Category Archives: My wise old grandmother

For wise old grandmothers everywhere

My wise old grandmother

My wise old grandmother had the most beautiful yard and gardens, although I have to give myself a little credit because I’m the one who mowed the yard and trimmed the trees and bushes. THAT is why I have never had a grass yard that needed mowing and never had trees and bushes that needed trimming. Whatever is in my yard and gardens gets to grow until it can grow no more.

One of my wise old grandmother’s hanging baskets had a plant in it that I really didn’t like. The plant had no leaves, and its stems and branches were flat. It just looked weird to this 12-year-old, one who was not weird himself, yet.

However, it didn’t need water, fertilizer, or pruning. It simply existed in its hanging basket. So THAT was a plus.

Then one day it bloomed.

I was a fan forever.

The plant is more on the expensive side, so I have never had one. However, when my employee, Julian, and his mom moved last summer, his mom asked me if I wanted any of the plants. ANY? Does ALL count as ANY?

Two of the plants she had were the odd-looking plant that my wise old grandmother had. Yesterday, one of them bloomed. Looks like this:

img_2015 epiphyllum stampPictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That is the flower of an epiphyllum, common name orchid cactus. The flower is about nine inches in diameter. It’s huge! And it’s purple, which was my wise old grandmother’s favorite color.

My wise old grandmother died in June 2003, but I do believe she has come to visit me in my garden. I shall name my epiphyllum Mary since that was my wise old grandmother’s name. You thought her name was “my wise old grandmother,” didn’t you? Nope.

Mary Agnes Hartmann Kirk, this epiphyllum is for you, and for wise old grandmothers everywhere!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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That much I could have guessed

My wise old grandmother

My wise old grandmother was a Master Gardener before there was such a thing. She is the one who developed my love of gardening, To be fair, though, she also is the reason why I have never had a grass lawn, have a great dislike for oleanders and roses unless they are on someone else’s property, and love cactus and succulents, especially if they are on my property.

She used to fertilize her grass like there was no tomorrow. Who am I lying to? No she didn’t. I—me! the one and only!—used to fertilize her grass like there was no tomorrow…. under her direction, of course. I was the one who had the privilege of mowing the lawn twice a week, pruning the oleanders after a norther came through and froze them, pruning the roses so they would bloom more (and have more thorns!).

Air conditioning compressorOne day I asked her if I could have a garden. She said yes and took me to the worst part of the property, where the heated wind from the air conditioning compressor (picture ►) killed everything during the summer months, and told me to make something out of it. I was so depressed. Instead of getting a beautiful garden to call my own, I had a patch of hard, dry, brown soil kept that way by a huge, ugly compressor.

I was able to block the compressor, and it’s heated windstorm, by building a rock wall around it. Then I planted cactus and succulents amongst the rocks, creating a rock garden.

I was reminded of my little cactus and succulent rock garden recently when I was traipsing around La Jolla, a San Diego enclave of the rich and famous. I came across this:

Succulent wall panorama la jolla

(click on image for a larger, more detailed view)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That, of course, is much more elaborate than the little rock wall I built, and theirs is designed to hide the ugly stairs leading from the street up to the house. The landscapers were still building it, and I jokingly commented, “Wow! Nice! I wonder how much that cost.” To which the landscaper replied, “It’s expensive.” That much I could have guessed….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Where can I get some footprints like this?

Out & About

Yesterday I visited the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. I had known about it for a couple of decades but had never been there because it is massive, and not exactly close to where I live.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

However, I teach chess at several elementary schools in North County, so yesterday, instead of fighting rush hour traffic to come home, I decided to take a hike, literally.

After parking, I studied the map and saw that there was a waterfall. Off I went. Three miles out and three miles back. I am sore, sore, sore.

