May Tease


Suddenly summer.  Warm enough that I need shirtsleeves and sunscreen.  Green all over.  The hue is a bit yellow-fresh, the leaves smaller than normal, but you need to look closely to see.  Red wing blackbirds are attacking anything _ including pedestrians _ who gets too close to their nests in the old reeds.

And yet it can all swing in a moment.  Torrential rain, cold nearly into the thirties, a raw gusting wind, long bitter nights are yet possible, even likely.  Stretches of nasty dark days may string out between equally long periods of perfect afternoons.  So you try to appreciate each hour for what it is, don’t worry too much about what is coming next, enjoy the pink and white floats of the dogwoods.  Not really a bad way to appreciate quite a few moments of life.

For a month now pollen has been causing us to sniffle and sneeze.  Over the last few weeks at least insects have been busily flitting about.  The results of some of that orgy of pollination are now visible day by day, as in these seeds blowing off merrily into the strong breeze.

With the general scenic landscape changing so dramatically day by day, it is sometimes hard to remember that all that vast transformation is the accumulation of infinite tinier individual actions by trees and grasses and everything else.  One tree, one branch, one set of leaves, one small bundle of small brown seeds on white parachutes are easily overlooked and ignored.  Yet in some ways, that is what is real _ the scenes we stitch together are just figments of our minds.  Ah, the nature of reality, eh?  No, back to the perfumes and the perfect day and just being grateful for everything that is.

All the subtle shades of spring greens are on display from the Coindre hillside, although my photographs do the scene no justice.  Without the cries of numerous birds, the sharp wind blowing off the harbor, the occasional perfumed scent rising above the simply fresh smell of new growth, no purely visual composition can do more than hint at the entirety of this experience.  Yet, in a purely visual sense, the variation of hues is magnificent.

So much of our civilized world centers on sight, with only an occasional wave to sound or other senses.  Some spend hours and hours entranced in no more than images on a screen or on paper.  Our brain keeps running its little kingdom, it is true, and our thoughts rush unimpeded by what pours in from outside, ignoring how uncomfortable our seat is, or how tired our eyes, or even if we are hungry.  And when other senses do intrude, they are often ignored as much as possible.  It is important sometimes to give in, center in one place, and expand to actually notice everything possible for a moment or so.

Not much to add here.  Dingy ready for action.  Blue waves.  Boats waiting at moorings.  The only additional note would be a chilled wind, which keeps the nautical action in check.  Besides, it’s a weekday, and except for the clammers nobody is about to go
out before Memorial Day.

As I get older and grumpier, I tend to think of this stretch of road as my own personal domain, and kind of resent the weekend.  Then I must share it with many people out for an occasional stroll, lots of joggers, bicycle tours, folks walking their dogs, constant cars and pickups and motorcycles.  On the other hand,  I’m glad I don’t have to pay for or do all the necessary upkeep, so having it available to the public is a good thing.

Azaleas planted by my father-in-law forty or so years ago still bloom profusely and magnificently every year.  This is one of the connections to the past represented even in the midst of the future promises of spring and a new growing season.  Traces of what was continue, or die, or are built upon.  An extended drama of life that only humans with their strange consciousnesses are ever aware of.

Like the rest of the children of nature, we must exist in the moment and manage to survive hour to hour and day to day.  Pursuing dreams which deny those fundamental realities are usually tragic.  Yet it is our unique gift that we can dream of more than the moment or the hour or the day.  We remember, we plan, we hope, we fear _ none of these center in the instant where we actually experience the world.  That is a profound wonder.

Leaves are all out, framing views.  Boats dot the placid surface of the inlet.  In fifty years, this will all be submerged, leaving only old pictures and writing, perhaps, for the next generations to imagine.  We are living through a slow-motion Pompeii, able to watch changes as they occur, perhaps able to flee the catastrophe and survive, perhaps not.

It seems selfish, in such awful scenarios, to say, “ah, but I have today and it is magnificent.”  Yet as a human, is that not the proper response?  Many things are out of each of our hands _ nothing I do today or tomorrow makes any difference at all.  It never did, in spite of American myth.  If I waste this beauty, is that not also a perversion of the miracle of my actual existence? 

Interesting flowers on a tree that I cannot identify.  This photo shows why I will never make a nature photographer.  The lack of identification shows why I cannot be a decent botanist.  But why should I want to?  There are plenty of photographers and botanists out there.  Only one me, walking around on a delightful Saturday afternoon.

One of the evils of our society is specialization, even in our leisure and hobbies.  Consumer culture and prevalent social myths insist it is important to strive to be the best, to achieve as much as you can, never to settle for mere naïve experience.  So the feeling is that if you must photograph, start doing so with focus and composition and paying attention to the details of the craft.  Balderdash.  Unless your livelihood and life depend on your expertise, I think you should happily remain as ignorant as possible about details, and simply enjoy the great platter of life spread before you.






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