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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Paris. Earlier this week I awoke to the sounds of a large truck with its engine running loudly right outside of my window. Trucks come through early in the morning to collect trash, but this was different, because it was mid-morning—playing with art had kept me up past 2:00 in the morning and I had allowed myself to sleep a bit later than usual.

What were they doing? “My” apartment is located on a mostly pedestrian street called Rue Montorgueil in the center of Paris. Our neighborhood, like several others that I seen this week, was putting up street decorations for the holidays and it was those efforts that had roused me from my sleep. The first photo shows my view of one of entrances to my neighborhood yesterday evening as I walked back from another meandering journey through Paris.

Earlier in the evening I finally investigated the large Ferris wheel that was installed in a corner of the Tuileries Garden shortly after my arrival. I had initially assumed that it was part of some kind of fair, but as I approached—and took the second photo below—I discovered that it is part of a large Christmas market. The market has a number of different rides, stands for a wide array of products, and an incredible selection of food and drinks. I was tempted by sausages, and then by raclette, and almost gave in to a hot mixture of potatoes, cheese, and bacon called Tartiflette.

In the end, I settled on one of my old favorites, a Croque Monsieur. Essentially this is a fancy grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but it is so much more than that. The heavy layer of cheese on top was simultaneously crunchy and gooey when it came out of the oven elevated this sandwich high above its American counterpart and that is saying a lot, considering now much I love grilled cheese sandwiches.

Paris looks pretty with the Christmas lights, but a part of me resents the change in the vibe of the city. The meandering cobblestoned streets that I find so charming seem slightly besmirched by a sense of commercialization that threatens to draw us away from the true meaning of the holiday.

 

Rue Montorgueil

ferris wheel in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The pastor at the Christmas service today reminded us of the theological implications of saying “Merry Christmas.” Every time that we utter those words, he said, we are telling another person that God loves them, that the true message of Christmas is God Incarnate, God taking on a human form to dwell among us.

Earlier this morning I was thinking about what kind of a photo I would post today. I considered selecting a recent wildlife photo, but not of them spoke to me. As I walked the dog while it was still dark, I thought about taking a photo of some of the colorful lights and decorations in my neighborhood, but somehow they didn’t represent Christmas to me at that moment.

I finally went out to my front yard and took this modest photo of one of the bushes there. I think it is called Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) and its simple form and traditional colors seemed an accurate reflection of my inner thoughts and feelings about Christmas this year. Christ came into the world in a humble way and meets us today where we are, no matter what our circumstances may be.

With the angel chorus and the heavenly host, I think about these words of the traditional Christmas story that I learned so long ago in the King James version: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Heavenly Bamboo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have returned from my week-long trip to Vienna, Austria, but thought that I would share images of some of the night lights of the city on my final night. On a cold winter evening when snow was lightly falling, Vienna gleamed like one of the brilliant crystals from Swarovski.

As you can see from the first photo of one of the streets in the central pedestrian zone of Vienna, the city lights are amazing. The second shot is of of the clock tower in one of the inner courts of the Hofburg Palace. The final image shows the elegant storefront of the Swarovski store.

Thanks to my readers who have stayed with me this past week as I deviated from my normal wildlife and nature photography. It is enjoyable to mix things up a bit and a fun challenge to photograph entirely different subjects. I am heading out in a short while and with a little luck will have some new wildlife images to share tomorrow.

night lights in Vienna

night lights in Vienna

night lights in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last night, my final night in Vienna this trip, I had a chance to walk by Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), an incredible building in the center of the city.

The beauty of Vienna is magnified at this time of the year by wonderful decorations and lights everywhere.

Stephansdom

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My short trip to Vienna, Austria is rapidly coming to a close and I want to leave you with this image of the entrance to the outdoor Christmas market at the Rathaus (City Hall), the tall building in the background.

My busy work schedule and the rainy weather this year have conspired against me and kept me from getting new photos. I decided to reprise a photo from a similar posting that I did in 2016. I did have a chance earlier in the week to visit this Christmas market and, as always, it was amazingly beautiful, despite the bustling crowds and often commercialized decorations and merchandise.

Best wishes to all for a “Frohe Weihnachten,” German for “Merry Christmas.”

Christmas 2018

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was really struck  by the contrast in color and texture between this cluster of large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) and the milkweed on which they were perched at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge during a visit earlier this week.

The color combination seems appropriate for a Christmas card, though the subject matter would be considered untraditional, to say the least, and might not be met with enthusiasm by all recipients.

milkweed bugs

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The wind was blowing hard on Christmas Day at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and one of the Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) took to the sky, spread its impressive wings, and effortlessly soared above me for a short while.

I really enjoyed the Christmas show.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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