Fresh Scenes

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Sunday-

  • April often looks gorgeous, but retains bite in frequent breezes.  Unwary folks take the day at face value and dress as if it were nearly summer, walk a while soaking up welcome sunbeams, then miserably fight their way back upwind, chilled to the bone.  Improbable pockets of warmth or pleasant cool embedded in a basically cold situation add to the difficulties.  Meanwhile, vegetation ignores everything except the expanded light and as long as temperatures remain above freezing vigorously continues its rampant path.  Animals have their own protections, even those birds now migrating through from warmer places.
  • I’ve learned, gradually, to overdress.  It’s hard not to be seduced by sunshine, dragged onward by clear air and sparking waves, feeling an inner spring in my step as I am also energized by the season.  But, at my age, prudence wins and this day I wear a heavy jacket and light gloves.  Looking like the ancient peasant I have become, I trundle along the road and greet joggers, pedestrians, and those walking their dogs in various states of what I consider undress.  Ah, the follies of the younger generation!

Saturday-

  • Almost desperate hope that chilled morning fog represents not only a transition from standing cold front to incoming warm one, but also that it signifies the final departure of a winter that has long overstayed its welcome.  Somewhere else, green leaves are glistening in dew and cherry blossoms gently waft on the breeze.  Somewhere else lovers stroll beneath bright warm skies gazing at profusions of flowers bursting from the ground.  Except for constant birdsong, here only the grass seems to have any notion of ongoing spring.
  • Even my philosophy of accepting each day as it comes sometimes is tested.  Sure, the fog is lovely in its own way, the chilled morning has its own charm, there is something wonderful about this mysterious world.  But enough is enough.  I am so easily thrown into confusion by such minor things, how will I deal with the greater tragedies of life inevitably to arrive?  Probably as I often have, by ignoring them until the last minute.  Then, somehow, just get through and try to remember pleasantly even the cold mists I have experienced.

Friday-

  • Wintry stasis this week, as the temperature has never left the thirties while precipitation has been constant, the north wind has blown unrelentingly, and the sun never broke through a heavy overcast.  Vegetation kept slowly emerging, birds kept appearing more frequently and noisily.  This Andromeda bush in front of the living room finally bloomed.
  • Sometimes it may seem I am partial to “native” species and “original” landscapes.  But I am not nearly so naïve as not to accept the beauty of imports like azaleas and tulips as well.  I try to enjoy what actually exists, however created, no matter what it replaced.  Life is constant change, our aesthetics must recognize that reality.  By the same token, weather like this is not cause for grand discontent, whatever we may expect, whatever paper claims is “normal.”  Reality is each moment, however much we may wish it differently, and our spiritual test is to appreciate that we are living through it.

Thursday-

  • Still photographs may give the impression that this harbor is a quiet refuge from the bustle of civilization, but it is as noisy as anywhere else.  Cars, hammers, construction, leaf blowers, sirens all pierce the air.  Here the town dock is being rebuilt, pile drivers jamming in bulkheads.  Huntington was founded in 1653, only twenty-odd years after the Pilgrims, and has always been a busy place.  Halesite has always been the town port, where the deep water ended and marsh began.  Periodically, everywhere along a tidal waterfront must be renewed or it falls into permanent unusable decay.
  • One of the glories of our culture is that we can realistically appreciate our past.  Ignorant folk may glorify or denigrate what went before _ aborigines, colonists, farmers, suburban developers _ but all of them were people like us, happiness, pain, loss, and gain.  We are fortunate to have records here _ massive original town documents carefully preserved, eventually including photographs almost from the time photography first became available.  I love being able to look at a site like this and see not only the pilings and rocks but the layers of shellfish-based native settlements, lumber and local pottery and fish being shipped out by sailing vessels, clams and recreational use now, Nathan Hale, tidal mills, old trolley line, “town gas” production, and even, in my own residence, an odd succession of mostly terrible bars and restaurants.

Wednesday-

  • Just over a week or so ago, this hillside contained a marvelous tracery of white lines sparkling in sunlight, the result of a late snowfall.  At the time there was no hint of green.  Now the brambles are filling with color, and a close inspection will show buds beginning to burst out of each thorn-studded vine
    .   A week further on, the full transition will be underway as this patch of earth becomes impenetrable except to birds and small animals.  Soon the only brown to be seen will be tree trunks standing and fallen.
  • Not a nicely composed picture, I know.  Just a wall of stuff.  Really, isn’t this how we see most of the world, most of the time?  A jumbled painted canvas, often in our way, something we just have to chart our way through to get where we are going?  When I walk, I have time to regard it otherwise, but otherwise I am no different.  The frozen nature of a photograph or painting, its usual attempt to focus attention where we often do not, is one of the main attractions of the medium.

Tuesday-

  • If there is not, there should be a paint hue named “April Green.”  New growth has a peculiar brilliant color that strikes through the existing soft patinas of old sienna and umber.   A complementary shade would be “April Red” for the strong dark blush of new buds and vines beginning rejuvenation.  Whole hillsides are now subtly becoming cast in those two filters, a transformation easy to miss until it is suddenly overwhelming.
  • Noticing such things has always been a primary value of sketching or painting as a hobby.  Nowadays, the more impatient culture uses cameras, of course, and I also find that a useful reason to look more closely at what I otherwise fail to see.  What is often missed is that photography, like most arts, is a meditative tool for the user.  That aspect ought not be lost in our mad dash to share everything in lottery hopes of becoming rich and famous.

Monday-

  • Like life itself, language contains beautiful ambiguities.  A word is defined by context much as behavior is modified by habitat.  Fresh can mean cold, pure, presumptuous, unsalted, new, clean.  April is all those things, and as the poem says, contains more than a tinge of cruelty.  Momentous transitions are occurring, the world is constantly renewed and for all the hope of lying on the grass and watching clouds roll by, the air is often bitterly chill and the wind strips off body heat.
  • Those of us living in such climates claim to enjoy the challenge and opportunities.  We like being invigorated, we say, unlike those who live in places warm and green all year round.  We find  lessons and interest in the thousand little changes each day _ I often find I can hardly keep up with so many so often _ then greening of the briars, the constant bulb blooms, the swelling and uncurling buds, the parade of waterfowl, the mating antics of creatures great and small, not to mention the first hints of insects.  The sky here is pure blue, awaiting the certain rains which may fall for the next few days, more of what our fresh spring will inevitably deliver.

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