A Day To Remember

The Last Remembrance

We are able to live our daily lives…while so many have given theirs. Here in Philadelphia in 1868, the first Memorial Day celebration took place at Laurel Hill Cemetary.

At military funerals, the flag is drapped across the casket. The blue field is always placed at the head of the casket, over the left shoulder of the deceased. This tradition goes back to the time of the Napoleonic Wars when the dead were covered with a flag as they were taken from the battlefield. During the committal service, a soldier bends on one knee with the folded flag and begins, “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, I wish to present you with this flag in appreciation for your (father’s, mother’s, daughter’s, son’s) service. May God bless you and your family during these difficult times.” Most then accept the flag, this symbol of one who lived a life of great courage and valor, and will then hold it so close to their heart. The only embrace one is able to give.

On this day, we offer our sincere and heartfelt thanks to all the families who have embraced the flag and all those who have given us their greatest gift…their lives in the pursuit of freedom for all.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Philadelphia Festivals

I don’t know why so many people call Memorial Day the unofficial start to the summer…we all know it IS the start of the summer! “Let the games begin!” Here in Philadelphia, it is marked by a weekend of festivals. We are big on street fairs and Thursday night, thousands poured into the Northern Liberties section of the city for the beginning of the summer “Night Market”. The New York Times recently quoted Diana Iskolsky Minkus, the night market coordinator for the Food Trust organizing the event.”The inspiration came from pop-up events developed by vendors’ organizations in places like San Francisco as well as the fabled night markets of Hong Kong and Taiwan.” Northern Liberties has converted abandoned factories into artists’ residences so creativity certainly abounds in this area in the food, dress, art and music. 47 vendors offered food all for $5.00 and under. I tried fried milk curd from Wisconsin, pesto pizza from Rustica, cupcakes from Brown Betty and gelato from Capogiro which was listed in National Geographic as one of the top 10 places to eat ice cream…I agree (and I want a job like that with National Geographic!) all while sitting out, listening to great music and watching the people passing by! Perfect night out and looking forward to the next Night Market in South Philadelphia in June.

For the past 5 years, I have been going to the Annunciation + Evangelismos Greek Orthodox Church annual Opa Festival. This is their 34th year of “Opaing”!(joyfully celebrating) and it always runs from Thursday night through to Monday. I was excited and got there a bit early so I was able to wander through the church which was beautiful with the light streaming through the windows lighting up the beautiful Byzantine Art. There are tables and tables of homemade food…souvlaki (pork or chicken on pita bread, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki), spanakopita (crispy fillo crust filled with a blend of Greek cheeses), dolmades (rice-stuffed grape leaves) to name just a few. I may not be able to pronounce some of the names, but I did well just pointing away! It is amazing to me that the parishoners make enough food to last for four days (the loaves and the fishes all over again!). Nothing like eating food prepared with love. There is Greek folk dancing, music, jewelry, gifts and paintings. The address is 7921 Old York Rd., Elkins Park, Pa. 19027 if you are in the neighborhood…they are still partying!

Tomorrow I should probably go and exercise so I can fit into my bathing suit for the official beginning of summer!

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Italy.

One of the many things I have learned from travel is the importance of trying to be in the moment… (Note the key word is “trying” because it is so easy to be distracted by future details or the pull back home). On this day, several of us decided to get a sandwich from a small family run restaurant to the right of the entrance to the gardens before going in. The family could not have been nicer and we were all just enjoying being with each other even though we did not speak the other’s language. Before leaving, they generously gifted each of us with their home made olive oil. It is the best I have ever tasted! If we were rushing to get into the gardens, we would have missed such a moment of warmth, hospitality and welcome.

I could feel every muscle and every tension in my body just simply melt away within a few minutes of entering the Villa d’Este (also known as the Tivoli Gardens). This truly is a masterpiece of the Italian garden and Renaissance estate. In the 1500’s, Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, the son of Lucretia Borgia, came here to recover after a failed bid for the papacy and took on the position of Governor of Tivoli. He commissioned Pirro Ligorio and Alberto Galvani to carry out his magnficient dream for his new home and probably soothe his shattered ego – which is a very good thing for us now!

The garden was featured in the opening of the movie, Three Coins in the Fountain and the palace has beautiful frescoes in the reception rooms with breath taking views. The gardens are composed of approximately 500 fountains from grand scale to simple cascading water into small ponds. According to Italy Heaven, “A number of paths and steps lead down through the formal slopes to panoramas and fountains.” One can simply wander and explore beautiful manicured walkways with views of the Rometta , The Water Organ, The Fountains of Dragons and the Path of One Hundred Fountains…each so unique and each providing such an inviting experience into serenity.