I’ll have more about Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve in a future post. Today I wanted to share just three pictures.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My wise old grandmotherWhen I was young and living with my wise old grandmother (picture ►), she would take me to Padre Island National Seashore. Before she let me out to run around on the beach and in the dunes, she would tell me, “Don’t pick any flowers. Don’t take anything. Leave only footprints.” I thought of her yesterday when I came upon a set of footprints that had me smiling. Looked like this:

Leave only footprints

After finding those footprints, I looked at my own. I was embarrassed. I need some new shoes with a cool footprint!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Then there was this bird, either a crow or raven:

img_1570 crow stamp

I took that picture just a couple of hundred feet after setting off on the main trail. I know crows and ravens are very smart birds, and this one followed me three miles in and three miles back, flying from dead tree to dead tree, squawking at me to let me know that it was still with me but in a different tree. It stayed with me during my four-hour hike through the Preserve. Maybe it knew I was a newbie and wanted to make sure that I didn’t get lost. Since I got back to my car well after sunset, I was thankful that I had a little one looking after me.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Ismael “Sonny” Nevarez, a Realtor in Highland, California, owns a condominium at La Mesa Racquet & Swim Club in La Mesa, California. He is a Slum Lord in every sense of the phrase. Contact me if you’d like further information.

“The Cemetery” at Mission San Antonio de Pala

Out & About

Cemeteries have always fascinated me. Nonetheless, I have only been to two funerals in my life, that of my granddad who died in 1978 when I was 23, and that of my best friend who died in 1989. I didn’t even get to go to my wise old grandmother’s funeral in 2003 because my three uncles threatened me with violence, one stating that he “didn’t know what might happen” if I went. Since he had more weapons than the United States Army, I decided to stay away.

San Diego is the only place that has two national cemeteries—Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (picture ▼) and Miramar National Cemetery—and Southern California is the only region that has three of them, with Riverside National Cemetery about 60 miles from me. My husband’s dad is interred at Riverside National Cemetery.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I find national cemeteries to be kind of dull, boring, and uninteresting due to their monotonous conformity.

However, they always seem to be located in beautiful places.

I think the most interesting cemeteries I ever visited were in New Orleans; those are what I call cemeteries.

We don’t seem to have a lot of cemeteries here in San Diego, but while out and about a couple of weeks ago I discovered “The Cemetery”:

The Cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala, Pala California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Located at the Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California, founded in 1816 to convert the native Indians to Catholicism, The Cemetery is the original Mission cemetery and claims to hold the remains of hundreds of Native American converts to Catholicism, as well as other early California pioneers.

If The Cemetery holds hundreds of remains, they are not well marked after all these years, or they were buried in a mass grave.

Actually, while researching this post, I discovered that the cemetery is also known as the “Old Luiseño Cemetery,” named after the tribe of Indians the Mission had served. Graves typically were marked by wooden crosses, a great supermajority of which have fallen, deteriorated, or been misplaced.

Over at Interment.net, I found a partial list of those interred in the cemetery.

There might have been about twenty grave markers in The Cemetery. Here are some that I found interesting:

Grave marker at the cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Grave marker at the cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Grave marker at the cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Grave marker at the cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Grave marker at the cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Grave marker at the cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Grave marker at the cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Grave marker at the cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I don’t think this last one is a grave marker unless it’s a place holder for all those grave markers that aren’t there anymore.

Grave marker at the cemetery at Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Imagine my surprise 49 years later

My wise old grandmother

I came to San Diego in April 1993 via a circuitous route that started in College Station, Texas, took me north to Fargo, North Dakota, west to Seattle, Washington, and then south to San Diego. I wasn’t really looking for a place to live. Rather, I was looking for a place to kill myself. All because of my sexual orientation and how being gay was perceived in Texas and in the Mormon and Catholic religions in which I had been raised.

I don’t know into which religion I was born, but my mom’s side of the family were Mormons and dad’s side were Catholics. For many years I wondered how they ever got together. Then I put two and two together and got four, realizing that my oldest brother was born a couple months shy of nine months after my parents had married. The old Texas-style shotgun wedding….

