Category Archives: Maps

travel tales

Little Big Plan

Palm tree, giant pineapple, or humongous pine cone?

Palm tree, giant pineapple, or humongous pine cone?


It always makes me marvel when I realize how Nature replicates herself, or when I consider how trees and plants are fractal images of themselves with one part mimicking the whole and/or the whole being an enlargement of a single part.  Visiting the Huntington Gardens recently I saw five miniature globe cacti perched upon a much larger one. They resembled spiky quintuplets arrayed around the equally spiky shoulders of their mom. No surprise that Nature’s symmetry crosses from the plant world to our human world. The branches, limbs, and twigs of a tree mirror the branching patterns of our lungs just as our circulatory system begins with Mississippi-like arteries from which flow veins and then some 50,000 miles of capillaries fanning out like teeny tributaries across the entire map of our body.


monument valleyWhat’s just as cool is the way Nature’s patterns are picked up by the human hand and replicated in art, clothing, what have you. The first time Martin and I saw this mountain range in Utah’s Gooseneck State Park, we stopped in our tracks. In addition to the evidence of millions of years of upheaval and erosion, we  instantly recognized the mountains’ bargello-like striations as inspiration for the patterns adorning so much of the region’s Native American pottery.

Even more fascinating was a stretch of rock formation in Arches National Park. One look and I recognized it as the inspiration for a Native American stichery  called Seminole Patchwork. Many moons ago, back when I still sewed,  I created a kimono based on this process. What you do is sew strips of fabrics together, cut them apart in equal widths and then reassemble the bits into strips by shifting them up or down a notch to create a vibrant pattern. Cannot believe I ever made something so complicated. DSCN2617When Martin and I were walking through the Park last fall, I looked down and saw the very same process at work courtesy of Mother Nature, albeit over the course millennia. See the strips? And the layers of rock shifted just enough to create the fabulous pattern? Look closely and you might even imagine  a range of mountains folding in and out of some enormous canyon. Which brings us right back to where we began: patterns, microcosms of same, and the magical replication of creation that’s all around us when we spend a few minutes seeking it out.arches

Utah, Utah, I Miss U, Utah

Impossible to encapsulate in a short blog our two-week trip to Utah’s national parks. I am working on a travelog but until then (and because I don’t want to let go of those 14 magnificent days) here’s my top-ten list of sites seen, hikes hiked and more.

1*. The magnificence of the mountains: banded with reds, ochres, oranges, yellows, pinks, greens and purples.

1. Feeling grateful and capable in my body whether scrambling up a trail, reaching a mountain peak, crouching to squeeze through slot canyons.

1. Hiking with Martin, husband, hiking buddy par excellence, and superlative trip planner.

1. The sky: enormous, open, and blue blue blue. How to box to enjoy come February?

1. Seeing the Colorado River turn molten copper at sunset; before our eyes, water turned to lava.

1. Stars over Bryce Canyon and witnessing the Milky Way.

1. Swinging in the swing at The Lodge at Red River Ranch. And climbing one of the cotton trees lining the drive.

1. Having dinner at Cafe Diablo in Torrey. Unbelievble meal, beautiful garden, fab staff.

1. Sunset at Capitol Reef: slot canyons, mountains, river and one insane death-oblivious twenty-something photographer who walked out on a ledge to watch the close of day.

1. Wading in the Virgin River at Zion. The water was just cold enough to refresh my hike-weary feet.

*True ranking is beside the point. They are all Number 1!

Make Mine Manhattan

With the week winding down, I have two posts to go to on this self-imposed (don’t ask me why!) once-a-month-five-posts-a-week challenge. Today will be a double header Manhattan first and then we will come to rest where we began our trek — at the Westchester home of a dear friend. So, ready? Fasten your seatbelts for our final ride.

When my daughter declared her intention to create her college thesis around fashion, the head of the art department dismissed her idea as insubstantial and sniffed, “Fashion has nothing to do with art.” Tell THAT to Diana Vreeland, curator of the Met’s Costume Institute from 1972 to 1989.

It’s rare that we see an exhibit before it’s even reviewed,but this time we lucked out and snagged entrance to Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations mere days after it opened. The exhibit featured the clothing designed by these two Olympians paired with a filmed, imagined conversation between them. Actress Judy Davis played the part of Schiaparelli, her, with her side of the conversation gleaned from the designer’s autobiography. Prada, alive, kicking and creating, played herself.

