The (Three Dimensional) Image of a Being

For millennia, man has been creating sculpted, carved, and cast representations of people and animals. No matter where in the world you go, you will find statues. These pieces were made for various reasons, but many of them are designed to honor their subjects.

The Maisonneuve Monument to one of the founders of Montreal stands in the Place d’Armes in Montreal’s Old City. The statue is impressive in daylight, but at night it is still imposing – and casts an interesting “reverse shadow” on the buildings behind it, just to the right of the pedestal. (To enlarge any photo, just click on it.)

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Also in the Old City, in Place Jacques Cartier, is a pillar topped by a monument to Admiral Horatio Nelson who died waging his successful campaign against the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar. A larger, similar statue graces Trafalgar Square in London.

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There are also military statues dedicated to groups of people. The Commando Memorial in the Great Glen of Scotland commemorates the British Commandos of World War II. And most towns of any size in New England and Upstate New York have monuments honoring those who served in the US Civil War.

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Then there are the statues of royalty. King Kamehameha of Hawaii is immortalized in a statue in front of Honolulu’s Aliʻiolani Hale (home of TV’s Hawaii Five-O and the actual State Supreme Court.) Replicas are located in various other places, including Washington DC and Las Vegas. The second statue below is in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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The last monarch of Hawaii was Queen Liliuokalani. Her statue stands between the State Capitol building and the Iolani Palace. Her contemporary, Queen Victoria, is represented around the world in a variety of wonderful statues (after all, the sun never set on the British Empire during her reign.) The one included here is in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

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Rodin sculpted Les Bourgeois de Calais (The Burghers of Calais), and castings of the figures can be found in various locations, including the two below – in the gardens by the Parliament Buildings in London, and on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The statues tell the story of the siege of Calais by the English. The town was starving, and the English king agreed to spare the city if six town fathers would surrender to him. They did, and the town was saved. They were to be executed, but the English queen prevailed on the king to spare them so they could return home.

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And then some statues have religious or spiritual significance – Like the Great Buddha of Kamakura, or the Native American totem pole we saw in Central California.

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It’s fun to look at whimsical modern sculptures and then at older, more traditional pieces. Like this statue of a woman with a pool cue in the Beijing Olympic Park, and the three ancient statues is a display at the Ming Tombs outside the city.

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Or this clever sculpture, David Altmejd’s The Eyein front of the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal’s New City, with its surreal elements overlayed on a more classical framework – juxtaposed against the elegant simplicity of one of my favorite art objects, the ancient Greek Aphrodite of Milos, or Venus de Milo at the Louvre.

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There’s no end to the number of wonderful statues in the world – some small enough to hold in hand, others large enough to climb into. And all were wonderfully conceived and created by clever human hands.

___________________________________________________________ This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Statues. To see other bloggers’ shapely responses and get more info on these challenges, just click on the link

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Beautiful Gardens, Elusive Dreams

100_4570 (2)OK, I confess. I had a sort of nerdy childhood. The heroes I hungrily read about were composers, artists, writers, kings and queens. My mother was particularly fascinated by Henry VIII and his family, the Tudors. She told us stories about them from the time we were quite young. Maybe it was his red hair, or the fact that he spoke multiple languages, was well-read, and even wrote and composed some hymns. Maybe it was the passion with which he lived his life, and even the “bad boy” reputation that lives on today in historically dubious movies and TV series.

But I think mostly it was that Henry was a tragic hero with a tragic flaw.

With the zeal of Ahab, he sought to leave a male heir behind when he died. In his quest, he left wives, children, friends, mistresses, politicians, his relationship with the pope (and the Catholic church in general) in the dust. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, delivered him multiple children of both sexes, but only one survived – Princess Mary.

100_4490 (2)When it became clear that she would never give him a son, Henry found a pretense to divorce Catherine and marry his new companion, Anne Boleyn. You see, Catherine was the widow of Henry’s brother Arthur, and it was against the rules for princes to marry their brothers’ widows (Hamlet, anyone?). However, Catherine being a Spanish princess, the pope refused the divorce or annulment petition, because it would have made Mary a bastard and Catherine, well, you know.

Henry’s well-known solution was to break with Rome and start his own church. When Anne seemed only to be able to deliver one live daughter (Princess Elizabeth), he claimed she had bewitched him, his cohorts framed her for adultery, and she met her untimely end on the green at the Tower of London under a sharp French sword.

From there, the story takes one brief happy turn. His next wife, Jane Seymour, finally gave him a living, if somewhat sickly, son (Prince Edward) – but then she promptly died. Another Anne (of Cleves – marriage by proxy annulled as soon as he saw her), and two more Catherines followed. Catherine Howard was a silly and unwise girl. She probably actually was unfaithful, and literally got the axe.