Something tells me Ippolito probably never looked back!

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Via dell’Amore

Via dell’Amore, Cinque Terre, Italy from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

Via dell’Amore or the Pathway of Love is located in Cinque Terre, Italy. The beautiful rocky coast and Ligurian homes carved into steep mountians make this a must see for anyone wanting to experience a bit of heaven on earth. The path connects the villages of Riomaggore and Manarola and after World War II became a lovers’ meeting spot. With the movie, Three Meters Above The Sky, it became the craze to declare one’s love on a lock and throw the key into the water, forever uniting the couple. (I am such a sucker for a great love story!)
Along with hundreds of new and rusting locks, declarations of love are written on walls and carved into the plants along the way. I believe firmly that there is an energy of place. Here on this pathway of love, one can’t help but feel the expansiveness and beauty while looking out and at the same time, being caught up in the wonderfully uplifting energy of amorous affections.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Fuji X-Pro 1

I admit it, after traveling with cameras, flashes, tripods etc. hanging from my waist and neck, I was so anxious to get this new small wonder into my hands. Would the images live up to all the hype? Would this be my new travel everywhere camera? Would this be blessedly lightweight but dependable? I am so glad to say that the answer to all of the above questions so far has been yes! I have been taking it with me and putting it to the test in a variety of situations. The first was an event being held on the top floor of a high rise in Philadelphia. I was thrilled with the clarity of all the buildings below. The statues in the fountains could even be made out. Then onto a night out at an Irish pub and an experiment with depth of field in low light. I was with a great friend who is a photographer too and we spent the night passing it back and forth, trying different shots and settings. My kind of learning! Onto Ellis Island with a dust covered piano and a statue in the hospital ward…both with little contrast and it performed well focusing on the entire scene and picking up the subtle differences in hue. This past weekend, I attended a wedding and a First Holy Communion. I have to say that the only time I was disappointed was at the wedding reception with low lighting. I wasn’t able to get any clear shots during the father/daughter dance no matter how I changed the settings. Lastly, I was very happy with the photographs of the sweetest little one on her very special day.

All the shots were taken with the 35mm f/1.4 lens which was not at all intrusive, making it perfect for street photography. It was not my intent to repeat the technical advances this camera encompasses, that is all over the web. I just wanted to share some of the photographs I was able to take over the past two weeks and my excitement with being able to stand up straight! Now to save up for the 18mm lens!

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Burano, Italy

Burano is a small island located in the Northern Venetian Lagoon. Its fame is steeped in legends which add to the charm of this island. The vibrant colors of the homes are beautifully reflected in the channels. Doorways are covered with equally colorful sheets swaying with the breeze and windowboxes are host to a variety of flowers…quaint, charming and visitors wish they could change their status to resident. It is said that fishermen painted their homes with bright colors so they could easily spot them while out for the daily catch. Square is the typical shape for the homes with two to three floors. It is common for the kitchen, eating area and “water closet” (toilet) to be on the ground floor with the bedrooms on the upper floors.

Burano is also famous for its lace. As the legend goes, A young Venetian seafarer brought his love seaweed from one of his journeys. The woman thought the design to be beautiful and using a needle and thread, worked very hard to preserve the intricate patterns and details. “Punto in aria” is the typical Burano needle lace rather than the bobbin lace of Brugge, Belgium. It dates back to the 14th century. Louis XIV and Catherine de Medici were just two who sought this elaborate lace. Unfortunately today there are very few experts left to carry this on. These remaining gifted women prefer to carry on this tradition from their home, usually sitting outside and socializing with those fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time! The beautiful handcrafted creations can be found in both stores and the Burano Lace Making Museum.

Every trip I have taken to Italy has always included Burano. I am so taken with the colors, food, traditions and hospitality of the people. This is why I travel!

