#170 8:00 a.m. Sunday Morning.

8:00 a.m. Sunday Morning.

Starting the normal routine of the day I glanced out at the water and moved immediately to the porch door. The air held a slight chill, a fall–no longer summer–feel to the morning with the scent of brine traveling to my nostrils holding me, that smell addiction, deep breaths, the whiff that always stops me in my tracks until it’s moved past. A fairly large storm system had moved through during the night and I was watching its remnants move out over the water. Everything was moving. A hole in the clouds let defined light break through to the surface of the water; the uneven clouds, some heavier and darker than others, some moving lightly with grace; a flock of geese or ducks working out their formation on the leg of their journey southward that passed in front of this house. They were black silhouetted forms, individuals juggling positions, flying low over the water just off shore.

A vivid color palette, the contrasts surprising in this hour a result of the changing weather systems. Science explains yet art or mysticism comes as overlays adding dimensions—the grass still bright green shimmering wet from rain, the deep red invasive bittersweet vines winding around dark rocks, the dense clouds dark blue. Looking south edgy tendril clouds playfully thinned out into swirls of pearly grey with a touch of near yellow. Translucent green, that wholly other water green swirled in curls as the waves broke before the rocks and bright white spray soared upward released from the mass body of water below, freed for just an instant. This is not a “one picture is worth a thousand words” morning. There is so much going on I am attempting to hang on to every moment, my human senses all working to feel, smell, see the entirety and yet…

I use the tool at hand to first remind and then to share but the camera lenses can only do so much. All senses open, the human can only take in so much. “Vast” lies beyond mere humanity. This world at the edge of land is big and small at the same time. How can I go about a mundane day after witnessing such spectacle? And yet, that is what happens. What would life mean if we remained caught in such continual awareness?

If only.

 





Notes: These photographs were not edited.

#143 Old Photos

Old photos unknowns copy

Old Photos

An assignment for my latest class sent me scurrying to the plastic bin in the basement where old photographs were piled in a disorganized mess. Most all had once been pasted into albums, providing some kind of context but the smell of those albums indicated that “slow fire” was at work. Slow Fire is the term for the deterioration of acidic paper which eventually destroys all. (Think of that dark orange paper in an old paperback in the attic.) In an attempt to save the photos I tore the albums apart but I stopped (like happens with so many projects) at demolition leaving all of those images in a tangled mess where there was no time frame or reference point left.

There’s a saying that you are still alive as long as there is someone who remembers your name. If that’s the case then there are people in these photos who are truly gone. Oddly a name will sometimes pop into my brain emerging from the murk like a long buried, almost viable, cork. Sometimes there is only a name accompanied by a vague idea of who he / she / they were but not why their photo came to be in that box . When we lose the last pieces of connective tissue are they just faces on paper? Surely we must have once known. Aren’t we supposed to remember these things?

There is so little family left to even wonder who these people were and there’s certainly no opportunity to ask the one or two remaining that still might know. As with many families here and elsewhere there has been so much movement and change there is barely any concept of family history left. There is a  good possibility that this no longer matters, that is if it ever did. My family was tiny; I am an only child who had an only child. It takes larger families who gather on holidays and retell stories year after year to keep family history viable. Genealogists have an easier time uncovering and following family trees when the stories are kept alive, although they are not always accurate.

There are legitimate questions about such matters. Is family history relevant in today’s world? Will it be lost only to resurface as a pressing issue in times to come? It seems it is the provenance of the old to ask such questions. Everyone else is too busy with the daily grind to even entertain such thoughts. Is modern life such a struggle it renders family history irrelevant? I can hear the chorus of historians and genealogists screaming “Nooooooo”. But the question stands. Do we need to remember who we were to know who we are?

For information on Slow Fire see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_fire

# 130 Presence

Presence.

While on a Zoom class on a Blurday afternoon I found myself looking away from the screen and out the windows. The ocean was heaving, rising swells crashing on rocks, whomping like it had been doing since the night before. “It’s a presence”, I thought, “a living breathing presence”, but that is as far as I could get with metaphors.

