60

I thought this might be interesting for you, just for something different.  You'll see a picture of grasses below.  This picture is the same one, only with just the heads of the grasses picked out.  I like the purple color of the grasses that I might not have noticed in the mix with everything else.  I like it that such small things can be as elegant and beautiful as anything else.  I love it that nature doesn't measure out its bounty.  It doesn't look for anyone to notice.  It makes the beauty anyway.

We moved out of the house on my 60th birthday.  I had tried to plan so it would not be a heavy move-out day but there is a law of nature that applies especially to summer rental.  It takes exactly as much time as you have. 

When people asked me what I did for my birthday and I said we moved out of the house, they said, “You must be pretty good at it by now.”  Well, that’s true, more or less.  We’ve been doing this for 17 years.  We now have a whole system of boxes that go into the basement, out to the studio and onto the boat.  The dogs have learned that the most important things in our lives are boxes.  They know that we love and follow our boxes.  They have learned this so well that they plant themselves in the car as soon as the boxes come out because they know that big things are happening and they don’t want to be left behind.  They actually refuse to go back into the house until they see the boxes come with us.   

Our lives have a seasonal and nomadic quality, which takes planning and energy.  I keep trying to learn how to do it better.  I have developed a habit of watching how people work.  We have a friend named Larry, and he is without exception, the most productive person I have ever seen.  One time, I asked him to build a little display table for me for the Gallery.  I came back 15 minutes later, and he had materialized a beautiful little pedestal table, with beveled edges and finely fitted pieces of wood.  Judging from that, I’d say he could build a kitchen full of custom cabinets in about a day and a half.  The thing about Larry, and this is what amazes me, is that he never appears to be trying. I think he has worked so long and hard that he carries his knowledge in his whole body.  He doesn’t push himself.  He never hurries.  He doesn’t waste a motion.  The energy seems to well up in him, matched to whatever he is doing.  He organizes everything, down to the way he keeps his van, the way he eats, the way he packs his clothes.  He just turns on his music and off he goes. He rests well, at the beginning and middle and end of each day. He doesn’t get side tracked.  He paces himself.  He does only so much, which is plenty.  I asked Larry to tell me how he works and he doesn’t have a philosophy about it.  He said he used to run around like a crazy person.  He said he never got much done and he never made any money.  He said one day he just decided to make things as easy for himself as possible.

Larry’s work is always fine and clean and beautiful and it’s beautiful to watch him.  I’ve learned from him, the way I’ve learned from photography, that the greatest gift is the ability to pay attention. I think that skill and balance and order and energy and integration and beauty are connected to paying attention; that if I pay attention, all of these things can follow. 

After we finished moving out, we went to the mainland and stayed with my mother and brother.  My mom loves to watch “Fox News”.  I also read a book called “Zen at War”, about Zen’s ideological participation in World War II, including that of esteemed patriarchs in many of the major Zen lineages that have now come to this country.

I thought a lot about whether the role of these teachers made any difference, whether they were leading or following the charge.  They were in a military dictatorship after all, and the emperor was absolute Lord.  There were some Zen folks who opposed the war and they were imprisoned, beaten and killed.  But both the Japan story and Fox News got me all worked up about how ideology and power can work together to create such spectacular suffering, about how it can happen in any culture, about how it distorts the best things, about how it takes so much from people and always betrays them in the end.  It didn't make me feel any better when I learned that the people in Japan starved for another four years after the war was over, primarily because of corruption. 

I thought of a time about 16 years ago.  I was working in Japan, and I took some time to visit and stay at a number of Zen monasteries, including Eihieji, Hoshinji and Myoshinji, some of the founding monasteries in the Soto and Renzi traditions.  I also stayed at one small monastery, a wonderful place that was also a sort of youth hostel.  One day, the head monk had us all dress up in monk’s clothes and go into town for a traditional Japanese begging excursion.  I had been specifically instructed not to say anything, especially not to say “Domo arrigato goziamus”, one of the few Japanese phrases I used all the time, which means, “Thank you very much, indeed.”  But an old woman came out from behind her house to give much more than the small change that people normally gave.  She was sobbing.  All I could do was thank her and imagine her life, imagine what had happened to her in the war, imagine what it meant for her to give so much to an American Zen student.

So after I worried and pondered and enlightened my husband about all of this I went out to the fish hatchery to take a few pictures.  I told myself this was not the time to analyze the problems of the human race.  I told myself to slow down.  I said it was time to rest.  I said I was going out, not to hunt for pictures but to gather them to me, not to spend energy but to restore it and take it in.

Here's the whole picture.

Here are new leaves reaching.

I liked the morning.  I liked the cool, dewy light.  I liked to see the shoots curling and reaching, the tiny leaves unfurling. I liked that all the green still looked as new and fresh to me as it did at the beginning of spring.  I went back to see where the river had been boiling out from under a log the last time and I knew it would still be boiling.  I took its picture five different ways to see if I could match the speed of the camera to the speed of my sight.  I liked what was happening in nature. I liked what would burst out in big and small ways in every possible direction.  I liked how it was closer to the truth of everything.

And the same stretch of river that I put in the blog this spring.  This time, the leaves have filled in and the river is reflecting more green.  This picture was taken at 1/1250th of a second.

Here is another picture of the same river, except this one is taken at 1/10th of a second.  This is more accurate to the way my eyes know the fast moving river... a little more blurred together.

A blue heron in flight at the fish hatchery.  I usually feel fine about taking pictures of these heron because all the fish at the hatchery keep them happy and fed all the time.  Also, there are so many people that come to the hatchery, fishing or walking through, often with their dogs, so I assume they are used to us.  But I've been worried about the heron and their diminishing numbers.  I've wondered if they've had to defend themselves against the Eagles or the Osprey.  This is the first time I've seen a heron with so many missing feathers - the signs perhaps, of a fight.  When I saw that, I stopped taking pictures.  I stopped walking toward the trees where they were resting.  I wanted to leave them in peace.   (As an aside, that blurry smudge at the end of the heron's wing is a swallow, out of focus in the distance.)

I need my times when I can dwell in all the beauty, to see it again and again until I finally decide to trust it.  This is how I rest.  It’s better for me than anything else I do.

I like that it doesn’t belong to any institution, but that it does belong to me and to everyone else, equally and without qualification.  I’m 60 years old now.  I’ve have studied a lot of things and lived a lot of lives.  No one can tell me that I haven’t meditated long enough or that I don’t believe the right things.  No one can tell me that I’m not saved or enlightened or good enough or ready or that I don’t have the right politics or the privilege of knowing what I  know or feel or need.  I know enough about things that can’t be twisted or betrayed or broken.  I know that I belong on this earth and that my life and life itself are the same thing.  I know that life will always care for itself, yearn for itself and make itself into beauty.

Early evening and light fog in Rodman's Hollow.

The Hollow and the dimming light beginning to glow in the fog.  Wilson and Molly need this too.

The Hollow that night.



