Merry, Merry


  • Changes in evergreens are not so obvious as those in deciduous trees, but new needles are being grown and flowerless fertilization spreads invisible pollen everywhere.  This pine is one of the last survivors along the shoreline, although there are still pine trees all around.  They, along with the spruces, are now being threatened and killed by invasive boring insects.  The hemlocks have fought blight for years.  Nature is never so benign as we romantically imagine.
  • Compositions like these remind me of Ma Yuan, a Chinese painter of the Song Dynasty (around 1200).  “One Corner Ma” was famous for putting all the detail in one corner of the silk, and leaving most of the surrounding area to the imagination, with just a hint of soft ink indicating a misty horizon or vast waters.  One reason to enjoy art is to realize that other people can see and think a bit differently than we do, and to occasionally inculcate their insights into our own consciousness.


  • Waterfowl have had chicks, fish have spawned, and now it seems to be time for the horseshoe crabs to mate.  This one is slowly circumnavigating a restricted dock area in Northport in motions resembling a drunken Roomba vacuum cleaner.  Perhaps a little confused by looking for a beach area where there is none.  Usually, eggs are laid into shallow depressions dug along the high tide level.  These are everywhere, numerous, an apparently inexhaustible resource even though now harvested for various purposes.
  • As inexhaustible, no doubt, as the lobsters and fish that once graced these waters in plenty.  We think the environmental catastrophes have taken time, but really it was all in a blink shortly after 1950.  And the worst is, although we now are aware and even trying to protect our resources where they are obvious, like here in an active public park, the worst atrocities are still occurring out of sight, in deep ocean or hidden rain forest.   Well, I must accept what there is, I suppose, and be grateful for so many of these, right here, right now.  I’m glad public opinion, at least, seems to be starting to gain a little maturity about the need to protect our world.


  • Anywhere is now gorgeous.  These azaleas happen to be at the harborside park in Northport, but with the luscious new green on each tree other colors are almost superfluous.  It’s nearly a crime to be stuck inside, as so many are.  And, no matter how pretty the photograph, it can never do justice to reality.
  • Northport is a few miles from my usual walk, and I have broken my self-imposed discipline of only showing places I can reach on foot.  It’s not boredom, exactly, but it is boredom, generally.  Why worry, you ask?  Because I firmly feel that unless you impose limits, you cannot reach mastery.  Like having a certain structure in a sonnet or haiku.  Our choices are nearly infinite , there are very few external constraints, and if I try to extend too far, I may miss becoming profound.  Contemporary arts, I think, are a little ragged now _ our culture’s most beautiful work seems to be in crafts where artisans respect their materials and tradition deeply by accepting artificial traditional boundaries.


Fresh new scene, he thinks.
Blossom drift frames azure wave

Aged: six billion years


  • Tent caterpillars preparing to march out en masse and munch through tender young leaves.  A few days of extraordinary heat bring insects out in force.  Bees of all kinds, flies, even a butterfly or two.  Gnats hovering annoyingly right in front of eyes, fortunately no mosquitoes.  And that’s only what’s visible _ the ants and termites and whatever else lives in tree trunks and old leaves and underground largely pass unnoticed.  A bonanza for the swallows, which can be seen darting about overhead in the twilight.
  • There are not too many odes to tent caterpillars, or to mosquitoes for that matter, but they belong on earth as surely as we do.  Just not exactly where I am.  Put them on a reservation somewhere _ a wilderness they can inhabit in their own way as we do ours.  Ah, yes, that idea didn’t work, did it?  My environment is vast and complex and not comprehended and perhaps there is a place in it even for the things that bother me.  I try to cultivate that attitude, but sometimes it is extremely difficult.


  • It’s hard to hate delightful fluffy tiny goslings, all balls of fur waddling around behind their parents.  Inevitably, strollers pause and smile and sometimes take pictures.  Yet they grow up to be annoyances, filling parks with their waste, taking over golf courses and playgrounds.  Of course, one is impossible without the other, symbolic of the contradictions of the world.
  • We enjoy natural things, but we think they should stay in their place.  That’s the trouble, as Darwin noted _ life never stays in its place.  It overproduces, and fills old places, and finds new ones, and ingeniously adapts and evolves into ever more niches.  We have been guilty in the last few centuries of stomping stuff into containers a bit too much, or carelessly destroying environments because we think we have more right and better usage than what was there.  What is nearby _ like baby birds on a shoreline _ becomes all the more precious when we realize our loss.


  • Apple blossoms bursting on the only fruit tree along the waterfront.  May is a romantic month, filled with hope and optimism, as nature seems to reconquer the whole world.  Goslings have hatched, fish have spawned, every weed is leaping up in profusion, and grass seeks to cover everything with a mat of green.  Besides, folks can walk around in shorts and tee shirts, happily unencumbered with the heavy detritus of the last few months.
  • Only a curmudgeon ignores this reality, and fortunately I have not reached that jaded state yet.  My blood and thoughts quicken as much as anyone’s.  I know that in a few months the magic will wear thin, the weeds will seem oppressive, the heat will combine sweat with dust into annoying mud on my brow, and I will wish for relief from the burning sun at midday.  But this moment is almost perfect, and almost anything seems possible, and I would be a fool indeed not to wallow in joy.  

One thought on “Merry, Merry

  1. Sometimes it helps to wander off the beaten path, to return again with fresh vision. I knew at once that the picture of Northport Harbor was not taken around Huntington Harbor; I guess I have an eye for detail as well. Love the photo of the harbor in fog. I saw a smiliar scene one day while walking on West Shore Road and couldn't get over the prevalence of the fog and how it changed my idea of what that part of the harbor can look like. And, of course, i love the comparison with Chinese painting. I remember seeing the violet-gray hills of New Mexico in my travels there and realizing that Georgia O'Keefe didn''t make up those colors; they were already there.


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