- My parents loved Bing Crosby, so I grew up listening to his cover of “Faraway places with strange sounding names.” It referenced Spain, and Siam, and a general wanderlust to be somewhere else. Probably coincidentally, I have visited and lived in many places during my life. By no means an inveterate traveler, but certainly not someone who always stayed in his native neighborhood forever.
- As I grow older, definitions change, a phenomenon I note not just in myself but in my peers. For many of us, a mile or more from our houses has suddenly become “faraway places.” We like our comforts, we enjoy the familiar, we get just a little peevish when we have to give them up for more than a few hours. It is not that we are scared of travel, and even do it relatively often, but only if we can wrap a good deal of our usual environment around us like protective bubble wrap.
- Some days, even getting out of the house and walking a few blocks to the harbor can seem like heading for a faraway place. Perhaps my memory dims, but each moment seems new, each view seems fresh, many things I notice I have rarely seen before. I guess I should feel sad at my atrophying senses, but I am grateful that I can increasingly perceive that what others see as boringly normal I regard as exotic.
- There is happiness in sculpting local into distant. Just as we never cross the same river twice, we never truly view the same scenery. Waves, mists, leaves, clouds, animals _ always different. The trick is to focus on the subtle and render it sublime. Not unlike the purpose of art.
- Tides go in and out, predictable with Newtonian mathematics and no requirement to understand Einstein. Even so, they are complex, and vary with barometric pressure almost as much as with sheer gravity. It is always a shock to those who live by the sea to visit a lake and see docks built just above water level. The reward, of course, is the periodic exposure of mud, sand, shells, and detritus, not to mention the antics of fiddler crabs and squirting clams. In winter, all the activity is less apparent, but it is there anyway.
- As I walk each day, I try to be as aware of the moon as of the weather. Some spring tides are incredibly low and high, but sometimes planets and storms align and we have super slosh over the low highways. Obviously, the level becomes a bit higher each year, in spite of the claims of those who screech we cannot know. I imagine the fish, crabs, and clams hardly notice the tides _ it’s people who are the real enemies.
- “The farther you go, the less you know.”
- To be aware, you need to stare.
- If we visit somewhere just once, it is frozen in our minds for all time, with its good and bad, often shading to good because of our usual glow of nostalgia on, say, a vacation. Locations closer to home evolve rapidly, but we hardly notice unless we make an effort to remember how things were.
- For example, just in our harbor, I have seen a huge barge delivering oil to large tanks, red shacks decaying picturesquely on a pier, lobstermen setting out and storing traps each winter, a lovely larch tree shedding needles each autumn. All gone, like much else, although this has fortunately been an area all but frozen in time. That too is changing, as old people die and move, their house torn away, and huge monstrosities built on tiny lots. An awful lot of big old trees are being trimmed severely or cut down completely _ none of the new people want their harbor view obscured by branches and leaves, even though this clearing ruins landscapes.
- But on a daily basis, I have no trouble. What is more shocking _ and sometimes prevents me from even desiring a new trip _ are the immense changes where I have not viewed them since my long ago visit. Most of them, in my opinion, are for the worse. Farms gone, open fields turned to asphalt, all the normal complaints. Well, in all honesty, some of those memories bright in my mind are from over half a century ago. The world moves on, whether I want to ride along or not.
- Chinese mountain landscapes rarely include pictures of birds, although somehow they always give the idea of being painted from a flying perspective. On the other hand, their close studies of birds can be magnificent. Waterfowl around here of the common type _ ospreys, gulls, several types of ducks, cormorants, swans and of course geese galore. In the summer terns and egrets liven the place up. Crows are hardly considered waterfowl, but they often crash the shoreline party.
- I rarely photograph them. I’m not much of a wildlife photographer, even if I had proper equipment, which I don’t. So by accident and laziness my photos sometimes have some of the elements of brush drawings.
Sun and wind take a break from beaming and blowing. “How’s it going, Wind?” asks Sun. “Ready for another contest.”
“Oh, not that tired old thing with getting a traveler to take off his coat,” replies Wind. “And the last time we tried to get them out of their automobile nothing worked. They seem to just ignore us.”
“We could team up, I guess,” says Sun hopefully. “You know we have a good combination in drying out crop lands. That always gets them stirred up.”
“Or freezing the oceans and rivers solid …” remarks Wind.
“I don’t know,” notes Sun dubiously. “Those pesky devils seem to be doing something to the planet. Not easy to chill it down enough any more.”
“They sure annoy me with those itchy scratchy things they keep flying through me.”
“Oh, yeah,” Sun agrees. “They’re even starting to throw stuff at me.”
“Even big storms don’t do what they used to …”
“Too clever for their own good.”
“Well,” declares Wind, “just a little more clever and they’ll leave the planet to us. I’ll miss them sometimes.”
“Not me. Oops, there’s another sunspot I have to take care of. Later….”
Water, hills, houses, sky
Weird as anywhere