Posted by Ellen

Two apartment towers in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. Above, City Tower; below, a building in the Skarpoš district.

Posted by Ellen

Don't know these kids, just caught a glimpse in passing. One of them plopped himself down on a skateboard and hitched a ride through the airport behind the suitcase being pulled by the other kid. They could be brothers. I'm pretty sure they're the kind of kids that people call A Handful. Especially the one on the skateboard.

Posted by Ellen

The truth is not hard to believe: these guys were in fact trying for a world record in 1893 when they loaded the sled with more than 36,000 board feet of virgin white pine logs from Ontanagon County in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

How did they pile up the load so high? The horses actually did much of the work. The men would lay each log on the ground longside the sled and affix ropes to it that went up and over the load and then back down to the ground on the other side of the sled. That's where the horses were waiting; they would be harnessed to the ropes, and as they were led away from their side of the sled, the ropes would pull the new log up to the top of the heap, guided up the side by angled tracks made from small logs. When the new log reached the top, the men would snag it into place.

How come the sled didn't just sink down in the snow? An ice road had been specially prepared, with the snow sprayed repeatedly with water and allowed to freeze rock-hard. The horses had special shoes with crampons that bit into the ice surface.

Usually, logs hauled this way were taken to a frozen river, awaiting spring, when they'd be floated downstream to a sawmill. But this particular load was pulled for just half a mile by these two horses, to a railroad siding, where the logs and the sled were loaded onto freight cars and shipped to Chicago.

There, at the Michigan pavilion of the 1893 Columbia Exhibition, the load was reassembled, sled and all, treating fairgoers to a glimpse of logging activity in what was then the world's busiest lumber region.

Did they make it into the Guinness Book of Records? We have no idea, but they did claim this was the largest load of lumber in the history of the world.

Note that most of the men here had no gloves, and of course none of them had hard hats.

Posted by Ellen

You know what they say: yes, it looks impressive, but the fact is that Allen probably beats his niece two games out of three.

Posted by Ellen

In the year 1212, the woman who became Saint Clare of Assisi founded the Poor Clares order of nuns.  From the beginning, Poor Clares sisters were entirely cloistered and took vows of poverty much more extreme than those of other nuns of the time; they owned no property whatsoever, individually or collectively, and depended on alms for survival.

For the past 700 years, Poor Clares in Naples, Italy, have lived here, in Santa Chiara, a church and monstery complex built for them by Queen Sancha of Majorca and King Robert of Naples. The complex was extensively remodeled in the eighteenth century, with the addition of exuberant ornamentation, especially in this garden, that seems difficult to square with the nuns' professed poverty and simple life apart from the world.

Indeed, the tiled benches illustrate decidedly non-religious scenes, from masked pageantry at Carnival to peasants chasing after pigs. The tiles on the columns are garlanded in flowers and fruit: lemon trees, grape vines, figs and bananas. The designer was Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, an architect and sculptor known for imposing a personal stamp on every project, no matter what the client might have had in mind.

For two more centuries, the Poor Clares stayed on in Vaccaro's fanciful cloister, until 1995, some years after they had downsized to a smaller monastery next door. For the first time, their garden was opened to visitors from outside the order.

Posted by Ellen

This showed up the other day on the wall next to a parking lot in our (Seattle) neighborhood.

Posted by Ellen

No idea what this was all about, but it's Philadelphia.

Posted by Ellen

In 1960, British photographer John Gay (who was actually born Hans Göhler, in Karlsruhe, Germany) shot these clotheslines in front of the chimneyline of Islington, London.

A confession: I miss clotheslines. Don't miss lugging baskets of soggy clothes up the basement steps and out across the yard. Don't miss slapping at mosquitoes with a mouthful of clothespins. Don't miss convincing myself it won't rain when of course it will, and it does. Don't miss how stiff the clothes are when they're finally back inside.

I just miss seeing clotheslines when I walk the streets and alleys of my neighborhood, or any neighborhood. Nowadays, backyards look lifeless and uninteresting. Doubtless, this is a small price to pay for progress, and this nostalgia of mine is a small and silly thing, but still.

So now and for a while to come, Monday will be laundry day on Hole in the Clouds.

Posted by Ellen

My sister Carol is hard at work on a sewing card, in our front yard in Silver Spring, Maryland, circa 1958.

Back in the day, little girls and perhaps also some boys "sewed" around the pictures on these cards as an introductory activity intended to help prepare us for real sewing. Carol was probably three or four when she threaded the shoelace-tipped yarn through holes punched in the card; by age five or six, she had probably moved up to simple cross-stitch embroidery using real needles and thread and tiny, child-sized thimbles. All that stuff is out of fashion now, though the old cards, sometimes called lacing cards, are still available on ebay and etsy. Maybe the whole sewing thing is just too girly for modern parents. Or too 1950s.

I never was much of a girly girl, but I really loved sewing cards and cross stitch, and I kept begging and begging my mother to teach me how to use her sewing machine. As soon as I started to learn, however, I gave it all up for good. It turned out that real sewing involved ironing each seam as you went along–and I hated, hated, hated ironing. Also, sewing under my mother's eye required doing the stitches properly–in other words, I had to rip out most of my attempts at seams and do them over and over again.

But Carol was and still is good with her hands. For her, the sewing cards may have served as preparation for piano lessons, or for penmanship at school. But isn't this activity more suitable for work indoors, sitting down on the floor or at a table? I'm guessing Carol put her sweater on and brought the card outside so our father could take a picture without a flashbulb.