Catherine Parr was his last wife, and cared for him through his final illnesses. In a nasty hunting accident a horse had fallen on him, crushing his leg. Later, a jousting accident caused a head injury and exacerbated the leg wound. He became increasingly surly, immobile, and overweight (hence gout, and probably diabetes). Still, Catherine was an agreeable companion in his last years.

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In between all this marrying and begetting, Henry became quite accomplished in just about every aspect of his life, and also indulged his love of beautiful things. Among them was Hampton Court Palace. About 10 miles from London on the Thames, it was constructed for his friend Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York. As Wolsey fell from favor, the palace conveniently “fell” to the king, who enhanced it and used it as a retreat where he held lavish parties. In fact, he loved it so much that he spent three of his honeymoons there.

As you can imagine, when we grew up Hampton Court was a place we had to visit. And even though we were there too early in the year for the Tudor roses and some other blooms, we were as taken in by the beauty of the palace and its grounds as Henry had been.

Hampton Court has wonderful gardens full of topiaries and hanging wisteria, a maze, and a million other earthly delights. It also has docks on the river, fountains, tennis courts, and lovely paths to enjoy. Perhaps it was wandering here that Catherine persuaded Henry to reconcile with all of his children, and to make sure that they were all included (as legitimate heirs) in his final Act of Succession. She is widely credited with influencing these decisions. Scandalously, Catherine married Thomas Seymour shortly after Henry died.  (A separate, romantic saga…)

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In the event, Edward succeeded Henry as king, but died young of tuberculosis. After an unpleasant little interlude between Mary and their Protestant cousin Lady Jane Grey (for whom things didn’t end well), “Bloody” Mary succeeded Edward. The lone Catholic in the line, she and her posse dispatched Lady Jane on grounds of treason, then executed several hundred Protestants (most by burning) in an attempt to win the country back for Rome. She died of influenza five years into her reign.

And then Elizabeth I came to the throne, and the Elizabethan Era was born. Reportedly very like her father in wit, charisma, and intelligence, she was the strong hand England needed and loved for the next 45 years. Not a son, but a worthy heir.

Here endeth my Mum’s tale of the Tudors (seriously abridged version)… Elizabeth was the last of them. Her heir was James Stuart of Scotland, and thus begins another history, for another day.

Walking these garden paths, we imagined what it was like there nearly 500 years ago, when nobles from around British Isles and the European continent were entertained by the Tudors. What trysts were begun, and what intrigues were hatched on those paths and under those trees?

Well, OK, maybe I’m part nerd, part romantic.


This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Gardens. To see other bloggers’ flowery responses and get more info on these challenges, just click on the link! 

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Temptation and Sacrifice

For years, our friends bought calendars, boy scout light bulbs and popcorn, school music program candy bars, and any number of other tempting and whimsical things from our children and grandchildren when they were fundraising. Girl Scout cookies are my Kryptonite. They have been since I sold them myself back in… well, never mind about that. The point is, I’ve loved them for years. And when someone else’s child is selling them, I always tell myself I’m “paying it forward” by helping that little angel reach a goal.

Of course, the cookies have never been good for me. In fact, I seem to remember that until very recent years they contained trans fats, and it’s certainly no secret that they contain their share of calories. In past posts, I’ve shared that my husband and I have been working to improve our diets and our health in general. We strive to eat anti-inflammatory foods, and have cut way back on any wheat, dairy, or processed sugars.

WP_000135 (3)Still, when a co-worker approached my beloved, asking if he would buy a box of cookies to benefit his daughter’s Girl Scout troop, my hubby overflowed with generosity. Bless his philanthropic little heart, he bought four boxes and brought them home. They went right into our freezer. In years past, we’ve occasionally each had a couple of cookies with tea at night until the bounty was gone.

But this year, the cookies came home on Ash Wednesday. Hmmph.

We find ourselves again in the Lenten season. I was raised in the Presbyterian church, and this season was always a special time of study, setting aside extra offerings for those in need, and an emphasis on spirituality and preparation for the celebration of Easter Sunday. Following this tradition, as an adult I have long used a special daily devotional book that I work through each Lent. Over the years, I have made notations in the margins of my thoughts, or of hymns or scriptures that come to mind during the reading. It never ceases to amaze me, but each year something different touches or occurs to me as I go through the booklet.

Yesterday’s message was on letting go of our own wishes and desires, and following God’s will rather than our own. Today’s message is on not trying to control everything, and being willing to hand everything over to God. This has always been a struggle for me. Remembering to seek, find, and follow God’s will in my daily life. I generally do it for the big things, but sometimes the small day-to-day things get away from me.