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

From Cinque Terre to Dosojin: Renewal, Surprise, and Newness

I just returned from a wonderful trip throughout Italy. Spring is definitely the time to go with cool breezes and fewer crowds. Many people were on their way in for Easter services, while I was on my way out with an Easter story, one of life over death. Cinque Terre is an area of 5 beautiful and charming medieval towns. Tourists can walk a 12 mile footpath from town to town and be gifted with breath taking views. Last October though, devastating mud slides hit. Mad Mudslides is just one of the many videos on YouTube showing the degree of destruction. While there, my group was staying at the Cuccaro Club located at the top of the mountain. It was here I heard the story of courage, resilency and community. The hotel was built and run by three generations but the mudslides broke through the generational legacy. It was destroyed. As soon as the rains stopped, the townspeople from all over came to help the family dig out. Little by little, bit by bit, the hotel was restored. The day we arrived, was opening day! There was such a spirit there I cannot even begin to describe it. All the local people who helped dig out now came back to celebrate the reopening. It was an amazing experience to be able to be a part of this grand celebration and Tonya (the daughter) made us feel just like family rather than the total strangers we were. Nature is powerful but the human spirit has a resilency and strength that was able to prevail through it all and we could all party over that!

This trip was the first time I had ever heard of Kinder Eggs. They are popular throughout Europe but definitely banned from the US. Last year, Customs and Border Protection seized over 25,000 of them from people trying to bring them into the country. These are chocolate eggs that contain a toy inside…a puzzle, an airplane, a doll, etc. They can be found all over and are delicious. Many pastry shops had very large, hand decorated eggs in their windows and I was told they all had surprises inside! We just have scratch off lotteries and Cracker Jacks!

Lastly, when I arrived home, I was so happy to receive word that a new multi-faceted travel website, Dosojin, had just been launched. Dosojin refers to Shinto stone markers which are placed along village borders and street corners to protect the travelers from evil influences. This is the vision of four very talented and creative individuals and I feel so very privileged that they decided to feature my work as part of their launch. Stop by and sign up for the app… it will be a much used tool for anyone who travels. Best wishes to
the creators of Dosojin.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Amish Mud Sales

Since the 1960’s, the last Saturday in February marks the beginning of the Amish Mud Sales. This past Saturday, the local community in Strasburg, Pa auctioned off beautiful quilts, farm equipment, buggies and antiques. Homemade chicken corn soup and whoopie pies sell very quickly. The food connoisseur and bargain hunter alike will love this sale. They will continue throughout the spring (hence the name “Mud Sale”) and proceeds support the local fire companies. For Further information and dates, click on the following link: Amish Mud Sales.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

The Amish are devoted to God, family and land. They do not permit the use of electricity, telephones and radios in their homes; nor do they drive cars holding to the belief that they can be closer to God by not being caught up with the things of the world. The Amish are usually very private but in order to support their community, their devotion is evident by the numbers who prticipate in this very public forum.

Cambodian Kindness

In Cambodia,as in India, the greeting consists of hands folded at the heart followed by a bow. In that moment of meeting, an honoring is truly conveyed. One is not rushing a quick, “Hello”, while multi-tasking or meeting with a cell phone ringing. There is a true stilling, a focused presence to the importance of the moment…the moment of welcoming another.

While photographing, I was so touched by the people’s kindness to a total stranger. I was welcomed into the quiet of a meditative moment and asked if I would like to taste the prepared food. There was no hesitation at all in the people’s generosity. I just hope that I can take all that was given to me to heart and be truly present in those moments of meeting, to honor friend or stranger. “Awe coon” (thank you).

Cambodia: Moments of Transcendence

In Prayer
Cambodian Man in Prayer

Lighting incense, praying over candles, bowing one’s head, the ringing of a bell, folded hands or those raised to make the sign of the cross… all outward signs of devotion seen as one is crossing the threshold into a type of divine space and,”In the attitude of silence, the soul finds its path in a clearer light.” (Gandhi)

Buddhist Nun in Prayer

As I was photographing at a small outdoor temple, this Buddhist nun motioned to me. After our gracious bow to each other, I then learned about the practice of Sai Sin. She began to chant blessings, sprinkled me with water and tied a red string around my wrist and kissed it. Sai Sin is believed to ensure blessings and restore the natural order of things. The color is usually red or white and the recipient is encouraged not to remove this but rather let it fall off naturally.
I am still wearing it and that day, a red string became my outward sign of connection with something larger than myself…another’s heart.

Endings and Remembrances: New Year’s Eve

After photographing during a tour of Laurel Hill Cemetery several weeks ago, I was asked to come back for the New Year’s Eve celebration in honor of General George Meade. December 31st was the day of beginnings for him – his birthday and his wedding day. Over 300 people attended this grand celebration to honor Philadelphia’s Civil War hero. Many attendees came in period dress and served as “living historians”. Major Charles Meade, a direct descendant, was instrumental in providing the headstone for the previously unmarked grave of General Meade’s mother, Margaret Coats Butler Meade. This dedication was then followed by a ceremony at the gravesite of General Meade. Speeches were made by members of the General Meade Society, the Union League of Philadelphia, and the Allied Order of the Grand Army of the Republic. The Philadelphia Brigade Band performed and the music echoed throughout this National Historic Landmark. A champagne toast and a luncheon was the wonderful finishing touch to this event!

