"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Spring 2020: Easter Sunday

From “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” in Selected Poetry of William Wordsworth:

With an eye made quiet
by the power of harmony,
and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

From Dutch orchestra performs ‘Ode to Joy’ from self-isolation:

“Musicians in the Netherlands who are self-isolating due to the Covid-19 pandemic have recorded a virtual version of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy‘. Members of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra performed the Anthem of Europe from their homes. Each individual part was then added to a final mix, along with an archive recording of a choir segment. The song, part of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, has been adopted by the EU as the European anthem.” 

Spring 2020: April Colors 2 (Catawba Grapevine)

From “Time” by Susan Hill and Rory Stuart in The Writer in the Garden by Jane Garmey:

“There is a continuity about the garden and an order of succession in the garden year which is deeply pleasing, and in one sense there are no breaks or divisions — seed time flows on to flowering time and harvest time; no sooner is one thing dying than another is coming to life….

“Perfect moments come in every garden…. To the very active gardener they may not be of great importance and usually they will be happy accidents, lucky moments when, chancing to glance up, the gardener will see that this or that grouping of plants at the height of their flowering looks exactly right, because of the way the light falls on them…. The moment will be pleasing but fleeting and its transience of little importance when there is satisfying work to be done….

“Awareness of when such moments are most likely helps to make them happen; they will not be entirely accidental but anticipated; everything will be planned to encourage them. This gardener will be out in the very early morning and from late afternoon, attentive to small changes in the quality of the light and the atmosphere, as well as to every nuance of the season, which combine to create perfection. Late sunlight will slant for just a few minutes on a variegated shrub placed against a dark, evergreen background; the assertive evening calling of blackbirds and the scream of swifts round and round the rooftops calms and stills as darkness gathers; pale flowers, translucent whites, pinks and chalky blues stand out in the dusk, sharp yellows and oranges are defined separately as dimmer, subtler tones retreat into the spreading shadow. Water on a pool goes dark blue and then black at one particular moment, just as the moon rides up into a clear sky. The dew rises and with it the fainter scents which have been blotted out by the heat of the day. Now, all should be quiet, still; the air is so transmissive that any sharp sound or acrid smell will startle and upset the delicate equilibrium in the garden. Conversation and even company are inappropriate…. 

“Such moments are to be enjoyed alone. They are the reasons why some people have gardens.”

Below are a couple of galleries showing early growth on a catawba grapevine in my garden. As new vines start to appear each spring, the leaf tips emerge with a distinct purple tint — almost like they’ve been lightly brushed with that color. It only lasts a few days, and I never even noticed it until I aimed a macro lens at the vines three or four years ago. Now, this color marks time in my garden — like the quotation above implies — and its a marker of early spring that fades to shades of light green shortly after it appears. The two galleries show a similar series of images; the second one includes variations at a closer zoom level.

Thanks for taking a look!

Spring 2020: April Colors 1

From A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher:

“Does absence have a weight? I think it does, because I stood there feeling crushed by something I couldn’t see. It was a much stronger feeling than the one I had when looking at a landscape full of empty streets…. Like it had once been peopled — and very densely peopled — and now it just wasn’t. It was unpeopled, in the same way something can’t be undone unless it has first been done…. and it was a very different feeling to just being empty. It was more like loneliness, not mine from finding myself alone in this world, but this world’s loneliness without you….”

From The End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker:

“We stood at the window and drank coffee while the morning light grew outside. We watched details of the landscape emerge slowly like drops of watercolor seeping across canvas — trees, fields, hills, and fences — all the features of a traditional, rolling landscape. In the gray shadows, it all looked normal and untouched, so much so that it might have been possible to trick ourselves into thinking that, maybe, the devastation ended here. Maybe, beyond these hills surrounding us, people lived normally, the sun still met the earth, flowers still grew, cities still prospered. Or even — just maybe — what had happened had never happened at all. But then the light grew a little more, and we saw dark blights appear…. I felt a nameless loss: a grief for something I had never known, a time and a country I could only hope to feel through osmosis, never firsthand.”

These two quotes are a bit dark, but the writing is good and they both capture the strange discomfort of observing an unrecognizable, untouchable world. A truck grumbles past as I write this — a sound of normal life that only takes hold for a few seconds, then fades away. I watch through the window: Bradford Pear tree branches wave in the wake left by the truck and clouds of yellow pollen dust blow from the hood of my car. I’ll hose the rest of it off lateron.

Back at the computer, I end out thinking that old concerns about spending too much time indoors poking at gadgets and staring at screens seem quaint now: we’ve swung to another extreme, where screens stand in for experiences we can’t have. With our eyes on the screen, our senses are reduced from six to one: sight dominates, the rest is memory.

Photography of course has always been in that position, as an art form that revolves around creating and presenting images detached from the events that produce them. The photographer is not in the picture in the same way the painter is not in the canvas — the presence of both is like the elephant that’s not in the room — yet both artists use their tools and skills to attempt to recreate and re-present something they experienced and impressions they felt. The camellia blossoms that I’ve included in the first gallery below struck me because their white petals glowed against rich dark greens, a glow that seemed even more intense in the shade than in the sun.