 


Learning to Ski

This is my sister Amy, with Anna Belle, her border collie and Wilson, our golden retriever.  We skied together for the first time after my friend Lisa showed me how.

Lisa has been skiing since she was 3 years old, and she kindly consented to teach me.  More than that, she stocked her house with every food she could remember me liking for the past 35 years.  More than that, she told me I was a sturdy person because I gave her dirty looks only on the first day and because I didn’t call for a helicopter rescue on the second.  She also pointed out that the most handsome person on the ski trail (who was dressed like an action figure and scampering UP the hill), stopped to encourage me when he saw my wide-eyed, stiff-kneed, gravity-driven progress.  (I pointed out that he helped me because I reminded him of his grandmother.)  She also had a hot tub, so after we skied, we could run bare foot across her very cold deck and jump in and simmer away while the snow fell down on our faces.  She also gave me hot chocolate.  So in all, a good friend and a successful first skiing venture.

I drove to Moosup and continued to ski with my sister.  We broke a trail, heading out behind their house and the donkey barns, to the open fields beyond. I went skiing every day, at Amy and Stan’s farm, on an old abandoned railroad bed, and at the fish hatchery.  It took some time before I felt secure enough on my feet to where I was willing to bring my cameras.   This was a work in progress.  At one point, my breath frosted on the cameras so that I was shooting completely blind.  At another, the surface suddenly gave out beneath me and I was in snow up to my waist, and I had to extricate myself, with great care for my equipment. 

Here is Amy, being quite the nordic, woodland person.

I was amazed how warm, how hot you can be when you’re working like that in the cold, and I’m not good at it yet, but I can stop myself from falling most of the time, and I can begin to feel how it will be when all of the parts of my body will be working together.  So I’m back on Block Island again and believe it or not, I’m hoping for snow. 

Here are some more pictures from skiing at Stan and Amy's farm.

Anna Belle loved nothing more than to lead us around.  She could run along the top of the wind packed snow on this open field.  She had to work hard in the deeper snow in the woods, and I think that for almost the first time in her life, we began to tire her out.  We were very glad about this in Anna Belle's case.

This is one of Stan's barns, taken from the fields behind. 

Here is the edge of one of their fields.  Growing up in the country, I could take for granted the freedom of the land - the room to breathe as one field opened into another,  the trust that life would reach and tangle into every place where there was space and light to do so, the peace and discovery of the deep forest.  Stan has been opening paths into their woods, so we've been able to get back in there.  The skiing will help us extend our winter range into the fields as well.   I will get out... here on Block Island and on the mainland.  It's easy as a grownup to forget how it was when I could know so much just by being outside.  I can remember.

Here are the donkeys in the barn by the house.  They were waiting in the same place as they were when we set out.

Seasonal Migration

Very early morning, Quinebaug Valley Trout Hatchery, Central Village, CT.

So I realize I’ve been invisible lately and I wanted to catch up and tell you about it.  We’ve been back in the house for just over a month and I’ve been going though a bout of weirdness.  I mean, it’s good, but there is a process to moving back in, and it surprises me every year.  It’s not like we’re moving back home.   It’s more like we’re moving in to a place that hasn’t been home all summer and now we’re making it home again.  It takes a while. There are questions under the surface, the answers being acted out as I slowly put my cupboards and drawers in order.  How are things different this year?  What have I learned?  What is important this time?

We are not the first people to live a life entirely measured and changed with the seasons.  This is one thing I like about it.  It’s an old way, marked by big transitions.  It creates many seasonal chances to choose and recreate a life.

Take photography, for example.  If this year is like other years, putting a camera around my neck will soon will be as automatic as picking up my car keys.  But in summer it’s different.  It’s difficult to be out with all the people and the equipment and two dogs.  Inertia carries me for a while, and then I just stop.  And then I can forget that I ever took pictures.

Light is everything in photography, as you know.

I went out the other day.  It was interesting to watch myself unpack the process, especially to watch the progressive removal of the obstacles I had constructed for myself.  I gathered my equipment, convinced that it would be hard to get all the lenses and batteries and memory cards together.  But it wasn’t hard. 

Then I went out to the fish hatchery where I didn’t even want to go.  I was sure that I had seen everything already, like heron.  I thought, “Big deal.  I’ve seen them hundreds of times.”  But I began to notice the light.  You know, it was a beautiful morning.  

See the blue heron in the fog?  That's a shot I didn't expect.

Dawning light in fog through the grasses.

I didn’t want to bring different lenses because I didn’t want to carry my backpack, but I did carry my backpack.  I didn’t want to change the lenses back and forth because that is such a pain.  I said, “It won’t make that much difference.”  But I did change them back and forth and it did make a difference.


This is what a close up lens will do for you.

And when I saw the seagulls dashing around, I initially dismissed them.  I said, “I’ve taken so many seagull pictures that I can’t imagine getting new ones.” But then the light played on their wings.   And the contrast with the dark forest made the white in their feathers shine so fine, and the gulls were feeding…wheeling and turning, their feathers splayed to show what I always hoped to show in feathers, everything wild and akimbo and spreading and flashing, and at the same time, so ordered and skillful, so effortless and perfect.

If you look closely at the seagulls in the water, you'll see that the one on the right has a fish in it's mouth.  All the other gulls immediately knew and are converging on that spot.

The commitment to the dive.

I thought I had seen it all with seagulls but I got to see something new.  And it was good enough when I was out there taking the pictures, but this is the thing about photography.  I got to take them home with me.  I got to see them, really see them, see like people could never see before they had cameras, see the moment the seagull turns, or drops the fish, see the whirling motions stopped forever.  See the gulls, see the look in their eyes, see their bodies dropping through the laser path cut with their eyes, see them enter the water and come up with a fish, see the water splashing, the fish twisting and dying, the light dancing.

When you do this for a while, it changes what you think about.  It changes what you dwell in. It changes what you know.  It changes how you feel about everything.

Two gulls, one with a fish.

He dropped it.

Last night, we sat on the floor with our grandson who will soon be one year old.  He and his father fed the cat.  I had forgotten how tricky it is to get kibble into a scoop and drop some of it onto the floor, then to carefully pick up the little bits, to have them stick to your fingers, inspect each one, and get them into a dish.  I am so glad our son loves to be with Julian through all the time it takes to do this… that he never gets tired of being with Julian, seeing through Julian’s eyes.

This is what photography is for…to see like Kevin does with Julian…to have the wonder of seeing again.

Sometimes morning light is silver like this.

My sister’s husband Paul is at his home with hospice care right now because of throat cancer.  A few nights ago, he went out naked to see the stars.  He didn’t care that he was naked.  He didn’t even care that it was a cloudy night.  He knew it was his life and he wanted the fullness of his moment outside and under the sky.  This is also what photography is for.

Digital cameras can perform certain actions to reduce the size of the file, turning them into “.jpegs”.  (This process reduces the file to 1/10th of its original size.  It stands for “joint photographic experts group”.)  But many cameras can also shoot “.raw”.  Pictures taken this way are not compressed. No decisions have been automatically made about what’s important.  Nothing has been filtered or removed.  The files are large and unwieldy, but everything is there.  

