green curtain. You could enter that booth to pencil out a couple of names on the ballot. But why would you bother? Living there at that time you would understand that “your patriotic duty is to trust the Party,” so even entering that booth would be a sign of your distrust. You would also know that those watchful comrades at the decorated table would make a note of it, and sooner or later you would be questioned about it. After all, the Communist Party had ultimate power over your life—like having a job, a place to live, permission to move to another city or to travel abroad.

Coming to this country changed my perspective on voting dramatically. So today when someone tells me, “I will not vote because it does not make any difference,” I get upset and argue, “It does matter a great deal!”

2012 presidential and vice-presidential debates

Romney-Obama and Biden-Ryan debates

I do admit that living in this country for many years has dimmed the rosy picture of Democracy which I had at first. Still, I believe in our democracy. Learning about the Civil Rights Movement in this country contributed greatly to that belief. It preserved my optimism and hope for change in spite of some cynicism creeping into my heart.

Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, is known today as the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. It is the place where a quiet action by Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Ten years later, another spark ignited the fire of the Voting Rights Movement — the famous, bloody march from Selma to Montgomery.

Last year I took the opportunity to visit Selma and Montgomery to “touch” the reality of those places.

Entrance to Selma, AL

Selma, Alabama

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma

The Edmund Pettus Bridge is the landmark in Selma that “witnessed” three attempts by the Voting Rights Movement to march peacefully to Montgomery. The first attempt on March 7, 1965 was bloody and ended at the bridge with the marchers being brutally beaten by Alabama State Troopers and forced to turn back. The last one on March 21 was successful — it took 4 days for protesters to walk to their destination, the state Capitol — this time with armed protection enforced by a U.S. District Court order. These marches led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act on July 9, 1965.

Cover of "The March Continues" from Southern Poverty Law Center

Cover of exhibit guide

Marchers on Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma

Marchers on Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma.
Click on photo to watch the video “Faces in the Water.”

Entrance to Civil Rights Museum, Selma, Alabama

Entrance to The National Voting Rights Museum, Selma

Inside the National Voting Rights Museum

At the desk of the Museum

Civil Rights Memorial fountain in Montgomery, Alabama

Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery

"Faces in the Water" video, and "A Lawyer's Journey: by Morris Dees

Mementos from the Civil Rights Memorial Center

Two woman holding sign "Votes for Women"

I experienced the women’s movement in this country during the 1970s and was strongly influenced by it. However, the women’s struggle for their voting rights had taken place much earlier in most countries including the United States. Somehow I did not take any special interest in the history of women’s suffrage until now.

It is amazing that women, half the population of this proudly democratic country, did not have the right to vote for over a century. Women had to take that issue into their hands and fight for that basic political right. Many dedicated their lives to it.

Women's suffrage march, Washington DC, March 3, 1913

Women’s suffrage march in Washington, D.C., 1913

While I simply hated the unlimited power of the Communist Party in Poland, today I dislike and distrust the power of “Big Money” (corporate and individual) trying to influence and distort the democratic process in this country. That is why I believe in the importance of being an informed voter.

In my opinion the act of not voting is a form of betrayal of those who in the past suffered, and in some cases died, for the right to vote.

November 6th is Election Day — be sure to VOTE!

Back cover of Bridges Magazine, published by Imani Press

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Photo of exhibit guide from Southern Poverty Law Center. Photo of marchers from “Faces in the Water” video. Women’s suffrage photos source unknown. Photo of men and flag from back cover of Bridges published by Imani Press. Text and other photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

On Loving Trees

June 6, 2012

June is beautiful, but cruel in southern Arizona. Here in Tucson we are sizzling in triple-digit temperatures already! In fact one can cook a meal on the dashboard of a car if parked for a few hours under the naked sky and exposed to the brutal intensity of the sun. Everybody seems to love trees here in June for their protective shade. Even those who complain about how messy trees are—with their shedding leaves or pods and drippings of birds housed in their branches—tolerate trees while waiting for the monsoon season to arrive.

The picture below looks like a perfect dream for June — beautiful trees and water! In fact it is a photo taken in June, but in distant Poland during one of my visits there. I grew up near that pond circled gracefully with weeping willows. One of them extended her trunk horizontally towards the pond and I could sit on it, dangling my feet above the water and enjoying my invisibility to others provided by the delicate and dense branches. I loved that tree and since then weeping willows have been one of my favorite trees.

Trees and water
Alicja Mann in Poland

When I moved to Tucson I fell in love with the native trees of Arizona almost immediately. In fact the desert environment taught me a lot about the hardship of a plant’s life. My respect and affection for the trees here has grown enormously. Southwest trees are very graceful and tough at the same time. How can one not love them?

