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

New Year’s Day 2023: Happy New Year!

From “Winter Hours” in Winter Hours by Mary Oliver:

“Light streamed from them, and a splash of flames lay quietly under their feet. What is one to do with such moments, such memories, but cherish them? Who knows what is beyond the known? And if you think that any day the secret of light might come, would you not keep the house of your mind ready? Would you not cleanse your study of all that is cheap, or trivial? Would you not live in continual hope, and pleasure, and excitement?”

From “Journals (1858)” in The Complete Works of Henry David Thoreau by Henry David Thoreau:

“Each new year is a surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence. How happens it that the associations it awakens are always pleasing, never saddening; reminiscences of our sanest hours?

“The voice of nature is always encouraging.”

From A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz:

“In each little life, we can see great truth and beauty, and in each little life we glimpse the way of all things in the universe. If we allow ourselves to be enchanted by the beauty of the ordinary, we begin to see that all things are extraordinary. If we allow ourselves to be humbled by what we do not and cannot know, in our humility we are exalted. If we allow ourselves to recognize the mystery and the wonder of existence, our fogged minds clear….

“Thinking clearly, we follow wonder to awe, and in a state of awe, we are as close to true wisdom as we will ever be.”


Hello!

Here are a few photos of some sparkly grasses — in color and even sparklier black and white — that Nature waved in the air to help us celebrate the first day of 2023.

Happy New Year!








Happy New Year!

From Miracle on 10th Street and Other Christmas Writings by Madeleine L’Engle:

“New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day come not out of the church year but out of the dawn of human life. To our ancient forebears… the stretching nights of early winter and the shortening days were terrifying. Was the night going to swallow up the day? Was the life-giving sun going to slide down the western horizon and be lost forever? It must have seemed a real possibility to those dwellers in caves or tree houses, who knew nothing they could not see with their own eyes about the movements of the suns and the stars.

“So, when it slowly became apparent that the sun was staying in the sky a minute longer than it had the day before, and then a minute longer, there was great rejoicing, and feasting and fun…. But it was more than fun. It was spontaneous gratitude that the world was not coming to an end.”

From The Complete Works of Henry David Thoreau by Henry David Thoreau:

“[What] shall be my new-year’s gift, then? Why, I will send you my still fresh remembrance of the hours I have passed with you here, for I find in the remembrance of them the best gift you have left to me. We are poor and sick creatures at best; but we can have well memories, and sound and healthy thoughts of one another still….”

From Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond by Elizabeth Lawrence:

“As the New Year comes around I always wonder what flowers will be here to greet it….”


Hello! Hello!

I always like to find some white flowers blooming during the last week of December, to post here on New Year’s Day. Below are this year’s galleries: some paperwhites, white quince, and white camellia, followed by renderings of a few of the quince and camellia flowers on black backgrounds.

Thanks for taking a look, and…

Happy New Year!  







New Year’s Day 2021 (Finally!)

From “Gerontion” by T.S. Eliot in The Essential T.S. Eliot:

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now 
She gives when our attention is distracted 
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
What’s not believed in, or if still believed, 
In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon 
Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with 
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.

The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.

From “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot in The Essential T.S. Eliot:

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language 
And next year’s words await another voice.


You may have thought it would never end, but it did: 2020 is finally over, and a new year has begun. Happy New Year!

In a decade, or maybe in half a decade, we’ll already be looking back on 2020 as a transitional year — though I’d have to be Nostradamus to predict how we’ll characterize the transition. You’ve probably caught some of the 2020 recap stories that are popular at a year’s ending (many of which atypically included the words “Good Riddance”); one of the reasons 2020 seemed so long was that it was jam-packed with life-disrupting events, all accumulating to create not only anxieties but to make us reflective about aspects of society, culture, politics, and economics that seemed overlooked until recently. Paraphrasing the title of a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, “where have we been, where are we going?” is going to be an obsessive question for some years to come.

I wandered over to my favorite sanctuary earlier this week, in search of something that might capture a feeling about the ending of The Longest Year — but all I found was a half-dozen faded roses. We’d just had a couple of freezing days smack-dab in the middle of temperatures in the fifties and sixties, so hardy flowers that still manage to bloom in late fall and winter here had faded and shriveled in the cold. Still I got caught up a little in the appearance of these roses: even though they looked like they’d melted, a lot of their original color remained. So while they might not fit the traditional image of “beautiful” — their purple and magenta colors combined with the softened flower petals still struck me as not entirely unpleasant.


Flowers representing a new year vary by culture, but while searching for some ideas around that, I learned that Queen Anne’s Lace — in the language of flowers — is said to represent both sanctuary and safety, so seemed like good stand-ins for the beginning of a new year, as we (hopefully) move into a period of decreasing peril and increasing stability. I took these photos earlier in 2020, in June, and had some fun in Lightroom accentuating the minute flower detail, freshening up the lacy whites, and fading the backgrounds to give the flowers their deserved prominence.


Here are a few experiments, from the same trip to Oakland where I found the faded roses. The first two are of a fine piece of fuzz, originally against a mostly green background — which I converted to pale yellow then increased shadows and dark colors to highlight the fuzz. The first photo on the second row comes from an intentional overexposure, just aiming the camera at a this seed structure against the cloudy sky and using the last camera settings I had used to photograph the fuzz. I wanted to see what detail and color I would be able to recover from a monochrome, overexposed image.

For the last photo: I made fog!


If you’re interested in the “sausage factory” aspects of these experiments, here are the same four images in before-and-after pairs. My goal with the first two pairs was to render something that looked more like late fall or winter; to bring out seed detail against a winter-white sky on the third pair; and two transform the last pair into a different kind of photo emphasizing the cluster of seed stalks toward the right side amid dry grasses. Select any of the images to compare before and after versions in a slideshow.


Thanks for reading and taking a look!

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