- Traditional Chinese landscapes of ink on silk convey distance with the use of blank space and mists, skillfully leading the eye from foreground to distance. What is left out is just as important as what is added. That is in complete opposition to Western style landscapes, which normally saturate the surface and rely on perspective and slight softening of detail on the horizon to show how far away objects are. Connoisseurs of each convention tend to regard the other as relatively primitive.
- Conventions are curious things. I see mostly in “Western” mode except for unusual conditions such as this heavy fog blanketing the harbor. I assumed that the Chinese blanks were a philosophic choice. And yet, now that photographic evidence is available of the mountains and streams which those painters used for models, it is obvious that such is the way such scenery truly looks. I find myself always too prone to hasty judgement and lazy belief.
- This shoreline sunny, clear, and hot but the lighthouse outside the inlet is braying rhythmically. Tendrils of what must be dense fog over Long Island Sound are seeping around the bend over toward Lloyd Neck. Fog used to be a terror for commercial vessels in the days before radar, and for smaller craft before the more modern adaption of universal satellite positioning. Now it is simply an inconvenience.
- Winslow Homer made a wonderful painting on the subject called “The Fog Warning” which I used to study reverently at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A fisherman desperately rows back to his distant home ship as a thick cloud hovers ominously nearby. Some pictures from that era are more like novels or theatrical productions than mere snapshots, we end up caring for the poor guy, wondering what will happen, how others will be affected. Nothing so dramatic about to occur near Huntington, but nice to have the reminder of the old days, and for that matter me in my younger ones.
- Almost summer, the leaves on the perennial vines of the bittersweet open, the hills completely greened, the harbor inviting and filled with pleasure craft. Although the air is warmed, the water is not, and the inviting beaches are empty. Children in school continue lessons in reading and writing and testing, parents at work continue desperately to remain relevant and to somehow accomplish impossible tasks, those doing neither often wish they were once again. From now on, almost day by day, there will be more people taking time to enjoy the outdoors.
- Those of us living in areas with seasons claim to love them all. Spring is easy to praise: warm, not too hot, outdoor wonders not quite restricted by annoying insects (although the ticks have arrived already), sand and trails not yet choked with crowds, clean colors all around, crisp air and brilliant sun relieved by showers recognized as absolutely necessary for vegetation. And, most of all, we know it will go on forever _ the days are still getting longer, winter fades and next year is far off, a whole glorious summer lies pristine before us.
- Varied hues of green now visible are enough eye candy even without any blossoms. Missing the smaller spectacles merely because there are more strident attractions all around is unfortunate. The real miracle, after all, is that the breathing vegetation recovers after hibernation, renewing the air, purifying the water, keeping the Earth going for everything else. The pretty flowers and the delicious fruit are nearly trivialities in the grand pattern of life.
- Just as for us, love and beauty and happiness are trivialities compared to the necessities to work and eat and take care of the requirements of the day. Yet love and beauty and happiness are what we most consider and most desire and most remember. The importance of material things hardly impinges on our need for the spiritual. I like to consider contradictions like these, for if there is a key to understanding it lies less in reconciling them, than in accepting the impossibility of doing so.
- Some shots are too cute and easy, like this one from under a flowering cherry at Gold Star Battalion Beach. Why plant a weeping cherry at the beach? Who knows, but it was an inspired choice. The far shore is finally being clothed in green, sailboats are sitting ready for coming weekends.
- What I cannot show is the life under the surface waters. Walking out on the boat dock barely visible in the center of this harbor, I looked down and was amazed to see a school of thousands of large fish, swimming in crowded unison, remaining still in the strong incoming tide. My camera could not capture their subtle movements, but human eyes are adapted to see movement especially well. Eventually the crowd moved on a ways, and I was left to ponder all the mysteries of which I remain unaware even in the places I
think I know best.
- Brief heat spell. This is exactly imagined paradise _ sweet fragrances, plentiful birdsong, luscious colors, no wild beasts nor annoying insects, hot enough to roam naked. Perfection distilled.
- I am a poor candidate for the Garden of Eden. I become bored pretty easily _ here I am walking around, thinking, snapping pictures, planning the afternoon. That may be vice or virtue _ a vice now when contentment should rule, but a virtue when once I needed to earn a living or even later today when the yard needs some touchups. As a destination, Paradise is pretty wonderful; as a journey, not so much.
- French Revolution committees invented the metric system, used worldwide by anyone doing serious measurements (obviously not American road engineers or food consumers.) Less successful was calendar reform. True, Gregorian months are meaningless and irrational (who knows what February stands for, and October is not the eighth month.) Claiming history began in France, and numbering years with difficult Roman numerals (in a touch of hubris worthy of the NFL) was a hard sell, but beyond that, the monthly naming themes are hardly universal. Thermador is not the hottest month in Tierra Del Fuego, and almost nowhere experiences the Parisian fogs of Brumaire.
- Huntington shares nearly the same climate as Paris, so Floreal would relevantly describe our “Flowering Month.” Like most Americans who cling to inches and miles (in spite of the insanity of food information like a 4 ounce serving containing 425 grams of fat), I enjoy a bit of quirkiness to keep my individuality. Which is why I cultivate a thin layer of French cultural awareness. I’m no Francophile _ I favor fast food over most French cooking _ but it’s nice to know another language somewhat, and keep up with events that have absolutely no relevance to my daily life (for example, French politics can be incredibly entertaining.) Thus I glide through Floreal now, remembering French painters and phrases, just little different I am sure than most of the thoughts of those around me.