I think this is a good aspiration as I reconstruct my photographer self for this season.  I would like to be raw…to be more transparent to the process, to forget what I think I’ve done before, to have fewer opinions, to make fewer snap decisions, to let more in.

I realized last night about Julian.  He was all about feeding the cat.  But he couldn’t see what we saw, that it was not about the cat at all, but about him, and what he is becoming through all the busy things in his day.  And of course Bill and I see something else, how Kevin and Royah are working so hard, loving Julian every second.  And how that love is getting into them, shaping their lives, forming them.    

This is detail from the picture above.

I do put up my own obstacles but every time, every single time I move around them, every time I inconvenience myself or believe my way past some doubt or objection, or every time I just keep moving, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if I don’t think it will work, it moves me by degrees.  I know there are life circumstances to contend with, the way things are, and I often don’t know where things are going.  Sometimes I know the next step I can take, but I don’t know the one that comes after. But I find that life is always there to meet me, returning every effort I make with something of its own.  I think when I open up it’s a small thing, but when life opens up, I mean, when the whole thing opens up, then it’s really something.  It’s so big.  It gives a hundred or a thousand or a million times over.  And then whatever defense, whatever protection I think I need, whatever I think I’m not good enough to hope for, whatever is left of the wall around my heart, starts to soften because the world is so beautiful.   So I think I’ll work with that a little bit more.



And very beautiful seagulls in flight.

The Heart of a Place

This picture is from Block Island.  It's called "The Sun Drawing Water".

So I’ve been feverishly working on my show for several weeks and I wanted to tell you about it.   (The show by the way, is this coming Saturday, from 5 - 7, at the Spring Street Gallery on Block Island.)

I went through my pictures for the year.  I picked out a little over a hundred pictures, and then I studied them every which way.  I culled through the pictures and then culled them again, favoring the ones I liked the most and the ones I hoped others would like.  I also imposed upon the good graces of family and friends to give me their opinions.  I kept casting around for a concept… a story to tell that would make the selection of pictures make sense.  That was tricky because I liked so many pictures from so many different places.

OK, well there are waves from Block Island.  What a surprise.  But have also have many others.  I should tell you that I actually desaturated this picture from what you saw before, taking it half way to black and white.  While the actual colors at sunset were more vibrant, I liked the softer colors.

I finally got down to a few dozen pictures.  I printed some small ones to see how the colors on the screen would work out on actual paper.  I made adjustments.  Then, I started to think about sizes.  I liked some when they were nice and small… only six inches square, and some got bigger and bigger and until I had a few that were almost four feet tall.

This is one of the small ones, only six inches square.  It's hard to give you a sense of scale, here in the blog, because some pictures change completely if you change their size.  I'm doing this one, both on paper, matted and framed, and on wood in encaustic wax.

Here's another Block Island wave picture, taken the same evening as the one with the big rock above.  The real colors were in melon oranges and greens but the black and white was my favorite.

I printed them and then there were the inevitable reprints.  I was framing one large picture, leaning over a 19” by 29” image, and a drop of my sweat fell on the picture.  Another one was entirely about a large span of perfect calm water, glowing through the fog.  After I printed it, I found a few tiny dots from sensor dust.  There was another long picture, with rocks going back into the distance.  It posed a classic photography problem because a camera “sees” in a narrower “dynamic range”, or span from light to dark, than a person sees.  So the bright water and the dark rocks stood in more contrast to each other than was actually so on that day. I lightened the rocks to be closer to what I remembered.  Then, I thought they were too light and so I went back and reprinted the original file.  But then they were too dark and I went back and lightened some of the rocks.  Then I changed my mind and went back to the one I printed the first time.

This is the one from Nova Scotia where I kept fooling around with the color of the rocks.  What happens is you see it on the screen when it's back lit and then when you print on mat paper it's darker.  So you have to account for that.  The folks at Pro Digital Gear (see below) are suggesting I buy a calibrated monitor, where what I see here on the screen would be much closer to the actual print.  I'm tempted.  It would save a lot of time.

I made this one really big, and as you can see, if there is the tiniest little spot in all that expanse of flat calm water there is no place to hide.  I had to reprint it.  This is also from Nova Scotia.

Now it was time to give them names.  Sometimes an excellent name pops into my head, and sometimes not so much.  Edie named the first picture in this blog, “The Sun Drawing Water” because that’s what her father used to say when rays of sun came through the clouds, presumably sipping water from the ocean.  I named the one with all the stones “Long Walk” because that’s when my 85-year old mother got a much longer outing than we planned on the tippy shores of Nova Scotia.  At other times, I fell back as usual onto the simplest, most functional names.  It’s like when I was a kid and the six of us children could not agree on a name for our cat.  So we finally named her “Cat”.  So I have names like that:  “Egret 1, 2, and 3”.  And “Blue Heron 1 and 2”.

There were also moments of synchronicity.  For example, I’m doing a new thing this year because of my friends Karen and Robin, called “encaustic wax”.  You prepare a wooden base and then glue on a picture using special stuff and then you paint it with bees wax mixed with resin and then you take a heat gun and you melt some of it off.  I asked my friend Larry to make the wooden bases for me.  I went to see him in Moosup, bringing the intended pictures, so there would not be any mistake.  We took an hour one morning and measured very carefully together. 

Now, Larry’s work is perfect.  I’ve never known him to measure anything incorrectly. But he made the wooden bases and I went and picked them up in Moosup and I could see that they were too tall.  I decided to save them for another time.  Then I thought of a pair of pictures I had worked on.  I was attached to them because they were from the morning of the anniversary of my father’s death but they were an odd size and I had put them aside.  I didn’t want to do them.  I argued with myself.  I had enough pictures.  I had never done anything that big in wax.  I didn’t have the time and isn’t that why I drive myself so crazy anyway, trying to do too much in too many directions?  Wasn’t it better to simplify?  That would be my new motto…to simplify, especially when I’m living like a nomad in the summer… That was the secret… the key to everything…to live an orderly, serene, intentional life.  But I couldn’t get those pictures out of my head.  I finally said, “Oh fine.  If the pictures are the right size I’ll do it.”  And they were.  They were 23 ¾ inches wide and 43 ¾ inches tall.  When things slot in like that, who am I to object?  So I’m not making any promises but I’m going to work on them.

This will be a super big one in the encaustic wax.  There is another one to go with it, taken at the same time.  As I said, I've never done this size before, but if it works, they'll both be in my show.  Waterfront 1 and 2.

Pretty soon, I’ll see the final pictures, all matted and framed or covered in wax and done.  As my niece Elisabeth (who helped me, by the way, with matting) would say, “Done and done.”  That’s when I will feel lucky and grateful. 

