The Garden of Good and Evil

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“Truth, like art, is in the eye of the beholder. You believe what you choose and I’ll believe what I know.”  ~ Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

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For the past few years I’ve had the privilege of photographing public gardens for Horticulture Magazine.  My last assignment took me to Alcatraz, the last place you would expect to find beautiful gardens and landscape.  Quick history, this maximum federal prison in the San Francisco Bay closed it’s doors in 1963, along with the gardens cultivated by the prison’s inmates. In 2003, the Garden Conservancy, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and National Park Service began a collaboration to restore the gardens.

I was able to capture the images needed for the magazine feature before high sun.  With time to spare on the island, we were given a backstage pass to the upper levels of the prison and to the Ai Weiwei exhibit, which was on its last day of viewing.

In the prison, we were ushered to the upper deck of Block C and given access to the lever which secures the entire cell block.  Standing in the darkness, the sound of 50 cells slamming shut, with the final latch of the deadbolt, is a sound you want to quickly erase from your tape.  I took a moment to stand inside a cell and decided to capture a few images looking out and across the aisle.  Clearly, this place was designed to house the worse of the worst.

The bonus of the visit was the Ai Weiwei @Large exhibit.  We happened to be on the island on the last day of the Exhibit and our host generously walked us through. “Ai Weiwei is a Chinese Contemporary artist and activist.  A political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights.  After many arrests and incarcerations in China,  Ai Weiwei was, in July of 2015, given a passport and is now allowed to travel abroad. If you are interested and would like to learn more about Ai Weiwei and his art, this is a wonderful article. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/sep/24/ai-weiwei-alcatraz-lego-extraordinary

If you have a bird phobia, you’ll want to make note that Alcatraz is a nesting colony for Western Gulls.  There were a few Hitchcock moments.

 

Without further ado, here are my favorite images from Pier 33 to Alcatraz and back.  Enjoy! ✌🏾

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Now it gets real.

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Let’s Party

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Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’ ~ Robin Williams

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While it seemed like spring arrived in NoCal months ago, the rest of the country is finally starting to see the signs of warmer temps with blossoms blooming.  Spring has officially sprung!  So let’s party!

Last spring I had the privilege of shooting two of the most prestigous public gardens in California for Horticulture Magazine;  Hakone Gardens and Filoli.  Both gardens are located in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains, to which I call home.  Filoli is a country house with 16 acres of formal gardens surrounded by a 654-acre estate, located in Woodside, CA.  Filoli has served as the set for many Hollywood films.  Many of you will recognize it as the mansion seen in the opening credits of the television series Dynasty.  Hakone Gardens is a traditional Japanese garden in Saratoga, California.  It is recognized as one of the oldest Japanese-style residential garden in the Western Hemisphere.  I believe Hakone served as set for the films Snow Falling on Cedars and Memoirs of a Geisha.

When my journey as a professional photographer began, my lens focused primarily on landscapes and flowers.  Over a decade later, I am a lucky girl to have been able to maintain this focus while adding a few other ingredients to my repertoire.  For those of you who need a dose of spring, take a few minutes and take a virtual walk through these breathtaking gardens. 🌸

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I Went To A Garden Party

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“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~  John Muir

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My daughter’s school offers an elective course in sustainable gardening in their curriculum.  Their teacher, Hovey Clark, is passionate about gardening, the food it generates and the healthy lifestyle it affords.  The Class of 2020 began working in the garden during their first year at Priory and now, as seventh graders, have become pros at cultivating, growing and sustaining this massive garden.  The garden is known as The Franklin Garden, situated at the back of the school’s property in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains in Portola Valley.

As you can imagine, this, for me is photographer bliss and allows me to keep my blog post 100% on point (photographing the stuff that put me on the map, so to speak, with the 2020 kids.  The kids of Priory participated in preparing The Franklin Garden for this amazing evening of food, wine and music with great friends, inspirational monks, talented gardeners and chefs and, of course, awesome musicians (one of whom is also a Priory teacher).  I’m not sure, but, when the band started playing The Doors, it just added an additional layer of cool to the event.

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Never Been to Spain

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“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” ~ Pablo Picasso

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I dreamed of one day going to Spain.  I had the opportunity to join my best friend after graduating from high school.  I opted to stay home with a newly scored boyfriend, while she and two other girls traipsed around Spain and Portugal with their backpacks.  BIG MISTAKE!  This is the time in your life for youth hostels, Eurail passes and free spirits NOT high school boyfriends and lousy summer jobs.

Lucky for me, opportunity knocked again last summer.  “Where would you like to go to celebrate your half century on this planet?” Bryan asked.  Without hesitation, “Spain”.  So, almost 32 years to the day, we headed to Spain.  No backpacks, no youth hostels (thank you Airbnb); however, I opted for the Eurail pass rather than a car or flight from Barcelona to Málaga.

The trip was remarkable.  We were free spirits in Spain, me, Bryan and Ally, each of us having a dear friend by our side.  It may have taken awhile to get here, but, it sure was worth the wait.  I will have an apartment in Barcelona again, one day.  I will travel back to Málaga and Marbella and sit with a sangria in hand, a flower in my hair and watch the sun set over the Mediterranean.

