Archive for June, 2008


a little wendell before bed

The Peace of Wild Things / Wendell Berry

When despair grows in me

and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting for their light.  For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


is it possible to fall in love with a place?

I have been in Ireland for the past couple weeks, and i am absolutely smitten.  There’s not a place in the world like it; it is quite simply enchanting.  In addition to raw beauty, the culture is hard not to get swept up into.  Everyone is friendly, and real hospitality is everywhere.  Strangers stop on the street for a chat.  Strangers buy visitors drinks down at the pub.  Laughter is common, music is lively and communal, and two steps outside any city, there’s a quiet unhurriedness.  Slowly but surely, one’s blood pressure slows.  It is simply delightful.

Ireland’s landscape has a mix of many places: the rocky, cliffed grandeur of Big Sur and the California Coast, with a little small-town Iowa and farm country mixed in; a bit of Michigan’s upper peninsula, and some Pacific Northwest or even Hawaii’s jungley-rain forest feel.  Yet it is a place all its own, and ultimately, it’s impossible to fully compare to anything else.

The other night, the weather broke (it’s been mostly windy, cold, rainy for the last week or two), just for the evening, and Sara Cook and I drove a portion of the Inishowen Peninsula, County Donegal in Ireland.  One thing I love about being so far north in the summer is the long sunsets, and we happened to be out on the summer Solstice.  

That night, I stood on the cusp of something.  Literally, I stood on the side of a small mountain.  But as I drank it all in, I was tempted to become a bit emotional.  I felt like I heard the earth breathing.  The fogginess of reality seemed to fade.  I didn’t want to move.  

I almost want to cry because my pictures don’t capture it, not even close.  Not that I am a technical or artistic photographic failure.  It’s not that the quality of the pictures that’s lacking, but a quality of this place that refused to be captured. 

Below is a selection of photos from my last couple weeks.  The ones closest to the top are from the summer Solstice.









At Kylemore Abbey:


Dingle Peninsula:







Standard self-portrait at Giant’s Causeway:


Also along the Inishowen 100: Sara Cook at Grianan of Aileach, and me below.  Finally a picture of myself in a cool place, without my feet in it.



By the way, Sara Cook is a friend from University who has been doing some good work in Northern Ireland for many years.  If I had to write a post just about her (and don’t worry, Sara, I won’t), it would most definitely center on hospitality — and how she’s miserable at it.  Just kidding.  I have never felt so at home, so far away from home, that I actually felt like I was home.  Thanks Sara!



a quick overview: venice

Here we go… a steady stream of Wi-Fi pumping into this folding piece of magic machinery on my lap.  I have internet access again for a couple weeks.

Venice seemed to be the busiest of the cities.  Perhaps it’s where we stayed: relatively close to the tourist mecca of St. Mark’s square. And essentially that’s who’s in Venice — the tourism population greatly outweighs the resident population.

Venice is not sinking, but during high tide, water from the sea bubbles up from stone grates around the piazza and in short time, it appears the entire square is under water.  This picture is from sitting in front of St. Mark’s Church looking in the opposite direction.  The awning on the extreme right in the middle is perched in front of one of many restaurants, where a band usually plays; there are several all around the square, which draws quite a crowd.

This below is my favorite I think.  I was so excited about how this turned out.  I think it’s about a 6- to 10-second exposure.  The stripes of light in the reflection were created by people moving through the water.  I think it reminds me of music somehow, perhaps the stripes of light implying a pipe organ; it looks like what sound is, at least to me.

From the Rialto Market, close to the most famous of Venice bridges.  Cool bridge, but way cooler market.  Fresh everything: all kinds of fish and sea creatures, and any vegetable or fruit imaginable.  Below we have fresh sardines; odd how one person can find something so delectably inviting (John), and the next can find it’s all they can do to temporarily shut down their senses and move on before they die from being so revolted (me).  

Fascination in the slowly searching legs of some crabs who will soon be cleaner, hotter, then all chewed up.


Always beautiful colors everywhere.  It’s enough to inspire bolder color choices.

The next in my series of illegal pictures.  Shooting from the hip, the aim isn’t always right.  

Our last day, we took a vaporetto to Murano, “where they make all the glass.”  Everyone got off on the first stop, so we stayed on for a few more, and got off in a quiet little area and had the streets nearly to ourselves.  The following two photos are from sculptures in a couple piazzas.  So peaceful.  (Maybe so, since I failed to properly plan a trip to the island on a day when the museum would actually be open.)