Because everyone has his or her own way of seeing and choosing what to see.  And not it's just people who do so.  In my whole year of pictures, there were Wilson and Molly, and birds and turtles and deer and insects and many other creatures and they were all out there seeing exactly what they needed to see, in exactly the way they needed to see it, for their own particular purpose.  Every landscape, every crashing wave, every still, calm pond, every span of stones sweeping into the distance, was holding a world of creatures, alive and breathing and watching.  And there I was with my little camera in one particular spot and I got to see it in my way also.

It is something to review your life as represented in a year of pictures.  And then to choose and choose, progressively narrowing down to the ones that seem most beautiful or significant.  And then to have them in front of you, and then to put them up on a wall. 

You feel exposed at first when people come into the Gallery and start looking, but sometimes you get to know a person in the connection that is made around a picture, and you know her in a way that is beyond the ways that people often get to know each other.  And because people are normally kind and because you get stronger, you become willing to take more risks in your pictures and more willing to stand up and let yourself show what matters to you and in that way, you get to be more of who you are.

Our house is still rented, and will be until the day after the opening for the show.  With moving around so much and with my congenitally short attention span, there is major coordination going on all the time just to know where my toothbrush might be.  (It is missing at the moment.) That means I’m tired.  That means that putting a show together, with mats and frames and papers and printing and all the associated stuff, not to mention the food for the show, not to mention figuring out what I’m going to wear when I’ve worn the same thing every day for three months, is going to be interesting.  But things are moving along.  It will all get done.  It’s getting done now. 

I hope when you read this you don’t get overtaken with all the complications.  I mean, they are there. I just have to get through them.  And if I didn’t have this pressure, this show to put on, I would never have pushed it the way I am pushing, I would never have begun to find out what is possible.  In the end it’s wonderful.  It’s my life, affirmed in all these pictures, lived and seen and remembered and shared.

This is one of three egrets, creatively named Egret 1, 2, and 3.   They are little 6" pictures, on paper, matted and framed.

Now I’m standing back and looking at all my pictures for the show, which are arrayed because of boundless generosity and kindness, along the walls of a bedroom at our friends’ Paula and Greg’s (and Ricki and Alex and Max's) house.  There are the ones you've seen in this blog and then if the encaustic goes well, 17 more.

Why did I pick these particular pictures?  I was always looking for light… light on or through the water… special light breaking through the fog… the last light of the day or the first light of morning.  I am struck by how much is always happening everywhere… light dancing, wind blowing, waves crashing, plants growing or going to seed, birds flying.  The pictures remind me of what was happening on the day of each picture, of what those places mean.  They reflect what I hope is close to the heart or spirit of these places, at least to my eyes.   

So that will be the name of my show, The Heart of a Place.  That’s whether it’s Block Island or Moosup or Nova Scotia or anywhere, there is always a heart to be found by paying close attention. 

This wave is from Block Island again, and it's similar to some of my others.  I like it because it looks a little smokey.  I called it Salt and Smoke.

 

PS.  For those of you who are photographers, I want to tell you about some colleagues who have also become friends through the years.  I go to the folks at Pro Digital Gear in Salem, CT. for my cameras and lenses and papers and printers and inks.  They are the people who cheerfully helped me when I spilled a can of soda on my camera or when I have to do a repair on my giant printer myself rather than bringing someone over from the mainland.  I also went there just last week because I have another big project and they were very generous with their time and expertise.  John Fast, one of their experts, is having a photography show this coming Friday.  Here is info about his show at the Artist's Cooperative Gallery of Westerly, RI. And here is Pro Digital Gear's website.  Best prices anywhere.  These folks are professional and good to every single person who calls them on the phone.

And also Stu-Art Supplies.  They cut my mats and provide me with the parts to do all my framing.  They have beautiful, thick, museum quality materials and Nielsen frames.  If there is the slightest question or problem they help immediately, even if I am stammering my way through an order on the phone, calling at the last minute. getting dyslexically confused between mat outside sizes and inside sizes and frame heights and widths and so on.  They are wonderful people also.  Here is their site.    And here is their blog.

You've seen this picture before if you've been following this blog.  It's a great old tree from Amy and Stan's farm.  It's one of the pictures I still have to frame and I haven't named it yet.  Or maybe it will be Great Old Tree.  In any case, it's in the show even though it's different from the others because I love it so much.






Morning Light

Taken from Crescent Beach at about 6 AM.  The sun is up so early at this time of year!  See the tiny black spots up in the cloud?  Those are little birds whizzing by.

I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect light in the morning.  There is simple pure light when the sun is rising on a clear day but the best thing is when there is fog.  I wanted to see the fog burning off and the light coming through.  I wanted to be on the water already when the sun was rising, so I aimed for getting up at 4:30.  When the morning came however, I talked myself out of it.  So I didn’t make it down to the beach at 5, but at 6.  The sun had already risen and if there had been fog on the water it had already burned off.  So I got this shot up above, very nice, but I was disappointed in myself for not getting down just a little bit sooner.

I saw that fog was still blowing in from the west so I went to that side of the island.  Here are shots of the green and the mist, and especially in this shot, you can see the misty “Ireland” side of the island. 

This is in the southwest part of the island, looking toward Rodman's Hollow.

This was taken in Rodman's Hollow.  Do you see that bright edge by the farthest bluffs?  That’s looking north… that’s where I was when I took the first picture.  You can see it’s bright over there.

I did get out the next day, early like I wanted, and I got all the fog I could possibly use.

This is Mansion Beach, looking south into the fog.

There was just one woman walking on the beach.  Cool and misty and wonderful at this time of day. 

The sun began to show itself.  I was hoping the light would break through and it did.

Here is the sun, just breaking through.  See the lace in the water?

And here it is a little later... the sun was soft on the water.

The sun only lasted for a minute and then the fog socked in again.  I waited, hoping for another chance with this beautiful light.   I waited through fleas that woke up and bit me for about half an hour, disappearing as suddenly as they came.  I went in for a swim but abandoned that plan when I felt the strength of the current around my legs.  (I have learned to be careful.  Mansion Beach is a wonderful place to take pictures and a wonderful place to swim, but the tide makes a current that runs north along this shoreline.  When it hits the point that you see in the distance in this picture, it curves out into the ocean.  If you can feel the current running against your legs, you do not want to be in this water, believe me.) 

So I left and went farther south to the Town Beach for my swim with the dogs.  I continued to look toward Mansion however, telling myself to let go because I already had my good pictures.  But I think if the fog had begun to lift, I would have run right back again.

The fog thickened and deepened.   It was like that all day.  There is a hurricane coming up the coast… you already know that… Hurricane Arthur… we’ll get the edge of it tonight.  So the weather has turned wet, starting with fog all day yesterday and rain on and off today.  Then it will rain all night and possibly clear by morning. 

Tomorrow will be beautiful.  There might be big waves… we’ll see.  Even after the waves have calmed you can still feel the agitation in the water.  It’s like the water remembers for a little while.  (There will certainly be strong currents.)

We’ve had the most perfect weather up until now.  It was good to have this day for resting.  After our morning walk and pictures, the dogs have been sleeping all day.  I’ve been working on the blog.  It’s good to feel the plants are finally getting all the rain they need.