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All photos rights reserved

@woodside images | jsinclair

 

Go West (paradise is there)

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“If you’re going to San Francisco ~ be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” ~ John Phillips

I believe it was 1970, the year I turned 7, and I had just purchased my very first album.  It was Crosby Still Nash & Young’s DejaVu.  Wouldn’t that be cool if it were true!  In reality, my first album was the The Partridge Family Album; however, DejaVu came shortly thereafter.  After spending many of my days trying to master the Tracy Partridge tambourine (while standing on the coffee table) I believe it was the 20th replay of “I Think I Love You” that sent my older brother over the edge.  He tossed the record and put on DejaVu.   I listened to Teach Your Children over and over because they said “hell” in the lyrics and it was the first time I could say that word without receiving a bar of soap in my mouth.

During the 70’s I was completely enchanted with the hippie culture.  I dreamed of moving to San Francisco to join the flower children and wear flowers in my hair.  I had left David Cassidy behind and fallen in love with Neil Young.  By the time I was 13 I had decided I would forego college, move West, find Neil and marry him.  By high school, I still was determined to go West and leave my boring, conservative upbringing far behind.  Still enthralled with the hippie culture, me and my high school friends tried as hard as we could to hang on to the coolness of the 60’s and 70’s.  We hung out on a hill we called Sugar Mountain, smoked pot (okay, I didn’t smoke; but, I wore pot leaf earrings and settled for the contact high) and listened to Neil.  All, of course, while wearing our Harvest t-shirts we silkscreened in shop.

Ah, the best laid plans.  Perhaps the 80’s got the best of me.  Big hair, bad clothes and a college degree made sure I didn’t move to California.  Not only did I NOT move West, I moved East and worked for big law firms.  The good news is that by the 90’s I had given up the big hair and my wardrobe improved dramatically.  I wore Ally McBeal skirts, made a bunch of money and landed a cool husband (probably thanks to the Ally McBeal skirts).  He wasn’t the rock star I had planned on, however, he proved early on that he could party like one (while still maintaining gainful employment) and assured a life far from boring and conservative.

They say you are born with a vision, a “birth vision” if you will.  So, as it turns out, I am living happily ever after in California.  Sugar Mountain is nearby.  Sometimes I wear flowers in my hair, especially when I am photographing flowers.  My daughter, Ally (named after……KIDDING!!) loves to wear hippie clothes and peace signs; and, sometimes I wave to Neil when he drives by.  I still don’t smoke pot, but, every once in awhile I stumble across an isolated plant or two in the mountains thanks to the old hippies who still lurk about.

It’s good to be home!

Gravity of Time

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Quote of the Day:  “Time makes you bolder, children get older, I’m getting older, too.” ~ Stevie Nicks

I’m feeling nostalgic today as I turn a year older and the small child graduates from Third Grade.  They say that your past comes back to you as your child journeys forward. Perhaps it is because we feel so intrinsically close to our children, that we not only want to share our joys with them; but, also share our pain and hardships in order to protect and guide them.

As much as I try not to do it;  it is very hard not to compare our lives; the similarities and the differences.  It was 1972 when I graduated from Third Grade.  My parents split that year and we shuttled between Germany, Cleveland and Ohio.  I was a straight “A” student (tickets to the Big Red Machine to prove it:), the best speller in the Mrs. McConnaughey and Ward’s class and the most terrified child on the planet.   It wasn’t easy trying to figure things out when you are eight going on nine years old.

As I look at my beautiful child and reflect on her Third Grade year I feel a sense of relief and gratitude.   Relief that history did not repeat itself.  Gratitude that I was able, for my family’s sake, to remain an optimist about love and life.  And a certain feeling of honor and ownership that I am able to share with her knowledge about worlds that are not so perfect.

I always accused my Mama as looking at life through rose colored glasses.  Thank you, Mama, for leaving those glasses on the nightstand for me. I promise I will leave them behind for the small child; however, I think she was born wearing a pair of her own 🙂

On June 8, 1963, Herta Renges Craft gave birth to the last of  her six children.  Thank you, Mama, for the gift of life, the gift of contentment and 48 happy birthdays!!  xoxo!!

Peace in Silence

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Quote of the Day:  “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” ~ Max Ehrmann

When I was eight years old, my oldest sister would play her 45 LP records on our little portable record player.  I realize “45 LP” and “record player” mean nothing to anyone born after 1980; however, 45 LP’s were to my generation what iPods and iTunes are to this generation of teeny boppers.

There was one record I adored.  It was mostly a man reciting words to a poem; but, then angelic voices would sing the chorus.  I loved to sing the chorus over and over.  It went like this, “You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.  And whether or not, it is clear to you; no doubt the universe is unfolding as a should.”

As an eight year old, I had no idea that this was not just a popular song recorded by Les Crane in the 70’s.  It was a poem written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann.  It is a poem that has come back to me a various stages of my life and always holds great meaning.  I have carried the same copy of this poem with me from Ohio, to Washington, D.C and, here, to California.  Last year, when my daughter was eight, she found the copy of the poem in my desk.  I read it to her.  She liked it very much, so, I shared how I would listen to this song over and over when I was her age.  She googled it and found the song on YouTube.  She loved it and asked if I would put it on her iPod.   I can sometimes hear her singing, “you are a child of the universe.”   Children follow by example, so, teach your children well.  Oh, that’s a song for another day :).  Here is the poem.

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— by Max Ehrmann–

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.