“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?”
“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?
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“[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….”
“As the New Year comes around I always wonder what flowers will be here to greet it….”
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.
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.
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.
“No child has ever had such an exciting young life as Little Billy, and no child has ever kept such a huge secret so faithfully. He never told a soul about the Minpins.
“I myself have been very careful not to tell you where they live, and I am not about to tell you now. But if by some extraordinary chance you should one day wander into a forest and catch a glimpse of a Minpin, then hold your breath and thank your lucky stars because up to now, so far as I know, no one excepting Little Billy has ever seen one.
“Watch the birds as they fly above your heads and, who knows, you might well spy a tiny creature riding high on the back of a swallow or a raven.
“Watch the robin especially because it always flies low, and you might see a nervous young Minpin perched on the feathers having its first flying lesson.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places….”
“Sunrise, New Year’s Day. The oranges, blues, and greens of daybreak along the shore at the edge of North America fill the sky with luminescence. The sound of waves gently unfolding now, as they have for infinite nows, in patterns beyond imagination, creates a gentle soundscape enveloping my mind in a lullaby beckoning me back to bed. This body needs more rest after last night’s New Year’s Eve festivities…. But I am up, here with you, wanting to express something of this journey in words we can share, together, in these nows that forever wrap us in existence, life, and the journey of these lived moments we’ve come to know as mind.
“Are we the sunrise? Are we the lapping waves? Are we the creation of time, the denotation of a passing of something marked as a day, month, year…? The hooting and hollering of celebration for this mind-created edge of a year across the world, the display of fireworks in the skies across Earth, the screens shared among billions of humans across the planet: are each of these some shared construction of our collective mind?
“We create meaning from an infinite set of energy patterns and make information come alive. We are the sensory conduits enabling bottom-up to flow freely in our awareness; we are the interpretative constructors, making sense of and narrating our lives as they unfold. There is in reality no ‘new year’ anywhere beyond our mind….”