Two Evenings

Rain on grasses. 

I took these pictures with just the normal lens on my camera.  Too bad I didn't have my close up lens, but that was locked in the car.

It rained all day on Thursday and it started to clear toward sunset, which is the best possible thing because then you get light bursting through in moments when everything is still so nice and fresh. 

The dogs and I went out for a walk, which turned out to be longer than expected because I stopped at Southeast Light and Wilson took off to make friends with some people in the road.  I tore after him, locking my keys in the car in the process.  And so we walked home.

It wasn't far and we cut through our extremely kind neighbor’s yard and saw the grasses, all wet and sparkling.  And then I saw this wild iris.  And this blackberry flower. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And all of this was very good until the sun dropped below heavy, low hanging clouds with just about the most amazing light I’ve seen.  It cut through with precision, making deep dusky places and brightly lit places and the sharpest distinctions between them.

This is our neighbor's house and that light.

This is our neighbor's little pond.

This picture is from our yard.

And then the sun went down, bright under all those grey clouds.

This is from the next night, at the Hodge Property.

The next night I went out with the dogs to the Hodge Property, again at sunset. (We had been moving out all day, which was work, made much nicer by the fact that Bill is here this year, so could we pass each other every so often while carrying our respective boxes and we could both roll our eyes and make little remarks.  I found this to be quite companionable.)

Sturdy little tree..

It was cool and clear and the light was wonderful.  I took a picture of one of my favorite trees. When the unobstructed wind comes down from the north the first thing it hits is this little tree.  That’s why I like it.  I’ve taken its picture about a million times. 

The other thing I want to tell you and I hope you can feel it, is that while the sun was setting, while the colors were deepening and everything fell into silhouettes, and while I got these pictures, other things were happening.  The wind was softly blowing.  There were many birds… all kinds…gulls and sparrows and egrets and all of them were calling or singing.  I could hear the waves from many directions.  And also because the beach roses are newly blooming and the shad is blooming, the wind smelled like roses.  There was a sweet, beautiful young couple, walking hand in hand, and meeting Wilson and Molly, and talking and laughing.  Anyone could fall in love on this night.

So that was last night.  I knew we’d be moving out today, and leaving the island for a week or so.  On such a night, that seemed like a pretty long time.

We’re out of the house now, because except for one week, the house rented for the rest of the summer.  We had that expected fire drill of a morning.    Without Gabby and Aldo and Janelle, who came and worked very hard today to help us, I’d still be there right now, cleaning and having a nervous breakdown.   But we all worked together and then we were done and Bill and I got to rest.  And do you know what Gabby and Aldo and Janelle are doing?  They went on to other jobs.  This is what people do on the island in the summer.  They work so hard.  They work without stopping. 

Obviously, it is time to declare a Sabbath, then Bill and I will get the boat ready to bring it back to the island, which is where we will live.  In the morning we’ll also unpack the cars.  We'll see family and friends and I've got some photography projects planned and then I'll go back to the island (and so will Bill after a business trip) and then we'll have our summer lives.  I won't say our summers are simple because they're not.  But there will be many fewer boxes, and I'll be able to clean our whole space in about ten minutes and we'll mostly live in the open air and that is the best thing about it.

As the sun set the water turned that luminous blue.  This is North Light and off on the horizon is the mainland.

Lucky

I went out to take pictures on the west side of the island.  The colors were rich and beautiful…more beautiful because with all the dull skies we've been having, I had almost forgotten what evening light could be.

The next day, April 9, was the seventh anniversary of my father’s death, so of course he was on my mind.  I remembered how he loved it here and how we loved taking pictures together.  I felt grateful and lucky to have had so much time together in such a beautiful place.

I went out in the morning and it was beautiful again.  Mornings like this normally make me happy but this time I felt more than raw, more than vulnerable, more like kind of pulverized.  I wanted my father to be here.  

 

 

 

 

So I lived with those feelings for the day.  It wasn't the best day to have to finish our taxes, but I got them done, well... basically done.  Done enough to tidy them up a bit after the Poetry Project this weekend. 

I will try to say how it is for me.  When my father died, there was a gathering of forces.  There were so many changes inside of me.  Deep, deep rearrangements.  What had been external to me - things that I had known about my father - were now inside of me.  There is loneliness in losing my father and sometimes I miss him so much, especially when I'm taking pictures, but there is also a sense of wholeness, and also some strength or courage, maybe.    My life, that started with my mother and him, and is grounded in them, is taking its own direction.  

My father was at his best in nature.  He took delight in every little thing that happened, every little thing he found.  When a wave was splashing or falling, he wanted to open his mouth and taste it.  I feel all of that, alive and well inside of me, and growing.  And his eyes were exactly the color of the ocean.  And those are my eyes also.

PS.  My friend Karen Capuciati and her sister Kim have a wonderful blog called, "In Care of Dad."  It's about caring for loved ones in the face of serious illness.  They have published an excerpt from my blog in their post this week.  Their blog is a wonderful resource.  You can find it at incareofdad.com or here. 

PPS.  I like this picture.  I took it the same night as the first ones but it was too big to fit up at the top of this post.  I didn't want to leave it out so I'm putting it here.  I also want to mention that the evening pictures are from the same place as the pictures for the blog post, "Wilson and Molly and the Wind".  That was back in January.  What a difference kinder weather can make. 

The wind had blown the fog into vertical streams that caught the setting sun. 





Something Difficult

Another picture from the same night I wrote about in the last blog post.

You know those beautiful unexpected pictures I put in the post last time? I didn’t tell you something else that happened because it was so difficult.  I’ve been thinking about it all week.  On one hand I thought, “People’s lives are hard enough."   And then I thought, “That’s precisely why I should say it, because it is the truth, and the truth is what people deal with.”  It was unfair I thought, to go around in sunshine all the time, like beauty, beauty, blah, blah, blah and not say something that was important to the story of that evening.

So here it is.  While I was taking my pictures the dogs kept working the same spot at the edge of Sachem Pond.  They were breaking the ice around something and then they started tugging at it.  They finally started pulling it out of the water.  I saw what it was, a dead baby deer that was under the ice.  I saw its delicate ribs and the darkening of the water and the mixture of flesh and bone and teeth exposed because its little body had been there for some time.  I said, “Oh….no.”  And I called Wilson and Molly and I loved them because this was very special to them but they left it for my sake. 

I’ve asked myself about it because I said in another post that difficult things are also beautiful.  I can’t say this was beautiful.   I can say it was held in a beautiful night, but the actual sight was a shock and then sadness with a certain tender aspect.  

All the time I keep holding the image in my mind... I keep returning to it.  And it is not just for the deer, but for all of our difficult things…I keep thinking of my friends, many of whom have had recent losses, but it is also of all of our losses…the fact that they can even happen, the fact that life is made this way. 

 These two pictures are of Japanese Iris, taken on black velvet.

These two pictures are of Japanese Iris, taken on black velvet.