Okay, so John enters Venice and becomes St. Francis.  He quickly adopts a plastic bag as his friend and proceeds, for the next few days, to fill it with any bread that comes to our lunch or dinner table.  Then, during any lull — strolling through a piazza, waiting for a vaporetto, waiting for the check (STILL IN THE RESTAURANT) — out comes the bread and tamed pigeons flock.

Chatting it up with someone waiting to stuff their scrawny beak:

This took some begging.  And some quickly (and surreptitiously placed) bread crumbs.  But do you see the delight in Vicki’s eyes?  She’s thoroughly enjoying it.  And didn’t even get crapped on.

Love these colors…


A Quick Overview: Florence

I was thrilled to return to such a lovely city.  Small enough to manage almost everything on foot, buildings short enough that it feels like a small town, it is a city peppered with history and beauty.

Boboli Gardens, just across the Arno River, is a really old garden that sprawls behind a palace that once housed …some really important people.  (I don’t want to guess and be wrong and I’m not feeling like looking it up right now.)  John, Vicki and I strolled the grounds in relative peace.

Vicki laying a smooch on a statue in the Gardens, which is about 15 feet behind her.  I wanted her to climb up and put some more effort into it, but she got yelled at when she finally started to scale the thing.


One of the great things about Florence is the Uffizi Gallery, the northeast corner of which is shown below.  I didn’t wander it’s corridors, but it is built in such a way that the acoustics are perfect.  To the left is Palazzo Vecchio (if you saw Hannibal, this is where the guy is hanging outside the building from his own entrails–see the pic below), the the right is the U-shaped Uffizi, and plunk in the middle are some musicians, with a little amp, a guitar and a couple voices.  They grew quite a crowd — their sounds floated blocks beckoning people.

The picture above faces opposite several statues in an enclave.  The one below is called “The Rape of …[So and So]”.  In Piazza Signoria, there are about 10-15 or so large statues, many of them depicting violent events.  We have one decapitation, several attempted beheadings, several beatings, and a rape or two.  Would this fly in the US of A?  Oh, Renaissance art.

Interesting note.  While I was taking this picture, some random guy was standing about two feet away from me.  Which breaks my personal space rule by miles, especially when there are 300 usable feet stretching behind him.  Anyway, creepy guy, saying something in some non-Italian foreign language.  Staring.  

John and Vicki in front of Palazzo Vecchio (“old palace”) in Piazza Signoria.

Vicki, John and Katie at Piazza della Michaelangelo, a large square overlooking Florence.  The Duomo (church) over my shoulder is quite near where we stayed; the Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”), which is quite famous, is visible over Vicki’s shoulder.

Following a delightful lunch, we strolled back to our hotel to discover quite a crowd.  Of people wearing tennies and numbered shirts.  What’s this?  A 100 km race?  Yikes.  I hope this old guy didn’t die along the way:

The crowd dispersing following the start of the race…

Random picture:




A Quick Overview: Rome

Well, time has certainly gotten ahead of me.  I have pictures to share from the ‘rents and my trip to Italy, which ended a few days ago.

We ended up in Rome, as previously posted, for three days, Florence for four, Venice for three.  While in Rome, we happened to run into my Dad’s brother and sister in law in a church baptistry.  Now, we knew they were to be in town, and had planned to meet for dinner, but if not — quite random!

St. Peter’s rotunda:

Three cheers to Vicki for making it to the top of the dome, via hundreds of stairs and through a winding, narrow tunnel (though not without complaint), knee replacement and all.

Guess where?  The first in a series of illegal photographs taken:

A note about the illegality of taking a picture.  I am a spirit of the law kind of gal.  Why is there a rule in these places that says you can’t take a picture of it?  This is not a remote village in Mexico where you may be at risk of stealing the soul of your subject upon film capture.  Why the no pictures rule?  I am convinced that the people who don’t know how to turn of their flashes have ruined it for the rest of us.  Over time, most types of light ruin paint, fabric, etc.  Add up hundreds or thousands of flashes on a painting or tapestry in a museum in a day, and you get a quickly degrading work of art.  If there is any reason other than this, to have the no pictures rule, someone please enlighten me.  Until then, I’m not telling, and no one’s noticing, so I will continue to — respectfully and with my flash off — surreptitiously bend the rule.

Poppies in bloom everywhere!



Katie Albert

PO Box 6536
Folsom, CA 95763
June 2008
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