Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Views from The Eyrie, New York Cityscapes by Everett H. Scott

                                     Views from The Eyrie
                                                          Cityscapes by Everett H. Scott

     Thirty years ago, in November of 1984, I shared a modest one-bedroom apartment on West 91st Street, in New York City. It was in a building typical of the Upper West Side, pre-war but recently renovated. It remains on the Northwest corner of 91st Street and Broadway. At the time, there was a Twin Donut shop on the corner and a Chinese hand-laundry in the basement. It was a sunny, South-facing apartment with windows over-looking a row of brownstone houses across the street. In one of the brownstones, directly opposite us, lived two of our neighbors, Michael Case, a young mid-westerner, whose miniscule studio apartment was so small that one could literally touch the opposite walls by simply stretching out ones arms. The dimensions of his apartment rendered all of his activities observable. On a lower floor lived a Latino man, employed as a doorman somewhere, but whose passion was making and dressing dolls. From our apartment, we could observe him hunched over his sewing machine, stitching together the voluminous satin and lace ball gowns he devised for the pink plastic dolls on his windowsill.  To insure our own privacy, we ordered wooden Venetian blinds, and John, my roommate, became adept at making draperies. I became practiced at temporarily “blacking out” the windows, with fabric and plastic bags, to avoid exposing my light-sensitive photography materials to sunlight.
     One morning, November 19th, I awoke and announced, to myself as much as  anyone else, “I need another apartment!” Mind you, I was one half of a duo, each of whom had burgeoning collections of furnishings, clothing and books. Then, as now, John, my partners, favorite activity was trolling the local auction houses – Tepper and Lubin galleries, downtown – where he found an endless variety of “objets” from other New Yorker’s estates. I had all of the paraphernalia required to operate a darkroom, which I attempted to maintain in our five by five foot bathroom. It was no small wonder that I was interested in finding more space. As anyone who has undertaken the task to find an apartment in New York – or any place else – can attest, this is a formidable task, generally thought to require “deep pockets,” lots of patience and “a willingness to compromise.” I may have had two of those three.
     Well, after my revelation about needing more space, I went about my days’ routines, which at the time included stopping by the Artweave textile gallery on the ground floor of 310 Riverside Drive, where my friend Ocsi Ullman was a dealer in antique textiles, or “schmattes” as he affectionately called them. Ocsi was something of a mentor to me, and he was plugged into a wide variety of social circles. He always seemed to know what was going on, and where. That afternoon was no different, and when, over a cup of tea, I casually mentioned my interest in finding another apartment, he immediately responded, “Well, you know, there is an apartment available in this building, on the twenty-third floor.” And that, as they say, was that. By four PM of the same day that I lifted my “prayer to the universe,” for an apartment, I found the apartment where the photographs in this portfolio were taken!
     Erected in 1929, The Master’s Apartments remain the tallest apartment building on Riverside Drive. It was the brainchild of the visionary and multi-talented Russian √©migr√©, Nicholas Roerich, (1874 – 1947) whose preferred activity was painting landscapes of The Himalayas. A museum devoted to his work is located on 106th St. He designed the building with the idea of housing artists, musicians and all manner of creative people. From the moment I first entered my apartment, I have regarded the views it affords me with a mixture of awe and fascination. Now, thirty years on, that sense of awe remains undiminished. I continue to marvel at the range of weather phenomena I can observe, often with several different kinds of weather – rain, snow, sunshine - occurring simultaneously. If the windows of my apartment on 91st Street offered a “micro” view of the city, the views from The Masters’ offer a “macro” perspective, encompassing all of midtown, East to Queens, North to Westchester and even deep into New Jersey. Inspired by these views, I have nurtured an appreciation of urban bird-life, which I find to be somewhat analogous to ocean-life on a reef: many smaller species represented in the shallows, i.e. at street level, with fewer, larger species patrolling the depths, i.e. higher airspace. Thus, the apartments name: The Eyrie - The nest of an Eagle or other bird of prey, built in a high inaccessible place.

     On 91st street, beyond the limited view from our location, was the invisible yet perceptible “aural” landscape of city noises that floated up to our apartment. The honking of buses, and taxis, and the voices of individual humans, going about their business, at all hours of the day and night that created their own imagery. Contrast this with the trills of an occasional Nightingale, perched, singing on a parapet to proclaim his territory that float into my un-shaded windows at The Masters. It is another world, from that which most New Yorkers are aware of, which I am happy to share with you, as best I can, in these pictures. They make me mindful of that old photographic enigma: that while a photograph may last forever, it represents the most fleeting of moments, changing even as one presses the shutter.

(Copyright Everett H. Scott 2014. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

                                 August Garden Round-Up

     Yes folks, I know this Toonmoose blog entry has been a little while coming, but I hope it will be no less welcome for being slow in arriving.  The simple truth is, our weather this summer, warm with timely rainfall, has made for great growth in both the flower and vegetable beds. This, in turn, has kept us busy, busy, busy, planting and weeding – gardening.  I have had the choice of “doing it,” or “writing about it,” and the “doing” has won out.  (Nevermind what the weeds have to say about this.)

