Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 8

My report to the class on my patch of woods in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park is turned in and archived.

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Yet more shoebox emptying

The first project that I set for myself on the web was a series of photographs to be made along Interstate 66, which runs from an interchange with I-81 in the vicinity of Strasburg, Va. and follows an eastbound track through the exurbs and suburbs into the West End of Washington. (Wow, it looks like I didn’t preserve that project online in the course of my ISP migrations.) In 1997 and therebouts, I took hard photos, printed from film, and scanned them.

prestonMost of what I have in the shoebox is so-so, but there are a few snaps that are worth rescanning and uploading. I like the contrast between the sharp focus and the motion blur in this picture from the neighborhood of Thorofare Gap in Prince William County.

East Falls Church in the rainthistlesTwo images from the East Falls Church Metro station. Notice that the lead car of the train is one of the old cars with a non-illuminated line designation sign; rather, it’s one of the old school cars sporting a cardboard sign in the window.

Custis TrailI was impressed that there are sections of the Martha Custis Trail that run right next to 66, with nothing but a wire fence separating bikes and cars. I’m still impressed.

I-66 rampI-66′s final interchange in the District was originally built to tie the expressway into the (unbuilt) North Leg of the Inner Loop Freeway and (unbuilt) I-266. The ramp was demolished and the interchange reconfigured a few years after I took the picture.

I-66 entranceThe outbound access to I-66 hasn’t changed much in 17 years. Drivers leaving the Kennedy Center still have an awkward left turn across Virginia Avenue, N.W. into a rump section of I St., N.W. to get to the onramp.

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In honor of the opening of Washington Dulles International Airport 52 years ago: a stunning gallery of images of the Eero Saarinen-designed airport under construction, photographed by Balthazar Korab, and donated to the Library of Congress.

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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 7

chicken doneSunday was my last visit to Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, at least for the purposes of the class project. I pulled off a couple of sections of the dessicated fruiting body of my Chicken of the Woods specimen to see the remnants of the pore surfaces underneath.

One of the tools we used in the course of the class was a rough-and-ready estimate of a tree’s age, given a measurement of its diameter at breast height (DBH). Now, it’s pretty clear from the landscape (as well as what we know about the general history of the region) that the park was once a farm. I don’t have enough information to determine whether this 40 acres or so that I’ve been studying was cleared for pasture, row crops, or what have you—no matter. But we can read some of the history of the land in its current trees.

StonyAlong the stone fence line, I found the oldest trees in the patch, White Oaks about 150 years old. Away from the fence, I found Black Cherry and Red Maple trees not much younger, maybe 135 years old. So these trees germinated during the period 1864 to 1871, give or take. And this observation fits with the historical record: Centreville, Virginia was a crossroads of fighting and encampment during the Civil War, especially 1862-1862. In the first half of the 1860s, every tree on the old Walney farm would have been cut down: you’ll find nothing older here.

We can go further. I see another cohort of trees: an American Sycamore about 78 years old, a Black Walnut of 80, a Tuliptree a bit older at 89 years old. These trees would have been seedlings about 1930, sprouting in old fields ready to undergo succession. The brief history provided by the FCPA web site admits that information about when the fields were abandoned is sketchy, but it would have been some time before 1935, when the farm was sold to Ellanor Campbell Lawrence for a summer place.

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Upcoming: 38

Book me a motel in the Berkshires: Mass MoCA is set to announce a long-term partnership with James Turrell, setting aside 35,000 square feet of new exhibition space for several of his works.


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Five things I had to look up/check that I came across in Roz Chast’s marvelous, hyper-specific Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?:

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Carol Vogel reports on the restoration of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Adam, a 15th-century marble by Tullio Lombardo, which is again on display. The sculpture was smashed into dozens of pieces when its supporting pedestal gave way, in 2002. Vogel notes “a new attitude adopted by museums around the world to share such innovative work not just professionally but with the public,” although concerns had been expressed (as reported by Randy Kennedy in 2010) about the slowness of the reconstruction as well as lack of media access. In any event, now that the sculpture is back, the museum has produced an impressive suite of videos summarizing the story.