The “conversation,” featured on screens that served backdrops to the clothes, was both distracting and enlightening. It was fascinating to see how decades apart, each designer played with similar elements and where they diverged (Prada waist down, Schiap waist up). The clothes were gorgeous (a navy suit its beautifully tailored jacket strewn with a Milky Way of rhinestones), humorous (hats shaped like shoes) and mindboggling (that Prada dress wasn’t really pleated, but you had to look damn close to see that the fabric had been printed that way.) Fashion has nothing to do with art? I think we can tell that teacher to zip it.

Next up was the Stein exhibit: nine (or was it seven that felt like nine) rooms of paintings by Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh and Cezanne collected by Gertrude and Leo Stein. The paintings were incredible as you might well imagine. But the exhibit was clouded by the curators’decision to sidestep Gertrude Stein’s collaboration with the Vichy regime. The literature said only, “remarkably, the two women [Stein and her companion Alice Toklas] survived the war with their possessions intact.” And later, “Bernard Fay, a close friend…and influential Vichy collaborator is thought to have protected them.” By now the exhibit literature has been amended to reflect the truth but it made for some interesting considerations. In the buying and amassing of this collection, Stein sold out her people, sold her soul.

This post has already exceeded my 300 word limit and I’ve not gotten to our seeing The Book of Mormon (outrageous and fodder for another blog or two), or Peter and the Star Catchers (delightful) or a visit to MOMA (still not my favorite museum). So I will close where I began — with the question of whether or not fashion is art. I say it is, and submit as Exhibit Number One this photo of my daughter, who went ahead and did her thesis on fashion as art creating a suite of paintings that proved her point brilliantly.

No you tell me, who but an artist could make an olive and purple striped skirt work with a red and white striped top and green and white striped headband!

Brooklyn — the best borough

This week brings the third blog-a-day challenge, category: maps. Come along for some cameos of our recent trip to New York and Pennsylvania. If you missed the past two posts, catch up here: Pittsburgh’s Sweetest Gals
Foray into Philly

Retracing our steps from Philadelphia finds us in Brooklyn, Bensonhusrt to be exact. After spending Sunday morning at a cool place that sells second-hand furniture and finding a great dresser for Emma’s new apartment, we headed for Bensonhurst for a roots tour.

we lived on the fifth floor at the back

First stop was the first apartment Martin and I lived in at 6201 Bay Parkway. Not a bad building by NY standards although I think my father nearly had a heart attack when he first saw it. The building was old even back then; like any NYC apartment of a certain vintage and construction, you could smell a globe’s worth of dinners cooking every time the elevator doors parted. My biggest irk with it back then were the high school girls from Bishop Kearney (pronounced Kah-nee) who would get high in our vestibule every morning before heading over to the school to learn from the nuns.

a tree grew in Brooklyn

Then onto the home where Martin grew up. The magnolia that he planted was still there; the neighbors whom we’ve kept in touch with were out of town but we chatted with another woman who was outside, watching the goings on from her stoop. We peeked into the driveway of his house and you know me, I don’t mind going up to complete strangers and saying, Hi! So I did.

The two girls sunning themselves were the granddaughters of the woman Martin’s mom sold their house to. Martin had a great time comparing notes — who was in the basement apartment now? Hasn’t the aluminum siding that his mom put up stayed in good condition? Emma looked like she could have been the third sister to this pair, same dark hair and eyes. Back then the neighborhood was Jewish and Italian. Now the Jews are nearly all gone and the Italians are dwindling. Signs in Chinese dominate. How much difference is there between ravioli and wontons, anyway? Or kreplach, for that matter.

The girls’ mother came out and joined the conversation. We told her we’d just been on Bay Parkway at 62nd Street. “Yeah,” she said. “I went to Bishop Kah-nee, right there next to your building.” Are you wondering what I wondered at that moment? Yeah, she probably was one of the plaid-skirted mouthy teens, wearing Mary Janes and smoking it, too.

It was delightful to see Martin back in his old stomping ground and to listen in as he retold Emma all the stories he could recall. I’ve written about Brooklyn before. It’s a special place and growing ever more so, as Manhattan rents rise from merely outrageous to spectacularly outrageous. Emma has fulfilled a dream by moving to Williamsburg. Now that my sister-in-law is selling her wonderful co-op in Park Slope, it’s good to know that a Darvick still calls Brooklyn home.

me and my Brooklyn gal

A Foray into Philly

This week brings the second blog-a-day challenge, category: maps. Come along for some cameos of our recent trip to New York and Pennsylvania. If you missed yesterday’s post, catch up here.

Moving back a day or so from Pittgsburgh found us in Philly for my husband’s 40th reunion from Penn’s Law School. Sheesh we’re getting long in the tooth!

