- Japanese woodcut artists such as Hiroshige were almost obsessed with the effect of water and wood, particularly pilings and bridges and boats. They would no doubt have enjoyed this view from the dock. In a few weeks, the semi-transparent views between poles will be completely obscured by the vessels tied up there. Today, however, the still frigid gale seems to be keeping all the summer mariners warm at home.
- One of the reasons I enjoy studying visual art is to gain the ability to compose or view scenes as if I were this artist or that artist. To see the dashes of color as Monet, to admire the sky as if it were painted by Tiepolo, to find landscapes that Hokusai would have eagerly captured. That enriches my life considerably, costs nothing at all, and, not least important in this day and age, hardly affects the environment at all.
- Continuing the tired old theme of the week, someone might say “strange weather we’re having around here lately.” Not quite snowfall yet, but cold enough to happen. The heavy coats, hats, and gloves are back on the more observant people, while others just shiver and mutter. This maple blooms in hope of attracting insects, but most of them are still hibernating. Everything is one grand glossy panorama, clear and crisp and wonderfully attracting until one steps into the cruel wind.
- Spring is filled with promise and disappointments. Like so much of our lives, we dream and are frequently let down. I’ve fortunately learned to temper my dreams, which I suppose is what we old folks like to call wisdom. I miss the ambition of my youth, once in a while, then I settle back and contemplate that, after all, what I’ve got is not bad at all.
- If dandelions were difficult to grow, they would be the pride of anyone’s garden. The deeply serrated dark green leaves are interesting, the yellow flower large enough to stand out, even the final global seed puff unique. They bloom continuously from early spring to late fall. In a pinch, they are even edible. Plants would be sold at high markups, glossy catalogs would showcase the latest varieties from horticulturalists. But they are prolific, ubiquitous, hardy, and almost impossible to eliminate, so they remain a kind of scourge.
- I like them as weeds. Other invasive species that colonize waste patches like ragweed take a bit of contemplation and forced mental adjustment to appreciate. Dandelions always stand out, adding patches of gold everywhere singly or grand groups. But the darn things don’t know their place, and head into my lawn, flower beds and patio. They not only take over, but just cannot be destroyed even if I pull out their entire foot-long tuber, and they pop up like magic almost day by day. There’s some lesson there about the most perfect guest overstaying a welcome, but I’ll let you work that one out.
- Magnolia on the lawn in front of “New Town Hall” which is the “old high school,” opposite the oldest Presbyterian church. Sign notes the town was founded in 1643, not coincidentally in the middle of the English civil war against Charles I, the same year Louis XIV (a powerless seven-year-old) became king of France and the final year of the Chinese Ming dynasty. The settlement was nominally part of the Dutch empire, although actually on the disputed frontier between New England and New Amsterdam. Layers of history can be fun to add to a sedate beflowered landscape.
- Tourists flock to Europe _ the old world _ to gawk at the wonders of the past. I myself have done so. We often fail to realize that many of those monuments happened simultaneously with the growth of what became the United States. Here in the northeast, layers of previous generations lie almost as thickly as those in the narrow streets of Paris, if we just take the time to look them up. Fortunately, we have an active historical society which can track just about every rock, nook, cranny and wall back almost to the day of founding.
- A scene in town, fairly capturing the ambiguity of the season. Magnolia in full blossom, trees alongside seemingly completely dormant. Come along the same path tomorrow or in a few days, and the magnolia may be fading rapidly, any one of the companion trees fully leafed. The rhododendron in the lower right is just waiting for the right trigger. The sunlight is brilliant and energetic, the temperature well above freezing, but nonetheless this spring has been colder than normal, and everything seems much behind schedule.
- The insistent and ongoing transformation is pure magic. By that, I mean it happens when I am distracted and looking away. I stare all day at a tulip in the back yard _ a big unopened green bud on a long stem _ and nothing at all seems to be happening. I look away for a while, trying to find more pleasant views or accomplish some chore or go to sleep, and when I look again it is a magnificent red. Poof
. We think of the vegetable world as slow and deliberate, but at this time of year the processes may be zipping along faster than we are. Especially, I admit, if you are my age.
- Appropriately for the theme, this week opens with a tremendous rainstorm, including midnight thunder and lightning and downpours seemingly capable of drowning anyone walking through them. Nature seems all the more amazing for not only coming back from incredibly deep cold and suffocating snow cover, but also for brushing off heavy winds and driving water. Just part of the normal.
- Hard to say if this is extreme because of climate change, or really if historically it is extreme at all. Certainly individual yardsticks have been set recently, I will no longer say “I remember the snows of ‘77” _ Superstorm Sandy, the snows of 2014, and the cold of 2015 are everyone’s reference points. This day is not nearly on that scale. Since I am dry and warm and have nowhere in particular to go it is actually quite entertaining, and I have enjoyed watching sheets of rain and wind sweep across the bay.
- This week resembles that astounding moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door and the movie suddenly transmutes from sepia to oversaturated brilliant color. Now the sky becomes painfully blue, the grass a legendary green, the willow leaves sharply etched. True, the treeline remains brown and bare, but close examination reveals that each tree will soon burst into full foliage. Along the ground, various shrubs are preparing for spectacular display. There are even little munchkins _ in the form of butterflies and bumblebees _ hesitantly venturing out, and just a hint of wicked monkeys _ mosquitoes and ticks_ in the not too distant future.
- We are told about the brains of dolphins and dogs and the consciousnesses of birds and rats. I have sympathy, for animals are life, and more intelligent animals are close relatives, and we are all united against a cold and uncaring universe of rocky planets and suns and deep space. But dogs do not make movies nor write books and blogs, dolphins create no extended irrelevant metaphors to amuse themselves, rats are not critics of the literary efforts of their peers. In addition to feeling oneness with all life, we must also appreciate our own uniqueness and the special gifts that our immense and unlikely knowledge of existence has given us each moment.