Related: Restoration of a Mark Rothko.

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I hate it when Mom and Dad fight

An oldie but a goodie:

Language Log

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I wish that, at the end of life, when things are truly “done,” there was something to look forward to. Something more pleasure-oriented. Perhaps opium, or heroin. So you become addicted. So what? All-you-can-eat ice cream parlors for the extremely aged. Big art picture books and music. Extreme palliative care, for when you’ve had it with everything else: the X-rays, the MRIs, the boring food, and the pills that don’t do anything at all. Would that be so bad?

—Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 6

looking it upSunday I spent most of my time in the park measuring mature trees to estimate their ages. I was surprised to find 90-year-old Red Oaks and Tuliptrees, which would indicate that this patch was no longer farmed as of about 1925. I also found a small outcrop of bedrock—I’m still trying to puzzle out the geology map to understand exactly what this rock is.

chicken substrateI’ve spent so much interest on this bloom of Chicken of the Woods, but not on the tree that it’s growing on. It turns out that it was a substantial Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), now deadfall. You can see the dark red wood, somewhat weathered, in the image. The tree had fallen across the trail; park managers would have sawed it into several large chunks, stretching through the woods toward the east and the housing subdivision. The chunks form a line about 100 feet long and end in a tangle of former canopy branches. This was a big tree.

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Coastal Plain forests

Third and final trip with Joe and Stephanie, this time to forests of the Coastal Plain in P.G. and A.A. Counties.

new plantFirst, we stopped at Watkins Regional Park, a mile or two from Central Avenue. The park is host to some humungoid old-growth trees: a Sweetgum the size of a Red Oak, a White Oak with a circumference of 152 inches at breast height that we estimated to be 242 years old. So what did I get a good image of? This lovely Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana) (a new plant for me), beginning to hunker down for the winter.

Nature fun analogy of the trip: the branches of a Pawpaw (Asimina triloba), bare of leaves, look like an old school VHF TV antenna.

not a mossbrittlegillThen, east over the Patuxent River and on to the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve, where we chased butterflies two springs ago. Geologically speaking, here the early Eocene Nanjemoy Formation lies above the Marlboro Clay. While the profusion of River Birch (Betula nigra) on the clay-based bits of the Preserve is quite nice, it’s the sandy passages, residues of the overlying Calvert Formation, that are really interesting. The trees are a near-monoculture of Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana), but down at the herb layer we have the lichen Cladina subtenuis (at left), one of the so-called “reindeer mosses.” Recent rains led to a bloom of brittlegill mushrooms (Russula sp.) (at right).

Lying below the Nanjemoy is the Aquia Formation. This Paleocene unit of sand crops out to the west of Anne Arundel County, in Prince George’s County, where it makes a recharge zone. In A.A., now deep under other geologic formations, the Aquia constitutes an aquifer.

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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 5

Back to the park this past Saturday, on a rather cloudy and breezy afternoon, with Leta riding shotgun this time. Many of the trees’ leaves are down; the unexpected Partridgeberry is still holding on to some fruits. The persimmon tree at the wineberry bench was holding some of its fruits, but I found lots on the ground, too. We gave them a taste, and the consensus is that while the pulp is okay, the pucker of a little bit of persimmon skin goes a long way.

amazinWe found a somewhat ratty example of Daedalea quercina on a dead branch.

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Don’t get me started on “wherefore”

You say you’re designing a set for Romeo and Juliet and you can’t make a balcony work? No problem: Shakespeare didn’t specify a balcony, but a window (and then only by the slightest suggestion). His 18th-century editor Nicholas Rowe added the window to what we now number as act II, scene ii. The balcony is from Otway.


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Ooh, when I’m in LA to see the show, I’ll have to stay here.

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Abecedarian lipogram

Adam Bertocci reworks “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

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