Nifty Shades of Green

Sunday

  • This green world is excessively noisy on Saturday mornings.  The din of chain saws, shrub trimmers, lawn mowers, and leaf blowers, intertwined with shouts of crews and rumblings of giant trucks carrying gear, begins at dawn and scarcely lets up until dusk, when the mosquitoes reclaim their territory.  Perhaps that is why there is no one ever sitting in the Adirondack chairs or on porches wrapped around immense houses.  More likely, people who can afford property around here lead busy busy lives with no time to just hang out and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
  • I think the saying “youth is wasted on the young” could be extended to “wealth is wasted on the wealthy.”  A lifetime lived in sloth is wretched indeed.  But a lifetime without long moments of appreciation is a shadow of what we should be.

Saturday

  • It was traditionally hard to paint a convincing mid-range picture of trees, although Ruisdael and Hobbema did so with limited palette.  Distant woods, as here, could be blurred and blued and blotted in with shadows,  close-up foliage could be treated carefully as still life, but capturing the actual experience of trees in-between required the out-of-the-box theories of the Impressionists.  They were able to replace the effect of constant motion and color changes of rustling leaves with dabs of exaggerated complementary colors.
  • I find Pissarro the master for such landscapes.  His canvases scarcely match photographs of the same subjects, but you feel as if you have actually been there looking around.  I have frequently walked out of a museum after hours with the Impressionists to discover the world itself sparkling in ways I never imagined.  It’s strange to realize that plain old dull greens can be treated so garishly and suddenly burst into realistic scenery through the magic of our eyes and brain.    

Friday

  • A trumpet vine hovers over the tidal inlet at West Neck Beach.  Most animals react to the unusual in their environment because that represents either danger or opportunity.  Something orange where all is green and blue, something moving where all is still, or still where all is in motion.  Humans encourage this perhaps to excess, risking overload of the senses.
  • I am always surprised that even as nearsighted as I am, any strange movement attracts my attention.  Naturally, when trying to set up a picture, I am conscious of what might add interest to the landscape.  The obverse of this is how quickly we apply filters and can ignore and dismiss anything that we have already evaluated, which is why I am frequently oblivious to what I have just seen or heard.

Thursday

  • Salt marsh stretches away at high tide in Lloyd Harbor, a haven for egrets and ospreys and lesser birds, fish, crustaceans, insects, grasses, and of course uncountable bacteria, protozoa and other lesser denizens of any open water.  All seems in perfect harmony, a quiet lagoon where everything lives deeply specialized in its own niche.  Moralists of various persuasions offer quaint proverbs and tales trying to show how cooperation, or struggle, or adaptation, or resistance are the cardinal rules of the natural world which society should adopt.  From the time of the earliest fables, however, people have recognized those lessons as entertaining, but false and often irrelevant.
  • We know, as our ancestors did, as every human has ever known, that we are not the same as everything else.  Unique among the complex life forms on the planet, each of us is an expert in being unspecialized and flexible.  The true tale is that if necessary, we could figuratively take the place of anything in the landscape.  You and I might not like it, but we could, and often do, as when we settle into an awful job.  Gloriously alone, you and I are also miraculously able to know what we like, what we don’t, and what might make our experience better.

Wednesday

  • Matisse’ famous painting Luxe Calme et Volupte is named after Baudelaire’s poem “There, all is beauty/ luxury, calm, and voluptuousness.”  Huntington is south of Saint-Tropez, more on the latitude of Naples, but Matisse might have recognized the humid light, if not the verdant overwhelming vegetation.  Certainly William Merritt Chase and his circle demonstrated that impressionism works on Long Island, although nobody would ever describe the LIE _ even during a dead-stop traffic jam _ as calm.
  • I’ve always enjoyed fantasizing about people such as Matisse painting on this hill, or Caesar marching his troops along the shoreline, or some Gibbons of the future sadly musing on the ruins of underwater Huntington.  When technicians speak of artificial intelligence do they assume that means a capacity to experience voluptuousness, or to daydream impossibilities?  We are more than our experiences or logic,  more than pattern matching machines, more than dots on some statistical chart.  You and I are never merely what we accomplish, never simply defined by how others judge us.  I can also
    be, on good days, “luxe calme et volupte.”

Tuesday

  • July weather has become classic summer _ hot, humid, storms possible anytime.  That seems completely normal and unremarkable _ what is usually remembered are extreme events of temperature, precipitation, or wind.  But normal is never guaranteed _ people may look back and sigh “recall that last glorious July of 2015, before the world went mad.” 
  • We hardly ever evaluate what we live through properly _ minor events like an assassination can trigger a world war, a normal business panic can become a decade-long depression, a temporary lack of rain can dry into an epic drought.  Death, taxes, gravity, the sun, yes we can probably count on those, but everything else remains unknowable.  That is why I try to grab happiness as it comes by.  Sometimes that is hard or impossible, but when happiness is available even for moments, I should cherish that impermanent and never certain treasure.

Monday

  • A wily old woodsman could determine a calendar date almost as well as someone with access to a cell phone.  A glance at the crowns of trees, for example, narrows the possible season considerably.  Closer examination of leaves would yield a pretty good guess simply with their state and color.  Tender young growth in the spring is mostly pale and yellowish, tinged with streaks of red, always delicate and clear-cut, often unfurling.  As the summer progresses, every hue darkens as if it becomes suntanned, insect infestation creates holes and ragged gaps, weather and drought turn whole branches brown, and nothing seems to grow at all.  Even without recourse to the state of flowers _ which are of course a dead giveaway for anyone _ trees and shrubs tell a remarkably complete story.
  • What always surprises me is not that such variety of shades of green exist, for I see them easily when I try, but that I so often ignore them totally.  Even when trying to communicate exactly what I perceive, I remain at a loss.  Unless you work for a paint company coming up with luscious descriptions of your wares, or are a struggling writer trying for variety in prose, there is never much reason to go beyond “green.”  We have synonyms and modifiers, but I hardly ever use them in daily speech.  Just another of the grand, unnoticed, fractal wonders of my existence.

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