CFFC: The Ground We Travel

Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge this week is: Ground: sand, dirt, paths, walks, trails, roads, etc.

Bridges, paths & walkways, desert and mountain terrains, and national parks – these are some of the places to find interesting “ground.” Sometimes there is an added bonus: a lizard, a flower, or a butterfly, or something ugly, like trash. This challenge is a way to showcase the photos I don’t usually publish in other posts!

Chicago Botanic Gardens: bridges, paths, and walkways

Cuba Marsh Wildlife Preserve (Illinois): walkways and grassland

The Middle East (Egypt and Israel): Desert landscapes, markets and farms

Mountain and Southwest (USA) terrain: ground above & below the tree line and rocks at Rocky Mountain National Park; trails and paths at Bryce Canyon National Park

Song Lyric Sunday: The Promise of Living

Jim’s Song Lyric Sunday this week has the theme Promise/Vow/Oath.

This is a song from The Tender Land by Aaron Copland, “The Promise of Living.” Our church choir sang it a couple of years ago for the funeral of the grandfather of one of our members. The fact that I have this personal connection to the piece is the reason I chose it. This recording is by one of my favorite choirs, Angel City Chorale, with full orchestration, although it is often performed with piano accompaniment, which is what our choir had.


The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving
Is born of our loving our friends and our labor.

The promise of growing with faith and with knowing
Is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.

The promise of loving, the promise of growing
Is born of our singing in joy and thanksgiving.

For many a year we’ve know these fields
And know all the work that makes them yield.
We’re ready to work, we’re ready to lend a hand.
By working together we’ll bring in the blessings of harvest.

We plant each row with seeds of grain,
And Providence sends us the sun and the rain.
By lending a hand, by lending an arm
Bring out the blessings of harvest.

Give thanks there was sunshine, give thanks there was rain,
Give thanks we have hands to deliver the grain.

O let us be joyful, O let us be grateful to the Lord for his blessing.

The promise of living, the promise of growing
The promise of ending is labor and sharing and loving.

Copland’s 1954 opera, The Tender Land, evokes the dignity and meaningfulness of labor. The librettist was Horace Everett, a pseudonym for Erik Johns. Farming – cultivating the soil of America’s heartland and reaping the benefits of its harvest for a balanced and fulfilling life are central to the opera’s theme. It tells the story of a farm family in the Midwest in the 1930s during the spring harvest and the protagonist’s graduation from high school. Copland was inspired to write the opera after seeing Walker Evans’ photographs of the Depression era and reading James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Unfortunately, the opera was not a success. It was written for NBC’s Television Opera Workshop and rejected by network producers, perhaps because of the weakness of its characters and plot. It premiered at New York City Opera on April 1, 1954, but the work was intended for the intimacy of television and didn’t translate well to the stage.

In spite of its lack of success, it’s kind of amazing that television networks at one time commissioned composers to write operas for TV. At the time, both CBS and NBC had their own in-house orchestras. It was the time when an operetta written for the Christmas season, Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti, enjoyed tremendous success and was shown every Christmas season throughout the 1950s and early 1960s to the great enjoyment of the TV viewing public. (I remember watching Amahl every year on TV – it was a tradition in our house – and my siblings and I can still sing much of it by heart!) NBC Television Opera produced several other operas for TV in the period between 1949 and 1964.

Copland and Johns made revisions to the opera, including expanding Act II. The composer agreed to let Murry Sidlin rescore the work for fewer instruments for a production in New Haven in 1987, a staging that ran for 50 performances. Two of Copland’s Old American Songs were added to the central party scene.  A 1965 concert version of the work (i.e. unstaged) was released by Sony on CD.

In 1958, Copland turned the opera’s music into an orchestral suite. Here is the link to the orchestral version of The Promise of Living:

The music starts softly, like the awakening of early morning with the birds singing, and unfolds into a majestic hymn of thanksgiving. The final chord encompasses the full range of the orchestra, just as the final chord in the vocal version ends dramatically with the entire choir singing fortissimo.


The information above was obtained from The Promise of Living: Copland for Labor Day by Timothy Judd and Wikipedia, The Tender Land.



APAW: People at Work in the Middle East

Nancy Merrill’s weekly A Photo a Week challenge has the topic of Work.

On our trip last year to Egypt and Israel, we had the opportunity to photograph and meet many people at work.