     Still, now that some of our crops are reaching the harvest stage, I am happy to step back and take a break long enough to share some thoughts and photographs of what may be our best gardening season yet.  Bear in mind, having had our worst Winter in years last year, with months of unrelenting snow and ice, most of us here in the Northeastern U.S. had forgotten what green, growing plant life looked like! It is no surprise that one may have felt tempted to stand outside and marvel at the approach of Spring when it finally came. 

     Our plantings this year incorporated a broad selection of ornamental and edible plants, including (but not limited to): Cosmos, Zinnias, Snow Peas, Lettuces, Basil, Cucumbers, Peppers (both Sweet and Hot), Swiss Chard, (Red) Okra, Green Beans, Carrots, Zucchini, Eggplant, Beets, Butternut Squash, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Kale, Peas, Radishes, Turnips, Parsnips, and of course, Tomatoes. Corn, I get from a neighbor down the road who has more room for growing it. My abiding thanks to my friend Michele Vicat and the folks at Renee’s Garden, through whose generosity many of the seeds we grow were obtained. Even before the official arrival of Summer at 6:51 AM on June 21st, each day has had its highlights, whether it was the appearance of a germinating seedling, the first bud to blossom on a flower or the ripening of a fruit or vegetable to an edible state. Each of these moments was thrilling. But, rather than have me scramble for the right words to describe this, let’s let the pictures do the talking. Enjoy the following selection of images, 

and know that the taste of the real thing is better than the pictures look. More to come, soon, really. Keep gardening!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Paean to Green!

     Everyone has a favorite season of the year. For some people it may be Summer, for others Fall, and for a few crazies, even Winter has its appeal! Still, for me there is something about Spring – heck, there is LOTS about Spring – that ranks it highest in my seasonal preferences. 
     After this Winters record-breaking stormy weather, it is no surprise that warmer weather in general is to be welcomed. More than that, Spring embodies hope and renewal for us all, presented in a hundred (different) shades of green.
Beginning in April, bleak, colorless Winter is followed by Yellow-greens, and blue-greens, grey-greens and even green-greens! In the Northeast, it begins around Easter, as a cloud or mist of green, a smell as much as a color, which hovers over the still cold earth, enshrouding the barren branches of the trees and shrubs. Gradually, it settles down (or, does it, bubble up?), and begins to take the form of mosses, shoots and eventually leaves.
In a months time, maybe six weeks, what has been a lifeless, open expanse, is clothed in a variety of shimmering textures, fragrances and colors that cascade over the landscape. In the process, we encounter Snow Drops and Lily of the Valley, Ostrich Ferns and the first returning birds. Nature treats us to Asparagus and Rhubarb and if we stroll slowly, we may catch the scent trail of Lilacs. 

       Winter drives us indoors. Spring lures us outside, and into the garden, where we get to participate in this miracle of rejuvenation.  Clearing away the debris of last season’s growth, it is thrilling to discover that the Delphinium I nurtured from seed last year, has survived Winters onslaught.
 Yet, with each degree increase in warmth, a “weedy-green” begins to infiltrate the vegetable garden! So begins the age-old battle between one’s wishes for an orderly, bountiful garden, and Nature’s chaotic exuberance, which makes no distinction between the edible and the inedible.  It is time to retire the snow shovel and paint brushes that got us through the Winter;
“Hoes and rakes to the rescue!
Together, they extract the weeds,
and make the furrows for the seeds.”
                       Redeem your ski cap
for a sun hat.”
The imagination takes flight while occupied with the seemingly mundane. But, there is nothing mundane about the flavors and the nutrition that comes out of the garden. Nutrition, for body AND soul! So, plant on! And, don’t be afraid to thin your seedlings!
     Lucky readers in the New York area can get more gardening inspiration, when, on June 7 - 8, 2014, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is presenting Garden Day at The Cloisters, in Upper Manhattan. Members of the horticultural staff will be available to answer questions and talks will be given throughout each day on topics including The Medieval Garden, and Medieval Plants to  Delight the Senses. For more information, go to:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A taste of Blairsden!

Toonmoose takes you to Peapack-Gladstone, New Jersey, to visit Blairsden, the family home of C. Ledyard Blair. The house was designed and constructed in the Beaux-Arts style between 1897 and 1903 by the firm of Carrere and Hastings, with Italiante gardens designed by James Leal Greenleaf, an associate of Frederick Law Olmsted. After being inaccessible to the public for many years, in 2014 the house is the centerpiece of The Mansion In May house and garden tour. More than 50 designers came together to showcase their ideas and style as a benefit for The Joan and Edward Foley Pediatric Intensive Care Unit & The Autism and Child Development Center at Morristown Medical Center.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Getting Underway!