The ocean is so close, yet it’s not a neighbor with an unpredictable temper prone to occasional bouts of drink and rage. It’s not a relative, or friend, or housemate and its moods cannot always be forecast by NOAA. The ocean is such a vast unfathomable there there. Yet it is constant motion, water as wildly unpredictable as its cohorts earth, fire, and air. Oceans, like other components of planet earth, like mountains, like vast forests, like endless prairie, remind those in proximity of our own puniness. We are not a drop in the bucket of such energy and this alone is a compelling reason to live on such edges. Vastness keeps one humble, keeps us within the lines of our own coloring book as we fill in each day’s spaces. 

Recently I have been thinking of how both great and small water is, endlessly responsive and never resistant, the slightest energy shift  of anything can cause variations of movement ranging from nearly placid to as close to unhinged fury as I’m ever going to experience unless I put myself in a boat on its surface. (Not likely. That I leave to braver souls.)

I started writing this blog in an attempt to use words and corresponding images to try to give a glimpse into what daily, year round proximity to the ocean felt like, to expand awareness of “ocean”. I was gifted the opportunity to live out my wildest dream with a front row seat yet four years into this experience and I have barely nudged my own comprehension. It is beyond addiction. It is like tethering oneself to an out of control force field. It is exhilarating but often exhausting, in winter especially. Sometimes after days of pounding my psyche feels bruised, my head wants quiet, my sketchy sleep wants oblivion but that’s not part of this. The ocean teaches absolutely that it is not, and never will be, about me. 

#115 Season of Color

Season of Color.

Most photographers relish fall. They wander the back roads of New England, especially in the Northern mountainous regions, looking for ponds or lakes to reflect the glorious colors of the changing leaves. White church spires provide good contrast as do old barns. You’ve seen a million such images and will most likely be drawn to them all of your life.

My few attempts at the photography of fall are not that successful. Oranges, reds, and yellows are not the colors that draw me but color itself pulls me like a magnet, only my palette longings are the blues, greens, and silvers of water. (Mostly.)

Color is a language, an emotion, we can feel with our being. We are affected by color whether or not we are aware of the ways it moves us through our lives. I was thinking about this recently driving around the marshes looking for Egrets, one of the last migration hold outs. In mid-Fall the Egrets begin gathering together, their beautiful white plumage and their gracefully long necks striking as they wade the marsh in a seemingly endless daylight quest for food. Nature makes no attempt at camouflage when it comes to Egrets: your eye immediately catches their stark contrasting white and oh! to see them in flight, those glorious wings in air.  As long as the Egrets are still here we have not yet been abandoned to the coming cold.  My quest for seeing Egrets is three-seasoned which means I stay alert to the backdrop of the marsh for most of the year. As beautiful as are the golden grasses of fall or the fist hints of spring shoots but, more than anything, I love the flow of long, lush, deep green grasses with wind sway patterns that takes forever to fill the marsh, well into the heart of summer. The profusion of shades of green beyond imagining signals abundance as only a marsh can paint it, the epitome of green, the color that resonates “life”.

Whether we treasure a vast expanse of color like the fall hardwoods of New England or the subtle silver palette of the ocean on a cloudy day, something within us is stirred by color itself. Have you felt such an immersion? You may attribute your feelings to all the elements present: the smell in the air, the sounds of wind or water, or catching a glimpse of wildlife, but still, I challenge you to go to a place that moves you and, as much as possible, confine your awareness to the predominant color present. Drink in the color with your eyes and your being. Feel how it moves you, is present within you.

If yellow, orange, or red is what draws you there’s little time left to play with their spirit. I checked the marsh again today for Egrets. They’ve gone. 

#108 Clouds: A Photographic Essay

Clouds: A Photographic Essay.

Clouds are backdrops on beautiful summer days or clouds can threaten. Clouds are indicators of incoming or departing weather. Clouds can trigger fear or danger or joy. We notice them. Sometimes. Not always. Their presence can stop us in our tracks if we remember to stop and look upward.

