Weekly Photo Challenge: Textures

texture: the visual or tactile surface characteristics and appearance of something

The ruffled edge of a tulip.

Different degrees of graininess contrasting with water-smoothed rocks.

The rough wood exterior of a covered bridge.

For more entries in this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Textureclick here.

“Texture.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2017.

Images © Melissa Corcoran.


An adventure in Prague

I don’t usually travel in the summer, but a chance to see two friends from the USA in Europe was too good to pass up. We met in Prague and despite the heat and crowds, had a great time discovering this fascinating city.

Our first day, we had a lunch that included fresh lemonade—perfect for the hot day and now my new addiction—and then went to the Speculum Alchemiae. This museum is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Prague and seen via a tour given by a staff member. We learned a lot about alchemy during the reign of Emperor Rudolph II , its relationship to the science and Church of the time, and how secretive the alchemists had to be. The ‘reveal’ of the passage to the underground laboratories was worth the price of admission!

After an aperitif (or was it two?!), we headed to dinner at a restaurant that specializes in duck. Everything we ordered was delicious and our waiter was great, making suggestions about starters and main courses. Then we joined four million (slight exaggeration!) other people to walk across the Charles Bridge.

The next day, we decided to take a hop on, hop off tour bus to reach the castle. When I’m by myself, I tend to forget that there are other options besides walking, but this time there were friends to remind me that it was hot, a long walk from our hotel, and uphill. Entering Old Town Square where we could catch the bus, we walked into the activity that was the Prague Folklore Days parade. The participant groups were preparing for the parade and posing for pictures. No way were we hopping on the bus right away!


Reflection in train station window

Because of where we ‘hopped on’ the bus, we got most of the tour before getting to the castle, which was what we wanted (and were glad we avoided the walk up the hill). It was hard to get photos while we were in motion, but we were stationary long enough for me to capture the reflection in the windows of this train station.

Arriving in the area of the castle, we opted for a snack before more sightseeing. After the pastry and lemonade of the previous day’s lunch, it was disappointing to be served ‘prefab’ lemonade (how quickly we become spoiled!) and pie that was still frozen. Balancing out that were the great views of the city and the street below us from the terraces surrounding the castle.

One of our priorities was seeing the Mucha stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral; turns out there’s more stunning stained glass than that one window.

Our ticket also gave us admission to Golden Lane, which was hot and crowded and sent us fleeing to the bus, which appeared almost immediately—hooray!

Before dinner, we did something I would never have done by myself—we went to an absintherie. What an interesting experience! When we asked how best to taste absinthe by itself, the bartender suggested what I think was called an absinthe beetle (not a real beetle to be seen, but apparently, one can buy bottles with an actual beetle). The heated fumes were so strong, I could not take a sip for several minutes. After that, we tasted various absinthe cocktails—good, but strong. As I said, interesting!

That night, we took a ghost tour, led by a storyteller in costume. Kristýna was wonderful and a couple of her stories had me gasping in surprise and shock at the ending.

One of our party had to leave late morning the next day and casting about for something to do that would take only an hour and not involve a lot of walking, we settled on a tour of the Old Town Hall. What a lucky choice! For one thing, we got to see the figures of the Astronomical Clock from the inside. Every hour, these figures rotate in front of the two windows on the front of the clock. For another, our guide was personable and knowledgeable and managed to convey a lot of Prague history in a short time. Once again, we found ourselves underground at what was the original level of the street—two to eight meters below the current street. The tour finished with our guide requiring that we each speak a word of Czech before he would let us up the stairs!

As I seem to say a lot, I look forward to going back and exploring more of this wonderful city.

St. Vitus Cathedral

Images © Melissa Corcoran.

Don’t finish what you start

When I was in my 20s (shockingly long time ago that was!), reading The Far Pavilions got me interested in learning more about the Khyber Pass, so I bought a book on it. Despite the interesting subject matter, the book was the most boring book I had ever read. Even though my boyfriend suggested I just stop reading it, I struggled through it because once I started a book, I could not NOT finish it.

Imagine my shock when some years ago, a friend told me about the wooden boat he was building. He had gotten the plan as a result of his volunteer work at a nautical museum, bought the first installment of wood, and started the build. By the time it was partially built, he decided he wasn’t interested in finishing it, tore it apart, and used the wood for firewood. When he told me this, my jaw dropped. I mean, how could he do that? Wasn’t it morally wrong? Did this make him the kind of person who could never finish a project? My verbal reaction was more restrained, but those thoughts were the background to my asking him what he was thinking.

What he was thinking was that he had no interest in using the boat once it was finished and that it made sense to stop work before he spent any more time on it. It wasn’t even that the process would teach him a skill that he didn’t have—he was already an accomplished woodworker.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago when I was having lunch with a friend. She told me she was reading a book that had gotten great reviews. She had already read a couple hundred pages of this 700-page book but just could not get into it. I said, ‘so stop.’ I couldn’t believe how easily the words came out of my mouth, but I’ve come to see the value of not finishing what I start. I struggle with the concept, but I’m more likely these days to stop reading a book that doesn’t appeal to me or is poorly written or has no discernible plot or interesting characters.

It’s not just books, though; really, why should we keep plugging away and wasting time and energy on pursuits in which we have no interest? After all, as a college professor of mine said, activity precedes interest, and if we find out through activity that we’re not interested, why not let the project or craft or learning experience go if we decide it’s not for us?

However, it still bugs me when I think of an internal and external landscape littered with unfinished books and projects and crafts, so I went looking for perspectives on the subject. I found a blog post by Scott H. Young, in which he says, “I believe the solution is to view all activities you undertake as being of two different types: experiments and commitments.” Experiments, he goes on to say, are okay to quit. Ah ha! Brilliant! (Another thing about getting older—I realize I’m taking advice from people younger than me.)

So I said to my friend, ‘stop’—you don’t always have to finish what you start.

Kaye, M. M. The Far Pavilions. St. Martin’s Press, 1978.

Scott H. Young. “How to Build the Habit of Finishing What You Start.” Scott H. Young. April, 2015. Accessed 10 July 2017.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Bridge

My fascination with the Brooklyn Bridge began many years ago when my brother gave me David McCullough’s The Great Bridge. Up until then, I associated history with school textbooks and read little of it once out of university. This story was so fascinating and well-written that I was reading the book on my lunch breaks at work (and sharing what I had read with my co-workers, whether they wanted to hear it or not!) and resuming my reading as soon as I got home. As a bonus, the book opened my eyes to history as alive and interesting and even exciting and I’ve read much more since then.

One of the scenes that sticks in my memory twenty years later is when E. F. Farrington, the master mechanic, rode a boatswain’s chair suspended from the wire traveler rope from the Brooklyn side of the bridge to the New York City side of the bridge. He did this to demonstrate to his workers that this method of traveling, which they would be using, was safe. His arrival in New York, however, turned into more than a safety demonstration—he was greeted by cheers, cannons firing, and boat whistles sounding. McCullough makes the point that this was the first time people could see that the two cities would indeed be connected by the bridge.

Love this bridge!

For more entries in this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Bridgeclick here.

Images © Melissa Corcoran.