The flowers in the second gallery are from the Rosaceae family; the blooms stretched along leafy vines crawling through a magnolia tree, covering most of the tree’s trunk and hiding many of its lower branches. For the last gallery, I used variations of the six images and eliminated the backgrounds, shifting the perspective away from blooms among vines, to make them appear as if they were suspended in mid-air … since, in a way, they were.

I took the photos for these three galleries at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens — a place that so far remains open and safely underpopulated as the world stays paused — which is busting out with color as spring barrels forward, providing dozens of new subjects for me and the camera. As I’ve often done here, I’ll be separating and processing new photos in color clumps; purple, yellow, orange, red, and blue flowers are filling up my folder of images for posting soon — supplemented with some from my own gardens, where clematis, grapevines, and hostas, especially, seem to grow so fast I can see it happen.

Select any of the images in these galleries if you would like to see larger versions. Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (4 of 4)

From More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life by Guy Tal:

“Attention is crucial to experience. The less of it we assign to any one activity, the less capable we are of appreciating it, of being aware of all its nuances and dimensions and, ultimately, the less significant and satisfying our experience of it is. A meal eaten in front of the television will not be as rewarding as a meal experienced as a primary focus of attention, savored slowly and deliberately. A virtuous violin performance among the clamor of a subway station will not be as moving as one experienced in the quiet darkness of a concert hall. The same is true for experiencing the wild: the more distractions we bring into it — sounds and scents and anxieties and social interactions — the less of it we experience and the more prone we are to dismiss it as lacking. This is not attention deficit; it’s attention overload. We invest our awareness in too many things and, not surprisingly, we get little return from each of them….”

“So often I find myself engaged in a composition, thinking and refining and contemplating, when my subject remains static, when nothing other than my thoughts is changing … and yet I am so elated and immersed in the experience that no other thought even enters my mind. Worries and anxieties disappear, small discomforts never register in my conscious mind, and nothing else deserves attention until after the click of the shutter, and sometimes beyond as I consider other possibilities. To me, the making of an image is a slow and meticulous process, not because it has to be, but because I find it most rewarding as such. By the time the image is realized I have no reason or desire to enter it into any kind of contest or offer it for anyone’s critical evaluation beyond just sharing it with the world in the hope that someone else may find it of some use. I already won the greatest prize the image could have garnered me by virtue of the transcendent, and deliberately prolonged, experience of making it.”

A few days ago, I sat down to write the fourth post to go with a fourth gallery of daffodils from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens — when I realized I didn’t actually have any more daffodil photos. WTF! How did that happen!! So after an hour of hesitation, I put a fresh battery in the camera and headed back over to the cemetery, which in my imagination — given that everyone had been cooped up home-working and home-schooling all week, and most places were closed — was going to be packed with Saturday morning flaneurs, making it difficult to maintain proper distance. Well, that didn’t happen: I only saw a couple dozen people on the entire 66 acres — and staying clear of each other was easy there, given that each acre of the property is bisected by multiple sidewalks or paths, and by redirecting your steps you could end out at the same spot with just a short detour. It was a strange thing to realize that the centuries old, somewhat random layout of this property — with two wide entrances and a series of connected mazes that have emerged over time — was more suited to current conditions than newer urban spaces that tend to force people through small openings onto linear trails or roadways. Places like the zoo or the botanical gardens, for example, might afford ample opportunities for distance-keeping once people are on the property, but no one can get in without funneling first through entry gates, turnstiles, or other narrow entrances — an efficiency for access control and fee collection that suddenly seems (at least temporarily, yet with an unknown end date) obsolete.

Taking nature photos during a pandemic feels incongruous at times, and it seemed to take longer to get into the flow than I’m accustomed to. Still, I spent about three hours wandering the property, hunting down new daffodils since those featured in previous posts — early bloomers I found on the first few acres near the cemetery’s entrance — were mostly spent and getting crowded out by irises preparing to bloom. Deeper onto the property, farther from the entrances where the sun strikes later in the morning, I did find several nice assemblies and ended out with a few dozen photos to create these last daffodil galleries for this final day of March.

The previous daffodil posts are:

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (1 of 4); and

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (2 of 4); and

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (3 of 4).

All of my spring posts and photos are tagged Spring 2020.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (3 of 4)

Here is the third gallery of daffodil photos from my recent trips to Oakland Cemetery’s gardens.

Yes, these are ALL daffodils. The first two photos do show a typical daffodil structure, but with the others, their daffodilliness isn’t so obvious until you take a close look at the star-shaped arrangement of the petals toward the back of each flower. While I couldn’t identify the variants for certain by name, I did learn while searching around that double-daffodils and daffodils with clumped flowers are common varieties. I like the third and fourth ones, little bouquets on their own with a mix of white and orange petals; and the last five reminded me of … Reddi-Whip!

The previous daffodil posts are:

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (1 of 4); and

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (2 of 4).

All of my spring posts and photos are tagged Spring 2020.

Select the first image if you would like to see larger versions in a slideshow. Thanks for taking a look!