In Egypt, we witnessed several craftsmen working at their craft:


Crate maker on the island of Fares – he is the only person left in Lower Egypt who makes these mango crates by hand, which are greatly in demand. Here he works with one of the women in our group in making a crate.


A weaver in Aswan – many of our group members bought one of his beautiful scarves!


A snake charmer in Fares! I captured this scene with my zoom lens from a bus window – I didn’t get anywhere near those cobras!

We also encountered agricultural workers and fishermen on the Nile.


A young farmworker on his donkey on Besaw Island.

In Israel, we encountered more cosmopolitan workers.


Our guide, Hani, explains the architectural features of ancient arches in Jerusalem.


A bartender and restaurant worker in Tel Aviv


A jewelry maker at the Israel Diamond Center in Tel Aviv




CFFC: Lines

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week has the topic Lines.

Marriott Hotel, Cairo, Egypt


Looking down on an indoor courtyard from the second floor atrium. The Marriott Cairo was converted from a 19th century palace to a hotel, preserving many of the original building’s features.

Fine arts & gifts store in Jericho, West Bank, Palestine


These beautiful jars are made of glass and when you hold them up to the light, their color changes – or rather, you see more colors in them.

Countryside near Jericho, Palestine


Crops are covered to protect them from the winter weather.

Chihuly glass art, outside Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA


This display is outside, but part of the Museum of Glass. It is located on a bridge in downtown Tacoma and spans most of the length of the bridge.

Columned fountains, outside the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA


These columns filled with flowing water were arranged in a circle, sort of like a “henge.”

Thursday Doors: On a Farm in Normandy

My brother and sister-in-law use Airbnb a lot when they travel. When they decided to book a place in Normandy, France for a family reunion, they needed a place that could accommodate all of us. They found a charming farmhouse on the edge of Merville-Franceville-Plage, and booked it for two weeks – the house sleeps 16 so the fam had to do a split shift!

We went the first week (June 15-21). After getting lost and finally finding our way there with the help of a local tourist bureau employee (our GPS had no idea!), we immediately fell in love with the place – it was charming!
For Norm’s Thursday Doors this week, I am posting the (rather plain) doors of the environs of our Airbnb in Normandy, France.

The doorway to the patio.
Next to the farmhouse were outbuildings, such as a large barn, whose only use nowadays, as far as I could tell, was storage of bicycles. The barn had several doors which varied in size and shape.
The property also had an old abandoned shack and the ruin of a taller building.

The window of the shack was boarded up.
The door was extremely dilapidated but nevertheless interesting!
One of the landmarks for finding the place was a church with a graveyard at the entrance to the private road. I went all around the church, photographing the doors, all of which were locked – the church apparently is no longer in use.

However, due to its plain style and the fact that it has a rooster at the top of its steeple, I am guessing it was a Protestant church.
The church and many of the graves had a look of abandonment, although some graves were new or well-maintained. (I go crazy taking pictures in graveyards, so I will include those in a later post!) Here are the church and its doors.

I hope you enjoyed “our” corner of Merville-Franceville-Plage!


Journey to Egypt, Part 13: Cruising the Nile & Visit to el Hegz Island

December 28, 2018

I was looking forward to the next portion of our trip – a 5-day cruise on the Nile, aboard  a 16-passenger dahabeya – in other words, a private ship for our OAT group of 14 people including our guide plus 14 crew members! This dahabeya, called Aida, is one of only two such boats owned and operated by Overseas Adventure TravelAida is the newer of the two and has only been in operation for a few months.20181228_121014d
You know how a new car has a “new” smell? Well, the Aida had a “new ship” smell – primarily of the wood used to build it. It was wonderful! Even more wonderful was that shortly after we boarded, we were served lunch in our private dining area!

Before lunch, we had time to freshen up in our staterooms – there are only 8 or 10 of these and each is named for an Egyptian goddess. Our stateroom was #4, named Hathor.
I had not slept well in either hotel we’d stayed in up until then (this often happens to me in hotels) so I was very tired. First thing I did when we got into our stateroom was curl up on my bed and take a nap!
Within a half hour, it was time for lunch. Aida has a small dining area with a panoramic view of the Nile and surrounding countryside.


I took this photo from the ship’s lounge looking toward the bar. Behind the bar was our semicircular dining area. All meals were buffet style.


In the lounge were comfortable sofas and chairs and each end table had an outlet with two USB ports! Needless to say, WiFi was available on board, though the reception wasn’t always great.