Just a few days ago I watched the outer cloud bands from the tail end of Hurricane Isaias race northward. My location was far from the center of the storm so there were occasional small openings in the gray trails speeding overhead and patches of blue could be seen through those openings, reminders that this storm was not going to linger. Watching this weather and feeling the fierce wind pushing against the glass of the porch door on which I was leaning felt like a great privilege and echoed something I’ve heard from many: “I love storms.” I think that also translates as “I love clouds.” They come in so many shapes, sizes, and with such purpose.

Out from Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Over the Catskill Mountains, NY

Over Isabel Segunda, Vieques, Puerto Rico

Over Vieques, Puerto Rico on the road to Red Beach.

Over San Francisco

Over Acadia National Park, Maine at Sunset

 

Over the California Coast near the  Elkhorn Slough

Over the Pacific Ocean near Pescadero, California

Over Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Over the South Hills Mall, Poughkeepsie, NY

Over Grand Isle, Vermont and Lake Champlain

Another over Grand Isle, Vermont and Lake Champlain

Over Mouth of Casco Bay, Maine at Sunrise

 

Over the Ashokan Reservoir, Catskill Mountains, NY


			

#107 Memory Lane

Memory Lane.

A fairly large box of jumbled family photos has been sitting on the floor of my room for weeks now, my good intentions of organizing them languishing in this time when days puddle into one another in an “there’s always tomorrow” mode.

I’m waiting to see how painful it might be looking back through these images. Most all of the family, fairly small to begin with, have gone and I, ever the outlier, moved physically far away adding to the distance that was already present because all of my cousins were either much older or much younger than I, an only child, which added to the sense of separation.

Families are curious things. Sometimes there are great similarities or great differences from one to another. Dig back far enough and secrets might lurk in images which carry little accompanying information. If we have been connected by close geographical proximity or by frequent family get-togethers the stories of who did what might have revealed secrets but most likely there were pieces that were never discussed, at least openly. What can you tell by just looking at the photos surviving from those times?

The Baby Boomer generation spans the vast space after the World Wars and the present. If you live near the place of your birth and your family houses have stayed occupied by relatives, the chances are you aren’t feeling this chasm as much as those of us who pulled up roots and went elsewhere and stayed elsewhere. Recently it dawned on me that a part of the great divide we might be in at this moment might have a lot to do with roots and rootedness or lack thereof. I am old so when I am looking at old photos they are really old, 50-80 years ago easily. I somehow managed to absorb rural, small town ways of being in the world from that time, meaning a sense of what was right and fair, of what it meant to be “a good person”, or a “good citizen”, the value system I perceived as the motivation that was present during the two World War eras. Yes, there were great faults in that mindset of belonging including conformity and racism, the obvious first pops ups in my mind. I ask myself if what feels like a simpler time, from photographs or dimming memory, was really that. Did coming through the Second World War pull people together in a true sense of standing together in the face of outside threat? That last war America fought with collective energy began to unravel as smaller wars, divisive wars, wars-after-wars-after wars followed.  We Baby Boomers carried this energy, seeking relief from the conformity of the 50’s into wherever all that subsequent seeking led us. But not all followed this path.

What do we find when we look into the faces of the brownish black and white images in the boxes in the attic? Do we see our roots or our separations? Does any of it carry into this present?

 

# 88 Photo Essay: Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and Veggies.

March and April are the months we start craving summer’s fruits and vegetables. Our bodies have been living on grocery store produce, fresh or frozen, all winter, which lack full spectrum vital vitamins and minerals because of long storage, transportation, and supply issues. Oh for summer goodies fresh picked, juicy, sweet, tart, savory!  Summer to me means Farmer’s Markets and the Ferry Market in San Francisco, was and is a treasure trove of luscious. The photos below are from my deep archives (from 2007). Too bad we just can’t reach into the screen and take a bite or two. May they trigger happiness not woe.

 

#74 Solstice Photo Essay: Snug Harbor Nursery, May 2019

Solstice Photo Essay: Snug Harbor Nursery, May 2019.