Laurel Hill Cemetery: Gen. George Meade Ceremony from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

Laurel Hill Cemetery

I recently had the great privilege of photographing in Laurel Hill Cemetery in order to showcase its grand history and beauty in video. As the website states, “It is an outdoor sculptural garden, a horticultural gem and a truly unique historical resource.” As one who loves to tell stories, this project is one I am so enjoying doing. Laurel Hill is one of the oldest Victorian cemeteries in the United States and there are 78 acres of art and history. “Victorians delighted in memorial symbolism. Sometimes the monuments reflect a common repertoire of visual symbols. Angels with upraised fingers point the way to salvation. Shattered columns indicate a premature death. Flags, calvary swords, and arms represent a military career. In many cases, symbolism reflects the person. A mortar and pestle marks the resting place of George W. Vaughan, a well known pharmacist. An eagle perches on the monument of Commodore Isaac Hull, hero of the War of 1812. Calvary spurs memorialize Benjamin Hodgson, who died in the battle of Little Big Horn.” So many fascinating people are resting here… Josepha Hale, who edited Godey’s Lady’s Book; Thomas Walter, who designed the dome of the United States Capital building. Laurel Hill has earned its distinction as Philadelphia’s Underground Museum. My great thanks go out to Alexis Jeffcoat for her warmth, welcoming and help with this project. Joseph Edgette. Phd and Richard Sauers are truly the consumate storytellers, passing along their wealth of research and knowledge so generously. Taking a tour with them is a fascinating experience. Upcoming events are: General Meade Celebration on New Year’s Eve and I am told that hundreds of people come to this so get there early. Also, you may want to be a part of their 175th Anniversary Celebration. The website provides all the fun and interesting details. Again, many thanks Alexis, Joe and Rich! (Also, Caitlin Dougherty for your camera help!)

And the Stockings Were Hung By The Chimney With Care

While, I have the Dutch to thank for the tradition of hanging stockings over the fireplace at Christmas, I have the women of Peru to thank for these stockings. Each one was created by hand by “The “Women of Dignity”. These women live in hope each day…hoping that the proceeds from the sale of these stockings, trees and tapestries will help support their after school program as well as a nutritional program for their children. Each woman sharing in this collective vision, piece by piece. These stockings truly carry that spirit we all want to fill our homes this season – hope, love and making a positive difference for others.

Peru is but a wonderful memory now.

My laptop has very little memory left. 5,000 images of Peru and 9 hours of video are running through it. My heart is in the same state, filled to capacity with memories of people who are no longer strangers, sounds with such exuberance and inflections, new foods and new places explored. A far off land that now feels so very close.

There was one statement and one question which seemed to be on everyone’s mind when they met me. The question was, “Have you seen Machu Picchu yet?” I’ver heard it is awe inspiring and mystical. A true wonder of the world. A site not to be missed but I have to say, I did miss it and it was planned that way! Machu Picchu is for another time. This trip was about being with amazing and gifted people.

Roxana and Jose, a young couple who are just starting out with the hopes and dreams of fullness and a promising future. I loved photographing their looks, the moments they reached out to touch each other in both gentleness and laughter.

Hermenegildo and Irma, a couple, who renewed their vows after 50 years of marriage. They were truly celebrating this fullness which flows from the day in and day out little things. On the morning of the celebration, I walked through the gate to find Hermenegildo cutting the flowers he had grown and then arranging them into the bouquet Irma would hold throughout the day… he was so tender and so in the moment – I was totally taken by this man and his wife! The entire family also know how to throw a great party!

The statement repeated to me was, “You better put your camera away and not keep it out.” At first I was thrown into fear thinking that Peru must be far worse with a high rate of robbery than many other countries I walked through comfortably with my camera. That perception quickly changed and I came to realize that the Peruvian people were just very diligent in taking care of me and ensuring that my stay would be both happy and healthy. They were constantly looking out for me and enfolding me. “La Familia” has now become “Mi Familia” and I am so very grateful! The people are the true wonders of the world! Si! Si! Si!