Display case at the back end of the lounge

We cruised for a few hours to el Hegz Island on the Nile’s east bank, where we docked and went ashore. Here are some views from Aida‘s deck while we were cruising.


Another dahabeya with its sail aloft.


El Hegz is an island with mostly farms, but there is also a small village. We were given a tour by one of the farmers.

Transportation on the island is by bike or donkey, although there are a few motorized vehicles.
The residents are very proud of their water sanitation and storage system which provides them with always fresh water. The water is piped onto the island and then goes through a sanitation process before it is stored in large tanks.

The vegetation is lush and there is a canal and irrigation for crops.

They grow bananas, sugarcane and other crops. The bananas and sugarcane are cash crops. Others, such as vegetables, are for consumption by the local population.

Scenes of village life
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We made our way back to Aida as the sun was about to set.
Although we got back on board, the ship moored for the night off the island.
Another dahabeya came along. This type of boat does have sails, but usually the crew of Aida did not use them, because that would require a lot of tacking – zig-zagging across the river, which would have delayed us. For this reason, usually we were towed by a tugboat, because dahabeyas do not have motors.
The sunset over the west bank of the Nile was gorgeous!

Thursday Doors: Besaw Island

While on our 5-day Nile River cruise in Egypt, we stopped at an island where we visited a farmer and his family, and we were shown around the area where he lives. For Norm’s Thursday Doors feature this week, here are some doors and other sights on Besaw Island.


Farmland on Besaw Island



The farmer showed us a banana plantation (he doesn’t own it) and told us about the process of growing bananas.

On our way to our host’s house, I took most of these photos.


Note the objects hanging from the top of this man’s door – pairs of cow hooves!

This door is at our host’s house.
Although the family’s house is small and they don’t have much, their house is neat and the food they served us was delicious!


Someone painted this door after the farmer (Sayeed) and his wife (Zena) got married, with beautiful flowers, hearts and Arabic writing.


Dale watches as group member Cary plays with one of the family’s children. 



Which Way Challenge: Roller Coaster Road

There is a road into the small town of Harpers Ferry, Iowa that is referred to as the “roller coaster road.” I heard about it from another tourist in Iowa last week. We decided to take it.
The roller coaster road is a gravel road, but like most Iowa gravel roads, is in good condition and easy to drive (however, your car will get dusty!).  It is called “roller coaster” because of its series of hills, one after another – the kind that as a kid, I used to say gave me “butterflies in my tummy.”20180929_175921
As you can see, it is a rural area, surrounded by farms and cornfields.
Posted for: SonofaBeach96 Which Way Photo Challenge (which was kindly taken over from Cee!).


Travel Theme: Animal Companions

For Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week, I am including some animals that aren’t exactly “companions” although in all the time I spent in Northern Wisconsin, I have always looked forward to seeing loons on the lake and hearing their calls. In that sense, they have been my “companions” on the lake, as they have become for many people.  Nowadays, these shy birds are forced to share their lake habitats with increasing numbers of humans, so it is possible to get closer to them than ever before.  In July of this year, we stayed for a week on Lower Kaubashine Lake in a lodge which is part of Black’s Cliff Resort.  My husband and I discovered a loon family (mother, father and baby) when we took a ride on his fishing boat. Later, our family rented a pontoon boat, where we got very close to the parents.



In this picture, the loon parents seem to be looking at each other in realization that a boat full of humans is between them and their offspring, who went off fishing on his own! They began to make distress calls.



We must have gotten within 10 feet of this brave parent, who came closer to search for her chick. My nieces, realizing that we had separated the family, urged my husband (who was driving the boat) to drive away so the loon family could be reunited. That’s exactly what we did.



And while on the subject of bird companions, I remember the birds we saw on our spring Panama Canal cruise.  In Antigua, Guatemala at the place we went for lunch, we got up close and personal with these guys:

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A parrot on my husband’s shoulder

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He’s a friendly guy! He perched on my wrist!

Speaking of friendly, on a trip in 2014,  we happened upon this calico cat in Beaufort, South Carolina, who loved the attention we gave her!

Horses on a farm in Finland:

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A boy who lives on the farm, rides on a pony, with his mom at his side.

In November 2016, when we were in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we saw lots of dogs, most of them with their owners. We were walking in Copacabana and came across this dog, who was curious about a baby in a stroller:

That same day, we visited a cousin at her condo in Barra da Tijuca, with her beloved poodle: