Isolation

isolation2020

If ever an image could illustrate how all of this sudden emphasis on social distancing feels to me.. and although I fall more on the introvert end of the spectrum, I much prefer hibernating on my own terms.

How quaint it seems now, looking back on the month of January when I took 4 weeks away from the rest of society- on purpose- in an effort to focus on writing the first draft of my first novel. How quaint it all seems, having a glass of wine at a crowded bar, accepting a hug from a friend, taking a flight or a train ride to a bustling city for a photo shoot, going to a live concert, a hair appointment, a diner, on a date.

I’ve been photographing this tree for nine and a half years now and even though it is Tree v2.0, the scene never fails me, either serving to uplift, inspire, mystify, or reflect the weather within.

EDIT: a dear friend just sent this raw John Lennon demo of “Isolation” to me in response to this post and I wanted to include it here: https://youtu.be/nGNgsptYdDs

Feature Story: A Second Chance for a Woman Who Believes in Second Chances

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Words and Photos By Alessandra Nicole
Contributing Writer

(originally published in Greenville & Hockessin Life Magazine, June 2019)

To know the nurturing resilience of sunshine is to know the heart that belongs to Patricia May.

On a humid Sunday afternoon in early June, May sat in the bright kitchen of her Hockessin home, one filled with an array of framed Bible hymns and beautiful original paintings done by incarcerated people and bought from art fairs inside her former workplace. Sweet old rescue cats serenely snaked around her ankles, begging to be let through glass sliding doors to the large and sunny deck outside.

The doors framed a view of nearly two dozen enormous planter pots that sat bursting with everything from snap dragons to mint. Near the doors, a small table supported a smaller assemblage of plants, and the electric water bowl for the cats beneath the table gurgled peacefully.

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Ms. May displays one of a vast collection of original paintings showcased in her home that was painted by and purchased from inmates from art shows over the years.

In stark contrast to this soothing serenity was the jarring fact that this gentle-spirited, sparkling-blue-eyed woman is a prison riot hostage survivor.

One morning in February 2017, May, a former counselor with the Delaware Department of Correction, went into work at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, and a few hours later was taken hostage by an inmate wielding a sharp object.

She was tied up with a hood placed over her head as other inmates raged violently throughout the rest of the building.

She was moved to two cells and held for almost 19 hours.

Her life was in the hands of her faith and the men who surrounded her in the same facility where she would regularly bring bouquets of flowers she arranged from her home gardens to bring some joy to those visiting.

“At James T. Vaughn, I was known as the ‘Flower Lady,’” May said. “During spring and summer, I kept flower arrangements in the administration building and in the Gate House for the enjoyment of staff and visitors. Many times I was told by a visitor that the flowers would brighten their day when they may have been sad for having to visit a loved one in prison,

“I never accept pay for my arrangements. This gift was given to me by God, and I believe giving to others is a way of showing God’s love in a practical way. No doubt this brings me joy to be able to give something that brightens everybody’s day.”

Why then, you might ask, would this woman, now since retired from the Department of Corrections, choose to return to do work with incarcerated people in a program to offer them a second chance?

 

In the 1960s, May abandoned her home economics major at a local community college in Florida to embark on her studies in criminology. It was a course of study that was virtually unheard of for a woman at that time, but for May, who grew up the daughter of a pediatric nurse and a policeman and listened to stories nightly of chases with moonshiners to the Everglades, it seemed like a natural step. The stories became her children’s nursery rhymes.

“On many nights, my dad would wake me up at two o’clock in the morning, and tell me, ‘We’re all hungry,’ with a trail of police behind him,” she said. “Sometimes he called me on the phone and asked me to prepare something for them to eat on some mornings.”

“My dad’s friend at the police department played a part in me changing over to Criminology.” May attended Florida State University and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology, Magna Cum Laude. She eventually left Florida and embarked on a 40-year career. May worked for the Attorney General’s Office for the State of Delaware; Public Defender’s Office; Department of Correction, Community Services and Bureau of Prisons; Juvenile Corrections; Treatment Foster Care; a women’s Transitional Living Program and Substance Abuse Treatment programs.  Patricia retired from the State of Delaware, Department of Correction in 2018.

During that time, she nurtured her nearly lifelong passion for gardening – cultivating outdoor flowers and vegetables and small-scale, hydroponic and full-spectrum light indoor gardening.

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Ms. May’s small-scale, hydroponic and full-spectrum light indoor gardening.

While working for the Delaware Department of Correction, May thought of ways to dovetail her profession with her love of gardening. An opportunity arose to direct the My Brother’s Keeper Mentorship Program, a faith-based program in 3 sections: Monday Night Group; Residential and Reentry at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.  A horticulture program (hydroponics) was hoped to be included but ultimately was not accepted by Vaughn Administrators.

“The goal was to teach the inmates a new skill that could be used in the future, and learning how to grow food for the institution was part of teaching inmates about a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “Growing food within an institution reduces cost to the state, supplies nutritious food and reduces the carbon footprint of food being transported. Horticulture programs have been shown to reduce tension; reduce idle time; give hope; and improve the health of the inmates, which is not only humane, but cost effective on health care costs.”

My Brother’s Keeper emphasized the use of mentors, education, substance abuse recovery treatment and other aspects of restorative justice. Its mission rested on the belief that most people with criminal behavior can become productive and contributing members of society if given the opportunity to learn pro-social values and employment skills. The program also included a reentry section, which supplied mentors and guidance for men returning to the community. May was also staff advisor for the Monday Night section of the program, which was for men who were not able to be housed in the residential program.

“We [My Brother’s Keeper] were about changing the heart, with 40 different classes all about teaching and training and mentoring.

“Change the heart and that will change the behavior.”

In her kitchen, May opened two enormous five pound black binders and set them on the countertop. They were the training manuals for My Brother’s Keeper that included a multitude of educational modules, ranging from social skills development to architecture and engineering. Title headings like “Basic comparative religion” and “Introduction to the brain” were listed among a variety of others in the table of contents.

May moved her index finger down the page. “Money management.’ ‘Effective communication skills.’ ‘Moral decision making.’ ‘The art of conflict management.’

“We had 100 men in the residential program, and about 30 or 40 who attended the Monday Night program who weren’t a part of the 100 residents, in a prison that had around 2,700 people,” she said. “Do you know what it’s like to see someone who is serving a life prison term, and you give him something to live for?”

While the impact of the My Brother’s Keeper program was, at times, transformational, it was eventually ended and she was transferred to the fateful C Block building where it was known that trouble was brewing. On Feb. 1, 2017, inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center took four corrections department workers – including May — hostage inside one of the facility’s buildings.

Wielding sharp instruments, inmates were demanding education “first and foremost,” a “rehabilitation program that works for everybody,” and a comprehensive look at the prison’s budget and spending.

The day-long hostage standoff ended after state police stormed the building, rescuing May and her fellow workers, and finding Sgt. Steven R. Floyd, a 16-year veteran of the Delaware Department of Correction, unresponsive. Floyd was later pronounced dead.

“Everything I had worked for so hard was taken away,” May said.

In the aftermath of the riot, May retired, and at first, her days were isolating and wrought with tremendous PTSD and depression. When she looked back on her career – one filled with compassion for others – she saw that it was met with unprecedented resistance. For the next year and a half, May retreated to her Hockessin gardens, but nearby, an opportunity that was tailor-made for her was popping through the soil in nearby Wilmington.

Local entrepreneur Ajit M. George began to consider how the community could find methods to fight the recidivism epidemic facing this nation while simultaneously addressing other serious threats like water pollution, environmental damage, unemployment, poor quality produce, and food deserts.

Part of the solution to the problem lay in hydroponic vertical farming, and so George created and founded Second Chances Farm, which will be an indoor vertical farm that hires exclusively men and women returning to society after serving their time in prison. All crops and produce will be fresh, organic, nutritious, completely free of pesticides and herbicides, and grown within 150 miles of anywhere it is available for consumption, seriously cutting down long-haul shipping costs and pollution. Since it is indoor and light and temperature controlled, it will be fresh and available 365 days a year, no matter what the weather brings.

On July 24th, 2018, the founding members of Second Chances Farm had lunch with May, and after a long and passionate discussion about the concept of Second Chances, May was asked to join the team.

May immediately became a valuable member of the Second Chances team as the Restorative Justice Program Coordinator, where she now handles all programming related to re-entry, therapy, and other employee related issues. Second Chances will be the first vertical farm in Delaware, and the first vertical farm anywhere to exclusively hire men and women returning from prison.

For the farm, it is a chance to not only provide jobs for those returning from prison, but also to harness entrepreneurial skills and allow farmers a chance to become compassionate capitalists and business owners.

For May, it is the next, serendipitous chapter – a second chance — in a career that has been spent advocating for the second chances of others.

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To learn more about Second Chances Farm, visit www.secondchancesfarm.com.

The Power of Paper Letter Exchange | Alessandra Nicole | TEDxWilmingtonLive

How do you express love to someone you care for when you are NOT with them? Is analog letter writing obsolete in this era of digital technology? In the wake of her grief from losing a loved one, Alessandra Nicole makes an appeal for tangible handwritten letters as artifacts of value and permanence. Pen pals and building connected relationships over time through the mail is a way of sharing that has lasting impact where communicating via social media falls short.

Time length: 9:50, April 28th 2018

bits from Abiquiú

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Ghost Ranch, NM, near Abiquiú in Rio Arriba County in north central New Mexico

In March / April of this year I was able to explore the same hallowed ground that painter Georgia O’Keeffe celebrated in many of her works. Ghost Ranch was a restorative sojourn. Red faced mountains amplified the fiery sunrises and sunsets and stood protectively in silhouette when the navy night revealed billions of stunning pinholes to heaven. Free of many distractions, I spent my days on horseback admiring the landscape, in hot springs, and in my sketchbook.

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follow Alessandra on Instagram @Alessandra_Official

Jerry Irwin, on to his next adventure 

A few weeks ago I visited a dear friend and photography colleague, Jerry Irwin, who was placed in hospice care. He tasked me with a great project, to gather his slides and do a few things for him with them. The return of cancer had recently paralyzed him from the waist down (“It’s a bitter pill, I tell ya,” he said) and I accepted the project because I felt maybe it would be something to help keep his sharp mind going. 

“I have a business proposition for you young lady,” said a very special man from his hospital bed- of course whatever came out of his mouth next would not be anything I would turn down. 

And so I went to the studio where I gathered some of the best of his life’s work that had been stored there in slide form, and brought them with me to my drawing desk for cataloging, archiving, plan-making.


Hopelessly optimistic me didn’t fathom that we wouldn’t have months to work on this together, that we wouldn’t have many more conversations peppered with his nuanced vernacular, many more milkshakes from the Charcoal Pit, many more laughs. I was able to visit him just two more times before he passed away yesterday morning, four months and some days shy of his 81st birthday. I came to see him on Valentine’s Day and the doctors already had him in an induced “twilight state”; I just squeezed his arm softly and left, in shock at how quickly it was all happening, stunned that I couldn’t come to him with my questions about our project anymore, that that was it. 

Jerry’s work is iconic. Quintessential. He lived amongst the Amish for years and gained their trust to the extent that they allowed him to take photos of their children. He traveled the world. He rode with the Pagans and he did thousands of sky dives, even lost an eye to one. And because his ashes will be spread during an “ash jump” by his best buddies in skydiving in lieu of a formal memorial service, I will share my favorite memories of knowing this plucky Irish guy the past five years here, in my space. (And please forgive my scattered thoughts; the experience is still moving through and changing me.) 

Four of us went to see Toots and the Maytals at the Tocadero in Philly a couple of summers ago. Two left Jerry and I in the balcony to go get a round of drinks for us all before the show started. 

Looking after them as they walked away, Jerry turned to me and asked, “Where are those two off to?” and I answered, “I think they’re going to the bar.” “Well, …why?” he said, reaching down to his ankle where he pulled two little airplane bottles of liquor out of his sock! Ha!! 

He was my absolute favorite rockabilly punk and his work will not only live on, it will also educate and inspire the next waves of photographers. It’s been an education sitting at my desk here with some of his greatest work in front of me the past three weeks and I’ve learned a lot from him at the studio (and on the birthday sushi dates he would take us on each fall.) 

His pragmatic views on life and passion and dedication to his subjects- the way he would live with a subject for years and really get inside of it- so much meat and marrow there the rest of us as documentarians, historians, social anthropologists, and general observers can learn from. Jerry to me was a national treasure and those who knew him know he was far too humble to ever hear me when I said it to him. Grounded, salt to the earth, decent, completely open and generous with whatever he had. He’d leave two pieces of the best carrot cake on earth in the fridge at Northbrook for us to find when we returned from travel as a thank you for letting him stay when actually he was the one doing US the favor keeping an eye on things while we were away. 

I don’t know why everything feels like it’s a Grand Canyon away and also like it’s right on the other side of my cheek sometimes, how my raw heart could feel like it’s made of wood at the moment with this small hollow place inside of it, but I know that Jerry’s next grand adventure involves much bluer skies than today’s, and that this profound body of work sitting in front of me that allows me to see this world through his eyes has even more gravity and beauty, is even more vivid and eternal, and blessed. 


I took this snapshot of Jerry taking a snapshot of me at his 80th birthday dinner late last June. Longtime friend Chris at the left and longtime love Janice at the right. 

So put on some Mott the Hoople, crack open a beer, and think of our friend Jerry for a bit this eve. 

Peace + Ease

It’s been a turbulent few months politically stateside inviting plenty of opportunities to unplug and allow the soul to expand and exhale. So busy- I haven’t had enough time on my hands to keep up with my blog so I’ll just put this little slice of heaven 

right 

         about 

                       here.  ☺️

“11:11; make a wish!” she said. 

 
An Ephemeral Question
A friend on FB who is known for asking engaging questions posed the simple query “what is your favorite number?” and here is my answer, elaborated: 

I identify with 11 very much. Getting the practical numerology out of the way: My birthday is 11/22, (at 2:22 AM in Germany- so I like seeing double twos as well of course, being eleven more than eleven.) Digging a little deeper: 11 to me as a lonely only child symbolizes growing up with my own shadow (and embracing that shadow) as my best friend- being my own gravity. I see it as a quiet numeral. I had a very rich inner life and a vivid imagination that colors my every heartbeat and interaction even now. It means self-sufficiency and that my haven is solitude. I feel it is the most elegant-sounding number, too: “Eleven“. Unsurprisingly, I see the digits absolutely everywhere- even in heartbreaking, heart-stopping, places, like the day I saw the largest physical 11 crumble right in front of me to the ground. 

What is number is auspicious to you and why? 

4 years ago… 10 years ago happened 

This was from four years ago today… Popped up in my Facebook newsfeed and is worth remembering what I went through, curating a ten year commemorative exhibit (by request) of the biggest event in my life. I definitely got by with a little help from my friends! It was a collaborative effort that included a reading of an award winning off Broadway play and the authentic music of my Kabul-born musician and dear friend.  A well-rounded, personal, deeply intimate event. 

Here is a link to another small interview / article published about my experience: Delaware Photographer’s images of lower Manhattan on 9/11/01 to be exhibited in downtown Wilmington on the 10th anniversary

 

catskills gravity

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

   
 

  My pistol of a great aunt Freya from Amsterdam. She grew up in nazi occupied Holland. She makes award-winning dandelion wine, is a consummate storyteller, sharp wisecracker, and is a well-read, multi-lingual, vibrant, inspiring, formidable spirit. There really aren’t enough words to describe the All of her! 
 
 
Great aunt Bunny, her twin sister (my paternal grandmother), their brother in front of the little chapel on the Karsch family farm in upstate NY, early 1930s)

   
The little chapel on the Karsch family farm today, 2015

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It’s really cool inside, the family has Christmas Eve service annually and hold occasional memorial and wedding services there

 
Twins, their brother, and my great grandmother on the family farm I visited every summer growing up. Apparently, the twins worked the farm as their father preferred to play music and on any instrument around. My grandmother finally “escaped” the farm to go to Temple University in Philly to become a nurse. To this day she’s still a hard working woman and my favorite pen pal. Her “little” brother- my well-spoken great uncle Willard- and wife Freya reside on the land now.  Willard rebuilt the house pictured, preserving many of its original elements. 
  

Mural in Middleburgh, NY

   
  
   
  My second great grandmother Dorothy (first one passed away before I met her and my great grandfather remarried) lived here in town for years and I stayed with her often as a young girl. It’s just ten minutes’ drive from the family farm up on the mountain.
 
Here’s lookin at you, Kid  


Next- to make it full-circle to my birthplace of Stuttgart (when there was still a West Germany) to reconnect with the maternal side of my family. 

  
My very first passport as a German import – ha!!

  
Me with my EU / German passport 

Up to 100 wishes an hour

  

This is a screenshot from the lovely Sky Guide™ app (download it if you don’t have it already- it’s magical).
 

We enjoyed a sweet 3:55AM shooting star date and saw more than 20 brilliant meteors in a half hour! We sat in lawn chairs near the big open field across from the house and, necks craning in the inky small hours, counted.

I’ve adored the Perseids shower since I was a little girl summering with family in the Catskills. Although in southeastern Pennsylvania we’re pretty much at sea level unlike in the mountains of upstate New York, the meteors and their long champagne trails were still very visible. 

As a girl in the Catskills, I have vivid memories of being so close to the shimmering firmament I felt as though I could reach a hand up and pluck wishes directly from it, or that the effervescent glitterings would come to land in my hair and on my eyelashes like pixie dust. We were so close to the sky on the mountainside and it was stunning, breathtaking, ethereal.

Being in PA was special and surreal for other reasons. The early sounds along the Brandywine River were riveting. We listened to barn owls in the trees call hauntingly to one another as bull frogs croaked in unison down on the banks of the river. The air was refreshing and brisk at the 4:00 hour and the field behind us smelled sweet and alive. 

The Earth has music for those who listen. 

                       George Santayana

At first we sat looking over the house, northeast toward West Chester and found many fiery meteors draping their trails over the rooftop, but soon realized facing south and west toward Kennett Square afforded an even livilier view. The meteors were almost countless, spectacular in their number and intensity.

If you missed seeing the Perseids this morning, do get up and do it tomorrow; a phenomenon like this is worth a bit of lost sleep. It’s the stuff of life 🎆
Here are a couple of informative links about it:

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/perseids.cfm
http://www.iflscience.com/space/dont-miss-annual-perseid-meteor-showers

The Piano

  
This is my piano, Anita. She is a circa early ’60s Mason & Hamlin with a remarkable Steinway-esque tone (the two brands were fashioned and manufactured in the same warehouse.)

We took her over from a writer a couple of frigid Januaries ago and I named her after a friend who left us far too soon the November prior to that. She was essential to my working through the grieving process and has become so wonderfully interwoven in my diverse day-to-day as I wear the hats of Photographer, Writer, Illustrator. She is the thread that brings together my facets, and she both gives me wings to invent and anchors me in my creativity, and being.

Her previous owner had her painted years ago and though I have considered taking her back to her original black laquer, the painting on her has become a part of her charm. 

Like another special love I have that I enjoy, I have longed for her for years before she showed up in my life. And like that other special love, she offers the rare dichotomy of setting me free and giving me great gravity. Through her I have articulated musically thoughts and feelings that go far, far beyond anything words (and even brush strokes) could as adequately express. The composer’s language is a profound and soul-stirring one.

When I was very young, my grandparents kept an aunt’s light brown upright Werlitzer for her in their humble living room. I spent weekdays there for a summer both noodling on the piano and playing along with my grandpop’s AM radio. I was and still am extremely adept at picking the notes right from songs- at playing by ear. 

Unfortunately, the aunt disliked the piano being kept active by my tiny fingers and she had it transferred to a storage unit (where, tragically, it rots to this day, as a matter of fact.) 

We didn’t have extra money for music lessons for me and I would sit next to friends on their piano benches as their parents forced them to practice their lessons, watching eagerly and hungrily. As a teen, a gifted and busy friend of mine would teach me different things as she was able. I would skip lunch each day to sneak into my school’s auditorium and practice on the baby grand stored in a corner back stage.

I longed for a lifetime to have a piano of my very own, and that longing has finally been slaked. This is Anita! It is astounding how much warmth and soul a piano lends to its home. 