Now I’m thinking maybe I can show you something better than I can tell you.  This is out of a series on some flowers I’ve been working on… just some ordinary flowers, just like any other flowers, but as beautiful as anything.  If you look closely and especially at the second picture, you’ll see just one or two spots where the edges are curling.  This iris is already dying.  In fact, by the time I was done with the shoot, it was in pieces.  I thought about getting new flowers and starting over, but I felt that the dying edge was also important, or that the flower was more because of it.

My friend Lisa, who has had her share of grief, says, “Everyone loses the same thing, which is everything.”  And, “Sadness is never far from me.” and, “Death, when it comes… It teaches you what it is.”  And then she goes out to live her heartfelt and honest and generous and courageous and exuberant life.  (Her comments were part of long conversations we've had over the years.  We've been through a lot together.  I'm sure I don't have to tell you how important this good friend is in my life.  She is, I believe, going to post a comment when I publish this blog.  It will be worth reading as she is loving, articulate and wise.)   

I can only say that I know it is difficult to find a person who isn’t grieving and that grief comes in many forms.  There is grief like I have for my father, and as big as that is, I would say it is an easier type of grief.  There is grief out of order or grief that leaves no place or no future or grief that includes the destruction of love or trust or hope or identity or history or dignity or faith in anything. I know that grief can be like waves or like fire or like a frozen lake or like falling.  I know that answers and no answers come to each person in his or her own way and time.

I like to notice my breathing.  I like to watch a breath going out and the next one coming after. I have lived my whole life like a watch dog and I like to notice that something is happening, that I don’t have to do it, that something is breathing my life for me.  I find it restful, and encouraging, and the opposite of being separate from anyone or anything.

I also do my photography.  If you haven’t noticed, I like it a lot.  It’s become my way of living... to be out in nature… seeing… to cooperate by seeing and working with the things that are offered… to join life in this way.   This is what I’ve come to stand on.  It’s not just the beauty… it’s the implication of beauty.  I feel if I want to understand the things I don’t know… I can look at the things I do know.  Because I have seen that the universe is congruent… it operates in similar ways at every level that I can perceive.  So I’m going to say if the life I know is beautiful then the “bigger life”, the life that includes both birth and death…that must be beautiful also.  

I’ve been thinking about life getting bigger and bigger the way I talked about it last week, and I also watched a show on TV in the middle of the night:  “How the Universe Works”.  It told me how the iron and water in my blood were formed over millions of years during a supernova of a double star that happened billions of years ago, and that the gold in my wedding ring was made in an age before that, in another supernova, this time from a single star.  Everything we live in, everything we are...was constructed over eons and with incomprehensible violence.  They said this on TV…on regular, secular, non-political TV.  Scientists said it…that we are that energy… that we are those stars, down to every single molecule in our bodies. 

This is the Sombrero Galaxy  (M 104).  Credit: HST/NASA/ESA.

They said that solar systems, galaxies even, can be destroyed… that it’s happening all the time … in black holes and quasars and places where stars are flung at millions of miles an hour and in explosions that equal the energy expended in the entire rest of the universe.  They said that our solar system is looking directly “down the gun barrel” of a potential quasar, which is set to go off any time (any time in astronomical terms is now or in several million years).  The program said in fact, it could have already happened, and we just don’t know it yet, on account of the distance and time it would take to get here.  It also said not to worry, because if that were the case, it would be over so fast that we wouldn’t know what hit us.  I said, “Well, that would take care of my insomnia.”  And I said, “Oh, thank you very much.  This is just what I need to know at 2 o’clock in the morning.” 

There are all these thing…all these big, big things…and still, this little deer is under the ice… and this one death matters to someone… to me… I saw it…

These are things I don’t understand, and I will admit that I spend a good bit of time thinking about them.  I live with my questions… wondering what I could possibly tell you about such large and tender things… how I could avoid being trite or intrusive… how I could respect your losses and the way you have to live with them right now.  I admit that my body or my sense of being keeps rooting down…wanting… feeling its way a little further into these questions… and meantime I keep breathing.

It will be the seventh anniversary of my father’s death in April… and now is the anniversary of the time when we were all going through it.  It was difficult… new parts of my dad’s body not working… new lowering of hopes and expectations… and new exhaustions and new sufferings… past anything we ever thought we could handle and then past that.   And we had to say yes to everything because he was going through it and we had to say yes to him. 

So he was dying and we were dying with him and then he kept going and we came back.   I learned I could function on two hours of sleep and go into the ocean (in Florida) and the ocean would take some of my exhaustion away.  I learned that little things matter as much as big things.  I learned how people made a difference… when everything was so raw and every moment so precious… how brief words and kindnesses still shine on me as greatness and wisdom... and how utter stupidity, and the damage it did, was always in the form of personal smallness disguised as adherence to procedures. 

This picture is called, "Remembering Dad".  I took it on Block Island, in February before he died in April.  It was very cold and the wind was blowing, blasting me with sand.  It was on this walk that I gave up fighting for my father's life.  He was in a coma in March and I flew down to Florida and got to the hospital at midnight.  I was told that he wouldn't live out the night.  I walked into his room and said, "Dad, I've got pictures."   He woke up.  He said, "Watcha got?"  He saw this picture and many others, including many waves and deer.  He also, and this is more to the point, lived a few more weeks and he saw or spoke to all my brothers and sisters and also to his grandchildren.  We took him out on a dock to see the ocean just days before he died.

I was of course zooming around, trying to "fix it."  He was in his chair and looking out the window.  He said, “Gracie.  Stop trying to entertain me.  Look at the sky.  It’s so blue.”  That has helped me a lot… to know at the end of his life, as he was edging over, the blue sky was good for my father.   The thing itself… the simplest thing… a most fundamental and obvious thing about living on this particular planet… the only thing left for him when everything else was taken away.  That was enough for him.  That and his courage… my whole families’ courage during that time helped me afterward and it still helps me now.

This picture is called "Now". 

I Like Light

When I go out to take pictures, I’m sometimes on a mission… I want to find the owl again or find another wave… but I’m always looking for light.  That’s what started me as a photographer… the clean green light inside the ocean.  But even in childhood, my earliest memories always included light.  There was light on the apple blossoms when I sat in my tree fort, light in shafts full of dust when we played in the hay in the barn, light on my bedroom ceiling when a car went by, even light in a glass of water.  I couldn’t get over that.  How could anything be almost invisible if I could touch it… feel it…hold it in my hand?

Light draws me to it.  I think it’s human instinct.  Light, illumination… those words mean truth to us.  I’m not like Wilson and Molly, my golden retrievers who sit facing the wind with their noses upturned together, reading the news of the day and building their world around what they smell.  I’m a person.  I know the world through light.