Now mint chocolate cookies may not seem like much, but here’s the thing. I know I should stay away from them at any time. They’re full of wheat gluten, processed sugar, and any number of other inflammatory ingredients that will worsen my arthritis and add to my waistline and tummy troubles. If I don’t resist breaking into the cookies during Lent, when I’m specifically meditating on temptation and sacrifice, what does that say about me?

OK, not a pretty picture. So the cookies are still in the freezer, and there they’ll stay, at least until Easter. And when I open the freezer each day, they will be a reminder that the instant gratification of my every dietary whim is seriously not God’s plan for me.

And I also know that if I open my heart daily, I will find the things – in every area of my life – that are.


This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Tempting. To see other bloggers’ tempting responses and get more info on these challenges, just click on the link! 

To see my meditation on Lent from last year, click here: Faith of our Fathers – or Mothers – Why Lent?.

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Ancient, Abandoned, and Repurposed

I’m not always a fan of the way we design new words in English. It’s sometimes a little grating, for example, when we make nouns into verbs. But one of those expressions has caught my eye quite a bit in recent years: “repurpose” – meaning to find a new use for an old object.

Actually, for a retiree, repurposing often isn’t such a bad idea (although I do still have a little trouble saying the word itself with a straight face.) Children’s bedrooms become studios or exercise rooms when the kids leave home. Time gets repurposed, too. Hours that were spent at jobs can now be spent reading, enjoying hobbies, or volunteering.

As my beloved and I have traveled, we’ve seen some wonderful antiquities – things like ruins of Scottish castles, Stonehenge, the Parthenon and other Greek temples, and the Great Wall of China.

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All of these have two things in common: they were very purposefully built, and they have outlived their original intended purposes. Craftsmen spent their lives constructing those artifacts for specific uses. The Great Wall was built over centuries. Its many guardhouses alone were each tiny feats of engineering. The system of walls and relay stations was critical to the protection of the country and its emperor, but now there is no emperor, and there are more efficient ways of watching borders. The wall, as a military device, has been abandoned. Nobody stands guard there anymore.

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So what do you do with a carefully crafted, but otherwise essentially obsolete ancient artifact? You repurpose it as a historic site. Generations of people will travel to see it, touch it (where that’s allowed), and learn all about it. Although years, often centuries, of abandonment by the original creators may have elapsed, these places have all found new life as tourist venues.

So… to all those out there who have experienced life changes (empty nests, retirement or layoffs) that have you feeling purposeless or left in the dust, don’t let yourself feel abandoned or stuck in limbo. Find that new purpose and a use for the talents and skills you’ve crafted throughout your life. Each of us has so much to give. Repurpose yourself!


This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Ancient and  to the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned.  To see other bloggers’ responses and get more info on these challenges, just click on the links! 

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Travel Theme: Yellow

16 - Hawaii Barge at PCC100_6857100_7549When I think of yellow, I’m often reminded of the beautiful flowers of Hawaii.

The state flower is the yellow Hibiscus, and its image is everywhere. But when we were there, we saw many other golden views, too.

At the Polynesian Cultural center, the costumes on the float representing the Hawaiian Islands reflected the yellow and red robes and helmets worn by King Kamehameha and other rulers.

A Waikiki sunset gave us one of many other golden memories of Hawai’i.  Today, looking out my window at home in New England, everything is blanketed in white, and the temperatures are frigid.

A little tropical paradise would be nice, right about now!


This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Yellow.  To see other bloggers’ golden responses and get more info on the challenge, just click on the link! 



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The Object of our Fascination

P1020177On our 2011 trip with the Delaware River Sojourn, we stopped in Easton, PA. Our chosen evening activity was a trip to the The Nurture Nature Center there. The Center teaches through a variety of displays and programs, and focuses largely on or use, and misuse of our waterways, and on flooding, weather, and environmental issues.  The idea is to show how each community impacts and is impacted by the environment and its effects on our waterways. There are wonderful artworks, murals, and other displays, but the one we enjoyed most was the relatively new Science on a Sphere® presentation. Projectors in the corners of the room send moving images to a large orb in the center, which then appears to be rotating. Various changing elements of our waterways are displayed in a graphic and fascinating program.

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The SOS  program we saw was called Rising Waters, about the impacts of global flooding on people.  It was somewhat interactive, and gave even the children in the audience a good handle on how we can improve and support our rivers and oceans.



Fascinating!  Our grandson loved it as much as we did – and did his best to show his support for the earth!  This object will be a teaching tool for generations in the northeast PA area – and was a wonderful part of our adventure down the Delaware.


This post was written in response to the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: ObjectTo see other bloggers’ responses and get more info on the challenge, just click on the link!  



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