Parting Shot

I always try to grab a little snapshot of the NYC skyline after emerging from the tunnel in New Jersey.

Though the day was seasonably warm last week when we left the City, it wasn’t remarkable weather. That’s alright though, unremarkable snapshots are fun to play around with using iPhone apps and a friend of mine turned me onto one that gave me this result:

via Instagram @Alessandra_Official

So, who cares? It’s fun. Don’t judge the bad snapshots, use them to experiment. I create something, however small, daily. Sometimes an unremarkable snapshot inspires sketches, paintings, illustrations, short stories, down the line. I open my eyes and explore. That (and a little bit of love) is the stuff of life.

Zuppa Toscana, a recipe for staying warm

While spring is struggling to maintain altitude in the northeast and midatlantic, we are keeping hearty soups on the menu. It was below freezing last night, will be again tonight, and again this coming weekend! Philadelphia forecasters warn that we won’t be able to put our snow shovels away for good until after April 15th! 

Here is a photo from a lighting test for an upcoming cooking shoot on an icy day in southern Chester County, PA recently. This is Chez Dejardins’ Zuppa Toscana, a similar recipe below.

    

 Zuppa Toscana 

  • 1 pound(s) Italian Sausage (spicy)
  • WE RECOMMEND Esposito’s sausage, located in the heart of Philly’s Italian Market mmm
  • 4-6 Russet Potatoes :bite sized cubes
  • Onion :minced
  • 1/4 cup(s) REAL bacon pieces
  • 2 tablespoon(s) Garlic :minced
  • 32 ounce(s) Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 bunch(es) Kale (or Swiss Chard) :destem & cut/torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup(s) Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 tablespoon(s) Flour

Prep Time: 20 Minutes 
Cook Time: 5 Hours, 30 Minutes 

  1. 1. Brown sausage links in a sauté pan.
  2. 2. Cut links in half lengthwise, then cut slices.
  3. 3. Place sausage, chicken broth, garlic, potatoes and onion in slow cooker.
  4. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables and meat.
  5. 4. Cook on high 3-4 hours (low 5-6 hours) until potatoes are soft.

  6. 30 minutes before serving:
  7. 5. Mix flour into cream removing lumps.
  8. 6. Add cream and kale to the crock pot, stir.
  9. 7. Cook on high 30 minutes or until broth thickens slightly.
  10. 8. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.
  11. 9*. Serve with Alsace, stoke the fire in the fire place, and nosh leisurely while gazing out over the hilly serenity of quintessential horse country in southern Chester County, PA
  12.   
  13. *substitute for enjoying the best of your unique surroundings 🙂

unexpected Snow!

I am cozy, hot coffee in-hand, in my creative nook today editing last night’s event shoot while listening to Neil Finn as the snow falls softly outside- this late in March! I can’t believe I’m hearing snow plows scraping along the curvy bend outside the house. It was 65° just three days ago! Some craggy old seasons truly don’t know when to let go, move on, stop it’s petty vanity and let the new season settle in- WE ARE ALL READY for it. Your grace has withered away and you have Long overstayed. Winter, you are OVER! As Neil Finn sings in his song Recluse, you are like a “dog pissing on a statue,” trying to mark your territory and get your last shots in before delving back down below the equator. Go bully another continent! Give us fresh flourishing sun-kissed Spring! Freedom and light and colour and life-giving inhales and exhales! 

A morning glance from my personal Instagram account:  My day lily looks forlornly out at the snowy vista. She was looking forward to being planted outside this weekend but we’ll likely wait another week. 

I have seen the world turning
in time you’ll find that some things
travel faster than light
In time you’ll recognise that love is larger than life 
-Neil Mullane Finn, Faster Than Light

We got to see Neil Finn perform last year on Apr 11th at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA, front and center, and were sent home swooning on a moonbeam of love. Such a great show! 

March Force

It is March 4th and this week in southeastern Pennsylvania we have been experiencing the strangest winter weather yet. 

A 3-day storm is moving through and has brought us water in every form! Yesterday, everything was quickly encased in an inch of solid ice. Today brought temps in the 40s so the lingering snow from last week began to melt which caused a magical fog. Tonight it has been raining torrentially and after midnight the rain is forecast to turn to snow that will bring upwards of 6″ in accumulation. 