Nothing beats a road trip with friends. These photos, some of my favorites from this past year, came from a wonderful day when we headed south, the roads free and clear before the annual visitors-from-elsewhere stampede. The stop at Snug Harbor Nursery in Kennebunk was spontaneous. In addition to fabulous plants and garden statuary Snug Harbor has a variety of birds running around their grounds. I had forgotten how much I really like chickens.

Whether it was the low light of the overcast day, or a camera to computer transference glitch, or goofs related to it being my first time using the new (used) camera, whatever it was the original quality of the images has been lost and what remains can be viewed on a screen but lack the quality needed to print.

As winter wraps around us, it’s most important to remember the Solstice marks the turn to more sunlight and longer days. Spring is just around the corner and that means tulips and more chickens. WooHoo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#67 Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise.

To have risen at seven this morning you would have awakened to a pale blue-gray sky, striated clouds with glints of soft yellow light peeking through, the water moving from the north, a dark steely-blue palate of shiver.

More than an hour before, the entire sky was a rage of color, not a strip or streak but the entire sky pulsing with an intensity of Tutankhamun gold and yellows. The stretched horizontal clouds over the water were nearly black, further emphasizing the brilliant gold of the sky, the water not yet illuminated enough to be even noticed. There was no room for thought, only my still body and my astonished eyes moving back and forth across the expanse. Nothing but color flooding all other senses.

The movement of the sun still below the horizon means light changes measured by seconds, layers of light folding over itself. Just above the horizon, a long wide ribbon of cranberry appears. Not red. Precisely cranberry, a cranberry specifically distinct like out of a Crayola box. Then ever so slowly the cranberry becomes cherry, then morphs into pink and orange, blending like the sounds of flutes and oboes rising beneath a symphony dominated by strings.

The sun moves up to the horizon, its rise dissipating the intensity of colors as the strength of its pinpoint light washes the sky. Where earlier the colors of the entire sky had throbbed now the me-me-me of the sun’s round dominance overtakes everything.

There is no photograph. Limitations of the camera could not capture the scale, vibratory color, mass, or intensity. A photograph would allow the “Oh, a sunrise” to replace the beyond-belief presence of that sky, the colors still permeating my bones, my soul.

# 66 Higgins Beach: A Photo Essay

 

Higgins Beach.

A nor’easter moved off Cape Cod never reaching Maine while the surf from the storm pounded the more northern shores for three days. The waves, not large enough to be frightening, delighted visitors and residents alike and the surfers on Higgins Beach finally got some long rides. As the light on day four left the sky, all was right in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#19 Saturation

Saturation.

Does the camera lens capture the colors of nature accurately? In this age of photoshopped everything all images are suspect. Critical, skeptical seeing has become the norm. While highly useful for watching media, reading print, reading the expressions on the faces of politicians, the wry eye gets in the way of allowing the pure joy of reveling in nature’s palette. Immersing yourself in pure color is bliss.

There is much to be said for daily life in a stripped bare environment, the zen if you will, of particular places. Rocks and water, clouds and sky offer ranges of color which astound. Space and time and quiet allow enhanced awareness. Color emerges out of this frame. With some practice, a camera can be used to isolate, then emphasize, what can be seen. Therein lies one of the joys of photography.

As in all things the spectrum of this isolation has grown to the point that backgrounds are being erased and precise images of birds or wildlife are shown in detail that totally removes them from their environments. It’s a preference on the part of both photographer and viewer. However, color can be one of the winners of this technique–think of the neck feathers of a Ruby Throated Hummingbird.

My personal eye revels in the larger landscape and color ranges on a more vast scale. A morning of dense fog renders the world in shades of gray-white, all other colors present muted in the dense light. Crystal clear mornings, mornings bursting forth after a night of storms, can dazzle with brilliance, the flashing of diamond whitesilver from the top of waves and intense blues and greens far beyond the crayon box palette in the rolling waves of the ocean. I have been surprised by pure gold light on a beach at daybreak and by teal sky streaks at sunset or sunrise.. Such color intensities need no enhancement, just a touch of sharpening detail here, a bit of shadow lightening there. Even the most technologically advanced camera is not as perfected as the human eye.