Trees in southwestern US

The palo verde is the official tree of Arizona. That smart and strikingly green tree is able to put to work chlorophyll not only in its needle-like leaves but in the “skin” (delicate bark) of its trunk and branches. In spring the abundance of the yellow flowers of palo verdes also is impressive.

palo verde tree branches and blooms

Although I adore palo verde trees, my special affection goes to the mighty mesquite, most likely because I had invested a lot of time, effort, and emotion to save one of them here in Tucson. It was one of the oldest and most beautiful mesquites I ever met. It lived in an unfortunate spot near a sidewalk in the community where I lived for several years.

My tree

If that mesquite could have walked, I am sure it would have walked away from the people who felt threatened by its roots. It is true that roots can cause some problems with pavements and buried pipes, but such problems are solvable if there is a will to solve them.

I fought hard for that tree and even saved its life…for a while. During my absence, however, when I had to go to Poland to take care of my terminally ill mother, the people of that community decided to cut that beautiful mesquite, anyway.

That was a memorable summer for me—the summer of 2007. I lost my mom and I lost “my” tree!

So when I found a different place to live—a property on which stands our renovated home and where also stands my studio—one of the important activities was adding a variety of plants. I decided to plant a young mesquite tree in honor of the one that was killed in 2007.

It just so happened that our new neighbors loved trees, too, and Joe had a couple of baby mesquite trees—nurtured by him from tiny seedlings—available for planting. I got one for our yard and they got one for theirs. Here you can see Joe and Nancy visiting a bit ruffled young mesquite decorated with ribbon on the day of its planting. From that day we became “mesquite relatives” with our neighbors.

Two people and recently-planted mesquite tree

Time passed and the young mesquite grew considerably along with the other plants in our yard. The tree looked as if it were dancing, reminding me of Zorba the Greek from the old classic 1964 movie (starring Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates), and I named him Zorba the Tree. It had such a strong presence that the new patio had to be designed to embrace him and make him the focal point of our yard.

Zorba the mesquite tree

Today Zorba has been with us for three years. It had to be trimmed a lot in order to grow taller and stronger. It became a favorite visiting spot for quite a few birds, including a stubborn woodpecker that injured one of Zorba’s “arms”. Little Zorba became an adult tree. His branches stretch from the studio to the house—creating a charming living ramada.

Zorba, a mesquite tree

Soon Zorba will have to stay alone for a couple of months during our annual visit to Cape Cod. I like those trips and will see other trees through the car window while crossing the country—the trees of New Mexico or the Midwest—sometimes close and sometimes far away.

Passing by trees
Passing by trees
Seeing trees in any place makes me happy, but the real treat is to visit trees I have known for a long time like the ones in the “wild” yard of our Cape house. The house does not have an ocean view as some people imagine, but that does not matter. It feels good to sit on the elevated deck being surrounded with the wild greenery—in fact it feels almost like being on an ocean of green. I especially like the protective presence (against hurricanes) of the tall white pines. Yes, white pines are definitely my favorites there.

white pine deck and tree
I will be happy to see again the old and majestic grandma Ernestine—a white pine who witnessed my sons growing up around there. I like to see her family members scattered around the house. I feel these trees are my friends, almost a family.

grandmother and youth white pines

It might sound strange and even corny when I talk like that, but that does not matter. I learned these feeling towards nature partially from my father, but mostly from my Wampanoag friends on the Cape. Native Americans often refer to plants or animals as “people”—like “plant people”, for instance. I like that concept very much and have incorporated into my life style and philosophy. I see my favorite plants that way, and especially trees!

Trees live long among us, silently witnessing our happiness and our sorrows. Trees are strong and yet they are vulnerable the way people are.

They live in communities like the ones in my Cape Cod yard.

trees in community
Sometimes they live a lonely life, like the tree I met on the Kaibab Trail while hiking the Grand Canyon.

Tree alone on Kaibab trail at Grand_Canyon
They dream like the “dreaming tree” below… and this is a poetic stretch of my imagination, of course.

Dreaming tree
Trees can definitely get hurt badly by a fire — most likely a man made one.

Being burned
And I like to imagine that they cry like us …just with a different color of tears….

Crying yellow

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Text and photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Mother’s Day Reflections

May 18, 2012

Mother’s Day has passed, flowers are wilting in vases, and colorfully witty or sentimental cards are still floating around in many households waiting to be stashed away as keepsakes. Most mothers are hopelessly sentimental. I am one of them.

This year my Mother’s Day was a mixed bag, some celebration and quite a bit of reminiscing. I looked back into the past and into the magic glass ball for answers to what the future will hold.