View these images on Alessandra’s Instagram: Alessandra_Official

Sunday Epeolatry

Yesterday, we tucked ourselves hand-in-hand, book-bossomed, into a warm coffee shoppe with our recent findings from the book trader on 2nd + Market to try to revive a little inner apricity and to kill time before catching a film.

Taking a moment between pages and sips of fresh coffee in my typical state of glowy vorfreude to steal a glance at and a gaze from my mate, I noticed this fun typography:

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Find Alessandra on Instagram @Alessandra_Official | Twitter @novembergrlfoto

Such Great Heights

Today, for a magazine piece, I climbed into the cockpit of a restored 1946 Fairchild 24. Google it. It’s special.

What most don’t know is that some 13 years ago, I was quietly studying for my pilot’s license at a small airport outside of Annapolis, MD on rt 50. I had a career in Washington, DC at the time. Very soon into my flight training, 9/11 happened and my school was shut down for a federal audit, and my job in DC got pretty busy (overwhelming, actually) so I didn’t have time to continue training anyway.

I flew out to the Chesapeake Bay today from PA.. We landed a little over 3 hours ago and I’m STILL trying to come down!

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a slice of Sonoma in Southern Chester Co. PA

A journalist colleague of mine and I visited local winery Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery a couple of weeks ago for research on an exciting story we’re planning to do in the future. Galer is located right behind Longwood Gardens and is our favorite winery in the region for a handful of reasons. Here is a smattering of snapshots from our tour. It was a perfect little slice of Sonoma that afternoon!

Captions for many of these were posted to my Instagram @alessandra_official, please follow me there!

Later on my beau joined me for the sunset so his handsome smiling face is on here, too. 🙂

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20140620-111052-40252177.jpgwhere the magic happens

20140620-111054-40254802.jpgRichard speaking with Winemaker’s Assistant Nick

20140620-111054-40254025.jpgJournalist and playwright Richard L. Gaw

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20140620-111058-40258709.jpgmy favorite guy

Tree update

Snow began to fall in Chester County, PA this afternoon causing a poetic hush over the land so I decided to grab my gloves and go see The New Tree. The landowner apparently had a new tree air lifted and planted right where the infamous one was before lightning brought it down in June. I was told that when he bought the property he was just as enamored with the tree as were many of us in the region and he made (obviously) heroic efforts to reestablish the alluring landscape it created.

Today was the first time I saw this replacement tree… and true, it still makes a great a picture, but it’s really not quite the same– and it’s not because I’m sentimental or a purist. The shape of this tree is different on the bottom; the branches do not create the same special aesthetic as the original Tree. This new tree will still get some face, lens, and paintbrush time out of me despite the differing nuance in silhouette but it does not possess the same level of captivation for me.

I had also deep down hoped they would plant a sapling and we would all get to enjoy seeing it grow year after year into something of it’s own. I didn’t expect a whole mature tree to be uprooted and transplanted in it’s place.

The spell has been broken! and in my peripheral I will be scanning horizons for a new Tree muse. My “This Little Girl / The Tree Grows” project will be paying homage to the original Tree up on the Hill that provided the catalyst to a literary transformation in me and my creative work. (More on that in the coming New Year!)

See the original Requiem for a Tree blog post HERE.

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For Anita

I lost a friend and an irreplaceable, impeccably kindred spirit just before Thanksgiving suddenly and much sooner than I ever, ever expected. She was just 31. Beyond that, I really have no words for it.

Turning down a lane behind Barnard Orchards in Chester County, PA this foggy misty morning I drank in this tranquility, and wept.

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Reunited

I was a diehard Blackberry user when my Pearl died in a puddle of beer at a Levon Helm show in Philadelphia 5 years ago and because my cellphone carrier wouldn’t give me a break on a replacement, I was forced into getting the iPhone 3. Like Dorothy crossing the threshold from Kansas to Oz, the technological upgrade changed drastically the way I saw the world around me and my compulsion to capture the moments that reach out to me.

Below is a reworked version of one of the first iPhone images I made. At the time, this composition to me was about two lovers in another time reuniting in each other’s arms once more.

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