Although the reunion was the reason for the ride, I have been eager to visit The National Museum of American Jewish History since I learned it was underway. It’s located in the most American of sites — right on Independence Mall, directly across from the Liberty Bell and down the block from Independence Hall.

The museum, which opened last November, presents educational programs and experiences that preserve, explore and celebrate the history of Jews in America. From the website: “Our purpose is to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and to inspire in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American Jewish experience and the freedoms to which Americans aspire.”

It was a fabulous experience! We spent four hours there and barely nicked everything we could have seen. First surprise was to see a work of art by our friend Lynne Avadenka right there on the main floor! The museum’s exhibits cover the entire sweep of American Jewish life from the 1600’s to the present day. Walking through the beautifully curated exhibits, we both felt as if we were reliving so many experiences from our past as well as learning about the genesis and growth of the country’s earliest Jewish communities.

A lot of effort went into making the museum deeply interactive. Visitors were invited to become part of a photo exhibit on Jewish identity, participate in a contemporary issues forum, share Jewish camp experiences and even tuck into a sound booth and relate personal experiences various topics of Jewish life. You can even visit the museum’s website and share your own stories. As opposed to the feelings of devastation that cling to me whenever I visit Holocaust museums, I left NMAJH feeling uplifted and grateful to be a Jew in America.

The National Museum of American Jewish History

Pittsburgh’s Sweetest Gals

This week brings the second blog-a-day challenge, category: maps. Come along for some cameos of our recent trip to New York and Pennsylvania.

Starting with Pittsburgh, our last stop in a twelve-day trek from Westchester to Brooklyn to Philly before touching down in this former steel town now home to my brother Daniel and sister-in-law Tammy and their beautiful new daughter.

Our new niece, Estelle Victoria, who in the best of Brando tradition will be known as, “Stella……!”

There is nothing, but nothing, like holding a new baby and Daniel and Tammy were so low-key and generous with letting me hold her. Stella had that new baby angel smell and did the little lip pursing in her dreams. Her toes were so tiny and her nails even tinier.

And oh boy howdy have things changed! Not only is the equipment multi-use and multi-year, but there are now diapers that tell you when they’re wet, programs to track input (breast milk or formula) and output (two guesses), apps for remote watching and a nifty little sleeping pad that vibrates. Kinda like those old motel mattresses but sweeter. It was a delight to see my little bro holding his daughter. Seems like yesterday that I was holding him. Although truth be told, Stella is way calmer than Daniel was.

And sweet little Stella is not the only bun-in-the-oven event in Pittsburgh. Sweet Tammy’s bakery, Daniel and Tammy’s business has just moved into huge new quarters. Pittsburgh has its act together. Healthcare, education, technology, robotics businesses lead the way; Pittsburgh is blessed with leaders who have cogent plans to help start-ups rehab and put down roots.

Daniel and me and his converted school-bus painted Sweet Tammy pink.

Sweet Tammy’s is one such venture in a former industrial area that is now home to a dance studio, a doggie daycare center, and a few others. New businesses that open in areas the city is working to stabilize, can apply for grants to help them on their way. Would that Detroit could come half as far.

Before kissing Stella good-bye, we bought a half dozen oatmeal cookies, two challahs and a cinnamon bread. Only one challah and the cinnamon bread made it past the Ohio border! But you don’t have to go to Pittsburgh to enjoy the goodies. Go online and check them out.

As for Stella, however, she’s just for me!

Sister Acts

Last post this week. I end where our New York trek began. Thanks for coming along with me. I hope you have enjoyed the ride.

She is known as “my friend Sally.” Not just “Sally.” Emma has teased me about this over the years. Maybe because we lived in different states and because she was out of sight (yet never out of heart), I wanted to make sure everyone knew without a doubt how important she was to me.

My friend Sally is one of four girls, and over the years I have had the gift of being the fifth sister whenever we all landed in the same locale. They are a tight bunch, extremely bright, talented, funny, all variations on themes of homemaking, adventure, joy in intellectual pursuit.  They have shared recipes, their thoughts on genius, coping with life and more.

On our last visit together, Sally shared with me her sister Nancy’s  most recent artwork. Alas, Nancy is the one I know the least. She lives out in Colorado and our paths have crossed infrequently.  Nancy’s the sister in whom the art theme runs the strongest.  Brush by brush, canvas by canvas, her skill and sensibilities have grown. She did what all savvy 21st century artists do and created a lovely website. Spend a few minutes enjoying her gallery. But hands off the painting of the racing horses.  I get the white ones! Are you part of a sisters act? Share your story.

Sally is on the far right.