My motherhood has not been an easy one — probably none of them are, but on Mother’s Day we — mothers — want to and are expected to be full of smiles and happiness. But what if you are not that happy, what if you are disappointed, what if you are hurting? I guess we have to remember that joys and pains are part of motherhood, then smile again….

Here are some images I gathered on that theme, garnished with my words.

Sculpture of mother holding child

I cherish this small statuette symbolizing motherhood. I received it from my friend Pam, also a mother, several years ago for memories of our motherhood and friendship. The statuette sits comfortably on one of the bookshelves in our Tucson home, but ties me strongly to Cape Cod. So I took its picture using a beige and blue background representing the desert of Tucson and the cool waters around the Cape.

Framed portrait of Alicja Mann and her two sons

So here I am as a mother! This is a painting created from my very favorite photo of the three of us — me and my two sons — in the 1980s. It is from the time of my single motherhood and it will always represent for me our strong unity during those challenging, yet happy, times — regardless what our reality is today or in the future.

The portrait was painted by Doug Rugh, a well-known artist of Falmouth, Massachusetts.

The Migrant Mother photo by Dorothea Lange is so well known! Still, it is good to see it again and again as a reminder that bad times have been the reality for many among us, then and now.

Lange took this photo of Florence Owens and her children in 1938 in Nipomo, California. You can see more photos of Florence with her children and learn about the photographer’s encounter with them by clicking on the photo or this link.

Madonna and child

This is a piece of art I bought some time ago in one of the “antique” shops of Tucson. You know, one of those places where you can spend a lot of time looking at things, touching them, having a hard time deciding which ones to buy, because in reality you don’t need them. That was not the case this time! I thought I was buying this Madonna for a friend in Poland, but after bringing her home I could not part with her. For me, she is the best Madonna I have ever seen! I understand her worries and concerns, and I respect her strength and pride.

So this reproduction of someone’s art (the piece is not signed), mounted on a very sturdy piece of wood, is hanging in our bedroom. I never feel tired of it.

Marie Curie with her daughters

Marie (Sklodowska) Curie sitting on a garden bench with her two daughters does not look all that joyful in this 1905 photo. It is a very rare image of this extraordinary and hard working scientist (native of Poland, citizen of France), a recipient of two Nobel prices (1903 and 1911) for her work. She must have had plenty of concerns about how to combine the demands of her science with her motherhood!

Child being held by his cousin in Peru

When I saw this painting by Christine Lytwynczuk in one of the Tucson galleries, I jumped with excitement. “Here it is,” I thought, “a painting that represents the joy of motherhood!” The large size of the art with its vivid colors of Peruvian clothing, happy face of a mother…a perfect addition to our Tucson home. And so it is prominently displayed in our dining area.

However, there is one thing I have to add — while purchasing this piece I learned that there is no mother in it at all! How come? Well, the happy person holding the baby is a young Peruvian boy, a cousin of that baby. Wow, I was blown away for a while by that discovery.

After a while I settled with my feelings. Who cares if it is not a mother or not even a woman? Joy is joy! So I call this piece JOY. Once in a while I even see in it a young, happy Peruvian mother and say to her, “Hello!”.

Larger agave with smaller agave underneath

We are so accustomed to see cute photos of women with kids, or animals with their offspring, that plants are not considered as major players in motherhood images. For me, however, Agave plants are very motherly! Just look at this baby plant snuggled under its mother protective and feisty leaves. Don’t you agree?

Alicja with her baby Leo

Baby Alicja and her mother Krystyna

Baby Alicja and her mother Krystyna

Alicja with her toddler Taurus

Alicja with her toddler Taurus

Toddler Alicja with her mother Krystyna

Toddler Alicja with her mother Krystyna

These photos are of my mother and me when we became mothers. (I have placed captions for clarity.) These images are strikingly similar in their composition even though there is over thirty years difference in time, thousands of miles of space, and a huge color spectrum in photo technology between them.

Alicja and her mother

This is photo of my mom and me was taken in 2005 during one of my visits to Warsaw. Each visit was a happy time for us and always too short, of course. Two years later was my last time to be with her and celebrate her Mother’s Day — Mother’s Day in Poland is on May 26th. She died in July 2007 and I still have a hard time to accept it. The hardest thing is that I have no one to call and say, “Czesc Mamo!” — “Hi Mom!”

I will end these reflections with a quote from the Introduction to the book Letters to Mother, a hefty collection of letters from many famous artists, politicians, historians, philosophers and writers to their mothers — edited by Charles Van Doren.

“If there is anyone in the world whom we should not have to deceive, who is most likely to know us for what we are and love us anyway, who will never prefer complexity of thought and expression to simplicity and directness of feeling…that person is our mother.”