When my dad killed himself in 1961, my mom moved us to Brigham City, Utah, to be closer to her side of the family. Four years later, and I was back in Kingsville, Texas, living with my wise old grandmother. She had adopted me out of the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden, Utah, where I had been placed because I was such a juvenile delinquent.

St Gertrude Catholic Church in Kingsville TexasShortly after being adopted, I was baptized and confirmed in St. Gertrude Catholic Church (picture ►). After my confirmation in 1966, my wise old grandmother bought me a remembrance gift from the church gift store. It was a picture of the face of Jesus Christ on cloth. I now know that my picture was of a monotype on cloth called “The Peace of the Resurrection” and was done in 1955 (my birth year!) by Raul Anguiano, a famous Mexican artist.

Inquiring minds might want to know how I know that. Well, a couple of weeks ago I was at the Pala Indian Reservation teaching chess to students at their elementary school, the Vivian Banks Charter School. The school happens to be located in the historic Mission San Antonio de Pala, a Catholic mission founded in 1816.

Mission San Antonio de Pala

Vivian Banks Charter School in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Since I was unfamiliar with the territory, I got there very early. My intent, though, was actually to explore the historic mission grounds, take pictures, and visit the museum.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into one of the museum rooms and found my picture of Jesus Christ hanging on the wall. Not just any picture, though. It was the original picture on cloth! Looked like this:

The Peace of the Resurrection by Raul Anguiano at the Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The paper attached to the frame informs us that it is the

“Original monotype by Anguiano,
a famous Mexican artist, in 1955.”

It is titled “The Peace of the Resurrection”

José Raúl Anguiano Valadez (February 26, 1915 – January 13, 2006) was part of the “second generation” of Mexican muralists continuing in the tradition of Diego Rivera and José Orozco, two names with which I am familiar. Anguiano was born during the height of the Mexican Revolution, which inspired a lot of his murals and paintings.

I always liked that picture because even though the face’s eyelids are closed, there appear to be eyeballs staring out at you from behind the eyelids, and they seem to follow you around the room as you move about.

I took my picture with me when I went off to college at Texas A&M University. It got left behind in Texas in April 1993 and I never recovered it after deciding to spend my life in San Diego.

It was pretty neat to find the original so close to where I live now but 49 years later.

The Peace of the Resurrection by Raul Anguiano at the Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Comes to an end

My wise old grandmother

I am making progress on creating an online store at RusselRayPhotos.com. However, in doing that, I have made the decision to shut down MyWiseOldGrandmother.com because those two sites (and a couple of others which also will be shut down) share the same account at the same host. I am not yet ready to spend buckets of money on additional storage space for Photographic Art, and since I haven’t done anything with MyWiseOldGrandmother.com in seven years…. It comes to an end.

I originally put a lot of work into MyWiseOldGrandmother.com, so I’m not willing to just throw it all away. Thus, I’ll be bringing the more interesting stuff over here to share with you!

I hope you will spend some time with the elderly in your life so we don’t lose what they have to offer. Talk with them, write down their stories, record their stories, take pictures, and share everything with others!

Morning gloryMy wise old grandmother’s name was May Agnes Kirk. She was my paternal grandmother and adopted me in December 1965 when she was almost 55 years old and I was a juvenile delinquent three months shy of 11. The morning glory was her favorite flower, opening bright and early each morning and, as the day wore on, slowly closing and going to bed.

My wise old grandmother taught me a lot with her love of life; her knowledge about life, which came from the “school of hard knocks” (she had only a first-grade education), her wonderful words of wisdom, which I typed and put in my notebook; and her love of nature, of which cats, dogs, birds, and gardening were most prominent.

BootsShe had a particular fondness for neglected, injured, or mistreated animals, and we were always adopting dogs and cats from the alley behind our house. She is the reason why I recent decided to sponsor Boots (picture ►), a special needs kitty, at Cat House on the Kings. Read more about Boots here: Meet Boots!