     Given the hard Winter we experienced last year, with record- setting snowfalls and cold temperatures, we gardeners are hardly to be faulted for doubting that Spring would ever return. And yet, here it is, right on schedule, in all its pastel glory. After weeks – months even – when we never saw the ground beneath Winters snowy blanket, that blanket has now been lifted - stored in Natures closet - to expose evidence of life, just waiting for the right combination of temperature and sunlight for a chance to burst forth.  I have welcomed the sight with all of the enthusiasm of a NASA scientist whose search for extraterrestrial life has been rewarded. I am not alone in my anticipation of the emerging growing season, if attendance at this years’ 2014 Antique Garden Furniture Fair at The New York Botanical Garden is any indication. Eager gardeners turned out in droves to peruse the offerings of dealers from across the country in pursuit of just the right bench, cast stone planter, or sundial – the proper accent piece - to compliment ones personal growing environment. To encourage the return of growth in my own garden, I recently applied to the vegetable and flowerbeds, a layer of compost from one of our favorite plants-men, Jerry Fritz. Now, as the snowy Winter gives way to rainy Spring, I imagine the plants roots acting like vegetal IV tubes, absorbing Natures’ nutrients, drinking in the building blocks of taste, texture and what the French call “terroir.” for the new growth.
     Speaking of things French, it is more appropriate than ever that we refer to our garden as a “potager” {French for vegetable garden} as this year, many of the seeds we are growing have come from France, compliments of our good friend, Michele when she came to pay us a visit. From lettuce to cabbage, she brought us a variety of seeds that includes all the vegetables one might expect to find growing in a garden in The Dordogne, presented to us in a colorful market shopping bag. What seeds she didn’t bring us, we got compliments of Renee’s Garden, which in my opinion is one of the premiere sources in America for heirloom, open-pollinated, certified organic seed. As if that weren’t too much, our friends Anthony and Carlos also brought us seeds, from Italy and Brazil; Calendula for the flower beds and a host of natural remedies, and Cicoria, Radiccio di Treviso, a variety of bitter greens (only this one grows red), that has been favored by Italians for hundreds if not thousands of years. What bounty?! Together, these offerings give substance to our garden motto: “An American garden, reflecting a world of ideas.”

     But gardening isn’t only an activity for country life, as I was reminded recently. Coming home to the Upper West Side of Manhattan one recent evening, I was pleased to encounter a young mother and daughter, trowels in hand, planting Marigolds, Dusty Miller and Begonias in a neighborhood tree-well, long after the sun had gone down.  They graciously consented to let me photograph them, as testament to the enduring, universal, primal desire to be connected to the Earth. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llGtNg6SLjQ

Monday, April 28, 2014

Setting the Stage!

Gardening Friends,
     On Friday April 25th, through Sunday April 27th, the New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx will play host to the annual Antique Garden Furniture Fair, bringing together dealers from all over the country, offering a vast selection of garden related furnishings. In the attached video clip, Toonmoose reporter Everett Scott offers a glimpse of these offerings, to encourage you to create your best garden environment ever. Have a look, and enjoy!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy New (Gardening) Year!!

Happy New (Gardening) Year!!


Photograph: Vase of Flowers, (Homage to Morandi), copyright Everett H. Scott 2014. All rights reserved.
From the cover of the Potager at Penrose Bungalow 2014 calendar. Now available to order. Please send an email for details.

Dear gardening friends,

      I appreciate that the first week of January may seem a premature moment to discuss gardening, especially as here in the Northeast there is a six-inch blanket of snow covering the landscape, rather like a white board that has been wiped clean, never-mind the temperature hovering around a frosty nineteen degrees!
     Still, the arrival of the first seed catalogues, from The Maine Potato Lady, and Burpee, reminds us that as of January 4, 2014, the first day of Spring is only 74 days away! Just selecting the vegetables and flowers that one will attempt to grow this year could consume a good chunk of that time.  Some of my choices are “perennial,” like Fish Peppers and Cosmos which are always welcome in my beds. It is nice though, to introduce something new into the mix, perhaps a native Asclepia that is preferred by the pollinators in your area, or some leafy vegetable that can be prepared in lots of interesting ways, like the Early Red Treviso Chicory seeds that my friend Carlos brought me from Italy.  I can imagine this raw in a salad, grilled or wilted in a little olive oil. Yum! And, the red color will stand out, especially among the vegetables in the potager.
     But, it isn’t only through tilling the soil and reaping the harvest that our garden interests are satisfied.  In the exhibition of jewels by JAR http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2013/jewels-by-jar, at The Metropolitan Museum through March 9, it was a small pair of earrings, one a pave set carrot, the other a pave set beet, that I found to be among the most appealing items, though the artists skill at rendering Nature in precious metal, wood and a broad range of gems and stones was, generally, awe inspiring. 
Then, when this pair of lamps showed up at a recent auction, 

I knew immediately that I wanted them.  These whimsical, decorative accents from mid-twentieth century Italy, have the power to evoke the Spring-time garden, no matter the date on the calendar or their physical setting. 
     So, whether you are reading this from the comfort of your Florida room in Palm Beach, huddled around a radiator in St. Paul, or praying for rain in California, take a moment to plan now for the gardening days ahead.  You’ll be glad you did!
          Thanks for staying “Tooned.” More soon.

The Toonmoose (Everett)