We specialize in sight, or more precisely, in daytime sight, with eyes that see color and look forward and rotate in their sockets. We are unlike owls, with their widely spaced, unmovable eyes.  They have to turn their whole heads to see anything, but they gain spectacular depth and nighttime vision.  (Their eyes weigh as much as our own.  This is so interesting when you think of our relative size and of all the elegant economies built into owls for flight.    And I might as well say, since I’m already digressing, that eyes are never made hollow like feathers and bones.  Even cameras and lenses are hollow, but all eyes are wet and full and heavy to carry, especially for owls.)   

Photography is just a modern way to assist us in a most instinctive and ancient form of perception… It can help us pay attention.   It can give us a way to connect to what’s real. It can help us see faster or slower, or closer or farther away, and that can surprise us, the way we were surprised by everything as children.  It can move us into wonder.

So there I was, back on the path to Mansion Beach again, taking pictures in the same place again, like I’ve done a hundred times.  (There was a black and white picture a couple of posts back… these are the same trees… just made different by the different light.)  I looked for light in the ice that was coating the branches and in the snow that had come down wet and refrozen.  I removed the UV filters on my lenses.  I left the lenses unprotected.  I wanted the light unfiltered. 

And then of course I took my pictures home. That’s was another chance… a really good chance to live with what I’d seen…to take the time I needed to let it soak in, to catch up with how it was out there.

Words are like wind, churning up waves in a train that continues even when I’ve stopped writing.  I think of something else and then I run back and change things around and then I do it again.  And it’s not just the words but the rhythms beneath them, that start roaming around in my head.

Pictures put me in a different mind.  I don’t cogitate the way I do with writing.   I feel more certain and settled.  I don’t build things bean by bean.   The whole thing is altogether.   I know what to do just by knowing.  It’s closer to the core.

When my thoughts get overcrowded, I look at my pictures or I stop and look out the window.   I run my attention out through my eyes.  Then my brain starts getting some room to breathe; my mind starts feeling a bit more smooth and clean.

I want to try to bring vision and words together…to be instinctive and simple.  I want to say what I know when I’m only looking.  And what the owl knows and what Wilson and Molly also know, despite our different ways.  I want to say it in the present tense, for how it is right now.

There is light here.  I like it.  I’ll stay.

Resolution

Namibian Desert.  The dry river bed of the Tsauchab River shows as blue and white.  The bright white areas are salt.

I found a website published by the European Space Agency.   Among many excellent things, it has a gallery of images of earth, taken from space.   (All of the images  in this post are downloaded from that site with their permission.)  Links are provided toward the end of this post. 

I love the patterns in these pictures.  They show me that nature builds patterns upon patterns in the biggest and smallest ways.  It seems…well… kind of perfect.

Uluru (Ayers Rock), Central Australia. 

You know how Steve Jobs told Apple to make circuit boards that were beautiful, even if no one was looking inside the computers?  Well, nature is like that also.  I love it that such beauty has been out there for billions of years when no one could even see it.  I love it that the beauty we now can see from way up there has the same patterns as the beauty we have always been able to see down here. 

Before there was life, there was beauty.  I have this fantasy that beauty called to consciousness…”I’m here.  Come see me.”  That’s a creation story for you.  At least it was like this:  When the first breath was taken, beauty was already here to call to our senses.  Just like the wind made seed pods and wings… it helped to make us who we are.

 

Flander's Range, Australia

Great Britain and Ireland

I know I said this in an earlier post but there is a book called “Deep Survival”.   It studies the question of why some people survive when others do not.  Let’s say someone gets caught in a rock slide.  He amputates his leg with his pocketknife and hops 15 miles down a glacier at 10 degrees below zero to safety.  How is this person different from someone who has ample water, and food and fuel, and who has survival training, and two good legs, and help nearby, who decides to sit down and die?  Here’s one difference.  According to the book, every survivor says the same thing.  “I saw moments of incredible beauty.”

Iceland

That same book said that a child under the age of seven is more likely to survive alone in the woods than an older child.  Because of instinct.  Little ones feel what they feel…. hungry…scared…cold… but they don’t abstract from there to the concepts that arise in an older person.  So when they take action, it’s directed to the fact of the matter and not to an idea about it.  They don’t over-think and complicate.  They don’t waffle. They don’t waste precious energy or time or motion.  When they are tired they sleep.  When they are cold, they crawl into a hollow spot.

North American Snowstorm.  (You can see Block Island in this picture.  Look to the east of the tip of Long Island for a tiny dot shaped like a pork chop.  It's south and slightly west of the break in the Rhode Island coast that is Narraganset Bay.  Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket are to the north and east of Block Island. This picture was taken in January, 2011.  Look very carefully for a woman with two golden retrievers.  I was probably out there taking pictures after the storm!)

I think beauty is a call to instinct…to the things we all know without knowing why.  It helps in a deep and wordless way.  It is one of the ways to nourish our souls, to give us hope and energy, to guide our direction, to keep us from giving up.  It moves us out of our heads and into the complete and integrated equipment that we all receive when we get a body… and that equipment is very fine… our minds, eyes, hearts, senses, guts, breath… all honed through millennia, all in one body… all in one life.  I would say we are perfect, also.

It's almost the New Year, and time for resolutions.  A resolution means a lot of things:  a decree, a promise, a resolve, a solution, or the power with which something can be seen.

Southern Central Romania

I’ve been thinking that this will be my resolution.  I’ll practice seeing in all the ways that humans are able to see… like for hunting, shopping, working, loving, resting, drinking in.  Seeing with my whole body.  Seeing for a short moment.  Seeing and breathing together.  Seeing right now.

Sometimes I’ll see beauty.

Algerian Sahara

I know there is more beauty in the height and depth of the universe than I will ever see, and everything large and small is made with beauty.  I trust all the things working together to make beauty without my even knowing about it. 

I can spend some time each day, let the sand blow without interference… just observe and let things happen…let nature work her patterns in my life.

 

The Palouse Region, Washington State

Golden Curves, North Central Iran's Salt Desert, Dasht-e Kavir

Kagerdlugssuaq Glacier, Greenland

Tibesti Mountains, Chad

Siberia

Nejd, Central Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Peninsula

Iceberg Alley, Labrador

The European Space Agency is generous to allow use of many of their images for noncommercial purposes.   All of the images in this post came from their site.

To go to their "Earth from Space" gallery, go to:  http://spaceinimages.esa.int/content/search?SearchText=IOW&img=1 or click here.

To go to their home page, go to:  http://www.esa.int/ESA, or click here.

Here are more pictures.  Excuse me for getting carried away.  There are so many good ones, I couldn't choose.

Rainforest and River, Brazil

Dasht-e Lut Salt Desert, Iran

Russian Far East

What the Wind Has Made

A Flurry of Geese, Quinebaug Valley Trout Hatchery, Central Village, CT.  November, 2013.
 

I’m at my family home in Moosup for the holiday and Wilson and Molly and I went to the Trout Hatchery on the Quinebaug River in Central Village.  This hatchery grows a half a million pounds of trout each year for restocking the ponds and rivers in Connecticut.  It attracts ducks and geese and blue heron and sea gulls and hawks and in the last year or so, bald eagles.   I went early and stayed long, hoping to get some good bird pictures.