Her other fondness was for music, and me playing both the piano and the violin, as well as being a singer, might have given her hope that she could make someone out of me.

Piano and violin

My original mission for MyWiseOldGrandmother.com was to bring something positive to the world, represented by the positive and beautiful words of knowledge and wisdom conveyed to me by my wise old grandmother. Her spirit lives on although her web site won’t, but maybe something in those pages that I bring over here might provide someone with inspiration, hope, or a smile.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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What comes out of the camera….

My wise old grandmother

When I was living in Utah with my mom, stepdad, and six other children, we rarely ate as a family at the table. In fact, in thinking back on those three years, I can’t ever remember us eating together as a family. That might explain why I stole so much food from the Food King right across the street. My friends were stealing toys; I was stealing food.

When my wise old grandmother adopted me, my youngest uncle (we’ll call him Doug since that was his name) was still living at home. Although he was in college, he knew that if he wanted to eat, supper was served at the dining room table at 6:00 p.m. Breakfast and lunch usually were served at the kitchen bar since everyone had different schedules for the day. But if you missed supper at the dining room table at 6:00 p.m., you pretty much starved until the next morning. It only took twice to realize that my wise old grandmother was serious….

After breakfast and through mid-afternoon, the dining room table belonged to my wise old grandmother. She would cut out patterns for the clothes she made, write letters to family and friends, read the newspaper, and, most important to her, put together her scrapbooks and photo albums.

Doug always found it funny how my wise old grandmother would create her scrapbooks and photo albums because there wasn’t a full-size picture in any of them. All of her pictures got cropped to meet a specific purpose that she had in mind. Cropping back in those days meant using the scissors to cut away parts that weren’t needed, and sometimes to cut out a person, a car, or a building.

Doug constantly was making fun of her but she never backed down. She knew what she wanted, she knew what she had to do to create what she wanted, and that was that!

Probably my favorite words of wisdom from my wise old grandmother are words that I have been using and practicing for at least forty years:

What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with.

In today’s world, Photoshop is our scissors and our lightroom. No need to make a mess on the dining room table or get sick inhaling all the chemical smells in the lightroom. Just make a plate of nachos, grab a beer, put the cat on your lap, open Photoshop, and get started.

I am always after better or more time-saving ways to work in Photoshop, so I check out new software that comes on the market. Recently one of my favorite software companies, Topaz Labs, released a new plug-in for Photoshop, Topaz Restyle.

Following is a picture of the La Casa Estudillo Museum in Old Town. You’ll see and read more about it in an upcoming blog post, probably Saturday.

Casa de Estudillo Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That actually is a panorama comprised of six individual pictures, photomerged in Photoshop. I find it perfectly acceptable, but then I remembered the new Topaz Restyle software that I had just bought and had to go mess around some. I got a lot of interesting pictures but I liked this one the best:

Casa de Estudillo Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The original picture was taken at 8:14 AM on December 13, 2014. The Topaz Restyle picture also was taken at 8:14 AM on December 13, 2014, since they are the same picture!

The second picture certainly looks like it was taken at dusk the way the sunlight is reflected in the clouds, on the ground, in that left window, off the museum sign in the lower left, and off the exterior walls. Even to the right of the museum, it looks like the sun is shining a little more brightly over there, maybe because there were no trees providing any shade.

I love the Topaz rendition. I think it adds depth to the picture—look at the clouds through the arches in the bell tower—and a great deal more interest.

The Topaz Restyle plugin normally is $59.99 but you can get a $20 discount on it through the end of February by using the discount code FEBRESTYLE at checkout.

Topaz Labs is here.

All Topaz software has a free 30-day fully functional trial, so hop on over there, check out what they have, and let me know what you think.

Sadly, Topaz has not paid me for this testimonial….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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