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Photo of migrant mother by Dorothea Lange in the public domain. Joy – copyright by Christina Lytwynczuk. Marie Curie with her daughters copyright by Association Curie Joliot-Curie; photographer unknown. Text and other photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Footprints Left Behind

March 8, 2012

Did you ever wonder why people carve their names or initials on tree trunks, benches, and other objects? And did you notice that more significant places often have more of those markings?

That strong desire to make a statement “I was here!” is as old as the human race—a desire to make and leave behind some sort of sign, a “footprint” of existence.

The mysterious markings and images pecked or painted on cliffs and boulders in the West, known as the pictographs, are messages from the past. Similarly, the boot print of the Apollo 11 crew member and the American flag left behind on the moon in 1969 are our message to the future stating, “We were here.”

Bootprint left on moon by Apollo 11 astronaut (from NASA)

Boot print on the moon – NASA photo

I probably would not have thought about this at all if I had not found an almost forgotten photograph of my footprints, or rather boot prints, from several years ago. I was sorting through piles of my photographs in preparation for the recent art exhibit and there it was—the photograph of my boot prints in the Grand Canyon! And there also was another photo showing the boot prints of my Canadian friend, Joan, with whom I had undertaken the challenge of hiking that incredible canyon – down and up in one day!

Alicja Mann shadow and footprints at Grand Canyon

My boot prints and shadow on the Grand Canyon trail

These footprints in the dust of the trail were a short lived statement of my presence there. Short lived, but definitely a bit longer than the bare footprints I make at the edge of the ocean each time I walk on the wet sand of Silver Beach when I am on Cape Cod. There the very next wave smooths out the footprints and the following one makes them disappear totally. I never had an impulse to take a picture of my footprints there— maybe because that beach is so familiar to me. Similarly, I did not have that desire on any mountain hikes around Tucson, even though the mountains here are very beautiful.

Just being at the Grand Canyon evokes an unforgettable feeling of awe and humbleness, but hiking it, measuring myself against its giant scale of space and time is indescribable. That’s right—the magnificence and hugeness of the Grand Canyon was so overwhelming and the sense of my minuteness there against the background of the rocks formed through the millennia of time, made me feel like shouting, “I am here! I am really here!” Hence the footprint photo and many other photos that captured that adventure.

Now these photos seem flat and very one dimensional, and can’t adequately illustrate the beauty and power of that place. Still, I will share a few of them with you. If you haven’t been there, I hope that you do go—after all it is one of the wonders of the world, and was not man-made, but created by nature over millions of years!

Grand Canyon morning from South Kaibab Trail

View of the Grand Canyon in the morning light

Alicja and Joan at the Grand Canyon, morning

At the South Kaibab trailhead – 7 AM

Grand Canyon textures and colors by Alicja Mann

Textures and colors of the Grand Canyon

Alicja Mann at Grand Canyon

Alicja and view of O’Neill Butte

Footbridge at Grand Canyon

Silver Bridge over the Colorado River

Grand Cayon walls seen from Bright Angel trail

Going up the Bright Angel trail

Alicja Mann and sign at end of Grand Cayyon hike

At the end of the trail – 7 PM

My boot prints in the Grand Canyon disappeared almost immediately while the boot prints on the moon probably remain unchanged. There are no winds on the moon to erode them, so they might be there forever.

Here on Earth our physical presence is fragile and temporary, but we humans are clever and capable of making different, more permanent “footprints” to mark our short time of existence. No one wants to be forgotten or insignificant. So we often strive in a variety of ways to make “footprints” of our lives. One way is through creative work: writing, painting, composing…. As a result we create books, paintings, records, and photographs that can live on after we are gone.

Framed painting, music CD cover, book, another image

Different types of “footprints”

I was reminded of this just a few days ago. Lou Colombo, a jazz musician whom I knew from Cape Cod and whose trumpet playing I love, died last Saturday in a car accident. That was terribly upsetting. However, his music will stay with us. I know it will stay with me.

Lou Colombo CD cover with personal notes from musician

Lou Colombo’s CD jacket

Click on Lou’s picture below and listen to his musical “footprint” titled “It all depends on you.”

Lou Colombo and his trumpet (Cape Cod Times file photo by Ron Schloerb)

That is right, it all depends on you….

P.S. To learn more about Lou Colombo click to read Cape jazz legend Lou Colombo dies in the Cape Cod Times.

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Boot print on the moon photo from NASA. Alicja’s photo by Joan Agnew. Lou Colombo photo by Ron Schloerb/Cape Cod Times. Text and other photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.


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