The picture above happened unexpectedly when I was trying to creep up on some heron.  A flock of geese burst upward and I heard the flurry of wings behind me.  I turned, reflexively taking a wild and lucky shot. The only other opportunity came later when four heron flew straight over my head, proud, well-illuminated, calling to each other, close and beautiful.  And what was I doing at that moment?  Changing lenses.  Welcome to bird photography.

Hunters came to the woods and the birds went into hiding.  I took to the fields to see the milkweed seedpods I’ve particularly loved since childhood.  It was easy to imagine a world… fairies in orderly choirs, riding their seed parachutes, living in pod houses. 

Now they evoke in me a tender sadness… about the last moments where the life that used to be summer is offered to the wind.  The seedpods wait, one sliver open, so fragile I could change everything by brushing by, but they hold their place and time happens and they open a little more, and more threads and more waiting and more wind and more opening and more endurance in these delicate things.  And finally, what’s left is a grey and golden shell and the seeds have gone everywhere. 

I was thinking about it… about the wings and seeds, and it occurred to me that they were created by the wind.  I mean, without the wind to hold them up and carry them they never would have been the way they are.  They are perfect together.. the wings and the wind; the seeds and the wind.  I like this.  It makes me think there is a way to live easily with the earth.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah, everyone.

 

 

Listen to What I Tell You

Stony Beach, Port Maitland, Nova Scotia

I called Register.com yesterday. I picked this registrar for a reason.  They have an office in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, not far from my family’s house.  My family has had a tiny house in Port Maitland on the Bay of Fundy for almost 30 years. 

You really need to go to Nova Scotia.  This is why.

  1. Nova Scotia is very beautiful.
  2. The people there want you to come and will be extremely nice to you.
  3. The ferry out of Portland, Maine, which hasn’t run for several years, is going to start up again in the spring.  It will go directly to Yarmouth.  Happiness.
  4. You will have peace and quiet.
  5. The air is clean.  The water is clean.
  6. You will be able to eat Rappie Pie.  Just kidding.  Rappie Pie is terrible.  It is made out of potatoes that have been grated and squeezed in cheesecloth and cooked with chicken broth and turned into a pie filling.  Let me just say that if you like poi or boiled okra you will like Rappie Pie.  What you really need to eat are the best scallops in the world.  We get ours in Saulnierville, at the fish market.

 And, you should take up photography.  And, this is why.

  1. When you call Register.com and talk to a wonderful person named Julie, you will be able to say so much more than “have a nice day”.  You will be able to send her a photograph of Port Maitland Beach and promise her that your next blog post will be about Nova Scotia.  It will make both of you a little bit happier.  (As an aside, please read the comment posted by this same Julie - Julie Saulnier-Spurr to be exact.  She is a proud Acadian and she loves Rappie Pie.)

Up on top is a picture of the stone beach near our house in Port Maitland.  Off in the distance is our land.  My 84 year-old mother and I got ourselves out to where I took this picture by thinking that it would be so much easier to keep walking and cut across the neighbor’s yard than it would be to turn back, which did not turn out to be the case.  It was pretty far.  Those are very tippy rocks.  My retired air force colonel brother and his wife and their son staged a rescue but we didn’t need it.  We were almost to the neighbor’s by the time my brother came bounding along.  We were fine.

This is a picture of the tea colored marsh that feeds into the north end of Port Maitland Beach.

Foggy Morning, Port Maitland, Nova Scotia, August 2013.  When I went back to this picture, I remembered that morning all over again.  I like to look at my pictures many times.  I need to.  I don't necessarily get things right away.  I like to know a place the way I know a person...  in a relationship…  over a period of time. 

I think Nova Scotia is where my parents spent the best years of their lives…  They were retired and we were grown.  For the first time…they had time.   Dad fished.  They did projects in the house.  The children and their spouses and friends and grandchildren came and we did our signature things… walked and explored the land, mowed the lawn, making it bigger and bigger, drove around, slept like cordwood where ever we possibly could, ate scallops, usually every night, painted rocks with little scenes… It was a big event if someone drove down my parents’ road.  They would run to the window to see who it was.  Their bedroom was not much bigger than their bed, but it has French doors and the wind from the ocean is always blowing.  You can always hear it.  My mom still sleeps in that bedroom, preferring it greatly to the much bigger new bedroom downstairs.

I could have picked so many pictures to show you about Nova Scotia.  There are quaint little cottages, colorful fishing boats sitting high and dry on account of the enormous tides, but I wanted to show you what is most important to me…. the quiet and the coolness and the simplicity and the space (outdoors) for everyone.  What a relief.

Seeing More

Tiny berries in the woods at my sister and brother-in-law's (Amy and Stan's) farm last week.

In November, the bushes in the forest behind my sister and brother-in-law's farm turn a wonderful color.  I don't want to say they are pink.... they are deeper than pink, I feel, but softer than red.  In any case, I go back every year to take their pictures, and try to do them justice.  Here on the left are leaves from one of those bushes and up top are its berries.  The berries were so tiny I almost didn't see them.  I took their picture with a macro (close up, magnifying) lens.

And here is a bit of the forest.  It's my ongoing quest to take pictures that make "sense" of the tangles in nature.  They don't after all, cooperate in arranging  themselves for a photo.  I crawled over a wall and around a few obstructions until I could find an open space to stand. Then I could show the chaos and complexity I love, let the colored leaves and the silver twigs weave through, and still have the trunks of the trees for a little sense of balance.

Here is a rich orange leaf. 

I think before I started with photography I still would have loved this forest.  I would have exclaimed at the colored bushes and that would have been the end of it.  I wouldn't have seen all the different worlds... not the just the worlds in these four pictures but more I didn't even show you.  The worlds in tree bark, mosses, a carpet of leaves, the stones, the roots of trees.  Looking through a camera has trained my sight.  It has taught me how to notice - see the colors, spend some time, look in many directions.  It has helped me see each little thing as something in itself, and then see everything together.  It's helped me especially, to look for light.  These have become my habits of seeing whether I have a camera with me or not.  Sometimes it's not so much that I'm looking for something as much as it comes to me.   I can't walk with anyone without interrupting our conversation many times:  Look at that... no look at that! 

 

 

 

Reflections

Evening, Mansfield Hollow, Connecticut, June 17, 2011.

Today I walked with a friend and I said some things I was feeling.  She said, "exactly".   And she said how she was feeling and I said it was like that for me also.  It was like we were reflecting each other.

I have heard it said that people need to be seen into existence.  I think that means we can't know who we are in secret.  We also say that we "see each other through" things.  Isn't that true...isn't that interesting, how we reserve this phrase for what we do for each other at the most difficult times in our lives? 

I wonder if the water and the sky are friends for each other, if they know themselves better by knowing each other.   I hope so.  They are both so beautiful; it would be a shame if they didn't know it.  Perhaps they say what each of them sees in the other ... that they have a place... they belong right here... that they are not alone.   A friend can help with all of that.