Nothing beats rising from sleep, mind blank in the transition between occupied realms, and witnessing the sun rising between the edge where water meets sky, when the joy of pure color is nearly all there is.

That is true saturation.

 

 

#16 Perfection

Perfection.

Photography allows a particular way of seeing by using a rectangular (in 35mm cameras) frame and paying attention to light and relationship. My goal when shooting is to see if I can capture an image that might draw attention to something that might have otherwise been missed.

For years I upgraded equipment, spending what seemed possible given my circumstances. I talked myself into believing that my eye, my way of seeing, was what counted, but being a nature photographer I wanted to take pictures of birds and that’s where the rubber hit the road. Bird photography requires long lenses and long lenses are heavy and very expensive because the quality of the glass really matters.

Some time ago in an attempt to separate myself from social media political extremism and negativity I purged the social media feeds I had been watching and went looking for groups that focused on nature. There are lots out there and soon my screens were packed with gorgeous images of birds and wildlife. My heart and eyes were happy.

After some months of viewing exquisite images, I started to realize I was losing interest in taking pictures myself. What was the point? I was not, in this phase of life, going to own a 800mm, $16,000 lens. Additionally, my physical limitations meant I could no longer reach the places I needed to get to for the subject matters that interested me. And those social media feeds were delivering perfection multiple times per day.

Some months later I’ve to begin to realize this shared nature photography has become stylized. The “natural” in this new version of nature has everyone straining for etched clarity, each outlined eagle feather crisp with definition.  But in these perfected images a part of nature itself is being lost, the context is missing. As if that was not sad enough then came reports of particular kinds of photographic fraud: captive animals used but presented as  wild; photoshop composites combining images that never existed apart from computer software; bait being used to draw subjects closer to the photographer regardless of the wellbeing of the wildlife in question.

A long time ago I made an observation about music. I’d grown up with parents who loved to sing and car trips provided opportunities for belting out family favorites. Years later, on trips with my husband and daughter, my instincts were to repeat this happy memory. I was quickly shut down by non-flattering voice critiques. The presence of perfected music made by professional singers in recording studios had changed the playing field.  Homemade music, where the act of singing together was the whole point,  had been usurped. Nothing short of perfection was acceptable and now that the whole world is connected perfection is possible, perhaps even required. I am certain, or hopeful, there are individuals banding together in sound finding attainable joy in moments of creative sharing. I would like to think that the power of making music together transcends the perfection so seemingly necessary in recordings.

Might it now be time to reduce the trend and abandon the pursuit of perfection in all creative endeavors and focus on the sheer joy of the creative process itself? And to photograph those birds with their natural surroundings evident?

#1 Marginal

Marginal.

On the edge of something.

On the fringe of consciousness.

The space where land meets the sea.

A walk along the ocean in Ogunquit, Maine.

The longing for expression seems inherently human. Now, in the age of social media overload, it gushes from every keyboard. And still, mine wants a small space, a way to think out loud, to give small observations breathing room.

It’s the middle of a rare warm night. The ocean’s incoming tide lets out an occasional whomp as the angle of a bigger wave strikes the rocks that look like petrified wood  (a form of shale containing mica and quartzite) otherwise there is the usual, fairly loud, swooshing that you’d expect so close to the water when it’s possible to leave the windows open at bedtime. The moon, just past full and still shining,  spreads a path on black water enough to light the room a bit.

It is completely clear to me that coming to live in this space, on this margin, was aided by non-corporeal assistance. There was lots of earth-based human help as well of course. The challenge in having arrived here is to use the energy imbued in where the land meets the sea in this sacred time, this margin of old age and its transition from life to … whatever lies after the known has gone. I’ve spent most of my adult life musing about life after death and have had the privilege of being in the presence of a few of the great minds who have been examining this topic in deep and scholarly ways. More recently have been classes–parts I and II–on Consciousness which is like splashing about in a delightful pool, exhilarating and fun and profound.

Lifelong learning is not an oxymoron.